Ghosts Off The Shore

The following audio piece and written profile were used as assignments for JRNL201 and JRNL203 in the 2016 Autumn Session.

 

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Image: A Photo from the Patana school, featuring Zach (Bottom Row, middle-left) and Lennet (Top Row, middle)

*At the request of the main profile subject, only the first name will be used (Zach)*

 

As the nation of Australia slumped onto their couches to view the traditional Boxing Day Test match, another family some 5,000 kilometers away slumped onto their couch for a completely different reason.

“My dad got a call from his secretary. She was in a panic and was like you need to turn on the news right now, go to BBC, CNN and just watch.”

The footage that nine-year-old Zach saw would be ones repeated across screens the world over. Wave after wave hitting the once sandy shores of Khao Lak and washing away all the memories he had made only three days ago.

“I could see the room we were staying in (in the footage) and then you can see the waves coming in and the destruction of the room and a few stories above it. After my family saw that and we digested it, we all sat there thinking; that could have been us.”

Had it not been for a spur-the-moment decision to head back to Bangkok for Christmas, there is every chance Zach and his family would be among the thousands of people who were swept away and disappeared in the clear-blue ocean. But for every story of survival, there is an inverse story of loss. And for the expatriate (expat) community in Asia, the Boxing Day Tsunami was the equivalent of an encyclopedia of loss.

“His name was Lennet. We had been in the same class since day one of going to my first school in Thailand, he was there. We had gone through all these classes together in a small school and our parents all decided to send us all to the same school after Year 4. We all got split up in this bigger school but luckily I was in the same class as Lennet and that was nice, especially in that transitional time.”

Lennet was one of the 8,500 estimated deaths reported in Thailand, a bitter pill for Zach to swallow knowing that he had seen him just days before the Tsunami hit. He looks down at his car keys which he has left on the table and starts to fiddle with the Lego Darth Vader figurine attached to them, all the while with a somber look drawn across his face, as if he is trying to deftly navigate his way through the thoughts that came swimming back in his own mind.

“I often think about what we would have done if we were on the ground when the Tsunami hit. I like to think we would have been ok, we would have gotten to higher ground and safety. But what about Lennet and his family? Did they try and get to safety? Or were they stuck somewhere in the open and had no hope?”

In a statement dated January 5th, 2005 from Zach and Lennet’s school, Patana; a major International school in Bangkok which educates a large number of expats, Lennet and his family were not among the initial twelve students, staff and family members confirmed or presumed dead. However, in the weeks between that statement and Zach’s return to school, that number would rise sharply as more details would come in about the disaster.

“It didn’t really hit home for me until I returned to school about three weeks later and sat down in my seat on the first day and once everyone had sat down, I looked up and looked around the room and there were four empty seats. No one missed the first day back, it was school policy. It wasn’t someone out sick, it wasn’t someone who missed their flight and couldn’t get back. I had run into two of the people who were not there at the resort so I kind of knew what had happened.”

Zach stops and just looks straight ahead, his eyes meeting The Evil Dead poster attached to the wall opposite him, the words ‘the ultimate experience in grueling terror’ almost mocking him as he tries to take himself back to himself at nine years old, attempting to process the horrors the weeks after the disaster.

“As an expat, you get used to saying goodbye a lot. You get used to people coming and going. You might run into them later on down the track, but saying goodbye is something you learn to do quickly as a kid. You’re used to things constantly changing and things never being the same. I guess I compartmentalized the whole thing. That’s kinda how we dealt with saying goodbye. But the hardest part was the fact that with this (the Tsunami) it never felt like we actually said goodbye.”

Zach was just a pebble among the estimated 100,000 Australian expatriates living in the Asia region in 2004, according to an Australian Council of Learned Academies report, but the experience of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami is a shared one among the Australian expat community. Daniel Lee was only eleven at the time of the Boxing Day Tsunami and was living with his family in Singapore when news broke.

“We had been due to head over to Phuket Island after New Years and meet up with my uncle and aunt and their family. When the Tsunami hit we couldn’t get through to them as all the phone lines were completely down. It wasn’t until about three weeks after the disaster that we learnt my uncle was missing. Those first few nights none of us could sleep.”

As days morphed into weeks and weeks shifted into months, it became more and more apparent to Daniel that his uncle would not be found.

“My parents gave up hope after about a month. It wasn’t until about a year after the disaster that I thought, maybe he isn’t coming back. Every now and then I still think he is going to turn up somewhere and he will be fine, joking about that nasty weather or something, but I have to stop myself and think just how ridiculous that is.”

Daniel’s uncle is still missing, presumed dead. Yet twelve years later Daniel still acknowledges his metaphorical scars as ones that bleed to this day.

“The overwhelming evidence pointing to him being gone is not what hurts, it’s the glimmer of hope that he was never confirmed dead that hurts the most. We can’t really have any proper closure.”

For Zach, closure was a lot easier to obtain.

“I put it away about three months after the incident, but I never really got over it until The Impossible (A 2012 film starring Ewan McGregor) came out. I went and saw it on my own and it was a tough experience. But walking out after, I had a sudden feeling of relief. I guess the best way of describing it is that the things that I went through, what my friends went through, what we all went through, it had finally reached the public domain and it felt like it was something that only I as an expat had to deal with.”

The effects of the Boxing Day Tsunami are still being felt to this day. Whether it is across the affected countries or even further down to the individual. However, for Zach, it became something packed away deep in the metaphorical closet of his mind.

“I went to god knows how many schools after Patana and it definitely followed me, but there was none of this ‘where were you during the tsunami’, like there was for 9/11. It was never something you talked about. And for a long time, I never talked about it.”

While Zach is no longer an expat in the strict sense, having returned to Australia to complete his education, there is still a feeling that the disaster that claimed over 230,000 lives lingers just off the metaphorical shore of their lives, haunting them from afar. And as Zach slumped back onto his couch, exhausted after an emotionally draining experience, he picked up his keys and jingled them once more.

“As an expat, you get put into so many weird, outstandingly bizarre situations. But every community has their tale of hardship. Something that put the entire group through adversity and shaped them as a culture or group. And although the expat community is somewhat of a niche group, the Boxing Day Tsunami was our one. And it still is to this day.”

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JRNL250 Assignment #2 – Promotional Material

Note: The following Press Releases are fictional works as a part of the University Of Wollongong JRNL250 2016 Course.


FX Orders Fifth Season Of The Americans

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THE AMERICANS — “The Magic of David Copperfield V. The Statue of Liberty Disappears” Episode 408 (Airs, Wednesday, May 4, 10:00 pm/ep) — Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX/SpoilerTV

Critically-hailed Drama starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell will return in 2017 with a 13-Episode Fifth Season.

LOS ANGELES, April 30th, 2016 – Presidents of Original Programming for FX Networks and FX Productions Nick Grad and Eric Schrier have today announced that FX has ordered a fifth season of the award winning and critically-acclaimed drama The Americans. The series will return in 2017 with a 13-episode fifth season.

The Americans is currently the #1 ranked television series of 2016 on Metacritic, with a 95 rating and this is an improvement over last year’s season, which earned a 92 and the title of the #3 show of 2015. The series has been honored by the American Film Institute (AFI) as one of the Top 10 TV Programs of the Year every year since 2013 as well as receiving five Primetime Emmy Nominations across the shows first three seasons, with one win for Margo Martindale in 2015 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

The series has continued to receive critical acclaim in its fourth season, including this small sampling of press reviews:

  • “It’s long been in the top tier of TV dramas, and this year, it looks set to stay there.” (Maureen Ryan, Variety – March 15th, 2016)
  • “If the fourth season reminds viewers of anything, it’s that The Americans has a masterful control of tone, doling out horror and slow-burn dread like very few of its contemporaries.” (Vikram Murthi, The AV Club – March 14th, 2016)
  • “A television show at the very peak of its powers” (Mark Peikert, The Wrap – March 16th, 2016)
  • “A season startling in its intensity and its endless probing intelligence–not to mention the raw suspense that hangs over every moment of every scene…. There is nothing that is the equal of The Americans on TV screens now.” (Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal – March 11th, 2016)
  • The Americans is one of TV’s best drama series, if not the best, and it’s also one of the most challenging. There are details to remember, nuances to catch and morality to ponder.” (Gail Pennington, St Louis Post-Dispatch – March 16th, 2016)

The currently running fourth season has six all new episodes still to air. In the next all-new episode, ‘The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears’ (Airs May 4, 10:00pm e/p) – The Jennings’s approach their breaking points as both Philip and Elizabeth must handle loyal agents. Will they make it through with their patriotism – and sanity – intact? Written by Stephen Schiff; directed by Matthew Rhys.

 

Promo courtesy of FX/TV Show Promos

The fourth season will conclude with the episode ‘Persona Non Grata’ which will air on June 8th.

The Americans is a period drama set during the early 1980’s during the Cold War and is about the marriage of Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB officers who are posing as an American married couple in Washington D.C. during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. While maintaining their cover they must also ensure the wishes of the KGB are fulfilled through the maintenance of the delicate network of spies and informants the Jennings have. Their neighbor, FBI Agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is also working to serve the needs of his own government, through the mission of tracking down Russian spies living as Americans. However, he is also attempting to ensure the return of American asset Nina Krilova (Annet Mahendru) back to the United States. Tensions are also creeping up in the Jennings’ home as Phillip and Elizabeth try to fix the situation they find themselves in after their daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) reveals their secret to her church pastor. Joe Weisberg is creator and Executive Producer, alongside Joel Fields, Graham Yost and Daniel Sackheim.  Amblin/DreamWorks Television heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank are also Executive Producers. The Americans is produced by Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions.


 

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia Renewed For Seasons Thirteen and Fourteen by FXX

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IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA – “Chardee Macdennis 2: Electric Boogaloo” Episode 1101 (Aired, Wednesday, January 6, 10:00 pm/ep) – Pictured: (l-r) Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds, Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly, Rob McElhenney as Ronald MacDonald, Kaitlin Olson as Deandra Reynolds, Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds. CR: FXX/TVLine

Comedy Series will tie with The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet for longest running live action sitcom in Television history.

Season Twelve to premiere in January 2017 with ten all-new episodes on FXX.

LOS ANGELES, April 1st, 2016 – FXX has ordered two additional seasons of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, taking the show through to fourteen seasons. Presidents of Original Programming for FX Networks and FX Productions Nick Grad and Eric Schrier announced the renewal today, stating that It’s Always Sunny will “go down in TV history as one of the most loved and enduring comedies.”

The additional two season order will ensure that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia will tie with The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet as the longest running live action sitcom in television history. It’s Always Sunny has been hailed as a cult sitcom since it’s inital airing in 2005, with Jonathan Storm of the Philadelphia Inquirer calling the show “Seinfeld on crack”. The twelfth season of this long running comedy series will premiere in January 2017 with ten all-new episodes exclusively on FXX.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is a comedy series that follows the lives of “The Gang”, the owners of Paddy’s Pub in Philadelphia. Included in “The Gang” are Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day), Ronald MacDonald (Rob McElhenney) and siblings Deandra (Katlin Olson) and Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton). Rob McElhenney is creator and Executive Producer, alongside Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Michael Rotenberg, David Horsnby and Matt Shakman. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is produced by 3 Arts Entertainment, RCG Productions and FX Productions.

 

 

Examining Storify Reports

This is the Week 12/13 Module for JRNL102.

In Jordan Osborne’s piece about Re-Configuring Video Journalism several important questions are raised in regards to the new direction journalism is moving in. Osborne uses a lot of information in order to provide a context for the reader, but there is a slight concern that there is a case of too much information at once, with one paragraph containing very little but percentages. However, Osborne does well to break up the stats by embedding relevant graphs and other figures which still convey the information, but this however makes the previous paragraphs a little redundant as it is essentially repeated information. By turning the second half of the piece into a more case study piece about Vice News, Osborne provides a relevant example and adequately explains how it applies to the first half of his article. However, this also leads to the biggest criticism of the article, as Osborne focus a little too much on Vice and other examples of how they produce their media, leading to a distinct sense of bias in the piece. This could have been shaken off with a little more diversity in the sources presented, but overall it is still an engaging piece that performs its function adequately.

Journalists And Twitter

This is the week 10/11 Module for JRNL102.

The three journalists that I followed for this task was Les Murray of The World Game, Peter Greste of Al Jazeera and John Oliver of Last Week Tonight. All three are very different journalists with different styles but utilize twitter in strikingly similar ways. In my looking into the twitter profiles of the three, I found very little evidence if them using twitter to locate sources and information, much rather retweeting any relevant information they felt was worth discussing. Both Les Murray and John Oliver promote their own work through the platform, often by retweeting their pieces when put up on another twitter account (Like Last Week Tonight or The World Game). Interestingly, out of the three, only John Oliver has a professional Facebook page, with some searching only revealing a personal profile for Les Murray and a Wikipedia entry for Peter Greste. However, Oliver mostly uses his professional Facebook page to promote his comedy work rather than his journalistic work.

JRNL102 – The Brakus Brothers: E-Sports Enthusiasts


While E-Sports continues to grow in reputation, many people are still resistant to see it as something that should be taken seriously and this is a fear expressed by Flinders brothers Nicholas and Anthony Brakus. The pair have been playing E-Sports competitively for 18 months and yet they still feel their skills in the virtual arena is something that should not be talked about around their friends.

The two brothers play in the Oceanic League of Tag Pro (OLTP) which completed their fourth season of league play only yesterday, with Anthony’s side The Ballbusters going down in the Premier Ball, the equivalent of a Grand Final in the league. While both brothers play physical sport, it is online where they feel most in their competitive element.

“I used to play a lot of soccer and cricket, but now I only play cricket and its mostly just for fun now, but something like TagPro lets me get back into that competitive spirit and lets me strive to achieve something.” said Nicholas, the older of the two brothers and the one who introduced Anthony to the game.

For the Brakus brothers, online gaming is more than just a way to waste time, it is more of a way to increase the relationship between the two of them. Both Nicholas and Anthony discussed the impact of the game on their personal lives, with Nicholas feeling that while playing online makes things less personal, you “meet people in the community that you want to know and it is those people that keep you playing.”

Yet, they still feel that the game is something that they would much rather keep hidden to themselves and the small community around the game. The most recent season of OLTP had only six teams and 72 players across them, but with over 50 teams in the US and Europe, the game is growing around the world, albeit slowly.

Sitting down with the Brakus brothers seemed to suggest that it is the small size of the community that makes it worth coming back to time and time again, as they get to know people from around Australia and New Zealand that they would never meet otherwise and share experiences they would be unlikely to have in their normal lives.

But for now, the Brakus brothers seem to feel that the best part of it all comes in the form of the closeness that the two share in their love of the game. And with no signs of E-Sports slowing down, experiences like these could become rarer and rarer.

https://storify.com/CalBehrendt/the-brakus-brothers-utilising-social-media

Photography – Who Inspires Me?

This is the Week Seven Module for JRNL102.

https://storify.com/CalBehrendt/photography-who-inspires-me

I love a good photo. But more often than not, the person behind the camera is one who noone knows. I set out to see how took some of the photos I think work really well and just how they inspire me to become a better photographer.

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is one who innovated photography in order to provide sharp looking photos that are majestic in nature. By pioneering the Zone System, Adams showed that color and lighting is something that needs to be considered in any good photo and displaying a great contrast between the two allows for a unique image to stand out.

What I enjoy the most about Adams’ photos is the sheer majesty of them, with many of his photos being ones that would not be out of place in 2015 as outstanding photos. But the mere fact that these look near perfect and were taken some 70 years earlier while the technology was still being developed speaks wonders to the style that Adams crafted.

David Lynch (1946-Present) is predominately known as a film director, with films like Mulholland Drive and the TV series Twin Peaks being among his most well known works. But his photography is something I admire for its ability to create a high feeling of tension and unease from rather simple shots. Lynch works in the surrealness of the world, and his photos are a great way to examine that.

While the images themselves are not anything spectacular, it is the way Lynch uses framing and angles to increase the feelings that he aims to portray. While I feel he works better as a director, there is no doubt that his photos inspire me to work more on what I should be portraying rather than how.

Arthur Fellig (Better known as Weegee, 1899-1968) was one photographer who I found out about after watching the superb 2014 film Nightcrawler, which was partly inspired by his experiences. Weegee used realism to his advantage by taking photos of crime scenes and the immediate aftermath, often following Cop Cars and Ambulances to the scenes to get there as soon as possible. His signature style was in his subject matter, and his work was groundbreaking in readying the mass media for today’s culture of violence being more prevalent.

However Weegee also used Realism to show a different side of life. While mostly showing crime and its consequences, Weegee also showed the often brutal conditions of urban life and how they affect the average person. While technically his photos are not spectacular, his self taught motivation and subject matter made him one that inspires one to go out and find the truth, no matter how bad it may look.

JRNL102 – Daniel Hoogstra, Manchester Bred

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For Wollongong based Manchester United supporter Daniel Hoogstra, A 2am start is nothing more than an average weekend morning. Watching his favorite side from across the globe, Daniel connects with Old Trafford on a different level to the average supporter. While many people watch each game live and in person, Daniel instead watches the game online, choosing to make his connection a purely virtual one. I recently had the pleasure of watching one of these games with him, and getting his thoughts on why this connection meant a lot to him, as well as his experiences supporting this world-renowned club.

Recording With An iPhone 5S – A Storify Report

This is the Week Five Module for JRNL102.

https://storify.com/CalBehrendt/recording-with-an-iphone-5s

With many students owning an iPhone in today’s world, learning to record with an iPhone has become an important part of a student’s work. Thankfully, sites like Youtube allow us to relax and learn how to do it all by ourselves.

For the iPhone, there is a built in Voice Memo app that does the job well enough when recording audio by itself. With a simple set up and a tap and go function, the app is quick and easy to deal with and can help to put your mind at ease when recording a project.

While an External Microphone is something that not many students have/can afford, having one will make a fair amount of difference. Unfortunately, I have not had the experience of using one, so I cannot recommend one without having first tried it.

A Dark Room – An Analysis

This is the Week Five Module for JRNL102.

In “A Dark Room” there are several positives that arise from the work. Use of ambient sounds are very immersing and allow the listener to imagine the place that is being described. As the place is a mental place (the dark room being a symbol of depression) the talent is vital to the piece and the backstory of the family and their struggle with depression allows for an emotional connection to the work. However, the ambient sound at times overshadows the talent and there are spots of poor quality which lowers the standard of the work overall. There is also a rather sudden ending to the work, which does not help the narrative arc it intended to tell.

Daniel Hoogstra – Why Him?

This is a Week 4 Online Module for JRNL102.

In terms of Assignment One, I am planning to tell the story about Dan and his link to Manchester United through a more virtual place than one based in reality. I hope to do this through memories expressed in regards to the team and the long nights he has experienced in order to be a fan of the club. I feel this will be more difficult, as due to the online nature of the piece, creating a legitimate audio landscape will be more difficult, due to the lack of sounds. In order to overcome this, I intend to splice past commentary from matches as well as the match I intend to watch with him in order to create a fuller audio soundscape. This however will need to be edited well so as not to drown his voice out with ambient sounds.