Thursday, 3 November 2011

hunting season






A tribute to those funny folks from far away who come to town to give us money…and ask ridiculous questions





If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them? 

Australia being...well., pretty bloody awesome, attracts tourists like kookaburras to a barbie. There are places any local knows to avoid during hunting season, such as The Rocks, Manly, The Opera House, Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour and Bondi Beach for starters. These Sydney ‘hot spots’ are prime real estate for camera-toting, bumpack-ready, sensible-walking-shoes-wearing, guide-book-reading tourist.
However, I love this country, so I understand their desire to come down under and I respect their willingness to commitment to the 24hour flight getting to our secluded little Island. Plus, they give us their money and plenty of amusement with their ridiculous questions. So, we put down our hunting rifles and pick up a schooner and show the northerners how it’s done Down Under.

In the arvo, back in town, we fire up the barbie and entertainment, and we’re treated to delightful inquiries like: “are there kangaroo-riding tours nearby?” or “do you bring the Koalas in at night?” It’s no wonder a few of these well meaning pioneers are K.O.ed by camera-shy big red roos each year. “Which direction is North in Australia?” is one of my favourites.
For the most part, we smile (and roll our eyes) and offer to help these wayward travelers. After all, most of us have been newcomers at one time or another. Less tolerant Queenslanders have bumper stickers on their vehicles saying, “Keep Queensland beautiful, send a tourists home on the bus.”
However, I see tourists as a fascinating breed, and a goldmine of comic entertainment; busloads of ill-prepared, funnytalking gawkers with odd backpacks, high socks and bumbags follow an umbrella-wielding guide around like loyal chooks. No matter their skin color, tourists stick out like a light beer drinker at the rugby. Could there be an easier target for lampooning?
Of course, we all like to think that we’re not nearly as na├»ve as those out-of-towners, that we’re somehow better than the clueless masses swinging their camera lenses in unison. One can’t help but feel a little superior when answering the absurd queries of puzzled visitors. But it’s not only locals who are so smug.
Picture this scene: two tourists walk in opposite directions along a dusty street of some exotic foreign land. These fearless voyagers have weathered the hardships of their soul-seeking journeys, so far from the comforts of home, with their ipods and laptops of course.
Both long for that authentic experience, that exclusive look into a mysterious world that will inspire the next self-satisfied facebook status update. Aside from the curious English of local shopkeepers, extraordinarily patient hotel managers, and confused bus ticket vendors that they’ve encountered along the way, for weeks they’ve had only their trusted guidebooks (and iPods and laptops) to keep them company on that long and lonely road.
They pass each other on the street. Although neither have seen another of their kind in weeks, neither one makes eye contact with the other. A smile would be unthinkable, each purposefully blind to the presence of a fellow traveler, each secure in the knowledge that he is the first and only outsider privileged or clever enough to find that particular corner of the world, each believing that he has singlehandedly discovered whatever tourist trap the Lonely Planet has led him to.
Why would two otherwise reasonable and friendly people, both lost as babes in the woods, purposely avoid one another?
What we have here are the classic symptoms of Marco Polo Syndrome (MPS), perhaps first diagnosed by Ernie Diaz, a blogger for the China Expat. Expats, of course, represent the uppermost caste of this nonnative hierarchy, with the matching-outfit package tourist on the bottom of the food chain. Introduce a pair of expats and they’ll quickly attempt to determine who’s been there longer, and who’s made it deeper into the local scene. Expats are equally as susceptible to this ironic form of self-deception as freshly arrived hippie backpackers. But it’s the latter who make the best entertainment.
Tourist envy associated with MPS can range from the boastful to the obsessive. I’m constantly amused by the guy ‘doing Asia’ for a month confidently regaling his companions with his mispronounced expertise of local custom. In backpacker ghettos like Bangkok’s Khao San Road or Kathmandu’s Thamel, inflated tourist egos can border on the ridiculous, as travelers round out their exotic sojourn by weaving tales of intrigue about their exclusive experience on a local bus, showing off photos with themselves posing with a village chicken, while wearing the quintessential local beer t-shirt, while generally avoiding such beer and the spicy local food, preferring the more familiar hamburger.
They can be annoying, (notice I’m using the 3rd person), but the tourist’s fascination can be like that of a child’s; sweet and innocent, if a little naughty and precocious at times. Tourists can actually help locals appreciate their own culture and environment, to find value in the things we often take for granted in our hometowns. But they can still act like idiots.
Newbies in any environment will get things wrong, trying the patience of locals, acting as though they’re the first outsider to ever taste Vegemite or a lamington, and avoiding the gaze of fellow travelers. As one of those fortunate foreigners who’s currently residing in a land to which I was invited, I’ve probably got my blinders on too.

Monday, 17 October 2011

chickens






Henery Hawk: Hey, he called you a chicken.
Foghorn Leghorn: That's what I've been - I say, that's what I've been telling you, boy! I am a chicken!





When did you last spend quality time with a chicken?
I don't mean a visit to Chargrill Charcoal Chicken or a 12 pack of McNuggets or even an afternoon watching Foghorn Leghorn cartoons - I refer instead to a clucking, unplucked, head bobbing, living chook.
If you're like most urban dwellers, it's probably been a while since you ran your fingers through some feathers because it's tough work to cohabit with a chicken in a flat, let alone find room for a coop.
This is a great shame because I reckon if we all had chooks, there'd be a little less aggression in the world, a little less sadness and a greater understanding of the circle of life beyond Lion King songs.
Any kid who grows up on a farm or in the bush knows this cycle: from egg to chick to hen to the dinner table to the soup pot to the scraps bin, back to the chicken coop - and it teaches most a respect for the realities of food production and a distaste for waste: ie - you won't find any of the above children becoming vegetarians.
However, not all chickens end up in an oven; some live out their lives pecking peacefully at the dirt, pooping where they will and nattering to owners like my wonderful Mum.
My parents are a little immobile at the moment due to knee surgery and an impending hip replacement, but I know they manage to derive moments of joy from their three ISA Brown chooks regardless. Both my Mother and Father grew up in the country but have somewhat different mindsets when it comes to their chooks – Mum wants to bring them in when it’s cold and raining and Dad would never entertain such an idea so instead builds them a beautiful big coop and a backyard to boot!
Now I have come to think, after much observation of these great creatures, that these fowl are smarter than we give them credit for. Now I’m not saying that they are about to hatch a plan to escape and open an omelet cafe in Paris...geniuses they are not, however, they still have something approaching intellect.
If you drop your guard, you'll find them on the roof of your neighbours house, looking very pleased with themselves and you're the idiot, waiving a broom and yelling foulness at fowl.
There are many other great aspects to chickens including that once they get to know you they'll follow you around, children derive immeasurable pleasure from them, and it's a great thing knowing your chooks are treated well, feed well & well loved.
However, perhaps their greatest gift is how they make you appreciate the here & now.Like most domestic pets, when you watch a chicken you see a creature totally unconcerned with the past or the future, simply the worm you've unearthed for them while digging a veggie bed in the backyard. I find this simplicity calming and so refreshing.
For my money, however, chickens are one step ahead because, as well as depositing glistening poop for you to clean up, they also leave you beautiful, fresh eggs for breakfast. And they don’t chew up your favourite shoes or go ape-shit when you turn on the vacuum cleaner to clean up all the hair they’ve shed.
And lest you need more convincing, stop to think of the dozens of chicken sayings - from "counting your chickens" and “not putting all your eggs in one basket”, to the old "chicken and egg" story, to "rooster one day, feather duster the next".
Chickens have always had a profound effect on humans and have been at the epicentre of life's teachings for thousands of years, which is why I strongly recommend you spend some time with one next time you get a chance - but don't get too attached...the oven awaits!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

australian girls are the coolest girls


She's been to the races
She's slept on a beach
And blown all her wages

Done her Bridesmaids duty
Had New Years in Byron
People say she's hot
She says: "They're lyin'"

Puts her make-up on driving
Once had her drink spiked
Had sex with some muso
She never even liked

She looks like her Grandma
Those freckles on her nose                    
She goes to the RSL                           
and can repeat the Ode


  
The honourable poet, Adam Gibson, has penned an incredibly honest, unbiased and acutely accurate poem about Australian girls.
Gibson's band, the Ariel Maps, has taken this well researched and startlingly true poem and turned it into a song - 'Australian Girls Are The Coolest Girls' and made it, well, a real celebration of cool, Australian girls and it's got me thinking about just why us local lasses are fair dinkum special.

"The idea for the song came after I'd been living overseas for some time. I met two Aussie girls who were passing through the town I was living in and it really struck me that most of the Australian girls I knew were very switched on.

They could hold their own in most situations and were very capable in their dealings with the world. They can tell stories, they will have a go at most sports, they have an earthiness about them that is unpretentious and, generally speaking, they will sit you on your arse if you say or do something stupid or out of line" says Gibson.
Gibson explains that it is “a song for my ex girlfriends, for my cousins, for the girls I go to the football with or go camping up the coast with. It's a celebration of my mates, many of whom happen to be Australian Girls. And many of whom are pretty damn cool ... "
See the incredible wisdom in Gibson's words, and being one of the stupendous specimens he speaks of, I made a list of why exactly it is that Australian girls really are the coolest girls.

MEN

The Australian girl knows blokes are full of crap but she won't pull out the "men are bastards" speech unless she's talking about her boyfriend losing all their rent money on the horses. 
If she's single she can spend a Saturday night at home with a DVD without thinking her life is miserable. She knows if her guy wants to spend a night out with the boys it doesn't mean he doesn't love her and will lovingly make up the couch for him to pass out on and snore as loud as he likes when he gets home.
BEVERAGES
Enthusiastic participation at the pub, shows the Australian girl isn’t afraid to knock back a few with mates or whoever is sitting at the bar at knock off time. She will lead Saturdays pub crawl with stamina and determination too.
The Aussie girl also understands a quaint drinking tradition called The Shout.

TEAM SPIRIT

The Australian girl will join in any water/mud/snow/sand/food fight going and will do her team mates proud with accuracy and her ‘fight to the death’ commitment and courage.

MATES

She has a solid group of friends she's had guy-pashing contests with, embarassing but memorable secrets with and occasionally has to slap sense into. She understands only a sociopath would utter the words “I prefer the company of men”.
LANGUAGE
She may sound crass to the uneducated ear, but really she is just being honest and once you get used to the lingo you’ll realise she is far more genuine and approachable than any girl overseas who you might hear squealing “O.M.G* Nicole, you look totes pritz* - mew*...I wish I was as skinny as you” (yes, there really are girls who speak like that...non-Australian ones of course).

* if you, like me, abhor such inane acronyms you may not know that O.M.G. = ‘oh my god’

* translation = ‘totally pretty’
* apparently this is an expression of sadness/disappointment/regret

FASHION

She can stop traffic in jeans and a t-shirt but has been known to drop half a week's wages on a pair of heels if they show off her calves. Although, she understands that thongs are all-terrain footwear and will be found in a well loved pair of havianas...if she's wearing shoes at all.

HUMOUR

‘Pull my finger’ is not only endlessly funny but a competitive sport for her.

PHILOSOPHY

The Australian girl is an optimist. She believes in love, loyalty, laughter and derives enormous happiness from the simple pleasures in life. She adores dogs and kids and the beach and her grandmother's old tea cosies.
In the end she's not a list of attributes, she's a wonderful soul who is only found down under.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

10 raps you must hear before you die


Ok...so having been described, by an American, to 'dance like a white girl' - despite being one, I feel I have earned the right to abuse the obvious homophone this post has presented to me on a silver platter.
(I hereby make a pledge to never insult you with such terrible visual-play ever again)



  
lonely islander boys - i’m on a boat

zach galifianakis - can't tell me nothing


mary elizabeth ellis - "i actually fancy myself as a bit of a rapper"
(it’s always sunny in philadelphia)
 
step brothers -
boats n' hoes

reggie watts - f**k s**t stack

flight of the conchords - hiphopopotamus vs. rhymenoceros

ken jeong - what’s it gonna be?
(ok, so not a rap, but you have to admit - HILARIOUS...if not a little creepy)


Monday, 19 September 2011

if i ruled the world




Pinky:
"Gee Brain, what're we gonna do tonight?"

Brain: "Same thing we do every night Pinky...try and take over the world!"






All the talk of China’s steadily growing economy, modernised military and significant hold in U.S treasuries has led some to fear it will replace America as a world leader. Concerns about its influence and control are, however, premature - yes, China may someday surpass the U.S. as the world's largest economy, but in doing so would not necessarily override America as a world super power.

So this pissing contest between the U.S. and China not only verified that the term 'super power' does not have any correlation to intelligence, but also got my brain a’ tickin’ and took me back to my schooldays. Afternoons spent watching cartoons until my well attuned ears heard the distinct warning bell of the back gate clicking shut, indicating Dad was home. I then had his 7 second walk from gate to door to turn the TV off and be seated at my desk appearing committed to finding the value of 'x' and thereby the cure for cancer.

But I digress – world power was where I was headed...now ‘Pinky and the Brain’ was one of these afternoon cartoons. ‘Pinky’ a dim-witted mouse, played sidekick to the Machiavellian mouse,‘Brain’, in repeat failed attempts to "try and take over the world!" Unsure of what Brain was going to do with world domination, and having failed to cure cancer as an eighth grader, I have now put my mind to wondering what it is I would do if I Ruled-the-World...
so here goes, my foray into the murky waters of power. Although I am presented with some problems that need rectifying before I dive in...

Problem 1. How do I gauge the voice of mankind? As there has been no democratic process by which I became Ruler-of-the-World, I’m going to assume a dictatorial stance - so my first rule is to remove the ‘u’ and ‘e’ from the word ‘gauge’ so that I can, well, just do what I want really...
Problem 2. How to turn such vastly significant subject matter into a concise manifesto? Well, I’m a dictator now, I don’t have to be concise. George W. Bush paved the way for me here by proving such a trivial quality wasn't necessary to obtain a status of power.

Problem 3.
Enough problems already! Let’s do this, let us change the world! (and by us, I mean me.)


War – the blight of mankind, no one enjoys it, millions die, stuff gets broken and we pay through the nose in order to engage in such destructive, senseless and inhumane behaviour. It’s absurd and immature. As children we used to fight our brother when he took our rainbow paddle pop and the grown-ups would intervene. Yet here we are (democratic nations at least) who select leaders, supposedly the most intelligent and well informed ‘grown-ups’ who, for one reason or another continue to elect to go to war and fight their brothers.

If I listen to Freud and Konrad Lorenz in their shared belief that we are an innately aggressive species, then I’d merely be pressing the snooze button on an anguishing yet unavoidable reality. So I would choose to listen to Hanson’s “Mmmbop” on repeat than that rubbish, however, such self inflicted torture is not necessary. Instead I turn to
animal behaviorist John Paul Scott, professor at BGSU, who's research has shown that there is no evidence indicating an ingrained biological aggression gene, rather that fighting behaviour among man is triggered by external factors. Take a look around, there are many people, in fact entire cultures, managing quite well without behaving aggressively and have done so for centuries.

Just as impressive as peaceful cultures are those that have become peaceful. Sweden - in a matter of a few centuries, changed from a fiercely warlike society to one of the least violent among developed nations. This shift is more plausibly explained as a result of social and political factors rather than genetics.
In order to justify war, we’ve created a psychology that rationalises it as a system of resolving conflict and thereby made it inevitable. Treating any behavior as inevitable sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy: By assuming we are born with aggression, we see such unnecessary actions as unavoidable.
So now my hippy-dippy ‘use words not fists’ liberal self is Ruler-of-the-World, my first sanction as is to ban war.

Ok, so world peace – check!

Onto my next ingenious scheme where I solve world hunger. By modifying the now redundant bomber planes in this new-found state of peace, I replace bombs with seeds. First-world nations will ‘bomb’ third-world nations with said seeds and crops will grow, people will eat. But how to irrigate these crops in barren lands I hear you ask? Well my initial reaction is to berate you for questioning me as I control you...however, it’s a fair question so I’ll go ahead and grace you with my brilliant solution.

Simple, really. Anyone who knows anything about Ireland knows that for every creepy little leprechaun they have a foot of rain fall each month (for those of you unfamiliar with Ireland, it is abundant with leprechauns, I think the last census revealed there to be about three to every drunk Irishman on an average Saturday night). With its incessant battering rain I ask the Irish to take one for the team and up-turn their umbrellas and collect all they can in their cocktail-esk devices in a toast to the end of world hunger. Now, I will build a series of aqueducts into which the umbrellas will be emptied and take all that lovely water from Ireland to the driest and hungriest places, watering the newly sewn crops, providing a sustainable food source for those in famine.
Now I’m sure you’re already amply impressed with my inspiring solutions, however, my work here is not yet done!

Global Warming – this one is the easiest. With my plans in place Bono and Angelina are left with a lot of spare time on their hands.
Now Bono and Ange (may I call you that?), I know you’ll be reading this, so I may as well address you directly. As I’ve already solved the world peace and hunger issues, you will be expected to take on less irritating and more productive roles (respectively) in saving the planet. Bono, if we could somehow harness your ego and Ange, get your ever-growing herd of a family on hamster wheels as an alternative and renewable energy source, I believe global warming could be halted within the hour.

I know, I know – how soon can I move into the White House right? I mean it’s all really just in a day’s work as Ruler-of-the-World. But, after a productive first day I’m off to pour myself a well earned glass of wine and watch some Pinky and the Brain for some inspiration on solving that eighth grade answer to ‘x’.

Given I am not a Dictatorial-Ruler-of-the-World, and will not become one in the foreseeable future, I ask you to donate whatever you can to the not so easily resolved crisis in East Africa via
UNHCR

Thanks for reading & I hope donating...xo

Thursday, 15 September 2011

on a magic carpet ride...

Regrettably I do not know Aladdin, nor any other street rat with a magic carpet, but with my stress level running pretty high today, I’m embracing any little mental vacation whenever I can to repress it...albeit briefly. Exercise is my immediate go-to, but when not possible one of the things that always helps is unearthing new and inspiring designs, particularly textiles. The textures, colours, simplicity or intricacy, their creative uses, cultural & historical significance, practicality & their necessity never ceases to impress me. Of course, I would much prefer to be able to feel the textures & weight & see their true colours as virtual viewing never does justice. But today, a virtual trip will have to do. These gorgeous rugs (& homewares) are from a fantastic little shop called Beldi (which loosely translates as “country” in Moroccan Arabic). They specialize in beautiful handmade goods from Morocco. Their rug selection (particularly the boucherite styles) is fantastic and it always makes me wish I had endless floorspace to accommodate them.
However, for an assured 'mental vacation', my immediate go-to is
Loom Rugs - personal favourites being their 'overdyed vintage' (strong distressed hues), 'berber' (neutral two-toned colours, simple, linear designs), 'vintage' (very geometric) & 'old yarn' (some more favourable than others)collections...ok, so it's tough to pick a favourite, they're all so sumptuous & special you'll understand why I covet endless floorspace when you see them. 
A personal, but equal shout out and credit goes to Sally Campbell and her designs - not only a beautiful person but a talented designer. I frequently wear, use & furnish myself & home with her designs.
So...if like me, you need a mental vacation - check out the above, you will feel like you've had a week's vacation in the Caribbean!

Monday, 12 September 2011

kulcha





Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and proudly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence.
- Douglas Adams


 





Australia, to some, appears to have less culture than a tub of yoghurt.
However, this is merely due to the fact that culture is a misunderstood concept - it's certainly not as My Fair Lady would have you believe - french champagne, opera and art galleries. In fact in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in 'Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions'. For me food, music, sport, dance, architecture, language, sex, fashion, flora & fauna, humour...it all goes into the tub, each variation creating unique yoghurt flavours cultures.

Australian culture is certainly bent, borrowed and stolen from its older, fatter, uglier siblings, Great Britain and the mighty U-S-of-A, but we have certainly carved out a very distinct Vegemite flavoured niche of our own.

I recently read an interview with Wade Davis, an anthropologist "who studies the most remote corners of the world".
I took particular interest in Davis' observations on nations and peoples which have managed to successfully preserve and nurture their culture,  where others have discarded theirs and opted in favour of tv dinners eaten to nightly viewings of Two and a Half Men (the most facile & inane show ever created).

Researching cultural preservation a little myself since, I have come to view it as the cornerstone of community. It is a measure of our contribution to biodiversity as a global community. Each time a language or culture is lost, we lose an irreplaceable and exquisite way of being.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are a number of individuals, communities and nations taking measures to ensure these irreplaceable cultural threads are preserved.

In Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia, an independent Society has harnessed local knowledge, some of it ancient, to manage local fisheries. Traditional cultural methods for managing ecosystems are extremely sophisticated and practical - so both culture and ecosystems benefit.

Greenland has also made the initiative by prohibiting snowmobiles. They must instead go by dogsled, kayak or foot as was done by their Inuit ancestors.
Instead, their native husky breed was emblematic of their Inuit heritage. Most have embraced the ban, as a result they’ve seen Greenland’s native breed prosper. It's an impressive & inspiring example of an indigenous community making a conscious choice to maintain their culture.

So Aussies, if push came to shove, what facets of our culture would we deem the most 'Australian' and choose to preserve? Are we too multicultural & young to have something so generic represent us?

As an ex-surf life saver, a life long beach lover and self-confessed summer addict, I would suggest we have already made a small step in Surf Life Saving Australia's decision to keep the red and yellow caps.
While some newbie life-savers object to them on the grounds that they are "uncool", they are practical and an iconic symbol of Australian culture.


Each time an art, skill or trade is lost, or a sacred site is paved over, a strand of culture is frayed. Sadly globalisation is creating a mono-culture, so now more than ever these tenuous threads need darning.

However, as fair dinkum' Aussies if we preserve vegemite, utes, bogans, burgers with beetroot, thongs, tinnies, dunnies, dingoes, hills hoists, holdens, barbecues, budgie smugglers and our insistence on abbreviating everything with an 'o' we will ensure that no matter where you are in the world a simple "G'day" will assume a tribal-like identity!