Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Secret to Better Sex is in your Christmas Tree

The mark of the Christmas season can mean only one thing: that 2010 is at its zenith. How do you sum up an entire year in words, not just personally but in a generality? It’s one thing to say a year was ‘good’ or ‘great’, but it’s another in knowing what you are truly describing, the year as a whole or just the last few months of festivities? Don’t be bias. How have you grown personally - emotionally, physically, spiritually? Have you digressed at all, is there an area that needs improvement or repair? Are you proud of the person you are entering the new year as, or are you potentially marring it with hang ups before it has even begun? How has the world treated us as a species, was it with kindness and compassion, or has it shaken us with cruelty, testing our mortality? Most of all, have you truly dissected the year so that you are able to accurately determine the thoughts that will run through your head and the feelings that will course through your body during that final countdown next week?

While the developed world poured billions of dollars into a Haiti further set-back by an earthquake in January, the US poured gallons of the world’s precious Veblen-good, oil, into the Mexican sea. The comedy world suffered the loss of parody-king, Leslie Nelson, however, the political-world gained an asset (to us, anyway), Julian Assange, who has evidently shaken fear in the golden slippers of the world’s leaders, perhaps putting an end to corruption and political sneakiness. Only last month did the same hopes and prayers that managed to pull thirty-three men from a caved-in Chilean mine fail to save the twenty-nine lives that were lost in a New Zealand mine. While all of this was happening, the world soon realised that Obama, apart from becoming the first black US president and reciting a litany of long-speeches, hasn’t really done anything, especially on the forefront of the forgotten heroes of 9/11 (Got proven wrong on that one, however, Obama continues to forget those heroes, who have remained abandoned for nine Christmases now). Like any year, we suffered some great losses, but that’s the beauty of a new year. In this festive season, many of us, I trust, have had the inclination to spend generously on our loved ones, but, today, spare a thought for the Haitians, and at that, any other under-developed country-people; for those living near the shores of the Mexican sea; for the families all the families who have fallen short a loved one in the last twelve months; for the less-fortunate; and for anybody else who might not be celebrating Christmas the way they would like to today. The spared thought does not need to be met with anguish; it just needs to be a moment of appreciation for what we do have, and what allows us to celebrate the way that we please, after all, that’s what Christmas is for.

So – global issues aside – the question remains: who am I entering the new year as? I’ve thought long and hard about this year, even before we even came close enough to graze the festive season. It’s been a year of growing. I feel that the person that lived last year died this year. He was bored, blind and bitter, but it was a building experience. The new year helped me shed a layer of dead skin that I had been clutching onto for such a long time. I was already rid of a drawn-out rocky-relationship that was hurting both me and the person I was with; then this year’s milestone-virginity was penetrated when I left a job that I didn’t like, and thusly was not liked at; that resignation only lead me into a year occupied by a small-time job that I enjoy doing and a course with people that I relished being around; I only recently rediscovered a romantic-presence which took me years to realise I’d misplaced; toxicity was disposed of; lost friendships were rekindled; and a minute number of new ones were made, more so than before. Need I even say that it has been a fantastic year on my side of things? The same way that twelve months ago I said goodbye to a painful streak of bad times, it was a year where I essentially laid the first brick of a path to a newer version of myself, I will enter 2011 with the emotional-equipment needed to lay that last brick and hopefully celebrate perpetuated friendships and some form of flourishing relationship by this time, next year – fingers crossed.

The thing is this - an entire year cannot be equally channelled into a word or even a single sentence; I didn’t even get it in nine-hundred of those words. My point in writing this is that there are questions we must ask ourselves in a week’s time. Have we paid the proper, non-partisan respect to every up and every down when giving a sum-up of an entire year our very best shot? Have we considered everything from this year and learnt from it enough to take that first baby-step into the next? If those questions are difficult ones or you dislike the answer – and I assume this will be the case for some - the time is now to get your house in order – use this next week to take a step back and take a look at your own personal 2010 portrait; is it a pretty one? If it isn’t, well, I suggest some basic photo editing software…and quick. Have a very Merry Christmas, guys, and, more importantly, a happy and a cathartic New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Facebook & Cigarettes

Sewn into the lining of any successful smartphone on the market today is social-networking. If social-sites didn’t exist, smartphones would still be in those awkward Windows Mobile 2003 days, just with improved graphics. Kids, teenagers and adults today - we all walk around with these devices that have the ability to call, text, compose documents, organise us socially and financially, yet we have providers who simply market them as social-networking devices with some bonus features on the side, and we use them that way too. There was a time when if you found yourself on a street or at a busy train station and couldn't see someone with a cigarette in their hand, it would be high-time to try that luck with a lottery ticket or a dollar in a poker machine. Today, it would prove a difficult task for one of those same smokers to flick their cigarette into a passing train carriage and hit someone that isn’t visiting a social-networking site at that exact second. On that note, the more train carriages I walk onto and the more I see people on their work-breaks indulging in a smoke while reading about how some guy they haven’t seen in years had to go down to the store to get milk, the more I realise that online social-networking has become so addictive and so widely habitual that it is now the new-age cigarette.

From the previous paragraph alone, I'm sure that you've already surmised that I am a non-smoker to some degree. If we get down to specifics, I vigorously oppose cigarette-smoking. One of the many reasons I protest them so strongly is due to my view on dependency, to be more specific, my view on people bowing down to flakes of ash wrapped in little squares of paper. Once addiction dawns, you’ve backed yourself into an inconvenient corner; you sign yourself onto having to light up the moment you get up in the morning, having to make breaks at work just because you’re itching for a fix, and having no option but to make use of the outside areas of establishments that are more than happy to offer the inside areas to non-smokers; in other words, becoming a routine smoker, to me, sounds like a massive pain in the arse. Not only that, but it also forces your bank account into the minus with nothing but a cornucopia of health defects, bad lungs, bad breath and a displeasing body odour to show for it – well, this is how I am starting to feel about Facebook and any other social networking site.

I have never believed myself to have an addictive personality, not chemically anyway. In putting on my hypocrite-pants, the one and only thing I can admit having a mild addiction to is technology and the internet - I am a colossal geek when it comes to the social-networking and the gadgetry of this beautiful age that I was fortunate enough to grow up in. Evidently, like everybody else, I too had been taking massive drags of the Facebook-cigarette. Several months back, the mobile service which breathes connectivity into my own smartphone began to split the internet data usage into two categories: ‘Mobile Internet’ and ‘Social Internet’. Upon noticing how little precious bandwidth I had been spending on sites that can actually boost my intelligence, I realised that I had furthered a few steps on the hazy path to becoming just like a smoker. Before this epiphany, checking Facebook was like a reflex to me; I was on it while I ate breakfast, before work, on my break, immediately after work, at the train station, on the train, before class, after class, the ride home, and then when I got home...well, you get the picture. I was using my phone for Facebook so much, in fact, that, earlier this year, I had to upgrade my bandwidth allowance from two hundred and fifty megabytes to five hundred just to cater for my habit; it was getting pathetic. In a nutshell, like it would with a smoker, with the exception of the physical consequences, social networking was costing me money, it was costing me time and, essentially, it had become something that was hard to be without. So, in an effort to take a few steps back on that sad and wretched path that I had been strolling down like some moron, this last month, I self-imposed a ban on any social networking website that's not on an actual computer, which includes running to public internet cafes and class computers to get a fix and excludes posting status updates, simply because I use a separate program to do so. Admittedly, it hasn’t put a huge dent in my social-internet use, but it has certainly helped in making my time outside of the home much more productive, and in return makes me feel less like a tool in the public-eye.

It has only been these last five years that the internet has truly been able to jump from our computer screens and into our pockets. We have our Apple's, RIM's, Google's and Microsoft's contributing to the liberation of the internet, but with that said, is that same amnesty liberating us at all? It seems to be doing the opposite. With every second person having a smoke between their index and middle fingers, cigarettes are the cliché of any busy street, and now the Facebook logo is coming in at a close-second, almost like Mark Zuckerberg has us all under some sort of zombie-like psychosocial-hold. I bet you’re wondering where online social-networking can damage our health, well, with smoking has come cancer, and with the growing adoption of online social-networking will come a generation of attention-divided and socially-isolated people, who will then in turn pass such ridiculous social-values onto their offspring, that is, of course, assuming that Facebook has the ‘Procreate’ feature it will most certainly need by then. So, in getting to some sort of an ending, the success of social-networking brought the success of smartphones, and with that, these devices gave the addictiveness of sites like Facebook and Twitter more mobility, thus just adding another internet bill that needs paying and more time wasted outside of the home that needs to be made up for later on. So, finally, without condemning two things that I enjoy too much, social-networking and smartphones: have these two things joined forces only to become another thing that needs to be added to the bucket along with smoking and drugs? Is our society on its way to seeing a segregated group of Facebook-ers, the same way that we see smokers now? Because it would seem like our society has become one that is primarily filled with said smokers and Facebook-ers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Okay, scratch the blood part of that…and the tears…okay, there may be some tears, after all, it is Australia’s first month of summer this December and, to put it in harsh-terms, I loathe this season. It’s a bias of my mine, but of course, does not come without warrant. Not only is my part of Sydney notorious for being the hottest over other parts, but it is hardly within distance of even a healthy patch of sand. So even though some like to glorify it by calling it ‘beach-season’, I personally prefer to stick to more realistic terms like ‘sticky’, ‘humid’ and…‘hell’.

One of my main arguments for my unfavourable view on summer, aside from my distance from the beach, is that in the hot weather, controlling temperature is a significantly bigger challenge than in the icier season. I personally love winter, and I think that it sucks that I have never spent a Christmas with snow on my window seal, it’s certainly one of those things that sit on my metaphorical ‘Things to do before I die’ list; Christmas in winter. The thing I enjoy most about winter is having the ability to simply pile on clothing and be warm, even when it’s cold. I can’t put into words the euphoria that comes when unpacking my woollen cut-off gloves, scarves, ugg boots, thermal socks, heater and even just wearing jackets that I haven’t worn since the previous year. Here’s the thing - I get why some prefer summer; winter is cold, our fingers and toes suffer, people are sneezing and coughing influenza back and forth like a tennis match, but it could be five degrees Celsius outside and all you need to do is put on a couple of layers and incorporate some vitamin c into your diet, and you’re golden. The situation differs in summer. In the hot weather, you could keep stripping off clothes and you will still be hot; hell, you could get butt-naked, which would be hot (pun intended), and, aside from the fact that you are now most probably sitting in a gaol cell, nothing would have changed!

Just for some helpful-imagery, here’s what a typical summer day is here in Western Sydney: it’s about ten days at a beach that is at least forty-minutes away, but when reality intrudes we realise that the one hundred other days of blood-bubbling-temperatures are spent estivating in our homes, worshipping the air-conditioner, working in the heat, virtually getting cooked walking to the mail-box, being grinded by smelly, perspiring men on the train, swimming in dirty public-swimming pools, seeing me with my sexy abs out (say what!), having a 7-Eleven mirage in the middle of a suburban street, having your face gang-raped by flies, not to mention, the food that you’re about take a bite of, having your blood thieved at by disease-ridden mosquitoes after you've finally gotten to sleep after many hours of flipping your pillow over and trying to figure out in your head if there is even a point to a lone bed sheet; it’s essentially having the realisation that it’s…it’s just hot and you don’t like it! Apart from that handful of fun days spent pretending that you have enough money to be a northern Sydney-sider, catching waves and relaxing on the sand, summer just isn't exactly my cup of iced-tea.

So let’s review: In winter, with a mandarin a day and some practical attire, it can be a joy. In summer, with an air-conditioned car…wait, I don’t drive, let me try that again; with a portable air-conditioner…wait, no, they don’t exist; with a whole three months spent inside in the the air-conditioning…oh, wait, that’s right, I have class and a job, one last time; with a…well, hmm…I’d hate to be the bearer of bad news, but does it seem like hot weather is just something that has no practical solution? You’re only real remedy in our heat is to be so rich that you never have to work again, that way you can move your arse to the northern beaches of Sydney, hire some people to build you a garaged-house on the sand, get central air-conditioning installed, buy a nice car, hire a maid to do your groceries, hire some fanners to follow you around the golf-course you probably own or from your car to whatever millionaire’s ball you are attending and you will never be hot again, however, if you never end up being that rich, or rich at all, then no summer of ours will ever be a pleasurable or comfortable one. I also have no doubt that, even if you do live close to a beach or try to spend every second of free time at one, there still will be multiple instances weekly where you will be caught down on your knees, begging the powers that be for nothing short of a cool-breeze. My point in all of this: you could be a hermit crab or you could even live like one in your home, but when it comes down to it, our summers will still only really ever consist of a bunch of salty-saturated people thinking the exact same thing that you are: that they hate being hot!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Parra-matured

Westfield Parramatta Main Stage (c. 2000)

The Sydney suburb of Parramatta has been many things in my eyes: a playground where dollars are earned, a playground where consumerism is practiced, an actual playground and a playground where the better part of a holiday can be spent. My lifetime has seen it referred to as the second business district in Sydney (second to the city) and, for the last thirty-five years, it has been the home of, what is currently, the third largest shopping centre in this country and formerly the largest in the southern hemisphere, Westfield Shoppingtown. My parents started taking me to Westfield Parramatta when I was very young. My furthest memory of it is from around 1994, just after their second and largest redevelopment. With the aid of an infantile mind, I was always pretty naïve to the existence of anything but Westfield in Parramatta; in fact, when I’d bring up one name, it was never without the other. Since then, Westfield, along with the city that it’s foundations were laid on, has matured much like I have: chances have it that just about anywhere that I regularly visited as a child has since been remodelled, redeveloped or overhauled in some way, shape or form; stores that were once there have probably been closed and reopened more than once; their tenants and residents now deceased or moved on, all paving the way for a new generation of people simply unaware of what has preceded them. So, in a world where change is of the norm, I’ve always been the type of person that has the habit of attaching memory to location, and as a natural repercussion of that, whenever I walk any inch of a place that I have visited in my past, such as Westfield Parramatta – a place that was prominent in my infancy and has now become routine in the infancy of my adult life– a landslide of those memories come tumbling behind my eyes. I admit, new stores are certainly a pleasure, but at the same time, I also see an element of melancholy in it. The memories that are glued to those places that no longer exist get lost in the natural progression of time, we never mean it to, but our eyes quickly adjust to the present and what once seemed so peculiar becomes a part of scenery; it's a real shame.

Unfortunately, if to make matters worse, companies have a tendency not to note down history, which, in my opinion, turns residents into tourists in their own hometowns, limiting their vision to the now. People may see it as a non-issue when I speak about it now, but the moment somebody puts up some sixty year old sepia photograph of some nearby suburban main street, those very people that were once blasé about such history start to exhibit some interest. There was one of those photographs framed on the waiting room wall of my old dental surgery and I found myself saying 'Hey, that's where that pizza place is now' – I think that there are so many missed opportunities to inspire that same type of curiosity in others. Ignorantly, Westfield failed to keep any history on their Parramatta centre, a centre that is well over a quarter of a century old and has been through three major transformations to date, the most recent of which was completed four years ago. The same can be said for Stockland with their Merrylands centre, another mall that I regularly visited as a child, currently going through its own redevelopment. The final day that Stockland Merrylands had every store open before the phasing in of new sections, just over two years ago, I managed to get quite a few photographs of the rest of the mall (except Hoyts Cinema) so that I wouldn’t let happen what Westfield had only years earlier. Evidently, nobody had done this with Westfield before the last redevelopment – in the end, the only photographs I managed to get my hands on were taken of celebrity appearances or for architectural and heritage purposes. The sentimentality that I hold must have been absent the day Westfield began to tear down the walls of what was a symbol of my childhood. So here is me doing what I can to paint a word picture, copied and pasted from my memory, of what I see mentally whenever I walk any inch of Parramatta and some other locations around Sydney. Rewriting what has been overwritten - here we go:

Intencity Advertisement Intencity & Hide & Seek – Westfield Parramatta 
Closure: c. 2000

Intencity is my fondest and most favoured memory of Westfield Parramatta. Intencity is an Australian game arcade chain and was one of the things that made the shopping centre, in my young eyes, more of a theme park attraction than a place to shop. Intencity once accounted for the entire furthest wall of the level five food court, the wall being split up into two open levels.  Also, on the second level of Intencity resided a playground called Hide & Seek. The word 'playground' really doesn’t sell it though, think tubes and ball-pools everywhere – on the walls, the ceiling, everywhere. I loved Hide & Seek over…well, anything at that age; it was amazing. Since it did business from within the Intencity space, when it closed, so did Hide & Seek, sadly.

I don’t know why it closed, money most probably, but it really mellowed the excitement I felt when visiting Westfield. Afterwards, there was this strange period where there was just sort of a black hole on that wall of the food court, the only thing that was there were two dormant escalators leading up from one of the five eating platforms. When Westfield began to overhaul the place over five years ago, anything that marked that Intencity was once there gradually disappeared; first it was the first floor where they placed a Galaxy Quest, a Pizza Hut (strangely Hide & Seek Advertisement enough), another shop that I don’t remember and that mini-merry-go-round with the carnie; then sometime later, they boxed off that entire section in order to remove those still relatively new stores in order to make better use of that wall, including the still vacant second floor, taking the escalators and that one eating platform with it (the other four platforms still remain) – in other words, the last remanence of Intencity was no more. Some of the food places along the side disappeared too - Subway and Red Rooster, to name a couple - they then would go to open a Goodlife Health Clubs gym on the upstairs (with windows looking down on fast food places, funnily enough) and a JB Hi-Fi (and a few new food places) on the bottom floor – that brings us to date.

Level 3 McDonaldsWestfield Parramatta 
Renovation: c. 2005

I often forget how different level 3 McDonalds was before the redevelopment. The image I have printed on my memory is quite a fragmented one in the way that some parts are clearer than others, you could say that the McDonald’s part of it is in high definition, but the part that surrounded Church & Argyle St intersection (c. 2005)the fast food outlet looks as though it was taken on a camera phone from that time. What I do remember is that the McCafé had been an added section, so it was just a small booth facing the McDonalds entrance, with the exclusion of that, the layout almost remains the same: the entrance and kitchen are all in the same place, the outer eating area is almost the same too,  and there were still panes of glass dividing the inside eating area from the rest of the centre. The most discernable difference, aside from the décor which was common among all McDonalds outlets at that time, was that there was the outside eating veranda for those shoppers that wanted to fatten up while watching the trains pass. I’m not too savvy on the details, so bare with me: I’m pretty sure it was where Freedom Home is now (pictured here), looking down onto Argyle Street. What I do remember about that veranda is that somewhere between five and ten years prior to the overhaul, there was some sort of incident involving a young child. Now, I don’t think the kid jumped, but I think he almost did, all I know is, ever since that day, they wrapped a chain around the two doors that opened onto the area, padlocked it and they never opened those doors again - that is, of course, until they threw a new shop on top of it.

Now for the surrounding area, and this is where the details ascend to a whole new level of uncertainty: I can say for sure that there weren’t any that went up to Borders before, because, one, I’m pretty sure that’s where the McCafé stood, two, there was no Borders store (duh!) and, three, that’s where the cinemas were as they took up a large bulk of level four (and I assume level five). The part that confuses me most is the lighting and the other escalators. Prior to the overhaul, I remember being able to look over the railing from McDonalds and have an unobstructed view of the level one food court, aided by a substantial spill of light from outside, my only obstruction being the escalators connecting levels one and two. Currently, things are a lot more cluttered looking down from that same railing; there is no longer the same amount of natural light and I am pretty sure an extra flight of escalators joining level two to three were added in the overhaul, however, that only raises the question of where that flight of escalators was before. What it is exactly that now obstructs the light and my clear view of the first floor is an enigma. It’s one of those things that I will never know - like I said, if only Westfield or somebody else had taken some still photos.

Village 8 Cinemas Westfield Parramatta
Closure: 28/4/05

Village Cinema Closure Report

Village 8 Cinemas in its last years was probably the worst cinema I’d ever visited, in both hygiene and interior design. Its obvious issues always made Hoyts in Merrylands the preferred choice when going out to see a movie. Village 8 once sat in the entire area starting from Swarovski to Borders book store. There were two ways you could get into Village 8: the first being the entry from within the centre with Swarovski on the corner (Swarovski still exists in that same position today) and those three televisions atop the double-doors that were never quite as clear as they could’ve been, showing trailers and such (I sort of remember them just being static in the later years, though). Through the doors followed a long, L-shaped corridor, which eventually lead you to the ticketing booths, a small candy bar and, quite amazingly, two office elevators that still exist today (Level four, in the corridor leading to the restroomVillage 8 Movie Listings closest to Borders -pictured here). This entrance was always a bit of a design flaw as it was awkwardly narrow and you had to pass the actual cinemas to get to the ticketing booths, which I don’t remember being such an issue...at first (cue suspenseful music). Then there was the second entrance, from outside on Church Street, where Café Dela France is now (across from where Coffee Emporium is today). It was a steep flight of stairs, pretty wide in comparison to the rest of the place. This unfortunately suffered the same fate as the McDonalds veranda, as it was closed  forever; not too sure why. This meant that the other entry was, now, the only means of getting  in, which only augmented its design flaws. After closing that street-entry, I could liken trying to enter Village 8 to being in the mosh-pit at a concert - it was unnecessarily dark, pushy, cramped and quite dangerous. Not only did it exenterate entry issues, but I'm pretty sure that it also raised the frequency of ticket evasion as there was no real effective way to discern who was trying to get a ticket and who was just trying to see a free movie, nor did they have the space to check your ticket stubs, especially in peak times. This only meant that those last years, the checking of tickets mid-movie got quite anal which is where (like I mentioned a while back in this post) my mother was removed from a viewing because she couldn’t find hers. Because of these obvious issues, the change of location in the Westfield complex and its operator was way past-due. According to what I remember, it was about a year after closure until Greater Union opened, thus completing the final phase of the Westfield Parramatta redevelopment in 2006.

Warner Bros. Store & Disney Store Westfield Parramatta
Closure: N/A

The Warner Bros. Store and the Disney Store only complimented my childhood joys of a Westfield visit. The Warner Bros. Store was located on level two, near the main stage, where City Beach currently is. Not only was the store quite large in comparison to its neighbours and that there was a massive multi-monitor display on the back wall made up of several CRT televisions showing various Warner Bros. flicks, but what drew me to this store the most were these tunnels that they had. They were located to the back of the store, in what is now the DJs platform in City Beach. Crawling into these two joined tunnels would reveal little screens also showing cartoons and some sundry WB stuff. For some reason, these particularly small tunnels were like Christmas morning every time for me. Like Hide & Seek, losing this was quite upsetting, however, when the store closed isn’t real clear to me, nor are my memories of the Disney Store (some say that it was around where Glue is today, but I don't remember).

Hoyts Cinema & Video Ezy - Merrylands
Hoyts Demolition: c. 2008
Video Ezy First Move: pre-2000

Like I said, it was always either Village 8 in Parramatta or Hoyts in Merrylands. Hoyts Cinemas once sat on the corner of Treves Street and McFarlane Street in Merrylands, protruding into the Stockland car park. Many movies were seen there, many memories had, and that all goes without saying. My furthest memory was when Hoyts was not there and Video Ezy was. It’s difficult fathoming the image of a large building not towering over that corner, but in my memory’s lifetime, a time when the DVD wasn’t yet mainstream and hiring movies was still a serious concept, it was once a quaint little standalone Video Ezy outlet before it moved to its newly-built and larger store just up the road on the corner of Burford Street and Merrylands Road. Since the market for physically renting movies up and hopped into its deathbed, roughly the same time that everybody realised that renting easily-scratchable compact discs is like playing Russian-roulette with the entertainment aspect of your night, Video Ezy once again relocated virtually across the road a couple of years ago into a cosier store that Blockbuster had only just vacated (who, funnily enough, have recently filed for bankruptcy), only to live out, what I suspect, is the Merrylands’ store’s final years.

Utopia Records - George Street, Sydney
Relocation (to Broadway): c. 2006

Utopia Records is currently located at its new home near Town Hall in the Sydney CBD after living in Broadway for a few years. Before the move to Broadway, it was located underneath Greater Union Cinemas (now named Event Cinemas) on George Street, where Sportsco Direct (a sports gear outlet) is now. Like all of the places I have mentioned, my sentiment doesn’t typically lie with the business, but more the place where that business used to be. In this particular case, my sentiment exists partly because Utopia was just more of a common meeting place and somewhere to shoot-the-shit when I was fourteen. You see, I always remembered Utopia as being horribly overpriced, which never made it worth buying from when it was on George Street and definitely not worth the leg when it moved to Broadway. Now, I couldn’t care less about sports gear - I’m no athlete - but despite that fact, I still occasionally find myself in that Sportsco, only that I never buy anything…you know, like a nut. The same way that I sometimes sit in Borders, Parramatta reminiscing about how less than ten years ago I would’ve been in the same spot visiting some piece of shit cinema, I often walk around that sports store trying to place where everything used to be - the stage where garage bands would perform; the CD racks that I would awkwardly lean on during; the place they used to keep all of the Marilyn Manson albums, his autobiography sitting just above them; admiring the pieces of wood that are where the in-floor display cases used to be; the people that I saw in there that have since passed on; and, probably most importantly, some drifted friendships. So, no matter how expensive, I do miss Utopia being there.

Aside from the pre-2000 style sign outside the level three restrooms and the design on the back of the main elevator shaft in Westfield, which both somehow managed to survive whatever makeover The Westfield Group had thrown at them these last sixteen years, other note-worthy relics of my home city include: The Roxy in Parramatta, which was once a historic single-screened movie theatre before being downgraded into a...[takes a deep breath]...a nightclub. JB Hi-Fi on Church St, Parramatta, once the only entertainment retail store worth visiting in the area, despite it's inconvenient placement, they then remedied this by opening another, more convenient store in Westfield (where Intencity once was), then soon after that, the now smaller JB Hi-Fi outlet by comparison moved around the corner into a bigger store on George Street, matching the décor of the others. The old Parramatta Station (partially pictured here) which didn’t have the big awning that it does now, nor did it have the underground concourse from Westfield’s level one food court, the ticket gate section or the bus interchange that the concourse leads to (however, the other, less popular, set of ticket gates did exist); those things of which are thanks to the most recent Westfield overhaul. The Church Street thoroughfare, between Marsden and George Street, which had that run-down playground and that circular water play-thing that would randomly change what section would release water which, to my amusement, would be the cause of many wet children. The Family Fun Centre on Church Street in Parramatta, which was actually more of an arcade fun centre for Parramatta's scum than somewhere you would take your family; recently just opened up as a vitamin store. The Asian Bakery that once sat at the Sussex and Goulburn Street intersection in the city which my dad used to take me to as a child, far superior to the Barbys that is there now. Also worth a mention is the AMF Bowling alley in Parramatta, which I visited as a child and miss seeing on the way into Parramatta train station from the east.

Westfield Extension gets green lightGreater Union Construction (c. 2005)New Westfield Advertisement

So, there…I finally finished it. After a year of nostalgically pondering the subject matter, a few months of cerebral bulimia, a lengthy visit to the heritage centre and two frighteningly messy word-processing documents later, it is done. There’s no doubt that Westfield Parramatta has matured over the years, especially in the last decade, replacing shops that virtually played cartoons and had tunnels for you to play in with stores that simply sell clothing, and closing down a mega-sized game arcade and opening up a colossal-sized book store; with the exception of one or two stores, it really has grown into an all-shop and no play sort of centre, a lot different to what it was when I was growing up. So now, assuming that the internet doesn’t die out on us one day, and same can be said for this blog, these little snippets of local history that had been otherwise lost due to the narrow-mindedness of others have a home and are, in a manner of speaking, safe from extinction.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Qantas’ Broken Record

If you live here in Australia, then it’s playing on your television. All you need to do is turn it on to listen to that record rant on about how Qantas has just broken theirs, and make no mistake, that broken record is spinning. They had a good run for a while there; Qantas’ record hadn’t played in a couple of years, but now, to their misfortune, someone has applied enough pressure to that ‘on’ button for it play, and it just plays on and on. The lyrics of Qantas’ broken record, which the media dusted the cobwebs off and have played over our airwaves on loop for the last few weeks, are simple: that Dustin Hoffman has now been proven wrong and the Australian Airline’s ‘safe record’ is at stake. So, the question is, why does it seem like the exact same thing is happening that only happened a couple of years ago in 2008? Is it just the media rehashing a sensationalised story or is this a biannual gag that Qantas enjoy playing on everyone?

Firstly, let’s take a step back in time: In July of 2008, a Qantas jet flying from Hong Kong to Melbourne suffered explosive decompression, which literally punched a hole the size of a small car in the baggage section of the fuselage. Now, normally this would have been seen as just one of the many things that can go wrong that did when engaging in air travel, however, what followed was the coming true of any Australian news producer’s most intense and vivid of wet dreams - more midair incidents on Qantas-run aircraft. Three days later, a plane of theirs had to turn back and land because it’s landing gear failed to retract. Early the following month, another plane had to do the same and land because it leaked hydraulic fluid. Now, the two previous things and the myriad of other quite minor incidents - too great in number to even mention - were all an obvious result of Qantas being under media-scrutiny, until two months later in October when one of their planes nosedived unexpectedly due to a computer malfunction, this one resulting in several serious injuries. After all of this, not only did every journalist devour Qantas like at an all-you-can-eat buffet, making out like Qantas are full of morons and routinely making use of the phrases ‘string of issues’ and ‘series of problems’, but many took the ‘tarnished safe-record’ route as well, the ‘can Australians still trust Qantas?’ headlines come rolling in, often aided with the all-too-critical Rainman reference where Dustin Hoffman’s autistic character refuses to fly anything but Qantas due to the fact that the company have never had a crash or a fatality in its history. At present day, almost like the media are doing reruns of the news, this exact same thing is happening again. Almost every ‘t’ is virtually being crossed here with the exception of injury, from smoke in the passenger cabin to the ruined Rainman quotes. It all started earlier this month when a jet flying over Indonesia had an engine explode, dropping pieces on one of the Indonesian islands. That’s where the play button got pressed - there followed, just like in 2008, a litany of small incidents, one of which includes smoke entering the cockpit, just like in 2008. Like I said, all of it just has that familiar-déjà vu feeling to it.

First and foremost, I point the finger at the manipulative-manipulated Australian media. We all know that when it comes to the media, be it in Australia or any other country, once someone or something falls into that spotlight, they’ve just been sentenced to months in a prison of close media-scrutiny, so close in fact, that anything that they do in those months makes it as headlining news six o’clock the following night; is Qantas suffering this treatment? Do they just have these incidents all the time yet the media only notices them when they are watching Qantas, concocting some fabricated rough-patch? Or maybe Qantas are in bed with them, and that’s why negative news reports are so infrequent. That is always a possibility, I mean, assuming that incidents like rapid drops in altitude and mid-air explosions are happening all the time, how would these things just simply go unnoticed? It seems that even the more minor incidents go straight over the media’s head, so to speak. If indeed there have been transactions of money between the media and the airline, some might ask why there have been these two ‘strings’ of issues if the media are meant to be silent. The way I see it is, in this day and age, the media can still be silenced, but that doesn’t take care of personal accounts and, thanks to the revolution of the internet, those accounts can now go a long way. I can guarantee that the next time there is an incident on one of these planes, if not tomorrow, it’ll be in two years time – mark your calendars, guys – a quick Google search will bring you blogs and Twitter feeds recounting mid-air Qantas blunders.

Hey! Maybe Qantas have and are being treated correctly. Maybe Qantas did have a one hundred percent preacher’s sheets clean slate for a couple years and then all of a sudden, within three weeks, have numerous incidents (and counting...), on several different aircraft, all of which are reported on the news; I hope you could sense the sarcasm there because this just isn't possible. Seriously, is Qantas having a laugh? Is this the Qantas version of April Fools’? Do you reckon they all went ten pin bowling for a work-outing one night and realised that they just really love streaks, be it a winning one or a losing one? What I am trying to say is that there is no way that it just happened this way, and for a second time, at that.

Something doesn't smell right here and the grand question is, who’s the arsehole who reeks of foul-play - Australia's trusted airline, Qantas, or all of the Australian and worldwide journalists whose pens and word-processing programs seem to all cease operation simultaneously? Ask yourself that question when Qantas break their perfect ‘safety’ record for a third time.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Snoop Dogg to the Rescue!

Dr. Perry

As much as I enjoy ranting on about my issues with music whenever I get the chance to, I would normally refrain from writing about it, simply because once I start I wouldn’t quite know where to stop, but when it comes to Snoop Dogg’s career, I have been satiated with things that cannot possibly be left unmentioned. This last month, I've been watching the music video for the song Get 'Em Girls by Jessica Mauboy which amusingly enough features the aforementioned rapper. Now, from the first viewing to the last, I am reminded of something that I can’t quite put my finger on, I don’t know what it is...oh, wait a minute, that's right - I'm reminded of every other female pop song Snoop Dogg has been featured in this last decade!

Ever since I started listening to rap, I have watched Snoop Dogg, in amazement, go accelerando from a successful rapper who you might say was one of the building blocks in the golden age of rap, being placed alongside names like Dr. Dre and 2Pac, to what he is today, some sort of icon of the retarded love child between pop and rap, placing himself alongside names like The Pussycat Dolls and Katy Perry; that's right, not even male pop stars. It would seem that Snoop has earned himself a seat in pop music, becoming some sort of white knight for the genre. This way, whenever some female dance-group have the misguided idea that their moves have something to do with having what it takes to make a musical record or some female pop star wishes to throw her convictions away and dabble in misogyny, the pop-business now know exactly who to call when they want these otherwise doomed ideas to make a profit, and after all, making the most money that can be made is something that pop knows how to do better than any other genre. So, if Snoop Dogg is the thing bringing in cash, which not only draws in pop lovers but rap lovers too, pop is sure to squeeze every drop of juice out of him until we are utterly sick of the sound of his voice.

When it comes to pop, I’ve found that the cosmetic-side of things often gets first priority over the music-side. This inevitably means that any pop music video ends up looking like a video with some music attached to it, as opposed to a music video that was attached to a song, even if it isn’t so. So given how important music videos are to pop and to compare Snoop’s latest venture with our own Jessica Mauboy, I indulged myself in every pop video for a song that he has been featured in since the first in 2000 and, in doing so, I noticed that they are all much alike: firstly, he will always appear in the initial twenty seconds, either to pop off a few lyrics or to simply state his presence in the song, much the way that they do in any rap song; after that twenty seconds, he will either repeat words like ‘yeah’, ‘what’ and ‘aha’ faintly in the background or, more commonly, make like Houdini in a disappearing act until, three-quarters into it, he makes his awaited return in his brief and tacky ‘rap’ verse. This way people are intrigued by the sight of him, yet they are forced to wait out most of the song and the headlining performer’s vocals in order to hear Snoop do his thing; it’s all business.

This transformation from '90s gangster to the pimp of girl-pop is a bizarre change of direction in Snoop Dogg's career, and would be in any rapper’s career, for that matter. This would be like if in five years time Eminem began featuring in pop-songs, and I'm not talking about being featured in an Akon song or featuring the occasional pop star in his own songs, I am talking about all out ‘Britney Spears feat. Eminem’ type stuff. In ‘Get ‘Em Girls’, Snoop says “I walk you down the runway of success”, so this begs the questions, after virtually assisting The Pussycat Dolls in their debut success by featuring in one of their first hit songs and bringing instant-success to every other pop song he has been involved in since, does this mean that it is only a matter of time before Snoop is grinding up against some other pop-glamour? With two songs being released within months of each other (‘California Gurls’ in May and ‘Get ‘Em Girls’ in September), can we see a trend beginning to form? I guess the larger question is has Snoop Dogg now become a brand name on the pop-palette because it guarantees a song hit-status when it gets attached, walking pop stars down that ‘runway of success’, so to speak? We shall see. Aha, aha, yeah.


Check it out for yourself:
Still D.R.E. (2001) and then California Gurls (2010)
The Next Episode (2000) and then Get ‘Em Girls (2010)
Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang (1993) and then Buttons (2005)
and the list goes on…

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lock Up Your Females!

I used to think that females were the only gender with the psychological-labyrinth inside their heads, with their all too common body-issues and such, but I’ve realised that us guys are just as bad with our macho-jealousy routine. When it comes to boyfriends and their girlfriend's male friends, the very thought of such a thing turns even the Joseph-Gordon Levitts out there into psychopaths. You start to deal with such a profound strand of testosterone-induced neurosis that nothing can convince the person that some guy isn’t about to come crashing through the glass-ceiling, just like Batman often does before he swoops in to snatch the damsel away from the villain; in this case, the villain being the boyfriend. In all seriousness, though, I am growing a little sick and tired of the whole thing. Jealousy is a human thing, but the male testosterone must really aggravate that electrical wave in our brains that says 'Well, they just hugged, that’s what friends do.' making it say ‘Well! They just hugged, that means that they are having sex! Case closed.’.

So, what it comes down to is a decision for the girl: do you stay or do you go? The tough ones will most likely go, but if they do stay, they do the right thing and not put up with the ridiculousness of sacrificing friendship for some tool on his man-period. The softer ones, which account for most of them, stay, leading themselves down a path of constant argument until every friend-bridge with the opposite sex has long-since burned, and only then do they finally realise that the towel should’ve been thrown in ages ago.

The reason why it sounds as if I am talking like I'm not one of these idiot guys is simple, it’s because I’m not. I don’t say this for sympathy or whatever, but I’m a guy who has been through a litany of horrible relationships with people who have either lost interest or cheated, one of which did so with my best friend, yet I still don’t carry on like a child whenever one of my girlfriend's friends just happen to have a pair of testicles. Never have I told my girlfriend that she cannot speak to someone because they’re male and they might fancy them; never have I monitored my girlfriend’s web activity, tallying up in my head how many times a certain guy leaves a comment; never have I been that jealous that I've had difficulty in trying to cloak it; and yet, lo and behold, I either see or hear about some new conflict every week. That isn’t a relationship; that’s a dictatorship!

My hypothesis: low-confidence is the bastard at play here; it has nothing to do with me or the guy getting the third-degree for maintaining a friendship. When a boyfriend starts acting up, it’s his own issues that are messing with him. Low self-confidence inspires thorough self-assessment, which focuses on two areas: the first being his own dwindling self-image of how he has been as a person and, more importantly, as a partner, and secondly, his lack of trust in his partner. In simple terms, their behaviour regarding friendship with the opposing gender is a clear reflection of how self-assured they are in terms of the strength of their union. Now, just a tip to any boyfriend I have had any issues with - you know who you are - because you are so weak with worry yet enraged with male hormone, you may not realise it yourself, but i know the general equation – it is: if I am the victim, it means that you've been a terrible boyfriend.

Let me just finish up by saying that with every catastrophe in my romantic past, I don't go after other people's girlfriends...I just don't - gospel. I admit, once or twice I have foolishly tried to play like Batman, rescuing the damsel from some jackass-abusive boyfriend, I also got my nose caught up in a rough break-up once, but I certainly wouldn’t like somebody testing the waters with my girlfriend, so why would I with someone else's, that wouldn't make any sense. On top of that, destroying other people's relationships really isn't something that would look any good on my social-resume. So, next time I cast your girlfriend in a film-project that I am involved in, the next time I comment on your girlfriend's profile a few times, and you begin to feel that twitch in your bicep that you just know is a sign of something else in motion and you feel that inclination to walk yourself into my home uninvited or whatever, here’s a healthy tip, sane-male to insane-male: stop wasting your time being wrong about me and focus a little harder on your fucking girlfriend, you silly fools!

Vicious-circle, guys.

Monday, October 4, 2010

'Be Faithful': The Summary

In order, this is Fatman Scoop’s ‘Be Faithful’ summarised into point-form:
  • If I have a $5, $2 or $1 note, I may not put my hands up.
  • Fatman Scoop has selective-hearing.
  • Some screaming about oral sex without anybody really knowing it's about oral sex.
  • Faith Evans was previously unaware of a love like this.
  • Ugly females are not allowed to sing-along to Faith Evans.
  • Fatman Scoop has an interest in astrology.
  • I should watch where I’m walking.
  •  If you have long hair, you should put your hands up.
  • If you have short hair, you should make noise.
  • Fatman Scoop has no objections to hair weaves.
  • His black friends that like doggy-style intercourse and wish to have it casually have trouble letting him finish his questions.
  • Fatman Scoop’s hip hop friend from Black Sheep thinks that because he says it three times, that we can lift trains that weigh several tons.
  • Fatman Scoop would like the names of those who will be having sexual intercourse tonight.
  • You should stop playing but keep moving, simultaneously.
  • Females should sing-along, then males, and repeat a few times.
  • Fatman Scoop is visually-impaired.
  • If you’re a girlfriend, it’s your birthday.
  • This song has nothing to do with being faithful.

Listen:
    That is all from me.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    We Will Lose

    This is where I poop the party –If the last ten years have taught the world anything, it’s that terrorism can never be stopped, let’s not kid ourselves. Oh, it can be delayed…it can be delayed, but there is always someone else at some other location who is next in line and willing to give their lives to destroy a few more in the name of extreme-religious views. Let’s not have any misconceptions about that.

    It can be years since the last terrorist attack; we can think that we’ve somehow won the battle against extremism, or at least reduced the risk, we can send every suspect to US soil to be tortured and/or gunned down for the world to see, we can start manufacturing commercial aircraft so that you can only enter the cockpit from the outside, we can do that, we can remove bins from our train stations, we can remove every fucking trash can in this country, and there will still be some idiot with a bomb in his hand and a convoluted idea in his head with plenty more places he can hide himself and a packet of explosives. In clearer terms, if somebody has the will to do something, they will do it. That doesn’t just apply to terrorists either, that’s everybody. The only thing separating them from a petty criminal, though, and prepare yourself for the part that frightens me, is that a terrorist is willing to die. Iwan Darmawan, who was one of two who helped plan the bombing of the Australian Embassy in Indonesia back in 2004 and has been sentenced to face the firing squad, still is yet to show any contrition for the lives that he destroyed six years ago. If anything, him and his accomplice, Ahmad Hasan – also on death row, show pride in what they did, and more importantly, pride in dying for it. Recently, Darmawan said in a news report "God willing, I will die as a mujahideen [holy warrior],". Why we will lose this battle is because, you can quite possibly stop a criminal with threats of punishment, but once a person is willing to die, there is no longer anything in their minds that can get in there way.

    I apologise for being blunt but it’s the ugly truth and it needs to be said. I once had the subconscious naïve birth of thought that we would once be able to overthrow terrorist activity, but I’ve realised that when you’re dealing with this type of mentality that is so abundantly embraced, that just isn’t a possibility. Australia haven’t been attacked since the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, and that was thirty years ago, but that isn’t because of an improvement in intelligence services or anything, it’s by choice, let’s just hope, knock on wood, that the day when they do choose to attack us never comes.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Just Do It Right!

    Two things that have been on my mind - I’ve had next to nothing in the way of managerial experience, however, one thing I do know is that if I had the top-job and I started being non-communicative, sneaky, suspicious and, even, coercive with my employees, I’d know that I've failed, and I wouldn’t need to have sat in a classroom to be aware of that. The same way that employees should be honest with their bosses, bosses need to be on an open-forum with their employees - enough of this subliminal managing bullshit.

    I once worked with someone who was forced to resign because the more the weeks progressed, the scarcer their weekly hours became, and it was all because our manager wasn’t exactly their biggest fan. This, unfortunately, was not an isolated incident. I’ve seen this from most of my managers from the past; in fact, the reason I had to resign from my previous job was because I somehow fell victim to this treatment. I admit, the intentions of these actions are just my own speculation, however, the cause and the consequence are not, and they always remain the same – in other words, dwindling hours are always followed by a resignation.

    I just don't see how someone thinks that plastering on a fake smile and having to deal with an employee that they don’t particularly like for such an indefinite amount of time is simpler than just giving them the sack and then, chances are, never having to worry about them ever again. I’ve often wondered if those in the managerial role worry about our Unfair Dismissal laws in Australia, but even then, considering the alternative, how hard is it to justify a dismissal? Regardless, those laws aren’t even applicable in any situation that I have witnessed anyway – which only leaves personal courage to be placed under the microscope. What concerns me more is why so many managers are adopting this method. I don’t even have the stomach to label it 'management', looks and feels more like workplace bullying, to be honest, and that, I think, is much more of an offence than some justifiable unfair dismissal claim, if it ever did come down to that.

    I don’t know if I understand this breed of manager that don’t have the balls to at least speak to employees in a way that they can understand, let alone doing something as mundane and synonymous with being a manager as firing an employee. Bottom line of it is, if you're a manager then it's your job to either fire or not fire, there is no third option, so grow some guts and start doing your job.

    Another thing that has bothered me is employers that treat their employees like criminals. Time and time again I have seen bosses install surveillance cameras in staff areas and implement mandatory bag-checks upon leaving the workplace simply to keep tabs on all of their workers. What I don’t get is, if you’re so paranoid about those that you’ve employed, then what was the point in interviewing them in the first place? Personally, and I say this with complete empathy, if I were a manager, my rule of thumb would be 'don’t hire criminals', and it’s that easy. If you feel so inclined: do police checks, ring all of their referees and if those two things fail to raise any red flags and you end up employing them, that’s where it should end. If I were an employee and I was being surveilled and bag-checked like it’s some sort of workplace edition of 'Big Brother', I would be humiliated mortified. Once again, this is no way to manage, and I'd rather risk a few dollars than make my employees look and feel like they'd been hired straight off some parole board.

    You know, there was a time where I thought that everybody worked among professionals, but now I know that finding a decent boss isn’t the stroll down Easy street that I once thought it would be. I realise that managerial responsibilities aren’t exactly effortless and straightforward, I can empathise with that. I can also empathise with the fact that nowadays you need to be wary when giving someone the sack and when trying to discern whether or not you can trust a person, but like I said, I'd rather not alienate the people I chose to hire with overzealousness, and I don’t see that as a very difficult feat to accomplish. In the words of my favourite manager, Kris Aceski, I give the same advice to all managers out there in regards to their job: 'Just do it right!'.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Better to Have Loved

    Alfred Tennyson once said “'Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.”, we’ve all heard this, and I’ve always stood by it. Whenever someone that I have some form of profound connection with has walked out of my life or I’ve done the walking, I’ve never known myself to take any of it very well at all. I often go through every emotional reaction in the psychiatric handbook, however, one that I amazingly manage to skip, perhaps not at first, but later on down the road, is regret. I’ve had more social blunders than the amount of times Letterman makes a bad joke on a single run of his show, but despite the inconveniences and the pain those blunders have roused, there isn’t one thing I would change about what has happened in my past.

    I won’t dance around it, with everything that has happened, I was left with a bitterness that made it difficult for me to recognise myself when I would look in the mirror; I was left with a rage that made me say and do things that, yes, on the topic of reactions, I do have deep, deep contrition for, and some nights, that rage and that bitter person do have a habit of stealing a few minutes away, but in the times that they don’t, it’s because I find an appreciation that is far greater in worth than the worth that any anger and remorse can collect. Sometimes I just think back and, bar the issues and all the bullshit, I appreciate the fact that I once had those friends, those good times, the jokes and, for the most part, the love. I may get mad and I may say horrible things, but never have I wanted to turn back the clock and eliminate an entire person from my memory simply on a bad ending – the way I see it is, the severity of your feelings following a friendship going belly-up is indicative of how much that connection meant to you, wanting to erase it based on that severity would be nothing but a great injustice to yourself on your own part.

    I have a friend that loves a guy, and I don’t say that loosely, the only problem is that they are no longer together. She says that she wants to forget him; that she wishes that the whole thing never happened, in fact, she opposes the above quote, but I don’t share that emotion at all. I’ve pondered ‘what-if’s, but like that quote, I’d rather be heartbroken for years than to have been spared love; I’d rather love a girl that hardly notices me than not to feel love for her at all. Friendships, relationships – even the ugly ones had a beautiful period, and that period of bliss, joy, comfort, invigoration, infatuation and whatever other emotion you had felt, it’s out of love and that’s a gift, and I don’t see how anything would make somebody want to give that gift back.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Dear Old Friend

    I don't like to eat my own words, but a name got attached to this and since that wasn't my intention, it was best that I delete it - 27/8/10

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    I’ve been escorted out of stores by managers and security guards on more than one occasion, I’ve been approached by people that work in the store I’d just walked out of for a bag-check, my own mother was once asked to leave a cinema mid-movie because she couldn't find her ticket - in the dark, I might add, and were we breaking any laws or doing anything out of the ordinary? No.

    Are my mother and I criminals by hobby? Course not, I mean, she scored herself a parking ticket once, does that count? I wonder, if I stand in a convenience store for five minutes and I don’t end up buying anything, is it so inconceivable that I am just horribly indecisive? If a thirteen year old is disconnecting computers in the neighbouring electronics store, does that mean that I wish to steal computers from the store that I'm in simply because I happen to be thirteen? You see, this is what often makes me nervous about the world and those that feel that it's warranted to treat everybody like they could be a criminal. We can't blame them though, I know that I don’t - well that's a lie - in hindsight I don’t. In my opinion the onus is on those that are in fact criminals - the very people at the root of any security measure and microcosm of paranoia in someone's mind. Things like security scanners, security tags, security wands, surveillance cameras, the copious amounts of identification that is required just to prove who you are, ticket inspections, these are all watermarks of that one person who did it first and those that followed. The fact that I, and every other law abider, feels even mildly mistreated by those laws that are meant to be here to protect us just goes to show how much injustice breeds within the tunnel-minded world we reside.

    It's a given, criminality is in no way a good thing, but the larger problem is that those that aren’t criminals suffer too as a consequence of the very actions made in trying to deter and remedy wrongdoing, and that isn’t right at all. Also, it seems that the more that a crime occurs to a certain person or an entity of people, the less concessions they are psychologically able to make for those that, for all they know, could be genuinely innocent. I know how it feels to be the accuser, I’ve been that arsehole, it’s never 'perhaps, you did just misplace your ticket or leave it at home' or 'maybe you did just decide not to buy something'; it’s hard to turn the other cheek. Take the Bali judicial system, for instance, they are so set in their ways that it seems like they just itch to put vacationers away for drug possession. Don’t get me wrong, when reading up on the facts, they had just-cause to put Schapelle Corby away, but I won't dance around it, there is still a very small part of me that doubts her guilty verdict. Since Corby was sentenced, laws have been tightened even more and people have even been executed, and it’s all because of the addicts and dealers that roam the streets of that poor holiday island; they ruin it for everyone. If you knew what my views on drugs were, you'd know my stern view on how dealers should be treated, but still, it’s the general closed-mindedness of Bali's law procedure which concerns me most. I feel like as the years go on and there are more and more incidents of a certain crime, innocent people like me lose more and more of the headroom that once allowed us to make simple mistakes. By the way, when my mother got home from that humiliating day at the cinema, she found that ticket, sent it to them and they apologised; just goes to show.

    I realise that my thinking on this is very idealistic and that rules always need to be followed impartially in order for them to function properly, and I’m not asking anybody to cut corners, but more just to lose this mentality that everybody is capable of crime, especially when you begin thinking that way on the simple basis of stereotype and past experience. So lastly, and this goes for that Indian prick who manages (or once did) Officeworks in Parramatta, just because I was thirteen does not mean that I was doing anything other than purchasing stationary. Bottom line is, clear your head and be a little more compassionate.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Urinating Publicly!

    I know that there are some that may say that this, perhaps, is the lowest activity a human can engage him or herself in, and fuck, can you blame them? It’s pretty much relative to walking, then coming to a halt and leaking your own brand of E. coli all over the sidewalk, but gees Louise, do I love it! Aside from my lack of a foetus-baring uterus and monthly menstruation, public urination is by far the thing I enjoy most about having been endowed with a penis.

    I could relate the annoyance of trying to find one of my female friends a toilet to dragging my friends halfway across town in the wrong direction in the hopes of finding a cash machine that is owned by my bank, simply to avoid the two Australian bucks I would be charged if I were to use the machine only metres away. So since I have the habit to inconvenience the people I am with in search of the only ATM that isn’t in eyeshot and the fact that all that I need is a wall or a tree – which are everywhere – makes this just one less inconvenience I don’t have to constrain myself with. Now, if only there was a St George Bank/ Westpac ATM on every wall and behind every tree, because that would be awesome.

    Having said that, I must also add that female public urination, or any non-conventional form of female urination for that matter, is without a doubt the most sickening and unattractive image my eyes have ever been subjected to, and I have seen films written (and directed) by James Wan! I mean, I find it so repulsive that if somebody were to make an hour compilation tape of that stuff and then forced me to watch it, I would have no option but to turn homosexual until the day that I have a breakthrough with the therapist I will need to hire after watching such horror. Two films sprung to mind when writing this: that scene in The Full Monty where Mark Addy’s character breaks into the men’s restroom of the club where his wife is attending a ladies-only night, and she walks in so he hides in one of the cubicles, where just outside, mucking around with friends and half-drunk, she proceeds to use the urinal to pee and then there is that sequence where everybody is leaving the horse races in Kenny and you see a shot, no longer than five seconds - yet five seconds too long, of that well-dressed woman doing basically the same thing; those two scenes tickled my gag reflex.

    So some people make a face, and I understand because in theory, it’s disgusting, however, in my opinion, as long as you’re a discreet male, I don’t see a lot wrong with it in the practical swing of things, and as much as I enjoy it, I would never do it unless it is absolutely necessary. It’s a bit of a double standard of mine, I know, but really, public urination is an activity of the male genitalia which I proudly embrace.

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    With Absolute Pride

    In job interviews, I’ve been asked questions like 'are you a fast learner?', 'would you say that you are good with customers?', 'do you deal with stress well?', and I have always found these questions to be quite redundant, which is only an accurate reflection on the answers I give to them in response - I mean, anybody who answers these questions negatively might as well put ‘don’t hire me’ in bold-capitals on the header of their resume - however, there was always a typical question which I could retort positively with one hundred percent confidence, 'are you a hard-worker?’

    I’ve worked part-time for a little over three years now. I've had a few jobs; two solid ones. Although at times it’s been taxing work, it’s never been overly difficult, with that been said, I can say without a doubt in my mind that there isn’t a cent that has ever been credited to my bank account that I didn’t rightfully earn. Why does this need saying, you ask, well, there’s this funny little tale, it’s about me and how I spent five months last year earning money by being a minimalist employee, about flying under the radar or some such nonsense. Why anybody would think of me as someone who slacks off has me scratching my head, I mean, I may not be the quickest of all learners and I am pretty clumsy - how I lasted so long in hospitality is beyond me - but in no way does that say the same for my ability to keep busy. I’ve done ten hour shifts through a dinner rush on a fifteen minute break; I’ve gone all out for single customers without hesitation; I’ve gone beyond the job description; I’ve extended and taken shifts; I've given up staff parties, Christmas eve and New Years eve afternoons, even when I have asked otherwise; so no dick-witted manager is going to tell me that I am any different. I will not be bullied by ignorance.

    From the first shift of my first job to the last shift of my last job, I never once thought that this type of self-analytical writing would be necessary, I never once thought that I would need to defend my work-ethic, but for a reason that’s a mystery to both me and others I have told, it seems that I now have to make this sort of thing clear. Anybody that disagrees with anything I have just said, I can say with absolute pride, is sorely mistaken.

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    My Gut: The Clairvoyant

    Having a gut like mine is like having a superpower. If I were going to try and sell it to you, this is what I would say: It may not be big, but don’t let that fool you, it’s smart and it can tell the future. It tells you that bad is going to happen and its one and only user, yours truly, guarantees it to be a hundred percent correct every time, so if you find some other nutter selling a gut as good as this one, I’ll give your money back.

    It's really that simple. Whenever I've been dumped; whenever I've gone out and the night turned sour; whenever I enter a relationship with someone and it has ended with me wishing that they were dead, there was always a very small part of me that knew it long before my brain chose to, and it was my gut. I am not just talking about a few hours here, any half-witted inkling can predict that far ahead, especially if some sort of party event is beginning to die down, I am talking anywhere up to a week here; it’s amazing.

    Here's the kicker: when it comes down to making decisions, especially ones regarding my social life, I am a total moron, and for a good gut to be of use, you need someone who is willing to listen to it, that person is not me. I know that if, say, one day I did end up losing my mind, I would be the last person I’d be selling it to (like all the cool-kids are doing nowadays), whoever it is that gave me my gut - a god, planet Krypton or whoever – is obviously some sort of numbskull. The fact that I never listen to it is one of the reasons why I know how good it is; I would have no clue about its abilities if I didn’t completely exclude it in my decision-making.

    So, that’s my gut for you. He’s what makes me the guy that always says ‘I knew this would happen’ or ‘Man, I knew that she was going to be a complete dud’ or even, ‘Fuck! I knew someone was going to show up with a gun’. So, the day where I learn to listen to my gut will be the day that I’ll be the most powerful man alive! ...okay, scratch ‘powerful’…and okay fine, I’m still rather boyish too.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Stall-man

    I'm a self-confessed stall-man. You see, when it comes down to men’s rooms, my penis isn’t very social with other penises. He likes the cubicle. In the land of non-female genitalia, my johnson embraces isolation. In the party of the bathrooms, my junk is that antisocial dude who would rather be elsewhere, and shows it by sitting in the other room glued to a computer screen or his phone.

    I’ve found that the urinal is a dangerous place if you intend on looking down at any point. "Hey, what’s that on my shoe? AHH, PENIS!" In fact, when I actually do find myself in a public bathroom draining the main vein, I often avert my eyes to such an extent that I end up casually admiring the ceiling. I once had a conversation on the urinal (yeah!) that was based on why I was looking up. Now granted, I wasn’t very lucid, and come to think of it, I don’t think he was either, but this is one of the many reasons that I need a little partition when I am urinating.

    As a stall-man, I’ve never wanted to make it known that I am a stall-man, either. I’m not macho or anything, but being a stall-man is a little emasculating, it’s a little like if you were to get caught rocking-out to Pink or be seen gripping your seat in that scene when the kid runs to the top of the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle. My point is, that I see so many guys using the urinal that I can clearly see are only using it out of sheer desperation because all the cubicles are engaged. It’s always obvious - these guys are never quite centred, they're often hunched over looking down like they’re gear is prone to misplacement and are sometimes so obvious that they angle themselves away from the common area of the bathroom, but not me; I’m not saying that I have anything that would inspire awe, but I make sure that my whole body language at the urinal screams a male so blasé that he was made to use it. So, my question is, why make it obvious? Looking like you are doing a thorough inspection of the urinal that you’re using at the time is like wearing a sign that says that you enjoy watching The Princess Bride.

    Sometimes the state of the urinal plays a part in my preferences too. The best urinal I have ever attended was one in Harbourside Shopping Centre in Sydney Harbour. It was a trough-urinal as opposed to a row of individual ones, which would usually be a deal-breaker, however, it wasn’t one of those horrible looking tin things, instead it was some sort of marble, matching the entire decor of the bathroom too, so matching, in fact, that it seemed as if I was just hosing down the wall; I loved it. I also enjoy the strategically-placed urinal-advertisements, as well. There's nothing like reading quick facts about the clap, weak-streams, premature ejaculation and gastro-issues while you have your wang out.

    So the next time you’re out and nature calls - hold your head up high, line yourself up like you’re about to land an aircraft and sell it like having your family-jewels out is a good thing…even though it may not feel like it.

    ‘Penis’ euphemism counter: 7

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    Deli (No) Choices

    I’m going to have to say that the current prices at fast food outlets are our own fault. Let’s face it, fast food is too over-priced for what it is, especially McDonalds, and why is that, because Australia, and, from what I assume, the rest of the world who followed, is full of moron consumers, that’s why. Let me tell you a little story: Meet Bob. Bob’s dictionaries do not have the words ‘fast’ or ‘food’ in them, nor do they have a combination of the two. Bob isn’t a person - he is the epitome of every silly Australian that are to blame for the twelve dollar (AU$12) McDonalds meals you can buy today. It all started back in 2004 when Bob ate Subway for the first time as he watched Super Size Me. To his surprise, primarily due to his lacking brain activity, he then realised that the food he’d been enjoying at McDonalds for over thirty years was, for lack of a better word, shit, so he got up on his soapbox that is our national news, took one deep breath and screamed so loud that McDonalds in Australia were doomed. Unless the McDonalds Corporation became less of what they are, a fast food chain, and more like Subway, Bob wasn’t going to spend money at McDonalds anymore, spelling Ronald’s doom in this stupid, stupid country of ours – so they started Deli Choices, and thus initiating the cogs that made McDonalds go from selling great inexpensive fast food across the globe to selling restaurant-quality food at a price that only gives me the incentive I need to go to a place that still serves actual fast food.

    I would sum up fast food as the two dollar shop of food. A quick Google search of the term ‘fast food’ will show you show you the following terms at least once in a single page: inexpensive, served quickly, low quality, low value, pre-prepared, junk food; you get the picture. This is where I'm confused, it took me a few seconds to type the search term, a quarter of a second for it to be processed and then a few more seconds to notice that those words were prevalent in the dictionary results, the point I am trying to make is, in 2004, how the hell did Australians completely miss what the definition of it was when it is only so many seconds away? I do realise that in the grand-scheme of the food business that fast food is probably near the bottom, but seriously, are we idiots? Or was this whole health thing just the grudge-burdened malnourished-brainchild of those that had really been eating it since the seventies? That would be understandable. The thing is that fast food is fast food, and, with the exception of sneaky marketing tricks, McDonalds never presented themselves as anything more than just fast food, just the same as Burger King or KFC, so why is the definition of fast food too complex for us to understand? The Americans can still at least faintly draw the line that divides fast food from good food, so why can’t we? We now just have this hybrid restaurant that just does business under the name of McDonalds, but it isn’t McDonalds, it may sell a Big Mac but that isn’t the same Big Mac which was sold six years ago; it is just a fast food outlet crossed with a fast food outlet that’s trying to be a restaurant, now. I just think that it’s ridiculous that once upon a time, everything at McDonalds was the price that today’s McValue Meals are, and now, in the comfort of an Italian restaurant, I could spend around five dollars (AU$5) more than I would on a large Chicken Bacon Deluxe meal and get a more than decent, chef-cooked pasta , better yet, it’s even hard to conceive that I could go down to any local RSL or sports club and buy a dish for less than that.

    McDonalds is now a byproduct of an obvious health issue that was blown out of proportion by a bunch of people that are unable to see fast food for what it is and who think that we are too ill-equipped to make our own decisions on what we will and won’t consume. So what’s next? Will candy stores begin getting bad press for not selling healthy-candy and salads? Will desert restaurants get grilled for basically selling sugar as a menu item? By the rationale of a page titled “Food Quality” on a fast food corporation’s website, those two statements aren’t an exaggeration. So now, thanks to that same bunch of people, I will always have a quandary when looking to eat while I'm out: fast food or an actual restaurant? You see, when I want fast food, I’ll go to a fast food place, but if I wanted one hundred percent Australian Angus beef, Ingham chicken, Dairy Farmers milk, Arabica coffee, or any other expensive quality ingredient, I’d make my own decision and go to a restaurant.

    Saturday, May 29, 2010

    Follicle Physicians

    I am hard to please when it comes to my hair and the hairdressers that I visit; always have been. When the time for a haircut rolls around, I look at it as a bit of a chore, simply because it just means the reboot of a series of good and bad periods of hair, particularly due to length, and also a trip to a hairdressing salon that seems to have walls made of glass. I’ve always just wanted to eliminate that series of differing hair-lengths altogether, either by growing it long, getting it cut more regularly, or waiting for a gypsy to curse me with the power to freeze my hair in time, but unfortunately, these either prove to be impossible or collectively expensive. So with the absence of a wealth and a magical endowment, I’ll need to deal with the many drawbacks of not being bald. Knock on wood.

    First and foremost, I hate the week following a haircut. To me, that week is a bad time for every short-haired male. Like shoes and clothing, a haircut needs time to be worn in, so to speak. You need that week for people's eyes to adjust to your hair so that it’s no longer a head of hair that's just had a cut. You might even need that week for your scalp to correct any imperfections which were overlooked when your silly barber took that phone call (they always have to take it). If it wasn’t for work and class (and perhaps even life) these weeks would probably be best spent indoors. The other issue is the immediate time after. As you know, haircuts are messy, which is why I see them as the inconvenient end to any day. It’s always a risk if you foolishly carry on with your day as normal - your neck is still partially covered in little bits of hair, it'll look like you’re molting each time the breeze picks up and there is also the chance of itching, so as a general rule, I always spend the time after a cut hanging out in my shower at home before I start hanging out anywhere else.

    Secondly, I would compare getting my haircut to having my pants down, so the last thing I would want is to be seen…by anyone. Think about it - you’ve got several different hair styles happening at the one time, your hair is wet, you’re covered in your own hair, your neck is sometimes contorted into a strange position, and you have a dressing-gown on, meanwhile, there are these panes of glass allowing the one hundred different people walking by to have that laughable sight of you in clear eye-shot. Aside from price and quality, finding a hairdresser that doesn’t make me feel like a clothing-dummy was once the biggest influence on my final decision, but it was a bigger challenge than I anticipated, so I gave up, which is more than evident. My loyalty now lies with this local place, and has for a few years now. What makes my forfeit more than evident is that this place is the epitome of the display-room-salons that I speak of. Not only does this place have a hefty amount of window to it, it's outside, it’s beside the entrance to big shopping centre and it’s on a busy street which buses frequent, so whenever I get a haircut, rest-assured, everybody can see me.

    I don't know about you, but I could also liken a visit to the hairdresser to visiting the doctor. First of all, you usually have to wait in that queue for an endless amount of time, then you’re seen to by the professional and you get done what was intended, however, there never seems to be that hairdresser-customer confidentiality that you get with your physician, quite the contrary, actually. You see, while I’m in there, I don’t want someone bursting through the door of that doctors office, the same way that I don’t want people looking at me while I get my haircut, I mean, I’m hardly comfortable with the doctor being around, let alone others, and I’m just the same with my hairdressers; the least amount of eyes - the better, in my opinion.

    Personally, I feel that the ladies are pretty lucky with hair, simply because, by tradition, they have long-hair. Aside from the hair treatments that they get done, they’re lucky because I’ve found that long hair typically doesn’t need to be cut as often and when they do get a simple cut, it’s often hard to spot.

    So, that’s my whole spiel on hair – and hopefully now the next time you go to the hairdressers you feel as threadbare as I always do, even with that gown on.