Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lazy Day in Hawaii

Woke up at six, as “Jack” and his girlfriend headed out. Woke up again at eight to drop their key off for them, once the office opened. Office was still closed. Woke up at ten, and dropped their stuff off. At noon I finally decide to take a shower – that would be a good idea, yeah? My back right wisdom tooth is also hurting, as it tends to do once a year or so – this time I wonder if it might, for real, need to be pulled – only because this would be a most terrible time to need such a thing. At two thirty I finally begin my day.

And my day doesn't even last that long. Two hours outside? A slight recap of yesterday? But you know what. I'm on vacation – and there are two things to know about vacation, one.) you can be lazy, and two.) (most importantly when in Hawaii) “You don't have'ta clean yo' room WHEN – you – on – va-CATION!”

Well, I'm not in a hotel, so I do have to clean my room – but moving on.

Before I went out from noon to two thirty, I lounge around in the room, the breeze blowing through the slated windows, reading my Hyper magazine. Finishing it up. And it was a great use of time. A real piece of down time for which I didn't feel at all guilty, nor did I feel like I was doing it because it needed to be done (as I sometimes find myself thinking when writing about the day.)

I just was. It was wonderful. It as a great feeling. Then I read a book someone had left about the worlds worst kidnappers, and murderers (top 501 – not as fun.)

Outside, I walked down to the burger joint in search of a Root beer shake I'd seen advertised the day before. It wasn't very root beery (why is beery not a misspelled word? Where's the red underline. I know beery is not berry, so what does it mean?) – but it was a giant glass of thick ice cream, so that had its moment too. The burger? Still good.

Then I hung around on the beach, in the shade of a tree, trying to read – but finding myself more than anything just wanting to pass out and fall asleep. Surrounded by people this didn't seem like the best action for me to choose and so I headed back, stopping in once more at the Apple store, because I could. With nothing new, it wasn't as interesting or as fun, but it was a break of air conditioning before I set out once more. At five I was back home, and I was doing all of nothing. I can't even recall how the time as spent. An hour went by without notice. By seven thirty I was thinking about dinner – but that seemed like more of an eight thirty or nine type thing. Lets just see how things progress – maybe head down to the International Food court again and try out some Korean food? Food budget be damned. I'm on vacation.

It happened again – I found myself waking up, without ever agreeing to actually falling asleep. But this was good. I was rested, I had an excuse to shower, and then I headed out for a bite to eat. The International Food Court was ahead of me.

Now, sure, I didn't actually know where it was – but I had a pretty good idea where I was headed. I knew it was away from the ocean, and that was a start. There was also a tourist market near by. One turn, two turns, and down the street things started to look familiar. There was a food court. A food court, you must note, not the food court. Some how I had screwed myself up and wandered directly towards the ocean, and I was now facing the mall's court. Hungry, and still exhausted, I was in no mood to search any more. Down I went into Taco Bell.

I don't actually like Taco Bell, at least I didn't think I did. Tiffany's girl kept going on and on about how she only ate refined, classy food – but would casually drop her love of Taco Bell, which I just noticed, trying to reduce down to initials is almost as awkward as claiming you love Dr. Pepper, when also reduced to its two letter abbreviation.

This, mixed with the line “I love hospitals! / No you don't! You love Taco Bell!” taken from Basketball kept the fast food eatery in my mind. There was no resiting. And while I was picking up food, why not grab a pan pizza from Pizza Hut for breakfast tomorrow?

I would be waking up early to head out to Pearl Harbour – if you get there too late, you'll miss your chance to get to the USS Arizona – and will not be able to get any food for breakie. So, two missions accomplished, I headed back, did some reading, and passed out once more. I briefly woke at three when the lovely lady sharing the bunk returned from her late night Twilight movie watching. Apparently, “it was good.”

I wouldn't know.

June 28th - the second

The plane lands, I get off, and make my way to customs. Somehow I'm the head of the pack – breezing off the plane before all others. Perhaps they stopped to use washrooms in the airport hallways, but whatever the case is, aisle 30 newly opens before me, and I am the first through.

“Hello, how you doing,” the customs officer asks me.
I tell him I'm doing great, and when he sees all the countries I've been to, I wait for the usual question of what I was doing there, why I'd been to so many. Instead he looks up and asks, “were you hosteling?”

Sweet lord. A customs agent who knows about hostels? And one who talks about his days, wondering what the prices are like now. One who seemed to have travelled in his own time? With surprising ease I am stamped into the country, without a date telling me what I get to make sure I was good and gone from behind their boarders.

As I walk out into the terminal I can't help but question – did I really just enter America, or was it a trap?

I ask a girl holding an airport shuttle sign where to go for the shuttle. She rolls her eyes at me, blows a bubble, and points across the street to an area with no discernible markings. The disdain in her eyes that I could be so stupid as to need to ask is clear. I am, indeed, back in America. I love it.

On the shuttle I make my way to the hostel, and am let out right in front. This June twenty eighth seems much more interesting, than yesterday's June twenty eighth.

Into the hostel I go, ready to check in – knowing I'm early, but perhaps something can be done? No. Nothing can be done. At ten o'clock I have paid, been assigned a room much nicer than the one I paid for (as the one I was supposed to be in had been double booked) and then told to come back at four. At four I could finally see inside. Could finally shower. Could finally nap.

Strangely I am not well rested after the Baby on Board flight. Once more I think of how children should be thrown in soundproofed sections at the back. With six hour to kill, and a brand new environment surrounding me, I head off to explore.

I make my way down Seaside Ave. Well, actually I make my way up. Which isn't north, and it's not south. Nor is it east and west. Here, in the greater area of Honolulu directions take on a different spin. There is Mountains, Ocean, and two others. And, of course, they're pronounced in the Hawaiian language. I can't find my informative brochure that lists the words, as that's for the best. I would end up seeming like the tourists who say Aloha to everyone. It's fine for the locals, but it's best you just stick to English if you travel here.

My first point of interest was to be the beach. Walking down the road to the ocean, I hit Kalakaua Ave. Here there was a shopping centre which would offer me food. As I refused to pay Jet Star fifteen dollars for breakfast on the flight, I was a tad hungry. Downstairs I found a Subway which had a breakfast sandwich combo for 2.50. I ordered the sandwich, and was about to be charged 3.49 for it. I said, no no, I want the combo. Ahh – she replied – grabbing me a 21oz soda cup. With this added to my purchase the price decreased by 99 cents. I tell you, it's strange things these fast food restaurants do. And apparently, after Australia, it's world wide.

With belly slightly fuller than it was, I once more head off in search of the beach. A sign points the way through the stores to the waters edge. As I break through I think one of a few things – first, there are a lot of people here. Second, there are a lot of tourists here. Third, it is really – really – hot.

And it was really hot. Having spent the last month in winter, I was not prepared for the wall of heat which I had just stepped out into. With no shade over the sand the sweat began to drip – in no way helped by the fact that I was wearing my day pack, filled with two novels, camera, and netbook.

As I made my way down the beached I watched people standing on surf boards canoe paddling out into the water, reminding me of the poling expedition in Africa. Kids splashed around, girls sun bathed, and guys – they watched their girl sunbathe. There was a whole lot of nothing going on, and I continued to press on down the beach. Each step, I became drowsier and drowsier. Then, from nowhere, there was a grassy park, with trees providing the perfect shade. I sat down, then laid down, then I started to read. Next thing I knew I was waking up.

Only ten minutes had passed, but it was enough to make me feel as if I could carry on with the day. After some more reading, no longer needing to imagine the crystal blue waters and the sailing ships described in my book, I set off again. I had reached the Hilton near Ala Moana Blvd. This was the extreme left side of my Waikiki map. Surely there would be no better option for me than to walk to the extreme right, taking in all that which this town has to offer. Time passes, and while I'm sure I mus have seen some interesting things, I don't register a thing, in my newly arrive haze, until I reach Tommy's Burgers on Kapahulu Ave.

There I am met with a giant refillable cup of soda, and a huge delicious burger. It does take time for the burger to be made from scratch, and by the time my giant circle night club pager ring vibrates, I'm ready to eat my fist, but then – then it is a most magical sandwich of ground chuck.

At this point the world becomes a brighter place to live in, and the walk back to the center of the map, where my hostel is doesn't seem so terrible. I pop into the Apple store on the way back. How could I resist?

Playing around with the new facetime feature on the G4 iPhone, I hear a man beside me talk about how he just got a girl pregnant. Is he talking to me? He is worried about how her mom will react, and what will come from it. Why do I need to know this? Wait – he's not talking to me, he's talking on the iPhone. If he can make a call, can I?

1, 905, and then seven little numbers. All of a sudden I'm dialing long distance back to Canada, and I realize that I can make as many free long distance calls as I want from here. Sadly – I have no numbers on me. And those I once had have been lost for a second time. One call goes through, and I am just shocked that I can do such a thing. It doesn't last long, as I can barely string together three of four words – while I may have food in my belly, exhaustion is still threatening. If this was The Sims, I would have fallen down in the middle of the store, with Zs coming from above my head.

Retaining dignity, I walk back to the hostel, thinking about how poorly planned my flight out was (I leave July 4th – I bet a big blow out on the beach of Waikiki with fireworks lighting up the sky just like in The Sandlot, my favourite fictional memory of all time, would be stupid and boring anyway, right? Who wants to see that.)

I get into my room, eye my bed, and am out cold.

Two hours later, I wake up, a girl rummaging through her clothes. And then in walks her boyfriend, who you would swear was Jack Black, with a shaved head. Once he starts talking, the mannerisms and the voice also completely match. I say nothing though, as I'm sure I'm either wrong, or he gets it all the time.

As we talk about what there is to do on this Island, it comes out that people often call him Jack. I feel vindicated. For the next few hours, I listen to terrible things said that I could quite picture said celebrity saying and doing. Really, it as he matching of the mannerisms that creeped me out the most.

Deciding not to be an anti-social hosteller this run, we all go out for food at the “International Foodcourt” down the street. Inside there are dancers performing to traditional Hawaiian music, or so I am assured. That the girl gyrating her hips and dancing on stage is a white America only slightly destroys my cultural experience. Still – I am glad to have seen something like this, in the quest of good Greek food, rather than having to have seen something like this by going to see something like this.

Touristic experience? Check.

After dinner we all hang out, with a new girl from the bunk above me, and talk about the great art of Spear fishing (complete with spear gun in case demonstrations are needed – not at all terrifying) and the magical wonderland that is working at Tiffanie's (Fun Fact (“Fun Fact!”): Many people in California will talk to a local employee and get all the details, discussing for weeks, a piece – only to then screw them out of commission by heading to Oregon, where there is no sales tax, and buying it there.

I'm not saying I wouldn't do the same thing – but you'd think since Tiffanie's takes down the customers name when they're being helped, and when they buy, they'd have something hooked up to get at least a partial commission to where it belongs.

The convenience store next door is dangerously close, and dangerously well stocked. At three in the morning, we all proceed to pass out.

The girl above me, dreaming about the midnight showing of the new Twilight movie she'll be seeing tomorrow.

Thus ends June 28th. Again.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Werein Time Does Not Exist

In an airport, there is no place, there is no time. There is only the possibility of future transition.

Peaceful Protest at Queen and Spadina, Toronto, Turns Ugly
And as I transition, plugged into the internet, I am again brought up to speed with news from
home. Again there is protesting, though this time it is without violence. This time a full riot squad charges those in the street.

It's like the beginning of the graphic novel Transmetropolitan. The police decide to charge a group who are doing very little to resist – in fact no laws were broken this time in Toronto. Just like in Transmetropolitan, it seems as if nothing would have been noticed, as the area was blocked off, if not for one person watching from on high, recording the incidents. It's times like this that I'm disgusted with our police force.

It's true they are tired, they are cranky, and they have been baited over the last twenty four hours. I will not deny this. But they have to be better than that. They have to rise above. As a teacher it's something that I have to deal with. When a student tells me to, “go fuck myself,” I do not scream back at him. Or her as the case may be. If a desk is thrown at me, one day, I do not wait until I see that student enter class the next, and then throw a desk back at him while he is singing the national anthem.

it seems obvious. It seems only right. As one in the position of authority, we rise above. And yet, that whole desk throwing during the national anthem? That's exactly what has just happened back home.

The video is making its way around the internet. People have gathered in the street to sing our National Anthem, Oh! Canada. Right as the song ends, the police charge – first those in riot gear, then the calvary – our horse backed officers, who normally carry around collectible trading cards of each officer to give to children. I do not envy the job these men and women have before them, but my god – was this really the correct choice?

As I've said before, it's the voice of irrationality that cries out which scares me most. The comments for the video have people saying it, “wasn't a peaceful protest, because it didn't take place in an approved zone.” You either know why this is one of the most terrifying things to read, or... Well, I just don't think the people posting this understand the whole concept of protest. Penn and Teller would back me on this – try to find their episode where they are protesting the right to protest, and getting people to agree with their strange backwards logic. It's brilliant, and sad. Mostly brilliant. But mostly sad.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section two) allows the right to assembly and peaceful protest. Hanging out and singing the national anthem would fit in with that quite nicely. But no – the police have decided that that right does not exist.

It's true that that right can be revoked, it does not stand for all times in all cases. If a group of people stood in the streets lambasting the Jews, while dressed in full Nazi uniforms, they would be shut down. If a group had signs showing homosexuals being murdered were burning rainbow flags, they would be shut down. But this is just people singing a song. A song that means something to us – no matter how many times we're forced to hear it in school (about 2500 times for those who didn't skip first period in high school.)

Now the police have been granted special powers, which is also in our charter. But should they have covered this? I do not think so. It also is starting to spread that the police may have set one of their own cars on fire the other day – other officers have come out saying that there was no way a protester would have been able to get around the barricades to access that area. It's also not uncommon for plain clothes officers to try and bait protesters. But even if this is all just rumour, with no truth to it, charging a number of people for singing Oh! Canada... well, it's just wrong.

I had friends there, running through the streets. When you cause panic and create a stampede, you are not solving things. You're only causing more harm to the individuals, the citizens you're supposed to protect.

I understand that police are under appreciated – I know they have a tough job – I do not envy them.

All I'm saying is I want my collectible card dispensing buddy officers back.

Passing Through The Gate
I remember that I'm flying to America when it comes time for the additional security screenings. As I show my passport, and flash a winning smile, I make my way down the gauntlet of officers on either side. There are areas off to the side, behind artificial walls, where people can be sent to have themselves checked.

Eyes straight ahead, I march – not wanting any problems getting out – stay calm, I tell myself, and then I'm through. A weight lifts off of me, and I suddenly realize just how screwed up that is.

Other people probably just make their way down the line without ever worrying about anything. Well – other white people, anyway. For me, every time I have to deal with American immigration routines I have to endevour to maintain my calm.

And to be fair, I'm a white male. A middle class white male. All I have going against me is my beard. I know that these feelings will return when it's time to enter America in Hawaii, and I know I will probably be searched for an hour or so, but that's just part of the game. It's those moments of wondering if I'll get pulled or not that causes the strange subtle stress.

I can't help but wonder what it must be like for someone from, or who looks like they're from, the middle east. They have far more reason to fear being pulled – and when they are, they are detained much longer than the one hour I have to wait. Not only that, but if there was ever an issue with translation – well, I just don't want to think about it. It's strange to look around an airport – normally a place where you feel pretty happy, pretty calm, and pretty at ease, and realize that everyone here is travelling for their own reasons. And who knows what's gong through their head.

To be aware - in the most real sense – that we are all individuals and unknowable to all, save perhaps ourself, is a truly strange and powerful thought.

Little Blue Folders
Getting on the plane, I think it's cute how everyone has these little folders, normally bright colors, and translucent. All their important travel documents are kept inside, so they don't get lost. What hotel they'll be at, their ticket, and all that fun stuff. It is normally the people travelling for a week or two that have these.

I know there are long term travellers that neurotically carry around all their information too – and I used to once upon a time.

Now I'm lucky if I have my copy of the ticket receipt, crumpled up in a pocket somewhere, or hidden in my pack – long since printed out, and now potentially needed. Not that they ever are, mind you. Just show your passport, get your ticket, and off you go.

Now? I have the directions to my hostel – and that's about it. No mighty folder here. If anything does go wrong, I'm sure I could track down internet and grab the emailed information from there – but nothing has ever gone wrong, and I've been out and about, in all sorts of places for a long time.

Those bright little folders. They're so cute. I wonder if their mothers made them do it?

Over the Ocean I quickly went to sleep – woken hourly by a screaming baby whom, I do believe, the whole plane wanted to see tossed out the nearest hatch. With a parachute, of course. The mother could go too if she wanted – her choice. Not forced.

But then I was landing, landing, landing – oh not landing, that was another Hawaiian island, there's ours – landing.

Welcome back to the morning of June 28th. Time to start all over again.

June 28th (the first): SYD

Once more, I imagine a world – a world where internet is free and plentiful. Even if it's just slow, e-mail only, access. Let people who want to stream movies or download en mass pay – that's fine, but airports – if you're sneaking 25 dollar departure taxes into your ticket prices, just add another buck or so, and let me surf the wifi. If everyone pays it, only a few use it, it'll all work out. A few cents here and there that's all.

The cool airports give me free access.

So, indeed, here I now sit in Sydney airport. I look at my wallet and see that I have a few bucks left, they'll be no good (except for showing people how you just can not rip Aussie money in half) outside of this hall. Food, prizes, magazines, books, they're all available to me. I'm thinking magazine, but which one? Mind you – food is good too. There's just no way I can think about that yet though, not when I have twenty KG to lug around on my back.

As always I arrived early. No sense hanging out in town, when you can hang out in the 'port. But this means I can not check in. My luggage is my albatross for the time being.

When H10 – 18 manage to get themselves in action, then I'll figure out how to drop my cash.

So yes, here I sit. Last night I went to sleep at one, so I could wake up at nine. I woke up at two fully rested, feeling as if I'd over slept. It's weird how my body does not let me miss a flight, even if that means I will be woken up every hour until morning.

When I finally do get up, I toss everything into my pack, cross my fingers and hope I've not forgotten anything, head downstairs, check out, remember I need to get my sheets from the room, go up, come down, and done.

Breakfast is that kangaroo kabab I felt I should have had the night before. It's good – but not as good as the beef one. It's no wonder that Aussies don't really eat the meat, leaving it mostly for the tourists.

I play over my eavesdropped conversations from last night – four girls talking about how great Twilight is. And how they watched a special on Vampires the night before, 'real vampires'. The type who actually drink blood, and dress all wonky like. They joked about how they weren't 'FOR REAL' vampires though, because if they were, and they walked out during the day they would – wait for it, wait for it – sparkle in the sun, and how funny would that be.

Dammit! Dammit Twilight! I know you've taken over, but I thought that people still understood that Twilight vampires were silly little things that were to be mocked. I felt people still thought of Vampires as beings that burst into flame in the sun. But no, these girls have no concept of vampires, or their mythological importance, dating back any further than three years ago. I swear, before I die, someone is going to remake Dracula where he shines and sparkles, and acts like a pedophile towards sixteen year old girls – and I will not be held responsible for my actions! On record, right now.

Honestly Edward – for this is your name, as I heard it far too many times last night – why do you hook up with little girls? I'm only 27, and it's hard enough to talk to people, on a real level, who are younger than twenty. Even that's a stretch. If I was 200 years old, I'm thinking that the type of conversation a sixteen year old could provide just wouldn't do it. And let me tell you – girls in their twenties, you creepy vampiric criminal? Also attractive.

Seriously – even Wolverine knows better than to hook up with Kitty Pryde, or Jubilee.

Deep breath – moving on.

I caught the train from the city to the International terminal (15.80) and was momentarily caught up by the ticket machine taking only exact change. I'm not saying it wouldn't give change – I'm saying, it would not let you pay anything but the right price. After a moment of fear, I checked my change and realized that I could make this happen. Why it wouldn't just take my sixteen dollars, and profit a bit is beyond me. There should have been a button to let you do that.

At least I was able to offload one of the ridiculously too large fifty cent pieces. They're the biggest coin I have ever seen in my life. Fact.

Now I'm here, at the airport, just off of Botany Bay.


It had to be said.

I've watched all my movies, I've listened to all my podcasts, I've far too recently cleared Frozen Bubbles, and I'm not in a reading mood when I still have my pack on me. It's a weird little nerves thing. I feel like there's something to be done, and I will not be able to relax until it is done. So what, oh what, do I do until it's time to check in? Right now – 1:20. My flight leaves at 6. In theory, check in may not start until 3, or – fearing – 4. One hour, forty minutes to kill. Curse you Jet Star, and your discount flights. Curse you!

Ahh yes, so my flight – I'll be crossing the date line. For all my travels, this is the first time I'll fly over the Pacific. And weird things happen when you fly over the Pacific. You lose a day, or you gain a day. In my case, I'm getting some time back. I'll be flying out of Sydney at 6pm on June 28th. This is in the future. When I land in Honolulu, it will be 7:30am on June 28th. This is in the past.

As I've never done this, I find trying to make sense of the time zones difficult. I understand that Australia starts the world. They led the fight against the Y2K bug. Front lines! And I know it must end somewhere near Hawaii. So, crossing one line makes 20 plus hours switch around. But, well, time is just such a weird made up, human invention.

I'm sure it will all make perfect sense soon enough, but I just want to know how long my flight is going to be. Good luck trying to figure that out. Well, I leave here, and then I arrive ten hours in the past. Ugh. I think this means it's going to be a long flight, but until someone grabs Marty McFly to come help me out, I'm clueless.

Money to spend: 40 dollars. Ai ya – that's more than I thought. Time to get to it.

5 dollars on a Banana shake from Krispy Kreme, or however they want to spell it

10 dollars on a Hyper magazine (video games, not so well written – but a really good article on IF games. Think text adventures. It's a multipage feature, and pretty rock. The first game I tried to program was a text adventure. If only I knew about variables back then. I also got a December issue of the magazine bundled. You know a mag is good when they're freely handing off their back issues. Ohh well, it keeps me occupied.

5 bucks on a ... Jr. Whopper Stunner. Look – I consider myself blessed to know about these, cause I watched people order Jr. Whopper meals and pay 6.10 for them – whereas if they said the word stunner they would have paid 4.95, and got a free sundae. It's sneaky stuff, it is. They do display an ad for the meal, but it only shows for a moment before flicking away to something else. Tricky, tricky.

So I have four fives left. M'eh, scurviness.

My spell check tried to correct souvenirs in the line above. I dig the results. It stays.

Then I made my way to try and find wifi. There are free terminals, but I had pre-written emails that needed sending. And I was not about to retype them all. You could pay five bucks and hour, and a ten dollar connection fee – but that doesn't seem like good value. Still, I have travelled far too much to not be aware there is always free wifi in an airport if you're willing to look for it.

First up, I tried the lounges – but there were no wifi points coming from within. Then I heard an announcement for a British Airways flight. They like to give off free wifi a lot. Making my way over, I didn't get that far. At gate 30 n Sydney airport there is a NETGEAR hotspot. Connect, surf, enjoy.

With that being said, I'm posting this entry. It will be the first of three June 28th posts. In theory. We'll see how it goes. Maybe just two. It is now 4pm on June 28th (the first). When I land in Hawaii there will be June 28th (the second) starting all over again, from early morning. Then there is the time between now, and when strange things happen in the air, merging the two days together.

Either A.) I will just add that on to this post later. B.) I will write a flash back in the next entry, or C.) I will post a between entry. Which I will justify due to the weird time zoneyness of all between now, and the futurist then, takes place in a void free of time and meaning. Ahh – I like that. I'll probably go with that.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where's My Okonomiyaki

June 27th, 2010. Part two!

Aside from my rant on the Toronto riots, what else did I do on this day, some may be wondering. Basically it broke down like this:

Wake up, grab a banana in pajamas (banana surrounded by cake and cream), ... ... ... Hungry Jacks, library, internet, read about the riots. Then reply to some emails from people talking about riots.

I had the audacity to suggest (as I did in my last post) that riots and protests that were more than people sitting around being hungry, have – historically – served the greater good, only to then read the reply, “we are no longer friends.” It would almost be comical if it wasn't for the fact that my next few messages went unanswered. (time zones? Anger? Who can say. Great fun to get whilst on the road, I assure you.)

As I wrote in my last entry, some people let their emotions run wild – but, better to stand your ground, and do what you think is best, say what you think is right, rather than shy away for fear of making waves. Waves – they make the world better, yeah? They cause change anyway.

I like change.

Hours later after reading, and writing to the extent that I could, I left the library. I was hungry. But I had no desire for another burger. It finally happened, I couldn't eat any more burgers, no more sundaes, no more fires – despite how good the sweet and sour sauce is.

I wanted Okonomiyaki!

Curse you Tokyo Gary, curse you! Why would you introduce me to such a food? My life was so simple before I knew of it, yet now? Now there is this one food that I crave. Never mind that Sydney is full of Japanese restaurants. You'd think it would be easy, yes? No!

I walked into, and checked out the menus of, no less than ten Japanese restaurants in the walk from the state library to Westend Nomad's hostel. They do not have this food. They have ramen, udon, all sorts of sushi – but no, nothing that I craved. I wandered through street after street, finding nothing – failing again and again, and again.

Finally I accepted that I would have a kabab. I should have had a kangaroo kabab, but I didn't see that option until I had ordered. I've eaten kangaroo before, back in Iceland, anyway.

It was good – but my Japanese pizza, noodle, brown goo, mayo treat it was not.

Back to the hostel, pack up my gear, shower, and set the alarm – then listened to some podcasts, playing frozen bubbles clearing the 100 levels in 160 minutes (over an hour faster than in Buenos Aires) – curse you level 70, 89, and 100.

Check out would be 10am tomorrow morning, and then off to the airport. Good bye Australia, good bye brave new world, and soon – soon I'll be back in North America. Strangely enough, I'll be in North America at 8am tomorrow morning.

I'll explain later.

Riots on the Streets of Toronto

This was a good day to come to the library and figure out the internets again. There seems to be a lot going on back home in Toronto. People lighting cars on fire, and breaking windows, and doing all that jazz. Apparently people are riled up about it (claiming that all violent protest is wrong, and bad, and terrible) and here, half a world away, all I can think, is how disappointed I am that we've all become so bloody soft.

First off, Toronto is protesting about the G20 summit – kind of. It seems like they're more or less just angry thugs wanting to break things, like drunk college kids on a crazy bender in Europe. I do not support this protest, I don't even know it is a protest, as much as just senseless violence, without direction. But what I also don't support is all the people on facebook writing things about how terrible it is to destroy things, and how, “violent protest is just so stupid.”

Really people? Really – that's the stance we're going to take? Now – I am not for hurting people, or damaging personal property, but from what I've read – that's not what's happening here either. It's striking out against corporations, and governments. I am for the blockade running of the Gaza strip – which wasn't actually intended to be a violent protest, but at some point, when being friendly doesn't work things unfortunately change... You may have also read that I called for protest against the pay toilets when I first heard about them. (this may not have been a serious call, but the sentiment was there.) My only hope? They were destroyed in this rampage. At least then something good would have come from it.

Again, I want to stress, that I do not agree with what is happening in Toronto right now.

But – look at what has happened. Now, it's true, I'm not in Toronto, and all I have to go by is the Live Blogging of the Toronto star. ( but here's the thing. This violent protest? It's pretty tame. In all seriousness, more damage is done after a football game in more parts of the world. More damage was done during the Queen's homecoming when I was getting my Bachelor of Education in Kingston.

It's time to look at the facts – was anyone hurt? No. Were any private homes destroyed? No. What was smashed? A police car. Fine, very well. A police car set on fire. This is bad, but it's just a car. It's a thing. And I've seen cars on fire before (Queens University home coming.) Mind you, four is a lot. Although the question should be asked how the police have let four of their cruisers get destroyed – but never mind that. From what I've read – which I hope is accurate, as it was live blogged on the scene by one of the city's biggest papers – Starbucks, Swiss Chalet (a chicken restaurant), Tim Hortons, and Zanzibar (our local strip club featured in the latest Hulk movie) were damaged. No private individual's property. As far as riots go, this has been a little tame.

Just thinking back to Italy (, in January, will point out how a riot could be much much worse.

Now, again, I am completely against what is happening in Toronto right now (I feel the need to stress this point, in case it gets lost, as is so often the case when people have a strong emotional attachment to an issue). And I think we are, perhaps, better than this (though, clearly not) but what is happening – a violent protest – is not always a bag thing.

It's just not. Protests where private property and goods are destroyed are important for our world. And I think it's just so hard to keep that in mind when things are happening on our doorstep.

Rodney King. That name should mean something to people born during, or before, the early eighties. And for many born after, thanks to the music of Sublime, history classes, and the overall importance of it. The Rodney King Riot was a devastating week long riot that led to the deaths of dozens of people. But why did it happen? Because people were tired of the police treating black citizens as if they were lesser creatures – thinking they could do whatever they wanted. Now, obviously, there was more to it than this. And we need to ask ourselves, was the beating of Rodney King fully unjustified? (to the extent it went on, I'd say yes. But remember, he was claimed to be under drugs, and led police on a high speed car chase, and fought them when he was being apprehended. Still - the long tazing, and baton beating went far beyond acceptable use of force.) Was the attack of the white trucker, which was the first highly publicized incident in the riots, any less brutal? Obviously not. But it did turn the worlds eye, and made them think about the other issues which led to this - unemployment, the ghettoization of American cities, and - of course - racial issue? Yes. This was only in 1992.

People took to the streets in protest, and despite the damage and the terrible things that happened, the world took notice, and the government was forced to make a stand. The way police acted, and how they were dealt with changed. And while not everything is perfect now, steps towards a better future were undertaken during these riots. And yes, they were violent, and destructive, but they were important. Could these changes have occurred without violence? I'd like to think - yes, but if that were true, would this proverbial powder keg have exploded?

Violent protest is what led to America being America, rather that just another colony.

Even the Boston Tea Party was a protest where goods were stolen/destroyed – a violent protest, but it led to a tax reform that would change the lives of many for the better. When something is going on that you can't agree with, there are times when taking arms, and protesting as you can, is the way to make change.

The French resistance during World War II, they were terrorists violently protesting against their government (the Nazis) but I think we all value their efforts, and would not have wanted them to stop because they were hurting people or damaging property.

There is also the darker side of violent protests which Kristallnacht is a terrible terrible example of. This was November 10th, 1938. A night when Germans took to the street, killing, rounding up for camps, and destroying the property of many many Jewish citizens. The Night of Broken Glass is what it translates as. It was a terrible and dark time, protesting the assassination of a German diplomat.

Now it is this thug-like behaviour that seems to be taking over the streets of Toronto, though in a much more restrained way that is not leaving anyone hurt, or injured. Thankfully. But, can one really say that all protesting is wrong, and bad, because of some examples?

I don't think so. I think it's important we keep in mind all the historical cases where things would have worked out against our favour if protests did not occur. It's easy to cite Gandhi as proof that peaceful protest is possible, but even groups like Greenpeace strike out (who I would imagine far too many people who think violence is wrong, support.) They monkey wrench (destroy equipment), and they spike trees (basically put a metal spike into a tree, so when a logger tries to cut it down the chainsaw hits it, bounces back, and potentially kills the operator.) That's just a few of their tactics. These are tactics I disagree with, but as I see many people donating to them on the streets of Sydney, clearly some people agree.

If hungry strikes made a difference, if natives blocking roads could result in them getting their land back, that would be fantastic. It's just so easy to turn a blind eye to those cries. And nothing ever happens. Headlines change the world these days. While these are headlines I am not happy with seeing in our papers, today, I do not want to see a world where people are scared to strike out against a corrupt government, or too scared to fight back against oppression, racism, and injustice.

When people simply follow along, without standing up for themselves, and their beliefs, a better life is not often created. Unfortunately, negative things occur when thugs take to the street to create violence without thought of consequence as well.

So what's the answer? I, like many people, do not have one. However, I am willing to take a stand saying that all violent protest should not be painted with the same brush. I do not think we can say none of it should ever happen, period.

But these are big thoughts, that require far more consideration, and time to contemplate. As for right now:

I'm just glad no one has been hurt. And I hope it stays that way.

Blue Sky Days; Swan Filled Nights

Once more, the weather was proved wrong. The rain was not falling, in fact that skies were blue over head and it was warm. Scratch that, it was hot. Hot in Australia? Who would have ever thought such a thing to be possible?

I made my way down to the Opera house – passing a protest, haven't seen one of those for some time - and finally was able to take my pictures with the blue sky in the background, and light sparkling over the water. I asked a girl taking shot after shot of her boyfriend sitting on a concrete bench, to do me the favour of taking a snap for me. I assumed she knew what she was doing, having an DSLR and snapping madly (mind you, as I've said before, in this world where an SLR seems standard, it is no longer a dead give away of skill. The shot she took for me, had my head merging with the opera house. She also made me move to the left, when I had predicted her framing and situated myself to the right of the shot, on the edge of the frame, the house to the left.

Still – I assumed she knew what she was doing, she saw the view screen after all. This was a mistake. This caused the merge. Looking afterwards, I saw that I was in a most perfect position. Then she asked me to take a few snaps her here and her beau. I obliged, and it reflected on how lucky people were who shouted out for me to take their shots. In the crap shoot that is random firing, I'm not saying I'm the best – but I know how to frame, how to zoom, and when wide and zoomed shots work. And I take a few, leaving people with a delightful image. The only thing I leave to chance is the exposure. Without live feedback, or the desire to move off of the camera's auto setting, I take some good quick shots if I do say so myself.

Every now and then I run into others who know what's what, and it's bloody wonderful. Some of my favourite pictures this trip have been ones of me taken by others. Now that they're shots of me, and my favourite of the trip, speaks all to loudly of my ego – but never mind that, shall we?

I was able to accomplish a goal I'd desired for this whole week. I was able to find a seat near the water, across from the building, and just read. Not only was I reading, but I was reading a book that made travel seem exciting and wonderful and new again. And The blue around me, and the subtle heat from the sun (when it wasn't behind the clouds – quickly passing) transported me to a Caribbean (one with a mental climate control switch, that didn't leave me hot and humid as a tourist in Thailand.)

Hours were spent here, before by alarm blared, letting me know that it was time to head down to the train station and off out to Campsie. Campsie is a suburb of Sydney, which seems more like a forgotten street within the city itself. Where Toronto has all its neighbourhoods connected to one another, one street over, Sydney leaves these lesser, dirtier, more interesting streets half an hour away by train. There is only the Central Business District, and then nothing for miles, in Sydney. It's beautiful, but about feels about as real as Downtown Disney. It's a dream of a city. One, in which, Bruce Waynes parents would have never been gunned down outside the theatre, because dark alleys are things not present withing the inner core.

There is a certain artistic beauty about a city designed to be nothing more than a CBD, but also a lifelessness. Wandering the Campsie area for twenty to thirty minutes I was able to get a feel for what else was out here on the outskirts of the Greater Sydney Area. And if there was more time, not to mention a train day pass, I would love to explore each and every stop along this orange line.

Melbouresque life does exist here – it's just better hidden, is all.

What was I doing out in Campsie? Waiting for Anna, of course, who picked me up in her car – always a delightful treat – before we headed out to ANZ stadium. ANZ Stadium was the former Olympic stadium used when Sydney hosted the Olympic Games. Now it hosts the Sydney Swans AFL team.

Anna had never been to a game. How could someone live in the country where the best sport in the world is played, and never have seen a game? So off we went. You wouldn't know she was new to the experience, however, as she was rocking a Swans jersey, and wrapped in their team's scarf. Apparently these items had been borrowed from a friend, but from the casual observer, she was a fanatic, the same as any other in attendance.

Once the game started, this would be proved a fallacy, but for the moment...

Before the game we had to take a bus from the parking lot to the stadium. Then we were treated to, “three time Grammy award winning Train,” playing their three hits. While I am not against seeing free live music, (so noted by the terrible terrible Jonas Brothers live performance I watched at Disney World back in December.) it seemed like an odd place to have Train play. Still, it got me saying, “Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train!” all night. In such contexts as, can you believe we say Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train!? Or, I just love Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train! And also derivations on Man that Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train, they'd just the coolest.

So that was a benefit.

After the “ball testers” (umpires) got the game underway with the first bounce, the dis-love of sport was apparent in Anna. She was confused by what was happening, but had no desire to learn the rules. Which I respect. Then she would cheer for the swans as her outfit would lead one to believe she would. But if the Pies did something exciting, then she would turn and cheer for Collingwood.

All I could think was how I wish I had my blue and yellow “Sport” hat. On the plus side, if you're cheering for sport, you never get disappointed (except when the sport is bad – like the Swans' inability to catch the ball – ever – and the Pies inability to kick goals. They still won by a good five goals, or so, the Pies did – which did me fine as I was supporting them, but they should have led by at least ten.)

The second half was a great improvement on the first, but the fireworks were missing. Both teams seemed like they just weren't really trying. Although it was far worse for the Sydney Swans, who you just had to feel bad for at some points. It was embarrassing like when you're watching a movie, and want to turn away from the awkward conversation transpiring on screen before you.

Still – it was AFL – and even a bad game of AFL ranks high on my list.

While Anna would not be a convert to this love, and may never watch another game in her entire life, I still enjoyed it. And hopefully she did too.

Then it was just a matter of a quick drive home, and sitting with her as she attempted to find parking for the night of clubbing which was her immediate future. Mind? Going home to sleep. Far less exciting – but I just didn't have the shoes for it.

You would think finding a parking space would be a straightforward task – but not in this city. No. We circled blocks, drove streets, and raged while others flipped on indicators before we could spot the opening. Also – those who take a space in a half, were cursed with the greatest of all pains and sufferings.

At one point, thirty minutes into our quest, I pointed out a spot right in front of my hostel, that was opening. The car was leaving, and with a great illegal, and impossible to navigate, U-Turn she switched lanes, and set up – right beside the car that wanted to escape. She had misjudged distance by one meter, and thus lost the space.

I was hit many times, this not being uncommon from my Asian friends, as if it were somehow my fault. I suggested that perhaps I should say nothing in the future? More hitting, obviously, transpired.

I busied myself switching through the various mash-ups on her iPod trying to find one where I liked both songs. But these would inevitably be hard rock or hip hop songs, which just made her more wacky and pumped up. Soft music, I would come to realize, was the key here.

And so soft music it was. No bruise is the best bruise.

One hour later, her friends called to see where she was, and said they were going to a different club, down by the Opera house. Anna switched to a street travelling to the water, and at that side of the city, one hour after our quest began, found a spot in seconds. I said nothing about how we could have parked there, and walked, much quicker in the beginning. I had learned that vocal utterances were not for the best.

What followed was a silent, and beautifully juxtaposed transition, as she went from steering wheel biting fiend, to calm, quiet, composed woman, applying makeup in her rear view mirror, under the soft warm glow of the overhanging streetlight.

A calm and composed girl stepped out of the car, hugged me goodbye, and after a quick picture, wandered off into the night to join her friends lost to the dance. A perfect end to a great week in the city.

As I walked home, I mourned my forgotten gift of fruit, left in the back of her car.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Darling Harbour, Sydney Australia

“Are you an American,” I'm asked by an elderly man on the street.
“No,” I reply, “I'm a Canadian.”
His wife looks at me quizzically, spinning me around, searching my backpack for a patch, or some other clue that might hint at the truth of my statement. Were she to have known better, the M.E.C. logo would have been proof enough. Finding nothing she spins me back.
“You know,” her husband jumps in once more, “you really ought to put a patch on your pack. Something to let people know. They might mistake you for an American.”
One beat goes by, perfectly timed, before his wife snarls a half smile, “and that's not good in this country.”

This is what I get for asking where the post office is. Hot tips about how to avoid undeserved trouble based on my country of origin. You'd think I was walking through the bombed out streets of Baghdad, rather than Sydney, Australia. It's bad enough that the country holds Americans in such an unfriendly light by way of their exchange rates – the Canadian dollar exchanges at a much more generous rate than the America, despite its relative value on the world market. But no, here I am being told by a nice charming elderly couple, that I should watch myself for fear people think I'm a Yank.
What I find most interesting, is that couldn't I not easily fall under the assumption that I'm a travelling Aussie? I've seen a number of them sporting beards, carrying packs, and dressed the same as me. Although, I don't have hemp necklaces, and I do tend to shower once a day. These factors may mark me as an outsider to this regime.
I am reminded of my trip across Canada in 2006, when – in Calgary – a homeless man thought that I, myself, was homeless. To be fair, I did look it. Imagine me, but in unwashed clothes – and unshowered, except for the odd hair wash in Tim Horton's single locking bathrooms. Then add on my poncho, an raggedy boots. It was an interesting insight into the culture, the next hour was.
The more things change.

But no, I'm now out and about, trying to defend myself with the songs of Oh! Canada, a song title with an exclamation mark, just to make sure you know it's time to – as Gerald from Camp Robin Hood, in years back, would have said - “be excited!”

For what it's worth, though, I did end up finding the post office, despite the fact that the couple gave me the directions back when they thought I was an American. Perhaps it was a trap? A plot? Just bad advice to send me on my merry way to nowhere. And with that post office, a post card was mailed. Success for all!

With that, I headed off into the afternoon.

My morning took me to Darling Harbour. Despite its prominent placement on the map, I had so far avoided taking a walk down that way. But today would be different. Rather than just going to the Circular Quay, I would walk west. This one choice led me to a whole new set of wonders and until this time, unseen, buildings. First – five or ten meters west of my hostel – was the theatre where Wicked was playing. I do so love the musical, but with ticket prices set at $100.00 it was out of my price range. Going to see a musical by myself? Well, it's not unheard of. But I'd only do it on the cheap. Seriously Sydney, one hundred bucks for Wicked? Even the afternoon showing of it? Very well. You'll price as you'll price. (I lie – Wednesday's 1pm show? Only seventy dollars. This does me no good, as it is now Friday June 25th, and that show isn't until I've flown out.)

Continuing on, I passed through China Town – the gates looming large. Apparently I am situated in China Town. This would explain all the Chinese restaurants, now that I think of it. Across from the Chinese strip was Paddy's Market. Which seemed to be a mall of some sort? I would check it out later, I told myself, and walked on. A man on a mission.

I passed the Chinese gardens, with a price of six dollars for admission. I assumed they'd be a lot like the Chinese run Japanese gardens in San Francisco. Also, you know where I'd seen a lot of Chinese plants and architecture lately? China.

I continued on.

The exhibition centre was just in front of me, and walking past it – along with all number of water... things – little artificial rivers with small rapids in them, and fountains shooting up into the air, rather unimpressively – I made my way closed to the harbour. Getting there would require navigating around many Fifa entertainment areas fenced off. All empty and abandoned, signs promising their coming to life once night arrived.

The harbour itself? Well, I don't know what I was expecting. But something a little bit – more. I had high hopes that it would be a fantastic place that I'd somehow not yet come upon. But really, it was just overprices restaurants where you could sit on a patio and watch other peoples sail boats swan in their docks.

It also offered views of the submarine and tall ship you could buy a ticket to board and look around it. As much as I'd like to wander in a submarine, I just had no patience for this place. I had expected something – but without even a view of the Opera House, which I must say, is the only thing that keeps me going in this city, I quickly absconded. To be fair, I poked around for nearly an hour, watching as the monorail went overhead, but there just wasn't much to hold my interest here.

Sydney is a real city – one like Toronto, I would imagine. I know where to have a good time, find cheap food, and cheap fun in my city. But in Sydney, I am somewhat lost. There's nothing pointing the way. There are no obvious tourist traps here, and no obvious places to go. Wandering off the main streets seems to put you into empty districts or, on other main over-priced streets. I'm sure there's more to this place, yeah? Or – maybe it's like Vancouver, where Melbourne was the Toronto. Maybe Sydney is all just name recognition, living off the fact it's on the ocean, and close to things that are worth checking out, while not really holding all that much back.

Still – it's a pretty city, and one that could be best experienced in three or four days. I wouldn't stay that much longer, if given the choice – but when waiting for a cheaper flight date? If you have the time, there are much worse places to be.

Also – my time here allows me to catch the Collingwood v. Sydney Swans game on Saturday, which almost didn't happen as my Antarctic friend was going to buy tickets, saw they were 65 dollars, and bailed. I thought this couldn't be, so I checked, and discovered those were the most expensive seats. Twenty dollar tickets did exist. And with that, Christmas was saved, and we now have tickets for tomorrow's game.

I also have plans to stay up reaaaaaaal late and return to the harbour to watch soccer on the big screen. At midnight I'm going to make my way back and see if all the Fifa excitement is going in high gear. I can only assume it will be.

And with such a late night planned, it's hardly worth feeling guilty over the fact that – after one day off – I returned to play more Plants vs. Zombies. I want the iPhone for this. But, after iPadding it up in big size, I don't know if I can transition down. Mistakes may have been made.

I found myself walking back to the hostel, after night had fallen. I was overcome with the feeling I often find myself falling into when I wander through the urban expanse after dark. It has been some time since I was last wrapped within its grasp. Xi'an stands out in my mind, gazing at the drum tower. I wonder if I've even found myself stumbling through the streets, in a somewhat lonely daze since that night.

The streets ceased to be that which I ignored, as I focused on my destination. I was in that, 'be the change,' mindset. I was looking at Sydney with childlike awe. All I could think was just how amazing places like this exist. We are animals, same as dolphins, apes, seals, and all other beasts smart enough to wrap senseless murder, and war into the behaviours (which is a thought all of its own – why is it the seemingly intelligent animals that torture and kill for sport?) We are simply animals who thousands of years ago were plugging away through the mud, and slowly developed agricultural skills, hunting skills, the basis for small communities to be formed allowing us down time without fear of hunger, or death. One thousand years ago the Europeans were still in the 'Dark Ages', never mind the other advanced societies that skipped this period of unenlightenment. It's easier to cloud this over from a historical standpoint – theoretically the natives had an extra thousand years to develop before they were wiped out, but, again, gloss over this and pretend the whole world advanced at the same speed.

Two hundred years ago we still had to work full days, and from very young ages. Fifty years ago, well life was starting to get better, and the roots of the city that I am now walking around started to come into being. True that it was founded much longer ago, but the modern city was being born.

Today, as I stepped through the streets, the signs were not simply blocked out, but instead markers representing stores, and stores were not just abstract concepts, but rather entire spaces with goods. When I saw Footlocker, it wasn't simply a shoe store, but rather a space where thousands of shoes were held – thousands. Each made by, perhaps, children in a country across the ocean, and then shipped to this island. How could a people who ten thousand years ago were killing ten foot tall birds with wooden spears develop to be the same as – well – me?
And where do we go from here? Suddenly the monorail which I'd, to this point, scoffed at no longer seemed silly, but rather proof of the future. I'd like to see our culture press on without looking back, without fear, in a reckless struggle. It is through reckless progress that we end up with our greatest advancements. Television, radio, recordable media (records, mp3s), space shuttles, advanced power generation, cars, we developed them all under the threat of death, and war. We pressed on without wondering what might happen if we made a mistake, and look at where it has got us.

I want to see a century where we do not say, we are comfortable, we have advanced enough. And if that means we spill a few billion liters of oil into the ocean? Well – worse has happened to get us to this life we now enjoy. It's so easy to look at the problem, but I see a world built on millions of lives lost to – now called – senseless violence. I see a city that exists only because of the losses that have come before, which push us on to make something amazing.

The internet, gps systems, cellular telephones – these are things that we have a hard time linking to destruction, but there they are. And they are not without their risks. Cancer from cell phones, all sorts of potential disasters when networks of satellites circle overhead, and as for the internet – well there are more problems there than can be counter, but the most obvious, is one that was brought up in the early nineties, and often overlooked since, in favour of blaming things of pornography and violent videogames. The Anarchist's cookbook is freely available to one and all, and knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

But there it is – this is our world, this is an amazing city, and seeing all these people from various cultures walking around together, dressed the same, acting same – to see groups sectioned off on bar patios, and others inside spinning balls hoping to win a 1:55 car raffle, and seeing girls in minidresses walking with guys in skintight shirts reflecting the surrounding greens, oranges, and reds – well it makes me want to see a world where we use up all the resources we can, and simply advance.

Pandora – in Avatar... This is a movie that is supposed to make us think of the dangers of advancing without thought. But it was because that Earth used everything it had, it was because there was “no green there” (as our illustrious space marine states) that they pressed out into the universe and discovered those brand new wonders.

And as I walk the street at night, and allow my thoughts to overcome me, I realize that these are perhaps not the lessons I want to take away, and yet there they are. And, because of our fears, and our comfort, and unwillingness to press on I will never see a world where we live off planet, or under the water. In the fifties some thought we'd have colonies on Mars by now. And with the advancement their age saw, it's obvious to understand why. But no – we care about the world now.

And I care about the world too. And I want to see it better. Who would reverse time to bring back the rain forest if it moved us back fifty years into the past? Who would undo the 'horrors' of the past if it meant we were still dying of tuberculoses on a regular basis? Who would undo billions of liters of oil spilled into a vast ocean if it meant we had to give up cars, or even tv. Or – if it meant we'd have to limit our computer use to but one hour a day.
We love our progress, we should embrace it. But we probably won't.

And then I'm inside my hostel, and the night is gone, and I'm comfortable, and I love trees, and BP is the devil again, and aren't people terrible who don't recycle. Three and a half hours until I head back out into the night. Might as well try to make myself a better person, listening to some NPR, Radiolab.

Curse you RadioLab and your episode “Life.” It's about Chimeras and how some people have two sets of DNA in their body from two fetuses, very early on, fusing (when they're just embryos, so maybe before they're fetuses) and creating one person. Had they not fused quick enough she would have been a Siamese twin. There would have been two personalities, two personas. So with two sets of DNA, and only one consciousness, what is it to be human.

And there is an Israeli scientist who has grown a little human kidney inside a mouse. There's that reckless progress. And cows that have human blood for transfusions. Thank you RadioLab. Press on, press on! Lets get those stemcells rolling.

Renaming audio book files (Thursday Next saga 1-4) ugh, if only I could read the 3 tags. And it turns out I'm missing the last few tracks of the fourth book. Goodie.

And then, because the day hasn't had enough in it, at midnight – rather than falling asleep – I get up out of bed, take the elevator down to the ground floor, walk outside the hostel and sit myself down on a stoop, taking out my newly obtained “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” to replae the just finished Sooterkin, and I begin to read. Ann Vanderhoof's story of her two year journey from Toronto down to Trinidad immediately grasps me, and I can't help but feel jealous of her journeys sailing across the seas. Which proves two things – one, I will never be happy, it's impossible, I accept it. If I'm jealous of a traveller when I'm out on a year long trip around the world, there's no hope for me. And Two – I could probably pair down a full year into a two hundred page text that is compelling. But I'd need something to bind it all together. Ann's recipes at the end of each chapter do the job nicely.

“What do you say to that?”
“What,” I ask, looking up from my book.
“When a girl tells you to go [expletive] yourself.” a slightly intoxicated boy says. “What do you say to that?”
Looking around, I notice a girl in a tight blue dress with black stockings, and her pudgy friend standing beside her, making her look better in that parasitic way that girls do. “Who said what now?” I am still mentally shopping for a new sailboat, while at the same time eating mangoes, the juice dripping down my chin.
The guy points to the girl in blue – of course. “And why did she say this?” It's been a while since I've had a conversation, and this could prove to be interesting. I play along.
“Man, I don't know!”
“She didn't mean it!” chubby girl steps in. “She's the nicest girl in the whole hostel!” This is the new line, moments ago, as I was scrubbing my boat's hull, it keeled over on the beach, low tide allowing for these repairs and services, it was, “she's the hottest girl in the hostel!” These two things rarely go together.
The girl in blue takes this moment to prove how delightful she is by storming off, “I'm not going to the bar!” This isn't necessarily a bad thing. She can hardly stand up in her three inch heels without toppling over.
“What do you say to that? When a girl tells you to go [expletive] yourself.”
“Man,” I finally speak up, realizing nothing interesting will come of this, and wanting to go back to my novel, “you either take a stand or you deal with it.”
“I'm dealing with it.” A defeated young male.
The other girl has not left though, “lets go get drunk!” And off they go – the guy patting me on the knee, “thanks,” as he goes. Maybe the evening will transform one girl into the other, wash away the pain, or lead to a moment where none of this is even remembered. The latter is the most likely occasion.
Alcohol. It's a hell of a drug.

A few minutes later Anna meets up with me, and off we walk back to the Harbour I wandered through this morning. It is not the mostly empty expanse it was earlier. This morning where there was nothing and no one, there is now a full house. Ten thousand people wearing Portugal and Brazil jerseys, running around waving flags, and screaming in excitement. The soccer game is playing on a number of big screens over the water. The area is packed.

At half time Anna begins to push through the crowd using her powers of being a pretty girl, while I follow behind, hoping that since they've already parted I can move past. When we reach the steps – three rows from the front of this mess – she steps down, kicking some, and stepping on others. No one bats an eye. I have to follow. From the front she looks back at me. I am not a pretty girl. I depend on my powers of looking uncouth enough that people might just let me pass, without questioning. A subtle sense of the fear of the unknown allows me through. And then – we are in the front row of a mass of ten thousand people. How did we get here? I do not know.

Garbage litters the water before us. It's pretty gross. I'm not gonna lie. This is what happens when you invite this many drunken people down to the waters edge. But then the half time ends, and the sound of horns – those terrible terrible killer bee horns – begins to play. And the game returns. I watch soccer at its finest (well, at what I assume its finest is, as I do not have a healthy love for the sport, as much as I love to watch it live.)

The two teams did their best soccering the ball up and down the pitch, trying to soccer it into the goal, before the other team soccered it away, allowing for a soccer chance before that soccering, too, was soccered into a reverse soccer.

Fifty minutes later when the game ended, the score was tied at zero. Of course it was. Each time the other team got possession there was a great cheer. Why, I thought? That's like cheering when a baseball player hits an obviously foul ball. Nothing will come from it. Don't they know they're watching soccer? Here's how to play the game:

One team passes it around like a school yard game of kick ball for five minutes before making a break, and then passes it right to the other team, who repeats this. This goes on for twenty minutes, before someone decides to allow a scoring opportunity to liven things up. Everyone moves out of the way, not all that worried, because despite how small the ball is, and how huge the net is, the two will never come together. For this is soccer.

Some people fall, pretend to be hurt, get stretchered off the field, drink from the magic water bottle, and spring back to life – rejuvenated.

Half time.

People pass the ball some more, and then when the buzzer goes, everyone shakes hands and walks away knowing they've done excellent soccering on this day.

Seriously – any game that is allowed to end in a tie, there are major problems with that. It gets teams into a feel where they can accept the tie, rather than hurting from it. Where you get points for games, like a win gives you four points, a tie, two, and a loss zero – it should be a win gives you two, a loss zero, and a tie negative one. No one likes a tie. It's stupid. Fact. It's like asking the New Jersey Devils to write the game's play book. All for the trap! Action is teh lame.

But the crowd is excited, and being mobbed out at the end is a good time, and this evening was a good story about how the world cup is being handled here in Sydney. The Chile game was soon to follow, but ten thousand there would not be for that one.

When I returned to my hostel at two thirty, I was ready for sleep. But couldn't. Not until the sea air returned to me, and the sun reflected off the oceans blue. Once more I returned to the world of Ann, and her husband Steve. A sailing trip that took place over a decade ago. And I can't help but wonder if I'd ever do something like that, something like this, ever again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Art Island: Sydney Australia

When I left the hostel this morning something was strange, different. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It was as if, waking up, I looked into a mirror to discover myself clean shaven. Everything looked almost right, but there was one thing out of place that I just couldn't put my finger on it. For those concerned, it was not the lack of my beard – oh no – such a travesty has not yet befallen me.

After a moment, it hit me. The sky... it was blue. Such a rare occurrence in these parts, I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. Without hesitation I made my way down the street to the docks, a brief pause to buy some breakfast cake from the store, and finding the juice newly doubled in price, continuing without. A moment later a woman handed me a free bottle of some sort of orange drink. I do so love promotional advertising. It was surreal to see the street filled with people carrying orange bottles. Surely those not yet glancing upon the give away must have been more than a little confused.

Closer and closer to the docks – a final brief pause at a Mackers to check e-mail, and discovered that I had missed out on the Toronto Earthquake. Final messages were also sent off where they needed to go. And I informed all those concerned that the USA road trip must include Punxsutawney (this is what I get for watching Groundhog Day last night) and Astoria (who could resist a quick visit to the Goondocks?)

But then – oh yes, then – I headed to the docks, just at the right time. The hourly ferry to art island (cockatoo island) was about to leave. A two and a half month art festival in Sydney was underway, and if nothing else, it would provide me with a free trip across the waters. From my seat I was able to take even more pictures of the Opera House, which has still not become dull or drab to me. And I was able to see the city reflected against the waters edge.

With those few shots out of the way, I put my head down, and got back to the task of reading The Sooterkin. For sure, today, I will finish reading it. Just not on this journey.

Once I'd reached the island, I grabbed a free brochure listing all the galleries and headed out. Expecting modern art, I knew to keep my opinions to myself. All the while, an idea formulated about a video channel teaching people to make modern art. Like “You Suck at Photoshop,” but for – 'art.' I've toyed with this before, but if the future does hold time for me to distract myself with nothingness, and a future of my own creation, I may fall back onto this.

The island itself was worth a visit – with camp sites all around for those looking to spend the night. Over the years Cockatoo island has been a prison, and a shipyards. Buildings left over from these days now host the art exhibits. Some excellent – sculptures of Hindu gods made out with modern peoples, while others were more at home in the Shanghai world expo – various video screens suspended.

Some pieces were terrible in their modernity – splashy paintings with different glossy coats. Others at least made you think, huh, isn't that weird – cards hung from roofs with starburst lights around them.

There were also weird cross dressing movies far more akin to the painfully pornographic Alice in Wonderland musical of decades past; others were films of a man recreating a water torture on a girl, before flinging her across the room.

Everything is art. Very well.

I walked through a tunnel under the rocks, and saw the green grass against blue sky. And taking the ferry back across the bay? More pictures snapped away.

All in all, this day was a success for me, with or without being blown away by the pieces that I saw.

I also want to make note of the fact that I watched myself some Empire Records today, and this movie works on so many levels. Also – this, being the second time I've watched the movie since i became “older”, and no longer watch it from the kids perspective, but instead Joe's... nothing but respect for that character.

Let us live blog the movie.

02:22 – Renee Zellwegger's name displays as creidts. She is uncharacteristically attractive in this movie. Good for her. Also – Lucas hasn't become crazy, and self reflective yet. Hard to notice, but important – otherwise you'd think him always the crazy philosopher. This is not the case.

7:47 – It strikes me that Mark may be the same actor as UV from Disturbing Behaviors. Lack of internet does not let me check this. I hope it is true, as the voices are down, and I dig both movies – I will defend Disturbing Behaviors no matter how may people say it's, “bad, wrong, wrong, bad, bad, bad, wrong”

14:25 – the perfect explanation of what money does, and the origins of thought.

14:31 – coins are spilled, which are eventually glued, which led to my house's main hobby during the summer of 2009.

17:00 – despite the fact that Joe just lost 9000 bucks, he still takes the time to care about his little people. This is as if students had stolen that money from me – Joe rises above it, and still manages to think of the others, and their issues first. Joe starts his role as being the greatest human being of all time.

19:22 – Deb's seemingly spontaneous head shaving seems thought out as there was an electric razer kicking around.

19:50 – 1:37, that's an excellent time.

21:15 – Lucas completes his transformation... “What's with today, today?”

23:00 – Joe was gonna report the robbery. Fate steps in – well, not fate. More the fact that police always put you on hold.

25:45 - “Put these in the boxes.” There are other employees here that did not show up on this day of work. Imagine missing this one day at work. Terrible.

23:37 – where in the greatest way to deal with shoplifters is outlined.

32:15 – the first moment Warren becomes less than upset at being apprehended for shoplifting, and Renee's character proves she was not, in fact, getting ready to serve him to their next one hundred and fifty customers. If ever one tries to figure out how many staff are on the floor – it will leave people wondering how things are run. Especially with Rex (our delightful villain if one were needed) newly arrived.

39:05 – Jane makes a life changing decision, and drops it on Joe's plate, of all people. What is Joe supposed to do? Yet he deals with it – just another in a line of Joe issues that he deals with behind the scenes, kept away from the wee ones. Also – her eyes? Contacts, yeah?

41:10 – Mitchel Beck, our other villain is introduced, and is for some reason seen as evil, despite the fact that he's just trying to run his shop, and takes things petty much in stride. All in all? He too is a good guy – just doesn't care about music.

43:32 – where in I am reminded of way too many of my friends from High School – and, you know, myself too. Followed directly by the next scene which reminds me of the same people. Imagine that, we're not all two dimensional. Though as this movie takes place during one day, I'd wager these characters aren't either.

47:03 – Deb proves to be a more human character; Joe tries to saddle more issues – but why? Escape from his own stuff? Deb demonstrates that she wants someone to help her, “I feel so much better,” reminding us all that teens are a fickle and confusing lot.

53:18 – Question the first: Why does Cory take her bra off? Question the second: Why does she then become a total bitch? Speed notwithstanding.

54:24 – Gina's magic trick – probably less magic, and more Cory having mentioned it. Why this is only hitting me now, is beyond me.

57:58 – Joe has a wee little freak out, and then explains to all the people in the store issues that they know nothing about. It was this moment that also added superb to my vernacular. Probably not for the best. It is also demonstrated that at times, physical punitive actions are the best for all parties involved.

101:36 - “Have I fired anyone else today? No. Why would I start with you?”

102:35 – Joe gets another issue to deal with. Stolen money, store sold, Deb's suicide attempt, Jane's quitting, Cory's drug addiction. And does he hold it together, aside from beating Lucas a bit? Sure does.

104:33 – Would GWAR still be as well known without this movie? And – how fast do those brownies hit him?

105:40 – Jane comes back, where did she go? It's best not to think of it. As she's not a kid, her issues aren't real, and don't matter in the context of this film. Luckily the kids have another issue – the fake funeral for Deb. Another question. Why do they have funeral decorations in the shop? And why would leaving Mark on the floor by himself seem a good idea? Also – these teen melodrama say everythings... Man, nothing fictional at all. Remember the years that ended with teen? Ai ya. So then we stop thinking/acting these ways. Why is that again? And what must Jane think of all this? Works well for Joe.

110:41 – Warren returns. Where did he get a gun? And how in hell does this turn into him getting a job? Joe – Joe – Joe... how can be possibly deal with this?

117:50 – Mitch likes Music Town because they have higher prices. Strange to think of a world where the big stores got away with higher prices. Thank you Wal-Mart.

118:50 – This movie? Brilliant sound track. Sadly, Gina's version of 'Sugar High' is better than the real version – and it was never recorded. Just like the future tune from Bill and Ted's.

123:48 – Cory – still on the drugs here. So is Mark, presumably. Whom else is under some artificial... whatevers?

125:02 – Joe is the outsider. Seen.

127:18 – I don't think I ever realized in all the times I've seen this movie – that there were “during the credits” scenes.

129:43 – 1995? Ai ya.

You know, there's a market for one of those iPhone games where you run around upgrading your store, and doing the same tasks over and over in a fast twitchy way, with the Empire Records license. The staff could have their own stats too. Just saying

Good night.

Going of the Grid: A Sydney Dream

When the day begin with a book, a book falling on your head, quickly followed by a thong fluttering down from above afterwards, it's obvious that the day – well it might not be a great one.

Going off the grid. It's a thing that people do. Normally we think of them as crazy people. But just taking small steps, well that would make life interesting.

No laptop, no blog, no camera – well maybe a camera, so when I die there can be a final photo that they can use before the ending credits in the movie about my life that was. Just for a little while anyway, even a week? But then when you go back on the grid, there's everything compounding you.

My Sydney friend, she was off visiting a real place like this – all the energy was generated, and all that jazz. Nothing but a house, doing and getting everything in needs from the land. Me? I just want to not have to think.

So I think I'm going to just back out of everything now. I am going to the states in a few days. Provided they let me through their borders. I am a little worried about this, I'm not going to lie. I always am.

I need to meet up with some people in Buffalo. You could call them my parents. They will be grabbing stuff from me, giving stuff to me, and saying hi. Heaven forbid this be easy. Were we in Canada I could just say meet under the giant Frankenstein Burger King. But no, this is America where they decide not to do anything fancy for the massive falls. They just shuffle people over the Canada. We'll take em.

The internet claims that there is a visitors centre there, but there is no address for it. All I want is a parking lot near the water to meet up and hang things over, and then start off from there. Could it be easier? Apparently it could be. It really, really, could be.

But that's it. I'm out. I'm just going to not worry about it anymore, show up at the airport, and hope that the world takes care of itself. And if it doesn't? Whatever. Screw it. Because – as I said – I'm out.

So, before the last few frustrating hours, which were compounded by the fact that I trusted the internet at the Sydney docks rather than the state library (very slow – very very slow – slower than Africa. And that? That was slow.)

Ugh – but there was a world before all that. After the falling items earlier mentioned, the girl in the bunk above jumped down to reclaim her gear without a word, then shoved it into her pack, stripped the sheets off her bed, and went to check out.

The world outside was a we bit wet and misty, but I pushed on, wandering down George street to see what that area held. I found a Coles super market and ducked inside. Grabbing four cheese and bacon buns at the low low price of two dollars fifty, I then went in search of Tzatziki. This is always a fools errand, but sometimes the world decides to be nice to you – the world decides that it will reward you for your hard work and servitude. Sometimes the world puts just the right about of tzatziki on sale, with only the required amount left on the shelf.

Then the world screws with you by pricing two liters of juice cheaper than five hundred mls, but the two liters is in a non-resealable carton, and drinking that much at once wouldn't be good. Though, it will be remembered for later purchasing.

Two buns and some Tzat were devoured, the other half being saved for later [authors note: that later should be right now, but i don't think the library would be happy with me. Soon I will escape and being to eat once more.]

As I continued down George street I found myself once more drawn to the Apple Store, and Plants vs. Zombies. Stupid tower defense goodness. I once more want an ipod touch. Actually I kinda want the iPad for the HD version, but the game is not worth 1000 bucks. And I still don't like the feel of the iPad in my hands.

When I left the glass omni dome, I found myself in a good bit of rain. People were running with umbrellas, pulling coats over their heads, and covering themselves with their mid day yoga mats.

I walked casually down the street. Just rain. It's not even as if it were that heavy. I couldn't be bothered to so much as grab my hat from my pack.

I made my way down to the museum of contemporary art, where I soon realized why I disliked contemporary art. The models of the stealth bomber, and the russian apc were pretty cool, decked out in Maori art, but the video of a guy sucking helium, singing a hymn, and letting a picture of himself go up into the air? Well that was just obnoxious. And then there's the next floor up, where everything is a vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina. Ohh the sculptures, and the drawings, and the “hidden subtleties.” Uh huh. Great.

Then there was the video of french people in white faces, with Queen Amadala make up, playing with card board tubes. Ugh. Really? Why – but relief came when the aboriginal art took up a room or two. It was identicle to that from the other art gallery – but there you go, a culture that doesn't screw up contemporary art by trying to make it something its... not something it's not, but something it should be.

Honestly – I'm throwing this out there – who looks at that stuff and thinks, wow! That man is an artist! See how he sucks helium and sings a hymn? If only I could live up to that some day.

You look at a good painting? Sure, there's something to it. Or a movie – even something on the scale of the first Night of the Living Dead. There's art there. But this? Ai ya.

Still – the gallery did let me last out the rain, and there were a few reasons to wander through it – it was free after all. But, with so much time gone, and the sky still not looking all that friendly, I would put my original plans on hold. Tomorrow – provided there is no water falling down from above (or books, or underwear – foreshadowing) then I'll head back to the docks, jump on the ferry, and go off to some magical art island. Surely there will be something to pique my interest there. It's a whole island after all.

But with that said, it's time to pack up, leave the library behind me, and continue on with my day. My mission? Find a place to relax. I just want to hang out, read my book – finish my book, and do nothing. This requires some sun, and a dry bench however. We'll see if the fates are aligned with my plans.

On the plus side, the weather forecasts says:

(24th) Tomorrow – rain
(25th) Friday – not so much rain
(26th) Saturday – AFL game – rain
(27th) Sunday – Rain
(28th) Monday – day I fly out – Sunny! And sunny from then on out! YAY!

The fates were not kind to me. Despite the fact that all the websites claimed that it was sunny, it was not. No, no. There was rain. And oh the rain there was. Stepping outside, the weather had become the worst it was all day. I spent the next ten to fifteen minutes ducking under all coverings, and overhangs – trying not to get nailed by people's umbrellas – who seemed to be disgusted by the idea that their umbrella should get wet.

I ducked into my Plants vs. Zombies shop hoping to wait out the rain. The rain got worse. Up the street I went, chowing down on Tzat and rolls, until I grabbed more Hungry Jacks. I filled up on soda, bless their refillable machines, while reading some of my book. I had every intent to finish it when I got back to the hostel, but the open plug socket led me towards finishing listening to my backlogged podcasts – except for the educational ones from Radiolab, which I will get to when I don't hate myself. I do so enjoy them. There's still hope that the novel will get itself finished reading.

On to the worst thing about co-ed bathrooms. I don't care what the girls will say, maybe something about them not being clean (they always are) or the seats being up (deal with it – three seconds to rectify.) It's the fact that if you want to get near the sink, well just give up. Don't deal. Make up, so much make up. So very – very – oh it's too tiring to even go on about. Anyway, it's terrible. I don't seem to recall this problem from the university dorm days.
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