Thursday, 27 September 2007


Here we are in Amsterdam.

The trip was long, but pleasantly uneventful. Even the 1-hour layover in Singapore, which had the potential for a bit of Race-Around-the-World style airport dashing, was straightforward, mainly because we arrived from Melbourne half an hour early.

We got into Amsterdam at about 5.30am on Monday, breezed through Customs (which makes sense . . . who's going to smuggle anything into Amsterdam?) and caught a double-decker train into the city.

We weren't going to be able to check into our apartment until about midday. But that'll be ok, we thought. Surely a party town like Amsterdam never sleeps.

Actually, it does. Between about 4am and midday on Monday is when everyone seems to recover from the rest of the week. Nothing opens until midday. In the three days we've been here we've not seen the place as dead as it was when we first arrived.

Eventually we find our apartment, get in touch with the agent, and get them to let us in. Like most Amsterdam houses (and people), it's tall and thin. The staircase is about 80cm wide and goes up at an angle of 70 degrees. No point wasting space on things like staircases. This'll be tricky after a big night out, I thinks to myself.

(Side note: apparently it's a tax thing. Between 1200 and 1900 or thereabouts people were taxed on the width of their houses, so the standard house design is tall, deep and thin. You can tell the really rich areas cos it's where the houses are wide.)

Tuesday we decide to get a bit of culture (it can't all be red-light district, can it?) and go to the Van Gogh museum. Actually, it was only Sarah and Greg and I that went. We lost Kate and Shannon in some market along the way. I think deliberately on their part.

The Van Gogh museum was interesting, but clearly made up of the bits and pieces no-one else wants. None of the really famous painting are there, except for Irises and one of the Sunflowerses (but not the good one). It was all arranged in chronological order though, so you can see him getting madder and madder. Which was nice.

What amazed me was that he was only 37 when he topped himself. He looks about 70 in those self-portaits.

This morning we took a cruise around the canals. The cool thing about Amsterdam is that you're never more than a block away from a water view. The uncool thing is that it's also the sewer and serves as a reminder that it's all going to disappear under the ocean before the century's out. Still, we can enjoy it while it lasts.

Or maybe they can make the dykes bigger. Actually, now that I think about it, Amsterdam will probably be the one place to survive the rising oceans, given it's already below sea level.

That's about it for the moment. Sorry about the lack of photos. Unfortunately, I can't seem to upload from this particular net cafe. We've taken a bunch, though, so stay tuned.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


So here's our itinerary.
We'll be flying out this afternoon.

Sept 24 to 28 - Amsterdam

Sept 29 to Oct 6 - Tourtoirac, France

Oct 7 & 8 - Paris

Oct 9 - Brussels

Oct 10 to 14 - Copenhagen

That's it.
See you in the funny pages.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

War of the Worlds

Robb and I went along to see War of the Worlds at Rod Laver Arena last night. And I have to say, it was absolutely the best live glam rock show adapted from a classic science fiction novel that I've ever seen.

Released back in 1978, Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of the Worlds went on to become one of the biggest selling albums of all time (well, top 100 anyway), and has gathered a cult following that lingers even today.

It's a double-album suite of music, with H.G. Wells' story narrated by the mellifluous tones of the Richard Burton. (Mellifluousness appears to be a requirement for this role . . . Spielberg got Morgan Freeman to do it in his recent adaptation). On top of this, the original album featured a who's-who of 70s rock, with Justin Hayward, David Essex, Chris Thompson from Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy.

The music is all late-70s rock with wah-wah guitars, distorted bass and synthesised keyboards. It's cheesy in parts, but I'm guessing that was the case when it first came out. Burton's narration brings a gravitas to proceedings, and it was great that they kept it intact for the live show. Unfortunately, the CGI Richard Burton hovering above the stage was a little more Max Headroom than Marc Antony at times.

Still, the band was amazing, as you'd expect. Hearing the music played live was great and they certainly did it justice.

There was a giant screen at the back of the stage showing various images of the story. There were the Victorian-era paintings featured in the original album, along with some new CGI images. Some bits worked better than other. The Red Weed movement at the start of Act II was stunning, with simple but intensely creepy animations of wispy weeds crawling over the land. The Heat Ray bit near the start was less successful, with confused visuals and repetitive lighting that started to get irritating after a while (especially for the people sitting in the two spots in the audience that kept getting hit with the "Heat Ray").

And I just don't know quite what to say about the giant Tripod that got lowered down onto the stage at one point. I could sort of see what they were trying to do . . . but . . . mmm. No, not really.

The performers' styles were either classic rock strutting (Justin Hayward/Chris Thompson/Shannon Noll) or musical theatre showiness (Michael Falzon/Rachael Beck). But for the parts they were playing it all worked pretty well. I must say that Shannon Noll was a real surprise. The part of Parson Nathaniel takes a fair bit of acting talent to pull off, as well as rock-god vocals, and Mr Noll did quite well.

All in all, I loved it. But I'm far too biased to make any sort of objective comment. I'm not sure it would have made any new fans, but then again, I don't think that's the intention.

Quite a brilliant move, when you think about it, basing a musical on a classic science fiction novel. There should be more of this sort of thing.

Who wouldn't like to see an all-singing, all-dancing version of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash? Or a cabaret based on Asimov's Foundation series? And Ender's Game is just crying out for the high school musical treatment.

There's definitely a market out there. Rod Laver Arena was packed last night, and these people had even braved the rampaging hordes of drunken Collingwood and Geelong fans that were loose in the city. That's commitment, people.

And no, they weren't there just to see Shannon Noll.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The countdown continues

I've been instructed to give more regular updates of the countdown to Europe. (Would that be The Final Countdown? Ba-doom-boom)

So it's now four days.

I've also been instructed never again to write anything as boring as the last entry. My most humble apologies. Hmph.

Now, I've taken Friday off from work, so I've got a couple of days free before we fly out on Sunday.

Some people at work asked me, somewhat incredulously I might add, why this was. I pointed out that I had stuff to do . . . pick up plane tickets, get some Euros, start packing, and clean up the house a bit (given that Eliza's kindly offered to come and house-sit).

But the real reason is that in this lead-up to travelling overseas, I'd just rather not be at work. I'm not focused. I've stopped caring. I'm going to meetings discussing issues that are going to bite while I'm away, and I'm staring out the window.

I still have a modicum of interest left for a couple of specific things, but come Friday, there would be absolutely no point in my being there anymore. So I won't be.

Also, I'm going to see War of the Worlds live at Rod Laver on Friday night, and I need to get psyched. So looking forward to that.

Before we fly out on Sunday, I'll post an itinerary here so those wishing to do so can keep track of where we are.

Almost there, guys. Europe awaits.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Your form guide to the Williamstown by-election

As a mild diversion from all the holiday planning, we have the Williamstown by-election tomorrow. This was prompted by the somewhat sudden resignation of the Steve Bracks back in July.

Given that this the safest ALP seat in the state, the result is more or less a foregone conclusion. The Libs and Nats aren't even bothering to field candidates. Presumably they've got better things to do, like . . . um . . . what do state opposition parties do again?

Like most state elections, this one will be fought on voters' perception of the parties at a Federal level, and on a couple of issues utterly meaningless outside the immediate area. Here, those issues are the deepening of Port Phillip Bay (which will lead to more ships and hence more trucks in local streets) and the re-opening of the underpass at Yarraville station.

And the candidates are:


Clearly the hot favourite, and notable for putting the most propaganda directly into our letterbox. Also notable for prompting the most anti-ALP propaganda, from the likes of the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group and Blue Wedges, a group opposed to the bay deepening, which the ALP supports.

Janet Rice - THE GREENS

They're in with a chance. They've certainly had the most creative campaign. The other morning a group of them (what's the collective noun for a group of Greens? A branch?) dressed up in 1940s gear and handed out copies of the Williamstown Line timetable from 1940. The point was that there are now 28% fewer trains in peak hour than there were back then.
One of them was a dude in a Jimmy Stewart suit, dippin' his lid to the ladies. Which was nice


The DLP are a somewhat obscure group of social conservatives that were big back in the 60s and 70s, and have recently made a resurgence. They manage to simultaneously piss off both left-wingers like the Greens (by opposing gay marriage and abortion), and right-wingers like the Coalition (by opposing economic rationalism).
They claim on their website that this makes them politically central. But this is a little like saying that a comfortable temperature can be maintained by standing too close to a fire with ice up your bum.

Veronica Hayes - FAMILY FIRST

We haven't heard a peep out of Family First during this campaign. They're clearly using this as a training ground on how to deal with election loss.

And finally, Nathan Tavendale, Catherine Cumming, Vivienne Millington, Wajde Assaf and Janis Rossiter - THE INDEPENDENTS.

Campaigning from these guys has been almost non-existent.
Presumably they think it's not worth the effort.
They're probably right.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Ten days and waiting

I've been instructed to update the time remaining until we go.

It's now ten days.

It's odd though . . . it feels like it should be sooner. Like any major life events, once the date is set it begins to feel like nothing else matters, and all we're doing is marking time.

I've noticed this sort of thing before; like the last time we moved house, and before our wedding earlier in the year.

This effect is particularly noticeable at work. I've managed to delegate most of the tasks that are going to continue while I'm gone. The stuff I actually have to do will be done by about Tuesday. (Famous last words, of course. I hope no-one from work is reading this).

We're currently getting into the really important details of the trip. Like which movies will be showing on the flight. Fairly average pickings there, actually, with the likes of Superman 3 and Fantastic Four 2. The TV show selection looks a little more promising, with stuff like Father Ted and Welcher & Welcher. Nice.

It's only ten sleeps. But I want to go now. Right now.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Two weeks and counting

Two weeks from today we'll be leaving for three weeks in Europe. And I can't wait.

It still doesn't seem quite real, although picking up the new luggage today (a beautiful wedding gift from Bruce & Trevor) brings it one step closer.

This trip is actually the reason I began blogging in the first place. I thought it'd be cool to keep a travel diary, and you know, didn't want to leave it til the last minute. I figured you need to get the hang of this sort of thing before you set off.

I realise that starting four months out may appear overly cautious. But I stand by my decision.

Having said that, this blog hasn't really been a recording-events-for-posterity kind of thing. It's been more of a here's-the-nerdy-thing-amusing-me-this-week kind of thing. Still, it can't be that hard, can it?

I can only aspire to the brilliance of Micky and Podge's travel diary from last year. Now there was a blog that was worth checking every day. I actually started getting mild withdrawal symptoms when they failed to update it for extended periods. My God, I would think to myself. I hope they didn't fall into that volcano!

Now, our journey will feature fewer volcanoes and more drinking by the pool, but still. I solemnly promise that I will be updating you, dear reader, every time I manage get off my arse and find a net cafe.

The updates might be daily. They might be weekly. It might be once during the layover in Singapore on the way, and once again during the layover in KL on the way home.

But whenever it is, you can be confident that it will be . . . um . . . nope, no idea.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

News For Nerds

Here's some of the things making your world a little nerdier this week:

(1) A new word has entered the lexicon: Geekgasm.
There are a number of definitions out there, but here's mine:

geekgasm (n) [geek-gazzem]

An intense feeling of excitement caused by the sudden appreciation of a complex idea or nerdy piece of art, often scientific in nature.

A geekgasm is generally accompanied by a violent ejaculation of sound (such as "Gee whiz!") and followed by an intense feeling of fatigue.

Usage example: "Gee whiz! Did you see that new Transformers movie? I had a total geekgasm."
See also: Geekstacy; Multiple geekgasm (x-ref: Star Wars trilogy.

(2) When looking for the correct spelling of the word mensiversary (meaning "monthly anniversary"), I found that it does not appear in the online

As potential alternatives, it offers Mena Suvari and Monster Zero.

Which is helpful.

(3) A design has been selected for the new Virgin Galactic spaceport.

I can't help thinking that New Mexico was chosen as the location because Richard Branson wants to break through the fabric of space time and be the the Roswell alien.

He'd love that.

Also, is it just me or does the design look a bit, um, rude?

(4) While we're on the topic of space, man's first envoy to the distant stars, Voyager I, was launched 30 years ago yesterday. With all the whiz-bangery in the world at their disposal (well, more or less) NASA is still using the original computer bank to keep track of it.

And finally,

(5) Surprising precisely no-one, Apple has released a touch-screen iPod. While it's basically an iPhone without the phone, it's hella sexy.

Not quite geekgasm material, but close.

Monday, 3 September 2007


It's nice to see David Duchovny back on TV. Being a sci-fi nerd, I was a big fan of The X-Files back in the day, but I'll be the first to admit Duchovny's not the greatest actor in the world.

He has a limited range, oscillating somewhere between deadpan and wry. To succeed, he needs a script that can make use of his particular style. The X-Files did this well; his matter-of-factness brought a certain level of credibility to the incredible storylines. It's taken another 5 years, but thankfully he's again found a showcase for his talents.

Californication is my new favourite show, and will probably remain so until The L Word comes back next year. Or Battlestar Galactica in November. Or Heroes later this month. Ah, I'm so fickle.

After the first episode aired last Monday, Andrew Bolt had a little rant about Channel Ten peddling pornography.

Anything that gets Andrew Bolt worked up is usually pretty good value, and this is no exception.

Californication is a story about a guy bored with his life, living a joyless existence pining after his ex and the happy family life he's left behind. Even a constant succession of beautiful young women in his bed doesn't help. Most of the time he looks like he'd rather be taking a nap. The only time he perks up is when he's around his ex and his daughter.

Mr Bolt has clearly missed the key element of pornography, which is its fundamental lack of story. Pornography is, as he points out, "the depiction of erotic behaviour . . . intended to cause sexual excitement", and that's it. It's not intended to tell you a story, or teach you anything.

I'm not aware of Mr Bolt's personal predilections, but if he gets sexually excited by watching an ageing Lothario boredly shag his way through a succession of less-than-satisfying encounters, then he's seeing something I'm not.

Californication has those rarest of commodities in television: story and characters. And it's not pitched at ADHD 15-year-olds. It's pitched squarely at adults who can understand the emotional undertones. Adults who can look past the tits 'n' ass and see a sad guy looking for an emotional connection in the only way he knows how, and failing miserably.

Adults unlike Andrew Bolt.