Archive for October, 2013

Review on Gravity

Review on Gravity

Sandra Bullock in shorty-shorts and a tank top hugging all the right places does not conjure up the image of a NASA medical engineer in outer-space. Sexy Sandra does a decent striptease whenever she wiggles out of her spacesuit and moves around freely within the chambers of the shuttlecraft in Gravity.

Unfortunately, gorgeous George, as in Clooney, is nowhere in sight whenever Sandra tosses aside her suit. George’s loss!

Gravity is a story about Dr Ryan Stone (Bullock) and soon-to-retire, veteran, astronaut commander Matt Kowalski (Clooney), being stranded out in the wild-blue yonder, while battling or more accurately, dodging the maelstrom of flying space debris.  Like Dorothy, they have to find their way home, but unlike Dorothy, there isn’t a pair of magical red shoes to save them.

Despite the scenes of ballet-like movement, synonymous with astronauts and spacewalks, the movie is fast paced and holds the viewer in suspense throughout the unfolding story. The fact that I found myself physically holding my breath in several scenes is indicative of the tense, engaging and riveting story line.

Kowalski however, zooms around in a Manned Manoeuvring Unit (MMU) or jetpack in a laid-back fashion, but is masterful and yet gentle when necessary. Kowalski’s upbeat yin balances against Stone’s more reserved yang, and his references to beating real-life cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev’s space-walking achievement of 82 hours 22 minutes, is meant as a tribute to the Latvian and his, as yet unbroken record.

Famous for his entertaining version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, which incidentally went viral, real-life, former commander of the International Space Station (ISS) Chris Hadfield, speaks glowingly of the movie production’s realistic portrayal of life in space. According to, the space cowboy quipped ‘If I were to fly again, I want to fly with Sandra.’

Garrett Reisman, NASA astronaut with three spacewalks under his belt, enthuses about the movie’s faithful depiction of the interior space chamber and even of the labels and buttons on the control panel. In a report on, Reisman speaks of Stone turning, ‘the correct valves,’ when she attempts ‘to shut off oxygen flow to the Soyuz.’ ‘It is amazing how many things ‘Gravity’ gets right,’ he says.

An undisputed aficionado of outer space, Director Alfonso Cuarón, and also his son, Writer Jonas Cuarón, have attempted to faithfully reproduce the cosmos and man’s attempt to exist in it and they have succeeded beyond expectation.

Kudos to both the Cuaróns, for an outstanding production!

© 2013 Wendy Robinson

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.  ― Neil Armstrong

It’s funny. When we were alive we spent much of our time staring up at the cosmos and wondering what was out there. We were obsessed with the moon and whether we could one day visit it. The day we finally walked on it was celebrated worldwide as perhaps man’s greatest achievement. But it was while we were there, gathering rocks from the moon’s desolate landscape, that we looked up and caught a glimpse of just how incredible our own planet was. Its singular, astonishing beauty. We called her Mother Earth. Because she gave birth to us, and then we sucked her dry.  ― Jon Stewart, Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

Fact or Fiction

Once a upon a time, we had to look up the home encyclopaedia to check the meaning of a word; to learn why Hippocrates is considered the ‘father of medicine,’ or to research the difference between a fascist, a communist, a socialist or a capitalist. For in-depth facts and figures, a trip to the local library helped.

The internet, or more accurately, Google, has singlehandedly shaved off hours in attempting to locate the correct research, pouring through umpteen manuals or looking through piles of text books to find the facts required for an assignment. All hail Google!

Speaking for myself, I find it a pleasure to toss in a few key words on the search engine, to be provided with not one, but several options to read and explore. As for checking out the meaning of words, it takes but a few, quick finger strokes and, ‘pronto,’ the answer appears. No dragging out the heavy, cumbersome dictionary from the book shelf. We are indeed, spoilt!

Granted, social media and emails have not only broadened our scope with the length and breadth of information, but we need to also be aware of and beware of ‘misinformation,’ that abounds. Misinformation that can ignite anger, incite hatred, fuel prejudice, spread further  fabrications to the undiscerning or insidiously instil fear or panic.

Chain letters fall into the last category! An archived chain letter, dated early 1939, has the same hall mark of the current chain emails that circulate on the internet. Similar content but different mode of distribution!

The chain letter or email urges the recipient to make a designated number of copies and to distribute them onto family, friends or acquaintances. The warning ‘do NOT break the chain!’ generally accompanies a list of requirements. The receiver is forewarned that he or she may suffer bad luck or dire consequences if the given rules are ignored. The blackmail is softened somewhat in that an appeal is made to the superstitious, by promising good luck or fortune once they have passed on the letter.

The modern-day chain letter has crossed over into social media and is categorised as hoaxes or urban legends.

Vulnerable recipients can be tricked into deleting their files once they’ve received a hoax email warning them about unknown viruses or can be harmless enough and yet, implore the recipient to pass the warning on. The ‘Life is beautiful,’ forward is one that comes to mind.

See the Snopes warning at:

Receivers can also be tricked into revealing their personal and financial details such as their bank account number, or be enticed into acting as a financial go-between with a fraudulent or fictitious company. Many Australians have lost their life savings through naïvely dealing with these unknown and unscrupulous people.

The lesser of the two evils is the Urban Legend.  How many of us have received emails promising monetary rewards for forwarding to all our email contacts, a message from well-known companies such as Microsoft and AOL?

See further details on Snopes:

Emails that tug at the heartstrings, invite the receiver to sign a petition to ensure action is taken to correct a public injustice; to make certain a vital operation for a particular child takes place or to prove their belief in God.

See the petition request on Urban Legend:

In the past week, I came across some erroneous or netlore warnings posted by family and friends on Facebook.

The first notice cautioned friends to beware of strangers accessing their private Facebook content.

Facebook Graph App Privacy:

The second warning was on a fictitious website purportedly created by paedophiles to access posted photographs of children.

Facebook ‘Greatest Gift’ Group Paedophile Warning:

Just quietly pasting the relevant link via their Inbox will be enough for them to delete the post or place a notice that the warning is a scam or hoax.

While these deceitful and devious emails swarm the net, don’t despair! There are some measures that can be taken to check if the content of the emails are genuine or not.

I use Snopes or TruthOrFiction often but have several others to explore as well. Bookmark them and when your sixth sense or just plain old common sense antenna rears its noble head, search the sites with a few key words and voila, you will soon know whether to discard, ignore or pass on the email.




Urban Legends:

© 2013 Wendy Robinson

Don’t be fooled. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. ~ Unknown

Loosen up! Relax! Except for rare life-and-death matters, nothing is as important as it first seems. ~ Unknown

When the heart is touched

Whenever I go for my morning walks, I tend to see something beautiful along the way. Some mornings in winter, I see the cobwebs heavy with dewdrops that are so dazzling in the sunlight that they would be the envy of any diamond Jeweller.

On the odd occasions when I do walk in the evenings, I see beautiful sunsets that paint the expanse of sky in glorious crimson and fingers-of-God rays that I often gasp at the sheer beauty of the backdrop.

Some evenings, I get a stunning view of the sky while waiting for the lights on a bridge, which is about five minutes from my home. Determined to capture the scene, I pray that it will still be there by the time I get home and race onto my balcony with my camera.

These are the times when the quote by Albert Einstein, ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle,’ comes to mind.

When my daughter was young, she was fascinated by her older brother’s careful, time-lapse photography recording of a nymph insect in its hard shell. It had latched onto a brick pillar on our front porch and was shedding its hard case or exoskeleton shell, to emerge as a winged adult, Greengrocer cicada.

The process takes hours and even when the adult cicada emerges, more time is taken to pump up the wings until they unfold, expand to their full size, dry out and harden, before it spreads its wings to fly away.

My young son, who was ten at the time, was patiently filming the entire process in 20 to 30 minute gaps and recording the stages in a book. A young herpetologist in the making, this undertaking was his own initiative.

Knowing how important this was to him, I allowed him to stay up later than usual, despite having school the next day.  He took his last frame just before bed, and asked me to take as many shots as I could before retiring. At this stage the cicada had completely emerged and its wing had unfolded and hardened, but it was yet to fly away.

The next morning, he rushed downstairs instead of following the usual ritual of brushing his teeth, dressing, gathering his school books and backpack for school. I made allowances for this special project while warning him to ensure he left enough time to eat his breakfast.

I stopped in midstride in making the school lunches, when he appeared at the door. His eyes stricken and his mouth quivering, he held out his camera to me. It was then that I noted the opened back of the camera. The film had been exposed!

His little sister, seated, eating her breakfast, piped up in her three year-old voice to demand of her brother, why she couldn’t see the pictures of the cicadas in the camera. While I knew she had no understanding of the enormity of the damage that had been done by exposing the film, I nevertheless proceeded to tell her that her brother’s long hours of work were ruined and she was never to touch the camera again. Needing to help her understand further, I began to formulate my words when my son interrupted me.

Hugging his baby sister while gently patting her at the same time, he kept telling her it was okay. I looked on with amazement at my son manfully shouldering his obvious disappointment and yet at the same time, trying to shield his sister from any wrath that might befall her. Feeling a fierce pride in him, I managed to hold my tears in check and wordlessly gave him a hug.

Yes, there are times when nature overwhelms us with her beauty and her unfolding treasures, but there are also times when we are overcome by the sheer generosity of the human spirit.

© Wendy Robinson

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ~ Paul Boese

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.  ~ Pericles

The perils of chasing a story

Pacing the floor as I’m wont to do when facing a problem, I stopped in my stride at the shrill of the house phone. It was HIS secretary. Clutching the phone, I willed it to be good news.

I had earlier rung the Aboriginal Land Council and told the secretary my woeful story. The story of being a student who had tried time and again to find someone to interview and how my time to submit my work, was running out.

My university assignment criteria required I interview someone of Indigenous ancestry and I personally, at that stage, knew no one of aboriginal descent who worked on or were involved with current issues facing the original people of Australia.

Although I was given the assessment about five weeks earlier, I struck problem after problem in trying to find someone to interview.

A dear friend, who worked with Indigenous women as a social worker and teacher in a country area, gave me two mobile numbers. One was of a Sydney University graduate, who had received the Charles Perkins Award for outstanding study. She was currently working at the Benevolent Society at Campbelltown Women’s Health Centre, and more importantly, was about to launch an Indigenous Women’s Leadership Program. Happily thinking I had my assignment sewn up, I had little inkling at that stage, that this was the beginning of many avenues I would need to venture through.

The graduate returned my call while on her way home and suggested I ring her at her office at 9 am the following day. Ringing promptly at 9 am, I was dismayed when there was no answer. I left a message, and then another the next day but never heard back. I then recalled my friend warning me before she gave me the contact numbers, that Aboriginal people and communities felt tired of being used or ‘studied to death,’ without receiving anything in return.

My next option was to then ring the other number. This woman worked as a Family Support worker at the Women and Girls’ Centre at Waterloo where she would write up the case work between the Department of Community Services (DOCs) and aboriginal women. She spoke in vague terms and suggested I come to watch the women having lunch on Wednesday of the following week. My efforts at partially interviewing her over the phone, gave me some inkling that I would receive little else at the lunch.

A relative then gave me a contact at the Worker’s Union but nothing eventuated from that. My third dead-end! My time was beginning to run out.

Checking on and offline news, I discovered the Sydney Writers’ Festival site which was in full swing in Sydney and was relieved to find there would be talks from several writers of Indigenous Issues. Unfortunately, many of the tickets to these events were sold out long before the festival even started.  Trudging through the site, I finally managed to purchase a ticket for a Sunday lecture by Sarah Maddison, the author of Black Politics, and it was being held at the Wharf area in Sydney.

A law professor from a prominent university, who was also a barrister, was to publicly interview the writer after the lecture. The floor was later opened to the audience and a retired lecturer from the same university as the indigenous law professor, jumped up and said that many Australians were tired of money being poured into Indigenous affairs, education and welfare while never hearing the outcomes of these endeavours. To counteract the negative perceptions and to promote the positive results, she, along with likeminded committee members planned on setting up a website entitled, ‘What’s Working.’

She was echoing my exact sentiments! Many is the time I’ve passionately spouted about the fact that the general public, being fed a constant diet of problems within the Indigenous communities, knew little else or rarely questioned the stereotypical images or stories being spread. Furthermore, successful, Indigenous public figures, such as Stan Grant, Yvonne Goolagong Cawley, Christine Anu, Karla Grant and others, could do more to raise the positive images by acting as role models and spokespersons for the next generation and thereby influence the publics’ negative view for the better.

After the public Q & A, I approached the retired lecturer and was dismayed to see her walking out with a bunch of people. Thinking quickly, I asked for her business card and promptly emailed her when I got home. I requested a phone or personal interview with regard to the new website and mentioned also that I had limited time left for the interview.

After no response for five days, I did a search for the law professor and emailed her for a direct number for the retired lecturer. I took the opportunity and asked the professor if I could interview her on the festival lecture, hoping that if she granted me the interview, I would then have two reports to consider as opposed to my current situation of no interviews at all. The professor emailed my query to the lecturer, carbon copied it to me but did not respond about the requested interview.

I then received an unexpected phone call from the retired lecturer. Before I could express my praise for the website idea, she launched into a bitter criticism about high-handed students always wanting immediate help with late assignments and how dare I approach the professor and what right did I have to bother her with my problems.

Shaken by the attack, I tried to intervene but she kept on the barrage for some minutes. I quickly told her that I was genuinely impressed with the new website and wished the committee well on the project. Continuing as though I hadn’t spoken, she persisted with her attack. I then told her that I had tried several avenues before finally attending the lecture and learning about the website. Adding that I myself had often felt that the Indigenous successes needed to be promoted and broadcasted, I threw in my idea of Indigenous celebrities airing their successes and acting as mentors.

She must have been one angry woman as she then launched into the, by now, well-worn cliché about Aboriginals being sick of being used by white people and never getting anything in return. I suddenly got irritated and stated that it was rather hypocritical to use that  angle when they weren’t prepared to give back in return to those who were genuinely trying to help them. I surprised myself and fortunately, it took the wind out of her sails, as she backed down and started to converse in a civilised manner with me.

Although she eventually apologised for her attack, she gave me very little, and cited that the website was still in the planning stage and nothing was as yet concrete. Another dead-end and the beginnings of panic on my part.

In desperation I contacted the law professor twice via phone and email but once again, no response. In despair, I remembered the Director of the Aboriginal Land Council who had chaired the lecture and interview at the festival. This was the call I had mentioned at the beginning of this post, that I had been anxiously waiting for. Yes, it was his secretary on the line and she very kindly told me that she had tracked him down and that he was boarding a helicopter to attend a meeting on an island. This lovely lady quickly spoke on my behalf and he promised to ring me after his meeting.

By this time, I was in a nervous state! Would he even ring, or would he be like all the other potential interviewees, just ignore me?

Imagine my surprise and delight, when he rang me about 45 minutes later! This kind and generous man told me that he had been away on vacation with his family but had returned to Sydney solely to assist in chairing the lecture at the festival and had then rushed back to his family after. He was still currently on vacation but had known about this prearranged, scheduled meeting on the island. On landing, he found he had twenty minutes to spare and made the decision to ring me prior to the meeting.

After we spoke, I thanked him most profusely for his generosity in helping a student in her time of need. He concluded with an offer to contact him at any time in the future so I told him briefly about the interview problems with the various people and ended the list with the law professor. He then quietly and gently told me that the law professor was his wife.

A postscript: The law professor emailed me a few weeks later with an apology for not returning my calls.

© Wendy Robinson

There are no gains without pains. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.  ~ Henry Ford

Meeting Molly Ringwald

The line curved across the cavernous room of Sydney Town Hall, where my friend Christina Jane (CJ) and I were queued up to get our books signed by Molly Ringwald. Yes, THE Molly Ringwald of the iconic movies Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink.

I have yet to meet anyone who disliked Sixteen Candles, and Molly not only shone but cemented her status in Hollywood with that movie. I enjoyed it immensely, but I personally feel Molly also excelled in The Alison Gertz Story, a portrayal of a true-life socialite whose world crumbles when she is diagnosed with aids.

Back to the signing! Fortunately, we were only a third of the way from the beginning of the line, due solely to my canny friend rushing us out of the auditorium, in anticipation of the queue. While standing in line, I started to feel overwhelmed at meeting Molly, and the term, ‘star-struck,’ aptly applied to my situation.

As the line drew nearer to the table where Molly sat, I tried to think of something, ‘cool,’ to say to her. Gushing was out of the question, as I was certain she would have heard her fans exclaim over and over again, their love of her movies. Thinking furiously, I noted CJ having a quick word to the administrative staff ushering people along the queue.

I marvelled at CJ’s easy chat with Molly, who was looking up, smiling and responding. Christina Jane then passed her phone to the usher, who took two shots of them smiling together. Thinking quickly, I asked if I could have my photo taken as well. I then felt a hand guiding me to the table and panic set in. In a bemused manner, I just managed to give Molly my name but gave up trying to talk to her. How could I be so mute at a time like this?

The usher took a quick shot of me standing in front of the table but I did not get a close-up with her and felt too embarrassed to ask for one. It was all over in a flash (excuse the pun), and we were duly moved on.

Prior to the signing event, we sat facing the stage in silence, listening to Molly being interviewed, in the auditorium. Her natural charm and easy manner was notable, as she responded to questions about her book and her life.

When It Happens To You,’ is Molly’s second book, after ‘Getting The Pretty Back,’ and we were all here for the second book.

Molly’s writing style is easy and yet captivating and her characters, with their flaws and their strengths, grow and become likable as the story progresses. The reader can relate to the nuances of relationships within families and the turmoil and tide of emotions that sweep the characters on their respective journeys. The reader will also find that her characters ‘ring true,’ and that is the mark of a gifted writer.

Since Molly Ringwald is less likely to read this, I can gush to my heart’s content. Like the dashing Hugh Jackman (today’s his birthday), the entertainment accolade of ‘triple treat,’ that is, the combined talent of acting, singing and dancing, can be applied to Ms Ringwald. Molly has acted in Hollywood films, but did you know she speaks French fluently and has acted in several French language movies?

Her first love is Jazz and she has sung and released her own CDs. The last gift is dancing and Molly’s stage performances include Annie, Cabaret and Sweet Charity.

Molly however, has a fourth gift and that is her penmanship. Take a bow, author, Molly Ringwald!

© Wendy Robinson

He writes so well he makes me feel like putting my quill back in my goose. ~ Ring Lardner (1885-1933)

Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you … as if you haven’t been told a million times already .. that writing is harder. Lonelier! And nobler and more enriching. ~ Harlan Ellison


Anticipating the wit and banter they often bounced off each other, he held on while the phone rang. Hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years or so since they’d been studying together.  Time had certainly flown! Disappointed, he left a message for his college buddy, and also his contact numbers.

The call he received a few weeks later left him stunned. How could that be? He had only spoken to his buddy a few weeks or so ago. Being a lawyer who crossed his ‘ts’ and dotted his ‘is,’ he had a phenomenal memory on dates and now that he thought about it, it was actually during the fraud trial when he was run ragged trying to put it all together. That brief conversation was … hmmmm …. over six months ago!

Remorse hit him in the pit of his stomach. He had just learnt that his buddy, knowing his time was limited, had rung him to arrange a date, and to most likely say his farewell. He had promised to ring back but had not. At least not until now, when it was all too late. His college buddy had died a month after the request for the dinner.

This happened to a friend who co-runs a law firm with his wife, in the States and she related the sad story to me.

Although my experience is minor in comparison, I can relate to his regret. I looked up to a lady who was around my mother’s age group and we would have long conversations about all sorts of subjects. I admired her wit, her sharp memory and her enthusiasm in tackling any subject that crept into our talks, whenever we’d run into each other. She in turn would often say that she loved our chats and thoroughly enjoyed them.

When we met by chance one day, I was dismayed to learn that she had been quite ill with a chest infection and that she still felt breathless and weak. We managed to chat, albeit briefly, but it was nevertheless, delightful.

I met her again a few weeks later and she was still struggling to get her breath. It was however, more ragged and I could feel her distress. We hugged each other before parting.

I had a particularly busy period soon after, but thoughts of her flashed through my mind several times in the interim and I vowed to ring her. Several weeks later, I mentally reprimanded myself and made plans to ring her on the weekend. That weekend came and went with other demands intruding on my time, so once again, the call did not take place.

Imagine my consternation, shame and remorse when I learnt that she had died a few days later. The regret I felt still hits me from time to time. I know that she had no idea that I had planned on ringing her, or that she would have thought less of me for failing to do so, but I still felt guilt and regret for not making the time to ring her.

I learnt a great lesson from that experience and have since, made it a policy to ring, text, email or write to any friend who comes into my thoughts, especially if we have not spoken for some time. A message such as, ‘Thought of you today! Can we get together?’ is enough to get the ball rolling.

© Wendy Robinson

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.  ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

To see or not to see

Staring out over the Harbour and surrounding areas, we tried to find the enlarged objects scattered on buildings, parks and the harbour foreshores, to tick them off on the provided iPads. Oh yes, there are the three ‘Giant Rubic cubes,’ nestled on a flat rooftop of a building on the eastern side of the approach to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. Oh, and there is the large, blown-up red kangaroo waving as it rocks on the waves near the Opera House. We laughed as we spotted the cockatoo, the lipstick and vibrant-pink hairdryer, the zebra, the toy tin soldiers, the flying pig and of course, a pair of glasses.

Where am I and what on earth am I talking about? My daughter and I were on the top floor of the Shangri-La Hotel last Tuesday, at the invitation of OPSM and Saatchi and Saatchi, to participate in the ‘World’s Most Spectacular game of Eye Spy.’

We had around 20 designated, oversized items to ‘spy’ around the harbour foreshores within as short a timeframe as possible. We later learnt that the top three winners of the game all set records of between two to three minutes, as opposed to our respective times of 6 minutes and 45 seconds and 7 minutes and 46 seconds.

Although it was a game for adults and it evoked spontaneous laughter and smiles, the reason behind the exercise was for Australians and New Zealanders to consider and check on their vision or eye health. A sample group of Australians who had not had an eye test for the past two years submitted to a check which revealed that 74 out of the 100 adults found they couldn’t see clearly.

To check your eye sight, OPSM has provided a free app that you can download on your phone or tablet (Apple or Android). The range of checks include near-sightedness, colour vision, distance and astigmatism. The OPSM Eye Check App can be downloaded from:



Please note however, the app eye test is not a replacement for a thorough eye examination with an optometrist. If there are any anomalies, book an appointment at a local OPSM or your family optometrist. They are bulk-billed.

I am so glad we accepted the invitation to the OPSM Question Your Vision event as my daughter found she couldn’t see the Eye Spy objects in sharp focus and that they were instead, slightly blurry. Yes, she hadn’t had her eyes checked in over two years.

While adults may ignore signs of vision problems, they should ensure their children’s eyes are checked every few years.

Speaking for myself, I only found out, when I was finishing high school that I needed glasses for distance. At that time, I experienced no problem with reading all my novels but did not realise that I was straining my eyes to read words on the blackboard or on posters.

I assure you I am receiving no remuneration for writing this piece. I do however, think the Eye Check app is worth trying out.

For an inkling of the Eye-Spy game we played, see:

© Wendy Robinson

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

~ Henry David Thoreau

We live in a wonderful world full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have, if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~ Jawaharlal Nehru

Disclaimer: The writer has disclosed no financial relationship with OPSM or Saatchi and Saatchi.

%d bloggers like this: