Friendship, Faux Grown-ups & Folly

6 Oct

It’s a strange feeling, growing up. But even stranger, is realizing that you thought you’d been grown up all along, but now, now you’ve actually grown up. (Just a small side glance to the audience to my right, perhaps we haven’t really grown up at all. Perhaps we never do. Because if growing up is about understanding things and knowing things and feeling things as they really are – and not as we want them to be – then maybe we can’t ever, actually, ever, grow up. I am sitting on the artificial lawn, surrounded by prison walls. Quite profound. It sits there, looming; a metaphor, an allegory, a motif…or maybe, it’s jut a historical wall that we’ve now built a university around. It’s lost all significance; all prisoners; all screams; all somnambulists – they fade with the times, like all specter things – imprints, allusions to something that once was there, and now is not. It surrounds the university like a cage, or perhaps a fortress. But it’s a museum now, not a prison. Just something we go and gawk at.

So we sit on the plastic grass, in a circle of sun, surrounded by shadow of the dark prison walls. And we talk about things. I have known her since I was a child – and though by this, I literally mean for 15 years – it would seem that perhaps I am still a child, because perhaps we all are. So perhaps I have known her since I first started being a child, and as children, we know each other still.

We are sisters. Not real sisters of course. Though we have often been mistaken for sisters by the colour of our skin; the hair always caught us out. Mine is dead straight and thin, hers is thick and frizzy, like a black American popstar from the 70s. So yes, the hair, always proves we aren’t real sisters. We are something better, I do believe. Sisters of a certain inner something that is quite inexplicable by blood or biological reasoning.  When I say an inner something, that is because I must deny any relation whatsoever to her, in anything at all that is visible or observable. When people say that so-and-so is their ‘other half’, they usually don’t mean that the person that is closest to them is actually the exact inverse of the self. She is an exact replica of all that I am and love, but then reversed. What I could call the antithetical polemical of our friendship. The paradox that renders a friendship impossible, ergo: we must be sisters.

Composed. In tears. Running onwards. Run away. One smokes. One eats cake. One breaks. One mends. One has had boys in her life, till they turned into men. The other, well, hasn’t at all. A love for knowledge, learning, education. One dropped out of school, then dropped out of TAFE, then pretty much dropped out of life for a bit (don’t worry, this won’t offend her, because she’s actually sitting right beside me).

As they were sitting in the sun, they realised something about life. Whilst one had broken up with her boyfriend the day before (whilst the other has had none at all), whilst one had abandoned her home long ago (whilst the other may well end up living with her parents for a life time. Maybe not quite that long) and whilst one planned to be out all night long to avoid the problems of uncovered secrets and regrets (whilst the other looked forward to her cosy blankets and a good sleep) both began to realise something terribly profound. The steps, the streets, the stairs, the moments, the leaps – they all lead somewhere. We grow old. We make mistakes. We make mistakes again. And it happens like it does in the movies. We always heard the term in books and films and songs; a lament to a loss of childhood innocence.

I actually thought, that I had already passed this stage of child-like naivity last year. After taking a year off after graduating in 2010. After I had turned 18. I thought I had grown up. But it’s not until you realize, that it’s not the new things you experience (like independence and travel and uni) but it is the old things that you suddenly experience in truth; in reality.

It’s not new, scary, frightening things that suddenly come knocking on your bedroom door. It’s the old things that have been with you in your bedroom, all along. You just never noticed that they were there; that there were monsters under your bed; everyday of your life, for a lifetime.

And before any of this happened. And before any of us realized this was happening, we were greatly deceived. Deceived into thinking, it was ever possible for a world of grown-ups to actually exist. We think we grow wiser, because we see wise grown-ups. But when the wisdom we think we’ve gained turns to folly, as it always, always does. Then the grown-ups are exposed as children. So what the world needs then, is not a festering quagmire of self-deceiving grown-ups, but a Father.


Mother Earth? Fill ‘er up.

2 Oct

Once upon a time petrol, oil & coal were the go-to words when discussing foreign politics, civil war, sovereignty and global powers. The old ‘fill ‘er up’ mindset dominated global politics when petrol, fuel, oil, coal…were the greatest commodity on earth. Forget human resources, booming military might, clever presidential campaigns; the world was all into oil. Just ask any left wing literature lecturer and [s]he’ll tell you (in an Aussie accent slightly tinged with British sophistication):

It’s all about the oil. The West is just dying to fill ‘er up with oil. Just look at the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Oil.

Now, let’s not get into political debate here. No-one’s taking sides. Because I’m actually just about to drop a bomb (are we allowed to say ‘bomb’ out loud yet?) Global politics is no longer about oil and bloating our own national-interest-bellies with it. The truth is, the world is already full. And not with oil. As Paul Gilding writes for CNN (See Article: The Earth is Full):

the earth is full…we’re living beyond our means

It’s a horrifying truth and a terrifying reality. The question is posed, is the world’s natural resources, the physical land mass available, fresh water, open spaces actually enough to satisfy such a growing global population? The answer is a resounding: NO

No-one is making a mountain out of a molehill here. There are just some solid facts that need re-iterating. Par exemple:

The eminent scientists of the Global Footprint Network, for example, calculate that we need about 1.5 Earths to sustain this economy. In other words, to keep operating at our current level, we need 50% more Earth than we’ve got.

Well heck. That’s a lot of Earth that doesn’t actually exist. Interestingly however, good old Paul Gilding brings up something sort of, well, simultaneously horrendous and comforting; despite the freakishly fast deteriorating natural world, politicians don’t really give a damn. Global financial leaders don’t really give a damn. In other words, everyone that matters DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN. Damn.

Well, that’s the horrendous side. The comforting side is this; the deterioration of the natural world is inextricably linked with the deterioration of the economy, as economic ‘means’ purchase the natural world ‘goods’. Therefore, they’re going to have to give a damn sooner or later; when they realise – which Paul argues they are starting to now – that the economic world is going to face the apocalypse before the social, political or environmental world. Here are some nice summarising quotes from a series of articles on the topic that may clarify the link between economics and environmental concerns (which I found using google reader and my trusty RSS Feeds to conduct research):

  • Economic growth has limits…Belief in infinite growth on a finite planet was always irrational, but it is the nature of denial to ignore hard evidence. (find original source here)
  • There are still leaders and laggards but the drive for action is growing, as is the number of investors requesting emissions data. Governments seeking to build strong economies should take note. (find original source here)
  • The fact is that no compound growth is sustainable. If we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash. (find original source here)
  • Peak oil expert Richard Heinberg argues, we are moving beyond peak oil and into “peak everything.” (find original source here)
  • More than one-third (37%) see the physical risks of a changing climate as a real and present danger, up from just 10% two years ago, says the latest Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Global 500 report, a survey of top global companies.(find original source here)

So what’s all the talk about? And what does this all indicate? Well perhaps it’s saying we need a new approach to climate change. The mass media, the marketers, the business strategists and environmentalist lobby groups would do better to hit the kings and queens of this world, where it hurts most . Kings and queens being global political power heads – essentially transnational corporations and key political bodies – and ‘the place it hurts most’ being the pocket. THE POCKET, PEOPLE. Kings and queens don’t care about the peasants. They care about the pocket. Finances, economics, money.

I mean, for heavens’ sake, for years advertising and media analysts have confirmed the importance of the need for Marketers to ‘care’ about social responsibility. An article on the hubspot marketing blog (see here) reiterates the importance of marketing strategies incorporating this mentality of environmental and social concern. The article notes.:

Marketers are sometimes associated with some pretty negative terms: annoying, interruptive, manipulative.

And this is true! Because they lie and probe and dart around the truth, so often. But why not use the immense power bestowed on them for good. If environmental-related articles were less about tabloid fun facts such as ‘FISH WILL BE A QUARTER OF THEIR SIZE IN YEARS TO COME!’ (see article on shrinking fish, I kid you not, here) and more on the severe impact environmental negligence will have on economic growth and sustainability, then we’d grab the attention of the people who ACTUALLY RUN THE WORLD. The men in suits with expensive reading glasses who read about finances, not fish. I rest my case.

(image source: CartoonStock –


Futurism: 2057 (the future according to someone from the past)

23 Sep

2057! Oh my godfather! I will be 67 by then. I think. I did drop maths in Year 10, so I can’t be sure unless I use a calculator.Although, it’s only 2012 and already calculators have been pushed aside by the gleaming glory of the smartphone. (In fact, didn’t the old brick nokias have calculators as well as Snake anyway?).

The fact of the matter is:

if by 2012 we’re already accessing most of our needed information on a touch screen the size of our palms , I don’t see why in 2057 our computer network systems have to be so jolly big and clunky. Of course, this is a doco/drama amalgamation thing. So we can excuse scientific flaws in the name of drama, and excuse flawed drama, in the name of science. A clever safety net for the producers of this somewhat dated , and therefore rather nostalgic program .

sorta reminds one of the multitude of ‘serious’ science-fiction films made in the 80s and 90s which have now been rendered comical due to outdated filmic quality.

The plot is missing a lot. The acting is extremely cheesy. The future seems a little old, oddly enough. Everything is either a bit retro, a bit tacky, a bit vintage, a bit dorky…or just plain…outdated.

Guess it really highlights how fast the world is moving considering this was only made five years ago! To be quite honest, considering this documentary had such support from leading institutions and scientists for its content research, I was expecting something a little more WOWing. If you get what I mean? The tyranny of data was interesting I suppose, but I couldn’t help but feel it was merely the whole…technology will eventually turn on us and ruin our lives! CCTV, always being watched, networks, grids, beeping computer sounds, panicky actor voices, rising tense music, slow camera pans and melodramatic dialogue over phone conversations…

I fear there is nothing really that original about the predictions this program makes.

Funnily enough, despite our technological advancements George Orwell’s written word in the novel, ‘1984’ seems a hell of a lot more convincing and poignant than this jam-packed audio/visual mishmash of documentary, drama and lameness. (Sorry to be so harsh.)

However, even from an intellectual standpoint, Orwell’s 1984 seems somehow more relevant and challenging today in terms of political, philosophical, linguistic, cultural and technological concerns as well as posing interesting questions regarding technology and the advancement of science. ‘Interesting’ questions that I fear aren’t really that interesting in 2007 (or 2012 for the matter), when they’ve already been posed and pondered for the last billion years since the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th Century. I mean even Mary Shelley had sort of jumped on the bandwagon of our technological or scientific creations turning against us with Frankenstein by the early 1800s! By 2007 you’d think we may’ve identified something new to be fearful of…

(watch it – dare I say – here:

Six Degrees of Separation

17 Sep

This fascinating BBC documentary manages to cohesively explore the notion of ‘networks’ in essentially every facet of existence.

From the origin of disease…

to every actors’ connection with Kevin Bacon…

to the intriguing unity of firefly signals;

the ‘6 degrees of Separation’ theory is revealed in all its complexity.

The documentary itself is very well structured, woven beneath the typical interviews and to-camera-pieces of professionals and researches directly involved in the study of the theory, is a narrative hook – strangers must try to get a package across the world by only using 6 ‘moves’. Like some kind of intricate game of chess, the players move across the chessboard of life, utilising every piece that lies in their path – hoping this will link to another. Tense music that builds occasionally to triumphant and climactic points helps punctuate the greatness of the 6 degrees concept, typical use of computer/sciency sound effects are used to create a sense of genuine methodicalness and reliability of the theory. The narrator’s voice is present when need be, but allows the researchers to do the majority of the talking – which allows the audience to be fully engaged in their eager search to validate the theory.

Ultimately the findings are quite astounding and carry great possibilities for understanding diseases, the animal kingdom and human connection itself. Personally, I find the closeness of the relational world very encouraging. If you play your cards right, perhaps it isn’t so hard to grab an interview with that incredible company you’d like an internship at…or perhaps – though tricky business requiring a lot of clever communication work – it’s not that impossible to acquire a meeting with such-and-such a famous person, who could prove your break into a very competitive industry.

I suppose it makes a lot of sense, this 6 Degrees thing, for the amount of people you are connected to, is raised exponentially as you go higher and higher up the chain. An article in the UK Guardian raises an interesting point [see full article here] which I actually interpret as having potentially grave consequences…

 “That may reduce a degree or two: Barack Obama already has well over a million Facebook friends.”

Yes, I suppose it’s incredibly comforting, and a multitude of possibilities open up when we realise that we’re only 6 connections away from J.K. Rowling, Bob Dylan, Obama, Wes Anderson…however the invention of Facebook and arguably, the trivialisation and falsification of real human connection, may in fact be distancing humanity – at least in the Western World – rather than bringing it closer together. For the 6 Degrees Theory to be of any benefit in a relational sense (i.e. such and such a person aims to get in contact with a stranger who can help them in this or that way, through following a series of connections) the original connections have to be relational! And for someone to be willing to aid or help out, or indeed, communicate in real life…they need to be better acquainted than one of Obama’s million facebook friends.


Image Sources:

Fireflies =

Kevin Bacon =

Disease =




John Cleese Lecture Notes

17 Sep

John Cleese on Creativity

17 Sep

John Cleese attributes successful originality and creativity, to one key factor – the ability of an individual to allow oneself to momentarily inhabit an ‘open mode’.

“an oasis of space and time, where play is possible”

In this context, we are of course referring to the ‘play’ of the imagination. The five key ingredients to getting to this point of creative openness and ‘play’ are outlined as such:

Space, Time, Time, Confidence and Humour. (Access a wee little sketch-ed summary of the lecture HERE)

Of course, many other industry professionals, writers, artists, analysts, psychologists have sought to explain the best avenue to creative brilliance. Steve Jobs for one (as sourced from concedes that – from a broad perspective – creativity relies, never on originality born of nothing, but always something arising from experience or things previously observed. In this way, we ‘connect’ the dots of our experience to create something new. Subsequently, gaining life experience is paramount to successful creativity.

Coming at it from a different point of view, Susan Caine’s article in the New York Time (view here: ) emphasises the need for individual time alone, and describes successful creatives as being introverted – at least in times of creativity. She notes in the opening line ‘Solitude is out of fashion…Lone genius’ are out. Collaboration is in’ to a point, I certainly concede that in the original stages of an idea, working alone is paramount for myself. However, the tangible execution of an idea, I believe, requires collaboration is varying degrees.

Which brings me back to John Cleese, whose lecture in essence, discusses the key to arriving at the originally brilliant foundational burst of creative genius. To get into the ‘open mode’ one must have:


1. Space 

A place ‘sealed’-off from day-to-day activity, pressures and demands. Undisturbed. Quiet. Shut doors. Phones off. Nothing at all to distract.  

I find this to be a very useful suggestion, as I often find my creativity inhibited by txt messages, to-do-lists, voices, demands. As John Cleese accurately puts it, “it is easier to do things that are urgent, than it is to do important things that are NOT urgent…like thinking…and easier to do little things we know we can do, than BIG THINGS we’re not so sure about…” How many times I’ve found myself, sitting down to write, and been tempted by menial tasks I knowingly despise and have no keen interest in – hanging that load of washing that has been in the machine for days, clearing my desk, throwing out empty pens, making a toasted sandwich…

2. Time  

A specific and defined beginning and end (including an allowance of 30mins or so, to ‘get in the zone’ – do this by CONSCIOUSLY ignoring the demands and reminders of your ‘to-do-list’). Play, is only play, because it is a distinct section of time separate and secluded from everyday life. If life was always play, it would not be play.

I find this aspect of ‘limiting creativity’ to be one that is not altogether unfamiliar. It was alluded to in both Writing Media Texts and Editing Media Texts last semester, as well as mentioned in Broadcast Media. The boundaries, limitations and restrictions set upon creativity are in fact vital to achieving an original result. Without them, we have no idea where to start or where to go. There can be no resolution, without first a problem. Which leads to the third point, also related to ‘time’. 


3. Time 

Don’t be fooled into taking the ‘easy-way-out’ or first solution to your problem, merely for the sake of appearing confident and decisive in order to escape from the unease of having the problem! The problem drives us to originality, so wrestle and ponder and play with ideas for as long as possible. Till a decision MUST be reached. In this way, you will read the most creative outcome possible.

This idea of not being scared to ponder and ponder, and the articulation of that ‘uneasy, intolerable, internal discomfort’ that John Cleese describes as being caused by the ‘problem’, is very profound and encouraging. I have definitely been afraid to experience that realization that you have not, at the given moment, understood a clear resolution. This is of course, the point of the game. Of the play. Of imagination and creativity. So the lecture has encouraged me to stick-it-out and keep pressing towards a greater solution in order to achieve something truly novel and great. As McKinnon notes in his research, “the most creative professionals always played with the problem for much longer before they tried to resolve it”. I would say, in future I will remember this third point…no as ‘time’…but as ‘tolerate’. Tolerate the discomfort of having no solution, in order to strive for a higher plane of creativity.

4. Confidence

Be free. Be spontaneous. Don’t fear making a mistake. Creativity is experimenting. There is no such thing as error or right or wrong. Play, play & play.

This simple truth is also very encouraging for me. In my recent personal creative endeavours of writing a short screenplay, drafting the concept for a feature film and recording an album…I am often frustrated at myself before I have really even given myself the opportunity to ‘play’ with an idea and see where it leads. I allow the pressures and expectations and known ‘rules’ to dominate my creative world and thus end up losing before the game has begun…when in fact, ‘losing’ itself is an illusion. 

5. Humour 

Giggle all you want. Humour opens you up. Everything can be humorous, some things are serious, nothing should be solemn. What is the point of solemnity? You can be humorous and serious at the same time.

At first this resonated the least with me, and I attributed it to the fact that John Cleese is predominantly an artist of comedic and humorous works. However, upon pondering on it all the more, I see how it clearly links in with the former point. If we take things lightly, and are willing to be risky and silly and outrageous, then we have nothing to lose…and everything to gain…because it opens up a whole universe of ideas of opportunities, a starry host of sparkling ingenuity that was otherwise stifled by a need to conform to expectations (both our own and others’), to deal with matters and problems as has always been done, to be too ‘serious’. The freedom to just play and muck around with an idea, realising it’s not the end of the world if you are unhappy with it, is truly liberating in a creative sense. So I shall seek to employ these methods the next time I allocate some creative me-time. And thank you Sir John Cleese for making this oasis of playtime and space something I shall no longer dread…but yearn to bask in instead.


Search Engine Comparison

15 Sep

Duckduck what? Contestant number one:

 Contestant number two, this crazy thing:


Contestant number three, the one & only:


So, it would definitely appear that one of these three search engines is doing a wee bit better in the marketing department (though probably this is also due largely to functionality as well as pop-culture) than the others. ‘Google’ already, of course, has me held captive to the biased opinion that ‘google is THE way to search’ things on the internet. The very brand ‘google’ has already transcended it’s mere functionality as a search engine and assimilated itself into the everyday vocabulary as the verb that in fact describes the act of searching on the internet. See even there I was tempted to write ‘the act of googling’. So with google’s seemingly unfair advantage, it will be interesting to see – biases aside – which search engine stands to be the best when put to…


Search topic: ‘Mexican Drug War 1980s’

Result Comparison:

  • Google: As is often the case, the top few (in this case, the top 2) results were Wikipedia pages. This is no doubt due to the ‘user popularity’ (very generally speaking) of  Wikipedia which is all linked in with incoming links, traffic, keywords and back links. (please note: google is not as simple as displaying ‘most popular searches/visited sites’ see analysis below for details). The next few results displayed were highly relevant and academically sophisticated for my topic of research – news articles and journal articles.
  •  DuckduckGo: Like google, the top 2 results were Wikipedia pages. This seems to point towards Duckduckgo having a similar algorithm to google, at least for specific historically/intellectually/politically-based topics such as my chosen test topic.  Interestingly the next 10 results were a mixture of news articles – again similar to google – and personal, non-commercial blogs. The blog aspect I find interesting, after clicking the links it was obvious that these weren’t as highly frequented pages as say, CNN Website or Wikipedia. DuckduckGo varies from google in that they must have some other indicator in the algorithm that predicts the most relevant results for users.
  •  Instagrok: WOW. Ease up Instagrok. What an amazingly (complex) search engine! The results are displayed in a sort of mind-map format which allows the user to essentially keep ‘searching’ related keywords by clicking on suggested keyword links displayed in the mind-map bubbles. Interestingly, the sites connected with the top few links on the ‘Key Facts’ sidebar, were in no way as dominant as DuckduckGo or Google. None of the suggested pages were from dominant research sites like Wikipedia or major news organisations. This probably means that Instagrok, as it’s focus is on being a ‘way of learning’ is set to find highly relevant material that discusses any given topic specifically, rather than broadly.

Result Analysis:

  • Google: Results were expected. As usual, wikipedia cropped up at the top. This is potentially risky when considering that most people when looking up  a broad overview of (in particular) political or historical topics may bypass google completely and now go straight to Wikipedia, as it is understood that Wikipedia will probably be the first few results anyway. The same applies for the next few results, which all link to high profile organisations or websites such as CNN or PBS. What was useful was the journal articles and political journal sites that google introduced me to.
  • DuckduckGo: Two useful things that DuckduckGo offered me that Google didn’t: a more visually effective teaser to the top result content – in the form of a small dialogue box sampling the wikipedia introduction to my searched topic as well as a small graphic. Secondly, Duckduckgo linked me to a few – thought slightly more obscure – very personalised accounts or reflections of my topic in the form of blog posts, which didn’t even come close to the top results in google. In this way, I found that Duckduckgo was actually a lot more diverse in it’s results; ranging from highly academic, high profile, to the ‘everyday’ account.
  • Instagrok: Was at first very distracting and difficult to navigate. However, isn’t this the general opinion people have of switching from Windows to Mac? And of course, we all know Mac’s are highly superior…The major problem with Instagrok I believe, is simply that we are not accustomed to it. However for research and learning purposes, it is very useful in that the layout encourages one to think deeper about their topic and explore it’s various aspects in a very clear manner – by charting the path through these bubble-like circular links. The sidebar that highlights ‘keyfacts’ is also very useful and effective for topics of a similar nature to the one I have used.


A very difficult thing to do. In general, I would still rank

  1. Google: due to it’s results as being a general overview of, well, everything…?
  2. Duckduckgo: because, unlike google, it does give priority to lesser known or trafficked online material that is still of direct relevance to search.
  3. Instagrok: because it is only great for researching and exploring a particular topic, in a very particular kind of way. If you want to know about the French Revolution, yes it will give you a great overview and journey through the surrounding key facts and elements of the French Revolution…but if say, you type ‘Vintage shoes for sale’ it will get all confused and try and bring you the history of vintage, and of shoes, and of economics. Not particularly useful for day-to-day life. But a great educational resource.

Interestingly, if I was to rank them based solely on my chosen research topic:

  1. Google: would still be number one because of the high quality of its results which all led to legitimate and sophisticated sites.
  2. Instagrok!: because of the way I can navigate through my chosen topic and explore its various elements effectively by making use of the suggested bubble links.
  3. DuckduckGO: It isn’t particularly bad…it just wasn’t anything special/didn’t offer anything special in comparison to google and instagrok for my given topic.

Setting up a default search engine (I use CHROME):


Automatically is the homepage and default search engine! But if it isn’t…can use the same steps as below for DuckDuckGo.

Duck Duck Go: 

Quite straightforward. You simply got to the DuckduckGo homepage, right click the URL box, click on ‘Edit Search Engines’, select ‘duckduckgo’ and click ‘make default’. BAM.


To be quite honest, I don’t know if you even can have it as your default browser. The search engine page itself offers no obvious option and google won’t tell me how to either…interesting. Perhaps I can apply the same steps as Duckduckgo and see if that works!