Monday, December 1, 2008

The Strange Fruit of My Labour

I could tempt fate by saying the worst is over and just in fact did. I may come to regret that. But it would be the regret of a fool who's looking for excuses because he knows he doesn't believe in fate. 26 days later: a day off. Allow me to state that in clear terms. I worked a minimum of ten hours a day for 26 straight and this is my first one free. Why, you ask, and how did it all come to this? And I can't help you there. Like so many of the worlds most confusing realities this one doesn't have a clear answer. Have I developed a heretofore dormant but now raging work ethic. Well I don't feel any different. Whatever it is the worst is over now. And the fruits of my many days journey into night can be found here:

(Download the plugin and try out at least a couple of the clues, it's pretty cool even if I do say so myself. And a note to people who live up over: The competition is only for us down under.)

Anyhow, like most readers, you probably want to hear about ecstacy, the virulence of the young traveller on the worlds ulterier face, the recipe for joy in the overworked and under awed tapper away of blogs, Myself. Well here it is: Pancakes and strawberries with maple syrup and a very fine coffee, followed swiftly by a stroll through the royal botanic gardens by the opera house, topped off with an hour or two transfixed by a series of monets and renoirs in the art gallery of new south wales with a side of excellent sushi from Makoto in the city all washed down with some baskin robbins ice cream and an hour or two reading under a tree watching the ships come in to Sydney harbour. Serve warm to the dedicated borrower of passion.

There are possibly better ways to spend a day off but I haven't figured them out yet. If you know them please write them for me here but after devouring the above I realised that my perception of this, maybe any, place is like a cheap hoody: Reversible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Adventure Wrongly Considered

It's impolite to talk unless you have something to say. It is for this reason that the blog I sometimes keep has been a little thin on content lately but these are lean times for narrative in my life, dear friends. Mundane things that are available to you all are what has kept me from having a story worth telling in a while, things like work. You might object that I said things (plural) and listed only one thing (singular) and you would object from the entirely defensible position of correctness. There has been only one (single) thing lately that has been devouring the cheaply costumed charades I use to mask a life made up largely of boredom and small doings punctuated by interludes of digressions on the topic of leading a life of boredom and small doings, and that one (single) thing, if you have managed to keep a hold of the main thrust of this sentence, is my recently aquired new job.

It is to my free time as, for so many years Ross was to Rachael, incompatible. I wouldn't be telling half truths if I were to apply to your consciousness the abstract idea, made more cogent and interperable by the probability that you know me and have a mental mannequin in your head to place in the scene, that I worked something like 25 hours during the 48 of the weekend just gone. The smoking of your pipe is an action for you to undertake of your own volition but consider it primed and filled with ample material by yours truly.

Anyway that aside I haven't ceased to live completely. There are still stretches of time during which I am expected and even forced to parse the behaviours of people and places in the way that only I can, spherically opposed to the majority of my readership as I am here in Sydney. So here goes, an actual event, from this life that I'm now leading.

So I move into an apartment with a co-worker. And it's nice, it's a lovely place. It's own independant loveliness is thrown into sharp relief moreover by the filthiness and slum-ishness of places I'd looked at earlier. There was even a brief interlude, unreported here in the interest of preserving my own laziness, wherein I met with an estate agent looked at a place I thought was unfit for the quarantine of hibola positive monkeys, agreed to live there, gave him 300 bucks, returned to work triumphant at the procurement of digs, found out it was in the center of the police no-go area of Sydney, read an article on the net which was headlined "50 riot guards injured during incident" (which pertained to my new home) and recontacted the professional liar/scoundrel from whom I accepted the place to whimper "No, no, not me, I can't live THERE..."

But I, characteristically, digress. So this new place, wonderful. I'm out of hostels. I can now call myself a real person again. Or as much of a real person as the reader will grant me without smiling to themselves at the thought of me performing the day to day tasks of a legitimate person. So this particular evening, having been at a pub to watch a band, after a pretty long and beleaguring day, I realise that still in my bag are a couple of special brownies, a gift from the hyper-nice girlfriend of one of my new workmates. And there I am thinking, like King Lear, making plans in my head, unaware, that though I'm mostly a good and righteous person the universe wants to take me down a peg or two, and I decide on what I believe in good faith at the time, is the best course of action for my own self thenceforth. That action? Well here it is. I was about tired of the gig, I wanted to relax. I'll eat, I thought, one of these brownies right now.

I'll eat that sucker and then about ten minutes later I'll hop in a cab and head towards my new place of residence. By the time I get home, I reasoned, this item of psychotropic confectionary will have begun to exercise it's effects on my body and mind. That achieved I will retire to my new bedroom and listen to music, safe in this promised hazy bubble and awake refreshed and rebuilt, ready for another soul destroying day.

So brownie ingested I begin to say my goodbyes. I hail a cab with no trouble, though it took perhaps a little longer to be on the road than I had anticipated, all was still well with my agenda. And I arrive, in the agreeable suburb of Glebe, now beginning to feel, there's no other way to say it, good and stoned. I'm giggling to myself as I open the outside door to the apartment block. I had, that morning, when I got the keys cut, chosen, almost as a dare, a bright red heart shaped key ring. That was enough. And so I laughed my way up the stairs at this incongruous mechanism of key association. The brownie had begun to serve me just as I had hoped. And then it strikes.

I'm at the inner door, the final hurdle. Peace and sanctuary lay just beyond it's array of small glass panels. So near and yet so far. The key we had cut but that morning failed in it's most basic duty: the opening of the door. Panic. Cold streaks of panic. Where to go? What to do? Who to call? I didn't know anyone... Adam was in New Zealand, my sister had gone, her month long stint in Sydney ended merely days previous. Help, I needed help. Someone to talk to. Fuck, I'm pretty stoned now. Maybe it's me, maybe that's just what it is, I'm not trying it right. I was never good and opening locks that needed a little extra jimmying, that special knack. But there's no one around. And I don't know the place. I'll ring Chris. Pockets feel like they're filled with cotton wool. My phone feels like the buttons resitance is proved by little panels of cotton wool. The phone itself takes on the characteristics of cotton wool. This isn't like being really drunk. I can't brute force my way out. Slow determination is the key. But not too slow, or your'll forget what you were doi...

Wait why do I have my phone out? I should go inside. Shit! I can't get in. Oh yeah, I was ringing Chris. Ring ring. Chris, Hi man, listen ahh you wouldn't believe this but.. the key doesn't open the door. Yeah. I know. It is. You're where. Oh it's an hour west. No no, I'm fine. Really it's cool I'll ahh. Yeah. Listen I'll do that and I'll see you tomorrow. Hang on there's someone coming up the stairs, I'll ask them to.... Hi, listen, sorry I just moved in here, and I got keys cut today, but they don't work. I'm a little drunk though, could you help me out? Try them? Aww thanks mate. (Wow I can't believe I managed to sound that articulate... What the fuck did she put in these things. Ha ha, stupid keyring. Did I just get away with saying mate? - Shit he's having trouble too. What next? Your move brain...) Thanks mate, don't worry about it, I'll just go stay with a friend. Thanks again.

(That's twice now you've said mate. And you don't have any friends you can stay with) A cab, wave. Full, shit. That one has lights on. Walk down there. Damn it's going. Just wait here. What the hell was that? There's possums out here I betcha. Hiya can you ahh take me to the city? Thanks. (Jesus does he have to take the corners that fast, I'm going to be sick. Oh fuck, no not here. what would happen if I just heaved right here? Or into his lap, fuck I have nowhere to go to clean up, I'd never get a hotel. And he wouldn't let me out the cab. He'd probably hit me, and then I'd be stoned and badly beaten and covered in vomit standing at the reception desk of a hotel looking for a room for the night. Ha ha. Shit stop laughing, he's looking at you weird.) Yeah mate, right here is fine.

Sliding door, bright lights, reception. Get ready to talk, don't act stoned. (Note to self: in preparation for not acting stoned don't remind self to 'not act stoned.' As a simple instruction it has no intrinsic value, imparts no real advice, is likely, in fact, to only enhance contemplative state of mind and increase risk of appearing stoned.) Shit she's looking at you. Your turn.

Hi (she's got dreads, tell her the truth she'll get it. Wait is that discriminative? Shit, just say something.) listen I just moved into an apartment in Glebe, and these are my new keys. Here's the twist. They don't work, new housemate is hours out of town and I'm extremely stoned. Please tell me you have a room for the night? Oh ok, don't worry about it, sorry.

Four hostels and hotels later, still no room at the inn and the white hot panic turns black. homelessness for the night, lost unable to function, wrapped in a blanket of marijuana induced disregard for my own body. Back to port one. Hi, me again. Sorry to bother you is there anywhere else you can think of x, y, and z are all full. I'm totally fucked aren't I? Yeah thanks, the number of a few places would be great. Yeah, the Y, I stayed there before, yeah thank. Cotton phone again. Ring ring. Hi room? No, come on. It's 2am there has to be someone who hasn't arrived yet. Just gimmie that one, really there's a huge tip in it for you. Yeah, yeah, do that, book it for me online. I'll be there in ten minutes . Yeah it's 5432 4402 12 (you don't need the rest, do you, dear reader?) Thanks.

Out on the street again. I need to eat something or I'm going to collapse. 7eleven. Yes. Crisps, oh yeah I love those, and cookies. Fuck I can't even walk properly. That breeze is gorgeous. Okay where was I going?

A long walk later and I'm there. Hang on I spoke to a french guy on the phone. This dude isn't French... Sorry sir, no reservation for you. You sure it wasn't the other Y hotel?

Shit. Streets. Cab. Finally. Y. Redfern. Thanks. Door. Reception. You? yes you, oh thanks. Yeah, nightmare keys didn't work, taxis all night hotels full. Thanks. Room 85 oh god brilliant thank you. Oh I'm a web developer. Yeah, oh you do? Really, no I don't have a card (Why does he want a business card?? Why does he want to talk to me about work? I NEED TO GO TO BED!!!!!) Don't I look fucked up enough to be the sort of person this guy doesn't want to talk to?) 20 minutes later and the sweet embrace of hotel bed is bear hugging me and I never want to wake up...

Beep beep, phone alarm. House keeping. Check out time, oh God.... Can't think straight, where am I? Oh yeah. What the hell did she put in those brownies?

The unspeakable truth: I'm eating another right now :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Suspension of Disbelief

There's a lovely little art house cinema in Sydney harbour. It has a beautifully tiled foyer with a circular staircase that leads to a bar or a restaurant above. It plays the sort of movies I like. The snack counter has beer and combo number 2 is popcorn with a glass of house red. I can't imagine wanting to drink alcohol before watching a movie you wanted to pay attention to but that's the sort of vibe here. The screens aren't huge either. And there's a girl who works in the box office, who I haven't actually met but who I'm told is an art college student, who spends her days there chopping up movie posters to make collages of each film. It's a nice touch. My last trip there was Saturday and there was a bride standing on the circular black and white marble floor with her wedding gown spread out having her picture taken from above. I'm sure it was a nice photo. Anyway I saw a film that I'd just decided to watch without any preconception based on a poster I found somehow intriuging. The premise of the film is interesting enough to warrant going when you really think about it, which is hard in these days of internet news. It's hard to consider anything truly amazing when every second email you get shows you something new and amazing, something that without the web you'd never have seen. And to some extent I think that's deadened our sense of wonder. It's blunted mine anyway.

So here it is, 'Man on Wire' is a documentary about a man called Phillipe Petit. In 1974 he travelled to New York and in a brilliant piece of guerilla DIY rigged a steel cable between the north and south towers of the world trade centre and walked across it 8 times. That's it. Wow, I can hear you say. And when you really put yourself there and imagine what it must have been like to see, what it must have been like to do, when you really put yourself there and try to imagine how the wind would howl 450 metres up, how your body would rock with fear then maybe you can bring youself to want to know more. Well that's where I was on Saturday, trying not to let this age of constantly eroding boundaries of amazement kill my jaw-drop reflex as I entered the theatre.

And wow. Really Wow. Whenever I hear people tell me a film brought them to tears I struggle to find the value in that. More often than not I don't want to be upset by a piece of entertainment. Great if a film can affect you in that way but how willing are you to have that happen, to surrender to that manipulation however much it may be worthwhile?

How about this? When was the last time a film brought you to tears of joy? Told you about something which seems merely amazing and showed you in simple convincing terms why it's actually truly beautiful? When was the last time that a quirky, animated, playful, inspiring, talented, driven individual was sketched out for you in ways that make you wish you had a tenth of his passion? In ways that will make you look, at least, if not find, something like that passion for yourself? I can't do this movie justice here but I can try to spread the feeling of real excitement that my sister and I left the cinema with, the feeling that you'd just been let in on a new perspective that makes the light of the world a tiny bit brighter:

Go watch Man on Wire. Today.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

So what have we learned?

Why do people travel? Scratch that, why am I traveling? Frankly I don't have much of a satisfactory answer.

I've always felt like I should resist automatic impulses. Whether it's a reactionary, self flagellating mechanism that developed out of some binary logic taught to me as a child that things that come easy aren't worth having / doing or just an idea that if something is easy and anyone can do it then it's uniqueness is diluted somehow, cheapened by popularity, I can't say but I suppose because I knew that because it would be in some way difficult it would thus be worthwhile and possibly character building to circumnavigate the globe. Besides it's not exactly kosher to be as opinionated as I am about so many things, places and people without finding them, seeing them, meeting them.

But that doesn't do me well enough. I read once in an alternative version of the ten commandments a rule which I felt I should always try to keep: "Thou shalt not stop liking a band just because they become popular." And so just wanting to do something different isn't enough justification for me being here doing what I'm doing. (Not that it's particularly novel these days when almost everyone within five years of my age goes on a trip like this.)

So what's left? I suppose when I can see something coming, unless it's something I really want, I work to stop it happening. I could see the blocks arrange themselves in the distance once, a few years ago, and they formed a fairly pleasant seeming life, but I knocked them over, and would do it again. And why did I do that? Because there's nothing worse than knowing what's around the corner. Give me a surprising future any day above a prescribed safety. And I know it's an ancient eastern curse: May you live in interesting times. Maybe some people can just see further along at what's coming. Maybe some people don't even look, but I've never been one of them. In fact I spend more time staring at the ever approaching horizon than I do almost anything else.

Well it's certainly been different. For the most part anyway. Mind you I'd have to admit that the more things change the more they stay the same. I'm on the other side of the world right now. And it's late at night. I'm in a gaming internet cafe and the props required for this scene have fallen serendipitously onto the stage and lay now as they would, probably do, in fact, everywhere, anywhere else. There's the serious game player, whinnying like a donkey with grammatically mal formed insults and put downs ( the lions share of which denigrate himself in greater measure than his victim ), a girl whose wrists still bear the mark of travel -friendship bracelets from some pseudo utopia given in sincerity by an armchair Zionist who's memory were it not for the internet would have faded in the drink and drug tinged haze but which is flickering into focus in front of her right now as I type these words, courtesy of the misinformation super highway.

His dreadlocks were never grown with a skype headset in mind, but she doesn't notice the incongruity - she's happy that a living souvenir from a part of the world she may never have seen - if it weren't for her answering the same call of the road that I did - is continuing in some small way to edit her life.

I'm sitting here myself, wondering what this has done to me, what it's made of me that my separate pieces couldn't have been assembled into without this monumental journey. And I honestly don't know. I'm getting up in the morning (granted I still live in a hostel) to go write code for the day. Alright sydney harbour is a short walk away but functionally speaking what's different? Not much anymore. If I really open my eyes I can see it again. But when you're travelling you become like a reverse kitten. Your eyes are wide open in the beginning but the more time goes on they more they close. Soon it's like you're walking around not seeing anything, the way you do at home. The difference is, now I can turn it on when I want, I can look at this place through the lens of a foreigner and that's something I hope I can take home.

I may not always have been a finder but at least I'm out there seeking.

Note: I love the internet. It's my workplace and my playground but honestly on the road it's the closest thing I have to a home...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Return of the Mack

Hi. Sorry. I know. You didn't even know if I was still alive. I'm a selfish thoughtless bastard and I don't deserve you, but stay, wait a minute. I can explain. Just give me three minutes. Then leave forever if you want.

Where the hell were you?

I was busy, alright. I had to find a job and I couldn't do that without a working holiday visa. God if I could go back and just check the box on the web form that said 'Yes, I intend to work in australia' I wouldn't have been off the map for so long. I would probably have been proper set up by now. But it's not all bad. There are worse punishments for a lack of fore-sightedness than a holiday in New Zealand where you get to check out the city of Wellington and meet up with your sister for some museum perusing and theatre going. But that's no excuse for neglecting you, I know. The thing is when we got to Wellington we thought we might as well see what the work situation was like there. And so we did interviews. I made my mind up during a chat with Ann that I really didn't want to be in Wellington long term. So it was back to Sydney for me. And without Adam too. He had a follow up interview and I needed to be back to meet with people for a job that needed to be filled right away. So there I was, a week ago, in Sydney, alone knowing no one, staying in a hotel, wondering, as I often do, 'What the fuck?'

Well... then what?

It wasn't all bad, some friends were in Sydney, Derek and Saranne of further up the coast fame. So that was nice. And I did some interviews. Things didn't go so bad. And the weather in Wellington got to Adam so he came over not long after me. We stayed and are still staying in hostels and have to move a lot because we never know how long to stay for and are frantically trying to secure an apartment for ourselves. But I found a company that makes games out here, Flash games, facebook games, cool things. I spoke with them on the phone and interviewed a couple of hours later. We actually chatted about games during the interview and the vibe was great. Totally what I wanted to be honest.


They hired me.


Yeah, I started the next morning. It's cool, a lot of work and pretty challenging but great.

Well, ...congratulations I suppose.

Thanks. So ah, we cool again? I mean, it was hectic and all and I know I came back here without even any pictures but...

Oh forget about it, I'm just so glad you're back!

Great, I hate falling out. I promise I'll never leave for this long again. And I'll say more next time, I just wanted to make sure things were okay between us before I came charging back here like nothing happened.

You silly sausage.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Death of a Campervan

The sun rises on the final day and we know it's over. There isn't a word spoken to acknowledge the denoument but with every cycle of the wheels the reality that our time together is over only becomes more harsh and pointed.

I started noticing road signs more and appreciating, if only because the petty annoyance of it was now to be relegated to the dusty halls of memory forever more, the odd wrong turn, the drag it's fibreglass roof gave in the wind. With every oncoming roundabout my clenched teeth were loosened and I stopped worrying about the things that the inertia of navigating the circular interchange would certainly send flying because the end was near.

Even as this day, a day like any other, was dawning the sun had begun to set on our most recent companion. And as I stifled a tear, our three hour (4 mile) journey through the winding east side streets of Sydney at it's end, a map crumpled in my tight fist, I looked at our campervan, the ship of our emotional desert, the physical manifestation of our psychological locomotion, parked, it's headlights the sad eyes of a puppy begging it's indifferent master not to leave it at the pound, I said to myself, quietly:
"Fuck You, Campervan. Fuck you."

Am I required perforce to drive home the full impression that campervan travel left on me to the reader? I think not. It's one of those things that's fine in principle. You get a bedroom on wheels and with your driving gloves on tight and a stubby cigar held between your jaws you explore a new country safe in the knowledge that there will never be an inn whose owner says "No room," because the ass you rode in on is all the room you need. But like so many things that are fine in principle the reality is somewhat less romantic. Like going to the gym: one thinks of health, the outdoors, looking good in shorts, a satisfying sweat.

One rarely is encouraged to visualise, when being sold membership to a gymnasium, oneself vomiting from overexertion, or the dark evenings when all one can see through the window is oneselves' withered carcass pulling itself in an awkward gait over the neverending black plastic road to early death, a corpse in animation: Sisyphus on a treadmill. So it goes with campervan travel. The harsh realities of it are thus: Imagine sleeping on a thin spartan cushion, the thickness of one you'd expect to be provided on the wooden bench of the viewing room during an exectution in the early 20's. Imagine now having no room to sit up in this bed. It is cold enough to freeze the testicles right off of a brass monkey when you lay your shivering head down, in three layers of clothing.

But consistency is the enemy of the efficient tormentor. A subject can become accustomed to any amount of consistent misery so what to do? Well have it become unbearably warm at around 6 in the AM. Yes, of course, you could almost hear Herman Mengele cry, that's it. Freeze thaw action it's called in modern Geography. A month of that, and eating microwaved supernoodles while sleeping in holiday parks people with the armies of the white hair. The over 70s. Ghostly Man and wife feeding each other spoonfuls of yoghurt or mashed potato under a canopy at a plastic table wittering away to each other that "This is nice, isn't it?" "Yes, Dear." Happiness is a warm room with no wheels, whose mercy is manifest in her soft mattress and her constant temperature. Caravan Parks, like limbo from the annals of Catholicism, should be stricken from the record.

There follows a less embittered photographic essay on my wanderings towards and arrival at the welcome city of Sydney.

A Manta Ray. They are frigging huge. Feeling less despondent about the demise of Steve Irwin having seen one so close. They could probably just touch you to death.

The view from the underside of a large and carnivorous fish. Unpleasant.

A testament to the aforementioned low temperature to be found within our van. These sheets had come out of the wash and the wrapping of them around ourselves was an almost indecent joy.

As can be seen from my puerile face.

The ugliest of exotic fish - a Titan Triggerfish. I saw one of these diving in Thailand (the fish wasn't diving, I was. Well I suppose it was too but it wasn't wearing SCUBA gear) and apparently they bite divers when they're in the mood. It's described as similar to a bad dog bite. Don't they look uglier now, hearing that?

The almost Jane Austen-esque-edly named Darling Harbour in Sydney. A very pleasant place indeed.

The inside of a Kangaroo. This was in a museum by the way. Not just a zoo that hates animals.

The grand view of the large tropical fish tank in the Sydney Aquarium which was, not to make it sound untrustworthy, extremely fishy.

A tiny squid. I've decided I now want a fish tank full of these little guys. Apparently they're quite intelligent. I got the impression from this one he was well aware of me. I even took a picture while he was eyeing me, using the flash, just to see his reaction. He blinked and swam off, almost mouthing "WANKER."

A prehistoric possum. It weigh(s)(ed) 3 tonnes.

I can't imagine this fossil was taken from the earth intact like this. Proves a long held belief that you can't trust anyone who works with bones all day. Especially butchers.

Interesting to look at behind glass however I would happily eject my lunch through whatever orifice was closest at the sight of one in the wild.

Artificial coral reefs. Exponentially more luminous than the real thing but very James Bond villain conference room none the less.

The harbor so suggestively named you'd almost want to hug it, Darling.

I think this one is self explanatory.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Big Mac and a large portion of absolution, please.

Okay so Im sitting in a McDonalds in a town called Ballina in Australia. I actually lived briefly in the one in Ireland but that is neither here nor there. Well it is there but that's the way places are isn't it. They're there. I digress. I'm sitting there in this McDonalds with a vanilla mocha and a pink donut with my nose buried in a book. The book is called The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. It's about Darwinian evolution through natural selection. This is something I've only gotten interested in recently having been moved by a reading of Derren Brown's Tricks of the Mind to pick up his favourite book, The God Delusion.

I should broach the vulgar topic of atheism:

I am one and it's not a vulgar topic.

There. That's the way I see it.

I actually feel like I owe Mr. Dawkins a debt of gratitude for writing a coherent and cogent argument for that being an acceptable thing to say and feel in the modern day and I've long felt it myself. Anyhow reading the God Delusion made me want to get down to the actual science of natural selection and Darwinism, inasmuch as a non scientist can fully understand such things. So I bought the blind watchmaker which is touted as a watershed work on the subject. There's nothing wrong so far is there? Nothing at all. Well there I am buried snout deep in a chapter callled Origins and Miracles which deals with the subject of the origin of life, the original self-replicating cells and I hear a voice say, "Must be good books."

If you hear someone say that to you do not think, run. It means he thinks there's something out of the ordinary in reading. Or that books must be spectacular and not just ordinarily edifying to move the reader to expose his word lust in public. My companion was perusing the lonely planet guide to the land down under and this is what our curious interloper seemed interested in first. In retrospect it was a good move I guess. After a couple of pleasantries and truisms on the subject of her Majesty's prison yard (sorry if you're australian, I couldn't resist) he looks at me. "And what's that one about?" he asks. "Evolution," says I.

This is a dirty word to the creationist ear - that's what he was by the way, a real one, a the-world-is-6,000-years-old sort of guy - but our galllant soldier of Jesus didn't even flinch.

"Richard Dawkins," I said. "It's very good."

"I know that fella, going around in his wheelchair," he said.

I was stunned and I'll explain fully why in a second. "That's Stephen Hawking," I said. Unperturbed this warrior of righteousness attempts to, in his own way shatter the arguments of Professor Dawkins, with, I swear to his God, a quote from Genesis. I can't remember the whole thing but it was something about trees replicating or everything coming from trees. Whatever it was it was the sort of semi poetic nonsense that can in hindsight be applied, with a little crowbarring of logic, to anything. The reason I was so surprised that he came over to me at all is that I can understand a deeply religious person recognising Dawkins and seeing him as a threat. A person of that turn of mind is compelled by his own dogma to try and save me whether I want it or not. What I am surprised by is the fact that he was still on his way over even when he thought it was Stephen Hawking I was reading. A scientific argument for disbelief is God is one thing but saving me from quantum physics and string theory? Is this how bad it's gotten? Well anything, I suppose, like learning can be perceived as evil when you think the earth was created around the time of the agricultural revolution....

Then out of his wallet, he produces, under the exasperated gaze of his wife - whose face seemed to be saying 'Leave the poor Godless bastard alone, Robert' - a laminated card. He handed it to me as he said the following: "We believe a different theory," here he hands me the card before saying, unbelieveably: "Death is the wages of sin." I was amazed. I would love, in my masochism to have spoken longer with him but he was pulled out the door by the missus and I was left with the greatest bookmark a Darwinist could ever hope for, especially while reading such books as I'm dual reading now The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins and God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens.

So there we are, saved, under the pearly - sorry, golden - arches, under the omnipresent gaze of St. Ronald Mc Donald, the patron saint of burgers and plastic movie tie-in toys. The lord is my McSheperd, there is nothing I shall want. (Except maybe to super size for just 50c extra.)

Here it is, the keeper of my page, the constant reminder of my damnation, the laminate of my eternal suffering.

Evolution, the wages of sin.

A digression of lighter tone. This was taken on the way back to the car from Australia Zoo. It could have been the overdose of crocodilia but that cloud does look like a croc, doesn't it? Well maybe a long beaked version of Darkwing Duck but still...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Surfers Paradox ; A Photographic Discourse on Australia; In the Hall of the Widow Irwin

Surfers Paradise is what the place is called. And it was built up in our heads more than even a name as suggestive as that should reasonably expect to be able to live up to. I don't want to open the bag of humbugs and bitterly suck on one as I say it's a completely inappropriate name but just saying that should make my point. I was going to say the surf there isn't even that great but as we left this morning I did see someone carving a 20 foot barrel like a madman so I won't whinge about that especially considering I can't and wouldn't if I could, surf. Anyway it pretty much fell into the category of another anonymous place to park the van and go for a couple of drinks. There were a couple of decent clubs but most of them had their ambience take second place in the after midnight contest of things Paul likes to a couple of very recommendable kebabs. But that's not what we're here for is it? No, so we left. For where Sydney. For what? Ok, hang on, don't get sick.... Work. Yeah, that's it, we decided we'd have to do it. And to be honest after a couple of weeks sleeping in what is a glorfied - though that word suggests some glory, Hiace - I could certainly see myself enjoying life in a big city and a nice apartment albeit programming. And even at that there're are some nice sounding gigs. Even maybe making Flash games. So it's not all doom and gloom. I'm addicted to luxury though, that' it. I need a big bed and a nice power shower and a door I can slam or gently close and know that for a while at least the world will leave me alone and I have a couple of square meters of sanctuary.

Anyway there follows a brief photographic history of the last couple of days by way of apology for what has been, I admit, neglect on my part for my constant - possibly hypothetical - reader.

Me and the 2 dimensional Steve Irwin in the only pose that it's fair dinkum to strike with said gentlemen.

A rack of Steve Irwin shirts with messages from around the globe of sad sad people telling of their sad sad-ness at his sad sad demise. Note: I am being completely genuine here. I think we lost a good man that day. I still remember where I was when I heard the terrible news. I queued on release day at the movies to see The Crocodile Hunter when it came out. I still think he's up there with Magritte and regard that film as one of the watershed works of surrealist cinema of the modern day. I mean he's on the top of a moving train fighting an FBI agent and then starts inexplicably talking to an implied camera man. Genius.

The bronzed Irwins hewn in bronze.

A very hungry but still large and impressive snake eating a totally emaciated pig in a glass case.

More, to give you a sense of scale, of the tribute bearing apparel.

A genuine, Steve captured, dinosaur.

This was an under construction shop, I think I can leave this here without the sniggering jokes I made when I took this puerile picture.

Look at the size of her.

I really wanted to photoshop in a remote control here, he looks like he should be on a couch.

I had a lump in my throat reading these actually, more than I had when I visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Really. Sad sight.

Note the oblique mario reference in the above. I didn't see any evil reptiles anywhere.

This is here for all the people I know of the above name. Enjoy.

A slightly racist brand of Aussie cheese. They're not even embarassed about it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The dingo ate my homework

Alright so there had to be something done, we're this far down the coast and the reasons to laugh haven't been legitimate for most of that time. Don't get me wrong I like laughing for the wrong reasons almost more than for the right ones but still, one expects to be having some traditional fun in places like these, on trips like these. So we're in the quiet retirement-esque hamlet of Hervey Bay and what do people come here to see? Fraser Island. Great, let's go and see what it's about... Oh there aren't any roads? Oh right, it's all sand tracks, and you have to rent and learn to drive a Land Cruiser to get around. A lot of people get hurt, sometimes fatally, doing this do they? Oh right, cool. Dingoes? Wild ones? Right so, and what do you.... You just back away with your arms folded maintaining eye contact, is that it? Grand so. Four hundred and fifty dollars? And we have it back to you by six with no scratches? Fine. Hang on what's that about man eating sharks on the north beach? And was there something about pits on the beach that kill and maim a not insignificant number of people each year? Forget it, sign me up!

Seriously that's it, we're really that interested in having some good old standard fun. You wouldn't believe how bumpy the roads got and how intimidated I initially felt as we, the two of us, rented a 9 seater 4 wheel drive to knock around this island. It's one of the only all sand islands in the world and the only one that has a rainforest on it. It also houses more than half the worlds perched lakes. Don't ask me about the ecology but they look beautiful as you can see if you continue reading and scrolling. There are somewhere in the region of 200 wild and potentially dangerous dingoes out there too and lizards you wouldn't dare shake a stick at so the rules are, don't feed the animals. A kid bought the farm out here a couple of years back which confirmed the whole dingoes do eat babies thing. Poor Lindy. I should watch that film. If only I'd had the foresight before I left home I'd have watched The Beach, The Killing Fields, Tomb Raider, Apocalypse Now, Platoon and that one in which a woman claims the eating of her baby was the gastronomic doing of a Ding-diddly-ingo.

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island, a perched lake of infinite beauty but very clearly finite size.

Me at another perched lake. Lake Wobby. The astute viewer will quip that this perched lake looks parched. And they'd quip like they view, astutely. Note: I love the T-shirt I'm wearing there and have overworn it since it's purchase in Chiang Mai. It's Ronald McDonald looking drunk with two topless ladies. A Banksy image I think which raises it's banality to the level of high art. At least that's my rationale.

A monitor, neither flatscreen nor cathode ray, but lizard. A massive one at that.

This wasn't even a tourist attraction. Seriously I just stopped because I reckoned that knobbly tree there looked like a moose's head. And the braches coming out look like antlers. Seriously. If you can't see it let me know and I'll be happy to provide a higher res image that proves it.

The flippant captaincy of this monstrous vehicle began with more reverence for the terrain than is seen here, I swear.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Negative Magnetism

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step according to Confucius but a journey of a thousand kilometres, I'm here to tell you, starts with one diligent early riser eschewing sleep and general bodily happiness in favour of sliding open a Hiace door and driving his camper off it's site. It continues then, in two hour shifts, for our diligent starter of long journeys (aka: me) of alternately driving and sleeping. It's a long old drive from Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay but one we were both happy to sacrafice our comfort and safety to make. This apparent lack of concern for ourselves can be viewed as a result of a couple of factors but the only one that matters is that every place since and including Cairns seemed unreasonably quiet and joyless. Perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement and we're being misled by authors of a lonely planet guide that's too busy greasing it's pages with lies to keep the constant flow of backhanders coming in but Townsville had two or three clubs all of which we hit one night in search of fun to no avail. You can add to that list Magnetic Island and Airlie Beach (which was admittedly a little better but not by much) but Hervey Bay, a heretofore unreached bastion of livliness and debauchery, turns out on visitation to be a village favoured by retired people and sports two pubs worth visiting both of whom have a piece of wood that sinisterly resembled a closed door barring entry after 10pm. And who said the nightlife in Laos was unreasonable?

I will say this though, the Whitsunday Islands were lovely. We took a Catamaran out on rough seas to go Diving off Pearl Bay on the northern most island. The water was cold and the visibility wasn't great but snorkelling on the beach was really surprising; the proliferation of fish was actually jarring, right around your feet there are parrot fish the size of watermelons happily munching into coral unperturbed by your gallumphing legs coming down around them. And the beaches in the Whitsunday national park are perhaps the most beautiful we've seen so far. Stingrays come right up to the dying of the waves (don't mention the war, Steve Irwin's zoo is only two hours down the road; next on the list!) and the beach seems to die away in so shallow an angle that before it's two feet deep it's rising on the shore of the next island. Truly stunning and made all the more ethereal since I didn't bring my camera and you'll just have to take my awkward words for it.

And the captain of the ship, Joseph, from San Fernando in California looked really like Dustin Hoffman, overweight and with a beanie cap and a goatee. Really funny guy who openly chastised his new and only crew member in front of us. He worked him like a dog and laughed as the boat rocked twenty feet up a wave, insisting conditions were not that dissimilar from a swimming pool and continued as such as his long suffering colleague puked overboard behind him. A real character with the real character hallmark: he was probably a total bastard. Don't believe that's a good enough measure? See Basil Fawlty.

The most Magnetic of islands, Magnetic Island.

An actual, if you can believe this, Koala bear. Apparently they get stoned from eating Eucalyptus leaves. This one was wading in up to his neck. I'd say he was trolleyed by the time we arrived: he took no notice of us.

The view west from (almost) the tip top of Magnetic Island.

The soonafter sunset at same (almost) tip top. Note: I did get a little worried that walking a two hour trail back in the dark through not just snake infested forests but 'Death Adder' infested forests. (I know, I thought he was just the bad guy from Golden Axe, but he did get his name from somewhere. I think that fact alone made an already dangerous sounding name sound dangerous-er)

The Grand Tour of Chez Paul and Adam.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tease and Seize; A Moving Bedsit; Once more into the drink, dear friends

An arty shot taken through a hail of bubbles only feet above the greatest of barrier reeves.

So we did it: organisational hump cleared with no faults and through to the next round. There was always going to be a bit to achieve in this town:

Find a place to stay that would neither break the bank nor put either of us in a room that had more than 2 beds and hence people.

Go diving on the great barrier reef.

Find a campervan to rent to take us down to Sydney that we didn’t perform intestinal somersaults of revulsion at the sight of.

And, of course, indulge in a reunion with my good friend the boy Derek and his missus Saranne.

Cairns turned out to be, now that I’m fit to say my piece about it, writing as I am, on my shiny new 9 inch laptop in the back of the above foreshadowed camper, a serviceable port of entry but somehow a little like listowel during the races. Forgive me those of you lucky people who don’t know what I mean by that: what I’m trying to say is it all seemed a little 18th birthday party on the streets. An 18th birthday party where a couple of older cousins and uncles turned up, the ones who weren’t invited because they tend to remove the garment that covers their nethers when drunk or start/threaten to start fights. It may not be all that bad in reality, we didn’t get the full perspective that a resident of the town might but that we didn’t want to was enough for us.

Anyway yesterday, on quite choppy seas we took a large and luxurious boat to the large and equally (from a diver’s point of view - and we are them now, okay?) luxurious reef known to the world as the Great Barrier. Actually on our connecting flight from Brisbane to Cairns we could see said reef from the plane such is it’s scope. It looks from the sky like green patches of water, inviting enough but from a well equipped diving boat it looks like a water slide during a heat wave. One wants to be in it, so to speak. And in it we were as succeeding photographic evidence will attest.

Having made a couple of calls and sent a few emails we found a vehicle that could sleep us both in a non together fashion. As it stands we have double bunk beds in the van at night time which is nicely in line with our penchant for comfort. I was told on the way to collect said vehicle by Adam that we ought to review the T’s and C’s before committing. Unaccustomed as I am to the 5th Dan level ways of the force in matters Management Speak I didn’t know this was a short hand for Terms and Conditions. Imagine my disappointment when I found out there was no Tease and Seize to be reviewed. Sounded like a spicy little pursuit altogether. Ah Well.

So campervan arranged we stocked up the vehicle with a moveable feast from the Dunnes down under and so it was with a full up fridge that mere hours after waking on our last day in Cairns (annoyingly over pronounced by the locals (Caaaaaannes) said he, with monumental impertinence) we were barrelling down the Bruce Highway towards Townsville. A spectacularly shit name for any town. Townsville. Towntown. Villageville. Placeplace. Give me a break.

Addendum: The opening to the above was written on the road towards Townsville. This is a note from the future, now on Magnetic island: If only the worst thing about that place was it’s name!

This dude was one of many and wasn't as scary as he looks here, mind you I'm not one of the fish he was eyeing so it's easy talk.

There's something really weird and cool about seeing goldfish that aren't in a bowl. Mind you given the open ocean available to them they might as well have been, this little mushroom of coral was pretty much the only place they'd go.

In a vulgar display of power I became upside down for a photo.

However my natural distate for having my picture taken quickly took over.

And the content of subsequent photos deteriorated in quality.

As you can see.

Friday, August 15, 2008

To the Gizzard of Oz via Chinese New York

Hong Kong: the city so good that naming it twice would just cheapen the whole affair.

So maybe in we did Viet Nam a little fast. It's what happens, you're on the road for a number of weeks and you stay too long in the first place you visit (Thailand in our case) and you find out the clock, as has become it's habit, kept ticking. So we gave ourselves an extra week which meant we stopped in Saigon, Na Thrang, Hoi An then flew to Hanoi only to catch another flight to Hong Kong which was, before we arrived just a hub to get to where we are right now (Cairns, Austrailia), and is in fact the most fun city in South East Asia. It's so developed that it's almost unfair to consider it as a contender amongst the rest and so expensive that it's probably immoral to recommend a trip there to backpackers who actually look at the bill for things before they pay but whatever.

It's weird I suppose that from Bangkok to Hong Kong, the first leg or our trip, it seems the further east you go the more west things get. And HK is definitely the clincher. We stayed, after some cursory research in a swanky hotel in an area that was allegedly (and after real-life experience confirmed to be) kicking.

Lan Kwai Fong. It's near Soho and close to the financial district and is made of skyscrapers, taxis and streets called Gloucester and Aberdeen and is positioned against a cloudy tipped mountain overlooking one of the largest ports in the world. I can't tell you (and am under too much pressure for time to indulge in the poetic hunt for the sort of metaphors and synonyms that look good together) how nice it was to drive around those streets in a clean taxi with a driver who spoke fluent english and agreed to, and subsequently (this is the important bit) actually succeeded in, taking us to our hotel with no fuss. And then we get there and have our bags brought to a lovely and quaint (read: miniscule) but well appointed and ultimately luxurious hotel room on the 27th Floor. (See below for the view from the room.)

The twin beds were close together (almost in such a proximity that one might mistake them at a certain angle for one large king size) which would have made for interesting dissection of how we both entered them: (seperately I would like to make clear) with groans of rapacious pleasure. You see, the sheets were clean, the blankets had that lank heaviness that good ones do, the air was conditioned enough to make them necessary and the shower, Oh the shower, I have never been so gently and pleasurably beaten into awareness of how wonderful western civilisation can be as I was during the oppulent pummeling I was given under that shower head.

Note: I am aware of the giggling misinterpretation that is wide open within the above but was so moved by the experience that it's a price I'm happy to pay.

Anyway not to descend into a Keatsian lament just take my many words for it, amazing experience and all as it was in South East Asia, realised in the first couple of hours: I am a westerner to the core.

Even in Viet Nam you can't really get a drink late, though we made a good attempt after a dingy little club in Hanoi left us down, in a place called Hair of the Dog. Herein at 2am we were ushered beyond a shuttered shopfront only at 3am to be reversely compelled by a band of Vietnamese police (whose uniforms I made a point of complimenting as I drunkenly and brazenly shook their hands) who departed not ten minutes later as we transparently waited on the streets outside only to repeat our previous clandestine entrance. That notwithstanding, you usually can't stay out late in any of the countries we visited except Thailand, and certainly not in places that are pumping. But Hong Kong does not sleep. Really, anytime day or night, forget it, it's awake. The first of our two nights saw us scramble back to the hotel in broad daylight. The second was not much different. Too much happened to delve into specifics but there were and are plenty to savour over the coming days. There were some excellent restaurants (one that professed on it's menu to have been considered as one of the best in the world) and some really nice clubs but to be honest some of the things I enjoyed the most about the place were things you could enjoy at home. The same could be said of Adam who, to his credit, did submit to my reply to his (only half joking) suggestion that we eat in McDonalds since there were plenty: "With only two nights in Hong Kong? Fuck that," and savoured all the more our last day's pilgrimage to the long lost Big Mac before our flight to the land down under.

The above promised and here delivered view (there is a video but it would take longer to upload on this connection that it would to raise a couple of children) from our Lan Kwai Fong Hotel's glorious window. (Un-openable it was too: Lest the tourist find this city too beautiful to endure and the business traveller find himself too endurable to see the beauty and both be impelled to leap into it's breast.)

The man himself locked in a lover's embrace with his long lost sweetheart.