Sunday, August 28, 2011

Political Correctness - the new Institutional Echelon of Authority?

Once upon a time community clubs swore allegiance to the God, King and Country, we drank a Loyal toast to the  Monarch at Weddings, and many children attended Sunday school and recited "The Lord's Prayer" each day at school (even the free state ones).

Today most of the meaning and leadership has disappeared from these societal institutions, so that we have a new pervasive form of authority that has no legitimacy, no guidelines, is not derived from,  or accountable to,  any one individual. Allegiance to one's God, Country or Religion has been supplanted by the flimsy less tangible rules of Political Correctness. It seems that this is what keeps western society and behaviour, in check, to a larger extent these days. More so than the Ten commandments, national - cultural constraints and legal guidelines. So given this, is society and individualism being eroded by its own desire to become less offensive, that it to be more politically correct?

When we must, or feel coerced to refer to short people as vertically challenged, and children's nursery rhymes are altered we must ask the question of where will this end? Is it taken out of context for the time it was coined? Is is still relevant today? Do we take it with a grain of salt? Or take offence? Political correctness appears to be the ruling body in this moral area.

One cannot now feel unrestrained to sing: "Baa Baa Black Sheep" rather, one must now sing, "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep."  However, when "What shall we do with a Drunken Sailor" is now 'passe' and drunken sailor must be replaced with something less offensive, we must ask: Is there a posse of naval men rampaging the streets with placards protesting and crying out to be treated fairly? I think not.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for challenging stereotypes. Because stereotyping lumps us all in the one basket, and denies our individuality. But does political correctness also fall into this trap? Straitjacketing our modes of expression, our ability to laugh at ourselves? Restricting our descriptive language?

Having worked in Disability for years, I can see how modification of appropriate language is very very helpful. But are we being so judgemental that we take this all out of the context of the time in which such terms/words were coined? In the 1960's it was acceptable to call someone a "spastic" as the benevolent society that helped them was indeed known as "The Spastic Welfare League" started by the parents of the individuals themselves. ( and surely parents would be the last people to demean their own children with derogatory labels?) So are we in fact, denying that the community, at the time these terms were coined, was completely different to contemporary times.??? There was no hint of cynicism or mocking at the time, what has changed since them. Why look askance at them from the future, thinking "How demeaning for that language to be used? How could they call them that?"   Language is a changing and dynamic thing, is the language or the person wrong because terminology was used that was accurate for the time era? Will calling someone "ur bro" also be considered derogatory and offensive in years to come???????

People are often shocked to hear that our census in the early part of the 20th century asked family to provide information as to how many "idiots" were living in one's household!!! The words: spastic, retard, cripple, are considered derogatory and rightly so. However, some countries still use the word Handicapped whilst we in Australia, must use the term able bodied, as opposed to disabled. Wait, the dynamic has changed again, disabled is now passe and we must refer to "person with a disability" so that the person comes first and is more important.  In using these phrases, one becomes so verbally diarrhoeac that the saliva will form at the corners of one's mouth in getting the 'right' words out.

The hysteria of political correctness exemplifies our dynamic language forces and our quest or need for equilibrium. Political correctness may be the Eleventh commandment of today's society, but that does not mean we should cast accusatory fingers at past generations for their colloquial language use.

Enough said Bro, now I am off to chow down! Something to ponder about? Hell, yeah!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nordic Reading challenge 2011

I just found this wonderful idea on the net whilst reading some other blogs reviewing my favourite books. If you have not yet discovered some Nordic authors (yes those that are translated into English), then now is the time) Although I have joined a bit late, I can count those books I have already read this year, so feel I can make the Odin level, but will be aiming for Valhalla.

The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011 and there will be 5 levels. The levels are:

Huginn and Muninn: Read 2 books
Freya: Read 3-5 books
Tor: Read 6-10 books
Odin: Read 11-20 books
Valhalla: Read 20+ books

I will be participating at the Odin level. You do not have to make a list before hand. Any book by any author born in a Nordic country (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and/or Sweden) or a book set in a Nordic country. They can be from any genre (I will be reading a mixture of classics, children’s books, YA and mystery).

If you are interested in signing up, go to Nordic challenge 2011 post sign up  at the Notes for the North blog.

Books I have read so far this year:

Stieg Larsson trilogy - parts 2 and 3
Karin Fossum - Black Seconds

Camilla Lackberg - The Preacher
Camilla Lackberg - The Stonecutter
Camilla Lackberg - The Gallows Bird
Jo Nesbø - The Redbreast
Arnaldur Indridason - Hypothermia
Andrea Heiberg - Next Stop: Sejer Island

Currently reading: Mari Jungstedt - Unspoken

TBR:

Karin Altvegen - Shame
Camilla Lackberg - The Hidden Child
Jo Nesbø - The Redeemer
Jo Nesbø  - Nemesis

A list of Euro crime writers translated into English can be found here: Euro crime writers list

Should you join let me know here at Something to Ponder About.

Happy reading,




Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bills' Fabulous Adventures: Maddie on Straddie - Part I

We wanted to take Maddie to Straddie.... Maddie was a Swedish exchange student, Madeleine, in Australia for a year to experience Aussie culture and language, and what little tradition we have. She wanted to see Stradbroke Island, a secluded beach paradise off the coast of the south eastern suburbs of Brisbane. As Australians are oft to shorten names, it is affectionately called Straddie, even though it has anything but humble beginnings being named after the the Lord of Stradbroke....

Aboriginal communities have long existed on Straddie, as has a plethora of wildlife and flora including the much loved koala, kangaroo and gin - gin (otherwise known as a grass tree). Plus there is miles of pristine, well almost pristine, (there is the ubiquitous plastic litter) on white sand beaches, waves that a surrie would die for, as well as a swimming meccas for locals, dolphins, and very occasionally, sharks.

"Maddie" wanted to see "Straddie", so we booked in at the Backpacker's  Manta lodge, situated a few kilometres back from Point Lookout. Took the early morning ferry from Cleveland to Dunwich. This was actually called the 'Flyer' and cost about $40 for two adults and one child return. This fare also included the bus to our lodge, which has a convenient timetable that coincides with the arrival of the ferries from the mainland.


The ferry ride takes about 40 minutes and the bus about 30 minutes to traverse from one side of Stradbroke (Dunwich) to the other (Point Lookout) Something to remember is that from 10am - 12noon, the  bus drivers have their lunch break and there are no buses then, so you are in for a long walk if you want to go anywhere between those times.

You are able to take your car over on the other ferry service, but it becomes quite expensive - around $100 for a standard vehicle.

The beach from the porch of the Manta Backpackers Lodge

We stayed at Adder Rock, at the Manta Badkpackers Lodge, an accredited scuba dive centre and above average Backpackers, in a 4 share room. They do have double beds here, but bathroom is all shared in a common area. As we had a child staying with us, they could not allocate the spare bed to a stranger so we spread out a little. Rooms are very inexpensive around $30 p.p. and the amenites included: hammocks, (where a foreign tourist was found catching up on some zzzz's and could not be roused), BBQ's, pool and ping pong table, TV's and DVD's and well equipped kitchen. This backpacker is in an excellent location: step outside and you are on the beach, also reasonably close to Point Lookout by road, but we chose to walk along the beach for the scenic journey over the rocks and beach verges.

Beware: this beach route can take one over an hour, and there are some sections where you have to climb over rocks, dependant on the tide movements,  and it is more direct to walk along the road, or catch the bus, but it is a lot less scenic. If you have mistimed your beach walk, you can always find toilets/amenities half way along at Cylinders beach Caravan Park, where there is also a small shop and Post Office.
4WD is permitted on the beach here



We even saw a Beach wedding taking places. High Heels in the sand... can you imagine???



Beach walk continues and continues.....

You do pass the Point Lookout Hotel (pub) along the way, so a good diversion could be to stop in here for a rest, or for lunch, or a liquid refreshment, or two. The view from there is simply amazing, and this you will see from anywhere in the hotel. The food itself: well, you can go upmarket and spend a small fortune, or just have a small snack from the bar, such as fresh prawns and salad for $11 (lunch prices). Dinner prices are simply ridiculous for a pub, but as there is not a lot of choice, or competition, onStradbroke Island, they presumably charge what they like.

Bar and eatery
Upmarket restuarant adjacent to the bars
.

 And so after you are suitably refreshed, you can continue on, exploring the headland at Point Lookout, named by Captain Cook as he sailed along the East Coast in 1770.


Views out to the North at Point Lookout


Guntur's point where perhaps a German tourist was not careful enough?


Amazing views along Thirty? or was it Sixty mile beach.....plenty of it anyway:-) Take the Gorge walk for a long and very scenic view of this cove and the turbulent surf hitting the headland in front of the Surf club. If you do, you will see views like this....


Part of the Gorge walk



As for Point Lookout amenities, there are a number of eateries serving Breakfast specials. If you stay at the Backpackers at Adder Rock or nearby camping grounds/accomodation, you will find that a hearty english breakfast of Bacon and eggs is served for just $5.00 at the Convenience store next door to hte hostel!  Bargain, it was, and the quality was good. As it was Mothers day and I was the Mother, I even got an extra rasher of bacon free!!!





Back to Point Lookout and there are also a few souvenir type shops and a chemist there, a bakery selling pies, Ginormous salad rolls and sweet pastries, but NO foccacia, despite the signs advertising them, and of course, a 'fish n chip' shop. And a playground for kids too!

The "Prawn Shack"

On the eastern approaches to the main Point Lookout stores, you will find a small collection of avant garde gift and boutique fashion shops. Their opening times are various, but you could be lucky and be then when the doors are open. One that caught my eye seemed so 'Straddie' ie:.... laid back.... not always open, simple, and not at all pretentious ..and that was the Fresh local Seafood shop called "The Prawn Shack"...Love it? (pictured above)

Time to meet our local tour guide - the quiet achiever Bill who would take us on a 4 hour tour of the Island....  see part II of Maddie on Straddie ( published 30/8/11)








Monday, August 1, 2011

The Redder than Redbreast.... Review of Jo Nesbø 's book.

1942: Daniel a Norwegian soldier fighting on the Eastern front on the German side is killed. One of his comrades falls in love with a Austrian nurse whilst recouperating from severe wounds. Meanwhile 57 years later, a Detective in Oslo with the unlikely name of Harry Hole is appointed to the Norwegian secret service, to monitor neo-Nazi activity in Norway: a fairly mundane assignment that turns out to be anything but.... 

With many parellels to the recent events with the terrorist bomb and killings in Norway along with the support for multiculturalism, this novel, which won the Glass Key, the Riverton prize and the Norwegian Bookclub Prize for the best ever Norwegian crime novel, The  Redbreast is a long and at times complicated read that will take the reader on a historic and contemporary journey through the hearts and minds of people who once were prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to save Norway from the Bolshevik advance by fighting with the Naziis, and how this affected them, when they discovered they had been labelled traitors on their return to Norway, and shunned in their own society after the war, a topic rarely written about in the Western world. 
Such a different perspective can reveal things hitherto unseen, and at times, I felt almost a sympathy for the men, despite philosophically being poles apart from them.  It made me question the modern politic stereotype of Norway, I wondered just how many Norwegian people held or continue to hold these beliefs, hidden surreptitiously, (as with the killer at Utoeya), under a guise of normality. The Utoeya massacre happened within several days of me completing this book. Chillingly ironic and familiar were some of the attitudes found amongst the more despicable characters in the book. 

Harry Hole, the alcoholic detective, seems to be in the situation where he has been sidelined from the regular squad due to an embarrassing mistake and now has a free rein to investigate as he wishes without interference from his superiors/bureaucracy. Following his hunches that several murders are linked, he pays a personal adn tragic price in the book, but manages to find romance in all the horror. I found this an unlikely but interesting diversion, but it provides Hole with a clue vital in solving the mystery.  Although we know the killer's mind from the start (but not who he is), he remains carefully hidden through out the book, his actions being explained by a slightly unbelievable trip to a psychiatrist.
Does Nesbø feel sympathy for the treatment these "traitors" or does he find it all the more despicable that Neo Nazis persist in modern Norway and idolise these historic "warriors" in a perverse way, using this as justification for their "thuggish" behaviour. I am not sure.  Yet there is still the theme of redemption offered up to readers too, albeit in small amounts.

Despite taking me a while to get " into" this book, I would seriously recommend it, and particular to those readers of the crime/historical /political fiction genres. This is the first of Harry Hole stories to be translated into English, and I hope it won't be the last as my ability to read Norsk is severely limited to non-existant.  I will be following up with Nemesis and Devils' star....also by Nesbø.