Sunday, July 29, 2012

Greetings from the Past

What's-a matter you?
Hey! Gotta no respect.
 What-a you t'ink you do?
Why you look-a so sad?
It's-a not so bad, it's-a nice-a place.
Ah, shaddap-a you face - Shut Uppa You Face, Joe Dolce, "

Na na na na na ,na na na, hey Jude.. - Lennon/McCartney, "Hey Jude"

Memorial on NYC Sidewalk Plus Pink Flamenco
Whatever time zone your are in, whatever country you live in, wherever, when ever you are, I am five hours before you.

If you are not living in the United states, that is. I hope to catch up with you and am sure I will on Sunday August 12, for that is when the 2012  Olympics end.

American telly does not show Olympic events "live". We in the United States have to wait till England is going to sleep and Australia is getting up the next day, to see the athletes in London at the XXX Olympiad. Why? Because that time slot, between today and tomorrow is Prime Time TV here in the Devastated States of America. And that's when we get to see the past, whatever goddamned time they choose to leap run and swim in the UK.

Actually I think it is a good thing in a way. If it was in real time then I wouldn't have been half asleep when Paul McCartney sang John Lennon's "Hey Jude". Being three wines into the evening at 2 am GMT, when most of England was asleep, certainly took the edge off seeing Sir Paul trying to act young, botox, hair-dye and all. The best way of seeing McCartney has always been with eyes half-open ... and yesterday was yesterday, apt really when not only was Yesterday his only real song, but that was when I saw him. Back in the USA. Yesterday.

As a break from traveling to the past I decided to social netsurf. One tweet caught my eye.

Danny McKee @danmckee25 I didn't realize other countries played each other when they didn't play the USA.. #basketball #Olympics

Good one Danny boy! You can join Sir Paul in the back of the class. Somewhat Twittered-out I turned to CNN. Fareed Zakaria on Time to Face the Facts on Gun Control. Excellent article. I bounced down to the comments. The usual from NRA sympathizers; there's no point in arguing with them.  Worth scanning though for the amusement value.
Another anti Second Amendment article written by a non-American. Funny how the rest of the world knwos what is best for the greatest nation on Earth. July 29, 2012 at 10:47 am 

This by somone called Darren Gil commenting on the Fareed article. Back to the bottom of the class young Darren. Next to Sir Paul and Danny Boy.

I always wonder why some Americans think that the United States is the greatest country on earth. Invariably such people have not traveled elsewhere.

I wish they'd shut up. They are giving America A BAD NAME! It's actually quite a nice place. We don't have a grumpy Queen and Paul McCarney is miles away.

On the downside, America does have a lousy health system, and there are way too many guns.

And now,  to top it all off,  we have to be alive five hours ago!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life in the Scary Lane

Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Traveling the train through clear Moroccan skies - Graham Nash, "Marrakesh Express"
Half of Spain clambered onto the bus. People spread out fiesta-style across seats, hanging out of windows, balancing on top of each other. Talking, laughing. I half expected them to start laying out tablecloths picnic style and popping bottles of Vino Rioja.

I jolted myself back to the reality of Queens, New York. It was 112°F outside and I was on my way home from work.

Where had these people come from? They looked so happy. Could they be tourists? I was never to find out, for they had barely settled themselves when the Manhattan-bound bus stopped on the Queens side of the bridge and they all got off.  They left behind a void. A silence that was as annoying as the chatter they had brought with them.  I watched as they disappeared into the distance, as they frolicked along Jackson Avenue like the dancing travelers in the final scene of Bergman's "The Seventh Seal".

Perhaps I'd dreamed them?

I looked around. There were half a dozen of us left.  Office people. Monotony reigned.  Then, out of the blue the bus screeched to a halt and the driver stood up and SCREAMED, "Everyone of the bus! Now!"

Food queue in 1950s Kiev or Upper East Side New York? Check the flag.
Surely he couldn't mean it? We were halfway across the Ed Koch bridge in the middle of three lanes of traffic.  But he did mean it, and continued to scream.

I was first out. As my feet hit the tarmac, and with one hand still holding on to the boarding rail, the driver pulled a lever causing the door to slam shut on my hand. I thought my time had come. Was the bus going to move again, pulling me along with it, dragging me through the crazy New York traffic?

The door opened and the remaining passengers were catapulted through it. We stood there on the road, looking at each other. Silent, literally dumbstruck, as the traffic roared past on every side.

Of course eventually another bus came to our aid and we were taken safely back to Manhattan. Just another New York moment after all.

But it got me thinking. About the dichotomous nature of this city. The all-or-nothing-ness of it.

Never settled, we go about our lives lurching from one type of experience to its opposite, never - and quite justifiably never - trusting that what we are experiencing will last longer than a  New York minute.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Left Wondering

Paté escargots soup de jour
cordon bleu chic coiffure
fait accompli maison
creme de menthe
Marcel Marceau
meringue blancmange Bardot
gauche gay Paris garcon
gendarme agent provocateur - from The French Song", Divishti Rankine & Greg Champion
French Gucci and New York Taxis, Fifth Avenue
Being that it is Bastille day, I had intended to write about something French. Needing inspiration, I hunted around among my many photographs on disk. I knew I had one of a poster I saw years ago in Manhattan. I snapped it around the time that  the French were angry with America for naming their fries "Freedom" instead of "French". I can't remember why the Americans did this,  but knowing the French, they must have had a good reason.

 In 1985 the French were angry with Australians because they - the French - blew up the Greenpeace flag ship -  "The Rainbow Warrior" -  in the port of Auckland, New Zealand, to prevent her from interfering in a French nuclear test in the Pacific island of Moruroa. What chutzpah. So French! Australia stuck up for New Zealand and the French then punished all Australian citizens, requiring them to apply for visas if they wanted to visit France.

The poster photo would have been good, but I couldn't locate it. I think it was about a French restaurant and said something along the lines of, "Enjoy the French food without having to put up with all the annoying French people." I decided to do a computer search for the photo and typed "French" into the little box that comes up when you click the Windows 7 start button. You can see the result on the left.

Windows thought I wanted to BECOME French!  It was about to change my PC language. Mon Dieu!  I was reminded of my daughter when she was six. She wanted me to take her to France so that she'd have a French accent. It's a nice language, not as nice as the French think it is, but it seems even Windows 7 has gotten the francophile bug and thinks if you type "French" you want to become one.

Merci, mais pas ...

It's been a confusing week. Hot, chaotic, and puzzling.

I'm left-handed. All the best people are. And in the last decade or so, designers have started taking us Mollydookers into account. Simple things like having the power cord come out of the center-back of the iron, make us feel wanted when once we were shunned. The hand sinistre. The hand some religions use to clean their bottoms.

What did Dory Previn pen in her "Left Hand Lost" song?
left-handed people are impure 
they go against the grain 
left-handed children play with themselves 
and drive themselves insane

And so it was with anticipation that I read this week about Australian entrepreneur John Lambie's alternative to what he calls the "dysfunctional" QWERTY keyboard.  Not as dysfunctional as mine would have been had Windows 7 had its way and turned it into a French one full of acutes, graves and circumflexes.

Not that there's anything wrong with John Lambie designing an alternative keyboard.  As people  abandon keyboards for smartphones it may well be the time to change keyboard design. In fact it has already started. Apple has a ".com" key, and there have been all sorts of other changes including changes on physical keyboards.

But look at this John Lambie one.

The keyboard is in alphabetical order with the letters split over five rows instead of three and .... wait for it. According to the Melbourne Age, "the keyboard  is able to be flipped for easier use by left handed people."

WHAT is it we are meant to do? Does Lambie think we lefties see the world in reverse? That the 'b' comes before  the 'a' in our mirror world?.

I'm quite confused.  I thought of typing this whole blog post  in reverse character order and holding it up to a mirror to see if Mr Lambie has a point, but wisely decided against it. How does he think we have managed all these years? Does he know we read normal books normally? Or does he think we start a the back page and flip the book upside down?

It's just getting all too much. I'm having an Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass experience.

Even the French are starting to look sensible ...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

What's it Like to be in New York?

Hey girl what's it like to be in New York?
New York City, imagine that
What's it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?
Leroy says send a picture Leroy says hello
Leroy says keep on rocking, girl
Keep on rocking - from Anchorage", Michelle Shocked

East Sixtieth, July 2012
"I've always wanted to ride a horse. It is one thing I have to do before I die. I juss gotta get on one of them horses, but lordy if that horse done look me in the eye, I'm outta there."

What was this? I'd watched "Gone with the Wind" the night before. Had I been transported à la Twilight Zone to a stereotypical pre-Civil War deep south, and encountered Mammy?

I looked around me. No, I wasn't in rural Georgia, and unfortunately there was no Clark Gable looking suave, debonair and mean. I was on Sixtieth and Second, July 2012 waiting for a bus.

Behind me wasn't Tara, just the outside of a grubby pub selling Atomic Wings, whatever they are. Several 1950's era bicycles were stacked and chained together on a water pipe. The pockmarked concrete radiated out heat drawn in from the subways below and from the summer sun above.

The woman was still talking about the horse. I looked at her. She certainly looked like Scarlett's house-maid Mammy, though she wasn't wearing an apron.

"I once rode a horse," I answered. "Was it scary? Glory be!" Was this for real?  I was becoming paranoid. Was I the unknowing subject of some hidden camera television reality show eliciting the reactions of 21st century whites to racial-profiled character actresses? But no, surely not.

"Yes It WAS scary,"  I told her. "You are up so high and I got a fright when it moved. But you don't have to worry about the eyes looking at you. They don't look at you when you are sitting on their back."

This really set her  off. She laughed a deep throaty Mammy laugh. "Those big eyes," she chuckled, "You telling me you can't see his big eyes. You see them  BEFORE you get on that horse. You is sure funny!"

The bus driver who had been sitting in the driver's seat in A/C coolness reading "The Daily News" all this time, now condescended to open the door  to let us on. My new friend sat next to me, excited to talk more about horses. "You'll be fine," I re-reassured her. "Don't worry about it." I had hoped to be able to read my book - St Aubyn's Bad News, but didn't want to appear rude.

"I've been on a glider," I offered.

"I been to Paris," she countered.

"I've been on a tram."

"Me too and  I've been on a ship."

We sounded like two little kids in the school yard.

We chatted on about a few other things she wanted to do before she died. Anyone watching would have thought us the best of friends. Her stop was first. She got up to go and walked to the front of the bus. I looked up, following her with my eyes, expecting her to look back as she alighted. To wave. To acknowledge.

She didn't look back.

So New York. This sort of friendliness, camaraderie happens all the time. It's the way we communicate here. Who needs friends when you can just leave your apartment and talk to anyone. You don't have to actually know them. You can say anything. Or not speak at all.

It's all part  American take on "freedom".

Freedom of speech.
Freedom NOT to speak.
Freedom to have health care.
Freedom NOT to have health care.
Freedom to vote.
Freedom NOT to vote.

I'm starting to understand the land of the brave. Only took me 18 years ...

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Don't Lay a Heavy Scene on me, Man

But I don't wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn't catch you hung up
on somebody that you used to know - From "Somebody That I Used to Know", Gotye, 2011

"This is the song I played while I deleted my FB." - Essjaiveille's comment (June 29) on the YouTube clip of "Somebody That I Used to Know"

A hundred years ago, 'Kool-Aid' brought to mind the Tom Wolfe novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, rather than "drinking Kool-Aid" - as in  accepting an unquestioned belief.

Back then I lived in rural Australia. A housewife.

My ex-de-facto-sister-in-law  and brother were  visiting.  I stopped washing the dishes, those being in the days when I was married to the man-who-didn't-believe-in -dishwashers, when I heard de-facto ex-de-facto-sister-in-law saying to my brother, "Don't lay a heavy scene on me man!"

Perfect seventies-speak. I don't think people say that any more, except for me when I want to annoy people ...  So many lost words. But "hang up" has survived. "Don't be so hung up," we'd bleat to our parents and to anyone in mainstream society. Those were the days.

I was reminded of seventies-speak last week when I was having coffee at a Prêt à Manger, or should I say à l'Anglaise, Pret a Manger. Suddenly, breaking out from the ever-present Manhattan  hum that is a blend of traffic noises, jackhammers, A/C emissions and the babel of New Yorkers, came a complete and distinguishable sentence.

"Oooohhh that's MY song!" screamed the gap-toothed black girl behind the counter. I put down my cappachino and listened to the song that was playing. And recognised the opening bars, cords? whatever of Luiz Bonfá's "Seville". Swallowed quickly by Melbourne singer, Gotye's, "Somebody That I Used to Know".

"But that was love and it's an ache I still remember", swoon-sang the girl behind the counter, turning the volume up full blast.

Kimbra's sweet voice singing, "Hung up on sombody that I used to know."

"Somebody That I Used to Know" is the song of preference in New York stores and coffee bars this summer.

On my way out, I stopped and told Gotye's Pret a Manger fan that I was from the same town, Melbourne, as the singer. "Oh Goatee, he is so wonderful!" she answered.

I smiled and agreed, not wanting to disillusion her with the correct pronunciation of his name. After all, life's to short to disillusion people, and it has been a long hot and confusing summer.

Why, just yesterday, dear reader, I was taken completely by surprise. "Somebody That I Know", the title of Gotye's hit, applied to me! I discovered, quite by accident, that one of my dearest friends is ... gasp! ...

a Republican!

Stay tuned.