Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rated X! Australians boys gone wild online!

Now I've officially heard everything.

After a year and a half away from the online hook-up scene, I decided to check out the action on Manhunt Australia about a week after my arrival in Melbourne and created a profile with six photos that revealed nothing below the waist. Among the things I learned during the first 24 hours -- an acquaintance I made in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago is now studying in Melbourne, and gay guys in Australia, apparently, are even more comfortable with online nudity than the ones in Argentina -- I discovered that the art of the perfect come-on isn't lost only on Argentines.

Oh, and that a dog in heat will say just about anything! I've got enough material to fill up weeks worth of blog posts, but after a while, all the dirty stuff starts to blend into one giant bag of trash. So I'm sharing the best stuff -- my 10 funniest Melbourne Manhunt messages. Of course, it's not all lust and lewdness around there -- some of the messages are polite and actually kind of sweet. But the more colorful ones make me wonder how many seemingly perfect gentlemen whom we meet through normal offline channels are privately talking trash online, sort of like Belle/Hannah's seemingly straight-and-narrow book editor on Secret Diary of a Call Girl who had a fondness for hookers off the clock. It's something to think about the next time a guy on the corner wearing an expensive designer suit catches your eye.

Warning! These are not for the prudish or the homophobic. Some of it gets kind of graphic. Nausea might ensue, then laughter.

1) "ever free wed nights or thursday mornings?"
Thursday mornings? I was tempted to respond just to find out what -- or whom -- has got him so tied up the rest of the week.

2) "Fuck me"
Short, not so sweet and straight to the point. Sometimes, though, less is just less.

3) "how big is that cock of yours?"
Ah, penis size -- a recurring theme down under. I guess it's not just an Argentine obsession! Perhaps I was under that impression because I'd never done the online thing until I moved there.

4) "yum u should charge to let ppl blow u ;)"
Something to consider if the job search doesn't work out?

5) "Hey dude how's it going. You look really hot ;-) I'm coming to Melb for a holiday in may and am looking for any black guys that are interested in meeting. I've never been with a black guy b4 so would love to meet someone. I'm a bttm and I'm friendly and chilled. Anyway dude let me know if you're interested. No stress if you're not. I thought it was worth a try lol
Cheers ;-)"
Ah, the dreaded chocolate queen! A word of advice to any who might be reading this: If you're jonesing to go black for the first time, keep it to yourself. You'll increase your chances of success.

6) "I'm guessing ur not interested..apparently I'm the worlds best deepthroater.....not to mention a great fuck ;) But thats cool if I'm not ur thing I'm not ur thing..thats life eh.
I love to please hot tops, I'm obsessed with black dudes, not indian, nothing else, african all the way.
let me know if you change ur mind, take it easy"
I've got to give this one credit for being persistent. I never responded to his messages, but he kept trying, and although he lost his cool (if he ever had any), he never lost his temper, which his Argentine equivalent probably would have done around the third unanswered message.

7) "Would love 2 suck your cock sometime.
If interested,let me know. xx"
Got it.

8) "damn honey, you are sooooo damn fine :) experience raging bottom here :)"
"Raging bottom" sounds unappealing and kind of unhealthy.

9) "hows things..
hot profile and pics there :)
where in melb are you?
would love to lie back and watch yr body as yr pumping me sometime... looks hot as.
interested, let me know.
Just what I've been looking for, a lazy bottom who doesn't know how to spell.

10) "hey man
last black dude i was with had a hugely thick dick.. couild barely get it in.. is that common??"
Stop! In the name of love! It's the man of my dreams!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The woman who probably should hate Ke$ha even more than I do

It sucks to be in the right place at the wrong time.

That's the sad fate that befell Lina, a singer I met back in the early '00s when I was an editor at Teen People magazine, and she was signed to Atlantic Records. Her debut album, Stranger on Earth, was an interesting mix of contemporary R&B, jazz and big-band swing that helped her stand out in R&B field crowded with wannabe hip-hop-soul queens. (Mary J. Blige ruled!) Unfortunately for her, she had the misfortune of coming out just as Blu Cantrell was taking off with "Hit 'em Up Style (Oops!)," a similar blend of disparate musical elements that would go on to make Cantrell a one-hit wonder in the U.S.

I thought about Lina this afternoon when my iPod shuffle landed on "Yeah Yeah" by Bodyrox featuring Luciana, a No. 2 UK hit from 2006. Then I thought about Ke$ha, who is sort of Luciana's Blu Cantrell. Except Ke$ha, who had every right to be a one-hit wonder, is now on her sixth solo hit -- and she followed Luciana by several years.

Luciana is what Ke$ha might sound like without the bottle of Jack and with some real talent. Unfortunately for London-born Luciana, though she scored two great mid-to-late-'00 UK hits with the DJ duo Bodyrox -- "Yeah Yeah" and "What Planet You On?" -- and one with Super Mal ("Bigger Than Big"), she lacked the marketable look (slut chic?) and carefully manufactured image (pop's party girl) that Ke$ha rode to stardom, and she didn't have as pop-savvy a producer as DJ Luke in her corner. Though she continues to make music (she co-wrote the track "Cupid Boy" on Kylie Minogue's 2010 album, Aphrodite), today she's best known, if she's known at all, for spicing up other people's records -- Bodyrox's, Super Mal's, Freddy Le Grand's, Taio Cruz's and on and on.

Check out the videos below and see how she managed to do in the space of two singles what Ke$ha still hasn't managed to do in six: put her name on two songs that weren't completely interchangeable. May a U.S. breakthrough be in Luciana's near future.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Service with more than a smile: Does over-familiarity breed contempt?

Years ago, I interviewed Natalie Merchant shortly after she left 10,000 Maniacs, and I got a little bit carried away with the pleasantries. "Hi, Natalie," I said when she got on the line, practically beaming through the phone. "How are you?" Though I stopped short of breaking into a verse of "These Are Days" and was genuinely thrilled to be talking to one of my favorite singers, I knew I had gone over the top. Awkward silence followed.

"Have we met?" Natalie asked, her voice faltering, suspicious.

"Um, I don't think so," I continued, taking the hint and toning it down for the remainder of an interview whose uncomfortable tone, I'm afraid, had already been set.

Now I understand exactly how she felt. Or maybe my time spent living in Buenos Aires -- where customer service is a rare thing indeed, and if you do track it down, it never comes with a smile -- dashed my expectations when it comes to total strangers, especially those offering goods or services to the public. Whether it's over the phone or in person, I never expect them to be anything more than civil, if that.

But as anyone who has ever met an Australian knows, that's not exactly how they operate. For a culture where hugging strangers and kissing them on the cheek is not the de rigueur social custom that it is in Argentina, or the sign of a cultured, well-travelled bent that it is in Europe and New York, Australians are a remarkably cordial bunch. Not formally so as they are in the UK, but warm and casual. What they don't offer in phony touchy-feeliness (which I admit has never been my forte anyway), they more than make up for with genuine cheerfulness.

"Hello, matey. What can I get for you?" said the guy at Gallery 324 Pizza & Pasta Bar in South Yarra when he answered the phone the other evening. For a moment, I wondered if we'd met before, and he recognized my voice from "Hello, can I make a delivery order?" Then I thought that perhaps I'd fallen through the looking glass and into the land of Care Bears, where service is always with a smile and everyone is happy just to be there. If we'd been face to face, I would have classified it as a definite come-on. That's when I remembered: This is how they roll in Melbourne.

The other day I was telling a friend here about this guy (Frank Nelson) who used to pop up occasionally on '70s sitcoms like Sanford and Son. He'd always be working in a store, and when one of the characters on the show, say, Fred Sanford, walked in and asked for help, he'd turn around with his signature "Y-e-e-e-e-s?," his somewhat mocking congeniality often, eventually, annoying the character seeking assistance. Though he'd never seen any of those shows, my friend got it, thanks to the "Frank Nelson Type" on The Simpsons, but I'm sure he's met more than a few Frank Nelsons in real life.

For me, Australia's Frank Nelson types are going to take some getting used to. I still get a little suspicious when employees are too nice to me. Are they hitting on me? Are they expecting a huge tip? Are they making fun of me? Is there some other hidden motive here? All of this was running through my head this morning when I asked the lady in the store near my gym where I could find Melbourne's Herald Sun daily newspaper. "Thank you," she said, smiling, as she pointed me in the right direction. I began to wonder what I'd done wrong. Was over-friendliness her way of admonishing me for not being polite enough when I asked for directions. After all, I'd approached her without so much as a "Good morning."

I'll never know for sure, but eventually, I'll learn to just go with it, because service with a huge smile, whether it's phony, scolding, or full of ulterior motives, is so much better than no service at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whores are people, too, and a few other things I'm learning from watching TV in Australia

Oh, the things I missed living in Argentina for four and a half years: cranberry juice, customer service, good hip hop in public spaces and Secret Diary of a Call Girl, the UK TV series which, apparently, was a big hit when it debuted in the U.S. on Showtime nearly three years ago. Thankfully, I now have my Australian friends to sort me out, and it's one of the things they all seem to be raving about at the moment. (It airs on the recently launched GEM TV channel here, and the first two seasons are available on DVD.) Have you seen it? Well, now, thank God, I have.

It's Sex and the City (London, not New York) with a lot more sex and no girlfriends. I guess I should be up in arms that it totally glamorizes the world's oldest profession, but I'm not. In fact, for a brief moment, a few minutes into the second episode, I was contemplating a career change.

Things I immediately loved about the show: 1) As protagonist Hannah/Belle (her working name), Billie Piper, the former squeaky-clean British pop star and sidekick in the Doctor Who TV series, makes a pretty convincing high-class prostitute who is likable and sympathetic without falling into that hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Pretty Woman cliché. 2) The bitch-on-sky-high-heels agent. I'd take her over any of the girls in her stable. 3) Daniel, the cute client who brought Hannah out after Belle failed to get him off. If only he hadn't disappeared after that first episode.

The actors and actresses on Home and Away are better-looking and all-around better than the ones on Neighbours (and they put a lot of the U.S. soap stars to shame, too). Australians are so fixated abroad when it comes to entertainment. "We don't have many celebrities," a friend told me over beers at the Railway Hotel last Sunday afternoon. Celebrities, perhaps, but there are plenty of talented Australian thespians, and a lot of them are breaking out in the U.S.?: Sam Worthington (Avatar and Clash of the Titans), Chris Hemsworth (the upcoming Thor), Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song and former love of costar Miley Cyrus's life), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Grant Bowler (Ugly Betty), Isla Fisher (Rango), Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right and Alice in Wonderland), and Rachael Taylor (soon to break big -- executive producer Drew Barrymore hopes -- in the Charlie's Angels reboot).

Women don't cook -- or at least they can't seem to make a killing doing it. The Australian morning news shows are pretty bad: Not one of the anchors can hold a candle to Matt Lauer (Today) or Robin Roberts (Good Morning America), and the programs lose credibility every time one of those infomercials for products that will give you great abs for minimal exertion pop up. But if you're looking for the perfect recipe, you're in luck. Every weekday morning at 9am, following Today on GEM, UK-expatriate celebrity chef James Reeson gets my mouth watering with Alive and Cooking. Which makes me wonder, why are so many celebrity chefs male? It's the same way in the U.S. Julia Child and Rachael Ray aside, I can't think of a single lady who made her fortune slaving over a hot stove. Even Martha Stewart had to furiously multi-task to ascend the ladder of domestic success.

Pulp Fiction was robbed. The 1994 rivals for the Best Picture Oscar, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction, aired over the weekend on Aussie TV. Guess which one has aged better. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and especially Bruce Willis were all even better than I'd remembered.

'80s fever is still a pandemic. If the posters around town advertising Gary Numan's upcoming Melbourne concert, or the soundtrack in so many bars around town didn't tip me off, last night's Mazda CX9 commercial did: As in Argentina, the '80s revival is still in full swing down under. Playing in the background as the family in the TV ad ooh'd and aah'd over its new wheels: Oz band Eurogliders' great 1984 hit "Heaven (Must Be There)." I'll have one of those!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My second first 48 hours in Melbourne

I didn't go to St. Kilda, Albert Park, the Peel, the Prince of Wales, or any of my other favorite places from my first time in town. But still, somehow, after another 48 hours in Melbourne, I think I loved the city even more.

On the second day, God created the sky to separate water from water. I went for a run around the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is a few blocks from my apartment in South Yarra, a semi-posh area that's thisclose to giving St. Kilda a run for its money as my favorite Melbourne suburb. I'd spent the Friday night before with a friend I'd made here last October. We went down the road to Pinocchio Pizza for a take-out pie with cheese, hot salami (or, as they call it in the U.S., pepperoni), chicken and pineapple, picked up a six-pack of Corona, and headed back to my rental, where I watched Forrest Gump for the first time, and he discovered (much to his surprise, which was much to my surprise) that The Golden Girls, which he'd recently seen for the first time on Australian TV, is my all-time favorite show. He likes it, too, which makes me like him even more. Good thing I brought my Golden Girls DVD collection over with me.

But that Forrest Gump! Terrible movie (did Tom Hanks really win a second-in-a-row Oscar for this?), awesome night.

Due to a bad flight over (no turbulence, but no good in-flight entertainment or sleeping positions conducive to a quality shut-eye either), I'm possibly more exhausted than I've ever been in my life. I couldn't go to a friend's house for dinner as planned on Saturday night because I literally was incapable of moving my body more than a few degrees in any direction.

Still, I haven't slept for more than a few hours at a time, and I'm not sure how I managed to complete that 60-minute jog around the "Tan." (I'm looking forward to lasting longer when I go for Sunday's run.) Jetlag is such a bitch. I don't think it was this bad last time, but I eventually got over it then, and I suppose I will again.

I'd forgotten how terrible the jetlag can be, but I didn't forget about Woolworths. I can't believe how excited a supermarket can make me. After all, there's no dance floor, no beer on tap, no hot guys, no Kylie Minogue blasting from the speaker system. It might be that I've been spoiled by the Buenos Aires shopping experience -- and not in the good way. You can buy a TV at Coto, one of the major supermercado chains there, but you can't get decent frozen vegetables or baked goods, and the only microwavable meals on sale always seem to be frozen chicken nuggets, beef patties, fish sticks, breaded crap (otherwise known as milanesa) and pizza (which, granted, is much better than what they serve in the average pizzeria). At least Coto, and pretty much every grocery store in BA, regardless of size, offers an excellent selection of cookies.

Unfortunately, the fruit salad on sale at Woolworths looks only slightly better than what's sliced up and served in the U.S. Yes, BA's ensalada de fruta will be sorely missed.

But as I've said before, man cannot live on fruit salad alone anyway, and I swear I still can spend hours just wandering the aisles at Woolworths trying to decide what to buy. On Saturday, I settled for a package of oatmeal raisin cookies, a double-pack of mango yogurt, three individual bags of vegetable medley, two microwavable Indian-style dinners (lamb rogan josh with rice and massaman beef curry with rice), orange juice and a full roasted chicken. That's probably enough food to get me to Wednesday, but I'm already planning my return trip to Woolworths after my Sunday jog around the "Tan" to see what else I can put on my first-week menu besides St. Kilda, the Peel and the Prince of Wales.

Ah, Melbourne! It's good to be back.