Tag Archives: Sydney

I’ve Been Blogging For 10 years Now

…And I’m Sure As Hell Neither Rich Nor Famous For It

Well, 10years is a long time. It’s been across 3 blogs.

I’m thinking maybe I should consolidate everything into 1 big blog and slap it full of google ads. Let me know what you think.

MLB Opened 2014 In Sydney

I got asked for an opinion about the MLB staging their season opener at the Sydney Cricket Ground last weekend by Pleiades. I do have a bit to say about it but it’s all tangential to what happened. What happened was that the LA Dodgers rolled into town with what we now know to be the highest payroll in baseball and beat Team Australia 4-2 in an exhibition warmup, then the Arizona Diamondbacks twice to open their season 2-0. Also in the fray was the game Team Australia won 5-0 against the D-Backs.

Some impressions of the Dodgers… Jeez they’re a bunch of freeswingers. Apart from Adrian Gonzales and Scott Van Slyke, nobody really seemed to work the count at all. And they still won. So I guess that’s talent. They did leave it to the very end when they were losing 0-2 to Team Australia before they broke open for a 4 run top of the 8th. They kept hacking at the first pitch and were  being 1-hit by that time. Of course they went on to essentially beat the D-backs swinging that way so who’s to say they’re wrong? Maybe talent doesn’t need strategem?

Team Australia acquitted themselves well. This was surprising. The 5-0 win over the D-Backs was really surprising. Until of course the D-Backs proceeded to get rolled by the Dodgers in the first two official games. This prompted great commentary from the ESPN commentators saying that more scouts will come to Australia looking for talent. John Smotlz in particular seemed incredibly keen on the idea.

The arrival of MLB, even for a glimpse should represent a threat to the cricket fraternity. If the awareness of baseball goes up, the kind o talent that goes into cricket might opt to go to baseball. The money and opportunities are certainly weighted that way. This isn’t a discussion about which sport is better. Baseball has more money than cricket right now. When you combine other markets where it is played apart form North America,  it’s clear there’s a lot of money out there.

Here’s a comparison. Once-in-a-generation wicket keeper and batsman Adam Gilchrist probably earned about AUD$10million-15million in his career, an that’s being generous. Roughly overlapping his carer was once-in-a-generation hitting catcher Mike Piazza whose lifetime earnings would be closer to US$100million. They most likely have never heard of each other, which reflects how far apart the worlds have been. Adam Gilchrist had what cricket commentators might call a ‘tidy’ career. Mike Piazza had a resplendent one. Yes, “there’s money in them thar hills”, as they say.

Of course it’s s not all about the money. Lots of Australian kids have a knee-jerk reaction of hating on” Yank sports” so it might take a while.  A very long while even; but eventually the money and interest from America is going to make its presence felt. So yeah, money does talk and bullshit does walk. It’s making me think that the whole Kerry Packer World Series cricket thing was an attempt to stave off baseball from eating his favourite game of cricket. it probably worked in the 1970s. I doubt the numbers are there today and going forward.

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Movie Doubles – ‘Pacific Rim’ & ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’

Smash Those Buildings!

This is the first Movie Double in quite a while so apologies if I’m a a bit rusty. It’s difficult to find good pairing of movies and sometimes you see a pairing but you’ve already sort of done a crit on one makes it harder to do. The totally random pairing of two films has its limits because the further apart they are thematically, the more general the observations become and really who needs an ever increasing cavalcade of general observations about cinema? No, we just like movies, right?

Anyway, today’s Movie Double came about because I’d been meaning to catch up with Ryuhei Kitamura’s Godzilla movie for quite some time and FetchTV threw it up as an option a little while ago so that prompted me to download and watch the damn thing at long last. I’d only heard about the thing where in a series of building smash ups, ‘Zilla (from the 1996 travesty Hollywood Godzilla) makes an appearance in Sydney.

‘Pacific Rim’, of course, is one of those films that people tell you with loaded enthusiasm, “the story is crap but the effects are great.” But once again, there it was a choice from FetchTV, so here we are.

Oh, ah, spoiler alert as usual.

The Allure Of Gulliver

It might not seem like much of a tradition but there is a tradition of stories to do with scale. Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ works the angle of scale at both extremes, while countless accounts of giants are scattered in fairy tales and conspiracy theories. We’re into big things whether it be ‘King Kong’ or the ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’. The sense of distorted scale and miniature cities getting stomped on has the quality of a fevered imagination unlike the sort of naturalist drama that wins Oscars, but there we are; the giant monster stalking the city is one of those staples of fiction.

As the 50th anniversary film, ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ comes at the end of a long line of Godzilla movies that feature the traditional rubber suit and miniatures being smashed in slow motion. It’s actually a house-style of these ‘Kaiju‘ movies that is slowly going out of style. The film manages an All-Star cast of villains with both Gaigan and King Ghidorah getting major scenes while Mothra enters the fray to help Godzilla with the heavy lifting.

‘Pacific Rim’ comes replete with a gigantic robot controlled by pilots to combat the Kaiju monsters sent from another dimension so the film is at once an homage to the Kaiju genre while bravely trying to transplant the underlying insane logic to the Hollywood mimesis. In doing so both films have hit upon the exact same solution for what motivates the monsters’ attacks. Aliens from another world are using the Kaiju monsters to further their plans for conquest. It’s actually quite surprising how this idea basically underpins both films. It is as if in reaching for somekind of plausible explanation, both productions reached the conclusion that the only rational explanation for gigantic monsters smashing  buildings is if it was part of an alien invasion.

You’d think the aliens would just nuke cities instead, but there you have it.

The Meaning Of Godzilla

From the very beginning, Godzilla was meant to be an irrational force. The various ret-conned story lines about Godzilla’s origins notwithstanding, the point of Godzilla is that it emerges from the fall out from nuclear testing at the Bikini atoll, and then emerges from the sea to stomp on miniature set cities. All the other monsters in the series were even thinner in story and mostly there for something for Godzilla to tangle with instead of simply knocking down attack planes with his breath weapon.

The worst thing about the Emmerich Godzilla movie in the 1990s was that it cast Godzilla as this giant mutant iguana that dies when it’s pumped full of American military missiles. That is not the monster we were led to believe it was from the title. That’s just a giant angry Iguana. The real/original Godzilla just absorbs the damage and continues to smash buildings.

The sad thing is that the traditional rubber suit on sound stage technique just can’t generate the kind of verisimilitude that CGI can produce so the action is much more compelling in ‘Pacific Rim’. Everything smashes and collapses so convincingly in ‘Pacific Rim’, it’s actually a technological wonder they can do all that.

Sydney Gets A Spanking

What makes a world class city? If a Kaiju turns up in a movie to smash landmarks,you know your city has made the list of top world cities. The Emmerich ‘Zilla (the giant Iguana) turns up in Sydney in ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ and starts menacing cars on Darling Harbour overpass. It even pulls down the AMP Centrepoint Tower. It seems to turn left towards her Majesty’s Theatre down by Chinatown where it puts the scare into some good Aussie extras who do some cheesey monster movie acting, and when Godzilla turns up for the showdown, ‘Zilla ends up thrown down against the Sydney Opera House , caving it in.

Sydney gets a much shorter snippet in ‘Pacific Rim’. A Kaiju comes ashore and moves down towards Martin Place but a giant robot kills it somewhere around Elizabeth Street. The Sydney Opera House is saved. I guess if you were going to smash Sydney, that’s just about all of what is worth smashing. In some ways, they’re the most fun bits for an Australian audience.

Neither film would get much approval from Australia’s film cogniscenti, but that’s probably symptomatic of the film industry in this country. It might be a better industry if it could do crowd-pleasers like these movies.

Something Odd About These Aliens

The reason why aliens want to invade Earth never seems to change. In’ Independence Day’ Roland Emmerich posited that the aliens were like locusts, going from mound of resource to the next. This same story got recycled for ‘Pacific Rim’. The aliens in ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ are also here for living room, but there seems to be a lot more squabbling amongst the aliens as to just how destructive they need to be with the humans.

I’m not exactly reworking the joke line “Stop I want to get off this planet” but you do sort of wonder why aliens would want to colonise Earth given how difficult the task is made by the presence of humans. The use of Kaiju hardly seems like the ideal method to create the living space and they do make such an awful mess as they smash stuff. If you had the technology to travel across dimensions, unleash Kaiju monsters at will, you’d think they had something basic like a neutron bomb instead.

We don’t really get to find out a whole lot about the aliens in ‘Pacific Rim’; we get a glimpse of them, and then we nuke them. We get to find out a little bit of the politicking in the ranks of the aliens in ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’. The inner squabble ends up putting in charge a bullying teenager type as the leader of the aliens. The lack of emotional maturity clearly leads to their plans being foiled by Godzilla, who characteristically smashes everything and then kills all the monsters it faces.

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News That’s Fit To Punt 10/May/2013

Not Wilton, Surely Not Wilton

The Federal Government and transport minister Anthony Albanese in particular has been leading a strange crusade of his own to put an airport at Wilton. To that extent his department has somehow deleted references to an old study done into Wilton which categorically rejected Wilton as a site for Sydney’s second airport; then commissioned a new study based on the fact that Wilton was about the 9th best candidate in a field of 9, and then finally released those findings to find that there is yet another reason to do another study.

Chief executive of Urban Development Institute of Australia Stephen Albin, who is backing another airport at Badgerys Creek, said the further studies into Wilton were a waste of time and the public had ”report fatigue”.’

‘They don’t believe what they are hearing from the politicians,” Mr Albin said. ”Decisions need to be made to ensure that community confidence in government plans is not eroded.”

Mr Albin, as well as the NSW Business Chamber and the Tourism and Transport Forum, said Badgerys Creek was clearly the best option.

”The biggest surprise out of this report was that they’ve said they’re going to do another report,” Mr Albin said.

That’s exactly it.

It’s all pretty strange with its fixation on Wilton if it didn’t keep costing millions in tax money to keep conducting these studies that basically keep saying Wilton is a bad idea. Even if it were an average idea, the Federal Government already owns land to what everybody knows is the right idea, which is Badgerys Creek. But no. They’ll do another report into Wilton. So here’s another one of those facepalm moments you can chalk up with this ALP government.

Anyway. Crikey has this piece here, thanks to Pleiades.

Labor is under suspicion of protecting someone’s pecuniary interests in not building Badgerys Creek, which a brand new suburban railway line, the SW Rail project, could be extended into at trivial cost  on its completion to Leppington in less than two years time.

It can’t possibly be acting to protect the public interest in depriving western Sydney from having its own airport, and the jobs and additional public transport infrastructure that come with it.

Labor even sponsored a supposedly independent federal/state study into a site for a 2nd Sydney Airport which overwhelmingly endorsed Badgerys Creek, which the Commonwealth owns, and the minister, Anthony Albanese, trashed its independence in about 20 minutes after its official release by rejecting the finding as incompatible with party policy. That development, a year ago, then lead to today’s ridiculous and useless quest to ‘independently’ come up with a Wilton answer that would justify turning over the Badgerys Creek site to whatever private interests will benefit from such a decision.

Minister, the answer is not another or further studies. The answer is change the policy.

That about sums it up. But of course this government is pathologically incapable of doing the obviously correct thing. As with the other white elephant study – the one into a high speed rail link they have no intention of building – this one has sucked a lot of government money and public confidence. I’m amazed that Julia Gillard gets given so much credit for her policies when in fact her ministers are off creating this miasma of nonsensical studies and non-decisions.

For those of you short of a laugh, here’s something you might like: Some black-humoured wags are saying that the reason Anthony Albanese is insisting on Wilton is so that Badgerys never gets built. The reason why they don’t want to build on Badgerys Creek is because that’s where all the corpses are buried by hitman Lucky Gatellari and hitman-hirer-about-town Ron Medich, so it would be a terrible thing to dig anything up out there. That sort of thing just might fit the bill of pecuniary interests, no?

Jokes aside, you do wonder what on earth the ALP is up to with this charade. If they want to build the second airport in Badgerys, they should just come out and say so. Everybody knows it’s the only real choice.

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Cockatoo Island Film Festival

The New Thing In Town

Sydney got itself a new film festival starting this year and it took place on Cockatoo Island. Out of an odd happenstance I ended up attending parts of it. I even made it to the Award Night where they handed pout their own inaugural gongs.

What’s Good About It

They’ve done a nice job selling it as a film maker’s festival, and it does take place on a beautiful part of Sydney. If you could conceive of a film festival in Sydney that was utterly unlike the Sydney Film Festival, this would have been the place to put it, and really, it has great promise for the future.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm to it, and one suspects that it is going to be even more unlike the Sydney Film Festival which has established itself firmly with a particular kind of film-viewing public. The potential is there for it to grow into something really different and good. If nothing else it is unique and breaks the mold of what film festivals should be like

What’s Bad About It

This year being the first time in Sydney – it’s grown up and out of the Dungog Film Festival – it felt like it was more form over function. The organisation seemed in most part chaotic and planning underdone. It compared very unfavourably if you were a regular punter to the SFF and suddenly were confronted with the sense of out-of-control-ness the festival betrayed.

Volunteers were talking into their intercoms on their collars a lot, but the flow of information was anarchic. It looked great, but it didn’t work as well as it looked.

Getting to and from the island can be a little haphazard, which is a minor complaint, but it’s a real one all the same. Once you’re on the island, you feel captive to the services and amenities available and they’re not exactly good or cheap.

What’s Interesting About It

There’s a lot of space for the festival to grow, and I guess that’s where the promise is. A few years back there was talk of slotting in a comedy festival in October on Cockatoo Island, which almost happened and never did. It might be an idea to run that concurrently on the Island as well as have a band competition.

The feeling I had while I staggered around the island was that there nearly wasn’t enough to see or do at the festival, once you staggered out of movies. The flipside of it is the feeling that it could in future turn into a really varied, multifaceted event that attracts great talent from all over the world.

It sure beats stumbling in and out of the State Theatre with a bustling throng in the rain.

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Let The Bubble Burst?

Property Bubble Talk

I expect banking shares to be in trouble when the property bubble bursts. Here’s an article that says the Australian property bubble is looking to burst at some point.

Yet on Wednesday one of the unpalatable and less obvious side-effects of Australia’s inflating house prices – now deemed by the Economist magazine to be overvalued by 50 per cent – became clearer. The rise in the number of Australian households who are in so much difficulty with their mortgage repayments that they are facing selling up – or being sold up – is continuing its ascent beyond the 200,000 mark reached in November. By this year’s end, some 270,000 Australian households will be in severe mortgage stress.

Defaults on mortgage repayments will rise to 35,500 by December – considerably above the present yearly total of about 28,000 households.

All in all, the report produced by the Sydney consultants Fujitsu predicts that by the end of this year some 637,000 Australian households will be under some form of mortgage stress.

No one knows how Australia’s housing asset bubble will end. But new American research points to an unexpected and unnerving phenomenon for banks caused by a wave of more belligerent borrowers caught in a property bubble burst.

Many are now more likely to lose their emotional attachment to their homes and walk away, tossing the keys to the bank, even if they have the capacity to keep making mortgage repayments. One published estimate found that 17 per cent of all Americans who default on their mortgage repayments no longer choose to try and tough it out – they walk off.

Except in Australia, you sort of wonder if the terms of the mortgages allow people to walk off. I thought I was being a little bearish when I last read some papers that indicated that the Sydney real estate prices could fall 40%. If The Economist thinks it’s over valued by 50%, then it could easily be a 33% drop. So expect it to go down 33-40%.

Most of the people who bought properties this side of 1998 are going to be quite peeved when the bubble bursts. If they got locked into unrealistic mortgages to support unrealistic house prices they bought into, the backlash and recriminations and blame-throwing is going to be something fierce. Which explains not only how the First Home Owners’ Grant helped to shore up prices, but why they couched the policy in such a way so as to help the Baby Boomers keep their property values up through the early part of the GFC. Now that those policies are being wound down and the stimulus is being wound down, things could get interesting.

I’m actually not looking forward to seeing this one shake out. The way it shook out in Japan was totally ugly.

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One Child Policy Outcomes

It’s Raining Blokes Over There Ladies!

I keep hearing there’s a bloke shortage in Sydney.

“What do men and car parking have in common?” I got asked by a woman who was pontificating on this point.

“I dunno,” I answered obligingly.

“The only ones available are either disabled or too far away.”

“Uh-huh.”

“…or they’re gay!” She spat out with a witch-like cackle.

Not being single or disabled or gay, I thought, “maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s *you*.”

With that I bring to those “luckless” ladies, this news:

BEIJING (AFP) – More than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses in 2020, state media reported on Monday, citing a study that blamed sex-specific abortions as a major factor.

The study, by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, named the gender imbalance among newborns as the most serious demographic problem for the country’s population of 1.3 billion, the Global Times said.
“Sex-specific abortions remained extremely commonplace, especially in rural areas,” where the cultural preference for boys over girls is strongest, the study said, while noting the reasons for the gender imbalance were “complex.”

Researcher Wang Guangzhou said the skewed birth ratio could lead to difficulties for men with lower incomes in finding spouses, as well as a widening age gap between partners, according to the Global Times.
Another researcher quoted by the newspaper, Wang Yuesheng, said men in poorer parts of China would be forced to accept marriages late in life or remain single for life, which could “cause a break in family lines.”

“The chance of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside. They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on,” Wang said.

If a bloke called ‘wang’ says it, there’s an unintentional pathos to the conclusion.

Bottom line though is that with 24million excess blokes, there a re bound to be non-crippled, not-gay blokes for all of Sydney’s luckless ladies. I know, I know, it’s still far away, but that’s not the insurmountable part, is it?

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Things You See In The Newspapers

Raiders of Anthony And Cleopatra’s Lost Tombs

‘X’ never marks the spot unless it’s scripted that way. Archaeologists are digging around 27km west of Alexandria for the resting place of none other than Anthony and Cleopatra.

anthony-cleopatra-gravsiteFor years, researchers have been seeking the graves of the famed pair, celebrated in plays and movies. French archaeologists recently said the tombs were in the newly excavated remains of Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, but they found nothing.

Last year, archaeologists from Egypt and the Dominican Republic found the remains of a cemetery near the temple of Taposiris Magna, 27 kilometres west of Alexandria. The cemetery has so far yielded 27 tombs and 10 mummies. Such cemeteries are common near royal tombs.

The team uncovered a damaged bust of the Egyptian queen, 22 coins bearing her image and a funerary mask that is believed to be of Antony.

Last month, it used radar to find three deep shafts leading to three “spots of interest” under the temple, the Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said.

I guess if and when they do find them, they’ll do DNA tests and stuff, and then we’ll go look for the closest living relative of the two and make a TV special out of that. Or perhaps not.All the same, I’m interested. It sure beats following BrisConnections. Speaking of which…

We Get The Crap Governments We Deserve

Sydney’s a pretty crappy town these days. Gone is the lustre form its halcyon Olympic hosting days. The roads are congested, the trains are crap, the busses are never on time and there’s really no easy way of getting around town.

It turns out it’s because none of the NSW governments have addressed the underlying issues for decades. No wonder the present day mob is not up to the task – and worse still, the opposition may be worse by dint of ideology.

It’s round about now in history where Sydney’s lack of investment in public transport is catching up to the city hard and fast.

A FAMILY living in the outer suburbs of Sydney with one parent working in the city will spend as much money running their car as they do on mortgage repayments over the course of a 30-year home loan.

This fact – revealed in a 2005 federal parliamentary inquiry into the sustainability of Australian cities – is the legacy of a rail network that is frozen in time.

Sydney’s rail system has remained almost unchanged from the original vision developed by engineer John Bradfield in the 1930s and then updated in 1956. The city is now seeing the social consequences of this in the growing divide between those who have access to transport and those who do not.

The recent decisions by the State Government to dump the north-west and south-west rail links are just the tip of the iceberg.

The head office of RailCorp is littered with blueprints for grand rail projects that never made it off the page. Over the past 15 years the government has promised, but failed to deliver, at least $28 billion of rail infrastructure, including 13 projects that would have provided more than 1000 kilometres of track and dozens of new stations.

Some, such as the Mosman to Mona Vale line, were envisaged by Bradfield himself. More recently, the Government has axed plans for a south-west connection between Strathfield and Hurstville, a fast train between Hornsby and Newcastle and the duplication of the Richmond line.

The physical reminders are easy to see. The Maldon to Dombarton freight line, begun in the early 1980s but dumped by the Greiner government in 1988, lies half-finished and gradually rotting in the Illawarra, and tunnels under North Sydney and St James have been empty for decades.

“There is a problem with NSW treasury not believing in rail in this state and Sydney in particular,” says Garry Glazebrook, a transport expert from the University of Technology, Sydney.

“For 10 to 15 years we were able to build toll roads using private sector finance and that relieved treasury of the responsibility.”

That the failure to provide new public transport infrastructure is having serious social consequences should not come as a surprise.

Well, d’uh. It’s been a long time coming, but it also has to be said the newspapers have been really bad at understanding the ramifications of this neglect that has been going on for a long time. If there’s one thing that stops Sydney from being a truly pleasant city. it is the absence of a rail network.

My favorite story is how City Rail got rated the worst rail service of its kind in the world. So they sent their brightest fellow to Switzerland who had the best system in the world, to find out how to do it. Except that once he got there, instead of listening to the Swiss telling him how to do it, he’d insist on telling them how they did it at City Rail. As in, what? The Swiss want to learn how to turn their world-best system into the world’s worst system, just like Sydney’s?

Rail Corp is full of stories like that. You’d think people would be marching about this instead of bloody APEC or whatever.

Pony’s Relatives

As if the story of Pony the Orangutan wasn’t sad enough, we find in the news today that her relatives in Sumatra are in trouble. Sumatran Orangutans have it tough.

baby-orangutanUP TO five adult orang-utans are being killed for every baby animal illegally captured, according to a new report showing the species faces extinction.

The World Wildlife Fund report says that hunters, who are rarely prosecuted, usually shoot both parents and sometimes other adult members of a colony to catch a baby to sell at markets so it can be kept as a pet or in a private zoo.

But about one in three babies dies before reaching a market because of the trauma of capture or poor transport conditions.

Authorities are failing to crack down on the booming illegal trade in orang-utans and gibbons on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The report, released by Traffic – a group that monitors illegal animal trading for the WWF – shows that both species are on the brink of disappearing.

“We’re talking about an animal which takes 11 years to reach maturity, then carries its babies for about seven years before weaning, so it takes a very long time for the population to recover, if it does at all,” an Australian spokesman for Traffic, Chris Shepherd, said.

“Babies fetch high prices at markets, so when someone is found with an orang-utan or gibbon and it is seized, they go straight out and get another one.

“There is no deterrent. Awareness is not the problem and neither is the law. We have some of the best legislation in South-East Asia but we need an increase in enforcement to stop this.”

Pretty bad. Years ago, they had stories of abandoned Orangutans in the streets of Taipei because these pet Orangutans are cute while they’re small but turn into dirty big creatures that are too unruly for the urban household. Even that little thing above is going to turn into a sumo-wrestler sized ape. I just don’t get the people who think that something like that would make a nice pet.

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