media

Ministry of silly journalism

I’ve been reading the New Zealand Herald for years. It was considered one of the local broadsheets of choice for those wanting to keep abreast of local and world events. Oh how times have changed. Flicking through The Herald online recently I thought I was reading a script for Monty Python skit!

At first glance the headlines and opening paragraph looked reasonably familiar – following patterns of acceptable reporting. Details generally describe incident with basic facts such as location, type of event, who ‘might’ be involved and what follow up there could be. The general slant is tentative and neutral. Then it degenerates and morphs into some strange montage of social media bites, spurious ‘expert’ opinions, local knowledge, speculation and enough spin to induce (e)motion sickness. To add to the roller coaster there is ghastly spelling and grammar, accentuated by the inclusion of verbatim bystander accounts, I genuinely think if you asked these reporters what they think a semi-colon is; they would say it was part of the intestinal tract.

I’m generally up for a laugh, but I don’t find much of this amusing as many deeply personal events are played out publicly stripping back the concept of private and sensitive to be replaced with primitive and sensational. So here is my concern, we are rapidly creating a tabloid version of life that we accept as real. If something were to happen to any of my close friends and family my distress would be magnified. Like circling sharks we have ditched our higher faculties to go searching for the small drops of blood and we are fed all sorts of ‘offal’ information to keep the frenzy going.

The other conundrum is I love Monty Python for it’s absurdity. If that starts translating into my view of the world I’d prefer to slap myself in the face with a fish. But just in case none of this makes sense I’d like to create a piece of fiction, mirroring the patterns I have alluded to above. I don’t want to offend anyone currently grieving over a loved one, and also understand the media do a good job at helping people stay connected and does generate support and compassion. I’m not against the human side of journalism but there is a thick line that has been well and truly pushed through:

Man dies in tiger attack

A 42 year old man from Colon near Oscopy on the coast of Sphincter was mauled by Tiger that had escaped from the local Zoo. The as yet unnamed man is local and is survived by his son Anaal. Authorities are hunting the Tiger who goes by the name of Pussy Goremore.

CCTV footage shows he had been shopping earlier that day but friends say he had not intended to be in that part of town however there was a Manbag sale on. Shop assistant Peter Bowel said stock had backed up and had been grateful to see it turdover.

Eye witnesses say he had browsed through a number of shops that day and had coffee. Cafe owner Lisa Flatu-lance said he often had a bagel with his coffee but didn’t that day so had left early. She believed the man would not have died if he had kept to his routine and had a bagel. Bagel suppliers have now put warnings on their products about the risk of tiger attacks.

Family of the Man are yet to be informed but police have posted information on Facebook and invited members of the public to help piece together his last moments, people with a morbid sense of self-importance are urged to come forward. Tributes have been flowing online including his former high school wood work teacher who had this to say.

“He was a natural on the lathe, nice long strokes on the plane and always put safety first. Sad day for us – we will erect a memorial”

Zoo authorities were keeping caged lipped today but say it is the first incident of an animal escaping. However a self appointed spokesperson who was closely linked to a former employee, a tea lady and local domino champion, claimed the Tiger had no intention of mauling the man but the bag he purchased was made out of Leopard Skin and was probably just protesting.

Animal rights groups have rallied online to ensure the fair trial of Pussy Goremore, who some believe is not actually a Tiger. The society for the prevention of cruelty to people who like to dress up as animals urged for restraint and asked for calm and that retaliation against those wearing animal products was not necessary. The Tiger is believed to have connections in Sumatra, not Africa as some have speculated.

And now for something completely different – the world shoe horn crisis has been linked to global warming.

….Yup I’m done.
cue flying circus music.

Failure To Lunch

Children’s lunch boxes have been the focus of Campbell Live this week with a nutritionist declaring last night that sandwiches should be avoided due to the carbs they contain in the bread and other nutritional concerns. Without contributing to the already frantic and ever so slightly vitriolic response from outraged parents I’d like to suggest we have well and truly shot the messenger – dissected her and feasted on her bones like some paleo fiend.

We are caught in a trap woven by expert knowledge becoming more and more specific and specialised and available at the touch of a button. In the west the production of food or should I say ‘food like’ products has proliferated to the point where our concept of ‘nutrition’ has been infiltrated and hijacked by a plethora of interests least of all commercial.

Neoliberalism has married perfectly with capitalism, coupledom and consumerism in a comfortable polyamorous arrangement that has given birth to some complex and often contradictory information about food. Slap on a thick layer of parental guilt and ever changing landscapes of ‘healthy’ and voila you have a people feeling perpetually under the self regulating gaze of conscientious conformity when putting anything in their supermarket trolley that comes in a package.

People – relax and smell the organic, fair trade coffee. Your child will be ok with a peanut butter sandwich (excusing those with nut allergies obviously) but it is curious how sugar has crept its way in – watch that – but keep it real…with a thick layer of oil at the top to lubricate your sense of humour.

To become some Body

If we ever transcend the limits of our bodies as a species I for one will be relieved never to have to find a public toilet ever again. I can never quite figure out from the signs which one I am supposed to use because I am not a triangle. But for now, I’m stuck with this one and it serves me pretty well most of the time.

If you are a human being chances are you have an awareness of your body and how it looks and functions. I know I became very aware at a young age that people confused my gender with my short hair and love of flannel shorts and matching top. As other lumps and bumps appeared I noticed certain bumps and lumps were commented on more than others, some approved of others not so much. There were conversations around eating, food, and a new idea ‘weight’ that emerged to sow seeds of doubt around this vessel I was conscious of as my body. Not the media, not images on TV, no – my parents and coaches and others drawing attention to how I looked or should look helped unease and self-surveillance (Foucault was definitely onto something – but did miss the gender thing slightly),

We have placed an incredible amount of meaning on body size and shape that we cannot escape. Gender aside (for the time being) our physicality is inescapable but we are told it is maleable. Choice and responsiblity and self-accountability have become the new mantras of an industry primed to cash in on the collective fear of being anything other than thin and/or buff, fear is a great marketing tool – remember that. When I talk with adults about the teasing or bullying they experienced more often than not it was about their looks, particularly their weight. Women’s magazines are a page by page rollercoaster through extremes and contradictions. First there is the weight loss success story, followed by the celebrity ‘lost my baby body in 3 weeks’ story, next to the chocolate cake recipes and finally the extreme close ups with arrows pointing out all the flawed bits and ‘too skinny’ or ‘out of shape’ with looking good fitting an incredibly narrow criteria but generally its somewhere between skeletal and thin – thigh gaps essential.

But we do it to each other as well. We notice and comment on whether people have put on weight, lost weight, have a tan, a new hair style, are on a diet, not on a diet, should be on a diet, what diet is new. People are quick to ‘tut tut’ those who’s body shape has moved out of the narrow margins of ‘acceptable’ while condemning those who fall into the clutches of anorexia or bulimia.

The morbid fascination and objectification of obesity as a form of ‘horror show’ can be seen in the number of TV shows dedicated to weightertainment. It’s kind of psychotic and pathological but we accept it as normal and even important to know what our ‘ideal weight’ should be based on a fundamentally flawed formula called the BMI – invented by a mathematician in the 19th Century…yes you read that correctly. Not a physician (let alone one within the last 100 years!) someone who liked numbers and measuring things. Well I have to say those three letters should be renamed from Body Mass Index to Blatantly Manipulated Information.

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes but lets get real and honest about how we restrict what is validated as beautiful. There is a rather more insidious effect; the art of distraction, like a perpetual maze confusing, disorienting and consuming consciousness. The time and energy that some people put into managing their bodies to ensure they ‘look perfect’ means less for other things. It is the ultimate form of control, probably the most effective form of Matrix program for subduing a population. People can now get Apps to help them stay plugged in more deeply and ensure they become fully immersed in the Weigh-tricks.

Yip, I’m feeling inspired to write a spoof – The Weightrix. Main characters Porkeus, Thinnity, and Gello. Porkeus looking for Gello inside the Weightrix offers him the red or blue pill – they’re jelly beans. Thinnity hopes Gello will make the ‘Pump test’ but he fails the first time. They send him to The Biggest Loser where he meets The Oraface.

“Bake up – the Weightrix has you.”

Thought for food

Maybe it is just me, but I’m just not into food TV of any shape or form. That being said I generally don’t watch ‘reality T.V’ as it’s so contrived and well…unreal. But the explosion of cooking shows has absolutely done my head in. I now have food performance anxiety. It’s not enough to be able to just produce a balanced meal anymore it has to look right and be presented and served with a smile and a glass of complimenting wine or boutique beer.

Food is a new status symbol and it irks me. I could become enraged with the socio/political landscape of food and its production but not now. Being able to cook lavish complicated and expensive meals is trendy and denotes a form of success that is surreptitiously dividing people into categories of competency to cook.

When I was eleven I remember doing cooking at school and used those skills all the way through to university. Finding ten ways to use whole peeled tomatoes, budget pasta and dried herbs was part of the right of passage into adulthood for many of us. I also survived terrible food hygiene, it wasn’t unusual to have a chilli turn into a curry and back to a chilli again all over a week and without ever leaving the stove. If you think that is stomach churning I’ve also had a rather dodgy effort at cooking road kill – no I am not making this up (but did leave the flat that day as the line had definitely been crossed). Cheese and crackers was just a slab of tasty cheese and some plain crackers – not anymore! My goodness if you don’t have a selection of cheeses (soft and hard) and a range of crackers including gluten free, low fat, and a suitable platter to serve it off AND garnish, then I’m sorry you have not met the new host standard.

The same goes for cooking. I have a mild panic attack at the thought of a pot luck dinner these days. My confidence in my own ability to produce something worthy of consumption has dwindled in the face of a media saturation of fancy food. It’s not that I don’t want to make the effort, I just know it’s not my effort being judged anymore. Actually, none of my friends would do that – but the feeling remains true in general.

Frankly I am throwing in the tea towel as the dishes required for the new culinary culture are just ridiculous. I’m inventing a new form of ‘foodie’ one that cares about the company I’m sharing a meal with and how much love went into it. I would never eat something from a Gordon Ramsay kitchen with the amount of anger, fear and aggression vibes present when it’s prepared, that is my new definition of unpalatable.

So raise a glass – or jam jar and lets make toast…just toast.

Racing ahead without looking behind

Down here in NZ where the oval ball rules, we have not escaped the global phenomenon of more spherical ball games including basketball. Why we have our very own Stephen Adams playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder – and all of a sudden I love basketball. That’s just how we roll sometimes, we connect personally with our fellow nest flyers…walkers (silly me forgot we are the land of flightless birds), and adopt them. It’s like living in a very large extended family. We can of course double our chances with the Adams family – sister Valerie is quite a good athlete herself. Olympic Gold, World Champ, Commonwealth Champ – yeah she puts that heavy round thing out there!

You don’t need to follow sport anymore – it follows you! Sport is a business and whilst we want children and young people to be active and enjoy the positive aspects of sport, in the end it is about generating profit. The relationships between marketing and promoting brands and sport is about as in your face as a ball in the face. What happened over the last week with the ‘racism scandal’ and the Los Angeles Clippers will be picked up as an issue around human rights, racism, justice and rightly so. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has ‘cut out the tumour’ excising as much removal powers as possible by cutting ties with Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But what will be the follow up treatment and overall recovery regime for the NBA?

While this decision has been lauded by most and is probably the right one, it is hardly a brave decision. It doesn’t require any party involved to deal with the fall out or be genuinely accountable. Legal teams are probably rubbing their hands together gleefully. Silver will be the ‘good guy’ cleaning things up and taking a hard line, Sterling the ‘bad guy’ and merchandise, new branding will probably be created to ride the wave of unity while the ground swell of public awareness is firmly fixed on the NBA. Sponsors will be running to advertisers to ensure they don’t drop in too late. Rest assured it will be ‘business as usual.’

What to learn and take from this? Money talks. Everything is for sale. That is the sad truth. This was never really about exposing racism – someone cashed in with that tape. If it does generate conversations about any form of discrimination in sport or generally, then great, but these will be fleeting and more about political point scoring.

I will be keeping an eye on proceedings but so long as my boy Stephen is playing well and representing the silver fern I will ride my own wave of national pride vicariously and cross my fingers he gets the respect he deserves as a player because of how he plays. I’m also hoping coaches with a homophobic streak get a bit of a wake up call. A note to Mr Silver then – you might want to look into that to.