Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rubbing society's underbelly...

In way of explanation of a number of the points listed in my recent post, and just in the interest of relating a few of the interesting things I've witnessed, I'd like now to tell you about some of my recent encounters with the darker side of Australian society.

About five weeks ago, at the very start of the "missing month", MTC sent me to Sydney for a week to do the bump-in of "Two Brothers". All-in-all, the trip went remarkably smoothly, although it did get off to a relatively surreal start.

Due to a desire to "cost-cut", as well as a decidedly sadistic bent, MTC determined that the best way for me to get to Sydney would be via a 6am flight on a Sunday. This meant that I was out of bed at 4.30am and standing on the street, waiting for a taxi, by 5am.

When my taxi arrived I was surprised to discover that it was a Maxi-taxi, a van which can seat up to 11 passengers. This was just the luck of the draw, but definitely constituted "overkill" when you consider that there was only my two bags, my half closed eyes and my tired body needing to get to the airport.

The friendly taxi driver assisted me in getting my bags into the back seat and then suggested that I should sit up front with him.

We'd barely gone one hundred meters down the road when he turned to me and asked a question that I certainly wasn't expecting at 5.10am on a Sunday morning - "Excuse me mate, but do you know what marijuana looks like?"

Acutely aware of my stunned expression, the fact that there are cameras installed in taxis, my reputation and the laws of entrapment, I cautiously responded - "Why?"

"Well mate," he exclaimed, "it's like this - My last customer, as he was getting out the cab, said "excuse me buddy, but it looks like someone's left their bag here" and handed me this bag."

My driver then pulled a smallish black backpack out from beneath his seat.

"Now I don't know which of tonight's fares left it there," he assured me, "but when I opened it up, to check if there was any identification so I could return it, I found this."

My taxi-driver then, with one eye on the road and one on the bag which now sat between us, opened the back-pack and pulled out a large plastic bag which was filled with marijuana. Now when I say large, I mean large. The plastic bag would have been at least 30cm x 20cm x 10cm and was almost bursting from the amount of dope which was inside.

As the airport loomed closer, visions of Schapelle Corby filled my mind.

"So I've reported to my HQ that I've found a small black backpack, but I haven't told them what's in it. Do you think that the owner might call looking for it?" He asked me.

"No mate, I really don't think they'll call. In fact, I suspect that someone is currently at home crying about the fact that they won't be making that call..."

"Well what should I do with it?" He asks and I almost flinch with the realisation that I could potentially get dragged into this.

"Ah... Sorry mate, I really can't help you with that one..." I reply.

"Do you want it?" He asks. "You could just have it for free... That way I wouldn't have to worry about it."

Now I've got to admit that I know people who smoke marijuana and who would have given me their first born child if I had said "yes", but as the departure lounge was just around the corner, and the day's newspapers were adorned with pictures of a certain blonde eyed beautician, I politely declined his offer.

"Oh well... Them's the breaks..." He exclaimed and shoved the bag of dope back into the back-pack.

After shaking my head at the surreal nature of the encounter, and checking my bags to make sure that the taxi driver had put the marijuana back into the right one, I boarded a flight to Sydney and touched down just before 8am. From there I took my second taxi for the day, straight to my accommodation in the centre of Sydney's Kings Cross district.

For those of you who do not reside in Australia, King's Cross is Australia's equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. Strip clubs, hookers, smack addicts and violent police are just a few of the things which have made King's Cross a tourist destination... And, apparently, an appropriate location for accommodating touring theatre technicians.

The delightful nature of King's Cross was immediately brought home as I stepped out of my taxi just down the street from my hotel. My being loaded up with two bags, a lap-top, a plans tube and a backpack, didn't discourage the stripclub spruikers from insisting, at 8.30am on a Sunday morning, that I should "Come inside and check out the best tits in Australia." For the second time in three hours I politely declined an offer to indulge in decadence.

The next week of living in the heart of King's Cross exposed me to a range of sights and sounds which were educational, to say the least, but nothing matched the surreal feel of that first day.

Since then, however, I have had another close encounter with the underbelly of Australia's society, one which was decidedly more sinister, but as I am a sucker for the "cliff-hanger" (only because I know it pisses Tript off) and because I have run out of time today in which to blog, you'll have to wait until next time to hear that installment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


How is it that, despite resetting my alarm clock to give me "mmmm... just twenty more minutes sleep..." on four separate occasions, I kept waking up feeling more tired than the time before?

If you need me, I'll be the one dozing in the corner...

Just another twenty minutes... I swear, that's all I need... Come on buddy, can't you spare twenty minutes...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Powers of Persuasion...

Listen up all you Canberrites and ex-territorians!

For the last few years I have attempted, without much success, to persuade you to come and check out Earthcore.

Well after seeing this year's line-up, I suspect that my level of persuasive power have just received a much needed boost.

DJ sets from the Propellerheads, Perry Farrell, and Phil Hartnoll (ex-Orbital) ?

Live performances by Regurgitator and the Future Sound of London's psychedelic band?

Tons more acts yet to be announced?

How much more persuading do you need?

Am I the only one who's more than a little excited?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Conspiracy or Bureaucracy?

Everyman and his goldfish has, by now, written something about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in America.

The publicity surrounding the attacks has meant not only that you'd have to have been living in a cave for the last five years to be unaware of the event (although there are some cave dwellers who were apparently well aware), but that there is the equivalent of a small library of books, ranging from the subtle and intelligent to the bizarre and obscene, which have been written on the subject.

Due mostly to the fact that I was working for the ABC in Canberra at the time, the echoes of September 11, 2001 have reverberated through my mind for many years and, as a result, I have read more than a few books on the subject.

Unfortunately, bizarre conspiracy theories run rampant throughout many of these books and those tomes which resist the urge to descend into mumblings about CIA plots and aliens in The White House often reveal nothing that wasn't available in the newspapers at the time.

So it was with some trepidation that I started reading "Ghost Wars - The secret history of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001." A weighty publication authored by Steve Coll.

Now don't worry, I'm not about to have a scientology moment in which I read one book and yell "Eureaka, now I understand everything", but I will say that Mr. Coll's book is one of the most fascinating that I have read on this subject.

In an extremely readable, thorough and methodical manner, Steve Coll lays out such a detailed history of the Afghanistan region that by the end the terrorist attacks themselves are not only unsurprising but suspiciously inevitable.

The most interesting aspect of his book, however, is its complete lack of conspiracy theories. Steve Coll depicts successive American Governments which are slow to act, slow to change and slow to comprehend the challenge facing them (some of which, admittedly, is of their own making), not due to any real form of incompetence, maliciousness or ill-intent, but due to the fact that the world's most powerful nation also has one of the world's most convoluted and complex bureaucracies.

An example of this point is that, despite the fact that the FBI seized hundred of pages, written in Arabic, from the home of the terrorist responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Center (in 1993), the bureaucracy within the organization meant that it took them almost two years to translate those documents. Once they had translated them, however, and realized that they referred to activities occurring overseas, the FBI had no process with which to inform the CIA of their discovery. At the time, the FBI was only responsible for legal matters within America, not national security threats originating from other countries and, thus, since it was never envisioned that the two organizations may need to communicate, they never passed on their findings.

So what do you do when Bureaucracy runs riot? Well generally you create more bureaucracy in an attempt to manage the bureaucracy you already have... Catch 22, anyone?

"Ghost Wars" is a fascinating book which I whole heartedly recommend to anyone who has even a passing interest in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Don't go looking for conspiracy theories, though, as you're not going to find them within this publication's pages. What you will find, instead, is a thought-provoking, detailed account of how and why America's foreign policy decisions, generally made with the best of intentions, led to a number of horrific events occurring during September 2001.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Just as I have recently been absent from the blogging community, my work commitments have also caused me to be absent from my Aikido classes...

Last night was my second night back.


No really, OUCH!

Still, I've taken some vague comfort from the fact that I didn't entirely embarrass myself. I might be extremely sore today, but I was still managing to mix it up quite successfully with belts of my level last night...

Now, once I figure out how to get my legs to move, it's time for me to drag myself to work...

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hiatus Endus...

It's been over a month since my last post and the first thing I want to do now that I have returned is say thanks to those of you who I know noticed I was missing... Which means that I only want to say thanks to the two of you who took the time to send me an email.

Which reminds me, Cyzilla and Teigan, I have received your emails and will respond within the next few days.

Where have I been? Not far, just busy.

I will, over the next few posts, go into a little bit more detail, but in the meantime I thought I'd tease you all with some snippets of what I've been up to.

During the last month I have -

* Been winked at by a penguin.

* Been surrounded by more bats than Batman.

* Fought my way through thousands of Jedi.

* Been in the presence of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana.

* Devoted in excess of twenty hours to making it rain.

* Watched a Chaos Butterfly pounce.

* Conquered Europe.

* Achieved a greater understanding of America's foreign policy.

* Scrounged for food.

* Been invited to see the "best tits in Australia".

* Discovered the pleasures of unicorns.

* Been accused of trying to take an explosive device aboard a plane.

.... And much, much more....

Will I reveal all? Only time will tell.

In the interim, however, it may be safer to believe that my recent blogging hiatus was merely another attempt to make myself more like Jared. Welcome back Jar, you were gone too long!