Thursday, June 26, 2008

Australia's New Oil Boom

Hemp For Industry Can Now Be Grown Legally Across Most Of Australia

Some crops are difficult to grow. Or more precisely, some crops are an absolute pain in the arse to grow, requiring special soil treatments, complicated, high maintenance irrigation systems and plenty of (now) expensive water, pesticides, and so on.

But hemp is a remarkably easy crop to sow and grow, requiring minimal water or pesticides. The stuff will grow in just about any soil type, and there's interesting research that claims hemp is an effective way of sucking salt from heavily salinated soil and even removing heavy metals and other toxic pollutants.

But it's potential as an alternative energy source, bio-fuel, or more precisely biodiesel, should stop Australia from devoting arable land to food crops that would only be used for lesser fuel crops (like palm and sugar) :
* The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas.

* Hemp can be converted to a solid fuel like charcoal and burnt for heat. When burnt, hemp bio-mass can produce steam to power turbines for power generation.

* It can also be used with coal in thermoelectric power plants. Fermented bio-mass (methanol ethanol) is made and used in diesel engines.
We are sitting on a massive oil boom. Hemp oil, that is. You can run your car on it, slather it on your face to cure a huge variety of skin problems, you can cook with it and you can use it as an industrial lubricant. Only a few of the stunning range of uses for hemp oil.

The New South Wales parliament has now passed The Hemp Industry Bill, which will allow 'select' farmers in NSW to grow hemp, though they will have to endure some draconian surveillance due to rancid paranoia over the possibility that some farmers might slip some THC-heavy hemp in amongst the rest of a ultra-low THC-active crop.

From the Daily Telegraph :

The Hemp Industry Bill will allow farmers to grow hemp (cannabis sativa) for use in skin care products, paint, load-bearing masonry, insulation and as an additive to wool, Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said today.

Such production is already permitted in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries would work with farmers to make sure crops were only grown under a licence by applicants of good repute, Mr Macdonald said.

The legislation would pave the way for a potentially lucrative industrial hemp industry, providing farmers with the additional option of another fast-growing summer crop, Mr Macdonald said.

"This is a direct result of the environmentally friendly nature of industrial hemp and a perceived interest in hemp products in the market," he added.

Despite the negatives, it is surely a good start for a new Australian (hemp) oil boom.

Australia could easily produce (with decent investment) enough hemp bio-mass to fuel cars, trucks and electricity generators, a new source for plastics and paper, as well as producing a highly nutritious food source, still one of the best sources protein available in the world today.

Next comes the revolution of using hemp and THC-active cannabis as a replacement medicine for a vast range of life-saving, and life-extending, pharmaceuticals whose side effects wreak far too much physical damage. But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

The challenge now is to make sure the hemp industry and hemp market is given the investment it needs to grow and flourish, and to ensure (by limiting regulation) enough freedom and entruepreneurship to stop this miracle crop from being overtly controlled, or contained, by the industries that do not welcome hemp's long-overdue arrival in a competitive marketplace.

Rani Meets Holly

They're neighbours, and good friends.
When AC/DC Were Glam

AC/DC's first photo shoot in 1974
Ak! Before Bon Scott joined the brothers Angus and Malcolm Young to record some of the heaviest and grittiest hard rock albums ever pressed into vinyl, AC/DC (with scarf wearing lead singer Dave Evans) had a taste for the sound and fashion of the era : glam!

Photographer Philip Morris took the above photo for what was AC/DC's first official photo shoot. Morris has now dug through his old 1970s Australian rock photos archive for a new exhibition.

From :
"I used to photograph a lot of unknown bands who didn't have a record deal and weren't going to," Morris says. "I thought AC/DC were fun, but it was just another day at work."
He photographed AC/DC's first gigs and saw their transformation from glam to hard rock. They ditched the knee-high boots and their original frontman, Dave Evans, when Bon Scott arrived on the scene.
It was Scott's energy on stage that finally convinced Morris the band had a future. "When he sang, he transformed into this amazing performer," he says.
AC/DC Exposed! opens tonight at Blender Gallery, Paddington (in NSW).
Only Malcolm and Angus Young stayed on from that 1974 line-up. A year later, Bon Scott had replaced Dave Evans as lead singer and, as the below video shows, most of the glam-era imagery had been well and truly (and thankfully) tossed aside for the more standard tight jeans, tight t-shirt hard rock look. Most of the glam, that is, but not all. In the video you'll notice that Malcolm (on the left) was still enjoying his knee-high boots with stacked heels.

More Rock Writing From Darryl Mason Here - Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Buckley, Silverchair, Kyuss

Monday, June 23, 2008

Australians Rock!

A fascinating new survey, Trends in Australian Public Opinion, sheds more light on why Australians dumped the parochial, paranoid, fear-mongering Howard government in last year's federal election. It also reveals just how out-of-touch Australia's tabloid media has become, with their hysterical campaigns against unions, the Greens, sex-on-TV and pro-big business agendas.

Some of the more interesting revelations :

* 10% of Australians want more nudity, more sex in movies and magazines.

* More Australians would have voted in favour of Bob Brown for PM than Peter Costello.

* Australians are becoming more and more supportive of increasing spending for social services, even if it means sacrificing tax cuts.

* In just one year, the proportion of Australians who think there is far too much nudity and sex in magazines in movies fell from 59% to 48%.

* Most Australians think big business has way too much power.

And we're supposed to believe that Australia is becoming a more conservative, anti-union, wealth-orientated nation?

Absolute twaddle.

The socially responsible, free-thinking Australia revealed by this survey is an Australia we should all be very, very proud of. We rock!
Last Australian Combat Troops Arrive Home, Mission Completed

John Howard On The Iraq War : The First Six Months

So the Iraq War is over now for Australian combat troops, officially anyway, with the last troops arriving home to warm welcomes from friends and family over the weekend :

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has today seen the completion of his pledge to bring home all of Australia's combat troops from Iraq, with the final contingent of soldiers flying into Brisbane.

Families and friends waited nervously at Brisbane airport for the first glimpse of loved ones they had not seen for more than six months.

Hugs and tears greeted the 80 members of the Seventh Brigade after their plane touched down...

They are the last soldiers from the Overwatch Battle Group to return home from southern Iraq and their Commander, Brigadier Steven Day, says they accomplished their mission.

"There is a deep sense of pride in what they have done. They have toiled hard for the last six or seven months and southern Iraq is a better place for what they have done," he said.

Well Done and Welcome Home.

The Australian Defence Force strategists who purposely kept Australian combat troops from spending too much time patrolling with under-trained, terrified, and sometimes dangerously incompetent American forces should be thanked. (While stationed in Jordan in the days before the war officially began, Australian troops witnessed young, inexperienced Americans almost blowing a British Chinook helicopter out of the sky. The Americans thought the Chinook was Iraqi. Iraq, of course, has never owned or used Chinook helicopters. The Brits landed their helicopter near the Americans, got out and punched crap out of them.)

Likewise, those ADFers who demanded Australian troops spend as little time as possible in Iraqi provinces fatally contaminated by depleted uranium dust should be thanked.

It will be many years before some of the most important government and ADF documents and reports on the lead-up to the Iraq War, and its opening months, are declassified, and it will only be then that we will learn the full truth of war where it concerned Australian combat troops.

That most Australians know so little of what their troops did and experienced in the Iraq War is a damn shame, and hopefully something that will be rectified in the next few years as more stories of their frontline experiences are made public through books, documentaries and movies.

That most Australians know so little about John Howard's total commitment to the 'War on Terror', including the Iraq War, within days of the September 11, 2001 attacks, is an abheration of our nation's history. That Howard repeatedly lied to all Australians that he had not committed Australian troops to the Iraq War as late as mid-March is, or should be, criminal.

Following is a recap of Howard quotes on the invasion and occupation of Iraq from January to June, 2003. Note the constantly shifting 'reasons for war' and the blindly optimistic belief that there would be no major resistance from Iraqi civilians, which directly contradicted key intelligence briefings Howard received on what would happen once the invasion begun.

As a point of reference, being information Howard was clearly made aware of, the first car bombs aimed at American troops exploded with hours of the start of the war, and the very first American vehicles to enter Baghdad were not met with a shower of chocolates and flowers but machine gun fire from men, women and children shooting from hundreds of open windows and rooftops. The Iraqi resistance began the moment the war did, as Australian generals well knew it would.

John Howard :
"....our goal is to make certain that the weapons that Iraq now has, chemical and biological and a capacity to develop nuclear weapons, are taken from Iraq. I don't believe the world can turn its back on that - January 23, 2003

"..if as a consequence of that military action the current regime disappears, that circumstances in Iraq could well be a lot better, I’m certain they will be a lot better and that in a relatively short period of time the situation could stabilise in the way that it did in Afghanistan." - February 7. 2003

"Iraq must be disarmed. We cannot afford to allow a rogue state like Iraq to retain chemical and biological weapons. Others will do likewise. North Korea will not be disciplined by the world community if Iraq is not disciplined." - March 14, 2003
Howard had been told repeatedly, by March 14, 2003, that Iraq's WMD capabilities were next to useless and/or non-existent.
"I have no doubt at all in my mind, and many would agree with me, that the Iraqi people will suffer less if Saddam Hussein is removed." - March 17, 2003

"I think you’ve also got to remember that the suffering of the Iraqi people will be a lot less once this regime has gone..." - March 19, 2003

"I want the Iraqi regime disarmed, I want Iraq disarmed. The question of what happens to Saddam Hussein to me is incidental. The aim is the disarmament of Iraq."- March 19, 2003

"...we don’t have any quarrel with the ordinary people of Iraq, we don’t want to inflict any avoidable pain injury or death on them. We do have a big quarrel with the regime because it’s the regime that has defied the world in relation to its chemical and biological weapons. We mustn’t lose sight of what this is all about." - March 20, 2003

"....on the scale of suffering I have believed for a long time that the people of Iraq will suffer less if he’s gone than if he’s left there." - March 21, 2003

" is a very tyrannical regime and once it’s gone the people of Iraq will I’m sure have a much better life." - April 2, 2003

"...if Iraq had disarmed and fully cooperated, then I don’t think people would have been arguing on its own for regime change." - April 2, 2003

"...getting rid of the regime and thereby ensuring that Iraq does not retain chemical and biological weapons or a capacity to develop them in the future, that is the goal....I would say victory once the regime is gone." - April 6, 2003

"...we won't be making a significant peacekeeping contribution. I would expect that as our military involvement winds down, and I'm not announcing that it's about to wind down, let me emphasise, but at some point obviously it will begin to wind down." - April 10, 2003
The scale of resistance by Iraqi civilians to the invasion and occupation was already clear by April 10, 2003. Howard knew that. By April 10, Howard had already told the Australian military leaders and commanders that he had committed Australian troops to staying in Iraq for the long haul.
"Of course there were (civilian casualties from 'Shock & Awe'). But you have to put that in the balance against the tens upon tens of thousands who have died in different ways as a result of this regime." April 13, 2003
Conservative estimates of Iraqi deaths as a direct result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq reach more than 100,000. More generous estimates put the death toll at close to one million. The majority of deaths in Iraq were, and are still, not officially recorded by the US military, or the US and Iraq governments. The Iraq War resulted in some 4 million Iraqis becoming refugees.
"It was inevitable that when you topple a tyrannical regime and you took the lid off, it was inevitable there was going to be a period of some upheaval..." April 16, 2003

" was a remarkable military victory, and a great tribute to the American military leadership." May 2, 2003

"...can I Mr President congratulate you on the leadership that you gave to the world, at times under very great criticism, at times facing very great obstruction...I think what was achieved in Iraq was quite extraordinary from a military point of view. I think the military textbooks will be replete with the experiences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for many years to come..." May 3, 2003
A few more recaps of the Iraq War and Australia's role in it to follow in the next week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

To Drink Or Not To Drunk, Heavily

Australia is a binge-drinking nation. Apparently. That's binge-drinking where 'to binge' now means sipping back three or four mildly boozy drinks in an hour. Or a wine-tasting session as it's also known.

Times have changed.

Binge-drinking used to mean chugging half a large bottle of cheap scotch or burboun just before you stumbled into the party or nightclub, and then finishing yourself off with whatever was handy, and didn't have cigarette butts floating in it.

The Rudd government wants to reduce binge-drinking, so the 'Don't Do It!' ad campaigns begin.

The first ad tells us that if you have boozy barbecues with your mates in your suburban backyard and you tell your kid to go in and get dad a beer from the fridge, he'll grow up to have boozy backyard barbecues and will also tell his own kid to go and get dad a beer from the fridge. And so the terrible cycle of beer-fetching passes down through the generations.

At first I thought the message was that too much booze will make you too lazy to go and get your own frigging beer. Or that children who always do what their parents tell them will grow up to become bossy clones of their piss-addled dads.

And why is it that anti-booze and anti-drug ads always seem to be centred on rural or suburban Australians, living under grey skies or washed-out flourescent lighting?

Why no ads showing rich celebrities doing dunny lines of gak at an awards show? Or a politician downing eight martinis in a flash city restaurant before weaving back to parliament? Or the boss of a financial mega-corporation keeping the board waiting while he hides in his executive toilet and tries to empty a tall glass of vodka into his mouth with trembling hands?

You can do anti-drug ads without grimming the shit of the people you're trying to reach and hopefully teach something worthwhile. Here's one example :

Discouraging binge-drinking in Australia is a particularly tough mission, though something with the gloss, humour and style of the one above would be a good start.

A lot of people binge drink because they enjoy getting that utterly smashed and bombed, the faster the better. A far smaller number gulp down six or seven beers, for three or four hours, because they don't like themselves much and they find this kind of self-punishment satisfying. It's next to impossible to convince hard-core alcoholics to do anything they don't want to do, or anything much at all except drink.

But most Australians binge-drink because it feels good. So how do you stop those who enjoy it? Preach moderation? Or go the illegal drugs line and waste millions of dollars telling people who love ecstasy because it makes them feel absolutely awesome that they're really not having fun at all?

If it was my gig to do an ad to discourage people from drinking heavily, particularly now, I'd show someone coming home from the pub, falling against the table as they empty out their pockets, and wallet to discover they have no money left. Just a bit of silver shrapnel. Way overdue credit card and utilities bills on the table catch the eye. They go to make something quick to eat. Nothing to eat in the fridge, the cupboards are next to bare. The milk in the fridge is lumpy. The frustration and hunger is obvious.

They go for a piss. A stream of gold coins arc into the toilet bowl.

Then they puke.

A nearly endless stream of $20 and $50 notes geyser from the mouth, the toilet overflows with cash.

You might not get them to stop binge-drinking, but they'll have a hard time forgetting what they keep blowing all their money on.

Friday, June 20, 2008

'Sex With Aliens' Science Fiction Invented By Unknown Kiwi

In 1881, in rural New Zealand, an unknown man sat down and wrote a short novel that set in place some of the true staples of science fiction as we know it today, long before HG Wells had even finished his schooling. The short book, The Great Romance, appears to have found its way to the United States and England, where it's now believed to have helped inspire the Victorian-era of 'scientific romances', as science fiction was then known.

From the NZ Herald :

The Great Romance deals with "ground-breaking" themes such as interplanetary colonisation by humankind, sexual relations with aliens and the problems of space flight - including space shuttles, spacesuits and air locks...

"This is the first book... that talks about the colonisation of outer space by humans. There is nothing earlier.

"HG Wells talked a little bit later about martians coming to colonise earth, but that is the other way [round]... this book was far ahead of its time."

Publishers Weekly claimed: "This may have been the first time that anyone described space suits, air locks or the difficulties of landing on an asteroid or entering a planetary atmosphere.

You can read the first volume of 'The Great Romance' online here.
Howard, Nelson Proven Correct : Iraq War Was For Oil

Wow, what do you know? John Howard and Brendan Nelson were right.

The Iraq War really was about oil, after all.
Breaking News : Pope To Visit Ballina's Giant Prawn

According to the Northern Star, Pope Benedict XVI "will take a three-day holiday in Ballina during his Australian tour next month."

Where His Holiness heads when he wants to kick back.

The local buzz amongst Northern Rivers Catholics is that the Pope is visiting Ballina to meet with his friend (and popular pick for future Pope), Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christopher Schönborn, who will be staying in the town for reasons unknown.

The visit to the CAoV is a cover story, of course. The Pope is heading to Ballina to see for himself the mythical king of Australia's world famous Big Things, The Big Prawn :

But there's more to Ballina than just the Big Prawn, as powerful a draw as it obviously is for pilgrims and Popes alike.

The locals have plenty of ideas :

Ballina Chamber of Commerce spokesman Brian Marriott said if the Pope was to visit, he could do a spot of fishing off the wharf at Lance Ferris Park.

Now that would be awesome to see.

"He could stay at the Ramada Hotel and Suites and we could give him a special area there in the penthouse - I'm sure management could arrange that," Mr Marriott said.

Imagine if they couldn't? The Pope's in Ballina and the Ramada is overbooked. These people used to hold inquisitions.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Legal Music Downloads Will Be Bigger Than 'Piracy' As Major Labels Slowly Wake Up To Digital Marketplace

By Darryl Mason

Paid digital downloads have exploded in Australian in the past few years, from $100,000 in 2004 to an estimated $100 million this year, about 1 in 5 of all recorded music sales.

By 2013, a new report predicts, digital downloads will be responsible for half of all music sales. But, to no great surprise, record companies are still not prepared for the next stage of the digital music revolution :

...record companies' hip pockets were "seriously hurting" and they were struggling to find ways to fight the rise.

Individual artists were better at handling the changes, benefiting from merchandise sales and touring.

"Having initially fought downloading, rather than looking at ways of legally exploiting and profiting from it, record labels are now finding themselves playing catch up...."

...the report says legal downloads would start to outpace illegal downloads as legal options became cheaper and more available.
There's no mystery why CD sales in Australia are falling.

Charging more than $30 dollars for a CD disc and jewel case is absurd, particularly now teenagers know how much those materials actually cost (less than $1 each), unlike the days of vinyl records.

The vast majority of music lovers who carry their sounds with them use MP3 music players.

When you buy CDs that are blocked from being copied by terrified music corporations, you give up on CDs real fast.

Nearly every song recorded in the past few decades is now in a digital format, somewhere on the web. But options to browse and legally buy vast realms of back catalogue music in MP3 format is limited. Except when you go to the 'piracy' sites that are now showing music corporations how huge the digital marketplace actually is and how to build new digital business plans they should have developed years ago.

The music industry isn't dying, but the long and often times criminal strangle hold the majors had over the marketplace (record stores, distribution) has been broken by the digital music revolution.

The vast, vast majority of Australians now raiding entire discographies of their favourite old bands for free at The Pirate Bay and MiniNova (both sites stay high in the Top 100 most popular websites used by Australians) are not criminals, and they should not be thought of as such by record companies. It is a simple fact of the marketplace that the more music a music lover hears, the more they spend on music.

So-called music 'piracy' has actually broadened the marketplace and audience to which record companies can now pitch their products. But they have to make the products worth buying.

It may well be true that an entire generation of children believe that "music is free", but that doesn't mean they are not buying music, or won't buy music when they've got cash to spend.

They won't buy a $25 CD, but would they buy a $30 CD that had a beautiful poster-sized piece of fold-out art (like an old double vinyl album cover), a couple of nice prints of the musician or band and a memory stick packed with extra tracks, videos, remixes, raw master recordings? Put it this way, they are more likely to buy the $30 pack than the $25 extras-free CD.

The music industry, like the movie industry, has to adapt to the digital marketplace that already exists, not try and bust it apart with legal threats (they can't win that war) or through fan-infuriating levels of control over the digital formats of the music and movies they release.

When people hear something they like, they want to share it with friends and family. It has always been this way with music, as it has been with all story-telling.

There are more music junkies in Australia than ever before, with nearly every one of them carrying their favourite tunes with them in their music players, in car stereos, in their phones.

The music industry should be rejoicing that the digital marketplace is so huge (through little effort of their own) and so incredibly easy to access and to sell music to. But the makers have to offer the buyers something a bit more special now than a plain old CD.

They have to give the customers numerous reasons to pay for the music they want to listen to, and share; a package they cannot download from The Pirate Bay, something physical, unique, beautiful. Something the music fans simply have to own.

Blaming music lovers for not buying products they're not interested in buying is ridiculous, and utterly self-defeating.

Music 'piracy' is not destroying the market for music, it's rapidly expanding it. The explosion in popularity of live rock across Australia owes something to the mostly illegal digital music sharing amongst teenagers in the past five years, particularly through social networking sites.

It's now up to major players of the Australian music industry to find new and innovative ways to sell that music (in various formats and packages) to the customers who want it, and it's time for those same major players to realise that file-sharing will lead to an even bigger audience to sell to, if they are actually selling, at reasonable prices, what the people want to buy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Welcome To PopeTown

If you're in Sydney and you want to see what sort of show more than $100 million of taxpayers money buys, you're gonna need to show your PopePass.

The Pope isn't here to speak to the common muck, the world's richest corporate exploiter of two thousand year old philosophies is touring for "pilgrim only events". Pilgrims will be able to give alms to the country of Vatican through purchasing the latest Pope-approved Jesus trinkets from an "eight metre high merchandise tent."

Not sure yet how much will be spent on clothing the poor and feeding the hungry while all these dedicated followers of Jesus' anti-poverty, anti-wealth belief system are in town.

Once again, Sydney will be divided by security fences and checkpoints.
Your 'War On Terror' Bill : $20 Billion And Counting...

'War On Terror' Funding Quadrupled Budgets Of Australian Spy, Intelligence Agencies

Fighting "Islamic terrorists" at home has cost Australian taxpayers some $20 billion since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington DC, and the Bali bombings.

But the money fountain for intelligence agencies and defence contractors appears to have
peaked :

New figures show that by 2011 the Federal Government will have invested more than $17 billion in direct measures to beef up national security since the brazen al-Qaeda terrorist attacks against the US.

The national investment has an impact on everyone, from expanding CCTV camera networks to invasive airline security checks and a new army of private security guards.

An analysis of spending shows the big years were 2003-04 with an extra $1.8 billion, 2002-03 $1.3 billion and 2005-06 $1 billion.

Since 9/11, funding to the chief Australian spying agency ASIO has spiralled "a massive 514 per cent."

The 2001-2002 budget was $69 million.

The 2008-2009 is $423 million.

Most Australians have never even heard of "the shadowy overseas spy agency" ASPI. But it's funding was boosted 236 per cent.

The Australian government's "peak intelligence agency", the ONA, has had a budget increase of 441 per cent since 2001.

But those massive increases, primarily to fight "Islamic terrorism", seem almost insignificant compared to the mind-boggling vault in defence funding, post-9/11.

In 2001, the Australian government spent almost $14 billion.

The 2008 budget has rocketed to more than $22 billion. And that's with big cuts by the Rudd government.

The John Howard-implemented role for Australians in the War On Iraq has chewed up more than $2 billion, with another billion or so likely to be needed to help the hundreds of young veterans physically and mentally wounded by the war.

So how will our intelligence agencies spend all that money?

The threat of "Islamic terrorism" to the average Australian was vastly oversold, and spectacularly hyped by the Howard government and its corporate media allies.

But thanks to the mega-hype, the Australian spy agencies that spy on Australians got the funding to build surveillance networks and infrastructure that even China admires.
A Whole Lotta Wombat

Australia 100,000 years ago was a land of remarkable creatures usually called mega-fauna. Scattered hunters back then would have had a bounty of feasting lumbering by. Some new information on one of the biggest of those mega-fauna :
The diprotodon, a 2.5 tonne, wombat-like creature that was the largest marsupial on earth at 1.8 metres tall, above, consisted of a single species when it roamed Australia during the Pleistocene era more than 100,000 years ago, Gilbert Price, of the University of Queensland, has found.
When this land was connected to most of the rest of the world's non-flooded areas, some exceptional evolution took occurred :

Fossilised remains of a dinosaur with a big elbow could rewrite our understanding of how Australian dinosaurs evolved.

Palaeontologist Dr Steve Salisbury from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, and colleagues, say a forearm bone from a meat-eating dinosaur first found in 1989 is likely to be related to a Megaraptor from Argentina.

This is the first evidence linking Australian dinosaurs to those in other Gondwanan continents, rather than from the northern hemisphere...

...Australian dinosaurs have generally been considered an odd breed of their own, descended from northern hemisphere ancestors and evolved in isolation.

Not only were they cut off from the north when Pangea broke up, but they were also cut off from the rest of Gondwana by some means - perhaps the harsh climate of Antarctica or a mountain range.

We produce the world's best actors, many of the world's best directors, studios in Sydney and Melbourne teem with the world's most accomplished special effects technicians and CGI artists, but we have no big-scale movies about our spectacular and very ancient history. Dinosaurs? Who cares? We had Mega-Fauna. Monstrous beasts big enough to ride, then eat.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's getting easier to become an international star these days, particularly if you are awesomely entertaining.

The Chooky Dancers, from a small island off Arnhem Land, show just how far one great dance routine posted on YouTube can take you. The clip, posted by the lead dancer's dad, is rocketing towards one million views and has already seen the dance group score gigs on TV and offers to take their dance moves on tour across the world.

From the Melbourne Age :

The lead dancer, Lionel Djirrimbilpilwuy, came up with the idea of fusing Yolngu dance with modern music.

"I just dance the way I like," he said. "It's my own style."

"It will be the first time travelling overseas for the boys," said Djirrimbilpilwuy's mother, Margaret, who filmed the famous video.

The Chooky Dancers' repertoire also includes more traditional dances with clapping sticks, and a Bollywood-style number.

Djirrimbilpilwuy, who is responsible for most of the choreography, hopes they will been seen as role models in their community.

"When he hears the music, it just hits his heart and he has to dance," his mother said.

And what dancing. Some Zorba The Greek, a snap of tap, a slicing parody of the traditional drunk white Australian male RSL dance, and what looks like a mash-up of moves from Michael Jackson's Thriller, Peter Garret's jerky spasmodics, and Travolta's Greased Lighting routine from the movie Grease. Awesome.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ridiculously Satisfying

Go ahead, laugh at those wonky carrots. Couldn't care less, they tasted wonderful last night. So did the snow peas and beans. There would have been more in the mini-harvest, but I kept eating them raw as I picked them. Raw vegetables, straight from the plants, absolutely delicious.

For someone who thought, as a kid, that fresh food was a Chiko Roll that had only spent two days in the local takeaway's warming trays, the supply of greens, herbs, tomatoes and carrots spilling out of tubs and pots on the balcony has been a revelation, blasted through with unexpected nostalgia.

It's stunning just how much food you can grow, in six to ten weeks, on a small balcony and still have room for tables and chairs. As I mulch and dig and plant and pluck, the question keeps returning, why didn't I do this sooner? Because the local veggie shop was always so cheap, it was always easier and quicker to duck in, load up on their produce and head home. Not anymore.

Growing enough carrots, tomatoes, basil, french beans, snow peas, chives, mint, broccoli to reduce veggie shop visits from three times a week to once every two weeks has been remarkably easy. More easy than the gardening shows on TV ever made it seem. Downstairs, a couple of mushroom boxes are turning out more fungus than this household can eat.

The entire venture, so far, has cost about $110, for plants, pots, tubs, fertiliser, soil, seeds. About the same as easily can be spent in one night at the movies, followed by a few hours at the pub. Based on the prices of organic veggies at Coles and Woolworth's, the balcony garden has already turned out about $400 worth of eatables. With Coles charging about $4 for a handful of 'fresh' basil, the basil plants are probably worth $200 alone.

I find myself trying to find things that need to be done in this mini-food garden, but the maintenance is minimal. For the volume of food the tubs and pots turn out, I don't feel like I'm putting in enough time. How can it be this easy? How can it possibly be this satisfying? It just is. Incredibly so.

I hadn't thought of my long dead grandfather in ages until a few days ago, when I was stringing bean vines and delicately replanting half-grown carrots into looser, sandier soil so they wouldn't be so squat and stunted. I realised I was now doing what he used to do, what so many of his generation did, what he tried to get me to do, too, when I was a kid. What I refused. Back then.

I remembered his house near Moorebank, the whole backyard filled with pumpkin patches and bee hives and chicken coups and vegetable gardens that fed him and god knows how many of his poor neighbours. I saw him on that ultra-vivid mind movie screen, plucking fresh beans and holding them out, towering over me, demanding I try them, me refusing. Eat a raw bean? Is he crazy?

He tried to get the grandchildren interested in the veggie garden, but we couldn't have cared less. Gardening? Yeah, right! That's what the shops were for. He saw entire Sydney suburbs feeding themselves from their backyards through the Great Depression and he wanted his grandchildren to understand.

Now I get it, now I understand. He was right.

"This is real food," he used to say, brushing dirt off unearthed potatoes, "not that old garbage in the supermarkets. This will make you strong. This is life."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Extended Drought Shuts Down World's Largest Cattle Station

The drought that won't end continues to wreak economic destruction, and is now so severe in parts of South Australia that desert trees are dying :

Anna Creek station, which is bigger than Israel, encompasses 9,267 square miles of scrub, sand dunes and savannah in the Outback of South Australia.

It is normally capable of supporting 16,000 cattle but the "Big Dry" – the worst drought in a century – has exhausted the land, forcing the herd to be whittled down to less than 2,000.

This is only the third time the ranch has been cleared of cattle since it was established more than a century ago.

"Since the European settlement of this part of Australia, we've only experienced these conditions twice before.

We've had four years of below average rainfall, and last year and the first six months of this year have been particularly savage," said Greg Campbell, managing director of Kidman, which was founded by cattle baron Sir Sidney Kidman in 1899.

"The drought is very severe. Before the weekend, when there were a few millimetres of rain, Anna Creek hadn't had rain since December."

The extreme lack of rain has killed off some of the Outback's hardiest tree species and is even threatening the survival of mulga and bluebush, tough shrubs which can withstand all but the worst dry spells.

The station's managers must now simply sit tight and wait for a decent fall of rain – whenever that might be.

"It's a boom and bust environment," said Mr Omond. "It will come back to life eventually. No drought lasts forever."

Let's hope not.
Excellent Accident

Before the accident (I dropped it down a flight of stairs coming out of an Immortal gig), the relatively cheap Kodak digital camera usually captured pretty decent images. But ever since it took a dive, some of the settings and options have become messed up, sometimes certain functions work, other times they don't. Most photos are now a crap shoot. I couldn't care less. The colours that pour of the viewing screen now are often far more dramatic, vivid and rich than the reality being photographed, a vast improvement on the camera's pre-accident performance. And I have no idea why. I don't want to know why. Yet another in a long stream of most excellent accidents.

Yes, the above explanation (while true) is just an excuse to run sunset photos.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rudd's Secret 'Management Manual' Exposed

After extensive research (well, reading, I've found a 1944 Simple Sabotage Field Manual published and distributed by the OSS (forerunners to the CIA) that, in part, reads hilariously, and a little disturbingly, like a hitlist of PM KevRudd's management techniques and strategies.

How much of this already sounds gratingly familiar?
* Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.

* To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers...

* Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
* Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

* When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

* Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.

* Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

* Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

* Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
Chilling stuff. Rudd staffers, you have my sympathy.

Then again, most of these 'sabotage techniques' could equally apply to the decade of mostly grinding farce that was the Howard/Downer era.

But don't worry, we haven't forgotten Opposition leader Brandy Nelson. He's been reading the manual, too :
* Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.

* Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

* Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
Actually, it's unfair to simply dump on our political leaders like that. Most workers in large offices, who are forced to endure multi-hour long conferences and strategy meetings, will be wondering how many of their bosses and supervisors have already adopted the tips from this manual. Hell, most of this stuff is the backbone of modern corporate management and government bureaucracy.

Nelson : Boozey Kids More Pissed But Smarter Than You Think

The Rudd government's tax hammer on alcopops was supposed to cut down on teenage binge-drinking. Well, that's what the PM claimed anyway, but we know he is really under the control of the ruthless, heartless Big Wine corporations. Ratchet up the price of alcopops and kids will be forced to turn to Merlot to get their kicks. That was Rudd and Big Wine's conspiratorial plan anyway. But it's backfired.

Opposition leader Brandy Nelson is shocked, stunned, horrified, mortified to discover that teenagers who can no longer afford a six pack of Wild Turkey & Cola have cleverly routed Rudd's cunning tax hike, designed to force youngsters into joining the Chardonnay Set, by....MAKING THEIR OWN ALCOPOPS!

Young people are avoiding buying pre-mixed drinks and are instead mixing their own with more alcohol, Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says.

"The outcome of this so-called alcopop tax is that the punchbowl is back," Dr Nelson said.

Be warned, the fondue set, salmon mouse and stuffed eggs will surely follow the punchbowl's return to teenage parties.

Because teenagers never thought to mix their own drinks to save money before, Brandy Nelson has done extensive research into this utterly new social phenomenon. Here's what he's learned :

"What young people are now doing is buying full bottles of spirits or they're buying hip flasks, they might buy one bottle of coke, they're mixing them up, they're getting a larger dose of alcohol..."

That's done it. It's not enough that this innovative way of making your own alcopops is already spreading like New York City herpes through MySpace and chatrooms, now Brandy Nelson has gone and opened his big mouth to the national media.

You're not allowed to publish recipes for cooking up crystal meth, but Brandy Nelson sees no harm in telling the children of Australia how to homemake alcopops. And he calls himself a doctor! The hypocrisy...

UPDATE : In other Australian booze related news, a Queensland carpenter stopped to take a roadside toilet break. He dropped his pants, squatted down in the bush and let go. The snake he was dumping on wasn't happy, and sank its fangs into his gear :
"I thought I was gone," Cairns carpenter Daryl Zutt said of his now notorious encounter with a brown snake during a roadside toilet stop in remote Far North Queensland."I thought, ‘Maybe, this is it. Maybe, I’m gonna cark it’."

So he did what any red-blooded Australian bloke would do when he finds fang marks on his cock and knows he is staring sudden death in the face. He went for the rum. But he didn't drink it, he used the cold can of rum to ease the pain of the bite, while his mates raced him to hospital :

"I squatted down … I reckon I must’ve nearly sat on his head," he said.

"As soon as I felt it, I yelled. It really hurt. When it happened, I knew in the back of my mind it was a snake. I seen him coming out from between my legs."

Yeah, we've all had that dream. Especially after rum.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grods got in first with this.

Health minister Nicola Roxon is on Kevin Rudd's version of parole. If she screws up the interview on the 7.30 Report, well, she's already been fitted with half of her punishment.

Like most who saw it, I can't tell you whether or not she blew the interview. That thing around her neck was far too distracting. A new secret Labor strategy? Distract the public with bizarre fashion statements?

Most men don't understand women's fashion. In this case, most men don't want to understand.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Not As Laid Back As We Used To Be

Australians are working harder and taking less holidays. We used to be famed around the world for our sun-drenched, laid back lifestyles. Not anymore. Apparently, Australians are finding it harder and harder to make the time to get away from the workplace. Another vital part of Australian culture and identity lost during the Howard era :
Australians are the least likely in the world to take their entitled annual leave, a global survey has found.

The survey found that one in three Australians say financial pressures have affected their holiday plans this year.

It also found 32 per cent blamed the credit crunch and higher interest rates, while 34 per cent said work commitments were too great to take a break.

Dr Ben Searle, organisational psychologist at Macquarie University, said the survey results were worrying.

"Working for extended periods without taking time off to recharge can affect health and relationships, and in extreme cases has been linked to premature deaths,'' he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd isn't setting a good example for those who think we should live less busy, less frantic lifestyles.

What do we gain from working so hard? Are we richer, more satisfied? Do we feel our lives are more accomplished when we spend almost as much time at work as we do at home?

Few reach their last days and look back over their lives and think : "I wish I'd spent more time at the office."

Will we become like the Japanese, where death from overwork becomes commonplace?
Murdoch Admits Using His Media To Shape Opinion On Iraq War

Former Australian Rupert Murdoch fesses up, with a laugh, to purposely using his worldwide media empire (including 70% of all newspapers in Australia) to pump pro-Iraq War propaganda.

Partial transcript :

Q: For example, take the war...Have you shaped that agenda at all, in terms of perceptions of the war? In terms of how that war is viewed?

Murdoch : No, I don't think so. We tried...

Q: Tried in what way?

A: Well, we basically supported, our papers, and television...we supported the Bush policy.

No shit.

Here's but one example of the kind of propaganda Murdoch himself pumped pre-war to wash over criticisms that War On Iraq was illegal, extremely reckless, dangerous, would kill tens of thousands of Iraqis and would impact negatively on fuel prices around the world :
"The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be US$20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country."
He was only out by about $110.

More Murdoch lies and propaganda about the Iraq War :
"(Sunni insurgents)...they’re not really trying to kill Americans."

"...things are going to be pretty sticky until we get Iraq behind us. But once it's behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else."

"There’s tremendous progress in Iraq. All the kids are back at school."

The death toll of American soldiers in Iraq, according to Murdoch, is "quite minute."

"...most of Iraq is doing extremely well."

American Murdoch Whines About Australians Becoming More 'Anti-American'

Sept, 07 : Murdoch Media Launch 'Coup' To Take Down Prime Minister Howard

Rupert Murdoch - Always Wrong On The Iraq War

Murdoch Admits He Tells His Newspapers What To Print

Murdoch Journalist Denies Murdoch Media Conspiracy

Hey Rupert! What Happened To All Those Post-Saddam $20 Barrels Of Oil
Hypocrisy Over Hysteria

Blogumists Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt have proudly led the charge against hysterical claims about global warming aired on the ABC and in the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age.

So why don't they turn their blowtorches on the far more widely read Australian newspapers and websites owned by Rupert Murdoch who do exactly the same thing, often with even more outrageous and unsubstantiated headlines?

Being dedicated advocates of exposing global warming hysteria, surely Blair and Bolt wouldn't let the fact that they are employees of Rupert Murdoch bias their choice of targets. Right?

The fact is that The Daily Telegraph (where Blair is a blogger and a columnist) and The Herald Sun (where Bolt is a blogger and columnist) actively promote the reality of global warming and regularly feature prominent news stories (not columns or blogs) pumping Rupert Murdoch's June 2007 declaration that global warming induced climate change "poses clear catastrophic threats" and that humans are, at least, mostly responsible for it.

It's like being an anti-gun advocate and working for the NRA's magazine.

Here's a prominent story from today's Daily Telegraph :

Monday, June 09, 2008

Thanks Idiot

This warpig helped to add about eight to twelve cents to the price of every litre of petrol you will buy in the second half of June and early May :

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz...,said in a newspaper interview that "if Iran continues its nuclear weapons programme, we will attack it."

"Other options are disappearing. The sanctions are not effective. There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear programme..."

He stressed that such an operation could only be conducted with US support.

The left-leaning Haaretz newspaper published scathing criticism of Mofaz on its front page and cited reports that the minister's remarks caused the price of a barrel of crude oil to rise by 11 dollars.

While Kevin Rudd is going after OPEC nations for high oil prices, he should also be condemning warpigs and oil speculators whose appalling behaviour and psychotic greed is now threatening the health and lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Forcing the price of oil up even higher through abhorrent stock market speculation or by spreading financial terror and unease through promises of greater war in the Middle East ruins economies and fuels price rises all overs supermarket shelves. The poor, as usual, will suffer most because of this idiot's fear mongering.

That threatening/promising war can add about ten cents or so to a litre of petrol makes the plans by Rudd and Brendan Nelson to do little more than shave off a few cents, at the most, seem almost pitiful.

If our allies launch a new front in the expanding world war, FuelWatch will only be good for watching fuel prices bash through $2 a litre, then quickly sprint towards $3.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Obama In Tune With Rudd's Non-Working Family Bias

Kevin Rudd is looking forward to the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America :

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has an acute understanding of the Asia Pacific region, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. Senator Obama this week claimed victory in his long battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Mr Rudd today said he believed Senator Obama had a "considerable understanding" of our part of the world.
So which is it, acute or considerable?
"Remember, he spent part of his time growing up in Indonesia," Mr Rudd told ABC radio.
He went to school in Indonesia for a few years.
"On his way back to the United States from time to time he would drop off in Sydney."
He changed planes in Sydney.

But of course Rudd likes Obama, they're singing from the same hymn book :
"...working families continue to bear the brunt of the failed Bush economic policies that John McCain wants to continue for another four years."
Obama has about as much interest in non-working families as Rudd. Unemployment is rising in the US and Australia. If the American dollar continues to tank, and helps push the price of oil even higher, there are going to be a lot more non-working families joining the crowded ranks of the occasionally-working families, the looking-for-work families and the it's-too-expensive-to-
get-to-work families.

In a coming-soon world of $200 a barrel oil and carbon taxes on just about everything, pitching only to "working families" will soon make you sound like some kind of elitist.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The War On Olives

In follow up a recent post about the mysterious disappearance of tons of olives from groves in the Hunter Valley comes this news :

Olive harvests in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales have been demolished by a plague of insects.

The attack by the olive lace bug is a double blow for growers, who are still reeling from a recent spate of thefts that stripped six groves of their olive harvests for the year.

Now an olive shortage is looming across NSW after dozens more growers had their crops wiped out by the bug.

Growers in the Hunter regions of Broke, Pokolbin and Rothbury say the impact from the losses from the thefts and disease will hit state supplies.

Hunter Olive Growers Association secretary Howard Webb said the lace bug was not uncommon but if it was not controlled as soon as it struck it would cripple olive groves and render them unproductive.

"Nearly every grove in the Hunter has been hit, some worse than others," Mr Webb said.

The weather in the past few months had wreaked havoc and was much of the reason for the disease spread, he said.

"It is normally easily controlled, but because of the rain and humidity, it's gotten out of hand," he said.

Mr Webb estimates hundreds of tonnes of olives have been destroyed by the bug.

The Australian native bug chews away at olive tree leaves - it doesn't attack the fruit, but damages the tree and its chances of reproducing next season.

An update on the massive, mysterious olive theft :

More than 800 trees in the Rothbury region were cleaned out over a four-day period, but how is anyone's guess.

"I think it's starlings - they feed off the grape vines and then they make their way to the olive trees," Mr Webb said.

Australian Olive Association president Paul Miller said he was sure it was humans, as animals would have left signs, and that it was astounding how someone overcame 8ft-high barbed-wire fencing to access the 200-strong grove.

"It has obviously been planned," he said.
Who goes to all that trouble to steal $10,000 - $15,000 worth of olives?

Maybe it was starlings after all.