Jobs for Pollies

The politicians of Australia are not doing a very good job. If they were, things in the 45th parliament would get done. But it’s not the pollies fault. Many of them are in the wrong job and should be in an entirely different profession altogether. Like these:

Malcolm Turnbull – with his posho voice, old-man handsomeness, tailored suits and didactic hand gestures, he is like the headmaster at an exclusive boys school on the last day of third term delivering his address. By then students are long past caring. Occasionally he may raise some good points but no-one’s listening.

Bill Shorten – is hard to get an occupational handle on, but Operations & Logistics Manager for Woolworths seems like a reasonable fit. He gets to be the nerve centre of Woolies, but in a behind-the-scenes kind of way. It’s a respectable job that pays well but he gets to deal with truckies and, if he’s nice to them, they sometimes let him drive the truck.

Richard di Natale – Richard loves the countryside, otherwise he wouldn’t be a Green. He’s got acreage, runs livestock and makes his own pizza. I’m thinking cheesemaker. He’d look great in a white coat and, being a doctor, can handle the cheesemaking chemistry. Let’s let him loose with a Wattleseed Gloucester, a Kumquat Colby and Red Gum Honey Runny and he could be the best cheesemaker in the land.

Tanya Plibersek – hands-down vet and a damn good one too. With her short blonde hair that won’t get in the way of angry animals, calm yet slightly worried face your pets are in safe hands. Whack on a white coat and she could have her own TV show.

Julie Bishop – it’s hard to get a handle on what the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister is suited to. She looks immaculate, toes the party line, is hardworking and will never be Prime Minister. But there not much personality going on so we’ll stick with the superficial. A brand manager for a high-end make-up company, say L’Oreal, is more her calling.

Let’s break for a minute and chuck in Annabel Crabb who clearly wants to be a pollie’s granny bearing baked goods and wearing weird vintage. Now back to Canberra ….

Penny Wong – another pollie who can rock a white coat AND a suit. She’s private, detailed, boring and good with a precision hit in the senate. She’d make a fine forensic detective. She could have a great future ahead of her.

Barnaby – just be Barnaby. Nuff said. He’s already doing it – Tamworth farmer. Dog lover, actor-hater – Barnaby, stick to what you’re good at.

Christopher Pyne – The Fixer has escaped from the toy box and needs to return! He’s like a jack-in-the box – just when you think he must have run out of batteries, up he pops with his manic smile and recorded message.

Christopher Pyne and Albo – together it’s different. They are like the two old men from The Muppets who sit in the stalls throwing commentary and digging at each other but secretly can never be parted.

Albo without Christopher Pyne is another escapee from the toy box. But he’s the cuddly teddy one, dressed in a miniature footy jersey.

Tony Abbott – is like that mildly pervy guy who is employed by the gym doing no-one knows what and roams around selling big tubs of protein and maybe a rogue steroid or three. Either that or he could be an onion farmer.

Peta Credlin – not strictly an elected official, but someone forgot to tell her. Clearly she is an Amazon, something out of Game of Thrones, riding through the forest, claws at the fore, ready to pounce.

KRudd – with his ever so perfect hair, perfectly round face, bleak eyes and pretend folksiness, he’s like a parson. A parson in a well-heeled suburb in a nice parsonage, that is. Either that or he is Mr Sheen. Or a dentist.

Nick Xenophon –  St Nicholas of Adelaide, the patron saint of Whyalla has the whiff of an enigmatic Greek orthodox priest. He lives a simple life, wears black, lives alone and has a past (but no-one knows what it is) and is champion of the underdog. Amen to that.

Pauline Hanson – Jill of all trades, this one-time fish and chips shop owner, turned pollie/jailbird/reality TV star is in a career rut. What to do? She can’t go back to the fish and chips biz, her shop is now run by Vietnamese immigrants. Perhaps life art model – she would get the attention she craves and she doesn’t get to speak. As for her fanbase of older white men – they’d love it.

Has Sydney lost the plot?

Yes. It. Has.

Sydney’s a bit of alright for a weekend fling or as a place to show off to overseas visitors, but basically Sydney is not a place in which to live an actual life.

Here’s why Sydney ain’t working so well anymore:

It’s too tribal – east, west, north, south are all separate kingdoms and never mix.

It’s too expensive – a meal out is the same as a small Pacific Island’s GDP without the smiles. Also finding a park for said overpriced meal will involve yet another mortgage.

People aren’t that nice here – but in fairness no-one who spends at least two hours a day commuting to their boring job is going to act all that nice.   

Speaking of which …. the city is now an apartment ghetto, with none of the requisite schools, transport, roads, infrastructure. No planning. Zilch. How very Sydney.

It has no arts soul. Unlike Melbourne, it is a follower not a leader in the hipster movement, it slavishly follows overseas trends. It hasn’t had an original idea in its life.

It’s good looking but that’s not enough anymore. No conversation, no soul, no originality, no purpose. As a place to visit, there’s no better. I really believe that but living in Sydney has lost its gloss.

Restaurants hardly provide soft furnishings

Every time I go to a restaurant I feel myself becoming more and more like an old person yelling. Restaurants are now louder than Clive Palmer’s ties (and that’s a Julie’s Rant Fact).

Gone are all the stuff that makes you feel at home: carpet, curtains, wallpaper, comfy chairs, paintings and a working toilet. Instead there are concrete floors and walls, aluminium benches and tables, mismatched cutlery and the occasional potplant about 20 metres up a wall (I mean who is going to water that? Hagrid?).

But still I go out, as it beats cooking. And come back with a cricked neck from leaning forward to hearing what gem of wisdom my dining companion has to say (usually complaints about the noise) and from shouting my order at the waitperson. It goes like this:

Me: I’d like the pork and a salad

Waitperson: You need another fork and a side of lard?

This was an actual conversation apart from the bit I made up.

I don’t know who started this minimalist trend. Did it start in a zen garden (no, zen gardens are quiet!). Or did it start by some evil superchefs who wanted to punish people for not pronouncing jus? Yes! Or did it come from restaurants wanting to save on carpet cleaning costs? Yes!

I think we should only go to eating establishments with carpet, curtains and tablecloths and matching crockery. Oh hang on, that’d mean eating at home.





Economising on air travel chokes me up

Air travel is not what it used to be. These days it is pretty much just like a Greyhound bus, only not as classy. The food is from a place where the sun don’t shine, the seats feel like they are made from steel and rock and even the space waitresses, sorry flight attendants, aren’t supermodels any more. At least the entertainment is good. My very own movie! But wait, you have to pay for it separately.

It does my head in: queues, security checks and glazed attendants with highfalutin titles, like Customer Satisfaction Consultant. Which is especially ironic, given you have to DIY everything, including weigh your own bag and put on your tag and wish yourself a pleasant flight.

The whole experience has become commoditised, a kind of dog eats dog, the dollar is king, mentality. It is amazing there aren’t more deaths in custody, sorry, mid-flight, the way people are squeezed in like sardines in the back of a truck.

If you want to avoid most of the above, then you have to pay a motza just to be treated humanely (ie not sit in economy).

I don’t know who to blame. Is it the airlines who saw an opportunity for a quick buck via cost cutting down to the last sheet of toilet paper? Is it shareholders wanting a profit (to fund their overseas travel aspirations)? Is it the government for failing to regulate on some pretty basic human rights? Or is it us? Have we, just by scratching around for the cheapest route possible, made all the airlines sink to the lowest common denominator?

They say we get the government we deserve, and I reckon that’s true (a whole other blog for another time). I think we have the the air travel we deserve too, but I also think the airlines have been all too quick to oblige.

Desperately seeking a good groin shot

Thought that would get your attention!

The Oz Open is desperately seeking a new national hero. Sam Stosur has sulked out of the picture and the press never really had a handle on her anyway. The only label they could put on her was Little Aussie Battler, and that only sounds ok when she wins. Which is not much.

Tomic is the next hope but because Pat Rafter isn’t friends with him anymore means he’s lost the heart of any woman over 30 (hey, we are a HUGE demographic and very important.)

But now there is another young gun, James Duckworth. He didn’t actually win, but it doesn’t seem to matter because, as they say in the classics and on Margaret Court Arena, he was all heart. He looks like Ley Ley, only taller and better looking. His parents aren’t maniacs and he smears zinc over his lips and he seems more surfie and pro tennis. He belongs to us. Seven are running shots of Duckworth in an ice bath, warming up, an armpit shot and a groin shot. He’s not even in the top 100 yet but that hasn’t stopped Channel 7.

Ok it is a shame he didn’t actually win, but there is nothing like a post match ice bath for a good groin shot.

And that is what it is really all about.

And another thing about flying pigs

And while we’re at it, (see previous rant) Qantas’s logo “You’re the reason we fly” is very annoying. And a big fat Alan Joyce-flavoured lie.

So that’s why they left thousands of people stranded last year. Ok, the year before last now, but still in recent memory!

That’s why they disrupted thousands of people’s plans and caused people to miss weddings, funerals and pajama parties. Not very customer-focussed Alan Joyce!

If Qantas tells any more porkies like that its nose will be so long it won’t be able to get lift-off. I would much prefer some truth in advertising. Something along the lines of “We are a once-great airline now turned into a notch below Ryanair and we want to scrape together an executive bonus at the expense of staff, customers and anyone who is not called Alan Joyce . That is the reason we fly.”

And that is the reason I don’t fly Qantas.

Tennis distracts from the main game – looking good

First published in SMH January 22, 2003

James Blake has the looks, but he needs to lose that blue and white stripe number if he’s to make it into the top 10, writes Julie Ihle.

As the world’s top tennis players jostle for position over the next few days in Melbourne, they would be well advised to forget about their game and concentrate on their outfits.

It’s a long time since the Australian Open has been anything to do with tennis. These days it’s all about the gear. And why not? There is more flesh on display than during Melbourne Fashion Week, there’s something in it for the girls (mainly in the shape of James Blake) and the outfits are just as improbable.

Let’s see, there’s very short skirts, cat suits, clubbing shorts, butterfly necklaces, buttock implants, bandannas and egos all rubbing together during a typical day on centre court.

And the really democratic thing is that it’s not necessarily about looks.

Sure they help. I mean, Anna Kournikova didn’t get to be as rich as she is today on that blue number alone, and Pat Rafter could never have got away with those shorts if he wasn’t voted world’s sexiest man.

But if you look at Lleyton Hewitt’s success, notwithstanding his elimination this week, you’ll see what I mean. Hewitt is no Pat Rafter and he knows it. He lacks Rafter’s easy charm, great legs and sex-God smile, but he hasn’t let that stop him. He invents the Lleyton Cap. The rest is history.

No one on the men’s circuit today can come close. Agassi’s star is fading and the rest of them look like they’re dressed for a gardening competition or cleaning the barbie. And that goes for Blake, too, who may have the looks, but still needs to lose that blue and white stripe number if he’s to make it into the top 10.

Whereas the women – well, they have been a lot quicker to understand the main point of international tennis – to look good. Kournikova, of course, has a top seeding in the fashion rankings, but the real winners are the Williams sisters, who have transformed the game into a fashion stake-out.

They have got the hang of it all right. They play very little, which gives them more time to work on their hairdos, and when they do turn up to a tournament it’s usually in an outfit the diameter of dental floss, or black rubber.

The Williams sisters have lifted the game of the other competitors, too. Even Lindsay Davenport has been forced to lift her game a notch and is now appearing in a groovy cerise number. And Jennifer Capriati has brought out the butterfly necklace as part of her game plan counterattack.

While Venus and Serena have their critics, they should be credited with lifting the game away from tennis and into the realm of entertainment, which will always get more bums on seats. The promoters are happy, the sponsorship deals flow in, the outfits get more outlandish and the broadcasters are ecstatic – it gives them so much more to talk about. They no longer have to talk about boring old backhands and lobs and serve-and-volley games, and can say things like: “And today Kournikova is treating us to a dolphin-blue disco dress, with matching turquoise earrings and a ruffled peach bandanna.”

Maybe the organisers should dispense with the tennis altogether. They could have a few exhibition matches, for old times’ sake, but the rest of the time the players could do as now, minus the competition. So the players could spend the Australian Open giving interviews, being photographed in St Kilda Road shopping and working on a tan without tennis getting in the way.

This would be hugely lucrative. There would be no need to spend money on court maintenance, umpires or ball kids, and it could take place in all weathers – a bonus for Melbourne.

It would go down a treat with the players too. They wouldn’t have to spend their hard-earned millions on physiotherapists and coaches, and it would stop them worrying about an injury ruining their career. Also, they would have more cash left over to spend on creating The Look.

The public would also lap it up, because most of us may not really know what “deuce” means or what a serve-and-volley game looks like, but we know a good look when we see one.

Get those water-toting wannabes out of my giggle class

First published in SMH in February 26 2003

Don’t look now but the faddists have claimed yoga. And Julie Ihle wants them to push off to their next phase – soon, please.

There once was a time when, if people wanted to do a physical activity without having to do any actual exercise, they took up yoga. However, in the past few years yoga has undergone a massive revolution. No longer the domain of ex-hippies or people who can’t jog, it has now reached the height of cool.

There’s hardly a celebrity around who hasn’t employed a guru to advise them on yogic awareness. And there’s hardly a trendite in Sydney who isn’t seen wandering around the eastern suburbs on Saturdays with a blue mat tucked under one arm and wearing an outfit that screams: “Look at me! I’m on the way to yoga class.”

Out in the suburbs you will find both yoga and enlightenment sold at Kmart, which is doing a great line in purple yoga kits and snappy Zen outfits.

The yoga classes themselves have moved out of the church hall to cafes, gyms and the beach. It’s on the telly, if you can be bothered getting up at 6am just to give your groin a workout, and it’s even gone corporate. A lot of city offices offer lunchtime yoga but it’s really not a good idea unless you can stomach the humiliation of seeing your boss do the lotus position better than you.

But the latest craze is Bikram yoga. Bikram is a type of yoga that involves heating the room to a sauna-level temperature and then embarking on a very fast set of yoga postures, leaving everyone feeling as though they’ve completed 12 cycles in the dryer. Because Bikram yoga involves pain and suffering at overly high temperatures, followed by feeling like death, quite a few people regard it as a religious experience. As they leave the class dripping puddles of sweat it is as though they’ve been absolved from guilt for another week.

But not only has the previously gentle yoga class changed, so have the participants. The power yoga obsessives have taken over. These people are not hard to spot. They come dressed in a matching minimalist retro tracksuit and T-shirt ensemble, they take huge quantities of bottled water with them to class to replace the sweat and they launch themselves into the postures as if it’s some kind of televised game of yoga Survivor. And at the end of class they can be seen talking in hushed, reverent tones to the teacher about breakthrough poses and home practice.

But these power yoga obsessives are making life hell for the original yoga participants. We originals have quietly supported yoga over the years. Because of these power yoga obsessives we are now feeling totally inadequate and finding it hard to keep up, even with bottled water and overpriced trakky daks (and you can forget the home practice). They are driving us out of our gentle, giggly yoga class, but the really annoying thing is that these people won’t last. Not content with having ruined the whole point of yoga – which is to do zero exercise but feel good anyway – as soon as the next fad hits they’ll be off sooner than you can say breathe out.

These people must be stopped. Whatever it takes – a new fad or something to turn them away from yoga – must be found. Maybe calling poses by their English translations would help. The scary-sounding corpse pose doesn’t sound as good as savasana,

and the plain and simple forward bend sounds much more exciting when it’s a 17-syllable Sanskrit expression. Maybe jazzercise is due for a rerun, with all those cute pink leg-warmers and sweat bands – the yoga obsessives would really go for that – or maybe it’s time for spinning to whirl back. Or perhaps if Gwyneth and Madonna stopped going on and on about yoga being their journey to spiritual and emotional wealth, then people would get the hint.

Maybe one day yoga will be alternative, weird and (most importantly) easy again, and it will be filled with people who don’t want to do any actual exercise but just stand around in a circle giggling at their own incompetence, followed by a spot of relaxation. Maybe the yoga junkies will find some other ancient practice to destroy. But in the meantime, the only hope of keeping up with the rest of the class is to add some vodka to the water bottle – it may not be exactly what the ancient mountaintop swamis had in mind but these days it’s the only way to float through a Sydney yoga class.

Don’t you dare stick another prawn on that barbie

First published in SMH in 2005

Julie Ihle explains how to be obsessive, one step at a time.

I have a confession to make. I hate prawns. As  we are now into summer and coming into the silly season, just about every  Christmas party will have trays of those little uber-pink, parasitic rubbery

I am aware that it is un-Australian, and possibly a terrorist activity, not to  ingest your body weight in prawns at every summery party. It is a crime on a  par with admitting to not possessing a pair of thongs or not watching the  Melbourne Cup.

My main problem with prawns, apart from their being tasteless and brimming with parasites, is that they are a whole lot of effort for very little outcome. Like  the Herald‘s crossword, only messier.

I do not understand the whole prawn peeling exercise. Why grown-ups want to  take one angry, pink and very dead prawn, break off its head with their bare  hands, then start peeling layers off its anorexic body, I do not know. As for  the poo trails, delving your fingernails deep into the dead prawn to extract  its intestines gives me high school biology class flashbacks. By the time
you’ve chopped off its head, peeled and de-veined, you’re left with a pale, shrivelled  up piece of dead meat that is meant to be a delicacy but tastes like salty  bread.

And what’s more once you’ve finally eaten the prawn, you’re left with greasy
hands, a big bowl of dead prawn heads and tails that you can smell in the
garbage bin a street away.

Yet to say out loud that you don’t like prawns and would rather ingest rancid  cod liver oil is like saying that you want New Zealand to beat us at cricket  or that you think “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi” is a yoga pose.

Take a look around at the next party you attend and the prawn-phobics are not  hard to spot. They stand on the edge of the balcony surreptitiously feeding  prawns to the dog, or lurk in the background trying to find a garbage bin or  spare garden bed to throw the prawn into, or at dinner time they mysteriously disappear.

Prawn-haters are often oyster-haters too. We oyster-haters think oysters are  slimy and taste like eating a pile of mercury. As for being an aphrodisiac –  give me a break. Romance is in a sad state if an aphrodisiac has the  consistency of superglue and smells like a tuna farm.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for our own traditions. I’m not a hot Christmas  turkey kind of girl, but the prawn and oyster Christmas party should end now. I  am sure half of Sydney  is full of people who can’t stand them and I ask you to now show your hand. We  want the right to hate prawns. No more shrimps, prawns on the barbie and no more oysters on harbour cruises.

Instead replace the prawn and the oyster with some actual food – that is something that isn’t harvested from an algae patch next to the Harbour Tunnel or dripping with titanium oxide.

And fellow prawn-phobics unite – here’s to a crustacean-free Christmas.

I can’t believe it’s not Qantas

You’re the reason we fly.

This is Qantas’s new slogan. But something’s not sounding right, let’s transit back to this sentence again.

So, Qantas say the customer is the reason Qantas is in business.

No, we’re not. Money is the reason they fly.

I get Qantas need a new logo – I still call Australia Home, when you are based in Dubai is like claiming the lamington for Pakistan or barracking for Collingwood. Un-Australian.

But it just doesn’t work. Especially after arbitrarily grounding planes and leaving thousands of customers stranded.

I would hope for a little more truth in advertising. Something like, I can’t believe it’s not Qantas might work. Especially with the new Filipino crew.

Or Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, which brags about its poor credentials. Here’s a taster from their website: “The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel has been proudly disappointing travellers for forty years. Boasting levels of comfort comparable to a minimum-security prison, the Hans Brinker also offers some plumbing and an intermittently open canteen serving a wide range of dishes based on runny eggs.”

For the full incredible story see one of my favourite bloggers, travel writer and children’s writer, Richard Tulloch

It seems like a joke, but the joke is on the human race – the Hans Brinker Hotel is doing great business.

Similarly Qantas is overpriced, with bad food, strange flightpaths and mostly surly staff, browbeaten by years of downsizing. Maybe Hans Brinker style honesty won’t exactly work but neither does an outright lie. If the once-great Australian icon has gone to the dogs, so be it, but they shouldn’t kid themselves that the customer is the reason they do anything.

Do you have any suggestions for Qantas’s new logo?