Day 723: Fairytale of New Guinea

Day 723: Fairytale of New Guinea

December 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Australia, Papua New Guinea, The Odyssey Expedition

24.12.10:

Amazingly, the ferry boat arrived at Wewak early: by 4am, we were less than a mile from the port.  I stood out on deck: it had been a hot and sweaty night and I hadn’t got much sleep.  The warm breeze beckoned me towards land and salvation, but the captain had other ideas.  For some mad mad mad reason, we started to go around and around in circles.  Full power, engines whining and groaning, the water churning. I stayed up for an hour, perplexed and bewildered.  Why?  WHY?

At 5am I went back to the VIP room and fell back asleep.  I woke up an hour later.  We were still running around in circles.  I looked at my watch.

I had missed the 6am flight to Port Moresby.  There was no way I was going to be back with Mandy for Christmas.  As if to add insult to injury, it was at this point that the captain swung the boat around and headed to the port.

Wewak Port

So, er, How Do You Fit A Thousand Papuans On A Boat...?

I was the first off the ship, bounding down the gangplank as dawn broke in the eastern firmament.  At the end of the day, it was Papua New Guinea: I still had hope that the flight was delayed.  I ran to the port building only to be confronted with a wire gate and large padlock.  It took me ten minutes to locate the guy with the key.  Apparently you’re supposed to wait to go through some kind of customs clearance.  This annoyed the hell out of me: we hadn’t crossed any international border.  I argued my way out.

There were buses waiting outside the port, but even if they were going to the airport they would take an age to fill.  I asked where I could find a taxi and was pointed down a long, lonely road.  I walked as fast as my weary legs could carry me.  After about ten minutes I had made it to the main road.  A guy there told me there were no taxis in Wewak – I’d have to take the bus.

Luckily, a bus was coming.  I stuck out my hand and jumped on board.  I was the only passenger, but they only made me pay a quid.  The airport is on the way to town from the sea port, so that worked out well.  By 6.45am I was at the airport… but it was closed.  I found a security guy who told me that the plane had left fifteen minutes ago.

Fifteen minutes.

There are no other carriers that come to Wewak, it’s Air Niugini or nuthin’.

I took a deep breath… I still had one more roll of the die.  It was a long shot, but the guy told me that there was a flight which left here at 11.30am today which would get me into Port Moresby at 1:10pm.  (It was, in fact, the same flight that departed Vamino this morning – it stopped at Wewak on the way, I could have saved myself a night on that wretched boat!!).

So I jumped a bus into town and waited outside the Air Niugini office for it to open at 8am.

Wewak is not the most attractive of towns, and I really didn’t like the vibe it was giving off – it was sharp and disquieting.  One guy was just standing in the street giving me daggers as I sat on the step of the airline office.  I tried my best to ignore him and watched the town of Wewak come to life.  It seems as though there isn’t much of a community in this town: the building are all sheds full of stuff: groceries, banks, offices; but there are no pubs, no restaurants, no cafes – nothing communal.  I asked if there was anywhere I could get breakfast and the poor security guard looked at me like I was insane.

Eventually, the office opened. Behind me a massive queue had formed; I was incredibly thankful to be at the front.  I have never been to a place where standing in massive queues is such an integral part of everyday life.  Think of people camping out for the new year sales or the opening of Star Wars Episode I at Mann’s Chinese Theatre being the norm rather than the exception.

Inside, I had to wait at the front of the ‘seated queue’ for a couple of minutes before I was called into the side office.  The lady I spoke to, Debbie, was incredibly helpful.  It wasn’t until she said the name of PNG’s national airline outloud that I realised that ‘Air Nuigini’ was pronounced ‘Air New Guinea’.  Stupid of me, I know, but I had only seen it written down!

Debbie told me that the 11.30am flight to Port Moresby was still on, but it was sold out.  But, if I wanted, I could go on standby.  Remember the good old days of cheapo stand-by flights?  Well I don’t.  And neither does Papua New Guinea.  It cost pretty all the money I had left.  By that I mean all the money I have left to finish this adventure.  That’s it, I’m skint, I’m broke, I gambled and lost, my horse was shot I bet it all on black and lost my shirt at craps.  In other words, I’m well and truly on the bones of my ass now.

But what do you expect when you haven’t worked for two years?  Mustn’t grumble.

I needed to get the money out of a cash machine, so I asked the security guy to escort me to the branch of ANZ bank across the road, which (thankfully) he did.  The daggers guy was still outside and still giving me daggers.  Never had an armed escort to the ATM before.  So with my overdraught well and truly maxed out I bought the stand-by ticket.  If the 11.30am flight wasn’t full I would be getting into Port Moresby at 1.10pm.  My flight to Australia left at 2pm.  IF the flight to Oz was delayed, even by just half an hour, I could (just about) make it.

Fingers crossed for a Christmas miracle, I asked the security guard to escort me to the bus stop.  That crazy guy was still outside the office and still staring at me.  The guard took me down the road, but luckily his boss drove past and offered me a lift.  I jumped into the back of what looked like a police van – grates on the windows, the lot.  Turns out the guy driving, Matthew, is the owner of the private security firm that oversees the business and banks in downtown Wewak.

On the way to the airport we stopped outside a rather grand mansion.  Matthew jumped out of the van and went and had a chat with a maid at the front wrought iron gate.  His colleague, sitting in the passenger seat, told me that it was ‘the Prime Ministers’ house.  I assumed that the actual Prime Ministers house must be in Port Moresby, I guessed he was talking about the mayor or the regional governor of some sort.

But no, as I was to learn later, it was the Prime Minister’s residence – the long serving Michael Somare is from Wewak.  And – get this – he was deposed in a bloodless coup* just LAST WEEK.

READ ALL ABOUT IT!!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11990157

Seriously?  Seriously!  And Matthew is in charge of the security of his house.  Small world eh?

After conducting his business with the maid, Matthew jumped back in the car and drove me to the airport.  Lovely guy – he gave me his card and told me to give him a call when I get back to Wewak.  Given the tense atmosphere of this place, that wouldn’t be a bad idea!

So into the airport eh?  An airport…

I’ve got some criticism for flying to see Mandy, and I would just like to address this point.  This is my adventure, I invented it and I make the rules.  The rules are simple: I have to forge a continuous path of travel to every country in the world without flying.  I never said at any point that I wouldn’t fly under any circumstances, I said I wouldn’t fly as part of the journey.

I’ve made it clear from the start that, if necessary, I would fly home (if, say, I had to deal with an emergency) and then fly back to where I left off.  If you want to do your own surface Odyssey, the same rules would apply to you.  If I was single, there’d be no way I’d go to Australia for Christmas, but I’m not single.  I’ve seen Mandy for just 7 days in the last 724.  She can’t come here, but I can (and will) go there.

I was mulling all this over in my head while I was sitting in the airport terminal, a small concrete hall next to the narrow ribbon of tarmac that constituted the landing strip.  My iPod, sensing my mood, played Fairytale of New York.  Just as Shane MacGowan was singing that he built his dreams around you, my phone rang.  It was Mand.  We couldn’t chat for long – the price of the call was $1.75 a minute.  She told me how sad she was that I wasn’t finished, how sad she was that she would be having another Christmas without me and how sad she was that she’d be the only person in a group of twenty-five of her mates going camping for New Year who wouldn’t have a partner.

She explained that her mum’s house has no internet connection, she won’t be able to speak to me tomorrow, on Christmas day.  I didn’t tell her I was coming back to her for two reasons: one was for it to be a surprise, the other was because there’s a good chance I won’t make it.  As I said goodbye she burst into tears.

All of you who think I’ve sold out can stick it: I’m not doing this for you.  I’m doing this for the girl who has stood by me through thick and thin for the last eight years.  She doesn’t deserve another lonely Christmas.

As I struggled to get my iPod working again, I realised that I was crying too.

The plane was delayed (typically) and everyone got on board.  I was told to wait.  After I felt I had waited long enough, I asked the guy on the door what was going on, he asked me what I was doing and I explained that I was the stand-by passenger.  Oh, right he said and went to get the supervisor, a large woman with an unhomely face.  But when she told me there was space on board for me I wanted to give that unhomely face a big kiss.

Within a couple of minutes I was fastening the buckle of my seat of the little 36 seater Bombardier DHC-8-202.  It was a prop plane, which is always a little disconcerting, but it was brand spanking new, which made me happy.  I sat through the safety blah and soon we were taxiing along the runway, faster and faster until…

Wow.  This is it, I’m actually flying for the first time since 29th December 2008.

Flying

Me! On a plane!! In your FACE, gavinmac!

Cool!

As we ascended I saw the seaport where I had arrived just a few hours earlier, I saw the town and the jungle and then it was jungle all the way to Port Moresby.  The captain (an Aussie) said that he would try and make up some lost time, but as the minutes started ticking past 1pm I started sinking lower and lower into my seat.  This wasn’t going to work.

I had printed out some (legally acquired!) pdfs of the PNG Lonely Planet and the accommodation options in Port Moresby didn’t make for great reading.  Everywhere was outrageously expensive and the best deal was a hostel run by missionaries that would probably be full and even if it wasn’t, they had a strict no-alcohol rule.

Merry Christmas, I don’t think!!

As the plane descended into Port Moresby (it wasn’t a very long trip) I was staring intently at my watch as if by looking at it I could somehow slow down time.

It never works.

Air Nuigini

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes. It's a plane.

At 1.27pm we the hit tarmac.  I was the first off the plane and ran as quickly as I could to the baggage carousel, a bit miffed that they hadn’t let me take it on board (it’s all Osama Bin Laden’s fault).  The bags came out in good time, but mine didn’t.  I soon realised that these bags were from another flight: I recognised the people waiting from my flight.  At 1.46pm the bags from our flight started to emerge, and mine was the first one out.  I grabbed it and dashed out of Domestic Arrivals.

Running over to the International terminal, I realised how hot it was without air conditioning.  By the time I entered the concourse I was sweating like a fat chick in a cake shop.  The building was pretty empty.  I ran over to Virgin Blue…

Has the flight to Brisbane been delayed?  Has it?

No.

I clenched my fists and bit my tongue.  My mind was whizzing around like a wheel on a fruit machine.

And there are no other flights to Australia today?

No…

I closed my eyes and sighed.

…well, not from Virgin Blue, but I think there’s one from Air Pacific….

What?

Air Pacific…

Where?

Over there…

She pointed over to the other side of the check-in area.  I sped over, but all the little offices were closed.  All shut up for Christmas.  Damnit.  I walked over to the seemingly empty Air Pacific Check-In desk – there was a girl sitting down reading a magazine.

Are there any more flights to Australia today?

Yes, there’s one to Cairns at 5pm.

OH MY GOD.

Is it sold out?

Dunno – ask at the office.

She pointed to the office that I didn’t see because the venetian blinds pulled down over the windows made it look closed.  It wasn’t closed, there was someone in there.  I ran over.  There was a guy inside dressed up like a pilot.

Are there any seats left on the flight to Cairns?

I dunno.  I’m the pilot.

Which explained why he was dressed up like a pilot.  Then a little lady came in and attended to me.  I explained my predicament.  She tapped on the computer.  I raised my eyebrows.  She tapped some more.

Yes, there are seats available.

YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES

I kissed the glass.

How much?

You really don’t want to know.  I reached into my pants and pulled out my emergency money pouch.  I took out the faded and battered emergency Visa card that I haven’t used since the Odyssey began.  I handed it over and prayed that they didn’t ask for my PIN – I don’t know it.

No worries – I just had to sign.

She handed over my ticket and I danced a little jig.  I then got on the phone to Alex Zelenjak in Sydney.

I’m getting into Cairns tonight.  What can you do for me mate?

When Alex gets on the case, boy does he get on the case.  Within 15 minutes he was calling me back to tell me that he had bagged me a place on a fight from Cairns (which is in the far north of Oz) to Melbourne (down in the south, where Mandy lives) for 11.45am tomorrow morning.  Better still, he was able to use the credit from my original Port Moresby ticket (for the flight I just missed) to pay for it.

Chucking in ten bucks of his own money to pay for the extra baggage fee, I was set.  Alex you total LEGEND.  You made my Christmas, damnit – you made my YEAR!!!

GOOD ON YA MATEY!  I owe you a night out at the Three Monkeys in Sydney!!!

And that’s how I got my Christmas miracle.

I went upstairs a shared a beer or two with an Aussie guy called Angus who had been gold prospecting in the jungles of PNG.  Better him than me.  He’s the one who told me about the Prime Minister being kicked out and the resultant unrest in Wewak: he had just come from there yesterday.

Port Moresby Departure Lounge

The Departure Lounge. How Radiohead.

By 4.30pm I had got through security and been stamped out of the country and was crossing the tarmac towards the 737-700 that would whisk me away to Australia for Christmas.

Don’t worry, PNG, I’ll be back.

NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW!!!!!!!!!

I arrived in Cairns around 7pm.  I had almost forgotten how fast you can travel if you fly.  After the usual grilling by the Aussie border guards (they get my vote for nastiest in the world, and I should know!!), I jumped a taxi (sharing the cost with a random Chinese guy) to the backpackers that Alex had booked me into.  The good news was that if I was quick, I could grab a free meal in the pub next door, the bad news was that the pub next door (and, seemingly, all of Cairns) closed at 12pm.  Oh, and by the way, ‘Cairns’ is pronounced ‘Cans’, which just sounds like somebody saying ‘Cannes’ incorrectly.

DON’T LOOK AT ME, I DON”T MAKE THE RULES.

After the day I had had, I wasn’t prepared to go to bed sober so I teamed up with the gang from my dorm and hit the sauce.  The night soon descended into the usual chaos: booze, dorm parties, booze, the pub, booze, random walkabout trying to find somewhere that was still open, booze, more dorm parties, booze, told off by security, booze, booze, booze and booze.

I retired to bed as the Christmas dawn was breaking.  Everything was right with the world.  I fell asleep humming the greatest Christmas number two of all time.

Twas Christmas Eve babe
In Ol’ Wewak
And old man said to me
The sea’s too choppy son

You’ve got your timing wrong
Give it a month or two
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

So took the flight to POM
Came in at half past one
I got the ticket
This trip’s for you and me

So Happy Christmas
Sod The Odyssey
Deserve a bit of time
To wrap my arms around you

* Okay, he resigned. I just like the word ‘coup’.


Day 724: Mandy’s Pressie from PNG

Day 724: Mandy’s Pressie from PNG

December 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Australia, The Odyssey Expedition

Xmas Day 2010:

After a couple of hours kip I was up an’ at ’em, ready to TAKE ON THE WORLD!!! My only problem was that I had spend the few remaining dollars I had on beer last night (you WOULD NOT BELIEVE how expensive Australia has suddenly just become: we’re talking a UK fiver for HALF a pint… seriously!!).

I scraped together what I had and hoped it would be enough for a taxi to the airport. I would be taking the 11.30am flight from Cairns to Melbourne. I didn’t quite have enough to pay the full fare, but my lovely taxi driver (from my fav Indian state of Kerala) let me off a couple of dollars – hell, it was Christmas day and I did spend the entire journey telling him how cool I thought his hometown was!

So in the airport I changed my left over PNG dollars (which I was planning to keep for when I went back, but when readies are short…) into Aussie dollars.  They’re both made of that weird plasticy material.  So are the new Bangladesh Taka, incidentally.  I’m a luddite when it comes to money – I like the paper stuff, it feels more real.  Although to have a paper note worth less than a fiver is just bloomin’ stupid.  As such, some of the money I’ve collected on my travels is breathtakingly filthy.

With my ill-gotten gains I bought a copy of Australian Empire Magazine (half the size and twice the price) and while I waited for the boarding queue to die down I indulged my baser instincts with a real Christmas treat – a Burger King Whopper Meal.

Yum yum!

Happy to have a window seat, and even happier that nobody sat next to me (three seats just for my fat ass! Yey!) the plane journey passed in a sleepy haze – a haze in which the contrast levels of my life had just been turned up a notch.  Or maybe that was the bright midsummer sunshine streaming through the window.

The plane touched down in Melbourne at 4pm.  While the other passengers were fannying about waiting for their luggage, I went outside and bought a bus ticket to the city centre.  I then went to the carousel, picked up my backpack, laughed at the massive queue which had just formed for bus tickets and jumped on the waiting bus which promptly departed leaving my fellow travellers behind.  Experience baby, that’s what I’m talking about YEAH!!

The bus slid into Spencer Street Station in just twenty minutes (take THAT, Heathrow!) and there was a little bit of a worry caused by the fact that Mandy was not in Melbourne today, but in her home town of Ballarat, a 112 kilometres to the north-west.  Would I have the money to get the train, or would I have to hitch-hike.

As if to prove that, if not Poseidon, then at least Santa was fighting my corner, I was told by a wonderfully cheery Aussie lady that all the trains across the state of Victoria were free today (it being Christmas an’ all).

Wow!

Australia, you ROCK!!

So I boarded the 5pm train to Ballarat: with any luck I’d be back in Mandy’s loving arms before 7.

The Train To Ballarat

The Train To Ballarat

I arrived at the lovely old station of Ballarat at 6.30pm.  Brilliantly enough, Mandy and her sister Tam had spent the afternoon at their auntie’s place, and I arrived JUST AS they were jumping in their separate cars and heading back to their mum’s.  So Tam, her husband Ian and their three month old son William came to pick me up from the station: shh… not a word to Mandy…

It was great to see them again and to meet little William, the newest edition to our clan.  Mandy drove back to her mum’s in her own car and didn’t suspect a thing.  Around the corner from the house, I got Tam to stop the car and she and Ian to bundle me into the boot (the trunk) and covered me in towels and blankets: all wrapped up for the surprise.

When Tam arrived at her mum’s place, she went to get Mandy.  “Your Christmas present has arrived from PNG” she told her.  Mandy wasn’t interested – she was too busy trying to get me on Skype(!)  Tam practically had to drag her out to the car.  And then…

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE AND ALL THE BEST FOR 2011 FROM MYSELF AND EVERYBODY AT TEAM ODYSSEY!!



Days 816-882: But I’m Still Here

Days 816-882: But I’m Still Here

June 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Australia, The Odyssey Expedition

27.03.11-01.06.11:

I’ve been in a state of enforced hibernation for the last few months and I guess I owe you all an apology and an explanation.

I’m sorry.  I knew from the start that the hardest part of The Odyssey Expedition would be tackling The Pacific Ocean.  Unlike The Caribbean – where the next island is just an overnight yacht trip away – the distance I need to cover in The Pacific amounts to more than Liverpool to New York and back… and back to New York. While the lower Pacific islands of Fiji and Vanuatu might be easily accessible by cruise and cargo ships, the upper Pacific Islands are next to impossible to ‘hitch a lift’ to.

This is why I intended to leave The Pacific until last.  Up to this point, the lack of any outside funding for The Odyssey Expedition has not impeded my daft adventures.  I (rather naively) believed that I would make enough money from the TV show to pay my way around the 14 sovereign states of Oceania, but the reality of the situation – and I think any rational person would agree with me – is that I got totally and utterly stiffed by the powers that be.

After going in for a meeting with the company in question last January, it became desperately apparent that the chances are vanishingly small of me getting any money whatsoever for single-handedly devising, shooting and presenting an eight-part television show through some of the most dangerous countries in the world.

The upfront fee – which was all spent on travel (I was given next to nothing in the way of expenses) is all I’m probably ever going to get for my troubles.  D’oh!

The practical upshot of which is that not only am I flat broke, I’m also unable to pay my way around The Pacific.

Those of you reading this who live in the Middle East or Asia and have seen how much mileage these TV chaps have got out of the show (my last estimate was that each episode has been shown in excess of 70 times – that’s a good 280 hours of television right there) might understand how devilishly unfair this whole situation is.  I’m not going to carp on about this matter, as far as I’m concerned it’s water under the bridge – although I can’t say that the downsizing of any given company over the coming months is going to cause me any sleepless nights – I just want you all to understand exactly why The Odyssey Expedition has come to a juddering halt.

It’s my own fault: I stupidly signed a contract that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, and it’s far too late to do anything about it now.  I apologise from the bottom of my heart to you and all of my loyal followers who I’ve let down by this turn of events, but none so more than WaterAid.  I wanted to make you guys proud, to stick one to the man: but the man ended up sticking me good and proper.  I fought the law and, well… you know the rest.

I promise that there will be no similar lapses of judgement in the future.

If I am to have any hope of getting to the likes of Nauru, the Marshalls and Kiribati, not only do I need a boat, I need a cash sponsor.  Sponsors are great when you can get them, and the likes of Vodafone and CMA-CGM really went out of their way to help me with gismos or transportation, but generally speaking it’s next to impossible to get hard cash out of a sponsorship deal.

As far as a book deal is concerned, it’s a bit of Catch-22 situation: I won’t get an advance until I finish the journey… and I need the advance to finish the journey.  While I’ve had a bit of downtime I’ve been working on my next big project, but again I won’t see any readies back from that until I finish The Odyssey Expedition.

I’m beginning to think I may have inadvertently shot an albatross during that ill-fated crossing to Cape Verde.

BUT ALL IS NOT LOST! I’ve been working with fellow Brit (and friend of Odyssey superstar Lorna Brookes) Damian Pallett on a plan that will get me back to Wewak in Papua New Guinea and take me to ALL 14 NATIONS OF OCEANIA in one fell swoop.

Step forward Andrew Duncan of Ausmarine Luxury Boating.  Not only has this Odyssey Legend agreed to let me use his own catamaran to do the journey, he has also agreed to fund the expedition: an expedition that will set a BRAND NEW Guinness World Record: the fastest sea journey to every sovereign state in Oceania.

No, seriously: here’s the map of the proposed route (clicky for biggie):

 

Airlie Beach to Sydney: The Long Way Round.

Obviously I have to go back to Wewak in Papua New Guinea to ‘pick up the trail’ so to speak.  Check out how mad Palau is… miles from anywhere!!

We’re gearing up to be gone by the end of the month.  I can’t thank Andrew and Damian enough – if we pull this off we will achieve something that has never before been attempted, never mind done.  Don’t be surprised if you see the word ‘Ausmarine’ popping up all over the website over the next few weeks… I don’t care: I’d tap dance the fandango naked in St Peter’s Square to make this happen.  And, by Jove, IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.

Keep the faith, we’ll get there in the end!!

Graham
Melbourne, Australia
1 June 2011



Day 884: A Greenpeace of My Mind

Day 884: A Greenpeace of My Mind

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Australia, England, Rants, The Odyssey Expedition, USA

03.06.11:

There’s a movie that I implore you all to watch: Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man. It tells the story of an incredibly stupid guy called Timothy Treadwell who thought that the Grizzly Bears of Alaska were his friends. He treated them like pets, like members of his family… and they ate him.

A true, cautionary tale that we should all draw some important lessons from. One is that wild carnivorous animals are not our friends; they deserve our respect and awe, but to them we are nothing but walking slabs of meat. The other is so self evident that it hardly needs to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: don’t f–k with nature, because nature will f–k with you. And you don’t need Dr Frankenstein to explain that you don’t stand a chance.

I’m in Australia at the moment watching with horror as the so-called ‘Liberal’ party (something they are anything but) openly questions the scientific FACT of climate change. Yep, these elderly selfish cretins are so moronic that they honestly think they can change the amount of CO­2 in the atmosphere, the temperature of the sea and, yes, THE WEATHER by voting against it. Shocking, yes. In the UK, there is a cross-party consensus concerning the science of climate change: there may be disagreements on the methods that should be employed to tackle this future ill, but at least they all agree that it’s actually happening and that it’s all our fault.

It’s time to stop asking what Planet Earth can do for us and instead focus on what we can do for Planet Earth. ‘Stop needlessly filling the atmosphere with carbon’ would be a good start.

There are stark parallels between the Australian Liberal party and Timothy Treadwell. Both think they can trump the laws of nature, both believe that they shoo reality away with a bizarre gust of optimism (it’ll be right, mate) and both think that the scientific consensus of the world is wrong and that they are right – with no evidence, no expertise and no scientific understanding or endeavour.

But there ARE crocodiles, and if you swim in the river, chances are they’ll eat you. Misunderstanding the evidence will not save your life.

But this issue is bigger than crocodiles and grizzly bears, it’s an epic tragedy that will affect the lives of everyone and everything on our lovely little planet. Such high drama is worthy of one fella: the Bard of Avon. So I hope you don’t mind me stretching a metaphor like so much Lycra over a massive pair of buttocks, and I also hope you recall a little Shakespeare from high school…

The Liberal party of Australia have nailed their colours to the mast: they and their gormless supporters have proven themselves to be greedy, easy-manipulated, cowardly, unimaginative villains in the grand tradition of epic tragedies of yore. They are the Macbeths of the political landscape, constantly screaming ‘yeah, but what’s in it for ME?’: grand, obnoxious, selfish and guaranteed to come a cropper by the end of Act V.

Then there are villains equally as hopeless, but not necessarily driven by inherent greed or selfishness: they are the Hamlets of the world, caught short by their inaction, indecisiveness and procrastination. They are the politicians and representatives that have seen the evidence, know something must be done, but don’t have the grit necessary to take the bull by the horns and kick it in the bollocks.

The Hamlets’ monumental inability to deal decisively with the ‘something’ that was rotten in the state of Denmark (The Copenhagen Climate Change Summit of 2009, anyone?) has lead them on a merry path to damnation. They could have done something, anything, but they didn’t – they just put off the decision for another few years. Nice one, guys – it’s not like every day it’s getting worse or nuthin’!

Like their namesake, it’s not just the Hamlets that will pay the consequences of their inaction: it’s everyone around them. Instead of seizing the opportunity to cut out the rot before it spreads, they went fishing. Unchecked, that rot will ooze like black tar all over our otherwise groovy planet, until there isn’t a single human, animal, plant or insect that isn’t affected.

But what I find most concerning are the Othellos of this global Shakespearean tragedy: those that have seen the evidence, burn with a desire to do something about it, can do something about it, but go about it in entirely the wrong way. While not the obvious villains of the piece, they turn out to do just as much damage, moreso perhaps. Greenpeace, I’m looking at YOU.

Greenpeace is the poster boy for the environmental movement, but, sadly, it singularly fails in its task of – there is no other way to put this – saving the world. By that I mean the world as we know it, of course the good ship Earth will outlive all of its present life-forms (including us), but (given the choice) I would prefer that ‘our world’ lasted another 100,000 years rather than a mere 100.

How should Greenpeace go about saving the world? By focussing all of its efforts towards stopping the damage we are doing to the atmosphere and encouraging people to have fewer kids. That’s it. Simple, but by no means easy. A noble goal that anyone in their right mind would support.

But what’s this? GM crops? Nuclear power stations? DDT? Whaling?? No offence guys, but who given the scale of the rather monumental task ahead, don’t you think that you should be, you know, concentrating your efforts? If we allow the Macbeths of the world to continue to wreak havoc on a global scale, there won’t be enough crops, genetically modified or otherwise, to feed the unsustainably-increasing population of the world.

Then again, I may find it an unnecessary distraction, but it’s not the division of Greenpeace’s labour that I have a real issue with. I guess pushing for sustainable farming and preserving virgin rainforests have their benefits to the overall scheme of avoiding all things Armageddon.

My real issue is Greenpeace’s inability to push the Hamlets into action and whip the Macbeths into submission. Note I used the word ‘inability’ there: it’s not like I think they don’t want to, it’s that I believe they can’t. Why? Because they keep kicking away the one weapon that they desperately need to slay the Tony Abbots of the world. That weapon, ladies and gentleman, is SCIENCE.

Greenpeace has an uneasy relationship with science. They seem to see it as an enemy, possibly because Greenpeace activists are, by-and-large, drawn from the Storms of the world rather than the Tim Minchins.

While Greenpeace continues to battle scientific consensus and the very foundations of scientific reasoning, the impasse will remain, while the impasse remains the atmosphere ain’t getting any cleaner.

Greenpeace’s quixotic battle against Genetically-Modified crops is one of their more bizarre and counter-productive crusades. Joining forces with the likes of The Sun newspaper and David Icke, they denounce GM crops as ‘Frankenstein Food’ and make claims (utterly refuted by all scientific studies) that it causes cancer.

Newsflash, people: you know dogs? Yeah, dogs: those annoying yappy shit-machines that bring love and support to the olfactorily challenged?

Genetically. Modified. Wolves.

Over thousands of years of selective breeding we now have a magical cornucopia of doggie breeds, from the Chihuahua to the Doberman. We did that! Humans! Meddling with nature! Woohahahaha!

You know Brussels sprouts? Those nasty little orbs of solidified fart that your auntie forces you to eat at Christmas?

Genetically. Modified. Cabbage.

As is cauliflower. And broccoli for that matter.

If it wasn’t for humans meddling with the forces of nature, Chihuahuas and Brussels Sprouts would not exist. And neither would Friesian cows, Clydesdale horses, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, garden strawberries, Granny Smith apples or King Edward potatoes. We made ’em all, through years of selective breeding, modifying the genetic code like crazed Dr. Frankensteins intent on world domination. But with CABBAGE!

Have these marvellous inventions increased the amount of suffering in the world? Have they caused untold damage to the delicate global eco-system? Have they wiped out civilisations, pulled apart communities or given people cancer? No. No, they haven’t. Is Greenpeace’s objection to GM crops based on any scientific reasoning whatsoever? No. But what they are saying is this: scientists are not to be trusted, go with how you feel about something, not the actual evidence.

Nice one, Greenpeace! So let’s ignore the research carried out by NASA, Universities all around the world, the Met Office and the Royal Society in favour of our gut instincts. You can see where this is going…

And then there is the spectre of nuclear power. Now while I agree that the world would be a much more lovelier place if it wasn’t for nuclear weapons, I cannot say the same about nuclear power. 75% of France’s power is nuclear. If they upped their ante on renewable power and got everyone to convert to electric cars, they could be the first carbon-neutral country in the world in just five years. Not bad for a country of 63 million people.

And why should we not be using nuclear power? Because it is perceived to be dangerous. But how dangerous? As unhealthy as making men dig in South American coal mines? As dangerous as a Qatari gas tanker filled to the brim with ultra-flammable fuel sailing through Somali pirate waters? As bad for the environment as deep-sea oil drilling? As bad for the economy as relying on the tyrannical regimes of the Middle East for our electricity? According to all the available data, no. According to Greenpeace, yes.

Again after Fukushima (as after Chernobyl) there was much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth from the environmental brigade, and (as after Chernobyl) their apocalyptic fantasies failed to come true. More coal miners died in the Pike River mine disaster in New Zealand last year than died tackling the partial meltdown in Fukushima. Let’s put this into context: this plant was hit by one of the five biggest earthquakes in recorded history. It was then hit by a 14 metre wall of water: an unprecedented attack in the history of nuclear power.

And what is the reported death toll from the clean-up operation? One. Yup. One person shuffled off this mortal coil – and that was from a heart attack. There is a leakage of radioactive isotopes around the immediate area, but can we please put this into context? 25,000 people died on that awful day in March, and so far not a single person has been killed by radiation poisoning. The Fukushima exclusion zone (at its height) was 20km around the plant. Compare that to the 80-square-mile (210 km²) “kill zone” surrounding the blown Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. So far two people have been hospitalised by radiation poisoning in Fukushima. 500 people have been hospitalised in Europe from eating ORGANIC CUCUMBERS.

I can’t stress this enough: just because nuclear power is complicated, it doesn’t mean it is inherently more dangerous than coal, oil, gas or even – yes – ORGANIC CUCUMBERS. Fossil fuel – even when NOTHING GOES WRONG – is substantially worse for the miners, transporters, the global economy, local environment and, of course, the whole bloody planet.

Nuclear power could save us, save the whole goddamn world, but is Greenpeace pushing for investment, research, safety procedures, more plants? No. They’re pushing to have no plants whatsoever. Why? Because scientists ain’t to be trusted.

Isn’t that EXACTLY what batshit crazies like Tony Abbot, Sarah Palin and THE ENTIRE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY are saying? Don’t trust the hard science, don’t peruse the facts, just come up with your own judgement based on how you feel.

This makes me furious – and I’m not even a scientist. I haven’t spent my life drilling ice cores in the Antarctic, corralling weather balloons, studying glacier retreat in the Himalayas, analysing meta-data from temperature monitoring satellites all over the world… I haven’t done anything to make you live longer, invented anything to make your days more entertaining nor perfected a formula that will make you more comfortable. Scientists have, and despite the fact that we’re an ungrateful bunch of bastards, science is not going to give up on us – it’s going to keep on searching for a cure for cancer, working out new and wonderful ways for us to communicate, it’s going to keep the internet running smoothly, our planes in the air, food on our shelves, power in the grid and our air-bags ready to spring from nowhere and save our lives.

This isn’t Lord of the Flies. If we burn down This Island Earth, a helpful ship isn’t going to come and rescue us. There isn’t going to be a Deus Ex Machina ending to all this, since if there ever was a Deum (which I doubt) he packed his bags and left this place a long time ago my friend.

The environmental movement, if it is to drown out the non-committal drone of the Hamlets and the ignorant bluster of the Macbeths, must begin to use scientific data more honestly. Stop cherry-picking, stop ignoring pertinent and demonstrable facts just because they don’t suit your world-view; and for heaven’s sake, stop appeasing these c—s in the oil industry by giving them ANY room to manoeuvre.

At the moment Greenpeace, like Othello, is its own worst enemy. They are playing right into the hands of the oil barons, by believing half-understood rumour over demonstrable fact. If only Othello, instead of slaying Desdemona, just listened to her – trusted her – they could have teamed up, destroyed Iago together and exploded his nefarious scheme.

But Othello, like Hamlet and Macbeth, ends in tragedy. He doesn’t listen to reason, he doesn’t even bother to independently examine the evidence, he just acts on impulse, emotion and a twisted sense of personal justice. We don’t have time for such games. The stakes are too high. The anti-science bias of the environmental movement has to end, and it has to end now, for all our sakes – even those who are too pig-ignorant or pig-headed to see what’s coming.



Day 885: The Frog and The Scorpion

Day 885: The Frog and The Scorpion

04.06.11:

It cracks me up that so much positive emphasis is put on stuff that is ‘natural’.  Talk to your average punter in the street and they’ll invariably make the assertion that the more natural something is, the better.  The fact that arsenic, earthquakes and cancer are 100% natural and that most things human beings do is pretty goddamn unnatural seems to idly pass them by.  We should be getting back to nature, they say, whereas I say – much in the manner of Kate Hepburn in The African Queenthat ‘nature’ is what we are here to rise above.

Nearly everything you do in your waking life is magnificently unnatural, and rightly so.  You get up and eat cereal covered in cow’s milk (eek!) – which is rather unnatural.  You then brush your teeth with unnatural fibres, put on clothes woven with unnatural materials, get in your unbelievably unnatural car, drive on an unnatural road, go to work in a completely and utterly unnatural building and sit on your unnatural computer all day unnaturally communicating with similarly unnaturally-inclined people all over the world.

You come home, pet your unnatural dog, eat your unnaturally heated dinner off a plate that I’m fairly sure didn’t grow on a tree and watch stuff on your comprehensively unnatural widescreen TV before – if you’re lucky – doing some devilishly natural things in the bedroom.

Let me break this scenario down: we shouldn’t be able to drink cow’s milk.  Most people in the world are lactose intolerant beyond the age of around four.  No mature animal in the natural world drinks milk squirted out of another species.  Your toothbrush is made from oil found up to a mile below the surface of the Earth and I have to say I haven’t seen too many cats drilling for oil recently (despite what Eddie Izzard says).  The same is true of the nylon and polyester in our clothes and the fact we wear clothes in the first place – do chimps wear pyjamas?  Only when they’re selling PG Tips.

As for cars, roads, buildings, computers, the internet: hells bells!  How much more unnatural do you want to be??

As I said yesterday, your dog is not natural, it’s a genetically modified wolf.  You think that in the natural world bees make a ridiculous amount of honey for FUN?  More than they would ever possibly need?  Of course not: we did that, dicking around in our apiaries, poking around with their queens and generally meddling with powers we cannot possibly comprehend.

Woohahahahahaha!

What other animals own Playstations, fly aeroplanes, race each other on the backs of other animals, play sports, read books, brew beer, trade money, go skydiving, undergo chemotherapy, use contraception, launch telescopes into space, pay taxes, look after the disabled, produce Mars bars or go Scuba diving?

Are any of these things natural?  No.  Are any of these things good?  Hell Yes.

But for some reason (marketing, I’d say) the world ‘natural’ has become synonymous with ‘good’.  Funny how when things are perceived as good they are called ‘natural ingredients’, whereas they when they are perceived as bad they are ‘harmful chemicals’.  What’s the hell is this NaCl doing on my chips…?!  Grr…

The most unnatural things we do are associated with medicine.  In the natural world, an impoverished family has a child, it dies.  In the natural world, if a child is born blind, it dies.  In the natural world 1 in 3 human births result in the death of the child or the mother.  We don’t live in a goddamn natural world.  And thank f—k for that!

The horrible truth is that the ‘natural’ reaction to the news that your wife has been unfaithful is to kill the other guy and give your wife a damn good raping.  Civilised?  No – not by a long chalk, but at least it would be ‘natural’.

I can’t state this enough: civilisation is not natural.  You want nature?  Check out the warring tribes of Papua New Guinea, the thousands of Indian children who die every year from diarrhoea or the systematic rape of woman in Darfur.  I’m sorry, says the scorpion as he sinks to his death, it’s my nature…

Isn’t it interesting that while the Catholic Church is happy to condemn the unnatural-ness of contraception, they have little to say about how incredibly unnatural welfare states are.  The very same welfare states that ensure the survival of unwanted or poverty-stricken children produced as a indirect consequence of the Church’s unwarranted annexation of the reproductive systems of half the human race.  Half, mind you, and – of course – it’s never their half, is it?

While the Pope is content to live his life steeped in unnatural trimmings – and I’m not just talking about his hat – and go so far as to profess SUPER-natural abilities, he (and many religious and prejudiced people of his ilk) see the completely 100% NATURAL fact that a good number of us humans are attracted to members of the same sex (as are a good proportion of dogs, sheep, penguins, fruit flies, etc…) as ‘unnatural’ and therefore ‘immoral’.

Just in case you really believe that humans invented homosexuality for a laugh (possibly with the intent of making Baby Jesus cry), I would really like you to read up about our closest cousin, the Bonobo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo.  I think you’ll find the information under the heading ‘Social Sexual Behaviour’ most illuminating.

And if that’s not enough for you, the good people at Wikipedia have put together a marvellous list of all the gay animals it can get its grubby little hands on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals.  Be warned, it’s not a comprehensive list: there are at least 1,500 species – mammals, insects, birds, lizards – you name it – that, for one reason or another, sometimes prefer to bowl from the pavilion end.

This bumbling adherence to the mantra of “natural = good, unnatural = bad” is overly-simplistic, morally abhorrent and intellectually bankrupt.  It needs to be stopped, forthwith!  If people find the idea of two men going at it hammer and tongs distasteful or are haunted by the fact that given a certain angle and a certain light they themselves might be ‘turned’, they should just admit it – to hide behind the old lie of ‘it’s not natural’ is not just cowardly – it’s demonstrably wrong.

But in this world we live in, so desperate are we to condemn others for the choices made for them by Mother Nature, so pathetic our need to one-up each other, that we have made the word ‘unnatural’ synonymous with the monstrous, the perverted, the subversion of civilisation… when it should mean anything but.  As Hobbes pointed out a long time ago, life for humans in our natural state is brutish, nasty and short.

We live in a world of pernicious memes: viruses of the mind.  And while ad men conning us with their ’100% natural ingredients’ is just a bit of fun, the flip side of that way of thinking takes us to some very dark places indeed.  In short, some natural things are great, others are not so great.  The same goes for unnatural things.  You can’t, and shouldn’t, use something being ‘unnatural’ as an reason to espouse fear or hatred – especially when the activity in question occurs all over the natural world.

The maddest thing about all this is that when you think about it long enough, nothing we do is really that unnatural: everything on this planet is made of naturally-occurring elements and isotopes.  We just find new combinations and uses for them… using our highly evolved brains and opposable thumbs.

In fact, the only thing we can talk of as being 100% unnatural isn’t to be found here in this old plane of reality.  The only truly unnatural thing is the supernatural.  And as such – thankfully – it only exists as a quirk of the human imagination.  But (naturally!) that’s another story…



Day 886: An Open Letter to Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson

Day 886: An Open Letter to Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson

June 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Australia, England, Rants, The Odyssey Expedition

05.06.11:

After the death threats I received for slagging off the Cape Verde police force on this very blog, I learnt a pertinent lesson: don’t say what you really think until you’ve left the damn place.  I was therefore saving my torrent of abuse concerning the Australian government’s wretched treatment of tourists until after I was well shut of the otherwise good land of Oz.

However, after finding out it’s going to cost me $255 to extend my AUSTRALIAN TOURIST VISA (which I shouldn’t need in the first place), the dam has burst.

The fury leaping out of my fingertips must be converted to 1s and 0s and plastered all over the net before I explode.

The Aussie Tourist Visa (that’ll be $29 please, thanks KA-CHING!) lasts just a paltry three months.  Then you’re supposed to fly to another country and back to renew it for another three months.  If you can’t be arsed doing that (unsurprising when the nearest OTHER COUNTRY from Melbourne is at least four hours away on a jumbo jet) you’re hit by a admin fee that is actually MORE THAN the minimum penalty for being caught drink driving.

If I’m to read between the lines here, I would have to suggest that tourists in Australia are less welcome than drink drivers.  Ygads.

First up, I want you to realise something: last year, more tourists visited Bulgaria than visited Australia.  You think that’s bad?  More people visited Syria than visited Australia.  But then you can get a visa for Syria upon arrival.  See where I’m going with this?

There are, of course, salient geographical reasons for Australia’s dismal tourist figures: Australia is, after all, miles from anywhere.  Getting to Melbourne from Europe means sitting on a minimum of two planes for a minimum of 24 hours.  Needless to say, it’s not somewhere you go for a weekend break.

Coupled with the wince-inducing strength of the Aussie dollar (take any price and double it. Then double it again.), the logic of being the ONLY WESTERNISED NATION IN THE WORLD to require TOURIST VISAS from Europeans just utterly beggars belief.  Yes, you don’t need a visa to visit Argentina, a country the UK was at war with in the 80s.  But you do need a visa for Australia… a country that puts our Queen on their banknotes and our flag in the corner of theirs.

I hate hate HATE having to apply for a visa to visit a country.  99% of the time it instantly marks a state out as being nasty, oppressive and totalitarian.  There are 142 countries out of the UN 192 that do NOT require a European tourist to purchase a pre-paid visa.  Those that do are in the minority: they include such luminary and enlightened countries as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Belarus, Angola, Libya, Turkmenistan, Guinea, Somalia… and Australia.

I can’t stress this fact enough: I have been to every westernised country that exists in the world and not one of them required me to ask permission of the government to pop in for a visit.  Except Australia.

Are Europeans likely to come here by mistake?  Might they take that ill-fated left turn at Albuquerque and end up in Alice Springs?  Maybe Australia is terrified of being swamped with the flotsam and jetsam of the richest and most powerful countries in the world [insert lame convict joke here].  Is it because Australia is so insecure, so tentative in its footsteps on the world stage that it would prefer to linger in the collective subconscious as Crocodile Dundee’s delightful Aboriginal-loving kangaroo-saving larrikin without having to suffer the indignity of people coming here finding out it’s not like that at all?

Indeed, the only logical conclusion one can sensibly reach is that Australia doesn’t want, much less need tourists.  Like the boat people (and the Aboriginals if only they weren’t – you know – here first) Aussies would much rather you buggered off back were you came from.  Which is not just sad, it’s self-sabotage on a scale that would make your average West African dictator blush.

And – dear lord – have you seen the ads?  The ‘come to Australia’ ads.  OH. MY. GOD.  They give me visions of entering the Australian Tourist Board Marketing Department to find a room filled with baboons wistfully daubing the walls with their own faeces.  See for yourself:

Let me make this quite clear: we are not talking about working visas here, we are talking tourist visas.  Australia makes around $17 BILLION a year from tourism.  I don’t know if the government is too arrogant or too incompetent to understand what a whopping great chunk of cash that is, but I can’t help but feel pretty damn unappreciated for all my hard work over the last ten years periodically dragging money from my British bank account and peppering it like candy around the dance halls, dives and brothels of ol’ Melbourne town.

Lest not forget that the Australian tax payer did not pay for my education (thanks, Blighty old chum), I cannot claim benefits, the dole, working tax credits or train to be a master of falconry while I’m here.  I cannot work, I cannot claim free medical care and if I’m hit by a car, it will cost me (or my insurance company) $779 just to be taken to the damn hospital.  No, really – the ambulances here aren’t free.

In contrast — and by ‘contrast’ I mean ‘ARE YOU FRIKKIN’ SERIOUS??’ — an Aussie tourist can pop over to the good ship UK any time they want, they don’t have to ask for prior permission(!), they can stay up to six months (visa free), can visit pretty much every other country in Europe while they are there (visa free) and get hit by cars all they like because the ambulance dragging their mangled remains back to the hospital is paid for by the Great British taxpayer.

This is because in the UK we don’t just like tourists, we LOVE tourists.  They’re like little mobile piggy banks dispensing fivers around the realm, fivers that we didn’t have to invest a packet of our tax money to generate in the first place – tourists are a net gain for my country, your country, any country.

I’m not saying this situation is unfair, the fact that UK is enjoying the fruits of a massive boom in tourism over the last fifty years is not something I’m ever going to disparage – long may it continue.  But the way the Australian government treat its tourists is stupid.  Plain and simple, totally and utterly, mindbogglingly and heartbreakingly stupid.

So, in short, Mr. Ferguson – you are a treasonous dog who is diddling the good people of Australia out of their much-needed tourist dollars.  Visa requirements for tourists from prosperous western nations should be scrapped immediately and a six month entry stamp should be the norm.

Oh, and if you want your long-suffering tourist board to produce an advert that wouldn’t make Basil Fawlty scoff at your embarrassingly barnyard attempts at advertising, put a European in charge.  Actually, put ME in charge.  With a decent budget, a small film crew and a handful of good looking actors, I could make each and every feisty travel-lovin’ European sit up and beg for buttermilk.  Australian buttermilk.

Graham
Melbourne, Australia
June 5 2011



Here, I Made You A Flag

Here, I Made You A Flag

June 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Australia, Featured, Rants

It has come to my attention that the Australian flag is boring and rubbish.

According to flagsaustralia.com.au “there are no compelling reasons why [the Australian flag] should change.”  There are, in fact, TWO compelling reasons why the Australian flag should change.  The Australian flag is BORING and RUBBISH.

So is the New Zealand one for that matter.  What is this mad obsession with the Southern Cross?  Apart from Oz and NZ, it’s on the flags of Brazil, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, Niue, Tokelau, New Ireland, Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and the Magallanes Region of Chile.  Get over it.

Okay, so it could be worse, I suppose (they could be lumped with a tricolour) but still, you’ve got to admit it’s pretty uninspiring stuff:

The Flag of Australia... I think

And what the hell is that in the top left hand corner?? I’m sorry, but if the Australians are going to insist on charging British people over the odds for tourist visas and continue to mispronounce words like “debut” (they say day-boo! Seriously! DAY-BOO!!! Ahahahaha!) then they should NOT be permitted to co-opt our incredibly well-designed flag just to make theirs a little more exciting.

So today I started looking on the internets to see if anybody had come up with a cool new design. Something that says “AUSTRALIA!!!” loud and proud without cowering behind the stockings of mother Britain, or using a logo that is ubiquitous across the entire Southern Hemisphere, or looking like it might be the flag for New Zealand ‘cos they look exactly the frikkin’ same from a distance

The Flag of New Zealand... probably

And it seems like a fair chunk of the Australian population agree with me.  So why hasn’t the flag been re-designed?  Well, for the same reason they still haven’t got rid of Queenie: the vast majority of Australians haven’t got the foggiest what they should replace it with.

Surely some bright spark in the 223 years of Australia’s existence could have come up with a decent alternative to the banal rag on a stick that currently flies above parliament.  Well, you’d think…

Let’s Look At The Competition

Here are some ‘professionally designed’ flags off Australia’s main ‘let’s change our crappy flag’ website:

Erm… excuse me?  Hi.  I was just wondering, you know, what makes this not the flag of ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE GODDAMN SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE?  Try again.

 

Ah yes, I see what you’ve done there: you’ve made the same flag as above but you’ve changed the colours around and you’ve fimbriated it.  And it says ‘Australia’ to who? The dingos?? Rubbish.

 

This one looks like a Pepsi Ad from the 80s. With Coke’s dynamic ribbon added for a giggle.  Is that supposed to be Uluru?  Crikey, you’d be hard pressed explaining that to your average Aussie, never mind your passing Bolivian.  Does England put Stonehenge on the flag?

 

Ah… at LAST!  A flag that says “AUSTRALIA!!” Unfortunately it looks like something halfway between a kanga warning sign and the Qantas logo. Kangaroos are ridiculous looking creatures at the best of times and already feature on the crest of Australia. No.

 

Here are some more, almost all of them clinging to the Southern Cross as if it means something more special to Australia than to the other 100+ countries of the planet that can also see the Southern Cross.

The only one of these 12 designs that screams ‘AUSTRALIA!!!’ is the kangaroo one, top right.   I’m sure the original is of great anthropological interest, but come on – it looks like it was drawn by a six year old. Not cool.

Stuff the Goddamn Southern Cross

In a survey posted on the same site, 41% of respondents in a given opinion poll thought it necessary to depict the Southern Cross on the Aussie flag. It seems that some Australians believe that you can only see the constallation Crux from the top of Uluru.  This is not the case.  The Southern Cross is visible from anywhere south of France.  It just goes to show why nothing important should be put to a public vote.  Like the Australian National Anthem, yeah?

It’s fairly clear that Australians, by and large, want a new flag, but just haven’t been presented with a decent alternative… yet.

Given that I’m fairly well positioned to exploit my current surroundings and I believe you should never criticise something unless you’re damn sure you could do a better job  yourself, I’ve designed Australia a lovely new flag.

Ain’t I the sweetest?

The main concept in my mind was stuff the goddamn Southern Cross. The only visual message conveyed by the design is “I’m from the bottom half of the planet!”.  Now might be a good time to reiterate the fact that there are 47 countries in the Southern Hemisphere.  The Southern Cross says ‘Australia’ about as much as a cloud says ‘England’: you can see what they’re getting at, but as a unique feature, it’s an epic fail.

Australia’s Greatest Symbol is Australia

Very few countries could get away with using the shape of the country on their flag (just from the outline, could you identify Albania, Uzbekistan, Paraguay…?), but Australia can and therefore it should.

The shape of Australia is a design classic – used on Australian logos, designs, icons, websites, products the world over.  Why?  Because everybody who has ever glanced at a map of the world knows the damn shape!!  It’s not just an island continent, it’s THE island continent – the ONLY one on the planet – sitting there in the middle of the deep blue sea saying “don’t I look AWESOME?”.

So I based my design on the Aboriginal flag but with the central solar disc swapped for the iconic shape of Australia itself.  I also changed the colour of the lower half of the Aboriginal flag from red to green:  green and gold being the National Colours of Australia.

You can try it in different colours, but – trust me – it won’t look as cool.

While 29 national flags use red, white and blue, there’s only one other flag that uses black, green and yellow: and that’s Jamaica, possessor of one of the coolest flags in the world.

So here we have

  • a colour scheme that is very unique, but still aesthetically pleasing
  • a combination of  the colours and designs to reflect both modern Australians and the country’s heritage - this flag is 50% aboriginal and 50% modern Australian.
  • a design that is striking, simple, effective, timeless and will make any true red-blooded Australian get off their fat arses, man up and salute their it’s-alright-I-suppose antipodean home.

People of Australia, behold your NEW AUSTRALIAN FLAG:

Australian Flag Design by Graham Hughes

Now THAT, boys and girls, says "AUSTRALIA!!!"

Next up, New Zealand…

 



Days 887-932: A Heavy Wait

Days 887-932: A Heavy Wait

06.06.11-21.07.11:

 

“What’s going on with this boat, Graham?”  I must have heard that question over a hundred times in the last few months.  Before today I was unable to give a clear and concise answer – the situation was completely out of my hands.  Delays enforced by paperwork and red-tape meant that every time I thought I had a real, tangible “I’ll be leaving by date x” to tell people, I’d end up looking no end of a fool by still being here in Melbourne watching that very date whoosh by.

 

Of course, my first preference – to spend the bulk of 2011 by hopping from one Pacific Island to another, living off fish and coconut milk and entertaining you all with my tales of leaky canoes and rusty banana boats facing down tempests that would make The Perfect Storm look like a drizzly afternoon in Wales – would require more funds than I currently have access to… and it’s not like I’m going to get an advance for the second series of Graham’s World any time soon.

 

I could, if being honest, have made more of an effort to find a sea-faring philanthropist who was sitting on his or her yacht moored on the east coast of Australia just waiting for his or her next big adventure.  But instead I chose to put all my chips on black – to focus my intentions on the one best offer I’ve had – a catamaran that will take me back to Wewak in Papua New Guinea and then on to each and every country in Oceania.  

 

A boat that would be provided for three months, a 17,500km journey, free of charge, with one of the most knowledgeable catamaran captains in the Southern Hemisphere at the helm.  I would be joined on this voyage by an independent camerawoman who works for National Geographic, a guy who works for a TV network in The States and Steve Crombie, the presenter of Nat Geo Adventure’s ‘Natural Born Traveller’ and the ‘Lost on…’ series.

 

A boat that sounded too good to be true.

 

But that also sounded too good to miss.  This could well be my only way of completing this journey – a journey I started over 30 months ago.  So I chose to wait until I received a definite YES or NO before I put in motion Plan F.

 

Today, after waiting by the phone for the past 200 days, I finally got a final, concrete, be-all-and-end-all answer…

 

And the answer is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO.

 

Now I could give up at this point.  I could chuck in my chips and bugger off home, go to sleep and pray to wake in some better time.  But that would be letting you down, it would be letting me down.  And if the past two and a half years have proven anything, I hope it’s that I ain’t a quitter.

 

So next week I’ll be heading up to Sydney to go on national television to put out a plea to find a yacht captain willing to answer the call of adventure.  I mean, if a mad German cannibal can find somebody on the internet who actually wants to be eaten, surely I can find somebody who wants to go on a swash-buckling record-breaking voyage around the Pacific Ocean.

 

MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY.
SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD,
LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS,
CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL.
HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.

 

 - advert (supposedly) placed by Shackleton before one of his expeditions.

 

 



Days 936-940: A Terrible Shamey

Days 936-940: A Terrible Shamey

July 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Australia, The Odyssey Expedition

25.07.11-29.07.11:

Amy Winehouse passed away this week. I was never really a big fan (of the 500+ ‘songs of the day’ on this site, hers isn’t one of them), but I was given to wonder if the idiotic “pictures or they’re not dead” brigade that floated around the internets in the wake of Bin Laden’s demise would resurface.

I doubt they will, it was hardly something of a surprise that somebody who had lived so close to the edge for so many years finally shuffled off this moral coil. But, look at the facts: she was past her prime, she hadn’t done anything halfway decent in years, her recent performance in Serbia did little to suggest she was on the road to recovery… AND her so-called ‘death’ has made her record company a fat load of wodge.

We have MOTIVE, people! This looks like a case for The CIA, The Illuminati and the International Jewish Conspiracy!! After all, Amy was Jewish, maybe she was becoming an embarrassment, you know, like Princess Diana. Maybe ‘they’ decided to do her in. ‘They’ do things like that all the time, you know.

We have two options: to believe the meedja’s LIES… or attempt to uncover the TRUTH, you know, teach the controversy! It’s MUCH more likely that she is  still alive and is being housed in a warehouse in New Mexico (like the Ark of the Covenant) OR she was murdered by her record company, the Elders of Zion, Fred Flintstone and Courtney Love.

These are FACTS. There is no scientific evidence for them, but they’re facts.

Of course, Winehouse’s family and friends seem to think she’s dead and look remarkably upset an’ all, but that just means they’re in on it… you know, like Bin Laden’s family, Al Qaeda, The Queen and the 9/11 widows.

Oh well, here’s a tribute video from a very rude man:



Days 941-942: It’s Not Your Fault

Days 941-942: It’s Not Your Fault

August 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Australia, The Odyssey Expedition

30.07.11-31.07.11:

Just enjoyed an awesome weekend volunteering for the Melbourne Open House festival. Seventy-five buildings around the city had their doors flung open to the general public… and you know I’ve got a thing for large erections.  It was great stuff (there was over 100,000 visits in just two days) and has also given me the opportunity to write yet another blog entry about architecture! YIPPEE!!

I am firmly of the opinion that some kind of secret meeting took place in 1958.  Present at this meeting were representatives of every single architecture firm in the world.  Under hoods and bearing blood-dipped swords, they swore a dark oath in the flickering candlelight: to never design anything beautiful, anywhere in the world, ever again.

Some of those present at that first meeting have since died, but the legacy of their macabre pact lives on in the hearts and minds of architecture students all over the world.  I see it as a kind of Hippocratic Oath but for architects.  And evil.

If, after reading this blog you care to point me towards a building that is OBJECTIVELY beautiful (like Audrey Hepburn, yeah?) that has been designed in the last fifty years, then I will happily eat my hat.  You’ve got 200 countries, thousands of cities and hundreds of thousands of buildings to chose from… but, lets face it: you can’t, nobody can, because such buildings do not exist.  Travelling through literally hundreds of cities in my lifetime has done NOTHING to amend that opinion.

So what are we left with?  Well, as I always say, KNOW YOUR ENEMY (that’s why I’m more than happy to watch bad films), so Rocco and I went to a talk this week from some of Australia’s Top Modern Architects, designers whose nightmarish creations would feature on the Melbourne Open House Weekend, just so the organisers can’t be accused of refusing to take submissions from the special school.

I was taking notes.  The nonsense word ‘vista’ was said 42 times.  The word ‘green’ was bandied about like building a massive construction involving tons of concrete and steel, man-hours, cranes, machinery, energy, diggers, drainage, pneumatics, electrical cables, pipes, glass and heating THAT IS DESIGNED TO ONLY LAST 30 YEARS is somehow ‘green’.  It’s not.  See St. Paul’s Cathedral?  THAT’S MORE ‘GREEN’, okay?  Been there for 350 years, see?  The bloody PYRAMIDS are more ‘green’!!!

There were murmurs about ‘rationalisation of space’, ‘textured lighting’, ‘juxtapositioning’, ‘initiating a conversation’ and other words that are at best meaningless, and at worst pointless.  The event was like a Monty Python sketch, only not one of the funny ones.

And how many times did the word ‘beauty’ pop up?  Go on, guess.  Maybe five times?  Nah.  Not once.

You can go on thinking that the point of a building is to do something functional and therefore any intrinsic beauty is somehow decadent and bourgeois, but then you’d be a dick and I will have you in a fight.  If you want to fill up a planet with massive formless monstrosities of interchangeable cultureless cack, why does it have to be this one?

But horrific garbage like Federation Squareisn’t even the worst bit.  If you really want to piss me off, why not take a beautiful heritage building and literally attach a malformed shed to the side of it? 

You know, an edifice that would make McDonalds seem upmarket.  A lock-up that Del-Boy might use to keep his Sinclair C5s.  Maybe you could throw some bright primary colours on it (subtlety and intricacy being concepts of yesteryear) and, hey, why not fling some lopsided shapes willy-nilly on the wall, just for giggles?  Three examples: Bluecoat Chambers, Liverpool, John Rylands Gothic Library, Manchester and (we had the bloody architect giving a presentation about it!) The Melbourne Grammar School.

Who allows this multi-million dollar vandalism to happen?  Who sanctions this carnage?  Who allows our most treasured cultural possessions to be terrorised in this way?  And WHO THE HELL THINKS IT LOOKS GOOD?!?!!

Do I go too far in these rants?  Have I crossed the line of polite conversation?  Would you be giving me looks and kicking me under the table if I argued this sort of thing at a dinner party?  Would you throw a pint of beer over my head if I said it in the pub?  Or do you have the teeniest bit of sympathy for my point of view?  I’m not asking you to stand in front of your most detested building and scream ‘F**K OFF!’ at it all day (as I sometimes fantasise about), all I want is to live in a world where the unbelievable shiteness of modern architecture is as commonly and vocally acknowledged as the general awfulness of your average Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Why are we so cowed, brow-beaten, thwarted into submission over this stuff?  Why are we so terrified to acknowledge that the emperor has no frickin’ clothes on?  If you think modern buildings are universally ugly, just say so, studies have shown it will make you up to 41% happier and up to 93% more sexy.

The places I visited on Melbourne’s Open House Weekend blew me away, lifted my spirits, made me squeeze Mandy’s hand a little harder, put a song in my heart and a spring in my step.  But not one of the buildings I embraced on my tour of the city was built after 1958. 

You might think I take all this a little too seriously, I’m sure you could imagine me in a suit of armour, clutching a lance and riding a horse at full tilt towards Manchester’s Beetham Tower, but I refuse to believe that I’m the only one who has noticed how culturally impoverished our modern constructions are when we ALL KNOW we could do so much better.  SO. MUCH. BETTER.

There’s a common film trope in which the main character has a bit of a breakdown and finally addresses the problem that’s been bothering him (and you) for the last 90 minutes.  The expensive-wine-in-the-plastic-cup scene in Sideways, Cameron kicking his dad’s Ferrari, the bit were Rob Lowe locks himself in the bathroom in St. Elmo’s Fire (what a dreadful film)…  It’s called an ‘Anagoretic Moment’.

Well here’s this post’s Anagoretic Moment…



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