Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Deck the Sheds

We've been making the rounds at preschool Christmas pageants and community carol sing-a-longs (which are highly prevalent in Oz). I have been pleasantly surprised by the Australian versions of some classic carols:
Deck the sheds with bits of wattle*, fa la la la, la la la la,
Whack some gum leaves in a bottle, fa la la la, la la la la la,
All the shops are open Sundies, fa la la la, la la la la,
Buy you Dad some socks and undies, fa la la la, la la la la la.

Deck the sheds with bits of gumtree, fa la la la, la la la la,
Hang the deco's off the plum tree, fa la la la, la la la la la,
Plant some kisses on the missus, fa la la la, la la la la,
Have a ripper Aussie Christmas, fa la la la, la la la la la.

Say g'day to friends and rellies, fa la la la, la la la la,
Wave them off with bulging bellies, fa la la la, la la la la la,
Kids and babies, youngies, oldies, fa la la la, la la la la,
May your fridge be full of coldies, fa la la la, la la la la la.

Chop the wood and stoke the barbie, fa la la la, la la la la,
Ring the folks in Abudabe**, fa la la la, la la la la la,
Pop the stuffing in the turkey, fa la la la, la la la la,
Little Mary's feeling ercky***, fa la la la, la la la la la.

Rally rally round the table, fa la la la, la la la la,
Fill your belly while you're able, fa la la la, la la la la la,
Joyce and Joaney, Dave and Darryl, fa la la la, la la la la,
Sing an Aussie Christmas carol, fa la la la, la la la la la.

*Wattle = Mimosa Tree also known as Acacia
**Abudabe = A Faraway Land
***Ercky = Not too well

And then there's:

Dashing through the bush,
in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust,
esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side,
singing Christmas songs,
It's Summer time and I am in
my singlet, shorts and thongs.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia
on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Monday, November 23, 2009


transition |tranˈzi sh ən; -ˈsi sh ən|nounthe process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another
Although it's been nearly 2 1/2 years since we left Atlanta, our move to Australia is still going on. Sure, I am now used to so many things that originally were foreign. I have learned a great deal about Australian pop culture, the government, the economy, traditions, and the geography. And I now know enough about my university's policies that I feel comfortable when I complain about them. We have several friends (some are even Aussies!) who have also become a sort of second family to us. V. and I are both happy in our jobs. And when Will's friend apologised to him the other day for taking away his train, Will cheerily replied, "that's OK, mate!"

Despite this successful transition, I often think about whether we should return to the U.S. Some aspects of my job are terribly frustrating, but they are endemic to the Australian higher education system so they are unlikely to change. V. still has to take a huge medical exam next July (so that she can finally do exactly what she was doing in America), and this involves a continuation of the months of intense studying and practice workshops she's already put into preparing for it. We are still at least two years away from having enough money saved up for a down payment on a house, as homes here cost nearly 2-3 times more than they were in Atlanta, and we're still paying off the debt associated with selling our home in Atlanta for less than the mortgage. I also miss the North American flora and fauna. Seeing green lawns on an American television show, for example, seems downright exotic to me. And, I really miss being able to see my family more often than once a year.

This is going to be a long transition.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dreaming of a New Blog

I always seem to be coming up with ideas that I feel that I just have to act on. I know they are good and original ideas, but it usually turns out they would actually require more time and effort than I am willing to sacrifice. As an example, for several years I have planned to write a major theoretical paper on a model of prejudice that I have talked about at several seminars conferences. If I were to do a good job on this, it would probably be a well-cited paper, but I have yet to start it. I have also thought long and hard for at least 2 years about writing a book on social neuroscience. Again, I have never started it and, honestly, I probably never will.

My latest 'brilliant' idea is start a blog to monitor the awful stranglehold that News Corp. has over Australian news. Nearly all the major newspapers in Australia (e.g., The Australian, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Melbourne's The Herald Sun, Brisbane's Courier-Mail) are owned by Rupert Murdoch's company, and in some cities, such as Brisbane, there is no real competitor. News Corp. also owns, of course, the UK's The Times and The Sun, as well as The New York Post (and now The Wall Street Journal). And then there are the biggest beasts of all, Fox News and Sky News. Of course, as we watch newspapers die all over the place, all this consolidation of various news outlets makes sense from a business point of view. It's clear that News Corp. makes good use of its various assets by circulating the same story in each of its papers. The stories on the international pages of the Courier-Mail, for example, are typically attributed to The Sun, The Times, and The Post. The problem, however, particularly in this country, is that one reporter can have an immense effect with one little story because it can be immediately picked up and passed along to all the News Corp. outlets worldwide.

Such was the case when Britney Spears came to Australia. In the week prior to her visit, one of the News Corp. papers ran a story about how some fans were willing to pay hundreds of dollars to watch Britney lip-sync. That story appeared in every city's paper, and the morning television stations even chatted about it. The pump was now primed, and all it took next was Britney's first concert in Perth to ignite a bigger story. A News Corp. reporter in Perth showed up to that concert (ostensibly to write a "review"), and published a story the following day about the "hundreds" of concertgoers who walked out of the concert because of all the lip-syncing. That story appeared with a big headline in all the News Corp. papers in Australia, which, in turn, was picked up by the British papers. Before Britney woke up the next morning, a worldwide controversy had erupted, dubbed by some (at News Corp.) as "Britney-gate." It didn't matter that Britney's lip-syncing had been going on for months during the tour and that everyone was well aware of it already (as evidenced by the story that appeared prior to her arrival in Oz). It also didn't matter to News Corp. that some of the people leaving early did so because they were upset about other things like their bad seats, or that it was nearly impossible to find evidence of these walkouts at other concerts. But the story got bigger and bigger, and soon the non-News Corp. outlets were reporting the story of Britney-gate (all based on the Perth reporter's article). On the basis of these stories, singers John Mayer and Michael Buble rushed to defend Britney, providing even more fodder for the News Corp. machine.

I have watched several similar news cycles come and go since I have arrived here, and I am still amazed how successful they seem to be for News Corp. For example, sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson's solo trip around the world on a yacht was initially praised by the News Corp. reporters, but then it went through a stage where they focused on how unprepared she was, and now they've gone back to a cheering role by providing regular updates of her progress (mainly by paraphrasing from her blog). I guess this is what happens when the readership is relatively tiny, the pool of "big" news stories is small, and the competition is weak. And don't even get me started on the lingerie and bikini photo galleries that feature prominently on Australian news websites.

Well, when I figure out how to clone a more energetic and youthful version of myself, perhaps I can convince him to start that new blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The All-Australian Playlist

It was nearly two years ago when I first mentioned my affection for Australian musicians. (By the way, "musician" is often shortened here to "muso"-- another wonderful example of the Aussie tendency to abbreviate words and stick on an "o" as the suffix). Since that first post, I've continued to broaden my education, and I realise that I am now playing Australian music on my iPod at least half the time. I even have an overplayed Aussie highlights playlist, made up of both old and new acts. Here's a sample of that list:
  1. Missy Higgins, "Peachy"
  2. The Waifs, "Lighthouse"
  3. Faker, "This Heart Attack"
  4. Silverchair, "Straight Lines"
  5. Empire of the Sun, "Walking on a Dream"
  6. Katie Noonan, "Blackbird"
  7. The Veronicas, "Untouched"
  8. Jessica Mauboy, "Been Waiting"
  9. Dash and Will, "Out of Control"
  10. Josh Pyke, "Make You Happy"
  11. Hoodoo Gurus, "Come Anytime"
  12. Kate Miller-Heidke, "Caught in the Crowd"
  13. Sarah Blasko, "All I Want"
  14. Angus and Julius Stone, "The Beast"
On Friday night we got to see Kate Miller-Heidke in concert at the Lyric Theatre in QPAC. I only very recently discovered this incredibly talented muso, who hails from Brisbane and went to school just a short distance from where we are living. Kate's music is best described as eclectic, but it's also thoroughly musical and full of comedy. Her voice is beautiful. Opening for her was Skinny Jean, another band from Brisbane (which has also produced Powderfinger, the Veronicas, Katie Noonan, and Savage Garden, among others), which V. and I quickly became enamoured with. As soon as the monthly cap on our bandwidth is lifted, I plan to buy Skinny Jean's album, as well as one from Hunz, who--you guessed it--are also from Brisbane.

Assuming that my American readers will not have heard most of this music, please check out the video for Miller-Heidke's, "Caught in the Crowd," which won the 2008 International Songwriting Competion, by the way:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Still Here

It's been more than two months since my last post.

All is well. We have renewed our lease on this old Queenslander near the railroad tracks, complete with rats. We continue to pay off of the debt incurred when we sold our house in the U.S. for less than what we owed the bank. Classes are over and I have just one final exam to mark next week. The honours students are done. I'm nearly finished with a chapter for an edited volume that has been terribly difficult to write. And Will has been teaching us about the six white boomers that pull Santa's sleigh. It's nearly summer, and I can hardly wait.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Travels to the Osage

I just returned from a 9-day trip to the United States. My stepfather, Bob Daniels, passed away on August 22, so I went to Ponca City, Oklahoma to be with my mom for a week. Bob and my mom got together well after I had left home for college, so I never experienced him as a member of the family in the same way my younger siblings did. Still, I'm going to miss this talented and stubborn man who really had a heart of gold.

My mom faced a rough week while I was there, both as a result of the things that you would normally expect in the wake of the death of a spouse, as well as things that you would not. She's a remarkably strong person who reminds me of the 'Pioneer Woman' represented in a famous statue in Ponca City. After one particularly long day, I headed back to my room at 10:30, completely exhausted, but left my mom still carrying on with her household chores (caring for the many dogs and cats she has rescued over the years) well after midnight. She has a resilience that I'm afraid that I have not yet developed. I hope that her resilience continues to serve her, however, as she is now facing several enormous challenges as she adjusts to a life without her husband.

In Ponca City I ran into other people facing plenty of hardship as well. A jar sat on a counter of a pizza place in an attempt to raise money for an employee's medical attention. I watched two young women trying to come up with just $4 between them to pay for a prescription co-payment at the Walmart pharmacy--they ended up walking away because they didn't have the cash. I saw several young teenagers with babies, including a 15-year-old daughter of one of my mom's former employees. How they survive in an economy as bleak as Ponca's is a mystery to me. I also spent a lot of time listening to and watching CNN and the other cable news stations while I was there. Though I was already aware of the growing animosity to Obama and his plans for healthcare reform, I was shocked by how truly vicious some Americans have become in their opposition. There has never been this much division in American society during my adult life, and I worry about where it's all going to lead.

On my flight back to Australia I felt a little like I was escaping both my family's problems and the nation's. Life here in Brisbane is very good on many levels. And, I guess the price I'm going to pay for this good life is living with the guilt.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Camel Cull

Wow! I have been so terribly busy with work during the last two weeks, I haven't been able to write a single post here. But, when I saw this story a few minutes ago, I nearly blew a gasket! Sometimes Americans can look so stupid!!

Some background: Australia is home to nearly a million feral camels that roam across much of central Australia unchecked. In fact, V. and I saw quite a few on our train and bus trips across the Northern Territory and South Australia in 2003. Camels are NOT native to Australia. Like many other introduced species, they came over with 19th century settlers who thought they would be ideally suited for Australia's environment. They were right! In fact, their population is doubling nearly every 10 years.

As stated in an excellent piece in The Australian a few weeks ago (and quoted in the article at Punch), camels
maraud Aboriginal communities, trample fence lines, attack standpipes, destroy water tanks. They roam unchecked across the plateaus of the Western Desert, fanning out from creeks and riverbeds, creating a wasteland inside the wilderness, eradicating native plants, leaving nothing for the remnant wildlife. They are hardy and perfectly adapted to their new environment.
So, the Australian Federal Government is going to spend $18 million on a program to control the camel population, at the same time recognising that it is practically impossible to completely eradicate them from the continent.

This is all seems quite reasonable...except to a few 'journalists' back in the USA. On a recent segment on his CNBC show, Jim Cramer (the buffoon whom Jon Stewart so masterfully handled earlier this year) and Erin Burnett went on a lengthy rant about this supposed 'genocide' of camels. In the process, they called Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a 'serial killer,' and claimed (incorrectly) that Rudd is launching air strikes against the camels (to which Cramer chuckled something like, "does Australia even have an air force?").

To put it mildly, Australians are outraged by this story, particularly because it comes from a couple of American 'journalists' ranting about something that they clearly don't understand. I have to say that I join them in this outrage. I do wish more of my fellow countrymen would get it together and begin to gain a better understanding of other nations and cultures.