28 March 2009

Best Ground Score Ever

A few months ago, I found a didgeridoo in the dirt behind my office. Being a large and awkward item, it seemed a most unlikely object for someone to lose. It's not like dropping a glove, which might go unnoticed until the next cold snap - I just think one would be very aware of suddenly NOT carrying a 3 foot long brightly painted wooden pipe. I was forced to conclude that it must be stolen and that the perpetrator felt suddenly conspicuous, though I could not imagine why one would ditch such an object in this particular location. I toyed briefly with the idea of turning it into lost and found, but in the end my love for a found object outweighed all of my moral qualms.

And so my didge has taken up a proud position among my gallery of adopted discards. However, last night, a most mysterious occurrence occurred...

Has the ghost of some unsettled ancient aborigine, adrift among the apartments of St Leonards come to reclaim his lost musical instrument? And why had he been dipped in chocolate ice cream...?

24 March 2009

What in the Word?

I suppose I should be rather embarrassed that a very violent episode in a very public location exposed two deficiencies of vocabulary, but such is my delight at learning new words, that I cannot be bothered to feel ashamed for not already knowing them.

When I first read the newspaper headlines about the disturbance at Sydney Airport, I had to ask a passing Australian what a 'bollard' was, this being the murder weapon in question. It quickly occurred to me that such an item is most likely called a bollard in America as well - I just never had occasion to have a conversation about one.

Not being entirely familiar with the terms used for criminal misconduct in Australia, I misunderstood the evening news anchor and believed the bikies gang members had been charged with being 'in a fray', which in my vocabulary is synonymous with being in a 'fracas', and seemed a rather innocuous word to apply to the bashing in of a man's head with a large metal object. However, upon reading about the incident further, I realized the bikies had been charged with 'affray', a word which still seems a frightful understatement.

However, understatement seems to be a prevalent trend among Australian news reports, and I am increasingly of the opinion that such a practice helps to curb the intentional hysteria that is the cornerstone of modern American journalism. I have no doubt that had the incident occurred at LAX, it would have been described as a massacre. Of course, if it had occurred at LAX, the cops would have shot all the bikers and it would indeed have been a true massacre.

Although understatement does not lessen the shock and horror of the facts, it does not further propagate those feelings. By using calming language, it is possible to move beyond the violence more quickly and get down to the more important matter of pointing fingers at various government entities for their lack of responsiveness and to promptly introduce new legislation making it illegal to be a member of a bikie gang.

Can the softening of language go too far? Can use of the wrong adjective completely deflate the intensity of an event? You be the judge in this quote from a Liberal Party (read: conservative) Senator:

"It doesn't say much for the millions of dollars we have spent on airport security, nor does it say much, in the event of a fair dinkum terrorist attack, what would happen."

14 March 2009

The Bread Winner

“Sorry, Honey – I didn’t buy that bread you really like.”

“Why not? You said that was good bread.”

“Yeah I know, but the label said it supports women’s health, and I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. So instead I bought the bread that supports men’s health.”

“What, you were afraid you’d start having a period, so now I have to risk growing a beard? What exactly makes a bread support ‘men’s health’?”

“Well, it has lots of whole grains to promote a healthy digestion.”

“Women don’t digest? The bread I buy has lots of whole grains.”

“And this one has soy to promote male reproductive health.”

“My bread has soy.”

“Yes, but that soy is to promote female reproductive health.”

“What is different about the soy?”

“Probably nothing.”

“Then wouldn’t my bread also promote male reproductive health?”

“Yes, but your bread is for women.”

“So now we need to buy two loaves of bread? Wasn’t there some sort of gender-neutral bread with whole grains and soy?”

“Yes, but that is for transvestite reproductive health.”

“Did it say that on the label?”

“No. Look – I just couldn’t be seen buying women’s bread when there was men’s bread right next to it.”

“Just who do you think is watching you buy bread?”

“I don’t know. That’s the point.”

“Well, how does it taste?”

“Like bread.”

07 March 2009

Pity Party

One of the advantages – if you can call it that – to moving as much as I have is that I am seldom one of the people who get ‘left behind’. Distracted by the novelty and busyness of relocation, I am somewhat sheltered from the pain of missing my friends. My daily routine is new. My surroundings are unfamiliar. I am not sharply aware that the people I love are absent because they have never been a physical part of this present.

There are friends that come from history - for better or worse, kept because they are old and irreplaceable. Like antique furniture, they might look out of place in a modern living room, but they provide a feeling of continuity and make for good conversation.

There are friends that come from circumstance - coworkers, neighbors, or club members, essential but often superficial. Like a favorite new pair of shoes, they are comfortable and stylish, but eventually they will wear out and need replacing.

Then there are friends that come from intense mutual admiration. Like a warmly lit mirror that magically softens wrinkles, blemishes and character defects, they reflect a self portrait of confident radiance.

Richard has been this sort of friend to me, and today he is moving to London. I can almost hear the sucking sound of the emotional vacuum created by his departure. I feel like a better person when I am in his company, and his absence will be sorely felt. My own self indulgence is preventing me from celebrating his opportunity and wishing him well. Indeed, I have been quite nasty about it.

Of course, as I write this, I am immediately consumed by my own hypocrisy and flooded with feelings of regret and longing for all of those friends who I have left behind, and especially for the one I have lost altogether...

What I mean to say is:

I miss you.

04 March 2009

Purple Penguin

It's not unusual for me to see groups of holy people on my morning commute through Sydney's Central Business District. I often see Franciscan Friars or Buddhist Monks waiting for the bus in front of St Andrew's Church. So I didn't think twice when I saw cluster of nuns in starched white habits walking through the Town Hall station.

Until I noticed that they were surrounding a nun with a black wide brimmed hat who was wearing a deep purple robe.

I was suddenly compelled to investigate their footwear: a pair of black combat boots, some fishnet stockings, a set of take-me-back-to-Kansas slippers, a pair of snake-skin stilettos.

Another quick glance before they vanished behind the closing doors of the train to Bondi Junction revealed a shaggy red beard.

Where on earth are they going at 9 in the morning? Surely, no Buck's Night starts at that hour...and their habits were far too clean for them to be on their way home from last night...

Ah yes...The Parade is this Saturday...I reckon The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are hosting morning tea.

Can any of my antipodean readers enlighten me as to why it is that in Australia, Mardi Gras falls on a Saturday in the middle of Lent?