Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Seven Nation Army Couldn't Hold Me Back

Right now it's a Thursday night and I'm watching the Ashes live on TV.  Cricket, people.  Let me paint this picture for you.  Britain vs. Australia.  This is the second of five days of the first test.  There are five tests in England throughout July and August.  Tests can last eight hours a day.  Last night, I watched a couple of hours and then headed to bed.  When I went to sleep Australia was doing pretty well. When I woke up I found that things had turned badly.

It's kind of like if you could watch paint dry. You'd be watching for a long time and very little happens and then boom, it's dry!  Wow, what a turn of events.  But seriously, I am fascinated by it.  Of course, I can watch baseball and golf on TV as well so I don't think I'm the average sports viewer here.  They literally zoom in on the pitch to show the cracks in the field.  They use incredible technology to show where the batter is hitting or the spin of the ball or an infrared heat cam to show if it hit the bat or their legs.

Australia is crazy about sports.  We are talking about a country that just went over 23 million people in population.  They rank 53rd in the world and make up about .33% of total population.  I say this because they also rank 14th overall in total Olympic medals awarded.  There's not a lot of snow here so let's just say that they finally won their first winter Olympic medal in 1994 and have nine total. They are basically 14th overall based on the summer Olympics only.  They are so disappointed in their swimming performance in the London Olympics there are articles almost weekly about what went wrong and how they are fixing it.  I wondered at the time, "Why is Emily Seebohm crying? She just won the silver medal?"  Yeah, I get it now. For those of you that don't remember, Emily was beaten by the American phenom Missy Franklin.  While we were all cheering Missy in America this was happening in Australia.  Like I said, they take their sports seriously.

Just another article about how mad they are about swimming. No pressure or anything.

The Ashes come immediately after the Australia Wallabies just lost to the British and Irish Lions in rugby.  The Australians are huge underdogs here even though they have dominated the last couple of decades in cricket.  Despite being few in number they expect to win everything.  The Ashes started in 1882.  It's called the Ashes because after England lost the first test an English newspaper printed the obituary of the British Cricket team and said that "the ashes" would be sent back to Australia with the victors.

When England came to Australia to play again a group of Aussie women presented their captain with a tiny urn filled with ashes and that became the trophy that is awarded to this day.  It's said that the ashes are from a burnt cricket bail, which is the top piece of small wood that is put on top of the stumps that make up the wicket.  Easy, right?

British captain Alastair Cook and Aussie captain Michael Clarke hold the coolest trophy in sports
Courtesy of
The Aussies wear the Baggy Greens, the same style of hat they've been wearing since the beginning. There is no greater honor for an Aussie cricketer than to be awarded a baggy green.

One of the young stars of the British team is Joe Root.  Australians find this particularly awesome because in Australia, "root" is slang for the "f" word.  This is why when Americans say they are rooting for a team you will see an Aussie smirk and chuckle.  Every time.  They can't help but laugh when they hear Root's name.  It's really funny how people become twelve-year-old boys when they hear "Joe Root" is bowling.

They are really good at the sport of drinking too.  This is an Aussie Fanatic beer snake made from their plastic cups yesterday.
Courtesy of 

Well, things aren't going well but the rookie Ashton Agar is putting on a masterful debut so far.  Britain got 215/all out yesterday but it's now Australia batting for 192-9.  I still can't believe I understand what I just wrote.  I used to read Agatha Christie novels and would glaze over the cricket references.  Here I am watching cricket and drinking tea.  My grandfather's family would be proud except that I'm rooting for, nope, cheering for the Aussies.   I can't go to bed until Ashton finishes batting.  Paint drying has never been so interesting.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Abra-Abra Cadabra, I want to reach out and grab ya

I can usually tell another American from a mile away.  A couple things give us away.  First of all, you can tell a lot about a person from the shoes they wear.  I am usually in flip flops, tennis shoes, or Tom's.  If I get the choice, this is my choice of footwear.  I think this is a good representation of myself: laid back, comfortable, with a small hope of changing the world for the better.  I have never been one of those girls that gets excited about shoes.  For whatever reason, that gene was shifted towards jackets.  I love jackets and sweaters.  But I am still fascinated by shoes.  Just because I don't necessarily want to wear them doesn't mean that I'm not secretly in love with them.

So, on most days when I find myself enjoying my coffee, watching the crowds of people wander by, I am looking at people's feet, trying to ascertain where they are originally from.  It's a little game I like to play.  Americans are easy.  We all wear name brands, usually tennis shoes and usually comfortable.  This is probably because most Americans are tourists so they have packed ready for adventure.  The only reason I say this is because if you want to look at how much we have compared to the rest of the world you simply have to look no further than a person's foot.

Most people don't wear elaborate shoes and the rest of us make up for it by wearing incredibly intricate masterpieces.  What a weird world.

I had another didjeridu class last night and once again it did not disappoint.  I'm getting better at producing an adequate drone sound but still working on the rhythm breathing aspect.  It takes a lot of air and pressure in your diaphragm.  Quick lungs and a strong diaphragm is what you need to be a good didj player otherwise you end up making yourself hyperventilate.

The class is really fun because only about half of it actually involves the didj.  The rest is Charlie telling stories or answering questions.  He says we can only get better with practice so then he just has us drone away.  He told us a story of him coming across a tribe that consisted of nine people that were all one family.  When he reached them (because of water boring) that was the first contact they had from the outside world.  The father had been into the nearest community just to keep up with what's going on occasionally but the rest of them had no contact with the modern world.  This was in 1984.

It's easier to understand their mythology and stories from dreamtime when you imagine them all sitting around a fire telling them for entertainment.  They don't have phones, TV, even radio but they have their stories. It kinda reminded me of hearing older ladies talking about watching their "stories" which ended up being a soap opera.  "Gotta see what's going on in my story."  I wonder if the younger generation ever even realizes that everything comes from an idea which is put into written word and then made for TV.  I guess that's a foreign concept now.  I fear we are becoming a generation of consumers and not creators.  But that's a different blog now, isn't it?

The most amazing thing to me about the Aboriginal culture is the emphasis put on the power of music. Charlie said our word "music" isn't powerful enough.  To them music is magic.  A lot of them are very superstitious.  Being overly spiritual can come with a price if you let the spirits control your actions.  Aboriginal justice means that if you do something really bad like kill someone, the elders can "point the bone" or "sing you".  If you have been "sung" it means that you will soon die. You have been cursed.  It's black magic that they conjure up through song to tell the spirits to take you away.  According to one of Charlie's stories, the belief can be so powerful that one man who had been "sung" ended up in the hospital in Alice Springs.  A few of the tribal men felt bad because they did not think he had killed his wife (she had actually died of breast cancer) so they went to the hospital to "unsing" him.  Sure enough, he immediately recovered, checked out of the hospital and went back to the village.   The mind is so impressive.

According to the Aborigines, music should never be played without purpose.  It is too powerful.  Charlie laughed and said that one tribes words for "rock and roll" literally means to play with wire for no reason. Yep, that's pretty much it.  But to quote the Rolling Stones, "I know it's only rock and roll, but I like it."

So, when creating our own rhythms for the didj, Charlie encouraged us to give them all names that reflect what we are hearing.  He has rhythms named Stone Road, Scrambled and Butterfly that adequately describe what they sound like.  That way it gives them purpose and character and you will remember them and they can grow.  And here I thought I was just learning to play another instrument.  Not so my friends.  I am creating magic.