Saturday, November 10, 2012

Crossing two rivers Pt 2

What do we have here? It was a cotton mill. Now it is a mix of residential apartments and offices for small business. There is a good photo here. I've just had a light flash. We once went to a warehouse dance party somewhere near the river in about this location. I just discovered the Cotton Mills used be called Global Village and dance parties were held there. It must be the same place. Something has prevented me having a strong memory of the night. No, it wasn't there. The party we went to was in what is now the Lonely Planet building and Marcia Hines performed. As someone just told me, there was no proper dance floor, only concrete and everyone left quite unaware they were covered in concrete dust.

It just goes to show we don't need massive developments and the destruction of perfectly good buildings to increase population density.  This development is close to the river, a city bus line and it is not too far to walk to the transport hub at Footscray.

It is just the most wonderful reuse of a large old building.

A lot of the historical aspects have been retained. I'm not sure if you can see in the photo but where the track for the swinging doors is still in place.

I have been inside one of the apartments here. It was very nice, although as you imagine, hardly a standard apartment design. It was a cold and wet day and unsuitable for snapping, so that is why I returned. Some of the garages are parking spaces looked a little difficult to get into (snort).

You've got to keep an eye on Ivy. Turn your back and she'll be out of control before you know it. (note: It is probably Virginia Creeper, but I had already written such a clever line)

And so I depart Docklands Cotton Mills. There are buildings like this all over Melbourne and there is absolutely no need to demolish them when they are structurally sound and can be adapted to a new use.

I walked around this small building and there was no evidence of its use. It has a physical connection across the footpath to a much larger building. Could it be or was an electric substation?

As usual, the catholic church is very grand, even in what was a quite poor suburb. I suppose the equally grand house was for the use of the priest.

I headed to the station to get the train back to town. By now the wind was howling and it was quite warm. I was getting hot and bothered. This part of Footscray, near the market, was dirty and depressing, including what the awful looking modern construction to connect station platforms. I assume the works are about the Regional Rail Link. Maybe the area will be smartened up once the works are completed. I think there are about six Hitachi trains running on our rails, and I saw three in as many days, including one down below departing Footscray Station. I must try to ride one before they disappear. Police were patrolling the station, which is good to see, although you would hope there wasn't the need.The platform information indicator did not match what the timetable on the wall said about the next train. The timetable was correct.

I think these are the last of the photos taken with my old camera.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Shazam and Kapow

I downloaded an app to my phone called Shazam. You switch the app on and hold your phone up to a speaker playing music and the app identifies the song and the artist. I tried in on lots of different music that I have stored on my computer and it worked perfectly, even identifying an obscure Noel Coward song and Puccini's Madama Butterfly (you know the song, the one that makes you cry), except it must have been sung in Italian, who would have thought, and so it gave me the answer in Italian.

Maybe one day I will actually use it as intended when I hear a song I like. Weeks have passed and I haven't yet.

I proudly boasted of the brilliance of the app to R, who shook his head and muttered, 'too much time on your hands'. Grumpy old luddite.

Australia's got talent

I normally give you a short and pithy You Tube video on Fridays. I know some of you have a similar attention span to my own. But not today. It is ten minutes long and you will just have to trust me that it is worth your while. Tim Minchin is very clever. This was recently broadcast on our ABC's most brilliant Science Show and moi, who has a very short attention span and low boredom threshold, had to listen to it a second time, just to make sure it is as clever as I first thought. Of course what Tim says rather matches my beliefs. I have no truck with supernatural nonsense, nor homoeopathy. I do confess to not walking under ladders, as I don't want anything dropped on me. I suggest the belief should be updated to protective scaffold, as twice I have had stuff fall on me, once in Bentleigh and once in Prahran.

Be warned, there is a little swearing in this, but compared to some of Minchin's output, it is not too bad.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Rice Crop

By the way the woman carefully tends these plants, I suspect they are rice plants. Now about one third to one half of the residents in our building our ethnically Asian, so you can make a natural assumption about who would be growing rice on their balcony.

And you would be wrong. She is not the least bit Asian.

I hope she is obeying body corporate rule number ??? "Balcony plants must be of good appearance and in suitable decorative containers. When watering, water must not be allowed to drip down onto another resident's balcony."

A nick down there

I am absolutely appalled to hear how wide spread female circumcision is in Australia with something like 120,000 Australian women(not necessarily done here) who have undergone some sort of procedure that is surely meant to make them not function well sexually. I hope most have only undergone scratches and not the much worse. No one has the right to to abuse another person's body and remove part of it without permission.

Which brings me to less serious business of male circumcision. In a post many many years ago, I surprised males by being able to tell if they were circumcised by just knowing a little about them. If you combine ethnicity, religion and where they grew up, it is not hard. Well, not if they are of a certain age. Things are a changin', and not before time.

I have noticed, in my limited experience of course, that Jewish and Muslim men seem to be circumcised very severely. Essentially, there is little loose skin at all. I am third generation Australian protestant white Anglo Saxon male, so of course I am cut, but not severely.

I understand the norm for people of my ilk born in the last couple of decades in Australia is not to be circumcised. Some detail of break downs would be an interesting read.

When I was young, I certainly preferred men who were cut. As time has gone on, I have learnt to appreciate the uncut style too.  I don't have a preference now. A cock is a cock is a cock.

But let me just say this. I care not for religion or reasons of culture, none of that will wash with me. No one has the right to decide to physically abuse another person's body, let alone take to it with a knife. If a male or a female wants to chop or cut bits of themselves when they reach maturity, so be it, but it is not for the parents or anyone else to decide about or to do before the person reaches the age of consent.

I will wear that male circumcision does little harm, but then I don't have the experience of what the alternative is like. I did know a guy who was circumcised by his own choice when he was in his early twenties. He regretted the loss of sensation and wished he had not done it. Circumcision may well have penile and other health benefits, and that is for a person to decide for themselves when their brain is developed enough to make such a decision.

Regardless anyone who removes part of a woman/girl, or is complicit in such removal, and so renders a woman unable to have full sexual function is evil and should be prosecuted to the extreme of the appropriate laws. This is not a grey area.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

That would be a tick

Citizens of Australia,

(insert pregnant pause)

I feel proud of you for your support of Barack Obama.


You have chosen well. Not one of you who I know did not support Obama and your faith was not misplaced.


The world will be a better will be a better place with Obama at the helm of arguably the world's most important country.

I thank you.

(thunderous applause)

As for you Americans who actually voted, well done you. It is preferable to have a party of the right in power than have a party of the far right in power. Nevertherless, Romney would have had to moderate his 'ordered' extreme policies and become more practical. But one thing for sure, he would have cut taxes on the rich, leaving the poorer to make up the difference or cut services to them.

Seriously, I am pleased Obama has been re-elected and he may be able to move the US socially forward in a few ways. But it seems he is still hamstrung by the US House of Reps.

Four years ago, who would have thought the US would elect a black president. Who would have thought they would elect him a second time. Who would have thought they would elect someone with the middle name Hussein.

Crossing two rivers Pt 1

I am on a bus on my way to Footscray. Look, the wheel is nearly fixed.

Beware! St Monica's catholic primary school has scarecrow protection.

No more do wharf labourers lug sacks around on their shoulders. Our ports are very highly mechanised and can move thousands of arriving plasma tvs an hour.

A little cutesy work at a roundabout. Is it Noddy's car?

Footscray is not very far from the city and unlike much of the eastern and south eastern suburbs, it has a good view of the city skyline.

A nice looking cafe with lots of Mums and toddlers.

Down on the banks of the Maribyrnong River was a a rear view of a very substantial property. Let me check. It may well be the rear of the Footscray Community Arts Centre and possibly the rear of the cafe above.

Damaged table top. It is nice to install such things, but there must always be a maintenance allowance.

There are many rotting wharf timbers along the river bank. The do add character.

Footscray Jetty with the Footscray Road/Napier Street bridge.

Under Footscray Road/Napier Street I walk, by way of a tunnel.

The much more substantial Footscray Wharfs. There were quite a number of fishermen(sic) trying their luck. The area was very industrial but now is partly residential.

Back a bit from here, the old train line could still be used but obviously now in this section, it is unusable. Where is it from and where does it go? Wait. It leaves the main Footscray train line just after the river crossing and then branches after Lyons Street and soon ends. Well, that took some time. One map I have has the line ending after Somerville Road where it is called Footscray Goods Line and I can trace it to there with photo maps. I suggest it was simply the Footscray Goods Line.

Later Edit: All you needed to know about the Maribyrnong River Line and more. Amazingly, it was still open until 2006. Thanks Marcus.

More soon, including the purpose of my visit to Footscray.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Bon Fire Night

England's bonfire night is the fifth of November. I suppose that was when we used to celebrate it here. It was quite an occasion for us. We sometimes called it cracker night. We had no idea what the night was about, or its history. It was purely a cultural habit.

(Fire) Crackers appeared at the local store for a limited time in advance for us to carefully peruse before buying. What a fine old time we had at bon fire cracker parties. The last one I remember was at our neighbours, the Hitchens. So many rockets, catherine wheels and penny bungers, that cost a good bit more than the equivalent of a penny. What about the Jumping Jacks, thrown at the feet of a girl of your desire. My parents had already separated, but Father stayed the night at the farm for the last time. The relatively new HR Holden supplied a heat source to light crackers, by the way of the working cigarette lighter. The bon fire was big and burnt strongly, radiating immense heat over anyone within a few metres.

Slightly odd that our strict Baptist neighbours welcomed the likes of us to their Bon Fire party, but they did. Slightly odd that the celebrated it at all. It just occurred to me why Mother and Mrs Hitchens were never really were friends. They were so worlds apart.

Then along came old misery Premier John Cain who banned fireworks. What a spoiler of fun he was.

No more cat anuses blown apart. No more children burnt by fireworks. No more mate's scorched balls. No more cats with Jumping Jacks tied to their tails, running into the bush in terror. No more dogs trembling in fright.

You just have to love the good old days when life was simpler and the pleasures so innocent.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dinge Queen

Dinge Queen was title I heard over a decade ago. I don't know if it derogatory or not. To me it is just descriptive. A Dinge Queen is a gay guy who likes black guys. While there is racism in Australia's gay scene, it is mostly directed against Asian guys, and in more recent years has been toned down a lot, so generally in a personal ad, you won't see 'no Asians', more likely 'white guy preferred' or a variation on such.

This exchange in online media is interesting to me as it is something I wasn't aware of. I suppose most of our views of America come via movies and television and it all seems like one big happy melting pot, with black people living and working side by side with white people and Asian Americans (what about native Americans?) You don't always see the real Australia in our films and television and I expect that goes for all countries.

Note the first sentence in the second last paragraph. There are white, Asian and Latins and then there are the others, the blacks. I haven't corrected any spelling etc. It as it was written.

I was out with my gay friends the other night, and i could not help notice the signs up at the gay clubs before you walk into the bars that said "No Baggy Pants" "No Corn Rows" "Not Hip-Hop Dress & Do-Rags" Then when we went out for a smoke, a white guy was called a Nasty Vile Dinge Queen, and told to GTFO of Westhollywood and take your brillo head with you!
It seems like black people are not wanted anyplace in the gay community. Is this just in Los Angeles or in most gay communities?
When i asked my white friends, they said it's the worst thing you could do, and make yourself un-datable. One guy even said it's like tattooing HIV/AIDS spreader on your forehead. 

A response:

As a gay man I can tell you it's all true! This has been going on since the 1990's. If you have sex with, date or are in a relationship with a black guy, you are viewed as a lowlife and rejected by all other racial groups across the board.

The sad fact is white latin or asian men who sleep with blacks are viewed as toxic and are no longer exceptable in bars, clubs and become socially revolting to non-blacks.
Racisim is very very real in the gay world. I also think this has alot to do with "down-low" black guys and fem acting black men and the large amount of black trannys.

White men who sleep with black guys are blamed for spreading HIV/AIDS to those who don't sleep with black men, thus putting them at greater risk. Also prop 8 support in the black community did not help matters. It has gotten so bad that black clubs for black men are on the increase, due to them being rejected in the mainstream clubs.

Later Edit: On matters gay and race, take a look at Rice Queen, Potato Queen.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A letter from northern Japan

I asked our friend in Japan to write a guest post and after mulling it over for a bit, she kindly obliged. Having visited where she lives, I can certainly vouch for the beauty of the area, but much of Japan once outside the cities is beautiful. The best that can be said about urban areas is that the parks are very nice. I hope you find our friend's contribution interesting. I certainly did. Thanks V. 

It's almost 9 years to the day since I left my native Melbourne and moved to Japan.  I originally intended to stay 1 year...yes, I like living here.  I don't live in Tokyo or some other large metropolis.   I live in a small, provincial city above the snow line.  It's very beautiful here – lots of mountains and forest, some stunning coastline and farms.  For an outdoor enthusiast like myself, it's perfect!  There are even monkeys, which I love. 

I can't say I enjoy winter here; it's just too snowy.  Before I came here, I had a very romantic view of snow and while it can be picture postcard gorgeous, the daily reality of living with snow is very different.  Most roads are ploughed by the local authorities but footpaths are the responsibility of residents.  It's not uncommon for people to spend several hours clearing snow from in front of their houses before work and then having to clear the path in front of their office/shop/clinic.  Luckily, I don't have to shovel as much snow as others but let me tell you, it's hard work!  Trying to go about your daily life trudging through a blizzard and snow piled high over your head is also hard work.  Every winter there are several deaths; mostly from people falling off roofs.  Many houses don't have insulation.  Despite ploughing, many roads are so narrow during the worst of winter that one car can barely fit through.   It can start snowing any time from now but doesn't usually stay on the ground  until mid-to-late December.  It generally stays until April or May.  However, it's not all bad.  I'm told the skiing here is marvellous and 'swan watching' is a great winter treat as huge flocks of swans arrive from Siberia every year in late Autumn to spend winter. 

Life in Japan is still dictated in many instances by the seasons.  Even in a bustling place like Tokyo, people still take the time to enjoy seasonal food, the Harvest Moon, Autumn colours, the first snowfall, the new Summer green leaves and of course, cherry blossoms.  Festivals are held throughout Japan to celebrate each season.  I have a much better appreciation of the life cycle here, which I think is nice.

Another thing I enjoy about living in Japan is the relative safety.  No matter what the time, I have never feared for my personal safety here.  Very young children can safely walk to and from school without parents being unduly concerned.   And they can play in parks or on the street without being hassled.  Of course, you can never be complacent but the rising violence I see happening in Australia and other places, hasn't happened here and I hope it never does.

The Japanese are deservedly famous for being polite and helpful.  I've had strangers walk with me to a place I needed to go just to make sure I didn't get lost – again.  Shop keepers have slipped in extra goodies as I paid for purchases.  Neighbours I don't usually speak to have left bags of apples at my door.  People will go out of their way to help each other.

Generally life here is comfortable and good but of course, it has its frustrations.  Not speaking the language well and not being able to read, makes communicating difficult, especially when dealing with bureaucracy.  Speaking of which, bureaucracy here is very frustrating.  Rules are not meant to be broken or even bent.  There is generally only one way to do something and if your situation doesn't quite fit the established protocol (as is often the case with foreigners) it can be hell trying to get things done.

It's not uncommon to be stared at.  I don't mind so much when young kids do it but I really dislike adults doing it.  I also don't like being asked to have my photo taken by a complete stranger just so they can show their friends they 'met' a foreigner.  After 9 years, I've also grown weary of having people practise their English on me.  As much as I love my job as an English teacher, I don't want to do it in my free time.  And my pet hate – it's assumed all Caucasian foreigners are American, Christian and native English speakers.

But generally these are minor frustrations.  If I didn't enjoy living here, I certainly wouldn't stay.  As an expat, I think it's important to embrace as much of the local culture as possible but it's also equally important to have a network of other expats who you can talk to to let off steam.  Being able to speak English at native speed and without having to think about what I'm saying is a blessed relief at times. 

Over the past 9 years, I've gained a better understanding of what it's like to move out of your comfort zone and live in a country that is culturally and linguistically different from your own.  It's something I think everyone should do if they have the opportunity.  It might just make us more tolerant.