Reading, Writing and Speaking: Do We Still Know How?

I am fascinated by words and their daily use. From the time I was a kid, my mother was always correcting my use of English, which meant that the use of slang never sat well with her. When we first came to Australia, it was only natural that I would start to absorb how Aussies speak and not just the accents. For example, it was not uncommon to hear people say: “Can I have a lend of that?” to which my (horrified) mother would respond with “The correct way to ask that is ‘Can I borrow that?'”. Another favourite was: “Have a look at them things!” Tsk tsk.

One of my several majors in high school was English. It really was no surprise given my love of storytelling and having words drilled into me from a young age. I never quite “got” poetry, despite my love for Dead Poets Society. I also found it difficult to appreciate many of the prize-winning literature we studied, though I suspect that had as much to do with the fact that I lacked the understanding of the historical background upon which those plays and novels were based: think British playwrights and authors such as Terence Rattigan, John le Carre and George Moore’s Esther Waters, American classics like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or Australian classics like Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

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Long Live Letters!

Women of LettersThis is not just about alliteration. Over the weekend, I wrote a letter. Yes, you read that right: I wrote a letter. With a pen. On a piece of paper. Several pieces of paper, as a matter of fact. Four long pages of long-forgotten cursive writing that my friend, Kathy, will have to endure when she receives the letter in approximately a week’s time, if Australia Post and Royal Mail are co-operative.

It has been a very long time since I have hand-written a letter, probably several years. Every year, at Christmas, I would attempt to write a short missive inside Christmas cards to overseas friends and relatives, just to give them a quick update on what I’d been up to over the course of the year. I never bothered to do a “standard” computer-printed letter insert that people frequently use, mostly because I never had that much to tell – just a couple of highlights such as “I spent five weeks around the US for the first time in more than 10 years” would generally suffice. After all, who wants to hear you brag about what a glorious time you had wandering around New York City for two weeks going to Broadway shows and meeting Alec Baldwin?

Anyway, I digress.

Letter-writing has become a lost art in the last twenty years since the rapid growth of the use of computers, internet, electronic mail, mobile phones, tablets and so on. Whilst I am a big fan of technological growth – many of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook well know I can barely go a few hours without checking my phone – I also remain a steadfast and loyal servant of the humble paper and pen. I still prefer to read a book in paper form, unless the book requires a cherrypicker to lift from my bookshelf. There is still a special excitement when I can turn a physical page in a book and being able to see your progress as the left side of the book starts to get thicker than the right side (unless you are reading a book in Chinese or Arabic, in which case you would be reading from right to left).

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Boston, We Heart You

IMG_20140416_103452On Monday, April 15th, 2013, a couple of brothers set off a bomb at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three and wounded hundreds of others. Just as I remembered exactly where I was and what I was doing when the tragedy of 9/11 happened, I still remember clearly where I was when I heard the news of this latest tragedy.

I had been spending the day with two friends who had travelled from Atlanta, GA, to Charleston, SC, to meet me on my long-overdue return to the USA.  We’d spent the day at Drayton Hall, a former plantation that is now owned and managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It had been a rainy day but an enjoyable one hanging out with friends.

When I got back “home” to where I had been staying with my university friend (and the reason for my visit to Charleston) in the early evening, she’d had the television on while preparing dinner. The coverage of the bombing was all over the news. First reactions always include: Who would do such a thing? Why? How many innocent lives have been lost or are injured? Where are those responsible? The manhunt commenced immediately, of course, and  security was heightened everywhere.

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Benedict Cumberbatch and the British Invasion Into My Psyche

On a clear Friday morning, 7th March, 2014, I started my morning ritual by grabbing my iPad Mini while still in bed, checked my Facebook news feed as usual (don’t judge me – I bet many of you do the same), and almost jumped right out of bed when I read this announcement from Oz Comic-Con:

Oz Comic-Con are very pleased to announce Benedict Cumberbatch is set to join the fun at Oz Comic-Con Adelaide and appear at two exclusive Oz Comic-Con Q&A events in Sydney.

WHAT?! SHERLOCK IS COMING TO MY HOME TOWN??? 

From that point on, there was no turning back or calming down. It took the organisers another two days to announce details for ticket sales. But I was online and ready with my credit card details as soon as the box office opened. However, judging by the fact that there were about 150 other people sitting closer to the stage I guess getting my tickets within a minute of the box office opening was still not good enough. However, we did have excellent seats and I have absolutely no complaints. Anyway, I digress…

Cumberbatch in Sydney

 

There were 33 sleeps from the time I bought tickets to the day I, and my friend Asha, were due to see this very talented actor, and they felt like the longest 33 days ever. I found myself re-watching all three series of BBC’s Sherlock and going back through my “Cumber-collection” of his many other works that range from playing Hugh Laurie’s eldest son in the 2003 comedy series Fortysomething, to his short films (make sure you check out Inseparable) and even his various radio serials for BBC Radio (Cabin Pressure, Rumpole and Neverwhere) and audiobooks (your life will never be the same again after you hear Cumberbatch as Casanova).

Benedict U2 photobombWhile you may have never heard of Benedict Cumberbatch until you saw him photobomb U2 at the Oscars or heard Ellen DeGeneres introduce him as “the man with the best name ever”, once you look at his long list of filmography, you will realise you have probably seen him in a million things before without realising who he was. Ever since the announcement a little while ago that he was set to return to the London stage in autumn of 2015 to play the title role in Hamlet, I bet there’s been a renewed interest in reading the Bard again. Heck, he’s the only reason I paid to see Star Trek: Into Darkness (nothing against Trekkies, I’ve just never been one of them).

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Defining Success

You’re valuable just because you exist, and you are worthy of doing something just because it’s nice with no achievement.

- Rebekka Tauqiri, psychologist

SBS Insight Program “Pushing for Success

 

successOur society likes to put labels on people – are they successful? What are their achievements? When someone asks “how are you?” are they really asking “what have you achieved lately?” If someone was to ask you “are you happy?” how would you respond?  How do you define success? Or do you let success define you? Do you measure your success by how much “better” you are than someone else?

First impressions are important in both our personal and professional lives, and very often, these are intertwined. For example, when you meet someone for the first time at a party, a function or some event, you introduce yourself by your name and, depending on the occasion, by your profession. Do you ever catch yourself immediately judging your new acquaintance or yourself by this introduction? If someone told you they were a doctor or lawyer, do you react differently to them than if they told you they were a janitor?

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