Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ian Thorpe - time to start living and enjoying it

According to press reports this morning, Ian Thorpe is 'coming out' as gay in an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson, to be aired on Channel 10 this evening, Australian time.

While I'm happy for Thorpey that he's finally managed to come to terms with the idea of not trying to hide it anymore, I'm also angry at him for hiding it for so long. And I've had to work out why I'm angry. Hell, he's nothing to do with me. His sexuality is definitely none of my business and has no impact on my life whatsoever. Yet I feel really irritated that he has:

  1. denied it for so long, and 
  2. made a conscious decision to finally admit to the truth.

And that, ladies and gentleman, was when I realised why I was so cranky about all this. It's that truth thing again. Embrace the truth and it shall set you free. I mean, he's not a mass murderer, he's not an armed robber, he's not a drug dealer, and as far as I know, he hasn't done anything to warrant being charged with any offence that we could condemn him for. He's just gay.

Here's a very short list of gay people who are household names across the world:

  • Sir Elton John (note the knighthood - being gay really held him back, didn't it?)
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Sir Ian McKellen (another knight)
  • Stephen Fry (who I am sure will also get a knighthood one day)
  • Martina Navratilova
  • Jodie Foster
  • Ian Roberts (they don't come much tougher than Ian!)

I could keep listing for days - there are so many high profile LGBT people out there in sport, entertainment, business and the world in general. And plenty, plenty more who aren't in the public eye.

So Thorpey should have been on the list years ago.Why did he think he was so special that anyone would give a damn? Seriously Ian? Get over yourself.

But then ...

Speculation on sporting shows this morning suggest that his reticence to be honest about his sexuality may have been due to sponsorship and other commercial deals, that the markets where Thorpey was promoting products wouldn't have been happy to find out that they had a gay man as the face of their products. If that's the case, then where were Ian's closest advisors? Where were the ones he could trust? And who made the most money out of him keeping his mouth shut? I bet it wasn't Ian.

But if it was his choice to keep quiet so that he could make the most of his commercial opportunities, then it's no wonder he suffered from depression. When you can't live your life openly and honestly, you will become depressed, and you will risk turning to alcohol and other suppressants to help you cope. Don't blame the swimming - blame the lying. Putting your bank account before your mental health will nearly always lead to mixed feelings, particularly if, underneath it all, you're basically a 'good' person; and I've always had the feeling that Thorpey is a 'good' person. You never hear of him behaving or speaking the way some of our less mature ambassadors do. But he has certainly been ill-advised in this area.

Ladies and gentlemen, the best gift you can give your children is the ability to embrace the truth at all times. To 'own' the very essence of their beings, their decisions, their mistakes. Yes, there will be the odd occasion in life when we need to be discreet to prevent others from being hurt, but on the whole, living as honestly as we can is the key to good mental health. Keeping quiet about the very essence of ourselves is ridiculous - it's extremely damaging, and the foundation for a fractured and fragile existence.

As most commentators seem to be saying today, it's about time Ian Thorpe came out, and let's hope that his life is happier from now on - he's the sort of bloke that we all want to see happy.

But boy, what a waste of possibly 15 happy years. What could he have achieved had he let himself be free to be who he really is?

Here's hoping this intelligent, attractive, creative, warm-natured, talented and hard-working young man can make up for lost time. Go Thorpey, go!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Paying it forward

I first heard the expression 'pay it forward' about 20 years ago. Had no idea what it meant at the time, but with a bit of thought I managed to get the general idea. It basically means to perpetuate the good karma, but in one direction, not back the way it came. In other words, you did something nice for me, so I'll do something nice for that bloke over there, he'll do something nice for someone else, and eventually it will come full circle and someone will do something nice for you. And it won't be directly related to what you did for me, but it will be the eventual result of you doing a good deed in the first place.

It's a great concept, really. I've always struggled with that whole 'You did me a favour now I need to do you one or pay you for it somehow' kind of thing. I mean, if someone does you a favour, it's a favour, there shouldn't be any payment or reward. But if you like someone, and appreciate what they did for you, it's quite often very hard to work out a way to show that appreciation appropriately. The value to you may be enormous, whereas it was nothing to them. Conversely, they may have really put themselves out to help, albeit willingly, but the difference to you had they not, might not have been as great.

And then there's always that Mafia concept - some people like to do favours so that they end up 'owning' you. I tend to keep away from that type - for obvious reasons!

But today I want to pay it forward directly. Or pay it back. You see, I had help recently from a fellow business operator and I really feel the need to mention it.

When you're in business for yourself in a small community like ours, it can go one of two ways - you can get on with your fellow businesses, or not. And when those fellow businesses are in the same sort of field you're in, it can get tricky.

I'm lucky. Those that I want to get on with I don't seem to have any problems with, and so it came to pass some weeks ago I needed help accessing data in an old computer program on some old Mac-formatted zip drives.

I had bumped into a small business person reading the paper in his car in the local shopping centre carpark who seemed perfect for the job - his car signage told me so. I introduced myself, told him my problem, and he seemed to think there was a good chance he could help. I didn't quite have my hands on the discs at that stage, so not quite sure what I was facing, but I took his card, and when I knew for sure I needed his help, I called. Straight to voicemail. I left a message. No response. I emailed. I waited. No response.

So then I recalled someone I'd known for some years - Vent Thomas of iVent Services. I gave Vent a call and told him my problem. He told me to drop by when I was next in the area and he would do what he could. And this lovely, giving man did - he managed to access each of the discs and drop the stuff into a readable format onto my USB stick, and now we're able to republish our client's books for him - books which were almost locked away forever on outdated technology.

If someone does me a wrong, I don't go after them - I let karma take care of it. I know that sometimes I will never find out how karma handled it for me, but I trust that it will be done. And conversely, if I can't find an appropriate way to repay a favour, without it looking like I'm trying to 'balance the books', I again trust that karma will take of it.

But this time, I need to pay it forward publicly. While I trust karma to take care of Vent in a good way, I just want to add a little more push, just for insurance, because he's a good bloke and he deserves it.

Thanks Vent!

Friday, June 27, 2014

What's your reason for self publishing?

As a publishing facilitator, I am always fascinated by the different reasons people have for self publishing. I used to think that everyone wanting to publish a book wanted to be a best selling author, but it's nice to see that many of our authors have more realistic expectations, and are self publishing for a much wider range of reasons than to make a motza or to be as famous as JK Rowling.

Sometimes our clients want to publish some family history, partly in honour of their own families, but also to make use of the years of research they have undertaken. And they realise that if their publication can help someone else somewhere else in the world, then it's worth putting it out there. And as most family histories include an element of social history, it's quite often the case that a few sales will take place. (See The Campbelltown Convicts, A Glass Half Full and Old World ... New World.)

 


Then there are those clients who have spent years thinking about something and they really, truly, don't expect to sell, but they just want to get their thoughts down and made available to the public, and if someone, somewhere, is interested in what they have to say and happens to buy a copy ... well, that's just icing on the cake. For them, simply publishing their book is enough. (See What is Your Answer for the Purpose of Your Existence?)

We also have clients who just have to write - they can't help themselves. Selling is great, but it's not the main aim - they have a brain full of scenarios and characters and emotions and events that need to be developed and written about. (See Art and the Drug Addict's Dog and Escarpment: Fibonacci poetry.)
 

And we have clients who have a way of helping other people. Writing a book is not easy, so writing a book which will help people takes real effort and commitment. Again, while these authors are happy to sell, it's just as important to them that they have helped someone. (See Yes! You CAN write your own copy! and You can get through this! How to stay positive when you're coping with breast cancer.)

 

Occasionally we have a client who just needs to create. Not only do they have the text for their book, but they also visualise it - the images, layout etc. So for them, it's not just about the writing, their creativity spreads to the design and layout as well. (See not poems, just words and The High School Survival Guide.)
 

We have an autobiography or three. It takes a lot of gumph to publish a book, so you can quadruple that when you consider publishing your autobiography - it really is like standing naked in front of the whole world! But for some, it's important to record their story in their words, just for the record.(See Loki's Joke, The White Aborigine and Laughter, Tears, Peace.)

  

Then we have the entertainers - the writers who love a good yarn and wish to entertain. They aren't trying to win a Pulitzer, they would rather you take their book on holidays and enjoy a damned fun read. (See Essence of Time, Curve My Song, The Deception Engine and The Empress Holds the Key.)

  
 

This list is just a small sample of the books we have published and I've had to leave a whole load of great titles out - which you can see here on our IndieMosh site - but I've highlighted the books above as they each illustrate a desire other than the basic 'make money, be famous' desire that we think all modern authors have.

Of course, I'm sure none of our authors would argue with finding themselves on the New York Times best sellers list! But when it's not your main motivation for publishing, it makes every sale, every small success, every increase in circulation and reach, just that bit sweeter.

So, what's your reason for self publishing?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Conair Relaxation Massage Mat - review

I’ve not thought to do a product review before, but for my birthday a few weeks ago, my daughter gave me a Conair Relaxation Massage Mat (or 'matt' as it says on the Big W website) as one of those ‘I don’t know what to buy Mum but this looks like a fun gimmick even if it’s no good’ type presents and it was such a surprisingly good buy for what it is, I figured I should probably share my thoughts.


I do love a good massage, and when I can find the time and make the effort (yes, I know, it’s a real contradiction that I have to make an effort to get a massage!), I usually go to the incredibly strong and intuitive Lyn Midgley.

But I am atrociously lazy about making appointments, so my daughter figured a massage mat might help me get by between ‘real’ massages. And, surprise, surprise, it is helping more than either of us thought possible!

Now, don’t get me wrong. This mat will not replace a pair of real, live (you’d have to hope), trained hands searching for and kneading away your knitted muscle knots. Nothing beats that. And if you have any chronic health problems, it’s not going to cure them. But as a soothing way to relax for half an hour after dinner, I’m finding it a lot more beneficial than I expected.

The mat comes with a control panel that allows you to choose between three different ‘massage’ strengths, four different programs, four different body zones, and a heat option. I’ve used the heat option once, but the mat is so comfortably warm without it, that I’ve not bothered since.

At first, we tried the mat out on the floor, but it makes quite a percussive sound as it rotates through its program, so while we were entertained by the rhythms for the first few minutes … the novelty soon wore off. We have wooden floorboards and the noise, even on top of a rug, was quite noticeable.

However, the box says that you can use the mat on your recliner, so I moved it to my chair (which, luckily for me, just happens to be a recliner), and the noise was somewhat less noticeable – probably due to some sort of audio-physics-type science thingy happening where the sound gets absorbed in the area under the seat. Well, that’s my theory.

So in my chair of an evening, I turn the mat on while I watch the news, and it rotates through its program for half an hour before switching itself off automatically. (I’m sure it only goes for about 28 minutes, though!) As I like a strong massage, I have it on the strongest setting (there are three power levels) and while it’s nothing like having a real massage, it is soothing and the really weird thing is that since I started using it just a couple of weeks ago, my sciatica is suddenly much less noticeable. And this is sciatica that I’ve lived with for more than 20 years, so any improvement is welcome.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that I can sit without putting the massage cycle or the heat setting on, and about an hour later I’m quite toasty warm. If I were sitting in the chair without the mat underneath me, I would have a great deal of trouble achieving the same level of comfort as I am totally unable to generate my own heat. So as a nice winter warmer that doesn’t even need power, this is an added bonus!

Like I said, the Conair Relaxation Massage Mat (available in any colour you like, so long as it's pink!) is not going to compensate for having a proper massage, and it’s not going to cure all your ills, but as a gentle way to warm and soothe you, especially on a winter’s evening after a hard day’s work, it’s certainly worth the few dollars they charge for it at Big W.

(This is an unsolicited review, and I have not been paid for it. I received the mat as a gift and am surprisingly happy with it.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tackling the Post-Publication Blues

As a publisher, or rather, a publishing facilitator, there is no thrill greater than handing a first-time author the first proof of their first book. (Yes, I know, there's probably at least one redundant 'first' in there, but I was having too much fun to consider leaving one out!) It's a wonderful moment - a bit like delivering a baby. If all goes well, then it's only a matter of days before that book is then unleashed on the world, along with ebooks, the author's Amazon and Smashwords profiles, and a proliferation of posts from both of us on social media.

Friends and family congratulate, good friends and close family buy, and then ... very little.

Giving birth to your first book is a recipe for post-publication depression. You have spent ages shaping it, crafting it, considering covers and fonts and page colours, all the while answering your friends and family, 'How's the book going?' 'When's the book coming out?' 'How're you going with your bestseller?'

Finally the big day arrives, the announcements are made, there may be a small party (or not, if you read my post on book launches here!), and then when all the hoopla is over, you go home and life returns to normal. Except you're not the immediate bestselling author you hoped to be.

And it is just like having a baby, and not dissimilar to post-natal depression (PND). You're back to your routine life, all the excitement which has been building for months and months is suddenly over, and you're left holding responsibility for something which, no matter how much you tried to anticipate, isn't quite as easy to nurture as you'd expected.

So what do you do? Don't throw yourself off a cliff - your job has only just started!

First, please don't ever expect to be a bestselling author in the first week, month or even year of your first book. Maybe one in 1,000 achieves a modicum of success in the first year with their first book, which means you are probably going to be one of the 999 who don't.

Second, don't give up. It doesn't mean your book is bad (although it very well may be a stinker, but who's going to know until people start reading it), it just means that people don't yet know about it. If you believe in your book, then make sure to keep working to market it - and marketing isn't the same as trying to get sales. Marketing simply means raising awareness. You can do this with targeted Facebook ads, having links to where it can be purchased on your website (I know one author who took something like six months to fix his website up to mention his book!), making sure you enter writing competitions where you can include a reference to your book and your website (shameless self promotion here, see narratorCENTRAL), and do whatever you can to promote the book without forking out large sums of money.

Third, keep writing. One lesson we stress to all our authors is that people don't buy books, they buy authors. There is a reason we have one entire shelf dedicated to John Grisham in our house - my husband buys everything he releases. Yes, from time to time we will buy a book 'on spec', but generally only non fiction. When it comes to fiction, we both have favourite authors and they're the ones we turn to first for our entertainment. I mean, when was the last time you forked out full freight for a movie when you didn't know one single actor in it? Or even the director? My point exactly.

If you want to be a writer, be a writer and write. Write on social media. Write on blogs. Write on websites. Write for others. But write, write and write. And as time passes and you release your next book and your next, your writing will improve, and as people discover each book, they each become a free advertisement for all your other books. Dan Brown is evidence of this - his first three books languished until the release of Da Vinci Code. And he was published traditionally - not self published.

Serve your apprenticeship and the rest will follow. After all, no plumber's apprentice got his ticket after digging just one drain. It takes several years of experience, supervision, and sheer bloody hard work to become a plumber, so why would you expect overnight success as an author?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The book launch is dead. Long live discoverability

In 'the old days' (think last decade), publishers would organise a book launch to help announce the release of a new book. They would put their marketing campaign into action at the same time, stock the bookshops around the country, and then wait for sales to take off. If sales took off, then more orders would come in, and everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, not every book launched follows that formula!

As a 'publishing facilitator', I meet many first-time writers who are self publishing and who want to have a book launch after publishing their book. My first question is, 'Why?' All I can think about is the horror of the planning, the invites, the catering, the entertainment ... the list goes on. And for what purpose? You are unlikely to sell enough books to cover the cost of the launch, so why would you bother?

I once read a column by Mark Dapin about how he managed to sell 42 copies of his new book at his book launch, but six of them were to the same man who happened to spill a glass of red wine on them. So in essence, he sold 36 books at his launch - and Dapin is someone with a profile! With all due respect (or none at all): how many books do you think you're likely to sell at your book launch?

These days, a big push into marketing your book on release isn't so important. What is important, however, is releasing a book which will:

  1. deliver the reader what they're expecting or looking for, in a quality manner
  2. encourage the reader to spread the word
  3. be easily found and purchased online.

The pressure to make an 'instant success' of your book is no longer there. 'Sleeper successes' are now totally allowable - particularly for ebooks and print on demand (PoD books). The keyword now is 'discoverability' - making sure that your book can be discovered by the people most likely to be interested in reading it.

So what if you really, really want a book launch? Again, my question would be, 'Why?' Be honest with yourself: what are you hoping to achieve? Unless you already have a high public profile and the money to throw at a book launch, you're unlikely to sell many books, so what's the point? If you wish to simply celebrate the fact that you've finished and published your first book, then sure, go for it. But expect it to be an expensive party!

Personally, I think you'd be better off plunging the party money into online ads to draw attention to your book. Spread that money out over six to twelve months and see how it works in getting you sales. Because at the end of the day, if no one wants to buy your book, then what are you celebrating with your launch?

This blog post was inspired by a guest post from Mark Coker (of Smashwords) here:
http://writenonfictioninnovember.com/2011/11/29/rethinking-book-marketing-why-discovery-matters-more/

For some ideas about marketing your book as inexpensively as possible, have a look at our 'marketing a self-published book' page on our IndieMosh site: http://www.indiemosh.com.au/market-my-self-published-book

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is the difference between a traditional publisher and a self publishing facilitator?

With the boom in the availability of ebooks and print on demand production, it’s important to understand just what it is you’re being offered if you sign up for a self publishing package. While it’s important to know what you’re paying for, it’s also important to understand what’s not included in your self publishing package. And the best way to help you work out what to look for is to highlight the differences between traditional publishing and self publishing:

  • Traditional publishers or publishing houses take all the (financial) risk while the self publisher has to put his money where his mouth is and pay for the development of his own book. 
  • Traditional publishers take care of the book’s development and creation (in consultation with the author), while the self publisher has to consider undertaking (or outsourcing) the many tasks involved himself. These tasks will include editing, proofreading, book layout and formatting, cover design, assigning an ISBN, legal deposit registration or Library of Congress registration, and more.
  • Traditional publishers have a supply chain or distribution network which helps them get your print book into bookshops while the self publisher will usually find this a very expensive, time-consuming and, ultimately, unworthwhile process.
  • Traditional publishers will pay the author approximately 10% (starting point, often for the first 2,000 copies) of the RRP (recommended retail price) for each print book sold, and varying percentages for each ebook sold, but often limited to 25%. The self publisher will receive a much higher proportion of sales revenue from each book sold, (sometimes as much as 89% of the RRP for ebooks), depending on where and how it is sold.
  • If a traditional publisher is really keen to have a particular book on their list, they may pay the author an advance. The self publisher receives no income until a certain level of sales are made.
  • Traditional publishers will have connections and a marketing plan for your book, although it will still be up to the author to actually ‘sell’ his book. The self publisher needs to work out their own marketing plan and execute it.

Self publishing delivers a great freedom for many writers. They can write what they want, the way they want, and bring it to market more quickly than a traditional publisher might. However, having a traditional publisher who understands the market place, how to develop your book so it has the best chance of selling, and where and how to place your book, can often mean the difference between three sales and three thousand – or more!

But getting a publisher to take your book on is often just not possible, and these days it’s getting harder. Don’t be mad at the publishers, though. They’re in business, and to stay in business, they need to make a profit. If they feel your book isn’t likely to make them a profit, then they will decline it, no matter how interesting, original or well written it may be.

So if you find that you’re forced to walk the self publishing path, walk it with pride, and with knowledge. Find out everything you can about self publishing – with the internet and the huge volume of information available these days, you have no excuses for not being well informed! And then sally forth and stand behind your book.

If your book is successful and starts bringing you a little income, develop another and then another, and enjoy your new income stream.

For more information, visit our IndieMosh site for Australian self publishers: http://www.indiemosh.com.au/

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A clean sweep

I don't believe in New Year resolutions. So much so that when I'm asked what mine are, my response is generally, 'I resolve not to make any New Year resolutions'!

But you know what? There's something about a new year, about the hanging of that fresh, new calendar, that seems to surreptitiously encourage us to make changes to our life. And this year, my change has been a big one. I'm throwing out all my art stuff, bar my watercolours, my acrylics and my quality painting paper. That's right - no more tissue paper collage, no more card making, no more valiant yet valueless attempts at screen printing or paper making, no more saving chocolate wrappers for that never-to-be-finished mosaic of the Amazon river, no more aluminium embossing, no more ... name another shiny new toy in the art and craft field! In fact, over the 10 years since I took up painting, the only area I haven't had a go at has been oil painting.

So much to play with, and so little horizontal space to play on!

Over the last 24 hours I have been pulling my art cupboards and collection to bits, sorting, stacking, and getting ready for the mother of all crafty and artistic garage sales. And weirdly, I haven't regretted the decision for a moment. Sure, I wavered a little over the packet of virginal Origami papers, and the aluminium embossing sheet had me a little indecisive, too, but on the whole, it was a lot easier than I thought.

So you're probably asking, 'Why?' The truth is, I'm not 100% sure, but I think it started with downsizing at our office - I had to bring an awful lot of stuff home to make way for some more people to fit in - and it filled our garage while we considered what we would do with it all. But the freedom at the office - now that we've also downsized our offerings to building websites and self publishing Australian writers - gave me more energy there.

And then I happened to find an old neighbour on Facebook, one who had moved away probably 10 or more years ago. And what did I find? Steve and his wife are downsizing their lives to go travelling. Luckily for me, he's blogging about it, and the first post which inspired me was 'Operation Ditch Everything' here: http://noknownaddress.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/operation-ditch-everything/ followed by 'It's all got to fit in there' where he talks about how he is 'finding the jettisoning of all this stuff quite liberating'. And he's right - once your mind comes around to the idea of freeing yourself of all that 'stuff', the weight just lifts!

My husband has taken this opportunity to repaint the lounge room, which has given us the chance to rearrange furniture as well. And with the new space I have created by emptying one cupboard, one table and the underneath of a table (nothing like a table that serves as storage!), we now have a 'new' buffet for our dining room. We have taken our board games out of the hard-to-reach cupboard at the back of the lounge room and brought them through to the dining room where they are more likely to be played with family and friends. We now have a new workspace in the lounge - if someone doesn't want to watch the TV, they now have a table to use for a computer or a jigsaw or to paint on, without having to be isolated in the dining room. Already we can see benefits to the way we use the spaces in our house.

It's going to hurt a bit, but we will all benefit. No longer will the family have to remember to save every piece of hard foil from inside a coffee jar or the twist ties from freezer bags (no, I didn't yet have a plan for those, but I couldn't throw them out), or every piece of plastic sheeting around flowers from the florist, or every piece of tissue paper or small box or ... yes, it was becoming a disease. I was probably just one collection short of being officially classified as a hoarder!

But no more. It's a new year. I have a new plan, a new lounge room to relax in, more time to relax in it, and less stress from the piles of accumulated 'things' just sitting there, waiting for me to play with them.

So thank you Steve, and Happy New Year everybody. What are you doing in 2014 that you didn't resolve to do?!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ten things this atheist believes about Christmas

As the years have passed, I have found myself getting more and more resentful at Christmas time, and it’s not all about my atheism. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. Rather than ramble in incoherent paragraphs, I find it useful to dot-point my thoughts to help clarify my thinking, so here goes:

1. I believe that the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas is to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Admittedly, the Christians probably adopted and adapted a Pagan festival or two way, way back, but today, and for many hundreds of years, Christmas (the modern form of ‘Christ’s Mass’) is about celebrating Jesus’ birth.

2. I believe that the ‘modern meaning’ of Christmas is about retailer expectations. This year, the first report on ABC news about retailer expectations was in November – roughly six weeks out from Christmas. I’ve been hearing it said since I was a little girl that we are losing the true meaning of Christmas, but I now believe we are there. The latest retailer expectation update was on the news again last night – four days out from Christmas Day. Yet not a word was mentioned about Jesus’ birth.

3. I believe that the public holiday which the western world, and, in fact, many other parts of the world, celebrates these days is an excuse, and for some, an obligation, to spend ridiculous sums of money on stuff we don’t need, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, eat excessive amounts of food, and coerce people we normally wouldn’t spend time with into feeling guilty if they don’t wish to spend time with us at Christmas.

4. I believe that the public holiday we observe as Boxing Day is now 180 degrees opposite to what it is meant to be. In the past it has been, at different periods of time: a day when those with status, economic security, food etc, honoured those without; in the Middle Ages, masters would give boxes of food or gifts to their servants; and in later years, ordinary people would box up their Christmas Day leftovers for the poor and less fortunate. Today it is about breaking retail records in the post-Christmas day sales.

5. I believe that the recorded rate of Christianity has declined over the last 100 years, even in ‘traditionally Christian’ western countries, and will most likely continue to decline as western populations uphold religious freedom in the ‘separation of church from state’.

6. I believe it’s time we returned Christmas to the Christians. I know my unionist father will be starting to roll in his grave right now, after all the unions fought for us, but seriously, why do I get a paid day off (public holiday) because someone I never knew in a country far, far away was born 2,000 years ago? I mean, it’s all very nice, and I’m sure Jesus was a lovely bloke, but why do I, an atheist, deserve a public holiday? I don’t get a public holiday for Eid al-Fitr or Rosh Hashana or even Woolgoolga Curryfest, so why should I get one for Christmas? And, conversely, should I choose or be required to work, why should I be compensated with double time payment of my salary?

7. I believe that we should eliminate the Christmas and Boxing Day public holidays from our national calendars. In compensation, we should have:
   a. one extra day off for celebrating the start of a New Year. This would be classified as a national public holiday and standard penalty rates should apply for those required to work
   b. a system whereby all employees should be allowed to nominate for one paid religious holiday per year. And if you have no religion, or don’t align yourself sufficiently with any one religion, then you may have one paid day off anywhere in the year that suits you (and which is agreeable with your employer), to compensate. If we truly believe in freedom of religion in our democracies, then we either offer no public holidays for religious festivals, or allow everybody one day for the festival of their choice.

8. I believe that we need to stop basing our western economies on the end of year splurge which accompanies the Christmas gift-buying orgy, and start focusing on a more even, sustainable spread of sensible spending throughout the year based on need, not on excess. This for both spiritual reasons as well as stabilising our economies.

9. I believe that the expression ‘Christmas is for the kids’ is ringing true more frequently these days, and yet what are we teaching them? We’re not teaching them about Jesus and love for our fellow man. We are teaching them about one gluttonous day of the year where they get paid to take two days off, expect lots from other people, and for what reason? We are feeding a sense of entitlement into our younger generations through this non-authentic celebration of Christmas.

10. I believe that this blog post will upset lots of different people for lots of different reasons, but the simple messages are:
   a. We should be returning Christmas to the Christians.
   b. We should be practising true equality and freedom of religion and non-religion in our western democracies.
   c. We should be less gluttonous and more circumspect about our Christmas spending, and a little less selfish and a little more honest about when and where we have our paid public holidays during the year.

Wishing you all a healthy, peaceful, happy and financially stable 2014.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

When old and discarded becomes the new sexy ...

You know that feeling you get when you’re aware something good’s coming, and then you find out that it’s getting so close that soon you’ll be able to touch it? Got it now. Over a book. Yep, that’s right, a book. And not just any book … a book about reusing, recycling and upcycling ....

RETRASH the book: dirty, sexy, recycling
Now, I know I’ve just lost half my readership, but seriously, this book is going to be soooooo sexy - I can’t wait to handle it. As a woman who has saved more than 87 Milo tins, dozens of (now sadly empty) Johnnie Walker bottles, the best cores from EFTPOS tapes and other rolled products I can find, door keys, car keys and any other type of keyed opener, hundreds of unwanted CDs and DVDs, the silver foil inside lids from coffee tins and, naturally, Milo tins, and countless other ‘groupable’ items just so that I can, one day, make very clever or usable works of art from them, the release of the book RETRASH is going to send me into paroxisms of … well, I’ll leave that to your dirty little imaginations!

Let’s just say that if I wasn’t working as a publisher and editor, I’d want to be earning my keep as one of the artists in the RETRASH community – they are so inspirational. Their desire to save crap from filling holes in the ground and making it worth using again in a different, and sometimes much more beautiful, form, inspires me no end.

My friend Nathan :D
So how do I know all this when the book hasn’t even been released yet? Well, my dirty little secret is that I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked for a bit of a helping hand with the editing process along the way. Probably because I'm also lucky enough to know Nathan Devine, the man behind the whole RETRASH community. And as a part of the editing process, I got to check out many of the contributing artists’ websites and see their works, and read about what they do and what inspires them, and, well, let’s just say it was hard to focus on the job at hand!

For instance, look at what Wim Delvoye does with old tyres:


Isn't that beautiful? He also has the most awesome website at http://www.wimdelvoye.be/ - I could have played there for ages!

Next time you're travelling through Germany, consider spending a night at Das Parkhotel, where the rooms are made from repurposed concrete pipes:


I don't know if Das Parkhotel decorate their walls with art, but if they did, then they could do worse than using Mark Langan's works. Mark has inspired me to do things with some of the many pieces of cardboard I've squirreled away over the years. I knew there was a reason I kept it all!


The beauty of the RETRASH community is that the contributors come from all over the world, and they range from the highly artistic, to the highly industrial, to the downright sensible. Not everything needs great swathes of talent or expensive machinery to make. Check out this great way of reusing the clips from a dead three-ring binder by Upcycle Us:


Yep, I'm all motivated and excited again, simply from writing this blog post!

If you're interested in the book, the community, and the ideas, you can pre-order your copy of the book now via the RETRASH Kickstarter campaign. It will be full-colour and printed (naturally) on 100% recycled papers.

If you're not so keen on the book, but wish to support the philosophy, then a $5 donation to the Kickstarter campaign will be certainly be appreciated.

If you're feeling particularly motivated, then grab 10 copies to give away to inspire others, or buy a slightly less expensive marketing package - great for businesses who are looking for ways to exercise their environmentally friendly reach.

Or if you're feeling really generous - or guilty (and yes, I'm talking to those corporates out there who DON'T have any environmentally friendly products!) - pick up the tab to send a couple of your best clients to the RETRASH book launch.

Or just watch Nathan talk for a minute or two. Or just listen to the backing track:


As you have probably noticed, I don't generally plug products on this site, but sometimes you come across something you believe in, and I believe in this - passionately.

So grab your dirty, sexy money and take a step towards making a difference in this increasingly unsexy, dirty world.

Now, please excuse me, I have a cupboard full of broken watches, clocks and calculators I wish to go play with ...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reconciliation: Not until black is the new white

I have a young Aboriginal friend who recently experienced difficulty hailing a taxi. Admittedly it was night time, but he managed to ask the fourth driver refusing to take him what the problem was. The answer? 'You're black.'

While I was astounded that in this day and age one could still experience so much difficulty getting a taxi simply due to their skin colour, what astounded me even more was that my friend was able to get a cabbie to actually admit to it!

The cabbie didn’t say ‘You’re pissed’ or ‘You look like you’re going to rip me off’, he said ‘You’re black’. End of story.

Which left me thinking: How the hell can we ever get 'reconciled' when those attitudes continue to exist? It left me examining my own attitudes and experiences about things and to see what options we might have. And I can come up with only one: We need to redefine what it means to be 'Australian'.

Following on from my young friend's taxi-hailing experiences, I asked a couple of other young people I know, one aged 18, the other 22, what they were taught about our Indigenous people and their culture as part of their secondary schooling. Their answers appalled me. It would appear that Indigenous history starts pretty much with the arrival of The First Fleet and its effect on our Aboriginal people, and that it is not mandatory to teach our young people Indigenous cultural activities such as Dreamtime storytelling, dot painting, food gathering etc.

What is an Australian?

How on earth can we expect our dwindling Indigenous population to keep their culture alive when we don't even teach it in schools? And if I am an Australian and I don't know these things, then what does that make my Aboriginal friends? Are they Australian too? Or are they something else? Or are they just more Australian than me? Or am I more Australian than them? I mean, I was born here, too, even if my parents weren't.

If I go on a coach tour of Europe, I will be taken to restaurants where I will see Spanish flamenco dancing, or Swiss horn blowing, or Germans dancing in lederhosen. These are culturally historic activities for the countries I am visiting. If I take a coach tour of Australia, what do I see? I may be taken to a corroboree, or a bush tucker feast, but if I'm being told that these activities are Australian culture, then what about the other things I get shown, such as surfing, barbecuing, backyard cricket, Aussie Rules Football matches and RSL clubs? Aren't they Australian culture, too?

The thing is, we can say that both sets of activities are Australian culture. What differentiates them, though, is that some of the activities are particular to our Indigenous folk, whereas the others are particular to our post-European settlement population. So where is the reconciliation?

The 'mind-virus of radical non-discrimination'

Coincidentally, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 October 2013 (yesterday), Paul Sheehan quotes from an email he received from a man called Malcolm Pollack, who was discussing the sense of unease about the pressures on the American middle class. One of the things Mr Pollack discusses as part of his explanation of the 'mind-virus of radical non-discrimination' is:

Socialism, at least in the milder Scandinavian forms, can work well enough but only if there is the social cohesion that naturally arises in a people who are joined together by history, folklore, language, music, literature, ritual and the natural kinship that arises from a broad commonality of ancestry. There are, indeed, sound evolutionary reasons for this. Absent that, though, there will be trouble.

Which is my point exactly. We do not have a natural kinship with our Indigenous brethren which arises from a broad commonality of ancestry. We are not joined, but separated, by our history, folklore, language, music, literature and ritual. Except, of course, where our Indigenous brethren have embraced our (white European) history, folklore, language, music, literature and ritual!

Educating the black out

From where I sit, as a white Australian, it seems to me that it's our Indigenous folk that are having to do all the reconciling. They have to go to our schools, and learn the things we teach them. If they're really good, then when they do their HSC, our universities will throw ATAR bonus points and all sorts of scholarships at them, which is an insult as it suggests that they must be too stupid to get into university under their own steam. And then there's the other side of this Machiavellian bonus points system: it helps the universities meet their government quotas for Indigenous enrolment!

So we patronise them with our white people's policies and give them white people's brownie points to encourage them to go to white people's universities where they can learn all sorts of things to help them make it in the white man's world.

Yep, that's what reconciliation seems to be to me - we can't breed the black out anymore, that's not nice, so we'll just educate the black out instead.

Winding the clock back

We need to wind the clock back 250 years and start thinking differently. We can't be unbuilding our buildings and roads etc, but we can start rebuilding our culture, with an education that allows all children in Australian schools to learn a definition of 'Australian' that helps us reconcile with our Indigenous people, rather than the other way around.

In Year 6, when I was 12, we had a wonderful teacher, Miss Annette Stilsby, who taught us all sorts of things about Aboriginal culture. She brought in coolamons, rhythm sticks, woomeras, told us Dreamtime stories, and talked about how to hunt for bush tucker. As a youngster, this, to me, was what it meant to be Australian. While I considered myself Australian, because I was born here, I knew that my parents hadn't done these things growing up, (they were English). However, I never for a moment considered that these weren't 'normal Australian' activities - they were, to me, just 'true Australian' activities. We had a Namitjira print on our lounge room wall, and I was a first-generation Australian descended from migrants - simple. The Aboriginal kids up the street were simply that - the Aboriginal kids up the street. We all went to the same school and there were no issues. I was Australian, they were simply more Australian.

I realise now how my unique experiences as a 12 year old have made it hard for me to understand where the problems are - because I just didn't see them. They really didn't exist for me and my friends because of the way we were taught.

So that's my theory - mandatory teaching of Aboriginal culture in all primary schools as a starting point. A redefining that 'Australian' culture starts with Aboriginal culture at its base, and the other stuff, the stuff that the white man brought, simply sits on top of it.

To be Australian

In my version of the world, to be Australian, you need to know how to find a witchetty grub. You may not be able to do it well, or to depend on it for survival, but you do need to be taught it. You need to know how to carve rhythm sticks and woomeras and how to spot the right trees to carve them from. You need to know how to draw and do dot paintings explaining what's happening in your community. You need to understand the painting and the dancing and the story telling of the corroboree. And to be truly Australian, you will have, as one of your ancestors, not a convict from the First Fleet, but someone who walked this land before the First Fleet was even considered.

Now, before you start the argument that dot painting, corroborees, etc belong to - and should belong only to - the Aborigines, consider this: If you watch international football - rugby league or union - every New Zealand team performs a haka - even the white players. The Maoris have shared their culture with their European invaders. They still own their culture - I can't imagine many groups of all-white guys doing a haka around the barbie on a Sunday afternoon - but this Maori dance has become a symbol of New Zealand, the country, as opposed to a symbol of New Zealand's Indigenous people.

If we truly want reconciliation, then we need to take a step back and start incorporating Indigenous culture into all Australian lives, and right from the very start, rather than expecting our Indigenous people to retain their own culture, but live alongside us in our white world.

And if a white person makes his name as a dot painter, so what? So long as the buying public understand that he is a European dot painter, not a traditional one, then where's the harm? If it helps promote Australian Aboriginal culture and makes it more widely known, acceptable and understandable, then where's the problem? If the alternative is that fewer and fewer people know how to do it and it eventually dies out ... well, take your pick. And besides, if Albert Namatjira was 'allowed' to paint conventional European-style water colours, wouldn't it be a way of reversing the 'whitening' of our Aboriginal people, by 'blackening' our non-Indigenous?

Start with the young minds

In short, my recommendation would be mandatory Indigenous education in primary schools across the country in all ways of life relevant to the Aboriginal people in general, and more specifically the Aboriginal people of the school's local area (e.g. in our area, the Darug and Gundungurra peoples). Teach all our school children that 'this is what it means to be truly Australian'.

And who knows? One day we might have a fast food restaurant chain rivalling McDonald's by serving emu egg omelettes and roo burgers! Wouldn't that be a brilliant reconciliation of the traditional with the modern?

It won't happen. Feel free to tell me I'm dreamin'. Because even if it did happen, it would take two generations to really kick in. And many, many people with a helluva lot more vision than me to get the ball rolling.

But what if? What if black did become the new white? If it did, then maybe the whole idea of saying 'sorry' and calling for reconciliation was really meaningful after all.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Twelve Ultimate Dinner Party Guests

For years, the man of the house and I have played that game where you talk about who you would invite to dinner, if you had the chance. Today we actually got to the point of writing our choices down in separate lists, discussing who we'd invite and, more importantly, why.

It was an interesting discussion, and today's lists were a bit different to what they were when we were younger. For instance, we had a combined effort once, and at that table, among others, we had Morecambe and Wise, Billy Connolly and, I think, Michael Palin. We were clearly after an evening's unpaid jollity!

Today we are much older and a little wiser (I hope!) and so here are our separate lists, and why:

Jenny Mosher's Ultimate Dinner Party Guest List, September 2013

I decided I only wanted currently living people at my dinner party. I also decided I would prefer to be entertained by stimulating conversation rather than side-splitting laughter, and that I didn't want anyone monopolising the conversation, so I've really thought hard about the sort of people I think would fit the bill. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. David Bowie

I first heard Bowie in a radio interview when I was 17, and was blown away by how nicely spoken, intelligent and articulate he was. He pretty much made it onto the list that day - even though the list didn't even exist at that point! 

My Aunt Olive used to chat over the garden fence with Bowie's mother, back in the 1970s, so I've always felt connected to him. (I bet it didn't work in reverse, though :D) However, he rode the fame wave at a very exciting time in modern music, and contributed greatly to modern society via his music, so it would be interesting to hear more about what that sort of life was like and how it compares with what he's doing now.

2. George Clooney

Yes, okay, he's a bit of alright, but more importantly, like Bowie, Clooney's intelligent and articulate, plus he cares. He has a deep seated interest in the world around us and in the rights and wrong in society and I think some of his views would help stimulate conversation at the table. 

As well as that, he's had a very interesting career both in front of and behind the camera and, like Bowie, his perspective on his experiences in the modern movie industry would be great to hear first hand.

3 and 4. Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
 

Like most people in the world, I am somewhat fascinated by the British Royal family. Not from a royalist point of view, but from a humanitarian one. 

I have read that Camilla is great fun and what little I've seen and read of her, she appears to be quite down to earth, so I think it would be interesting to meet her on her own terms, as someone I've never met before and know little about.

With Prince Charles, I would love to talk with him about his organic farming practices and what he's trying to achieve at the Duchy (if that's how you phrase it), and also talk with him about how he managed to recover from the public beating he took after Diana's death to be able to raise his boys the way he did. They seem to have a relaxed, comfortable relationship with Charles and Camilla, and that can't have been easy to achieve, so I have always been fascinated by what he did as a parent to make that happen, and how Camilla helped.

I am also interested in the work of the Prince's Trust, and would like to find out more about what Charles wants for it and how it all started.

5. Will.I.Am 

Yep, that's right - Will.I.Am. I knew he was with the Black Eyed Peas, and that was all I knew. Then one evening I tuned in to watch Graham Norton, and he was a guest of Norton's, along with Miriam Margolyes. I sat glued to the TV for the next hour as I watched Margolyes and Will.I.Am develop the most amazing regard for each other, and I for him.

This young man is a cut above the rest. Again, intelligent, articulate and caring - there's a theme developing here! His work with underprivileged children in urban areas 

I also noticed, researching his website just now, that he has already met Prince Charles and just donated his salary from his 2012 work on Britain's 'The Voice'to the Prince's Trust - so it would be nice to bring them both back together under more leisurely circumstances and talk about how we can help the children of tomorrow.

6. Michael Palin

How can you have a dinner party without inviting 'The World's Nicest Man'? And possibly one of the world's funniest. And most well-travelled. And he's a bit of alright, too, for a not-quite-silver fox, if you ask me :D  

Again: intelligent, articulate, modest ... and funny.



Wayne Mosher's Ultimate Dinner Party Guest List, September 2013

Wayne decided he wanted a group of people at the table that he really, really admires, and wanted to talk to for different reasons. Wayne's wanted list is dead and alive, and here it is, again in no particular order:

1. Captain James Cook

Wayne says Cook is the one human being he admires more than anybody else. 

In his three explorations, he covered more of the planet than any person had covered up to that date, and he did it all in boats that we wouldn't even consider boarding these days - and definitely not without the benefit of today's mod cons such as radar, radio etc.



2. Jack Nicklaus

In Wayne's humble opinion, Nicklaus is the best sportsman that ever lived, with the possible exception of dinner guest No. 5! 

Nicklaus won 18 majors, came second in nearly as many again, and set a new level for dignity and sportsmanship in a sporting arena. He is a class act, and a helluva golfer.


3. Spencer Tracy

Greatest actor that ever lived - simple. A complex man, a huge talent, and a personality that always set him at odds with that talent. One helluva an interesting guy, and a massive link to the Golden Years of Hollywood.








4. Eric Morecambe

Leading candidate for the funniest man that ever lived. Wayne was brought up on this guy, and loved everything he and Ernie (Wise) did together. He feels they were really the best comedy duo of the lot.


5. Muhammad Ali

The best of the best. Back in the days, when the World Heavyweight Championship meant something, he was the absolute king of them all. 

He fought Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman and so many other worthy opponents, beating them all. An amazing athlete, with an intellect second to none in sport. Everything he said was accompanied by a twinkle in the eye that said 'You know I'm kidding, don't you?' And if that twinkle was missing ... watch out!


6. Neil Young

Wayne bought Young's first album in 1968 and has bought just about every one ever since. 

Young is, quite simply, Wayne's favourite muso, not only for his musicianship and songwriting abilities, but for his incredible determination to do whatever he wants to do and 'fuck the record companies'.

So they're our picks. What would yours be, we wonder?

Bon appetit :D