Big Ben

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Oh look, they went and put photos I took all over a tram.

Something about a list

This started as a comment on Prakky’s blog post regarding a list of twitter users in a local paper.

I didn’t read the article or the list. And I gave @petstarr a bit of a ribbing the night before when she announced there’d be a list coming out, saying I was producing a list of the top 100 SA newspapers and had no mention of the Sunday Mail in my notes.

I didn’t not read it to be a snob. I read the Sunday Mail maybe every one in three or four weeks. I don’t get much out of it as a newspaper, so I don’t care if I read it or not.

The other reason I didn’t read it, or didn’t really want to, was for reasons Prakky pointed out: that old media doesn’t get new media. And even when it does, it’s always in a way that’s slightly derogatory to those of us who are avid users of new media.

Old media has gone from insulting bloggers, to renaming their online opinion writers as bloggers, from insulting facebook users, to having their own pages, from calling tweeters ‘twits’ to having their own accounts. They’ve gone from blaming the internet for many of society’s ills, to suddenly being an expert on it.

So I stopped reading newspaper articles on new media years ago when they implied I was some kind of nerdgeekloser for having a blog. Most old media ceased to become relevant and I started to get my news from online services that did get it, that were leaders and pioneers in the field and didn’t patronise new media users, that weren’t threatened by (and therefore didn’t have to insult) new media.

I stopped reading newspaper articles on new media because I didn’t need to read what was happening in new media two years ago.

One of the things I love about being an online publisher (though not as prolific as I used to be) is that there is a level playing field. My RSS feed is a mix of blogs, some of which are industry specific, some of which are funny, some of which are by authors who blog under the banner of leading newspaper (though none of them Australian). As I said, some news outlets get the space, others don’t. So when one of them announced they’d be doing a list of social media users, I thought, well that’s about as credible as my accountant doing a list of the 100 best stage musicals, or a bicycle manufacturer doing a list of great works of 18th-Century French literature.

Anyone can write a list. Not everyone has cred in all areas.

And I might have read the list, but the guinea pig hutch needed to be cleaned and re-lined.

Road trip: Sydney. Day 3

17.29
The past 24-30 hours has been somewhat of a blur and too much to recap on an iPhone keypad in the back of a reasonably bouncy vehicle. So because no one is reading this anyway, here’s a bullet list that may seem arbitrary and out of context but will serve as reminders for me to fill out this post at a later date. Say, sometime in 2015. If ever.

  • digs
  • my amp: a combo would have been fine
  • light sports: scennis
  • the 10-pizza challenge
  • sleepy time
  • on dressing appropriately
  • we r awesome at musics
  • aftermath, and a nice cup of tea
  • 3 to 9
  • get up, pack up
  • refreshments
  • on the road

I may get back to this. But let’s face it, I’m not as committed to bloggery as I once was.

Road trip: Sydney. Day 2

9.20
Well that was a shit night’s sleep if I ever had one. Woke up about 20 minutes before my 6.40 alarm.

But what a lovely brisk morning it was. And what I love is how three guys can get up at 6.40, all shower, get dressed, have a cup of tea, play frisbee on the freshly-mown-and-very-dewey grass, and be in the car by ten past seven. Try doing that with the wife & kids.

A quick bakery stop and tank-fill later, we were back on the road. And despite it being my turn to drive, I was relegated to the back seat to have the phone conversation about which amp to hire.

Allan at the music hire place was a treat. He reeled off about a dozen model numbers that sounded like a lot of, well, random numbers. I just told him I wanted something that had a volume knob and some tone knobs and somewhere to plug in a guitar. He then asked me if I wanted a speaker box. Well, duh…

There were other issues too. The amp has to be picked up by a New South Welshman or -woman with a state licence. Well, we can organize that, but when I offered to pay by credit card, he said the credit card needed to be in the name of the New South Welshman or -woman whose licence has to be shown when picking up said amp.

That could be a problem.

“OK,” we say, after a quick sotto vocce conversation away from the phone, “we can organize the guy who picks it up to pay for it and we’ll pay him back.”

“Oh, he doesn’t have to pay for it, he just has to give us a credit card number,” and he goes on about people running off to Melbourne with his amp, mentions the word “insurance” two or three times, then says “you can pay for it any way you like”.

“Uh, well can I pay for it with this credit card what I’m currently holding in my hand?”

“Sure, you can pay for it with dollar coins for all I care.”

Crisis averted. And one of my band mates’ friends will be dropping over an amp & speaker box set I can plug my guitar into and possibly take off back to Adelaide with, cos I don’t know the guy signing the contract and, from what I hear, we’re playing to a crowd that isn’t short of a few dollar coins.

We’ll see.

Road trip: Sydney. Day 1

20.15
Had pizza dinner in Albury. Si now driving. I was banging out some Fountains of Wayne on the guitar then he tells TP “whip out my iPhone and put on some Led Zep”.

What. The.

But I see where he gets his 12-bar inspiration from.

We’ve been in this car a long time.

Been a long time, indeed.

By the way, is the ‘Led’ in ‘Led Zeppelin’ the past participle of ‘to lead’ or does it have something to do with energy-efficient lighting?

17.23
I have just seen an emu. And an emu letterbox.

16.43
We’re in flood district. Just hit our first road block and detour, which was fine because we were going that way anyway.

We just passed what appeared to be a cornfield; my cultural reference to low flying planes has fallen on deaf ears.

Si is in the back playing guitar. I’ve been providing accompaniment on the iPhone version of Garage Band and am considering using it instead of my bass at tomorrow night’s gig.

Si is now playing a 12 bar blues progression. I’m disappointed by his limited repertoire.

Here is a picture of some water.

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Something a bit personal


I just got back from a flying visit to my home town. Not the one I was born in, the one I grew up in. I arrived around 5pm yesterday and left at around 1pm today, so it was pretty quick.

I was there for a function: it was the 40th birthday bash of one of my very good friends. And it was a great night.

This is less about the actual night but more about how it feels to leave the life you’re living now and go to a place that hosted another life you were living at another time.

People who grow up and stay in the same place have their memories all around them, and as they grow, so does the place they live. They change together, and because they’re there every day, they hardly notice the change. It’s like watching kids grow up. You don’t notice how tall they’re growing each day but look at the photos from last Xmas and you can see the difference.

I read somewhere that people who have lost limbs sometimes dream of themselves as complete; the missing arm or leg returns. It’s part of themselves. My life, in a geographic sense, has been cut in half. Half of it there and the other half in other places, mostly here. Because I’m not there anymore, I lose touch with the surroundings and the people, and it and they change in my absence. So when I go back it’s like being in a dream. I recognise the changes but I also recognise the things that haven’t changed but that I’d forgotten. The street I used to live on, the shop over the road from school, the streets where I did my paper route, the drinking fountain on the median strip, that house where that kid from school used to live. It’s like the missing limb is back.

It’s kind of like that with the people too, mostly friends from high school, I suppose. You can’t exactly pick up where you left off, and sometimes the changes are bittersweet because were not all quite so young anymore, but there’s something reassuring about being around them. A completely unspoken, perhaps even unidentified, understanding based on our shared history that means we just kind of get each other. There’s no need for pretense or airs and graces because there’s no need for that. It’s a familiarity, it’s almost familial. Like we’re all cousins.

And I think everyone feels awkward in high school. I know I did. But the good thing is that we’re all ostensibly grown up now and I think we’ve gotten over that and realised it actually was the same for everyone, probably.

One thing that stood out for me last night was an observation from a friend about how they percieved me back then. And it wasn’t a good or bad thing, but it was a way I’d never considered people would have thought about me. It reinforced the notion I just mentioned, that we’re connected in that way, to the extent that maybe they, either singularly or collectively, know you better than you know yourself.

The whole experience is quite overwhelming. It loosens the foundations a bit. You think you have a handle on everything, then all of a sudden this deep-down stuff is stirred up. There were poeple I didn’t catch up with that I would love to have seen, and truth be told, I probably had time to drop in on. But it’s very emotionally taxing. There’s good and bad in there; it’s good overall to have that experience. I think if I got back there more often, the shock wouldn’t be quite as intense. So I couldn’t get around to everyone; it would have been just too much.

The next reunion is probably in 2014. Might have to get on Facebook in the meantime.

Festivus

I must have been in about year nine, sitting in some history or Australian studies class one April, when the teacher (not sure I remember which one) started telling us about what happened on Anzac Day.

Sure, we all knew about it. As Australians, we’d been told about it since primary school: Gallipoli, the Ottomans, and about Simpson and his donkey.

The teacher gave a brief description of how the events of the Gallipoli landing unfolded, and how the campaign resulted in the loss of life of thousands of Allied troops, including many Australians.

A voice came from somewhere to my right. “Yep, we beat em.”

I looked at who’d said it—a kid called Ken—thinking “Rubbish, it was a slaughter.”

Then I realised. Ken was a first-generation Australian. Ken’s parents were Turkish.

And yet Ken wasn’t required at school the next day, Anzac Day, because it was a public holiday. A public holiday to commemorate Australian and allied soldiers who died in a specific battle in WWII.

For all I know, Ken’s family might have just sat at home quietly on Anzac Day, caught up on some washing, mown the lawn, maybe wash the car. But they might just have likely have packed a picnic lunch, gone down to the river and had a good time of it, or maybe, just maybe they may have even spared a thought for soldiers from their homeland who had died in that or other battles. I don’t know. And I can’t ask him. We were never that close.

Likewise, on Australia Day, Ken’s family got the day off. I took it from his “we beat ‘em” comment that his family still identified heavily with their Turkish background. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have been given days off for these holidays, in fact I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll get to the point.

For a lot of holidays we’re given the day off whether we like it or not. And this post is actually about Christmas.

We don’t say that the Kens of this world, or their families, should be denied a day off on Anzac Day or Australia Day because they identify with a different culture. There’s no real expectation on anyone to show up to dawn services or citizenship ceremonies. We don’t expect people who get a day off for the Melbourne Cup to care about horseracing. It’s just a day off.

The point: people don’t necessarily observe the true reason for a holiday.

Christmas is a funny one. Because people tend to observe Christmas whether or not they are really part of the Christian faith. We put up a tree, decorate the house, give gifts. We eat a hearty lunch/dinner and live off ham sandwiches for a week. Some organised people (who aren’t me) still send cards, and we may even sing carols, possibly at an organised carol-singing event.

But we don’t all go to church.

There are always cards or leaflets or posters that say we shouldn’t forget “the reason for the season”. That reason (they say) is Jesus.

And I say “bollocks”.

For my family, Christmas is a really special time. We do all the traditional things on Christmas day: getting together, gift giving, Christmas dinner, then lots of socialising and possibly napping. It has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with Family. My siblings and I are all grown up and we and our families are spread across two states but Christmas is the one event that, almost unfailingly, brings us all together. And that’s a good thing. I know other people can have issues with family but for us, it’s a pretty good time.

But Jesus is nowhere to be seen. Sure, we have been brought up in a typical community within a Western Christian culture; there was some private education thrown in the mix, which did some harm, some good, but none of us is really serious about religion.

So besides the fact that the Christian church appropriated whatever pagan midwinter festival was around at the time and supplanted it with their own meaning and traditions, regardless of that…

I think Christmas should be regarded as a secular holiday.

Even though some see it as a celebration of the birth of their mythical saviour, I think most of us just take the holiday and apply our own traditions to it. And for a lot of us, those traditions involve similar activities based around some notion of family.

So, despite this being a personal blog, I say bugger the directives of several government agencies who deem we’re only allowed to say non-specific things like ‘season’s greetings’, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Enjoy your family and those close to you, even though I don’t believe in any gods and don’t regularly attend any place of religious worship (and when I do, it’s not for that purpose).

My sister showed me this video last year, which I think sums it up, and rhymes nicely too.

Who’s had ankle surgery?

Has anyone out there had ankle surgery in the last 2-3 years?

I may have to go under the knife (hacksaw, hammer, drill) soon, but want to know what my options are. I’m looking for helpful comments on:

  • Why you needed surgery
  • What procedure you had done
  • Which doctor did it (particularly if you’re in Adelaide)
  • What other options were available, if any
  • How your recovery went
  • What life is like now.

Hit me.

Sport: I’m just disinterested.

On the weekend, Cadel Evans won the Tour de France. Early in the week, Mia Freedman appeared on the Today show and gave her honest opinion on what she felt about it.

I’m inclined to agree with her.

I just made a comment on Lehmo’s blog and it ended up being so long that I should just pass it off as a blog post in its own right.

Lehmo made an excellent point when he said:

“He’s not a hero, he’s a sportsperson”, they say. I’m happy to accept that in a broader sense athletes are not heroes. However, within the context of their sports they can put in heroic performances.

I think this really nails where the disconnect is happening in this whole debate.

Poor Mia Freedman copped a caning for what she said when she was asked her opinion, and gave it. I don’t think she was being disrespectful to Cadel; she just doesn’t get excited about sport. And a disinterested minority of us feel the same way.

Now, I’m not averse to sport. I’ve led a pretty active life and knocked various balls of different shapes and sizes around various playing surfaces with varying degrees of success. Participation in sport is, in my view, one of the defining qualities in Australian culture.

I can also enjoy watching sport at an elite level because those doing it know how to do it really well, and I can appreciate the skill it takes to be the best at something. Sure, watching golf leaves me pretty cold and seeing people swim from one end of a pool to another is as boring as, well, watching people swim laps of a pool (how CAN that be interesting?). But come the World Cup, I’ll get up at 4 to watch a good game, and if it’s a good game, I’ll enjoy it.

Where sport does confuse me is the level of emotional investment people have in supporting one team or one player over another. These days, team support is fairly arbitrary. It’s not like the starting 18 for Carlton all live in Carlton; they’re just a bunch of guys who are good at football that were offered a contract with Carlton. The days when you gave “the local team” a cheer at the weekend match are, at the elite level, well and truly over. Teams aren’t location based, players are contracted employees and where they live is irrelevant.

Now, I don’t know Cadel Evans. Never met him. I’m sure he’s a top guy and if he’s just won a big race, then good on him. That must be hard to do. I couldn’t do it; I wouldn’t want to. But I’m not going to jump up and down for him any more than I’m going to jump up and down for Sven Svensson from Svenssonland if he’d won it.

Cadel’s Australian. Great, so are 20 million other people. A common nationality is just no longer a big enough factor to make this person “familiar” to me.

I think that’s where we sport agnostics sit. There’s just not enough of a connection between us and any sporting great to make that kind of significant emotional investment into the result of something trivial.

And sport is trivial. Occasionally it may spill into the political arena (and sometimes spills into rioting and violence at the extreme level and anger and frustration at a personal level).

But most sport is played as it’s own reward and does very little outside the context of sport. Being the fastest person in the world only gets you a big coin on a ribbon; winning the grand final gets you another trophy for the pool room. And a year later, they give away another one.

It’s a lot like music. All Mia did the other day was the equivalent of telling an audience of pre-pubescent girls that she wasn’t a Bieber fan.

Pure heresy in context. To the rest of the world, meh, neither here nor there, really.

How my brain deals with spare cash