Archive | November, 2011

Useless things I’ve bought this week

30 Nov

This week, I have unknowingly bought two useless products:

  • A non-waterproof tent.
  • Christmas baubles without string.

Seriously. Waddup with dat?

Is it an extended April Fools’ Day joke by the world’s manufacturing wizards? A prank played on an ever-trusting public? Or perhaps it’s a clever marketing ploy to get us back to the shops to buy more – ‘I just need to pick up some bauble strings…hey, look at that! It’s a slicer-dicer-juicer-in-one! I totally need one of those!’

Can you imagine buying a loaf of bread from the bakery and opening it up at home to find only the crusts? Then needing to go back to buy the inside bits? Or buying a brand new car and having to head down to Bob Jane to fit it with a set of tyres?

I remember as a kid, watching those toy commercials with the sped-up voice over that said, ‘batteries not included.’ Which is why after unwrapping the latest gizmo or gadget, you’d also unwrap a 12-pack of Energizers. Cheers Santa!

Not including batteries is understandable. Plus, on toys, the no-battery notification is fairly easy to spot. But why are we being sent off with a bag of string-less baubles (don’t try threading them onto a teeny tree branch, folks. It doesn’t work!), or an outdoor tent that needs a slathering of waterproofing spray before it can be used outside (unless you want to be saturated with rain as you sleep).

I’ll be honest – I didn’t exactly choose the most expensive option when buying the tent and decorations (hey, a girl needs spare change for shoes!) But I did spend a good $30 on the tent and $40 on the sparkly balls. And in my mind, that warrants being sold a fully-functioning product.

I wonder if in the future, my kids will be left disappointed after unwrapping an empty box with ‘toy not included’ noted in fine print on the side. What a sad, sad Christmas that will be…although, incredibly cheap! Leaving Mummy with more money to spend on pretty shoes. Mwahaha.

Have you ever bought something that didn’t come as advertised? Share your experiences by commenting below.

Until then, I’m off to buy bauble string and waterproofing spray…

Why I’m not ashamed to shop online

29 Nov

This year, I shunned the shops and ordered all my Christmas gifts online. There is now a burgeoning bag of goodies in the bottom of my wardrobe, waiting to be wrapped.  I can’t stop looking at them. Unlike other Christmases, I know I made some damn fine purchases this year. The perfect pressie for each recipient. I am one seriously smug pre-Christmas shopping shopper!

The gifts were swiftly delivered to my office, headache-free and without the memories of toes being run over by racing prams or standing in an endless line to ask if the shop stocks an obscure DVD that no other store in the entire city seems to have. Followed by battling to the back of the store to find said DVD (which inevitably is not where the shop assistant said it would be) and re-joining the now longer queue to buy the bloody thing!

I also avoided the dreaded ‘Oh crap, it’s 5pm on Christmas Eve Eve (yes I call the day before Christmas Eve ‘Christmas Eve Eve’) and all I have found is this lame golfers’ book of jokes for Dad (who hasn’t played golf in years) and a novelty mobile phone holder for some poor unsuspecting friend!’

All I did was browse, click, eat some chocolate (a prerequisite for online shopping), click, click, more chocolate, put in cart, enter delivery details and sign for package placed on my desk three days later. Job. Done.

I’m afraid I haven’t been able to keep my successful shopping experience to myself. I’ve been gloating to anyone who’ll listen (and even to those who won’t).

‘Yes, I’ve already done all my Christmas shopping and it’s not even December yet!’

‘Mmm, I know, I’m just far too organised!’

‘Oh, I don’t know how you can stand going to the shops at this time of year. It’s mayhem!’

See – total snob.

But I don’t care. Because on Christmas Eve Eve, rather than sobbing into my arm-length shopping list and joining an endless Westfield car park queue, I will be slumped on mum’s couch, drinking wine and eating novelty Christmas snacks (you know those strange gooey things you wouldn’t dare eat at any other time, but because they’re shaped like Santa Claus, you can’t help but chow down?)

Is online shopping guilt-free?

Lately, there has been a lot of bad press about online shopping. The usual opponent, Gerry Harvey, one half of the Harvey Norman empire, has routinely slammed locals for turning to the net to purchase wares from overseas.  I feel for him – the true blue Aussie entrepreneur who has watched local businesses shut up shop as the internet takes over. Interestingly, the chain finally opened its own online store this week and apparently made $50,000 in the first day.

Good on him, I say. As the old saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’

Gerry’s main concern has always been that Aussies can buy goods up to $1000 from overseas online stores without paying GST. His argument is that this is crippling homegrown businesses. I can see his point – of course our economy will wilt if we’re no longer indulging in physical retail therapy. Even if you take into account shipping and exchange rates when buying from overseas, the product will often end up costing a lot less than it does at your local Westfield.

Though, as Choice reports, ‘Who can blame [consumers buying online from overseas stores] when Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, for instance, cost 91% more from a major Australian online retailer than from an overseas online website based in Asia?  Or when a pair of Nike running shoes cost $240 at a major Australian sports retailer while the same product can be bought online for $134 from a US sports store?’

Choice has even launched an investigation into why shoppers in Australia pay more than those in the UK, US or Asia.

I always assumed it was a population thing – we simply don’t have enough people to pump up demand for goods. Or perhaps we’re so far away from the manufacturing hubs that we attract ridiculously high shipping costs, which are passed on to the consumer.

I’ll be very interested to read the findings…

In the meantime, I can revel in my super organised pre-Christmas shopping snobbery, as I did order all my Christmas gifts from Australian online stores. Not to make any sort of social statement, but it just seemed a lot easier than ordering from overseas, trying to find out whether they ship to Australia, comparing costs and then hoping that I chose a legitimate store. Plus, even though it may work out cheaper to buy from overseas, I do feel a twinge of patriotism (or perhaps it’s just a post-shopping rush?) when I click ‘confirm order’ on an Aussie site. For me, it just feels like the right thing to do. That and eating chocolate while I shop. 🙂

Fear the fame monster

27 Nov

I ventured down to Melbourne this weekend to race in the Head of the Yarra rowing regatta. Unfortunately, the river flooded and the race was called off. Though I did get the chance to catch up with an old school friend.

As we sipped our lattes, my friend told me about her recent experiences teaching music at a ‘rough’ school in an even ‘rougher’ Melbourne suburb. Amid accounts of 11 year-old students attempting to punch her in the stomach and a ‘gang’ girl who took a knife to school, my mate mentioned that most of the kids in her class want to be famous. That’s their career aspiration. To be another Kardashian (and, I’m assuming, change their first name initial to a ‘k’).

There are no aspirations of fire fighting or nursing, or even being talented musicians. They just want to be famous. Whether that’s through a trashy reality TV show or even an amateur sex tape (which my friend says many of them do indeed aspire to), it’s fame they crave.

When I was sitting in careers class in year nine, selecting the subjects that would dictate my university studies and, in turn, my career, being famous didn’t even cross my mind. I considered following in my father’s footsteps and being a journalist, because I enjoyed writing and had an interest in current affairs. I even thought about being an actor, because I loved drama class and playing a character. Not because it fed my ego (quite the opposite in fact – performing on stage terrified me!) but because it gave me the chance to live the life of someone else and explore their flaws and dreams. When I imagined  myself working as a hard-nosed reporter, chasing a juicy story, I didn’t see the front page by-line or media parties. I saw myself making a difference. When I dreamed about life as an actor, I didn’t see the flashing lights of the paparazzi or signing autographs for my burgeoning fan base. Instead, I saw myself reading scripts and getting stuck into a challenging role. Many of my buddies from the WAAPA performance course I attended aspired to be actors. When we sat around in our lunch break rehearsing lines and gossiping, fame was never a reason why we wanted to act for a living. We just wanted to perform. And being famous might or might not result.

Sure, we all had moments of singing into our hairbrush in front of the bedroom mirror. A friend of mine, who has in fact gone on to have a successful TV career in Australia (and now America) and I used to put on singing shows for our families at dinner parties. But fame was still a very elusive thing. We didn’t feel entitled to it and we didn’t think it would just happen, either. There was a very slim chance of being famous and we knew that those who were had to work very hard for it.

It worries me that there are classrooms of kids who want to be the next Kardashian, ‘chk-chk boom chick’ or YouTube sensation. Finding a cure for diseases, being a counsellor or protecting the community as a police officer just doesn’t interest them. Well, unless they can be in a reality show about it! Fame just seems so easy these days. Simply audition for  a reality show in which you claim to be seeking love, fun or a record contract, say something controversial to get noticed and on the show and then ride the coattails of fame for as long as you can. The recipe for fame is a sinch – or at least, that’s what we’re made to believe.

What do you think? Is fame easier to come by these days, or does it just appear to be easy? Do you think kids aspire to be famous more than they aspire to make a difference or climb the career ladder or run the family business? And should we worry?

 

My name is Kat and I’m a portmanteau-aholic

22 Nov

Huh? Don’t worry, I had to Google this one too! You see, I’ve developed a habit of late and it’s turning me into a full-blown nut-job.

I am addicted to combining two words to make a new, super word! Apparently, this is called a portmanteau (who knew!)

For example:

Friend: ‘Hey Kat, let’s go to the movies tonight. We’ll make it a girls’ night.’

Me: ‘Yeah, a gight!’

Friend: ‘Huh?’

Or take this instance:

Boss: ‘Guys, let’s come up with a new marketing strategy.’

Me: ‘Yeah, a matergy!’

Boss: ‘Uh…hu.’

Seriously, my portmanteau obsession is turning me into a socially inept, crazed freak (a creak). Gaaa! See what I mean?

The problem is, even when I  manage to bite my tongue and keep the portmanteau tucked away where it can’t scare small children, I still silently say the word to myself. Even when titling this blog post, I sniggered to myself, ‘portmanteau-aholic. Polic!’

I worry that I’ll walk into the bank one day soon to request a new online savings account and instead ask for a ‘scount’. Or order my morning soy mocha by requesting a ‘socha’.

Something must be done to break this cycle. I must beat this frightening addiction (fraddiction. Oh god.)

Until then…I’m Kat and I’m a Polic.

Portmanteau

Why I will never swap paperbacks for ‘puter

22 Nov

I was strolling down Newtown’s King Street the other day, enjoying the soft afternoon sun and warm, cushioning breeze. And then I smelt it – the familiar, earthy smell of old paperbacks. It wafted out the door of a shabby second-hand bookshop and enveloped my shnoz. Hypnotised by the scent, I followed my nose into the store and left with several worn works under my arm.

Some people love the smell of freshly baked bread. Others would do anything for a whiff of freshly-mown grass. Me – I would wrap myself in paperback books if I could. In fact, often I do, jumping under the doona on a cold day and surrounding myself with stories that I have read and re-read many times over. I would pay $1000 for a dress made from paperbacks. I would marry my book collection, if I could. I’d place a little bow-tie on the top of each book and vow never to leave it. If my apartment was burning down, I would chuck my books out the window and jump after them. And then apologise profusely for getting them grimy.

I once ran my own professional organising business. I taught my clients about the importance of keeping organised and culling unnecessary items. I attended association meetings and sympathised with my peers when they spoke about clients who had book-hoarding problems. ‘Oh yes,’ I would say somewhat superiorly. ‘You should try and limit your book collection to one or two shelves.’ I didn’t dare tell them about my own overgrown collection that was crowding my bedroom and stuffed with stories that I just couldn’t bear to part with. Often I wanted to shout, ‘Gaaaa! I’m a book hoarder! Don’t  look at me! Don’t look at meeee!’ but I sat on my hands.

Now that I’ve painted a picture of my book obsession, you will understand when I say that I will never, ever buy or use an electronic reading device. Granted, they are trés handy and store a gazillion books while only taking up the space of a skinny notebook. You can even pop them into cute coloured covers, which I am always a sucker for!

But where is that gloriously rich, rustic smell? The hand-written inscription written by a man to his lover and dated December, 1978? The scribbles and highlights and margin notes from an eager student? When flicking through an old book, I often wonder who owned it before me. I own an original copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is stamped with ‘Duchey Library Elwood’ and is wonderfully yellowed and stained. The cover is falling to bits and there are more than 120 library stamps in the back beginning with November ’61 and ending with Feb ’77. I like the mystery of not knowing who borrowed the book during those years, and who owned and read and re-read it in the years since. No doubt it will one day drift from my collection and continue its journey.

How can a computer even compare?

Perhaps I’m ridiculously romantic. You might say that I should ‘update’ and ‘adopt the latest technologies’ like I have with so many others things in my life. But no matter how many iPhones, iPods, iMacs, Sony Vaios, digital cameras or hard drives I buy, I draw the line at going digital with my book collection. After a long day sat in front on the computer, the last thing I want to do is switch on another device. I crave opening the crisp cover of a new read, or dipping into an ‘oldie’ to reflect and breathing in that lovely paperback smell. 🙂

How to avoid cement in your butt

21 Nov

Every so often, a news story comes out that makes you spit out your morning coffee and say, ‘Whaaaa?’ (before apologising to the poor soul who is now wearing your soy flat white).

Today’s story about a US woman who sought out cheap plastic surgery for a curvier figure and ended up with cement in her butt seems too bizarre to be true. But it is. Allegedly, of course 😉

The story goes that the botched surgery was performed by Oneal Ron Morris, a woman who posed as a doctor and injected several people with a cement, mineral oil and flat-tyre sealant concoction. The victim mentioned in the story ended up seriously ill and went to two hospitals for treatment, but was too embarrassed to tell doctors what had caused her wounds and flu-like symptoms.

You’d think doctors would have been able to tell, given that she had a disproportionately big behind filled with cement. You only have to look at the published pics of Oneal Ron Morris to see how bizarre her own body looked after the self-performed surgery.

Of course, what happened to Ron Morris’s victims is terribly tragic. But really, who would allow a doctor to inject them with cement? Even if she didn’t know what was being pumped into her body, didn’t she query why it was only costing her $700? Didn’t she ask for references, a referral, or any proof that the ‘doctor’ was qualified and knew what she was doing?

People get duped every day from marketing scams, spammers, dodgy pop-up shops that disappear overnight. But when it’s your own body on the line, when it’s your health and especially when it’s plastic surgery (which, even when done properly, has a suite of risks), surely you take the time to research the person who you are trusting with your life while you lie face down on the surgeon’s table?

I’m all for cosmetic enhancements, if it makes you feel better and you believe it will boost your confidence. In fact, if you crave a curvier body, I’d be more than happy to donate some of my butt blubber to help you out (aren’t I generous?). But whenever we wish to change something about our body – whether it’s to increase our vitamin intake, get a new hair treatment, erase acne and especially have surgery, we need to take the time to research every option.

Only venture into the salon, pharmacy or surgeon’s office when you are well-informed and armed with the facts. Then hopefully we can avoid seeing other ‘cement in the butt’ stories.

50+ reasons why clichés suck

18 Nov

At the end of the day, I hate clichés. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about my cliché fury for a while now. Today I decided to finally jot it down, because you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

I’m in an inspiring setting to write about my most-loathed clichés. I’m seated at my desk in front of an open sashless window. The sun is caressing the keyboard and there is a soft breeze wafting in. There really is no place like home.

First things first, I took to Twitter to gather other people’s thoughts about clichés. As they say, many hands make light work. Many hands also help me poach other people’s ideas. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any tweets in reply. But this list should be as easy as pie.

For what it’s worth, I think clichés allow writers to be lazy. I know that in these tough economic times, the Australian people have other things to worry about than weary writers and cliché-peppered copy. But it’s time to do an about face, people! Let’s make a last-ditch effort to eradicate clichés from all newspaper copy, headlines, classrooms and blog posts (except this one).

Surely there is going to be an outpouring of support for the cause. For all intents and purposes, we need to abandon ship on the cliché front.

In a split second, a piece of thoughtful, pristine prose could be overturned by a wayward cliché. The copy might seem above board, but look harder and you will see that the writer has an ace up his sleeve. And that ace has ‘cliché’ written on it (probably). Then it’s all over. The writing is all bent out of shape, all bets are off and the writer has opened a can of worms.

Let’s get to the bottom of it. Writers tend to hang on to every word of their writing. Now, it might be hard to swallow, but I reckon a good rule of thumb is to go through your copy and can it. All of it. Then go to bed and get up early to face it again with a clear head. After all, the early bird catches the worm!

Then, sit down and open a can of whoop ass on your work. Take no prisoners, ensure there are no holds barred. Well, except to not use clichés, obviously.

So let’s call a spade a spade. I don’t want to call the shots here and tell you how to suck eggs (doesn’t seem too hard though does it? Get egg, peel shell, suck). In writing, it’s every man for himself. Long, lonely nights spent staring at that little flashing computer curser, waiting for inspiration to strike. Hunched over the computer in the darkness for perfect prose to spill onto the page. But you can’t hold a candle to it (well you could, but the wax would get all over the keyboard. Très messy.) So to speed things up, you slip in a little cliché. A teeny tiny overused phrase that means nothing, but makes your copy sound hella cool.

But if that were true, I would eat my hat (and then very swiftly call an ambulance). You can’t waste precious virtual ink on a clumsy cliché! It might appear that everything is coming up roses and your page is filled with witty remarks, but no! Ohhhh, no. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, mister! I am taking that cake (yum, thanks). This is do or die territory. If you want to write a story, article or novel that people will actually enjoy reading, you can’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Because chances are they won’t turn into chickens, anyway. They’ll probably end up on a dinner plate somewhere in suburbia. I digress.

I have another axe to grind about clichés. What’s the deal with journalists throwing them into their copy left, right and centre (but not justified. They never put them in a justified alignment)? I know they have to do what it takes to get a story, but they are on easy streak. They actually get paid to write! Their prose should be hunky dory and cliché-free! But instead, it looks like a dog’s breakfast.

Now I know I shouldn’t hold my breath. It’s going to be no easy feat wiping clichés from the world. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are hundreds of bloggers and independent journos taking a stand and bemoaning the use of clichés. Even news.com.au, a notorious cliché-loving publication (seriously, the two of them should get a room) published a story about the industry’s worst clichés.

So to make a long story short, do what I say, not what I do. Discard those stinking, good-for-nothing clichés! Throw the clichés out with the bath water! Don’t sit on your hands – strike while the iron is hot!

I’ve said my piece. Take it with a grain of salt. 😉

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