Friday, October 29, 2010

Have You Seen This Teapot?

The US has a lot going for it over Australia:  cheaper everything, better BBQ, unlimited internet access, a  fuck-you attitude, and – of course – Cheez-Its.  Oh how I miss Cheez-Its.  But Australia has its fair share of perks too:  sunny weather everywhere, universal health care, topless surfers, gay rights, and Tim-Tams.  But there’s one major thing that Australia has that the US doesn’t, and it fascinates me.  That thing:

The electric kettle.

It’s like a teapot, but instead of filling it with water and putting on the stovetop, you fill it with water and set it on a little base which plugs into the wall.  Then, you hit the button and the water heats up fast.  Super fast.  Like, faster than a speeding bullet or faster than Superman or something like that.  Seriously, it’s like 2 minutes and you have tea.  The teapot on the stovetop takes ages!  A watched pot never boils… unless it’s electric.

EVERY house in Australia has one.  At least, every house I’ve been in.  There are whole walls in electronic stores devoted to electric kettles.  They come in all brands, sizes, prices, and colors.  So my question is:  why don’t we have this in the US?  I’ve probably spent more hours inside Bed Bath & Beyond on a weekly basis than any reasonable, sane person would over the course of an entire lifetime, and I’ve never noticed an electric kettle despite the fact that I’ve stood in the small appliances section for hours on end drooling at whatever state-of-the-art kitchen gadgets were on display.  Just to be sure I wasn’t losing my mind, I asked several of my other American friends here, and none of them had seen one of these new-fangled contraptions until arriving in Australia either.

I pulled up, and, and, and, and did a search for electric kettle.  And you know what:  Bed Bath & Beyond sells electric kettles.  As does Best Buy.  And Sears.  And Target.  How do I not know about this???  At first I thought maybe they only sell these in cold states – because who needs hot tea in Miami – but my friend Karen from Pennsylvania had never heard of it either.  And Pennsylvania is a cold state!  Besides, they wouldn’t have them in Australia at all if that was the case.  So it appears they have them in the US – fine.  But they obviously aren’t selling like hotcakes.  Trust me, had I heard of it, I would’ve had one even if I never intended to use it.

So, I did a Google search.  Apparently, I’m not the only one wondering why the electric kettle never hit the heartstrings of the American consumer.  I found several message boards where this same question had been posted time and time again.  So I have to ask:  do any Americans reading this own an electric kettle?  Have you ever even noticed the existence of the electric kettle?

It just seems strange to me that a country as innovative as the United States has fallen behind other parts of the world on the simple act of heating water.  How is this possible?

There are an infinite number of possible explanations as to why electric kettles are near non-existent in the US, but I’ve narrowed it down to the two most likely explanations:

1.  Boston Tea Party (take this tea and shove it!)
2.  Congressional lobbying by the powerful teapot industry

Saturday, October 23, 2010

103 Things

June 2007 marked the start of an idea in my head:  the idea that I should move to Australia in 2009.  Now, just in case you haven’t noticed, that idea has materialized (hence the blog).  Despite missing my target year by a mere 22 days, I must brag for a moment and share with you that this whole Australia thing has been a damn good success so far.

Now, a lot of other ideas float around in my head.  Most of them are just filler, and many of them are just plain ridiculous - like when I considered trying out for Survivor - because of all people on Earth… well, no explanation needed other than I am the world’s least likely person to succeed on Survivor, unless of course it’s Survivor: Hyatt.  But one idea has stuck in my head:  making a list of 100 things I want to do around the world.  Now, many people are making bucket lists these days – mainly thanks to that movie – but this is not a bucket list.  This is a mid-life crisis list.  Why a mid-life crisis list?  Because I’d like to get to all of this stuff before I’m too old to enjoy it.  By 40 maybe?

I started my list of 100 things in March of 2009 – and it took me well over a year to finish it.  I researched online and talked to friends and slowly compiled activities to do and places to see, all the while making sure that I had a wide variety of items and an even wider array of geographic locales.  From drinking a beer at the world’s northernmost brewery in Norway to seeing a particularly interesting dinosaur exhibit at a natural history museum in Mongolia, from climbing up Table Mountain in South Africa to a big fucking shopping mall in Alberta – this list is, well… maybe a bit unrealistic.  But that’s ok.  Picking up and moving my entire life halfway around the world was pretty unrealistic, but hell, I’ve got a 4 year visa now so I guess I can do anything.

Anything except Survivor.  Or anything that involves falling from heights.  Or mushrooms.  Or avocado.  I hate mushrooms and avocado.

I finished compiling my list of 100 things in June of this year, but seeing as I had already completed 3 of the items on the list, I decided to add 3 more – just to start from an even 100 things undone.  Keep in mind that I want to do a bunch of other things too, but this is a good start.  So, without further ado, I present to you my “mid-life crisis list” of 103 things:

1. BOTSWANA – Chobe National Park
2. EGYPT – Pyramids at Giza
3. GABON – Loango National Park
4. MALI – Great Mosque of Djenne
5. MAURITIUS – Dodo Bird Exhibit at the National History Museum
6. NAMIBIA – Quivertree Forest
7. SENEGAL – House of Slaves Museum (Dakar)
8. SOUTH AFRICA – Table Mountain (Cape Town)
9. TANZANIA – Stone Town (Zanzibar)
10. TUNISIA – Ruins of Carthage
11. ZAMBIA – Victoria Falls

12. ANTARCTICA – The Antarctic Peninsula

13. ARMENIA – Tsitsernakaberd Memorial (Yerevan)
14. CAMBODIA – Angkor Wat
15. CHINA – Great Wall of China
16. HONG KONG – Star Ferry to Kowloon
17. INDIA – Taj Mahal (Agra)
18. INDONESIA – Uluwatu Temple (Bali)
19. ISRAEL – Yad Vashem (Jerusalem)
20. JAPAN – Todai-Ji Buddhist Temple Complex (Nara)
21. KAZAKHSTAN – Bayterek (Astana)
22. LAOS – Nam Song River Tubing (Vang Vieng)
23. MACAU – Casino Lisboa
24. MONGOLIA – Museum of Natural History (Ulaanbaatar)
25. PHILIPPINES – White Beach (Boracay)
26. QATAR – Al-Corniche Promenade (Doha)
27. RUSSIA – Trans-Siberian Railway
28. SINGAPORE – Singapore Zoo Night Safari
29. SOUTH KOREA – Demilitarized Zone
30. TAIWAN – National Palace Museum (Taipei)
31. THAILAND – Full Moon Party (Ko Pha-Ngan)
32. UAE – Burj Khalifa (Dubai)
33. VIETNAM – Halong Bay

34. ANDORRA – Caldea Spa
35. BELARUS – Town of Pruzhany
36. BOSNIA – Mostar Bridge
37. CROATIA – Diocletian’s Palace (Split)
38. CROATIA – Dubrovnik City Walls
39. DENMARK – Carlsberg Brewery (Copenhagen)
40. ENGLAND – Harrod’s Food Hall (London)
41. ENGLAND – Lloyd’s of London Building
42. ESTONIA – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Tallinn)
43. FAROE ISLANDS – Vestmanna Bird Cliffs
44. FINLAND – Temppeliaukio Rock Church (Helsinki)
45. FRANCE – Palace of Versailles
46. GERMANY – Neuschwanstein Castle
47. ICELAND – Blue Lagoon
48. IRELAND – Blarney Stone
49. ITALY – Grand Canal (Venice)
50. NORWAY – Mack Brewery (Tromso)
51. NORWAY – Viking Museum (Oslo)
52. POLAND – Auschwitz
53. ROMANIA – Bran Castle
54. SCOTLAND – Loch Ness
55. SLOVENIA – Lake Bled
56. SPAIN – Guggenheim (Bilbao)
57. SWEDEN – Volvo Museum (Goteborg)
58. SWITZERLAND – Matterhorn
59. TURKEY – Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

60. BAHAMAS – Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
61. BARBADOS – Andromeda Botanical Gardens
62. CANADA – Beaudry Street Metro Station (Montreal, QC)
63. CANADA – CN Tower (Toronto, ON)
64. CANADA – West Edmonton Wall (Edmonton, AB)
65. COSTA RICA – Monteverde Cloud Forest Zip Line
66. CURACAO – Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
67. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Catedral Primada de America
68. GREENLAND – Air Greenland Helicopter Ride
69. MEXICO – Teotihuacan
70. NICARAGUA – Isla de Ometepe
71. PANAMA – Panama Canal Locks
73. ST LUCIA – Castries Public Market
72. ST MAARTEN – Princess Juliana International Airport
74. USA – Ancona Pizzeria (Valley Stream, NY)
75. USA – Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC)
76. USA – Carlsbad Caverns (NM)
77. USA – Gateway Arch (St Louis, MO)
78. USA – Grand Canyon (AZ)
79. USA – Grand Ole Opry House (Nashville, TN)
80. USA – Hot Air Balloon Ride (Albuquerque, NM)
81. USA – Paula Deen’s Restaurant (Savannah, GA)
82. USA – Wall Drug (SD)

83. AUSTRALIA – Barossa Valley Wineries (SA)
84. AUSTRALIA – Great Barrier Reef (QLD)
85. AUSTRALIA – Parliament House (Canberra, ACT)
86. AUSTRALIA – Penguin Parade (Phillip Island, VIC)
87. AUSTRALIA – Port Arthur Historic Site (TAS)
88. AUSTRALIA – Sydney Opera House (NSW)
89. AUSTRALIA – Tree Top Walk (Walpole, WA)
90. AUSTRALIA – Uluru (NT)
91. NEW ZEALAND – Rotorua
92. USA – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
93. VANUATU – Mt Yasur Volcano

94. ARGENTINA – Cementerio de la Recoleta (Buenos Aires)
95. ARGENTINA – Perito Moreno Glacier
96. BOLIVIA – Salar de Uyuni
97. BRAZIL – Avenida Paulista (Sao Paulo)
98. BRAZIL – Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro)
99. CHILE – La Piojera (Santigo)
100. COLOMBIA – Museo de Oro (Bogota)
101. FALKLAND ISLANDS – Falkland Islands Museum (Stanley)
102. PERU – Machu Picchu
103. URUGUAY – Plaza Independencia (Montevideo)

I’ve completed #’s 78, 81, and 88.  That means 100 to go.  Who wants to tag along?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Love Lust Tragic Coffee

And today I received a lovely e-mail advising me that I had been approved for a subclass 457 visa which allows me to stay and live and work in this fair land until October 2014.  Glorious news?  Absolutely.  But I must confess that I cannot fully celebrate this achievement as there is something far greater on my mind:

Cute baristas.

Oh yes.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong.  These are not just any cute baristas.  Oh no.  These are my cute baristas.  They’re mine.  They don’t know that yet, but they are.  I claim these cute baristas in the name of Phill.

Every Saturday and/or Sunday (usually “and”, seldom “or”) I head around the corner to the little café that has become a staple of my weekend routine.  Upon entering the establishment, cute barista #1 promptly greets me and begins making my coffee.  As I’ve been doing this regularly since February, he knows my order.  He’s cute and skinny and Aussie and he’s as adorable as six kittens.  Then, after a moment, from further back behind the counter, cute barista #2 turns around, notices my presence, smiles, and asks me how I am.  He’s also cute and skinny and probably as adorable as eight kittens and he’s Irish and bald.  Not Irish in the way that I can’t understand what the hell he’s saying because his accent is so thick, but Irish in the way that his accent is just perfectly comprehensible enough to make me swoon.  And not bald in the way that he looks old and gross, but bald in the cute adorable I just want to rub his bald head sort of way.  You know how Chris Daughtry (meow!) makes bald look sexy?  Cute barista #2 makes bald look totally hot.  Is it getting warmer in here, or is it just me?

Did I mention that one weekend morning I showed up at 7:45 not knowing that they don’t open until 8 on weekends?  And did I mention that I walked up to the door, realized my error, made a big frowny face, and then almost proceeded to walk away when I saw cute barista #1 inside the window waving at me to stay?  And then did I mention that he made me a coffee and brought it out to the door even though they hadn’t opened yet?  My cold little heart grew three times the size right then and there, just like the Grinch’s heart grew on Christmas.

I keep dreaming of the day when either one of those baristas hands me my latte, smiles so innocently, and shyly asks me if I’d like to cuddle with him… or make out with him… or keep him warm in some other way.  And once in a while I dream of the day when both of those baristas smile so devilishly and bluntly ask me if I’d like go with both of them to…

Oh wait - I’m about to get severely off track with that thought.  I’d better stop.

But, alas, as is always the case, my mountain of cute barista dreams is about to come tumbling down.

This past weekend I learned that cute barista #1 and cute barista #2 are co-owners of this little café.  No big deal.  They’re just friends and happen to be in business together and both totally single and pining for me day in and day out, right?

But then my sleuth of a housemate – Vicky – informed me that they both wear rings.  Matching rings maybe.  I have to investigate next weekend.  Vicky has a little fag hag crush on my baristas and I don’t care if it is platonic - she’d better back off because she’s stepping into my territory.  Hands off my men, Vicky.

Well, Vicky asked her weekday baristas in the CBD about my cute baristas - because apparently all baristas know each other - but they actually do know each other (who knew?) and it appears that indeed cute barista #1 and cute barista #2 are most likely a couple.  There’s only one word in the English language that can describe this turn of events:  TRAGIC.

Eight months of dreams and devotion and love and lust and coffee has now quickly turned into… just coffee.  Tragedy and coffee.

Now that I have my visa, I’m probably going to begin looking for an apartment of my own.  And now that I know the cute baristas are a happy couple with each other and not a future happy couple with me, I no longer need to factor the distance to the café into my apartment search.  Because I was going to factor that into my search.

Is that weird?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Do You Mean Madonna?

Ok, Americans.  Here we go.  Do you know who Diego Maradona is?

No.  You don’t.  Do you know why you don’t?

Because you’re American.

A few months ago, I went to my friend Sanja’s house for a board game night.  We were playing a game where everyone writes down the names of famous people, puts them in a bowl, and then you draw one out and have to describe the person to your teammates, with them trying to guess who it is for a point.  Of course, with several countries represented, we were extra careful to ensure that the names we wrote were famous globally – just to be fair to everyone.  I was stoked, because I usually rock at these games.

Well, it was my turn, and I ran through one or two names, successfully described the individuals on the card, and my teammates quickly sounded out with answers.  Then, I pulled the next name out of the bowl.

What the fuck?  Who the hell is Diego Maradona?  This is supposed to be FAMOUS people only!  Unfair!

Outrage!  I was outraged that they put some no-name dude into the bowl of famous people.  It’s a bowl of famous people, not a bowl of people that I’ve never heard of before.  Rude!  But you know what – everybody knew who he was.  EVERYBODY.  Except for me.

Diego Maradona is probably one of the most famous footballers (soccer players) in history.  The Argentine superstar has scored goals known as “The Hand of God” and “The Goal of the Century” –both in the 1986 World Cup – and was recently the coach of Argentina’s national team.  He’s had scandals over his cocaine use, health problems, rude attitude, anti-American sentiment, and support for Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator.  Oh- and did I mention he has a tattoo of Fidel Castro?  Who the hell has a tattoo of Fidel Castro?  And why???

So, of course, I had to ask around.  Here in Sydney, I have friends from all over the world – every continent, dozens of countries, men and women, straight and gay – so I was bound to not be alone in my lack of knowledge concerning Mr. Maradona.

Well, I was pretty much alone.  Everybody knows who he is.  EVERYBODY.  It doesn’t matter if they are from Brazil, South Africa, Australia, England, Bosnia, or Israel – Diego Maradona is pretty much a household name all over the world.  In the States, I’d say he’s as popular as Michael Jordan combined with Oprah, Barack Obama, and Tom Cruise maybe?  But apparently way more popular.  It’s not just straight men either.  Women know who he is.  Even the gays know who he is.  Now, I couldn’t name more than a handful of (American) football players or basketball players or baseball players in the U.S. – but even the gays here, at the first hearing of the words “Diego Maradona”, can tell you who he is and all about “The Hand of God” - as I experienced last night when I ran my blog idea by my friend Jason and he instantly started telling me all about it.  And we’re not even in Argentina!  WTF?

There is, however, one group of people who know nothing of Diego Maradona.  That group of people:  Americans.  I’m not alone!  We have no idea who he is.  I’ve asked at least a dozen Americans, and everyone is like “Do you mean Madonna?”  No.   I don’t.

Karen didn’t know who he was.  Neither did Kathryn.  Neither did Todd.  Neither did any of the other Americans I know.  We have no idea who he is, and my sampling of travelers and more worldly Americans would probably have a better shot at knowing who he is than the remainder of the Americans still in the States.  We don’t watch soccer and we normally don’t pay attention to things outside our borders unless it involves our military in some war-torn country.  Yes, once in a while we’ll get news stories from Europe, or something about gang wars in Mexico, or maybe how toys manufactured in China are killing babies.  But really, they usually somehow relate back to the USA.  As for South America – I think the Chilean mine rescue was the most coverage on South America that Americans have seen… ever.  And you know that somewhere in one of those red states in the middle, some redneck had the audacity to ask, “Chile? What part of Mexico is that?”

You know it probably was asked… more than once.

So, lesson of the story:  there’s a whole world out there with famous figures and pop culture and stuff that Americans know NOTHING about.  Some starving 6 year old child in some remote village in Burundi (or Rwanda or Uganda or some equally poor, awful place) knows all about Diego Maradona.  But 310 million Americans just look at you funny and say “Huh?”


And you know what’s more ridiculous?  Not a single person at that board game night had any idea who Vanna White was.  Vanna fucking White!  And they looked at me like I was crazy.  WTF?

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a fictional land called “Miami”, there existed a king – a king who loved to cook and had a place where citizens of the land could go and pay very little money for a meal and dine together in luxury as a family.  This king was the Burger King.

The citizens of “Miami” – both the royalty and the townspeople – loved the Burger King so much that soon the citizens of other places were demanding that the Burger King come visit them.  And the Burger King, being an agreeable king, decided to grant all of their wishes.  It wasn’t very long at all before the Burger King traveled across the land, from mythical places like “Pensacola” and “Portland”, to the fabled “Providence” and “Palm Springs”, appeasing and fattening the masses as he went along.

Then one day, the Burger King decided to share his gift of food with a far away kingdom – a kingdom with beautiful beaches and strange animals - where the people had an insatiable appetite for beef and the culture of the Burger King’s native land.  That far away, imaginary kingdom was called “Australia”.  The Burger King first arrived in the majestic and pretend city of “Perth”, but word of this new king traveled fast across the entire kingdom.  Very soon, it came to be known that another Burger King already existed in a make-believe corner of the kingdom – in a place called “Adelaide”.  Now, this other Burger King was very small - cooking only for a few of his townspeople and not even allowing those people to sit down while they enjoyed their feast.  But, though small, he proved to be a very powerful king.  This other king said to the Burger King: “You cannot copy my name for I am the one and only true Burger King of this kingdom!”  And the Burger King, after traveling so far and so long to arrive in the great new kingdom, was just too tired not to oblige the request of the new, strange king.  Indeed, the Burger King was the most agreeable and fattening king there was.

So, the Burger King made a new friend named Jack, and together they were to ponder a new name for the Burger King.  The Burger King summoned members from his Royal Trademark Authority and they bestowed upon him a list of names that the Burger King was already allowed to use in this new kingdom.  One of those - Hungry Jack - was a name that was made by a young man known as the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  Jack liked this name very much since it was very similar to his own name.  The Pillsbury Dough Boy, being a very close relative of the Burger King, gave his permission for the Burger King to use that new name.  So from that day forward, the Burger King was known as Hungry Jack to all of those in the strange, fictitious land of “Australia”.  And everyone in the kingdom lived happily and more plumpily ever after.

The End.