Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wandering eyes

There are two very different types of people to be found on public transport. The first group – usually the overwhelming majority – are those who stare politely into space or out the window, seemingly preoccupied with their own thoughts. The question of whether this is a sad reflection on our highly disciplined and self-centred, ambitious society is a question for another blog or university essay. But there are other people to be found on trains and buses; those with wondering eyes, or people watchers.

I belong to the second group. It is remarkably easy to do, given that no one else is watching you, whether they have been taught this as an aspect of manners; to be as unobtrusive as possible, or whether it is rooted in a general apathy towards one’s surroundings. Either way, if you have not got into the habit of keeping your eyes to yourself, it becomes incredibly difficult to stop them from going on their own little adventures, especially given the previously mentioned lack of consequences.

Ironically, the only time this habit becomes a problem is when you get two sets of wandering eyes in the same arena, hence the experience that inspired this little blog. There will be a point, relatively early in the journey, where your eyes will meet for the first time, at which time you will both smile politely. However, when it keeps happening you become uncomfortable; you’ve been caught out with your eyes where they shouldn’t be. So you spend the rest of the journey in this crazy dance, trying to avoid each other’s gaze, an action which of course inevitably makes the situation even worse.

This raises the question; why are we so embarrassed to be caught watching those around us? We teach children to be inquisitive about their surroundings. Somehow, somewhere between being children and being adults it moves from being inquisitive to being slightly impolite. We are trained to march through life engrossed in a purpose, mainly keeping to ourselves. But in this we miss out on the pleasures of observing the range of different people that we have in this world… It’s really not surprising that an increasing ill of this world is a lack of passion.

So next time you’re rushing to get somewhere, slow down! Smell the roses, watch the people. Bring back the wandering eyes!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One of my favourite videos: Axis of Awesome – 4 chords

This clip comes from the Melbourne Comedy Festival a few years back. I just think it’s really clever. It’s quite amazing to hear them fit so many songs into the same music. Makes sense really since most songs are based on a beat of four, but you don’t think of how similar they are.

Happy Valentines Day people! I hope everyone got spoilt, but for those who didn’t, here’s some love!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yet another tragedy of war

poppies

Just a quick post to acknowledge the devastation that is war.

Australia woke up this morning to the news that another of our Australian soldiers has been killed in Afghanistan. It is easy, when you’re sitting here, on the other side of the world, to forget the real significance of this and just see numbers. I have been guilty of this. However, we must remember that every man that dies in war, no matter what side they fight on, has a family. They have parents, brothers, sisters, wives, fianc├ęs, children and friends. They have the chance to do something special. Each one of their deaths is a horrible, unnecessary and tragic thing for their families and for the world.

I am not saying that the Afghanistan war is unjust; I am not well enough versed in the reasons behind it to make that statement. What I am saying is that ALL war is unjust; a horrible waste of life. But until we find a way to live together without wars, we are forced to watch the numbers rise as part of our humanity dies.

R.I.P Corporal Richard Atkinson and everyone else who has lost their lives at the hands of war all around the globe. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten. I only hope it has not been in vain.

Imperfection

This is a (very) short story which I wrote a few years back for school. However, it is only becoming more relevant as the trend towards cosmetic surgery and the search for aesthetic perfection grows. You only have to look at today’s batch of celebrities to see how crazy it has become. It is very rare now to find a celebrity who has not had some sort of alteration to their body. As they become skinnier they are becoming more plastic. I mean, many celebs are unrecognisable to what they once were, and this inevitably steals from their beauty. So here it is; a glimpse into the future. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it makes you think.

The receptionist gave me an awkward look as I crossed the vast white expanse towards the outside world. My request had shocked everyone and the pretty blonde was still questioning my sanity. The people working at this facility were not used to granting wishes the likes of mine. I returned her gaze with a smile before passing through the great metallic doors into the world of glass and skyscrapers beyond.

The warm gust of air hit my face like a wave hitting the beach. It was mid June but due to global warming cold winters had long since been a thing of the past. Society was now paying for the decisions made by industry hundreds of years ago.

As I made my way through the crowded street I studied the faces in the mass of bodies. Although each face was different they all had one thing in common, each was flawless. Cosmetic surgery had advanced in modern times and meant that no-one had to look any older than thirty. It had become almost unheard of in recent years for anyone in a developed country to die without being a good looking corpse.

As I continued walking only the eyes gave them away. Their eyes had seen too much for their faces. The tired blank stares made them look mismatched somehow, instead of sitting lively on their faces, their eyes seemed to hang limply in their sockets. For these people perfection did not make for happiness, in fact perfection had brought these people no more than a feeling of discontentment and a longing for more. This was a world dictated by the harshness of beauty, where the image of age was now no more than some old photograph turned up and yellowing at the edges.

Moving through group after group of city dwellers, the story was always the same, picture perfect faces vandalised by lifeless eyes. The only movement visible was a brief glance in my direction before quickly returning to their previous state of depression.

Passing one of the many buildings I caught a quick glimpse of my reflection in the shimmering glass. The figure looking back at me was different to everyone else. The newly wrinkled skin sat softly across the face, the eyelids drooped slightly behind a pair of thinly rimmed glasses, and the short grey hair sat back in gentle waves. The woman looking back at me from the window smiled and continued walking.

Perfect, I smiled. Imperfection is perfect.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicken: To bless or not to bless? Who cares?

Another day, another religious issue that threatens to needlessly divide the community even further than it already is. A current affairs program last night revealed that the majority of chicken which we eat in Australia is now Halal certified. Halal is a term which alerts Muslims to which food products they are permitted to eat in accordance with Islam. In the case of commercial production of meats, to my understanding, this primarily means that a Muslim must be present at the slaughter of the animals and the animals must be blessed. There are some who are offended by this, arguing that it contravenes their right to practice their religion, but I honestly can’t see the issue.

The blessing itself is very simple and, I think, inoffensive. Prior to slaughter they say a prayer to God which translates to “In the name of God – God is great.” To me, this does not contradict any religion. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was brought up as a Christian and I can remember going too church and hearing words very similar to this. A blessing to God is a blessing to God. If you’re that worried about saying the right words, say grace before you eat it. That chicken should be really lucky; it’s received two blessings!

For those who are not religious and who think they’re being pushed into a religion, simply think of it as a blessing to mother nature or the universe. It certainly can’t do any harm for us to be more thankful for what we have. And as for those who honestly don’t believe in anything, it doesn’t matter because the idea of food being blessed by God is nothing but a fairytale and is as harmless as one.

As for this being part of the Islamification of Australia, this is absurd. It is not the process of making a food Halal that is essential to practicing Islam. The essential element of this whole debate is the mindset of the eater. They must be eating the Halal because of their religion in order to make it an Islamic practice. The production of Halal food merely enables consumers to participate in  the Islamic practice if they wish to do so. In the end, In the end, whether or not a food is Halal only makes a difference to those who believe in it. After all, what one person holds sacred may mean nothing to another person. In light of this, this whole debate is irrelevant.

What angers me most though, is the reaction of the media. This particular current affairs story was introduced and concluded by the host last night as an issue of major moral and ethical importance with the intention of generating as much debate as possible, even asking for viewer’s opinions. It is not just this issue either. We see it everywhere, shock jocks on the radio, on T.V, in newspapers, carelessly man-handling sensitive issues to create maximum debate. It is this type of irresponsible sensationalism which divides the community and breeds intolerance. All this for what? The sake of an interesting story and a larger audience?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can we leave this world alive?

A friend and I caught up today and decided to watch a few movies, as is our usual custom. The last movie we watched was P.S. I Love You. We have both seen this movie a number of times now, and every time I watch it I’m struck by the joy within it. I remember when it first came out critics didn’t really like it – probably rightly so in terms of technically good movies – but I was charmed by it and still believe its worthiness comes with the questions it asks about the finality of death. When we die, are we really gone?

You can answer this question in several different ways. Religiously, this question is answered by the notion of souls going either to heaven or hell once they die, and while I have a strong belief in an afterlife, I find it more interesting to look at the question from a philosophical stand point. This is also the avenue which is explored in P.S. I Love You.

One of the final lines of the film surrounds the idea that this world and this life is one which nobody comes out of alive. This is given as a motivational concept. It is perfectly sensible. To the best of our knowledge, we only get one life. It is the one material certainty in this life that we will, at some point, die and we don’t know when this will happen. Once this is realised, there are two choices. We can either become depressed, lamenting the fragility of life, or we can live life as best we can with what we’re given. This is one of the major themes in P.S. and is what makes it so touching when Holly accepts her fate and begins living her life.

Ironically, this response to the confirmation of death has further implications for the original question. P.S. I Love You urges viewers to make some sort of mark on the world rather than simply walking through it. These differences that you make become part of you, but do not leave this world when you do. How can a person be dead when a part of them is still alive on earth? Part of being alive is being able to influence this world. Even though Gerry in P.S. is physically dead, he continues to influence his wife, Holly, in profound ways. He has made his mark on her life and therefore lives on in her.

In the end, it is those who have lived their life to the full who can live on after death. They can be confident that the things they have done and the people they have known will ensure their survival. This is ultimately the beauty of P.S, I Love You: the message that in a world preoccupied with death, life is the stronger and more enduring force. This should inspire all of us.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Holiday boredom leads to unexpected find

OK, it’s official! Holidays are overrated. They promise so much but ultimately they deliver so little. Still, I fall for the promises every time and end up thoroughly bored. I have to wonder what that implies for my memory ….. Anyway, I’m currently sitting here with just over a month left until I’m forced to return to the grindstone of university. Anyone studying Arts at Melbourne University will immediately recognise the irony of that statement. Nonetheless, university does require early mornings and a level of brain power which I’m not relishing expending right now.

And so, I resolved that if my break is not going to give me anything interesting to do, I’d at least waste my time pleasantly by catching up on a few movies I’ve been meaning to watch. The first one I found was a little movie from the 90s by the name of “Before Sunrise.” It is the beautifully simple story of a couple who meet on a train in Europe, spending a night together before going their separate ways.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much more than a sentimental flick from this movie. I think it’s already clear at this point that I was pleasantly surprised. I found it to be an intelligent film, relying more on the real conversations between the two leads, rather than flashy situations and editing. The simplicity of this film is astounding. Instead of the action that bombards many of the movies we see, Before Sunrise is nothing more than a tour around Vienna while the lead characters talk about love and life. Each of their conversations is unique and offers something to think about. At times their conversations even border on being too philosophical, but these periods are only temporary.

The leads were awesome. Apart from being a really cute couple, they had such great chemistry, keeping their conversations fresh and genuinely funny while giving great insights about their characters. One memorable scene  involved these two in the listening booth of a record store where the camera was focussed on them for a full minute simply avoiding each other’s gazes. The actors handled this with subtlety to create a funny and sweet scene out of what could have been rather awkward.

Anyway, I think you get my point ….. Awesome, understated movie that really makes you feel for the characters, hoping that somehow they meet again. There is a sequel which surprisingly is rated pretty well, but whether or not it’s needed I’m not sure.

Before Sunrise; cute, unique film, cute actors, beautiful locations. What more could you want? Totally recommend it!

Find the trailer here.