Monday, October 27, 2008

Week Nine

Why don't Australians love Mexican food? I do. I would eat every meal at Pedro's taco stand or cantina or taqueria, if Pedro had one here in Melbourne. Instead, because Australians don't love Mexican food, Pedro was forced to get a pizzeria, one of 1,883 pizza places in Melbourne. Silly Pedro, tu es loco. Why didn't you start a taco stand, cantina or taqueria? I would have dined at your establishment todos los dias. It makes me very frustrated and very hungry. I cannot find good Mexican food within a 12,767 kilometer radius, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!!! It's nine weeks and counting since I've eaten a good taco. :(

Well, this weekend Don actually did some traveling and sightseeing. Saturday and Sunday my flatmate and I visited the Great Otway National Park, Lorne, Torquay, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell and the 12 Apostles. It's a 4.5 hour drive down the Great Ocean Road from St Kilda to the 12 Apostles, and is as scenic as and similar to the drive down the 101 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Hundreds of kilometers of driving along the ocean, thirty to sixty kilometers between each cute little fishing or beach town, each with its own charismatic charm. While many manage to make the trek to and from the 12 Apostles in one day, it is much nicer and more relaxing to cruise along the Great Ocean Road, looking at the sites and searching for wild koalas or kangaroos.

I still have yet to see a wild koala or kangaroo.

Today is October 27th and indeed it is a special day. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the greatest college football play of all time: The Mississippi Miracle, which not only won numerous awards but propelled the Trinity University football team (who would beat the 2008 Syracuse football team 77-2) into the Division 3 playoffs. The Mississippi Miracle is the third greatest thing I have ever seen, right behind 1) the 12 Apostles and 2) Eurotrip, the greatest movie in the history of film and/or cinema.

Both Trinity (ranked #14 in the nation) and Millsaps (ranked #5 in the nation) are undefeated this year and will play against each other again on Saturday. The game will likely have the same stakes - the winner makes the playoffs and the losers go back to class.

So my ninth week is almost complete and like every American, I am absolutely psyched about next Tuesday. In Melbourne, it is a holiday, Melbourne Cup Day, meaning I can watch various coverage of Election Day online from my house or from a pub. It was a nice little week filled with many billable hours and way too many Jason Mraz hours. While the 12 Apostles was unforgettable, the real highlight of the week was that I was finally on a trivia team that didn't finish in last place, ending the streak at 3. Constantly finishing in last place can sometimes hurt the ego. Nine weeks down, 43 to go.

Week Nine Summary:
Weather: I never knew so many of my body parts could produce sweat.
New observation: Australian flies are God's worst creation.
New activity(ies): 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road
New food: Vegemite on bread, $11 cup of olives
New word(s): SpagBol, Vegemite for brekkie
New people: Ben Kimstra. Happy?
What I miss: mai tais, beautiful cool and sunny California afternoons, my clothes, my amazing leather anti-gravity recliner massage chair

Monday, October 20, 2008

Week Eight

Caulfield Cup Day may have cost me $120 for platinum-level entry, $245 for food, drinks, bets and transportation, $315 for a new suit and $79 for a new shirt, but 41-1 odds later and I still made a profit. Twenty dollars on lucky number eight and I finally won something greater than $5, dinner, or pride. Yes, the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, a 50-day-long festival of fashion and horse races in the Melbourne area, kicked off on October 1st. The first big day, however, was Caulfield Cup, where approximately 51,000 fashionable Victorians weathered 32 degree heat in suits and dresses for one fantastic day-long party. It was fantastic.

But Caulfield Cup wasn't the only posh event here in Australia over the weekend. Gabriella Cilmi, the just-turned 17-year-old from Melbourne, was the big winner at yesterday's 2008 ARIA Music Awards, Australia's version of the MTV Awards or Grammy's. For the 99.92% of the world's population unfamiliar with Cilmi, there is no need to toggle over to iTunes or Google to find out who she is or how important she is. She isn't. To many Australians, particularly the large population of Italian-Australians, she is a bonafide superstar, which illustrates Australia's lack of musical talent as effectively as a season of Australian Idol. When the biggest names at the country's biggest music awards are Sam Sparro, The Veronicas and The Living End, you realize why every other song on the radio is America's B-Artists Miley Cyrus or Jordin Sparks.

In fact Orange County, one of the smallest counties in California with a population 27% smaller than the population of the city of Melbourne, likely has more musical talent and a richer music history than the entire continent of Australia. Orange County can claim some of the most influential musicians of our time, including No Doubt, the Offspring, Rage Against the Machine, Sublime, The Mars Volta, Stone Temple Pilots, the Vandals, Jeff Buckley, Reel Big Fish, Sugar Ray and Matt Costa. Australia can claim Men At Work and this guy.

Now I admit, I've definitely done my fair bit of Australia-bashing and America-praising over the past few weeks, and to the two Australians that actually read my blog, I apologize. As the election nears two weeks from today, many Americans, including I, have a renewed sense of nationalism. As I've said many times, one of the best reasons to live abroad and immerse yourself in a new culture is to learn more about yourself and who you will be years down the road. It provides context and gives you perspective.

I am an American and I realize that I'm actually proud to be an American. Canadians and Mexicans may be close geographically but that is all. They may have great food and significant landmarks and beautiful trees and people and birds and sports but they don't have our taxes. They don't have our police. They don't have our government or our diversity or our educational systems or our media.
Having said that, I admit our country has suffered for the last eight years. I absolutely want us to regain our swagger, and that will only come from a better economy. As New York Times columnist/Pulitzer Prize winner/The World is Flat author Thomas Friedman said in a recent Australian interview, the world should stop worrying about the U.S. having too much power and start worrying about the U.S. not having enough power. The world is watching our election because it affects us all. And to Paul Kelly at The Australian, the Australian model is not superior to the American model - it is dependent upon and formulated from the American model.

I do love Australian carnivals, pubs and chips though.

Well, the Official Greg Robinson Should Be Fired Stance is on week number six following another blowout loss. The Ducks are one of the worst teams in the NHL and the Dodgers and Angels are watching the World Series from their couches. It's all ok though when you win $820 and look good in a new suit. Happy Birthday Megs!! Eight weeks down, 44 to go.

Week Eight Summary:
Weather: sunny and hot and cloudy and cold and sunny and hot...
New observation: Australian fashion is actually quite nice.
New activity(ies): Caulfield Cup, The Saint
New food: Australian tacos
New word(s): We get along like a house on fire.
New people: 51,000 beautiful people at Caulfield Cup!
What I miss: The Cellar, hockey games, spicy food, gay people, Cholula, talking smack to Red Sox/Patriots fans

Monday, October 13, 2008

Week Seven

Everyone knows I love a good politically-incorrect race joke, provided it's in semi-good taste. After listening to the Monday podcast of Kevin & Bean, however, I realized that American race-based humor is so much more sophisticated, and funny, compared to anywhere else in the world. Especially Australia, whose humor lies in sex-, politics- and self-depricating jokes. I imagine that's because Americans have dealt with race for so long, are generally open-minded in the present and interact with diverse people every day, that a majority can laugh about it now. Not so in Australia, which begs the question: Why do Australians hate diversity?

Nearly 90% of Australians are of European descent, with the second highest population being Asians, mostly Chinese and Vietnamese. Melbourne is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with nearly a quarter of the population having been born overseas, but is that really encouraging diversity or prompting segregation? When the people here don't know how to accept a growing immigrant population, it promotes segregation. The people I've chatted with believe Australia is still learning how to accept diversity and embrace multiculturalism, which sounds consistent with Australia's recent historical attempts at minimizing the racial damage.

Australia's Racial Hatred Act was established all the way back in 1995, which is later than Microsoft, Beverly Hills 90210 and the Colorado Avalanche were all established. Even the country's equal opportunity act was established in 1985, two years after Michael Jackson became the first Black artist to appear on the MTV with "Billie Jean". But of course, this is a country that only now is playing WALL-E, "Tattoo" and the Season 4 Premier of "Prison Break", weeks and months after their debuts in the States. Which only proves last week's hypothesis that Australians really want to be like Americans, and are always one or several steps behind in copying us.

Unfortunately for them, they can't afford to be Americans.

Not long after the financial crisis hit Australia came proof that a dollar really does make a difference. Within the last two weeks, the Australian dollar has sunk to its lowest level since 2003, having been hit hard by fears of a global recession, the mass exodus of risky assets and explicit cries to cut interest rates. Within the last two weeks, the American dollar has gone from equaling $1.19AUS to $1.53AUS, a ridiculous 29% increase. That means every book, shirt, soda, plane ticket or beer is 29% off, and a suit that two weeks ago would have cost me $315US now costs me $224US. Therefore, now is a great time to buy a nice suit...which is very good timing indeed.

Next weekend is Caulfield Cup, Victoria's version of the Kentucky Derby, where good 'ol fashioned fashionable rich people dress in nice suits, colorful dresses and hideous vomit-inducing hats. Apparently this is the place to see and be seen, meaning a fancy person such as myself absolutely has to attend. Unfortunately, I didn't bring any cool suits (fabric-wise, as it's supposed to eclipse 30 degrees Celsius on Saturday...and style-wise, as I have no style). Luckily now is a great time to buy a nice suit.

So Don's Official Greg Robinson Should Be Fired Stance is entering its fifth week. Syracuse lost again and is halfway to a 1-11 regular season. The Angels are out of the playoffs, the Dodgers are about to join them and the Ducks are 0-2. On the plus side, Obama is now up by 10 points over McCain and our markets were up 11% today. But does anyone else think it's a little eery when we constantly compare things with The Great Depression? Thank you my friends. Seven weeks down, 45 to go.

Week Seven Summary:
Weather: it's getting way too hot...
New observation: Australians don't like hip hop music in nightclubs.
New activity(ies): Australian reggae
New food: Aussie steak. Yum!
New word(s): Porky pies.
New people: A really really really gay sales guy at a menswear store told me I have no style.
What I miss: my television, cold weather, beef brisket, New York, Autumn, guacamole

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week Six

12,767 kilometers away and even Australians think Sarah Palin is an idiot. Now nobody thinks she's a George W. Bush kind of idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. Who knew words such as "idiocy" and "inanity" could translate across borders? The fact Australian teenagers are emailing their Australian friends SNL YouTube clips, however, points to a much larger problem: Aussies are infatuated with media-generated images, videos, articles and graphs devoted to making fun of Americans, our politics and our culture. What that really means, I think, is that Australians want to be Americans.

In fact, one of the most surprising revelations about living in a foreign country is the amount of front-page news devoted to the United States and our news. Obviously a lot has been happening in the forms of deadly hurricanes, stock market crashes and elections, but even O.J. Simpson is cover story-material from Sydney to Brisbane to Perth. So not only am I answering questions on my neighbor Mischa Barton, but I am also asked for my opinions on O.J. Simpson and Beverly Hills 90210, meaning this is apparently 1994 again. Luckily, neither of them made it.

Now I can't blame Australians for constantly keeping tabs on the U.S. We're pretty cool people. America is so trendy that even Australia's markets are trying to copy ours. The shopping centers here are filled with Quiksilver, Ralph Lauren and MLB baseball caps, and 98.4% of all cars, lobbies, foyers, bars, pubs and department stores play "See You Again". Even Australia's people are trying to morph into Americans, becoming the fattest people in the entire world.

How flattering!

Well, week six is almost in the books and other than watching overly-creative commercials and weight loss investigations, I did venture out and go to my first Australian shopping center. I decided to replace my jeans that were stolen with a brand new pair, the most expensive jeans I have ever purchased (and will ever purchase) at roughly $83US. No, I don't understand why anyone would pay more than that for a pair of jeans. The shopping centers here are the same as the ones in the States, with food courts, douche bags and trophy wives, except they won't call them "shopping malls" or "malls" or even "centers" here - just "shopping centers".

So congratulations to SNL for making debates and interviews interesting again and congratulations to Sarah Palin for making SNL fun to watch again. Syracuse had a bye week so the Official Greg Robinson Should be Fired stance is temporarily on hiatus. The Angels won tonight but are a long way away from facing the Dodgers, so please keep God's Angels in your prayers. And did anyone win their Palin Bingo game? Six weeks down, 46 to go.

Week Six Summary
Weather: unpredictable
New observation: Daylight Savings Time kind of blows when you're springing forward.
New activity(ies): Shopping centers
New food: Bratwurst filled with food-poisoning. Geschmackvoll!!!
New word(s): Full as a goog!
New people: I finally met some Americans who helped me mock Australians! Snap.
What I miss: Stephen Colbert, Fiery Habanero Doritos, Yank Sing, Pac Heights, loud girls from New Jersey , Matisyahu, my stereo, Angels games.