Thursday, November 20, 2008


Welcome to Movember! That's the month in which Australian men (and maybe a few women) grow moustaches to support men's health. It is now week three so I thought an update was worthy of publication. That's one of Jenny Orchard's pieces next to me.

Movember seeks to raise awareness of prostate cancer and depression screenin for men. I formed a team called MoHubby to get other Hire-A- Hubbies involved. You can sponsor me if you like at

The website is fun to look at and I'm getting lots of comments. Granted, some of them are along the lines of "Are you doing Movember? So it my husband. His looks awful. I can't wait till it is over." The best part is the fellowship among men. Sometimes, we just nod in that knowing sort of way. It is raising awareness. And growing face hair is such a blokey thing to do.

One of the great things about living near the center of Sydney is it's proximity to all kinds of cool going's on. On Wednesday, I heard about the Spelling Bee finals that were being held at the offices of the ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I caught an early bus and got down there to discover that among nine finalists, the first eight misspelled their word and last contestant scored an upset win. But the competition ended about an hour early. Bummer for the guys upstairs who planned to air the final contest on the radio. Faced with time and no spellers, I wandered around and found a display case of old radio gear. Above is a "tiny" tape recorder that was created by the CIA and used by spies when they "wore a wire."

These are the famous Australian Kookaburras. They're related to kingfishers and I caught these two watching from under a big Jacaranda tree as grubs stirred below the mulch. These birds were swooping down and with their long beaks, stabbing a dinner from the bark bits below. They have a great call which sounds a lot like laughing. Remind me next time you see me, I'll do it for you

Back in Alaska, in a place called North Pole, there's a store called Santa Claus House. It's chock full of Christmas Crap. But here, CHRISTMAS WAREHOUSE they've gone all Walmart on the concept. Inside are the usual overwrought light displays and preflocked plastic Christmas 'trees.' Best part of this place is that you can become a VIP member and get 10 percent year. They keep prices low by renting temporary space for a few months a year. They have a direct link to the Chinese factories near Hangzhou that make this stuff. My favorite part is Yogi Santa out front, doing Jalandhara Bandha. See? It works, tuck in the chin and there's no pressure to the head!
The other day I sent my neice Kayla a box of "lollies" with very Australian names. Among them were Chupa Chups, which you might know as a dumdum. But these are quite nice and the new updated plastic sticks don't rot in your mouth. The were apparently a hit. Last weekend, I was walking down the mall in Bondi Junction and came across this gal, flogging Chupa Chups. "Salvador Dali designed the logo," she told me. It's their 50th birthday. She's standing next to a photo showing how one can use Chupa Chups and pipecleaners as stick figures in all sorts of fun action poses. Now that we're between elections, why not give this form of entertainment a try?

This house is just down the street from mine. Not much of a house really, but I can tell the occupants are okay.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Incorrigible Patriot

Incorrigible Patriot

If there’s one thing at which Australians excel, it is “taking the piss.” Give them any subject that smacks of formality or ceremony and they’ll shred it like Tasty cheese on a Ceasar salad.

One of the things they cringe at most is a patriotic American. For many Aussies, it just isn’t on. But that didn’t stop them from celebrating right along with us yanks when the Obama’s took the stage.

They may not have cried like I did, but we shared similar joy. One of my yoga students, a Malaysian immigrant named Candace, told me she punched the air when she heard the news. Riding my bike home Wednesday evening, I saw a banner outside a nearby home, reading OBAMA in red and blue.

My first tears came when I saw the new first family, the one who is going to live in the White House take the stage in Chicago:

There was Malia and Sasha walking proudly and waving at the crowds. And it brought to mind the image of first-grader Mary Rose Foxworth and second-grader Daphne Perminter became the first African American pupils at the previously all-white Suburban Park School in Norfolk when they enrolled on September 8, 1959.

There is something sublime about the innocence of two young girls walking firmly into their place in history. All four seem so natural and poised. Surrounded by family, they know they are in unfamiliar territory, but they are facing the challenge with their heads held high.

While people here are excited, I don’t think they understand the pride that many of us Americans feel. In conversations with my housemates, I liken it to the differences in how the two countries were formed. America was populated by people seeking freedom and fortune. Australia was founded as a penal colony for convicts. About the time those subjects were carving out their first sandstone buildings, Americans were overthrowing the monarchy that still today influences Australia’s government.

“It doesn’t matter,” my co-worker George said as I asked him to witness signing my ballot. And even though voting is compulsory in Australia, many who do vote are just trying to avoid the fines. George admits he just ticks a box, having studied neither the issues nor their positions.

But voting does matter, especially informed voting. As this election shows, our choices do matter. In talking to my 22-year-old housemate Sarah, I explained that for me this election wasn’t so much about left or right, but it was a choice between fear and hope.

And even though I couldn’t be there for the celebrations, a circumstance I sadly regret, I did my small part from all the way over here. Once again I chose hope. And I’ll long remember these beautiful moments, especially in the long days ahead as the Obama administration works from within our imperfect democracy to further change the course of history. May we succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sculpture By The Sea

Tamarama Beach - Just saying Tamarama makes me smile. And I smiled all day when I went to the Scupture By The Sea art show. This year was distinctly dog oriented. Or maybe it was movement. The piece above was perfectly integrated into the landscape, the one below used the changing nature of the sea foam to color the dog's mask.

One of the most technical was a piece featuring Andy Warhol, made from bent chicken wire. The artist took such care and the lines were perfect. Sculpture really appeals to the craftsman in me and I'm often awed by the skillfulness of each piece. Using fencing was a great way illustrate Warhol, a man who kept his walls high and people at arm's length.