26 February 2009

nobody would eat a live chicken

I had a medical appointment in the city today and was amazed to find a few new restaurants had opened up. This was in the window of one of them.

I should hope that the chicken being served with salted fish and bean curd had died.

25 February 2009

only Aussies

Here is a joke email going around...

Being Australian is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for A Belgian beer, then on the way home, grabbing an Indian curry or A Turkish kebab, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

Oh and...... Only in Australia ... can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance..

Only in Australia ... do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the shop to get their medications while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in Australia ... do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a DIET coke.

Only in Australia ... do banks leave both doors open and chain the pens to the counters..

Only in Australia .... do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and lock our junk and cheap lawn mower in the garage.


3 Aussies die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue.

58 Aussies are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.

31 Aussies have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the fairy lights were plugged in.

8 Aussies had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth.

A massive 543 Aussies were admitted to Emergency in the last two years after opening bottles of beer with their teeth.

and finally.........

In 2000 eight Aussies cracked their skull whilst throwing up into the toilet.

24 February 2009

procrastinating like Leonardo da Vinci

A great article from Assoc Prof Pannapacker
If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the life of Leonardo, it is that procrastination reveals the things at which we are most gifted — the things we truly want to do. Procrastination is a calling away from something that we do against our desires toward something that we do for pleasure, in that joyful state of self-forgetful inspiration that we call genius.
Right on!

23 February 2009

spoiling the fun for others...

Most people know about the story of Frank Abagnale, big time cheque/check forger, who later became a security consultant to banks.

In a variation relevant to the Oscars, Scott Weiss, big time gate crasher is now advising security at the Oscars how to stop people like him (UK Daily Telegraph).

In a Tinseltown version of the poacher turned gamekeeper, every security guard at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles has been briefed by Scott Weiss on how to prevent others repeating his feat of breaking through the ring of steel to rub shoulders with Hollywood royalty.

Mr Weiss, a former actor who had a small speaking role in Robocop, earned his gatecrashing spurs breaking into events with Clint Eastwood, Prince Charles, David Beckham and the Spice Girls.

He continued with an audacious spree of chutzpah and deception that saw him breach security at the Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards and then - his toughest challenge of all - the Oscars themselves.

The final frenzy of gate crashing was for a guerrilla documentary film called The Crasher, which details the meticulous lengths he went to in order to gain entry and then get himself photographed with stars of the silver screen.

Armed with a camera, a laptop loaded with Photoshop software, coloured paper and a portable laminator, Mr Weiss photographed and then mocked up fake security passes to gain entry. If caught, he could have faced criminal prosecution for trespass.

Soon, police may soon consult criminals on hard to crack cases.

22 February 2009

not from the pied piper of Hamlin

Some people scream and jump on chairs when they see mice or rats. I expect their reaction to a 'giant' rat would be even worse. From Daily Telegraph (UK)

Giant rat caught in China

A giant rat with one-inch-long teeth has been caught in the southern Chinese province of Fujian.

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Giant rat caught in China
Giant rat with one-inch-long teeth has been caught in the southern Chinese province of Fujian Photo: HTTP://NEWS.163.COM

The rat, which weighed six pounds and had a 12-inch tail, was caught at the weekend in a residential area of Fuzhou, a city of six million people on China's south coast.

The ratcatcher, who was only named as Mr Xian, said he swooped for the rodent after seeing a big crowd of people surrounding it on the street.

He told local Chinese newspapers that he thought the rat might be a valuable specimen, or a rare species, and had to muster up his courage before grabbing its tail and picking it up by the scruff of its neck.

"I did it, I caught a rat the size of a cat!" he shouted out afterwards, according to the reports. Mr Xian is believed to still be in possession of the animal, after stuffing into a bag and departing the scene.

The local forestry unit in the city identified the nightmarish creature as a bamboo rat from initial photographs, but said that it would need to examine the rat more closely before making a final identification.

Chinese bamboo rats rarely grow beyond ten inches and are found throughout southern China, northern Burma and Vietnam.

However, the Sumatra bamboo rat, usually found in the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan and in the Malay Peninsula can grow up to 30 inches long, including tail, and can weigh up to eight pounds.

A "Giant Rat of Sumatra" is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes tale: The Adventure of a Sussex Vampire.

All bamboo rats are slow-moving and usually spend their time in underground burrows, feeding on bamboo. Chinese bamboo rats are often sold for meat in Chinese markets. The largest rats in the world are thought to be African giant pouched rats, which can grow up to 36 inches in length.

I doubt any cat would go near something this size.

21 February 2009

Prawo Jazdy

I liked this article about the Irish Garda (police) in the Irish Times
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dictionary helps crack case of notorious Polish serial offender
RUADHÁN Mac CORMAIC, Migration Correspondent

HE WAS one of Ireland’s most reckless drivers, a serial offender who crossed the country wantonly piling up dozens of speeding fines and parking tickets while somehow managing to elude the law.

So effective was his modus operandi of giving a different address each time he was caught that by June 2007 there were more than 50 separate entries under his name, Prawo Jazdy, in the Garda Pulse system. And still not a single conviction.

In the end, the vital clue to his identity lay not with Interpol or the fingerprint database but in the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. Prawo jazdy means driving licence.

In a letter dated June 17th, 2007, an officer from the Garda traffic division wrote that it had come to his attention that members inspecting Polish driving licences were noting Prawo Jazdy as the licence holder’s name.

“Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first and surname on the licence,” he wrote.

“Having noticed this I decided to check on Pulse and see how many members have made this mistake. It is quiet [sic] embarrassing to see that the system has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities.

“He can also be found on the Fixed Charge Processing System as well. This mistake needs to be rectified immediately and a memo sent to the members concerned. I also think that Garda Information Service Centre [in] Castlebar should be notified and some kind of alert put on these two words.”

In Poland, a booklet-type licence such as the one used in the Republic was phased out in 2004 and replaced with a pink, credit card-sized licence with an EU flag, the words Prawo Jazdy in the top right corner with (in admittedly smaller type) the holder’s name and personal details.

A Garda source confirmed that the issue of Polish licences being misread had arisen in 2007, but said the errors were spotted quickly and the problem had now been resolved.

It was not clear whether the confusion was due to licences simply being misread or officers being misled by their holders, he added.

To weed out any other inanimate foreign offenders who might be lurking in the digital depths, the Pulse system has since been updated, with a new section advising officers of the layout of foreign driving licences.

Notices were also sent to Garda stations alerting them to the error.

Expect the recidivist Mrs Library Card from the Czech Republic to have her cover blown.

It would almost be funny if it wasn't so serious.

20 February 2009

dispelling 'ancient Greece' myths

Charlotte Higgins wrote a brilliant article in The Guardian dispelling a few myths about 'ancient Greece', courtesy of Paul Cartledge.

First, that there was any such thing as "ancient Greece". (I am certainly innocent of peddling this one.) Cartledge has been at the forefront of classicists' growing understanding of the cultural diversity of the poleis (city states) of the ancient Greek world, which numbered over 1000, and were dotted over a wide area from Marseille in the west to modern Turkey in the east. Though united (according to Herodotus), by religion and language, they had different customs, political systems and even calendars – and only a handful of them united against the Persian empire in the 480s BC.

Second, that the Greeks were technologically backward (I also plead innocent, but only because I made no claim either way). They may not, according to Cartledge, have had a word for wheelbarrow - but they certainly invented the amazing Antikythera Mechanism, object of much recent research and excitement from classicists and scientists alike.

Third, that the ancient Greeks resemble their Hollywood impersonators (not guilty, or not entirely - I do point out that the Spartans didn't wear leather knickers like they do in 300). Cartledge was fairly uncompromising on this one. Such movies, he said (despite his own involvement in 300) "can be dangerous as well as enjoyable and provocative. They can pander to or influence cultural contempt or hatred." He thought the Iranians were right to see 300's depiction of the Persians as "an example of cultural denigration".

Fourth (probably a bit guilty), that the Greeks invented democracy in anything like the way that we recognise it now. Radical democracy was government by, for, and crucially of, the people, unlike our modern representative democracies. Ancient Athenians would probably have regarded the British and American political systems as oligarchic.

Brilliant. There was no uniform Greek identity then.

18 February 2009

coffee cops

I found this rather amusing. From the Sydney Morning Herald
Latte-sipping police told not to drink and dwell

Geesche Jacobsen Crime Editor
February 18, 2009

HARD-DRINKING police officers have fallen foul of their chief. However, it's not alcohol that is getting them into trouble, but coffee.

In a memo to the State Crime Command, the Chief Superintendent, Ken McKay, has told his 2600 officers to stop frequenting nearby cafes for long coffee breaks.

Officers had been taking breaks lasting up to an hour, Chief Superintendent McKay said yesterday.

"It's a waste of time … It's a waste of taxpayers' money."

And, he said, it created the wrong perception about police officers, who should be doing other things. "I believe I know where the support from the public will come from," he said.

The State Crime Command is located in a modern office building in Parramatta, with at least four coffee shops nearby, including one next door.

But the presence of so many officers on the footpaths outside the building posed a security risk, he said. It exposed them to anyone who drives by.

He was also concerned that "cops can't help themselves. They like chatting about the job they're doing." Staff were paid to work, not have coffee breaks, the head of the organised crime directorate said.

There were excellent coffee facilities inside the building, he said, adding the problem did not apply to all officers. "It's only a few people. [But you need to] get the message out to anyone about your expectations."

He added, half joking, that cigarette breaks were next on his hit list. The Police Association yesterday declined to comment on the issue.
How presumptuous to assume that they are on a break. Police officers may be having meetings to discuss work. Officers may be from different units and exchanging information. There may not be enough meeting facilities to accommodate networking opportunities.

What sort of message is the Chief Superintendent giving to the public, denying police officers from doing their job properly?

17 February 2009

Poster Boy NYC

I've written about Banksy a few times. There is something about artful vandalism that is appealing.

Advertising posters at New York city subway stations are undergoing artful vandalism by a mysterious artist called Poster Boy NYC.

You can see more of his art here (flickr), read an interview with him by Marissa Neave, and a write up by Brian Raftery in NY Mag.

(Photo: Christopher Anderson) in NY Mag

Defacement of public (or private) property = vandalism, or art?

16 February 2009

one small step

Saudi Arabia finally has a woman minister, appointed by royal decree. Reported in Arab News (15 February 2009 - 20 Safar 1430)
First woman minister ignites hopes
Hassna’a Mokhtar | Arab News

JEDDAH: History was made yesterday with the appointment by royal decree of a Saudi woman, Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez, as the deputy education minister for girls’ affairs.

“This is an honor not only for me, but for all Saudi women. In the presence of a comprehensive operational team, I believe I’ll be able to face challenges and create positive change,” Al-Fayez told Arab News.

Al-Fayez began her career as a schoolteacher in 1982 working her way up to become in 2001 the director general of the women’s section at the Institute of Public Administration. Her long experience in the educational sector and her husband’s encouragement and support paved the way for her to reach this position.

Many Saudis welcomed the new deputy minister expressing hope in her appointment. A woman educator working in a supervisory position said this was a wise decision to serve and develop the Kingdom’s educational sector.

“This is a successful step. We’ve always suffered from having a man occupy the position. A woman knows what problems and challenges her peers face. It’s a change for the better,” said the educator.

Ali Al-Twati, a Saudi academic and writer, said having a woman occupy the position of deputy minister is a must. “It is compulsory, not optional, to have women occupy leadership positions. Since the number of schools in Saudi Arabia exceeds 10,000, girls need a reference in the ministry to listen to their issues and understand them,” said Al-Twati.

He also said that segregation makes it easier for women in the Kingdom to reach high leadership positions. There are more women in key positions in the country than in developed countries, he added.

Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, dean of Effat College, expressed her delight, adding that the appointment serves as an impetus for women to get into leading positions to contribute to the development of Saudi society.

“This is not just about having the first woman deputy minister. It’s about having more women in important positions. Al-Fayez’s presence in the Ministry of Education will make women’s voices heard,” said Al-Lail.

Despite optimism for a better future, Khaled Al-Radihan, assistant professor of anthropology at King Saud University in Riyadh, said it would not be easy. “There is a conservative stream of people who won’t accept the situation easily. If the deputy minister proves herself and succeeds, then things might take a different turn. However, it’s a positive change and a good opportunity for a better future,” said Al-Radihan.

Asma Siddiki, associate dean for development at the Dubai School of Government, congratulated Al-Fayez, describing her appointment as a milestone for women in Saudi Arabia.

“Our government is to be commended for recognizing women’s achievements. Given the remarkable progress women are making in the Kingdom, and the investment the government is making in education, I don’t doubt there’ll be many such senior appointments in the future,” said Siddiki.

It's a shame that she is still not allowed to drive. Worse, under Saudi law, she is the property of her husband.

15 February 2009

football - preseason NAB cup round 1

It has been a long wait for footy to start again, even if it is only the pre-season comp. I watched last night's game live (finally having pay-TV). It was a great game against Saint Kilda. Drummo super-booting a super goal early.

BRISBANE LIONS 0.2.3 1.6.6 1.8.6 1.8.8 (65)
ST KILDA 0.1.3 0.1.5 0.5.7 0.8.8 (56)

SUPERGOALS — Brisbane:
GOALS — Brisbane:
Harding 3, Clark, Cornelius, Hooper, Notting, Sherman. St Kilda: Milne 2, Goddard 2, Steven, McEvoy, Geary, R. Clarke.
REPORTS — Brisbane: Ashley McGrath.
CROWD: 6103 at Carrara.

Round 2 will be on 27 February in Melbourne, playing against Essendon. I can't wait.

(photo by Lachlan Cunningham, The Slattery Media Group)

Bam Bam
(photo by Lachlan Cunningham, The Slattery Media Group)

(photo by Mervyn Lowe, The Slattery Media Group)

Bunzo tackling Gardiner
(photo by Mervyn Lowe, The Slattery Media Group)

celebrating winning - Redden, Azza, Lukey and Scotty
(photo by Mervyn Lowe, The Slattery Media Group)

14 February 2009

politicians on facebook, make that 'idiots' on facebook, or idiots who are politicians

I found this article about a territory legislature politician amusing. From the NT News (NT being the Northern Territory)

Pollie updated Facebook during debate

FACE FACTS: Excerpts from the Facebook page of CLP leadership contender Dave Tollner (inset). He updated it during a Parliamentary debate on Thursday night, including finding time to join a heavy metal group.

FACE FACTS: Excerpts from the Facebook page of CLP leadership contender Dave Tollner (inset). He updated it during a Parliamentary debate on Thursday night, including finding time to join a heavy metal group.

CLP leadership contender Dave Tollner played on his Facebook page during a parliamentary debate about the environment.

He updated his "status" on the social networking website to: "Sitting in Parliament listening to the Chief Minister talk absolute nonsense."

In fact, Paul Henderson was not in the Legislative Assembly chamber. The time logged on the posting shows that Mr Tollner was actually listening to Environment Minister Alison Anderson make a statement about the threat of invasive weeds and feral animals to the Territory.

Mr Tollner, who was elected as the MLA for inner Darwin seat of Fong Lim in the last Territory election, received a reply to his posting from "friend" Jenny saying: "Shouldn't you be paying at least a little of attention?"

And Anthony wrote: "Why don't you ask that f***head about blackouts?"

Mr Tollner said yesterday he was listening to the debate while playing on Facebook.

"You can chew gum and walk," he said.

Every Member of the Legislative Assembly has a taxpayer-funded laptop computer on their desk in the parliamentary chamber.

Politicians have often been accused of playing on the net rather than listening to proceedings.

While the environmental debate continued, Mr Tollner joined a heavy metal website and a group called Stop Student Taxes.

He became "friends" with Haley, Kate, Hayley, Alana, Aisa and four other unnamed people.

Mr Tollner also wrote to Antonello and became friends with Dani.

The previous day his Facebook page shows he signed up for an anti-Barack Obama website.

What an idiot.

11 February 2009

Prime Minister Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been sworn in as prime minister in a unity government with President Robert Mugabe (BBC).

Of course it is untenable but necessary, for now.

Dictators don't like to relinquish their grip on power. It won't be long before Mugabe frames Tsvangirai on some made up corruption charge in order to remove him.

One party states that do not allow opposition parties to flourish are no better than dictatorships. #cough*Singapore*cough#

10 February 2009

cheating the flames of death

Gary Hughes' account in The Australian is worth a read. CFA is the Country Fire Authority, a fire brigade staffed by volunteers.
How we cheated flames of death
Gary Hughes | February 09, 2009

THEY warn you it comes fast. But the word "fast" doesn't come anywhere near describing it.

It comes at you like a runaway train. One minute you are preparing. The next you are fighting for your home. Then you are fighting for your life.

But it is not minutes that come between. It's more like seconds. The firestorm moves faster than you can think, let alone react.

For 25 years, we had lived on our hilltop in St Andrews, in the hills northeast of Melbourne.

You prepare like they tell you every summer.

You clear. You slash. You prime your fire pump. For 25 years, fires were something that you watched in the distance.

Until Saturday.

We had been watching the massive plume of smoke from the fire near Kilmore all afternoon; secure in the knowledge it was too far away to pose a danger.

Then suddenly there is smoke and flames across the valley, about a kilometre to the northwest, being driven towards you by the wind. Not too bad, you think.

I rush around the side of the house to start the petrol-powered fire pump to begin spraying the house, just in case.

When I get there, I suddenly see flames rushing towards the house from the west. The tongues of flame are in our front paddock, racing up the hill towards us across grass stubble I thought safe because it had been slashed.


In the seconds it takes me to register the flames, they are into a small stand of trees 50m from the house. Heat and embers drive at me like an open blast furnace. I run to shelter inside, like they tell you, until the fire front passes.

Inside are my wife, a 13-year-old girl we care for, and a menagerie of animals "rescued" over the year by our veterinary-student daughter.

They call it "ember attack". Those words don't do it justice.

It is a fiery hailstorm from hell driving relentlessly at you. The wind and driving embers explore, like claws of a predator, every tiny gap in the house. Embers are blowing through the cracks around the closed doors and windows.

We frantically wipe at them with wet towels. We are fighting for all we own. We still have hope.

The house begins to fill with smoke. The smoke alarms start to scream. The smoke gets thicker.

I go outside to see if the fire front has passed. One of our two cars under a carport is burning. I rush inside to get keys for the second and reverse it out into an open area in front of the house to save it.

That simple act will save our lives. I rush back around the side of the house, where plastic plant pots are in flames. I turn on a garden hose. Nothing comes out.

I look back along its length and see where the flames have melted it. I try to pick up one of the carefully positioned plastic buckets of water I've left around the house. Its metal handle pulls away from the melted sides.

I rush back inside the house. The smoke is much thicker. I see flames behind the louvres of a door into a storage room, off the kitchen. I open the door and there is a fire burning fiercely.

I realise the house is gone. We are now fighting for our lives.

We retreat to the last room in the house, at the end of the building furthest from where the firestorm hit. We slam the door, shutting the room off from the rest of the house. The room is quickly filling with smoke. It's black, toxic smoke, different from the superheated smoke outside.

We start coughing and gasping for air. Life is rapidly beginning to narrow to a grim, but inevitable choice. Die from the toxic smoke inside. Die from the firestorm outside.

The room we are in has french doors opening on to the front veranda. Somewhere out of the chaos of thoughts surfaces recent media bushfire training I had done with the CFA. When there's nothing else, a car might save you.

I run the 30 or 40 steps to the car through the blast furnace. I wrench open the door to start the engine and turn on the airconditioning, as the CFA tells you, before going back for the others.

The key isn't in the ignition. Where in hell did I put it? I rush back to the house. By now the black, toxic smoke is so thick I can barely see the others. Everyone is coughing. Gasping. Choking. My wife is calling for one of our two small dogs, the gentle, loyal Gizmo, who has fled in terror.

I grope in my wife's handbag for her set of car keys. The smoke is so thick I can't see far enough to look into the bag. I find them by touch, thanks to a plastic spider key chain our daughter gave her as a joke. Our lives are saved by a plastic spider. I tell my wife time has run out. We have to get to the car. The choices have narrowed to just one option, just one slim chance to live.

Clutching the second of our two small dogs, we run to the car. I feel the radiant heat burning the back of my hand. The CFA training comes back again. Radiant heat kills.

The three of us are inside the car. I turn the key. It starts. We turn on the airconditioning and I reverse a little further away from the burning building. The flames are wrapped around the full fuel tank of the other car and I worry about it exploding.

We watch our home - our lives, everything we own - blazing fiercely just metres away. The heat builds. We try to drive down our driveway, but fallen branches block the way. I reverse back towards the house, but my wife warns me about sheets of red-hot roofing metal blowing towards us.

I drive back down, pushing the car through the branches. Further down the 400m drive, the flames have passed. But at the bottom, trees are burning.

We sit in the open, motor running and airconditioner turned on full. Behind us our home is aflame. We calmly watch from our hilltop, trapped in the sanctuary of our car, as first the house of one neighbour, then another, then another goes up in flames. One takes an agonisingly slow time to go, as the flames take a tenuous grip at one end and work their way slowly along the roof. Another at the bottom of our hill, more than a 100 years old and made of imported North American timber, explodes quickly in a plume of dark smoke.

All the while the car is being buffeted and battered by gale-force winds and bombarded by a hail of blackened material. It sounds like rocks hitting the car.

The house of our nearest neighbour, David, who owns a vineyard, has so far escaped. But a portable office attached to one wall is billowing smoke.

I leave the safety of the car and cross the fence. Where is the CFA, he frantically asks. With the CFA's help, perhaps he can save his house. What's their number, he asks me. I tell him we had already rung 000, before our own house burnt. Too many fires. Too few tankers. I leave him to his torment. I walk back towards our own house in a forlorn hope that by some miracle our missing dog may have survived in some unburned corner of the building.

Our home, everything we were, is a burning, twisted, blackened jumble. Our missing dog, Gizmo, Bobby our grumpy cockatoo, Zena the rescued galah that spoke Greek and imitated my whistle to call the dogs, our free-flying budgie nicknamed Lucky because he escaped a previous bushfire, are all gone. Killed in theinferno that almost claimed us as well.

I return to the car and spot the flashing lights of a CFA tanker through the blackened trees across the road. We drive down the freeway, I pull clear more fallen branches and we reach the main road. I walk across the road to the tanker and tell them if they are quick they might help David save his house. I still don't know if they did. We stop at a police checkpoint down the hill. They ask us where we've come from and what's happening up the road. I tell them there's no longer anything up the road.

We stop at the local CFA station in St Andrews. Two figures sit hunched in chairs, covered by wet towels for their serious burns. More neighbours. We hear that an old friend, two properties from us, is missing. A nurse wraps wet towels around superficial burns on my wife's leg and my hand.

We drive to my brother's house, which fate had spared, on the other side of St Andrews.

The thought occurs to me, where do you start when you've lost everything, even a way to identify yourself. Then I realise, of course, it doesn't matter. We escaped with our lives. Just. So many others didn't.

Gary Hughes is a senior writer for The Australian
As much as pictures tell their thousand words, personal accounts like this one allows us to understand.

09 February 2009

hell on earth

Photograph: Andrew Brownbill/EPA

Some words that have been used to describe the worst fires in Australian history.

- hell on earth
- holocaust
- inferno
- blackest time
- hell in all its fury
- Armageddon
- devastation

I have no words.

You can help by making a donation to the Australian Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal. I had trouble making donations on the website today, but thankfully employees in my agency are able to directly deduct from our salaries.

08 February 2009

canine social networking?

Uh oh. From The Age
How social networking has gone to the dogs
Annie Lawson
February 8, 2009

Britt Smith, with her Tibetan terrier, Bear, launched dogtree for dog owners seeking companionship for their pooches.

Britt Smith, with her Tibetan terrier, Bear, launched dogtree for dog owners seeking companionship for their pooches. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

"LOVING, outgoing but clingy Alsatian in need of an affectionate playmate for a lazy afternoon of slobbering, sniffing and digging."

"Needy, obsessive schnauzer with an outgoing personality seeks like-minded, companionable canine."

It sounds a bit like an online dating website for love-starved pooches. In fact, dogtree is a new social networking site for lonely dogs who fret during those long weekdays when their owners are at work.

With nothing to do and no one to play with, destroying the garden, ripping the washing off the line, relentlessly barking and eating an expensive pair of shoes are common ways for attention-seeking hounds to kill time.

Inspired by the success of Facebook, Britt Smith — who is a casual journalist with The Age online — founded the non-profit website after she placed a classified advertisement in a local newspaper to find a companion for Bear, her three-year-old Tibetan terrier.

"I got 20 phone calls and that's when I realised there needed to be a service offered to help dog owners," she said.

She found Stella, an anxious fox terrier who kept Bear company two days a week. When she moved house from Geelong to Kensington last year, Smith was quick to find another companion for Bear — this time, Sophie, a Maltese cross.

Bear was inconsolable on the days he was alone. "Usually I have to carry him outside and he scratches at the back door to get in, staring at me with sad eyes," Smith said.

"I was concerned that he was upset and bored throughout the day; being at home all that time is like solitary confinement."

She considered placing him in dog day care until she found out it costs between $30 and $60 a day.

The dogtree website was launched last week with 88 members. Owners post a picture of their dog and fill in a profile with breed type, age, size, vaccination history, personality and postcode.


I wonder what Cesar Millan would think of this. Lonely pooches who fret doing the day are probably not being walked enough or indeed, not at all.

Kane doesn't need to join a networking website, he has plenty of canine friends.

07 February 2009

headline of the month

From the (Melbourne) Herald Sun
Wine OK for babies
I had images of red wine in baby bottles.

football... soon

I'm hanging out for the football season to begin. The pre-season starts next weekend with a game on Saturday night.

Yesterday, there was a barbecue (sausage sizzle) at the training session in Brisbane. A free barbecue put on by the club.

Brisbane Lions Training Session

Brisbane Lions Training Session

Brisbane Lions Training Session

05 February 2009

Australia's YouTube queen

I tend to check out YouTube mainly for music clips. The Sydney Morning Herald reported about Natalie Tran who has a huge following.
How Natalie became Australia's queen of YouTube

Oz YouTube queen Natalie Tran
Natalie Tran, 22, is the most subscribed YouTube user in Australia and ranks 37th in the world. Watch one of her videos.

Asher Moses

February 4, 2009 - 12:47PM

From her parents' home in western Sydney, Natalie Tran, Australia's queen of YouTube, has proven time and again that titillation is not a prerequisite to internet fame.

With more than 150,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, Tran, 22, is easily the most subscribed YouTube user in Australia, while globally she ranks 37th.

The 118 videos she's created over two years have amassed 64 million views, making her also the most viewed Australian YouTube user of all time - more popular on the site than even AC/DC, whose videos have attracted 53 million views.

But while some female web stars such as Obama Girl have used their sexuality to amass scores of drooling fanboys, Tran has eschewed titillation in favour of comedic skits about her everyday life.

"I think that to have longevity on these kind of websites you need to offer something different ... there's plenty of [sexual] material on the internet that would provide that kind of entertainment already," she said.

For instance, her most recent skit riffs on the poor quality voice recognition services many companies use to answer their phones and provides funny tips on how to bypass them.

In another, Tran talks about the irrational fears that people have, such as: "When I kill an insect I'm really conscious that there's another one in the room that's probably seen that massacre go down and it's probably going to try and find me as well as my family."

The comedic value is in Tran's satirical re-enactments of the situations she is talking about and the fact that she plays all of the characters.

Tran said the skits were all based on things that happened in her day, "just a little bit exaggerated for comedy purposes".

"They're not huge deep and meaningful videos, they're just short snippets that are meant to be a little bit of fun in somebody's lunch break ... the world wouldn't be a worse place without them," she said.

Tran publishes a new video every two to three days, each taking about four hours to make, including writing, filming, editing and uploading.

Outside of that she said she spends an hour at night replying to the hundreds of messages she receives each day from fans.

Also unlike many internet celebrities, Tran has never courted fame, regularly turning down TV shows and journalists who are more interested in poking fun at the whacky world of YouTube than seriously examining its place in the new digital media world.

She works in retail on and off while studying digital media at the University of NSW, but says most of her classmates don't know of her YouTube fame.

Tran said she had been approached by numerous companies seeking to sponsor her videos or pay for an endorsement but she decided against heading down that path, fearful it would put viewers offside.

"It [sponsorship money] is very tempting but it's not really what I'm looking for - I've spent a long time creating something and I don't want to give that up," she said.

While she earns a modest income from YouTube's Partner Program - which gives a small percentage of ad revenue to the site's most popular users - Tran said money and fame did not concern her.

She was more interested in practically applying her digital media studies to learn "the science behind" making content that builds and sustains audiences online.

"I don't think internet fame holds very much in the real world," she said.

More at YouTube communitychannel

Witty and funny. I'm hooked.

04 February 2009

Keiser - two years on

Keiser (March 1990 - 3/4 February 2007)

Two years on without Keiser and I still miss her. She was a great cat.

August 2005 - she enjoyed lying in the sun on cold days.

She would have got along very well with Kane.

03 February 2009

from 'hunk' to chunk

From Herald Sun (Melbourne)
Personal trainer Paul James piles on kilos to help clients

By Matt Johnston | February 03, 2009

  • Trainer to stay at 120kg for three months
  • He plans to lose the weight with gym clients
  • Health experts warn practice is dangerous

Paul 'PJ' James

Weight on ... Paul 'PJ' James, a personal trainer and former underwear model, shows off his new gut. Picture: Rebecca Michael

AN underwear model and personal trainer from Melbourne is on a bacon and chocolate milk diet to stack on 40kg to better understand obese gym clients.

Paul "PJ" James, a Coburg model who has strutted catwalks in Milan and Tokyo, is halfway to his goal of reaching 120kg. He plans to stay at that weight for three months before shedding the kilos with his Doherty's gym clients in Brunswick.

He has cut out exercise and admits to enjoying the occasional full chicken with skin, stuffing and chips at night to boost his calorie intake.

But a leading obesity and health expert, Prof Boyd Swinburn, said PJ risked damaging his liver and suffering heart problems from the stunt, which will be filmed as a documentary.

PJ, 32, has already gone from 80kg to 100kg since making his New Year resolution to boost his flab.

"I have always found it easy to tell clients what to do to lose weight, but it's hard to tell where a client is coming from and how they are feeling," he said.

"There are health risks, I won't shy away from that. But I'm trying to do it as responsibly as possible, with regular blood pressure and health checks."

He said his body had tried to reject the fat at first, but he had worked hard to make sure he stacked on the kilos, and was now starting to notice people looking at him differently.

"Especially when I'm trying to train clients and they are doing sit-ups and I'm standing there with a massive gut," he said.

"My gut is pretty big. That's where most of the weight seems to be going."

PJ said he would film the experience and that he is an aspiring actor.

He "doubted" he was setting a bad example for young people because no one would want to do what he was doing.

"I'm not regretting it because I know the end result will be beneficial," he said.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying the food, I'm starting to understand that. I'm not loving it, but at the same time I'm not hating it."

Prof Swinburn, director of the World Health Organisation Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, said stacking on weight quickly was dangerous.

"There's only such a rate that fat cells can absorb and there's a big spillover into where the fat isn't supposed to be, like the liver," he said.

"A much safer way to know what people are going through is putting on one of those fat suits."
This will be worth keeping an eye on to see what measures he takes to lose that weight. No doubt such shameless self-promotion means that he will probably devise and promote his own brand of diet and exercise.

PJ was Blush Photography 'Hottest Hunk' of 2007. Now he's a chunk. Still, he looks like the rest of us now.

Happy Tuesday.

01 February 2009

film accents

I've always wondered why in Roman period dramas, the 'nobility' spoke with upper crust English accents while slaves spoke with American acccents. I found this from the BBC interesting reading

The good, the bad and the mangled

(Top row) Peter Sellers, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Oldman, Renee Zellwegger. (Bottom row) Russell Crowe, Sean Connery, Heather Graham, Forest Whitaker

By Finlo Rohrer and Katie Fraser
BBC News Magazine

The release of Valkyrie and The Reader have brought to mind a recurring problem for moviemakers and television producers - should actors stick to their own accents?

In Valkyrie, the story of Claus von Stauffenberg's attempt to kill Hitler and topple the Nazi regime, Tom Cruise sounds like Tom Cruise.

Not Tom Cruise with a slight German accent, but the usual vaguely East Coast-tinged Cruise of Mission: Impossible and Top Gun.

Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg
Tom Cruise is so well-known that if he started doing an 'Allo 'Allo accent, it would have everyone in hysterics
James King
Film critic

And at the same time, there's The Reader, another film set in Germany and tackling Nazism, which goes the other way. David Kross, the young German actor, does his lines in English with a German accent, as do Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.

As the Anglophone film industry appears disinclined to ever stop making movies about the 1939-1945 period, it's a dilemma that is going to continue coming up.

Take Sam Peckinpah's 1977 epic on the horrors of the Eastern Front, Cross of Iron. A classic war movie it is. A classic example of coherent accents it is not.

Of the main characters, James Coburn as the hero, Steiner, attempts a German accent while James Mason as Colonel Brandt wanders in and out of one, and David Warner as Captain Kiesel speaks mostly in his best stage Received Pronunciation with only the occasional German tinged word. Maximilian Schell, being Austrian, keeps rather more consistently to his accent, as the baddie Stransky. All in all it's a bit of an accent mess.

So it's perhaps not surprising that the Valkyrie's no-funny-voices rule has its supporters.

"Tom Cruise is so well-known that if he started doing an 'Allo 'Allo accent, it would have everyone in hysterics," says film critic James King. "In Valkyrie it works because the opening [dialogue is] in German [even Tom Cruise] and it's done smoothly."

Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet does a German accent - only Germans know if it is any good

It can sometimes seem a natural thing in a period piece. In Roland Joffe's The Mission, the stars play Spanish parts with their own accents, Robert De Niro American and Jeremy Irons English.

The same tactic can be taken in television. When the BBC recently adapted Swedish author Henning Mankell's Wallander detective novels, the major cast members were British and speaking with British accents. Perhaps the producers were aware of the danger that if not done properly, a difficult and little-done accent could soon degenerate into something like the Swedish chef out of the Muppets.

And where accents are done now, they tend to be low-key affairs.

"These days when people put on a foreign accent they make them slightly less pronounced, not like in the days of Gary Oldman with his full Russian accent as the villain in Air Force One," says King.

Baltimore Brits

Oldman, despite his alarming Russian, has of course made a career out of playing American roles, and doing various accents convincingly. Peter Sellers was another master of accents. In Dr Strangelove he does a comedy German, an uppercrust Englishman and a mild-mannered American, all in the same film.

And how many of those who have recently become fans of the Baltimore cop show The Wire would have guessed that Russell "Stringer" Bell was from Hackney or that the Baltimore twang of Jimmy McNulty was produced by Dominic West, educated at Eton.

English RP is similar to Roman
Bad Germans are played by Germans
Brits must play Americans well
Sean Connery does not do accents

And perhaps the greatest accents of recent times were furnished by Americans Gwyneth Paltrow and Renee Zellweger who did upper-middle class English as well as any Englishwoman.

But when things go bad they can go really bad. Everybody remembers Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, but at least that was a comedy. How much worse was Forest Whittaker's frankly ludicrous British accent in The Crying Game, Russell Crowe attempting an English City boy in A Good Year or Sean Connery in most of everything he was ever in?

But context is everything. When Johnny Depp did Cockney in Jack the Ripper movie From Hell he was lambasted. When he did the same accent, again modelled on Keith Richards, to comic effect in Pirates of the Caribbean, it was regarded as amusing. In a good way.

It's all down to your expectations of what you're watching.

Evocation of place

"When you watch Russian plays or Greek tragedies they don't bother with an accent," says Sally Hague, dialect coach at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. "There's a convention that it's set around the characters or the action and not the place. Directors think that using dialect would be a distraction.

"But sometimes an accent would be central to evoking a place. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - it's all about the language of the Deep South that Tennessee Williams was using when he wrote it. It can be perverse not trying to do that accent. Irvine Welsh and Trainspotting. It couldn't have been done without the dialect."

Brando as Zapata
Marlon Brando did Mexican for Viva Zapata

And of course in some movies, accents and casting are offering a subtle code. In some war movies from days of yore, Americans play the heroes, English actors do the more acceptable Germans and the truly bad Germans are played by real Germans.

In some films about the Roman Empire or with other classical or period settings, English accents can be used by Hollywood to convey gravitas.

In Gladiator for instance, Roman-ness can only be properly conveyed by an English accent. Witness Joaquin Phoenix's rather alarming effort as Emperor Commodus. One might surmise that an English accent represents the "Old World" in a more general sense to an American viewer. But still, Tony Curtis, despite his Bronx accent, played a string of roles in ancient dramas.

In many American films the baddie is English or English accented. But you can also get a film like Die Hard, where Alan Rickman does a German accent for a double dose of baddie-ness.

Then you have an actor like Art Malik, born in Pakistan, but raised in England, doing a string of Arab terrorist baddies.

It all tests the audience's ability to suspend their disbelief.

"Films like Die Hard have had their day - no-one blinked an eye. Now people would think of those as out of place," says King.

Dick van Dyke
Dick Van Dyke has never lived down his cockney accent in Mary Poppins

There have been classic films where actors have not just put on accents but even "blacked up" to play exotic parts. We can still relish a viewing of Lawrence of Arabia because we know it comes from 1962, although we may find Omar Sharif [an Egyptian] as Sherif Ali a lot more convincing than Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal.

In Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata from 1952, Marlon Brando (born Nebraska, US) seems more ardent in his Mexican accent than Anthony Quinn (born Chihuahua, Mexico). Quinn got the Oscar.

But perhaps we care less about how convincing an accent is than we do about the quality of the film.

We are happy for Americans and Brits to do foreign voices in the right settings and to do each other, as long as it's well, but show us a rubbish film and we'll zero in on the bad accent.

And if you really want authenticity, why not just take the Mel Gibson route and do it all in Aramaic with subtitles.

Here's a thought. How about casting German actors to play Germans, British actors to play Brits, and American actors to play Americans?

Today was warm.