Back to Basics

I tried to think of a snazzier title for today’s blog, but then that would be defeating the whole purpose of this morning’s Fastbreak.

For the uninitiated, Fastbreak is a series of young, successful often highly attractive people who give an inspirational talk on a chosen topic and expose my insecurities at not having started my own social entrepreneurial start-up for orphans in Vietnam/ amazing carbon-neutral recycled clothing company/ flown to the moon to raise awareness for orphaned, disabled elephants.

Although seeing the work of self-taught paper engineer Benja Harney and Juliette Anich’s passion for The Clothing Exchange was really cool, the most engaging speakers took the theme of the day to heart. They stuck to the basics, no power point slides, just personal reflections on their life from 11Eleven Project Danielle Lauren’s undying love of her toy bunny that she’s had since she was six years old to Charles Prouse’s need to balance the role of CEO of the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) with the simple pleasure of flying a kite.

But the real show stopper was Jude Lawrence, self confessed party boy and leukaemia survivor. While still on maintenance therapy, Jude formed the company I Like to Party that now runs snowboard tours to Japan and New Zealand and dive tours to Thailand. Nine months of chemotherapy treatment gives you a lot of time to think or as Jude eloquently put “hitting the pause button”. And he summed it up his life goals quite nicely by explaining what a perfect day would look like:

Feelings: the treasure trove of memories that we have stored in our minds and can be revisited whenever we choose.
Relationships: have meaning in al relationships, new and old.
Experiences: have an intense experience or at least plan one every day.
Exercise: push yourself every day.
Discovery: learn and explore new ideas and new ways of thinking.
Om: meditation, stillness – his second ‘o’ was orgasm, but was too bashful to go into detail
Make progress: but don’t become overpowered on focusing to achieve a goal
Sunset: take time to write a journal and document the day with a photograph or writing.

For me I’m going to to take a bit of time today to think about why I do what I do, and what I really want from life. Time to dream big people 🙂

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NZ earthquake exposes Oz’s sloppy, self-interested media

Amongst the scores dead in New Zealand and the anxious wait for hundreds of families with people still missing  there has been one reported Australian fatality.

Not by any means denigrating the suffering and loss of this person to their loved ones, but seriously The Age should one Australian fatality really be the headline of the disaster that has affected thousands? I think we are all condition by these types of headline – Hundreds dead in some overcrowded ferry crash in Asia, 2 Caucasian Tourists dead – oh no! Or even more common, no Australian fatalities *phew*.

Somehow The Age’s headline is a particularly gross use of Othering, and some of the comments I have seen on online news sites are just plain off: “we should hold back on giving them money until we fix QLD” said one reader. Australia is the 10th wealthiest nation in the world in GDP per capita (2009, IMF figures). According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Australia has the 2nd highest quality of life in the world, after Norway. When people cry poor in Australia – it really shits me off. Yes we are a remote island but don’t go thinking that we are somehow disconnected from the rest of the world.

If anything the common bond of disasters and ‘getting on with it’ should bring us closer to our Kiwi mates. If you are a generous person and wish to extend your compassion across the Tasman Sea, donate to New Zealand Red Cross and follow their tweets @NZRedCross.

And the winner is – death and exploitation (again)

Looking at the recent winners of the World Press Photo 2010 winners calls to mind Daria’s Sick Sad World – when did the earth become so depressing? And that’s coming from me, a person who looks at infant morality rates and poverty related statistics all day for a living.

Yes, the world isn’t perfect but should we really be glorifying photojournalists who capture bodies being flung into piles, suicides from rooftops and severed heads? What about the humanity and the dignity of the subject, and the families they leave behind? These events need to be documented but there is something truly macabre about all the top photographs being centred on death and mutilation.

Which brings me to the winning portrait of Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old woman from Afghanistan who fled the violent treatment of her husband and was then captured by the Taliban to face ‘justice’. After a Taliban commander pronounced his verdict, Bibi’s brother-in-law held her down to allow her husband cut off her ears and then her nose. Bibi was rescued by the US military, has received surgery and is now living in America. Her suffering is unmeasurable and incomprehensible to my mind, but has her life been improved by being the subject of that portrait? Jodi Bieber the photographer of the image has certainly benefitted, as have the media with such a provocative* image.

Jury chair David Burnett said about the photo, “This could become one of those pictures – and we have maybe just ten in our lifetime – where if somebody says ‘you know, that picture of a girl…’, you know exactly which one they’re talking about.” Which to my mind objectifies Bibi and exploits a woman who has already been compromised and violated so savagely.

I believe World Press needs to rethink their selection criteria and not only choose the most shocking and violent images, but look deeper into the human condition and see the complexity and the beauty that lies within.

*code for demeaning, exploitative and just plain wrong.

“Papa Homer, you are so learn-ed”; “Learned, son. It’s pronounced learned.”

“All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.”
– Martin H. Fischer

Sitting in front of the interwebs all the time I guess I am constantly learning new things, social media tricks and gizmos, political situations, weather calamities and catastrophes and sometimes even some good news in developing countries.

But this week I sat in front of an eccentric academic (tautology?) with pen, paper, laptop and an inquisitive mind and realised how much I miss being a student.

This isn’t surprising if you add up all my school days – 13 years at school and 7 ½ years at university – that’s over 20 years of my life or 2/3rds of my existence. In addition to working at a university for 7 years, that is some serious time I’ve served in the line of education.

What am I learning? Video filming skills and editing on Final Cut Pro. I’m still rather green, accidently overwriting instead of inserting and those sort of slight slip of the mouse mistakes but I’m getting there. Nothing a Ctrl+Alt+Z wouldn’t fix, I mean Commmmmand+Z, quitting the PC habit of a lifetime.

We’ve also had a little play with Prezi – a zoom-in presentation tool which makes powerpoint look as dated as an overhead projector and Snapz Pro X which allows you to record anything on your screen, saving it as a QuickTime movie or screenshot that can be e-mailed or uploaded to the web. Fancy. We’ve also watched a lot of slightly dorky yet highly informative webinars from the 2 Reel Guys. All this info is out there for those who know how to find it but it is nice to take some time out of  day-to-day work to learn new skills as a group.

Or realising you can take the nerd out of uni, but you can’t take the urge to learn out of a nerd.