23 July 2010

So there's an Election On in Oz!

For those of you who don't follow Australian politics (so most of you), there's a national election happening down under! Why is this one particularly exciting? Well, there's a woman in the contest and she's actually the current PM as well. That's right, a smart, confident, capable, unmarried, agnostic woman!!! What is this, Iceland? A friend sent the above along, which is a parody of her when she was Deputy PM under a rather unpopular leader. In case you want to know more about this powerful, awesome woman, her name is JULIA GILLARD. Google it. She's kind-of a big deal.


Kyle Taylor

19 July 2010

Home Brands For The Home Bodies

Since I got back to Oz I have not yet been employed. As such, the plan has been TO SPEND AS LITTLE MONEY AS POSSIBLE. No eating out, no cocktails out, and only occasional - as in twice since I returned - activities. One of the most delightful aspects of this new-found minimalist budget has been grocery shopping.

Josh and I tended to do “a shop” at the local supermarket. Well, it’s a city supermarket and Australia has no predatory pricing laws, which means a grocery store in the city can charge more than a grocery story in the suburbs based solely on the fact that they believe people have more money. Now that’s messed up. As such, we’ve been high-tailing it to a much larger still-city-but-not-as-city Woolworth’s to indulge in the glory and wonder that is “Woolworth’s Home Brand.”

Let me start by saying that I have no problem AT ALL buying generic. Often times the contents are even produced in the same factory as the “name” brands and you’re saving upwards of 30% on the shelf. What I do have a problem with is how incredibly unappetizing every product appears when it’s being hawked as the store brand. I mean, my god, can’t we on a budget be enticed by packaging too?

Every single product - whether it’s bread, crackers, milk, or hair gel - is wrapped in plain white plastic. Every. Single. Product. The literal item inside - styling mousse, paper towel, or multigrain sandwich bread - is emblazoned in enormous block letters (usually in Arial font) proclaiming loud and clear what it is you can’t afford in “name brand.” I don’t mean this in a bad way at all. Lots of people buy store brand and it’s great, but when does someone selectively buy EVERY SINGLE ITEM in store brand? Baked beans? Store brand. Lemon cola? Store brand. Tuna? Store brand. Our cart was a sea of white accented by the entire computer font chart from a 1993 PowerMac.

The good news? Why, our bill of course! $100 for 10 days of food. That’s $5 per-person, per-day, in AUSTRALIA where everything is wildly expensive. Needless to say, we’re rather proud of ourselves and I plan to keep it up even when I am employed, should that day ever come...


Kyle Taylor

14 July 2010

Artistically Gorgeous Music Videos

I've been struck in recent months by the wave of music videos that have either returned to the Michael Jackson era of being short movies or the Madonna era of being just totally beautiful to watch. These two really stick out in my mind, and I'm guessing the rest of the music industry will follow close behind because now everything else just looks ordinary and boring.

The New:

Kylie Minogue is at this link.

The Old:

MJ is at this link.

Madonna is here.


Kyle Taylor

12 July 2010

In-Flight Safety Videos

I’ve been flying quite a bit lately, though that generally tends to be the case. In my most recent journey to Melbourne, the serious lack of interest from flight attendants in delivering safety instructions really got me thinking: how ridiculous are these safety videos?

Every single time you get on a plane the flight attendants now beg and plead with you to please please please take off your headphones, deflate your neck pillow, wake up, stop pretending the in-flight magazine is interesting, and WATCH THE VIDEO because “every plane is different and some safety features have changed.” Okay, no they haven’t. Either the seat cushion floats or there is a life vest under it. I have the option of pulling the tabs or blowing into the red tubes. The lights will come on in water. There are lots of exits, and my nearest exit might be behind me. Some blinking lights will lead the way. No heeled shoes on the slide, which becomes a life raft in water (raising questions about why I need a floating seat cushion). Oh, and leave your crap behind.

This is all fine and good if you’re parked on a runway or floating gracefully on a peaceful lake but lets get real. You put an A380 down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it’s going to be chaos. Someone will get the doors open, someone will inflate the slide/raft, and everyone - believe me everyone - will find their nearest exit. Fortunately, with the exception of that US Airways plane in the Hudson, this water landing has never taken place and the chances of a plane going down are still far lower than getting into a car accident, so that’s nice.

What I’d like is for the airlines to spice up the videos a bit. Make them a touch fun and entertaining, like the Star Tours safety video at Disneyland or this Pam Ann farce on the safety video because lets get real - if you can’t clasp the seatbelt, we have a lot bigger problems.


Kyle Taylor

11 July 2010

Hipster Melbourne

There is apparently a massive cross-country rivalry that exists between Sydney and Melbourne. Melbourne says Sydney has no class. Melbourne says Sydney is rubbish at sports. Melbourne says Sydney has bad restaurants. The list goes on. What is Sydney’s reply? WHATEVER. Though that response seems to sum up the laid back beach attitude that is at the heart of Sydney culture. It’s a sort of “we’ve got the Opera House, the harbour, and Bondi. Whatever.”

Indeed, Sydney is San Fran and Melbourne is Brooklyn (with a splash of Manhattan here and there). The first noticeable difference was the lack of an ocean, well-replaced by a charming little river. The first noticeable similarity is the lack of a definitive city center. Yes, there’s the traditional Central Business District (CBD) but there’s also Federation Square and Brunswick Street and Parliament House and another half-a-dozen landmarks that could potentially be classified as the town center.

We spent our days doing what I enjoy best in a city - just wandering around. There was a stop at the main street market and a peek into a few government buildings, but no committed focus on “sites.” The city was our site; every tiny lane, every corner restaurant, and every quirky vintage shop that lined the uber-trendy, uber-park slope Brunswick Street area (complete with its own co-op grocery store!).

We whiled away over coffee and dumplings while reading every single story in the weekend paper. We rode a bumpy replacement bus to a distant beach for panoramic views of the city. We cruised the downtown on Melbourne’s delightfully efficient and wildly eco-friendly trams. Then at night, we sampled the city’s nightlife. It was the perfect leisurely holiday in a wildly livable city. One more thing it shares with Sydney: Top-notch quality of life. No wonder Australians are so darn happy. Now if we had only flown a real airline to get there...


Kyle Taylor

07 July 2010

Getting To Melbourne: Discount Airlines Are Funny

Let me start by saying that it’s probably not the best idea to take a mini-break days after getting off of a 24-hour journey from Western Europe (via Dubai) to Australia. That said, it was certainly easy to wake up at 4am to catch our flight since I was still on London time! Because Josh’s Dad is a world renowned Qantas pilot, we were able to park in the “family and friends section” of the airport, saving us time and money while allowing us to ride to the terminal in the adorable Qantas shuttle.

Now, there’s something phenomenally “unsecure” about Domestic air travel in Australia. You don’t have to show any ID at any point anywhere in the process to board your plane. You can also bring endless amounts of liquid on the plane. Apparently this is what air travel used to be like in the 90’s. After nearly ten years of the global “clampdown,” I had forgotten what that was like.

This being said, they still do random bomb testing with that special bit of fabric that is rubbed inside your bag, outside your bag, on your shoes, and so on. They cannot proceed, however, until you have read a printed out form detailing the procedure and asking for your permission. Isn’t this sort-of a redundant question? I don’t know why they even ask you. I mean, I’ve printed the boarding pass, gotten to the airport at some godawful hour and gone through “security.” Clearly I’m committed to traveling and saying “no” to the bomb swab can’t possibly be a real possibility. I can’t really see it going something like this:

Security Officer: “Sir, you have been randomly selected for bomb swab testing. Do you agree to this?”
Me: “No.”
Security Officer: “Alright then, enjoy your flight.”

I imagine it going something like this:

Security Officer: “Sir, you have been randomly selected for bomb swab testing. Do you agree to this?”
Me: “No.”
Security Officer: Squawking into radio, “We’ve got a live one! Send in back-up!”
(Pan to me in an Australian Outback prison for refusing the “optional” bomb swab)

Needless to say, I complied. We moved on to the bustling food court to partake in the ritualistic tradition of eating before departure. Is it just me, or do you have a sense of necessity when it comes to eating at the airport? I could have just eaten or I could be flying on a real airline where they’re just about to feed me and I still feel like I NEED to eat something. Thankfully, the Burger King woman made Josh’s wrap thing wrong so I got to eat the first one for free. The woman behind the counter was not impressed.

Quick bathroom stop and we’re now “boarding the plane.” By boarding, I mean the flight attendant - wearing a bright orange get-up and looking utterly thrilled to be serving us today - came over the squawk box and in a less-than-enthusiastic monotone voice announced, “Yeah, um, hi. It’s time to board. Back of the plane first.” Naturally, everyone ran for the gate at once, desperate to be the first to sit in their phenomenally uncomfortable bucket-like seat, knees smushed against their chest. Since we were in row four, we dove right in as well. All part of the fun.

Oddly, the “gateway” led to the tarmac, where we wandered around some luggage, alongside a gas trunk, UNDER THE WING, and up a flight of stairs to get on our “metal bird.” That’s right, it wasn’t an airplane. It was a giant metal bird. Everyone in their “seats,” the doors were closed and we were backing up. Fortunately, the level of service remained sky high, as our super chipper gate attendant was replaced by the dynamic duo of Becky and Shauna, who would have rather been fed to a shark than served as flight attendants on our plane. “Please pay attention to the safety demonstration. You do the seat belt like this (snaps buckle while rolling eyes). This is the life vest. Pull these or blow these (pulls and blows while rolling eyes).” The whole thing finished with this delightful tidbit of information: “Also, nothing’s free on this flight. And don’t steal anything. We prosecute.”

With that, they pulled their “privacy curtain” over, meaning they were now only visible through the GIANT HOLE in the participation wall. Good one Becky. Good one Shauna. I inflated my neck pillow, “reclined” my seat, and attempted to drift away into dreamland.

Man, JetStar is AWESOME.


Kyle Taylor

05 July 2010

Soccer & Patriotism

In the good old US of A, football (from here on out referred to as soccer - it's name in the good old US of A) has never found an audience like it has in the rest of the world. We have a slew of our own sports that we play seriously on our own, and we don't want anyone else to join in, so stay away! We call our championships things like "The World Series," despite the fact that the whole world doesn't participate.

The interesting thing about soccer, however, is that it remains the "most played" game in America for children. Why is that? It's cheap! There's no real equipment or uniforms, save for cleats and shin guards. As more and more people found themselves hard up in the late 80's and early 90's, participation skyrocketed. "Come on little Jimmy, I know you want to play baseball but soccer is just as fun [and way cheaper, which means we can also buy that new TV I had my eye on]." Needless to say, my generation - early 80's babies - grew up knowing all the rules and understanding "The World's Game." Now here we are, mid-twenties, and the World Cup is happening! We've probably traveled outside North America, which means we "get" that there are more countries beyond Canada and Mexico, and we LIKE the idea of participating with them. Imagine that! To top it off, Team USA is actually quite good! So we watch, and we watch in HUGE numbers. In fact, more people watched World Cup Soccer than watched the NBA finals!

This seems like a good thing, right? People coming together, supporting their country, rallying behind something, and engaging with the world. This is true, of course, unless you're Fox News. In fact, Fox News - who aired many of the games on cable - used the newfound popularity of Soccer to launch an anti-Democratic tirade about how Soccer is part of a broader Democratic Communist plot to turn America into a "World Country," asking poignant questions like "why do we want to play with the rest of the World anyway?" I know what you're thinking - HUH? But it's true, according to Glen Beck (who has literally millions of viewers every night). Now THAT is spin.

I'm gonna go with no. I'm gonna go with the notion that this is good for America, especially in the current context of unemployment, recession, and general sadness. I don't know why Glen Beck is so hateful and so wildly angry at the notion of Americans being proud and patriotic, but I'd like to see him watch this clip and tell me he doesn't feel just the slightest bit of patriotism, pride, and exhilaration. Well done America. WELL DONE!

04 July 2010


It's the 4th of July, which means it's time to wish my home a very Happy Birthday! USA, it's your special day. For me, I believe the 4th of July can be summed up in these four images below. Am I right? We've got the kitsch, the fireworks, the "only in America," and the food. PARTY ON!

01 July 2010

Back In Oz!

After nearly two months in England dotted by one wild adventure (Dubai to London via Tunisia, Spain, all of France, and a ferry across the Channel), one big Election victory, one sad passing of a relative, one epic birthday party, and one 21-hour flight, I'm now back down under in a slightly more wintry Oz! That is, at least, in the Australian notion of "winter." With highs around 68 degrees, it's not much of a winter and actually quite similar to the "summer" I left in London!

My time in the UK was a non-stop onslaught of hard work, bed-hopping (crashing with different friends all over the city), emotional ups and downs (losing a relative), and a general commitment to seeing as many good friends as humanly (or not so humanly) possible. Oddly enough, I arrived in Sydney to a pending article deadline and a quick four-day hop down to Melbourne (coordinated by my roomie), which meant the marathon pace continued.

Now that we're back from Melbourne, I've turned that physical pace into more of a steadily paced long distance swim. Don't go out too fast and maintain your speed in the middle. I am also armed with an entirely revised and revived approach to the job hunt. Last time I wasn't expecting it and the whole thing took me by surprise. No plans, no checklists, and no agenda. Well this time, things are different! Shower first thing as if I have somewhere to be (as opposed to sometime in mid-afternoon), timeline my day to get in what's essential and stay on task, eat healthy, and rebuild a fitness plan. Still, in the spirit of my paced approach, don't go about all of these at once.

There's more to come on my new search and how I'm working to keep my spirits up, so get excited! There's also more to come on an entirely new adventure - having basically broken the bank on my extended stay in London, I'll be testing the wild world of spending as little money as possible. How far does an Aussie dollar go? We'll find out! Alas, my allotted blogging time is up, so more soon! Gotta keep to my schedule!


Kyle Taylor