Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Australia 101

When a large number of your readers come from the same geographic location, it is a writer's responsibility to learn what she can about her readers' common background. Thus begins a new series on this blog titled "Australia 101". The textbook for this course is Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country. Bryson is an American travel writer (what a job!) who views his surroundings in the light of humor. He represents millions of the earth's inhabitants who know virtually nothing about our friends, the Aussies. The following are notes taken from the textbook. Follow-up research has not been attempted (I'm too lazy). That's what the Aussies are for ... set the world right! Tell us about your Uber-cool country! Oh ... and I hope the folks from OZ get a kick out of what an ignorant outsider thinks about their country.

Lesson 1a

Who is the Prime Minister?

Um ... I don't think I ever knew ... does anyone know?

Supposedly the Prime Minister in 1967, Harrold Holt went swimming and never came back. What?! As B.B. points out, this fact is astounding. I mean, Australia lost a prime minister. C'mon! Plus, did anyone cover this? Where was Fox News?!! ... oh, right ...

Population - just over 18 million (the same amount that China's population increases each year)

Place in World Economy - equivalent to Illinois

Most watched TV show worldwide - Skippy (Skippy ... Skippy ... Skippy the Bush Kangaroo ...)

Geography - world's 6th largest country. It's also an island which is also a continent which is also a country.

Zoology - the world's ten most deadliest snakes call Australia home.

Potential causes of death - funnel web spiders, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, stonefish, fluffy caterpillars, sharks, crocodiles, rip tides, or an empty gas tank in the middle of no where leaving you to walk through the Australian wilderness to find the nearest petrol station.

History - most histories begin with Captain James Cook discovering the "island" in 1770 ... but, um, he wasn't a captain yet. Just ignore the indiginous Aboriginies who had made the continent their home prior to the arrival of the English-speaking folk. It's not as interesting.

What the newcomers found:
upside-down and unknown constellations
creatures that bounced across the landscape like bouncing balls
flying "foxes"
man-sized crustaceans

Why is it that we know virtually nothing about these cousins of ours?

B.B.'s research of Australia in the news (New York Times)
1997 - 20 articles, 100 less than Peru, 130 less than Albania and Cambodia. However, similar number of articles as Belarus and Burundi.
1996 and 1998 combined - 15 articles

According to B.B, "In January of [1997], accordiing to a report written in America by a Times reporter, scientists were seriously investigating the possibility that a mysterious seismic disturbance in the remote Australian outback almost four years earlier had been a nuclear explosion set off by members of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo."

"This is a country that loses a prime minister and that is so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world's first non-governmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years could pass before anyone noticed. Clearly this is a place worth getting to know."


ckhnat said...

i remember watching Skippy and the Radio-Homeschool Kids every morning before I went to catch the bus for school. I still remember the song.

CraigS said...

Prime Minister: John Howard

Population: 20m

GDP: $700billion

Biggest TV export: Wiggles

The Borg said...

1 Prime Minister - John Howard, is closing in on Menzies as the longest running PM (10 years so far). Everyone seems to complain about him, yet they shouldn't - they voted him in after all! (voting is compulsory in Australia)

2 Most watched TV show would probably be Neighbours or Home & Away. The Britts love the former. The latter is set in a costal town and everyone has a tan, because, you know, all Aussies surf and live on the beach.

3 Another cause of death might be leaving your car that has run out of petrol in the wilderness and then meeting a grizzly end at the hand of an axe murderer. Australia is a nice place.

4 Actually, the first European discovery of the Antipodes was Abel Tasman in 1496. He sailed around the southern coast of Tasmania and couldn't see anything worthy of settlement, so he left (google images of south western tasmania and you'll understand).

5 Funny you should mention flying "foxes". As I was running in the bush today, I found a sugar glider (a flying fox) gruesomely caught on barbed wire fence. With the help of a wee Scottsman, I had the privledge of freeing the creature. They're hostile little demon beasts though (about the size of a rat) - they bite and they sound like a cricket.

Talking of cricket, it is pretty much our national sport. It's the only sport that has an official "tea break", and in which the "athletes" are fat.

Oh, and there's a pool in Melbourne called the Harold Holt Memorial Pool. Only in Australia.

ckhnat said...

Amy says there's a conspiracy afoot ... did the CIA do H.H. in?

Donners said...

"Australia, Australia, Australia, we love you, Amen.
This is the wattle, the emblem of our land, you can stcik it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand, Amen"
(Monty Python) http://www.intriguing.com/mp/_scripts/bruces.asp

Shiloh, I think the brits like "home and Away" better, or that's what I've heard anywhy. I think they watch it more than we do.

I certainly have no idea what's going on...

Australia rocks! Not that I've ever even left the place and have no basis for comparison, but I love it here.

And just for the record, we don't talk anything like the "australians" on 'Lost' t.v show, we sound more like Clare ( but she has a private school accent) than the other "bruce" types, they sounds more like new zealanders.

RUTH said...

According to the zoo I went to yesterday - out of the world's top ten deadliest snakes - we don't actually have them all (but, we do have the top three deadliest!!)

It is odd that we lost HH, but what can we do?? A man will surf!

Cricket is a great game. We play it, watch it, read about it and in summer live and breath it.

I didn't know the wiggles was out biggest tv export - but I'm glad - the boys and I really like watching them. Quite entertaining.

We also have a few famous actors/singers (and even if they're not actually born in Australia, nor live here anymore - if they own any land here, we claim them!!!)

It's great here - I love Australia.

RodeoClown said...

Hey Borg,
I don't think a sugar glider is a flying fox, a flying fox is something different (they are bigger, and look more like bats).

Pretty much everything over here can kill you, but it doesn't stop us wearing thongs everywhere (on our feet), shorts which show your bum-crack, and dark-blue singlets all year round.

Oh, and watch out for drop-bears and rock-snakes.

The Borg said...

Oh yeah, thanks for correcting me, Rodeo. :)

RUTH said...

Rodeo - flying foxes look more like bats....because they are bats (fruit bats to be precise). They are really common where we live.

Also, 'bum-cracks'....if you must, then 'coin slots' or 'plummer's bottoms'(i've noticed plummers tend to wear overalls nowadays) .....a little Aussie class if you please!! ;-)

Donners said...

Christine, you are from the States yes? If so, your dollar will stretch a little here, ( not as much as it used to and not as well at the British pound but still good!).

Hope you visit one day. that would be coolio.

Angus said...

Amy, I think the Brits love Neighbours (that's why Kylie, Jason, Delta, etc were so popular over there), and Australians like Home and Away a bit better. H&A rates better anyway.

Another interesting thing about Australia: population 20m. Number of sports we currently KICK ASS in: more than pretty much every other nation. We're soooooo awesome at sport we had to invent one called AFL to take all the best athletes. Otherwise we'd completely demoralise every other country by winning everything ever.

ckhnat said...

Deadly Animals
The Scared Weird Little Guys

Redback, Funnel-Web, Blue-ringed octopus
Taipan, Tigersnake and a Box jellyfish
Stonefish and the poison thing that lives in a shell
That spikes you when you pick it up

Come to Australia
You might accidentally get killed

Your life's constantly under threat
Have you been bitten yet?
You've only got three minutes left
Before a massive coronary breakdown

Redback, Funnel-Web, Blue-ringed octopus
Tiapan, Tigersnake and a Box jellyfish
Big shark just waiting for you to go swimming
At Bondi Beach

Come to Australia
You might accidentally get killed
Your blood is bound to be spilled
With fear your pants will be filled
Because you might accidentally get killed

CraigS said...

People hardly ever get eaten by sharks at Bondi Beach.

You are much more likely to drown...

Priscilla said...

Hmmm. Maybe I ought to forward this information on to my American friends in Melbourn. You can check out their link on my blog site. I'm sure they would appreciate knowing everything that can kill them.

RodeoClown said...

Priscilla, that's only a (very) partial list.

My dad bought us a book when I was a kid called "Dangerous Animals of Australia". It freaked me out so much that I didn't want to go outside for years.


Pretty much everything in Australia can kill you almost instantly.

I think the Bogon moth is the only harmless creature we have (and only if you don't swallow one).

ckhnat said...

i think it's all just a clever ploy to keep outsiders away.

Priscilla said...

Hmmm. Aren't there any "nice bugs" there...like say...ladybugs?

The Borg said...

Hey, what are you Americans afraid of? You guys have big nasty mammals that could eat you up on a pleasant evening stroll... (if you're not first shot by gangsters).

ckhnat said...

I think you're talking about Canadians, Borg.


The Borg said...

Okay, I feel better about going to the US in September.

Andy M said...

You'll need to know our national anthem of course. It's a little ditty that goes something like this:

"Aussie, Aussie, Aussie
Oi, Oi, Oi!"

Andy M said...

"i think it's all just a clever ploy to keep outsiders away."

Actually, that's not too far from the truth. In an effort to keep out those horrible asylum seeker/refugee types (aka illegal immigrants/queue jumpers), our government ran TV ads overseas a few years ago featuring large crocodiles and spiders, the underlying message being along the lines of "You are not welcome here - don't bother turning up on our shores or a spider might bite you!"

Perhaps not one of the proudest moments in our history ...

Priscilla said...

Well Borg,
I walked my children to school this morning and nothing ate us. Although we did smell a skunk...which I understand are not found in Australia.

Priscilla said...

There are mean grizzlies out west and also some wolves...but around here there are mostly bunnies, skunks, wood chucks, raccoons, fox, squirrels, deer and a few coyotes. None of them have been none to eat humans or even try. (unless they're rabid)

ckhnat said...

I had a friend a couple of years ago who would have nightmares.

"What sort of nightmares?"

"I'm at a log cabin in the forest and all of a sudden a grizzly bear starts chasing me."

She answered as if to say ... what other kind of nightmares are there?!!

She was Canadian.

Priscilla said...

That's funny!

All the Canadians I know are from the east so grizzlies aren't a problem. It would only take me a couple of hours to drive to the border...so I sometimes forget that it's another country. I used to live a half hour from the border and we'd go there just to go out to eat sometimes.

Borg, I forgot the mountain lions out west too. They have been known to attack humans. (and eat them on occasion) Yikes!

RodeoClown said...

We have a panther near where I live.

A few people have seen it, and there are a few photos, but it's not indigenous to this area.

byron said...

Why do you think so many Australians read your blog, ckhnat? Love to hear your theories.

ckhnat said...

I think it started with Craigs. I don't know, actually. Maybe you should ask him. I enjoy them, though. I've always liked Aussies. They've always seemed so genuine and layed-back.

ckhnat said...

Why do YOU think all of you read "I'd Rather Laugh Than Cry"?

I'm interested in *your* theories.

Thanks to Ruth, Sajini, the Borg, Amiel, Carmen and a handful of other women, my readers are mostly men. I know Craigs has a theory on why that is. A situation I'd like to even out.

byron said...

Two questions in one: why Australians and why men? Being both I should have an answer. Posting on Australia might have helped the former, but I suspect that might be confusing symtom and cause...
Speaking personally, I'm afraid I can't even remember which link I followed to find the promised land, just that I liked it when I saw it.
Love to hear from Craigs about his theory...

mike said...

I read this thread... I think I may have been tempted to post. Love you