The Boooooooosh

I love The Mighty Boosh for many reasons, but not the least is The Moon. Don’t quite know why it tickles my funny bone, but there you go.

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Weekend Paradise

We went to visit family in Queensland last weekend. Here are some photos:

QLD #1
QLD #1
QLD #2
QLD #2
QLD#3
QLD#3
QLD #4
QLD #4
QLD #5
QLD #5
QLD #6
QLD #6

‘Twas a good weekend…

Slamming Doors Can Lead to a Messy End

When I was a child, my family owned an LP of Stanley Holloway (I think) reading Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales For Children. It would send a delicious shiver through me every time I listened to it, as it didn’t feel like the normal watered-down namby-pambiness that is designed for children’s consumption. It felt as though I shouldn’t be listening to it – too much bluntness about death and naughtiness. It was obvious, even to a child, though, that they were designed by an adult to keep kids under control 🙂

I had a couple of ‘tales’ that were particular favourites, and this was one of them:

Rebecca
(Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably)
A trick that everyone abhors
In little girls is slamming doors.
A wealthy banker’s little daughter
Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater
(By name Rebecca Offendort),
Was given to this furious sport.

She would deliberately go
And slam the door like billy-o!
To make her uncle Jacob start.
She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild;
She was an aggravating child…

It happened that a marble bust
Of Abraham was standing just
Above the door this little lamb
Had carefully prepared to slam,
And down it came! It knocked her flat!
It laid her out! She looked like that.

Her funeral sermon (which was long
And followed by a sacred song)
Mentioned her virtues, it is true,
But dwelt upon her vices too,
And showed the deadful end of one
Who goes and slams the door for fun.

The children who were brought to hear
The awful tale from far and near
Were much impressed, and inly swore
They never more would slam the door,
— As often they had done before.

Hilaire Belloc

Thanksgivy-whaty-hooey?

It feels a little odd to be ordering our 10kg (22 pounds) turkey, stocking up on cranberry sauce, planning pecan pie and green bean casserole, pulling out the harvesty decorations, and investigating new stuffing recipes. We celebrate Thanksgiving every year here in Oz, just like we did in America – except we celebrate on the Saturday after the real Thanksgiving, and we host it, rather than HL’s grandparents. It’s such a lovely connection to our American life, and my parents adore it, but we feel a bit alone.

Usually everybody around is preparing for the same holiday at the same time: hence the million turkeys at Safeway (29c/pound, rather than $7-8/kilo), pumpkin pie recipes in every magazine, the line at the grocery store, the Norman Rockwell-like depictions of family dinners on every tv channel. But, here, Thanksgiving is a novelty. A holiday that very few Australians can grasp (“Well…you have turkey, and gravy, and stuffing, and pie, and…you have the whole family around…and…then you watch sport on tv…and…umm…most people have the Friday off as well…and there’s lots of history about American Indians sharing meals with the new settlers, and things like that…and, that’s Thanksgiving…”).

So, we love the whole hoopla of it – celebrating American culture and history and HL’s background and childhood memories, and etc. – but, we feel a bit far from home.

12 litres of milk…

Mother and Son was a delight, and I remember the anticipation of waiting for the next episode. My family always watched it together when I was a child, and I was thrilled to find out recently that a friend owns the series on DVD. We’ve been watching from the beginning, and we saw the episode below last week. Ruth Cracknell was such a joy, and Garry McDonald the perfect son.

American Things That I Miss #5

Mexican food

I love bean burritos. We have them as a quick meal 2 or 3 times a week, on average. A simple smear of refried beans, some melted cheese, diced onions, and burrito sauce on a flour tortilla, microwaved for a minute – delicious. I’d never had a bean burrito till I went to the States.

Mexican’s not so big here. It’s more of an exotic, ethnic, special occasion kinda food. There aren’t many  Mexican restaurants to choose from – even in the big cities – let alone Mexican fast food.

I miss Taco Bell. HL and I were reminiscing today about 69 cent bean burritos, soft tacos, gorditas, grilled stuft burritos, taquitos, quesadillas, (which my dad pronounced kwesa dillaz – we still tease him about that)…even mexenuggets.

I miss having a Mexican restaurant on every corner and choosing the best one to pop in to for a cheap Sunday lunch, family dinners at Azteca (the fajitas are the best – I can hear the sizzle of the plate coming out from the kitchen), staff lunches at the local family-run Mexican place, with the best salsa verde, churros at the annual fair…

Crap…now I’m hungry, and there’s no place to go to feed my Mexican appetite.

Joy-bringers

Cheesy, but true.

Kitten

Kitten

Other Kitten

Other Kitten

Falling Rain

Les Misérables is my very favouritist stage musical, and I’ve been youtubing it a bit recently. I haven’t found a version of “On My Own” – my favouritist song in the musical – that I am hugely fond of, so here is one of my other favourites, “A Little Fall of Rain” (10th Anniversary concert):

Jamie’s Ministry of Food

Watched the first episode of the new Jamie Oliver show – Jamie’s Ministry of Food– tonight. Let me just say, Jamie Oliver is amazing. HL and I have been watching him since he was a single guy boshing-it-in, and garn-(go on?)-my-son-ing, and cooking up pukka meals for his mates and feeling well chuffed. He has always been curiously and disarmingly charming in his genuine passion for, not just cooking, but making a difference.

He always seems to be biting off more than he can chew (appropriate metaphor, I suppose) (like Jamie’s School Dinners), but it, almost always, seems to pan out for him. I think it must be his enthusiasm, and his utter conviction that he can, that galvanises him and those around him. He seems to have a never-ending interest and creativity for new things.

He forces you to like him, and to feel moved and excited and comfortable, all at once. His Fowl Dinners changed the way I eat chicken and eggs; and even what I feed my cats. His zeal for the students whose lives he transformed at Fifteen was so apparent. His pleasure in plain, simple ingredients, and basic recipes, is obvious in Jamie at Home. Everything he does, he DOES.

I like Jamie Oliver.

Sittin’ in the theatre, readin’ the program, and waitin’…

I posted the poem ‘Effanineffable’ a little while ago, and in the last few days there have been lots of people coming here because of that post. Not quite sure why the sudden interest, maybe there’s an English class somewhere doing a unit on ‘The Poems of T.S. Elliot’, dunno…anyway, I started thinking about the first time I came in contact with Elliot’s ‘cat poems’.

Even though we grew up in a tiny little town, many, many hours away from ‘the big smoke’ my parents, and, in particular, my mum, wanted to make sure that we weren’t disadvantaged culturally. Not only did we go to every possible theatrical, educational, cultural or musical performance within 200 kilometres, we were also periodically taken on the 7 hour trip to Sydney to see the ‘big shows’ – ‘Les Mis.’, ‘Starlight Express’, ‘Cats’

Every production we went to see was amazing and cemented a love and appreciation of performance which is undertaken with high production values, and I could rhapsodise about any of them, but I’ll confine it to the relevant one.

I think I was about 10, and my brother 6-ish, when we went to see ‘Cats’. (Actually, I just checked the Wikipedia page, and, yes, I was 10.) There’s a moment, right before a performance begins, when you’re flipping through the program, thinking about the possible plot/music/action, looking at the photos of ‘the principals’, and slowly immersing yourself in the experience, when the possibilities seem uncontained, when you get little glimpses into what the next 3 or so hours could hold, and the anticipation builds.

The set of ‘Cats’ is somethin’ else. The immersion of the audience into the action  environment  world is instant, even as you’re clambering to your seats (in the nosebleeds for us 🙂 ). The rubbish dump that houses these ‘effanineffable’ cats is built to scale and encases the whole theatrical space. As humans play the cats in this colony of strays, all of the props are built to dwarf the humans, so the proportions of the empty cans of Coke and the rotting tires and the old newspapers are huge. And, not only is everything supersized, it doesn’t stay on the stage. All of the seats in the theatre are surrounded by piles of massive and intricate garbage, close enough to touch.

As we were ushered to our seats I was truly aware that there would be no wondering in that moment before the start of the production. It was so apparent that there would be no desire to curl up on the floor and fall asleep during this show. I sat, entranced, feeling engulfed by the elaborate stage dressing that had leaked from the stage into the audience. Even though the excitement and joy was immense during that time of waiting, it was not, in any way, to be compared to the excellence of being swept into the actual show itself.

I remember the delight, even as I was not really understanding the ‘plot’, as Webber’s music and Elliot’s strange and magical and detailed words created something. Something that was about an unknown and obscure, but complex, world, that contained depth and mystery and…completeness, I guess.

I might be overthinking, over-remembering, but I can feel myself – 23 years ago – feeling transported and overjoyed at this glimpse of a world.

I wonder if I forget sometimes that, in terms of eternity, I’m still just sitting in the audience, reading the program, anticipating the world to come. The set’s pretty elaborate, and reminds me that the bit to come – the ‘real’ production – is gonna be overwhelming, and all-encompassing, and characterised by high  perfect production values. Effanineffable…

Traveling

None is traveling
Here along this way but I,
This autumn evening.

Matsuo Basho

Puddleglum, the Splendid Marshwiggle

I’ve recently been getting a lot of people coming here looking for ‘Puddleglum’. I mentioned him in this post but there was not a lot of information, just a mention in passing. So, here are some Puddleglum musings.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this bizarre marshwiggle when I first encountered him in ‘The Silver Chair’. He was so pessimistic and doleful and…well…glum (appropriately named I suppose). The ridiculousness of the assertion that he was considered flighty and irresponsible by other marshwiggles caused my 10 year old self to giggle at the thought of how staid and practical Puddleglum’s parents must be.

He was such a beautiful foil for his two travelling companions; Eustace, who was only just beginning to grasp the concept of responsibility; and Jill, who had barely ever exercised the virtues of trustworthiness and reliability. Puddleglum was sturdy and dependable, and the voice of reason, albeit a particularly gloomy one. (He reminded me a little of Samwise Gamgee – the real hero in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.)

*SPOILER ALERT*

When Eustace and Jill made error after silly error Puddleglum countered with wise and cautious words, but his most glorious moment was, most surely, in the house of The Lady of the Green Kirtle.

This Queen of the Underworld comes perilously close to irrevocably bewitching Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum, (and, by this stage, Rillian), with sweet and subtle and logical reasoning denying the possibility of Narnia’s existence, the sun’s existence and, most devastatingly, Aslan’s existence. The image (and the easily imagined smell) of this splendid marshwiggle stomping his flat and frog-like foot into the fire to destroy the entrancement is, for me, the apex of this Narnian chronicle.

Puddleglum’s indomitable words, “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn’t any Narnia.” (The Silver Chair, Ch 12) in response to the Queen’s insidious cadence, “There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams.” (The Silver Chair, Ch 12) show such strength of character. Easy and smooth words that we know are false, no matter how palatable, should never go down easy, but should stick in our craw.

Puddleglum brings me great joy.

Puddleglum

Puddleglum

Sting – Old School

Sting was one of my very favourite artists ‘back in the day’ when I was in my mid to late teens (early to mid-90’s). I still think he’s amazing musically, but he’s a bit too ‘granola’ for my tastes these days. I heard this song on the radio one night while I was being driven home from a babysitting job, and it was instant love. I went out the very next day and bought The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

Homesick

We had an American family who are here on sabbatical enrol two of their children at school today. I get a rush of excitement every time I hear an American accent around me, so it was lovely to meet them and chat, albeit just for a very short while. I miss America terribly, so it just seemed natural to talk about Seattle as ‘home’, which was a bit surprising to them.

The longer I’m ‘home’ here in Australia the more I realise how American-ized I became while living there. I will always be Australian, and Australia will always be my heritage, but America looms large in my thought patterns and tastes and desires.

Seattle…the islands and the mountains and the Pike Place Market and the lakes and the winerys and the deserts and the coffee and the music and the ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ and the snow in winter and the ferrys and the farmers’ markets and the seafood (sushi!) and the funkiness and the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ at Christmas and Leavenworth and Winthrop and the crazy-ass indoor malls and the shopping and the Space Needle and the Seattle Centre and the monorail and Bellevue and the houseboats and the Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Norwegian-ness and the Japanese-ness and Lake Union and Lake Washington and the Puyallup Fair and U Dub. and Ivars and dungeness crab and Gasworks Park and the piers on the waterfront…

I’m sick with longing.

Silhouette

Winter Evening In My Backyard

Winter Evening In My Backyard

A Moment In Our Morning

Feeling not very wordy, wordy at the moment, so, in lieu of words, here’s one of my favourite pictures of HL:

HL Making Coffee

HL Making Coffee

I love 200 Nipples (It’s t-shirts, people, nothin’ creepy.)

I read Seth Godin’s blog. I find its tone funny, irritated, exasperated, wry, optimistic and helpful in just the right amounts. And he’s always on the look-out for new, interesting, different and useful ‘web stuff’ to direct readers to. Yesterday he directed me to 200 Nipples.

This is a truly well thought-out concept. The Brief Rundown: Exclusive artwork printed on tees. Limited edition runs of 100 shirts, each labelled with its number (i.e. Shirt #35 has the number 35 printed on the collar). Each shirt costs the amount printed on its collar (i.e. Shirt #35 costs $35).

This was my comment:

Aili Says:
July 12th, 2008

This is a BEAUTIFUL idea, and such a thoughtful, ‘out of the box’ piece of marketing. You feel like real people who are enthusiastic about this cool concept that you came up with, and your excitement is such an asset.

But you haven’t left it at the ‘enthusiastic amateurs who have forgotten that they’re trying to earn a living’ level. There is a cleanness and clearness about your website and the ‘concept’ which makes it easy to ‘get’.

And you have a built-in market economy with the simplicity of the pricing structure that reflects the cost vs scarcity equation. And a business model that drives demand (’Quick! The longer you delay about buying a design the more you’ll have to pay.’). And it’s Real Art! On a t-shirt! In strictly limited quantities!

I’m looking forward to watching the new designs as they come out, and maybe buying if one catches my eye. *smile* I wish you so much luck )

And then, I found a reply in my email inbox from Wade:

Aili,

Wow! Your kind words blew me away. We’ve put so much hard work and thought into the site. You made my day.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks. (And then there was some stuff about a coupon code.)
Cheers,
Wade
Partner
200nipples.com

And so I replied:

Dear Wade,

You are so welcome 🙂

I don’t often comment on blogs or websites, but when I do, it’s because there’s something special there. You guys have an excellent, elegant marketing concept, even down to the website name (intriguing, slightly eyebrow-raising, but entirely appropriate).

And I enjoyed your FAQ – just the right amount of ironic wackiness, but also answering questions clearly. And you’ve made it so easy for people to subscribe to your feeds. And you’ve got this excellent count-down on the shirt-numbers so we can watch people actually thinking about buying. And you’ve made the buying process so visual – people can choose the number they want rather than simply getting the next one in line (for example, someone chose to spend MORE THAN THEY HAD TO (amazing) just to buy shirt #69 (no surprises on the number they chose, you’ll prob’ly always sell out of that one pretty quickly).

Again, beautiful concept. Congratulations. And thanks for the personal email response – those things make a difference 🙂

Aili

This is a website that I’ll be watching – not only to check out new designs, but to watch their progress as they (hopefully) become something huge.

American Things That I Miss #3

Snow

When we lived in Seattle we were within driving distance of about half a dozen ski fields. HL took full advantage, snowboarding at every opportunity, while I mainly enjoyed playing in the snow, or just watching it. One of my favourite things in winter was driving into the forest (‘specially around Christmas) and watching flurries of huge flakes of snow pour onto the windscreen. It spoke of hot chocolate and fir trees and Christmas carols on the stereo. Snow was such a regular part of the seasonal rhythms and, even though it happened every year, it always joyfully delighted.

It snowed here today. It was such a pleasure to watch white drift and float and be blown out of the sky, but it was also a bit bittersweet. It felt like Christmas but it didn’t last. In just a few minutes after I’d said to my mum on the phone “Well, it looks like the snow’s set in…” the sun was out and any flakes that had managed to settle were fast evaporating. So homesick…

American Things That I Miss #2

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s used to make me feel hip and ‘in-the-know’ and healthy and like a wise shopper, all in one store. They’ve created a distinctive brand that’s an ‘experience’, as well as a location for sourcing interesting and unusual products, and it’s a store with an identity that rubs off on its customers, that turns shoppers into inspired and enthusiastic and thoughtful consumers…at least, that was my experience.

And I miss it.

It’s not that easy to find a place around here where you can purchase frozen, pre-cooked edamame ready to be reheated, $2.99 bottles of very drinkable table wine to stock up on, tiramisu gelato, everything you need for a picnic dinner at Shakespeare in the Park, and a shopping experience that’s both ‘organic, granola hippie’ and ‘trendy, contemporary hipster’.

Kitten and Other Kitten

We have two cats. They’re sisters. When we got them as kittens we wanted to pick names that matched each other, fitted their personalities, contracted easily and were a little unique. It took us prob’ly a fortnight or so to come up with their monikers and in the meantime we called them ‘Kitten’ and ‘Other Kitten’. They still get that occasionally (along with much crazier nicknames) and so, pseudononymously, these names seem to belong as their notperfection blogged-about identities.

They have incredibly different personalities. The one who shall be referred to as Kitten is a medium-haired tabby who looks like a bobcat. She’s terribly affectionate, terribly highly-strung, terribly curious, terribly jealous, terribly self-aware and thinks she’s a peepul.

Other Kitten, on the other hand, is a long-haired Calico who’s squishy and floppy. She’s knows for certain that she NOT a peepul and is happy about it. She’s easygoing, placid, selfish, hedonistic and entirely unselfconscious.

The joy they both bring is immeasurable. They were totally worth spending thousands of dollars to fly them to Australia.

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