Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New York Cabs to Become Environmentally Friendly

THEY ARE almost as iconic to New York as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, but the famous fleet of yellow taxicabs are about to receive a makeover: they must go green by 2012.

Michael Bloomberg, the Republican mayor, announced yesterday that New York City's 13,000 taxicabs would be required to switch to cleaner, hybrid engines within five years, as part of his plan to reduce the city's carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. continued

I think this a wonderful idea. We have to, as individuals, cities, countries and nations, make a major impact on the incredibly destructive practices we have been participating in that have cause global warming.



"Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow." — Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard

Monday, May 21, 2007

What Scientology is REALLY all about

You know, as a Scientologist it is a constant surprise to me to read about Scientology in the news. It so rarely resembles anything like what life as a Scientologist is like.

You hear such odd, skewed tails.

Scientlogists are really just like anyone else, except that they do have tools they can use to get them over the rough spots in life, they tend to be very spiritual people because they know they are spiritual beings, not bodies, and because they've gotten a lot of help, they are usually eager to help others too.

I've been assaulted on the street by kooks who have been enraged by crap they've read on the Net. Literally. I would invite anyone who has heard something they don't like about Scientology to actually examine the subject personally. I am sure they will be surprised by how basic and simple Scientology is. How sensible. And how worthwhile.





"Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow." — Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nine lives - Kate Ceberano

I found this great story today in the Perth Sunday Times. I don't know how long they keep their stories online so I decided to copy the whole thing here for posterity (my apologies to other bloggers who like stories shorter but when you read the story you'll understand why I saved the whole thing.).



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Trent Dalton

May 19, 2007 10:00pm

In a former life, Kate Ceberano had real fame at her fingertips -- and then she walked away. But for this all-singing, all-dancing Scientologist, what goes around always comes around.

Milla was a gift from Kirstie Alley. A plucky chihuahua with a torso the size of a soft-drink can, she came in a cardboard box resting on soft white tissue paper. Kate Ceberano named her after actor Milla Jovovich. The dog circles Ruthie Ceberano’s legs as she leads us through a hallway to a room where her sister-in-law, Kate, chats to a TV producer. Ruthie is Kate’s personal assistant.

The hallway’s walls are lined with framed photographs. There’s a picture of Kate’s father Tino, a Hawaiian-Filipino master of martial arts who moved to Queensland some years ago to escape the Victorian winter. Here’s Kate at her 1996 wedding to film-maker Lee Rogers. Her brother Phil is beaming, all tanned skin and teeth. There’s older brother Paul, a karate expert like his dad. Here’s Kate’s grandmother, one-time governess to the children of L. Ron Hubbard, the Scientology guru whose teachings are followed by Kate, Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruise and 10 million others. There’s Kate’s mum, Cherie. She runs a Scientology-based counselling service from an office off the hallway.

A well-used rocking horse rests in the corner of the lounge room beside a modest entertainment unit. An adjoining kitchen looks out through glass doors to the clear, green-for-a-drought

Melbourne suburbs. This is Ceberano HQ: home to Kate, Lee, their three-year-old daughter Gypsy and her grandmother.

Kate waves hello from the middle cushion of a three-seat lounge. She’s discussing the music for It Takes Two, the televised pros-and-amateurs singing show she signed on to before finishing her triumphant shot at Dancing with the Stars.

“I want it big, big, big,” she says, almost doing star jumps on the polished wooden floors.
The TV producer leaves and Kate slumps into a chair at a long, rustic wooden table beside a stereo system. She runs polished fingernails through her hair and loosens her shoulders. Deep breath.

“Aaaah,” she sighs. She laughs and her smile jolts her back to life. “My career has had the most berserk ebbs and flows,” she says. “It goes up and down. The weirdest things reactivate my career. It’s never anything I expect. I mean . . . a televised dancing competition?”

With hindsight, she was an obvious choice for Dancing with the Stars. The show appears to have two casting prerequisites: someone well known, or someone with a body that would melt steel.
Ceberano ticked both boxes. Flamboyant, opinionated, vocally brilliant, famous and yet not so famous to not be asked.

The one time she found real fame – Kylie fame – she sabotaged it, tore it up.
She’s been singing for 25 years. At 15, she sang illegally in Melbourne pubs. She was never corrupted. She never took drugs. (Scientologists don’t do drugs.) She simply watched. She was a voyeur of human nature. She watched them snort cocaine. She watched them drink. She studied the faces in the crowd as singer for the ’80s arty funk band I’m Talking. She studied the eyes of the record execs who revelled in the pop smash that was her 1989 solo album, Brave.

Her soulful voice once reached all the way to the British studios of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, the production trio behind Kylie Minogue and Bananarama. They threw more than half a million dollars at her. They were going to make her a pop princess. But Ceberano refused.

“I don’t know why I rejected it,” she says. “I had these guys smoking cigars telling me (she affects a rough British Midlands accent) ‘This is how you write a hit, luvvie’. I just knew it wasn’t right. I have an instinctive snobbery toward some things.”

She sacked her manager, came home and put her career in the hands of her mother. Manufactured pop wasn’t part of the Kate Ceberano dream, the one where she’s a jazz chanteuse singing in small clubs in Paris and Greenwich Village. Nor was compromise, but in the music world compromise pays the bills.

The Ceberano home is no mansion. It’s an idyllic suburban family home, but it doesn’t scream “set for life”.

Kate’s a working mother. Lee makes television commercials while pushing his feature films toward the green light. The Ceberano philosophy on money was best outlined when a tabloid magazine offered Kate payment for an exclusive snap of her wedding ring. She took the cash and gave it straight to Lee to fund a short film.

In the decade leading up to Dancing with the Stars, she released a string of well-reviewed adult contemporary albums that didn’t set the charts on fire. She went to Hollywood to make it as an actress.

A charming role as a Hawaiian princess in Paul Cox’s 1999 film Molokai showed she had the salts, but the big bite never came. She gigged, she changed nappies and she wondered where the next pay cheque was coming from.

“I gotta tell ya, there are times in my life where I’ve thought myself a fool,” she says. “But I’m grateful for the fact that I’ve had to travel this far. And it often seemed unendurable. I’ve spent time and money to try and understand why I made those choices back then. Then it suddenly all comes together in a strange, crazy way.”

In short, a television producer calls you and asks if you would join Jamie Durie, Wendell Sailor and Naomi Robson as a contestant on a televised dance competition.

“After The X-Factor debacle,” she says, citing Channel 10’s ill-conceived Australian Idol rip-off in which she was a judge, “I vowed I’d never work on television again. I despised the energy of any show like that. It was such an evil show.

“I hadn’t thought it possible that they would re-shoot someone’s grief because the first shot wasn’t good enough. Or that you’d be persuaded out of a decision in favour of someone to have the producers say it’s not going to get the ratings so you need to change your mind. That’s obscene. I didn’t think I’d recover from that one.”

She crosses her arms.

“Mum gave me the greatest compliment the other day. Someone asked her how she would sum up my character and she said ‘Kate recovers fast’. It’s true. You have nine lives in a life of music. If you get away with that amount you’re a freak, because there’s a lot to pull you down.”

Scientologists are big on the golden rule. Do unto others. What goes around comes around. Energy. Karma. Past souls. It still hurts Ceberano to think she might have unfairly crushed the spirits of The X-Factor’s contestants. It reaches to her core, right to the 19-year-old girl with acne who couldn’t say a word to idol Michael Hutchence while touring Australia with INXS; right to the 40-year-old woman comparing her curves to Beyonc√© Knowles.

“I looked like Beyonc√© at 25,” she says. “But I was too shy to put on a bikini and get on a beach.” Perhaps she could have conquered the world if she’d just played ball. It is unlikely, of course, that her mum would have encouraged a bikini beach shoot for her only daughter. Kate describes Cherie as “strong-minded, almost like a Germaine Greer, but not as f***ed up”.

In the early ’90s, record execs knew that to get to Kate Ceberano, then the foremost female music talent in Australia (Kylie was in London), you had to go through her mother. Then in late 1993, against her instincts, Kate left the family nest. She changed management and broke out on her own, moving to New York to take up a major recording deal with the Elektra label. Her long-awaited US-produced album Globe was in the can when she received a phone call telling her Elektra Records had been through major management changes and her album was not part of the new vision. Returning to Australia, she re-recorded it with the title Blue Box. After a three-year battle, it was released in 1996 and struggled to find an audience in a country unsure of Ceberano’s direction.

For her, the lesson was this – trust your instincts and family is everything.
“I probably let us down,” she says. “We were doing so well. It’s an indefensible argument to say that a mother is being a showbiz mum. If you say she isn’t, then it consolidates the idea that she is because she’s putting words in your mouth. It’s an impossible argument.

“I let us down by actually listening to those people who were saying that it didn’t look good. Now, the fact that we work again together and it’s prospering, it’s proof to me that that’s what happened. There were people around who couldn’t manipulate or get close to me because she was there. I was at an age when I was highly impressionable. There’s a litany of artists who have those vampires hanging off them right now and they don’t know it. They won’t know it until they’re 40.”
There’s a Kate Ceberano story that begins with the singer sitting in a plane bound for LA. She looks across the aisle to see a Hollywood movie star sitting across from her. This guy’s huge, as big as it gets. He’s on the A-plus list. Kate’s been a fan all her life. They start talking. The actor invites her to dinner that night. Over dinner, he becomes so enchanted by Ceberano that, impulsively, he leans over and plants a kiss on her lips. The kiss lasts longer than it should, longer than Kate’s then-boyfriend Lee Rogers would appreciate. She rushes home and tells Rogers everything. He forgives and forgets.

The story is from her own mouth. She once used it to describe the power of Scientology, which considers trust “the firmest building block in human relationships”. Now she responds to the story with caution.

“There’s been many things I’ve done in my life of which I have no regrets and I’ve loved every minute of. And so has my husband. And my whole family. We’ve all been wonderful and wanton and impulsive. And honest. That’s how you get away with having a real life and not having to live in a nunnery.”

She looks over my shoulder and smiles. I turn to find Cherie standing behind me holding a cup of tea. I have no idea how long she’s been there. In her late 50s with a pretty smile and a sharp mind, Cherie speaks in a calm, measured voice honed, no doubt, in countless counselling sessions in the office beyond the hallway.

“I was aware of man’s fragile nature,” she says while Kate, Ruthie and Milla prepare for a photo shoot in Kate’s bedroom. “We have the penchant and ability to behave badly. That includes me. That’s why I went to work for Kate. I was wise in the ways of man.

“We have built up a really tight-knit juggernaut of an organisation. You have extraordinary people, hand-picked, around you who you trust and love and who have no agenda. Tom Cruise has been accused of such a thing. I know for a fact he’s got one. I know who they are and why they are that way and to what extraordinary lengths they will go to see that he does well in his mission, his purpose, his dreams.

“We find that (it’s) a survival thing to do, to be in charge of your decisions and choices.”
She asks if I would like to hear a recording of a 15-year-old Kate singing in the Melbourne Town Hall. She leads me to her office, past a nude portrait of her daughter. “It was entered into the Archibald Prize,” she says, offhand. “It won the packers’ prize, not surprisingly.”

Her office is adorned with Scientology symbols and charts. There are rows of weighty hardcover books and piles of Scientology pamphlets. She places a worn cassette tape in a portable stereo by her desk. Kate sings Blue Moon; Cherie closes her eyes and listens. The sound is serene. You can forget how pure her voice is.

“It’s well known that Scientologists have a reality about having lived before,” Cherie says. “It would seem to me that these gifts came with her from some other time.”
I ask her to describe how Kate was raised.

“Prodigies do come. It’s a burden for them in life,” she says. “They don’t always understand it. She didn’t go to school very much. That’s not an easy thing. But I took what I knew about mankind and I knew that the child is not a child. It’s an old soul taking a break. You’re just their minder until they get going again.”

Above the desk is a Scientology Tone Scale. It’s used to evaluate the true character of humans.
Scientologists, explains Cherie, are taught to find the person behind the facade.

“See this? Your social tone is enthusiastic,” she says. “Your chronic tone is a wee bit conservative.” She stops the Blue Moon tape. “OK, that’s it. I’m going to get into trouble.”
We walk back to the kitchen, where Cherie takes a leg of lamb from the fridge and washes its plastic wrapping under water in the sink.

“I only learned to do this after she died,” she says, nodding towards an A3-size paper photograph of Kate’s grandmother stuck to the wall beside the kitchen bench. “I couldn’t cook before. When my mother died, I had no idea how to do it. I think I’m channelling her a bit.” She takes a garlic clove and chops it. “It was a dreadful experience when she died. I remember going off to Safeway and standing in the front door having a meltdown. I couldn’t find anything and I stood there at these rows of . . . stuff . . . and I’m screaming ‘Where the f*** is the butter?’.”

Cherie stabs the lamb, placing the garlic pieces in the holes. “There’s another story about Kate and me that nobody knows,” she says. “She helped me survive something horrible. I had a terrible brain tumour. It was her care that brought me back from that.

“She is amazing. I’ve seen her get kicked in the guts . . .” She doesn’t finish her sentence. Something over my shoulder has made her clam up. I turn to find Kate Ceberano with her eyebrows raised, smiling.

I have no idea how long she’s been there.

She stands in a long, figure-hugging black Dolce & Gabbana dress. A suburban kitchen is no place for a dress like this. It belongs on a catwalk, or in a Fellini film.

I think of one of the great Kate Ceberano quotes: “If I was six inches taller, I’d be such a f***ing bitch.”

Cherie puts the lamb in the oven. “I showed him the Tone Scale,” she says as she retreats to her bedroom. “He’s a bit conservative, but he’s really enthusiastic.” Kate laughs. She shakes her head, as much to acknowledge what could be considered an unusual domestic environment as to pay tribute to the eccentric woman whom she loves with all her heart and soul.

“I can’t imagine Gypsy growing up any other way,” she says. “For anyone else my age, they can’t stand the idea. But I couldn’t imagine living without her (Cherie’s) counsel. We walk a fine line. We don’t merge any more. We just walk together.”

She turns to the picture of her grandmother.

“My grandmother had a tough time dying. She was so youthful, yet her body was letting her down. I just said to her ‘Look, go in peace and I’ll just create you a new body. I’ll make one. I’ll manufacture another’.”

She pauses to gauge my response. I’m hoping my face is blank.
“Now, I don’t have any proof that this is true or not, but it made her feel comforted, that she’d be back and we’d have our trinity again. Gypsy was born just after she left,” she says.
“I don’t think it’s respectful to the nature of things to try to burden Gypsy with that, but I do, for my own comfort, imagine that it’s her. Because I just can’t imagine life without her.”
She ducks back into her bedroom to change and Cherie re-emerges to present me with a small black book. It’s a Scientology booklet, its title in bright gold: The Way to Happiness – A Common Sense Guide to Better Living, To You From Kate Ceberano.

In an empty kitchen, I thumb through the book. It’s full of straightforward commandments: “Do Not Take Drugs”, “Honour and Help Your Parents”, “Do Not Murder”, “Be Industrious”, “Be Competent”, “Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others”. My eyes settle on the Epilogue: “There is no person alive who cannot make a new beginning.”

Kate returns in a casual outfit. I ask her what her next move will be. What of the next 40 years? “I have no idea,” she says. “I think I’ll leave it in the hands of the gods.”

Kate Ceberano’s latest album, Nine Lime Avenue, is out now.




"Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow." — Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Freedom Magazine Blog

For the best in Investigative Journalism checkout the new Freedom Magazine Blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

So, what IS Scientology?

There is so much interest now in Scientology after this week's BBC Panorama show, I've had friends ask me about Scientology more this week than any time I can remember.

There are some good sites online that tell a lot about Scientology. Of course there is the official Scientology site but another site I like to tell people to visit is the Scientology Press Office and a site that has the online version of the Scientology Handbook which is particularly good because it includes information you can use. Scientology is a very practical religion and the best way to learn about it is to use it. I'd had friends tell me about it for years but it wasn't until I tried using Scientology that I realized, on a very personal level, just how valuable it is.

"Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow." — Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard

Monday, May 14, 2007

BBC Panorama Exposed

Freedom Magazine has just released a documentary of their filming of what John Sweeney and his crew actually did in the filming of the "Scientology and Me" documentary. What you saw on YouTube was only the smallest part of what he was up to. It's amazing that BBC would support someone with his lack of integrity. I hope they realize now that he simply isn't up to their standards. Otherwise it's their standards that are in question.



This is the first of a three part clip on YouTube. You can watch the whole show on the Freedom Magazine web site.