Daily Rumination No. 18: NSW Election Time

Today was the New South Wales state election and I’m displeased to hear that the Liberal Party has retained power. Also, the opposing party, Labor, remains in power in my local seat, having won 52 per cent of the vote. Neither party is a good option and the latter has been safe here for decades.

I have neither the interest nor the energy to be political here, so I’m going to focus on the more mundane and humorous elements. Rewinding to this morning, when things were more fun and slightly hopeful, Natasha and I ventured to the local primary school to cast our votes. Generally for any federal or state elections, I have gone late in the afternoon to avoid having to queue. This time, in deciding to go early, we stood in a queue and had the chance to enjoy ridgey-didge Aussie community banter in the line.

Natasha and I quickly became temporary friends withan older married couple. The husband admitted, without hesitation, to being the daggy dad type who happily shops at Lowes and his wife agreed that he is quite embarrassing. I could relate to the compulsion to talk to strangers in community settings, yet I have never been tempted to buy a Hawaiian shirt.

Perhaps the most painful thing that we had to endure was this picture of the Labor victor, awkwardly photoshopped by his devoted followers and given a marvellous halo effect. Someone was really keen to show off their newly attained Adobe skills.

Although we’ll have to deal with many more years of uninspiring ‘leadership’, at least we had the chance to get together around a barbecue and enjoy the best part of the day: the democracy sausage. No election day is complete without a classic sausage sizzle. After a while, you start to forget that they happen at places other than Bunnings Warehouse.

I am now looking forward to this year’s federal election and am hopeful that Labor leader Bill Shorten has learnt not to make sausage sandwiches with rolls and eat them sideways.

Daily Rumination No. 17: Sautéed Brain

During my lunch break today, I sat on a bench outside and happily listened to the latest episode of Accidental Tech Podcast through my AirPods. All of a sudden, one of the IT people from my building walked past and yelled, ‘I’ve seen you wearing those earphones quite a bit; aren’t you afraid that they’ll fry your brain?’!.

I responded matter-of-factly, ‘Well, they run on low-energy Bluetooth and they don’t have any cellular radios, so as far as I’m aware my brain should be fine. We’re surrounded by Wi-Fi in that building anyway, so there’s no escape’.

Linking back to my Daily Rumination No. 14: Unwanted Comments, this is yet another example of an interjection that I did not request. The spontaneous commentator could see that I was in the middle of enjoying my lunch and listening to something, yet felt the need to disturb me with the still unproven theory of mobile-phone-induced-brain-frying. Also in motion, I can assume the commentator was hoping to achieve the interjection-equivalent of a drive-by shooting, without a response. My answer also seemed to flummox this person, as once they continued, they had to pause awkwardly and look around the adjacent car park to remember where they had parked their vehicle.

For all I know, there could be long-term effects of wearing wireless headsets that are yet to be discovered. I’ve read much of the research on arguably riskier mobile-phone use, however, and it is still inconclusive.

What I find particularly amusing is that the spontaneous commentator is in the IT department. I have seen this person surrounded by numerous activated devices and sporting a BLUETOOTH HEADSET on Skype for much of the working day.

Until any new scientific discoveries prove such theories to be true, please excuse me if I fail to take this person seriously.

Daily Rumination No. 16: Unknown Spaces

After I finished work today, I drove home the usual way, changing lanes and merging onto the freeway. Listening to the radio, I was aware of my surroundings and the cars around me but like many other drivers, I was driving in a kind of auto-pilot.

It wasn’t until I had exited the freeway and needed to stop for a time at a set of traffic lights that I snapped out of my habitual process. Whilst at a standstill, I picked up my iPhone and took this photo.

I pass this place every day and yet I have no idea what is in there. Occasionally, at nighttime, you can see bats hanging in the trees, but that’s usually the most that I ever take notice of it.

As the lights turned green and I drove off, I started to think about the other places around my hometown to which I pay little attention. There are numerous spots that are always just out of reach of the roads and paths that I frequent, strange areas that I’ve been unable to or never had a reason to enter.

Sure, if you look up such places on Apple or Google Maps, you may see how areas in your city connect or lead into each other, however these are just images. They are still dead zones—places that you’ve never actually experienced. Natasha and I discussed another green space in a neighbouring suburb the other day and had to look it up online to see what was inside it.

We humans take our built environment for granted. Roads, railways and flight paths enable us to zip around the place and we rarely stop to consider the spaces through which we travel. Everything is made so easy for us, yet all that we do is complain and take things for granted. Besides the semi-wilderness that lies beyond the suburban sprawl, there are also fascinating green spaces, laneways and paths that we all ignore within our cities each day.

How well do you know your home? Is there anything that you take for granted? I’ll certainly be paying closer attention from now on.

Daily Rumination No. 15: On Writing (So Far)

Creating a consistent writing habit can be a very difficult thing to do. For a long time, I intended to write online at least once a week but failed miserably.

This very site started out as a blog for my university studies whilst I undertook a course in communication and media studies. When I tried to take it beyond that, work, family, friends and life in general naturally got in the way. (There are many other important things!)

It wasn’t until I renamed this site Lounge Ruminator and established a new blog on Micro.blog that my writing habit changed. Suddenly, with a new site called Feld Notes on Micro.blog and the removal of other social networking accounts, I developed a clearer vision for my writing: a site on Micro.blog for my quick posts and photos; and this site for anything longer that requires a title.

I went into this in more detail on this week’s episode of the Micro Monday podcast, which is a show that highlights different people in the Micro.blog community. I was grateful to be invited by co-founder Jean MacDonald to speak about my interests and experience with the site.

I was thinking about all of this again today after a colleague mentioned at a work event that she had noticed things online about my blogging. It was a pleasant surprise to hear this.

I honestly write for my own enjoyment and do not expect or yearn for clicks. I enjoy taking the time to think and develop an argument or story and (in quite a nerdy way) I really love the feeling of typing on different keyboards and alternating between iOS and macOS. Some people play piano but I like to touch-type.

So far, I’ve been pleased with my maintenance of a regular writing habit, both in the form of my Daily Ruminations and the occasional alternative piece. It’s brilliant to set such time aside for oneself.

Of course, when you put a word like ‘daily’ in the title of each of your blog posts, the pressure is on to deliver, even if your audience is small.

Daily Rumination No. 14: Unwanted Comments

I spend a lot of time noticing things and then thinking about them. You might have guessed this if you’ve read any of my previous pieces.

What I don’t do, however, is feel the need immediately to share observations that I make of other people directly with those people. I either keep them to myself or come up with a way to make a humorous analysis out of them here in written form.

I’ve noticed that people have almost an incessant, insatiable compulsion to comment on others’ physical appearance. My recent experience has been with my own beard, which I only shaved off in the last week when it became too annoying and fiddly to maintain.

Whilst some were complimentary—one person even described it as ‘majestic’—others felt the need to tell me their negative opinions about it. About two weeks into growing it, one person said to me mockingly, ‘Oh I see that you’re sporting a three-day growth there, Martin’. Down the track, another remarked, ‘Yeah I don’t really like the beard at all but I suppose that it could grow on me’. Finally, one person even insisted that I had put on a significant amount of weight since getting married but then noticed the beard instead, which made my face look wider.

Not once did I draw attention to or request an assessment of my facial hair. I wasn’t even offended by the comments; what annoyed me was that they thought that I cared about what they had to say.

Putting it simply, I am fortunate to have good self-esteem. I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses and I don’t let what others say bother me for a very long time, if at all. The issue here is that many others don’t have good self-esteem. Others struggle with a range of issues and self-doubt, much of which is exacerbated by various social networks that promote often unattainable, impossible ideals. Body image is a big one. If these commentators feel the need to share their opinions with someone like me, then they’re certainly doing it to others, and those others may not be able to take it.

The next time that you’re standing with a group of people and someone comments on another’s appearance or a choice that they have made, if you think that it’s harsh, unwarranted or just generally banal and stupid, make a point of counteracting it. You’ll probably make the recipient of that inane comment feel much better about themselves. The commentator may think twice next time.

Daily Rumination No. 13: Key Leadership ‘Learnings’ of Collaborative Synergy and Digital Disruption #AI #blockchain

All social media have their advantages and disadvantages. Facebook and Instagram are great ways to keep up with people in your life… but they also decimate your online privacy. Twitter offers an efficient feed for following the latest news and trends… but has a habit of encouraging right-wing, extremist garbage. YouTube hosts the world’s most extensive video library… but has algorithmically enabled online child predators through its comment system.

I could go on and on, however I wish to discuss a less controversial network in more detail: LinkedIn. Like the aforementioned others, it has its advantages. The network provides powerful tools for job-seekers to apply for roles that suit their skills. It also enables recruiters to reach larger numbers of candidates in a more personal way. I use the network each day in my role and it is genuinely useful for sharing stories and promoting jobs.

With these advantages, however, comes a gigantic heap of daily annoyance. I’m not just talking about advertisements; I’m talking about a seemingly infinite stream of empty, meaningless content from puffed-up, narcissistic business types who all dream of being the next Steve Jobs. I have a newsflash for these people: Steve Jobs did not become Steve Jobs by desperately tracking clicks on LinkedIn… he did it by actually working.

For some time, this content has come in the form of ‘broetry’. ‘Broems’ are LinkedIn posts that usually contain some sort of inspiring story about growth, recruitment or career success by some enlightened corporate professional, however they’re typed line by line with large gaps, forcing you to expand and commit to the post. You can learn more about them here.

Nowadays, I see many more posts in the form of cheesy leadership and quotation memes, which act as cover images for clickbait articles. Some quotes are attributed and others just look like a rush job for the sake of having an attention-grabbing image the feed. Of course, many of them are accompanied by excessive hashtags to hit keywords and attract attention. In the case of really long hashtags without title case, this leads to accessibility issues.

In my spare time, I have collected a range of screenshots of such content in my LinkedIn feed. I actively dislike or report all of them and yet they still appear. Here are some examples, with the profile names of each LinkedIn user omitted.

Funnily enough, this image and its linked article had very little to say.

There’s nothing like boosting someone’s self-esteem with financial terms.

Of course, Steve Jobs had to make an appearance. It’s kind of this user to have highlighted the important bit, however, I’m sure that Steve would have been most displeased with the use of the Windows typeface Calibri.

Richard Branson’s a very popular subject and this is the meme that I see the most frequently.

Here’s another one… nothing like a truism!

Sometimes he looks like Jesus but essentially tells you to lie to others for your own gain.

I’m not sure what Jon Stewart has to do with business networking but #hashtag and #morehashtags.

Inevitably, we start to see memes about what the difference between a manager and a leader is. #inspiring

Now this is a beautiful message but let’s be honest that titles, positions and flowcharts are all that really interest these people.

Apparently, bosses are completely incapable of forming the lip movements to utter plural first-person pronouns.

This is just common sense; otherwise your restrooms will never be cleaned.

It doesn’t matter how kind you are—apparently the cost of raising a child in Australia (until the age of 17) is $297,600, so this user should check their figures.

What about the ones that say ‘pull’?

Sandra survived The Net and Speed, so she knows what she’s talking about.

I implore anyone who posts such images to stop. LinkedIn can be a genuinely interesting place and powerful tool when it’s used properly. This just turns it into an office-obsessed Facebook.

For those who don’t do this, you can help too. Don’t click on them, don’t like them and certainly don’t comment on them. That’s what they want you to do.

Daily Rumination No. 12: ‘Je suis KmÀrt

The concepts of petit bourgeois and materialism are nothing new. In a country like Australia, where ideas like multiculturalism and diversity (of people and thought) are discussed frequently, it’s amusing to me that people still aim generally for the same trends, styles, possessions and ideals.

This thought came to my mind today as I was reading Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety. On page 40 of the book, de Botton quotes George Orwell in his 1941 publication The Lion and the Unicorn:

‘To an increasing extent the rich and the poor read the same books, and they also see the same films and listen to the same radio programmes. The differences in their way of life have been diminished by the mass-production of cheap clothes and improvements in housing… In those vast new wildernesses of glass and brick, there is a rather restless, culture-less life, centring round tinned food, Picture Post, the radio and the internal combustion engine.’

Today, the objects of mainstream materialist desire are quite different, although the desire is virtually the same. In the place of the radio and the internal combustion engine, we now see digital technologies and trends as cool. Many people ‘need’ to have the latest, most expensive iPhone, which facilitates amazing, creative and technical applications—yet most people just use theirs for Instagram. Even then, with such an impressive camera module, people still manage to take and post rubbish photos. You can achieve that on an Android handset that costs much less but of course, there’s no brand prestige there.

The bit that stood out to me about Orwell’s quote was his reference to cheap clothes. Somehow, cheap clothing has been rebranded as desirable and fashionable, even with collective knowledge of the suffering that its makers endure, perhaps sometimes worse than in the technological supply chain.

Circling back to Australia’s own brand of petit bourgeois, we can even see the integration of literal Frenchness into nationwide idioms and advertising terms. The retail chain Target is no longer just Target; it has been pronounced both mockingly and seriously as Targét with a silent ‘t’ for some time. Even one of the brand’s advertising campaigns adopted this pronunciation to relate to Australian consumers. It worked a treat and everyone was talking about it.

Wesfarmers owns Target in Australia and also operates Kmart, which has generally been seen as the more budget-angled alternative. With recent aggressive TV advertising, however, I would argue that they are using the same fun, aspirational middle-class-focused strategy to turn Kmart into a brand with its own silent ‘t’: KmÀrt.

In the spirit of truly European (and particularly French) chic, disposable, petit bourgeous clothing and ornaments are increasingly noticeable throughout the shop. Whenever I visit KmÀrt with my wife, Natasha, typically on a trip for stationery, I spot things like this…

Yep, that’s a brilliant artwork. Also, it looks great next to the golden lamp.

Rightio, hello to you as well.

‘Very pretty’ and ‘pretty’? Is this a comment that the French are prettier than the Spanish, or are people meant to grade themselves prior to purchase and select the top that best matches their own physical appearance?

All of this stuff is just plain tacky. With regard to the big print of the woman, I am by no means a snob when it comes to art; I have purchased prints from Ikea and don’t believe that expense always correlates with quality. Opening a debate on art is certainly not my intention but surely you could find something more genuine or interesting to put in your home than this.

What I find concerning is the way that people mindlessly scoop up such items, using them to project false styles and realities that match their constructed realities on Instagram. In people’s relentless efforts to stand out, they end up all heading to the same retail chains.

In an increasingly globalised society, I know that it’s sometimes difficult to avoid shopping at the exactly the same places, eating similar food and sharing familiar ideas online. This piece certainly isn’t the first ever to discuss consumerism. I’m just asking that people think about the meaning behind their decisions, consider the value of difference and at least occasionally aim for something a little radical: be satisfied.