Advent Day 20: Four things for which to be grateful.

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Swimming pools. When it’s scorchingly hot and sunny, and humid as a jungle.

Teletubbies. I am a young godmother to a small human, whose mother seems to have some kind of misplaced optimism in my child-minding (non-)skills. I don’t know what to do with a crying baby except to find the Sesame Street baby-equivalent on YouTube and desperately plonk it in front of it, gasping, “here! Here! Look! Teletubbies! You like Teletubbies, right??!!”.

IKEA’s small-things-I-never-knew-I-could-live-without section. Because Christmas and acquaintances.

Craft skills. Not drawing a regular pay check has its downsides! But it certainly prods out any artistic and creative craft skills….

Advent Day 15: Idealism and the audacity of hope.

So, The Newsroom ended. *lower lip trembles* And aaaaallll the retrospective commentaries tumbled out. Some people hated it, some people hated it even more, and some, like I, loved it so much it was like saying goodbye to a fantasy, alternative workplace with colleagues you’d go to jail for contempt trying to protect. Or whom you’d follow to a war story in Equatorial Kundu.

I think that the people who most vehemently disliked The Newsroom were those that… well, just didn’t get it. I know critique is an art, and I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and that that should be respected. Nonetheless, I think that panning it for its delusional idealism, its “preaching from a pulpit”, its sanctimony… takes away from the vicarious deliciousness of getting a “do-over”, or a do-better, or even the warm-and-fuzziness of empathising with that colleague, or that moment. Not to mention its crunchy moments and timing, snappy scripting (not always, but most of the time).

I loved almost every episode of The Newsroom right from the get-go. Mind you, I think I might have fit the perfect audience profile for it, given my professional background and personality… but I think the reason that I most “got it” was the in-between time in which I went to J-school.

My first year at university, the computer labs had dos-based dialup internet connections and text-based forums. My cohort still had to look up journals for our Psychology major via CD-Roms, and then physically locate them on shelves and photocopy pages and pages of text. We learnt from brilliant, sharp old-school journalists for whom their role as the Fourth Estate was not a debate but a job description, and who would have understood Mackenzie McHale’s “speechifying” that, “there was a time when journalism wasn’t a career– it was a calling.” We took ethics training and obligations as par for the course; there was a code of conduct. Of course there was: in a functioning democracy, power came with responsibility. I wrote essays on the what the rise of the internet would do to or for the “gatekeepers” of information, on what it would do to personal identity. I worshipped at the doors of broadsheet newspapers. By the time I finished my first studies, I was reading my news entirely on the web.

It was another lifetime, with many lifetimes that came after it, but our first degrees shape our first frameworks, the first filters through which we understand the working world. (Ok, if you’re a liberal arts student, the world itself). So to this day, like Sloan Sabbith, I don’t believe in the term “citizen journalism”, because, to me, “journalism” is an institution that involves checks and balanced coverage and accountability and culpability. It’s citizen-something, but it ain’t journalism.

Almost everything that I’ve done in my career up to this point has been driven first by passion and idealism (sometimes bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and outright delusional). So MacKenzie slapping down the novel Don Quixote in front of Jim Harper to bring home the point that there was someone who was ready to fight windmills to build something extraordinary and that he wanted them to be a part of it, was one of many heart-leaping moments for me. As was Will’s “America can be great again” speech, and, one of the many that really resonated within me:

“The Greater Fool is … a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool, someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool; we toss in the hot potato, we dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.” (Sloan Sabbith). 

I’m grateful for the continuing existence of idealism and whatever fires up the audacity of hope. :)

Advent Day 16: Random acts of kindness II.

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 Australia says to Muslims: I’ll ride with you

This is beautiful because it started with just a few small gestures of kindness– two people’s ability to empathise and their choice to care about another human being who was a total stranger, and then to act on it. In case you’ve been living under a rock, while a gunman was in the midst of taking a whole Sydney cafe of people hostage in the name of his idea of religion, a young woman sitting on a train in Sydney noticed the girl next to her silently remove her hijab. She ran after her when they got off the train, telling her, “put it back on. I’ll walk with you.” The girl with the hijab, who was Muslim, started to cry and gave her a long hug, and then walked off alone.

Tessa, another young woman who read this person’s account, was moved by this, and simply offered over Twitter to ride her regular bus in the morning between the suburb of Coogee and Martin Place (where the incident was unfolding) with anyone who wore religious head-dress and who was frightened to go alone. Thus, the #illridewithyou hashtag was born.

These moments help me to remember that there exist people who choose to do good in the world when it is easier to simply seal oneself off from the world’s pain and just wallow in one’s own, to be self-serving rather than keep an eye out for opportunities to serve (or, at least help) others. They melt the cynical, hardened, embittered parts of my otherwise squishy, languid little heart. And they stir up the embers of the audacity of hope.

I’m grateful for random acts of kindness, for they start wildfires of compassion in a time where unspeakable evil would cloud our hearts with fear, bigotry and suspicion.

Advent Day 14: I’m grateful for Christmas trees.

Oops. Missed the advent yesterday as was rather busy.

I feel bad for Christmas trees chopped down from their Northern hemispheric homes to be shipped off to, for example, the tropics, to stand dying in pots but bringing such joy and lovely piney smells to homes all over the world. But I do so love them. I love pine cones and pine nuts and Christmas is just not the same without that pine smell.

I’m grateful for Christmas trees.

Advent Day 13: I’m grateful for beaches.

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Beaches do something to our frequencies, I’m sure. Apart from teeming with negative ions pulling away all those pesky positive ions we all apparently generate that make us stressed and twitchy, the waves and wind make these wonderful calming noises. Seagulls. Coconut trees. Soft, crunchy sand.

I think that if you grow up near the sea, it sort of works itself into your DNA. I am very uneasy landlocked; I’ve never had an overwhelming desire to visit Switzerland, nor Canberra, and I didn’t really like the claustrophobic feeling of being inland on continents more than an hour from a beach by fast train. It didn’t have to be a swimmable beach, just a beach. A coastline. Somewhere I could dip my feet into the seawater, even if it was very cold water. I can remember every single beach I’ve been to in my life– the colour and granularity of the sand, the temperature of the water, the colour and clarity of the water. I just love them.

I’m grateful for beaches.


Picture from Wikimedia commons.
 

Advent Day 12: I’m grateful for writing skills.

http://m.mic.com/articles/98348/science-shows-writers-have-a-serious-advantage-over-the-rest-of-us

Apparently, I’m just that little bit less crazy because I write stuff regularly. We scribes don’t often have stuff to be smug about, so I thought this was rather nice. We also tend to be a bit more sensitive and neurotic, so this was reassuring. And vindication. :)

I’m grateful for writing skills.

Advent Day 11: La langue française.

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I hope any Francophone reading this will forgive my terrible grammar and anglicised turns of phrase:

Je suis convaincu qu’on est nés pour aimer chaque certaines langues. J’ai essayé aimer les autres langues: chinois, allemand, espagnol…. et j’ai aimé le son et les sensations du roumain, italien et russe. Mais, la langue avec laquelle je n’ai pas seulement tombé en amour, mais me suis retrouvé pris dans son étreinte, était français.

Un de mes désirs de cette année a été d’atteindre un niveau de français assez avancé pour écrire un poème en français. (Ok, on a déjà établi que je suis un peu trop ambitieuse).

Eh bien, je ne suis pas encore là. Mais, j’ai assez du français maintenant pour être en mesure d’écrire une courte blog en français. (C’est probablement incorrecte et plein d’anglicismes, et ma grammaire pourrait être mieux, mais je suis toujours prêt à essayer. Sans Google Translate, naturellement.)

Essentially, French is the second language of my heart. I’m an Anglophile first, but since I was really quite young, I’ve been fascinated with the French language, probably because of all its similarities to English. These days, I get a deliciously exquisite wriggly feeling whenever I find French turns of phrases that sound like old or formal English, or that translate directly, or even the false friends (because that in itself tells interesting stories).

I started learning French properly at a time when I needed a new language in which to feel anew and think anew. It was one of the things that took me out of my head and helped me sit in my heart. I’m grateful for the French language.


Picture attribution: Paris/French Culture by Sarah Benson.