Tuesday, November 29, 2005

salt and sand

I took the Guru and my new, wonderful Sills Bend messenger bag (the one with the convenient map under the flap) to the coast for a long weekend. Three days in Apollo Bay, with just enough sunshine to not feel cheated that it was not really bathing season yet. For those not in Victoria I will point out that meteorologically speaking this is a week that will be bookended by days touching 30c, the ones we were at the beach only just tickled the high teens. And it did not matter one iota.

This had all the hallmarks of a perfect Bridget Jones mini-break. A seaside town. A pokey but clean budget motel room. Sand beneath the toes. Pleasing food. A night sky carpeted with bright stars.

I turned my mobile phone off. I left my watch at home. I forgot what a computer was (well not really but I felt no lure of the keyboard).

Three days is just long enough to allow tense city muscles to begin to relax. It is a goodly amount of space to reacquaint yourself with a lover who has been doing other things of late. It is just barely enough to inspire dreams of moving to a modest shack on the hill over looking the coast and start a new career.

But it has taken only 24 hours on return, for the beginnings of a migraine to tease the edges of my brain (darn the 2 days of drinking coffee, I still haven't learnt!) so if you want to read another take on the break (cross promotion warning) continue over here.

May your dreams tonight be infused with the scent of the sea. Goodnight.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

pandemic and profit both start with 'p'

Our mate Rumsfeld paid a flying visit to Adelaide last week. Barely a mention was given to the monumental cock up made by one of his staffer’s. The anonymous person (who has no doubt recently joined the dole queue, or would do if his country had one) accidentally pushed an official US Government envelope containing all the details of Rummy and his team, under the wrong doors of the Adelaide hotel they were staying in. In the nice yellow envelope dozens of surprised guests found Rumsfield’s itinerary and the room numbers and contact detail of him and his staff. Woops.

Unfortunately this didn’t lead to any “unfortunate accidents”.

If he had met his maker (yes and remember according to the Christians amongst us, we are all made in Christ’s image, so that means even evil bastards like him), he would have left behind a very large estate.

Rumsfeld’s fortunes are on the rise again. This time courtesy of the bird flu beat up. Yes, I have ranted before that this is more a heavenly concoction of big business (namely pharmaceutical companies) and politics, but now there is another thread to the argument.

Guess who is a major shareholder in the biotech company that developed Tamiflu, the drug stockpiled by leading nations in the hope it will stave off the mythical pandemic? Until he resigned to become Secretary of Defence, Rummy was chairman of the board of Gilead Sciences Inc. This company still owns the patent for the drug, which Roche is licensed to manufacture. Gilead, in a recently renegotiated deal, is paid a royalty of about 18-19% on all of Roche’s Tamiflu sales. Gilead stocks are going through the roof and the revaluation of his shares has bought this prominent shareholder alone, an estimated US$1 Million windfall. Much of this bulked up by a US government order earlier this month for a further US$1 Billion order of the fabled drug.

This is not the first time Rummy has directly profited from his position of power propping up his share portfolio. Gilead also owns the patent on another controversial drug. A further fall out from the projected “terrorist threat” of September 11, was the great smallpox scare. Rumsfeld personally ordered all members of the armed forced to have the medically dubious smallpox vaccine, and with it a drug Vistide created by Gilead to treat side effects of the inoculation.

Like the Cheney-Halliburton connection in the Invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld-Gilead is yet another way the individuals in power are running this world for profit.

So are you still afraid of the big bad bird flu now?

Thursday, November 24, 2005


city of the dead

“I don’t want to be buried in a pet cem-e-ter-y..”

But maybe I want to be buried here. I know it is ecologically unsound to desire to be interred in the earth in a time of over population of the planet. (Though I do wonder how much cremation adds to green house gases.) I have always had a fascination for cemeteries. This may be because, or despite, of only rarely ever visiting someone known to me in them. My inner historian loves the stories the headstones tell.

I have spent a lot of time in the Melbourne General Cemetery over the last 2 decades. Each visit I find something new. I have been known to collect pinecones there in autumn. Regularly. I may have gathered the odd self-seeded calendula, that carpets the middle section with happy orange flowers some years. It never bugs me that “dead people” are there. Though there is something about the northeast corner of the place that deters me from exploring only that area.

Knowing the place so well, I have to admit Melbourne cemetery has seen better days. Sure the glossy marble graves that line the access roads are new and well tended. All those shiny black monoliths only semi filled, waiting for a surviving widow to pop their clogs. But beyond the main pathways the vista is dry and crumbling. Either through pesticide or drought, large tracts sport bare earth or dried weeds. Many of the graves are in disrepair. Some so bad they have literally sunk into the ground. Headstones are faded, broken, lying face down. The long dead appear long forgotten.

There are monuments. A once mayor of Melbourne has a weeping woman, life size in greenish bronze draped over his impressive memorial. His wife is buried there, but no distinction is made over the identity of the distraught woman. His mistress was legendary.

I am always heartened by the Jewish area of the cemetery. I respect the custom of leaving a rock on the grave to show you have visited. I have been known to slip a pebble on a naked grave.

Over on the Uni side is a Chinese Buddhist section. Often the air is still thick with incense. Another tangible human presence in this city of dead souls. There is a multisided pagoda, which can be very handy in the rain.

No talk of the cemetery can be complete without a mention of Elvis. His loyal following in this town created a memorial grotto for him. It is a little whimsy in a largely austere environment. Though now the new crypt edges next to it, the romance of the grotto is somewhat overshadowed.

The only part of the graveyard that never ceases to sadden me is a place I know as ‘the baby stones’. The initial site was a tucked away area where stillborn babies or those surviving only a short time were buried in an unmarked grave. There are now two places in Melbourne cemetery that houses the rocks, covered in small uniform plaques. With scant room for sentiment, the bareness of the words make me ache. I thoroughly recommend a visit in times of maudlin need. You know, when you are feeling sombre and want to be in an appropriate place for your mood. I have never seen anyone else at the stones when I have been there but evidence of frequent visitors, leaving small toys behind, is very poignant.

A number of strange things happened in or around the cemetery when I lived just 2 doors down from it:

A few days after the Hoddle Street Massacre my household heard gunshots coming from the graveyard, late one Sunday night. All 4 of us gathered unprompted in the living room pretending not to freak out. The cops were called and arrived in about 120 seconds. They took it very seriously. No one was found. In the end they concluded someone had jumped the fence and taken pot shots at the possums.

Speaking of wildlife. In the 80’s I saw a number of reptiles enjoying life in the (then) long grass and broken tombs. Definitely a few species of snake and the tail of something that looked suspiciously like a goanna.

People get locked in there. All the time. The gates shut at 5pm and there are only 3 exits in the sprawling grounds. One afternoon walking down Lygon St I encountered 2 elderly Greek women on the wrong side of the fence (in the spooky part of the graveyard). Very distraught. I convinced them to head to the opposite corner where the car entrance is and wait while I called the authorities. Oh the days before mobile phones! I never saw any fresh bones, so I guess they were rescued eventually.

One weekend afternoon another 2 Mediterranean women approached me and asked if I had seen “the man carrying the gun”. If I had, did they really think I would still be in there, not running as fast as I could for the exit?

The new crypt appears to be favoured by dealers of Class A substances. As its right on one of the roads, I guess it acts a bit like a drive through.

It is only ever the living that I am cautious of in the cemetery. If there were only dead people, it would be a lot more relaxing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

you can take the bloke out of the bush but..

Ute. Melbourne, Nov 2005.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

where the heart is

I have a strong connection with this place I have made my own. Home is so many things to different people. This is my home (the one I have chosen) away from home (the place I grew up in and forever shaped me).

I am just a couple of k’s from the city centre. The view from my door is that of the city towers, all glass and concrete, gloss and promise. The streets here are wide, treed and packed with what once were workers cottages. Mine, born around the turn on the city is a little shabbier than its older neighbours. We are packed in at a sweaty proximity. There are 10 other similar homes that border my small property. Only one shares a wall and thankfully she is an active septuagenarian but very quiet. I hope she lives forever. She is an ideal neighbour.

We talk to one another in the street. Even the faces not known by name share a smile and a hello. There is old Nell with her little dog out walking numerous times a day, often with the intellectually impaired man who lives near her. One neighbour feeds my cat if I am away. Our view on life is quite different but we share a love of animals and bottles of wine. She has banged on my door in the middle of the night more than once when there has been an emergency in her family. I am proud to say I know people who feel free to do that.

The suburb was predominantly Italian and Greek a couple of decades ago. The grapevines in my backyard bear testament to this. Once when I was pruning them a woman stopped to say her relatives used to live there – about 7 of them crammed into what is now inhabited by only one or two. I told her to let them know the remaining vine still bears fruit and usually a batch of dolmades is made from the leaves each spring.

There are housing commission towers and sprinklings of in-fill department owned dwellings. No longer European, the latest to move here are predominantly Sudanese. Women with luscious dark skin peaking out from colourful textiles wander the neighbourhood. People speak in many different tongues.

Space is quite precious. There are very few gracious homes with big backyards. The local park must be one of the best patronised in the city. The playground always has children frolicking. One quarter is unofficially doggy territory where the locals defy the “leash on” dictum and let their pooches run free. There is a basketball court mainly frequently by teenagers (though a couple of years ago I learnt to shoot baskets there too) and in between people – solo, couples, groups colonize space with rugs and possessions to read or chat or study or play, on sunny days. The place is alive on warm balmy evenings, impromptu gatherings fed by pizza and fish and chips from the local takeaways, a few stubbies purchased from the pub on the corner. At night we share the park with possums and flying foxes.

The library is a close second for popularity. Once tiny, it has stealthily been growing over the years. It is one of my favourite places. I have never been short of a book to read, which is lucky as if I had to buy them I would have to turn to crime to support my habit. A relative in the book trade rather arrogantly said to me once “people like you shouldn’t use libraries, its for the people who can’t afford to buy them”. I asked her when was the last time she’d actually paid for a book and rested my case. I am a regular. There are always kids there – story time for the littlies, free computer access hogged by the teens after school. DVDs, Cds, magazines and newspapers. Comfy chairs. An inviting atmosphere. A group of volunteers tutor kids, mainly from the housing commission, with their homework. It makes my heart sing to see them making this space their own. In this time of creeping privatisation I would arm the barricades to keep these free, public institutions.

Sure the place has been gentrified as anywhere this close to the city surely will. Any food establishment that thinks it will survive without a good barista will certainly fail. The pub, once green tiled, an informal RSL and blue collar domain, has gone up market, knocking the walls down to let the sun in and putting on finer fare. But there are still a few around that have resisted the change and cook up a fine roast for the regulars who claim their stool at the bar every morning at 10.

The hardware store has gone (and the beautiful old couple who ran it too), the butcher went (though no loss to meatless me) but the greengrocer is flourishing again and it’s only a kilometre to walk if you are after nails or a nice bit of rump. A cat adopted one of the shops as its home for 23 years. When she died, the window was full of tributes for weeks from the regulars. Pam was a bit of a surly moggy. The staff didn’t like her but the customers did. As she grew old, some kind of kitty Alzheimer’s kicked in and she forgot to be grumpy. The cat lovers got purrs and smooches, fortunately it was not left to us to clean up after her wayward eliminative organs.

Speaking of cats, I know almost everyone around here by name. They know me too. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Though my own puss gets a tad resentful when I come home smelling of foreign scents. I maybe unfaithful, but I always return to her. Anyway, I have enough pussy love to go around.

When its time to buy presents, I hit the local shopping strip. There are no foreign owned companies, so the profits from the book or doodah you buy, feeds the owner. A uni student with a passion for film has opened a dvd hire shop. He loans his private collections of foreign films in the back room for free, to the regulars. It’s quite a different world to ubiquitous chains full of blockbusters.

There is the quirky optometrist, who sends me a reminder every year to get my eyes checked. When I decided it was time to get a pair of glasses (I’m an habitual contact lens wearer since 15, I can count on one hands the friends who have seen me bespectacled) she picked me up and drove me to her clinic as I needed to be contact free for hours to get an accurate assessment and am too close to being legally blind (actually that is poetic licence, but lets just say my sights not good) to walk the streets safely without them.

I have lived within a couple of kilometres of my present home for the 19 years I have lived in Melbourne. I can walk to work and the majority of places I eat or play. I have no family here. My friends and neighbours have created a web of comfort and support.

When I think of moving away from this area, my heart contracts a little with grief. Despite the jockeying for a parking space, party prone neighbours who keep me awake, the occasional addict shooting up in the lane and a cramped old house without mod cons. But I don’t fancy living in a place where people don’t sit out on their verandas on warm evenings, or without nature strips, which become a place for an informal party.

There are home’s you are born into and homes that you choose. This is mine.

Friday, November 18, 2005

war criminal in town

Downer welcomes war criminal.

Wishing no harm on the people of Adelaide, but if the ground opened up under the town hall today some would be getting an early christmas present. Can the earth be charged with acts of sedition under the new legislation?

PS: want to look at our visitor having fun on other overseas junkets? Here's some footage of him chummying up with Saddam. Friend one day, oil rich nation to be plundered foe the next.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

shedding a tear for the big guys

A recent article in The New York Times documents the current downturn in drug company profits. Its been a tough time for the big companies with the whiz bang COX-2 arthritis drugs having pesky side effects like heart attack, stroke and oh, death. There was the terrible news that HRT is actually not the best thing since sliced bread after all. Then there were big selling drugs with patents expiring and companies desperately trying to replace them with new, more inferior and ridiculously expensive pills that don’t work as well.

The poor dears are loosing money. Job numbers are being cut. Profits are down. But don’t shed too many tears as these profits are still in the billions. But this is reason enough to cut the research budget. That is meant to make us scared. After all they haven't found a cure for the common cold yet.

Enter “bird flu”. We now have a holy trinity of coincidences. Drug companies needing a boost, a US president in need of a distraction and a dream possible pandemic in the wings.

The article does not name Roche amongst its story of woe. This is the company that makes Tamiflu, which has run off the shelves with leading countries buying millions of doses. They are so happy they have had to open new factories to keep up with demand. The flu that hasn’t happened, has the drug that has not been proven to work, for the people considered important enough to get the precious doses.

Nor does the article look at projected profits for these companies in the wake of buckets of money being thrown at the industry by petrified nations, to concoct a vaccine for the human virus that still hasn’t emerged.

All a strange coincidence? Stay tuned for the next killer disease . Sure 3 million deaths a year from AIDS alone isn’t enough, because most of them are poor people, so what’s in it for the pharma giants? Or lifestyle related preventable diseases – bowel cancer, alcoholism, lung cancer, heart disease. No, if this pandemic doesn’t pan out, I promise you a new drug treatable health crisis (menopause *tick* , high cholesterol *tick*, baldness *tick*, erectile dysfunction *tick*) will just have to be invented.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

spreading myself a bit thin

Delightful pic stolen from todays Age

I heard the siren call, I dashed myself on the rocks. The sorry tale is over on the other blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

school days rant

School days are mercifully a long time ago. While most of my primary schooling is chocker with warm fuzzies, high school was not the happiest time of my life. I did well, I had a good social life, I navigated my way through it ok – it’s just not immortalised for me like it is for some others.

I have been looking for distractions cleaning up my study in preparations for visitors and come across some memorabilia from that time. There were 3 things I enjoyed most of all at secondary school.

1. Latin – yes almost as perverse as my love of tofu – but I willingly chose latin to study. I loved the culture and understanding the derivation of words. To this day I can amo, amas, amat with the best of them.
2. Debating – when asked what sport I did, debating was my answer. It was as close as you could get to a blood sport without getting your nice regulation white blouse dirty (very important thing for a virgo). I was a darn good rebutter.
3. Drama – I always loved acting (well til I studied it at uni and was directed by someone who unfortunately had a psychotic episode which began at the end of rehearsals and continued on through the show). Performing kept me just sane enough to make it through those years til I escaped to higher education.

So in the pile of school related stuff (and keep in mind dear reader, I may not be as young as I appear) is a photocopied program from a production of “Once on a Time”. I had top billing playing “Roger Scurvilegs” (it was a girls school but I didn’t mind a bit of cross dressing in order to get the lead). As I scanned through the names one I had never noticed before jumped out “stage crew and set construction:…Rebecca Gibney". Oh how we unwittingly cross paths with the yet to be rich and famous!

There was also a bundle of school reports. Here are a few snippets:

Physical Education (achievement = C, effort = C+) “AOF should try to concentrate during lesson-time, and be less scatty."

Physical Education (effort = C+) “AOF could put more effort into this subject”

Science (achievement = B-, effort = B+) “…but her written work is rather messy and not reflective of her classroom ability”

..but it all gets a bit sucky after that with words like “intelligent”. “enthusiastic”, “cheerful”. “conscientious”. Get me a bucket!

There was a bitch of a French teacher (also a nice one and one who I am sure was a lesbian who had the unfortunate habit of a nervous tick so you kept thinking she was winking at you). Her name was Madame Napier and she really was French. She was particularly cruel and never should have been allowed to interact with young impressionable minds.

A slightly mad history teacher, who instilled my love of the subject and directed the school plays. Years later she turned up to a party in a house I was living in and tried to crack on to my boyfriend (who had been a student of hers at a different school).

Strangely I cannot recall the names or faces of any of my PE teachers.

I missed a total of 45 out of 180 school days in one year due to glandular fever, yet still kicked arse in national exams at the end of it.

One of my happier memories of high school was the time, when we were 14, Cathy bought a cocktail of vodka gimlets in her drinking bottle and we sat down at the back of the oval and drank it at morning recess.

I left secondary school after 4 years and went straight to uni, skipping 7th form/year 12. I had outgrown the place and was ready to move on. It all got better after that.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

if in doubt post a pussy pic

The world is looking a bit crap from behind my fluttering lashes. I will resist ranting about how the rodent has pushed the IR legislation through the lower house without allowing any discussion on its content. Muzzling the opposition, now that's democracy for you.

I read a Katrina blog operation eden, courtesy of BoingBoing, which was enough to break my heart, but a story that needs to be told and amazing photos (when a glamour photographer uses his skills for good not evil and goes back to his roots).

With all this injustice and suffering in the world I consoled myself with a snuggle in bed with princess prissy paws. It was raining outside. I read and dozed. Most delicious

She's a weird cat at the best of times but this pic makes her look even stranger.

So cuddle something warm and fluffy when your heart is heavy. That's my tip for the day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

don't know what to cook?

Speaking of food...try curry in a hurry.

pass the caviar

Was your last prescription determined by the quality of the seafood platter?

Doctors are revolting. No longer will they put up with inferior finger food at junkets professional seminars provided by pharmaceutical companies. They have demanded a return to the halcyon days of fine food and wine. And rightly so.

For the past 3 years Medicines Australia, the cartel peak body representing drug companies, has applied a code of conduct (no doubt under pressure from the uppity public) forcing members to supply only “simple and modest” victuals to the doctors they are trying to woo. But those sparse days are about to end if a leaked revised code has its way.

The Association has complained that doctors have voted with their feet and no longer turn up to hear the wonders of the latest whiz bang drug since fois gras was off the menu.

John Gullotta, president of the AMA (NSW), explained “Doctors work long hours and if they go out after surgery they expect a decent venue. A lot of them won't go, after working a long day, to a sub-standard venue."

The poor dears.

But for the public its will now be the case once more that the biggest prawn wins, even if there might be a more appropriate therapeutic option available.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

hopes and fears

Back from the protest. Great speeches. Had tears in my eyes at time. I am so bloody mad with this government and their cronies. I will not be silenced. (But if I do disappear for a couple of weeks I wont be able to tell you who took me or why).

Came home fired up and hot under the collar (its over 30c again) to read the Sunday Age. If it had been the first of April I would have passed it off as a sick joke. But no, slimebag Cheney has made a touching plea to his fellow Republican senators to exempt the CIA from US laws on torture. Yes that’s right, they want to legally torture suspects in the name of fighting so called terrorism (rather than taking them off to other countries who don’t have such beliefs to torture them there). In reality its just a rubber stamp on a policy already enacted.

NPR has a great interview with an ex White House staffer who has blown the lid on the US contravening the Geneva Convention in Iraq. Larry Wilkinson, presented strong evidence that the trail leads back to VP Cheney encouraging ‘in carefully couched terms’ ways of gathering intelligence in the field getting around the international code.

I have faith that one day Cheney will be tried and prosecuted for the war crimes he has committed, in the name of amassing further personal wealth and power.

uploaded from http://www.bloodforoil.org

Ok time to have a cold shower now, or vomit…or both.

PS: instead of commenting, just turn up at the protests next time - each apathetic no show gives the rodent tacit approval of his policies in Iraq, on anti terrorism legislation and erosion of other values most Australians hold dear. It's time to stand up and be counted, before it is too late.

In Melbourne today?

1pm or there abouts today, National Day of Protest - End the occupation of Iraq. Quick, pull your finger out!

Be there or be another hypocrite.

fitzroy, Melbourne 2004

Thursday, November 03, 2005

cowardly custard and other tales

It’s been a stormy night. Episodes of torrential rain, thunder, lightening. A very frightened puss cat hiding under the bed all night. And hot. An overnight low of a very humid 21c at 6am.

So I am a tad grumpy this morning.

The storm, I blame on the hot air that’s been forming over Canberra. We are experiencing a week of devastating legislative change in this country. There are Industrial Relations proposals that will reinstate a Dickensian world for those on the bottom of the wealth and opportunity ladder. As if that was not enough, the loss of habeas corpus (has anything really changed in 300 years?) by way of a top secret counter terrorism bill is ready to be rushed through the Liberal dominated parliament, without proper room for debate.

The rodent, in a hackneyed form of trickery decided to announce a sudden terrorism alert just as the IR legislation entered the lower house. Headlines today are of our capital cities being on high alert from nefarious forces, NOT how the workers are being whipped by the new bill. (”Bosses get the right to sack at any time”)

Keep the population scared. That will take their mind off what is really happening in politics. You could bet if we hadn’t conveniently been at war, it would have been a bird flu alarm pulled out of his back pocket instead.

The opposition’s turned to custard. The population is alarmed but not alert. And I am a very grumpy pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dia de los Muertos

This day is here again. I dread it. Our culture has no acceptable way of dealing with grief beyond a pat on the back, a cup of tea and perhaps a casserole in the first few days. Over a decade later, the flowers have composted many times over. There are a few phone calls, mainly family, maybe an email.

If I was Mexican, rather than of stodgy anglo stock I would be at the graveyard tonight. I would be dancing, singing, crying, drinking, laughing, honouring my dead. Lots of alcohol and sugar. Not a stiff upper lip in sight.

What did I do? I spent the night before drinking copious champagne and feasting on chocolate. I watched an erotic movie, there is nothing like fucking to remind you of life. Today I laid in the sun on a glorious Melbourne day. Distracted myself with number puzzles and books, music, food. Not entirely alone, but choosing my own space. Speaking more to felines than humans. Strange comforting rituals. This is what I needed this time.

So I entreat you. Bring out your dead. Howl at the moon. Talk to those who have gone before. Bugger what the neighbours think. So then, with luck, next year wont be so bad.

For all of you acquainted with grief - may your Day of the Dead be as you choose.

(thinking of you big brother, it wasn't so bad this time)
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