My Teeth: Deep Roots into Psyche

I was originally going to title this piece, “My Bad Teeth”, and then I thought that for half a century my teeth have been hanging in there, literally. Certainly, I was not born with immaculate white teeth, as you see on TV and at the movies. My teeth have always been more of a yellowish white. I must confess that I did not treat my teeth well in my formative years. I ate too many sweets, too often, and did not listen to the sage words of my dear mother. I knew it all from a very early age. Well, I considered that I knew it all at any rate. My hard headed and opinionated self was bullet and dental caries proof. Actually, I wasn’t, but I thought that I was. Isn’t that so stereotypical of youth? We think we know it all and yet… My teeth: Deep roots into psyche, this is it.

My Crowded Mouth

I had to have four teeth pulled out forcibly by a very hairy dentist, whilst I was still a boy. I remember his hairy forearms as his gloved hands gripped the dental pliers inside my mouth. I remember the force with which he ripped those embedded teeth from my oral cavity. ‘A crowded mouth’, is that, perhaps, a metaphor for my life? Maybe, I have been stuffing things in my gob ever since in a desperate bid to replace those missing teeth? Why would God get is so wrong in determining the number of teeth I required?

The Moustachioed Dentist

So many questions and so few answers. Was my jaw too small? I think upon that day in the dental chair, ensconced in an upstairs clinic on Canning Highway just before the bridge. The moustachioed dentist with thick black hairs covering his bare forearms. The antiseptic smell of the gargle in the basin, where blood and saliva are spat out spasmodically by a heavily sedated mouth. The bright dancing light emanating from a small window high upon the wall.

My Dentist Boogying to Aretha Franklin

This may have been in the late 1960s. If this was a movie, the director may, at this point, throw in a snippet of a sound track by some universally acclaimed pop group of the time. However, I do not think that my dentist was boogying to Aretha Franklin or something by Clearance Creedwater Revival. There may have been some elevator music playing via the radio station 6IX, but I cannot truly remember. This was, I feel in my bones, or, in the roots of my missing teeth, a seminal moment in the life of me and my teeth. My teeth: Deep roots into psyche and identity.

Check out this dental clinic, as a fine example of modern dentistry in Australia in 2018. The differences between now and back then are many and profound. Pain was a prosaic part of the dental experience back in the good old days. It was a torture chamber, with those instruments of torture laid out in their gleaming pointedness on trays by my side. The proud dentist and his whining electric drill. Why do dentists, always, start conversation when they have their hands down your throat? I can see that hooked pointy tool and feel its bite inside my mouth, as he scrapped and tugged at my teeth.

I have avoided dentists ever since. I have only attended their clinics under sufferance and duress. I have been forced to seek out their special skills in a bid to end the nerve pain inside my head. I have always been fascinated by the fact that, in Australia, teeth are not considered to be part of the human body. They are not covered by our universal healthcare. Teeth, like dentists, sit outside of the normal universe. The torturous nature of a visit to the dentist is compounded by the fact that you must pay for the privilege. Medicare ducks and weaves away from any responsibility for our teeth.  Strangely, the state of our teeth impacts heavily upon our overall health but is not covered by our socialised health insurance. We must seek out private health insurance, if we wish to offset some of the cost of visiting the dentist. Such a benign phrase, ‘visiting the dentist’, it makes one think of the Nazis and their institutional care of the disabled and the elderly during the 1930s. Obfuscation and deception lie at the heart of these matters. Of course, today the pain relief options are numerous at most modern dental clinics. One can be transported to a state of nerveless nirvana by a cornucopia of drugs. Still, the high-powered scream of the electric drill leaves my sensitive nature full of holes. I open my mouth as widely as I can and try and surrender to the torture going on inside my oral cavity. I think to myself, ‘this too will pass’. I desperately hope that it will, at any rate.

I have had several teeth removed due to decay over the decades that have passed since my quartet of teeth were removed as a boy. I have chosen to have them removed rather than pay the exorbitant cost of caps and bridges outlined by various dentists over the years. I think to myself, as I recline uncomfortably on the dental couch pondering my choices, “am I potentially paying for your children to attend expensive private schools?” I remember Barry Humphries writing about an Australian dentist exorbitantly charging wealthy Africans in London for completely unnecessary dental work on their perfect white teeth during the 1960s. Of course, I am sure that the greater majority of dentists are fine upstanding human beings. Someone always quotes the fact that dentists have one of the highest rates of suicide in our community. Not sure if that is true or an urban myth.

Teeth represent what we bite into things with. Our ability to chomp down on life. Have you ever seen a molar and its root or a photo of one? Mine, when it was extracted in all its decayed glory, reminded me of a Klingon warrior from Star Trek. It was pre-historic, and it gleamed dully with broken embedded old fillings made of metal. Instead of wearing a shark’s tooth around my neck, I could have worn my own tooth. What would that say of me I wonder? Weirdo? Bloke with a problem? Fixated on remnants of his youth? All of the above?

Teeth punch above their weight, in that they are relatively small (on the surface anyway) and yet, when they are missing they feel like they make a big hole in your life. Many of us have had the dreams about all our teeth falling out and how bereft that leaves us. Jungian psychologist identified the symbolic link between the ego and our teeth. Children teethe with their first teeth and it causes much pain and disturbance in their tiny lives. We get two sets of teeth; and how did I squander both lots so readily? Teeth mark our journey from infancy through childhood into early adulthood. Wisdom teeth are an interesting subject, as more people are born today without wisdom teeth than ever before. Natural selection at work? Third molars are on their way out.

Having bad teeth with lots of decay damages the psyche and our own implicit perception of our self. The nerve pain prods us to act and do something about our rotten teeth. The shadow of this pain works upon our self-esteem or lack thereof. I am at an impasse with my bad teeth or, perhaps, they are in remission. I know that the pain will come again, and I will be forced to gather together a large amount of money to visit the dentist once more. Until then my friends…

RIP Anthony Bourdain

by Robert Hamilton

When I was asked to write something about the recent passing of celebrity chef and raconteur, Anthony Bourdain, I realised that he had been a part of my own culinary journey. His death by suicide, whilst shocking, does fit with the narrative contained within his first book. I received, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, his breakout bestselling memoir as a birthday present from my mother. It was a surprising choice and an equally surprising success. The book lifted the lid on the squalid and steamy underworld of commercial kitchens in the United States. Personally, I had been rattling the pans in restaurant kitchens for nearly 20 years, prior to the publication of Kitchen Confidential in 2000. Commercial kitchens, I suspect, are, and were, similar around the globe, especially in western cities like New York, Sydney and London.

Anthony Bourdain’s First Book an Expose

If you have not spent any serious time behind the closed doors of a commercial kitchen, particularly in the decades before the close of the 20C, then, the content of Bourdain’s first book may be an expose for you. The line cooks who banged out the food under pressure in busy hotels and restaurants were, often, a mix of desperadoes and unsavoury characters. People, usually men, who, perhaps, did not fit in with much of the modern world but found a niche at the range. The conditions inside these kitchens were, often, hot, sweaty, and on a knife’s edge. It takes a special kind of person to be able to bear up under this kind of pressure and in this sort of environment.  There was a camaraderie among the denizens of these culinary stews. There was a macho element, back then, of ribald humour in the face of the daily demands of hungry diners en masse. Surviving a service and successfully manning your station had some of the hallmarks of warriors in battle. Bourdain captured that rich and grimy world and conveyed its essence to a much larger audience.

The Kitchen Realm Studiously Ignored by the Literati

Prior to this, not much had been written about the real workings of commercial kitchens. George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London was one of the few that recorded the reality of the dungeon kitchens in places like The Savoy. There had been little interest shown in the topic by those who decide what gets published, those at the top end of town. I wondered about this myself, as a working cook, why for decades and centuries the kitchen realm had been studiously ignored by the literati? Was it the fact that in ancient Rome most kitchens were manned by slaves? As a western culture, we have derived many of our traditions from the Romans. The Romans enjoyed their food, especially their garum (fish sauce), but if cooking was the pursuit of slaves, it would not be acknowledged as a worthy topic of exploration by those who wrote things down.

Bourdain Shone a Light on the Inner Workings of Kitchens

The New Yorker Bourdain shone a light on the inner workings of the kitchens he was employed to run. He wrote a follow-up to the first book, called Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the people Who Cook. His mother had been a staff editor on The New York Times, so, he, most likely knew his way around the written word. He attended Vassar College for a couple of years before dropping out. In 1978, Bourdain graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, and went on to run a number of restaurant kitchens, including becoming executive chef at the Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan.

The best-selling books launched Bourdain into the realm of celebrity TV chef, where he starred in A Cook’s Tour; No Reservations; The Layover; Parts Unknown; and The Mind of a Chef. More books, including cook books followed; and he was regarded in the same vein as a rock star in the culinary world of TV and publishing. He was, I suppose, a culinary journalist at heart, combining his two loves and creating a new form from their merging within him. My own brief experience in the media, creating recipe features and cooking magazine supplements jarred with what I intuitively understood hospitality to be about. I felt like a fake during the studio photoshoots, when my dishes were tricked up to look more real than real. I wonder if the glitz and glam of TV land, eventually got to Anthony Bourdain and he lost his way. Of course, one can never know why a person decides to take their own life, we can only speculate. Bourdain was a writer, a chef, a TV show presenter, a father and well-remembered friend to many in the hospitality industry. RIP Anthony Bourdain.

Morocco: A King’s Conscience & the Infinitesimal Trickle Down Effect

Modern Morocco

 

“As Morocco’s economy slows, the jobless are getting restive”, The Economist, 1st March 2018.

https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21737560-protests-north-have-pricked-kings-conscience-moroccos-economy-slows

The article explores recent developments in Morocco and begins by listing statistics meant to describe the economic improvement within this country. It quotes GDP per person increasing by some 70% since 2000 and mentions tax breaks attracting numerous foreign investors to this north African state. Tellingly, the article has an eco-tourism employee stating, “We can’t just build hospitals and schools…We need to lay the foundations for investment and regeneration”. (Sami Bouhmidi, Marchica eco-resort manager) This statement illustrates the awareness of the differing approaches to the idea of development in the modern era. Those onboard the foreign investment trickle down economics approach to development promote the benefits of their way in contrast to The Basic Needs Approach favoured by many NGOs (Spalding, 1990, p. 91).

Youth Unemployment at 40%

The article, by The Economist, does, however, also chart the reality for many Moroccans who are not experiencing the positive effects of this boost to the economy. Youth unemployment is listed at 40% in the north of the country, and poverty is demanding charitable food distribution in Sidi Boulaalam, which is located some 200 miles south of Casablanca. The report acknowledges King Muhammad of Morocco admitting great and growing inequalities within his nation. As in many places, there is a ruling elite, which controls the greater parts of the economy. The indigenous Berbers have been traditionally supressed by the Islamic ruling party and the threat of violent protests are readily imminent. As the economy slows in Morocco, many are demanding the government does more to alleviate poverty. The Capability Approach to development is, according to Sen, “the opportunity to achieve valuable combinations of human functionings”, and as clunky as that sentence sounds, it is an important part of human freedom and our rights as human beings (Sen, 2006, p. 153). The Capability approach empowers individuals through considerate development opportunities.

Doing the Underdeveloped a Huge Favour

Those of us living in wealthy western states have been conditioned to see the world in two different zones, the developed, and the underdeveloped. Numerous commentators, including Gustavo Esteva in The Development Dictionary, have identified American President Truman’s speech in 1949, as the progenitor of this world view. Wealthy superpowers like the United States were, from then on, doing these ‘underdeveloped’ nations a huge favour by exploiting their natural resources for profitable economic development. It was no longer possible to remain a natural oasis living apart from the wheels of progress, countries were duty bound to submit to development. Singh points out that Fukuyama identified the hegemonic influence of multinationals on the lives of peoples around the world (Singh, 2011, p. 811). In the case of Morocco, in the focus of this particular media report, building eco-resorts for wealthy tourists to holiday in is the way forward through foreign investment. Jobs are created via this development and, hopefully, some of the money spent by the tourists will trickle down to the locals, who are living on the poverty line. Unfortunately, many sectors of society are left behind, economically, through this kind of investment, with much of the influx of money going to wealthy Moroccan elites and back overseas to the investors. A high-speed train and new highways transport the tourists around the nation, but locals cannot afford the tolls and tickets to take advantage of these infrastructure improvements.

The Nature of International Development

Democracy is an important component of development, if development is going to serve the needs of the greatest number of human beings living in that nation or community (Donnelly, 1999, p. 609). Since the 1990s, the United Nations has begun to make its voice heard internationally about the nature of development and the human rights of those affected by these developments. Some say about time too, as it remained effectively silent on the topic for some fifty years from the Universal Declaration in 1949 until the emergence of Kofi Anan. The Rights Based Approach to development encapsulates this ‘rights first and above all else’ consideration of development. Development for whole human beings and not just their economic considerations. States must be accountable to the rights of their constituents, no matter their level of economic power (Cornwall, 2004, p. 1417). Under this model of development, vested interests can no longer ignore the human rights of those affected by their developments. Focusing on a few eco-resorts in Morocco is not addressing the economic and human plight of many Moroccans, it is probably going to make a few wealthy Moroccan interests even richer, but it is not addressing the basic needs of the majority of the nation’s population.

Morocco has seen colonisation by Islamic Arabic rulers and by French colonial administrations over the course of its history. Both external powers have left their mark culturally upon this, originally, Berber territory. Development has favoured the ruling elites for much of the nation’s history. Disenfranchised sections of the population continue to be neglected by development sanctioned by the state. Neoliberalism won the cold war, with the demise of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and multinational corporations have had a hegemonic influence on the lives of human beings across the globe ever since. Communities and ecosystems have been destroyed in the name of progress and economic development. The UN and its various bodies have been a voice for the human rights of people affected by these developments, since the late 1990s, but not the loudest voice in the room. Capitalism and the, ‘so called’ free market economy, remain the loudest voice on this planet.

Social responsibility is still a relatively novel concept for many in the halls of power, be they in Washington, Canberra or Rabat. Self-interest remains a powerful motivator for those who can control the levers of economic development within a city or nation. Private property sits at the heart of our economic systems; and the Marxist model is shunned by neoliberal forces globally. The nub of this dilemma is, to be crude, the question of whether beggars can be choosers. This is how the power elite would see the situation in regard to development in poorer nations. Whether Sen and Nussbaum can invoke Aristotelian ethics to shift the profit motivation as bottom line for corporate multinationals when operating in ‘underdeveloped’ nations is, at this stage, an unresolved question (Crocker, 1992, p. 584).

 

©Robert Hamilton

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Cornwall, Andrea, “Putting the ‘rights-based approach’ to development into perspective”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 25, pp. 1415-1437.

Crocker, David, “Functioning and Capability: The Foundations of Sen’s and Nussbaum’s Development Ethic”, Political Theory, Vol. 20, pp. 584-612.

Donnelly, Jack, “Human Rights, Democracy, and Development”, Human Right Quarterly, Vol 21, pp – 608-632.

Sachs, Wolfgang, The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, 2nd ed. (2009).

Sen, Amartya, “Human Rights and Capabilities”, Journal of Human Development, Vol. 6, pp. 151-166.

Sikha, Prem, “Accounting for human rights: The challenge of globalization and foreign investment”, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Vol. 22, pp. 811-827.

Spalding, Nancy, “The Relevance of basic needs for political and economic development”, Studies in Comparative International Development, Vol. 25, pp. 90-115.

The Economist,“ As Morocco’s economy slows, the jobless are getting restive”, , 1st March 2018. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21737560-protests-north-have-pricked-kings-conscience-moroccos-economy-slows Viewed 27th March 2018.

Metrics: Measuring Your Marketing

For much of its life, marketing has been the last mystery left unexplained on the shelf. It has been like the art of alchemy of old, add a pinch of this and a splash of that in the hope that it will all turn to gold. Businesses have employed marketing in the quest for success. B2B and B2C marketing strategies have been utilised to maximise opportunities to sell a hill of beans to whoever might be buying. Advertising in all its forms and via its many mediums has attempted to sell more widgets for its advertisers. Clients have wanted to know how effective their marketing has been beyond the most obvious set of figures, those that tell us how many widgets have been sold.

Metrics Taking the Faith Out of Marketing

These figures are affected by many other variables than, just, the raw effectiveness of the marketing or advertising. Widgets sales may have been hindered by poor admin or logistics within the business, or really crappy sales people. Marketing managers and advertising people have wanted to know how many people have seen the ads and how many have been moved to respond to the message. Enter the internet and metrics, an electronic filing system and measuring device. Metrics have taken the faith aspect out of the art of marketing and attempted to turn it into a quantifiable science.

Examples for Consideration

Here are some stats for those who love the crunch of cold hard numbers:

  • 84% of B2B marketers stated that ‘brand awareness’ was their top goal, according to Content Marketing Institute.
  • 43% of B2C marketers using a documented strategy considered themselves effective vs 33% of those without – same organisation as referenced above.
  • 36% of B2B companies with a documented content marketing strategy declared themselves very effective, three times more than those without said strategy, according to Linked In Technology Marketing Community.

The language used in these three examples, however, still employs expressions like “considered themselves”, which is hardly scientific or objectively definitive. Marketing, it seems, still has that anecdotal air of the snake oil salesman.

  • 70% of B2B organisations & 69% of B2C organisations reported that they increased their content creation from 2013 to 2014 – Content Marketing Institute.
  • 24% of organisations devote 50% of their budgets to content, according to Contently.
  • Facebook drives 25% of all internet traffic – Shareaholic.
  • 63% of B2B marketers rate Linked In as the most effective social media platform.

Measuring stuff and statistics are the new best friends of marketing professionals; just don’t get stuck next to one at your next dinner engagement, unless you want to know how many Pinterest views it takes before someone changes a light bulb.

My Sydney Holiday

by Robert Hamilton

I recently returned to Sydney for a month long working holiday. After living in NSW’s capital city for some 15 years through the 1980s and 1990s, I had departed the harbour city just prior to its 2000 Olympic games and had shifted to regional Australia. My time on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland and, later, a stint on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, were welcome respite from big city living. A long-time friend invited me to bunker down in Mosman with him for a work experience vacation. The green leafy streets of the northside of Sydney were still there, but these transport veins were clogged with European SUVs. It was bumper to bumper BMWs, Benzes, and Range Rovers. Yummy mummies and working executives squeezed their way down streets not designed for this level of traffic, in a bid to avoid the slow march on Military Road.

Harbourside Living is Bumper to Bumper

It is difficult to find a flat surface anywhere in a harbourside suburb. Looking up and down these winding side roads, I thought to myself, motor vehicle traffic does, at least, look a lot better on tree lined thoroughfares. Crossing the street at roundabouts is something to approach with vigilance; and it is a credit to Sydney drivers that more pedestrians are not knocked down in the process. Cafes dot the corners of many Mosman avenues, and al frescoe tables are filled with locals sipping lattes. Great coffee is accessible in abundance all over Sydney, as I can personally attest to. Café prices are reasonable, when compared with the price of parking and most other things in Australia’s largest city.

Still a Sticky City

The humidity of Sydney was a clammy shock to my skin and body temperature, after living away from the east coast for several years. Playing golf at Northbridge I was drenched in perspiration after climbing my way up the cliffside pathways and fairways on this delightful little course. Adapting to mountain goat conditions is a prerequisite when traversing these northern harbourside suburbs. My body soon grew accustomed to the steep climbs on streets, apartment stairs and other slopes. I used to joke about never being able to stand still in Sydney, without being shunted backward socially and economically, now, I must circumnavigate the inclination geographically. My heart beat faster and my blood pumped more vigorously, I was alive in this city.

Sydney’s Good Fare

Good food is not as easy to access in regional Australia, especially of the takeaway kind. Cheap eats do not exist in little towns. It takes mass to manifest an abundance of commercial culinary options. The ubiquitous Thai restaurant does not deliver affordable and fantastic fare in the impoverished outer zones of the great southern land. Luckily, I am a dab hand in the kitchen myself and do not overly miss the cheap eats available in larger cities. It was great to be back in Sydney for the food alone. Sensational Thai, fabulous phos, superb pizza, really fresh sushi, and a myriad of other cuisines, tantalised my taste buds for the duration of my stay.

Natural Beauty Harbourside

The essential beauty of the harbour itself is breathtaking. I had forgotten just how dramatic and verdant parts of it were. Looking down from the Mosman national parklands was extraordinary and evidence of why people have stuck around and paid handsomely for the privilege of living harbourside. Boats bob about on blue waters, bushland rises to the top of cliffs, and birds screech and wing their way about the ecosystem. Sometimes you can, even, forget about the mass of humanity perambulating around in their shiny new SUVs.

Driving around these streets I felt squashed in from all sides and worried about making contact with the metal skins of other drivers. Parking was a case of sucking in my belly and hoping to fit in, which I invariably did. It was a perceived reduction of room to move, there was enough space, but it felt constrained. I thought about the recent comments of the ex-Premier Bob Carr and Dick Smith in relation to the accelerated population growth in Australia’s two biggest cities. The high levels of migration, in excess of 100 000 every year for years, has marked Sydney and the lifestyle options it affords its residents.

Looking around the streets of Mosman and the northside suburbs of Sydney, you see a proliferation of Chinese faces. I imagine these are some of the wealthy migrants who have moved to Sydney over the last couple of decades. Those I saw looked happy and were engaged in the common pursuits of this harbourside suburb. Young women were jogging and walking, enjoying the warm weather and exercising their lithe bodies. Mothers were escorting children to and from their SUVs. Mosman is a vibrant and health conscious community in the 21C, judged by the behaviour I observed.

You cannot turn the clock back, ala John Howard and his conception of the Australia of the 1950s. You can, however, question the social and economic settings that exist in any nation or state. You can talk about issues and debate whether these settings are correct in the current climate. Do people in Sydney want more and more population growth? Are we spoiling one of the most beautiful cities in the world, through excessive urban development? Is the Mosman lifestyle worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to reside there?

Human beings are funny things, we love to crowd together in one spot, despite there being an enormous Australian coastline of opportunities. Businesses will not shift to regional locations and assist in the spread of our population. Those who move to the country, often struggle to find employment and to survive away from the major cities. Democratic governments have narrow short-term vision and will not plan for sensible satellite-city growth. The socialist dictatorships, seem, better at making long-range plans, which cater for their population’s tomorrow. Sydney on the current scale of growth, will be a challenge for commuters, and, I imagine, residents will spend more time within their domiciles.

I was impressed with the natural vivaciousness of the all the locals I encountered during my working holiday. Sydney people are out there living their lives, even, if finding a park takes up considerable amounts of time. Get more people using Uber, and other crowd sharing applications, and it could take some heat out of the traffic situation. I am thinking self-driving cars may make some inroads into the bottlenecks and traffic jams in the, hopefully, not too distant future. Sydney drivers are great at letting each other into lanes and making turns. They are far more mature than drivers in smaller cities around Australia. It is like they all share a secret, about how great their city can be, and they act in concert to alleviate gridlocks and make life a little easier for their fellow human beings.

Sydney brings out the best in most locals and visitors, I reckon, with the majority striving to have a good time. Darling Harbour is the mega multicultural melting pot, where the variety of faces and skin tones is wonderful. A brief pit stop at Maccas, saw Islander girls singing hip hop tunes out loud, tables of Asian youth enjoying the vibrant parade of their peers, and families from all over tucking into a fried treat or two. There are concrete ping pong tables to share for free with those who love their table tennis. Parking is cheaper on Sundays to support families partaking of the facilities. We kicked a footy around on a grassy expanse in the middle of it all.

A trip to IKEA was another eye-opening experience. Carparks full of consumer vehicles that had journeyed out to shop in giant warehouses. Whether it be a mega sports mart, a Bunnings, or the Swedish furniture monolith, these folks were here to have a good time. Sausage sizzles fronted one joint and my friend made a beeline for this carpark gourmet snack. Meatballs were, also, on the menu at the IKEA cafeteria, surrounded by families enjoying the budget offerings. The food was unsurprisingly good, this was Sydney after all. I watched an African church congregation exit their temple, which was taking place over the highway. The brightly coloured dresses caught my attention on this Sunday morning. My friend could not decide on the floor lamp he sought from among the many choices within the IKEA display. I purchased a pizza cutter, a desk lamp, a colander, 3 side plates, and a stainless-steel grater. We left deflated after exploring two immense floors of furniture and accessories, which we were forced to traverse like rats in a maze, which appeared to never end.

A night time visit to Marrickville in search of Pho memories (pronounced fer I am assured) was like journeying to another world. A warm world of spicy Asian smells, flying cockroaches and balmy breezes. The Pho was wonderful, served in an extra-large bowl for my reminiscing friend. One could say it was a long way to go for a bowl of soup, but that would be completely missing the point. Sydney is a kaleidoscope of distinctive microcosms, which sit side by side in different directions. Marrickville is quite unlike Mosman, as Manly differs decidedly from Glebe; and higgeldy piggeldy roadways criss cross suburbs like something planned on LSD. The expression, ‘up hill and down dale’, comes to mind, as I reencounter this city from my previous lives.

As you get older, and, if like me, you have lived like a gypsy, moving around ceaselessly, you look back at periods of your like, like some immortal vampire. Times spent in certain locales take on misty past life shades. Did I really live there, with her, all those years ago? It becomes like those places do not exist anymore, which they don’t, really, the past is gone forever after all. Sydney is a patchwork of memories for me, but this time around, those memories do not call to me like sirens in the night. I am thankfully free of the tug of the past. I can enjoy today for what it is and not what it once was.

I am older and the people I meet are older, it seems. My pursuits are not those of a younger man. I diligently labour at my work, and, then, am happy to quaff a glass of wine and enjoy a tasty meal.  I no longer seek extracurricular entertainment in my surrounds. Is this pulsating city wasted on one of my generation? Is the hassle of getting from A to B worth the grind, if the rewards sought are not of the extraordinary kind? We used to call Sydney, Sin City, half-jokingly, of course. My only sin, these days, is occasional gluttony. Too much of a good thing can kill you, or so they say.

Younger people clamour on the busy thoroughfares in this city. They are all hurriedly on their way to somewhere. I see faces from a hundred different cultures, as these people gambol about in search of prosperity. Broadway shopping centre is a hub on the inner west side of this metropolis, and it attracts large numbers of itinerant city dwellers. A coffee seated here by the vast sloping automated walkways, affords the watcher a parade of Sydneysiders going about the business of consuming and living. Apple has a store here that is more like a temple than a mart of any kind. Sleek people fondle sleek machines in search of who knows what. Light reflects from the devices into faces huddled above, as if these were pilgrims seeking holy benediction from godly relics. My god, Steve Jobs.

Parking is an unavoidable chore for the motorist in Sydney. The amount of time, my friend and I spent in search of affordable parking options was considerable. Councils in this city seem to allow developments to be built without the necessary parking facilities to support their functioning. A trip to the Orpheum cinema complex in Cremorne was not complete without the dance of finding street parking. We watched The Shape of Water, which began inside a building, which was the movie’s Orpheum cinema. This was a story within a story, our very own Russian doll experience. Del Toro exquisitely explored the concept of our relationship to the monster, disability, and morphed genres together like an alchemist. This was the old Mike Walsh cinema, but it has grown in size and dimensions.

Hot stifling nights, without a fan, sleeping on my friend’s son’s red racing car, single bed, were not a highlight of my trip. The view out the window was of the tree lined slopes of Mosman, of houses and apartment buildings bunched together up hill and down dale. I could see a designer bathroom, way in the distance, which overlooked a Sydney harbour view, in my estimation of its orientation. The average house price in Mosman last year, was $3 827 000, according to www.realestate.com.au. The median rental price for a house in Mosman is $2 300 per week, and for an apartment $650.

As the days until my departure dwindled, I felt myself constrict somewhat and my appreciation of the city dimmed. It is a natural cycle within a holiday, when the realisation dawns that you are but one tiny part of a giant machine going about its business. Sydney has its daily regimes defined by the usage of its roads and facilities by its population of residents and visitors. The takeaway food did not taste quite so special anymore. The pokiness of the flat was suddenly more apparent. The sounds of the city were intrusive and annoying. Holidays are like honeymoons, familiarity breeds contempt, and what was charming is, now, chaffing.

Getting out of Sydney is no easy thing on a budget. Airfares are much cheaper these days; but you get what you pay for in this life. Uber would not allow me to register online, there were multiple problems with the sign on for rider’s process. I took a taxi from Northbridge to Mosman and it cost around $40 something. I was already up for in excess of $300 for long term parking at the other end of my journey. I tracked down a minibus service to the airport for $52. On the day of my departure it was late because of traffic. As the bus pulled up 30 minutes late I simultaneously was informed by Virgin that my plane was delayed by some 45 minutes, this would stretch to over an hour in actuality at the airport. At the terminal there was one baggage drop receptionist for every hundred, waiting queued up, passengers. Once we had passed through this grim experience, passengers on our flight were wrongly informed of a gate change twice, before we sat on the tarmac, in our stationary aeroplane awaiting a flight plan from those in command at the tower. Onboard we received a tiny packet of crisps, as our allocated snack. This is what airlines now provide in the age of the cheap fare. Our stewardesses were aggressively cheerful throughout the flight.

Upon landing I did not look back, but Sydney was not to blame, it had just been a bad day.

©Robert Hamilton & Midas Word

Google in Search of Intangibles

Everyone has heard or seen the acronym SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimisation, but few actually understand what it really means. Google has maintained its place, as, by far and away, the best search engine for decades. When a consumer seeks a product or service, via selected keywords, Google ranks the websites chosen to, hopefully, deliver the desired result, with ten spots per page of organic search results. AdWords may top and tail this ranked list with a few click per view ads, but it is that first page position that businesses so desperately want.

Google Search Algorithms

Google achieves these page rankings via some highly complex algorithms, which remain shrouded in more mystery than the Catholic Church’s equation for achieving sainthood. As consumers we all appreciate the thought and effort that those Google people put in to their SEO. Businesses, however, are always seeking shortcuts to the top. Many companies and trading entities have sought to game the system through keyword stuffing and excessive backlinks to high traffic websites. Google has fought back with a nest of avian titled updates to their search parameters. There have been Penguins, Pigeons, Hummingbirds, and the odd Panda.

Metatags, Cloaking and Deep Linking

If you talk to the average Joe in the street, he and she, often, have no idea how the whole search rigmarole actually works. Mention things like high trust flows, citation flows, black, grey and white hatted SEO, backlinks, metatags, cloaking, and deep linking, and they will look at you with a glazed over expression and change the subject. I suppose, it is like the fact that few have ever understood how vinyl records trapped sounds, how cars actually work, and how computers do what they do. People just want them to perform and are not much interested in how they are able to do what they do.

The Subtle Realities of SEO

Business people are forced to try and get their heads around the SEO equation, because traditional means of marketing products and services, like print media advertising are dying off. Once again, however, the marketing manager wants results for his firm and products, but, often, fails to grasp the subtle realities of SEO. Companies try different SEO approaches, like in-house and out-sourcing with a variety of people and agencies, without ever really comprehending the nuts and bolts of the business. Sometimes they think they have got it in hand, but, then, Google will change the rules and their website rankings plummet. Updates will catch out those excessive external links and the blatant anchor text employed within posted articles. New strategies have to be quickly embraced by businesses and their SEO experts to right the good ship SEO.

The Standard of the Writing

The two chaps who founded Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, are the sons of academics. This is why the PageRank system is predicated on things like citations and high trust flows, because academic publishing is based on these premises. Google is, I think, also, interested in the quality of content on the internet. We have all heard the statement that ‘content is king’; and that the most honest strategy you can have when it comes to the internet, is to populate your website with high quality, relevant content. The standard of the writing, indirectly or directly, contributes to achieving that outcome.

 

Businesses Who Scrimp on their Content Marketing

Businesses who choose to outsource their content marketing to SEO firms who access dirt cheap writers in the third world are kidding themselves in the long run. They will have to pay the piper, sooner or later, when it comes to the quality of the text in their onsite content. Google will not adjudge second rate, misspelt, grammatically incorrect text to serve the best interests of those seeking, via keyword searches, whatever the product or service may be. Businesses who scrimp on their content marketing by paying peanuts to writers with English as a second language, will not sustain their rankings or achieve them to begin with.

The Internet: Our Repository of Languages

If books are going the way of the Dodo and the internet is to become our repository for the languages, with which we will teach our children, do not pollute the sea. Google does not want the internet full of poor communication and websites stinking of careless expediency. The written word remains an important art form for learning and inspiration; it is not all about making money my short-sighted friend. Midas Word writes quality articles and is committed to our “SpeakTruth” mantra in everything we do.

Top Articles this Week: Curated Content

Midas Word invited readers to enjoy Top Articles this Week: Curated Content. A collection about art, human faces,  craft, furniture design, history, golf and more…

Portraiture: Facing Up to the Painted Mirror

“The human face has fascinated us for millennia. In this narcissistic age we now live in, the selfie has become an accepted form of personal expression. We are told that we must nurture and develop our own personal brands in this digitally obsessed world of gadgets and devices. The portrait has had great currency in the art world for a long time. It has waxed and waned over the centuries, but returns to us now renewed by the cultural obsession with social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Basic colour filters are available on these applications to allow us to manipulate sharp digital images with some mood lighting machinations.”

excerpt from http://artworldmagazine.com.au/portraiture-facing-up-to-the-painted-mirror/

 

Famous Australian Furniture Maker: Fred Ward

“Fred Ward 1900-1990 (close enough to Fred Wood) is considered to be a cult figure for those that idolise antique furniture in this country. Born in Victoria, he attended the school of drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria. He began his artistic career as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist for the Bulletin and had a stint at the Melbourne Herald in 1929. Fred began designing furniture in that same year, initially for his house in Heidelberg. His early influences were Georgian architecture and American colonial furniture design. Joints were a feature of his early work, with a crafty focus on function in form.

Fred Ward Father of Furniture Design in Australia

He swam against the tide initially and designed original pieces rather than copies of European furniture. Fred did not use a dark stain on lighter coloured timbers, but employed local timbers like Blackwood, myrtle, coach wood, fiddle back and white gum for his furniture. Fred Ward opened a shop in Collins Street in 1932 for his interior design and furniture pieces. European modernism influenced his furniture designs, and asymmetry, geometry and negative space came to the fore. Ward exhibited his furniture in several leading exhibitions of the era. Myer Emporium invited a young Ward to manage its fine-furniture workshops in North Melbourne in the years before the Second World War. Fred Ward’s austere and modular designs for Myer were successful during the Depression. Was he our own IKEA trailblazer, decades before the Swedish behemoth took off?”

excerpt from http://www.habitatfurniture.com.au/famous-australian-furniture-maker-fred-ward/

 

 

Playing Pennants or Doing Penance?

By Robert Sudha Hamilton

 

“It is early on Sunday morning; it is cold, raining and windy. A collection of golfers, clad in beanies and wet weather gear, are framed by mist and moisture. The ground beneath their feet is sodden and muddy. These are serious golfers, the cream of the club-golfing crop; out early to represent their respective golf clubs. Pennant’s golf (we play for a pennant, awarded to the overall winner of your division) is the peak of the amateur game for this gathering of inter-club golfers. There are some young guys among them, with a spring in their step, but the majority are grizzled looking fellows who have been around the block a few times. A few secret smiles are shared between repeat offenders, as they greet the green cathedral under grey skies.

 

Time is of the essence, as the clock ticks toward the allotted hour for proceedings to begin. Solitary golfers, and golfers in twos and threes, brave the inclement conditions to practice a few swings. Putts are struck across very damp greens. Chips are fluffed and duffed, quietly. Best to get that sort of thing out of the way early on. Tall trees clothed in heavy condensation line the fairways. It is wet underfoot and golf shoes are already letting some seepage in. There is that tell-tale nervous energy surrounding this scene, like some web of expectation that we are all trapped in. Everyday blokes are putting their hopes and fears on the line. Having sacrificed the comfort of their beds and warm homes for this squelchy arena, brought to you by nature in winter.

 

Team golf is a fairly rare beast on the golfing calendar, as we all usually go about our hacking and thwacking on an individual basis. Being one of seven playing members on your pennant’s squad pits you against another septenary of similarly handicapped golfers from a competing club. We are all, however, playing scratch golf without the safety net of our usual handicaps. This is the real deal, mano on mano, there are no catches, no mathematically adjusted excuses, just par golf, or bogie golf, as it used to be called.

“you fervently pray that your opponent is similarly confounded…”

excerpt from http://www.goolwafind.com.au/latest-post/golf-playing-pennants-or-doing-penance/

How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

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In this day and age of rapid fire and online job applications it is handy to know how to write the perfect cover letter. You have honed your resume to a keen edge, it is prickling with relevant information regarding your training and experience. Your CV shimmers with PB highlights and character references. Your employment application quiver contains these razor-sharp missives, ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice in the direction of a potential employer. What about the cover letter? It is often the forgotten weapon in your armoury and a last-minute pain to find in your arsenal.

Cover Letter Tips for Success

You are sitting in front of your computer and applying for a position via one of the many online employment directory services. You are seeking a new opportunity and a fresh start to ply your trade in the world around you. You have carefully ready the job listing, taking note of the salient skills required for the advertised position. You are enthusiastically nodding your head and thinking I can do this, I am the right person for this job. You quickly begin the application process and are immediately confronted by the cover letter question.

No War & Peace Please

Do you wish to write a cover letter, edit one in the system, or omit a cover letter with your application? The first option takes you into a long and winding road, as you narrate War & Peace, listing your suitability for the role. You delve into memories about desirable work experiences from your past. Suddenly the page is filled with copious amounts of information pertaining to your previous career experiences. Recruiting agents and potential employers do not like to receive lengthy essays regarding your entire working life and accompanying insights of wisdom. Keep it brief my friend if you want to be read at all.

Inject Some Humour Into the Proceedings

Better still bring some humour into the equation. New relationships of all persuasions are best begun with a bit of a laugh, if possible. Humour is one of the most attractive human qualities. The ability to make someone laugh is a valuable skill. Don’t over do it, of course, you are not interviewing for a spot on the Comedy Show. Nothing ribald or off colour please. Analyse your resume and see where your cover letter can better illustrate your skills or relevant experience. Use your cover letter as an introduction to the best things about you and why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

Midas Word can write your cover letter in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane for best results.

A Brand is Not a Product it is So Much More

We live in a consumer society. Many of us are crowded into urban coastal cities; where what we wear, drive, and consume defines who we are. A brand is not a product, it is so much more in the twenty first century. Things must have souls, because we live lives devoted to amassing things. Materialism is rife across the globe, especially in the wealthy developed nations. Science has killed off religion and we are left worshipping the homes we live in and the stuff we furnish our lives with. Our houses are temples of materialism. Our cars are are chariots, which encase us in gleaming metal. Our mobile phones and devices entrance us like talismans from a forgotten spiritual age.

Brands are Much More than a Name & Packaging

A brand is so much more than a name and packaging. Apple products hum with an intangible energy signature. BMW and Mercedes Benz vehicles enchant their owners with, almost, holographic intensity. Similarly, dozens of other brands wink and nod to millions of aspiring consumers, as these folks make their way through life. The young are, often, entrapped more easily into brand devotion, but their dedication can be fickle in the longer term. Lives are, seemingly, adjudged on the basis of material achievement. The type of home you live in. The kind of car that you drive. The brands you buy and wear. Consumer decisions replace creativity for the bulk of human beings living in these big cities.

Ethical & Sustainable Branding

INTRODUCTION

“A brand is not a product. It is the product’s essence…” (Kapferer in de Chematony, 2010, p 420)

“Marketing, I suspect, was first employed by those in the business of religion, as proponents set about selling belief in an invisible entity to those around them. That twenty first century ‘materialism’ should endower products with such intangibles as soul (Randazzo in Urde, 2009, p 621), through conceptual references to branding, is no surprise on this basis. In this critical review of ethical and sustainable branding in theory and practice, I will seek to identify some of the core issues. Human beings are inclined to imbue material objects with anthropomorphic characteristics, we have been doing it for millennia via our religious and cultural beliefs. Brands, accordingly, have intangibles such as, health, soul, and personality (de Chematony, 2010, p 431). In addition to their tangible inventory of trade-mark, logo and product (de Chematony, 2010, pp 418-419).”

Excerpt from full report into Ethical & Sustainable Branding. Click Here for more

Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia: Donate Now

I have always admired Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Doctors Without Borders, for the work that they do around the world, helping people in desperate need, no matter where they are and whatever their beliefs. Health professionals and aid workers risking their lives to reach those in real need across the globe. MSF is, now, a large organisation operating out of hundreds of countries. They lobby governments and international bodies to assist them in reaching those who require medical assistance and aid. MSF does not balk at war and disaster zones, they charge right in and do their best to help those in perilous need. Donating money to MSF, wherever you are located around the world, is a smart compassionate move. Donate now!

MSF: Actions Speak Louder than Words

We sit in our comfortable environments, within our wealthy western cities, worrying about this and that, whilst human beings are dying, sickening and starving in droves in scores of places around the globe. We complain about our own problems, but have no comprehension of what life is like in a war or disaster zone. Organisations like MSF are vital to keep us in touch with our humanity, before we stray so far from our compassionate hearts, as to lose the ability to ever find our way back there. The actions of this group of brave people, reminds us that there is more to life than our own concerns.

Nobel Peace Prize Winning

“It is a Nobel Peace Prize winning brand; rolled gold in NFP terms. MSFA’s passionate and outspoken profile, continually raises awareness of the organisation’s relief work; offsetting the need for costly advertising. As a NFP brand in this sector, MSFA are less than 25 YO, which is relatively young in comparison to the Australian Red Cross and Save the Children brands. Their image is one of doctorly dedication, despite the dangers and political heat within these war and disaster zones. Their appeal, to both volunteers and donors, will only increase in this materialistic world; as they polarise this position. Donor surveying may provide useful brand perception information to hone further effective marketing strategies. The conquest of the airwaves and media by the digital world, ideally places NFPs in the phones and living rooms of Australian consumers, especially during times of heightened action. Social media platforms are an important part of this, and an expansion of this activity would prove fruitful. Fundraising revenue growth remains the branding strategy’s main target.”

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