29 November 2005

The Last Chance to Save Van Nguyen




There's not a lot I can say about this, with so much that has already been said. There's an excellent website,
Australia Unites, which has a case background, news links and an petition you can sign, for what it's worth now; even though it seems like all hope is lost now, "as long as there is life, there is hope" and in any case, no matter what happens, in signing the petition, you can record your disgust about the execution.
So what I want to post here, is something I posted on the Necro forum:

Regarding this case, I felt an emotion I never expected to feel: I felt sympathy for Ray Martin.

Allow me to explain...

Last week I was channel surfing, when I happened to land on A Current Affair (which I don't normally watch, The 7:30 Report being rather more how I prefer to get political insights). But anyway, Ray presented a clip of the family visiting Van in prison, then went to the results of an SMS poll of viewers, question being: "Do you believe that the Singaporean Government is justified in executing Van Nguyen?"
The results were 56% YES, 44% NO.

Ray then remarked, "Well, that's a very close result..." (No, a 12% margin is not a close result. But the thing is, I've seen Martin comment on polls with much closer margins, where he has been in favour of the majority decision, as being "overwhelming majorities". Anyway, I'll go on...)

Ray continued, "How can we expect the Singaporean government to change it's decision, when opinion at home is so divided?" He was visibly upset. I've watched a little more of his, as I'll call it, "execution coverage" since then, and it's clear that Ray Martin himself is NOT in favour of the execution, that he feels it's rather barbaric, and so I felt sorry for him, being so upset by the unexpected opinions of his audience, in light of the rather sympathetic covereage that ACA has shown towards Nugyen.

But then it occured to me, my sympathy is rather misplaced. Not in the sense of feeling sorry for Ray Martin when I should be feeling sorry for the poor young man's family (though of course I do) but feeling sorry for Martin, being suprised by the reaction of his audience. HE has created an audience of right-wing, ill-informed reactionaries, by presenting stories on single mums robbing the system, prisoners living in luxury, etc. And now he only has himself to blame, for the fact that those viewers now believe that the death penalty is just what Nugyen deserves.

Well, that was my opinion on the forum. I can't say anything more. It just upsets me too much. But I will be observing a minute's silence, even if by myself. Please sign the petition, if you can't do the same.

21 November 2005

Cloud Goes Up, Cloud Goes Down

Hello work week! Well if you're tired of processing data (that's me!), or memorising the periodic table for your science exam, or whatever it is that you're meant to be doing, here's another bloated, multi-subject post to sink your teeth into. (NOTE: actually sinking your teeth into your monitor is not recommended; it will leave unsightly bite marks in the plastic, and may chip your teeth).

~~~~~

Well I had a rather culturally improving weekend; on Saturday, as I often do, taking myself off to the Newcastle art gallery to see a new exhibition I'd been looking forward to, Margaret Olley's Newcastle. Olley, considered to be Australia's greatest living painter, painted many landscapes of Newcastle in the 1960s and 70s, and the exhibiton is really worth getting along to, especially to observe the astonishing changes to the city skyline between then and now.

There was an even greater treat at the gallery though -
Francsico Goya's Proverbs; his last, unfinished series of etchings. Well, they were breathtakingly wonderful. A series of proverbs for which Goya had each created a whimsical etching, blending naturalism and fantasy. There was so much detail in each picture, I could have examined them for hours. Unfortunately, I only had limited time on Saturday, but I will be going back - the exhibit is free, and runs until January - and I heartily recommend to any of you that you do the same if you in any way get the chance!

Thus inspired, I headed down to
Eckersley's to get some art suppiles. I've started a new visual journal (just because I have no artistic talent whatsoever, is no reason for me not to enjoy doing it). I think I understand why I abandoned my old journal, which I haven't updated at all this year; as an A4 book, it was too intimidating. Filling up each page seemed like too daunting a task. But I did love doing it, and I've always kept a private diary and I really missed it. So for this journal I bought an A5 hardcovered sketchbook. I figured I'd be more likely to start creating pages if I knew that I had a good chance of finishing them. And sure enough, over the weekend I did create several layouts. I'm still finding my feet, but once I've created a few things I'm really happy with, I'll scan and post them here...

~~~~~

You know I love to share tales of the human stupidity I witness on a depressingly regular basis. Here's another.
A few doors down from my house, there was a video shop which recently and suddenly closed down. Now, it's obvious to any half-awake person that the shop has closed. You can see through the windows, that the shelves are empty and the lights are off; there was a large fluro "OPEN" sign near the front door that is now extinguished, there's a heavy bolt on the front doors, and in the door is a large handwritten "CLOSED" sign.
Well, what you'd expect is that customers arriving at the building would see all this, think "Oh, it's closed down" and walk away. But no.
I've seen people walk up to the shop, passing the windows, with the aforementioned empty shelves, and reach the front door. Despite the sign and the bolt, they usually approach the doors several times, as if the automatic mechanism wasn't working; then they try to shake the bolt; then usually stand there for a good few mintues, as if expecting that at any mintue, the staff will arrive, open up, fill up the shelves and it will be business as usual.
I saw one couple - who looked like sensible people, the kind with professional jobs -stand outside the front doors (after the standard lock-shaking) for fully ten minutes, before walking about 20 metres away...then the walked back, to give those doors just one more try.
I really have to be grateful for the amusement I've had lately, just staring out the window and observing these imbeciles.

~~~~~

Well, it's the Australian Idol Final tonight. I know, I can hardly stand the excitement either.
Although it's hardly an original observation, this season of Idol hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Ratings are way down, hardly anyone is voting (there was a big to-do a few weeks ago, when the bottom two contestants were only seperated by - gasp! - only 27 votes. Actually, I've since heard that in reality, there were barely a few thousand votes overall). It isn't just the music industry insiders who are dumping on Idol; a columist in the Weekender noted that she hasn't watched much Idol this season - "And in past years, just the sound of the title music was enough to get my heart racing."
The problem is, the idea of having multiple seasons of Idol is based on a flawed premise. Although with, say, Big Brother, you can always find another twenty or so morons who are willing to "sell their soul to Channel 10" to quote
Skye, subsequent series of Idol are predicated on the suppositon that somehow, somewhere, there are 30+ talented singers, capable of having healthy recording career, who for some reason were completely overlooked in the auditions for previous seasons. This clearly doesn't hold up; and apart from the people who turned 16 in the current year, making them eligible to audition, at some stage the talent pool in the country has to be exhausted.
At any rate, whoever wins tonight...is probably going to wish they hadn't. Consider the past history of winners vs runners up in terms of career success. I can imagine Kate and Emily standing on stage tonight, waiting for the big announcement, staring at each other and thinking, "Let it be her, not me!!!"
But I'm only imagining that. As you can probably guess, tonight I'll be watching something else.

17 November 2005

The Greatest Night

WOO-HOO!!!



Being a soccer fan can be a long, hard, thankless task.

Bt there are moments, moments which transcend mere sport and become truly highlights of your life.

Last night was one of those moments.

After 32 long years, Australia have qualified for the World Cup!!!


Rather than giving a
detailed review of the game, I'll just give you my highlights, watching at home.

When Marco Bresciano scored towards the end of the first half, I was so excited I leaped out of my chair and bit my hand (which I always tend to do at moments of high excitement, I don't know why). However, this meant that the score was now 1-1 on aggregate, and Australia needed to score again to qualify. This didn't happen, not in the second half nor in extra time, and you could tell that the Uruguayans were really beginning to flag. The commentators said the game was Australia's for the taking, but they couldn't quite get that chance, and it ended with the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

I don't think I took a breath during the entire time, until John Aloisi kicked the fourth ball into the net. "They think it's all over...it is now!"

I didn't get much sleep last night -too late, too excited - and Xander spent the night hiding under my bed, unable to understand why his mum had turned into a shouting, jumping maniac; but it was worth it. I only wish I could have been there for the game, but financial and career constraints made that impossible. Well, now I can start saving my money to go to Germany...

NOTE: I had a longer post planned, with lots of photos, but photo hosting is playing up ATM. I hope I can fix this up soon.

11 November 2005

Thanks God It's Friday - I Can Have Whine



  • Finally, the heatwave we've been suffering under for the past few days has broken. I'll give you an idea of how hot it was on Wednesday: at 5:30pm I put out a load of laundry. Now, the spin cycle on my washing machine doesn't work very well, so the clothes were still pretty soaked. At 6:30pm I went out to the bins, and checked the washing on the line; most of the lighter items were dry, and even the heavy towels were no more than slightly damp. Now that is a hot day.
  • The arrival of summer also means the non-ratings period on the TV. That means, for those of us too poor for pay TV, we have nothing to watch for the next few months than re-run, mostly American, drivel. Ugh! It seems to me to be a chicken-and-egg situation; is no one watching because the programming is so poor, or is programming so poor because no one is watching? I plump for the former. Think of all the free time people have over the Xmas/New Year break, and especially with the long school holidays; surely if there was something better to watch, wouldn't people be in front of the TV? As it is, I think the local video store (well, DVD store - for some reason, despite the supremacy of the DVD, people still refer to "the video store") will be making alot more profit from myself in the months ahead.
  • The title of this post refers to the fact that, for some bizaare reason I can't remember, I've given up drinking during the week. This at first led to an unexpected side effect - feeling much worse the next day, as I wasn't sleeping well. I bought a bottle of valerian, which helped somewhat, but is really no subsitute for a few cleansing vodkas before bed. Last night I cracked, and had a couple of beers. It should have been a wonderful thing after a week of sobriety, but in reality it just meant a night of poor sleep interspersed with frequent tips to the bathroom. Get completely trashed or don't bother at all, that's my philosophy from here on!
  • They always say that the first part of you that ages is your hands. It's certainly happening to me. I may still get asked for ID (and last week I was actually refused purchase in a bottle shop because my ID is out of date, and "you don't look 18"!) but my hands look like a those of a woman who's approaching 30 and has led a somewhat dissolute life. Lush have some good handcreams (see my previous post) so I must check them out!
  • Don't you hate it, when you stumble across a great website, don't bookmark it, and then can never find it again? It happened with the graphics site which I used to create the title of this blog. I can't remember how I found it, and subsequent searches (using lots of different keywords), checks of my net history etc, have failed to locate it again. I have absolutely no idea what the site name was, and have given it up as a lost cause.
  • My job involves alot of analysis and number crunching. Whilst I love the fact that I don't have to deal directly with the customers, anything to do with numbers does not come easily to me, and I really need to concentrate. Unfortunately, the sales staff are continuously popping into my cubicle with questions, updates, problems etc; with the result that I lose my train of thought and have to start over (which I really don't have the time for). I'm too timid to ask people to stop interrupting me...man, I wish I had my old office! But it's been converted into a "relaxation room".
  • I've just come across a likely candidate for "stupidest customer ever". One of the sales people faxed a contract to a customer, with an X in the box for her signature, and a handwritten note saying "please sign here" in the space below. So where did she sign? Right beside the note. I bet all her friends wear "I'm with stupid" t-shirts, and she doesn't understand why...

    ~~~~~

    Well it's the 30th anniversary of the
  • Whitlam dismissal. I was going to write a brief analysis, but there's been so much else written on the issue elsewhere. I'll just provide you with a few good links:
    ABC News summary of events
    Interview with Gough Whitlam
    Interview with Malcolm Fraser

    Also, it's interesting to reflect on the fact that Malcolm Fraser is now revered as a champion of human rights, republicanism, reconcilliation - everything, basically, that the current Liberal government does not stand for.
    Barry Jones, ALP Federal President, has said that if Fraser wanted it, he'd be granted life membership in the ALP but said "I think Fraser is more of an independent." In any case, here's a story on the relationship between Fraser and Whitlam now...

    07 November 2005

    When Bad Rock Groups Turn Good

    This morning I saw Grinspoon performing on Seven Sunrise. Is it just me, or is seeing Grinspoon "up and attem" at 7:30 on a Monday morning rather disturbing? Let alone on commercial breakfast television?!? Okay, sure, three of them have kids now. But still. I had a good look at them, and I couldn't tell if they'd gotten up really early, or whether their performance was one of the last stages of an all-nighter. I was a pretty big fan of Grinspoon in their early days, but like with everything else, I just gave up about four or five years ago. I thought it was fairly prescient that the Grinners referred to Eskimo Joe as "Eskimo Blow" in the lead up to the ARIAs, Grinspoon never having won an ARIA award (The guys were also pretty scathing about losing out to Killing Heidi a few years ago, I might add). EJ may have critical acclaim now, but it's a point to keep in mind, that in the late 1990s, when Grinspoon had built up a respectable career and fanbase, Eskimo Joe were basically regarded as a novelty song band. Just because they can now release a song like "To The Sea", doesn't mean that some of us can't remember shouting out the lyrics to "Sweater" whilst off our faces!

    ~~~~~

    My main achievement of the weekend was to...break my blender.
    Political analysis I can do, but remembering a simple thing like, "After you put ice cream into the blender, take the spoon out before you switch the motor on", is apparently beyond me. Anyway, the motor is utterly wrecked, and the major cog which holds the jug to the base vanished somewhere in the kitchen, never to be seen again. So I can't even fix the damn thing. I would have to break the blender at the start of summer, wouldn't I? I rarely use the thing in winter; occasionally I'll make soup. But in summer I use it every day to make frappes and smoothies, and to crush ice (it's often called into cocktail service on the weekends as well).
    Dammit, I'll just buy a new blender. At $6 a pop for a frappaccino thse days, that's only 5 lousy GJs or Starbucks drinks, when I can make much nicer ones myself at home!

    04 November 2005

    All Hail the Goddess of Weekends

    I can't remember the last time I was this exhausted at the end of a working week. Even now, I'm still at the office past quitting time, because after finishing my "real" work, I have to complete all the myriads of status reports required by modern business. This won't be a very long post; I want to get out of here as much as you do.

    Weekends have been great, ever since the decision I made a few weeks ago, to stop trying to make plans, organise outings etc. That way, I'm not setting myself up for any let downs. Basically on Friday evening I stock up on all the food, alcohol, DVDs and whatever else I'll need, then I go home and Xander and I bunker down. I only leave the house to get the newspaper and any essentials I've forgotten, unless there's a special event on, like Necro. This may sound awfully boring and lonely, but it isn't; and it's better than calling people to make arrangements and finding that they're all busy, or worse still, waiting for the phone to ring. (I usually switch my phone off, turning it on once or twice a day in case someone's left me an urgent message.)

    We're happy, the little guy and I, being weekend hermits like this. I read, do puzzles, paint, do some embroidery, write...(and clean the house!). He loves having me there. Although now that summer is upon us, I'm finding dead cockroaches all over the house, clean as my house is. Xander is an excellent roach exterminator; I just wish he was as good at disposing of the evidence. Sure, I could use roach spray to prevent them getting in the house, but it worries me. Bug sprays say on the can that they pose no threat to domestic pets, but how can I be sure? Has anyone ever done any long term studies on whether the use of insecticides causes, say, an increase in the rate of feline leukemia in five or eight years time? I'd rather not take that chance.

    The only thing I really miss on the weekends is the internet. I feel so cut off without access to friends blogs and journals, and to email. (And I feel like it's a waste that there are times when I could be earning neopoints, and I'm not). But having the greatest social life in the world wouldn't change that. And who needs a great social life anyway?

    Okay, now I've finally turned into the mad cat lady I always feared I'd be!

    03 November 2005

    The Hole Problem

    Local readers may well be aware of the Big Black Hole in Sydney. For the rest of you, welcome and allow me to explain...

    Basically, what happened is that at approx 2am AESST yesterday, there was a rock collapse in the construction of the Lane Cove Tunnel, leading to a 10 metre crater in the ground...with a block of apartments, situated above the construction site, left hanging over the hole. More on the story
    here; it's a pretty good overview, although I normally use ABC news for my links. This is a temporary link.












    The hole below the apartment block.


    Have you ever stood on the top of a high diving platform? And looked all the way down to the water? That's how deep 10 metres is...over 30 feet. It's a big hole.












    An aerial view of the apartments, perched above the hole.

    All the residents were immediately evacuated, and no one can say when they might be allowed back in; although there have been assurances that the building is not about to collapse, yesterday there was hourly updates on the news of the balcony at the front corner of the building, which you can see in the lower left-hand conrner of the above photo. Hour by hour, we watched it sag further and further, as the surrounding walls cracked, until finally at 18:30 AESST yesterday, it collapsed into the hole.













    The balcony gives way.

    This morning on the breakfast TV shows, they broadcast slo-mo "action replays" of the balcony collapse, which I though was just dreadful. It wasn't just the balcony that collapsed, but the entire front room; you could see people's personal possessions falling along with the balcony. Sure, it may make for great TV - I've heard commentators remarking on the "amazing footage" and "spectacular scenes" - but these are real people who lived in this building, about 50 of them, who had to suddenly flee their homes in the middle of the night, with no time to collect any possessions, and who face the prospect of losing everything if the building does collapse or require demolition (the latter is looking more likely at this stage).















    The scene after the collapse

    Engineers are pouring thousands of cubic metres of quick-drying concrete in an effort to fill the hole, but as I've pointed out, that's one big hole. Now I never studied engineering at uni, nor even physics at high school, and I know nothing at all about it. You could tell me that the Opera House is built on a foundation of fencing wire, and I'd believe you. But I've grown up in an area prone to mine subsidence and earthquakes, and I've seen quite alot of buildings under construction. So I'm left to wonder...why aren't the engineers putting up solid metal struts, to secure the walls of the building which are still on solid ground?

    This has caused yet more tunnel related problems for the State Government. Not least, because this building is situated on one of Sydney's major arterial roads, leading to traffic chaos - there's no word on when the road will re-open.

    Well, I'll continue to update the situation as it comes to hand (or you can follow the news links to see what's happening during the 18 hours a day when I'm not online...)

    02 November 2005

    The Melbourne Cup - Much Ado About Nothing

    Well, the Melbourne Cup has been run and won for another year. If you want to get an idea of all the hype there was, see here. Me, I was utterly nonplussed by the whole event. First of all, because I don't gamble, ever (sorry to be a wowser...but I think that if there's one thing on Earth that truly is a sin, it's gambling. Okay, bigotry and gambling). But secondly, because of what I've come to know as my Melbourne Cup day curse. Every year since at least 1995, something terrible has happened to me on Melbourne Cup day. It's some to reach the stage where it's almost like a dear old enemy; yesterday it came along like clockwork as usual, in the form of a very nasty situation at work, in which I'm being blamed for a large problem not of my causing; I know who the real culprit is, but can't really do anything, not being much of a snitch. Anyway, yesterday wasn't a good day, and as usual I missed the race.

    But really my point, as I alluded to in the title, is all the fuss made over the race. Sure it may be "the race that stops a nation" - the shopping centre I was in yesterday was deserted an hour before the cup started - but how many people really care, as opposed to those who just feel they have to watch it because everyone else is doing it? I've always thought that it's more about media hype. Here's a hypothetical: imagine if the annual opening of parliament (for example) received saturation media coverage in the lead-up to the event, and people could place bets on, oh I don't know, which MP had the ugliest tie, and everyone gathered in pubs, restaurants and had functions to celebrate the big event?

    What's more, is what's with all this "hero" business? Makybe Diva is a horse, not a hero. She runs as fast as she can because she gets the crap flogged out of her. Sure, she may be physiologically superbly bred to produce very great racing times...but that does not fit the definition of a "hero" by any definition that I've ever believed that word to mean.

    Similarly saying a jockey had "a great/heroic ride". Actually, I've often wondered about that. Jockeys are apprenticed for four years. What are they taught that takes so long to learn? I imagine first day at jockey school:
    "Okay little guys, listen up. This morning, you learn how to sit on the horse. This afternoon, we learn how to whip the horse. This evening, you get off the horse and go home. Come back in three years and eleven months, and we'll give you your diplomas."

    Okay, I'll get off my high horse now...

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