Queen Victoria Building

I work right near the Queen Victoria Building, and the other day I was walking to work quite early in the morning and glanced up and saw just how beautiful it was. That's when I took this photo.
Years ago Thang and I lived in a rather awful little flat just across the road from the QVB. This was in the days before CCTV, Security Guards and general paranoia, and one evening we went with a friend to explore the QVB. We walked up and up, opening little doors fearlessly and scaling ever smaller steps. Nobody attempted to stop us (oh, the innocence of those days!) and eventually we pulled open a door only to discover that we were on the roof of the building. It was early evening, and being up there among the cupolas and statues was quite surreal - one of those magical events which would be impossible to ever re-create.
Years later I worked for a while in a ditzy little gift shop on the top floor of the QVB (I was helping out a friend who owned the store). It was situated right next to that ghastly novelty clock, and day after day, hour after hour I was subjected to the tinny music and melancholy whirring of that clock and its frightening little dances and dioramas.

Aura Soma

Now, I'm a dreadful cynic. I can be scathing about all kinds of things that aren't scientifically proven. And yet, when it comes to alternative therapies, I feel duty-bound to honour things that actually work. I have had amazing experiences, for example, with Bach Flower Remedies and Cranio-Sacral Therapy. Alternatively, I find that most homeopathics and all forms of herbalism (eastern and western) to be a complete waste of time and money. And I did used to visit the most wonderful naturopath, but I quickly realised that any benefit from my time spent with her was purely psychological - she was extraordinarily gifted at listening and empathising, and she would stroke my arm if I cried and agree with me that I'd been treated horribly.
But I LOVE Aura Soma! This was a therapy made for me. I am incredibly reactive to colours and smells (I know, a cliche), and to have the two combined is guaranteed to send me into seventh heaven. I was first introduced to them by my dear friend and teacher, Maggie Hamilton. Maggie has the wonderful habit of dabbing a little Aura Soma on everyone's wrist before she begins a talk or workshop, and it really does create the most wonderful atmosphere.
So, I have my deep blue bottle of Aura Soma next to my bed, and Thang and I are addicted to the Pink Pomander, which is meant to energise and spiritualise one's day.
I also know the most incredible Aura Soma reader called Pearl Cavender-Cole. This is one remarkable lady - equal parts Earth Mother, Angel and Bodhisattva, just being in her presence is enough to make you feel good.
Do give Aura Soma a whizz. The bottles are a little expensive, but they last for ages, and are so damned pretty to have around!


Thanks to my mother's interest in yoga, from a very young age I have been familiar with the practice of Neti and its advantages.
What is Neti? I hear you ask. Well, it is an ancient Indian cleansing practice beloved of yogis in which warm, salty water is poured down one nostril and expelled from the other. Why would someone want to torture themselves in such a way? Well, it is said that Neti prevents hayfever and other respiratory problems, and is good for headache (from which I suffer). Neti is said to clear the passages so that the breath can flow freely and evenly, thereby guaranteeing the body is performing optimally. It's also a great party trick.
There are some rather more severe forms of Neti, using rubber hose or a long piece of cotton gauze, but I don't think my gag reflex could handle that level of cleansing!
Related to Neti are some other, more harrowing yogic cleansing practices of which I am fond - primarily kunjal and laghu. These involve swallowing quantities of salt water and then vomiting them up. An excellent way to spend one's weekend.

Toto - Africa

Nothing to say really. What a fabulous song!

The Four-Headed Buddha

One of the things that intrigued me on my recent trip was the presence of shrines to Phra Phrom throughout Hong Kong and Macau. Visitors to Thailand would be familiar with this deity, a Thai representation of Brahma, the creator god of Hinduism. His presence in Thailand is everywhere (most notably at the Erawan Shrine, one of my favourite places in Bangkok), and understandably given Thailand's Hindu past and the continued presence of Hindu spirituality there. But why are these shrines popping up in Hong Kong and Macau? Is there some historical presence of this Hindu deity in popular Chinese religion that I have been unaware of? Have the shrines been constructed by expatriate Thai working in the enormous service sectors of those countries? Surely they don't have the political pull or social organisation to manage such a large-scale project? They are all too busy working. Have they been erected by wealthy Thai-Chinese with business or family interests in Hong Kong?
I'd really love to know - it's a fascinating phenomenon. However they got there, the shrines seem to be well patronised by average Chinese people, though the lay-out is of a conventionally Thai fashion.
Here is a pic of one of these shrines outside Che Kung Temple in Hong Kong.

Marcia Hines

Long before Australian Idol, the gorgeous Marcia Hines was an Australian disco mega-star, and people probably forget just how influential she was. Marcia single-handedly introduced 70s disco-glamour to Australia, and was surely this country's first African-American pop star? Marcia was ubiquitous, and churned out a string of dance hits that still sound brilliant. She even had her own TV show for a while. IN the 80s her star sank somewhat, and Marcia became something of a fixture on the Sydney Gay scene. When I was a young and beautiful party-boy in the early 90s I could be almost guaranteed of catching sight of Marcia early in the morning at some big Gay dance party or trendy night spot. She was much plumper by then, but still possessed of the exquisite skin and ethereal beauty that makes her look decades younger. She really is a breathtakingly beautiful woman in the flesh.
The Gay community never really forgot Marcia, and over the years she has given so much back to the community with charity work and vocal support for equal rights. Now that she is once again an A List celebrity she has grown more sedate in her ways, marrying a wealthy doctor and moving to Newcastle. She's not quite the party girl she used to be, but neither am I.
I still love her - I know people lampoon her, but I love her energy and kindness on Idol - she is a shining example to all the young people watching that show. And I just adore her recent CDs - 2006's Discotheque and last years amazing Life, an album she described as a work of self-help.
We love you Marcia - keep up the good work!

Hong Kong

I never imagined I'd like Hong Kong. I had always had a kind of snobbish view of it and its people, encouraged by my years of studying Mandarin, and so having only friends from Taiwan and the Mainland, and they always take a contemptuous view of Hong Kong. This North/South divide is as old as Chinese culture, and can be witnessed in the biography of the Sixth Patriarch of the Zen school, a Southerner who had to flee for his life once elevated above his Northern co-religionists. But over the years I've developed a taste for Hong Kong cinema, and when I finally visited Hong Kong last year I absolutely fell in love with it. The insane business of Mongkok, its perfectly operating public transport system, its crowded temples full of bewildered urbanites and its sheer kookiness - Hong Kong is full of surprising little subcultures, and really must be one of the most livable cities on earth. It has energy, charm and great food. And Honkies (i.e. people from Hong Kong) are downright beautiful - stylish and shy and inclined to offer up a helpless smile when things go wrong. And I even found myself falling in love with Cantonese, that abrupt, loud and really quite difficult language that so many sneer at. On the lips of the right people it is enchanting.
So today I am at home sick, coping with a fever I doubtlessly picked up on the streets of Hong Kong. And I am missing Kowloon and its teeming streets.
Here is a photo taken from our hotel room - we were staying at the Langham Place in Mongkok, and it really must rate as one of the most beautiful hotels in the world.

Dongmen Shopping Street

Sorry to have been so neglectful - I know I promised to keep you updated on my travels, but it would seem that the internet cafe is a creature of the past. I shall just have to bite the bullet in future and pack a laptop to take advantage of the WiFi that is on offer everywhere. Anyway, it was kinda nice spending two weeks away from the computer and actually living life for a change.
Here is a pic of me lost in Dongmen. Dongmen Pedestrian Street is an insane shopping precinct in Shenzhen, and it was so much fun that we went back there again and again. Filled with markets and department stores and tattoo parlours and desperate provincials trying to sell really bizarre crap on the streetside before a security guard or policeman catches them. It has the kind of energy I love. We ate impossibly hot sichuan noodles, and I spent the best part of an afternoon following the fortunes of a sunburnt Northern peasant trying to sell a puppy illegally outside a posh department store. He'd leave it on the sidewalk, apparently abandoned, and when a crowd gathered around it and some teenage girl was foolish enough to pick it up he'd storm into the crowd demanding payment. It wasn't a particularly successful sales ploy, and even he started to lose heart as the day wore on. The last time I saw him the little white puppy was tucked under his jacket while he squatted on his haunches outside a Haagen Dazs outlet, smoking a cigarette and attempting to feed his little charge a boiled cabbage leaf...
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