The Facebook friend I always wanted (but didn’t realise until last night)

Out of the corner of my eye I clocked her profile picture sitting in my ‘follow’ section; a young, dignified face with a gracious smile pushing out from the edges of her lips.

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Curiously she’d signed up for my public posts rather than having sent me a friend request. I was confused. I don’t know anyone in South Africa. Who was she?  Why would she start following me?  It all seemed so random. My mind momentarily U-turned towards other possibilities; Mistake?  Fake?  Scam?

But her face intrigued me.  The smile almost suggested an in-joke, as if she knew something I didn’t.  It was also her name; Andile.  It seemed to mean something but I had no idea what or why.  So I just sat there silently, my eyes see-sawing between her face and her name, back and forth, back and forth.

And then, somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my brain, a neuron sparked and slowly, very slowly I felt a tsunami of incredulity hurtle my way until it broke over me and I bobbed up, gasping with unadulterated joy in the foamy wake.

It was Andile, the little girl from Zimbabwe who I’d sponsored some 17 years prior through World Vision.  Our ties had been severed out of necessity when the sponsorship ran its course after five years and we’d lost all contact.  I was offered another child to sponsor but politely declined. Call me crazy but it felt as if I was trading Andile in for a new model.

Andile was from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, although I had always assumed her to be living in a small village on its outskirts, judging by the pictures of she and her family posing in their vivid Sunday best, in stark contrast to a landscape leached of its colour and looking thoroughly exhausted.

So why Zimbabwe? I have my ex-husband Roger to thank for that.  I was given an alphabetical list of countries I could choose my sponsorship to reside in and he said ‘Choose Z … most people won’t get that far down the list’.

Understandably the agency had strict rules about gifts. Only small tokens were allowed, so I’d send coloured pencils and stickers along with photos of myself and my own family.  In return Andile would send me back drawings of her family and village, the countryside and wildlife. They, along with the quarterly letters, agency updates and photos, were eagerly anticipated and a joy to receive in the letterbox.

And then one day I was told the sponsorship was fulfilled, and that was that … or so I thought.

There she was last night. Andile smiling back at me on Facebook twelve years later. Perhaps she was too shy to contact me directly with a friend request.  Whatever the case, I messaged her immediately to say how wonderful it was to see her profile. She responded quickly with news that she is now a 28 year old married woman happily living and working in South Africa with a four year old child (she also has 328 friends on Facebook).  She asked me to say hi to Roger and still has all the photos I’d sent her.

Last night I shed a little tear of happiness thanks to my new-found friendship, reminded once again that life can be beautiful.  And, if only for a moment or two, that so can Facebook.

Postscript: Thanks also to my friend Julie B for encouraging me 20 years ago to create a bucket list (long before the term existed) of 100 things I wanted to do in my life. That’s where the sponsorship seed was sown and pivotal to this wonderful experience.

Importantly, this blog also has Andile’s blessing.

Needless to say I encourage you to sponsor a child yourself. I could not have wished for a more fulfilling experience, then or now. Sponsor a child at World Vision’s website

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The Hemp Olympix; where the drug testing’s mandatory

Nimbin, a lush patch of earth 780 kilometres north of Sydney, has long been known as the dope growers’ capital of Australia.

It also plays host to Mardi Grass, where 10,000 hippies converge every year for a two day festival of all things combustible.

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The high point (if you’ll excuse the pun … and brace yourself for more to come) is the Hemp Olympix, the catalyst for which lay in the objections of left wing radicals to the ‘commercialised, corrupt and corporatised circus’ that the Modern Olympic Games had become.

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Grass Artia Gratis

And so the concept of the ‘alternative games’ took root in the town that put itself on the map in 1973 for Australia’s version of Woodstock and has been synonymous with green activism, flea markets and long-bearded alien spotters ever since.

Roll on some 30 years and The Hemp Olympix continues to impress for upending well-worn stereotypes on three counts – the first being the fact that the event even exists, given that pot smokers are hardly renowned for their organisational skills.

Stoners can also be an utterly humourless lot and yet The Hemp Olympix has some playful touches:

  • The Joint Rolling competition (two categories). Speed and my favourite, Artistry for the ‘most original and beautiful with as many papers as you like within ten minutes’.
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1999 Artistry winner

  • The Bong Throwing competition (male/female categories). Interestingly this category has an educational function at its heart as organisers have long been concerned for the health of young bong smokers who use plastic bottles and garden hoses known to release toxic fumes when lit. Incidentally the bong throw must not exceed a run up of ten steps and must conclude with a yell which the rules rather superfluously indicate ‘must contain at least one sound’.
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Be gone evil bong!

  • Irongrower Person Event (male/female categories). This obstacle course mirrors the real life feats of cultivators by demanding that competitors carry a 40kg fertiliser bag (20kgs for women) and water bucket between marked points without spillage. Damage to the lantana tunnel obstacle on the way through results in instant disqualification.

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  • The Furry Freak Brothers lookalike competition. Enough said.

And finally, perhaps the biggest surprise of the lot, police participation. Seriously. The Hemp Olympix includes a Tug-O-War competition between the Police and the Polites (aka hippies) which is all the more remarkable for the fact that as recently as 2006, the New South Wales riot squad, accompanied by sniffer dogs, raided Mardi Grass and arrested scores of festival goers.

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But in what appears to have been a win for the Nimbin community, the police have subsequently given up its attack strategy as the poor sniffer dogs were, quite literally, losing the plot, particularly as villagers had been scattering marijuana leaves all over Nimbin to lead any sniffer dog ambush astray.

Happily these days the police presence is an altogether more supportive one. As local area commander Superintendent Matt Kehoe has said ‘The community supports the festival so our aim is just to ensure a peaceful festival and target anti-social behaviour’.

It’s good to see then that thanks to the cops, the grass is indeed greener at The Hemp Olympix these days.

Needless to say I’m holding my breath for the announcement of The 2014 Hemp Olympix, but evidently they must still be mulling over the programme. I can only hope that they have even grander plans of a joint venture with the Bong Bong Races.

http://www.nimbinmardigrass.com/2013/

http://www.bongbongprc.com.au/

Guru Adrian – The Cult of No Adult

Dear Anthony Robbins.  I admire you. I really do. You make lots of people feel great about themselves

But there is only one life coach for me, and that is Guru Adrian.

And I ‘m not alone.  The Guru’s disciples are scattered around the globe and for each he means something a little different; in France he’s The Guru You Have When You’re Not Having a Guru, in Japan he’s the Guru of No Wave Consciousness and in Australia he is simply known as The God of Fun.

So who is Guru Adrian?

According to legend, Adrian Speshelperson was born in Beecroft in 1664, discovered the Secret of Eternal Youth with a Junior Science Kit at the age of seven and hasn’t aged a day since.

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In the late 1980s, the Guru made regular appearances in Countdown magazine dispensing his sage advice and in the mid 90s was feted by LA studio Hanna-Barbera, hoping to turn Adrian’s transcendental wisdom into an animated series.

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But in 1989 things took a sinister turn in the form of Chairman Kevin, a commercially-driven Adrian rip-off conceived by an evil advertising agency of some note, Lowe Howard-Spink to flog a brand of crisps.  As Adrian’s closest confidante David Art Wales said at the time ‘Guru Adrian stands for truth and fun.  Chairman Kevin seems to stand for cheese and onions.’

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Fortunately the Guru’s revolutionary philosophy, Adrianetics, remains untainted by MSG and continues to help us all master consciousness and avoid becoming Groan Adults.

The principle of Adrianetics is also not discordant with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s much quoted ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’.

In the Guru’s case though, Adrian prefers to articulate it via the Four Big Questions: Who Am I? Why Am I Here? Where Am I Going? Can I Have a Window Seat?

While some may like to trivialise Guru Adrian as Pee Wee Herman crossed with the Dalai Lama, I have lived every day of my life in accordance with the Guru’s manifesto:

  1. Thou shalt make fun of life
  2. Thou shalt be youknighted
  3. Thou shalt not commit adultie
  4. Thou shalt keep an attitude of gratitude
  5. Thou shalt be for giving
  6. Thou shalt ride the porpoise of life
  7. Thou shalt heed not groan adults
  8. Thou shalt offer no whine list
  9. Thou shalt have No Age consciousness
  10. Thou shalt be afraid not

So is Guru Adrian a cult? I certainly hope so.  I for one enjoy drinking his thoroughly refreshing brand of Cool Aide every single day.

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http://guruadrian.com/

Five reasons why the hipster beard has to go!

You’re putting the arse into gravitas

You think your beard makes you a learned yet edgy steam punk renegade? Note to selfie; you appear to have stopped smiling because all that follicular weight is wearing you and the world down, right?

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It’s just an Alpha male love-in

Women have made it quite clear they hate beards. Apart from what amounts to a lip-locking experience that resembles interacting with a sea anemone caught in a brush fence, recent research conducted in both Canada and New Zealand also reveals chicks find beards a complete turn-off because they make you look undesirably aggressive. With that in mind, who exactly are you trying to impress … boys?

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Fuzz begets The Fuzz
Statistics show that sporting teams wearing predominantly black uniforms get penalised by referees more than those wearing white. Similarly, the police frown upon beards more than the clean-shaven. Hirsute pursuits are 17% higher than those otherwise known in the trade as a close shave.

Bubble, bubble, toil and stubble

Truth be known, your beard is a bacterial facehugger. Ever heard of a Petri dish? You’re livin’ the dream! While laughter may be infectious, in your case it’s literal. The only good news is that the trip you lost (as opposed to dropped) at Coachella last year is still residing somewhere in your foliage.

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‘Yes, we are all chindividuals’

You think you’re intriguing and unique? Alas, you’re a conveyer belt of pelt, one of millions now! So if you won’t cave into a shave then please, get creative and go for a beard that can be singularly revered as opposed to collectively jeered.

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Otherwise women across the world will implore you to live and Gilette live.

Patent pretending #1: The Blade Runner Walker

Spellbound as I was by Ridley Scott’s epic, it was the film’s smaller details that enchanted me as much as its expansive dystopian theme.

In particular, the LED illuminated umbrella which featured heavily in the perennially drizzling market underworld. How I yearned for one of those umbrellas for decades.

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Harrison fords every stream

Turns out they’ve been on offer for a while for just $20 at thinkgeek.com.

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Appealing against the light

Which got me thinking, as well as ultimately vacillating.

Once the fanciful figment of Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott’s imaginations became readily accessible, it rather lost its appeal for me.

Worse still, I started to think about its practical application, or rather lack thereof. An illuminated umbrella shaft would be of no use during daylight of course, and in the case of nightfall, in fact a pretty bloody stupid idea.

Because while the LED umbrella might look terrific from the viewer’s perspective, illuminating yourself rather than your surroundings under a canopy in pitch black while it’s pelting with rain has all the hallmarks of an OH&S disaster in the making.

But all is not lost when you transfer the principle with greater pragmatism.

May I introduce then, my personal f/light of fancy, the Blade Walker. Illuminate your gait and never put a foot wrong again with this lamp for the seriously cool limp.

Extra long version also available for the man about town, the Limited Edition Philip K. Swinging Dick Stick.

Either way, you can be your very own Android’s Beam of Electric Chic.

So you tell me … is this a replican’t or a replican do?

Abbott loses to Australia’s Prince Leonard

From Abbott rut to the State of Hutt

5 million+ Australian Labor voters awoke today with a bone-crushingly retrograde hangover thanks to a night drowning in embalming fluid followed by salt rubbed in the wounds and a squirt of lemon in the eye, otherwise known in the bar trade as a Lib Sip Sucks.

Forlorn and disenfranchised, lefties have since been posting and tweeting in droves from their sick beds, simultaneously petitioning against Murdoch and renouncing their citizenship (oh, the delicious irony) while entertaining migration to more progressive co-ordinates such as Middle Earth. And yes, I’ve been one of them.

But really … where to now that we’ve been hoisted by our own retards? How do we exit stage right without abandoning what’s left of a country we still love?

The answer, comrades, is both home AND away.

Australia’s Principality of Hutt River, 517kms north of Perth, was recognised as an independent sovereign state some thirty years ago and has been doing quite nicely ever since.

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The Principality of Hutt River’s coat of arms.

Leonard George Casley, a former mathematician and physicist who worked for NASA in the 1950s and owned a West Australian wheat farm, railed against the draconian production quotas imposed by the government by taking the rather lateral and adventurous step of proclaiming his farm’s secession from WA, anointing himself Prince Leonard and in doing so fairly comprehensively sticking it up the establishment in a multitude of ways.

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HRH Prince Leonard and his faithful consort, the late Princess Shirley.

GrandDuchy.org

As showcased on the GrandDuchy.org website

In an equally impressive case of slackarsedness, the Federal Government failed to submit a formal objection to Casley’s claim in time (two years no less) and so the Principality of Hutt River (PHR) was granted de facto autonomy on 21st April 1972 and recognised as a micro nation internationally from thereon in.

PHR currency, trading at 1:1 with the Australian dollar

PHR currency, trading at 1:1 with the Australian dollar

In the ensuing decades PHR has continued to impress on a number of levels:

  • While only accommodating 23 permanent residents, its principality boasts 14,000 worldwide citizens.
  • Prince Leonard has conferred commissions upon those who have been great supporters; most intriguingly the bestowal of naval commissions, even though the principality is completely landlocked.
  • Registering companies is encouraged; the government-accredited Filipino online university, St Linus, was one of the first.
  • Hong Kong officially recognised PHR in 2012.
  • PHR’s national anthem is the stirring ‘It’s a Hard Land’. Popular Australian band Rose Tattoo is rumoured to be considering recording a version of it.

On a sadder note, Prince Leonard’s long time consort Her Royal Highness Princess Shirley, passed away at the age of 85 earlier this year and accordingly the principality was plunged into a 12 day state of mourning with flags flying at half mast and camping and overnight visits cancelled until further notice.

Prince Leonard working hard for the money at PHR's post office

Prince Leonard working hard for the money at PHR’s post office

While a massive blow to the principality and its monarch, Leonard, like grieving voters, must also look to the future.

So with maximum respect to Princess Shirley’s memory, may I nonetheless suggest that in good time Prince Leonard entertain the idea of starring in a spin-off TV series called ‘The Farmer Crowns a Wife’?

But I digress. This is a rally cry to those who have collapsed under the weight of an election where the best option we could entertain was the least worst and a choice with nothing to rejoice about.

The Principality of Hutt River however provides some much needed light. Dum Spiro Spero may sound like a hapless Greek greengrocer, but PHR’s motto translates as ‘While I breathe there is hope’.

And isn’t hope what we’re all seeking right about now?

After all, the future looks increasingly bright for those seeking an alternative Australia when the authorities are on record as saying ‘The Australian Government tends not to interfere with The Principality of Hutt River.’

So pack your bags and leave the country without having to go anywhere. Prince Leonard and his micro nation await you and your half full glass of reignited optimism.

That’s one nation that gets my enthusiastic vote.

PHR passport

Don’t forget your toothbrush.

Help decide which larf comes next

Thank you for visiting The Meaning of Larf.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to help me decide which of the story themes below should become my next TMOL installment.

ps. Apologies for the legibility of the options across this overcooked design.

For the record:

Wild & Lethal Trash: 80s fashion at the height of its madness.

Con Colleano: The Aborginal tightrope walker who wowed Mussolini.

The Absinthe Salon: Sydney’s answer to the Soup Nazi.

Lord of the (Burger) Rings

I’m calling a moratorium on the latter day breed of steampunk hipster serving me my weekend coffee with the furrowed brow of one preoccupied with his lifehacking pursuits.

If, like me, you’re sick of the type of barista who says ‘Hey, that’s funny!’ while deadpanning you in his leather shoes (no socks), then you’re ripe for the thoroughly authentic weirdness that is the Common Ground Cafe.Image

Tucked away in the Blue Mountains at the arse-end of Katoomba Street, Common Ground Cafe is like stepping onto the set of Lord of the Rings if the Amish were running the catering van.

The cafe is managed by members of the Twelve Tribes which, depending on your point of view are either a Fundamentalist Christian cult of dubious persuasion or, if you’ve had a chronic case of the munchies at any Australian music festival of note, the perpetrators of the most awesome Barramundi Burger in the history of the Universe.

While their fresh and tasty food is to be applauded, the real star of Common Ground Cafe is the decor. Lovingly handcrafted and installed by the brethren, every nook and cranny transports you to Narnia nirvana. That they’ve also bothered to create tables for one with the same level of TLC and whimsy is indeed singular in every sense.

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The cafe is somewhat of a tourist clusterfuck but because the staff display a gentle quietude that suggests they are tilling the field rather than fielding the till, Common Ground still feels like an oasis in a desert of rampant consumerism.

The fact is they’re raking in the dough, but I’m good with that for three reasons; the food is fresh and organic, they keep their religious predilections to themselves and most importantly, they serve up my coffee with authenticity rather than the contrived individualism of a fashion fractal spat out by Wallpaper or Nylon magazine.

Common Ground puts the uncommon into common and that is to be celebrated … and the burgers are better too.

The House of Capes: An extension of life!

Melbourne’s time capsule of sartorial abstruseness, The House of Capes, is a thing of rare beauty and an oasis railing against homogenised and franchised fashion strutting its skanky stuff in shopping malls all over this country.

At its height, the cape was celebrated as a distinguished garment favoured by Roman Catholic clergy, high ranking military and ladies in evening dress.  More recently Sherlock Holmes, Superman, James Brown and pimps have gone ape for the cape.

Nowadays though, the cape is only sighted at cosplay conventions and draped across dowager humps at society balls.

And for those too lazy to take a cape out for a twirl, there is now the abomination that is The Snuggie, or as I like to refer to it, the cape under house arrest.

Listen up, dear readers. The House of Capes website speaks the truth … ‘Capes are an extension of life itself!’ (exclamation mark mandatory)

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Look closely.  Capes are more versatile than you could ever have imagined.  Opera and Theatre nudge shoulders with the Homeless and Night Clubbing is right at home with Special Needs. Not content with life writ large by virtue of the House of Cape’s diagrammatic wisdom?

Feast your eyes on the fashion shots peppering houseofcapes.com.au.  So good they haven’t been updated for twenty years, but then why would they need to be?  The cape NEVER goes out of fashion.

capes galore

Classic cape

 

Clearly the world agrees.  As Kitty van Wees-Miller, The House of Capes’  high priestess muses, Bill Clinton wore a cape to his inauguration in 1993 and capes are now ‘happy serving wearers in Paris, Moscow, Jerusalem, Tokyo and even some of the Findhorn community in Scotland’.

And if that weren’t enough, the House of Capes is taking it to the world at various ‘Rainbow Festivals’ and my personal favourite, the ‘Weekly Times Sheep-vention’ in Melbourne.

Unleash your inner superhero at The House of Capes.  As Kitty says, the shop has a magical aura about it.  It must be all those negative ions being generated by their customers’ giddy twirling.

Houseofcapes.com.au

Spin city

Twirl till you hurl in these dance hi-tops. With a buffered plastic pivot point on the sole you’ll be spinning more than a bucket bong on an empty stomach. Blochs, the ballerina’s first choice in pointes, have obviously decided that brand stretch is good. Come in spinner! $99 in a range of technicolor yawns.

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