Friday, October 31, 2008

Aren't We All Obligated to Have This Post at Some Time?

Okay, I'm going to do a keyword post.

I've seen other people do it and it seems fun.

Plus, I have a busy day tomorrow and won't have enough time to do any research.   So,this way I can post what I wrote today (Thursday) on Saturday.   Then Saturday, hopefully I'll have time to do more research.

Here we go.   Some keywords/phrases people used to find my blog:

1. The thinks she is an Australian Blog.    Okay.  Let me set the record straight.  I don't think I'm Australian.   I WISH I was Australian.   And if Obama wins, maybe I'll be a little more okay with being American.   But I'll still wish I was Australian.  Or at least I'll wish I could LIVE in Australia.  But if I live in Australia, I might as well become an Australian.   I do sometimes imagine I might get hit on a head and come up with some type of delusional amnesia.   Then I might THINK I'm Australian.  But for now, I know what I am.  

2. This actress is known for being from Australia, but was actually born in Hawaii. Who is she?   Nicole Kidman--the actress I saved from murder in my dream.   

3. did huge heffner buy drover's run?   I don't know.   I'd like to know that myself.   I'm way behind on celebrity gossip.   Anyway, I hope he didn't.   Claire McLeod's house should never be turned into a playboy mansion!  That's just too much for me to emotionally handle.

4. Where celebrities live Julian McMahon.   I get a lot of keywords about him.  He must be mighty popular.

5. being safe in Redfern Sydney.   Don't run while eating a piece of hard candy.  You might choke.  That's my first piece of advice.   No seriously.   That's a complicated question with complicated answers.   I've been reading a lot about Redfern lately.   There's a lot of beautiful and wonderful people who live there.   But some of them have it quite rough.  I know life isn't fair.   But I long for the day when it can be a little MORE fair.   Is that too much to wish for?

6. how ngunnawal people might eat a bogong moth.   Is there a special way of eating it?  Like an Oreo?  Tim Tam?  Or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup?   Did I ever tell you guys about the boy in the hot tub at Port Stephens?  The kid took like twenty minutes to eat a Tim Tam.  I was so impressed.  I eat way too fast.   I wish I could eat slow like that.

7. julian mcmahon at club, restaurant.   I hope it was a fun club.   Personally, I don't think any club is that much fun.   I'm not into all that dancing, loud music, and drinking.   To me the only fun club is Girl Scouts.

8. Arthur Philip nude.   This might be the best one.   I'm guessing maybe it was another Arthur Phillip. They did spell his name wrong.  I had been spelling his name wrong when I first started writing about him.  Maybe I had missed correcting one of them?

I do find myself somewhat attracted to Phillip, but I'm not sure it's the kind of attraction where I want to see him naked.

9. Famous People Born in Canberra.   I still haven't had much luck finding anyone.   BUT there are important people who live there now.  Example: Kevin Rudd.   I think he's lovely.   I probably don't want to see him naked though.

10. What do Australians think of Julian McMahon?   Maybe I shall do a survey next time I'm in Australia.   I like him a lot, but I don't like Nip/Tuck.   But I'm American so I guess my opinion doesn't count here.   Now if I hit my head and think I'm Australian, maybe I shall count.   Well, at least in MY mind I will. 

11.  Rachel Carpani nude.  I have to say that this surprises me less than the Arthur Phillip one.  Shockingly, I haven't had any people looking for Julian McMahon nude.

I sort of miss McLeod's Daughters.   We've been watching Eli Stone instead.  That's good,  but it seems to be a little less good than it was last season.

12. What do Americans know about Australia's past?   Interesting question.   I guess the average American would just think about the convict stuff.  Actually, the average American probably thinks Australia is Austria.   And I don't think that helps because they don't know much about Austria either.   Well, that is if you don't include what we know from the Sound of Music.

Nothing comes from nothing.  Nothing ever could.  But somewhere in my youth or childhood.  I must have done something good.

Christopher Plummer is so sexy.   Doesn't anyone want to see HIM naked??   

13. british view about pemulwoy.   They stole his skull.   Does that say enough?

14.  Julian McMahon guest appearances 2009.  Wow, they really plan ahead.  It's like stores that start selling Christmas decorations in August.   Last year, around September Tim picked up the gingerbread house kit they sold at Costco.  His plan was for us to save it for December.   Jack didn't want to wait.  

We figured we're Jewish and there's no need to follow Christian customs.  So we built a gingerbread house in Autumn.

That's about it for now.  

I hope the Australians had a good time avoiding the American custom of trick-or-treating.

I hope the Americans don't eat too much high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated fats.

I hope those of you in the other countries have a lovely day.  

Seriously.   The truth?

I love all of you who are reading this.    So....thank you.  

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I am pretty sure we went to Balmain in 2007.  My new Sydney friend invited us to go to a dinner club with her and her family. We ate yummy food, had a lovely chat, and watched this fun guy entertain children by singing "The Time Warp" and other fun songs.

I THINK that was in Balmain.

We also would see a glimpse of Balmain when the ferry would stop there on our trips from Darling Harbor to Circular Quay.

What do I know about Balmain?

Pretty much nothing.

I guess it's time to do some learning.

I'll start with Google Maps.

Balmain is west of the CBD.

There's a regular Balmain and a Balmain East.

Balmain involves another one of those land grant things.   This one was granted in 1800 to a man named William Balmain.   He was an assistant surgeon on the First Fleet.

Here's some fun  trivia.  According to Lord Wiki, Balmain delivered the Fleet's first child.

And this is even more exciting! It was Balmain who removed the Eora speer from Arthur Phillip.

Does anyone else find this incredibly exciting. Or am I really weird?

Balmain was very industrial in the 1800's and 1900's. It even had a coal mine.

It had a reputation as being a rough working class area.

Oh! The Labor party began here.  Lord Wiki said that happened in 1891 at the Unity Hall Motel.

I wonder if that still exists......

It DOES still exist. Cool. Here's their website.

Lord Wiki says Balmain is home to the West Tigers Rugby League Club.  Things are starting to click for me.    The name of the dinner club we went to had Tigers in it.  Actually I think it was
called Tigers.   See, I am so not in-tuned to the world of sport.  I was totally oblivious to the athletic aspects of the club.    It was fun though; one of the best nights we had in Sydney.

I'm now going to look at Cityhobo to see what kind of shoe Balmaim is. They say it's a Campers, Birkenstocks, and Blundstones.    The only one of those I've heard of is the Birkenstocks.   I know as much about shoes as I do about sports. Well, in all honesty....I probably know a LITTLE more about shoes.

Cityhobo says that Balmain is a good place to live. And you know what?  Just like Dulwich Hill, it's postcode's numerology number is 7.  My number again!

Balmain is good for people who are politically aware.  I'm fairly aware. I know Sarah Palin is an expert on Russia and all that.

Well, here we go.  It's a nice place to live, but close to impossible to afford. According to Cityhobo, it seems more suited to people who buy expensive clothes for their offspring. I buy most of my offspring's clothes at the thrift store.    See, I know the laws of the universe.   Buy your child something expensive and it shall have a stain on it after the first time he wears it.

Okay.  Cool.  On Saturday there's a market with food and fun stuff.    I'm going to have to figure out these weekends.    We're going to have only 2 weekends in Sydney.   I guess that's not so bad.  We'll dedicate those four days to going to markets and stuff.  During the weekdays, we'll go to tourist attractions such as the zoo because it will be less crowded then.   That should work. 

The more I read about Balmain, the more I'm thinking it's not for me. I mean to live there!  Visiting as an obnoxious American tourist sounds great.

Cityhobo says it's a happy trendy community. I don't think I'm very trendy.   I'm happy like 75% of the time, but for the other 25% I can be pretty grouchy and sad.   Like the other day when I watched the fifth episode of The First Australians.  I was crying and angry. I wanted to go find a time machine, go back in time, and kill certain people.   And I'm usually not a physically  violent person.    I promise.

It seems Darling Street is the place to go. It has lots of shops and stuff--including the Unity Hall Hotel.  Well, at least it looked like it from their website's map.   The market is also there, in St. Andrew's Church.

Anything exciting about the church?

It's the oldest continuing Congregational Church in Australia. I guess that can be seen as exciting.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Vegemite Mystery

Our Australian food has arrived.

Jack ate some cheese and bacon Shapes.  It smelled SO good; like the Pepperoni sticks my mom used to pack in my lunch bag. It's one of the rare carnivore foods I miss every so often; that and Jack-in-the-Box Tacos.

We ate some Tim Tams and some Raspberry bullets.

We drank some Milo.

We had Vegemite on toast. I was a bit weary. I put a lot of butter on and mixed it with a small amount of Vegemite.  I THINK it was the same amount I used last year.

There was a difference this time though. Last year, the little bit went a LONG way.  It was very strong. This time I could hardly taste anything--just a subtle taste of salt. It tasted fine.I had another piece of toast. (Have I mentioned that the numbers on my scale keep going higher and higher?)

Yesterday morning, I had toast for breakfast.I took out the Vegemite in front of Tim. He said something like, None for me.  Keep that stuff away from me!

But then I guess he felt a bit guilty, being the husband of a woman who has an Australian blog and all that.

He decided to try some.  He put a little bit on his toast--except it wasn't as much of a little bit as my little bit.

I said.  I think that's too much.

He ignored me, probably trying to be all macho.

I waited for him to make an awful face and make some kind of negative comment.  I waited and waited.   

He said he liked it.

He scraped more out of the jar and put more on his toast.  He ate that too.

He's now a Vegemite fan.

So, I'm wondering what's going on?

The last time we ate the Vegemite, we had never stepped foot in Australia before. Now we are no longer virgins to Australia soil. Does that make our taste buds more tolerant of Vegemite? Is there something in the Australian air that contributes to the human body's acclimation to leftover brewers' yeast extract?


Did we somehow get a bad batch of Vegemite last time?


Maybe Kraft is making a NEW type of Vegemite--specifically for Americans.  It looks just like the Australian version, but with a much more mild flavor.  American eat it and think  I like this!  I can be Australian now.  Then they throw their boomerangs and ride around the room on their giant kangaroo stuffed animals.

I think that is totally it. We are eating Americanized Vegemite.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things I Learned From Tim Flannery

I'm reading Chasing Kangaroos by Tim Flannery right now.

The book has some interesting facts, so I've decided to record them here.

1. Rottnest Island in Western Australia was originally called Rats-Nest Island. It was named by one of the early dutch explorers who saw a Quokka and thought it was a large rat.

2. Some kangaroos have a power called embryonic quiescence. This means they can suspend growth of an embryo in the womb for up to a year. This sounds like a pretty nifty trick.

3. The genitals of a Dugong are very similar to those of a human female.

4. In male Kangaroos, the scrotum hangs in front of the penis. The penis is the one in the back.

5. Female Kangaroos have two vaginas.

6. Female Kangaroos have four nipples, but the joey becomes attached to just one. She can nurse both a pouch joey and a kicked-out-of-the-pouch joey--each nipple providing milk with different types of nutrients. This differs from tandem nursing, in humans, where the toddler shares the nipple with his/her infant sibling--delighted that he's suddenly getting the rich taste of newborn milk rather than the watery stuff he had been sipping previously.

7. Inside kangaroo stomachs are worms known as strongyles. These worms help the kangaroos break down difficult to digest grass.

8. Australia is NOT the only place to find wild animals from the kangaroo family.  There are wallabies in Papa New Guinea. Also, kangaroos and wallabies were long ago released in the wild in Hawaii, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. I guess it's the same way that Australia ended up with wild camels. 

Now I'm learning about Flannery himself from Lord Wiki. He's a mammalogist, a paleontologist and a global warning activist. That sounds pretty impressive to me.

He wrote a controversial book called The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People. He believes Australia ideally should have six million people living on it. That means about 2/3 of the population would have to exit or come down with a really bad case of the flu. He also thinks Australians should stop eating European animals such as cow and instead eat the native Aussie animals such as kangaroo and crocodile.

His work in terms of climate change earned him an Australian of the Year award in 2007.

One of the things that makes him not so popular in some people's eyes is his support of whaling. I've read some of his views on the subject, and so far they make sense to me. I agree with him.  If it's done in a way that does not threaten the whale population numbers, and if it's done in the least painful way as possible; what's the difference between eating a whale and a sheep?  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Post about Manly

I've already written a lot about the Koori in Manly,  and their first encounters with the white people.  So for this post, I'll skip ahead to the other stuff.

I've also written some ideas about tourist plans in Manly.

So, what the hell am I going to write about in this post?

Maybe I should just make it a bunch of advertisements for my last posts.

It can be like a flashback episode of a TV show.

No, I'm joking.  I'm sure Manly has a lot more interesting history to talk about.

In my earlier post about the Cannalgal and Kayamai people, I mentioned this historical plaque website and the fact that I need to return to it someday for more history lessons.

So, here we go.....

Before the 1850's, Manly was pretty isolated.   It wasn't exactly a tourist destination. There was no ferry yet and it took about two hours to get there from Sydney.

Henry Gilbert Smith purchased land in 1853 and became the father of Manly.

Who is this Smith guy?  Let's google and see.

He was born in England. He came to Australia.  He did business stuff.  He made money.

He and his brother built the first steam ferry in Sydney.It wasn't successful. 

He was married three times.  His last wife was in England and he died there.   Specifically, he died in Brighton. He must have liked that place because he had wanted Manly to be the Brighton of the South

By 1855,  Manly had a ferry, a wharf, and a hotel.    Smith wanted Manly to be a place where people could escape the city.    It's motto has become Seven miles from Sydney and a million miles from care.  

The lack of care aspect probably works better if you purchase some illegal substances. I don't do that so I still seem to have my worries and cares.   But still.  False advertising or not.  Manly is a beautiful and awesome place.   I love it.

The historical plaque website says that the name Manly became official in 1877.  I thought it had been official after Arthur Phillip named it that.  Oh well. I guess back then it was unofficial.

Whistler street, the place where I found an awesome used bookstore and bought lots of books, is named after the family of his first wife.

Manly first got electric street lighting in 1923.   That interests me because I'm incredibly ignorant when it comes to the history of technology. When I did the past life regression hypnosis thing, I saw a black and white television.  If I was smart about these things, I'd know exactly what time period I was seeing.  But no. I was completely lost.

By the way, the TV was a bit of a surprise. When you hear about these past life regression things, it usually involves something like ancient Rome or Little House on the Prairie Days. And here I get a TV and a green chair with a hole in it. There was also a high chair, spaghetti, and a playground.

Back to Manly....

Before 1902, it was illegal to go swimming during the day.  That was changed by a man named William Gocher.   He was a newspaper man and I guess he wanted to make history in his own newspaper.  He went swimming in a neck to knee swim costume and waited for the police to come and take him away.   It didn't happen, so he went swimming again.   Again, nothing happened.  Third times a charm and the police finally took notice. They took him in for questioning.  I guess the guy was persuasive because the ban was lifted.   People could now swim during the day as long as they had a swimsuit that covered most of their body.

The problem with swimming is that sometimes people drown.   So in 1903, the Manly Life Saving Club was founded.

Here's some slightly interesting trivia.  The mayor at the time was James Bonner.  He became the founding president of the club. His grandson is Tony Bonner, an actor who was in The Man From Snowy River and other stuff. He later also became president of the club.

Does founding president mean you are the one who started the club?  Or does it just mean you were the president when the club was founded?   I'm confused about that.

Oh!  Here is something I totally didn't know.  There used to be an amusement park in Manly.   It was there from 1931 to 1989.   That's a pretty long time.

It was located on the wharf and had a shark aquarium, a wax museum, a ghost train, and other creepy fun things.   

Well, my friend was right.  She'd give me a kind of disapproving look every time I mentioned how much we love Manly.  She said it's very conservative there.   She's more of a leftie than I am.   I know because I compared our scores on that Facebook political test. Hell, if someone is more left than me, they are pretty damn left!

Anyway, she's right. According to Lord Wiki, Manly is more of a Liberal Party kind of place.  The council has six Liberal party seats and only one Labor Party seat.

Yeah okay and it's not like I didn't believe my friend or anything. I guess I was just trying to deny it all.

But really.  If you're just playing on the beach and eating ice-cream, does it really matter what political party you belong to?  Can't we all just love each other and build sandcastles together?

I live in Texas--the hometown of George W. Bush. We're a totally red state. If I can survive here, I can survive Manly.

Although I probably would never be able to AFFORD Manly.

I just found a blog about Manly.  I don't know how I missed that.   I'll have to add it to my blog list.

One last thing before I finally shut up.  I'm curious about swim costumes in Australia. When did they stop being neck to ankle things?

Okay, this website says that in the 1920's and 1930's the costume restrictions became a little less strict and material started inching up a bit.   The material often used though was knitted wool, and it became heavy when swimming.   That sounds incredibly uncomfortable to me.

Even before this, an Aussie swimmer named Annette Kellerman wore a swimming costume that revealed her legs and arms in a 1907 race in Boston.   She was arrested.

In 1946, the bikini was invented by a French guy. According to this article, it's popularity sprouted in the Gold Coast during the 1950's.

The Speedo company began in Australia.  I didn't know that.  

Nude swimming became popular in the 1960's and 1970's.   There are many places in Australia now where it's perfectly legal to swim with your whole body proudly showing.

Things have come along way since 1902.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tom Cruise, Please Don't Harrass Me

I've decided to look at Scientology in Australia.

The reason is I'm having one of my Scientology obsession days.  Every several months or so, I become really obsessed with Scientology and go googling on the Internet.

As most people know, Scientology is incredibly controversial.   Some call it a cult.  Some call it a religion.

I really don't know if I'd call it a cult or not.    I guess it would depend on your definition of cult. gives multiple definitions.

One is a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.   Most religions fit this.

Another is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

I think the latter is the definition most of us go by.

I think the "false" part is where things get confusing.   Who gets to decide which religion is false and which is true?    Well..... unorthodox too.   Who  gets to define that?

Who gets the role of pointing out people in the crowd?  Your religion is cool and acceptable. Yours is too weird.

In MY eyes, a cult (in the negative connotation of the word) is a religious group that:
A) uses dishonest methods to attract members
B) feeds on people who are lonely and desperate
C) causes financial strain to it's congregants
D) works to turn it's members against family and friends who are not of the religion
E) uses various types of intimidation (ie. psychological and legal) to make it difficult for the individual to leave the religion.

I think all religions have some of these aspects in small doses. I think Scientology has them in much larger doses.  That's what I don't like about the religion.

I have nothing really against most of their actual belief system.   Some of it seems pretty cool and interesting to me.   I think their alien Xenu story is a bit bizarre, but no more bizarre than the tales behind Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Aboriginal religions, etc.

I think it's immature and suspicious that Scientology tries to keep this Xenu thing a secret.   But I also don't think this should be the basis of criticism of their religion.   It reminds me of when someone is in a political debate online, and instead of arguing against the essence of what the other person said, their opponent attacks them on their spelling and grammar mistakes.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a show like South Park poking fun at Xenu.  To me, jokes are fine.  Humor is good.  And a show like South Park makes fun of EVERY religion.  Anyone who tries to censor a show like that because it offends them--well, I think they need to take the stick out of their ass.  Or just don't watch the show.   There's no need to get everyone else to not watch the show.  Well, unless you have something to hide.....

There's a lot of controversy regarding Scientology because they're anti-psychiatry.  I'm not a big fan of psychiatry myself so I actually somewhat like this part of them.   I'm not against all psychiatric drug treatment.  I think sometimes it can be helpful.   But I do agree with Scientology in that there is too much diagnosis going on and too many prescriptions being handed out.   I think psychiatric drugs should be used as a last resort.

I believe if Scientology wasn't so secretive, and didn't use such bully tactics, it would be a worthy antidote to our ovedependence on psychiatry.

Okay I've rambled on and on and haven't even talked about Australia yet.

The official Scientology Site of Australia provides a fair amount of information but it seems fairly vague to me.  It also fails to address the issue of Xenu, whether or not it's a cult, and all of it's controversy in the news. 

Instead what they do is not just avoid  talking about this issue themselves, but use legal and other pressures to try to shut down other media that mention these things. 

Because of the Internet, there really is no way to withhold information from the public anymore.   If Scientology had the brains, they'd realize this and just be open and honest about everything.

Just come out and say.  Yes, we believe in Xenu.  Is that any more weird than believing a piece of bread can become the body of a man who died over two thousand years ago?

According to Lord Wiki, there's a huge discrepancy regarding how many Scientology followers there are in Australia.   The census put the number at 2500 while the Church itself claims there are 150,000 members.   I know a census is not always completely accurate, but that seems like quite a difference in numbers.   I am  guessing the Church is overestimating; but I also can imagine that some people might not have admitted, to the Census people, that they were Scientologists.

There's one Scientology school in Australia; The Athena School.   It's located in Newtown in Sydney.  It looks okay to me.

At Chemsfield Private Hospital in Sydney a medical treatment called Deep Sleep Therapy was used from 1962-1979.  This involved putting psychiatric patients into a deep coma.    Twenty-six people died and various celebrities and others (including Scientology) fought against it.  

This is the aspect of Scientology that I DO like.

In 1965, in Victoria, Scientology was banned from using their psychological/counseling techniques on people for a fee.   A new law was formed that said anyone providing psychological treatment must register with the Victorian Psychological Counsel.  HOWEVER, religions recognized by the government were exempt from this law.  For example, a Catholic church could provide Catholic marriage counseling without registering.

Eight years later, the government recognized Scientology as a religion and they became exempt too.  Although according to Lord Wiki, it went back and forth via appeals court and all that.  It gets a bit too confusing for me to try and figure out.

I don't know.

Personally, I think there are changes that need to be made on both sides.

First, Scientology needs to be more open and stop trying to suppress information. They need to act less defensive.  It's only making them look bad.

Second, (if the above is done by Scientology) than I think us outsiders need to give the religion more respect.  I think if we're going to attack it, we need to do so only on valid grounds (such as the above if it is not changed by Scientology) and not their beliefs, lifestyle, Tom Cruise jumping on a couch, or isolated incidences of members dying from medical neglect.

Third, Scientology should get a sense of humor because a few jokes about Xenu are not going to hurt anyone.

You know what would impress me?  If Scientologists all had a day where they wore t-shirts that said We Love Xenu.   This would prove that they have a sense of humor about it all, and are not a bunch of uptight bullies who shut down websites they disagree with.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Old Parliament House in Canberra

The thing that excites me most about visiting the Old Parliament House in Canberra is the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, but I figure I should also know some stuff about the building itself.

Well, here we go.  I've learned something already. I thought Old Parliament House was the one and only Parliament House in Canberra.  I figured the old was a kind of term of affection. You Old Yeller.  But it seems there's also a NEW Parliament House.  

I guess I'll look at the history of both.

Maybe Old Yeller is a bad example.  I can't think of any good ones.  Sorry.

Before Old Parliament House was overshadowed by NEW parliament house it was called Provisional Parliament House.

According to Lord Wiki, OPH was always seen as temporary--until something better comes along.   It's like the Meantime Girl.

There's no need to feel to sorry for OPH, though. He had a long time to suck up all the glory. The building opened in 1927 and the new one wasn't completed until 1988. Sixty-one years.   Wow.

The Parliament in Australia originally did their thing in Melbourne before moving on over to Canberra.

Now Lord Wiki is teaching me about Parliament itself.  He has his work cut out for him.  I'm horrible at government stuff.


I don't know.   Hopefully this will be one of those cases where I grow a better understanding by reading and writing this stuff down.

Parliament is the legislative branch of government.  It's made up of three things.

1. The Queen
2. The Senate
3.  House of Representatives

The queen herself doesn't really participate. She appoints a governor general to do the job.

Oh, this is nice.  The current Governor-General is female.  I had no idea about that. Her name is Quentin Alice Louise Bryce.

Tim and I talked about the issue of politicians' gender and race the other day.  Does race and gender matter?   Would I vote for someone just because they were of a certain race or gender?

No.  I wouldn't vote for someone I didn't like simply because they were black or because they were female.   But if there were two candidates I liked and one was male and one was female, I'd probably go for the female. I think it's high time we get a female in the White House. I think it's high time we get someone who isn't fully white and Protestant.  Do I want Sarah Palin in the White House. No! Definitely not.  But I do want Obama in and I voted for him.  I like him a lot--for many reasons.  But his race IS a factor.   I would still like him if he was a Caucasian.  Maybe.   If he was a Caucasian, he would be a different person with different experiences. He wouldn't be exactly himself.    Okay, but pretending there was an exact same guy with the  same opinions, experiences, and abilities who was white.....I'd like him, but I'd probably be a little less excited about him than I am about Obama.

Back to Canberra and it's first female Governor General.  Lord Wiki says MOST people were supportive of her appointment--including Kevin Rudd, Brendan Nelson (leader of the opposition) and the leader of the Australian Greens.

Bryce seems like a pretty okay person, but I do think Australia should get rid of the Governor-General thing and become a Republic. Just my opinion.

As for the other two pieces of Parliament:

The Senate has seventy-six members--twelve for each state and two for the mainland territories.

Two?  Is that fair?

What IS fair is that the seats are split evenly between the Labor and Liberal party.  It might not have been that fair for people who are in other political parties, but that balance of power is kept with something called the crossbench. This consists of representatives from the less popular political groups.

The House of Representatives currently has a hundred-fifty members, but this changes. Why? I'm not even going to try to figure it out. All this stuff goes way over my head.

I'm going to go back to the Old Parliament House building.   Lord Wiki says it was designed by John Smith Murdoch.  Is he related to the other Murdoch?   Lord Wiki doesn't say, but he does say that this Murdoch designed a lot of the buildings in Canberra.

I'm going to take a break from Lord Wiki because he's getting a bit too wordy.  Is that like the pot calling the kettle black?

I'm now looking at the official website of the Old Parliament House.   It seems now it's a sort of museum.

Oh!  It's cheap!!  Only two dollars for adults.  Okay, sorry but if you didn't know already....the economy of my country has kind of tanked.  We need all the help we can get.

This website says the Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives. I didn't know that.  I really am slow when it comes to politics.

There's a a guy named Frank Forde who was Prime Minster for only eight days.  Wow.  I definitely have to look him up.  

Okay, Forde took over when Curtin died after World War II.   I guess he didn't do such a great job.  Another Labor leader replaced him--Ben Chifley.

Time to move on to the new Parliament House.   Lord Wiki says it cost over one billion dollars.
I had the impression that they had started working on the new building early on and something went wrong--budget issues, a strike, etc.   But the original idea was that the provisional Parliament House would be in service for about fifty years.  I guess that would make sense.   If it was going to more temporary, why build such a pretty building?  They could have just built a shack and put the Parliament in there.

It wasn't until 1978 that they decided to go and ahead and start making a new building. So, that's only ten years.  Not too bad.

Those in charge held a contest to see who should design the building.  Australia seems to do this a lot. Is it my imagination?   Who knows.  America might do it too--hold contests to decide who will design a building. I know about as much about architecture as I do politics.

Anyway, the winner was an Italian-American--Romaldo Giurgola.

The building was supposed to be done and opened on the Bicentennial of Australia Day. It was about three months late. Queen Elizabeth herself opened the building.

I'm now looking at the New Parliament House's website.  You can actually sit in and watch the government people do their thing.  I'd love to do that, but I don't think I'd want to stay for the whole time.  I wonder if you can go in for a brief viewing and then leave.  

Well, here we go. If I don't want to sit through the whole thing,  I can watch it on my computer!   How cool is that. Although I'm trying to watch it now and I'm just hearing this inspiring music. I'm not learning much about Australian politics, but I have this sudden urge to change the world. Actually, it reminds me of the type of music you hear at Epcot.   I now have an urge to ride on Spaceship Earth.

I'm not quite having any luck listening to anything in the parliament, unfortunately. But I did find this. You can see all the bills that are currently being....well, whatever bills do or have done to them. I guess they're the ones currently being considered.

Speaking of bills, does Australia have something like School House Rock?   If it does, I should totally watch it. I bet it would help me understand all this. While I'm at it, I should probably watch the American version as well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Can Watch It!

I am not a fan of gifts and surprises.

But last night, Tim brought me a surprise I actually loved.

He found out how I can watch The First Australians on the SBS website

It turns out that you can just download the podcasts.  If I had looked closely enough, I would have seen it myself.   So, along with my feelings of gratitude, I also felt a bit foolish.  Of course, like a good American, I blamed everyone else for my failure.  Well, why didn't anyone else notice that and tell me???

I watched about half of the first episode last night. So far, I love it.  I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Maybe I'll become addicted to SBS.   It could replace McLeod's Daughters in my heart.

In other news, I'm still reading the Robert Hughes book.   I decided that nonfiction can be divided into three categories.

1. Written so well that it will make a subject I've never been interested in seem interesting.
2. Pretty good writing, but I probably wouldn't like the book if I wasn't interested in the subject.
3. The writing is so awful it made a subject I love incredibly boring.

This book is a #1 for me.   I have never been interested in art or art history. It's just never been something that grabs my interest. But Hughes makes it sound interesting.   I actually started googling artists and paintings he mentions.

Most nonfiction books I read about Australia end up being a #1 or #2 for me.

I read one book that was a #3.  I'm not sure if I ever finished it.  I found it to be so boring.   It was just so dry.   There was no spirit in it.    I felt like I was reading a paper written for a school class.  

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mosman and Taronga Zoo

First of all.....I have a hard time spelling Taronga.  I spell it all kinds of ways. Toronga. Torongo.  Tarango.

I just looked up the word Taronga.  I assumed it was an Aboriginal name, and I'm right.  It means "water view".  

On our last trip to Australia, we arrived in Sydney and went to the zoo pretty early on in the trip.  I was a very Australian-obsessed girl and had no interest in looking at giraffes or other African animals. I remember being much more interested in the fact that I could look past the giraffes and see the harbor and Opera House.

The Water View zoo. When you get tired of looking at the animals, ignore them and look at the water.

Taronga Zoo is located in the Mosman suburb.  We didn't see much of Mosman in 2007.  We went on the ferry,  got off the ferry, and headed right to the sky lift thing. I guess really the only parts of Mosman we saw were the ferry station and zoo.

Looking at Google Maps Now......

Mosman is located northeast of the Sydney CBD and slightly southeast of Manly.

Time to talk to Lord Wiki.

Mosman is named after a pair of twins--Archibald and George Mosman.

They were granted four acres of land in 1831 and got themselves into whaling.  

You know, I have been hearing about this land grant thing a lot lately. I really have no idea what it means.

I think I shall look it up.

Lord Wiki says a land grant is a gift of real estate. Free land!  It's usually given by government to an individual as a reward. In Australia, Britain gave land grands to released convicts.  Males received thirty acres if they were single. They got fifty acres if they had a wife; and for each child they got an additional ten acres. 

Marines and other military people got more than that.

What about the women? Huh?  I guess it wouldn't pay to be a single woman back in those days. The Sex and the City days hadn't arrived yet.

Lord Wiki says the land grants ended in 1831. Wow. I guess the Mosman brothers were one of the last to get such a lovely generous gift.

The Eora tribe that inhabited Mosman before all these British land  grants were the Borogegal people.

One famous Borogelgal man was Bungaree.   Like Bennelong, he straddled between the Eoras and Europeans.  It does seem like Bungaree was more successful, though. From what I'm reading, it seems that maybe he was more respected than Bennelong.  Or maybe I'm imagining it.

Bungaree was both funny and intelligent--played the fool sometimes, but really wasn't a fool.  I guess he's kind of like Stephen Colbert. He would greet ships as they came into Sydney Harbor and also made significant contributions to Australian navigation by accompanying Matthew Flinders on his explorations.

Well, well well..... this website here conflicts with what Lord Wiki says.  Or at least I think it does.  Maybe I'm reading it wrong.   But I THINK it's saying that Bungaree wasn't a Borogelgal. He was brought over from the Broken Bay area and the white people gave him the role as the Borogelgal chief.

Isn't it nice when other people intrude and decide who your leader should be? Actually, I wouldn't mind that.  I really enjoyed voting the other day.  I like picking a country's leader. It would be awesome if I could just go around and pick the leaders of ALL the countries. I can control the world!!!


Right now I need to stay at my desk and talk about Mosman.

The website says before the land grants happened, Governor Macquarie used the Mosman area for an experiment in trying to get the Eora people to be more like the white people.  Convicts were given the job of teaching them how to farm.  The farm experiment failed, and that's when they decided to grant the land to the white people.   

Some of you may be learning all of this while watching the current SBS program The First Australians.   Consider yourself lucky because I can't access it! When I get to the video, it says Geoblocked: This video is not available in your region.   That's really not fair.

Back to Mosman....

East of the zoo is a place called Chowder Bay.  It has some American influence. The name came from American whalers who would make Chowder out of the abundant Oysters and Pipis.

I have no idea what a Pipi is.  Lord Wiki says it's shellfish. AND it's also the name of a little red-headed girl.

Anyway, one American whaler named Captain Cliffe bought land there in 1832.  He wasn't GRANTED land because as we recall that all ended in 1831.   Cliffe named his property after himself.  Cliffeton.   And then that later become Clifton Gardens.  The area used to have a fancy hotel and now it's where rich people live.

Another person who had a strong influence on Mosman history was Richard Hayes Harnett.  He bought the land from the Mosman brothers and got all into the whole tourism thing.   He brought in more visitors, which brought in more money, which allowed them to make Mosman more pretty, which in term brought more tourists.

Could they do that with Redfern?  But it would have to be done in a way that the current residents could still live there.   I guess the best way to do this is have all the tourist venues be owned and/or operated by the Kooris.  Maybe they could have an interactive Indigenous history museum--aimed at children.  An art gallery?  A bush tucker restaurant.  Craft shops.  A performance hall.  They just need someone with the money and the heart to do this.  It would have to provide well-paying jobs for the locals and, at the same time, be interesting enough to bring in tons of tourists.

Back to Clifton Gardens.  The Theosophical Society bought a mansion there in 1922. They still own and run the place today.

 Their Australian website  names their motto as being  There is no religion higher than truth.  I like that.

Lord Wiki lists their ideals as being

1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.
2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.
3. To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

I like those.  Maybe this group is for me. I should move to Mosman and join them.  Or should I move to Dulwich Hills which is a good numerology match for me?

They're into Reincarnation and Karma. Totally me!

The society is open to people of all religions.  You don't have to give up your old religion to join them.

Like all things in the universe, Theosophy aint all lollipops and rainbows.  It has a dark side.  In a somewhat indirect way, it has connections to Nazism.  This website explains it pretty well.

I guess you can kind of compare it to Al-Queda having roots in Islam.   

It's all about people twisting ideas to turn them into excuses to dominate, abuse, and kill others.

I'm getting conflicting information now about the Manor. The Australian Theosophical Society website lists their headquarters as being on Kent Street.   Lord Wiki says the Manor is still used by the society.   I'm going to believe the society's own website over Lord Wiki.  BUT if the society isn't using the manor, who IS using it?  Do they use it sometimes? Is it empty?

The manor is on Illuka Road if anyone wants to go and investigate for me.   Just knock on the door and say Hi!  Just wondering who lives here now. Okay?  Or if not, I'll just stop by after we visit the zoo.

Speaking of the zoo, I've been rambling on and on and haven't really given much info about the zoo.

I'll try to talk about it as briefly as possible.

It has animals.

There you go.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Robert Hughes Addresses the Socialization Issue

One of the issues that we struggle with as a homeschooling family is the infamous socialization one.

As a homeschooling mom of an ONLY child, I really like what Robert Hughes has to say about the subject.

Solitude is, beyond question, one of the world's great gifts and an indispensable aid to creativity, no matter what level that creation may be hatched at. Our culture puts enormous emphasis on "socialization", on the supposedly supreme virtues of establishing close relations with others: the psychologically "successful person is less an individual than a citizen, linked by a hundred cords and filaments to his or her fellow-humans and discovering fulfillment in relations with others. The belief becomes coercive and in many cases tyrannous and even morbid, in a society like the United States with its accursed, anodyne cults of togetherness.

I can't say that Hughes is pro-homeschooling. I have no idea what his thoughts on the subject are, although maybe I'll go try to find out later. He DOES though seem to be very much in support of the only child situation.

I struggle with the socialization issue; but no I don't worry about Jack missing out on school. I think schools can provide adequate social opportunities, but I don't think they are the one and only way.

The question then is how much socialization does a homeschooled child need? And more specifically how much does Jack need? Because each child is different and each one has different needs.

Right now, Jack doesn't have frequent playtime with other children. We have homeschooling friends he plays with every few weeks. He sees his cousins a few times a month. Comparing that to a child with multiple siblings and/or one who attends school, he's deprived.

But does he act deprived?


For the most part, he seems very happy--a little fearful and has some traits of Aspergers/Autism. But he RARELY seems lonely. He seems content with his life and the amount of socialization that he gets.

He enjoys having the playdates but doesn't get upset if a playdate is canceled.

The other day I started feeling guilty and questioning myself. Tim and I talked about ways we could increase Jack's contact with other children. No, not because Jack was asking for more time with children. It was more about us feeling we weren't living up to the American standard of being super social.

Even the homeschooling books and websites, I read, try to push this social butterfly ideal. The classic response to the lack-of-socialization accusations gets something like this.

No, Johnny doesn't get go to school. But he has tons of friends. We go to church groups. Johnny is on a soccer and basketball team. He's in a drama class and science class. Every other day, we meet kids at the park. He probably plays with more kids than he would if he was in school!

Would it be that shocking and horrible to say. Well, Johnny likes to play alone most of the time. He loves reading books and writing his own stories. We have long intellectual dinner discussions together and every week or so he gets together with his best friend down the street.

I started to think I need to pay less attention to what society expects out of us and more about what human beings actually need. And again more importantly.....what does Jack need?

So, starting at the minimum.

1. Can a child survive in a long-term situation where they have no contact with any other living thing? No, probably not. I'm not even sure they could survive physically. I think they'd be heartbroken. I think at the very least they'd have deficits in language development. So I KNOW that Jack at the very least needs to be around some people on a regular basis.

2. Can a child survive on a deserted island with just his/her parents and absolutely no other children around? Would they be forever damaged? I personally think the child would probably be fine, depending on the situation and the personality of the child. A child who has previously had large amounts of time with other children, and craves their company, would probably be angry and devastated. A child like Jack (who can take kids or leave them) would probably be fine. Although if there were hungry genetically engineered dinosaurs on the island, we might have a problem.

3. How about if the child's siblings are on the island? Would that be enough? I think to some people it wouldn't be. They'd still see the child as isolated--even if the child was happy and had almost constant childhood companions.

4. How about if the child has one or two best friends (either within a school situation or homeschooling) but the child isn't popular. Is that enough? For some people, it's not. For some people, you're child is not well socialized until they're popular and getting multiple invitations to the prom.

I went to school. I was properly socialized in the Democratic American way.

I was not an only child. I had two sisters.

I was lonely--very lonely at times. And I'm not talking about the times I was alone. In those instances, I usually wasn't lonely. I wrote stories. I played with my stuffed animals. I daydreamed.

I was more lonely at school, on the days I felt rejected. And those days weren't that rare.

I don't know.

My feeling is whether you go to school or are homeschooled does not change whether or not you are a social child or not.

I think in terms of social/friendship needs, Jack are I are very much alike. I think I would have been a happier child if I had been homeschooled. I think I would have had less pressure to make friends and be popular. I think I would have felt more comfortable with myself.

I think if Jack is sent to school, he'll be less happy than he is now. I think he'd start feeling pressure to fit in and be popular. I think he'd feel more rejection. I think he'd feel more lonely.

Not all kids are like that, though. There are some kids who are incredibly happy in school. They need that constant social contact. They feel like crap if they have to spend time without another child. The first thing they want to do when they get home is invite a friend over.

Would homeschooling work for them? Maybe. I think the ideal situation would be for them to be in school. But if they weren't, I think they would manage to find social opportunities elsewhere. They WOULD be like little Johnny I mentioned above. They'd fill their days with sports teams, church groups, and other extracurricular activities. They'd join a homeschooling group and attend every event.

We're all different and have different needs.

Besides thinking about Jack and the whole homeschooling issue, I am also coming to terms and finding peace in my own social situation.

I have two very social and popular sisters. They have always had a wide selection of friends and go out with them on a very frequent basis. I haven't had a lot of friends. Until recently, I felt the need to measure up to them. I compared myself to them and always came up feeling like a complete failure. A pathetic loser.

Now I don't feel that way. I like my social life.

I have one best friend in Texas that I absolutely adore. She's the mom of Jack's infrequent playdate kids. I love talking to her. She makes me feel comfortable and she makes me laugh. Some could say it's pathetic that I have only one friend in town. I'm okay with it.

I have an Internet best friend in Australia. No, we don't see each other face to face. I can't hug her and laugh with her. But we write each other everyday--sometimes multiple times a day. We've helped each other with some difficult and painful situations by just listening and being supportive. If something silly happens to one of us, we can tell each other. No, I can't hear her laughing with me. But in some ways, we're still sharing a laugh.

Some people think that Internet friendships don't count as being real friendships. Is this really true? Are they less in quality than real-life friendships? Or is it just another one of those things that are rejected simply because it doesn't fit mainstream standards?

Some could say I'm socially deprived.

But honestly, I'm at the peak of what I can handle. I rarely feel lonely these days. It's more the opposite. At times, I feel overwhelmed. I have my two best friends and then a nice handful of other friends that I email on a fairly regular basis. I have a husband and son that I spend a lot of time with--who I consider to be my ultimate best friends. I have sisters, parents, and other relatives that I love. I have blog acquaintances that I hope to grow friendships with.

I have enough people in my life to make me feel all warm and fuzzy. I feel greatly loved.

We all have are social limits and my bar is quite low.

Jack's bar is quite low too. For now. Who knows. It could change in the future and I'd be happy to make any changes in our lifestyle to fit his needs. But I'm going to concentrate on our TRUE needs and not society's expectations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book, Interrupted

I'm on page 219 of The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.

I started reading it while in Portland and read it on the plane ride home to Texas.

I have library books out though, and I've decided I will take a hiatus from The Fatal Shore and continue reading it after I finish the library books.

I finished a short story collection that had also been on Hiatus when we left for Portland.  Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy.  Pretty good book, by the way.   I read another book by Brigid Lowry. Follow the Blue.    I liked it a little less than Guitar Highway Rose, but still found it worth reading.   The ending was original and creative.   (Yes, I told you before.  I'm horrible at book reviews!)

I seem to have a habit of disliking books that have won prestigious awards. Wolf on the Fold by Judith Clarke was a strong exception for me.   The format of this book is a mixture of novel and short story.   The short stories are woven together by a family tree.  The first story centers around a young boy during The Great Depression and the subsequent stories center around his future children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  

My only complaint about the book is a misprint on the family tree.  It lists the initial main character as dying in 1943.  Yet, by reading the novel you can see that this is definitely a mistake.   The family tree though is so helpful.   I wish all novels with multiple generations would include one. 

The funny thing is the next library book I had on my shelf to read was the memoirs of Robert Hughes, the guy who wrote The Fatal Shore.

It feels kind of weird to read the memoirs of a person who wrote the nonfiction book you're in the middle of reading.  It's kind of like when you take a break from reading something and google it to get some background information. But now I'm taking a break to read a whole damn book on the guy. 

I guess I'm a little nervous about not liking Hughes. If I end the book with a dislike for him, will I lose interest in reading The Fatal Shore?

The guy IS a bit grumpy, but so far I kind of like him. He seems fairly honest to me--well at least honest in his anger towards people who have wronged him.   The guy was in a really bad car accident that caused him grief in many ways.   He kind of reminds me of Stephen King with his car accident.

Stephen King seems to have a lot of resentment and anger over the accident--enough to include it in his fiction.

I can't blame either guy.  I'd probably have a lot of unresolved anger if I was in a horrible car accident.

Hell, I HAVE a lot of unresolved anger without being in a car accident.

I don't yet know (or will I ever know?) if Hughes is a nice guy or not--or whether he's the type of person I'd want as a friend.   I do definitely know that he's a good writer.

He has some great quotes.

One of my favorites so far is this one:

Generally speaking, if an Australian event doesn't involve a monster crocodile, a giant shark ,or Nicole Kidman, it won't go anywhere in America.  KILLER CROC CHOMPS NICOLE: a good Murdochian headline, almost rivaling his New York Post's classic HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Am I Tall Enough?

I dreamed about Australia last night.

It was about migration and immigration.

One dream was about a school in Melbourne that accepted some American students.   There are all these qualifications you have to meet.   They prefer that the qualifications come from their list of prestigious American universities--Ivy League, I believe.    But if you didn't go to one of those universities, you still have a chance.  You have to write in and show that your school has been international enough.   You do this by proving that the school's cable TV has a certain amount of foreign language channels.   

 I forgot the exact numbers, but I think there needed to be at least two Jewish channels and at least two Chinese channels. Then there were other languages as well.

In the dream, I thought about how this is pretty foolish. You could go to a school with a wide variety of channels and never watch them.  Yet, someone else could go to a school with limited cable--no foreign language channels, and they might have a great interest in language and cultural variety.

I'm not sure what that dream was telling me.   It seems to be a warning against making judgements and assumptions.

The other day I had talked to Tim about the college I went to.  It was in Chattanooga Tennessee.   I think when most of people think of Tennessee they think of white--maybe a little black too.   They probably imagine a  homogeneous population compared to a place like NYC, Sydney, or Los Angeles.

But I talked about how there actually was a significant amount of people from different countries.   I knew people from Australia.   I knew people from the Middle Eastern countries.  I knew Asians and Indians. There were people from Africa--both black and white.

I'm sure other schools would have had more of an international population--much more mixed.  But I had interest in meeting/knowing people from different countries and I purposely sought them out.

Someone else could go to a school with a much wider variety of students, but stick close to their own ethnic group.  

In the other dream.... we're at a place waiting to be checked to see if we're qualified to immigrate to Australia.   Here it's not about your occupation, how much money you have, and/or whether you could pass a test about Australia.   It's all about height.  Australia wants tall people.   The number given is 66.  (I'm not sure what that meant.   I don't think it was inches.   I think it might have been 6 foot 6 inches)  Tim talks about starting a program to bring more Jews into the country.   I think about how this wouldn't work.    Jews would never be tall enough.   

It comes time for me to be checked and processed.    The woman working there says something like "Your skirt!"

I get nervous, thinking she was going to tell me it's not acceptable.   Instead, she says she likes it.   I feel relieved, but still nervous.   I step on the scale knowing I won't be tall enough, but still hoping they'd accept me anyway.   She tells me my measurement is sixty.   I know that can't be right and she quietly tells me that she lied a little for me.

I feel incredibly grateful but also uncomfortable.   Lying makes me very uncomfortable and I'm also afraid of getting caught.   Wouldn't someone else realize how short I am?

There was another dream that seemed interesting, but it didn't seem related to Australia--at least not directly.

There are these kids fooling around on a farm.   It's like they have trespassed, but at the same time they are trying to help out. (I don't quite understand it)  A goat drinks some kind of weird water.  The kids seem to try to prevent it, but are unable to.    The cow's milk has a weird blue tinge to it. And then later the cheese the farmers make from the milk has an ugly blue-gray color.   The kids get in trouble--scolded and accused.    But then the tone of the scene changes.   The farmers decide that instead of having the kids be annoying trespassers, they'll officially hire them as students to be trained on the farm.   There's forgiveness and everyone is happy.   

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ordering Food

Jack and I ordered some Australian food from Simply Australian which is a company in America where you can get Aussie food.

We've ordered from them once or twice before.

The website has a list of links, including this which reminded me of Being John Malcovich.

We ordered:

1. Tim Tams original
2. Tim Tams chewy caramel.   (we chose those because they were on sale)
3. Shapes Variety pack (We like Shapes!  We had the variety pack when we were in Sydney)
4. Vegemite.  (I'm going to attempt once again to like it)
5. Milo (I've heard this mentioned in books so wanted to try it.   I'm doubting it tastes much different from our malt that we have here.   But maybe it is.  Who knows.
6. Raspberry Bullets (love those!!!)
7. Licorice Roly Poly's (because they were out of the licorice bullets that I love so much)

I had a bit of a paranoid moment because I remembered reading that Australia was recalling some food because of the China Melamine thing.    I remembered reading something about Cadbury, but we checked and the only thing recalled was Cadbury Eclairs.

Still, we didn't get any Cadbury stuff.   Not because I'm still paranoid!!!!   It's just we have enough chocolate already.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I am guessing that the Redfern suburb in Sydney is named after William Redfern, a guy I read about in The Fatal Shore. He seems pretty awesome. He was a convict turned surgeon who ended up being a doctor to Governor Macquarie. Why was he good? He fought for changes in how the convicts were treated on the ships--helped introduce luxuries such as ventilation, fumigation, disinfection, and exercise.

Now I'm consulting the wisdom of Lord Wiki. He says: Redfern is subject to extensive redevelopment plans by state government to increase the population and reduce the concentration of poverty in the suburb and neighboring Waterloo.

 I translate that to say: Come in the day instead of the night.

Okay. Yes. Lord Wiki confirms my suspicions about its name origins. He does fail to talk about the heroic efforts of Redfern. Instead it just says that Macquarie granted him some land in the area and that He built a country house on his property surrounded by flower and kitchen gardens. Yes, I'm sure these kitchen gardens are more important than what he did for the convicts.

Sorry. That just cracks me up.

Here's something exciting. There was some problem with a mail machine. I think in the 1960's? Some machine at the post office destroyed a bunch of letters.

On February 14, 2004 a young Aboriginal man named Thomas TJ Hickey thought he was being chased by a police car that seemed to be following him. He had a bike accident and got killed on a fence. There was controversy over whether proper medical help was called in time by the police or not. The incident led to anger and riots over the relationship between police and the Aboriginal community.

This news article has a photo of Hickey and a quote from one of his aunts. If you're black and you see a police car, you just run.

I think that's a feeling common in America too for African-Americans. Heck, I'm a white female and I get incredibly nervous when I see a police car. I can imagine it's a million times worse if you're a black male.

What seems to be the story is that Hickey WAS wanted by the police for various crimes, but the police claim that on the day Hickey died, they weren't chasing him. They were searching for someone else.

I don't know. Does it matter if they WERE chasing him? I guess what would make the police the bad guys in this story is if Hickey was innocent despite his criminal record. If they were chasing an innocent man and he died; then they would be more to blame.

But if police chase a criminal and the criminal flees and gets killed; wouldn't it be the fault of the criminal?

I don't know what to think about the medical bit. The police claim his injuries were so bad that Hickey would have died anyway--even if the ambulance was more prompt.

I definitely feel for Hickey, his family, and his community. I just don't know if I'd blame his death on the police. Maybe I'm just not understanding the full story.

Redfern has some interesting demographics. One out of four residents is classified as having no religion and/or being atheist. Lord Wiki says that's higher than the national average. I personally don't think they should lump atheists and no-religion together. You can have no religion and still be very spiritual. And you can belong to a religious group and not truly believe in God.

41.6% of Redfern residents live in public housing. That seems fairly high to me.

One of the most significant areas in Redfern is The Block. It was purchased by The Aboriginal Housing Company; but prior to 1972 it was not owned by the Aborigines and the white landlords tried to evict all the Indigenous Australians.

An Indigenous man named Bob Bellear led a campaign to get  Whitlam's government to transfer ownership to the Aborigines. For those well tuned in to Australian history, they'll notice that this was the same year that the Aboriginal Tent Embassy popped up in front of Old Parliament House in Canberra.

The Block became a place for Indigenous Australians to find affordable housing.

Unfortunately, the area has a high crime rate and is avoided by taxi drivers. We have areas and problems like that in NYC as well.

Switching gears to a more trivial touristy topic--this website says Redfern is a good place to get Indian Sweets. I used to LOVE those. I mean I still do, but I'm less obsessed than I used to be.

That website also says that Caroline Chisholm was one of it's well-known residents. Like William Redfern, she worked to better the lives of people who got dealt a lousy hand of cards. She upgraded the quality of the immigration barracks and then helped the new female residents gain various skills such as cooking, cleaning, math, etc.

The Redfern-Waterloo Authority follows in the footsteps of Chihsolm and Redfern by working to better the community. It seems one of their primary goals is increasing employment levels of Indigenous Australians. One of their projects is the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training Center.

My only complaint is that the training course costs $250. That doesn't seem cheap to me--especially if you're unemployed. I'm wondering if they offer any scholarship programs. The classes run from 9-4 Mondays thru Fridays so it would be hard to find a job to support your schooling. It's too bad they don't have a work-study type program. Or maybe they do. I'll keep reading......

Well, I don't see anything about that. It says the program has connections with various restaurants in Sydney for employment possibilities. It seems to me it would be better to train the people for a lower fee and then have them work at the Yaama Dhiyaan's cafe or Function/Catering center.

My husband used to work in retail; and when they hired people, they would train them. You didn't pay to be trained. You learned some stuff on the job by watching and learning; then you also had studying to do at home, and tests for certification. I think those people were actually paid to learn in contrast to my student-teaching days where I paid for the opportunity to work.

Before I started graduate school, when I was not sure if I wanted to be a teacher or not, I volunteered to work at two schools. They got free labor, and I got a free education. It worked out great for both of us. That makes more sense and seems more fair than what happened when I went to graduate school. I paid TONS of money and the schools in which I did my official student-teaching got free labor. Is that fair?

I will say that the cafe sounds pretty cool. I wouldn't mind eating there.

I'm now going to Cityhobo to see what they say about Redfern. I can't wait to see what kind of shoe Redfern is.

Hobo says the cool spot in Redfern is a restaurant called Strangers With Candy. I saw their website a few minutes ago when I was Googling. It looked a little too cool for my taste--which probably translates as too expensive. I'd rather go to the less cool place with the cheap food.
Okay, Redfern is a Puma.

I need to find a suburb that's shoe is overpriced sandals that are over ten years old and no longer made by the company that made them--treasured shoes that you cling to and that you fear will become worn out, broken, or lost. I really love my shoes and I fear I will never find anything good enough to replace them.

Hobo says Redfern has areas that will make some people feel on edge, but other parts such as east Redfern will make you feel less on edge. They have trees and cafes. I guess trees and cafes make people feel less on edge. Gunshots and bars on windows make people MORE on edge.

I'm now going onto Google Maps--that's always fun.

Ah....I found a mistake I made. I thought for some reason that the University of Sydney was IN Redfern, but it's not. It's north from there--in Surrey Hills.


Okay, now I see why I got confused. Redfern has the closest train station to the university, so I guess they get a lot of students trampling through the area.

The Yaama Dhiyaan hospitality House seems to maybe be in The Block. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to go there. I guess it would depend on what the current reputation is like.

Maybe we'll go onto Baptist Street. It's in east Redfern which Cityhobo labels as being the less frightening part of the suburb.

Another thing I'm thinking (based on the map) is that it LOOKS like Redfern is fairly close to the Farmer's Market in Moore Park. Maybe we can take the train into Redfern--explore the area a bit and then walk over to Moore Park. OR we could do Moore Park on another day and head to the University from Redfern. But would there be anything exciting for us at the University? Would Jack get any joy out if it besides his mother trying to brainwash him into one day becoming a student there?

Timeout Sydney has a fairly good article about The Block. It talks about the basic challenges in gentrification. How do you improve an area and make it more attractive to the people who have money without alienating or kicking out the people who already live there? Can you improve an area without making it impossible for the current residents to afford it?

In ten years, The Block may be a safe pleasant area that is frequented by annoying American tourists like me. But will the current residents be purged from the area?

It's all a bit complicated and sad.

When we were in San Francisco last September there were a lot of homeless people begging for money. It was annoying and uncomfortable for us. We feel better being in a place where there's no homeless people pestering us for money. It's nice to imagine that a place is lacking homeless people because they're all in a lovely shelter eating fresh fruit, getting facials, and watching political debates. But it's more likely that there are no homeless people because they've been chased away to make things more pleasant for tourists and wealthier residents.

I remember talking to my cousin who is a SF resident. We complained about the amount of homeless people--seeing it as a negative. But she then said something like Yeah. San Francisco is a great city for the homeless. It kind of gave me a different perspective.

This guy on Virtualtourist says Eveleigh street (part of The Block) is off limits to non-indigenous people. I'm not sure what off-limits means exactly--not that I'm into testing the definition.

Tim and I were talking about city websites, and we said there should be one where it rates the welcoming aspect for each type of person.

Let's take for example gay/lesbians. If a neighborhood is rated one star, this means that you'll be shot as soon as someone finds out you're homosexual.

Two stars means it's okay if you jog by quickly, but you might be in trouble if stop to buy something or eat in a restaurant.

Three Stars means you're safe. No one is likely to give you grief. You can even buy a house here without the neighbors complaining that you're ruining the neighborhood.

Four Stars means you're welcomed. They might even have some venues specifically geared towards gays and lesbians.

Five Stars means this neighborhood is THE place to be if you're gay.

I'm guessing the Block in Redfern won't be a four or five star for us American white people. But would it be a one star? Two star?

ETA-I have been contacted by someone who has given me further insight into the Hickey case. As we all learned from Elphaba, there's two sides to every story.

I said, above, that if someone is chased by the police for criminal activity, and they die during the chase; they are the ones to be blamed. The factor I didn't consider is what compels them to run. In the eyes of a sheltered white girl, running from the police is about avoiding responsibility. For Hickey, and other people who are not white, it can sometimes be about avoiding police brutality. From the articles given to me, it seems that Hickey was terrified of one of the cops following him because of a previous experience with this particular officer.

Also, according to some witnesses, police removed Hickey from the fence instead of keeping him there and waiting for an ambulance. I think most of us intelligent people know that you do not move an injured person--especially one that seems to be impaled.

For more information on this subject, please email the Indigenous Social Justice Association at
You may also watch this video of an interview with Ray Jackson of the Indigenous Social Justice Association.