31 May 2009

Random Acts of Marketing

This morning, I woke up with a bad case of the sniffles.

At Town Hall Station, I was greeted by a handsome young man in a white coveralls who presented me with a packet of Kleenex. How sweet.

21 May 2009

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

It is impossible to make it through a ½ hour news broadcast without hearing about some sort of government inquiry. I have come to understand that ‘inquiry’ is bureaucratic jargon for ‘find someone to point the finger at.” Commissioning inquiries seems to be the primary activity of the Australian government.

Bikie gang members instigate a bloody brawl at a Sydney airport? Launch an inquiry to determine if airport security notified the federal police within a reasonable timeframe.

A ship load of asylum seekers light themselves on fire off the West Coast? What we need is an inquiry to see if the Navy should have been more polite, maybe offered them some sausage rolls.

A 19 year old slut has sex with an entire rugby team in New Zealand and then, seven years later, realizes it might have been immoral? Let’s have an inquiry as to whether or not athletes should be role models or if ‘boys will be boys’…besides, it just might divert attention away from the budget!

Inquiries inevitably lead to reports, which are occasionally released, but only years later, and only if the evidence points away from any wrong doing by the party currently in power, unless of course the report is leaked by the opposition, but even then only if there is absolutely nothing else happening in the news AND the Australian team is not doing very well in a five-week cricket match against Pakistan. The reports often contain recommendations, such as “It is the determination of the esteemed investigating committee that persons arriving in Australia by boat, with the express purpose of seeking political asylum, should not set themselves alight.”

One of tonight’s top stories was about a real estate agent who died during a severe storm in Brisbane. Seems he was sitting at his desk, talking on the phone (as real estate agents have been known to do) when a large piece of metal blew off the roof and crashed through the window, killing him instantly. I have no doubt that once the sun rises, the Bureau of Meteorology will launch a full inquiry to determine if the government took adequate precautions against low pressure troughs forming over the South Pacific.

I am equally certain that the esteemed committee will further recommend that from hence forth, desks in the work place are not to be placed within ten meters of glass windows and that workers not be permitted to talk on the phone during severe weather situations that are likely to result in injury or death.

19 May 2009

Free to Air

Our TV is free. That is to say, we do not pay for cable or satellite service. Electromagnetic particle waves magically enter our apartment, are captured out of thin air by our television, and converted into hours of high-definition, commercial free entertainment all without an exorbitant monthly fee or lengthy service contract.

I am more than a little sanctimonious about it. It pleases me not to send money directly to Rupert Murdoch, and besides, the channel line-up on Foxtel stinks – there is no HBO in Australia, but I think that M*A*S*H is on 16 times each day. As Kevin sees, it we saved as much as we spent on our TV by not paying for cable over the last 2 1/12 years, so we could afford to buy a bigger television. I find no fault with the argument.

We get 7 digital channels, 5 of which are in high definition (plus two music channels and a TV guide). Two of the channels are fully sponsored by the government and are commercial free – just like PBS in the states, except the US government doesn’t give PBS enough money to operate, so they must sneak commercials into their broadcasts under the guise of thanking their corporate benefactors. The government channels (which NEVER have a pledge week) offer a good selection of socially conscientious, intellectually challenging (except for some of the British shows) programs, and they show cool movies on Saturday night. Last month, a new all-sports channel was launched, so this fall (spring) I can look forward to some American gridiron games being re-broadcast during more suitable viewing (and drinking) hours, thus raising the point total on my quality of life index tremendously.

But there is one thing that is very strange about free TV. Every night, during the Simpsons, there is a television commercial for…free TV. Let me repeat that in case the significance did not sink in. There are commercials for free TV ON free TV. These commercials leave me confused, because I don’t understand just what it is I am supposed to do. I wonder if they show the same ad on pay TV, and why do they need to advertise free TV in the first place? And why would I want to turn off my television and log on to the Internet to learn more about the free TV I am already watching at http://www.freetv.com.au/?

17 May 2009

Research Excursion: Blue Mountains

Backed by the pretence of doing a rekky (1), we took the 2 ½ hour train ride to Katoomba and spent the weekend exploring the Blue Mountains. The weather disagreed with me greatly – it was windy and bitey (2), and I was not suitably rugged up (3). However, after a visit to the local hattery, I was apples(4).

We had brekkie (5) at a cafĂ© that resembled a hobbit’s lair run by a commune of Christian hippies. It is as rare to see a Ruben sandwich on a menu as it is to see scrambled eggs. The food was flavoured with peace, love, and forgiveness. Yum.

A circuitous three hour hike that included a ride across a canyon in a glass-bottomed gondola lead us to Echo Point, where tour buses disgorged excited groups of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and Australian tourists, who seemingly unaware of the sprawling natural beauty in front of them, instead queued up (6) to have their picture taken with a chain-smoking, didgeridoo-blowing, kangaroo skin-clad, white-washed genuine Aboriginal (7) who greeted and thanked each tourist in their native tongue and made more in an hour than I make in a day.

On our way back to the train station, I came across a tourist brochure for ‘Goomblar’s Dreaming’, featuring the very man who had just scented my sweater with his shockingly pungent armpit musk (much to my cat’s eventual delight.) No matter how I tried to reproduce the printed brochure, this is what happened:

Spooky! I wonder if he has been coming around my apartment eating up all the ice cream in the middle of the night.


(1) to gather information
(2) cold
(3) suitably dressed
(4) peachy
(5) breakfast
(6) to stand in line
(7) Blackfellah

09 May 2009

Cover Up

Not being a fan of opera, I am always on the look out for intriguing alternative performances to attend just to have a reason to belong inside the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Before the show, I like to enjoy a glass of Cabernet in the corner of a quiet lounge with purple carpet.

I adore the whimsical look of Luna Park shimmering across Sydney Harbour on the foreshore.

And, I love the polished refinement of the interior of the concert hall.

As the band took the stage, I settled into my seat and surrendered myself to the spectacle of flashing green lasers piercing a veil of theater smoke and painting mesmerizing patterns on the ceiling. My body shuddered as deep bass rifts pulsated through my corporeal senses. Haunting keyboard melodies lifted my consciousness up into the celestial ether. Each hard-hitting guitar chord sent my soul reeling through the cosmos. Quite unexpectedly, my ego came crashing back into my flesh with a palpable jolt as I came upon the sudden realization:

I am watching a Pink Floyd cover band.

Elvis impersonators excepted, I have always held a disdain bordering on contempt for acts that make a living paying ‘tribute’ to talented performers through the questionable use of near-flawless imitation. I have often ridiculed audiences that would pay top dollar in the hopes that an ersatz reminder of yesterday might reinvigorate those faded youthful emotions of open-hearted exuberance and endless possibility.

However, in the face of impending hypocrisy, I was forced to reevaluate and modify my position.

Seated in front of me were an older man and his teenage daughters, who rocked out with rapt amazement through the entire 3 hour show. I began to value the ability of a cover band to keep pivotal elements of musical history alive and accessible to new generations (although this does not explain nor excuse Rob Hanna). Although I have seen both Roger Waters and David Gilmour in concert, I never had the chance to see Pink Floyd. I don’t suffer any delusions that this current performance perfectly recapitulates that experience, but it is suggestive enough of the original to certainly qualify as a good evening of entertainment.

I concluded that some rock ‘n’ roll bands have transcended the limitations of popular enjoyment and become master artists worthy of duplication. Just as the plays of Shakespeare are re-dressed and re-told, so is the music of certain icons reinterpreted and re-exhibited. No one who plays Mozart is accused of being an impostor or criticized for not coming up with their own compositions. And while I am intensely unforgiving with any alteration of Dark Side of the Moon, the cover band did do a good job of making the music their own (although I most certainly could have done without the brutally blinding lights that were cruelly flashed into the aged faces of the audience - have some decency! the muscles of my pupil don’t respond that fast anymore.)
Along with fanciful nostalgia (and a piercing headache behind my eyeballs), my entertainment dollar bought an insightful epiphany…and a wonderful evening at the Opera House.

06 May 2009

The Bush Master 5000

Dedicated readers may recall a feisty discussion last year regarding the use of euphemisms for female anatomy in advertising. Well this blog entry doesn't really have anything further to contribute other than this hilarious 'clip':

For more thoughtful commentary, see this.

PS to my friends in the UK - I would love one of these for Christmas.