30 October 2006

Where Have All The Peace Freaks Gone?


Last night I watched the Australian music industry awards - the Arias - and I must remember to get new batteries for the DVD remote. As I've said before, I don't really know modern music, so basically the artists last night were divided into those I don't know very well, and those I don't know at all. It was about as familiar as watching the Eurovision song contest, except without the amusement of seeing a blonde lurex-clad Swedish lass belting out "Loff me, don't liff me!" or two ageing Dutch hippies singing "Zip Zip Zip...Zap!"

What there was instead was a mostly uncontroversial variety-style love-in. I may not know much about rock n roll, but isn't it supposed to be about... rebellion? And yet, even though we live in "these troubled times", no one referred to them in their speeches.

Until Midnight Oil rocked up (and that term is used advisedly) as they were deservingly inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame. Followng tributes from Bono and silverchair, the band members spoke out against the Iraq war...and the fact that there is little protest music being released these days.

This was pretty suprising to me. I mean, for all I know, most of the songs on the current Triple J playlist could be about capsicums, but you'd think there would be something, some slice of the music biz warbling about blood for oil and the subversion of democracy. But as the Oils said "God bless you, John Butler, but you shouldn't have to do it all on your own." They then went on to blame the Australian Idol phenomenon for this, but I think that's unfair (it was amusing though, considering this year's crop were sitting in the audience). The Idols are, mercifully, only a small part of record sales in Australia. Are people so apathetic these days? If I were a musician, I know what I'd be singing about, and it wouldn't be I Love You Baby.

Funny moment of the night went unintentionally to Bernard Fanning, who is rapidly growing in status as a wanker of the first order. As he stepped up to receive his award, his first comment was, "Does this thing [the ceremony] have to go on for so long?"
He waited for the cheers. Dead silence.
Looking around awkwardly, he added, "I mean, seriously".
More silence.
And he made a quick decision to get on with thanking people.

Still, none of the Idols actually won an ARIA this year, and best of all, neither did Ben Lee. So I guess the Australian music industry isn't in that bad a shape.

25 October 2006

Mea Culpa


Sorry, I know I haven't been around much lately. Nothing's wrong, I'm just busy with my new job...and feeling a bit burnt out. Think I need a holiday, actually (I haven't had the chance since then, and now things are two months worse!) One way or the other, I'll get back to posting soon; I've got about 5 half-written posts saved that I've been too busy, frazzled, or not-funny-and-smart-enough to complete!

20 October 2006

That Was...The Week That Still Is


We know in the hectic modern world, it can be hard to keep up with the news. Being the kindly and condescending sorts we are, Xander and Nico are here to help, looking back at the week that is (almost) past.

  • In the face of Australia's worst-ever drought, the Federal government has announced a $2 billion drought relief package for farmers. However, for the first time I can remember, people are actually criticising the aid, claiming unviable small farms should be left to go under. The government of course immediatley labelled these views "un-Australian". I'm inclined to agree with the critics though. After all, in any other industry, if you're business is untenable, you need to do something else. Why should farmers be any different?

  • World War...(what number are we up to now?) hasn't broken out over the North Korean nuclear test yet. But the U.N. has imposed sanctions, so it seems the global community is in "wait and see" mode. Also, things aren't going so well in Iraq (okay, so that's hardly news, but I thought I'd better stick it in there somewhere - no soldiers on trial jokes, please!)

  • The government's new media ownership laws were never going to be a good thing for media diversity, but I didn't realise how bad until the news that News Ltd (hiss!) have bought a stake in their main newspaper rival, Fairfax. At the moment, News Ltd papers support the conservative, whilst Fairfax is more left-wing (that's an oversimplification, but getting into the details is beyond the scope of this post). What are the chances News will allow Fairfax to maintain their independent views?

  • And finally...Choice magazine have presented their annual Shonky awards, for the top ten shonkiest products on the market. Only in Australia...(there was even an "Awards Ceremony" at the Art Gallery Of NSW!) Among the "winners" were a set of magnetic balls designed to be used instead of detergent in the washing machine to "knock" the dirt out of clothes; a ready to drink gin, tonic and lime that has no gin, tonic or lime; a robotic vacuum cleaner that merely re-distributes dirt on the floor; and...the iPod.

    No Friday Follies...I figure, if you're in to funny web phenomena, you'll know where all the good stuff is already. But some tremendous news ahead of the weekend; Smirnoff have released a
    black cherry vodka. Now if only it was available in Australia, I'd be a happy, happy woman. (If anyone reading this knows someone who's returning from overseas soon, perhaps they could keep an eye out in the duty free?)
  • 18 October 2006

    Xander Says: I Guess I'll Have To Post Myself

    What's a cat to do when his Mum is too busy to post? Sit in the sink! Honestly, I'm not used to having to do things for myself, but Mum is hardly ever home lately, and when she is, she complains about how busy she is...


    Mum's never home because she's "at work", and apparently her new job is really hard. At least, that's the impression I get from when she returns in the evenings, lies down on the kitchen floor, and moans "I've had the day from hell" ...every single day.

    She's also stressing about buying a house. I don't know why it's so hard. Normally when Mum buys a house, it only takes a few seconds, but then she starts to lose, throws a tantrum and shoves the Monopoly board away. Maybe this time she's worried abut being sent to jail?

    But what's really bad, is she doesn't buy drinks any more. Well, she still buys cheap drinks, like juice, but she won't buy the fun drinks, like green apple vodka. I miss it, Mum was fun when she'd had a few drinks. It's no fun not having drinks.

    So I have a Mum who's not even at home most of the time and cross when she is here. If things don't get better soon, I'm putting myself up for adoption.

    16 October 2006

    We're Only There Because We Love Them


    Suprise, suprise - Australia's Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has once again popped up in the news to re-state the Howard Government's position that Australian troops won't be leaving Iraq as long as they are in power.

    Almost everyone else is at least considering leaving. Even, Tony Blair now says
    he agrees with a call for UK troops to withdraw soon. As for the other members of the Coalition Of The Willing - well, you can see for yourself that most of them seem to have given it up as a hopeless business.

    But not Australia. The Government hangs stubbornly, grimly on to the idea that staying in Iraq is the right, the only thing to do. Well, they have to say that don't they. They can't admit that they were wrong, and they certainly won't say to the U.S. "Thanks, but we're gonna call it a day."

    Instead they keep feeding us, the Australian public, lines - they might even believe them themselves. One of the most frequent ones we here is, "An Australian troop withdrawal would be a great victory for the terrorists!"

    Yes, I can picture it now, in a terrorist "safe house", somewhere deep in the bowels of Iraq. The jihadis (jihadists?) cracking out the hookah pipes and whooping with joy at the news of an Australian troop withdrawal. Noticing one of the terrorists partying particularly hearty, his blood-thirsty mates saying "Wow Ahkmed, we haven't seen you this happy in months!"
    And Ahkmed replying, "I have to admit, I've been feeling pretty dispirited lately. I was considering pulling out of the jihad and opening a shoe shop in Baghdad. But now that the Australian troops are pulling out of Iraq, all my enthusiasm has returned! Bombings, kidknappings - it's game on again! Woooooo!"

    Another line that's being spun is that an Australian troop withdrawal would be the worst possible outcome for the people of Iraq. Yes, I'm sure the average Iraqi does see that as a worst case scenario. So much more terrible than the lovely time the Iraqis are having at the moment, what with the latest casualty estimates of
    over 650,000 deaths since the 2003 invasion (even if this figure is exaggerated, I don't know many people who'd think that sizeable numbers of civillian deaths are a good thing).

    The fact remains, the Australian troops could leave tomorrow. It wouldn't make much of a difference to the Iraqis - on either side - and it would sure as hell make us a lot safer, even if the U.S. did shut us out of trade talks as a punishment for not doing as we're told. But it won't happen. Australia has become the Dr. Zoidberg of international relations - so pathetically greatful for attention, we'll do anything the U.S. asks of us. Well, I'm sick of it. My taxes may be paying for this, but I'll dust off that old cliche - Not In My Name.

    13 October 2006

    Of Tattoos and Grease and Bad Language


    There's something rarefied and special about a day off that a weekend just doesn't have. I think it's the sense of guilty pleasure - everyone else is at the office - but I'm not. The best pleasures are the guilty ones, after all...*takes surreptitious swig from vodka bottle hidden in desk drawer*

    Hic. Where was I? Well, although I've outlined a day at the office before, I've never described what I get up to on a day off. And as yesterday was, sadly, my Last Day Off, I thought I should do something to mark the occasion...

    So I left the laundry unwashed, the bills unpaid, and headed to the tattoo parlour. The tattoo on my ankle I had done last year (
    see it here), I've never been entirely happy with, as it wasn't really the design I wanted. I wasn't sure what could be done to fix it, but just decided to get the centre fillled with purple as well. It took the guy all of three minutes to do, and he said he felt bad for charging me anything, but he had to cover the cost of the needles, which is fair enough. They're very nice guys there, even if it's the place where Andrew Johns gets his tatts...

    I've been making a concious effort lately to eat better food. So, although what I wanted for lunch was the offspring of the glorious union betwixt cheese and bacon, what I had was wholegrain rolls stuffed with salad, with carrot and celery sticks on the side. (I was a devil though - I had some mayonnaise). So much for healthy food leaving one energetic though - I know I needed a nap. And Xander always does.

    It was probably as well that I had a healthy lunch, for when I woke up I went out to dinner with Vati and Babybird, and ended up ordering the deep-fried seafood basket...which had squid, scallops, prawns, fish cutlets...and a "wedge" of lemon the width of my fingernail. I know about the banana shortage, but I didn't know lemons were so scarce!

    Home in time to catch The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The adroit Mr Stewart has coined a wonderful new word: catastrofuck. He was using it to describe the situation in Iraq, but told us all we were free to borrow it, and I will. I could safely describe my personal life these days as a catastrofuck. It's funny how whenever my career is going well, my personal life goes down the toilet - as if it's a see-saw that tips either way to ensure I'm never entirely happy. Things are pretty terrible right now, and I don't know what to do about it, so I'll just work all the harder so I don't think about it. Still, there is a kind of comforting familiarity to it all...

    There's only one Friday Folly today.
    But you'll like it. It's from The Onion, after all.

    11 October 2006

    To Tech News Now...


    The big story this week is that Google has bought YouTube. Google paid $US1.65 billion for the company, far in excess of even the $US580 million which Rupert Murdoch paid for MySpace back in July.

    The thing is, only a few weeks ago, the tech press were falling over themselves to write off YouTube as an investment, citing the fact that YouTube is likely to face huge law suits, a la Napster, due to it's breach of copyright laws. Mark Curran even
    famously declared that "only a moron would buy You Tube".

    Now though, they're lauding Google's investment. Either the tech press are in Google's pocket, accepting pressure from Google not to run stories that affect the company's value...or they just like jumping on the "If Google says it, it must be good!" bandwagon.

    Seriously though, why can't I think of some innovative internet phenomena that would acquire a cult following, go mainstream, and allow me to sell it for millions? It wouldn't necessarily have to make any money - after all, it's hard to see how Google will recoup their investment from YouTube. They can't make that much money selling advertising space, and what else is there? Selling user subscriptions? They always work real well. No, you just need the visitor numbers, and worry about raising revenue later.

    So if anyone would like to help me out here, with an idea for the latest internet fad, please let me know. I promise when we get bought by one of the "big boys", I'll give you a generous percent of our multi-million dollar windfall!

    09 October 2006

    A New World Awaits


    North Korea has apparently followed through on it's threats and carried out a test of a nuclear weapon.

    Apparently, the test was carried out at 11:36am AEST - the same time as South Korean monitors detected a 3.58 magnitude seismic disturbance.

    There's very little information available at this stage. The North Koreans claim that there's been no radiation leakage as a result, but they did conduct the test on a Monday...and we all know how sloppy output can be on back-to-work Monday.

    Aside from any environmental damage that may result, the political implication of this are staggering. As John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.,
    said on Friday, “We think the main point is that North Korea should understand how strongly the United States and other council members feel that they should not test this nuclear device...And if they do test it, it will be a very different world a day after the test.”

    Will the U.S. invade if they know a country actually has WMDs? Will there be a mass exit from the Korean peninsula? Would sanctions have any effect, or is it too late? Are you getting sick of rhetorical questions? I don't know, but we may have much to fear in the days ahead.

    06 October 2006

    The Five Hundreth


    Xander says: When Mum asked if I would contribute a few words on the occasion of the Pod's 500th post, naturally my first question was: "What's in it for me?" And she asked if I'd like to start getting my own meals and cleaning up my own messes. So, I'm taking time out from my busy "shedding winter coat all over the house" schedule to thank all of you who've dropped in to read this, left a comment, and - which is the most important - remarked on how gorgeous I am. (It's all the beauty sleep I get).

    It's true. 500 posts. Which is pretty respectable, considering when I started this thing (990 days ago, to be precise) I thought I'd get bored with it after a few weeks.

    So where have we gone since we started? Well, it was nearly three years ago, so obviously I'm a few months older than I was back then. This blogging thing was such a novelty, and I wasn't sure what to do with it. But I do know I was addicted - in the early months sometimes I posted several times a day (and I didn't even have a commenting feature then!) The blog used to be more personal - heck, in the first year I even posted memes!

    More recently, I've given the Pod over to more of my political and social observations. Mostly because, honestly, after all this time I think I've said everything there is to say about myself. Also, it's just what interests me right now. It will probably change, because that's where I'm at in life. I remember when I was young, thinking that by the time I was a proper grown-up, I'd have my life sorted. It was a bit of a shock to read Bridget Jones' Diary and realise that this might not be the case. Then I really did become a proper grown-up, and proved it. I'm as confused, vauge about my goals, and unsure what to say or do, as I've ever been (worse, if I have a hangover). Luckily, I think early senility is starting to creep in, so I really don't care.

    Still! This is no time for my lame amateur philosophy. (If you want lame amateur philosophy, watch George Bush "interpret" the Geneva Convention.) For me, it's time to celebrate the two major achievements that have come from this blog: that I get to write and people can read it, and that it's something I've stuck with longer than almost anything else I've ever done. So what would be an appropriate celebration? Well, I could do a shot for every post I've published, and die of alcohol poisoning. Or I could do a shot for every post that is funny or makes sense...sobriety awaits.

    And thanks to you all for reading this.

    04 October 2006

    ReD Dwarf Fans, Rejoice!

    Last night, I saw a story on the news* about an interesting new technological development; computer-generated digitised personalities which appear through a user's digital television, a post-millenial update on
    Max Headroom (whom my generation may remember as that vaugely scary guy from Saturday morning TV).

    The primary motivation behind this is the idea that they could serve as companions to the elderly, disabled and otherwise housebound. Of course, this is a very worthwhile ambition, but as a Red Dwarf fan, my initial reaction was far more selfish. It would mean I could finally achieve one of my long-held dreams - and I don't mean make sweet, sweet love to Rimmer in his red gingham dress. No, I could have my own
    Holly in my house! (Norman Lovett version, obviously).

    Aside from it just being awesome to have a Holly for its own sake, think of the possibilites! I would be elevated to the status of goddess amongst (wo)men. Receive answers to any questions that ever occurred to me on the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, all those song lyrics that pop into my head that I can't quite place. And I'd never have to turn the house upside down looking for my keys again. Anyway, aren't I entitled to some companionship too? Xander's a great cat and all, but not much of a conversationalist, and all attempts to play chess with him have ended with him running away with the rook in his mouth.

    It's occurred to me whilst writing this, that it says something rather worrying that of all the digitised companions I could possibly have - anyone I could have in my house, to look at whenever I wanted - I'd choose Holly. Well, that's the kind of sad geek I am.

    (Sad, lazy geek - I'd want a couple of scutters too. I'd give them time off to watch Westerns, though).

    *It was on the Channel 10 news, and Channel 10 unfortunatley doesn't have an online news service. Despite over an hour of searching everywhere from Rueters and the BBC to Slashdot, I couldn't find another reference to the story. So no link, but the important thing is that I didn't make it up.