The incoherent blathering and deranged rantings of the self-styled Guru Bob...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In space no-one can hear you fart...

It is good to see that while the rest of us are worried about the Global Financial Crisis, the end of the War on Terror and overall day to day stuff, that there is a team of crack scientists in India working on one of the really major issues of the day.

A group of Indian scientists are currently putting a lot of time and well earned research rupees into developing a curry that can be cooked and eaten in space as part of that country's race for space...

As someone who loves the products of the aromomatic curry leaves and the chilli bush I want to be at the front of the queue to test this product when it becomes widely available. I am sure that Barnes will also see it as an important foodsource in the post TEOTWAWKI environment and when one thinks of all the benefits which the American space race has given us (teflon, etc etc) then this research may actually provide a jump start for the Indian economy as well.
Imagine the market impact of freeze dried vindaloo in a tube???

However one can think of more important things for the Indian scientists to do as part of any space race - like building rockets that don't blow up on the launchpad for instance? But maybe they have that bit already sorted out and we didn't actually hear about it?

Of course it has the extra extra benefit that it will mean that HAVOCK won't want to go to space either...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hidden Histories

At present I am reading a book called The Real Deadwood which purports to be a history of the town depicted in the HBO television series which I a recovering from my addiction to. In fact the HBO series has probably started a new gold rush of tourism for the actual town of Deadwood. But I don't think this book will contribute too much towards it as it is very put-downable and poorly written, however it is interesting to get the real story of some of the characters from the series.

One of the things which struck me about the show was that there seemed to be a number of similarities between the gold rush history of America and what happened here in 19th century Victoria. Visiting the genteel towns of Ballarat and Bendigo today, you would have a hard time seeing them as they were then, rough-as-guts semi-lawless frontier towns aflow with money and gold.

In fact the same could have been said about Melbourne and one of my favorite pictures at work is a very naive picture of Melbourne in 1836 which shows how rough and ready the place was. The thing to remember is that just 20 years later the town of Melbourne was setting up the first university and library in Australia, and would soon afterwards be a thriving centre of commerce and industry.

However the thing that is so appealing about a series like Deadwood wasn't the 'big picture' of history which it brought to life, rather it was the way in which the people and concerns of an era which is completely foreign to many people nowadays was able to become totally engrossing television. Rather then glossing over the less glamorous side of history it positively reveled in it..

So in this side of the water we have more then enough stories of our own to create some good television. Unfortunately it never really happens. The movie of Ned Kelly was strangely unsatisfying and the various outlaws and bushrangers of our history never seem to make a good transtition to the screen, becoming 'period costume dramas' rather than anything engaging or interesting. Even more recent histories like the current Underbelly series two, seem more like a bunch of guys dressing up in seventies clothes for a bad costume party then a realistic evocation of an era.

Anyway back on topic - I went to the launch of a new book the other night. Madame Brussells: This moral pandemonium which is published by the good people at Arcade Publications. They are committed to bringing to print some of the less known aspects of Melbourne's history and have published wonderful little books on the eccentric bookseller E.W. Cole and on the Making of Modern Melbourne and it has been working for them. Madame Brussells and her bordello was a name synonymous with the less salubrious aspects of 19th Melbourne, however in more recent times the names is associated with a rooftop cocktail bar which for some reason is deocrated with astroturf and the waits staff wear tennis outfits. However their jugs of Pimms are always a welcome treat...

Of course the books launch was held there which was fun and they will be having a more public launch a little closer to the site where the house of ill repute was actually located. So if you are in Melbourne on Wednesday 1st April at 6.00pm drop into the Coopers Inn (242 - 282 Exhibition Street) and take part in the official launch.

I am not sure if I will be there, I may be still reading my copy of the book, but it should be interesting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wondering what to do with Uncle Kev's stimulus package???

You can always look here? Supposedly this is an Australian company with a pretty good product who are pricing their screens to make the most of Kevin's 900 buck handouts...
I would like to hear what Orin and any other tech-heads know about the product?
But it looks pretty good to me...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alan Moore Knows The Score*

Barnes and I went and saw the Watchmen on Imax after our big feast last Friday. It was quite an experience and I thought that I must have been still hallucinating from all of the chilli in our Chilli Pork stewy thing - just like that episode of the Simpsons...

Arriving at the cinema we went and subjected ourselves to nearly three hours of imagery and loud sounds that were pretty bloody amazing. I had read Watchmen many years ago when it first came out as a graphic novel and basically set up the whole genre. The film is incredibly true to the book in so many ways - it replicates scenes and images exctly as they were depicted in the book, but it also suceeds in making the characters come to life as well.

I hacve heard some geeky criticisms of it on RRR that seemed to suggest that ithe films wasn't grungy enough and its CGI was all too slick. But I do have to ask these critics how else did they think a film-maker was going to replicate a 100 foot tall glowing blue naked man or a strange crystalline spaceship flying through the Mars atmosphere without some sort of CGI? I think it may have been a case of the technology having to catch up with the imagination of the original author/creator Alan Moore.

Anyway I enjoyed it a lot and so did Barnes (which probably goes with out saying) even though it was his second viewing in two days (he is committed to these things). He did mention Sharon's very pointed comment that basically the Director had replicated the graphic novel so closely that there was basically no room for any 'interpretation' by them. Which I think is right on the mark - if you compared the Batman 'Dark Knight' graphic novel with the film of the same name and there was nothing in common at all except for a 'gothic' sensibility, however a comparison between the Watchmen movie and the graohic novel is the graphic equivalent of 'word for word'...

If you want to know more then you will just have to go and see the movie and make up your own mind...

* lyric from Pop will Eat Itself song "Can You Dig It" on 1989 album This Is the Day...This Is the Hour...This Is This!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My first attempt at WW fanfic

Murph’s law

The camouflaged man crouched low in the bushes and scanned the blackness ahead of him along the barrel of his rifle. Suddenly there was scurrying movement ahead of him and then two low slung figures bounded away through the long grass towards the treeline.

“Well I guess I am not in Kansas anymore...” the old joke made him chuckle to himself under his breath as he watched the retreating backs of the two kangaroos through his night vision goggles as they passed his position. He would have taken a pot shot at the animals but he had heard that they made terrible eating and anyway this was supposed to be a fully tactical patrol of the base’s perimeter.

“When they got back to base maybe they could chuck a shrimp on the Barbie instead!” he thought. This time he actually laughed aloud as he recalled how that strange Aussie Quarter-Master named Havock had explained that Australians actually called them prawns and the shouting match that had ensued between the two groups of off duty soldiers last week, nearly degenerating into an all-out brawl.

Private Steve Murphy, known as Murph to his friends, felt rather then saw the shrivelling look that his patrol leader Corporal Wolf directed at him in the dark. He thought about explaining himself but realized that the patrol leader was probable too young to remember the Paul Hogan advertisements anyway. Besides which the whole tourism industry had taken a bit of a dive in the post-Wave world as well, in fact the concept of travelling anywhere for fun seemed incredibly stupid now.

So he kept quiet and moved onwards, stepping gingerly over some broken twigs.
Although he wondered what risk was there that anyone would hear anything in this godforsaken place they found themselves in now? After all of those years of thinking he would love to visit this country he now found himself stuck here patrolling a awful hellhole called Shoalwater Bay and it looked like he would be here for a long, long time...

It seemed like forever ago that his reservist unit had been called up and bustled over to Kuwait to wait for that new conflict to start. To tell the truth after 9/11 he had been busting his own chops to get over there and show the towelheads that they couldn’t snub their noses at the most powerful nation in the world in such a public and humiliating way.

However all of that had just paled into insignificance in the face of what happened next.

First there was the bewildering news about what they now called ‘The Wave’ which seemed to have obliterated the whole continental USA, and then all hell had broken loose in the Middle East. His unit had been happy to raise the black flag and let loose all of their rage and frustration on the enemy in front of them. But some of the things that he had seen and done at that time were now coming back to haunt him every night when he tried to sleep.

But he had to admit that the fighting was actually the easy part, no matter how tough it had been at the time. By the time the Wave happened everyone was primed and ready for a major offensive and so when the shooting started it was much easier to just fight and kill rather then think. The thousands of highly trained professional soldiers had just done what they did best at the time.
The thinking time came later when no-one was shooting at you, and it was much, much tougher to deal with…

It had hit the women particularly hard, especially those ones who were just reservists or national guardsmen with families at home. There were those ones who had thought that they had signed up for a short stint in uniform. Which of them would have ever expected that when they left their kids and husbands to head over to Saudi Arabia that they would be the ones who would still be left behind? Some of them may have thought that they could be wounded or even killed, but it had been inconceivable that their families would have been more at risk.

However it had also hit the guys pretty badly as well. Particularly once the frontline combat situation was all over. The ‘cleaning detail’ was the worst part and Murph had had more than his fair share of those, especially when he had pissed off Staff Sergeant Rhino by pinching his box of Cuban cigars.

Maybe he was just getting tired and cynical but there were just too many times when he had to clean up after some overmuscled young buck had suddenly been struck by the full realization that his 'ma and pa' weren’t going to be there for him when he got home anymore, in fact there wasn’t anywhere to call home and as a result had eaten one of their own bullets. It was getting so that there were certain officers who were calling for cracking down on soldiers having any access to ammo in their barracks. Especially after that recent incident with the grenades in the toilet block, the whole brigade had had to crap in a bucket for weeks afterwards.

However it could have been worse.

After all they could have been stationed in Germany when the Wave hit. He had heard that after the stories from Iraq had come out and the after that incident with the Israeli’s going nuclear on the whole Arab world that the Germany government had basically decided that it couldn’t risk having a series of heavily armed camps on its soil full of highly trained military forces who owed no allegiance to any existing government. The Bundeswehr had sealed off every US base behind a cordon of tanks, SAMS and soldiers, nothing went in and nothing came out until the US forces laid down their arms and walked out. But of course that was never going to happen. Apparently whole families were stuck on those bases living on nothing but MREs while the remaining US command structure tried to sort the situation out with the German government, after all no-one really wanted to get into a shooting war with people who until recently had been close allies.

And that was nothing compared to those countries which were trying to get any US serviceman they could lay their hands on to face war crimes tribunals for what had happened in Iraq before Israel dropped its nukes.

Coming back to reality from his pondering the past he ducked below the branch of a gum tree as the patrol kept on its way. The goggles gave everything a weird otherworldly green tint, but he didn’t really need them to know that there wasn’t much sightseeing around this broken landscape anyway. But supposedly that would all change soon.

According to that Howard fellow this would soon be home the largest concentration of American forces in the world. While not quite as hot as Iraq, it was certainly a dried out piece of dirt that used to be the Australian Army's training ground and as far as Murph was concerned they could keep it.

Murph had seen the Aussie Prime Minister when he had come to the base to give some speech and to be honest he wasn’t impressed with the short rodent like guy with a fixed grin whose eyes had flashed with fear whenever a black or Latino looking soldier had come too close. But he supposed that they would all have to get used to Prime-Minister-for-Life John Howard because he ran the place after all and now they would all be stuck here for quite some time.

“A new miracle of Dunkirk’ was what Howard had said in that speech and something about “making a new life here in the Lucky Country”. Unlike a lot of the other guys in his platoon Murph had read a lot of history books though and knew the whole ‘miracle’ thing was just the positive spin the Brits had put on what anyone else would call a crushing defeat.

He had to admit that it had felt like a defeat at the time too...

He had managed to avoid any of the long range patrols who had come back from the nuke zones, jumping off their Blackhawks stinking of sweat, fear and vomit even through their NBC suits. But even though the shooting had stopped no-one wanted to stay around anywhere in the Middle East any longer then necessary waiting for the fallout clouds to hit them. When the ships had appeared on the horizon there were crazy scenes on the docks and the beaches.

One particular sight stayed in his mind as row after row of Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks lit up like huge fireworks as the engineer teams blew them up with thermite charges because there wasn’t enough room on the ships for both men and equipment, and these days the men came first. The engineers had made jokes about how they were hosting was the world’s biggest bonfire but someone had forgotten the marshmallows, but in everyone’s eyes you could see the truth. They were all thinking ‘I hope we won’t need those vehicles where we are going’…

Back in the scrub at Shoalwater Bay, Murph carefully negotiated his way past an old rusty barbed wire fence from some ancient obstacle course. He knew this place well enough by now to know that they were nearly finished their patrol. Soon they would be able to relax and head down to the mess, grab a bite to eat and chill out in front of the television. Not that there was much to watch, but even here they did seem to have all of the old American sitcoms. There were a lot of other differences though… ranging from the weird plastic money through to the fact that they drove on the wrong side of the road and he wasn't even going to think about that obscenity they called football here.

When their convoy had headed out of the Gulf no-one had known for sure where they would be going. Rumours had circulated like wildfire through the unit. They were going to Diego Garcia, then they were off to Hawaii, then it was Japan or even Korea. No-one really knew what was going on in those places, anymore then they knew what was happening in the USA. Finally the word had come down the line that they were headed for Australia and everyone had cheered. They all knew Australia, or at least thought that they did.

When they arrived at the docks in Fremantle there were the usual speeches by the politicians. Murph supposed that Howard fellow was probably there, as he had recently declared martial law and made himself Prime-Minister-For-Life. But Murph didn’t see or hear him and anyway at that time he didn’t really know anything about the local political situation. There was nothing about ‘un-Australian elements’, 'state of emergency', ‘detention centres’ or even ‘house to house searchs’ at that time. Instead there was a lot of talk about ‘shared history and values’ and ‘mutual protection from mutual threats’ before they were hustled through a police cordon onto a train for a trip across a continent.

Murph had never been too keen on air travel but that was the longest and most boring train trip that he could ever recall. It was also about when the first of the ‘cleaning details’ had begun. Stuck on a train in a brutal looking alien landscape for hours on end, that was when the reality had started to hit a few of the men and women who had faced some of the worst firefights but just couldn’t face this new future. A couple of them had probably just thrown themselves out the doors of the train without anyone knowing, but Murph’s section had to clean up when one hardened Sergeant ate his 9mil in the crapper.

It had all been pretty messy and the train couldn’t stop.

The patrol continued on towards the main gate of the base and Murph sensed something different in the activity around entrance. The loud bass sound of hiphop being played very loud on a stereo came from the direction of the accoimodation tents and there were cheers coming from a crowd of troops clustered around the entrance. Groups of men and women were running towards the main tent where there was noise coming from a large screen.

“What’s happening?” asked the Rhino of the sentries as they reported in, pointing to the excited crowd.
“It’s gone man, the Wave, it’s gone… we just heard.”

The rest of the patrol absorbed this news. The Wave had dominated every aspect of their lives for the past twelve months and now just as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone. Murph realized that this put a whole new spin on things, soon they would all be going home and everything would be okay.

But then again Murph had always been an optimist…
End of episode one of Murph's adventures in Oz...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Yeah right...

Ok it has been a while since I got the urge to write anything here. Basically have been frantically busy at work, weekends seem to be full of driving around looking at houses and apartments. So far spectacularly unsuccesfully I have to say.

However there has been some good news on the horizon, Sweet Thang got her new passport back, went down to Vic Roads and passed her learners test first time (I am probably too ashamed to rememberhow many times it took me as a late bloomer to just pass the learners test). So tomorrow she will be out on her first driving lesson - so if you value your skin it may be wise to stay away from any roads or streets near Essendon or Moonee Ponds around 4.00pm on Saturday.

Also managed to finish series one of The Wire which has been fantastic, right up there with Sopranos and The Shield as far as cop shows go. Well written and paced. Supposedly based upon real life, it certainly had the look and feel of the real thing. The strange thing is that now having gotten the bug I headed back to JB Hi Fi to buy Series 2 and the price has snuck back up from fifteen bucks to fifty again.

I also heard from Heather and Tim and they are both fine, a bit sick of evacuating their place after 3 separate departures, but this week has been cold and wet, the newspapers seem to be full of photos of CFA firemen singing or dancing in the rain and so I am hoping that the worst of the bushfires are all gone away for the next 12 months.

Tonight I am off to Mornington Peninsula for an exhibition opening and then back to the grind for the weekend. The pattern so far seems to be we drop in to an open for inspection and like a place and then when we make a return visit the rose-coloured glasses fall off and we see all the problems with it. But we are ever hopeful. The new Tomtom GPS (a very nice Birthday pressie) also takes a lot of the arguments out of actually findinga nd getting to places quickly though.

Next week Barnes and I are catching up for another Dainty Sichuan lunch followed by three hours in the Imax watching the Watchmen...