Arts, Culture & Entertainment News – February 29

Pacific Brands' Bonds Birthday Project was launched in Sydney yesterday in an event attended by Sarah Murdoch, Patrick Rafter and Dame Edna Everage. The campaign, which celebrates 35,301 days of the brand's existence, calls on Aussies to register their photo and their birthday (claim your date and your personalised tee!) at (at the time of writing there are 33,281 dates left to claim).

"Aussies have grown up in Bonds since 1915. From the moment we’re born, we wear Bonds – grannies to grandkids, hipsters to hippies, from the famous to the farmer and everyone in between. We are all Bonds," says the website explains. mUmBRELLA predicts the interactive campaign will be the advertising hit of 2012. The Wall Street Journal's Gillian Tan notes that Pacific Brands may be bought out by a private equity group after the company announced a net loss of $362.4 million in the six months to December 31, 2011. We can't be sure how much Bonds contributed to the bottom line. Ha!
Iranian actor Leila Hatami, star of A Separation
While the U.S. has tightened sanctions on Iran in light of its nuclear weaponry program and Iranian Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani remains imprisoned awaiting possible execution, Hollywood celebrated the win of the Iranian film A Separation at the Oscars on Monday. The film by Asghar Farhadi, which won the Best Foreign Film award, is described as "a humanist tale of a middle-class couple torn apart by their future, and then by fate". It was altered in editing to appease Iranian government officials, reports Michael Body in The Australian.

Last year, Marzieh Vafamehr, star of the Australian/Iranian produced film My Tehran For Sale, was sentenced to 90 lashes for shaving her head and leaving it uncovered in the film though later released under international pressure. "The interesting point with Iranian cinema within world cinema now is the level of reality in Iranian film," says Farhadi. "It's important for the global audience to see that level of reality."

Indeed, beyond a narrative insight into middle-class Iranian life, the film serves as a talking point for the wider issue of human rights within the Islamic republic, though Farhadi pleaded with the Oscars audience to look beyond politics and to the Iranian contribution to culture and "a people who respect all cultures and civilisations and despise hostility and resentment". Farhadi's latest film, About Elly, tells the story of middle-class Iranians whose beachside holiday turns into tragedy as they try to uphold their social customs.  

Of course, the big winner at the Academy Awards was The Artist, which garnered the best picture, actor, director, original score and costume design awards. The charming black-and-white film by Michel Hazanavicius and backed by Harvey Weinstein harks back to the "golden age" of film before the advent of 3D and CGI when a live orchestra would accompany the cinema screening. "[These films] are part of my culture," Hazanavicius told Filmmaker Magazine. "My childhood was full of such movies." With Hugo, a film that also looks at the pioneering days of cinema, winning five technical awards, it seems Hollywood is well and truly taken with yesteryear.

Still in black and white, The New York Times debuts The Lively Morgue on Tumblr today, a "vast treasure trove of imagery" from the paper's archives. While a little morbid in title, the blog draws on the paper's photo store of five to six million prints and contact sheets and 300,000 sacks of negatives — at least 10 million frames in all. The library also includes 13,500 DVDs, each storing about 4.7 gigabytes worth of imagery. "If we posted 10 new archival pictures every weekday on Tumblr, just from our print collection, we wouldn’t have the whole thing online until the year 3935," say the site's editors. "Instead, we’ll be dipping in and publishing several photographs each week, some of which will be available for purchase and some of which will be accompanied by a more extensive back story posted on the Lens blog." 

The Barber of Seville performed by the English National Opera (Opera Today)
In celebration of the leap year, Google Doodle has reminisced on the life of composer Gioachino Rossini, who celebrated just 19 birthdays in his 77 years of living. Rossini was famed for the "opera buffe" (comic musical) The Barber of Seville ("Figaro! Figaro! Fiiiiigaro!"), one of the earliest Italian operas performed in America. The opera is based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais in which a poor student named Lindoro (the amorous young Count Almaviva in disguise) woos the beautiful Rosina, who is to be wed to Dr. Bartolo, with the help of the suave, roguish Figaro.

The Paris Review celebrates its 200th issue with its Spring 2012 issue which contains an interview with Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho. "American Psycho came out of a place of severe alienation and loneliness and self-loathing," he says. "I was pursuing a life—you could call it the Gentleman’s Quarterly way of living—that I knew was bullshit, and yet I couldn’t seem to help it. American Psycho is a book about becoming the man you feel you have to be, the man who is cool, slick, handsome, effortlessly moving through the world, modeling suits in Esquire, having babes on his arm … On the surface, like Patrick Bateman, I had everything a young man could possibly want to be ‘happy’ and yet I wasn’t." Interesting!

Reporting from the Culture Desk, David Penby reflects on his obsessive watching and analysing of the six-hour original 1979 BBC version of John le CarrĂ©’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and its six-hour sequel from 1982, Smiley’s People for The New York Times. He notes that he and his wife, Susan, would "watch one episode each evening after dinner" and then, "Late at night, I would often creep back into the study and watch the episode again, just to be sure I had understood all of it, savored all of its intricacies, noted its omissions and implications." Mr and Mrs Satchel may have once had a similar experience taking in back-to-back episodes of the decidedly less intellectual but nonetheless intoxicating Prison Break.
From left to right: Woodrow Wilson, Kate Vandermeer, Connel Chiang and Micah Gianneli
QV Melbourne is presenting the Lunchtime Style Series Workshops, as part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program. The free workshops will see industry experts deliver an honest account of their world of fashion to those quick enough to secure a seat. Each workshop will kick off at 1pm and run for 45 minutes so you can eat your lunch, too. Held on Friday March 9 (Woodrow Wilson), Sunday March 11 (Connel Chiang), Friday March 16 (Micah Gianneli) and Friday March 23 (Kate Vandermeer) in QV Square, yhe first 50 people to reserve a seat via QV Melbourne’s facebook page score not only the reserved seat, but a gift bag valued at over $50. Walk ups are welcome on the day.

Girl With a Satchel

Satchel Living: What is love? How do I find it?

Satchel Living: What is love? How do I find it?
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you," said Jesus (Matthew 7:7). Image: The Globe and Mail
In response to 'Is freedom a fairytale?', anonymous asks, "Why do Christians I encounter say God is Love? What does that actually mean?", which is, of course, a very good question. It commands a response longer than the 4,000-or-so characters that the commenting function allows for, and more contemplation than I could muster in a few minutes... it has taken days.

What does it mean when we say God is love? What is love? It can truly be a lifelong process of learning, understanding and accepting. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, gives us a clue:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

This is all very well, you might think – the pursuit of virtue, of being selfless in one's thoughts and actions, is not a solely Christian occupation. But we believe there is only one perfecter of love within us, and that is Jesus Christ and the Spirit He left with us when he passed on to the heavens above. It is that Spirit that beacons us to think beyond the here and now to eternity in our daily activities. It is that Spirit that delights in love and rails against hate: for God, for self, for neighbour.

Short & Sweet - week beginning February 27

The question of the day: who will take out the Academy Award for Best Performance as a Labor Politician? While Anthony Albanese is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Caucus Member, giving a heartfelt speech in which he pledged his support for Rudd, the fate of Rudd's political future will ultimately be decided today. The result is sure to reflect Academy politics more than the people's popular vote. That's how it rolls in Hollywood, and so too in Canberra. Will the light on the hill shine brighter after the imbroglio or fade to oblivion?

Let's catch up: The end is nigh for our short stay at our country abode. Woe! But what a wonderful change of scenery it has been. Meanwhile, we're celebrating a special 11-year-old's birthday today.
This week's agenda: Cleaning house... just like Labor.
The Word for the week: "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found in Him in peace, without spot and blameless.' (2 Peter 3:13-14)
Quote of the week: "'This is not in my self interest, I am doing this because it is right.'' - Anthony Albanese, Minister for Infrastructure, in defense of his pledge for Rudd and Labor values. word for the week: bandy \BAN-dee\, verb:
1. To pass from one to another or back and forth; give and take.
2. To throw or strike to and fro or from side to side, as a ball in tennis.
3. To circulate freely.
"The leadership of a nation is hardly the sort of thing to be bandied about as if politicians were taking part in Hey Hey It's Saturday's 'Red Faces', with Red Simmons sitting there with a smirk and the gong, but we Aussies have a certain antipathy for the current national office born more of distrust than respect (perhaps this is media-led, or a British inheritance... Yes, Prime Minister?). Is this necessary in a democracy? Or a defeatist way to be? Maybe Clarke and Dawe should just run the country?"
Reading: 'Dysfunction in the church and the ALP' at Eureka Street.

Girl With a Satchel

The Satchel Review - Friday 24th February

On Thursday, as Ruddgate flooded the news bulletins and pages, The Australian Financial Review's highly respected Laura Tingle has dubbed Rudd 'the People's Prince', pointing to his political dexterity in dismissing lightweight arguments that he is a big stick-in-the-mud and should suck it up and shut up. 

"The Gillard forces have tried to use the former foreign minister's absence to change presumptions and perceptions about the leadership race," she wrote. 

"Journalists who were declaring the end was in sight for the prime minister on Friday night were reporting yesterday she was fully in control of the numbers and would sack the foreign minister, or call a spill, next week. The Gillard camp portrayed Rudd as a wrecker loathed by his colleagues, who has mistimed his run, and lost momentum. But they have nothing on Kevin Rudd, or his media cutzpah when it comes to changing the story line."

Travelings: To Europe with Brooke Lehmann

Travelings: To Europe with Brooke Lehmann
Brooke in Salzburg, Austria
A bookish girl from a boisterous family, Brooke Lehmann, 21, had all but abandoned looking for the perfect travel companion to accompany her to Europe when her friend Cayley sent a text message.

"I'd organised little trips with other people but it had always fallen through," recalls Brooke. "I'd talked to Cayley about it a few months' prior and she messaged me one day and said, 'I've been accepted to go on a trip to Germany with uni, you should come with', so I said, 'Oh, why not?'."

While the girls had envisaged making their own way around Europe from Frankfurt, a Topdeck tour was eventually settled on as it uncomplicated matters and came at a discount. Their wintry woollies packed, off they flew in early December with Brooke catching up on Cayley after a few days.

Arts, Culture & Entertainment News – February 24

Two of indie pop’s newest darlings, Emmy Bryce and Kate Vigo, are embarking on a musical adventure in April. The Melbourne girls, who met in late 2011, thought it might be a nice idea to create a live music experience for their fans, fusing together two different sounds and meeting new friends and seeing new things every single day, and so, The Hunter and Gatherer Tour was born.

Throughout the April trek, Emmy and Kate will be engaging with their fans through social media, sharing ideas, images and stories of their travels. In turn, fans will be invited to connect directly with these unique artists and contribute to the whole touring experience.

"I approached Kate to join forces and tour because I loved the sound of her music (and her stunning voice) and could see she was kicking real goals with her career – she was serious," says Emmy. "It's inspiring for me to work with other independent artists who are putting their butts on the line for their dream."

Sounds like fun! Tickets are on sale now with shows starting at the Launceston Hotel on April 4 and winding up at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne. Check out the girls' websites (; and Facebook pages (; for more information.

While the girls are engaging with their fans, the ABC is reportedly getting more social, too. Asher Moses reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that Twitter and Facebook will be integrated with most ABC programming from June. "It's about allowing people to engage a little more than they have been able to in the past with what they're watching," said ABC manager of new media services, Chris Winter. "In the past we sit in the lounge room and talk to the person sitting next to us, in the future it will become easier and easier to engage with people who are not in the same room." But how will they be able to pass the remote/chips/dip?

Publisher Little, Brown has announced that it will publish JK Rowling's next novel... for grown ups. "Although I've enjoyed writing it just as much, my next novel will be very different from the Harry Potter series," reads a note on the author's website. "The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me," Rowling said in a statement. Over at The Australian, Christopher Farley asks, "Can J.K. Rowling work her magic with adults?". Regardless of her ability to entertain older readers, which must be a nervous adventure for Rowling, her ability to weather disappointment and failure, as communicated in her legendary Harvard Commencement speech, is one of her great triumphs of character.

A short film about a man and his grandfather who run a lemonade stand took out the top prize at Tropfest this week, but the best story is that of its director, Alethea Jones. It was a truly happy turn of fortunes Jones, who had applied for the dole just two weeks beforehand despite having previously won last year's Inside Film award for Best Short Film for When the Wind Changes and an Audience Choice award and Best Comedy at Flickerfest and St Kilda Festival (clearly, awards are great but do not pay). Lemonade Stand earned her $10,000 cash, a $6,000 camera and a trip to Los Angeles to meet film industry executives. Her film was selected from more than 700 entries with the 16 final films screened to audiences across the country.

The March issue of Country Style features a Victorian schoolhouse built in 1857 turned into a weekender, and a general store built in 1891 that is now a family home, art gallery and general store. Editor Victoria Carey writes in her editor's letter: "In 1977, Megan Trousdale was sent by this magazine to a small town in northern New South Wales to research some stories, and it proved to be a life-changing assignment. "As a journalist with Country Style I travelled to the country nearly every week and returned to our rented terrace, craving open space and natural beauty," she explains. This craving eventually prompted Megan and her husband Duncan to move to Nundle where they opened first an art gallery and now the Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores. Their customers often ask: "What is this shop doing in the middle of nowhere?" Megan’s simple reply — "but this is our somewhere" — made me think how we often overcomplicate things in life; how home is really where and what we make it; and that everywhere is someone’s "somewhere"."

Two great new shows from the Harvest Rain Theatre Company: The Neverending Story (Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, April 28 to May 12), which will resonate with Gen-Y kids who remember Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years played the part of Bastian, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Mina Parade Warehouse, March 21 to 31), which will delight Gex-Xers with a trip to Peanutsville. The feel-good musical is a day-in-the-life of Charlie Brown with his faithful dog Snoopy, friends Linus, Schroeder and Lucy and little sister Sally.

The real Trevor Sykes c/o Allen & Unwin
"Readers of today's column are participating in a piece of literary history," writes Trevor Sykes in his Pierpoint column, 'Forty Years of Colourful Characters', in today's The Australian Financial Review. "We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first column Pierpoint quilled for this august journal. For the record, the initial column appeared on February 18, 1972. Pierpoint introduced himself as an old clubman enjoying a few gin and tonics with the chairman of the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges, Michael McAlister, a former secretary to the Duke of Windsor." To celebrate, Pierpoint has given readers a tongue-in-cheek tip on successful entrepreneurship from each of the past four decades, rounding out with 40 bottles of Grane Annee and a "Pip! Pip! Pierpoint." The Financial Review will have a new, less "sectionalised" look from Monday.

Girl With a Satchel

Thinkings: The rainbow amidst the storm

Thinkings: The rainbow amidst the storm
A thunderous storm rolled in over south-east Queensland on Wednesday sending the cockatoos squaking... sort of like the frenzy that is the fracus that erupted when Kevin Rudd resigned from his Foreign Ministerial post.

The Media Satchel - Rudd rage upstaged on front page

Look! It's Annabel Crabb's recipe book!
Not great for business unless you are a newspaper proprietor or seller, the 'Extra, extra, come-and-get-it' Rudd v Gillard leadership challenge has been met by BRW magazine with contrition. "It's disastrous for business," says editor Kate Mills. "Business wants certainty more than anything else, and this sideshow is a big distraction." 

If only Annabel Crabb could have had Rudd and Gillard on her show, Kitchen Cabinet with Annabel Crabb, everything might have been resolved over a slice of Persian Love Cake and a cup of tea. "Even the most disciplined politician will soften if there's food and wine involved," she said in the debut episode featuring Christopher Pyne and Amanda Vanstone. "And the very best way to get to know someone is in their own kitchen." For his part, Pyne disclosed over the meal, "I don't have any friends on the other side of politics... I like some people, but it's very hard to be friends with people who want to have the same thing you want. It's a zero-sum game, politics; there's no second prize. It's hard to be friends with people who are trying to make sure you lose your seat... I don't like Julia Gillard... I just look at the way she treated her friends... I think loyalty to friends is something other politicians respect." Or else, knives out...

One of Australia's favourite political reporters, and queen of the political Twitterarti, Crabb said this to Mediaweek about her show: "I was looking for people whose public persona is not exactly what they are in private. One of the great privileges we have as political journalists is seeing them as they are. It's kind of a sad thing. Part of the idea is to democratise that a bit... I enjoy talking to people, I enjoy having a bit of a laugh with people. I enjoy asking people about themselves. And that's what this is... You talk about life. You talk about their experience of life in this career in politics. We talk about public life and how you negotiate that. How you deal with it in family life. Funny incidents along with way." Alas, while Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek have signed on, Julia Gillard is not to be a guest: "I did have a word with the MP about it and she gave me a look that said, 'Oh my God, what are you up to?'. I didn't ask her again because I didn't think the timing would be right."

While the morning papers were flush with news of the leadership tilt, the major TV news bulletins failed to capitalise on the buzz last night, notes AdNews. Kevin Rudd's resignation of his Foreign Ministry position occurred just after 5pm (AEDT), well-timed to dominate the night's news bulletins, but it was but a blip on the audience radar. My Kitchen Rules was the night's most popular show, gaining more viewers than Seven News.
But, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, it was "game on" for Channel Ten this morning as Breakfast had its debut on a day of major news. Michael Idato reports: "Ten's decision to launch Breakfast this morning was made last night; it was originally scheduled to launch next Monday. It's a smart move, allowing the show, and its hosts, to participate in coverage of the Labor leadership fight... As a result, Ten's rushed-to-air Breakfast looked a little rough around the edges but the alternative - to come to the party four days later - would have left a news-oriented show looking like it was well behind the clock."

Paper Runway magazine will be hosting The Paper Trail, a "celebration of all things paper", in Byron Bay from May 25 to 27. Opening with an exhibition at Ark Park and coinciding with the magazine's first birthday, The Paper Trail will feature a paper workshop on paper marking, creating paper zines and the art of paper cutting hosted hosted by artists and product designers. "The possibilities with paper are limited only by our imaginations," says editor Nikki Buckland. "Through the creation of Paper Runway magazine, we’ve discovered a whole world of exhilarating paper art and exquisite paper products. With so much of our lives nominated by digital and electronic media, there is a real craving out there for the beauty, simplicity and versatility of paper." Funds from the exhibition will be donated to NAPCAN, which works to eliminate child abuse.  

My Place produced by Penny Chapman and Helen Panckhurst for ABC/Matchbox Pictures.
ABC TV has won two Kidscreen Awards for international television at a ceremony held in New York and, notes Mediaweek, received more nominations than any other broadcaster in the awards across all categories. ABC3's drama series My Place, series two, won the Best Non-Animated or Mixed Series Award for the second year in a row and ABC4Kids Giggle and Hoot hosts Jimmy Giggle and Hoot, won the Best On-Air Host or Hosting Team Award.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance has responded to the deaths of journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in Syria: "Marie has set the standard for correspondents for three decades, reporting from some of the most dangerous places in the world with flair, courage and determination," said Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren. 

"Remi had just been recognised with a World Press Photo Award. Both journalists will leave a huge gap and will be mourned by their many friends in the industry and those very many people who were touched by their very fine work. This tragic incident is a terrible reminder of the dangers faced by the brave men and women who risk their lives to bring us news from the frontlines of conflict."

In other media news, The Herald Sun will be implementing digital subscriptions from next month along with a new website based on a "freemium" model; Fairfax, which has announced profits are down in a luke-warm advertising market, is focusing on internet TV

Girl With a Satchel

The Occasional Shopper - Take a picture

In one of the imaginary lives I entertain when my real life isn't exactly going to plan, I am a girl who wears lovely vintage frocks and works in a shop; maybe like the protagonist in Maggie Alderson's novel Shall We Dance?

Strolling through the Woolloongabba Antique Centre with a girlfriend recently, my fantasy self lost herself amongst the vintage furniture and frocks. I spotted two gorgeous confections in one of the stores that would suit imaginary me to a tee. They were an absolute steal at about $30 apiece, and my size, too, but I knew I couldn't buy them. So I took a picture instead.

Satcheldemic: Cayley Lancaster, business/commerce, Griffith University

Satcheldemic: Cayley Lancaster, business/commerce
Late last year, Cayley Lancaster, 20, packed her woollies and set off for Bonn, Germany, where the commerce/international business student attended a mock U.N. conference dubbed 'MUN'

"I'm part of an organisation called Honours College at uni, and they look to develop students in leadership development, professional development and community engagement, so they invest money in you if you show potential in specific areas to make you more well-rounded," says Cayley, who won a scholarship to study at Griffith University and is undertaking a four-year double-degree and a diploma in Spanish. 

After a full 2011, which included attending the Model United Nations Conference at UQ in Brisbane (BrizMUN) in April, which gave her a taste for what it's all about, and the Asia-Pacific Model UN Conference in Canberra (AMUNC) in July, she applied to do the same in Germany.

Satchelpedia: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the beloved "Queen Mum")

Satchelpedia: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, August 4, 1900 – March 30, 2002. 
"Wouldn’t it be terrible if you’d spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you’d say, “Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night”. That’s the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus." - Queen Elizabeth, 'the Queen Mother', Quoted by Michael Parker in Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

It's hard not to be taken by the portrait of Queen Elizabeth – Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – presented to us in the Oscar winning film The King's Speech.

The spirited wife of King Albert George VI (aka "Bertie") played by Helena Bonham Carter (and who else but a free spirit like Bonham Carter?), Queen Elizabeth came to the throne reluctantly, as did her husband whose elder brother, Edward, controversially abdicated in order to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth was once described by Adolf Hitler as "the most dangerous woman in Europe" because of her ability to lift public morale with her smiling countenance.

Satchel Living: Freedom is a fairytale? Not quite.

Satchel Living: Freedom is a fairytale? Not quite. 
"Yes, you wish and you dream with all your little heart. But you remember, Tiana, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help him with some hard work of your own. And then... Yeah, you can do anything you set you mind to." - Tiana's father, Disney's The Princess and the Frog
A little while ago, I took delight in fishing a green tree frog out of our toilet (with rubber gloves on). The little frog had made our toilet its home on a few occasions, but now I felt it was time for him to be reacquainted with his natural habitat. Like the peasant girl Joan of Arc on her noble French quest, I would be his liberator!  

I placed him in a bag and we walked to the rainforest about 20 minutes away. When we got to the location, he was hesitant to leap out of the bag. But eventually he did and found his way down to the creek bed. I like to imagine that the little frog was delighted to find himself amongst nature's finest: fresh water, vibrant tropical plants, ferns that drip with dew, pockets between rocks to nestle between, and lots of delicious insects to snack on.

"What the heck was I doing living in that stinky old toilet when I could have been dancing amongst this splendid display of flora and fauna?" the frog might have croaked to himself. 

He was a frog with Stockholm Syndrome. Held captive to conditions he thought were optimum for living, he chose to tuck himself under the toilet bowl rim. Perhaps he had been abandoned by his family? Or he'd had a rough experience out in the wild? Or maybe he thought that in the toilet he'd be cool and safe, free to come and go whenever the mood persuaded him, and therefore was prepared to take the risk of being pooped on, yet hindering his overall potential for wellbeing?

A false sense of liberation can be dangerous, as it hinders our full development, but emancipation from anything can be a scary prospect: it's often fear that holds us back from making changes. Who are we without the habits, personality quirks, physical attributes, lifestyle, friends, job titles and accolades we've formed and worked hard to earn? 

When we become accustomed to a certain way of living – though it may cause us pain and guilt and hurt and things constantly go wrong and we feel deeply unsatisfied – the idea that a better life might be waiting for us just around the corner seems a silly notion to entertain; a fairytale of sorts. In real life, frogs are not turned into princes with a kiss. They are squished under cars, captured by little boys and hung up by their legs and eaten by birds for lunch.

Bulletin Board: Women swim, blog, career change, walk for charity

Bulletin Board: Swim, blog, career change, walk

Indu Balachandran's kolhapuri chappals.
Swimming, shoe blogging, changing career for a year walking 10,000 steps a day for a week are just some of the things women are doing to promote social justice and understanding, and help the less fortunate break out of poverty....

"I was on the ferry with my family last week, when a grandfather who taking his grandkids into the city asked if I was visiting Australia to watch the cricket," writes Indu Balachandran. "Sigh. Twenty five years and still explaining that this is my home." Indu is one of many immigrant and refugee women joining other Aussies with stories to share at the In Her Shoes Facebook page created by the Australian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Alliance (AIRWA).

The campaign is designed to give women who have come to Australia to make a new life a voice and means to share their journeys, new and old, enabled by the universal metaphor of the shoe. Think of it as an online shoe swap. The In Her Shoes Campaign will launch officially on Friday 2 March in anticipation of International Women's Day on March 8, 2012. It is funded by the Australian Government department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Another campaign to get us thinking about our footwear and the journeys of other women, CARE Australia's 'Walk In Her Shoes Challenge' will take place from Monday 12 March to Sunday 18 March, 2012. CARE is encouraging those taking part to walk at least 10,000 steps a day for a week in honour of those women in Third World countries who have to walk far afield to find water, firewood and food. Knowing that women are often the first to go without when humanitarian crisis strikes, and that educating and supporting girls has community-wide benefits, the campaign focuses particularly on their welfare. Participants include Ellen Rose who is walking 20,000 steps a day after work. "I really believe in CARE’s work and the concept of helping women to help their communities (the girl effect)," she says. "Everyone should have the right to an education and if the money I raise can help just a little bit to make this happen then I’ll be happy."

Vodafone Australia is helping to bridge the skills gap for charities with its World of Difference initiative. Each year the company commits to supporting five Aussies to quit their day jobs and work for the charity of their dreams. They each receive a $60,000 full-time salary from Vodafone, as well as covering additional expenses to set up projects for their charity of choice and mentoring and support to help them achieve their goals. Last year's winners include Therese Howell from Limbs4Life, Australia's first amputee children and youth service and Lisa Clarke of the Touched by Olivia Foundation, part of the Sydney Children's Hospital that focuses on research and support for kids with vascular birthmarks. Entrants have until 4pm this Friday to apply. Best of luck!

After five months of getting up at 5.30am to train and pushing through self-doubt, which she's blogged about, World Vision national events manager Rose Levien will be swimming the Rottnest Channel for this Saturday. In order to raise funds for relief essentials that will be delivered to children and families around the world who are living on the extreme edge of poverty, she will don her swimming cap and costume, goggles, sunscreen and Vaseline and swim from Cottesloe Beach (Perth) to Rottnest Island. That's a distance of 19.7km across the Indian Ocean.

"I woke up a lot of mornings really grumpy, slamming my alarm clock and riding to the pool with a very grumpy face!" she says. "It felt impossible. Over the weeks, however, I saw improvement.  My pace picked up, my stamina grew and I even found myself leading the pack at swim squad." The race will take her about seven hours to swim. "I'm expecting there to be some big waves and strong chop.  It's going to be quite a day!" For those who would rather cheer her on than leap into the water, you can make a donation at Team World Vision. For every one dollar she raises, $10 worth of food aid will be delivered. Go, Rose!

Girl With a Satchel

Short & Sweet - week beginning February 20

The Gonski report on education, Kevin Rudd's ranting and raving, a possible federal leadership challenge, a Queensland election campaign officially in full swing (Team Bligh or Team Newman?)... it's a treat of a start to a week in news media, so I was relieved to have spent the weekend in an abode that can only be described as the ultimate country retreat.

Let's catch up: House-sitting for a couple of dear friends, my husband and I are in our element in our country cottage; one featuring fluffy towels, shabby-chic furniture, a beautifully functional kitchen and an abundance of vintage books and nooks and crannies to investigate. There's even a neat little shelter for our two dogs! I am tickled pink and feeling very spoiled. It's a wonderful, generous thing to be able to bestow on friends a place to rest that you have invested your heart and soul into, much more to leave a little note saying, "Feel free to explore! We hope you feel refreshed after your stay", in addition to a bottle of wine and six-pack of beer and (squeal) a gift voucher for the local IGA. As an added treat, a big storm rolled over the house yesterday afternoon (it was soothing to the soul).
This week's agenda: I am tempted to take the entire week off and immerse myself in Anne's impressive collection of books, read under the cover of a tree on a swing, no less, and DVDs, which include The Complete Black Books collection, Roman Holiday, Pride & Prejudice, and Fern Gully! Unfortunately, there is a backlog of emails to catch up on. Sigh.
The Word for the Week: "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy." - Prayer of Saint Francis (custodian of my confirmation name), at the entrance to my current place of rest.
Quote for the Week: "There can be miracles, when you believe; Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill." - Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, "When You Believe" word for the week: lucent \LOO-suhnt\, adjective:
1. Shining.
2. Translucent; clear.
"As the afternoon storm rolled in, its turbulent, rolling clouds cast a lucent light over the country house that darkened its stony features and made the pleasure of seeking respite within all the more alluring."
Reading: The features at the new Fairfax Women's Network site, Your Daily Life.

Girl With a Satchel

The Satchel Review - Friday 17th February

The Big Four banks came out in force this week to defend their variable home loan rate rises on the grounds that they are facing unprecedented economic pressures, while the ANZ, Qantas and Billabong announced job cuts, Air Australia grounded its fleet and left 300 people without jobs and many more passengers stranded, and Whitney Houston passed away leaving legions of fans mourning the tragic loss of a talented lady.

"There are simply not the facts to sustain an argument that Australian banks are far more profitable than other global banks," Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev told The Australian Financial Review in response to treasurer Wayne Swan's scathing assessment of the banking sector's highway robbery. "Our margins are not pre-GFC levels."

The Media Satchel - Circulation, Convergence, Consolidation, Democracy

'Don't think of it as a newspaper: it's a data platform' at GigaOM
The Convergence Review occupying multiple column inches, circulation results, lingering scepticism surrounding Gina Rinehart's stake in Fairfax, and talk of a sell-off of ACP magazines to rival Pacific... times are certainly interesting in the world of Australian media.   

It's a landscape that seems to be expanding but shrinking all at once, not the least because all the pundits have a means for publishing their point of view. Is the playing field fair? Far from it. Are we information starved? Not really. Yet in this survival-of-the-fittest climate, when the bread-and-butter of your livelihood is at stake and everything is changing and nothing's the same, you are either on the offensive, defensive or quietly minding your own business and waiting to see what will happen.

Media Study: What mags are Aussies buying?

Media Study: What mags are Aussies buying?

Life in print: BRW, Frankie, The Week and The Australian selling well
What with carbon taxes, mortgage repayments, general cost-of- living pressures and pessimism around Australia's ability to buffer itself from Europe's woes, the magazine industry – reliant as it is on discretionary spending dollars – is looking timid. Trivialities have no place in a world of austerity, and magazines are seen as a nice diversion, not a bread-and-butter necessity.  

While circulation results for the year ending December 2011 – a snapshot of the performance of 134 audited titles (there are more than 5,800 available on newsstands) show a general decline in magazine sales: a fall of 3.9 per cent over the year, home-maker titles fared well.

The dominance in this audit period of homemaker titles suggest that Aussies are not averse to spending money on titles who present visually enticing covers and engaging content. Belle (up 6.1 per cent to 38,018 copies sold each month), Home Beautiful (up 5.3 per cent to 76,290), Real Living (up 5 per cent to 65,073), House & Garden (up 4.1 per cent to 112,489) and Country Style (up 3.5 per cent to 64,061) proved that newsstand browsers are attracted to idyllic home settings on covers.

Two other magazine titles to gain circulation last year include NewsLife Media's Donna Hay and Morrison Media's Frankie, both which utilise digital well and have strong, cross-platform brand identities and followings. Frankie increased its sales by 14 per cent to 57,934 bi-monthly copies and boasts 130,645 Facebook friends and 40,224 Twitter followers in addition to its website users (it also increased its readership 21.4 per cent to 233,000)

Book Shelf: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Book Shelf: The Fault in Our Stars
By Georgie Caroll

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.  
- The Fault In Our Stars, page 33

For the past eighteen months, my favourite book has been Looking For Alaska by John Green. I was given it to read by a Canadian friend, and it was love and first flick through. I had never encountered a writer quite like Green before. He puts words together so they form these beautiful sentences that make you stop, and re-read them over and over again because you can’t quite believe something could be so perfect. 

I soon devoured his other published works, and when I heard he was releasing a new book, The Fault In Our Stars, I pre-ordered it straight away. It was finally released at the beginning of January, and once I got my hands on it, it took me three hours to read.

Occupation: Lance Ainofo, hairdresser, Oscar Oscar

Occupation: Lance Ainofo, hairdresser
Lance Ainofo is a fella who lands on his feet. The one-time New Zealand Idol contestant arrived in Australia but months ago and has already secured himself a plum job at a top salon, an apartment near the beach and a new church to boot. Not that there haven't been bumps on the road.

"Originally I had a job lined up for me here in Australia, but when I went for my trial I noticed the salon was really quiet, so trusting my instincts I turned the job down and went on the hunt," he says. "I stood outside Oscar Oscar for half an hour scoping it out, walked in, gave them my CV and got called that night to come in for a trial. I started the next week. So it literally fell from heaven right into my arms."

The Middle Brow - Contemplating China's shiny new materialism

By Kylie McCaig

In trendy Causeway Bay, where the streets bustle day and night, a popular UA Cinema is not having its lease renewed because yet another Louis Vuitton store has offered to pay a higher monthly rent. HKD$20 million in fact. Or AUD$2.5 million at today's exchange rate. Per month. That's a lot of Louis Vuitton bags.  

Especially when one considers there are already several LV stores in Hong Kong for shoppers to indulge their passion for the classic LV logo products. For it must have a logo. Not for the mainland shoppers the discreet, subtle or unbranded. The bigger, louder and bolder the branding, the better.

The growing rural rich from China are driving the success of luxury labels while traditional markets such as the US and Europe flounder among economic misery and mismanagement. When "mainlanders" travel to Hong Kong, they ask their fellow newly rich neighbours, "What did you buy?", and then they buy the same thing.

China might be the great bearer of our economic hopes as Europe's woes continue indefinitely, but within the country there's signs of implosion that threaten to tip the powerful Communist machine off its axis.

Most recently, two of its left-wing leaders have parted company, with one fleeing to the safety of the US Consulate in Chengdu and the other at risk of having his newfangled "Cultural Revolution" agenda undermined by his defactor.

Meanwhile, the seemingly impenetrable state censorship machine is being hijacked by hackers and micro-bloggers intent on spreading their dissent virally and supporting government critics like artist Ai Weiwei and lawyer Chen Guangcheng.

But the creep of Capitalism poses another threat as China's growing nouveau rich find themselves aspiring to Western ideals and a new president . Individualism is anathema to communism. But China, like president-in-waiting Xi Jinping, is nothing if not full of contradictions.

Satchel Living: Valentine's Day paean to Jesus

Satchel Living: Valentine's Day paean to Jesus
Image by Gabriella Tooth @ Pinteres

At a church service a few years ago, I
listened to a brilliant young youth pastor preach a sermon about his frustration with the commercialisation of Christianity. 

While Jesus railed against the traders in the temple who dared to defile God’s holy place with their profit making schemes, the young pastor railed against the proliferation of contemporary Christian music that posited Jesus as a bro’ or boyfriend figure who you “hang” with or “crush” on, thereby negating his holy status as the Son of God.

“Right on!”, I thought, all this lovey-dovey business is ridiculous. “It cheapens Jesus just like the consumerism usurping the true meaning of Christmas and Easter!”. It made me feel good to think that I was above this sycophantic Christian pop culture – I was the real deal! But since then I’ve come to see that words of love for Jesus – whether sung, written or prayed – can make even the manliest of men (and I’m married to one) weep.

Snapshot: Preparing bouquets for Valentine's Day

Snapshot: Preparing bouquets for Valentine's Day
Mavis, Wyn and Deborah, Mountains of Flowers, Mount Tamborine
A big, burly bloke over six feet in height in shorts and boots stands at the counter waiting for his order as the three florists at Mountains of Flowers put the final touches on tomorrow's offering behind a workbench laden with cellophane, ribbon and stem cuttings. 

The shop is a hive of activity on Valentine's Day Eve, as one would expect, with Mavis, Wyn and Deborah, who owns the business with husband Alan, all on deck to finalise arrangements. 

"Originally, you'd only by a rose if you wanted to be accepted by somebody or loved by somebody – you were asking them to be your Valentine," says Wyn from behind a dozen elegant red roses, the most popular order for the day. "It wasn't for anyone who was already in a relationship or married."

The Satchel Review - Friday 10th February, 2012

While Queen Elizabeth celebrated 60 years of ruling over the British monarchy and reflected on the death of her father, George VI (royal subject of the brilliant The King's Speech), another grand old Elisabeth (yes, with an "s") was ushering in her 103rd year.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch "chatted and laughed with her children, including her London-based granddaughter Elisabeth Murdoch and grandson Lachlan Murdoch, then was met with a standing ovation as she entered the hall", reported The Australian the day after her 103rd birthday celebrations at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

"It is remarkable that at the age of 103 there is no one we know with more sparkle in their eyes, more intelligence and insight in their opinions and stories, more passion for the best things in life, or more passion for all people – no matter their background or standing," said Theatre director Michael Kantor.

Born on February 8, 1909, Murdoch has witnessed two World Wars and countless others, pioneering a philanthropic spirit within her family. Her grandson, Lachlan, was this week appointed non-executive chairman of the Ten Network after an 11-month stint as interim chief executive (now, with due conjecture and judicial delay, James Warburton).