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catch up on the #migrantread discussion from #rwpchat

May 29, 2015

You can catch up on the #migrantread discussion via Storify.  It was a very interesting discussion.

 

Next month the focus will be #legalread because of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Watch this video from the British Library as a small preview

Join in the discussion for #migrantread – part of #rwpchat

May 26, 2015

#migrantread I’m Not From Here: from architecture to people, migration around the world

Netting Up: Migrant Workers in Hong Kong

Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, photographed by KC Wong

This month, find something you take for granted – then read, watch, play and discover where it came from. There will be a twitter discussion, today,  26 May starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 8.00am GMT, 12.00 noon Central European Time. Note: this is a staggered start to the discussion.

Use the tags #migrantread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of #migrantread, so others can join in the conversation too.

Migration is most commonly associated with people: those who move by choice and those who move because they have to.

Yet, almost everything we know came from somewhere else. Architecture. Coffee. Customs. Food. Ideas. More. The topic of migration, in Australia, often dominates newspaper headlines. Issues around asylum seekers, border control and detention centres are never far from the political imagination. Migration is not, however, new. Convicts arrived in the 1700s and have been followed by waves of migrants ever since. Many Australians are proud of their ancestors who made the journey to Australia, from all over the world. This can be seen in the work of genealogists in libraries and local studies centres around the country and the increasing popularity of television programs such as Who Do You Think You Are?

The efforts of early explorers facilitated many mass migrations including Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Francis Drake and Ferdinand Magellan. Some stories of migration are very sad (such as pieces around the Leaving of Liverpool) while other stories are uplifting (such as Ahn Do’s The Happiest Refugee, Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Reaching for the Stars by José Hernández).

Migration is, of course, not just about people. Famous naturalists, such as David Attenborough, have been documenting the migration of animals for generations. Some animal migrations – birds, insects, whales – are majestic. Others, such as the importation of cane toads and rabbits to Australia have proven to be incredibly destructive while migrating plants have overtaken natural environments in numerous countries. Similarly, disease – from the common cold to the plague – has decimated communities across the globe.

Perhaps some of the most popular migrations have been around food. Followed by architectural styles, inventions as well as many customs and ideas that, today, are taken for granted (such as democracy). Even play can migrate and become global from Scrabble to Angry Birds. Today, migration occurs – as it has always done – it is just much faster as advances in transport promote the migration of goods, services and people while the Internet allows for the almost instant migration of ideas and opinions.

 

Migration in Star Wars

May 4, 2015
CC BY 2.0 Daniel Davis / Flickr - Birthday Cake Battle

CC BY 2.0 Daniel Davis / Flickr – Birthday Cake Battle

 Today is May 4th, and this is unofficially regarded as a celebratory day for Star Wars. May the fourth be with you! #Maythe4th

This science fiction series of books, films and games has created many storylines around the migration of species across star systems and galaxies. Whenever you travel to new places in the Star Wars universe you will often find a variety of species co-existing there, many of which are far from their planet of birth.

As its name Star Wars suggests, a significant number of stories in its fictional universe are played out against a backdrop of conflict between different groups, and as a result of these wars many of the population are inevitably forced to migrate to escape.

However, migration doesn’t just happen as a result of war. There is also a desire to explore and discover new places that exist beyond ‘home’. If you’d heard tales of places such as Hoth, Cloud City, Tatooine, Endor and Naboo, wouldn’t you like to go and see what they are really like? Which would you head for? Maybe some are closer than you think – take a look at the Galactic Backpacking series on this Star Wars site, and then follow it up with a travel guide to these locations that are actually based on Earth.

Why not share your ideal Star Wars destination during our live Twitter chat on 26th May using the #migrantread hashtag, especially if you’ve actually managed to visit these places too….

May is time for #migrantread with #rwchat

May 1, 2015

#migrantread I’m Not From Here: from architecture to people, migration around the world

Netting Up: Migrant Workers in Hong Kong

Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, photographed by KC Wong

Migration is most commonly associated with people: those who move by choice and those who move because they have to.

Yet, almost everything we know came from somewhere else. Architecture. Coffee. Customs. Food. Ideas. More. The topic of migration, in Australia, often dominates newspaper headlines. Issues around asylum seekers, border control and detention centres are never far from the political imagination. Migration is not, however, new. Convicts arrived in the 1700s and have been followed by waves of migrants ever since. Many Australians are proud of their ancestors who made the journey to Australia, from all over the world. This can be seen in the work of genealogists in libraries and local studies centres around the country and the increasing popularity of television programs such as Who Do You Think You Are?

The efforts of early explorers facilitated many mass migrations including Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Francis Drake and Ferdinand Magellan. Some stories of migration are very sad (such as pieces around the Leaving of Liverpool) while other stories are uplifting (such as Ahn Do’s The Happiest Refugee, Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Reaching for the Stars by José Hernández).

Migration is, of course, not just about people. Famous naturalists, such as David Attenborough, have been documenting the migration of animals for generations. Some animal migrations – birds, insects, whales – are majestic. Others, such as the importation of cane toads and rabbits to Australia have proven to be incredibly destructive while migrating plants have overtaken natural environments in numerous countries. Similarly, disease – from the common cold to the plague – has decimated communities across the globe.

Perhaps some of the most popular migrations have been around food. Followed by architectural styles, inventions as well as many customs and ideas that, today, are taken for granted (such as democracy). Even play can migrate and become global from Scrabble to Angry Birds. Today, migration occurs – as it has always done – it is just much faster as advances in transport promote the migration of goods, services and people while the Internet allows for the almost instant migration of ideas and opinions.

This month, find something you take for granted – then read, watch, play and discover where it came from. There will be a twitter discussion on 26 May starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 9.00am and 2pm BST, 12.00 noon Central European Time. Note: this is a staggered start to the discussion.

Use the tags #migrantread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of #migrantread, so others can join in the conversation too.

catch up on the #reflectread discussion for #rwpchat

April 29, 2015

If you missed the #reflectread discussion, you can catch up with it on Storify.

The theme for May is #migrantread.  Please share your reading, watching and playing using #migrantread and #rwpchat.

today is the #reflectread discussion for #rwpchat

April 27, 2015
La torre dei libri - The tower of books (c) Andrea Mucelli

La torre dei libri – The tower of books (c) Andrea Mucelli/Flickr

#reflectread

Join in the Read Watch Play discussion this month about #reflectread. We’ll be focused on ideas and reading about physical reflections, and things that make you think, give a new or different perspective on life, the world around us, others and ourselves.

The Twitter discussion takes place, today, 28 April, starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 8am – 10.30am, 2pm – 4pm GMT. Note this is a staggered discussion.

While you are reading, playing or watching your #reflectread this month, you might like to tweet about it using hashtags #reflectread #rwpchat so that other people can have a conversation with you about it. You can add to the discussion on Pinterest too. You might like to post your photographs to Instagram or Flickr and use #reflectread #rwpchat so others can share in your reading, watching and playing.

Philosophers invite us to look at the world from different viewpoints, examining the structure and interaction of societies from a particular angle of interest. Do you see the world as Confucius, Simone de Beauvoir, Karl Marx, or Mary Wollstonecraft did? Or maybe Alain de Botton’s reflections on everyday life in the modern world are more accessible to you.

Periods of change in our lives often provide us with times of reflection. They may be difficult times for us, such as ill-health or death and grief and we reflect to help us cope. The End of Your Life Book Club (Will Schwalbe) focuses on book discussions a man has with his mother as she waits for her chemotherapy treatment to begin. In Michael Rosen’s Sad Book he shares his own real-life experience of grief, whereas The Lovely Bones is told from the perspective of the child who is being grieved over. Grief is often partly a process of reflection too, prompting memories of the person’s past life and how it impacted upon our own. The Bucket List’s approach to dying focuses on all the things a couple of terminally ill patients want to do before they die – living life fully until the end.

There are other times in our lives that might make us think about who we are, what we are doing and where we are heading. It could be the transition from child to teenager, or teenager to adult; changes in career; marriage; divorce; having children, or any of the other many changes in our daily lives that impact upon us. They can all cause us to reflect on our situation. As with The Bucket List they might spur us on with wish lists of new things to try.

During difficult times self-help guides can teach us how to reflect on what we are doing, provide guidance and support to improve our situation, as well as promoting good health & well-being, prompting a change in ourselves that we need or wanted to make. For some this self-help might be in the form of meditation, mindfulness, or the soothing sounds on a relaxation CD.

Other people receive support and guidance from their faith or religion, with prayers and periods of reflection and contemplation assisting them. Memoirs written by people with a strong faith aspect to their lives help us understand people with different religions and faith.

We can also share in the lives of others and gain an understanding of them via their own words and thoughts. Memoirs and autobiographies of famous people offer insightful reflecting reads about their lives. Fly-on-the-wall documentaries, such as The Osbournes also give us the opportunity to share the lives of the famous when they are supposedly out of the limelight. An interesting biography doesn’t have to be about a famous person. There are documentaries and fly-on-the-wall television shows about ordinary lives in a situation different to our own that generate just as much interest as a celebrity biography. Jodi Picoult’s fiction also allows us to watch everyday characters in modern relationships and confront life-changing decisions from the perspective of those involved, showing us what things might be like if we were put in the same situation.

Travelogues such as those written or presented by Michael Palin allow us to reflect on the similarities and differences of the world’s cultures without leaving home. Reading about cultures different from our own also help us reflect on the situations of others and foster understanding. Try I am Malala, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, or Heaven on Earth. Cultures can be also far removed from our own by time as well as distance, and both historical fiction and non-fiction can help us reflect on the past and gain an understanding of the world before we were born.

The Anzac Day commemorations held on 25th April are also an appropriate time for reflection. This year is especially significant as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign from which Anzac Day traditions originated.

As well as the past we can also reflect on what the future might bring us. What will happen to ourselves and the planet? Questions around sustainability concern us. Are the ice-caps melting? Science-fiction often portrays our future planet with a society that has regressed (The Hunger Games; Idiocracy; The Time Machine; the comic world of 2000AD; the game world of Half-Life 2), but Utopia might be waiting for us in the future instead. The time-travelling Dr Who gives us the chance to view an alternate history of our own world – one that could have been home to so many alien species in the past and could be in the future too.

Fantastic and mythological tales have sometimes made use of a person’s reflection as a key feature of the story. Narcissus’ undoing was his vanity as he paused to look at his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it. Again vanity is the queen’s downfall in Snow White, as she ask her mirror “Who is the fairest of them all?” and is not pleased by the reply that it is Snow White (Mirror Mirror). The gaze of Medusa is so frightening that she is turned to stone when Perseus holds up a mirror to her. All of these characters are impacted on by their own reflection in some way, whereas Dracula and vampires in general show their true self by having no reflection at all.

Though it is not a physical reflection, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray sees his painted portrait become a mirror of his soul – a reflection of his true self – aging and crumbling as Dorian pursues his hedonistic lifestyle and remains youthful himself.

When Lewis Carroll’s Alice steps through the looking glass she enters a world that is often the reverse of what she would normally expect.

Beauty is often measured by how we view ourselves in the mirror, what we think of that reflection and whether it matches our definition of beauty. But how is beauty defined and how does that definition sit with the promotion of positive, but not conforming body images?

Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds prompts us to reflect on the phenomenon of mass-delusion and hysteria in the 19th century, questioning why these situations occurred and wondering how they are mirrored in today’s modern world?

Additionally, through films like Planet of the Apes, The Day the Earth Stood Still, District 9 and books such as Watership Down, Bambi and The Borrowers we can also imagine how we as humans appear to others – reflecting a different world view back on ourselves.

Moving away from books, optical illusions, magic eye images and op art often confuse us with the images they present. These anamorphic illusions based on reflection are fun as well as confusing. MC Escher also achieves a similar sense of confusion in his drawn constructions – from one perspective they make sense, but on reflection they must be impossible.

#reflectread for the Gallipoli centenary #rwpchat

April 24, 2015

The past is a foreign country
… they do things differently there

It’s becoming history now, almost unknowable, slipping —like Gordon of Khartoum — into that curious spectacle of caricature and legend.

As the Great War marches on, wraith-like, into the new armies of ideology and commerce, it’s ever more difficult to distinguish shape from shadow. Like optimistic but futile sound mirrors on the English coast, we strain at imperfect echoes from a distant land.

What was it really like, when everything was in the balance?

Bernard Adams, Nothing of importance

That question was unanswerable — even in 1916 — when Bernard Adams, convalescing at home, wrote “Nothing of importance,” eight months at the front with a Welsh battalion.

Adams’ is the only memoir by a combatant printed while the war was still being fought. It is also one of the finest. The young Cambridge classicist returned to France to die in 1917.

You can download the book now from archive.org.

Sister Elsie Tranter’s diary, rediscovered by Jennifer Mary Gillings and Julieanne Richards and published in 2008, is more difficult to find, but that effort is rewarded by a clear, straight-ahead and recognisably modern account by a woman working in a remarkable time and space.

In all those lines : the diary of Sister Elsie Tranter 1916–1919 will resonate with any Australian who has gone backpacking in Europe. Her travels are not dissimilar to yours, if you put aside the war.

Tranter was a 28 year old nurse from Geelong.

A photo included in Australian nursing sister May Tilton’s memoir, The Grey Battalion

More readily available is the diary of British nursing sister Edith Appleton, published in 2013 as A nurse at the front.

July 31st 1915
The whole staff, Orderlies & all were worn out, the Mortuary Corporal included — one afternoon he came to Miss C. & asked her to help him “sort them out” & when she got there he threw off blanket after blanket from the poor dead things — who had been brought down in such numbers that some tickets were off. He said “Did you ever see ‘im before — & did you ever see ’im”. His one job was to sort out R.C.s — & Church of England — so that each Padre might bury his own. Then he found a fresh difficulty — over one — whom he thought was an Officer — but had nothing to mark him — “And ‘ow am I to bury ‘im — as a’ Officer — or man”. Sister said — “Surely they all get buried the same.” “No, they don’t.” said the bewildered Cpl. “Men is hammered — Officers is screwed.”

Program, Pioneer exhibition game, Australian Football — London, Saturday 28 October 1916

Among Australian memoirs, you are well served for laconic humour by Victoria Cross winner Joe Maxwell in Hell’s bells & mademoiselles

His story reads easily and is told with a light and likable touch

And then there’s Somme Mud, a classic all-action account of an AIF infantryman that is spectacularly vivid, direct and perhaps not all true.

But what is?

Big guns in the canon of WWI literature — Robert Graves’ Goodbye to all that and Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a fox-hunting man and Memoirs of an infantry officer — have also drawn acolytes and critics.

They remain essential reads, alongside fellow officer Edmund Blundon’s Undertones of war and rarer memoirs from non-commissioned officers and rankers, like George Coppard’s With a machine gun to Cambrai, Frank Richards’ Old soldiers never die and John F. Lucy’s There’s a devil in the drum

Nursing Home the Straggler — Norman G Arnold (1919)

A special class of memoir belongs to the airmen.

Cecil Lewis will put you in the seat of a wood and wire aeroplane and give you wings. His wonder at riding the sky is reflected beautifully in Sagittarius Rising.

Equally adept at fixing this era on paper is Duncan Grinnell-Milne, with Wind in the wires.

Darker clouds set over V. M. Yeates’ Winged Victory, a precursor in some ways to Catch-22, sardonic and alcoholic. Here the fear is tangible, an enemy acknowledged by one of the greatest of Australian aces — Harry Cobby. His High Adventure is in the vein of Joe Maxwell’s work and similarly likable.

Non-English writers are not well known to me. Ernst Jünger (Storm of steel) and Erich Maria Remarque (All quiet on the western front) are widely available but a personal favourite is the Gallic and earthy Lice by Blaise Cendrars. The book’s original title is La Main coupée. No Woolworths biscuit box sets here.

You can browse many other memoirs published after the war by their dust jackets on this collector’s website.

But how to side-step hindsight and return to 1914–1919?

Will Dyson, One of the old platoon (1917)

Letters, diaries and photographs offer an immediate connection, even if these conceal — and sometimes distort — more than they reveal.

Never has so much been so readily available to the interested amateur. The challenge is one of surplus rather than scarcity. Where to start?

Nothing beats spending time in a reading room. You never know what ephemera accompanies a collection of letters from the stack. Aerial photographs of Biblical villages traversed from the air in Palestine or day passes to Brighton with pressed flowers from Le Touquet.

Or, pick up a transcript published online and follow the thread. I learnt a lot mapping Allan Allsop’s diary. Place names, trench systems, orders of battle, the routine that informs the extraordinary.

British author Richard van Emden has an ear for interesting and unusual first person narratives, and has done the hard work to collect them.

Tommy’s War is the British soldier’s story told in his own words, supplemented by personal and candid photographs, many not seen before. Other volumes include The Quick and the Dead, Meeting the Enemy, Boy Soldiers of the Great War and Tommy’s Ark.

Of the many military histories on offer, Peter Hart’s are distinguished by his adept use of first-hand accounts to paint in the detail of big picture battles and campaigns. Hart’s Gallipoli offers a more complete perspective of the peninsula than most.

Hart’s book is joined this month by Gallipoli : the Dardanelles disaster in soldiers’ words and photographs by van Emden and Stephen Chambers.


Today the German Monster Threatens the World (c.1916) — Australasian Films

I began this piece with the intent to focus on personal narratives, to avoid the political and the ideological. But the debates that began in the trenches continue today —

For there’s one thing financiers cannot or will not see. They have visions of a frontierless world in which their operations will proceed without hindrance and make all human activities dependent on them; but their world state is impossible because finance is sterile, and a state living by finance must always have neighbours from which to suck blood, or it is like a dog eating its own tail… an intense war-fever inoculation was carried out by the press. It took rather less than three months, I believe, to make the popular demand for war irresistible… There’ll be a famous orgy of money snatching over our bones.

This is Victor Maslin Yeates (referenced above). A companion voice is F.A. Voigt, whose very fine memoir Combed out eviscerates the nationalist press.

What do contemporary historians make of it?

The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark is a brilliant foray into the archives of European empires and their bureaucracies. Soldiers fight wars but rarely start them. To this briefest of lists I would add the two volumes by Saul Friedländer that place the First World War in context of greater European horrors to come.

Gassed — John Singer Sargent (1919)

The Great War is reflected in tens if not hundreds of thousands of literary works. This is a personal selection. But any will occasion the questions — what have we learnt and what have we forgotten? And, who is speaking for them when they can speak for themselves?


Guest post by Bernard de Broglio. With Cheryl Ward — Through These Lines — he has a display of ‘then and now’ photos on display at the State Library of NSW until 24 May. Lemnos 1915: Then & Now combines images of contemporary Lemnos with eyewitness photographs taken in 1915 to reveal a unique perspective.

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