Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bras: What women (and some men!) ought to know.

Besides taking action on disability discrimination, mint chocolate biscuits and The Vampire Diaries, there is one other thing I LOVE to talk about - and that's lingerie.

It might seem silly, but working in the lingerie department has given me a new respect for (1) lingerie companies, (2) staff who are trained fitters, and lastly (3) boobs.

Yes, you heard me right. I said boobs in a public blog.

This will either have scared you off, or made you more intrigued (males - I know you are the latter).

And please - what I say in this blog is from my own PERSONAL experiences and my own PERSONAL opinions - and what I say is NOT the be-all-and-end-all of bra fitting! It reflects what I have been taught, what I've picked up from working in a lingerie department, and what I've actually worn!

Now! :) That being said, I have respect for lingerie companies. Lingerie companies, except those who manufacture bras for Kmart, Target and Big W - SHAME ON YOU [but, that being said, some ladies have told me how great a few of your bras have been. How about making all of them that way though?!]. I have respect for them because they have diligently taken the time to design and craft their bras to be supportive, comfortable, pretty (or sexy) and practical.

Companies that design brands such as Berlei, Triumph, Lovable, Playtex, Pleasure State, Elle Macpherson, Kayser, Chloe & Lola, Fayreform, Bendon, Fine Lines, Bonds, Jockey Miss Pink, Davenport and Mossimo have created an assortment of styles that do very different (but important) jobs when it comes to supporting a woman's breasts.

What are these jobs, I hear you ask?

Well, let me tell you lovely blog readers!

Types of bras

  • The everyday bra: This bra should be comfortable and supportive (we'll get to what makes a bra comfortable and supportive soon). Often it is designed in your basic colour range - beige, black and white. They are used as t-shirt bras and as work/school bras. The best everyday bras I have come across include: 'Berlei Barely There' - in both the classic and Berlei Curves range (classic is sized from 10A - 16E; Curves is sized from 18C - 20G); Fine Lines 'Memory' and 'Convertible' bras ('Memory' being supremely comfortable and 'Convertible' great because it comes with a set of clear straps and you can change the straps 7 different ways); and lastly the Triumph 'Gorgeous T-shirt' bra. Though sadly, their sizing range is limited, from 10D - 18E.
  • The wirefree: This bra is the most comfortable of all bras, because (of course!) it has no underwire. It is very popular as a 'first bra' choice for the younger ladies, and as a "I would like no underwire thank you, it is so uncomfortable to wear wire, I have worn wire for 50 years!" for the gorgeous older ladies. The most popular wirefree bras Myer (yes, this is where I work) has are: Playtex 'Cross Your Heart' and the '18-hour' range (including Classic Soft Cup and Original Comfort Strap). They are pretty self-explanatory - and mostly for the older ladies. For the younger ladies, a great first bra is Ambra 'Wirefree' or Miss Pink 'My First Bra' - and these come in some sweet little colours.
  • The maternity bra: For the ladies who are having a baby (congratulations!). These bras are designed to specifically cater for pregnancy - and if fitted properly, will look nice and also be practical. My personal favourites (okay, not from my experience, but from the ladies I've fitted!) are Lovable and Triumph; the contoured cups fitting the best. There are also some new really pretty maternity bras! Made by both Triumph and Elle Macpherson :) Though you will find the Elle ones in the larger Myer stores.
  • The strapless bra: As such, very self-explanatory, but your strapless is great for low-cut clothing and also for an extra boost! I have found that there is no one universal strapless I like best - it really depends on your shape and size. Lovable, Fine Lines and Berlei all make fabulous strapless bras that are good for all types of dresses and shirts. Usually only come in your basic colour range: beige, black and white. It's very hard to find a coloured strapless! But then again - that's not very practical :P
  • The post-surgery bra: This bra has clips on both the front and back, so for the ladies who can't reach around to hook their bra together - this design is ideal. You might find some pretty post-surgery bras at specialty stores, such as Spirit of Life at Milton. But you can also find them at Myer Chermside, Indooroopilly and Brisbane City. I don't have as much knowledge about them; however there are some fabulous sales assistants at these stores who do!
  • The sports bra: My second-favourite type of bra! The sports bra comes in a range of styles on its own - these bras are designed with different 'levels' of performance - for low range of sporting activity, right up to extreme levels. In this department, I have a very strong opinion on which sports bras are best. Berlei run their bras through the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and so each new sports bra that comes out has been tested and re-tested to make sure they give optimum support for the sporting-involved. Triumph has a great wirefree sports bra - but other than that, I would definitely go with Berlei.

My Personal Favourites

Now we get to the good stuff! These are the bras I love the best - in terms of 'pretty', 'hot' and 'sexy' factor.
  • The 'pretty' bras: Chloe & Lola, Elle Macpherson and the Berlei Luxe range. Chloe & Lola is a Myer brand, which frankly, when I first heard of it I thought "Ugh, home brand? That is going to be terrible." I was pleasantly surprised. Chloe have some really really nice patterns and colours that makes them my all-time favourite 'pretty' bra. They are great if you want something affordable (the most expensive one is $44.95, but most of them are only $39.95 - which is FANTASTIC for a decent, comfortable, pretty bra). Make sure you check out their styles if you can! As for the other two - Elle, well. What can I say that's bad about Elle? I suppose the only frustrating thing is the size range! Often Elle doesn't go past a DD cup - which for the larger-busted ladies, this is freaking annoying! However her styles are just gorgeous - some of the patterns for this spring are to die for. And the Berlei Luxe range are actually just the Berlei Barley There, but with lace :) And nice patterns :) Haha.
  • Your all-around sexy bras: I have one brand, and one brand alone that I am the MOST in love with. And that is PLEASURE STATE. This bra - gosh. I could gush about for hours (I once did, with the Pleasure State rep in Brisbane City! For a good 40 minutes :P She offered me a job afterwards haha). This brand is comfortable, sexy and stylish. It also has a FABULOUS sizing range! (Granted, Myer Brookside doesn't get the larger sizes - except one style, 'Carmen', but the bigger stores do! Something you must check out!). They bring out new gorgeous styles, patterns and colours all the time. You could even go with their basics range - Pleasure State 'My Fit' - as an everyday bra if you wanted. They have 4 major labels - My Fit, White Label, Couture and VIP. My Fit are the most affordable, at $49.95 - and sometimes go on sale for $35. The White Label are my favourite - something about the styles :) Couture are your classic, boudoir styles - fabulous for having a sexy night in ;) And VIP are a great range of both boudoir and pretty/sexy. I could rant about them - but I'll restrain myself!
  • Too hot for words: Berlei So Smooth Push Up - I can't even talk about this bra, it's so amazing. Imagine - the most COMFORTABLE bra you have ever worn - now times that by 50. This bra (though only in basic colours) is smooth and seamless, has underwire but an incredible padded foam over the wire so you hardly feel it, and gives you a die-for boost. I'm not even kidding. This bra has only just hit stores, but already is gaining a great reputation. Check it out! And the second too-hot-for-words bra is the Kayser Bombshell bra.... I don't really need to say more, do I?
Now, let's move on to some handy hints.

Picking the right bra for you

Now, for a lot of ladies bra shopping is incredibly daunting. It is also frustrating, infuriating and often annoying! I want to give the women reading this blog some tips to help make bra shopping more fun and helpful!
  • All bras are different: If you haven't been told before, I'm telling you now. NOT ALL BRAS ARE THE SAME. Bra brands are exactly like clothing brands - there's no 'one-size-fits-all'. Thus, if I measure you and say you're a 16DD - that is just a GUIDE. You may very well be a 16DD in most brands, but it is hardly EVER universal. Just remember this when shopping - while it is annoying, you do have to try on each new bra you want to buy. Trust me - this will benefit you in the long run.
  • Ask for help: It might seem frustrating, especially when there isn't many staff around, but asking for help is the best way to get a correct fitting bra. Even us bra fitters like a second opinion - so ask ask ask! Never be afraid to. No question is silly, and we have been asked everything from "Does this look alright?" to "But why is it bulging everywhere?". I would prefer you ask, rather than buy a bra that doesn't fit you right.
  • If you are alone: If you are stuck somewhere that offers no assistance, then let me give you a few quick tips on how to tell if your bra is fitting correctly.

A guide to cup sizes and back ranges

  1. The cup: Cup sizes range anywhere from AAA - J. These are the size of your ACTUAL breasts - nothing else.
  2. The back: This is your size 8 - 26 range. Just think, if I wear a size 14 dress, then I am most likely a size 14 in back strap size. This measures from the area under your breasts, across your ribcage and around your back.
  3. A full coverage cup vs low-cut: This refers to the actual cup. A fuller cup will cover most of your breasts, where low-cut will come down low in the front. You can also have a balconette cut, which sits across rather than on an angle over your breasts. Balconette can be harder to fit because if your boobs don't sit right, they will fall out of them :)
  4. But what about boost, contour, soft cup etc?: This refers to the padding in the cup. The picture in the left hand corner of this page is the Berlei Sweater Girl, and it is a soft cup bra. A contour fit will have a thin layer of microfilm that covers the nipple. From these cups you move to boost, super boost, and enhancer - which refers to the padding on the inside of the bra, at the base. This will determine how large you want your breasts to look! :)

Fitting by yourself

Sadly, there is not always help offered in some stores, in which case it is up to us to fit ourselves! Here are a few hints for you if you are stuck in this unfortunate situation!

  • There should be NO bulges, anywhere: When you try on a bra, if it is bulging anywhere - it is NOT the right fit. A good-fitting bra will sit smoothly across the top of your breast, sit flat in the middle of your two breasts, and sit square and straight around your whole body. Under your arms, where there is commonly the most 'bulge', should be sitting so (if you do have some excess skin under there) that it isn't being cut into - as flat as it can be.
  • That being said, your bra shouldn't be too loose: A good indicator that your bra is too big for you, with both the cup and back, is if you hunch your arms forward and there is a big gap between your breast and the cup. Also, you find the back strap is riding up your back, rather than sitting snug (but comfortable) in that straight line (a classic example - Sharon Stone's bra in The Rocky Horror Picture Show - I could hardly get through that movie without chucking a tanty - who FIT that bra?! I want to swat you with a cute pair of Chloe & Lola undies!)
  • What to do if your bra is too small: If the bra is bulging around your back, NOT the cup, then you need to go up in back size (i.e. from a 12 to 14, if that is the case). But if it is bulging with the CUP, you need to go up in cup size (i.e. from an A to a B cup).
  • What to do if your bra is too big: If your bra is too big at the back (which you can tell by pulling it out with your hand - if it isn't firm, and comes out about 3 finger widths - you need to go a size smaller in the back). If it is too big in the cup, then go smaller!
  • Your back clip should always be on the last hook: This is to ensure you get the most wear out of it! Once the bra stretches, you can continue to pull it in tighter by moving it to the middle hook, then the first hook.
  • And what about the straps? Do I adjust them?: Yes, you do. The straps should be lengthened enough so that your bra sits square in your back. If they are too loose, you will be able to tell by lifting them up with your fingers. If it comes up more than a finger width, tighten it!
  • Your bra SHOULD NOT be cutting into your breast tissue, anywhere: This is of VITAL importance. Under your arms, where the wire sits, should NEVER be cutting into you. If it does, it may be the wrong size, or it could be the wrong style bra for you. Just DITCH THAT BRA. :)
  • REMINDER: If you notice your bra is fitting correctly in the cup, but is way too big at the back, then you need to go SMALLER AT THE BACK, but BIGGER IN THE CUP. All bras have an equivalent size - for example, a 14D is equal to a 12DD; likewise, a 14D is also equal to a 16C. If you go bigger in the back, you need to go smaller in the cup. This includes if the bra is fitting correctly at the BACK, but is way too small in the FRONT - you need to go BIGGER in the cup, but SMALLER in the back. This can sound difficult, and it does become easier with practice and with help. But if you are stuck without help, keep this tip in mind.

Popular Myths

I'm going to address some popular myths there are about bras! These stem from old wive's tales, and some are actually true!

  • For a first bra, girls shouldn't go for underwire: This is an old wive's tale that I am happy to say is incorrect. Girls who are going from crop-tops to a 'big-girl bra' can go to underwire, but what we like to do is give them something soft to start off with, like the Berlei Barely There, or a Lovable Suddenly Shapely. The myth was that underwire would damage a girl's breasts - and this is only true if the bra is incorrectly fitted! What a girl should do is get fitted for her first bra, but if her or her mum notice any changes (she's getting bigger!) then she should come in and get re-fitted straight away. Problem solved!
  • It's okay to wear underwire while pregnant: No, actually, it's not. This is something I worry about as a bra fitter - when I see ladies who are 7 months pregnant and are still in their underwires. This can be notsomuch DAMAGING to their breasts - but it can adversely affect their milk ducts - i.e. it can block them. A woman who is pregnant should come in for their first fitting at 3 months, as this is when milk normally begins to produce and their breast may be getting larger. After this, a fitting should be done again at 7 months and then in the final weeks before the baby is due. However this can change - as some women do grow quite quickly, and so if any of the things I've said (bulging in particular!!) starts happening - they need to come in and get re-fitted, no matter what stage they're at.
  • An ill-fitting bra will give you cancer: For those of you who might be bewildered at this myth - I have actually been asked this! And my response - no. However an ill-fitting bra can cause quite significant lumps on the breasts (not cancerous, more callous) and not to mention be dreadfully uncomfortable!
  • Do sports bras need to be tighter than regular bras?: Yes. The reason being - a sports bra is designed to both flatten and support you. Therefore a good-fitting sports bra will be a bit firmer than a regular bra - but you should still be able to do it up at the back without having a struggle, and feeling like you can't breathe. Friends - that is no way to torture yourself.

Tips for men

Gentlemen. We all know that you love our lingerie. You are some of my favourite lingerie shoppers. Want to know why?

Because you ask some seriously cute, silly questions.

These are my favourite questions asked by men, and the helpful tips I give them in response.

  • Q: "She wants something sexy, and so do I. But I'm not sure where to start." My response: "Do you know what size she is?" - gentlemen. This is the most VITAL piece of knowledge you can obtain from your partner/wife. When I ask you her size, and you say "Um, I don't know, medium I think?" I am going to TRY and help you, but it will be very difficult. Find out her general size please - by that, I mean cup and back strap :) 10A, 12B, etc.
  • Q: "I want to get her that bra advertised in the catalogue. You know, the Embroidered Minimiser." Firstly - kudos to the man who can remember a style name! You're incredible! Or you're closet gay.. haha, no, I kid. <3 Secondly, if you know her size and you're asking me this, I can definitely help with that. However, like I told the ladies earlier, each bra is different. And if she doesn't normally wear this bra, chances are, she's going to return it. Stick with what she normally wears.
  • Q: "My wife needs a maternity bra." I am going to stop you right there. Without her in the store, I am not going to even try and sell you a maternity bra. Go get her and bring her back. Lure her in with candy and food she's craving if you must.
  • Q: "I need to buy her a cute matching set." Fantastic! I will help you as best I can. I will show you some of our customer-favourites, and my own favourites, and so long as you know her size and what bra she normally wears, I'm usually pretty good at guessing a style that will suit her. By the way - future boyfriend, if you're out there - you are to buy me a matching set anytime you go lingerie shopping. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Alrighty! I have come full circle, and am now going to talk about what I said at the start of this blog - that I have respect for lingerie companies, trained bra fitters, and boobs. You might be wondering - okay, I get where the lingerie appreciation comes in, and the respect for bra fitters - but boobs? I still don't get it.

Well, you're about to because I'm going to tell you.

I have respect for boobs because they are so very, very versatile. They provide a puzzle for me. When you come in saying "My bra doesn't fit right, can you find me one that does?" I have a little rush of excitement. And no, I'm not gay so it's not for that reason. It's because you have presented me with a challenge. Boobs are difficult! They do one thing, then the next. They are totally unpredictable, and quite frankly, are a little mystifying sometimes.

I relish in this.

There are few things that make me happier than finding a bra that fits, that has made a woman happy, and is on sale so I can sell it to her with a smile!

Foolish, you might say?

Perhaps, but we all have our addictions. One of mine is lingerie. And for that, I do not apologise.

Great websites to check out:

Pleasure State - [YAY YAY mini squeal!]
Spirit of Life Boutique -

If you have any further questions or comments on this topic, please, feel free to ask!! :)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The problem with judgement.

I know that sometimes, judging someone can be as easy as blinking.

How do I know this?

Because I used to be one of the biggest judges of everyone and anyone. It didn't matter if it was personality, character, appearance or ability - I would judge them based on it.

"What? You? Lovely, happy, kind, 'I love everyone' Jayne?" I hear those of you who know me ask.

Yes, it's true. And I'm ashamed to admit it.

I don't really mind if anyone reads this or not, but I feel as though it needs to be said. After all the criticism and bitter opinions that used to run through my head, I can say, without a hint of a doubt, that judgement should be left to God, and God alone.

No, I am NOT going to preach, those of you who just cringed. Hear me out.

I have found that there is nothing more disheartening than realising you take pleasure in thinking ill of others. When you find yourself enjoying the way you view people through a narrow lens of censure and degradation, rather than seeing their beauty and potential - it is time to take a step back and review the situation.

It is NOT a way to live.

Too many people in today's society are critics. While I admire those who critique food and movies, I cannot stand people who criticize others. I cannot stand them because, when I was in that mind set, I couldn't stand myself either.

But say I am coming from that point of view. This is what I see.

I see the man buying a packet of cigarettes instead of buying his child an ice cream - and I think 'You dirty, horrible person. Couldn't you give up your smokes for your child?'

I see the woman with down syndrome sitting on the train, playing with her hands - and I think 'Wow, I am so lucky I don't have a disability.'

I see a gay couple holding hands - and I think 'That is so unnatural.'

In truth, I see the world with blinkers on. I am narrow-minded, self-centered, egotistical, and I think no one is better than me.

It is a downright lonely existence.

"Lonely? Even if no one can tell you think this way?" You might ask.

Yes. It is lonely because, in your mind, no one can ever measure up. All you see are faults, and changes that need to be made. You don't see potential for more, and you don't see beauty. It becomes a never-ending stream of 'If only you were like me...'

It is NOT a way to live.

It is why now, I take on the world with an open heart and mind. I try with all my might to see what people can do. I relish in being surprised. I try and give with as much that I am, and refuse to accept that being different is NOT okay.

I have family and friends to thank for that. I also have to thank human services.

For those of you who are judgmental - please listen to me when I say it is NOT how you want to live your life.

Is it worth always being alone, if you spend your time seeing only people's faults? Is it worth losing friends, family, loved ones, just because you cannot see the beauty and potential within them?

I tell you, it's not worth it.

Being on the other side now, I see how wrong I was. That road will lead you to despair, nowhere else. Trust me, I would know.

Let us see people in a new light. Let us see past facades. Let us see through outward appearance and into the soul. Let us move from being judge and jury to character witness and defendant.

I know that I am now free from being adjudicator, placing everyone on trial. While it has that fleeting pleasure, I can now see that criticism only causes heartbreak, and judgement only causes pain.

Friends, let us learn not to judge, but rather to love.

LOVE, at the end of the day, will conquer all - it will breakdown barriers, bring equality, and unify our nation.

So - let us be people who LOVE. That is, surely, the only way to LIVE.

Brisbane - why I love it [Wednesday 24th August 2011]

I can't help but enjoy the hustle and bustle of Brisbane City.

Perhaps it has something to do with the crisp Cue suit jacket and skirt I have donned today for my interview. Then again, it could be the shiny new stockings I bought at Myer - because there really is nothing like a new pair of stockings.

Or maybe it is just that I have learnt to love and appreciate my city - it may be behind in a lot of ways (transport being at the fore!) but it has this young, excited air about it. There is a freshness where in other cities I have been to, there is an aged, historic feel. Brisbane doesn't have its history yet. It is like the first 50 pages of a novel - unused, inhabited but with still so much potential for more.

One doesn't necessarily feel free in Brisbane, as such, but you certainly feel more welcome than other places I've been.

Yes, I like it here. One tosses up moving or high-tailing it to another country altogether. Yes, they might have the charm, the rich history, and the gorgeous men - but truly, Brisbane is the place to be.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Because I'm a sucker for The Vampire Diaries.

"Yes, I worry about you. Why do you even have to hear me say it?"

"Because when I drag my brother from the edge and deliver him back to you I want you to remember the things you felt while he was gone."

Oh, Damon. You make my heart pound. And those words weren't even delivered to me.

Aside from the fact this episode had way too many Elena-crying-over-Stefan moments, I was particularly delighted with this tiny montage between Damon and Elena in the 39th minute.

Thank you Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, for delivering a near-flawless episode, yet again.

So, I have taken it upon myself to write a little (ha, well, I'll try to keep it small) blog after each episode of the Vampire Diaries - not as a recap (who wants those? You could easily watch the episode for yourself, it'd be way more entertaining!) but rather as a summary/commentary.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for this show. No pun intended (alright, maybe slightly, but everyone does it).

May I just say that Joseph Morgan becomes hotter in every take. Not even every week - every time he's on my SCREEN I manage to have a little heart flutter.

This week was no different.

One shot, in particular, when werewolf Ray comes back to life, and Klaus says - "Excellent timing Ray. Very dramatic", I felt this devilish smile creep across my face.
And then Klaus says, "Wrong choice" *insert biting arm and then feeding blood to sad werewolf girl*
Followed by "She'll thank me for that later" (quickly becoming one of Klaus' trademark statements, in my opinion) to;
"Okay, who's next?" (with blood dripping off his hand and arm).
After this little exchange, Klaus' face changed in a way that made me slightly hot, I won't lie (check for shimmery gold eyes, dripping blood and fangs extended... hmm).

Thank you Joseph Morgan for making possibly the most evil character I've seen in awhile (hybrid or not) into an outrageously sexy creature. Don't stop, whatever you do.

My next comments are to do with bad-boy-still-remorseful-and-broody Stefan. Firstly, last week I blogged and said that the phone call was a bit too lame for my liking. This week, as a direct follow-on, I would like to retract that statement (partially).

Stefan was part suave this week - calm, cool and collected around Klaus - and then partially depressing - c'mon, saving Damon's life? Again? It was a bittersweet moment, I'll give you that - but it was much smoother this week and I liked his transitioning here. You could see some of the old Stefan fighting through, and while I still love his bad boy persona, I didn't mind seeing his true fight to keep both his brother and Elena safe.

Speaking of keeping Elena safe - UM WHAT THE. So Klaus can't create his hybrid army because Elena is still alive? In other words, if Klaus finds out, or somewhat remotely suspects that Elena is still kicking - big no no. Stefan, Elena, Damon, Alaric, Jeremy, yeah the entire cast will most likely end up dead as a result of Klaus' rage (anyone else getting the feeling this will either be the mid-season climax or season finale drama?)

Anyway, I'm sure there will be more of that to come. Now, as for Jeremy, Vicki and Anna - oh yes, and Matt now too - I'm kind of bored by this ghost story line. Maybe it's just the fact that I am a Supernatural freak and so seeing ghosts in anything else seems ridiculous to me... OR maybe it's because the ghost thing has been outdone a bit in the past. Whatever the reason, I'm not really digging it. That being said, if Aunt Jenna comes back as one of Jeremy's ghosts I might change my mind. Sara Canning is spectacular and I cried for a day when they killed off her character last season (probably the only character I truly wish hadn't of died). Thus, I hope the writers bring her back for a stint. That'd be nice.

Well, I'm almost done, but I HAVE to mention Tyler telling his mum about being a werewolf - or rather, SHOWING her - and the subsequent appearance of Caroline's DAD. Was anyone else like 'Wtf mate?' because I sure was. I did think it was kinda sweet though, Tyler having such a mental at his mum over her calling Caroline a monster, that he dragged her into his secret transformation lair to show her who the 'real' monster is. Kudos to Michael Trevino, such a sweetheart. Let's keep him around.

Uh yeah, and Caroline's dad?! Didn't see that one coming. Gotta say though, Jack Coleman as Mr Forbes? Love it! It is sort of hard to picture him outside of Heroes as 'Noah Bennet', but I am super excited to see how he portrays the runaway-gay-father. Bring it on Season 3, you already have everything going for you, let's keep that momentum UP!

Alas, I have reached the end of this blog. But please, if you are a TVD fan I would love to hear your say :) Did you like 3.02? Looking forward to next week? I'm all ears! :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

'Anyone Can Edit... Phaedra'

It is Tuesday, the 20th September.
It is 6pm.
I am at Metro Arts.
109 Edward Street, Brisbane City. QLD 4000
Come with me as I take you on my adventure.

"Tonight I find myself on an adventure. An adventure you say? Well yes. I am reasonably new to the 'arts' scene (dare I say?) and tonight will be the first time I have managed to get to an event orchestrated by - wait for it - the Brisbane Festival. Yes, I can see the nods of approval already.

"Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about what I discovered on my adventure in Metro Arts Land (Under the Radar Inc).

"Carley and I find ourselves dragging our poor feet up 4 flights of stairs to get to the studio room in Building 25. When I asked her where the lift was, she responded with 'It's over there, but it's Heritage listed.' I didn't really know what she meant until we got to the top, where I noticed this rickety old elevator which looked like it couldn't hold a toothpick, let alone two bodies. I glanced back at Carley and said, 'Well, I'm glad we didn't go in the lift.'

"Please bear in mind that I had NO CLUE what to expect upon arrival. When we walked into the studio, the first thing that I saw was a man in bright red jocks (nothing else) splayed out on a chair in the middle of the room. My first thought - what on EARTH have I gotten myself into? (On a side note, it does get better)

"There was one guy sitting cross-legged in the left hand corner of the room, facing the wall with an electric guitar in his hands. A girl in a red dress with a black umbrella opened over her head was in the front right hand corner. Another girl was in the back right hand corner, wearing a plain black t-shirt and aviator sunnies. Oh, and one other random guy standing just in front of the girl in the red dress. (There was another guy in the room but I don't quite remember where he was situated)

"Then the show started, and I inwardly cringed. The guy with the guitar was playing the most TERRIBLE screeching chords that were making my ears hurt. And what followed was just WEIRD - I can't think how else to describe it. This other girl came out behind a sectioned-off, black-curtained area and started writing post-its and sticking them all over the naked (I'm going to term him 'naked guy') guy while he just lay there, frozen (the screeching was still going). Sometime after this, the guy in the front right hand corner starts moving slowly towards the girl in the red dress, and then he proceeds to stroke her umbrella.... and moving down towards her back, before he pulls his hand back and then SMACK! grabs one arse cheek and holds it there (I will name him 'arse-grabber')

"So at this point in time, I'm like 'what the hell'. The other people in the audience are in rapture - sitting on the edge of their seats, watching every single person on stage to see what they'll do next. Meanwhile I'm perched there with one raised eyebrow, wondering what on earth these artsy-types are up to. Not to worry, it didn't stay confusing too much longer.

"After a whole lot more boring (slowly moving people wandering round stage, not really looking like they had any purpose, and that girl consistently putting post-its on naked guy), the screeching finally stopped and people start talking. At first it was mumbo jumbo to me - then they began talking about Wikipedia, and I was like 'Oh! I see. Wikipedia. Something to do with that.'

"Now, forgive me because my memory is terrible, so I might miss a fair few details here, but four of them got up and moved to the front and started singing this HILARIOUS song about Wikipedia. It was the most random, accurate piece of music I have ever heard. I couldn't stop chuckling. By far, the highlight of the entire show. And then naked guy gets up and stands in the middle of them and sings too! My interest is finally perked.

"From there we head into a giant screen being set up in the middle of the floor, and a montage of the girl in the red dress begins while someone voice-overs a repetitive text about the girl in the red dress - or was it white? Anyway, arse-grabber gets up, ties a piece of white cloth around his face and starts doing some weird interpretive dance in front of the screen. I was amused, to say the least. And THEN two of the other people wander in with velcro-catch gloves! They start playing while the voice-over tells of the outdated status of velcro and tennis.

"It becomes a bit fuzzy from here, but the screen lights up with a Wikipedia page 'Phaedra (mythology)' and someone at a computer begins typing up what has happened thus far in the show (I think I skipped a bit where a girl with a bag pulled over her head that had a picture of a cat etched on the front wandered onto stage, that and naked guy singing a random little song about taking a drink or something - oops). We (the audience) can't stop staring at what is written, and it's very novel. I WISH I could get the finalised text, however Wikipedia pulled it down awfully quick :(

"So in this part here, a lot of random pieces of dialogue occur, with singing and odd dancing, and a bit of acting, yelling and voice-over'ing happening while the audience are sitting in their seats, enthralled by the ranting about Phaedra and her story (that and the story of Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia).

"Anyway, so the highlight of the night (besides the Wikipedia song) was when the cast suddenly ended up in the audience discussing what to write on the Wiki page! I'm not sure about anyone else, but I was a bit confused. When it finally occurred to me that we were actually going to edit a Wiki page, I was absolutely delighted. This performance had taken a turn I had not expected, and the audience interaction was a definite bonus.

"Now to wrap up, I would like to applaud the cast for their interesting, intriguing, slightly confusing montage of Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia, and Phaedra. You were all really splendid, and have fantastic voices and animated faces. While I didn't know what to expect, so I didn't have too many expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Special kudos go to naked guy and the girl with the aviator sunnies (she had a gorgeous voice) for being the most entertaining (to me!). If anyone gets the chance, you should definitely go see this performance - even if just for a laugh.

"My only wish is that the Wiki page had kept our alterations! Maybe next time :)"

And this, dear friends, was my adventure. If you made it this far in my tale, I applaud you as well. Many thanks to Carley for taking me tonight :) Ta-ta all!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The 20's.

No, by 'The 20's' I don't mean the era. Though that would be something interesting to blog about (next time!)

The 20's I'm referring to is the age group of 20 - 29. I was talking with my best friend the other day about how being 22 makes me feel a certain way, just as 21 and 20 meant a specific thing to me, and 23 predicts a certain air about it as well. Ergo - I have developed a list of 'The 20's' and what I believe each age means to all of us.


I have hit the 20's. FINALLY, I'm not that ridiculously ugly age 19 anymore. I can look forward to my 21st! Let's start planning. Yes, I know I turned 20 yesterday, but these things take time.


THE BEST AGE EVER. I am young enough to still go clubbing without feeling like an old person, and old enough to chat with the parents about politics. My 21st party ended too quickly, but the year is one of the best in my life.


I'm in a lull. All my friends are getting engaged or married, and I haven't even got a boyfriend. I still have a year left at uni, and retail is getting so old it should have been retired by now.


This number I think I could get used to. Last year of uni! I can see the light. I'm still single though, and everyone is still getting married. Oh WHAT! My friend is pregnant?! ...... Fantastic! I get to buy baby clothes!


Oh crap, I have a million things to do. This rent is killing me, not to mention the car rego. And the phone bill. Did I really rack up $443 worth of calls? Oh I suppose that's from the proposal I took home with me. Bloody internet charges. What happened to lazy uni life?! Where are my sleep-ins! I am way too old to even THINK of going clubbing. Drinking? What is that? I'm in bed by 8.30pm.


I am halfway to 50. FML.


I think I'd better hurry up and get married. The clock is ticking - but I'm a workaholic. I love my job! Who needs a man really? *plays Pussycat Dolls song 'I don't need a man!' all day long*


Okay. How about, instead of meeting a man, I go travelling? Yes! What a fabulous idea! I haven't seen America yet. Hmm. Maybe, while I'm over there, I'll run into Ian Somerhalder in a grocery store. "Oh my, did I drop that pen? Silly me." *bend and snap moment* Oh he's in love with me! Marry you? Yes please! He and I would have such gorgeous-looking children.


I'm 30 in two years. Where is my life going! Thank goodness for good friends and cups of tea. I have gained 10kgs over the weekend and I'm not sure where my gym motivation has gone... Another biscuit? Yes, that will suffice.


I am 30 next year. That can't be right. America and Canada were great, but I'm still not married. My friend's kids are six years of age! *hits rock bottom, before picking self up again day before I turn 30* All is right in the world - this is your mantra. Live by it, breathe it!
You are only 29 once!

And there you have it :) I wonder if I will actually live up to these predictions. I suppose we shall see.

Friday, 16 September 2011

It's 'Rippah' time my lovelies.

As it is, I'm up late and bored. And what better way to waste the time but write?

There's no better way.

I decided that I needed a nice big blog about my favourite TV show of all time - The Vampire Diaries.

I can hear the snorts and sighs already. I'm sorry, but there are very few shows which have kept me as captivated as this one has. I didn't start the series with the background knowledge of the books, which perhaps would have skewed my view, but I did take the time to read the books and I still maintain that the show is, of its own accord, a masterpiece.

Writers Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson have deftly crafted a show that is both captivating in its basic sense, and complex in its execution - no subtle pun intended. The first season, granted, was interesting - but it was as we were led into the second season that I was truly blown away by the imagination of these two writers and their team.

This concept of 'the originals' isn't new in any way, but having a story-line that went beyond 'the love of girl and vampire' was what drew me into the water even further. I was captured by the arrival of Elijah and then the underlying implication that 'there will be more of us, and if the writers have their way, we will see more of them'. And then, of course, the arrival of Klaus - the oldest vampire, and a hybrid.

I absolutely ADORED the idea of a hybrid. Especially one who was behind everything since the start - Katherine's arrival in Mystic Falls, John, Isobel, Elijah, Mason - and ultimately, Elena. He goes beyond what a basic vampire is and falls into the realm of psychotic, brilliant, GORGEOUS genius. He reminds me of a modern-day John Kramer, with a little bit of Hannibal Lecter and Sam Winchester (when he was on demon blood) thrown in. An excellent character, portrayed to near perfection by Joseph Morgan. He has taken on board that character's persona as if it were his own - it's eerily beautiful in its own way. And now, with the arrival of season 3, I look forward to seeing how far he can take this character.

Season 3 has also brought with it 'Stefan the Rippah'. As I watched the season premiere I thought - oh my. Who IS this attractive fellow and where has he been hiding for 2 seasons?! Not that I don't love genuine, caring, guilty-as-all-hell Stefan, but this Stefan was refreshing in so many ways. Besides the fact that it now paves the way for more Damon and Elena action, it also gives actor Paul Wesley so much more to work with - difference and variation that we only slightly tapped into when Stefan drank human blood in season 2. This character is dark, sinister, mysterious, troubled - in all respects, he is the opposite of the Stefan we have known and loved. But truthfully, I am beginning to love this Stefan more - even though he killed Andie, and I did like having her around (oh well, once again - paving the way for more epic Elena and Damon scenes).

The only criticism I had was for 'the phone call'. It honestly put me off Stefan rather than love him more - I thought his switch had been quite convincingly 'flicked', but instead he appeared to be able to click back in that moment very suddenly. I didn't like it, but it was a small critique in the scheme of things. I do look forward to more of the dark and twisty Stefan and where Klaus will lead him in his attempt to make a hybrid army.

Now - onto my second favourite ploy of season 3 - Caroline and Tyler. To all those fans who want a Caroline and Stefan romance, I think you're being foolish. Caroline and Tyler have been this slowly building, wonderfully sexual teasing romance that Julie and Kevin weaved so well into seasons 1 and 2. Now we are finally seeing the results, and it definitely did not disappoint.

Caroline at that party, knocking back the drinks and becoming super jealous blonde barbie vampire? Adored it. But backpedaling a little - Caroline becoming a vampire in the first place was possibly the best decision the writers made in the entirety of this show. I detested Caroline at the very start - as I think a lot of people did - but when we could visibly see the changes (other than the vampire ones) in Caroline as she grew into this confident, sexy woman, I was mesmerized. She was so unbelievably gorgeous; no wonder Tyler couldn't wait to get his hands on her, and Matt was so reluctant to let go (even when he discovered she was a vampire).

But yes, Caroline and Tyler. Candice Accola and Michael Trevino are a dynamic duo, and have perfected those quick, meaningful glances to a T. Their chemistry is very smoldering and maybe even slightly better than the Stefan/Elena romance? Dare I say? However it will never top my favourite couple - yes, if you haven't guessed it already you shouldn't be reading this blog - Damon and Elena.

Sigh. I must admit, I wept a little watching the scene where Damon puts the necklace on Elena (Nina Dobrev looked absolutely stunning in that white dress, as a side note). But on a whole, that relationship has been so carefully and delicately woven into the story line, you sometimes hardly notice it's there. When I watched season 1 and 2 over again before season 3 started, I picked up on a few moments that I hadn't noticed before, and it occurred to me that my heart literally melts every time I see them together.

While Stefan and Elena have the seemingly perfect relationship, in my eyes, that's not the case. I see areas where Stefan is better than Damon, sure, but on a reversal - what exactly does Elena do for Stefan? What part of him does she draw out? Certainly not his best side, and she apparently wasn't enough for him to save himself from Klaus. But Elena brings out the good side in Damon - she sees straight through his quasi-attempt to act all macho and angry at the world. And Damon would do anything for her - even help her find Stefan and put himself in danger - just to see her happy.

I love that couple, in case you couldn't tell.

And kudos to Nina Dobrev, for the first episode of season 3. As if playing Katherine and Elena wasn't challenging enough throughout seasons 1 and 2, season 3 has opened this whole new can of worms where Elena's feelings and emotions are taking her. I am excited to see where the season takes her in her own personal growth and the test it gives Nina. And as for Ian Somerhalder - well, I have very little in the way of bad things to say about him. When Andie died, I cried when I saw Damon's face. It just shows how much his character has changed and molded over the past two seasons. How those changes have led him here, to this moment, to these choices he's making, and it is such an incredible time for him - despite how he may feel the opposite.

Before I finish, I will make a small note about Jeremy and Matt. (Bonnie I don't really feel the need to mention because she wasn't in this episode very much - but I might talk about her when I see another upcoming episode). This bromance was definitely appealing to me. Why not put the only two non-supernatural men together and let them have a bond? (Other than Alaric that is). It was an interesting turn and I liked the dynamics of it. Steven McQueen looks a lot older in this season, but it plays to his advantage. The younger Jeremy would never have been able to cope with two ghosts haunting him; this Jeremy has a tougher skin and battle scars. He wears this burden well. I do hope Matt comes to his aid and helps him out.

There are a fair few things I've left out in terms of the season premiere, but that isn't the focus of this blog. I'm writing about the Vampire Diaries because, plain and simple, I love the Vampire Diaries.

I think the show is creative, intuitive and original. The cast are gorgeous, but they are much more than that - they are brilliant actors, tasked with playing very complex and quickly-changing characters. I applaud the writers and other people working on the show for making it the way it is, and I hope that people will continue to watch so that it can be played out to its full potential.

If you don't already watch it, then you should. Even if only for 'Stefan the Rippah'.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

"I have one-and-a-half hours next week Mum!"

One-and-a-half hours, the new ultimate working shift for casual employees.

Oh, but it’s only for ‘young’ employees; or in other words, full-time secondary students. And only between 3.00pm and 6.30pm on weekdays.

Fair Work Australia (FWA) has approved a submission by the National Retail Association (NRA) to shorten ‘young’ employees’ hours down to one-and-a-half, who previously had vied for casuals to not have to work less than 3 hours.

Nice work, FWA. Now secondary students will have to work twice as many shifts a week to gain the money they would have earned doing one or two 3-hour shifts. And they’ll still have to pay for travel to their retail destination, so basically that $18 they may gain over the one-and-a-half hour shift will go directly towards petrol and maybe their afternoon tea for the day.

Yes, that’s fair, FWA.

Industry officials have described the decision as “win-win” for all parties involved – retailers, parents and students. The executive of Australian Retailers Association (ARA), Russell Zimmerman, describes the decision as “logical” and stated that “it’s just a pity this decision wasn’t made any earlier”. He believes that allowing students to work between when school finishes and most businesses close will be both beneficial for retailers who need extra man-power during these times, and to students who would like to work after school.

Of course this is beneficial for retailers – they will now have less need for mature-aged workers and university students who are available to work longer hours but will cost more to hire. And true, secondary students may find that $18 they gain from working one afternoon a week will be highly beneficial for their social life on the weekend.

Perhaps I am generalising a bit. Even still, I am a third year university student and I would certainly prefer to have those hours to go towards my mounting HEX debt. Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of having parents who pay for my school fees. But sure Zimmerman, this is a “win-win” for everyone involved.

The NRA has been running the campaign to shorten the minimum shift lengths for awhile now, arguing that allowing for 3 hours as a minimum was a hindrance to some small retailers – specifically those on tight profit margins. Likewise, they argued that it was limiting opportunities for after-school workers.

On the other hand, The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) had a firm belief that having the 3-hour minimum shift ensured workers would receive a decent wage, and to reduce it would endanger the income of millions of casual workers.

Honestly, I am more inclined to agree with the ACTU.

While I concur that this will help some small retailers, it has almost certainly left the big fat retail chains with a greedy grin on their faces. This proposal will grossly affect the way casual workers who have finished school are viewed in the eyes of retailers. Why give a 3-hour shift to a 21-year-old who is costing them $60 (excluding tax deductions) when they could give two 17-year-olds a one-and-a-half hour shift each for $36?

If that is not bad enough, what about the 40-year-old mother of two who would like to earn a little bit of extra money to go towards the exponentially substantial cost of living? She would practically become null and void to a potential employer.

NRA executive Gary Black implores that this move is giving young people a chance to gain work experience, learn employability skills and develop a healthy work ethic. Understandably, this does seem like a great opportunity for developing these essential skills for later in life. But what I cannot understand is how suddenly those of us who went through Grade 11 and 12 working on weekends at Coles and Woolworths did not benefit from those opportunities given to us. The majority of retail employers have needed staff on weekends – so what changed?

Black claimed that parents have found it has been increasingly difficult for their children to find work because of restrictive work arrangements imposed on to the retail sector through the modern reward process. I don’t know about these parents, but I feel like asking them exactly what retailers their kids tried to be employed by. And if these retailers wouldn’t hire their children for some apparent reason, what makes them think a retailer will hire them just because the amount of time they are required to work has shortened? If they weren’t good enough before, they certainly won’t be good enough now.

The proposal in my opinion has presented a new dilemma. While it appears to have fixed a long-standing problem, in reality it has created a myriad of new ones. True, 16 and 17-year-olds will now be able to work an hour-and-a-half after school every day (if retailers have it in their hearts to give them that many shifts) and this will give them some pocket money and allow for experience in the work force (which apparently they weren’t going to get before with working a 3-hour shift on a Saturday).

But now university students, mature-aged parents or older workers, and maybe even international citizens (who most likely have fantastic people skills and extensive retail experience from working in the sector since they were 15) will have to fight to gain casual hours – and are certainly more deserving of those hours in terms of how well the business will function (if we look at knowledge, skills and prior experience that is).

Yes NRA and FWA, this is a fabulous idea.

Fair and “win-win” for all.

Jayne Balke, 20th June 2011.

Friday, 9 September 2011

I'm not sorry.

You know, I was feeling kinda bad earlier that I've been flooding facebook and twitter with 'Support this' and 'Support that' campaigns and programs. But then I thought - no. Why should I feel sorry for that? None of us should be sitting on our arses doing nothing when we are perfectly functioning human beings with capabilities and opportunities thrown at us left, right and center.

We live in an absolutely FANTASTIC country, despite what some groups might believe. We are so BLESSED to have family that loves us, a roof over our heads, food on our table, a bed to sleep in at night. Sometimes I can't sleep when I think about starving children over in Africa or Asia, who would be curled up with hunger pains each night, while we are moaning and groaning when we don't get our coffee in the morning. It's just a bit rich, if you ask me.

So no, I refuse to apologise for trying. For trying to bring some sense into our sheltered lives. For trying to get people to act on things they CAN change - when it is certainly in reaching distance.

I refuse to stop fighting. I refuse to stop believing that we can change the world, one step at a time.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Do we stand and fight?

I have just realised the importance and need to FIGHT.

And by fighting, I don't mean the 'let's punch out someone for giving me road rage' type fighting.

I am talking about the real, hands-down, INCREDIBLE fighting that is done by organisations and foundations across the entire world. People who (whether suffering from their own tragedy or realising the compassion they have from others' tragedies) get up and decide that enough is enough - we are going to advocate and educate and do everything in our power to prevent this from happening to anybody else.

I have always had respect for these organisations - don't get me wrong. After seeing everything Daniel Morcombe's family went through and the lengths they went to to find their son, how could anyone NOT have respect for that family? But it has only just occurred to me the significance of what people can do when they put their minds to something and they believe in it enough to see it through to the end - come what may.

That kind of inspiration and dedication you can't fake. It is surreal to many of us; we wouldn't dream of stepping outside what we deem our little 'bubble' to "get down and dirty - to the nitty gritty side of life".

How many of you would actually advocate for something you believe in, had you the chance?

Would you? Would you stand up and fight? If the whole world was screaming at you that what you're doing is 'foolish' and 'senseless' and 'you're wasting your time' - would you ignore their comments and continue on your path?

I suppose there are circumstances with which this kind of 'blind doing' would or could be harmful - such as the crazy so-called 'christian' americans who were on 60 minutes for boycotting a soldier's funeral and claiming 'God loves dead soldiers' and 'God hates fags' at other rallies - yes, I can see the foolishness and blind hatred and ignorance that stems from that.

But what about, say, advocating for gay marriage? For equal rights and opportunities for people with a disability? For the safety and protection of children - the innocents in this world? For women, men, and children in the slave or sex trade? For a solution to world poverty? For the eradication of violence in third world countries? For a way to combat the growing rates of suicides? For security for asylum seekers? For blacks? For whites?

What about these beliefs?

Would you stand and fight if you had the chance?

Would you create an opportunity?

Would you hide behind your insecurities?

Would you do something worthwhile?

For me - I WANT a better nation. I want more than just my life - I have been given the kind of life so many people across the world could only dream of having. Is it okay for me to just settle? To accept the fact that I have been dealt the 'upper hand'? Is it okay for me to sit on my arse and do nothing?

Or do I fight?

I want to believe that people can be better than what they are. I want to believe that there are more people than the few I have seen or spoken to that have had the chance and taken it - more who are willing to sacrifice everything to see a wrong made into a right in the world.

Perhaps my dream is foolish - perhaps I am fighting in vain. But at least I know, I KNOW, that I can't and won't settle. God gave us this potential for a reason - and I intend to use mine.

I hope you all do too.