Wow pretty lady what a big…smile you have

At first glance, I honestly thought there was nothing wrong with it.

Four incredibly gorgeous women, dressed in bikinis, having fun at the beach and briefing travelers on aircraft safety for Air New Zealand’s latest in-flight safety video.

So why were presumably smart and well-educated women, including Hilary Barry, Pam Corkery and Deborah Russell taking exception to this bit of fun?

“Air New Zealand’s new safety video has made me very angry,” Hilary Barry tweeted.   “Shame on you and shame on the message you are perpetuating.”

Of course the media took that and ran with it – but no one bothered asking Hilary Barry for her exact reasoning behind her view.

Maybe I’m the only thicko that didn’t get it instantly, and mulled over it the entire day, questioning my beliefs and what I was missing.

I mean it’s the whole undies, undies – togs, togs argument right?

These beautiful swimsuit models are at the beach in the Cook Islands, where I’m guessing swim wear is appropriate attire, regardless of breast size.

Yes, it’s an airplane safety video, but it’s also promoting the Cook Islands as a holiday destination, and advertisers have been selling tropical island vacations with shots of perfectly-proportioned sun-kissed beach babes clad in swim wear forever.

I mean, the girls look like they’re having so much fun, and seem so NICE and friendly, so relateable.  And gosh don’t the Cook Islands look beautiful? I really must get there one day.

But something deeper lay beneath those sparkling blue waters and adorable smiles, something that I wasn’t even aware of, because I’ve become so accustomed to beautiful creatures selling me all sorts of messages, ideas, experiences and…stuff.

Today, women in many countries are entitled to an education, a driver’s licence, to vote, buy and own property, and earn seats in council chambers, parliament and board rooms.

Despite this, we are still not equal with our male counterparts.  A lot more work is required to protect more women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, while continuing to promote economic equality.

Many will argue that we have equal opportunity and that special allowances would only negate the purpose of equality.

This may be true, but the pervasive attitude remains, that women are inferior.  Of course no one walks around saying this out loud, no one to my knowledge is writing a book promoting the idea and it’s not something kids are taught in schools, and I hope, not by their parents.

But it’s still there.  I read an interesting article last month, explaining  how calling women “bitch”, “slut” and “crazy” is in many cases a verbal cop out for men.  The article is written by a man who was attempting to improve his attitude towards and his relationship with women.

Be honest now.  How many times have you heard women  referred to as sluts or whores in every day conversation?

Or ladies, how many times have you been at your wits end with frustration, and been called crazy for expressing too much anger, sadness or passion?

And hands up who’s been called a bitch for doggedly making a point, sticking up for yourself or asserting your opinion a little too acutely?

No one has taught us to feel that way, but it’s there all around us.  In the never-ending stream of video clips, advertisements, movies, television programmes and magazines that we unconsciously ingest every single day, dictating how we ought to look, and behave.

We have no choice, there’s no escaping it, unless you live like a hermit, and that’s not progress.

But if we start questioning what we’re seeing, and the messages we’re  delivered perhaps we’ll begin to view the world, it’s people, ourselves and what’s really important, a little more clearly.

Maybe this knowledge will even set us free from chasing impossible ideals, and result in living a happier life.

I hope this piece, which is the result of much soul-searching and discussion, encourages you to re-think your paradigms and what you accept as normal.  Or am I way off the mark?  Please share your thoughts and tell me what you think.


Waitangi Day

If you spend Waitangi Day on the couch, with only main stream media to keep you up-dated with how Waitangi Day events around the country pan out, I can understand why you’d be a bit over it.

For politicians, Waitangi Day is an opportunity to get in front of the cameras and deliver their lectures about “looking to the future”, “embracing challenges as opportunities” and make promises.  This is never more true than on election year.

Some small groups of people use Waitangi Day and the media’s hunger for conflict as an opportunity to rally for change.

These two groups make up a tiny per centage of our population, yet every year, they are top of the news bulletins, creating the impression that us New Zealanders are a disgruntled and divided bunch.

(But hey, media is only giving us what we want.  Who wants to read a nice fluffy story about a group of happy people who don’t have a cross word to say to anyone?  Those headlines just don’t make compelling reading or viewing.)

Meanwhile, the rest of the country gets on with the day in their own way, just like we do at Christmas and Easter – according to our own beliefs and family traditions.

When I lived in Auckland, we’d jump in the car and head to the Orakei Domain on the waterfront for the day. With stalls, good food, great music, and hoards of people dancing, singing, eating and generally having a good time, it was a pretty festive occasion.

Here in Marlborough, everyone is welcome at Waikawa Marae near Picton, to visit, learn a bit about the local iwi’s role when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed back in 1840, and partake in food and conversation.  It’s a welcoming atmosphere, centred around family and community.  I reported on the day’s events two years ago for the Marlborough Express, and the only dispute was between judges of the baby show.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – don’t be disillusioned by the media into believing that New Zealand has issues with its cultural identity.  Or by the people who compare Waitangi Day celebrations to Australia Day or Independance Day festivities.  I’ve been in both countries for these days, and they still have deep-rooted issues stemming back to their colonization as well.

If we want a New Zealand Day, let’s create one on its own merits, not replace Waitangi Day just because we’ve had a few decades of seemingly inconvenient negotiations between Maori and Government.

February 6 represents a hugely pivotal point in our nation’s history and more than 170 years later is one of our oldest traditions.

Yes we’ve had a colourful history, and we don’t all see eye to eye, but why not use Waitangi Day as an opportunity to better understand our history, warts and all, to build a stronger and better country in the future.

Do you think all our brothers and sisters overseas are grizzling about Waitangi Day today?  Hardly – they’ll be seeking out their fellow countrymen and women, heading to the bar and wishing they were right back at home with family and friends.

Well, that’s just my thoughts – how about you?  What do you think of Waitangi Day, and do you celebrate it?

Or are you like me  and just passed the day doing nothing much?

Community manager – my job description

community-manager-1Since starting my role as community manager for the Social Guy last year, I’ve become accustomed to explaining what I do to everyone several times over.

I had to Google the term myself before I applied for the job, and while the title may sound officious, I don’t actually manage anyone but myself.

Many community managers carry self-appointed titles, such as “social media guru”, “social media expert” or “social media ninja”.  But I’ve only been in the game for four months, so I’m certainly not going to try and palm myself off as something I’m not.  Also, as someone once said to me, if anyone has to TELL you they’re a ninja, chances are they’re probably not, unless you’re talking to Bruce Lee.

Community management is a growing and developing profession. Defined by Jake McKee aka “The Community Guy”, a community is:  “A group of people who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual reasons.”  Online communities connect and share information with each other using web tools, such as social networks, blogs, podcasts and forums.

Community managers, on the other hand, build and manage a company’s or brand’s community on the web, via its social and digital channels.  We act as an ambassador and advocate for the brand or company, and essentially we are their official “voice” on the web.

If you’ve ever liked, loved, shared, commented on, RTed, favourited, +1ed, re-blogged any information from a brand or business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr, Digg, WordPress, or any of the other social media channels, you’re an active participant in the community.   Your engagement, or lack of, is partly how the success of social and digital marketing strategies are measured.

Many people assume I spend all day updating Facebook statuses and posting tweets, and yes, sadly I am glued to my screen most of the day, but there’s a bit more to it than  throwing up a post now and then.

Jeremy Owyang, one of the world’s first community managers, researched the role and defined the Four Tenets of the Community Manager in 2007, soon after the role started appearing.

Some of my responsibilities include gathering information about our clients, their products, services, market and competitors, answering queries from members of the community, researching and collating data and information, writing reports and planning and strategising.

So there you have it, you’ll be hearing more about what I do as I get into my role.  I love it, I’m learning heaps, I still get to write, I’m broadening my skills, and learning from someone who’s been in the industry for a very long time.  I’m even going to bestow the Social Guy aka the WineGeekNZ with the lofty title of expert,  because he’s enormously good at what he does, and a great teacher to boot.

So if there’s someone at your work who fits the above job description, you might want to send them a message telling them what a great job they do tomorrow.  Because the fourth Monday of every January (January 27th this year) is Community Manager Appreciation Day (initiated by Jeremy Owyang in 2010).  If you’re on Twitter join the conversation using the official hashtag #CMAD2014, and check out 2014’s top 100 Community Managers on Twitter, compiled by Little Bird.

 Anything to add? All constructive criticism is encouraged and appreciated. Thank

Ethical choices and not buying crap

You know what really pisses me off?  Buying a new coffee plunger, washing basket, tee-shirt, pair of tongs – whatever – knowing it’s not going to last two years before it breaks, cracks, stretches or fades and I have to replace it.

I resent spending money on stuff that isn’t going to last, especially necessities such as clothing.  In the past few years I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find clothing of decent quality, made of suitable material at a fair price – that suits me.

The latter is probably a reflection that I can’t just wear whatever I fancy anymore.  The younger me used to be able to walk into a store, pick out virtually anything off the rack and rock out.  Now, not so much.  (note to former me, don’t get hung up on your body, enjoy it while it lasts)

Last weekend, I went to the Nelson market with my buddy Sarah.   For those of you not familiar with Nelson’s Saturday market, there’s probably about 100 stalls there offering food, fresh produce, arts, crafts and clothing.  It’s something of an institution in Nelson, and always packed out.

While a lot of what’s on offer is what I’d term kitsch, such as jewellery made with paua or river stone, or beautiful paintings and pottery rendered ordinary because they’re adorned with tui, fantail or pohutukawa.  You know, the classic kiwiana that used to be funky, but now there’s pohutukawa-emblazoned china and harakeke screen-printed cushions everywhere you go, and I’ll just scream if I see one more paua pendant.

However, there were heaps of gems to be found too, including  Ross Johnston’s knives, which he designs and hand crafts himself using recycled steel, native timber, bone and deer antlers.  We visited his Blackbird Valley Forge in Moutere last year, and while we didn’t buy anything (the price was  a bit prohibitive, although they are made to last a life-time) he kindly shared a few pearls of knife wisdom with us for free.

Are you listening?

“Always cut towards your mate”.  Undeniably useful.

But wait, there’s more: “some knives aren’t worth a wart on an arse”.  Important advice if you’re on the market to buy a knife.

earringsMy friend Sarah bought us each a pair of earrings, handmade with Japanese Washi paper, by a talented lady named Mio Aisu-Macleod.  Intricately painted, the earrings are very delicate and hang lightly, framing the face with a gorgeous punch of colour.  Love ’em!  Thanks Sez!

Ta da!!

Ta da!!

We both tried on a number of  dresses, at different stalls.  I ended up buying a light cotton dress, simply designed and put together by Nelson designer Robyn Reynolds. I ruled the dress out initially, because being a size too big it looked like I was wearing a sack.  But Robyn pulled out her pin cushion and proceeded to take in the sides, created some darts under my bust, and transformed it from a shapeless toga-like tunic to a lovely dress that fitted my body like a glove.  I still wasn’t convinced, but she said all the right things (ie, flattering me and allaying my fears that I didn’t, resemble a box) and we ended up agreeing on a price, including postage.

The rear view - Mikey's idea of a joke that is

The rear view – Mikey’s idea of a joke that is

As Sarah said after we parted ways, we were both richer for the experience.  Robyn had made a sale, sure, but she’d done her best to make sure I was happy with the garment before foisting it on me.  Smart move Robyn, because I’m more likely to tell others all about you now.  While $100 is not a huge amount to spend on a dress, it’s certainly not cheap either.

But I don’t mind paying for a bit of extra service and attention.  I love the thought that I’ve bought something from someone who loves their job and is good at it, rather than a mass-produced product made for some ambiguous body shape by people working in appalling conditions and being paid a snip of what they need to survive on.

It’s like buying a bottle of wine from the cellar door, rather than the supermarket shelf.  At the cellar door you taste a variety of wines before making a decision about which one to buy, you learn about the wine, the people, the process, and develop a true appreciation for it.  Then, when you pull out that bottle of wine to share with your friends you’ll have a fun story and fond memories to go along with it.

Sure, buying from the supermarket is cheaper, and I do it myself, often, because I don’t  have an endless supply of cash.  But I do make an effort to taste the different wines of our regions every vintage (lucky me, living in Marlborough).  Plus I get a huge sense of well being knowing I’ve supported someone’s passion, skills and experience that they’ve honed through years of work.

While I love the idea of buying only ethical foods and clothing, the reality is, I just can’t afford to, and I’m not that evangelical that I’ll make do with only two changes of clothing and one bottle of wine a week, I’m sorry!

But making more thoughtful purchases will help stem those impulsive buys, live a less-cluttered and simpler life and hopefully have a bit more cash to spend on things that have been made with love, care and attention by people who take pride in producing things for people to treasure.

So, what say you?  Do you give much thought to the source of the food and consumables you buy?  Do you care?

Tell me what you think, leave a comment below.  Cheers

Reflections and resolutions

Firstly a big thanks to you all who are not only reading, but have followed and even commented on my previous posts.  It’s pretty essential for writers to be critiqued, so don’t hold back folks – let me have it – and I promise to return the favour some time.

Last year was pretty big for me.  In short, I worked my butt off, got really stressed out and ended up loathing the person I had turned into to cope with that stress, so I resigned.

The decision to resign did not come easily, it percolated in my mind for months.  I don’t like the idea of quitting and was naturally worried about my future.  What would I do?  Who would ever hire someone who can’t hack the pace?  What about my goals and aspirations?

Eventually the certainty that I couldn’t get any unhappier overwhelmed all doubts, and the decision to throw in the towel came with a wave of relief.  The negativity and self-doubt I had been submerged in drained away like a plug had been pulled from a bathtub.  A huge weight rolled off my shoulders,  the pressure in my chest released and I found I could breathe again.  Whew!

It only dawned on me a couple of months later, after a I rediscovered my happiness, how unhappy I had actually been. Once I returned to a state of ease I started getting restful sleeps, wanted to hang out with my friends, go running and practise yoga and felt happy and optimistic again.  Just the normal stuff that means the world to me, and what a euphoric feeling these simple pleasures give!

It wasn’t until I read an article by Dr George Blair-West that I gave last year’s experiences more thought.  While his article is angled at aiding weight loss, the study of meaningfulness leading to happiness (with weight control apparently a very delightful bi-product of happiness) really resounded with me.

The Australian doctor says finding meaning in life is not about quitting your day job and going in search of your soul in a third-world country:  “This journey begins at home. It begins with a detailed examination of what you found meaningful in your past and which aspects of your life and work now are meaningful.”

He gets his patients to look at their dreams for the future, to help them find meaning in their existence.  “Once we have found what is meaningful we look at what purpose this guides us to.  “This all takes time, self-exploration and regular reflection.”

I’ve never given meaningfulness much thought,  but I know what makes me happy – connecting with my family and friends, spending time in the outdoors, and having a purpose in life and at work that is greater than I.  So one of my goals this year is to try and identify what is truly meaningful to me.  Because being happy makes me, well, happy!

That, and go easy on myself a little bit, you know, stop thinking so much and trying so hard, and just live a simpler life. (This, coming from someone famous for over-complicating things.)

I watched Jobs a couple of days ago, and thought the Apple founder’s off-the-wall approach to his life’s work, and refusal to conform or be merely better than the competition, really inspiring.  (Despite the movie’s pitiful reviews, I thought it was pretty good although Ashton Kutcher’s depiction of Steve Jobs’ gait was just a tad too affected.)

So here’s a nice quote from the late Steve Jobs:  “Simple can be harder than complex:  you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you’re there you can move mountains.”

Hmm, working harder to make life simpler is not exactly what I was intending, so maybe this quote by author Marty Rubin is better suited:  “Life is simple. You just have to stop trying to figure it out.”

And what about yourselves good people?  What is meaningful in your life?  Do you believe it brings you happiness?  And have you made any changes in your life (inadvertently or otherwise) in pursuit of these qualities?  Please share your thoughts, or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.


Survivor: Kiwi Camp Ground

Great views near Wharariki.

Great views near Wharariki.

Camping is not meant to be complicated, just plenty of eating and drinking broken up with walking, napping, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, reading – whatever floats your boat really.

What can get complicated are the inter-personal relations between people who have gone camping to “get away from it all”, only to find themselves parked up next to complete strangers with only thin walls of canvas separating them.

After just returning from 10 days of camping where we were stuck between a weird couple with three terriers (henceforth known as Three Dogs) and a family with two terror children (Ogre Beasts) I wonder if other campers have similar stories, or if it’s “just us” that have the problem.

Morning coffee view

Morning coffee view

Pakawau Beach Park, in Golden Bay is pretty cool.  You’re metres from the beach, and allowed campfires and dogs, two pretty rare occurrences at camping grounds these days.  New Years Eve was beautiful, an evening of complete calm on the water.  We were watching little fishes streaking along the surface of the water, fleeing from prey, signalling the start of some big game fish coming into the Bay to spawn.

Killer Bonnie

Killer Bonnie

“Three Dogs” were walking their terriers along the beach, and our black lab, Bonnie, wanders up to say hi and have a sniff.  Next thing there’s a heck of a commotion; yapping and snapping and growling.  Then Mrs Three Dogs is confronting us by the fire.  “What’s going on?” says she.  “Is there one rule for us and one rule for you?”   “What do you mean, what rules?” asks Mikey.  “All dogs are  to be on leashes in the campground,” says Mrs Three Dogs.  “First we’ve heard of it,” Mikey replies.  “Besides we’re not in the camp ground, we’re on the beach.”  Half an hour later the camp manager comes down.  Bonnie has been described as being “territorial” and “picking fights”.

That was a tasty morsel, where's the next small white dog?

That was a tasty morsel, where are the other two?

“I can see she’d be pretty intimidating,” he says with a wink as Bonnie lies stretched out by the fire with her big pink tongue lolling out.  He’s so right.  The two most commonly-used adjectives used by people describing Bonnie are “good-natured” and “beautiful”.  And yes, I get that not everyone agrees, and I respect that not everyone is into dogs.  But Dog people are different.  Dog people understand not all dogs are going to get along, just like humans.  A bit of sniffing and tail wagging to show they like each other, or teeth baring and growling to convey their disapproval is their way of communicating.  Needless to say, it was pretty awkward around Three Dogs after that.

The Ogre Beast incident also happened on New Years Eve.  Everyone had been collecting driftwood and building bonfires in preparation for night fall.  Up come a group of young lads of no more than five years old, who started helping themselves to our stack of firewood.  We indulged them with a couple of bits each, thinking it was pretty cool they were getting into the spirit of it all.

Campfirin' and chillin'

Campfirin’ and chillin’

Next thing they’re back.  “Our bonfire’s bigger than yours/better than yours/yours is dumb/you’re an idiot blah, blah, blah” one of them is saying.  Completely flabbergasted, we ignored them hoping they would go away, until they went to grab more wood, and I’m like, “no way buddy, you can get your own.” (Read:  You little shit.)  They returned several times, having a go, and we just wanted to rub there smart little faces in the sand and watch them cry big lumps of snotty, gritty tears. The little brats just kept on going,  until I made to go and tell their Dads and they ran off.

After midnight their Dads ended up coming over to our campfire to party on, and I hit one of them him up about their smart-alec kids.  “I know,” he cried “I can’t control them.”  And they are only five!  Fucking hell, I hope I don’t meet them in the future.  Fortunately, I don’t think Daddy Ogre Beast remembered that conversation the next day.

It wasn’t all bad though, here’s my pick of some of the best moments.

IMG_0522Best wine:  Neudorf Pinot Rose 2012 – luscious cream and fresh strawberries.

Best meal:  Fresh Green-lip mussels three ways. 1. Steamed ‘a la naturale’. 2. Smothered in a salty, creamy green curry sauce. 3.  Smoked in a sweet & salty marinade.  Beautiful.

Best adventure:  Mountain biking and caving in the rain and mud in the Aorere Valley.  Choice!

Jet skiing

Jet skiing

Best fun:  Jet skiing for the first time – if you haven’t done it before and you ever get the opportunity, don’t shy away.  It’s dead easy.  Don a life jacket, push a button, press the throttle, and enjoy the wind in your hair and the salt on your lips.

Best song:  Gold Canary by Cloud Control:

10 things never to not triple-check before leaving on your camping trip

nikau2 22-06-2012 5-20-37 PM

With only four days left before we leave for a two-week camping trip in Golden Bay, it’s not surprising I’ve woken at 3am with my mind buzzing with a swarm of things I have to do before we go.  Besides getting myself organised and ensuring we’ve got enough food to survive on, I’ve got a whole bunch of Christmas related dos to organise/attend/survive before we leave.

Sweet slumber

Sweet slumber

So after the big build up to Christmas, (which incidentally also includes my birthday a week before – just so you know) the idea of lounging around and sipping (plunger) coffee in the morning sun, or 3pm naps in a warm tent is entirely beguiling.

But while happiness is entirely a state-of-mind thing, I’ve learned through experience there are some small things that can make a camping trip that much easier, simply by going the extra mile when packing your gear.  So take heed campers, save yourselves unnecessary hassle and make sure you pack the following:

1.  Enough food – I’ll be honest;  I love cooking and I’m quite particular about what I  eat, even when camping, so I’d much prefer to organise the menu myself than risk being served up sausages, bacon and bread for 14 days.  But  there’s been a few times when I haven’t packed enough food much to the dismay of poor Mike, whose appetite seems to double when we’re on holiday. So to avoid rationing out food every day, like some sort of food nazi, I’ve found it much easier to pack extra dry goods including crackers, cheese, salami, wraps, canned beans, tuna, pasta, tomato sauce, that are easy to prepare and eat, but won’t spoil if they don’t get used.  And chocolate, you can never have too many cakes of chocolate.

2.  Spare batteries – I know it kinda goes without saying, but take more than you think you’re likely to use.  Because batteries come in weird numbers, like 4xAAA, when my head torch only requires three, I end up with all these batteries floating around that may or may not have been used.  Sure they’re another expense, but suck it up, because they’re worth it – and again they’ll keep for the next trip if they don’t get used.

3.  Can opener – Buy one especially for the camping kit, don’t try to pack it before you leave because you’ll never remember it.  We carry a Swiss army knife in the camping kit now, because the fail safe can opener and other gadgets usually come in handy.

Beach fire

Beach fire

4.  Lighter/matches – Basic.  Try cooking your food without a lighter.  Or how about that campfire on the beach you’d been planning?  Granted there’s never a lighter far away in a busy campground, but there’s no worse feeling realising you don’t have the means to cook your food or heat water.  Chumps.

5.  Pack of cards – This small item helps while away the lazy hours between sunset and bed, and is one of very few things you can do within the confines of a tent, when it’s pouring with rain out.  Cards prompt conversation, help sharpen your wit and provide hours of entertainment, heated competition and stormy debates.  A camping trip without them is like not having enough food.  It’s just wrong.

6.  Toilet paper – When I asked Mike for some input into this blog, this was top of his list.  All the comforts and benefits of the humble bog paper go without saying.  Just make sure you’ve got some tucked away, and you’ll be the hero of every camping trip.

7.  Spare footwear – I’ve been caught out by this so many times, it’s getting ridiculous.  But who could foresee that you’d burn your only pair of footwear when drying them out too close to the fire – on the first day?  Or that it would rain every day of your camping trip?  Of course you don’t even entertain the thought of such things happening, but if you don’t plan for it, chances are you will get caught out.  Just pack the gumboots even though you won’t use them.   Trust me, you won’t regret it.

8.  Fuel – Cooking, car and boat.  Check them all!!

9.  First Aid Kit – You definitely need to be prepared to care for someone in the very high likelihood of minor bumps, scratches, sprains, splinters, sunburn, headaches and dehydration and also for more serious injury, including burns, deep cuts and allergic reactions.  I check and update our first aid kit regularly and find that antiseptic wipes, rubber gloves, strapping tape and sterile dressings are the most commonly used items.

10.  Christmas presents – Waking up in the great outdoors on Christmas morning?  It won’t be much of a Christmas if you forget the pressies, especially when you see your fellow campers pulling out their new unicycles, kites and parasols.

Well that’s it, while not exhaustive, take from it what you will.  Wishing you all the best weather and very merry times these summer holidays.