Urban Society Round Up #2

Well, this has been a mental two weeks. I think the phrase ‘thrown in the deep end’ has never applied quite so literally to my life (apart from the time I was actually thrown in the deep end of the community pool, but whatever. I forgave my brother.) One week after starting this new job, I found out my Managing Editor was away on annual leave for a week. Cue panic attacks, stress, and a general feeling of ‘holy-hell-I’m-not-cut-out-for-this’. But, you know, I survived. And it gets easier. And I got to write some things along the way!

I got a little political over the last two weeks. You may have head that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has decided to no longer allow any refugees arriving by boat into Australia, but rather to deport them to Papua New Guinea. (If you’re Australian, take that with a heavy dose of irony. If you’re not, welcome to the xenophobic swing of Australian politics.) I – like many Australians – think this is an all round disgusting and simplistic measure, and so I quite enjoyed writing about a refugee who tried to pay back the government $18,000. Note: he originally sought – and was granted – political asylum in Greece, before coming to Australia legally. On the other side of the world, UK Prime Minister David Cameron seeks to ban porn on the internet. To put it less simplistically, he wants to implement an ‘opt-out’ family-friendly filter, as well as crack down on child porn, extremely violent porn and simulated rape. His heart’s in the right place, but is this really the best method? Plus, as one 21-year-old UK commenter pointed out, young people everywhere have to embarrassingly ask their parents to turn on the porn. Awkies.

bans porn

Then we get to the shock value posts (because it’s all about the clicks, people). I came in early especially to write about Rolling Stone putting the Boston Bomber on the front cover, because a) I was so fired up about it, and b) I wanted to do the thing properly. For a uni assignment I researched the general media-wide cock-up that was the Boston Bombings, so I a bit of what I was talking about (and I like to talk smart sometimes). Then there was the barrel-of-laughs wedding that ended in a family-wide brawl, that caused more than one commenter to reference ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’.  And here is a video (and accompanying words, but mostly the video) of why it is very important not to do things like stick your head in a crocodile’s mouth. Sadly, I also wrote about a baby that was stabbed 90 times by his mother (warning: graphic images). As awful as this was, I wanted to talk about mental illness and post-natal depression, because a mentally sane person simply does not stab their baby. I knew this would attract comments such as “don’t stigmatise mental illness like that” (which it did), but I also thought that for every outraged person, there would be a mother nodding along thinking of the times they’d wanted to throw their baby out the window because it didn’t stop crying.

And so we get to the uplifting part of this tale! Here, watch Zach Braff help a man propose to his girlfriend, or read about the social media that only allows images of happy things, whether great or small.

Of course, there’s a bit of celebrity gossip along the way. Every morning we do a post called ‘Hot Mess Threesome’, which is some kind of celebrity scandal, gossip, or just plain funny news. It’s good practise in ‘how to be a funny writer’, which isn’t one of my strong suits. What do you think of these little ditties?

  • Hugh Jackman ‘admits’ to wearing Wolverine suit in the bedroom [link]
  • Michelle Bridges and the Commando split up [link]
  • Kochy tries to skateboard and breaks his co-host’s ankle [link]
  • A reporter draws a massive penis on live TV [link]
  • Kim Kardashian and Kanye West spend almost a mill on gold-plated toilets [link]
  • Kelly Rowland became an actual ‘survivor’ and had to get rescued while at sea [link]
  • The View come to the defence of butt sex [link]

And, of course, we wrote about the Royal Baby. I still can’t believe they went with George.


Rolling Stone made an excellent journalistic move – but we’re still allowed to be angry.


I’m just going to preface this by saying that – like many others – I’ve already expressed by disgust at the all-round dick move made by Rolling Stone.

Writing that first article (read: venting) was therapeutic. I got most of the anger out of my system and let it out into the world. But that was about 13 hours ago and I’ve had some time to calm down, process, and think about Rolling Stone’s decision to feature Dzhokhar Tsarnev on the cover. And I hate to say this, but it’s actually a brilliant move. That’s not to say I agree with it, but I think we need to look at a few more issues at play.

First, it’s a story that needs to be told.

I’m not going to use the kind of language they did – that he “fell into” radical Islam and that “his family failed him” – because after a certain point we all accept responsibility, and bombing the Boston Marathon was no passive act of a young man irresponsible of his actions.

Still. We need to investigate why someone with no connection to radical Islam from birth committed such heinous acts, if only to prevent similar events in the future and similar lives being destroyed.

Second, from a PR perspective it’s an enormous success.

Even those who had never heard of Rolling Stone are now aware of the publication. It’s enforced its floundering reputation for being edgy. They could have used a dozen different covers and run with the same story, and received no way near the same level of attention.

Third, it has attracted an entire new customer base.

While many people will no doubt boycot the magazine, I’d wager a greater number of people who rarely or never buy it will grab themselves a copy. Circulation figures will boost. Those readers might be inclined to buy the magazine the following month, and in this economy no publication can laugh off sales figures.

Fourth, it forcibly subverts the idea of what a terrorist is supposed to look like.

In the collective consciousness of today’s world, a terrorist looks something like Sadam Hussein – Muslim, bearded and with evil looking eyes. Twenty-Thirty years ago, a terrorist was Irish, and therefore looked like the white, Western world. Times are changing again. It also feels like a small “fuck you” to every media source that reported, in the confusion of the immediate wake of the bombings, that the suspect was male and brown. At the time of the bombings, there was no reason for any media source to report that the suspect was “brown” (particularly when that wasn’t true) other than to give a giant conspirational wink to everyone who was thinking “Al Qaeda”. Sloppy, sloppy journalism.

The fact that Rolling Stone have made what is probably a very smart move does not mean it wasn’t also a dick move. We are allowed to be shocked and angry; it is the exact reaction Rolling Stone were looking for. People are not ignorant or hateful for being angry. They are rightly so. Anyone glancing at the cover could have been mistaken that Tsarnev was a good-looking front man for a band, rather than the terrorist responsible* for the highest number of deaths from a US-soil terrorist attack since September 11th.

The greatest thing Rolling Stone have done is incite discussion, both in the media and amongst friends. I was furious this morning, but now that has given away to curiosity. I don’t know if I’ll buy the magazine – I don’t want to support what were a blatant dismissal of ethics – but I will be interested in what it has to say.

We’ll just have to wait until August.

Urban Society Roundup #1

So here’s a bit of news: I’m the new Deputy Editor at Urban Society! Or, as my email signatures reads, a ‘Well-Worded Woman’.

No longer an intern, I actually get to manage our interns. I want to say to them “I’ve been where you are! It gets better!” but for now will keep my mouth shut (unless of course they stumble onto this blog.) I feel frantic enough in my new role without worrying that hungry vulture-like interns are circling my job, waiting for a sign of weakness.

The best part is that I get to write something every day. It may not be the most thought-provoking piece you’ve ever read, but it’s fun. I’m officially paid to write. I saw the money go into my bank account on Friday and felt giddy with all the dollars.

I also spend my days doing a lot of things that are not writing: editing everybody else’s posts (which, if they’re an inexperienced writer, can take a long long time), sourcing content, scheduling posts, uploading everything to Facebook and liaising with what seems to be half the PR people in Sydney. I’d happily be content sitting in a little bubble for eight hours writing whatever I felt like, but that doesn’t pay the bills unless you are J. K. Rowling a total genius.

The point isn’t that I’m a struggling twenty-something wannabe creative. The point is THAT I’M GETTING PAID. MY PARENTS NO LONGER DISPAIR. I CAN AFFORD TO FILL UP THE CAR WHEN I BORROW IT.

I bought two (two!) ridiculously overpriced cocktails on Saturday, just because I could. And a kebab later in the evening, but that was mostly because I shouldn’t.

I’ve decided to do a weekly roundup where I post up the bits and bobs I’ve written for Urban Society, in case you feel like a looksie. For those who don’t know (and if you don’t live in Sydney, I’ll wager that you don’t know), Urban Society is a young person’s website with pop-culture, local eateries, a what’s on of Sydney, a little bit of travel, and the occassional news piece. It’s a little bit of everything, all rolled into one. (I’M A BITCH, I’M A LOVER… yeah.)

So here we go:

1 Forever Alone

Urban Society Roundup #1

World’s First Forever Alone Restaurant – This actually looks pretty good. (Check out the image above.)

Patient opens her eyes moments before organ donation – Chilling.

Rebecca Black covers Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’ – Woah, Rebecca Black can actually sing now?

Daft Punk releases ‘Get Lucky’ condoms – Too. Many. Puns.

Are we taking Instagram selfies too far? – This was actually a hard one to write. It was in response to a Sydney Morning Herald article by a 17-year-old girl, who I thought wrote brilliantly. Everything she said was true and perfectly articulated, yet quite possibly not realised by SMH’s core audience. If I had written the article for me, it would have been called “Every 17 year old girl should look up to this one because she’s got her head straight and is wise beyond her years.” But you have to present a fair and accurate viewpoint, after all.

Gay marriage ad under fire for ‘sexualisation of children’ – I would have called this one ‘Fuck yeah, Queensland’.

Daft punk


The top 10 Aussie celebs to follow on Instagram

Sometimes we all need a little pick me up, and sometimes that involves stalking scrolling though a celebrity Instagram feed. It’s addictive. They invite us in and offer us snippets of a Charmed Life, one well away from student loans, dirty dishes and that feeling that you really ought to go to the gym.

For your viewing pleasure, here are the top 10 Australian celebrities to follow on Instagram. Warning: gratuitous selfies abound, people, but what would an Instagram feed be without them?

You’re not even reading this, are you? You’ve jumped straight to Miranda Kerr’s face – she’s just that damn beautiful, folks.

1. Miranda Kerr

Miranda KerrFollowers: 1, 831, 524

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Family Time
Behind-the-Scenes Photo Shoots
Insta-Arty Shots
Inspirational Quotes

2. Jennifer Hawkins

Jennifer HawkinsInstagram Followers: 241, 865

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Wedding Shots
Inspirational Quotes
Doing Sydney Media-Type-Stuff

3. Kylie Minogue

Kylie MinogueInstagram Followers: 218, 715

What you will get:
Professional Shoots
Promotions For New Release ‘Skirt’
Insta-Artsy Shots
Passion For Fashion

4. Lara Bingle

Lara BingleInstagram Followers: 216, 530

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Beach Life
Magazine Editorial
Insta-Artsy Shots
Passion For Fashion
Inspirational Quotes

5. Samara Weaving

Samara WeavingInstagram Followers: 117, 481

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Beach Life
Hanging With Friends
Insta-Arty Shots

6. Isabelle Cornish

Isabelle CornishInstagram Followers: 106, 158

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Passion for Fashion
Hanging With Friends
Insta-Arty Shots
Yummy Food

7. Jessica Hart

Jessica HartInstagram Followers: 101, 834

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Hanging With Friends
Behind The Scenes Photo Shoots

8. Ruby Rose

Ruby RoseInstagram Followers: 96, 804

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Hanging With Friends
Inspirational Quotes
Funny Shit
Cute Animals

9. Stephanie Rice

Stephanie RiceInstagram Followers: 83, 036

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Hanging With Friends
Inspirational Quotes
Just Keep Swimming

10. Delta Goodrem

Delta GoodremInstagram Followers: 73, 899

What you will get:
Gratuitous Selfies
Hanging With Friends
Behind the Scenes (The Voice)
Doing Sydney Media-Type Events

I said it would happen in threes.

Train explosion

Yesterday, I wrote that something seriously weird was going in the world. First we had a plane crash from an otherwise safe airline, and then we had a surfer injured by a whale on a beach better known for reality shows about life guards.

I wrote that these events had a similar eery quality to them: they both represent some of our biggest fears (plane crash and aquatic attack) yet ones that we usually excuse, safe in the knowledge that they “never happen”.

I said that this felt like the sort of thing that would come in threes. And then it did.

On the train to work this morning, I read about the train explosion in Canada. It has all the markers of a very worst fear: a small sleepy town in the middle of the night, a runaway train, a horrific explosion. Authorities still do not know what caused the train to leave the station; the driver had checked the breaks that very evening. It combines so many worries. What if I never wake up? What if our house burns down?

Let me be clear that I do not mean every fear can fall into this category (that I am lumping three unrelated incidences into). If your house burns down because you left a fire burning and went out, or fell asleep smoking a cigarette, or there is a bushfire nearby, then these are all explanatory. You understand there is a certain amount (if minuscule) level of risk by living in a bushfire-prone region. Or smoking in the house. Or having a fire place.

What happened in Canada cannot so easily be explained. What happened in Canada is a tragedy that has roots in economic and environmental concerns, but I would argue it is among “the ridiculous” that we ration away when we go about our daily lives. I won’t be swallowed by a sinkhole, we reason. The bridge won’t collapse. A runaway train won’t crash into my house. The airplane won’t catch fire.

Maybe I’m creating something out of nothing. I’ve never predicted anything to be true before (I wouldn’t last ten minutes inside a casino) but this morning the news spooked me. It’s just been a spooky 24 hours, I guess.

All my thoughts are with those in Lac-Megantic, on board the Asiana Airline flight, and particularly with those who have died. I hope the surfer is recovering well.

Spare a thought for the train driver, too. I’m sure he is a decent person, and decent people were not made to withstand that much guilt and self-loathing. We don’t know yet whether it is or is not his fault, which means he likely does not know either. I can only imagine his agony.

Photo credits:

Image 1: Explosion – BBC News

What’s in a name? Everything. Kate and Wills, please name your future baby Alexandra.

Kate and Will

So. Alexandra is the odds-on favourite name for the imminent royal baby. It’s beaten royal classics like Charlotte, Diana, Victoria and Elizabeth to the number one spot.

Can I just say, I really, really hope Kate and Wills decide on Alexandra? You see, it’s the Queen’s middle name – but it’s also my own.

I’ve been an Alex most of my life, but I haven’t always been happy about it. While other girls got pretty names – like Emma, Claire, Rosie or Poppy – I was stuck with Alex. By the age of ten I’d lost count of how many people had said, “But that’s a boy’s name!” Combine it with an unusually masculine surname, and you’ve got a case of mistaken gender identity every time somebody meets me after learning my name.

I’ve toyed with changing it in the past. In Year 3, I made my entire school call me Jo. Yes, it was another boy’s name, but I’d just finished reading about a gypsy-girl called Jo in The Famous Five, okay? Jo was cool.

I moved to America the following year, and left Jo behind with Australia. To the American’s I was this strange English/Australian creature, and exotic enough that I didn’t need another name. I went back to being Alex, although I was never fully satisfied.

When I moved back to Australia four years later, I experimented with the more feminine sounding Lexi. That lasted approximately 30 minutes. Now, I’d love to be an Alexa, and take on my mother’s maiden name. It’s a far better name to say. (Is it weird if I tell you my mother’s maiden name? I’m not sure.  I won’t for now.) Alex Bruce-Smith is difficult on the tongue. My new name would roll right off it. It would be feminine and powerful. The perfect journalist name. As it is, I doubt I could ever be a radio journalist because my name is just too damn difficult to say.

The trouble is, Alex is powerful. Strong. Masculine. No one wants (or needs) to protect an Alex. Combine that with being taller than average and the eldest of three, and I’ve never gotten to be the young, cute one. And I really want to be the young cute one.

Pregnant KateBut let’s get back to Royal Baby Alexandra. (Look, I know we don’t know yet if it’s a boy or a girl, but for argument’s sake let’s go with it being a girl.)

It’s no secret that we go through waves of popularity with names. (Alexandra was the 13th most popular name in 1990 Australia, which explains why I’ve come up against so many in my life. I was once in an English class with six Alex’s and one Alexis.) And it’s no secret that celebrities and pop-culture have masses of influence when it comes to naming our children. There’s Bella and Jacob from Twilight, Arya and Khaleesi (yes, really) from Game of Thrones, and no doubt we can thank Poppy Delevingne, Sienna Miller and Chloe Sevigny for the rise in popularity of their first names.

And Kate Middleton has turned out to become the biggest trendsetter the world has ever seen. Every single item of clothing she’s been snapped in has sold out in seconds (with the added advantage that’s it’s mostly high street and therefore affordable). Even her blue engagement ring inspired fakes within days.

If Kate was to name her baby Alexandra? Thousands would follow. Literally, thousands. Her influence on the rest of the world is out of this world.

And if Alex became a popular girls name it would change people’s perception of it. All these cute little babies called Alex? People would start to go goo-gah at the name. Alex would forever be associated with a baby princess. (Actually, my parents supposedly named me after a Russian princess. But it’s not quite the same, is it.) The name would be more attractive. More feminine. More liked.

So Kate, if you could just go ahead and name your baby daughter Alexandra, that would be great. I’ll be celebrating with the other Alex’s of the world (we meet up once a month). And maybe one day, I won’t despise my own name so much.

Either that or I’ll legally change it to Poppy.

Photo Credits

William and Kate – eonline

Kate (polka dotted dress) – Pop Sugar

First San Francisco and then Bondi Beach? There must be an extremely pissed deity out there.

Whale splash

In the past 24 hours, two of the public’s worst nightmares have become reality.

The first is the San Francisco plane crash. While Australia slept, an Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul, South Korea, crash landed at San Francisco airport. Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that two are dead, while a further 140 are injured.

The second is the surfer who was rushed to hospital after being knocked unconscious by a 15-metre humpback whale this morning at Bondi Beach. It might not be a shark, but a whale is still a very real threat in the water. I imagine running head-first into an elephant would be a similar experience.

The thing that strikes me about both of these incidences is that they’re threats that cross our minds, but we wave away with the reasoning of “Oh, that never happens.” Crash landings from reputable airlines never happen. Being attacked by dangerous sea creatures never happen. If we couldn’t reason away these very real possibilities, we’d never board a flight or swim in the ocean again.

Plane crashI’m not a nervous flyer, but the take-off and landing still freak me out. There’s always that weightless feeling as you take off, where you suddenly realise that you are in a giant tin bucket several hundred feet above the ground and there’s no possible way physics accounts for this shit. (I calm down and remember my physics lessons approximately 30 seconds later, or as soon as the stewards stalk walking around.) And when you land, there’s always that bump, when you think, “Hmm. Will the plane topple over? Will we crash into the terminal? Oh well done, they’ve landed safely again.”

I can’t say I’m as calm about the ocean. I mean, I love going for a swim and all but the entire time I’m having a mild panic attack, imagining all sorts of sharks/sting rays/jelly fish/blue bottles/crabs/seaweed that could brush against my foot. I live in Australia, so this is a very real possibility. (I did see a shark once. It was approximately three feet long and probably couldn’t have bitten my pinky toe off, let alone a leg. Doesn’t matter. I’ve never sprinted out of the water so fast in my life.)

As much as our imagination goes into overdrive when we’re flying, or swimming in the ocean, or looking for lost children or Googling vague medical symptoms, reasoning is what brings us back to reality. Landing planes is practically all done with technology, anyway. If there was a shark in the water, there would be a warning. The lost child has probably wandered over to the toy section. You probably have a mild cold, not cancer.

But today, we’ve had two nightmares come true. Granted, this is nothing compared to what’s happening in Egypt, or Turkey, or even Australia’s shambles of politics. But these are fears of a different type altogether. This is along the same lines of hearing a bump in the night, only to find out there actually is someone in your house.

Which leads me to believe there must be a very pissed deity somewhere. Or perhaps its collective bad karma. Or maybe it’s just a chronological hotspot of bad luck. That seems like the sort of thing that comes in threes, doesn’t it? The mystical and the magical and stand up jokes always come in threes. These incidences feel very much like they fit into the category of threes.

We’ve already had two. I wonder what’s coming next?

Photo Credits

Bondi Beach: Sydney Morning Herald

Plane Crash: News.com.au