Thursday, May 28, 2009

An insight into client conversations

I work in PR. In an agency. This is a hilarious take off of the budget conversations I have with my clients.



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is name calling racism?

There have been a couple of stories hogging the news in Australia this week, and the contraversy surrounding them both leads to one question; is name calling racism?

Story 1)
There is a shooting on a Saturday night in Kings Cross. A 'merry' girl sees a TV camera and decides on a whim to pretend she witnessed it - afterall, it would be a laugh to be on TV. The story she tells is so believeable it gets widely covered and only when the police try to question her does it come out (very quickly, in her defence) that she made the whole thing up.

The hoo-ha has come from her use of the word 'wog'. For my non-Australian readers I should explain it means a very different group of people over here - those of Italian descent. Many who would be classed as wogs use the word to describe themselves (just as some black Americans - or maybe just the rappers - call themselves niggers). However others find the term offensive. The comments towards the end here show the kind of feeling the word can produce.

Story 2)
Sol Trujillo, until recently the CEO of the Australian national telecoms carrier Telstra, has called Australia a racist country. His tenure at Telstra wasn't popular and the media, politicans and (I am lead to believe) his peers regularly made comments about him relating to his race (Hispanic).

There is an article of general outcry at the allegation in The Australian this morning. Politicians and business leaders saying they have never experienced racism... that Trujillo is demonstrating sour grapes. I quote:

"I note today that Sol is complaining that Australia is somewhat racist country. The sad irony is that Sol and his amigos bought this focus on themselves by their greed and unnecessary antagonism."

The Prime Minister greeted news of Mr Trujillo's departure with the word, "adios".

Now I am a WASP through and through. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And have never been the victim of racist taunts. However I do have an opinion on this stemming from my experiences as a woman.

Perhaps the Kings Cross girl and the Australian business and political communities weren't being racially prejudiced. Perhaps the two "wogs" in the Cross and Sol Trujillo have never been disadvantaged in any way because of their race in Australia.

But as in any bully/bullied situation surely we need to take our lead on whether something is acceptable from the target. If those of Italian descent find the term wog offensive - don't use it. If Sol was offended or hurt at being called racially-based nicknames, surely the adults in the room know better than to do it. Rather than defending name calling as if its some sort of national sport which should be consistutionally protected ("if you don't find the PM's comment witty you are obviously very unaustralian") why not just say "hey Sol, didn't know it upset you, sorry mate. I stand by my comments about your crap management of our telecoms network though."

A woman, an older worker, a short person, someone with excessive hair.... someone of a different racial descent.... everyone has sensitivities. An insult is an insult. And if it is a racially-based insult it is racism. Let's not haggle over symantecs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lots of thoughts on few things

My head is full right now, but with nothing that doesn't contravene the self-made rules of my blog:

Posts should be on thoughts that:
- Can be publicly disclosed
- Should be publicly disclosed
- Are of any interest whatsoever to someone other than me
- Can somehow be formulated into sentences
The thoughts I am having certainly fail on point 4, and quite possibly on others too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Too cute....


The little boy wanted to know “if the President’s haircut felt like his own” (via The Official White House Photostream), courtesy of somethingchanged.

This is just too cute.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On emos

Emo is not Australian lingo for a flightless bird (they do *so* love to put O on the end of all their words), but is in fact a style of music, and in turn a type of person (those who like emo music and dress accordingly).

The whole emo scene has been brought to my attention recently by someone who used to be one, and I have to say I am rather flummoxed.

Here is the low down (with thanks to Wikipedia - emphasis my own):

Emo (pronounced /ˈiːmoʊ/) is a style of rock music typically characterized by melodic musicianship and expressive, often confessional lyrics. It originated in the mid-1980s hardcore punk movement, where it was known as "emotional hardcore" or "emocore". As the style was echoed by contemporary American punk bands, its sound and meaning shifted and changed, blending with pop punk and indie rock.

Emo broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s followed by the emergence of the more aggressive subgenre "screamo".

Emo is commonly tied to both music and fashion and the term "emo" is sometimes stereotyped with tight jeans on males and females alike, long fringe (bangs) brushed to one side of the face or over one or both eyes, dyed black, straight hair, tight t-shirts (usually short-sleeved) which often bear the names of emo bands, studded belts, belt buckles, canvas sneakers or skate shoes or other black shoes and thick, black horn-rimmed glasses. In recent years the popular media have associated emo with a stereotype that includes being emotional, sensitive, shy, introverted, or angst-ridden. It is also associated with depression, self-injury and suicide.
And here is my problem with the whole thing (ignoring for now the whole Screamo thing, which is frankly a little scary)... since when did being emotional have to be so negative?

I am a very emotional person and one of my greatest weaknesses (and strengths) is that I respond to situations with an emotional reaction first, logic second. But my emotional reactions are just as likely to be positive emotions as they are negative.

Why can't emos go around emotionally extolling how happy sunny days make them? How lucky they are to be raised by comfortably-off middle class parents? How much their friendships mean to one another and how punch drunk with happiness they were when they secured the graduate job they always wanted?

To that end, can emo music never be hauntingly cheerful?

Come on people - emotions can be positive too!



Monday, May 18, 2009

Plummy

Gracious! Have I not blogged since last Wednesday? How terribly remiss of me. Do please accept my sincerest dear readers.

Today as I was catching up on one of my favourite blogs I found this post, all about how Anna (the blogger) has become more aware of her British accent since moving to the US. She says that the accent hasn't slipped, but her brain has - making her notice that her voice is shouting “Hey, look at me, I’m ostentatiously foreign!”. She describes herself as a duck, quacking in a land of goats.

It was an interesting perspective and one with which I empathise.

However my own "foreign" accent experience goes a little further.

When I was (insert small number here) years old, I famously (within my family) told my grandmother that "Oy loyk moy boyke", only to be corrected by my nanna; "No Emily, Ay lyke my byke". My mum wouldn't let us watch Grange Hill or Eastenders because "They speak terribly at your school and I don't want you hearing that accent when you are at home as well."

Needless to say, all these efforts had little impact on my accent which, to my parents' dismay continued to descend perilously close to 'estuary' English.

Throughout my art A Level my dad visibly winced everytime I discussed what I needed to do on my ar' project. I rather cleverly always defended my use of the Glottal Stop, insisting that "it wasn't finished yet!"

When I moved to London everything changed. I lived in Fulham with a fabulous girl from the 'Shire' (Oxfordshire, that is).

Suddenly my vowels started to fill out. While the ends of many of my words still seemed to be superfluous, I began to give the impression that I was raised in a gentrified family's country seat, partial to scones (pr. scone, like gone) and fully cognisant of the correct direction in which to pass the port. My parents' consant nazi-esque grammar corrections began to bear fruit and the prepositions vanished from the end of my sentences. My sentences comprised, they no longer comprised of (she says, thereby proving the previous sentence about her grasp of the correct placement of the preposition to be entirely inaccurate).

Australia has been the latest step in the development of my accent, but rather than adding an absurd 'Australian intonation' to my speech, the move Down Under has in fact just made me sound like the queen. I don't know whether it is just the contrast to the Australian accent and the rarity of finding too many plummy voices out here, but to my ear, my voice now provides plenty of justification for ridicule and inaccurate class-ist taunts.

I say:

"It's terribly good of you"
"I shall take a peek in a mo"
"Cheerio"
"Simply ghastly"
"Goodness gracious"
and
"Gosh!"

But I quite like my accent and I can honestly say it has evolved naturally and not been fabricated in any way (which I am sure any of you who have heard my attempts at regional accents will believe entirely).

I do mix it with some words I have picked up over the last year (avo, devo, servo, bottlo... you get the gist), but the accent is rather fundamental to the impression I create.

It's just what I sound like now, innit?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musical clues

This morning as I was doing my customary skipping through shuffle on the iPod I had a thought.

(For those of you who don't own an iPod, shuffle is the setting where it randomly selects an order for your thousands of music tracks and plays them for you. You can skip forward if you don't like one.)

Anyway, back to business, I had a thought.

The thought: I wonder what you can learn about someone and their mood from seeing their morning commute's shuffle activity. You will surely get a great random insight to their bad music taste. You will also see what they want to listen to, and perhaps more crucially what they rejected from their aural passages.

Here is my list for this morning:

Made the grade
Kate Nash – Merry Happy / Little Red
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
UB40 – Red, Red Wine
Tim McGraw – It’s Your Love
Josh Pyke – Don’t Wanna Let You Down
Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere
Skippy the bush Kangaroo
The Stone Roses – Fools’ Gold
Fleetwood Mac – I don’t wanna know

Skipped without ceremony
Jamiroquai – Corner of the Earth
The Fratellis – Creeping Up The Backstairs
Basement Jaxx – Jus 1 Kiss
Eminem – Mockingbird
Kelly Jones – Emily
The Clovers – Love Potion No. 9
What does this list tell you about me?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Venn




Publishing protectionalism - let's keep it

There has been a bit of debate in Australia recently about proposed changes to the book import restrictions over here, and its got me a bit hot under the collar. I wanted to let you all know about the debate (because many of my friends outside of the literary world haven't even heard of it) and tell you my thoughts (because thats the point of my blog).

So; the facts (stolen from news.com.au because they put it so clearly):

Currently, if a book is published in Australia within 30 days of its release overseas, booksellers cannot import potentially cheaper versions.

In its draft report, the Productivity Commission recommends importation of foreign books should be allowed 12 months after a title is first published in Australia.

It proposes that this arrangement be reviewed in five years.
Now I have to acknowledge that I have complained on numerous occasions that books out here are so much more expensive than back home. The protectionalist environment in which Australian publishers have been allowed to do business has kept book prices (on both new and older books) high. It is very usual to purchase for AU$25 a paperback fiction book which clearly states on the back that its RRP is 7.99 stirling (excuse lack of pound sign on this foreign keyboard...). A quick look on a currency converter shows that 8 quid is closer to $16.

So it may come as a surprise to many that I am in strong opposition to these proposed changes. Why?

1) Those in support of the changes are saying classic lines like "Children growing up in poorer households don't own many books as the cost is prohibitive". In response I would like to suggest that households where reading is important can access all the literature they can desire - FOR FREE - from their local library. I would also be bold enough to suggest that many households that are book free are in no way influenced by the cost of books. They simply wouldn't buy them anyway - its not a priority for many.

2) Those who know me will know I thoroughly dislike the constant Americanisation of English speaking societies. Television is already flooded with 'Two and a Half Men" (which is the worst thing to happen to television EVER). The cinemas are practically a Hollywood monopoly. Opening the Australian book market to cheap imports from the US (and even the UK) will further dilute Australian culture. Why buy a local author for your beach read this summer when a cheap American book published by an American publishing house and written by an American author costs half the price? We will also be subjected to American spellings and words; humor, glamorized, faucet, sidewalk. For goodness' sake, in the US the first Harry Potter book is called the Sorcerer's Stone because they don't have (or understand?) the word philosopher!! Australia's literary selection will be just as threatened by UK imports on the economics/culture... although spelling is less of a problem.

3) I was astounded about a month after arriving in Sydney to see second hand books selling at a market. Selling for between $5 and $10 dollars for a paperback. The surprise was because I had realised at my own recent UK car boot sales that second hand books don't even fetch a quid in the UK. They have become disposable because they are so cheap. Second hand book shops in the UK are becoming a rarity and my recently discovered gem in Bondi - a second hand bookshop/cafe called Gertrude & Alice - is just one of hundreds of businesses in Australia that benefit from a healthy market (and return) for second hand books. Lower the value of the product when it is new and you practically wipe out the market for trading it second hand.

Just to add some context; the UK and the US have their own book import restrictions, limiting threats to their own local publishers. Australia's are already less protectionalist than theirs - why should it lower them more? The publishing industry in Australia is thriving - and I want to see it stay that way.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

How scary-ass is this??

Its a bit like "When Martine McCutcheon got made ugly for a pantomime"... ahem.

MyHeritage: Family tree - Genealogy - Celebrity

Celebrity Collage by MyHeritage

Not entirely sure about the whole "sporty spice" thing.

MyHeritage: Celebrity Collage - Descendents - Roots

The Bard

Reading my BBC History Magazine while chowing on my lunchtime sushi today I had a thought. It was spurred by the monthly feature "The Six Degrees of Francis Bacon", a geeky historian play on the popular classic Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game (name anyone ever in the world and you can get to Kevin Bacon in six moves or fewer).

The last link this month was Chrisopher Marlow who, like Francis Bacon, was alleged to have been the author of Shakespeare's plays.

Because we all know of course that the Bard didn't actually write any of his plays. Don't we?

This site here goes into the whole "Who was Shakespeare and did he really write that stuff?" question rather nicely, and suggests 6 candidates for The Bard (one of whom, I was pleased to note, was a lady!)

I am torn on how I feel about this....

On one side I think; what is our problem with genius? If Shakespeare was a Yank I am sure they wouldn't have such trouble celebrating the greatness of the man. Beethoven was deaf as a post yet you don't get the same accusations levelled at him. Noone asks whether he actually composed some of the world's greatest toons himself or whether some politican magnate (or woman) was behind the phony identity, stolen from an illiterate farmer.

Yet on the other side I kind of like the idea that Shakespeare could have been an early 'brand'. An identity assumed by a person (or group of people) to generate a certain understanding of product. "I like a good Shakespeare play - you are guaranteed to laugh at the comedies and cry at the tragedies. You can't say that much for the home brands."

So, considering none of us really know... does anyone have any opinions on the true identity of the Bard?


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sydney Comedy Festival

The Sydney Comedy Festival is on at the moment and last night Erin, Lauren and I went to see Hannah Gadsby. She was hilarious and just what everyone needed after their own individual poo days/weeks/marriages.

Here is Hannah in action at the Edinburgh Festival and the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Don't watch them both - its essentially the same act, except for small differences. I couldn't choose which to give you. Pick and view one at random.





Monday, May 04, 2009

Puppies

In the UK, pet shops are not allowed to sell dogs.

In Australia they are allowed, which really upsets me.

Gorgeously cute puppies in shop windows attract the eye of passers by. They went to Bondi Westfield for a new pair of trousers and suddenly find themselves mulling over the addition of an animal to their home. An animal that they hadn't even considered that morning, but who will live - and need constant care and considerable investment - for 16 or so years.

The dog is sitting in the gaze of thousands of shoppers all day, and stays stuck in their plastic prison cell all night too. They are just waiting for someone to rescue them, but the tragedy is their rescuer has not been checked in any way to see whether they will provide a suitable home.

Animal cruelty figures over here are startling. The RSPCA rescued 70,514 dogs in 2007/8, over 33% of which had to be put down. This number has risen every year for the last 5 years. The most common reason for the euthenasia of dogs is behavioural problems; e.g a perfectly healthy animal whose owners have not trained it properly, or abused it so that it can no longer be considered safe to live with humans.

While the figures for cats follow similar patterns, the noticeable difference is that for cats the most common reason for euthenasia by the RSPCA is medical problems.

60% of all cruelty prosecutions brought by the RSPCA in Australia in 2007/8 were for cases involving dogs.

What is it going to take to outlaw the selling of dogs (and cats for that matter) in pet shops? Taking advantage of the whim of shoppers and neglecting to carry out appropriate checks on the families wishing to home the animals is, in my book, aiding and abetting the neglegent owners.

It is a simple change to make and (to go all political and hard hearted) surely the animal lover vote is worth something?



Friday, May 01, 2009

Twitter in the real world

I have a continual case of verbal diahorrea on Twitter. Been on there for about a year and I genuinely think in 140 character bursts. So this entertained me somewhat.



Locations of visitors to this page