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.

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

rolling-stone-magazine-Jahar-Tsarnaev-boston-bomber-cover

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

 

That time I interviewed Midnight Juggernauts.

Midnight Juggernauts

I’ve been a fan of Midnight Juggernauts since my final year of school back in 07, so when the chance came to interview them I jumped. Hard. Like, I was bouncing round my bedroom when I got the email confirming everything.

They were touring in South America, so the interview was all done over Skype. Now, I don’t know about what “the professionals” do, but I record  every single interview on my iPhone. There’s none of this fancy pants equipment (let’s save that for Radio class), just me, my laptop, and my phone pressed right against the speaker.

There’s also the case of where to conduct the interview. Where do the professionals do it? In their Pinterest-esque study? Their living room?

I didn’t have either option – living with my family and a distinct lack of beautiful study – so it was, of course, my bedroom. Oo-er.

I spent a good portion of the morning streaming their new album Uncanny Valley while making my bed, shoving miscellaneous clothes and shoes into a hidden corner, and ensuring I looked decent enough to be interviewing someone while not over-doing it and looking like I was on the pull. I could have spent a bit more time, you know, getting my questions together, but it was vitally important that the Midnight Juggernauts not think I was some disgusting slob who hadn’t even washed her hair.

In the end it didn’t even matter. He Skyped from his phone – no camera.

I transcribed the interview later, and the number one thought running through my head was: “Holy hell. I sound like a total prat.” But you know, I had envisioned myself TALKING to them. Face to face. I was in FACE TO FACE talking mode, not on-the-phone talking mode. They’re completely different things. Obviously.

And my Dad walked in half way though the interview. Like oh my god Dad that’s so uncool, don’t you know I’m talking to rockstars? And trying to be professional? But also I would really like a cup of tea, thanks.

The interview is now up on The Australian Times for all to read. I suggest you do. If nothing else, you may be intrigued to find out what these electro-rockers listen to when they’re not making music….

And have a listen to their new track, Memorium. It’s pretty trippy stuff. The whole album is influenced by the idea of robotics and humanity and technology. The name Uncanny Valley comes from legendary roboticist Masahiro Mori. It’s a hypothesis he wrote in 1970, which states: “I have noticed that, in climbing toward the goal of making robots appear human, our affinity for them increases until we come to a valley, which I call the uncanny valley.”

Heavy.

An update on my published work.

I’ve decided to create a separate blog for my published work, one that looks super professional and actually has my name in the heading.

Why?

I get writing jobs by directing prospective employers to my blog. This means that with every post, I’m constantly thinking “What would future employer person think of this?” This is not a good way to go about writing, because it prevents anything and everything from flowing naturally.

The stress of an unknown future employer judging me by everything on this blog was taking the fun out of blogging.

It’s also for YOU, dear readers. Often what I write about may not be what you signed up for by following this blog. I don’t you to have to make the judgement call of “Will this post be interesting to me or not?” with every update. If I think it would interest you, I’ll publish it. If I think it won’t, it’ll be going straight to its new home at alexbrucesmith.wordpress.com.

When I started blogging, I didn’t think anyone would ever read it. Now I’ve just surpassed 4,000 views. This might not mean much in the world of blogging and websites and hits, but to me it means everything.

So thank you 🙂

And now, I’m making blogging fun again!

xxxx

How to choose a good internship (and avoid the crappy ones).

Lena Dunham

To intern or not to intern, that is the question.

Some believe an internship is modern day equivalent of slave labour. Others reckon they’re your golden ticket to a better job, and a must-have on your resume.

In my opinion, internships are invaluable. The experience you gain will teach you so much more than a lecture ever could. If you have the time – and the funds – to intern, by all means for it.

However, not all internships are created equal. Continue reading

Why does every celebrity interview ever feel the need to include this?

Gwyneth cooking

Is there some cosmic law that says bad words aren’t allowed to be written about Gwyneth Paltrow? Like, if I was to mention her name and put it next to words that were anything less than absolutely gushingly in awe of the ‘refreshing normal’ super freak, will some all-powerful deity come down and smite me?

No? Are you sure? Then how can you explain THIS opening paragraph of a feature article about Gwyneth Paltrow, who is quite possibly the healthiest person on the planet and therefore the best looking 40-year-old you’ll ever see: Continue reading