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.

 

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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

 

A BRAVE NEW WORLD WITH NEW GHOSTBUSTERS

When is a movie not a movie? The new Ghostbusters could be an example of such a thing. There are seldom few reviews out there that don’t feel like diatribes about gender, remakes and fan service. Negative reviewers feel compelled to point out their history with the franchise and whether they enjoy female led films. Positive reviews take the time to scold small brained insecure men who couldn’t deal with women being at the forefront of a beloved franchise. Which is fair enough because there were puzzling and unsettling paradoxes here. For example, late last year several underwhelming trailers were released for this season’s blockbusters but even bad trailers for anxious releases get more likes than dislikes on YouTube. Not so for the Ghostbusters trailer whose unprecedented negative rating seemed the result of a concerted effort by those with a sexist agenda. Paul Feig has made 3 films previously with female centric casts in traditionally male dominated genres. Bridesmaids (gross out comedies), The Heat (buddy cop action) and Spy (ummm the spy genre). None of these caused controversy or debate albeit Bridesmaids was celebrated a little for breaking new ground. Is it that fan boys particularly felt under attack for the casting in their beloved franchise? Was it a perverse extension of the mindset that had caused a stir when Daniel Craig was cast as blond Bond? Yet these are different characters in a new iteration, Bill Murray remains the only actor to have portrayed Peter Venkman, you can leave those old films on a shelf unharmed. After years of false starts and Harold Ramis’s passing, doing a new take with a female led cast felt like a great way to organically do something new, different and fresh. Plus the old cast were showing up in cameos to give their blessing. While that often is a case of writing enough numbers on a cheque surely the old fans would not want this to fail if the old cast didn’t? It can’t be worse than say Blue Brothers 2000? Ghostbusters  peter macnicol ghostbusters ghostbusters 2Ghostbusters for some holds a special place in their heart the way Superman and Star Wars does for others. Yet the response for this film seems a little over the top given how much Ghostbusters II failed to fire. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy are well established movie stars now in their own right and at one point Elizabeth Banks was rumoured to be under consideration (what the hell happened there Hollywood?!) although Kate McKinnon does look very similar. wink ghostbusters kate mckinnon winkingThe trailers and marketing were subpar but the negative reaction has also felt targeted and revealed some ugliness. On the other hand the implication that people who don’t like this film are all sexist is insulting to both genders and something Sony seems happy to have exploited.

So here we are…maybe we can talk about the film now for a bit. Wiig stars as physics professor Dr. Erin Gilbert trying to get tenure at her university when an old book she co-wrote about paranormal research is re-published hurting her chances. She tracks down her old friend and co-author Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) who is now continuing paranormal research at a technical college with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon). She tags along with them in their latest investigation and wouldn’t you know it they come across an actual ghost which thus begins their adventures of busting ghosts. Soon enough they’re joined by Transit Officer Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who calls them to one scene and reveals herself an expert on old historical landmark buildings and their hauntings. All four are entirely new characters with echoes of the original quartet, Yates is Ray Stantz-the believer super excited by what they’re doing, Holtzmann is Egon Spengler – socially awkward and tech minded, Tolan is Winston Zeddemore-the practical outsider (references to Patty or Winston as being streetwise I don’t get, they were just very grounded and smart in that sense) and Gilbert is Peter Venkman-interested in other things including in an adorkable way the opposite sex. Not to sound too politically correct but Patty Tolan in the trailers seemed a throwback to old stereotypes of African American women. In the film she is more well rounded and arguably the most likeable character compared to killjoys chasing tenure and others complaining about Chinese take-away.

The film following all the media coverage seems oddly prescient in retrospect, the film’s villain is a little man who studied the ghost research of Wiig and McCarthy only to use it to cause more havoc and bring about him becoming a more powerful giant being. A thinly veiled reference to the stereotype of a basement dwelling fan boy geek who can’t relate to women and who has delusions of grandeur. Some have suggested this is an attack on the franchise’s fan base but who wants to identify as this guy? More disappointing is the fact that this idea for an interesting villain isn’t further developed.

Ghostbusters  ghostbusters original ghostbusters
Ah. Old New York city with your rampart crime and filthy streets.

The film follows trends of blockbusters these days, less scary and sexy than previous incarnations or more pointedly less adult and more family friendly for four quadrant appeal. Boston fills is for New York City for the most part, there’s a great deal of CGI which has less impact than practical effects. Everything has less impact! A neat touch though is McKinnon slowly developing the tech throughout the film after each encounter to make it more practical and combat effective which comes in handy during the finale.

kristen wiig ghostbusters kate mckinnon melissa mccarthy leslie jonesThese are some of the most likeable female comedic actresses working today and they remain likeable in this film. I read a really good piece by Matt Zoller Seitz citing how here is a blockbuster with four women in the lead who are all about the work, not defined by their relationship to a man, are all supportive of each other, surrounded by people (mostly men) saying they can’t do their job before they prove ultimately they can. These are all great things to have in a blockbuster but as a scary film it’s not scary enough, as a comedy there are great spaces of time between laughs throughout and chemistry wise something is off with this film. The new Ghostbusters film isn’t bad but it ain’t great either and don’t both genders deserve a great Ghostbusters film?

I’ll close with this picture. These little girl wants to bust ghosts, were there little girls who wanted to busts ghosts in 1984 but were told they couldn’t just because all the Ghostbusters in the movie were men? I don’t know, my sister had Princess Leia, Supergirl, She-Ra and Rainbow Bright so it didn’t come up. If this movie makes it a little easier for these girls or any girls to play being a Ghostbuster, if it spurns an interest for these girls or any girls to do science, if it makes these girls or any girls have a more positive image of themselves as women then that’s a good thing. I hope they enjoy the film too.

-Lloyd Marken

The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often. 🙂 I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken