Connection, Crisis and Corona

Connection, Crisis and Corona

Connection, Crisis and Corona

words by Fr Rod Bower

Thoughts and prayers have got a lot of bad press of late.

The term has been hijacked and used to characterise inaction when action was so desperately needed.

Appropriate action in a time of crisis is always important as the 13th-century mystic; Meister Eckhart said, “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” Perhaps it’s also time to revisit the real value of thoughts and prayers.

We are all inextricably connected; we are all part of the ONE when you hurt, I hurt.

Prayer is the intentional consciousness of that reality, and it is powerful, more powerful than we can imagine. It can be felt. I posted something along these lines on Twitter, and one tweeter retweeted with the comment “There goes Fr Rod, even teaching atheists to pray”. I was encouraged and just a little tickled by this because I think this understanding of thoughts and prayers is available to all humanity, regardless of your belief system. 

 

When discussing the current COVID-19 crisis with my wife Kerry and the consequences of isolation due to social distancing, we found our way into the subject of ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Now Kerry has a very acute discerning radar when it comes to platitudes, especially when they come for either politicians or religious leaders, which constantly rescues me from making too much of an idiot out of myself.

So, when Kerry suggested that “prayer is the space between us” I recognised deep wisdom and universal truth. 

Thoughts and prayers expressed out of love, concern and compassion is the true space between us. When we embrace this consciousness, we may well be practising social distancing, and rightly so, but we will never be isolated. SO, PRAY. Hold each other in your deepest consciousness and in the Ultimate Consciousness.

Let people know that you will intentionally hold them in your heart for ten minutes (or more) every day. Light a candle for them, take a photo and send it to them, let them know they are loved.

We need to flatten the curve, to slow the spread of Coronavirus so that our health care system can cope and lives of the most vulnerable saved. So, practice social distancing, but don’t be isolated. When thoughts and prayers fill the space between, that space connects, rather than separates us.

The Venerable Rod Bower is an Australian Anglican priest and social activist and a treasured conributor to Ponderings. He is currently the Rector of Gosford, Archdeacon for Justice Ministries and Chaplaincy in the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle and lives on the NSW Central Coast. Visit here- you won’t be disappointed. 

Four Points to Ponder from Netflix Documentary: Miss Americana

Four Points to Ponder from Netflix Documentary: Miss Americana

Jasmin Pedretti

Jasmin Pedretti

Wordsmith

Four Points to Ponder from Netflix Documentary: Miss Americana

Taylor Swift’s new documentary Miss Americana aired on Netflix this year. It is vulnerable, raw and just a little more than surprising. 

Coming from the girl that used to write 13 on the back of her hand and practice the famous hair flip in front of the mirror, she could have spoken about her love of cats for an hour. 

Thankfully, there was more to learn than her devotion to cats. 

 

Taylor says, “one of the major themes about the doc is that we have the ability to change our opinions over time, to grow, to learn about ourselves.”

 

Through Taylor’s experiences, her highs and lows, her insecurities and vulnerabilities, the viewer reflects on who they are, what they stand for, and the effect their words have on others.

 

Here are 4 facets of inspiration to take away from Miss Americana.

Respond to disappointment with determination. 

When Taylor finds out that her album Reputation wasn’t Grammy-nominated for any of the major categories, she is visibly disappointed. But her immediate response is determination. “I just need to make a better record,” she says, “I’m making a better record.” 

 

Good things can come from your lowest points. 

Taylor dropped off the map after the “Taylor Swift is over party” in 2016. Thankfully, after a year of being MIA, she bounced back, creating beautiful music from her darkest days. 

Don’t be what people want you to be. 

Standing up for what’s right might go without saying. But Taylor stayed silent because people didn’t want her to have opinions. They wanted her to be a “good girl”, so she was. Until now. She shed her “good girl” persona and now stands up for her beliefs, no matter the ramifications to her career. Instead of seeking approval, she now cares about being on the right side of history. She is no longer afraid to talk openly about her experience with sexual assault, her views on feminism and who she’s voting for in the election. 

 

Life is transient, so focus on what is real and important. 

Taylor talks about her mother’s fight with cancer and how this changed her perspective. While the world crucified her on social media, Taylor was spending time with her family, especially her mum. She got back in touch with what mattered. Taylor says, “do you really care if the internet doesn’t like you today if your mom’s sick from her chemo.” Ponder that. 

 

The premise of this article is that I basically resonated the heck with Taylor’s doc and felt all kinds of inspired afterwards. The message that spoke loud throughout was precisely what I needed to hear. If these points to ponder resonate with you, then I highly suggest giving it a watch, even if it’s just to see her mum’s gigantic dog or her backpack specifically made to carry her cat around.  

 

P.S. Taylor also did Todrick Halls nails for the VMAs. Iconic.

 

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There’s Something About Baz

There’s Something About Baz

Cassidy Krygger

Cassidy Krygger

Hollywood Reporter

There’s Something About Baz

“The films I make are couture frocks — extremely labor intensive. You know, they’re like a beacon. You’re not going to be making something that will endure or have an imprint on the culture if it isn’t drawing violent juxtaposing critical responses.” – Baz Luhrmann 

If you love cinema, then you know about the Australian director, producer and writer Baz Luhrmann. Having four of his five films in the top 10 highest-grossing films in Australia, his mark on the film industry Down Under is indelible. But just who is the man behind the movie magic?

The man we know as Baz Luhrmann was born Mark Anthony Luhrmann on September 17, 1962, and raised in the small rural town, Herons Creek on the North Coast of New South Wales. With a population of only 247 people, entertainment was limited for the young boy with a creative genius flair. Luhrmann spent the majority of childhood watching old films in his parent’s movie theatre.  

 

But a theatre show about Ballroom Dancing is where this story truly begins. While studying at NIDA in 1983, Baz and a group of fellow acting students put together a short 20-minute play about a young male Ballroom dancer who shunned convention. The reaction was ecstatic, and Baz discovered something about himself, he later told The Guardian,  “I knew for good or bad I would be making shows for the rest of my life.” And so it began. 

 

Luhrmann and his creative team, now called Six Years Old, joined the Sydney Theatre Company and this is where the fully fleshed out production of Strictly Ballroom came to life.

Movie producers saw the theatre show and offered to transform the play into a feature film. Luhrmann agreed but only if he was to direct. Baz, the Hollywood movie director, was born. 

After the surprise worldwide success of Strictly Ballroom (who would have thought ballroom dancing would become trendy again and inspire an episode of The Simpsons?), Luhrmann was given the financial freedom to let his creative flair fly. He followed this success with his first big Hollywood production starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Romeo + Juliet in 1996, bringing the Shakespearean classic into modern cinema. Only Luhrmann could successfully retain Shakespeare’s original dialogue, mix it with modern America and create a spectacular twist on the classic tale of the troubled lovers. It was nothing short of genius. 

 

The arrival of Moulin Rouge! Cemented him forever amongst the Hollywood elite. The sheer brilliance of mixing the soundtrack to a smart blend of the ’80s and ’90s against a backdrop of Paris in 1903 attests to Baz Luhrmann’s quirky brilliance. Not surprisingly, Moulin Rouge! Was nominated for Best Picture, Luhrmann’s only Academy Award nomination. Interestingly, at the same Academy Awards, he was snubbed for Best Director leading the show’s host Whoopi Goldberg to quip “I guess Moulin Rouge! just directed itself.” 

Stepping away from musicals, but keeping with the troubled lovers narrative, Baz Luhrmann partnered once again with his Moulin Rouge leading lady Nicole Kidman to deliver Australia. A love of letter of sorts to his home and Australia’s first people. He provided a porthole for the world to see elements and parts of Australia not often explored. 

 

Bring on another set of troubled lovers, the most epic party you’ve ever seen, complete with 3D filming, the most bopping soundtrack, and that my friends lead to 350 million US dollars at the box office. Please enter the stage… The Great Gatsby, Luhrmann’s most financially successful film to date.

 

The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, will be interpreted and brought alive with Luhrmann’s magic in 2021 with a biopic currently in production on the Gold Coast. The mind boggles with costume possibilities, rhinestones and the musical genius and magic that is to come. 

Baz has become known for his lavish productions, over the top and opulent set designs and his love of heightened reality. 

All five of Luhrmann’s films have been inspired by Italian Grand Opera with a mixture of Old Hollywood Musicals and Bollywood movies thrown in.

So why, with only one Academy Award nomination, hasn’t he been more widely recognised from Hollywood? I’ll leave you to ponder that. 

 

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Eight Young Rising Stars

Eight Young Rising Stars

Eight Young Rising Stars to Watch for 2020

by Ponderings Radio

Jasmin Pedretti

Jasmin Pedretti

Wordsmith

Eight Young Rising Stars

In need of some fresh, new Australian talent to get excited about? Well, you have come to the right place Ponderer. 

 

Brenda Ueland once said, “Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.” This may be true, but not everyone has the bravery and determination to share their talent with the universe, letting us all have a bite of it. 

 

So, without further ado, let’s look at eight Australian youngins to keep your eyes peeled for in 2020. 

 

Cassidy Krygger 

(actress)

Sparkling new talent, Cassidy Krygger is an aspiring actress. She has been featured in The Slap, Theatre productions Wuthering Heights, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and her portfolio runs like a “WATCH THIS SPACE” advert. She’s purely amazing. 

 

Shantae Barnes-Cowan 

(actress)

The Casting Guild of Australia chose this phenomenal actress as one of the top rising stars for 2019. She made her screen debut in the television drama series Total Control, working alongside screen icon Deborah Mailman. We will see her next in the espionage thriller Fallout, due to air on the ABC this year. 

 

TL Mach 

(boxer)

After achieving back-to-back national titles last year, Geelong boxer TL Mach plans to go pro this March. The 19-year-old is a four-time state champion and is ready to take the next step in his career. The Sudanese refugee is dubbed a “boxing sensation”. Just watch his lightning-fast speed with the skipper rope at training. 

 

Amani Haydar 

(artist)

Amani used art to find her voice after her father murdered her mother, Salwa Haydar, in 2015. She has already gained a lot of respect for her paintings and illustrations, which frequently depict women expressing bittersweet emotion. The self-taught artist uses her work to celebrate hope and resilience. 

 

Sariah Paki

(rugby player)

Her bone-crushing hits and powerhouse strength has afforded Sariah the nickname “Big Girl”. She made her World Series debut with the Aussie Sevens last year at the remarkably young age of 17, making her the youngest Aussie Sevens player in history. Go girl!

 

Genesis Owusu

(musician)

What do you get when jazz and hip-hop collide? Delicious sound for the ears. Genesis Owusu leads Australia’s new wave of hip-hop at only 20 years of age. His hits ‘Sideways’, ‘awomen amen’ and ‘Wit’ Da Team’ have captured people’s attention. He is definitely one to watch!

Kira Puru

(musician) 

Kira Puru is one of Australia’s most exciting new pop acts. She released her debut solo EP in 2018, full of funky colourful music. Kira has worked with big names such as Illy, Paul Kelly and Urthboy and is known for her dynamic live performances. You’ll find her at every second music festival. 

Kwame 

(musician)

This 20-year-old rapper and producer from Sydney has already released two EP’s and opened Splendour in the Grass. His musical dreams began when he was just 12 years old and heard Kanye West’s hit “Power”. Now, he is the talk of the town. Or the country I should say.

It’s always fun to support home-grown talent. How wonderful that we get to sit back and watch their careers flourish and dreams come true? Here’s to the magical genius of youth in 2020!

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From Dingley to Disney Magic and a Little Fish Called Nemo – Inspiring Aussie David Green

From Dingley to Disney Magic and a Little Fish Called Nemo – Inspiring Aussie David Green

Brian Green, From Dingley to Disney

by Ponderings Radio

Kirsten Macdonald

Kirsten Macdonald

Wordsmith

Brian Green

Brian Green

Pixar - Disney

From Dingley to Disney Magic and a Little Fish Called Nemo – Inspiring Aussie David Green

Home grown Aussie Brian Green pursued a dream, the boy from Dingley is today the technical director of the world’s greatest animation company Pixar, Disney.

The man behind characters such as Sullivan from Monsters Inc and Nemo and an inspiring portfolio of achievements make his path a reachable reality. We can be reminded; dreams do come true. 

Brian you have a computing maths and animal logic background, you mention in some of your interviews that you like to draw, and you are the creator of characters like Sullivan and oversee character development- this is an incredible skill set. Do you think tech and creativity are separate like many have been conditioned to believe, or two branches from the same tree? 

At work I am surrounded by people who do both – they might program in the morning and then go draw Armadillos at lunch – so I do believe we are just conditioned to think they are separate skill sets. The best tech is very creative!

We have tried to shift the mindset a little on this with our “Pixar in Box” series we did for Khan Academy. The idea was to create a link in students minds between the math and science you learn in school and the art and science used to create movies we make at Disney.Pixar.

https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/pixar

I created a course on rigging 🙂

https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/pixar/pixar-rigging/intro-to-rigging/v/rig-overview?ref=Pixar_Recommended_videos

From all the Pixar characters who do you believe is the most endearing?

Sullivan from Monsters Inc. I spent so much time making him he became like a friend to me. I am also biased, I had a hedgehog so I do have a soft spot for Mr Prickle Pants from Toy Story 3 though.

How do you recognise opportunity?

When I saw Toy Story in the theaters in Sydney I was so impressed by it that I went home, wrote up my resume and sent it to pixar. I think, if you are willing and open to take risks, then when you see something that impresses you so much that you want to be part of it, that will be your opportunity.

What does it feel like to go from sketch to the screen realisation and then life bringing to a character such as Sully, to have him then materialise into a toy, merchandise and also produce hugs and smiles to all ages? What does that process feel like as it progresses?

Well… awesome!

From all the Pixar characters who do you believe is the most endearing?

Sullivan from Monsters Inc. I spent so much time making him he became like a friend to me. I am also biased, I had a hedgehog so I do have a soft spot for Mr Prickle Pants from Toy Story 3 though. 

How do you recognise opportunity?

When I saw Toy Story in the theaters in Sydney I was so impressed by it that I went home, wrote up my resume and sent it to pixar. I think, if you are willing and open to take risks, then when you see something that impresses you so much that you want to be part of it, that will be your opportunity. 

What does it feel like to go from sketch to the screen realisation and then life bringing to a character such as Sully, to have him then materialise into a toy, merchandise and also produce hugs and smiles to all ages? What does that process feel like as it progresses?

Well… awesome!  

When do you realise you are really onto something?

Typically there is a piece of test animation that is really inspirational. On Toy Story 3 Carlos did this dance test for “Spanish Buzz”. When I saw that I knew we had something special. 

It is still great!

Where do the ideas for movies come from? Are they pitched to you from writers and animators or do you have a think tank?

 

The directors usually come up with the original ideas. Usually they are working on crafting pitches for 3 or so project ideas. If one gets picked then it goes into development so a script and artwork can be created to flesh out the story and world. When new employees arrived at Pixar we would show them the pitch Andrew Stanton did for Nemo. It helped inspire a great movie and is still inspirational.

 

What do you believe is the specifics  to making a character vulnerable with the potential to emotionally connect the viewer? 

 

Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole), the food critic in Ratatouille, is a great example of this. His flashback to childhood reminds us of our childhood, a simpler time full of happy and sad memories. For myself one of the most impactful moments was in Toy Story 3 when Andy was going to college and saying goodbye to his toys and childhood. My son Jeremy was also leaving for college at that time and that scene never failed to impact regardless of how many times I have seen it.

 

The hope, with our movies, is to provoke within us feelings and emotions 

 

Have you ever had an idea you thought was really bad and it turned into something wonderful? 

 

I was a little concerned about doing a movie about a fish called Nemo . The movies coming out then featured some amazing lead actors like Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise, and I did wonder how a fish would compare. At that stage we didn’t even know how to create CGI water. It worked out wonderfully though.

 

How did you overcome doubt when you were starting out? What gave you the courage to have a crack?

It was just a progression (and good fortune and good timing). 

Pixar took a lamp and gave it emotional meaning; that’s pretty incredible. To take inanimate objects and give them an emotional purpose is art to its core. Do you see it this way and if so why do you think this fascinates human nature so much?

That is the fun and fascination. We get to study human nature, emotions, reactions and then have a fictional character embody them. It never gets stale.

Does Walt carry a tangible legacy in the company? Is he revered and did he have certain principles that are carried forward diligently today? 

Definitely. 

Walt’s desire to appeal to the sense of wonder in people’s mind continues today. If we have a cheerful reaction to our movies then, I think we are honoring his legacy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A Disney animator. It seemed very unlikely for a boy from an outer suburb in Melbourne (Dingley) but I did love those beautiful hand drawn movies coming out of Disney.

 

Do you feel a responsibility for your characters to reflect ideals in society as they change?

They definitely shouldn’t go against ideals. 

Do your characters have an agenda, as in a message to deliver when you profile them? Ie- Nemo gave some much education and attention to the Great Barrier Reef which is so inspiring particularly the partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

 

I think Andrew Stanton answered this well so I’m going to steal from him “You should have something to say. Not a message, per se, but some perspective, some experiential truth.”.  I never felt our movies had an agenda but I do feel they wanted to express something of value. I don’t think so many talented people would have worked on them for so long if they didn’t. 

 

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The Blazing Heart of Community

The Blazing Heart of Community

The Blazing Heart of Community

Words by Kirsten Macdonald

Like many all over the world, our hearts are left swollen and aching as we witness on our screens and for some in their backyards; the scorched earth and hellish sky.

 

Beach blue now engulfed with smoke haze and embers of the worst kind; scarring the land with unprecedented ferocity. Beneath with sooty tears and anger lies the desperation of people fighting in what has become one of the worst National disaster bushfires in Australian history. The devastation runs deep and will continue long after the last flame as sputtered out. For the impact of wildfire is a destructive force that will echo forever.

 

As we heard the stories from friends and family defending their homes, like so many, we felt desperately sad, angry and frustrated, helpless. 

Our fellow tribe were left without water, listening to the cries of dying animals, burning fauna and drought-impacted earth baked to concrete under the glazing sear of intense heat. Lives were lost, people and wildlife, pets and livestock. Gone. And bushfire season hasn’t even begun for many areas. 

We started asking those impacted “Who are the organisations there now, helping rebuild and doing work person to person, on the ground?” The resounding response was BlazeAid

Started after Black Saturday in 2009 by Kilmore East farmers Rhonda and Kevin Butler, BlazeAid is volunteer based and has helped rebuild fences and lift the spirits of people who are often facing their second or third flood event after years of drought, or devastating losses through bushfires. 

 

BlazeAid volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families but also helping rebuild the local communities. 

 

The 100% Australian run registered charity currently has 14 base camps around Australia helping on the ground. 

 

So Kate and I packed the boot with goodies and made the trip to Lexton Victoria to meet with Bruce Hindson, co-ordinator of one of the camps. 

 

We drive on a dusty road into a popup township of campers, caravans and tents, we soon realise we are in good company, a thriving and bustling place. The trailers are lined up ready to go out for the next job, each one equipped with the tools needed to build fences and make repairs. But BlazeAid isn’t just about fences. As Bruce explains, it’s really about people. 

 

“Talking to people on the phone is okay, but actually dropping in and having a cup of tea, face to face can make all the difference. You have to meet people, shake their hand, check-in and listen. People underestimate what this means. When you have a team of people staying nearby at a hall, or a footy ground that are there to help you get back on your feet and get the fences mended, it can change everything for a person. Fences are expensive to replace, and people have sometimes had everything wiped out. You got no fences? You got no farm. To help them with an ear, a conversation and a sense of community go a long way” says Bruce. 

 

With trailers stationed in every state, BlazeAid has anything from 15 to 110 people turn up to help with a carefully planned roster, logistics and rebuilding set up. People may give 2 hours of their time or two months and the dedication of return folks each year gives you goosebumps. 

 

The Lions Club are there today, donating their time and helping set up a marquee tent for more room. 

 

Bruce and his wife Janice tell us the community generosity is fantastic. They tell us the story of one night everyone was at the local pub, the publican put on a special meals night at a discount price for all the BlazeAid crew. When they went to pay for their meals, 2 x locals had covered the lot. “People look after each other, and there are so many more stories like this, it happens all the time,” says Bruce. 

 

The team in the kitchen are working away and tell us there is a real “get this done” mentality along with lots of laughs and big smiles and you get the feeling this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

 

“People think once the fire or flood has gone, it’s all over with. But this is not the case. It’s like a funeral, at first the casseroles roll in, then 6 weeks later everyone starts to get on with their life. This is often when families are only just beginning to come to terms with what has happened and wondering how the hell they are going to get going again” says Hindson. 

 

“I am not going to lie to you, there have been times when we have rolled up, I have met a farmer and thought I would see him hanging from a tree by the end of the week; the devastation runs that deep. But what do you know, a week later the bloke and his family are smiling, they have some future to look to and feel a bit of support. That’s what happens.”

 

A sobering thought.  

 

For many, they might not have lost their lives but may have 200 head of sheep badly burned, or wildlife living on the property, ancient trees protected on a generational property. 

Animals they have raised have died. Or perhaps they might have hundreds of acres of crops ruined, years of work gone in a moment. They may have already been suffering from drought, and this type of disaster is the straw to break the camel’s back. Let’s not forget sacred sites and the lands of native animals close to the country’s heart and soul. 

Suzi and Ruth are busy in the kitchen. They tell us; “People come in each day covered in soot,  smoke, they’ve had a hard day, sweaty, dirty exhausted…Then even after all they have done for the day or dealt with, there is storytelling, laughter and jokes. From randy goats taking a fancy to the latest volunteer to the little pleasures of a freshly made scone; there is a community here. This is what Australia is made of.” 

An operation like BlazeAid costs anywhere up to $5000 a week for a camp to run and facilitate. 

 

Relying on volunteers, business sponsorship and the help of the donations from the public it is a 100% charity. It relies on these funds to help it continue to grow, engineer trailers and get on the road to having those conversations to those that need help the most. 

 

We know there are many who are helping by donating to major organisations, but it was an easy decision for us to support BlazeAid and move from feeling despair and take some action. 

 

We have chosen to donate $20 from every new Subscription in February to BlazeAid. We currently give $2 from every subscription to Vision Australia. So your gift is supporting two incredible charities, both of which are hands-on and help those in need of restoration. 

 

For the month of February, we are dedicating every edition from our online Magazine, Podcast and App to the stories of those impacted by the Bushfires, because we believe that the unfiltered truth of our collective stories is the fabric of life. It is the one thing everyone has; a story. 

At Ponderings, we need to hold that space for these stories to be told. So know that not only will you be supporting the creation of this space but also BlazeAid and Vision Australia. 

 

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