The Knot

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why Mum & Dad Investors Are Finding It Hard To Get Back On The Horse

Above: Bernie Madoff - facing 150 years of incarceration for the largest white collar crime in US history

No wonder investors are still treating the markets like a cheating partner. The man sentenced to 150 years' jail for masterminding America's largest white collar crime, was able to con some of the most sophisticated investors in one of the most progressive markets in the world. What hope is there that the rest of us could avoid falling victim to such a scam?

We are drawn to the thrill of legal gambling via the sharemarket, and yet know that it could end in tears. The market could easily break our heart again and destroy a dream. Our relationship with this form of investment is love-hate. We love it when we're winning and hate it when we're not.

But unlike the highs of a couple of years ago, when mum and dad investors were confident of making a good return on the share market while more sophisticated investors were backing hedge funds that could ride them into certain fortune, the antics of Bernie Madoff and co (how on earth could he have acted alone in this?) have frightened the confidence out of investors worldwide.

Even the fact that no one else has been convicted for a crime that wiped US$145 million from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Foundation and was able to pull the wool over Steven Spielberg's Wunderkind Foundation, says there are missing checks and balances in a system that is already inherently risky. How can we trust that this won't happen to any one of us? It's that lack of market confidence, combined with the fact that real investors have actually lost serious pots of money from the share market slides of 08/09, that is keeping the market at sluggish levels. I know I'm guilty of not wanting to risk any more of my hard-earned money-in-the-bank.

When a large-scale scam is made public, the first reaction is to take your money out of the market and hide it under your bed, just like grandma used to do. Or is that just me?



Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bring On Bruno!

Left: Gay, Austrian, fashion reporter Bruno

The Bruno movie premieres this week and the world is as nervous as hell.

Sacha Baron Cohen's previous characterisation of Borat Sagdiyev, a fictitious Kazakh journalist traveling through the United States, recording real-life interactions with Americans, gave us reasons to laugh at racists, anti-semites and homophobes. We were also caught laughing with them, albeit with equal parts horror (so maybe it was more of a nervous laugh).

It is feared that Bruno will roll back any gains made by the gay community in recent decades when the movie premieres on Thursday. According to a report on Double X, there will be some brutal scenes: "as when Bruno goes to a martial arts instructor to learn how to protect himself from gay people. 'If they get close to you, hit them,' the teacher says. How can you spot a gay man? 'Obvious is a person being extremely nice' is the answer. Gays can be tricky, the instructor warns: 'Some of them don’t even dress no different than myself or you.'"

Bruno is certain to be direct and he will make us squirm in our cinema seats, but that is what we're signing on for when we buy a ticket to see a Baron Cohen film. We'd be disappointed if he didn't force us to think about our own prejudices by unearthing them in others.

After seeing him on Rove tonight, I can't wait.



Delivering 'September' in March

Unless you've been responsible for editing the September issue of a fashion magazine, you may not appreciate the work that goes into producing the 'perfect' magazine: one that delivers on the expectations of its many, many advertisers (which is why it's so thick), but also engages the reader so she'll be left wanting more.

The documentary The September Issue, on the making of the September 2007 issue of US Vogue, will be compelling viewing for any fashion magazine lover (former and current). If you adored The Devil Wears Prada as I did, you'll be keen to see Anna Wintour playing herself.

As Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Australia in the late nineties, my 'September' issue was cover dated March. That was the issue back then that was brimming with fashion and beauty advertisers. The one in 12 that was essential to nail.

It was always a stressful time as fashion editors created work designed to impress the industry and their peers at the start of a new season, while I was left to work out how to 'sell' those images to consumers. It was a tug-of-war, borne out of a shared love of fashion.

Although I no longer edit a fashion magazine, I retain a passion for a well-edited edition and as I've proclaimed on many occasions, no one executes better than Anna Wintour. There have been many documentaries on magazine editors over the years, including quite a good one on the former Editor of UK Marie Claire Glenda Bailey, but I'm waging that none of it compares to witnessing Wintour in action.

I wasn't fortunate enough to be among the crowd invited to see The September Issue when it was screened at the Sydney Film Festival earlier this month. So for a review you will need to check out Last Night With Riviera.

The movie is due to be shown here later this year - September perhaps?


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Facing The Force Of Iranian Women

Above: In a part of the Muslim world where women are often perceived as repressed, images of Iranian women during and after the June 12 elections have catapulted Iran's female demonstrators to the forefront of the country's opposition movement.

Her name is the Persian word for 'voice' and her death has become the symbol of Iranian equal rights protest. She has also helped open the western world's eyes to the plight and strength of Iranian women.

Neda Agha-Soltan's death was captured on video by bystanders and posted around the world via the internet. Videos of her death and the violence in the streets of Iran are on Youtube for the world to see. #Neda is one of the hottest discussion topics on Twitter. Messages of outrage have been shared on Facebook in every part of the world.

Many western media commentators have expressed surprise that Iranian women have shown bravery by joining the protest against a regime that has afforded women no rights at all since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. But then what do we really know about a people whose government has controlled news and images coming out of that country for the past 30 years.

That's why the images afforded to the world by the developments in social media technology are so potent. A woman in a silk headscarf perfectly made up, with lash thickening and lengthening mascara, red lips and matching nail polish, holding up a 'Where's My Vote?' card is not what we expect to see among the faces in the crowd. Images like that have caught the imagination and sympathy of our western sensibilities, and also come to challenge the way the world views the plight of Iranian women. According to, Iranian women have long been at the heart of the fight for equality, it's only the western world who didn't know that.

"Women have been extremely politically active in the country for quite some time now, and many Iranians are amused, quite frankly, at the West's sudden revelation that neither chadors nor head scarves snuff out the fire in women's bellies," reports Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory. "Women were essential political organisers as far back as the 1905 Constitutional Revolution; they also fought and died alongside men in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which might not have happened without their help."

"This isn't new. This is only the first time that you've been aware of it," Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University, tells Salon.

So let's not get sidetracked by the appearance of Iranian women. Whether donning the requisite chador or taking a risk with a flimsier non-regulation silk scarf and sunglasses, Iranian women have not allowed their dress to oppress them. We too should refrain from making those assumptions and remain focused on their continued struggle for the basic human rights that we often take for granted in our part of the world.

According to a report on msnbc, there is an extra layer of resentment and anger among many of Iran's 35 million women: "Many fear that a second term for a man who was first elected in 2005 in part on a platform of restoring 'Islamic values' will only prove to be worse than the first".

"The root of the current unrest is the people's dissatisfaction and frustration at their plight going back before the election," Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi was reported to have said on msnbc. "Because women are the most dissatisfied people in society, that is why their presence is more prominent."



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson, Style Icon - Fashion News -

Michael Jackson, Style Icon - Fashion News -

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Sad Day For The Seventies Child

Above: How I choose to remember Farrah Fawcett (far left)
Below: The Michael Jackson we should never forget

Two of the world's biggest icons of the late seventies/early eighties died today. And although I wasn't a devoted fan of either at their end, both helped shape me, entertain me, captivate me, wallpaper my bedroom walls during my teenage years.

Michael Jackson's Off The Wall album is one of the few things I recall about my first high-school disco (not because there was alcohol involved, but because I'm now 43 with two children and a shot memory). I was never a moonwalker (unlike one of my male friends who could slide along backwards with the best of them), but I could never just sit and listen when a Jackson song was played. As he grew weirder and stopped making music, I chose to tune out. Michael Jackson was 50 when he died of an apparent heart attack just weeks before he was due to play sell-out concerts across the UK.

I was a fan of Charlie's Angels during my formative years. Rather than objectify women, I viewed the program as one of the first to give women a sense of power. Although there was always Charlie lurking in the background, assigning their orders, it was Farrah and co who were the heroes at the end of each episode. And that's how I'll always remember Farrah Fawcett. Her impact on the beauty industry also packed a punch as hers was the most copied hairstyle of the eighties. Even I sported 'Farrah Fawcett flicks' as a teenager. The long-term love of actor Ryan O'Neal finally succumbed to anal cancer on Thursday, following a long, tough battle.

We will remember them.

Charlie's Angels image:
Michael Jackson album cover:


The King of Pop Has Died - The Daily Beast

Michael Jackson was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital after going into cardiac arrest and reportedly died this afternoon, according to an initial report by gossip site TMZ. Jackson had been rehearsing in LA for his highly-anticipated series of concerts in

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Farewell Farrah - The Daily Beast

Farewell Farrah - The Daily Beast

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The Sincerest Form Of Flattery?

Guess Who?

There is a blogger in Australia who I've long suspected of being short of an original idea. I've been checking her blog sporadically across the past three months and found that she almost always blogs about the same subject as me, up to a day later. Not only that, but her view on a news topic is curiously exactly the same as mine.

She is a high-profile blogger with lots of followers. So very few people will know this as they haven't read my blog first, or even as well.

Should I feel flattered or flush her out?



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Liberation Or Legislation?

Left: Women wearing burqas

Left: French President Nicolas Sarkozy with his wife Carla Bruni

Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to denounce the burqa is an extraordinary step by any leader.

According to a report in The Telegraph the traditional Islamic garb for women may eventually be banned from France.

"The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience," the French President told members of both parliamentary houses gathered for his speech at the Palace of Versailles on Monday.

While I understand that through Western eyes, the burqa is a symbol of female oppression, something I'm dead against on any level, there is also the argument for freedom of expression.

It's dangerous to dictate to a woman what she can and cannot wear. I've avoided traveling to many middle eastern countries, for example, because I refuse to be told that I need to cover myself from top-to-toe in public. You can't take a personal stand against being told how to dress and then believe that it's okay to patronise other cultures with your sartorial view. Smacks of hypocrisy.

In a follow-up report in The Telegraph, Muslim leaders have shared their outrage for Sarkozy's comments.

Dr Reefat Drabu, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said in a statement: "It is patronising and offensive to suggest that those Muslim women who wear the burqa do so because of pressure or oppression by their male partners or guardians."

I was in Dubai a few years ago and got my first in-the-flesh sighting of burqas en masse. Rather than being confronting, it was actually quite spectacular, but then Dubai is a country of excessive wealth and cultural extremes.

Dubai is hot all year round and as there are no restrictions on what a woman can wear, I found myself wearing a skimpy sundress, bare legs and sandals, standing beside a group of women in black burqas at a set of pedestrian crossing lights. I couldn't see their faces, but as they crossed the road I got a glimpse of the best collection of Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks that any group of girlfriends could hope to own. And dangling just above those shoes were exquisite golden anklets. They were each clutching the latest of latest IT bags: Gucci, Vuitton, Prada. The women looked stunning, chatty and upbeat, even though I couldn't see their faces.

Later that same day I was in a department store inside The Mall of The Emirates (one of Dubai's famous mega-malls). The fashion and beauty departments were full of women in burqas, trying on expensive, glamorous shoes and buying up big at the Mac make-up counter. They looked about as un-oppressed as a woman buying shoes and lipstick can possibly be.

The enforced wearing of the burqa is what I'm dead against, just as I don't believe it's liberating to tell a woman she can't wear it. Rather than banning the burqa, Sarkozy should be advocating banning the enforced wearing of the burqa as a progressive step forward. At this moment in time, after generations of burqa-wearing women, some actually prefer to wear it. It's what they know. It's their comfort zone. Let's not force an alternative set of opinions on those women just because we don't like it.

Burqa photo:

Sarkozy & Bruni photo:


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Created By Neanderthals or PR Geniuses?

The campaign below was created by McCann Digital, Israel according to Copyranter.
The target market: women
Yes, really.

In what surely must be one of the worst examples of smart-ass advertising types turning an in-joke into a client-funded campaign, Israeli ad agency McCann Digital launched the Get An Ugly Girlfriend campaign to promote Bacardi Breezers to women.

If I hadn't been alerted to the article on Jezebel by a similarly surprised friend, I could easily have been convinced that this was a Chaser stunt.

If so, we could have had a laugh and moved on. But no, on closer inspection, it appears the campaign may be for real. I would have linked you directly there but there has been such an outrage over the campaign that the Get An Ugly Girlfriend promotional site has already been taken down.

The premise of the campaign - aimed at women - is that in order to look hot at the beach, shops, etc all you need is an ugly friend to make you look hotter by association. Yes, that's right, they were expecting women to embrace the idea and the fruity alcoholic beverage as well.

It supports my theory that it is possible to believe in yourself too much, as the misguided gang at McCann Digital in Israel have clearly demonstrated here.

Their theory I suspect is that there's no such thing as bad publicity. And I've just helped contribute to that too.

Shame on me.



Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dolce & Gabbana To Down-Price!

Left: Italy's Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce

If retailers' bottomed-out share prices, reduced profit forecasts and consumer confidence surveys haven't alerted you to the fact that the global economic crisis has impacted the fashion industry in a major way, then the news that Dolce and Gabbana is planning to cut its prices should take you there.

Italy's fashion darling duo are renowned for their many quests to 'revolutionise' fashion. Never backward with their views, they recently criticised the ridiculousness of shipment schedules that have resulted in wools in stock in summer months.

According to WWD, the international designer brand has turned its attention to the real crisis at hand and plans to cut prices by as much as 20 per cent. The pair claim they can maintain quality at the lower prices. But rather than take the margin hit themselves, they're calling on all suppliers, from fabric to zip-makers, to trim their prices.

“The first thing people say these days when they walk into a store is, ‘Nice, but how much?’” noted Gabbana on WWD.

“In this moment of uncertainty, people spend more willingly on travel or spas rather than on a new dress. We want to work for the final consumer.”

WWD notes evidence of the lower prices as:

1. A pair of five-pocket jeans for spring will sell for $450 (for spring 2009 they cost $695)

2. A dress will cost $1,469, down from $2,295

3. A leather bomber jacket will be priced at $1,499, compared with $2,296

4. An iconic stretch silk tulle corset dress will go to $3,589 from last year’s $5,200.

An inspired act certain to maximise a fashionista's emotional connection to the D&G brand. It also makes them look like clever business people who can survive a crisis.

I'm buying in (literally).



The Reality Of A Relationship Ruined

Left: Jodi Gordon with former boyfriend Ryan Stokes.

I was bemused to read on today that Jodi Gordon's father Ray wants to wring Ryan Stokes' neck for running out on his daughter.

He attacked Ryan's "privileged" upbringing and suggested there was a "story" he might be willing to tell.

"He's lived in a bubble all of his life. That's why daddy sent him overseas," he said.

"It's not all about Jodi. This is bull****. My baby girl has done nothing wrong. If you want to talk, we'll sit down and have a talk and ... I'll give you the best story in the world if you want it."

You can't blame a father for wanting to protect his child. That's what parents do. However, it certainly smacks of naivety. Did he honestly believe that the Home & Away star's relationship with the son of a media mogul could withstand such a public humiliation?

Let's not forget that Jodi was the one allegedly found cowering in another man's bedroom following a cocaine bender. The fact that he apparently has bikie connections is almost irrelevant.

Yes Ryan has grown up with privilege, but they knew that when Jodi started dating him. Why be bitter about it now?

I'm no fan of Kerry's son, but he certainly can't be blamed for ending this relationship. If Ryan was my son, I would have encouraged him to dump Jodi too.

The best thing the Gordons can do now is accept that this relationship has slipped through their fingers and move on. For Jodi's sake.



Friday, June 19, 2009

The Case For Going Green

We drink it to lose weight, detox and keep warm. It now appears that green tea's many lifestyle benefits may extend to preventing serious health risks.

A new study has found that drinking green tea can help slow the progression of prostrate cancer.

According to BBC News, green tea has been linked to a positive effect on a wide range of conditions, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

My dad had a prostrate cancer scare last year. The indicators for cancer in a routine age-related blood-test were responsible for the scare of his life. The doctor suggested it was either dehydration or prostrate cancer. He suggested dad spend the next few weeks drinking a lot of water before a second test. Thankfully the second test was negative, but he had downed so much H2O that his white blood cell count was low as a result.

Dad has long been a firm believer in the medicinal value of green tea. I was "encouraged" to drink it as a teenager at a time when it was relatively uncool to do so. Now that green is the tea du jour, sales of green tea globally have been in steady growth since the early 90s.

In the study, published in the US journal Cancer Prevention Research, Philadelphia-based researchers tested a compound called Polyphenon E, an extract found in green tea.

Dr James Cardelli, from the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, who led the study, said the compound "may have the potential to lower the incidence and slow the progression of prostate cancer."

"There is reasonably good evidence that many cancers are preventable, and our studies using plant-derived substances support the idea that plant compounds found in a healthy diet can play a role in preventing cancer development and progression."

Wikipedia defines green tea as "a type of tea made solely with the leaves of Camellia sinensis, that has undergone minimal oxidation during processing".



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Children & Work: A Strange Mix

Above: Senator Sarah Hanson-Young with daughter Kora

The furore over the ejection of Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's two-year-old daughter from the Senate chamber is opportunistic attention grabbing at its best.

Senator Bob Brown is a master at positioning himself at the centre of anything deemed politically correct.

His assertion that Hanson-Young's child should have been allowed to remain sitting on her knee in the Chamber while a vote was taken will certainly endear him to most mothers, especially those with young children who work.

However, let's be reasonable and realistic about this. No mother can put her hand on her heart and claim that a child in the workplace wouldn't be a major distraction. I used to love going to work for a break when my children were toddlers. They demand your attention 24/7.

So although this may not be a popular position with other mothers, I think it was highly appropriate for Senate President John Hogg to take a stand.



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Art Gatecrashes Real Life

Left: Kate Walsh of Seven's Private Practice

One of the storylines in tomorrow night's episode of Private Practice centres on a sexually active 12-year-old girl. Given one of the biggest news stories of the week, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Channel Seven has cynically coincided that episode for maximum impact.

But no. The TV Guide was printed before the horror of a real-life 12-year-old girl's pregnant reality came to light.

However, as the result of its coincidental storyline it should be essential viewing. How will this group of doctors cope with the medical issues surrounding a sexually active tween (pre-teen)? What advice will they give to the child's mother?

I'm a self-confessed Private Practice addict regardless of topical storylines, but only because I want to be Addison Montgomery. Apart from any of her other fabulous qualities, what a great name.



Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Iran's Hackers Killed Big Brother - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

How Iran's Hackers Killed Big Brother - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

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Can Katie Holmes Dance? - The Daily Beast

The quiet Mrs. Tom Cruise may be finally coming out of her shell: Katie Holmes is reportedly filming So You Think You Can Dance, the high-intensity celebrity dance competition. And it’s been a long-time coming: she’s apparently rehearsed long and hard for

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The CFDA winners 2009 ( UK)

The CFDA winners 2009 ( UK)

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Absurd Marketing Aimed At Women

Comedian Sarah Haskins has become America's most wanted online as the result of her hilarious send-ups of the way in which women are marketed to.

The three videos in this blog are examples of some of her work on Current TV's Infomania.

She pokes fun at the stereotyping of women and female-skewed blogsites such as Jezebel have become big fans.

Haskins skewers the Stepford Wife approach to marketing to women that seems to prevail, particularly in the US.

“Yogurt eaters come from every race, but just one socio-economic class: the class that wears gray hoodies. It’s the ‘I have a master's but then I got married’ look," Haskins told The Daily Beast.

“Women can go outside the home and hearth, and work and get a job,” says Haskins. “Instead of acknowledging the complexity of that choice, marketers are asking you to be the perfect woman: to keep the house neat and clean and be the perfect wife and be thin.”

Cast your mind to some of the commercials on our TV screens and you'll notice that it's the perfectly groomed woman who is usually cooking up a storm for a grateful family. Haskins' humour resonates here too.



Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Skinny On Fashion Now

Left: British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman

It's only been a day but already British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman's lambasting of designers for their teeny sample sizes has become the stuff of legend.

Shulman is angry that the samples are getting smaller, forcing magazines to use painfully thin models in their fashion magazines as only the skinniest (and small children) can fit into the clothes.

Every woman and her fashion editor has already had her say on this topic. Of course we all agree. Apart from it being politically incorrect not to, the Editor of one of the world's leading fashion magazines is actually right.

I recall the embarrassment caused by too-small designer samples on a fashion shoot a year ago. My then Fashion Editor had called in the latest designs from some of Europe's leading brands: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada. She was dressing a former Givenchy clotheshorse, who by any woman's standards is considered thin.

Most of the samples provided did not fit so the fashion editor was forced to shoot from an angle that did not show an unzipped zipper or open button. It was highly embarrassing for her.

Sample sizes provided by the world's most coveted fashion brands only fit the near-malnourished. No curves allowed. That's why Shulman's call for larger sample sizes was met with rejoicing from much of the fashion community and those groups fighting against anorexia.

Blogger and fashion commentator Melissa Hoyer explains that fashion has always been full of the unreal. She cites the launch of Country Road's new 40-plus collection Trenery, where models far younger than 40 were used to model the range, as yet another example of fashion houses not practising what they preach.

The changes required to move the fashion industry into the 21st century with the rest of us will only be taken seriously when powerhouses like British Vogue get in on the act. That's why we have cared so much about Alexandra Shulman's letter to designers this week.

We (and those poor under-fed models) may yet be able to breath out.



Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Truth About Boxing

When I first heard the news that Sharks CEO Tony Zappia had given a woman a black-eye while shadow boxing in the workplace, I thought 'what a wanker'. Who shadow boxes in the workplace?

But as the sports reporter Josh Massoud revealed this week in The Daily Telegraph , a small but highly significant detail had been neglected to be reported about this incident. The employee at the centre of the incident, Jenny Hall, had been taking boxing lessons.

And according to Massoud's story the feud between Zappia and Hall began earlier than the office 'punch-up', with Melbourne player Ryan Tandy at the centre of a bizarre 'he said, she -said' stand-off.

So I'm glad I've kept my opinion to myself until this point.

I have been a critic of badly behaved NRL players and officials. But fair's fair.

Showing a woman an email containing an unsavoury message happens all the time, whether we agree with it or not. It's happened to me. "Joke" emails and emails in poor taste get sent around offices on a daily basis. Certainly there will be those who are offended by such practices and we should alter our behaviour to allow for that. But should it be enough to destroy a man's career over? I don't think we know enough at this point to make that judgment.

One thing's for sure. I no longer think Zappia is a wanker for shadow-boxing a female employee for no good reason. There was a reason and now that it's come to light, my view of this incident has changed. That doesn't mean that I agree with every detail of his workplace practices, but it is starting to sound like the whole thing was an opportunistic beat-up (excuse the pun) to begin with.

I agree with Sunday Telegraph columnist Rebecca Wilson. NRL boss David Gallop has handled this well.



You Are How You Wash Up

If your dishwasher broke down, the cleaner was sick or your children went on strike (yes I'm kidding), what method would you use to wash the dishes?

I know that sounds like an odd question but there appear to be two distinct ways, and I discovered this week that they are linked to your cultural heritage.

I have always washed items individually, placing washing up liquid inside each cup and scrubbing it, before moving on to the next item. While this happens the water is running to allow me to scrub and rinse as I go. My dirty dishes do not sit in a heap in a tub of soapy water as is my husband's style.

Apparently my style is considered European and my husband washes the Australian way. Stands to reason. My Italian mother taught me to wash dishes and my husband is fifth generation Australian.

I've always thought that his style was unlikely to clean anything: dirty dishes cannot be cleaned in water full of their filth. He views my style as wasteful and time-consuming as I use more liquid soap than he does, and possibly more water too. Thankfully we have a dishwasher so we rarely get the opportunity to judge each other's washing up style. Not just a marriage saver, I'm sure it's better for the environment too.

The identification of washing up types by researchers has enabled savvy businesses to target consumer groups more effectively. Areas inhabited by people of European backgrounds are more likely to sell larger quantities of dishwashing liquid as their washing up style means they'll go through it more quickly.

When you understand the impact of cultural differences on our consumption habits and patterns, you can understand why the range and depth of products sold in one Coles supermarket may be entirely different to that sold in another. It all makes perfect business sense.



Friday, June 12, 2009

Madonna Granted Mercy

The highest court of Malawi has ruled that Madonna can finally adopt three-year-old Chifundo Mercy James, after a long legal battle and public debate.

According to an Associated Press report on Yahoo today, the court has bent the rules around the concept of 'residency' in order to allow Madonna to take the orphan home with her.

Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo said the singer's commitment to helping disadvantaged children should have been taken into account.

It goes without saying that Madonna is reportedly ecstatic. You've got to be happy for Madonna too. The woman's commitment to disadvantaged children should be commended. She has the means to change lives, dramatically. The two African children now in her care will be afforded the opportunity to be anything they want. That will then spark a chain reaction that will allow other Malawians in the future to raise their heads, look to the future, dare to hope for more.

Whether we care to admit it or not, role modelling often begins with a person's appearance. Teenagers in particular are more likely to identify with a hero who is culturally similar. As the Editor of Dolly, I was constantly inundated with letters from Asian and Eurasian readers who saw me as their only chance for a role model. At the time (20 years ago) there were virtually no other people of Asian heritage featuring anywhere else in the media.

So the more faces, colours, differences that we see in the media on a regular basis, the greater the chance that the world will move forward together, rather than as racially segregated groups. That's me on my soapbox for today.



Style In Spades

If you're on the lookout for an Australian fashion magazine that truly delivers - in these economic times when less is more - than give Instyle a try (or a retry if you have given up on it in recent years).

Editor Kerrie McCallum has spent her first year as Editor reinventing and reinvigorating the largely American-licensed content for the Australian market. She's very clever and her work is worth investing in.

As a discerning '30-something' woman, I doubt you'll be disappointed.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

No Need To Embrace Wrinkles

I received the most wonderful gift today to take my mind off my need for botox (or other such drastic anti-ageing treatments).

A divine navy blue gift bag bearing the gold Estee Lauder logo had found its way onto my desk. It was a thank you from a grateful attendee for the Beauty Web Seminar that I hosted yesterday on behalf of the website that I publish: PRIMPED.

Just this morning I had been groaning about a photo of me that was taken at the seminar that clearly showed I am indeed in the throes of ageing. As I stared at the photo above (with PRIMPED's proprietor Michael Hannan), all I could see was new signs of lines. And then just as I started to panic, the gift bag containing the wonder product Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair arrived on my desk.


I will lavish my skin with this amazing serum, as my youthful looking mum has done in the past. I am no longer afraid.



Murder Most Foul

Piers Akerman's column in The Daily Telegraph today on his memory of the Vicki Barton murder in 1969 sent a chill up my spine. It also brought back a horrible memory of the day when I discovered, as a young cadet reporter, that police rounds would not be my thing.

It was a Tuesday morning: February 4, 1986. I was the sole journalist in the office of Suburban Community Newspapers, in the heart of Sydney's western suburbs where I was a reporter across the group of weekly newspapers that included the Blacktown Star. Everyone else was out chasing stories. The call came through that a woman's body had been found naked and unidentifiable in a paddock in nearby Doonside. The body would later be identified as missing nurse Anita Cobby.

The photographer poked his head around the corner and said, "you're welcome to come with me - how's your stomach? They're saying the body is in really bad shape."

I looked at him with horror and was suddenly glued to my seat. I wasn't ready to see a murdered body, particularly one that was already being described via police radio reports as the most horrific imaginable. I didn't want that etched in my memory. So I didn't go, but instead wrote the report via interviews and police statements. The photographer returned white as a ghost. He had seen something so horrendous he could barely speak.

We were wrapped up in the horror of the Cobby murder for months. I read reports that could never be published, read descriptions of what had been done to that poor woman that would turn your stomach.

If Anita Cobby's murderers were ever to be released I would feel as strongly against this as Piers Akerman does about Vicki Barton's killer, Alfred James Jessop, being allowed to freely roam the streets. I believe in rehabilitation and second chances, but not when it comes to murderers of such ferocity and evil. That kind of thinking can never be undone.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Wonderful World Of Stella McCartney, Spring 2009

I adore this video of Stella McCartney's Spring 2009 runway show at Jefferson Market, New York earlier this year. It not only provides you with a peak behind the scenes of a fashion show, but also a look at the designer's fab new offerings for the warmer months. David Jones stocks a selection of Stella McCartney each season. For anything else, check out my favourite fashion shopping site,


The Power Of Tracy Grimshaw

I have long been a huge fan of Tracy Grimshaw and this week my view of her only strengthened.

The clearly experienced, clever and elegant host of A Current Affair won my support through her talent. She's a skilled interviewer who rarely disappoints. She doesn't feel the need to be flirtatious, but will happily join in on the fun in an interview. Grimshaw never backs away from a tough question if it's relevant, but isn't aggressive or egocentric. And I have never once become lost in what she's wearing or a new hairstyle because I instead become immersed in the content of her interviews.

It took courage for her to admit that shock-chef Gordon Ramsay hurt her feelings when he publicly ridiculed her on the weekend. She appeared slightly vulnerable, perhaps for the first time, as she delivered her response to Ramsay's abuse. But rather than weaken her, Ramsay's ridiculous rant has only strengthened her appeal. The news website Crikey suggests that Grimshaw may be the most powerful person on TV, following her public win against the British chef.

The support that has been shown for Grimshaw, especially from women, is an indication of what constitutes the richest form of celebrity appeal in these times of reality checking. We are drawn to women like this who can roll back the gloss and reveal substance to the core. This is powerful stuff.



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let's Say No To This Invasion Of Privacy

Left: PM Kevin Rudd and his wife Therese Rein

The new editor of Woman's Day put her readers interests first when deciding to run the images of Therese Rein working out in this week's edition. The wife of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is apparently of such interest to the readership of the weekly women's magazine that they want to see her sweating it out in her efforts to slim down.

In The Australian today, Fiona Connolly defends her decision with the following statement.

"Just as other first ladies around the world are admired as role models, Woman's Day has been inspired by Therese Rein's recent transformation and our readers have shown an overwhelming interest in her weight-loss journey," she said.

I believe this to be an appalling lack of judgment by the new editor, who it was widely believed was going to bring a new 'newsier' spin to the tired title with flagging circulation. Although the former gossip columnist has never before edited a magazine, she is charged with making decisions that set the news agenda for Australian women.

Rein is certainly a role model for women. She is a successful businesswoman. That's her role. But that doesn't mean that I want to see hidden camera footage of her. It's common decency. What people do in their private time, should actually be private.

Therese Rein deserves that right to privacy. That should have been the first thought in the decision-making process. She should not be considered fair game because she is married to our PM. The fact that Woman’s Day tried to organise an interview with Rein to discuss her weight-loss and that request was denied, means that she doesn’t want to talk about it. No should mean no.

Rein isn't a starlet who regularly flaunts her worst side for the paparazzi. She is a businesswoman, mother and wife of a high-profile man. She also clearly wants to lose weight, for her own reasons, in her own time and in her own way. Why can't we respect that?

As a woman, I'm horrified for her. As a former magazine editor, I'm concerned about the direction the industry is taking in a desperate attempt to gather readers.

Magazine editors are certainly bound to their readers’ needs and wants. But I’m a woman over 40 with a penchant for news and I don’t want this. There is a big difference between 'in the public interest' and 'what the public is interested in'. Therese Rein lifting weights is not in the public interest, even if some sections of the public may indeed be interested. Surely we buried that misconception with Princess Diana?

This incident highlights the dilemma confronting weekly women’s ‘news’ magazines like Woman’s Day and New Idea. They appear to have lost touch with what woman actually want served up as news these days. Circulations and readerships are sliding. Advertisers are following those readers elsewhere. Time for a major rethink.



Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Killer Pair Of Heels

Three minutes, eighteen seconds into this short film and the penny drops. It's the most elaborate, elegant and expensive product placement centred around a divine pair of Dior shoes. As the film's heroine Marion Cotillard runs away along a French corridor one can't help but fall for the spectacular shoes. Yes, I want to own them!

But it's not just the shoes that Dior has us craving by the end of the The Lady Noir Affair, directed by Olivier Dahan. There's also the not-so-insignificant matter of the Lady Noir bag that the Oscar winning actress carries around Paris in this sleek and sexy first instalment of a four-part series. Conceived by Dior head designer John Galliano, the next instalment to tempt us to shop is Lady Rouge.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Do You Have A Backup Plan?


A year ago, just as the share market was taking a massive slide, I initiated a Plan B discussion with my husband. Knowing that tanking financial markets would impact advertising revenues for the media industry, our bread and butter, I hankered for a sideline interest that could offer a new way of thinking, a reason for optimism.

That's essentially how a couple of journalists became partners in a Gloria Jeans franchise.

According to The New York Times, we're not the only publishing types looking for financial security outside the square.

"IN more than a few circles — publishing, finance, automotive design — small talk at cocktail parties has shifted from real estate (too depressing) to the Plan B career (a fatalistic, yet somehow sunnier topic)," writes Alex Williams at

We are now starting to think about investment businesses in the way that we were pursuing real estate portfolios before the market crash. In fact, prior to signing up for our Plan B in the coffee business (a product that is widely believed to be recession-proof), we were considering a real estate investment.

At a dinner party last night at least one other couple was seriously considering purchasing a business as the husband's industry of career choice was contracting. Anecdotally, expressions of interest for businesses for sale are more likely to come from ex-bankers than from any other career group.

"They're trying to buy themselves a gig," a business agent revealed.

It's important to think carefully about your choice of Plan B because if you are forced to execute it (as opposed to choosing to do so), the switch may need to be accompanied by a rollback of lifestyle: less money, more hands-on. And that's when Plan B can start to feel like Plan G which, according to The NY Times, stands for a new financial reality: 'grind.'


Friday, June 5, 2009

Poor Old Jodie Gordon

Left: Actress and girlfriend of Ryan Stokes, Jodie Gordon

You have to feel sorry for Home & Away actress Jodie Gordon.

The promos prior to the 6pm Channel Nine news bulletin tonight were splashed with Jodie's bizarre tale of bikies, drugs and sex scandal. Without doubt, ACP's flagship celebrity gossip magazine Woman's Day will drive the nail in even further when its next edition is published on Monday. And as sure as night follows day, its rival New Idea (owned by Channel Seven and the family of Jodie's boyfriend) won't go near it with a barge poll.

Jodie is receiving more than her fair share of attention from Channel Nine because she is the girlfriend of Ryan Stokes, the first son of Channel Seven proprietor Kerry Stokes. It's one of the oddities of the Australian media. Seven and Nine regularly stick knives into each other like they're the only two television channels available to us. And the media heir's girlfriend presented the opportunity to Nine and its associated magazine group ACP on a platter this week. What on earth was she thinking? Well clearly she wasn't. We've been told there was a bikie association to this liaison, it has been suggested that there may have been a sexual dalliance and Jodie has apparently admitted that cocaine was involved.

But rather than want to know more about this sordid saga, I want to know less. Leave the girl some dignity and let's hope this doesn't drag on beyond its newsworthiness because of her choice of partner.


Am I Too Old To Show My Knees?

Left: Halston dress from

I have a thing about age-appropriate dressing. Even though I feel far younger than my 43 years, there's no getting around the reality of my age.

Searching for "inspiration" on my favourite shopping site,, I fell in love (isn't it great how we can equate such an important emotion with fashion?) with this Halston dress. As you can see it sits way above the knee. Not too mini to be called a micro, but showing a fair bit of knee nonetheless.

It's not that I don't like my knees, but that's always been the cut-off point for me. The shorter the skirt the more I start to worry about mutton. There are few things more tragic than seeing an older woman dressed beneath her years. It's an irrational fear that keeps me from indulging many of my fashion passions.

The thing is, I have gorgeous girlfriends who regularly step out in above-the-knee dresses. Many of them are older than me. All of them look amazing and not at all like mutton dressed as lamb.

Left: Jennifer Aniston

Then there are the forever thirty-something celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, who turned 40 in February, for whom the mini is a way of life. The arguments against donning a short skirt post 40 are starting to thin.

So that's it, I'll do it. I'll buy that Halston dress. And when my husband expresses concern about 'yet another net-a-porter purchase', I'll explain that it's therapy for my post-40 knee paranoia.

That should justify my new purchase.


It's Time For Magazines To Move Forward

Tear-sheet: From June 1 edition of Woman's Day

The magazine girls' website Girl With A Satchel commented today on an article in this week's edition of Woman's Day on Today Show co-host Lisa Wilkinson.

GWAS Editor Erica Bartle suggests that magazine editors like Lisa Wilkinson are a thing of the past - "ACP prodigies".

"...ACP supremo Kerry Packer loved his girls as much as his cricket (my understanding is that the mood at ACP is currently not as conducive to wide-eyed creativity and outlandish editorial visions)," Erica writes.

I was also an editor during Kerry Packer's heyday with magazines. Lisa was Editor of Cleo and Editor-in-Chief of Dolly, when I edited the teenage girls' magazine in the early nineties. To set the record straight, Kerry Packer loved success and that's why he embraced Lisa Wilkinson. She made him a lot of money during her time as an Editor. Let's not mistake that for an infatuation for "his girls".

While it's true that there were editors who allegedly rose to the top at ACP as the result of rumoured sexual dalliances with Kezza and his son, Lisa wasn't one of them. She also wasn't an ACP prodigy. Kerry Packer poached Lisa from Dolly (then published by Magazine Promotions) long before ACP bought the teenage girls' title.

To suggest that editors like Lisa were a product of their time and circumstance belittles her contribution and talent. Women of my generation who are now in their forties will remember a time when magazines delivered content with the consumer in mind, rather than the editor's ego. Certainly the web has grabbed the consumer-focused baton and run with it, but if magazine editors today understood their medium's role in the broader media landscape and indeed their customer's lives, they'd be producing vastly different products in most cases.

I refuse to believe that there isn't a place for magazines in the future media mix. However, we will require a more insightful bunch at the helm of our once-essential titles if the magazine industry is going to get there.

Switched on editors like Lisa Green and Sarah Oakes offer a flicker of hope for the future. Lisa revived House & Garden and I'm convinced that if anyone can breath life back into Cleo it will be Sarah. The changing of the guard at the top of ACP Women's Group should allow for greater talent and fresh new ideas. The magazine industry can't help but be better off for it.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

VIDEO: Sick Chaser joke

VIDEO: Sick Chaser joke

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I love The Chaser and programmed the new season into my Blackberry following the hilarious first instalment last week that 'took the piss' out of private schools.

My sons attend an exclusive private boys school and The Chaser team could easily have swapped Shore for their school in the send-up of the donation drive for necessary structures such as a boat shed. The boys watched the show with me and we laughed hysterically. They could laugh at their school. In effect, they could laugh at themselves.

But last night was no laughing matter. Thankfully my sons were too wrapped up in the State Of Origin and its commentary aftermath to realise they were missing their otherwise favourite TV show, The Chaser.

I know that part of The Chaser charm is they're prepared to go where no one else will. In the past they've made fun of dead celebrities, like Steve Irwin, and almost caused a national riot. Dead adults are one thing. Children with a death sentence are entirely another.

Touch wood, I haven't had the misfortune of needing to deal with the pain of a terminally ill child. But I have supported many of the charities that The Chaser was 'taking the piss' out of in their skit last night. The point of granting a dying child what could be their last wish is to give them something to look forward to and distract them from the reality at hand - that they are in fact dying.

I will continue to watch The Chaser as I generally love their brand of humour but I'm hoping that in future they might read their audience a lot better and realise that under no circumstance is it fun to 'take the piss' out of anything to do with dying children.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Consensus: Punch no knockout for journalism

Left: Editor of The Punch, David Penberthy

Punch no knockout for journalism

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News Limited launched its much-hyped new website The Punch this week to mixed reactions. Everyone who works for News Limited loved it. Everyone who didn't love it is not currently employed by News Limited. Nothing unexpected about that reaction.

I've been anticipating the site for months now as I am related by marriage to News Limited and therefore have cared more than most outside of 2 Holt St. Was I disappointed it didn't WOW me? Yes, a little. Was I insulted that editor David Penberthy (Penbo) has excluded me from his target audience by stating its not for the tertiary educated? Yes, me and much of the online news audience. Was I surprised that the first female targeted posting was about an American teen-targeting reality TV show The Hills? Yes, but only because it shows a disconnect between content and audience. Am I concerned that it hasn't yet established a unique and fresh voice? No, because I know it will have to go there eventually to survive. Do I think it will improve? Of course; Rupert Murdoch rarely allows expensive new projects to fail.

PS. If you search Google for The Punch it is the second listing, behind a Nigerian news site. I don't know why, but that amused me.