The Satchel Review - Friday 30 March

The Australian surf lifesaving fraternity and its nippers underling is in mourning after the loss of 14-year-old schoolboy Matthew Barclay in the Kurrawa beach surf. 

Moments of reflection on the boy's short but energetic life were quickly lost beneath the rolling waves of calls for investigations into the annual championships held at the now notorious oceanic rough spot, which have seen the deaths of three lives since 1996.

"We Don't Want It Here" screamed the front page headline on The Manly Daily on Friday. In the paper's localised spin on the issue that cuts to the heart of everything that sections of beachside communities hold dear and true, the father of Saxon Bird, who died aged 19 at the championships in 2010, is calling for a royal commission into the deaths of his son and young Barclay.

Snapshot: A Paddington chocolate shop in the land of Lent

Snapshot: A chocolate shop in the land of Lent
Steve Sheldon, owner of Monty's Chocolates, Paddington
On a street in Paddington, Brisbane, which features an array of stores selling books and jewellery and clothes and things, lies a chocolate shop owned by Steve and Dori Sheldon which is in the season of Lent: profits trimmed by 30 per cent.  

"This is our flattest time of year," says Steve, an affable fellow who hails from London, without a trace of lament. "I haven't worked out whether it's faith-based or a cultural thing. But it's followed by enough people that it has a major impact. It's really interesting because you listen to radio and the media, and if you believed everything you read, you'd think we're living in a totally secular society, but I know, because of my business, that Lent has a major impact. No exaggeration. The one thing I can't answer is whether it's cultural or faith."

It took a good dose of faith to open the doors to Monty's Chocolates four years ago, on the cusp of the GFC. The couple arrived in Australia in 2003 and identified a gap in the market for a boutique fine chocolate shop in Brisbane. With Dori working in a corporate job, Steve, who has a background in software, has nurtured Monty's into two businesses: the Paddington store and a new gift-style store at St Andrew's hospital. 

Teen Girl With a Satchel – on turning 18

By Georgie Carroll

Taylor Swift in concert (who's too old for fairytales?)
I’m now a legal adult and feel that somehow, someone, somewhere, made a mistake. I surely cannot be an adult! I can’t be expected to have adult responsibilities and make official decisions. Who thought it would be a good idea to let me anywhere near a ballot paper? Yet, as the cards floating around my house suggest, and the birth date on my license confirms, I am, in fact, now in adulthood.

Film School: The Hunger Games (love, game, set, match)

Film School: The Hunger Games
For girls hankering for positive role models, The Hunger Games is welcome respite from the video clips on TV, but for all the kick-butt power of Katniss Everdeen, it's her friend Peeta Mellark who stands out from the hungry crowd when it comes to a sense of goodness and morality.

If you are prepared to look past the violence, of the scenes of children killing children in the manner of The Lord of the Flies (or, in disturbing real life, Joseph Kony's child tribes), then the film blitzing box offices around the world based on the best-selling trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins offers us a chance to ponder our own over-arching sense of right and wrong, and whether we would actually practise what we preach in the event that we had to make some really tough decisions.

Short & Sweet - week beginning March 26

The Historical Society of Somerset Hills
Last week I read of a Year Nine boy who had been suspended from a Melbourne school after shaving his head to raise money for his friend suffering from leukaemia.

While the headmaster explained that if the boy had gone through school procedures first, and kept the 'do to a number two, he would have avoided punishment, I do think that sometimes there must be exceptions to the rules, don't you?

In life, if we were all to be perfectly law-abiding citizens all the time, then we might turn a blind eye to opportunities to help others, like in the event that your best friend has leukaemia. What if Rosa Parks hadn't dared to part from the law, to challenge the status quo, and keep her bus seat to herself? What then of progress? Or if a few brave people hadn't dared to question slavery?

While railing against authority and conformity in all its forms must have a true and righteous cause, and not all rules are made to be broken because then we'd have full-on societal anarchy (anyone can steal! kill who you like! why not drive on the other side of the road?!), surely there must be special exceptions... particularly if it's a gesture of gentlemanly humanity and not all-out rebellion that's the motivation? And especially in a world where the opposite (doing things for selfish gain: money, power, fame) is commonplace.

What do you think?

The Satchel Review - Saturday 24th March

The smell of snags lingering no more, the BBQs rolled away, it seems that Campbell "Can Do" Newman has won the poll this election day.

Indeed, on the day when all Queenslanders get to have an opinion, and put it into action, the resounding sound was loud and clear: they would be led by Labor no more.

In the wake of the shocking defeat ("landslide!", "massacre!" "mutiny!"), Anna Bligh humbly and graciously conceded that she would step away from the political fray after 20 years in the game ("I don't think Labor can effectively rebuild and present a new face while I am still sitting here," she said).

It's likely Labor will own just seven seats in the 89-seat Queensland parliament; the LNP will have the vast majority with 78, followed by Katter's Australia Party (two) and the Independents (two). The Greens are out of favour in the Sunshine/Smart/Banana state.

What will we remember most from Campaign 2012?

Arts, Culture & Entertainment News - March 23

Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey's gift to Christianity, A Short History of Christianity, is a must-read for those who are serious about understanding the historicity (love that word) of the faith as it has gone through the passage of 2,000 or so years, whether you are a believer or not. It's "the jigsaw as a whole", as he puts it. At more than 600 pages in length, this solid tome is worth its weight in gold. I have been schlepping my copy around for three months (unlike the reader who devoured it in one weekend), from New York to Sydney and back to Brisbane. For now, be entertained by the humble historian via ABC Big Ideas. In the recorded appearance at The Sydney Institute he gives a candid summation of his book. He's an immensely likeable chap.

"Just then received my copy of Marilynne Robinson's new book of essays, When I was a Child I Read Books... and all is well with the world," Tweeted the equally likeable chap Scott Stephens, editor of ABC Religion and Ethics, on Friday. The book is a collection of ten essays by the author. In her essay titled 'Night Thoughts of a Baffled Humanist' Robinson writes: "There is at present a dearth of humane imagination for the integrity and mystery of other lives." That's a sentiment Shannon Guy and most GWAS readers would agree with, I'm sure. On further exploration (i.e. Google), 'The Marilyn Robinson Appreciation Society' was unearthed, which showcases a list of many of the essays penned by the Pulitzer Prize winner that have been adapted into her new book's fold as well as largely positive reviews.

Getting into the World Poetry Day spirit on March 21, I penned a petulantly inhospitable and somewhat nonsensical poem for my office door ("Between 7 and 2, if you please, take leave of me to writing be..."). I also chanced upon a copy of I Remember, I Remember: One Hundred Poems on Childhood at the library. The blurb: "Here, in this beautifully illustrated anthology, is all the joy and innocence, fear and frustration of childhoods in one hundred poems." They include Hartley Coleridge's Childhood: "Oh what a wilderness were this sad world, If man were always man and never child; If Nature gave no time, so sweetly wild, When every thought is deftly crisped and curled...". Crisped and curled... delicious. Yes, he was the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Gossling (aka Helen Croome) is releasing one new track, filmed live, from her EP Intentional Living each week until the EP release on April 20. "We decided to create our own space at Bake House Studios where we could film each track from the new EP live, giving fans a taste of what they can expect from not only the new release but also from the Intentional Living tour which will start days after the EP is released," says Croome. The space is adorned by yarn-bombing group Yarn Corner, while Croome will be styled by Solange Mardones of NIFFTY (Northcote Independent Fashion Festival) in a range of wears by Olga de Polga, Kings of Carnaby, Kuwaii and Obus. What a clever marketing idea. The first song for release is "Wild Love".
Sticking with new music, Katy Perry's "Part of Me" was released this week and I can't work out whether the military propaganda for girls is a good thing or bad. In much the same fashion as The Hunger Games, the clip posits Perry as a pseudo-army recruit sent into battle on the frontline; in contrast to The Hunger Games, her reason for joining the defence force is less about a dystopian reality positing youth against youth in a gross take on "reality" entertainment sponsored by a wealthy elite, and more a breakup with a boyfriend (with requisite hair-cutting scene), which creates an excellent opportunity for a makeover.

Einstein is now online. The complete archives of the physicist's thoughts-on-paper, including 14 notebooks filled with research notes, correspondence with his contemporaries, love letters and a postcard sent to his ailing mother have been digitized thanks to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a grant from the Polonsky Foundation who are furthering the online work already laid: 900 manuscripts have been available since 2003.

The Encyclopedia Britannica is now online, too. After 244 years in print, the brand has announced it will discontinue its paper run with its 2010 editions. It will still be available on the iPad and Kindle and via its online database ($69.95 AUD annually).

Country Style magazine is entering into 'Golden Times' with this autumnal issue with spectacularly radiant cover. Editor Victoria Carey pays tribute to Australian Children's Laureate Alison Lester and Pony shop owner Nicki Milton who rides her horse Harley after work ("lucky, lucky Nicky").

Girl With a Satchel

The Occasional Shopper: a swap soiree

A simply skirty item from the snag-bag
By Bec Isijanovski

This last Saturday I attended a fun little gathering with some lovely lady friends and piles of pre-loved clothes at what is known as a "Swap Party". With cupcakes or coffee in our hands, we all went shopping through each other's clothes.

Previously, I had attended GWAS swap parties in support of my travelling partner, Brooke. This was a few years back when Brooke and our mutual friend Karen were headed off to Uganda. The Swap was held while they were there as financial support. I became a big fan of this type of event, whereby I could help my friends do their good work, and also get some new clothes in the process.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I like a good party. Most of my life has consisted of planning extravagant parties for myself and my friends. The GWAS swap party has always rated high on my party ranking list, mostly because of the lovely company. It is a nice time spent with girls and women from the area, catching up or meeting for the first time, and getting together for a cause.

Bec Isijanovski @ Girl With a Satchel

The irrepressibly vivacious Bec blogs at Journey to Paris where she expounds on her highly anticipated journey to France and the frustrations of half-finished books, and uses words such as "soiree".

Satchelpedia: The Spectator (1711-1712)

Satchelpedia: The Spectator (1711-1712)

The congenial English journal started by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison called The Spectator (not related to the current journal of the same name) was published daily from 1711 to 1712. 

It had a modest daily circulation of 3,000 copies, hitting a top circulation of 14,000, and an estimated readership of 60,000 Londoners. Most readers, it was said, were patrons of London coffeehouses and belonged to England's emerging middle class.

It saw itself as politically neutral but was seen as promoting Whig (i.e. free-market liberal) values and interests. It was also one of the first literary journals to make efforts to appeal to women.

Genealogy: Franny J. Crosby (March 24, 1820 - Feb 12, 1915)

Genealogy: Franny J. Crosby

A prodigious writer and poet, Franny J. Crosby penned more than 8,000 texts (though some say 9,000) in her lifetime of some 95 years and, yet, she was blind from the age of six.

Raised in Putnam County, New York, Crosby had two sisters and a brother. The small brood lost their father when Franny was one year old. By age five she had developed a keen curiosity about the world and first visited New York City, only while there she was diagnosed with blindness.

The condition was not to inhibit her desire to glean the most from life. "My ambition," she wrote in Memories of Eighty Years, "was boundless and my desires were intent to live for some great purpose in the world and to make for myself a name that should endure."

The Middle Brow – On France and otherness

Kristin Scott Thomas in Sarah's Key
By Shannon Guy 

Booker T. Washington once said, “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” Perhaps our instinctive reaction to those acts of hatred which make us cower in fear or scream for justice are also the first steps that we take in the narrowing of our souls. 

Perhaps we need to go against the tide of our natural reckonings, swim above the waves of the prevailing political and media conditioning that has us believe in the destructive elements of the concept of Other, and travel toward a destination of understanding.

The recent shootings in Toulouse have shocked and appalled many throughout the world, not just in France. Framed against the often vitriolic discourse in the French presidential election campaign, the acts are no less abhorrent though perhaps less surprising. This should provoke much national soul-searching but the focus will, I fear, be directed the wrong way.

The Media Satchel – What's so fancy?

In doing a search on Jamie magazine's circulation recently, I was intrigued to read a comment left by someone about fellow foodie mag FANCY, whose circulation had eclipsed Jamie's in the July to December 2011 audit (fancy that!). It said: 

"It is ridiculous - and rather sad - for any customer [sic] magazine to boast of 'overtaking' another. Quantity of circulation is often irrelevant to targeted publications. It is more important to reach a large percentage of a desired audience than to pump publications out to an inappropriate readership. If Jamie magazine has reached its client's optimum circulation, whether that is in terms of cost, audience penetration or whatever, then it is a success – and there is no achievement whatsoever in "overtaking" that title."

In sticking with this week's theme of failure and success, does circulation (insofar as beating out the competition) matter one iota if a publication's mission is accomplished by sticking to its objectives and serving its intended readership? Because we really do get obsessed with big numbers and popularity and hits these days, don't we? At what cost? As we have seen of late, with News of the World and the Kyle and Jackie O radio show, popular doesn't necessarily equate to solid production values.

Thinkings: Joseph Addison on life success

If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counsellor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.  
-Joseph Addison, English poet, essayist, playwright (famed for Cato, a Tragedy), literary adventurer, politician, member of the Kit-Kat Club, co-founder of The Spectator (1 March 1711 - 20 December 1914) and inspiration for the etymological term the "Addison Termination" (i.e. ending a sentence with a preposition).

Satchel Living: Why 'failure' is not a swear word

Satchel Living: Why 'failure' is not a swear word

Success doesn't always have a happy ending.
In a culture that recoils from failure as if it's a disease, Ian Thorpe's words in the face of his disappointment at not having qualified for the 2012 London Olympics are priceless for kids young and old.

"You can have tremendous success and not be enjoying something and I have had bitter disappointment here and I still am enjoying what I'm doing again," he said. "I guess the light at the end of the tunnel for this week is realising that even though those results weren't what I wanted, I am enjoying this and it's why I will continue to push through." 

Isn't that fantastic? 

For a preeminent sportsperson such as Thorpe to display humility and hope after such a challenging week and ultimately defeat in the pool is a big lesson for a world that thrives on instant gratification, quick fixes and the thrill of temporary feats.  

The sense that you can enjoy doing something even if it's not paying immediate dividends (insofar as "winning" is concerned) is also a revelation: how much time and energy do we waste lamenting where we are not instead of celebrating how far we have come and what joys, possibilities and challenges each new day brings?

Short & Sweet - week beginning March 19

Kate Knapp's It's Not Always Black and White, a happy comfort on inevitable grey days
Feeling a little battle-weary, I was treated to the kindness of two strangers this morning: a gentleman who ushered me inside a cafe out of the cold and another who offered up his spare change at the counter when I pulled up short. Isn't that wonderful? Like God's angels sent down to smooth the way, they were, just like the little treasure of a book by Kate Knapp lent to me by a friend (I really must return it soon... parting will be sweet sorrow).

Let's catch up: A bunch of girlfriends and friends-of-friends and new friends and I got together on Saturday, threw our things into an orderly pile, sorted it all onto racks and created a little marketplace for the friendly exchange of goods. For the first time, I walked away with nothing to put in my wardrobe, but I was still blissfully happy. It was such fun to have so many gorgeous girls in the one place, the young (my four-year-old niece ushered the ladies out to their cars under an umbrella to keep them from getting wet) and the old-er (who supplied a bountiful display of brownies and relish – yummo!).
This week's agenda: It's World Poetry Day on March 21, did you know? Also celebrating the birthdays of two very special ladies.
The Word for the Week: "The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
Quote for the Week: "I believe I could have had a good race this afternoon, and I can still take some positives out of the weekend as we have seen our car was confirming our feelings, and is definitely a clear step forward. We can now build on that and start improving further." Michael Schumacher word for the week: dowager \DOU-uh-jer\, noun:
1. An elderly woman of stately dignity, especially one of elevated social position.
2. A woman who holds some title or property from her deceased husband, especially the widow of a king, duke, etc.
"By all accounts, Margaret Whitlam was a dowager of considerable esteem, an asset to the Labor party, the Arts world, the sporting field and to her husband. He called her his 'most constant critic'."
Reading: Margaret Whitlam tributes here, there and everywhere.

Girl With a Satchel

Book Shelf: Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt

Book Shelf: Angela and the Baby Jesus

Prior to meeting the Radio Lollipop crew last week, I came across the little blue book Angela and the Baby Jesus amongst a shelf of gift titles.

The short tale by Frank McCourt (author of Angela's Ashes, 'Tis and Teacher Man) presents us with a fresh take on the beloved Christ story based on a true account given by his mother and verified by an aunt: not of the event that happened some 2000 years ago recorded by Matthew, Mark, John and Luke, of course, but from her girlhood.

When Mrs McCourt was a six-year-old child, we are told, she came across the baby Jesus in a crib at St. Joseph's Church near School House Lane where she lived. Even though he looked and felt cold, she surmised that the baby Jesus wouldn't complain to his parents, "because the Baby Jesus would never want to make his mammy the slightest bit unhappy", so she took it upon herself to make him warm.   

The Satchel Review - Friday 16 March

Bob the Blogger Carr and Bob Crazy-Pants Katter both gave their two bobs (ha) this week, resulting in two backlashes. 

Carr espoused on Papua New Guinea in an interview with Graham Richardson and set off a diplomatic row; Katter got the chatter started with an anti-gay marriage campaign.  

While Carr said Australia would be left with "no alternative but to organise the world to condemn and isolate Papua New Guinea" if elections were delayed, comparing the nation to Fiji, Katter brought on an unprecedented amount of hostility, the derision of his half-brother and the suspension of an ABC weekend presenter who provided the voiceover for his Australia Party ads.

Occupation: Miriam Crowe, Radio Lollipop Chairperson

Occupation: Miriam Crowe, Radio Lollipop
What might seem a terrible disadvantage to you can be a blessing to someone else. And so it is that Miriam Crowe, 22, came to be involved in children's charity Radio Lollipop, for which she currently occupies the chairperson's role. 

"I was a sick teenager, so I wanted to get into helping children who were in hospital," she says. "I looked into it, applied and was accepted. I got on the wards, and it was amazing, and I started getting more involved with the management team, in press and PR last year, and then took the chairperson's role this year."

The chairperson's role involves running events, management team meetings, delegating different jobs and guiding the team towards achieving the goals they've set for the year. There are 25 volunteers currently working the wards at the Gold Coast hospital where Marian is based (there are about 90 at the Marter Children's Hospital in Brisbane).

The Occasional Shopper: Oh, MYER

On Wednesday afternoon I stepped into MYER to buy a birthday gift. There was me and about three other customers in the store. I went straight to the book section and perused the shelves, then came across a bin full of cut-price volumes. 

"75% off the already marked-down price!" screamed a sign. And I did think, "I like the look of this book and would have been happy to pay the already discounted price without the extra 75% off, but since it's in the scrap heap, why not?'. Paying just $6 for said book, as I did, almost felt like a crime. I snapped up another book for my niece, too, for $4.95, and two bookmarks, for which I paid full price (oh, my!).

The experience is telling. This week MYER reported a sharp fall in profits for the first half of the financial year and also warned that full-year expectations would be less than grand, likely 10 per cent down on last year's result. 

Arts, Culture & Entertainment News - March 15

"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known." Winne the Pooh
Sarah and Phil photographed by Erik Maser
If you have not heard of the wonderful Sarah Kay, then you really must because she is fabulous. She packs a powerful punch into her poetry and shares her rhyming, tumbling, insightful thoughts with the world via TED talks and school visits and keynote speeches. A spoken-word-poetry evangelist, she is the co-founder of Project V.O.I.C.E with Phil Kaye and was Business Insider's "Best TED TALK 2011' winner. 

I write about her now because the folks at Dumbo Feather magazine are bringing her to Australia. Wheee! She will appear with Phil on Tuesday March 27th at the Malthouse Theatre, Southbank, Melbourne. Tickets are $30 through the Theatre Box Office. For those of us who can't make it to Melbourne, a moment to watch her perform her "If I Should Have a Daughter" poem below.

Of course, we can't all be Sarah Kay up there in lights on a stage. Some women find it better to communicate on the page, such as those behind Footprints magazine, which arrived in my postbox this week. It is always a sweet reprieve. Just a little community of Christian girls and women sharing their thoughts on life and the world and God. The autumn 2012 issue features the ladies behind clothing label Wear n Him on the cover, a story on "being in the wilderness", advice on parenting and a 'Disturbing News' anecdote from the streets of New York: "The two biggest problems in America today are 'I don't know' and 'I don't care'." Nothing fancy, no big-noting of self, just simple, honest-to-God sharing and in a size perfect for the handbag. 

Zoe Wall and mum Shyama c/o Slow magazine
The new issue of Slow magazine is also out. I have had a sneaky peek and found: artisan baker Al Reid, who is intriguing (he set up The Artful Scientists with his wife, Bec, and also worked for the Environment Protection Authority as an environmental economist before embarking on the family business, Red Beard Historic Bakery); a portfolio showcasing a sustainable house in Victoria; designer and former ballerina Zoe Wall (who is on the cover) and her mum, Shyama ("It's nice making something that's beautiful and useful").

Showing at ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne, until Saturday April 14: A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. The lovable bear returns to the big screen for the first time in 35 years in this animated adventure, inspired by five of the author’s most cherished stories. Christopher Robin is in danger and it’s up to Pooh, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga, Roo and Eeyore to help their old friend get out of harm’s way (a current thinking point for GWAS, this is: helping friends out of harm's way without wanting to be a goody-two-shoes).
Looking to busy your hands? The Harvest Workroom (East Brunswick, Victoria) is hosting a number of workshops throughout autumn, including the Autumn Print School, a 4-day intensive printing program where you'll be shown how to create multi-colour placement prints and repeat patterns; learn how to draw motifs, make hand-drawn repeat patterns and place registered placement prints into lengths of fabric and linen tea towels. It runs from April 9 to 12 and costs $495. The price includes all printing materials and inks plus four tea towels and all fabric used throughout the course. The intake is an intimate 10 students.

The folks behind Daily Candy have posted an interview with Mindy Kaling. When asked "What is the best compliment that someone can pay you", she has no qualms overlooking all her other credentials to say, "That I'm pretty" (tongue in cheek). But, when asked what one question she'd like to be asked by an interviewer, it is: "You write, you act, you direct, you produce... How do you stay so stylish?". Bought her book in Brooklyn, NYC (at this store). Still haven't read it. Fully intend to! Add to 'To Do' list.
Hot music tip for the week just in: Scottish lass Emeli Sande's Our Version of Events  – "It has THE BEST GOD SONG ON IT EVER ("Next to Me", track 10)", says my informant. "Saw her on The Graham Norton Show a few weeks ago (Madonna was a talk show guest, so the poor girl had to perform in front of Madonna! But she was BRILLIANT). Highly recommended." Off to iTunes immediately...

This week I finally took myself off to see The Vow (with husband in tow). The romantic comedy gives us something to contemplate (would you fall in love/choose your partner if you had your time all over again?) and something to celebrate (the fact that you chose your partner, though you may have forgotten why!). The best part was undoubtedly when Rachel McAdams (Paige) said to Channing Tatum (Leo), "You accepted me for who I am, not who you wanted me to be."
And that, friends, is the spirit in which I shall be hosting a clothing swap at my place this weekend. That, and what James said, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
Students at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. Picture by Ansell Horn and the FSSA Photojournalism Club
 Did you know Tony Bennett started the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York City? "We're working on 14 schools," he told Tiffany Bakker of Sunday magazine recently. "We want them all to have arts programs to give kids the chance to sing, dance or whatever it is they need to be creative... I feel as though I'm on vacation every day, because I'm either painting or singing. I'm very blessed to be doing two things I love."

To that end, Sarah Kay is proof that if you open your heart to the world just enough, like Winnie the Pooh, then it will open its arms to welcome you and what it is you want to do... 
And, with that, adieu! 

Girl With a Satchel

Film School: Virginity Trade & The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

Film School: Virginity Trade & The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

"Sometimes you can learn, even from a bad experience. By coping you become stronger. The pain does not go away, but it becomes manageable."
― Somaly Mam, The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

One of my most vivid movie recollections from childhood is of the Wonderful World of Disney's The Girl Who Spelled Freedom (1986). It told the story of a Cambodian mother who fled from the horrors of war in her country with her six children to take refuge in the home of an American family. They learn to adapt to each other's cultural peculiarities and the young Linn Yann goes on to win the spelling bee. The best bit? It was based on a true story. 

"When she arrived in Chattanooga from Cambodia in 1979, Linn was a frightened 9-year-old hiding behind her mother's skirt," reported People magazine in 1986. "She had been imprisoned for three years in Khmer Rouge labor camps with her five brothers and sisters, had worked in leech-filled paddies and foraged for berries, leaves and even rats to eat. She had never been to school and spoke not a word of English... Conditions in the camps, she explains, were much worse than those depicted in the film. Her father, a shopkeeper before the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975, became too ill to work, so he was taken away, never to return."

She had lost her father. Lost her home. A little girl lost in the world. But she found a home.

"Look at what you can overcome with study and a new chance at life!", I thought as a youngster. What excuse do I have to not work very hard at my own spelling? Linn Yann went on to graduate from DePauw University and work as an NBC reporter.

Perspective: Taking up arms (Facebook and Machine Guns)

Perspective: Taking up arms (Facebook and Guns) 
Gerard Butler as Sam Childers in Machine Gun Preacher
By Jessica Holburn

"I'd like indicted war criminals to enjoy the same level of celebrity as me. That seems fair. Our objective is to just shine a light on it. " 
- George Clooney

Have you seen Machine Gun Preacher? The 2011 film directed by Marc Forster and starring Gerard Butler based on the true story of Sam Childers, a fiery tempered former drug dealer who finds God and goes to Africa to defend helpless Sudanese children from the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army)?

The first scene is an LRA attack on civilians in Sudan where a child is ordered by militants to kill his own mother to save himself and his brother. This is his initiation into the army and those who try to escape are killed. They are brainwashed and cultivated to kill and torture, much like the Nazis under Hitler's genocide mission.

As we follow Childers' trajectory from his first visit to Africa and his subsequent time there to rectify the terror he can see, we come to understand that he is much more than a cultural tourist. A nurse questions Childers' plight, how can he use violence as a solution to the problems of this society when violence is the problem?

Satchel Living: The high cost of cheap talk

Satchel Living: The high cost of cheap talk

By Nick Galifianakis author of If You Loved Me You'd Think This Was Cute
Walking to work this morning, I met along the road a fellow I go to church with who is recovering from an operation. We exchanged pleasantries and then delved into news of our worlds: family, work and holidays. 

Then we ventured beyond the light news into the meaningful, the feature stories, if you will, untangling each thought with an explanation of how we had come to it, a revelation here, a truth nugget there. We wound up by affirming each other ("Your wife is excellent and I hope your recovery is swift!") and then parted company. It was civil, short, fruitful conversation that left a sweet smell in the air. 

No gossip was exchanged in the process. Then I picked up the paper and saw Gina Rinehart's family affairs plastered all over the front page.

In the news-exchange business, there's a fine line between what is news (factual information about noteworthy events of some significance to us or others), opinion (a notion or conviction founded on probable evidence) and gossip (idle talk or rumour about the personal or private affairs of others). 

Short & Sweet - week beginning March 12

A stunning day on Mount Tamborine
"What are we worshipping?" my mother-in-law preached this past weekend. "What are we making our God?". Newspapers and magazines and media in general have been a particular bugbear of mine (one does not live and die by the day's news, but it can seem that way, can't it – particularly in light of Finkelstein). So keeping them in their rightful place (at work, during work hours, and certainly not the first course of the day) is something I am trying to practise consistently. If only Insiders wasn't so darn interesting! (Great job, Bazza!) 

This rule-of-thumb does not apply to everyone, of course – what is a stumbling block for one person may be a pebble for another. But how can we be true to ourselves, and to God if you believe, if we are not conscious of those things that get in the way of our most important relationships (God, self, partner, neighbours) and cause us more trouble than is necessary? That lead us into hypocrisy, unhealthy habits, wrong-thinking or take away from our peace? Life is all about connection, is it not? But true connection is not always what we're sold. It is sometimes false.

The Satchel Review - Friday 9 March

This week's revelations about the Australian Defence Force's machismo culture were a slap in the face in the week we celebrated International Women's Day, but a stark reminder that all is not well in the microcosm of testosterone.  

At a time when women and girls are making significant inroads, some men still have ideas about women, and their role in society, that aren't up to scratch.   

A Sydney bus driver, alleged to have used a 'covert camera' installed in the floor of a public bus to film up the skirts of passengers, including schoolgirls, over a two-year period (during which he collected 2100 images and 48 minutes of footage on DVDs), reportedly appeared in court this week. Where does one get the idea that this behaviour is okay? A culture that says "Yes!" to porn and the devaluation of women and girls to mere objects for male pleasure is part of the problem. 

Thank heavens for good news. CARE International is largely responsible for a rapid drop in children under two suffering stunted growth due to hunger in utero and their early years, an independent evaluation of by the Institute of Development Studies [titled Reaching New Heights] has shown, reported Adele Horin in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Perspective: Towards genderless education and beyond

Perspective: Towards genderless education

All the survey data would suggest that women are performing wonderfully well in education and in their careers. We are bettering the boys at study and beating down boardroom doors across all industries. But in order for one cohort to do better, another one must do badly, meaning boys are being left behind. Right? Not quite. 

Women are still playing catch-up in pay and position while fighting inequalities on the day-to-day office and personal front, too. For female school and university leavers of Generation Y, this might feel utterly dispiriting: why, indeed, do inequalities still exist? But it is reality, and must be addressed – facing up to things is the only way to progress. 

Meanwhile, we would be naive to assume that everything is wonderful in the world of men. As one man put it to me this week: "Ladies, if you want the top corporate jobs, you're welcome to them", hinting that not all is great in the top echelons of the corporate world. And then there's the mining boom, which is luring blokes away from their homes, and away from university and the professions, and into the trades. 

The Satchelist: The trade unionist & the historian

The Satchelist: The trade unionist & the historian
Hailing from Holland Park, Anna is doing her Masters of History and Heritage Management, which involves, "Lots of visiting the library and reading books and finding stuff out and trying to write assignments", while Mitch, who studied Law, is a trade unionist (aka Industrial Relations Advisor), which entails, "Helping people to make more money from their employers", more particularly the public service (doctors, scientists, administration staff). Out on a casual excursion for the day while scouting for things to shoot, they were more than obliging when I barreled up to them out of the blue.

Girl With a Satchel

Satchelism: An education in work and life

Satchelism: An education in work and life

While sixty-odd years ago, girls were still majoring in the (unpaid) domestic arts and secretarial work, areas to which many of us are still drawn – without shame and with due respect – the world of women's work in Australia has opened up to the extent that the likes of Gail Kelly can manage one of the Big Four Banks, and the country itself is under the direction of one Julia Gillard. Hurrah! Victory! The outlook is promising.   

But behind the facade of success lies a number of institutionalised and sex-specific issues that belie the reality: ageism, sexism, the ability to bear children and the visitation of raging hormones once a month, to name just a few. 

Then there is also this sense of needing to succeed at everything, from the moment you wake up to when you fall asleep in a heap. 

We are remarkable, ambitious, driven and succeeding on merit in all different directions from the moment we learn to read (an activity at which girls excel). But, as Governor General Quentin Bryce has said, based on her own experience of teetering on the edge of breakdown, "I am constantly telling younger women that they can have it all, just not all at once." 

Sunday magazine columnist Angela Mollard brought this issue to light recently in a piece called 'Profit and Loss' in which she articulated the fact that she'd been approached with the offer of a fancy new job, her ideal job on paper, but decided not to take it:

Bulletin Board: Sharing the love

Bulletin Board: Sharing the love

If you are of the crafty persuasion, you can also show a lady some love by donating some thread to the Girl Guides. Our friend Katie Krackenuts is in need of lengths of six-strand embroidery thread (any colour, but tones of red and green would be great), about two metres in length, or a skein (i.e. a length of thread or yarn wound in a loose long coil), to be used by Girl Guides at a camp in April to make woven friendship bracelets. These will be sold in an Indian Girl Guide centre to raise funds for a project supporting the elimination of violence against women. Don't have access to thread at home? Maybe you can pop off to the fabric shop? Where do you send it? Get details on Katie's blog and/or Facebook page.
Lane Change's 'Give the Ladies Some Love' campaign art by Julia Guo
Lane Change is a fun, creative, global action group that uses positive messaging and compelling challenges to engage users in campaigns that raise awareness about the big issues facing our world and to encourage behavioural change. This International Women's Day, the group is doing its bit for womenkind by launching its 'Give the Ladies Some Love' campaign. Lane Change has listed a number of ways you can get involved, including nominating a lady hero, being a mentor, embracing feminism and speaking out on gender related issues. You can join the conversation at the dedicated Facebook page.

Down Newcastle way this weekend is the Fair Share Festival, which aims at promoting natural and economic solutions to the Global Financial Crisis. A rich, organic display of talks, workshops, stalls, music, entertainment and ideas, it takes place from Friday March 9 to Sunday March 11, all aimed at creating a "fair share world". On Sunday there's a workshop about using blogs, Tumblrs and communicating with confidence – promoting social equity and self expression for young people in an online environment – at The Loft Youth Centre. For more information, visit the event blog.

And, of course, there are many events taking place around Australia tomorrow to celebrate International Women's Day. For a list of events visit InternationalWomen'

Girl With a Satchel