Sunday, September 27, 2015

crUWSible Editorial - #RememberTheBird

As one of the editors of the student newspaper crUWSible (University of Western Sydney), it is my job to ensure that the paper remains as impartial and unbiased as possible. When submitting stories we must endeavour to provide both sides of an argument and give everyone an equal chance to have their say.
However, we cannot ourselves always be unbiased and sometimes we just boil over. When the university suddenly announced that they would be changing the name of the university and the signature 'blue bird' logo, hundreds of students were horrified, me amongst them. When I was offered the chance to make my opinions public, I jumped at the chance.
Here is my editorial for the soon-to-be-renamed student newspaper:

By Fenella Henderson-Zuel, crUWSible editor:

There’s no point denying it now. Finally, at 25 years of age, the University of Western Sydney has reached its rebellious phase. Like a teenager cutting their hair short, dying it blue and getting a tongue piercing, UWS is shedding its links with the past and preparing to emerge as a new entity.

Well, isn't that wizard.

Gone is the name and the catchy acronym that rolled so easily off the tongue and inspired the creators of crUWSible to name a magazine with a pun they could be proud of. This behavior was criminal enough. But what really got people hot and bothered was the destruction of the most recognizable symbol of UWS – the blue bird.

Journalists questioned the change, cartoonists mocked it and students were incensed.A call to arms was put out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which for many students was the first time they’d heard about the proposal. A ‘#SaveTheBird’ petition begged the university to abandon the proposed rebranding and to ‘scrap the hideous proposed design for the University logo’, but the 5,000 signatures needed were not achieved.

I’ll tell you now that decisions just don’t get made that quickly. It is virtually impossible to draft a proposal, pitch it to a board, make changes, receive feedback and roll-out a change in a few weeks. Especially if that change involves actually manufacturing a hard copy of something. It just doesn't happen. So how did they do it so fast? The answer is simple. They didn't wait for student approval. When we did some digging, we found that the plans for the uniform change had been drafted three years earlier. The designs had been approved within six months and prototypes constructed within a year. By the time the second student survey was conducted, there were already warehouses full of new uniforms just waiting to be distributed to stores. We had been betrayed.

The name we may eventually forgive, but we’ll never forget the bird. We’ll never forgive the changes we have to make and we’ll never accept the Harvard-wannabe shield. Here at crUWSible we have our own selfish anger, as crUWSible’s days are also numbered. By August 31st, we will no longer be allowed to use ‘UWS’ in any official context and crWSUible just doesn't work as well. Or at all, actually. So what do we call ourselves now? Well, that’s what we’re asking you. We’re fresh out of ideas (plus we’re just being stubborn). What do you think we should be called? Let us know your suggestions for the new name for our beloved student newspaper.

For many, the proposal signified a change in values. Since its conception the University of Western Sydney has been more than just a place of learning – it has been a beacon of opportunity. Accessible to all, it promised better lives for those in surrounding communities who had made their way through hardship and was symbolic of a changing Western Sydney. That’s what The University of Western Sydney meant to people. But what does Western Sydney University mean? It’s a relatively small yet significant change, the dropping of a simple two letter word changing an entire image. Many have derided the similarities between the new red ‘shield’ logo and the Harvard University equivalent. As much as we may admire the ambition, one of the greatest strengths of UWS is its individuality. We don’t have decades of history like Sydney Uni or a larger-than-life reputation like UTS. We’re the quiet achiever, the slow but steady uni offering chances to anyone and everyone. We’re the people’s uni.

However, the greatest blow the changing logo dealt was the loss of trust felt by students towards administrators. It’s one thing to completely change the image of an establishment – it’s quite another to do it without consulting so many of those involved.

In my senior year of high school, the P&C Committee had a complete brain spasm and decided to change the uniform students had proudly worn for over 40 years. Again, that was bad enough. What was worse was that they made us students feel like we mattered before everything crashing down. We were asked to vote on the change, twice. Each time students rushed towards each other demanding to know whether anyone had been crazy enough to vote ‘Yes’ to the change. No-one ever did. And yet, just a few short weeks later, there we all were trying on our excessively itchy and embarrassingly see-through new uniforms.

Now, UWS students are feeling the same pain. Students returning to campus for the spring semester were suddenly confronted with a garbled rumour, which many disregarded. Then suddenly there was a leaked, fuzzy image of simple red shield and a lecturer confirmed the fear: the bird was down. Students were outraged at not being consulted or seemingly even considered. A hasty text message was sent by administrators to try to calm the storm by inviting students to ‘preview’ the brand changes at Werrington campus. But even when attempting to placate their audience the university failed – the message was only sent to those who had registered the mobile phone numbers previously, and not to all students via email. By the time everyone else found out, it was already too late.

Just like the uniforms at my high school, a new logo roll-out cannot be planned and executed with any sort of speed. This change was pitched, planned and the implementation set in motion before the first returning students set foot on campus.

We couldn't even attend the bird’s funeral.

So what do we do now? Well, we complain for a while. Years even, go right ahead. I know I’ll still be whining about this years from now, and I'm one of the lucky ones who only has to live with it for a few more months. For those who have a long way to go before they leave, I predict many garbled mix-ups and stubborn refusals before the new name can operate smoothly.

And never, ever, #ForgetTheBird.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Parental Advisors - Fenella’s Story (via Cool Accidents)

I was about ten years old when I discovered that not every household played The Beatles and ABBA Gold on a regular basis. In fact, most families I knew didn’t.

I was shocked.

For a child who had grown up with wall-to-wall Beatles and Beach Boys, the idea that other kids were being introduced to Bon Jovi and Duran Duran just did not compute. Although both those groups were present in the family record collection, I don’t remember them being played until I was a little older. I can only guess that my parents waited until my music tastes had been sufficiently moulded and I was safe from musical acts which met with less approval (Mötley Crüe and Foreigner, I’m looking at you). From an early age I would have music played to me and I’d be asked who I was listening to. If I heard male harmonies, I’d figure Beatles or Beach Boys would be a good guess (it was rarely Beach Boys - took me a ridiculously long time to learn the difference).

When I was in my second or third year of primary school my dad made me my first mixtape (ok, it was a CD, but close enough), which was full of songs I had been introduced to and loved over the past year. ‘Fenella’s Favourites’ would become an eagerly anticipated annual gift and makes it easy for me to track my music tastes over the years. The first CD was full of artists my parents played – The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Kasey Chambers, The Beatles, Felicity Urquhart and Tania Kernaghan. A LOT of Tania Kernaghan. Having met her at a young age, she was my first fangirl experience and I proudly collected her albums before reaching my teens and deciding I no longer liked country music (a lack of cool factor will do that to a girl).

Almost all my cds are at least eight years old. A true child of my generation, most of my music collection is now digital, so a cursory glance at the cd shelves in my room could give someone the wrong impression (the dozen or so Saddle Club albums were retired with Tania a fair few years ago but beloved Britney Spears, Hilary Duff andHigh School Musical soundtracks still give me away).

The music dynamics in my home have shifted slightly over the years but the basic rules of control have stayed largely the same. Although my music choices have increased their airplay as I developed my own musical tastes, the majority of the music played in the house has been chosen by my father and that has heavily influenced my musical tastes. If he likes it, it gets a lot of airtime, from countless Beatles albums (including the various remastered copies that have gradually been released) to Hot Since ’82 (‘Restless’ is a notable favourite).

At some point, my opinion of my parent’s music changed from wide-eyed fascination to a simmering tween contempt for anything endorsed by ‘old people’ (there are only so many times you can hear your father singing along to Nelly before you associate the music with age and irritation). Luckily for them, my mother’s tastes swung in to save the day. Early exposure to Fountains of Wayne had been accompanied by the suggestion “You don’t need to sing all the words, maybe say ‘I’ve gotta get my self together’ instead”. This had of course resulted in me gleefully singing the correct lyrics as loudly as I dared (The correct word was shit, in case you hadn’t guessed). Like many kids, I had started by listening to the fast, entertaining songs like Stacey’s Mom, Hey Julie and, of course, Bright Future In Sales. As I grew older, sadder tracks like Hackensack were played more as I began to fancy myself as a deep thinker. Denise was for when I realised that wasn’t the case.

This led me to The Beatles’ greatest rival for Favourite Parent-Endorsed Band: The Darkness. My mum decided to chuck me in at the deep end, showing me the video clips for One Way Ticket To Hell and I Believe In A Thing Called Love. It could have gone devastatingly wrong.

It didn’t.

Cut to today and I list The Darkness as one of my all-time favourite bands, beside fellow parent-endorsed (and personal favourite) Belle and Sebastian. Long car trips are no longer complete without my mother and I sitting in the front seat, head-banging and screeching along to I Believe In A Thing Called Love at the tops of our voices, road safety be damned.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Going Down In History

My first thought when I was recently asked how I would like to be remembered was "That's easy!" 
I'd like to be remembered as kind and clever, funny and successful. Attractive wouldn't hurt, either. I'd like to be remembered for accomplishing something meaningful, whether it be founding a company, helping to achieve world peace or winning an Academy Award. But what about the small things? The more personal things.
 In the grand scheme of things my life is unlikely to make a difference in the world. I can talk and people will listen, tell a joke and make them laugh. I can even help to change the world if I try hard enough. Yet for all that and more I am an ordinary person. History is unlikely to remember my name. Friends and family will remember what I was like and may talk about me from time to time. My children will be extraordinary in their own right but are likely to be as ordinary by global standards as I am. They will tell their children about me and once they are dead and gone my name is unlikely to remain.
Do I really need any more than that?
I think that in our own way we each want to change the world and leave our mark. It would be amazing if our pictures were to be featured in history books so that generations from now we would be remembered as truly exceptional people. And we should strive for that. Go the extra mile to change things for the better, to help people and show that we are worthy of being remembered. Even if we never accomplish anything beyond making people laugh or keeping an orderly household, that's ok. Those are our accomplishments and ours alone. They don't need to be weighed against the success of others'.
So after all that, how would I like to be remembered? Fondly. If only one persons remember me that will be enough, as long as they remember me with love.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

She cried for what was and what wasn't
She cried for what she had and what she never would
She cried until her head and her heart ached
But never loud enough to be heard.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An unpleasant milestone

I recently reached an important milestone in any girl's life: I had to make my first breakup phone call.
Technically it wasn't really a break up. I'd only been out with the guy once and although we had had no trouble making conversation over a long dinner it just didn't feel right for me.I'd realised when I met him that he was older than me but managed to convince myself prior to the date that the age difference was only a couple of years. When I found out that the gap was significantly larger than I had previously thought it sealed the deal for me.

He was nice and funny, talked about bands I'd never heard of and we had similar taste when it came to movies and TV. Still, it didn't feel right. I'm not naive. I wasn't expecting a perfect date like in the movies and I don't buy into the whole idea of feeling 'the spark'. But it still didn't feel the way I thought it was 'supposed' to feel. I wasn't comfortable. When he stepped forward I stepped back. When he told me about yet another friend who was getting married I stuffed more food into my mouth so I didn't have to respond. I felt like we were at completely different points in our lives and we were. He has graduated from uni and is now pursuing different strands of his chosen career. I'm still in uni and have no idea where I want to be next week, let alone in a year. He's had previous long-term girlfriends. I've been out with only one other guy and we never progressed beyond holding hands.

The friend who introduced the older guy to me said she thought we'd really hit it off and we did. He was easy to talk to and we had a good time. But that wasn't enough to convince me. When my mother said that the fact we had never been lost for words was a good sign I didn't entirely agree. Easy chatting is definitely a positive but it's not exactly the clincher. I can talk for hours on end with pretty much all my friends. It doesn't mean I want to date my friends.

So when he asked me on a second date the next week, I felt cornered and said yes too quickly. For months I'd been whingeing that so many of my friends had partners but no one was asking me out. Having any guy actually show an interest in me, let alone one I was pretty sure I didn't like in 'that way', absolutely terrified me. I worked myself into such a state that I felt physically sick.

After a long talk with a friend of mine I made the decision I'd been considering for a while. The night before the date I debated how best to break the news that I didn't want to go out with him again in a romantic capacity. After considering and then dismissing the idea of going along to the date and telling him in person I decided to call him the night before instead. I didn't like the idea of meeting him under false pretences. The phone call lasted only one minute and consisted of me explaining the situation and him responding to each phrase with 'ok'. We said our goodbyes and I hung up feeling surprised and more than a little cruel.

Around ten minutes later I received a long text from him thanking me for having the decency to call rather than text and telling me that he meant it when he said that if I ever changed my mind I should give him a call.

Of all the moments that made up our brief acquaintance, it was his final text message that impressed me the most. In a few sentences he showed me more kindness and respect than I felt I deserved and went further towards making me like him than the hours we'd spent talking. I stand by my decision. I'm not ready for a grown-up relationship with a real adult. I still feel very much like a kid and I don't need someone to treat me like a princess. Right now I need to learn who I am and what I like in a guy, whether I'm dating him or just hanging out. I need to meet new and different people; go on dates and maybe even ask someone else out instead of waiting for them to make the first move. And who knows? Maybe I will take up his offer some day. When I'm good and ready.

Monday, May 5, 2014


I see him huddled in the corner between two buildings, sheltered from the wind. He is asleep but not at rest; his face twitches and frowns as he dreams. His thin coat and a layer of newspapers could not possibly keep him warm. No wonder he is having bad dreams.

I wonder who he was. I see him each day, shuffling along on tired feet in worn out boots. He never smiles, never looks up, never makes eye contact. He looks as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders and it is. Of all the people I have seen in life he is the saddest and he is the one who has the most right to be.

Suddenly he stops moving and lies still. Is he dead? I wonder. I wouldn't know what to do if he was. I feel immensely sorry for him. A nameless, sad man lying in an alley, with no one but a passerby to see.

Then he smiles. He is not dead but resting, having finally reached a peaceful state of slumber. I wonder what he is dreaming about. I try to imagine a happy life for him. Maybe he is remembering his daughter's wedding, walking her down the aisle and smiling. He looks old enough to have an adult daughter. Or is that just shadow on his face? In this light and under so much dirt and an overgrown beard he could be anyone, of any age. Does anyone miss him? Does that happily married daughter wonder where he is? I don't know. I hope there is someone out there waiting for him but I will probably never be brave enough to ask.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Movie lies and life truths

When I love a movie, I love it to death. After the initial viewing and corresponding emotional connection I am likely to re-watch the film at least once over the next 2-6 weeks, depending on whether I watched in a cinema or at home. I will read as much trivia I can find, look up and memorise quotes and trawl message boards to see other people's opinions.

'Obsessed' is a state I am clearly familiar with.

This goes for most genres of film and the timeline is pretty standard. Watch, re-watch, obsess, frighten others with knowledge. Rom-coms are different. When I love a rom-com, I follow all of the usual steps but on a greater scale. I particularly like watching rom-coms online as it means I can schedule my first re-watching for immediately after the first viewing. I will watch a rom-com over and over and over again and am unlikely to get tired of it. I don't necessarily offer my undivided attention each time. After the second viewing I am likely to watch the film accompanied by a game or other pastime which only requires half my attention. It's not that I don't want to pay attention to the film; it's more that I feel that most films require my virtually undivided attention to continue to have an impact (for example: I can't really imagine films such as The Silence of the Lambs or Black Swan eliciting a passionate response unless my eyes are glued to the screen). Rom-coms are more like companions to my life. Background music, if you will. I like to have them there so that I can continue to interact with the characters and enjoy the story but I don't need to focus entirely on them to keep enjoying them. I know where the characters are going and how the story will end. This is the case with other films I've seen before but a rom-com is often comfortingly predictable so it doesn't feel so bad to not pay attention to every pratfall a couple (or love triangle - ooooh! different!) faces on the way to the inevitably pleasing ending.

I mention all this because I was thinking the other day about one of my absolute favourite rom-coms, He's Just Not That Into You. Central character Gigi, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, has the task of delivering the film's closing moral monologue. (Spoiler nazis, keep your hair on. She basically paraphrases her opening monologue and it doesn't give much away if you haven't seen the film and even if it does she is the central character in a rom-com, of course she ends up happy!). Gigi presents the audience with some uplifting advice, which I will repeat here:

"Girls are taught a lot of stuff growing up. If a guy punches you he likes you. Never try to trim your own bangs and someday you will meet a wonderful guy and get your very own happy ending. Every movie we see, every story we're told implores us to wait for it, the third act twist, the unexpected declaration of love, the exception to the rule. But sometimes we're so focused on finding our happy ending we don't learn how to read the signs. How to tell from the ones who want us and the ones who don't, the ones who will stay and the ones who will leave. And maybe a happy ending doesn't include a guy, maybe... it's you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future. Maybe the happy ending is... just... moving on. Or maybe the happy ending is this: knowing after all the unreturned phone calls, broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment... you never gave up hope."

Now I can safely say that I have never tried to trim my own 'bangs' (I thought about it the one time I had a fringe. I was five and hated the frizzy wave that made my forehead itch and obscured my vision. Luckily my mother explained to me that if I did go down the radical route and chop it off with my little pink safety scissors I would be left with an ugly little tuft of hair that would grow back into the detestable fringe before it achieved the all-over, even look I was going for), and I have never believed that ridiculous thing about how if a boy likes you he will treat you badly and . Although my parents happily left me with my "boys have cooties" delusions in primary school neither of them would have let me think that if someone was mean to me it was because they liked me and any parent who tells their kid that is just setting everyone up for trouble down the line. I'm more inclined to agree with Justin Long's character Alex in the same film who gives Goodwin's Gigi a wake up call when he points out that "if a guy is treating you like he doesn't give a shit, he genuinely doesn't give a shit. No exceptions." That makes much more sense. Even if the guy does like you and is just "treating 'em mean to keep 'em keen", is that really the sort of guy you want? One who doesn't treat you as well as he should because society has suggested different behaviour? Excuse me if I expect a little more.