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Archive for the ‘Life opinions’ Category

(For one of the multitude of restaurant reviewing sites out there. E.G. Restaurantica, Eatability Food and Drink Guide, or Restaurant Rants)

Some would say the USA doesn’t have any good healthy food. I’m not going to argue that point. I’m sure there is some out there, but in the meantime here in Melbourne, Australia, I was interested in finding some ‘greasy spoon’ fare (as we like to call it back in Atlanta, Georgia, USA where my biological father still lives.)  After visiting several establishments around town, where either the burgers were too small or too expensive, I found and enjoyed the Soda Rock.

greasy spoon

A typical 'Greasy Spoon' diner in the good ol' USA.

(Thanks to Omar Omar’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

Now let it be known this reviewer has been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, and the fact I lived my first ten tender years in the States may have something to do with it. However, on occasion I get a hankering for some junk food, and on this particular day my desires were happily satiated.

The Soda Rock is a typical American style diner, complete with plastic-covered booths and mini-jukeboxes at each table. It costs a dollar for two songs and the music is all 1950’s pop, soul, rock and country. A life-sized Elvis Presley stands watching over you as you attempt to digest chilli dogs, Sloppy Joe’s, onion rings, BLTs and chilli fries. Don’t try and dance right after eating this kind of food! Speaking of dancing, every once in a while a specified song will get played from a jukebox resulting in the entire kitchen crew taking to the floor to trounce about singing well known lyrics like Aretha Franklin’s, ‘R, E, S, P, E, C, T, Respect yourself!’

I ordered a Hubcap Burger combo with a side of French fries and Dr. Pepper drink. The burger tasted like a burger should, unlike most hamburgers served around Australia, or the rest of the world for that matter. I’m not saying I haven’t had awesome burgers elsewhere. In fact, the best burgers I’ve ever eaten were in Japan and Bali! But this kind of burger has a certain greasy taste melded with a squishy bun and American mustard, raw onions and ketchup, which is just plain unique.

Burger

This is a BURGER, a real hamburger, American style.

(Thanks to the Pointnshoot’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

The fries were good too, so I decided to order a chilli dog. Most Aussies won’t know what American chilli is, and if it’s made well, it’s a delicious treat. I can’t tell you how great this one was, because I was already too stuffed and should have stopped eating earlier. This is the curse of ‘greasy spoon’ cooking. You often can’t stop eating until you’re full. After a big night of drinking and liver destruction, this type of food binds all the crud in your guts so you can live another day. Hopefully, it’s more than just one day.

You can eat a Big Bopper, a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, American pancakes, cheese fries, tater tots, a chocolate malted, a blue heaven cookie shake, a raspberry float, a banana split or a rocky road sundae. If you don’t know what any of these things are, go check it out, but beware, there’s a reason Americans are the most obese people in the world!

obese

If I ate a Hubcap burger everyday...

(Thanks to Tobyotter’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

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(For one of the multitude of restaurant reviewing sites out there. E.G. Restaurantica, Eatability Food and Drink Guide, or Restaurant Rants)

I’m the kind of creature of habit who often goes to the same place for food or drink if I’ve found something good there. I’m always willing to try something new, but if all else fails I know there are certain places on the Melbourne map where signature dishes or drinks will be ready for degustation.

I am a chai fiend, a connoisseur, and a maniac for the Indian spiced tea with honey and soy milk; sorry, but I can’t drink the traditional milk because of my lactose intolerance. I began drinking chai on a daily basis long before it became popular in cafes and coffee shops. The first time I ever tasted it was at the Nimbin Mardi Grass festival where I was visiting to experience strange herbs, not spices. One morning at daybreak a monkish Hari Krishna-looking man came round to my tent calling out the fateful words, ‘Chai, chai tea, chai tea, great way to start the day!’

chai

The makings of a great chai.

Bleary-eyed for more reasons than simple lack of sleep, I paid the two dollars and tasted the cup of spicy soy milkiness. Needless to say I’ve never turned back to my old habits of Earl Grey or English Breakfast. I’ve now sampled chai all over the globe, and had an extensive range of experiences ranging from the nearly instant vomit variety to the ecstatic epiphany type.

After spending a fair amount of time sampling chais around various areas of Melbourne, I happened upon the Degraves Espresso Bar in the tiny alley called Degraves Street near Flinders Street train station. This area has a plethora of cafes, restaurants and eateries, all constructed in a European style with tables outside so people can have a chat whilst watching the many different kinds of human walk by.

I ordered a soy chai for two with honey (I wasn’t alone) and was presented with a massive teapot full of frothy goodness. It seems to be an unwritten rule amongst Degraves Espresso workers that skin must be inked if you are to work there; maybe it’s a subtle form of anti-discrimination. ‘Sorry you don’t have any tats, we don’t trust your kind here.’ My heavily tattooed waitress told me they made their own chai from scratch, a rare commodity in a city strewn with powdered chai, weak tea bags and pre-packaged mixes.

tattoo woman

Don't be surprised if your waitress at Degraves is this colourful.

(Thanks to the Alaskan Dude’s Photostream for use of this image via Creative Commons.)

The teapot, which cost $6.20, provided around eight full cups of tea, but it wasn’t the cumulative caffeine affect that made an impression on me; it was the chai. I’ve probably been back there three hundred times, and I can honestly report that the quality of the tea, in terms of flavour, texture and temperature, rarely wavers from the high water mark set on that first auspicious day.

Using a traditional honey dipper (you know, the ridged wooden ball on a stick) I drop spoonfuls of amber glory into the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and touch of aniseed black tea soymilk mixture. Having made its indelible mark on my soul, I know if fate is compassionate I will be sitting at one of these vintage, cramped hotchpotch art deco tables with blaring pop, rock, jazz or hip-hop tunes filling my ears again soon. The food’s pretty good too…

teacup

It's funny how far one can go for a cup of tea.

(Thanks to David Light Orchard’s Photostream for the use of this image via Creative Commons.)

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I went and saw the new French movie Seraphine last night about a genius artist who ends up in an insane asylum. It got me thinking; there have been so many stories of people with mental imbalances, disorders or signs of ‘craziness’ who have proved to be the most successful in their prospective fields of effort and enquiry.

The other day my partner and I were listening to some music by the late African American singer and piano player Nina Simone. We were marvelling at her musical creations, so I went to Wikipedia to find out more about her (as one does in this day and age). Nina Simone suffered bi-polar disorder.

A while back I went to see the pianist David Helfgott perform live here in Melbourne; he’s the guy the movie Shine was written about. Again we have an arguable genius matched by an acute anxiety neurosis. We have so many names for these illnesses and afflictions: Schizophrenia, Manic-Depression, Autism, Clinical Depression, Obsessive-compulsive and the list goes on reportedly ad infinitum.

Check out this PDF file that lists ‘Famous people with mental illnesses’

Here’s also a massive list of renowned people who have or did have bi-polar disorder and one for famous people with depression.

For society in general, if someone mentions they have been diagnosed with a mental issue, automatically others often make judgments and can stigmatise the individual, even if it’s in a very unconscious or subtle way. What a paradox! In one instance we laud the accomplishments of these souls who have created works of genius, yet in another light, we feel uncomfortable around them with their peculiarities and unpredictable actions.

The funny thing is, maybe we’re all a little imbalanced at times, and it is this that evokes so much fear in ourselves when we witness someone acting ‘abnormally’ or in a  ‘socially unacceptable’ manner.

Ernest Hemingway killed himself because of depression. Ludwig van Beethoven was bi-polar and self-medicated himself until he died of liver failure. Winston Churchill suffered the ‘black dog’ of depression and only survived by drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

If some of the people who’ve made the greatest impacts upon human society suffered from these painful disorders, it makes you wonder how you should judge the next person you see acting strangely, looking melancholy or anxious in the street.

Abe

'Honest Abe' Abraham Lincoln freed the African slaves in the US, but he was enslaved by great bouts of depression.

(Creative Commons image taken from scriptingnews’ photostream.)

Lennon

John Lennon taught us how to 'Give Peace a Chance; he had a rough time keeping his own mind at ease.

(Creative Commons image taken from C J Sorg’s photostream.)

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I think this is the last Facebook analysis I’m going to do for a while; five posts on one subject can make one feel as though they’ve left the real world and entered a world of ‘faces’. Facebook has had a huge impact on much of modern society in the Western world and there has been no shortage of News in relation to strange happenings within its ‘pages’.

For example, there was the Auschwitz Facebook site, which has subsequently closed down (just like the original ghetto – I can say this; I’m Jewish). There was the criminal who got busted after making the wrong friend request. Did you hear about the incident where car crash details including the name of a female teenager were posted on Facebook before her parents had been notified by authorities? The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, was forced to delete his Facebook account after being constantly asked to befriend people. I guess being that rich has its drawbacks…Taiwanese civil servants were told to cut down Facebook use, and it has been banned altogether at various times in China. These are but a fraction of the Facebook stories floating around the ‘Facialsphere’. Some of my Facebook opinions:

–       Some people want as many friends at they can get, but never communicate to them. I’ve seen people with hundreds, and famous people have thousands of ‘friends’.

–       Whenever someone you are connected with says anything about their lives, everyone they know has the option to add a comment or simply tick the box that says, ‘I like this.’ Everyone comments on one another’s lives without actually interacting personally.

–       There’s an online chat aspect to Facebook; here you can have short instant messenger conversations with people you haven’t seen in years. Ask them for their phone number and see what they do…

–       You can give virtual gifts to people; this takes hardly any effort at all, and usually feels like a waste of time. However, there was an instance where a friend’s husband passed away overseas and I sent her a ‘hug’ with a teddy bear praying for her. This actually did feel good, but it was much more real when I called her on the phone.

–       Some people seem to ‘talk’ to everyone they’ve ever met, worked with, or gone to school with. If someone they’ve known comments on the News wall, they’ve always got something to say about it…Are they lonely, or sociopaths?

–       There’s a multitude of whacky applications and groups to ‘join’. I have an acquaintance that is a ‘fan’ of Vicks Vapour Rub. Why does he think this is worth expressing? Is it comedy?

–       I played the Facebook application called Texas Hold em’ Poker for a while. I made it from $1,000 up to $2.6 million, and then lost it all. Some people have billions of these virtual dollars and are so proud of their achievement, although it has no intrinsic value whatsoever. Still, it did feel sad to lose all that ‘money’. It sure is weird to see ‘poor’ folks asking the ‘rich’ people for spare chips.

–       As I’m a travel bug, there’s one add-on application I like called, ‘Cities I’ve visited’ created by Trip Advisor. You get a map on your Facebook page, which shows everyone where you’ve been (including yourself!), though admittedly it can come across as being a little egotistical and ostentatious…

–       I have the Top Friends application where I’ve put my closest family members; you can ‘send drinks’ to them virtually. I don’t drink. It’s weird how society automatically thinks we want to drink alcohol with those we feel close with.

–       Did you know if you close your account on Facebook the website holds the right to keep your information even after you’re gone?

–       One friend of mine says it’s all too commercial now; another says every real-life conversation he has, Facebook comes up, and he’s sick of it.

–       My girlfriend says she doesn’t like the feeling of having to check her homepage regularly to find out when friends’ events are on. Why don’t people just call if they want her to come?

–       Now there’s Facebook for Mobile. I fear if people get too into this they will no longer focus on the world around them; I like paying attention to people and the changing landscape on my daily train rides. Staring into your phone for the entire journey is questionably equal to disassociating one’s self from the present moment surrounding you in the space-time continuum of life.

–       Now that I’ve deleted some people from my Friend’s List, my brother says he’s heard people can be deeply wounded and offended by this act. Really? I’ll just tell them I’m not into Facebook, except for keeping in touch with very close friends. If they don’t understand or no longer want to know me, I can presume it was a good decision anyway.

–       Check out these articles relating to Facebook: ‘Death of a Gatekeeper’, ‘Why you Should be Aware of Facebook‘, ‘Is it a Day to be Happy: Check the Index‘ and ‘Beware: Happiness is Contagious‘.

mask

Why have a Facebook if all faces are only masks to what truly lies behind?



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I’m not obsessed with Facebook, but I figure if I’m going to judge something negatively I should look into the matter as deeply as possible. I think Facebook is a very impersonal way to communicate, and I’m not the only one. This whole communication via short text messages as opposed to telephone conversations or face-to-face interaction is very easy and non-committal; it also feels very shallow.

Recently my brother mentioned to me a few people he knows are shocked and feel invaded by having to answer a spontaneous voice phone call when they are not prepared for the interaction. All these SMS’s, emails, status updates, Twitters and instant messengers…could they actually be taking away from true and deep human relationships?

I was sitting in a tutorial for my Writing and Editing for Digital Media class at the University of Melbourne the other day. This is a postgraduate unit discussing blog writing, Internet journalism, as well as other social networking concepts. I looked over at a couple of my fellow students and saw they weren’t paying any attention to the lecture of which the teacher was putting a lot of effort into. What were these students focussed on? I’ll tell you; they were on their Facebook accounts. ‘Face Crack’ is addictive. Why?

There are three of ‘me’ on Facebook: Jesse Somer, Jesse Somer and Jesse Somer. Who is the real one? Can you tell which one I am? Let me give you a hint; I’m not the Asian guy in sunglasses with his shirt off and a six-pack stomach looking like a male stripper. This guy is giving ‘Jesse Somer’ a bad name.

Facebook can be useful. Whilst volunteering at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival the organisation set up a MWF Facebook page to inform everyone what was going on. Unfortunately, I obtained all the important information directly to my email, so it proved unnecessary.

However, generally I get this weird notion I’m unintentionally peeking into other people’s lives, getting a view into areas I truly have no desire to see. For instance, there’s the ‘Wall’. Each person has a ‘public’ wall where they show all their communications to all of their ‘friends’. You also have the option to send private messages, but a lot of the time people don’t bother. The result is seeing what other people are saying to one another. In the old days your Mum would box you on the ears if she found you eavesdropping; on Facebook you are forced to.

I was happier when I was the only Jesse Somer.

Jesse Somer
Is this the real Jesse Somer?
(Photo taken from Facebook public page; all rights reserved to Facebook and Jesse Somer)

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The title of this post is a direct follow-up to the previous one, ‘Facebook: Why I feel the need to delete half of my so-called friends’, and the third piece in a series of five short articles questioning the pros and cons of the Facebook social networking site. Many people would like me to believe quitting Facebook or deleting my friends is a disastrous decision inevitably leading me to a life of a hermit/isolation.

Facebook is dominating recent News (in the areas of technology and human interaction) and recently I read some people believe if you don’t join Facebook when your friends ask you to, you are then classified as ’needy’ by those within their Facebook clique. By not joining you are deemed as being a person who desires more interaction than normal people these days should require. You are in essence inferring your need to be the centre of attention. I don’t believe it; this has always been the mentality of the sheep-like people who chastise the one who is different (the ‘black sheep’), or who fear the wolf, the one who could eat them.

I’ve also read a psychologist’s theory that says every new friend you get on Facebook the more happy you’ll be, because you feel more connected to society and the community. Another article entitled, ‘Friends with benefits: Do Facebook friends provide the same support as those in real life?‘ also questions this idea. I’ve read from a ‘business expert’ in an era of networking one should never delete contacts from their Facebook, mobile phone or email. The result will be lost opportunities. I’m sorry, but I’m doing it anyway.

As inferred in my previous post, I’ve now stopped being friends with those people on Facebook who I don’t really like, who never speak to me, who I’ve tried to talk to, but who ignored me, who I don’t actually know well, or who are from a past I desire to leave in the past. Note: I will also delete more of my current ‘friends’ when in future they are no longer in my immediate vicinity or everyday interactions. I’ve now dropped from eighty down to around forty friends. Admittedly some friends are still only there because they are associated with someone I know; I’m being polite, they are nice, but I’ll probably rarely communicate with them. They too might completely disappear from my list one day, and then again, maybe I’ll drop the whole Facebook idea altogether.

Rocky

I know there's a lot of good in Facebook; so why do I want to dump it at the bottom of a river?

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Continuing on from my previous post entitled, ‘The Book of Faces (Facebook): Some debate whether it’s worth it.’ I am going to further explore why many people (including myself) have adverse feelings about the giant social networking website that is Facebook.

Facebook is supposed to be about connecting with your friends. The idea is to get in touch with all of the important people in your life. This can include your family, friends and people you hope to network with for business purposes. In many instances I found this to be helpful at first, but then the type of communication between these different kinds of relations and their ways of ‘speaking’ caused many questionable lines to be drawn and then crossed. In the end, confusion and disenchantment reigned supreme.

For example, there’s the inane chatter of the ‘News feed’. Status updates from people you don’t know well, or who never shut up, or whom you don’t really relate to, can get quite infuriating. It’s called a ‘News feed’, but when you write in it you are asked, ‘What’s on your mind?’, and then you fill out the update. What’s on your mind, or on my mind for that matter, is not News!

I’ll give you a few examples. There’s the close teenage relative who you ‘Facebook befriended’ because you are family, and for a family to function well we all need to communicate. However, this teenager writes every single thing that happens in her day. In reality, she’s actually communicating to a very few close teenage friends, but because she’s on my ‘Friends List’, I get every word she says on my News feed. I love her, but I don’t want to hear about how much she loves her friend that day, and how they should ‘text meee!’ If a business colleague were to have a look at my Facebook home page, they’d see a whole bunch of crap about how cool the new Twilight vampire film is going to be, even though I didn’t write about it, or even comment on the topic.

Then there’s the self-obsessed partner of an old friend. I’ve known the old friend for over two decades, but his wife was added because we now ‘know’ one another. The thing is, I don’t believe we actually like each other at all. It’s about being polite, and so I accepted her ‘friend request’. Funny thing is, she’s never said a word to me on Facebook, and every time she does a status update, it’s an internal monologue spoken out loud to the world. I’m just not interested in hearing weekly updates about her pregnancy and how happy she is about it.

Last but not least, I’ll discuss the ‘friends’ who aren’t actually friends at all. These are people who befriend you via the ‘Suggestions’ link, or just because they see you on one of their friends’ ‘Friend’s Lists’. The Suggested friends link is a Facebook algorithm designed to regularly and automatically ask you if you’d like to add a person to your Friend List simply because they know someone you know. I can imagine this being handy on occasion when an old friend is discovered after aeons of separation, but generally speaking it puts you in touch with people you knew long ago through school or old jobs.

There’s a reason we leave these people behind and move forward in our lives. After you ‘become friends’ with these old acquaintances you find that’s it. There’s nothing else to the interaction; no one ever actually communicates! It’s almost as if they’re saying, ‘you’re on my list, if I ever need to talk with you I will, but I don’t need to right now.’ If you’re not going to say hello, why get connected? I’ve bothered trying to write letters (I am a fan of the traditional letter in the post) to a few of these old friends, and all I got in return was a one-sentence reply.

letter

Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather receive an impassioned heart-felt letter covered in red ink, than a short impersonal text message on Facebook.

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