Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everybody. Hope 2009 bring lots of blog-worthy adventures to fellow bloggers and tantalising reading for the rest.

Off to a party hosted by a couple of friends I haven't seen in quite a while. Should get quite a nice view of the fireworks from their city apartment. I'm glad it's not going to be as hot as last year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A lazy morning

I love having time off from work. Today, I spent my entire morning in my "Mr. Grumpy" pyjamas (a christmas gift) reading old postings from fellow bloggers. I am feeling completely relaxed.

I think I'll head into the CBD for a wander in the afternoon. Might mozy over to Melb Central and relax in a comfy chair at Borders and read a few mags, then head over to DJs for a bit of a browse...I love going downstairs and smelling the freshly baked cookies.

Unrequited love

Went out for dinner last night with a friend. L wanted advice following her recent trip overseas where she caught up with a girl that she loved. Unfortunately, it's a case of unrequited love for the girl in question has a boyfriend.

It is hard to offer advice when the advice is painful and not what the person wishes to hear. Nate and I tell L that she deserves a better love, one that is less complicated and, more importantly, a love that is reciprocated. We can offer all the advice we want but I guess, at the end of the day, people feel the way they feel and no matter how irrational to an outsider, the feelings and emotions are real to the person who is feeling them. There shall be no judgement, only support.

Monday, December 29, 2008


This new footbridge just opened near my apartment. It looks very "Sydney Opera House".

Barbie, alternative rock music and the sexual harasser

On Saturday night, Nate and I were invited along for dinner with some friends who were visiting from Sydney. One of the people at the dinner was on vacation from the US. As the evening progressed, she mentioned that she was a freelance writer and had recently been working for Mattel, the toy company responsible for making barbie. Apparently her job was to write the toy descriptors on the sides of the boxes and to come up with names for the toys. How cool is that? What struck me, however, was that Laura actually looked a bit like Barbie with her beautiful long blonde hair, nice tan, and make up (no, there was no Ken in sight).

After dinner, we parted ways with Barbie and headed off with our Sydney friends to the Ding Dong bar near Chinatown. There, we spent an hour or so listening to alternative rock music. I must admit it's not really my kind of music but I did enjoy gawping at the drummer.

Next, we caught a taxi to The Peel. I hadn't been to the Peel for ages and it seems that they have done a complete renovation. The clientele still seemed the same though. We headed to the dance floor and were all happily dancing away when our female friend jumped forward and let out a little yelp. Some effeminate blonde guy had deliberately brushed his hand up between her legs. This was unwise since our friend's boyfriend and brother were both on the dancefloor and were (quite understandably) unimpressed. A few words were exchanged and the sexual harasser retreated with his lips pouted in feeble defiance. It killed the mood for us and we decided to leave. Fifteen minutes later we were seated at a table at Crown Casino sipping away on a giant toblerone cocktail.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The anniversary...

This is my coming out story so readers be warned, this is going to be a long one...

It's 4 years to the day that I came out to one of my parents (it took a further two weeks before I came out to the other).

I had arrived back from the US where I had spent almost a year working in a tiny sea-side town on Cape Cod. There, I had met the most amazing people, including the landlady of the house where I was staying. Ginny, who had just retired as principal from a school for troubled teenage boys, rented me a room in her grand old New England home. She had been sharing this home with boarders since the mid 1970s, mostly visiting scientists drawn to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Marine Biology Laboratory.

Apart from me and Ginny, the house was occupied by four others at the time. Dan, the perpetual boarder, was a strange but endearing gentleman who looked like Jesus, played the french horn, hoarded other people's rubbish, and kept piles of newspapers in his room. Luke was a middle-aged guy with the quintessential Bostonian accent who spent his time living and commuting between the Cape (his work) and Boston (his family). Tyler, my best friend in the house, was a newbie who had arrived in the Cape only a couple of months before I did, so naturally, we spent quite a bit of time together hanging out and exploring the Cape on weekends. Finally, there was Brian who worked in a local cafe called The Pie in the Sky, spent his free time going to some liberal christian church and attended the local gay choir (along with Tyler who is not gay but enjoys singing). Brian, a gentle soul was dealing with mental demons in the form of severe anxiety. He was also the first person I came out to.

Coming out to Brian was not something I had planned and happened only weeks before I was due to return to Australia. I had left work early one day and came back to the house to find Brian sobbing away at the kitchen table. He had been sent home from work because he was feeling extremely anxious and had started crying uncontrollably in front of the customers. As I tried to comfort him, Brian started telling me about the trigger for his most recent episodes of anxiety. Apparently he had a minor falling out with his boyfriend a few weeks earlier (Mario wanted to engage in a deep and meaningful conversation about God. Brian didn't. Mario got upset. Brian was sent into a deep depression). The trigger seemed so trivial to me (such was my ignorance of mental health issues at the time). In my lame attempts at a consolation (and perhaps reflecting where I was in my own mind), I said to him that surely coming out to your parents would have been a more traumatic situation. Then, to my surprise, I just started off loading everything on this poor guy who, by now had stopped crying, and just sat there and listened in stunned silence. After I was done (and feeling that I had selfishly hijacked his moment), Brian bursts into tears, so touched was he that I had decided to come out to him first. I almost burst into laughter.

In the weeks ahead, I spoke to a few other people but was conscious of the fact that I needed to come out to my family and close friends back home. Everyone I came out to in the US was fantastically supportive but perhaps the most touching response was from Ginny who told me that I was a wonsderful person who deserved to find someone wonderful to be with. I will never forget those amazingly generous and kind words.

So...back to Australia. I tell my sisters first. They cried. I cried. And then we laughed. I come out to my closest friends and was, once again, met with incredible support. So far, so good. But what about my parents? I had no idea who I should speak with first. I feel that I am closest with my mother but, for some reason, I decide to tell dad first.

My father would go for a walk every morning to the supermarket. I decide to go with him one morning and tell him along the way. I chicken out. Instead, I tell myself that I would tell him on the way back. But I don't. I chicken out once again. And so it went on like this for a couple of weeks...I would walk out of the house with my father. I'd be full of hope going to the supermarket but kept returning home disappointed in myself. At night, in the comfort of seclusion, I would cry in bed. Why was it so hard? Going through my head were the lyrics of a song I heard on the flight back to Australia. The chorus of Gavin DeGraw's song "I don't want to be" spoke to me in a way that no lyrics had ever spoken to me before...

I don't want to be anything other than what I've been tryin to be lately
All I have to do is think of me and have peace of mind
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms wondering what I gotta do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't want to be anything other than me

I decided that if I didn't do it soon, I'd never do it. I was also running out of time since I was due to head off for work overseas again in a few weeks time (to Europe). I decided I would tell my dad after Christmas.

But then, on boxing day, disaster struck...tectonic activities off the coast of Indonesia caused an undersea earthquake, sending a catastrophic tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The entire family (like everyone else around the globe) was glued to the television. Suddenly, my issues didn't seem all that insurmountable.

The following day, I sat in the kitchen watching the news. It's early afternoon. Dad is there also, already preparing dinner (that's a chef for you). I switch off the television. I tell dad that I need to speak with him about something. I ask him to come with me for a walk. He puts everything down. We step out the house, and I tell him everything.

Friday, December 26, 2008


SBS has to be one of the best things about free to air television in Australia. As stipulated in its charter "[t]he principal function of SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society."

On Christmas eve, SBS aired an excellent french canadian movie called Crazy. The movie revolves around the lives of a family, focusing on a central character by the name of Zac who is one of five sons (in birth order, Zac is fourth). The movie begins at Zac's birth and follows the character until early adulthood. It is a story about personal and family struggles and the coming to grips (and acceptance) of identity (including Zac's sexuality). One early childhood scene in the movie was most poignant. Zac, who was born on Christmas Day, opens his present and is bitterly disappointed by the gift his dad had chosen for him, a hockey set. What Zac really covets was a toy pram which the father had refused the mother from buying. The scene was an especially significant one as it provides the first glimpse of the inevitable identity struggles and father-son conflicts that later ensues. I think it also reflects, very nicely, the complexity of human sexuality and the ways in which it can begin to mannifest.

When I was in the fifth grade, I coveted a doll. Yes, sure, I played with toy cars and planes (especially planes) but for Christmas that year, I wanted a porcelain doll I had seen at a shop called The Australian East India Company at the Woden Shopping Centre in Canberra. It was love at first sight. My first materialistic obsession. I just had to have it. I remember we were studying colonial Australian history at school. As the teacher ranted on about bushrangers and the goldrush, all I could think about was the doll. So much so that I started to draw a picture in the back of my book. The teacher strolls past my desk, notices the picture, stops the lesson and asks (in a loud enough voice so that the entire class could hear), "Is this your girlfriend?" She then picks up the picture and shows it to the rest of the class. Everyone bursts out in laughter. I was mortified.

The classroom experience did not dampen my obsession. That year, as Christmas approached, I remember my dad and I going to the woden shopping centre one Saturday morning. As we went past the Australian East India Company, I insisted that he come into the shop so that I could show him the doll. He wasn't as hostile as the dad in the movie but he didn't seem entirely enthusiastic either. Later, he went to work and I went to the public library. In the afternoon, I returned to the shop to have (yet) another glimpse and, to my absolute shock and horror, she was gone. Gone!

A few weeks later I happen to be rummaging around the garage at home and, hidden amongst the boxes, I found her. Dad must have snuck back and actually bought it for me. On Christmas day, I opened the present with my sisters and cousins and was overjoyed by what I had received (even though I already knew what it was, as most kids probably do). Looking back, I wonder whether my parents were embarrassed by their son wanting a doll for Christmas. If they were, they never showed it. In any case, in my innocent 10 year old mind, I was blissfully unaware as to what all of this would mean.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Greetings

Wishing everybody a joyful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The early Christmas feast

Nathan has to work on Christmas day and is heading back tonight. One of my sisters is also leaving for Melbourne (on Christmas day) to spend time with her boyfriend and his family. As a result, mum decided we should have the big family Christmas feast early this year. So last night, our immediate and extend family gathered at my parents place to wallow in excessive feast.

The preparation was a formidable affair. Dad had spent two days roasting a leg of pork and a huge turkey (apparently mum insisted on getting the biggest one at the supermarket).

It's always a pig out when I come back to Canberra but especially so when it comes to Christmas so I had to pace myself. I had a problem though...brunch with friends, followed by lunch with other friends. At brunch, Dan and Amy hassled me out for being lame and only ordering toast. Admittedly, I think this was one of only a handful of times when I've gone out for brekky and didn't order the biggest breakfast item listed on the menu (if I go out for breakfast, I usually feel a compulsion to be as unhealthy as possible and have the lot... eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and other greasy stuff depending on venue). Two hours later, I was sitting in a cafe with other friends eating arancini. Nathan had a salad.

After lunch, we headed back home and waited in anticipation. It was a much smaller event than last year because some of my relatives were overseas on holiday. I think I refilled my plate at least three times and afterwards had to waddle around the lounge room to help kickstart the digestion process.

Not surprisingly, I decided to skip breakfast this morning. Evidently we are going out for lunch today at a chinese restaurant. No doubt another feast awaits.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Someday soon

Heard a nice song on the radio today on our way to the Royal Australian Mint. With some detective work (and random guessing), managed to track it down to this...

Natasha Bassingthwaighte with Someday Soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back in Canberra

Nathan and I have gone to Canberra to visit my family. We are only here for a few days so I've only told a few friends I'd be in town. Already, however, I've been spotted by a friend who didn't know I would be back for Christmas. Such run-ins reminds me just how small Canberra actually is.

Took Nate to old Parliament House. One of the rooms had an interesting exhibit about Australia's former prime ministers. Nate reckoned that our first PM, Edmund Barton, looked like Peter Phelps. I thought Watson was quite handsome.

Afterwards, we headed off to the National Gallery of Australia to check out an exhibition of Pacific island art. Some of the pieces had an amazing spiritual presence. One especially intriguing piece even contained human teeth.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The morning after

Kylie concert last night was fantastic.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Work Christmas Party (Part 2)

The departmental Christmas party took place yesterday arvo. It was a relaxed outdoor bbq. Thankfully, despite the morning drizzle, the sun managed to show itself by the time the party started. Nate came in after work and we headed over together. Everybody was suppose to bring a plate to share. I made a pumpkin and green bean salad with cashews (liberally sprinkled with the last of the fetta from my pizza party from last week).

When I arrived, my colleague Elissa introduced me to her boyfriend who looked strangely familiar. Strange, because he is not a local and had flown in from America to spend three weeks in Oz with Elissa. Without wanting to look rude, I said that it was great to see him AGAIN and simply assumed that I must have met him on a previous visit to Australia. Later in the afternoon, the guy walks up to me and says that we must have met previously at a conference somewhere. He started rattling off a few possibilities. And then it dawned on us simultaneously...we had, indeed, met once Oaxaca, Mexico! In fact, he was a good friend on my boss when I was working in the States and so we had hung out at the conference in Mexico. I love my job...its a small enough community that you can meet up with people from overseas and then meet them again in some completely different part of the world years later.

Nate and I left when the dark clouds started looming overhead and we decided to catch the train back to the city. We got off at South Yarra with plans to go for a drink. We had a nice chat walking along Chapel Street, which continued at the Tusk cafe. Nate is thinking about doing some sort of course next year to expand his skills and we chatting about that. We also talked about the future and what Nate might want to do down the track. The conversation was a bit full on at times but it is good to talk openly about these things. Afterwards, we continued our stroll along Chapel, hopped on a tram, and made our way back home to bed.

Kylie concert tonight! Yay!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another food safety violation...

Oh dear...another food safety violation by a Melbourne-based restaurant (with nauseatingly graphic photo gallery on The Age news website). The Meekong Vietnamese Restaurant in Swanston Street is (was?) one of my favourite places for pho, that delectable vietnamese noodle soup of rare beef (and other body parts) bathed in a tasty broth with rice noodles, fresh basil and bean shoots. This is what pho looks like when it is brought out to your table (mmmm)...

The restaurant is a favourite, not only among us regular folk but also celebrities like Jacky Chan (as evidenced by the worn photos plastered around the walls). The sign on the shop front even puts out a most intriguing challenge to p otential customers: "Bill Clinton ate two bowls. How many can you eat?" Now...if this is how the beef looks before it is prepared, I'm afraid I wont be stopping by for pho anytime soon...

Another brush with 'celebrity'

Since I've been in Melbourne I seem to be spotting a fair few 'celebrities' from reality TV in my day-to-day activities. A few months ago, there was the apparent sighting of a former Australian Idol contestant. This week, I spotted an aspiring model. I was on a train into the city and an exceptionally well-dressed and handsome man gets on and sits opposite me. He sported one of those dirty bleached hairdos that matched his complexion so that it was hard to tell where hair ended and face began. I quickly realised that this was no ordinary, everyday Melbourne metrosexual but a contestant from....Make me a Supermodel (I hope this doesn't give away my cringe-worthy viewing practices).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Work Christmas Party (Part 1)

Went to the Faculty Christmas party today (we have a "smaller", more intimate departmental party tomorrow). Wandered over to the marquis that had been set up for the event and quickly noticed most of the people were wearing masks. Crap. I didn't realize there was a theme. Gravitated towards the drinks cart. Found myself a coke, then walked over to the cheese plate and sliced off a generous portion of brie and smeared it onto an under-sized cracker. Cheese was followed by a slice of pizza. Next, I decided to be brave and tackle a hot dog...big mistake. The "sausage" was the consistency of mush encased in what appears to be the same stretchy material used for making the skin ofballoons. Participated in some idle chit chat (mostly about the suspicious content of the hot dog) then decided I had enough and left.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The serenity...

The tram works are over. Yay! No more jack hammers. No more heavy machinery. No more shouting workers. I must admit I'm peversely impressed that the construction workers managed to plough through gail forced winds and torrential rain to complete the platforms over the weekend. And they look reasonably good (i.e. the platforms; not the workers).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tram works

Ah, the joys of urban living. There is some seriously heavy construction work going on outside my apartment today. It started last night and is scheduled to continue non-stop until Monday morning. There are jack-hammers out in full force, the noise of heavy machinery moving back and forth, and workmen dressed in fluoro-coloured jackets talking loudly. The tram stops are being upgraded to comply with disability requirements. It seems like a total waste of money. My tram stops are relatively new and were only put in a couple of years ago. Why didn't they have the foresight to install disabled-friendly platforms back then? Idiots.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The stupid old mole on the train

An old woman got on the train at Flinders Street this afternoon. I hear her shoo aside other commuters so she could get to her seat. Her face is wrinkled like a dried up prune. She turns to her male companion and starts talking about the chinese and indians sitting around her. First they mimic the chinese people sitting in front of her. She then complains loudly about people coming to this country and not being able to speak in english. The indians behind her roll their eyes in disgust.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A fridge full of cheese

Hosted the lab Christmas party at my place yesterday. Decided it would be a good idea to have 14 people crammed into my tiny loft apartment and make pizzas. I asked everyone to bring pizza topping. The concept worked well but for the fact that every second person bought either mushrooms or fetta and then left all the left over ingredients in my fridge. Hmmm...must now trawl the net for imaginative mushroom and fetta receipes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Homeless world cup

The homeless world cup just finished here in Melbourne. I seem to be in the minority here but it seems a bit wrong to fly a bunch of homeless people to a city, give them lots of cool corporate-sponsored merchandise, make a spectacle out of them, and then send them home again back to their former lives.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Picnic, brunch and barbeque (update)

Did the picnic yesterday. It was tough but I eventually managed to find the giraffe swing (which looked more like a weird stick insect than a giraffe). I realised that I get quite anxious meeting up with people for picnics in popular public places. The problem is that I hate walking up to groups of people for fear that I have to make a 'subtle' retreat if they turn out not to be the people I'm suppose to be hanging out with. Worse still, is the possibility that I may join a group, start to pig out and then realise I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd. Not really a problem on this ocassion. Apart from our group, there was only two other groups near the was a big wedding party and the other was a bunch of school kids dressed in their bright red uniforms.

Went to brunch this morning. Of course, I didn't think to factor in possible construction work in the CBD disrupting the tram but, as usual, I'm still the first one at the restaurant (even though I was late). Ended up walking to the cafe from St Vincent's plaza. It was a pleasant stroll. Brunswick Street is so empty at 10ish on a Sunday. Even the beggars were asleep. Decided to be a bit 'out there' and refrained from ordering the biggest brekky on the menu. Went for the 'walnut and apricot toast' instead with the 'maple hazlenut butter' option. It was delicious but not quite sure if it was worth paying seven bucks for two pieces of toast. Thought about pinching the beautiful piece of wood that the toast was served on but, alas, i left my bag at home. Didn't really get a chance to ask Dave about the new girl he was allegedly seeing nor did it feel entirely appropriate to ask if the girl that came along was actually her or not. Instead, Louise and I spent the 40 min walk back to the city trying to speculate. On our way, I saw two things that seemed noteworthy. First, was a gay couple dressed in their polo shirts, walking along Swanston Street holding hands. Very sweet (the holding hands part; not the matching polos). Second was the elderly tranny who crossed the road with us near Collins Street. She was dressed in a conservative cardigan and matching scarf with black high heels. Why is it that some men walk more gracefully in high heels than some women? to the BBQ in Aspendale now. Hope the weather holds up.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Picnic, brunch and barbeque

It's all happening this weekend, two fun-filled days of wallowing in excessive feast with friends I simply don't get to see quite often enough. It begins with a picnic in Fitzroy Gardens later today by the giraffe swings (wherever the hell that it...will google later). Then tomorrow, I'm meeting up with Dancing Dave and Louise for breakfast in Fitzroy. Dave, Louise and I all went to uni at the same time but Louise was the only one to have had the foresight to get a real job after she finished and is now earning squillions. Dave is an enigma. Extraordinarily handsome, uber-cool, and very smart. Over the years, he has had some super nice girlfriends. The problem is that he seems to find relationships challenging and he's not sure why. Perhaps he hasn't found the right one, or maybe some people value their independence too much. Either way, I heard a few months ago that he had started seeing someone so I'm looking forward to the goss. Sunday afternoon promises to be a relaxing affair. Off to Aspendale for a farewell BBQ for a student who is soon to finish his studies and is heading back to Europe. We've had a few people finish up at work. It reminds me how transient the 'life' of my department can be. It really only is as good as the people that are here at the time. it'll be sad to see L go. Hmmm...giraffe swing...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What the?

Number 6 (below) is a bit surprising.

Google's Top 10 Australian searches of 2008:

1. Games
2. Sydney
3. YouTube
4. MySpace
5. Facebook
6. Google
7. eBay
8. My
9. Weather
10. Hotmail

Monday, December 1, 2008

All look same?

Check out 'all look same' and have a go at some of the tests to see how good you are at distinguishing between chinese, japanese and korean culture.

My scores...

I was OK with identifying faces (10 out of 18).

Appeared to be OK with placing modern art into the right culture too (10 out of 18).

Was a shocker with traditional architecture (8 out of 18).

And did my best with identifying food to culture (12 out of 18). No surprises there.