What constitutes “news” these days?

I honestly fear for our collective intelligence every time I hop on a “news” site. I regularly scan a few popular sites during my lunch break (or during boring meetings) and every day I am disgusted by what constitutes news.
This morning on news.com.au we have headlines like:

  • “CORPSES HANG FROM TREES”: Super Typhoon bears down on cities. This is a nice change – it is actually NEWS, in spite of the sensationalist headline
  • Sonny Bill Williams‘ new girlfriend. For those not in Australia or New Zealand Sonny Bill Williams is a talented sportsman with strengths in rugby league, rugby union and even boxing. He is celebrated in both Oz and NZ, although I personally question his values – he seems to just follow the money. NOT NEWS.
  • 12 fingered typist can’t get work. Appealing to our curiosity in all things different, this clearly was just an excuse to get a picture of a 6 fingered hand above the fold. The journalism itself is woeful. It’s impossible to ascertain whether the man is an Indian man in India or in Australia. Only that he plans to use his extra digits in the UK.

And even better tonight – JFK’s affairs wins feature article, then we have something else happening to some other rugby league player, another sensational headline about the typhoon tragedy, and of course (model) Megan Gale announcing she is up the duff. Can you believe that this publication lives under the URL news.com.au? It’s shameful. It really should be illegal.

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One of Sydney’s most popular papers, The Sydney Morning Herald, fares just a little better… Tonight we have the green light on Packer’s new casino as the feature, more on Billy Slater (previously mentioned League player), a murder that has been sparked by a love triangle (what else?) and finally something on the rescue effort in the Philippines. The headlines seem a little less sensational (although perhaps the journos were just having a bad day) and the articles generally more parochial due to the local nature of the title. Still, it hardly attacks the issues of today. And to make matters worse, they have now placed a pay wall on the site, so you can read X number of articles per month before you need to pay for the privilege. Fair enough, but where does that leave the general public? Back at news.com.au and their local rags.

Or do I have it wrong? Are the issues of today JFK’s affairs or Megan Gale’s womb?

What hope do we have but the dumbing down of our society when our newspapers publish such rubbish?

Sunrise from Long Reef Headland

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I mentioned my new found enthusiasm for photography in my last post. My latest adventure was to Long Reef Headland, to take photos of the sunrise over the ocean. Anyone who knows me will understand that this in itself is no mean feat – I am not a morning person AT ALL. So when I came up with the suggestion, my husband was doubtful. Me, get out of my warm bed, pre-dawn, in the middle of winter, to take photos?!? Surely you jest!

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When the alarm went off at 5:45 am, I turned over and told Hubby that we weren’t going anymore. He took it well, asking me if I was sure. We checked the forecast and I dragged my butt out of bed, while my awesome Hubby got the gear together for me. Off we set. And I’m so glad we did.

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It’s so serene at that time of the morning, and the colours in the hour before sunrise are so vivid.

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We even had a soundtrack to enhance the experience – a local guy with a didgeridoo came up and started playing, improvised but perfectly fitting.

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The sunrise itself was quite hard to photograph. There weren’t many clouds to highlight the colours that you’d normally get, and I’m still unsure about what settings will get me the results. Light is my passion in photography, and I think I’ve managed to capture some of that here. I guess I can only keep practising. *Sigh* And I guess that means more pre-dawn alarms going off…

Vivid Sydney 2013

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I am a brand new photography enthusiast. Actually, I lie. I have been into iPhone “photography” (also known as iPhoneography) for a few years, but we recently purchased a real DSLR – a Canon EOS 60D. After a one day photography course I’m in love with it. I’m still no good, but I’m practising!

Here are some shots of Vivid Sydney this year – and my first night shoot. What an awesome program the City of Sydney has put on. From animated light shows with their own sound tracks to interactive light installations along the foreshore – they all fill you with a sense of wonder and joy. It’s kind of like the New Years Fireworks. You’ve seen it all before in various forms, but there is still a buzz when you’re there immersed in it.

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It has drawn thousands of people to the Harbour – scores of locals and tourists alike traipsing about from Walsh Bay through to the Opera House, many carrying their own DSLRs and tripods. Then there was me and the Hubby (my tripod bearer), trying to get my first night shots. And loving it!_MG_0581

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P.S. The Vivid light show is only on the west side of the bridge, unlike the fireworks and almost every other activity they have featuring the bridge. As I had done limited research we ended up at Mrs Macquarie’s chair first off, and got a harbour different shot 🙂

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Cat Adventures – Lovedale Long Lunch

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I’m a massive fan of the weekend away. There’s just nothing like hopping in the car, bags packed and setting off on adventure. Any direction will do – it’s about getting out of the city and really making the most of the weekend.

Hunter Valley VinesThe other weekend we  headed 2 hours north west of Sydney for the beautiful Hunter Valley, and the famous Lovedale Long Lunch. Eight of us set out Friday evening to i villini, the cottage we had rented for the weekend.  The cottage was perfect – 3 bedrooms all with their own ensuites, and a living area complete with two fireplaces. There  was nothing to do but crack open a bottle of red, cheese up some biscuits, crank up some tunes and relax. Before long we were through the 12 bottles we had brought up with us and half a case of beer! True to form we had once again peaked on the first night, and needless to say everyone was slow moving on the Saturday morning… Our only problem was we still had to get through the main event!

After 20 years, the Lovedale Long Lunch organisers have it all sorted. Your $85 ticket gets you your (plastic) wine glass for the day, 2 glasses of wine, 2 meal tickets and a dessert/cheese ticket. All of the wineries involved have food stations, music and seating, and of course plenty of wine! A $25 shuttle ticket gets you unlimited rides between the wineries for the day, so as long as you can get yourself to the first venue  and home again, you’re set.

It was a stunning day – a fresh and warm spring day. We started off at Wandin around lunch time (did I mention that we were slow moving?) which had an reasonable band and a great DJ playing. With the doors opening at 10:30 it was clear that everyone else  had a head start on us. What I hadn’t expected was that people would turn up in costume. There were groups of story book characters, where’s Wallies, flapper girls. You name it – they were there and they were already tipsy!

photo 1After a bite to eat and a few bevvies (which were also relatively slow flowing), we eventually moved on to the next winery, Allendale, which was pretty much the first stop on the shuttle route. After another hour or two there our time was almost up and we needed to find our way back to our pick up point. We arrived back at Wandin with about 20 minutes left of serving time. That of course meant we bought another couple of bottles so we could sit back and watch the end all unfold. By this stage there were a lot of very funny drunks around and they were honestly the best entertainment of the day. People escaping security, people getting walked out by their friends, lots of dirty dancing and many costume crimes.

The girlsBack at our cottage we reflected on an awesome day as we settled back by the fire into another round of cheesy goodness, more wine (although nowhere near as much as we had the previous night!) and a few rounds of poker.

If you get the opportunity, I’d definitely recommend partaking in the Lovedale Long Lunch. It’s a great activity to enjoy with a few mates, a great little weekend escape, and I dare say always an adventure.

Rude or acceptable? Depends what lens you’re looking through

I’ve been toying for a few days now about what topic I should write about next. I have a list of topics that I’d like to write about, but I want to be sure that my first few topics cover a range that reflects who I am. I was flicking through some blogs and found this post Talk about the weather, not my weight about an Aussie girl following her Italian beau and struggling with some of the culture clashes – Bingo! It became the genesis of this post.

The saying goes that if you can understand the humour of another language then you become pretty much native. Being fluent in both Thai and English I can assure you that there are a few other hurdles to watch out for. Norms and taboos are particularly interesting obstacles, where a misunderstanding can result in hilarity, awkwardness or even hurt either party’s feelings.

fat cartoonA casing point is the weight commentary, as per With Italian Love’s experiences. In Thailand (and apparently in Italy), it is perfectly acceptable to say hello and then comment on your weight – “Gee, you’ve put on a bit of weight. You must be living it up!” or “You’ve lost some weight haven’t you? You’re looking good”. Obviously the latter is preferable to the former, but people serve it up to you either way, and may even throw in a few pointers to assist you in achieving what they would consider their optimum weight for you.

I recall when I was a fragile teenager I was outraged that my mum’s friends felt that it was their place to comment to point out the muffin tops protruding from my jeans, or when they thought it was fine to announce to the whole market in Bangkok that I’d never fit into medium sized pants and they better get the large ones out. You never would have categorised me as fat, but it’s easy to feel large when you tower over everyone and they’re all size 6.

Strangers, even customers, aren’t immune. When Hubby and I were shopping for shorts in a Phuket market, he was met with a shop keeper who told him that he was “very big” and he would need “elephant size” shorts! He is 6 ft 5″ and about 120kgs so the description wasn’t inaccurate, but you’d only never venture down that road in Australia. Lucky for us the shop keeper stocked elephant size so we managed to get some shorts out of the encounter.

Eventually I started to find the regular weight updates quite funny, and the honesty almost refreshing. ALMOST. I recognised that no malice was meant, and it was more like an observation a la “How’s this rain at the moment?”

The social filters and taboos in the Thai culture are there, just as they are in Italian culture. They just are in different places! What is acceptable and what is rude is determined by your frame of reference. Being exposed to two cultures means that I’m lucky enough to have more than one lens to process the world. If there is one thing that I can pass on from my (not so) unique position, it would be tolerance. Just because you believe something is right or wrong doesn’t mean it is so everywhere.

Drawing the Line on Government Intervention

I was just browsing through Freshly Pressed in WordPress and came across this blog post on History and Wine – Drawing the Line on Government Intervention. The post is written around Mayor Bloomberg‘s recent attempt to ban large soft drinks in New York and whether that’s taking government intervention too far.

This topic resonates with me as I fear Australia is descending in the same direction. This great country is being increasingly bound by the kinds of rules and regulations that make you wonder whether the price of safety is freedom. From cartwheels in the school playground, to smoking in public; from chucking a few bucks into the pokies to eating peanut butter sandwiches in school – all of these activities are now restricted.

We’re not just cottonwooling kids anymore. Adults need not take reponsibility for themselves either.

Is Australia becoming a nanny state?