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Friend Your Enemies

27 Dec

 Unfriending culture and the dumbing down of debate

Information technology is argued to have brought the world closer together and exposed all those who partake in its gifts to a broader range of information and opinions. This, in turn, should have increased diversity and tolerance. What I see, however, is the opposite: fragmentation and self-righteousness.

The clearest examples of it are to be found on my facebook feed and in the behaviour of my (facebook) friends. While it might be easy to think of what happens on facebook as a rather shallow and fluffy (cats) manifestation of cultural trends, it is a manifestation of cultural trends nonetheless, and what it reveals about what’s happening in culture more deeply is profoundly disturbing.

I have deliberately chosen to remain facebook friends with a number of people whose political and social views differ greatly from my own. Some of these are old high school friends whom I haven’t seen in years, some are former teachers, others are people whom I have known socially. These people often post opinions or statements with which I disagree. Occasionally I like to challenge these opinions or statements, in the hope of engaging in some kind of debate, and of having the chance to refine or even change one another’s views. This is rarely (but sometimes) the outcome. On a couple of occasions, I have been unfriended or even blocked. Thankfully this is rare. On many more occasions, I have had other friends suggest that I unfriend a person for their opinions, because I “don’t need friends like that.” On the contrary, I believe I do. I believe we all do.

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Midshizzle – the visual aesthetic

28 Aug

This post is a culmination of the explorations around the current Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble‘s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing in Roma Street Parkland (Brisbane) until September 7th.

For maximum effect, read the first three posts, here, here, and here. Otherwise you are of course welcome to just enjoy the pretty pictures (by Benjamin Prindable).

If you’ve read the earlier posts, these pictures will demonstrate how the dramaturgical ideas from our exploration manifest in the visual aesthetic (mainly costumes, along with the minimal set). So I’ll mostly let the pictures do the talking for a change.

First of all, a gratuitous photo of me and the costume designer, Angel Kosch, playing music for the show.

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The full band for the show consists of us plus three actors from the show and resident fiddler Steve Mackie.

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Lest We Forget – A Very Unaustralian Anzac Post

24 Apr

I vacillated on whether to post this today. Or at all, but I’ve needed to say this publicly for a whole year, so here goes. Exactly one year ago, on Anzac Day 2012, I was involved in a Facebook debate with a man I’ve never met, a friend of an old friend of mine. The conversation is repeated below, with my friend’s name changed to “Rob’s mate” and his friend’s name changed to “Digger”. Both men served in the Australian Army Reserve. It’s a Facebook discussion, so please lower your expectations when it comes to intellectual rigour and/or punctuation.

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Rob’s mate (status): What ever you do today please spare a moment to remember those service men and women who died for us, those that served and those that are still serving today. These people are not the ones that start wars, just are prepared to give themselves for others. Lest We Forget.

Rob: I will, but I will also spare a moment to remember the servicefolk who died for “the other side”. Some of us, many of us, descend from ancestors who would have fought against ‘us’. Let this holiday not become (or remain) an excuse for mindless patriotic fervour, but an honouring of ALL who have died in the meaningless (or meaningful, if you must) slaughter. Bless the troops. ALL the troops, on all sides.

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Cassata – Italian ice-cream cake

14 Apr

My family was not big on desserts. Even at the big annual feasts like Easter, Christmas, or New Year, dessert would usually be a small bowl of (home) tinned peaches with a scoop of ice-cream – or perhaps a trifle brought by one of the Anglo-Australian in-laws.

To my mind (or perhaps it’s to my sweet tooth), there are certain occasions that call for something more elaborate, more celebratory. It comes, no doubt, from the Anglo-Australian influence. This Easter (just two weeks ago), I decided to add something to the gnocchi and rabbit (rabbit recipe forthcoming) that have become a bit of a tradition in our home. I remembered, during my three months in Italy as a ten year old, that I became a little obsessed with individual serves of an Italian ice-cream cake called cassata that the local shop sold. Every few years my thoughts will return to cassata, and I’ll vaguely wonder where I might get one before being distracted by my life. This year, I decided to make one. The results were remarkably good, so I’m sharing the recipe.

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Out of the mouths of babes

16 Feb

Aged five and a half, my daughter spontaneously and unprovokedly sang the following at dinner the a few nights ago, set to an original tune:

When we have anger in our voices,
We still have love inside.
When you look up at the clouds,
Then your anger goes behind,
But you’re better just to feel the anger,
Because then you can connect to your love.