An open letter to Peter FitzSimons

Dear Mr. FitzSimons,

I read your open letter today and thought it warranted a response. Let me begin by saying I find any violence to be abhorrent, and I do not endorse it, or the actions of some of the protesters here and abroad. That said, I take issue with the media coverage of the issue and in particular, your own letter.

To start with, your blithe dismissal of the root issue helps no one. The role of the media should be to inform and educate, too often these days it works to inflame and sensationalise.

“Because on the other side of the Pacific, somewhere in California, some loser has thrown together some kind of amateur internet video insulting your particular god…”

First of all, the Prophet Muhammed is not a god. It’s all in the title, he’s a Prophet of Islam and he is revered within the religion. Secondly, that the video insults Islam is not the cause of the outrage across the Muslim world. It’s that it depicts the Prophet, something which is strictly forbidden within Islam. Whether the depiction is favourable or unfavourable actually doesn’t matter, you’re likely to get the same level of outrage. I don’t understand why this point is so often ignored, with journalists and media types instead saying that Muslims are reacting to people questioning their beliefs, which simply isn’t the same thing.

Does this excuse the frankly unbelievable response? No. Should you, no matter the issue, always seek to be factually correct and to craft a balanced response that doesn’t just denigrate the people involved? Yes. Always. At least try and inform your readers of the real reason these people were upset.

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An Ode To Travel

Just applied to Pedestrian to be a part-time travel writer and in writing up a cover letter (I seem to be on a roll with these) I nearly drowned in nostalgia. I thought I’d share that here, and expand it a bit too.

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Dear James,

My name is Omar Sakr, I’m 22 years old and I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Writing & Cultural Studies) from the University of Technology, Sydney, wherein I studied various forms of writing from short stories to novels to feature films, plays, creative non-fiction, essays, and poetry.

I want to talk to you about travelling and the irrepressible joy of discovery that comes with losing yourself in new cities, strange countries and unique cultures. I want to tell you about the days I spent in gorgeous Greece, a place steeped in history and gods, old and new – you can’t walk around these sun-drenched islands filled to the brim with slim, toned, bronzed beings without realising us mere mortals are not alone. I’d like to tell you about the stunning vistas from the sky, the view from the plane as it descended into Athens, this earthen city that sparkled in the sun, a thousand reflective solar panels scattered on rooftops everywhere.

I’d like to describe the view from the rooftop bar of the hostel I stayed at, with the setting sun above the Parthenon, and cool, refreshing drinks in hand. The same view also afforded me an unreal shot of the riots in Syntagma Square just down the road, tear gas, smoke and pepper spray leaving a bitter taste on the breeze. I can’t talk to you about Greece without mentioning the adjective-defying island of Santorini, with its old world charm, winding streets, white cliffs and incredible beaches. I want to regale you with the story of riding a donkey down the face of a cliff, the reek of dirty animals and manure wafting through one of the most unbelievable viewpoints afforded by the natural world, and the insane old Greek man that fought, yelled and talked to the donkeys like old friends.

I want to tell you about Crete, about the gorges and beaches there, about the fantasy-city of Prague and its architecture built from dreams and more; the gothic beauty of Krakow riddled with pocket-sized underground clubs; the intense sex-strip in Hamburg’s famous red light district; the inspiring skyline in New York, and the film of dirt that covers the most famous billboards in Times Square; the 14th century beauty of Norwich in England with its 365 pubs (one for every day of the year) and 52 churches (one for every week of the year); the awe-inspiring Colosseum, bowed and broken with age; the lovely Ha-Penny Bridge in Dublin spanning the still, black waters of the River Liffey.

I want to describe a hundred different places and the multitude of restaurants and spectacles I’ve seen but I don’t have the time, not here, not now, especially because descriptions of places are all very well and good but they’re not what makes travelling so special. It’s the people you meet, the random encounters and instant friends you make, never to be forgotten. It’s the two American girls I surprised in Crete by asking if they’d be celebrating Independence Day tomorrow (they hadn’t realised that it was tomorrow) and the following day we spent on a tiny, forgotten beach; it’s the French bar girl I met on a rooftop in Athens who told me about French music and brought me a selection of French cheeses to try; it’s the New Yorker on the subway who overheard a bunch of tired, sullen, argumentative tourists trying to find their way and interrupted to show us the way; it’s the gregarious Australian guy who, through the sheer power of his personality, convinced a disparate group of tourists to sit and introduce one another and talk about our day.

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A Love Letter to Story

This is a letter I wrote ostensibly to act as a creative cover letter, something that would represent me and my passions that isn’t the usual boring professional blah blah blah, but it became a little more than that. I don’t know if I have the courage to send it off in lieu of my CV, however, when I need to work to pay the rent, but I thought I could share it here anyway. 

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I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Writing & Cultural Studies) from the University of Technology, Sydney, wherein I studied various forms of writing from short stories to novels to feature films, plays, creative non-fiction, essays, and poetry.

I love stories, regardless of the medium. I love fantastic stories, the kind with dragons, strange magic, and unassailable fortresses; I love weird stories, the kind that sneak up on you in an ordinary situation, on an ordinary day, and turn you into a frog; I love human stories, the sort that tug at your heart and remind you that you’re not alone; I love small stories, stories that don’t aspire to any great majesty, that have no pretention, stories that exist as moments and nothing more. I love tall tales, the type you spin over a campfire one night and no one believes but everybody enjoys.

I love engaging and sharing these stories, these films, books, shorts, comics, animations, poetry – these articles describing the latest gadget dreamed up by human ingenuity, these reports about new discoveries in the ever-expanding frontier of space. I blog, I tweet, I Facebook, I share because we exist in a giant global community comprised of stories that are always changing, old and new, from the magical to the everyday, which begins with a simple, ‘How are you?’

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