30 June 2012

Hello from Los Angeles

As I type this I am lying in a very big bed in The Hilton at LA Airport. I am on my stop over to London. The flight was good - Air New Zealand staff were brilliant and I cannot recommend them more. As I have been working with the medical team for my creams, I have been getting lots of assistance like help with my baggage (lots of it), extra blankets and water, and extra leg room. My skin handled the 15 hour flight from Melbourne to New Los Angeles much better than I expected. New Zealand airport is small. Everyone I met was friendly. There is a lot of merino wool, lanolin and placenta for sale at ridiculous prices. I just bought three honey sachiets to ward off my aeroplane cold. Los Angeles airport is huge. I took a sneaky photo of the sign at Customs and then heard a woman say "no photos allowed". My fingerprints wouldn't work on the scanner but my retinas were fine. The Customs lady asked me all about my skin in two minutes. What happened? Why? Who in my family has it? Did they tell me the name of it? What can they do about it? Whether I'm here for treatment. She was Very Official so I answered all her questions. Quickly and politely. When asked what I do for work I said "I am a writer". Yes I am. Everyone is friendly here too. And beautiful. I took a bus trip to a small shopping centre near Manhattan Beach (the beach is stunning) and so many people on the bus talked to me. I had not eaten since I am not sure when, and the last thing I ate was a mouthful of some really ordinary eggs and a glass of champagne while descending over America. So I was famished. I ordered some cheesy fries and fish tacos and a cocktail. My god. The cheesy fries came on a plate about the size of a car tyre. I ate about four fries and all my taco. The lovely waitress couldn't stop laughing at how surprised I was about the serving sizes. It is 830 pm here now and I cannot decide if I need food. Also while I think of it, the first song I heard In America was Gotye's Somebody that I used to know. And for the first time in my life I saw my Dad without a moustache. It was hard to get used to. No photos this blog as the photos are on my iPhone and I am not getting good phone reception here. But I have been a good tourist and will update in London. Will write again soon.

23 June 2012


Yesterday I had a procedure on my finger. The type of ichthyosis I have means that my hair is fragile and breaks off. A piece of my hair got caught in my nail bed as I scratched my head. The hair in my nail bed is very painful but the procedure to remove it is one thousand times more painful. The doctor uses a fine tool to extract the hair from under the nail. In the past it has been done with a needle. Yesterday it was done with a pair of tiny forceps. I screamed. Several times. I could not stop apologising to the doctor for screaming, and the medical receptionists also asked if I was ok. The pain was intense. Someone told me that sticking something under the nail is a certified form of torture. While the doctor was so gentle, I don't think that procedure would ever be pain free. I couldn't have left that hair there much longer due to the risk of infection. And as it is now less than a week until I fly out, and I'd hate to need medical attention in my first few days overseas.

Pain on my hands seems to hurt the most. When my hands are in pain, the pain throbs up my whole arm. Often when other parts of my body is in pain, the pain is isolated to a certain area. A hair in the nail bed. That burn on my hand last August. The regular skin shed on my palms and my soles - making me feel heightened heat and contact. And the cut on my thumb last June - it took so long to heal and a year on, it still hurts (though I can't work out if it is due to overuse from texting!). I did not realise just how much I use my hands until the use of them was restricted.

Maybe pain in our hands is extreme because our hands are one of the ways we connect with the world. We hug others, greet people, teach, share, cook and feed, nurse and heal, sew, create art and music, play sport, show appreciation, speak to those who can't hear, build and repair, express what words can't, and reach out and comfort those in need. Like our hearts, we love with our hands.

My finger, it is still sore. It is throbbing and feels heavy. But I needed to go through that pain yesterday so that my hand would be healed in time for me to start shaping my future. The worst of the busyness is over for me now. Come Tuesday I will finish up at work for eight weeks (I know! I feel a bit jealous of myself too - when I read that line on BabyMac's blog I smiled, knowing the feeling), have dinner and drinks with friends, and then two days of packing and organising. On Friday I will fly out! I am looking to the plane trips - reading, watching movies and resting - in anticipation of embracing the UK and USA with both hands and my heart.

19 June 2012

If this was my last meal, I'd die happy.

Camille and I just had lunch. I have no words. Last meal sort of stuff.

Pork belly tacos with sweet potato fries.

Banana burrito with chocolate icecream, fairy floss, marscapone, popping candy and fairy floss. We giggled all the way through our dessert. Popping candy is like having marbles in your head.

We had another dessert between us but couldn't manage it so it's sitting pretty in my freezer.

Off to hospital now to give my speech - wish me luck!

18 June 2012

A weekend full of good conversations

Not everything went to plan over the weekend. Never mind - there are future opportunities for catch ups, and cancellations meant I got some much needed rest.

On Saturday night I went to Mitchell's party off Chapel Street. It was a dress up affair - with good wine and food, and great conversation. I chatted to three of his female friends for hours, we just clicked. They were dressed beautifully too. I went home so happy for meeting some fabulous new people.

Mitchell also gives the best hugs ever.

On Sunday I bought some new walking shoes, then braved the cold to go to a cafe in Lygon Street to have a thick hot chocolate and write my speech. I then headed up to the Trades Hall to watch Sam Johnson in conversation with Catherine Deveny and later Clementine Ford. What a wonderful, inspiring afternoon.

I met my girl-crush, Chrissie Swan, to which I was a bit tongue tied/star struck. We sat on the couch with Yumi Stynes, under a blankie for the most part, because it was so very cold.  Yumi and Chrissie are just lovely - I really enjoyed chatting with them.

 Here is Clementine, Catherine and Sam on stage.
The conversation between Catherine and Sam, and then with Clementine joining them, was so engaging, so interesting. Sam is really honest about his life, opening up about suicide, fame and grief. I have always found him really genuine - self deprecating at times. He is always more interested in the people he is talking to rather than himself. He really is a selfless person too - helping young people at risk and raising money for various charities. It is perhaps a person's vulnerability that makes them a good story teller.

After the main conversation I had a quick chat to him - he was very interested in what I've been doing, and also encouraging of my journey. We talked about the pressures from our audience and the importance to write or act for ourselves.
It was a lovely weekend and at the end of it, I felt tired, and a bit sad for all Sam's been through, but uplifted and inspired too.

And Sam's hugs (I got three) are on par with Mitch's!

16 June 2012

Appearing elsewhere and getting my life back

I have appeared elsewhere in this past week.

First up - i participated in Bianca from BigWords' "It takes a village" series. Bianca is so lovely and I treasure the friendship we have built since meeting at AusBlogCon last year.

My guest post is a letter to her little girls - it is a writing style I have not practiced much on my blog, despite being an avid penpal when I was a teenager.

Here isnsome of my letter:

"When you see someone in a wheelchair or whose face may look a bit different (like me), don't be frightened of them. Go up to them and say hello. It's ok to be curious, as long as you're not rude. Ask them about their life. Tell them about your life. You may just make a new friend! People from diverse backgrounds will enrich your life so much – they'll help you to learn and grow and see new perspectives."

You can read the whole post here.

Thanks for having me Bianca x

Secondly, a surprise post came up at Mamamia - something that I had written a year and a half ago and happened to email to Mia when discussing one of her posts. It is about the time when those kids took photos of me on the train and a stranger stood up for me.

The comments are so so lovely and I will certainly be visiting this post when I need a pick me
up! People have shared their own experiences and I am both relieved and saddened others can relate to being publicly humiliated by strangers.

Read me on Mamamia here.

Also, I have my life back now my thesis is done! This weekend I am packing in so much stuff - packing, writing, a meeting to discuss writing, a party, a public lecture and lunch. Hence writing this 7.00am. I am pretty sore too so will need to rest up.

I got my iPad and love it! I have used it to do important stuff - organise documents for my trip, download writing apps and ebooks, and write my speech, and also to make pottery. Yep. Addicted. I wish I was making actual money from it because in half an hour I had made $399 fake dollars from my fake pottery! The app is Pottery HD if you want to get sucked in like me!

Happy weekend everyone!

Ps- thank you for all your lovely comments and tweets about my posts earlier this week - much appreciated x

14 June 2012

Is being a blogger like being Lara Bingle?

Some groundbreaking programming came to Channel 10 Tuesday night. I say groundbreaking with tongue firmly in cheek. The premiere of Being Lara Bingle. For those of you reading outside of Australia, Lara Bingle is a 20 something model, beautiful, a bit - errr - naive -and most famous for her relationship with Australian cricketer Michael Clarke. She gets photographed a lot, and seems to get caught out in the nude a lot. She is famous for being famous.

The show is a fly on the wall look at Lara and how she and her (now former) manager slash bestie Hermione are working on "Brand Bingle" ... to improve public perception of her I think.

The show didn't win me over. Truthfully I found it boring.

I commented "God this Lara Bingle show doesn't take much brain power to watch. It's all sideboob and teeth whitener." 
That was my impression of it. I thought about how scripted it was. Oh and that perhaps Lara flirts with fame - wanting the attention and then hating it when it gets too much - The Age writes about the contradiction Lara seems to have with privacy here.

There were equal numbers of fans hating on her and cheering her on through Twitter. While I believe she is ballsy putting herself on show on Being Lara Bingle, especially with the onslaught of criticism she is going to receive, I don't see her as courageous. Courageous is fighting for a cause or overcoming an illness or adversity. Let's face it - she's a privileged woman being paid to make this TV show and wear beautiful clothes.I found this an interesting angle taken by Molks TV talk:

 "The biggest difficulty surrounding comment of the entire show (and there is plenty, and most of it is unprintable – check the #BeingLaraBingle Twitter stream while you if you should choose to) is that criticism of the show is being misinterpreted as criticism of Lara herself – which is near impossible to separate as it’s not called “Being A Model In Modern Sydney” or “Being A Stupid Head Featuring A Bunch Of Different People Making Bad Decisions”. By having her name in the title and the focus of the show on her in a distinct reality genre means the ‘Lara the character in BLB’ and ‘Lara the actual person’ are going to be judged as one and the same, and from what is portrayed on the screen it’s not going to be flattering." 

As I watched the show - and decided that this would be the first and last time I do - I got thinking about how Lara's choice to be a reality TV star, and occupation as a model and dare I say it - socialite - is a lot like being a blogger. I thought about it in the context of my thesis studies. This is where I see the similarities, in the context of such a reality TV show.  

Note: when I write our and us when referring to bloggers, I mean me too. I'm ok to cop this observation of mine. I also think the blogs I read and enjoy are poles apart from the content of Lara's show. And I also think, on reflection as a blogger, some of the activities I am about to list are done subconsciously and without intention. It was only when the theories were put in front of me and I came to analyse them and my blog, and my behaviour as a blogger for my thesis, that I had the ah-ha moment. I do see this behaviour in varying degrees across the blogosphere.

Lara and bloggers use the media (reality TV and blogs) to define ourselves and persuade others to feel something about us. Cadle (in Bell, 2007) states:
"A blogger consciously uses visual rhetoric to persuade others and to define self."
On reflecting on why I blog, I considered that I want people to like me through my blog. I want to win others over. Other bloggers may want to persuade their audience to dislike them through writing controversial content and being mean spirited. My blog has also most certainly defined my sense of self - my whole thesis was on the way my blog has helped shape my identit. It has also helped define my self worth and purpose of raising awareness about Ichthyosis and the challenges of living with a visibly different appearance. Lara has used this show to persuade others she is not like the media portrays her. I heard alarm speak on Nova saying her show was a way of telling her story on her own terms (presumably with some savvy editing). Hell, I wrote a whole blog post about how good it is to have a blog to tell my story about my illness on my own terms. I get your aim, Lara.  

There is editing to project the best, and worst of our lives to draw sympathy, empathy and support from our audience.

In Online Diaries: Reflection on trust, privacy and exhibtion(2008), Paul De Laat writes:
"There is a need to get to know others, to develop a community of sympathisers. Otherwise there would be no point in publishing one's diary in the open."
As mentioned above, Being Lara Bingle's aim (from Lara's perspective) is to garner some public awareness and sympathy for her life. I am not entirely sure about why the public needs to be made aware of Lara's life when there are so many bigger issues to be made aware of, but that's profit for you. I also think that from the criticism she and the show is receiving, and the blatant contradiction of this reality TV show and then complaining she has no privacy. As someone told me, if I don't like the show, switch it off. If she doesn't like the attention she's receiving, switch those cameras - that she has agreed to be filmed by - off. I digress. Bloggers also blog for sympathy. I'm not writing this is a negative way. When I blog I want my audience to feel something. When I have moved them and made them think, I know I've done a good job. I don't necessarily want them to feel pity for me, but I do find comfort in knowing that I have support from my audience when things are difficult, and also praise from them when things are going well. I like that - I am very grateful for it. And I am sure other bloggers are too. Blogging creates a support network. And as we have seen on reality TV, even in Lara's case, viewers develop a liking of certain characters or contestants.  

Lara and bloggers put our lives on show and invite an audience in. We put out our most intimate thoughts (in Lara's case, the media takes pretty imprimatur pictures of her - consented and non consented).

Paul De Laat focuses on a concept called “extimacy” -  that bloggers “entrust the intimacies of their daily lives to the world”. As De Laat writes, bloggers have a one-to-many relationship with their readers, rather than a one-on-one relationship. Through writing a blog, the blogger invites readers into their lives – a concept known as “empowered exhibitionism”. This means the world is often privy to a blogger's most personal thoughts.

Bloggers can choose how much we want to share. Extimacy is a choice, and knowing that I am mostly in control of how my story is told is empowering. Sometimes we overshare. In a celebrity's case, it's harder to control how much of the self is shared with the world. Sharing ourselves with the world can give the expectation of being easily accessible by an audience too. For me it is a privilege to have people read my blog and contact me to give me praise or share their stories. Some of the things my readers have shared with me have been amazing. But I'll be honest in saying that sometimes the accessibility can get too much. 

Lara and bloggers open ourselves up for comment and criticism. 

Criticism is often not fair and unwarranted. It can be harsh. It can be downright mean. It is damaging, as I wrote last week. However, by putting ourselves out there means that everyone's going to have an opinion and their points of view may differ to ours. While we shouldn't expect or tolerate criticism, it's bound to happen, especially from those with a high profile.  

Lara and bloggers are self promoters.

The very essence of blogging and reality TV is self promotion. As a blogger, I promote myself in my blog content, and promote myself on social media by sharing my posts and engaging with others. It's done quite knowingly. I don't think there's anything wrong with self promotion but I also think that most bloggers have much more intelligent, purposeful and noteworthy content to offer than this type of TV show.

While Lara really isn't my thing, the love and defence I saw that some people on Twitter had for her reminded me of this quote (I used it in my thesis):

Cadle (2005 in Bell 2007, p 103) states “the beauty of a personal weblog is that it can act as a repository for the shifting conceptions of self so necessary for growth...it can also through its concentration on introspection, reflection and support from other young women through the comments feature, create the sort of 'women helping women' environment...” .

PerhapsBeing Lara Bingle will act like a blog does for bloggers. Maybe she will reflect and mature upon watching her show back, and maybe that 'women helping women' thing that's happening in her favour will help her grow too.

I am not saying reality TV is bad. Not everything has to be intellectually stimulating or purposeful. But it's just not an interest of mine. I know it has its place in the world. And I truly thank Lara Bingle for making me think about extimacy so much, and apply it to an actual situation.

11 June 2012

Exhale - This is who I am.

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade

And breathe.

Today, at about 4.40 pm, I submitted my thesis - my final assessment for my Masters of Communication. It's a great feeling. But I am exhausted. My thesis was on blogging and how it's given me a greater sense of identity because it allows me to have a voice and engenders a supportive community. Don't ask me much more about it right now, I forget.

Right now I am tired. With the pressure of a ridiculously busy period at work, completing my thesis (I've been working on it for around three months, but getting it done this weekend felt like I was plating up on MasterChef - right down to the wire!) and preparing for my trip. This semester doing my thesis has felt a bit lonely - I haven't had to attend uni, and I have also forgone a few social activities to procrastinate concentrate on the research. My trip has been on my mind more than anything. When I think that I fly out in 18 days, I grin and get butterflies in my tummy. Oh the opportunities!

But I worry. I am a worrier (and sometimes a warrior).

I am worried about my trip. I worry about my skin and money and what I will do about my phone to avoid bill shock. I worry about the cost of holding my mail (why should I have to pay for the post office to hold it when I have a PO Box that I already pay for? I worry that I won't have enough room in my suitcase and that I'll have too many suitcases to carry because of my special luggage allowance, and that I'll run out of cream.

I worry about the change in seasons and whether I should take a coat for London and a maxi dress for New York. I worry that it will be so "hot" in London that people will think it's a heatwave at 24 degrees and I'll be freezing in the aircon. Similarly, I worry about the New York summer. I worry about the health of those I love.

I worry about missing my friends and missing Offspring - how will I know what Nina is wearing each week, and whether she's got a chance with Kick Gurry's character? I worry that Darren Hayes will release concerts tickets to his Australian shows later this year and I'll miss out because I won't be notified in time. I worry that the woman whose apartment I am renting in New York will freak out about my skin. I worry.

Enough! I mustn't worry.

It's going to be the trip of a lifetime! I am incredibly excited!
This fortnight I will be doing the following things:

  • Surviving and enjoying work (and celebrate our big achievements of this project!)
  • Buying an iPad and downloading apps for blogging and photography
  • Downloading ebooks for my iPad - I have a list and an Amazon voucher!
  • Organising my travel money
  • Writing my speech for the Centre for Appearance Research's Appearance Matters conference that is happening in Bristol on 3 and 4 July
  • Packing (I have done my toiletries - being progressively buying things for my trip)
  • Going to the hospital to organise my final prescriptions
  • Laminating my doctor's certificates for travel
  • Emailing my friends and contacts in the UK
  • Having dinner with friends and attending a party
  • Giving a practice speech at my hospital.
I have a bit of an announcement to make (I can't recall if I have mentioned it before)! Two months ago I went for my regular checkup at the hospital clinic. One of the professors came to see me, telling me the hospital is able to support me by funding a ticket to London and paying for the conference! The Centre for Appearance Research works with my dermatology team. The professor told me she has spoken with the CEO of the hospital and they are both in full support of my trip, speaking at the conference and doing work experience at Changing Faces.

I felt so happy and overwhelmed with their generosity that I cried. I asked them how I can repay them. Other than inviting me to speak to some dermatologists and geneticists, they told me that I don't owe them anything. "You've paid for this, Carly" they laughed. I sure have. The support of my hospital, and the Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation, is better than any corporate sponsorship. They believe in me.

Right now I am worried. But I am so proud. I am following my dreams and making things happen. Who would have thought it could be this amazing?

(This is a post for Eden's Fresh Horses meme - 'Who the hell are you?')

05 June 2012

Keyboard warriors - online bullying, Chrissie Swan and why I'm not afraid of the Internet.

On the internet it's all too easy to forget that we're not speaking with friends in our living room. We share intimacies about ourselves with our online friends, and strangers, freely. The internet engenders trust, facilitates meaningful discussion and information sharing. It creates opportunities and fosters friendship. But keyboard warriors make me a bit scared. I have read accounts by other bloggers who are often frightened to open up anonymous comments in case they are hateful. Is it any wonder that media identities and celebrities often limit their engagement with their fans for fear that they may encounter hurt?

I have received lots of exposure through my blog. I am very lucky, and appreciative of the opportunities it's given me. I've been given a voice - when for so long I felt isolated and so very different. My appearance has made me pretty resilient. I have thick skin despite my thin skin. I have a strong voice and am proud of my opinions and the blog I've created.

The wider we are exposed, the more open we are to about bullying.

Sometimes I think I'm nuts for volunteering to share my life on the internet. I receive enough criticism about my appearance when I step outside the house. Fortunately in my time blogging, I've been very very lucky. I can only recall one occasion where my appearance has been attacked. It was a comment left on my review of the Sia concert - someone asked whether I've thought about going on Red Faces. Original. Other than that, I've only received a small handful of comments on my blog making personal judgement of my character, which I admit, have stung. I have been so lucky.

When I wrote about the Typo retard card, I was called derogatory names by people on Twitter and told to get off my high horse on my blog. When I wrote about my love for Hamish Blake on The Punch, I received comments questioning my emotional wellbeing and assuming the type of men that I prefer. A lot of the criticism came about because of the headline - which I did not write. People read the headline and did not take note of the story.

People tell me that when you put your opinion out on the internet (or in the wider media) you have to expect differing opinions, bullying and harassment. I agree that we should expect differing opinions. That is what makes the conversation of blogging so rich. But no one should expect or accept bullying or harassment.

Why should we? We are far more courageous than any of the faceless and nameless trolls. We are smart, educated, compassionate and opened minded.The issues we discuss on our blogs are often very important and make a difference in the community. While I write a lot about chronic illness and appearance, there are bloggers writing about issues such gay rights, poverty, depression, motherhood, single parenting, disability, politics, suicide, love, domestic abuse and healthy eating, to name a few.

Sadly, our strong voices are torn down, and so many remarks are made about appearance and lifestyle rather than our opinions. And all too often it happens to women, not men.

In my study for my thesis, I came across the following quote:

"Weblogs bring the web - in theory a leveler, a democratic medium - to the people"
- Rebecca Blood, editor of We've Got Blog.
This is so true. The internet allows for a huge diverse opinion to be shared. It brings people together. But are the wrong people being given the tools to express their opinions?

Years ago we had to write to the editors of papers and mags to have our opinion published. When I was 16 I did work experience at the local country newspaper and it was my job to call the letter writers and verify their identity. I remember some of the writers questioning MY identity as I was a new person calling them, and they trusted the newspaper's authority. Now, there is no accountability. It seems the comments are as big a draw card to the story as the actual story.

Perhaps the media perpetuates this. Tracy Grimshaw, journalist and host of A Current Affair, stated that it should be the media's role to moderate the comments in their online material. Yet in an ad for 60 Minutes last Sunday, the reporter was urging the audience to "be the judge of Delta Goodrem" in an upcoming interview on the program.

My studies have also shown me that bloggers (and media identities and celebrities) have a one to the world relationship with the audience. That is, we put our opinions out there, and our audience is bigger than a on-on-one relationship. Our online (and wider media) exposure means that our audience expects something of us. They expect us to be role models, perfect and accountable. And when we falter, we are persecuted. It's the world versus one. A massive vitriolic attack on one person, or if you're lucky (I have been), a massive show of support for one person. An example was the hate campaign directed at Yumi Stynes - a Facebook group was created, calling for her sacking. The hateful comments were disproportionate to the original comments she made about Lance Corporal Armstrong. Every time I saw a friend join this group I was embarrassed.

With exposure comes bullying. In the past week, broadcaster, TV presenter and writer, Chrissie Swan has borne the brunt of online bullying. She appeared in the Australian Women's Weekly discussing her choice to give up TV work to concentrate on a radio career which has meant she can spend more time with her beautiful little boys Kit and Leo. There were gorgeous pictures of Chrissie (she radiates sunshine and beauty) with her boys. The online article had the headline "it's ok to be fat" - which were words that Chrissie did not say. There were hundreds of comments under that article about her weight, her little boys' weight, and questions about her parenting skills. Uncalled for. Understandably Chrissie has been upset about the bullying (she tweeted that she cried in the carwash, and she cried on radio), yet handled it in such a dignified and respectful way. She has spoken out on her radio show about the support she's received from the media and the public. She's also been extremely open about her life - including her struggles with her weight, her career journey and the realisation that her little boy is overweight and the changes she's making to his eating habits. I thoroughly admire her for being so honest and true to herself in her media work. She is a role model of mine because she is a strong woman in the media, not afraid to be herself, have a laugh and be kind to others.

This morning I spoke to Chrissie Swan on the radio about online bullying and anonymous trolls. We (bloggers, media identities) are not afraid to put our faces and names to our opinions but these trolls are unaccountable. I added that often people make assumptions and judgements about our lives based on one blog entry or news report or magazine spread, and do so without context. How can we expect future generations to stop bullying when adults set such a bad example? I told her that so many bloggers are writing about this awful online behaviour, and she is very loved.

Last week I was sad for a few blogging friends. Mrs Woog and Eden Riley were featured on Fairfax websites, talking about blogging and monetisation. The personal attacks thay received in the comments section were brutal - questioning their motives as bloggers, their parenting skills and appearance. Mrs Woog wrote a brilliant post in response to the online bullying she and Chrissie Swan received, and so did Bianca Wordley, and Beth MacDonald did a fabulous video about trolls a few months back. And this post by Eden in April nails it.

Sanda Reynolds, blogger and author of the $120 Food Challenge, posted about the abuse she'd been receiving in the past two years. Comments have been made about her appearance, her cooking, her employment status and her children. The post was heartbreaking.
"Here’s the thing about being in firing line of online vitriol. It strips you of any pretence to greatness or ability. You have nothing with which you can hide your inadequacies, your failings, your pared back pock-marked ego. Nor is there any place in poverty-land for conceit, for flights of fancy, for ego, vanities or illusions. You can’t afford to even think about an alternative. You are poor and maligned goddamnit and you are not wealthy enough to have the luxury of a vision of something better for you. How dare you even dream of a better life. Just get a fucking job – any job, no matter the cost – and stop laying about. You’re poor and it’s a dogeatdog world. There’s no place for generosity, for kindness, for sharing. What ever you do, don’t you dare be choosy."

- Sandra Reynolds - $120 Food Challenge
Essentially, Sandra's blog is her space. Her pride and joy that she's built up and created a profile and income from. She is helping others budget for their meals. But people are hating on her. And she's taking a stand - she's been open about the bullying she's encountered, and creating a sign-in for the comments system on her site. As she wrote, her blog is her home, and it hurts when people come in and destroy that.

I wonder what drives online bullies. Is it that they want to have a voice too? is it that criticism of people they don't know (or think they do) makes them feel good about themselves? Are they jealous of the people they're criticising? Do they have too much time on their hands? Do they get a thrill knowing it's the world against one?

One thing is for sure - the awful things these online bullies say are more about their own character than of those they're criticising. Their insecurities and self worth shows.

I think about the damage online bullying does to children. They may be bullied at school and then can't escape it at home. I am so thankful the Internet was not a prevalent part of my childhood. I started using the Internet in its early stages in Australia, age 15.

I am not afraid of the Internet - it's been an integral part of my life for so long. My study's been focused on it, I shop online, I blog, I communicate with my friends and strangers online and I consume media online. It's brought me love, helped my writing career, and helped shaped my identity. My online and offline worlds blur. But I am afraid of some of the people who use the internet. Their words can be damaging to self esteem and reputation. These comments from strangers can hurt more than someone saying hateful things to our faces. These strangers come into our homes and make us feel uncomfortable.

We talk about schoolyard bullying but this is just as bad. These are adults setting an example to their children that bullying is ok. It's not ok. And if it continues, I am scared that these powerful voices, writers and role models that I admire so much will stop being so honest and sharing their stories.

04 June 2012

Tell me a story

I have a very very early start at work and at the do or die period of my thesis (I've chosen doing over dying) and I haven't got much time to write fun stuff.

So I'm asking you to tell me a story. It doesn't have to be long, and it can be about anything. Go on, move me, make me laugh or make me cry. I want to know what's been happening in your lives.

And I'll leave you with this cute haiku (the lovely Pip Lincolne first posted it). As I was up at 5 am. I don't know how you regular earlybirds do it.

Surprise me!

01 June 2012

Tim Ferguson interview

Tim Ferguson is a well known comedian and writer. He has performed with the Doug Anthony All Stars, hosted and starred in many TV shows, starred as Frankenfurter in a Sydney production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and now lectures in comedy and screenwriting at RMIT University. Tim has just performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in a show called Carry a Big Stick

Tim has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which is a disease of the nervous system, affecting a person's brain and spinal cord. The symptoms of MS were present since Tim's youth - “the symptoms came and went, like teenage sailors on shore leave, since I was 19-years-old. The actual ‘Look what you’ve got’ diagnosis was late-90’s”, Tim says. He was lovely enough to do an interview for me, and I love his answers!

Carly: How has it affected your comedy career? Did you reveal it to your comedy colleagues and the public straight away?

Tim: “I kept it to myself and a tiny inner-circle. Figured it was nobody’s damn business. And it would only freak them out, like any other thing that’s a little mysterious and scary (ask any teenage sailor on their first shore leave).”

While you say you don't want to educate people about MS, you are educating people about disability by getting out there and living life to the full and remaining positive. What's the importance of this?

“When I say I don’t feel compelled to ‘raise awareness’, I mean there are people far better placed to do this. Doctors and medical specialists can provide the public with credible information. Everybody is ‘aware’ MS exists, and that life goes on.

I live my life at full capacity, because that’s the way I’ve always lived. I walk slowly, sure, but I carry a big stick. I travel the globe teaching the craft of writing comedy. I wrote a comedy-writing manual (The Cheeky Monkey [Currency Press]) to give the keys to comedy to tortured writers. I’m making TV, books, live shows, a movie, and sweet love to a woman whose beauty and brains are way outta my league. I just do it at my own quirky pace.

People with any disability know they have 2 choices: laugh or cry. The wise ones feel free to do both, with as much optimism and tenacity as possible.

If anyone wants to see the way I live as an example for their own life, I can’t stop them. But I’m sure they’ve learnt to rely on their own inner-strength. That’s the gift of a disability – it’s a good teacher.”

How does comedy and laughter help your health?

“Doctors don’t know why, but laughter increases endorphins, adrenalin and blood-flow. It’s tied to the fear/flight response somehow. A sense of humour is crucial for anyone calling themself human. Sex and money comes to those who laugh”.

Why do you think it's important to have a positive attitude?

“Seriously?! Does that need to be asked?
Sigh… okay. Because life is a crazy, impossibly unlikely miracle. Even the freedom to feel miserable and negative is an extraordinary, wonderful thing.

For all we know, we’re the only sentient beings in the galaxy.

Most people in the West have breakfast every day, even if it may be through a tube. This makes us part of a minority.That has to stand for something!

Now, please get out of my bathroom”.


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