GWAS Notes: A gentle, long-winded goodbye

Dear readers,

You might have guessed it, but Girl With a Satchel is taking a sabbatical (surprise!).

I am not the first media scribe to have headed to the not-for-profit/charity sector for respite and gainful employment in an all-too-uncertain media environment. But to say that were the sole reason for my exodus from online would be quite untrue. The reasons are manifold.

Media: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Media: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus 
(a very GWAS Christmas tradition)

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Thinkings: G.K. In A Topsy-Turvy Land

Thinkings: G.K. In A Topsy-Turvy Land

"By perpetually talking about environment and visible things, by perpetually talking about economics and physical necessity, painting and keeping repainted a perpetual picture of iron machinery and merciless engines, of rails of steel, and of towers of stone, modern materialism at last produces this tremendous impression in which the truth is stated upside down. At last the result is achieved. The man does not say as he ought to have said, "Should married men endure being modern shop assistants?" The man says, "Should shop assistants marry?" Triumph has completed the immense illusion of materialism. The slave does not say, "Are these chains worthy of me?" The slave says scientifically and contentedly, "Am I even worthy of these chains?"

- G.K. Chesterton, 'In A Topsy-Turvy Land', Tremendous Trifles,

Bulletin Board: A Brisbane film screening

Bulletin Board: A Brisbane film screening

Culture: Gen Y loves reading

Culture: What's fuelling Gen Y's love of reading?
As the release date for the film is scheduled for release on December 14, 2012, picking up a pocket 75th anniversary edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit issued by publisher HarperCollins and featuring Tolkien's own illustrations seemed fitting. 

In Tolkien's tale, the precursor to The Lord of the Rings, we find Hobbit Bilbo Baggins leaving the comforts of home at the request of the wizard Gandalf to undertake an epic journey, reconciling the  two parts of his whole self and sharpening his character when put to the challenge.

"Tolkien’s first published novel... is a much more artistically and intellectually sophisticated book than it often gets credit for, and it richly rewards adult re-reading," suggests Corey Olsen at The Wall Street Journal, pointing to The Hobbit's character depth, use of poetry and song and story construction.

It's an unusual but not uncommon undertaking, to read again something you first chanced upon in the library at primary school. The characters are familiar but the story is not quite the same. But for new generations of readers, old tales are coming to life again, given new zeal by technologies, social media, films, crafty marketing and Generation Y's love of a self (or bookshelf) discovery.

"I'm currently reading Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie," says Malaysia-based blogger Julia Low. "I bought this while browsing through a children's store at the Sydney airport. I had heard only wonderful things about Neverland and wanted in on Peter and Wendy's adventures." 

In the year that saw the collapse of Borders book stores, a downshift in sales through book chains and the commensurate acceleration of online sales, Generation Ys (born between 1979 and 1989) spent the most money on books in 2011, according to research out of the U.S., usurping the bigger Baby Boomer population as consumers of the written word in bookish form, whether on tablet, online or in print. 

Kids' Book Shelf: The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas

(Kids') Book Shelf: The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson and Sue deGennaro
This book contains such a quirky spin on the theme contained in The Princess and the Pea, the story by Hans Christen Anderson in which we find a prince travelling all over the world to find a real princess. He found none and returned home. 

But one stormy night a real princess arrived on his doorstep, looking bedraggled and wet. To put her to the test, to see if her claim was authentic, the Queen placed a teeny-tiny pea under layers of mattresses and doonas on her bed... a true princess would surely feel the pea, deep beneath the downy sea, her skin being so delicate and all. And she did.

Creativity: Twinkle toes by Beci Culley

Creativity: Twinkle toes by Beci Culley
Illustration by Beci Culley
 Life is so often a precarious business – the heart is torn in this way and that. When desire conflicts with duty, choice with confusion, we can sometimes feel ourselves teetering on the edge of collapse, all tied up in knots and unsure of the way ahead. But we must find our feet again. The balancing act begins and ends with the time-tested truths; she lifts her arms in praise, finds her strength renewed, and pirouettes on pointe off into the sunset. A new day awaits.   

Girl With a Satchel

Arts, Culture & Entertainment - on ballet, books and baton twirlers

Dumbo feather, the magazine that makes conversations with real, live people its focus, has a new edition out, ripe for the picking. Word is that the front section of Issue 33 is devoted to "Going Local". "Many great things can happen in your backyard, your balcony, your street, your neighbourhood, and we explore some of the ways you can make a change in your immediate universe." How fitting!

The 2013 Illustrators Australia Awards are open (deadline November 13). The third Australian and New Zealand Illustration Awards aim to present the very best of regional illustration and will be judged by top professionals in the fields of advertising, design, publishing and illustration. The competition is open to all Australian and New Zealand illustrators. Categories include: Advertising, Book, Editorial, Fashion, Institutional (organisation), Self-Promotional and Unpublished.  
How's this for a colourful collaborative idea... Tour Mail by The Sketchbook Project sees visitors to the exhibitions across America take to a table to create something unique that will be sent on to another person in a different locale, thereby sharing the love between Sketchbook stations. "Whether they came to look at Sketchbooks or were just passing by, visitors are inevitably lured over to the Drawing Table by the bright Prismacolor materials and the possibility of making a piece of art," say the Project's proponents. Sadly, The Sketchbook Project 2012 is not coming to Melbourne this year as planned... perhaps next year? Entries for the 2013 Sketchbook Project are now open.

Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat has been announced as the winner of the 2012 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The "inventive and magical" story – originally penned to promote the charity The Reader Organisation, and given away on ferries, buses, through schools, prisons and hospitals – is about two Mongolian refugee brothers living in Liverpool, and examines the effects of the British immigration system on children. Guardian Books Editor Julia Eccleshare said readers "will be left wiser when they have finished the story".

Children's books as part of the drive to win the presidency? Yes, indeed. Non-profit organisation Authors and Illustrators for Children are supporting Obama 2012. The campaign includes children's author names such as Judy Bloom. Kids' books 'n' politics... I'll be!

The New Yorker asks, 'What happened to movies for grown-ups?'

I ask, how does one become a baton twirler like this girl?

The creative Beci Orpin will be hosting will be hosting a Harvest Workroom workshop around three fun projects to create from her new book, Find & Keep. The best bit? Your goodies will be bundled up at the end of your session in a Harvest Textiles Christmas backsack and accompanies by a signed copy of Beci's book. The small and intimate session held in East Brunswick on Friday November 30 or Saturday December 1 is $180 (a pre-Christmas gift for the crafty one you love?).

Katie Noonan recently melted audiences with her supremely lovely vocals at the Brisbane Powerhouse, accompanied by acoustic guitarist Karin Schaupp. They are working on an album together called Songs of the Southern Skies which features a reimagining of some classic Australian music.

What a sweet book video... meet Peggy, peeps. 

This neat little video of two Toowoomba snappers, who go by the Dickensian name of Matt and Katie Ebenezer (they are very un-Scroogey), taking the world by storm care of Nikon, is recommended by Sophie. I feel A Christmas Carol coming on.

The fledgling filmmaker finalists in the ACMI "Screen It" competition have been announced. This year's theme is "belonging" (in family, cultural groups and communities), and called on the school-aged entrants to explore topical issues while flexing their film-making muscle. This year's competition also incorporated an anti-bullying element in partnership with Bullying. No Way!, an initiative of Australian education authorities.

East Timor’s first locally produced feature film, A Guerra Da Beatriz. "East Timor hit the big screen in the 2009 movie Balibo, about the execution of five Australian journalists in 1975, but  that was essentially an Australian production. By contrast, this film is  conceived, performed and directed by young Timorese, with support from volunteer  Melbourne filmmakers," reported Natalie Craig for The Age.
Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously
Hobart-born Christopher Koch, the "warm and charming" author of 1978's The Year of Living Dangerously, which was made into a film by Peter Weir, starring Mel Gibson as a journalist and set in the time that led up to the overthrow of Indonesian president Sukarno, told Stephen Romei in The Australian recently:

"If a book is made into a film, they hang it around your neck forever. I've written other books since that I thin might be better, but people always come back to that one and it's because it was a film. That's how much film dominates our culture." No doubt, J.K. Rowling could relate. His new novel is Lost Voices. He is not a fan of Fifty Shades of Gray.

Recently, husband and I welcomed a new addition into our home... a piano! How timely, then, this lovely new edition of Anthology magazine. Right up our alley. Though we don't do dogs on mats indoors.

Stop whinging, fight cynicism and channel the creativity positively, says Relevant magazine.

Have you ever driven around town to the tune of Schubert's "Ava Maria" or Tchaicovsky's "Nutcracker Suite"? It's an experience in which I delight, as everything around appears to come to life like a ballet accompanied by a symphony; a Fantasia of sorts but steeped in reality. In Brisbane, we enjoy the station 4MBS, which recently had a fundraiser to keep up with digital technology. It's still on the air. Yippee!

The big buzz in Brisbane of late has been the Queensland Ballet's appointment of new artistic director Li Cunxin. In 2013 the author of Mao's Last Dancer and former stockbroker will be bringing audiences classic ballets, including Cinderella, Giselle and The Nutcracker, beginning a new annual company tradition each December

"I am very excited to share these beautiful ballets with Queensland in 2013," he said. "I have chosen works that will not only inspire a love of ballet in everyone who experiences them, but will showcase our exceptionally talented ensemble of dancers."

Opera Queensland will also be presenting a dark, "Dickensian" version of Cinderella in the new year. 

Even the classics need an update occasionally. And that goes for the Bible. The Bible Society's online 'Live Light in 25 words' campaign is in full swing. The latest edition? God's Library, an e-book by Greg Clarke. It's a goodie.

Girl With a Satchel

Book Shelf: Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Book Shelf: Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Reviewed by Brooke Lehmann

Robin Sloan's career has seen him centred in the world of social media once working for Current TV, a successful media company in the U.S, and also for Poynter and the eminent Twitter enterprise mainly working in the sphere of media development. 

So it's no surprise that the debut novel of the San Franciscan resident, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Text Publishing; $29.99), takes on a defined technological tone, nor that in its infancy it was a 6000-word e-Book. What's most interesting about this novel, though, is the seamless union between technology and books, something which has rarely been done so successfully.

When questioned about how he achieves such a harmonious relationship between the two, Sloan simply states, "Here's the trick: books are technology. Always have been."

The inspiration for Sloan's novel piqued after a intriguing tweet from a friend of his in 2008 – 'Just misread '24hr book-drop' as '24hr bookshop' – after which, he found himself curiously plagued with the concept of a 24-hour bookstore.

"I think many stories begin with a question. In my case, the question was, 'What would a 24-hour bookstore look like anyway?'” he says. “Why would such a thing exist?”'.

Perspective: Quiet champions of social causes & forgotten girls

Perspective: Quiet champions of social causes
The Little Match Girl. Source: Lamp and Book
'That poor little girl,' she said to me, 'alone in the world with no mother'. 'She's got a father, she's not alone,' I said churlishly. 'Ah, that's not the same thing at all. Ye wouldn't understand. A girl needs a mother's love. Ye can tell she's missing it, she had the look of a lost child.' - Araby by Gretta Mulrooney
By Erica Bartle

On arrival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, my husband and I visit a cafe frequented by some of the country's elite. Their food and drink are served to them by girls with whom they'd not usually associate. They are outcasts in aprons with pretty faces. 

Many of them are from minority groups and poverty-stricken rural families, who are more likely to be the unwitting victims of human trafficking rings. The odds were stacked against them to begin with and someone took advantage of the situation. These girls have been sexually abused.

They are the forgotten girls of Cambodia and its bordering South-East Asian nations: Burma, Thailand, Vietnam. One girl, I am told, was set upon by 15 Japanese men on a "tour". To satisfy their depraved natures, these men betray these girls, their wives, and their souls. How can they sleep at night? Everything inside of you wants to scream, "This is not right!". 

And it's not, but because the problem is endemic, deeply entrenched and part of the global economy, it is hard to see how we can win. The Poverty. Corruption. Hierarchical systems. Discrimination. A cultural burden dating back to Pol Pot and a developing world that sees cities thrive and the rural world limp along far behind. These are not easily overcome.

But there are brave ones here fighting for those who are too weak to stand against the insurmountable oddsTheir tactics are discreet: is it about rescuing each one (one by one) from the cusp of death, the clenches of the adversary, and nursing her back to life.  

Gently, gently putting back the pieces and giving her a future. Making things right. Protecting her until she is strong enough to protect herself and ready to take flight. Giving her work, a wage, a hope.

The girls are so fragile that it can take years to get them to the point where they can be productive in the world again; where they can trust; when they can smile. The psychological damage is so great that sometimes they just switch off, retreating into the same imagined worlds they created to escape their abusive situations. They cannot handle a lot of stress. 

Trailblazer: Rosa Parks

Trailblazer: Rosa Parks
 “I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” - Rosa Parks 
By Brooke Lehmann

On October 24th seven years ago, the world of civil rights was in mourning over the loss of the 'mother of the movement', Rosa Parks. A petite, hardworking, civil rights advocate and seamstress, Mrs. Parks dedicated her life to the cause of equality for her fellow African Americans.

As we all know, she became a world renowned name after her defiant act on a local bus in Montgomery, Alabama, which saw her arrested for breaching the local segregation laws. Her case inspired a mass eruption of protest by the black people of Montgomery.

What it inspired was a civil rights revival in the face of racial equality in Alabama that ultimately placed her alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other acclaimed advocates of the Civil Rights movement.

Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley, on the 4th February 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama to father James McCauley, a carpenter, and mother Leona Parks (née Edwards), a rural schoolteacher. Two years later her younger brother and only sibling, Sylvester, arrived on August 20.

Book Shelf: World War II - The Autobiography edited by Jon E. Lewis

Book Shelf: World War II - The Autobiography edited by Jon E. Lewis
Reviewed by Man with a Bag

Early in 1941, young Rachel Wray (she was 19 years old) decided to leave her depressed life in Northeastern Oklahoma and follow her boyfriend, George, who had joined the U.S. Navy, to San Diego, California, in the determination to turn around her fortunes.

She got a job as a pastry cook at an exclusive restaurant at $15 a week plus board and was feeling quite satisfied with herself – so much so that she and George made wedding plans. But come 7th December 1941, their lives changed dramatically.

George went to sea to fight the war, while Rachel decided on a path of self-improvement and enrolled in night school to do vocational training in bench mechanics and riveting, graduated after three months and obtained employment at Consolidated Aircraft (later Convair) at 80c per hour as a Riveting Technician.

"I remember my brother, who was in the Air Corps at the time, and his friends laughed at me one day thinking I couldn't learn this mechanical stuff. I can still see them, but it only made me more determined. I think it probably hurt their pride a little bit that I was capable of doing this," she wrote.

Teen Girl With a Satchel: On going to Holland with Jack

Teen Girl With a Satchel: Going to Holland with Jack
By Georgie Carroll

I can’t remember the first day I realised my brother was different. Three years my senior, growing up with Jack had always seemed like the norm, but I suppose when I was started being able to do things that he couldn’t (like reading, writing, holding conversations) I began to notice differences. 

I’m lucky that for the first eight years of my life, and the first eleven years of his, we lived in a tiny coastal town in which everyone accepted Jack like there was nothing different about him. He had more friends than me, was a part of all the local sporting teams, and was a major participant in our local primary school.

We moved in 2003, and that was difficult for him, but we were lucky in that our local high school allowed him to go through fully integrated (my mum is a strong opponent of “special schools”). He graduated high school in 2009, and I’m pretty sure it was the proudest day of my parents' lives.

My parents had been married for eight years and were in their early thirties when my brother was born. In a bizarre twist of fate, my mum had been working in Special Education for a decade before they had Jack. I guess God wanted to send him to a family who He knew would be able cope.

The Satchel Review - Saturday October 20, 2012 ('Go Girl' Week!)

After last week's anti-misogynist mantra from Prime Minister Julia Gillard reverberated around the world, and we learnt of the plight of the little heroic 15-year-old girl-fighter (with pens, not guns) Malala Yousafzai, it was heartening to see that the girls were having a much better week.

Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize with Bring Up the Bodies making her the first woman and first British author to win the award twice. "You wait 20 years for a Booker prize and then two come along at once," she said.

She was called "the greatest modern English prose writer" by chairman of the Booker judges Sir Peter Stothard. There is still one more book in her historical trilogy featuring Thomas Cromwell to come. Notably, Australian author Peter Carey is one of two other authors two be a double-Booker winner.

Then CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley ("Don't you just love alliterative names in a TV journalist – just so...?!" noted my aunt) was the moderator for the second (and much better) Obama/Romney debate in the US.

While accused of "an act of journalistic terror" for interjecting at one point in the debate, and for bias toward President Obama, the role is testimony to the 64-year-old's considerable professional expertise. Criticism comes with the turf.

Does it take two SNL comic actresses to make one Ricky Gervias performance? 'Course not! Whichever way you want to look at it (whether through the prism of misogyny or not), it is almost guaranteed that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will will be thoroughly entertaining in their roles as hosts of the Golden Globes come January, because they are very funny.   

No surprise, but girls can spell really well! Page 14 of The Courier-Mail on Wednesday said it all: "They are the 'Jen-Masters' of Centenary State High School". Two young ladies, Jennifer Vu, 14, and Jennifer Yu, 17, will face off in the newspaper's Spelling Bee final (Years 8-12) next Wednesday with three other finalists.

The Satchel Review - Saturday October 13

The view from Katoomba - snowfall in spring.
Skivvies? In spring? Now, that's groundbreaking!

As winter wardrobes prematurely filed away were resurrected from the archives to meet the wintry snap head on, an icy delivery of speech was heard in Canberra causing men doing the dishes across the country to ponder, 'Am I a misogynist?'. 

As far as news rules go, this week was a corker, presenting us not only with wintry weather in the middle of spring, but a parliamentary speech that made the international press pay attention to our underacknowledged island-continent. 

The nation's south was swept up in a chilly south-east snow storm mid-spring that froze toes like a Wintour gaze at a fashion show. What a wonder! What a treat! Look at the sleet on the street!

But as Anti-Poverty Week commenced, we were given reason to contemplate how those one million Australians surviving on the bare minimum of resources were able to meet the need of the sudden freeze. 

Have you watched the Four Corners report 'Growing Up Poor' on the ABC? If that does not elicit sympathy for the plight of our fellow neighbour (in Clayborne, NSW), I don't know what will. Those kids are legends in my books. But poverty on our doorsteps? This is not good at all. 

Book Shelf: Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche

Book Shelf: Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche
Reviewed by Bloke with a Bag

Most of us should remember the TV footage flashed around the world on the 13th of January 2009, which showed U.S. Airways flight 1549, an A320 Airbus, landing in the Hudson River, New York, with no loss of life.

From take-off to splash-down, the flight only lasted five minutes. 

It was dubbed "the Miracle on Hudson". As the story goes, the pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger III, with co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles, saved the lives of 150 passengers that day by using his piloting skills, and casting of distractions. They became national heroes; the newest stars in American aviation folklore

The plane had encountered a pack of Canadaian snow geese two minutes into its flight path and the engines conked out. The 'Fly by Wire' of this book's title refers to the automation technology that allows pilots such as Sullenberger to accomplish huge human feats, such as conquering engine failure, while avoiding more menial piloting tasks (like keeping the plane steady)

In essence, the contention in Langewiesche's book is that the soft landing of the plane was more of a team effort: the result of Sullenberger's skill combined with fly-by-wire technology and a former test pilot named Bernard Ziegler.

Perspective: On love rights, wrongs and respect

Perspective: On love rights, wrongs and respect

Love not war: "The thing I can't stand about you, mate, is you're always so bloody cheerful."  - Frank to Archy, Gallipoli
Things said in jest or in haste or to deliberately hurt and wound can lead us into reputational ruin, as we have witnessed this week. 

No surprise to hear, for example, that our Prime Minister does not wish to keep the company of one Alan Jones. If he calls, she's not home.

But we'd be wise to refrain from grandstanding. How many of us have said, whether in or out of school (Jones, notably, was at a dinner meeting of the Young Liberals when he deemed it suitable to make his shame claim), something we lived to regret? 

How soon we forget ourselves, when in the company of those we wish to entertain, or to score points (hello, presidential election) when what is truly called for is a little restraint. Pride and ego so often get in the way of doing the good and respectable thing, don't they? 

The family, or any group setting, can teach us so much about interacting with others – marriage alone can teach a person a lot about the need for respect, a healthy sense of humour and grace for mistakes. In short, empathy for fellow man's fallen state.

When we permit ourselves a little leave-of-conscience, and strike a particularly low blow, it inevitably comes back to bite us. I've been there, perhaps you have, too? And in the world of social media, it's a trending theme that is, thankfully, meeting with some resistance

In the latest edition of WHITE magazine, the brilliant Choe Brereton describes a situation between friends in which there is friction

"Insults, even petty ones, cumulatively breed a type of neglect that dissolves trust. I call it neglect because the very use of tactless language fails, in particular, to consider another's emotions, worth and confidence in you."

The reasoning behind this mud-slinging behaviour? "I hate being made to feel small," says Brereton.

Pride blasted source of all evil!

The Satchel Review - October 6, 2012

Tracy Champan's "Many Rivers to Cross" came to mind this week as it was reported that NASA's Curiosity had come across evidence of a river on Mars. Water on the Red Planet well, I'll be!

But after a two-day search for a 1934 vintage plane containing six people, it was found with no survivors in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. A rescue helicopter sighted the red biplane 14 kilometres north of Borumba Dam just before 2pm on Wednesday, reported the ABC.

The deceased include pilot Desmond Porter, 68, his wife Cath, 61, from Tingalpa in Brisbane's east; John Dawson, 63, and his wife Carol Dawson, 63, also from Tingalpa; and Les D'evlin, 75, and his wife Janice D'evlin, 61, from Manly West.

The Courier-Mail called them the "Best of Friends" in a front-page headline, detailing the relationship enjoyed by the inseparably "close mates, united by school, work, marriage and a thirst for adventure".

The accident was both a shock to their families and the vintage aircraft community.

"Aviation can be a cruel child and you only have to make small mistakes and it can catch up on you," said Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokesman Mike Barton.

Also in Queensland, four girls were ushered to the airport at the behest of the Family Court, and to the anguish of their mother, in order to be returned to their father in Italy in compliance with The Hague Convention.

Judge Colin Forrest said he had sought the guarantee of the father that he would not press charges against the girls' mother if she also returned to Italy.

The vision of Australian Federal Police prying the girls from their mother was highly disturbing, but so too was a comment reportedly made by their maternal great-grandmother when the AFP found them in hiding.

"How exciting. Who is going to play you in the movie? They will have to find a good little dark-headed actress to play you."

Deary me.

The Bali Bombings anniversary reminded us all this week that life can be short, and holidays are no sweet escape from that reality, as victims of the 2004 Thai tsunami would know too well. These coastal places of retreat for Westerners have not been the same since.

Still, it was terrorism, not natural disaster, that took the lives of 202 people in 2002, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians. The name "Jemaah Islamiah" haunts many of the survivors, many whose stories and strength of character have inspired us to get on with life while we have it.

The shooting down of an army helicopter by Syrian rebels east of Damascus was a reminder of how that country remains in civil war. More than 30,000 souls have been taken since the outbreak of conflict 19 months ago.

Middle Eastern conflict permeates international reportage pages and adjacent social media streams, which has largely come to define that geographic area as one at war in the minds of Westerners. A recent headline from The New York Times read, "Iran Supplying Syrian Military via Iraq Airspace".

Parochially, there was an accident on Mount Tamborine Tuesday morning involving the collision of a car and a motorbike at the intersection outside of Spice of Life cafe on Main Street.

The motorbike t-barred the car, which pulled unsuspectingly out of the intersection; both drivers escaped, for the most part, unscathed, though the car and motorbike were not so well off

The motorbike rider flipped onto the car and fell off onto the road, while the car driver at fault was white as a ghost. The former was reportedly the brother-in-law of GWAS; the latter a medical student on his first day of internship.

Shocks, jocks, accidents, aeronautical endeavours with mixed results and errors of judgement were truly the order of the week. Commiserations to all who have lost a loved one, even temporarily.

Girl With a Satchel

Book Shelf: The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book

Book Shelf: The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book by Justine Clarke and Arthur Baysting

Every now and then, a children's title crosses the desk and we find ourselves smitten. They open us up to wonder again. And this one speaks to us particularly, because it is about the love of reading.

Justine Clarke is a well-known children's entertainer – the J.K. Rowling to the toddler crowd, if you like – and this is her debut children's book, co-authored with Arthur Baysting and illustrated by Tom Jellett
Within it we find a little girl who encounters a gobbledygook eating up books. 

But as he soon learns, books are not for eating but for reading, and they can take you on wonderful adventures, to Mars amogst the faraway stars, to places with dinosaurs with toothy jaws and giant roars, to the icy poles where the penguins live, and fairytale lands with ponies, wizards and queens.

Kitchen Bench: Sweetness and light (Scottish Butter Tablet)

Kitchen Bench: Sweetness and light (Butter Tablet)
Photography: Sophie Baker
By Sophie Baker

After making my most successful and scrumptious batch of fudge (also known as Butter Tablet) ever, I thought it fitting to snap a tantalising photo. As you can well imagine, I am now suffering from a dry-thoat and sugar headache... but, boy, was it worth it! After the recipe? Go here and enjoy!

Thinkings: William Wilberforce on morals and joy

Thinkings: William Wilberforce on morals and joy

"My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox Churchmen. . . is, that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes, and thus the injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the New Testament, is practically neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air and not one of peace and hope and joy."
-  William Wilberforce, British Parliamentarian, proponent of the abolition of the slave trade; Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and the Political Welfare, John Piper, 2002. 

Girl With a Satchel

Book Shelf: The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

Book Shelf: The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne
Reviewed by Brooke Lehmann

Lisa Ballantyne's career has previously found her involved in the Chinese education sector with the occasional writing for magazines in English and in Chinese. 

However, the Mandarin speaking Scot has turned her mind to the world of novels, introducing her debut, The Guilty One (Platkus) to our bookshelves in August. Finding itself an international phenomenon, critics have boasted The Guilty One as being 'psychological and suspenseful'.

The story follows Daniel Hunter, a man who knows what it is to come from a dysfunctional family. Now a partner at a solicitor's firm in London, life wasn't always peachy for the successful lawyer; a fact that resurfaces when he receives the case of 11-year-old Sebastian Croll, who has just been charged with the murder of eight-year-old Benjamin Stokes.

The novel flashes between memories of Daniel's childhood in foster-care due to his drug addicted mother's inability to care for him and the absence of his father, and the murder case which has all of London talking.

Culture: Making sense of senseless suffering (for mature readers)

Culture: Making sense of senseless suffering
Frazzled, a little on edge and weary on Friday night, my husband and I sat and watched Looper at the cinema, which would not prove to be panacea to our state of being – violence has a tendency to escalate fractured emotions – though it did offer up a kernel of a moral, which was its redeeming feature along with Emily Blunt

Essentially what we find in the film is a young man named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)  – one of several young henchmen – recruited into a group of assassins who shoot and kill people who come back from the future ("crime travel" is what the film's genre has been called by the New Jersey Newsroom). 

"This time travel crap, just fries your brain like a egg... " says the crime boss character Abe, and you can actually start to feel your brain doing the same as you watch the film, but let's lay that aside.

When the protagonist is faced with the prospect of killing his future self (Bruce Willis), things start to go awry. In this Back to the Future meets Bladerunner meets The Matrix meets The Terminator movie, Joe is forced to sober up from his life of drug-taking, murdering and numbing individualism to think not only of himself, but "himselves", and also Blunt and her son*. 

The Satchel Review - Saturday 29th September

On a cold and miserable Melbourne day, not unlike a Harry Potter opening scene, a young man received some desolating news: his wife's life had been taken away by an unfortunate soul she had encountered on the street.

The anguish of the young man, Tom, over the loss of his Jill was palpable nationwide; his humility as he contemplated the loss of his mate before her lifeless body was found, his assurance that the majority of Aussies had been a comfort to him at this time, heartened us all as we watched the tragedy unfold.

Though we did feel guilty, didn't we, that it had not been us but his Jill. And grateful, too, as we hugged our loved ones a little closer, hummed the tune of of John Mayer's "Daughters" and resolved to 'love thy neighbour' despite the crime, because a community should not be upended by the wrongdoing of a single person prowling the streets looking to cause harm to distract from his wretched humanity.

We lay flowers in the place of fallen soldiers.

A little more cautiously, and by the grace of God we go (as Mia Freedman put it so well), back out into a world that can so often be uncertain and harsh and awful, where girls are indeed vulnerable, but where a child's laughter, a husband's hug, a smile from a stranger, a helping hand can melt the hardest of hearts.

These collective awakenings, rest assured, are not without their purpose for us all, so long as we resolve to make something a bit better in this life. What thing ought we have done, which can now be put right? What phone call needs to be made? Bless you, Jill, and may you be at peace as your lovely family carries on without you, albeit much less brightly.

"If you want to cry, I am here to dry your eyes," sang Sade. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," said He.

Girl With a Satchel

Satchelnomics: The rationalisation of retail

Satchelnomics: The rationalisation of retail

Boho dress procured at Illahie boutique... a return to parochial shopping, perhaps?
Recently, I took my father into a small, dinky-di menwear store in Beaudesert called Buxtons' Work Town 'N Country Wear to acquire some new clothes, as the Emperor's suiting would not be appropriate for the climate on Mount Tamborine and daughters like to do that sort of thing.

The floor space was so cluttered with stuff that you could barely move, but there was something exquisite about finding everything at your fingertips – trousers, shirts, tees, shoes, boots, belts, hats, wallets, Stanley knives... Bisley, King Gee, Polo Ralph Lauren, RM Williams – in that small space. 

We walked out $150 poorer feeling chuffed – particularly with the two pairs of pants for the price of one. We shared our anecdote with my father-in-law, who knew the Buxton's name immediately. In small towns, places like that are known by everybody.

Buxton's is like a mini department store, the sort of place that once-upon-a-time attracted regular clientele who came to expect something of its service and reliably sufficient product offering; the unique retail shopping experience requiring limited expenditure of one's mental faculties because there is a limited but quality selection of goods.

The clothing store is part of the community, like the butcher, the post office, the general store. As an entity it is no more or less important than the other stores: it is there to provide practical clothing for the average working man.

I like to shop at places such as this, where the owner's name is familiar and the chances of finding something to your liking are high, particularly as there is no comparative situation in which to measure the goods up against, such as at a shopping mall, which frankly drive me around the bend because everywhere you turn there is something or someone coercing you to spend more than you really ought.  

In small communities, or within a boutique store situation, what you see is what you get, but what you get is more than the good itself. It is in the exchange where the true thrill lies. You and your purchase (or intent thereof) are not taken for granted. Small business proprietors (good ones, at least) are grateful for your business, and so too are you for what they provide.

And the proof is in the statistics: in a quiet defiance of tough trading times, small business sales in August increased by 4.7 per cent relative to a year ago, with retail-related business sales growing just short of 2 per cent year on year in the three months to August. Not flashy, but not dismal either. 

Satchel Living: Raising confidently kind daughters

Satchel Living: No more "nice" girls – 5 steps to raising confidently kind daughters

Photography: Sophie Baker

By Alison Stegert 
We parents have got to stop raising such nice girls. “Nice” doesn't cut it anymore. In fact, “nice” may disadvantage our children*.

“No more nice girls” sounds radical, and, to some, it may even border on scandalous. Surely we should train our daughters to be nice, especially in the current reign of mean girls and the age of relational aggression. Isn't that what the world needs most – a little more love and kindness?

The thing is, there is a gaping chasm between niceness and loving kindness.

It is true that today's girls seem lost. The news regularly features stories of girls doing very ungirly things – street fighting like common thugs, swearing like stevedores, bullying shamelessly. Not too long ago the Australian media ran a story about two teenage girls who beat up an elderly lady and stole her purse. Today's girls are a confused lot. The foul-mouthed, scantily clad, mentorless young women are an indictment on our society. We have let them down.

Truth be told, the sweet, innocent and “nice” are not much better off. The world says, “Be brash.” The glossy magazines scream, “You're not skinny enough!” and “Pout like you mean it!” Music lyrics and media suggest, “Sexy is as sexy does.” All the while, some girls' mums are saying, “Just be nice.” It's no wonder our girls are confused.

Film School: Monsieur Lazhar

Film School: Monsieur Lazhar
Marie-Eve Beauregard and Mohamed Fellag in Monsieur Lazhar
This is a terribly timely film. Its subject matter – suicide, trauma, violence, asylum seeking – is not comfortable, and yet all you will take away from Monsieur Lazhar is warmth, because it has a very humane way of approaching the terrors of life.

Perhaps this is because its characters are mostly children, whose little faces appear in close-ups just like school photographs. I would like to think so – because in an industry that has in the past ten years attempted to steal away from childhood, turning kids into adults (and not good ones), this film could be redemptive. A turning point. With French sub-titles.  

"Everyone thinks we're traumatized, but it's the adults who are," says the precocious young Marie-Frédérique (Marie-Eve Beauregard), at which point we begin to think seriously about the ways in which adults use children as scapegoats for framing their own worlds.

In snowy, slushy, yellow-y Montreal ("Montreal le Slush"), Canada, a troubled primary school teacher, Martine, has hung herself before the day's classes commence. We glimpse Martine's image through the door, as do two of the children.

The Middle Brow – These Turbulent Times

The Middle Brow - These Turbulent Times
By Man with a Bag

I must admit that the events over the past week in the Middle East, including the killing of more NATO troops in insider attacks in Afghanistan, culminating locally in Saturday's riot in Sydney are deeply disturbing.

First we hear of the dragging of the corpse of the US ambassador John Christopher Stevens, aged 52, through the streets in Libya, along with the death of three of his diplomatic colleagues at the US consulate. Then riots and more riots everywhere from Yemen to the streets of Sydney in an anti-American response to a 13-minute YouTube film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed.

My parents brought me to this great country in the early 1950s, they worked hard and managed to send me to Australia's oldest 'Greater Public School' (GPS), Sydney Grammar, a non-denominational school for boys whose motto was (translated from the Latin), "Praise be to God".

My school was about 70 per cent Protestant, 20 per cent Jewish and 10 per cent Roman Catholic. The school motto fitted all, we went to class together, played sport together and participated in military cadets together. Today we even have the odd reunion together.

So I grew up in a tolerant religious society, we all went to our individual churches, and some of us did not go to church at all. We were private yet gregarious.

Aesthete: Misty countryside at dawn

Aesthete: Misty countryside at dawn
This is what gets me out of bed at 5.30am every Tuesday... that, and work and Chuck Swindoll's morning sermons. Isn't it dazzling, this country we live in?

Girl With a Satchel