Sunday, February 27, 2005

Even with only early results I think it is safe to say that the NO case has won the referendum. I think only in the Perth electorate is the YES vote leading. In most of the others NO is leading 60% to 40%. So I guess this means that the London Court mob are safe for the time being.

Or are they? The result in Perth may prompt Gallop to adopt a compromise soution by building on the existing arrangements - late night shopping every weekday in the Perth tourist district. This would give the tourists something to do after 5.30pm as well as not alienating the small greengrocers, that were the poster boys for the NO campaign.

Could be a nice win-win for Labor.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Saturday Out

It's the day of the State Election, so Skribe and I determined to make a day of it. We can't help it: we're election sluts - we get a thrill out of the whole civic rights and responsibilities thing. I still get surprised everytime to discover you don't require proof of identification to vote - just a simple declaration that you haven't gone and sneakily voted elsewhere. And I particularly enjoy the bit where I get to number every single bloody one of those boxes, thereby making life hell for the unfortunate pollster who has to sort out precisely where my preferences are going.
Then we wandered off to East Perth to check out the Brett Whiteley exhibition, got lost and found the new ABC studios instead and had a cryptic conversation with the Indian security guard.
Us: "Hello. Do you know when they're moving in?"
Him: "Uh, around."
Us: "Um, have they moved in yet?"
Him: "Half an hour."
Us: "Er. Okay. Thanks."
Nice location, though.
Found the gallery, too. Just follow the water out to the Swan. The exhibition was interesting. Certainly worth a look, if only so you can now state with a more informed opinion that Whitely is largely over-rated, but does some lovely birds.
Afterwards, we set off on a grand tour of the city's office supplies shops and the stationery departments of major stores in search of a business card holder, which turned out to be rather more difficult than you'd think.
Eventually, dehydrated and exhausted, we wound our way home, and watched the Good Doctor Gallop win the poll that matters.
Now I have to go update his entry in the Wikipedia. What an absolutely fraggingly good day it's been. Either I've got to get the sort of social life some of my clothes have had (be careful what you buy at op shops), or the past couple of months have been so mind-numbingly awful that a simple day out like today counts as a fun outing.

Friday, February 25, 2005


I suppose all good things must come to an end, but it has been quite amusing over the last few weeks seeing most of the shopkeepers in London Court proudly displaying their VOTE NO placards. It's amusing because I don't think their case is helped by several of them not even bothering to stay open for the existing retail hours. And I'm not talking about the extended hours afforded to them because they're in a tourist zone. I'm talking about 9am to 5.30pm weekdays. And I know that at least one of the guys that works there regularly shuts his door at 4pm. He hasn't exactly got an oustanding business model and the things he sells are about twice the price other retailers sell them for, so it's not surprising. But you'd think that someone that wasn't attracting many customers to begin with might at least welcome the opportunity to attract a few more.

As I said, it's amusing because I'll be voting YES and YES tomorrow at the referendum. There are lots of reasons for it - to put a stop to being hassled by vagrants while walking through the deserted city at 7pm on a weeknight is as good as any - but I think my main reason is because I think this guy needs a swift kick. What does he think this is? The land of the long weekend?

The eighties called and they want their work hours back.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Word power

Do words have power? Do they pose a risk to us? Are they dangerous? Malevolent? The right words in the right place are all of these things, plus more. And we're not talking about secret words, not trade secrets or issues of national security. We're talking about normal, everyday words. The manifestations of our thoughts. The places where our the hearts and our minds lead. Where our bodies follow. Words have power. They can bring down governments. Overthrow tyrrants. Make you fall in love. Or laugh. Or cry. Be wary of words. Words have power. They can fuck up your whole life. Just ask Arash Sigarchi or Mojtaba Saminejad.

Free Mojtaba and Arash ToDay

Free Motjaba and Arash Day

No, this is not a promotional giveaway; it's a world blogger action day called to draw attention to Motjaba Saminejad and Arash Sigarchi, two Iranian bloggers being detained by their government because of their blogging.

You didn't think blogging was dangerous, did you? You thought it was just an excuse to sometimes mouth off, sometimes daydream, sometimes philosophise, all in this weird public-private space, never quite certain who's out there reading your ramblings or what they think. It's a little frightening, and oddly liberating.

Some people have lost their jobs because of their blogs.

TIP: if you talk about work, don't mention names.

Some people get arrested by their governments.

TIP: if you live under an authoritarian, repressive, and censorious government, keep your thoughts to yourself, make sure you can never be traced, and make no assumptions about your own safety.

Some people can be arrested by their governments for essentially keeping a diary, and for making it available to the public. Some people can be arrested by their government for having thoughts and ideas contrary to the official government doctrine, and for saying so. Some people can be arrested by their goverment because they post messages on computer bulletin boards, and have conversations in chat rooms - ordinary everyday people expressing everyday ordinary views.

People have a right to talk about what makes them happy, annoyed, or miserable. But apparently, that's just too dangerous for some.

Today is Free Motjaba and Arash Day. Think about that, because that's all Motjaba and Arash are free to do right now - think. You can still blog.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Just being neighbourly

After reading this blog post over at The Supermercado Project, I was suddenly reminded of an anecdote about how wonderfully petty neighbours can be.

The story occurred to two friends of ours. Let's call them J & G. They were typical gamer geeks, just out of university, and because this was the early nineties they were both unemployed - youth unemployment was about 40% thanks to the recession we had to have. This meant that J & G had ample free time to spend on their hobby: gaming.

We're not talking about chess, checkers or monopoly here. We're talking roleplaying games. If you've never seen or played in one they basically involve a lot of talking, shouting and laughing. Not unlike parliamentary question time. Except they're about five times louder.

Anyway, J & G were sharing a flat in the inner suburbs of Perth and the landlady happened to live in the next door unit. She was old, unmarried and seemed to hold everybody else responsible for her unwediness. Thankfully I only ever met her the once. The Landlady didn't seem to understand the idea of roleplaying games and certainly didn't understand J & G's sleep late, game late attitude. Unfortunately for her, there was nothing she could do because J & G were always careful to never breach their lease requirements. So instead of buying a pair of earplugs or perhaps going out and getting a life she decided to act. She called the cops and told them that J and G were both drug pushers.

They weren't, but the police raided them anyway. The raid apparently took about fifteen minutes, they went through almost everything and all they found was twenty or so containers of Radiant detergent - J and G liked to buy in bulk. So the police left emptyhanded and the little old landlady was stuck with them for another few months.

Now there's a wonderful epilogue to this story, because unbeknownst to both the police and the landlady was that J & G were both avid pyromaniacs. What the police thought was powdered detergent was in fact a powdered explosive, that they had cooked up in their oven. I won't say the stuff was harmless but it was pretty mild stuff - weaker than gunpowder. From memory they used the stuff to launch homemade rockets over the ocean. If it had been found today they'd be straight on a C-130 bound for Gitmo.

Ah, for more innocent times.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Taking control

According to this news story, a study has found that Australia is the second biggest, after the UK, downloaders of pirated TV. Is it any wonder?

Firstly, there is fuck all on. When there is something good on, it is jammed full of commercials, and/or placed at some hideous hour. That's presuming it keeps a timeslot for more than one week. And isn't pre-empted by some shit program running long. Instead we get XXX-Fuctor, Australians Idle, You're Fired, Survivor: Marianas Trench, Frustrated Housewives or Yank Wankers.

Is it any wonder that Australians would choose to download and watch the latest series at a decent hour, without commercials, instead of waiting 6, 12, 18 or more months for them to be shown on FTA (longer for Region 4 encoded DVD)?

That's presuming it gets shown at all. While not my cup of tea, Andromeda is into its 5th or 6th season, and has yet to be shown FTA here. Same with Jeremiah and Firefly.

Is it any wonder that Australians have chosen to take control of their own remotes and not be beholden to the tastes of some suit in 2, 7, 9, 10 or 28?

It doesn't surprise me one bit.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Feline Meanderings

Our cat went missing last night. Like most sensible beasts thunder and lightning scare the willies out of him. Unfortunately, he has a way of finding a new - and harder to find - spot each time this happens. Don't worry, he came out of hiding this morning. But, while I was searching for him - until 11.30pm - I noticed, quite accidentally I assure you, that some people started their Valentine's Day celebrations a little early.

There was the couple that live in the townhouse near the washing lines. All the lights downstairs were on, but the real party was upstairs. At the same time, there was another couple almost directly opposite them that were getting it on in the shower. If you stood on the path between the two units you got it in stereo. I think at one stage they were having a competition.

I was out searching about 90 minutes and my path took me past these two units several times during the night - probably about 7-8 times. This all happened on the fifth or sixth run.

But it was the next run that was the most interesting. Evidently, the shower couple had won the contest because there wasn't even a peep from them. The clothesline couple, however were quite another matter. They were arguing. The lights were still on downstairs but they hadn't descended yet. They were going at it hammer and tong. Arguing I mean. Is it just me, or do this couple have it arsed about? Argument first, then curled toes. No wonder they lost the competition.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Chas And Cammie Sitting In A Tree

K. I. S. S. I. N... ewwww. Get me a sick bag.
The Second Royal Engagement has been announced.
On the one hand, who cares what a bunch of overpaid non-tax-paying inbred leeches get up to? Besides, Charles has already done his royal prerogative and produced not one but two heirs to secure his position.
On the other hand, it's the romance of two millenia, lasting 35 years and surviving public antipathy, media mockery, constitutional crises, and forced marriages to other people. How many relationships can claim such enduring will and strength of feeling? Hell, they've even managed to get the law changed so he can remarry (and to a Catholic). That'll probably be what Charles will be remembered for. That, and being portrayed by Clive Owen in the Hollywood version.
Let us - his unwilling subjects - be grateful that Charles and Camilla are way past breeding age.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Blood from a stone

The scenario:
You need to see a lawyer.
You have some contracts you want checked.
You're a cheapskate.

For the last hundred-thousand years you've seen the same sign on your way to the production house each day. Legal advice. $20 for 20 minutes. You think, 'It shouldn't take 20 minutes to check a 3-page contract.' So you go in to inquire.

The elderly lady at the reception desk ignores you for the first five minutes. That's despite having looked right at you as you entered the otherwise vacant room, two massive coughing attacks on your part in a vain attempt to attract her attention and several excuse me's. You only spring into her consciousness when somebody else - an entire extended family actually - enters the room.

"Hi, I'd like to have a contract checked for a [insert explanation], can I do that here and what's the procedure?" you ask.

"You make an appointment," she says primly, then proceeds to tell you that the next available slot is in two days time. You hurriedly agree because her eyes are once again showing a vacant sheen and you're not sure you want to wait until someone else enters - can fit into - the now crowded room. You leave, thinking that for a $20 lawyer you'd have waited at least another 5 minutes.

Two days later you arrive on time to discover another old dear at the desk. She recognises you straight away. She asks you to fill out some forms, pay over your $20 and explain once again what you need done. She then asks you to wait on the couch until the lawyer arrives.

The lawyer arrives and she leads you into her room. There's a 4th year law student there as well to observe. You explain again what you need done and hand over the contracts. The lawyer frowns. "I'm not sure I can do this," she says. She hmms and hahs a few times, goes out to see if someone else is qualified to check it instead, returns to tell you that nobody is, sits down and grabs the yellow pages. She provides you with a pamphlett featuring a list of names - of recommended 'proper' lawyers - as well as a seemingly random name picked from the phone book.

"Where do you live," she asks.

"South Perth"

"Is that near the city?"

It's about now you start to realise that the $20 is for the copy of the DVD you'll receive featuring the highlights of some legal version of Candid Camera - of which you will be one of the stars.

The law student pipes up, "It's just across the river."

"I'm from Queensland," the Lawyer says.

And that pretty much sums up the entire scenario. The lawyer. The little old lady. The $20. Queenslanders have come west and set up shop hoping to cash in on our booming economy. You wonder why she didn't tell you that when you entered. It would have been so much quicker and far less confusing. Perhaps a sign on the doorway: WARNING: This area may contain banana-benders. Enter at your own risk. They could also be forced to wear a tag or declare it during introductions.

"Hi, my name is Joe and I will be your lawyer for this evening. Under the Mental Health Act of 1972 I am required to tell you that I was born a Queenslander but I have been in remission for three years now."

All this has taken about five minutes and you're finished.

"Do I at least get a discount?" you ask.

And that's when it happens. That small thing that a religious person might have called a miracle.

"I don't think you should have to pay at all."

Blood from a stone.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

How To Fail A Driving Test and Still Have A Happy New Year

Fail to start the car. Twice. End of test.
Afterwards, reverse out of the car bay and into a truck that wasn't there two seconds earlier.
It's been a day of firsts: first time I've ever failed to start the ruddy car, first prang, and the first time in a long time I've questioned my ability to handle what I'm doing.
Hell of a lousy start to the new year.
Irregardless, am heading out to Northbridge tonight to celebrate. If nothing else, the damned Harmony Week ad has been handed in (for the last time), we've got more stories to shoot for Byte Me, the possibility of two entirely new series to produce, and even a possible replacement editor for Gallery Watch for me to train up. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Review: Battlestar Galactica (or Dirk who?)

For those of you that prefer your science-fiction grungy, dirty and real, like Babylon 5, as opposed to the clean and soul-less (how's that for being unbaised?) shows like ST:TNG/DS9/V/E, then I heartily recommend that you cancel your Chinese New Year celebrations (or hold them on the proper day - Tuesday night is New Year's Eve) and spend Friday and Saturday night watching Battlestar Galactica. It's dirty. It's grungy. And it looks so very real. The sort of real you get when the British make a really good science-fiction show, except without the cheesy sfx. The sort of real that only an Australian director can deliver - when he has fat wads of cash, a stirling cast and crew and state of the art fat wads of cash. Did I mention the fat wads of cash?. This is good. Actually, this is better than good, this is great. The best SF I've seen since the Babylon 5 episode Severed Dreams. Just watch it. Or do what we did and hire the DVD.

BTW, Starbuck rocks.

Friday, February 04, 2005

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote

Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

Significance Not Diminished

The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration's view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken.

The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.

American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the figure in the election in September for the Constituent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in elections for local officials last spring.

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.

NYT. 9/4/1967: p. 2.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Harmony Week Update

They wanted an African Muslim doctor, but she said no. So the shoot was off. She wasn't a real doctor anyway.

Then we got an Iranian Muslim doctor, who really was a doctor, and who said Yes, so the shoot was back on. But apparently somebody else said No on her behalf. So the shoot was off again.

I've just been told we do finally have a doctor, though which flavour of Muslim and how much of a doctor she is has not been disclosed. So the shoot is on again.

And we're back in Northbridge instead of the Barrack St Jetty. I expect this to change again in the next twenty-four hours.

Here's a phone shot of the opening street emergency scenario we filmed up at the Police Academy's Strategic Village in Joondalup.

Insert Noongar cop in foreground and Asiatic Generic Safety officer in background.

My 'costume' - fluorescent safety vest and hardhat - and prop - one clipboard.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Slow Day Omnibus

Today's Hash of Links is loosely themed CRAZY.

1. Harmony Week Ad: the Saga Continues
UPDATE: We have a Muslim doctor, though not an African one, and we've reverted once more to the Northbridge location. Still no confirmation on when we shoot, although that Friday delivery date is getting awfully close.

2. Ever wanted to go ghost or UFO hunting, but just didn't know how to track down the buggers? What you need is a Ghost and UFO Detector. They come in a variety of models and prices, and apparently with a warranty. Ghosts and little green men not included.

3. The self-styled World Police, Uncle Sam, have done it again.

Agencies tasked with defending America from terrorism were among the top employers of workers with phony diplomas identified by the GAO. The Department of Defense employs 257 of them. Transportation has 17. Justice has 13; Homeland Security, 12; Treasury, eight.

They can't even run basic background checks on their own people, and they want to tell us how to secure our borders and fight terrorism. You have to laugh.

4. The technical (or fancy) term for a grammatical mistake is solecism. There, now you've learned something. Memorise, if you can, the following solecisms of George Bush and impress friends, strangers, and everybody else in your address book.

5. Check out Snopes' 25 Hottest Urban Legends. If you haven't encountered them yet, wait. They'll show up in your mailbox sooner or later.

6. Here's another great gift idea, particularly with Valentine's Day coming up. The Crazy For You teddy bear, designed to show your true love how much they drive you nuts, apparently, and to infuriate mental health organisations everywhere.

7. Now this is a funky idea that community broadcasters should take up: Crazy Radio, and Crazy TV - shows hosted by the certified insane. It's therapeautic for them, and unpredictable entertainment for us. Everyone wins.

Right. Back to answering phones in the exciting, chaos-filled, computer-crashing world of community television.