Friday, November 28, 2014

Is your overseas holiday contributing to animal cruelty?

Photo by Melissa Wellham @melissawellham

This piece was originally published on Mamamia.com.au. Read the full article here

If you knew that your holiday was contributing to animal cruelty, would you still choose to do the same activities?

The woman featured in this photo is Lek Chailert, the founder of the Save the Elephants foundation and the Elephant Nature Park. The elephants photographed with her are Jokia and Mae Perm.

Mae Perm was the first elephant that Lek rescued from the logging industry – where she was required to drag heavy loads every day, despite her increasing age – and brought to the park. Jokia was rescued many years later, blind in both eyes after being abused by humans. The two elephants bonded, and because Jokia cannot see she relies upon Mae Perm to be her guide and help.

This anecdote alone should give some indication of the intelligence and emotion these gentle giants are capable of.

But just as elephants can show compassion and love, they can also feel deep suffering. Distress when separated from other members of their herd. Psychological problems when confined in unnatural habitats. Post-traumatic stress disorder when abused or hurt.


Sadly, the suffering of elephants is not uncommon. At least, it is not uncommon for these wild animals kept in captivity.

Read more at Mamamia.com.au

 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who, Deep Breath: Season Eight Premiere.

doctor who deep breath



Did you watch the Doctor Who season eight premiere, Deep Breath, today? It was simultaneously broadcast on television in the UK and Australia, screened in cinemas around the country, and if you still haven’t had the chance it’s available on iVew here

Deep Breath sees the Doctor, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), and Jenny (Catrin Stewart) reunited - even if the Doctor doesn't properly remember any of them. At first it seems like they’re going to be fighting a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the Victorian London streets – but soon a more nefarious clockwork, Frankenstein-like villain reveals itself (himself? Robot rights are hard).

The episode is an introduction to Peter Capaldi as the new doctor, and it’s an incarnation that fans (of the ‘new’ seasons especially) might find unfamiliar. Capaldi is a throwback to the doctors of old, and not just because he’s closer to 60-years-old than 20-years-old. This Doctor is far removed from Matt Smith’s flirtatious, bow tie wearing dandy.

He’s Scottish, he’s decided he has a right to complain, and his eyebrows are so angry they want to form a state independent of his face. He’s not into hugging and we’re unlikely to see any handholding with his companions anytime soon.

As Madame Vastra tells Clara at the beginning of the episode, “You might as well flirt with a mountain range”.

Deep Breath is an introduction for both Clara and the audience to the Doctor, and when a secret cameo actor pleads with Clara, “He’s scared. He needs you. Look after him” – it’s equally a plea to the audience to embrace the new manifestation of the much-beloved character. 

There are a few pacing problems in the first episode of the new season – but there’s the promise of a darker edge in episodes to come. It was about time for a change.


 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Don't be a dick about the Ice Bucket Challenge.

This video of Queensland newsreader Lincoln Humphries has been circulating online for the past few days, to a fair amount of praise.



Pedestrian, for example, published the video with the headline: “Newsreader beautifully shuts down ice bucket challenge.”

Because a viral campaign that has raised millions of dollars for research into a total bitch of a disease needs to be ‘shut down’, clearly.

Humphries suggests that, rather than pouring a bucket of ice over one’s head, people should donate to a whole bunch of other charitable causes. He acknowledges that the #IceBucketChallenge has raised over $30 million dollars (now $50 million) for the ALS Foundation, before saying: “I’m not saying it isn’t a worthy cause…. but let’s spread the love.”

As a general rule if you ever find yourself using ‘but’ in that context (i.e. “I’m not… but….), you should maybe rephrase (or even entirely rethink) what you are about to say.

Rather than suggesting that people donate money to ALS instead of pouring ice over their heads, which is what you might expect – or even using the opportunity to highlight the Australian charitable equivalent, MND Australia - Humphries lists a number of unrelated charities. Perhaps he is not explicitly suggesting that people donate to these charities instead of research into ALS/MND, but he is certainly disparaging of the Ice Bucket Challenge in general.

At the end of his video, he explains that people should give what they can “because that’s what charity is about, not putting yourself through mild discomfort with a bucket of water”.

Well, yeah, that’s not the definition of ‘charity’. It is, however, coming close to being the definition for ‘one of the most successful and viral campaigns for a good cause in recent memory, which has made people aware of a fairly unsexy disease that hasn’t received this kind of attention since Lou Gehrig was diagnosed in 1939’.

I have seen a lot of criticism of the Ice Bucket Challenge over the past few days, and frankly, the general sentiment just seems to be that people want to prove that they’re not going to be ‘sucked in’ by something ‘trendy’. 

How dare a charitable cause actually be successful in asking people for money, right?

According to the critics, the Ice Bucket Challenge has nothing to do with ALS, and is just a cheap gimmick designed to go viral (well no fucking shit it’s designed to go viral). It’s unfair because it’s ‘taking money away’ from other charitable causes (yes, I have read a few people online making this argument). It’s pointless because the message is getting lost. Let’s have a look at these arguments, shall we?

The Ice Bucket Challenge has nothing to do with ALS.

Unlike make-up free selfie campaigns raising money for breast cancer (which I’m also not going to criticize, because again - good for them at figuring out how to hook people in), the Ice Bucket Challenge actually is linked to the disease it is raising money for.

While numbness isn’t strictly a symptom of ALS (if you can feel numbness, that might be a sign of MS), the disease slowly degenerates muscles. People might start noticing they have clumsy fingers, a weak grip, or difficulty turning doorknobs.

A way to replicate this feeling in a recognisable way for the masses, is through numbness. Numbness like you experience when you pour a bucket of icy water over your head.

It’s unfair because it’s ‘taking money away’ from other charitable campaigns.

The argument being that people only set aside so much money that they donate to charity each month, and now the ALS is receiving more than it’s fair share.

By this logic, every single awareness rising and fundraising campaign EVER would have been ‘taking money away’ from some other cause. Make-up free selfies for breast cancer is taking money from the RSPCA, the RSPCA’s million paws walk is taking money away from the Red Cross, World Red Cross day is taking money away from… ad infinitum.

The message is getting lost.

If you think this, you’re not entirely wrong. But you’re not entirely right, either. The message clearly isn’t completely lost, as people are still donating. (Can we not just be happy that the campaign has raised over $50 million dollars for a seriously good cause?)

This argument mostly seems to be directed at celebrities who have done the Ice Bucket Challenge, and then barely mentioned the ALS Foundation. As Steve-O from Jackass wrote when he posted his video… 

“Since the ice bucket challenge began, over 15 million dollars has been raised for ALS research. I think that’s great, but when you consider the countless A-list celebrities who have actively gotten behind this cause by posting videos — the fact that not more than fifteen million dollars has been raised is a tragedy," he wrote

“It’s tragic because I don’t think many of those celebrities even bothered to mention how or where to donate money for ALS research. Most of them just poured water over their heads and named three random people, without including any “call to action” which actually benefits victims of ALS at all. Had all those celebrities given this cause any thought, hundreds of millions of dollars might have been raised, and a whole lot more awareness.”

Preach. However, that’s not really an argument for ‘shutting down’ the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s not an argument for people to stop donating to ALS/MND charities. It’s an argument for celebrities to do better, dammnit.

What it comes down to is this. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been hugely effective in raising money for the ALS Foundation.  As a society (and by this I mean, as privileged mostly-Arts graduates), is our ability - nay, our hankering - to critically analyse pop culture and politicians’ faux pas really so under-stimulated that we have to turn to tearing charities down?

Pour a bucket of ice over your head. Don’t pour a bucket of ice over your head. Donate to ALS/MND research. Or don’t and pick another charity that speaks to you instead.

But don’t be a dick about a campaign that is raising money for research into a disease that causes muscles to slowly degenerate, resulting in a loss of ability to move, speak, breathe and swallow.

A disease that kills people. 

What are you hoping to accomplish?

If you want to contribute, visit the MND Australia website
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

A visit to the Blue Mountains.

There's nothing quite like getting away for the weekend and immersing yourself in nature, to feel rejuvenated and refocussed.

Also, to feel anew how unbelievably shortsighted it is for human beings to continue destroying our natural environment.

Just like in Narnia. 

There's a reason they call them blue. 

50 shades of green. 

Crossing the bridge. 



We ate lunch in front of this waterfall. We were this close, too. 

Three immoveable sisters. 

Next time I want to trek to the bottom of the waterfall. 

 

19th Biennale of Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The 19th Biennale of Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art was promoted with the tagline, "You imagine what you desire."

Juliana Engberg provided the artistic direction, and the two-floor exhibition at the MCA showcased the works of over 20 artists. The exhibition "celebrates the imagination as a spirited exploration of the world, seeking splendour and rapture in works that remain true to a greater, even sublime, visuality."

Washi tape floor. I want one. 

Madness is like gravity. All it takes is a little push. 

See the faces in the world around you. 

Immerse yourself. 




 

Yoko Ono at the Museum of Contemporary Art. #SummerOfYoko

I loved the Yoko Ono exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, over the summer months.

To me, Yoko Ono is perhaps more of a curator than an artist. She has a way of brining together ideas, and concepts, and interactive displays and telling a story with them. I don't think we should look at her individual artworks is insolation; it's how they work as a whole that's important.


Essence of Virginia Woolf. 

We're all being pulled somewhere, by something. 

In this artwork, visitors were encouraged to write a letter to their mother and stick it on the wall. I cried reading it. 


A puddle of the sky. 

Where are we all from. 

Visitors were told to leave a note saying where they wanted to travel, in Louis Vuitton luggage. Very Darjeeling Limited.  

Kicking free. 


 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Album Review: Miley Cyrus, Bangerz (Deluxe Version), track-by-track.


I decided to take one for the team and review Miley Cyrus’s fourth album, Bangerz. Bangerz with a ‘z’, because she’s edgy and appropriating ghetto culture now. (In other news, Miley Cyrus has released three other albums?! Overachiever.)

The overall album rating will be determined by how many of the songs I find myself enjoying and/or unable to get out of my head. And it’ll be a star rating out of 16, because I downloaded the ‘Deluxe Version’, bitches. Sorry – bitchez.

Let’s do this, track by track.

Adore You

Miley cleverly opens with a track that will make you feel sorry for her. It’s a romantic ballad of sorts, and one that is clearly about ex-fiance Liam Hemsworth. “I could do this for eternity, you and me,” Miley croons. “We're meant to be in holy matrimony.” Until that Wrecking Ball came along, clearly.

I’m a giant sucker and found myself getting QUITE EMOTIONAL when Liam and Miley called it quits, and putting aside the autotune (heads up: it’s a major player on this album), I found this song is quite lovely. Thumbs up.

We Can’t Stop

I cannot listen to this goddamn song one more time, so I am skipping. Thumbs down.

Instead, you might like to listen to this version:



Or this one:



SMS (Bangerz)

Miley Cyrus feat. Britney Spears – sampling Salt-n-Pepa’s Push It. SRSLY GURL, if you’re going to sample Salt-n-Pepa you better make your song worthwhile. 

Most of this song is incomprehensible, and I’m an old person, so that turned me right off. People who like to do young people activities like dancing in clubs may enjoy this. I don’t know, go ask one of them.

Thumbs down.

4x4

Holy shit, Nelly is in this song! Holy shit, Nelly still exists!

This is the kind of song one might expect to hear played at a hoedown. And if that sounds like a slur, it’s not –it’s hand-clappin’ foot-stompin’ rootin’-tootin’ fun. Miley gives us a taste of Tennessee, and leaves you wanting more. I predict a big future for Miley in county music, once she tires of licking sledgehammers.

Strange, but delightful at the same time. Thumbs up.

My Darlin’

Another ‘feat’, with time with Future. The first time I listened to My Darlin’ I thought it was pretty tedious and kind of glossed over it, but it’s grown on me. You know what they say, familiarity breeds a comforting type of contempt. Basically it’s just a lot of the "Oh, my darlin'/ Stand by me" from the Ben E. King tune repeated over and over again, but it’s nice and repetitive like a lullaby.

That sounds harsh, but thumbs up. Really.

Wrecking Ball

I became a bit obsessed with this song when it was first released. I would even defend the artistry of the film clip, if I had to. And it goes without saying that I would defend to the death Miley Cyrus’ right to not wear a bar, because how about we stop dictating what young women can and cannot wear, amiright?!

Wrecking Ball is a clear standout on the album. Vulnerable and emotionally raw. Thumbs up.



Love Money Party (feat. Big Sean)

This one is a bit country-meets-hip-hop, and it sucks balls. Or ballz. Or bangerz, whatever your derogatory slur about sucking of choice is. Honestly, there’s just too much of Miley trying to rap.

It’s basically just the same themes seen previously in “We Can’t Stop”, but MORE. MILEY WANTS MORE. "Love, money, party/ Love, money, party/ We want love, money, party,” Miley awkwardly sings/raps.

I do not dig. Thumbs down.

#GETITRIGHT

It has a fairly prominent hashtag title, just like all those #THICKEs seen in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines – which makes sense, as Pharrell produced both these ditties. While #GETITRIGHT deals less with questioning the consent of a woman, it’s still not great.

It’s a summery, 70s throwback, with hand clapping and whistling to boot – but I feel like it lacks substance.

Because I assume people will be interested in knowing this, this is also the song where Miley sings: “Would you believe I’m dancing in the mirror?/I feel like I got no panties on.” And, “I feel the thirst pouring out of me.”

Thumbs down – not for the lyrics, just for the blandness and no wackness.

Drive

Allegedly the song that Cyrus wrote on Valentine’s Day, when she realised her relationship with Liam Hemsworth was no longer working. OoooOOOoooohhhh!

The track starts with edgy, sad synth stuff going on – and I’m already hooked. This song feels personal and not at all forced (unlike, you know, whenever Miley tries to rap). The production is a bit zig-zaggy, but I like the anger and emotion. “You told me that you wanted this/ I told you it was all yours/ If you're done with it/ Then what you say forever for?”

Thumbs up, Miley. Take a note from Taylor’s playbook and write more break-up songs – they suit you.

FU feat. French Montana

In another unexpected stylistic departure (first country, then hip-hop, now THIS) Miley does a cabaret, Broadway, Lady Gaga-esque number. It’s another track where instead of just singing about dancing and lines and money, Miley lets a little real emotion through. “I got two letters for you/ One of them is F/ And the other one is U,” Miley snarls.

Thumbs up, big time.

Do My Thang

And after just saying that I like it when Miley doesn’t sing about dancing and lines and money and doing whatever the hells she likes ‘cause  she’s so grown-up now – this song centres entirely around those themes. Plus, there’s more awkward rapping from Miley.

“Every single night and every single day/ I'mma do my thing, I'mma do my thing/ So don't you worry about me I'll be okay/ I'mma do my thing, cause I'mma do my thing,” Miley sings. Yawn, I get it already.

Thumbs down.

Maybe You’re Right

This is definitely the most lyrically interesting song on the album, in that Miley actually uses her words to tell a story – and even admits that she’s not perfect. Which is fairly refreshing, for a break-up song. "You might think I'm crazy/ That I'm lost and foolish/ Leaving you behind/ Maybe you're right."

There’s a bit of a gospel influence going on, and this song shows that Miley can sing. Like for real real, not for play play. HOWEVER, it’s all a bit too paint-by-numbers and predictable. I’m mostly on the fence, but will have to go with a thumbs down for fear of getting splinters on my behind.

Someone Else

I shouldn’t be so excited about someone else’s suffering, but: another break-up song! Hooray!

“If you’re looking for love/ Know that love don’t live here anymore/ He left with my heart/ They both walked through that door without me,” Miley sings.  

There’s still that shimmering synth-pop and hip-hop, but I can actually forgive it this time around. Thumbs up.

Extra Tracks

Rooting For My Baby

A husky voiced Miley sings about being there for the person you love. It’s a bit Fleetwood Mac-esque – but I don’t feel the need to tell her that she should be doing better in honour of their memory (see: my feelings regarding Salt-n-Pepa on SMS).

Nice and chilled. Thumbs up.

On My Own

Miley Cyrus does Michael Jackson. Another sort of dance floor anthem. It’s not offensive, but it’s not memorable in any particular way. Thumbs… down?

Hands In The Air

Miley raps, and I think we’ve established that I don’t like it when she does that. Thumbs down.

Overall

9 out of 16 ain’t bad. It’s more than 50 per cent anyway, and as my favorite adage throughout undergraduate university advised: Ps make degrees.

Bangerz doesn’t really give Miley a chance to show off the fact that she can actually sing, the tracks are teasingly diverse – but also irritatingly inconsistent – and the whole Miley-is-ghetto-now thing feels seriously forced. Or seriouzly forzed.

It’s sporadic and schizophrenic but occasionally damn catchy – so I’m not going to call it the worst album of 2013.

HIGH PRAISE INDEED. 

And now, for the song that should've been on the album: