Friday, December 25, 2015

Trees, Michael Noonan, Gary MacLennan, and John Hookham

1. Celebrated Christmas! It's the first time I've had the experience of opening presents around a tree.

I can't honestly say it was more exciting than other gift-opening events and traditions.

I did love my gifts, though! I got an Australian flag keyboard cover, which I'm using now, Doctor Who stuff from Jack (T-shirt and Tardis mug/container), A Coronation Street DVD game, and a box of M and M's.

2. Hoped that people reading this had a good Christmas, Chanukah, winter solstice, or whatever.

If you don't celebrate anything, I hope you had a decent day, anyway.

3. Saw that more fires are wreaking havoc in Victoria.

There's a tourist town called Lorne that's in danger.

I think I've heard of Lorne, but I don't know why.

4. Saw, from Google Maps, that Lorne is around the Great Ocean Road area.

5. Learned from Lord Wiki that Lorne is IN the Great Ocean Road area—not just around it.

I thought that might be the case, but I wasn't sure.

6. Started watching an episode of Scooter: Secret Agent.

7. Thought it was a bit strange that this episode featured doll-collecting hoodlums that also happened to have the Confederate Flag proudly hanging on their wall.

I think it's sweet to have tough-looking guys be doll fans. Take dangerous-seeming people and give them a soft side. That's sweet.

The Confederate Flag, though?  I think in most cases the Confederate Flag is a symbol of white against black racism.  It's just kind of weird to have that on a children's show.

8. Did understand that some fans of the Confederate Flag are not horribly racist. Maybe they're fans of the Civil War or the US South. And they kind of ignore all the slavery stuff.

With the guys on the show, they also mentioned American dolls. They might have just been America-fans and didn't give much attention to what the Confederate Flag symbolized.

9. Learned from Lord Wiki that Australia has a motorcycle club that has the Confederate Flag as their symbol.

10. Worried I'm being horribly ignorant and ethnocentric.

Maybe the Confederate Flag didn't originate in the US?

11. Consulted Lord Wiki.

He reassured me. I wasn't being stupid. the Confederate Flag did originate in the US South.

12. Found an article about the other countries utilizing the Confederate Flag. The Australian motorcycle gang is mentioned. Maybe the characters on the TV show are supposed to be from that gang.

13. Looked at the cast of The Tree, because I'll be watching that next.

None of the names look easily familiar to me.

14. Started to wonder if the movie was really that Australian, because the director's from France, and out of the two actors I looked at, one was from the UK and the other was from New Zealand.

HOWEVER, it turns out that Judy Pascoe, the author of the book that the movie is based on, is an Aussie.  

15. Saw that Julie Bertuccelli, the director of The Tree, was an assistant director for the French color trilogy—the movies I heard Simon Weaving talk about a few days ago.

16. Saw from IMDb that The Tree takes place in Australia.  It was filmed in various places around Queensland.

17. Saw from Twitter that the bushfires have destroyed fifty homes around the Great Ocean Road.

That's a lot of loss and destruction.

It's horrible for it to happen on any day, but it seems extra horrific having it around Christmas time.

18. Wondered. Besides this fire and the Tracy cyclone, has Australia had other disasters around Christmas?

Well, I guess the hostage situation last year would count.  Though it didn't happen on Christmas or Boxing Day, it did happen during the holiday shopping time.

19. Looked at this website which reminded me of the Sydney to Hobart Race. I think one year there was a disaster involving that.

20. Told by Lord Wiki, that the disastrous race occurred in 1998. Six human lives were lost, and five yachts.

21. Reminded by the website that the Asian Tsunami happened during Christmas time—2004.

Also, in 2003, there was an Earthquake in Iran. It killed 30,000 people.

I don't think I ever heard of that, but I definitely heard of the Tsunami. Why?

Maybe I was just paying more attention to the news back then?  I also think I spent more time on social media in 2004.  I joined LiveJournal that year. I think that helped keep me up to date with world news.

22. Hoped that the people on the Great Ocean Road, who have lost their homes, will get the help they need to rebuild their lives.

23. Started watching The Tree.

24. Knew that the man in the movie is going to die.

I dread seeing that, and I dread seeing his family getting the news.

It's so depressing.

25. Saw that Gillian Jones is in the movie. I didn't see her name in the credits—mainly because I didn't remember her name. But I thought I saw her briefly in a scene; so I looked back at the credits and found a name that looked vaguely familiar to me.

26. Thought that Vonnie (Jones) had an odd way of comforting Dawn (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the grieving widow.

Vonnie suggests to Dawn that she remember some of the negative traits of her recently deceased husband.

Now I'm definitely not a fan of elevating the dead to sainthood—forgetting all their negative traits. If a grieving person says something negative about their lost one, I don't think they should be scolded.

But to encourage them to think negatively?

Well, in the movie it seemed to work. Vonnie's comments made Dawn laugh. And perhaps the writers of the novel and film borrowed from something they encountered in real life.  Maybe it does help in some way.

27. Thought the Flying Fox in the movie was very cute.

I'd be like Dawn, though, if it came into my house. Terrified.

I'd worry about them carrying a disease like the Hendra virus. Though I don't know how rare that is in bats.

28. Found article that says it's believed that flying foxes spread the Hendra virus to horses via their urine.

The article also says black flying foxes are more likely to be Hendra-dangerous.

29. Saw from Google that the Flying Foxes that hang out around Sydney Royal Botanical Garden are grey-headed flying foxes.

30. Stopped watching The Tree for today.

I think it's okay. I don't love it. I don't hate it.

I don't feel as touched as much as I think I should—despite the death, the melancholy music, and the cute little girl (Morgana Davies) who misses her dad.

The movie reminds me of the other Australian dead-parent movie—The Boys are Back.  I like that one a little bit more, though.

31. Remembered another Australian dead-parent movie—The Babadook.  I liked that one more after I read a thought-provoking review.

Maybe I need to read a thought-provoking review of The Tree.

32. Felt one of the problems of The Tree is most of the characters are very low-key. I think there're some elements of underacting.

I also think there's a blahness to the film.

On a more positive note. The film has beautiful imagery.

33. Started to watch "Counter" a 2007 Tropfest finalist film.

34. Thought that one of the actresses in the film looks like a cross between Claudia Karvan and Asher Keddie.

35. Loved the film until it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.

36. Looked at "Counter" on IMDb.

37. Saw that the film production's name is Precognitive Films.

I've been reading a book about precognitive stuff—The Link by Richard Matheson.

So far I'm liking it's a lot. It's written sort of like a screenplay.

38. Looked at the book on Amazon. It's supposed to be an outline.

As someone who once wanted to be a screenwriter, it's kind of sad that I can't recognize a screen outline.

Anyway, the book is about parapsychology and spiritualism—the conflict between the two. I find it fascinating. I downloaded it soon after finishing Matheson's Hell House, which deals with the same themes.

39. Went to the website of Precognition Films.

It looks like they usually make short films.

They also made a documentary called Unlikely Travelers that aired on the ABC.

40. Wondered if, despite using the word "we", the company is really made up of mostly just the director (Michel Noonan) alone.

I've seen independent writers have publishing companies even though it's really just them and their own books.

41. Started to watch Michael Noonan's showreel that's on the Precognition site.

42. Got the idea that Noonan is into horror.

I like what I see.

There's some cool creepy imagery, and I think the showreel is well-edited.

43. Saw that Noonan has edited eight films, so I'm guessing he also edited the showreel.

44. Saw that Noonan's last two films were made in Mexico.

45. Found a review of Noonan's Unlikely Travelers.

I'm curious about it.

46. Read about how the documentary is very controversial.


I'm not sure yet.

The subject of the film is people with intellectual disabilities...or differences. They go on a trip to Egypt.

47. Learned that two men, Gary MacLennan and John Hookham, criticized Noonan because they felt his work exploited and demeaned the people in the movie.

Then this led to MacLennan and Hookham getting in trouble with the place they worked—the Queensland Institute of Technology.

All this brought on debate and discussion about free speech.

Wow. Major drama here.

48. Finished reading the review of the documentary.

It was very positive.

I can't make a firm judgement since I've never seen the documentary. But I have a feeling I'd side with the reviewer and other people who support the film.

When people talk about demeaning the disabled, I think what they're usually referring to is someone daring to look at disabilities/differences in an open, honest, and maybe sometimes light-hearted way.  It's the idea that we should only talk about and show disabilities with a viewpoint geared towards melodrama, pity, and/or heroism.

49. Found an article about the Noonon-MacLennan-Hookman war.

I'm trying to understand what happened.

The three men were students at the Queensland Institute of Technology.

Noonan wrote a thesis entitled, "Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains".

MacLennan and Hookman were very offended and criticized Noonan.

Though I'm guessing I'd be on Noonan's side in terms of the subject matter, I can't really understand why he sued people for criticizing him.

50. Learned that although Noonan got his critics suspended, they later went to Federal court where they got things fixed for themselves.

51. Finished reading the article. I think the writer is on the same page as me—supportive of Noonan, but feeling that MacLennan and Hookman shouldn't have been suspended.

He says, Firstly, settling these kinds of controversies through disciplinary action or the courts sets a terrible precedent. It’s obviously positive that the suspension of MacLennan and Hookham was overturned — otherwise any academic taking a public stance would fear for his or her job.

52. Started to read another article about the situation.

Noonan is quoted as saying, I don't mind criticism of my academic work but it should be channelled through the appropriate academic forums and it should be in keeping with academic conduct. 

I wonder what that means. What did MacLennan and Hookman do that was inappropriate? And it's not just Noonan who felt it was wrong. The school suspended the two guys.

53. Wondered about this quote from the article. Some in academia feel that MacLennan and Hookham violated accepted academic practice by naming Noonan in their newspaper article criticising his project and those overseeing it.

So, I guess in the academic world, it's not kosher to criticize another academic's work publicly?

54. Got some more insight.

If I'm understanding things right, MacLennan and Hookman were not fellow students. I guess they were professors?

Someone in the article is quoted as saying: When I read the original article I was surprised they would publicly attack the work of a student. "You have a duty of care to students. They are vulnerable, they are not trained academics. "You can attack ideas but I was surprised they would name or identify a student."

NOW it's making more sense to me.

Yeah. It seems inappropriate for professors or other academic-professionals to publicly criticize a student.  I think it would be much different if it were students publicly criticizing each other or academics criticizing each other.

55. Wondered about MacLennan and Hookman. The article refers to them as academics. Is that different from being a professor?

56. Found a website that has a short autobiography of Gary MacLennan.  I'm pretty sure it's the same Gary MacLennan, because it matches some stuff I saw in the various article—specifically that's he's very much left-wing.  And it mentions Queensland University of Technology. There's nothing mentioned about the big controversy. I guess MacLennan wants to keep that in the past.

57. Saw that John Hookham is now a lecturer of film and television at Swinburne University.

Is that in Melbourne?

58. Figured that an academic is probably someone who's received many advanced degrees—like a doctorate; and they're qualified to be a professor. Or lecturer. Maybe in Australia the terms lecturer and academic are used more than professor? Or maybe the words are interchangeable?

59. Searched the Swinburne website to see if they're in Melbourne.

They are.

It took me awhile to find it.

I'm getting kind of annoyed with websites that don't make it super easy to see where they're located.

60. Found the original anti-Noonan editorial written by Hookman and MacLennan.

Maybe it will sway me to their side.

61. Started to read and felt VERY much not on Hookman's and MacLennan's side.

To be honest, in the beginning, from what their editorial describes, I thought maybe Noonan was being somewhat offensive. But then I read this line. When William, a sufferer of Asperger's syndrome, twitched and was unable to answer, the university audience broke into laughter.

Sufferer? Really? That is so fucking neurotypical-centric.

62. Didn't like this line either. We think we, and the university, have a duty of care to those who are less fortunate than us.

Personally,  I think the condescending attitude is worse than using disabilities for humor.

That being said, I'm guessing I probably wouldn't like Noonan's documentary.  I don't know if I'd find it offensive. I think the reality-TV stuff would annoy me. It usually does.

I watched some episodes of the show An Idiot Abroad which was a reality TV show where the main character (NOT disabled) is constantly mocked and ridiculed. That annoyed me.

I think I can better tolerate disabled/differences comedy in fiction.  I'd be annoyed by a reality TV program where characters are frequently put into demeaning situations for a matter what sort of body or mind they have.  Also, when I see stuff like that, I start to question the editing. Are we getting a true image of a person; or an overly edited version?

63. Thought about how I also don't like the scenes in stuff like The Colbert Report or The Daily Show where they interview an unsuspecting person and make them look like a buffoon.

64. Concluded that I'm not against using disabilities in humor. The main reason is that all human beings are funny. To say that people with disabilities aren't funny is akin to saying they're less than human.

I am not, however, a fan of comedy that mocks real people.

Well, I'm sure there are instances where I might find it funny.

But USUALLY I'm not a fan.

65. Thought maybe "mocking" is the wrong word.

What I'm thinking of is when people are purposely put in situations where they're going to embarrass themselves.

From what I read in Hookman and MacLellan's editorial, it seems this is what Noonan did.

I could be wrong, though.

Really. I'd have to see the show for myself to decide if I find it funny or offensive.

66. Watched a clip from Unlikely Travelers.

It seemed sweet—not offensive.

But it's only one short scene.

67. Regretted that I did not look at the actors from "The Counter", but it is late and I want to get to sleep.

68. Decide the best way to think about humans is this.

We're all crazy. We all have our mental issues.

And each one of us could become severely disabled or disfigured tomorrow. Or even tonight.

It's not us and them.


And we're all hilarious sometimes.