We need a movie about it

In the hazy, bleary-eyed commute to school this morning this driver was slow reacting when the Cerealbox segment came on to the radio.

That’s the few moments each morning when the local ABC radio plays recorded thought-bubbles from listeners who have dialed-in their opinions on all matters great and small.

Today’s hot-button topic was the flood of refugees affecting Europe and taking up precious seconds of our news feed here in Australia.

One star of the show wondered why all the refugee men aren’t “taking up arms and fighting”. Another caller called them “cowards”.

Later in the morning, over a creamy flat-white and crusty slab of banana bread, the same driver read a story in the Financial Review newspaper, describing how Germans are treating new arrivals.The image painted was a stark contrast to the bile expressed by callers to the local Brisbane radio station.

Australian Financial Review 7 September 2015

Australian Financial Review 7 September 2015

There are ignorant people full of hate in Germany too, and many Australian voices expressing generosity and compassion.

But what will it take for every one of us to view the world and its troubles with an open mind, to rise above irrational fears and wonder, just for a moment, what it must be like to stumble for a few hours in someone else’s shoes?

As always, art will be the ticket.

Earlier this year the driver was winging her way across the equator, luxuriating in business-class leg room and scanning the inflight entertainment offerings.

Out of curiosity she settled on the movie The Good Lie about a group of Sudanese refugees who resettle in America.

The Good Lie

Click here to view movie trailer

She watched it, chardonnay in hand, and was reduced to a blithering mess.

As a film it is not fantastic; critics would pick holes in its length and patchy character development.

But the story is gripping. Every tiny detail contrasting life marching through war-torn Africa, languishing in a refugee camp and finally making a life in Kansas, illuminates the tragedy of being a refugee better than any news bulletin.

So here’s hoping some brilliant wordsmith will bring us a book or a play or a movie about Syrian or Kurdish or Sri Lankan refugees. Just as a single photograph of a drowned toddler softened hearts, maybe a flick consumed over a box of popcorn would show the ignorant masses how being bilingual and owning a mobile phone do not mitigate against suffering.

Laughter I regret

One suburb over from me is a French patisserie. I can buy a regular loaf of sliced bread and a cream bun from another nearby bakery, but if I want a magnificent, crusty baguette or a flaky crescent of crisp, buttery decadence I head further afield to the patisserie.

The pastry chef and every staff member who has ever served me there speak with a heavy French accent. Clearly English is not their first language. So, in addition to truly delectable morsels of pastry goodness, I get to feel a little bit exotic every time I go there. I could almost be in Paris.

In fact I was there yesterday (the patisserie, not Paris). I was a bit cross because the waitress brought me my coffee in a takeaway cup. She misunderstood when I said the pain-au-chocolat was to take away but I was having the coffee in-house. Instead of smiling I frowned.

A few tables away another woman was complaining stridently that her salmon bagel was absent some specifically requested addition.

“I asked for it twice. Did I pay for it? Can you check please?” she said. The woman became increasingly agitated and loud as the waitress struggled to understand the dilemma.

“Oh don’t bother,” the customer finally barked for the rest of us to hear.

Then as I was leaving an elderly gentleman, slightly stooped and with his trousers hitched up under his armpits, approached the counter to introduce himself to the staff. He explained he was a retired university professor and could not pass by without offering his services. In a soft, hesitant mumble he offered to show them the correct spelling of ‘pastries’ so they might amend the message on the sandwich board at the front of the shop.

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Plural or possessive?

I laughed. A big laugh. I laughed at the elderly gentleman for being so concerned about a mis-used possessive apostrophe and then taking the time to have it corrected. But I also laughed at the café’s signage error. So typical!

Then I looked at the faces of the serving staff and the pastry chef who had come to the counter to investigate. They were embarrassed, chagrined, defeated. They didn’t really understand what the professor was saying to them but they certainly understood they were being laughed at. Here was a further sling in another arrow-filled day.

Lending a helping hand

Lending a helping hand

The elderly man was well-intentioned and polite. He corrected their grammar in a very courteous and gentle way. But my great guffawing laugh made my French friends wince.

How lucky we are to have migrants bring their beautiful food to our country, to master our ridiculous language and choose to live and work – run businesses! – in a country riddled with people who are insular, impatient and unthinking.

I regret my laugh. I regret taking this photo. My motives sprang from delight at the professor’s commitment to the English language, but my action mortified the patisserie staff and is further proof of the arrogance of many native English speakers.

I resolve to be more thoughtful. And next time I drop by the patisserie to buy a croissant I’m going to give my rusty French a workout, giving the staff a chance to laugh at me.

 

What’s in a name?

“Wot’s in a name?” she sez…and then she sighs,

An’ clasps ‘er little ‘ands an’ rolls ‘er eyes

“A rose,” she sez, “be any other name

Would smell the same.

Oh w’erefore art you Romeo, young sir?

Chuck yer ole pot, an’ change yer moniker!”

Who can remember the first piece of poetry or prose learnt by heart and performed in front of others? For me, it was ‘The Play’, from the book ‘Tales of a Sentimental Bloke’ by Australian author C.J.Dennis. Read the full poem here.

The memory of learning the poem as an 11 year-old child is vivid.

35 Melbourne st Kilmore

Home of poetry and casseroles

It was winter time. The scene – an open plan kitchen-diner in a 1960s brick house. Mum wielded a wooden spoon which served the dual purpose of stirring the chop casserole and corralling the younger siblings – three rambunctious boys and a demanding toddler. In the midst of family chaos I memorized this rhyming portrait of early Australia.

‘The Play’ is a re-telling and analysis of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ told in the Australian slang* of an early twentieth century larrikin*, whose own simple existence and new-found love provides an amusing context for the the silly posturing of the Capulet and Montague families.

Of course, I could have learnt and recited the original musings from Act II, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name:

And for that name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself

But Shakespeare is dull. If he’d been a blogger I doubt I would have read him.

Which brings me to today’s ‘blogging 101’ assignment: ‘edit your blog title and tag line’.

While Juliet might lament the importance of her name to her marriage prospects, studies consistently show how attractive or popular names affect our attitudes and expectations about their owners.

The same can be said about the title of a blog. Like the traditional newspaper headline, the title must grab the busy and distracted reader’s attention. Quickly.

There are many experts happy to share their wisdom on this topic, with most offering a version of the same advice:

  • Keep it short
  • Make it easy to say and remember

So, armed with my affection for C.J.Dennis and an appreciation for the importance of a good name, I am reviewing the name of this blog.

Branch Ruminations

This title just flew from my fingers when registering the site. I thought it was brilliant.

‘Branch’ is not an arboreal metaphor. It is simply an acronym made from the first two letters of each of my children’s names. It dictates my family’s naming habits. (The farm, a plot of dirt with one prolific lemon tree and the occasional visiting cow, is called ‘Branch Ranch’).

And ‘ruminate’ is a great verb:

roo-muh-nayt/v. 1. meditate, ponder. 2. chew the cud

(Aside: had I been aware of the bovine definition I might have thought twice about this word….)

But it’s a bit Shakespeare, isn’t it? Maybe I need something a bit more C.J. Dennis?

Branch Finks

Or, maybe C.J.Dennis and strangely obscure:

Peanuts or Lollies

Darren Rowse from Problogger distinguishes names which are ‘keyword’ based, suggesting the content of the blog and good for search engines, from names which are ‘brandable’. A brandable name is one used by a blog which becomes an identity in its own right, appealing to a band of loyal followers likely found through referral rather than search engines.

So who am I? Keyword or brandable? As the Sentimental Bloke would say “Crikey. It’s a bit late in the post for that question.”

I bet the 11 year-old in that cream brick house above would know. She would have no trouble finding the right moniker*. But this 47 (or is it 48? I can never remember) year-old version of that girl is struggling. She needs your help.

Please vote now. Let me know in the comments section which name best suits this blog:

  1. Branch Ruminations
  2. Branch Finks
  3. Peanuts or Lollies
  4. Other – you tell me!

Post Script

* To learn more about the unique language used by C.J.Dennis, visit this blog.

 

An Introduction

Aside

Last night the movie Julie & Julia was on television. It is ostensibly a movie about cooking, telling the story of renowned American cook Julia Child intertwined with that of a blogger cooking every recipe from Child’s 1961 cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’.

The food shots are glorious, of course. There is lots of butter and red wine. Pastry. The real glue to the story, however, is the common theme of personal discovery. The joy of the movie lies in how the power of writing – diligently, persistently and with passion – rewarded each of them. The reward is not just publication, although both protagonists achieved this goal. The reward is the creative process itself. Writing grounded each of them and gave them a sense of daily purpose.

220px-Julie_and_julia

Theatrical release poster. Source: Wikipedia

Hello.

My name is Angela. I am always busy yet constantly feel adrift. Underdone. Frankly, a disappointment to the years invested in the fading degrees hanging on the walls.

My aim is to write entertaining, engaging words – words that are so useful to society there will be an economic demand for them. The medium and audience for these words are yet to be determined. A blog seems like a good place to start.

Very soon, a freshly-minted graduate certificate in journalism will jostle for wall space in my home office. Clearly no self-respecting journalism school would let students graduate without a blog so I have a bourgeoning platform already. Daily ‘blogging 101’ posts will appear here.

If this brief introduction leaves you wanting, there are more tidbits of personal stuff at my bio page and also here at a (very) recent blog post. The most successful (number of views) post to date was a piece I wrote on dancers, inspired by a weekend spent at an eisteddfod.

It is hoped these daily posts for WordPress ‘blogging 101’ might somehow assist this wanderer, who is neither a novelist nor cook, find an oeuvre. Preferably one that pays.

Post script

For readers who might like to find inspiration in the movie Julie & Julia, you can watch a trailer here:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi77595161/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

 

In answer to your questions

liebster-award-e1355858473421

Click here to learn more about it

Because what is a blog if not a vehicle to address some of life’s big questions?

Ria Baghat from Musings of a Little River (check out her blog below) has awarded this key-basher a Liebster Award. This requires me to answer Ria’s questions then pose a further set of questions to other bloggers.

Ria

Visit Ria’s blog

This challenge posed by Ria seems as good a reason as any to dust off the keyboard.

Sure. Why not. Here are the answers to questions from the Little River:

Which five items would you take to a desert island?

My hat, my glasses and three books.

It doesn’t matter which three books. The following are the most likely candidates:

  • ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton, the novel I received for Christmas last year.
  • ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ by Thomas Piketty, the book given to me by my father-in-law when he learned I was studying journalism.
  • ‘The Art of Belonging’ by Hugh Mackay, a book given to my daughter by her teacher this week for representing her grade in a public speaking competition.

IMG_3272[1]

Books I want to read

Were Ross and Rachel ‘on a break’?

Who are Ross and Rachel?

Whose blog do you most admire?

The first blog I ever read was Reporting4Work and it blew me away

Visit Trina’s blog

This blog is a living resume, carefully constructed and organised to allow its author to showcase her work, share her wisdom and express an opinion from time-to-time. This is the blog which led me to WordPress. It’s neat and well-constructed. It’s not fussy. There is a bowls gag. This is the blog I want to construct for myself (and I wouldn’t mind the 20-odd years experience represented therein, either).

More than just a resume, it is a great reference site, particularly for writer’s feeling challenged by tense, apostrophe, attribution and other editorial issues. I stop by regularly.

Thanks Trina.

What is your favourite content/type of blog post to write?

How gratifying it would be to have a skill set to share with the world. Sadly, I have no expertise to share and do not presume there is an audience for the minutiae of my life.

It’s really very challenging, having a yen to communicate but having nothing to say. I’m working on this.

I will admit to enjoying the art side of the blog. I do love to stage a photo and look forward to improving my image-making skills.

Which TV show do you feel guiltiest about watching?

I love TV and watch far too much of it. I always have (except ‘Friends’. I never watched that.) When I was a wee thing and misbehaved, my punishment would be no ‘Adventure Island’ for a week.

Today, thanks to the remote control and subscription television, I can always find something worthwhile to watch. I can even find Adventure Island again on Youtube! The only guilt associated with television remains the time spent lolling about glued to the screen – too much.

Do you think you’ve had your ‘best day ever’, or is it still coming?

So – am I an optimist or a pessimist? Do I look forward or back? Half full or half empty?

Optimist. Forward. Full.

What is/are your current addiction(s)?

Addiction is a strong word. At most I will admit to being partial to a good coffee, a smart handbag and ballet on Youtube.

 

Name the five people (living or dead) you’d invite to your dinner party?

This is where I should nominate the people who inspire me, probably the best and brightest from politics, art, letters or sport. In truth such luminaries would just intimidate me. I’d most likely burn the chops.

Instead I nominate the usual suspects at my dining table: the Boy from Stafford and the Misses A, B and C. Fred the dog would assume his position at my feet. There’s your five.

What would you serve at the aforementioned dinner party?

IMG_2468

Bagged Salad

Goodness. I have spent the better part of my adult life planning other people’s meals. I am so over it.

Eggs on toast. Or a bagged salad.

What’s your hidden talent/party trick?

There is nothing hidden about me. What you see is what you get. No tricks either I’m afraid. I cannot sing or dance or yodel. I am not double jointed.

I will listen to you, however. I am a good listener. And I will probably laugh at your jokes.

I am also likely to be sober at the end of the night so can drive you home. Tricky enough?

Is city, country or coastal life the one for you?

I’m going to opt for ‘neapolitan icecream’ on this question and have a scoop of all three.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

‘The Farm’

In essence a girl of the suburbs who values proximity to a decent delicatessen and barista, I will always be most comfortable where there are lots of people around. But who doesn’t love the beach? And in a perfect world I would own a shack in the country with a patch of dirt to grow some lemons and a verandah to rest and watch the sunset.

 

 

 

Images in blogs – issues of ownership

Originality or permission with attribution – there’s no third option

Ethical issues around the use of other people’s work are particularly challenging in the online sphere, where cutting and pasting is easy and time-pressures are increasingly acute.

The issue of ‘art’ in blog posts is particularly vexing. Online is visual, and a picture does much to enhance a blog post and keep readers engaged.

IMG_3973

Get creative. Make your own art.

In an ideal world the blogger would have a bank of shots taken with their own camera or smart phone to illustrate every conceivable point being made. However, this is not an ideal world and Google Images is just a mouse-click away.

Many citizen journalists and bloggers do not come from a traditional newsroom background and have neither documented policies nor a professional code of conduct to guide them in the use of other people’s work.

In recognition of this, journalists from around the world are working with the Online News Association to produce a ‘tool kit’ for journalists publishing online, including bloggers, to create their own ethics code.

 

As it currently stands in its draft form, the toolkit offers little direct guidance on the use of someone else’s photographs published on the internet.

There is some discussion, however, on the issue of sharing photos, updates or tweets obtained through social media:

While some believe it is a waste of space to include a credit to the original creator, many others believe that sharing without credit is an ethical violation.
If the creator of the work is incorrect, having credited the origin also allows distance from the mistake should it need to be corrected.
In general, erring on the side of crediting the source is safer, ethically and legally, than the reverse.

Beyond (perhaps before) the issue of attribution, in many instances the journalist / blogger should consider getting permission to republish.

This is especially the case when using posts from social media where the original publication is to a limited audience of ‘friends’.

facebook message to Leah

It’s not that hard to get permission

It is not just ethical considerations which should populate the tool-kit of citizen journalists and bloggers. There are widely applicable laws to consider before using that perfect picture found on Twitter or Facebook or any other digital source.

An overview of copyright and when it is OK to use photos for free or without permission is provided by this commercial organisation, which posts regularly on this issue. The laws of copyright in Australia and their relevance to artworks are summarised neatly by the Arts Law Centre of Australia.

Getting permission to use images sourced online is not difficult. Sometimes this is as simple as shooting off an email.

email re photo

And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a response very quickly:

email response re photo

In the absence of permission from the owner of a picture or a great shot from your own arsenal of artwork, the safest bet is to use one of the many sources of royalty-free images available online:

 

EDIT: Thanks to Trina McLellan for posting information about Getty Images which also makes millions of images available for free.

Finally, just when you thought you understood the ins and outs of copyright, royalty free, creative commons and attribution, consider the case of the simian selfie where a photographer and Wikipedia are fighting over ownership of this photograph taken by a media-savvy primate.

Really, what hope does the beginner blogger have?

Macaca_nigra_self-portrait_(rotated_and_cropped)

Controversial photo – who owns it? Source: Wikipedia

 

Drivers’ fraud goes unpunished in Queensland

Learner Driver

Learner drivers in Queensland struggling to reach 100 hours of supervised driving

The teenagers’ claim ‘everyone else does it’ is not entirely true, but learner drivers who lie in their logbooks are getting away with it in Queensland.

John Morton, a driving instructor with 19 years experience and a representative of the Australian Driver Training Association, believes learners and their families are making fraudulent entries in their logbooks.

“I would say one in 10 or one in 15 learners are lying about the hours in their logbooks,” Morton said.

“You can tell it in their driving.”

However no fines for false or misleading logbook entries have been issued in the past 12 months according to a spokesperson from the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR).

The Department processed over 52 thousand learner logbooks between September 2013 and August 2014.

“Less than six per cent of those logbooks were challenged due to inaccuracy of hours claimed,” the spokesperson said.

Morton said it is easy to spot those who claim more hours in their logbooks than have actually been spent in the driver’s seat.

“I had one kid who came to me with 90 hours in his book,” Morton said.

“In the space of 40 minutes in the car with me, he made 32 errors and I had to grab the wheel twice.”

Morton said DTMR fined some families for fraudulent log book entries in the first 12 months after the 100 hour requirement was introduced.

Adding up

““The main reason for log books being returned is the hours haven’t been added up correctly.” John Morton from the Australian Driver Training Association

Now, most rejected log books are returned to learner drivers simply because of bad maths.

“The main reason for log books being returned is the hours haven’t been added up correctly,” he said.

Morton believes the majority of learner drivers and their families do the right thing.

“Not all supervising parents are prepared to lie for a driver’s licence,” he said.

Ursula, a single mother from Gordon Park, is teaching both of her teenagers to drive.

“I wouldn’t forgive myself if I lied and let my kid get her licence on only 60 hours, if a week into her provisional licence she had an accident and killed someone,” she said.

Yet Ursula has a friend who drives from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and back and “gives the mileage to her learner-driver daughter”.

This is a familiar story.

Elle, a nursing student at QUT, has her provisional licence.

The second youngest of four children said when she was learning her mother sometimes did the driving herself but still signed the logbook for her.

“We would visit my grandmother at Brighton but if I was too tired to drive home Mum would just do it for me and give me the hours,” she said.

“It’s really hard for a lot of my friends to get supervised driving, especially if their parents are divorced and especially once they are at university.

“Some people are good enough drivers and can pass the test after 50 hours,” Elle said.

Corrections

Logbooks are likely to be rejected by DTMR if they contain too many corrections according to John Morton from the Australian Driver Training Association

Learner driver Georgia, 18, from Salisbury said she never lies about an entire journey but often adds on 10 minutes here and there.

“It depends on which parent is supervising,” she said.

“Dad always says ‘you have to do the time to claim it’ but mum is happy to say a trip took longer than it did.”

Education student Jake’s Dad lives in Sydney and his Mum has a back disease and can’t sit in the car for long periods, so Jake is also struggling to clock up 100 hours.

“All my hours have to be done with a driving instructor and that’s expensive,” he said.

The RACQ’s Lauren Ritchie said the state’s peak motoring group is comfortable with the current safeguards in place to determine logbook accuracy.

“The Department (DTMR) does rigorous testing to ensure the hours are not faked,” she said.

“People who go to great lengths to try and fudge those 100 hours won’t be getting away with it very easily.”

Dr Bridie Scott-Parker, research fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast Centre for Accident Research, believes stories of learner drivers falsifying their hours are “urban legend”.

Based on recent small group interviews and focus groups with learner drivers, she said kids might brag at parties about making up their hours but in reality they don’t.

“They said it’s too hard because you’ve got to put too much information in the logbook,” she said.

Scott-Parker believes rather than targeting the learner drivers DTMR should focus on supervising parents who sign false entries in log books.

“Where there is falsification there need to be consequences for the supervisors,” she said.

“Maybe mum and dad don’t realise just how important it is the kids get those hours on the road.”

Scott-Parker said many parents just want to hurry their teenagers through the learner phase thinking “they’ll be ok”.

“I’ve struggled with them for many years to get them on the same page and get them to understand that the learner phase is when you develop safe habits, safe attitudes,” she said.

Since 2007 learner drivers in Queensland have been required to complete 100 hours of supervised driving and record the details in a log book.

The maximum penalty for providing false or misleading logbook entries is a fine of $6831.