It Should Have Been Me!

31 March 2008

We all know the difficult situation...the first time you see your ex with their new partner. It triggers a rush of emotions; "Oh my God, it really is over", "What do they have that I don't have?" "Are the two of them doing all the special things that we used to do?". You end up feeling humiliated and rejected, and it's never pleasant.

So I think we can all empathise with John Howard right now as he sees Kevin Rudd with George W. Bush.

It's been a slightly surreal experience even for me, like seeing a good friend laughing with your worst enemy. The whole thing seemed relatively uncontroversial. God to love that Republican positive spin on things - Australia pulling troops out of Iraq is a good thing, as it means Kevin Rudd is sticking to his word. Who said Conservatives are always negative? ("Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple").
Anyway, not for the first time, I wonder what would have been if Mark Latham had won the 2004 election. Now those presidential meetings would have been something to see.

As for John Howard though, he's got several options available now. He's had the crushing blow of hearing Bush describe Rudd as also being a "man of steel" - nothing worse than your ex calling their new partner by the pet name they used for you - and no doubt wants to smash Rudd's face in whilst promising Bush he can change; but he should go for the sensible option: get a better partner to make the ex jealous. So if you see Howard cosying up to Bill Clinton in the weeks ahead, remember you read it here first.

Tuesday Musings

25 March 2008

  • Last week, the third item on Channel Nine's Melbourne Monday evening news bulletin was the "shocking expose" of two sisters, forced to wear tracksuits to their sister's wedding when their bridesmaid dresses didn't arrive in time. What I find amusing here is not so much the dumbing down of the news, but the fact that, when the dresses weren't delivered, the next best outfit the women could come up with was a tracksuit. What do these people wear to job interviews? On dates? Perhaps it's best we don't know.

  • I'm often hearing about people who go for long walks "to think". I wish I had this ability. Whenever I go for a walk, all my mental energy goes into remaining vertical. Yesterday I walked for hours around the Botanic Gardens and Opera House, and I must have looked like a woman having a big think about things, but my only coherent thoughts were: 1. eels are incredibly ugly; 2. I'd love to actually eat at Guillaume some time; 3. good lord, that ice cream vendor is overcharging, and; 4. I wish I hadn't walked so far when I'll have to walk back again, I hope I don't get sunburnt. (I did).

  • Apparently the fine for jumping off the Sydney Harbour Bridge is $2200...including GST. What's the logic here? By jumping off the Harbour Bridge, you're not receiving a good or a service, unless you count the efforts of the person who made you want to jump in the first place. (Why did they cancel Futurama?)

  • I'm now getting to an age when I should possibly consider Botox. But a little research shows I can't afford it, and need to find a cheaper subsitute. Botox works by causing paralysis. What else causes paralysis? Alcohol! So I've recently taken up drinking heavily in an attempt to slow the ageing process. No discernable results to report yet, but I'll keep you posted.
  • Iraq? Is That Thing Still Going On?

    19 March 2008

    Here's a thought. When George W. Bush gave the ultimatum for Saddam, Uday and Qusay Hussein to leave Iraq, when Egypt offered them amnesty - what if Saddam had rung Hosni Mubarak and said "I'm just going to throw a few things in a bag; put some beers on ice and I'll see you soon"? Would the invasion have gone ahead anyway?

    When Bush gave his "Saddam and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq..." speech five years ago, we all watched gathered around the TV in the office (it was ab out 1pm in Australia), and everyone turned to me, the office's 23-year-old international relations expert, for my opinion. "It's not going to happen," I said of the Husseins leaving Iraq, "and even if it did...we're going to war no matter what. And it will go on forever."

    It's one of those times in life when I wish I'd been wrong. Five years after the invasion, that thing is still going on. Where do you even start, saying what's wrong with Iraq and what's gone wrong in Iraq? With the insane doctrine of pre-emption? The cost of the war, the civilian body count, or the Coalition troops killed? How about that, far from reducing the risk of terrorism, Iraq has become a breeding ground for terrorists?

    Yes, all of the above. But Iraq is part of a far more ancient human problem: bullies who have to have their own way, and won't admit they're wrong. The Australian government was part of it, and I am ashamed.

    History will regard the Iraq invasion and war as one of the greatest mistakes ever committed by government, anywhere.

    And Dick Cheney says it's been a success.

    St Patrick's Day

    17 March 2008

    Well, today marks one year since I moved to Sydney. I know, I can hardly believe it either.

    It all seems very strange when I look back on that weekend now. Before we left Charlestown, Xander ran away, for the first and only time in his life, and stayed lost for hours (a friend suggested he was just saying goodbye to our house). He finally turned up, as I was facing the possibility of having to send my stuff to Sydney without me, but then there was further horror in the car, as I at one stage thought he may have died in the heat.

    The next day was in some ways worse. I went out for breakfast with my new flatmates but was so tired I had to leave, and on the way home I managed to get lost, then lock myself out. I was profoundly, deeply disoriented, and wondered "what have I done?" None of this seemed like a good omen.

    And they weren't. It's fair to say I got off to a very rocky start in Sydney. There were so many things I'd looked forward to doing when I first got here, but that first week I was so tired, all I could do was sleep. As I had made so many day trips, I thought living here wouldn't be so strange, but of course it was, in so many ways. I hated my first crappy job, and I hated my flatmates (it might be more accurate to say, after living alone for seven years, I hated having flatmates full stop. Nonetheless, I never got used to the mess, or the noise, and knew I had to leave).

    There were may times when I'd collapse in tears of frustration and sadness, thinking "I just want to go home". But I knew if I went back to Newcastle like this, I'd always feel I'd failed. One small step at a time, things got better. I got a much better job, and as soon as I could afford it moved into a flat of my own. It's small, but it's clean and in a lovely area, and at least now I can walk around in my underwear again. I even dated someone for a while and though to my regret it didn't work out, we're still friends.

    So that brings us up to now. In very recent months I've been realising - my life is here now. Almost against my will, now this is home. So although I won't stay in Sydney forever - I could never afford to buy property here, for one thing - I can see myself staying for a while longer, at least. Whilst I'll always miss the beach, and the silver shops on Hunter St, and picnics with friends, and living somewhere where I have a history, if I left I would miss the food, and the shopping, and not being hassled by drunk morons on public transport (at 3pm).

    So some things are better and some things are worse, but overall things are good; and that's the most you can hope for from any change.

    The Case Against Democracy

    14 March 2008

    You won't often hear me make a case against democracy, but there is one example I can give as proof that democracy just doesn't work. I refer to the Newcastle to Sydney train line.

    The point is often made by some wag that the Newcastle-Sydney train journey is slower now than in the 1930s when the trains were powered by steam. It's even worse than that: the train journey is actually slower than the Eurostar journey from London to Paris, which is three times the distance. What have we done to deserve being lumbered with such crappy trains?

    Well, it's the Government's fault, of course. Not just this Government, all NSW State Governments over the last half century. Every sucessive government promises a high-speed rail service, to be built at some indeterminate point in the future, when they know they won't have to pay for it. They then get voted out, a new government comes in and announces they can't afford to rebuild the train line (because of the debts left by the previous government, of course). As the new government becomes the old government, and the anger from the voters grows, they promise a high speed rail service, some time. Then they get voted out, and the new government... and the pattern continues.

    So what we need to do is suspend democracy for long enough for the high speed rail link to get built. Without the election cycle to worry about, the government would have no excuses not to complete the project. You may say that such a government would have no accountability and therefore feel no compulsion actually build the thing, but there is a solution: a benign dictatorship under a dictator who is very passionate about getting a Newcastle-Sydney high speed rail link running. If I may suggest a candidate...

    Old Frank: One Year On

    12 March 2008

    On the evening of March 12, 2007, a few days before I left Newcastle, some friends and I were driving to a quiet farewell dinner when we passed Frank's Ham and Beef, on Union Street. It was a completely unexpected scene - several squad cars and paddy wagons parked outside, the area sealed off with crime scene tape, a couple of reporters. We speculated on what may have happened - surely a robbery wouldn't merit all that fuss? Well, a simple robbery wouldn't, but an armed robbery might. But why would anyone attempt an armed hold up of that small "corner" store? We didn't know, and confess didn't think any more of it, until the next day when we heard the news.

    Frank Newbery had run his small grocery store in Cooks Hill since 1949, after serving in World War II. At the time he set up shop, there were around fifty such stores in the local area; by 2007, his was the only one left. Even at the age of 87, he would deliver groceries to elderly residents himself, as well as preparing his own homemade soups and rissoles to sell in the store. His wife passed away, after Frank nursed her through a battle with multiple sclerosis, in 1989, and the couple had no children, but he was much-loved in the local area, rising at 5am to open the store. He was especially grateful for the custom of the headquarters of the Newcastle Permanent Building Society next door, opening especially on Saturdays to serve them, and they repaid his loyalty and loved him for it.

    I myself never lived in the local area, but would pop into the shop occasionally for water or a snack on my way to the art gallery, and over the years progressed from Frank calling me "miss" to "ma'am". I wish I'd taken the time to talk to him properly sometime.

    Old Frank lived a long life of decency and service...and it ended, that Monday evening a year ago today, when he was beaten to death in his own store. When I read about it in the paper the next day, as I looked at his photo, I couldn't help sobbing. That poor sweet old man...what did he do to deserve to die like that, left alone with head injuries in the shop he'd owned for forty seven years.

    Newcastle was suffering a spate of violence at the time (still is, for all I know), but when old Frank was murdered, something in people's minds seemed to snap, even as their hearts were broken. Drunken brawls at 3am were one thing, this was another. People were upset and angry - and they wanted answers. But there still are none. For a year on, no one has been arrested in connection with his murder. It's hard to understand - it's not like this could be the work of a master criminal syndicate. Someone in Newcastle knows, and they're not talking. When I go back there to visit now, it makes it hard to look at the place the same way. It's impossible to feel the same way about a society when its fabric has been outraged so greivously.

    We may never see anyone brought to justice for this. But people haven't forgotten. I never will.

    Vale, Frank.

    The Triptych Post

    11 March 2008

    Serious Stuff

    Last night's Four Corners was worrying - a story about the alienation felt by many young Muslim Australians from the rest of Australian society, and the possibility of it leading to "home grown" terrorism.

    It's an important issue, one I hope the Government takes seriously; the consequences of neglect could be dire. But...all of the disaffected youth who appeared last night were males. What about the women? Although the males must have a hard time, the young women are dealing with alientation and also the cultural restrictions their families and communities may impose on them. Don't they ever get angry? For that matter, most of the racsim from the white Australians shown on the program involved young, white Australian males as well. It's as though culturally, whatever happens to a community only happens to the males in that community; anything that involves females is a "women's issue".

    Less Serious Stuff

    In a bookshop window this morning, I noticed a large display of Dummies books, including Pregnancy for Dummies. I'm not sure "dummies" are people who should be encouraged to have children. On a similar note, a clinic in Oregon is promoting the college basketball March madness as a great time to get a vasectomy, giving the patient an ideal excuse to watch the games on TV undisturbed. It's probably a good idea - if a guy is looking for an excuse to watch hours of sport on TV, he wouldn't make a great father anyway.

    Sweet Stuff

    You've no doubt heard the story of how in their tour rider, Van Halen would demand a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. What you may not know was why they did this.

    The band's tour contract contained a bunch of instructions on the correct way to handle and set up their technical equipment. The M&Ms request was inserted in amongst these. If the band showed up and there were brown M&Ms in the bowl, or no candies at all, they knew no one had bothered to read the contract properly and it was unsafe for them to play.

    Now isn't that just the best story you've heard in ages?

    High Times

    07 March 2008

    Australia has been rocked this week by Federal treasurer Wayne Swan, along with Queensland premier Anna Bligh, admitting they smoked marijuana in their respective youths (although Kevin Rudd claims he never did so, and I believe him).

    Well, perhaps "rocked" isn't the right term...considering no one seems to much care. This generation of politicians grew up in the Seventies, and it seems to be accpeted that they did a few crazy things back then (have you seen the haircuts on some of these people in the old photos?). Moral standards are becoming increasingly relaxed. What will happen by the time my generation are running things - a confession by the Finance Minister that he was done in 2002 for selling Es, which everyone will then shrug off?

    Whilst in some cases I think the slipping of standards has gone too far, I'm pleased to see the end of moral puritanism (hypocrisy, in many cases) when it comes to drugs. I don't take drugs myself anymore; I've had some bad experiences, like what happened last week. Nurofen plus promises to ease strong pain, so I took two tablets; but an hour later, I was still at the office.

    But, whilst I'm one of those tedious feminists who think pornography demeans women (I don't quite think all hetero sex is rape though - not even after all these years), I'm a libertarian when it comes to adults and drugs. I think a drug-free society is something we should all strive for, and I want my free drugs now.

    March TV Reviews

    04 March 2008

    Goodness me, but there's a lot of great television on at the moment; I can hardly keep up with it all. I have no idea how other people find time for marriages and children.

    Everyone's raving about Underbelly at the moment, so I'm going to jump right on the bandwagon. How much do I like Underbelly? Let me put it this way: tomorrow night, there's a going-away party for a colleague of mine who's off to London for a year, and who I'm really going to miss; and we are going bowling, which I love. And still, I am considering not going because I'll miss Underbelly, even though, having read the book, I know how it ends (not with them all sitting on the beach, watching the sunset and reflecting on life's lessons learned, apparently).

    Underbelly is a voracious pleasure though, watching a universe most of us know nothing about (unless you happen to a a hitman, in which case, thanks so much for dropping by, and I think you've lost weight). For the really good stuff we can all relate to, you can't go past some reality TV.

    If you're my age and really want to feel superior to the proceeding gneration, there's Brat Camp. What a great idea - sending spoilt/violent/depressed/substance abusing teenagers off the the wilderness and forcing them to work together, fend for themselves and complete hokey challenges in order to teach them to behave. In fact, I know quite a few people who could do with a stay at Brat Camp - and they're not all sixteen.

    The pick for the best comedy show on television right now though goes to The Biggest Loser. There's the Blue Team, who nobly lay down their lives (or at least, their places in the house) to protect the weaker members...and the Reds, who torture their own wounded just to hear the screams. Even though I'm disappointed Sheridan has left (finally, someone on TV who's love life has been even more laughably pathetic than mine), it's still addictive stuff. There are two things that make it more enjoyable: eating high fat foods whilst watching, and Monty's TBL blog:

    "Sheridan says she’s never had relationship and beats everyone to the punch by saying that 'it’s pretty sad a 26 year old has never had a relationship.'

    Mrs Monty: cough Virgin cough.

    If appliances could speak, they’d beg to differ."

    Just one warning, though: do NOT look directly at host Ajay Rochester. It has been known to cause blindness and permanent retinal damage. Every time she appears on screen, take it as a cue to get more ice cream.

    Sydney: Nice Place To Visit; Wouldn't Want To Live Here

    03 March 2008

    According to the compilers of the Anholt City Brands Index, Sydney has been named the world's best City, owing to the climate, employment and business opportunites.

    A great place to live, you'd think, but not that the compilers of the Index do. They're visitors. Among Sydneysiders themselves, twenty percent want to move to another city, one of whom is me (the percentages are even higher among the young). The reasons cited include traffic, the high cost of living and job opportunities elsewhere.

    Having lived here for a year, I'll also add run-down infrastructure, lack of proper planning, and (of course) insane housing costs.

    But I'm throwing open the floor here. Please leave your comments - if you live in Sydney, what do you like and dislike? Are you planning on leaving? And if you've chosen to live elsewhere, what's put you off Sydney? I'm keen to see what people think.

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