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Heavy Plant

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...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Weightlifting

Wandering into the pub with little to do but wait I found my eyes inexorably drawn to the television. When the revolution comes television will be banned from pubs outside of Sundays, international games of (assosciation) football and rugby (football) and made mandatory during the world cup.

Because the commonwealth games are currently being held in Melbourne anything that happens to be happening at the games is televised in every pub nationwide. This includes 'minority sports'. No, not the Mornington Crescent semi-finals or even the Octopush grand finals but sports that are either a waste of human effort or a simple passtime that, through the usual idiotic human tendancy of taking a good thing too far, has been elevated to the level of an international event (Synchronised swimming and table tennis respectively).

Because the concept of sport is as old as humanity itself and because not everyone is particularly good at actual games the Commonwealth Games actually contain very few games. Physical games, according to anthropologists, are a hunting and warfare substitute and so anyone who wants to play physical games should be encouraged to do so as the might otherwise try to kill something or someone.

But what about the people who are only good at one aspect of games? What if you can only throw things a really long way but not accurately enough for this to be any use? What if you can only run very quickly but only in a 400m oval? Well then for you we have athletics. Athletics are sport reduced to a single component and because the concept of 'I can do anything better than you' is somewhat older than humanity athletics have been around a similarly large amount of time.

Unfortunately the reduction of sport to it's most basic competetive element seems to invalidate the endeavour for the casual observer - "He can only throw things a really, really long way, but I bet he couldn't hit a target, especially a moving one". To combat this the proponents of athletics insist that there is actually a technique to what they are doing. Sadly the value of this too is hidden to the casual and uninformed observer. Some athletic disciplines recombine the disciplines into a single event to try inject a little versatility back into the equation; triathlon, heptathlon and decathlon for example. Even these are these are only combined reductions but at least the participants are capable of more than one thing. Other 'sports' don't even harbour the hope of this - such a one is weightlifting (yes, I know it doesn't fall into the athletics category but it's just a stupid idea).

Even if you recombined other athletic disciplines to create generic areas of sporting activity like running almost does to make say, Throwing (javlin, discuss, shot-put, frisbee) or Jumping (long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault and hopscotch) weightlifting is limited to lifting things in different ways and increasing mass. To stop the biggest person winning every time there are weight categories in weightlifting. The lowest men's category is 56Kg and less. I weight nearly 70Kg and I'm a scrawny and out of shape 5'9". The lowest women's category is 48Kg. Watching the light category lifters is a totally shameless freakshow for dwarf fixated perverts that should not be allowed on TV before 9pm, if at all. Most of the other weightlifters don't exactly have the appearance assosciated with being an athlete. In fact most of them have the physical carriage I assosciate with too much beer, chocolate and sitting on your arse watching TV.

Not enough thought has gone into weighlifting, they don't even try to lift different shapes. Surely lifting a spherical weight requires an entirely different technique to lifting the classic dumbell configuration? Even this slight variation doesn't happen in the competetive sport. Instead weightlifters create bizarre arbitrary and painful methods for lifting. Two of them. With silly names. Weightlifting is composed of 'the clean and jerk' and 'the snatch':
  • The Clean and Jerk
    1. With back breaking effort and a pelvic thrust far from sexual in intent lift the dumbells vertically and bounce it off your pubic bone (it's always fun to watch the audience wince at this point)
    2. Crunch your body underneath the bar so that it rests accross your collarbone and use the strength of your thighs to stand up - try not to follow through
    3. Drop your body weight and straighten your arms above your head whilst thrusting one leg out backwards
    4. Stand up - try not to follow through
  • The Snatch
    1. Grab the weight from the floor and hoist it upward whilst crunching your body underneath it straightening your arms and squating underneath it - all in one movement (it's always fun to watch the audience wince at this point) - try not to follow through
    2. Stand up - try not to follow through
See, easy when you know how. I was watching two sizeable Indian women lift heavier and heavier weights, they were great at the clean and jerk but probably lost sight of the snatch some years ago. It wasn't the fact that this activity had been elevated to the status of a sport that fascinated me but the fact that people seemed perfectly happy to sacrifice rectal integrity to do it competetively. It seemed certain that one of them would prolapse at any moment. I can't be good for the chalfonts. I want to see the application put back in to weightlifting. I need it demonstrated to me that this is a worthwhile endeavour. I want to see actual feats of strength not peculiar contorsions. Next time out weightlifters will have to lift up a car whilst someone changes each tyre in turn. They can start with a Smart car and move up to Landrovers and then on to trucks. The little guys should be pretty good at this, not being much taller than a jack at full extension anyway. Other useful weights lifted could include...er...well I don't know actually. I can generally lift everything I need to. I can say with a fair level of security that, barring being kidnapped by aliens and being put in some bizarre intergalactic circus, nothing would ever persuade me to put on a leotard and lift things so heavy as to threaten high speed anal leakage. Since I am having real trouble thinking of things that I need to be able to lift that I can't perhaps weightlifting should just be remoed from competition altogether. The fatties will just have to go back to wrestling.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cinema

Even given the way Sydney likes to do things a little differently I hadn't quite expected to find the simple act of going to the cinema as good as it is at Govinda's

Going to the cinema and dinner are combined in a fantastic quiet night out. For a mere $21 you get an all you can eat Indian buffet with some of the most authentic flavours I've tasted. Admittedly the food is vegetarian - authentic see? - and there is no alchohol on site but if it's a school night it doesn't mattter so much.

It isn't just the food that's good though. The cinema is furnished with long bed like constructions that you lie on to watch the movie. This is absolute bliss and also means that if you've gone to watch a stinker of a film you can just go to sleep! Govindas, as you might suppose, is also an Indian wellness centre offering yoga and vegetarian cooking classes, but this just means the staff are a bit weird and wonderful to look at and if anything adds to the experience.

My business model is clear; copy Govindas but serve meat and alchohol and the world shall be mine (oh, and charge a bit more than $21)!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dead arm

I awake with uneasy feeling, not unlike I've forgotten something. Have I left the oven on? Did I leave something important at work? No that's not it, something's missing. What could it be? Slowly I sit up getting more and more concerned for an apparently groundless psychological malaise. My left arm slides from my chest and falls into my lap lifeless and inert. That would be it then.

I have, for the second time that night fallen asleep in such a way that I have cut of the blood flow to my arm. It has been deprived of oxygen long enough for my unconscious mind to become worried and wake me, again. It sits there, warm and useless resisting every instruction from my brain. It might at least twitch or something, demonstrate that there's a bit of life left in it.

I try and massage some life back, reaching under my armpit to get the artery working again. I soon realise the stupidity of this as the blood rushes back into my arm bringing with it the return of sensation. Hundreds of blood vessels pop back into shape and capillaries slowly uncoil in the most excruciating way. Why is this sensation called 'Pins and Needles'? It is an entirely inadequate phrase to describe the pain, it feels like someone has let a thousand biting earwigs loose inside my arm. I get up and start flailing my arm against the doorframe. That'll teach it. Feeling returns to my wrist just as I whip it round and catch it on the doorknob. Ouch, a lot.

I wonder whether the bizarre dream I had about a limb gaining a life of its' own and wandering off without me is really such an unrealistic proposition. My left arm is certainly doing its' level best. Perhaps it will go off in a state of fugue and have an ever more elaborate set of adventures. It might get bored and return to me one night and I will wake up with some of its' memories. Maybe that's already happened and it goes off on its' own every night...

...maybe not.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Milosevic dead

My initial raction to this provided one of those moments when your first instinct is entirely the wrong one. I though 'good, one less murdering bastard'.

The important thing about Milosevic's trial was that he was on trial. Had a guilty verdict been secured he (and those that assisted him) in turning neighbours against each-other, turning whole countries into the site of the bloodiest and most foul outrages seen for a generation, the world, through judicial strength of character, might have been able to look itself in the eye again over the entire Yugoslav afair.

The wars in what used to be Yugoslavia weren't territory wars, they weren't even what you might call a civil war. It was war carried out as vendetta. Rape was used as a weapon. Mass murders weren't just common they were organised and carried out with the intention of removing entire ethnic groups. Because of the way this war was propogated there were no civilians, no possibility of non-involvement for anyone.

The world failed to step in to Yugoslavia to mediate. In fact it deliberately and in a considered manner decided to do nothing until it was too late to be able to do anything effective. There are various reasons excuses for this. Firstly that for a while at the beginning it looked like a war might not happen, that there would be a skirmish and that Yugoslavia as a nation would cease to be and democratic states would emerge.

Second that interfering in the sovereign affars of another nation without invitation is in itself an act of war. The debate over this at the United Nations prevented any quick action and certainly any police action with a 'robust mandate'. This is often the excuse given by people that find the third possibility a little tough to stomache.

The third and most contentious excuse was that NATO had no purpose now that global communism was effectively beaten. Its' member states saw the opportunity for it to become a global policing body leading them to delay any military commitment from/to the UN. The delay allowed a full blown war to develop which the UN was prevented from doing anything about by the debate in excuse number 2. NATO rolled in the tanks, giving the appearance of impatience with the UN and allowing a lot of talk about the UN being a paper tiger. NATO acted too late and with not enough understanding, it was by then a guerilla war and tanks were inneffective to stop the pogroms taking place in the woods and hills.

Excuse four is that this was a european problem and that the European Union should have taken more of an active role in solving it. Particularly as the intended aim of the EU is to prevent European conflicts by enabling closer political and economic ties. Yugoslavia was not in the EU as it saw it as a partisan organisation in the cold war and Yugoslavia was still in name communist. Prior to the Maastricht Treaty being signed the EU was essentially an economic body. Whilst there was a European Parliament and some European laws all the member states were extremely cautious about any action that implied the sovereignty of the European body over that of the member states. Post Maastricht the Sovereignty of Europe over its individual states is implicit, but very very slow.

Excuse five is more of a flat statement: there was no oil. The conflicts in Yugoslavia began in 1991, the same year that George Bush senior invaded Iraq over Kuwait. A fairly minor infraction compared to the cross border horrors taking place in eastern Europe. Had Yugoslavia been an oil state and of greater economc significance then the world would have acted to protect its' economic interests. Yugoslavia's main industry was tourism and instead of action the world decided it would rather just not go there.

These five pitiful excuses shamed the world and it's post cold war naivety. The world watched and talked whilst people were murdered and displaced. The only possibility of the outside world actually being able to act as if it did anything about the conflicts at all would be to demonstrate that justice was attainable without the use of a gun. The prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic and other perpetrators of offences against humanity on every side of this conflict might have gone some way to extend the reach of international law outside of that merely imposed by force by interested parties. It was important that Milosevic be shown to be guilty that he could be called a convicted war criminal, important because that is all the world had left from the wars in Yugoslavia. Part of me is pleased that the world is denied the right of convicting Milosevic because it serves to underline the fact that all attempts at sorting those bloody wars out were pointless talking shops as his trial has now ultimately become.

Am I sorry the man who gave the world ethnic cleansing is dead? No I'm not, not at all, but it might have been better had he died after being sent to jail.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cranberry and lychee martini

A quick recipe for a great drink. In your cocktail shaker put:

3 shots of vodka
2 shots white rum
5 very thin slices of the freshest root ginger you can find
4 ice cubes

Then fill the shaker to two thirds to three quarters full with cranberry juice and top off with the syrup from your can of lychees. Shake until very cold. Serve with a slice of ginger and a lychee in the glass. Try not to drink too many, you won't be able to.

Edit, 2 January 2008: having recently discovered lychee liqueur you can amend this recipe and replace one of the shots of vodka with one of the liqueur. this makes the drink slightly less potent so if you're feeling extravagant just add an extra shot of lychee liqueur to this recipe. Also I have found it best to add a few slices of ginger to the shaker.