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Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sydney's 'race riots' (bloody hell, actual news!).

You may have heard that Sydney is currently experiencing a few public order difficulties. This is not a new phenomenon. It's summer, beaches and sunshine attract young people and have always been regarded as territory. Add beer into the mix, a liberal dosage of racial intolerance, beat well and hey presto your very own riot-ette.

The actual facts of how the race riots came to be are both unclear and unimportant. The events of the previous weekend are part of an ongoing attitude of intolerance by everyone concerned. The state premier has said that the riots are a sign of an undercurrent of racism in Australian society, I'm rather afraid he might be right. The Prime Minister said that he did not think that this was the case, even Aussies have greeted this with a degree of disbelief.

This is difficult to explain and has a lot to do with the Australian national character being more than a trifle confrontational. In absolutely no regard is anyone blameless in this situation, everyone involved has some level of culpability. That is not to suggest that there are no victims. As normal everyone ends up suffering for the actions of the idiotic few.

Talking to people this week everyone has some dubious 'a friend of mine' story of being hassled by 'Lebs' on the beach (people of middle-eastern appearance, normally young men). Most of these seem to centre around dress code with people being surrounded and told to cover-up if the girls are wearing bikinis. This pretty much typifies how everyone approaches this situation. The caucasian majority are not too keen on people that look different and the immigrant population are not too keen on assimilating. These stories were all too prevalent and the Aussies were a bit too quick to give them to everyone else.

The original intent of the protests at Cronulla was as a demonstration against gangs on the beach. This demonstration was meant to be a peaceful family event . A text message was sent round by someone who had clearly got the wrong idea calling on people to 'reclaim their beach'. From that point on the whole process seems to have been hijacked by people who had an axe to grind.

The media too must take their share of the blame, which is a sizeable chunk in their case. You may have seen footage and photographs of the riots and they are as unpleasant as one might expect. I doubt very much if anything about them struck you as odd. Compare these pictures to other footage you have seen of riots. All the shots are very close up and are taken from the point of view of the rioter. The photographers and cameramen were in the thick of the action, right in the middle of it. How the hell did they get there?

The media had been talking this story up all week into a race issue in the hope of actually having something to report. Their presence is enough to bring about the display mentality and alchohol and group presence the diminished responsibility that triggered people into idiocy. The reporters were going into the heart of the crowd and asking difficult questions of people that had not the intellect, the vocabulary or inclination to answer. Something the replies showed up:
"No I'm not a racist. I love everyone. We've just had e-fucking-nough. We've had e-fucking-nough."
What he'd had e-fucking-nough of he didn't say, possibly this was the subject of the leading question given to him by the journalist looking for a good vox-pop or possibly he didn't have the wit to qualify his statement.

And then there are the racists, quite a lot of them. Many of them were wearing the cross of the 1854 Eureka rebellion. This flag is very similar in intent to the American confederate cross. This is a shame because it should have none of the racist overtones given its origins. The Eureka rebellion ought to occupy a place in Australian cultural history similar, to that Magna Carta has in England - smaller scale obviously.

Despite all the sound and fury this was pretty small beer as far as riots go. Nothing got burned, no-one was killed, there was no looting and no planned violence. LA, Paris, London and just about anywhere that has had real civil unrest would have laughed this off. To give you some kind of idea of the scale of it, there has been worse violence at football matches in the UK, probably with more pronounced racist overtones. So how did it get in to headlines worldwide? Well for a start because the Australian media are keen to make a name for themselves and really want to export news as much as they import it - which is a little difficult as they are a bit short on product - also because the way they report here has to be seriously overblown to make an impact on an unusually pragmatic and sanguine populace, something that doesn't translate very well elswhere. Secondly because the received image of Australia elswhere in the world is red desert with some kangaroos in it interspersed with beach paradise inhabited by sports obsessed beer drinkers - which is more or less correct - the idea that Australia has overwhelming social issues is a bit new to people who don't think very hard about its' origins and history i.e. everyone. And lastly because nothing happens here and anything of significance happening in Australia is news almost for that reason alone.

The police in any country do not normally cover themselves in glory in situations like this but I have to say the Sydney police seem to have handled themselves pretty well. They protected people from the mob, didn't get involved, and didn't allow themselves to become a target. Actual violence was for the larger part confined to property, there were a few unlucky individuals but it could have much, much uglier. The reaction afterwards has been enourmous. There have been peace and anti-racism rallies, emergency legislation and additional police brought in. All the beaches were locked down this weekend with police putting roadblocks up, searching cars and in real trouble spots not allowing anyone but residents access to the beach. This could be seen as a major over reaction but the police did manage to confiscate a few petrol bombs and some home-made weaponry but total arrests this weekend were in single figures. It is also only 2 weeks to Christmas, and Aussies spend Christmas on the beach. Everyone wants this finished before it ruins the biggest holiday of the year. The cynical amongst us might also be tempted to suggest that this is a result of the Prime Minister being asked difficult questions at an international conference. Whatever the reasons the beach was beautifully quiet. If that is the way things are going to be then the police can have road blocks every weekend.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Shark season

With summer comes shark scares, yay! Most beaches here have shark sirens which are custom designed to scare the shite out of everybody, which is fair enough as nearly 5 meters of shark is going to give you a bit of a breathless moment anyway. However the ensuing panic of hundreds of people making a break for the shore may well excite the pointy-toothed leviathan - turning it from casual observer interested by all the funny soft pink things in the water to frenzied attacker confused by all the food suddenly trying to run away.


Everyone's reaction to a shark in the water must give the lifeguards a bit of a giggle. This quote is from the most recent news story where a good-sized shark was spotted off Bondi Beach:
"There were 100 people up the top screaming like monkeys," said Anthony Carroll, one of the lifeguards who went out on jet-skis to alert swimmers.
It looks like the Bondi shark is either hanging around or has brought a friend as another sizeable one was spotted at Tamarrama yesterday.

Critical habitat for sharks, and people surf here...It's not like people don't know there are sharks here. Divers specifically come to places like Gordons Bay and Clovelly to see the sharks. It is also extremely rare that people get bitten. It has been a year since anyone has been attacked and people were surprised when that happened. The guy who was attacked last Christmas was English. The shark bit his board so he punched it on the nose, got out of the water, got another board and went back in. Dozy pom. This was at Bronte Beach, which is about 1.5km from Bondi as the shark swims.

The beach that I live at, Maroubra, is listed as critical habitat for sharks and large fish, there are diving and fishing restrictions as you can see from the sign in the picture. It is also one of the most reliable surf breaks in Sydney and on any given day there will be at least ten people in the water on surfboards (most people who get attacked are surfing - wetsuits and surfboards make you look like food even more than if you are just swimming). I have not yet heard of anyone beeing attacked or even seeing a shark at Maroubra, probably because they treat the open water with a bit less complacence.

The normal air patrols that give the lifeguards early warning of big sharks close to shore do not have the funding to run this year and the police don't have the resources to do it instead so there are going to be a lot more of these scares this summer. I've decided I'm not going to let it bother me. If you get bitten you are profoundly unlucky and the chances of it happening are so small as to be comparable with being hit by lightning. I say this because I was in the ocean at seven this morning and it was a great way to wake up. Emily chose this as the moment to tell me about the shark scares and quickly freaked herself out and started jumping at shadows in the water, they turned out to be seaweed.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Summer has arrived...

Summer has quite clearly arrived in Sydney. It hit 40°C here yesterday, even the Aussies called that bloody hot. Thankfully the humidity stayed below 20% so you could still move around in it but it was a bit like being shoved in a tumble dryer. It's on days like that I really appreciate the breeze off the ocean at Maroubra and - joy of joys - the air conditioning in the new flat.

Go fly a kite. You're missing out here, it's a great photo.Unfortunately what I really wanted to be doing was not sitting at work in icily air conditioned building. This was however the most sensible thing to be doing. I went downstairs at lunchtime to read my book and made the mistake of putting my bare forearms on the table. The tabletop is was solid granite and had been in the sun all morning. I made a sound like a wounded baboon and found something to rest on.

My mum arrives here for Christmas on Friday morning from the UK, where it is winter - I hope she's ready for it. Christmas is going to be a bit odd I think. We have a couple of friends coming over for dinner and there's mum and Rik and Em and I. That's six people, we have only 5 chairs of various heights, 5 sets of cutlery and 4 plates. Oh well we'll just have to get pissed and not worry about it.

We have discovered that there is a wireless internet connection here, though we can't establish whose it is or why it's here at the moment. I can't say it's troubled me overly. It means I have the internet at home so I shall be spending far more time tossing myself senseless whilst Em isn't around updating things on here and getting some more fiction and other writing done. Of course what I'm supposed to be doing is looking for a job but I've already spent 2 hours doing that tonight and I'm rather bored of it.

I've got to do something productive with my time or I'll go bloody nuts. I recently re-read the entire Lord of The Rings trilogy and it took far too little time. My brain is about to start making trouble for me if I don't find something to do and there's only so much tennis I can play. I have started playing chess again but I'm not too good at it. I guess a proper job is the only solution. I don't want a job I want to spend all day at the beach. It's only accross the road, I wouldn't even have to walk far. Oh well, back to the slog, I'll see if I can find some funny jobs to write about...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Bowls update...

Bowls proved typically sedate, sadly, but with a few interesting additions.

There was the ever predictable cold fizzy alchohol, which combined with the high temperature made for a slightly hazy experience. But what really made it for me was the four-piece jazz band who played loungecore/cool-jazz versions of contemporary hits. My favourite was probably Guns 'n' Roses' Sweet Child O' Mine which was very good indeed. Radiohead's Creep wasn't bad either and the couple of Red Hot Chili Peppers songs I heard from them were pretty good too.

Lawn bowls is quite unnecessarily difficult. Why people take it up at retirement when at best they have only 2 decades to practice is quite beyond me (and no they don't bowl overarm here).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bowls & football

Going bowling this aftertnoon with work...

...Crown Green bowls. Yes the 'Pensioners in White' sport. It is unbelievably popular here, every suburb seems to have it's own club which is well used.

This may have something to do with the Aussies winning the Bowls World Cup some years ago, apparently. The Aussies, by their own admission, take no interest in a sport until they can win it and just don't talk about it if they lose.

Imagine the fervour a few weeks ago when the 'Socceroos' qualified for the World Cup, you know the real World Cup, football with a round ball. You have to call it 'Soccer' here because 'Football' means AFL and 'Footy' means rugby, usually rugby league.

I watched a documentary about the origins of Aussie rules football a few weeks ago. The game was developed by Tom Wills a Rugby School alumnus from the rules of Rugby football and an Aboriginal game played with a stuffed possum - I kid you not.

Tom Wills coached a team of Aboriginals to play rugby despite the fact that the Aboriginals were responsible for his father's death and was a bit of a visionary as far as Australian sport is concerned. Unfortunately he was a raging alchoholic and stabbed himself to death in a fit of Delerium Tremens.

Frankly I'd rather go bowling than play either Rugby or Aussie Rules, though given the natural competetiveness of the average Aussie I'm wondering if they haven't made up some new rather more physical rules of their own. Am I going to come back from bowls black and blue? Updates as they happen.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Nothing happens, no one notices.

Most of the news programmes over here have a section entitled ‘Around Australia’ or somesuch. Some of the channels devote a full half-hour slot to covering the news from all over the nation. The trouble is that Australia is, as has been pointed out before, quite big and has not very many people in the empty bits. This makes Australian regional news a bit like regional news from other parts of the world on a slow news day.

One particular item in the news from the ACT (hover pointer over acronym for definition) was on the fact that bushfire victims get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This in itself is not exactly surprising, bushfires are absolutely cataclysmic in scale and anyone caught in one could really be forgiven for thinking that nature was trying to wipe them out. The story was aimed at unpicking whether this had been acknowledged and enough support had been given.

The article had a slightly accusatory note to it and contained an interview that suggested, however subtly, that not everything had been done to support these people. However, the interviewee seemed particularly well adjusted for someone that had been trapped in their house by a gargantuan fire. She was able to articulate how she had felt at the time and that recollecting the event made her shake physically. In short she had been given two years of ongoing state funded counselling. The end of the article was essentially a voiceover from the reporter stating that an independant oversight body had concluded that the government had gone well out of its' way to make sure that everyone experiencing ill effects from being caught in the fires was well supported. Non story? Kind of.

What's being said is that bushfires have a well documented effect on people and that support has been provided in a timely and effective manner. The editorial team were trying to force a good news story (government provides excellent support to victims of bushfire) into the shape of a bad news story (government fails in duty of care to provide adequate support to victims of bushfire). The tendency towards tabloid journalism, of which this is a symptom is absolutely rife here. This seems to be a global phenomenon which is infecting every media type and angecy but the quality of investigative journalism in Australia appears particularly low and is often unnecessarily confrontational. Investigative style is often adopted to seem professional rather than because there is a specific need for it. Reportage seems unnaffected but even this isn't great. A lot of the time you get the feeling that the news format is being copied from abroad as is the stiff exterior adopted by most reporters, especially as a lot of the international news is bought from Reuters, The BBC, ABC(America) and others. This is in such sharp contrast to the character of the people that it is almost comical. Australia is still finding it's national voice but it isn't more than a few years away I think.

Even when there are genuinely large regional events the pragmatic Australian national character essentially renders them non-events. As an example a few days ago Darwin was hit by an earthquake rating 5.3 on the Richter scale. 5.3 whilst you can feel it, isn't huge but it was enough for a murder trial to be interupted and it is scientifically quite interesting. What renderred this a non-story was the fact that the editor of this piece had chosen to include a vox-pop from a very typical Aussie whose reaction to an earthquake was typically low key:
"Yeah, I felt it but to be honest it wasn't much and I wasn't sure that anything had happened. But when I looked around the office everyone else had felt it too and some of the light fittings were wobbling."
Perhaps this muted reaction is because earlier in the year Darwin had a much bigger earthquake which was some 15 times more powerful. Would you beleive it earthquake fatigue!

Other brilliant stories included, Brave Children Rewarded, Again (Melbourne) and Local Dignatory Switches on Christmas [Tree] Lights in Shopping Mall (Perth). Out of the two the Melbourne story was perhaps the worst. I couldn't help feeling sorry for the kids who were genuinely heroic in a "pull you out from under a collapsed wall" kind of way. As is usual for this kind of event there were lots of fawning adults and all the kids stood around with a look on their faces that says: 'Is all this really necessary? You'd have done what I did or you wouldn't be allowed to call youself a human being.' Funniest of all were the firemen who have to turn up to functions like this in uniform and look very solemn, pretend they aren't looking for recruits or thinking'Thank God I'm not on watch today, I am so sick of pulling kittens out of trees'.

The C word

Okay there's a month to go you are now allowed to use the 'C' word. No not that one, Christmas!

The Christmas trees have magically appeared in the AMP building and are tastefully decked out company livery. Navy blue baubles, lovely. I have to admit I am having trouble taking Christmas seriously over here. Decorations seem a little silly when it 's warm outside. Being colonised from the Northern Hemisphere there is still a British feel to the decorations; there's things like plastic holly included in them which looks badly out of place, not to mention the occasional snowflake motif which is so ridiculous you actually do a double take when you walk past it.

There are definite advantages to being in Sydney for Christmas: the food, the weather, the food, then there's the weather to think of. Christmas dinner this year will be taken on the balcony overlooking the beach (or actually on the beach). Prepare for a jealousy inducing photo-fest.

My commiserations to the American in Lynn, Masachusetts that found the Christmas post. Clearly preparing for big Thanksgiving weekend they were trying to find out how long you have to cook a 24lb stuffed turkey, to which there is only one answer: you need to have started already!

I suppose I'd better do some work. Boring.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Swimming in the dark = pissing in the wind

Swimming in the dark is a bad idea. Swimming in the dark when you've had a few beers and a few mojitos is a positively stupid idea.


Given that I know that why on earth did I decide to do it? Maybe it had something to do with the beers and the cocktails. I now have a graze on my forehead on top of a fairly sizeable lump. Mercifully it doesn't look too bad but I wasn't in particularly good shape on Sunday.

How did I do it? Well the pool light wasn't working and I decided I would swim the length of the pool underwater. In my defence this was a feat I had accomplished several times already that night. I executed a perfect flat racing dive and kicked out hard a la the Thorpedo. With no light on in the water the far wall was all but invisible and I lost count of my strokes and collided with the wall at the end of a full breastroke pull.

My immediate reaction was unprintable, and not just because I was underwater. It probably went something like:
THUNK!FizzbubbleUCK...gurgle...UNTINGWALL...splashglub...OW!
I rebounded about a meter from the end of the pool and surfaced in a dazed fountain of cursewords. On checking that I still had my head I was duly satisfied that I did and decided that perhaps that hadn't hurt as much as it felt like it had. I relaxed and turned to exchange pleasanties with others in the pool. 'Bloody hell mate, you're bleeding!'. Bugger.

Having showered and dried myself off it still didn't hurt as much as it should. I sat down to watch a movie, drank lots of water and passed out about half an hour in. Woke up, drank some more water, passed out. Woke up, drank some more water, moved to bed, passed out but could still hear what was going on around me. I couldn't move off the bed, not even when it was being shifted to try and extract the rabbit from underneath.

No it wasn't a concussed fantasy, there actually was a rabbit under the bed, a real live rabbit. His name is Sam and he belongs to Stacey one of our guests at the barbecue that had preceded the swimming in the dark incident. Sam is a very well behaved house rabbit. The front door to the flat had been open all night and he hadn't even tried to make a break for it. I did feel it my duty to point out to Stacey that whilst we had said that it was a Bring Your Own type event, I had honestly expected the meat to be slightly less fresh and mobile than this. Initially there was laughter but then I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not to cook the rabbit. This isn't fair in my book, I love rabbit and someone had brought a fresh one to a barbecue at my house.

BYO is an Aussie institution. Most licensed restaurants allow you to bring your own wine with a nominal corkage charge and when you are invited to a 'barbie' by default you would expect to take your own meat and beer. This works extremely well and removes a lot of the hassle from having a bbq. Paper plates remove the washing up and quick lighting charcoal removes much of the trauma of lighting the grill.

Most Aussies seem to have gas barbeques, which you would have thought was against their religion but in fact given the amount of barbecues thay have it's quite a sensible idea. Propane does away with a vast amount of the mess and fuss and also allows you to take the bbq around the place with you. State legislation aimed at reducing bush fires apparently classifies a charcaol grill as an open fire and a propane one as a self-contained grill, which I guess is fair enough. Aussies have so many barbecues that many of the flats we've looked at have ports in the garden that allow you to plug your barbecue into the mains gas, which is rather neat.

Anyway, back to me. I tried to get up on Sunday I honestly did but I just couldn't keep my eyes open. Poor Emily was left to start packing the flat into boxes on her own whilst I drifted in and out of consciousness on the sofa in front of the cricket. I could regard this as revenge for me having to pack up and ship out all of our belongings from London, but I'm not that petty.

We shall be moving south from Coogee where we currently are, to Maroubra Beach. Good view, stunning apartment, no pool but you can't have it all. We are moving to a 2 bed apartment over Christmas and a 1 bed in January. Pictures as I have them.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Some changes

Regular visitors to the site (Dad, Chris, Ben and Dave) will notice that there have been some relatively large changes to the way this site appears.

Most noteably the intelligent expand/collapse code for the main posts for which I have to credit ChuBlogga!, who I must also link to because of the discovery of Star Wars Transformers.

I have also added an expandable linklist in the sidebar showing all the links as well as the randomly selected link. I have also hidden the archives in the same way and sorted them from oldest to newest.

Most of the code for these changes is available through the Blogger Hacks page, but quite a lot of it requires a bit of knowledge about JavaScript and CSS. Anyone struggling with other bits of code should also have a look at the W3Schools HTML tutorials.

The biggest change though has been working out the new comments code which has caused all kinds of formatting problems. From now on you will see that I am using Blogger's own commenting rather than the old HaloScan service. This is for the sake of simplicity as well as the fact that it allows me to add features like listing the commenter's names underneath the post. I have tried to make everyone's comments appear in a different colour but because of some techie reasons I won't go into this hasn't worked the way I thought it would. I am working on some more JavaScript to sort this out but it will be a long time coming.

I have also written some code to allow any number of different bits of text to appear in the comment link (attempts to focus etc.). These currently range from 'still fuzzy' at zero comments, to 'this post has achieved nirvana' at more than ten. If anyone can come up with better things than I please feel free to suggest them. Also please feel free to copy the code which you can do by right clicking and selecting 'view source' in most cases.

Now all I need to do is create some kind of category system for the posts, which as I've said before is a right ballache at the moment. What I really want is for blogger to create their own! Come on blogger, categories, categories, categories!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

House hunting

I have about had it with house hunting. We have been looking for six weeks or more and it feels like forever.

We have only until the 26th of November to find somewhere new to live before the owner of the house we are in comes back to her property. Sadly enough she actually wants to live in it. The cheek of the woman! Actually what she wants to do is turn the place into a B'n'B which will require a permit from the local council and the permission of her neighbours, which she won't get. The apartment we currently live in is the top floor of a house and is completely independant from the rest of it. Our occupancy would poses no significant inconvenience to anyone living in the lower portion of the house but because of her rather misguided plans she wants us out (she also believes us to be relatives of the californian woman we sub-let the place from - long story, another time).

Looking for somewhere new to live is a pain at the best of times but over here when you are looking to rent the process is unbearable. For a start most places won't let you make an appointment to come and see a place. This is great if you are owner or tennant as you get all the viewings done at once. If you are lesee or purchaser it is downright barbarous. You have to come along to a quarter hour open house session and are forced to go round it with everyone else looking for something in the same category i.e. the competition. Session after session, apartment after apartment, you see the same people and each time they look a little more desperate. This has some funny side effects particularly when you are looking for relatively pricey apartments in Sydey's fashionable Eastern beaches.

Mostly you are viewing apartments with other couples. The entire event degrades into a straight-up contest with prizes in several categories including (but by no means limited to):
  • Most fawningly and publicly affectionate couple
  • Most consultations to partner in the allotted quarter hour
  • Best feature discovered in apartment
  • Most fashionable attire
  • Fastest decision on property
  • Smuggest couple
  • Most precocious display of wealth
  • Best sunglasses
  • Couple most likely to have sex in the bathroom 'whilst no-one is looking'
  • Most relaxed attitude
We never win anything. We are also almost never the first people to apply for a property. Sick of this we have now resorted to unethical behaviour to get what we want. We have applied for flats not yet on the market and without seeing them (difficult this, requires a bit of bottle). We are also going out of our way to make sure we don't have to go to open house sessions, often making the estate agent arrange separate viewings for us. This last tactic requires you to have fooled the agent into thinking you have a lot more money to spare than is necessarily the case. Estate agents spend all day lying and estimating wealth and value - they can spot a bullshitter from accross the street - it is hard work.

Unethical though our behaviour has been it may yet bear fruit. Our main obstacle is that we currently have a great little place with a fantastic view and we want the same again. We are trying to replace the view in the picture below.



We might have managed it today with this one (click on pic for details of apartment).


Doesn't your heart just bleed for me?

Bad search update: the latest American to have got here by a strange route was looking for perverted christmas cards. Someone in Ridgeland Missisipi is going to be sending a bit more than season's greetings.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Time

'Daylight Savings' has always struck me as an odd term (an unnecessarily American phrase short on common sense). You can mess about with the clocks as much as you like, it won't make any difference to the amount of daylight there is; the universe has beaten you to it and the Earth is already spinning and in motion around the Sun. In Australia where the country is essentially accross 3 timezones this is the term of choice to describe the annual change in time keeping. Of course there is a uniquely Australian approach to it.

The UK is a lot further from the equator than any part of Australia and so is affected far more by the tilt of the Earth on its' axis - daylight hours in summer are from about 4am to just before 10pm, in the winter the sun just about rises at about 6am and sets at about 4pm. There has always been a split between the country and the city as to which end of the day the daylight should be given. The bumpkins want it in the morning so they aren't buggering about in the dark with cows and whatnot and everyone else wants it in the evening so that the six months of winter aren't a seemingly interminable twighlight. For some reasons the bumpkins get their way and everyone else has to deal with it getting dark at about half past three in the afternoon. Hmm... reduced light just as the schools are throwing children out on to the streets, that should thin out their numbers a little. One of the many advantages of not living in the UK any more is that I don't have to deal with this irritation.

Whilst the daylight hours are fairly regular here in Sydney there is a small difference in the amount of daylight at the ends of the day. In the depths of 'Winter' (it might rain and you should probably have a jumper, slightly too cold for shorts) the sun rises at about 6am and starts to set at a little after 5pm. In summer the sun rises at about 4.30am and sets at about 7pm. The difference is not hugely significant but it does mean you have a lot more dayligtht lesiure time after work when the clocks go forward. In Australia the city versus country split is somewhat larger with the vast majority of the population living in urban areas and unbelievably low population densities in the West and inland (0.3 people and thirty thousand kangaroos per 100sqkm). New South Wales has something like a third of the population of Australia and its most densely populated metropolitain areas. This means that the bumpkins get no say in the matter whatsoever. The clocks go forward an hour and the cows can bloody well get used to it.
Being an ex-colony, Australia has some remaining governmental peculiarities which are still practical because of it's geographic size. A bit like America Australia has state governments and a federal government. Both have parliaments and a Prime Minister but appears that Federal Government decisions have to be ratified by the State governments before implementation. It sounds clumsy and I won't pretend I know how this works but it doesn't seem to get in the way too much. It does however mean that individual states often have differing laws and a fair bit of independance. In the case of Queesnsland, where a larger percentage of the population is rural, they have applied this to Daylight Savings.

Queensland comprises the North East corner of Australia but its' metropolitain and business areas are really restricted to the East coast, there isn't very much of anything on the North coast (map) . Most of the populated areas of Australia as a whole are on the Eastern side of the country and all have Daylight Savings, even Tasmania where the recessive gene reigns supreme. Queensland has decided that changing the clocks twice a year isn't necessary and that they would rather not bother. Sounds like a bizarre arbitrary decision implemented by beaurocrats? Sadly not, this was a decision taken by a state-wide referendum in 1992.
Queensland: Putting the 'Pleb' back into plebiscite
Unsurprisingly this causes a few problems and the Southern Queenslanders are being made to regret the outcome of the referendum. Unfortunately the solutions being suggested are at least as daft as the problem itself; for example a voluntary Daylight Savings for those businesses it affects. This would mean that different sections of business and society would be operating an hour out of sync. If it was voluntary could you choose on a day by day basis if you want to use it or not? "No no, I'm not going home early. I'm on daylight savings time, honest." Another proposed solution is to have split time for half the year for a small proportion of the state, something which sounds equally as mad, as the boundary between the timezones whould not even be defined by state jurisdiction. Queensland is a state that is largely regarded as being populated by nutters and this has done nothing to improve image of the state as a whole. Queenslanders are consistently described to outsiders as "madder than cut snakes" and just about everyone in Australia calls Queenslanders "Banana Benders".

To be completely fair to Queensland the whole issue of time-zoning in Oz needs reworking. Adelaide is half an hour behind Sydney, not a whole hour, half an hour (half an hour and a couple of decades if you listen to most Sydneysiders). Parts of the Northern Territory are 30mins behind, other parts of it 45mins. Perth in Western Australia is 2 hours behind Sydney and should probably be 3, it is some four thousand kilometers away and it is quicker to fly to New Zealand than to Perth (Western Australia is not just a descriptive term it is the name of the state, about a third of Australia's land mass and a negligable amount of its' population).

Oh well, at least crazy beurocracy here hasn't quite gone as mad as putting in fake grass and plastic trees as is currently being trialed in Eindhoven.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Melbourne Cup? Bollocks! Gimme the beer...

It was Melbourne Cup Day today as you may well see on the news (if its a slow day, you might even notice if give two hoots* about horses). The Melbourne cup is the rough equivalent of the Grand National in the UK, except it's a flat race. The Grand National being a Steeplechase is far more exciting but has a much higher death rate for horses, jockeys and emancipated women (is chasing steeples like tilting at windmills? I suspect it might be).

The race itself was won by a horse with a name that sounded like Mugabe Diver (not a Zimbabwian underwater enthusiast apparently). Apparently this is the third time this particular horse has won the race and this is some kind of record. I don't care, I've never been into horse racing or gambling of any kind really. Gambling is possibly the only vice I have never embraced, something for which I am truly grateful. Had I embraced gambling with the gusto I have devoted to other vices I'd owe large amounts of everyone else's money to people. As it is I only owe relatively small amounts of my own money to people (unless anyone has anything to tell me that I have conveniently forgotten).

The entire city of Melbourne gets a day off for Cup Day and the rest of Australia gets wound up that they don't have a day off so they do things like they have at my office. The entire kitchen area was filled with food and booze and there was some kind of charity auction on the horses running with the person who had the highest bid for the winning horse taking 50% of the proceeds raised $405 not bad for an afternoon's ...er... work? I was given a silly cardboard hat and wine. No work has been done past 2pm, particularly by me but I am far from the worst offender and by a fair distance the least important person in the office.

Far be it from me to ignore my employer's generosity - drink has been taken, and food, but mostly drink. According to Emily I still have things to be doing today. I'm buggered if I know what they are. I care still less. I'm going to have to go straight to the pub or I might be have to face the awful prospect of sobriety and an angry girlfriend. From bitter experience I can say that these are two things that should not be confronted in combination.

*this phrase replaces a far ruder one that was edited out for reasons of good taste. Ah bollocks I don't give a shiney-arsed fuck about offending you - make your own rude phrase up and put it in you lazy wanker.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Prince Fred, Pricess Mary plus one

If you are the kind of person who reads gossip rags with titles like Chat and Hello, whose perm extends inside their skull and is royalty/celebrity obsessed you will already be aware that Crown Prince Fredrick of Denmark married a girl from Tasmania who he met in a Sydney pub (you have also found the wrong website, please stop reading now and get off the internet, trust me it isn't for you). You will also know that the couple have just had a child. Although the Australian public has gone into an undignified froth about this it doesn't interest me in the slightest - I just found myself wondering about how you would tell a girlfriend that you were a Danish Prince...

There are a few ways this could go . My first and probably favourite is to use it as a chat-up line and get it over and done with as soon as possible:

The Zaphod Beeblebrox method

Swagger up to girl and say something like: Hey baby come with me. I rule! You could potentially wear a t-shirt with I Rule printed on it, an Ermine trimmed robe and a crown, although this may be taking things a little far.

The not really method

So what do you do for a living?
Actually I'm Prince of Denmark.
Yeah right.
No, not really. Actually I'm a reindeer hunter. Fancy a shag?


And just leave the awkward task of telling her until it can be avoided no longer. Although to be fair this might not be that long:
Mary, you may be wondering why I made you fill out that non-disclosure agreement before the blowjob...
Yes, that has been troubling me a bit. Not quite as much as the security clearance vetting before we had sex.
Ah yes, bit of a passion killer that.
It's the first time I've been interrogated whilst wearing fluffy handcuffs.
You'll get used to it. Anyway, you may remember that I once told you I was Prince of Denmark...


The penny drops method

A little like the above only simply don't tell her at all, invite her to Denmark to meet the parents, sit back and watch how long it takes her to figure it out. Will it be in first class when you have the cabin to yourselves and a few minders? Will it be when the plane is greeted by a flag-bearing limo and more minders? Will it be when you drive through the palace gates? Or will it be when you introduce her to your Mum: Mary this is my Mum Queen Soren Haardraadaarsen of Denmark. Mum this is Mary of ...er... Tasmania. She's not that bright but I like her.

The Shakespearian method

Mope around the place looking serious, pretend you've seen a ghost, start talking to yourself in a suicidal manner, tell your girlfriend to go and become a nun, comission a rather grisly play at your house, kill her father "by mistake", make sure she goes mad, kill everyone you know and throw away your own life in a contrived, bloody and pointless duel. This method lacks subtlety, to be used only by those with a true flair for the dramatic.

This afternoon I shall amuse myself by suggesting deeply unsuitable middle names for the new prince. Favourites thus far:
  • Koala
  • Bruce
  • Ship Inn
  • Viking
  • Rosencrantz
  • Gildenstern
  • Sydney (they wouldn't would they, I mean come on they aren't the Beckhams)
  • Boomerang
  • Sarcophilus harrisii
  • Beer
  • Flintoff
Other Aussie bating suggestions welcome.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Drinking Art

Now here's a piece of performance art that I could get intoAllurements of Mass Media by Anti-Cool: "A performance artist's show which saw her spend three hours balancing on a beam while becoming drunk on lager has been defended by theatre officials. "

Sounds like someone found a way to get shitfaced, make a twat of themselves in public and call it art. I had to go to university to do that! Oh well, at least she's sharing: "There were 48 bottles, but she did not drink all of those. Some of those she suspended from her neck by a rope inviting the audience to cut them away and take them for themselves."

The council may have missed the point:
Mr Patel, a Labour councillor for the Canton ward, said: "I don't agree with any binge drinking, regardless of what it is. I think it is inappropriate that a performance of this nature is staged in the public bar area - it should have been behind closed doors."

He added: "If she was drunk then that concerns me and it sends out the wrong message. It is an arts centre but it also has a cinema and it is all open, so if young people were to walk through the main door they would've seen that."
Mr Patel you are a nob. You have given the kind of reaction to 'binge drinking' that one might expect for public sodomy. Young people can see far worse binge drinking than that walking through Cardiff City Centre after a rugby match, something they are far more likely to do (and which may possibly involve public sodomy). Also it is taking place in a bar a bar i.e. a licensed premesis so anyone going in there is over 18 and so will be well accustomed to the effects of alchohol abuse.

Multiple choice section

Now Mr P. take the position of an 18 year old walking into a bar and seeing Anti-Cool at work, your reaction would be:
  1. Look at that nutter! What the bloody hell is she doing?
  2. What a bunch of pretentious wank that is
  3. She's gonna fall off that surely, I'll have to stick around and see what happens
  4. She's giving away free beer! Brilliant!
  5. All ofthe above
And once again Mr P. this makes it:
  1. A self-indulgent and pretentious piece of crap
  2. An engaging and interesting public artwork
  3. An unsubtle and heavy handed commentary on the contempory media environment
  4. A slightly provocative performance with its's tongue firmly in cheek
  5. An over-thought conceptual spectacle that has failed to realise that its' own artifice may render it innappropriate for its' intended purpose
  6. A Japanese bird getting hammered balancing on a beam
  7. All of the above
Amazingly enough it is the last option in both cases - astonishing eh?

I've been to Chapter and it is tucked away in the backstreets as it used to be a highschool. Whilst it does have a cinema it would have to be a fairly unusual 'young person' that would go in there. The vast majority of films they show are not exactly aimed at attracting 'young people'. My suggestion is that we let the silly artsy people do their thing in peace, after all some of it is quite interesting, and remember you are allowed to laugh at it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

R/evolution

The revolution when the revolution comes will be televised
It will have syndicated news feed from coast to coast, every coast.
It will have a PR campaign, a jingle and a website.
It will whiten your teeth and freshen your breath whilst you work rest and play with yourself.
The revolution will be a tee-shirt, a soft drink, a meal deal and a running shoe.

The revolution will print logos on your french fries and send automatic updates to your mobile phone.
It will be bought, sold and bartered. There will be pin badges posters and viral campaigns.
It will sell more washing powder and will come in sixteen fruit-flavoured colours. There will be stickers to collect and swap.
There will be a stick-shift and an automatic.
The revolution will have tinted windows.

The revolution will take place at the expense of the black and the white, the hungry, the disenfranchised, the sick, the poor, the tired and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
There will be no-one in the streets looking for a better day because they will all be watching the revolution on TV.
The revolution will not make a blind bit of difference, it will go unnoticed. There will be arguments afterwards about whether it really happened. It will have profound implications for consumer confidence, far reaching consequences and international relations will be strained.
The revolution will be by intelligent design.

The revolution will have security patches, updates and bug fixes.
There will be plugins and dockable toolbars, XML output, a spellcheck and popups.
It will be an enterprise level fully customiseable end to end solution with advanced knowledge management systems.
It will be XP compatible but Mac users will need to download additional components proir to installation.
There will be a revolution 2.0

The revolution will have trailers with voiceovers, preview showings and re-runs.
Its' outcome will decided by focus groups and creative consultants.
Its' format will be sold and reproduced, copied and imitated.
It will be themed and have a strong moral message. It may star David Hasselhoff.
The revolution will be broadcast on your wetware.

The revolution will be sponsored, there will be ad breaks and interuptions.
You will be able to tune out, change the channel and grab a beer.
There will be news bulletins and a ticker accross the bottom of the sceen. There will be a narrator.
There will be edited highlights and a late showing with unseen new footage.
The revolution will be a pre-recorded event, it will be pay per view and shown "as live".

The revolution when the revolution comes will be televised, and you will miss it.

based on "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott-Heron

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Various bits

Because I've been fiddling about on the internet instead of doing my job I have some links to post.

First and foremost there are certain things I'm holding off from doing on here, including posting bizarre links I've found and more fiction writing, because blogger doesn't have a category system to allow you to filter what you read, and to manually code one is a right pain in the arse even with the help of "bookmarklets". So I am encouraging anyone and everyone to ask for this feature by voting for it. I'm sure Blogger, Google and Technorati are cooking something up but I'm getting pissed off with not having it.

Secondly I have discovered Google reader. This is a newsreader type thing that collates newsfeed from compatible websites to a single service. Confused? Then I wouldn't bother if I were you as it requires a little bit of technical savvy and a bit of winging it without istructions (Dad, GoatSan and BulaBulaPesci I am talking to you - did you know you had a newsfeed from your blog? You have). To be fair this is nothing to be worried about as it has taken me quite some time to figure out what the atom feed was for and even when I found out I was doubtful how useful it would be.

A good new Blogger feature is backlinks which ties in to Google's new blogsearch function. Backlinks is an active feature that each time you access a blog runs a search to see if anyone has linked to your posts. Naturally no one does. Due to some tricky display problems I'm having with JavaScript, CSS and blogger being a temperamental I am only putting this on the item page at the moment (the page solely for each post itself - click on the title of the post to see what I mean).

Other blogger features I'm looking at installing are their native comments as this allows me to format comments as I choose and display them under the post they relate to in collapsible sections and to show people who has commented underneath the post before they open the comments, which is much neater in my opinion. Unfortunately they are going to have to convince me that they have solved their huge comment spam problem before I do.

According to Modern Drunkard Magazine we should be boycotting Jack Daniels because they have dropped the alchohol content without telling anyone. I was way ahead of them but I was boycotting it because it was over-sweet American filth drunk by greasy heavy metal addicts (yes, I know I used to be one, I got better).

And finally sword swallowing xrays, just because.

And you were looking for...?

With the amount of hits on here approaching 1,000 I have been looking through the hits, mostly because I'm curious but also because I'm having a slow time writing at the moment and I needed some material...


People get to this blog via some very odd routes, particularly the Americans who normally only visit in passing but the things they are looking for are often very strange such as:
  • Hammer dropping - why would you be searching for this? It's not a tricky enterprise:
    1. Find hammer
    2. Pick it up
    3. Extend arm
    4. Let go

  • Steel grade data sheet - boy have you got the wrong site

  • Telescope horse's head - er, hopefully this is someone looking for pictures of the horse's head nebula (quite a few hits for horse's head)


Odd picture searhes
  • Couples arguing -what kind of sadist likes to look at pictures of couples arguing?

  • Alchohol bottles - might be able to help you there.

  • Hangover pics - what kind of sadist wants to look at pictures of hungover people?


Other
  • Entertainment is obviously in short supply in Rossville (pron. Hicksville) Indiana as by far the strangest search to turn up was for -Riding the back of an old lady illusion costume. That is going to be a long fruitless search, but for some reason I really want to know what he finds.

  • Estate agents bastards uk clearly someone house hunting in the UK, poor sod.

  • Grotowski - I'm getting a few hits for people looking for info on Jerzy Grotowski. Here's a hint luvvies, over-serious Polish physical theatre is not only bloody exhausting it has a limited audience of serious minded performers. It is the dramatic equivalent of singing to the choir, and as you have no doubt discovered there is naff all information on him on the internet. Here's a novel approach - go to the library!


Rather disappointingly the number one search that people reach this site via is Celebrity Tongue. Apparently quite a number of people have nothing better to look for on the whole of the web than celebrities with their tongues out. It's a sad, sad world out there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Do I know you?


It's always weird to bump into someone you know and haven't seen for years, but to do it in a different hemisphere from where either of you thought the other was is more than a little disconcerting...


Linda and I run into each other in the strangest places. Last time we randomly turned up at The Ten Bells on Shoreditch High Street at the same time, I had thought she was in Mexico (The Ten Bells is famed for being the "Jack the ripper pub"). The time before that we walked past each other at a music festival on Hackney Marshes, I thought she was back in Sweden, she thought I was living out in the sticks - I was!

Emily & I had been at the night noodle markets, which are part of Good Food Month in Sydney. We walked to the bus stop and Linda was getting the same bus as us home and currently lives round the corner from us. I was so stunned I couldn't think of anything to say, at all. At moments like this you really want to come accross well as how you are at that time may be the way that you are remembered until you meet them again. Given that the intervals that Linda and I meet are doubling every time - that could be four years! This made me more awkward than I would like and particularly as I was still in work clothing and in dire need of a haircut, she was dressed in civvies having been planting trees all day. Dammit I want to be a hippy and go and plant trees all day, and here I am working for AMP!

The slightly awkward feeling lasted for the most of the bus ride home but I have put it down to being tired and have written it off as surprise. I still made Em give me a haircut when we got home (given that she gets upset with me if I let anyone else cut it this isn't as extreme as it sounds). It was great to see Linda again and I hope that I see her again before she goes back to Sweden to train as a nurse but on our current form it'll be quite a while before I see her again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Crap Tuesday

Tuesdays are crap. I got up feeling better than normal. I didn't even have my regular morning tantrum about having to go to work instead of sitting in the sunshine. Things went rapidly downhill from there. For one thing I arrived at work which always puts a downer on things. Then I realised I only had the most tedious tasks left to do, having done the more interesting on Monday and late last week.
Then we had a fire drill and on the way back to the 7th floor I got stuck in not one but two lifts. This would never have happened on a Friday...

Being stuck in two lifts for ten minutes apiece my mood blackened to the point where I can only think about the fact that I am now engaged in two of my least favourite activities for the forseable future: house hunting and job hunting.

Reasons to hate job hunting:
  • You have to pretend you are still doing your job properly and are devoting your full attention to it

  • Your free time is sucked up in long rounds of pointless letter writing and making phonecalls to agents to discover that they have advertised the post really very badly indeed

  • There is honestly nothing out there worth applying for

  • Job websites are blindingly obvious on your computer screen to anyone walking past your desk

  • Recruitment Agents are by enlarge a shower of bastards that promise one thing and deliver ...er... well whatever suits them really

  • You rapidly lose the will to continue breathing


Reasons to hate house hunting:
  • You are going to have to move house

  • Everything you like has already been taken

  • You can't afford the ones you really like

  • Other people have absolutely no taste whatsoever and it's difficult not to tell them that when you're in their house
  • Estate agents are a shower of bastards, without exception

  • There are almost no furnished properties to rent in Oz - we are going to have to buy everything


Reasons to hate Tuesday:
  • More people kill themselves on a Tuesday than any other day

  • There are still three more days to the weekend

  • You aren't allowed to winge about it because it isn't Monday

  • If you Google "facts about Tuesday" among other things you get a list of links about adult star Tuesday Weld. Crap Tuesday has even cursed my lazy blog posting. I'm going back to bed.


On a brighter note: Smurfs village bombed by warplanes

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Grey hair

Announcement:
Let it be known and may the word go forth that on the second day of October 2005, twenty eight years and two months after my birth, a grey hair was found on my head.

The finder immediately extracted the offending item to confound my disbelief. Upon which, after much taunting, I threatened to hide her hair dye so the world could see the extent of her own greys should she continue to taunt. There followed a brief period of silence, and then some quiet teasing.
Here endeth the announcement.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Street performers


There are an unnatural number of street performers on Circular Quay which means there is always something to watch whilst you eat your lunch. Street acts are one of many things in life that tend to polarise people, you either like 'em or you don't . Generally - this will come as no great surprise - I don't. I do not subscribe to the theory that they enliven and add colour to a bleak and forbidding urban landscape as they tend to congregate in the most open and pleasant areas and get in the way until you give them money, ruining the pleasant stroll you were having. Having said this some of them are quite good but they vary in quality from pointless semi-gentrified begging through one-trick-pony and bizarre sideshow all the way to bloody hell! Circular Quay has all four...


Pointless Semi-Gentrified Begging
My objection to this isn't so much the begging as the fact that the performers in question are attempting to pass off something which is badly thought out, requires very little effort and would be illegal begging if it weren't masquerading as performance. This seriously detracts from other performers who are actually trying and should be punishable by a year at a Grotowski based theatre school.* There are a few contenders for the title in this category, mostly of the if I dress up like something stupid people might give me money type, but the one that springs immediately to mind is:
  • Bad Effort at a Pantomime Horse - A one man pantomime horse, badly executed or at least he should be. Maybe not so much a bad panto character as a one trick pony, his entire act is being dressed up as a crap pantomime horse but without the comedy of there in fact being two people inside. What else does he do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. He could have a poorly made toy jockey on his back with a carrot suspended from a fishing rod which he could chase around. He could find a friend and make a proper pantomime horse that has a back end that attempts to move in the opposite direction. Maybe he doesn't have any friends or maybe he just isn't trying at all. I found this act so bad thast it confused me. In a daze I sauntered over to a trio stood not so far from Bad Effort at a Pantomime Horse and started staring at them waiting for them to do something with the odd collection of sticks and strange wheeled vehicle the had with them. Snapping out of it I realised that they were in fact three old people, one in a wheelchair, waiting for the minibus driver.

  • Dress Up Like a Ten Foot Dickhead Man - At least I think it's a man, you can't tell under the costume. Again not so much of a performer as a clothes horse (can I get any more bad GeeGee gags in this post I wonder?). This one has not only a stupid costume but a stepladder. He looks a bit like a character from a Japanese mythic painting, face-mask and all. Apparently welded to the back of the painted mask is something that looks like a metal peacock. Under the highly coloured and decorated robes the "performer" is a not so cunningly concealed stepladder on which he is standing, giving the "amazing" illusion that he is ten feet tall. For some reason this is supposed to want to make you give him money. The stepladder renders the idiot standing on it immobile if he wishes to stay inside his costume meaning that he is limited to gesturing at people as apparently wearing an elaborate costume and standing on a stepladder renders you mute.

For once and all: if you are going to wear a stupid costume at least do something whilst wearing it, otherwise you may as well be a mannequin and mannequins don't get paid.

One-Trick-Pony
A category reserved for performers who can do only one thing (often in a stupid costume). Such as:
  • Paint Yourself Silver and Pretend to be a Robot Man - He has bought a child's face mask and covered it in tinfoil, ruined a suit with silver paint and has mastered the art of standing still for long periods of time and occasionally moving in a jerky vaguely mechanical fashion. I have several objections to this:
    1. Robots, like mannequins, don’t get paid, ever.
    2. Animate Robots don’t exist and if they did they would scare small children too.
    3. This is performance is a cross between a mime artist and a clown, which on it's own is reason enough not to attempt it, it also has a sci-fi theme, requires large quantities of silver paint and could be easily put together by a children's TV presenter. None of these things in themselves constitute a red flag but all three together is a serious warning.**
    There seem to be several of these and they differ only in the tint of their paint. Some paint themselves white and pretend to be statues, how startlingly original.

  • Oriental Fiddle Man - This is too culturally different from Australia's largely European musical roots. The far greater use of minor tones in Japanese music would put a lot of people off on its own. If that doesn't do it then the instrument of choice almost certainly will. The Japanese two string fiddle, whilst capable of some beautiful tones when acompanied, takes on a sonorous and rather grating quality after a while. As the fiddle has only two strings, its timbral range is very restricted and it is tough to know when a new song has begun or even if the player has finished tuning up. When a performer saws away at it all day and half the night it becomes just plain irritating. Shame really, it's very different from anything else round there.

Bizarre Sideshow
There are a few of these, they tend to be musical in nature and confound your expectations. I have no real objections to this brand of street performer they tend to stay out of the way and they at least cover the noise of the traffic.
  • The Sensitive New Age Economic Realists (actual name) - A small band made up of retirees (not to be mistaken for The Sensitive New Age Bluegrass Cowpersons, who are from Perth and perform rock hits in bluegrass fashion, All Along the Watchtower is particularly good as I recall). They have guitars, violins, a squeezebox and not once have I ever seen them play them. They normally seem to be sat around in the sunshine drinking beer which is what I plan to do with my retirement. How they make any money or if they even intend to I cannot tell.

  • Rasta in White - This guy is pretty cool. He is extremely black wears a very white suit and has long greying dreadlocks. He plays pop hits from the Eighties on his steels drum including Love is in the Air, Lady in Red and Brown Eyed Girl. Good but weird.

  • Sammy Davies Jr Jr - An Afro-Caribbean guy with a pretty good voice who rather sadly has a face like a 1950's stereotyped charicature of a black man - big lips 'n' all. He dresses like he is in Run DMC and sings Frank Sinatra songs to a backing tape. He is either being unbeleivably ironic in a post-modern manner that would have Baudrillard breathless and afraid of a genius capable of such brash sweeping statements, or he just happens to be a black man that likes to sing Frank Sinatra songs. At any rate Ol' Blue Eyes seems a little different in his latest reincarnation.

  • Didgeridoo Techno - A troupe of Aboriginal Australians that play traditional instruments over a dance soundtrack. Not bad, but not unique either.


Bloody Hell!
Normally circus performers, typified by a guy I saw at the Edinburgh festival and again in Covent Garden. For his closing piece he would lie on a bed of nails and get people to drop a bowling ball from the top of a step ladder to crack concrete slabs held on his bare chest. The next two performers make the audience keep their distance with the aid of that most robust of safety devices - a length of rope on the ground. They treat this like a magic circle, performing the most amazing feats of skill and dexterity with hot stuff and sharp things in the firm belief that the rope barrier will protect the audience. Strangely it seems to work.
  • Fire Eating American - Not Bill Hicks reincarnated but an actual fire-eating American. You can feel the heat from his act from the other side of the walkway. I have no idea how he has managed to retain facial hair, surely this can't be safe for a fire breather.

  • Token Brit - There's always one. This guy is a real showman, he spends quite a while talking to the audience whilst laying out his kit. As his kit includes many sharp things, including a chainsaw this attracts a fair bit of attention. His closing piece is eating an apple whilst juggling machetes whilst riding the tallest unicycle I have ever seen. He does it all in the name of proving that he is "not a pom", despite his pronounced Bristolian accent. You could be forgiven for thinking that he is trying too hard.


There aren't any pictures of the performers themselves to go with this post as if you take a picture of them they expect you to give them money, an expectation that summarises my main problem with street artists. In the main they expect to get money for doing the absolute minimum. If you are a musician sell your CD or play a variety of tracks, if a mime artist or performer be entertaining - I don't mind you asking for money if you are entertaining - but put some effort in or you don't get nuffin' you dole bludging waste of silver paint.

*For anyone who doesn't know about middle-european physical theatre - i.e. everyone - Grotowski's theatre school was more of a Gulag designed to weed out the uncommitted so for the first year you would probably have been getting up at 5am to sweep the corridors and clean the toilets for ten hours being fed only on a thin soup. If you were very lucky and looked like you had really got to grips with cleaning toilets you would be rewarded with a 3 hour lesson in the most physically and vocally demanding avant-garde theatre practice that a serious-minded Polishman could think up. Now that's what I call punishment.

**Sci-fi theme: lots of good things have come out of science fiction, mostly athletic women in tight clothing and hangover friendly TV.
Silver paint: anything that requires large quantities of silver paint and is not a German sports car should be treated with suspicion until its' usefulness is proven.
Children’s TV presenters: have put together many good things, usually other television programmmes with a strong psychedelic element and drug habits of superhero proportion.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

work, rafting, giant teddies

Well that was a bastard of a week...
I'd almost forgotten how much of your free time this working crap can take up. I've barely had a moment to myself to arse around on the internet. At least I'm not alone. Charging is so busy that his blog, normally updated at least weekly has slowed to a monthly tickover.

I have been sorting out exams for financial planners all week. It's quite amazing how disorganised people who many trust with their financial security actually are. I had a new candidate for an exam being sat tomorrow at four O'clock this evening. If this idiot is allowed to sell financial advice then there is no hope at all.

In between dealing with people signing up at the last minute, chickening out at the last minute and failing to book their assessment at all I have had to compile 11 feedback reports from other training workshops and man the helpline. It has quite removed my ability to think of anything vaguely amusing to write. Never mind there's a weekend coming up and I am off out for drinks.

We went white water rafting last weekend at the park built to house the canoeing at the Sydney Olympics. Rather oddly it's in Penrith (this is nothing, over here Padstow is on the same train line as Lewisham). This is a rather odd arrangement of raised concrete formed rapids next to and above a lake. Five enourmous pumps remove water from the lake and pump it to the top of the rapids where gravity does the rest of the work and pulls the water back in to the lake. It looks a bit odd when they turn the pumps off and you are left with what amounts to a concrete riverbed covered in slime. Rafts go from the bottom, in the lake, to the top via a 40 meter conveyer belt which is even odder.

On Sunday we went to a free festival with Techno and Drum'n'Bass and people on stilts dressed as giant teddy bears. No we did, honest. I have pictures, I didn't imagine it whilst drunk.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

AAAARRRRRR

Shiver me timbers right soon it be the time o' the year when it be right to talk like the cutlass wavin' scum o' the spanish main.

Avast ye scurvy dogs September 19 be Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ashes

Well I wasn't expecting that!...


Unfortunately I was knackered last night so I didn't stay up to watch the cricket but walking home you could hear the cursing coming from people's living rooms. Very satisfying, but it still didn't look like we'd win.

The Aussies aren't particularly bad losers, they clearly need some advice from the English on how to be uncharitable and start bitching about team selection and bad umpiring. There is a little of this going on, which I imagine might balloon into something significant over the weekend. The one thing I have noticed is that Kevin Pietersen is apparently English when he gets out for 0 but South African when he makes 158. Funny that.

Your average Australian seems to consider it bad form to mention the fact that they've lost, they'd far rather you didn't mention it but there are some very tired despondent people around the office today. This week's Aussie bating activity will throwing easy catches to Australians all week and seeing if they can hold them. Oh, the fun I shall have.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Snowy Mountains

If there's one thing I didn't expect to be doing in Australia it was snowboarding. Where exactly would you go snowboarding on the world's driest continent? Surfing certainly, there's a fair bit of coastline, but snow was not amongst my thoughts when I moved here. But snow there is. Atop the imaginitively titled "Snowy Mountains" sits a layer of skiiable snow for two months a year...


"Look Bruce, mountains."
"Stone me they're beautiful Bruce. What's that white stuff on the top of 'em?"
"Well I guess that would be snow mate."
"What the bloody hell shall we call these snow capped mountains mate?"
"Well, we need something descriptive but original. Something distinctive that encapsulates our pragmatic national character, our utilitariam literalism, doggedness and frontier spirit."
"Er...how about Oowoga Loonga Wooratoowa."
"...You weren't listening to me, were you Bruce."
"Sorry mate, I was thinking about beer. How about ...The Snowy Mountains."
"Good on yer."

The Snowy Mountains are a fair bit lower than the European mountains I've been to, top station on Mount Perisher is only 2,014 metres ("It's bastard cold up here Bruce, what shall we call this perishing cold mountain?"). The mountains are also a bit flatter with more of a bowl effect to them which means that the marked pistes only denote groomed snow, you can go across pretty much any bit of the mountain. The snow was a bit slushy because of the absolutely blazing sunshine. In retrospect I should have put some sunscreen on in the morning as by lunchtime I was crisping up nicely. Panda eyes are not a great look, red panda eyes even less so.

Perisher was less technical than European mountains but there are a lot of trees and some fairly sizeable "unmarked obstacles", or bloody enourmous rocks to give them their full name. This does mean that there are some pretty tidy little bouncy jumps to have a go at all the way down the mountain. Your average run would have you haring down the hill dodging trees and keeping a little wide on the track to find the bumps to jump off and then having to hold your speed accross a wide flat section to reach a steeper narrow section leading back to the lifts. The runs are not very long but they are good fun.

The lifts by comparison were bloody awful. Not one of them had footrests meaning that by the end of the day your left leg felt somewhat longer than the right. If the wind started to blow the board caught in it and started dragging you under the restraining bar, if there was one. One lift we went on looked like it had been constructed by sawing narrow park benches in two and welding poles to them. These didn't just lack a footrest but also a restraining bar. In place of this was a piece of light steel hawser that had a socket clip on the other side of the chair, it was a very long way from reasssuring. It wasn't a great option but the alternative was the longest, steepest most painful T-bar it has been my misfortune to experience.

For those who have never tried snowboarding try to imagine being given a roughly T-shaped rod and, standing on your board being dragged up the mountain by hooking this inside your front thigh. Needless to say it isn't my favourite way to travel. The picture makes this look pretty easy and for the first three times you do it in a day it is, then it begins to ache a little and then it begins to really hurt until finally you consider purchasing a team of huskies and learning to drive them simply to avoid having to do it again. Actually, that's not a bad idea...hmmmm....husky boarding eh?....

At the bottom of the mountain there was a fair bit of wildlife, much of it roadkill but much more of it alive and weird. We saw wombat and a lot of roo (collective noun: mob or troop). Wombats are very strange things, like someone was trying to breed a footrest to go with their sofa. Apparently they scarper pretty quickly if you walk towards them, I can't say they look like they're capable of anything other than lumbering. "...of course they're all called wally..." said our septegenarian driver. Of course they are.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

beer

To the outsider beer would seem to enjoy almost mythic status in Australia: national drink, passtime and major export. You would have thought that quality would be the major selling point in a crowded marketplace. Sadly this does not seem to be the case. Whilst the fizzy pish loaded with colouring and sweetners that haunts the UK lager market is broadly absent, so is flavour. Don't get me wrong, Aussie beer is in no regard as bad as American "beer" but it still doesn't taste of anything much.


As with a lot of things in Australia that are unexpectedly a problem, the reason behind the phenomenon is that Australia is a very long way from just about everywhere, is quite stupifyingly large and is the driest continent on earth. This means that in its' developing years Australia has had to try and grow critical beer ingredients and attempt the brewing process in conditions far from suitable for either. The resulting product, whilst it probably resembled beer, was actually nothing of the sort.

The beer problem is also a matter of cultural heritage in that the beer early colonials were trying to make would have been a British style ale with light hops and quite a depth of malt, a fact still present in that many Aussie beers are still called "Bitter". Bitter does not drink too well in hot climates, crisp pale ales and lagers are far better in the blazing sun than your average pint of heavy. Unfortunately to make lager you need to use a strain of yeast that ferments most effectively between 10 and 5°C, (5°C is roughly the same temperature as your fridge)*. This kind of temperature is readily available in a Czech or German cellar but a little difficult to find in early colonial Australia. What the colonials would have brewed is something called California Common: lager type ingredients with not quite enough hops fermented with an ale yeast. This produces a fizzier than normal ale with a dry-ish flavour that needs to be served very cold to be palateable. This has had an effect on national tastes and so Aussie beer remains pretty crap, particularly to fussy bugger like me.

As the informed reader will already know and has hopefully been made clear the "Australian" beers available in Britain bear very little relation to the beers actually served in Australia. They are attempts to break into an undiscerning and tasteless British market by Australian brewers who have an insipid and uninspiring product ready to go. Fosters for example is nowhere to be found in Sydney but the biggest selling beer in Australia is brewed by Fosters, this is VB (Victoria Bitter).


VB
is flatter than lager, it is served at lager temperatures and tastes of ...er... well, not very much. It also gives you demon grade hangovers. Unpleasant.

Other brands, many brewed by Fosters, include:


Tooheys New
- this is a fizzy lager-style drink with not enough hops, but tolerable enough.


Carlton Cold
- also a fizzy lager-style drink with not enough hops, unfortunately you can't taste the malt as much as you can with Tooheys.


Carlton Draught
- This is the pick of the beers available on draught. This is much closer to a European lager, nicely balanced hops a good grain flavour, easy to drink. Hangovers still a bit of an issue. You may have seen the ad for this beer kicking round the internet.


Cascade
- Slightly more crisp than Tooheys but not much.


Hahn
- A better effort this one, more hops, a decent grain flavour but still it doesn't have the finish of the European lager it is emulating.


Coopers Pale
- Pretty good, has the advantage of having no artificial colours etc. in it. A very Aussie beer.


Crown Lager
- This is a good crsip clean lager and extremely drinkable. Very similar to Carlton Draft it is available only in bottles. Probably the pick of the litter.

Imported beers do make it to Australia but they are often a bit overpriced because of the distance they have to travel. Lowenbrau actually have a bar in Sydney to lure punters in with the promise of beer that tastes of something. The Aussies seem to like this but the beer is still too expensive so a trip to the Lowenbrau Keller is not an everyday occurence.

Not being the world's greatest lager devotee I have also been trying some of the independant breweries proper beers. Thus far my favourites have come from: The Malt Shovel Brewery, which produces very high quality full-flavoured beers, and on micro-brewery level The Lord Nelson which is a pub/hotel/brewery which has some stunning beers which they serve far too cold (review).

Beer over here comes in some rather strange measures and protocol for ordering varies from state to state. Being your average pom I haven't fully got to grips with it yet but have found this guide to be of some use. To make life even more complicated the Australian Government doesn't use a simple method of measuring drinks either. They have a system of "Standard Drinks" which is annoyingly confusing. A bottle of beer that appears to contain a single serving of beer will often have "Contains 1.5 standard drinks" printed on the label in clear contradiction of the facts, surely they can't be suggesting that you share your beer?*

Among "interesting" beery things to do in Australia, other than drinking it alone, are the Darwin Beercan Regatta, which you've probably heard about and an outback pub crawl, by aeroplane. The latter sounds interesting until you think about: a) what happens when you need a pee and you're only a third of the way to the next pub? b) motion sickness? c) the huge amount of money it costs.

There is good beer to be had here, but you do have to look for it a bit harder than you would expect or would have hoped. I think it may be time to kick off the homebrew over here. Then all I have to do is convince Aussies to drink warm flat beer. Oh well, I needed a challenge...

Click related link for an Australian guide to Australian beer - don't trust the beer reviews but everything else is straight up fact

*Water chemistry comes into this as well but I haven't included anything about this, I wouldn't want to sound obsessive or anything.

**Not that the units of alchohol system used in Britain is particularly clear but at least the units of alchohol are easily worked out: amount of drink in litres multiplied by strength of drink ABV% = units of alchohol. Ergo a pint of beer (0.575l) at 5% is a little under 3 units.