Here I Sit…

Source: tumblr.com

In today’s digital era, just about every modern-day sage, artist and activist has a device and social media platform by which to project their pearls of wisdom, art or revolutionary ideals to the masses. But long before we were all wired into the matrix, and long after the ancient Egyptians were carving hieroglyphics into pyramids, one of the most popular ways of getting a message out there was via latrinalia – the graffiti you see on public toilet walls.

By no means do I think vandalism should be encouraged, especially by those who choose to do the uninspired, uncreative, spray-painting equivalent of cocking a canine leg to piss on a tree – taggers. But I have seen some brilliant gems on some of my visits to public loos. As an appreciator of sharp wit and creativity, I can’t help but admire those who, during a brief evacuative sojourn, can craft a comment or drawing so clever, it leaves an indelible imprint on your mind.

To those subversive individuals; the reflective philosophers, critics and radicals; the blocked up; the vengeful and the crass commentators; I thank you for sharing your kooky art, intimate stories, unexpected observations and reassuring words to live by:

“Never forget, you are so powerful that one of your pubes could shut down this restaurant”.

Sometimes I stay a bit longer just to peruse your cubicle etchings. I laugh (only on the inside – it’s weird to laugh out loud in a public lav) when I discover one-upmanship, wisecracks and ongoing conversations like this one: “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like”, which was followed by: “We vandalise things that aren’t ours, with quotes we didn’t write, to impress people taking sh*ts”.

The ‘grout pun’ movement – those of you who scribe grout-related puns in tiny lettering into the tile grout – have had me squinting to read amusing, dad-joke-esque lines like “rumours of my death have been groutly exaggerated”.

You’ve left me pondering, “what if the hokey pokey IS what it’s all about?”, if anyone ever showed up to “Meet me here at 2pm” and what happened when they did? And has anyone ever actually had a good time after calling that number?

I know I’m not alone in my appreciation and awe. There are countless websites like toilography.com that are dedicated to the archival recording and celebration of these works. One public amenities block cleaner said, “As someone who has to scrub this stuff off bathroom walls, I appreciate when someone writes something unique or different. If you’re going to vandalise, do it with creativity and style”.

Friends who attended the Limerick School of Art & Design circa 1979 say the stall scrawl that’s stayed with them all this time is, “Art is like morality: you have to draw the line somewhere!”. My sensibilities may be considered base, but I agree: sometimes, public toilet walls are a brilliant medium for the anonymous artistes among us.

Source: thesun.co.uk

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Climate change makes rough sleeping rougher for the Illawarra’s homeless

Recent torrential rain and flooding in the Illawarra caused damage to homes, power outages and inconvenience to commuters and road users who grumbled about ongoing, daily disruptions and delays. Far less visible was the desperate search by the region’s homeless to find somewhere safe and dry to wait out the bad conditions. For those who have no place to call home and subsequently ‘sleep rough’ – often in parks, beaches or train stations – finding shelter during sudden, extreme weather events is tough, and Australia’s changing climate means they’re going to be faced with having to seek shelter more often.

Source: illawarramercury.com.au Photo: Sylvia Liber

More than eight hundred of the world’s top climate scientists from over seventy countries spent five years compiling the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in 2014. The report warned that climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity and the planet. In Australia, one of the main effects will be an increased frequency and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall events.

Founding councillor of the Climate Council and Macquarie University ecologist, Professor Lesley Hughes, says the impact of future extreme weather events in Australia and on those experiencing homelessness will be multifaceted. “Virtually all the climate modelling indicates that extreme events will continue to increase in frequency and/or severity. We are expecting ongoing increases in extreme hot weather, but also decreases in extreme cold weather, so for people living rough there will be both positives and negatives.”

This doesn’t mean that finding shelter during heavy rainfall and flooding will be any easier for the region’s homeless. The Illawarra and South Coast Tenants’ Service’s Warren Wheeler, whose focus there is on equipping tenants with the tools they need to prevent them from becoming homeless, says recent changes to Government funding for emergency accommodation has major implications: “It resulted in a number of local services merging, closing, or radically changing the services they provide. In real terms, this resulted in a loss of beds in the region.

“Governments are more and more expecting social services to be self-funded. It’s an ‘expensive’ exercise looking after the community and the Government doesn’t want that burden. Funding cuts – and funding freezes where there’s no increase in line with demand – can only result in people being turned away.”

“In the event of a natural disaster, councils open up community halls and the like to provide for those suddenly without shelter. Sadly, the same treatment is not afforded to those who are homeless everyday.”

Rough sleepers Shaky and Kevin, two men aged in their forties, said that they had slept on trains to stay warm, travelling back and forth along the Illawarra line. This comes with risks, such as getting train fines and being kicked off the train in a foreign area. Fines then impact their ability to manage finances and prohibit getting licences. Said one, “I’ve been hit with a bottle, and then spent time in hospital before being let out in the same wet clothes I had on when I first got there.”

They said others sleeping rough sometimes band together with their limited resources. When sharing with people who have drug and alcohol problems, this can create problems if they then continue to stay with or around them.

“Apart from trains, there are few places to stay and more people are turning to office blocks and car parks to stay warm. Being exposed to the elements is too hard when it’s this cold and wet.”

One woman who experienced homelessness in Wollongong and who wishes to remain anonymous said that during torrential storms and flooding, she was able to go to a refuge. Her homeless Aboriginal friends however, had to rely on other Indigenous people in the community for help: “They stay with other Indigenous mainly, or ex homeless. Basically, Indigenous means everyone shares.”

For those with an animal companion, Wheeler says finding shelter is even less likely: “This is an ongoing problem. For some people, a pet may be all the companionship they have. Housing NSW have the standard “we house people, not pets” response to those looking for shelter with an animal. I have assisted many clients who have chosen homelessness rather than having to give away their pet. That’s a sad reality.”

Wollongong Homeless Hub support worker Lee Robinson said “I am aware of only one service in the Shoalhaven area that used to allow men with mental health issues to keep their dogs with them on long term accommodation in a very rural setting, but nothing in relation to services or agencies that cater for animals in emergency conditions.”

“The biggest issue faced by the region’s homeless during extreme weather events is to their health and finding a dry place to sleep. Continual cold conditions cause overall health issues. Lack of showering and washing facilities also make it hard to stay warm, dry and clean. The Homeless Hub has purchased a washing machine for this reason, which clients can use during the day after booking in at no cost.”

Wheeler says an overhaul of current Australian tenancy legislation would help to reduce homelessness and therefore the numbers of people seeking emergency accommodation during extreme weather events: “Australia is one of the few countries in the world that allow ‘no just cause’ termination of tenancies. This means that if you assert your rights to your landlord, you can be given your marching orders and the landlord does not need to justify their actions.

“The effect on this is two-fold. Firstly, it undermines tenants rights, as tenants are too scared to assert them. Secondly, where a tenant does assert their rights, it can and does lead to homelessness. There is a cultural understanding here that a landlord is “entitled to get their property back” if they want it. This is not a view shared by many other countries around the world. Get rid of ‘no just cause’ evictions and we’re one step closer to solving homelessness.”

Until such time as Australia has solved its homelessness issues, Professor Hughes says there are ways the community can be better prepared to cope with sudden, extreme weather events, and provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness: “We need good health alert systems for times of extreme weather, and need to resource our health and emergency services appropriately to handle increased risks.”

There are also opportunities for those who want to help homelessness support agencies by donating goods, money, services or volunteering. “Work within the community you know,” says Wheeler. “Whether it’s your local school, place of work, knitting club, book club, pub mates… Passion is infectious and once your community, your mates see your passion they’ll want to jump on board. Also, be creative. Passing a hat around is all fine n’ dandy, but if you can have fun with it, then everyone’s life is a little bit richer as a result.”

The Wollongong Homeless Hub welcomes donations. Phone (02) 4244 4121 to find out how you can contribute funds or items for ‘rough-sleeper’ kits, toiletry and food packages.

Cobain: Montage of Heck was just that

Disclaimer: as a Nirvana fanatic (more than simply ‘a fan’) since they first called to attention disaffected youth in the early ‘90s, this wasn’t going to be anything other than a religious experience for me.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Cobain

I’d pre-booked online, nervous that I might miss out on tickets with the rush of other local middle-aged Seattle grunge lovers flocking to the cinema to catch Cobain: Montage of Heck during its run at Shellharbour Greater Union. I needn’t have bothered; I could count on one hand the number of fellow devotees seated around me in quiet meditation as we keenly anticipated the start of the 9pm screening. Perhaps the session had been competing with the lure of booze and an ‘80s tribute act at the nearby workers club and had subsequently lost a chunk of potential audience to it? Regardless, the dedicated few were here, ready to be transported back to the days when ‘alternative music’ became so popular, a category for it had to be added to the music charts, and to perhaps find some answers to a story we already knew the ending of. It’s been 20 years since Kurt Cobain took his own life at the height of his fame and this is the first authorised biopic to have been produced in that time. The film’s title is said to come from the handwritten label of one of the many unheard, unreleased homemade cassette tapes Cobain had recorded his own audio onto.

Director Brett Morgen is known as the “mad scientist” of documentary filmmaking. Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, gave him the keys to the archival storage facility where the accumulation of Cobain artefacts are kept in lockdown, and gave him free reign to do with it as he pleased. Throughout the film, you see how he has carefully mixed and measured portions of Cobain’s life remnants to produce a work that is at once familiar, but also uncovers some revelatory truths. Hand-scribbled lyric sheets, paintings and intimate Super-8 home movies are interspersed with interviews not with all the music industry talking heads you might expect, but from only a select few who would’ve attended Cobain’s funeral whether he’d been a rockstar or a janitor; friends, lovers, family and bandmates who played a main part in shaping the man he was.

Not surprisingly, a big part of why this film resonates so deeply is the audio. The film makers have crafted it in such a way that when the live concert footage begins, the surround sound becomes all encompassing, ripping right through you; suddenly you’re there in some seedy, sweaty club with the other punks, losers and square pegs getting lost in communal disconnection, anarchy and rage.

The end of the film has stirred some controversy, with some saying it’s too abrupt, there’s too many questions left unanswered. I’ll save the spoiler alert by not going into detail, but I will say this: this film is not about his death. It’s about his legacy – a legacy that has reached mythological proportions.

Source: ew.com

A Cultural Cannibal On Being Brave

Flames crawl up her arms, lasso her body and circle her face, and yet her eyes show no fear, only delighted, childlike wonder. Kerosene fumes permeate the air and tiny mirrors sewn into her handmade costume reflect a fiery mosaic. This Wolf in steampunk bedlah clothing has harnessed a blazing serpent as her dance partner in an electrifying, hypnotic waltz. A transfixed Newcastle Bellydancing Festival crowd encircles the fire djinn, dust rising as her bare feet pound and twist into the earth.

People are often stunned when they see the width of disciplines performer Wolf Ifritah’s arts practice covers. Some see a fire performer, some a dancer, a maker of amateur electronics, a graphic designer, costumer, object manipulator, visual artist, geek coder. Her Crack Theatre biography describes her, amongst other things, as a “cultural cannibal”. At 42 years of age, Ifritah’s gypsy-like existence, with formative years spent living outside conventional and traditional societal norms, has lead to her evolution as a creative chameleon of sorts. Her dyslexia may also have played a part.

In Islamic theology, it is said that djinns, or ifrits, are winged creatures made of “smokeless fire” who live underground and are noted for their strength and cunning. While Ifritah’s background isn’t quite as fantastical, it is no less unusual, and the challenges she’s faced along the way have furnished her with these traits. Her childhood was spent growing up in western Sydney in group houses and communes with radical hippies and a politically-active gay parent.

“I often don’t tell people about my childhood because there really aren’t many others who would have had the same experiences. The idea of gay parenting is not 100% accepted in society yet.

“My upbringing in a non-traditional environment gave me many life skills, such as questioning authority, thinking for oneself, analysing, gauging what you can get away with without being chased down the street with pitchforks… On the other hand, it’s also given me social isolation, a persecution complex and the inability to feel like I can be myself with most people. You know, most people are alarmingly conservative. Having said that though, I wouldn’t swap it for quids.”

Although you’d be hard-pressed to find it on a map, Ifritah’s road-less-travelled passed through Canberra, where she moved to in her early teens and completed high school. It was here that she first ventured into the world of performance.

“Early performances were with a group called Splinters, a weird anarchic mob that did large-scale works involving fire and puppets and pyrotechnics. I left after a friend lit some firecrackers and got himself hospitalised. I decided it wasn’t actually safe. It was predominantly heterosexual – before I came out. My focus shifted to bellydance, which at least made me income. For some time I worked in restaurants and one in particular where I felt comfortable.”

Cosmopolitan Melbourne then caught the eye of this gypsy, so she parked her caravan there for a spell.

“In Melbourne, the expectation of me as a bellydancer to embody a certain type of woman was too much – I stopped performing. It took many years to come back to performing and even longer to make performance part of my “arts” practice. There’s a certain cultural elitism – an implied value that dance forms that are not ballet or contemporary dance are somehow worth less or have a lesser cultural value. For a long time I was not brave enough to step out and perform the kinds of work I really wanted to make.

“I don’t necessarily perform as myself. Rather, most of my performances are in character. Even as a bellydancer, I used to joke it was a form of drag. I never really wanted to dance for the male gaze. I’m far more interested in how females respond to a performance.”

Little academic research has been done to document the issues faced by emerging queer performers in regional Australia. There are, however, studies like A Queer Country (A. Gorman-Murray et al. 2008) and Screen Actors Guild-America’s 2013 study, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity: Diversity In Entertainment, along with anecdotal accounts from a chorus of queer performers like Ifritah, that give some insights into what it might be like for those in a minority, historically discriminated against, to be standing up in a small town and drawing attention to themselves through their art. In the Gorman-Murray study, which looked at the politics of ‘queer belonging’ in one particular Australian country town, it was found that the town’s support of queer performance events garnered it a reputation for being gay-friendly, but that there was underlying resentment from local residents towards the queer community. It’s a situation echoed throughout regional and rural Australia with discrimination, bigotry, misunderstanding, censorship, artists’ self-censorship due to fear of reprisal, and lack of opportunity and support on many levels the recurring themes. It was during Ifritah’s time living in Wollongong that some of these issues became particularly pronounced.

Ifritah says, “There’s a lack of focus. In Sydney, you have Mardi Gras as a huge arts festival with great opportunities. In regional areas, gay culture can be harder to find – it’s usually hiding under the cover of heteronormative disguise, lest it be chased down the road by fork-wielding bogans. It’s expected as a cultural norm for gay males to be part of the theatre – it’s almost a stereotype – but for women, I think the issues are much deeper. Women working in almost all art forms seem to get less recognition and less money. I’m currently working in a women’s circus and sometimes I really do feel like the only gay in the village. It can be lonely and there’s a lack of intelligent dialogue ‘cause the whole landscape is full of minefields. It’s dangerous territory… there be dragons… Oh wait, I am the dragon.”

A scan of Wollongong news media may have you believing that queer performance in the region is confined only to the hosting of a drag show every other year. In Ifritah’s experience, this is a reality. Even going underground doesn’t offer any other opportunities, albeit of the surreptitious sort.

“Let’s call it the gay ghetto. Aside from arts festivals, the landscape there is pretty barren. It’s no wonder most sensible queers will move to larger cities. In Sydney, my peers have Hellfire, the Red Rattler and a few other year-round venues and festivals that are more queer-oriented.

“Underground can be very much a clique of recent graduates and locals. Though my sexuality is not at a point where by I’d be ruled out of these networks, they are for the most part predominantly heterosexual. The drag clubs are predominantly gay men, so I slip down the cracks and am lost in the gutter of underrepresentation.”

For now, Ifritah calls Newcastle, NSW home; not quite the big smoke, certainly not a sleepy coastal village, but just big enough to keep her connected and producing. Although she is yet to find a comfortable sense of belonging, it is here that our lone Wolf has been encouraged to develop her arts practice.

“I live 5 metres from the local drag pub. I don’t go there often, but it makes me feel comfortable, more like I fit in somewhere. Most of the dancers and circus freaks I know are heterosexual. There is room for me to fit in with their performances, but no place or venue that I would say my performance fits. I’m working on that, but it will take some time.

“My current practice has evolved into costume play and object manipulation wrapped in the sugar coating of dance. The last performance piece I did, The Electric Naga, was a kind of emergence for me as a soloist after many years of working in a troupe. As a visual artist and person who has made large-scale puppets (also for Mardi Gras), I enjoyed the process of creating a costume and character and exploring the potential for storytelling. As a tech geek, I enjoyed the making and prototyping of the props using LEDs, learning to program the micro controllers and batteries. As a performer going solo, I enjoyed disproving and experimenting with structured improv and object manipulation.

“The characters I am interested in exploring don’t fit in this world. Nominally, you might say they have no hope of ever being accepted as “normal”. This for me is part of the status quo. I’m deeply drawn to the monstrous feminine, the unseen and the unreal. I guess it’s a form of hyper drag that has crossed over from playing with gender to playing with notions of humanity and the acceptance of diversity and difference. The Electric Naga in a sense can be read as an exploration of the inherent beauty and sadness and anger of the feminine monster archetype.”

Although pushed to the fringe in part because of her queer identity, Ifritah doesn’t hide this aspect of herself from audiences, although what they see may be in camouflage.

“My identity is not only bound to my performance, but is so ingrained into the bones of it that it’s hard to identify it as separate. Arguably the very fact that I’m standing up and being visible is driven by my queerness – a reaction to my invisibility to the mainstream. The denial and vilification of my culture by the mainstream makes just existing from day-to-day a queer performance. By bringing my characters out into the light to be seen, I am both forging their creation and validating my right to exist.

“The Naga was very much conceived in the world of online gaming as an avatar. It’s very much a part of queer culture to engage in identity play. Often people will focus on the gender part of this play, however I think that this ability to create and play out character’s alternate selves is not just a part of queer culture, but a survival trait. We learn very early on who we can trust with the truth of our lives. We censor and blend our personalities, traversing fluidly, becoming chameleons.”

Fortunately for Ifritah, being a queer performer in regional Australia hasn’t all been about being chased down the street by pitchfork-wielding bigots.

“Most people just see the pretty lights. I’ve got good feedback from the Naga so far. People are fascinated by the costume and I love to point out the Apple keyboard and the wires and plastic bags that make her. The costume was created from consumer waste and has a strong environmental message. It was kind of post apocalyptic. The Naga was reclaiming her habitat from humans. It’s arguably queer to engage in non-human costume play (Google ‘furries’ or ‘furkind’), however that connection is most likely very lost on a straight audience and I’m not going to jump up and down and point it out – it’s hard enough just being a dyke. Let’s say it’s post-human.

“People really have quite diverse reactions to this work. I am learning that whatever my agenda, most people will bring their own stories and interpretations to the work I put out, and that’s ok.”

As with The Electric Naga, Ifritah’s latest performance piece is one with a message. And fire.

“Most of my work is also influenced by gamer culture. The title for my next performance “l007”, or lewt, comes from gamer culture. I’ll be using my graphic design skills to create counterfeit money, distributing it and setting it alight. I’m interested in female roles that are rebellious, dangerous and scary. I’m interested in characters that have agency and use it. I want my audiences to be more involved, so I’ll be inviting audiences to burn the money as well. It’s technically illegal to burn currency, so I’ll be using counterfeit money – a simulacrum of a simulacrum to show the illusion of value in our society. Probably more punk than queer, I guess. Ultimately I address gender by not playing to the expectation of femininity or masculinity – both are binary definitions I’m not really interested in exploring at the present.

“I’m still emerging. I know I’m 40-something and though I haven’t spent my life hiding under a rock, I feel like it’s taken me a long time to stitch the separated pieces of my identity into a practice I can call my own.”

To other emerging queer performers, Ifritah offers this advice: “Be brave. Your story will make others brave.”

Decline of Print Media Ignites Digital Innovation

Cross-media news

Source: abc.net.au

Print media is on the decline, but a career in journalism is still a promising prospect for those willing to embrace digital media.

Doing the rounds of cyberspace at present is a story originally published on Buzzfeed of a leaked New York Times internal report that reveals the media organisation is struggling to maintain relevance and success in the digital age. The report blames the organisation’s slowness in adapting to changing technologies for this.

News distribution today encompasses digital innovations such as on-demand video streaming, podcasting, blogging and social media, so it’s no longer just a matter of good newsgathering, storytelling and writing with integrity. Journalists now need skills in video and audio production, digital photography, basic html coding, blogging and social media (including etiquette and strategy), as well as an understanding of devices like geomaps, slideshows and interactive graphics.

As new media platforms appear, new skills will need to be learnt in order for journalists to operate within them. To put it simply and bluntly, it’s a matter of ‘adapt or die’. Australian universities have now expanded their offerings to include units on digital journalism.

For those who have embraced digital media, there are opportunities in local and international native digital news organisations, as well as in niche-market digital news groups.

It’s still too early for the data to confirm the theories, but it appears that sales of digital news subscriptions may be on the rise. Society’s need for news hasn’t diminished. While there will always be a place for print media, albeit a much smaller one, companies that readily adopt innovative business models for digital news production will find themselves better equipped to remain relevant and maintain their readers. It’s up to journalists themselves to ensure they have the skills to keep up.

Aggregator aggregates aggregation

The irony of aggregating content in a blog post about the ethical issues of aggregating content is not lost on me. However, as a journalism student, it is my responsibility to keep abreast of the trends and issues surrounding this practice.

As the different platforms by which we consume news are evolving, and the lines that once kept them distinct from each other are blurring, so too are the rules that govern our journalistic practices. We are operating in uncharted, or at best, murky territory.

It is argued that aggregation is a form of theft or plagiarism. A journalist has done all the hard work researching, compiling, writing and editing content that is then picked up by an aggregator to be presented via their own channel as “new content”. Often links to the original source are hidden, or content is rewritten or summarised to the extent that there is no incentive for readers to click back to the original. The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have both been accused of this practice. Sometimes original sources are inadequately attributed, if at all.

There are still ways to operate ethically, particularly for those budding journalists wanting to earn a reputation for professional integrity and credibility.

Just Say No To Plagiarism

Source: enfuzed.com

This Harvard Law report by Kimberley Isbell is a must-read because it details legal implications and “best practices” for news aggregators using content that isn’t their own. If you scroll to the bottom of this post by Nieman Journalism Lab, you’ll find they’ve summarised the report’s “best practice” suggestions succinctly.

Steve Buttry is an Editor at Digital First Media, who, besides making an interesting point that news aggregation isn’t a new practice, has written comprehensive guidelines for aggregators in this blog post.

Essentially, what these guidelines all point to is that you should “link, attribute and add value” (Buttry 2012). What should really be “best practice” for journalists however, is to always write your own, original news stories.

Journalism Students Prepare to Face Industry Challenges

Issues that journalism students may be confronted with in their future careers traverses everything from media law, sexism and bias to the rise of digital journalism and an industry struggling to adapt to change.

Copyright issues with news aggregation is a topic of great contention, particularly as media law evolves with the rise of digital journalism. Discussion in the public sphere following with the sacking of New York Times editor Jill Abramson suggests that gender inequality in the media industry is still a problem. The quality and integrity of news published by media organisations with perceived bias and ideological agendas is in question. Then there’s the matter of a career in print journalism looking bleak as revenue and subsequently the number of jobs declines.

Thomas Hudson, 18, hopes to become a sports journalist and says, “I want to always be honest in my work. I’m strongly against biased and agenda-driven reporting. Trying to present all the perspectives of a story is the aim,”

“I don’t like injustice so I would not miss the opportunity to expose corruption or malpractice in sport if the opportunity arose,”

“My biggest concern is primarily the amount of competition for a sports journalism role. There are so many young journalists like myself hoping to one day find themselves in one the few coveted positions.”

Maneesha Todd, 18, would like to write for women’s or teenage girl’s magazines. She says, “I think that some people don’t take women seriously; they’re seen as preferring softer issues. You might have an editor who gives you women’s ‘niche areas’ instead of say, if you were passionate about politics, they might dismiss that because they don’t think you’re up for it.”

“I’m a feminist and I’m really passionate about changing things as well, so I’m  interested in creating or working for a magazine that creates a positive space for women. Positive messages. I feel like magazine culture is particularly harmful to the ideas about women and I think that getting some different perspectives in that space would be really helpful,”

“I still think that there’s a market for magazines. I still think that people like the whole idea of a tangible thing. I don’t think it’s entirely lost, but I think that the job is much more competitive and it’s getting harder because people are less likely to spend $10 on something they could get online much cheaper.”

Maneesha Todd hopes shake up magazine culture and bring positive feminist messaging to young women.

Maneesha Todd hopes to shake up magazine culture and bring positive, feminist messaging to young women.

Amy Starling, 28, would like a career in print and online journalism, foreign correspondence and investigative journalism. “I’d like to believe I’d do whatever was in the people’s interest, even if it was considered detrimental to big business for example. I guess a brave example of this would be The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald when he was approached by Edward Snowden. I’d like to think I could be brave like that if ever in that kind of situation!”

“My agenda is to conscientiously provide unbiased reporting – which is at the heart of true journalism. Rather than sneaking in my own bias every which way, I’d like to be the voice of people who perhaps don’t have much of one, though I think it would be an eternal struggle to hold onto your integrity and not sell out when the money is often with the big corporations.”

Breanna O’Neill, 18, would love to land a role with Disney despite criticisms the company faces: “It’s definitely a tough industry, and it is important to uphold the reputation they have worked to build for so long.  The demands of the public would be a major concern, due to the constant criticisms they face,”

“People are quick to criticise the company for perpetuating negative stereotypes of gender and race, however this really follows the ‘media effects’ model upheld in society, which I have blogged about. We cannot judge the company for a piece created almost 80 years ago that is correct in its contextual portrayal of the character. Critics are over-analysing these films to the point of stupidity.”

Despite being faced with these big issues, the number of young people enrolling in Journalism is on the rise and students are still prepared to continue with their studies in the hopes of attaining a rewarding career in the industry.

Meet Cosplayer Claudia

Dressed as Cardcaptor Sakura in a Lolita-style red dress, bonnet and pure white knee-high socks, ordinarily-shy Claudia Blanche is perfectly at home wandering around Wollongong Town Hall among Marvel Comic heros, Star Wars characters and other pop culture creatures brought to life for cosplay event, Comic Gong 2014.

Claudia, AKA cosplayer Cardcaptor Sakura, at this year's Comic Gong

Claudia cosplaying as Cardcaptor Sakura at this year’s Comic Gong

When not studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Japanese) and a Bachelor of Communication & Media Studies at Wollongong University, 18 year old Claudia enjoys donning anime character costumes and participating in cosplay events.

“I always felt like an outsider at school because I was interested in anime and manga. I thought cosplay might be a really great way to embrace my love of these things and also meet new people with similar interests. It definitely hasn’t disappointed!”

“My family isn’t interested in anime and manga, and my dad avoids situations where he has to dress up like the plague, but all my family are incredibly supportive of my hobby, whether it be assisting me in creating my costumes, sourcing materials or taking me to conventions,”

“My first cosplay was of Celty Sturluson from the anime series Durarara!!. She’s kind of like a female version of the headless horseman – an Irish mythical creature called a ‘Dullahan’ to be exact. I identified with her when I watched the anime series because we have very similar personalities. She’s an urban legend in Ikebukuro (the place she lives) and people treat her like a monster, when actually, she displays a lot more humanity and goodness than any of the people in the show. I really empathised with her because like me, she didn’t fit in,”

“Since I’ve come to uni, I’ve been totally overwhelmed that people actually think my interests are cool! I don’t feel like an outsider any more.”

Claudia’s mum Leanne Blanche has had any fears about her cosplaying allayed since accompanying her daughter to conventions: “I suppose I do worry sometimes, will people think she’s unusual? But I think once you go to conventions in Sydney and see just how many people do it, there’s going to be unusual people in whatever field you look at. It does attract some unusual people, but she has met such nice people. The whole vibe at conventions is really friendly and supportive. I feel really comfortable there,”

“For her it’s like being a pop star for a day. Everyone knows the characters that she cosplays as, they all want photos with her, so it’s a fantastic experience for her,”

“Last time we were at the Dendy, they had anime movies and it was a dress-up competition as well. She was in her Sakura outfit, and as we were leaving, we went past a wedding. The groom came over and said to Claudia “My wife loved Sakura as a little girl! Will you come and be in our wedding photos?” So she was in all these really beautiful wedding photos with the bride.”

Claudia has big dreams for her cosplaying future: “I plan to enter the World Cosplay Summit Competition in the future. Cosplayers from all over Australia and other countries around the world are judged on their costumes and acting abilities. The country’s best cosplayer then gets to represent their country in Japan at the World Cosplay Summit. I’m aiming to be that person!”

Pipped at the post

Yvette Gilfillan

Pipped at the post by her best friend since Kindy.

Most people would be over the moon to receive an ATAR of 99.2, but that wasn’t quite the case for Yvette Gilfillan.

The 18-year-old Bachelor of Creative Arts student from Nowra came second to the woman she’d been best friends with since Kindergarten.

“She got an ATAR of 99.45 and Dux of the school. At a school ceremony, the Principal said to me ‘You must feel pipped at the post’, and I thought ‘Yeah, kinda…'”

Despite not being Dux of the school, Yvette was still happy to share valuable advice on how to succeed at the HSC with other students from her school who were set to sit the exams the following year.

Trouble for Villain at Uni Party?

The morning after the recent Superheroes and Villains Party at the University of Wollongong has revealed startling evidence of possible foul play for one attendee.

The partial costumery of Edward Stationeryhands lay discarded on a Uni Bar table, indicating that perhaps this particular villain may have encountered unexpected trouble during the event.

The partial costumery of Edward Stationeryhands lays discarded on a Uni Bar table.

Has tragedy befallen Edward Stationeryhands?

A spokesperson for the event said there had been “no reports of the kidnapping or otherwise of this villain, and that perhaps they were just having difficulty holding their drink.”

Investigations are yet to commence into Edward Stationeryhands’ possible disappearance.