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Blog plus Travelog equals Blogalog

 

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

Mike Rubbo
MIKE RUBBO
Olive Riley
OLIVE RILEY

Veteran international film maker Mike Rubbo has invented a new form of home entertainment. He calls it a blogalog -- a cross between a blog and a travelog.

His first blogalog features the life of his 107-year-old Australian friend Olive Riley, whom he has helped become the world's oldest blogger and favorite grandma (in fact, Olive is a great-great-grandmother).

The blogalog showcases Olive's amazingly clear memories of episodes at different stages of her long and varied life. Born in 1899 in the tough mining town of Broken Hill, in Australia's red centre, she raised three children as a single mother, worked as a station (ranch) cook in outback Queensland, then moved to Sydney to become in turn a barmaid and an office worker.

Mike first met Olive four years ago, while making a film about centenarians. He was so impressed by her youthful outlook, her forthright speech and her acting ability, that he made an hour-long documentary film about her: All About Olive, which ABC-TV broadcast throughout Australia.

He uses clips from that film to illustrate the blogalog, together with a large selection of still photographs and ancient newspaper clippings. Adding variety to the blogalog, Olive sings several once-popular songs with a surprisingly firm voice, which can be viewed and heard separately as YouTube videos.

In another YouTube video, Mike proves to be an outstanding raconteur and actor, as he tells a story about a deserted gold mining town, Talbotville, in Victoria. Thousands of net surfers around the world, of all ages, have viewed the 30+ episodes of the blogalog so far posted. Their comments, which are also posted, often digress from the main theme, leading to other topics for future posts.

Here, for instance, are just a few of the hundreds of enthusiastic responses to Olive's memories of the Great Depression (1929-1933). Strangely, many of them came from senior citizens now enjoying the good life in Florida:

I enjoyed the post as usual. I remember when I was a kid, my father told me stories about when he was a kid. He was born in 1935 and said when he was little that they used to save up all the fat drippings from whatever they had cooked. Every so often someone would come around and collect all the drippings from the neighborhood for the war effort. Supposedly, there is glycerine in fat drippings which the government utilized to make explosives, as well as antiseptics of a sort.
-- Eric Stamper, Jacksonville, Florida.

Olive, your blog is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing your stories of the Depression. When my grandmother was alive, she used to tell us bits and pieces of what life was like during the Depression in the heart of the Dust Bowl. She lived on a farm in Oklahoma (in the US) with her parents, brothers and sisters, until her father had to move them to the “big city,” Oklahoma City, to find work. My grandmother wasn’t able to go to college since it was too expensive, so she got a job in a department store where she met my grandfather.
When I was a little girl, I remember watching, horrified, as my grandfather would put an enormous amount of butter and jelly on his toast at breakfast. He said it was because he still remembered what it was like during the Depression when he couldn’t afford butter or jelly. Not having basic food like that was so hard for me to imagine.
-- Kristin Park, Arizona.

Hi, Olive and Mike, I don’t have any stories, I just want to say how much I enjoy this wonderful “blob.” Olive, these stories would be lost without you to tell them, and Mike, we would not have them without your recording them. Mike you make Olive’s stories even more personable with your comments and photos. I added a link from my blog so others can find you. I hope there will be many more fascinating tales to come.
-- Suzz, Northeast Florida.

Been a bit busy lately so I just got back to the blog. Wow! that ghost town story is pretty special! At least you saw it Mike, and the story lives on even if the town doesn’t.
-- Wendy Rogers.

My grandparents went thru the depression, and it is such an obvious difference in attitude - they save everything and fix everything while the mindset today is typically “throw it out and get a new one.” In fact, these days it is often cheaper to replace something than it is to fix it.
-- Christina, Clearwater, Florida.

Australian-born Mike Rubbo, now 68, studied anthropology, graduating with honors at Sydney University, He won Fulbright and Ford scholarships to study media at Stanford (California) University, where he gained an M.A.

He worked at the National Film Board of Canada for 25 years, directing more than 40 documentaries including Sad Song of Yellow Skin (1970), Waiting for Fidel (1974) and Solzhenitsyn’s Children (1979).

He also wrote and directed four fiction feature films, The Peanut Butter Solution (1986), Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveler (1988), Vincent and Me and The Return of Tommy Tricker (both 1990). These films won many prizes including an Emmy, and two gold medals from Parents' Choice as the best videos of the year.

In the early seventies, Rubbo returned to Australia every year to teach at a film school, doing eight week intensive sessions. On weekends he ran retreats and gave public lectures. He also taught at Harvard University for two years and has been a visiting lecturer at NYU, UCLA, and Stanford University.

In 1995, he returned to Australia as Head of Documentaries at the ABC, instigating the Race Around the World series that led to a new generation of documentary makers.

After leaving the ABC, Mike has researched, written, directed and shot his own films. He has also been trialling new low cost people-to-people distribution initiatives. He bought a data projector and travelled to New South Wales and Victorian country towns with his documentary Much Ado About Something, "staging debates on the finer points of English literature wherever I could muster a few sheep and a farmer."

These days, Mike spends much of his time preparing the next post for the Blogalog and making a series of great YouTube videos, in which he reveals himself to be a younger Downunder version of Britain's favorite granddad, Peter Oakley, who has become a national figure for his blog Geriatric1927.

In one of Mike's best efforts, he tells Olive about his idyllic childhood holidays at Bateau Bay, NSW. Later, when making a film in Russia, he met a beautiful Russian girl, Katya, who was his interpreter. Then he revisited Bateau Bay, with Katya as his wife.

YouTube video storylines don't get any better than that.

Links
This story has also been published by OhmyNewsInternational

Story first posted September 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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