Smiling for the Camera is Harder Than You Think

May 7, 2008 at 7:32 am (Uncategorized)

My sister in law is a photographer. She works three days a week at the Art Gallery of NSW, and the rest of the time she’s a freelancer. She does all sorts of work, and she’s very good (I know I’m biased, but she is). One of the things she’s building up in her portfolio is portraiture, and quite a long while ago now, she asked me if she could take mine. Good for her, she reasoned, and good for me. If ever I get my bloody manuscript past GO, one day I will actually need a decent photo of myself at some point, for something, and believe me when I say they’re pretty hard to come by.

I avoided the portrait for as long as possible. I knew it was a good idea, and a great, generous offer from Flic, but I just couldn’t bear the thought. Then a nasty and incredibly vain thought crossed my mind: the longer I wait, the older I’ll be. Yes, I’m sorry to say this exact thought not only crossed my mind but firmly lodged itself there. It’s winter skin, you see. It does that to me. Then I thought, not only am I aging every day that I defer, what if I get pregnant? Then I’ll be old AND fat!! Oh no!! I was on that phone quick smart. How’s today, Flic? Tomorrow? No? How about right this instant? Stay where you are, I’m on my way!

Okay, I’m embellishing, but you get my drift. Suddenly the portrait session became a matter of some urgency. I wanted it sooner rather than later, and a few weeks ago, we locked in a date: yesterday. Now, before you think I’m just the most ego-maniacal freak on the face of the planet for worrying about this, you really need to understand my relationship with photographs. It’s been an ugly, brutal battle from day one. I have friends who are superbly photogenic, and they are so, so lucky never to know the feeling of looking at yourself in a photo and thinking, “Oh, you poor, poor unfortunate.” I literally cannot count the times those words have flashed across my brain even as I recoiled in horror from the photo in question.

Being unphotogenic is painful. Yes, it’s superficial, yes, it’s only skin deep, yes, there are many better, worthier, much more important things to worry about, but it doesn’t change the fact that a really awful photo of yourself is a pretty painful thing to behold, especially if, like me, you generate albums full of them. My palms are sweating just writing about this. It really sucks. And I’m not being falsely modest, either. I’ll champion a half decent photo of myself like it’s going to save lives. I’ll even put it on Facebook. I’m shameless that way because it happens so infrequently I am positively gleeful when one of these horrors actually goes my way. I want the world to know.

But the majority of the time, it is painful from start to finish. Hideous. Unflattering. Drag-like. Do I really look like that? How could you show that to anyone? One of my super photogenic friends put up some photos from her birthday on Facebook, and it was all I could do to stop myself from actually begging her to remove the filthy ugly one she put up of me. She has never in her life experienced the horror of unphotogeneity, so I daresay she hasn’t a clue what it’s like for those of us permanent sufferers. In the photo, she’s the absolute picture of perfection. I look like a man.

So let’s just say Flic concluded at the end of the session yesterday that I had indeed laid down a challenge. Ha ha ha, doesn’t that just say it all? I’m not usually, but yesterday I even became a blinker. Yep, just when I thought I’d really taken it as far as it could go, I found a new area in which to fail. Blink, blink, blink. Click, click, click. It was excruciating for both of us, let’s face it. Yes, in the end we had to open a bottle of wine to try and help me relax. It did perhaps help me a little bit, but then again Flic seemed to struggle with her equipment about a glass in… She took so many photos of me it’s embarrassing. What’s more embarrassing is that I would wager that among them, I’ll be lucky if there are three that aren’t total room silencers.

You know how many people are afraid of public speaking? I don’t have that fear at all. I’ll stand up in front of whoever you like and talk until the curtain drops, but you put a camera in my face, and that’s when my stomach turns. That sickening, anxious, paralysed, feverish thing people experience before delivering a speech? That’s photo time for me. And not without good reason. You’ve heard me say before on this blog that the woman who gave birth to me was a bit of a bitch, but even so, most of my photos are of a face that not even the best mother could love. The mother I had, when last she had the opportunity, actually looked at one and said “Oh, that’s not a very flattering photo. Do you ever take a good photo?” Well, funnily enough, you know what? I’ve taken a damn sight more since she’s been out of the frame.

(this blog is written with great love and thanks to my dear sis-in-law, Flic, who worked so hard yesterday trying to get me to relax. If anyone can take a good photo of me, it’s you, and thanks for trying!!)

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The Interview from Hell

May 6, 2008 at 3:06 am (Uncategorized)

Look – here I am, STILL connected to the internet! I am actually starting to feel a little less like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sleep helps, but so does connectivity. Anyway, I really do want to share last Friday’s meltdown with you, and then I promise there will be a ban on technology-related posts on DoctorDi for at least the term of my new Virgin contract…

So. The interview. Imagine that I am sitting at my desk. I have my dictaphone beside me, a fresh tape sitting inside. I check everything is working. I get out my notebook and a pen. I pick up my mobile phone and dial the interview subject’s phone number. Then I drop my mobile phone and it clatters loudly to the wooden floor. The screen does dark. I swear volubly. I turn the phone back on and all seems to be well. I redial.
“Hello?”
“Hello Jean-Marc, this is Diana Je-”
“Hello?”
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
“Hello?”
“Jean-Marc, it’s Diana Jenkins calling.”
“I don’t know… there’s no one here, it’s probably the Diane or Diana calling from the paper. Hello? If this is you, this has happened to my phone before, so maybe hang up and try again.”
I hang up. I call back. Conversation virtually identical to the one above. We both hang up. I’m convinced my phone is the problem, so I call Llew. No answer. I call Sarah.
“Hello, Sarah speaking.”
“Hi Sar, can you hear me?”
“Hello? Hello…?”
I hang up. I call back. Conversation identical to the one above.
“Fuck,” I say.
No one can hear that, either.
Tick tock, tick tock. Interview subject still waiting to hear from person hired to interview them. Oh yes, that would be me. I text interview subject, explaining about dropped phone. I say I am casting about for a new option and will call asap. I run out the front. I glance up and down the street and dash to my next door neighbour’s house. There’s no answer. I think about crying, then I dash back through my open front door and I run straight out the back. At the boundary line, a group of builders are gathered constructing – interminably – the apartment block that will eventually house a whole range of people who will be able to look directly into our bedroom window. About time these noisy early morning drilling bastards make themselves useful, I think.
“Hi, hi, do you one of you have a phone I can borrow, please? I’m doing a phone interview and my phone just died. I’ll pay you.”
They slouch off.
I’m gaping after them, speechless, when one returns and reluctantly hands over his phone.
“How long are you going to be?” he asks. He’s not happy about this, not happy at all. “I don’t have much credit left.”
Oh perfect, I think. Of course you would have to be someone who’s not on a plan. But beggars can’t be choosers, I reason to myself. And I am a beggar.
“I’ll pay you for the call,” I say, reaching out to take the phone. “Thank you, thank you so much.”
I grab the phone before he can change his mind and run – actually skidding on one heel – back indoors. Panting, I dial the interview subject.
“I’m on a builder’s phone,” I tell him.
We laugh and I press RECORD on my dictaphone. The interview begins. He and his co-writer are good company, the interview is going well. We’re having a marvellous time. I glance down at my dictaphone. The tape is no longer turning. The battery sign is a solid, unblinking red. As I watch, it dies. I start wildly scribbling down notes, too appalled and shocked to stop the interview subjects mid-sentence to tell them yet another thing has broken down. But I needn’t have worried, because just then, the phone goes dead.
“You have GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!” I scream at the builder’s phone. “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!” I pick up my phone and text the subjects: “Sorry, sorry, sorry, B’s phone out of credit. Will find another phone and call you straight back, unless you want to reschedule for this arvo?”
Message comes back: “Can’t do this arvo. Ready when you are.”
I run out the back and the builder is leaning menacingly over the fence.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s out of credit.”
“You used up all my credit?”
“I’m sorry. Twenty bucks ought to cover it.”
“But I need to make a phone call.”
“I’m really sorry. Thank you for helping me.”
“You should have used a pay phone. You should have gone to a phone box.”
“I need to record the interview. I need it on loudspeaker so it records.”
“Well, I need to make a call.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll get you some cash right now.”
I run inside, painfully aware that my interview subjects are sitting by the phone. I open my wallet. There’s maybe a dollar inside. The universe starts laughing loudly.

I run to the service station down the road. I take out money for the builder and buy three lots of batteries, not remembering what the dictaphone takes. On my way back home, I stop in at my neighbour’s house. She answers and I nearly start weeping on her doorstep.
“Oh thank god,” I say, with feeling. “Thank god you’re here.”
Angela explains that her phone too is just about to run out of credit, then she says I can use the home phone, but it crackles. I don’t care if it whinnies, I just need to use it. I drop the new batteries on the bed next to the phone and run next door. I give the builder thirty bucks for the phone call and the inconvenience, bundle up my equipment in my arms and run back to Angela’s. She’s out the door to work, so she leaves me to it. I sit on the side of the bed and change batteries. Then I lift the handset and dial Jean-Marc’s number.
“This is where you tell me you’ve broken into your next door neighbour’s house,” he quips.
“I’m sitting by the side of their bed,” I laugh (hysterically).
“She is,” he calls out to Adam, his co-writer. “She’s in their house!!”
“Oh my god,” I say. “This has never happened to me before. Hold on, I’ll just press the loudspeaker.”

The line goes dead.

I frantically try to figure out Angela’s phone system. It seems I accidentally disable their answering machine, change their security code and set their alarm whilst trying to figure out the loudspeaker and stop that beeping noise, the source of which I cannot find. About five long minutes pass before I figure it out. Then I do. I redial Jean-Marc’s number. Amazingly, they pick up. I don’t know about you, but I’d be letting it go to voicemail by then, just to fuck with me. But they don’t do that to me. They pick up. I can hear them on the loudspeaker, I press RECORD on my dictaphone, the tape starts turning and the interview recommences.

The drama is over.

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Oh My God, It Worked…

May 5, 2008 at 6:05 am (Uncategorized)

I could cry.

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Could This Really Be It…?

May 5, 2008 at 6:05 am (Uncategorized)

I’m almost scared to ask… But – and I say this with the due caution of the truly exhausted who know better than to assume anything – so far, so good… I am at my desk, and I am connected to the internet. It’s a start.

Since filing three articles at 10 am this morning (via an internet cafe, because the Virgin modem still wasn’t working), I have been back in to see Joe at Virgin, laptop in tow, to return the maddening, violence-inducing modem he sold me at the end of last week. You know the one. It didn’t work. Over the course of the weekend, both Llew and I separately nearly threw the laptop out the window after various attempts to connect with the outside world abundantly, emphatically failed. I just wanted it gone, smote, dusted into oblivion.

I should say that it’s like the modem knew . Earlier today, it behaved beautifully for Joe, it was a picture of high-speed perfection. Nothing went wrong the entire time I was in the store. I was speechless, but insistent: nothing had changed from my end. The fact remained that this thing didn’t work where and when I needed it to. Joe was unflappable. We puzzled over the change in the modem’s disposition together, then he ducked out the back and returned with a new and apparently more powerful gizmo. It’s the one that’s plugged into my computer right now. So far, it works, but only just – it’s showing only one bar of coverage here at the desk. If I move it to the lounge-room, it leaps up to four sturdy bars, as strong as a 10 year old’s heartbeat. Oh, uh oh, now it’s saying no bars… which is not good – does that mean I’ve been disconnected? I guess we’ll find out when I go to upload this post.

What I fail to understand is why it’s so different to the Virgin coverage on my mobile phone. In the exact same spot, my phone is registering full coverage, so what’s different here? I don’t know, I don’t get it. I’m not sure it should be happening like this. Oh well, I guess I’ll try to run it on one bar and see how we go. I’m so knackered by all my technology failures of the past four days that I don’t even have the strength to tell you about my day on Friday. What a shocker. Everything but everything I needed to do my job broke down on Friday, seconds before a scheduled phone interview I was doing for one of the stories I filed today. Very uncool. Very unprofessional. Desperate times at DoctorDi HQ, I can tell you. I want to give you the full blow by blow because I think you’ll like it, it’s funny as long as it’s not happening to you, but it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow, when I’ll hopefully have slept for about fifteen hours and will be starting to feel normal again. Right now I’m just going to take a deep breath and press ‘publish,’ and then I’m going for a lie down to try and forget the last week ever happened.

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Still Dumb…

May 1, 2008 at 9:37 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, so it’s up, but what you CAN’T see is the behind-the-scenes footage of my tearing my office apart.

I have a poltergeist. That’s what this is.

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Dumb and Dumber

May 1, 2008 at 9:34 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, I am kind of back in action… I say ‘kind of’ because I’ve possibly just signed a two year contract for a new mobile broadband that may quickly prove to be an even bigger headache than Telstra. Why sign a two year contract? Well, the options are surprisingly limited. I’ve been shopping around. I’ve gone with Virgin, which in theory I am very happy about. They’re always so helpful, both over the phone and in their stores. I’ve really never had any issues with them, and today I lugged my laptop into the store at the Pitt St Mall and was led over to a red couch by Joe, who then proceeded to patiently, clearly provide something I haven’t experienced in a very long time: customer service. And he did tell me straight up – in fact I’d go so far as to say the man issued an outright warning – that this portable modem was going to be slower than what I’ve been using from Telstra. He told me.

But did I know I’d be able to start reading my book waiting for an email to send? Did I know that I’d actually abandon email altogether simply because I lost the will to wait one more minute for any sign of life? I am hoping it’s just teething problems, but I’ve been trying to make this work properly for the past two hours… at least ten minutes went by waiting for my Inbox to appear. Another ten to reply. Another ten to delete. That’s why I shut down the entire thing and started again, and when it loaded my blog homepage reasonably promptly, I thought to myself “Go on, I dare you: try and blog.” Let’s see how long it takes to load…

Phew. I’m almost afraid to press ‘publish.’ I could be sitting here for another half an hour, only for it to then announce it can’t find the server… Shouldn’t this all be getting easier by now? Shouldn’t I be past this? But whatever happens, it’s my duty to inform you it’s not Joe at Virgin’s fault. He did what he could, which makes a bloody nice change and is almost worth the $936 I’ll be paying over the next two years for a little gizmo that doesn’t really seem to work…

(Okay, here goes… fingers crossed…)

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