MSN messenger, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life … there is a proliferation of utilities which are supposed to encourage worldwide communication by allowing one to have conversations with new people. I am sure that I am not the only person who has discovered how limited those conversations can be. In order to find out what the fuss was all about with Second Life, I signed up and had a little look around. The main discovery was that this world is pretty much empty of people and fairly sparse in its activities. I also found that on the very odd occasion that I met someone, the conversation turned very quickly to “what time is it where you are?” and “how’s the weather?”. Similarly with Facebook and MySpace, I now have a growing network of friends around the world with whom I can also discuss the weather.

Like many things in this world, nothing is new. Ray Galton and Alan Simpson wrote the following in 1961.

“And I didn’t really lash out £500 on a roomful of high grade electronic apparatus to find out whether or not it’s raining in Tokyo. There’s no doubt about it, long distance games of snakes and letters and “is it raining?” is not to my mind exploiting the medium to its full potential as envisaged by Marconi.” Tony Hancock in ‘The Radio Ham’ BBC TV 1961

Plus ça change!

The truth is that if I wanted to communicate anything of substance then email is perfect. There is time to think about one’s phraseology and a chance to correct things which are erroneous or intemperate (though many people don’t seem to bother!) and a record of the interchange is easily available. Chatting on the other hand is just that. No substitute for real communication.

And to save you asking, it is raining in Melbourne today.

Rock photos

June 21, 2007

Rock music fans in Melbourne in the 1960s were well served by local bands. Dance venues always had live bands (or half-live if you count Tony Barber and tape-recorded backings), record shop appearances were reasonably frequent and there were live concerts at universities every week. What we didn’t have was access to the bands and artists from the rest of the world. Remember that this was before rock videos became ubiquitous and no specialist TV show to feature visiting bands. Except for a few bands brave enough to travel the vast distance to Australia, we had to largely depend on records and the radio to keep up with music from the UK and USA (forget the rest of the world, they didn’t count. I’m talking pre-ABBA afterall). The concerts were a big deal, even if they were held in that huge uncomfortable barn called Festival Hall. And the Stadium in Sydney wasn’t any better. They were great events – The Who and The Yardbirds stand out in my memory particularly.

There were occasional snippets from overseas that added a little joy. A friend used to send the New Musical Express from London, the ads in which made me incredible jealous. UK and US television variety shows sometimes featured bands and every now and then an Australian TV show included a visiting artist or band. Thankfully ‘Go-Set’ magazine had stories and pictures from overseas to keep the enthusiast informed.

With so little exposure to the world’s best music, it is no wonder that D A Pennibaker’s film of the Monterey Pop FestivalMonterey Pop made such a strong impression on me. I saw it several times when it came out and although the line-up of acts was incredible and included many of my favorite bands, the one that stands out in my memory is Janis Joplin.

How extraordinary then to discover Colin Beard 40 years later in a market in Maleny in the Glasshouse Mountains. Colin is a photographer, now taking beautiful nature pictures, but in the 60’s was one of the founders and the photographer for the aforementioned ‘Go-Set’. Colin, with writer Lily Brett spent several months travelling to the UK and the USA including the Monterey Pop Festival, returning stories from both places. Colin’s wonderful photographs from there were on show last year at the Nikon Gallery in Sydney and can also be seen online.

I bought a copy of the photo of Janis Joplin at the top of this page and it now sits on the wall above my computer. How wonderfully entangled to look at the clip from Monterey Pop and see Colin Beard in the reverse-angle shots, standing at the front of the stage taking the photo that is in front of me here.

Incidentally, a great resource for information about Australian music is the almanac section of Milesago – though they need a better search engine. The one they have does not work, but the pages themselves make a good nostalgic read and you can always use your browser’s search facility to search each year’s entry.

Mysteries of Google

June 8, 2007

Every now and then I look at the various statistics that are available on the visitors to this Blog. It is useful to know what people find interesting and what links they are following to and from the site. Most of the links are fairly straightforward but the search terms used to find the site are a bit odd. I would love to know how a search for “horny Russian housewives” found my site. I have checked and none of those three words appear in any piece I have posted on this site.  

I foolishly tried to figure out how this could happen by reading up on how Google works. Don’t try this at home. Once I spotted the Σ’s in the Page Rank algorithm I realised that I was getting out of my depth. The closest I can get to an answer is that Google is counting all the attempts to spam this site by sites advertising horny Russian housewives as ‘votes’ for the site. But that is just a guess on my part. It will have to remain one of those mysteries of the computer world like the odd formatting that Word decides that I want and won’t let me change.

Corgi, yum

June 4, 2007

According to performance artist Mark McGowan, the corgi he ate in protest at the RSPCA not taking action against Prince Philip for fox hunting tasted terrible. Well what did he expect? There is clearly a good reason for not including dog in our regular diets.

It brought to mind a book I have, entitled ‘Extreme Cuisine’.

This is a wonderful book that catalogues (with many gruesome photos which I chose not to reproduce as a matter of good taste) virtually everything that is humanly possible to eat – with recipes! I haven’t tried to make “Fried Locusts with Salt” or “Mango Urine Lassi” and I don’t intend to try. This book certainly suggests that another favourite of mine – The Man Who Ate Everything is not strictly true. Former Vogue USA food writer, Jeffrey Steingarten writes with great wit about overcoming his own distaste for various foods, as well as conducting some interesting food tastings and experiments.  

But as adventurous as he is, Steingarten has clearly not eaten as many weird things as Jerry Hopkins, author of Extreme Cuisine. Hopkins describes water beetles as tasting ‘nutty’, fried snake having many small bones but tasting like chicken, and rice-paddy frogs as tasting like “meaty sort of sawdust gone slightly sour”.  Then again, he is very dismissive of Vegemite so can we trust his sense of taste? 

By the way, Mark McGowan’s next project is to be “buried in a box, a David Blaine-type thing, in Dublin underneath a metre of mashed potato.” so one might question his judgement too.