Author: Chian Kee | Date: 12 September 2014 | 1 Comment »

One of the things I love about certain brands of dog food is that they’re manufactured with food colouring reminiscent of meat and vegetables when dogs are mostly colour blind. The reason for this is obvious – dogs don’t choose dog food, parents choose dog food.  So because people are trained to think that certain colours relate to “healthy” or “fresh” food, they like their dogs eating those colours.  I call this the Supermarket Dog Food effect (all rights reserved). Incidentally,  the opposite is true for children’s cereal, which is coloured all sorts of colours that aren’t naturally occurring in cereals – because parents don’t choose cereals, kids nag until parents buy the cereal they want.

That said, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two anyway.

http://www.dogforums.com/dog-food-forum/97870-i-hope-healthy-part.html

As babies haven’t yet learnt the Art of Nag yet, parents remain in control of purchasing decisions, guided only by the top related result on Google and parental guilt over the sparseness of the nursery.  Because of this, you see the Supermarket Dog Food effect everywhere when shopping for baby products.  Sometimes this is justified – for example, babies couldn’t care less whether or not their onesie has cute ears or a clever, edgy slogan.  Those things are purely for the amusement of proximate adults – and that’s fine as long as it’s just things like ears and slogans that don’t detract from the basic functionality of the onesie.   If you’re buying onesies with things that somehow do compromise their functionality, just for the LOLs, I suggest you hand in your parenting licence right now.

However, there are times when the Supermarket Dog Food effect completely undermines the entire purpose of the product.  Nowhere has this been more evident to me than baby mobiles.

Before you get too excited, I don’t mean a “babymobile” in the sense of the batmobile or the popemobile, although that would be awesome, I mean those things that you hang over a cot so your kid has something more interesting to look at than a blank plaster ceiling.  Not wanting to settle for the usual stars and teddies fare, I swiftly found myself trawling those strange parts of eBay and Etsy that harbour gems like the felted Star Wars mobile.  That’s great, I thought, because you’re never too young to be initiated into geekdom.

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However, just before I whipped out my credit card to pay the $500 required to secure this investment into my son’s future wedgies, I stopped myself and realised that only an adult standing next to the cot would actually be able to enjoy this rendition of an unshaven Yoda in a fur coat.  From the baby’s point of view, this would merely be an ambitious felt reimagining of Yoda’s feet (coupled with the likely indistinguishable undersides of iconic space craft from a galaxy far, far away).  In other words, from a baby’s-eye-view, there would be no difference between this finely crafted specimen and random balls of misshapen felt. Supermarket Dog Food.

I spent the next little while searching for a mobile that might actually look interesting from below, but most of them didn’t even bother to show what the undersides of the mobiles looked like.  Some even included two dimensional cutouts that would have been next to invisible from the bottom.

So alas, little Winston is still mobile-less, which is probably just as well because now that he knows how to roll he prefers to sleep on his tummy anyway.

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 21 May 2014 | Leave a Comment »

where-is-the-green-sheep

Title: Where Is the Green Sheep?
Author: Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
Publisher: Penguin Group (Australia) 2006 (First published by Penguin Group (Australia), 2004)
ISBN: 978-0-14-350176-3

Spoiler warning.

Chilling juxtapositions and contrapuntal subtext abound in this ambitious manifesto of racial and socioeconomic apartheid.  Mem Fox, despite producing prose as monosyllabic as her name, dual-wields the insidious dagger of extrapolatory profiling and the bludgeon of inquisitorial interrogatories.  These weapons are trained not only on the characters of her book, but the readers themselves.

The book opens with a stanza that encapsulates the omniscience of governmental Orwellian impunity combined with the first hints of societal segregation, which are expanded upon as the tome unfolds.

Here is the blue sheep. And here is the red sheep. Here is the bath sheep. And here is the bed sheep.

But where is the green sheep?

Fox’s use of “sheep” as allegories for the unthinking, unsensing masses of modern Western liberalism (who are acquired, classified and undoubtedly herded to slaughter) is a well worn path.   However, this critique extends further, not only to the general social malaise of ultra-conformist communities but to the inevitable stratification that occurs where apathy leads to fear and rejection of the ‘other’.  How degrading for the “blue” and the “red” sheep, reduced to monikers that appear entirely derived from their colour, unrecognised for their achievements, athletic abilities, intellect, or personal characteristics.  Not so for all of the white-skinned sheep that dominate the pages of this book, whose racial privilege is normalised and hidden from view and who instead are called out for their distinctive personalities or preferred activities.

That is not to say that the white over-class in this ovine oligarchy escape scrutiny.  Who is to be spared from the watchful eye of anonymous surveillance when even the naked, bathing sheep and the unsuspecting ‘bed sheep’ are tracked and taxonomised within the false privacy of their own homes?

Winston - Where is the Green Sheep 3

Despite the degradation of the coloured sheep and the subtle oppression of the white sheep, a special disdain is reserved for the elusive ‘Green Sheep’, who has temporarily evaded the community’s watchful gaze sparking a kind of impromptu census/witch-hunt in an effort to restore total oversight of the entire herd.

Winston - Where is the Green Sheep 2 Winston - Where is the Green Sheep 1

Fox and Horacek’s ‘sheep’ epitomise the reckless indifference and defeatist abdication with which most members of society treat their civil liberties and personal privacy. Even the ‘Moon Sheep’, which has freed itself from the gravitational pull of the Earth, is so bound up in its society’s surrender that it waves a white flag over its extraterrestrial conquest.  White, like the colour of its fellow ungulate overlords.

DSC09993

Indeed so deeply does the depicted society’s racial divisions run that even though the ‘Train Sheep’ is willing to travel with other species of colour, the coloured sheep are in all cases quarantined from the white sheep and, in an Antoinette-esque move of decadent indifference, are left to eat cake amongst themselves.

DSC09992

The Green Sheep, now even abandoned by his own coloured brethren, is found asleep under a bush. Fuelling the racial propaganda machine of the white sheep and reinforcing the stereotype of the lazy, unproductive ‘Greens’. The book ends on a cliffhanger and the reader is left to imagine the horrors and psychological reprogramming that awaits the Green Sheep now that he has been discovered. Perhaps it is a small mercy that the page was turned quietly, permitting our verdant anti-hero a precious few additional moments of ignorant slumber before being once more awoken into the tyranny of reality.

The Verdict?

A catchy and educational repetition and rhyme adventure.

4.5 stars out of 5

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 1 May 2014 | Leave a Comment »

I have an excellent memory.

The only problem is, I have a terrible memory – although seem to recall that I might have told you otherwise a while back.

My my mind has an extraordinary ability to retain facts of varying utility. I can recite the first few pages of my favourite story book from when I was a baby:

Here are the cops of London Town
Hard working, brave and true
They drink their tea
Stay up til three
And take good care of you

Here are the robbers of London Town
With crowbars and skeleton keys
They prowl and creep 
While you’re asleep
And take whatever they please

On reflection, this might go some way in explaining the unreasonable expectations I have of the work ethic and antioxidant levels of the public service.

On the other hand, I often have difficulty remembering what I did yesterday, or what I’m going to do tomorrow, or what I did yesterday.  I’m convinced, however, that there are many experiences, tidbits and nuggets of useless trivia that, whilst evading my memory, are nevertheless permanently lodged in my brain.

Many parents recall that they can’t really remember any aspect of their lives before the age of 2 or 3 and so they assume that their own children below that age are living in a state of rolling amnesia, or at least that their internal browser cache will be cleared around the time they’re toilet trained.  I’m often tempted to talk about my son as though he’s not there, or to let slip some sarcastic remark or joke at his expense in the knowledge that he probably won’t remember it when the time comes for him to pick my nursing home.  Instead, however, I think back to one of my earliest memories, which is really just a memory of an out-of-context thought.  Some time in the dim recesses of my long term memory, I remember thinking “I think these adults don’t realise that I understand what they’re talking about.”

With that in mind, whenever Winston looks at me with a blank, drooly stare, I make a conscious decision to speak only blessings and not curses.  I restrain my self from quipping “Well that was dumb” or “You idiot don’t eat that”, because I want him to associate making and learning from mistakes with bravery, not ineptitude.  I force myself never to say the words “I can’t wait until you can …” because it belittles the preciousness of the current stage of development that he’s experiencing right now – one that I will be nostalgically wishing back once it’s gone.  I assume, even against my own skeptical intuitions, that every word of encouragement, every statement of virtue and every affirmation of worth is permanently and positively building him up into a better future-person.

So if you ever find me speaking to an infant, and seeming to be lost for words, it’s probably because I’m mentally discarding all of the things I was about to say – things that have built up in my repertoire of repartee over the years – and instead trying to fill his mind with something better than myself.

Hopefully by the time he can remember what I’m telling him, he’ll already understand the importance of compassion, hard work and regular fluid intake.

Tree of Knowledge

 

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 31 January 2014 | 1 Comment »

 

 

 

As the dad of a 100% breastfed baby, I have a very limited repertoire when it comes to responding to the “hungry” cry.   My current approach is to try and appeal to Winston’s sense of reason.  “Hungry again Winston? I’m not sure if the buffet has been restocked since the last sitting.  Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to have another nap?  I hear they’re excellent this time of year.”

Results have been mixed.

There are, of course, some circumstances in which breastfeeding is not an option, so we have begun to learn how to use bottles.  Below is a picture of my current favourite, a gift from a friend.  It’s not my favourite because it is necessarily superior in delivering milk into a baby, but I just can’t go past packaging with ridiculous claims and fine print.  It’s an illness.

Closer to Nature

 

 

What I like best about this is that their headline claim is something that no ordinary UK mum would ever know.  Unless there’s a tradition in the UK where mums undertake individual clinical trials of every brand of baby bottle in order to determine which is the “closer to breastfeeding”, you might as well have asked them which bottle is more likely to allow your child to learn multiple languages in later life.  What does it even mean to be “closer to breastfeeding”?  Do they ask the baby how it tastes? Does using this bottle carry a risk of mastitis?

I also like the fact that they surveyed 1085 mums, but the results are only based on 287 of them.  Were the other 798 mums foolish enough to tick the “Strongly disagree” box, only to be silenced forever by an overzealous yet “independent” survey administrator? On that note, what kind of independent survey company asks questions like “Is the ‘closer to nature’ bottle as close to breastfeeding as bottle feeding can be?”  I suspect shenanigans.

At the end of the day, what 9/10 mums agree on is largely irrelevant to our circumstances, because Winston’s mum is a 10/10, and there’s no data available about them.

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 5 January 2014 | 2 Comments »

Spot Stays Overnight Cover

Title: Spot Stays Overnight: The original lift-the-flap book
Author: Eric Hill
Publisher: Penguin Books 1992 (First published William Heinemann Ltd 1990)
ISBN: 978-0-140-54289-9
Dinosaur: For no particular reason.

Part of an epic series penned by the literary genius Eric Hill, Spot Stays Overnight is an important, some might go so far as to say seminal, contribution to the ever evolving lift-the-flap genre.  Hill’s multi-faceted tale once again takes place in the fantastical world of the anthropomorphised protagonist, Spot.

Spot is evidently a tragic figure, even at his current tender age, he is cruelly labelled for a prominent discolouration on his torso and has apparently been conditioned to walk and stand almost exclusively on his hind legs, which, due to his physiology, would undoubtedly cause incredible amounts of strain and long term debilitating deformation to his pelvic skeletal structure. Hill plays Spot’s name as a clever double entendre, first in the sense of his accursed physical blemish, the indelible permanence of which, not to mention its apparent maternal heritage, echoes the suicidal ramblings of Lady Macbeth’s guilt-addled mind when she uttered those maddened words:

Out, damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? (Macbeth, Act V, Scene I)

It is perhaps no surprise then that virtually all of Spot’s reported stories involve him being sent out from his childhood home to places such as “the Farm”, symbolic of the servitude and domestication of his kind by man, who he now so desperately attempts to emulate in his gait and mannerisms.

The second, perhaps deeper symbolism evoked by Spot’s name carries, paradoxically, the opposite meaning. The moniker “Spot” connotes insignificance and brevity – ultimately an irreducible, fleeting smallness in the vastness of cosmic space and time.  This juxtaposition of binary opposites – both vapid mortality and soul-rending persistence is borne out in Hill’s choice of title.  “Spot Stays Overnight” gives both the hint of permanence in the word “stays” before at once qualifying and polarising it with the temporal limitation “overnight”.

Cleverly disguised as a classic “rite of passage” story in which Spot spends a rotation of the Earth next door at his simian friend Steve’s house, Hill weaves a darker narrative through this modern day fable, which explores the tension created by these two fundamental facets of Spot’s character.  Early on, Spot’s own mother asks him a question that has tantalized philosophers since time immemorial: “Spot, what are you taking with you?”.  Indeed, the immediate response by the reflective reader may well be that Spot can not truly take anything of value “with him” where he is going.

Spot Stays Overnight

Upon “lifting the flap”, the reader is struck by Spot’s response – “Not much”.  A tacit acknowledgement of the deceptive hollowness of material pursuits and yet ironically uttered while Spot grasps hold of his treasured red and yellow ball.  Even such grasp is an exercise in futility due to Spot’s short malformed limbs and lack of opposable thumbs – a deficiency that is highlighted in later chapters by his more dexterous “friend” Steve, who is often depicted as grasping firmly onto objects, including Spot’s very own red and yellow ball on Page 7.  As he does so, Steve utters a short but penetrating soliloquy, no doubt intended as a challenge to his genetically inferior playmate to avert his eyes in the presence of his primate master even as his meager possessions are appropriated for undisclosed ends.

Spot Stays Overnight - Steve

For those of you who can stomach the dystopian fantasy that unfolds between Spot and Steve, I won’t spoil the ending for you, suffice to say that it involves unwitting ecological destruction followed by the inevitable detection and confrontation of maternal oversight.

Spot Stays Overnight is a heart-wrenching parable, masterfully crafted to thinly veil its murky undercurrents with the saccharine smiles of innocent youth.  It also functions as a telling portrayal of the desperation with which the denizens of the modern world find themselves untimely ripped from the sheltered womb of infancy into the ravenous maw of consumerism – bitterly discovering that it was in fact their own disfigured grip on the trappings of life that rended them from the comforts and safety of familial bonds.

The Verdict: A fun and educational story for the whole family.

4.5 stars out of 5

2 Comments in the fine print. Add yours!

  • Margaret 11:47 am on January 6th, 2014

    Great review! Looking forward to more profound insights into children’s literature.

  • Jolene 11:46 am on January 9th, 2014

    I am in awe!!! This is fantastic! Absolutely hilarious!!!!! I never knew Spot was such a tragic figure, thank you for pointing it out! Maybe I can talk to Noel Fitzpatrick (Vet surgeon/engineer/prosthetis) about getting his arms extended….

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 25 December 2013 | Leave a Comment »

May you have a great time between Christmas and New Year not reading blogs.

We’ll be back in the new year when you’re back at work and looking for distractions.

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 20 December 2013 | 1 Comment »

There appears to be some common wisdom shared amongst new parents that is inevitably repeated each time a parent comes in contact with a newer parent.  As Winston has just hit 4 weeks old, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to stroke our imaginary beards and advise the next “generation”.  Instead, given the advice is almost always the same I’ve decided to just summarise it here knowing that everyone that I meet from now on will likely be an avid reader of this blog:

  1. They grow up so fast – take lots of photos.
  2. Try to sleep when they sleep.
  3. Support their head.
  4. Establish a routine.
  5. Be calm.

 

To everyone who has shared this advice with me, sorry, I got distracted when you mentioned photos.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

I did consider for a moment whether it was somehow a breach of Winston’s privacy to be posting photos of him on the internet – but I’ve since realised that most people can’t tell the difference between other people’s babies anyway.

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 13 December 2013 | 2 Comments »

I once heard a (possibly apocryphal) story that when televisions first found their way into people’s living rooms, consumers didn’t fully appreciate the difference between the advertisements and the news bulletins between which they were interspersed.  Such initial confusion no doubt led to the old adage “Don’t believe everything you read” evolving into “Don’t believe everything you see on TV”. Some might argue that, in the case of new media, we should have already learnt this lesson from history.

lincoln

 

In November this year, the ACCC released some guidelines called: “What You Need To Know About: Online reviews – A guide for businesses and review platforms”.  The guidelines are centered around three “guiding principles”:

  • Principle 1: Be transparent about commercial relationships
  • Principle 2: Do not post or publish misleading reviews
  • Principle 3: The omission or editing of reviews may be misleading

Contrary to almost every write-up I have seen about these guidelines so far (except this one), these guidelines don’t actually change the law – the don’t even comprehensively state the existing law.   That said, when you’re the regulator, you don’t have to change the law to change the game and most bloggers probably won’t want to be the High Court test case to see whether inserting #spon at the end of their tweets is enough to avoid prosecution.

If you’re interested in a very comprehensive and sensible overview of the guidelines, head on over to my friend Melbourne Gastronome, who is a generally comprehensive and sensible person.

As you’re still reading this blog, I assume you want something other than comprehensive and sensible.

I’m a blogger, what do I have to do?

One of the difficulties I have with the ACCC’s guidelines is that it was clearly drafted to be most relevant to consumer review sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor and the businesses that are featured there.  Assuming you don’t run one of those sites some aspects of the guidelines may seem ill-suited to the realities of your day-to-day blogging experience.  In these circumstances, it may be necessary for you to look at the laws sitting behind the guidelines and make some judgment calls about whether your blogging practices are likely to receive a thumbs-down from the ACCC.  This would be worth your while, because while the prohibition on misleading or deceptive conduct doesn’t come with any fines, there are a raft of other prohibitions that do (such as false or misleading representations in connection with the supply or promotion of goods or services, which carries a maximum $1.1 million penalty per contravention).

Still couldn’t be bothered?  Here are a few areas that I wish the guidelines addressed, and my own personal this-is-not-legal-advice take on how bloggers and blog readers alike should approach them.

Is this blog post a review?

Given that the guidelines are about online reviews, it’s a shame that it doesn’t actually define the word “review”.

If you’re a food blogger, a beauty blogger or maybe even a travel blogger, your blog is likely to consist mainly of product and place reviews – so it should be pretty easy to tell when you’re reviewing a business and when you’re merely sharing your grandma’s recipe for shortbread or facial masks – or shortbread facial masks (patent pending).

For other kinds of bloggers, like fashion bloggers, mummy (or daddy) bloggers or the ubiquitous here’s-what-I-did-yesterday bloggers, your blog is likely to be a mixture of review, implicit endorsement, narrative and photos of things that you may or may not have paid for.  In my view, the standard of disclosure that the guidelines suggest go beyond what the law requires, particularly when applied to certain kinds of bloggers.  So here’s my handy rule of thumb for figuring out if these guidelines apply to your next blog post.

It’s a review if:

  • You’re expressing an opinion, whether positive, negative or indifferent.  Merely posting a photograph of something or mentioning that you were at a particular place shouldn’t be considered a review of that thing or place.  Of course, context matters.  If your blog is called “Photos-of-things-that-I-recommend-that-you-buy.com” then pretty much everything you post is a review.
  • You’re an authority or influencer in a field.  Along the lines of the “context” point above, if you have a blog that mainly reviews things, or you are otherwise known as a thing-reviewer, you probably need to be extra careful about the things that you’re seen to be endorsing.  That said, many celebrities don’t pay for most of the things that they’re seen with, but no-one ever expects them to walk around with a #myclient hashtag emblazoned on their forehead.
  • You’re getting paid to say something about a brand or business.  Even if they’re making you say something that doesn’t sound like a review, if they’re a serious business you know they’re not doing it for poops and giggles.

There are, however, things that I don’t think should count as a review or endorsement, despite the fact that it might feature freebies or existing commercial or personal relationships:

  • You post a picture of a product or place, but not in the context of talking about it.  My last post on baby burning featured photos of two items of baby clothing.  We received both items as gifts, one from the brand that makes it. I actually really like both garments, for different reasons, but that post didn’t express a view.  Merely making your readers aware of a product, without anything else, is not a representation about its quality and isn’t, in any sense of the word, a review.
  • You got a freebie that’s not for sale.  Cecylia’s last video post was filmed at the Hawthorn Arts Centre.  She was allowed to play their Steinway without charge and asked for the opportunity to do so.  Should she have put a “sponsored post” disclaimer at the top of her post? I vote no.  Arguably, the City of Boroondara is receiving some free brand exposure because of it, but if everything in the background that you didn’t pay for is sponsorship, then every photo taken in a public place is likely to be sponsored (or taken without permission) – and that’s just dumb.

This is a huge issue for fashion and beauty bloggers who are likely to have piles of freebies that might be used repeatedly for years after they’re no longer commercially relevant.  If the guidelines were written for bloggers, I would expect them to focus more on the critical issue of whether a consumer might be led into error based on the blog post.  To me, this comes down to whether the incentive or gift affected the blogger’s words or conduct in any way.  If the gift is given with strings attached, you need to disclose those strings.  If you have 200 shades of lipstick and 100 of them were freebies, the fact that you pick one of them on a particular day doesn’t make that day sponsored or misleading.

How to be transparent without having to take off all your clothes

invisible-man

Principle 1 in the guidelines is “Be transparent about commercial relationships“.  I really don’t like the word “transparent”.  It’s purely metaphorical and sprinkled unhelpfully around the Australian Consumer Law.  If you’re from the Office of Parliamentary Drafting Counsel [edit: thanks Evane] – why not just use the word “clear”, that way you can arguably have your metaphorical cake and also eat your literal-definition cake too. (See how unhelpful metaphors are?)

For most consumers writing on a review site, or companies running such sites, some degree of translucency is probably achievable.  For a blogger this can be really tricky.  This is because certain kinds of bloggers tend to have relationships with PR companies and as I am married to the most awesome fashion blogger ever we have commercial and personal relationships with more brands and PR representatives than I previously thought existed.  I count many of them as my friends.  I’m not saying that to brag – ok, just a little – but for us to be completely transparent about the various relationships that might relate to what I say would require more meaningless rambling disclosure (because I don’t do any other kind) than review.

This issue is exacerbated by the part of the guidelines that says that review platforms need to disclose commercial relationships even when they have no effect on the review.

Here it is in context:

Guidance - disclosure

That might make sense for a disinterested review platform, but how do bloggers, who operate their own publishing platform, comply with such a suggestion?

I say:  they don’t have to.  If your commercial relationships have no effect on what you’re writing then how can an otherwise genuine statement become misleading? (Exceptions apply, for instance, if the thing you’re writing is “I have no commercial relationships”.)  You might want to disclose such relationships because it builds trust and can sometimes even add a sense of legitimacy – but requiring it goes beyond what the law requires and what would be expected in other industries such as print media and television.  Can you imagine if Fairfax had to disclose at the top of every article every commercial relationship that related to the content of that article?

Don’t be misleading

I agree with Principle 2.  Don’t publish misleading reviews.  You don’t need guidelines to tell you that – it’s just the law.

Blog readers – be less gullible.

Ultimately, my problem with the increasing regulation of personal online publications is that we’re looking at just one end of the problem.  The internet is global, decentralised and full of things that are just plain wrong (examples of “wrong” exist in every sense of the word).  Just as television ad breaks no longer have to be preceded by “And now for a word from our sponsors” the viewing public needs to understand that some sources on the internet are more accurate than others.  This means that if you choose to spend your hard earned money on the basis of the “I’m feeling lucky” search on Google you’re voluntarily accepting some risk that the first site you come across might be mistaken or biased or simply ill-informed.  Eventually, it is the publishers that don’t abuse their readers’ trust that will survive.  Suggesting that the conscientious publishers comply with onerous rules while the crazy and malicious ones run free will just lull the Australian consumer into a false sense of security.  Instead we all need to learn, and teach our kids, who to trust online.

After all, Abraham Lincoln said so.

 

2 Comments in the fine print. Add yours!

  • Evangeline 3:01 pm on December 31st, 2013

    Great post Chian – and so is your blog! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with in the new year too.

    PS the Commonwealth drafting agency is the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, not ‘Drafting’), and I would interpret ‘transparency’ differently from “clear”. Transparency is like accountability, whereas “clear” = clarity = drafting that is clear and not complex (see the Clearer Commonwealth Laws initiative http://opc.gov.au/clearer/index.htm). Given the context not surprising that ‘clear’ was not the term that was used.
    My $0.02.

  • Chian 3:23 pm on December 31st, 2013

    Thanks – reference to OPC fixed! I’ll need to fire my subeditor.

    I completely agree that transparency carries a connotation of permitting accountability, but it’s not always used that way. For example, in the unfair contract terms regime a “transparent” term is one that is “expressed in reasonably plain language, legible, presented clearly and readily available”. That sounds like “clear” to me.

    In the context of a disclosure of commercial relationships, “transparent” to me means full disclosure (if something is transparent, you can see everything going on behind the scenes) – which I think is too high a standard to hold bloggers when it’s not the standard to which we hold virtually all other forms of (much more lucrative) publishing. Clear disclosure on the other hand (ie, disclosure that your readers can read and understand) would be a better and more appropriate standard IMHO.

    I see your $0.02 and raise you $0.02.

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 8 December 2013 | 1 Comment »

You may have already gathered that I have a thing about infant product safety.

I understand that there are some activities involving babies that carry inherent risk, like bathing or travelling in a car.  This means that you can’t expect a baby car seat to make car travel magically completely safe, otherwise we’d all be sitting in one, and you can’t expect to be able to leave a baby alone safely in a baby bath, no matter how high-tech, unless and until such point as our baby baths achieve sentience.

4moms infant tub

 

When your baby bath comes with two cup holders, world domination can’t be far behind.

If you manufacture a product that might harm my son if used or misused, I’d like you to disclose that to me before I use it (preferably before I buy it).  So for car seats and baby baths, I accept that it does good to place relatively self-evident warnings on them because you know that the child may otherwise be in harm’s way.  That said, there must surely be some acknowledgement that certain risks are so obvious that people who don’t naturally take precautions against them probably don’t have the mental prowess to read the warning labels anyway.

Fire: Apparently not just a risk for liars who wear pants

Having recently acquired an impractical quantity of baby clothes, I have noticed a great example of over-warning in the “Low/High Fire Danger” label that children’s nightwear is required by Australian law to have stitched into the back of the neck.

export

There are only two kinds of Danger according to the standard, “Low” and “High”, with “High” being defined as anything that doesn’t fit into the “Low” category.  For those of you keeping score, this means that everything that the standard applies to needs to be labeled as a fire danger.

Do you manufacture a child’s nightie made out of a fire blanket lined with asbestos? Better label it as a low fire danger otherwise children may be at risk.

These labels are a mandatory safety standard, meaning that the ACCC can step in and fine you if you deviate from the standard.  For example, GAP was fined $51,000 in October for printing the correct labels, but placing it in the wrong place on the garment.  They were also forced to promise to recall the garments and provide refunds to customers who were concerned about the misplacement of their fire warning label.

What this effectively amounts to is a warning not to set your baby on fire while they are dressed in nightwear.  But why stop there? Why isn’t there anything on the label instructing me of the dangers of ejecting my child into the vacuum of space wearing his onesie?

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Of course, as with any government policy, there are some reasonable exceptions to avoid the standard from being imposed in inappropriate circumstances.  For example, tshirts are exempt – because you’d have to be crazy to ignite your offspring in a tshirt right?  Also,  if your nightwear is also swimwear, it is excluded too – because if you’ve bought children’s nightswimwear one would then reasonably assume your child sleeps in your sentient baby bath, and if that’s the case, you’re on your own.

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Author: Chian Kee | Date: 5 December 2013 | Leave a Comment »

The Problem: Too many bassinet-sized sheets that aren’t wide enough for the cot.

As any guilty parent will tell you, having any loose items in your cot or not having your kid securely swaddled and tucked in can increase the risk of SIDS, notwithstanding other factors.  As any actual parent will tell you, ain’t nobody got time for fumbling around in dim “you-should-be-asleep-at-night-Winston” lighting for a clean and appropriately-sized flat sheet.

The Solution: High School Geometry.

Stay in school kids.

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