27 November 2008

So much for change...

Already, I look back at November 4th with feelings of disappointment, as I deal with the fact that Obama has selected current Bush Administration Secretary of Defense, Mr. Robert Gates, to be the new Obama Administration's Secretary of Defense. As I deal with the fact that even as the country voted a black man into the Presidency, four states voted to deny basic civil rights to same-sex couples. I know the bans only won by small margins, smaller margins than ever before...that in a way, we're winning as we're losing. But it's heartbreaking that 17,000 marriages have been left in doubt by California's voters. That even in Arizona, where same-sex marriage was already illegal, people still voted to ban it.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling some little pride for my war-weary aching country...but now, that old disappointment, the exhaustion and the aches are all back. Ex-patriation hasn't been enough for me, it hasn't been enough to keep me from watching, from worrying, even though I'm all the way over here.

In better news, Craig and I are going on a camping trip with folks from Alfalfa to visit some of the farmers we buy from!! It's so exciting, we've never been camping before. Neither of us. We're going to sleep outside! Or at least, we're going to pretend to sleep outside, but we'll actually be worrying all night that some bug is in our hair. I know--we're such city folk, it's pathetic. But it's pathetic in a charming way, right?

What other news? I've been doing a short segment on 2SER, the community radio station here, about Atlanta music; the program manager really likes my stuff, so he's training me to be on the air. Hopefully this weekend at the farm will lead into a segment about food.

Back in Atlanta, Jeremy recently did a food special on WREK, and got the inimitable Joe, the inspiring Judith, the remarkable Susan Pavlin, and more undeniable folks to talk about local food in Atlanta. If you want a copy, write to me, and I'll send you the files!

Craig and I just sawSlumdog Millionaire, the new Danny Boyle movie. It was good, sweet, fun, intense. It hurt sometimes, but maybe that's just because I'm so worried about the new era India seems headed toward. An era of immense wealth for the criminally greedy, the unscrupulous few, and immense suffering for the virtuous, or needy, or hungry many. An era of industry over people, and ill-gotten riches washed clean with sky-high developments. And I wonder if this is how my mother and father felt, when they left their war-torn, amputated country for another, far across the globe...if they still watch India from all the way over there, and worry.

21 November 2008

Licenced and Approved

Some things are very hard here in Sydney...lately, I have become acutely aware of the complete lack of any kind of decent cafe culture after 8pm. Where, oh where, do the young people go to study, to have cake, to drink coffee at wildly inappropriate hours? Not only is there no classy Octane-type establishment, there's not even a grubby Monkey in this city. Let's say you'd just like a quiet cup of coffee with your mom, maybe you want to read the morning paper, you were too busy to read it in the morning, say. You are out of luck in Sydney, my friend. There's just nowhere to go. If it's after 8 and you don't want to go to a pub, you're stuck at your house, sir. And every pub, as I've mentioned before, is the same: loud, nightclub music, rugby games on big screen TVs, and a distinctly sewer-y odour.

But, the great thing is that I can spell "odour" like that here, and no one complains. Finally--I can spell words they way I honestly think they are spelled. I don't know how I grew up in the US of A like this, but I like to blame it on the same English colonialism that to this day has convinced Indian people that Cricket is fun.

Another great thing about Australia is SBS. I know, I've mentioned the brilliance of this television station in the past, but I have official proof that it might be the best channel I've ever had the good fortune to know and love: Kubrick Week. That's right. 2001, Lolita, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket. It's been enough to keep me and Craig salivating at our new big LCD telly and enjoying the set of home theatre speakers we picked up off freecycle.

But, after five days or so, you start to feel a little cooped up, you start to think maybe your flatmate is sort of right to think you're a total loser. Because every time she gets home, you're on the couch nerding out to a Kubrick movie for maybe the 18th time in your life.

To alleviate our feelings of lameness, Craig and I were out tonight hopelessly looking for a quiet comfortable hangout open past 10pm. Hopeless because we know this neighbourhood, and we know there's nothing here but drunk people saying really obscene things. We know this, and still we look, because at least when we look we get out of the house.

Though we didn't find a cafe or anything remotely similar, we did find a real estate advertisement for a huge terrace. It's selling features were:

--9 bedrooms
--Modern conveniences
--Licenced and Approved Brothel

I just can't wait to show you all our charming little neighbourhood.

13 November 2008

What you need to know...

...is rarely what we want to know. I try to keep the blog from getting too serious, though I have made some reference to the treatment of Aboriginal people by the white establishment in Australia. This is the only developed country with a government that has been condemned as racist by the UN.

What is happening right now in Australia's Northern Territory is horrifying and plainly unjust. John Pilger explains the situation far better than I could:

The original article is here.

Under cover of racist myth, a new land grab in Australia

In a report for the Guardian, John Pilger describes the deception behind the pretext for a "national emergency" declared by the Australian government in Aboriginal areas. A political cry of "save the children" can also mean the profits of uranium and toxic waste.

With its banks secured in the warmth of the southern spring, Australia is not news. It ought to be. An epic scandal of racism, injustice and brutality is being covered up in the manner of apartheid South Africa. Many Australians conspire in this silence, wishing never to reflect upon the truth about their society’s untermenschen, the Aboriginal people.

The facts are not in dispute. Thousands of black Australians never reach the age of 40. An entirely preventable disease, trachoma, blinds black children as epidemics of rheumatic fever ravage their communities. Suicide among the despairing young is common. No other developed country has such a record. A pervasive white myth, that Aborigines leach off the state, serves to conceal the disgrace that money the federal government says it spends on indigenous affairs actually goes towards opposing native land rights. In 2006, some A$3billion was underspent “or the result of creative accounting,” reported the Sydney Morning Herald. Like the children of apartheid, the Aboriginal children of Thamarrurr in the Northern Territory receive less than half the educational resources allotted to white children.

In 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described the racism of the Australian state, AGAIN a distinction afforded no other developed country. This was during the decade-long rule of the conservative coalition of John Howard, whose coterie of white supremacist academics and journalists assaulted the truth of recorded genocide in Australia, especially the horrific separations of Aboriginal children from their families. They deployed arguments not dissimilar to those used by David Irving to promote Holocaust denial.

Smear by media as a precursor to the latest round of repression is long familiar to black Australians. In 2006, the flagship current affairs programme of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline, broadcast lurid allegations of “sex slavery” among the Mutitjulu people in the Northern Territory. The programme’s source, described as an “anonymous youth worker”, was later exposed as a federal government official whose “evidence” was discredited by the Northern Territory Chief Minister and the police. The ABC has never retracted its allegations, claiming it has been “exonerated by an internal enquiry”. Shortly before last year’s election, Howard declared a “national emergency” and sent the army to the Northern Territory to “protect the children” who, said his minister for indigenous affairs, were being abused in “unthinkable numbers”.

Last February, with much sentimental fanfare, the new Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to the first Australians. Australia was said to be finally coming to terms with its rapacious past, and present. Was it? “The Rudd government,” noted a Sydney Morning Herald editorial, “has moved quickly to clear away this piece of political wreckage in a way that responds to some of its own supporters’ emotional needs, yet it changes nothing. It is a shrewd manoeuvre.”

In May, barely reported, government statistics revealed that of the 7433 Aboriginal children examined by doctors as part of the “national emergency”, 39 had been referred to the authorities for suspected abuse. Of those, a maximum of just four possible cases of abuse were identified. Such were the “unthinkable numbers”. They were little different from those of child abuse in white Australia. What was different was that no soldiers invaded the beachside suburbs, no white parents were swept aside, no white welfare was “quarantined”. Marion Scrymgour, an Aboriginal minister in the Northern Territory government, said, “To see decent, caring [Aboriginal] fathers, uncles, brothers and grandfathers, who are undoubtedly innocent of the horrific charges being bandied about, reduced to helplessness and tears, speaks to me of widespread social damage."

What the doctors found they already knew – children at risk from a spectrum of extreme poverty and the denial of resources in one of the world’s richest countries. Having let a few crumbs fall, Kevin Rudd has picked up where Howard left off. His indigenous affairs minister, Jenny Mackie, threatens to withdraw government support from remote communities that are “economically unviable”. The Northern Territory is the only region where Aborigines have comprehensive land rights, granted almost by accident 30 years ago. Here lies some of the world’s biggest deposits of uranium. Canberra wants to mine it and sell it.

Foreign governments, especially the US, want the Northern Territory as a toxic dump. The railway from Adelaide to Darwin, which runs adjacent to Olympic Dam, the world’s largest uranium mine, was built with the help of Kellog, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the American giant Halliburton, the alma mater of Dick Cheney, Howard’s “mate”. “The land grab of Aboriginal tribal land has nothing to do with child sexual abuse,” says the Australian scientist Helen Caldicott, “but all to do with open slather uranium mining and converting the Northern Territory to a global nuclear dump.”

What is unique about Australia is not its sun-baked, derivative society, clinging to the sea, but its first people, the oldest on earth, whose skill and courage in surviving invasion, of which the current onslaught is merely the latest, deserves humanity’s support.

05 November 2008


I'm pretty cynical about the Democrats. I'm cynical about Barack's ability to really change what's going on in the world. I not only think it's outside his power to change the economic system that has kept working people under the boot for hundreds of years, I think it's also simply not in his newest job description. The President of the United States simply isn't placed to get rid of US hegemony. To say the least, the Obamania I experienced in the US exasperated me. To say yet more, the same phenomenon appeared in Sydney and exasperated even more. Largely because in Sydney, the enthusiasm for Obama expresses itself not in "Get out the vote" events, but in rather...stranger ways:

Campos Coffee in Newtown, Sydney says, "To maintain Campos' staggering turnover of 200 coffees an hour, they draw on an arsenal of over 10 blends, including our pick: the new Obama Blend - a strong, slightly syrupy but eloquent coffee, blending beans from Africa and the Americas. Go Obamarama!"


But when I woke up today (Wednesday), I knew the decision was made. Obama won, McCain conceded in the face of obvious defeat. Obama got out record numbers of voters.

I don't think the US has broken with the racism rooted in the very earliest days of the nation. I think the remnants of the Civil War, slavery, the Native American genocides that benefited the US as young nation are buried in the ground, sowed into our soil. They will affect everything that grows until we dig it out, acknowledge it, and radically change the society that prospered on the backs and blood of poor and colored people.

But today, as I read the New York Times, I read the stories of colored people crying, dancing with joy, feeling finally redeemed. I read stories of working people ecstatic at the end of a neoconservative regime. I read stories about people, just like me, who weren't sure he'd be able to do all he said, but voted for him because it was better than anything we've seen in the past ten years. Better than anything I've seen in my life...but I know that's not really saying much.

And I found myself crying with hope, joy, worry and relief for my tired aching country. I never expected to feel this way; today, I'm just a little proud of America.

04 November 2008

Happy Birthday, SRK!!

Saturday night was November 1st for us, and my new pal Kurt invited us to a Halloween party. Aussies don't really do Halloween, but they're starting to get into it, because everywhere is quickly becoming the same. So, kids don't trick or treat when they're really young, but they do go around egging when they're teenagers. When they're even older, they get dressed up and drink together.

The party was really fun, everyone was super welcoming, even though we weren't wearing proper costumes. It turns out just having a mustache is enough of a costume for men, but the fact that I had just shaved my own mustache didn't count for anything!! Double standard? I think so.

I met Kurt through the radio station (2SER), and he's a delightful chap. He's dressed like Gizmo. That's just delightful.

We even got to hear some awesome covers by a family band dressed up like KISS! They were really smart, because they dressed like KISS, but they didn't play any KISS songs! Also, they're a three-piece, so no one had to be Peter Criss. Genius. Anyway, the kid dressed like Ace was maybe 13 years old, and he could play some serious riffs. Totally awesome. Almost a freak. If he was an X-Man--and we don't doubt he is--his name would be Guitarro. His power would be shredding things to oblivion.

On the way home, we passed an Indian store and suddenly had a craving for Bollywood. We purchased a movie called Om Shanti Om, starring Craig's favorite Bollywood hero: Shah Rukh Khan! By the time we got home, we were too tired to watch, so our Sunday morning plans were set. As we sat through the three hours of poorly staged reincarnation plot, we wondered how old Mr. SRK really is...

And it turns out, his birthday is November 2nd...the very day that we were watching his biggest movie to date. Coincidence? Nah, I think Craig planned the whole thing; he just wanted to celebrate his idol's birthday.

01 November 2008


Ah, well, the day I thought would never come finally has--I'm officially a ripe, mature 37. How did it all pass so quickly?

Oh, wait--no, I just turned 27. Just kidding. Thanks to everyone for wishing a happy birthday.

Luckily, I got a great birthday gift from Craig, and folks back home sent some awesome care packages! Thanks to the family and to the dynamic duo, Jeremy and Katie. First off, my beautiful new bike! I got the prettiest bike in the world, an orange beach cruiser--I'm in love, and the celebrity around town has already gone to my head.

Jeremy and Katie sent us a bunch of crazy Halloween stuff: fake sideburns, peanuts, Halloween stickers, and of course--candy! We couldn't eat the candy because it had gelatin in it, but I liked the Domo mouth anyway! The earrings I'm wearing are also a birthday present from my flattie. Ain't she sweet?

Craig loves the sideburns; they look perfect with his knock-off Ray-Bans and his...(shudder)...mustache. Oh, yeah, here's an interesting bit: in the States, we shorten mustache to 'stache. In Britain, they call it a 'tache. In Australia, they call it a "mo." And recently, a new thing called Movember has started up. You might have heard of it: guys grow out mustaches to raise fund for men's health. I'm not sure how it works. I don't think Movember is just an Aussie thing, but don't hold me to that.

I figured I might as well do my part for Movember, and I'll throw in Monocle-tober for free!

This year, as Craig and I celebrated my birthday with dinner and a bottle of wine, I thought about the last few Nijaweens. I may have spent my first-ever overseas birthday but I sorely missed enjoying Nijaween with all of you back home. I told an Alfalfa co-worker about how sad and lonely I've been feeling lately; she gave me a zine she made about traveling, called "Homesick, Awaysick." I'll finish out this post with a quote from her--

"I feel like you make me. If I describe myself, I am the sum of my friends, and my lover, and my school, and the book I'm reading, and the plants I grown in our little yard. So who am I when all that's gone, when I'm travelling?...Sometimes I just feel like a fragile shell of all who I am and can be at home."