a little east of reality

Monday, May 21, 2007


I have a new homestay student and she's really cool and nice. She hails from Hong Kong and she's the first person I've ever had here who was really keen to just join in with anything that's normal for Australians. A lot of times students come here but outside of their classes they really just want to hang out with their friends (who also came on the same course), speak their own language, and stay firmly within their comfort zone. That's their choice, but I get a little bored with doing the same touristy things, and I tend to not see much of them anyway. This will give us more scope for what we can do, and she's quite eager to get out of her comfort zone and immerse herself in another culture. My other boarder is Chinese, but she only speaks to him in English, which is great, because she's not taking the easy route, and because he has an English test in two weeks and can't afford to be speaking Chinese at home.

She'll be staying with another homestay provider for five days while I'm in Melbourne for work, but apart from that it should be a fun six weeks with her.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

can you be half a superhero?

I'm turning into a total organisation freak at work. I've got all this energy lately and I'm so much more focussed. After weeks of distraction and irritating slowness I'm starting to tick things off my to-do list with surprising regularity.

Then I get home and my room (just my room, not the whole house, thank goodness) still looks like a freaking warehouse of unsorted goods. Where did all this stuff come from and why is it taking me so long to get rid of it all??

Am I only half a superhero, or is it just that the pile o' stuff in my room is actually an arch villian in 'potential eBay items' disguise? That would explain why it seems to grow after I've been working on it.


Monday, May 14, 2007

five days in melbourne

Okay, so Melbourne was mostly great, but it had its downside. You'll see what I mean as I go along. People-wise I spent the first three days staying with a friend and her husband, and spending my time with them and a close friend of theirs who lives in Melbourne. We also saw a lot of my friend's daughter, who moved to Melbourne about six months ago.

First night in I saw Miss Saigon. It's a powerful story, and the production was wonderful, particularly the staging (the sets were great and at one point you would have sworn that a real helicopter landed on the stage and then took off again). I have to admit though that the score was kind of average. The one exception was a really stirring song at the beginning of the second act called "Bui Doi". It's a song about the Amerasian children fathered by GIs during the Vietnam war, children who went on to be pariahs in their own society once the US withdrew. The whole time the song was sung they showed images of these children, including some from the child camps they were put into after the war. Here's a youtube link to the song. Here are the lyrics.

The next day we had lunch at Fifteen, the restaurant that Jamie Oliver set up in Melbourne to offer a career opportunity to troubled youth. The first batch of trainees were part of a television series that showed their personal journeys to become chefs and the setting up of the restaurant itself. Of course there were a few who wasted their opportunity, but I was so impressed with most of them and the way they really turned their lives around that I wanted to visit the restaurant if the chance came. Thirty percent of the profits go back into the foundation to train other young people, too. I like the combination of a casual atmosphere with silver service level dining, and the food was SO GOOD! ( I had the Roasted Berkshire pork with fennel seed and rosemary, Mt Zero lentils, baby chard, crème fraiche and pan juices. Chocolate nemesis (yes Nemesis, apparently there's a dessert named after you) with pistachio biscotti and blood plum. Mmm.)

Later that night we hit the Pink concert. She is so powerful, so bold. Most of the songs were from her latest album, I'm Not Dead, which I like a lot. Unfortunately the concert indirectly led to me having an argument with one of my best friends over Pink's song, "Stupid Girls". She was basically defending the girls the song describes(here's an excellent explanation of the song if you're interested), saying that if all they care about was partying and shopping and being a size 0, that that was their right. I tried for a solid hour to explain that the song is not targeting them individually so much as the superficial culture they represent, and that while it certainly is their right to live as they choose, I'm allowed (and Pink's allowed) to have an opinion about it, especially if I feel their lifestyle is negatively affecting girls who think they are supposed to emulate it. There's nothing wrong with calling something stupid if it IS, especially when that something is influential. I think the most frustrating part was when she argued that "they can't be totally stupid if they're making that kind of money". I hated the fact that I needed to explain to this wonderful friend, right in the middle of a discussion about superficiality, that money alone was hardly a worthy marker of success. There was a time when she wouldn't have needed someone else to tell her that.

And of course having been friends for over twenty years we moved on by the next morning and had brunch at a lovely Italian cafe called Brunnelli's: chicken and asparagus crepe with a Caesar side salad. They also make confections and nougat and ornate cake for big Italian celebrations. It was worth going there just to look around. Restaurants featured heavily in our trip. Fifteen, Brunnelli's, a place on the beach called The Stokehouse, plus a little Thai restaurant and a couple of cafes. I mean just because our hotel room had a kitchen with a microwave didn't mean we were going to cook. And in fairness if you're going to check out restaurants, Melbourne is the place to do it. There's good reason that Jamie Oliver picked Melbourne. Each year there'll be new trainees and he needed a strong restaurant and cafe culture that will provide jobs for them once they've done their year at Fifteen.

Now of course I couldn't be in Melbourne for the tail end of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival without catching at least one show, so we went to see Adam Hills' current show, Joymonger. It was great, so upbeat and positive (hence the name) and very funny. We were in the front row and he talks a LOT with audience people, so I was trying to keep a low profile, haha. We did have a chat with him afterwards. Nice guy. He talked a little in the show about having an artificial right leg, a little bit of trivia about him that I hadn't known. He shared a story about getting his licence renewed...a little adventure in bureaucracy that resulted in his driver's licence now being printed with the licence condition: "Must wear artificial right foot." He said he showed it to an Irish friend once, who gave him a sly smile and said, "Ah, but it doesn't say where." :)

A couple of other photos from the trip ~ a quirky shop name and some fun street art I happened upon.

The other activity I spent a lot of time on in Sydney was called "avoiding shopping". Don't get me wrong. I did some shopping. I bought a pair of black jeans, I browsed the bookstore, I checked out some homeware stores and I tried samples of Aesop's mandarin-scented hand balm (pricey, but oh so good). And then I was all shopped out. So while my friend went to ten more stores, I saw a movie. The next night we met an old friend I hadn't seen for years, so when they decided they wanted to check out every designer brand store that was open late at the casino complex, I couldn't duck out and do something else. I'm not into the brand label thing. In fact I'm next door to being anti-brand after seeing how it drives many women and girls in Japan. But there I was, for two hours straight, trawling Guess and Gucci and whoever else with them. So you can imagine my glee (not) the next day when she announced that the thing they most wanted to use their last day for was to visit DFO (designer factory outlet). I told them to meet me when they were done, at the Starbucks where I would be reading my book (ironically, The Devil Wears Prada). Good book by the way.

I had two days in Melbourne after they flew home, which were so relaxing. I wandered around St Kilda, sat by the ocean and slipped in another lunch at Fifteen (Grilled Margaret River porterhouse steak with rosemary potatoes, large leaf rocket and eggplant funghetto). I visited a family who recently moved to Melbourne and had a surprisingly lighthearted visit with a friend of my mum's who found out a few months ago that she has an inoperable cancer. She's retired and is using her time now to visit her children and grandchildren. I left them feeling very peaceful and reassured.
And that was Melbourne.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 12, 2007

random email conversation

chosha: how long have you lived at [current address]? Just doing that security check referee report for Sky.
Rev: 5 years, 10 months
chosha: Thanks. Do you think it'll matter that I mentioned that organised crime ring she ran in the 80s?
Rev: I think it'll be fine. After all, most people ran crime rings in the 80s.


Labels: , ,

Friday, May 11, 2007

business trip coming up

...and we're staying three nights here. Bonus good deal. ^_^

The Melbourne report is coming. My browser just freaked out mid-post last time so I need to rewrite my adventures.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

a picture is worth a thousand cutting remarks

Looking for a special gift for that bitter newly-divorced friend? Here's a quirky little option I spotted in a local homewares store. Packs quite an impact, no?

Could be deeply satisfying...in a deeply twisted way.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

some things are so hard to let go of

There are about five indies rock bands I used to follow when I lived in Japan. When I went back on holiday I always tried to see their shows, but it's been over three years since I've seen any of them live. One band, Sclatch, broke up a while back. Of the other four, two are far more precious to me than the others: KING & Plastic. Over the last year I have listened to their music less, because it makes me feel sad how much time has passed since I've been there. You have to understand, I supported these bands. I wished fervently for their success. I translated their lyrics. They mean as much to me as my Japanese friends, as much as the few students I still keep in touch with, as much as the city I lived in. Their music is wonderful, but it also has a lot of meaning for me beyond the words and tunes. I still know the crowd moves (a little Japanese phenomenon) that go with each song.

Last year I made a plan to go to Japan this July. Somewhere around March I knew it wasn't going to happen. Then, a few days ago, I found out about a sale that would allow me to fly return to Japan for AUD$750. But I had to book for later in the year, because I needed time to save for accommodation and spending money. The dates can't be changed.

And today I confirmed that Plastic are breaking up on July 15.

So now half of me is so happy to be going to Japan again, and the other half is grieving for the missed opportunity to see Plastic on stage one more time. :( The worst thing is that no matter what they go on to do, all that wonderful music gets left behind. I thought it was sad when Hibiki left and they went from five members to four. But this is way beyond.

I realise that there are only about four people who read this blog who are really going to get what this means to me. For everyone else I'm going to come back tomorrow and tell you about the trip to Melbourne, which is a much happier story.

Labels: , ,