Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Attention all cyber sociolinguists

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

This is amazing!

Well, sort of.

A bit, I mean.

You know...

I have never, ever been to the United States.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Australia's next Prime Minister
A senator and potential leader

A follower

Senator Barack Obama, you had better watch out. Prime Minister John Howard does not like you. Not one little bit. Australian politic's great follower, as opposed to leader, has just criticised your plan to remove US troops from Iraq by March 2008. Little Johnny really got very upset. Like a loyal school prefect, he was of course defending and supporting the policies of an emasculated leader, President George Bush. I guess you are already quaking in your boots, Barack. Little Johnny has spoken, and you know, of course, the weight his words have as they are carried all the way across the Pacific Ocean from Australia (and Little Johnny speaks such good English, too. No German interpreter necessary. Or was it French they speak there?) to the United States. And everyone in Washington D.C. sat up and listened to this missive from AUSTRALIA!

This is election year in Australia and the newly installed leader of the Opposition Labor Party is doing exceedingly well in the polls. The election will not be held until later in the year, and as a week is a long time in politics, the election is an eternity away. Rudd or Howard for Prime Minister? A leader or a follower? Rudd is a fluent Mandarin speaker and he points out that this will be an asset in the future in dealing with China on a range of issues, considering the growing stature of China.

Interestingly, with regard to Asian languages, I have it on good authority that years ago, John and Janette Howard were enrolling their son at a private school on Sydney's lower North Shore. Pull out your UBD, Sydways or Gregory's and work out which one it could have been. When it came to subject selection for their son, the Howards were asked "How about an Asian language?" to which Janette Howard replied "My son will not be learning an Asian language."

I kid you not.

Again, the choice for Australia, a leader with vision and important language skills or a follower happy to close doors on intellectual opportunity and broadening of horizons?

Giving an honest answer to a question that was not asked

Last August, we received a phone call from our realtor. We were told that the owner of the apartment we are renting wished to sell. From sometime in September, for every Saturday for about three months on Saturday mornings from 12:00 till 1:00, our apartment was open for inspection. The owner was asking A$439,000. Way too much in our opinion. We live close to a major station on a rail line in Sydney's north, also close to a fairly large shopping area as well. The apartment is on an elevated first floor with a balcony, facing north. The owner did not advertise in the Sydney Morning Herald, and we did not have a sign stuck outside the apartment building either. I guess we averaged about 15 parties of prospective buyers the first couple of Saturdays the apartment was open. The numbers gradually dropped off, the price he was asking dropped to 419K, and although there were a few bites, nothing was forthcoming. We accepted that the owner wanted to sell, but we most definitely wanted an investor to buy the property, and to keep us as tenants. If anyone had any sense, they would not buy the apartment to live in. Too much work to do. The living-dining area has a wooden floating floor which I believe was shoddily done, as the fittings are loose around the skirting boards. The electrical fittings and phone fittings are rather poorly done as well. Initially there were several cracks in the walls - because of the drought, apparently. After the first couple of showings, the realtor had a paint crew to come in and put spac-filla in the cracks and paint over them - "as good as new".

From about late November or early December, we went from weekly inspections to "By appointment only", so it was very, very quiet. We figured the owner would give up. But on the last day of our holiday in Tasmania, my mobile phone went - the realtor asking for a showing the next day. And so the whole drama started again, a phone call a day or so before a showing and so on. Last Thursday was a return visit of a party of three - I had believed them to be investors, but one when one asked if it was possible to get Chinese cable TV, I realised that they were interested in buying it for their elderly mother. They had asked me about water leaks etc. and I thought I would tell them that we had a break in several years ago. I did, and described how the thieves had broken in. I felt I was doing these people a favour. Otherwise, well, caveat emptor - buyer beware.

The realtor who was there as well quickly stepped in and started 'damage control', pointing out the pin-lock in the windows, no break-in since etc. He was back again that afternoon with a different party. I asked him if the people who came that morning were interested - the answer was "No - the security issue put them off. They were all ready to sign that morning." He told me not to mention anything negative, just the positives. On Friday, one fellow came through, and commented on the amount of light in the living area. It faces a balcony which is almost surrounded by trees. We love it, but accept that due to its proximity to the parking area one floor below and a fence, it makes for easy access from the outside.

So on Saturday, when Thursday afternoon's party came back for a second look, with a third person in their party, I deliberately kept the lights off. T and I were happy to sit on the balcony and wait for them to leave.

So, I have sabotaged a potential sale which would have seen T and I looking for rental property in an extremely tight market. Self preservation.

Will I go to hell for giving unasked for but honest information?

Should I keep the lights on?

Readers of this blog might have been in a similar situation. What did you do? Some readers might be in the real estate industry. Do our realtors seem kosher? Some of you might be landlords or potential investors. Just how much transparency do you feel comfortable with or desire when inspecting properties?

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I was reading an article in The Age (a Melbourne paper) today, about spookiness. It was a column in the A2 section. Fate and circumstance and spooky connections. I was reminded of my own experiences.

Some years ago now, when I was still 30, I went to Paris for a holiday. I had been back a week and the Sunday after I had returned, was at home doing some preparation for work. I was living in my parent's house at the time. They had gone to lunch with some old friends of theirs. Somewhere between mid and late afternoon, I got a phone call from J, the person whose house my parents were visiting. About four years previously, my father had suffered a stroke. J phoned to tell me that my mother was going up to the nearby hospital with my father in an ambulance, as they thought my father had had another stroke. The hospital was some distance away from where we lived and, as it was a Sunday and I did not drive (I still do not drive), I organised a taxi. While I was waiting for the taxi to arrive, the phone rings again. It was my brother, D. He lived on the other side of Sydney. I had not seen him for several weeks and he was ringing out of the blue to see how my trip to paris was. It was strange, as at the time, we could phone D countless times, leave a messgae, and wait a while before he would get back to you. Cutting the call short, I told all I knew about our father's condition, and suggested to him that he get himself to the hospital as soon as he could. We rang off, and not long afterwards my taxi arrived. The ride seemed to go on and on although there really was not terribly much traffic on the road, I guess. I got to the hospital, to Casualty, and gave my particulars. I was told to take the first door on the right. It had a sign with something like "Interview Room" or "Counselling Room", which I took to be a mistake - "Where was the entrance to Casualty so I could see my father?" I was thinking. The nurse, who had spoken to me at the Casualty window, had confirmed my name when I got there, and as she was expecting me to walk though the door she had directed me to, popped her head out of the door I had initially walked past. I came in to see that I had got to the hospital too late - my father had died. Ever since, I have always wondered why my brother chose to phone me at the time that he did. Even my brother thinks it strange that he himself chose to phone me when he did.

The first Christmas without Dad was only two months afterwards. We decided to break with tradition and rent a serviced apartment for Christmas Eve. We had a grteat Japanese meal on Christmas Eve, a great lunch the next day, lobster, champagne...the bottle of champagne being one that my father had always wanted Mum to have. Cleaning up that afternoon before returning home, I looked at the bottle of champagne. On the inside rim of the bottom of the bottle was a small piece of paper. I will never forget what was written on it:

"Widows Delight".

Last year, T was in Tokyo for the second prolonged visit while his father was dying of cancer. In May, T told me that they believed his father was very, very close to dying, a matter of days. A day or so later T had phoned my mum was due to come around to our flat for lunch. A day or so before my mum was to come, I just had this vision that the phone would ring in the middle of the day while mum was with me, I would say, "That'd be T" and I would hear his sad news. Which is exactly what happened. Mum had come round on the day she said, the phone rang in the early afternoon, - T from Tokyo with his sad news. Apart from telemarketers in Bangalore, I rarely get phone calls in the middle of the day.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I think Man 2 is a top.

The following appeared in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald, minus the accompanying photo. For those not familiar with Sydney, it is significant that this conversation was between two men in Darlinghurst, not another part of the city. At least Julian and Man 1 can appreciate biblical references in jokes. Perhaps this bon mot will put paid to Sydney being billed a vacuous city...then again...

Radar:Crossed Lines: "Strange and obscure conversations continue across the city...

Man 1: I went and saw my proctologist yesterday.
Man 2: That’s Dr Gabriel, right?
Man 1: Yeah. He’s good. They call him the arse-angel Gabriel.
Man 2: I don’t get it.
Overheard in a cafe in Darlinghurst, January 31(from Julian)"

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Nail In Gus

Friday, February 02, 2007

Footloose and Fancyfree

Blinded by the Light

On becoming uncles

Found out last night that T's sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy last night. That makes T an uncle in the str8 sense. In the gay sense, it makes both of us uncles. So officially, T is now an ojisan (叔父さん, the character used if the brother of the husband or wife is younger, 伯父さん if the brother of the husband or wife is older.), and so am I, by gay extension. Being gay, it is quite a big thing to have a nephew or a niece. More importantly, we are elated for T's sister and husband. It will be interesting to see how I get to be explained in the scheme of things, in years to come. While T is not 'out' to his family, on a visit to Tokyo that T made last year, she said that T should come and visit her and her husband in Nagoya (where they live) next time T is in Japan, adding that Hyakunincho should come too, with her husband nodding. It was one of the nicest things I had heard in a long time. It seemed like an achievement of sorts to have this kind of recognition in a society which does not go out of its way to celebrate and embrace diversity with open arms.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bronski and Bernstein : Tell me why, Leonard!

One of German Television's best programmes about two of Hamburg's finest. Bronski and Bernstein.

I have written previously on this blog about the campy storylines, the almost overt, if not explicit gay subplot. It should have dawned on me before, but I started to think more deeply about the name of the series.

Firstly, Bronski. For many people, it is synonymous with the wonderful band from the '80s fronted by Jimmy Somerville, Bronski Beat. Singing songs such as Tell me Why and Small Town Boy. Lyrics laden with the angst of growing up gay. OK. That one was easy.

Bernstein? Well, Leonard Bernstein. As a Christmas Tree. A Row of Tents. It all fits. The writers were having an in-joke with the title, the theme of which also found its way into the sub plot of the series. All under the guise of innocent family names that could have cropped up all over Hamburg.

Go ahead and argue against this!

Going to work one morning

One morning last December as I caught the bus to work, I noticed a young guy seated diagonally across from me at the front of the bus gaze up from his book at a guy standing near him. The guy who was standing was in black jeans and had a pink Ipod in his pocket. I guess he was ruggedly good looking, but certainly not my type.

But it was the young guy, seated, who was more interesting. He was initially hunched over, reading some thick paperback, but he then noticed the guy with black jeans and a pink Ipod. The young guys gaze went up and down several times over the black jeanned guy. Straight people would not necessarily figure the young guy was gay by the way he was checking out the guy with black jeans, but it was certainly a gay moment for me. And the young guy, reading the book? Short dark hair, closely cropped, but still a bit curly. Twinkling eyes. Oh, defintely a look of interest on his face.

But his jeans! I guessed he was a painter, off to an early morning job or something with an older colleague. There was a rip in each of the shins of his jeans. Quite an extensive rip. Quite careless for a painter, if he was a painter. It was quite easy to see a fair proportion of both the end of his thighs and where the thighs joined the knee, and the top part of his knees as well. If he was wearing shorts, it would have been quite unremarkable, but ripped jeans totally changed the equation. He looked more...erotic, if you will, in ripped jeans than he would in shorts, which would reveal more.

And the book he was reading? A thick paperback that had seen better days. Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire. A book on every straight boy's reading list, to be sure.