Did you watch The Emmy’s yesterday? For regular followers you’ll know that I’m addicted to all the awards shows. Some sources say that viewer numbers are dwindling but there has never been a better time to be a “TV Head” (not a head of TV or network but addicted to TV) than now.
The main reason we were watching
Yes it’s true I am an Awards Show junkie so I would be glued to the TV (or there in real life) no matter what. But, this year I had extra reason to watch closely.
It Started in LA had one of its own front and centre at the Emmy’s this year. That’s right, my son was a special guest of honour hobnobbing amongst the who’s who of TV Royalty. I joked that we better watch closely as he may turn up in one of those regular pan-to-the-audience shots, but little did I imagine he’d feature quite heavily. And feature (almost full-screen feature) enough to send my messages going overtime only to be drowned out by my squealing and yelling. The camera (or was that his mum & her friends?) found him the most handsome up & coming star of this year’s awards.
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
The Emmy’s seems to have got the diversity card down a lot sooner than the Oscars. And this year was no different. The two trends were definitely women and ethnicity. It’s a good thing so long as it’s not staged and tokenism. And this year it was far from it. We can thank Shonda Rhimes as one of the pioneers and there are many more to come.
But let’s see if it keeps going. As fabulous as it is Big Little Lies has some serious Hollywood punch behind it. As she was making her acceptance speech you could see Reese Witherspoon would never take no for an answer. She reminded me of her on-screen character Madeline–she is a powerhouse tough lady and a great model for our girls.But not everyone here has her friends, influence and cashola.
Hollywood has its fair share of making itself heard in terms of political views. Watching at home I thought it was priceless that Sean Spicer made a cameo. But many didn’t. Good on him for being able to take the piss out of himself. It wasn’t that long ago he had nothing to laugh about. I like moments where people don’t take themselves too seriously. Especially him. While he was Press Secretary he was anything but a laugh a minute. I hope it means he’s human after all.
Not as many Trump jokes as I thought but enough–the undertone was there and frankly that’s all you need. I think it’s great when people who have followers can use the attention they get to highlight issues but there’s a fine line. I’m pleased to report that fine line wasn’t crossed. Well done!
Of course fashion is always the big topic on everyone’s lips. Hairdressers are booked out, stylists are stressed out and make-up artists and hairdressers are worth their weight in gold.
The trends were definitely glitter (featuring silver), plunging necklines (when oh when are they going to disappear I loathe them) and the wet look (hair). For the men coloured tuxes was the way to go.
Here are my favourite looks.
Millie Bobby Brown. Age-appropriate, stunning and worn with class
A post shared by Celebs On The Red Carpet (@celebsontheredcarpet) on
And here are my not-so-favourite looks. Whether I’m getting old or losing my touch but some people actually name a few of these in their best dressed. Just goes to show taste is most definitely not something we all share.
Tracee Ellis Ross. Many liked it, sadly me not so much
A post shared by Priyanka Chopra (@priyankachopra) on
Sarah Paulsen. On trend but didn’t work for me, fine with the shoulder pads, love the back but the fit didn’t work for me
One of the big discussion pieces of the night was Sean Spicer. I’m wondering where my favourite cast of Scandal was? No sign of them and it’s their last big year.
The catwalk is not the same without the gorgeous Kerry Washington.
As for me I sent the wrong reporter in. All I got this morning was a grunt, a huge shot of coffee and mumblings about a Chem quiz at school. Life goes back to normal for my 90210 son (no pity).
Bravo Emmy’s on a job well done. It was a good watch and with so many categories, so many shows and so many people involved in the final product I think it’s great to break the Emmy’s out into a long festival. Next year though I’d love to upgrade my status to on-site reporter.
Enjoy your week, we’re going to continue with the hangover in LA a while longer,
xx It Started in LA xx
For the more insider versions of the news here are a couple of wrap ups from the big news outlets.
It’s time to talk about Health Insurance in the USA. I’ve bitten my tongue for the last four years but enough’s enough and it’s time to speak up. Because it’s true what you might think: the health system in the US stinks. It bites the big one. It totally sux.
There are three reasons I say this.
The Health system in the US relies on your employer to sponsor you through the system–to provide a health plan for you
A lot of people in the US work for small businesses who may not be able to afford to offer great health plans (see above)
Even with great health plans, seeking medical treatment can send you broke. Seriously.
Just let me say that this is not a how-to on medical insurance in the US. I don’t know enough about the system to write one of those. And, while I try to educate myself on the topic it’s so difficult to navigate and wrap your head around (read: it’s so foreign to anything we think of when it comes to health insurance) that I’m sure I’ve missed stuff.
Our health insurance
We’re lucky, Mr H works for a large firm that offers excellent health insurance. There are a range of plans to choose from that offer different costs and benefits. Our first few years here were pretty straight forward. We went for our annual medical checks at no cost. Preventative care here is highly regarded here and visits are offered at no extra charge. In other words, your insurance company pays the entire cost of the $250 visit (or thereabouts depending on your doctor).
There are in-network doctors and out-of-network doctors. The above is true providing your doctor is in your network. Go outside your network and your health starts to get really expensive. In-network essentially means your doctor–or health provider–has contracted with your insurance company.
So three years have gone by and all is good. Mr H’s company pays an extraordinary amount to cover us and we pay around about the same as we paid in Australia to cover us. We also have a credit card that the company puts money into and we put money into (pre-tax). This is to cover us for the co-payment we have to make on many of our health expenses. This is usually true until you’ve spent a certain amount of money and differs from plan to plan and is dependent on your organisation and the plans they provide for you. Unless it’s a preventative visit you generally have to make a co-payment. (I guess we call this the gap in our private medical insurance in Australia).
Essentially we were paying a fortune and Mr H’s employer was paying a fortune for 4-10 doctor’s visits a year–mainly preventative care.
Don’t get sick unless you can afford it
It’s when something happens to you that is outside the norm that health insurance really starts to suck.
For example, one of the tennis coaches at school got a brain tumour. He was one of the lucky ones, it wasn’t cancerous and it could be treated. I’m going to quote the story from his Go Fund Me page:
“…The difficulty now is there are only a handful of neurosurgeons qualified or willing to perform this complicated procedure. And needless to say, despite medical insurance, the costs are staggering. The one neurosurgeon able to perform the surgery has no insurance contracts and is exclusive to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a hospital that MJ’s insurance is unable to contract with.
“So he’s forced to pay out of pocket, and essentially, up front.
“We’ve started this Go Fund Me campaign to help him pay for surgery, for his hospital stay, for the rehabilitation and recovery, and for whatever next steps lay ahead of him in the fight of his life.”
Oh my …
I don’t know how much the surgery, hospital visit and all the incidentals cost but let’s say it was around $500k, possibly a lot more. I had blood tests at Cedars-Senai when I was seeing a specialist and it cost $5,792.55. No word of a lie. This is nothing specifically against Cedars either–they all charge this much and it is a very good hospital.
So, his perspective is he’s lucky to be alive, he’s very happy he’s here to tell the tale and wouldn’t have life any other way. I couldn’t agree more.
But seriously? Get sick and you’ll be paying off that debt for the rest of your life.
There are many doctors out there that don’t have insurance contracts. That means they charge what they like and you put a claim into your insurance company after you’ve paid the bills. Fine if it’s a couple of hundred dollars but gets difficult when we start to creep into the thousands, tens of thousands and … you get the picture.
And I get it, these doctors work hard to get to where they are. They should be able to charge fairly for their services; we’d be lost without them. Or dead. Yeah that.
This is where it gets more complicated
So, if that were me above firstly we’d die–where can I find that money to pay for the surgery? I’d have to sell everything and my family would be left with nowhere to live but lucky me I get to have surgery in a nice hospital for a few days. Let alone trying to fund my son’s College bill next year. (Plenty more on that I’m sure but here’s my entree story on that topic).
Secondly, I’d put the claim into my insurance. Because this doctor is not in network I’m penalised. Take a recent bill we had as a family. Here is the breakdown of our “refund” quoting from an email I got from them:
“Total Charge $1025.00, out of network write off $626.36 (because we used a specialist out of my insurance network), coinsurance $119.60 (I don’t even know what this means but I assume I have to pay something to contribute), paid to member $279.04. Please allow 7 to 10 business days to receive the check.”
I won’t hold my breath. Out of network WRITE OFF? Seriously? You’ve got to be joking right now.
And I can hear what you’re saying. You’re saying, “well Gwen it’s pretty simple just stay in network and you’ll get more back and they won’t write off such a large chunk of your bill.”
Well yes, great point. But here’s where it gets interesting. Many good doctors and specialists AREN’T in network so you immediately have fewer choices. These doctors don’t want to be at the mercy of the Insurance companies so choose not to contract with them. And many don’t have to. To be fair, it’s also a big nightmare for them.
Let’s compare it to Australia shall we?
A doctor’s visit here is around $120. Go to a Medicare bulk billing doctor in Australia and the doctor gets $35? $45? and I pay nothing. Some doctors charge $60 or $80 and then I pay a smaller amount. So who is the loser here? The Australian doctors or me? Yep, both of us.
So, for the privilege of our $243.99 every two weeks we pay in health insurance–don’t forget the astronomical amount Mr H’s employer is also paying–I get $279.04 back for a $1025 bill. (We also pay more for vision and dental insurance btw in case you’re playing along at home). Oh, and we also may a Medicare tax and a Medicare Surtax each fortnight and God knows where that goes as there is no such thing as Medicare for us.
I don’t clearly know the answer to this question. I think it’s the right for every person to have health insurance so if you’re my hairdresser who works for yourself and not covered under a family plan then you can sign up and pay for insurance yourself. It’s not cheap and not every insurance company provides it. In fact, because health insurance packages differ from state-to-state, many states don’t have options like they might have here in California. I don’t know enough about it though to speak to this.
What’s to repeal & replace?
You might have heard Trump is all set to “repeal and replace” Obama care. I don’t know if this means people who work for themselves may no longer be eligible or whether they are trying to bring the costs down so more people can afford it because there is no substance to the arguments that get bantered around.
I do know that one of the arguments people were saying back to the politicians “on the hill” was vote for the insurance you would give yourselves.
I do also know that one of the most contentious points is pre-existing conditions. This is one thing Trump wants dumped. So for me, who has high blood pressure due to a pesky but controllable kidney issue, if I move health insurance providers then none of my expenses resulting in my existing high blood pressure would be covered. I would have to foot the bill for all of it. Nice and fair. Way to go pollies.
What I don’t get
What I don’t get is why organisations need to pay for people’s health insurance in the USA. It would be fine if everyone has access to it but they don’t. Or at least it doesn’t seem to me that they do. No, they don’t.
There’s no such thing as a public hospital so people who don’t have health insurance have to go to an emergency department, where they can’t be refused treatment, to be seen to.
I don’t get why doctors have to contract individually with the various health insurers. Everyone has been up in arms about Obamacare raising the price of health insurance. But shouldn’t we be looking over both our shoulders here? There are two other parties I can see play a part in this complex equation.
One is our health insurers–they’re setting these high prices. And then the doctors, hospitals and the health system in general. Why is everything so much more expensive than it is at home? Let’s not even start on the price of drugs here. It feels like a conspiracy: everyone is partnered to “get the most effective price for people” yet what it is is a price where everyone can make a bit of money (read: bucket loads) and it’s got way way way out of hand.
I don’t get why the premiums are so god-damned high but you don’t get anything for it.
But back to point one (sort of): I really don’t get why every single American doesn’t have a right to healthcare.
My two cent’s worth
Cut everyone out and start again. Everyone buy their own insurance capped at an acceptable market rate. Have Medicare cover a set portion of every expense then medical insurance can pay for the gap. If you can afford it then by all means you have the choice to go to a private practitioner and pay them for the extra privilege. But, if I get a brain tumour and I can be saved like MJ was, don’t make my family eat dog food and live in a caravan park for the rest of our forseeable life just so I can be saved.
Oh and make insurance companies government run. Sure the government is so hopeless that it could end up being shocking but everyone should be able to get medical attention. Access to medical care is a right not a privilege.
If doctors and insurance companies weren’t spending so much time (which equals money) negotiating complex contracts the costs would drop. If organisations are not having to pay for everyone’s healthcare then profits would be higher (or actually cost of goods wouldn’t need to be so high).
The Australian model has its flaws but it works. I don’t see why the “greatest country in the world” has to have such a shit system.
So I open up my piece to edit it and send out and as I’m looking through my Huffpost I see an interesting story about Bernie Sanders and his view on healthcare. Naturally I read the story in case I learn something more to share with you.
Well blow me over guess what? It seems Bernie Sanders agrees with me. Bernie wants a Medicare system introduced here in America similar to Australia’s.
And check out and interview with the Huffington Post & Bernie Sanders here.
Don’t worry Republican voters it will never see the light of day. But to me that’s a huge shame. At least a version of it.
Meanwhile, if I keep getting $279 back for every $1025 I spend perhaps I might just consider self-insuring. I might just come out in front. One day when I’m bored I might do some financial modelling on that one.
How do I tip in LA? I know, I know, I know. You get to America and you’re like why do I need to tip? It costs me a fortune in tips. You might not like it but there is a logic behind tipping here in the US. I saw a great article written by a fellow Aussie who lives in San Francisco, Kat, so I asked her if she could write one for me and my readers (that’s you). She’s going to give you the low-down on the how, why and what should I tip in LA.
Over to you Kat!
Aussies have a terrible reputation in Europe and the US when it comes to tipping. I can say it because I am part of the problem. Social awkward at the best of times, I can never work out who expects to be tipped, who would see it as an affront and how much (or little) to give.
Us Aussies go on holiday or move to another country without giving much thought to the mathematical intricacies that will take up our daily life. Tipping means always having cash in your wallet – a habit that I’d long grown out of by the time I moved here.
I’ve suffered through many an embarrassing tipping moment in the past 18 months. From trying to work out 20% in my head in front of the Chinese takeaway (never going to happen) while smiling and talking to the hostess to staring at the tipping bowl at the checkout in the hardware wondering what I’d be tipping for exactly.
In the hopes of recovering our Aussie pride and becoming great tippers, here’s a list of things you need to know–who expects a tip (why) and who you should tip:
Do you like your car? Did you invest a significant portion of your income in it? So you probably want it to be treated nicely. Round the parking fee up to the dollar and then add another couple of bucks for good measure.
You sit inside the salon for what seems like an age. Washing, cutting, colouring, highlighting and/or blow drying. Probably talking a lot too. Those things don’t come cheap.
I wasn’t happy with the thought of adding a tip to that. But if they do a good job and you love your new do it’s customary to fork over an extra 20%.
Don’t forget the shampooist either. Tip them between $3 and $5 depending on whether they also apply your colour or toner.
(Seriously… You’ve seen Ferris Bueller, they’re there and they’re looking for a tip! -Gwen)
If you frequent the types of places that have attendants handing you towels and breath mints in the bathrooms, you probably don’t need to be reading this article. You can afford to part with a dollar or two. Don’t be stingy.
Before I owned a car here I relied on Uber a fair bit and I never tipped once. It just never occurred to me to tip the driver. Even though the official Uber line is that you don’t need to tip, it’s good manners to hand over 20%, especially considering how cheap the fares are.
(Ooops–I wish I didn’t read this now Kat! –Gwen)
No one likes moving and I’m guessing that you’ve hired movers because you couldn’t rope your mates in with the promise of a slab of beer. It seems you have to tip every member of the moving crew between $25 and $50 each. I know, it hurts.
When you leave the bed in a rumpled mess, duvet and towels on the floor and junk everywhere, it’s a good idea to tip the maid between $2 and $5 each day. Maybe the price difference is dependent on the mess you make?
The person who sat in traffic, braved the cold, wind, rain or heat to bring you food because you were too lazy to go out and get it yourself, deserves a tip. Stop being such a tightarse and hand over 20% online while you’re ordering or have some cash ready for when they make it to your door.
I don’t understand this one. Seriously, you stand behind a bar and take the twist top off a bottle or pull a beer for me. Does that really require a tip? Yes. Give the bartender some loose change or a $1 bill. A cocktail’s going to set you back a little more though.
Sure they get paid minimum wage, which means $10.50 in LA. Imagine trying to pay your rent and bills on $10.50 an hour? That’s why they have to live off tips. So if you don’t like the food from the kitchen but the service was great, don’t penalise the waiter/waitress by withholding the tip. Give them the customary 20% and thank your lucky stars that you’re not in their shoes.
(I researched this one day, actually. And, to make it worse, they don’t actually get that whole 20%. First they have to “tip out” the runners and the maître d’. So, if you’re short-changing them their 18-20% then they’re the ones that get screwed. It’s a hard way to make a living so cut them a little slack. –Gwen)
Not that it’s been necessary with all the rain we’ve been having, but sometimes it’s worth getting your car washed by someone else. Sling between $2 and $5 their way, depending on the kind of wash you’ve asked for.
Things like waxing, facials, manicures and pedicures fall under this category. Don’t just sit there and switch off, only to realise an hour later that they’ve done something you don’t actually like. Pay attention! Tipping between 15% and 20% is plenty.
(I went to the Hotel Bel Air for a facial not so long ago and they automatically added 20% so don’t be surprised when big hotels do that–they’re probably more than familiar with those of us not used to tipping. And yes, it does bring the price of that treatment right up there!–Gwen)
Those are my tips on tipping. Now give me your opinions or tell me if I’ve missed someone.
Thanks Kat. If you like Kat’s work hop on over to her Blog and have a good read.
What sort of English is that I hear you shouting at me. How to do an “ask” for a school formal? What does that even mean?
Well, if you’re the parent of a teenager living the dream in 90210 you may well know what I mean. If you’re the parent of a teenager living in America you may also know what I mean. If you’re a teenager who’s Googled “How to ask a girl to my Formal?” I suggest you refer your parents to this page and keep searching.
Trying to live our normal LA lives has been made easier this past week by talk of the Junior Dance at the kids’ school.
There have been movies made about them, TV Shows have featured them and all in all anyone who has vaguely been exposed to “popular culture” (read: America) knows about School Dances in America.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been out of Australia for more than three years now. This means I’m starting to get a little out of touch with how things are done in Australia—especially as my kids left at Middle School age! (I know, I know, how does that even happen?)
Types of Dances in the year
Typically here in the US (OK, LA) there are two major dances—Homecoming and Prom. Homecoming is the start of the season and has something to do with the football team. Given our school doesn’t have a football team (and its associated American ra-ra) our school doesn’t have this Dance. Personally I think they should at least do a Homecoming of sorts in honor of our other sports teams (otherwise known as athletics teams) but then again our school isn’t a huge sport school. Sigh.
So, after Homecoming there’s usually a Winter Formal and/or this Dance, called the Junior Dance because it’s organized by the Junior Class. Then there’s usually one more towards the end of the year—Spring Dance—and of course, Prom. Prom is STRICTLY for the Seniors and their dates.
Most of the time the Americans are politically correct and unless you have a boyfriend or girlfriend—or I suppose someone you “like” you go solo. Takes all the fun out of things but the pressure too no doubt.
This upcoming dance is an “ask dance”. Clearly that means you’re encouraged to ask someone to go with you. Of course you don’t have to ask or be asked but where’s the fun in that?
You know there’s a lot of talk about this generation and how our generation have ruined them by having to win all the time and not teaching them what failure and disappointment is all about?
Well … they have taken it to a whole new level when it comes to the “Ask”.
The “Ask” has been taken to a whole new level when it’s Prom time. Does the term “Promposal” mean anything to you? No. My marriage proposal had nothing on these Promposals.
Step 1: The Ask ritual
There is a system, a ritual if you like, about how exactly you “ask” your prospective partner.
It starts with the ‘asker’ checking with the ‘askee’s’ friends to see if (let’s say he just to simplify this) he asks said ‘askee’ whether or not (let’s say she to simplify this once again) she would say yes. Preferably via text. Or Snapchat. Worse-case scenario: in person.
This is easy if the answer is yes.
If it’s yes then he goes ahead and plans to ask her—safely proceed to step two.
Of course it’s a lot more complicated when the answer is no. Or I’m waiting for a better offer. Actually, the answer wouldn’t be no.
What would ensue next is a lot of behind-the-scenes drama that would put any caucus vote (or Attorney-General nomination vote) to shame. No might be: “maybe but I thought prospective-asker-2 might invite her” OR getting one of his friends to let him down gently that the answer “wouldn’t be yes”.
Yes, in my day part of this were true but it was sink or swim—you didn’t know if they were going to say yes or no. You workshopped it ad-infinitum then went for it.
There was a case this week when a boy didn’t follow the ask ritual: shock horror. Well, the outcome might have been a bit embarrassing because even though the girl said yes (couldn’t hurt his feelings). But, it turns out she was being asked by another boy (who had already qualified his ask via the asking ritual). Boy number two had to tell boy number one that actually he was planning to ask her (just hadn’t got around to it yet) so sorry he couldn’t take the girl that had said yes to him hours earlier. But, apparently, it wasn’t in a “you stole my girl I’m going to punch you” way it was just matter of fact, “sorry mate she is already going to say yes to me”.
So, you see there’s a place for this ask ritual after all. (Although seriously? This boy waited to ask until two days before the Formal, next time maybe he won’t wait so long—what’s with that?)
Step 2: The actual Ask aka Making the ask
Once we’re clear on whether or not the ‘askee’ will say yes the ‘asker’ goes ahead with plans to “make the ask”. So, teenager who’s still reading this is the section relevant to you: how to do an ask for a school formal.
This can be as high-key or as low-key as the asker wants. (Translation: high key would be elaborate & low key would be a relative simple “low-key” affair).
I’m not sure if the level of ask has anything to do with how much the asker likes the askee—and not sure my kids would cough up that sort of personal information either.
In many cases it’s pretty straight forward. But, apparently Freshman boys still have a bit of growing up to do and found it slightly beyond some of them to work out “how” to ask their pre-vetted would-be dates. Yes, for some boys, apparently, they felt the need to workshop not just amongst themselves but with the girls they planned to ask what they thought of their ask idea. Seriously boys, this is why we need to communicate with our mothers. They know a bit about these things.
Thankfully they’ll soon outgrow this. And, with one day to go before the Formal, I think all the asks are now out of the way and they can move on with the next step—planning how they’ll get there.
Both my kids were “sorted” early. My Junior-year (Year 11) son made a pact with a friend of his that they would go together—so long as he “asked” her with a proper ask.
My daughter got word that one of the Freshman (Year 9) boys was going to ask her and she swiftly gave the nod that yes she’d say yes if asked. Not missing a beat, she was asked the very next day. It was great because it caught her by surprise and it was a good “ask” as far as asks go.
Actually both of their asks were very cute. My son dressed up as a Shark (did you see that episode of The Bachelor where the would-be date dressed up in a Shark outfit saying she loved Dolphins?) With his red rose, and a poster made by one of his friends saying, “Dolphinitely come to Formal with me” he was done. He did this at lunchtime with lots of people around so it had maximum impact, maximum effect, she wasn’t expecting it so all good. (No pic for fear of the wrath of the son).
My daughter was asked a day earlier. In a sign of utter cuteness, he had an Australian flag where the stars were a question mark and Formal was written on it. Clever, pander to her love of Australia and, asking at the start of the day with all their friends around, caught her completely off guard. Big tick.
Ideas on your ask for formal
Perhaps one of the cutest things apart from my two (of course) was a senior boy who asked his girlfriend with the help of a few mates. Given the rain in LA not only was it creative but it was also very musical theatre of them. His mates, armed with black umbrellas with the letters F-O-R-M-A-L-? on them said it all.
Ask ideas for your formal
Don’t you wish that was you?
Step 3: Getting ready and how are we getting there
Now we need to move on to “will we get ready together?” and “where” and “how are we getting there?”. Most girls like to get ready together and so, it seems, do the boys.
Really, apart from the getting ready together bit this is not much different from my Formal or Ball when i was at school.
Step 4: The actual reason this all happened in the first place
The actual dance bit. The whole reason behind the whole ask bit in the first bit. The whole reason for being on this Saturday night. It can get a little overshadowed by its surrounding steps but you want to hope it’s a fun time. That is the whole reason after all.
Step 5: After party—do we go or don’t we as Freshmen?
The unwritten rule here is that Freshmen (year 9 and the first year of high school) don’t go to the after-party. It’s just not cool. But that’s not to say that the after-party organizers can’t profit from the Freshmen’s desire to go. Ticket prices are done as follows:
But this is 90210 so money isn’t really a deterrent. No, It’s the message that if you’re not cool enough to pick up on it your High School career isn’t off to a great start.
But really … 14 and 15 year-olds at a party with 17 7 18 year-olds—with all the “trimmings” that goes along with that really isn’t cool for parents to let them go anyway.
Apart from the post-Formal gossip that’s it. Monday comes around—Tuesday if there’s lots of gossip—and the drudgery of school returns. Then we’ll have to wait til the next time before there’s this much chatter around the dinner table.
One final word
When I went to my school Formal, or a Dance at a boys’ school it was perhaps a more elaborate affair reserved for Year 11 & 12. It consisted of a sit-down dinner followed by dancing. This was enough for us to think it was the most fun ever. (OK, that and sneaking alcohol onto the Premises). These days the kids need “something more”. Dancing alone is not enough. A photo booth is no longer enough. Now they look to also be entertained. So I’m with them, our generation has ruined this generation with all those lavish birthday parties we threw them. When dancing all night long with your mates to great music is no longer good enough what hope in hell do these kids have?
How is it where you are? Has Asking a date to go with you to a Dance (even if it’s just as friends) gone to a new level where you are? Has Promposal fever hit other parts of the globe?
It’s 2017 in LA but something’s not quite right. It’s been a while since I’ve written. And I have to confess to you straight up that I’ve been a little obsessed.
Yes, I’ve been a little obsessed, but not with the things I should be obsessing about in LA. For starters it’s award season: my favourite time of the year. Who’s wearing what, what Celebrities are in town and just who you might bump into going about your normal everyday business. It’s great, too, driving around as huge Billboards as far as the eye can see are advertising TV Shows and the latest movies “For Your Consideration”. There are “screeners” sent to everyone in SAGs or the Academy or the various other memberships around town; and the mad rush to see all the movies in time for the major award shows. Yes, this is the time LA is alive and thriving on its Entertainment roots doing what it does its superficial best. And I love it. Unashamedly so.
But something’s not quite right.
Friends in town
To top it off we had friends from Australia in town last weekend and you always know it’s going to be a beauty when you do. What’s not to love? You’ve got like-minded people ready to embrace your town. We had an Awards night after-party to go to and a ticket to the highly coveted “G’day USA” (formerly known as G’day LA) Gala. Sweet: Life is Good. This is why “It Started in LA”.
Yet something’s not quite right; there’s something hanging over us. Something worth obsessing about.
Then there’s the weather. You must know LA is blessed with shoot-perfect weather (that’s shooting entertainment style not America’s blazing guns style). Yeah, a typical LA winter starts at around 13C to 16C with the sun beating down then peaks somewhere between 18C and 23C before it cools down again at the end of the day. This is just in time to come home, put the fire on and open a bottle of red wine. It’s heaven. You even manage 25C to 28C days—on the weekends if you’re lucky enough—and just might be able to crank the spa on.
But this winter has been freakishly cold, starting out at 1C last week and only peaking at about 10C—if you’re lucky. Despite the sun being out the wind was bitterly—New York—cold.
That rain though
And wet. LA loves to talk about the rain. And, let me tell you, there’s been some rain. Not only has it been constant but it was heavy. It was Sydney heavy. We were all in a state of shock. Of course we all know we need the rain so no one was game to whinge and bitch and moan about it but in the end, at our LA selfish best, we were saying, “enough already!”. LA doesn’t do rain.
And, with the rain has come the mudslides. It’s been dry here for many years and our dry, baron land got a bit of a shock. With many of our communities built around the canyons—it couldn’t cope with all the rain sending muddy wet dirt skidding down the hills taking with it walls, fences and in some cases actual houses.
So you see there’s been quite a lot to talk about. Quite a lot to distract “us” Los Angelinos. Enough happening around town to ensure we are firmly locked away in our own bubble. Relishing our bubble crying out how lucky we are to do what we do living where we do. What a time to be alive.
But something’s not quite right.
How did you get here? Which way did you come?
And of course with the weather comes the traditional LA talk of how bad the traffic is and how LA doesn’t know how to drive in the rain (it’s true: it’s fact). With one of the busiest links between the flats & the Valley, Laurel Canyon, blocked because of one of these landslides that’s a whole lot of “which route did you take?” talk to start every conversation. LA Perfection right there.
Not to be outdone, it’s SuperBowl time. We’ve got Lady Gaga doing the half-time entertainment and we’re gearing up for the ads—not only at half-time but during the whole telecast. Mr H’s company is responsible for the special effects of at least three-quarters of the ads so not only are we excited about the ads themselves but thrilled that we’re a part of it.
And in a SuperBowl trifecta each year we go to a friend’s Superbowl party which is always so much fun I often miss the ads. (Don’t actually ask me who’s playing, or who has played; but I can tell you who’s been the half-time entertainment. Yes, there’s a lot to look forward to.
In LA it’s always a great start to the year. A lot to obsess about.
But something’s not quite right…
So what’s going on that with the stars aligned (pardon the pun) and all of our ducks lined up that’s interfering with what should only be a bloody good time?
You might already have guessed. It’s actually taken over the world and because it’s so early on it’s hard to know how long this will last. Facebook & Twitter are filled with opinion posts, and if people aren’t sharing news stories or rants they’re ranting about how they’re done with (or about to abandon) Facebook because of the number of political posts. And let me tell you some of them are so bloody good it’s really hard NOT to share them.
Yep, there’s that word. There’s your clue: Political.
That my friends is my obsession. This anti-news, anti binge-CNN-watching, Celeb-loving, LA-loving, superficial-loving Blogger can’t get enough of the news. My friends, I can’t escape to my LA bubble because everyone keeps asking me what life is like with our new President. And the world is reminding me everywhere how our new Pres is affecting me. My. Everyday. Life.
If you’re a regular you’ll know one of my last posts was a very upbeat post about staying in the US under Trump leadership. It’s true that once I got over the hangover and utter shock of Trump being our President elect (and subsequently our actual President) I thought that campaign rhetoric might give way to the confines of the job. You know? There was a lot of talk in my three years here about how little power the President of the United States actually has. So slowly as she goes the Wall wouldn’t be built, our President would have to defend his first mass shooting and his popularity would be largely diminished it’s just a four-year countdown until America realises its mistakes and life goes on as usual.
Reality TV binge fest
But this is Hollywood and day after day we’re in the middle of a Reality TV binge fest of the real kind. If we miss an episode—or a day—we miss a big piece of news; a reshuffle, a new executive order, a sacking. Alternative facts.
I really don’t want to get all political here—it’s bad enough that my time is consumed with soaking up all the various news stories, people’s shared Facebook news posts, Tweets (not the Pres’s), opinion pieces, videos and everything in between. If CNN wasn’t so repetitive I’d be on that 24/7. I even tuned into Fox News.
But I want my life back. I’ve had enough.
California is not the rest of America
It’s hard to get a sense of perspective here in LA though. LA—California—is obviously largely a democratic state. They abhor Trump. It’s like preaching to the converted. Every meeting with every friend is an update on wtf is going on. Even my Republican friends (yes, I do have Republican friends and they happen to be very nice, intelligent people).
Yes, we participated in the Women’s March. How could I not? How could one person with the signing of an Executive order set women back 500 years?
And what’s with these Executive Orders? Why haven’t past Presidents signed more of these in the past? Well it seems they have. It’s just that this one makes them count—Reality TV style.
One of my (US) friends asked a great question though. If being President was as easy as signing Executive Orders why then didn’t Barack Obama sign one to ban guns here in the US? Could it have been THAT simple? Wouldn’t that have been a good way to make use of this Executive Order caper?
So… You get the picture? I don’t need The House of Cards or Scandal anymore. I’ve got this new Show: The Trump House. And I’m addicted. But I hope it doesn’t get renewed. I can only cope with one season. It’s intense, it’s real, it’s scary. And I don’t know how much more of this I can take. What a way to be educated in American politics.
A couple of links to keep your sanity
Before I go here are a few links to two cracker videos that made me chuckle.
Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence? (California but you know that!) Doesn’t it seem like only a few months ago I (finally) got my Californian driver’s license?
Well. At home you can renew your license for 5 years or 10 years (5 years now if you’re over a certain age. Ugh). Here (where, let’s face it, bureaucracy isn’t their strong point) they only give you a licence valid for the length of your Visa. Somehow though, even though my Visa is valid until next March my license was only valid until November.
I got a form in the mail telling me to fill in the blanks, provide a copy of my passport and my i94 and visa page in my passport.
Alas I never heard back and so you know what that meant?
Yup, it meant I had to go in and apply to renew my license.
Again you know what that meant don’t you? Yep, forms and queue. Horrendous.
We were going on our road trip so it was important for me to get my license renewed. Mr H was at home so could take over my carpool and I’d get up and join the DMV queue at 7AM (ish).
Trying to pack and get organized I needed to wash my hair. My first instinct was to put a beanie on, suck it up and head over. But with a bit of packing still to do, appointments banked up and precision timing required I decided the safest thing to do was to actually do my hair, pop on some eyeliner and finish the rest of my make up when I came home.
I head on down (still early enough) to join the queue. There is always the longest queue at those DMVs it’s a nightmare.
So to share my pain with my fellow expats living in LA here you go. Three steps to renew your Californian license.
Renewing my expired Driver’s Licence
This applies to renewing “in-between” times because it’s coinciding with your Visa date not the length of time they would have given you a license.
1. Get in the queue early. Best to be there around 7/7:15 to get the shortest wait time. Seriously. If you don’t want to wait in the queue make an appointment, it saves so much time. (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/portal/foa/welcome). Having said that sometimes you don’t have a chance as appointments can take weeks to wait for.
2. Complete the form. It is the same form as when you applied. It’s called the DL44 and it must be the original form.
Some things you’ll need to know or bring to get your temporary licence:
You’ll also need to know your Social Security number for the form (I know Americans know it by heart but I don’t).
3. Wait your turn and they’ll process your form.
That may well be good information but here’s the number one tip I will leave you with:
DO YOUR HAIR AND MAKE-UP
Because they’re issuing you with a new license. That means a new photo.
Oddly enough there was no fee to get you a new license. (And on the positive how much cheaper are licenses are to get here?)
One more thing. And this happened to my son who passed his test and hasn’t had his proper license yet (three months later). And it happened to Mr H whose temporary license kept expiring and he had to continually follow up. If you don’t get your license back you might need to call this number:
Legal Presence: (916) 657 7445
I believe it might just jolt the system back into place and move your license along a bit. That’s because our licences have to go through an extra step. I was recommended to call the two weeks before the temporary one expires.
Ever wondered how to raise the perfect LA Princess? Have you heard of the phenomena I like to call The LA Princess? The LA Prince exists too but in merely a shadow of their counterpart. Let me explain.
Firstly, welcome back after a bit of work and a great Thanksgiving break.
If you’re playing along at home via Facebook and Instagram, we took a road trip to Utah. More about the travelog in the coming days (or weeks as the case might be!). I will just say though that it is indeed a spectacular part of the world.
Leaving behind the LA Bubble
I’ve decided that leaving LA bound for other parts of the US is good for the soul. It’s so easy to get caught up in the LA bubble we find ourselves in. And this is despite us trying to keep all eight feet on the ground. It’s not until you set foot outside the bubble that you realise you’re getting sucked in.
When we lived in China we used to call them “Get-out-of-China” holidays. This was simply because day-to-day life could be extremely difficult, constantly trying to navigate a world where the culture and the language are so so different from yours and extremely difficult to navigate.
The LA Princess Syndrome
Before I left LA I’ve been noticing the phenomenon I like to call the LA Princess syndrome. The LA Princess is unique in so many ways. And in other ways she is not new to you at all.
Perhaps the original LA Princess in my time was Paris Hilton (ironically went to the same school as my kids). She has been superseded by former bestie Kim Kardashian. And so, per the “Reality” Show, the Kardashians have big part to play in ensuring the LA Princess is alive and well.
But you don’t have to live in LA to be an LA Princess. From the comfort of wherever you are in the world—coupled with reality TV and Snapchat (don’t you know Instagram is for old people?! And yes I have a Snapchat account but still don’t know how to use it) you can raise an LA Princess.
Not unlike Sydney, LA is a melting pot of many cultures. And, like Sydney, there are many wealthy people around doing incredible things. But there is still somehow a difference. It’s difficult to put my finger on but it’s here.
I look to two friends as examples: both not from here, both wealthy with celebrity parents yet their children do not suffer from LA Princess syndrome. They must wander what on earth they’re doing wrong.
Controversially (or not) I think the bulk of the responsibility comes from the parents. (Shock. Horror).
Thankfully so many of my friends and their children don’t suffer from this syndrome or I might have to actually slit my wrists. But there’s enough LA Princess syndrome going on around for me to put together a little step-by-step guide on how to turn your perfectly normal girl into an LA Princess.
How to raise the perfect LA Princess
Here are five ways you can indulge your little Princess and turn them into an LA Princess.
1. Let her believe she’s the centre of the universe
The key is to indulge her. Indulge her in every way imaginable.
She is the centre of the universe isn’t she? Of course she is; let her know this. Only she matters.
My daughter has been playing school tennis. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs but I love that sport gives kids a sense of the real reality—they learn to win and lose, they learn that money doesn’t buy you everything and they learn about how to be a team player.
One Friday afternoon we were playing against another team and there were rumblings in the ranks (thankfully not on our team as they know our Coach will not stand for it). The conversation went a little something like this:
“We’re done, are you done?
“I don’t see why we should have to stay, I mean my daughter is finished. Can’t we just go?”
“I have so much to do and I don’t want to get stuck in the traffic.”
Yep that apple don’t fall far from the tree.
You can always tell which schools have a sense of team and which ones can’t see past themselves. We have played a number of teams whose girls just leave once they’re done leaving the last game standing to fend for themselves. In fact, one of the games nearly came down to a forfeit because the match was shaping up to be a tie. If it was a tie the rules are you all get back on the court and play another set. But, without the girls there to get back on the court they would have to forfeit. Oops. Lucky we won the last game and spared them a little humiliation.
Then there was the girl who came off the court wallowing in self pity. Here’s the conversation I overheard (in your best Kardashian voice) to a teammate who also just came off the Court:
“I’m so bummed we lost. It was so close, they were the biggest cheaters, we so should’ve won. And now I won’t be MVP” (Most Valuable Player).
But for every LA Princess you come across a girl who falls far short.
There’s one girl on our team who is nowhere close to being an LA Princess. She’s a sub who rarely gets to play. This girl is the first to cheer on her teammates, brings the best kick-ass snack to the games, take photos and is one of the first to ask the girls how they went in their match if they came off a different court to the one she’s been watching.
Now this girl has a lot of work to do before she can even dream of being an LA Princess. Poor darling.
2. Let her do whatever she wants
It sounds easy enough doesn’t it? Makes your job as a parent much easier and your popularity will go through the roof! But try as I might I just can’t seem to pull it off. If I let my daughter do whatever she wants you better head for the hills. If a 14-year-old girl gets to gallivant around town using her Uber account and credit card without her parents knowing where she is there’s no knowing what sort of trouble she’ll get into. And then for the rest of her life she’ll think it’s OK to do what she does. A monster is what she’d be. Oh wait …
3. Let her have whatever she wants
This is where I need the most work. I have myself the ultimate consumer. She wants everything: new fancy fast cars for us each year (at least she’s a sharer), new clothes every time she goes shopping, lots of makeup, (expensive) jewellery, eating out at the hip & happening joints all over town and let’s not forget front row seats to every must-Snapchat-from concert. Yep, if I followed this rule we’d be out on the street with nowhere to live. Fortunately for most 90210 parents they have the budgets to sustain this over-the-top spending. Fortunately, too, I hasten to add, for the LA Princess.
I once had someone beg me to let my daughter go with her daughter so her daughter wouldn’t miss out on her Snapchat-worthy event. I’ve still got a lot of work to do. That-a-way.
4. Don’t set any boundaries.
When we first arrived I was privy to this discussion. Hashtag priceless.
“I took all the devices off my child yesterday. You need to learn your lesson I told her adamantly. Then I told her if she’s good all week tomorrow I would go and buy her a new one. Now she has two and she uses them both. I’m so proud of her.”
Yep, you tell them. That will teach her.
Then there was the time before that where she broke her screen. A group of three families were out. The then-12-year-old broke her screen on her phone. She was crying hysterically. Mr H said, “Don’t worry you can get the screen replaced just down the road.” The other dad chimed in, “Yes, and we just did it for our daughter, so easy and so much better than buying a new phone.” The next day she has a brand new phone. It’s OK though, they fixed the old phone too. You always need more than one phone don’t you know.
Either kids are really good here but you never hear of anyone really being grounded. They are more like the exception to the rule.
So boundaries people, no need for them either. Raising an LA Princes is easier than you think huh?
5. Dress her appropriately
I have to say this is perhaps one of the most important things to consider. There are a few looks to be embraced in order to become an LA Princess. All of them are acceptable.
The first look is the leggings (must be a brandname, eg. Lulu Lemon) with tight top. If the top is too long you can use an elastic to tie it above the hips to one side.
The next look is the short shorts with the Brandy Melville crop top.
Finally you can wear tight jeans with a crop top.
As the girls get older, designer handbags become the norm. (Remember I discovered this the hard way when I first arrived). Then designer shoes with 10” heels (they can barely walk in) start to creep into the wardrobe. And now we are entering the “jewellery-your-mother-doesn’t-even-have” phase with the Cartier love bracelet being the piece du jour. Buy Hermes will do too.
A word of warning about this “recipe for success”
This might seem easy but it is not as straight forward as it might seem. You might need to play around with the proportions.
For example, some LA Princesses only need to feel like they are the centre of the universe with very little of any of the other ingredients. Others have whatever they like but still struggle to pull off the LA Princess. Others still have seemingly everything they want yet are still not content and are looking for something more. Others look the part but struggle to own it; to act the part.
And others want to try to raise LA Princesses but can’t quite bring themselves to follow the rules.
We’re back in our bubble now. For a little less than a week, however, my daughter was privy to how the rest of the world lives once again. She said life would be much easier if we didn’t live in our bubble. But that’s it isn’t it? To learn to live as most people do within our bubble.
Five reasons why I won’t leave the US just because Trump is now the President Elect
I called it after Brexit: there’s a nasty feeling in the air all over the world: fear and hatred fills us. We’re paranoid and there’s (seemingly) nothing we can do to stop it. Least of all vote for Donald Trump.
When we bought our house I joked that it was a bad financial decision because if Trump gets in we wouldn’t be staying in America.
My daughter is holding me to that. She doesn’t believe she can stay in the country given what’s just happened. What did just happen?
Well, of course, in case you’re in denial, Donald Trump is now America’s President elect. Hard to believe for many (especially here in LA) but like it or not, just under half America voted for him. (He won through the Electoral College vote—see my previous Blog for an explanation). The question in my mind—and many others’—is did they vote for him because they hate Hilary so much or whether it’s because they actually thought Donald Trump could be good for America? We’ll never really know. And frankly it doesn’t really matter.
But here’s what I know. I won’t be leaving the US because Donald Trump will be President come January 20. And here are the
Five reasons why I won’t leave the US just because Trump is the President elect.
I can’t just decide to convince my husband to quit his job and move home just because I don’t like the guy that will lead this Country for the next four (hopefully) years. I can’t just pull the kids out of school and ship them back home because I don’t think the guy voted in to be the next President is a bigot and a bully who thinks he’s better than everyone else; who demeans women and thinks of them as little more than objects of lust–as long as you’re good looking enough.
2. Being realistic
A lot like practicality I suppose. I have to be realistic and accept that life just doesn’t work that way. Does it? I have to accept that life sets you many challenges and you have to deal with them face on rather than running away or hiding from them.
I hope I’m right when I say that there will be lots of things President elect Donald Trump says he’s going to do that he’s just not going to. He said so many things that were sound grabs to shock, designed to fuel hate. He’s a cowboy, he shoots from the hip and who knows (or trusts) exactly what comes out of his mouth.
3. Give him a chance
Guess what America, you actually have no choice but to give him a chance. He’s all you’ve got. He’s all I’ve got. It was a year and a half in the making in an election campaign designed to wean out the fledging candidates and come up with the two bestest, strongest candidates for the job. If you’re not happy with that then perhaps you should speak up and change the way things are done. (God knows it cost enough money).
And in case you’re saying it simply can’t be done; change can’t happen, I’ll give you one reason why change can absolutely happen: Donald Trump.
Watch that wall become a virtual wall: one that limits entry to those who “don’t belong”. There will be no Great Wall of Trump.
What he might do though might actually make sense. He might make sure more investment is being made inside the US. He might actually make sure America keeps its industries kicking along within its borders rather than kicking everyone out and encouraging manufacturing outside. And maybe he will actually shake things up, ask lots of dumb questions designed to challenge how and why things are done certain ways in order to actually effect change.
And, I might actually get to pay less tax. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? I have no idea where my tax dollars go: the government services here are shite to say the least and virtually none of my taxes go to those in need. It doesn’t go back to support me and my family. I pay for everything I need. Everything. From school (first through my property taxes and then through my private school fees) to medical expenses to paying for my waiter’s medical insurance in the form of another tax (applicable here and on-charged in some places in LA).
But, in the same breath I hope that the economy does get a kick start, that more people can work to enjoy a better life. That all those people in those small towns who voted for him knew something we didn’t. That their vote actually didn’t go to waste and he does good. And, by the way, that they get more than the pitiful minimum wage you get here. I hope it really is as simple as he says it is.
If these working and middle class people get the jobs and can give their families a good, comfortable life then good job.
4. Suck it up: life sux sometimes
I say, and have said several times, sport is the biggest equaliser: you can’t buy your way into the team, you can’t bribe your way into a win. You can’t complain to your mother or write a note to the Coach to get your own way. It teaches the best life lessons: how to lose, how to be a gracious winner, being part of a team—you know how it goes? (I hope).
But here we have the ultimate life lesson (for half of American voters at least). A very painful life lesson for these guys.
You might throw all your money at a candidate, you might tweet and Instagram, use your clout to encourage others to believe what you believe. But, at the end of the day it just doesn’t always turn out the way you hope it will. There are others out there that you have no control over. None whatsoever.
You can’t buy your way out of the problem; you can’t bury your head in the sand; you can’t ask your mum to write a note to whoever is in charge; you gotta suck it up.
And, hopefully, as we reflect and work out how this all happened, we learn from it. I hope this encourages people to get up and make a difference.
In the meantime what a great life lesson: suck it up, life sux sometimes.
Next time your kids says she hates her teacher remind them Trump is our new President. #lifesnotfair
We have a saying in Australia—she’ll be right mate. It’s a bit apathetic, a shrug of the shoulders and a bit of wishful thinking. But it kind of sums up how I have to think. In view of points one and two I have to believe it’ll be ok.
Obama tried really hard to change so many things and he found it really, really hard. Trump might have lots of ideas and brash thoughts but he might also find it hard to enact many of them. He can’t bully everyone into doing what he wants, he’ll have to go about change through a slow, rigorous system. So while he’s banging his head against a brick wall (no, not the Great Wall of Trump) she’ll be right mate.
In other news, marijuana is now legal in California for recreational purposes. There may well be a state full of Democrats that will be high for the next four years.
Parting words of wisdom
Like I said, we’ve got no choice. We’ve got to accept it and move on. Let’s hope it either goes really well or we learn from this. Let’s hope that next time it means we actually listen to the masses who are/were trying to tell us what they think. We just didn’t listen (or believe) they’d win. What do they know? We thought we knew better. We dissed them and made fun of them.
And in the meantime we have to stop bullies. We need to learn to stand up to them and stop encouraging them and letting them get away with their bad behavior; that’s it simply not OK. For some reason society wants to be friends with or accepted by the bully. We’ve really got to stick up for each other.
To my beautiful baby girl who is broken by this news. I’m so sorry. Life isn’t always fair. You are smart and optimistic and you can make a difference. I don’t think Hilary lost because she’s a woman, I think she lost because Americans didn’t want her to be President. You can be whatever you want to be and I encourage you to go for it; this is not a setback for you. I’m sure of it.
Well that got very serious didn’t it? The afternoon is creeping up on me. Might take me a few days to follow my own advice. Keep calm and have a cocktail.
Keep Calm & Drink Cocktails
And, in the meantime, I can’t wait to see what the next series of The House of Cards brings.
God Bless ‘Murica.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Our visas are due for renewal next year. Let’s hope we get to do two more years–maybe we’ll be forced to leave because of the stricter immigration laws. That will be ironic to say the least.
Election fever hits America. In a big way. It’s been ONE & A HALF years in the making and “the day” is almost upon us.
It’s Monday morning here in LA and the nation is abuzz with election fever: people are going to the polls early which means the talk about going to vote must be working.
This isn’t a political Blog, I’m not political but being in America for our first election and there are so many observations I’ve made. This election has played a big part of our daily life here: you can’t escape it.
Some of my observations are unique to America, others are themes emerging in a troubling world.
Here are five things this Aussie girl in LA has noticed over the last year and a half.
1. The money
For God’s sake America. Wake up and smell the coffee. You abandoned the sovereign to create a better world. You rejected all things of the Mother Land because you wanted better. And you created a monster. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: curtail the money spending. If you don’t have it, cut back; you can’t afford it.
I’ve mentioned the amount of money spent on those lengthy campaigns. I’ve talked about those Conventions and how the balloons at the Democratic Convention alone would be enough to feed & house LA’s homeless (unsubstantiated but don’t let truth get in the way of a good argument). Last night we were researching what happens on Wednesday, the day after the election and we got this story.
This struck me:
“Once either Clinton or Trump has been declared winner the new president-elect will be … given a multi-million dollar budget.
In 2008, Barack Obama was said to have employed a 450-person team at a cost of $12 million. Of that, $5.2 million as reportedly paid for by the US Government, with the remaining $6.8 million coming from private sources.”
I get that it takes money to do these things, and that people cost money, blah, blah, blah. It just seems to be like a sh*t load of money they don’t actually have.
And can we talk for a minute about the big-time donors lining the politicians pockets, eg the NRA. I’m not saying any new here but, they’re doing that for their own gain and not for the greater good. All that money. Feed the homeless, help the refugees, feed the world and all that. Ouch. Just ouch.
2. The media
I hate to say this but Donald Trump is right: the media is against him. It’s not half obvious. With the exception of Fox News (which I refuse to watch) no one is on Donald Trump’s side.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. But still. There is no such thing as unbiased reporting in this country. But in lots of ways that unbiased reporting has failed: there are still all those bloody Trump supporters out there, so loyal and so one-eyed that they fail to see anything the media is trying to tell them.
Yes, the media is having a field day with record viewers following the greatest circus on earth. I’ll be so grateful when it’s over. I’m even looking forward to Viagra ads in place of the political ads. Prop this Prop that. Vote. Vote for me, vote for her, don’t vote for them. It’s when I’m grateful other countries like Australia only have a short election cycle.
3. The pride Americans take in announcing who they vote for
No one keeps who they vote for a secret. It’s all out there for everyone to see and debate. They’re so proud of who they vote for, which party they follow.
In contrast few people really talk about who they vote for in Australia. It’s certainly not widely known, nor is it typically dinner party conversation. It can be assumed and guessed about but not always qualified.
I don’t know who Mr H votes for. For as long as I’ve known him he’s always told us he’s voted for the Donkey. (In Australia it’s compulsory to vote; if you don’t you get fined. People who don’t want to vote properly incorrectly fill in their voting form and that is known as a Donkey vote). He swears he doesn’t by the way but I’ll never know.
4. The system is so bloody complicated
My son is studying US History this year so has been able to explain some of the concepts and history behind the way this system works. I love that he can do that as it helps to understand so much without being my “we’re so much better in Australia” diatribe.
I’ve just heard about the Electoral College having the final say. So this group of “mainly-middle-aged-men” to the people and “a fair representation of the people” officially, meets to vote on who should be President and Vice-President.
Here’s a good video from the History Channel to illustrate:
So, I’ve learnt about the nomination process, Conventions, caucuses and Primaries and now I’ve been introduced to the Electoral College.
Wondering if the Electoral College actually votes in someone other than the people’s vote? Me too. In 2000, for example, Al Gore got more votes than George W Bush but George W got the Electoral College vote. Guess who was President?
I have given my American friends such a hard time about these elections. But what about this guy? This guy who I’ve found the day before the election. Good on you mate. You are absolutely what America stands for, why Americans are such a pain in the ass–because they are so damned patriotic and believe–only because we are envious of you. There are loads of people like you but, like you, we’ve seen the ugly. Fuelled by Trump and the media we are seeing far too much of ugly America. If you are as you say, and this happened as you said, you are not.
You are a hero.
So who are the villains?
Well that’s easy: Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a bully. He is bigly awful. Full stop. Period. Go away Donald Trump; you’re bringing out the worst in your followers. You are bringing us back decades. Nothing you say has substance and nothing you do is inspiring.
The day after the night before
What will you be doing on Wednesday? My son and his friends were pondering what a weird day Wednesday will be: the aftermath. I couldn’t agree more. But these guys aren’t President straight away. Obama still has time to “finish doing what he set out to do” and come January 20, 2017 at noon the new President and Vice-President will be sworn in.
So there’ll still be plenty of time for the media to ease their way out of it gently. Please let go, please move on.
In the meantime good luck world.
Good Luck America.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: There is a petition to shorten America’s election cycle. If you agree with Sheryl Crowe that it needs some help click here and have your say.
PPS: If Trump gets in do you think that Wall will be strong enough to fight the stampede out of the US? The mind boggles.
So you’ve just found out you’re moving to LA. LA can be such a daunting beast—it’s big, there’s lots of traffic and one end of town is completely different to the other. So, what do you have to do if you know you’re making the move and how do you navigate the process.
Five things to do if you’re moving to LA
1. Pick your Location
It’s a toss up whether you pick your location first or pick your schools first. If you have kids then it may be a bit of both.
If you don’t have kids then it’s easy: location, location, location. I’d start with areas in and around work. Think neighbouring communities, the actual community or communities that are easily accessed via one of the major freeways.
We wanted something close to Mr H’s work so it wasn’t a huge commute and then we wanted something that would be close to school.
So we looked at every area in between. We found two houses, within 15 minutes of each other—one closer to the school we hoped to get into and the other closer to Mr H’s work—and we let fate decide which one we’d end up living in. As it turns out we ended up in the house closest to school. We were really lucky as it also turned out a number of the kids friends (whose parents became my friends) also lived in the area.
For you choosing location might have everything to do with choosing schools: especially if you’ve chosen to send your kids to public school (see below).
Like I say, it’s best for all concerned if you’re as close to work and school as you can possibly be if you want to avoid spending all your time in your car. Having said that some people make a lifestyle decision to commute. Go figure but they do. Test the traffic patterns, especially in peak hours. The bummer about LA is it’s a sprawling acropolis and it’s hard to get around at the best of times, let alone peak times. During peak hours it took me just under half an hour to get home from school drop off; outside that it’s less than 10 minutes.
Once you’ve chosen your location then you need to find somewhere to live. I’ll be linking this to a post coming up on house-hunting and tips to secure a lease without a credit rating so stay tuned.
2. Choose your Schools
If you have kids then you know this is vital.
Your first choice is whether you’re going to private or public school. There are also in-between schools like religious ones or Charter schools.
Despite popular movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off not everyone goes to public school. In fact, the LA Unified School District lacks money and as a result the quality of schools can be hit and miss.
Some areas offer great houses and great schools (Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Pasadena South for example) but the high rents could still lock you out.
When we did the sums on Santa Monica for example we decided it was cheaper to pay for private school than pay the higher rent required to live in the zone. (Schools are funded by property taxes and most landlords pass on the property tax expenses in your rent—they’re not paying for your kids to go to school in a good area, they’re just going to make the money off it!).
If you’ve decided to go to public school then you’ve most likely chosen your area based on its reputation for having good schools. You can always check a school’s rating on the Great Schools website. And most house listings show the schools nearby with their rating—it’s that important over here.
Private school is not so easy, they’re often oversubscribed and can be hard to get into. I was surprised that they can be even harder to get into than they can at home. Many of the private schools are College Preparatory schools which in a nutshell means high in academics and may not be the place for your poor gorgeous spunky kid with learning issues.
There is probably one major difference between admission at school here and Australia.
You can only apply the year before the school year you want to enter. So, as soon as the new school year starts admissions teams start holding open days to showcase their schools. Applications are then due by end of the year (please don’t take my word for it—check this—and each school can be different).
At a nominated date in March you are told whether your child has been accepted or waitlisted. You then have around two weeks to accept or reject your offer. All the schools have the same date so you have to choose.
The problem for an expat family lies in the fact that we never know when we’re going to be moving. Imagine we only found out in early May so as my story goes I had to wake up at 4am every day for a week ringing Admissions Directors pitching our family to see if they could let us in outside their traditional admissions cycle. Each time I think back I think how lucky we were.
The other step you’ll have to take is to take an entrance exam. For most LA private schools it’s a test called the ISEE. The Catholic schools have a different test and I believe this is mainly for High School.
So here’s the thing: Americans get tutors for this test and put their kids through the ringer to exceed in it. It’s a competition and he who has the most resources to throw at their kids can generally win (unless their kids aren’t test takers or smart and then they better hope they have heaps of money to bribe the schools in donations). It’s a cynical but true story folks; be very afraid. But, having said that my kids had a day’s notice they had to sit it (story in the linked blog) and they did it. Thank God we were going in under extreme circumstances and didn’t have to compete with the masses!
It might sound simple but it’s not altogether that straight forward. You will first need a US address and perhaps if you’re an Expat a letter from your employer.
We started with a Citibank account in Australia which made it so much easier to open up accounts in the US. Once Mr H’s pay was deposited into his account we were able to get credit cards with a decent credit limit. Also we’re able to transfer money between our Citibank accounts in Australia and here in the US without fees. Be careful though as I’ve recently heard others say they don’t have this feature on their accounts despite being Gold customers.
You can also open up accounts with your local US banks with a greater ATM network and perhaps even more branches. We haven’t been inconvenienced by our Citibank account at all. Well only the once in getting a mortgage but that’s another story.
4. Sort out your credit
Oh my God. This is the BIG one. Credit is the biggest nightmare for young people and for established families like mine moving to the US. Everything hinges on it: your lease, a mortgage, credit cards, even opening up a bank account. I know, go figure! The system is so fundamentally flawed but you have no choice but to play the game.
It will be virtually impossible to get a credit card as you have no credit history. See my blog post (coming) on tips to getting your credit history up and running quick smart. Get yourself a prepaid credit card or Amex, you’re using your own cash but it helps to establish your credit history. Also try getting a couple of store cards. If you do this buy a couple of small things on it and pay them off straight away. This will build more credit.
Opening up electricity, gas and Cable/Internet accounts may also prove tricky. Well not tricky so much as two things will happen—they’ll charge you a higher price (to them you’re a greater credit risk—yep seriously if you’re poor or struggling you pay more how is that even fair?) and they’ll most likely get you to put down a cash deposit.
5. Get a car
With no credit it’s pretty hard to get a car without paying cash. We managed to get a lease for the duration of our visa through BMW Finance. They were able to say that we were previous owners of BMW and with Mr H’s letter of offer use that to secure the lease. He arrived a couple of months before me and once I arrived it was much easier for me to get the second lease.
Another loyal reader of this Blog said his wife was able to get one car lease under her visa deal. To get around it her and her husband applied for two leases simultaneously through two different manufacturers. That way, when they were running the reports there was no record of the other lease. Quite brilliant. It worked for them so it could work for you too.
Long-term rentals are also possible. But, beware, they are obviously considerably more expensive than a regular lease or possibly even buying the car.
My two cents worth
Take all the extra expenses into account when negotiating your move with your employer. Or, if you’re doing the sums take into account bringing money into the US, the extra deposits you’ll have to pay and virtually living on cash as you establish yourself in the US’s highly flawed (yes I know I’ve said that before) credit system.
It will take you a good six to 12 months. But once you get the hang of it it will get easier. Hopefully for your sake it will be easier then when we made the move.
When does Neighbourhood Watch get classified as stalking–or just plain nosey?
When did neighbourhood watch become stalking? There’s stalking. And then there’s stalking. Right? In my best Kim Kardashian voice: I feel like the term stalking is so overused these days.
These days stalking describes social media habits—you know the ones? Your Facebook friends who know exactly what you’ve been up to but don’t ever press the like button (you know who you are). Then there’s the people that hop on your Instagram and browse your page and like all the photos they haven’t liked because, well, they like them. In this day and age this is stalking. The fear of the double-tap is real people.
What about when you have a neighbour who happens to be an actor and you glance over to see if there’s any activity in the front yard. Is that stalking? We all do it, don’t we? Glance over to see what the neighbours are up to? Don’t we or is that just me? In my day it was Neighborhood Watch—note the capitals to show it’s a genuine bona fide program. These days (especially if you live next door to a person of interest) it’s called stalking.
Is it stalking when you follow them in the car because you both happen to leave your houses at the same time? That happened to me the other week. He pulled out first (unbeknown to me) and I was on my way to tennis. How was I supposed to know that he was traveling in my direction? For the longest time. The longest time. Suddenly I felt like a stalker yet all I was doing was doing what I always do on a Thursday morning.
It got so bad that I put my indicator on and moved into the right-hand lane ultra early so he’d know I had a purpose—and that purpose was not to follow him. How was I supposed to know that he was turning right on that street too? Maybe he was stalking me? I’ve never been so relieved to see the tennis courts were up ahead and I was turning off thus ending the seemingly stalking-like behaviour. (And, by the way, in case he was stalking me he now knows where I play tennis.)
There was the time Miss 14 and I were reversing out of house and we noticed his double doors that we hadn’t noticed before. We were noticing how nice they looked. “Oh God mum, he’s caught us stalking him how embarrassing.”
“That’s not stalking, that’s admiring his doors,” I was quick to comment back. Isn’t it?
Admiring our house
Maybe he’s a little paranoid of stalking us too. He told me he loved our house and how pretty it is. “If you catch me staring at your house it’s just because I think it’s so beautiful”. (See, goes to argument of him stalking me.)
When we got our beautiful new gate put in, he fell in love with our house all over again. My daughter was walking out the gates and caught him looking in. “Just admiring your beautiful new gates,” he said.
When Mr 16 got his car and licence I saw him not long after and said, “Check it, I have my very own driver now.”
“I know,” he replied.
See? See? It’s not stalking to survey the scene, admire the renovations, goings on, check that everything is as it should be; look, notice and move on. I think that’s healthy good neighbour behaviour. And if he was anyone other that who he is then I wouldn’t even be having this conversation with you.
Mrs Mangle/Mrs Kravitz/Nosey neighbour
But at what point does “genuinely-interested-neighbourhood-watch-neighbour-who’s-not-a-stalker” turn into “nosey-neighbour”?
Nosey neighbours make great television. Over the years there has been many a classic nosey neighbour (whom I hasten to add you love to hate). They invented Neighbourhood Watch.
I get it—there are definitely those neighbours who gawk and spend hours out the window with curiosity at fever pitch. But that’s not me. Is it?
My 16-year old and I were out the front washing cars and he came out into his front yard. We couldn’t see him, we could only hear him. My first instinct was to yell over the fence, “Hi. Need your car washed?” But all I could think of was nosey Mrs Mangle from Neighbours or that Mrs Kravitz from Bewitched.
Remember this is the young lad that knocked on my door when he first bought the house? I can say “hi” can’t I?
But instead we stayed quiet and pretended that we didn’t know he was there. How lame is that? I wanted to say hi, why shouldn’t I say hi but the kids’ paranoia coupled with my vision of Mrs Kravitz trying to catch her neighbours out stopped me dead in my tracks.
Instead of friendly neighbour saying hi all I could picture was that dreaded neighbour who comes out from out of the bushes every single time you head outside saying, “Yoohoo”. Damn you stalkers and nosey neighbours. You make it hard for us normal non-stalking stalkers to live.
Mrs Kravtiz from Bewitched (image copied from Michael in Madrid the Blog).
Bodyguards outside my house
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before that my daughter has a rather famous friend. I think I may have but those of you who are new to the Blog might not know. Anyway, this friend has been coming over to the house a bit lately. His visit comes with a bodyguard. Sometimes I know who the bodyguard will be, other times I don’t.
The first time I knew the bodyguard was going to be outside I thought I better text G to let him know the person sitting in the car outside my house is not paparazzi, nor a stalker but a bodyguard.
There’s quite a perk to having a bodyguard stationed outside your house. Firstly, well it’s obvious, you feel safe. And let’s face it in LA that’s as good as it gets.
Their very first “hang” I was told they’d be fine as the bodyguard would be there to watch over them. I must admit my first thought was that’s all great but if something’s going to happen your bodyguard is paid to protect your son and my daughter might not be able to get the same level of protection. I don’t know how this all works, it’s still new to me.
The second perk to having a bodyguard stationed out the front of your house is well … the couple I’ve met have been very easy on the eye.
Will the real nosey neighbour please stand up
The guy that lives opposite from us walks his dog 10 times a day. He stops outside your house, looks in, lurks and lurks. When we first moved in, he and his mates would sit in his garage talking for most of the day. I thought this was fabulous: the best neighbourhood watch you can get.
Then when my gate and front fence were being put in my “gate guy” would report back on his chats through the day. The real nosey neighbour was telling our gate guy about how the neighbours didn’t want our house built, how the lady on the corner asked everyone why they needed to tear down a perfectly good house to make way for a new one. I’m pretty sure this guy knows everything that goes on at my place. I warned G when he moved in.
We look straight into his place from ours so it’s actually much easier to stalk him than it is G next door. We never really see anyone other than him. Sometimes we see someone who may be his son, rarely see any females but there are three cars in their drive. The one thing that strikes us though is the number of people who pull up, go into their garage and come out again. Some come with packages, others don’t. That’s what’s earnt him the nickname “The Drug Dealer”.
In a further twist, one day I was at the kids school picking them up and there he was waiting in the carpark. I have no idea who he was picking up. I have no idea what he was doing there.
I’d know if someone from school lived near us as we have a carpool dating app. The carpool dating app essentially allows us to hook up with our neighbours to arrange to carpool to and from school. If you don’t carpool then you have to drop off ultra early and pick up ultra late so it’s in your best interests to hook up. Plus it saves you driving the school every day. And, in a very un-American twist they police it.
A real stalker would have stayed in the car to see just who he was picking up and work out exactly what he was doing there. Was he making a drug delivery?
But alas, I’m a failure in the nosey neighbour/stalker department.
We haven’t seen the drug dealer at school since but the mind boggles.
I don’t know about you but I don’t have time to Facebook stalk. I always forget to even when I think I should go into their page and see what’s been going on. But, when I comment on someone’s post I get the notifications and occasionally one pops up and you think, “get out of town” or “that’s interesting”.
Over the weekend it was a friend’s birthday. Birthday post notifications were coming in thick and fast. One post caught my attention as I recognised the surname. Yes, it was the wife of one of my fave actors, minding her own business commenting on a friend’s post just like I did, safe in obscurity. Well from everyone that is but this alleged-not-so-good-at-being-nosey stalker.
Just another one of those, “Holy cow I do live in LA don’t I?” moments.
When good neighbours become good friends
Back to neighbours, or neighbourhood watch as the case might be.
When I was growing up one of my fondest memories was being outside painting with my Dad. The neighbour dad comes out and says hi, two seconds later neighbour mum comes out saying come for a drink. Next thing you know there were four neighbour families all having drinks, which turned to dinner and we didn’t leave til the wee hours in the morning. Fun times.
You tell me. Be honest. Pretend I’m still neighbours with Sue & Tony in Sydney, or Sue & John in Shanghai, or the neighbours I grew up with. Do you think I’m nosey or a “stalker” or just a friendly neighbour? I would think nothing of calling out to them, or inviting them over for a drink. It would be rude if I didn’t. Or they didn’t.
But they’re not actors whose every move are scrutinised in the tabloids I suppose. Watch this space.
The Presidential countdown is finally down to the last few weeks of the Federal election. I’m not sure how CNN is going to fill its programming as it feels like the last 18 months (at least) has been spent in review of the “forthcoming” election.
It’s such an incredibly long process. And I shudder to think how much money is spent. The airfares, private jets, hotel rooms, entourage, campaign office, printing, verbiage, the Conventions and the advertising could possibly be enough to significantly reduce the US debt let alone feed an entire nation.
I like to think I’m pretty smart with my money; my motto is if you can’t afford something perhaps you should go without. That’s pretty much how I feel about the election process here. If you’re not going to change it, at least limit the spending. (According to the FY17 Federal Budget, at the end of FY 2016, the gross US federal government debt is estimated at $19.3 trillion. I rest my case.)
America is never going to change its political system—bloody hell they can’t even reduce gun ownership—so the purpose of this post isn’t to try to change them … But seriously?
** After going to press I found this: it seems I’m not the only one who thinks America should shorten the election cycle. Sign the petition, vote to save money and the headache of a lengthy, cumbersome, expensive process. **
OK, moving on.
So let’s do a little snapshot at the difference between America & Australia when it comes to…
Politics and federal elections
There are three major differences between elections in America and Australia. (Actually there are probably no similarities but let’s just talk about these three things).
1. President v Prime Minister
So in Australia the head of the party elected in (Liberal, Labor—actually spelt Labor not Labour, Greens, Coalition, etc) gets to be the big guy (guy being a unisex term)—the Prime Minister. Done.
In the US there is this big huge palaver that means someone like Donald Trump can go, “Hey, you know I’m pretty hot shit and I reckon I’d make a bloody good Pres. So, with all my money I’m going to build a wall and make America great again. And I’ll put myself in the race to be the nominee for the Republicans. (Word has it that he has long been a Democrat. Allegedly as I didn’t personally hear it from him).
OK it’s not quite that simple. I’m not even sure how he pulled it off, where he got to the stage that he’s up there competing in the Primary. (My friends promised me he wouldn’t—couldn’t—make it that far). Now that you mention it I’m not sure how he got to the stage where he’s competing in the Federal election where he may well become President so let’s not get bogged down here.
Let’s just agree that in Australia you have to be the Leader of the Party to be PM and in America anyone can put their hand up to be Pres—you just have to put your life, soul and dollars into the process.
Qualifications for the Office of the President
In case you were wondering how these clowns can put their hand up and “avago” (Australian for have a go) I found this website.
Age and Citizenship requirements—US Constitution, Article II, Section 1
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.
Term limit amendment – US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 –
ratified February 27, 1951
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.
That’s it? I was almost too scared to Google it as I thought there would be pages and pages of hyperbole. You can be impeached for having an affair (allegedly) but you can be whoever you like as long as you’re American and you haven’t been President more than twice. Wow.
And now we have proof: all you really do need is a big mouth, an over-inflated ego and lots of money.
Back on topic …
2. How they get there (the PM and Pres)
In Australia each party chooses their head guy (unisex). A bit like Tribal Council (aka Survivor) there is a lot of behind-the-scenes jostling, bullying, counting and favour-asking. So then when they come together to vote the outcome is pretty much known. Unless there’s a #blindside.
In this case the loser spends a lot of time trying to get their numbers back up so they call for a Leadership challenge. Yes, this has happened a lot lately in Australian politics.
Back in the US a few people decide to join the race to be the Democrat nominee and a few people decide to be the Republican nominee. For about a year they talk about how good they are, the pollsters conduct polls and CNN debates the pros and cons of each guy (unisex) in the running.
They go around the country, have some sort of vote (whatever that means) and finally, at a lavish event costing tens of millions of dollars, the winner gets to be the nominee. In a nutshell, the dumbed down condensed version.
If you’re after a more educated, fact-checked opinion on the matter you can read about it here. And here.
Yep, time. In Australia an election gets called. In the last federal election (2016) I think it was called eight weeks out. Campaigning is only allowed in that time and I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere along the way a budget is nominated for each side. This could be wrong—I get all my facts from Facebook and Twitter—and seriously, if you’re a kid doing your politics assignment I wouldn’t be plagiarising my post. That’s not really important. What’s important is that it’s not a lot of time (comparatively speaking), but it’s too much time (if you get what I mean).
In the US it stretches over a year from the time these guys (unisex) step out in the public domain to announce they’re putting themselves in the running to be President. That’s when they go running around the nation, campaigning in swing states and all that. By the time they’re nominated (at their Party Convention) we’re sick of seeing them and hearing about them.
Take a moment to think about the poor guys who lost after investing all that time and effort only to come nowhere. Nowhere. Do you even remember their names? (OK except Bernie Sanders, everyone may well remember his name).
Donald Trump for President
Can we talk about Donald Trump?
Yes, it’s more than a little bit embarrassing that one of the Republican candidate is a man who doesn’t give a shit what he says, changes what he says and has no respect for anyone. A N Y O N E. Is a man who can’t even respect the system let alone represent the system.
Seriously the scary thing is not that “middle America” will vote for him, it’s the supposed intelligent people that vote for him. And they will.
See my favourite middle America videos here, they’re laugh out loud before lol was a thing:
CNN is thriving on its election coverage. It’s everywhere here in the US.
But, on my recent trip back home I was surprised to see how into the election everyone was. Everyone was dutifully informed and wanted to know what it was like to live through a US election. Even the debates were televised live.
I think this is possibly known as the Trump-effect but it’s also because Australia likes to keep a close eye on what’s going on around the world and work out how it might affect it. (Something might I add isn’t done here).
The last debate was last night (Praise the Lord). This is possibly the only thing that’s the same between our two countries—except of course the actual voting itself and even then it’s compulsory in Australia and not here.
So, the debates. Here it’s done at different Universities (Colleges) and it’s done in front of a live audience. The only deal is that audience has to be perfectly quiet, like they’re not there.
In Australia, it’s done in a television studio in front of a live, carefully selected audience. That audience has buttons that they push throughout the night gauging their reaction. This reaction is meant to be reflective of the greater Australian sentiment. They call it the worm. And much time is spent analysing the worm.
Politics and the federal elections Australia style: the worm during the great debate/s.
How much does it cost to go to College here in America?
Many of my sentences start with “Never in my Wildest Dreams…” Well in this case my sentence starts like this:
“Never in my wildest nightmares … did I expect to be looking at the American College system.” Not because I didn’t think it could be done but because I didn’t think it was necessary to look to America when we have a great University system in Australia.
Differences between College in America and going to Uni in Australia
My son is now a Junior and the talk is seemingly nothing but “Does he know where he wants to go to College?”
We were with some great (American) friends we met in Shanghai. We are so lucky in a world with Facebook and Messenger etc that we’re able to keep in touch. Naturally, as their son is the same age as my son that question came up.
My 16 year-old’s top choice is Stanford, to which my daughter always chimes in, “but he won’t get it.” (Tsk tsk to her and it’s besides the point).
“Stanford’s out of our league so we’re not even considering it,” was their response.
When they say out of their league, they mean money-wise. I was more than shocked because:
a) we didn’t even think about the money (not, I hasten to add because we can necessarily afford it but because its your final score–grade–that you consider in Australia);
b) he has a great job and earns good money; and
c) the 90210 world in which we live, people don’t think like that. You know my world can often be surreal?
How can that be fair?
It reminds me of one of the first people I met when we arrived in LA. Over a very civilised glass of bubbles one Friday afternoon she was telling me about her housekeeper. The conversation went pretty much word-for-word like this:
Her: “My housekeeper’s daughter just got into Brown.
“Can you believe she got offered a full scholarship? (Better known colloquially as a ‘free ride’).
“What’s the world coming to when I won’t be able to get my kids into Brown and I can afford to pay their full tuition and she gets to walk in without paying a cent.”
Without taking a breath or looking for a response. I kid you not.
Me: Gobsmacked & speechless I skulled what was left in my glass and immediately topped it up. I may or may not have skulled that next glass too.
We can’t afford to consider xyz Uni
Seriously? Seriously? This is how the majority of people in the US think. This is how the majority of people in the US have to think.
I surveyed a Facebook page I belong to of Australians living in America and it’s how most of them think too.
So, these gorgeous friends of mine, who are not poor, but are not uber wealthy, must first look at their income when compiling their list of Colleges for their son. Their income. Not his scores or smarts but how much they earn. No bloody wonder Bernie Sanders got as far as he did. How can that be the slightest bit fair?
What sort of system is in place that is so downright skewed to the uber rich? Not the middle class but the wealthy.
I can hear you asking, “Well, how much does Stanford cost?” Let me tell you. And you better be sitting down. Actually, go get yourself a scotch. Neat. On the rocks. Maybe only a couple—it’s going to need to be stiff.
Stanford costs how much?
At the time of publishing Stanford costs $70k per year (OK it’s just over $67k). Yale costs $65k. Harvard $61k and Brown $62k.
So I started asking around. “Is that really the case that if you can’t afford the $70k to send your child to the top institution in the country you cannot consider it?”
The bottom line answer is, sadly, an overwhelming yes.
Holy mother of $#%&ing God that is disgraceful. Seriously disgraceful.
I know I sound like a socialist now but seriously I’m gobsmacked. Please tell me how this country in which I live can be the “best in the world” when my gorgeous friends who earn good coin and pay taxes (unlike–allegedly–one of the Presidential nominees) and contribute to society in such a positive way but must rule out schools whose fees are above a certain (very high) amount. How is that possibly fair?
Pretty Little Liars
I’m binge-watching PLL at the moment and one of the sub-plots is the girls trying to navigate the College application process. And yes, the subject of affordability comes into play there too. It must be true. And, by the way, if any of you are fans: how’s poor old Hannah (Ashley Benson’s character) whose Dad is paying for her step sister to go to Dartmouth and won’t pay for his real daughter to go to a “good school” because he promised the fake one first. Shame on you TV Dad.
There’s always financial aid. Like my Friday drinking acquaintance pointed out: there is no discrimination against low-income earners. Thank god—there is a God.
And I’m thinking if my son wants to go to Stanford he should bloody well be able to consider Stanford. A College education should not just be for people who can afford it. Right? Right. Are you with me? I started looking into financial aid. It’s complex to say the least but the Website does seem to indicate that it’s possible to get a portion of the tuition through the program.
If your parents earn less than $65k it’s a no-brainer, you’re not expected to pay anything when it comes to “educational costs” but students are still expected to contribute towards their own expenses (according to the website from summer jobs or part-time work during the school year and their own savings. They can say that right but that’s why Uni kids live at home in Australia—because they can’t afford those expenses as they usually don’t earn enough to fend for themselves and you want to build up your savings, not spend it. Whatever. They have to learn sometime.
Next category is the parents with an income below $125k. Again according to the website the expected parent contribution will be low enough to ensure all the tuition charges are covered through grants and aid.
The next level from there is families with higher income—typically up to $225k who may also qualify for assistance “if more than one family member is enrolled in College”.
I’m not exactly sure of the tax rate—and CA has the highest so we’re the biggest losers—but let’s quickly do the sums. I’m assuming someone on $225k is in the highest tax bracket.
If Stanford costs $70k, you need to earn around $140k just to break even on the transaction. Throw in a mortgage of $4k per month, some clothes, running a car and a weekly grocery shop; let’s say that’s around $50k (so $100k before tax).
Let’s say it’s not quite 50% tax so we’ve over-estimated; so say we’re at $200k. All of a sudden that “higher level income” isn’t so high level anymore. Effectively that family has $25k gross left for incidentals. That’s living beneath the poverty line.
And that’s the answer to why my beautiful friends—a family on “good coin” can’t—don’t—consider Stanford.
Where is the opportunity? Where is the educational freedom? What happens to the middle classes of the land of the free; the land of opportunity?
I had no idea. No idea. (Did I mention I was gobsmacked? Are you?).
What about Australia?
It’s pretty hard to work out exactly how much Uni costs these days in Australia. Once upon a time it was free but we were breeding a society of over-educated free-loaders that the Government (controversially) decided we students had to contribute to our undergraduate educations.
So the Government introduced a type of Government-granted loan system known as HECs (Higher Education Contribution Scheme). Basically the Government pays a portion of your Uni fees and you pay the rest via the Scheme. It is an interest-free loan that you only pay back once you start earning enough money to pay it back. (I say interest free but the amount is indexed yearly according to CPI). And you only pay it back according to how much money you earn. And you pay it back through the tax system. Effectively you barely notice that you’re paying any money back. It is genius right?
How much does Uni cost in Australia?
OK, to be fair, that bit is hard to work out. It’s hard to work out because the Government kicks in for part of your fees. I could try to spend some time working it out but the point is actually that we don’t really need to look at the costs when choosing a Uni. We just need to get the marks to get into the Course we require. To get into the prestigious unis in Australia requires higher marks, not a bigger wallet or even a higher propensity to get into debt.
Well I’m going to be a stubborn socialist princess and am not going to tell my son he can only look at Colleges we can afford (more fool me). My first thought was to pay what we’re currently paying in private school fees (there goes my exotic holidays for a few more years) and he can get a loan for the rest. Well that’s not going to work. You don’t even want to hear what a debacle the student loans can be here. It’s a whole ‘nother industry. If I have enough energy I might blog about that one day.
And, if you’ve landed on this page because you’re trying to navigate the College application process I’m sorry this post hasn’t made it any clearer for you. Rest assured though, as I go through the process I’ll share it with you step by step, blow by blow, bottle of wine after bottle of wine. Nah—neat scotch after neat scotch.
And yes, if he doesn’t get into the right College for him, or get a “free ride” we are looking to send him back to Australia. Why the hell not?!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: I should also point out that there are plenty of good Colleges that don’t cost that much. The State colleges, such as UCLA are much cheaper and offer an amazing education. My point is just that I thought America was supposed to be the land of opportunity, not the land of how much money you have gets you “further in life”.
PPS: If you’re Stanford Admissions reading this post it’s not a dig at you, arguably the finest institution in the land, it’s a dig at the system. So please don’t hold this against my son. If my son gets accepted we’ll find a way to make it work—and hopefully you can help ;-).
Ever wondered what those funny terms are they use on TV or on the movies? You know the ones I’m talking about right? It’s the same for College: Freshmen, Juniors, Seniors and Sophomores. I thought it was time to take you through understanding American Grade levels.
The differences between Americans and Australians: grade level names
You may not have sat down to try to work it out but what do these terms actually mean? And, in fairness you may not even care. But do they actually use them? Why do they use them? (OK, I’m not answering that one as I plain & simple don’t know).
Understanding American Grade Levels (for dummies–like me)
9th Grade/Year 9 Freshmen
10th Grade/Year 10 Sophomores
11th Grade/Year 11 Juniors
12th Grade/Year 12 Seniors
Basically life only starts at High School (we all know the number of movies made about Middle School (formerly known as Junior High) and just how “awful” it is. There is in fact one coming out very soon called Middle School Movie–quite the imaginative title don’t you think?) Again, I don’t know why this is.
When you finish being a “Senior” at High School you start all over again to be a Freshmen at College. And yes, the American College system is a four-year program. That’s so they can make more money.
Meanwhile in Australia …
Well it’s not too difficult to work out. In a nutshell we just keep counting.
We were talking to friends in Australia about years 11 & 12–the critical years that affect what score you get which determines what Uni and course you can get into. As you’d expect years 7 to 10 get harder by the year but the marks you get in this time don’t get used to calculate your score, nor do they get shared with the Uni or College you’re applying to.
In America there is a lot of talk about how your grade counts the minute you start Year 9. Kids rush to take Honours classes (which helps get your GPA up if you get good marks) and there is an incessant amount of study and (some might say unnecessary for their age) late nights.
You see, here in good old US of A Colleges get sent your High School transcript. I’m not really sure if the panic to exceed and succeed so you lose all sense of fun and your childhood is worth it but that’s how it rolls here.
Along with the late nights comes a rush to pick Community Service projects to outdo everyone else’s and find extra curricular activities that might make them attractive to College Admissions team. Burn out much?
Anyways, more about all that in my series on Colleges–the beast it is here but at least know you know (as I know you’ve always wanted to) about those Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.
Have a good weekend–and be thankful you’re no longer at school.
I know, I can hear you asking me: What’s the Broad?
Well, The Broad is a contemporary art museum in Downtown LA.
I know, I can still hear you: Contemporary art museum in LA? Isn’t LA all about entertainment (celebrities), fitness (hiking and kale salad) and amusement parks (no need to explain them)?
Absolutely not! There is more to LA than good looks, expensive cars and getting an acting/producing gig.
Whether you’re planning your first trip to LA or you’re a seasoned veteran you simply must visit the Broad.
(pronounced like it rhymes with road—not as in Broad beans)
Like I said, The Broad is a contemporary art museum in Downtown LA in a fabulous purpose-built building. The Broad opened its doors to the public on September 20, 2105. And it’s been gang-busters ever since. According to a recent press release it attracted more than 820,000 visitors in its inaugural year–nearly triple its pre-opening projections and the largest first-year attendance of a new art institution in the US in recent years. Take that New York.
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
The Broad: the low-down
1. The collection is private—Eli & Edythe Broad’s own collection.
As an Australian (or anyone for that matter!), this is incredible on so many levels.
Clearly massive art lovers they’ve taken art appreciation to a whole new level. It’s not all “theirs,” but rather they set up a foundation so the public can have access to and appreciate art as well.
Known as the Broad Art Foundation, the Broad is made up of a combination of the Foundation’s and their own personal collection. Since they started collecting art some five decades ago they’ve amassed more than 2,000 pieces. And it’s growing weekly. They have a borrowing system where they lend art to galleries all over the world so they can share their collection with others. What great people.
I wonder if they ever dreamed they’d amass such a collection? And the collection is amazing. I studied art at school and–don’t get me wrong–I really like it–but I’m not one of those people who can name famous artists—especially contemporary ones—like I’m naming rock bands or fashion houses. Mention Andy Warhol and, of course, I’ll know him. Doesn’t everybody? And don’t his paintings belong in some fandangled New York gallery rather than part of a private collection? (I guess they do now!)
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
2. They funded (and built) the building.
To house art that they’ve collected that they’re sharing with us, they built a funky purpose-built building. And the building is incredible. The photos look incredible enough but up close—and when you’re inside it—it’s jaw-dropping. The building itself is worth going to see. Full credit to architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and executive architect Gensler. (I actually think this has now passed the Guggenheim—and architectural wonder—as my favourite museum).
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
3. Check out the special installation on the ground floor.
Infinity Mirrored Room, a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display. A 45-second visit is enough to blow your senses out of the water. It’s so unique as you’re the only one in the room. This installation finishes in October 2017. At the same time a broader exhibition featuring Yayoi Kusama’s work is planned.
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
4. Next door is the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
It’s in amazing company. For some philanthropic and art loving trivia, Eli Broad was the founding chairman and is a life trustee of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (which is across the road), he was a visionary behind the development of Grand Avenue (where The Broad is based), and he spearheaded the fundraising campaign to build the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall). Talk about an art over-achiever!
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
Pop in next door for a free tour while you’re in the area.
5. The food is amazing
The food options in Downtown LA are varied and offers great choices for any budget.
Where to eat
My number one choice is for sure the signature restaurant as part of The Broad, The Otium. Even now as I type (and I’ve eaten, I’m not hungry) I am salivating. The menu is so fresh and the food so innovative, light but filling and totally satisfying. It’s designed to share and you are going to want to try as much as you can on the menu.
But, best of all the ambience is warm, inviting and homely–with a twist of funk courtesy of the decor and building. And the service echoes the warm feeling: the staff is nothing but friendly, knowledgeable and everyone we spoke to were happy campers.
The Broad is on 221 S Grand Avenue in Downtown LA.
General admission is free but hop online and reserve timed admission ticketsbefore you go. It doesn’t cost anything and saves you waiting in a queue. That general admission queue also doesn’t guarantee you get in and it’s still painfully long so just hop online.
How to get there
If you don’t have a car The Metro stops nearby. For more information on routes and fares click here.
If you’re like most Los Angelinos and public transport isn’t your thing there’s always Uber. Or if you have a car because driving is more your thing (God knows why with this LA traffic) there’s parking right next door. Be sure to validate your parking for discounted fees. For more info on parking click here.
Where to stay
There are some great hotels in Downtown LA but I recommend staying in the more traditional LA hotspots, for example West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. For more information on Beverly Hills Hotels see my series of articles.
People forget about art when they visit LA and Downtown often gets left off most people’s agendas. But both are well worth including in your LA bucketlist.
This article was repurposed from an original I wrote on Cosmos Mariners Blog site a year ago. You can find the original story here. Thanks again Natalie for featuring me! While you’re there check out Natalie’s other stories–she’s covered some amazing ground.
I’m not living in 90210 anymore, instead I’m a “Valley Girl”. There is a whole backstory (and a half) that goes along with the move but for now let me tell you this: I didn’t want to move; I wanted to keep my 90210 postcode. Who wouldn’t?
Apart from loving the area, having friends close; we were surrounded by “celebrities” new and old, famous and infamous. I knew there were many celebrities in the Valley too but most likely not in my street or little neighbourhood.
That’s where I was wrong.
Yep, my life is not scripted or made more dramatic for the Blog, my life is just very LA. The day a ‘famous’ actor moved in next door.
When your neighbour turns out to be “so so famous”
The day we moved in our neighbours put up a For Sale sign. Nice welcome. Thank God they did because they weren’t very nice and not at all friendly.
Fast forward six or so weeks (the house sold within 10 days of being on the market) and the house was abuzz with renovation. That afternoon I got a knock at the door.
(The shitty thing about moving down into the suburbs of The Valley is that it’s too easy to walk up and down the streets so we get every man and his dog wanting to sell us their wares and convert us to ‘see the light”.)
So that afternoon I get a knock on my door. And it’s not someone in black pants and a white shirt or someone selling LA Times subscriptions.
At my door is a rather groovily dressed guy in hipster pants, a T-Shirt, and a red baseball cap.
“Hi. My name is Glenn and I’ve just moved in next door.”
1. Glenn is not his real name so you can forget about switching over to Google ‘Celebrities with the name Glenn’.
2. He had the most delightful British accent—music to my ears.
He continues, “I’m so sorry about the noise, I’m renovating my house and I asked the guys to start at 7am but I heard they started at 6am.”
“No problems,” I replied. “We’re up anyway and we didn’t even notice the noise.”
Did I mention he had a plant in hand, handing it over as a “peace offering”?
What beautiful manners was my first reaction. It’s not often I’ve seen anyone here with such consideration for the neighbours let alone coming in with a thoughtful gift. Ah! That’s because he’s not from these parts.
It was a short encounter, he handed over the gift, we exchanged pleasantries and I got on with my afternoon. Actually, truth be told, I wasn’t very warm—I should have invited him in but I was so fearful of our dog weeing all over him that I barely had the door open wide enough for him to feel the least bit welcome. And why is it that whenever I get a random knock at the door I’m looking like shite?
Celebrity next door?
That night as everyone was coming home we talked about how exciting it was to have a non-American neighbour (sorry American friends) who was thoughtful and youthful. (I’ve guessed his age as mid to late 20s). We haven’t had a great trot with neighbours so I didn’t want to get too carried away. For now I reserve my judgement, on a scale of 1 to 10, as 7.0—hopeful.
My daughter asked me what the neighbour did.
“I don’t know, we didn’t get that far,” I said. “I assume he’s an actor.”
My daughter laughed at me. “Mum, you just assume everyone in LA is an actor. Or at least in Entertainment. They don’t have to be you know; you’re so weird.”
She was right of course. He didn’t look like an actor, he was totally unassuming and he was incredibly nice and polite.
So we started talking about the assumptions you make when you live in a certain place.
“What would you assume he did if we were in Sydney?” my daughter asked. “Well most people in Sydney work traditional hours. I guess he would be in IT (working from home).”
In Wales it’s easy as many people work shift work. In China … well I don’t think that would happen as everyone goes to an office–maybe work in hospitality but by that time of day they would already be at work.
So I saw Glenn a number of times as he set about renovating his house to move in.
He moved in and there was music coming from his backyard and a bit of life in what is otherwise a quiet neighbourhood. it was good. A week later, as he kids had friends over with the music going, there was a little gathering going on next door.
My son’s British friend noted, “your new neighbours are lit.”
“Yeah right”, I said, “He’s British.” We laughed and thought nothing more of it.
Than we noticed our dream car—Audi R8—outside the front of our house.
He must totally be an actor.
Living next door to a celebrity
Another week goes by and one night my daughter sees “someone” coming and going from our neighbour’s house. She yells from her room.
“Mum, there’s a famous guy next door. Is he visiting or is our neighbour famous?”
“I’m not sure honey, let’s see.”
By some stroke of a miracle the “famous guy” comes back down his drive.
“Oh honey, that’s Glenn. That’s our neighbour.”
Squeals of delight and excitement ensue with a shrill only a 13 year-old can pull off. In one Snapchat her entire friend network knows the news.
“Oh my God, I’m pretty sure I just read he recently moved in with his girlfriend. And <screams> you know who it is? It’s Hannah Montana (clearly NOT a real person but I’m not going to divulge her real name and you get the idea that we’re actually talking about someone with HIGH name recognition amongst the tweens and teens).
More squeals … and lots of Googling.
“Oh my God, oh my God, I’m living next door to HANNAH MONTANA.”
And so, my fear of moving away from the celebrity action couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead I have a bona fide ‘it’ couple living right next door to me.