The Knot

Friday, December 18, 2009

Celebrating 40-Something Women With Song

Left: Donna and the Dynamos, from the Sydney musical Mamma Mia!

There is a scene in the movie Mamma Mia! that answers the question asked of me by my best friend: which is better - the musical or the movie?

A swarm of 40-something women running along cobblestone streets and dancing on a pier to the tunes of my all-time favourite ABBA song Dancing Queen, is one of the most uplifting movie scenes in years. The Greek Island setting is a visual bonus. There are very few films devoted to the journey of our generation of women. Women coming together to lend a shoulder, and a dance move. As a baby of the sixties, it's difficult not to be moved.

My friend saw the musical first. For me it was the movie. I finally caught up with the musical last night and it was captivating. The lyric Theatre at Star City, where the musical is currently playing until February 7 2010, was filled with the delighted cheering, clapping, singing and dancing of 40-something mothers and their daughters. As a mother of sons, I went along with my mother, sister and her two young daughters. It was a total girl-fest. A completely foreign experience for me.

The clearly timeless songs provided familiar territory. I owned every ABBA album and merchandise available in the seventies when I was a tween and ABBA was at its peak. To be taken back there 30 years later by a musical turned movie phenomenon is truly a gift.

I would love to see it again with the group of girlfriends who shared my memories. Just like Donna and her Dynamos - for one night only.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spare A Thought For Elin Woods

Left: Tiger Woods with wife Elin

The refers to the Tiger Woods scandal as "the biggest in the history of the world". Although clearly a massive overstatement the story has managed to captivate in most parts of the world.

But what's so special about an elite sportsman cheating on his wife? That old chestnut rolls around every other month with the Hall of Fame including the likes of cricketer Shane Warne, golfer Greg Norman and footballer David Beckham.

So what is it about the golfing world's best that has sent the media into commentary meltdown? Sami Lukis, radio station Triple M's morning news reader, remarked that if Woods' marriage to a gorgeous Swedish model couldn't last then there wasn't much hope for the rest of us. And I figured that her comment may have nailed the reason for our fascination.

Woods and wife Elin were nothing short of the fantasy ideal couple in that old-school Walt Disney fashion. The charming, dashing golfer, worth millions by 21, marries the picture-perfect model with the Barbie-doll looks. We figure it was meant to be and then spend the rest of their lives aspiring to have what they have: outrageous good looks, ridiculous piles of cash and sheer happiness.

So when one of the three pillars of a perfect couple falls apart, we feel it personally and it rocks our world a little too. We now need to examine our ideals. Have we in fact been looking for love and happiness in all the wrong places? Better take that Tiger Woods poster off the wall lest anyone think you're aspiring to have what he can offer. Revelation: perfect people are not always happy.

There will be those who would like to tar and feather Woods - and trust me if I were Elin or her mother I definitely would want to. Others will express relief that the man is human after all. Another group will use the Woods saga to make them feel better about their own lot in life - 'my husband's not perfect but at least he doesn't cheat on me' etc. Then there are those who will be welcoming him to the club. When it comes to cheating partners, Woods is no island.

When the scandal broke last week, a colleague remarked, "what was he thinking?" Clearly he wasn't, otherwise he wouldn't have shagged a bunch of women who seem overly oriented to drop him in it. Did someone say five minutes of fame and fortune? As 10 or more women jump out of seemingly nowhere to claim their part of this sordid tale, I have cause to wonder whatever happened to common decency and dignity?

The image of the world's favourite golfer has taken a beating - and fair enough, I certainly don't condone what he's done - but the women who are going public aren't doing themselves or Elin Woods any favours either. Time for them to all go away so the real victim, his wife, can work through her next steps.

Whether it's one woman or 20 (and it could reach that number this time next week the way this is going), Elin Woods will be suffering inconsolable hurt. Why keep kicking a woman when she's down?

Photo credit


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Freedom of Expression or Just Plain Restrictive?

I've often wondered what would happen if I blogged favorably about an issue that was contrary to the beliefs of the organisation I work for. Or if I was honest about an issue that the company would rather not discuss - certainly not in the public domain.

When I blogged about my fears for a Tony Abbott-led Liberal party last week, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law and a public chastising from Fairfax columnist Miranda Devine, but not a word from the CEO of Independent Digital Media where I'm employed as Publisher. Nor was I the recipient of even a peep from the Chair of the Netball Australia Board, of which I am a Director.

No doubt the situation would be reversed if I were to break rank and criticise an advertiser or an umpire. And that would be fair as it could impact the respective organisation commercially. That's not to say that I can't disagree behind closed doors. That's my role. I can and I have been known to. Its the public airing of disunity that is the issue here.

I've had cause to question a staff member's comments made via the very public Twitter in recent times. Workshopping a business concern in 140 characters or less with a band of anonymous followers wasn't exactly in the best interests of the company at the time, at any time.

It's undoubtedly why Telstra felt it necessary to table a social media policy in April this year. It outlines the rules of engagement for when Telstra staff have their Telstra hats on while blogging and tweeting. It makes perfect practical and commercial sense but is a reminder that in the 21st century our preferred form of communication is a double-edged sword.

Call it the 'always on' strategy. When you're working for Telstra there is an expectation that 24/7 you will abide by the social media rules. No such thing as 'in your own time'.

But what to make of an organisation's decision to ban a blog by a local journalist for criticising something as seemingly irrelevant as a Christmas gift? UK company, Liverpool Direct Limited recently banned the Liverpool Daily Post blog from staff access due to its criticism of the company's Christmas gift to staff.

"It seems that the latest attempt to tell staf (sic) working at the city council's controversial IT joint venture with BT how great their workplace is, has backfired," David Bartlett blogged.

"As you can see by the picture, I have been supplied with the gizmos that were handed out to staff in an attempt to boost morale at Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL)."

Bartlett writes in the follow-up blog post-ban: "If you are reading this blog you are clearly not working at Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL)".

As a journalist it's easy to beat the drum in favour of freedom of expression; the right to be independent. We do and we should continue to do so. But there's also the not-so-insignificant matter of freedom of information. No organisation should be able to restrict or control the news that reaches its staff. Surely we've evolved beyond that. But living in a world where social media means that anyone, anywhere can join the conversation is instead potentially limiting our freedom of expression, ironically - and it appears that information restrictions have dropped their bags at our liberated doorstep too.

According to a report by Kristine Lowe, president of The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), on, NONA met last month to debate the need for rules for journalists' use of social media. News organisations across the globe are beginning to put rules in place mostly to protect the media organisation, but also at the request from journalists who are uncomfortable with the grey areas.

Jan Omdahl, internet and technology commentator for Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet, pointed out that journalists encounter a whole new set of challenges online. “Even if I as a social media user think we can just continue as we always have done, I do see that we can benefit from raising awareness about these challenges. For instance: should I reply when I get questions on Twitter about why Dagbladet has used five different angles on that sex podcast on Should I confer with my bosses before I reply? Is it appropriate that I share my opinions on one of our most heavily criticised front pages?”

John Einar Sandvand, a digital strategist with Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record, suggested three rules for how journalists should use social media:
1) The media company should be genuinely positive to its staff being active in social media
2) Social media activities must be done in a way which maintains the professional integrity of journalists
3) Stay loyal to your employer.

Illustration credit

Image credit


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Breast Pest

I found another lump in my breast this week and I'm absolutely terrified of what the Breast Clinic will tell me this time.

It's the third big one and although I'm a believer in everything happening in threes (so call me superstitious), I worry that the lumps associated with the previous scares may have felt slightly different to this one.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with lumpy breasts. Essentially, my breasts are made up of ridiculously large cysts - so large that if the clinic drained them all you'd have trouble making me out in a line-up of young boys.

The draining process is particularly uncomfortable. With no anaesthetic to lessen my anxiety (my body tenses which increases the pain quotient considerably), I was forced to grin and bare it as a supersized needle pierced each of my breasts in turn and extracted a whole lot of fluid. My cysts were of the maxi variety so it took a couple of goes per cyst to effectively drain them. My doctor joked that if she removed them all there'd be no breast left so she chose not to drain them all, much to my husband's delight.

I've felt worse pain, I told myself as the needle was forced into my left breast. I've given birth twice and there's nothing more painful than that. The difference is that unless you're a Scientologist, you're allowed to scream and shout obscenities when attempting to force another person out of your body. It's expected of you, almost a surprise if you don't. Whereas in the quiet of a breast clinic, bellowing in agony and threatening to harm your partner unless the pain stops immediately isn't really the done thing.

But as with childbirth you're expected to forget about the pain so that you'll return for an annual checkup. The thing is, the memory of last year's draining is still so very fresh for me. I can see the needle coming toward me as I blog. How do I bring myself to go back for another round - even if that is what I'm praying will be the necessary outcome? The alternative is clearly far worse.

Why does everything to do with female health involve a fair amount of discomfort? Yes, we're clearly the tougher gender but we don't need to be reminded of it every time we do the right thing by our bodies.

Illustration credit


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Tony Abbott Will Need More Than A Makeover

Today's Liberal leader Tony Abbott is against abortion, same-sex marriage, binge drinking and no-fault divorce. He does, however, believe that paedophiles who have done their time should be allowed to live wherever they want. And he thinks it's funny that he has been accused of flirting with the Deputy PM.

Not surprisingly, today's female twitterverse revolted. With the exception of Fairfax columnist Miranda Devine, who wears her Liberal Party supporter badge on her sleeve, her forehead and as a watermark behind her columns, most female tweeters were outraged that a man with Abbott's beliefs could possibly head up a major political party in Australia in 2009.

Abbott made a point of apologising for any behaviour of the past during his first press conference today. Deputy Julie Bishop stood nervously by his side and lacked any credibility when she took to the microphone to talk up her new leader as "a character". She couldn't say that Abbott has any respect for women, so she didn't.

In case you needed reminding of just what Abbott was apologising for, I've dug up a few examples that have helped to characterise him.

On AM on November 1, 2004, Abbott's views on abortion were exposed.

"TONY ABBOTT: Ah, well, I don't much like abortion full stop, but obviously abortions at a point in the pregnancy when the child to be might otherwise be viable, obviously raise even more serious ethical issues than those much earlier in pregnancy.

MATT BROWN: And is there any way that of those 75,000 abortions that your health system funds, that some of those could be discouraged?

TONY ABBOTT: Well as I said the Government policy hasn't changed, let's see where this debate develops."

In an article about binge drinking on August 13, 2009, the Herald Sun reported that "Mr Abbott said his 18-year-old daughter Frances called him a "lame, gay, churchie loser" the last time he offered her a worthy moral exhortation".

On September 17, The Australian reported: "it was left up to Liberal front bencher Tony Abbott to call for a more rational approach to the issue of where to house someone like Ferguson".

“Everyone has to live somewhere”, Abbot wrote. “The punishment should fit the crime but, once people have served their sentence, it’s generally been thought that they should be allowed to restart their lives with more-or-less a clean slate. Our culture has been profoundly influenced for the good by the injunctions not to judge “lest ye be judged”; and to “love your neighbour as you love yourself”. That is, it seems, until the neighbour happens to be a former pedophile.”

In The Age on July 13, 2009, there was a report on Tony Abbott's plea to strengthen the bedrock of marriage by reintroducing the option of a fault-based system for divorce.

"Although Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said yesterday she was willing to entertain the idea - or at least debate it in the Coalition party room - experts suggest it could provide carte blanche for detectives to once more peer into the nation's bedrooms.

"Yes, really, there was a time - before no-fault divorce was introduced via the Family Law Act in 1975 - when figures in trench coats would scour bins for hotel receipts to produce evidence of adultery, and a spouse's "marital fault".

"This, in turn, could determine the size of a property settlement in court and even who got to keep the kids."

Abbott will certainly require a major makeover if he is to win over the crucial female vote. Without the 51% of the population who have been allowed to vote now for some time, he doesn't have a chance. No aspiring leader in recent times has understood this better than Kevin Rudd.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Lost For Words

This week has been a particularly tough one for some of my extended media family. One of our own was hit by a tragedy so vast that it's been difficult to know what to say.

How do you offer comfort to a person who will never again be at peace?

What can you do to let him know that there is a group of people who are hurting on his behalf?

When is it OK for those other than the closest of family and friends to touch this person in some way?

It's during the very worst of times that the best of people comes out. And I saw it first-hand this week as my EMAP family united to workshop our way forward. We've had our differences in the past, but all of that was cast aside as we clung together in the wake of the horror. It's clear that no matter where we go or what we do there will always be a group of people on whom we can rely.

We can't change the circumstances of this week that have altered the course of our former colleague's life forever. But we will be there for him should he need us.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fashion Inheritance

Left: This year's fashion must-have

Charlotte Smith inherited her American Quaker godmother's collection of fashion history. Little did she know at the time that she would become the proud, and a little ecstatic, owner of more than 3000 dresses, dating from 1790 - 1995. Amongst this extraordinary collection were Dior and Chanel originals.

Born in Hong Kong, Charlotte lived in London, Paris and New York, before falling in love with Australia. Those divine fashions now reside on our home soil too.

But rather than keep this treasure to herself, Charlotte has shared her fashion win via an illustrated book, Dreaming of Dior. Available in November. As a fashion enthusiast, I can't wait.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Personal Journey or a Travel Book?

I was one of the last women on the planet to read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

A New York Times bestseller that has resonated with women in every part of the globe, the book really only piqued my interest when I overheard a group of women discussing it with passion and a sense of purpose.

"When I was in Bali a couple of weeks ago I visited the same medicine man that Elizabeth Gilbert went to," shared one of the women.

"Oh my god, that's what my girlfriends and I are planning to do at the end of the year," shrieked another.

I can see it now: somewhere on the beautiful Indonesian island of Bali sits a man espousing herbal remedies and his philosophies on life with a steady stream of mostly single women beating a path to his door. The book's publication in February 2006 made him an international phenomenon as women the world over attempt to recreate the personal journey that Gilbert took to find herself at the end of a painful and messy divorce.

Now I love a good memoir and this certainly ticks that box, but bestsellers are generally not my first choice when I rock up to Borders for a new read. However, millions of women can't be wrong so I decided to get in on the act and find out what all the fuss was about.

Gilbert strikes me as being a bit obsessive compulsive with her organisation of the book into 108 neat little parts like a japa mala, apparently India's answer to rosary beads. That, and the fact that the three countries she chose to visit all begin with the letter I. But I wasn't going to let that put me off.

As I started reading, it occurred to me that I may in fact be too happy with my life to be able to identify deeply with Gilbert's reason for embarking on this self-discovery. Is it because I'm not single that I don't share the urge to take myself off to Italy on a whim? Maybe it's because I'm not depressed that I have no desire to immerse myself in prayer at an Ashram in India? And I've been to Bali too many times to believe that's where I would find peace.

But this isn't my memoir, it's Elizabeth Gilbert's. And that's why it's fantastic that so many women have been able to identify with her downs in order to search out her means of lifting herself back up. But surely the point of the book is that every person's journey is personal.

Eat Pray Love isn't a travel book, it's a journal of one woman's path to enlightenment and personal enrichment. Be inspired by her, by all means, but for god's sake stop following in her footsteps and go find some of your own.

When the film version of the book is released sometime in 2011, I predict that travel to Italy, India and Indonesia will get a massive boost. And that poor medicine man will never again be at peace.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anything For Charity

Last Thursday, an article about Cappuccino for a Cause appeared in Annette Sharp's Sydney Confidential column in The Daily Telegraph. The piece gave attention to a great initiative supporting the prevention of poverty - during International Poverty Week. Thank you Annette and The Daily Telegraph.

A couple of hours later I received a phone call from the PR company that provides services to Gloria Jeans Coffees, an organisation for which I am a franchisee. The PR company had received a phone call from social columnist Ros Reines and she was apparently asking questions about the Mercy Ministries and my involvement with Gloria Jeans. I assured the concerned PR that Ros would have been following a lead, rather than attempting to muckrake. I've known Ros for 25 years and that's how she operates. I've also been a tabloid journalist and a lead is a scent to follow-up.

I mention this because my inbox was full with concerned emails from friends and colleagues this morning following an article that appeared in Ros's column in The Sunday Telegraph.

"It looked like she was trying to stitch you up but it ended up being good publicity for you," wrote a friend.

Not true (re: the stitch-up). Ros and I had a phone conversation about this on Friday evening. The chat was positive and she was following up on a suggested lead.

Cappuccino for a Cause was a great success in my Gloria Jeans store - mezzanine level of Borders Bookstore, Westfield, Bondi Junction - due largely to the help of some fantastic people and products.

Huge recognition must go to: Melissa Hoyer, Channel 9 fashion commentator and writer; Zoe Foster, editor-in-chief of Australia's best beauty website; Alicia Richardson, editor of Australia's new, stylish wedding website and Yasmin Boland, astrologer for Body & Soul, Cleo and Madison. Each woman twittered about her in-store appearance. Yasmin also alerted her following to her appearance in-store via her website and they came in droves. She charged them a small fee for a reading and all proceeds were donated directly to our cause.

These are four incredibly generous people.

Revlon donated 200 units of full-size lipstick and nail polish to support our efforts. It was certainly an enticing offer that saw many customers make the switch to a cappuccino and support the cause. Many customers mentioned they would now be choosing Revlon products over all others because of the beauty brand's strong show of support for victims of poverty.

Netball Australia donated a Gilbert netball, boasting autographs from the world champion Australian Diamonds.

Author Jessica Adams, a known supporter of charities that assist the less fortunate, donated 10 signed copies of her books Vintage Alice and The Summer Psychic.

Jo from donated 8 eco-friendly products that clean your home and help save the environment at the same time.

A special mention must also go to Kerrie and Tessa of Instyle magazine who generously offered to hand out our Cappuccino for a Cause postcards to the many women who attended their style workshops in Westfield, Bondi Junction this week. If you haven't had the chance to get there to see one of their workshops in action, you should do so this week. A brilliant magazine produced by some genuinely charitable people.

It was so incredibly generous of all of those companies and people to donate their products and time for this worthwhile cause. Let's offer them our support in future.

I am grateful to my wonderful team who work at Gloria Jeans Borders Bondi Junction: manager Nick Meng and the crew who helped make October 16 and 17 a success: Joe, Simon, Desiree, Clara, Jackson, Lucy, Dennon, Felicia and Emily. They run my show and worked tirelessly behind the scenes and behind the counter to make Cappuccino for a Cause happen.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Australian Diamonds (55) defeat England (44)

Media alert – Wednesday 14 October

The Australian Diamonds have defeated England 55-44 in an encouraging display in Bath this morning.

Coming off the altered format of the game at the World Netball Series in Manchester the Diamonds showed poise and skill to overrun the English by 11-goals.

The Diamonds will now travel to Jamaica to take on the Sunshine Girls in Kingston on October 17 and 18.

Australian Diamonds shooting statistics:

Susan Pratley 27/32 @ 84%

Sharelle McMahon 28/35 @ 80%

Player of the match – Sharelle McMahon

“It certainly was nice to come away with a win coming off the Test matches in New Zealand and Australia and then the World Netball Series. It was a bit of a tired game from both teams really,” said Diamond coach Norma Plummer.

“Neither team looked really fresh but we got the win, the girls worked extremely hard and their defensive game was fantastic especially in the second half. We were five down at one stage and we brought that back to take the lead by half-time.

“I thought (Susan) Pratley and (Sharelle) McMahon’s work in the circle together was fantastic and Kim Green worked tirelessly on the outside. Bec Bulley came on at half-time because Mo’onia is only coming back from the ankle injury so we thought we’d only get a couple of quarters out of her. Bulley did a really good job she cut down Pamela Cookey (English goal attack). Cookey didn’t put many goals up after that so she did a fantastic job.

“(Going to Jamaica) It’s not about improving on anything at the moment, our game is fairly solid and we’ve got the options and we will need to use the options when we are in Jamaica. It’ll be really hot there compared to here and that’ll just zap the energy from the players. We’ll have to use our bench wisely to get across the line because Jamaica will be quite fresh compared to us."

“We started slowly and England got a bit of a jump on us in the first quarter. We ended up finishing a few goals down at quarter-time then they stepped out in the second quarter, so I think we were down by five at one stage in the second quarter,” said Diamond captain Sharelle McMahon.

“We fought back really well in that second quarter and ended up going into half-time two-goals up which was great.

“We held that lead through the third-quarter and put our foot down again in the final quarter which for us is really nice because often we get a lead and don’t really go on with it. So it was really good that we got in front and in the last quarter took it away from them.

“It was great to get back on court, in the World Netball Series Mo’onia and I would warm up with the team then go back into the stands to watch so it was definitely good to be back in with the group and out on court again.

“We have a pretty long trip ahead of us now heading over to Kingston and then only about a week in Jamaica, so things will be moving pretty quickly for us.

“I thought by the end of that match we had a really nice flow and a good understanding between the players on court, so hopefully we can build on that against Jamaica.”

Diamonds starting positions:

GS - Susan Pratley

GA - Sharelle McMahon (Captain)

WA - Kimberlee Green

C - Natalie von Bertouch (Vice Captain)

WD - Renae Hallinan

GD - Mo`onia Gerrard

GK - Bianca Chatfield

Kate Beveridge

Rebecca Bulley

Susan Fuhrmann

Natalie Medhurst

Lauren Nourse


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Cultural Differences Are Vast

Above: Screengrab from Hey, Hey It's Saturday featuring the controversial Red Faces skit

When a troupe of men dressed up as The Jacksons appeared on the Red Faces segment of the second reunion show of Hey, Hey It's Saturday, I immediately cringed with horror because Harry Connick Jnr was a guest judge.

When the camera panned across to take in the American singer's pained expression, I knew that he was also thinking the American press won't be kind to him on this one.

The very idea that Connick Jnr appeared on a television program in which black performers were sent up in a comedy skit is really at the root of the drama over this relatively uneventful incident. As Daryl Somers showed during the program, the same guys performed virtually the same skit (albeit before Michael Jackson's skin colour began to pale) a couple of decades ago - and no one was outraged then.

The difference was that this time there was a celebrity from a country that is trying so hard to be politically correct in the face of a local media looking to catch someone out, 24/7.

As Connick Jnr expressed on the evening, Americans have been trying so hard not to make black people look like buffoons.

And that's really where the cultural differences between our two nations lies. The point of the skit wasn't to send up black people. In defence of Dr Anand Deva, who portrayed Michael Jackson and felt the need to defend himself to The Australian, it was merely a send-up of celebrities. It's something that is very Australian. Virtually every comedy sketch does it on a regular basis.

If we think this is racist, then are we happy with Chris Lilley's portrayal of an Islander teenager? Why weren't we outraged when The Chaser sent up Osama Bin Laden? Because Australians have developed a unique way of looking at life and the ridiculous little things that occur. We take the piss. That's what we do.

But that doesn't mean that Connick Jnr was wrong to defend himself on the program on Wednesday night. He had to. He didn't have a choice. If he hadn't taken a stand against the perceived racist nature of the content he was judging, instead of being branded a racial superhero by his countrymen, he would instead have been branded a racist. It appears to be how the gutter press operates in the US.

This incident wasn't really about racial prejudices for me. Instead it highlighted the vast differences in perception, humour, attitudes and freedom of expression between two clearly vastly different cultures.



Saturday, October 3, 2009

Egos Gone Wild

Left: Golfer Greg Norman and wife, tennis great, Chris Evert

Why does one spouse always have to be the support crew? Aren't we developed enough to allow two unique individuals with passions to thrive?

Apparently not. The sporting world's power pairing offered career couples, sporting and otherwise, a ray of hope when they wed 15 months ago. Greg Norman and Chris Evert were going to show us how both could continue to be leaders in their sports and harmoniously equal in marriage. A state that many other couplings of dual achievers have failed to reach.

Norman's former wife Laura was the first of the doubters when she stated on the eve of their marriage that they were too alike for the union to last. Laura may well have been right as it appears their egos may have gotten in the way of a loving marriage with the couple announcing their decision to split yesterday.

I honestly thought it would last. I watched the 60 Minutes interview, I thought I saw the spark. What I may have been seeing instead was two people basking in the reflection of their own glory. It now seems they may been each other's latest trophy rather than the love of their respective lives.

What a shame.



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

60 Years Of Communist Rule: Not Everyone Is Celebrating

I was 22 when I visited China, my father's country of birth, for the first time. My great uncle thought it was time that my sister and I were shown the family's land in Xiamen, a short flight into southern China from Hong Kong.

Uncle King took us directly to a winery, sitting abandoned on an enormous parcel of land. It was like a ghost town - empty and clearly unused for many decades.

"Our family owned all of this before the Communists took it from us," he explained, the pain etched into his expression.

"We were famous for making the best wine in all of China," he added proudly.

"What do you mean, they just took it? No one can just take it from you," I stated like a true citizen of a democracy.

√Źn China, they can just take everything they want...and they took everything," Uncle added wistfully.

My father's family fled China. Some went to Canada, others to Indonesia. My father's immediate family crossed the border into the English-ruled Hong Kong where many would
reside in tiny box-like apartments, while dreaming of the large expanses of land they once owned, for the rest of their days.

As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates 60 years of continuous rule, millions of Chinese who lost their homes, livelihood and even country in 1959 and beyond won't be popping the champagne corks with them.



The Beauty Of Noosa

Left: My home for the next week: The Sheraton Resort & Spa, Noosa

As soon as we arrived in Noosa I knew I would be happy here. My enjoyability radar rarely lets me down, which can be a terrible thing when upon arrival you just know it'll all be downhill (this has happened to me at the very best of five-star resorts).

Friends had been telling me for years that Noosa was my sort of place. I can't believe it's taken me 43 years to get here and find out for myself.

I really do love Queensland. We are so lucky to live in a country that requires only a domestic flight up the coast (if you live in NSW, Victoria or Tasmania) to world-class beaches and sunshine.

I like to start a beach holiday with a beach massage if I can. I made my way over to the little hut on the beach where holidaymakers were being pummelled back into shape. Luckily for me one massage treatment was coming to an end and there was an available slot in the schedule. So I slipped right in and within minutes was having the stress literally squeezed out of me.

My masseuse was a woman in her early thirties, for whom life at the office was one big pleasure. She seemed genuinely pleased with her day job and just as I was forgetting about mine, she asked, "don't you work for a magazine?"

That's how I know how old she is.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"32," she replied.

"So you used to read Dolly magazine," I offered with confidence.

"Yes I did and you are were the Editor."

It doesn't matter where I travel in Australia, most women in their early thirties seemed to have read Dolly magazine when I was the editor, more than 15 years ago. Back then there was no real competitor. Girlfriend magazine was a mere upstart start-up and everyone read Dolly. It was The Australian Women's Weekly of teenage magazines.

But the real bonus in this for me was that after all of those years, and two children later, a reader could still identify me. Made stepping out in my bikini just a tad easier (I usually drop the towel at the water's edge). There'll be no pictures, though. Takes more than a reader remembering me as a 23-year-old editor to get me to that special place.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Polanski Epic

Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on the weekend for a crime he committed three decades ago.

Now aged 76, the celebrated film maker allegedly drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in the home of his then good friend Jack Nicholson. He fled the US for Europe to escape his likely punishment and has never returned. He remained a wanted man.
So now that he has finally been arrested, commentators across the globe have expressed polar opposite views about his impending extradition to the US to face up to his crime.

In order to form a reasonable view, you need to remove any irrational thoughts relating to his movies and celebrity.

I am a fan of Polanski’s artistic talents. He is a master of his craft, that is undeniable. But if the man in question wasn’t a famous movie writer and director, would we want him behind bars or would we still be prepared to argue for his freedom on the grounds of his age and that he has had a hard and complex life? One would argue that we would want any other man who raped a child (in other words, a paedophile) locked up forever. Witness the lynch-mob frenzy surrounding paedophiles that have actually done their time and released back into the community.

Do we believe that a person should be punished for the crime regardless of age or celebrity? Any reasonable person would argue that all men are equal.

If we believe that a crime committed 30 years ago is an unfortunate part of history, but let’s move on, then should we also forgive and forget war crimes committed under extraordinary circumstances and unlikely to be repeated in peace time? I can’t think of anyone who would agree with that notion.

So why French and Polish leaders are rallying behind Polanski on this issue is quite intriguing. In recent times he gave the world the brilliant film The Pianist. Quite ironic that a movie about the atrocities of the past for which men are still being tracked down and incarcerated should be made by a man who has also committed a heinous crime in his past. We are being asked to never forget one, but forgive and forget the other.

It’s difficult to argue in his favour.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chris Isaak Just Aged Me

I went to the State Theatre on Tuesday night to see Chris Isaak. My husband bought the tickets as a surprise. Both of us have been fans since the beginning.

Isaak and his band have been together for 20 years and, once I realised this (he shares trivia such as this throughout the show), I started to do the maths that inevitably ends in tears.

Twenty years ago we were in our twenties and now...well you do the maths. I spent much of the evening observing the audience. A sea of grey hair and polite clapping had replaced the energetic crowds of a couple of decades ago. When Isaak asked the crowd to indicate with a show of hands if you had seen him perform previously, about 90 per cent of hands shot up. It was that sort of night. The audience had grown up and older with him.

Maybe it's because I equate Elvis and Roy Orbison with my parents, and Isaak performed songs made famous by both, or the cheesy sequinned suit and quiffed hair, but I felt uneasy about my evening with Chris Isaak.

Don't get me wrong: Isaak puts on a great show. His voice is still incredible and the best of his songs, like Blue Hotel and Wicked Games, are mesmerising. But seeing him in concert made me feel old.

I wondered whether a former art director of mine would still have a crush on him. Women were certainly doing all they could to get close to Isaak, especially when he came down off the stage and walked through the crowd. But it wasn't the bra-slinging display that he would have experienced in his early years. One woman politely kissed him on the cheek. Another stuck her camera phone in front of his face, almost touching his nose. He never appeared to be at risk of being showered in the lingerie of drunken lovestruck females.

We have tickets to see Pearl Jam in November so hopefully they'll reverse the ageing process for us.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The New Fashion: Honesty


This is what I'd love to be able to wear. I fell in love with Thakoon all over again when casting my eye over the visuals from the New York shows on

But of course I can't - I'm a woman over 40 with teenage and tweenage sons. They would never let me leave the house looking like that!

It's usually my 12-year-old who comments first: "Oh god mum, you're not going out wearing that are you?"

Me (a little shell-shocked and after a long pause): "Well, I was going to. Don't you think I should?"

Tweenager: "No way mum, no way."

No matter how confident you are, it's tough to leave the house after that without having changed your outfit (at least once, maybe twice). My far more sensitive husband will generally try to make me feel better by reminding me that our son is 12, "so what would he know about fashion?" But it's a bit like the Emperor's New Clothes. Only a child will tell you the truth (my husband fears upsetting me to be totally honest about what I really look like, mostly).

So when my honest child, who cares far too much about me to let me leave the house looking like mutton dressed as lamb (which is what I'd look like wearing Thakoon Spring 2010) or badly coordinated (although he doesn't understand that it's better not to dress matchy-matchy), tells me that I should get changed I do so immediately.

And that, in my opinion, is one of the worst things about aging. I can no longer wear everything I want to.


Patrick Swayze Made Me Want To Dance

Like the rest of the world, I was saddened by the death of Patrick Swayze. You don't need to be a fan to believe that death by pancreatic cancer at age 57 is a tragedy.

If I didn't choose journalism as a career, I would like to have been a professional dancer. Most of us have a secret alternate existence that we dream about: Hollywood actors, rockstars, sports heroes. If I could spend my days dancing, I would. No surprises then that my favourite TV show is So You Think You Can Dance. I love it. I watch the Australian version and the American series with equal amounts of enthusiam. In my next life, I want to come back as a contestant.

My mother treated me to dance lessons as a child. I studied tap, jazz and ballet. From the ages of five to 13, dancing consumed our after-school ritual and Saturdays. There were esteddfods, concerts, exams. I wore the most amazing costumes that my mother's dressmaker seemed to whip up effortlessly (it's a shame that I don't have a daughter who can wear them - but I do have nieces). And just like the child beauty queens, I wore far too much makeup during my performances (but that's another story). I was actually very good and have countless gold medals and trophies to attest this.

I was 21 when Dirty Dancing was released at the movies. I couldn't believe my eyes. The most incredible dance moves. I believed that Patrick Swayze's character took Baby out of the corner and taught her to dance from scratch. And if she could do it, surely I could do it too (eight years after hanging up my ballet slippers I felt certain I was back to beginners). I have harboured a soft spot for Swayze ever since.

His death this week was devastating for his family, friends and many, many fans. Those of us who love Dance were also touched by his passing.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

For The Love Of Carla

Left: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni

I love Carla Bruni, always have. I love that she was a rockstar model who famously dated Mick Jagger, that she is 13cm taller than her 165cm short husband French President Nicolas Sarkozy and wears flat shoes in his presence, and that she strokes his hand and pats his bottom in public. She is, after all, Italian, one of the most expressive cultures in the world.

But while most of the world have embraced France's first lady, I discovered recently that the French don't necessarily feel the same way.

"Sarkozy is a loser," announced a French colleague, in Sydney on a business trip.

"His wife leaves him during the campaign for Presidency and then he marries a girl who has slept with all of France...well not all of France because she hasn't slept with me."

He expressed astonishment when I professed that I would be a card-carrying member of a Bruni fan club, if indeed such a group existed.

"The whole world seems to like her," he acknowledged, "but not in France".

"Sarkozy could have any girl he likes and he chooses a girl like her."

Bruni is a successful model turned singer who is more famous than her husband in most parts of the world. The French President lights up when he sees her. That's the kind of girl she is.

Again, this is a clue that France has desperately needed someone like Sarkozy to lead this country of extremes into a modern world where women can also do, say, think whatever they want to without fear of judgment.



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Valentino In Living Colour

My favourite line in this promo is when Valentino asks his partner in life and business Giancarlo Giammetti to tell him how his public appearance went: "tell me the truth".

"You look a little too tan," was Giammetti's response.

Critics have described the documentary Valentino The Last Emperor as "funny, moving and ironic". Valentino is after all as famous for his glamorous gowns as he is for his ever-tanned skin.

Director Matt Tyrnauer, also a Vanity Fair journalist, was given access to the famous haute couture designer's private and business life to capture the days between his seventieth birthday and final fashion show in the wake of a takeover of his brand by a private equity firm.

The yachts, the private jets, the matching dogs. This fashion doco has it all.

Valentino The Last Emperor is due for release in Australian cinemas on September 17. I can't wait.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Speaking In Generational Tongues

Apart from being quite a funny program, Channel Ten's Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation proved to be a revelation, and not just because host Sean Micallef may have finally found his television niche.

The series was created to show-up the knowledge gaps that are created by being a certain age at a particular time in history. But it was also like a social experiment exposing the communication styles of different age groups. It didn't matter that the contestants were chosen because they were funny or famous. There were still obvious behavioural differences between the teams.

My 12-year-old observed that Generation-Y were really annoying because they could never give a straight answer to anything. From one week to the next, throughout the series, Gen-Y would workshop the answer to a question with the host, not necessarily with one another. They seemed to be searching for an affirmation before they could commit to an answer. It drove us crazy.

Generation-X, when asked a question, would tend to workshop the answer between them before reaching agreement and then responding. They were by far the least showy and less needy of the generations - and not just because this is where I fit into a generational group, in the absence of Generation-Jones.

The Baby Boomers were flying solo, even though they were supposed to be working as a team. By far the most confident of the groups, they would yell out the answer, whether they were sure of it or not, mostly without consulting one another.

Gen-Y are exactly the same in the workforce (at the risk of generalising an entire generation). They say exactly what's on their mind, without self-editing. I find myself thinking, 'well that was far too much information' most times that I am in conversation with one of them. Similarly, the Baby Boomers in the workplace are most likely to be the ones who impose their views on others - it's their way or the highway. Gen-X of course are perfect, but then I am biased.

The lasting impression created by Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation was that we seem to have become less confident and more candid with each generation. I blame the Baby Boomers.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mick & Jerry's Baby Grown Up

Left: Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall's youngest daughter, Georgia May Jagger, aged 17

Left: Jerry Hall with her three oldest children Elizabeth (left), James (right) and baby Georgia, circa 1993.

It feels like only moments ago that Georgia May Jagger was the pouting pretty baby of the Jagger-Hall union. Look at her now.

Stunningly Bardot-esque, these images are a stark reminder of why most father's fear their little girl growing up.

The children of The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and former model Jerry Hall have managed to avoid the attention of the Australian media, mostly (or maybe I've just been reading the right publications). So it was a huge shock for me to see Georgia in all her teenage glory in the advertisement for Hudson Jeans, given that my most recent visual memory of her was as a cute baby in her mother's arms as in the photo above.

Talk about a wake-up call. How old am I?

Photo 1:
Photo 2:


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hair To Dye For

Carrie Bradshaw is the poster girl for '40 is the new 30'. So news that Carrie and Co are back in the saddle making a sequel to the very fabulous Sex & The City movie caught my attention immediately.

The source of the news for me was online beauty bible*, edited by our twenty-something version of the modern-day IT-girl writer, Zoe Foster. So naturally Carrie's hair was the focal point. And isn't it something to behold.

I tortured my naturally wavy brown hair with straightening irons all through my twenties, wore my hair tied back in a ponytail as a time-poor mother of young children in my thirties and bought into the whole GHD-thing in my forties (back to straightening). I hated my natural curls, cursed them endlessly. That was, until yesterday, when I fell in love with the PRIMPED photo of Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of Sex & The City 2. Yes the dress is gorgeous, the shoes are to obsess over (surely I'm not alone?) and let's not even mention the legs at her age, but it's SJP/Carrie's divine golden brown locks that have started me thinking, and thinking, and wanting.

So now I want to embrace my waves, for the first time in my life. I plan to grow my hair and let it twist and turn where it may. But it looks as though I may be about to embrace colour again. I haven't coloured my hair since my second child was born 12 years ago (no time, no energy). But as my youngest son gets set to join the high school ranks it may be time to express myself again, or at the very least allow my frustrated hairdresser (hairdressers get bored with people like me who say yes to a cut and no to a colour) to express himself.

The last time that I felt this excited about a new hairstyle was when I went crazy over Anne Hathaway's hair perfection in The Devil Wears Prada. This one's much more exciting though because I think I finally have the right hair type to achieve it (my hair was never going to be as sleek as shiny as Anne Hathaway's) and because Carrie (SJP will always be Carrie to me) is squarely in my age bracket (SJP is six months older than me). So I won't have to risk the mutton as lamb tag.

* Declaring my hand: I am the Publisher of this world-class website so I am in the fortunate position of being able to read it all day for professional reasons.



If 40 Is The New 30, What Do I Wear?

Above: Trenery Spring Summer 09/10

I am a long-time Country Road cardholder. I joined up many moons ago when Country Road was really hot, then moved the card to the back of my wallet when Country Road became mumsy and boring and then pulled it out again when Creative Director Sophie Holt brought the label back to life.

So I have been more than a little intrigued with Country Road's decision to launch its big sister label Trenery. Aimed at an 'older' audience - which is marketing-speak for 40-plus, the inaugural Trenery catalogue arrived in my mailbox today with the new season Country Road catalogue.

I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous little tops and cute side bow dress in the Country Road catalogue (I'm unlikely to ever wear that dress so I will buy the top version and wear it with trousers or a longer skirt). Yet again Sophie Holt has nailed a contemporary urban look for work. Then I flicked open the Trenery catalogue and was given a rude awakening about the fashion expectation of someone my age. Crisp, clean and simple, the Trenery range is probably how I actually dress most of the time, especially when I am in a hurry and don't have the time to indulge my creative urges. I grab the safe option, throw it on my back and race out the door. That's what Trenery says to me.

But fashion's about aspiration. I want to see clothes in a store that I can dream about - frocks that I can't stop thinking about. But there's no twist to Trenery Spring Summer 09. No spark, nothing special. I think I may even have items like all of those represented in the catalogue in my wardrobe already. What I'm likely to add to my wardrobe of classic pieces this summer is a gorgeous top with a stand-out feature, something the Country Road designers have understood so well of late.

So instead of embracing the Trenery catalogue, I found myself engrossed in the Country Road version - apparently aimed at a woman of a more youthful age. So what is a forty-something woman who isn't semi-retired or a full-time soccer mum to do?

Do I don the 40-plus uniform presented by Trenery or do I ignore this categorising of fashion by age and continue to wear what inspires me?



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thank God For Della Bosca's Girlfriend

Above: John Della Bosca and Belinda Neal

I have found it very difficult to feel sorry for Federal MP Belinda Neal in the wake of the news that her husband and the father of her two children, NSW MP John Della Bosca, has been cheating on her with a much younger women.

Usually this would raise my ire, but like the newspapers that have shown so little sympathy for Neal thus far, I don't care about her. Sorry to break ranks with the sisterhood, but the only time that I've felt any emotion at all about this couple in the past week was when I heard that Della Bosca thought he might be the next Premier. Over my dead body.

So I was actually relieved when the "sex scandal" broke because it meant that Della Bosca would not be Premier and that his wife would not be the State's first lady (or whatever the comparable term is for the wife of the Premier). The thought of the Iguana couple sitting pretty at the head of our State almost made me physically ill last week.

And then just when I was thinking we'd need a miracle or that we'd have to move to another state (in the past it's been proven that where there's smoke, there's fire when it comes to the political rumour mill), along pops the 26-year-old girlfriend of the would-be Premier and, just like that, his political career is over and we can dare to hope for more.



Friday, August 28, 2009

Desperately Seeking A Cancer Cure

In the past three months, I have discovered that three women in my circle of friends and colleagues have been diagnosed with aggressive forms of cancer. All are in their 40s, two with young children. Two of the women were hoping for the all-clear five years after beating late-stage breast cancer, the third was in for a check-up for another unrelated complaint. The prognosis isn't rosy for any of them.

Cancer is a numbers game and it seems these days almost everyone knows someone who has had cancer. When I share my friends' tales with others, they almost always have a story of their own to share: "a parent, sister, friend of a friend has cancer.."

It seems to be on the increase in my circles, but then that may be because I'm aging and along with that comes the increased threat of a serious illness. Or perhaps the theory that the more technology we're exposed to, the greater the risk of cancer is starting to ring true.

I am a Board member for The Cell and Gene Trust, an organisation that raises funds to support the research of Professor John Rasko of RPA Hospital in Sydney. The Professor is on a mission to find a cure for genetically inherited diseases, including cancer. Every time I hear of a new case of cancer, I know that my time on this Board is well spent and that the need to expand the research potential of Professor Rasko and his team has become increasingly urgent, for the sake of our children.

According to the, British scientists believe they may be just two years away from developing a cure for breast cancer. While this is extremely encouraging, it won't come soon enough for the women I know. Or indeed for any of us if we happen to be diagnosed with breast cancer before that time.

I've had a couple of breast cancer scares, having discovered seriously large lumps that caused my GP to insist on my jumping the queue for emergency mammograms: "I have a very large mass that needs to be checked immediately" (GP on the phone to The Mater Hospital x 2). Thankfully on both occasions, the masses proved to be cysts. But the fear of god ran through my entire being each time.

In the past I've put off having checkups and pap smears for fear of what I might discover. But the fear of discovering too late has forced me to rethink that. Talk about a wake-up call.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Parenting Dilemma

When I heard about the six children under six who had been so poorly neglected by their smacked-out parents in Bidwill, in Sydney's outer western suburbs, a chill went through my body.

I started my media career as a cadet journalist for Suburban Community Newspapers and was based at the head office in St Marys, about 15 minutes from Bidwill, for the first 12 months. I did a brief stint as the news reporter for the Mt Druitt Star newspaper during this time and it was here that I realised just how bad some people's lot in life could really be, especially the children.

In conjunction with a major welfare group, we organised for three young children, aged 2-7, to be given Christmas gifts for the first time in their lives. They lived in a tiny Housing Commission townhouse in Bidwill with their single mother. All three children had different fathers and, as the mother chain-smoked her way through a packet of cigarettes during our hour together, she revealed that she didn't have the funds to buy them gifts. We were able to arrange for a toy manufacturer to supply bikes, dolls, trucks. The children were photographed with their gifts for the front page of the newspaper. Seeing the joy on their faces was a life-changing moment for me.

The photographer and I returned a few weeks later to do a follow-up piece for the newspaper, only to discover that the mother had sold all of the toys for cigarette and alcohol money. We were horrified, but what could we do? You can't lock up a parent for selling their child's toys. But you should have seen the sadness in the children's eyes...

The neglected six kids of Bidwill was of course the hot topic of debate on most radio programs this morning. There were people calling for the parents to be thrown in jail, others were suggesting worse. Former football player Mark Geyer, on MMM's The Grill Team, said he'd take them all home and look after them if he could.

How on earth do we protect children from their own parents? This really does need to become a government focus.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Juggling Sisterhood

I went to dinner with a girlfriend on Monday night who is now living overseas and had popped back to Australia for a high-powered consulting job.

My friend is a former Managing Director of one of the world's most successful cosmetic companies. Three years ago she gave birth to her first child and her life was turned on its head.

Realising that it would be near impossible to keep up the pace that her job required, she threw it in for a more balanced existence. Typical though of my driven friend, she took the opportunity to start her own business, took on consulting work with an international group and changed nappies in between.

Do we juggle too much? A rhetorical question.

My friend adores her child and is stimulated by her work but, like the rest of us who are trying to fit three people's lives into one, she's tired. Can we ever give ourselves a break?

I tell my husband all the time that when the boys finish high school I'm going to hang up my career hat. But he looks at me sceptically and says, "you won't, you can't help yourself".

Over a fabulous Thai meal, my friend and I were discussing similar time frames. But even we became unconvinced when our 'next big thing' ideas started to surface.

I'd like to be able to say that women like us will one day stop and smell the roses but the truth is that they don't smell so sweet for us unless we've planted them, watered them, cut them and arranged them. It's how we are wired, it's in our DNA, how do we stop this?

The thing is that juggling is fine is you have an end goal in mind - even if you never allow yourself to reach that end point. Sharing and venting with like-minded girlfriends once in a while, who truly do understand, is all the inspiration I need to keep those balls from coming down unexpectedly.



Does My Bum Look Big In This?

The news that retailer Jeans West has introduced a butt cam to its changing rooms was welcomed by a hoard of women who need to know how they look from behind before they can commit to a purchase.

Clearly designed to give Jeans West a competitive advantage - the rationale being that if customers can't differentiate between stores on any other level they will choose the one that can show them what their bum looks like - the move has at the very least provided some much-needed free media attention.

I'm assuming that the cameras cannot be seen by anyone else in the store and that there won't be any film in the cameras to create a lasting documentary of our change room dramas. Does this worry anyone else? Maybe I'm paranoid but I'd hate for my bum to end up on youtube.



Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fashion's Genius x 2

Above: US Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and Creative Director Grace Coddington

Anna Wintour said it best toward the end of The September Issue: "Grace Coddington is a genius".

The documentary about the making of the September 2007 issue of American Vogue, released in Australian cinemas this week, highlights Coddington's place as Wintour's right arm in the success of the world's most influential fashion title.

The movie's producers appeared to be attempting to compare and contrast the styles, both physical, creative and commercial, of the two women throughout. Wintour's sleek, glamorous grooming versus Coddington's wild and natural look. Wintour's elegant shoes alongside Coddington's orthopaedic-style sandals. Coddington's passion for telling a story against Wintour's cold calculations of the overall mix of colours, styles, moods and hairstyles.

Coddington received almost as much camera attention as her boss. During the cinema session that I attended, there were audible gasps from the audience every time Wintour dropped certain images from one of Coddington's fashion shoots. It became evident that $50,000 worth of images were dumped from one fashion shoot alone which, depending on which woman had your sympathy by this point, was either a gross waste of resources by Wintour or negligent overspending by Coddington.

The scene reminded me of the fashion shoot that I was forced to chop in half for my first issue as Editor-in-chief of ELLE Australia. The Fashion Director had returned from a fashion trip to Jamaica and I was keen to see the images as the issue was about to close. I was shown a dozen different pictures for the first shoot, featuring Sudanese model Alek Wek: all shot at night against a barbed wire fence with black clothing. The images were beautiful and arty but you couldn't see the clothes. Apparently the photographer didn't want to do the typical beach thing with colour - oh no, as an artist he wanted to try something new and fresh, a little bit like what Fashion Editor Tonne Goodman experienced on the very ordinary Sienna Miller shoot in Rome. Photographer Mario Testino decided not to photograph the Colosseum look that Wintour was hoping for because it wasn't working for him.

Unfortunately, readers of fashion magazines don't have the luxury of a fashion editor to stand next to them to explain the value of fashion as art as they gaze at the images in bewilderment. And so like Wintour with the Galliano images, I proceeded to chop the story back to six images. Suffice to say my Fashion Director didn't hang around for as long as Coddington has, but then I wasn't editing American Vogue.

Wintour's job as the editor is to edit the magazine for its readers. Readers only know what they see when they are staring at the newsstand or giving a magazine an indecisive flick. An editor has a minute to wow her before she gets bored and picks up a competitive title. Wintour's seemingly brutal cutting of fashion shoots is done for that very reason. She's not selling an art magazine, or compiling a photographer's portfolio. Hers is a commercial proposition at the very heart of a multi-billion dollar global fashion industry. And for that Wintour makes no apologies - not even during the film's most poignant moment when she shares her family's obvious disapproval of her line of work - and nor should she.

The September Issue confirmed that Wintour is worth every penny that she is paid; that Grace Coddington is an extraordinary talent that has taken US Vogue into its own fashion stratosphere; that Andre Leon Talley is extremely keen on himself and the art director is a total yes man. Both men were completely disappointing. Both women proved even more fabulous than I was anticipating.

And that's the long way of saying that I loved The September Issue.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keeping Up With Generation Jones


According to, the annual Associated Press Trend Report has chosen the rise of Generation Jones as the number one trend for 2009.

For the longest time I have been lead to believe that I am a Gen Xer. The label sat well with me relative to the other generations as, year of birth aside, I'm too cynical to be a baby boomer and too driven to be part of Gen Y. So I was curious to learn that in fact I'm neither.

My generation, born between the years of 1954 and 1965, are characterised as less optimistic, distrusting of government and generally cynical. Sociologist Jonathan Pontell named us Generation Jones due to our apparent in-betweenness of a generation lost or anonymous (hence the common name Jones) and our yearning or craving for more (keeping up with the Joneses).

I would hasten to add that Generation Jones could also be described as the generation that doesn't suffer fools. And while wanting to work alongside the best can be liberating, it's also undoubtedly the major reason for an enduring sense that there must be something more. Unlike the baby boomers I know who have put their career before their personal needs and the Gen X-ers I know who put their personal needs before their careers, I have struggled with both. My Generation Jones value system has prevented me from engaging with those who don't share my principles and outlook. That's apparently why I always feel like I'm fighting for something.

"It is said that Jonesers were given huge expectations as children in the 1960s, and then confronted with a different reality as they came of age in the 1970s, leaving them with a certain unrequited, jonesing quality." Wikipedia

I feel like a child who has met their real family for the first time. A sense of belonging can be a powerful thing, especially when my new generation includes the likes of Barack Obama.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar

I had just turned seven when Helen Reddy released I Am Woman. I recall hearing it on the radio and listening intently to the lyrics. Clearly too young to fully comprehend its intent, I did like what I was hearing.

With an Italian mum and Chinese father, I grew up in a family with traditional values - meaning that the females served the males. It was something I fought against from an early age. It never sat right with me that perfectly able-bodied males needed a woman or girl to get them a drink while they sat back and enjoyed the footy, even before I heard Reddy's song. Clearly I wasn't alone.

The song immediately became the anthem of the women's liberation movement in the seventies and now, 37 years later, it has been included in the 2009 Top 10 choices of significant Australian sounds.

Its greatest contribution, aside from being a catchy tune, is that it gave a voice to what many women were thinking and feeling about their station in life. And that's why I was delighted to hear that it had been included along with the likes of Yothu Yindi's Treaty and The Vegemite Song in the National Film and Sound Archive.

The inclusion of Reddy's most famous single in this important list means that a new generation of women will be exposed to it. Generation Y won't identify with its message in the way that Gen X and the younger Baby Boomers have because the good fight was fought for them. They already know that if they have to they can face anything.