Filed under 30×30

Conversations with Aliens…

Last night while washing up and keeping my hands away from the frigid cold, I got to reflecting. When you boil things down, strip them back to their most basic elements, human life can be pretty humorous and absurd. The thought was brought about by the upcoming Wimbledon final, with the winner sure to secure a lucrative payday, both fiscal and reputational. For what? Hitting a thing over another thing into a space.

I’ve been following the trades in the NBA during the free-agency period. Chris Paul just committed to a contract of $107,000,000 over 5 years: $411,500 a week to put a thing into a thing, or help 4 others near him do so.

And I wondered how would you explain this to an alien that had no experience whatsoever with human civilization. How could you phrase it in a way that it made sense that a thing-hitter or thing-putter earns insane amounts of money (a valuation of self-worth or value to the species?) compared with someone who does what their counterparts in most other species do – nurture, feed, support and/or keep others alive and well.

And as always with a rambling mind, it started getting silly…

How would you explain the idea of a doorman? Is his value and currency inferiority? He opens a door for people who are perfectly able to; all they have to do is place a hand on a surface and push! Is his sole purpose to conspicuously advertise to his clients that he is not as good as them, to let the world know that these people have no need for the low act of door pushing!?! And the absurdity is he probably earns more than people that bathe, feed and open doors (among many other tasks) for people that aren’t physically able to…

There are so many jobs, roles and activities that descend into this odd realm when broken down to their base. I can go into the gym and do 2 hours of solid weights with a final outcome that the weights are in exactly the same position as they were before. My take away is that I will soon be able to move bigger and bigger weights around before returning them to the same spot! Is that not quirky?

I guess there’s an implicit valuation of ‘enjoyment’ – living vicariously through sportspeople, being part of a community, an increase in self-worth, a physiological response, or combination of these. But suffice to say, we are odd creatures… I mean, is the entire porn industry built on the enjoyable physiological reaction we get from orgasm? That’s a lot of money for a happy feeling…

Crows’ Feet

I’ve been watching crows’ feet walk,
Bellies bulge and babies talk
I have heard the dawn birds sing,
‘The trees have added another ring’;
The trees have added another ring.

Pick an image that best describes,
The passing days, the passing time;
Falling sands or falling tides,
I guess we’re getting old;
I guess we’re getting old.

Life has fun she paints my face,
With deepened lines in carbon trace
All my rats have run their race,
This sucks, I’m getting old;
This sucks, I’m getting old.

Autumn’s changes come and go,
Crops are reaped and then re-sown.
I’ve come to grips, i’m letting go,
Of this fear of getting old;
Of this fear of getting old.

I’ve been watching crow’s feet stride,
Across my cheeks from side to side
But as long as you’ve come for the ride,
Who cares about getting old?
Who cares about getting old?

(12/02/2012)

Learning on the Fly

In just over 12 hours I’ve been offered nigh-on everything: motorcycle/tuk-tuk/taxi rides, tour guidance, meals, shoe shines, DVDs, books, trinkets, marijuana, and lady-friendship. While I declined all but a bit of sustenance, I’m left to smile and muse what new and novel things will be proffered tomorrow…

A set of eyes and a day to wander this intriguing place have enabled me to make a few additional observations:
* some middle-class Vietnamese like to drink their coffee/tea/what-have-you against a backdrop of mind-drummingly loud techno music;
* it’s very hard to get clarification on whether ice has been made from purified water against a backdrop of mind-drummingly loud techno music;
* there are so, so, so many motos and scooters here. Given the apparent laxity of helmet safety regulations, helmets have become more fashion than function, with a plethora of styles and colours gracing the noggins of all and sundry.
* if you want to stop traffic, you’ll need more than a minor car/scooter accident. Limping or not, you’d better get the hell out of the intersection, pronto, so the many, many fashionably-helmeted scooter riders can barge, weave and/or beep a way through.
* the Vietnamese didn’t think it pertinent to silence the underlying audio when dubbing foreign films/tv-shows. This makes for an rather grating viewing experience, much like an annoying friend speaking over the top of everything you wish to hear… in Vietnamese. I can imagine the linguistic pendulum of annoyance swings both ways mind you.
* War is a horrible thing: a grotesque, warped, tragically photogenic beast…
* and lastly, 60’s decor hasn’t aged a jot 😉

Another day, another lesson; so here’s to what tomorrow brings…

(Pics for the post here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/10612898@N02/sets/72157627677875235/)

We’re going to Bonny Doon Hills!!

Ahh, the joys of travelling 600km with 4 nieces, mother and sister. The storied tradition of heading down vast lengths of dual carriageway to Nana and Pa’s place carries on, with another completed bypass making life easier, and a yet-to-be-completed bypass making life more difficult.

What was historically a 7-7 1/2 hour drive becomes an 8-9 hour negotiation process. Every gadget, game, trinket, lolly, book, and iota of parental attention is carefully shared between siblings, sold to the highest bidder where the currency is tears – real or hedged. It’s a place where the monotony of kid’s jingles is suffered for the sake of silence and relative piece and quiet – Delila, if I have to hear about Henry’s bucket one more time, i’ll throttle him with stone for sharpening the dull hatchet to cut the straw to plug the hole!!

And it’s a place that you wouldn’t trade for the world… in an age where my nieces will likely have more virtual friends than real, it’s comforting to be able to pass what is an otherwise dull(ish) trip with the goo’s, ga’s (and occasional shrieks) of the baby, the “Yesssss” of delight as the eldest rides on the back of an Angry Bird to a new high score, the story telling and ‘kiddy’ maths from the back seat, and the “Uncle Jimmy, do you like my singing?” from the middle car seat. It’s the passing of corn thins, the sharing of tic-tacs and the shoulder rides to and from the Macca’s playground that make the trip an enjoyable experience. Then there’s the chance to catch up on recent history and future plans, the backseat driving lessons and the other oddities that contribute to another successful trip home.

And that’s why, as a childless spinstero, I would elect to pass over 8 hours in a car, compared with a quarter of that in an aeroplane. And while I would prefer that ear-splitting shrieks be conspicuous by their absence, it’s a take a sip, take a skull proposition – all or nothing; tears and smiles.

Happiness is hearing your 4 year old niece choosing to play your favourite (somewhat obscure) folk singer on the ipod while passing time between stops, getting a carefully chosen tic-tac presented on a grubby finger, getting a cheeky smile between fits of restlesness…

No, we’re not there yet…

Song 1 – Raindrops in May

So I thought I’d make the most of an empty house and inclement weather to muck around on my home-music setup. It’s nothing flash: a USB-mixer, a few microphones and leads, and the open-source (yay) Audacity mixing/editing software.

After a few shambolic attempts at recording a song with the vocals – and due consideration of a colleague’s best attempts at constructive criticism (“Don’t give up your day job”) – I decided I’d play around with a little bit of vocal-free guitar. And Raindrops in May is the result… 3 Simple playthroughs, overlaid and marginally time-shifted. The absence of further editing is pretty evident I’m sure you’ll agree. But you know what, who really cares…?

Anyways, I hope you like it.

[display_podcast]
(http://www.jameses.org/mp3/raindrops_in_may.mp3)

30×30 – An idea for a year

“You shouldn’t aim to ‘be happy’ in life. Happiness is the by-product of doing other things” – Dad^

So I guess I’d better explain the idea of 30×30, so the bombardment of all things 30×30 makes more than minimal sense. In the lead up to my birthday, I thought I’d like to get something out of the coming year, rather than treat it like a placeholder for the ‘rest of my life’ or a stop-gap for the remainder of my Perth residence. Importantly, I wanted to regain a sense of self that didn’t revolve around my work, which holds a pretty close rein on my 0830-1800 waking hours and which, at times, is less than motivating and fulfilling.

Birthday’s are convenient arbitrary ‘start dates’ for all manner of things, and 30, being the clean slate for a new decade, seemed as reasonable a place as any to start.

So I thought, well why not try and do 30 lots of 30 different things…?

900 things* sounds like a lot to do, but really that’s only 3 or so ‘things’ a day over the course of a year. So many elements of life are incidental and considered trivial (or not even considered) and really take no effort to do – drinking a coffee somewhere for example, or trying a new beer. Others take more effort – doing 30 charitable acts or seeing 30 live music performances – and others are damn near impossible – 30 days of 6am starts (for the non-parents out there).

But the hope is that each ‘thing’ will constitute a single stroke in a painting, of a year, that will become more than a placeholder and which contains some interest and meaning, if for no-one more than me…

And so, please, pull the rip-chord if you feel it necessary. Eject, run-away, skedaddle, vamoose, and literally unsubscribe from the mailing list if the tedium of multiple blog posts over the last week has already taken its toll. I probably won’t write up every one of my 30x30s, but I will be writing up a few, and so perhaps the best way to approach it is to – whenever fancy strikes, and it may never – jump on the blog and hope that one of them is mildly interesting. After all, one of the categories is “Things Friends/Family suggest” and so there’s an opportunity to help me in my endeavour…

The 30×30 list is here and will continue to be accessible from just under the title of my blaarg. I do hope you find something over the course of the next year that proves to be mildly interesting or entertaining and look forward to hearing any feedback.

If worse comes to worst, my blog will simply continue to be the wrong-turn in the Google pick-a-path adventure for some odd term searches (‘public circus‘, ‘motorbike in traffic‘, ‘skinner box‘, ‘savoury scones recipe‘ and, by far the most popular with around 16,000 views… gizmo‘ (oddly enough, the Korean term for ‘gizmo’ also ranks highly) ).

Oh the relevance of my work 😉

^ At least that’s how I remember it. It may be poorly recollected or falsely attributed but the sentiment remains.
* Some things may count in more than one category and so the real count should actually be a bit lower. Eg, the short film I posted the other day, was a New Thing (never made a movie-whatsit), Short-film and Haiku in one blog post 🙂

Short Film 1; Haiku 1 – Rain on Asbestos

So this is a bit of a 30×30 two-in-one…

In the middle of Summer, Perth had around 30 consecutive days of +30C days, with a few ~40C days thrown in for good measure. On one of the latter, we had the pleasure of almost 100 per cent humidity thanks to a cyclone hovering off the Northwest. As we sat around, hot and bothered – very frickin’ hot and bothered – it felt like the skies might actually crack. And they did.

For about 20 minutes, during which I got the footage below, Daisy danced around like a loon and we showered, fully-clothed, under the rain-chain, it was bliss. Cold, refreshing bliss. And then the rain stopped, the heat and humidity returned and by 11pm that evening it had a relative temperature (where humidity is factored in) of around 41C.

So here is the short film. And a haiku (well close enough) for you.

http://youtu.be/XUCr6zREpbQ – The music was recorded tonight, using part of a song I’d done for a piece of Storm’s previous choreography.

Beach 1 – Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach - Eye-squintingly awesome!

Perth is blessed with beautiful stretches of yellow sand, crowded with people on days >40C and reasonably quiet besides. If you’re able to avoid Scarborough, Cottesloe, Trigg and a few of the other more frequented beaches, you should be able to catch more than a few (often little) waves, without having someone’s armpit, foot, surfboard colliding with your person underwater.

Personally, I love Autumn for swimming in Perth. You have some remnant swell – whipped up by a day or two of squally Sou’westers – on crisp blue-skied days with a good few hours of light off-shore breezes. Thanks to the Leeuwin Current, water temperatures are quite pleasant, but still brisk enough to wake you from your weekend lethargy/hangover.

I’m glad to start my Beaches 30×30 with Brighton Beach as it is, by far, my favourite and most frequented stretch of sand in Perth. Our ritual usually commences with a coffee, purchased at 33 Degrees South (if we’re lazy or in a hurry) or Milkd (if Storm’s overly vocal) and enjoyed on the 15 min drive west along Scarborough Beach Drive. Scarborough Beach Drive also happens to be home to all of the large retailers/car-yards/light commercial vendors who are able to afford the hefty rents that proximity to IKEA, the city and the ‘burbs brings. This can slow the trip down, and add some frustration as over-eager mergers, swervers and right-across-double-lane-turners abound on Saturday mornings.

That said, once feet hit sand and the sparkling blue is in front of you, little else matters. Hangovers disappear or rapidly diminish once that first wave of water courses over your head and neck. Small barrels offer the opportunity to fill the rather-sizeable void of “Look at Me!” with which I (and others) have been gifted/lumped. The vista provides for sneak-peeks of Rottnest Island across the channel and the many large carriers plying their trade in and out of Fremantle Port.

The only downside of Brighton Beach is the sad necessity of leaving it once tummies rumble/skin cooks/squinting eyes tire and the realisation that our clothes haven’t washed and hung themselves sets in. Argh, back to reality…

New Beer 1 – Alhambra Reserva 1925 (6.4%)

As part of my birthday dinner feast at Cantina 663, I decided to indulge in a nice Spanish beer to get my 30×30 beer run going… Some of the Spanish beers I’d tried in my year abroad were fairly uninspiring, watery, (XXXX-like), lagers, with little to warrant a sizeable pricetag. But the added allure of “Reserve” and an advertised year (1925) – always classy – and a devil-may-care birthday attitude made this worth the punt.

The tasting notes from the Spanish company’s website say – “Golden amber colour and light toasted aroma. Thick, creamy head with good retention. Full-bodied, firm, well-rounded pleasant flavour. Perfectly balanced bitter sweet flavour with notes of bitter-orange and a hint caramel flavour at the end”.

And you know what, that’s actually a pretty decent description. The beer had a nice dash of flavour and wasn’t as hoppy as so many of the boutique ales you find on the West Coast. There was a pleasant hint of mead on the palette and while I think the $9.5 pricetag was overstating the awesomeness of the beer, it was a nice way to get started. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Restaurant 1 – Cantina 663

We’d been to Cantina 663 about 3 times before, including one of our birthdays last year. Cantina 663 presents itself as a trendy, Spanish-inspired restaurant, with meals that sit fairly squarely in the middle of the wank, price, taste, size spectrum. In other words, the meals appeal with ingredients you know, done in a slightly different way, in amounts that are sufficient but not entirely-filling, for a cost that won’t break the bank. Throw in some interesting, but possibly overpriced entrees, and a full complement of wines (many drawing on the Spanish theme) and you have an interesting place to dine. What’s more, it does a roaring coffee and weekend breakfast/lunch trade.

In accordance with our usual style, Storm and I decided to order a couple of entrees and two meals and split them. So to the meal.

Entree
duck liver parfait, onion jam, char grilled bread ($15)
stuffed piquillo peppers, eggplant, goats cheese, hazelnut crumb ($15)

Mains
plantaganet pork cutlet, artichoke slaw, smoked apple ($33.5)
grass fed veal rump, confit leek, roast potato, capers ($31.5)

Drinks: Sons of Eden 2009 Grenach Shiraz Mourvèdre (Storm – $10 ish)
Alhambra Reserve Especial (6.4% – $9.5)

Total – around $120

Summary: The meal was nice, if not mind-blowing. The parfait was creamy and tasty and the piquillo peppers were both delicious and well presented. The pork cutlet was ample (sliced, which I thought a tad odd) and accompanied by a tasty coleslaw, some smoked apple pieces, and an unidentifiable morsel of food (may have been artichoke experienced like never before). The veal was cooked quite rare and cut into small morsels; a few small chat potatoes accompanied a morsel or two of leek and it was served was in a bowl with a dash of broth (with capers). Despite the looks we received when asking for a spoon, the broth was certainly worth savouring. Using the classic ‘would I work x hours to enjoy this?’ the answer is both yes and no. I feel it’s both a place that warrants a special occasion, but could be bested for a casual friday night dinner. If the logic sounds odd, it probably is.

Cantina 663 changes its menu once every couple of weeks (always hovering in the same gastronomic neighbourhood) and was recently (supposedly) ranked 83# in the top 150 Perth Restaurants. Apparently, it’s quite fancied by the blogging sophisticates, with a rating of 81% on Urbanspoon. Either way, I could’ve celebrated my birthday with Storm at a taco stand and it would’ve been lovely.

So I’ll leave my first 30×30 there…