Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jersey girl

Image: Summer dress, Sewn, $88,

Images:,,, Witchery Fashions, Sportsgirl, Bassike, Sewn, Elk Accessories

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

>Bang bang<

Click to enlarge.

Images: Sportsgirl, Natasha, Maise, and

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Modelling, it's reality.

Reality TV shows have been dominating our television sets for the past few years. As a consequence of their ever-pervading presence, these shows are actively influencing what people aspire to be.

Admit it, you’ve all seen at least one episode of Next Top Model, may that be the American or Aussie version, or perhaps you’ve flicked to the new Jennifer Hawkins series, Make Me A Supermodel.

Australian modelling agencies have experienced a sudden increase in applicants as a result of these shows strutting their stuff on our television screens.

Experts in the modelling industry believe that such shows fuel interest in young guys and girls, encouraging them to seek modelling contracts with agencies.

“It’s because of all these rotten, rotten television shows” says Nicholas Alexander, booker at Scene Model Management in Sydney. “I always get lots of people calling me in the final episodes. Generally people have an instant celebrity need.”

In some cases this increase is being felt before the series has even come to a close.

Mr. Alexander said that the first few days of Search for a Supermodel brought in a lot of interested hopefuls to Scene Model Management, where he even recognised a few faces of those who had tried out but had not made it into the next round.

Catharine Lumby, Professor of Journalism and Media Research Centre at UNSW says that although “there may be an increase in applications… I don’t think that means they’ll be a big increase in the number of models. It’s like any industry, there’s a selection criteria.”

Director of Chadwick Management and Model Agency and a judge on Channel Seven’s Make Me A Supermodel, Martin Walsh says that despite the normal and steady stream of aspiring models contacting his agency, the numbers have indeed increased as of late, particularly in Melbourne.

“Obviously there is a great deal of community and media interest in the modelling world and sometimes the perception of the industry is quite different from the reality of it,” said Walsh. “I think sometimes these types of shows can perpetuate or reinforce negative stereotypes in the modelling world that we don’t really put up with.”

Perhaps these negative stereotypes may be in light of recent controversy surrounding Season Four of Australia’s Next Top Model, where Demelza Reveley, accused of intimidation and bullying, was named the winner.

Instead Walsh expects Make Me A Supermodel will give a wider audience a more thorough view of the process, of recognising a particular look and then initiating the transformation into a professional model.

So while fashion shows, magazines and Miss Universe pageants encourage girls to catwalk, pout and pose in front of their full-length mirrors, the ‘reality’ aspect of modelling shows encourage these girls to go out and actually catwalk, pout and pose in front of modelling agents.

According to Dr. Nicole Matthews, lecturer of Media and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University, by being able to pick and choose from a line of contestants, these shows seem to be limiting the definition of beauty. In particular they are reflective of the pressures placed on women.

“I don’t like the emphasis in our culture on young women, which is about being slender, about being even-featured,” she said. “It doesn’t incorporate people with differences of body shapes, people with disabilities, so there’s a very narrow understanding of what it means to be beautiful in those sorts of shows.”

Professor Lumby on the other hand considers young people to be quite smart because they realise fame is a commodity in society with economic and social benefits.

“It’s perfectly rational for a young person to decide they want to be famous than to decide they want to be a doctor or lawyer.”

Fame seems to be increasingly more accessible as these hit reality shows publicly televise the transformation from the ordinary into the extraordinary.

On average, modelling agencies receive between 50 and 60 enquires a week.

“A lot of 16-17 year-olds would be the majority,” says booker Mr. Alexander. “And then a few delusional people.”
Photo: Spanic

Friday, September 19, 2008

Obam-ate '08 (all politicians need a rhyming name)

Okay, so a bunch of designers have come up with a couple of goods in support for Barak Obama and a portion of the proceeds goes towards his campaign (it’s on the website, but I've never had a good head for numbers). And so maybe they’re not the chicest*. Maybe you’ve already got five billion and one similar things at home already. Maybe they’re not even relevant in Australia. But really, when else would you be able to buy designer goods and justify it by saying “I’m not just spending money again, this money is going towards a political campaign OKAY?”
Click to enlarge.

*although they do look better than the Kevin ’07 tees, no?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Quiet Before the Storm

A Red Cross shelter, before Gustav made landfall.

The city of New Orleans has been savaged by major hurricanes in recent years and this year has offered no reprieve. On the third anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, residents braced for Gustav. But how much better prepared was the city for the impending disaster? Bonita Silva reports.

It was the costliest, and fifth deadliest hurricane in the history of the United States of America. From it emerged incessant media coverage, an escalating missing persons list, and a succession of notorious political fumbles. It seemed only fitting then, that Hurricane Gustav would revisit New Orleans on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.

Amongst Mayor Ray Nagin’s ‘doomsday predictions’, remained an assortment of unanswered questions: Was the city equipped to handle another catastrophe? Would the same political blame game be displayed for the world to see? Had the city made any feasible progress in the past three years?

Those questions would be answered as the city prepared for the recurring chaos, a devastating reminder of the lingering pain.

The city is quiet during its mandatory evacuation period. It is 3:15pm on Sunday, August 31, as Michael Homan sits at his computer, three hours until the City of New Orleans has a curfew imposed – from dusk until dawn.

Mayor Nagin’s website declares: “Those persons who remain within the City of New Orleans do so at their own risk and are subject to arrest if they are outside the boundaries of their own property.” New Orleans resident, Homan, braved the destruction of Katrina, and discounted the warnings of Gustav, refusing to comply with the mandatory evacuation.

More amazing still is that his wife and two kids evacuated while he stayed home with his two dogs: “That made it easier to stay also knowing they [my family] were in no danger,” said the 42-year-old Associate Professor of Theology.

Community groups believe Katrina survivors were anxious and eager to leave in the wake of Gustav, and that the evacuation imposed by its political leaders was a necessity.

The Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now (ACORN) was heavily involved in the rebuilding of the city post Katrina, particularly in regards to helping low income residents in the Lower 9th ward.

“Many who had weathered the storm of Katrina were some of the first to board busses out of town in anticipation of Gustav landing here,” Charles D. Jackson, Communications Director of ACORN said. “So there is some anxiety amongst survivors having to relive the same emotional trauma that they experienced during Hurricane Katrina.”

The Association has been pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to work quicker in fixing the levee system. The levees (the federal flood protection system) failed catastrophically during Katrina, where 80 per cent of the city became flooded. Residents such as Homan also say that the levees must be fixed.

“Nobody used to evacuate, and this is not a feasible solution to where we live. People can't afford to miss work for a week due to evacuating, and moreover pay hotels and restaurants to survive,” Homan explained.

The New Orleans Survivor Council was formed by survivors to come together on an equal basis. When asked how far the city had come since Hurricane Katrina, Organising Coordinator Kim Nunez says: “In certain parts of town it looks like Hurricane Katrina never happened, and other parts of town, it looks like they just cleared the water out two weeks ago…people don’t understand that Katrina is still a daily hindrance.”

As a resident, Richard Read, 40, evacuated during Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. Although survivors have gone through a cycle of optimism and pessimism, “I think we're on a big upswing, psychologically speaking,” says Read. “We’ve come along surprisingly well – but again, that has little to do with government help, and more to do with the stick-to-itiveness of our residents.”

When asked the same question, Southern Regional Director for Amnesty International USA, Jared Feuer says, “No. New Orleans has not moved anywhere near far enough.”

Amnesty International USA has been campaigning on the housing rights of internally displaced people over the past two years. The United Nations created the 1998 document ‘Guiding Principles for Internally Displaced Persons’. Twice as many people have been displaced in Gustav – two million – compared to Katrina’s one million.

“With the internally displaced, you have a situation where there are people who are still within the borders of the government that often created the situation leading to their very displacement, and as a result they often are in a hostile situation,” says Feuer. “They’re hostile at worst, often just neglectful at best, and as a result they don’t have access to… all the rights that are specified in the guiding principles.”

Feuer says at least the political rhetoric right now suggests a different approach to before.

The American Red Cross has 334 shelters open across eight states to house residents evacuated in areas hit by Gustav. “The organisation and collaboration between the non profit organisations such as the Red Cross and the government was much more coordinated,” says Jennifer Lubrani, Spokesperson for the American Red Cross. “There were already airplanes to transport people that could not get out of the city on their own. That had not happened in Katrina, and it did happen with Gustav.”

Jackson of ACORN also says there has been a vast difference in the handling of the situation, in keeping the public informed and providing transportation out of the city: “Apparently they learned from Hurricane Katrina and have taken measures to prevent such a catastrophe again.”

Jared Feuer says the problem with Katrina was that the city, state, and federal government were passing the blame to each other.

But resident Read believes Mayor Nagin continues to fail the city during Gustav: “My biggest problem is that Nagin doesn’t communicate with the public at all… We almost never hear from him, or from the man who’s meant to be overseeing New Orleans’ recovery, Dr. Ed Blakely,” he says. “That’s endlessly frustrating in a city where there’s still a lot to be done.”

Yet the city wasn’t hit as hard, and was under better political management during Hurricane Gustav, meaning groups are concerned about where that leaves New Orleans.

Amnesty is concerned about what can be expected: “Because Katrina was such an immediate disaster, it remained in the public eye. Our concern with Gustav is that because the flooding was less, the public is going to turn their attention,” explains Feuer.

“I think the storm has the great potential to highlight that New Orleans isn’t whole, that New Orleans still needs help, and if it’s used as that, I think it could be very powerful,” says Nunez of the New Orleans Survivor Council.

But in a city not yet whole, a mandatory evacuation in place, and now the Hurricane Ike blitzing through, what does it feel like with a city curfew intact? “Nobody pays attention to the curfew,” says New Orleans resident Homan.

Photo: Kati Garner/American Red Cross

Sunday, September 7, 2008


You know, I absolutely loved by the incredibly large and gorgeous flowers decorating the models' hair at the Illionaire show way back at RAFW SS 08/09 earlier this year. But let's face it: AM I REALLY GOING TO WALK DOWN THE STREET WITH AN OVER-SIZED FLOWER POPPING OUT OF MY HAIR? I think not*. So here are, in my honest and very humble opinion, some other accessories that also conjure up that slightly dreamy, ethereal, romantic and definitely floral vibe that's so perfect for spring. Click to enlarge.

*I would, but the constant bemused and puzzled looks from my boyfriend just wouldn't be worth it.

Images:,,, Witchery Fashions, Diva Accessories, Sophie Kyron.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Forget spring; let's skip straight to summer

Images: Sass and Bide, Witchery Fashions,, Wittner, Bardot, Topshop, Le Black Book, Just Jeans and Nine West.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is it spring yet?

Click to enlarge.

Images courtesy of Witchery Fashions, Sportsgirl, French Connection Australia,,, Mimco and Rockbottom_Rainbow, Zilch1 and Bunio via Deviantart.
Lyrics - Today the Sun's on Us by Sophie Ellis Bextor

Friday, July 4, 2008

Working it off

You know, the reason I put up with all the photocopying and transcribing (not that it’s bad, it just gets a little… repetitive when you do it four days in a row) is because there is the promise that one day, maybe one day, I might actually get to write something (okay, and because I’m a slaving work experience girl and MK is so nice about the fact that I’m slave labour, etc).

Well, the day came. I GOT TO WRITE SOMETHING. And sure, I basically wrote about a TV show without ever having seen the TV show, and it was only 40 words, but hey! IT WAS WRITING THAT WILL (hopefully) BE PUBLISHED. I’d have been happy if it were 12 words! Even a title would’ve been good, dammit.

But other than that, life at work experience has been full of transcribing. I sat in on their production meeting a couple of times, during which two people discussed whether there should be three pages in a row or four pages in row without ads while everyone else just sat there. I learnt that in a weekly magazine, they work approximately three to four weeks ahead but this is very fluid. I also learnt that Excel can be used for purposes non-maths-related (they use Excel for to map out the magazine) which gave me an insight into the general structure, something which you’re aware of as a reader but never really take notice of.

But most of the time, I ran around doing odd jobs that will really add to my journalistic experience, such as taking CD’s out of their cases and photocopying. Ergh, yes, every work experience person’s nightmare. But I guess the main point of work experience is not about the “experience” – it’s about the contacts and it’s about being round these people, and having the opportunity to talk to them. MK asked me the other day if I needed to ask anyone questions because the entire team is quite experience and can you believe it? I don’t know what to ask. Geez, real journo I am.

Anyway, so next week I’m off (to the snow. Sick. GARGH!). But the week after I shall turn up, bright and motivated (to do more transcribing and photocopying) and full of inquisitive, intelligent and thoughtful questions… That’s the plan anyway.


Image: Total Film

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Caffeine addict

You know, if I could separate food and fashion, there is a 40 per cent chance that I would not only be able to fit into my clothes better, but that my clothes might be cleaner - it's actually scientifically proven that white cotton and red wine/Coke/orange juice/anything with staining potential are attracted to each other (Plausible? Yes. True? If you think that gullible isn't in the dictionary.)

But coffee - coffee is a different story, my friends. It cannot be separated. How else do you think everyone manages to stay so skinny and AWAKE in the industry? It's not those "eight" glasses of water a day - and they don't sell V overseas.

What's more, no coffee = a massive chunk of the colour wheel gone MIA. Espresso, mocha and latte with a dash of caramel and cream - colours that would exist, but not in the same way we look at them thanks to coffee. So enjoy this spread that's filled with all these lovely rich colours. And get a coffee (although I highly suggest waiting till tomorrow morning - coffee now is like arriving at the toll booth with fifty cents in your wallet. NOT GOOD.).

Click to enlarge.


P.s. More work exp stuff soon!

Images:,, Mollini, Witchery Fashions, Jo Malone, Skullbulb, Perlekes via Deviantart.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Work experience: Work it, baby!

DAY 1:

9:30 Pick up work experience insurance, think to self: “half an hour is PLENTY of time to get to the other side of Central”.
9:35 Get food.
9:40 Check email while eating.
9:43 Give money to awesome accordion busker wearing jester hat in the tunnel.
9:44 Power walk through tunnel. Still plenty of time, but still.
9:54 Emerge from tunnel, realise there are no street signs, shrug shoulders and think: "Well it’s not like there are THAT many streets right next to Central Station. How can this NOT on the right street?"
9:56 Realise that I am, indeed, NOT on the right street and start to panic.
9:58 See men in business suits, and with obvious logic, decide to follow them.
9:59 Make it into building JUST IN TIME. Float through doors feeling good like everything’s just fine.
10:00 Only to realise I have to line up to sign in anyway >sigh<

Okay, so I love this magazine. Really. Its shiny pages and clean, modern layout that is glamorous and intelligent while being down-to-earth, plus excellent writing and appealing topics are part of the reason I was attracted to journalism in the first place. The fact that a comedian whom I like very much periodically appears in its pages doesn’t hurt either.

Which means that if work experience here were crap – I’d be depressed. VERY depressed. It’d be meeting your favourite actor after having adored them for twenty years and realising they’re a complete idiot.

But it wasn’t crap, thank goodness. MK, the person in charge of me/does something to do with editorial, took me with her to get a coffee and we had a nice chat, I asked her what her role was exactly and she asked me about my part-time job. MK seems to be a really lovely person, and I’m glad she’s looking after me. Everyone else in the office seemed lovely too – I was only introduced to two other people in the all-female office (although funnily enough, when we had cake later in the afternoon, a man appeared) and they were funny, chatty and nice. Which helped me not feel like the biggest outsider/retard in the world. Excellent.

I had this expectation that I would be photocopying all day and generally being slave labour (see first post) and that would be fine because then they’d see I didn’t mind doing the boring jobs and they’d say something about a “good work ethic” yadda yadda yadda. But whoopee! I got to do * real * work. Not that I mind doing the boring jobs but still – who wouldn’t prefer transcribing interviews over photocopying? Especially interviews from a show that possibly has more crazy wackadoodle nuts than this season’s Big Brother! That sort of made up for the fact that I was doing it for SIX HOURS. (With lunch break and copious amounts of toilet breaks in between – there’s only so long you can listen to people blather about themselves. Really!)

And at the end of the day I got an early mark. So yes, it was fun. Yes, it was repetitive. Yes, I became a little crazy after transcribing interviews for six hours, (work experience insurance doesn’t cover mental health, does it?) but from what I can see so far, I’m going to really enjoy the place.


Barack's In... Now What?

Its official: Senator Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party to face the Republican senator John McCain in November. Campaign slogans are being brandished about, but with the economy the number one concern of American voters, what does it all mean? BONITA SILVA reports.

The brandishing about of optimistic concepts was central to Barack Obama's campaign against Hillary Clinton: “change we can believe in” and the power of “hope” were the sentiments on which his general rhetoric was based. But since securing the Democratic nomination for the upcoming presidential election, Obama has taken a different tact. Now embarking on his general election campaign, Obama has become more focussed, specific, and grounded in his direction.

On the 9th of June he delivered a speech on the economy in Raleigh, N.C. In this address to 900 invited guests, Obama sustained an attack on McCain's agenda, asserting that "we were promised a fiscal conservative. Instead, we got the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history. And now John McCain wants to give us another. Well, we've been there once, We're not going back."

This is the core accusation and argument from Obama. Voting for McCain will result in nothing but a continuation of Bush's policies, from Iraq to the economy.

According to a CNN poll released last week, the economy topped Iraq, healthcare, terrorism and immigration as the most significant issue on voter’s minds.

The Obama campaign has shown that it is well aware of the voter’s concerns. Opening his two-week tour of contested states, the focus on the ailing economy was evident. He spoke of the loss of jobs over five consecutive months; more than 320,000 since the beginning of 2008.

“The percentage of homes in foreclosure and late mortgage payments is the highest since the Great Depression. The price of oil has never been higher and set a record on Friday for the largest one-day spike in history,” he said during his address.

For him, the cause of the crisis of the American economy is clear: “We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic crisis by some accident of history. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.”

He proposed his own strategies to combat the issue should he be elected. A $50 billion economic stimulus package (a special package of spending and tax measures to enhance economic activity), relief for homeowners who face foreclosure, tax cuts for middle-income families/retirees, and an expansion of unemployment benefits.

Speaking at the National Small Business Summit in Washington, McCain highlighted the different approaches to the economy by the two candidates.

"No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is, what kind of change? ... Will we enact the largest single tax increase since the Second World War, as my opponent proposes, or will we keep taxes low for families and employers? ... This election offers Americans a very distinct choice about what kind of change we will have."

Clearly, in terms of the economic policy spectrum, McCain and Obama are on polar ends. Where Obama asserts that government should level the playing field for the lower income families/workers, McCain is the ‘classic fiscal conservative’ who believes in lowering taxes by small government.

Accusations of continuing Bush’s policies are apparent in McCain’s support in making the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent. He believes lower tax rates would boost the economy and increase savings.

Obama would keep the Bush tax cuts but has a slight variation which is aligned with his overall position on the economy. The tax cuts would no longer be in place for those Americans earning roughly $250,000 a year or more. Income taxes would also be abolished for seniors earning an annual income less than $50,000.

The Democratic candidate said, “My vision involves both a short-term plan to help working families who are struggling to keep up and a long-term agenda to make America competitive in a global economy.”

Though at this point, one thing is certain as the Republic candidate said, “We offer very different choices to the American people.”

Image: Tonx's Flickrstream

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Work experience: episode 1

Work experience: two words that are synonymous with both "Sweet. Unpaid labour!" or "I do these crappy things so that one day I might get a JOB THAT'S BETTER THAN YOURS, SLAVE DRIVER."

The English language is indeed fickle. In fact, it's even worse when you consider that sometimes there is work experience that doesn't fit into either meaning. Which is what I hope this will be - since it can't be the former, I HOPE IT'S NOT THE LATTER (please please please please).



Before day 1:

What do you wear to work experience?
Answer 1. "Indigo jeans and a nice white top," says the boy.
Answer 2. "Girl jeans. Everyone looks good in girl jeans," says the ex-boy.
Answer 3. Black chiffon dress + black opaques + black mary jane (see pics below)

Yo. Sounds good, we have two voting for the same thing, a decision can be made, I LIKE IT.

Except that I'm short and I'm too lazy to get my jeans altered so I have to roll them up and I look daggier than I did when I was eight and my parents bought me ANIME CLOTHES to wear. Okay, maybe not quite.

But in any case, after subjecting the boy to six or seven outfit photos, I finally decided on answer 3 + vintage gold chain + cream military coat from Bardot (before I looked too goth - did I mention my hair is dark too?)

Also, work experience insurance. Now, before anyone says anything bad about UTS, I just have to say that the girl who organises this is possibly THE reason that UTS does so well in journalism - she is an ANGEL at organising last-minute insurance for all these idiotic students. Such as me. Who had to fax in the insurance form overnight so she could have it signed first thing in the morning before I went to work experience. Gosh, I'm a douche.

Anyway, tune in for Day 1 tomorrow!


And please - don't say anything about me looking retarded, okay? That's how I look normally. Yes, my face does look like that normally and my head is normally cut off. So I'll actually be quite offended if you say anything.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pretty pictures: Damn them.

Click to enlarge. In the first image, left to right: Berrin Noorata, Abbey Drucker and Heidi Bivens.

Images:,, Betts Shoes, Zu Shoes, Mico-Mico, Witchery Fashions, Sportsgirl Australia,, Luxe Accessories, Viva La Frock and American Apparel.

Literary Treason: Shakespeare’s makeover, Innit.

Dorset author Martin Baum wasn't prepared for the global acknowledgement and success the book would generate.

The complexities of Elizabethan language have been replaced with ‘Yoof-speak’, opening up the world of Shakespeare to youth that might otherwise have given the playwright a miss. The man responsible for the transformation, Martin Baum, speaks to Bonita Silva about what it is like to be adored and abhorred.

England’s most prominent playwright has been subject to a memorable makeover; from traditional Bard, to a man possessing his many “fit bitches”. It’s this candid humour and satire that lends Martin Baum’s re-writing of William Shakespeare an endearing quality and amicability typically lost in literary works.

In a new compendium, ‘To Be or Not To Be, Innit,’ English satirist Martin Baum has reworked the Bard’s Elizabethan language into ‘a yoof-speak guide to Shakespeare’. Amongst 15 of the classic plays, are titles such as Macbeff, Two Geezas of Verona, and Romeo and His Fit Bitch Jools.

Although criticism and praise alike has been aloft in every corner of the literary bandwagon, Baum’s website asserts the book has stayed true to the original texts by “retaining all the important sexist, duplicitous, cross-dressing and violent moments that made William Shakespeare well wicked.”

Written by a man who adored literature and wanted to make Shakespeare more accessible to those who would otherwise share no interest, Baum has always tried to infiltrate his work with an entertaining aspect, and ‘To Be or Not To Be, Innit’ was no different.

“Although I wanted to turn people on to Shakespeare, I never gave a thought to ‘educating’ them. I only wanted to open their eyes through my interpretation and to be aware,” he says.

According to the synopsis for the tragedy Hamlet’s equivalent tale: ‘Amlet, Prince of Denmark, “Dere was somefing minging in de State of Denmark which was making Amlet all uncool,” where his love interest Ophelia becomes “de fit bitch he wanted to be all jiggy jiggy with.”

Traditionalists and the Shakespeare dedicated may have a problem or two: “When my book first grabbed headlines around the world, it seemed that everyone had an opinion on Shakespeare or, more to the point, the author.

“Although I received a lot of positive comments I was also receiving much negativity from people who hadn’t actually read the book but were still, nevertheless, outraged that in their eyes I had committed what amounted to literary treason, because I was perceived to have had the audacity to have rewritten Shakespeare. I haven’t.”

The Shakespeare Institute which is part of the University of Birmingham, is situated in Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace. Director, Professor Kate Mcluskie believes it okay to reword the original works, though says it’s different: “like Mozart tuning without the orchestration.”

She says it’s only ‘literary treason’ if you view Shakespeare as the King or the bible. “He is neither of these and his plays do go on being a source for new forms of creativity - some of which is more creative, some less.”

Although Professor Mcluskie admits she hasn’t read Baum’s work, she says, “I doubt if it is any different from the hundreds of parodic versions that have existed since the eighteenth century. It may be as witty and iconoclastic as any parody but it is certainly not new.”

A Burberry-clad and blinged out Shakespeare has redefined the classics in a youth oriented manner.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Baum has received several pieces of fan mail; mostly positive, with the occasional dearly offended.

One fan opposes Mcluskie’s view of interpretations being synonymous and identical. Jennifer from Australia says, “I have thought for years that someone should translate the Bards works into plain English, but never thought it would be so cleverly done and it shouldn't offend the purists because it is so very different.”

Two 15 year old girls shared a conflicting viewpoint. Mr. Baum averts The Small Print’s attention to the spelling, punctuation, and grammatical inaccuracies. Jenna and Shauni write, “hHe should not appreciated because he calls juliet a ‘fit bitch’ that is just disgraceing his name… the plays should not be changed for unrespectful teenagers. They should be educated in the elizabethian language not today's disgusting slang.”

Mr. Baum believes nothing has altered, and the storyline remains the same.

“No matter how progressive society thinks it is, and no matter how hard people try to take on the Establishment, elitism will always be a part of it as reaction, as my book has shown,” he says.

Professor Mcluskie however believes the question is whether it is a good parody or silly parody: “Some of the bloggers think it is the latter. It sounds as though it might offend so called ‘yoof’ more than it offends serious literary critics.”

Yet offence to youth may not be the obstruction. Street slang is part of evolution, an accepted part of society Baum says. Professionals and everyday people alike utilise abbreviations in text messages without sparing a thought for their facilitation of a “mangled English evolution.”

A critique Mr. Baum shares harps on the beauty of Shakespeare’s language. Editor of The Shakespeare Post, John Lawrence believes rewriting his language into “yoof-speak” means it “becomes a joke or a novelty.”

Mr. Lawrence is quick to dismiss the work, for “the only real relevance or positive outcome of this story is that Mr. Baum receives free PR for several days.”

Mixed reactions are nothing new. Baum says, “To some I’m exploiting and making a mockery of Shakespeare. I’ve been called a smug academic who’s too white and privileged to understand ‘the street’ and even, as disturbing as it sounds, a figure of hate.

“But to many I’m actually making a difference to, amongst others, parents or ordinary families who remember only too well how difficult it was studying Shakespeare when they were at school.”

When asked to conjure up a pick up line for Romeo had he been de fit bitch Jules sittin’ at de bar, Baum tells The Small Print, “Oy, sex on de stick, is you lookin’ for jiggy jiggy?”

From “getting maximum respect from all de boyz in de ghetto” with Macbeff, to “larging it and being so wicked with everyone” with Jools Ceasar – where to from here?

“Although the Bible was tempting, I think Charles Dickens is a natural progression,” he says.

Images: Provided by author

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Leaders Special Edition: Barack Obama

Hope/change vs 'experience'

You were going to be officially introduced to none other than Hilary Clinton, election '08 hopeful...but seeing as she seems to have been beaten by Obama, the spotlight is on him.

Barack Hussein Obama Jr. was a junior US Senator for Illinois from 1997 - 2004, and a nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Early in his campaign, opinion polls showed that Hilary Clinton was favoured over Obama. After a long campaign against rival Hilary Clinton, his powerful speeches and political strategy finally lead to his victory early this morning.

But Ms Clinton has not put an end to her political career just yet. She has shown interest in becoming Obama's vice-presidential running mate, believing that she can help the party. However, she has not yet given up on her own campaign.

Though he is not yet the next President of America, he is the first 'black' candidate to lead a major political party into a campaign for the Presidency. In the final 5-month stretch of his campaign, he will be up against Republican, John McCain. The victor will be the 44th President of the US.

Obama has had many influential supporters over the course of his campaign so far, including talk-show host, Oprah Winfrey and former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards (who pulled out from the primary race in January this year).


Friday, May 30, 2008

Should We Protect or Deride Artistic Freedoms?

Controversial as it may be, with accusations of ‘child pornography’ and criminal charges about to be laid, Bill Henson’s latest art exhibition has caused a whirlwind of hullabaloo in political, legal and artistic circles.

In an era of sexualised children and constant government enquiries into becoming a nation of thoroughly bred moral crusaders, the media, police, and politicians have hounded Henson like a pack of hyenas.

Critics and blogosphere’s alike have wanted to give their two cents on the controversy, more specifically regarding Kevin Rudd’s reaction: that of deeming the photographs ‘revolting’. As an ‘intellect’ many were expecting Rudd to understand the artistic and creative beauty behind the piece. What many were failing to realise however, was the practicality and logic behind his denouncement.

Children as young as 12 are being exhibited in these photographs. It would only be common sense to realise that the Prime Minister of the country has no alternative than to condemn the exhibition of unclothed children. With the recent government emphasis on 'letting kids be kids,' and enquiries into the sexualisation of children in the media and society, Rudd has no alternative but to condemn for the sake of consistency. The papers would have a field trip otherwise.

The greater predicament lies in using ‘art’ as a common veil and disguise: hiding the lewd and controversial under the pretence of art.

Giving this the green flag and essentially giving someone license to publish/disseminate whatever they see fit with a label of ‘creative freedom’ is a misused and exploited concept and wrongly so.

It’s only expected that something so readily accessible to the public should come under fire when it offends the sensibilities of society. An unequivocally lawless approach cannot be adopted in terms of art and creativity.

Intellectual and artistic freedoms weigh into the discussion in the examination of freedom of expression and censorship. In a democratic and liberal society, which exceeds the other? Protecting the subject matter when the government/police see it as essential, or freedom to express ideas and concepts which fall within the creative model?

Always difficult to ascertain, general moral standards shouldn’t be traversed for the sake of unreservedly administering a standard of freedoms. However Henson is being utilised as a scapegoat and criminal proceedings are exerting a rule of extremity.

Most people purporting critical views are missing the point. The deeming of it as ‘pornographic’ has offended the artistic sensibilities amongst us.

We all accept that Bill Henson most likely had no intention of producing these photographs for pornographic intentions. This isn’t an issue of adding to the collections of paedophiles across the nation.

What people fail to realise, is that by granting exemptions, a standard is set thereby increasing the general tolerability. When you legalise something, the law is telling society it’s acceptable and okay.

If Henson’s artworks are classified as suitable because it’s stored under the pretence of ‘art’, then it’s being validating and deemed okay in the name of creativity and intellectual/artistic freedom. The problem then lies in that in granting it some acceptance, it may validate child pornography in the minds of those with such tendencies.

Some restrictions are necessary. A blank cheque can’t be provided to every domain to reign free.

Pornography or art. Thoughts?

Photo: ABC TV

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pretty pictures: The City Minus the Sex

Images: TFS, Witchery Fashions, Mimco,, Aldo, Kate Hurst.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sydney Writers' Festival: The Road to Bennelong

Margot Saville acknowledged the danger of being too close to the book’s subject when trying to objectively pen a political biography. “In the end it was my book, my reputation and the book had to stand on its merits and not to be seen as propaganda,” Saville told a Sydney Writer’s Festival audience at the Walsh Bay precinct.

Speaking about her book The Battle for Bennelong – The Adventures of Maxine McKew aged 50something, Saville conceded it was not her idea, likened the experience to childbirth and said she would do it again.

On knowing Maxine well, she said, “that’s kind of good and bad, I copped quite a lot of criticism for that and I think rightly justified in that it’s very hard to write objectively about someone who is a friend, and that was a constant balancing act for the book.”

To compensate, she was sometimes harsher on McKew than she needed to be to validate its contents.

The friendship didn’t hinder the substance of the material. Saville had no background as a political reporter, yet the publisher approached her because they didn’t want a standard political book.

Following Labor’s star candidate on her quest to unseat the Prime Minister, facilitator Deborah Cameron dwells on the importance of consulting both camps of the political spectrum: to which Saville says, “I did greet him warmly at Paddy McGuinness’s funeral. I greeted Mr Howard like an old pal but it was not reciprocated.”

But what was the difference between the candidates? “Mr Howard would only turn up [to local events] if there were media there. That was the difference.”

With odds at $4.50 at the start of the campaign, Saville calls herself an idiot for failing to bet. Then she “kept thinking that I wanted her to win because then I’d sell more copies of the book.”

When McKew won however, people started looking for explanations, and thought maybe her husband was responsible.

“Lot’s of people like to think that strong women are always directed by a man. It’s commonly held and people are always saying to me, Hogg’s behind it isn’t he.” She says, “I honestly think that’s not the case.”

With a Maxine the movie in the works, an audience member queries whether Bennelong has changed her. As a public figure, McKew’s become more cautious. Margot recalls a moment during the campaign when Maxine was standing in a queue to buy underwear and an onlooker commented ‘are you going to wear that on election night?’ She says Maxine can’t go out and do what she used to, because “there’s always someone with a mobile phone and a camera.”

Saville spoke of her transformation into ‘wallpaper’, mastering the art of becoming invisible. She was in and out of the office so often and present at all the events that everyone assumed she was there to work: “you get the best moments, when people don’t realise you’re actually observing them.”

A key setback was that she filed the book before Howard’s concession of Bennelong, which the audience noted happened after an extensive period.

Referring to the candidates as chalk and cheese, Saville says Howard clearly lost touch with key factions of the seat, enabling McKew to tap into the electorate.

“John Howard actually during the campaign never referred once to Maxine by name. We were always waiting for it. He always referred to her as ‘the Labor candidate’,” Saville says.

Photo: Taken by Bonita Silva

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sydney Writers' Festival: Signature Styles

Linda Jaivin "signing" a book

There's a scene in the film National Treasure 2 where author Riley Poole peeks out hopefully from behind stacks of books at his own book signing. Except for an old man who waves vaguely to him, he sits there unnoticed until a girl approaches him and asks, “Are you Benjamin Gates?”

It’s not easy to be at a book signing. But when it’s an empty house, it’s even worse.“You’re always full of dread when you go to a book signing that you’ll embarrass yourself and the bookshop,” says David Dale, co-author of Soffritto – A Ligurian Memoir with Lucio Galletto. “You’ll be sitting there and half an hour goes by and you can see the sales assistants thinking, ‘This bloke’s a complete dud’.”

In a perfect world, at each book signing there would a reasonably long line of people. Why? Signed books equal money. “You can’t return signed books,” says Victoria Tomkinson, publisher for Linda Jaivin, author of The Infernal Optimist. “Out there with your sharpie, that’s money in your pocket.”

“Every author knows that,” Jaivin chimes in.

“Some writers have lots of people, other writers have hardly anyone - and when that's you, it brings back memories of adolescent rejection,” says Catherine Coles, author of The Poet Who Forgot.

Or worse, it reflects on the author’s bad performance. Chief queue wrangler for the Sydney Writers Festival, Morgan Smith, says that a long queue for book signings by authors is a measure of how well they captivate their audience at Festival events.

“Obviously,the big name overseas authors [have long queues] but also those who talk really well about their books and ideas,and somehow capture the imagination of the audience,” she explains.“You can always tell the writers who have been really good by the length of the queue.”

"But there’s a downside to popularity. “My hand doesn’t get tired,” says Dale. “My problem is to think of something to write.”

Jaivin says she has a way around this: “At the launch of my first novel, the comic erotic Eat Me, I came up with the idea of kissing someone’s book to leave a big red lip print.It must have been the champagne talking. Anyway,after that,everyone wanted a kiss on their book.”

“Because I had to keep refreshing my lipstick, I went through nearly the entire tube on the one night. Kissing copies of Eat Me became something of a tradition and I still do it when people ask – and occasionally when they don’t.” Was it worth it? “I never begrudge people my kisses. In case any other authors thinking of taking this up, I have one thing to say: matte works better than gloss.”

At least a kiss is simple – fans often struggle to understand what the author wrote. But sometimes this is deliberate.

“One time, I recall beginning a dedication and then realising I was less than 100 per cent sure how to spell a key word in it,” says Mark Tredinnick, poet and author of The Little Red Writing Book. “Fortunately for me, my writing is close to illegible, and I made sure it was at its least clear for the word in question.”

Jillian Rice, at lunch with Dale and Galletto, doesn’t seem to mind the near-illegible writing and says she always gets a book signed if she can. “I feel it gives me a personal connection to the author.” On the other hand, Roger Kerr, also at the lunch, doesn’t particularly care about a signature.

Rather, he uses the opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversation with the author. “I get them in on an unusual question,” he says slyly. “I like to ask them a question they don’t expect. The book signing is irrelevant, it’s more about the talking. I’m curious as to what sort of person the author is.”

Morgan Smith frowns on this. “The main problem in signing queues is when people want to tell the author their life story or give a long critique. “Ask for [your] book to be signed, keep the chat down to a nice compliment – ‘I loved your last book and I’m really looking forward to reading this.’”

“It’s very interesting,” says Dr Stephen Juan, Sydney University anthropologist and author of the Odd books series. “If the author is famous and the person has read several of their books, the reader already has a relationship with the author but the author does not know the reader at all.

“It’s a one-way relationship and it’s easy for a reader to be offended … because they just don’t understand the author doesn’t know them.”

For all the pitfalls, one rule seems simple: have a book by the author for the author to sign. Steve Toltz, author of A Fraction of the Whole, recalls: “At one signing, someone gave me the Burroughs book Naked Lunch to sign. I signed as William Burroughs.

Pic: courtesy of the supremely awesome Kris Lapez whom I am very much indebted to.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

To Leave, or Not to Leave.

The truth is, Hillary Clinton can never satisfy the public. If she left the race at any point in the past, she’d be brandished a quitter. Suffice to say the critics would brand it as ‘proof’ that she could never be the Democratic nominee. Stay? She’s selfish, stubborn, and ruining Barack Obama’s chances. But do they supersede her own? Bonita Silva asks.

More is at stake than just a Democratic nomination and potential to be the next President of the United States of America. It may be hard to believe and potentially on the melodramatic side; but pointedly true.

It’s inevitable to note that the campaign has been defined in part by race and gender. Supporters of both camps have been wielding the appropriate issue to their advantage claiming any criticisms are based upon an institutionalised discrimination. Hillary claims sexism is part of the pressure mounted on her to quit.

Granted, this is somewhat true. Politics is undoubtedly a big boy’s club – particularly when it concerns Presidents and/or Prime Ministers. John Edwards didn’t face calls to quit the Democratic race during his campaign despite severely low chances of winning the nomination. Critics could have easily dismissed his campaign as wasting key delegates. If Hillary were the opposing male candidate, most would agree that the same calls would not be waged with such enduring vigour.

Secondly, for the most part of Obama's and Clinton's contest, it wasn’t like John McCain and Mike Huckabee. It was a real contest: real in the sense that both candidates were equally poised at taking the nomination at several stages. Numerically, intellectually, charismatically and policy-wise, Obama and Hillary faced equal prospects and chances. On the road to the convention, either candidate had a legitimate chance at clinching the right amount of delegates (for what was a substantial and extensive period). Yet the calls to quit have plagued the latter half of her campaign.

Though mounting pressure can have its adverse effects. Undoubtedly the pressure has only hardened Hillary’s resolve and resilience. One thing is certain: she’s going nowhere.

Admittedly, she’s managed to overstay her welcome. Option one would be to quit altogether and retreat in humiliation. Option two involves a stronger conviction and belief in her reasons for being there. Either option poses problems at this stage. Although the latter has prevailed, it’s no longer in Hillary’s hands to change the outcome. Super-delegates have failed in their responsibility to make their choices known, to end the race, and subsequently end her current humiliation.

She has still managed to garner immense turnouts and gain support from key constituents and groups that Obama is failing to register with. Where she leads over such a key demographic (that of the white, middle class, middle aged voters), critics should be weary of dismantling her efforts and discrediting her style. She’s earned her right to be standing where she is.

There’s not a single doubt that ego protruded in the way of a successful campaign. With a ‘Clinton’ brand name, she acted in a manner that suggested she was entitled to and deserved the nomination because of her ‘experience’ and all would assume – her family name. An exit of any means is now rendered ungraceful: but it’s now the super-delegates responsibility to quell that humiliation and let their choices be known.

“This is one of the closest races for a party’s nomination in modern history,” she mused. It’s true, and let the rightful candidate earn each vote to clinch the nomination.

Photo: Daniella Zalcman's Flickrstream

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Let's go to Hope Street

Vox pops from designers at the Hope Street Markets (today and tomorrow, Paddington Town Hall). Click to enlarge.

Images: Hope Street Markets homepage and Limedrop. Vox pops by Annette Lin, who had an awesome time at the markets today and congratulates herself on actually being able to find an all-day parking spot in Paddington. Skills.

A Sandwiched Generation

You take your shoes off before entering the house.
You’re not allowed to sleep over at friend’s places.
Your parents shop at Asian grocery stores, (you have no idea what they’re buying).
You can speak English without an accent.
You regret the fact that you didn’t learn Mandarin, or any other Asian language properly at Saturday language school.

You are Asian-Australian.

The 21st century marks a new generation of Asian-Australians. We are witnessing the rapid emergence of Asian-Australian youth. These of which are individuals that have been born and bred in Australia, forming a mixture of Eastern and Western values. In realizing this generation, we are noticing that dilemmas are arising in identity formation.

“They said we should go out and have smart Asian kids, then they were like Jenny and Hwasung studying in the tree, s-t-u-d-y-i-n-g!”

Jenny Nguyen-Khuong is a year 12 student, and a highly experienced recipient of racial taunts. For simply appearing Asian, Jenny has been the object of many taunts and stereotypes, and the school yard is no exception.

School days are ones in which popularity is a life-or-death necessity. Being accepted is what makes our world go round. It is this environment which influences how we grow, and how our identity forms. It is however, being a part of more than one culture that can skew our chances of becoming the crowd favourite, because Asian-Australians are obviously ‘different’ from the average ‘Aussie’.

Miss Nguyen-Khuong brings to light the idea of racial association through the taunts that she has received in the past. This is the notion that all Asians know each other, should be paired together, or because they ‘look alike’ the assumption is made that they are related.

This notion is also reflected in Year 11 student, Tiffany Hoang. From the moment schooling life began for Tiffany, she was immediately paired with another Vietnamese boy and labeled ‘brother and sister’, despite the fact that they were not at all related.

“We would be embarrassed to know each other. We got affiliated with each other, just because we were both Asian.”

It seems harmless, but racial association can lead to Asian-Australian youth to reject their Asian culture and desire the Western lifestyle. Living in Western society can certainly emphasize differences in regards to being Asian, thus to be accepted, individuals go to lengths to try and assimilate.

“We’d come up with 101 Asian things that we’d try to un-associate ourselves with, like I refuse to eat sushi in public.”

This is what we can label “Asian dissociation’. To be accepted within Western society, Asian-Australian youth aim to separate themselves from anything characteristically ‘Asian’. It allows them to question what they want to be associated with.

Seeking acceptance through Western incorporation creates identity and self esteem dilemmas, causing an imbalance in cultural relations. Asian-Australian youth are constantly measuring themselves against their Western friends, and if what they see and feel does not satisfy them, it will continue to take a toll upon their ‘Asian’ identity.

Another common dilemma is the idea that Asian-Australian parents are ‘too strict’. Asian-Australian youth are critical of their parents for not embracing a more ‘Western lifestyle’. These youths are put under constant pressure to work hard, achieve academically and also harbour the value of respect. Australian youth however, tend to be brought up in a more relaxed climate. Asian-Australians witness the greater independence their Western counterparts receive and tend to idealize this Western ‘freedom’.

Lucy Samsa-Knapp could be labeled a fully fledged Australian. She has the ‘no worries’ attitude, where everything comes in her stride. In her perspective, “Asian parents seem strict and not accommodating, you all think you’re bad children.”

It is this idea of feeling ‘bad’ which comes from defying parental rules, so as to assimilate into Australian society and obtain this sense of belonging. The rules and expectations Asian-Australian parents harbour may seem impossible to achieve.

Asian-Australian youths are expected to follow traditional Asian values, but still maintain a socially healthy lifestyle in Australian society. These two opposing lifestyles create such obvious dilemmas for these individuals, who feel pulled between two worlds.

Asian Australians – they’re caught in the middle, something that we can call the ‘sandwiched generation’. They are clearly a part of both Western and Eastern culture, yet at the time they are not completely one or the other. They are considered Asian in Western society, and clearly Western in Eastern society. It adds a significant dimension to who they are, and who they are to become.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mercedes Overcome by Power

Sensationalism, chequebook journalism and ratings: three concepts you thought would escape you upon completing HSC Advanced English and ‘Frontline’ – though Anna Coren and the ‘Today Tonight’ team prove otherwise in the monotonous case of the Corby’s and the daft ex-best friend.

The portion of media interest and coverage on Schapelle and Mercedes Corby has been relentless and (overdone). Strangely enough, the media continues to bask in the tragically hopeless light that is the Corby’s. From pleas of “I’m innocent” to “the family’s embroiled in drug trafficking” to defamation cases – the courts, media and public have heard it all.

Although much has been said about Jodie Power (the ex-best friend) and Mercedes herself, perhaps the more alarming question is the conduct of the Channel Seven network in the latest controversy to plague the media and the judicial system.

‘Today Tonight’ secured an interview with Jodie Power, the “money-hungry” former friend by offering $120,000 and an all expenses paid trip to Canada. All in exchange for telling the “truth”: and by truth, we mean everything the network demanded to hear. Stuart Littlemore QC, representing Mercedes Corby in her defamation case against Seven, told the NSW Supreme Court that a letter to Ms Power from the network was “telling her what answers to give, otherwise she wouldn’t get the money”.

A pretty serious allegation when it involves entire fabrications. Locked in a battle with Channel Nine’s ‘A Current Affair’ to take the current affairs ratings title, Littlemore accused the network of degrading to dishonesty and deception.

It’s the classic example of chequebook journalism, where accessibility to the truth is hindered as journalistic integrity is compromised for economic success. Such is the paradoxical nature of the media – being locked in constant rivalry to outdo the other network thereby maintaining groundbreaking ratings, and to simultaneously uphold principles of integrity and honesty.

There in itself lies the obstruction. Satisfying society’s insatiable need for controversy and hearsay, the quick-fix for slipping ratings is a nod in the direction of falsities and trivialities; preventing the truth from being absolute, or even resolutely close to midway.

Power was portrayed as fearing retribution from her public statements, and as having fled the country in the first of the ‘Today Tonight’ programs to be aired. Is it any surprise that she had left the country 10 days earlier on a planned trip to Bali and Vanuatu – paid for entirely by Channel Seven?

‘Today Tonight’ apparently commissioned a viewer’s poll, where 82% found Ms Power’s account of the events to be credible, exemplifying just how effortless it is to construct your own truths and instil them into society. (Many will argue that the intended target audience are evidently gullible, unintelligible citizens who shouldn’t be afforded any credibility or intelligence… however it is a distressing sight when Today Tonight welds any influence over any capable person in society)

Call me naïve, but I had some hope in the principles behind journalism: it’s for this very reason I chose to do a journalism degree. But as questionable as this conduct is, to what extent is it apparent in real journalism? Would it still be naïve to hope real journalistic integrity exists in most of the media/public sphere? (…suffice to say, ‘Today Tonight’ falls outside of this category)

Maybe the fact that Ms Power lied is the issue as most media appears to be purporting. Or maybe it’s the willingness of the station to traverse ethical boundaries for economic profitability. Channel Seven’s passivity towards conceptualising truth and justice has taken advantage of a family that has arguably buried their own grave. This should provide no exemption: treating another’s private doings as a commodity in a collaborative effort to trivialise and sensationalise, effectively demeans the general role the media plays.

To belittle and lie to such grand extremes is also an insult to society’s intelligence.

It’s fairly relevant to note, and somewhat perplexing to hear the former head of the New York Times, John Swinden declare in 1953: “The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify… We are the tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes… Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.” Prostitutes of the intellectual variety or not, it’s pretty easy to see why half the world hates journalists.

Written by Bonita Silva who believes the Corby’s need to stop smuggling drugs and name their kids after real bogan names instead of brands they can’t afford.

Photo: Peter Morris @ SMH

Leaders PART 2

In the first part of this post, I introduced you to Putin, Medvedev, Sarkozy and Carla Bruni.

In this next part, you will be coming face to face with Mugabe and his political opponent...Tsvangirai. Hu, Obama and H.Clinton will have to wait for the next edition.

So say hello to Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has been the President of Zimbabwe for 25 years, and is known for his anti-imperialist stance. He became President in 1987, and was re-elected in 1990, 1996 and 2002. His political career, and especially his time as President have been very controversial.

For example, in the recent 2008 presidential elections, he has again been accused of vote-rigging. In the past, he has also been accused of intimidation, and preventing certain groups from casting their votes.

The 2008 elections have shown, however, that the people want a new president. Mugabe lost to his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, but insisted that there be a presidential run-off to determine the winner.

And this leads nicely, to Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's opponent in the presidential election. Tsvangirai has agreed to have a presidential run-off, and he will be starting his run-off campaign when he arrives back in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai is currently the President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He is a known politcal and human rights activist, and founded the MDC in 1999 in response to President Mugabe. He lost the 2002 Presidential election against him and has been arrested and tortured on several occasions by the Zimbabwean government.

In the coming run-off campaign and election, Tsvangirai has stated that there will be free access for the media, including the international press. Hooray for the media (and, I suspect, also for Mr. Tsvangirai)!

Pictures: Reuters, Reuters Africa

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Have you Met Miss Coles?

Meet the graduate project of Melanie Coles – a tall, lean figure wearing red-and-white striped beanie that matches a red-and-white striped jumper. It’s Wally, from Where’s Wally – only he’s 16.45 metres long, and he’s lying on a rooftop somewhere in Vancouver, waiting for someone to find him on Google Earth.

Coles, a 22-year-old media arts student in her last year at a well-respected art school in Vancouver, the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, laughs as she tells the story of his conception. “I was just joking away on the phone with my friend when I came up with it. We just laughed it off.”

Indeed, most people would dismiss the idea of creating a gigantic Wally. Coles, however, is also the sort of person who can take a seemingly ridiculous idea, and make it work. What’s more, she makes it work well. Her grade for the project was an A, and media attention has been received from all over the world, from the US to Belgium and from Brazil to Portugal. Wally has been discussed on blogs around the world as well, and her own blog about the project receives over 13, 000 hits each day.

Coles takes to fame well. During our phone conversation, she’s friendly, sweet and endearingly open. “I didn’t think that people would blog about it.” She pauses and giggles. “It’s kinda nerdy.”

Hailing from the small town of Oliver in British Columbia, Canada, Coles grew up in a tight, close-knit family. Her father was a schoolteacher, while her mother stayed at home to look after Coles and her older sister, and would spend each summer baking pies, says Coles.

It sounds pretty idyllic. “It was! I’m was really lucky, I had such a positive childhood.”

So perhaps it’s no surprise that most of her artworks reflect a desire to return to childhood, or even yesteryear. A recent exhibition of hers was described as follows: “The work of Melanie Coles is lovely and smart. It brings back the past and inspires the child in you to get out the glue stick and make a fantasy world from clippings.”

“I guess I am really nostalgic,” she says in a slightly doubtful manner, as if the idea has never occurred to her. But she warms into it. “I’m into images of Americana from, like, the 1930’s to the 1980’s, and also pop culture.”

“But I also do a lot of appropriation, like I take things that already exist and put them with something else, or put them in a situation that might not necessarily exist.”

Like Wally? “Yeah, like taking Wally out of context.”

It’s clear that her giant Wally is a subject dear to her heart. Less than a minute into our phone conversation, she’s describing the process of researching Wally, her graduate project, and her round Canadian vowels becoming more pronounced as her enthusiasm begins to show.

“From about October, I had to go through the logistics. The first thing was figuring out where to put Wally, then testing the materials. It had to be thicker than paper since who knows when Google will take a snapshot? But then it couldn’t be sheets either because we’re in Vancouver, it’s really wet and the sheets would become see-through. Then if we used vinyl the paint might drip off so we went to a discount store and had to find vinyl that was porous.”

“She has the kind of infectious enthusiasm and a leadership style that made it possible for her to get a whole bunch of friends to turn up on a freezing, classical "dark and stormy night" to borrow sand from the beach,” her friend and classmate Nancy Strider said.

Coles explains. “I got all my friends together, because Wally needed to be weighed down, and we went to the beach on a stormy night and filled up some sandbags.”

Fortunately, Coles doesn’t mind storms. Nor does she scare easily. Forced to hire a studio to paint Wally in due to his size, the only place cheap enough was in East Hastings, an area of Vancouver where used condoms and syringes lie scattered on the footpaths and where the HIV infection rate is one of the highest in the Western world. “It’s actually one of the worst neighbourhoods in Canada and I don’t really like it, but the studio was only $100 a month!”

So where is Wally now? “My roof is slanted, so Wally’s actually lying on the rooftop of my part-time job,” she giggles.

“It’s an innovative and creative idea that we all enjoy at the store,” says her co-worker, Johnny Payne, at Zulu Records Store. “She’s one of our favourite employees. I’m a big Waldo fan, and I’m 100 per cent behind her, everyone is. She’s a really smart and creative person – I thought [Wally] would take a lot of work, but she totally got it down exactly how she wanted to.”

Well she’s worked hard at it. Not many people would want to do what is technically homework on the weekends, but Coles did. And as she says, “It’d be the best story to tell – ‘What did you do on the weekend?’ ‘Oh, I painted a giant Waldo.” She laughs.

All this work has paid off and Wally fans from around the world have inundated her with praises and adoration. But Coles, it seems, takes it with the attitude of a girl who still can’t believe her luck. Nancy Strider says, “We were walking home at midnight on the seawall after the school closed, and I pulled out my voice recorder and asked her how it all felt. She talked about how up till a couple of days before she would have been happy with 20 hits, and that now she had gotten 10,000 in a single day. I asked her how that felt, and she said, ‘It's hilarious!’”

Many thanks to Henry Ngo for finding the subject.

Pic: supplied by subject

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Can't HEAR You.

Modern technology allows us to say ‘fuck off’ in a socially acceptable way.

Words: Amy Huynh

Headphones are like the ‘do not disturb’ sign that you find hanging on hotel-room doors. It’s a privacy statement. You enjoy the music, whilst everyone else knows to leave you alone, without you even having to lift a finger.

The explosion of portable music systems, such as the MP3 and iPod, has encouraged this passive form of communication; just shove on your headphones and you’re suddenly off-limits. It’s a magical people repellent. These ingenious contraptions allow us to shut out the world, even in the most public of places.

I’m a regular bus and train commuter. I know that when it comes to catching public transport, headphones/earphones are a must. They work in avoiding the weirdos and twats that always seem to lurk in these public domains. My regular weirdo is an old man, who on every bus trip takes it upon himself to sidle up to me and whisper: “Hello, you look like my daughter”.

For the record, I don’t look like his daughter (he’s shown me pictures), I’m Asian and she’s European. I also have it on good authority that he uses this line on every girl he meets on the bus. Weirdooo. It’s cases like this when you whip out the headphones and stare out the bus window. Unfortunately this doesn’t stop the old man from staring in my direction, but it does fend off any conversation, and eventually he loses interest.

Headphones/earphones are not only used for dodging the creepy. They come in handy in easing out of conversations – particularly when you’re feeling anti-social. This is when you leave one ear-piece in your ear, whilst the other dangles on the side. It’s not rude; it just shows that you can multitask. And if the conversation dies, then luckily you have the other ear-piece to occupy your vacant ear. This avoids any additional conversation from starting. That’s right, embrace anti-socialism.

Music is your friend. Music is inspiration. Music is pretty much everything. Having a set of rancid quality earphones, just doesn’t give it any justice. A statement of privacy should be made with style.

There are some pretty nifty headphones around which makes the listening experience simply divine.

Got your wires in a tangle? Say hello to cordless headphones. These will let you rock out to your music pain-free. No longer will you look like a fool by spending half your life untangling your wires. Just be prepared to dish out a few extra dollars to get these Bluetooth wireless headsets. And at all costs, avoid headphones with antennas, unless of course you really do want to look the fool.
Even better, now there are ‘noise cancelling’ headphones out in the market. If I couldn’t hear you before, there’s absolutely no chance of hearing you now. These headphones allow full self-immersion with sublime audio quality, by cancelling out external sounds.

Oh, and it gets better. These classy headphones are even good for your health. BONUS! This is because there’s no longer a need to raise the volume to deafening decibels to block out the shit of the outside world.

So embrace solitary existence and get some noise cancelling headphones, and while you’re at it, some dark sunnies too. People will know you mean business, and they’ll bugger off.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pretty Pictures: Cheap and French Chic

French women = effortlessly hot. Why? Is it the sexy French language ("Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?")? Is it the new First Lady? IS IT THE ESCARGOTS??

Who knows. But whatever it is, I want me some of it.* Enjoy and click to enlarge.

*Escargots actually taste quite nice, smothered in garlic and butter and with a texture reminiscent of mushrooms. Just don't look underneath - the sight of all those little suction feet is kinda gross.

Images: En Vogue via Miss at La Playa, Witchery Fashions, Sportsgirl, Le Black Book, American Apparel, Style and the, TFS, Numero Fevrier 2008.

My 480 word stint as a Columnist

Let me start by putting the following into context for you. Recently, I became aware that my own father, 51 years of age, has decided to get a facebook account. In fact, I stumbled upon this information, and went straight to facebook to see if it was real.

Unfortunately, it was.

Now, I have nothing against people getting facebook accounts, and creating their own little profile on online social networking sites. However, when it comes to my own parents, I have to put my foot down.

Technology may be good in doses, you know, when it comes to emailing, and perhaps instant messaging, but once parents start using the same social networking sites as their own children, nephews and nieces…something ain’t right.

I don’t mean to discriminate, or maybe I do, but though these sites are ideally for anyone, it does feel a tad bit odd to be wandering around facebook, seeing pictures of friends and siblings, and then walk smack bang into a page all about your parents.

Perhaps there should be another facebook-esque site, dedicated to connecting parents, so that there is no generational clash. Not that I have anything to hide, but it’s scary enough to think that potential employers will hunt you down on facebook, without having to worry about parents doing the same.

And if that little anecdote didn’t do it for you, try this. My grandfather is 79 years old. No, he has not yet joined facebook and created an army of vampires (and let’s hope it stays that way), but once he got his hands on technology, in the form of his shiny laptop and internet connection, he became the person everyone hopes will not receive chain letters, or ‘amusing’ emails.

Yes, he will send anything and everything to everyone he knows, whether you were the one who sent him the email in the first place, or not.

At first it was tolerable, he was getting a feel for the internet, testing it out and expanding his field of knowledge. But this was 2 years ago, and it still continues. Don’t drink milk, or you’ll get cancer. In fact, eat nothing because everything can give you cancer, apparently. But then again, you may die of starvation. Hmm…

Once again, I say this so you won’t think that I am just downright mean, but technology was supposed to be something which would help us, and make things more convenient and accessible. In a sense, my father and my grandfather are just proving that this can be reality. However, like drinking milk, and eating various food products, it must be in moderation…or we’ll all get cancer.

Since I am nearing the end of this column, and you know how I feel about the issue, I now put this to you. Regarding older generations, is technology truly a help, or really just a hindrance in disguise?

Picture: flickr - fortinbras