Sunday, 25 May 2008

Post #20 Hire a Hall / Everything (A shocking development!!)

Yesterday I heard an announcer on ABC NewsRadio say something like"...breaking story. New corruption allegations coming out of New South Wales..."

I thought, "This is supposed to be news?" Here's what would be news:

And now a shocking development from New South Wales. News tracking services have confirmed that seven days have passed since a corruption story broke in New South Wales! Premier Morris Iemma has announced at a press conference just held here at Parliament House, Sydney, that the Government will convene an urgent inquiry into the scandal-deficit and has urged the people of the State to remain calm: "We have no reason to believe that the situation will not self-correct in the near future", Iemma stated, to a hostile media pack, "However the government is not being complacent." Informed government sources, however, state that vicious argument broke out at an emergency Cabinet meeting called to discuss the crisis. Ministers are believed to have walked out in fury because of accusations of corruption-negligence from a Cabinet Secretary. The State Opposition Leader, Whatsisname, accused the government of "a gross abrogation of public duty" and promised that a Coalition government would restore corruption to normal levels within six months of taking office: "With particular emphasis on sexual impropriety and contractor kickbacks." A government media spokesperson dismissed this as "further evidence of the Coalition's lack of innovative policy".

If only. This is part of the "Sydney Broadcasting Corporation" syndrome which believes that the whole nation is breathlessly awaiting the next word from Emerald City. There was a time when I wouldn't want to miss The 7:30 Report but, after the efforts of the renowned Howard saboteur, Jonathan Shier, which resulted in the abolition of the State-based format of the programme, I couldn't be bothered with it. In fact, Lateline went to Hell after Kerry O'Brien left and the 7:30 report went to Hell after he took it over. I've got two items at the top of my wishlist where the Rudd government and broadcasting policy are concerned: A restoration of the State-based 7:30 report (sorry, Kerry, but you can do the Sydney version) and abolition of the execrable commercial advertising on SBS. And if, as Christopher Pearson alleges, that would require the government to "stump up" thirty million dollars, so be it. Money more than well spent.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Post #19 How the other half may not live: APOD: A Dangerous Sunrise on Planet Gliese 876d

"On planet Gliese 876d, sunrises might be dangerous. Although nobody really knows what conditions are like on this close-in planet orbiting variable red dwarf star Gliese 876, the above artistic illustration gives one impression."

An interesting scene from a Nasa website, found at Digg.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Post #18 An editorial comment

I've spent the past few days working on the technical aspects of blogging; practicing HTML, Javascript and so on. I've found some anomalies in the way the page element system works.
Among other things, the editing box for HTML/Javascript appears to accept some edits, then deletes them in the saving process, leaving you at square one. The other bug I've noticed is that the space for a page element which is as wide as the page and just below the title box seems to have stopped working on my blog. I don't know if this is particular to me and due to something I've done or is systemic. I'll ask Google Help about it and see what transpires.

I've come to this conclusion from trying different browsers: Mozilla Firefox beats the hell out of Internet Explorer. Maybe there's a catch I can't see, but I don't know why anybody's using IE if they have a choice.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Post #17 Hire a Hall/Everything (The fat girl shop)

In one of the shopping centres I frequent there was, until recently, a shop that specialised in providing office and evening wear to the larger sizes of women. The shop was equipped with appropriately-sized store dummies and came complete with a sturdy young proprietress who could easily fill the clothes she sold.

Along the arcade to each side were other women's clothing businesses. One had previously been a lingerie store which had lissome torso dummies in its windows which would have been passable facsimiles of the bodies of girls in their early teens. Around these were stretched the typical pieces of scanty fabric that dominate the selections of modern female underwear. It flourished in this incarnation for several years then was transformed into a general clothing store, under new management, but with the same scrawny type of window-mannequins. Walking past, along the winding arcade, I'm confronted directly by its window display and when I see the dimensions of the blouses, skirts, dresses, etc. that are offered, I wonder what regiments of twelve and thirteen-year-old girls are swarming in there to buy the stuff and keep them in business. Maybe they just put the most svelte stuff in the windows and the racks are covertly holding the larger sizes. I won't conduct field research to find out!

Another store along the arcade two doors from what I took to thinking of (I regret to admit) as "The Fat Girls' Shop" was also a conventional type; slender dummies standing in the windows with permanently-fitted pink page-boy wigs, showing off a regularly-changing array of the usual gear for the emaciated. Elsewhere in the centre there's a less overtly "thinist" place that caters for more mature women, but the dummies standing sentry in the windows are relentlessly lithe.

A couple of weeks ago the fat girl shop closed. I couldn't figure it at first. I walk along the streets of this city seeing plenty of potential customers. Let's be clear, it's not really "fat" in most cases; there are many women who just have robust skeletons. You can tell from the size of their heads that they couldn't trim down beyond a certain point that would still make the stuff in those window displays unwearable. So why does a shop touting "plus sizes" pass away? Well, the owner may have found greener pastures, but I suspect she just couldn't cop enough revenue to keep going.

Kingsize Menswear is a brand that has no trouble making a mint. Although it caters to the naturally broad and tall (and broad and short) it's also been covering the fat "guts" of Australian men since 1972 and goes stronger every year. The only thing I can see is that "fatness" is such a taboo in female culture that, apart from covert purchase through the Internet or mail-order catalogues, women just won't be associated with such a place. As in, won't be caught dead calling themselves a name by walking through the door.

There was another thing that I felt uneasy about: the clothing itself was striking what I thought was an "off" note. It was enlarged to fit the bodies of the big girls, but it was the same fabric, embroidery and so on, that characterised the clothes for the skinnies. I'd walk past the big dummy at the door when it was wearing a translucent evening gown or a torsolette and it just didn't look right. A frilly G-string stretched across a metre-wide derriere ain't the same as when it's on a pert, narrow one. I think that's really where the problem is: that stuff isn't attractive or sexy wear for women. It's purpose-made to emphasise the form of a very narrow part of the spectrum of women. Making it in a large size doesn't make it any more natural. The answer to the question,"How can flattering, impressive clothing be made for larger women?" is not to be found in making larger sizes of the same gear made for the smaller ones. The real challenge for designers is to wipe the preconceptions away and begin with fabrics, designs and colours that will make a natural compliment to the woman they're meant to fit, not a misguided distortion of someone else's style. Then nobody will need to fret over walking through the door of a "plus size" shop.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Post #16 Hire a Hall/Nothing and Everything (...for a game of plastic soldiers.)

A friend was taking art classes and had been advised by the instructor to buy one of those little wooden mannequins that are supposed to allow you to practice drawing the postures and proportions of the human body. She was complaining that the prices are exorbitant; "They're only wood, they've got no features and they range up to fifty dollars!" It was obvious to me that there was a simple and even superior alternative. I laughed and said, "Why buy a special artist's doll? All you need are some cheap plastic toys with articulated joints. As long as the proportions are fairly realistic and the joints bend, you'll be able to do the same poses with them. They'll probably be smaller than the wooden ones, but I don't think that matters." Sure enough, she was able to obtain some suitable figures from the toy-graveyards of her girlfriends' kids. Since then I found this page on the web that shows I'm not the only one to think of it.

I've got some el cheapo plastic soldiers which I bought for the same purpose and others that I've been using to make dioramas. These plastic figures fascinate me for a lot of reasons. The consistency of the themes and designs over decades is intriguing. Apart from the larger, poseable ones there are the moulded figures cranked out by the million. The peculiar thing is that the actual poses of many of the fixed figures have come in perennially-repeated stereotypical forms. There's the "grenade-thrower", one arm behind, clutching the bomb, the other extended up into the air; the "observer", standing erect with binoculars to his face; the "bayoneter", charging with outstretched rifle; the "machine-gunner" kneeling on one knee behind his tripod-mounted weapon; the "officer", waving a pistol in the air with one arm and waving 'come-on' with the other; the "tommy-gunner" standing with legs braced, pointing his gun from the hip. If you've ever played with or just seen toy soldiers you'll recognise the types. They're frozen in time, wearing and bearing equipment of the Second World War. They look American, going by the helmets - the old style of the 1940's, of course. There are sets that show newer, Kevlar helmets in coal-scuttle form, but among the newer-equipped figures are still some of the old style. The ones I see are all made in China, probably cranked out in the fevered industrial frenzy of Guangdong Province. The older ones from the 50's, 60's and so on were probably from Hong Kong. Perhaps many of them still are.

So did some Chinese entrepreneur decide in the 1950's on a set of figures for plastic soldier sets and have moulds made which are still in service today? Are new moulds made on the old pattern? I wonder if it's possible to find out. Maybe, just for the hell of it, I'll try.

And today, Wednesday, 21 May 2008, here they are. As is becoming usual, the answer came from Wikipedia. The article Army men contains a few answers, although it says these guys were made in the USA by Louis Marx and Co. and in Britain by Airfix and Matchbox before a decline in sales of military toys sent the business to China. I'm sure they were coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan back in the 1950's and 60's, so I can only assume that the Chinese disregard for intellectual property rights didn't begin in the People's Republic or very recently!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Post #15 Hire a Hall/Everything (Run out of town..all the way to London.)

I haven't got a clue about Boris Johnson, newly-elected mayor of London. I liked "Red Ken" from a distance because...well... he was called "Red Ken". Good luck to London and Boris. For all I know he's a lovely bloke and will make a good fist of it.

Now to what is pertinent to an Australian: Boris' victory is a lifeline for Australian spin-doctors, Crosby Textor. Now there's a subject I have a clear view on. Among many other sins, C/T introduced "push-polling" to Australia. That's where you contact an elector and, under the guise of "surveying", say something like: "Would it affect your opinion if you discovered that Candidate X is a wife-beating, animal-torturing, high-taxing scumbag? Just asking out of idle curiosity, of course! Well, would it?"

Now that the Liberal Party, C/T's preferred clients in these islands, have been driven from office in all jurisdictions, they've headed offshore to find greener pastures. I don't know what they got up to over there, or whether their interventions made a damn bit of difference. They'll take as much of the credit as they can grab, of course; having provided their services to Boris and scored a win, they'll be reinvigorated, instead of dying in the gutter where they belong. Just like the Daleks; whenever you think they're finally obliterated, they stage a comeback. Well not quite; the Daleks have provided me and millions of other fans with many hours of good, clean, homicidal fun. Mmm...I wonder if they know where Crosby Textor are.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Post #14 Hire a Hall/Everything ( some of us)

I've got to be quick posting this or I may miss the opportunity to add to Troy Buswell's wounds. (I think of those Senators who wanted a piece of Julius Caesar and discovered that he was dead by the time they got to the front of the crowd.)

What is going on with these people? I haven't a speck of interest in seeing the Liberal Party return to government anywhere, ever again, but somebody has to be there to keep the governing party from becoming too power-drunk.
Paul Keating said it best when he attacked the federal parliamentary Liberal party some years ago, in these terms: "Mister Speaker, they are not only unfit to be in government; they're not even fit to be in opposition!"

Those words are perfectly apt to the mess the WA Liberals have made in the past few years. They had a dill (
Colin Barnett), they replaced him with another dill (Matt Birney), replaced him with a sensible, honest plodder (Paul Omodei) and then they stabbed him to replace him with...a dill. The only topics worth taking bets on are: how long before Buswell goes (if he hasn't while I've been writing this) and how long can the Labor party govern in WA?

Worst of all the Liberals are now contemplating going back to the first dill, Barnett. This is the guy who wanted to build a canal, without due diligence, (no, he was using dilligence) to bring water to Perth, WA, from the northern parts of the State. This came as news to his colleagues who found out about it in the first few minutes of his policy speech for the 2005 election. The slogan for his campaign? "Decisions not delays." Now, I know lemmings don't really, mindlessly run over cliffs, as one sees in the cartoons. But, after all, they aren't being led by the likes of Barnett and Buswell!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Post #13 Welcome to Anastasia!!!

I welcome to the arena a noble lady of distinction, Anastasia Fitzgerald. A quick sword and a resurgent shield are the hallmarks of this gladiatrix. Already renowned for her martial feats on other grounds, she enters to the acclaim of plebeians, equestrians and patricians.

The lanistae are also delighted by the arrival of this champion. You can bet they are.

Salve Anastasia!!! Let the games begin.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Post #12 Hire a Hall/Nothing (Fugitive Possessions)

Yesterday, I locked a set of keys inside my home. It was the set that included my keys to my home. And I locked them inside from outside. I didn't discover this until I arrived at another premises and realised that they weren't in the pocket of my jacket. I figured out, by racking my memory, that I must have dropped them as I was packing my briefcase. I've always been wary of leaving keys hidden in yards and so forth. I've relied on making a routine of being absolutely sure of having those keys before I leave the premises. On this occasion, I'd been rushed...yeah, the same old story. Plans for war don't survive the first shock of battle and routines with keys don't survive being hassled.

After the mandated period of cursing my folly (Why didn't I bury a jar in the garden with a key in it? Why didn't I stick to my checking routine? What gods did I offend?) I got to the main point: How do I get in? I was contemplating how to break in while doing minimal damage when the good old subconscious mind did its trick: I saw an unbidden mental picture of a key in a zippered compartment in my briefcase.

I checked it out and, sure enough, the aliens had put a key there!

No, just kidding. I'd put it there, a week before. It had worked its way off the slip-ring in the key-holder pack and I'd put it in the case until I could get around to reattaching it. It was the key to a door which I usually don't use, so there was no apparent urgency. Well, that was a brilliant piece of procrastination. When I arrived home I tried the key with confidence - and the bastard wouldn't turn. After some jiggling, I hit the sweet spot and a lock which hadn't been key-operated for more than 10 years clicked open! Then I remembered/discovered that I'd put on the chain-lock and the door would only open about 15 sems. Fortunately, I have various gadgets in what I call a JIC bag, carried in my briefcase. (That's Just-In-Case). I found a screwdriver, squeezed my hand through the aperture with the driver pointing backwards and took out the two screws holding the base-plate for the chain to the door-frame. Then I was in. My first task was to head for the room where I'd packed my case. Sure enough, there were the missing keys on the floor next to my desk. As I was reattaching the chain to the door-frame, I played "That's good! That's bad!": If the key hadn't come loose, (which I thought was bad) and I hadn't put it in the briefcase (which I thought was slack) I would have been stuffed. The key would have been with the others, trapped on the other side of locked doors. Was this some kind of weird Providence at work? It was lucky I'd put that key in the very case I took out the door that day. But the whole thing would have been obviated if I'd just taken 2 seconds to do my normal check. Is it a last warning from some deity of keys, complete with eye-catching coincidence? (I shall take measures o god! Believe me!)

Anyway, all this got me thinking about concentration, methodicalness and the like. I started thinking about a pattern of behaviour I've observed in supermarkets. Women's behaviour.

I'm often made impatient as women who are ahead of me at a checkout go through a studious ritual of checking their wallets/purses to make sure their plastic cards are all in their proper places, then carefully place the wallet/purse in their bag/trolley/whatever and check the bags in their trolley before they proceed on their way. They block me from getting to the place where my purchases are piling up, waiting to be bagged (self-serve here, boy!) and I wonder at their complacent indifference. "These (epithet) women", I think. Well, maybe those women are right. Hell, they are right. They won't lose keys/cards, forget bags of shopping they've paid for and all the other dopey things that I and heaps of other men keep doing.

Now that's strange. Men are supposed to be the aggressive, assertive types, according to the old stereotypes. Why do we feel pressed to get moving quickly in those situations? Are we afraid of being considered obstructors/ditherers? I know, on one rare occasion, I waited behind a fussy man who did that "Check it carefully" routine and became really exasperated. When he finally moved off, I snarled to the checkout chick, "I thought he was going to crochet a doily." Perhaps that's it. Real men grab it and go. Wimps hesitate.

It's the same with "reading the instructions". Any real man does that as a last resort. I've made many tasks harder for myself with that approach. And I keep using it. There's something there. Part enculturation, part genetic predisposition. It would make a good subject for a scientific study. Perhaps someone's already done it. I can't be bothered looking for it. I'm too impatient.