Monday, March 31, 2008

spooky internet tarot personality

You are The Hierophant

Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.

All things relating to education, patience, help from superiors.The Hierophant is often considered to be a Guardian Angel.

The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

got moo juice?

Watch 'Milk Gone Wild 2: At the Carwash'
Watch more videos at

Thanks Lisa for putting me onto this, am sure the NB's friend - head honcho of marketing at a major dairy corp - will love it

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth hour makes me cranky

A symbolic event is meant to give you the warm fuzzies. Instead, like Andie MacDowell in “Sex, Lies and Videotape” it brings out my neuroses wondering where all the garbage or in this case real ecology altering policies, have gone. Flicking off our lights for an hour a year is meant to generate the heat of a groundswell movement but unfortunately it just makes me break out into a dose of the crankies.

In a vast sunburnt country like Australia you’d have thought that successive governments would have approached an impending fossil fuel shortage by harnessing the abundant, renewable, natural resources. But sadly, the politicians have been in the pocket of the coal industry and monies initially earmarked for solar development got rerouted into “clean coal” technology. This oxymoron continues to keep us on the climate change train, with the add ons of pollutants and radionuclides as well. While everyone seems to like the idea of wind power, those who face the prospect of having a wind farm in their backyard do not. As visually intrusive as these generators may be, it’s not half as ugly or polluting as strip mining for coal.

Projections 20 years ago had the cost of solar cells down to an affordable level through mass production. Sadly that has not happened. We are also driving bigger cars, even more amazingly still, on petrol and diesel. We have more electricity sucking technology in our homes, which glow through the day and night with LED lights on standby. Our public transport system has been privatised. The trams and trains once the pride of Melbourne have now descended into a commuter nightmare with cancellations, over crowding and rising prices, let alone the thugs that have been employed to police it for fare evasion.

But tonight some well meaning souls will head off to dine in a candle lit restaurant (will the kitchen be darkened and everyone content to sit on a drink without ice for over an hour as well?) feeling like they are making a difference. With less than 5% of businesses in the city signing up, mostly for the publicity generated by the tokenism of switching off their lights, organisers accept that the Big Switch will not actually account for any significant reduction in power demand. It’s Symbolic.

A friend and supporter of Earth Hour pointed out that the recent Apology was also symbolic. But the difference in this case is who did it. If industry, the biggest carbon polluters, got behind the event then that would be a fair comparison. While local councils and individuals have been saying Sorry to the indigenous people of this land for many years, it did not pack the punch of an entire parliament getting in on the act.

Last year, the Big Flick began in Sydney with a little support from other States. This year is it global. Let’s hope, now that it has garnered so much attention there will be accurate reportage of the event, especially by it’s sponsors.

So will I be flicking off the lights this year? I don’t know. If I’m at the cinema the lights will be off but perhaps they’ll have some athletic type in lycra spinning some pedal power to keep the projector going?

Now if everyone who does engage in the symbolism of the event began lobbying their State and Federal ministers with the threat of switching their vote to The Greens (the only party that has real policies to tackle climate change), that really could have make a difference.

Think about it.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

letters from home

In a past life, when I was a more intense and energetic young thing, I did what many Antipodeans did - I worked for the minimum time possible after finishing university to earn enough money to buy a one way ticket to London. On my recent trip home I found a bundle of letters sent across the world to me in the '80's. If nothing else, they give me some perspective on my life now. Here's an excerpt from one that my best friend that I had studied drama with sent and was pretty typical of the life we'd led at the time - no wonder none of us owned televisions.

“Brian* is caught up in Drama fever – something I have completely recovered from and he actually helps matters by talking about it all bla bla ..incestuous sex and parties. Greg’s depressed and seedy. Euan talks shit and fucks everyone. Mike and Jerry are both in love with Elise. Elise screws both of them and abuses Mike at party’s in dark corners and Mike gets depressed. Cate is in love with John and screams at him at party’s, “ How do you know you’re gay? If you are why don’t you fall in love with Brian?” The truth is Brian is in love with John but John’s not in love with Brian and now Cate’s decided she’s a lesbian anyway, so she slept with Sue and John slept with Gary (after Brian who’d slept with John told John he’d fancied Gary) – so they got heavy in front of Brian who came home and cried on my shoulder for hours. A couple of weekends ago we had Sue and Fiona here screaming about the house until 5am before they finally all crashed downstairs. Full stop.”

* Names have been changed to protect identities. After all "Mike" became a famous soapy star, Brian a playwright and Sue a very successful author and actor. I suspect Greg is still depressed, Euan wishes he still could fuck everyone and I haven't the slightest idea who half the others are.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

wet stuff

Sure, this weather map with measly yellow shading might seem like nothing to you but for us it means Garden Planting Time is coming soon! It's been raining so much that Princess Prissy Paws has bulging eyes due to the fullness of her bladder, her paws you know are allergic to water.

Hope I am not jumping the gun but these signs suggest autumn might be here at last:

First night sleeping under a doona (kiwi translation: duvet), even if I didn't last til morning with it over me.

Fallen leaves swirling around.

A sudden desire to hunt out my boots and raincoat.

Decreased motivation to buy a BBQ.

Vague thoughts about craft and baking related activities.

Deciding there is no need for a leg wax.

Assorted furry creatures suddenly wanting to sit on my lap.

Desire for porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast again.

What are the seasons doing to you?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

hold everything mr scrub-hard

Wellington "Evening Post" June 1940

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

fringe dwellers

At the end of my first year at university I started going out with a guy who could not be categorised. He’d gone to the same popular boys school in the years that most of the men I hung out with had but he wasn’t part of the pack. I knew him more obliquely, through a female friend’s brother, our paths had crossed increasingly over the previous year or two through a different network of parties to the ones the other guys attended. His white hair and peculiar sense of humour made him stand out. He was different, yet still familiar.

So we began to orbit each other and after a bit of reluctance on my part, we hooked up. I knew he had plans to leave the country and he was loosening his connections with home. Though totally sane, that is unless a love of Frank Zappa excludes that diagnosis, there was a touch oddness about him. Some would say the same about me. That’s probably why we got on.

Cutting to the chase, the move across the Tasman happened on schedule, after a bit of hesitation I came too for a semester. Then a year or 2 after my return home he headed off further across the world. His first stop was Japan to earn lucrative yen to fund his travel but never made it further. What struck me about his choice of adopted home was that he was always a fringe dweller, even in his own land. In New Zealand, he looked part of the place but at some vibrational level didn’t feel that he entirely fitted in. In a country like Japan, where he could never blend in, difference is more acceptable.

Perhaps it would have been easier for me if I’d chosen to relocate to a country where the cultural differences were more obvious. In England the remnants of the class system were still apparent. I was a colonial, however jokingly the word was used, it belied the need for many of the Brits to elevate their own status by finding a way to denigrate that of others. Though the attitude was largely benign, however condescending, it was my first experience of looking the same, sharing a native tongue, being historically connected but still not belonging to a place. Like many others have found, there is an interesting kind of freedom this can deliver. It bought out another, and I sneakingly suspect a better or at least more fun, part of me. I could be even louder, more opinonated, funnier, cuter or whatever it was that made some of the locals want to adopt me as a kind of mascot. I could get away with saying things that they self-censored. I never really tried to blend in, though I made many English friends and choose not to live in the antipodean ghetto. After 18 months I knew something within me would have to shift if I chose to stay longer. There would have to be some degree of conformity to obtain and maintain a professional job in the field I was in at the time. I flirted with the idea but even if I could cope with yet another endless, grey winter in London, I didn’t want to attempt to be one of them.

While travelling I met my fair share of Aussies and Kiwis. The gentle ribbing between the two nations quickly subsided when faced with a common enemy, the hapless Brit. With only the Tasman between us there was a ridiculous rivalry over sports and accents, which lessened as the distance from home grew. But moving to Australia was another thing. In the first year I lost count of the number of times I was asked to say “6” or “fish and chips”, the locals jumping on vowel pronunciation to claim some weird kind of superiority. Unfortunately there weren’t many South Africans around at the time, as their mangled way of speaking English would surely have taken the heat off. But having experienced some degree of camaraderie with my fellow Antipodeans while on the other side of the world, I took it in my stride. The real differences between Australians and New Zealanders were subtler yet more profound I discovered. I found men and society generally more sexist. Even the lefty blokes I hung out with had the social-political sensitivity of Neanderthals by comparison to my peers at home. It was these points of separation that reminded me that I too was a fringe dweller. I found in Melbourne (surprisingly more than in London) when I took on mindless temping assignments to earn some money, an appalling level of racism and sheer ignorance in my colleagues. Unlike England where I never intended to stay for the long term, such attitudes challenged my desire to assimilate in my new homeland. Even 20 years on, these differences are still apparent, it is just I’ve grown used to them. When I binged on “The Flight of the Conchords” this summer, I felt a real ache for those gentle, kiwi men of my teens and early 20s.

My ex still lives in Tokyo. He’s as local as a gaijin can be, even more so now with a Japanese son. These days I travel as an Australian, no longer holding a New Zealand passport. We still visit our hometown but harbour no true desire to live there, choosing instead to dwell on the fringes of other shores.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

got (not) in laws staying

...and its hot and can't walk around the house naked.

Enough said!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Melbourne public hospitals and surgeons investigated for kickbacks

The tendering process appears to have been bypassed in 2 leading Melbourne public hospitals, giving a couple of medical equipment companies exclusive usage rights in these institutions.

According to The Age “donations” ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 have bought a number of US medical devise manufacturers the rights to having their products being used in these hospitals, to the exclusion of all other suppliers. With contracts for supply far outstripping the initial tax-deductible donation, this kind of business incentive is not new in the medical world. However such anti-competitive practices in a publicly funded hospital is certainly questionable if not illegal.

Individual surgeons have also been allegedly supplementing their meagre wage with direct kickbacks from some of these companies, for choosing their products. “Incentives” for doctors to prefer a certain pharmaceutical company or medical device manufacturer have long included rewards such as holidays and other luxuries. Though lets not forget the little folk, many disease or medical condition support groups are indirectly funded by similar companies to allow these shoestring organizations to continue to keep their advice lines and other referral services open.

Strangely the AMA has come late to this. Only after an official US based investigation blew the whistle on what has been happening in Melbourne, has our medical ‘watchdog’ (or rather protection group) made a statement “to call for greater transparency in the relationship between the implant makers and surgeons.”

The AMA Code of Ethics always makes interesting reading. Does your GP or specialist have one on display in their waiting room for you to peruse before your consultation? (It’s ok; they are not obliged to by the code). In regards to incentives and kickbacks things are not spelt out directly, the closest are references in Professional Independence to: “refrain from entering into any contract with a colleague or organisation which may conflict with professional integrity, clinical independence or your primary obligation to the patient” and “recognise your right to refuse to carry out services which you consider to be professionally unethical, against your moral convictions, imposed on you for either administrative reasons or for financial gain or which you consider are not in the best interest of the patient.” Hey if there is a financial incentive to use a certain medical device or drug you are allowed, though not obliged, to refuse it.

A press release from the AMA in 2004 acknowledges that medical companies target doctors even before graduation with sweeteners to medical students and that 80-95% of doctors regularly agree to see industry reps. More alarmingly the statement acknowledges that “studies demonstrate that attendance at conferences sponsored by the industry produces altered prescribing patterns for at least the next six months” yet has not made any stand to make ongoing education for professionals truly independent.

A further position statement regarding a doctor’s relationship with the pharmaceutical industry states: “Doctors in practice should not accept a fee or equivalent consideration from pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, etc. in exchange for seeing them in a promotional or similar capacity" and "practising doctors should not accept, nor allow their prescribing habits to be influenced by, personal gifts from the pharmaceutical industry or similar bodies.”

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ah Germaine, you've done it again

“You all know why you’re here. She’s a great Shelia. Sit down and shut up – I give you Germaine Greer.”
So the welcome by Moria Rayner concluded at a belated International Women’s Day Event, “An evening with Germaine Greer”. Like the lecture late last year as part of the Jane Austen and Comedy Conference, it was a sold out affair populated by a high proportion of Women of a Certain Age. The old Athenaeum theatre was literally packed to the rafters right up to the back row of ‘The Gods’.

After a rock star-like reception, Dr Greer graced us with her wit and charm. Remembering some of the challenges of the last talk that I’d attended I came equipped with pen and notebook to jot down all the words I anticipated needing to look up later. But this was a public lecture not attached to a literary conference and subtly she shifted her focus and language. In fact at times she was downright gushy. Towards the end of her lecture about Shakespeare’s wife there were tears in her eyes, with the passion she felt for women who had fallen from the edges of the history books.

Dr Greer recounted that her love of Shakespeare began at a young age, memorising his plays, so that “by twelve I had huge chunks of Shakespeare taking up space in my brain, like icebergs in the Bering Straight”. This set her up well for her doctorate at Cambridge but the frustration of not being able to connect it across the disciplines with a fascination in the ideology of marriage in the 16th century lay the seeds to the future work that became “Shakespeare’s Wife”. Though back in those days
“as a professional woman and academic I presumed all wives were dullards.”

Her comedic recounting of the way history has treated Ann Hathaway as an old hag, at 26, who mysteriously was able to entrap “the boy”, the 18-year-old Shakespeare, into marriage launched her tale. Perhaps in another, more academic forum she would have elucidated more clearly how she made many of her sweeping assumptions, piecing together a new version of the history of their relationship but considering Greer’s track record I am sure the book does this in spades. As an audience member I had lots of questions as to her route to her assumptions, such as her description of Ann struggling to breastfeed her twins, “wet nurse” was a thought that popped into her head.

As always, it is her generosity in the way she opens herself up to questioning at the end of her lectures that holds many of the gems. While there was some routine questioning as to aspects of the book, the personal stuff can be most amusing. A fan asked how she felt about her appalling portrayal in the local press. Her quick response began with:
”Can you imagine how embarrassed I’d be to be the darling of the Australian media? I’d have to slit my wrists if I was”
and continued into a rant about the Murdock empire and their perceived power.

She was frank about her personal life and the thorny choice for a woman of her generation between marriage and family or that of a single woman. Despite the fact
“I was too tall to dance backwards…and never had a proposal from someone who wasn’t kidding”
she noted that “freedom is sometimes the same as loneliness”.

The night ended with Moria Rainer presenting her with a bottle of wine still in it’s plain brown wrapper. An odd twist to an otherwise top-notch evening. While Dr Greer is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is fantastic to see a 60-something academic still pull such a crowd on a hot, Monday night.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

women and art

The Archibald prize for portraiture was announced yesterday and according to the director of the NSW Art Gallery, was one of the toughest judging decisions they have made. Del Kathryn Barton’s “You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella” is a beautiful, feminine piece quite different in style to past winners.

It could be said that the Prize doesn’t favour female artists, with women only winning the Archibald 8 times since it’s inception in 1921 (though there has been the odd year when the award has not been given). Please can we avoid the “there aren’t many good women artists” ‘debate’ on this one. Barton is the 4th woman to win the prize in the past 30 years, well since there has been a nod towards gender equality in this country.

The award winning portrait is of a domestic nature, not just of the painter with her children but the acknowledgement in its title that they are what makes her who she is. Her artistic style steers away from classical painting and drawing, breaking the mold a little.

Personally, from what I can see of the portrait (a miniature computer image is usually a poor representation of the original) there is much to admire. Congratulations to Barton and what a fitting accomplishment for International Women’s Day.

One thing about this year’s finalist baffled me. The entry criterion states the portrait to be “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics” and past years have tended to not include an unknown subject. As beautiful as Zai Kuang’s piece is, just what is Celia and Julie’s claim to fame?

Zai Kuang
The sisters - Celia and Julia

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a little bit of Petite Anglaise

If you're a fan of Petite Anglaise you may have already seen this recent interview with her on BBC Breakfast. Even if you are not, this is a good slice of life about blogging, what it is like to be interviewed by someone who has never seen a blog before and the inanity of breakfast television.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

proof I am a bad person

I saw this headline and immediately thought it fitting. For a guy who's whole career has been built on misogyny to get prostate cancer - only a deadly disease of the arsehole could have been better.

Sorry. I am not a good person.

I really need to take up meditation again.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

excuses, excuses

I spent so much time on Youtube* last month that I used up our allocation of 12 GB in less than 3 weeks, so had the indignity of an internet connection being slowed down to a dawdle over the last few days. Not good, especially with it being the same time as getting into all that delicious video chatting on Skype for free. Though, now I am over the pesky change of season lurgy I really don’t need to ding dong the Not Boyfriend from my laptop in bed to his big new fancy Mac in the next room because it was too much of an effort to call out through the wall. Will leave it to communicate with people a little further away.

My favourite Pixie visited thank to the generosity of the New Zealand government sending their favourite public servants to conferences across the Tasman (and I promise to not relate a story that involves the following words: fare minister tram evader transport allegedly). She was my leave pass from the mini Feb Fast so the past week has been sponsored by many fine winemakers. Pinot Grigio, Rose, Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc – it’s been delightful to make your acquaintance again.

And eating – Tom Phat for brunch, The Kent for a farewell lunch in the sun, Warung Argus for a memory of Bali, Chocolate Buddha to have a night to gossip by ourselves. And more drinking – Jawa Bar, Seamstress, the lounge room, at the dining table and the newly renovated backyard.

Now it is March. How did that happen? The leaves have begun to fall and a blue-skyed day doesn’t feel quite as warm. The cats have started to curl up together to sleep or otherwise look askance for a lap to suck a little human heat from. And the thought of staying at home on Saturday night and hitting the hay early is all of a sudden hugely appealing.

Have a great weekend, wherever in the world you are.

* Lilies close to 8 hours of fine BBC drama.

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