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What might Australians learn from the political prowess of #Formation

When I woke up this morning, this picture was everywhere.

beyonce-formation-video The song is another step onward from her R&B hook-heavy silky-smooth hit-a-minute days, and the video a staple in the new era of visual statements and moving-picture-vision boards to deliver stream-of-conscious access points galore for the patron. Beyonce has spent a good amount of time and money in shaping a vortex of uber-cool around her. Releasing the I’m-grown-up now self-titled album all in one kamehame-ha motion. Now, much to relief of the more intellectual listener who once took pleasure in her release from discourse in favour a good dance-out, she gives us Formation. A track political and prideful of African-American heritage and the countless cultural neurological pathways it has borne in the collective conscious of the planet. Now onto my umpteenth listen, and seeing the ripples deepen on social media to now include the reaction videos (why?), acquisition and development or merchandising, and intimation of the styles into civilian expression, it becomes important we approach this article abiding by the following:

DO NOT APPROPRIATE FORMATION IN ANY WAY.

Formation is a moment to allow to swell in the one direction it needs to: for the safety and equality of black people and people with black heritage in America today who need to feel the solidarity of the world as they take on modern-day colonialism that a black President couldn’t even coerce the people to demolish. What it has done is brought scrutiny and compassion which must now be leveraged to see reforms and discipline delivered. Queen Bey isn’t the only leader of the pack, and it is not her responsibility to do the work. It is her privilege to inspire and activate the masses. So get onto that.

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All that being said, music has the unavoidable gift of endearing worldwide interaction, and it remains one of the most powerful forces for communication across the world that is still chiefly used to encourage minors to have sex and promote the interests of singers whose financial and fame statuses deliver false goals to the public. Meanwhile in Australia, there is opportunity in Formation to be reminded of components of our patchwork culture that need remedying.

What is the formation, ladies? Is it in the streets outside parliament? Is it postering businesses with no maternity leave policy? Is it breastfeeding your children en masse in a public park? Australian women are in coordinate step with the rest of the world when it comes to inequalities; feminist philosophies and concepts do their own job, but many have lost sight of the synonymic relationship between feminism and women’s rights. The latter should be your way of taking action. Write a blog, make an art, start a conversation out of nowhere, bring it up on dates and in strategic meetings.

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Beyond women’s rights, we too have systemic and endemic problems in how our native and black culture is liberated in this country. That is to say that beyond Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Yothu Yindi and other celebrity faces, our intrinsic relationship with the acknowledged ‘custodians’ of this land is arguably null, apathetic, and tokenistic. Conversations I have about Indigenous inclusions in positions of influence involve the placement of individuals within white systems and conformation to the parameters set by whites in those environments. Is that why we’re afraid to become a Republic? Because we’d lose the excuse of being run by Brits to let Indigenous people actually contribute to lawmaking? Black people in our country die in custody too, they are minoritised and for all their marvellous offering to art and academics, the current selection criteria still cordon them off and siphon their inspiration. Australia’s Minister for Indigenous Affairs was born in England.

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One of the things I love most about the song is how the titular lyric could be read as “now let’s get information”. Education around here still leaves lightyears to be improved upon. Being that our proximity to much of the political, economic, cultural powers of the world is reduced, Australia has long been left behind and influences outdated before they start embossing outputs. But times are changing, and the role of Australia and Australians in contemporary everything is increasing year-by-year. Education must be brought up to code for this influence to flourish, for Australians to access the intellectual hives and resume a position of leadership like it had when it offered its women the vote years in advance of feet-dragging London empire. It was once the case that Australia was like the start-up company innovating around the cumbersome corporates like England, China and America. Now we’re a joke, caught up in politics more in touch with the investors than the actual voting public, and public opinion driven too easily by media and social media motivated by sales over a responsibility to inform.

So start reading smarter, start trying harder, start connecting deeper. If a nation is only as good as its people, then Australians as people had best reinvest in what our nation should be party to. If a nation is only as good as its leaders, then come election time Australians had best vote for the well-equipped, not the well-recognised. What formation you know you perform at your best to make the change, now is the time to get into it.

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The Great Dim Sim Experiment or What I Learned on a Game Show

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Well that was the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to me. Like seriously.

I have just finished watching myself compete on a general knowledge game show against two other deserving, wonderful individuals for the ultimate goal of $1M and making my Nonna tear up. I didn’t make it to the ultimate as some very kindly enthused to me, but I certainly did not embarrass myself as I think some people secretly wondered.

My brainwave to try my hand at being on a game show came the same way I’m sure it comes to most: I was watching Million Dollar Minute and decided that my at-home play was sufficient to warrant serious thought into contending. Usually I cast this impulse aside because I’ve lived in Adelaide where not much of anything is filmed. But this time, they even screened an email to contact. So I did. And I got an audition. I told almost no-one, so afraid of how mocked I would be if I was so bold as to big-note myself.

I arrived at the audition to see approximately 120 people milling around, gathering for a chance at the Million Dollar Minute. Fresh-faced, virile young men in suits, deadly-endearing older ladies, mums, couples with matching mullets, entrepreneur-looking millenials with clipboards on conference calls while we waited. One guy without any shoes on, one young woman reciting facts to herself alongside an apparent boyfriend with poor body language and facial expression playing with his phone (I suspected a Trivia app. Or Tinder). All of them had clipboards, and seemed infinitely more qualified and deserving than me. I considered going home. I phoned a friend and asked whether I should.

We were eventually filed in, and that’s when I noticed it. I noticed what was making me feel really unbalanced. As we started sitting down, countless people started calling out greetings to each other, ‘oh my god, Terry?! Haven’t seen you since Temptation in 2010!’, ‘Saw you on the Feud! Goes to show you can’t pick ’em hey?!’, ‘Dave, hard luck on Hot Seat mate, I never asked you, how sweaty was Eddie at your filming?! God he was reeking at mine…’

They all knew each other, this phenomenal community of game-show-gurus. I was entranced by this concept, even though I have a competition-crazy cousin (shout out). I sat down next to a lovely woman named Betty (not even kidding) who was up to her fourth attempt on the show, and had already been on Hot Seat, Temptation AND Contest which she found to be a lucrative way to supplement her retirement- “it’s great, you know you get to go out for the day, get your hair and makeup done, meet some new people and sometimes walk away with a stack of money. Beats sitting at home making jack!”. I couldn’t fault her, although if she hadn’t got in, I mightn’t have Buckleys. I’m embargoed from talking about the ways we get in, but somehow I made it through (Betty sadly did not). We were warned time and time again that we may not be called, we may need to try again, and it was at solely the producer’s discretion if we were M$M material. As it turned out, it would be only a matter of weeks before I was deemed so. FIRST LESSON: personality is not always trumped by genius.

Betty’s advice was that I make statements about myself that would look hilarious on television. Oddly enough they decided not to go with my moniker of “Hip-Hop Dancer for Jesus. Reformed.” nonetheless I arrived with my fancy blue shirts (OK they were mostly purple) and waited to be called up to play. We we warned again that depending on how things went we may not play all day, we may have taken time off work for naught. Which was OK by me, this was my first rodeo and I was giggling and getting involved like a modern-day Muriel Heslop “I’m going to be on a game show, and I’m going to be a success!”. And then I got called up first. To boot, they decided they liked the outfit I turned up in, scarf and all (“This looks more you, am I right?”-very astute dressing-room-maybe-producer-person). SECOND LESSON: be yourself. You’ll be more recognisable that way.

We had some preamble and dorky promo bits to do…..

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Then they sat us down to get to business. Three trivia rounds, cash prizes along the way. Now here’s the important bit of this whole journey.

There is no clarity like casting off your competitive instinct when in the midst of a competition.

I repeat, there is no clarity like casting off your competitive instinct when in the midst of a competition. Just before the first question was asked on film, I realised that I liked the champion I was against, and the young woman between us, likely had her own reasons for being in the room. I realised that the purpose of the show was not for me to win, but for me to enjoy myself, be real and honest, learn a few things and above all things, choose humility over personal gain. As it turned out, I believe this led to the episode being called “really good television” by the carryover champ, host, producers and friends who watched. I have no regrets about the outcome of the show because for the first time in my anything-but-athletic-twig-legged-life I was credited with “good sportsmanship”. And that was the real win for me.

Some will choose to take advantage of my small success, some others will choose to look at my experience as nothing more than win, lose, or could’ve done better. I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the show to just make peace and have fun with the two people on the journey. At the final round I decided to put myself first, and go for my own interest alone. And it was at this point that I lost. For whatever reason: maybe I wasn’t smart enough, maybe I panicked, perhaps they asked questions I was bound not to know, or the universe conspired for me to only win that much. Either way, I believe the outcome directly relates to the choices I made. And I’ve seen other people make the choice for glory over namaste and the character value of humility come to rub them on the back.

Check out this amazing kid, Jacob Williamson a spelling bee rain-man. He was born to win it, but he made a choice. And learned. And took it really well. And was made a better person, a better competitor, a better study, a stronger contender in all fields for it.

I love this other story from a more high-profile individual about what an early loss in her career has meant for her strength, her risk-taking, her ability to inspire, and her thirst for success. Not to mention the pseudo-feminist-anthem it has engendered thanks to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her TED-du-force.

When I first considered going on a game show, I aspired no higher than Fran Fine. This episode of jewel-of-my-childhood sitcom The Nanny, was about when she went on Jeopardy and although it pokes fun at her intellect, really you never know what can happen in that environment, and it was her own knowledge and simple desire to have a chance that got it for her in the end. Give the episode a watch. For old times’ sake. Franny and the Professor [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfUQARsegw8].

So there’s the action plan. Compete, compete, compete but let the outcome go because the success really is in how present you are as you campaign for whatever success comes your way. And keep close the tools for being humble, you’ll never know when you’ll need to be. Good luck!!

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