Haiku for the Australian Olympic Commission

Determination
and persistence are paying
dividends at last

– not for the athletes,
but their administrators
now on the home straight

after being held
back by larger opponents.
Stay true! For the win!

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Haiku for Australian of the Year, David Morrison

morrisonCongratulations
Australian Of The Year
David Morrison!

I was moved by, “The
standard you walk past is the
standard your accept.”

And now the rest of
Australia hears your voice!
You little bew-tee!

Where the fault lies, from the top down

This whole Princess Kate topless photo kerfuffle has got the better of me. I actively searched last night on Google and easily found an eyeful. I didn’t feel a better person for having done so. But it wasn’t about titillation, even though I have now actively participated in a vicarious act of voyeurism on a female body, or just about being swept up in postmodern tabloid culture. I wanted to see how easy it was. It was easy.

So it’s obvious that today’s news about a French court blocking further publication of the topless photos is too late. The cat’s out of the bag, the puppies are out of the bikini top, and the online horse has bolted.

The Palace, I’m sure, knows this, but had to take some visible action. What’s caught my attention is the fall-out from the fall-out, which seems to be a lot about apportioning blame for this ‘incident.’ So who’s at fault? Let’s start at the top:

  • Princess Kate! What was she doing! A woman in her position! No matter where she was, she should have known better. Tsk tsk.
  • The alleged photographer, Ms Suau!* What a betrayal of the sisterhood! And what a demonstration of the callousness of the paparazzi who still haven’t learned how to be decent following the death of Princess Diana. And being her daughter-in-law and all. Shame on her/them.
  • The editor! Sorry, editors, because there’s three now: French Closer and Italian Chi magazines (owned by the Berlusconi media empire, which apparently explains everything), and the Irish Daily Star. How could they? These people have no conscience.
  • The media! Just leave it alone. Move along, nothing to see here (well, not a lot). You’re giving it legs as well. C’mon, there’s more important stuff in the world, no matter how ‘respectfully’ you’re dealing with it.
  • The public! Us. You. Me. Consumers of tabloid, popular culture, against our better judgement. Don’t buy into it, and don’t buy it!

* Interestingly, in earlier reports, reference to Ms Suau was accompanied with “rhymes with sewer.” I can’t find any references to those comments now.

So what a sorry mess this is. How can there be one person, agent or thing at fault?

And throughout it all, in public at least, under the knowing and known gaze of the lens, Kate has smiled and dutifully fulfilled her role accompanying William on their nine-day Asia-Pacific tour. Which is why, to end it all, I love the delicious irony of the photos accompanying her arrival at the Solomon Islands, where she was greeted by topless women.

In perhaps a depressingly-backfired attempt to give support to the Princess, some of the headlines for this picture were, “‘How are you baring up, your highness?’ Topless tribeswomen give Kate attack of the giggles:”

(Courtesy Herald Sun)

Problem is, she wasn’t giggling.  If you look at the opening second or two of the Reuters video from the arrival (as I’ve done a few times now, not just because I’m a pop culture consumer but I also want to make sure I’m right on this), you can see she’s actually lifting her hands to check her hair’s okay after having had the necklace draped over her. And is in complete control of her laughing gear. This is an opportunistic snap, used inappropriately, however with a sympathetic context its accuracy is overlooked.

Terrible, isn’t it.

Almost as bad as the last category of people to blame for all this: those pesky bloggers who can’t help themselves from wading into the stream of information that flows past us all, some of it murkier than the rest.

An open letter to Gina Rinehart

19 June 2012

Dear Ms Rinehart

Before I go any further, I should let you know I don’t work in the media industry (although for a brief period in the 2000s I was an ABC broadcaster in regional Australia, quite near to where you’re making your billions, in fact, so I get that bit), and I’m not a media expert or commentator, nor someone experienced in business takeovers or Board management. However, I’m someone with an interest in media and culture and stuff and that.

So about the Fairfax thing, I don’t quite get your play here. Have you really thought it through?

I can only assume that you want to  have more editorial control. Really, why else would you bother? You’re the richest woman in the world, with money from resources, not media interests, so your entry here can’t be for altruistic purposes to secure the future of an Australian media institution, or the fourth estate more generally.

If that’s the case, let’s look at some of the possible scenarios from your recent and growing share acquisitions.

First, if you don’t acquiesce to sign a charter of editorial independence, here’s some potential fallout:

  • Lots of hoo-ha from journalists and media types (internally and externally), pesky pressure from government etc. Not good for the share price = bad investment in the short term. But ….
  • If the hoo-ha is protracted, you lose key journalists from the SMH and Age which will be symptomatic of how abysmal it will be to work there because they value their independence after 170 years, readership goes down, share goes down, Fairfax Media goes down the toilet = bad investment = no influence = failed objective (I’m guessing).

Second, if you do sign a charter of editorial independence, here’s some more potential fallout:

  • even though you’ve signed the charter, everyone knows you want editorial control (see above), so when you begin to exert it, there’ll be lots of hoo-ha from journalists and media types (internally and externally), pesky pressure from government, Australian Press Council and things like, well, maybe you  know that Leveson thing happening in the UK at the moment with Rupert? Like that. Not very good for reputations, although that doesn’t seem to have bothered you so far, and I get that too.
  • If the hoo-ha is protracted, you lose key journalists from the SMH and Age which will be symptomatic of how abysmal it will be to work there because they value their independence after 170 years, readership goes down, share goes down, Fairfax Media goes down the toilet = bad investment = no influence = failed objective (I’m still guessing).

So far I’m not seeing a lot of win:win here. Again though, I can see the money thing isn’t an issue, but still.

In fact I’m trying to determine the value of the perceived influence against the risk of the failure. What influence could possibly be worth so much as to put the future of this media organisation at risk?

Is it really worth that much? And can you really buy it?

It reminds me of the expression about horses, water and drinking.

Or, as my wise mother once told me: just because you can do something (which, in your case, is because you have unlimited wealth at your disposal), doesn’t mean you have to.

What are you really trying to achieve here? If you didn’t have a billion squillon dollars to expend on this folly, would you?

I’d love to know.

Yours sincerely

JB

A curly one: Frieda, Our Nicole, Rebekah and me

When I was a young girl I was an avid reader of the wonderful comic strip Peanuts, and I remember the arrival of Frieda and her tendency to remind anyone who’d listen that she had “naturally curly hair.” At that time my hair was dead straight – or, to use my Oma’s expression, I had ‘nail curls’ – and it seemed to my girlish understanding of femininity that having naturally curly hair must be pretty special, even if it made you a bit annoying.

Then the hormones kicked in during puberty, and on that eventful day in 1978 when I went to the hairdresser and asked for a perm, she laughed and layered my hair instead. And I didn’t want it layered, dammit, I wanted a perm like the models in Cleo magazine. But layered it’s been ever since (apart from a few short-short years), releasing my inner bounce so much that even by the end of high school a friend was calling me ‘ovine’.

Fast forward 30 years or so and I have fully embraced my Frieda-ness and I know that my hair helps define me – more so, I suspect, than how the straight hair of a lot of my friends defines them. I can’t explain why this is, other than it is just so much more out there and in everyone’s face (if they’re up close) and certainly in mine. If I had a dollar – literally – for every time friends and perfect strangers have told me (and continue to tell me) “you’re so lucky to have those curls / you have such beautiful hair / your curls are just right, not like my waves/boring/straight/kinks/[insert horrid hair adjective here]” I would indeed be rich in hair products.

But not everyone wants curly hair in their face, or anyone else’s, which brings us to the hair-straightening trend of white western popular culture over the past decade or so (alongside the long-present hair straightening within African-American culture), which shows no signs of abating.

And just in case you think, at this stage, that I’m getting a bit too carried away with the whole curly subject, let’s take a look at Our Very Own Nicole Kidman, and remember what she used to put on show. The ‘nail-curled’ Ms Kidman was recently (re)interviewed on 60 Minutes by Karl Stefanovic and it’s Australian pop cultural cringe at its finest, including this exchange:

KARL STEFANOVIC: We’ve got some vision of you – the first interview you did with 60 Minutes when you were 21.

NICOLE KIDMAN: Oh, no. Really?

KARL STEFANOVIC: It’s very cool. It was like, “Wow! This hair!”

NICOLE KIDMAN: Yeah, I now blow-dry my hair and I’ve actually had the Brazilian Blowout. Have you heard of that, Karl?

KARL STEFANOVIC: Do I need to know about it?

NICOLE KIDMAN: It’s not… You mention Brazilian and guys are like, “What?” No, it’s the hair blowout thing. So I had that once but my whole life has been trying to get rid of curly hair.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Really?

NICOLE KIDMAN: Yeah, any curly-haired girl will tell you that and now I’m like, “Oh, I wish the curls would come back.” But they don’t come back in the same ringletty way. So, anyway, hair’s a whole other conversation.

Well, it’s this conversation because if you go to the Brazilian Blowout web site, there’s a page dedicated to Befores and Afters and the message appears to be “we can fix this problem [curly hair] and make you better [with straight hair].”

Which brings us to Rebekah Brooks. Now she has clearly not invested in a Brazilian Blowout – quite the opposite, I’d suggest. A recent Jezebel article (‘Everybody Watch Out For Rebekah Brooks’s Hair!‘) looked at the way that Brooks’s hair has been reported, and commented on the stereotypes of curly hair and the dangers of endowing a hair style with too much meaning.

But c’mon! This is where I’m going to draw a long bow as a curly-haired sister and say that hair is as deliberate and overt a statement of personality as you can get. And what clinches it is that she doesn’t emphasise her make-up or fashion choices (that I can see from my thorough research via Google images) so in fact it’s all about the hair. You don’t keep that amount of hard work on your head without wanting it that way.

And if by now you really think I’m off the rails, I dare you to read the Peanuts strips above again, and this time change the name Charlie Brown to Rupert Murdoch. Fun, huh. I liked this one too:


[Thanks to United Features Syndicate via the lovely Snoopy And the Gang! site]

Intersestingly, in the comments section below the Jezebel article, there is a discussion between UK and US contributors on the perceived professionalism of straight hair over curly hair, with some US women saying they’d been pressured professionally to straighten their hair.

So it’s tricky. There are issues of self-esteem, genetics, cost, pop culture, careers (for heaven’s sake) and anti-frizz at play. However, none of these things will, in the end, protect or excuse Rebekah Brooks from her actions.

And I have a confession to make. In recent years I’ve made a habit of getting my hair blow-dried straight when I leave the hair salon after *ahem* colour assistance. The first time I did this when Brownie was old enough to notice (about 3), I came home just as he was nodding off to sleep, and he took one look at this woman who used to be his mother and burst into tears. That demonstrated to me the power of straight v curly.

Finally, how do you know if you can proudly announce, Frieda-style, that you have real naturally curly hair? Well, you go to naturallycurly.com of course, and classify your curls. For the record, on a good day I reckon I’m a mix of both 3a and 3b. I’ll never have the choice of whether 2b or not 2b (okay, that was more than a bit annoying, sorry).