Thursday, October 04, 2007

This blog now exists, and lives, here:

Come on over!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

While I was on holidays, other than when I was in England (where all I heard about was the English cricket tri-series win) the only Australian-relevant news I ever heard was when John Howard said the following:

If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

It was also the only news I got about Obama and what was happening for him in the US. And, being an Obama and Rudd fan, I really wanted to be back at home to see how a statement like that was received by the Australian and American media. I also hand-wrote a post that I intended to transcribe to here, but I lost the papers somewhere.

Anyway, when I got back, I found out that it had hardly received any attention at all. I was rather surprised - PM Howard had just blasted a potential presidential candidate and senator. It might not sound like much, but at the least I would have thought the ALP would have run with it for what it was worth. I assumed that they hadn't, and then completely forgot about the issue.

Then, watching the news today, I saw that Kevin Rudd has set up a MySpace account, not dissimilar to what American politicians have done to attract the attention of the younger vote that is techno-savvy. I've had Obama's on mine for some time, and during the fund raising season I was getting many a message from him.

Anyway, to get back to the point I was making, I added Rudd to my friends list, and then headed over to YouTube, noticing that Kevin has some videos on the MySpace video server. I went through, checking YouTube for Question Time videos and anything of interest that was Rudd-related. Then, to my surprise, I found this:

It's the Question Time that I longed to see! Well, part of it anyway. You have to remember that Rudd had only just started leading the ALP through Question Times when I left, so I missed his early days as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. And, now that I saw that video, I wish I hadn't even more so. I know that Beazley and co. were taking it to Howard when they were in charge, but watching Rudd do it is far more entertaining - because he does a better job at it!

I hate how those budging politicians take a monster break when I'm on holidays. Next available chance, I think I'm going to go down and watch a session for myself.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I needed a break from other things, so I decided to retake the Political Compass test once again. It’s the first time I’ve taken it this year, though, for the past few years, I have taken it at the start, middle and end of the year to track changes in my political leanings. It’s something of interest to me these days as, not only do I like to know what I’m thinking politically, but there is an election coming this year: and let’s not forget one of my key interests in politics. I often wonder if all of my readings (about politics and social issues) and thoughts on what’s being said in the public sphere (as well as what’s being written) have had any influence what-so-ever on my personal politics.

Well, it would appear so from my latest results. If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d get a result like this, I would have laughed at them. I was extremely right-wing during my schooldays and upon leaving. Over the years, though, I’ve either mellowed out or woken up to something, as over the years I watched the red dot go progressively further and further left, then hover around the centre ever since.

Similarly, if someone had showed me these results years ago I would have been quite angry at it. Not anymore. I’m almost pleased to be getting that sort of a result. While I readily acknowledge that an online test hardly gives a full and accurate representation of my political beliefs, I think of myself as a centrist these days; something which I don’t think is exactly disproved with that graph.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Last night was a diner for my cousin, who had turned 25 in the week and became engaged (it appears to be a disease going around, what with the St. Ives Correspondent also getting engaged through the week - something I'd like to voice my congratulations to him about before I speak to him in person). Attending this diner was family and friends. In all, around 30 or so spread across three tables (we were eating at a restaurant in Cronulla (a lot of my family are Shire-folk and haven't been outside of the boundaries that separate snob from bogan) which was very small) and took up around 70% of the place.

In preparation and research for my forth-coming post, I've been re-reading my sociology text books and articles I picked up along the way (I'm quite the hoarder and have every lecture note and textbook I've taken since day dot at university). The post that's coming is about communities and interrelatedness, as well as their relationship with identities and control and other stuff. Anyway, I had only just put down my Sociology: Themes and Perspectives when I headed there and started thinking about the party I was going to and the chapter I had only just finished: Media, identity and globalisation (yes, the act of a nerd).

The chapter, initially, looked at the early writings that were extremely pessimistic about how the media would be used to create a mass society where everyone was uniform in identity and isolated from the traditional 'groups' - family groups, 'friendship' groups and the 'community' (the world of personal loyalty and relationships (gemeinschaft by Tonnie) as opposed to the world of the impersonal market-based relationships which make up society (or gesellschaft, again by Tonnie)). Were the theorists (like Alexis de Tocqueville, Ferdinand Tonnies and Max Horkheimer) that "saw" this awful, market-driven and individualistic society correct? Are we that out-of-touch with the community, and now just one of the same, that these people were right?

No, I don't believe so. I think the theories that predicted this awful world of isolationism were quite a bit off because they had to contend with and struggle to understand developments, changes and technologies that did not exist in their times, nor could the writers understand what they were dealing with when things like computers and the early Internet etc. were released to the world. We don't even understand what effects technology that surrounds us yet, so how could these writers who had never seen them in action predict how we would turn out? The answers to to how positive or negative a world we have built will come in the form of my generation; how it develops, how it stands up against previous generations and where the world goes to from here. And that won't be evident soon: it will only become apparent when our parents and grandparents finally move over for the younger generation to take control.

The thought that triggered all of this was that I sometimes think that we are living in a society (gesellschaft) that is all about the individual. Then I thought about where I was going: a party. We, as a family and a group of friends, were celebrating another person in the sense that a community (gemeinschaft) would. The Thursday before, I saw my friend Andrew. The Monday I went to tea with Mr. Rabbit and the St. Ives Correspondent. The Saturday before that I was at a wedding for the Ombudsman, which was also a gathering of family and friends. All of these fly in the face of the individualistic notions of the sociologists who wrote about the 'future'.

And lets look a key piece of evidence that also disputes the early theories: the Internet. The Internet has its own community attached. Anyone who engages with it on a regular basis will know this and feels part of the community. The community they are attached might not be something big, perhaps just their blog and its handful of readers. On the other hand, you could be part of this massive community - a forum, an established chatroom, maybe you're a fan of a certain movie and whenever you speak to another fan, you feel 'at home' (in a sense). Either way, there is a certain degree of connectedness between Internet users who regularly 'do' the same thing. There is a community attached to the Internet, and this is something the brings people together.

But all of these things - the Internet, ways to access the Internet etc. - are all bound up within notions of capitalism. The Internet isn't free and is available to specific classes of people. But does this, at all, negate the fact that the Internet has created a community anyway? Or that traditional notions of community still exist in some for or another? Doesn't this simply mean that we can have the cake and eat it too? We still have our communities, but they exist in the society world? But not the society/gesellschaft that theorists tried to have us believe was the apocalyptic future. Rather, we have a society that is, yes, capitalist driven, but still with an element of humanity/personality? We are a mass society, and have similar traits and characteristics, but isn't that what being part of a community is: shared experiences and shared traits?

I'm a white male, 18-25, parttime employed, attending university, living in the suburbs of Sydney. I'm sure that there are heaps of people in that situation. But how many of them are exactly like me? How 'mass' is the mass society if it exists? If you want to generalise and categorise in terms like I just did, then yes, there are elements of hegemony. But unless you're going to scratch beneath the surface some more, you're going to get an incorrect feed of information. What we have are many communities existing within many societies. Both stretch beyond the traditional boundaries (such are the effects of technology and globalisation), thus enabling the people who propagate or establish either to exist in the other. The individual exists, but no where near as negative as what was predicted. And the context that the individual lives in is no where near as bad as the predictions either.

Anyway, I got to the party, had some fun, caught up with the family and met some new people. All-in-all it was a pleasant evening as I felt quite at home and looking forward to the next event - whether it be with my important family or as important friends.


Friday, July 06, 2007

I have such a great post in the works. I think it might be the first post that would actually be reflective of me having attended two and a half years of university. The problem is that it's going to take some time to complete.

That's not to say I'm going to stop blogging until then, just that it might be some time before you see it. So don't hold your breath for it, but expect that something good will have come of these holidays.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

I really want to go in and see the USS Kitty Hawk before it leaves. Ignoring everything it stands for (like the greatest military power on Earth etc.), it's a freaking huge ship! And when is the next time an aircraft carrier is going to be docked in Sydney Harbour? I missed the QEII and the QMII opportunity, though I was in London at the time, so I was hardly having a bad time (but, then again, England had just won the tri-series ODI competition that was half-way through when I left, so that didn't help the situation). So I'm thinking I might go in Sunday or Monday.

Then again, the prospect of facing CityRail voluntarily as well exerting that much effort to get into the city is a daunting one. So who knows what will happen on this front.


For the past month or so I've been tinkering with a WordPress version of this blog. I've finally come to a stage where I think it might be worth opening it up for people to look at and see if it's worth going over there permanently.

The main reason I want to transfer over is the ability to write pages and have the ability to edit them. Otherwise, it's basically the same, bar the variety of layouts. After the last two posts, and using all the 'code names' for the people I was referencing to, I took a leaf from Neil, at Lines from a Floating Life, who has a "Who's Who?" page explaining who are all of his referenced people. I thought that this was a great idea, and finally moved everything over to WordPress, created the pages and stuff that I've done so far, and am thinking of going over there full time.

Though, then again, it's pretty easy to update both blogs at once, so perhaps I'll write on both of them and let the readers pick. Anyway, here's the link (very original I must say):

Feedback appreciated etc.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

An Ombudsman's Wedding

Saturday the 30th of June, 2007. The day started out on a plus - I had the day off work so that I could make the wedding of my friend, the Ombudsman. It was important to go to as it would likely be the last time we saw him for months, as he takes up position in some far-flung school in outer-outer-outer NSW (or inner South Africa). I had, through the week, gone (shudder) clothes shopping to find a new shirt that didn't make me look like I had just come from a funeral. The arrangements were that I would pick up the St. Ives Correspondent's future wife and Mr. Rabbit, then we would all drive to the chapel.

Before leaving my house, I gathered the essentials: five dice, a deck of cards, The 18 Cup and my Lord of the Rings ring. I thought that, at the least, I would be entertained should the wedding prove to be a flop (not that there were any doubts with the studious planning of Mrs. Ombudsman and the absence of Mr. Ombudsman from that part of the wedding). The 18 Cup addition, really, was the only important this as we may be presented with an opportunity for a photo that rivals all others.

The evening before the day-of, however, the St. Ives Correspondent's future wife reported that she would be unable to attend, so it was left to Mr. Rabbit and myself to find our way there. I was glad to have someone helping me find the way, as my original plan (when I was driving myself) was to be pointed in the general direction from my driveway and leave two days prior. But, suffice to say, we arrived on time. Well, no, that's a lie. We were early. Very early. Around an hour. It was a great view and all from the carpark, but that can only sustain interest for so long. As can watching golfers (as The Coast golf course surrounded this chapel). So, we got a very strange breakfast (a bottle of V for myself, and a can of V and a Snickers bar for Mr. Rabbit) and then returned to the second carpark for the day. Lulling around, I realised that a parking spot of exactly the same potion, though the other side of the road, would be far more effective as I wouldn't have to do one of those pesky three-point-turns in front of a crowd (or witnesses should I hit another car/person/murder one of the occupants of the car). So I turned the car around in a single movement, and took that spot.

Mr. Rabbit and I watched as people arrived. We made quips and cynical jokes about passers by (as well as fellow wedding guests and people of administrative postions (i.e. violinists), as well as two rather strange characters - bikers who, no doubt, were doing some sort of drug exchange) to pass the time before Andrew and Pope Francious arrived (driven by their parents) and we met as a group. Conversations ensued, and eventually we decided that it would be warmer (as it was rather windy) inside the chapel. We moved into the waiting area, then, when we saw the Ombudsman and the St. Ives Correspondent (the best man) arrive, all four of us shuffled out to greet him. Andrew's mother (and father, who were loitering around to drive their sons to my house, where we would wait for the reception) pulled out her camera, and I quickly ran to the car - The 18 Cup! It was the only chance. Lined up, dressed in our finest, a pair of photos were snapped off, which will appear on here as soon as I've obtained a copy (quite possibly tomorrow).

Next it was time for the plebs to take their seats and the party to take up their positions. More conversations (and joking) ensued with the four commoners, while we waited for Mrs. Ombudsman to join Mr. Ombudsman and the St. Ives Correspondent up on the stage. To our surprise, the bridal party arrived in 1920s cars. Ford somethings (T's?). They appeared to have been driven right out of a mafia film, though, there were no mobsters hanging off the sides with guns. Andrew's father cased the cars as the first of millions of photos were taken.

Eventually Mrs. Ombudsman walked down the isle, words were exchanged and the end of the ceremony was upon us. After some egging on, Mr. Rabbit took some photos with his phone, then everyone moved out. As Mr. and Mrs. Ombudsman walked back down the isle, the official photographer said "Ok, when I count to three I want you both to throw your hands in the air. 1-2-3!" When this happened, Mrs. Ombudsman put her free hand up, and Mr. Ombudsman just kept walking with confusion written across his face, then, after prompting by the photographer once more, did some lame hand-movement which got us four laughing. This would become a running joke whenever someone took a photo.

Outside, congratulations were offered to the new couple, the five of us (no Ombudsman) had a conversation of sorts, then were ushered into a mob to get a big group photo. A normal (sane) photo was taken, followed by the photographer yelling over the wind "Ok, when I count to three I want you both to throw your hands in the air. 1-2-3!" Our group had a chuckle, then, when the moment came, threw up our hands with gusto. I would very much like to get a copy of that photo.

The time came to leave (after having a roll of film wasted on us to come to the end), upon which Mr. Rabbit, Andrew and Pope Francious all got a lift in my car. We headed home, then decided that it was time to get lunch and would do so at Revesby Workers Clubs. The idea was enticing, especially, because we were all suited up and would out-dress anyone there (a rare occurrence for some of the group). We went to the bistro, was told it was closed, then went to the cafe-type thing near to the ATMs, which are near to the poker machines. I ordered a club sandwich which came with an alarming amount of salad. When Andrew went to get drinks, I slipped a slice of cucumber under his chicken in the home he might accidentally eat eat (he didn't, thus reaffirming his commitment to never eat vegetables ... ever).

We had to find four hours to waste, and lunch and Mr. Rabbit's gambling only took up one and a half. We headed back to my house and played some Jin Rummy (with slight confusion, as everyone played to different rules). Suffice to say, Thomas won. Here we all decided, as well, that we would not be wearing ties to the reception. Thankfully Mr. Rabbit remembered to take his with him. The same can't be said of Andrew and the Pope, who in their collective wisdom, both thought that the other had it.

Finally it was time to go to the reception, which my father drove us all there (as I intended to drink at this party), dropped us off, and left. Once again, we were early. Around half an hour. We decided (after some arguing) that we would walk down to Bankstown Sports Club, not go in, turn around, and walk back. We had some strange looks from passers by - remembering that we were all dressed in suits, while myself and Andrew had gone so far as to wear waistcoats. This circuit wasted fifteen minutes, upon which we entered the room with other arriving guests.

The four of us were table 12, which would, come the end of the night, be renowned (and even called so by Mrs. Ombudsman) as the best table there. For once it felt like sitting at the cool table at school - something, I suspect, none of those seated at table 12 were privy to in their school days. Out of everyone at the table, only one (Andrew) was not a teacher or intending to be one. The three other ladies who sat at our table were, or had been, teachers at the Ombudsman's old school of employment (Nasser Hussein High School). We (Andrew and I, who were the only two who showed an interest in the stories that came from N.H.H.S. and hadn't taught there (the Pop doesn't care for stories of other people and hasn't taught there)) questioned some of the employees (current and former) as to whether the tales we heard from the Ombudsman were indeed true. We weren't exactly surprised to hear that they all were. Even an impression that this one lady did was a ringer for the Ombudsman's.

The entres came and went, then the Ombudsman's father came and talked to the renowned (as we would find out through the night as people came up and said to us "So you're the poker people", or things to that effect) poker group, and, after being informed that we are now avid 500 players, questioned us about the rules. You see, he is also an avid, and seasoned, 500 player. A nagging question would continue through the night, up until we all left - how do you play the joker in a misère hand?

The main meals came, and at that same time, entertainment (provided by various family members of the Ombudsman) came on as well. One was a magician/comedian. Our St. Ives Correspondent was called upon to help out with one trick, as was Mr. Rabbit. The show was rather interesting. Following this, however, was an extremely hilarious and entertaining comedian/impressionist (not the artist kind). He made so many rib-splitting, politically incorrect jokes about suburbs and CityRail and stereotypes and what-have-you. Of course, table 12 loved every minute of it, while some jokes were too pushing for others. One extremely entertaining part was when the St. Ives Correspondent was called upon to take part in a roller-coaster impression. The video of this can be found on Mr. Rabbits blog.

Food ended and music started. Mr. and Mrs. Ombudsman had their dance, which was very nice, then everyone else was invited to join. I pride myself on being a bad dancer. Wait, let me rephrase that: I pride myself on being an awful dancer. I make no bones about it - I can't dance. At least I'm not in denial about this sort of stuff, as I know others are about their singing voice or their dancing moves. So, knowing that I can't dance, though I'm an addict for making a scene, the question is: am I going to try and dance ok, or not at all, or go out and bust some horrible moves. Horrible moves it was. Mr. Rabbit informs me that the next video that may go up to his blog is of me dancing the Nutbush. I, on that night, had been drinking steadily, and hadn't danced the Nutbush for a long time, so I'm expecting to be just as bad in that video as I am in any other.

I blinded everyone with two dances, while Andrew and the Pope tried their moves with two of the ladies on table 12 (renowned and infamous at this point in the night for being the vocal table during the comedians and producing two atrocious dancers). I was more interest in socialising with Mr. Rabbit, St. Ives Correspondent and the Ombudsman, knowing full well that this was the last time. And then the whole severity of the situation finally caught me - the Ombudsman was going. This will, no doubt, lead into a much more depressing tone and post if I continue with it (as it's still something I find quite sad), so I shan't be going on. We discussed the day's events, how the photos in the city (by the Opera House I believe) went, as well as what we had all noticed, and observations that we had been making, through the course of the reception. Good laughs and conversations took place between us all, which really brought the evening to a great ending.

As the night drew to a close, I called for my lift (which was also Mr. Rabbit's and the St. Ives Correspondent's). I wished Mrs. Ombudsman the best of luck and gave her my congratulations, then Mr. Ombudsman a few times on the way out. Quickly I stole the number 12 sign from our table, gathered our free photo frame and my name-place, my jacket and we headed out. Misty-eyed I, along with the St. Ives Correspondent, waved the happy couple, and our friends, goodbye.

It was an excellent wedding, and the first I wasn't obliged to go to because of a family association. It was the wedding of my friend, and I was in attendance with my other friends. It was a great night, and a wonderful experience. I know it's something I'm going to remember for some time for two reason. I see this as some sort of 'coming of age' thing: the first of my friends has got married (and the second is very soon I hear). Secondly, and the main reason for the night being quite 'special', because it was the last hurray and farewell for our greatest of friends: the Ombudsman.