Monday, February 27, 2006

Red Cross Calling

I can't stop volunteering. Next month I will be ringing bells and banging on doors, singing out for people's money. I got the phone call a few weeks ago and I thought why not. After all I get a little bag and an official little receipt book to take around. No name tag though.

The deal is, I have one block of my street to door knock on. When the girl rang up one evening and asked if I could collect for my street, I told her that my street was fairly long (it runs through 6 suburbs and up to number 1000 something - I live at number 11). She then asked me what would be a good number to collect to, and I said "hmm .. maybe to 25". Since checking where that is .. it is as far as the corner. Before you say "slack arse", there is a block of apartments on the corner .. with about 16 flats in it.

I now realise I have ventured into a killer way to meet all my no doubt eclectic mix of neighbours. I have already seen them wandering about .. fleeting glimpses as I walk past open doors .. or as they pop out to get some milk. So now next month I get to bang on their doors and use the brilliant opening line to lure their donation .. "Hi I am your neighbour from number 11, and I have volunteered to collect for Red Cross. Would you like to volunteer some money".

And when I get a tad thirsty from all the collection I can visit the two pubs on my bit of street and collect there.

update: I do indeed have a little name tag. Found it after I properly looked at the package they sent. They didn't send a clip to attach to your chest though.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Night Shots

Decided to grab the tripod and camera and do something with them last night. Here is some of what I came up with.

Clockwise: St Mary's, Eastern Distributor, Martin Place, Skyscrapers and Cahill Expressway.

click to go big

St Mary's Cathedral Eastern Distributor

Cahill Expressway Martin Place

Not so long ago I had been dreaming of just being able to wander around at night. It is good to be able to do so.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Good & The Bad

I get to go and see Billy Connolly this Sunday night. Cool.

The tickets were a present off friends for Christmas. Very cool.

It just so happens it is on the same night as Tropfest. Uncool.

A Sunday night at that. What are the chances that both events would be on a Sunday night? I only picked up this conincidence when I double-checked the date on the ticket again.

To be honest I am pretty miffed. I can't exactly tell my mates who gave me the ticket .. "um .. you see .. I have been hanging out to see the Tropfest thing in the Domain, ever since I was doing my own Tropfest night in Lae, so sorry, Billy can wait". It wouldn't wash. Besides, I guess Billy is now getting a bit long in the tooth so there might not be another time.

Anyway shit happens. I guess I will just have to watch the finalists on the free DVD as per the last two years. (I hope there is a free DVD again).

In other news, I retrieved my collection of DVDs back off my sister (whom I visited over the weekend and my new niece) and in that bunch there is stuff I have been hanging out to see for a while. Especially the Sergio Leone, Man with No Name trilogy. Ooh baby, there will be some wasted hours watching these again [attempts whistle from the beginning of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly].

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Ohh baby ... irrepressible Monkey is being reborn. My favourite show from childhood is getting a 21st century rework-over in Japan. This can only be good news and apparently the Japanese are lapping it up too; one in three Japanese viewers have been watching.

Of course the original for me will no doubt be the best. All the bits that made it great; the opening credits, ".. Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch; from it then came a stone monkey. The nature of Monkey was irrepressible!". And Tripitaka; was it really a chick playing a priest? I could never tell. And then the whistle to call the cloud; often mimicked. And of course Masaaki Sakai who plays Monkey himself, he certainly made the show the cult which it is.

When I was growing up I loved the show so much. Mainly I think because it was actually violent and I was allowed to watch it. It did get me hyped up after each episode that I used to attempt to beat up my sisters. After this happened a few times, the oldies set up a bean bag hanging up out the back of the house and I was forced to go and beat that up instead. And there were also a few tomato stakes that got pulled up and twirled about as well.

I still love the show today. My cat, which I got for my 21st birthday, is actually called .. yup you guess it .. Monkey. The rest of the family didn't approve at the time, but the name stuck. Unfortunately I only see Monkey every once and a while when I head home and she is not so much my cat anymore (although she was never really anyone's cat). If I get around to having another cat it will be called Tripitaka.

There is one thing that I don't have, the DVDs. I have seen them out in the shops before, but now I have noticed that you can get all 52 episodes in a box set. This will be added to the credit card soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Burnt Out

Everyday at the moment I pass these impressive sculptures. Usually I just pass on by, but once in a while I stop or slow down and have a think about what they mean - when art does that to you know it is good.

They seem simple enough - a couple of giant matchsticks about 5 or 6 metres in height - but like all art should, they mean a whole lot more.

They are of course Brett Whiteley's Matchsticks outside the Art Gallery of NSW. And the reason I love these beasts, without going into sentiments and artsy fartsy talk, is that even though Whiteley was going through depression and drug abuse at the time of creating these monsters he could still step back realise this fact and put it into this creation. Whiteley the fiery red head, literally (or sculpturally as it is) burnt out. (They are also a tad phallic which could sum up Whiteley as well).

The other reason to love them is just for their simpleness and sheer size - they would have been fun to make. I can imagine Whiteley hacking into these huge beams with a chain saw and then hitting one of them with a flame thrower and charcoaling it up. Art can be cool.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Smart Advertising

Would you sell out for a $35 a week car? People up my street have.

An advertising mob called KahDo has dreamt up a scheme of almost giving away cars to various people (who fit their criteria), willing to drive around the mobile billboards. The car which you would receive for your money would be one of those small Smart cars, not much bigger than a shoebox on wheels.

They obviously want people who live in dense residential areas, park on the street and drive to an equally dense commercial area. Funnily enough I fit the bill here. The only question for me is do I want to be a sell-out? Coming from a person giving up their time and money to volunteer for two years to one flogging off some deodorant brand would be a big change. But it would stop my whinging about not having my own wheels to get about in - see previous moan.

Another plan by advertisers was in the paper the other day. Instead they are targeting people with existing cars and who would trade in their commercial morals for their car to be wrapped in advertising. In return the advertising company will pay for your registration, insurance and fuel costs. With the high costs of these things at the moment, it probably won’t be long before we are a nation of sell-outs.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Little Asia of the West

I got to go on a work trip last week. To a place I have never been. A place that has a reputation. A place which I discovered (once I looked it up in the street directory), is actually a long way away. It is a place called Cabramatta and it was a good trip once I got over my initial reservations.

First up though I think I should get a few things straightened out. I grew up in the country of NSW - nice town, small population, dairy farming country, on a river .. you get the picture - and I only moved down to the big smoke when I was 23. The move was to the centre of Sydney and is the same place I have stayed on and off (when I am not out of the country) since then.

Sydney is a big place. Geographically it is huge. Suburbs stretching for .. well a hell of a long way. Now with Sydney being so big and me not growing up in it, it is understandable that I wouldn't have got to all the places in it during the course of my life (actually to do so would be a pretty great achievement and while I am thinking about it I have just remembered that there is a retired bloke who is walking every street in every suburb .. if you've seen the street directory, well .. good on him). So I haven't been to all the places and certainly western Sydney is one of the areas I have mainly missed out on.

Back to Cabramatta. The place has a reputation - Asian drug gangs, heroin addicts, random crime and violence - all of course mediarised (yes not a word .. just made it up .. hey I can do so if I want). So I was thinking, "was Cabramatta going to be like a new Papua New Guinea for me?". All hype, not much substance. And would it in fact be like everything which you build up expectations for and be a bit of a let down.

To be honest, I was feeling slightly nervous. I haven't seen Little Fish yet, but I have seen all the reviews and this only adds to the image doesn't it? There was only one way to find out about the place and that was to get on the early morning train and head out there, and fit some work around my gawking.

A car was considered, but heading out there in the morning it is quicker and cheaper to get the train. It also meant I could pop into work on the way, pick up stuff, then go to Town Hall and get a direct connection. And so I did.

The summer morning was a stinker. 95% humidity apparently. And so of course the train I got on was the old non-air conditioned variety. On the downstairs level I sat, with the morning paper and a small window opening to let in a pathetic breeze, and let the Tangara rattle off on the route to Campbelltown with its collection of various commuters.

Occasionally I would glance out the window to see where I was; Ashfield, Burwood and Strathfield past by. The faces on the platform changed, Asians, Africans, Indians, I was heading into one of the most multicultural places in the world. The further I went the more so it became; Clyde, Parramatta, Auburn and Fairfield, chugged past and my carriage filled and emptied with people of all backgrounds; Africans in traditional dress or old Chinese couples speaking in either Mandarin or Cantonese.

Closer to my destination the carriage emptied and a young Asian guy seemed to be the only one riding with me. I hadn't noticed him previously as I was wrapped up in the newspaper and my music. Now that I noticed him it seemed like he was staring at me. It was hard to tell with his mirror sunglasses. Thoughts of gang members and random violence drifted through my head. He certainly looked surly, definitely trying to have an attitude.

Cabramatta station approached and the young bloke jumped up and looked at me as he made his way to the door. He was a short arse with baggy pants, the brief thoughts had disappeared. I followed him and we briefly stood together as the train drew to a halt and the doors opened. He strutted past and I headed out into the steamy air.

The weather had a subtropical feel to it and suddenly the scents and scenes did too. Into the main street I wandered, past a Chinese bakery, a computer stores and beauticians with more Chinese or Vietnamese than English writing on their signs and notices.

The place had a surreal quality. I was having throwbacks to my brief stints in Asia. This place was like an outer suburb of Hong Kong, but more open and cleaner. I was now keen to have a look around. Instead of the envisaged crime gangs and means streets of the reputation, this place was like all other destinations I like to head off to, somewhere different.

My work was not taxing. I fixed the problem of our sole representative in this neighbourhood and headed out the door. I made the mistake though of ringing my work colleague to let him know I was finished. This meant that I had now limited my time to be able to spend observing this new found land. A few laps around the blocks, noting the differences and then a stop off at the Chinese bakery would have to suffice for me.

Back on the platform I went, waiting in the shade, the previous reputation in my mind in shatters. I jumped on board the new Millennium train when it quietly rolled up. Things would be different now; Little Fish won't seem so grim when I get around to watching it.

I headed back to the city, filling in the crossword, feeling changed slightly now, like the cooled conditioned air of the new train. I should have known this would be the case; reputations never live up to expectations.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm An Uncle ..

.. for the first time. Yesterday my sis brought a new little girl into the world and now I'm an uncle. This is very exciting, but I am yet to see her or even some pics of her (with this digital camera age you'd think huh .. so last century), but I am rest assured I will receive some soon.

The best thing about this is now I get to play, play and play some more with my little niece, and then hand her back when she is screaming or razzed up. I especially look forward to future years .. red cordial and airplane rides out in the backyard. Surely this is what uncles are for .. not too sure though, this is new territory.

updated: I finally got some pics. Little feet.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cryptic Challenge

Yesterday my sister laid down the challenge by text message. In the weekend's Sydney Morning Herald, turn to the cryptic crossword and do 9 down. Not one to back down from a challenge I got the paper and flicked to the puzzle section and put the brain in gear (which was a tad tough considering my night before). My brain needed to wake up once I saw the clue - Abandoned the port taken by the Addams' butler (4,2,3,5).

The cryptic crossword is previously something I have often just thrown quizzically glances at while I attempt the quick crossword or sudoku. But I am not one to turn down a challenge in a hurry and there is always a first to give this thing a good go.

9 down at first glance looks like the usual gobbley gook that is the cryptic. But amazingly the brain was working. The Addams' Family butler = Lurch. So looking at the letters it must be something in the lurch. And abandoned can be leave or left and then port is also the lefthand side of a boat so it must be .. left in the lurch. Ah ha, this was actually feeling good.

From then on I was heading into unknown territory, actually getting some of the clues. Next up was .. Casual wear for panzer commanders (4,4). Pretty easy .. Tank tops. Then there was .. A bit of a pickle for a tiddly pet dog (1,5,4). Took me a while but worked it out eventually .. A tight spot.

I am now suddenly discovering that getting somewhere with these cryptics is a lot more enjoyable than just a normal crossword .. until of course you start to dry up with the answers. I got a few more out and checked in with the sis to find out that she had a couple I didn't. But at least I now also know what my New Years resolution is, to see if I can complete a SMH cryptic.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Book Heaven

Like a suicide bomber dreaming of the many virgins to come in the afterlife, while up in PNG I was dreaming of the many bookshops to browse once I crossed over into the developed world. Now that dream has exploded into reality.

My current job is located within two blocks of about half a dozen major books stores. Dymocks, Angus & Robinson, Borders, Collins, Abbeys, Galaxy and my personal favourite Kinokuniya - apparently the largest global book store in Australia, whatever global means - are all here. Heaven.

I do admit though that I am not much of a reader, but I am certainly a browser. After living in bookshop wilderness for the last two years - unless you count Christian bookshops - being able to just look around, pick up random books, walk through the aisles, admire the gleaming tomes, go to the travel section, pick up random destinations - it is a joy .. and also a tad sad I admit, but hey it really was that bad back in PNG.

Currently the travel section is taking up most of my time. Mainly of course because I keep researching my next destinations. The one on the top of the list at the moment is New Zealand. I have booked tickets to head over there soon with a mate for a couple of weeks to do some hiking on the South Island, possibly the Routeburn track and Milford Track if you are up to speed on that part of the world.

I was there three years ago to do some skiing which was brilliant - apart from tearing a muscle in my ankle - and I am hoping some hiking this time should be equally as good. And it will also be a pleasant change from the last hike I did - that Kokoda thing. Still remembering the exhaustion.