Monthly Archives

October 2012


Now we are six(+24).

October 31, 2012 | 32 Comments

This Saturday coming is my thirtieth birthday.

I remember my tenth birthday in particular. I was terrified of being ten. I remember lying on a blue couch and tracing the numbers ’1′ and ’0′ in the carpet and crying because I was so bloody old and I hadn’t achieved anything and I was nearly dead.

Now that I have my own nearly ten-year-old, I feel the anxiety of myself at that age even more acutely. I’m looking forward to this milestone birthday, because I feel like I’ve been sixty for most of my life and at least now I can be a proper adult, but as the day gets closer I am aware of how much the past 20 years haven’t gone as planned and where I’ve let ten-year-old Anna down. When I think about letting her down I think about letting my own daughter down, because she is so like me. These are the creative new ways my brain is discovering with which to torture me. You know that scene in Drop Dead Fred when Elizabeth talks to her younger self? That’s a bit how I’m feeling this week.

So, ten-year-old Anna, I’m sorry.

  • I’m sorry for getting you pregnant at 19. That was shitty. Our daughter is really amazing, but we are tired and old and it’s taken until now to really feel comfortable with being a parent. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more of a young adulthood.
  • I’m sorry for all the booze and drugs. They really messed with your brain, and that stopped you from doing some of the things you would have liked and made things more difficult than they should have been for, let’s face it, little to no return.
  • You know that plan to work overseas for a couple of years? Yeah, didn’t happen. See the aforementioned things I’m sorry for.
  • I’m sorry that I didn’t give you any clear goals and that for a while there I let you float around like a dead leaf. You really gave me a pretty good head start and I just dropped the ball.
  • I’m sorry about the baby rollercoaster. Jesus, so very sorry. I basically whacked your uterus with a big stick for a few years and then tore out your Feelings and ran over them with a lawnmower and then set fire to the pieces.
  • I’m sorry that I wasn’t better at choosing people to take care of our heart. It’s had a serious beating since we were ten.

But you’ll be pleased to know that there is good news!

  • You have amazing children. They are like funny little dolls with big eyes and short fingers and enormous brains. So far they’ve made you swell with pride every single day.
  • You didn’t make things work with their dad, maybe because you’re a bit lazy and also because getting married at 21 was not the most sensible thing you ever did, but you are really quite good at maintaining a relationship with him for the kids’ sake instead of hurling them from one car to the other and screaming the rest of the time.
  • You did find a man you like. He’s great. It was hard work for a while there, but that’s part of what made it good in the end.
  • Turns out the writing thing was not just a pipe dream. You were right all along.
  • Your parents are so proud of the 30-year-old version of you that they tell you every time they speak to you, even if they’re about to get on a plane or they’re in a meeting. Sure, it may be partly senility, but they seem to believe what they’re saying.

Happy birthday, ten-year-old Anna. You were right to be afraid, but you were wrong to think it was hopeless.

P.S. Sweet t-shirt.

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In the news, Ranting

Are bloggers taking ‘cash for comment’?

October 29, 2012 | 42 Comments

I didn’t apply to be part of the Human Brochure, because I am scared of flying and if I were to lose my head for a minute and get on a plane, it would be to Hong Kong and not Canberra. But some people did, and they were gifted a No Expense Spared Weekend of a Lifetime in the Australian capital. By all accounts there was food, booze, food, tours, food, room service, food and roundabouts.

Predictably, the Human Brochure expedition has brought with it a good deal of cynicism. Not just from mainstream media (though we do of course love blaming things on MSM), but also from the wider internet. These kinds of things always do. People say, “Of course they only invited the influential people!” as if it is in some way discriminatory, or that because this was a government funded exercise, there should be a requirement to also include the little guys who have not much to contribute and no way of getting their message out, but who would really, really like a free trip.

That is the new media equivalent of saying, “Let’s not advertise on that big billboard or in that major newspaper. What if the papers that don’t exist get hurt feelings? Let’s just give some money to someone who doesn’t have a newspaper and hope that they tell their ten mates about it.”

Smart business? Not exactly.

When the Queensland government secured a visit from Great Lord and Emperor Oprah Winfrey in 2010, the media went mad. What a great initiative! they said. She will change the way people see Queensland! in fact. Did Oprah bring her life-sized John Travolta doll and her plane full of crazed fans and her other plane full of personal chefs to Queensland because someone offered her a free hotel room? Of course she bloody didn’t. That trip cost the Queensland and NSW governments and Tourism Queensland more than two million dollars. And yet, “amazing idea! let’s get Queensland on Oprah’s show!”

Let’s get Queensland on Oprah’s show.

See also: let’s get Canberra on people’s blogs and let’s get Canberra in people’s Twitter feeds.

There is nothing new about creating events for the sole purpose of propagating a message. Journalists and publicists have long been invited to soirees packed full of incentives to attend: food, go karting, geishas or whatever (I’ve never been asked). They’re not obligated to say anything nice – or anything at all – but there is nothing illegal about a little schmoozing, as long as it’s clear that it’s not in exchange for endorsement.

This is what it looks like when money is exchanged for public endorsement.

So, is this “cash for comment”?

First, stop shouting “cash for comment”! It does not mean what you think it means.

The original cash for comment scandal centred around the fact that the comments were posing as the unprompted opinion of Laws and Jones, and that for all intents and purposes they allowed the public to believe as much. The presenters were alleged to have been given money and goods in exchange for favourable comments on air and the station was ultimately fined $360,000. The actual issue was not the fact that they had publicly endorsed brands as part of a commercial agreement, but from the fact that they misled the public and misrepresented their relationships with these brands.

These arrangements happened behind closed doors. Although bloggers aren’t bound by the ACMA’s regulations in relation to disclosure, the very nature of an event like the Human Brochure is that the proposition to influencers is made in full public view. Put forward your case to be part of the adventure, there’s no obligation to write about it, we want to show you what Canberra can do.

I’ve spoken before about how social media can’t fix your product for you. If you offer members of the public – whether they be journalists, critics, bloggers, tweeters, actors or children – an intimate engagement with your product, you’d better hope it’s up to the task. You can put a whole Human Brochure in chartered planes with strippers and cognac, but if you take them to Civic then they are going to jump on their phone and say, “Those bloody bastards just took us to Civic and it was shit and someone knifed me.”

Asking social media users to participate in what is essentially a media call is no different from inviting sports reporters to your corporate box. You hope that it will help to sway their opinion of NRL (unlikely!), but it’s not a guarantee.

Their reputation is the very thing you’re interested in tapping into, otherwise you would have asked the guy who coaches the Under 9s or your mum. Thus it follows that they are the kinds of people who want to protect their reputation and maintain their integrity, which means not endorsing a product that sucks. You hope that they will like your product enough to write something nice about it. You also run the risk that they will hate your product and write something negative about it.

All you are “buying” in this oft touted “cash for comment” is the right to invite them to make their own decision.

The fact that you are inviting bloggers and not the MSM doesn’t change this one iota.

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The fear of open spaces

October 26, 2012 | 28 Comments

I’m an agoraphobe. It’s funny, I think pretty much everyone knows what one of those is now. It’s become a thing that people are.

I’d describe my phobia as “moderate”. I’m not housebound (unless I really crack the shits and use it as an excuse to refuse to do things) and I often enjoy being outdoors. Some days I look through my window and am suffocated by total illogical panic, but that’s not often, and mostly on Saturdays, which makes it easier to anticipate.

These are the kinds of things you learn about yourself when you have anxiety about something.

When I was a kid, I didn’t have agoraphobia. I was claustrophobic. On one occasion, when I was about five, I was at a shopping centre with my dad and we saw a group of people trapped in a glass lift. They were all screaming. I didn’t set foot in a lift for six years. That’s the kind of fatalistic child that I was.

During that time, I read about agoraphobia in a book (like I said, a serious child). It was the strangest thing I’d ever heard of – afraid of open spaces! What a thought! How ridiculous! Open spaces are where the lifts aren’t! There is nothing to be afraid of in open spaces! It’s just air and grass and sometimes cows are there! What a gas.

Eight-year-old self, you arse.

Living in a city as congested as Melbourne has paradoxically exacerbated both my agoraphobia and my claustrophobia. Yes, hilariously you can have both of these things at once. Afraid of the outdoors? Just go inside! Oh shit! Inside is so small! Better go outside! JESUS. OUTSIDE HAS MONSTERS. That’s a little game I like to play with myself called ‘LOL Ur Brain Is Totes Fucked.’ You can play too – all you need to do is take lots of drugs and come up with reasons to hate yourself.

I moved here with my family 13 years ago, and I’ve spent all that time searching and searching for the place where I could drop my bags and take off my shoes and have a good rest (as opposed to the kind of rest that is punctuated with periods of total and complete insecurity about everything). Everywhere we live is wrong – and worse, is getting more wrong. I seem to be moving further away from where I need to be.

To that end, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks in the Mount Eliza area. For those interstaters, Mount Eliza is a village at the top of the Mornington Peninsula, about 50km south of Melbourne, bordered by cliff faces and woodland. Many refer to it as a suburb now, but Melbourne is quite vain in that way and occasionally also tries to claim Mount Gambier and Albury. Either way, I’d like to live there. Each time I visit (which lately has been every other day), I find it harder to leave.

I inspect houses like a crazy person (I also go to work like a crazy person, take my kids to school like a crazy person and wash my clothes like a crazy person). Today I stood out on a back deck and looked out over a huge garden and breathed in the sea air and nearly hugged the real estate agent because this is my place. Not the house in particular, but the place.

When I left, I called Gaz and promptly burst into tears while trying to explain to him that when you’ve felt riddled by anxiety in your own home for 10 years, finding a place that doesn’t feel like that is a big fucking deal.

I don’t know to explain it to you any better than that.

Leave a comment | 28 comments
The Other Things

Moving to America

October 25, 2012 | 7 Comments

A little girl in Georgia’s class moved away to America today.

They had a party. We bought cupcakes with sugar flowers on them.

When we drove to school, Georgia said she was excited about the party.

“There will be lamingtons!” she said.

At before school care, Anne put the cakes in the fridge and asked if it was Georgia’s birthday.

“No, we’re having a party!” she said.

After school, Georgia told me all about the party. There were cocktail franks that had exploded and miniature cream buns and frogs in the pond and drinks with umbrellas.

At the end of the party, they said goodbye to their friend. They sang Call Me Maybe and then she left on her adventure.

“It costs $300,000 to go to America!” she said.

It doesn’t.

The other $290,000 is to treat her cancer.

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Actual Work, Beautiful Things, Family, Mentals, Ranting

A bit of manual stimulation

October 22, 2012 | 21 Comments

Apparently I found it necessary to buy a typewriter. The good news is that I managed to get it out of its case and on to my desk, whereafter I typed some words and lost my finger between the keys quite often (see Fig. 1).

I’ve been led to believe that typewriters need names. This one is an Adler Contessa in very bright orange and so far I’ve called it “Whose idea was this?” and “Is it possible that the novelty has worn off before I’ve even opened it?”, but I may settle on Clarice.

The purchase of said typewriter is my first superficial step in a move toward a more southern part of this fine land. Not Tasmania – though I would like that very much – but the Mornington Peninsula. Just the top bit. Last week I took myself for a wee journey down there and looked at trees and houses that might have been literal castles and the ocean was right there so I breathed quite heavily.

It is such a nice part of Victoria, what with the village atmosphere but the freeway just around the corner. I have this thought (delusion?) that I will sit in my brand new study with Clarice and overlook my children who have run so far into my 3/4 acre block that I can no longer see them and have they been bitten by a snake? who knows, this is the country! and let’s all have a barbecue.

What I really like about the above image is that you can see where I made a mistake in ‘loud’. I do so much deleting and rewriting while I’m blogging that it’s kind of organic to see the mistake right there on the page.

Today I finished working on a piece I’ve been writing about women and mental health, and the way those with low- to mid-level illnesses can get lost in all the fuss. I spoke to some wonderful women and my word if they didn’t make me feel even more like crying openly in front of everyone. Mental illness happens to some pretty great people.

Writing 2000 words about it was draining. By the end I just wanted to set fire to it and stamp my feet until someone transplanted my brain with one that works properly. Instead, I made a lasagne and watched Rum Diary, which helped me to feel both More Normal and also In Good Company.

Then this lady said to me, “Often the more talented, the more dogged.” and so I went and painted the Mona Lisa because Christ am I dogged.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Clarice and I are going to bed.

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