Monday, November 9, 2015

Spring reading

Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis


This is one strange book that includes a kid that has an incestuous affair with his 34 year-old gran (who had his mother when she was 12) and lives with his uncle who wins lotto shares his name with Tony Blair's Anti Social Behaviour Orders.

I liked the quickie characters more than the actual plot which was more Laugh-Out-Loud than believable but that was the whole point. I mean, who feeds their dogs Vindaloo and Tabasco Sauce??? 

This book is cited to be a satirical look at British culture which would make it a really sad country if this book wasn’t so laugh-out-loud funny. STARS ****

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

This book has so much to offer and covers so much. It opens with the final moments of the life of a cardiologist but really it is minor aspect of the story. 

The story cleverly and seamlessly flips backwards and forwards to key moments in his life and the effect that it has on his family.

As the story progresses it becomes less about him and more about his family and the legacy that he leaves behind.
Ghana Must Go covers everything - the complexity of family life, the struggles of immigrants in their new country and so much more! STARS ****

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser 

There are two types of travellers: a Tourist and an Asylum Seeker. This is a story of both.

Question Travel follows the lives of two characters as they face the different challenges that life throws up and as time goes on the story we see how their lives intertwine until the tragic events on 26th Dec 2004.

It is beautifully written with contrasting characters. Laura the Artsy Gen Xer who likes to travel and Ravi the Sri Lankan who flees to Australia after seeing his wife murdered as a result of her political activism. They both end up working for Lonely Planet but their understanding of travel are different.

This book is a critique of tourism and questions western notions of travel. It made me think about my own obsession with travelling my motives for doing so. It is a bit of a slow moving story but give it time as it is worth it. STARS ****

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New bar on the bloc

Decanter is a new American style Tapas bar that has been open in Victoria Park for a few months now and (I know I say this about a lot of places) it is one of my favourite places in Vic Park.

The food is amazing as it not only looks good but also tastes great.

My most recent visit was with a couple of friends and somehow we decided to order a lot more than we were able to eat!

We went for a massive plate of Sweet Potato Wedges, Mac and Cheese, Crispy Pork Belly Bites and three sliders that constituted of Philly Steak and Pulled Pork.    

It was all so delicious and beautifully presented that we were glad that we did order it all.

But apart from the food, I loved Decanter’s relaxed vibe and ambiance. My only slight criticism is that because the bar is quite small and doesn’t have a lot of natural light the solid wooden table does make the place a little dark and pokey.

Decanter does get busy so remember to book a table if you want to go in peak period.

We’ll be back here and I look forward to catching up with friends over Tapas gain soon.      


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Books that discuss and challenge religion

Against our better judgement by Alison Weir

I must admit that I know little about the history of Israel and part of choosing to read the book was the challenge to myself to learn more about this part of the geopolitical landscape. However, as I read this book I kept on asking, "are you serious?"

Against Our Better Judgement is a brief chronological description of the Pro-Israel lobby has systematically placed themselves in positions of political, social and financial power in order to manipulate the system to further their sub-terraneous agenda.

Weir starts her book with the birth of Political Zionism in the 1800s and continues until more recent times. She goes on to look at how the Judaism’s political movement chose the geographic location of the state that they thought they had the right of establishing. It was interesting to read that Zionist lobby group went ahead and established this Jewish nation state in an area that was 98% non-Jewish.    

While it was a well written book that was well referenced, it would have been good to have a discussion surrounding the theological history of Israel as I thought this was lacking.

As a lapsed Christian, I was brought up being that God had given the Jews this land as their own so it would have been good to have a chapter that discussed her argument within this context.  STARS **** 

Voting For Jesus by Amanda Lohrey

This Essay is one worth reading if you want to understand the relationship between the church and state in Australia better.

While it is a few years old it looks at the rise of the Hillsong movement as well as the role of Christian Lobbyists in Australia. I found this interesting as Amanda Lohrey argues, these lobbyists often argue that they represent a bigger constituency than that actually do. This is not really discussed that much in the media but I hope it changes soon because this is a challenge to the notion of a liberal democracy.

I enjoyed her discussion around “Imao Dei” or, in plain language, the relationship between God and images – semiotics if you will. I never gave this much thought but I was aware of the complex nature of religious iconography but never really thought about the value that religions place on the image.

For example when she quotes Art Historian Diana Eck who argues that “it would be fair to say that the Western traditions, especially the religious traditions of the ‘book’ – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have trusted the word more than the image as a mediator of divine truth….the ears are somehow more trustworthy than the eyes’. Interesting!     

While this might seem a random thing to write about in an essay about the relationship between religion and politics but what Lohrey does is to analyse the value and use of the images and relate it back to the contemporary society.  She cites scientist George Lakoff who has identified two different models of Jesus: Jesus the saviour and Jesus the teacher. It seemed that Jesus the saviour model influences the more patriarchal traditions while the teacher model inspires social justice.

I guess it is important to know when trying to understand the nuances of religion in Australian politics.   

But the part of this essay that I found the most interesting is the discussion around Christian lobbyists and the rise of Christian political parties.

To be fair, she does argue that ‘at any given time religious lobbies work away to influence governments and this is sometimes seen as sinister, although arguably it is no more so than the efforts other interest groups seeking to influence public policy’. While this is good to remember, the rise of religious lobby groups isn’t widely known or discussed in Australian society.

Lohrey agrees with critic Marion Maddox who argues that ‘today’s Christian lobby groups…have totally engaged in unacceptably covert operations: they are a kind of fundamentalist mafia whose influence is out of proportion to the constituency that they claim to represent’. Having lived in Australia now for a while, I can testify that I find the people that live here to be a relaxed and easygoing lot but listening to the propaganda of these lobbyists you would probably get the idea that Aussies were uptight and ultra conservative who want to lock their daughters up from age 12 onwards.

In defence of the secular state she cites the separation of church and state as ‘one of the great civilising achievements of modernity: freedom of religious observance and non-discrimination on the basis of religious faith’. She reminds us that a secular state is not anti-faith but ‘asserts the importance allowing individuals to find their own way through to the faith in their own way, and in their own time.’

Interestingly Lohrey does highlight Marion Maddox’s theory that ‘even as church attendance is dropping, the influence of right-wing Christian lobbyists is growing and is disproportionate to their representation in the wider community’.

While there has been a royal commission into corruption in the trade union movement, I wonder if we’ll ever see one into the separation between church and state. STARS *****

The Sisters of Sinai: how two lady adventurers discovered the hidden gospel by Janet Soskice

This is a true account of two sisters who travelled around the Middle East and studying ancient texts and languages.

I couldn't help but be impressed by these two ladies and their drive to discover ancient manuscripts in an era where women weren't considered intellectual and social equals. 

While they wouldn't have considered themselves feminists nor was it their intention to improve the lives of women but their lives was a testament to perusing passions and the shearing of knowledge. STARS ***

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Albert’s burgers are an institution

Somewhere not far from Perth is an intuition that everyone knows about…everyone except me. So when my posse planned a visit I jumped at the chance to join them.

It has been around for years, serving good food that wasn’t too expensive. It is not fancy or particularly flash but it is authentic and genuine.

There is no formal seating but their food is often enjoyed by people huddled in groups or seated on benches around a makeshift bonfire.

Likely, the only dress code is super relaxed and the only place in Perth where you can rock up in your trakkie daxs.

I got their steak, egg, cheese and burger which was great. It was juicy and the steak wasn’t too hard to eat. The Pea and Ham soup was hot and warmed us up on this early spring night.

This place is well worth a visit just for its relaxed and unique vibe. As my friend said – ‘This is the life, eating a burger on the side of a road with some friends’.

I couldn’t agree more J

FYI – cash only  


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jobs are the supporters of dreams

Recently someone once said something along the lines that jobs were the supporters of dreams.

It was not to say that that a job is the panicle of aspiration but a job is useful in providing the financial means to pursue those goals and aspirations that fulfil and drive us as humans.

This quote got me thinking (as a lot of things do) about the role of work in life. Ever since I participated in a leadership programme for those with Disabilities and/or working in the disability sector, I couldn’t help but look at the world of work through this perspective.

When thinking of areas where I would like to make a difference, this would have to be one of them. It is something that I have struggled with and know hard it is to find meaningful employment that supports my dreams both professional and personal.

But as I thought about the ways I could make a difference, I soon came to the conclusion that it was shifting popular attitudes that had to occur before improving the services that are out there.

Let me explain.

In my humble opinion, there seems to be a prevailing attitude out there that it is nice if disabled people work but finding them a job is not a matter of urgency because there is always welfare.

It is assumed that disabled people do not have the same financial responsibilities and/or dreams (such as home ownership, marriage, travel, etc) as the rest of the population and therefore organisations can take their own good time in helping people with disabilities to secure meaningful employment.

If you believe this toxic lie that disabled people don’t want or need to work then this idea will become a self fulfilling prophecy.

But this tyranny of low expectations seems begins long before individuals become of working age.

During high school (I know from my case) that working was never really expected and being a “long term welfare recipient” was just assumed as just being normal.

I still get asked today if I am on a government pension even though I have a slight disability and more than capable of working to support myself. This is even from those working in the sector.              

I maybe reaching for the stars in thinking that advocating for improvements in service provision before changing attitudes would work but something needs to change and I want to be part of that.         

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dumplings set the standard

A good friend of mine once said something on the lines that a sign of a good restaurant is the quality of their dumplings so when we went to Wang’s Treasure House we thought we’d found treasure, no joke!

After my Pal and I got our nails done at a local nail place we moved on to a Yum Cha place nearby.

So after waiting for a little while we scored a large table for three and as we communed and debated the week in politics (Just so you know, we’re political geeks and somehow it always creeps into our conversations) we developed a lunch strategy.

Although this was after we grabbed some random stuff off the trolley which we later regretted but that is all part of the Yum Cha experience.

The Prawn Dumplings were divine with their generous serve of prawns and chives. The chicken and corn dumplings were unexpectedly nice and flavoursome.

Part of our strategy was to go for the duck which we loved. The skin was crispy and the flesh was tender.

The only down side to our experience is the wired looks we got from the staff which was slightly disconcerting.

Be warned Wang’s Treasure House does get super busy so be prepared to wait for a table, especially during peak periods. 

The Wang's Treasure House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Special school failed to prepare for a world worthy to be part of

Even though I always love learning, I found school very tedious. I somehow knew that there was more to learn that the teachers were letting on.

When it was time to leave I knew that the world was waiting to be explored. I knew that with a good quality education and training I could have the capacity to take it on and lead an exciting life while working some cool job to support my lifestyle.

But looking back at my school days I don’t feel it prepared me for the complex world that I was to enter when I turned 18.

Let me describe it for you!

In the 1980s it was trendy to try and “mainstream” disabled people into their local community. So when I got to high school (after attending a local mainstream primary school) they thought that because I had a disability I could do with “the extra support”.

But in reality there was just this building that referred to as the “Resource Centre” or informally just the “Unit” in this rough comprehensive/secondary modern school. 

I always found it a little amusing considering there were no resources or support except 4 walls and a roof in which to shelter and hide from the world and no extra development to ensure that we could work to our capacity and be strong interdependent people. 

The reason why I think that they failed was that they had a real opportunity to allow us to develop the confidence and skills to fully participate in society, hold down jobs, have families and participate in society in the same ways as everyone else.     

There was this real tyranny of low expectations that assumed that someone’s inability to, for example, walk or see meant that they were unable to be successful in their studies or work. In my case, it was like my weak left side defined my entire ability.

The system didn’t have very high expectations of us other than we would leave school then do a spot of life skills training before being on welfare.

They infantilised us and failed to provide an empowering experience that gave us the skills to be successful in the post-school environment. It was like they perpetuated a paradigm in which we moulded to be passive, complement and dependant. 

The outside world is often hostile to those who are different and individuals with disabilities often have to endure an extra disablement of people’s negative perceptions of us.         

So not only would it have been good to develop the skills and confidence to thrive within the mainstream community but also to educate the general school population about being tolerant and being inclusive.

I guess kids are naturally intolerant and insensitive but with a greater number of disabled kids at the school it would have been a great opportunity to educate kids on the value of diversity.

Also, knowing that bullies at school often (but not always) grow up to be bullies in the workplace, learning how to handle such people as well as developing reliance should have been a key part of our education.

Thankfully the whole establishment has now closed down and hopefully society has moved on to be more inclusive and to provide disabled kids a more empowering education that sets them up for the rest of their lives.

I hope that that there isn’t an automatic assumption that people with disabilities can’t be successful in education/training and can’t participate in the mainstream workforce.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Leadership course leads to mini identity crisis

It has been a few months since I finished a course that aimed to develop leadership skills in people with disabilities and like most things it has got me thinking. I must admit that I actually found participating confronting.

Not that the course was bad (it was fantastic in so many ways) but for the first time since I had left my special school in the UK I had been in contact with disabled people that were not patients in the hospital that I work in.   

This made me think of my identity and my world view.

It is not that I am in denial because I don’t think I am. I am reminded of it every time I see my parents play music together that I haven’t been blessed with the two functional hands needed to be able to play a violin or cello.

I am also reminded of it when I trip over my own feet or an uneven pavement, often in front of everyone or when I’m told I can’t do something by a well meaning individual who thinks that I can’t or shouldn’t be doing something.  Oh and the self doubt……..     

But I have never been one to let having a disability define me as an individual.

I just don’t see my life that way or the world from that prospective.

When I chat with others what comes up first is my love of travelling, books, music, coffee but never “oh and by the way….” as usually the conversation has moved forward and it just never seems relevant.

Maybe growing up I felt that being disabled had a negative vibe associated with it which made me ashamed of identifying as such.

It was as if the mantra of my childhood was ‘pretend to be normal’ and I spent my late teens and twenties manically trying to prove to others (but probably more to myself) that I was more than my physical imperfections.  

But it was such a tough act to keep up.

Now I have made peace with the body I’ve got to focus on what works and chosen to work to capacity as life is too short to be limited by the restraints laid down by others.       

I am so glad that I did this LeadAbility course as it got me thinking about so much. The good thing about life is that you never stop learning about yourself and the world that you live in. Everything is always changing and the more people you meet, the more you’re ideas are challenged; that is what makes life so interesting!  
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