The Friday Daily – Wikileaks have a party

julian assange

The Wikileaks Party is now registered and set to run Senate candidates in Victoria (Julian Assange himself), NSW and WA. Last week’s poll by UMR Research suggests that 26 per cent of voters would consider voting for Wikileaks.

So what’s different about the Wikileaks Party? What kind of policies can we expect to see? I spoke to National Councillor Cassie Findlay for The Friday Daily on 2SER on April 26.


Tingles, or how I found out that ASMR is real

This week a podcast changed my life again!*

For me, the above video is extremely soothing and induces a feeling which, thanks to an episode of This American Life, I now know the name of.

In a feature called “A Tribe Called Rest” in episode 491 of TAL, “Tribes”, Andrea Seigel tells the story of how she came to join the “tribe” of ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Seigel says that when a childhood friend would observe and meticulously describe small objects to her, such as shells, she would experience a pleasant “tingling” in her skull: “It was like starbursts in my head.” Listening to the school librarian and watching instructional videos about painting would create the same tingles and starbursts. Eventually the adult Seigel was watching hours of similar videos on YouTube and then stumbled upon the term “ASMR“. As it turns out, she was one of many many people who experienced this feeling.

As I listened to this podcast at home in the daytime, my heart started beating quickly. I was amazed – other people felt this tingling as well? I remember vividly sitting cross-legged at primary school during “show and tell”, and feeling soft tingles in the back of my head, spreading down my shoulders. It was like lying on warm sand and feeling the cool ocean coming up under your head, but even better than that. I had never thought that other people would have experienced anything similar, so I was happy to keep it to myself. Teachers tapping their fingernails on hardcover books produced the same results, as did visiting the eye doctor when I was a small child and being told to read out the faraway letters. As an adult, I have often felt relaxing tingles at the beauty salon or lecture theatre. It turns out that I have ASMR, and these situations are common triggers for others like me.

It’s exciting! I am part of the tribe too! And best of all, there are tens of hundreds of videos online that were made just for people like me. This past week I have been falling asleep to role-playing or demonstrative videos like the one above, and it has been blissful. Nobody I have spoken to shares my excitement or my tingles, but it has opened a discussion about other totally legit but hard-to-describe experiences, such as that feeling that you are falling off a ledge just before you fall asleep that jerks you awake. I’m also wondering if there is a word for a tingling in the jaw that happens when a person eats something super super sweet, like pineapple. I need to keep listening to podcasts.


*A different episode of This American Life about “The Psychopath Test“, when combined with knowledge of the personality of one of my ex-boyfriends, was eye-opening indeed!

The Necklace


“A part of me will always belong to you.” (Street art at Mauerpark, Berlin)

By the time I had the necklace, it was too late to find out anything about it. I had never seen my grandmother wear it, but somehow I knew that she must have loved it. An oval pendant with a cut-out design of hieroglyphics, it would have reminded her of dusty bazaar from whence it came, in the days when far fewer people were as worldly as my grandmother was. So then it was my turn to love it, just like she’d loved me.

In the middle of an otherworldly European summer, I was forced to farewell the man I was convinced was my Prince Charming. He went home, and home was on the other side of Atlantic. It felt like being dumped by a cold, heavy wave. I went back to Berlin alone, feeling smaller than ever in the big grey city. “Come to Paris!” said my best friend, who was on a glamorous trip around the continent. I sensed it would be my only opportunity to be so miserable in such a luxurious setting. I went, and wandered around the streets, and the sticky heat and sunshine were surprisingly good medicine. On holiday in the shimmering alternate universe of Paris, I could pretend that I was riding some warm current, ultimate destination unknown, and just drift.

I got my first inkling that the necklace was missing when I arrived in my next destination, the brainy city of Basel. I hadn’t slept and had just shot across the countryside in a super fast train. Everything was new, and the necklace was not around my neck. It must have been squashed in my bag. But over the next few days, it did not reappear. By the time I left, it was making me distinctly uneasy to think about it. I was missing its shape in my hand, the feel of the cold chain on the back of my neck, and just knowing that we were travelling through unknown landscapes together.

But I was in denial. Surely my necklace wouldn’t just be gone. It was much too important an artifact, and it was mine to take care of. I didn’t lose important things the way other people seemed to, did I? Especially when the necklace was one of my last remaining mementos of my grandma Ethel, who had been everywhere, and been everything to us. I could only fantasise about the stories that those little silver-plated Egyptian figures would tell. Everywhere I went, I had had it hanging on my chest. It was my go-to item of glamour, because I always imagined my grandmother wearing it and reminding herself of exciting times. Having been twice left mysteriously at other people’s houses, it had always found its way back to me – but my luck had run out.

It had travelled halfway around the world with me, and now might be left in a Parisian hostel, or in a French train, or somewhere else entirely.

My Swiss hosts hadn’t seen it. In fact, I hadn’t seen it. With a lump in my throat, I lodged a lost property report with the railways, and never got a response. My necklace had left me. Without my necklace, and my prince, I didn’t feel like I had much left to hold onto. I was losing pieces of my life, one at a time.

The necklace and me in happier times. (pic: Kate O'Dwyer)

The necklace and me in happier times. (pic: Kate O’Dwyer)

I felt like even if the necklace turned up and showed itself and told me about all its adventures, I wouldn’t be worthy of putting it back on. My grandfather trusted me with my grandmother’s necklace, and I had let her down – my Big Ma, the woman with a million stories and a heart as big as the whole blue sky.

Switzerland in summer was a Technicolor wonder. And travelling alone had become my cause. But without my necklace I was more alone than ever.

The Friday Daily – Fazil Say is not alone

Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say

Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say

This week acclaimed Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say was given a suspended 10-month sentence for blasphemy on Twitter. Although the international community was surprised that this could happen in a historically secular country, Say’s case is not an anomaly. I spoke to Jess Hill, former Middle East correspondent at The Global Mail and ABC journalist, about freedom of expression in Turkey.

This was first broadcast on The Friday Daily on 2SER on April 19, which was also my first day as a presenter of The Daily.



Eat up, baby – Food reviews for infants

(I put this review and video together last October for The M Word, an online magazine about pregnancy and birth.)

We’ve all eaten baby food, right? The problem is that it was a long time ago. Lucie Robson made The M Word team sit down with some little spoons and jars to taste some different baby foods, and advise mini connoisseurs on what is good for their tastebuds and bellies.

You can watch some of the best reactions of my reviewers and fellow The M Word reporters in this video. We hope you get a laugh out of it – we certainly did!

Round 1

Reviewing three brands of mushy baby food. All these baby foods contain all-natural ingredients. We gave them individual scores out of five.  

Organic Bubs Blueberry, Banana and Quinoa – $1.98 Photo: Lucie Robson

The verdict: One reporter “really likes it” and would “eat it at home.” It’s a bit sour, and you might be able to picture a baby screwing up their little face, but we have all seen the YouTube video that proves how cute it would be.

Rafferty’s Garden Blueberries, Banana and Apple (+ nothing else!) – $1.82 Photo: Lucie Robson

The verdict: “It smells vanilla-ry, like a dessert!” Seems more natural than the other purple food, although it has a tangy aftertaste. It seems to have real banana. A good choice.

Ella’s Kitchen Spinach, Apple and Swedes – $1.99 Photo: Lucie Robson

The verdict: Not good. “It was as bad as I expected from the smell, but keeps getting worse!” Some tasters complained of a bad aftertaste, and that the food looks dark greeny-brown, like something very unsavoury indeed. “I would never inflict this on my child!”

Conclusions: The food that mixed savoury and sweet elements was not at all delicious. But babies can’t live on sweet food alone, can they? Do they even like it? This study from May 2012 might suggest otherwise.

Round 2

Comparing two banana custards from Heinz: “Simply,” which contains no additives, and the regular “Smooth” banana custard. Reviewers are blindfolded.

Heinz Simply Custard with Banana, without additives ($1.89), and Heinz Smooth Custard with Banana ($1.27) Photo: Lucie Robson

Three out of four reviewers, some with flecks of custard on their jackets (sorry) thought that the “simply” custard was the one laced with additives and sugar. This contradicts the suggestion of the labelling. One reviewer suggested that the “smooth” custard had hints of pistachio. Both custards were deemed to be on the yummy side. One reviewer took the rest of the jar home to eat later!

So why the confusion? A look at the back of both packets shows almost identical ingredients listed. Water, full cream milk, sugar, cornflour, unsalted butter, banana (in almost identical proportions – 1.5% for theSimply, 1.7% for the Smooth), cream and natural flavours. So, mother, we’ll leave it to you to decide whether it’s worth making a switch.

The verdict: Reviewers can’t tell the difference on taste alone.

Round 3

Heinz Apple Custard versus Only Organic Apple Custard. Can blindfolded reporters tell the difference between fancy organic and (comparatively) el cheapo baby foods? 

Only Organic Apple Custard ($1.35) and Heinz Apple Custard ($1.27). Photo: Lucie Robson

By now my lovely guinea pigs were turning against me for shoving little spoons of mushy food into their mouths. But this test was enlightening: three out of four reviewers correctly identified the organic apple custard. These eaters much preferred the organic option – it was nicer, more creamy with a better texture, and did not “taste manufactured.” The unfortunate competition was labelled by one taste-tester as being “like toothpaste”. Delicious.

The verdict: Only Organic wins, and actually tastes “organic” too.

Round 4

Taste testing Farex Rice Cereal ($2.19), and Bellamy’s Organic Baby Rice ($3.77).  

Bellamy’s Organic Baby Rice ($3.77) and Farex Baby Rice Cereal ($2.19). Photo: Lucie Robson

Here we come to the most exciting part of our taste-testing. By “most exciting”, I mean “most unappetising”. We decided to blind taste-test two popular rice cereals: the standard Farex brand ($2.19), and the more upmarket Bellamy’s Organic baby rice ($3.77). I am not sure how different these two products can be, considering that the main ingredients are rice and water. And more water in a mug, the way that I prepared it for my subjects. There was no discernible difference in taste or texture (unfortunately) between these two cereals. Comments such as “it tastes like cardboard”, “I think cardboard would actually taste nicer”, “yuck yuck yuck” and “Lucie, did you feed us Clag glue by mistake?” speak volumes. Sorry, babies. It won’t be long until you have teeth.

The verdict: We’re sure it’s good for you, baby. But that’s all.

Our Conclusion:

From an M Word reporter: “I’m not a fan of baby food.”

By  Lucie Robson

Please note: All prices were obtained from a local Coles Supermarket and are indicative only.

The Friday Daily: Health job cuts in far-north QLD

Queensland Health has many changes in store. One big issue is health workers losing their jobs. This is affecting remote indigenous communities in the far north, who might not have anywhere else to turn.

It’s an issue of economic reform in Queensland, but are people’s livelihoods too big a cost to pay for a stable economy? And who’s actually to blame for major funding cuts?

For more information on this issue check out these other reports:

This story was first broadcast on 2SER’s The Friday Daily on April 12. 270px-Queensland_far_north_map


The Friday Daily: Who’s a rich Australian?


Today on The Friday Daily we took a look at wealth in Australia. Like many people, I don’t like talking about money but some things need to be said. If people are “struggling” on an income of $250 000 a year, they need to reassess their priorities. Not being able to afford all your heart’s desires does not mean you are finding it tough to get by. There are people in every neighbourhood in Australia who can’t afford to go to the dentist or replace their broken shoes. I’m sure they’d love to struggle on a quarter of a million dollars each year.

This piece was rebroadcast on the Community Radio Network’s On The Money on April 15.

The Black Lodge

a possibly unrelated beer (photo by Dan Hough)

a possibly unrelated beer (photo by Dan Hough)

I had a few weeks left. At the end of these few weeks I would sit down in a plane and wave a teary goodbye to Berlin, the city of my imagination, the only place to truly be young and nocturnal and full of thoughts.

I woke up every day in a sharp melancholy, calculating how many more mornings I had of looking out on my snowy courtyard, holding a warm coffee mug. I spent the days looking at people on the street, feeling a bubbling jealousy – how is it that they were able to stay, when I had to leave? At night, usually for the whole night, I drank Weißbier with fellow foreigners as we all wondered when we’d see each other again once there were continents and oceans between us.

Some friends from Sydney were in town, and wanted to see some Berlin bars. I met them on a quiet, dark street behind Schönleinstraße. One of them had found out about this bar online – it was modelled on The Black Lodge. Like always around this time, I had a little lump in my throat that got bigger when I looked at anything at all.

We found the address of the bar. Silence, and nobody around. “Well, it said on the website that it’s meant to be open tonight,” said my friend. “It’s new.” She didn’t sound very disappointed. She was on holidays, and everything was equally exciting, I guessed. But I could count on my fingers the number of nights I had left to visit a bar like this. Soon I would be living my old life again, and it would be as if all of this never happened at all. So I was definitely disappointed.

I stepped up to the door of The Black Lodge and peered through the glass panel at the dark interior. It was definitely closed for business tonight, without explanation. A single light bulb was switched on somewhere inside, illuminating a narrow doorway and a few black and white tiles on the floor. It was authentic flooring from the TV show, and I imagined the dark red curtains that must have covered the walls in there, and the armchairs, and the people who would quote all the lines and talk about the chewing gum coming back into style and try to figure out how Twin Peaks could still give them nightmares. But I could only see that single patch of light.

It made me feel slightly, and strangely, afraid. There on that silent street, I suddenly felt the stillness of the night and the crispness of the cold air acutely. I imagined that just as I was looking into the frosty glass of the door, somebody was looking at me, from a window up above. It made me shiver.

“Do you think that this is a real bar?” I asked my friends. “I’m getting a weird feeling about it. Like, maybe it’s actually an art project.”

My two friends chuckled. “No, really!” I protested. Just then under the streetlights, it seemed true to me that somebody in Berlin would set up a bar’s façade sure to attract a certain type of young person, and then revel in that person’s disappointment while filming the whole episode with a fancy camera, all in the name of art. Stranger things had happened – were surely happening right now, a few streets over in Neukölln. And for a David Lynch-show-themed bar – it was too perfect.

Or maybe it was the cobblestones on the street, and the night in the city that was slowly eroding my logic. It was all too big and unfair. I couldn’t explain how it felt to know that I would soon be looking at the same night sky but on a different street, with different scents in the air, wearing sandals.

We gave up and walked into the night. Later, at home in Sydney, I heard that my friend had gone back to The Black Lodge and found people drinking inside. I couldn’t help but hate all of them.

Epilogue: I looked for The Black Lodge and found that there is nothing at its domain name. IT’S JUST TOO WEIRD.