Side projects

I’ve had a chance to look through some of the projects I’ve been aiming to start over the last while. A video from Gary Vaynerchuck talked about the 7pm-2am window to work on other projects, starting something big. At the moment, I’m pouring that energy more into my main job: there will come a day when that settles down and I’m able to try some other things, but for now, I need to make my peace with keeping the side projects on hold. 

netflix: The Power of One

Perhaps it’s a reflection of the poor structuring of my literary education, but I first heard about The Power of One through a dinner party sketch on the Late Show where they say the book is much better than the film. I listened to the audio book years ago – it’s confronting stuff, and on an epic scale.

And so when I saw that the movie version of the Power of One was on Netflix, I thought I’d have a look at it. It’s a masterful work, on its own epic scale, but with a different (to me less satisfying) ending. But to see Morgan Freeman and Daniel Craig in a film together, so many years on, is something special.

Worth a look for Late Show completists.

lessons learned from some time offline

Today was the last day of a short holiday, where we spent some time away from home, and away from pervasive internet access. It was really good to have the break, and see what a difference it would make to the way we relate together as a family. It feels like there’s lots to catch up on (I skimmed through over 700 things in my feed reader today), but it was helpful to have a perspective on how much my smartphone is driving my consumption habits, rather than the other way around.

I’m hoping to reflect on it further: much harder to do so with easy access to mobile internet.

Movie: Gayby Baby

Movie: Gayby Baby

First-time feature director Maya Newell has a voice of maturity beyond her years. This film is an achievement in telling the stories of four Australian children, and their parents, who are all same-sex couples. The kids are great kids: loving and empathetic, and – as one of them says jokingly, occasionally pure evil. 

Watching it as a parent I saw the unflinching insights into family life. Disciplining kids, encouraging siblings to play together, the role of faith in family life, all are covered with a degree of sensitivity. By not focusing on the aspect of rejection and bullying, the film makes its anti-bullying message stronger. There are sources of pain in people’s lives in the film, many of them just hinted at. These are people who live in the real world, with its brokenness, making their way through. 
There are definitely agendas at play here, and the film is trying to push particular messages: the need to change laws around same-sex marriage and adoption as well as its more winsome call for us to empathise with the kids, and make their lives less fraught with bullying. 

By putting a human face on the issue through its stories, it seems likely that this movie will have an effect in changing the minds of the “undecideds”. There is some faith-related content in the film – not as demonised as it might be, though perhaps the presentation of Christians in the film is such that you can read into them your own experience and opinions. 

If you find the on-screen portrayal of same-sex relationships offensive, then you will find this film offensive, but the director has taken care to present even the shows of affection to such displays that parents might make in front of their kids (occasional brief kissing and laying down on a couch to talk while leaning in each other). Also, if you were thinking about showing it to very young kids, there are some lessons about Santa and the Tooth Fairy you may want to be aware of. 

This is the work of a talented film-maker, capturing a slice of Australian life that is not often represented on screens. I suspect it’s been seen a lot more due to the surrounding controversy than it would otherwise have been, and from the sound of the Q&A, it will continue to be used in efforts both to reduce bullying, and to reshape family law in Australia. 

rather die than change

Around ten years ago I read an article on heart attack survivors that proved people would rather die than change – given simple lifestyle changes to make, that would literally save them from having another, this time fatal, attack, the majority of people were unwilling or unable to make the change.

Changing (especially after a certain age) is tough.

I was talking to a friend about our respective social media intake. Lately I’ve found myself spending more time sourcing articles to read from Facebook, going beyond what I need to look through for work, flicking through in search of the latest fix of information. It quickly becomes a habit, and a tough one to break. Such is the genius of Facebook at some level: giving a gamified cookie to the people who continue to scroll through, like and comment on things, helping Facebook sell more ads.

While there is the occasional exception, and something of more significance will filter through, it can be tough to change gears from soaking up the shallows of the average social media post, to reading something longer and more in-depth.

My friend talked about the need to deliberately curate what goes into your mind. Instead of listening to the (unhelpful, or at best unexamined) habits that you’ve picked up, and doing what they say when choosing what goes into your mind, spend some time thinking carefully about what you want to be thinking about.

On the rare occasion when you bump into a friend who you haven’t seen in a while, will you have anything to say to them? Or will their Facebook feed have taken the place of small-talk, leaving you less connected than you might have been.

There are a number of risks with a sustained social media diet. Taking time to think about what it is you want to be thinking about, rather than always chasing bite-sized bits of new information. It will see you in a better frame of mind, and will pay dividends in years’ time that an unexamined consumption of everything you see.

movie: Last Cab to Darwin

Movie: Last Cab to Darwin

I wanted an Australian film with lots of footage of the Northern Territory, and it offered that and more. Michael Caton (The Castle) is excellent as a Broken Hill cab driver who takes his first ever trip out of the town he was born in, in search of the NT’s newly passed euthanasia laws. Touches on the alcoholism and themes of belonging, but its attempt to deal with life and death with no reference to religion seemed a bit hollow to me.

If you’re a fan of Australian movies (and don’t mind a fair amount of authentic Australian swearing) and would like to be taken on a memorable journey across the country, it’s worth a look.

A day (almost) without podcasts 

A lift to the train station meant that it was too late, by the time I realised, to go back home for the earbuds I’d left in my jacket pocket. And so I faced to prospect of a whole day without audio entertainment, until I was finally – hopping In the car for an evening meeting – able to reconnect with some hands-free, sped-up audio entertainment. 

It’s not until a channel is inaccessible that you’re able to see how much a part of your psyche it has become. I have a large queue of podcasts waiting for my attention, and so to get through them, I listen  them at high speed whenever I’m alone (which is not all that often). 

With the silence, I was left to my own thoughts: a lost hobby. I miss my podcasting companions with their cheery ad-reads for Casper mattresses, mail chimp, square space, Harry’s razors, warby Parker, and Lynda dot com. 

book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Even though I read the sequel when I was a child, I’d never actually read the more famous prequel. As it turns out, it probably only takes about an hour to read in its entirety – it’s a very short, dark, child-friendly tale, hard to read without hearing the songs and picturing the visuals of the film.

Dahl rants against TV in a long poem (sung by the Oompa-Loompas) in a way that is even more poignant in the age of constant internet distraction. Recommended.

Bedtime stories

One of the joys of reading bedtime stories is, through repetition, seeing the evolving ways the kids interact with stories. Tonight we read The tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, a story about a good natured but simple duck who is (spoilers) unaware that her fox landlord is preparing to roast her for dinner. 

The story is written in such a way that a very young child only notices what the duck does – even as the narrator points out the culinary implications of the fox-provided shopping list. As the kids get bigger, they can see what is going on a little more clearly, though still with a wonderfully innocent take. “Where did the fox go? Did the dogs just chase him away? Will he be back?”

There is much to learn about storytelling from the classics.