Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Oversexed, overpaid and over here"

"What's your summation of the US Great Health System Debate?

It seems unimaginable to "most thinking Australians", there are about twenty of us, that a government would have to battle so hard to ensure that a reasonable health insurance scheme was available to everybody.

And yet we see on the TV news that many Democrat pollies are receiving death threats for daring to vote for such Socialist policies. It's as though a national health scheme was on the same level as nationalising the banks - come to think of it, in the light of recent debacles, even that may not be a bad idea !!!"
From email from a reader

The above appeared in my inbox a few days ago.

I left it in there for a while, being at a loss for words. How to explain?

In the end I made an attempt, but it was difficult. Because even though there are many similarities between Australians (as the email writer is) and Americans, their systems of government are quite different, and the cultural differences between the two groups are stronger than one would at first glance think. Australians and Americans are separated by more than a common language. How to explain how Americans are not really opposed to universal health care but that their fear of big government, or even just government, influences any analysis.

I did end up answering the email, but I wasn't 100% happy with my answer. There were too many barriers to explain away. Plus there's the anti-Americanism of many Australians to Americans, which started in WWII when the Australian men were away fighting in Europe and the Pacific, and Australian women were entertaining American GIs who were in Australia on R&R. There's nothing wrong with Americans, the men would say, when they returned to find "dear John" letters waiting, it is just that they are "oversexed, overpaid and over here".

Lest we forget ...

Then there's the widespread belief that Americans know little of other countries. Unfortunately the myth of the culturally ignorant American achieved a shot in the arm this week by American comedian, Robin Williams. I was watching Robin Williams on Letterman via YouTube. I'm not a Williams fan but any positive feelings I may have had about the man, took a nose dive. His take on Australia (here) is pretty pathetic.

I have decided that I don't even LIKE Robin Williams. I first went off him when he was in "The Dead Poets Society". I warmed toward him ever so slightly some years later, when he appeared in a Woody Allen movie (literally and figuratively) out of focus.

I suspect out of focus is his best angle. A gaussian blur with the emphasis on the blur.

But any positive opinion, however minute that I may have felt, disintegrated when I saw him on Letterman talking about Australia.

Williams' take on Australia was really off. Full of misinformation. Stuff about poisonous snails shooting poisonous darts, flying snakes and worse. Playing for the crowds for cheap laughs. And all said in a pathetic attempt an Australian accent.

There is certainly a place for satire and laughter in this world. But there is one important prerequisite. It has to be funny. Stereotyping any group or race as being low on the evolutionary scale and as being simplistic fools may get a laugh from Letterman. Fortunately most Americans have a bit more sense.

Australians all, let's boycott him.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Was Eeyore an Emo?

I'm the kind of guy,
Who never used to cry,
The world is treatin' me bad... Misery!
From "Misery", Lennon McCartney 1963

Monday, nothing, Tuesday, nothing, Wednesday and Thursday nothing, Friday for a change a whole lot of nothing. The world's great books a whole lot of nothing. Flesh and sex, nothing.
From "Nothing" Tuli Kupferberg 1965

Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he
From "House at Pooh Corner" A. A. Milne 1928
God, I must be getting old. A whole music genre,  fashion and stereotype has passed me by without me noticing one little bit! Not only that, but this music-genre-fashion-stereotype has apparently been around for thirty years.

What have I been doing and why did it not catch my eye? Or ear?

I refer of course to "emo". I heard the word  for the first time today when reading about the Victorian Government's (in Australia) "Don't Be a Dickhead" campaign. Apparently if you use your cell phone while you drive another emo will be born. Or you will turn into one. Or something equally horrible will happen to you. Whatever ...

According to recent polls a majority of Victorians think that the "Dickhead" campaign will have no effect on cutting down on cell phone related car accidents. What's more there seems to be a "Dickhead" driven backlash, and emos and redheads (the other group targeted in the campaign ads) are getting COMMUNITY SUPPORT! Heaven forbid.

Though I must say that the Dickhead campaign is itself in danger of erring on the emos side of absurdism.

B Being Emo 100 Years Ago
Yep the emos thing passed me by but it is never too late to learn.  I looked around the internets and found an example of a emo song. It's called "Misery Business" and was written  by Farro, Josh, Williams and Hayley. Of all the emo songs I could find I picked this one as the title seemed so apt. Let's see now ...

I'm in the business of misery
Let's take it from the top
She's got a body like an hourglass
That's ticking like a clock

Hmm. Well so much for that. Maybe it's a good thing that I missed emo-ism. But I have to wonder, why did it take FOUR people to write it? That's nearly the whole population of New Zealand.

"An hourglass ticking like a clock," The imagery! The poetry. The soulfulness. Echos of Dadaism ...

So now I've read up on this fascinating movement that has invaded our music, fashion, dance and general psyche without me even being aware.

I pride myself on staying ahead of the times. Bummer about missing Emos though. Thinking about it, I decided that it couldn't be new. People were glum before emos came along. Surely.

What about John and Paul's "Misery"? And what about Jude in "Hey Jude"? Jude must have been an emo before his time. And what about the Hippocratic writers who believed that gloom, abnegation, and misanthropy could be traced to excesses of black bile? Shakespeare's Macbeth where life is said to be "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing." And then there's all those Igmar Bergman films. My god, emos-ism is everywhere!

However when it comes to the ultimate expression of emos angst, there can be none better than The Fugs. Tuli Kupferberg I salute you.

I close with their anthem.

"I went to a party the other night
I wanted to fill my brain with light
I grabbed myself a bottle and I started drinking wine
I thought pretty soon I'd be feeling fine
But I couldn't get high, I couldn't get high.
I put down the bottle and
I whipped out my pipe and I stoked it full of grass
And I gave myself a light
I puffed, I puffed, I smoked and I toked
After a while my heart was nearly broke ...
Because I couldn't get high,
I couldn't get high"

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 29, 2010

From a Pharmacy in North Balwyn to a Condo in Queens

She said "Hey girl its about time you wrote
It's been over two years now my old friend
Take me back to the days of the foreign telegrams
And the all night rock'n rollin' hey Chel
We was wild then"
From "Anchorage", Michelle Shocked

Ah, hello, Mr. O'Reilly. How are you? Oh sorry, nearly forgot: Basil Fawlty, remember? The poor sod you do jobs for. So how are things your end? Ah, splendid. Now how would you like to hear how things are my end? Oh, well, up to your usual standard I think the odd hole in the wall, the odd door missing; but nothing you can't be sued for.
Basil Fawlty (Fawlty Towers) talking to his carpenter

At the Solarium
Today I was reminded of an old friend. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) he won't be reading this. He's in hospital in Australia recovering from a triple bypass. And in any case, he's not on the internet.

But those who know him will recognize him from what I am writing, and I hope this brings a smile to their eyes and a remembrance of happier times.

How it came about - the remembrance that is - was that I was reading on the web about condos in Long Island City in Queens, New York. Looking to buy.

I've gone off my first consideration - "The View" - that I wrote about in "A Room with a View" partly because I could not afford an apartment there, and partly because of a "don't-buy-here-vibe" that I got when viewing it.

Yeah I know - "vibe" is so seventies, so last century. But it's better than "emo" that I heard for the first time today. Boy am I out of touch ...

So I kept looking. I really liked the look of "the Solarium" apartments in Queens. Très "eco-chic" if there is such a thing and if there isn't there soon will be. Better than the "industrial chic" of the Powerhouse, also in Queens, that my excellent realtor at NestSeekers had recommended. In any case I could NOT buy a place in a block called "PowerHouse" because a hundred years go I frequented jazz dances at a "PowerHouse", in Melbourne in the pre-Dylan-pre-electric-guitar days. Days that only the ancients now remember.

I have a feeling, a hope that soon there will be such a thing as "Queens Chic", and so I wanted to find out more about the Solarium than the advertising hype was giving me. I googled and found a posting from a prospective buyer who had actually seen the "Solarium" apartments. The subject line got me in - "LIC Solarium Condos are being sold by a goon". ("LIC" is an acronym for "Long Island City".)

The post then went on to say, "Man did this guy go to the loser school of sales. He was dressed for the mob. He asked to see us and he opens by blurting 'whussup,' as though we had asked to see him." You can read the whole post here.

It was the "LIC Solarium Condos are being sold by a goon" that reminded me of my old friend. He used to run a pharmacy in Australia together with his wife, who was and still is, one of my best friends. The funniest thing was hearing both of them talk after closing hours, usually over dinner at their place.

"A clown came into the pharmacy," he'd start, and proceed to describe some customer who had said something mildly silly.

He was the Basil Fawlty of pharmacists. A man without patience who didn't tolerate fools one little bit.

Of course after a while the guests at the dinner party would tire of the stories, where upon he'd wake them up (they were mostly politically correct people) with, "A half-caste came into the pharmacy today ..."

Did he mean this, or was he as I suspect having his own private joke? Whatever. I know that I laughed. And of course he was not really racially prejudiced. ... Some of his best friends were ...

I hope to have a look at The Solarium and meet the "goon" later this week.

And meanwhile, best of luck to my old friend. I hope you pull through the bypass surgery. The world needs people who can make others laugh.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

This is Dedicated ...

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none ---
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
from Lewis Carroll "The Walrus and The Carpenter"

Outside my Gym in New York
I was never into sports. I didn't see the need. And something about the Australian culture's love of sport used to annoy the hell out of me.

It's here too, in America. But I'm pretty sure that it was worse in Australia - at least the Australia that I grew up in.

When I was growing up in OZ (and perhaps still) it was de rigeur to be sporty. Sport was good. Academic was bad. Artistic was bad. I remember the slang.

"She's a conche". As in "conscientious".

Or she's a "brain".

So NOT in. So NOT done.

We used to hide our Petrarchs, our translations of the Latin greats, our thoughts on Brancusi. Shove them behind our desks in utter shame.

I kid you not.

The thing was to excel ... in sport. The body physical.

And so we inched our way to adulthood - those of us who could not compete on the playing fields of Melbourne. We'd watch our brothers and sisters who failed mathematics, English lit, the fine arts and history, blaze their way in the glory of the high jumps, the footy goals and the 300 metre sprints.

Ours not to reason why.

But we did OK. Eventually.

Gym Ad on 90th, Manhattan
I remember around the age of 21, in a country far away from Australia, meeting other people, people like me. In London. In Europe. Anywhere not OZ.

Suddenly it was OK to NOT be sporty. High jump? Not me. "I failed Sport 101." Three cheers. All was not in vain. Or so we thought.

Years passed. Many many years.

Countless years.

Years beyond imagination.

And look at what has happened. Are our old school pals taking up reading the classics? Deconstructing whatever one deconstructs? Solving simultaneous equations? Visiting the Guggenheim?

Nope. But those sporty people are looking good.

I HATE them.

Trim, taut, terrific.

The chooks have come home to roost.

Our brothers and sisters are healthy. Happy, hedonistic. But us conches? The brains trusts?

We? Well after a hundred years of sitting around, drinking shiraz and scoffing at our sporty brothers and sisters ...

We are all too late ... going to the gym.

Yep. We are FAT! We are back there in Form 3. But older. Less healthy. Hiding behind our books, desks, anything that can hide us. If anything can.

For a while there it looked like we'd have the last laugh. For a very short while.

And so this is dedicated ...

To those of us who were too vain, who thought we had it all, who thought life was about thinking, questioning, analyzing.

We now  know it is really about running,
and paying expensive gym fees.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sugar, Sugar, Honey Honey

Sugar, ahhh
honey honey
you are my candy girl
and you got me wanting you
The Archies

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

But it ain’t me, babe,
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.
Dylan, "It Ain't Me, Babe"

I've never been a "Sugar" or a "Hon" (as in honey). Have I been missing out?

I'm not sure.

Do I want to be a "Sugar"? Or a "Hon"? Is the nomenclature offensive, sexist, non politically correct?


Still my inner non-feminist persona would LOVE to be a 'Sugar' or a 'Honey'. Not really. Joke Joyce. (For US readers, "Joke Joyce" is Australian for - "well I didn't mean it, but ... get real ... ") And why the "Joyce"? A linguistic aphorism and nothing to do with James [Joyce]. 'Joyce' is meant to connotate a silly person. A person who doesn't get the joke.

Baby names. It seems to be an American thing.

I use baby names myself.

I call those close to me "pie", "sweet pea", "pog". But not publicly. And only when referring to people of the opposite sex. Under the age of ten. Or male.

But one has to have STANDARDS. And there IS like it or not, something in how we are, in relation to our names. Imagine for example being called 'Moses'. You would just HAVE to turn out differently than you would, if called Anne, or Kirrallee. Would Ghandi have changed the face of India if he'd been a Jimbo or a Kev? Would Anne Boleyn have married the king of England if she'd been a 'Jill' or a 'Kylie'?

Our mother (and I say "our" deliberately as I am not the only child) used to warn us of the "Waynes", the "Trevors" and the "Kevins" of this world. She had her reasons, and although I've forgotten them, I support her conclusions.

What's in a name?

A lot.

I've noticed for example, that a lot of "customer service people" are called Jason. Why? Or is it me? Do people called "Jason" answer the phone when I call customer service? And if so, why?

Customer UNservice.

Do we get Sebastiens or Olivers answering the phone when we complain about a lack of service?

And if not, why not?


Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hanging on the Telephone

And you ain't safe when you get home
She's gonna call you on the telephone
Hey boy that's Balwyn calling
Get off the phone and get out of Balwyn
from Skyhooks, "Balwyn Calling"

I'm in the phone booth, it's the one across the hall
If you don't answer, I'll just ring it off the wall
I know he's there but I just had to call
Don't leave me hanging on the telephone
from Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone"

Telephones have played an undeserved place in my life. They have been the cause of dissension, argument, misunderstanding -  in fact, anything negative short of all out war.

And tonight was no exception.

I came home, ate my dinner, poured a wine and thought, "I'll call my good friend 'B' in Australia," which I did. "B" lives in Melbourne Australia, or DID when last I spoke to her about 72 hours ago. But no. Apparently she is in Canada and her phone is disconnected. At least that is the conclusion a rational person would reach, as every time I dialed her number I got a Canadian voice telling me the number was no longer valid.

Well I know my good friend B has run-ins with those in authority and is a bit of a larrikin, but I very much doubt that she's hot-footed it to Canada in the last 72 hours, had the phone connected, and not paid her bill, and had the phone disconnected in such a short time span and without telling anyone. And knowing B, she would unlikely to have had her phone redirected to wherever she is anyway. She's a free spirit!

So why was I getting Canada when I called 'B' in Australia? Was it me? Was it B? Or was it .... Vonage - my phone call provider.

I called Vonage, and after having gone through the robot voice recognition thing, I got a human, a human who I am sure is a very nice person if you met her socially, full of warmth and empathy. But as a tech support person ... Let us say, she was not an A plus.

After several thousand questions, one of which was what was the make and model of my first car (ASIF I can remember that - I can barely remember to take the trash out), I was allowed to tell her my problem. "When I call Australia, I get Canada," I explained. She put me on hold. A hundred years later she returned and told me, "Oh when you call that number in Australia you get Canada." Sigh. Scream. I know that already yet! Why did she think I was calling? Where is the Valium???

I bailed out with a ticket number and a promise that it'd be looked at, "within 48 hours".

Not happy, but beggars can't be choosers. I have other friends than "B". I'll call "G" I thought.

This time it wasn't Canada. I got the answer-machine of a man who sounded Spanish though he could have been Portuguese or even Croatian.

I called the number again. Same man. Same person who I didn't know.

And so I called Vonage, and attempted to circumvent the robot voice. I told the robot, "human human human," and before you knew it I had ... a human. Well I THINK it was a human. Before I could say I am K and what my first car was, I was presented with a spiel about he was pleased to help blah blah.

"My first car was a Renault," I interupted him, pronouncing it à la Francais. Obviously my tech rep had not studied French. WRONG! "REN-ALT," I tried, attempting an American accent. "Correct." Phew! This show was about to get ON THE ROAD! Sur la route! Whatever!

If I wasn't hyper before I was now. I proceeded to explain my problem.

I don't want to wake up all those people in Uruguay and Latvia, I explained.

I could go on, but the upshot is, well, nothing. Well almost nothing. Before I lost it, someone came on the line and said that there were Australians calling in, and there seemed to be a problem with phone calls going to the wrong country.

Houston we have a problem.

I have a problem.

Vonage has a problem.

Shall I take my own advice - "Pay peanuts and you get monkeys?"

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shadows on Cobblestones

Perfect for office or any time, this sleek virgin wool blazer from Theory is a wise investment. Add a tank blouse and fitted skirt for office-ready appeal.
Bloomingdales' spiel for a women's blazer

From now through July 4th, one of the nation’s great repositories of history will play host to a remarkable and significant collection of cultural treasures: 'The Grateful Dead' ...
Gary Lambert of

Men at Work, Fifth Avenue
I was crossing Central Park West at 86th Street when a sign caught my eye. The Grateful Dead now at the New York Historical Society. I did a double take and looked back. Had I read it correctly. Yes, I had.

The Grateful Dead - I was never a fan, but I remember them. Are the Grateful Dead dead? What are they doing in a museum? This is on a par with a Rolling Stone concert venue having to priovide wheel-chair access ramps to the stage.

Later at home. I googled the 'New York Historical Society' and yes the Dead are there. The Grateful Dead are history!

To take my mind off such a depressing thought, I looked at Bloomingdales' on-line catalog. I've taken a new interest in Bloomingdales since finding out that my new heroine, Joyce Behar (of "The View" and "The Joyce Behar Show") shops there. How do I know?Well she had a guest on her show a few weeks ago who was a sexpert of sorts. He was talking about orgasms and Ms. Behar retorted with, "Orgasms - isn't that what women get when they buy stuff at Bloomingdales?"

Cabs on Fifth
And what did I get at my on-line trip to Bloomies? Not an orgasm but a new phrase. Well it isn't really a "phrase" as it hasn't got a preposition, but I have American citizenship now so I'm allowed to be ungrammatical. The new non-phrase is "office-ready".

Office-ready already yet! Is that what I am when I drag myself out of bed and put on my "business casual" attire on Mondays through Fridays? Sounds like I've been plated and am ready to be served up. Sheesh!

I'm learning lots of new words in America. "Shlepp" is my latest, though I feel a bit pretentious saying it. "I just schlepped over to Bloomingdales." No, that's not me.

I like learning new words though. I used to be somewhat restricted in using them as I had a reader of my blog in Spain, an Oxford scholar and an ex, who would pick me up on every little slip-up and expected me to spell in English. An old lover. We'd kept in touch for ages but we had an on-line fight last year over what I cannot remember. I suspect it had something to do with words. Anyway we split up.

We used to drop each other a "Happy Birthday" note. Religiously except we are both atheists, every year for just over a hundred years. Now that will be no more. Fortunately HIS birthday is earlier in the year than mine. So I can NOT remember his birthday first.

I just can't WAIT to remember to forget it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Men - Part 1

Young Love at Wilson's Prom
It must be a syndrome. A syndrome with a name. Well of course, all syndromes have names or else they would not be syndromes. But you know what I mean. I'd google the syndrome but where would I start? Not with its name, as yet unknown, that's for sure.

In any case, I have it - the yet-to-be-named-and-catalogued syndrome. As a "placeholder" for now I'll call it, "the finding-atypical-men-syndrome". Sort of.

Let me explain.

A few hundred years ago I met my first love and we had a very intense love affair. Let's call him the Oxford guy. Oxford UK, that's where he did his "masters".

Now this young man was clever, depressive, handsome and wild looking. All those things that any young girl would fall for. And rich. Correction. His family was rich. Well, his family was rich by Australian working-class (my) standards.

But did the Oxford guy take advantage of his inherited wealth? Did he do anything about it? No, he despised it, the bourgeois-nessed-ness of it. So, he left the loot in Australia in the bank, having allowed his mother to bring it all over from the UK (where he was born) to OZ when the aussie dollar was at an historic low. Notice how when even writing about him I write "an historic". As in "an hotel". English. Pathetic. But women accommodate, men charge.

Yes he left the money in the bank. The Oxford guy had PRINCIPLES! So very un-English.

Consequently we lived like paupers and eventually broke up somewhere in Golders Green, England around 1971. My move.

I moved on to my next lover. I think I was single for about 48 hours. Efficiency is one (of my many) strong points.

At the house of the domesticated Dutchman
This next guy was an aussie through and through. Tall, bronzed, sporty, with an accent as broad as a broad bean. A basketballer. A reader. Excellent taste in books by the way. What could go wrong? Well let's not go there. But, and it is a big but - as aussie as he was, this man would NOT drink in pubs with his mates, would not stay behind after the footy matches (he was a player in a country league) with the other footy men, would NOT join the CFA (the Country Fire Authority - a voluntary organization de rigeur in the OZ outback). Nope. Not he. He was a pro-active feminist. Plus he wore an olive green corduroy jacket to work in the local primary school in rural Australia, leading the locals to suspect in their rural aussie wisdom, that he was gay.

My true-blue Aussie.

The locals ostracized us, but we stood on our principles. We were the righteous people. I suspect in hindsight that we may have been a tad obnoxious.

Then there was the Dutchman. Solid (in more ways than one). Being Dutch he didn't believe in marriage. So far so good. So far so Dutch.

But did he smoke grass and watch sexy movies? Did he want to chuck it all in and travel the world like the other Dutchmen? No, not he. He wanted to stay at home and renovate the house. In a leafy suburb. A domestic Dutchman.

It must have been around this time that my brother, known by my "Letter From New York" fans as "TJ", said a very revealing thing to me.

"Sis," he said, "there's something seriously wrong here. Watching you is like reading a book where the heroine keeps making wrong turns. 'Oh no' one says to oneself, as one turns the page. 'Don't let her ... oh no she has!'"

Of course my brother didn't call me 'Sis' back then. I think he called me "You". Whatever.

After the Dutchman there was the American. And what do you think my American had, did, was?

ASIF I'd tell you now. Some of you may guess. But I doubt anyone will get it right. What do nearly ALL Americans have that mine did not?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Currency of Beauty

"She ain't pretty,
She's my sister"
No one - just made it up

A few hundred years ago I had a sort-of-friend in New York. Like many New York friends she came and went in the flick of a New York minute. But we did spend a few evenings in each other's company, and discussed things "New York". She was an aussie. Like me. And a New Yorker, like me.

My friend, let's call her 'D', used to talk of "the currency of beauty" - a unit of exchange, a measurable, a transferable - in New York. Something whose units could be exchanged - for a job, a lover, a whatever. An asset and a measurable. "D" didn't have much capital in the currency, and perhaps that is why she came to define it. Whatever ...

I liked the expression but I didn't take to much notice of it. After all, it didn't concern me, being beautiful ...

But as the years go by, I've started to see its sense. Did 'D' make it up - "the currency of beauty"? If so, she should have trade-marked it.

Have you got change? Can you cash a dollar of 'beauty'?

Je ne sais. But in any case she was correct.

And I don't think it is particularly a New York thing. I think life is easier for the beautiful ... anywhere.

The physically beautiful, that is.

As to the spititually, non-tangibly beautiful, I'm not so sure.

But one thing I do know, and that is that is - as the years go by, beauty and youth become more and not less important.

So unfair!

Who asks to be born ugly?

There's only so much that make-up can do.

And so here is to those un-beautiful people. Those people sans currency.

Here's looking at you kids. And in the mirror. You too!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On Death and Heroin

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
from The Walrus and the Carpenter - Lewis Caroll.

Some years ago I watched a movie called Hotel Sorrento.

It's an Australian movie set in - you guessed it - Sorrento.

Sorrento is a seaside town in the state of Victoria in Australia; the state of Victoria is where I'm from. The movie is about an "expat sister" - a woman living I think in London, who travels back to Australia and who meets up with her living-in-Australia sisters at the beach town-family home in Sorrento.

Great movie - though I can't remember much of the detail.

Living in the U.S. and being Australia-born, I am very aware of the disconnect between myself and my Australian friends and family. But I do remember the friction between the "Hotel Sorrento" expat and her home-grown, home-living sisters.

And of course I identify with the "expat sister".

Alice and the Mad Hatter, Central Park, New York
I've been an expat for some fifteen plus years - and as the years go by, my Australian friends and family are becoming increasingly less (in numbers).

In this day and age I'm not alone or unusual. There are heaps of us 'expats'. People who have taken up a life abroad and because of this, have become distanced from their roots.

We "expats" are not immigrants in a foreign land - we have not moved to another country because of economic or political necessity. We are just - 'somewhere else'.

We are neither tourist nor immigrant. But nevertheless - even if it is because of our own volition - we are distanced.

As the years go by I find my circle of Australian friends becoming smaller. Like layers of an onion at each concentric remove.

Why do we stay away? Why don't we return?

There are many reasons and they are not the same for each "expat".

I've thought about this a lot - as the years go by I am more attached to America and less attached in many ways, to the country of my birth - Australia.

And perhaps because of this 'distance', when I call my friends and family in Australia, our conversations are distilled. They aren't about day-to-day activities because we are not attached to each other in a day-to-day sort of way. The conversations are instead about major life concerns. The bigger picture. It isn't a "natural" situation or dialogue. But my best friends and best family do their best - and it doesn't go unnoticed.

I am always reaching out to my friends and family in Australia. But the circle is shrinking.

Do they know?

Do they care?

Yes of course they do. But they have their own lives.

I appreciate more than they will ever know, those Australians who have remained true family and friends - who are there any time night or day to talk of

heroin and things....

Friday, March 19, 2010

On NOT being Larry King

A survey from department store Debenhams [...] suggests that a man's waistband rises and falls throughout his life. Trousers bottom out at the age of 16 with below-the-hip styles and peak at 57, just seven inches below the armpit.
Men's waistbands have risen and fallen through history

Since coming to America I've become a TV person. That is, instead of doing things that require energy, mental or otherwise, I am quite content in spending my leisure time in front of the telly.

It's easier that way.

I don't have a pet. I don't know the people next door. I don't have any friends (I am a New Yorker). I spend my commute time (two hours per day) reading novels. So in my spare time - what am I to do?

I'm not complaining. I get my kicks from The Joy Behar Show (my current fave). I get my news from CNN ... yes I know it's biased but beggars can't be choosers. If I'm feeling hormonal I can watch a Lifetime movie. If I'm feeling cosmopolitan I can watch the Independent Movie Channel. And if I'm hungry I can watch the Food Channel.

Television in America is all things to all men and most things to some women.

There is only one show that I cannot stand, and that is the Larry King Show. I cannot stand the way he wears braces to hold up his trousers. In Seinfeld-speak, "What's with the braces?"

I believe that he wears braces so that the waistband of his trousers can hang aesthetically around his waist, rather than under his armpits like the trousers of his contemporaries.

So I don't watch the guy. A girl has to have SOME standards!

Alley in her slimmer days
But today I heard about his comment to Kirstie Alley (Cheers, Look Who's Talking, Deconstructing Harry AND Scientologist) about Scientology and her (Kirstie's) weight gain.

Now don't get me wrong - normally I'm all for women being comfortable about how they look. Why SHOULd they look lithe and slim? Yeah - I know - it seems better than looking clumsy and fat ... but the feminist in me takes over.

But the chutzpah of Kirstie Allen - in being overweight AND expousing Scientology as a cure-all.

Kirstie had just agreed with Larry King's statement that Scientology had the best record in America of getting people off drugs.

ALLEY: That's true.

And then Larry King countered with, "Why haven't they helped with you with weight addiction?"

Great punchline Larry.

Your braces are forgiven.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Payback Time - The Doggone Loan is Mine

Me and Carla not in the Schoolyard
Around a hundred years ago I returned from living in a rural area of Australia to my hometown - the City of Melbourne.

I'd been living in the sticks, bringing up my children. During this time I'd been completely out of contact with other grown-ups - being married to the-man-who-didn't-believe-in-telephones (see previous postings).

I wanted to phone my old friend Carla. But I didn't have her number. I DID have her husband's number at his place of work however. Rob (the husband) was a pharmacist and so I phoned the pharmacy. We chatted a bit and then he gave me the home number saying, "I know Carla will be home; the dishwasher broke so she's waiting there for the repair man. He was meant to come first thing in the morning but he's not there yet. She's in a BAD mood."

What came over me? I know full well what it's like to be waiting home for a repairman from a large company. But all humanity left me when I phoned Carla who had not heard a peep from me for over ten years.

"Hello," I said when she answered, realizing she was unlikely to recognize my voice after so long a period. "Is this Mrs Strongarm?" "Yes," she answered.

"This is the dishwasher company," I replied. "I am calling to inform you that we no longer service your model. You will need to throw it out and buy another one."

Dead silence. I panicked. Had she had a heart attack? Become catatonic?

"Carla, it's me. Kate!" I yelled.

"Bitch!" she replied.

Well said.

In the long run, life is fair. I have to tell you dear Carla - today was payback time for yours truly.

Today I decided to see how much I could borrow to finance a rental property (see A Room with a View).

First I called Wells Fargo. I'd had my first mortgage in America there and it was all paid out. Impeccable references. The loan was mine.

I was on hold for a hundred years and then I got a "Jason". I should have known. I have written about customer service reps called Jason before. BUT - they used to exist only in Australia. O my god - are they spreading, multiplying?

However Jason turned out to be OK. He told me I had gotten through to the wrong department and that he'd put me through to the right one. After a few centuries I was put on to an "Andy". Maybe it was because I misheard and thought his name was "Randy" and kept calling him that - but whatever - Andy-Randy insisted on getting ALL my details and then told me, "Wrong department." There ensued a number of other wrong departments till I got Paul. Paul was a real man. And human as well. He cut the bullsh*t and told me it didn't matter how much I owned, earned, where I wanted to buy - I could only borrow $480,000 or 68% of the property value. Wells Fargo policy on investment properties.

Not what I wanted but at least he was honest and didn't say I was at the wrong department.

Next stop ING. I have a few accounts with ING. I didn't really expect they'd have different lending policies than Wells Fargo, but better to be sure, so I called.

I was on hold for a few decades when a "Peter" came on the line. "Hello I am Peter and I am happy to help you," blah blah...

So I explained that I wanted to borrow money to purchase an investment property in New York.

Pause and then.

"Oh so you want to borrow money to buy a rental property and you want to borrow from ING," said Peter.

"Noooo," I drawled, "I have called ING because I want to borrow from the toilet."

He hung up.

I'm not meant to be a landlord.

As MJ said, "I think I told you, I'm a lover not a fighter."

And I'm sorry Carla!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Room with a View

My father says that there is only one perfect view, that of the sky over our heads.
George Emerson in E. M. Forster's "A Room with a View"

The sky WASN'T overhead but you could sure to see a lot of it.

My friend (C) and I stared straight ahead. We were standing in a bare living-room. Nothing obstructed our vision.

We were looking at a front-on view of the east side of Manhattan from a room in the apartment building aptly named "The View".

Imagine getting up in the morning and seeing that view!

It helped that it was a sunny almost-spring day. But still. It WAS spectacular.

T. S. Cornerstone - a family-owned real estate firm - has apparently bought up the only waterfront acres in Long Island City, New York, which is just across the East River from mid-town Manhattan.

They are developing a complex of apartment buildings, parks, sporting grounds, entertainment areas, and a pre-school on those acres and C and I were being given a guided tour.

I was looking to buy an investment property.

But not that one. Though I'd like to. I think.

We were looking at one of the apartments that looks directly over the river. Its terrace along was about the size of my living room in Manhattan.

But it was a bit above my price range ...

However there ARE other apartments in the building with views and balconies. Just not as good. City views aren't 275 degrees and balconies (although of reasonable size) are balconies rather than terraces.

The "owners" of the development have an interesting concept and I wonder if it'll work. It has a lot going for it. The area looks like going ahead.

SilverCup Studios has plans on developing the largest movie studio outside of Los Angeles and plans on pumping over a billion dollars into the area; CitiBank is building their 2nd tower across the street from their original one in Long Island City. The City of New York has allocated $46 million dollars to develop parks, public spaces, a new public school, police precinct, library ...

But meanwhile, the area where The View is situated is in what was once a poor area - an area where old clapped-out residences shelter next to commercial establishments that have gone to seed. There are a few interesting stores and a scattering of restaurants, but not a lot.

A Sitting Room at The View
And I didn't fall in love with the owners' concept. It's all very nice having basketball courts, parks, gyms, home theater rooms, swimming pool, billiard rooms etc located in the buildings, but I don't like the self-contained-ness of it.

There was an institutional feel. Long corridors with many many apartments on each level. A bit like a large hotel. A feeling of anonymity.

I have to do my math. Property tax is only $9 per month for the next fifty years - or something LIKE that. I need to understand why. It'd normally be over $300 per month. Maintenance fees are OK - around $600 per month and that includes gas, central heating AND cooling as well as 24 hour doorman, the pool, the gym ...

Hey it's starting to sound better already.

Each apartment is equipped with high-end appliances - dish washer, microwave, huge fridge, washer, dryer. Oh and did I say there are 14' ceilings ... And it's all brand spanking new.

Most of the apartments are cheap by Manhattan standards. The cheapest ones are around $600,000 and bring in $2,400 per month rent. Interest rates here are around 4.25%.

As I say, I have to do the math.

And remember the area. Poor. Not many restaurants. NO clothes shops.

And what if it wasn't a sunny day? Would the view have been so fantastic?

Yes, there WERE wonderful views of Manhattan, and Grand Central Station is only 3 minutes away by subway.

But then, as my friend C remarked,

It's NOT Manhattan.

And hey! I don't have to LIVE there!

Stay tuned.

P.S. If you want to see more of The View, you can visit the website, HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Put your money ... WHERE?

If you have any money, that is.

Save in Australia, spend in America
I decided today to write something practical.

For some time I've wondered why the interest on Australian "term deposits" (called CDs in the U.S.) were around 6% APY and in the U.S. CDs (called Term Deposits in Australia) were only gaining an APY interest rate of round 1.4%. I assumed, wrongly I know know, that I was comparing apples and pears. Corn with quandongs ... whatever.

But no. I checked and rechecked and APY (annual percentage yield) means the same thing in both countries.A

It's just that Australia has higher interest rates.

So if you are a dual Australian American citizen, send your money back to OZ!!!

I'm going to.

Oh, and here's a link about it - Bad CD rates force US investors to buy stocks.

On the other hand, if you can afford to buy property, the U.S. is the place as the interest rates are low. My mortgage is 4.25%.

Why isn't there more in the financial press about this interest rate disparity? Seems to me that if you had enough capital you could make a killing.

"Save in Australia, spend in America" is my new motto. In fact it's my first ever motto.

Dress down summer
Summer seemed just around the corner last week in New York. Cloudless blue skies and the sidewalks (streets) full of people. I have to write "sidewalks (streets)" because in the U.S. "street" means road. Road means road as well, I think because Americans like saying, "when the rubber hits the road".

But after a few days of sunshine, the weather became gloomy and it rained and rained. That annoying light Melbourne-y rain - for four days straight, spanning the weekend. So - no gym, no manicure. Instead I did my 2009 tax, a task I hate. And hence this interest in $$$.

Summer in New York, means women walking around in underwear on dress-down Fridays, never-ending heat with no cool spells, ice-cream vendors, Shakespeare in Central Park, stiffling subways (take the bus) and free concerts at the Seaport Music Festival at the South Street Seaport.

As I said a few posts back, eat your heart out, other people.

The Tea Party, the Coffee Party and the Beer Party
I'll write more on the Tea and Coffee (political) parties in the US later. Meanwhile Australians Abroad has started the Beer Party. It's on Facebook. You can join HERE.

We need a slogan.

Contenders are:

1: We shouldn't have a slogan
2: Your shout
3: Our beer is better than your beer
4: We meet in pubs
5: for the pursuit of happiness
6: all of the above (inc 1:)

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Tolerance Side

There was a doco on CNN tonight - "Her name was Steven" - about a trans-gender City Council Manager in Largo, Florida.

When in 2007 Largo, Florida, City Manager Steven Stanton announced that he planned to become a woman, he lost his job - solely because of the proposed gender change.

I have known a person who "crossed gender". And it isn't something that anyone would do for fun, or for any sinister motive, or wish on their worst enemy.

I can't say I was shocked or surprised at the Florida decision. However I was amazed - although the religious right never ceases to amaze me - when a Florida Council Baptist spokesperson referred derogatorily to "the Tolerance Side", and said of Steven (Susan) Stanton - "if Jesus was alive today he'd want Steven terminated."

The percentage of people who feel that they need a gender change is very small. So what's the problem? It isn't as though it is an infectious disease. There isn't going to be a gender-change pandemic.

To be honest, I feel a bit uncomfortable myself about men becoming women and (less frequently apparently) women becoming men. And I felt uneasy about my friend's gender change when he/she went "all the way". But that's MY problem, and should not be inflicted on others.

Yes, I felt uneasy about my friend's gender change.

And unhappily and not surprisingly, she was never at peace. She now "gone to god" as our mum would say.

I remembered my friend tonight as I watched "Her name was Steven".

Her name was Leslie.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seize the Day, Seize the Tooth

Carpe diem, carpe diem
Sing cuckoo sing
Death is a comin' in,
Death is a comin' in
The Fugs, Carpe Diem

WITCH: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog ...
from Macbeth, (the three witches)

When I first came to America, over sixteen years ago, I thought - at least I can get my teeth fixed. America - land of the perfect pearly white and regular teeth. "Smile, you're in America!"

I've never had beautiful teeth. Growing up in Australia and having a "state school" education, I was subjected to visits from the "school dentist".

I've long since repressed the details, but I can say, that by the age of twelve I'd had no less that 34 "fillings". Amalgam. And I didn't even eat candy or sugary substances. AND I brushed my teeth regularly.

And now the rooster has come home to do whatever roosters do.

Ever since turning thirty I've had a fear of dentists, as it was about then that I realized the extent of the damage that had been inflicted on my teeth and my jaw-line. And I THINK it was about that time that I saw "The Apartment" - that scary Polanski film where some psyched-out guy lies in bed alone, pulls out a tooth and pushes it into the dry-wall.

Teeth problems equal meltdown in the Juliff Manhattan household.

I have felt I'd sooner die than loose a front tooth.

And now the rubber has hit the road; the tooth has hit the gum ...

As Whitlam said in 1972 and as Obama said in 2009:

"It's Time."

Because yesterday, while watching TV, a chunk of one of my front teeth fell off. The very tooth whose decline my periodontist has predicted since 2005. It is now an EX tooth. Dead. Demised. Finished. Like the parrot in the Monty Python pet-shop sketch.

And as it is a front tooth, I am beside myself with worry. I remember my previous visits to the dentist and the periodontist. They both warned me: we cannot save those front teeth - yes, I remember ... but what is the alternative? I assume EXTRACTION! And though I assume there'll be some solution (implants, a plate, a bridge), of course it cannot be achieved in the same day. Which means ... being front-toothless!

I REFUSE to venture out in public like a crone - like one of Macbeth's witches.

Was it Shakespeare who wrote of old age as being, "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything"? Notice it was the "sans teeth" that came first!

The saga of the front tooth - stay tuned.

Meanwhile we have to put up with Sarah Palin. I'd more or less decided not to even write about her. The more her name is mentioned the more important she becomes. But her latest excursion into interpreting the bible has taken the cake.

I was told that now she thinks that Palm Sunday is commemorating Jesus writing notes on his palm. Surly she jests.

But jest or not, I wish her 101 root canals. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Extremities of Not Being Talked About

Ah, my congratulations, Wilde. Your play is a great success. The whole of London's talking about you.
Your highness, there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
(There follows fifteen seconds of restrained and sycophantic laughter)
Oh, very witty, Wilde ..... very, very witty.
There is only one thing in the world worse than being witty, and that is not being witty.
Monty Python's Flying Circus -
"Oscar Wilde"

I've always loved that Monty Python dialogue, the take-off of the so-called Oscar Wilde witticism. The absurdity of it.

And yet ... how absurd is it? How unreal?

I thought about it last night when I was watching the Oscars. Suddenly it wasn't so absurd, although someone was.

I was watching the 'In Memoriam' section of the Oscars where oh-my-god-what-happened-to-sweet-Baby-James was strumming along singing, "In My Life", while clips of movies featuring actors who died in 2009 along with their portrait-stills, showed in the background.

As the song faded out and Sweet-Baby-James' guitar stopped pretending to weep , I thought, "Hey where was Farrah Fawcett?" I played it back, assuming I'd missed it.

I remembered Farrah Fawcett dying the same day as Michael Jackson. I KNEW I hadn't gotten the year wrong. I watched again, carefully.

She wasn't there.

Why not?

For her role in "Extremities" alone, she should have been. I just LOVED the bit where she tortured that rapist dick-head!

But the powers-that-be chose to not choose Farrah.

And I suppose that it just goes to show, there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

All things must pass.

Nothing changes.

There's only one thing wrong with being shown in the Oscars' "In Memoriam", and that's not being shown in the Oscars' "In Memoriam".

Or is it the other way around?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Wake in Fright

"What's the matter with him? He'd rather talk to a woman than drink?"
Dick to John, in the Australian film, "Wake in Fright" (1971)

"'Wake in Fright' received generally excellent reviews throughout the world [...]. However, despite garnering unanimous critical support at Cannes and in Australia, 'Wake in Fright' suffered poor domestic box-office returns. ... it was also thought that 'Wake In Fright' was perhaps too uncomfortably direct and uncompromising to draw large Australian audiences."
Wiki entry

Near the Gym (Asphalt Green)
Today I woke at six a.m. - early for me for a Sunday, but I had a lot on my plate, having veg'ed around all Saturday. But in vain had I set the alarm for the crack of dawn, for of course as soon as I awoke, I turned on the telly and promptly fell back asleep.

Soundly asleep, only to wake in fright, three hours later.

Horror of horrors, there I was in my dream, a participant (albeit passive) in some CNN panel show, surrounded by Republicans who were droning on about why America shouldn't have health care reform. Everytime I tried to speak I was drowned out by a very Republican man - who looked suspiciously like Sarah Palin in drag - who insisted on ignoring me.

It is SO weird when a television show enters one's dreams. Quite disconcerting. And especially so when that show is full of Republicans or Palin look-alikes of either gender.

I endured the torture for three long hours where upon I awoke exhausted, but relieved to be back in Kansas - or in my case, New York. At least people here are relatively sane.

My mood returned to normal when I opened my email. There I saw an excellent "Letter to the President" from Michael Moore. The one about bi-partisanship, that is. Mr Moore has written more than one. You can read the bipartisanship one HERE.

The Supermarket Van
Mail read, it was coffee, shower and then brunch, gym, shopping and Korean manicure. I certainly fast-tracked my usual weekend activities. Got 'em done in a record time of three hours.

Before I go - a couple of recommendations - I'm leaving time today to transcribe a guest column. One of my two New York friends has promised to write an amusing piece on "A movie on 86th Street", which will feature an exposé of a surprising use of cell phones by the young women of New York.

But for now, the recommendations.

1: Wake in Fright. Yes I woke in fright today but I also want to recommend the movie, "Wake in Fright". I saw it a few hundred years ago and have tried to get hold of it ever since. It has only recently been released on DVD having completely skipped the video-tape revolution of last century. It looks like it's only available in region 4 DVD or imported Blu-ray in the U.S., at the exorbitant price of 63.05 USD. But the price is bound to come down.

The BYO Coffee Mug in Manhattan
2: hookTURN's BYO Coffee cup. My son and his partner sent me one and it is perfect. You can read about these AMAZING environmentally and user-friendly coffee mugs HERE.

hookTurn's website says, "Made from silicone, it's firm but flexible, light-weight but tough, and will withstand 200ºC heat. It's pretty much indestructible." I must confess, I'm a little confused; how can something that is virtually indestructible be "green"? But no doubt there's an explanation.

In all it's a great mug. It doesn't burn your hand even when full of piping hot coffee, and it is attractive as well as practical.

As hookTURN's blurb says, "change the habit (of using paper cups), one coffee at a time."

Stay tuned.


Friday, March 05, 2010

Being Janis

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
Janis Joplin, "Mercedes Benz", 1970

I was in Athens, Greece when Janis Joplin died. Late 1970. I remember it well. Hendrix died around the same time. It was about two years after "the Summer of Love". In Athens and elsewhere, western travellers grouped together and were shocked. It was like a bit of us had been taken away. A something that we somehow knew, we'd never get back.

United only by our our whiteness and affluence (not that we felt 'affluent'), we mourned the loss of an icon. And yet many of us, myself included, did not at that time comprehend the magnitude of our loss.

I remember only the newspaper headlines, and a communal feeling shared by my fellow back-packer globe-trotters, a feeling that George Harrison immortalized in "All things must pass". It didn't hit home back then. It has now.

Now, I never tire of hearing Janis.

She's so far away from "me", so different - or so I am told. I'm controlled, secular, contained, and although I hate to admit it, "English". Maybe, but maybe not. Joplin expresses the soul of us white women as no other artist has.

Janis Joplin was so "full on". Has anyone been so "full on" since?

Maybe I've missed them and perhaps it is true that I've become more main-stream in my old age. But I'm open. Is it there, in Madonna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga. Michelle Shocked? Nope. There's cleverness in their understanding of the market. But the passion, the soul? No. It just doesn't exist.

I'm not saying Joplin was the greatest. I'm saying that she tapped into her generation WITH PASSION.

And as an adjunct, Joplin et al, defined contemporary music.

And yet... and yet ... there still exist people in this world, who say that America has no culture.

Who are these people?

They obviously don't think of Joplin, Hendrix, Dylan, Mamet, Lennon (yes, Lennon), Pollack, Warhol, T.S Elliot, the Coen Brothers ... the list goes on an on.

But even if it's true, even if the first Woodstock did not exist, even if Dylan was a nowhere man and Louis Armstrong was just a man who played the trumpet ... you have to admit that Janis Joplin was an all-time great.

And so when I'm feeling down, I plug in to the music of that all-time great.

Janis, you are missed.

- Thank you to Simon, for reminding me.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

More on the Color Purple - OOPS - Compromise

A story, probably apocryphal, is of Marilyn Monroe saying dreamily to Arthur Miller: 'We should have a child, Arthur. Imagine a baby with your brains and my looks.' To which Miller retorted: 'Yes, but what if it got your brains and my looks?'

Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.
Shlomo Yitzhaki (1040-1105)

Pucci Scarf with Irises
Strangely no sooner had I had posted "The color Compromise", than I received a phone call from Camp Obama, Club Obama, whatever it is now called. Without taking a breath, the caller launched into and completed her spiel.

I'm convinced that these Obama call people are given special breathing lessons and that smokers are not allowed, or perhaps the people manning the call-centers are retired snorkel divers with over-sized lungs and time on their hands. Or perhaps, like their leader, they have no pulse and need very little oxygen.

"We aren't asking for a donation," she started. "We are LEAVING!" That got my intention as no doubt it was intended to. I tried to speak but she was already halfway through her next sentence. "We are LEAVING to campaign for the mid-term elections in November and we need money. This time we aren't asking for lumps sums, we are asking for installments, a little money every month." A pause. My chance!

"I'm sick of the man," I told her. "The fiasco of a health-care bill that isn't even a bill. It's useless. And I am tired of this bi-partisanship thing - bi-partisan doesn't work with partisans. Take me off your list. I am SO disappointed."

After I had hung up I was became even more angry. "Installments" my eye! I can afford cash for god's sake ... I live on the upper east side in Manhattan and I am employed. Don't these people do demographics?

I'm sick of the sight of the man. I thought I'd gotten away from arrogant professors and their ilk when I left Melbourne University. And as for fiasco of a health-care bill that doesn't exist, and doesn't ensure decent health care for ALL Americans ...

Fish For Sale, Michigan, 2009
And yeah, I know he's better than Sarah Palin. But who isn't. A fish would be better. I could do better; my cat could do better, if I had a cat, which I do not. Like the health-care bill,it doesn't exist.

But something DOES exist that didn't exist - for me anyway. My new Emelio Pucci scarf. I was so pleased with myself for saving the Obama money that I stopped off at Bloomingdales on my way home tonight and spent it. You can see it in the photo top-left, next to the vase of irises. Another splurge.

But enough of Obama. Enough already yet as my mother used to say.

Here are a couple of items about entertainment.

Last Saturday I watched "A Serious Man" by the Coen brothers. Those guys are brilliant. I don't often like black comedies, but this one was riveting. A mix of Mamet, early Woody Allen and of course Joel and Ethan Coen. It is all good and especially the ending. And for those of us baby boomers, the sets will bring home memories of those dull old days of the sixties before the world turned to color. The decor, the clothes, they are 'just there', understated and authentic. It is a very Jewish film but you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate it. Although it does help to have a mother who used to say "already yet".

The other piece of entertainment is a very cute little girl in a packaged fish commercial. I saw it last weekend when I was relaxing in front of the telly.

Some sad-sacks have criticized her on the web, for being bossy. A word to those people - although I doubt that any of them read my blog. (Most if not all of my readers know the difference between reality and television commercials.) It is a funny ad, she's cute and despite those people who probably still believe in the tooth fairy, the ad is not setting out to make mothers feel guilty.

"Have you ever catched a minced fish?"

Watch it.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The color 'Compromise'?

"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised."
Chinua Achebe

"The 'morality of compromise' sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don't compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised."
Dale Carnegie

"A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, 'Huh. It works. It makes sense.'"
Barack Obama

The latest and to-strive-for thing here in The United States, is being bi-partisan. Or is it?

Is there something essentially good about compromise (bi-partisanship)? I don't THINK so.

But I bring it up because I heard designer - Isaac Mizrahi, who created Michelle Obama's dress for the State of the Union address - say tonight, on the Joy Behar show, that that Michelle's dress was "so bi-partisan". And hence "good".

Did he mean that it was bi-partisan because it was purple - a mix of red (Republican) and blue (Democratic) as Behar suggested? Isaac Mr Mizrahi agreed with this, but I suspect he just wanted to get on with it and to change the subject.

In any case, he claimed that the dress was "bi-partisan" and therefore good, and further, that the color purple could almost be re-named as the color "bi-partisan".

So ... Michelle wears bi-partisan and her husband wants to be, bi-partisan.

Personally I find Michelle Obama more gutsy than her husband. SHE doesn't appear to be a compromiser.

Have we thrown out "The Decider" merely to replace him with "The Compromiser"? The mind boggles.

Did George W compromise? Did Bill Clinton? Jimmy Carter? JFK? Martin Luther King Jnr? Mandela, Ghandi?

Look at the range of what those people claimed to have stood for. And despite the disparities between them, all of them aimed for what they believed in - not espousing 50% of it - with the other 50% of their proposals being what they were AGAINST.

The current sort-of-proposed bi-partisan health care bill is a travesty. It is an abortion (no pun intended).

Taking the worst from both sides of Congress is taking the worst, whichever way you put it.

And talking of congress, will Obama stand by America's gay and bi citizens, supporting the rights of individuals' sexual orientation, as well as promoting bi-partisan?

I don't think so. BI only goes so far.

Or not far enough ...