Sunset Reflections

Purple Reflections

Reflections stretch
Across the lake
As I sit and think
About the world

I took this photo a couple of days ago. It was the day after the US election and I went down to the lake in Belmont to try to clear my thoughts.

I’m not going to say too much about the election as I plan to touch on it in a Q&A post soon but I will say that Trump’s win shook me a bit. Obviously I’m an Australian and not directly involved but the US sets the cultural tone for the world and affects all of us; we often say that when the US sneezes, the rest of us catch a cold, and that’s why we were following the election closely too.

It was an extraordinary result but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that many of us aren’t concerned by it and that was my immediate reaction. Not just because of Trump’s rhetoric but particularly because internationally we have little idea of what to expect from a President Trump and his presidency leaves the US-Australia Alliance, NATO and the future of the Asia-Pacific region up in the air.

So yes, like everyone I was a bit shocked by the result and as it continued to dominate the news the next day, I felt like I needed to clear my head and try to get away from it for a while. So I went down to the lake for the sunset.

It was a beautiful sunset and I just sat and watched it for a while as the sky turned a beautiful shade of purple and the reflections started to stretch across the water. After a couple of minutes I set my camera on my tripod and took a couple of long exposures to try to do the scene justice. This was one of them and I’m happy with how it came out, particularly the vibrant colours.

I felt better for my time by the lake. It was very peaceful and I think sometimes it helps just to get away from the world for a little while and not think about things too much. This definitely did that for me.

Sunset

I saw this woman walking her dog by the lake a little earlier as well and took a quick photo. She spent quite a few minutes standing there, watching the sun go down. I guess maybe she was reflecting on things too.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Some Thoughts on the Election

Like a lot of Australians, I’m still digesting the results – or rather lack of results – from Saturday’s election. I thought I’d share a few thoughts while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

  • At the moment we still don’t know the final result and won’t know until Tuesday at the earliest, probably later. Right now the most likely outcomes look like being either another hung parliament or possibly the Turnbull government just hanging on by the skin of its teeth and forming a slender majority by one or two seats. Either way it’s not what most people expected.
  • My overall impression of all this is, well, what a mess. The prospect of another hung parliament isn’t something I particularly relish; while the 2010 parliament did actually pass some good legislation, the whole process was so chaotic and there were so many wasteful promises that in the end it just seemed incredibly disorganised and unstable. Likewise the Turnbull government being returned with a tiny majority doesn’t seem very workable either as Turnbull would have to keep his entire party in line and that seems unlikely to say the least after this result.
  • Personally I was hoping that, whoever won the election, we’d get a clear result to end the chaos we’ve seen in the recent past. But now it looks like the only way to get that would be through another election, which would be expensive and after such a long campaign already, there’s very little appetite for that. And even if another election were held, there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t end up with a similar result either. So, yes. It’s all looking like a pretty big mess unfortunately.
  • To be honest, though, Turnbull only has himself to blame for this result. This should have been a fairly comfortable victory given his popularity after replacing Tony Abbott last year. But that support disappeared and then the Coalition’s entire campaign felt lacklustre and uninspired – we barely even heard about the main premise for the election throughout the campaign, the government not being able to pass its ABCC legislation, when you’d expect that to be one of the main issues. And that’s just one example. Likewise Turnbull seemed strangely disengaged, like the whole process was taxing and something he was simply enduring before getting back to the main business of running the country. Add a clever campaign by Labor built primarily around Medicare and this is the result, a government that may be on its way out after only one term.
  • So what went wrong? Honestly I think you’d have to say that most of this result is due to people becoming very frustrated with Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition in general. When Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as PM there was a feeling of relief in the community, like Turnbull would be able to change direction and align the government more closely with public sentiment on issues like climate change and marriage equality. But the Turnbull who emerged as PM was not the one people expected; he was hamstrung by the right faction of his party and it gave the impression that he stood for nothing and had sacrificed his convictions to become PM. In the end it seemed like very little had changed, just the face of the government, and when you add in the disappointing campaign performance by Turnbull and the Coalition as a whole, it’s not that surprising that people turned to Labor and the minor parties as their trust evaporated.
  • To be fair to Turnbull, much of the public expectation when he became PM was unfair. He was never going to be the PM they wanted, not just because the right would go after him if he even dreamed of trying to be, but also because that simply isn’t who he is as a person or as a politician. He is a pragmatist and realistically the best chance Turnbull had to change the government’s direction was after the election, by winning with enough of a margin to claim a mandate and to slowly move the government more towards where he wanted them to be over time. The irony though is that he’ll probably never get that chance now as the result means he’ll have to be even more beholden to the right to survive – saying he can survive after this result.
  • While the Coalition’s campaign was lacklustre, I also don’t want to take credit away from Labor either. Labor did extremely well in the campaign and Bill Shorten performed extraordinarily well as leader. He transformed himself into a true alternative PM during the campaign and his enthusiasm and enjoyment for the process was infectious, which was particularly impressive given it was such a long, exhausting eight weeks.
  • Looking objectively, Labor ran a very professional campaign, particularly at the grassroots level, and they successfully presented themselves as a party with new ideas for the country. It’s no surprise that they emerged reinvigorated and that is the truly good thing to come out of this election; at the very least it’s shown that they’ll be a strong opposition and as any democracy is only as strong as it’s opposition, that’s a good sign. And they look capable if they do somehow claim government too.
  • The one thing I didn’t like about the Labor campaign though was the Medicare scare campaign. I thought they pushed it way too hard, particularly in the last week of the campaign. I don’t think it was accurate or necessary to go so far as to suggest that the government was thinking about privatising Medicare when there was little evidence of that; there was already enough concern over GP co-payments for Labor to make their case about health and Medicare and it took their campaign into negative territory which I didn’t like at all. But it worked and ended up being one of the biggest issues for them, so I can’t really argue with it, I guess.
  • Labor did very well but I think the big winner, though, was Pauline Hanson. At the moment it looks like One Nation has secured two senate spots and may end up with as many as four. It’s a remarkable resurrection for Hanson and will give her much of the balance of power in the senate.
  • I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am to see Hanson not only back but potentially wielding that much power. As far as I’m concerned One Nation is a party based on fear and ignorance and I despaired when I saw the result. Listening to Hanson today, it seems One Nation wants to abolish the Family Law Court and will be pushing for royal commissions into the science of climate change and to examine whether Islam is a “religion or a political ideology”. All of which sound utterly bizarre to me.
  • One Nation’s views don’t surprise me – it’s the same old ignorance, just with new targets – but I guess I am disappointed that, after twenty years, people continue to not be able to see through them as hollow and xenophobic. But to be honest One Nation’s success is not unique or even that unexpected, if anything it’s just another example of the continued rise of far-right parties and figures that we’ve been seeing around the world over the last few years. The same fears about immigration, muslims, the economy and the decline of the working class that drove the Brexit outcome and are behind a lot of Donald Trump’s support are the same reasons many people voted for One Nation too.
  • Given that trend and how many votes One Nation received in this election, you’d have to say that the main parties have good reason to be worried about the growing power of the far right fringe. It’s becoming harder to dismiss that support as just a small number of people; it’s a growing and very vocal minority that is very dissatisfied with the political system and wants to shake it up or overturn it entirely. I’m not sure what the parties can really do about those people either except to try to find a way to reengage with them, which would be very difficult, perhaps even impossible at this point. Either way, it gives a voice to some of these kinds of views for at least the next few years and will make negotiating with the senate a nightmare.
  • So how is all this going to play out? At this stage I really have no idea; the election is so close that pretty much anything could happen. I think the most likely scenario is a hung parliament with the Coalition getting about 74 seats but I honestly do not know how it would play out from there. If that were to happen I’m not sure I could see Labor securing enough crossbench support to form government, and while theoretically the Coalition could, I’m not sure how workable it would be or how tenuous Turnbull’s position would then become, particularly given the senate.
  • If I had to guess I’d say that I think the Coalition will just manage to form a minority government but I would not be at all surprised if it all falls apart very quickly. I also wouldn’t be surprised if neither party can form government and we have to have another election. Which honestly no one would be happy about but I think would probably be the fairest outcome at this stage.
  • Either way I just hope we get a result soon and that somehow, some way, whoever forms government manages to provide some kind of stability. The chaos has gone on for far too long. But I doubt it unfortunately.
  • What a mess.

Election Thoughts + More Memes

Abbottlanche or Ruddicide

Congratulations to Tony Abbott and the Coalition. It’s only the seventh time in sixty years an elected government has been defeated, so it’s quite an achievement, particularly to topple a government that’s only been in for two terms. It’s something I never thought would happen when Abbott first came to the leadership, it seemed so unlikely and Abbott such an unlikely alternative PM. But the Coalition ran a very clever campaign and then again, I never thought I’d see a PM torn down in his first term either, so I guess it shows anything can happen in politics.

I’ll be frank: I did not vote for the Coalition and will never vote for the Coalition as long as Tony Abbott is leader. His policies and social attitudes scare the hell out of me and I’d much rather see Malcolm Turnbull as PM – if he had been, I would definitely have supported the Coalition and I think they would have won with an even bigger majority. But putting that aside, Labor didn’t deserve to be re-elected at all and only has itself to blame for the outcome. When you spend all your time fighting over the leadership, surrounded by bickering and countless distractions of your own making, rather than actually governing the country, you can’t seriously think the public is going to vote you back in.

The government’s problems are strange in some ways because it’s not even that they’ve been a particularly bad government overall when you look at their ideas and achievements, particularly the NBN and the NDIS, it’s really more that they’ve spent the last six years tearing each other apart from the inside out, have kept back-pedalling on policies that they had made into central platforms (you can’t say climate change is the “greatest moral challenge of our time” and then try to back away from it, for instance, it makes you look like flip-floppers at best and a party lacking moral integrity at worst) and that they’ve been completely incompetent in selling their achievements – especially the strength of the economy, which is relatively strong, particularly when compared to the rest of the world. Abbott’s been an effectively negative opposition leader but in normal circumstances there’s simply no way a government should find itself in this position after just two terms. Which is what I meant with the caption above – in the end I’m genuinely not sure if Abbott won this election or if Labor lost it and essentially committed suicide. Or maybe it’s a bit of both.

I’m not sure what kind of Prime Minister Tony Abbott is going to be and like I said, he wouldn’t be my choice by a wide margin on either side of politics, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and I hope he’ll be one who is consultative and doesn’t try to force an ideological agenda through parliament (although that is one thing that potentially concerns me about him). In many ways because he has been such an effective negative campaigner I don’t think the public has been able to get a real idea of who Abbott actually is (which incidentally I think is also why he’s always performed so poorly in leadership polls, because it makes it seem like he’s stilted and has no personality), so it will be interesting to see if we start to see a new side of Tony Abbott and perhaps that public view of Abbott starts to change. It’ll also be interesting to see how he goes on the international stage – I actually think that’s one area where he might do quite well, with the exception perhaps of our relationship with Indonesia, which will depend a lot on what happens with asylum seekers and the boats.

I also hope that we can start to put the misogynist statements to rest once and for all as well. Gillard’s speech on misogyny was one of the defining moments in modern Australian politics and on a wider level was very true but looking at it objectively, it was also at least a little unfair on Tony Abbott. There are many, many things I do not like about Abbott but he’s not a misogynist – his wife is an incredibly strong influence in his life, he’s helped to raise three daughters who seem to be incredibly intelligent and articulate young women that any parent would be proud of and he’s introducing a paid parental leave scheme that is very generous towards women. What Abbott is is very old fashioned and extremely awkward and gaffe-prone but that doesn’t mean he’s a misogynist. It also doesn’t mean that Gillard’s speech wasn’t true either, just that it was truer on a broader level about society and I think that’s why it resinated with so many people. But hearing people constantly calling Abbott a misogynist during this election – often I think without their even knowing what a misogynist really is as well – is one of the things that’s really grated on me and I’m hoping now people will at least try to give him the benefit of the doubt. No matter what you think of Tony Abbott, the office of the Prime Minister deserves more respect than that – just as it did when Gillard was PM and she was treated so abysmally, particularly by men, many of whom were in the media, and in her own party.

In any case I guess like everyone I’m mostly just relieved this bloody election is finally over. It’s been mind-numbingly tedious but good luck to the Coalition and here’s hoping the next three years won’t be as divisive as the last and the economy stays relatively strong.

I made some more election memes last night while watching the results come in as well, so I thought I’d post them with this for a bit of fun. The one about Jason Wood was just spur of the moment – I’d not heard his quote before and it came on during the coverage and my head just about exploded when I heard it. I used the photo of Gllard as that’s pretty much how I imagine she would have reacted when she heard it too – and it’s not a bad approximation of what my face was like too. I mean, seriously Jason, WTF?

Hope you enjoy them. Who knows, I might start doing these regularly as they seem to be popular. 😉

Budgie-Man

Batman, meet Budgie-Man, our new PM.

Rudd's Concession Speech

Bye Kev. Remember, PMs come and go, selfies live forever.

Genetically Modified WHAT?

Jason Wood, one of Australia’s great visionaries.

Finally Over

Here’s hoping.

Election Fun

Abbott and the Philosoraptor

I’ve been getting into the political mood recently by making some election memes. I’ve shared most of them on Twitter and Facebook but with the election on Saturday, I thought I’d post them here too.

For the record I don’t really lean towards one party or the other and I’ve tried to skewer both equally. It’s been fun making them… it’s been a very long, dull election and being able to poke fun at it all has really been the only thing that’s made it bearable.

Hope you enjoy them and if you’d like to share any of them, feel free. If I make more I’ll post them before the election too.

Kevin Rudd and the Milky Bar Kid

Is there something you need to tell us Kevin? The resemblance is uncanny.

Tony Abbott and Budgie Smugglers of Doom

Or maybe they’re his “budget” smugglers?

Coalition of Misogynists

Glad to say I don’t own many blue ties.

Julie Bishop's Death Stare

Wonder who’d win in a staring contest between Julie Bishop and Hillary Clinton?

KRudd and the Selfie Craze

Poor Kevin. He’s so misunderstood.

Tony and the Pony

We can trust them. They’re politicians.

The Real Reason We Need Fast Broadband

GoT. The real reason we need fast broadband.

Joe Scissorhands

No truth to the rumour that the scissors were removed from Julia Gillard’s back though.

Tony Grows Up

Sorry, everyone has to grow up some time Tony.

5 Things (redux)

So this is my first post in a little while. Actually in a long while when I think about it… I’ve barely updated this blog all year really. I’m sorry for that. I still see blogging as a major part of my writing life and I keep meaning to update more often. I’ve just had other things on my mind, particularly for the last few weeks.

I haven’t been feeling that well recently. I’ve hardly slept and I’ve had an awful migraine for the last few weeks. I blame the weather; everything seems worse when it’s cold and it’s been bitterly cold in Sydney this past month. It’s the coldest winter we’ve had in a long time.

We’ve also been gearing up for a national election and it’s been kind of surreal. Just a few weeks ago Kevin Rudd was our Prime Minister; now Rudd’s gone, we have our first female PM in Julia Gillard (long overdue) and we’re rushing to the polls on August 21. It’s all happened so quickly that it’s almost draining.

Usually I quite enjoy elections but after the brutal way Rudd was brought down and how both parties have gone so negative already, it’s just ugly. Neither party seems to stand for anything and it’s more a battle of personalities than policy. The way both parties are treating asylum seekers is frankly appalling to me. I may have to flip a coin at this rate.

I’ve actually had some good news about my writing, though, during all of this which I’m very excited about. I was contacted by a scouting agency last week who sound interested in looking at some of my work. I’m thrilled… it’s just what I need at this stage. I’ve had some minor interest before as well, so I guess that shows I’m on the right track.

I haven’t worked out what I’m going to send yet. I’ve only just started working on my first novel so I haven’t really finished enough to show to anyone yet. I’ve been thinking about putting together a collection of short stories, so that might be an option instead.

Either way, it’s encouraging. I feel like I’m finally starting to get somewhere, so I think I’m going to focus more on writing my novel for the next few months. I feel like I’ve come far enough to seriously think about publication now and if I can have a draft finished by mid-September then at least I’ll have an idea of if it’s good enough to send away.

I’ll probably have to put some of my other projects aside while I work on the novel but I’ll be continuing with Sleepless at the same time. I may change a few things about how I’m writing the story (I’ll probably hold onto a few updates rather than posting them all live, so I’ll have something to post when I’m busy with the novel) but I’m still really excited about it and some of the ideas actually complement the novel, so it shouldn’t be a distraction.

If you’re following Sleepless, by the way, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t updated it for a few weeks. I took a break from writing to plan out the rest of the story but I’ll be getting back to it later tonight. With everything planned out now, there shouldn’t be any more delays. Thanks again to everyone who’s followed the story so far. I really appreciate it and all your feedback.

Anyway, as it’s been a while since my last post I thought I’d do a fun post to get back into the swing of things. So how about a meme? About two years ago I did the 5 Things About Me meme and as it was one of my favourite posts, I thought it’d be fun to do a follow-up now and see how my answers have changed… kind of like digging up a time capsule.

I’ve answered the questions differently where I can and I’ve added a few new ones as well to show what’s changed in the last few years. Just looking back at the original post now, it’s amazing how much has changed since then… we’ve changed Presidents and Prime Ministers, gone through the GFC, watched Haiti suffer, Michael Jackson become a memory… I’ve made new friends and lost others, watched from overseas as my grandmother nearly died… you don’t really realise just how much can happen in two years until you look back.

I hope you enjoy the meme. Has much changed for you in the last two years?

5 things found in your bag
I’ll use my messenger bag again

  • Camera
  • Glasses (mainly for reading these days)
  • iPhone
  • Sunscreen
  • Notepad and pen

5 favourite things in your room

TV Corner

  • Favourite pen
    I have a number of pens but my favourite is a custom-made Amboyna Sapwood pen that I’ve had for a couple of years. I tend to prefer wooden pens to metal ones; I write by hand and they’re just more comfortable when you’re using them for a long time. I use it mostly for writing letters and editing and I always use it for the first page of a new story.
  • Writing area
    My computer died earlier this year, so I took the opportunity to get a new desk as well. I loved my old writing desk but it was too small for the monitor, so I’m saving it for when I have more room. I’ve got a nice area set up now. Now I just need to get on with writing!

Computer & Desk (side on)Computer & DeskComputer, Desk & Chair

  • Memory box
    Everyone probably has a memory box somewhere. Mine’s mostly filled with simple things – photos, trinkets, my school prefect badge, a copy of my favourite book from when I was a child (The Velveteen Rabbit). It also has my first acceptance letter from when I was published and my first email from a reader.
  • Statues and figures
    I mentioned that I collect these in the original post as well but I’ve added a few more since then. The Egyptian figures are made by Veronese from cold cast resin; most of the pewter ones are by the Tudor Mint. The Le Morte d’Arthur piece (right) is my favourite.

Egyptian CollectionPewter Figures

Pewter Fellowship sculptArthurian Collection

  • Wall plaque
    I got this for a bargain $2 on eBay a couple of years ago. I love Asian-themed art and it’s one of my favourite pieces. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out much about it, though; I only know it came from Melbourne and has a “Partos” sticker on the back.

Asian Wall Art

5 things that have changed in the last two years

  • My writing
    My writing’s come a long way in the last two years; I’m much better at editing in particular now and finally feel confident enough to try a full-length novel. Also, I’ve really taken to poetry, which has been a surprise. I’ve never really thought of myself as much of a poet.
  • My philosophy
    I’ve been an atheist for about two years now. It was a gradual thing; I lost my faith after 9/11 and Bali and considered myself an agnostic for several years, before I started to drift towards atheism. Atheism isn’t what a lot of people think it is; it’s a philosophy based on the absence of personal belief, not the worship of science. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I feel more content now. Most people seem to respect that.
  • My family tree
    I’ve always had an interest in genealogy and I started researching our family tree last year. So far I’ve found several distant cousins and an entire side of our family we knew nothing about. I’ve also learnt a lot about Isaac, my great-great grandfather.
  • My taste in music
    I’ve never been that into modern music but I’ve found myself drifting more and more towards indie and alternative artists and music from the 60s and 70s over the last few years…. I can’t even remember the last pop song I bought. I’ll take Sarah Blasko over Katy Perry any day.
  • My hair
    I guess it’s just a part of getting older but I’ve started to lose a little of my hair over the last year or so. It’s not that bad but still, I wasn’t expecting it just yet! And the icing on the cake? I found my first grey hair the other day as well…

5 things you want to do in the next year

  • Finish my novel
    I feel happy with where I am with my writing at the moment, so I finally started work on my novel a few weeks ago. I’ve been developing the idea for almost a year; it’s a modern fable exploring racism, terrorism and religious extremism. I won’t know if it’s good enough to publish until it’s finished but I think it could be excellent if it all comes together… something quite different to what’s around at the moment.
  • Study
    I’ve been thinking about this for a while and at some stage during the next year I want to get back to studying. Now that I’m finally working on a novel I want to have something to fall back on as well and I think now’s a good time to think about studying again. I’m looking at library studies atm; I could do a Masters later as well, which would allow me to teach, something I’ve always wanted to do.
  • Meet someone
    I don’t talk about my love life that often. I don’t date that much but the last time I had something close to a relationship was about two years ago, when I met someone I became very close to… I’m not sure if it was “love” but it was certainly the most intense connection I’ve ever had with someone. It ended quite suddenly; I don’t know why exactly, though I suspect it was because I became an atheist as she was quite religious. I haven’t really been looking to meet anyone since then, but I’d love to meet someone during the next year, someone I could be myself with. I don’t know if it’ll happen but it’d be nice if it did.
  • See the Australian Open
    I love tennis and I’ve been wanting to go to the Australian Open in Melbourne for years. Hopefully 2011 will be the year! It’ll probably come down to whether I can afford it closer to the date but it’s something I’d love to do to start off the new year. I’d love to see a cricket match at the MCG if there’s one on as well.
  • Get a good night’s sleep
    I’ve had insomnia for about three years now. I only get a few hours sleep a night and frankly it drives me nuts. I mean, what are you supposed to do at 4 in the morning? Just once in the next year I’d love to get a good night’s sleep. That’s not too much to ask, is it? 😕

5 things you have always wanted to do

  • Perform a poetry reading
    I’ve always enjoyed poetry readings and I’ve often thought about sharing some of my own work in public. I’ve always been worried about embarrassing myself as I’ve not taken my poetry that seriously before but I still love the idea. I’ll have to do it one of these days.
  • Learn to play the piano
    I’ve never been that talented as far as music goes; I’m completely tone-deaf and the only instrument I used to be able to play was the little plastic recorder they made us play in school (I still wasn’t very good!). But I love music and if I have the time and money one day, I’d love to learn to play the piano. I’d have to get soundproofing for the neighbours first, though.
  • Travel to Egypt and Japan
    There are a lot countries I’d love to visit one day – India, Canada, New Zealand, the US – but if I had to choose two, I’d really love to see Egypt and Japan. I’ve always loved the idea of trying to find my way in a completely foreign city, of seeing the Pyramids, the Asakusa temples in Tokyo. Hopefully I’ll make it to both one day.
  • Be an extra in a movie
    I’m a big movie buff and I’d love to be part of a movie as an extra one day and see how they’re made. Maybe I could be a red shirt in the next Star Trek film and die a horrible death. What do you think?
  • Ride an elephant
    I’ve always loved elephants. Some treks in India and Africa actually allow you to ride on the back of an elephant and I’ve always thought that would be an amazing experience. I’d only want to do it if it was safe and the elephant was comfortable with it, of course, but it’s something I’d love to do… a real once-in-a-lifetime experience.

5 things you are currently into

  • She & Him
    I’m a big fan of M. Ward’s and one of his side projects is a folk duo with Zooey Deschanel called She & Him. Deschanel reminds me a little of Julia Stone (who I love as well) and they’re kind of a throwback to 60s music with a modern twist and sound refreshingly different to anything else out there right now. Their latest album’s one of the best I’ve heard in years.

  • Scrabble
    I have a kind of ritual I go through before I start writing; I do a word game or a crossword to start thinking about different words. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Scrabble and I’m hooked. I got my highest score the other day (425) and still lost! I’m still not quite sure how.
  • The West Wing
    I’ve been working my way through all the DVDs of The West Wing over the last few months and it’s become one of my favourite shows. The writing and acting are incredible and it’s interesting, seeing the parallels to both Bush and Clinton administrations. It’s brilliant. I can’t believe I missed it on TV.
  • Catherynne Valente
    I hadn’t heard of Catherynne Valente until recently but she’s quickly become one of my favourite authors. The best way I can describe her is that she writes modern fairy tales, with some of the most beautiful, haunting prose I’ve read in a long time. If you like Margaret Atwood or Kelly Link, you’ll love her books. I can’t wait to read Palimpsest next.
  • Natalie Portman
    Because she’s Natalie Portman. What? Some things never change. 😉

5 people you want to tag

I won’t tag anyone as I did it in the first post. But if you’d like to do the meme yourself or do it again, feel free to use it… I’d love to see your answers.

We Shall Overcome

090120-F-3961R-919.jpg

If there’s one good thing about having insomnia it’s that when something happens in the world, you get to see it at the same time as everyone else. Early yesterday morning, while most Australians were still fast asleep, I experienced a moment in history I’ll never forget.

To see an African American in the White House is an amazing thing; it’s not just what it represents for the civil rights movement and how far America has come but also for disadvantaged people around the world. It’s no less than the power to dream, for a child to believe they can grow up to be anything they want to be. It’s a day I was not sure I would see and I’m happy I have.

What struck me watching the scenes from Washington was how joyous they were. When Obama won the election there was an outpouring of emotion, like all the emotions that had been restrained for so long were suddenly bursting forth. But this was different. This was like a celebration and perhaps nothing showed that better than seeing two million people huddled together in the freezing cold, waiting in anticipation. It was an amazing sight.

I’ve never seen crowds like that. The conditions must have been awful and the lines looked like they stretched back for kilometres but they weren’t ideologues or the Democratic faithful; they were just ordinary people who had been touched by Obama’s message and wanted to be a part of history. That’s what was so moving, particularly during Obama’s speech.

The other thing that was interesting was seeing the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. For so long they had fought against the discrimination that had held them back, trying to prove they could fly as well as any other man, and to see them there, with the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Hudson River, for me highlighted what this moment meant. Seeing two different eras of pilots who once would have been separated by so many divisions being honoured together shows how far America has come.

Of course Obama’s election is at best a stepping stone. It doesn’t end racism; it doesn’t fulfil the dream of Martin Luther King so many years ago. Racism might never be something we can truly be free of, only marginalise. What this moment represents instead is another step forward, another step towards tolerance. And the example it sets for the rest of the world and the hope it gives to minorities is something words cannot describe. For myself, it gives me the belief that I can be more than I am, and gives me hope that one day we will have moved past some of the divisions in Australia as well.

Personally I am hopeful that Obama will be a good president. The world needs stable leadership right now and he seems to be making the right signs but he faces a difficult task with the economy and two wars. But I was impressed by his speech; I thought he struck the right balance between responsibility and optimism. I hope he will be able to bring people together and end some of the division and from an Australian point of view, I hope our relationship continues to grow. Israel & Palestine remain in my thoughts as well.

For me, though, it isn’t about that right now. It’s about this moment in time and I think it transcends your race, political persuasion or where you live in the world. There were over two billion people watching Obama’s inauguration worldwide and watching the crowds and celebrations in Washington, it again reminded me of the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall, events which united all of us together as one. Right now I don’t feel like an Australian but a citizen of the world and I’m glad I was able to watch it live.

I thought I’d post a video to mark the occasion as well. During the civil rights movement We Shall Overcome became a key anthem played at rallies and festivals. I can’t think of a more appropriate song to mark the moment. This is Bruce Springsteen’s version, a tribute to Pete Seeger.

Congratulations to President Obama. Now the hard work begins.

A Piece of History

Barack & Michelle Obama

I was five years old when the Berlin Wall fell. I have few memories of it happening but I do remember some of the scenes; the crowds flooding the checkpoints, the sections finally coming down. I’ve often wondered what it must have felt like at the time, to watch history unfold.

Now I think I know.

Seeing Barack Obama win yesterday is something I will always remember. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought Obama could be elected President of the United States, I would have said no. There were too many divisions; too many obstacles to overcome. And then it happened; Obama won.

I know the election of one man changes little; there is still racism and bigotry in the world and perhaps there always will be. But it’s a step forward and what it means for African Americans and minorities around the world is something words cannot truly describe… it’s the culmination of a dream and just like the Berlin Wall, it’s a moment that will live forever.

For Australia it brings the promise that perhaps things can change here as well. I have long hoped that one day we will have come far enough to have an Aboriginal Prime Minister, that immigrants and minorities will be more readily accepted and the divisions that caused the Cronulla Riots will be healed.

Today that hope doesn’t seem as far away.

I don’t know what kind of president Obama will be but I know this moment is one I will always remember; the scenes in Chicago, the tears at rallies and on the streets. It’s a piece of history. I feel privileged to have watched it unfold.

A time of change

So Easter’s over for another year. It’s amazing how quickly it’s gone; I was thinking earlier that it’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of March… the year’s gone quickly, even if it has been the earliest Easter in years.

I’ve always liked Easter. I’m more spiritual than religious but I like the sentiment that comes with the season; it’s a time of renewal and continuing life and it always makes me think of the changing seasons, the leaves starting to brown. It makes me think of where I am in my life as well and I’ve been doing a lot of that over the last few days.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve been needing a change for a while and so recently I applied for a new job. I’m hoping I’ll get it but I realised over the weekend that that’s not the only thing I’ve been frustrated about. I’ve started to feel like I’ve outgrown some of my friendships and I’m not sure how to feel; it’s natural we’d grow apart after ten years but now I’m not sure if those relationships were as important to me as I thought they were.

I also haven’t been feeling well for a few days, so I’ve had a few things on my mind. But then on Sunday everything seemed a little clearer. I guess I just realised that there was no point feeling frustrated any more; the job was out of my hands and did it really matter how I felt about my friends? Those relationships had changed but how I had felt then wasn’t any less real because the feeling had changed now. Resisting the change was stopping me from moving on and I realised I should honour how I had felt in my heart, rather than trying to recapture it.

I’ve always resisted change a little bit, like most people; we’re comfortable in the world we’ve created for ourselves and it’s scary when that world changes. But I’ve always been quick to embrace change once I’ve recognised it and it seemed apt that it should happen on Easter Sunday, right at the end of a difficult week. Maybe the universe was watching out for me.

It seems like everyone is talking about change at the moment, though, doesn’t it? The election has stirred up a lot of those feelings; even if you wanted to avoid the hype I don’t think you could, it’s everywhere. And I’m half the world away; I can’t imagine what it must be like in the US. It’s funny how “change” seems to have become the motto for this election. It’s electrified people, particularly Obama’s supporters, but you hear about change at every election; politicians promise how they’ll be different but usually it’s just a number of empty platitudes. This election is different in that a black man or a woman could become president for the first time but most of the spin is still the same.

One of my favourite songs is David Bowie’s Changes and I came across this video earlier which captures it perfectly, all the candidates wanting to be the agent of change. I thought it was so funny, particularly at the end when they all started singing the chorus! But it’s true, change really has become the theme for 2008 – but why? It’s too simple to say it’s just Bush; I’m sure Bush is a big factor but the changes being talked about are more widespread than that. It’s a number of factors coming together; the economy, housing affordability, health care, gas prices, climate change, Iraq… but are they any different to the issues normally talked about during an election? I’m a bit confused about why the whole “change” theme has caught on so much, except because the candidates are so different and foreign policy.

To be honest the way the entire election is being reported over here is starting to annoy me, though. I don’t like the way the media thinks we have a right to say who we (or should I say they) think should be president. John Howard criticised Obama in 2007 after Obama announced his presidential bid, saying al Qaeda should “pray” that Obama and the Democrats win in 2008. He was deservedly roasted for interfering but isn’t the media being hypocritical? They often talk about which candidate would be “better” for Australian interests and stories like this one on Hillary Clinton hardly seem balanced. Online Opinion even carried out a poll of the candidates Aussies would pick. I know it’s in the media’s nature to speculate but their attitude has to be influencing their reporting – and they’re already biased because of their distaste for Bush.

I think everyone has the right to an opinion on any election, whether it’s in their country or not, but it should be just that, an opinion; the media’s influencing the way Australians look at the election and therefore how we look at the US. I’m no fan of Bush but I will always be a friend of America; 9/11 was a day that changed my life and the attitude that some people have towards America now disturbs me and doesn’t all come from Bush… it says a lot about us and if we’re talking about change, that’s something I’d like to see change about us as well. Maybe this election can be a catalyst.

I think the candidates need to careful about all this talk of change. If that’s what they promise and in the end little changes, they’re setting themselves up for a backlash. But even if there is change, that doesn’t mean it will be noticeable right away; change takes time to implement and often you only see it later, looking back. As the David Bowie song says – time may change you but you can’t trace time.

So anyway that’s what I’ve been doing over Easter, making some changes. I hope you had a good Easter and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of posting and commenting again after a long break. And oh, if you’re a Bowie fan like I am, there’s a great clip of Bowie singing Changes live available here; just don’t blame me when it gets stuck in your head. 🙂

Where does your country rank?

Australia Press Freedom IndexI’ve just been looking over Reporters Without Borders annual survey and it has some interesting results. The Worldwide Press Freedom Index ranked Iceland at the top of the rankings, while Eritrea replaced North Korea as the worst offender. RWB also found that bloggers are coming under as much threat as traditional journalists, with more countries impeding the flow of online news and information.

Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Egypt (146th) and Vietnam (162nd) were all singled out as offenders where “bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible”. Egypt in particular is notable for sentencing blogger Kareem Amer to four years jail for criticising the Egyptian president and Islamist control of universities. Turkey, which blocked access to WordPress.com in August this year, ranked 101st. Pakistan ranked 154th.

Australia came 28th which isn’t too bad (okay but not great). Our anti-terror laws have caused a few problems, and then there was everything with APEC. New Zealand is still way above us at 15th and the United Kingdom is 24th. The United States is 48th.

The survey caught my eye after our electoral debate on Sunday night. The National Press Club twice tried to cut Channel 9’s coverage of the debate because 9 was using its “worm” to measure audience reaction. The Liberals had placed strict rules (basically a ban) on use of the worm which 9 disregarded and apparently that was enough for the National Press Club to try to take 9 off the air. They failed; 9 just switched to another feed.

I’m fed up with this election already. The coverage is everywhere and the election isn’t for another 5 weeks! But it’s a reminder that we can’t take our freedoms for granted, not even when there’s so much attention focused on the system. And a reminder that as bloggers everywhere, we have a responsibility to speak up against abuses – because there are many more people in other countries who don’t have that opportunity. I wonder where your country ranks?