December 22 2012

Oh Maya

Err, hello? Anybody? Anybody out there? The sun is still shining and there are sounds of birds singing but that doesn’t fool me. It’s probably zombies with a musical bent. Wait a minute, I see zombies! Or…Jehovah’s Witnesses; I can never tell the difference.

Shhhhh! Quiet, quiet, I hear something inside the house. It…it…it sounds like shuffling and grunting. Oh, no, oh no, oh nooooo! Please, help! Help meeeee! Wait, wait! Never mind, that’s just my eldest son waking up.

Very strange end of the world, I must say. Could it possibly be that an ancient calendar which was truncated on a certain date is not a prophecy of the end of the world, then? Who would have thought.

April 26 2011

Music Under the Stars – Part I

“Hasn’t it been a decade or so since we saw the last sign?” I inquired of The Librarian.

We were on our way to the Red Hill Auditorium where Paul Kelly and Neil Finn were due to perform in a few hours. Our GPS (a lady of the British aristocracy judging by the voice) had got us into the hills and told us we had arrived at our destination while we were still on the highway in the middle of nowhere. I think this is the GPS’s way of – very politely – getting her own back at me due to my penchant for ignoring her directions. She bow refused to say anything further so we had to look for signposts to the venue. We had seen a solitary small sign several minutes before – Red Hill Auditorium, it said, while leaning to the left.

I stayed in the left lane which gave us some wonderful views down into Perth. Picture perfect views, in fact. I declined to take any photos, though, due to the fact that I was driving (and looking for another bloody sign). The fact that I didn’t have a camera with me sealed the deal. The views on our left suddenly gave way to a clump of trees and another small sign saying Red Hill Auditorium. Aha! The turnoff must be around that bend. It was!

Except it was on the right hand side of the road.

Several figures dressed in fluorescent orange were gesturing frantically to the right as we rounded the bend. One of the figures carried a glow stick and she used it to direct us into the trees. No! Wait! There’s an almost invisible dirt road between the trees. Nice work, Red Hill Auditorium management. Larger and more conveniently placed signage is too conventional.

We had made an effort to get to the auditorium with plenty of time to spare but even so vehicles already graced several bays in the car park. The former inhabitants of those vehicles made up a queue to the auditorium that already snaked towards the dirt road. I figured that everybody there wanted to rush to the front of the auditorium so I tucked my empty water bottle under my arm and started warming up for a sprint.

What’s that? Oh, the empty water bottle! Well, you see, the management of the auditorium expressly forbade anyone from bringing food or drink into the venue. We were, however, granted permission to bring an empty water bottle each which we could fill at the taps provided inside the auditorium. Every other venue we had visited allowed picnics and water bottles but they always served great looking food at very reasonable prices so we were looking forward to buying our food this time. The water bottle “thing”, however, had us scratching our heads.

After an eternity – the sound checks were running overtime, apparently – we were allowed inside. The stampede began but the Librarian and I held our own as we ran towards the front. So imagine our bemusement when the majority of people just ran for seating somewhere in the middle of the auditorium or made a beeline towards the food stalls.

At this point I must address the Red Hill Auditorium management. Do join me again in part II where I recount the antics of beautiful people and may even get around to the music. See you then and bring a friend.

Dear Red Hill Auditorium management.

I want to compliment you on the splendid handling of food services in your establishment, to whit:

  1. the brilliantly conceived notion of forcing us to buy our meals from your incredibly tiny selection;
  2. the concept that $10 for a cheese kransky is “reasonably priced”;
  3. the concept of replacing such niceties as a bun, some onions and sauerkraut with a paper napkin thus making the kransky an “healthy” option;
  4. the provision of only two food stalls and two beer stalls to serve thousands of hungry and thirsty people;
  5. the provision of just enough food so that it runs out half an hour after the venue opens.

Yours sincerely,

Flying Saucer Jones

PS Your decision to replace grass with concrete prompts me to enclose a bill to cover my expenses in procuring a replacement arse. Please remit promptly.

October 17 2010

Where’s My Robot?

Dear Past Predictions.

I am writing to complain about the tardiness in the arrival of various promised items. In particular, I want prompt and satisfactory answers to the following:

1. Where is my hover car? The last car I bought barely a year ago wouldn’t get off the ground if Evel Knievel drove it (not that I want him to drive it in his current state.) As far as I know none of my family and friends own a car that flies either yet you continue to advertise hover cars on television via your spokesman George Jetson. Look, I agree we have come a long way from the cars driven in the past, especially the ones depicted in your documentary about Fred and Wilma, but we are still waiting for our flying cars.

2. Where is my holiday on the Moon? You actually promised exotic holidays on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn but you haven’t even delivered a vacation on the moon closest to our planet. I for one am impatient to listen to my copy of Pink Floyd’s masterpiece on the actual dark side. True, a Mr Richard Branson is getting ready to launch a flight into Earth orbit but that is nowhere near the Moon and costs just a tad more than I anticipate earning in the remaining years of my life.

3. Where is my HAL9000? The computer on my desk just crawled out of the primordial ooze in comparison to that psychopath (not that I necessarily desire a psychopathic computer, its splendid rendition of Daisy notwithstanding.) While HAL9000 can converse intelligently my desktop computer tells me to “try saying something” even when I’m screaming at the top of my lungs.

4. Where’s my robot? The one that…err…you advertised in…ummm…well where is it?

September 27 2010

Correspondence That Matters

Would you look at the time? I just turned around for a minute and a whole year went by. Bloody cheek, if you ask me. And here’s me with so much to do and say and…

Start with the correspondence. So many letters to write, so little time:

 

Dear Checkout Chick.

I do understand that items run out occasionally but running out of bonus chocolates at your particular checkout does not excuse you from pretending there aren’t any in the whole store. This is especially true when the neighbouring checkout is struggling under the weight of said chocolate.

Yours in chocolaty dystopia,

Saucer

 

Dear Bus Driver.

The “ding” sound you hear at frequent intervals is a signal that at least one person would like to get off your vehicle. I’m sure this concept was covered in Bus Driving 101; perhaps you were absent that day. On a related note, when I hail you from the bus stop I am not indulging in a polite greeting.

Yours unstoppably,

Saucer

 

Dear Felis Catus.

Thank you for your operatic recital outside my window this morning. Unfortunately I am neither a fan of opera nor the musical stylings of your species. Please find another venue immediately.

Yours with teeth set on edge,

Saucer.

 

Dear Adipose Tissue.

Is it absolutely necessary that you store every excess calorie I consume? At the very least you could let go of said calorie as easily as you converted it. Come now, is it really fair that what takes you a second to do takes me half an hour to undo? Fathead.

Yours roundly.

Saucer

There! That should do it for now.

April 9 2009

The City of Cranes

The cranes are everywhere. Not the spindly, leggy kind. Not the “wax on, wax off, no can defend” kind. No, these cranes are the “lift very heavy loads from here and move them over there” kind. No matter which direction you face your view encompass a crane or two. The city has become one large construction site. Someone in some government department obviously decided that the best thing for Perth is to knock it down and rebuild it. Bonus points will be awarded if they can do it while making things more difficult for pedestrians..

Case in point: there used to be a covered, pedestrian overpass that spanned Wellington Street. Commuters could make their way from the Wellington Street Bus Station into the City with ease and comfort. This was a boon when it was raining. Actually it was also a boon when the Summer sun was trying to strip the skin off your bones. The overpass was such a convenience that it had to go, of course. It was torn down so commuters now have to cross a large expanse of open space and wrestle with traffic. Someone collected a truckload of bonus points for that decision.

“Excuse me, but that overpass you tore down; was it in danger of collapsing?”

“No, sir! It was very well built, sir. It would have stayed up another hundred years.” The civil servant was as proud as punch. “Another thousand years.”

“So why did you pull it down?”

“It was old, sir!” The civil servant was shocked to his very core.

And that’s the crux of the matter. It seems like a lot of the work is simply carried out because someone wants to replace a slightly weathered building with a shiny new one. The cynic in me can’t help but think that this flurry of activity is designed to deflect our attention from the lack of progress in, say, putting more beds in hospitals and providing the requisite staff to look after their occupants. People won’t see the miasma at street level when their eyes are turned towards the sky.

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that there will be a shiny, new City once the cranes leave. Until then we have to put up with the ugliness of a construction site that is the City of cranes.

March 26 2009

On the (Perth) Buses

A bus trip in Perth was a relatively pleasant experience. So much so in fact that I used to catch up on reading during the commute to and from work. Granted, a lot of the buses were long past their purring stage but none had reached the wheezy, backfiring phase of their lives either and they were reasonably comfortable. Numerous seats meant that even in a packed bus the number of seated people outnumbered the unfortunate few who boarded late. Furthermore the buses had windows that actually opened and closed which ensured warmth in winter and reasonably cool conditions in summer.

On many occasions a bus trip came with a free entertainment package: a young lad engaged in an escalating argument with his invisible friend; a gentleman furiously castigating the contents of his key ring; a mute young man blatantly attempting to peek up every skirt in his vicinity. All of this and the ride and you would still have change from two dollars.

Perth’s public transport system was working reasonably well. So, of course, the management at the department of transport decided that it was time for a change The result is the following list of changes for our comfort and convenience:

1. The old buses allowed passengers to open its windows; this was a terrible oversight. Why, the blighters could poke various parts of themselves through the opening or launch various items at other vehicles. Can’t have that, of course. Litigation, you know. The new buses have large, permanently shut windows that let in a lot of light. And the summer heat. A lot of heat. A sauna emulating, energy sapping, oven full of heat.

2. The old buses had a ventilation system that relied on breezes blowing through its interior. The new buses have climate control. At the touch of a button on the driver’s control panel, cool air flows through the bus’ vents and caresses the passengers. Except it doesn’t work. Either that or the average driver is a devotee of the Marquis de Sade. Or likes the smell of sweat.

3. Did I mention the heat?

4. The old buses had unattractive interiors with unimaginative, regimented rows of seats. No style at all. The new buses are full of style. True, some rows remain but several seats now face each other across the aisle. The layout means there are far fewer seats so a packed bus sees more people standing than sitting. To be fair I must say that the front of the bus is friendly to people in wheelchairs and that friendliness also allows for a ramp that extends onto the footpath as needed.

5. I did mention the heat, didn’t I?

6. The in-bus entertainment is no more. They have been replaced by loud musical interludes courtesy of mobile phones and MP3 players. The mobile phones allow for a constant barrage of soap operas which other passengers can’t turn off or down: Ginny broke up with her boyfriend because he was sleeping with Trish; Bob knew he had a really great time last night because he couldn’t remember it; Betty is a hag. I have never liked soap operas and I like the mobile phone equivalent even less.

7. Are you sure I mentioned the heat?

A bus trip in Perth is a relatively hellish experience. There’s a lot of heat.

March 21 2009

They Don’t Want Me Looking At Great Tits

I went looking for tits and boobies on the Internet today. No, not those tits and boobies – I was actually looking for the Greater Tit and the Booby Bird. “Why?” I hear you asking (unless, of course, you are a bird watcher). I’m glad you asked. It was prompted by the Australian Labor Party and their efforts to protect the children by telling me what I can and cannot look at in the privacy of my own home. To this end they eventually want all ISPs in Australia to implement the Labor Party’s Great Internet Filter.

As with most attempts at censorship the filter was supposed to target sites depicting children engaged in acts that are the purview of adults (forgive the obtuse wording – no sense in having my blog show up on a search for questionable sites). I’m sure that the majority of us are appalled by the existence of such material and wouldn’t oppose the eradication of sites catering to said material. Unfortunately, filtering the sites won’t make them go away. Such material is illegal everywhere in the world which means that one would be a moron of the highest magnitude to create a public web presence advertising these illegal activities. Surely those involved in such criminal pursuits would have their own networks, both electronic and physical, and these networks will continue in spite of the filters.

“We’ll protect the children” became “we’ll protect everyone” as the Internet Filter broadened its scope. There are now two lists. According to Stephen Conroy, the Communications Minister and architect of the filter, there is a level one, or “child safe”, list and a level two, or “unwanted content”, list. The nasty material – including the aforementioned illegal content as well as material depicting people and other animals knowing each other in a biblical sense, etc — will be on the level one list list while legal “art lover’s” material will be on the level two list. Conroy says that regular perverts like me can call our ISPs and tell them we want to opt out of the level two list.

So far this seems to be reasonable. We don’t want the universally reviled content and we can choose to view legal content that other people may not want. But what happens when the illegal sites change their URLs? What about new illegal sites that are bound to pop up in the future? The filter lists require constant updating. We all know that the government isn’t going to absorb the cost; neither are the ISPs. That leaves you and me, buddy. My already expensive internet bill is only going to dig deeper into my wallet. There are people in the ISP industry who claim that we will experience a drastic slow down in Internet access due to the filters. If this is true then not only will I pay more for my Internet access but I will receive a lot less for the privilege and I will receive it very slowly.

The above issues, large as they are, cannot compare to the biggest issue of all. Who decides what ends up on the absolute list? Both lists are, obviously, secret so we have no way of knowing what they contain. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), are in essence the watchmen of the lists so it is apt to apply the maxim “who watches the watchmen?” The Christian party, Family First, suggests that online gambling and hardcore pornography should be on the level one list. The latter in particular means that I can indulge in sexual activity but I cannot look at anything depicting the same thing on the Internet. In fact I can watch other people making the sign of the double backed beast or buy books and movies explicitly depicting the same (provided the movies come from Darwin or Canberra) but I cannot look at it on the Internet.

Even more serious than the curtailing of my “art” appreciation, however, is the possibility that other topics can suddenly become lumped with the nastier items. Family First Senator Steve Fielding doesn’t like evolution or atheists or agnostics? Let’s add them to the level one list. Buddhists? Muslims? Pagans who dance naked under the full moon? On the level one list, they go. The government needs Fielding’s vote in other areas (such as the alcopops bill) so they are going to make concessions to his filtering requirements. (Interestingly Fielding decided to vote against the alcopops bill thus showing us that he obviously likes a tipple but hates “art”.)

A recently leaked copy of the level one list highlights the danger of the unwatched watchmen. The list contains the nasty items, as expected, but also contains several legitimate items such as the URLs of a dental surgery and a betting site. I wouldn’t normally give a second thought to publishing the link to a dentist’s web site. The problem is that ACMA can fine me 11,000AUD per day for publishing a link to any site on their lists.

“That will be $11,000 dollars.” says the ACMA representative giving me a look of disgust.

“What for?”

“You linked to this site and it is a forbidden site.”

“I didn’t know it was forbidden. It’s the site of a really good dentist. Why can’t I link to the site?”

“Because it is forbidden.”

“But I didn’t know that. How am I supposed to know that?”

“It is on the list.”

“I don’t have the list. Let me have a look.”

“You cannot! It is a secret list.”

“But then how do I know what sites I can’t visit.”

“They are on the list.”

“But I don’t have the list!!!”

“Only we have the list. It is secret.”

So that’s why I went looking for tits and boobies. Because I can, right now. If the filters become law I might have to call my ISP to tell them that I want to look at a Great Tit (which may well cause them to titter or ask me if I was referring to that boob, Conroy or Fielding, the great tit). This country I have loved so much may well become as draconian as China and it’s ilk. And that is a depressing, frightening thought. All of us, including lovers of ornithology, could be in for a rude shock.

And heaven help the feline fanciers if they went looking for pictures of pussies.

January 14 2009

Oh Pedro, You Are a Barrel of Laughs

To Pedro Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, the president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.

Dear Pedro.

I want to thank you for opening my eyes to the evil that is contraceptive Pill. Absolutely horrendous to think that the Pill releases “tonnes of hormones into nature” via female urine and that this is “a non-negligible cause of male infertility in the West”. You have evidence, of course.

Which you haven’t shown us.

But who needs evidence, eh Pedro? Your word is just fine, of course, just fine. There’s a little thing that’s bothering me though. How exactly are we becoming infertile, Pedro?

Are there a significant number of men who indulge in urine beverages — piss weak beers don’t count — on even an occasional basis? Is there some sort of toxic hormonal cloud that emanates from female urine that dissipates in the atmosphere? Why is it that these hormones only become nasty in the atmosphere? Don’t they affect us when we, well, dip our wee wees, if you get my drift. And why is this a problem only in the West? Is the Eastern contraceptive Pill a man friendly beast?

I await your answers with bated breath. In the meantime I would suggest that you refrain from raiding your medicine cabinets.

Now excuse me while I go pee. It’s okay, Pedro, I’m a male.