Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jørn Utzon

The Prizker prize winning architect, Jørn Utzon, died yesterday. Danish-born Utzon was the vision behind one of this country's most iconic buildings, the Sydney Opera House.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

English lesson

I would never teach my grandma english like this...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Apec fashion critique

Well...the Apec forum has just wrapped up in Peru. I don't know about you, but the highlight for me is the costume parade. The organizers of APEC seem to be on the cutting edge of the latest trends and set the scene for what's hot and what's not for the upcoming season. Forget Paris. Forget New York. It's all about Peru this year. And the look? Potato sack race.

In the spirit of procrastination, let's take a quick journey into the costumes of APEC past (feel free to nominate your favourite)...

1. Thailand. Sawadee kup chic. This is a great look for the tropics.

2. Vietnam. I like how the female version comes with a matching dinner plate that can also be worn as a head dress.

3. Chile. Hmmm...I'm liking the colour but not sure about the angles. It makes everybody look like a giant corn chip packet.

4. South Korea. I think I'm going to turn this one into a Christmas card. John Howard looks so cute wrapped up in a bow.

5. Australia. Good ol' drizabone. It's very 2000 Sydney Olympics. In fact, I'm almost certain that these were left over from the opening ceremony.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Most influential

The Age newspaper puts out a list every year of the 100 most influential people in Melbourne and my friend, a biologist, has made the list for 2008. How cool is that? I guess it's not always about the socialites, celebrities and sports stars.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The belly dancer

Notwithstanding the bed moving debacle yesterday, we still managed to enjoy the evening at a lovely lebanese place with a hard-to-pronounce (and easily forgotten) name (don't ask, I forgot).

Just prior to our meals arriving, the obligatory belly dancer came out of the kitchen to the sound of loud lebanese music. I'm not entirely sure what food handling and safety laws she might have infringed from (presumably) getting changed into her skimpy outfit in the kitchen, but I was careful to watch for suspect curly hairs in my samakeg harrah afterwards.

I don't want to come across as being harsh (kudos to her for having the guts to show off her plentiful cellulite and muffin top) but the belly dancer was a little bit on the disappointing side. Let's just say that she was no Shakira (whom, I've been told is not all that shit hot as a belly dancer either).

The whole time she was gyrating to the lebanese music, all I could think about was that dreadful milkshake song by Kelis. She made her way from table to table, wobbling her butt, trying to get the audience to participate. And as the lyrics to that awful (but catchy) tune rang through my head ("My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard..."), some poor bastard decided to get up and join in (..."and their like, it's better than yours..."). He wobbled around aimlessly (..."Damn right...") trying to imitate the 'professional' ("'s better than yours...."). Pulsing and gyrating, wobbling his gut. It was a terrible sight to behold ("...I can teach you,...but I'll have to charge"). And all I could think about, at that moment, was "Thank GOD I had the foresight to sit in the corner".

Moving in the rain and the Luke Perry look-a-likes

What an absolute shitter of a day it was to try and get a bed from the city to Clayton. We waited and waited and waited and waited and the guy with the van simply didn't turn up. So...Nathan, Topi and I packed the bed back into storage and trudged through freezing cold wind and rain back to Spencer Street station. Arranged with the van guy to try again this morning. Fortunately he turned up this time. After packing everything into the van and waving them off (i.e. van man and Topi) I made my way to Borders in Melb Central and planted myself in a comfy chair and flipped through magazines for 2.5 hours...simple pleasures.

Met up with Topi for lunch later at a place called Singapore Chom Chom. Introduced Topi to a laksa, then headed off to Brunswick street to pick up his bass guitar. The Australian idol guy (see below) wasn't there (I swear I'm not stalking). There is something weird about the people that work in the shop...both sales guys today sported skinny jeans and pouffed up hair with extra-long side burns. Either it's the 'in' look at the moment or the shop is secretly a front for Luke Perry fanatics....I felt like I was on the set of the original Beverley Hills 90210.

Friday, November 21, 2008

moving weekend

Helping my friend move house tomorrow. Don't think we could have picked a worst day for it...rain and gail force winds. Hmmm.


A few months ago, Nate and I were enjoying a traditional greek bbq at Betty's place (Nate's friend). Betty's mum (in her 80s) was taking quite an active role in preparing our dinner, standing out in the backyard and cooking all the meat for us and her grand kids (who were all about our age). She seemed genuinely happy and I made the comment that grandma looked so remarkably fit and well for her age.

Last night, Nate and I went to visit Betty's mum in hospital. A couple of days ago was also diagnosed with cancer and has only months to live. Life can be so incredibly unpredictable.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bass guitar and Australian idols?

My friend Topi was after a bass guitar so we decided to meet up on Sunday and head over to Brunswick Street together to check out some stores. Only one of the guitar shops seemed to be open but there were a couple of nice second-hand instruments for sale. While Topi was busy testing out the merchandise, I was transfixed on the sales guy and was trying to figure out whether he might be a former Australian Idol contestant. I wasn't quite sure. The guitar shop guy seemed fatter. Might have to go back and suss it out a bit more (no I am not a stalker).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My conversation with Elissa

I never would have thought that a casual birthday BBQ out in the burbs yesterday would be the setting for one of the most incredible conversations I have had with anyone for quite some time.

Elissa is a student who happens to be deaf. As we sat around the table chatting in the afternoon sun, I realised that she was trying to make sense of the conversations that were taking place around her. Conversations taking place within a large group of people is a chaotic affair. People are talking over each other, contributing to the conversations of others mid-sentence, and breaking away into discussions of sub-topics. For someone living in silence, this can be quite a challenge. Elissa tried to engage in the chit chat that was taking place around her but none of us were making it easy. There was, for example, no conscious attempt to try and face her when we were talking so that she could, at the very least, pick up the 30% of what was being said by reading our lips. In our perfect hearing world, we had shut out someone who was living in a world of silence. My friend Val can sign (Elissa had taught her) and made a galant effort to keep Elissa informed. I was intrigued and started a conversation. She was able to make out a lot of what I was saying by reading my lips (or at least fill in the gaps) but we eventually found it easier to use the pad that she had discreetly placed on the table when she first came over, and joined our group.

The first thing I noticed was that Elissa had beautiful writing. Elegant. Strong. Self-assured. She 'tells' me that most people apologise for their 'poor' writing, in response, but she reckons that even a doctor's scrawl is readable to her. We chuckle. I tell her that she should mark my student's exam scripts next year. She tells me about the uncertainty that surrounds her future when she finishes her studies. The university is currently committed to students with disabilities but what happens after she finishes her doctorate? Her comments were thought-provoking. I pause and think about all the battles she had to fight to get to where she is now and the ones that lay ahead.

I quickly learn that Elissa is incredible astute...a skill no doubt developed from having to spend a life time filling in gaps in conversations, reading people's lips, watching our hand gestures, watching the expressions on our faces. She is remarkably understanding. Elissa does not complain, does not expect concessions. She takes the hearing world as it is and tries to carve out a niche for herself within it. As our conversation progressed, I realised that I was engaging with a most incredible person. I told her that the notes we had been scrawling in her notebook had opened up my eyes to things that I had never ever considered. It was a profoundly humbling experience and one that I will never forget.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Skate with mates

Went to a fancy restaurant last night with some mates I hadn't seen in a long time. Was very excited when I noticed 'skate wings' on the blackboard menu. I remember seeing Jamie Oliver harp on and on about how tasty they are so I decided that now was the chance to give them a try. Skates are a kind of ray (aka...the creature that knocked off Steve Irwin) and are related to sharks. The waitress recommended we get some vegetables on the side and assured us that one serve of asparagus would be plenty. One serve comprised just 6 stalks perched on a tiny metal plate (Given that there were 4 of us, this translated to 1 and half stalks each...I guess the waitress is a small eater). Eight bucks! Rip off.

The skate was much more satisfying. Tender. Delicious. Juicy. It was so yummy in fact I even ate the bones. Decided to go all out after the main and ordered some dessert wine. This is a bit unusual for me given that I don't actually drink but I guess desert wine tastes enough like grape juice that even someone who doesn't drink is likely to find it highly palatable (no, I'm not an alcoholic in denial). Had the wine with some kind of weird spanish blue vein cheese. Perfect.

The bus driver

Had to go into the city for a meeting yesterday arvo. Took the bus from work. Just as the bus was about to pull out of the curb, a chinese girl gets on. She is busy talking on the mobile phone.

"Do you want to catch the bus or talk on the phone?" asks the bus driver.

The girl ignores him. She continues with her conversation. The bus pulls out and then breaks suddenly.

"Turn off your phone...NOW!" says the bus driver.

The girl ignores him again, and tells him she wants to buy a ticket. She then hands over a $20 note.

The bus driver takes the money and proceeds to get the change. He hands her a big pile of 20c, 50c and $1 coins and shoves it in her small hand. The coins fall on the floor. She bends over to pick them up and he starts driving. The girl almost falls over. She gathers up her coins, walks to a seat and sits down. She puts the handful of coins into a carry bag...and continues talking on the phone.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My brand new jeans

After wearing the same pair of jeans almost everyday for the last year or so, it was finally time to get a new pair (the old ones had started to disintegrate). I headed off to G-star to go shopping for new jeans. I like G-star because they actually make jeans for tall people. I decided to drag Nathan with me because the last time I went into the shop, I wandered to the women's section and made a bit of a dick of myself trying to sift through women's jeans (I'm such a dag). Anyhoo...we caught the train to South Yarra and walked to the Chapel Street store. I think G-star must have a very strict policy for the kind of people they hire...there was not one ugly sales person in sight (and many sported interesting body piercings and/or were heavily inked). The sales guy that helped me out was breathtakingly beautiful. So much so, he could have handed me an old rag and I probably would have bought it. I tried not to let his beauty distract my mission. I had some very simple demands which I communicated to the sales guy: nothing too fancy (because I am a simple kinda guy) and nothing with legs that feel like compression socks or waistlines that hang so low that there is a risk my testicles might spill out. I tried on three pairs. One was way too tight. Another made me look like I was bow-legged but finally, a pair that fit well, was comfortable and looked kinda stylish. Two hundred and fifty dollars later, I left the store with one brand new pair of jeans in hand. That's my jeans shopping done for another year.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Went with Nate to the Hofbrauhaus on Wednesday night for some traditional Bavarian cuisine. Ordered the pork shank again. Delicious (but I don't think it would be too healthy to subsist on the thing). Nate had the chicken schnitzel. This time round, there was a band playing 'traditional' german music. The whole atmosphere is rather kistch.

Marking exams this weekend...Huff.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Melbourne cup

Managed to miss the entire thing. Didn't put in any bets. Didn't watch the race. It was a total boycott. And it's got nothing to do with the fact that I still had to come to work yesterday. Sure...the rest of Melbourne had a public holiday but my organization doesn't recognize it. I'm not even bitter about the fact that Canberra now gets a day off too (this being a recent development that occurred AFTER I had left the ACT to come to Vic). I'm not bitter... really, I'm not (But why the hell does Canberra get a day off?).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chopping block (update)

A few weeks ago, Nate and I were invited to a South Yarra restaurant that was participating in a reality TV program on channel 9 called the chopping block. The premise is that two restaurant undergo a 'makeover' and vie for the chance to win a load of cash. Anyhow...the episode is apparently showing tomorrow night. I think the chances of actually apprearing on TV is pretty remote since we were seated in a shitty spot and were only filmed for a few minutes. In any case, we have been invited back for another feed to celebrate because the restaurant we went to evidently won.