Saturday, October 30, 2010

mining the slums of the human heart

Kevin McCloud. You know him - the strangely compelling, posh host of Grand Designs. He can usually be found pontificating about an over-budget, behind-schedule eco-glass mansion or applauding the painstaking restoration of a centuries-old abbey in the scottish highlands amid snow and rain.

His latest project finds him being criticised for indulging in "poverty porn". The new doco Slumming It sees McCloud enter, and live in (or at least attempt to) Dharavi, a massive slum in Mumbai. It's clear from the moment he arrives in pristine pink shirt and chinos, perfect posture and upper class accent it's going to be a fascinating journey.

He's received a lot of flack for it and well, it's pretty obvious why. There were so many moments of cultural insensitivity and just sheer colonialist hogwash... But as I was cringeing, I realised I was really cringeing at myself. If I were there, sleeping on the floor of a slum with a rat crawling on my bag, surrounded by four other people who don't have running water or a flushing toilet, I think I'd be saying and thinking some pretty intolerant/dumb stuff too.

He's also been accused of indulging the romantic idea of the 'noble savage' because in his most reflective moments he wonders at the happiness of the slum's residents despite their disadvantage. It's kind of trendy to be cynical about McCloud's reaction - oh how patronising of him. But seriously, his observations were coming from somewhere genuine. What he saw was community. Actual COMMUNE-ity. Community completely different to the Double-Income-No-Kids living in a glass mansion on the hillside kilometres away from the next human that he's usually dealing with.

He was blown away by the way people lived in such close proximity with eachother, and seemed genuinely happy, social and even enjoying their work despite the deplorable conditions.

But should it come as such a surprise that humans thrive in community? It's a historical anomaly that we live in a society where it's normal for nuclear families to define and defend their space so clearly, and in doing so, create a society of loneliness and alienation.

Ali posted a few quotes from Clive Hamilton's book Affluenza this week on her blog. This analysis of our "work/life balance" obsession seems to fit perfectly with what McCloud was alluding to:

Working long and irregular hours does not just cause accidents and make us sick and tired: it breaks down the bonds that hold our communities together … As well as stripping away the time people would generally have to devote to community activities, overwork seems to shape people’s mindsets in such a way that they feel their community is something they must protect themselves from rather than a resource from which they can draw and to which they can contribute. When hours become precious, people tend to hoard them …

As we feel our lives being eked away at work, we are less inclined to use our "leisure time" for spending time together. But the whole system does such damage. If depression is on the rise in our country, surely it's linked to this phenomenon of the loneliness of our indivdiualistic society. But we somehow convince ourselves what we need is more "me time".

Watching the people in Dharavi socialise as they go about their daily business (making pots, gathering water etc), there is no sense of "me time" vs "community time". It's all just life. And I think Kevin is not wrong to see this and want to pause and ponder its significance for a while.

I think it's really interesting that the reaction to the doco has been to judge McCloud. Sometimes it's easier to heap scorn on those who reveal the ugliness of our hearts with an "unacceptable" level of honesty, than to confront it.

Part Two of Slumming It shows on Tuesday at 8:30pm on ABC1.

3 of the best

3 of the best... photography blogs.

Abby Try Again

These photos just says America to me. There is colour, and lots of it. And her Five Senses Friday posts are cool.

Bloom, Grow, Love

Basically every photo Alicia posts blows my mind. There's something magical about them.

Sandra Juto

Sandra is a fabulous character who lives in Sweden, who crochets and draws characters, and is married to one too.
Her blog is a real insight into her life, and captures a sense of place and belonging.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

3 of the Best

3 of the best food blogs....

What Katie Ate -
*Sydney based. There's something novel about a blog based in your home town, that makes it look like a special place even though you know it's not like that in real life.
*Stunning photos
*The recipes are done up like magazine spreads

*Reviews of Sydney restaurants and cafes by fellow a radio/music person Lee Tran Lam
*Great way to find out about new favourites, and old classics
*This place, the Eathouse Diner in Redfern, looks awesome. I want to go there.

Canelle et Vanille
*Entirely gluten free (if that's your thing)
*Really evocative photos and descriptions - it's like you can smell and taste the ingredients through your screen.
*Again, incredible photography.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Deadly Doing

I was just reading some Tozer this morning. Tozer was a 20th century preacher/author/pastor who was self-taught and a bit of a dude. I also read this post on Wendy Alsup's blog about Laying Down Your Deadly Doing. And it just seemed like a good bit of wonder that I chanced upon them both at the same time.

Firstly, Wendy's message against moralistic narcissim, a call to crucify "your deadly self analyzing and introspection that leads to condemnation and discouragement and your deadly self-discipline that leads to pride and Jesus-less self confidence".

And this reminder from Tozer that God is not a brownie points kind of guy. He is abounding in love, delighting in mercy.

"How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust.... We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still."

Friday, October 22, 2010

of late

cliff walk

mum's sweet peas

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Wait

The ocean waits
for the man to fold
his arms behind
his back.

It waits for the end of things;
the unspooling
of fishing line.
A hook, a sinker. Maybe a fish.

It laughs at white bodies running
like matchsticks along the sand.

It forms waves like words
on the tongue, heard
in the heart then spoken
onto the shore.

It takes on the gleam
of another: the sun,
that showy ball
of who knows what.

And it waits for shutters
to open, to catch
the whole of it,
never catching
more than a glimpse
of the waiting ocean.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

poetry to walk to

This is one of those cool in theory... maybe not so cool in practice things. But seeing as theories interest me, I'll tell you about the Melbourne Poetry Map.

You download a set of poems, and a map, and then go for a walk with poems to accompany you on a journey around the city!

The website's cute. I like the watercolour pictures of the poets.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I wrote this little poem while lying in Jane's hammock in Broken Hill about two weeks ago. We'd just been riding camels near Silverton.

It must be remembered
that camels pull
from scarlet earth
with nicotine-coloured teeth
the size
of your pinkie

and chew
with doey eyes
that roam the pock-marked
face of the desert
in contemplation
of the next green

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Angastan op shop

Staying in a lovely little cottage in Angastan (in the Barossa) this week means we're getting to know the town's locals.

We've had fun chats with the florist, barista, cheese maker, and best of all, op shop volunteer.

Check out her smart moves on the old cashier.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Holiday truth # 1

It is not down in any map; true places never are. - Herman Melville

Saturday, October 2, 2010

of borders and horizons

There is something about knowing you are bound by sea that unconsciously draws you to the edge, to the precipice.

On Kangaroo Island I found myself constantly mediating expectations of perception as we would drive uphill on a crest, and my whole body would anticipate a glimpse of the ocean, only to find before me an infinity of bushland or pasture.

The Island is expansive, taking over an hour to cross from one side to the other and holds a series of mini ecosystems, changing every few kilometres from scrubland to forest, lagoon to marsh, canola field to sheep station, rugged cliffs to still bay or white beach.

I discovered when you're on an island, finding the boundaries and reaching the limits becomes exhilarating.

We stood awestruck at the edge of Cape De Coedic, in the Flinders Chase National Park watching waves of distant antarctic waters scrunch like paper below us, imagining the life of a lighthouse keeper and his family.

And we held our breath while enormous granite boulders sculpted by the earth's molten core dwarfed out bodies on the edge of the vast blue immensity.

Meanwhile, I wondered at the birds constantly transgressing human boundaries in flight, choosing in their freedom to travel over water, to dive, to glide or to rest in a tree. Similarly, I envied the seals who lay on the beach having spent days in the ocean depths feeding, crossing the breach on instinct for survival.

Still, after three nights on the Island, as we drove towards the ferry for our departure, my eyes kept scanning for the horizon. It was only when we made it to the mainland that this strange impulse to map out my surroundings left.