COVID-19 DIARY – I GOT A FEVER AND THE ONLY PRESCRIPTION IS A FEVER CLINIC!

20200525_133306
At the entrance to the Fever Clinic at the Education Centre of the Prince Charles Hospital. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

25 May

From the 25th to the 29th of May I worked from home as a precaution.

I also went into a Fever Clinic at the Prince Charles Hospital to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to work.

Because I was confident I just had the cold attending the clinic took on the form of a matter of curiosity.

The reality for many is it is a very anxious time where isolating before the test results means less paid work at best and at worst real concern that they have the virus and they have passed it on to others. I felt very fortunate that I was getting tested out of an abundance of caution for flu like symptoms.

But of course many people have felt this way and received some bad news.

It took 90 minutes all up. I was taken into one room and filled out a form and had my temperature taken.

I noticed a wardie came in and wiped everything down once somebody had left a seat to wait in. There were masks on each seat to put on.

I was then taken to another room to wait.

 

 

 

Then a swab went down my throat on the left and right hand side then down a nostril.

I coughed at the last bit and apologised. The nurse assured me that’s why she had on the full face mask and gown.

Out of curiosity beforehand I asked her the length of the swab and I think she took it easy it with me thinking I was worried about the swab. I was really just interested for you gentle reader.

All throughout Queensland school students of all ages returned to school.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 25th of May there were 7,109 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of three. There were 102 deaths.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – I CAN’T BREATHE

George Floyd honoured at first memorial service in Minneapolis ...

 

25 May

On the 25th of May a 46 year old in Minneapolis paid for goods at a local convenience store with a counterfeit 20 dollar bill.

Parked in a car, the local store staff came and confronted him about it.

They then left and called the police.

A squad car arrived and the two police pulled the man from his car and handcuffed him.

The man was tall and big, strong and heavy but he was compliant for the most part if anxious and unsteady on his feet.

When taken to be placed in the squad car the man fell to the ground and cited claustrophobia.

Another squad car arrived.

Two further police officers came to aid in the arrest.

One of them knelt on the handcuffed man’s neck as a group of people observed and started to protest what was happening.

The man called out for his mother and said he could not breathe. He passed out.

The people nearby urged the police officer on his neck to take his knee off the man’s neck.

When they moved towards him he pulled out his mace to scare them back.

This was the only real action and vocal engagement the officer with his knee on the man’s neck did with the group.

He sat with his knee on the neck for the most part with his hands in his pockets.

Aware he was being filmed he appeared calm, like he had done this before, like this was no big deal.

Paramedics arrived and as the EMT went to work checking the man’s pulse his knee remained on the neck for another two minutes.

When the man was finally loaded on a stretcher he lifted his knee.

That knee had been on that neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. 

The man George Floyd died.

He was a father. He was a husband. He was a truck driver and bouncer by trade.

He was also a convicted criminal who had in 2007 invaded a home and held a gun to a pregnant’ woman’s belly to steal.

He served five years in prison and became reformed upon release.

This murder in Minneapolis involving a small group of people kicked off by a counterfeit $20 dollar bill would have far ranging impacts in the days ahead around the world.

Particularly in the United States of America at a time when the nation was suffering greatly already.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – I THINK I’LL GET A SPOT OF GOLF IN BEFORE WE REACH 100,000 DEAD

May 24

In the United States of America Trump went and played golf on Saturday the 23rd, on the weekend that America neared 100,000 deaths.

Trump was quick to point out he hadn’t played golf since thousands of Americans had started dying.

Of course it rang a little hollow because he had criticized former President Barack Obama for playing golf in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak of that year in the States.

It also rang hollow because the number of dead of Americans was such a catastrophic number.

It also rang hollow because Trump had played a lot more golf than President Obama had this far into his first term.

It probably also rang hollow because Trump is a liar, a hypocrite, a narcist, adulterer, swindler, spoilt brat, self-involved fat fuck who has presided over the greatest loss of American lives during a crisis since the second world war.

Did he apologise, own up to his hypocrisy, talk about how he weeped for those Americans lost? Not on your fucking life or more specifically their lives.

No apparently it was all about turning the corner, the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kick-off the American summer and re-starting the economy.

Why did the liberal media have to be so negative over such a significant milestone?

Couldn’t they see what a great job he had done and all those democrats calling him racist for the travel ban from Wuhan in February? Thank God he hadn’t listened.

Thank God, we could have had 300,000 dead at this point if not for such a fearless and whipsmart leader.

You know lots of people were telling him to just ride it out, I mean not any of his health experts or chief advisors but still he was thinking it – worried about the potential economic impact and how it would affect him.

Hell we’re only talking 94,011 / 334,534 of all the deaths reported in the entire world had occurred in America.

On the 24th of May the New York Times ran a front page full of death notices from across the country of close to 1,000 people.

Most could not remember a front page from The Times that did not feature a photo.

Assistant graphics editor Simon Landon stated the intent was to personalise “the tradegy as readers and staff developed data fatigue from the constant reporting of the pandemic.

Still Trump was arguing it could’ve been a lot worse….

I mean he could have ignored Dr Fauci from day one.

Wasn’t it time to get back on with getting the economy back to normal?

After all cases and deaths were down in the coastal elite states, so what if the numbers were trending upwards in the majority of states?

You could say that Trump was showing Americans how to get back to living their lives.

That it was for morale purposes.

You could say he’s worked hard during a crisis and at some point everybody deserves a break.

While I’m sitting here bemoaning stats, how much have I sat on a couch and watched Netflix? What have I done besides buying a jumper off a celebrity for the American people? You could say what have I done that allows me to be a critic of a world leader?

You could say that and you’d be making a good point.

There’s 100,000 Americans who can’t and that’s my point.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS

As corona casualties mount, Putin keeps a low profile – POLITICO

 

21 May

Thursday.

Australia reached 100 deaths due to COVID-19.

During this week the numbers only got worse for America and the United Kingdom.  which moved ahead of Spain and Italy. Russia and Peru also became hotspots and the number in India continued to skyrocket.

On the 21st of May the World Health Organisation reported globally 4,904,313 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 103,210. The number of dead 323,413 with a daily increase of 4,478.

In Australia there were 7,079 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11. There were 100 dead with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there were 79,502 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,003. The number of dead 5,955 with a daily increase of 98.

Peru to build hospital in the Amazon amid rise in Indigenous ...

In Peru there were 99,483 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,550. The number of dead were 2,914 with a daily increase of 125. Peru was now of the hardest hit countries in the world listed individually on the WHO’s website overview of numbers.

In Peru many have been dying from a lack of oxygen equipment in regional hospitals. Loreto which borders Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador and is the largest and least populated region in the country has been the worst hit by the virus.

In India there were 112,359 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,609. The number of dead 3435 with a daily increase of 132. Their national lockdown which began on the 24th of March, had been extended on the 4th of May and was extended on the 17th of May for a further two weeks until the 31st of May.

In Iran there were 129,341 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,392. The number of dead were 7,249 with a daily increase of 66. Iran had been one of the earliest countries to be hit outside of Asia with significant numbers.

In France there were 141,312 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 353. The number of dead were 28,081 with a daily increase of 109.

In Turkey there were 152,587 with a daily increase of 972. The number of dead were 4,222 with a daily increase of 23.

In Germany there were 176,752 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 745. The number of dead were 8,147 with a daily increase of 57.

In Italy there were 227,364 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 665. The number of dead 32,330 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 161.

In Spain there were 232,555 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 518. The number of dead were 27,888 with a daily increase of 110.

What had happened in Italy and Spain was horrible but there was a slither of hope to be found in the daily increases going down.

In the United Kingdom where I have family the numbers were all too scary as the United Kingdom came to be listed as the country with the fourth most number of cases in the world. There were 248,297 confirmed cases with a daily decrease of 525. The number of dead 35,704 with a daily increase of 363.

In Brazil there were 271,628 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,408! The number of dead were 17,971 with a daily increase of 1,179.

Photos: Sobering images show Brazil's mounting coronavirus death toll

In Russia there were 317,554 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,849. The number of dead were 3,099 with a daily increase of 127.

In the United States of America there were 1,501,876 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 24,417. The number of dead were 90,203 with a daily increase of 932.

 

22 May

Friday there was a push for state borders to be re-opened by the likes of New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the federal government.

New South Wales and Victoria had more cases. As the states that had shown leadership to urge more restrictions like school closures they were now angling for the borders to become open.

With less cases in their own states the leaders of WA, NT, ACT, SA, TAS and QLD understandably took a different view.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk facing an election in October has a tight rope to walk.

Why Annastacia Palaszczuk could win political points in the ...

She can’t carry out actions that may lead to a second wave but as numbers remain low part of the population will urge caution and the other half will push for the borders to open up.

Plenty of border resident/workers would certainly like to see an end to the inconvenience.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall explained that with less COVID cases the faster local businesses can open more freely aiding in the economic recovery.

I promise you we can create thousands more jobs in South Australia by keeping our borders closed at the moment.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan whose popularity is riding high following COVID-19 wondered aloud “It’s odd, New South Wales is saying don’t catch public transport in Sydney … yet they’re saying ‘why can’t New South Wales people fly to Western Australia.

When push came to shove McGowan didn’t mince his words, “New South Wales had the Ruby Princess — I mean, seriously? And they are trying to give us advice on our borders, seriously?

 

 

I personally feel there is too much of a rush to lower restrictions as quickly as possible and we always seem to be moving ahead of projected schedules.

I am in no rush for the borders to open before July or even later but it seems that may end up happening.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WALK ON SIR THOMAS MOORE

Tom Moore stands with a walking stick on a sunny day in his garden, with his walker nearby.

 

19 May

Monday I started feeling some mild flu like symptoms and it only got worse on Tuesday so as a precaution we decided I would work from home the whole week. Originally it was expected I would be coming in Thursday and Fridays.

The national broadcaster’s program Foreign Correspondent ran a great piece  about how COVID-19 was affecting the lowest paid workers in India.

At the best of times, living conditions in slums will cause people who live in better conditions to feel sadness, shame or horror.

In the slums of Mumbai a bathroom will be shared by 80 people in a daily basis, under such circumstances it is easy for a virus to spread.

People had moved from the regions to work in those slums for corporations that once the country shut down no longer paid them. Many just started walking home with public transport shut down. They will walk for days with the possessions they have.

With COVID-19 in full flight the disproportion of wealth in any society is being made more apparent.

I don’t have any answers but this episode reminded me yet again how lucky I am and wonder about what I could do to help others.

 

 

 

Tom Moore

20 May

Some people leave their run late.

Nobody would have felt Tom Moore had much else left to do on the eve of turning 100. A veteran of World War II he had served in Burma and come back home and raised his family and lived a good life.

Yet when the grandfather who had been born in the time of the Spanish flu pandemic started to live through COVID-19 he set himself a task.

He would walk 100 laps of the 25 metre loop in his garden with the aid of his walking frame before his upcoming 100th birthday on the 30th of April in the hopes of raising $1,000 pounds for the UK National Health Service (NHS).

As he completed his laps and promised “Tomorrow will be a good day,” his determination captured the heart of his nation and the world.

With Michael Ball and NHS Voices of Care Choir he recorded a version of You’ll Never Walk Alone which topped the UK Charts.

On April 16 when he completed his 100th lap the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment were on hand to provide him with a guard of honour.

 

 

On the day of his 100th Birthday the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew over his home in Bedfordshire.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p08bzts4/52735192

At the end of his efforts he had broken a Guinness World Record for most money raised by an individual through a walk. His fundraising total $33 million pounds! (61.8 million Australian dollars) for the NHS whose workers he refers to as “national heroes.

He was made an Honorary member of the English Cricket Team which is not nearly as good as being an Honorary member of the Australian Cricket Team but probably means a lot to him as an Englishman.

The retired Captain was made an Honorary Colonel.

Then Boris Johnson decided fuck it, let’s give him a knighthood and the Queen thought yeah well we bloody well should. Overwhelmed by the honour he tweeted thanks to the Prime Minister, Her Majesty The Queen and the Great British public.

I will remain at your service.

It’s unknown how the ceremony will go ahead or when.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Moore said, adding, “I hope she’s not very heavy-handed with the sword, because by then I might be rather a poor old weak soul.”

Captain Tom wears glasses, blazer and war medals with a thumbs up in front of cakes decorated with planes and tanks.

Every time I read about this man I just cry.

I cry because it’s not really what he did that matters, it’s what he inspired in others that does.

He stood for certain values we are afraid we are losing.

Last month he said “Let’s all carry on and remember that things will get better. We have had problems before — we have overcome them — and we shall all overcome the same thing again.

He demonstrated in his resolve and spirit what we can all do and others have picked up his example.

One and half million followers and donors and countless more making a decision every day to be a little bit more like Captain Tom.

Arise Sir Moore and God bless you.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ONE YEAR ON

Australia's Election Did Not Involve a 'Populist Wave' | National ...

 

18 May

A truck driver had made deliveries to twelve McDonalds while asymptomatic.

Out of caution McDonalds closed the twelve stores and had staff present on each occasion isolate at home for two weeks and get tested.

This was part of the cluster that originated with a store in Fawkner, Melbourne and affected 1,000 staff. At the time only twelve cases of COVID-19 related to this incident.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned “We’re going to see more of these outbreaks.”

The Cedar Meats Abattoir linked to 100 COVID-19 cases earlier in Victoria was now partially re-opening.

For me it did highlight as we began to get to low number of active cases in Australia that the virus was still going to be with us, that we were going to have break-outs and that the rush to get back to levels of activity pre COVID carried a far greater risk. In my mind the spread of these break-outs we were seeing could be minimised by lower levels of social interaction.

 

A McDonald's restaurant with a closed sign on the door and red and white tape around a "now hiring" sign.

 

May 18 held significance for another reason that really didn’t receive a lot of focus in the media.

A year earlier I had worked for the Australian Electoral Commission on Election Night counting votes in a warehouse somewhere.

I had done temporary work for the AEC in 2016 before doing temporary work for the ECQ.

Karen had worked all that day at a polling station like she does at local and state elections.

In 2016 I had worked as a driver on election day, three years later I stated clearly an interest to do further work counting. I feel fortunate to have this extra work as I try to get ahead in life and this was even more so 18MAY2019 when I remained on contract.

I was in the warehouse just before sunset and left around about midnight.

On my way in I drove past what I knew to be the venue where my parents had their wedding reception. A lot had changed since then so my parents had never really taken us there.

After my shift I walked into the main bar area and looked around for a big staircase with a chandelier. There were not a lot of people around. I walked upstairs and found myself at a doorway of a function room.

Inside were a few people in red T-shirts looking sad. This was my first indication of the election results and then up on the screen was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announcing he had congratulated the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

I drove home and my amazing Karen served dinner even thoigh she had worked a very long day.

 

 

On the screen Morrison stood with his two cute daughters and beautiful wife on stage. They looked like the middle class families who had voted him in.

In an age of economic uncertainty and identity politics this image of a regular family man was part of the appeal.

The Labour party had put forward an ambitious platform of reform and change just like the conservative campaign of 1993.

A former marketing guru Morrison had reinvented himself from the hard man Immigration Minister he had been, pushing himself as a point of difference from Bill Shorten who knifed two Labour Prime Ministers in a row and his immediate predecessor the urbane and statesman like Malcolm Turnbull who had never won an outright electoral victory to leverage his party room into backing his more ambitious and progressive intents.

 

 

Despite this Morrison had polled badly against Shorten throughout the campaign and so on the 18th of May he quite rightly proclaimed “I have always believed in miracles.”

A year later it may seem hyperbole but Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be steering us through the most difficult times this country has faced since World War II.

 

General Douglas MacArthur | MacArthur/Curtain Alliance | General ...

 

Prime Minister John Curtin broke from Britain and faced imminent invasion in 1942. Like Roosevelt he died in office before the war ended.

There have been other wars and times when the country seemed to be tearing itself apart. There have been great reformers and leaders who saw us through a crisis or two and pushed through unpopular policies that bore out in time. Menzies, Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd. They’ve all got something to be proud if not many things.

 

Don't change gun laws, John Howard tells Liberals

 

Yet in the twelve months since 18MAY2018 Scott Morrison was heading us towards an economic surplus. When the bushfires started in September he was up at a Canungra sharing a cry with a local resident.

 

Bushfire survivors get cash boost as weary volunteers face fierce ...

 

Then he went to Hawaii, then he came back and forced handshakes at Cobargo.

 

What Scott Morrison can take from Jacinda Ardern | Stanthorpe ...

 

Then he called out the military and attempted to re-write history in press interviews about what happened when the Australian people knew better.

When his father passed after a lifetime of service to the community as a policeman and politician you could see Morrison was hurting but it was hard to drum up sympathy given the anger those lies stirred within.

 

Scott Morrison's father John dies at 84 | St George & Sutherland ...

 

Yet the bulldog  in him sucked it up and got on with the job. This personality trait may prove his undoing but it has also seen him through some tough times.

Since March, Prime Minister Morrison has sacrificed his economic good fortune to ensure all Australians have a roof over their head and money for food and medicine. He’s given lifelines to numerous businesses and while we were arguably a week or two behind putting in place restrictions in comparison to other countries Australia so far has come through.

That can’t be attributed to all one man nor would he want it to be but we have to give credit where credit is due.

A year ago Scott Morrison would never have been able to imagine what he would have to deal with in the next 12 months as Prime Minister.

So far he has proven himself capable and I for one am hoping he will continue to do so.

A trade war is looming with China, international tourism and investments are seriously impacted by COVID-19 and with a slowed down economy not everybody is going to go back to their pre-COVID earning capacity.

There is going to be real suffering in our country and around the world but so far Morrison has managed to keep cases numbers and the spreading of the disease low, provide a safety net for most of the populace and plan ahead as best he can.

I hope for all of our sakes, his second year in office proves less stressful.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – NATURAL BRIDGE REVIEW AVAILABLE AT WEEKEND NOTES

20200517_161248
Karen and I at the Natural Bridge. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

17 May

On the 16th of May certain National Parks in Queensland opened up again.

On Sunday Karen and I headed out on the Pacific Motorway for a drive and a walk that I had been intending to make several times over the years to no avail.

I had hoped I could talk friends or family members into it but they were all so hike adverse that a 1km circuit gave them pause.

I had fixed the puncture in my tyre, now was the time to hit the road.

We took the Nerang exit and drove on for kilometre after kilometre. As we neared out destination there were road signs warning that the NSW border ahead was closed.

I asked Karen to check, I was sure our destination was in Queensland – it was barely.

We were driving to the Natural Bridge circuit which took you to a natural arch and cave in Springfield National Park.

People will be familiar with previous hikes in national parks that I have blogged about but the appeal of this walk is how short it is and how impressive the arch is in itself.

I was lucky enough to have an article I wrote about our trip be published 05JUN2020 on Weekend Notes which you can read here https://www.weekendnotes.com/natural-bridge-rainforest-circuit/

Weekend Notes 19

This is the first piece of writing I have had published since 16MAR2020 my review of Dave Hughes show at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. One more sign perhaps that things are gradually improving in our corner of the world.

It was also interesting for since it’s been a while since I have been published with Weekend Notes and it is the first time I have supplied photos and written about a walk rather than a show for them.

There a few people around enjoying the walk even though there had been some light showers. The nearby Natural Arch café was shut.

On the way home, Karen and I bought some Thai on the southside of town.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

As April had become May we had seen some people social, I had been back in the office and now we were able to travel and go out a little bit.

Would this be a fleeting reprieve leading to further lockdowns or part an ongoing management of living with the disease?

Only time would tell.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – STEP ONE IN RE-OPENING

COVID-19: U.K. calls on the engineering industry to produce ...

11 May

Monday I was away sick from work on the 11th of May.

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the a move from Stay Home to Stay Alert.

BJ flagged schools wouldn’t re-open until June and that hospitality no earlier than July.

The country had been in lockdown since 23MAR2020 with leaving your home limited to essential goods, medical needs or exercise around your neighbourhood.

Now BJ urged you can travel across the country and go out in the parks as long as you maintained social distancing.

People working in construction and manufacturing should return to work because those jobs could not be done by home.

Schools and non-essential shops would remain closed.

Hospitality would not be expected to start up again at least until July.

The infection rate had to stay below 1.

Prime Minister Johnson cautioned “We have been through the initial peak — but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a news conference on coronavirus.

The leaders of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland urged their people to stay home still.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Irish and Welsh counterparts said they would not be droping “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.”

First Minister Sturgeon advised people could exercise more once a day.

“For Scotland right now, given the fragility of the progress we have made, given the critical point we are at, it would be catastrophic for me to drop the stay at home message.” she said.

Furthermore she added she would not change Scottish advise “In favour of a message that is vague and imprecise.

At different times during its history education has expanded in Scotland at a rapid rate.

On the 11th of May in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the World Health Organisation reported there were 219,187 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,923 on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to lower restrictions.

The number of dead stood at 31,855 with a daily increase of 268.

How Clean Air Cities Could Outlast COVID-19 Lockdowns

 

12 May

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked from home.

On the 12th of May Trump was having a press briefing in the White House Rose Garden.

After an exchange with Weijang Zhang he cut the conference short and stormed off like a little bitch.

Below is a compilation of the disgusting behaviour he has repeatedly shown in press briefings during the crisis.

 

On the 12th of May the WHO reported in the United States of America there were 1,298,287 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 26,642. The number of dead Americans was 78,652 with a daily increase of 1,736.

I wonder how many of those dead Americans would think it was fair to ask such negative questions when the situation in America was so clearly a positive one.

I wonder as their families stood at tombstones for loved ones they could not go and visit in the hospital or attend the funerals of had they thought “Yeah, those reporters should watch their tone!”.

What I wonder honestly sometimes is how a country that was born out of throwing off the rule of the most powerful Empire the world has ever seen is so divided now that it will argue on whether this individual is fit for office.

It kind of breaks my heart.

 

 

In Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg got tested for COVID-19. He had been tested following a coughing fit the day before in which he presented an economic update to Parliament. 11MAY2020 was originally intended to be the day he presented the National Budget but due to COVID-19 this has now been rescheduled to October.

The number of unemployed was cited as 10% or 1.4million Australians. This was the highest unemployment rate since the early 1990s recession in Australia and in which unemployment had risen at a far slower rate then during the pandemic.

The 10% won’t include underemployment or those who are technically employed but not working while under JobSeeker.

This was a big moment for the Treasurer to advice how dire the situation was but also all the measures he was putting in place and all the difference their unprecedent spending has done to help Australians.

Instead it was all about his coughing fit.

 

14 May

On Thursday I was back in the office.

A MacDonalds at Fawkner in Melbourne Victoria had 90 staff tested and isolated pending results after a break-out of eight COVID-19 cases from the fast food outlet including four staff members and four family members of a worker.

 

Coronavirus Australia: McDonald's worker in Melbourne tests ...

 

15 May

I was in the office on Friday and I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last time I would be in the office for the month of May.

The National Rugby League announced they would have their season restart on the 28th of May.

Players took 20% pay cuts, there were compulsory flu jabs for all and all kinds of measures to put in place including a return to playing to empty stadiums.

New Zealand Warrior players accepted spending 18 days in quarantine and a relocation from Auckland to Gosford, NSW.

The Melbourne Storm will be based out of Albury-Wodonga. A town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria with a major Army presence.

Rucks were out and we were back to one referee but sports fans this was unexpected and something to celebrate.

From midnight Friday certain restrictions were lifting in Queensland specifically.

Ten people could now go to a cafe, pub or restaurant and dine in. They would have to sign in with their details in the event of a need for contract tracing. That meant starting Saturday places like Stellarossa Toowong would be able to have patrons dine in to a certain limit.

Other states were following similar paths but not the Northern Territory.

With no active cases reported in weeks and having been the first to close their borders the Territory from midday was opening up nail salons, massage parlours, yoga studios, cafes, restaurants and….. after 53 long days…..pubs!

On the 15th of May the World Health Organisation reported 6,989 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 14. 98 Australians had died and there was no daily increase.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND

Coronavirus: Melbourne protesters clash with police

 

9 May 

I had noticed earlier in the week that one of my tyres was deflating a little faster than my other tyres. On Saturday I went to Bob Jane T-Mart and got the puncture repaired.

While Karen and I waited we walked over to a nearby park. There was a sense that things were returning to normal a little bit.

On the way home I decided I wanted a proper cake with icing. I went to a local cheesecake shop and returned with this.

20200509_155557
A birthday cake for no one’s particular birthday except my tummy’s. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Now Karen was not upset that I had purchased a large cake for just the two of us at some expense. She was however perplexed by one thing. Whose birthday was it?

And yes we managed to get through it before it went off.

That afternoon we skyped my Mum for Mother’s Day with the family assembling across the globe. I was very worried about the escalating numbers in the UK.

 

 

10 May

Over the weekend I watched a great episode of Planet America which went into some detail around the welfare system in America and how many Americans were likely to get any assistance. It paints a picture of how desperate some Americans must feel to get back to work no matter the risk.

On Sunday I went to see my mother-in-law at her house. Each set of kids were visiting one at a time.

On the steps of Parliament House in Victoria hundreds of protestors gathered.

Some seemed to be protesting the roll-out of 5G, some were anti-vaxxers and others were against the COVID Safe App. An App Australians could choose to voluntarily download onto their phone.

The purpose of the App was in the event somebody became a confirmed case it will help greatly in the efforts to do contract tracing and hopefully shut down a break-out cluster faster.

Most Australians have a great deal of their daily lives monitored by corporations on their phones through apps and websites. That said in 2016 the Australian Census was hacked.

By 06MAY2020 the Covid Safe App had been downloaded over 5 million times. The protesters were also protesting the lockdown laws that had been in place since March.

Earlier on Friday the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had advised he would make no announcements regarding the lowering of restrictions the state of emergency was lifted in Victoria on Monday.

Ten people were arrested at the scene and Victorian police advised those were directed at people who didn’t obey social distancing measures, assaulted police or threw things.

 

 

On the 10th of May the World Health Organisation reported 3,925,818 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 63,117. The death toll was 274,488 with a daily increase of 8,528.

In New Zealand there were 1,144 with a daily increase of 2. The number of New Zealanders who had died of COVID-19 were 21.

On the 27th of April New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she would lift Restrictions from Level 4 to Level 3.

Level 4 had seen people stay home with only trips to the supermarkets. Level 3 would allow a limited re-opening of schools, retailers and restaurants. The transmission rate in

New Zealand at the time was 0.4 with the global average 2.5.

In Australia the number of confirmed cases were 6,929 with a daily increase of 15. Australia had reached a death toll of 97 from COVID-19.

In Ireland there were 22,760 confirmed cases with a daily increase 219. The number of dead were 1,446 with a daily increase of 17.

In Canada there were 66,780 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,381. The number of dead were 4,628 with a daily increase of 157.

Ontario reports 568 new cases of COVID-19, another 39 deaths ...

In India there were 62,939 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,277. The number of dead were 2,109 with a daily increase of 128. The country had been placed in lockdown for 21 days on the 26th of March when there only 649 confirmed cases. This had been extended on the 4th of May but despite these efforts the number of cases in India were climbing rapidly.

It was reported in China there were 84,430 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 14. The number of dead 4,643 deaths.

When you think about how many Chinese people have more likely died from this disease it makes me angry to type such a pathetic and clearly obvious lie as that figure.

My condolences to the families of all Chinese who did die from COVID-19 and to all the brave Chinese hospital staff who faced this disease first and any of who risked so much to try and get the word out about how serious this disease was.

The Chinese people have suffered bravely. Their country should honour their deaths. There is no shame in admitting how much they have endured as a nation and hopefully they have overcome the worst of it.

In Brazil there 145,328 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10,222. The number of dead 9,897 with a daily increase of 751.

In Russia there were 209,688 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11,012. There were 1,915 deaths with a daily increase of 88.

In the United Kingdom there were 215,264 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,896. The number of dead were 31,587 with a daily increase of 346.

In Italy there were 218,268 with a daily increase of 1,083. The number of dead were 30,395 with a daily increase of 194.

In Spain there were 223,578 with a daily increase of 721. The number of dead was 26,478 with a daily increase of 227.

In the United States of America there were 1,245,775 with a daily decrease of 99. The death toll in America reached 75,364 with a daily increase of 5,475. There were those in the country that desperately wanted to start re-opening but this seemed odd given the high numbers of cases and dead and while the rate of increase was slowing in the worst hit parts of America like New York it was steadily rising elsewhere.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A 3 STEP PROGRAM

The Brooklyn 'disaster morgue' on sunset park pier, pictured on May 6 with the statue of liberty looming behind the trucks through the fog

May 4

It was Labour Day with me staying home due to a public holiday.

The rest of the week I was due to work from home as well.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that Prep, Year 1, 11 and 12 would return to school next Monday May 11. For the other grades it was planned for them to remain remote learning with a return to classrooms May 25.

 

5 May

For the first time since the pandemic took off 2 months ago, President Trump leaves Washington D.C. to visit a mask factory in Honeywell, Arizona. In a press conference he stresses that the country has to be re-opened soon mentioning the fact that death from drug use and suicide increase during unemployment.

People are dying the other way, too. When you look at what’s happened with drugs, it goes up. When you look at suicides, I mean, take a look at what’s going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back and that’s what we’re doing.

30 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims.

President Trump also said of the rising death toll due to COVID-19  “I always felt 60, 65, 70, as horrible as that is. I mean, you’re talking about filling up Yankee Stadium with death! So I thought it was horrible. But it’s probably going to be somewhat higher than that.

He also talked about dialling down the Coronavirus taskforce but over the next few hours that it would remain pivoting to focus on reopening.

 

7 May

It was fair to say things were getting better in Australia in early May. The danger was still present but there were days when states were not reporting any new cases. In comparison to what could  have happened and what was taking place in other countries Australians could breathe somewhat a sigh of relief.

The danger now was to not take this status quo for granted, to not squander our safety with rash decisions. A second wave seemed inevitable so how best to manage it.

April 7 Keep it under control

That week there was an all too clear example of how things could still escalate even with all the restrictions that had been put in place remaining.

In Melbourne, there was an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir leading to 62 confirmed cases.

On Thursday the 7th of May there were 13 new cases reported in the state, twelve of them related to the meatworks. The number of cases in Victoria was 1,154.

The World Health Organisation reported the same day that Australia had 6,875 with a daily increase of 26. There were 97 deaths with a daily increase of one.

With talk of restrictions being lowered in other states the Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews advised he would not be lowering any restrictions until Victoria’s State of Emergency ended next Monday.

There isn’t a jurisdiction in the world that has gone that way that hasn’t had harder lockdowns the second time around compared to the first,” he said.

The Monday was the day after Mother’s Day.

Everyone wants to be with their mum but let’s be really cautious, let’s be really careful not to be spreading the virus. We’ve come a long way. Let’s not give it all back.

I can tell you what I’ll be doing on Mother’s Day. I will not be visiting my mum, even if it was lawful for me to do that. She’s in her mid-70s. She’s in good health but she has some underlying health issues and I just wouldn’t do it, [even though] I’d very much like to.

 

A temporary morgue using refrigerated trucks is set up outside of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

 

8 May

Australia’s good fortune clashed with what was happening around the world. I hoped the lessons from them could help us to not be so cavalier about the risk.

Another example of this was the parking of 50 refrigerated trucks in Sunset Park, Brooklyn as funeral homes and moratories were overwhelmed in New York City.

We had seen footage already of such trucks parked outside hospitals but the parking of them in a group even if not all were full underlined the amount of death occurring.

 

 

On the 30th of April Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told us “Australians deserve an early mark for the work that they’ve done. We can’t keep Australia under the doona. We need to be able to move ahead.

He followed up this mindset in a press conference held the following Friday, the 8th of May.

There will be risks, there will be challenges, there will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be setbacks.

Not everything will go to plan.

There will be inconsistencies. States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances.

There will undoubtedly be some human error. No-one is perfect.

Everyone is doing their best.

To think or expect otherwise, I think, would be very unrealistic. This is a complex and very uncertain environment.

But we cannot allow our fear of going backwards from stopping us from going forwards.

Earlier he had offered words of encouragement stating.

That every Australian matters.

Every life, every job, every future.

And we have learnt some important lessons that we can meet the tests, as we have, and the challenges that we have so far confronted.

That when we have to, we can and we do pull together.

That we can focus on something bigger than just ourselves.

He then offered a 3 Step program on the road to what was hoped would be the successful lowering of restrictions.

Each step would be subject to review every three weeks to implement the next step but the situation would be constantly monitored and subject to change.

They’re not formal reviews — I’d describe them more as stocktakes as to where the framework is at, and looking at where all the states are, and how we’re going towards our ultimate aspiration of being [at Step 3] in July.” explained the Prime Minister.

Also the Prime Minister was leaving it up to each Premier to action the steps in line with the particular situation currently in each state.

New South Wales and Victoria had the highest number of cases. The Northern Territory and Western Australia the lowest.

Step 1 involved five people coming over to your house and gatherings of 10 people in outdoor parks, pools, restaurants, community centres, playgrounds, boot camps and public libraries.

There could be ten people at a wedding and 30 at a funeral. Queensland stipulated if it was outdoors it could be 30, indoors only 20.

You could drive up to 150 kilometres from your place.

Following his news conference South Australia committed to step 1 to be implement that Monday.

Victoria said it would decide on the 11th.

Queensland committed Saturday May 16 or specifically midnight next Friday.

Tasmania would lift some restrictions on the 11th and planned to do others on the 18th.

New South Wales with the most cases said there would be no changes yet. Half of all cases in Australia were in New South Wales.

The Northern Territory had already set a roadmap for themselves coming out of lockdown. When they started lifting restrictions on the 5th of May, 28 of all 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Territory had recovered and there had been no new cases for over a month.

The Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy flagged going to work sick, ” No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at various times. I know I have. We’re all going to have to change that mentality.

Step 2 would involve gatherings of 20 people, the potential opening of gyms, cinemas, galleries, museums and beauty therapists. Distances of 250 kilometres from home.

Step 3 hoped to be reached in July would look at interstate travel, maybe even travel in the AUS-NZ bubble and gatherings of 100 people. Pubs and clubs would only be looked at for step 3. It seemed like only yesterday that the Prime Minister on the 13th of March had announced gatherings would be restricted to only 100 people in the country from the 16th onwards.

The announcement was made as Australia already had seen an increase in the total number of cases that week with 97 by Friday. Up from 78 the previous week. Yet the plan to re-open and the number of cases per capita in Australia were in stark contrast to Europe and the Americas where some national leaders like Trump were stating re-opening was imminent.

When the PM was asked by a journalist, “Prime Minister, you mentioned earlier that there will be outbreaks, you say that there will be clusters. Is it a case that the states, the territories and Australians will need to hold their nerve once they go down this path and not snap back to tighten restrictions?“.

He simply replied “Yes.”

Interestingly with the announcement that people would be able to return to dining soon we had already organised to catch up with friends over dinner via skype.

Including with a friend who had injured her ankle, it raised her temperature so she spent a night in a COVID ward.

She was now doing well albeit with her leg in a cast. She has gone out of her way to support local businesses during the economic downturn.

I had been in touch with people more on the phone recently but it was nice to have everybody conversing together.

I also pulled out the port but sadly ran out of Galway Pipe and had to make the switch to Cockburns which apparently I was mispronouncing.

Drinking GIF on GIFER - by Morardred

 

Stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – OUR FIRST HOUSEGUESTS

India's economy risks a COVID-19 induced contraction | Markets ...

My brother-in-law celebrated his birthday ANZAC Day.

I am fond of calling him my brother from another mother. I say this because he really is a brother to me.

He was born a Sikh in India, fell in love with an Australian girl while studying here and that was the end of that.

Life hasn’t always been easy for him as an immigrant but I’ve never met a man who works harder, is more resilient and more loyal.

He is a wonderful husband and to his family in India a dearly missed son. Having a sister living in the UK means I know a little of how they feel.

We went over to where he and his wife lived and sat in spaced apart chairs out the front of their place. We just talked but gosh it was good to see them.

Municipal workers disinfect health workers after their visit to a containment zone in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Saturday, April 18, 2020.

 

April 26

The next day the whole family skyped to celebrate his birthday.

The same day four of the largest airline planes in the world A380s landed in the centre of Australia in the very dry Alice Springs.

 

27 April

Working from home Monday morning I read an e-mail mentioning we had a few people sick in our team from my supervisor.

I sent him an e-mail asking if there is anything I could do in support and he replied yes – could I read the text message he had sent me almost an hour prior.

After reading the text sent earlier I got in my car and spent the day working in the office.

That night Karen and I spoke to an old friend of our’s. An accomplished academic it seemed like a lifetime ago when we had heard she was getting a gig working at HARVARD!

Based there for almost a year she was one of the early few sounding the alarm on social media about the danger of this disease.

As things got worse in America she saw footage of international travellers returning to Australia bundled together with no social distancing.

The days passed and she relayed hearing sirens go past outside her residence throughout the day. She finally arranged a flight coming back to Australia, worried about her American friends who she was leaving behind.

When we spoke she was in the midst of the 14 day quarantine in hotels for returning travellers. A yoga practitioner and a marathon runner she had no complaints about her confinement.

Her thoughts were with all the people confined to ventilators breathing their last breaths.

She had come through and we were glad to hear she was all right.

DPH officials announce 8 new deaths from COVID-19, 5,752 total ...

Boston ER doctor reports an alarming trend of COVID-19 patients ...

 

30 April

Thursday.

I ended up only working from home that Wednesday grateful to be back in the office for most of the week. Traffic was still not so bad and I was so happy to be with my colleagues again even most of us were still working from home.

One of them was going on maternity leave, someone who I had worked with last year during my secondment.

Somebody who will be a great parent.

Someone who is so amazing in everything she does that I refer to her as lightning in a bottle.

We wished her well in a skype morning tea that I was lucky to attend.

The Queensland Premier had announced that week that come the weekend you would be able to travel 50kms from your place of resident.

One of my work colleagues said she was driving to Fernvale that weekend.

Another asked, “What’s in Fernvale?”.

“Don’t know but that is as far as we can go so we’re going there,” she replied.

Last year I had flown over Fernvale at a height of a few hundred feet.

20190802_065347
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

02 May

We don’t entertain a lot in our house.

It’s too hot for most of the year and we never got around to having the place exactly how we want it for entertaining.

But on Saturday the 2nd of May, Karen told me her brother and his girlfriend was coming around and that was that. So they brought tacos for dinner and we had a wonderful time.

This night along with seeing my brother from another mother were our first social engagements in almost two months outside of phone calls and skype.

I may have erred on the side of caution if consulted but once the train was on the tracks I really didn’t want to take this away from my wife. She lets me have my way on most things.

I realise a lot of people around the world have gone without socialising even longer and will even longer still if their governments show any sense.

So I know I have been very fortunate it had been only a few weeks but I must admit it was really nice to have the dinner.

After the main I offered some port for everyone and while I don’t often drink I decided I would have some more port. Galway Pipe.

It was really nice to have the dinner.

Best Funny Drunk GIFs | Gfycat

In most parts of the world things were only getting worse but here in Australia things were getting just a little bit better.

 

On the 2nd of May, the World Health Organisation reported globally there were 3,272,212 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 90,578.

The death toll 230,107 with a daily increase of 5,805.

We reached 1 million confirmed cases on the 4th of April, 2 million on the 17th of April and 3 million on the 29th of April.

4 million was reached on the 11th of May and 5 million on the 23rd of May.

Knowing how fast this thing can spread, either the measures we’re putting in place are working or some of the numbers coming out of countries aren’t accurate.

On the 2nd of May the WHO reported 6,767 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of five. There were 93 deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there were 53,657 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,601. The number of deaths 3,223 with a daily increase of 141.

158 Canadian soldiers died in the war in Afghanistan.

In India there were 37,336 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,293. There were 1,218 deaths with a daily increase of 71.

527 Indians died in the Kargil conflict.

Coronavirus: 7 Indonesians test positive in Telangana, tally ...

In the United Kingdom there were 177,458 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,201. There were 27,510 deaths with a daily increase of 739.

In World War II during The Blitz from September 1940 to July 1941 it was estimated 40,000 civilians died from the bombings.

On the 30th of April the United States of America reached over 1 million confirmed cases. On the 2nd of May there were 1,067,127 with a daily increase of 31,774. The number of deaths 57,406 with a daily increase of 2,069.

58,318 American military personnel died in the decade long Vietnam war which shook the country to its core.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ANZAC DAY

File:Simpson and his Donkey statue in Canberra.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Every country has a myth that informs its people and culture.

In Britain it was Empire. Now I think it’s Michael Caine, Twiggy and The Beatles.

In America it is the taming of the West.

In Australia it is a failed military campaign far from our shores against men fighting to defend the territory of their nation from a foreign invader.

We served alongside British, Indian and French soldiers who made up the majority of the numbers in the fighting force and in the casualties.

It is known as Churchill’s blunder of World War One – the Dardanelles campaign.

In Turkey on March 18, they remember fighting in the port of Canakkale from the same campaign where the Royal Navy was repulsed with similar reverence.

In Australia we remember the landings on April 25th at a place called Gallipoli.

Part of the 4th Battalion and the mules for the 26th (Jacob's ...

Despite Australian forces serving in the Boer War at the time of our Federation.

Gallipoli was seen as the blooding of our newly formed nation.

Despite success from General Monash on the Western Front with significant victories late in the war or the cavalry charges at Beersheba, Gallipoli has always been remembered first and foremost.

Appropriate given that it was a failure, all the better to commemorate what is lost in war by not revelling in a victory. Sometimes I worry if we are forgetting.

In World War II Australia had a population of 7 million people and 1 million of them were in uniform.

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Conscription saw many participate in Korea and Vietnam.

Now the military community is a very small part of the Australian population and yet its people have borne the brunt of long ongoing operational deployments in the past twenty years in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the majority of Australians marvel at the myth of the ANZACs unable to fathom what they endured for us long ago and yet right now there are veterans who need their help as we lose more to suicide than we ever did to combat.

If it can be remembered for the right reasons, ANZAC Day still holds a lot of lessons for us every year and now more than ever as we face this global pandemic.

It is not without significance that ANZAC Day ceremonies were cancelled across the country.

There is no more sacred a day in this country.

Yet somebody got the bright idea for people to go down to the end of the driveway and the Light Up The Dawn campaign caught on.

I often don’t attend Dawn Services but this one I couldn’t miss. I got out of bed at 4:50am not too much off the mark from when the first boats were coming ashore in 1915.

Karen and I got dressed and made our way down to our driveway. It was still dark.

A woman walking by told us she was on her way to a nearby street where someone she knew was going to play The Last Post.

She said there would be plenty of room to maintain social distancing but if we stayed we could probably heart it from here. We thanked her.

Our next door neighbours came out with their young daughter. I saw him loading up something on a tablet and asked if he was looking for a service to play because I had one ready on my phone and was happy to share. We agreed but kept our distance.

Down the road I could see candles lit. A street over there were two families outside two houses.

I think in modern times we remain communities of people but on most ANZAC Days we travel many kilometres to be with those communities (family, friends, colleagues) together.

Now here we were engaging with our actual local community. It was nice.

Off in the distance a lone bagpiper played.

Then I hit the service to play on the RSL website on my phone prompted by a handy countdown clock on it.

Then we heard The Last Post being played that street over just like we were told we would.

 

I stood with my head bowed.

At the end we said good day and retreated to our apartment.

In our block of six nobody else had come out to join us.

On April 25 the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there wer 6,687 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20. There were 79 deaths with a daily increase of three.

In New Zealand there were 1,117 confirmed cases with a daily increase of three. The number of dead were 18 deaths with a daily increase of one. New Zealand had gone into lockdown on the 25th of March.

In Papua New Guinea as of 27MAY2020 there have been only eight confirmed cases and no deaths reported by the WHO.

In South Africa there 4,220 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 267. The number of dead 79 and with a daily increase of four.

In Germany there were 152,438 confirmed cases with a daily increase of  2,055. The number of dead 5,500 with a daily increase of 179.

In Italy there were 192,994 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,021. At this point 25,969 Italians had perished to COVID-19. The daily increase was 420. The number of days with increase of cases was thankfully becoming less and less.

In Japan there were 12,829 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 441. The number of dead 334 with a daily increase of 17.

In China there were 84,324 confirmed cases reported by the WHO with a daily increase of 12. The number of Chinese who had died at least 4,642.

In South Korea there were 10,718 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10. The number of dead 240.

The WHO have reported zero confirmed cases and zero deaths in North Korea.

In Malaysia there were 5,691 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 88. The number of dead 96 with a daily increase of one.

In Indonesia there were 8,607 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 396. The number of dead were 720 with a daily increase of 31.

In Vietnam there were 270 confirmed cases reported with a daily increase of two. So far no deaths have been reported.

In Zimbabwe there 29 confirmed cases with a daily increase of one. Four deaths have been reported.

In Namibia there were 16 confirmed cases and no deaths.

In Cambodia there were 122 confirmed cases and no deaths so far.

In Somalia there were 390 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 62. There were 18 deaths with a daily increase of two.

In Rwanda there were 176 cases with a daily increase of 22. No deaths have been reported so far.

In Timor-Leste there were 24 confirmed cases and so far no deaths have been reported.

There have been zero cases reported and no deaths in the Solomon Islands.

In Afghanistan on the 25th of April there were 1,463 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 237. There were 47 deaths with a daily increase of seven.

In Iraq there were 1,708 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 31. The number of dead were 86 deaths with a daily increase of three.

In Turkey there were 104,912 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,122. The number of dead 2,600 with a daily increase 109.

There is a quote often ascribed to the first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who served at Gallipoli.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…

You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

-Lloyd Marken

Full Credits:

Travelin’ Soldier by Bruce Robison

Performed by the Australian Army Band.

Vocals – Musician Rachel MacCallum
Backing vocals – Lance Corporal ‘AJ’ Johnson / Musician Jade O’Halloran
Violin and Mandolin – Musician Evan Patrick
Piccolo – Musician Sam Hennessy
Electric and Acoustic Guitars – Musician Sam McDonald
Bass – Lance Corporal Mansell Laidler
Drum Kit – Musician Aaron Austin

Recording by Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Bell / Sergeant James Duquemin / Corporal Justin Kennedy / Corporal Jaiden Redman.
Edited / mixed by Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Bell.

COVID-19 DIARY – WHAT MATTERS

Maryland nurse who joined N.Y.'s COVID-19 front lines says it's ...

April 20

On Monday the 20th of April, the bulk of staff at work had been away for two to three weeks. We now found ourselves back in the office to get our flu shot and get back to working from home.

One of them, a particularly beloved colleague dropped off snacks for everyone which just speaks to why we love her.

While arrivals and departures were staggered you could feel it in the air. People were happy to see each other again if only fleetingly.

I was fortunate, I was there to work all day.

I enjoyed all the creature comforts of my office desk and but more so being around some of my colleagues whom I had missed. It was good to get back into the rhythm of working in the office and efforts were underway to see if some staff could rotate.

Nevertheless for the rest of the work I worked from home.

Across the State, Term 2 started and for many students it started remotely in the home.

There was a fantastic episode of the ABC program Four Corners that night that covered the early days and decisions from Australian governments at all levels to help their citizens through some dark days.

 

Image

April 21

Taken with Arnold Schwarznegger’s social media posts and his pets Whiskey (the minature pony) and Lulu (the donkey) I decided to buy a new hoodie he started selling.

All proceeds from the sale went to the charity he helped create – After School All Stars. It runs after-school programs for students across the country particularly in poor communities that need it even more.

There are 19 chapters helping over 90,000 kids across 468 schools in 60 cities from 13 states.

The charity had pivoted with the lockdown, knowing some of the kids involved in their programs get their best daily meals from the meals at school – they resolved to provide food for these families.

That was enough for me.

I belaboured figuring out what would fit me in US sizes trying several internet sources and it’s quite possible the Hoodie won’t arrive until September at which point temperatures will be rising in springtime Brisbane.

Doesn’t matter.

If one American child eats a meal based off my poor fiscal responsibility then that’s alright with me.

 

 

Of course if I had been completely selfless I could’ve just donated directly to the charity but I really wanted that hoodie. Although as restrictions relax I may look silly walking around outside with a hoodie that preaches to stay inside.

Some studies find that over 10% of America’s population live in food insecure households.

Kids can’t grow and can’t develop their minds if they’re lacking a balanced diet and it is estimated that could be as many as 16 million children each year.

America produces enough food to feed more than its population.

Food insecurity in America doesn’t come from a lack of food – it comes from people not having enough money to buy the food.

There are expectations that food insecurity in the country could easily double given the increasing amount of unemployed Americans.

30 million applied for welfare and unlike in Australia the amount of claims that will ultimately be approved and the length of how long they can be on welfare is limited.

On the 21st of April the World Health Organisation reported 751,273 cases in the America with a daily increase of 27,668. The number of Americans who died with COVID-19 was 35,884 with a daily increase of 1,681.

 

Closer to home in Australia the tertiary education industry was facing a daunting prospect with international student enrolment set to decline with a loss projected between 3-5 billion dollars.

I spent seven years working at the Queensland University of Technology on contracts and as a temp hoping again and again I might become permanent. Now permanent workers may need to worry about their jobs.

International students who have spent years studying here in Australia now find themselves struggling to pay rent and unable to afford flight homes. Over 500,000 international students were in Australia when COVID-19 hit.

On the 12th of April Education Minister Dan Tehan announced an 18 billion package for to shore up income from domestic students in universities. Yet a huge source of income for Australian universities were international enrolments with some projecting a decline between of 3 to 4.6 billion dollars this year alone.

Universities themselves were trying to assist students financially struggling due to loss of casual employment and unable to apply for support from the government. Up to $110 million dollars through hardship support funds.

Countries like the UK and Canada had put relief packages in place for international students.

In Australia the Prime Minister was suggesting it was time for them to go home and the price of a plane ticket would only be $10,000.

Those in the industry were of two minds.

It has once again been revealed how reliant we were on international student enrolment. Maybe this would push a reform where it was needed.

Yet universities carry out research and grow the minds and capabilities of our brightest who go out and work in industry and make innovative solutions. Could we really afford due to a loss of income to see our universities lose researchers, budding academics and students to the pandemic? Some of them international ones too.

Not to mention families overseas may remember how we took care of their children during this crisis.

After paying a lot of money for them to receive an education here, when they were cut off from them, when it was difficult and expensive to get home, when other countries provided for such students here we were shrugging our shoulders.

What would they think of Australia?

PhD Positions at Queensland University of Technology, 2016-2017

On the 12th of April, Universities Australia estimated 21,000 jobs could be lost in the next six months.

On the 21st of April, the Vice Chancellor of the Central Queensland University floated the idea of voluntary redundancies for some staff.

 

On the 21st of April the World Health Organisation reported Australia had 6,625 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 13. There were 71 deaths with a daily increase of one.

A guy I used to work with a few years ago in a part-time job I had was doing a push-up challenge to raise funds for mental health charity Headspace.

https://www.thepushupchallenge.com.au/pushuperer/65013?fbclid=IwAR3UCzdFCm5hvyW2Ud4w0rqBNeHpxoZVLUypX1NHusgdHtvMA8zTM9mQlz8

He set himself the goal of completing 3,046 push-ups over 21 days from 11MAY2020 to 31MAY2020. On day three he completed 326 push-ups alone. So I donated to his cause as well.

Headspace is foundation that helps young people and their families with their health in particular mental health.

 

I was also very inspired by the BuyThemACoffee initiative and got in touch with them. I was hoping to help out my local café at work Stellarossa Toowong but knew I couldn’t hope to raise as much as BuyThemACoffee. I asked them for advice which they very kindly gave and thanked me for my small donation. I got in touch with the Wesley Hospital near where I worked. They advised instead of delivering coffee for staff they would really appreciate coffee vouchers.

So I set up a GoFundMe Page to raise $250 to buy coffee vouchers from Stellarossa Toowong and have them delivered to the staff at the Wesley.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/stellarosa-coffee-for-wesley-hospital-staff

Work colleagues and friends immediately responded and over the next four weeks we were able to raise some money.

Closing out on any given day a business like this at this time might have three or four hundred dollars in the til. 

There was a new owner/manager at the store and at this point she was having one staff member work a day.

Most of the employees are young and find themselves ineligible for jobkeeper or jobseeker in some cases.

They’re great at what they do.

The new owner knowing this was treating them all fairly and spreading the work to all of them but there was not a lot of work to go around.

Despite this one of the baristas even donated to the GoFundMe page.

 

East Timor, war, coffee and Australia's 'debt of honour' - ABC News

ANZAC Day was also coming up that weekend and collections for support services for veterans and their families were not going to be able to carried out like they had been for the past 100 years. So I donated some money to the ANZAC appeal.

I don’t want to create the wrong impression, we need money.

Maybe I should’ve saved every extra cent I had.

But I have had a few thoughts over the past few weeks.

One that comes back to me occasionally is simply this.

What you do now – matters most.

 

ABC’s Foreign Correspondent ran an episode that day following Emergency Responders and Healthcare Workers through New York City.

In a week where Trump spitballed using bleach to cure COVID-19 here was a program showcasing American heroes.

 

 

It showed the Naked Cowboy still hanging out in Times Square bringing cheer and goodwill to passerbys.

I will admit I thought there was something foolish in him not packing up his bags and trying to avoid putting himself at risk.

Yet something touching in his desire to remain and lift spirits and risk the potential consequences.

I thought how American, that level of optimism and foodhardiness, that mix of courage and absurdity.

He was not the only one.

In the program we followed veteran Ambos, retired cops bringing supplies to those still on the streets, volunteer nurses who quit their jobs to come take care of the sick and dying in greatest city in the world.

And people were dying. Many, many, many people.

Yet here were these Americans trying to help.

WHAT WE DO NOW – MATTERS MOST.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NATIVES ARE STIRRING

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks at a press conference

 

On Easter Monday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had announced students of essential workers could come to school when Term 2 started up  20APR2020. It was planned for this to be in effect until the 22nd of May with them to be reviewed come the 15th of May. For the first five weeks of term, the majority of students would learn remotely.

When Term 2 started up in Victoria on the 15th of April the advice was as many students to learn from home as much as possible.

In South Australia the decision was left with parents to make with school set to resume on the 27th of April.

With the same term start date, NSW and WA were not yet to make a decision but NSW with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country was having teachers prepare most strongly for remote learning.

Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory had the same policy as Queensland.

In the Northern Territory attendance of students at schools was expected from 20APR2020.

Post the long Easter Weekend I worked from home the rest of the week from the 14th of April to the 17th of April 2020.

I saw the narrative in the news and on social media shift.

People started asking how long until restrictions get loosened.

People would question the COVID-19 numbers which was fair enough. The old “Just as deadly as the flu.” belief from early March started making the rounds again. Do you know anybody who has it? If we’re allowed to go a supermarket, why can’t we got to a restaurant? How many active cases are there now in our state?! These and other questions were uttered. I understood the urgent need to get back to work for some.

However on the 14th of April I looked up the date of the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases in Australia.

The date was March the 28th and it was 650 cases in one day.

It had only been two weeks since our daily increases had peaked in the country!

For the people seriously impacted by this financially I understood the need to go back to work.

However on the 15th of April there was a strong reminder of the need to make good choices in combating this virus.

New York City Mass Graves On Island Are Increasing Because Of ...

Just a kilometre or so away from the Bronx in New York City is Hart Island.

Known as Potter’s Field, it has been the burial site of those unclaimed by kin.

Stillborn, unidentified and the very poor are buried in Potter’s Field by prisoners and have been for 150 years after the city bought the land.

Those who died from the American Civil War, tuberculosis, AIDs and yes the Spanish Flu all rest here.

With morgues filling up, the time to claim bodies was cut from 30 days to 15 days.

Until recently prisoners from Rikers were burying the dead on an average of 25 a week. Contractors in safety hazmat suits have taken over in recent weeks and the weekly average of 25 has now become the number buried in a day.

On the 17th of April the World Health Organisation reported there were now more than two million confirmed cases globally.

There were 2,080,235 with a daily increase of 81,839.

139,507 people had died so far. The daily increase was 8,473.

There were 6,468 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 10. 63 Australians had died.

In Canada there were 28,884 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,344. There were 1,048 dead Canadians with a daily increase of 94 taking the death toll into four digits.

In the United Kingdom there were 103,097 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,617.  The number of dead in Great Britain was 13,729 with a daily increase of 861.

In Spain there were 184,474 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,400. The number of dead 19,130 with a daily increase of 551.

In the United States there were 632,781 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 28,711. The number of Americans who had died from COVID-19 tallied at 28,221 with a daily increase of 2.350.

I just hope that we remember that none of these numbers are acceptable, they’re not preferable to a larger number, they’re thousands of lives lost in a matter of days.

I realise I am very fortunate but I will always believe we needed to be safer rather than sorry.

As sorry as I am to see those bodies being buried in an island near the Bronx.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – HAPPY EASTER

The Light of the World | Art UK

 

April 10

Good Friday.

I was at home and realised unlike other Easter weekends, I would not be getting a free feed at family gatherings or going out to restaurants with friends. Fortunately Karen had already made plans, we survived.

A skype session has been arranged for my in-laws by my brother in law.

I skyped with my parents and then with my inlaws back to back in the afternoon. The difference a few extra people struck me immediately and I resolved to set up a skype session with all of my family including my sister over in England. We arranged it for Easter Monday.

It was a nice to see and speak to family while we were in social isolation. I had pushed for it with some foresight knowing how much her family means to Karen and her family had made it happen.

 

April 11

Easter Saturday

America overtakes Italy for the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world.

 

April 12

Easter Sunday

It was the reports coming out New York and their hospital system that made me take stock of nurses closer to home. I looked for something to do to support nurses here and came across BuyThemACoffee initiative through Weekend Notes which I have been published in over the years.

Sydney based Marketing Manager Kaylie Smith had been driven to do something and after consulting healthcare workers online she discovered all they really wanted was a cup of coffee.

Enlisting cafes that could use the business, during the downturn, she set about raising money on GoFundMePages to pay the cafes to make and deliver the precious java juice.

Since starting the initiative, it has spread to other cities across Australia and seen over 100,000 cups of coffee bought and delivered to our wonderful healthcare workers.

Kaylie Smith did not sit on the sidelines and critique from a social media armchair. She got involved, she dared to try and get an idea off the ground and she’s made a difference.

Well done Ms Smith!

Thank you also to prolific writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt who wrote this great piece in Weekend Notes that caught my eye and allowed me to make a donation to the BuyThemACoffee initiative.

Fundraiser by Michelle Hogan : Buy Them A Coffee - Queensland

 

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is released from St Thomas hospital and gives a speech in which he said “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life. No question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”

And I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way. They’re Jenny from New Zealand Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal near Porto.”

And the reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching, and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed. So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.

The 55 year old Prime Minister retreated to the county estate Chequers to recover.

His fiancée Carrie Symonds due to give birth in two months tweeted “Thank you also to everyone who sent such kind messages of support. Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky. There were times last week that were very dark indeed. My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.

 

13 April

Easter Monday

Trump held a bizarre press briefing where he ran a powerpoint video of what a great job he and the administration was doing.

Trump had earlier retweeted a supporter’s tweet calling for Dr Anthony Fauci to be fired.

Dr Fauci has been a calm and consistent speaker during the crisis about what the risks may be and what suitable actions should be taken.

Dr Fauci was called to the podium earlier to explain comments in the press earlier where he pointed out quite correctly that if actions had been taken earlier there would have been a better outcome initially.

He labelled these comments a “poor choice of words.” 

“Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty,” Dr Fauci.

When asked by a reporter if he had been forced to make the statement.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shot his hands up and urged “Everything I do is voluntary. Please. Don’t even imply that.

For many Dr Fauci’s continued presence in tackling the crisis in America is reassuring and his courage to put ego aside and placate the narcistic Trump was one more measure of the man.

One day Dr Fauci will have quite the book to write if he wants to and I’d be very interested in reading it.

Trump has been anything but statesmen like in these press conferences held during a national crisis.

When asked questions he doesn’t like, he insults reporters and their networks while he still fails to answer the questions.

To provide answers for a country in need.

Struggling through prepared speeches he seems to barely comprehend and going off script with his usual patter at a time when only good and suitable advice should be conveyed.

On the 13th of April, one CBS reporter finally got one over him – her name Paula Reid.

 

I finished the day in a skype conversation that put me in touch with my sister on the other side of the world and involved four households. It was the closest I got to having my family over Easter and I was very grateful.

Many families have not been so lucky, many families have lost loved ones in the past few months. At the time of Easter I guess I took comfort in my faith, placed my faith in my God and tried to do good things and practice gratitude. I know many other people are doing a lot more and I thank them.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NEW NORMAL – PART II

20200408_165255
Me with work colleagues 08APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

In the lead up to Easter I worked from home from the 06APR2020 – 09APR2020, raged against Trump’s behaviour on the news, anxiously watched the stats across the world but particularly in the UK and generally got on with it.

In Australia there were no more restrictions to put in place, we appeared to be flattening the curve but we needed to keep on doing what we were doing.

This was the new normal, I found myself calling friends more and definitely watching more news.

 

Scenestr was moving completely online for now and launching their new TV show (first episode debuted 26APR2020) following having produced videos for years.

I was grateful to have a job. People I know including Karen either lost work or lost their jobs completely.

With a rise in unemployment comes a rise in domestic violence and suicide.

While domestic violence also happens to men I did note that it was my female friends who first mentioned concerns about DV and suicide was on my mind with the rise of unemployment.

With no commute, a reduction in gym fees, fuel costs, no socialising, and no lunch at work I had a little bit more money available despite a recent parking fine sent to me.

So that payday I donated to the Salvation Army who help the homeless, those fleeing domestic violence or struggling to buy food.

 

Donate to the Disaster Appeal | The Salvation Army Australia

Many years ago a Sally man had come out of the jungle at Jacqinot Bay, New Britain during the second world war. He cooked for the Australians stationed there, their first hot cooked meal in weeks.

His actions ensured that members of a family ever since have donated to the Salvos.

 

06 April

In Great Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital.

In America Trump peddles anti-malarial drug sounding like a snake oil salesman saying “What do you have to lose?” despite the fact that such drugs can have dangerous side effects.

 

 

07 April 

Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson is admitted to ICU.

 

09 April

On the 9th of April, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there were 6,052 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 96. There were 50 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In Ireland there were 6,224 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 515. There were 235 deaths with a daily increase of 25.

In India there were 5,865 cases with a daily increase of 591. There were 169 deaths with a daily increase of 20.

In Canada there were 18,433 cases with a daily increase of 1,384. There had been 401 Canadians die with a daily increase of 56.

In the United Kingdom there were 60,737 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,491. The death toll stood at 7,097 with a daily increase of 938.

In Italy there were 139,422 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,836. 17,669 Italians had died with a daily increase of 540.

In the United States of America there were 395,030 cases with a daily increase alone of 31,709! The number of dead rose to 12,740 with a daily increase of 1,895.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WE WILL MEET AGAIN

Queen Elizabeth II at 94: a look back at the life of the world's ...

I have to come clean with you about something.

I’m a monarchist.

Weird huh?

I mean the Royal Family is pretty rich and yet they receive taxpayers money?

They’re well off and probably look down at people like me. So why should I care about them?

I was 17 when Princess Diana died and I can tell there were a lot of people angry at the Royal Family then and wondering if they could survive.

Yet to paraphrase Julian Fellowes they are like any other family and like no other family. They reflect our times and hold up a mirror of ourselves going through them.

During the funeral in 2002 for the Queen Mother watching her grandchildren in naval uniform march behind her casket and hearing tales of the Royal Family during the war. I thought, “Yeah, I get it.”

At the Queen Mother's funeral, her grandchildren follow behind the ...

That need for pomp and pageantry may seem ridiculous and extravagant but it is needed. Look at America, they’ve been trying to replicate it with their Presidents and First Ladies but it seldom works the same.

Besides the Royals get to be above politics, part of how they endure and how they never quite seem to be important. But I believe they are and on the 5th of April Queen Elizabeth II proved my point.

A 94 year old who had lived through the times we were trying to draw inspiration from now summoned a new resolve and pride in us to come through this all too current and ongoing crisis. For her closing words the camera cut to a close-up that had been saved up until that point and the monarch eyeballed straight down the lens to the individual viewer.

With a steely optimism that spoke of our connection to her and the connection to our loved ones we were not able to be with she drew on words that evoked a famous World War II love song by Vera Lynn and she brought me to Goddamn tears. 

We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.

God Save the Queen.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NEW NORMAL

Nightingale field hospitals were not built in error to tackle ...

 

03 April 

I had concluded my first week working from home completely. We were in the new normal. On Saturday several national parks were closed down, one more setback for people wanting to stay in shape. Also we were told we were limited to our own suburbs.

Also I became aware that we were not supposed to leave our suburbs without good reason. Midnight drives to get out and about may see you pulled over by the cops. This apparently started back on March 22.

As a southside boy I drove across town to get Thai nervously. Others I knew grew concerned as they passed police cars on the freeway pulling people over as they went to get fish outside their local area. When the lockdown had started police had used a common sense approach rather than handing out fines. As time went on and people broke police barricades to go to the beach or had to shepherded from public parks like in Sydney on the 31st of March – fines started to get handed out. There was also mass confusion for people who didn’t see the restrictions from a play it safe perspective. Instead of if in doubt, don’t do it! They wanted clarity on the maximum allowance.

I was staying in an apartment with wifi and my income remained the same as my job was not in danger. There were no children to take care of. No concerns about food, toilet paper was starting to fill the shelves again. I didn’t miss movies or exercise, I was happy to finally being saving money.

This was not the comfort millions of Australians found themselves in and I started to think more and more about what could I do to really help them. I remained worried about the third world that was also more vulnerable to COVID-19 if an outbreak occurred.

As NSW Premier Gladsy Berejiklian put it on the 1st of April, “I’m pleased to say today that people think we’re going too far because I don’t want to people to say we’re not doing enough.

 

In the United Kingdom the first Nightingale hospital opened in London’s Excel Centre.

Built in just nine days at ExCel Exhibition Centre with help of 160 contractors and 200 British Army engineers the 4,000 bed capacity hospital is designed to take in transfer of Intensive Care unit patients from other hospitals on ventilators.

Several others sites were well on their way at Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Harrogate, Bristol and Manchester to build a surge capacity of up to 14,480 beds.

Thousands of airline staff from Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic have been approached to change beds, help doctors and nurses in non-clinical tasks.

Sounds like being a Wardie.

Airline staff were desired due to the security clearance, first aid training and likely would need the work.

A recovering Prince Charles opened up the hospital via videolink.

Prince Charles opened London's new coronavirus hospital by video ...

In America Jarred Kushner son-in-law to Trump and working as a Senior Advisor on the Coronavirus Taskforce advised “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use.

He elaborated “”When you have governors saying that the federal government hasn’t given them what they need, I would encourage you to ask them, have you looked within your state to make sure you haven’t been able to find the resources?”.

04 April

Watching Planet America on the ABC I found out the number of Americans who had applied for welfare was 6.6million. A number that shrank all statistics from the previous four decades including during the Global Financial Crisis and the recession of the late 1980s.

Jobless

On the fourth of April the World Health Organisation reported the number of cases in the world had crossed one million.

There were 1,056,157 cases with a daily increase of 79,908.

The death toll stood at 57,130 with a daily increase of 6,716.

In Fiji there had been seven confirmed cases with no daily increase and even now, no reported deaths and rampant increase in number of cases reported.

In Cambodia there were 114 cases with a daily increase of four. There were no deaths reported in Cambodia nor since.

In Morocco there were 858 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 123. The number of dead 50 with a daily increase of three.

In Peru there were 1,414 cases with a  daily increase of  91. There were 51 dead with a daily increase of ten.

In Mexico there 1,510 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 132. The number of dead 50 with a daily increase of 13.

In Thailand there were 2,067 cases reported with a  daily increase of 89. The number of dead 20 with a daily increase of one. Thailand and Cambodia’s numbers have remained steady according to the WHO since.

In India there were 2,902 cases with a  daily increase of 601. There were 68 dead with a daily increase of twelve.

In Russia there were 4,149 cases with a daily increase of 601. There were 34 dead reported with a daily increase of four.

Three days earlier Russia loaded an air force AN-124 cargo plane with PPE equipment and other medical equipment flying from Moscow to New York. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he hopes the US will reciprocate as it increases its production capacity should Russia need help.

It followed a similar shipment to Italy from Russia some of which had been reported to be mostly useless. It came under criticism for how it made America look taking aid from Russia, was seen as collusion, a preliminary move to relax sanctions that had been enforced following Russia’s actions in Crimea.

This was following a week where New York Governor Cuomo had pointed out he was bidding for ventilators online against other states.

When asked in a press briefing if he would he accept more help from Russia President Trump said “If they send things that we need, I’d take it. Sure.

In Norway there were 5,208 cases with a daily increase of 273. There were 44 dead with a daily increase of two.

In Australia there were 5,454 cases with a daily increase of 104. There were 28 dead with a daily increase of two.

In Sweden there 6,078 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 612. The number of dead 333 with a daily increase of 51.

In Brazil there were 7,910 confirmed cases with a daily increase 1,074. The number of dead 299 with a daily increase of 58.

In Canada there were 11,732 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,618. The number of dead 152 with a daily increase of 25.

There were 38,172 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom with a daily increase of 4,450. There were 3,605 deaths with a daily increase of 684.

In Iran there were 55,743 cases with a daily increase of 2,560. The number of dead were 3,452 with a daily increase of 158.

In France there were 63,356 cases with a daily increase of 5,209, The number of dead were 6,493 with a daily increase of almost a third at 2,003!

In China the WHO reported 82,875 cases with a daily increase of 73. The number of dead 3,335 with a daily increase of four.

In Germany there were 85,778 with a daily increase of 6,082. The number of dead were 1,158 with a daily increase of 141.

In Spain there were 117,710 confirmed cases! with a daily increase of  7,472. The death toll climbed to 10,935 with a daily increase of 932.

In Italy there were 119,827 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,585. 14,681 Italians had died with a daily increase of 764.

In the United States of America there were now 241,703 confirmed cases with a daily increase alone of 28,103! The death toll in total 5,854 with a daily increase of 1,061.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST? – PART III

Who Is Navy Capt. Brett Crozier? Hear In His Own Words - Task ...

April 1

I continued working from home, happy to have a job and as mentioned in the previous post Karen started putting the teddy bears out.

April 2

On Friday in Guam, a US Navy Captain relieved of his command walked down the gangway to cheers of his 5,000 crew.

Captain Brett Crozier, a 28 year naval veteran who had flown F/A-18 Hornets in the Iraq War had taken command of the 104,000 tonne aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt 01NOV2019 and all of its 4,500 souls on board.

On deployment in the Pacific, crew stayed at a hotel in Da Nang where coronavirus broke out on the 5th of March.

They returned to the ship, the first reported case onboard was the 22nd of March and not any of the sailors who stayed at the Vietnamese hotel tested positive. Evacuations by flight took place as more sailors became sick.

The number of cases climbed into the dozens, the ship was ordered to Guam and docked there 26MAR2020 with most crew restricted to the ship and pier as more evacuations of sick sailors took place.

On the 30th of March, Captain Crozier sent an e-mail to chain of command urging that all but non-essential crew be evacuated and the ship be sanitised.

In the e-mail he wrote, “I fully realize that I bear responsibility for not demanding more decisive action the moment we pulled in, but at this point my only priority is the continued well-being of the crew and embarked staff. I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career.

There was a letter attached in the e-mail too where the Iraq war veteran wrote.

WE ARE NOT AT WAR.

SAILORS DO NOT NEED TO DIE.

IF WE DO NOT ACT NOW,

WE ARE FAILING TO PROPERLY TAKE CARE OF OUR MOST TRUSTED ASSET

OUR SAILORS.

The e-mail was leaked and published in the media on the 31st. At this point, 100 crew had tested positive.

Crozier got his wish on the 1st of April, the ship was evacuated except for essential crew to maintain the nuclear reactor and quarantined.

 

 

On 02APR2020 he was relieved of command and by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly believing he had shown poor judgment in sending the e-mail either aiming for it to be leaked or taking not proper protocols to ensure it would not leak.

Three days later Modly would travel to Guam and address the crew over the public address system denigrating Crozier’s actions.

On a ship where hundreds were still onboard believing their Captain had acted to save their lives he scolded them for cheering his name as he left the aircraft carrier. Modly told them ironically “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer” if he did not realize that his letter would be leaked to the media.”

Modly over a PA system that could be heard throughout the ship had his “tirade” recorded and subsequently leaked to the press.

07APR2020 Modly resigned.

 

 

Crozier has been reassigned to San Diego as special assistant to the Naval Air Forces chief of staff. Reinstatement of command to a dismissed USN Captain would be unprecedented.

By the 17th of April most the crew had been tested and 660 had tested positive for COVID-19 with the majority asymptomatic. Positive result of about 14%. These numbers were lower than was originally feared would end up happening. Possibly a result of the actions of the Navy on the 1st of April. Captain Crozier himself tested positive for COVID-19.

As low as the numbers were, there is at least one family that wish they had BEEN lower.

On the 13th of April, a 41 year old Chief Petty Officer of the crew having been hospitalised passed away from COVID-19.

On 05MAY2020 1,156 crew had tested positive.

On 15MAY2020 five sailors developed symptoms, tested positive and were removed from the ship along with some of their contacts. The five sailors had completed a 14 day quarantine and tested negative at least twice before reboarding prior to showing symptoms.

On the 21st of May, the USS Theodore Roosevelt returned to sea.

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger Shared His No-Gym Workout Routine Just In ...

While this drama was unfolding within the United States Navy, I was also taking comfort in celebrities taking to the social media.

I discovered Arnold Schwarznegger’s social media presence and quite enjoyed his posts.

He raves on about his kids, showcases speeches he does and work he is doing in the community.

One could be cynical about these things.

He’s found two cute stars in his miniature pony and donkey Whiskey and Lulu. His much younger girlfriend doesn’t feature anywhere.

Yet in difficult times, we need people who inspire, people who display a go to attitude or give us a little levity. I am finding that with Arnold Schwarznegger so here are some gems.

 

I even dusted off my old dumbbells thanks to Arnie.

 

 

 

Many other celebrities have been amusing us too. Closer to home there has been Sam Neil.

 

 

 

 

Final parting message from Arnie which I took to heart.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE TEDDY BEAR LADY

20200407_151613
Pia who came all the way from Guangzhou airport with me in 2018. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Ladies and gentlemen we have a very special guest writer on my blog today. 

My wife Karen was a published freelance writer long before I was.

A speech pathologist by trade she once wrote to national magazine New Idea as part of a competition.

The gig was to write about a dream coming true and the winning submission would be published in the magazine.

Karen shrewdly wrote that her dream was to be published in New Idea.

Karen won and was published and it was not the first or last time she has featured in such magazines or won big competitions. 

But I digress, here is my wonderful wife and a much better writer – Karen!

-Lloyd Marken

Bear2
Just some cool dudes chilling. Copyright Karen Marken.

 

Bear Blog- Bears Out on a Limb

 

Please bear with me…I am not the usual blogger. My wonderful husband Lloyd has kindly invited me to be a guest contributor on his Covid-19 diary and share with you our involvement to date in a community unifying event called Operation Bear Hunt.

On the 31st March 2020, I learned via social media of a wonderful joyful iso craze sweeping the US. All across the States, people were placing teddy bears in their windows as a show of solidarity.

The idea, based on Michael Rosen’s popular children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt, was that children and parents out on their daily walk would keep a look out for teddy bears and count how many they saw.

Well, I thought, I have a few bears. I could do that here.

Turns out I have more than a few teddies and other stuffed toys. At last count I had 46 and as I declutter I keep unearthing more! It is nice to finally have a good use for them. Our house is on beautiful tree lined street next to a set of shops so there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. In addition to displaying bears in our windows, I utilised the fig trees and brick wall in our front yard by placing bears and other animals of varying sizes and colours in positions that small children will be to spot easily. Not all my bears made the cut. Some were too precious or fragile. For example, due to his polystyrene innards, Fernando the bull (pictured) was deemed not suitable for fig tree duties. Instead he has taken pride of place on our balcony where he chills out daily enjoying the lovely fresh air.

20200403_130642
Fernando the bull. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Once I had placed the bears, all we had to do was sit back and wait for the fun to begin. It was not long before excited shouts of “Ooh look there’s a teddy! There’s another one!” filled the air (and that was just the adults). Our initial success continued on Day 2 of Operation Bear Hunt with delighted people of all ages admiring each bear and taking photos to share on social media. I don’t know who was enjoying it more: the children, their parents or me. No wait.. it was definitely me!

Being involved in Operation Bear Hunt has been so much fun and I heartily recommend others become involved in whatever capacity they can. My teddy bear displays are not quite as imaginative as some we have seen on the internet involving elaborate and topical setups. However we are consistent and have hopefully inspired other more creative teddy bear arrangers in our suburb.  Every day, for about 6 weeks now, the bears go out early and stay out late to catch the first and last pedestrians of the day. I’m not sure if or when we will call it quits. Our appreciative audience shows no signs of getting sick of us.

Overall community feedback has been resoundingly positive.  The sole criticism came early on day 3 when a little boy was overheard to shout “What are these bears doing here? Who has put all these stuffed toys everywhere?”  He sounded most indignant!  I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily his parents explained the function of the bears. Ever since, this particular little boy has been our biggest supporter and an ardent teddy fan counting and describing each bear in detail as he whizzes past our house on his scooter.

Participation in Operation Bear Hunt has not been without it’s challenges. Weather is a factor. Occasionally gusts of wind have turned the teddies into famous Aussie drop bears ready to suddenly jump out of the figs and onto the heads of unsuspecting tourists. One day “the teddy bears” slept in and I felt like the biggest meanie in the world as I overheard a child sigh to her father “No teddies today”. Both parent and child looked so dejected I resolved to put out even more teddies the following day.

Bringing the bears in at night has become quite the covert operation. One evening I ventured out at sunset. After looking both ways, I collected half the bears then heard a family approaching. Quickly, I ducked behind a tree then ran around the side of my house hiding from view until they had passed by and I could safely resume my collection. Despite my best attempts to retain an air of mystery though I have had a couple of neighbours stop and ask me if I am the teddy bear lady. When I reply that “yes I am”,  they then let me know how much they are enjoying the teddy bears and how much all the children in our neighbourhood love the teddies.

Well that is about all from me for now so on behalf of the teddies I wish you all a Beary Good Night. Peace and Love, Karen aka “the teddy bear lady”.

-Karen Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST? – PART II

Coronavirus latest: Spain sees single-day record 849 deaths ...

I entered a new normal working from home 30MAR2020 to 03APR2020.

I hoped as we got used to the restrictions and new way of life, anxiety about the unknown and stocked items would not run low.

I hoped our nerves would hold and Australia would flatten the curve.

At the same time I worried what the hell would unfold in the UK where I have family and in America things seemed to be escalating fast.

30 March

On the 30th of March in Australia, the government announced the new Jobkeeper program as part of a $130billion stimulus package aimed at subsidising businesses to retain their employees while work slowed down or shut down.

In the United Kingdom Prince Charles announced he was out of isolation.

In America, a field hospital is built in Central Park and another hospital arrives too.

There is a ship that was built as an oil tanker back in 1976.

Eleven years later she was delivered to the United States Navy and became a 70,000 tonne displacing 272 metre long hospital ship called the UNSN Comfort.

She has served America and the world ever since.

The Persian Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Various humanitarian missions through Latin America in response to natural disasters, building greater partnerships or as part of military operations.

Perhaps most poignantly the USNS Comfort has been activated in support of America herself following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.

Almost two decades after she came to the aid of NYC she sailed into New York harbour once again and as Stephen Colbert put it and into our hearts.

The Navy Tried To Retire Its Two Huge COVID-19 Fighting Hospital ...

 

31 March

Pubs in the United Kingdom pivot their businesses with the economic lockdown. Their distilleries begin to produce hand sanitiser for the Metropolitan Police.

Pubs like The Distillery on Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

The Distillery, The Ginstitute & Portobello Road Gin – The ...

It follows closer to home Bundaberg Rum and Beenleigh Rum distilleries doing the same here in Queensland.

Or media companies 3D printing face masks in Canada.

There are many other examples of people going out of their way to help and try to help their businesses stay alive.

I was certainly consuming a lot more news which we all were.

The national broadcaster ABC did a fantastic piece following the narrative of COVID-19 developing in Australia over the month of March with their show Four Corners which uploaded to YouTube 30MAR2020.

Their program Foreign Correspondent uploaded an episode to YouTube 31MAR2020 as well which covered the early measures and successes of Singapore’s response. Yet already Singapore numbers were going up and so were the restrictions.

At the end of March the WHO reported the following numbers in these countries.

In New Zealand there were 600 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 48. There was one dead reported on the 29th of March, 2020.

In Singapore there were 879 cases with a daily increase of 75. There were three deaths in the country so far with the first two reported on the 20th of March, 2020.

In India there were 1,251 with a daily increase of 180. The number of dead were 32 with a daily increase of three.

In Australia there were 4,557 cases with a daily increase of 312. There were 19 deaths with a daily increase of 1.

In Canada there were 6,317 cases with a daily increase of 662. There were 66 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there were 22,145 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,619. The number of dead were 1,408 with a daily increase of 180.

In Iran there were 44,606 with a daily increase of 3,111. The number of dead were 2,898 with a daily increase of 141.

In Germany there were 61,913 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,615. There were 583 dead with a daily increase of 128.

Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted, 8 April 2020

In China the WHO reported 82,545 with a daily increase of 90. About the same daily increase as normal in this time frame. The death toll was reported at 3,314 with a daily increase of four.

In Spain 85,195 cases with a daily increase of 6,398. The number of dead 7,340 with a daily increase of 812.

In Italy 101,739 cases with a daily increase of 4,050. The number of dead had reached 11,591 with a daily increase of 810.

In the United States of America there were 140,640 cases with a daily increase of 17,987. The dead toll stood at 2,398 with a daily increase of 286.

Globally we passed over 750,000 confirmed cases and reached 36,522 dead.

In my neck of the woods something significant was about to happen which will be covered in my next blog with a guest writer – my lovely wife Karen. I hope you will enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST?

 

When will the first wave crest in the West and subside?

When will the second wave come and will we be ready?

Most of the news has been centred around the pandemic sweeping through America and Europe, at least in my part of the world.

I have spared a thought about what happens when COVID-19 takes off in the third world and specifically the continent of Africa.

A continent that was ripped apart by the AIDS epidemic and has suffered famine and genocide in my lifetime several times.

I worry about the third world but I worry even more currently about the United States of America.

On the 29th of March President Donald Trump tweeted and mentioned in press conferences that he had gotten bigger ratings than The Bachelor for his press briefings. His argument being that while there were those who would like him to not participate or to not have them due to the misinformation he provides regularly, the fact that they rated so well was a reflection of the people’s voice winning out.

This was at a time when modelling suggested America could see a death toll at close to 200,000 in the next two or three weeks. The disease was peaking in the United States of America and emergency and health care workers were stretched beyond capacity.

And this fuckbag was talking about ratings!

Associated Press: New York residents urged to avoid travel as ...

There was a concern about not enough PPE for health care workers which could lead to many of them becoming sick comprising the system’s effectiveness. There was a concern about not enough ventilators, that more people would die than needed to.

Trump went on the offensive musing why New York hospitals suddenly needed 300,000 masks when they previously used 10,000. “So I think people should check that, because there’s something going on, whether – I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out.

While Governor Cuomo had also cited concerns there have been some thefts of masks. The answer was to Trump’s wonderment at the change in numbers was due to the increased workload and that such items have limited use if good hygiene is to be maintained.

Of the crisis in coastal elite states it is true that the horrific numbers forecast at the time have been reached yet weeks later.

Manufacturing recalibrated with lightning speed to help in a time of need, forgotten stocks of PPE were located and ferried where needed.

Yet hard decisions were made, we are just in the beginning of finding out just what was lost and what could have been done better. I have no doubt the blame will not rest with one man.

History decides who was a good leader. History also gets re-evaluated. There are critics of Churchill and Roosevelt too. Yet history tells us they won the war so they’re remembered the way they are. Right now history is being written about Donald Trump.

Can COP21 Save the World? - Pacific Standard

On the 29th of March, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America 103,321 cases with a daily increase of 18,093 cases in one day breaking into six figures. The death toll in America was 1,668 with a daily increase of 425.

In Australia the WHO reported the same day 3,966 confirmed cases with an increase of 331. There were 16 deaths with a daily increase of two.

It had been a long week and a long day for the leaders of Australia.

There was a press briefing that Sunday night following a National Cabinet Meeting. The Prime Minister looked visibly tired even if he remained resolute. The Press Briefing took place inside Parliament House due to the hour and definitely had the look of a late night meeting.

In it the Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked about new measures including advice for gatherings to be limited to two people outside of households. And yes this was the day he advised that his wife Jenny Morrison had gone out to get jigsaw puzzles as they were going to be essential around the house going forward.

I am not ashamed to say it, I was moved.

I felt at that moment that we had not moved fast enough in shutting down. I was aware of an ever increasing danger. I worried for those that I loved and I worried for people I’d never met.

The rate of increase was down slightly in Australia but I guess I was thinking about all 8 billion of us on a rock floating in space.

I was thinking we can only try to get through this and do the best we can and here was someone doing that and he was my Prime Minister goddamnit.

His somewhat flawed traits blunted by his fatigue, his defiant strength to be even more highly regarded given what we faced.

Here was a leader.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – QUEENSLANDERS DECIDE WHETHER TO VOTE?

Coronavirus: Queensland faces slow count in local elections

For the past few years Karen has worked near our house on local and state election days.

Local council elections were set to take place on Saturday, March 28.

Not exactly an issue one month earlier when people cannot directly return from China, South Korea and Iran.

Not exactly an issue two weeks earlier when the Prime Minister was still hoping to go see his Sharkies and toilet paper could not be found on the shelf at your local IGA.

Yet very much an issue on the 28th as people weighed up the safety of anything that reeked of a large group of people coming together in one area over a long day.

Karen had worked at this polling station over a few years and traffic is low there comparatively at a few thousand but that now seemed an awful lot to me.

I believed it was up to Karen to make the decision for herself and so Karen worked and I made sure that I went and voted at that station too.

I am still not sure how I feel about that.

In Australia voting is compulsory with voter turnout often around 90-92%.

In developed nations Australia is fairly unique in this sense.

In the United Kingdom for example it is not compulsory and voter turnout has dropped over recent decades.

In America where it decides not local politicians but prosecutors and sheriffs, voting is often made by 55-65% of the populace.

In Tasmania local elections are not compulsory, are done purely by postal voting and under certain circumstances can be e-mailed. In that state where the people regularly and consistently vote by at least 90% for state and federal elections, the voter turnout for elections that have the convenience of postal voting drops to 65% consistently.

This strongly suggests Australians vote because they believe they have to.

In the lead-up to elections Australians can pre-poll vote by attending set-up polling stations in the days ahead of an election.

They can also opt for a postal vote but cannot request one past a certain deadline.

Pre-poll voting started on the 16th of March with an increased demand leading to extended opening hours.

Applications for postal voting closed at 7pm the same day but additional options were given for people to lodge applications by email and extra print services were secured to increase demand for ballot papers.

Increased staff were employed and opening hours increased at call centres and polling stations to meet unprecedented demand.

Even so on the 25th of March the Electoral Commission Queensland advised “Telephone voting is a limited service specifically for our most vulnerable and isolated citizens.

The ECQ has increased capacity ten-fold to help extend the service to people who have been advised to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.  

However, the telephone voting service is experiencing unprecedented demand, including people who are not eligible for a telephone vote, jeopardising the availability of the service for those who most need it.

Most electors are able to vote in person and precautions are being taken to ensure voting is quick and safe.

Also if postal voters had not received their ballots they could still vote early or on election day.

On the 26th of March Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young advised “we know, due to our fantastic pre-polling arrangements, and with the way Queenslanders have responded, and with the postal vote process, with all of that the number of Queenslanders left to vote by Saturday will be relatively small”.

You can see why some of the 3.2 million eligible voters in Queensland were still angry.

As election day dawned there was a lot of chatter on social media by people who insisted they would not vote and they would not pay a fine. Local elections carry the largest fines for not voting in Australia

Some found polling stations to be less time consuming with less contact with people than going to a supermarket. Others did not.

I went down around midday, I lined up outside the building where two voting staff were present to ensure social distancing but there was no one there.

I went inside and got ticked off by my wife.

I picked up a pencil and voted over a station. Then I dropped them in a cardboard box and placed my pencil in a bucket of sanitised water and left.

Full disclosure I have worked for the ECQ twice in the past four years at their call centres and enjoyed my time there.

I believe in voting, I even believe in compulsory voting and I believe that a lot of people were looking for an excuse not to vote.

But I also felt fear that day, fear for my wife and fear that we were making a mistake.

I believe more should have been done.

They could’ve opened up the dates to complete telephone or postal voting.

There are logistics and laws involved that may have needed changing and I suppose the medial advice has played out and the danger has passed but for many Queenslanders the fact that these elections went ahead will remain a travesty.

It will be interesting to see how fines are issued and enforced in the months ahead.

Voter turnout on election day was 750,000 or 75%.

Telephone voting was made by 34,000 people.

570,000 postal votes were distributed.

1.2 million Queensland did pre-poll voting.

On the 28th of March, there were 625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Queensland.

20200328_210824
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I picked up Karen later that night and we drove to a local Italian place we love called Marinara to pick up dinner. The business often bustling took my order close to 9pm and handed us a free dessert for our patronage during the economic downturn.

They make fantastic pizza and pasta but a local business is something more personal than how good they are at what they do.

In this simple exchange both of us were gesturing we wanted to be there for each other.

Not a bad sentiment in these times.

-Lloyd Marken

20200328_210816
The view while waiting for Karen. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART V

20200416_171101
Coronation drive on the 16APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

27 March

On Friday morning I arrived early for work and made my way to Toowong Village.

The night before I had gone to Coles after work and found no toilet paper, napkins, hand towels or wipes of any kind. I mentioned this to my wife who had taken precautions weeks earlier but had told me there was no pasta.

The next morning as I was walking in past 8am I saw a young man dressed for the office carrying a pack of toilet paper and nothing else.

As I neared the escalator I saw an older gentleman pushing a shopping trolley with a few items but most predominantly a pack of toilet paper. He also looked like he might be on his way to work, not home.

It kind of amused me to know I was not alone in my thinking.

There was still quite a few packs of toilet paper all restocked from the day before in Coles. I picked up a packet, my lunch and a packet of Coles brand pasta. Already the pasta was running low.

I picked up my local coffee from Stellarossa who were now purely doing take-away orders. All the tables and chairs sat at on any usual morning now upturned and pushed against corners. I left a tip and said I may not be around so much but wished them well.

Then I headed into the office.

This was the same day that the Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson was confirmed as having COVID-19.

It was a relatively normal day, late in the afternoon it was confirmed that I was getting my wish. I and most of our workforce would be working from home having as a whole organisation worked to make it possible in the preceding days.

There were a small amount of people who were to remain.

As the day went on I concentrated on my work, there wasn’t a lot of time to be wistful but I did think a little of how much I would miss the place and its people.

 

 

As I finished for the day I walked over to some windows that overlook Coronation drive and the river. I grew up on the southside of Brisbane, not the West. It’s a nice view though and I wanted to take a look at it in case it was a while before I saw it again.

I felt the same way about all the desks and fluorescent lights and the people I worked with.

On the way out I said good evening to the Director. On television it was being announced that returning Australians from overseas were going to be quarantined in hotels upon arrival.

The media was excited by the fact that soldiers would be involved but not much to my surprise it was a simple exercise in manpower with none of the soldiers armed but simply providing coverage for law enforcement.

On the drive home I listened to Kennedy Molloy on the radio.

https://omny.fm/shows/triple-m-national-drive/special-mick-jane-phone-in-on-denise-scott-to-chec

On the 27th of March, 2020 the WHO reported 2,985 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 186. There were 14 deaths with a daily increase of one.

We had locked the country down and were headed to a new normal but in Queensland local council elections were going ahead across the state the next day and my wife would be involved.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART IV

Coronavirus: Traffic jams on Gold Coast as Queensland shuts borders

25 March

Wednesday was the first day I worked from home.

I’m used to working in my apartment late at night writing stories to meet deadlines. There is no air-conditioning in our house and during the seven months of summer it gets quite hot and uncomfortable in front of the laptop. The sweat of my forearms has warped the wood of the desk over time.

Fortunately for me the temperatures had started to drop so again, with my brand new laptop no less, I felt extremely fortunate.

My back hurt but in the days that followed I found it went away especially if I paced around the place from time to time.

I did get hungry though and went out that night to get takeaway. I noted outside the local shops tables and chairs had been positioned for social distancing and to discourage loitering, markers were out on the floor on where to stand. It was one more subtle shift in how we were living.

That same night the borders to Queensland were closed.

In America President Trump stated an intention to reiterated a desire to re-open the country by Easter if it is suitable.

On the 25th of March the World Health Organisation reported 51,914 cases in the United States of America! Six hundred and seventy-three dead Americans!

While this was simply an absurdly moronic, selfish and irresponsible thing to suggest as a leader while the virus was taking off in the country there were smaller more practical ambitions announced the same day.

Virtually all U.S. late night talk show hosts announced they would be back on the air shooting from home while in isolation starting 30MAR2020.

 

 

26 March

I returned to the office on Thursday as south down at the border people faced a much tougher commute at the QLD/NSW border.

As one man reported to Channel 9 though “It has got to happen. If it helps it helps.”

“I thought there might be just a couple of little police officers at the side of the road but this is good. This is good. We need to do this,” another driver told Channel 9.

 

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk advised children were to learn from home starting next week however kids of essential workers could attend.

It’s not just our health workers, it’s not just our emergency services workers, it’s not just our police workers, it actually involves anyone who’s in our workforce including people who stack shelves at Woolies and work in a whole [range of] different industries that their students will still be allowed to go to school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Following on from the announcements of other states this decision was hoped to “strike the right balance.”

 

Balmoral Castle: A Royal Holiday - Wilderness Scotland

It was announced that Prince Charles has coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms. Both he and the Duchess of Cornwall were isolating at Balmoral.

The heir to the British throne had last seen Queen Elizabeth II on the 12th of March and was in good health. The 98 year old Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Here's the Story Behind the Picture

 

The Prince had last attended a public engagement the same day attending a dinner in aid of the recent Australian bushfires. Since then he had been working from home and was tested on Monday after showing symptoms over the recent weekend.

Also in the UK, 250,000 people signed up to volunteer with the NHS.

The WHO reported March 26 in the United Kingdom, 9,533 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,452. The number of dead were 463 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

 

COVID-19 | IAF creates nine quarantine facilities at its nodal ...

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country into a 21 day lockdown prompting panic buying. The population of 1.3 billion people were to remain confined to their homes for the duration.

On the 26th of March the World Health Organisation reported India had 649 cases with a daily increase of 43. The number of dead in the country were 13 with a daily increase of three.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART III

 

24 March

The situation in Italy continued to deteriorate.

One day I was working in Wattlebrae many years ago. I was cleaning near the Nurses station when a nurse came from a room with a patient and said to another. “Probably Tuesday.”

A patient was in the last hours of their lives and the nurses knew it. They’d seen it enough times to recognise it.

Accepting death is a very real part of being a nurse and being a good one. Some nurses have served in war zones and natural disasters and seen a lot of death but such a large scale in such a short period of time as what was experienced in Wuhan or Lombardy is simply something that leaves a toll.

Let alone the very risk to their own lives and those of their loved ones.

I stand in awe of them.

I truly do.

They are heroes.

They always have been and they always will be.

In Italy student doctors skipped their last exams and were rushed into service. In Britain retired nurses answered the call to come back risking their lives to save others as the NHS faced unprecedented demand. I’m sure this is being replicated around the world

Where do we get such people?

 

As large swaths of the economy shut down to contain the coronavirus, President Trump and others are beginning to question how long economic activity should remain frozen.

 

The World Health Organisation warned the United States of America could become the epicentre of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes impassioned when speaking about the need for equipment to save lives in his home state. Short of criticising the President directly he challenges FEMA “to pick the people who will die.” The President does not respond well to this.

The Tokyo Olympics are postponed and the Australian Football League having played Round One the previous week to empty stadiums stops its season. This follows all other major codes and several sports leagues overseas already having done so.

In Australia, grocery stores swap out the pensioner hour on some days for health care workers who do shift work.

After work on Tuesday night I go to the local barber and get a haircut.

That night following a National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announces a new series of measures.

Coincidentally it is announced hair salons and barbers can continue to stay open but with only 30 minutes for a customer. The next day the Prime Minister adds some flexibility into the time spent in a hair salon. Possibly after speaking to his wife?

Cafes and restaurants can only do take-away and food courts in shopping malls are to be shut down with only take-away to be purchased from outlets in the food courts.

Arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks are to shut down. Large crowds are to not congregate in sporting fields and large parks.

The Prime Minister also advised that Australians would be banned from travelling overseas with a few exceptions like aid workers.

Boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Most painfully weddings are limited to five people and funerals are to ten people.

If this seems harsh, think of the poor couples who had weddings mere days earlier before the general populace became aware of how dangerous the virus could be. It must be terrible to know if guests have subsequently become sick.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.” said the Prime Minister.

On the 24th of March the WHO reported 2,136 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 427. There were eight deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Ireland there were 219 cases with a daily increase of 98. There were two deaths with a daily increase of one.

In South Africa there were 402 cases confirmed with a daily increase of 128. The first death was recorded in the country on the 28th of March.

In Russia there were 438 cases reported with no daily increase. The first two deaths would be reported in the country on the 26th of March.

In Singapore there were 507 cases with a daily increase of 52. On the 20th of March they recorded their first two deaths.

In India there were 519 cases with a daily increase of 85. There were nine deaths following the first reported on the 13th of March.

In Canada there were 1,739 with a daily increase of 355. The were 25 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Brazil there were 2,201 cases with a daily increase of 1,297. The death toll had risen by 35 in one day to reach 46.

In Germany there were 4,438 cases with a daily increase of 1,127. There were 32 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom there were 6,654 cases with a daily increase of 967. There were 335 deaths with a daily increase of 54.

In South Korea there were 9,037 cases with a daily increase of 76. There were 120 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In Iran there were 24,811 cases with a daily increase of 1,762. The death toll reported was 1,934 with a daily increase of 122.

In Spain there were 33,089 cases with a daily increase of 4,517. There were 4,182 deaths with a daily increase of 462.

In the United States of America there were 51,914 cases with a daily increase of 20,341. The death toll was 673 with 271 from that day alone.

In Italy there were 63,927 cases with a daily increase of 4,789. The death toll was 6,077 with an increase of 601 that day.

In China the WHO reported 81,767 with a daily increase of 764. The number of dead reported as 3,283 with a daily increase of seven. China’s figures have consistently flattend out with very small increases over this period of time. This is in contradiction to many other nations that have experienced disastrous second waves. The country has also backtracked on opening up initiatives at times too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART II

 

As we entered the third week of March more restrictions were to come but the new normal would be firmly established by the end of the week. My hope was that people can deal with having to make changes a great deal more than the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going to transpire. Yet for many people around the world uncertainty was coming regardless.

We started to hear about those who were losing loved ones and unable to see them in their last moments or attend the funeral. The spectre of far ranging unemployment also began to descend.

23 March

Monday at my work which involves answering phones we switched to make as many of our processes as digital as possible and shifted the phones to being manned for only a little more than half of the day.

This was a somewhat busy period for us so we held our breath and wondered what would happen. We managed, we did our best, we supported each other, we came through.

I took the time to tell my leadership team that “A calm Captain steadies the ship through storms.”

I had many calm Captains.

As of midday as per the announcement the day before, cinemas, pubs, clubs, casinos and gyms are all shut down. I hadn’t gone to the gym in months but I had just been thinking maybe working from home would help me start up again… yes I know that’s not true.

 

 

In Sydney NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced schools would remain open and safe but urged parents to keep their kids home for online learning if they could. School Easter holidays aren’t due to begin until 13APR2020.

In some schools attendance is down to a third.

Discussion is also turning to how to provide solid distance education to all children including those with limited digital tools and internet wifi. Old school methods of booklets and mail outs are utilised too.

One of the guys I have water cooler conversations (there are no water coolers in our officer but GenX and Boomers will know what I’m talking about) at work advised me that he had pulled his kids from school.

I said “Good on him.”

I wanted all of us to be working from home and keeping our kids home as soon as we could.

 

Australian unemployment rate to double as coronavirus hammers ...

Around the country lines snaked around Centrelink offices as the myGov website crashed due to a surge in applications. The newly unemployed went to apply in local offices instead.

I worked twelve long years as a temp and on contracts finding myself looking for work at least a dozen times over that same period.

Sometimes I was unemployed for two weeks – other times five months.

Once I worked across two organisations, in 4 different roles, having received six extensions on two different contracts and gone up two pay scales over the course of 24 months.

I never took a holiday and through most of those twelve years I worked a second job as well.

I never managed to save up anything – only to pay unexpected bills. I will admit I did recklessly pay for a trip to attend my sister’s wedding. That was an indulgence on my part.

Registering for and being on the dole is a painful process.

I once sat in a public park to get internet access to apply for a job on an old laptop before driving to a local library in the middle of the application because my battery power started to run out.

Yet I am here and so my hope is all of these talented and hard working people who are victims of circumstance will come out the other side.

 

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the scaled-back parliament session

The Prime Minister was also thinking of them.

In Canberra there was a sitting of Parliament to pass life saving legislation.

Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak. Something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago.”

“Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change.

“Meeting this challenge is bigger than any Australian … In the months ahead we will face more issues that none of us even now can imagine.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN!

Hundreds defied warnings for social isolation at Bondi yesterday.

 

We entered the weekend of March 21-22 still with a lot of questions of how life was changing. International travel was curtailed and it was clear that trading was down and there would be huge economic consequences but how far the restrictions would increase and whether the number of cases increasing would slow down were all up in the air.

A friend of mine had a house party on Friday night. I had a very quiet weekend but our way of life was still mostly in tact even if some of shop shelves were bare and there was a growing concern for our health care workers.

We knew things were escalating but we did not know what the new normal was going to be. I was hoping the next week would define it.

 

March 21

I saw a couple of videos on youtube including an interview with the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had steered us through the Global Financial Crisis. His comments about stronger actions being taken by Singapore or Germany led to me taking on board more information over the weekend.

 

 

The Northern Territory announced it would close its borders 4pm on March 24.

The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said “I’ve seen what’s happening overseas, I’ve seen what’s happening down south and I’m not going to let that happen here,” he said.

“The Territory comes first.”

 

March 22

Seeing how people react to a crisis reveals a lot about their personalities and the things they prioritise. Amongst my friends and peers I saw people who chart their own path in terms of choosing to take their kids out of school or put in place precautions.

One friend drove out of Sydney early on and is now growing a vegetable garden on Moreton Island with a raft of supplies.

Some of us had parties and went out to comedy festivals seizing the day.

Some have questioned all the information provided by the “mainstream media” and wondered if every action is justified.

I admire in some ways all of these people and all of these traits.

For me, I learnt that I do follow instructions from my leadership and institutions. I follow their lead even when I disagree possibly and I look to help others rather than take care of myself. I do ask questions to see if we are doing everything we should but I rarely rebel.

In that way I am like a soldier.

On Sunday I texted my leadership team I was ready to work from home and the next day I advised that I believed we should have as many people at home as soon as possible. Which was of course what we all had been working on for the past fortnight and more but I guess I was communicating a change in my wish to not be treated differently.

Yet I was in the office for most of that week.

 

On the same Sunday, South Australia and Western Australia announced they would close their borders that Tuesday.

On Sunday the National Cabinet was to meet having moved a head a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Before it the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a comprehensive breakdown of new lockdown measures.

The Australian Capital Territory advised pupils will be told to stay home from Tuesday onwards and that teachers needed to prepare to transition from face to face teaching.

In Victoria Term 1 was scheduled to end that Friday and was moved up to Tuesday. In New South Wales they were scheduled until April 13. 

This was not in keeping with the views of the Prime Minister who had previously advised 4 days earlier, ““The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

“The health advice here, supported by all the premiers, all the chief ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

 

The National Cabinet met and afterwards on Sunday evening the Prime Minister announced a new range of measures.

Jobseeker payments, effectively our welfare payments were people out of work, looking for work and unable to work was to be almost doubled from $565.70 a fortnight with an additional $550. The decision came with a price tag of $14.1 billion dollars. There were also one off $750 payments that some would be eligible for. There was also to be a moratorium on tenant evictions.

The government was working to keep everybody with the means to feed and house themselves and support small businesses through the downturn as they worked to shut down major parts of the economy in order to save lives. They were very clear that this was the first of many such measures that were already costing 10% of the economy.

Interestingly the Prime Minister also mentioned “I’d be careful at comparing Australia’s data to other jurisdictions. Australia’s testing, for example, shows that we have the lowest, one of the lowest, if not the lowest test positivity in the world. We’re at 0.7 per cent compared to USA at 13, UK at 5, and Korea at 3.

There was a press conference before the National Cabinet met and one after they had met.

In the press conference earlier in the day his bull doggish manner was still on display, after pictures of crowds flocking to Bondi Beach the day before have travelled around the world.

 

“What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough,” Mr Morrison said.

“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, the more and the better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side.”

“So it’s a simple plea.” 

“We need you, we need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing, to keeping that healthy distance, to respecting and following the rules that we’re setting down.”

Late on Sunday night the Prime Minister went before cameras to provide further answers, to provide information and to assure the Australian people that the National Cabinet were working together although clearly they had pushed back hard for what they deemed were the right decisions for their state.

In line with what the Premiers had already announced, the Prime Minister advised indoor entertainment, sporting and religious venues were to be shut from midday Monday. This included pubs, clubs and restaurants and cinemas.

I have not seen a movie at the cinemas since 07MAR2020 when I saw Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.  It was the third 2020 release I saw after the The Gentlemen and Birds of Prey….well you can’t win them all.

I appreciate some of the kind words from people knowing that I am such a huge film buff and film critic. Yet I want you to know I have streaming, plenty of films I have not gotten around to seeing and… well there are other things to worry about right now.

I have a job, an ability to work from home, the weather is pleasant and everyone I care about is safe although financially many have been impacted.

My thoughts have not been about whether Wonder Woman 1984 is delayed but more what the hell can I do to help those who are experiencing hardship because like I said… I feel truly blessed.

In this briefing there was a small moment that gave birth to a bit of an internet craze of the ensuring days. From my perspective a storm in a teacup but a fun one nonetheless.

 

One thing that stood out to me then and still resonates with me now is when the Prime Minister voiced a real concern for the business sector in the evening briefing.

This was at a time when real fear was working through the populace who had secure jobs about the spread of the virus.  There were grave concerns that we had moved too slowly and it was certainly my thoughts in that moment.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported “The country’s rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases is now growing at 20-25 per cent a day, with some projections showing between 1 or 2 million Australians could be infected by the end of April. If those numbers were reached, tens of thousands of people would be dead based on the mortality rate recorded by China earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation reported on March 22 that Australia had 1,098 cases with a daily increase of 17. We had reached four figures the day before. The death toll was seven.

Yet the Conservative leader more than spared a thought for the very real pain that would occur to millions of Australians losing their jobs it spilled out of him genuinely.

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face.

That is a very, very regretful decision, but a necessary one in the view of the premiers and chief ministers and myself to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus.

This should highlight to all Australians how serious this is and how hard we all have to work together to get this right”.

 

9/11 dust cloud may have caused widespread pregnancy issues ...

I remember the fear and uncertainty that came in the wake of September 11, 2001.

I remember the two speed economy that Australia became following the Global Financial Crisis.

I remember helping during the Queensland floods of 2011. Driving halfway across town against my mother’s pleas to be with my girlfriend Karen as the river rose and cut off roads.

I sat and watched my TV in the first weekend of this year as my country burned and pushed myself to help arrange a fundraiser barbeque at work. So chastened I was by my ability to not be more directly involved as I had been during the floods of 2011.

I now found myself old enough to remember more than a crisis or two.

Yet I’ve never seen anything like this.

None of us have.

The people who did are all dead.

 

Are we ready for a flu pandemic? - The Boston Globe

My grandfather was born in 1918, the same year there Spanish Flu Pandemic began and he has been gone for a long time. That pandemic which has many parallels to this one is out of living memory.

So interestingly enough people have been taking comfort and inspiration in the parrallels of the Great Depression and World War II.

Both were endured in harsher conditions and with a higher death toll and went on for a lot longer than a few weeks.

As new restrictions finally started to take effect and change the way we lived our lives the Prime Minister Scott Morrison found the words to galvanise us calling on those memories of times gone by in the press conference held earlier that day.

He opened with.

We’re a strong nation, we’re a strong people, and in the months ahead, we’re going to find out just how strong we are. We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before. And we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together to stick this through, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.

We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices. That we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit. And we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.”

He closing words were “So look, while Australians may be self-isolating in many cases and keeping their distance from each other. I want to assure all Australians of this, that together we will get through this. We will not want to see anyone go through this alone at the end of the day, through the support that we’re providing. But we need to support each other. We need to care for each other and together Australia we will get through this, and we will emerge stronger. Thank you.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – CHOCOLATES

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Per Day

As the phoney week came to a close the Australian government had taken the unprecedent step to shut down international travel. We were closing off from the world and the sense of threat was only growing.

20 March

On Friday in Australia there were 873 cases with well over an eighth coming from that day alone. The daily increase was 164. The number of deaths was seven with a daily increase of one.

In the United States of America there were 15,219 cases with a daily increase of almost a third at 4,777. There were 201 deaths with a daily increase of 51.

President Trump at White House briefing that day was asked by NBC reporter Peter Alexander “So, what do you say Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?“.

Trump replied “I say that you a terrible reporter, that’s what I say.

Trump continued to rant insulting Alexander and his network NBC and saying that he was doing sensationalist journalism.

Just prior Alexander had asked about an anti malarial drug Trump was touting as a possible cure and has continued to do so. This follow-up question was intended as a softball one.

 

It would be unfair to pull out quotes made by public figures earlier in the outbreak. Public figures also need to reassure the public and point to a rosy vision for the future.

For the experts who had a knowledge about this they could see clearly what was happening. Certain Asian countries responded faster having living through the SARs epidemic.

Yet until the outbreak in Italy I think some understanding has to be given to our leaders for the unprecedented nature of events.

However as the crisis escalated Trump’s quotes become more and more a rebuke to what was actually going and the advice that his experts staff and other state leaders in the country have been saying.

To be quite blunt he has failed as a leader to rally the entire nation behind a cause, to create bipartisan participation between states and federal levels and to show an empathy for the suffering of others.

Whenever you hear Trump talk, it’s always about him.

One of his tactics too is to go on the attack, to lay the blame on others. Early on he attacked state leaders, tweeting New York Governor Cuomo has to do more.

That may be a fair criticism in terms of the early days of the crisis but since then I cannot think of how Cuomo could have done more.

He’s given daily briefing, stayed calm, communicated consistently in an ever changing situation and fought for what his state has needed to combat this virus.

Trump on the other hand is a terrifying sight to behold almost on a daily basis.

That is not to say the administration hasn’t done some good things but compared to other countries it has often been behind the curve and there is a constant push to get back to re-opening the economy partly based on what appears to be political motivations.

It is also true a lot of Americans want to do the same but I suspect this is because there is no effective welfare for them like there is in other developed nations. I worry a great deal about the plight of the American people with this President in charge.

These quotes even if they were part of a larger context are jarring in the face of what is happening in the country.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” 26FEB2020

It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” 28FEB2020

It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.” 13MAR2020

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” 17MAR2020

🐣 25+ Best Memes About Slaps Trump | Slaps Trump Memes

As the working week ended on the 20th of March in Australia I had faced the possibility of starting the next week working from home.

On Friday came I was advised I would be in the office on Monday but to be flexible as the situation continued to develop.

As the crisis had escalated I had wondered how it would affect the world in terms of social habits that were dying off with new technologies.

Would more working offices move to hot desks and working from home? Would cinemas die? Would globalisation be altered? Would there be a push for more national agriculture or manufacturing? Would we practice better hygiene?

Would we slow down and appreciate the little things more?

It seemed digital connection would be hastened by this crisis and as the week drew on it appeared this would be very much the case and I was suddenly struck by a realisation having spent most of my working life being in no working place more than two years full time.

I knew I liked working in the office. I knew the routine offered me a discipline and motivation that I benefited from and I liked the air conditioning. I knew I liked my desk and I liked getting my large mocha from my local café Stellarossa.

That week though I felt very keenly what I would miss the most and it was the people around me.

Cadbury Favourites Party Pack 570g - The Australian Food Shop

In a moment of lunacy that Thursday night I bought four packets of Cadbury Favourites  Party Edition and placed them around the office in different work areas after most people had gone home. With the packets was a printed out note.

These days often we can be heard saying the phrase “Interesting times.”
It’s a shorthand that suits for a variety of purposes.
What we mean is we are living in changing times; we are living in challenging times and yes, we are living in scary times.

Being scared makes sense.
Our way of life is changing for the moment, sports teams are playing to empty venues if they’re playing at all. Shop shelves are bare of things we use on a daily basis. Businesses are closing down and people are losing their jobs. A disease has criss-crossed the globe at a rapid pace and while thousands have thankfully recovered COVID-19 has exacted a death toll and will.

Being scared makes sense but it is not who we are.

Over the recent bushfire season over 18 million hectares of the country was burned. That is 186,000 square kilometres. The bulk of that fire was fought by a handful of rural firefighters and local residents making do under the circumstances. Millions of dollars were raised for the recovery efforts in a matter of days.
Close to 25,000 official Mud Army volunteers responded to the Brisbane floods in 2011 without a care or thought for personal safety or WHS considerations.

There wasn’t as much sports being played in the early 1940s either or during the Great War. There was rationing back then too and a global pandemic to follow.

When the times are interesting…people – all people from around the world are not found wanting.
This is certainly true of the staff of the Queensland College of Teachers.
Things are going to be different in the coming weeks and it is not always going to be easy. But we’re going to get through it together…. standing at a suitable safe distance from each other…sometimes at home. Hey, I told you it was going to be different okay.
So be there for each other, for your loved ones, spare a thought for those who are going to be doing it tough, help those who are vulnerable, thank our health care workers who will be the most exposed and overworked in the coming months to keep us healthy, for our teachers who are with our kids all day calming their nerves and keeping their education on track.

We are living in interesting times, but we will get through them together.

Also, chocolate.

-Lloyd Marken

No photo description available.
Copyright Micah Reynolds.

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART III

Coronavirus: Anguish as Europe learns to cope with new way of ...

 

19 March

Wednesday night in Bergamo, Italy the unmistakable grunts of truck engines and the hiss of brakes can be heard as the army ferries dead bodies out of full to bursting mortuaries to remote cremation sites.

On the 19th of March Italy overtook China as the country with the most deaths based on the numbers reported by the World Health Organisation.

China had 81,300 cases total that day with a daily increase of 126. Their death toll 3,252 with a daily increase of 11.

In Italy there were 41,035 cases with a daily increase of 5,322. The death toll was 3,407 with a daily increase of 429.

3,252….

429…

11….

One.

I once stood in front of a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral that listed all the names of British servicemen killed in the Falklands War. 255 names. Seeing the names all together suddenly made that number much higher than I had previously thought of it.

 

Falklands Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, London | "IN HONOU… | Flickr

The Falklands lasted 10 weeks and was noted by scholars for the advent of technology and the speed of conflict itself. Comparatively the 255 was less than the 649 Argentinians who died in the same way,  less than the 521 Australians killed in Vietnam, or the 1,078 British killed in the three year Korean War, or the 27,073 Australians killed serving in World War II or the 1,114,914 British that died in World War I, or the lowest estimates of the Spanish Flu pandemic that wiped out anywhere between 17,000,000 to 100,000,000.

1….

1,000…

1,000,000.

They can just become numbers but the thousands already dead from this pandemic are a story and a lot of those stories ended painfully with someone struggling to breathe, a nurse nearby doing her job the best she can and no loved ones able to say goodbye.

Here in my own bubble a lot of people died in China and I scarely thought about them. It might be something to remember as we continue to discuss the numbers coming out of China and their accuracy. Whatever the numbers, a lot of people died and the least we can do is try and do the best we can to stay alive so their lives can have even more meaning.

On the 19th of March the island state of Tasmania announced it would close it’s border from midnight the next day becoming the first state to do so.

Also on thursday, Australia announced that as of 9pm that Friday, all foreign travellers would be banned from entering the country. New Zealand had announced they would close its borders midnight Thursday. Residents of the two countries, would still be able to travel between both.

Those on student and work visas in Australia currently out of the country would not be able to return.

The Prime Minister advised the previous bans had already seen a reduction in the normal level of travel by one third.

The same day Qantas announced about 2/3 of their 30,000 staff would be stood down temporarily.

The decision stranded many Australians abroad who worked to get home.

As the Prime Minister worked to ensure less people came into the country with the virus. The 113,000 tonne cruise ship the Ruby Princess disembarked 2,700 passengers in Sydney the same day.

NSW coronavirus: Email bombshell reveals Ruby Princess bungle ...

The Ruby Princess had departed Sydney on the 8th of March for a cruise around New Zealand. The cruise was prematurely ended on the 15th of March and returned from Napier to Sydney. 

On the 20th of March we were informed 13 people had been tested for coronavirus and three had come back positive. In the weeks ahead the Ruby Princess disembarkation would have significant impact on the number of people getting sick in New South Wales. All passengers were asked to go into self isolation.

Of the 2,700 disembarked passengers at least 662 Australian passengers tested positive with 341 of them in New South Wales. This did not include about 900 passengers who left Australia without being tested.  The death toll of people who were on the Ruby Princess has risen to at least 21.

6 crew members were medically evacuated on the 2nd of April. 

542 of the 1,000 crew were taken off the ship and repatriated to their home countries between 21-23APR2020. The Ruby Princess left Port Kembla on the 23rd of April, 190 members of the crew had tested positive at that point.

The Ruby Princess story is echoed in many other cruise ships around the world.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART II

Coronavirus: Scott Morrison's wake-up call: cut hysteria, do your bit

18 March

Wednesday.

In the United Kingdom the government announces that Friday the 20th schools will shut down in the UK. This follows several countries on the continent already having done so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in comparison to other European nations seems more intransigent talking about herd immunity and not taking action as early as some.

This announcement though puts my sister and her husband, both teachers, at home safe taking care of their young daughter. It is also ahead of the USA and Australia who still have their schools open.

The World Health Organisation reports 2,630 cases in the UK that day with a daily increase of 676. The death toll almost doubles that day with a daily increase of 43 taking the total past 100 to 103.

In Australia some major announcements were made regarding travel. At this point there were 510 cases with a daily increase of 96. The death toll rose by one that day to a total of six.

Australia had been fairly early with some of its travel restrictions as far back as the 1st of February when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade denied entry to those travelling from China directly with the exceptions of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families.

DFAT also advised Australians not to travel to China due to the escalating threat and those who have returned to self isolate for 14 days. Those travelling on a visas who arrived after the restrictions were put in place were not asked to do anything. They were put in quarantine.

In a 24 hour period this had a significant effect with the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram advising “In Melbourne, we were expecting about 5,000 scheduled passengers to arrive from China, and we’re now expecting about 700 over that 24-hour period. So a significant downturn. In Brisbane, we were expecting 220, and we’re now only expecting about 97.”

You could come into the country if you had stayed somewhere for 14 days after leaving China before arriving in Australia which as my previous diary entry revealed did not stop a local student coming back with the virus.

On the 1st of February the World Health Organisation reported 11,821 cases in China with a daily increase 2,101. The death toll was recorded as 259 with a daily increase of 46.

On the 29th of February the ban included Iran. On the 29th of February the WHO reports 593 cases in Iran with a daily increase of 205. The death toll is recorded as 43 with a daily increase of nine.

Days later on the 5th of March South Korea was added to the list of countries. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 5,766 cases in South Korea with a daily increase of 438. The death toll in South Korea is 35 with three new deaths that day.

Those returning to Australia from Italy were also to face more screening questions and having their temperature taken. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 3,858 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 769. The death toll in the country is 148 with a daily increase of 41.

Then on the 11th of March Italy joined the list.  On the 11th of March, the WHO reports 12,462 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 2,313. The death toll in six days had risen to 827 with 196 deaths recorded that day alone.

On March 18, the Australian government issued its highest travel advice level (level 4), advising Australians to avoid all travel regardless of destination, age and health.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference announcing new restrictions which included only two visitors to aged care homes and a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or less with certain exceptions like schools, supermarkets and exceptions.

The words restrictions, exceptions, bans, gatherings were being heard more and more these days.

“This is a once-in-a-100-year-type event,” Mr Morrison said.

“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world. Life is going to continue to change.

His occasional bulldoggish demeanour started to come to the fore when he advised “Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful, and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis”.

This for me is no small thing and not a negative observation. After being critical of the Prime Minister during the national bushfire crisis only weeks earlier – here was a turning point.

In the days ahead I would often note to friends “For lack of a better term, this crisis suits him better.”

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART I

The Surprising Truth About Dark Moon Energy And Its Benefits

The ‘Phoney War’ refers to the first eight months of World War II when both sides pulled their punches strategically and the sweeping invasion of Europe by Germany was yet to really start.

For the casualties of this period I suspect there was nothing phoney about this at all. Poland and Finland planned for Allied Forces that never arrived to help fight off invasion and the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk with the loss of 519 of her crew for example.

The war was real even if it was thought of as phoney.

That is what the third week of March, 2020 in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.

The threat was acknowledged, events were happening but the major changes to life would occur after this week as government decision making was still gaining momentum.

 

14 March

I caught up with an old friend from high school who had recently become a father with his lovely wife. Their son was perfectly behaved as we enjoyed Grilled burgers.

I have discussed with another friend who is a new parent that his chance to work from home means he will get to spend time with his newborn that he would have missed.

I can never tell if the neutral yes reflects their agreement of this fact or whether it leads them to thoughts of how tired they are and how many nappy changes they might have missed had they been at work.

This was to be our last social gathering for a while.

 

15 March

Around dinner time on Sunday night I called to ask my Dad for advice about something in my physical space and he offered to come all the way over from the southside of town.

This surprised me and I told him that was not necessary but came he did.

Afterwards we talked about the Prime Minister’s big announcement from Friday and wondered what was to come. Today is the 5th of May and I have not seen my father since.

Not a long time in the scheme of things and I have certainly been on the phone to both my parents quite a bit. Almost subconsciously I was calling them every day for quite a while and they were happy to take the call. It was a way to talk through what was happening.

Due to their age and existing health conditions we have chosen to play it safe and not see each other. I of course miss them.

It was an odd thing that my father came over but I’m glad he did and I got to see him just a little bit more before this break.

I was also looking up a lot of things on youtube and relayed to my Dad this growing sense that the numbers of Italy from 2 to 3 weeks ago indicated where we could be shortly and that numbers were pretty scary.

 

 

As a former hospital wardsman I had always been concerned about the extra work load that would be placed on our health care workers and the complications that came with that.

At some point I started to become informed that once the hospitals were overwhelmed the fatality rates went up and at some point I became keenly aware that if protective gear ran out that our health care workers would increasingly risk infection and the potential fall out from this truly gave me pause.

 

16 March

With continuing shortages at the supermarkets, major Australian chains Woolworths and Coles announce they will introduce early hour of trading for pensioners and those with disabilities from 7am to 8am starting the next day.

Which leads in the days ahead to a great story. My Dad who is 75 with jet black hair and a few gray strands is asked to show his ID at the supermarket during pensioner hour. My Dad got carded to prove he was old enough! This delighted him and the rest of his family no end.

The more vulnerable in our society will get the whole store to themselves. This is part of a larger world wide trend.

I was away sick from work that day but my review of Dave Hughes is published on Scenestr as the Brisbane Comedy Festival is cancelled with a week to go.

This is the tip of the iceberg for a loss of income for various parts of the arts industries including my work as a freelance writer. I feel for all the artists and venues and support staff.

I also publish my long gestating My Favourite Films of 2019 List which has been weeks in the making but suddenly it seems out of place given what is happening in the world.

I also write about seeing Dave Hughes that day reflecting more what is going on in the world at that moment even though I schedule that to publish days later.

 

17 March

Tuesday morning I grab a coffee from my local haunt Stellarossa, I’ve been grabbing coffees from there since I started working in Toowong in late 2018. I ask the manager how things are, he tells me it wasn’t so bad last week but this week it has slowed right down.

At work I am pulled aside to sit with three levels of leadership for a quick meeting. I am asked if I would define myself as high risk due to an existing medical condition. One of the things I like about where I work is how they take care of their staff.

They are looking to protect me and I am not the only one who has one of these discussions. Yet it takes me back to a time from my past where I do not like to think of myself as someone requiring extra consideration in relation to the rest of my colleagues.

My wife had also raised this as a possible concern weeks ago but I had not chased it up. I get in touch with my specialist and at the end of a roundabout conversation I am advised that for the purposes of this scenario yes I am not a normal 39 year old.

I discuss with my manager my concerns of being treated differently and he gently suggests that is something I may need to get over. I nod knowing he is right.

Later in a team meeting his wisdom is on display again when to centre our thoughts on what may happen he points out what happened in the span of a week the previous week to indicate the breadth of what might change in the week ahead.

He truly is a wise man.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – FRIDAY THE 13TH

Awesome Time Lapse Video Of Planet Earth Taken On The ...

 

If there was a tipping point in the COVID-19 crisis in Australia it was Friday the 13th of March. After that day we knew life was changing and the uncertainty surrounding how would dominate the days following. Indulge me if you will but play the video above while reading this post.

 

Thirteen-Lawyer KPMG Team in France Heads Back to Fidal as Dispute ...

March 13

On Friday I was driving into work and heard on the news that France had shut down all schools. At the time they had the second largest number of cases in Europe behind only Italy. The school shut down was a measure of escalation and of note in regards to where I worked. Throughout the week people had been paying attention to the news and trying to prepare come what may.

In France on the 13th of May the World Health Organisation reported an increase from 2,281 to 3,640 in the country.

There was a daily increase of 31 dead in the country taking the total of 79.

 

In Italy only food stores and pharmacies were now allowed to be open with all other shops closed. There were now over 1,000 intensive care patients in the country and there was talk that hospital staff now were having to make decisions about who was likely to be able to save factoring in to decision making about the care administered.

In Italy the WHO reported a daily increase of 2,547 cases bringing the national total to 21,157. The death toll increased by 252 taking us to 1,268.

 

Trudeau self-isolating after wife Sophie develops fever, gets ...

The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau went into self isolation following his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau testing positive to COVID-19 having just returned from a speaking engagement in Great Britain.

With a daily increase of 59 cases the total number in Canada jumped to 152. The first death recorded March 11, remained the only one in the country.

 

Amid a global pandemic, Cheltenham Festival surviving all four ...

In the UK the Cheltenham racing festival was in full swing with the Cheltenham Gold Cup held on the 13th of March with over 68,500 attending. The event like several other sporting events that week was held in accordance with government advice and with “a range of additional hygiene measure at the event, including hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers and extra wash basins.” at the event.

UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries tested positive for the virus having attended a Downing Street meeting the previous Friday where 100 people were in attendance. Inexplicably Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw no reason to get tested himself.

On the 13th of March there were 802 cases in total reported in the United Kingdom. Over a quarter of those had just been reported that day – 208. There were two new deaths leading to a total of 10.

 

Coronavirus: President Donald Trump handed gift by Fabio ...

In the United States of America President Trump had announced a restriction on travel between Europe and the U.S. with the exception of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The stockmarket had crashed falling more in one single day than since Black Monday on the 19th of October 1987 which was followed by the recession of the late 1980s.

Several film and television shows and film shoots were shutting down and going on hiatus. Hollywood was grounding to a halt with all its productions across the world.

Fabio Wajngarten, the communication secretary of Brazilian President tested positive to coronavirus days after being photographed with President Trump and Vice President Pence sparking concerns that the American Cabinet should get tested and for some reason Pence and Trump delayed that.

On the 13th of March in the United States of America there were 277 new cases with a total of 1,264 overall. There were 36 dead, 7 from that day alone.

 

Australia isolates all international arrivals | Prothom Alo

The Prime Minster of Australia Scott Morrison had announced a 17.6 billion spending package the day before which would could cost his government his much anticipated budget surplus. “Our focus is on getting support to those who need it … There will be an other side of this crisis.” said the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

At 9am Friday, the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. McLaren had pulled out the day before following a team member testing positive.

The Home Affairs Minister in Australia Peter Dutton tested positive to COVID-19 having recently returned from America where he met with Ivanka Trump and senior White House personnel.

There was a Council of Australian Governments Meeting with the Prime Ministers and state Premiers that day. Following on from that the Council decided they would convene that Sunday a National Cabinet meeting of state heads and federal leaders.

It was announced that starting the following Monday there would be no mass gatherings of 500 people or more after the weekend. The Prime Minister originally intended to attend the footy over the weekend to see his beloved Sharkies play. Later that day he advised to avoid confusion over his actions he would not go. The Cronulla Sharks lost that match.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 13th of March, 2020 189 cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 49 of those cases reported that day alone. There had been three deaths in my country at that point.

 

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I headed to the Brisbane Comedy Festival that night with Karen. Hot off the press was the cancellation of the Melbourne Comedy Festival originally scheduled to kick off on the 25th of March. Travel company Flight Centre had announced plans to shut down 100 of its 900 stores. It was just one of many companies announcing store closures, staff reductions and slow down.

We caught up with some of our friends and grabbed a table out on the river far from crowds. One of our friends shared hand sanitiser she had brought with her. This was becoming a way of life.

We discussed how the situation was escalating, talked about precautions, at one point I discussed some talking heads saying it was only as deadly as the flu. One of our friends with the patience of a saint relayed she had heard that spoken about too but it was not accurate. Earlier that very same day Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had stressed that the virus was “10 times more deadly” than the regular flu.

We all had on our minds that the most vulnerable in our society were going to be even more vulnerable, that unemployment was going to rise and that our health care system and the workers who take care of us were about to be put through the ringer.

It was the last time I would see these friends in person for a while. I miss them.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I saw Dave Hughes in the large Powerhouse Theatre on assignment for Scenestr magazine. We grabbed a row at the back of the front section. The venue was close to full but there were a few chairs empty most likely due to people not showing rather than not being sold. Karen and I had nobody sit with us. Dave Hughes came out and was very funny. There was a sense in the air that things were changing and that this might be it for a while. Hughesy wondered how it all worked, less than 500 people and all of a sudden no one is sick? That we can’t go out Monday but tonight is fine? Does the virus know? Later that night another friend Rosie who you may recall coming with me to the opening night of BIFF 2018, was out and about in the clubs and Hughesy showed up where she was and performed some stand-up.

It felt a little like seizing the day which in hindsight can also seem selfish and stupid. We followed government advice I guess but regardless Friday the 13th of March, 2020 was a turning point in Australia. The ripchord had been pulled, a global economic recession had been kicked off and clearly too many people were dying. Government was taking action and they wouldn’t be doing any of this if they saw an alternative. It seemed like the possibility of a world leader coming down with the disease was all too real. We knew the world was changing, an anxious next few days would reveal in what ways and just how much.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – MARKET PENETRATION

Image: A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Colosseum in Rome on March 7, 2020 amid fear of Covid-19 epidemic.

Market penetration – the extent to which a product is recognized and bought by customers in a particular market.

News believe it or not works like a line of products being offered up to the market.  There is niche news, alternative news, comfort food news and leading news.

After all… news is consumed and when you need to get the word out you can only hope you achieve market penetration quickly.

These days its hard for the news to get our attention and even harder for one voice to reach all audiences.

In the second week of March COVID-19 had achieved market penetration and by the end of the week it would be dominating our attention.

March 04

The next James Bond movie No Time To Die was due to open 02APR2020 and in America 10APR2020 but with only a month to go and amidst a publicity ramp-up and marketing spend the release date was moved.

With the Chinese box office compromised and territories like Italy and France shut down the Bond feature became the first blockbuster of the year to move out of the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would not be the last with A Quiet Place II, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, F9 and the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman: 1984 all following suit. This all made sense to me, my concerns at this point like the filmmakers were with the risk to lives.

This followed production halting on the latest Mission Impossible film on the 25th of February which was set to film in Venice, Italy.

 

March 07

Karen and I had dinner with friends and travel restrictions were on people’s minds but the coronavirus did not dominate the conversation. Toilet paper shortages were definitely in the news but Karen had recently bought some from a bargain store when the stocks were out in the major supermarkets. We were fine for now.

 

March 08

On Sunday we had a family gathering for the birthdays of two of my siblings. We did not think this would be the last time we were going to see each other in person for a while. But that has certainly proven to be the case.

March 09

Italy went into national quarantine with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte restricting travel only for work and family emergencies and the cancellation of all sporting events.

March 10

At work we were all practising social distancing.

On Tuesday we had a team meeting and discussed at length what was needed to be able to have all staff work from home.

The framing was if someone had to self isolate. The other thinking was in order to minimise risk, staff may work 50/50 at home and in the office on a rotational basis.

I had just purchased a new laptop of the 27th of February and started to think of rushing to load up software on it and start using it but first I wanted to wrap up transferring some things from my old laptop.

With market penetration I was certainly starting to think about coronavirus differently. It was here and we had seen the devastation it was wreaking in Italy. I had watched John Oliver’s 01MAR2020 episode for water cooler conversation but we were going beyond that.

After the meeting I turned to a work colleague and observed that I had been working at the Queensland University of Technology during the Swine flu and Bird flu scares and the Ebola outbreaks to the West in 2014. I had lived through MERS and SARS too. With all the international students at QUT we had never had a meeting to prepare for contingencies like this.

The penny should have dropped there.

 

Rita Wilson (with Tom Hanks) | Iconic Beauty Looks From the 1995 ...

March 12

I was standing at Stellarossa Toowong getting my morning coffee when the barista told me “Tom Hanks has got coronavirus.”

I asked if this was one of those things news pranks and she assured me it was not. Wow I thought. Sure enough back at my desk I saw a news headline saying Tom Hanks and wife have coronavirus. I walked over to my boss who was about the same age and joked I feel like saying “Her name is Rita Wilson, show some goddamn respect” of the actress, singer and producer in her own right.

This may sound horrible but the diagnosis of a celebrity let alone such a beloved one might have proven the moment for a lot of people that this thing was to be taken seriously. Tom Hanks getting it kind of drove home the point that anyone could.

Pregnant superstar Katy Perry performed in Bright, Victoria to give back to bushfire ravaged communities, to thousands of people. This followed on from her performance in the Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup Final on the 8th.

On the 10th, Miley Cyrus had cancelled her appearance at a Melbourne bushfire relief concert due to coronavirus concerns. While Perry was lauded for her performances the decision by Cyrus was already starting to appear sensible.

This was Thursday, the same day that the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic. “The number of cases outside China increased 13-fold in the past two weeks. Now there are more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have died, with the numbers expected to climb.

That day the World Health Organisation reported that China had gone from 80,302 cases on the 3rd of March, 2020 to 80,981 on the 12th of March, 2020 with a daily increase of 26.  The death toll was reported as 3,173 with a daily increase of 11.

In Iran there were 10,705 cases with 1,075 of those having just been reported that day. 75 people died in Iran that day bringing the death toll to 429.

In Italy there were 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 987 cases total reported with a daily increase of 281. The national death toll stood at 29 with four from that day.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, 134 new cases reported that day increased the national total to 594. Two new deaths brought the total to eight in the country.

In Australia there were 140 cases with a daily increase of 18. The death toll stood at 3.

In Canada there were a total of 93 cases with no new daily increases. The first death had been reported the day before.

In the episode Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that aired on the 1st of March, 2020, Oliver noted that “Trust in institutions is critical when trying to contain a possible pandemic.” On reflection of what would happen in the days following the 12th of March these words only ring more true to me.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – 03MAR2020

FILE IMAGE of the Brisbane suburb Toowong.

A crisis unfolds through so many strands, it starts with a murmur and then all of a sudden the ground is shaking and nobody knows if the earth is going to open up and swallow you whole. Maybe you just need to find your footing, maybe the ground will stop shaking and you’ll sigh a sigh of relief and move on. In no time you might even forget how scary it all was.

School children are being encouraged to write diaries in these days as they live throughout history. A little personal account of a global event. I have been inspired to follow suit if a little too late to truly be in spirit of the act.

Already it is hard to retrace but I will try.

March 03

Where I work is not far from the University of Queensland in terms of a drive. I work in the suburb of Toowong just outside the main Brisbane CBD along Coronation Drive in the river.

I am fond of getting a morning coffee from the nearby Stellarossa Café in Toowong village.

On the 3rd of March, 2020 it was reported that a 20 year old resident of Toowong and UQ student from China was confirmed to have coronavirus. (Remember when we were calling it that.)

I remember flicking through the front page about this at Stellarossa. The student had spent 14 days in Dubai as a precautionary measure. He landed in Brisbane on the 23rd of February, 2020 and became unwell two days later. He was the tenth confirmed case of COVID-19 in my home state of Queensland.

There were 33 cases in the whole of Australia on the 3rd of March and the first Australian had died from the disease two days earlier.

His name was James Kwan and he was 78 years old. Having spent his career in the tourism industry he was on holidays aboard the cruise ship the Diamond Princess along with 150 other Australians when it had been forced to go into quarantine throughout February in the Japanese port of Yokohama. After a long journey that included diagnosis and isolation in the Northern Territory he returned to his hometown of Perth and passed away in hospital.

In China the World Health Organisation was reporting a cumulative total of 80,302 cases since the first rumblings back in November, 2019 with only a daily increase of 128. There were 31 new deaths from Coronavirus reported in the country adding to a total death toll of 2,946 deaths.

In Iran there were 2,336 cases and with a daily increase of 835. Eleven people died in Iran that day with 77 total dead already.

In Italy there 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 188 cases total reported so far with a daily increase of 44. The first two deaths in the country had been reported on the 2nd of March.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, there were 51 cases with a daily increase of 12. There were no death reported in Great Britain until the 6th of March.

In Canada there were three new cases and a total of 30 reported in the whole country. The first death would be reported over a week later on the 11th of March.

China, Italy and Iran and the Diamond Princess were in the news already but on the 3rd of March the coronavirus had come to my home town and most specifically to where I worked.

And then Tom Hanks got it…

-Lloyd Marken

WHEN I WAS A WARDIE – I – THE BALI BOMBINGS

I was a casual on call hospital wardsman from September 2002 to February 2006 at the Royal Brisbane/Women’s Hospital.

On the 12th of October 2002 a terrorist attack killed 202 people from over 20 countries in Bali. Two suicide bombers positioned themselves at nightspots The Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar while a remote bomb was detonated outside the American consulate. In what remains the largest loss of Australian life due to a terrorist attack 88 Australians were killed.

Hundreds more were wounded, in the largest aero medical evacuation carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force since the Vietnam War 66 survivors were flown to Darwin within the first 24 hours of the bomb blast. Some were transported further on from Darwin.

I had not been in the job for a month when I met two of survivors of the Bali bombings.

When I began work at the hospital there had been construction of several new buildings, the Ned Hanlon Building was the main one and the maternity ward on level six and the special care nursery on level five were already operating there. There was also X-Ray on level three.

The RBH as it was for me growing up still stood but we were in the process of moving and opening up new wards in the new building. One ward at the old building was set up to receive patients coming down from Darwin from originally Bali.

I was working evening shifts 2:30pm to 10:30pm. One night I was paged to go up to that ward, it was to be my first experience dealing with young patients that I would see naked and burns victims. I was 21 and didn’t know how I would react, I was a little nervous.

I came in and was instructed to put on a green robe. I did bed turns with two patients as the nurse cleaned and dressed them. One was an older gentlemen, one was a blonde haired woman in her mid 20s.

I found to my surprise I was not embarrassed by the nudity even in a young member of the opposite sex nor was I horrified by the burns.

I was there to do a job and was concentrating on doing it right.

Having the nurse helped too, I just did as she told me. I do remember seeing black poking out from under bandages wrapped around hands. I remember the redness all over the skin of the woman’s torso.

I would go on to deal with worse burns victims. I remember thinking the gown was more a precaution given it didn’t seem to get that messy compared to some patient handling I had already experienced. Of course it was for their protection as well.

I remember talking to the female patient, she was a member of the Australian Federal Police. I assumed she had been in Bali on holidays but didn’t ask.

That first month at the hospital I worked full time hours before deciding I couldn’t balance it and my studies. I did work the rest of the week in that area but I never got called back to that ward.

I oddly found some comfort and took some pride in those few minutes of doing bed turns. My country had endured its worst terrorist attack in history and I had been given an opportunity, however small, to help the survivors directly.

I never had to worry about my own safety the way current health care workers have and will during this pandemic crisis.

Many have and will get COVID-19 because there isn’t enough equipment to protect them.

Some of them are going to die because there won’t be enough equipment to save them when they get sick.

They’re running into the jaws of death right now for us.

To help us.

To save us.

I stand in awe of them.

-Lloyd Marken

 

DAVE HUGHES’S ‘RIDICULOUS’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

Scenestr169

On Friday the 13th of March, 2020 I was on assignment for Scenestr magazine at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. I was there to see famous stand-up comedian Dave Hughes.

Earlier in the week the World Health Organisation had labelled the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic. Italy hit with several cases had shut down the country to having people only going to work. France shut down children attending school.

Friday morning the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been urging people to attend the weekend football. By afternoon he was saying that come Monday no large crowds of 500 or more could gather in public.

A member of his cabinet, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had tested positive for the virus. The Formula 1 in Melbourne had been cancelled as had the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Wall Street had seen the biggest falls in stocks in one day of trading since the crash of 1987.

Heading into the weekend there was no doubt we were about to experience an economic recession, see our country shut down travel, business and events as much as possible. The most vulnerable in our community to the disease are also the most vulnerable to the pressures that will come to supermarket stocks, health care support or temporary employment.

We’re in for some rough days ahead and so it was some comfort to find quite a few people out at the Brisbane Comedy Festival ready to laugh and to see Dave Hughes a stand-up as recognisable and reliable as any stand-up in this country.

Hughesy made us laugh, laugh about the virus, laugh at ourselves, laugh at him and laugh at our lives. It was a nice reminder of how we need to face the days ahead. With support for our fellow humans and with a sense of hope and optimism. It was a privilege to attend and you can read my review here https://scenestr.com.au/comedy/dave-hughes-review-brisbane-comedy-festival-2020-20200316

Karen and I caught up with some friends beforehand and enjoyed our beloved snack bar menu pizzas from the Powerhouse. Then we were off to the Powerhouse Theatre, the largest venue at the Powerhouse reserved for big stars, like Hughesy, to perform.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

The following Monday, the Brisbane Comedy Festival was cancelled. In addition to big name comedians, there are a lot of shows and acts there that run on the smell of an oily rag with performers who sometimes work other jobs during the day. Such cancellations are going to provide them with significant challenges in the weeks ahead too but I know we all want to keep each other safe.

I hope you’re safe, I hope you are able to get toilet paper in your part of the world, I hope we treat each other right and help each other in the weeks ahead. I’ll try me best to do so.

-Lloyd Marken

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2019

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It is time once again to do my annual favourite films of the year list which allows for late 2019 American releases to reach Australian shores. What was a little interesting for me this year is I saw less films on the big screen or through their streaming services. From a total of 57 last year I went down to only 45 this year.

There were a lot of good films I saw, and it was no struggle to think of a top five but I did find it difficult to fill out a list of 10 films for the Honourable Mentions. Maybe the depth of quality wasn’t there this year or maybe as in every other year I missed a lot of good ones.

I hear good things about Waves and Honey Boy, I’m intrigued by The Peanut Butter Falcon and I have just seen on DVD Best Picture winner Parasite. I really want to see Apollo 11, Ad Astra, Booksmart, The Lighthouse, Richard Jewell, Pain and Glory, For Sama and The Farewell. Just a random observation, some of the best films I saw this year centred around men in crisis.

With the close of the fourth decade I have lived through I got thinking about an end of decade list which also got me thinking about how certain films are lauded in their year of release but you don’t often go back and think on them. If anyone is interested I couldn’t imagine Warrior and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy not featuring on that decade list. I think Black Swan, The Tree of Life, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dunkirk would all stand a good chance of making it. 20th Century Women I think too and maybe Nocturnal Animals. Films like Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, Ladies in Black and In The Aisles have stayed with me. But high fliers like First Man, In This Corner of the World, Eye in the Sky, A Star Is Born, Blade Runner 2049 would not be a given but I sure like to think they’d be in that list.  It is interesting how time redefines classics.

Star ratings are on a four star scale as per the reviews I read from the late great film critic Roger Ebert.

 

Alita: Battle Angel Published at Scenestr 12FEB19 ***

Captain Marvel Published at Scenestr 06MAR19 ***

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Published at Scenestr 20MAR19 ***

The Trouble With You Not Reviewed **

Shazam Not Reviewed ***

Hellboy Published at Scenestr 11APR19 **1/2

Red Joan Published at X-Press Magazine 06JUN19 ***

Godzilla II: King of the Monsters Published at Scenestr 31MAY19 **1/2

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Not Reviewed *1/2

Men in Black: International Not Reviewed **1/2

Toy Story 4 Not Reviewed **1/2

Always Be My Maybe Not Reviewed ***

Late Night Not Reviewed **1/2

Shaft Not Reviewed **1/2

IT: Chapter 2 Not Reviewed **1/2

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark Published at Scenestr 29SEP19 ***

Little MonstersPublished at Weekend Notes 13OCT19 ***

Chained for Life Not Reviewed **1/2

Zombieland: Double Tap Not Reviewed **

Terminator: Dark Fate Published at Scenestr 01NOV19 **

El Camino Not Reviewed **1/2

Dolemite Is My Name Not Reviewed ***

Knives Out Not Reviewed ***

The Rise of Skywalker Not Reviewed *1/2

Jojo Rabbit Not Reviewed **1/2

 

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw Published at Scenestr 01AUG19 ***

Hobbs and Shaw is fine perfectly fine fun entertainment. There is no real sense of stakes even though apparently the world needs saving, there’s no real characters here but just the established personalities of Statham and The Rock that we enjoy hanging with and seeing playing off of each other.

I was surprised after seeing how crazy cool Idris Elba was as Luther that he did not make much of a compelling nor threatening bad guy. Even winning a fist fight in an early scene doesn’t make him a threat because our heroes always manage to get away from him. Early Terminator films managed this while still maintaining the villain was a threat.

For a series that has done a lot of things practically the Fast and Furious series is really embracing the CGI these days and it just makes the action scenes have less impact. Still Vanessa Kirby knows the value of a good stare down the lens, there is still wit in the dialogue, two great cameos and some fun with the action choreography.

Alita: Battle Angel almost made the grade instead, for all that film’s flaws I think I cared more about the characters in it but Hobbs & Shaw is a more streamlined product. The fact this film made the list reflects poorly on the list rather than well on Hobbs & Shaw but it was fun to watch.

The ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise is one of those Hollywood fairytales they tell little studio execs to help them drift off to sleep when they’re worried about the changing nature of the global box office.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home Not Reviewed ***

Another perfectly fine blockbuster, this one a sequel and a comic book film. What director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers still get right is the teenage stuff. The previous Spider-Man film worked as a high school comedy and this one suffers from a couple of issues, first a lot has happened in the MCU since the last film and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is suffering a loss and needing guidance as he matures but the metaphor doesn’t land as well as it did in the last film.

Jake Gyllenhaal is kind of the older cool kid who betrays you? Whatever. Still there are some cool sequences, great laughs and at least here the filmmakers invest in giving their character a real arc and growth compared to most other 2019 blockbusters.

Sadly the MJ (Zendaya) love story had a lot of beats we’re become familiar with after two decades and three iterations of the couple on screen. I’m hoping the filmmakers can right the ship for the trilogy closer and get back to bringing something new to the screen that is still true to Peter Parker. But a perfectly enjoyable comic book movie.

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Memory: The Origins of Alien Published at Weekend Notes 13OCT19 ***

This documentary which I caught at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2019 worked best when telling the life of screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. It was interesting to look at such a celebrated film as Alien and analyse how its themes are still relevant and hear some of the stories behind the scenes.

We learn a lot about the importance of H.R. Giger’s design, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and the steely determination and creative sensibilities of Scott just one feature into his career. We also reflect on how ground-breaking the ideas of Alien were and how much the film stands up decades on where others may have dated.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Published at X-Press Magazine 16MAY19 ***

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat, John Wick 3 isn’t even the best John Wick movie, I’m not particularly excited at the prospect of a John Wick 4. There are a million things I could complain about in this film. Yes it is an example of style of substance but God damnit could we please have some substance. Atomic Blonde is cut from the same cloth and is a better film.

And yet… and yet I think about the fight with the library or in the knife museum and my heart just swells to know there are still people prepared to put this much thought and wit and inventiveness and craft into their action scenes. If they could do the same to the rest of their filmmaking we’d really have something on our hands here but for now this film will nonetheless be talked about 10 years from now for the fight scenes. There is a lot to enjoy here.

The evergreen Keanu Reeves is back as the titular assassin John Wick and he’s all out of the bubblegum he was chewing in Speed, so now he’s just kicking butt. In the original film, there was the first act’s slow burn observation of Wick retired and grieving his wife. If the sequels have lacked this mystery and heart, Reeves has continued to give it his all.

Image result for making waves the art of making cinematic sound

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound Not Reviewed ***

As a fan of cinema this documentary was quite interesting, it give a brief summation of the history of sound effects in film and how much it adds to the cinematic experience.

There was a heavy focus on films from the 1970s and the genius of Walter Murch and Ben Burtt who added so much to classics from that era and revolutionised the industry.

However there were some great stories of trailblazing women in the industry like Barbara Streisand and Cecilia Hall and I wondered what other stories there are to tell form more recent times.

Ford vs. Ferrari Not Reviewed ***

My Uncle raced cars and bikes and God knows what else. A mechanic by trade he ended up becoming an Engineer. I hear my Grandfather when he got his first car as a middle aged father was a bit of a boy racer. My father was not a boy racer and yet when I mentioned this film to him he told me all about Le Mans in the 1960s and the showdown between two legendary car companies and families.

The trailers will have you believe this is a racing car movie and I suppose that is fair. There is racing in it quite a bit and it is done well. Yet in telling a real life story director James Mangold does not skirt some harsh realities that transpired here.

This is really about the passing of a time where great individuals could do great things but they had to navigate the corporate world to do it. Company boards and stocks were becoming a thing and visionaries couldn’t just build the fastest car in the world in their garage. If the film is to be believed they could still sure as hell rip apart the engine in the shop with a wrench and hammer and figure out how to make it go faster than a computer. But that time was coming to an end and this film is about how to navigate the new world with an old dreamer’s ambition.

It’s funny then to finding ourselves rooting for the designer/former racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver/mechanic Ken Miles (Christian Bale) working for the car company Ford that made its name on the innovation of the factory production line going up against Enzo Ferrari who truly loved cars and racing and whose company today still makes their cars “by hand”.

In Shelby’s struggle to get the GT40 made and to have Ken Miles race it at Le Mans, James Mangold and his team have obviously seen similarities to their own struggles to realise visions in storytelling within the workings of a major film studio. Miles is the best racer for the job and that is not a good enough reason for Ford to have him behind the wheel though it should be the ONLY reason.

A wonderful tale about pursuing excellence in your life and the possible costs that come with it, this is a film that strives to solidify the legacy of Miles and Shelby and does no favours for Ford Junior.

At one point this was film to be shot by Michael Mann with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. I sure would have loved to have seen that film. Yet it should be said that Damon and Bale are great in this as are the rest of the cast.

The film is shot naturalistic without the film colourisation of other recent period pieces. There are obvious CGI additions which is disappointing and stand out in the trailers but during the film the editing and sound come together well to get you caught up in the moment.

It’s easy to mock this as the Dad movie of 2019, a tale boomers will recall and can share with their GenX kids however there is a message here for all dreamers to take note of.

There’s a point at 7,000 RPM… where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless. Just disappears. And all that’s left is a body moving through space and time. 7,000 RPM. That’s where you meet it. You feel it coming. It creeps up on you, close in your ear. Asks you a question. The only question that matters. Who are you?.”

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Rocketman Reviewed at Scenestr 29MAY19 ***

There are moments in this Elton John biopic directed by Derek Fletcher starring Taron Egerton and Jaimie Bell, Richard Madden and Gemma Jones that are transcendent.

The moment when the song Rocketman arrives in the film’s narrative is sheer perfection in terms of visual storytelling and emotional resonance. If all the film was at that level it would easily make the top 10 but for me that is not what happened here. Whole scores of scenes and songs felt dreary, uninventive and unnecessary. Maybe that’s just me but there is too much to recommend here to not say you should see it.

As an exercise in capturing what we have loved about this extraordinarily talented, passionate, big hearted, temperamental and damaged man and his music this film hits its target and reminds even rock stars were just once little boys who want love and we all want love don’t we?

Stepfathers, soccer, the fans that fill those stadiums and even the Piano Man’s deep love of all music is glossed over, but a little household in 1950s Pinner looms large…But Pinner is the key. It explains the drugs, the straight marriage and why Taupin is a brother and not just a best friend.

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Long Shot Published at Scenestr 23APR19 ***

A romantic comedy for the 21st century with the star power of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen.

There is a lot of delving into privacy, political campaigns and male/female dynamics in this film and not just surface references but actual thoughts about these subjects. Yet it retains a light touch (okay it gets a little gross but overall), gets big laughs and has a sweet heart and a smart brain.

It’s not the best film of the year but it shows the romantic comedy is far from played out and why we enjoy them.

Charlize, who has made a career out of playing strong women, gets to flex her comedic muscles again and shows once more she is at the height of her powers. There is a moment where she just stands wearing a pair of sunglasses and it may be the funniest bit in the whole movie. This is star-driven in the oldest sense, the stars coast through the film and, conversely, the film coasts off them, neither gives away just how hard it all is.

 

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Danger Close Not Reviewed ***

Kriv Stenders is one of the best directors working in Australia right now having made the excellent Australia Day and the even better The Go-Betweens: Right Here both in 2017. So it was good news to hear he was doing a film adaptation of the Battle of Long Tan. In a rubber plantation in Vietnam in 1966 an Australian infantry company held off an attack of a numerically superior force. It’s the kind of against the odd battles that make for great storytelling and there are many important stories about Long Tan. Sad stories, touching stories and inspiring stories like there are from all of the Vietnam war.

Danger Close can’t do them all justice and Stenders seems to have been stuck in the middle of waiting to be honest about the nature of soldiers, the futility of war, the politics of the military and telling an exciting rip roaring yarn. He is not without ambition and if he doesn’t quite pull it all together in a consistent and affecting masterpiece he certainly honours certain individuals who were there on the day and maintains some technical fidelity to history and military practice.

Where he fails is in finding a character to follow through the battle and display an affective arc. Even though the film is based on real life, it amazingly stays true to certain war film clichés of rebels who will make good, guys with gals at home who may not be long for this world and hard nosed leaders who will soften around their men and harden even more around the enemy.

Students of the battle will recognise the crucial points are conveyed more or less for what they were and heroic acts and the heroes who carried them out are remembered. Not a perfect film it is an admirable attempt at doing justice to the story of Delta Company, 6RAR on that that day.

The greatest feat Stenders can hang his hat on is how he gets the blood pumping in the lead up to significant actions, he knows how to stage a battle scene and Hollywood should take note, this was one of the most exciting action films of the year.

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Avengers: Endgame Not Reviewed ***

What does it matter what I think about the highest grossing film of all time? I preferred Infinity War to be honest, that was a story told on the run, banking on a cinematic history to fill in the gaps of characterisation and earn emotional buy in.

It was fun though and Endgame to the Russo brothers credit actually wants this to be less fun. They want this to have resonance, to have impact and to matter and they accept that happy endings are not a given, some things can’t be magically reversed. There is a finality to this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I hope they stick with rather than go for the cheap cash grab.

I’m sure smarter minds could unpack about how this is not cinema. Sorry, but I had to because I get it, why he said it and I understand why some people disagree and that’s fine too. Yet compare this to say The Return of the King, that is better storytelling more organically unfolding and building towards a climax and yes also a blockbuster.

On the other hand Star Wars and Game of Thrones both ended in 2019 like this iteration of The Avengers and there was a lot more dissatisfaction with those wrap-ups. It’s hard to stick the landing for something that taps into the zeitgeist so much and in a world of increasing split fanbases, identity politics, disparate audiences and general disconnect, it’s kind of nice to have these blockbusters that most people enjoy and share together and are all relatively happy with.

Looking back over the film it feels like a string of moments rather than a story but when I think about where some of these characters ended up at the end of this and how it made us all feel I do smile. It’s almost one of relief but it is one of satisfaction.

We haven’t really talked about the effects, the story or the performances. But why bother, you saw it, I liked all the same things you did. Seeing Peggy through the window, getting a little girl all the cheeseburgers in the world, Rene Russo inspiring fat Thor, oh yeah-fat Thor!, the Avengers assembling and Tony Stark being Iron Man one last time. I love you 3,000 and finally seeing a girl about that dance.

 

 

THE TEN

 

 

10. Bombshell Not Reviewed ***1/2

I was surprised to find how emotionally affecting I found Bombshell which may come as a surprise given the harrowing subject matter. I thought maybe the film would get the cliff notes and be about the actors transforming into people we know from the media world. I had watched and had a lot to recommend from The Loudest Voice which told the story of Ailes and Greta Carlson.

Russell Crowe played him as a fascinating and terrifying figure in that mini-series. A man who changed the media and political landscape of the United States of America granting him power and wealth which would be terrifying to take on if you suffered abuse from it.

I had heard that story and I was not sure if I wanted to revisit it, but the focus here is different. Ailes was a giant in The Loudest Voice, here he is a boss in a workplace that is about to have a reckoning with its culture, excesses and injustices.

At the centre of it are three women and something that Bombshell does well is understand the nuances and complexity of us as individuals in a workplace with ambition, competitiveness and alliances. I knew Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie would be brilliant with it, I did not know the latter would move me to tears after knowing what Ailes was capable of but she did – she’s that good.

Director Jay Roach probably does not get enough credit given his stellar cast who double as producers taking reign about the kind of stories they want to work on but he should. He’s made some good HBO films about Presidential campaigns that feature stars looking exactly like the real life figures they play. His choices aren’t flashy but they are in support of the story and the point of the story being told. This is more than just the movie where Charlize Theron nailed her portrayal of Megyn Kelly, this is good movie and you should see it.

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9. Uncut Gems Not Reviewed ***1/2

I don’t know if I’m recommending this movie for you to see.

When we meet Howard Ratner, New York jeweller, we get the sense of unease almost from the get go. Not just from him but from the people that surround him. His store seems to be full of customers and staff who can’t quite be trusted, they push hard for their own needs, take up the space in the room, shuffle their feet and lean forward, they’ve got friends with them, their clothes are good but not well maintained and they’re sweating in the North Atlantic.

They’re sharks and Howard is right at home with them, because in his mind he is a shark too. There are people in his life who would not disagree. Then we see quite clearly that Howard is a gambler. Life is a hustle and he is a hustler, life has been pretty good to him so he probably has come to the conclusion to keep hustling. The film is an examination of how he might be right but maybe not quite.

Life is a gamble, we’re all gambling in that sense and that is fine but Howard IS a gambler and that is not living a life. That is ruining one and all the lives that circle it. The difference between us and a gambler is not about when they say no and when we do. Everybody makes bad calls and has to deal with bad luck. The difference is the gambler never says no – they can’t.

The fact that Sandler makes you care about the outcome of a man who is self-destructing at maximum warp is kind of a miracle. Maybe, we like Howard, like the thrill of seeing if a bad bet will pay off? Well researched, the film captures a certain New York energy I thought the city had lost with all the foreign capital put into it (albeit this is set a few years ago).

Watch out for clothing designer/model/photographer/director and actress Julia Fox who yes is sexy as hell in this film but brings a lot to the role of Howard’s mistress and fellow hustler Julia. Are they playing each other or is there real affection there? What is she hoping to achieve for herself? Eric Bogosian is in this too and he’s always good. Directors the Safdie Brothers have arrived.

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8. Joker Not Reviewed ***1/2

Joker is a good example of how sometimes when a film is released there wis a lot of conversation around it that may have nothing to do with what you think of the film. To be fair I think director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix intended the film to be ambivalent of what it was saying to a degree that what audiences get out of it will depend on what they put in.

Men’s Right Activists, Feminists, the left, the right, mental health advocates, the rich, the poor, civic responsibility, crime, fake news, anarchy, the Fourth Estate, corruption. If these things are near and dear to your heart the film may well be a rallying cry for them, I think it’s more thoughtful than that.

Maybe, just maybe it’s a call to reflect on all of these things and how we’re all a little lost and need to help each other and see things from other perspectives. Or maybe that’s just my agenda.

In any event Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerising in this film, vulnerable and terrifying in equal measure. I often remark how Charlize Theron is currently at the height of her powers, well I think Joaquin belongs in that group too.

The film is well lit, not a single frame does not seem to have been meticulously planned out in location, set dressing and lighting. I think the period setting of the film is even deliberate criticising nostalgia and the rose coloured glasses that get applied to history which is full of injustices and calling on historical references.

There’s symbolism galore and neat touches throughout, notice how we see Arthur repeatedly banging his head against walls while he is also trying to free his thinking and socially break through barriers. The way Arthur metamorphoses before our eyes has become instantly iconic too.

I also think the filmmakers are very direct in what they think of murder and violence and how where the Joker ends up is not a happy ending but a cautionary tale. The Joker is not a fantasy for me, not a defiant rebel chant either but a sad reflection that we need to do better.

7. Good Boys Published at Scenestr 10SEP19 ***1/2

Good Boys is one of the funniest and best gross out mainstream comedies in years. In fact I’d say the good ones are in short supply and this is one of the great ones. There’s real depth and insight into it and a lot of thought and care has gone into it as a visual piece of entertainment as well as a story that strings together a series of jokes.

But at the end of the day what you need to know about it is it will make you laugh, often and hard.

The script from Lee Eisenberg and director Gene Stupnitsky is smart, filthy, and full of heart. It understands the roles that these three boys play in each other’s lives and how their loyalty can become frayed but never compromised. Note in particular how Max is the leader but often when they are discussing a course of action the camera frames him centre with Lucas and Thor on each of his shoulders coaxing him towards riskier or safer choices reflective of their personalities.

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6. Marriage Story Not Reviewed ****

Marriage Story is, yes, about a divorce but it is also about also about marriage and being a parent. I’m painfully aware there are a lot of men right now suffering because they have lost their families and try as they might they can’t find a way to get them back in the current system. Marriage Story might speak to them but it might also speak to a whole lot of women who feel unheard and unappreciated by their husbands who find their voice and independence when they leave them.

What I liked about this film maybe most of all is that I understood both Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole and Adam Driver’s Charlie. The film opens with a sequence that shows how each views the other in a good way. Everything that follows reflects this, they may not work as a couple but they understand the other person very well.

There are cutaways we as the audience see but the other spouse does not and we wish that maybe they had found a way of communicating better and if there is hope to be found in the ending it is that maybe they have.

Noah Baumbach makes impressive films with performances that comes across as natural in the moment but are more likely painfully rehearsed to get to this point. One absolute stand-out moment is when Nicole unpacks why she has left Charlie prompted on by lawyer played by Laura Dern. It feels so off the cuff and yet it is perfect. I would have been more than happy if Driver or Johansson had walked with Oscars for their respective performances. This is a grown-up film for grown-ups and I hope they continue to get made and find audiences.

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5. 1917 Review Published at Scenestr 10JAN20 ****

One of the great films of the year 1917 at one point appeared to be the frontrunner for Best Picture. Mythic in its technique and singular and everyday in its focus. Lots will be made about Roger Deakins cinematography in service to making the film appear as one long continuous take but the film is also a master class in acting. Exciting, moving and personal for director Sam Mendes it cracks the Top Five with a bullet. Simply a must-see.

More than a harrowing and kinetic tale, ‘1917’ repeatedly reminds of both how humanity is lost in war and how it touchingly endures. There was nothing natural, colourful or human in those trenches except the men left breathing. They cracked wise, held each other close and laid down their lives for their fellow man. ‘1917’ remembers this and asks us to never forget.

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4. Midnight Family Review Published at Weekend Notes 10OCT19 ****

In Mexico City there is a family of ambulance paramedics named the Ochoas. Director Luke Lorentzen has made a documentary about their lives in this work and in a city of nine million people that has 45 official ambulance vans and crews.

The Ochoas are effectively small business owners trying to survive in a market and corrupt system that makes them have to hustle. They’re also saving lives on a daily basis. As someone who worked in hospitals I was quite touched by this movie and the people in it. I also enjoy seeing a city at night in the way only an ambo sees it. A great documentary to check out.

Many patients remain off-screen as we observe the ambulance crew going to work while loved ones or bystanders look on. It’s haunting stuff as you still hear them cry out in pain, see mothers tear up or the paramedics stare off in the distance after a hard job. …The documentary film is not for the fainthearted but perhaps that is fitting given that neither is the job of a paramedic.

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3. The Irishman Not Reviewed ****

The Irishman is a film about what is coming for us all eventually. Some of us won’t have time to reflect in that moment but all of us reflect throughout our lives about how we are living them. Whole years can become a series of fleeting memories that fell away in short order while small moments loom large.

Frank Sheeran tells us the story of his life and it’s pretty sad to think that of his big moments are conversation in bars with middle aged men and the people he shot dead for them. Not even most of those murders register for him but one does. The narrative of the film opens up and closes like an accordion. The closer we get to a day in the 1970s the more the film slows down and before and after the narrative kicks into a faster gear. This is how Frank remembers his life.

Sheeran wanted to be a good father but what does he really remember about his time with his children? It is fascinating to have the man who made Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino and The Gangs of New York make this film at his current age with his fellow contemporaries including most of the people he made those films with.

The CGI used to make this cast appear younger is not always effective but there is a weight lent to the cast portraying a whole life of a character having lived much of one themselves. Joe Pesci who often has played motor mouths and physical guys here is deafeningly quiet as a different type of mobster and in a certain way the real partner of Sheeran’s life Russell Bufalino.

There is a scene in this film that is almost like a proposal even though Scorsese wisely plays it straight. In the end Sheeran is looking for absolution and love from his family but he gave up his soul and love to two giants in his life and one made him choose between them and its haunted him ever since.

I love a lot about this movie. I love the shots that frame putting a watch on like you would every morning and how that watch would mean a lot to you and yet these are things you can’t take with you. About how a certain way something was cooked at a certain place that you ate on a given day will be front and centre in your memory as much as the events of that day.

Some love has been given to Al Pacino and Joe Pesci but Robert De Niro is really good in this movie. I think we sadly take him for granted a little bit and this film reminds us he’s still got the chops. It’s kind of small miracle that his film got made and that it is this good. Scorsese has remained a great artist long into his eighth decade, others have given the game away or lost their edge but Scorsese is still one of the all time greats and this film can only grow in stature as time goes on. I saw this at New Farm Cinemas on my 39th birthday and it was a great present.

2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Not Reviewed

If The Irishman was about looking back over a whole life then Quentin Tarantino’s film is a love letter to a time and place. Or maybe more accurately how we remember a time and place in our mind. Tarantino is 56 years old, its fair to say the kid who made Reservoir Dogs has matured as a filmmaker and gone through different phrases over the years. He is now one of a handful of auteurs left in a Hollywood where a corporation like Disney owns a third of the market share.

I can’t say I’ve always been a fan but with nine films to his belt I’d care to wager most are outright classics. Up until now I’d liked his earlier films more so than each successive one that followed while finding a lot to recommend about them all. That has all changed now.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood may be my favourite Quentin Tarantino movie!

Sure it holds a nostalgia for a time and place that I have an interest in but the lesson of the film is it is all so beautiful and fleeting, as your time passes be open to the idea of moving with it and enjoying the next stage. Set in 1969 this is a Hollywood in upheaval with Easy Riders taking over from the old moguls, a society reckoning with old prejudices and new opportunities.

Actor Rick Dalton is not doing too well in this new world, he’s a square jawed face with a haircut with no interest in method acting and the type of realism that the new breed of filmmakers want. He’s also a man on the wrong side of 40 who might have missed his chance. Think Steve McQueen if he hadn’t done The Magnificent Seven and suddenly everybody wants to make Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson (of course McQueen, Kirk Douglas and Paul Newman all made the transition through this era but they were stars already and often classic trained actors too). Understandably Dalton wishes it was 1961 again and he was cool and they were no Goddamn hippies about and he was still on the rise.

His only friend in the world is Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who was his stunt double but is now more his Batman. Like a lot of Batmen, he’s more capable and reliant than the one he serves. Both are loyal to each other though and have that kind of friendship you develop sometimes where you’re a buttress of support for the other one. The film for the most part follows a day in their life that will provide important lessons for Dalton and see Booth meet some unsavoury characters. Then months later we come to the night of the Manson murders.

I won’t spoil the plot but I like the way Tarantino paces this film. There is a scene where Booth feeds his dogs and it shows a lot about his life and circumstances. The period details are nicely done and there are some great set-ups and pay offs throughout. I like the things alluded to but never answered and the repetition of themes.

There is also meta commentary on Tarantino and his career and influences as well. It feels like the kind of film you make late in your career when you’re at the height of your powers. With this Tarantino proves he is.

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1. Blinded By The Light Review Published at Scenestr 22OCT19 ****

This was my favourite film of 2019, the little seen Blinded By The Light. Whenever I bring it up with people they ask about if it’s Yesterday? No it’s not Yesterday, it’s a lot better than that.

It’s about Javed Khan, a teenage son of Pakistani immigrants coming of age in Luton in 1987. He becomes inspired and finds direction in his life through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Yesterday is a love story with two lead characters in it who don’t know what they want and banks on the nostalgia we have for Beatles tunes. There is a big difference.

The film does delve into racism and economic downturns and is more authentic and affecting for it but this film made my heart soar. It’s about love and family and following your dreams. This was the most emotionally moving film I saw all year and I dare you not to be moved.

‘Blinded By The Light’ is the most feel-good and first real good film of 2019. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, who pulled off a similar feat in 2002 with ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.

Well that is it for another year, I hope you enjoyed reading this list. I would love to hear what your favourite films of the year are. Any that you would recommend, some you are surprised didn’t make the list and any that you think are overrated?

Until next time, take care, we are in the midst of interesting times but we will get through them together. Stay safe.

-Lloyd Marken