Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - Year of changes?

And so we find ourselves, dear reader, ticking through the last day of 2008. My third year of blogging, and my most prevalent.

I am taking it easy today - reading my book in my jimmy jams, heading to Hils' later for a cup of tea and then seeing out the old year with some Boo folks at Claire and Andrew's. All rather relaxing and enjoyable. So in a brief interlude between chapters I thought I would take a minute to flick back through my TOE entries for 2008 to see just what delights the year held (and to add in those I never blogged about).

January
Well I started off with the post "Welcome to 2008; year of dreams" and expect I was refering to the fact I had made my mind up to talk to the Aussies about potentially heading out there.

I also started pottery class with my sister Liz - an eight week run of much laughter and little talent for pottery.

I seem to have spent the rest of the month on trains.

February
My favourite work event for the last six years - Mobile World Congress - and I posted pictures of my stressed team, one of whom lost the ability to dress herself. Then we all went to Barcelona, worked hard and played hard.

March
The Horrible Neighbours moved in. In the middle of the night.

I had one of the best days ever with old uni pal Olly - Borough Market, Vinopolis, pub crawl, dinner, cocktails, dancing, missed the last train. Soooo much fun.

Elle's flats gained a Banksy - inevitably pushing the value of her property investment up a little.

April
It snowed.

I finally (after two years) got a new door for my spare room... free from the man down the road who was using it as a ramp to his skip.

I told you all that I was moving to Australia!

I attempted to vote intelligently in the local election, but my efforts were largely thwarted.

I packed and sold a lot of my stuff... taking memorial photos...

May
I had another perfect day

I started saying goodbye to people, got a new boiler fitted, left Hotwire, packed ENDLESSLY then went to the Hay Festival with Boo. Which was fabulous!

June
I moved to Oz! Then proceeded to spend much of the month noticing things that are different Down Under and calculating the best way to dispose of a range of creepy crawlies.

July
I started work, bought a painting I love, went to Melbourne, discovered the Flight of the Conchords.

Then I had a helicopter flying lesson (awesome) and got ill for a week - starting on my birthday (not so fab).

August
My efforts to never drink large carbon footprints with my wine lead me to new discoveries.

I enjoyed team GB's achievements in the Olympics (and their thrashing of the Aussies) tremendously.

September
I moved to the Eastern Suburbs to become a Bondi babe. Invented a fabulous dish (Queen Beans), and started getting a bit more feminist...

October
I went to Bathurst and learnt to catch a sheep, saw my first huntsman spider and drove a quadbike. Mucho fun weekend!

Then I went to New Zealand for a rather random weekend with a pal, and had loads of fun there too! October was obviously the month of the Good Weekend.

November
Watched with tears in my eyes as America elected the Right Man For The Job.
Then the homesickness began in earnest.
I did break the heartache with a spell as Lara Croft and a ride on the back of a motorbike (which was soooo cool).

December
More feminism, the best secret santa present ever, then a flight back to Ol' Blighty to show me where my heart really lies.

January 2009 will bring a trip to Dubai to catch up with a good friend, then I plan to spend the year doing and seeing EVERYTHING in Australia looking at a possible escape back home next Christmas.

Happy New Year everyone!!
xxxxxx

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just a quick one...

I hope everyone is enjoying their festive season; hot or cold.

Its been perishing in Hertfordshire/London but the lovely Almostalady gave me a hand-me-down coat (not to mention some fabulous undies!) and I have been wearing it daily (the coat... not the undies...) The sun has been out most days, making it beautiful. There is something special about the very orange light you get from a low winter sun.

I am enjoying being home more than you can imagine. It makes me happy that while Sydney is beautiful and sunny, my *real* life can make me even happier.

My nieces are growing up and, although one is currently biting, the other two are the essence of charming (and I am quite sure nibbler will stop soon). My friends are all still exactly the people I enjoy being around and the orange squash, Dominos pizza and lychee bellinis at my favourite restaurant are still superior to anything in Oz. (The restaurant doesn't do pizza and squash - just the bellinis you understand).

I still have the better part of a week left in the UK, then three days in Dubai... the only issue is Santa's sleigh seems to have more forgiving weight allowances than BA. Hmmm.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas in Oz

I have been moaning a little that Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas when you are in Oz. Its too warm, and beachy, and, well, summery.

But last night my secret santa gave me the BEST secret santa present ever! A Christmas crooners CD.... AND a personalised bauble! Check out this baby!!

Blogs

Last week my work laptop died. I was at the scene, but refuse to take the blame.

I have spent the last week re-setting my favourite formats and downloading my useful applications to the new laptop I stole from my new colleague (who hadn't yet started).

The first things I re-installed? Google Toolbar and Twhirl.

Then it slowly dawned on me that I had lost my carefully inputted RSS feeds. All the blogs I like to read (and I had around 100 in there) were gone. A lot of these blogs I have picked up in random places and I don't have a list of them to easily add to a new RSS reader. I have decided to go with Google Reader this time around (I was a FeedReader girl before) because I can log into it from home or work and next time I kill a laptop I won't have to go through this again.

So in trying to add all the blogs back into my reader I have been a little frugal (partly because most of the 100 I never read, and partly because I can't remember many of them!)

So who made the grade? Right now... the following (but please make suggestions of others I may have forgotten or that I may never have know that I might like):

Friends
http://battleswithduality.blogspot.com/
http://melissaterras.blogspot.com/
http://travellingwithoutthinking.net/
http://pr-otagonism.blogspot.com/ (he doesn't update much, but its worth it when he does)
http://ca-smalltalk.blogspot.com/ (for Connie's animated ranting)
http://almostalady.blogspot.com/ (Elle's life is endless entertainment)
http://boozeshoesandtattoos.blogspot.com/ (she rarely blogs, but its good to know when she does!)

Randoms
http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/
http://postsecret.blogspot.com/
http://susoz.typepad.com/londoncalling/ (I feel like we have life swapped as she has moved from the Eastern Suburbs to London)

http://littleredboat.co.uk/ (one of the first blogs I started reading and still a favourite)

Work related (not suggesting they aren't also friends...)
http://theblogconsultancy.typepad.com/techpr/
http://hotwire-blog.blogspot.com/ (in case anyone ever decides to post anything)
http://prhalloffame.wordpress.com/
http://gettingink.typepad.com/getting_ink/
http://skywriters.wordpress.com/

Conclusions... the blogs I read regularly are more likely to be friends or interest based than professional. And although I love tech more than PR, it seems the PR bloggers hold my interest better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On women

I have had a number of conversations over the last week in which I have had to question female stereotypes. What has confused me a little, however, is my immediate emotional reactions to the conversations and then my second, considered reaction later on.

1) I had a call with my client. We were talking about staff attrition rates in a particular industry (one in which a lot of women work). The gist of the conversation was about encouraging women back into the workplace after they have had their children so that they could go on to hold more senior roles rather than languishing on the lower rungs of their profession. My comments included vehement assertions that we needed more women in the board room. I strongly implied that women *want* to return to work, it is merely situation and inflexible work practices that stop them. I also came very close to tutting at the statistic that 2/3 of the women did not return to work after having their children. After all - how sad is that?

Within an hour of the call I realised that I had been carried along with the conversation and my feelings are actually more complex than that. I deplore the idea that a woman may not reach the full potential of her career *because* of her sex, but when we look at these statistics we make the assumption that in the 21st century it is normal for a woman to want to return to work. As I have added years to my own career clock I have learnt that this is not the case. When I started out in the world of work I was possibly one of the most ambitious people you could have met (I am very aware that if I met myself now I wouldn't necessarily have loved me)... Now, I can very easily imagine that (if I had the means) I could happily give up my career and become a stay at home mum. Indeed, my sister is in the process of making that very step. Its hard - money will always be tight - but its absolutely the right thing for my highly intelligent and motivated sister. When she finally escapes the workplace in April I am going to be jolly jealous of her days at home with her four year old and 18 month old.

As a wise woman once said; "Women *can* have it all. Just not all at once", which, I think you will agree, is not all that dissimilar to men (who might find it easier to work late once they have children than their female colleagues, but you bet many would rather be bathing their child and reading to them before bed).

2) This weekend was the final of Miss Bondi. No explanation on that needed, its a classic beauty pageant and saw beautiful, tanned women strutting in bikinis in front of judges. A friend of a friend was one of the judges... a position awarded because he works for a beer company, which I think sets the tone well. I unleashed a classic feminist response; I hate beauty pageants that encourage women to step up to the plate and be judged how well they comply with society's stereotypical image of the perfect woman.

Is she thin (but not boney)? Are her boobs natural, but with that look that silicon always attempts to mimic? Does she have a tan (fake is fine, if its well done)? Does she tick a box for "personality" (probably because she said something feminine yet genuinely funny)? Is she, in essence, the best woman in Bondi because she looks hot in a bikini?

I dislike pageants not because (and I hope this is a genuine truth, I think it is) I feel inferior, but because I don't think the women involved realise that they are being objectified.

But a little after my attack on beauty pageants I began to wonder whether I really cared too much or whether I am just defending women because I feel I should? I have to say I am now back with my first opinion. I am not going to turn up with a protest sign next year (I am probably more likely to enter myself, just to make a point), but I want people to understand the implications of these events.

The winner's tan may be a healthy fake, but how many women does she inspire to bake and risk cancer? The winner may be naturally thin despite loving pizza more than life itself, but how many others pick at a salad tonight because they hate their god-given curves?

I had two separate conversations with two beautiful female friends yesterday, both of whom admitted that they hadn't hit the beach yet this year because their body wasn't ready for exposure. These women are stunning. One is in a long term relationship and the other had just made us laugh uproarously about her current dilemmas dating two men. Yet their perception was they weren't good enough for Bondi beach. I pointed out that there are bigger girls on the beach, and teeny ones too, but yesterday while sunbathing and aimlessly watching passers by I thought the most beautiful woman I saw was the one who had a squidgy and beautifully curvacious figure - who probably rated higher on the BMI index than she should. And her boyfriend seemed quite happy too.

I guess this post (rambling as it is!) is just about our perceptions of women. How sometimes in our efforts to modernise and fight the good feminist fight we ignore what our fellow women actually want. And how sometimes we do need to keep fighting, because its all about opportunity, fairness, choice and awareness... and helping each other see our strength and beauty.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What do do about Guantanamo?

I read a really interesting article in The Canberra Times T2 section today, syndicated from The Guardian. It discussed what Obama might do with Guantanamo Bay, having made it clear he is not a supporter.

The article (written by Julian Borger) gave a concise overview of the complications involved with trying to untangle the Guantanamo mess.

More than 500 have now been sent home, including many British suspects, but there are currently 250 detainees left at the camp. They can be roughly grouped into three categories:

1) Around 150 of the detainees are deemed to have no case to answer, but are stuck in the camp because they cannot return to their home country due to risk of torture or death. That risk must be pretty real to make Guantanamo the appealing option. This group must surely make up the most unfortunate assylum seekers in the world.

2) The second category of detainees (estimated at around 40 people) are considered to be pretty guilty of something or other and the main debate centres around how they should be tried when they are transfered into the US. A trial of some kind is essential to get the US back off the list of bastard countries who imprison and torture without trial. But should they be tried in military courts (implying terrorism is a military threat) or should they be tried in civilian courts (harder to pin things on them, because the burden of evidence is heavier, but keeps the definition of terrorism to a criminal enterprise).

3) The third group sits between the other two ... these people look a little more guilty than the first (hence not having been sent home yet) but nothing will stick so they will inevitably be sent home as their countries are happy to have them back (whether as free men or guests of their own state prisons I guess depends on the individual state and prisoner).

All of these groups bring problems.... will group 3 prove that the US was right to fear them and go on to stir up trouble once they are free (if they didn't hate the US before 7 years of illegal imprisonment and torture they probably do now)? Will group 2 navigate the complexities of a fair legal system and possibly escape without sentence (or will their sentence add up to time already served... seven years is a long time)?

But group 1 troubles me the most somehow. Their home country won't have them. The US quite understandably won't want them wandering their streets (although there is sense in the old adage of keeping friends close and enemies closer). The Obama administration, Borger theorises, may have more luck in convincing third countries to take some of these men, pulling a few favours internationally, than the Bush administration which had few favours left to pull. Apparently Albania took 5 chinese muslims that couldn't return to China, but at the moment won't take more (why should they?)

Its a tricky one alright, and all eyes will be on Obama to see what he does. Its harder to undo someone else's mess than to avoid getting into it in the first place though, so I for one intend to cut him a bit of slack as long as he does get on with the more straightforward issues of groups 2 and 3. I guess group 1 will take more time... and as a collective they do have my sympathies because while some of them will be guilty of plotting to kill me, my friends, family and countrymen.... some may very well have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that bad luck has seen them languish in a very wrong place for a very long seven years.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Australia and Baz

NO WARNING REQUIRED - THIS POST CONTAINS NO SPOILERS...

On Saturday I went to see Australia. Not the country, no. I can see that simply by looking out of the window. I went to see the film, by Baz Luhrmann.

Now I don't know what sort of commotion has surrounded this movie outside of Australia, but over here you can imagine its been pretty big. It launched with much fanfare, the critics liked it, then normal folk started to go and see it and the reaction seemed to be mixed. Most people I spoke to thought it was "ok". So I went along with low expectations for a long film that the trailers had had me believe was a modern day epic.

The first 10 minutes I was thrown. I couldn't work out how to fit what I was seeing with the trailer... then it struck me. Its as simple as this. Australia is a Baz Luhrmann film. Previous Baz Luhrmann films include Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom and Romeo+Juliet. Do not go and see this film until you have computed this fact. Australia is a fantastic film with modern cinematography and Australian humour. The trailer has done it a terrible disservice. And I really really enjoyed it.

I didn't feel it went on too long and I enjoyed it all. Hugh Jackman is, quite honestly, a hunk of a man I could have stared at for another 40-odd minutes before I got bored and the actor that plays the little boy Nullah, Brandon Walters, is (in my humble...) deserving of an oscar nomination. He was a pleasure to watch.

The only thing I think was a bit OTT were the mentions of the Stolen Generations at the start and finish. Rabbit Proof Fence covered the topic in a distressingly powerful way and Australia adds nothing there.

But what Australia is, it is good at. A delightful distraction, a compelling story, well acted, refreshingly packaged.

So when you see it, and are tempted to groan at the mentions of the Wizard of Oz, there's no place like home, and soforth... remember this is Baz's film. Expect fun - its what you get. (Fun, and Hugh Jackman's beautiful torso and manly drover skills... mmmm).


Friday, December 05, 2008

Bad journalism should be outed

I have mulled long and hard over writing this blog post, but my blood is boiling too much this afternoon to withhold any longer.

There is a journalist out here in Australia who embodies bad media practice and I want to share with you just a couple of the things he has done to my clients in recent weeks with the aim of:

a) Helping my friends and family (who are the General Public) understand that PRs are not always the bad guys we are made out to be
b) Motivating everyone to think carefully about anything they read, and to try to understand the drives underlying opinions
c) Reducing my stress

The three times he has pissed me off are as follows:

1) My first run in with the journalist in question started with a phone call from client A. “Emily I am really worried, I have been on the phone for the last ten minutes being sworn at and abused by a journalist. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways so I hung up on him... what have I done??” The abuse stemmed from the fact that the journalist had received a press release from us (very targeted and of interest to his publication). He received it as a redirect from an absent colleague, while his own got stuck in some spam filter for a couple of hours. Affronted that he had been left off the distribution he called my client and went mental. He even said “if you don’t know who you are you must be pretty bad at your job”. Oh, the tirade also included accusations that the client didn’t advertise and threats that all of this meant he was justified in writing something terrible. Which he then did.

2) In a monthly WIP with client B last week I was told that there wasn’t enough budget to do any Australian PR outreach around a major trade show. The next sentence however revealed that the offending journalist was being sponsored to fly to the US for the show. Quote from the client “he will write something bad about us otherwise”. Er – sounds like we are paying protection money to me. Add blackmail to the list of his offences.

3) This week the journalist started on client C. He called the client directly and said he wanted to help with their business – he wasn’t sure why, he said, he just did. He then proceeded to list a number of approaches he believed the company should take. Client C, trying to be polite, replied that they were all good ideas and they should probably investigate them. Within 3 hours an article appeared online. An exclusive scoop no less. Apparently my client is in discussions to do all these things. My favourite (read most aggravating) part was the end, that said “When it was suggested that Client C should XXX, Client C responded “this makes a lot of sense”. HOW IS THAT A SCOOP? Its words in mouths. He decided something was a good idea, phoned a company who said “sounds sensible” and he takes that as affirmation?? Add entrapment to the list.

I am so disgusted by the whole thing I cannot believe it has been allowed to go on. He is his own publisher so no one to complain to and sadly anyone beyond the PR and media worlds are not party to information on his bad practices. Something entirely fictious printed on a website hangs around and taints companies for ever. There must surely be a way to stop this?

Addendum; he also, at a press conference this week, asked whether my client’s “Herpes heel was XX”. Herpes heel??? Er, Achilles??

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