25 December 2008

The big deal at Christmas

Arrived in adelaide a bit earlier than normal this year, so I've had the pleasure of shopping at the mall, hanging at the pub with the after work crowd, and a few games of scrabble with Mum. She's beat me both times, as have my interstate/international friends on every single online match, darnit. Got to work more on that end-game strategy.

During 2008 my Nanna went into a residential home. She'll be 95 in March, she's pretty with it but has started the forgetting that seems to come with great age. In her own flat she had lost interest in eating, her insides started to pack in, eventually ending up at a hospital with kidney failure. Now she lives in her own room in a ward that is quite cleverly designed to appear to seem smaller than than it really is. They have dining rooms with four or five tables dotted all over, plus activity rooms, a hairdresser and even a bar (open for seniors happy hour every Thursday 3.45 to 4.45 pm- apparently they all queue up in anticipation). If or when I start to fail on my feet or think that the cleaner is stealing my pens, I wouldn't be too upset to be in a place like it. Hopefully with some mischievous old ladies who could do stitch and bitch, although in another 30 years I probably won't have progressed past plain on the old knitting needles.

Anyhoo, Chrissy day so far has been quiet for us. Great to catch up with Smithy and Reg who both studied with me in Canberra but have washed up on the shores of d'laide, quite independently. Picnic in the park and hopefully a trip to the beach tomorrow.

This post was going to be a round-up of the big deal stories for Christmas. In Adelaide, people got all whiny about the tram line extension interrupting their commuter regime during 2008. I think it extended their cross-city car trip by about 10 minutes. But they ended up with a lovely melby-style main drag, and soon will have nice, clean fast trams scooting between central station and the entertainment centre. Sounds like a good deal to me. Latte-sipping Australia is huffy that the PM could only bring himself to put forward a 5% reduction in CO2 as a target for Australia. (15 % if he rest of the world gets its act together at the big Copenhagen meeting at the end of 2009). Our own on-line activist community is screening an ad comparing him to the climate-change denialist former prime minister, and airing it during the cricket - the highest rating show on tv over summer. Shame really, because they had to come so far in this country to even get climate change recognised politically as really real. And Penny Wong is such a dead-set smart toughie minister, I bet she would have liked to go further, but the mining can pull the strings pretty hard in this country. Based on my quick review of the press is some far-flung WA towns (more on that later), rural Australia doesn't seem too bothered as they're not so worried about climate change anyway.

But aside from all that, I can't really go past president-elect Obama with his shirt off for the top ranking story of the month. My word. It is wrong to have salacious thoughts about the leader of the free world?

Merry Christmas readers, happy Hanukah, happy new year, etc etc. Love, Aunty B.

22 December 2008

5 December 2008

Advantages to living in a cold, calvinist country

  1. When you go to the shops at 5 pm, and make the 10 minute cycle home, your white wine is nicely chilled.
  2. It gets dark before five and people in canal houses tend to leave their curtains open until about nine. If you rug up and walk around in the early evening you have a very good chance of seeing someone naked.
  3. When it is snowing, and you absolutely have to go out to the bank, there are plently of other locals getting around who don't see anything strange in cycling when it is one degree and ice is gathering on your beanie.
  4. If you ride in this weather for more than 10 minutes your face goes kind of numb so you can't feel the little icy needles hitting anymore.
  5. Getting back inside makes you feel reborn.
  6. You get to see ducks walking around on icy ponds in the park . Haha, skating ducks.
  7. The exchange rate is very good to the dollar.
Disadvantages to living in Netherlands in the winter:
  1. It's cold
  2. It's calvinist

2 December 2008

cuddly killer bots

So, Washington is having a think about how they can make war robots that obey geneva conventions, and don't get "angry or frustated" when going into battle.

Quotes include:
Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech university, who is working on software for the army, has written a report that concludes that robots, while not "perfectly ethical in the battlefield" can "perform more ethically than human soldiers".

He said that robots "do not need to protect themselves" and "they can be designed without emotions that cloud their judgment or result in anger and frustration with ongoing battlefield events".

Here's an idea.. how about we try to work out how to, er, like stop wars - rather than building killing machines that won't shoot at ambulances? Call me crazy.

26 November 2008

Chooks right to choose

"We need to ensure each bird has access to an open range, but it's a chicken's freedom of choice"
That goes into the nacsent collection as a gorgeous quotes from a seasoned (natch) PR person. From James Kellaway of Australian Egg Corporation, it was in response to the Shonky Awards by Australia's Choice magazine, reported in the SMH, which asserted:
most consumers were probably unaware that the scheme allowed up to 14 free-range birds to be packed into each square metre of barn - four birds fewer per square metre than that permitted for their caged hen cousins.
But James disagreed, saying:
the free-range scheme's 30 kilogram per square metre rule translated into about 12 slaughter-weight birds, not 14.

As for access to the open range, the corporation was not about to start strong-arming chickens out the barn door each morning.

Sorry Choice, but you were out-spun on that one. Chickens freedom of choice, heheh.

25 November 2008

Tips for living

Extracts from a speech by writer David Foster Wallace, printed in the Guardian in Sept.

..most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her little child in the checkout line - maybe she's not usually like this; maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who's dying of bone cancer, or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the Motor Vehicles Dept who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a nightmarish red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness.


In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship - be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles - is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

24 November 2008

Gratuitous winter kitsch

There's really nothing that makes me feel like an excited little kid, quite like snow falling. And an outdoor ice-rink.

20 November 2008

New stereotypes to teach your kids

This site is probably really old, but the format and the pictures are so cute. Hard to pick a favourite - but I like "middle eastern men are compelled to bury every pine cone they see - Of course after WWIII, when they become our new money, the rest of us will regret just letting 'em all go to waste"

Colombian rainforest disappearing up noses

From today's Guardian online, it seems that the yuppie habit might be as immoral a big mac, when it come to remaining South American rainforest.

Four square metres of rainforest are destroyed for every gram of cocaine snorted in the UK, a conference of senior police officers as told yesterday.

Francisco Santos Calderón, the vice-president of Colombia, appealed to British users of the class A drug to consider the impact on the environment. He said that while the green agenda would not persuade addicts to give up, the middle-class social user who drove a hybrid car and was concerned about the environment might not take the drug if they knew its impact.

Santos said 300,000 hectares of rainforest were destroyed each year in Colombia to clear land for coca plant cultivation, predominantly controlled by illegal groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as Farc.

16 November 2008

Light of my life

I took this on Thurdsay night at the Max Euweplein, behind Wagamamma's. It's a pretty ugly semi-circular space between buildings but it has a highly convenient bike patth right through the middle. Along with the casino, Hard Rock cafe and Irish bar that I think attract approximately no locals, there is also one of those over-sized out-door chess sets that is in constant use.

The lighting display here is giant pawns! Over the entrances they've hung kings and queens. And this photo just captures a little section of the curtain of lights hung over the top. It makes the space really pretty and sparkly.

I've probably mentioned before, but I forgot from last year how the city seems to make themed light displays on different streets, and they are all different. Mostly repeating shapes hung up on the lamp posts. But some similar horizontal blankets of fairy lights like this. Its nice, like a compensation for the darkness gathering at 4.3o pm. The whole Christmas lights thing makes a lot more sense over in this season. I think the Indian festival of Diwali just passed, also a festival of light at a time when the days get much shorter.

6 November 2008


As mentioned below, last Satuday night I had an awesome time, biking round Amsterdam, in low-digit temperatures, with some crazy cultcha-huntin' cats from a large-international-ngo-that will remain nameless.

First, we congregated at the Leidseplein, the big, tourist infested square, with a dozen bars, street performers, and now an ice-rink in the centre. Although not so salubrious, this is an established point of reference for people from all over Amsterdam and especially visitors to congregate when they are not confident they can find that little out-of-the-way bar on the Van Harleem Voorboorgswaalstraat, let alone pronounce it.

We had a bit of a group consultation about which museums and events to attend. The way it works is you buy a single ticket for 17 euro, and then you get entry to everything that is open, about 40 venues all up. The Rijks Museum had the star centre piece, Damien Hirst's For the love of God, the most expensive piece of work ever sold by a living artist.

We however, avoided the big show-stoppers because of the queues. Our schedule involved one or several beerjes at each of the following:

9:30 pm Mediamatrix exhibition xxboys - a multimedia and photo exhibition on transgender, specficially female to male, by the look of it. We didn't see the photo room (which was contructed entirely out of black crates inside a bigger room) because the queue was too long. But we did see a performance of a girl with multiple temporary medical piercings right along each arm, on her knees while a man dressed as doctor lifted her arms and moved her torso using two over-sized 'puppeter' contraptions connected to strings that were connected to all the piercings. Some people in the queue for the photos were a bit sqeamish and were turned away from the performance while we were trying to see it live.

11:00 pm Something to do with animiation at some kind of art school facility near the Dam square. They has a night-clubby room with a dj apparently mixing images in some way along with the dj mixing music. But they had two much cooler things .. a guy with a dj rig in the foyer areas, who was mixing aromas to go with the music he was playing, he had a burner and a cooking pot and a bench. At one point he was doing a fragrant meat stew with his balkan gypsy music. Earlier he made an overwhelming and delicious mix of something indian and fragrant - also using a stick blender to good effect. You can't get that on the internet. At that venue our wee group was lubricated enough to take part in interactive art, where someone had rigged up a stop motion camera over a big white carbdboard canvas on the floor. We acheived a none-too-bad hippy canvas, complete with rainbows a host of little stick figures marching over the page. Then we got to watch its creation compressed into about 10 seconds. neat.

12:00 am Replica dutch merchant vessel that is moored in the Ij river. Chillout room on the maindeck, with sailors hammocks strung along, plus caught the end of some African drumming in the hold.

1:00am Nemo interactive science museum. A very strong rival to Questacon, this place was jam PACKED with toys. Fun fun fun for well oiled 30 somethings, but it was impossible to keep the group together as everyone just wandered away to the shiniest spinning thing that they were drawn to. Reminds me now of Johnny Depp saying that having toddlers is like living with drunks. Or hanging with drunks is like marshalling toddlers.

2:00 Ushered out in an orderly (Dutch) fashion, as per the advertised finish time. Cycled home with mr B in the icy chill, wrapped in jackets, scarf, wooly hat (thanks Ali) and gloves, to a lovely cosy bed and a lie -in on Sunday morning.

Go Amsterdam, city of funky wholesome fun.

4 November 2008

Inbetween Days

Currently working on: Energy efficiency and international Aids responses

Reading: Ludmilla's broken English (by DBC Pierre)
Just finished: A Passage to India (EM Forster) - surprised by how it critiqued English colonialism

Watching: nothing - our TV is busted. Saw "Burn after reading" the Coen brothers film last week

Taking part in: Museumnacht, and awesome one-night affair when 40 or so city museums were open until 2 am with activities, music, dancing and bars

Listening; Dig, Lazarus Dig (Nick Cave) bought on the weekend

Feeling: freezing outside, cozy inside.

Looking forwards to: coming home for 5 weeks.. yaaay.

25 October 2008

extrovert, introvert, humano-vert

Miss Risa has posted a funny picture she built, of the introvert's family tree. I liked it, and got a special smile because I know some of the people she is referring to. It's a topic that's caught my imagination, and in the old-skool concept of what blogs are all about, here's a bit of a response, exchange of ideas.

Miss J, another dear friend, blogs a lot about solitude, personality, space, reflection and art. I get the feeling that many artists need and crave space and time and a certain degree of isolation for the ideas to grow and flourish. I also happen to know that on occasion when she gets to a social event with a room full of strangers, feeling replenished from plenty of time alone, she is one of the most effortlessly engaging, warm, funny people I have the pleasure of knowing. She's shit-hot group facilitator too, where you have to make a one-on-one connection with a bunch of people all in a very short period of time, not something everyone can do.

Most people meeting Mr b.sharp would instantly slap on the description "extrovert" (if perhaps not "gregarious" because he is so firm in his convictions he does not always befriend strangers, to put it mildly). But I've seen him hunched over a piece of computer code for hours on end, barely registering the world around him, or completely lost in series of japanese anime cartoons, totally content with his own company - not needing anyone's attention or approval.

Another darling blogging friend has an acerbic wit online, she's razor-sharp and dares to write political stuff I would barely say, let alone write on the net. But in person, she is a little shy with strangers, a little wary and reluctant until you get to know her and she lets rip with a hilarious social observation or tells you what she really thinks about that meeting you were just in.

I sit here with a smile that I get deemed "extrovert" from time to time. Sure, I've learnt how to perform in front of a crowd (in the dim, dark past - and they were kids, and I got training and practice too). Expecially since I turned thirty I give much less of a shit about whether new people like me when we meet, so in turn I am less worried about what I say. But this week I made a mistake of judgement on something work-related and just now I feel like crawling into a hole not speaking to anyone, for at least a week, to be frank.

The extrovert in me loves learning another language, enjoys trying out new words and phrases in a confortable environment with people who won't judge. But after a period of struggling, making mistakes and getting blank looks, the introvert gives up, goes mute and avoids talking, even when I would dearly love to take part in the conversation going on.

And recently, its been common for me to spend several days alone, not seeing anyone, talking on the phone occasionally, writing, reading and living in my head. So I think I'm turning into a complete gabber mouth when I do actually catch up with a real live human. And is this a personality trait, or the result of an economic decision of this last year, based on my skills and the market in this country for english-language professionals?

Oh and how many of you have met my Dad? Some of his peers would place him as a bit reticent, a bit withdrawn, perhaps a classic introvert. Did they see him in the plays he did each year with students back in the 80s? What about that annual quizmaster role in front of a 100 or more people, oh, and the band he now plays and regularly performs with?

The point? There's no point really, this is just a piece that could be called "on introversion". Sure, we all have tendencies, we all have modes that we are more natural in most of the time. Many of us feel more comfortable expressing our real views only with the most trusted and safe friends. (Except my boyfirend, apparently). I think that's a pretty sane choice. Some are exaggerated performers but find it hard to connect one-on-one, others are chronic friend-makers and social butterflies, but don't be fooled, they have their inner lives too. The introvert can crack up a room with a joke, just as the extrovert can dissappear on a silent meditation retreat.

Also, I personally don't think this means that we're all constantly walking around behind personality masks that cover up our "true selves". Those different elements are naturally part of us, they come out in some situations but not others. It's stressful to be forced into one mode too often, I reckon most will start to crave company just as they will crave solitude if they don't get either as needed in the right doses.

I look forward to getting to know "E. introvert" better as he grows up - he's likely to be a brainy little tacker like his folks - maybe he'll be great at maths, but be in the school plays too - maybe he'll be captain of the debating team, and also learn how to do computer programming. Vive la difference.

6 October 2008

30 September 2008

Eid mubarak

Today is Eid, blogland. It's the end of the fast period of Ramadan. I have to admit I am very ignorant of the meaning and significance of Eid, but I hear it's a good party. I've heard that you buy new shoes and wear them to the festivities. And also that they don't know exactly when Eid is till the last minute. It has something to do with the lunar calendar. So it was going to be tomorrow (Oct 1) but now it starts today.

The alignment of the moon and the planets seems to be affecting global communicaitons though. International server crash this morning, plus my laptop seems to be completely cactus. Is anyone else experiencing random electronic vibrations of the cosmos?

24 September 2008

Energy Efficiency what do it really mean?

Hey blog-readers. Want to go visit a climate-safe city? Click above. And what do you think? what do you reckon they are trying to do here? like it?

23 September 2008

Bsharp is..

.. busy! Currently doing 3 seperate freelance jobs, with possibly a fourth on the way. All attention currently focussed on writing for clients - so daily posting has gone out the window. Perhaps there was some karmic vibration out to the universe in getting in that practice in..

18 September 2008

US Tourism

Since we lost BBC World from our cable package (thanks bastard UPC, who knew you could just take off the only decent non-hysterical global news channel and just replace it with Animal Planet, then demand we pay more per month for the channel we used to have?) we watch CNN from time to time. I can only really bear it for a few minutes while making dinner - the fever pitch of everything, the constant obsessive-compulsive "what will this mean for the US" line really bugs me after a while.

Anyway, they are wetting their panties over this latest credit crunch/bank bailout. I get the feeling the Europeans are quite smug, with their diversified economy and their groovy currency steadily climbing against the dollar and the pound.

So it got me wondering whether with the Euro doing so well, the trends of tourism will invert a bit. We think just maybe there are fewer American voices in the street in high season, much more Spanish that ever before. And perhaps the new Euro-entrants like Slovakia will flood on over to the US of A to sneer at their food, be rude to their waiters and talk louder than anyone else in any public tranport or outdoor dining areas. Slovaks, Spaniards, Slovenians, Serbians. Lovely.

16 September 2008

Pattern recognition

(credits to Miss J for the title)

Via momus, I've found this fantastic bit on on-line art, exactitudes. Click on each tiny set of nine pics to see a kind of linnean system of classification of street fashions. Momus asks, did you find your own style there? Well, sadly I think I'm "yupstergirls" most of the time. But I say, check out all those little tribes and sub tribes. It goes across ten years, apparently. Each one has its own name. Would there be different classifications in Australia, do you reckon? I think I remember the 'gabberbitches" from high school days. But apparently the "gabber" was a young subculture with racsist overtones in Holland in the 90s.

13 September 2008

Film review

Technically, "daily" writing doesn't include weekends. (fyi / btw).

However, last night I went to see an affecting film called Savage Grace. I don't know if here in Amsterdam we are getting an incredibly far-behind film release, or if we are ahead of you Australian readers on this one. If you have a spare Friday evening, and it hasn't come out, I'd say yes, go, it's an interesting piece of cinema. It's got gorgeous on-location shots in Spain and France and it has Julianne Moore doing a spectacular job of playing a very deranged woman with a lot of screen time. I've liked her ever since she did a whole scene in the movie Short Cuts where she was giving her husband a fierce verbal serve, but she was just wearing her dress shirt for dinner and was naked from the waist down. Classic funny but serious scene.

The humor in last night is that I suggested the film to someone on a kind of "friend date". You know what they are - when you're an adult who's passed their early 20s and you're in a situation where you need to make new friends, but you need a more structured way to do it, as sitting the park drinking cask wine with a dozen other friends and acquaintances just doesn't cut it anymore. So you do this weird awkward thing with people (often of your own gender, but whatever) where you suggest some activity like a gallery visit or a movie, and it's a bit like a date, but kind of worse because you aren't concerned about sleeping with them, you just want to be able to hang out.

Anyway, so I jumped online to see what arty (English language) films are playing in Amsterdam, and only briefly skimmed the description of this one. I saw that is was a period film, the review included something like .. "a look back at the mannered and shallow life of high society in the post-war period". And thought "oh that looks okay, you know, light" and didn't continue reading because I don't like to know too much about a film before sitting down in the dark.

So I'll try not to give away the whole thing. What emerges is a very startling and uncomfortable set of relationships between family members. To the point where the whole of the small heritage cinema was just dead quiet, and I just looked over at my film buddy and just raised my eyebrows, to imply "what the??". There's two scenes in particular that are just excruciating. You know where your eyes want to look away but you've got to keep them pointing at the screen to appear like a grown up. So as the lights went up, for I felt compelled to explain "really, I had no idea that was going to turn out like that, honest". (oh my god what if she thinks I'm a pervy freak). But we went to have a post-movie drink, so the date didn't go totally bad.

12 September 2008

Fence palin'

Sorry couldn't think of a meaningful pun title there. Does basically putting up extracts from a media inteview count as daily 'writing'?

After the lovely media splash about Ms. Palin being nominated as Sen. McCain's vice presidential candidate, it took me a couple of days to realise why this was such a big deal. Sure, she's pretty red-necked, but she's a vice, and who changes their vote based on a deputy? But, ah, the whole thing is that he's 72 at the time of the election, and he's had cancer before, so plenty of folks think he might pop his clogs in office. Now I get it - she could be the first Mrs President, marm. Damn.

She is a bit of a turkey, I think. Quotes from yesterday's ABC (America) interview:

When asked if Georgia joined NATO, whether the United States should go to war if the country was again invaded by Russia, Palin responded:
"Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help."

"And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable," she said.

Oh lovely. Watch out for them' Ruskies. And, even better, she got her first passport just last year!

Did you ever travel outside the country prior to your trip to Kuwait and Germany last year?

PALIN: Canada, Mexico, and then, yes, that trip, that was the trip of a lifetime to visit our troops in Kuwait and stop and visit our injured soldiers in Germany. That was the trip of a lifetime and it changed my life.

Canada and Mexico. And you have to get through Canada to get from Alaska to the rest of the US. Excellent.

11 September 2008

girl on girl

There's a pop song annoying me at the moment. I know this isn't an unusual occurrence, lots of pop songs annoy me. But this one annoys me in a vaguely political way.

It's called "I kissed a girl" by Kate Perry. Do you have it over there? You must. It's got a thumpy boring bass line and banal lyrics (big surprise there). When I first saw it while flicking past the music channel I thought it might be a cover of the artful Jill Sobule Song "I kissed a girl". Says Jill:
Genny came over and told me 'bout Fred
"He's such a hairy behemoth, " she said
"Dumb as a box of hammers
But he's such a handsome guy."
And I opened up and told her 'bout Larry
And yesterday how he asked me to marry

I'm not giving him an answer yet
(I think I can do better)
Remember that? It was poppy, sure, but it has a little story condensed into a tight verse-chorus-verse-chorus format. The two ladies chat at home, they're fed up with dead-beat boyfriends, they have a snog. After a moment of guilt, they both express the joy of the private moment.. (And we laughed/ At the world/ They can have their diamonds and we'll have our pearls). The lyrics are clever and funny, and its nice to have girls snogging in the top 10. Yay for all shades of love!

But this Kate bird just seems like a different kettle of fish. Perhaps I'm just being a daggy old prude, but compare the chorus lyrics:
I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chap stick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong /It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight

First, who the hell uses "chap stick" in their lyric and expects to be cool? She goes on...
No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter/ You're my experimental game
Just human nature / It's not what /Good girls do
Not how they should behave

You're my experimental game? Sounds pretty cold to me.

In the clip, Kate Perry is singing this on a big pink bed, wearing a kind of burlesque-stripper outfit, and after the first refrain she is surrounded by a bevvy of beauties, at one point there's a gir'ls legs splayed out from under the bed. All very debauched and naughty.

So I haven't talked about this little number with any lesbians, or feminist theorists for that matter. Perhaps it's cool for popular culture to allow chicks to be out there sexy and hott in all forms, and if that's wearing a boa and fishnets and talking about how you pashed a bird to get a kick then fine.

And ... If you're going to start on at pop songs and videos for objectifying women, wow there's a rich rich vein there of both grrls and boys doing that. Mostly boys. From Axl Rose screaming turn around bitch I gotta use for you/I ain't got nothin' better to do/ And I'm bored to Ludacris rapping on "Youza ho".. Come on playa once a ho always/And hos never close they open like hallways/An heres a ho cake for you whole ho crew. Women are nameless, treated as a walking collection of orifices, given orders, etc. Charmers, aren't they? And rich, too. So to me there's not much point getting on Kate's tail about that.

But back to these two girly songs. Probably the main difference is that Kate is a product of a "production company" called The Matrix who write and produce songs for pop princesses like Britney and Cristina. Jill was closer to 40 than 20 when her song was a big hit, and she is a real singer/songwriter with five albums out and a diverse, clever and imaginative slew of songs.

Its just that Kate's song and video is all about girl-on-girl in a porn-star way, for attention. Us girls we are so magical/ Soft skin, red lips, so kissable/Hard to resist so touchable /Too good to deny it /Ain't no big deal, it's innocent. Purhlees. Yeh, she gets a kick out of it, but because its naughty, and men are going to dig it too. However, this might be because she didn't actually write the thing, I'd wager some middle-aged song-copy dude in LA did. Is it actually his little disco fantasy, not hers? A bit like Kylie singing "better the devil you know" in the early 90s, I wonder.

At least in Jill's song, all the characters have names. They have feelings too; and there's also something bigger going on. The woman singing the song is telling a story about how she's examining her life and her relationship, and now this exciting new aspect has come into it. The end chorus says "I kissed a girl (and I might do it again)." Aw.

Well of course, in the on-line universe I am not the first to comment on this tacky song. The yanks have been at it for months. The writers at Feminste make the same point, and do it better than me. And the Washington Blade just gets the knives out and calls the lyrics vapid and offensive. I wonder what their benchmark is for Ludacris, then?

And argh - even Jill herself has posted on it... I am so not a hip and up-to-date blogger! After saying she needed extra Novocaine after hearing it at the dentist, she's actually quite nice about the whole thing. She sounds really cool and grown up on her site, if you got this far, check out her fake bio. Funny. Think I'll check out some more of her music, so thanks Katy for the tip-off.

10 September 2008

Pome 2

There once were some men with long beards
In oceans and seas they were fear'd
By saving the whales,
They boosted their sales,
Oh greenpeace, what's happened, my dears?


There once was a girl in the 'dam
Who got herself onto a scam
Worked remotely,
Was paid occasion'ly
And then went to Rome on the lam.

9 September 2008

livin' la vida local

I had lunch with Sophie yesterday, who is from Australia but who lived in Amsterdam for more than five years. She is one of the small army of non-Dutch women who catch themselves Nederlandse heren, marry them, and seem to be rather successful in taking this demographic out of this already small country away overseas somewhere. So far, I know two women from Australia and one from England now in the South of France who have manged it. So, Soph has had a closer look at the Dutch way of life than me, being adopted into her hubby's family, and also learning to speak it proper, like.

We are of course both familiar with the endearing way a died-in-the-wool dutch person will tell you any non-redeeming feature about yourself with no hint of awkwardness, but without malice. "Your hair looks funny." "Your arse is a lot bigger since you got pregnant" (that one was for her, not for me). At the office, I was more inclined to laugh and be pleased they cared enough to make a comment. There's the tendency to end to work day at 5 o'clock sharp, and eat dinner at 6 pm without fail. I actually like this, I think the healthy attitude to work within a set period should be preserved as long as possible here and in France, Spain and Italy. Long live the siesta!

If you drop round to a traditional family around dinner time, be prepared to sit on the couch while they eat dinner. But you really shouldn't have dropped in unannounced anyway. This is the only country either of us have visited where an adult will have a glass of milk with their lunch, and yep, at a business lunch too, instead of a glass of wine. Apparently hobbies are very common, thanks to the crap weather. Kids just grow up learning to do slightly out-there regional things like ice-skate beautifully or stilt-walk or god-only knows what actually.

Oh, and we have a total smoking ban in all restaurants and pubs here (effective 1 july, height of summer). So now as it starts to turn a bit chilly, and we are retreating more inside, its been awesome for me. The locals, bless them, think its a shit idea. Even the non-smokers. Apparently one of the arguments goes "well you don't go to the pub to be healthy do you, so it's stupid to force this on us in the pub, people can make their own choice". Certainly not the cringey "I'm not worthy" attitude of Aussie smokers, who are constantly hiding and saying sorry all the time. I guess here they haven't had 10 years of public education browbeating on the issue. At the moment they are running an add where are middle-aged woman scours the house for her durries and ends up opening up the vacuum cleaner bag and lighting one up. It's pretty skanky. It seems that they when they are going to tackle an issue, they take it head on, with no sensitive touchy-feely support for your foul addiction!

5 September 2008

Two -thirty

Time to go to the dentist. The back corner of my jaw hurts, nature's way of letting me know that an extra redundant tooth that should have been eliminated by gerontomorphosis, is coming up out of my jaw and poking through the gum. Ow.

In other news, we're back from our Adriatic jaunt, and I've got more time on the internet to try to avoid hasty and mis-spelled posts like the last one. On the bsharp work front things have slowed to glacial pace. So while calling myself a "writer" I really ought to practice this writing business a bit more often. Many folks advocate a method of writing something, anything, every morning. Whether they are just frustrated diaryists I don't know.

It's taken me approximately 5 days between thinking of doing a regular warm-up sesion online, till today when I actually fired up the old blog and start putting some attention to it. So daily seems a bit excessive, but anyway, here's to trying. If I resort to poetry, someone, anyone who has the admin codes to this blog, just get in and delete it. No-one needs to see that.

25 August 2008

Let them in

Just a quick one after spending a week in the Croatian "riveriera". Let 'em in to the EU! C'mon guys , they're lovely. Mr B and me and and Agent Orange met up last week in the coastal town of trieste, italy. We hired a dark blue work horse of a station wagon, subsequently dubbed 'Viduka' and proceeded to drive to Dubrovnik over 2 days, passing through Hvar on the way. coming back up the coast to the north we made a side foray into Mostar, Bosnia, and were overwhemled by the beauty of the old mediaevel city and entertained by a 7 piece gypsy fusion band in a cave in the middle of town. It was only the next day in daylight that we saw the bullet holes, shrapnel scaring and the ruined buildings.

driving back up the coast we visited bol on the island of Brac and Slano where we hired a boat and swam int he adriatic. Now we have met up with mr and mrs bizarro senior to show them a bit more of the old world. fotos to follow.

9 August 2008


Hey those with feed readers, sorry if you thought that title might refer to some personal tortured tale of woe and heartache from me. It is actually about Natalie Imbruglia. And earache.

The neighbour downstairs and directly behind us has been playing "Torn" by our Natalie, on repeat for at least 2 hours. She was playing it many times yesterday, too. And on Wednesday when I was working in my bedroom office all afternoon with the balcony door open. When I close the door I can't hear it through the double glazing. But it's quite muggy at the moment and it's nicer to have the breeze. This week, fresh air seems to come accompanied by endless repetition of "I'm all out of faith / This is how I feel / I'm cold and I am shamed / Lying naked on the floor .... " wafting in as well.

She was definitely home this morning, she kept coming into the yard to trim hedges, to empty buckets. etc. Her yard is so close I could spit into it from my first floor balcony. But I couldn't quite work up the courage to talk to her. Kind of a tricky one. See I've got no problem with music, I don't care about the volume, I JUST WANT TO HEAR A DIFFERENT SONG. Currently I've wimped out. But if it goes on another couple of days, maybe I'll have to resort to a passive aggressive note. Perhaps I should give her a new cd.

They're terrible lyrics, really. I've always thought that the word "torn" in the song was just an angsty metaphor for being heartbroken. But for me, it's always conjured up images of what happens in a difficult birth (and now it will for you too...) - just an unfortunate lyric choice by an inexperienced pop star. Now I've seen them written down, she could be singing about a rape, almost.

Anyway, not the kind of thing you want to hear over and over and over. Biz and I have discussed possible explanations of the repetitive sound track:
- she' s left it on to make it seem like someone's home and is actually out, unknowingly creating a neighbour torture device (sadly - no, I've seen her)
- she's had a break up and is wallowing (but like, wouldn't just one night on the red wine with Nat be enough? Come on, three days!? )
- she's learning the song for a karaoke competition (ever heard of the internet?)
- she's deaf and doesn't know it's on repeat. (hmmmm)
- it was the sample song that came with her new ipod, and she just really wants to play it and doesn't know how to get new tracks on there. (a bit far fetched, perhaps)
- she's lonely and just wants some music as company (a. no-one's that lonely, and b. we have a thing called TV and radio for that)
- she just really likes that song, and she's eastern european and doesn't really undertstand the lyric anyway.

Signing off, confused, sharing the joys of high density living. Bee.

7 August 2008

Some websites

I've been having an annoying moment, where I know for certain someone told me a funny story on the the weekend, and I clearly remember saying "that's going on my blog!" but have no clue what the actual story was about. I guess drinking at least a bottle of prosecco before 6 pm will do that. Prosecco? Its a cheap dry fizzy white wine. Also called frizzante. Like what you drank in year 11. The euros love that shit.

It was gay day on Saturday by the way. When the whole of Amsterdam goes out to line the Prinsengracht and camp it up. Yay. I had pancake brunch in one canal-side flat, immediately followed by bbq lunch at another and watched the parade with some boyz from London and some work colleagues from the shall-remain-unnamed NGO I was working for. Then back at ours for more drinks, plus grilled chicken, then a trip to visit a street party at the homomonument in pouring rain, then a very studenty party in the red-light district, hosted by a fellow named Boo. Ah, Amsterdam.

So to compensate for lack of humorous anecdotes, here are some sites I've been visiting recently.

Passive Aggressive Notes Warning - time wasting alert ahead!
Mother Jones Lefty-yankie current affairs that aren't too hysterical
Hollow Men (to watch the shows online, scarily accurate)
Flycheapo (handy index of what airlines fly in and out of what airports)
Via Michelin (put in origin and destination, and voila it spits out directions and travel times)

4 August 2008

Imaginary husband corral

(an occasional series)

Older readers may recall my collection of imaginary husbands. Triple J's Richard Kingmill was in it a few years back. David Tennant is a newer recruit (but he has a very busy schedule of imaginary wives these days), I could probably be tempted to cheat on David and Richard with Russel Brand, though, only because he looks like a cross between David Bowie and my first boyfriend, and he's cheekier than both. But an older, more abiding and somewhat secret passion of mine has been for Brendan Fraser. I can sense the real Mr B slapping his forehead at this, saying "Jesus, not that Fraser again... enough! - It's just brendan-brendan-brendan around here at the moment." But BF is kinda goofy and knowing somehow at the same time, eminently watchable, and I'd even go and see him in the Mummy, and put up with the "fog of special effects" as described in this article and interview with the Guardian. But, having read it just now he now seems, well, kind of nuts, too.

Joss Wheedon rides again

Been missing the special buffy-eque use of language? That unique Joss Whedon touch of adjectivising a noun (now don't get all piratey on me people...)? Well he did an online musical. Click here:

You might enjoy it, Aussie nerd-grrrls.

25 July 2008

Say it like you mean it

And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed "a" so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable.

The Guardian newspaper is rather smugly making a meal out of this guy, Giles Coren, who is a restaurant critic rapidly gaining a reputation for firing off self-obsessed, expletive laden emails with a rage totally out of all proportion, regarding the sub-editing of his restuarant reviews - for pity's sake. Here's today's article, they lifted it out of the media gossip column from yesterday and plonked it on the front page of the web edition.

Being both writer and editor for different kinds of jobs, I find this truly hilarious. If I got such a roasting for subbing a piece, I don't think I'd release it to the Guardian but instead print it out at 150% and pin it up in the office, with the choicest bits picked out in yellow highlighter.

Really, if he was writing a peace accord between the Balkans states where one word out of place might mean the deaths of hundreds? Fine. Or perhaps a carbon emissions deal with China's communist government to try to reduce a quarter of the world'd pollution. But a restaurant review? Get your hand off it man!

But then, as an occasional author, when subject matter experts just move sentence elements around for no good reason and make them scan poorly, I get pretty narky too. As the Guardian writer says: "thanks buddy, you've taken one for the team."

(This post is dedicated to Dad, Alison and The_Christian who all know better where to put a comma than I).

18 July 2008

welcome to the world

I just got a facebook friend request from a brand new world citizen. Congratulations to Guitar Boy and Miss Ivy! She's gorgeous, but I'm not sure how little Miss Solitaire managed to use the keyboard, she doesn't look like she can really hold her own head up yet. You may have some kind of prodigy on your hands there.

Why not Rome

Well, turns out Rome was bombed in ww2. On a couple of days each in 43 and 44. The yanks on behalf of the allies swore black and blue that they were staying right away from the Vatican City, and focussed on a train station and an airport.

According to wikipedia (acknowledged not a fully reliable source, but I'm not in such a reasearch-y mood) On November 5, 1943, a single Nazi plane dropped four bombs on the Vatican, destroying a mosaic studio near the Vatican railway station and breaking the windows of the high cupola of St. Peter's.

While the world, well Sydney, turns to all things Catholic, I just found this little bit of historical documentation. It's an original letter from all the archbishops of Australia writing to PM John Curtin to ask him immediately to refrain from bombing the Vatican City. Apart from the fact that I think the Pope is a real and present danger in today's world*, this is a great letter. Really beautifully expressed, it talks of this "ghastly war" and check this out:

individually, we have in season and out of season, but always in vain, appealed to reason and sanity in this world of madness, in which Christian civilisation seems to be rushing headlong to destruction.

Wish I could write like that. The best part is the cover note, which says bluntly:

"I confidently rely upon you and the Australian government to take any actions that circumstances suggest and permit."
P.S. "Later, I plan to hand the enclosed document to the Press".

Very bolshie Greenpeace-style media strategy there in 1944. Nice one, Archbishop of Melbourne.

*It's to do with not allowing contraception for anyone, even if they have Aids or are very sick from having lots of babies.

17 July 2008

Crime and punishment

Last week, m'learned friend Miss K suggested we go to visit the international criminal court in The Hague. It was the last sitting before summer break, and her being a student of international law, environmental law, human rights, this was a last chance while in the region to get this first hand learning experience. Okay, I said, finding the post-holiday life of a "freelancer" drag a little slowly on these rainy summer days. Maybe I can write something about it.

We went to the trial of Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia and accused of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape and recruiting child soldiers.

We got to the courtroom by taking the regular commuter train from Amsterdam and a tram. At the public entrance, we had our handbags x-rayed but we didn't have to leave them in locker. Cameras and tape recorders were banned, but we weren't carrying those. The gallery was like a high-tech lecture theatre. We were separated from the proceedings by a glass wall, judges facing the public, prosecution to the right, and defence the left. Charles Taylor was sitting behind his defence counsel.

The witness had his back to the gallery, the central panels of windows were screened, and he apparently had a sound proof booth. His testimony was relayed through CCTV, his voice altered and image pixcellated. Our headphones had a simultaneous translation to English on Channel 1.

That morning, the defence lawyer went through an administrative matter requesting more time on some aspect of the trial preparation. Then, the prosecution started questioning the witness. Essentially, she was trying to get him to acknowledge that he had previously seen and was aware of the contents of a series of documents relations to specific actions of a militia group. She then wanted him to say whether his memory of actual events verified what was in these documents. At every opportunity the defence tried to discredit the documents themselves, the witnesses' ability to understand them, whether the witness only understood the documents after being read their contents, whether he was literate or able to read the English at the time of the offences,... etc. I guess that's his job.

The prosecution was a North American woman in her 50s, short steely grey hair. She looked exhausted, but she was keeping a poker face. The defence lawyer an British guy, not as senior, with a honey-coated upper crust voice probably from Cambridge, who couldn't help smirking a little as he said things like "if it please the court" when pointing out that his copy of the evidence wasn't copied correctly and had lines missing from the bottom and the sides.

We were only in the room for about an hour of a trial that started in January and will probably go on for several months more. A group of lawers are running a detailed blog, and the special court of Sierra Leone is screening the trial in their local court room to allow greater access.

It was fascinating to see international human rights law in operation like this. You can only imagine how tedious it must be to have to plug away into all the evidence for years, interviewing people over countless horror stories. But for the people sitting on the other side of the glass, this is their day-job. They are full time agents of justice, and they have appropriately impassive faces and a dry manner to go with it.

It was alternately chilling, especially when the witness was being questioned about some associates, namely one called Rambo and one called Van Damme. Who does this document refer to where it says Van Damme? Why was he called that? What was his role that day?

14 July 2008

Viva musica

This last two weeks, there has been a series of concerts - Live @ Westerpark, on the edge of Amsterdam.

On Tuesday, I went to see this year's silly Euro-pop sensations Mika (inside the fence) and then on Saturday, sat outside with a bunch of freeloaders to listen to and watch Leonard Cohen on the big screens which you could see over the fence in you stood in just the right place. I didn't know that Leonard hasn't toured for 15 years. It felt very special to hear "Everybody knows, Marianne, First we take Manhattan, and Hallelujah" sung by their composer who has passed the 70-year mark, still sounding gravelly and grave and warm as ever. And with our picnic on the concrete, including red wine and marvellous Euro-snacks it was a fine social occasion too.

I liked that the Mika gig was set up to make full use of that very big stage, even if it was totally cheeze-a-rama with circus performers, a clown on a harness flying around, a shadow-play with big furry animal costumes, etc. He has a divine voice, floppy brown hair, speaks a handful of languages, and I'd happily carry his love-child. (Mika, in case you're reading). There's a photo of the artist on stage with a giant blow-up "big girl" here. (c/o Erik Luyten - I hope that's within the terms, Erik!).

Both times the it had drizzled rain on and off all day (just like the whole week....) but while clouds hovered ominously over the park, the drops held off for the duration of the music. Sadly I missed an outdoor Radiohead concert while away on holiday, but that sold out back in March I think.

Bizarro is in darkest Africa this week, and I'm looking for more/ new work suitable for the summer months. The days are long at the moment, and the nights are mild. My apartment seems to hold the heat of the narrow cobble streets.

6 July 2008


Well I'm home in Amsterdam now, with some patchy sunburn in that bit on the shoulderblades that is hard to reach with the cream, plus a nice glow-in-the-dark Virgin of Guadaloupe and some olive oil hair shampoo to remember the trip. On route, I got the ferry from Italy to the Greek island of Kefalonia. It looks like this.

It was hot, one day probably close to 40. I hung out with a couple who Biz and I met in Uruguay, and they shared their camp food and good cheer. Cedric from Brittany runs a dive centre there. He provides beginner dives and courses as well. Gets a great mix of business from people who must just see the sign on the port and walk-up, to those that plan a diving holiday to get their master or rescue or open water or whatever. Having decided that there was no way I was ever getting a scuba kit on in my LIFE, of course yours truly was gently persuaded to go for a beginner dive. And what do you know, I didnt' get eaten by a shark. I hear there's not so many great whites in the mediterranean, but you never can be too careful.

No diary extracts to share as it was too hot for much except sleeping and swimming. Except for one occasion while waiting for the dive boat to come back and listening in on a group of middlea-aged package holiday types, from the North of England killing time before their dinner at expensive Porto Fiskardo. Because that smug feeling is the best thing about eavesdropping on other tourists.

"I just think she's wearing herself out these days. She looks tired and old."

Man in group: "Well, I can oonderstand lesbians, because I like the fairer sex, you see:
Woman in group: "But lesbians, really that's just not raight, is it? Its just against naighture"

"I don't mind seeing girls in the most outrageous clothes , provided they have the figure for it".

"Oooh I hope all this isn't making it into her diarey". (Whoops, busted)

2 July 2008

Dead centre of town

Wednesday 25 June

Anyway, I was curious about the Pantheon because yesterday's guide said that it was an example of what the palaces on the Palatine hill would have looked when in use, everything covered in marble, nothing unadorned. The designs in the Imperial Roman buildings would have been pagan though, lots of geometric shapes, not legions of tortured, dying and insipid looking saints.

But then again in those days it was the pagans putting thousands to death by way of starved lion, starved hyena, gladiator, and so forth. The Christians I guess where the sad little peaceniks "the meek shall ingerit the earth, etc..." They made these creepy catacombs with the dead piled in stacks , bricked in to rot in a hole in the wall. Unlike those Roman mutherfckers who just cremated their dead. Ecologically speaking, I used to think that being put in a box and sunk to earth was a good way to return all my living nutrients back into life, through plants, worms, and such. From today, I think I'll request a cremation for my mortal remains. Ashes are a more concentrated fertiliser, right, and the world's need for urban space won't be taken up by my rotting body in a stupid necropolis that serves the dual purpose of showing everyone just how much your family paid for your burial. *

* Mum, hi if you're reading this, that wasn't a dig at our family, just a metaphysical musing on the different cultural approaches to dealing with the issue. You know, like in comparison to medium density housing versus urban sprawl. Glad we got that sorted.

30 June 2008

(F) art

Have got a little behind as internet access on Kefalonia is a bit of a luxury.

24 June, Tuesday.

Calf muscles very fucking tight. A painful reminder that there are no inclines are very few steps in the streets of Amsterdam.

Vatican Museum. Only 40 minutes in the queue! Talked to a couple of gay guys from Washington, older one a doctor and quite funny. Acting reluctant to partake in all this religious stuff. When working out the length of the queue, said to his boyfriend, like all couples around the world, 'so, tell me again, what exactly are we going to see in here?'
Younger guy was a classical Greek scholar.

First, took a spin around the Pinacoteca, one of several godsy picture galleries. Saw a big flashy number of Christ's ascension (Raphael I think), and another Caravaggio to add to the list. (tick)
Dog-collared American priest giving a tour, with a very casual yankee way of telling bible stories, but also giving art commentary. Have discovered a way of sneakily learning more without paying, but sort of pinball-bouncing from tour group to tour group, looking like I'm just appreciating that particular work, and eavesdropping on part of the description. I think I sidled up to four or five different groups today, so I got a rather disjointed appreciated of the galleries and of course the Sistine chapel. For example, Raphael apparently mastered the art of drawing the eye to all and every feature of his crowd scenes, rather than picking out one single focal point with light and shade. Why this is? no idea, I thought it was an appropriate time to sidle off after that.

The art? Well looks to me like those masters packed in every exciting feature to these 'sacred' scenes as they could. Bulging anatomically correct calves on the men, gory piercings with a staff for J.C., ecstatic women, there was a lion jammed into the bottom corner of one indoor scene - what the hey? Nice juicy tabloid-style renditions, but at the same time recreations of venerated and religious stories. Neat huh.

There is a missionary museum in the Vatican with cool pieces from lots of countries in Asia, but accompanied by jarring text on how missionary efforts have gone in past years and the present day in these far flung indigenous populations. A very pointed piece on entry about how missionary work was one of respect, learning, and done in a spirit "brotherly love". Bollocks.

Sistine Chapel. Details and crazy mad shit happening everywhere. Above me is a last supper with a super realistic dog and cat fighting in the foreground. At the altar end, one of the figures on a cloud is holding a man's skin, empty of its body (or soul?) In the famous one with god reaching out to touch fingers with (who?) Adam? I didn't realise god is flanked by a holy host of some sort. Dozens of cherubic types packed in behind him in his floating cloud/ shell thing. Nudity all over the place. To me, all these showy religious works don't seem a jot more holy than any other for all the talent and mastery on display. I don't get a feeling that this chapel might be a more worthy place to worship than any other, just because of technicolour drama playing out on the walls and ceiling. And I get the feeling they didn't really think that at the time either

One room before reaching the chapel (Raphael again) features a piece called something like "triumph of the church". Deliberately featuring representatives of the "militant church" in their marble thrones. This stuff was all about power, magnificence and status. Wrapped up in a cloak of religious stories. And its not pretending particularly hard to be anything else either.

26 June 2008

Quo vadis

I don't actually know what Quo vadis really means, but it is the name of a church that my tour bus hurtled past today, and I think its become famous through some movie or another. Note to self - one to look up some time. If anyone knows, feel free to put in comments.

Along with other notes to self.: 1. Why wasn't Rome bombed to shit in WW2? The whole place is just one massive urban museum, with ancient columns and unlikely looking structures all over the place. So much of Europe lost buildings even from the middle ages, what trick did Mussolini pull here? 2. What is it with all the hott cops in this city? It there some minimal standard for looks for Italian police? Like height requirements in the States? With all respect to Biz, I don't normally look at a man in uniform, but this is getting quite bizarre.

Anyway, back to the travelogue. - June 22, Monday afternoon -

The nice thing about visiting churches to see art is that they are more or less free. Popping a 50 cent devotional in the box easily rids one of the guilt factor for marching around someone's place of worship, guidebook in hand, and wearing a distinctly uncool outfit, in bad shoes to boot. Or, if you're not plagued by concerns for social morés, then a pragmatic reason is that the 50 cents goes towards lighting, cleaning, polish for all those walnut pews, and other random maintenance that allows other people to see the artworks for (nearly) free. Sometimes you seem to need to put a coin in the box to make those crazy spotlights go up on the piece you've come to see. There was a very pronounced slow reveal for Madonna of the Pilgrims that I just saw. Push the button, and a whirring noise started up and then an inoxerable pause while the painting brightens almost imperceptibly, then ta da! A grand master right there in the chapel. Where anyone can just walk in off the street to see it. Neat.

photo credit: ginieland

Actually this one was pretty good, the artistry in it kind of hits you over the head compared with the other sallow saints, pious bishops, angels and rib-poking christs. Apparently it caused a bit of a stir in its day, because the petitioners kneeling in front of Mary and Jesus looked too convincingly dirty and down and out. The man has particulaly realistic grubby feet. Perhaps the artist was having a dig at the social situation of the poor in Rome at the time... ? Anyway, I couldn't help notice that the Madonna was carrying an absolutely enormous christ child. I don't know how old he was supposed to be, but my word, that particlar life model was milk-fed baby for sure. She's also got one foot resting on the toes, just like an elegant Roman lady standing in an ancient doorway next to her vespa and talking on the mobile.

Santa Maria del concezione (immaculate conception)

Another bony church! Yep, as good as Kuta Hora in Czech Republic. Second chapel in the crypt complete with grisly little capuchin monks recreated with skulls and bony little hands. They are about 4 and a half feet tall. One looks a bit of a mummy even. Chapel number three is tricked out in a mass of pelvic bones. I think some of these re-constructed monks are wearing cardboard name tags around their wrists signifying actually who they are. An American student in the slow-moving line next to me says 'We had to do anatomy in college, but I think those ones, made up like that, freak me out more. I can handle the seperate bones, all separated out like that. Those even have vertebrae in there still!'

I'm thinking - are you kidding sister?! This is the coolest thing I've seen in ages. Well, since, the bone church in Czech Republic I guess. I wish I could beam in some of my friends from uni to turn around to and go - whoah man, like, 'bela lugosi's dead .. the bats have left the bell tower, the virgins have been bled bled bled bled'. Etc. Sorry there readers, got carried away on a little Bauhaus jag. I know, the Vampyre legends come about 600 years after all this stuff, my historical time line is all bunk.

At that point, my diary switches to sketches of the layout of these rooms, noting things like a cross motif made of two mummfied arms, a skeleton attached to the ceiling appearing to fly over head, two skeletons perched on a ledge, reaching up to the skull places between them, more wee monky creationg (they had brown robes and all) in repose in wall niches. And not to mention the stars and fleur-de-lys designs made of ribs, jaws, and the other pretty curvy bits too.

I reckon this is where things get down to the nuts and bolts of Christianity. Death. Its all about you dying, and what the hell happens then. These crypts, necropolises, catacombs, etc, are all about making a big focus on the whole spooky dying business. Not surprising really that a couple of monks here and there who were care takers of these ossaries - all the bits left in the 50 to 100 years after your miserable entombment - who took it to the logical conclusion and went bunta with the old bones. Lets jazz the place up a bit, they must have thought. We're not in the habit of paying for drapes or wall paper for the church, no wealthy families making ostentatious donations this year.... hang on.. look at this massive pile of skulls. Hey! Giovanni, I've got an idea..

25 June 2008

La dolce vida

Yeeh, owww, eee, oooh. Hear that? That's my calves and the bones in my feet screaming for mercy. I'm in Rome, and today I went to the Vatican museums, saw the Sistine Chapel and then went to the Colosseum in the afternoon. Something no sane tourist would attempt on a 35 degree + day. But then I'm clearly no sane tourist. But before you hear about that and get to see my feats of digital photography, I'll share some diary extracts with you all.

Sunday, 22 June. Rotterdam. 4pm
Smells of cities.

Paris is easy. It's garlic and exhaust laced with those whiffs of raw sewage you sense must be just centimetres from your sandal-clad feet. Barcelona for me will always be urine and smoked ham. Marid is dust and cigarette butts.

Amsterdam has this foreign/familiar smell. I notice it when I'm inside the trams, its got the cold trapped in it, plus perhaps jonge belgium cheese and some kind of ubiquitous cleaning product. In the streets, of course, it's the blasts of pot smoke coming from the coffee shops and groups of men walking past my front door.

Buenos Aires smelt like a 'lagrima' - a small coffee with a drop of milk (or was that a small cup of warm milk with a drop of coffee?). That, and sugary medialunas, dog poo and poverty at the fringes of things.

Biz said Cuba smelled like Africa, particularly in the local market, I think this is the smell of uncovered meat, flies and humidity. Plus the lime in a mojito.

London smells like stout. And pollution.

I think the smells of Australia are too well embedded in my amalgyda to easily pinpoint them like this. But, Adelaide brings to mind the stale air discharged from air con units, jacaranda and dead grass in summer. A whiff of woodsmoke in winter. Sydney is the unburnt diesel coming from the back of buses. Pide from Topkapi on Enmore road.

Sunday, 22 June. Rome. 8pm

So far, Rome smells like really terrible stinky feet, thanks to the gent who sat next to me on the 'Leonardo Express' - the train from the airport to Termini station.

Monday, June 23.

Rome also smells like my sweat. It's well over 30 today, walking is good but you can tell people who live here seek the shade, like Sydney, like home. Yesterday it struck me on the train how the classic cream brick look from suburban Adelaide that screams Italians built this house! just mirrored the hundreds of medium rise apartment blocks on the fringes of Rome. Even the roll-down blinds all seemed to be in a chromatic rainbow of dark brown to burnt umber. Now, in the centre, this pale orange, tan, cream, that must be the total palette of the renderer gives the whole place that mediteranean look. So, no wonder our immigrants said 'cream, that's the look for me!' when making their selection at the brick shop in 1952. Right now, I'm in the Piazza di Santa Lorenzo in Lucina. It's just a in a warren of streets between some churches with Caravaggios and a museum with Caravaggios. I'm having a Caravaggio morning. The church to my back is a Basilica from oh, I dunno, the 1200s. the guide book says it features a 'kitsch' Crist, but I couldn't pick him out of the various Christs to be honest. They all look kitsch to me.

25 May 2008

Euro vision

Finally .. I could take part in the voting. And live!

But by 36 euro cents didn't go much towards the final outcome. I put in for France, with their eccentric bearded minimalist pop star, who if you are optimistic sounded a bit like Jarvis Cocker/ Serge Gainsbourg, and had funny back-up singers performing the "do do do" refrain wearing cocktail dresses and fake beards.

Other than that Kirsta, Kristen and Cornsie and me had a good girls night in, with some Spanish wine, organic salads and dips and such from the farmers' market, and our own highly complex in-house voting process.

Euro vision, gotta love it, I think the traditional zaniness that you come to know and love were put out there in style by Boznia Herzegovina (spotty dress/washing line/ some strange love story with a man with slicked down hair), Latvia (With a pirate themed song and constumes), Russia (who had a genuine ice skater in their piece, so must have included a mini ice-rink in the stage setting) and Croatia (for one of my favourites, slightly gypsy/ tango-y number with a disco beat) .

Update: Null device has posted a handy cut-and-keep tabulated summary with a star system under "odd", "gloss", "cheese" and useful notes like "live chicken on stage".

Photos c/o BBC here

Oh and possible worst number: Azerbaijan, first time entrants with a god-awful hair metal number, performed in campy angel costumes and including ear-piercing pseudo-vibrato high notes. A travesty.

3 May 2008


queen beatrix
boat jam 5 pm

Queens Day. April 30. As predicted Amsterdam went completely mental. Boats and Orange are clearly the go. And games like the one where you buy three eggs to ditch them at someone wearing a plastic bin liner. Click the photos to go to flickr page.

30 April 2008


Its queens night tonight.

Its the night before queens day. I just stayed in the office till about 8pm, sipping wine and writing press releases.

Then I had a couple of beers at the homo monument with Mr B and some work pals who were leaving at the same time. At the momument there were drag queens queens doing eurovision take offs, there was the obligitary beer tent with the cups for 1 euro deposit. And many people dressed in orange.

then i cycled back tot the flat to change into jeans and get a waterproof jacket to go out and meet Mr B and the others. I cycled past temporary tents on the canal bridges, houses totally open to the street, stings of orange flags where residents had clearly connected their house to the nearest lamppost, orange balloons put out by the city council, people cruising on boats in the drizzling rain and dark, pumping basslines everywhere, and general amsterdam craziness.

Apparently tomorrow is the queen mum's birthday. It s a holiday and it lines up pretty well with the start of spring. Amsterdammers have been copped up inside since october with rain and shitty cold, less than 10 degrees everyday for 6 months. And now they want to par-tay.
I'm off to see if I can find my friends.

7 April 2008

What's in bsharp's bag?

Following on from the meme started by Betty Sue and Miss J...

- 2 x free postcards for "negen straatjes" (the nine little streets) area - picked up at the amazing brazilian sandwich shop near work. With sincere intentions to write and send to aus.
- saved label with address of funky mexican hand-made shop (in the 9 straatjes)
- wallet from Bondi Market - never really happy with the double fastening mechanism
- only decent lippy I own (from Body Shop in an airport I think) inside carry case with mirror - a gift from little sister who does try to keep me nice
- memory stick (totally full)
- keys on chunky seahorse keyring from Miss J, plus Albert Hein bonuskart, which I get swiped at the supermarket sometimes, but I'm not too sure what that gets me as a "bonus".
- Ikea pencil (the horror)
- Mobile phone
- single bandaid
- 2 types of travel sickness pills (Stugeron and dramamine) one with no packet
- 1 x neurofen left in the bubble pack (apparently I am addicted to off-the shelf medicines, who knew?)
- pen
- Camera case (normally containing the camera used for this photo..)
- 2 x Albert Hein receipts, 1 shoe shop receipt and 1 receipt from todae in glebe (also for shoes)
- 1 x flier for a swing night in Haarlem train station
- 1 x custom moleskine Amsterdam SIY guidebook, a pressie from the glebe vegan household.
- 17 eurocents in loose change

26 March 2008

Weather watch

Hi Australia,

I've done some photos and videos recently. Tell me your news.

24 February 2008

Amsterdam update

Hi everyone - I've been a bit lax in posting about the Euro-experience recently. Because I know that you're all gagging for more about Ollebolen, bitterballen, bicycling and terrible bureaucracy.

Anyway, there was a brief chilly spell, but this week we haven't had any more below-zero temps. Oh yeah and the big news is that I got a real job! For three whole months. As a press officer with an NGO that is having a big international conference here in May. My first time 9 to 5 in a real office in more than two years. And oh yes, office politics, they still exist.

Mostly though it's bags of fun. People talking on the phone in several languages every day (my team consists of Dutch, Italians, a Latvian, a Cherman, couple of brits and me the lone antipodean). And it's in a great location. This is a picture of the buildings across the canal, where I park my bike. Reflected in the ice on the one morning that the canals froze a bit. Only a thin layer on top mind you. Pretty, huh?

In other news, we made a trip out the edge of town to the Amsterdam Ikea. I was sooo excited, being quite concerned with having a gezellig home environment these days.

But it was actually a bit like the seventh dimension of hell. At the buying area they have these towering shelves up to the 20-foot ceilings, numbered from one to 67 where you have to go and find your precious flat pack. And when I finally got to my new office chair, the one that we had chosen after trying all the models for good back support and arms at the right price.... the bloody arms were out of stock. The base chair was there, but I had to switch to a totally different model at the last part of the epic Ikea odyssey in the bowels of the labyrinthine warehouse. A bit like Jason and the argonauts, I thought.

Biz nearly gnawed his own feet off he was so oppressed by the consumerist binge. I'm actually amazed he didn't grab a toddler out of (one of many) bugaboo strollers and yell "I am confiscating this human in the name of sustainability and human rights until you put all of those wretched mass-produced items back THIS INSTANT." At least I think that was the source of his moral outrage, he was a little too mithered to be quite so precise.

23 February 2008

Birthday Party (The)

Uh huh chuckle chuckle, rock fans. As a nice treat for the BSharp annual milestone, the Guardian has posted a lovely, long biographical article about Nick Cave. And in it, he even talks about aging.

Actually, he says, there is so much rubbish talked about age - as if, when you hit certain landmarks, you start to think and act differently. He's getting quite worked up as he talks and it becomes apparent that age itself is the new authority figure to rebel against. "There's a certain wisdom we are supposed to get, and I'm not really convinced that happens. I mean, you're wiser to a degree. But there's a certain archetype - a tried and tested road for artists in their autumn years: more meditative, less concerned with temporal things and more concerned with spiritual things, all that sort of stuff - I was looking forward to that, but it hasn't really arrived."

And I'm still looking at Cave's hair. Is that really his natural colour? He bursts out laughing. "I've been dyeing my hair since I was 16."

What colour would it be? "I hate to think."

For someone who's actually read the whole 200-odd-pages of the biography "Bad Seed" that's just pure birthday gold.

6 February 2008

Super sonic

New British Jet could reach Australia in under 5 hours.

That would be so awesome. I mean, if it really was less carbon emissions than the current long-haul flight. And if I ever earn enough to afford a first class fare.

Why do these spin-types always have to go that step too far though? "Day trips to Australasia" - what total bollocks. It would be enough of a miracle for us pilgrimage-making types.. less carbon.. less pain.. less gas from remaining seated for 24 hours. The joy. No view though.

Passengers would have to put up with having no windows, due to problems with heat produced at high speeds.

Instead, designers may put flat screen televisions where the windows would be, giving the impression of seeing outside.

30 January 2008

Reader requests

Yesterday I had a polite request for more information in response to this post, about the plague of Betty Sue and how I felt like I was the impostor Betty for nearly a whole year. Hopefully "Anonymous" isn't the real Betty or her creepy stalker, but I answered in comments and thought I would copy the exchange here.

Anonymous says:

Please write on your blog exactly how you got around the 'error' message when you tried deleting your profile on classmates.com.

I have been trying to remove my name/profile from classmates.com but can't get past that 'error' message each time i click on "remove membership". It would be a real service, if you let me know exactly how to do this! Thank you!!!!

Bsharp says:

Hi Anonymous,
Sorry but I can't remember. I just messed around until I found another way, rather than the unsubscribe button. (My general approach to life, really.)

I think I had to actually log in to the site itself, and then look for some kind of "edit" option and click "delete profile" or something like that. It probably asked "do you really want to delete your profile?" a few times. - Keep at it.

Anyone else want useful tech/net advice from helpful Aunty B?

28 January 2008

Buzz search words

I don't think I've done this here before, but here are some of the terms that have popped up in my stats recently. It just means that this blog pops up in a google listing - so the searchers don't end up visiting. But nevertheless:

"how to say drizzling in spanish"
"lots of verbs"
"rugby toughness cliches"
"big frankie says relax"
"Leyton Hewitt big cock" (my favourite)
"flea fumigation sydney"
"how to get men to do the dishes" (amen sister, email me when you find out)
"erotic sauna Sydney"
"what are the words that make cock get up" (huh?)

Viva la internet.

24 January 2008

Call for quotes

Righteous old Gorgeous George Orwell is gathering dust up there in the right hand corner. Here's a request for anyone to send me new quotes for blog-decoration. Obscure, funny, politically right-on. Bring it on.

20 January 2008

there is a time..

(turn turn turn) and a season... (turn turn turn) for every .. thingy .and... whatsit.. that there is in heaven.

Just a quick post to share how I'm feeling that the Europeans seem to be so much more seasonal that what I'm used to in the great land of oz. I mean sure, many of us put the flimsy summer clothes away for a few months in the middle of the year. And spring often sets off a bout of cleaning and new plans and new interest in love and friendships, down in the land Down Under.

Over here in Amsterdam I've been riding around under the grey skies, the totally bare trees, and apparently constant drizzle. It almost feels like a different county to when I arrived, and everyone has adapted their environment to suit. In the square near me, the hundreds of tables and umbrellas are all gone, and there are fairy lights in the trees and bare pavement in their place. Along the busy streets full of restaurants the concertina windows are closed up and there is no al fresco dining to be seen anywhere. Everyone in the street is buttoned up into their specialist puffy, hooded jacket. And the shops have a lit up window display - everywhere that wants to invite customers is warm, cozy, most of all closed up against the cold. Even the customary girlie bikes decorated all over with garish fake flowers seem to have disappeared - all taken off to survive the damp, I guess. The dedicated flower-box gardeners all seem to have swapped their colourful geraniums, begonias and petunias for more winter hardy species like holly, and other things I don't even know the name of.

Yesterday, a 9 am bike ride to the shops felt like it was about 5am on winter morning in Sydney. Deserted, crisp and dark and like a conspiracy amongst the people that were actually up at that hour, keeping the supermarket lit up and the economy working.

I'm quite looking forward to spring, when I get the feeling life will be busting out everywhere, the wind changes direction, and the sun stays out till 11 pm. Until then, I'll be on the computer in the cold evenings, doing indoor, introverted things, like writing my blog. See you on line, friends.

7 January 2008

horrible no-good day #2

Yesterday involved a contained a faulty card, service calls using a public phone, and a trip to the car share office for a replacement. Then, a mis-read departure time for a flight to Adelaide, an impossible ride to the airport, only to be rescheduled for 6 am this morning. The afternoon was an east-west-east trip around Sydney. And in the evening, an overzealous locking of a friend's flat required a visit from the locksmith at about 7.30 Sunday night. Sigh. Some days you just aren't concentrating and it shows.