Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unfriended by a Friendless Person Already!

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get high with a little help from my friends, - Lennon McCartney 1967

Oh, Village Voice nothing
New Yorker nothing
Sing Out and Folkways nothing
Harry Smith and Allen Ginsberg
nothing, nothing, nothing - from The Nothing Song, the Fugs

It's nearly the end of a very eventful year. And what more of a fitting way for it to end than by being unfriended by a "Facebook friend".

It's not very nice to be unfriended. For starters, "unfriend" isn't even a word, let alone a verb! Having an ungrammatical thing done to one is disconcerting to say the least.

But all that aside, it's like being back in the schoolyard, behind the shelter-sheds in the early 1960s. Chewy-on-your-boot-I'm-not-your-friend-anymore sort of thing. But in the case of Facebook friends, you aren't even given a chance to say, "ASIF-I-care-I-never-liked-you-anyway-dickhead."

In Facebook, the unfriender has the last word.

A bit of me sort of wishes I'd unfriended this particular person first, several years ago in fact. But truth be told, I felt sorry for him, and like others thought I could help him. You see, his major gripe with the world appears to be that he has trouble making friends. And a bunch of us have been trying to give the guy some pointers.

But really, now I come to think about it, being able to make friends is not a teachable skill. We would have been better off steering him to Dale Carnegie's "How to Make Friends and Influence People".

I'm having a lateral moment! "Carnegie" - "Carnage". I just remembered - I was walking to my bus tonight in Manhattan and the movie "Carnage" was playing at a cinema near my stop. Its name was displayed on those neon tile things they put up on the outside of cinemas.

There was an out-of-town couple behind me while I was waiting at the lights. They seemed pretty knowledgeable and were obviously in New York to see a concert. I could hear them talking about Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, which was to be played at Carnegie Hall this evening by The New York String Orchestra. I was impressed! Until ...

"We'll never find it!" the woman was saying. I was HOPING she'd ask me "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" so that I could answer, "Practice!" but her husband suddenly shouted out, "It's here. We are here already darling. Look! (pointing at the cinema's tile display) C-A-R-N-A-G-E! Carnegie!!!"

End-of-Lateral_Moment and I kid you not.

Back to my tale. Yep, I was unfriended by a friendless person.

If I were a born-in-the-USA American I'd say "How ironic!"

But as I am not, I will just expand out in English words and say, "WTF!"

As Judge Judy often quotes, "No good deed goes unpunished".

I embedded the Fugs "Nothing Song" above, not just because parts of it epitomize the unfriender, but because of its humour. The Fugs, a New York band, a favorite of mine and of my brother.

So favorite, that their song "How Sweet I Roam'd From Field to Field" was chosen to be sung at his remembrance ceremony at Bear Gully, Australia, this month. I was fortunate enough to be able to fly out to attend.

As Tim's sons stood on the rocks at Bear Gully and sand William Blake's poem to the music of The Fugs I looked back. Only the immediate family were actually on the rocks. Behind us was a hill. The hill was literally covered with Tim's friends. They'd come to remember him.

Real friends.

Non-cyber friends.

My friends

Saturday, December 24, 2011

ObamaCare and the Bloating Think Cake

It wouldn't be cool or professional to count the eradication of smallpox as part of the modern condition..." From Saturday by Ian McEwan

This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor. Bernie Sanders (US Senator from Vermont) regarding the bailout of the U.S. financial system - 2008

St Kilda, Melbourne, OZ
I've recently come back from OZ. "OZ", Australian for Australia.

I spent just under three weeks there, and seasoned New Yorker that I am, I succumbed. Succumed to the appreciation - as I always do - of a caring state.

And even when I haven't just come back from OZ, it always puzzles me that the terms "ObamaCare" and "Nanny State" are meant to be derogatory. For my Australian readers, "ObamaCare" is a pejorative term refering to the healthcare legislation proposed by President Barack Obama.

What's so bad about a society that cares for the unfortunate, the disadvantaged? What is so bad about progress? The reasons people are unhappy with change has been analyzed and explained far better than I could ever write. But the difference in "care" between the two societies, Australian and American never fails to astound me.

Vietnamese Restaurant Menu, Victoria Street, Melbourne
In On Not Being Fiona, just before I left New York in November this year, I wrote. "There's something about a place, any place, when you are about to leave it."

Too true, but now it is Australia that I have left.

Upon returning, people, New Yorkers, asked me the usual questions. This time, one of the most bizarre was, "What's the food like there?" Are you kidding? I thought - but was too polite to answer. Melbourne must have some of the best restaurants in the world. And though you can get nearly every possible cuisine in New York, there's nothing like Victoria Street Richmond in Melbourne, where Vietnamese restaurants occupy almost every inch of real-estate. So what if the spelling on the menus isn't the best; the food it to die for.

In my last post on leaving New York I wrote,

"The place, usually a city, appears to magically take on its best features, its quintessential being. And I wonder, "why am I leaving?" This is especially so when the city is New York."

And so when two weeks ago when I left Australia, I wondered, "What am I doing, leaving the place of my birth, my education, my friends, my family?"

Usually the period of adjustment, moving from OZ to the US takes a day or two. This time, it's taken longer. I wonder why?

Is it because I'm older? Because of changes in my family? Because of the threat of having Newt Gingrich as president of the US? I survived Bush; why not Gingrich? Well I know the answer to that ... but you know what I mean.


I'm here now, and Australia is too fast becoming a memory.

A memory.

A memory in need of refreshing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Not Being Fiona

As for New York City, it is a place apart. There is not its match in any other country in the world. Pearl S Buck

There's something about a place, any place, when you are about to leave it.

Well, for me, anyway.

The place, usually a city, appears to magically take on its best features, its quintessential being. And I wonder, "why am I leaving?" This is especially so when the city is New York.

It happens to me every time I go from one place to another. Even if I'm not going for long, I suddenly appreciate fully where I am, and feel a sense of loss even before losing.

And it happened again, so predictably, this evening.

I was meeting my friend Babs at David Burke's "Fishtail" restaurant on 62nd. "Sixty Second between Park and Lex, see you there," Babs had told me just over twenty four hours ago. And so at 5:45pm precise I set off. No bus, so I caught a cab.

While the cab navigated the traffic on Park Avenue, I stared out the window as if seeing New York for the first time. The up-market, old-money Upper East Side apartments with their gloved gray-uniformed doormen. Bell-hops. Straight out of a sixties Hitchcock. The yellow cabs. The rush and buzz that is New York.

Wandering into "Fishtail" I saw Babs waiting at the bar. "There's my friend," I explained to the rather obsequious greeter who was querying whether or not I had a reservation. Without waiting for his permission I started toward Babs, but my path was blocked by a young waitress, who I was later to learn, was from New Jersey.

Yeah, so New Jersey has an image problem. I know that, but I was not prepared for what happened next.

Suddenly her hair was on fire. She had long free-flowing brown hair and it had been ignited by one of the many obligatory candles - except in this case they were square not round - it is de rigueur in Manhattan to be as different as possible. "If we are going to have candles, darhling, let them be square," I could imagine the Fishtail's interior decorator demanding.

The air smelt of singed hair, and while most diners were oblivious, Mr Obsequious-Greeter was hot on the waitress's tail. Not worrying about her well-being, more concerned with the restaurant's ambience, he ushered the singed girl away.

United Babs and I then found our table, perused the menu, ordered cocktails, and relaxed after out hard working-week.

We were talking about lipsticks (yes, really) when suddenly the conversation turned upon the topic of a "Fiona". "Who's called Fiona? So Australian," I was rattling on. "Are there Fionas in America?"

"I hope not," said Babs.

The meal was delightful. The wine was from New Zealand. We talked of work, of men, of relatives, of OZ. And then along came Miss-Singed-Hair.

"Where are you from?" she demanded, New York style. We looked at each other. "Ur, we are from, hey where are we from?" I asked Babs, not quite understanding what the singed waitress was asking.

"You mean because of our accents?" asked Babs.

But no. The waitress explained she meant were we just come from work, the theater, shopping? "From work," we told her.

Then Ms Singed had something else to say.

"I wish I had an accent!" "You do," we replied in unison with another waitress who had just joined us. "Where are you from?"

Miss Wishing-I-Had-an-Accent looked downcast and muttered sub-audibly, "New Jersey".

Being kind folk we pretended we hadn't heard her and the conversation moved on.

"Are you married?" Wishing-I-Had-an-Accent asked us. Out of the blue.

We both looked confused. Were we? Well yes. But sort of, not what one thinks of, understands as, "married".

"Well yes," said Babs uncertainly.

"Maybe you are married to each other?" asked Ms Wishing-I-Had-an-Accent.

We were stunned. Why would she think this? We explained that we were not and had no desire to be.

"It's just that a lot of people who come here, are," Ms Wishing-I-Had-an-Accent explained.

I was starting to think she really WAS from New Jersey when Babs, ever the social facilitator asked about her hair and the conversation drifted away onto more mundane matters.

Our Kate-Babs dinner then resumed, and after an hour or so during which we had to keep explaining to the wine waiter that no, we did NOT drink Chardonnay, we left and caught our cabs.

The night was clear. The streets were busy. It was neither too hot, or too cold.

It was just right.

It was, New York.

I waited for the elevator to my apartment in a New York state of mind.

As I said, there's something about a place, any place, when you are about to leave it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cell Phone Technology and New York Manners - Can We Take This Offline?

... there is no conversation that is agreeable; there is no modesty, no attention to one another. They talk very loud, very fast and altogether. If they ask you a question, before you can utter three words of your answer they will break out upon you again and talk away. - from "The Works of John Adams" Aug 23, 1774, as cited in The New York Times Were New Yorkers Always Seen as Fast-Talking and Rude?

I happened to click on one of those online support chat links last week. I was re-installing "Quicken" and had a couple of questions.

The little chat window popped up and I asked my question. Several seconds later, a reply came back.

Yasim: Hi, my name is Yasim. Thank you for contacting Quicken, please allow me a moment to read your question.

and a few seconds later,

Yasim: Hi Kate, how are you?

Me: It doesn't really matter how I am, but seeing as you ask, I am frustrated with your product!

There was a long pause. I started to time it, but became bored and clicked the 'x' to close the window.

What's with these people? What do they mean, "how are you?" Obviously you are not on top of the world if you have been forced to "talk" to a faceless someone, only possibly human, using a virtual window on a computer. Enough said!

But on reflection I felt sorry for Yasim. He or she was obviously in India and is a very nice person and the "How are you" was auto-generated, beyond his control. Still. I've lived in New York for over a decade. I had little patience even before I came here. And now I've acclimated. So you can imagine ...

New Yorkers Communicating
Yes my patience threshold is in the negative.

New Yorkers rude? I don't THINK so. We just don't have time for small-talk.

In fact, real New Yorkers don't have time for ANY talk, other than their own.

Take my New York friend Stella. She called me the other day on my home phone. I'd just walked in the door and was coughing and sneezing and feeling quite unwell.

After listening to her for 20 minutes I said, "I'm sorry, but I am feeing quite unwell. Can we take this off-line?"

"Can we take this off-line?" is New-York-speak for "I don't want to listen to this anymore".

But Stella hadn't heard me, or if she had, it hadn't registered, and she kept on with a soliloquy worthy of Hamlet in its length.

"Maybe if I died she'd notice and stop" I was thinking, when there was a pause. If you wait long enough, even a New Yorker will run out of breath. "I am feeling really ill; I need to go to bed!" I croaked. And was heard. There is a god after all I thought as I collapsed on the sofa.

Color-coordinated New Yorker on Cell Phone
When I first came to New York I was intrigued with how New Yorkers, when they called, would when you picked up start rattling on with whatever thoughts were in their mind. I'd spend minutes trying to decipher what appeared to be streams of consciousness which would make James Joyce appear succinct.

Eventually I'd but in with, "Who IS this?"

Inevitably the response would come back, "It's me!"

Technology has cured many ills and improved our quality of life no end. We had Guttenberg and his printing press, the spinning jenny revolutionizing the fabric industry. Dr Salk and his polio vaccine. And for the past several years, smart phones and their visual caller-id function.

Life is good. No longer need we ask, "Who are you?"

There it is, the caller's name clearly pixelled on one's iPhone or Android cell phone.

Yep, technology has an answer for everything. Or if it hasn't, it's only a matter of time.

Just ask any New Yorker.

But be quick about it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Torture by iPhone

Why didn't the clock wake him? He was such a light sleeper! "Arvie!" she called; no answer. "Arvie !" she called again, with a strange ring of remonstrance mingling with the terror in her voice. Arvie never answered. - from "Arvie Aspinall's Alarm Clock", by Henry Lawson


I'd had my iPhone-4s for just four days. Prior to this I'd been an Android Samsung gal. And I'd used heaps of Samsung Galaxy apps, including the inbuilt alarm feature.

Before I go on, I have to explain - alarms are of special significance in my life. Being a child of OZ (Australia) I grew up on Henry Lawson stories. One in particular caught my attention, and stayed with me - "Arvie Aspinall's Alarm Clock".

It is all about a little boy forced because of economic circumstances, to get up at the crack of dawn to earn a crust. It's a short story and in the end little Arvie doubts the Protestant work ethic (he was an intelligent child), gets a bad cold, and fails to wake at the sound of his alarm clock. He has died in the night.

I remember both of my parents telling me this story and dinning it into me that life was cruel, bosses were even crueler, and something else ... about capitalism ... but I forget what that was.

What struck me at the time was that Arvie owned a clock. I didn't. And that he had a job. I didn't.

This just goes to show that you can't count on your kids getting your message.

In any case, because of, or in spite of little Arvie, I've always had a thing about alarm clocks.

I'd liked my Samsung Galaxy alarm app. It was easy to set, and in the morning would start by sounding its alarm sound very very softly, and slowly increasing the volume. Starting off almost sub-auditory. By the time it reached hearing threshold, I'd be awake.

But then, I bought the iPhone-4S.

The inbuilt alarm on the iPhone has just one set volume. You can make it soft or loud, but as far as I can tell, there is no feature to have it start soft and morph to high. There seemed to be no way of setting it to come on at a very low volume and then to increase it until you woke. Furthermore, I am not familiar enough with iPhones to easily navigate the settings section. So I was unable to tailor the phone to play an alarm sound of my choice. I was stuck with the default which is something mid-way between a 1960's ambulance siren and a New York fire alarm.

For a few days I walked around a shattered wreck. And then DING - it dawned on me ... there must be an app for that.

So I cybered over to the cyber market-place and bought the first alarm app that had 4 stars. It looked good. You could set the alarm so the sound started off softly softly, and you could even set the number of seconds till it reached full volume. Plus there was a flashlight feature that I didn't bother with. I'd look at that later, I thought.

And so, on Sunday night I went to sleep, certain that I'd awake to the gentle sounds of Vivaldi's Four Seasons Autumn.


Yep. You got it. I'd forgotten to disable the iPhone default app alarm. And what's more the flashlight feature of my new app had defaulted to "on".

At 6:58 am precise I was awakened to the sound of ambulance sirens and fire alarms at full bore, drowning out Vivaldi's Autumn which cut in at exactly the same time, and accompanied by a searing iPhone flashlight searing straight through my retinas into my brain.

Enough already yet. Arvie, my mum and dad were right.

Alarm clocks suck!

Bring on the revolution.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Remembrance of All Things Must Pass

Sunrise doesn't last all morning
A cloudburst doesn't last all day
Seems my love is up
And has left you with no warning
But it's not always be this grey
- George Harrison, "All Things Must Pass, 1970

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
- John Lennon

My Brother Tim - Self-proclaimed Hippie, Golden Gate Park SF
I haven't been down to Zuccotti Park - ground zero for the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.


I have two reasons.
  1. I don't want to get arrested and
  2. I am just not sure about what the protests mean.
Just last night I was watching the New York City News and saw Arlo Guthrie describing the protests as the new "Summer of Love". 1967 all over again.

I'm not convinced. That is not to say that I don't agree with the protests. But "Summer of Love" revisited? I don't think so.

"The Occupy Wall Street" movement has come at a time when the Summer of Love generation people are nearing retirement. I just read that the Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill to create a vehicle registration plate for baby boomers at a charge $30. The New York Times editorial asks defining generational image will be: "A peace sign, maybe. Or a tie-dye T-shirt, a mushroom or a mushroom cloud (boom!), a bong, 'ME' in flowery script ..." etc. etc.

Are the Boomers the new flavor of the month? I suspect this is the case.

But while I support the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters, I have to wonder about their lack of agenda.

I remember the "Summer of Love". At the time I thought it was all about free love and protesting against the war in Vietnam. The more radical protesters wanted control over their university curriculum. Weird eh?

Yes the "Summer of Love". was essentially middle class and it's people were mainly middle-class kids, enrolled at university. Dropping out.

After all, if you weren't at school/university, what else could you "drop out" from? I suspect the working-class kids were too busy earning a crust.

The "Occupy" protests are comparatively classless. Protesters include a more representative cross-section of people. Not only the modern-day equivalent of flower-children dropping out of Berkeley, Melbourne University, Columbia, but community college kids, the unemployed, actors, singers, ex-hitch-hikers to Iran. I have to wonder, will reality TV show people be the next to join? Oh, and of course there are the Baby Boomers, the retired ones at least. For once again, "T-ttime is on our side ..."

I've watched TV interviews with protesters. The press is unforgiving and I am sure the reporters have deliberately picked, in many cases, the inarticulate. Sure, the protests are about Wall Street greed. But what do we want and when do we want it?

I'm yet to be convinced.

My current stand is that I support the protests. But until I REALLY know what they are about, I prefer to remain,

an Armchair Occupier.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Meet the Millenials

The workplace has become a psychological battlefield and the millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first. - The Millenials Are Coming

Millenials on Subway
Forget Generation X. Or even Generation Y. And certainly forget the Baby Boomers.

We now have "The Millenials".

According to Pew Research, "America's newest generation, the Millennials, is in the middle of this coming-of-age phase of its life cycle. Its oldest members are approaching age 30; its youngest are approaching adolescence."

When I first read about the Millenials, I thought they were another species. The name sounds so SciFi. I imagined tall thin people wandering around Earth looking for work.

For that is the context in which I read about them. Somewhere I read that "Millenials" were having problems finding jobs.

As we all know, this global unemployment is the fault of Wall Street and its Euro and Asian counterparts. And in order to draw attention to the economic devastation caused by these stock exchanges, many Millenials have become "Occupiers". Occupiers are ideologically opposite to Tea-Party people. Of course it is possible to be a Millenial Tea-Partier, in which case you are "Misguided".

Perhaps the "Misguiders" will be the next group to grab the attention of the press. In which case no doubt its ranks will swell.

But back to the Millenials. Why did I imagine them as tall thin wispy people? Was it just the name?

Pre-Millenials, Brooklyn
I pondered this on my ride back home tonight. I was sitting next to a woman who was even older than a Baby-Boomer. She must have come of age in the nineteen fifties. What were THOSE people called? "Old people" comes to mind; but raking my long-term memory, I came up with "Bobby-Soxers".

So to rephrase.

I was sitting next to a Bobby-Soxer. She looked like the archetypical grandmother. White hair pulled back into a French twist, she was elegantly dressed and a silver eagle walking stick rested against her imacculate New York black skirt.

Every now and then the bus driver would sound his horn, holding the hormn down until the offending vehicle apparently blocking the bus's path, moved away. And whenever the driver did this, the Bobby-Soxer would yell "Shut UP!!!"

But what got me was, as no sooner than she'd emitted her "Shut up!", her face would go back to looking serene, and once again she was the story-book grandma.

Boomers and Millenials Unite
Around this time I was nearing the end of the novel, "The Leftovers". "The Leftovers" by Tom Perrotta is about a world where a million people have magically left earth, à la "Rapture".

Except it wasn't the Rapture. The book details the daily lives of a number of people who were not disappeared and who are called the "Leftovers". Individual Leftovers react differently as one would expect, but some form themselves into groups. One group is "The Watchers", aka "The Guilty Remnants". I preferred to think of these people as "Watchers" as "Guilty Remnants" made me think of buying scrap fabric at the now disappeared "Job Warehouse" in Melbourne a hundred years ago.

So there I was, on the bus, reading about Watchers - a subset of the Leftovers, sitting next to a Bobby-Soxer, when my mind did a lateral De Bono jump to the Millenials.

Millenials, Bobby-Soxers, Generation X-ers, Tea-Partiers, Occupiers.

What's the world coming to?

I'm just so glad that I am a Baby-Boomer. It sounds so solid. So normal. So salt-of-the-earth.

Oh and by the way, if you are thinking of reading "The Leftovers", don't bother. Unless of course, you are into baseball.

And as to why I say this, you cannot know. Not unless you get to the last chapter.

And I don't wish that on anybody. Not even on Tea-Partiers!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Voyage Around My Mother

The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy. - Sam Levenson

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between - Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer c1945)

Alma Road East St Kilda - Circa Last Century!
"What a shocker!" my daughter exclaimed, upon seeing - apparently for the first time - this photo of me as a child - holding a toffee apple, in front of my home some time a hundred years ago.

"The hair!" she added.

Well I knew. But I'd repressed it. The hair. In the language of 21st century Australia - it was "a shocker"!

But at last, someone-not-me had voiced it. There was no turning back.

"It's a basin cut, Mum," she continued. "She was probably too poor to take you to a hair-dresser." "She didn't cut it," I snapped back. "She took me to a BARBER!"

That night in my dreams it all came flooding back. The hair-cuts, the embarrassment, me looking at the other girls at school - pretty girls with curly locks.

"She hated me," said my inner voice. My inner child. And I listened.

As the day wore on, I became increasingly convinced. My inner child had surfaced and was telling me something. No, let me be honest, she was SHRIEKING it! "She didn't like you; she was JEALOUS!" she was saying.

I pretended I couldn't hear her and went to the office. Conveniently I became lost in meetings, codings, emails. But the inner child was not to be stifled.

And Again!
I remembered years ago seeing a therapist in Australia. Her name was Lolita. Really! She didn't look like a "Lolita" though. I remember her as looking sort of academic. A blue-stocking. An intellectual. Full of wisdom.

We'd sit her dimly-lit consultation room and I'd talk. Occasionally she'd comment.

"You have to learn to LOVE that little girl, the child that was YOU," she said one day. In response to what, I do not remember. But the comment stuck.

I tried. I tried to love that inner child but it didn't happen. I continued to stifle my inner child's persistent voice.

And then last week after my call to my daughter, my inner child became even more strident. Telling me about my mother. She wouldn't shut up. Yes, she was obviously MY inner child. Remembering my daughter's comment on my childhood hair-cut, at last I accepted her credentials ...

Still, she was hardly likeable. Though she did earn my respect; she had persistence.

I picked up the phone and called my daughter.

And Again!
"Hey, I have to thank you for pointing out that 'shocker' haircut," I said. "I now know that my mother hated me."


"Yes, really," I insisted.

My daughter came up with all sorts of excuses for my mother's behaviour. But I could tell that she was searching desperately, blindly. There was no getting past it. That haircut was the product of my mother's instructions to the barber, hairdresser, whatever.

AND it wasn't an isolated haircut. It was the norm.

Eventually my daughter concurred. After she'd controlled her laughter she said, "Mum, you've had an epiphany!"

Yep, that's what I'd had.

I'd always thought though that an epiphany was a thing of wonder. Like seeing Jesus, or discovering that the world isn't flat.

But then, seeing as I'm currently trying to be a "glass-half-full" kinda person, I supposed that I should accentuate the positive.

A bad hair-cut is no tragedy. It'll always grow out.

But try telling THAT to my inner child.

She's still screaming!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

On Being iSad

We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much - if at all. - Steve Jobs

Me with an Unknown Delegate a Hundred Years Ago
"Who is Steve Jobs?" I asked.

It was a hundred years ago. Melbourne, Australia. I was on the Organising Committee of the First Pan Pacific Computer Conference.

I was talking to "the other Kate". There were two of us "Kates" back then - two known-in-the-industry-Kates, that is.

Kate Behan had just announced, excitedly and triumphantly that she'd been successful in getting Steve Jobs as a key-note speaker for the conference.

Hence my question.

How could I have been so ignorant? Well, back then I was a PC person, immersed in programming. But to be perfectly honest, I've always been bad with names ...

I remember Kate staring at me. Unbelieving. And then she answered. "Just the most important person in computing. Just a genius."

I have to compliment Kate on her vision. Certainly I didn't appreciate it back then. I saw her more as a marketing person than a serious computer scientist. Yes, I know. I'm a shallow person.

Tonight I looked through my old photos taken at social events I'd attended at the First Pan Pacific Computer Conference. I scoured the photos, looking at the crowds at the restaurant tables to see if Steve Jobs was there. Was he even at the conference? I can't remember if I went to his keynote address or not. Or if he was there or not. Yep, "shallow" is a good word for me!

I DO remember Kate telling her husband "Sit here between me and Kate. That way you won't have to remember names." Top-left is a photo of me with an unknown delegate. A photo taken by "The Happy Medium Photo Co." Quelle name!

Look at the table in the photo above - Vegemite, tomato sauce. I have vague memories of the venue being an Australian-themed comedy club. Australians are not known for their subtlety.

Kate Behan. I'll have to look her up on FaceBook. Surely she'll remember if I met Steve Jobs.

Diners at the Formal Conference Dinner
I always liked Kate. I liked her sense of humour. I remember her saying once, "Just because you call a variable 'grand-_total' doesn't mean it's got a grand total stored in it." She was having a dig at someone who had recently attained for himself a grander title. Something like "Chairman of the First Pan Pacific Conference" perhaps? Not really. I can't remember who she was referring to. As I said, I've never been good with names.

I'm annoyed at myself though. Why can't I remember whether Steve Jobs was at that conference? Or if I met him if he was? It's bit like the first time I had sexual intercourse. I didn't even know I'd had it! I had to be TOLD!

Yep, I'll look out for Kate B on FaceBook.

I've already organized ordering a new iPhone. In white.

I need something to brighten things up.

The world is a darker place without Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lagged2Death added this as a favorite

"Like": Preposition: Having the same characteristics or qualities as; similar to: "they were like brothers". Conjunction: In the same way that; as: "people who change countries like they change clothes". Definition of "like from Google's 'Everything' Search

Lagged2Death's Favorite
I was chuffed. A fellow Flickr person added my photo (you can see it on the left) to his "favorites"! His/her name is "Lagged2death".

What's the world coming to? And what's more, what does this mean? And what does this say about me?

I am starting to become, horror of horrors, a cyber social network person. I get my kicks from some person who I do not know (and who I will never know) in FaceBook jargon, "liking" one of my photos. Call it "adding it as a favorite", "liking it", "hearting it", "plus one-ing" or "one-plussing" it, it's all the same. Someone clicked something I'd posted, and I was pleased.

Good god! I'm starting to have a cyber life. Well better than no life. Come to think of it, I wonder, does "Lagged2death" have a life?

Whatever. A large part of my life is becoming "cyber". Take today for instance. I was walking to my bus stop on Third Avenue. It's close to Dylan's Candy Bar. And just in case you don't know, and of course, even if you do,

From Wiki entry on Dylan's Candy Bar: "Dylan's Candy Bar is a chain of boutique candy shops and candy supplier currently located in New York City, East Hampton, Roosevelt Field, Orlando and Houston, as well as in wholesale venues around the globe. It is owned by Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph Lauren."

Readers of my blog with recognize this photo of Dylan's store-front from a few years back.

Dylan's is a few meters from my bus stop and I always glance at their window display. Usually I keep on walking but today I did a double-take. What was this? A display of candies arranged to look like grave-stones, with the inscription, "RIP". In Americanese, I thought to myself, 'huh?'

Did "RIP" stand for something other than I'd understood it for the last 100 years?

I stood there staring like someone from another century. Which of course I am! Hells bells!

Candy Gravestones at Dylan's Candy Bar
And then it dawned on me. Or should I say "dusked on me"? It was all about graves, cemeteries, skeletons, scary dead people, ghosts ... Halloween!

I moved away from Dylan's window. My bus was coming. I got on and took my seat. And "tweeted".

"I am so NOT a Halloween person!"

Which just goes to show that:

a: deep down I am still a true-blue aussie


b: I am a social networking person.

Until next tweet,

I am Kathleenwng and I approve this message.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Centers, or Should that be Centres?

"Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." - Chuang Tzu (389-286 BC)

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes. - from Cole Porter, "Anything Goes"

Proseccos at the Lincoln
This past week started with a "Centre" and ended with a "Center", the latter being by far the more pleasurable.

Pleasurable in the main because it was organized by my good friend Babs, an aficionado of all things New York.

Whenever I go out with Barbara I let her organize everything. Which she does, choosing venues, restaurants, entertainments with impeccable taste. And this week was a treat for both of us - a day at the Lincoln Center, the central part of which was an afternoon at Paul McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom".

We started the day with pre-afternoon drinks at Jonathan Benno's "Lincoln", located in the grounds of the Lincoln Center.

When I think of the Lincoln Center I always smile, remembering my early days in New York when a mutual Australian friend of myself and Babs, volunteered to show me around. He took me everywhere Manhattan, - or so I thought. And then one day I realized that I'd never been taken to the Lincoln Center.

"What's the Lincoln Center like, Robin," I asked innocently. "Like Chadstone, Daaahling" he disparaged, referring to a sixties white monstrosity of a shopping mall in suburban Melbourne, our home-town. Robin - who would buy linen napkins in colors to match his salads - last time I saw him was years ago at the Union Square Farmers' Market. He was buying aubergines, "But WHERE on earth I'll find purple napkins THIS shade, in THIS country, I DON'T know!" he drawled.

Seating for Free Outdoor Events, Lincoln Center
Yes Robin had style, but a up-market, gay, Melbourne style. Babs, although she hails from Perth, is pure New York.

When she called to invite me to a day at the Lincoln Center to see Paul McCartney's new ballet, "Ocean's Kingdom", to be followed by dinner at Daniel Boulud's newly opened "Boulud Sud", I was enthusiastic. I googled "Boulud Sud" and read that the dress code is "elegant casual". Typical Babs. But I was concerned. I can "do" casual, it was the elegant part that had me worried.

But Babs assured me she'd just be "throwing anything on". After all, it was Manhattan, and a Saturday in the day time, where anything goes.

Of course she turned up impeccably dressed in theme for the ballet. Slender, lithe Babs in figure-hugging black except for her shoes which were golden and square-toed, ballerina style.

New York Girls, Columbus Circle
After our pre-event drinks at the Lincoln it was off to the David H. Koch Theater to see the only second performance of Paul McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom".

There are two types of humans in this world, "John Lennon" and "Paul McCartney" people. Naturally Babs and I are both John Lennon people. We wonder why, "Isn't everyone?"

Still, Paul McCartey is Paul McCartney and we were also interested in his daughter's costume design for the Peter Martins' choreographed ballet.

I've read the reviews today, O boy (pun intended) and they are universally uncompromisingly bad, especially I thought Alistair MacAuwlay's "Pop God Dives Into World of Ballet" in the New York Times. Mr. MacAuwlay seems to have it in for Mr Martins. Lucky for Melbourne, Mr Martins has never seen Chadstone! Then, no doubt he would really get the knives out!

Still Babs and I enjoyed the ballet. It was fun, colorful, and I thought Mr. MacAuwlay was a bit rough on his critique of Stella McCartneey's costumes. I liked they way the earthlings looked Maori warriors, but perhaps me being antipodean helped ...

Centre Street, Manhattan
Then it was off to Boulud Sud where the food and wine were excellent. By 9:00 pm when we set off home we were both exhausted.

Yes I ended my week at the Lincoln Center, but started it at Centre Street. Centre Street in Lower Manhattan, where the courthouses are situated. I wonder why it has the English spelling? Perhaps because it originated during colonial times.

Yes I was on jury duty. In fact I ended up actually serving on a jury. I was "Juror Number Two". And it was almost fun. I even got a laugh from the presiding judge.

But that's another story ...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Empire of the Angry Birds

"Help your friends build their Empires. Send them a Mystery Gift" - Blurb from FaceBook's "Empires and Allies"

"Alert all commands. Calculate every possible destination along their last known trajectory." - Darth Vader, "The Empire Strikes Back"

I was sitting ... well reclining ... in the dentist's chair. Unable to speak.

Don't get me wrong. I like my dentist. He's a Larry David sorta guy. A New Yorker. A talker. And I was, a captive audience.

He was explaining how he'd become addicted to a FaceBook "game" - "Empires and Allies". "It's great," he said. "You get points and friends come in to help you - like a cooperative. It's kinda social. It isn't Farmville. That's not somewhere I'd go. This is interesting. What do YOU play?"

I hesitated. Was it the nitrous oxide kicking in, or the fact that my mouth was full of dental paraphernalia? Whatever. After a hundred years I answered.

"I like 'Angry Birds'. I am addicted to 'Angry Birds'." At least that's what I meant to say. What with the nitrous, the metal, the tubes etc, I was surprised that he understood.

Juliff, Texas - a non-virtual empire?
"Oh, Angry Birds, but that's played ALONE. 'Empire and Allies' is a GROUP effort." He went on to explain how people "related to each other" as they built or lost their empires. Oh yes, he liked another FaceBook game. Some poker thing where you all sat around a virtual cyber imaginary table and played poker. You could even buy a buddy a virtual beer.

I was "virtually" impressed.

Back home I decided to take a look at "Empires and Allies". After all, I'd been disbelieving when a friend had told me about Angry Birds, and now I am an addict. Moreover, I liked the name "Empires and Allies" and imagined it'd be something like the old board-game "Diplomacy" where there was a battle of the wits, and duplicity reigned supreme.

So I did a FaceBook search and found the thing. Yes, "thing". I joined. I even named my empire, after my brother - "Empire of the Aumbat." I was presented with a cartoon-like picture of a battlefield and intuitively clicked around and built a few things - schools, huts, artillery.

So far, so good. I waited.

Nothing happened.

Upon virtually surveying the virtual environment I realised I needed virtual allies. I brought up the "add allies" screen and proceeded to "invite" all of my friends who owed me a favor. I was starting to cringe, remembering all those Farmville requests I used to get annoyed by. "Annie needs a donkey to chew her grass. Can you help?"

God only knew what my "friends" were being asked! "Kate needs an ally to defeat the enemies of the Empire of the Aumbat". I cringed, but only virtually ...

Eventually, I succeeded, as is my wont, in suppressing the whole negative empire thing, and shut down the computer.

Still a bit of my "empire" lived on, and the next morning I checked it out. No one had replied. The Empire of the Aumbat still had a population of ONE.

Days passed. My Empire was in stagnation mode. A few emails surfaced - encouraging emails like, "Congratulations you have earned 5 cents, buy yourself a centurion" kinda thing.

I quaked in my stilettos. How was I to "buy" a centurion? Did the message mean "literally"? Would my credit card be charged?

Gingerly I re-entered my Empire. It was still there. A sad little affair of one hut, a tank and a few yeomen.


I needed cheering up.

This social life was not for me! So much for enlisting one's friends. Where were my allies when I needed them? Farming their Farmville farms, no doubt.

What was I to do?

And then the light-globe came on.



Some people are just not meant to be social!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Niceness Voyage

The way I understand it, the Russians are sort of a combination of evil and incompetence... sort of like the Post Office with tanks. - Emo Phillips

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world - Bob Thiele 1968

Well, I call it a voyage as it has a beginning, and an end.

The beginning - I was remembering a long-ago meeting. A long-ago meeting with someone I'd known long-ago. Her name is Joy, and I'd known her as a child. Later, she had worked with my mother at a law firm in Melbourne. I hadn't seen her since I was twelve when some time in the late nineties, I bumped into her at a BBQ in Australia.

I didn't recognize her, it being a hundred years since we'd last met. She was striding purposefully toward me.

"You are Kate Juliff," she accused. "You and my cousin were mean to me when I was eleven and I've spent the last 30 years in therapy as a result." And then, without drawing breath (she is obviously not a smoker) she continued with, "I worked at the same place as your mother after I left school. Mrs Juliff was such a NICE lady!"

Why did I remember this long-ago monologue of long ago last Wednesday morning in New York? I have no idea, but remember it I did, and I decided to become "a NICE person". I'm always in for a change, and instead of redecorating or buying new clothes or taking up a new interest, I decided to become a "nice person".

And that was the beginning of the niceness journey.

It all went well. To begin with. I was really nice to the bus driver saying "good morning" on alighting, and "thank you" on departing. I asked the doorman how was his young son and he beamed, surprised no doubt that I remembered that his wife had given birth just two years ago.

Then today, I was nice to my dentist and his assistant, asking how they were and smiling throughout the agony.

On my way home I spotted a new store, "Kidding Around" in Grand Central. I went in and browsed and found some New York toys and books. The nice person thought, these would be good for my grandchild, aged five months.

When I was at the counter getting ready to pay for my New York kid things, the clerk asked me if I'd like to join their mailing list. Ordinarily I'd have just snarled and said no thank you, but today I was being nice. "Certainly," I replied with a smile.

"What do you think of my new store?" she asked. "It's delightful!" I answered. Nicely.

"Great, please accept this gift in appreciation," she said, handing me a mermaid doll replete with silvery tail.

I was all niceness. The sun was shining. New York, New York. What had I been missing in my prior non-nice life?

Pret A Manger, Lexington Avenue
I stopped at Pret a Manger, the English fast-but-healthy food place, for an egg sandwich and a cappuccino. I smiled as I ordered. The barista smiled back.

And then I decided to stop at the post office to mail my "Kidding Around" purchases back to Australia. There's a post office in Grand Central so it was convenient. Usually I buy my postage online. But the new "nice" me decided to interact with humans. Besides, I'd read that the US Postal Service was about to go under. Best to support the human postal workers, thought the new "nice" me.

On entering the hall-like interior of the Grand Central Post Office, I saw that human contact was being discouraged. Signs everywhere advised consumers to use "DYI" parcels. I looked for an international DYI section, and finding none, pushed the books, the toy New York taxi and mermaid from "Kidding Around" into a standard US Post box, I found a customs form, filled it in, and joined a line (queue).

There were only about six people ahead of me and a greeter-sort-of-US-Post-employee was wandering around looking as if she was there to help us.

As one of the customers finished her transactions at the counter and headed off toward the exit, Ms Greeter-Person confronted her. "People are complaining you took a long time!" she accused. The customer looked taken-aback. "But all I did was buy stamps," she explained, almost apologizing. "Don't blame me!" came the reply. "I am not allowed to hurry you up, I am just reporting the general consensus of your fellow customers."

Bloody hell! I decided to keep a low profile and stood dutifully for around ten minutes, when Ms Greeter-Person approached me and told me I was in the wrong line. "How could I know?" I asked, and then from the look on her face thought better of it, and joined the only other line in the place. There were around twelve people ahead of me.

Post Office Door, Grand Central
I kept reminding myself that I was now a "nice" person, and stood patiently. And then she appeared again. Ms Greeter-Person

"You need to tape that box up," she complained. I explained that I'd taken the box from a pile under a sign encouraging us to use them, and how could I tape it up myself? Upon which she thrust a roll of USPS tape into my hand and told me to go to the packing area and to tape it, and to then come back to see her before re-joining the line.

Well I tried. The roll was about 10" in diameter. I was trying to push the box flaps together while at the same time holding my handbag, my lettuce sandwich from Pret A Manger, the USPS tape roll, and the custom form. It was all too much.

I asked another customer if she could help me. Recognizing me as a "nice person", she readily complied. We got part of the tape stuck to the box but how to cut it? The helpful other-customer tried with her nails. Then with her teeth. There was no way!

I thanked her nicely and approached Ms Greeter-Person. "I'm sorry but I can't do this," I said. "I'd need scissors!"

"Well the PUBLIC (shudder shudder) STEAL the dispensers so what can we do," she replied.

And then my journey ended.



"No wonder the Postal Service is going broke!" I snarled.

Quick as a flash she New-York-answered, "EXCUSE me! But I wouldn't march into YOUR work and insult YOU!"

"Oh," I came back, giving as good as I got. "I bet you would!"

"And it isn't why we are going broke," she added.

I agreed.

New-York-like we both decided to call it a day. She said she'd apply the tape. And led me to a counter and apply the tape she did. Like a maniac. I am pretty sure my "Hello New York" book was taped to the wooden toy New York cab. As for the mermaid doll, as Ms Greeter-Person "cut" the tape by stabbing it furiously axe-murder-like with her ballpoint pen, I fear that she'll look more like a chewed-up pin-cushion than a magical silvery sea-creature...

I joined the line.

I waited.

Decades passed and then it was my turn.

A clerk with a head like a pencil snarled at me and made me wait while he translated my hand-written custom form into ASCII on his keyboard. After an eternity I saw the charge, $45, come up on the customer display pad. I went to swipe my credit card.

"Not now!" he screamed. I shrank back.

A few years later he commanded "Now!" I swiped my card. A dotted line appeared on the pad, so I picked up the stylus that was anchored to the pad, to sign my name. "NO NO NO!" he said. "On PAPER. With a PEN! THAT is not a pen!!!"

I complied. I just wanted out of there.

I remembered the American saying about "getting the hell out of Dodge" and suddenly understood it.

I walked slowly to the exit, trying to get the niceness feeling back.

But it was shivering, recoiled, hiding somewhere, shrivelled deep inside some safe part of my mind.

Never to return.

The voyage had ended.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Domestic Bliss on the M102

From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying - "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", Bob Dylan 1965

They were all of 95. 95 years old, that is. - A husband and wife. On the M102, the MTA bus that runs north along Third.

I was sitting opposite them. Unfortunately, you can only see their legs. I tried to snap a candid pic surrepticiously with my cell phone, but the woman - the one with the knee-length socks - was too quick for me. "Excuse me lady," she yelled for all the bus to hear. "You ain't takin' no pictures!"

I avoided eye contact and pretended to be texting. Hence the photo of the legs.

That's her husband. On her right. They'd got onto the bus at 68th Street. She couldn't find her ticket, and stood halfway between the driver and the step to the door, searching in her handbag. "Lost it again," her husband smirked - a braver man than I.

She let loose as he scuttled toward the middle of the bus to take shelter. In vain.

"I am not the one who loses things," she tiraded. "Why am I the one who has to do everything for you and your pathetic family?" All this being said from her place at the front of the bus for the whole bus to hear.

She sat down opposite me, and when the woman to her right got up to leave she shrieked at her husband to join her. There were at least ten sets of seats between her and him, but the bus was her private space. "Move HERE!" she commanded. Which he did. He dare not do otherwise.

There ensued a monologue about how she'd cleaned the kitchen cupboards because some relative of HIS was coming to stay. Even the people jabbering on their cell phones were drowned out. The husband just sat there. Then, just when it seemed that she was winding down, for some reason she realized it was nearly 9/11.

"Do you know how many firemen died because of 9/11?" she snapped at her spouse.

"I do actually," he beamed triumphantly. "343!

"WRONG!" she cackled. "343 at Ground Zero but hundreds more after that because of the dust and stuff! Ha!"

To give the guy credit, he tried to wheedle out of it, explaining that he thought she meant ON 9/11. To no avail. "Did I say that?" she snapped, "WHEN did I say that? When did I say, 'ON 9/11?'"

It was around then that I decided to snap her picture. I should have realized this was one sharp lady. She knew instantly what I was doing, and then made sure that the whole bus knew.

I lowered the cell phone, tilting it down. I had no desire to be the object of her wrath.

Self Portrait - Through a Bus With Flowers
And so there you have it. Legs.

Is there an upper age limit on eligibility for running for president of the United States? I think not. I'll check it out and if there isn't, and IF I can find her, I will suggest she run. At least she'd be interesting.

After the old woman and her husband let the bus, it seemed strangely, eerily, quiet. All we could hear were the sounds of the under-thirties talking loudly on their cell phones, back-grounded with muffled sounds of rap music emanating from iPods. Oh, and the honking of horns. And the screeching sirens. And the clunking sound of the bus's shock absorbers bumping into the bus's under-carriage as it hopped its way from pot-hole to pot-hole, heading north up Third.

Oh yes, it was good to relax after a hard day at the office ...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cyber Trails

Our descendants ... will have at their fingertips a deep digital archive of information that we created ourselves. - "What happens after your final status update?", Adam Ostrow,(CNN)

Video killed the radio star.
Video killed the radio star.
In my mind and in my car
We can't rewind we've gone to far
Oh-a-aho oh
Oh-a-aho oh - From "Video Killed the Radio Star", The Buggles 1979

My brother still has his FaceBook page. He died last January. He was 61.

It somehow comforts me that his FaceBook page exists. A legacy.

I've long pondered the effect of modern technology on our access to the memories of things past. Take my kids for example.

They were born in the early to mid-seventies. I have photos of them, but no videos, no webpages, no digital footprints of their early lives. I don't even have the sound of their voices on tape, let alone on video or CD. Just a few photos, developed from film. And yes I've scanned them in, but as they were not digitally recorded at the time, the number of them in no way compares to the hundreds of photos digitized by the modern day cameras, of babies today.

And my own childhood. Was there even color?

I have to smile, remembering my daughter when she was about eight. She'd been watching some old movies on the TV. In black and white. A few days later she asked me, "What was it like, Mum, living in the world when everything was black and white?"

Girl With Wire Pram, 1947
 Yeah, what was it like? I actually remember my childhood as being in black and white. I wonder. Is that because the photos of me as a child were all in black and white. Are my early childhood memories only memories of memories of photos. Or was it that the fifties and early sixties of last century were in fact, monochromatic?


Before me. Before my mother. Before my grandmother. There were not even photos. Those ancestors could leave us very little. All I have of "Juliffs" going back 10 generations, are transcribed passages from Last Will and Testaments. Signed with thumbprints apparently!

"And my further desire is that my wife Margery Juleff (sic) may live with her children for the space of one year after my decease, and if they cannot agree and be comfortable, my last request is that she should depart and leave them to themselves." Signed William Julleff's mark 1832

No one can say we Juliffs aren't an accommodating lot ...

But that being so - all that is left of my ancestor Will, apart from a gravestone somewhere in Cornwell, is his last Will and Testament. We don't know what he looked like, we don't know his likes, his dislikes. We certainly don't know what filmstar he would have been had he been a filmstar. Nope, old Will wasn't on FaceBook and there was no 19th century equivalent.

And so, when I think, which I do every day, of my brother Tim, I say a secret unconscious, unacknowledged, unspoken thank you, to Mr Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk.

"What happens after your final status update?", asks CNN's Adam Ostrow.

What was my brother's last, his final update? I logged on to Tim's FaceBook. There was something there about a street in Melbourne being flooded. Not an update really. More a Wall posting of a news item from the Melbourne Age. So I scrolled back. And back. And then I came to it.

Pure Tim.

Someone had wished all her FaceBook friends, "Happy Easter!"

"Not so happy for Jesus," he'd "statused".

Well said, Tim!

Well remembered.

Sorely missed!

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Unsophisticated App and the Mere Male Syndrome

By George, she's got it!
By George, she's got it! - from "The Rain in Spain", Alan Jay Lerner 1956

For you are younger than I
Younger than I, younger than I
And I am wiser than you - from "Lemon-Haired Ladies", Dory Previn 1971

Ever since there was such a thing as apps, I've been trying to dream up one to make my fortune. And every idea I've had, has proven to have already been taken.

Eventually I decided that I was a bit too slow on the uptake. Age had gotten the better of me; a new generation of people brought up on iPods, iMacs and eco-burgers was taking over.

But then ... I saw the light. It happened when I was checking my Twitter account. Jedro74 had posted the following, "I CANNOT believe the Australian media is ignoring this story!".

Thinking that my fellow countryman Julian Assange had created yet another brouhaha, I clicked. Only to find ... well click it yourself ...

It was nothing to do with Assange. It was just that old Australian simplicity, that je ne sais quoi of the unworldly, the unsophisticated, that other worldliness that MAY exist in America, but which I have yet to come across, was alive and well.

Naive Americans like Christine O'Donnell tend to believe in the devil and witches. Naive Australians are not held back by primitive beliefs in Christianity circa AD500. Naive Australians are more focused on the mundane.

"Out-of-date pasty is sold to young mum", screamed Australia's Folkestone Herald on August 25th. "Toddler took bite of food three days past its sell-by date", it groaned.

Page one news! One can only guess the readership of the Folkestone Herald .

My mind drifted back to a hundred years ago when I myself was a "young mum". I wasn't in paid employment - I'd decided to stay at home to raise the children. But I'd always wanted my own income. What work can one do at home?

I discovered an income source. An Australian women's magazine, "The New Idea" had a column, called "The Mere Male". All it was, was a collection of letters from readers about some weird thing their "hubbies" had done. You wrote in with your "Mere Male" tale and if it was published you were sent a check for $5. If it made "Letter of the Week", you got more.

And so I set to work. I can't remember all my letters but I do remember the first one.

"I asked MM (New Idea for "Mere Male") to wash the lettuce while I was going out to shop. When I came back I saw him hosing the lettuce on the lawn in the front yard". Jedro74 was about 18 months old at the time. And I earned $10 for my contribution.

Now, my reasoning is this - if the "New Idea", which was in all probability, and probably still is, owned by the Murdoch Press, could pay me tens of dollars way back in the Dark Ages, they must have had a reason. And the reason MUST have been that there was a market made up of people who actually wanted to read such idiocy.

A market that has been forgotten - forgotten by virtue of the focus on the educated, the sophisticated, the high tech, the Generation teXters.

I'm pretty sure I can tap into that market. The "Mere Male" readers of OZ - those people don't want an app that will monitor their gym activity, apps that will check their heart rate and how many miles they jogged to Starbucks, apps that know when ARRS falls below $11. Such people don't want Kindle or Nook Apps. They certainly don't want to read the Times Literary Supplement on iPads.

They want stuff like "Mere Male" or information about two year olds who might have eaten stale bread. Yes-siree-Bob, I have found an untapped source.

And THAT, dear reader, is my market.

But before anyone accuses me of being condescending, elitist, ex-MacRob girl or Ms Smarty Pants - remember - I pride myself on being just that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Australian for Phở Bò

Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe
and I will buy you a bottle of wine
And we'll laugh and toast to nothing
and smash our empty glasses down
- Joni Mitchell, "Carey", 1971

Phở originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam. The specific place of origin appears to be southwest of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese [...] and French tastes. - From Wikipedia Phở

"New Asia Grill" -  94th and 2nd, Manhattan
You could tell that they were Australians.

As soon as they stepped into the doorway of the newly opened "New Asia Grill" on the corner of 86th and Third.

A couple, early thirties, both tanned with sun-bleached hair - and with all the time in the world.

"D'ya have BYO?" the male half of the pair asked of the tiny Asian greeter. The woman (don't we always?) translated. And then, when it was established that the pair could indeed bring their own wine, the man left to cross the street to buy a bottle.

I listened to them later as they ordered. Yes, I was right. Definitely Australian. They were talking about the "starters", referring to them (correctly) as "entrées". On returning, the man had ordered a beer. When it arrived the couple clinked bottle and glass - looking at each other with that nonchalance of the long-married couple who still has that Aussie regard for social niceties - and said, "Cheers".

Ah, my memory was jolted. My mind floated back to a more civilized time. A time when entrées meant entrées. When we'd à la Joni Mitchell, "laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down".

Crowd at the "Mekong", Melbourne, OZ
Memories of Victoria Street, Melbourne. Home of the best Vietnamese cuisine outside of Vietnam. Of "Mekong Vietnam" in Melbourne's CBD, which is proud to proclaim in its window, "Bill Clinton Ate Here!"

The "New Asia Grill" on 86th Manhattan is a far cry from the genuine-article Vietnamese restaurants of Melbourne - Melbourne, perhaps the culinary capital of the world.

But it's worth a visit. Any restaurant that opens onto a construction site - a construction with a proposed life of 11 years- has to deserve our respect.

Yes, that's where the "New Asia Grill" is located. Slap bang in the middle of the mess that is Manhattan's Second Avenue subway site construction - started 2007 and supposedly to be completed by 2017. Of course they didn't tell us that when they started. 2012 was the estimated complete date back then. Do a bit of arithmetic. With that rate of delay we are realistically looking at maybe 2026.

Entrance to the "New Asia Grill"
When I first went to the "Asia Grill" last weekend, I had to enter through the kitchen - the construction works were blocking front entry. But the staff were cheery and putting on a good face. What else could they do?

Even a Little Aussie Battler couldn't do any better, or worse. And Little Aussie Battlers always have the worst luck. And overcome it.

I hope that the "New Asia Grill" does well. Sure its food isn't as good as the fare we get downunder. But there's enough of a similarity to jog the memories of the sun-bleached Aussie tourists. Let alone us long-termers, here for the duration. Yes you have to admire the pluck, the tenacity of the owners of the "New Asia Grill".

What is it that they say?

"If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" ....

New Asia Grill
1817 2nd Ave
(between 94th St & 93rd St)
New York, NY 10128
Ph (212) 828-3066

Give it a go folks!