Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick (McCain) or Treat (Obama?)

Happy Halloween! One of my favorite holidays for sure. In its modern form, it’s cultural catharsis, acknowledgement of death and fears, easement of taboos, performative identities, candy, titillation, it’s got it all. And Halloween’s traditionally about paying heed to the day on which the lingering remnants of the departed are most powerful as the barrier and balance between two worlds, one of death and one of life, is at its most precarious.

Sounds like the elections to me.

While goulies and ghosties may give a start, what scares me most are things in reality: state-sanctioned torture, corruption, willful toxic pollution, greed, war, climate change, and neglect are more horrifying than any fancy. So on this day when we play with our fears, let’s acknowledge the real terrors that would await us in the next four years if John McCain is elected President. The choice is up to you: more tricks, or the treat of a competent leader bringing positive change.

There’s only four days left ‘til the election. Vote for Barack Obama on Nov. 4th, and help others to do the same. (We voted last week!) To find your polling place and to learn more about Obama, see the “seriously for Obama” links on the right.

In the meantime, enjoy the cute song and the special Halloween Obama links below!

Halloween and Silliness for Obama
Pumpkins for Obama
Robots Attack!
Monster McCain
Hockey Mom and Moose sing about Palin
Frankenstein for President
Scary Palin in the Oval Office
Barack and Babies
I got a crush on Obama

Seriously for Obama
where to vote
election projections
if the World could vote
Obama inspires black community
song: Yes We Can
speech: "Yes We Can" in NH
speech: in the Virginia rain
to Sarah Palin from Young Women
song: We Are The Ones
Melbourne Uni Students for Obama

matt in ballarat

A few weeks ago, we took the train out to visit my cousin Matt in his adopted home, Ballarat, for the weekend. The train ride itself was delightful, about 1.5 hours of fields and more fields, culminating in a semi-urban town a bit bigger than Northampton in the middle of it all.

Ballarat sprang up during the Australian gold rush, and its former glory is evident in the Victorian architecture everywhere, and the tourist industry (which we mostly ignored) makes sure you don’t forget it. While the residential sections of the town are ridiculously British with their brick walls and little front gardens, the flora and landscape situate it squarely in the southern hemisphere.

But we weren’t there to see the town: we were there to see Matt. Matt is wonderful, and a wonderful host, feeding us well and making us feel right at home. We walked around, ate, played with his housemate’s dogs, and visited his office. Matt’s a lawyer/barrister, and here in Australia that means he has to wear a silly wig sometimes in court. He was patient enough to show me his wig and put it on, but not quite enough to let me take his picture thusly adorned.

My favorite part of the weekend was driving out to a nearby town to meet his boss, a great guy named Jeremy and relax on his patio in the sun, and then taking a walk up a nearby hill. The ridge provided a great view of the area, including fluorescent canola fields and gum trees galore. And sheep industriously breaking out of their paddocks. And the wattle is in full bloom. Yellows and ashy greens all around. The area outside of Ballarat reminded me a lot of home: a very Australian version of home, an impression amplified by the company of two of my favorite people in the world. I hope to get to spend a lot more time in Ballarat.


About a month ago Erika and I took ourselves to CERES, the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies. It was a gorgeous sunny spring day absolutely perfect for biking, and we wanted to go where there were plants. Luckily, I knew just the place.

CERES has expanded significantly since I first visited years ago with my uncle. Built atop a reclaimed landfill about two miles from downtown Melbourne, CERES is an inspiring sustainable model farm/garden store/café. Chickens run amok amidst pockets of gardens, random buildings, and windy dirt paths, all along the banks of the Yarra.

Hand-painted educational signs dot the view around every turn – if you have a question about what you are seeing, the information is right there before you! You have only to look! Kind of like Google but painted imperfectly in eco-friendly pigments on recycled ply-board. What these signs describe are the many examples of innovative sustainable, low-impact technologies that CERES promote: recycled wastewater ponds, solar panel installations, native plants, bike repair workshop of awesome, creatively reused everything. I particularly like their emphasis on technologies and practices appropriate for an Australian environment.

Not quite everything is appropriate, though. There is a hokey vaguely-appropriative feeling to some of the content, a syle reminiscent of North American eco-pagan-hippies (as much as I love you). In the multi-faith adobe-walled chapel Krishna and the Buddha hold court over a Christian-style altar adorned indiscriminately with a potpourri of religious symbols. The “African Teaching Village” that I remember from my last visit has only recently and imperfectly been rechristened “the “multicultural education centre,” with the painfully cartoonish “African” architecture and some of the signs yet to be improved. Their intentions are wonderful, but it’s another reminder of how culturally naive Australia has been until very recently (and in many ways still is). If I wanted to pursue further multicultural consulting here, I would have my work cut out for me.

We rounded out the lovely afternoon with a delicious snack of muffins and tea at their café. My tea featured such ingredients as local lemon myrtle, eucalypus, and powdered heaven, which the waitress patiently poured over ice especially for me. I love fresh food, and I love people working creatively to save the environment.