Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Australian Prime Minister - Passing of a Giant

  • Gough Whitlam became Australia’s 21st Prime Minister on 5 December 1972. His Labor government, the first after more than two decades, set out to change Australia through a wide-ranging reform program.  [Ref]
  • Whitlam’s term abruptly ended when his government was dismissed by the Governor-General on 11 November 1975.
  • Today he died at 98Yrs old.
  • He will be remembered as one of Labor’s great reformist leaders.
  • In office, he launched trailblazing reforms that included abolishing national service, pulling troops out of Vietnam, giving extra pay to women, establishing free university courses and improving Aboriginal rights.
  • Whitlam was also credited for reforming the Australian Labor Party and established diplomatic relations with communist China. [Ref]
 “We want to give a new life and a new meaning in this new nation to the touchstone of modern democracy — to liberty, equality, fraternity.”
Gough Whitlam, ALP Policy Speech, 13 November 1972 [Ref]
 The Whitlam era was effectively the era I was born into - my political and social consciousness wasn't even aware of what was happening around me. However, I was very aware of my parents interest in this mans politics. 

Today, I pay my respects to a man who made significant changes to the world I live in. I think now I know more, it would've been a different place if he was in power a little bit longer.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My food choices and other options

Slow Food unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability and harmony with nature.  Carolo Petrini, Slow Food founder and president.

I’ve been thinking lots about my food – where it comes from, what it means for me, and what it costs in the fuller sense of cost. This was spurred on by Bec at Think Big, Live Simply, who has offered to help me with my garden. She sent me a questionnaire that asked some simple questions but they challenged me. The first one was ‘do you have a food or vegetable garden?’  I started thinking what does she mean by food or vegetable?  Aren’t vegetables food? Is there more to food than just vege’s?  The next question that challenged me was ‘what do you love about your garden?’  and ‘what’s the biggest motivation for starting a garden?’ – she asked Is it to save money on food, to create a beautiful space, support your health, teach others about how food is grown? Something else?

My answer was several fold  - Gardening  is a relaxation for me – I like to tend to it, create spaces and grow food. I love sharing food – either sharing the raw produce or the cooked outcomes. I like being connected to the earth . We believe it’s good to grow and eat as close to home as we can. I like to grow somethings to bottle or freeze for the slower months. 

This got me to thinking about the food that I don’t grow or produce at home – where does it come from?  By what criteria do I choose the food we buy? It’s pretty difficult to be fussy about everything we eat but it’s none-the-less important to consider it. So I started reading about the slow food movement. 

Slow Food was founded to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and peoples dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. 

Slow Food Australia chairman Nick Padol says the group encourages consumers to be aware of the globalised nature of agribusiness and to buy goods that are local to where you live. 

Thinking about the cost of food I found this shocking - A typical basket of groceries from the supermarket has “food miles” equivalent to two loops of the globe. 

I really want to make choices that will be good for my health, the health of my community and the planet in the long run. It seems there are plenty of idea’s out there to help me make these choices.

Meatless Monday – a challenge or movement or habit, MM want you to think about the environmental consequences of what you eat. To think about the energy, water and chemicals used to produce your food, as well as the fuel it takes to get it to your plate. It is also encouraging  us to think about the health consequences of what we eat and what foods will serve our wellness long into the future.
Sustainable food movement – campaign for consumers to eat only goods the contribute to the viability of the earth and the future.
Locavores – those who eat only those products that can produced in their immediate area – some put a cap on it. The point is to watch for food miles – cost of transport includes the cost on the environment and the future. Buying local also has the side affect of ensuring freshness, maximising access to the nutrients.
Organic – no use of chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. Saves the earth, ensures food is better for you, and if grown locally, reduces transportation and food miles.
Freeganism – people who attempt to eat as much as possible for free. More like an anti consumer group, it claims to reduce carbon output by consuming what others have rejected. (typically freegans eat packaged food that shops throw out). 

I read a study that looked at Australians perspectives of the Slow Food Movement.  This author suggested that the SFM  wants to counter to rise of ‘standardisation of taste and homogenisation of culture via making regional cuisines and ingredients, artisan cooking techniques and sustainable agriculture  available to all. I really liked that idea, that regional food and cuisine would encourage us to enjoy our food while keep the environmental costs low. 

The outcomes from this study noted that respondents linked slow food movt to

  • Purchasing/ obtaining local and fresh produce, ‘natural’ and hand made
  • Healthier choices
  • Being able to locate the start of the production methods
  • Things being ‘certified’ organic, GM Free etc...
  •  Building stronger communities
  • Ethical consumption – sustainable, good for the environment and fair trade...
  • Elite, and for the rich – difficult for the poor to sustain the purchasing power
  • A personal choice

So, thanks to Becs questions, I’ve thought more about the food I eat that doesn’t come from my garden. I’ve come to a few aspirational goals,  

  • Swap food with others locally
  • Go to the farmers markets more frequently
  • Aim to purchase food produced at least within my State
  • Choose local over organic – no point buying organic peas from California when the cost of their travel far outweighs the cost of production here in Australia.
  • Learn more recipes using products I can access locally
  • Try to do meatless Mondays and choose more locally and more sustainable meat products (we love kangaroo in our house)... 
Slow Food Australia
Body and Soul - Info on different food movements
Melbournes Slow Food Market partnership

 I've just found out that this week is Fair food week. So I had to find out what that is.....During Fair Food Week 2014 local communities will host a wide diversity of events ranging from slow cooking and underground restaurants to free training in skills such as making sourdough bread and butchering. http://fairfoodweek.org.au/. Maybe you can do something to celebrate fair food week in your area.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Green Walls

I was scrolling through my Pulse stories this morning, and saw an amazing Green Wall. It was so Inspiring that when I got home tonight I did a little search about Green Walls. They've gained some momentum in recent years for a couple of good reasons.
Green roofs and walls are increasingly being built to provide ecosystem services and multiple social and economic benefits. This is a rapidly growing industry with increasing levels of government policy, investment and guidelines providing incentives for green roof and wall construction.
 I grew up in an unconventional home, in fact it was a converted chook shed. However, in the middle of the house we had a tree - the telephone hung on the tree, and dad had cut a seat in the tree also. But I seem to have been attracted to the idea of involving green into living spaces.

We think our cities need more green spaces. Not the colour green, but plant-life green. Plants everywhere, growing on walls of car parks, inside office buildings, along laneways, on rooftops.
We want to Junglefy our cities.
We think plants can provide a multitude of benefits to our cities. Visually they are beautiful, they take in toxins and pollutants and in return cool and clean the air, introduce wildlife corridors, reduce the heat island effect, control storm water and reduce energy consumption by providing thermal mass. [from here]

I love urban spaces with green walls, but I'm also really interested in the idea of edible walls. Weather it's using a small space in a small yard, or weather it's just about having an edible wall, I'm intrigued. I am playing with the idea of the green wall in the bathroom.
I haven't yet designed the idea of a bathroom wall, but I think I will start to collect ideas for a herb wall on my back veranda. If anyone has had any success with green walls - Id love to hear about it. If you have seen an awesome green wall somewhere - share it here.

Mayo Clinic

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Japanese Lit Challenge Updates

DolceBellezza is busy hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge 8 - which goes through to January 2015. Because its a long event, it doesn't feel overwhelming to try and read things. I'm enjoying mixing up my Japanese reads with my other genres.

I'm still reflecting on Murakami's Colourless Tsukuru. This book was so different from any other Murakami novel, because its about relationships and grief & loss. I've sent alot of time reflecting on it. But, I think it's time for me to move on.

So I've picked up another Keigo Higashino novel, The Devotion of Suspect X, because I really enjoyed the first Higashino, Salvation of a Saint.

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.(quote).

I dont always read efficiently, but these crime novels engage me - these are my easy reads.

Now, on other Japanese Lit News - Murakami is releasing a new novel (in English) later this year, The Strange Library. Check out this review for some images from this illustrated new book. This is going to be quite a new book for Murakami.. and it's on my list for reading. Check out this quote.... its enough to get me in.

‘The food was delicious but I could manage to get only half of it down. If I didn’t make it home, the worry might drive my mother to another breakdown. She would probably forget to feed my pet starling, and it would starve to death.’

If you don’t hurry you’ll be lost for eternity,» said the girl-who-was-a-starling.’

Thanks Bellezza for hosting the Colourless Tsukuru read a long - I quite enjoyed it. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki - Murakami

Today I'm posting my thoughts about this book as part of a discussion occurring over at DolceBelezza. Feel free to join in. The questions were posted by Random House, and we're just selecting some questions we wanted to work with. I'm responding to Q's 1 & 2 primarily, however I have a feeling I'll post another review (perhaps part 2) in a couple of days with some more thoughts. 

Q1. What is the significance of the name of the novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage? Why is Tsukuru branded “colorless”? Would you say that this an accurate description of him? Is this how Tsukuru sees himself or is it how he is seen by others? What kind of pilgrimage does Tsukuru embark upon and how does he change as a result of this pilgrimage? What causes these changes?

I propose that Tsukuru is not so colourless, but more pastel. I felt that he identified as ‘colourless’ in contrast to his friends, whom he held in high esteem for their individual ‘colours’ or strengths. While I was struck by the concept that your name could have such a powerful influence on your character, I don’t believe Tsukuru was actually without character. He presented to me as a caring, compassionate and concerned person, even in his youth. As part of the group, they played with children while Shiro (Yuzuki) taught piano classes, and they did other community minded activities. I don’t think he participated in this out of mindless following, I think he saw that as important. 

I don’t think that it was inappropriate to call the book ‘Colourless Tsukuru’ because the concept did influence how I read the book. I think the title made me think more about who Tsukuru was and how he felt he was what his name meant. 

The pilgrimage he undertakes is both a personal journey of self discovery, and a journey in the physical sense to different cities, which represent his willingness to see  things differently. His friends never travelled far, which to me indicates their need to feel safe and secure, while Tsukuru was prepared to travel to uni and work. The when he was the one to make the pilgrimage to discover what happened in the past, he was the one to travel. The others didn’t. 

Q2. Why does Tsukuru wait so many years before attempting to find out why he was banished from the group? How does he handle the deep depression he feels as a result of this rejection and how is he changed by this period of suffering? Is Tsukuru the only character who suffers in this way? If not, who else suffers at what is the cause? Do you believe that their distress could have been avoided? If so, how?

I think he accepted the ‘banishment’ in the first place because he had faith that his friends knew what they were doing, but his reaction to it then was out of fear – he didn’t want to know why it happened. I think he ‘lived’ with the pain because he didn’t know any other way to react (not surprising given he was an adolescent male). Eventually he just moved on with his routine ways as a way of avoiding the pain. In true Murakami style, routine is an important strategy for coping. So many of his novels have the main character  living a simple routine. (perhaps that’s why I like his books, I like simple routines too). Other iconic Murakami characteristics appear here too – swimming, a glass of Cuttey Stark, listening to classical music, and sex – help Tsukuru to regain his personal meaning. 

Sara appeared to play a pivotal role in encouraging Tsukuru to take on the journey of discovery. I think it was a timely encounter, serendipitous, meeting Sara. She was a facilitator of healing because she was prepared to look at the story from a different point of view. She was bold in her assertion that she would not let this lie if it were her, and bold in her encouragement that this would be a significant thing for Tsukuru. I believe the serendipity of the moment for Tsukuru was that Sara was bold enough to say what she thought, and Tsukuru was interested enough in pursuing Sara as more than a friend, that he was motivated to do the journey, for her. He soon found the journey was for him. 

I think that each individual in the group of 5 was personally affected by what transpired. I think each one suffered following the decision to cut off Tsukuru. The boys did what boys do – plough on, forging out their existence, but not so boldly as to leave the town. The girls dealt with what they were facing. Eri (Kuro) felt obliged to carry on in the caring role. Shiro (Yuzuki) was also suffering, but perhaps she suffered all along. I think Eri had an extreme burden and experienced great suffering. Murakami captured in Eri’s story, something that many women the world around experience – responsibility and guilt. Eri’s story turned out positively, but it was a difficult journey for her. She suffered because she cared too much for her friend Shiro, but also because she lost her love, Tsukuru. 

I’m not sure the pain was avoidable. I think they group made the only choices they knew how to make then. We’ve all made similar decisions, and sometimes there’s no clear way of reversing the events that happened. Sometimes it takes a very bold person to actually identify and act on a wrong.
This book was not a typical Murakami novel, not surreal by Murakami standards. I felt an affinity with the story because this has happened in my life (and I suspect many others can relate to it too). Friends who share alot of their lives together, drift apart or suddenly part, with no further contact. I still have friends that I feel ‘dropped me’ and I don’t know why. 

One of the most powerful quotes in the book for me is this;

The past became a long, razor-sharp skewer that stabbed right through his heart. Silent silver pain shot through him, transforming his spine to a pillar of ice. The pain remained, unabated. He held his breath, shut his eyes tight, enduring the agony. Alfred Brendel’s graceful playing continued. The CD shifted to the second suite, ‘Second Year: Italy’.

And in that moment, he finally able to accept it all. In the deepest recesses of his soul, Tsukuru Tazaki understood. One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony. (near the end of chapter 16).
What was your favourite quote?

Monday, September 1, 2014

A cup of Tea and thoughts on blogging

image from here 
Yesterday I had the pleasure of enjoying a lovely afternoon tea with my girlfriend Karen, from awonderinglife, and her gorgeous Sweet Pea. What a joy it is to watch a 2 year old eat a pink macaroon!

While watching little Sweet Pea bouncing on her trampoline, Karen and I chatted about the world of blogging, social media and what it means for us and our persuits. Do you think about this stuff? Have you thought about the possibility that blogging is 'old school'? what about the question of facebook, twitter, printrest, tumbler  google+??

I wonder about blogging, more so perhaps about my own blogging..... what do I want to be achieving with blogging? is blogging about 'achieving' something? Do I want it to be different from what it is? If so, how?

 image from here

I have a sense that if my blogging was more about 'selling' or 'recruiting' or 'posing a position', that I should be more engaged in a social media strategy - linking my posts to facebook so people can 'like' or 'share', and relating my posts to images that can be 'pinned'. If my blogging was to be about selling, recruiting or posing positions, then I'd be more active at pursuing 'followers', and I'd be more interested in 'outcomes'.

But I'm not sure I am interested in selling, recruiting or positions... I think I am interested exploring my own positions on issues, and perhaps linking with others who are exploring similar ideas. I think thats what blogging is for me - connecting with like minded thinkers. But how does that 'connecting' occur in the blogging world? I've learned that its about visiting other blogs, commenting, leaving 'signs' that we are on a similar wave length. This takes a commitment beyond just following facebook links.

I find that blogging is not really a 'smart phone' friendly sport - where as facebook, pintrest and twitter, all have smart phone apps which make those platforms much more mobile. Blogging requires access to a bigger screen.

I find myself wondering about the future of blogging? what do you think? what are your thoughts about blogging, social media and mobile apps?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Japanese Lit Challenge 8

So It's now time to change directions and join the Japanese Literature Challenge No 8. This month I'm joining Dolce Belezza in a read-a-long with Murakami's latest release. My copy arrived at the local bookstore right on time, and I collected it today. So I'm on my way.....
I'm not sure what is actually going to happen in this novel, because the pre release press was very very vague - in true Murakami mystery. I'm also not sure what the read-a-long will entail, but I'm ready.... but to start........I want to share with you my first dilemma with this novel.

When the pre-release press was purposely vague and mysterious, I'm left a little curious as to what to do with the little present I found when I opened my new copy of the book.... I'm not even sure if I will open the little present until I find out more about it.... did anyone else find a little treat inside their new book?
 So, since Paris in July ended, and while I was waiting for my Murakami novel to arrive, I read Keigo Higashino's Salvation of a Saint.

Keigo Higashino is one of the most popular and biggest selling fiction authors in Japan.
Born in Osaka, he started writing novels while still working as an engineer . He won the Edogawa Rampo Prize, which is awarded annually to the finest mystery work, in 1985 for the novel Hōkago (After School) at age 27. Subsequently, he quit his job and started a career as a writer in Tokyo.

In 1999, he won the Mystery Writers of Japan Inc award for the novel Himitsu (The Secret), which was translated into English by Kerim Yasar and published by Vertical under the title of Naoko in 2004. In 2006, he won the 134th Naoki Prize for Yōgisha X no Kenshin. His novels had been nominated five times before winning with this novel.
 I enjoy a crime/forensic novel, and I devoured this one once I got into it. Salvation of a Saint involves a seasoned detective, a physics professor and a new recruit as the mystery solving team. The crime involved Arsenic Acid, a seemingly driven man who wanted to be a father, and the women he selected to bear his children. It was, for me, a fairly typical crime novel, with the infusion of some interesting Japanese cultural aspects.  Given that this author has more that 90 titles to his name, and many TV/Movie versions of his work, I figure I'll probably read more of his work sometime in the future. Does anyone recommend any of his other works??