Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Sea change....the big move

I have a Mac.
I have made the brave move.
Learning curve. After 20 plus years on PCs.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Being Out of Town

The speed of modern communications has not caught up with everywhere...of course. So here we are in the country with the slowest connection in the world, perhaps. Email takes hours to come in and one curses the endless spam which no longer is grabbed by the ISP or the secondary filter. it just comes and comes and comes....and comes. Right now I am waiting for 300 mails to come in.
Commuting from the country is a bit of a bore, too. I know Americans commute for hours every day and I should not complain. It is only an hour and a quarter from here - and when no one else is on the country stretches of the road, it is actually rather lovely. But then one hits the traffic and the last 40 klicks are vile.
These are the last days, however. And this the last weekend. The packing weekend when I prepare the house for its summer holiday tenants, the revenue which is supposed to pay the rates.
A lovely day today with friends B & Q staying - sharing pleasures in nature. We spotted a white-breasted sea eagle on the island this morning and had a lengthy good look at her through the high-powered scope. And then on Seal Island a mother seal and her baby - almost white, the bub. And paddling in the rock pools with the tide out, we found a wonderful crustacean worm creature and a happy crab, as well as lots of tiny hatchling fish. Later, at Waitpinga, we did some fly herding and Q caught some of the herded flies for identification under Bruce's powerful hand-magnifier. And we sat on the glorious beach in the perfect warmth and watched the Caspian terns and Pac gulls and silver gulls, and the seven fishermen in the distance, casting into the surf. And on the way home, Q pointed out masses of butterflies and we stopped to watch them, and found also a huge red ant busy on a gum bough and some tiny orb-weavers. And then, as we drove on, B spotted a huge bearded lizard displaying himself on a dead tree....oh yes, we saw kangaroos, too.
In the evening, after a huge dinner, we drove to look at the Xmas lights of Victor - and then generally repaired to rest. The boys had erected my long-awaited shed today. it now sits green and proud in the corner. Tomorrow I will start putting things in it.
But now - there are more of the masssss of short stories to be read for the paper's short-story competition. I have been reading hundreds a day, charmed to the core to think of all those people intent on the business of creative writing, even if a lot of them are immersed in the most lurid of purple prose.
Onwards to bed, to stack the folder on the knee and sit up, pen in hand, judging the good from the bad...sometimes pausing to marvel at a competitor, for often their descriptions of themselves are the most fascinating part.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Critical condition

What a roll-up. Guests and nominees for the Critics Circle Awards night were rolling up 40 minutes before the invitation hour - which caught us somewhat on the hop setting things up in the Bakehouse Theatre. First to arrive was a theatre director and hot on her heels, our Lifetime Achiever, an octogenarian Czech former ballerina. And then in they swarmed, waiting at the bar before the wine was even opened. And they swilled down the fine Coriole wines and sucked down the Coopers beers and they nibbled and chomped on the food - by the end of the evening polishing off all the wine and all the food, leaving only some of the beer with which to "pay" the volunteer bar staff and glass-washers. But it was one helluva good party - and people lingered on to the last. Winners, of course, swanned out on clouds with trophies and cheques in hand, beaming from ear to ear. And once again we, the critics, had the satisfaction of rewarding the best of the best - not only with the material goods but with the kudos which forever after they may put as a major credit achieved. "Award-winning" is a nice way to prefix one's name.
It was a terrific crowd - a delight to address. So responsive. It made it easy for all of us who had to speak - and we were many. I MCed and assorted critics made the announcements of winners, speaking on their merits as they did so. Our VIP politician, John Hill, known under the silly title as "Minister Assisting the Premier in the Arts" (we all believe he should be given the title of arts minister since he is beloved in the arts and the premier perhaps less so) was witty and wonderful.
And the audience, in the air-conditioned theatre, was able to sit comfortably, drinks in hand, throughout the speaking and award-giving. Our sponsor for the Coopers awards for amateur theatre, Glenn Cooper, rolled up in the nick of time and in the sweetest of good humor. He has no aptitude for any of the arts, said he, but he supports the awards because he loves the arts and most particularly the people involved in them. It was heartfelt - and we all purred with pleasure.
Our Arts Department friends were there, of course. For it is they who liaise the serious money for the major professional awards. And they seemed warm and happy with the event, too. Indeed, everyone seemed radiantly happy. And - after a frenetic day of getting the event together, I retire to bed absolutely and utterly exhausted - but pleased as punch that another year's awards are successfully under the belt.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Deja revue

Another reunion? Well, at least it was not brutally time-specific. It spanned several decades - the lifetime of the University Footlights Club, the home of undergraduate satire. A sad reflection on Generation X et al is the death of such pertinent creative juices. Footlights has been dead since the 80s with students now simply too preoccupied with studies to indulge in satiric thespian tendencies. Not so in my day when those revues were big deal - and not just for the student body.
Tonight 210 old Footlighters gathered to reminisce and run, rustily, through some of the old numbers of the 50s and 60s.
Exuberant, bright youth now in middle age and, in some cases, dotage - since the first Footlighters were performing in the 30s and 40s. A room crowded with extroverts!
It was good to see many of the faces of my uni days. Strange, though, that despite the intervening years, they still looked much the same to me. I gazed at some, silver-haired or balding, and succumbed to that strange backflash of the vibrant, zealous student days and the excitement of putting on the shows and partying through the nights - never in wildest youthful imaginings contemplating a day in the distant future when we would converge to reminisce about those good old days. We did not think a lot about the future then. We could not see ourselves in mellow years. The "now" was forever. Halcyon youth.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Away from the madding crowd

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. Especially this, my own corner of the seaside - with its old glacial reef and its seascape of rocky islands and the mighty Bluff. Encounter Bay, where the scent of the sea invigorates and renews as the tide goes out exposing the rocky reef and its weedy life forms - beds of mussels, urchins, weed like strings of pearls, ribbons of kelp, starfish...
Bruce and I are having a wee retreat. I have a week off work and he is over from NH on his annual leave. Precious time for us both. In our own house with its sublime view, the sea a casual stone's throw from the door.
It's been a quiet few days - just us. We have walked our familiar path to the old screwpile jetty to watch the fishermen, we have sat on beaches watching the sea, on the little calm, sheltered bay beneath the bluff and also on the mighty Waitpinga beach where the Southern Ocean crashes wild surfing waves onto the vast stretch of golden sand. Looking at that sand under one of B's high-powered magnifiers (which he carries around the neck on nature walks) it was to find a world of glittering, sea-smoothed gemstones - tiny golden quartz, which gives the sand its color, and pure crystal quartz like miniature uncut diamonds.
It was a breezy day when we walked Waitpinga. Only us and two fishermen casting into the furious sea. The waves were massive, raging over in rolling breaks and frothing up like seething meringue. Down the profile of the coast, the perspective of headlands was cast into pastel hues by the delicate salt spray whipped up from the wind off the sea. B and I, after padding through the soft sand to the little rivermouth, headed inland along the edge of the river - which, after the drought, was narrowed leaving broad, firm beds of sandy marsh mud. Opportunistic little wildflowers were greedily spreading their way across the new soil, rejoicing with bright blue blooms. As we walked the water's edge, we noticed masses of little marsh flies flying in little leaps and bounds around our feet. The further we walked, the more of these little ground-dwelling flies we saw until they were a dense black carpet. We were fascinated by the way their population seemed to grow thicker the further inland we walked - until I turned around and observed that there were hardly any little flies behind us. They were keeping pace with us, a step ahead all the way. We were herding them. Fly herding!!!!!! And we had herded them by the zillions. Oh the power.
Our friends, Barb and Brian, came down yesterday and we rolled off for an Aussie pub meal. Hearty and very average - but easy and fun. Today we lunched at the Miniature Vilalge tearooms amid its wonderful rose and native garden - watching birds feeding their young in nests under the eaves of the verandah. Blue wrens, swallows, honeyeaters.... And we had merriment with Eric, the corella, who says "hello Eric" and performs tricks of dropping rocks with his claw and catching them with his beak. Clever bird.
Later B and I drove to explore a native flower garden I had noticed from the road (it's good to be a passenger sometimes) - and what a joy this 5-acre native garden. Nangawooka I think is its name. A serene place with 2500 different sorts of Australian native plant - and the accompanying birdlife - more blue wrens, galahs, sulphur cresteds, wattle birds, crested doves...a wonderous racket of birdsong amid the sweet fragrance of vegetation. There was no one else in the reserve - just B and me, wandering unurriedly, marvelling at the primeval nature of some of the plants, rolling their names around on our tonges - Grevillia, leucospurum, callistemon...
Reading in the window seats, watching the ever changing hues of the sea, waking to the first peek of the orange sun on the horizon (and then going back to sleep), walking to the boat ramp and watching the pelicans, seagulls and terns on their rocks...
Oh and we had a storm...a wild electrical storm which raged all night long. Not much rain, of course. Lightning and more lightning, illuminating the sea and islands in stark relief. Just before sunset, the sun made a last appearance and an incredible rainbow emerged almost vertically beside Wright Island. So deep and rich in its colors. The full arc was massive when we went outside to check its extent. And then a second rainbow twinned the first in softer colors. We stood on the balcony gazing in wonderment - and then the most spectacular coiling, curling, bright and extensive lightning struck right through the core of the rainbows. Talk about gasp! Oh yes, we gasped. What a phenomenon.
Ain't nature grand!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Art, the agony

Ye Gods. There is no worse combination than a rustic venue and hot weather. Back to the Old Queens for not one but two shows on a stinking hot night. A feeble fan in a corner and a jumbo jet-sized room packed with people under a corrugated iron roof. Did I say it was hot? Oh my, oh my!
The first show was a bit flakey - unneven. Made worthwhile by a singer-songwriter with the most original and witty absurdist songs. A genre all of his own, almost. I always get a charge when I encounter fresh talent. But I was so weak with the heat I felt quite faint. Vile. Sucking down water but it seemed not to refresh at all, only to make me feel full of water, bloated, like a hot water bottle.
I tottered back to the office in the hour between shows and tried to cool down in the airconditioning while writing a review - and then braved the heat again for the second one, still feeling rotten with an incipient heat headache. It could only be an hour long, I reassured myself. I will get through it. I took a hand fan I keep in the drawer for festivals. Smart move.
Arriving at the theatre it was to be told the show would start late - first 10 minutes, then 15. It started 25 minutes late. 25 hot minutes late. And there we were packed that vile performance space steaming together. I was rather popular with those around me. The air from my fan was cooling everyone in the row. But I was still melting. Then my colleague, Jamie, did an amazing thing. He slipped a bottle of cold water down the back of my seat where it started to cool my boiling back...and then, miraculously, revive me - enough to be annoyed at the delays.
It's not the performer's fault, said a caring tech, worried to see the critic frowning. No, it is the organisation's fault. Messy programming. The delay was caused by an adjoining performance running late.
As it happened, the show and its bright young performer had the goods to save the day. It wasn't bad at all. Although I was still damned glad to get out of that hideous performance space. Remind me to refuse any gigs there in future, will you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Madam Who Married in White

It's not every day one goes to a Madam's wedding. Our Stormy Summers runs a high-class brothel in a spectacular glass-fronted building on one of the city squares. Her penthouse apartment (over the shop) looks down on the square and she refers to it as her front garden. So, she convinced the City Fathers to let her fence off a large area of the square for her wedding today. And the towering monument to the City Founder in the centre of the square she covered in white gauze, wrapping the rails around the mirror pond in red ribbons. Marquees lined the enclosure, and a sound stage...tables and chairs dotted around the lawns beneath the trees.
She requested that none of the guests brought cameras or camera phones and heavy security ensured that they did not. Metal detectors and the lot were there to scan the arrivals. Once cleared, we were all fitted with white entry bracelets.
Of course the guests were a diverse crowd - in extremis. Stormy has run for City Mayor and she has run for Parliament. She is involved in charity for street kids and druggies. And she has connections in the sex industry and the underworld.
She is a tough heart-of-gold woman, a colorful character and I, for one, am very glad to know her.
She also has style.
But of course it was not an ordinary wedding. Stormy's bridesmaids were clad in blood-red satin sheath dresses and carried white roses. One of them, Stormy's partner, has purple hair.
The groomsmen were huge, shaven-headed biker types, attired in black tail suits with red ties and red roses in their lapels. The groom was in an ankle-length black coat and dark glasses. He is a bouncer and he looks like it. A massive, powerful, fierce-looking man. Stormy is petite. She arrived in a vintage Essex and, taking the arm of her burly groom, she walked the red carpet to the monument, the diamond embedded in her front tooth glinting merrily and she smiled in the sunshine. Her wedding dress was every girl's fairytale - shimmering white satin embroidered with fine lace and thousands of tiny pearls. Her train was at least ten feet long. She had bleached her hair to champagne blonde, curled it into a floss of long curls and pulled it tightly back at the front presenting a high, Elizabethan-style forehead on which she had a loop of pearls. She carried a sheath of rich red roses.
And there they stood arrayed upon the dais beneath the priapic monument - the row of tough guys in black on one side, the bridesmaids in red on the other, and Mark and Stormy, black and white, big and little, in the centre - with a grey-haired celebrant who is a retired department store Father Christmas.
Somehow, as I looked upon this scene, I felt as if I was in Savannah, dropped into a moment from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This made strange sense insofar as Adelaide's City Founder, Colonel Light, used Savannah as his inspiration for the design of this city - hence all the squares. Somehow the city spirits conjoined in a surreal moment.
Stormy is not exactly young and she has had a tough life with plenty of grief. But she is a handsome, glamorous woman and on this day she looked a picture of youth and joy and love. The Madam was a blushing bride.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Dean saves the day

Look what I found. Howard Dean shows the way - again!
This is his stand:

Given our existing nuclear arsenal, the deployment of nuclear weapons of low yields or new weapons to destroy deeply buried targets is unnecessary for deterrence and would undercut diplomatic efforts to halt nuclear proliferation. Research and development would therefore be a misplaced priority. Our focus should be on ensuring that our conventional capabilities can meet any military requirements and that our diplomatic efforts halt the proliferation of such weapons.

Tricky Dicky

Dick Gephardt is my unfavorite candidate in the Dem Pres Primaries. If sending his kids around the campaign trail was galling, his preoccupation with attacking his rivals is just plain unworthy. He strikes me as small-minded.

It has been strange keeping track of the Primaries in the face of the other news which emanates from the US. Search as I may, I can find no response from the candidates on Congress's approval of $7.5 million for the studying of Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators. In an era of hunting down Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US is right into making them. I'm absolutely gob-smacked. Surely the presidential candidates should be making a stand on this. Or at least comment.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Da boids, da boids

Of all the world's songbirds, I'm ready to argue that the Australian magpie has the sweetest song - and one of the most complex and varied. It's the chortle which captivates. A truly joyous sound. Lyrical and musical.
Yes, I've heard nightingales. I once lived in one of their most famous English habitats and could listen to them night after night through the casement windows of our old farmhouse. Very complex calls - but not what I'd call pretty. Not like the maggie.
Of course a lot of Aussie birds are plain raucous. The parrots of every variety really. The galahs and corellas shriek. The black cockatoos have a mournful and strident call which they seem to make almost incessantly in flight. Rosellas and lorikeets have a sweeter call.
But the maggie, the darling maggie. And it is a clever, warbling bird with a long lifespan.
Each day our magpie family comes to the balcony at Encounter Bay looking for the morsels of ground beef we offer. They announce their presence with a few soft calls or a warbling song. The parent birds take the food from our hands. The young this year are more timid. They are getting bolder, but they still like us to stand back and leave the mince on the rail for them. Last year's brood was infinitely more confident. One of them used to open its beak for us to put the food in as its parents do.
But they all have their distinct characters - which is evident in their calls. No two are quite the same. And the young have to learn - sometimes not very easily. They have to work on those chortles. The early efforts can be utterly awful as they reach in their throats to find the resonances which will warble.
Today one of the young birds made the first morning visit alone. He was approaching his morsel on the rail when a couple of ravenous seagulls tried to make a dive for the food. Suddenly a parent magpie materialised. He must have been watching the young one from the trees. And oh, boy, did he swoop in to defend the territory - fierce and fast across the lawn for a direct hit at the fleeing seagulls. The gull, minus a feather or two, flew back to the beach and the parent magpie landed on the rail, wings curved out around the body and, before he would accept any food, he insisted on singing to me - a long, triumphant and eloquenct warbling which, I think, was his way of saying that he was lord of all he surveyed and had just demonstrated same in dispatching a rude intruder.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Arts in extreme

I've always said that one surfs on the highs of the arts. Good art has the capacity to energise one. Bad art drains.
Most specifically, of course, I refer to theatre, although I'd say the phenomenon applies broadly. For instance, leaving the art gallery after viewing the Conder exhibition and also the Clifford Possum, I was floating on the pleasures of the eye.

But then there was one night this week, oh such a hot night, when I was plunged to the depths, the nadir. My heart plummeted treacherously the very instant that the performer entered. Alarm bells screamed in my head. All I could think was, oh, how am I to endure this. I do not have the option of leaving a show - and when a couple rose and quietly left, I was consumed by envy. I found myself checking my watch frequently - a useless and frustrating pursuit. The performer shouted away tediously, leapt about the stage desperately, throttled a zillion props and devoured the audience in heavily-accented offensive. Poor thing, I thought - but only briefly. I needed all my pity for myself.

Tonight I went to the amateur theatre and had one of those rewarding experiences - one of the highs. The production of a Ray Cooney London farce was worthy of the West End. The timing was split-second, the cast consummately able. And it was so devastatingly, absurdly and wildly funny that we, the audience, were so sapped of energy after the endless convulsions of mirth that we barely had the strength to applause.

I was exhausted when I got home. Drained but on a high.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Summers of our discontent

I'd like to say that Anne Summers stormed into town - for her appearance at the Big Book Club was immediately after the belated storm. But Anne came weary - the bearer of bad news and heavily burdened by it. Her book, "The End of Equality", has been written sadly and not willingly. Summers was one of the forces of feminism in the 70s when many of the bridges to equality were crossed. Now, she discovers, the progress of that time has been eroded, equality in the workplace and in society has slipped back - and we didn't even notice. We were too busy. And we had been immersed in the "me" era - in which, as she put it, we "privatised" women's issues and thought they applied just to me or me or me. And that we somehow were responsible. No one talked about it. Everybody was too busy.
And come the year 2003, women are earning considerably less than men, child care is in crisis and keeping women out of the workforce, women have turned into part-time workers or, if they want to succeed in careers, they have abandoned the idea of having children, so the birthrate is falling and the population cannot reproduce itself and must rely in immigration. Few women are in top executive positions and domestic violence has been on the increase. A litany of failure.
And we have a Government, or at least a Prime Minister, who thinks the answer lies in keeping women at home having babies - in, what Summers calls, "a white picket fence prison".
Progress? Not.

So there needs to be a third wave of feminism to repair the damage. At a time when feminism is outre. Young women who have never so much as looked over their shoulders to see where their freedom of choice came from, must activate and help to pressure for solutions. But they are too busy, too. Everyone is too busy. The feminist structures are all gone. Feminism is a dirty word. Or is it? The girly magazines have jumped at the publication of Anne's book - and the mainstream media has paid attention. Maybe, just maybe, if the girls start to cyber-agitate....


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

What's with the tropics?

The dryest state in the dryest continent has turned steamy. We are not at all accustomed to humidity. Dry heat is what we know. Suddenly we are enervated. Leaden with heat. We grow limp. Waiting for a storm. It is taking its time.
I am wasting time. Waiting for the storm. Waiting for the storm.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Down down down they dumb

They call it "Lifestyle" - and they give it to us night and day. No television news service is complete without some lifestyle items - and, of course, the so-called news review programs are nothing but lifestyle, if you exclude the odd "landlord from hell" or "builder from hell" stories.
BY sad default, news-watchers become expert in cellulite treatments, hair replacement treatments, weight loss treatments, back pain treatments...
They are commercially based, ever a promo with, I am sure, plenty of product for the presenters. And the market would seem to lap them up. They are suckers for consumerism. Naivete rules. Gee, this product has been developed after years of research by "a professor". Must be good.
Professor of what? Perchance economics. We are never told.

It is all phony news. It ain't news. It is marketing. But the world is so contentedly dumbed down that it siphons it all up and considers it to be information.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Squirrel halloween

My glorious golden pumpkin is a sludgy mess all over the balcony, B tells me.
It turns out that squirrels like pumpkin, too. And the rapacious local population could not bear to see such a fine food source used as a mere decoration - so they invaded it, gnawed out the innards, ate the seeds and left a disgusting mess of pulp and fibre all over the balcony. Poor B has to clean it up. I can only say "there there". For indeed, he is "there" and I am "here".

The great political divide

While the Democrats are eating each other alive in the States, I see the first signs of the way in which the rivalries of the Primaries may cause rifts in friendships. Not that I would allow this to happen. But a mail from a mate in Mass. reveals not only that she has joined the Clark campaign but that she has gone right off my favorite candidate, Howard Dean. She gave her spiel on his faults in response to my mail telling her that I still favored him. I can see us engaging in a debate on the merits of our candidates - dividing within the same alliegance. How wildly ironic.

Now I see the advantages of the Australian system wherein the Party chooses a leader and the leader of the party becomes Prime Minister on winning the election. We vote only for the party. On these lines, the divides between friends are quite clear. They are straight-out, plain and simple political differences. Left versus Right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Trying to do the fashionable list thing

1. I write for a living.
2. I have written for as long as I can remember.
3. I had 50 penpals by the time I was 12.
4. My father was a writer.
5. I grew up in the shadow of my father's fame.
6. I tried not to be a writer, and failed.
7. I grew up in a bookshop.
8. I love the smell of new books. I don't like library books.
9. I am fascinated by spiders.
10. I am not fascinated by shoes.
11. I only wear silver jewellery.
12. I first travelled the world at 8.
13. I love driving and hate being a passenger.
14. I have lived many places and loved almost all of them.
15. I belive that people are innately good.
16. I adore blueberries.
17. I love my bed.
18. I am not good with money.
19. I adore dogs.
20. I can't give up smoking.
21. Theatre foyers are my natural habitat.
22. The sea is my solace.
23. I was a hippie.
24. Cooking is my zen thing.
25. Chilis are my favorite energy source.
26. I don't like cheap chocolate.
27. I was born under Taurus in the year of the Dog.
28. Nobody knows, but I am actually shy.
29. I don't understand laziness.
30. I can't resist buying tote bags.
31. I like to wear sarongs.
32. I love flowers and fossils.
33. I cannot sing.
34. I think party people are vapid.
35. I wish there were more hours in the day.
36. I think tall people are arrogant.
37. I love tidiness.
38. I burn incense and perfume my sheets.
39. I never wear dresses.
40. I prefer 3-ply toilet tissue.
41. I don't understand stingy people.
42. I used to speak passable Indonesian.
43. Mangosteens are my very favorite fruit.
44. I can't go to sleep without a book in my hand.
45. I paint my toenails green.
46. I read people by the way they walk.
47. I admire the Dalai Lama.
48. I love trying new food.
49. Pelicans are my totem bird.
50. Coffee is the only thing that gets me out of bed.
51. As a child, I was a committed tree-climber.
52. I went to an all-girls college - from kindergarten to leaving honors.
53. I think lists like this are very arch and twee.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

A crime of critics? A catastrophe of critics? Nah, a celebration!

It was the big Critics Circle meeting tonight - the grand finale when the nominations are laid out and we vote for the winners. We give 8 awards a year - six within the realms of professional performing arts and two in the amateur sphere.
Critics follow their nominations through the selection process giving a "pitch" for their nominees prior to voting. Some of these pitches can be extensive - a review in itself. Because, believe it or not, critics are positive people. They love to see performers and productions succeed. There is nothing more miserable than writing a damning review. Believe me. It is a lonely job. Words are like blood. Writing a rave, on the other hand, is a high.
So the critics come keen to see their nominees succeed - because winning a Critics Circle Award gives a huge boost to the career of a performer/designer/writer/director/composer - not to mention the money and the hand-made silver trophy. There is nothing like being able to put "award-winning" before your name.
We gathered at a long table in our usual restaurant meeting place. Fine supporter that it is, it stays open to accommodate us and give us privacy - for these meetings have to be very secret. We don't want the word to get out early. We want the town to hum with gossip and anticipation.
There were lots of proxy votes from absent critics - and passionate speeches from those present as they fought for their nominees. There were a few snipes, of course. But only from one critic to another, perhaps reminding them that their opinion does not make a fact. There were a few dissents. But yet again, amazingly, the winners emerged to the general satisfaction of the group. If one does not mention the music critic who stalked out when his nomination lost by a whisker.

Every year I feel a pleasant buzz at the completion of this task. Of course there is still a lot of work to do. We have to rally the product sponsors for the wine and beer to be provided, write letters to all the nominees ensuring that they attend, check out the guest list, the invitations, a press release, follow up that the trophies will be ready in time, ensure the presenters are confirmed, organiser waiters for the ceremony, a sound system....get gifts for the presenters and sponsors...organise the updating of the website...thinking, thinking.
Oh well, I am sure it will be all right on the night.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Supermum syndrome

I was up with the birds this morning, lovely morning that it was - albeit that I ache all over from a fall on Saturday.
There is some much piled up at work with deadline pressure that I was keen to get to the office and bite into it. Which I did, punctuating the day with a pleasant walk to the market with colleagues for a quick lunch of oh, so fragrant and fresh Vietnamese noodles followed by classy coffee and Portugese tart. Oh yes, we live well. And the market is a joy to have so close - a plenitude of vivid produce, of scents and colors and characters. It restores the soul - and always one walks back to the office with a spring in the step.
And it was more intense concentration glued to the computer through the afternoon until at least one major task was completed. But punctuated by demands for an urgent after-hours assignment with a yesterday deadline. A bit of jumping through hoops. Grabbed what research I could glean and headed for the car.
I was not yet home when my phoned beeped an SMS announcing that news of what I was cooking for dinner had attracted two more to the table. Oops. Need more ingredients to plump out the quantities.
I used to find cooking after work a sort of zen release from the intensity of work. These days I think a sit down is more zen. But if one is going to sit down, one needs to cook first. So I did.
Of course the sit down was not for relaxation. Oh no, the outside job had to be written - with scant information as a rush job. Tough.
Now it, too, is out of the way...and I think I am just too damned tired to leave the computer.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Pushing mother love

These many years there has always been that domestic chaos of things never being where you put them, things disappearing most adamantly without explanation. The dog took it. What the dog wants with tweezers, scissors, nail clippers, loo paper and dictionaries beats me. But there you go.
Now living with an adult son at home, I find the same whats-yours-is-mine attitude perpetuated - and I can call no corner of the house my own or anything I buy or put down my own.
This includes my computer, my work tool - which is now laden with downloads of I know not what. A quiet resentment burns within in along with a terrible sorrow that for mothers these things never seem to change.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Blog boggling

I knew there were a lot of blogs, but researching this blog feature I come upon the official stats - which give the total number of active bloggers as 2.9 million.

No wonder I am having trouble getting through them all.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Two worlds

No one over here has heard of Howard Dean, John Kerry et al. Not even here at the newspaper. A couple have heard of Wesley Clark, though. Which goes to show the power of television. But that there is another side to America, a different view within America - no one seems to know.
And the mood of anti-Americanism grows and thrives under the shadow of the relentless Bush propaganda machine. Disheartening.

So I have pinned a Dean for America button to my cap - so people will ask me what it is all about and I can introduce them to the amazing concept of the American Democrats and the fact that not everyone in the USA is slavishly devoted to Bush and war and Halliburton etc.

Thus attired I swanned out to collect the test car of the moment - a gorgeous little Alpha Romeo Spider. Bright blue. I am not a sportscar person at all - but it is a perfect day and I succumbed to the open top. The moment I took off in the car, several decades seem to melt off my age, just like that, and I felt young a free and sublimely in control. I was a bit surprised. I had not expected to like it so much. Aaaah, I think there's some subliminal embodied in these extravagant little boy toys.

Monday, November 03, 2003

By the seaside

It's a long drive to work on Monday mornings. Perhaps not by American standards. But an hour and a quarter in the car gets one a lot of news radio.
It's not a bad way to start the day, though. Skimming along almost deserted country roads with a landscape still green in its winter coat. Bottle brush here and there, a flash of vivid red. Bright purple fields of Salvation Jane. The vineyards all lush in their spring growth.
About half way to town the traffic starts to materialise and once on the main south road it turns into the commuter syndrome and everything slows down. Not the pleasant part of the drive.
But it is a small price to pay for waking up with the sun on the sea.

We seemed to spend the weekend eating and foraging. Garage sales are always have a quaintly voyeuristic attraction - peeks into the flotsam of others' lives. And then there are the junk shops and weekend markets. We poked around them all.
It was not exactly a warm weekend, but when it rained, there were dazzling, perfect rainbows. Once a double rainbow reaching from our little island to the land.
In the night I woke to a tremendous wind, the fish flag tugging wildly at the flagpole. I thought this would be its final test. That fish has flown for years, growing more faded and tattered. And yet it hangs on. As it did on Saturday night.
And when I woke again, it was first light - a wonderful yellow sky.
And I curled up in my soft, white bed and allowed myself the luxury of a little more sleep while the sun rose.
When next I woke, the early morning walkers were out with their dogs or powerwalking to the store for newspapers.
I powerwalked to the kitchen and put on the coffee.
And I sat down with a view of the sea and my highlighter pen, and got back to the required reading for work. Work is never far away.

On Sunday my magnificent Hair Guru came down with his wife for a working lunch, so to speak. He did my hair while I gazed at the ever-changing hues of the sea. And then we had a very long Sunday lunch - spinach soup followed by Coorong Mullet followed by a massive cheese and fruit platter, all with an exquisite, light white wine.
And for afters, a ritual feeding of the seagulls and pelicans before a long walk to the screwpile jetty.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


The subject of blogs as an assignment has been a treat - immersed in blogs in the name of work. I still have no idea as to why I am blogging, lest it be to feel the surge of a tide.
The diversity of blogs is quite thrilling, the names, the individuals. I fall in love with some of them, so beautifully do they express themselves or depict their worlds. Some are a bit odd. Some are a little juvenile - but what can one expect of the young?
I note a growing syndrome of employers discovering and resenting their employees' blogs. One sacking and several censorships from above.
And that, of course, is the risk taken in blogging about the minutae of one's life.
One can hardly publicly criticise the hand that feeds.
Every employee has gripes about their workplace as, I daresay, every employer has snipes at employees. But it should never be for the public record.
That, I suppose, is why I will never make a good blogger. As a professional, I am wary of what may and may not be written. This medium is publishing...once one presses the post and publish button and one's words are live, they are in the public arena and thus subject to the laws of whichever land.
Bloggers must beware.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Daylight saved - where to keep it

Fiddling with the clocks is a small price to pay for an hour more of light after work. I am so sick of those people who argue against daylight saving. Why does anyone even allow them a voice! The added hour will confuse the cows about milking time??? The curtains will fade?

Back in the US where they put their clocks back for the winter, Howard Dean is generating more headlines, I read. I am reading it all over the place...voraciously. I love the plague of news sources which delivers the daily information overload.
And Kucinich is upset. And Clark is finding himself backed into corners about his financial associates of yore. Oh, it is all so meaty. And there are how many days to go to the NH primary? 92?

Friday, October 24, 2003

From a distance

Just being 13,000 miles away (or whatever the number is...I hate numbers) does not hamper me from keeping abreast of the Primaries. How could it? The newsletters zap into the email and I check on the NH Politics website most days - often feeling extremely peeved that I can't be there. Howard Dean is going to the Keene Pumpkin Festival. Oh, how I'd love to share in that event - the rituals of those vivid orange autumn orbs combined with the ritual of politics.

I've put a Dean for America bumper sticker on my car. No one knows what it is. No one here has heard of most of the candidates - yet.

Meanwhile, Bush has been in Australia - with his seventeen support jets and his entourage of security. The Australian media is extremely peeved at the preference given to American media. They are excluded from events because the Whitehouse arrangement is for CNN, Fox etc to have first coverage. It does nothing for the American image.

It is very hard to be pro-American outside America. Thankyou George Bush!

I did not manage to keep up with the Parliamentary address and the interjections by the Greens, or the protests and arrests - saw a few grabs on the TV news as I speed-cooked dinner. I bet those images did not hit Fox. But of course, since the Australian media was restricted in covering the President, they had plenty of time to cover the anti-President activities. What irony.

But, while it's all been going on in Canberra, I've been immersed the complexities of the feature of the moment - and, oh so impatient to get it finished and to move on to the next thing, which is Blogs. What serendipity - a chance to surf blogs in the name of work.

But first, I must run away to the sea.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A man with new computers

I get a lot of feedback from readers of my weekly Internet column, but this is a first.

Letter: I read with interest your articles but find it impossible to access
most of them. The details are not clear enough today I tried both the
Humming Bird & the Fit for an astronaut & never found either of them. the
same thing happened last week. I have both a new top of range laptop P.C/
Acer & a E-mac Apple machine both are brand new please make your details

My Answer:
I am unsure as to what "details" are proving problematical. Do you mean the
Perhaps, Ken, you would find it easier to go in through The Advertiser's
website where you can hotlink to the sites without having to copy them down.


Net Adventures is on the menu bar.


His Response:

You havent addressed the problem most readers of the Advertiser are
having . I have since spoken to 5 people & their reply is why waste your
time with difficult web addresses. If I dont receive a simple explanation I
will take it up on behalf of our readers & shareholders of News Ltd.
Yours Faithfully

My Answer:
Gee, Ken. I don't create the websites. I simply find them. It would be a pity only to run websites because their URLs are easy. I make an arduous effort to find sites which are varied, interesting, challenging and topical.
Until such day as the web creates an easier form of navigation, we are stuck with www and various extensions such as / and ~, _ etc.
That is why we have the column online - where you can simply hotlink to the web addresses and not have to copy them down. A "hotlink" is a URL you simply mouse click and are automatically taken to the site.
I am surprised at your poll of Advertiser readers. I have been doing this column since 1997 and you are the first person who ever wrote to complain about the structure of URLs.
By way of a simple explanation, I can only point out that the Internet was devised by computer geeks and they have a convoluted way of doing things. It was only a few years ago that we PC users had to key in complex DOS commands to get computers to get anywhere. It was their technology and their language. We just had to try to learn it. Nowadays things are easier - but beneath it all, the language is the same.
By all means, take your complaint to the Shareholders. You never know. If there is a mass revolution against the language of web addresses, the industry may devote research funds to finding a shortcut.


As if.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Spring sickness

Argh. People are sick all around me. Close to me. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I am in proximity to someone with the dreaded spring bug. They are sick as cats - heads and throats and chest and sinus. They all complain heartily. My friends, my workmates, those at the school reunion...and even the State Premier with whom I shared several hours of close proximity last night judging Celebrity Theatre Sports. He was woeful with the misery of it all - but soldiering on and, of course, spreading the misery. Typical politician?
Every day I wait to waken with the ghastly symptoms. Please let me get my immediate workload out of the way before I succumb!!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Old School Days

School re-unions. How strange they are. Gathering in the old school grounds today, a perfect warm spring day. I was a little apprehensive - but so was everyone else, it eventuates. The years rolling on - who would we be? I had expected a bunch of bourgeois matrons. Well, I suppose some of them were. But what, in essence, they were, were lovely, civilized women all of whom had shared a very good education. That education is all many of us have in common - for we have not sought each other out over the years. Well, each perhaps has that select few of saved schoolfriends. I, for example, went with the two with whom I have cared most to keep contact - and hoped that perhaps a couple of others of whom I had thought maybe would turn up. It was hard to recognise people at first. One needed the name tags. But after the initial identification, the old faces emerged and suddenly we were the same girls.
And for a couple of talkative hours, time took a delightful warp.

Culture shock and adjustment

Always is it thus when returning from an extended time in the US. At first, the euphoria, the joy of being reunited with friends and colleagues - and with the deliciously amenable lifestyle. Then there is the slump as one depressingly confronts the missing things. Oh, how I miss the Boston Globe.

I have been feeling decidedly ploppy most of this week. But last night, rather unexpectedly, came the tonic - the Blaze Gala Awards night. This is Adelaide's gay and lesbian community (transgender, bi etc etc etc) and their version of an academy awards for outstanding givers and achievers. I am working on a feature entitled "Gay Adelaide - then and now", which is scheduled to run in the Saturday magazine to co-ordinate with the opening of the Feast Festival of Gay and Lesbian arts. The old gay Adelaide, the days of illegality, secrecy and brave activists is not a problem. It is history. The "now" has been puzzling me and I have been seeking out the young movers and shakers and not really finding them. I thought the Gala Awards would showcase them and I could then pick them off for the feature. I was in for a surprise.
Arriving at the National Wine Centre, I thought that I must be in the wrong place. It was all men in suits. I proceeded in to find Scott, the Blaze editor and his team standing in the most elegantly prepared banquet room. And as the throng assembled, it continued to be handsome men in expensive suits with women in sleek cocktail gowns or designer ensembles. Had it not been for the towering drag queens, also very elegantly dressed, one would never have known it was a gay event.
And thus did I realise that the "now" of the gay scene is mainstream. The gay world is a comfortable, confident, established community. It does not need to be outrageous. Instead, it is just plain elegant.

It leaves the straights for dead.
The queer eye for the queer guy is five star.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Sunday bloody Sunday

What a glorious, perfect spring day. Huge blue skies. Warm but not hot. Bottlebrushes in strident red bloom. Pacific Blue singing its bright blueness to happy bees.
But the bright light shows up the dust. Adelaide is a dusty city - on the edge of the desert and all. Dust is a fact of life. So the joys of spring sun come burdened with the urge to clean.
So there has been a strenuous burst of cleaning to weary the limbs. Which would not be so bad if the bloody shops were bloody open. Sunday trading has not yet arrived. A couple more weeks, they say.

Of course the people are out and about and would be shopping, if they could. Instead they pack the sidewalk cafes creating a scene of massed decadence. Which is not bad, really.

But I had to drive into the city to get the bits and pieces I needed. Grrr.

Culture Shock

The vast expedition. Turning oneself into neutral gear, impassive, patient and philosophic to endure the hell that is travel. That somewhere nowhere of transit. All other consciousness is put on hold. There is no other world. There is no other. Just the impersonal.
Transit lounges are purgatory and travel is hell.
Well, perhaps not for the pampered rich. But for the rest of us it is restrictive binding of tight seating, toy food and dead air, trapped in a flying metal cylinder.
Even economy has been economised. A few years ago Qantas kept the fearful insomniac traveller distracted with movie marathons - recent movies run one after another for 14 hours straight. Now they have put tiny screens on the backs of seats and introduced channels with programs. The movie choice was predominantly blokey and violent. The television choices were small and dreary. I watched a David Attenborough episode on seabirds twice - because it was the only thing that interested me.
With the seat in front laid back to its full extent from the getgo, I could not move my legs or get out of the seat, let alone reach my things on the floor. They play a video demonstration of in-fllight anti-DVT exercises to people who can't move.

Now, from autumn, I am in spring. It is much the same, really. Sunny or cloudy days vaguely cool. Nippy nights. But here there are the new-greens of rebirth among the deciduous trees - and the rainbow lorikeets dip and dangle in the garden trees feasting on I know not what.

Work was a warmly welcoming place and I realised, not for the first time, how blessed I am in colleagues. But it took a day and a half to open the mail - which had cascaded over the crate I left for it, and had amassed in dauting piles all over my desk. As for email, there was so much that Systems had closed my mailbox. Ironically, most of the mail consisted of their messages telling me that my mailbox was full - several hundred such messages.
Of course it only takes half a dozen large PDF attachments to overload the mailbox - and one can never teach those over-zealous PR people that their show-off high-image fancy PDFs only impress their clients. To recipients they are just a burden.

I thought I had beaten jetlag. I pushed myself straight onto the clock and bubbled through the first new downunder day. I woke like a bird on the second and bubbled off to work. Then, suddenly, late morning, when it was bedtime in the US, I turned into a zombie. I felt as if I had been hit over the head by a "stupid bat. This was most inconvenient since I was scheduled to give a speech at lunchtime. In a spaced-out state, I tottered to the art gallery where I found I was to speak in the darkened exhibition room containing the surrealism exhibition. The darkness was seductive. I felt all the more somnulent. A very pleasant crowd of people assembled, all with that sincere and expectant expression that audiences seem to assume. The organisers hooked me up to a body mike and I was on. Oddly, jetlag turns out to be a good condition in which to give speeches. I threw my carefully-prepared notes away because it all seemed too hard, and I extemporised. I suppose I "talked" as opposed to "gave a speech". And it was all very easy. I had a lovely time.

Walking back through the city, everything looked extremely beautiful. The Mall was sunny and crowded and the flower and fruit stalls were rampant with vivid color. People looked relaxed and happy. I kept running into people I knew - which seemed strange after the sense of anonymity I have in the US.

I went to the Boost Juice shop and ordered a liver cleanser with a double shot of wheatgrass which I sucked down ravenously. Oh, how I have missed those juices in the US. Just as I have missed our coffee. And milk in coffee. And proper cream. And, perhaps, the laid-back atmosphere of this culture.

And, I realised with mild suprise, I had also missed the Asian faces. It suddenly struck me what a large proportion of our population is Asian. No Latinos. A few blacks. But lots and lots and lots of Asians. And, in the spirit of this country, they don't call themselves "Asian-Australians". They're Aussies. And they are very much one of the things which make this a smart and lucky country.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Time flying

Every parting is another death. End is end is end.
I am loath to leave my nest in NH - but the time's up, kiddo. Back to the antipodes and work. No blogging there. The firewall is complete. But the information overload makes such luxuries out of the question, anyway.
I've been watching my colleagues coming and going from the office 12,000 miles away - or is it more. A security firm has erected a stunning surveillance camera in the street giving live streaming on images one may control - and zoom to a surprisingly good closeup. Watching people in the street one suddenly realises how many things they do with their hands as they walk about. One is not aware of it as a fellow pedestrian. But now it has become quite a study.
Of course there are questions about this people-watching for, after all, it is also called spying. And I wonder how long it will be before we complain about the invasion of privacy. Then again, walking in a public place? We could hardly call that private. So I will go on watching - er, well, come to think of it, I will soon start participating. For it is beneath that same lens that I will be going about my daily business, and the world will be able to see when I nip out for a coffee or a quick ciggie. As if they'd care.

I've been reading up on Wes Clark, since I have not had a chance to see him in the flesh - and won't. His interviews produce very personable responses, but mainly sophistry, methinks. I am not yet swayed.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

The revelation of Montreal

Through the Fall colors of Vermont and over the border into Canada - and suddenly from the lush Green mountains one is on expansive flatlands of ripe corn. From English, all is French. From myriad patriotic flags on house after house, suddenly there are none.

And then that French city - which has all that is good about France with much friendlier people all of whom are happy to speak English and not pressure one into struggling into a linguistic rustbucket. A very civilized and emancipated city. And the food was sublime. How have I gone all these years of travelling without happening upon this glorious place?

Dean makes Leno

What a coup for the Dean camp that Howard Dean scored a guest spot on Jay Leno. First Catherine Zeta-Jones and then the presidential candidate. Nice one. With a spot of filmed in-the-street spoofing. Dean acquitted himself extremely well - and it was good to see him smiling for a change. This omens well.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Political football

This is the world's first Internet-dominated political campaign - and it is exciting to see the ways in which the candidates are using the medium for their message.
John Edwards introduces "Kick Bush Back to Texas" - a game animation in which one may choose to be one of assorted unemployed Americans who will then give Bush a hearty kick from Washington, landing him ignobly back in Texas. http://www.johnedwards2004.com/bootbush.asp
Bob Graham sends out anti-Bush cartoons and asks us to become "Bushwhackers" while Dennis Kuncinch is sending out electronic postcards which deliver a lengthy speech about peace in our times.
Dean, of course, is a vast network of very active blogs - and the campaign keeps one in frequent touch with email bulletins.
The others have newsletters, urging donations, of course. But they are yet to show signs of innovation. There is plenty of time and I am sure they won't want to be left behind.

Friday, September 26, 2003

The Wes Wind redux

On the Dems debate today we got to have a good look at the new Wes - and he looked good. Absolute silver-haired eye candy. What a handsome man. What superb eyes. What an open face. Oh dear. Methinks he has it all. He's the new thinking woman's crumpet!!!

That damned Recall

Well, Arnold Schwartzenegger showed his colors at the California Recall Debate. And the color was red. Redneck. He showed that he is a hothead. He showed himself as patronising, shallow, sexist and boorish. And the media found it delightful. The /actor/bodybuilder/businessman now is being heralded for his wonderful, triumphant, clever performance.
How did the media leap to this conclusion?
Easy. It has dumbed itself down to the lowest common denominator. Arnold, of course, markets to the lowest common denominator. So now the media is marketing Arnold.
And one can only despair.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Wes wind

My friend Janet has a Draft Wesley Clark sticker on her car and she has been waiting anxiously for Clark to get into the primaries. She is one of the "the people" who call him to service. Not an ordinary "people" since she is distinctly better informed than most. She has been watching Clark for a couple of years with quite some degree of interest and admiration. So it was good to sit down and hear her views. She's not the sort to favor a military person but she finds Clark exceptional and traces the nature of his career, one which blends philosophy and military logistics, authority and political analysis.

The issue, as we boiled it down, was not who we like or who we think may make the best president for this country but who is the most "electable".
And, in the psycho-political climate of these times, the General has immense advantage simply in being a general. That he also is an intellectual is a bonus, one which would mean little to the rank and file of an electorate. In fact, to many in the dumbed down world, intellectual prowess is a disadvantage. It certainly did not help Gore.

The average American voter, the few of them (56 per cent of the population does not bother to vote), will be looking for someone who can lead them softly and gradually away from the "if you're not with us, you're the enemy/dissent is unpatriotic" brainwash of the Bush regime. They cannot let go too easily because they are a people quelled by fear. They can relate to a General, however, for he symbolises leadership and authority, power and uniform. The time is very ripe for a General.
Thus does Clark offer something with which the other candidates cannot compete, even if they are better equipped for the task of national leadership.
The perfect set-up would have been Dean with Clark as his Vice-Presidential candidate. For I still consider Dean has the best political nous of the ten.

But, I suspect we will see unfolding a campaign which brings Clark swiftly to a lead - and I mean where it counts in NH and Iowa, not in magazine name-recognition polls, which presently put him in an outrageous lead. He has to get the respect in States which are leading the voting.

And we may well see him in the Whitehouse in the end of the day. Perhaps. For the bottom line is "electability" and the ability to beat Bush.

But if there is one thing I really like with Clark, it is that he will bring in his wife, a First Lady of America called Gert!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The elements

Bruce always says that Australia does not have "weather", it has "climate". America has "weather".
Isn't that the truth!
We had a lot of rain as we caught the edge of Hurrricane Isabel last week - but nothing compared to the rain which fell today. It started out as a calm and warmish day and when they forecast rain, I thought of showers. So walking back from the supermarket in my rainjacket was no problem. It was very pleasant, despite the weight of shopping on my back. It is steady rain but not cold. In fact, I was pretty steamy inside the rain jacket. The world seemed lush and abundant and altogether lovely.
A short while later I realised that it was very dark indeed. One does not notice when glued to a computer screen - at first. But then I felt rather spooked. It was early afternoon - and dark as night. Then came the rains. Oh, and how they came. For more than an hour water sheeted from the sky - and the lawns turned to lakes.
I darted out to the balcony to pull the gorgeous blooming New Guinea impatiens back from battering torrent - and I was drenched, even under the canopy of the balcony. My hair was sodden. This was not a bad thing, really, since I had just pony-tailed it after washing this morning - and I was prompted to go and blow dry it to some sort of style.
And the rain rained and rained and rained. Long and hard and loud.
And I had to turn the lights on in the apartment, which made it feel all the more like night.

But I buried myself in cooking and challenged the drenched air with scents of fragrant spices...

Now the rain has stopped. Just a few drips from the trees. The late day's sun is fighting its way out - spreading lavish light rays through the moist trees.

Sweet reward.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

And in comes Wes

The people's choice. Wes Clark. Five star General.
It is an interesting reflection on the mood of America that it craves a military head of state. Then again, it is a smart strategy if one is to hope for defections from a Right which must be feeling a bit sheepish about the Bush performance and the country's terrible loss of kudos in the eyes of the world. A man of war would cut the mustard with them.

However, seniority within the disciplinarian ranks of the armed forces is a far cry from politics, let alone the subtleties of diplomacy and the broad spectrum of ecomony. I gather from the effusive media that Clark is a brilliant man, a Rhodes scholar, no less.

If he is so brilliant, it is disappointing to discover that his grammar is not too hot. I noted a terrible howler in his quotes in The Globe. "Laid" not "lain", as I recall. It made me wonder at his scholarship.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Democrats Rolling Thunder Down Home Tour

Whisked up to Manchester for the big Dems event - stopping along the way for the total cultural contrast of the Nashua Police Expo which was held in the grounds of the Bud brewery. Guns, choppers, bomb squad, marines, brawn, tattoos and a lot of obese women wearing shorts. The American "right" at play. I talked to some very sincere young servicemen, felt the weight of a machine gun, was shown assorted bombs and had a good look at an army rescue helicopter. Everyone was eating hotdogs - but, hungry as I was, I could not come at the country's favorite snack.

We schussed on to Manchester where we happened on a sweet Hungarian restaurant with street tables. A stuffed pepper, coffee and a delicious Dobos cake later we meandered to the park where they attempted to charge us $20 each to enter the Rolling Thunder. I've never been charged to hear a politician before! I was in shock. They explained that they had spent $50,000 to hire everything and fly in the people etc - and finding that Michael Moore has suddenly the headliner, well, I negotiated, forked out $10 a head and in we went. There was no way in the world I was going to miss Mike Moore - even though we had attended principally to hear Dennis Kucinich. Moore was standing in for Jim Hightower who had to cancel all the 11th hour due to a family death. I had never heard of Hightower. But Moore!! Well, he is one of my few pinups in this world. What a treat. How lucky was I. Preen preen!

What an odd event was the Rolling Thunder. A lot of stands - all the Dem candidates represented, of course, with an emphasis on Kucinich who has only recently opened a NH office and was coming along to speak. There were also peace activist stands and all sorts of environmental issues along with The Greens, some performance artists and a sound stage with a schedule of activities - music and speeches. Oddly, Kucinich was not on the schedule and were were a little confused. But it was such a perfect day. We set our chairs in the shade, listened to assorted fairly dull provincial speeches and watched the world go by. Wonderful, interesting people.

I sensed Kucinich activity and saw people carrying his placards through the park, so I followed and was told he was about to speak in one of the tents. I rallied Bruce, grabbed the chairs and found a good place on the side where I could watch both Kucinich and his supporters. He spoke passionately, a firebrand. He spoke sense, although I could feel my scientist husband flinching on the subject of Genetic Engineering. Kucinich will not be his man. And I don't think Kucinich will be "the" man. But he is a wonderful man of rare integrity - and I liked him immensely. I also liked the people he attracted - a sea of sensibility, civilized, educated, gentle people.

We returned to the lawns and set our chairs close to the stage to hear the divine Mike Moore.
He is a liberal hellraiser - and he fulfilled all my expectations, witty, fearless, provocative, astute. He is one of the great American heroes - for one has to be incredibly brave to take his stance beneath the aggressive dominance of the country's religious right. He has done the country immense good overseas, to some extent rescuing its damaged post-Bush reputation. "Bowling for Columbine" was a hit and had record runs in cinemas across Australia. It made Aussies love Americans again - because they had found an American who was not aligned with the cultural brutality being projected by Bush and Fox.
Of course Moore received a standing ovation. Rightly so.
I would have loved to hang around as a groupie and shake hands with him, but apparently he was flown in and out on a tight schedule and had to be driven straight back to the airport.

Nonethless, I left the park deleriously happy at the way in which the day had unfolded, feeling blessed to be in New Hampshire where the political process has a peerless energy and vibrancy.

Do, doing done...

There is nothing like a bit of a spit to put one back into balance.
All the outstanding work is done. Now I can do some of the work I want to do. Whooppee.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Getting everything done - not

Daily I thank the Balinese for teaching me that everything gets done sooner or later - not to rush at everything in stress factor. It will happen. Everything has its time.
It is hard for a Westerner to adopt this thinking. We are used to immediate gratification. And we are used to pressuring ourselves with lists of responsibilities.
I have a pile of work to do.
I always have a pile of work to do.
The more I do, the more it arrives.
Sometimes it frightens me.
But then I think of Bali - and I think that it will get done, calmly, in its time.
Nonetheless I can get annoyed with myself. Yesterday I was determined to do two projects - the net column and an update for the ernmalley.com website
The column was difficult, as sometimes it is. It took hours of dreary surfing. And by the time it was filed, I had to cook dinner. I had not done the other project.
I would do it today.
Today I wrote book reviews - because their time to be written had come.
And I did the washing.
But the website work is not yet done - and it weighs heavily.
I know it is not the end of the earth if it is not done today. But I will feel happier if it is.
Because I have masses of other work I want to do.
And I need to have it all done before .....

...before I go back to work.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The Dean Machine

Made a sortie to a private house outside Milford to meet Howard Dean on the campaign trail - my second close scrutiny of Dean. And, as it turned out, my second personal greeting and handshake from him. A good handshake he has, too.
Despite the fact that the house of hosts Paul and Nancy Amato was out along dark country roads, there was a massive turnout. Fortunately, the large and gracious house also had lots of land - all of which was needed for parking. And they had floodlights, a sound system and, of course, hospitality in the form of tea, coffee, punch and fancy cakes.
Dean was 15 minutes late - not bad for a man on the campaign trail. He was profusely apologetic. His message may have been familiar, but his speech seemed fresh - and passionate and punctuated with ironic humor. He opened himself to questioning and did not dodge the issues when answering.
The more I see of him, the more I feel that America would be well served by him. I hope the people feel the same.

Of course, now Wesley Clark has thrown his hat into the ring, the dynamics may change. Clark has some very impressive credentials and is a Southerner, to boot. However, he has only had authority over a highly-disciplined bureacracy. He is a political ingenue. Dean, on the other hand, has had extensive hands-on experience as a Governor - a very successful one at that.

And so far as hands-on is concerned, I was contemplating this and the brags of Kucinich, Gephardt and Edwards about their humble, grass-roots origins. Dean may not have come from the wrong side of the tracks, but he has lived with the grass roots and been very literally hands-on with the people in his role as a doctor. You just don't get closer to the people than that.
A doctor in the Whitehouse? Some healing for the nation? Sounds good.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Goodbye Senator Edwards

Charming and disarming as is Senator John Edwards - and as strongly as he may hold sway over the South, he has lost me.
Today's Boston Globe reveals exactly how he was "defending the rights of children against the giant corporations" in his illustrious and lucrative legal career. Of course when he said "giant corporations", I thought of giant corporations. I did not think of hospitals as giant corporations and certainly not doctors. But this seems to have been the thrust of the Edwards legal career, if the Globe is to be believed. And this cuts sharply across my moral grain. It is not that doctors don't owe a responsibility of due care to their patients - but, however much we may wish it otherwise, medicine is an approximate art. Mistakes are made, especially in the perilously stressful business of childbirth.

It is these very litigations and the claims for outrageous damages which have so damaged the medical system. It has made doctors shy away from obstetrics. It is creating a shortage of obsetricians. It has made hospitals wary of obstetrics - and it has made medical insurances leap through the roof. It has added to the costs we must pay for medicine. It threatens the very future of medicine and the healthcare of society - ironically, issues which Edwards promotes on his campaign platform. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too!

I think the lawyers behind these squillion-dollar claims, claims for more money than any mortal ever would need, should, in turn, pay damages - retribution to the system and to the rest of society.
Of course they take a hearty cut, up to 40 per cent says the Globe, of the damages awarded. Which explains how the millworker's son is now a millionaire.
Oh no - I could never support such a predator. However handsome and earnest he seems.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

another blog

Just ran into this blog 4 Dean.


Of course the hustings go on

Much frustration at not being able to hook up with any of the Democrat candidates in the last week or so. Well, Edwards has been around the traps, but we could not co-ordinate getting to his events - but we are closely familiar with his campaign and are keen to hook up with those we have yet to explore such as Kucinich, Graham and Gephardt. The latter has been holding events but, insultingly, sending his son along as a substitute. I have not the faintest wish in the world to meet a politician's offspring and I can't imagine any committed American voter wanting to do so. I think it is a tawdry piece of strategy. But, then again, Gephardt has failed dismisally to impress me and my interest in seeing him in the flesh is token.

The campaign fascination of the moment is the new wave of bitching at Dean. Everyone is gunning for him and one starts to see the political self-interest swamping anything akin to altruism in the name of the country.

The more the candidates attack Dean, the smaller they seem - and the larger Dean looms as the figure of power and influence.

Only in America

It was the Quilt Museum and an exhibition of black American quilt designs which lured me to Lowell, Mass, this weekend. But it was something else which blew me away.
A BBQ Festival!!! Complete with competition BBQ teams from all over the country. They came with campervans and trailers, tents and simple sleeping bags - and they created a canalside encampment around their marquees, cutting tables and cooking equipment. Huge black smokers, masses of hickory wood, little barbies, Webers of assorted sizes, vast myserious metal boxes with gas cylinders attached...
The cooking scents were just too delicious and one drooled one's way past their competitive ventures, fortunately, able to sample bits now and then if one was lucky enough to pass the judge's marquee when they were putting out the leftovers.
Commercial enterprises were there to fill the bellies properly - and I sampled those famous American ribs and declared them divine. Also braved Fried Dough for the first time - having long been curious. It was strange. Not like a doughnut at all. Pleasant, although way to oily...and not something I would crave again. Once is enough.

But so far as Lowell is concerned, it can never be enough. That is a wonderful town with a vital community spirit and every visit there has been a vibrant delight.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The visitor

There's a chipmunk that lives under the stoop of our apartment building. Along with the neighboring chippies and a zillion local squirrels, he has been very active lately harvesting the fall of acorns. The apartment complex grounds are swarming with industrious rodents. The racket is amazing with all their chirps and assorted strident calls. Especially the stoop chippie. This fall, another chippie has been making forays into his territory, clearly interested in using that prime piece of protected chippie real estate. The result is periodic shrills of territorial "chip chip chip chip" - and stone-scattering darts and dashes as the intruder is indignantly driven back. Then the stoop chippie sits up on the top step and gives his rhythmic chips of triumph. Another battle won. I'm top chippie round here.
This morning, however, it was silent outside. No chippie or squirrel was to be seen. Nothing moved. Strange. Eerie.
Until one saw the red-tailed hawk, huge and hungry, sitting on the bough of one of the oaks.
Waiting patiently. Alert for the slightest motion on the ground.
I stepped onto the balcony and had words with him. He locked eyes with me - and must have decided that I outranked him, since he flew to another tree.
Wrong tree. Suddenly an army of bluejays swooped down, screeching, squawking, rushing at him. A cacophony of kerfuffle. The hawk tried to hold his ground on the bough. But the jays seemed to have a plan. They dive-bombed him from above and from below and from one side - leaving an exit open. And, finally, the hawk realised that if he wanted to pursue some quiet hunting, this was not going to be the place. And he took the one opening left by the jays and flew off, flanked by victorious bluejays.
Perchance the jays were defending their own bit of territory - but it encompassed that of the chippies and the squirrels, too. And, moments later, they were back on the grass gathering, nibbling and burying acorns. And the stoop chippie was back to hurling abuse at that persistent little invader.

Friday, September 12, 2003


Nashua had its 9/11 observance on September 10.
I would have missed it had Bruce and I not chosen Greeley Park for our evening constitutional. And there were the people, the local Granitestatesmen men's chorus, a piper, assorted local dignitaries, Fireys and Ambos. Even the Sally Ally brigade (Salvation Army). There was rather a lot of speechifying and some nice patriotic singing. I felt a bit spare when everyone sang the national anthem. I don't know the words. Then again, I don't know the words to my own national anthem. Well, that is reasonable. It is an awful anthem. The American anthem, like the flag, is wonderful and worth loving.

I was pondering the flag phenomenon the other day. Since 9/11, flag sales in this country sky-rocketed and people have masses of them on their houses and cars and businesses. If there was any business worthy of investment, it would be American flags.
In Australia one rarely sees a flag, unless it be on a government building. It's not that Australians are not patriotic. It's just that they don't specially like that derivative flag.

Another debate

Not surprising to see John Edwards biting back after the Democrats' debate on Fox. Naughty Howard Dean to suggest that he was the only contender addressing white people on the issue of race. Mistaken assumption. I have listened to Edwards at several events now and at each he has made a point of talking about growing up with segregation and how repugnant he found it. I noticed John Kerry also took up the race cause in his speech - and I don't think he ever misses a chance to say he marched with Martin Luther King.
Of course in Dean's defence one has to realise that these blokes don't go to each other's campaign events - so they can't hear what they are telling groups large and small around the land.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Chasing the clock

Another day consumed with minutiae. Terrifying. Perhaps I set myself too many tasks. But the way the time slithers past is utterly terrifying. Like life. It's all over before one is even organised.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Monday morning gripes

The newspaper is spread all around me. The books glare from the bedside table saying that I am behind my my reading. I skim the paper, picking out news items, reading the opinion pieces in depth. So much to read, hurrying to get it all done. Reading in a rush. When did this begin?
I feel the information overload breaking my brain. My mind wanders making lists of things to be remembered and achieved, communications to be made, oh yes, and food to be prepared. Do I have all the ingredients? Do I have time to wash my hair? Then I realise I have not absorbed what I was reading, so I read it again in an even greater hurry. The end result is a sea of fragments of information, of impressions, half-knowledge.
The email adds a new layer - oh and another assignment with a rush deadline. I must prioritise. But if I don't finish the paper now...
This is my holiday? My Long Service Leave? A time when I thought I would get done all those things I have wanted to get done - finish the content on the website, make a natural history website, finish the cookery book, read all those review books, get fit, start a blog....
Work and leisure have merged, so much so that leisure time is even harder work.
Well, there's no time to waste. Back to the paper.

Pollie polls

Taken aback to find a 404 on the blog yesterday. Heaven forbid that one should miss a day of minutiae. In my case, just observations of the political processes here in New England.

Dean forges ahead in the Boston Globe poll today - and one senses that it is time for the other pollies to start getting seriously dirty to edge him out of that clear lead. But as much as they may bersmirch and undermine his policies, I see Dean's strength in his supporters. Not only the sensational and unprecedented web presence - but on the ground. I meandered into Old Town Day in Clinton, Mass, yesterday - and amid all the stalls and local fundraisers for everything from the fire department to the PTA, there was just one political stand. A bunch of delightful Dean supporters offering policy notes, bumper stickers and badges. This man has the grass roots activated. It is the people's thrust which carries him.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

As pollies see it

I have an email from the Dick Gephardt team announcing that Gephardt had a runaway victory in the TV debate. Well, blow me down. And I never noticed! What I saw was a polly who ran over time limit doing some heavy platforming instead of answering a question. Not that I have anything against him. I have missed his NH visits so far, so have not looked him over. He and Graham from Florida are the remainder of my list. The others, well...

Friday, September 05, 2003

Potential presidents en masse

One has to say they are a pretty classy line-up - the Democrats vying for presidential nomination. There they were on TV tonight - not so much a debate as an interrogation. However Kucinich did take it upon himself to snipe at Howard Dean, a hint of debate perhaps. Dean, I think, was strong and gracious and came out on top of that little spat. Kucinich was showing his insecurity at the sizzling Dean lead. But it is early days. Although John Kerry did a spot of the classic politician sidestepping of direct questions, he continued to impress as the most statesmanlike of the bunch - and the only one brave enough to crack a few jokes.

Back to the Presidential Primaries

Last night having a brisk pre-prandial stroll through the streets of Nashua, we paused at the Howard Dean Campaign office to see when he may be back in town. The eager workers were madly welcoming and desperately anxious to know how just far towards Dean we were leaning. I think they wanted specific degrees, so often did they ask. But, it's hard to know this early in the Primaries. I was very impressed with Dean listening to his views at the Nashua party I attended. On a personal front, I liked his handshake. I liked our brief conversation and that, in response to what I so mischievously said, he threw back his head and gave a hearty, infectious laugh. I also liked his retort which balanced seriousness with humor. I think he is a quality candidate.

However, that craggy Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, has a sage "big picture". He expressed a global perspective I have not, heretofore, heard from the others. I liked the way he arrived at the party with punctuality and without fanfare. I like the way he grabbed a plastic garden chair and stood on it, to make sure that everybody could see him. Not that he is height challenged. Indeed, when I got to speak with him, he bent over to hear me better, so much so that people thought I was kissing him on the cheek.

John Edwards from North Carolina is nothing less than a sweetheart. He is possessed of a rare "people" gift. He makes eye contact with everyone. He moves in close, eschewing the formality of the speaker. He is passionate, energetic and, I believe, genuinely caring about the human predicament. He has something of the JFK and the Bill Clinton in his personable air. And it does not hurt that he is eye candy. I quite liked his politics and I suppose I forgave him for responding to my comments with the cliche "I hear you".

Joe Lieberman, the one other candidate whose meetings I have attended, did not fire me up. He seemed sincere enough and was most certainly a superb speaker. Perhaps I did not like the presence of two Congressional security goons with bulges under their suits. Or perhaps I just think that he is yesterday's man. I did not seek to speak with him.

I am eagerly awaiting the NH visits of the other candidates, of course. It's a fair line-up. Meanwhile, we have tonight's TV debate. The Dean campaign people have an array of Debate Parties arranged and quickly invited us to attend one. I am tempted - for it would be a magnificent further insight within the American political experience. But I have bought lovely fresh Maine crabmeat and intend to make New England crabcakes.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

A novice blogger

I've found BlogSnob! Love it. I've been writing about blogs for ages, studying them and reading them - but this quirky grouping is a newie. I've affixed its logo link which, in itself is charming.

Hopefully, soon, I shall swim in its happy current.
For an old netizen, online since 1993 when one still had to type in DOS codes, this tardy start to blogging is nothing less than remiss. I let myself be cut off from the cutting edge. Fie.

Beautiful Americans

Well, after that pompous introduction and a lot of playing around with the settings, I am ready to blog forth.

Wide-eyed in America. I am always thus. On each of my annual sojourns in this country, I have found some new dimension - sometimes many.
This year it has been the political process. I am in New Hampshire where the presidential primaries are vigorously underway. The party political system is vastly different to that of Australia where leaders are chosen within their parties. Here the leaders are chosen at political parties!
Oh yes, party politics takes on a very different hue.
The presidential candidates are presented to potential voters not only at public meetings in town halls but at parties hosted by local supporters at their homes. Garden parties. Lots and lots of garden parties.
One may receive an invitation in the post or by hooking in through a campaign website - and off one goes to hear and meet in person the candidate of the moment. The hosts turn on spreads of delicious refreshments and, in dubious weather, erect marquees. And the candidate rolls up at an appointed time, outlines his policy, patiently answers interminable and often piercing questions and then mingles informally with the people.
This is the most extraordinary hands-on electioneering. It is micro-campaigning - in a macro country.
I have pressed flesh and spoken to three potential US presidents - and listened to a fourth.
I can't vote, of course. But, as a political animal, I can thrive in the extraordinary immediacy of the process - and I can be a US politics junkie.

How sad it is that the likes of FoxTV projects to the world the image of an America of rabidly religious gun-loving jingoists. It is simply not the case! There is another strata of beautiful Americans, broadly read, curious about life and acutely sensitive to the inequities of the world. I feel rather blessed to be in their midst.

Why blog?

Blogs are the new journalism, so they trumpet across the Net. I'd say they are the free journalism - liberated from the constraints of editorial command. I won't say that all bloggers qualify as journalists but, like journalists, they are communicators. Unlike working journalists, they are free to publish whatever they will whenever they choose.
The historic significance of this magnificent explosion of human expression is yet to be quantified - for we know not how long or even how they may be archived in the ensuing decades or centuries. The volume of material will make them unmanageable. But who am I to worry about this? I am not writing for perpetuity. Indeed, I am not sure why I am writing this at all. Heaven knows, I don't have the time. What I do have is the passion to raise my voice to be part of the virtual cacophony of opinions and experiences which makes this medium such an important development in human communications.