Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Here's to you, Lynnie!"

And so she goes. A four-hour marriage to Paul Robinson and she's off. To the Maldives. Without so much as a yellow cab out of Pinoak Court.

Lyn Scully burst into my life in a leopard print bodysuit sometime in 1999, replacing the tired, old Fat Phil Martin with her bogan husband and troupe of daughters. And an improbable A-grade footballing son in the UK. For while there my heart yearned for the down-to-earth realism of Ailsa Piper's Ruth Wilkinson, but, as these things are, Lynnie was. And her leopard print became nothing more than the wallpaper of my life.

But then, alongside a powerhouse of Australian acting talent which included Val Jellay, Bud Tingwell and Joan Sidney, Lynnie got HER storyline, probably the best-executed storyline Erinsborough has seen in my long history of Neighbours watching. For so long Lynnie had been a doormat to her dull, gruff, bogan husband, but finally she had her chance to shine. Slowly, it was revealed that the woman she had considered her aunt for all her 40-odd years as indeed her mother, and the appropriate crisis of personality followed, the tears, the shouting, the desperation.

All soap characters, regardless of stripe, become endeared to viewers by by the traumas they survive. It is only in these moments of extreme duress and emotional firewalking that we really get an actor's or actress' range, they have to plumb the depths of their character with all the raw nerves exposed. And Janet Andrewartha showed 'em how it is done, accompanied by the stirling performances of Bud as her adopted father Henry, and Joan as the tearaway biological mother Valda.

And so we got an insight into Lynnie, and she emerged from her ordeal a stronger, more independent woman. But, as the Neighbours writers are wont to do, the transformation didn't last long. A few knock-down, drag-outs Ramsay Street stylee with Nat Bass' Izzy, and it was all over, red rover. Back to boring old doormat Lyn. The gumption, the self-righteousness, the indignation—the possibility of a Mrs Mangel for the 21st century—all out the window in favour her trademark nervous titter. And what a waste it was.

Neither did I get the Load Ship that I was after, either.

Which all goes to prove two things:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Honeymoon is over

Just a week into his leadership of the federal ALP and Kevin Rudd has been served up a typical manoeuvre from Our Man of Tinsel. And what a beautiful wedge it is:

Consider a recent proposal made by a certain opposition leader that immigrants to Australia undergo a Citizenship Test—you know, bone up on our national language and its idiom, and understand a few things about our history—Captain Cook 's arrival, say, or convict settlement, squatocracy, or the White Australia Policy spring to mind as pivotal periods of our nation's great past. And then there's our culture—the triple-fronted cream brick veneer, the hero worship of outlaws and sportsmen, the Hawaiian pizza, Ern Malley and the denigration of anything vaguely intellectual (other than cricket statistics of course, which should probably have their own university canon should Our Dear Leader have his way). Naturally, these are all important parts of all the daily life of all Australians, and each and every one of us should be able to identify them on a multiple-choice quiz. Hell, maybe we should hold this Citizenship Test in a smoky pub where the winner gets to take home a passport rather than a slab of VB? Second Place would of course win a meat tray, culled from all the animals represented on our coins.

But I digress. This idea was originally proposed by former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley who was trying to outflank the Government on "Border Protection". And I quote The Economist:
Mr Beazley himself, however, has consistently fared badly in the polls, because he has been unable to explain how, or indeed if, Labor differs from the conservatives.
And so, with Bomber gone and many of his rightist policies under a question mark, what better time to raise the stakes thinks Johnnie. A silly idea which will unite his own cherished hansonites and cause a schism between the indignant Left and bickering Right of the ALP. And thereby they begin to tear themselves apart again.

This is the first true test of Mr Rudd's mettle.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

There is a god!

The Devil IncarnateHALLELUJAH!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As evidenced by the following, from Mr Murdoch's minions:
But last night, the new Opposition Leader pledged to stare down colleagues pushing favourites for the shadow ministry, saying he and newly elected Deputy Leader Julia Gillard would "significantly shape" the front bench.

"I will be leading this show and when it comes to the outcomes I want, I will get them," he said on ABC TV's 7.30 Report. "I don't particularly care if anyone has opposing views - that's what's going to happen."
And while I'm at it, what was so spectacularly bad about MedicareGold?

Friday, November 24, 2006

A man and a moniker

A lesson in etymology:

"If Dunlop tires, he gets weary."

Straight from the horse's mouth...


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A poser

So there's this country, right, which has bounteous amounts of petrochemical energy resources—Texas tea, black gold, crude oil. Heaps of the stuff. But they want to go down the nuclear path. You know, build some reactors, lessen the load of their carbon emissions and all that. But everyone thinks they might want to invade another country if they get the technology.

There's this other country, right, which has bounteous amounts of petrochemical energy resource—brown coal and natural gas. Heaps of the stuff. But they want to go down the nuclear path. You know, build some reactors, lessen the load of their carbon emissions and all that. But this country did invade another country just recently. What if they get the technology?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Lyrics I love (volume 2)

If we're having so much fun, how come I'm crying every Monday /Is it just to cancel out the laughter from Thursday through til Sunday /I spend the next two days in my bed and I wonder what it's all about /And as soon as I start to feel okay, and I know it's time to go back out

I've had the same look on my face for the past two lonely years /24 months of bargain pills, and cheeky lines and stolen beers /In all the pictures that I took, my eyes are so black and wide / And you don't have to look too hard to see that there's not much life inside

A new home to hang my heart is what I thought I'd never find /But fate, as always, intervened, and now I've got a girl in mind /And I'm meeting her next week when we get back to Glasgow /That's if we even make it, and we don't get buried in the Dutch snow

And if my instincts are right / I will fall in love and then / We'll have a laugh from time to time / But you'll never see me there again /When I get home in the morning / Trisha's hosting a debate/ She says, "If you don't like the fish you're catching /Then you've got to change the bait"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Window Dressing

As seen on Victoria Street recently...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Just to make you feel better...

October's death toll so far

US 96
UK 1
Other 2

Security forces 144
Civilians 1,119

Source: The Guardian

And while I'm at it, it seems my freiends at The Economist have taken up the same chalice as I have below. Obviously, their argument is much more persuasive and succinct than mine. [God love their Style Guide. A book to live one's life by]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The things you hear...

"Yeah, hi, is that Mary? ... My name's David XXXXXXXX. I'm chasing a fingerprint and criminal record test... Sometime in August... 19th XXX 1970... Yeah, I recently bought a brothel, and I need the test submitted to the Office of Fair Trading so I can begin trading."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Coherent Strategy

I am not really sure what Messrs Beazley and Rudd have in mind when they talk about a withdrawal from Iraq. Strangely enough, I am not really sure what Messrs Bush, Blair and Howard mean when they say they will "stay the course", or "change tactics but not strategy" (mindless, ridiculously nuanced guff, designed to convince American voters that their president hasn't turned the Fertile Crescent, the Cradle of Civilization, into a smoking, money-sucking blood-spattered bomb-site). So far, there are about 650,000 Iraqi civilians who will never know what any of these men mean—about 100 people are killed per day at the moment—and we're approaching 3,000 American GIs over the duration of this ill-judged colonisation (a significant number—approximately the same amount of people killed in the Felling of the Towers 5 years ago).

So basically, no-one in Australia has been able to articulate a strategy for resucitating this basket-case of a nation that we have played our part in creating. Without wanting to dwell on the descriptor "basket-case", the previous leader of the Australian Labor Party announced a "troops home by Christmas" policy. My question for him was, and remains: "If we unceremoniously remove our troops," (hang on, it would occur ceremoniously) "what intentions do we have towards these people whose land we have invaded and trashed?" Is the answer "Leave it ot the Iraqis to sort out, it's their country"? Is it "Let the Americans sort out their own mess, thereby creating their Middle Eastern Trojan Horse"? Mr Latham seemed to think the Australian electorate was so stupid as to accept that a four-word policy had some sort of logical rationale behind it that might help the poor people we have invaded to restore reliable electricity and potable water. Mr Howard certainly thinks all the Australian public wants is platitudes rather than substance, though his soundbites are shorter—"stay the course", "cut and run"—and Mr Beazley, well, poor old Kim.

Bottom line: neither of the current "left" reponse—troops out now—nor the "right" response—stay until the job is done—take into account that what was once a structured, relatively wealthy, secular nation ruled by a despot, can no longer stand on its own because of what has been done in our name; what is the US trying to achieve there? do we agree with these aims? do we blindly stay or is turning our backs the right way to go? Is there any way we can, as a nation, exert pressure on these modern-day conquistadores? I can name only one prominent "coalition" leader, of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, who has thought beyond platitudes:

Sir Menzies Campbell: New strategy must come through UN

The Independent, published: 24 October 2006

Any new strategy for Iraq requires an understanding of the mistakes that have led to the current crisis.

De-Baathification was excessive and unjust, and the disbandment of Iraqi security forces created a power vacuum. There have been prolonged delays in the transfer of political power, restoration of governance, and the training of Iraqi security forces; a failure to rebuild police forces; a paucity of civilian officials with sufficient expertise; and inadequate measures to re-establish services, with poor financial oversight.

At the same time, there has been a disproportionate use of military force, a failure to apply accepted counter-insurgency techniques or alternative means to minimise violence, and a system of abusive, indefinite detention of Iraqis.

It is now essential that through the United Nations, the Iraqi government and its allies develop a new strategy. What might it contain?

First, a regional contact group could strengthen and promote the constructive engagement of Iraq's neighbours, assist dialogue with insurgent groups and improve border controls. Iran and Syria can no longer be ignored.

Second, enhanced measures are required to train Iraqi security forces. Third, a comprehensive, UN-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration strategy is necessary to deprive illegal armed groups of their grip on power.

Fourth, there must be an end to systematic detentions by Iraqi and US forces. These are in breach of international law and have perpetuated the insurgency. Fifth, expanding United Nations and World Bank involvement in the reconstruction process would enhance delivery, transparency and accountability.

Sixth, Iraq needs a programme for the withdrawal of coalition troops, to counter the perception of occupation and illegitimacy. Iraqis view coalition forces not as liberators, but as occupiers.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How to tell you really are ageing:

I left a note under someone's windscreen wipers today:
"Do you buy two parking meter tickets when you take up two spaces? Please park properly in the future."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Forgive me father, for I have sinned

Another installment from the Chilean seashore. This time a camp for underprivileged boys...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Scenes from a Chilean Beach Resort

The beach:

The principal entertainment:

The icecream:

The cuisine:

The other entertainment:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All you need to take from last night's interview with PJK

TONY JONES to PAUL KEATING: One final question - why do you think it was that no one in Federal Labor today seems able to articulate as clearly as you just did these kind of political messages?
ABC, Lateline, September 13, 2006

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Because it's ok to have one man in confinement, eating only staples and under 24-hour surveillance against his will
but not ok for 21 poeple to volunteer to do the same.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

Australian Politics Test

Results for skander …

Party preference | Political outlook | Economic policy
Social policy | Traditional values | Explanation

Take the test

Party preference

Greens Australian Democrats Labor Party Family First Liberal Party National Party One Nation
74.4% 79% 65.2% 44.3% 42.2% 37.6% 32.2%

The party with the highest score has the policy outlook that is most aligned with your views.

Identifying the party that best aligns with your views is not an exact science. You have more than one party within an error margin of 10 percentage points of the highest score. The higher scored parties are highlighted above. Any of these parties may be an acceptable alternative. Your political preferences may swing between these higher scored parties.

Notes: People choose to vote for a political party for many reasons, not just because their ideas and ideals align with those of their chosen party. In addition to a party’s philosophical position, many voters are also interested in the experience of the candidates, and the party’s leadership style and management capability. This tool did not test such factors.

Political outlook

Your broad political orientation score is -31.8%, which equates to a ‘Centre Left’ position

Economic policy

Your economic policy score score is -18.4%. This equates to a ‘Centre Left’ position

Social policy

Your social policy score is -14.7%. This equates to a ‘Centre Left’ position

Traditional values

Your traditional values score is -73.2%. This equates to a ‘Far Left’ position


In terms of the left-right political spectrum, your broad political outlook score reports the extent to which your views could be described as ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ in the contemporary Australian context. These are largely arbitrary terms:

  • Left-wing positions are associated with a more managed economy, multiculturalism, Aboriginal reconciliation, a strong focus on rights and state interventions to achieve just outcomes, and bigger government (higher taxing/higher spending). A negative score above equates to a ‘left-wing’ perspective.
  • Right-wing positions are associated with ‘free-market’ economics, conservative moral values, a strong focus on individual freedom and choice, a balancing of rights and responsibilities, and a focus on fair procedures (equal opportunity). A positive score above equates to a ‘right-wing’ perspective.

Of course, it is entirely possible to have conflicting left and right views on economic policy and social policy. The final three charts tease out your views in terms of the state intervening on economic issues, social policy and traditional values. Traditional values and other social policy interventions have been separated as there are a number of people who, because of their faith or atheism, hold left-of-centre views on one dimension and right-of-centre views on the other.

Your economic policy score reports the extent to which you think the state should be regulating the economic aspects of our lives. A negative score means you believe the state should, on more issues than not, intervene in the economic lives of its citizens. A positive score means you believe the state should be less interventionist.

Your social policy score reports the extent to which you think the state should be providing services for its citizens and protecting its citizens from making decisions that could be harmful (in social policy areas other than those covered by the traditional values score below). A negative score means you believe the state should, on more issues than not, intervene in the social lives of its citizens as a force for good. A positive score means you believe we are responsible enough to provide for ourselves and run our own lives free from excessive government intervention.

Your traditional values score reports the extent to which you think the state should act to maintain conservative moral standards (for example in respect of abortion, divorce and drug use). A negative score means you believe the state should not overly intervene in the moral lives of its citizens. A positive score indicates you believe the state should intervene on more of these issues than not. A strongly positive score is consistent with the position adopted by the ‘Christian Right’ in Australia.

The traditional values dimension reverses the relationship between the political spectrum and state intervention. In the economic and social dimensions, being left wing equates with higher levels of state intervention. When it comes to traditional values, higher levels of state intervention are associated with right-wing politics.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Power struggle as US lights go out in Havana mission

Richard Luscombe in Miami
Wednesday June 14, 2006
The Guardian

An ongoing squabble between the Cuban government and American diplomats has escalated into a full-scale power struggle after Fidel Castro was accused of cutting off electricity to the US mission in Havana.

Officials in Washington accused the Cuban president of pulling the plug as part of a long-running campaign of harassment and intimidation of US staff. They cite other tactics including allegedly setting off car alarms outside diplomats' houses in the middle of the night and slowing the mission's water supply to a trickle."Bullying tactics of the Castro regime aren't going to work," said Sean McCormack, a state department spokesman

But Cuba denied deliberately cutting off power to the US mission, saying there were problems in the electrical grid feeding the building and that the US authorities "lie shamelessly".

"We categorically deny that there have been premeditated cuts in the electrical energy to disrupt the functioning of the interests section," the Communist party daily Granma said in a frontpage editorial. American authorities "lie shamelessly".

Tensions between the two countries heightened in January when Michael Parmly, the new chief of the US mission, unveiled a sign displaying messages critical of Castro's government. And last month, mission staff said they were forced to scrap a telephone number for visa applications after the system was swamped by half a million "suspicious" calls in one day. Cuban government agents were also accused of being behind an attempt to poison a US diplomat's dog in December.

I hate to quote wholesale (well, actually, no I don't), but when it's this good, I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

For Fuck's Sake

Will someone, anyone, please nominate and promptly evict one of these booooring arseholes? A whole heap of heavy petting and panting does not good telly make, no matter how well-endowed you are.

Friday, June 02, 2006


I have a long-standing celebrity crush on Toby Stephens. Just so you know.

I may have to spend the evening naked in front of the ABC.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

North and South

Despite being the title of a very campy 1985 miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and Leslie-Anne Down, the very title of this post is a dilemma for most Melbournians. I'm a north-sider. Grew up a south-sider, but as soon as I had a modicum of free will and the wherewithall to exercise it, I made haste to the oppposing side of our great and fresh river, to discover all that is outre and previously forbidden.
So, having lived north for a good 14 of the last 15 years of my charmed excistence, I am bidden to return to the south. Ostensibly, I am treating this as an anthropological exercise, "to see how the other half live" as it were, but actually I am quaking in my boots. How will my well worn cuban heels cope in the presence of all this RMWilliams business? How will my ever-expanding collection of free K-Mart polo shirts feel when surrounded by rivals from such high-falluting brands as Diesel and, I dunno, Givenchy? And what of drinking? Will I a) be able to find a pub? b) within stumbling distance? c) that actually serves the low-grade beer that is my preference? Or will I be stuck poncily waving Stella Artois or that bloody awful perfume of a beer they call Hoegaarden? The very thought fills me with trepidation.
But, the time has come. Walls will be demolished. Excavators will excavate. Labourers will drink milky mugs of Bushells with two sugars in. And some horrible excuse for an overgrown shrub that I have been trying to surrepticiously kill will be pulled out, screaming, from what it presumed was an indentured existence next to the outdoor dunny (good riddance to that too).
And all the while I will be living a life to which I am unaccustomed, furnished with such unfamiliar pleasures as central heating and a dishwashing machine. Huzzah! I will need these things as I closet myself away from the bright young things of Greville Street and Toorak Road.
Or perhaps I should simply hold my head high, stating loudly that "Mr Wolf is a pale imitation of Ladro"; or "What do you mean you have never been to Cinema Nova?" or "No, really, I don't think I need to carry on to The Vineyard."

And so, Tally-ho it is, as I sally forth, brave, into a new world...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I am in media heaven. My favourite author releases a new book the same week my favourite band releases a new album. David Mitchell, I want to marry you. Would you mind? And the same goes for Snow Patrol. I want to marry you too, even if you're not particularly attractive, I very much heart your music. Well, at least for the meantime. If I get bored of you I reserve the right to throw either of you over some someone more fanciable. but right now there isn't anyone else. Just, you, David Mitchell, and you Snow Patrol. Oh, and you Big Brother. But I don't really want to marry you—I'd rather sneak around with you for some tawdry action in the broom closet, if you don't mind.

Add a touch of Martha Wainwright: Listen to "Set Fire to the Third Bar". RIGHT NOW.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Been a while between drinks

Contrary to rumours, I am still alive and kicking, just flat-out at the coalface. But working with a whole bunch of nerds and fanboys does give you the chance to experience some of the more wondrous sides of the dubdubdub. I didn't even know there were species of nerd this nerdy living deep in the labyrinth which is the information superhighway. And I pride myself with being up there with the latest in nerdity. Well, to an extent.

Otherwise, all these four-day weeks have been playing havoc with my liver; although, so far, it does seem to be holding up. And holding up these four-day weeks have been for a little project I have been devoting much of my spare time to over the last few months. Yes, that dreaded word R E N O V A T I O N. Now, along with all the other beaujolais-swilling*, ABC-watching, inner-city-living lefties of my generation, I decided a few months back that my digs were no longer satisfactory, and that I should exercise my exquisite taste by spending thousands upon thousands of dollars that I don't have to get them up to scratch. Florence Broadhurst, marimekko and the like have nothing on my plans—whihc primarily include demolishing an outdoor dunny and bringing the WC inside, reshaping the apricot-laminex kitchen, and adding a dining zone, coz I'm sick to the shit of eating off my knees in front of the telly (it plays havoc with my PS2 controllers).

Around Novemeber the local council approved my pans without so much as a whimper. And since then it's been the hard yards of getting the plans up to scratch and finding me a builder. It's taken quite some months, but I've found one, paid an exorbitant amount of money to "lock him in" and as of about 5 weeks ago, it was meant to be a quick dash down the home straight. All we had to do was get ourselves a building permit, which, I was advised my all involved—my good mate the architect, the builder and sundry other professionals—that this was really just a matter of process.


Since that fateful day, I have run into the biggest problem of the entire campaign—cue the creepy music— dum de dum dum—the nextdoor neighbour FROM HELL. Now this old cow is renowned around my 'hood as being on very good terms with the devil. She does not actually live in the house nextdoor to mine. She used to, but has now moved to the more genteel environs of Doncaster to grow her tomatoes and harass anything that can move. I was stunned, nay, mortified, to find that she had not objected to my bourgeois aspirations, but at the same time, heaved a very long sigh of relief.

Six months on since the granting of council approval for me to add value to my nest, the harridan has wised up. I need her approval to build over a drainage pipe that runs off her roof. I also need her approval to work on the wall that joins our properties. All pretty much procedural stuff—with the plans approved, there not fucking much she can do. But that hasn't bothered this karma-killer. I have had her round gesticualting madly at me and shouting unintelligible insults ina forrign tongue. I have had her on her hands and knees outside my place with her arm shoulder-deep in the drainage pipe in question. I have had her informing all and sundry that she is going to do her best to stop this "development", as she will be losing "light" [erm, if you bothered to look at the planning submission beeyatch, this aint true] and "air" [like, how is that possible?] and that she will do anything within her forthright, stout and dowdy powers to ensure this doesn't proceed.


Should've thought of that six months ago, stronza! An old saying comes to mind: "Too late, too late, she cried as she waved her wooden leg". Not that her leg is wooden (it certainly didn't seem so when she had her arse in the air and arm down a drainpipe, but there is something rather arboreal about her head. Even her son was shaking his head as he watched her.

And this crazywoman is just one of the myriad nightmares that crowd my waking life at the moment. Just wait for the one about wheelchair access. It's a cracker.

So, rather than dwell on such minutae, instead, I give another installment of the South American odyssey. Peace out.

*Beaujolais is just a red herring. The reality is more like pot-swilling, Big Brother-watching. Though I do have a thing for Teachers at the moment. Or any repeated series the ABC runs in the 11pm timeslot. Like Wild Side.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Let the games begin

And they did. The Festival of Skander kicked off on the weekend with, well, it wasn't hugely sumptuous or anything, but a veritable smørgasbord of delights, including fresh prawns and home-grown tomatoes with freshly picked basil, with a duck-breast in a sour cherry sauce, a delightful chilled rosé, with a creamy gorgonzola and a half wheel of jindi brie, all soft and gooey and delicious. There were cornichons and rye bread and organic sourdough for the fussy. And all there was to eat all this was la embarazada, my parents, a cripple and an old lady, otherwise known as my dear grandmother. "What did you say, dear?" seems to be her most common comment these days, but even when she does mishear you she comes out with some crackers. And I don't mean on a nice little floral saucer to go with the cheese.

Anyway, the weather was delightful, sunny but not too hot, with a lovely onshore breeze lowering the temperate just enough, and there was even home-made dessert of the ice-cream variety. Yes, just what the doctor ordered of a weekend in the country. Unfortunately, my folks ahve decided the lash the celebrations proper this year as they have found better things to do than take me out to dinner—so what am I to do with my booking for 8 people at Long Grain tomorrow night? Harrumph.

But more importantly, what do I want? What gifts will satsicfy me? Make my cheeks go red and heart skip a beat as I glimpse it through the wrapping paper? Or, like that electric razor they gave me at 18, will make me sullen and sulky for the rest of the day? Hmm, I have to avoid that one at all costs. Yes, just what is it I want this year?

Monday, March 27, 2006

A bigger picture

Watch the video
Ok, so it's slightly lazy hitting up all these .mov I took while I was away, but man, everytime I look at them I am transported back to that idyll. Yes, it's more waterfalls, but this time you get to see how thay all fit together, from the Cascadas Escondidas to the biggest Mo'Fo in da world.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Devil's Throat

Watch the video

This is the top of "The World's largest waterfall".  It is mad.  You start to feel the spray a good 50-yards back from the edge, and by the time you reach this aquatic inferno, you are thoroughly drenched.

It rocks. 

Monday, March 20, 2006

Are we there yet?

Watch the video
I've managed to lose my template, and still haven't sussed whether I've got this video thang happening...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Market research

I don't like it. A bit of a bevel on the star brings it into the 21st century, but it's the typeface and the black I can't handle. I think the "customer-friendly" lower case looks patronising, with the black revealing the true nature of the beast.

And while I'm at it, how bad does the Channel 9 logo look?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Lyrics I love (volume 1)

Buenas Tardes Amigo / Hola, my good friend / Cinco de Mayo's on Tuesday / And I hoped we'd see each other again / You killed my brother last winter / You shot him three times in the back / In the night I still hear mama weeping / Oh mama, still dresses in black / I looked at every fiesta / For you I wanted to greet / Maybe I'd sell you a chicken / With poison interlaced with the meat / look like my brother / Mama loved him the best / He was head honcho with the ladies / Mama always said he was blessed / The village all gathered around him / They couldn't believe what they saw / I said it was you that had killed him / And that I'd find you and upstand the law / The people of the village believed me / Mama...she wanted revenge / I told her that I'd see that she was honored / I'd find you and put you to death

So that I've found you / On this such a joyous day / I tell you it was me who killed him / But the truth I'll never have to say / Buenas tardes amigo / Hola, my good friend / Cinco de Mayo's on Tuesday / And I hoped we'd see each other again / Yes, I hoped we'd see each other again
By the way, don't ever fool around with Speedy Gonzalez impersonations in Spanish-speaking countries. Despite the hours and hours of hilarity that can ensue from a simple «¡Andare, andare! ¡Arriba, arriba!», it doesn't always go down the right way. Years ago, when I was but a whipper-snapper, I took the overnight train from Paris to Madrid. Sharing my cabin were a middle-aged Japanese fellow who, as we whizzed through the countryside somewhere near the Loire in the early evening, decided to strip down to his Y-fronts and and lie on his bunk , and a chatty bloke from Stockport called Dave. So naturally we strike up a conversation, as one does over a few cans of Kronenbourg 1664. And so it goes. When the conductor came through to gather our passports and pull down the bunks (the Japanese guy was still fully clothed at this stage), we got onto the topic of Spanish. Know anything? Iasked. "Only dos cervesas por favor". "Yeah, nice one" I replied. "All I know is
¡Andare, andare! ¡Arriba, arriba!", and we both laughed. At which point the conductor turned and glared at me, harrumphed as only Europeans can, and stormed out of the cabin.

So we looked at each other and shrugged, like you do, had a few more cans, got freaked out by the Japanese guy, and turned in ourselves. In the morning, when said conductor dropped by to return our passports, he gave the Japanese man his, Dave his, and threw mine at me from the door, really hard. And I think it was just then that we realised that telling a petty European public servant to" Hurry, hurry! Quickly, quickly!" was not the most polite thing to do as he makes your bed. Nor to crack up laughing aftwards.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wanna know what shits me?

Too bad.

It's the Australian Labor Party.

But why? I hear you ask.

First of all, Public Transport. I have always been and will always be, if not in practice, a devotee to public transport. A slut for it, even. Melbourne (and indeed Victoria's) public transport has been left to rot by the State Government since well before the Kennett Government hastily (and against the advice of its consultants KPMG—or was it Ernst and Young? I cannae remember) privatised our "public" transport system. Then the do-nothing Bracks Government decides we need faster rural rail services. Fuck yes we do. And so, after spending millions and millions of dollars, they speed the rural trains up by between one and seven minutes for THEIR TOTAL JOURNEYS to regional centres. Like, what, seven minutes faster on a four-hour rain journey is anything for ANYONE to write home about? And then they decide to the pinch the VFT name and attach it to these so-called "very (not) fast trains. These aint no TGVs or Shinkansen. They're not even fast, let alone very fast.

And so, now, I have it on first-class, reliable authority, that the Bracks Goverment has, as its main priority in its 2006 Traffic for Melbourne "blueprint" that the main initiative planned is a tunnel under the cemetary from the Eastern Freeway to Citylink. Aussie Goverment's love their tunnels. Big, fuck-off spends on engineering projects that falsely bolster their economic figures and placate the so-called "aspirational" voter in the outer suburbs. To where there is no public transport, because 10 years ago there were only cattle and sheep living there. So, I asked my source, in December when The Age was carrying on its hoo-hah about PT, "what initiatives have Mr Bachelor and his cronies, erm advisers, got in store for us public transport users? There have been heaps of great ideas in the paper." I said. And my source replied: "Oh, we won't be doing anything on trams or trains. There are no votes in it. And it would cost too much."
"And a fuck-off tunnel won't?"
"It will placate those voters who were pissed off with the eastlink tollway thing"
"But what about the future of the city and it's liveability and all that? You know, more tunnels, more cars, more petrol, higher petrol prices, more pollution, more people"
Rio, Buenos Aires and Santiago all have better public transport than we do, and their standard of living is about half of ours at best. God this shits me.

And more, I concur with Shaun Carney, as ever, in his Saturday column. What is it that the ALP can't see? Stacking their numbers in the house with Union reps is a good thing? While less Australian workers join unions, more unionists join the ALP. And unionists are surely about as respected as real estate agents when it comes to honesty, integrity and good intentions. There's a reason no-one else wants join the ALP. It's because its a hotbed of skullduggery and backstabbing, where merit and ideas are thrown over for obsequiousness, backstabbing, and an idolisation of the nastiest and most devious political animal this nation has ever seen. No-one trusts this slimy, weaselly man, and yet Labor's Right can't see it. They revile him in public, but fawn over him and his "electoral success" (read: shrewd manipulation of a spineless media) behind headquarters' doors. Why else would they not run on his blatant and repeated lack of honesty—never ever a GST, I believe in Medicare, NON-CORE PROMISES, weapons of mass destruction, children thown overboard, PETER FUCKING REITH, no knowledge of the AWB Saddam kickbacks, the list goes on—at every moment they have? Why not? Because they're run by a pack of faceless "officials" wouldn't know a policy it it kicked them in the face. Who send their preferences to the rightist Family First instead of the leftist Greens, and in the process end up electing not just a Victorian fundo to the senate, but an extra Lib as well. Who care more about internal numbers than economic numbers.


And, while I'm at it, Kim who?


I can't believe I wrote a post about Brazil and forgot the main thing: Caipirinhas. Man oh man, these things rock. After the first sip has acclimatised one's mouth to the cachaça that it. And that's definitely one of those sour-y squint-y too strong-y alcohol-y effects. But once you're past thhe first sip and the limejuice and the sugar are starting to mingle in your plastic cup, and the ice starts a-melting, yeah, that's the spirit. And the drink 'em everywhere. At the wedding, they had a dedicated caipirinha bar—lime, passionfruit or strawberry to choose from. But believe me, there's no reason whatsoever to pass up the lime. The sour acid masks the cachaça flavour in a way no strawberry ever can. And I'm aint no passionfruit man But, hey, you gotta try everything once (except murder and incest, that is). (oh, and ploughing into a group of rural teenagers in your car).

So, after a whirlwind tour of Hee-oh, we had to hot-tail it back to BA. As you all know too well, my kinda town. But it also meant a period of mad flight times, like a 7:30 Rio-BA departure, meaning we have to leave for the airport at oh, 4:45 am. Pitch black. And then spend a woozy day in a rainy BA, feeling fairly shite. But enjoying ourselves nonetheless. Even seeing some tango at the Armenian Social Club in Palermo Viejo. And following yesterday's early morning rise with anothery—this time the 8:15 to Lima.

And the Cuzco. The Andes. Cold. Wet. History. And some fo the best masonry I've ever seen. A city full of these min cars whose brnad I can't recall, all mini like their stoic, broad-faced drivers, these solid, stocky coffee-coloured people who look as though they have been chiselled from stones themselves.

What with altitude sickness, yes, it does exist, Cuzco was a place the put the feet up and relax. Snooze. Drink hot chocolate. Visit the odd cathedral. Snooze some more. Read a little. Plan our itinerary. Eat alpaca (yum!). Drink pisco sours. Peruse silver. Deny the hawkers. All jolly good, old fashioned fun.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A distant memory

I'm still tyring to figure out how to upload my quicktime movies, so in the meantime you shall all have to content yourselves with more stills.

Style icon Buenos Aires: the Peugeot 504

The view from our hotel:


Brazil: The wedding


How's that for a start?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

When my baby smiles at me...

Been a while, but yo, I'm on holiday fuckers. Back in Chile with a nice little cerveza aresanal after a whirlwind tour of this continent.

After an exceptionally enjoyable week in BA, la embarazada and I headed up to Iguazu to spent some QT with the world's greatest waterfall. Exceptional Q it was too, thousands of megalitres of water rushing over this small gorge each second, covering everything within 100 yards in fine spray and hurling rainbow after rainbow into the sky. Staying on the Argentinian side of this monstrosity enabled me to continue my carne endulgence—in the form of metre-long swords of meat barbecued to perfection—and to finally get my groove back with the lingo—in the form of a longneck or two of Quilmes and a good solid hour of smalltalk in the black market backstreets of Puerto Iguazu.

And then on to Brazil. Ah Brazil! Such a big thing, the nation, the concept. Strangely orderly buses, an obscure language that sounds like Russians speaking French, no smoking indoors, comunist stylee docket systems, and, unfortunately, a race that looks as you´d expect a mixture of short hairy Portuguese, native South Americans and strapping negroids to look like—not anything to rival their southern neigbours, that´s for sure. I'll say it now: Sao Paolo is a dump. 20 million odd people in a metropolis not much more than 120 years old. No street life, ugly grey highrises, undeciferable language. But the point of our excursion lay in this city, and it was exceptionally fulfilled:
And then onto Rio. Not a city I had much expectation of after the disappointment of our other Brazilian destinos. But low expectations are the easiest to exceed, and exceed they did. This is where all the Brazilian hotties hang out. On the streets. In their togs. Whiling away their hours sucking down sucos and playing hands-free volleyball on the beach. Do these people have anything resembling a job? Do they need one, these lithe latte-coloured laydeez and buff brown blokes? None of the class of their Argentine brethren, but what they lack in class they make up for in brawn. Even if their language is undeciferable. They pronounce the name of their city "Hee-oh" for fuck's sake.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

So Buenos Aires eh? Awesome town. Shame about the location of my hotel, but hey, what can you do when all the really nice hotels you wanted to stay in are all booked out three months in advance? Downtown was where we were, a quaint little nod to our friends further north on the same landmass, I think; better than our own terminology, as an English mate of mine recently pointed out—CBD isn't really an appealling term. Nor is downtown. So I'll go for the actual district, which was called Monserrat. Whatever, we were 5 seconds from the Plaza de Mayo, which is probably the third biggest tourist site in BA, and its Casa Rosada, of Evita, or if you prefer Madonna fame (I am and always will be an Elaine Paige man myself), and that's smack bang in the middle of BA. Its focal point, if you like. Which, paticularly as far as bus routes and the underground system go, is quite important.
Now this town. This town. Initially, I was somewhat miffed by the place. Big. busy, high-rise, 35 degrees. Filled with buses and smog and hotties and ATMs and not much more.
So after running the gauntlet of the leather touts in Calle Florida ("Sir, our leather, direct from factory, very good prices"), I decided that if I was to enjoy this city at all, we had to go out on a limb and discover some suburbs. And discover we did.
A happening little area called Palermo Viejo, a suburb straight out of a wallpaper* magazine. And I'm serious when I say I reckon they started that magazine after a stay in Buenos Aires. This place is on the money. Spot on. Hardly a thing I can fault. Given that every fourth man or woman in BA is a dead-set head-turner—seriously Riza, forget Europe or a car, you gotta get yo' ass down here—they also dress well, they speak Spanish (which is dead sexy in my book, never mind that I don't understand them and it's at 100 miles an hour), they drink their beer outta 750ml bottles (a tres-cuatro, I picked that one up quickly), they smoke in their restaurants, they like their beef, they look you in the eye, they dine not before 10pm, they specialise in leather. Did I mention they are all hot? Palermo has that edgy-established feel to it: enticing cafes that double as restaurants and triple as bars, shady streets packed full of chouette shops, small designers charging Argentian pesos. Being a man who hasn't bought a stitch since April 2005, this was something akin to heaven. You know how it is when that inner fashion slave is let out? And when everything is half price, seriously half price? I mean the tag says something you think is a reasonable price, and the you convert it, and it's a pair of white leather shoes for 99 bucks? Or a cream suit for 230? Or hand-made leather wedges at 115? Particularly when travelling with someone who works in the fashion industry, it's hard to tear yourself away from all this.
And so we shopped. And ate. And shopped some more. Then, after a swim and a few more beers, we returned the next day to pick up the things we were still thinking about. Hard to think I'm only 600 bucks worse off for all the shit I'm now carrying.
But we didn't just shop. Asid from sweating our way around the bars and boutiques of Palermo, we actaully did get to tyake in some sights. The Cementaria de Recoleta and Evita's crypt. La Camiñita and the coloured houses of the docks area. General San Martin's monument. More admiring of 'historic' buildings. And so it goes.
Another bunch of observations, this time on BA:
Their legendary reputation as night owls is correct. These fuckers don't go out before 10. So for someone on an Australian timetable, and slave to another timetable (that of la embarazada), looking about for somewhere to have a drink near our hotel, round say eightish—before dinner, GnT time in the mother country—nothing is doing. They catch up for late lunch like 6ish, and then disappear from the streets for four hours. There's a lot I like about that, except that it doesn't do well with a) jetlag and b) pregnancy.
The right shops open at 11 and close for lunch at 1pm, to reopen at 3, and close at 8. the wrong shops open at 9 and close at 9.
The Porteños, as they are known, dress well, but they do dress conservatively. In Monserrat, it was fashionable suits made of unfashionable 80s materials. On women. Elsewhere, it was polo shirts wall-to-wall, much like home, only tucked in (and yes, I was succumbed after a while).
Smoking! The epitome of old style chic. On entering the country, the woman at customs, sitting there next to her big fuck-off baggage scanning machine, long painted nails with a fag between them. I punched the air.
These people love a rally. Almost every day we were in BA, there was a rally of some sort in the Plaza de Mayo. Drums a-banging, banners a-waving, peeps a-marching. The first one involved children dancing, the last one demanded Justicia for the victims of the Cromañon fire, a nightclub fire a year ago that killed 193. I don't know what sort of justice one can demand for victims of a terrible accident, or what a government who has since clamped down on nightclub facilities and capacities can do, but there were thousands of them outside our hotel demanding Justicia.
But then there was New Years Eve. And there was not a soul on the streets. I'd expected something like home, like most capital cities in most coutries around the world where some sort of public entertainment is laid on and there are people thronging the streets. But we left our hotel at nine, looking for trouble, and found none. It took us 45 minutes of walking to find one place serving alcohol open. Just one. The streets were empty, just people carrying food, getting into taxis, which were surprisingly easy to find. Not even the dodgiest kiosco was open, unless you wanted fireworks (which they call cienfuegos, reminding me of dear old Camilo). Noone. Niente. Nada. Thank god for the little place that we found. Heaven sent. And the best pizza BA has to offer. Pity I can't remember its name.
Time up. Hopefully you'll get photos next time.
Happy New Year y'all.