Friday, January 16, 2015

Not Pho to go


I love living in Victoria Park! With all its cafés and restaurants, it means that the world’s cuisines are represented and you don’t have to go far to find something wonderful to eat.

So when a friend and I picked Vietnamese, we decided to try To To Vietnamese Restaurant as our spot for dinner. As they do traditional Vietnamese and other Asian cuisine, there is something for everyone but make sure you come early because it gets packed, even on a Thursday night.

To begin with we ordered Fresh Spring Rolls and money bags which were perfect. They tasted great and were beautifully presented.




Then we ordered San Choy Bow and a Beef Pho both were perfectly presented and very fresh. The pho could have had slightly more flavour in the broth but it still lovely.

The décor of To To Vietnamese Restaurant is great and all up is a great place to eat. The service was fast and the staff were great.     



If you live n Vic Park, To To's is a great place to have Vietnamese because there is so much about it that is great. 





To To Vietnamese on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Perth Writers’ Festival 2015 launch promises weekend of big ideas


With all the discussions surrounding freedom of speech as well as the power of the drawing the written word, this year’s launch of the Perth Writers’ Festival (PWF) was especially poignant.  

In the mellow coolness of Windtrop Hall, the launch began with welcome to century by Auntie May McGuire who welcomed us to Noongar (the local indigenous tribe and traditional custodians of the land) land and gave us a sense of what the area was like when she was young.

Soon the General Manager of the Perth International Arts Festival Julian Donaldson spoke against the recent attacks on the Charlie Hebdo Magazine which made me think of how powerful cartoons/literature are and how they can be used to achieve both good and bad.

He went on to promise that PWF will be a weekend of celebrating humanity by immersing ourselves in words and ideas. He also reminded us that it will give us access to the writers we’ve idolised and introduce us to people we didn’t know.   

Soon PWF Programme Manager Katherine Dorrington spoke about the 2015 line up.

Highlights will be a Double Bill that will include Hillary Mantel (via video link from London) and Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love fame at the Perth Concert Hall.

Human Rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson will be speaking about compassion in the pursuit of justice in his work with inmates on death row. Bob Brown will speak on the happiness while Hugh Mckay will discuss the art of belonging. I am also looking forward to seeing Geraldine Doogue speak about her conversations with Australian Women in Power.  

These are just a few of the many writers that will speak.  There are many more that will inspire, entertain and make us think.   

Other highlights will be the PWF Family Day which is the most popular aspect of the weekend and a great opportunity for families to enjoy the various activities on the beautiful University of WA campus.

There is also a Twitter Novella that asks ‘what do you get when you give 50 writers 250 characters and no creative limits?’

Want to find out? Keep your eye on @pwfnovella and #perfest to know what happens.

I hope that you will get to enjoy some of the Perth Writers’ Festival and if you want to find out more about the PWF and the Perth International Arts Festival in general visit https://2015.perthfestival.com.au/ because it is truly awesome.
   


    

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Celebrating New Year’s Eve Sydney style


There is something about celebrating the end of one year and the start of a new year. It is a chance to remember the good times and commemorate the bad times. It is also a great time to set a positive tone for the New Year.

This year I got to spend New Year in Sydney; partly to celebrate my sister’s “big birthday” as well as to see in the New Year in one of the world’s most amazing cities.

My little sister and I were able to score tickets to The Opera Bar’s New Year’s Eve event, which was amazing and I couldn’t think of a better way of celebrating the end of 2014. It had a Tropicana theme which included beach like decor (very cool) and “acts” which were funny and the food was perfect. The music was also pretty good.

But really, it was the Opera Bar’s prime location that made it the perfect spot. Luckily enough we were able to get seats right by the water and while sipping on GHMume champagne we chatted away and enjoying the perfect view of the fireworks, which were breath taking beautiful and beyond amazing.





New Year’s in Sydney would not be the same without a visit to the beach.




1st January saw us celebrate our sister’s birthday at Reef’s Beach, which was one of her personal favourites.

There was cake, (more) champagne, laughing, chatting, swimming and just enjoying an amazing view.

Soon enough it was time to go pack and endure the five hour flight back to Perth.





 So Happy New Year everyone and I hope 2015 is everything that you want it to be.        

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Words but no ideas from the voice of her generation

Hannah, Lena Dunham’s character in the HBO hit series Girls, declared herself to be the voice of her generation. Ever since then, the media has continued to refer to Dunham as such. She has become the pinup for Generation Y and whose life in the social media age means that every part of her life is open for examination by anyone who cares.  

I had high hopes from this book. I was interested in what she thought of her success and media reactions to Girls. I also wanted to know what it was like to be a twenty-something young woman in 21st century America.

Instead we got a “collection of essays” that revolved around her various sexual encounters, her fears and many anxieties. We learn that her uterus leans to the right. We also learn what her top ten health concerns are.

In true Gen Y style, she publishes a book about herself (including her sex life and therapy sessions) without much substance. She over-shares without actually saying anything. She is amazingly insightful but it would have been great to see that level of self-awareness placed in a bigger context to make some kind of social commentary. Not That Kind of Girl lacked a narrative, or rather, a tread to link each essay to each other.  
   
There were aspects that I enjoyed. With so many images of what women are supposed to look and be like, it is a little refreshing to read Not That Kind of Girl where she writes about her own anxieties and struggle with her weight, etc.

I hope she does write again because I like her perspectives but I just hope that next time she'll have the maturity (or the ability to resist pressure from the media to publish something just because she's famous) to write something more substantial.

  

Friday, December 26, 2014

A night at Lotterwest Film Festival is a great way to enjoy a beautiful Perth evening.



What did you do for Boxing Day?

After a busy Christmas period and the end of the working week, I wanted to celebrate the start of my holidays with something special. So a friend and I decided that there would be no nicer way of enjoying a balmy Perth evening than catching a movie at Somerville Outdoor Cinemas.

Somerville Outdoor Cinemas are on the beautiful grounds of the University of Western Australia and runs between November and April as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. Nestled among pine trees, this cinema has always been my favourite place to enjoy a meal and a glass of wine with friends and family before a movie.


Their movies aren’t mainstream but are still the best of international cinema. Tonight we say 5-7 which was a quirky Rom-Com. Glenn Close and her opposite number gave a hilarious performance.  
  
If you plan to eat before, remember to come early because the grass area at the front fills up pretty quickly. Also, don’t forget to save your seat so get a good one.

You can bring your own food of you can buy your own. There is Charlies Pizzas who make them onsite using their special oven. We loved their blue cheese & pumpkin and was easily shared among the two of us. They also do cheese platters.  There is also place that does curry, pasta and sushi as well as salads. Coffee, ice cream as well as beer and wine are also on offer.     



 As it gets dark and to the sound of the odd Kookaburra, people pack up and begin to make their way to their chairs.   

If you’re looking for something different this summer, why not get a possie together and see something at Somerville, you’ll love it.

For more information visit The Perth International Arts Festival website

Note that the movies are shown at Joondalup Pines at ECU.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sprolo is coffee speak for #yolo

With its quaint tree lined streets the Perth suburb of Kensington isn’t really known for its café culture so Sprolo is a great addition.

Sprolo has taken its name from “spresso” (Barista speak for espresso)and the pop culture term, YOLO or You Only Live Once. This new café now occupies what was a garage or some kind of small electrical small business. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside it is bright, airy and spacious while having a distinctive Scandinavian feel to it. It also has a good mixture of tables (of various sizes) and couches as well as a kids corner. 

Sprolo also shares its space with Blacklist Coffee Rosters which is convenient if you need to pick up some beans or other coffee related paraphernalia. But don’t get me wrong, it no way is it cramped.



I ordered a Long Mac (topped up) and it quickly came out looking perfect. They have different roasts on offer and I chose the “Mexican Atoyac Natural” one which has hints pineapple, mango, cashew and apple. I defiantly could taste the acidic pineapple but it isn’t one of those flavoured coffee gimmicks but just good coffee with hints of pineapple.

My Shaved Ham Toastie was great. I don’t know what cheese they used but it tasted so nice and the tomato relish worked well with the cheese and the ham.



The dark choc and raspberry tart was perfect and worked well with the coffee. It wasn’t too sweet and just the right size.

The place was packed and I am so glad that it is taking off as there is nothing worse than a concept failing because of lack of support. I will defiantly be back.   


Sprolo on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2014

Feminist Friday: Ensuring women have voice and agency makes good economic sense

For the next few Fridays I am going to try and review a book that discusses feminism or discuss some of the issues facing women.

Recently I heard a segment on the radio about a World Bank report called ‘Voice and Agency: Empowering Women for Shared Prosperity and as I listening I was reminded of how important it was for women to have an equal voice and valued place in society as well as control over their bodies, income and lifestyle.

This report looks into how important it is that women and girls are able to have control over their body, livelihood and lifestyle choices without fear of retribution, fear or violence. It focuses on four aspects: freedom from violence; control over sexual and reproductive health; control over land and housing and; women’s voices or role in the political sphere. 

Voice and Agency argues that gender equality is not a zero sum game; increasing the agency of women and girls does not decrease the ability of men to control over their lives. The authors state that men and boys also benefit from the social and economic empowerment of women and they provide many examples and interviews that back this up.
 
It also looks at how cultural norms can impact on increasing the voice and agency of women.

The influence of cultural norms

Technically, women have always had the same ability as men to do great things. However, cultural norms have often limited their scope to pursue the same opportunities as men.

Authors of Voice and Agency acknowledge the improvement in gender equality over the past few decades but argue that ‘yet even where gender gaps are narrowed, systematic differences often persist, including widespread gender-based violence and lack of voice’ (page 2). But these are an important start but true change will not happen unless there is cultural change.   

This argument is echoed elsewhere. Anne Summer author of ‘The Misogyny Factor’ argued that while there has great improvements with sex discrimination legislation, Affirmative Action and women getting the vote but is the wider culture that prevents women from getting truly respected and included.

While cultural norms are often the cause of female disempowerment, this report shows how these norms can change to improve both the lives of women but also the wider community.

Why is having Voice and Agency so important?

This report is based on the World Development Report 2012 that showed gender equality and economic development are linked but can’t happen independently of each other.  

Human life is complicated and every decision that humans make have consequences. So when people make decisions, for example about family planning, who to send to school (or not) and divisions of labour, it affects not only that family but also the wider community.    

Voice and Agency not only shows the negative monetary cost of violence but the positive impact that better educated women have on the wider society. It also shows how women who have a strong voice develop policies that are more family focused. Property ownership is also a big issue in this report as it enhances women’s standing in the community which intensifies their voice and bargaining power.   
 
The damaging influence of violence

This report argues that violence is worse in poorer and disempowered communities all around the world. Violence against women is a breach of Human Rights and diminishes their agency as individuals. 

There are many types of violence but sort of violence that is looked at in Voice and Agency is gender-based violence (GBV) which is scarily common, according to a 2013 WHO which states that over 35% of women world-wide have experienced physical or sexual violence.
     
Authors of Voice and Agency indentify the economic effects as being time off work, lower productivity and earnings. They also cite studies that have found that violence against women impact children. The flow on effects for these children are lower academic achievement and job performance (which translates into lower job stability and life time earning) but also they are  more likely to grow up to either be the perpetuators of violence or the victims of it. They also cite other studies that link GBV with lower infant mortality, infant birth weight and limited access to vaccinations.

According to the Voice and Agency report, the economy wide affects of GBV include service provision to support the victims, a decrease in earnings and productivity and a ‘negative effect on human capital formation’ (2014).         

Reproductive rights

As a right, it seems so basic. To be able to enter into a marriage at an age that you are physically, emotionally and mentally ready seems such common sense. But the ability to choose whom to marry, start a family and decide on the number of children you want to have should be human right but for so many, this right has been denied.

This report states that getting married later is associated with greater educational achievements and lower fertility, and which in turn is linked to better maternal and child health.

It also cites research that highlights the dangers of pregnancy among those who are under 18. This reports states that ‘each year, almost one in five women in the developing world get pregnant before the age of18 and 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 (2 million are under 15) give birth’ (page 106). The dangers of being pregnant at such young age often results in obstetric fistula and incontinence, which leads to social exclusion. 

This issue is complex and difficult to address. Voice and Agency argue that marriage choices and having family should be based on educated decisions and the life goals of women and girls should be fully supported.

Also, it  motherhood and marriage shouldn’t be seen as the only path for social mobility and societal recognition.

A room of one’s own

Even at the turn of last century, it was known the importance of women having an independent income and a room of their own. While Virginia Wolf wrote her seminal feminist text was a long time ago and maybe shouldn’t be taken literally, but the idea is important.

The Voice and Agency argues that money equals power and the more money women can call their own the more power they have and control where they live, thus reaping the benefits of land and home ownership. Owning land increases self-esteem, economic opportunities, mobility outside the home and decision making power (2014).

It also acts as insurance policy if women find themselves widowed or without a male provider. With better land ownership provisions, they are able to have access housing for themselves and their children.

The Voice and Agency report highlight many challenges to women accessing home and land ownership. They are as follows;


  • Social norms, customary practices, inaccessible and weak institutions as well as poor understanding among women of their rights are the barriers to land ownership;
  • Family law, inheritance law, and land law all affect a women’s ability to buy land, including poor gender sensitive administration of these laws.    

Strong women, loud voices 

To fully participate in society, the voices of women and their views must be fully respected. As the Voice and Agency report points out ‘to have voice means having the capacity to speak up and be heard and being present to shape and share in discussions, discourse and decisions…participation in decision making enables women to voice their needs and challenge gender norms in their community – individually and collectively’ (page 175).

It makes sense that if women make up 50% of the population that they should have more say about the things that influence themselves and their families. Developing the voice of women also increases the accountability of decision makers.

Women who actively participate in society have greater respect than their male counterparts as well as are good role models for many women and girls in their community.        

Why read this book?

This report how important it is for women to be educated and live lives free from violence as doing so benefits the wider community. It is an interesting report with a lot of great examples of positive change.   

List of references

Klugman, Jeni., Hanmer, Lucia., Twigg, Sarah., Hasan, Tazeen., McCleary – Slls and Santamaria, Judith. Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity (World Bank, Washington: 2014)
    

Summers, Anne. The Misogyny Factor (New South Publishing, Sydney: 2013)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

For the love of reading


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieUnlike many books based on Africa, this book focuses on the lives of a group of middle class Nigerians.   This is a story around a girl (intertwined the stories of people she grows up with) who moves to America for college. 

It follows her journey as a foreigner in a strange new land to someone who might still be considered a foreigner but understands the American culture better. This allows her to have great insight into the US and the complexities around race relations.

This is a perceptive and fantastically written book that has it all - strong characters that grow and develop as well as a social commentary and narrative that keeps you turning those pages. STARS *****

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. If you liked Gossip Girl, then this is the book for you as this could easily pass as an Asian equivalent. It was hard to tell if the author was joking with book as some of the individuals in the book as they were a little redic (like Gossip Girl) but it was a fun read.  STARS ***

The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman. This book is truly amazing and one of the best books I've read all year. 

With the various stories that weave together, the book makes good on its promise to 'tell people what happened here', specifically what happened to the Jews during the world wars. I couldn’t put it down. STARS *****

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Zafron's the shadow of the wind is such an amazing story and so cool in so many ways. It's rich and, at times, dense plot makes it almost impossible to put down. I soon realised that I could not go for a few days with reading a few more pages, not only because I wanted to find out what happened next, but if a few days passed I would forget the many small details of the story.

Having just finished this book, I felt that I was swept up and carried along by the writing while being overwhelmed by the details, if you know what I mean? It was a strange feeling. 

Also, some of the expressions seemed a little too contemporary but this is a small matter, it was a great book. STARS *****


Breath by Tim Winton. I could not put this book down. For the 2/3rd of the story I fell in love with the relationship between the various characters as well as their quirks but then it seem to fall flat . 


The characters in Breath were typical Winton characters - flawed, self doubting, unpopular, dark and brooding. Probably my favourite Tim Winton book yet. STARS ****



Friday, December 12, 2014

Feminist Friday: What is The Misogyny Factor?

For the next few Fridays I am going to try and review a book that discusses feminism or discuss some of the issues facing women.

Often the smallest books seem to be the most powerful and this little book is no different.

At only 162 pages, Anne Summers’ book was based on two speeches that she gave at the University of Newcastle (Australia) in August 2012 on the defamation of Australia’s first Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.


It is not about all aspects about the lives of women and doesn’t cover such as health or birth control but focus on economic issues. Like many other books that look at gender issues, this book is aimed at both men and women. 

Same, same but different

Like so many recent books on this topic, this book does briefly cover the importance of economic independence in ensuring that women can have control over their own lives and be able to make their own choices. Economic independence prevents dependence on men and liberated women from traditional gender roles.

It is also not into ‘men bashing’ but looks how the patriarchal paradigm affects the lives of everyone.

In line with much of the feminist literature, this book criticises the double standards women face. ‘Men can be fulfilled as fathers and workers, yet we still argue the toss about whether women can ‘have it all’. And increasingly we conclude, no they can’t, and they shouldn’t and they had better not’.

This book also looks at the history of the women’s movement and takes it one step further by putting it a modern day context. to answer why women aren’t considered equal (just look at the pay gap)despite, government legislation and Affirmative Action policies, getting the vote, having reproductive rights, and graduating from university in greater numbers than ever before.

The answer that Anne Summers is The Misogyny Factor’

Summers argues that there are three challenges that women face: inclusion, equality and respect. She maintains that while the structural factors are in place to support women, unless they are included, considered equal and treated with respect, nothing will change.  

What is ‘The Misogyny Factor’? 

Anne Summers argues that it’s more than just the hatred of women but a ‘set of attitudes and entrenched practices that are embedded in most of our major institutions (business, politics, the military, the media, church, academia) that stand in the way of women being included, treated equally and accorded respect’.      

It is the innate attitude that women only exist to fulfil a domestic role and ‘do not have a fundamental right to be part of society beyond the home’.

It’s common for among both men and women of certain ages and ideological persuasions to hold this view. Often they try and cover up their regressive thinking by pointing put that they have daughters and are supportive fathers but we know that this won’t automatically make an individual promote inclusion, equality and respect. 

Wait, the Prime Minister has rights?

Since the treatment of Australia’s first Prime Minister inspired this book, Summers cleverly devotes a chapter to analysing this treatment as if she was a normal employee, or more specifically, the CEO of Australia.

In her chapter entitled ‘Her Rights at Work’ (based on a highly successful trade union campaign called ‘Your Rights at Work’) she looks at what was said in the media and asks if she was a normal employee she would be able to take her employer to court under the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984, Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 and the Fair Work Australia Act 2009 for bullying, sex discrimination, and sexual harassment.


There were many instances where personal attacks were made in regards to her gender. As Summers states ‘I came to the conclusion that these demining and offensive attacks are designed to undermine Julia Gillard’s authority as Prime Minister. They are an assault on her legitimacy and, because they rely on sexual and other gender-specific attacks for their potency, I have branded this campaign of vilification ‘misogynist.’

As the Youtube clip shows, these attacks were clearly aimed at her gender and a male prime minister has never been treated in this way.

What this clip shows is only a fraction of what happened. There were obscene emails that did the rounds and facebook pages that were just horrible. As Summers points out the images in the emails and on Facebook were ‘solely designed to demean and diminish her, humiliate and intimidate her’

It is not about agreeing with her politics. People might not agree with how she runs the country but it is unacceptable that she was treated this way.    

It is a shame that this sort of treatment is happening at the highest levels. I expect better from government as they should be an example and be setting the tone for the national conversation.        
    
Finally…..

Summers prompts us to say something if we get one of these vile emails or stumble on one of these Facebook pages and say ‘it stops with me’.


Anne Summer’s The Misogyny Factor might be a small book but it offers up a powerful analysis of the treatment of powerful women in Australia and the gender roles in the wider society.   


Saturday, December 6, 2014

What is it with Perth?



While for most people Perth is just a place where live and don’t have a strong opinion on this city either way, recently I have been thinking about those love it or hate it.

We have it so good here but why can’t we take it a step further and make this city slightly more interesting?

Since I have found this clip on You Tube, it has been funny to see the different perspectives, although the ‘haters’ are a little more entertaining than the corporate spin.  

  





But what is it about Perth that makes people want to laugh at it?

Maybe because Perth has so much to offer but it still seems like a small town.

It has skyscrapers and a growing café, bar and restaurant scene but the CBD is literally deserted after 7 and it is almost impossible to get a good coffee after 4pm.

Not to mention a transport system that assumes that after 7pm no one needs to go anywhere.

I completely understand why Perth fans love it so much; the great weather, the outdoors lifestyle, the beaches, the opportunities to spend national holidays in Kings Park (Perth’s botanical gardens) waiting for the fireworks to start while dancing in bikinis to tunes pumped out by commercial radio, etc, etc!

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone but a city’s climate and beach culture is unappealing to someone like me who isn’t interested in the superficial, appearances or even the good weather.

This outdoorsy and appearance driven narrative seems to be so strong that if you are not into that, you soon feel that there is no alternative aspiration.   

Bluntly (some of you will kill me for saying this) Perth is like a beautiful person with no personality. Appearances, the beach and sport are held in high esteem and there is not the population size to leave the geeks and the nerds (like me) with enough alternatives to feel satisfied.   
   
What makes Perth different from…..?

Having move from the UK to Perth when I was 15, the first thing I noticed was the small town mentality. The rest of the world (including the other parts of Australia) seems very far away and almost irrelevant.    

I also noticed that people were friendly and welcoming but it was harder to make friends. I just put this down to because Perth crowd (generally) had been there all their lives; they had their posse of friends and weren’t interested in making new ones. It was ‘hello, how are you? And chat for awhile…… then, see you later!’

It takes a longer to find where the cool people hang.

Moving to Sydney for work was interesting. I soon found a group of mates that weren’t from Sydney and were more than happy for newbies to join their posse. After all most of them were new to the city once and knew what it was like to arrive and not know many people.     

What I do love

I love the coffee culture in Perth and while there are some duds of cafés, there are many great places that make an awesome cup!

The tradition of going out for breakfast is something that I love (although the prices ,compared to Melbourne, isn’t so cool) and can’t get enough of.

I love the Perth International Arts Festival and think this Festival is amazing!!! For a few weeks during the year, Perth comes this vibrant city that is filled with life and interesting stuff.

I am also so glad that Perth is so close to South East Asia as if we had moved back to the UK as planned, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore this interesting and diverse part of the world. 

I also love how the city surprises me. Just watch the clip below...




Isn't cool?
         
The future

A bigger population here in Perth is almost inevitable. The more people move to Western Australia, the more diverse the community will be. I hope that Perth will become a truly cosmopolitan city with a melting pot of cultures rather than multiple cultures and lifestyles operating side by side.  


Perth does have so much to offer and that with a commitment to economic development, progressive urban planning and investment in public transport and community development, I think the future looks bright!!   
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