Saturday, April 14, 2012

Playing to the Audience

I know the US has a state that is thought of like some Australians think of Queensland. I can't think which one it is though. If you whack the sophistication meter on Queensland, progress had been made, and in the way other Australians, especially those flashy Sydneysiders and those snooty Melburnians, feel about our northern state. Queensland was becoming a not half decent place with some quite progressive policies and some decent stimulation of cultural institutions.

But once again, good works are in danger of being spoilt by politicians playing to the masses.

Let us start with Bob Katter and his homophobic electioneering. Because of, or in spite of that, he was quite successful in the recent state elections. Queensland is the only place in Australia where I have seen overt homophobia, that is the stoning of a house used for accommodation for workers at a gay resort near Cairns. Not only stoning, but continual harassment night after night. We witnessed some of the harassment.

One of the first acts of the new Premier of the state was to abolish the Premier's Literary Award to save a mere couple of hundred thousand dollars. Nicely played to anti intellectual and anti education arts mockers whose lips probably move as they read. The rest of Australia just laughs sadly at the pure symbolism.

Here is the latest. Most civilised people know that very successful cities have very good public transport systems. The people of many cities are crying out for the governments to invest in public transport, especially if it runs on rails. We want more trains, more trams and more light rail. Where such new projects have been funded and built, they usually turn out to be more successful than they were planned to be, that often bringing its own problems. I can think of the renovation and extension of Adelaide's sole tram line and the often cited Mandurah railway line in Western Australia.

But not so for the Gold Coast in Queensland. While the Gold Coast Light Rail is well on the way to being built, with the change of government, the locals are strongly agitating to have what work has already been done ripped up and the project dropped. Some cities would give their souls to get something like this built. Perhaps it is a vocal minority, you may think? Maybe, but 450 turned out to a public meeting, mostly to support the abandonment. Their main and soundest argument is that the sky will fall in.

Of course the above all relies on generalisations, which is quite unfair to those Queenslanders who are embarrassed by these sort of things. Naturally the politicians don't particularly care about the perceptions of outsiders, unless it costs them votes.

The battle of the phones

In earlier days it was Nokia and the rest. I have never had a Nokia but I am sure they were popular for good reasons. I never thought that they were a very attractive phone. The teens and twenties seemed to love them. A couple of models ago I broke my faith with Ericsson, later Sony Ericsson, now just Sony, and embraced Samsung. I am not surprised to hear that Samsung has now overtaken the previously unassailable Nokia in sales. I was a bit puzzled when I read about the statistics as there was no mention of Iphones, which seems to me to have replaced the long time favourite of the kiddies, the Nokia.

There is no doubt about it though, Nokia has always had a very distinctive ring tone. Is there a little desperation in this Nokia promotion?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Tram Works

While we weren't home a lot over easter, we spent a  lot of time on the balcony watching the tram works below with the fascination of a child. It was marvellous orchestration of workers knowing the jobs well and working with others who's expertise was in another area. It was so well co-ordinated, it was like watching a fine machine work.

The preparation started the week before and in the early hours of Friday, we were trapped on the western side of St Kilda Road by fencing. 

Seven o'clock the concrete breakers started. They worked in pairs spaced less than one hundred metres apart.

Long lengths of track had already been welded into even longer lengths and in the early hours of Friday morning they had been partly assembled ready to slide into position.

Noisy? You betcha, horrendously so, but by 4pm they had finished concrete breaking near the highrise.

The broken up concrete went into trucks. I wasn't home, but R said the line up stretched even longer at one point. 

Once the concrete was removed, the remaining base was smoothed and compressed.

 Darkness did not stop the work. Floodlights were set up where necessary.

Saturday morning we awoke to find the tracks had been dragged into position.

Then some base material arrived and was dumped by trucks.

More trucks lined up to dump more base. A welder is grinding a weld smooth with a spectacular display of sparks.

On Saturday night the base is spread and rolled.

The kept working all Saturday night.

Sunday morning we awoke to find the base was nice and smooth and where cars cross the track, rough concrete had been poured.

Over the concrete, a layer of asphalt was spread, by the machine with a blade to spread. Where concrete wasn't placed, there were two layers of asphalt spread, but by a trailer behind a truck that spread and smoothed and rolled the asphalt.


The concrete has been asphalted over and there is another layer of asphalt to still lay. A road sweeper has been cleaning away dirt and debris non stop

By Tuesday morning the second layer of asphalt has gone down, road marking done, road loops cut, cats eyes placed and the intersection is open for cross traffic and pedestrians.

Supporting overhead cross wires were strung before the works started. Now new wires are being attached to the cross wires.

I did not take a photo when it was absolutely finished. The road opened and the trams started running on Thursday. While our part seemed to be finished quite early, perhaps to get the road crossing open, work continued elsewhere until the dead line.

I awoke Thursday morning listening for the rumble of trams passing but there was nothing. How do I know the world is right before I get up if I can't hear the trams running? Even when on the balcony, they glide past silently. They don't crash around the curve anymore nor bang their way over broken track joins.

Passengers may or may not notice the smoother and quieter ride but it is probably a case of noticing things when they are wrong, not when they are right. Generally they would have no idea of the huge logistical exercise that happened over the six days or the preparation in the week before. We witnessed something that we may never see again, assuming they did a good job, unlike when it was last relayed in about 1995 by the Kennett government seemingly 'on the cheap'.

The works must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Buses replaced the trams for the duration and we used them a couple of times and even that seemed to work well. Absolutely ten out of ten to all involved.

Official Yarra Trams photos can be found here.

Ninety in Auckland

Auckland Zoo is turning ninety. Whatever your thoughts are about zoos, it certainly has a fine collection of animals.

Take a look at Timespanner's fantastic photos taken when on a trip to the zoo. Here is a sample. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tube Key Ring

I was thinking of buying a London Tube keyring. They are about £6. While browsing around looking at Tube merchandise, I came across this Tube item for sale. I think they are for women.

Hanoi Hannah

A new restaurant called Hanoi Hannah has opened on the Windsor side of High Street. It is owned by the brother of a friend's workmate. We thought we would give it a try and so six of us arrived and the place was full, the music loud and the customers young and trendy. It was so not us at all. We went around the corner into Chapel Street and dined at the fine Gurkha restaurant.

But where did the name Hanoi Hannah come from? I had not heard of her. I did not do extensive research in a library. I just typed the name into the large internet search engine.

Before the Vietnam war Hanoi Hannah was an English language newsreader in North Vietnam. During the war she broadcast propaganda and disinformation for Radio Hanoi in English aimed at the American soldiers in the south.

American GIs don't fight this unjust immoral and illegal war of Johnson's. Get out of Vietnam now and alive. This is the voice of Vietnam Broadcasting from Hanoi, capitol of the Democratic republic of Vietnam. Our program for American GIs can be heard at 1630 hours. Now here's Connie Francis singing "I almost lost my mind". (Hanoi Hannah, 12 August 1967).  

I believe Hanoi Hannah is still alive and long retired. Hey, she wasn't half right with her warning to GIs. They would have done well to get out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Diary

Friday, worked. Stir fry for dinner.

Saturday, morning breakfast in Prahran, food shopping. Arvo, see movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Kino Cinema. Very pleasant albeit unsurprising movie. (And how will you celebrate your twenty fifth wedding anniversary? With a minutes silence.) Evening, dinner at Indian place in East Malvern with friends and then back to friend's place in Caulfield for coffee.

Sunday, take Mother for a drive. Steak and salad for dinner.

Monday, morning just chill. Go out for a walk to see tram works at ground level. Noon, hurricane Sister arrives. Take Little Jo to Science Works for the third time, while Sister is at the football, seeing her team beaten by two points. Dinner for Sister and Little Jo, pies from Erica bakery, chips, broccoli, carrots and peas. Science Works was packed with kiddies learnin' science. Took Sister's car with the child seat as public transport was just too disrupted. Sister departs in time for us to watch ABC news. Night, argue with R over our wills that are so out of date and need updating. No storming off to bed with door slamming.

Tuesday work while R luxuriates in  his own company.

Life is good.

A Sunday drive in the country

We told Mother we would pick her up at 11 for her Sunday drive. We were a little late as we had left her and ABI Brother's easter eggs at home. Along the way we saw an open chocolate shop with 20% off all easter products, so we stopped and bought a couple of chocolate products to replace what we left at home.

For once Mother was ready and we did not have to watch her putting her panty hose on in the lounge room. We were heading to the small township of Erica, planning to have some lunch there, probably from the local bakery. Mother did not think that food would suit her and she could not withstand hunger for another thirty minutes until we reached Erica, so when we arrived at Moe she had decided our lunch should come from this classy cafe below.

Next door is Gippsland Heritage Park but it was closed. It looked like it could do with a bit of a makeover.

The entrance to Moe from the freeway is quite pretty with a mix of exotic and native trees lining the roadway. Having grown up in the area, I was astonished at the changes. Yarragon was unrecognisable. Mother said it was now like Toorak Village and I could see her point. The rotunda appeared to be in use for a choral performance and there were cars everywhere. I once worked in Trafalgar (saying the name backwards used to amuse us kids) and apart from a few landmark buildings, it too has much changed.

From Warragul the railway line runs parallel to the freeway and I point out to R and Mother the concrete blocks that were the foundations for the stanchions that held the overhead electric wires. The train line was converted to diesel from electric many years ago. What a great idea that was.The photo is looking across the train line towards our destination.

Before we left Moe, I switched on Grindr on my phone, a gay hook up phone app. No surprises that a there were a few local gays online looking for love and looking for fun if they can't find love. The surprise was to come later.

We then drove through the centre of Moe and out onto the Walhalla Road, Walhalla being a bit further on than Erica. It took half the journey time for me to get up to speed, so to speak, with winding single lane country road driving. I didn't quite have a queue of cars behind me but I was aware I was driving more slowly than the locals prefer. We passed through heavy bushland, sometimes opening up to farms and then around a corner and we were suddenly in the township of Erica.

This is looking south to the hotel from where we were parked at the bakery. The huge oak tree was magnificent but just out of the photo the side of the tree has been pruned to a vertical plane, clear of electric wires. 

Unlike many towns in the west of Victoria, Erica had a progressive and prosperous feel to it. It is anything but a dying town. I can't see it expanding without an induced population injection, but what is there works well. Dominant are the local bakery/shop/cafe/post office/newsagent and the hotel. There is also a CFA fire station, a primary school, a ski hire business and a restaurant. I only recently learnt that there is a new reoad to Mount Baw Baw, via Erica. I think it is called the South Face Road. Possibly it is something to do with the Thomson Weir. While there were only two diners for lunch in the restaurant, the bakery was going flat out. R and I shared a pie from the bakery and Mother had a toasted hot cross bun, washed down with tea and coffee. The pie was made on the premises and was very good. We bought four cold pies to take home for dinner the next night with Sister and Little Jo and a loaf of in house baked bread. I like to buy local newspapers to read later and get a feel for a town, so I bought the Latrobe Valley Express and the locally produced Thomson Times. The steady flow of customers in and out of the bakery never stopped.

Looking north towards Mount Erica.

Petunias were still blooming even though it is late in the season for them.

While waiting for R and Mother, I switched Grindr on again. Wow, a not unattractive lad a mere 200 metres away and quite a number less than two kilometres. We are in a hotbed of gays. What is this, I just discovered on the internet, Gay May Day in Walhalla.

Mein Gott, I looked at the Facebook link and there is Sis in Law's ex bro in law. We first met him some twenty years ago when he was the brother in law and R and I later compared notes about this guy making us feel uncomfortable by staring at us. He and Sis in Law's sister separated some time later and then we saw the ex at a gay venue and it all fell into place.

We left Erica but instead of returning via Moe, we turned right at a junction and travelled along the road to Willow Grove and rejoined the freeway at Trafalgar. The views of the rolling hills and mountains were magnificent.We stopped off to buy Subway for Mother's dinner and after dropping her home we arrived home at six, just in time for a glass of wine in front of the tv news.

While the day was long and there was a lot of driving, it was a very nice day. As R said, Mother was in good form and not moaning on.  I thought I would have a lot of feelings of familiarity for this part of Gippsland where I grew up, but it has all changed so much. I recognised individual things, but their context had changed so much. That was perhaps a little disappointing. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waste of Space

It is almost ten years since we moved to the High Rise from our small two bedroom timber Victorian working person's house in Balaclava. I find this so hard to believe and it is longer than we have lived anywhere. Subsequently to moving, we have looked at other high rise apartments and we have never been very impressed.

In these times where property developers like to extract every dollar our of every centimetre of space, our building is an anachronism. Yet, it is a reason, apart from the views, that I agreed to high rise living. The anachronism is that our building has wasted space and rather a lot of it in public areas. That for a start is almost unimaginable now. You step out of the lift at each floor to be confronted by a large open area with two short and wide passage ways to get to apartments at the rear, not a rabbit warren of a narrow corridors.

The mail room, with 130 mail boxes, is twice the size it needs to be. Within there is also a rubbish bin, a notice board and an occasional table where local newspapers are placed. A door leads to the basement, another to a public toilet for building staff and tradies and another to the ground level carpark.

The entrance foyer is more than double the size it needs to be. There is seating for five people, and it gets used. The manager and guard desk is also there but still it is a large space.

So you do get the picture that there are large open spaces within our building and that it is quite unusual in modern high rise apartments.

The luxury of having all this wasted space is surely akin to the mythical quarter acre block where Australian houses were built until perhaps the eighties. Space is officially precious now and none must be wasted.

As for kids not having large enough back yards to play a game of cricket in, well, I think now the space would only be very occasionally used for running around and games.  The kids are perhaps more likely to be inside developing their thumb muscles and their critical assessments of commercial tv.

Sheila gone

I don't know much about Sheila Scotta who died on good Friday. I know she was editor of Australian Vogue magazine and she only wore black and white. I think this is a marvellous photo of her and a gentleman taken while they were both probably waiting for the number 1 tram to Albert Park where she lived.
Photo from The Age.

Monday, April 09, 2012

'Dem and Us

As inward looking and self focused as Mother is, Step Mother is much more outward looking and prepared to learn, although she is inclined to take as gospel what she is told by people she respects. She was marginally brought up as a catholic, so perhaps that explains that. 'Christ was jewish', she once stated. Over the years I have heard the same from more authoritative sources, so I suppose he was, not that it really means much to me.

But don't the jewish celebrate easter but by a different name?

The commonalities between christianity, judaism and islam are amazing. I can't understand why they all don't get together to fight against the buddhists, hindus and agnostics who they have so little in common with.

But then there are born again christians. They are truly weird and should be sidelined in society.

Born agains are a real danger to our society as we know it. Our world religions might be wrong, but born again christian is not the way to go.

Word Press

I have been having trouble commenting on blogs that use Word Press. Word Press is a bit like Firefox. It is superior, as we  Windows people know Apple is superior. I must say Word Press is tempting from what I see, but for now, I will stick to Blogger.

The problem is that when I went to comment on a Word Press blog, I would get a message that I was already logged in with a different account. I don't recall ever doing anything with Word Press, but it seems like I have an account there, which may be true. I just changed the email address in the comment form  and it was fine. It would be ok to leave it like that but it is an email address I check about once a month and sometimes I think Word Press blogs send emails automatically and they will go to this rarely used account.

I really must investigate properly, manana, manana.

Prahran Arcade

Jokingly we used to call Chapel Street, or Chaple Street as electronic road sign programmers know it, Chapelli Street, because of the large number of Greek and Italian immigrants who settled there when property prices were much cheaper. There are still a number of them; remaining residents of where they know and have become old, while their now grown up children have moved on to balustraded boxes in Bulleen.

Chapelli Street had shops that were cheap to rent, and it was a service street, with outside visitors perhaps only coming to visit Maples large store, the large Coles Variety Store and Moore's Corner Store. Now it is very popular with the young and the trendy and prices reflect this. Even the Windsor end of Chapel Street has become popular with the young and the young at heart. Still, it is our local street, with our local shops. We visit our comfortable old shoe often, but not for clothes shopping.

It has some fine buildings and a fairly intact streetscape, with only a few horrors barely punctuating the sky. You won't see much at ground level, but if you look up, it can be quite glorious.

I know nothing about this building, but in its current state or when it is eventually repainted, it pleases my eyes.

This one at 282 Chapel Street I do know a little about. It is well worth clicking the photo just to see the eagles.

Its principal tenant is now JB Hi Fi, but I remember it better as Dan Murphy's liquor store. It had a wide central arcade leading to the rear of the shop with galleries either side. It has been known as Prahran Arcade and The Centreway. As you can see below, the roof has been significantly altered but otherwise it is quite intact.

It was built for a Mrs Elizabeth Delany and opened in 1890 with a grand banquet. Within it were a hotel, Turkish baths, a bakery, billiard rooms and a restaurant among thirty or so shops. Just over a year later it was sold to finance agency. Tenants over the years have included estate agents, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Theosophical Society, an oyster saloon, Independent Workers Union and  an art school.

Up until recently at least, some of the upper floor rooms were artists' studios and there was often an amusing display constructed on the first floor balcony. I can remember some large stuffed and fibreglass animals and at another time a display using mannequins. I have a feeling that these artists' studios were occupied for a very long time but I can't remember the detail now. An artist well known by me, the brilliant but late Howard Arkley was one such artist who had a studio there.

A permit was for installation of bars and restaurants on the first floor was granted in 2009 but it has lapsed. For what it is worth, it is National Trust listed and on the Victorian Heritage Register.

So go and take a look at it from the opposite side of Chapel Street and inside, gaze up in wonder at its history.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Rupe is disgraceful in Australia too

Star or Star City is Sydney's casino. It is, or was, even more ghastly than our Melbourne's Crown. It is some time since I have been to Star.

Fairfax Press, publishers of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have reported this online and maybe in hard copy. While I knew The Australian was a right wing newspaper, it is well worth a read at times. I am gobsmacked that Rupert 'trust me' Murdoch's flagship national Australian newspaper would so blatantly do this.

On March 2, after weeks of negative stories about the casino in other media, The Australian splashed a report on its front page purporting to tell the ''real'' story of what was going on at the Star.
The paper did not disclose that its leak was secretly sanctioned by the casino's owner, Echo Entertainment, as a strategy to counter damaging stories being run by other media outlets to whom disgruntled Star employees were complaining about the casino's management.

An Outing

I can't believe it was two years ago when we went to explore the wilds of Hampton on an easter Sunday.  I was amused by people going to the supermarket, only to find it was closed. The cheek of the staff for not working on easter Sunday. Fortunately our laws stop large shops trading on a few days a year, christmas day, good Friday and easter Sunday. No doubt there is lobbying happening to allow them to open on these days, and when that is successful, then will come the lobbying to get rid of penalty rates for already poorly paid workers. Hmmm, they are open.

This year we are going to the wilds of Gippsland on easter Sunday. Now that really is a bit wild. While we were going to visit Sister on the Bellarine Peninsula, Mother did her dying swan routine. I'll be so lonely over easter. Could you possibly take me out for a drive? She told R this as she knows she can get to me by getting him onside. He is more sympathetic. Mother's children are a bit more hard nosed about her. So, no visit to the Bellarine.

Never mind, we will be looking after Little Jo on Monday when Sister goes to the footy and again Wednesday night when Sister and Bone Doctor go to see Hannah Wants a Wife.