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ABS Stat nerds release stat based census game app. Stats show surprising amounts of love for stat based census game app

Posted May 30 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

The ABS is one of the cooler national math clubs in the world. Their twitter account has even been called out on Buzzfeed for being so cool. Adding to their unusual non-nerd cred they've released a game on iOS letting you get all Simcity on your local hood, or anyone's hood, using data from the last census.

I haven't played it yet, but I am sort of curious to see whether I could run this joint better than the current clowns, so I might give it a go.

12 Responses to ‘ABS Stat nerds release stat based census game app. Stats show surprising amounts of love for stat based census game app’

WarDog asserts...

Posted May 30

Aw that sounds like fun, pity they didn't el Goog it too.

Dave W puts forth...

Posted May 30

ditto. Frowny face.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30

Ah yes, but which version of Android would they write it for? And which models of handset would they preference?

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Dave W mutters...

Posted May 30

Sh1t, there's difference versions? I've just outed myself as being technologically incompetent.

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Bunyip asserts...

Posted May 30

*cough* trolling-independent-games-developers *cough*

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30

The ABS is widley held a great example of what an indepenent, techincially competent and consequently respected independent stuatory authority. I am suprised no one in the federal government has suggested selling it off to make a quid.

Wish I worked for one.

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singo ducks in to say...

Posted May 30

I've played this a few times now, with results ranging from being run out of town on a rail to being lauded as the saviour of the city. With a great range of snarky comments from Shaun Micallef, this is one of the best nerd games I've ever played.

BWS is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30

I'm thinking of playing it myself, but after reading singo's post I'm afraid of being burnt at the stake by angry citizens with pitchforks and flaming torches.

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Abe Frellman ducks in to say...

Posted May 30

Hmmm....courageous of them to release this just before senate estimates. Someone has too much time on their hands will be the theme.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 30

Yeah, sadly, I thought so too.

Dave W reckons...

Posted May 31

"Yes, Senator, we encourage our officers to model the same types of innovative and entrepreneurial behaviours that also make up the best aspects of the private sector."

But I'm clearly living in a dream world.

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Abe Frellman puts forth...

Posted May 31

The punch line could be that they sold it at market value for competitive neutrality reasons and booked a $5 million profit, which Christopher Joye claims is really down to him because he recommended the Gummint set up an Australian version of Freddie Mac, but if he'd done it he would have made more like $50 m ....

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The recap as a writing exercise

Posted May 29 into Writing by John Birmingham

I took the commission to write The Biggest Loser recap the day before the finale. The entertainment guys at the Sydney Morning Herald had enjoyed the essay I'd written about recapping here and asked if I'd be interested in doing any myself. For the right price I'm interested in doing most things. But also for the right reason. Payday is a pretty good reason, but there is so much work involved in writing a recap that you're unlikely to recoup the investment in your time. There was the possibility of recapping Agents of SHIELD later on, however, and that alone was enough to entice me.
Actually, that's a lie. That and getting paid was enough to entice me. I hadn't bothered watching this series of Loser. I knew from previous years how it could be both addicting and pointless. A little bit like comfort-eating in that sense. So the first time I encountered the 2013 contestants was when I went to the show's website yesterday to do some research and preparation.
The whole recap experience was interesting and, for me, a novel enough a form of writing to be worth recording here. The first point I would make is that recapping is a very particular written form. Having just teed off on a whole bunch of high profile Game of Thrones recaps, I was standing there, pants down, arse out, waiting for a good kickin' if I didn't do at least a half decent job on this one. A simple recounting would not be enough. But nor would a more traditional review, or review essay.

Move along, nothing to see here.

The Loser finale offered a challenge in this sense. Unlike a fictional show it offered no obvious narrative arc, character development or subtext on which to riff. The show has all of those things, of course. Along with a keenly developed, if somewhat perverse moral sense. But not in the way that well produced fictional narrative has those elements. To avoid the trap of merely skipping from one thing that happened to the next thing that happened, from what Haley said to what the contestants replied, I'd need a couple of alternative through lines. The rumored 'relationship' between Michelle Bridges and Commando was an obvious pick – especially as the nature of that relationship remains unknown to anybody but the individuals themselves.
The cognitive dissonance, and blatant amorality, or even immorality, of selling fast food advertising during a show putting itself about as a 'cure' for obesity was another. A through line made all too easy to follow because of the preponderance of junk food advertising during the breaks. Having watched the previous two series I was also aware of the strange gear-grinding effect of having fallen into the mind set of the trainers – a censorious, judgmental and punitive psychology, especially as regards food — just before the network turns through 180° and rushes off in the opposite direction towards the launch night of MasterChef. This tied in nicely with the point I wanted to make about the junk food advertising.

Good for 10's bottom line. Not so good for your's.

Not that I'm expecting even half of the readers to recognize that point. But it's enough that some will.
Then of course there are the three lines which the producers of the show have established over the length of its run. The 'journeys' of the 'characters' and the resolution – there is always a resolution – of their personal challenges. That would be enough to frame a series of jokes about the two-hour broadcast, and hopefully negate the fact that I was using exactly the same linear structure I'd criticized in the earlier essay.
Having missed the entire series was a drawback, but not a serious one, since it was easily remedied by spending a couple of hours on The Biggest Loser website. All of the episodes are available for streaming, but they are not available en bloc; each individual episode being broken down into six mini eps, and each of those loaded out with their own advertising package. Grinding my way through season 2013 in this way was painful enough to make me wonder whether there's any regulation regarding advertising in streamed TV shows. At a guess, you seem to be subjected to about twenty minutes of advertising for every hour of the show.
The Biggest Loser website's UI didn't help. It was clunky, poorly coded, counterintuitive and designed, badly, to serve up as many minutes of advertising as they thought they could get away with before viewers abandoned the site. Still, I can't complain. I was being paid to be there.
The task of building out the recap can best be described as 'live tweeting' the show to yourself. I sat on the couch with a stiff drink – a very large stiff drink, frequently topped up – and watched the broadcast live on my iQ box, which allowed me to pause and rewind as necessary. I didn't want to lose the flow of the show, however, so I made the barest of notes on the first run through. And yes, I watched it all the way through, twice. Even went back multiple times to some sections. God help me.
I wrote down my observations in Evernote on my iPad, trusting the the Cloud to back me up. I would normally prefer to use a laptop for this type of job, but our MacBook Air was being used by Jane for real work. The iPad, paired with the Logitech Bluetooth keyboard was fine, but for that intensity of work over an extended period (two run-throughs of the show, totaling about four hours) I think a laptop would have been better. In fact thinking about it now I'd do it very differently next time. I load Dragon on to the lappy and simply dictate my notes into the speech recognition window. I suspect it would be much quicker.
[A little off-topic, but somebody is going to ask why I don't use the speech recognition on the iPad. Because it sucks. As does Dragon Dictate in its mobile app version].

JB's typomographical girl prepares to pedal his dictationary.

At the end of the second run through I had a couple of thousand words worth of very poorly typed notes, but because I was using a linear structure I didn't have to concern myself with how to arrange them. One word after another would do nicely.
Getting the copy in on time then became a matter of racing the clock. I was still turning notes into finished text at one o'clock in the morning, at which point I was only up to the twenty minute mark in the show. This didn't bother me overly, because I had front end loaded all of the thematic material of the through lines. The back half of the essay – and it had grown to essay length by now, about 3000 words – really would be little more than an accelerated narrative. Again, this didn't bother me because it would help create the impression of urgency as we moved through the "story" of the finale. You'll notice if you look at the end of the recap the paragraphs are much shorter and more numerous than they are at the start. It's a simple technique for creating the impression of acceleration on the page.
I finished writing the essay at ten in the morning, but it took half an hour to read and edit it before sending it off. 3000 words in a couple of hours is fast. Too fast really. Errors are inevitable. But timeliness is also of the essence in publishing recaps. You have to get them online as quick as possible. Finding the balance between quick and good is the challenge. I found the subject and its inherent contradictions interesting enough that I'd have been quite happy to noodle around with the text for another couple of hours, turning it into a much grander thesis about mass culture. But in the end you gotta go with what you got when it's needed.
It's not the approach I'll take if I come to do recaps of SHIELD. For one thing, I wouldn't be doin' no 3000 words per episode, but also I'd hope that the very different nature of that show would allow me to write something much closer to the sort of think pieces you get in the best recaps.

28 Responses to ‘The recap as a writing exercise’

Dave W mutters...

Posted May 29

The above text is pretty lengthy and you did 3k for the recap piece. But you also have your long form work, which would require dedication to put out a few pages each day, I'd imagine.

Just out of curiousity, JB, how many words do you reckon you punch out per day (on average)?

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 29
I shoot for an average of 2000 a day, but by the time I've been distracted, over the course of a month, it probably rounds down to about 1500.

Dave W mutters...

Posted May 29

Distractions, distractions- that's what the CBG is for me. When I was doing a degree I'd aim for one page - approx 300 words - per day every day. And yeah, the obvious differences are that uni was non-fiction and the writing extra to a day in the salt mine. Still, it seems like one of those moments for a low whistle in appreciation of your efforts.

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Conspiracy Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29

Annoying. I read the bit about junk food and promptly opened a packet of biscuits. By the time I got to the end of the post, I'd eaten half the biscuits. (No, not a slow reader, just a fast eater).

Also, if you want to know about Michelle and Commando, the opinions of their respective angry spouses can be found in the most recent editions of Woman's Day - and surely that paragon of journalistic integrity would never make up anything about anyone.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 29

Surely, never. No.

Big Willie Style has opinions thus...

Posted May 29

Excuse me?? Woman's Day never makes anything up. They've got more contacts for their stories than you can poke a stick at. Their quotes are always - always! - attributed to "a pal", "an insider", "a friend", "a fellow diner", "a former employee", "a confidant", "a source" or "a representative". Phew! Why would they print mistruths?

Woodward & Bernstein broke Watergate with less backup than that.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 29

I think both Conspiracy Cat and Birmo both had tongues firmly planted in their cheeks when they penned their comments. So perhaps did you BWS but its harder to tell tone on line. We do need an emoticom for sarcasm.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 29

"For the right price I'm interested in doing most things."

Solidarity, brother.

NBlob mutters...

Posted May 29

Ditto, Ibid & Opcit.

In a stunning piece of self justification I argue I built a career on being a stage tech whore. Most Audio engineers (Noise boys) won't TA for riggers, lighting techs( Lampys) wouldn't hang a drape, I came in to the show world as a vidiot and did anything for hours. Thus I learnt more systems outside of my narrow field of expertise.

I believe I've read or heard JB advise baby writers to write for anyone with a functioning chequebook. Narrow expertise is all well & good, but Generalists get work, pay bills ,& eat..

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Greybeard would have you know...

Posted May 29

Well damn. Never watched Biggest Loser, but now I want to read the recap to see how the technique stuff translates into, you know, words.

Big Willie Style reckons...

Posted May 29

You've never watched TBL? Essentially, it involves a lot of ordinary Aussie batlers with self-esteem issues, who go on a Journey, have a heartbreaking tale or fifteen to share, cry for a bit, bicker for another bit, get lectured by pompous judgmental types, cry a bit more, applaud their fellow contestants, get applauded in return, triumph over Adversity, have their Inspiring Story splashed about in New Idea and the like, and, once the show is over, get forgotten by the viewers more or less immediately.

Hang on. Maybe it's Masterchef I'm thinking of. Or The Voice. Maybe The Block? My Kitchen Rules? No, no, definitely X Factor.

Honestly, who fucking knows anymore?

Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29

TBL = lots of shouting, sobbing, sweating. Repeat.

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Red mumbles...

Posted May 29
I'm impressed that you wrote this without having watched this year's series, John. I watched the first and second TBL series in its entirety, missed a few, and then watched last year's and this year's series. I don't care much for the contestants, but I enjoy the drama and laughs along the way, and drool after Commando. Man, he's hot. Can't believe (well, I can) that he may or may not have a thing going with Mish. She's way cool. In fact, I'm currently doing a round of her 12-Week Body Transformation which is terrific. Such a long piece! I think you nailed the essence of the characters in a nutshell, but oh, the heartbreak that the green team didn't win. Those two are just adorable. They deserved to win, but, as you pointed out on Twitter, the prize doesn't always go to the most deserving. Anyway, excellent job, JB. I hope your knees have recovered since last year, and that you are still running. I'm into it now. Doing the Doomben 10000 on Sunday. Cheers. JG

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 29

"t's a simple technique for creating the impression of acceleration on the page", whic I assume novelist mimic with smaller chapters towards the end of the book?

Have to try this with my review on BookClub.

Birmo have you conisdered writing a short piece, 3000 words no more, on the experience of reviewing Alister Reynold's "Chasm City'?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 29

I could, but Murph should really do that.

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BobGrrl reckons...

Posted May 29

Some of my favourite recaps come from the ladies over at AfterEllen: http://www.afterellen.com/taxonomy/term/22

Considering that many of them are for shows which have minor (or none in the case of subtext recaps) lesbian or bisexual content, most of the recappers do a remarkable job of making it interesting/relevant to the community.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted May 29
Really, the biggest loser? Fck I hope you gouged them, seriously that invoice should have had an eye-wateringly large number of zeroes n it. The US Screen-Writers Strike got really drunk one night. In a seedy bar a precipitous drop in the price of broadcast cameras and a boom in the popularity of Discovery Channel's dramatized documentary style made the Strike their bitch all at the urging of a Dutch freak in a zipper mask called Big Brother. Rumours persist that Big Brother filmed some or all of the assault. While nominally a lawful act between consenting cultural forces it was horrible, violent, debasing and exploitative. 9.5 months later a daemon child was born, her name Reality Television. I'm a compassionate guy, I usually feel for the less fortunate. For some reason I don't fully understand Greybeard and RT are beneath that. She drags her club foot of poor camera operation, the lop-sided leer of cardioid-lapel radio-mics poorly synced to a boom, the disquieting high square forehead of grasping attention-seeking personality-disorders-on-wheels. Worst of all is the steaming colostomy bag of desperate challenges, immunity challenges and other forced dramatic movements. You could recap this spring carnival, tax accountant’s conference or Greybeards next colonoscopy and I'd struggle to be less interested.

ShaneAlpha ducks in to say...

Posted May 29

Just remember, all these problema can be remedied by a flamethrower. Maniacal laugh optional.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted May 29
I've never watched reality television for longer than it takes to shriek 'Where the FK is the channel changer?' and I'm not about to start now. I flicked on blunty, flinched at the title, looked at the pretty picture of the swimmer chick in her nice dress and wandered off. It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age of PC outrage, the Freak Show is alive and well on every single channel on TV. Daria got it right, it is a Sick Sad World.

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Rachel mutters...

Posted May 29

Loved the recap JB, can't recall the last time I laughed so loudly staring at the computer.

I did notice the pars speeding up, but interpreted it as you getting progressively tanked. Great technique.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 30

Thank you Rachel. You're my new favourite.

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Karsoe has opinions thus...

Posted May 30

Nice insight into the recap technique, JB, and it's good/encouraging to see that a stiff drink is an important part of the process.

I remember some time back you were doing some writing tips on a Friday, but I'm not sure if those posts survived the Burger's redesign. I really enjoyed them. Is there a chance you might do something similar in the future?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 30

There is Karsoe. But I'm having trouble figuring out the work flow of writing all these books and running a high turnover blog. (I've doubled the traffic in the last month and it wasn't low before then). I'll figre it out, and regilar writing tips will be a part of that. Prolly on Friday mornings.

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Rhino reckons...

Posted May 30

Channeling Hunter S. Thompson in the recap. Nicely done.

Spreaking of HST ... was Ralph Steadman the inspriation for the new site's logo?

R.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 30

Why yes, yes he was. Although the young girl who did the design for me seemed unaware of the Old Master.

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Rob mutters...

Posted May 30

Wow way to go JB. In making me feel like the cubicle schulb version of an early knockout biggest loser contestant. I really do nothing for my salary, really shows the dedication and discipline of being self employed and a creative author. (are we allowed to say author anymore? or do we have to say writer, in the LES NY kinda way "I'm creative, I'm a writer, just look at my blog!') Although I wouldn't mind some of that fat suburban tattoo action, just look at the size of that canvas! Maybe when I start work as a tattoo artist and leave this box behind, I will use that as a marketing tool.

Free cheetos with every Nana font hallmark card, bogan poetry chest piece.

'live you're dreamz, like there is no tomorow"

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Radar mutters...

Posted May 30

I don't know much about advertising, but I do know that I now have a strange desire to purchase a Macbook Air with Dragon Dictate and a Logitech blue tooth keyboard

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Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30

My wife and son got seriously addicted to this show this season...and thus I was exposed to it by being in the same room. Although we called it 'The Fattest Boombahs'. JB, you encapsulated to Greek Tragedy that is TBL most succinctly and accurately.

For me, I found this show sort of like watching a car crash occurring - I didn't want to see it but ended up seeing it between my fingers as I covered my face in despair....

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Starship drag race, won by a loud blue box

Posted May 28 into Awesome by John Birmingham

Slate has a great, great interactive doo-dad letting you waste a few minutes racing famous space ship against each other:

It’s a little odd that a genre about science, the field of precision, can be so imprecise. The truth is that spaceships almost always fly at the speed of the plot. But, for those who refuse to accept that, this is a definitive guide to ship speeds, based on highly scientific computer simulations and highly unscientific speculation.

Start your warp engines. Or infinite improbably drives.

19 Responses to ‘Starship drag race, won by a loud blue box’

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted May 28

Thanks! Good to know.

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Shifty Tourist mutters...

Posted May 28

So it seems that if you just need to get somewhere in a hurry, then the Tardis is the way to go... but if getting there is half the fun, but you still need to get back for work the next day then the Millenium Falcon is the way to go.

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TC has opinions thus...

Posted May 28

I've never understood why Star Trek ships have so many warp speeds. Sure, you need to go at pedestrian pace to dock with space stations and the like... but if you've got a top speed, why would you go slower when you just want to be somewhere? It's like being in the Northern Territory and only going 180km/h. THE SIGN DOESN'T HAVE A NUMBER IN IT! GO FASTER YOU FUCKING TADPOLE!

And let's not forget that the Tardis can move through time and space. Really that kicks ridiculous ass all over the place.

On a slightly divergent note, I keep seeing a car on the way to work with the numberplate TARD-15. For months I've been wondering why someone would out themselves as the 15th Tard. This morning the penny finally dropped...

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted May 28

so which number Tard are you?

w from brisbane asserts...

Posted May 28

TARD-15?
I don't get it.

TC puts forth...

Posted May 28

Insomniac, I've not taken the step to out myself, so I couldn't say.

w (taking you at face value and assuming a general lack of sarcasm), my guess is that it's meant to represent TARDIS. The clue that got me over the line is that it's a royal blue mini with a Union Jack on top.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 28

Oh. Thanks.

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xenodyssey would have you know...

Posted May 28

Well in the Trek universe the faster you go the more you strain the body of the ship despite the integral fields and wear out those pesky dilithium crystals.

Not to mention the damage to the fabric of the universe, or at least subspace...

The TARDIS is a time and space machine. One problem is that it didn't always arrive at where or when it was supposed to be going. But at least it wasn't as bad at that as the Jupiter 2.

Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 28

I think that the TARDIS took the Doctor places based on Dirk Gently's theory of Zen navigation: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I ended up where I needed to be."

Blindwilly is gonna tell you...

Posted May 29

The Tardis actually said something along those lines in a episode (The Doctor's Wife) where its 'essence' was placed in the body of a woman. The Doctor and the Tardis argued about his navigating skills and it told him it took him where he needed to be, but not where he always wanted to be.

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted May 28

In the TNG special features they talk about the "recalibraion" so that Warp 10 was occupying all points of the universe simultaneously (sort of like how the Heart of Gold does when using the infinite improbability drive).

The writers hated it because the audience didn't get that Warp 7 was exponentially faster than Warp 6. IIRC Warp 7 was around 1000 LY/Y.

The faster you went, the greater the drain on the dilitium used to channel the antimatter in the warp engines.

http://www.calormen.com/Star_Trek/FAQs/warp_velocities-faq.htm

The ships in Stargate were much faster - with the Prometheus being able to get to the Andromeda galaxy in a couple of weeks. They are probably the most regularly fast (there were episodes where the Enterprise was pushed tens of thousands of light years and one where they went to the end of the universe, but that wasn't when the ship was functioning normally)

Untamed Sn ark is gonna tell you...

Posted May 29

I have long said that the ships in the Stargate universe would beat those in the Star Trek one, the Odyssey v the Enterprise in an intergalactic cage fight? My Space bucks are on the Odyssey

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Spanner mumbles...

Posted May 28

What about the Starship Bistromaths? Its more powerful than the Heart of Gold but does have the downside of looking like a small Italian Bistro.

zeniph mumbles...

Posted May 29

and you've reminded me of the other noted FTL Hitchhikers Guide propulsion system - a ship powered by Bad News but you werent welcome when you arrived.

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TeamAmerica is gonna tell you...

Posted May 29

JB-Since you made a reference to THHGTTG, what do you think of a comment made on another site that Adam's series is under-rated as literature, and should be judged as being on a par with 'Gulliver's Travels?'

Spanner ducks in to say...

Posted May 29

TA & Zen sounds like a pair of hoopy froods that knows where their towels are.

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Red ducks in to say...

Posted May 29

Anyone seen that new Star Trek movie yet? Thought I might give it a go. Last saw the original, oh, about 35 or more years ago.

Suppose I'd better click JB's link, despite his Volvo atrocities.

JG.

Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted May 29

Yeah it's great JG

Ya better take JB to see it again.

I'll spot ya. He needs it.

Red ducks in to say...

Posted May 29

Ta, Dino. Will definitely see it then. The shorts look good. I think I've become a bit of an action lover since following CBG and reading JB's books. I seem to go for more edgy, action-filled/thriller type movies now. Never thought I'd like a bit of sci fi either.

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"We would become Volvo drivers"

Posted May 28 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

There’s no avoiding death and taxes, but surely I could give the Volvo station wagon a swerve? No, said my good lady wife. We had a new baby and that meant life as we knew it was over. No more nude surfing. No more Xbox drinking games. (Masterchief gets stuck in a doorway? Drink!). And no more fun cars.

Her little Mini, a perfect student car, that four hefty blokes could flip over onto its roof for an impromptu game of spin the bottle when all the actual bottles were still busy providing a home for my home brew? Gone.

My dream of crossing the continent in a retooled Hilux powered the concentrated left overs from the bottom of the home brew barrel? Gone.

No, it was time for the boxy Nordic dependability and to hell with the humiliation. We would become Volvo drivers. And just to tighten and accelerate the shame spiral, that’d be a station wagon; the extra space invaluable for hauling fold up cots, a small zoo of stuffed animals wrapped in a Barbie blanket and giant bundles of nappies all secured by the last lingering threads of my street cred and fast fading awesomeness.

The V60 it was, we drove off the lot, in a stealthy shade of metallic grey, the colour of leaden skies and stolid, enforced rectitude. Instantly I felt like my filing my taxes and cleaning out the gutters at home.

We lived at Bondi in those days, where the lack of off street parking spilled a bright, gleaming riot of cars out into the clean salt air. Soft tops, convertibles, Combis, shaggin’ wagons, and the muscular SUVs favoured by those many members of the Russian mafia who had recently escaped the former Soviet Union for our groovy beach side village… Oh and our sturdy grey family transport option, of course. It was also parked out on the street overlooking the famous bay.

Did the high incidence of car theft in the suburb bother us? Professional gangs of ‘rebirthers’ were often drawn to Bondi where they hid in the massive tidal flows of tourists. But no, that did not bother us, for we were Volvo owners. Not only was our choice of motor so determinedly unhip that it threatened whiplash as potential car thieves shook their heads in horror at the very thought of making off with it, but the cunning Swedes had fitted our vehicle with one of the first digital immobilizer systems.

It would not be stolen, they promised.

The latest in Nordic security systems.

And so it was not, until the day some villain put a brick through the front window and stole it anyway. Perhaps there were no WRXs around.

It was a drag, a massive drag in fact, but we were insured and the cops were helpful, assuring us we could forget about ever seeing the car, nappies or Barbie blanket again as they stamped and signed their report for the insurer.

And then things turned to custard. Swedish custard, made by the Muppets’ Swedish chef. So fiercely did Volvo insist that this car could not have been stolen with their immobilizer fitted that the insurance company began to have its doubts. I had visions of the Swedish chef ‘strudel-oodle-oodling’ down the phone at some dubious assessor, becoming more and more agitated at the idea their perfect system had failed.

“Ooodle doodle noodle Börmoongoon oodle stool üt”.

Luckily the thoughtful car thieves thoughtfully stole some more ‘immobilized’ Volvos, or maybe the cops convinced my insurance company of just how good our car thieves were, because they eventually paid up.

Allowing us to buy another Volvo.

[This is another column one you won't find online, because Wheel's Magazine doesn't give away their content for free. Stupid Old Media Stupidheads! How can they make any moneys if they won't give it away for free! Gah!]

40 Responses to ‘"We would become Volvo drivers"’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 28

I feel your pain. Sort of. When my son was born my wife insisted that I discard my plans for world conquest.

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Big Willie Style is gonna tell you...

Posted May 28

Volvos made in the previous century were great cars. Had one myself for a few years. Cheap to run, reliable, and guaranteed to be given a wide berth whenever I drove it. And nobody, but nobody, fucks with a Volvo. Like tanks, they was, impervious to all attacks. Even semi-trailer drivers would have sleepless nights worrying about having a head-on with a Volvo.

Then Ford took Volvo over, and everything changed. The cars got shittier, less reliable, lost their resale value quickly. And where is Ford now? Exactly.

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Dave W mutters...

Posted May 28

I used to own a Nissan Pintara wagon. I would have gained street-cred by owning a volvo.

Didn't the volvo wagon go through a revival as surfers realised you could fit 17 boards inside, where no bastard could take them?

damian mutters...

Posted May 28

We bought two matching 2-seater sofas when we had a Volvo wagon, weren't able to get them delivered same day. With a storm rolling in, we had one with its legs off in the back, one on the roof racks and wrapped in whatever plastic we could scrounge. Made it home and unloaded a good half hour before the rain started, anyway.

Still got those couches, though we sold the Volvo about 10 years ago.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted May 28

i ... i too was once a ... a volvo driver, but thanks to many years of rehab and a good woman, i'm now cured.

Greybeard mumbles...

Posted May 28

And your wife was OK with the rehab and the good woman?

insomniac mumbles...

Posted May 28

no she wasn't, but then again we were separated. in fact she went around telling people there were two good women, at once. lucky me, apparently

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w from brisbane mutters...

Posted May 28

The Volvo. Performs the same public function as the wedding ring.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 28

Rofl.

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Rob has opinions thus...

Posted May 28

One day back when I lived in hell. Hell being the western suburbs of Sydney, My trusty 1977 Mazda 929 station wagon (in babyshit brown no less) blew a gasket coming back from the Blacktown Kmart. So I was faced with no car, my in laws found me another car, $400 they said, its also a Mazda. a 1979 929 to be exact. Been in a garage for 3 years. We painted it primer grey and it smelt like a horse had been living in it. 3 weeks later it got stolen from the car park at seven hills railway station, and very nicely dumped at the car park on the other side of the railway line. Found the next day after a humilating tell off from various cops about the lack of registration and insurance. and the psycic awareness of my father in law. " i knew something bad was going to happen today'. Geeze thats great and everything but it would have been nice to have been told that before I embarked on my train trip into the CBD to meet up with my sister!

The car however just refused to die. I drove it for 5 years through a degree in Launceston and another in Hobart. Breaks failed, no matter, we will just get brake lines remade, engine could run on zero fuel and oil wasn't needed. No matter how poorly I treated it, it plugged on and on. A wonder of grey primer and japanese engineering. Traded it in for a Saab. Saab lasted a year until insurance became too expensive and it, unlike the mazda, needed oil, which we forgot to put it and wrecked the engine.

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Big Bad Al reckons...

Posted May 28

I should point out one glaring error in your report. Volvo did not make "station wagons"... They made Estate cars. How do I know this? My father owned a Volvo Estate car and we were forever banned, under punishment of excommunication from the family, from calling it a Station Wagon.

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Nocturnalist would have you know...

Posted May 28

This reminded me of the dedication in one of Judy Horacek's books: "To all the other Volvo drivers, even though they almost never wave back."

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Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 28

I just hope NBlob is far out at sea today. See, I've owned four Citroens - and that isn't even the embarrassing part. One died at a point where parenthood and single-incomeness left us to pick something from Maxim Motors reject pile. A Datsun 260C. It wallowed like a drunken whale, had appalling steering, suspension, brakes, handling and looks. Being used to parking Citroens, the wife & I quickly put dings in every corner plus the rear bumper. I would drive a Volvo proudly rather than that piece of crap.

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Bunyip mumbles...

Posted May 28

In regards to the statement in the top picture (re: ownership and bouncy bouncy), this is true. The negation of this took the ex insisting that she could drive the yellow brick (a 240 GL wagon, big enough for a twin pram) without oil or coolant, our mutual realisation neither of us wanted to share a house with each other, and a poor deluded woman* that believed me when I was creative with the truth in regards to the joys of lolling around in decomposing vegetable matter and stagnant water.

*Shortly after this she ran off into the wildernness. Or possibly the Thornbury-Northcote portion of VIC.

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Chaz is gonna tell you...

Posted May 28

Ahh the joys or being an urban parent, note I worte 'urban' & not 'urbane' :))

Bunyip asserts...

Posted May 28

I've seen Volvo station wagoons sporting bullbars. Massive bullbars. But then, I live in Bushrangerland, not Tram City.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted May 28

Casa Quokka is within Smashing sound of a railway bridge which regularly traps oversized trucks. (i.e.WTF?! That bridge wasn't here last time I whizzed by off my head on meth)

Being as the oversized trucks are meant to take a detour rather than attempt to mow down the bridge, there are big MF DETOUR signs diverting the FKRS away from the bridge. Like, 5 of them. Which is meant to help the cops when they are waving the traffic away from the regular truck-stuck-in-bridge fiascos.

I was out with the dog last time this happened & noticed that the cop was doing his bit to wave the traffic on up the street to where the big MF 'DETOUR' sign jumps out at you from an enormous pole.

Without exception every single 4WD turned in the opposite direction to that indicated by the big MF 'DETOUR' sign, looped back in a circle to come face to face with the traffic cop again, and each and every one stopped to give him an earful at giving such shit directions.

Good thing that cop didn't have a gun.

Soccer Mums. Grrr.

The world was a much safer place when they were all confined to volvos.

RobinPrice has opinions thus...

Posted May 28

If you're talking about Annerley Rd, I got caught there yesterday afternoon with yet another truck rollover and did exactly that. Not driving a 4WD though and the last time I went to a soccer game was c.1980. Yep, I called myself all sorts of idiot.

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damian asserts...

Posted May 28

We actually had the 245 wagon for a couple of years, pressed on us by my wife's dad as a sort of statement when old the Corona's transmission stopped doing reverse. Bussed it to Melbourne to one Friday night after work to pick it up, slept for the morning and got on the road on the Saturday afternoon. Just made it to the Albury side of the border and broke down. Turned out to be the first of many issues with the electrics and the timing. The 245 is 70s era fuel injection, which is mechanical and has a distributor. Interesting the placement of the coil in the engine compartment is right up in the corner near the driver who, if there were a suitable hole in the dash and the firewall, could reach through and grasp it. This placement means that the lead to the distributor from the coil is insanely long, quite a bit longer than NRMA or RACQ carry as spares. Anyway, long story short is that we kept 3 spare coil leads in the back of the Volvo (which we eventually named Sven). Mind you, having personally scraped the corrosion out the end of the coil, probably it would have been fine if we'd just replaced that too, ah well :P

Have you noticed that Volvos have a distinctive smell? It's the smell of Swedish engineering.

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Harriet puts forth...

Posted May 28

I grew up in in the 80s, mostly in the middle back seat of a canary yellow volvo stationwagon, between two older brothers. Mum and Dad bought it via the Trading Post, from a woman who had won it in a game show and told them "she couldn't possibly drive a car that colour." Well, Mum could, much to our horror. We wish it had been stolen; no, it lasted twelve years, multiple dogs and many a muddy footy boot.

Twenty odd years later and my husband and I recently gotten rid of the racy but rusty ten year old subaru and replaced it with a Volkswagon station wagon. All prompted by a new baby: the cycle of abuse rolls on...

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 29

Holy shit. That car had pedigree.

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ShaneAlpha ducks in to say...

Posted May 28

I only have one question JB. What sort of hat did you wear when you drove it?

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 28

The car maketh the man.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/take-it-as-read-your-library-is-not-an-imminent-threat-to-life-as-we-know-it-20130216-2ek0j.html

ShaneAlpha mutters...

Posted May 29

Now that IS the hat of a Volvo driver. Kudos.

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pitpat reckons...

Posted May 28

I went from a BMW K100RT that I'd gone around Aus twice on. in pure motorcyle heaven to a Holden Zafira ( look it up and laught), I can absolutely relate to the pain evident in the words. However it was the best thing to happen as it turns out.

Anthony reckons...

Posted May 30

As the former owner of a K100RT (called a "litre of whine" by the septics becaus of the distinctive engine noise) I can understand that pain. As a former 164 Volvo owner though I can assure you that they were a far better car than most Volvo drivers deserve.

Having to get from SA to Brisbane in a hurry after my father died, we put 100 miles into one hour across the Hay plain and 110 into the next - back in the days of the prima facie limit in NSW when it ws semi legal to do such things.

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Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 28

My family has owned a number of Volvos. Mum had a 144 that I ended up with for a time (being white and shaped like a box, as well as having an odd agitating motion at low speed my mates nicknamed it ''The Dishwasher''). Mum had a 164 - ugly but a good car. Later she had a 340 4 door hatchback. I was doing a lot of country miles, later moving to the bush, at one point, and bought a 244GL sedan for transport - built like a tank (in case of a country speeds prang), manual for fuel economy and so I could clutch start it at need. 240,000km on the clock when I bought it - just shy of 500,000km on it when I sold it after returning to Sydney...it only ever stopped when the fuel pump died one night. I kind of miss that car...

Only car I ever had stolen was one I owned when younger and single - a Holden Torana GTR XU1. I REALLY wish I still had that car - it would be worth at least $80K now!

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Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted May 28

JB,

I read a book in Indonesia many years ago about this bloke that learnt how to 'use' a toothpick and he was good with de ladies and learnt Basque and then decided to buy and drive a Volvo.

Sounds like 'vulva' doesn't it? Volvo.

I wanna car called 'Eprection' or 'Fardon'. Or something latin that is masculine.

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted May 28

Dino,
May I suggest the Isuzu Bighorn?

Matthew K reckons...

Posted May 28

"I roll" in latin. (Originally a ball bearing company.)

They see me rolling, they hatin'...?

Brother PorkChop puts forth...

Posted May 29

And we all know Pajero means Wanker in Spanish.

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Matthew K ducks in to say...

Posted May 28

Legendary machines, never quite stop. Like one of those movie heroes who takes endless punishment. Stoic, that's what they are. Die Hard stoic cars.

I'm not the only one that thinks so, I passed a serious incident on the motorway attended by a crowd of cops and paramedic vehicles all festooned with flashing lights and hi-viz livery but all I could think was "Those Volvo soft roaders look like really good cars".

Older Benz's are also on the legendary unkillable car scales (/8, W123, W124 models) and also come with diesels.... and rust.

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Sjb351 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 28

One hopes you have learned the power of "No" since then.

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DNABeast would have you know...

Posted May 29

Not only did I own a Volvo and continue having sex. I had sex IN the Volvo.

Thats what I call using protection.

Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29

You sir, are a statistical aberration.

Greybeard reckons...

Posted May 29

Not the worst thing he's been called i'm sure.

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Red swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29

Ouch. A Volvo. Nay, two. Your past is more shameful than I'd imagined, JB. I'm glad you have made this confession. It changes my opinion of you considerably.

JG, disgusted. ;)

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Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted May 29

My folk had a 1973 144 sedan and decided to road trip to Canberra from Rocky in summer. Absolute bloody disaster and I am still amazed they remained married after that. We had to stop every 30km or so to let the bloody thing cool down. We were all over the road to run through any water on the road and the engined was turned off down any big hills. Tied wrapping the exhaust in abestos in Warwick to no avail. Stupid Swedes put the fuel line next to the exhaust causing vapour locks.

Had no such problems when upgraded to the 244. I even got it up to 195kmph one day. Scared the shite out of me too. Young, bullet proof and foolish.

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Bunyip mumbles...

Posted May 29

Just remembered that we used to call ours the Snot Block, because of it's unfortunate resemblance to a vanilla slice. Or just the Custard Brick, when we were feeling charitable.

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ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted May 29

Hopefully this thread will now encourage more Volvo chase scenes in movies.

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Respond to '"We would become Volvo drivers"'

Next Bookclub. 28 June.

Posted May 27 into Book Club by John Birmingham

Chasm City, by Mr Al Reynolds.

Because I'll never be allowed to rest until I do this damn thing.

24 Responses to ‘Next Bookclub. 28 June.’

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 27

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

You know, it is a first class book. And Al did recommend that I read some book by this Aussie guy . . . something about aircraft carriers and wormholes or something.

;)

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 27

Glad you like it, Murph. I'm thinking of getting to you to reprise your published review for our intro essay.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

Is that in addition to your review essay JB or instead of?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 27

Instead of. I'm thinking of doing what the rest of you do and just leaning back in my underpants, scratching my nuts.

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted May 27

Underpants?

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted May 27

I'm rather surprised, John.

The protag of this novel is a sleeper agent (in more than one sense), soldier type with a bit of an identity crisis going on. He is a man out of time, literally and figuratively, cast in a semi-post-apocalyptic universe.

As science fiction novels go, this one has a lot of the stuff you either write about or like in your own reading.

In any case, if needs must, we can go with my review. Hell, it is the tenth year anniversary of it anyway.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 27

You misunderestimate me, Muprh. I'm sure I'll love it. But I'm thinking it's a good chance to republish your review in a fashion you perhaps weren't able to the first time around.

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 27

Barnes, he's flattering me into helping him out, isn't he?

Well, it is working. ;)

I'm just so easy sometimes.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Blarkon mutters...

Posted May 27

's like the patrician vetinari of delegating work he doesn't want to do ;-)

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Surtac would have you know...

Posted May 27

You mean I have to wait until June 28? Faaaarrrrk!

I'm already at 92% through a re-read.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 27

Then write your essay out now, slacker.

Surtac mumbles...

Posted May 28

I can see I'll end up doing what I did for Player of Games, ie. draft the essay and then spend 3 weeks constantly re-reading the book and revising the essay.

Fwiw, I've already got my central theme chosen ...

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Red mutters...

Posted May 27

Long, fat book. I'd better get started on it.

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Kiz reckons...

Posted May 27

Great book, very well crafted, the detail he puts into creating the societies is impressive.

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Big Willie Style would have you know...

Posted May 27

Do you ever have books by Max Walker in your Bookclub? He used to be Australia's best-selling author, don'tcha know.

Or perhaps something by the late RG Barrett. I could talk with others for hours about Les and his roots.

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BWS mutters...

Posted May 27

"He made about as much noise as a mouse pissing on cotton wool."

Farkin' POETRY right there from RGB. Better than anything Dickens ever came up with.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 27

Oh I don't know, on reading Dicken's 'Old Curiosity Shop'' didn't Oscar Wilde claim "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing". That's surely worth some recognition.

BWS would have you know...

Posted May 27

"She then proceeded to give Norton a blowjob that nearly sent him cross-eyed" - from "Day of the Gecko" by Sir Robert G. Barrett

I send a hollow laugh in Mr. Wilde's direction.

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MickH asserts...

Posted May 27

hmm, the day before i head off on the ocean waves for a well deserved holiday.

Guess I can do it. I'm reading Game of thrones right now and you know what? Its pretty good! but I've already found a big plot hole (15 years to attempt a coup?!!) but I like how it's building, the king has just returned with a couple of tusks in his belly.

Guru Bob is gonna tell you...

Posted June 2

MH - You are so totally fucked - I started on the first one and now have ploughed through the whole lot and got the old fantasy bug again...

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damian would have you know...

Posted May 27

Bugger. I guess I'll have to re-read it in June. I guess I might have to read a bit more Reynolds too, to get the appeal.

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Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted May 28

Boss Lady downloaded it on her Kindle for me to read.

$13.75 AUS.

I have read some synopses.

He has the closest reality 'Venn' to mine so far.

Look forward to participating in The Book Club with some Cred!

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Guru Bob asserts...

Posted June 2

Didn't get the last book read in time for the club - hopefully can read this on the flight home from Paris...

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted June 9

YES! I love Reynolds. Thanks JB!

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Ukeleles are terrible!

Posted May 27 into Lunch Time Video by John Birmingham

My daughter sent me this video, assuming it would amuse me. It did.

18 Responses to ‘Ukeleles are terrible!’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

Sure, there is bad ukelele playing, just as there is bad piano and bad trombone playing. But if you ever made love to the sound of a master ukelele player playing his (there are no female master ukeleleists) ukelele, then you might have a different opinion of the ukelele.

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Red puts forth...

Posted May 27

Perhaps, Paul, but I concur with John. The ukulele sounds tinny; like a cat scratching a blackboard or an annoying interluder. No depth or timbre to the ukelele's sound. As bad as a banjo.

Big Willie Style puts forth...

Posted May 27

No. Nothing's as bad as a banjo.

BTW, you dropped both "ukulele" and "ukelele" in your post. Are both acceptable?

Red asserts...

Posted May 27

Well observed, BWS. Don't use ukelele as a tongue twister. Lalala mouth takes over. At least it isn't called a yukelele or pukelele. Are you a bottle shop, Big Willie with Sassy Sausage Style? Just the BWS...

Red is gonna tell you...

Posted May 27

Well observed, BWS. Don't use ukelele as a tongue twister. Lalala mouth takes over. At least it isn't called a yukelele or pukelele. Are you a bottle shop, Big Willie with Sassy Sausage Style? Just the BWS...

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insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted May 27

amusing? ... a uke-lol-e

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Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted May 27

JG, hush your mouth. As bad as banjo???? Noooo, banjos are way cooler than ukes.

Big Willie Style would have you know...

Posted May 27

I assume you've never heard of the mandolin?

Dilph has opinions thus...

Posted May 27

Only in reference to a certain Captain Correlli, which I beleive is something within striking distance of The Notebook for sob-factor...

I'm totally down with the lute, though. I have vague memories of Mercutio playin' a mean lute before he attempted smackdowns, and got smacked.

Red mumbles...

Posted May 27

I expect a concert to prove your theory, BPC.

I think my fave instruments are the piano and classical guitar. Oh, and the sax.

Red asserts...

Posted May 27

I expect a concert to prove your theory, BPC.

I think my fave instruments are the piano and classical guitar. Oh, and the sax.

Red mutters...

Posted May 27

I expect a concert to prove your theory, BPC.

I think my fave instruments are the piano and classical guitar. Oh, and the sax.

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Dave W reckons...

Posted May 27

"I bet you like Dr Who, too." I didn't laugh out loud, but only because I'm at work and I didn't want to attract attention to someone having a good time.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 27

Yeah, I almost entitled the blog post that, but thought it better to leave the joke buried in the vid.

TC is gonna tell you...

Posted May 28

I did laugh out loud... with a mouth full of food. Luckily everyone else is out for lunch and the flying rice and red curry is mostly cleaned up now.

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TC ducks in to say...

Posted May 28

A great clip... but I have to disagree. Ukeleles are great . A good one can sound brilliant and they're so much easier to just pick up and play from time to time without having to grab the acoustic from that stand in the other room or getting the Strat out of its case and setting up the amp.

What can I say, I'm time poor - and my son's uke makes playing music simple and efficient.

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CathieT reckons...

Posted June 16

Can't believe I missed this .....

I have a friend who decided that seeing as she was learning the uke, we could all learn along with her. As far as I know, *she* still plays.

Son and heir has just resuscitated his ukulele by changing the tuning to match his bass - allows him to practice at many more random times than the bass does!!

And although this is kinda cute ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIyy3bckFwA we all know that ukuleles were invented so we could say "oh shit no, I don't play one of those!"


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You are all going to die - Joss Whedon

Posted May 27 into Awesome by John Birmingham

Joss Whedon was invited back to his old university to give the Commencement Address. It is, naturally, lathered in awesome sauce. But it also gives us some insight into his story telling mojo. When he says "identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in," he could be talking about any number of the characters from Buffy, Angel, Doll House, The Avengers or Firefly.

I actually sat through many graduations. When I was sitting where you guys were sitting, the speaker was Bill Cosby—funny man Bill Cosby, he was very funny and he was very brief, and I thanked him for that. He gave us a message that I really took with me, that a lot of us never forgot, about changing the world. He said, “you’re not going to change the world, so don’t try.”

That was it. He didn’t buy that back at all. And then he complained about buying his daughter a car and we left. I remember thinking, “I think I can do better. I think I can be a little more inspiring than that.”

And so, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.

"Identity is something that you are constantly earning."

This is a good commencement speech because I’m figuring it’s only going to go up from here. It can only get better, so this is good. It can’t get more depressing. You have, in fact, already begun to die. You look great. Don’t get me wrong. And you are youth and beauty. You are at the physical peak. Your bodies have just gotten off the ski slope on the peak of growth, potential, and now comes the black diamond mogul run to the grave. And the weird thing is your body wants to die. On a cellular level, that’s what it wants. And that’s probably not what you want.

I’m confronted by a great deal of grand and worthy ambition from this student body. You want to be a politician, a social worker. You want to be an artist. Your body’s ambition: Mulch. Your body wants to make some babies and then go in the ground and fertilize things. That’s it. And that seems like a bit of a contradiction. It doesn’t seem fair. For one thing, we’re telling you, “Go out into the world!” exactly when your body is saying, “Hey, let’s bring it down a notch. Let’s take it down.”

And it is a contradiction. And that’s actually what I’d like to talk to you about. The contradiction between your body and your mind, between your mind and itself. I believe these contradictions and these tensions are the greatest gift that we have, and hopefully, I can explain that.

But first let me say when I talk about contradiction, I’m talking about something that is a constant in your life and in your identity, not just in your body but in your own mind, in ways that you may recognize or you may not.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that two roads diverged in the woods and you took the path less traveled. Part of you is just going, “Look at that path! Over there, it’s much better. Everyone is traveling on it. It’s paved, and there’s like a Starbucks every 40 yards. This is wrong. In this one, there’s nettles and Robert Frost’s body—somebody should have moved that—it just feels weird. And not only does your mind tell you this, it is on that other path, it is behaving as though it is on that path. It is doing the opposite of what you are doing. And for your entire life, you will be doing, on some level, the opposite—not only of what you were doing—but of what you think you are. That is just going to go on. What you do with all your heart, you will do the opposite of. And what you need to do is to honor that, to understand it, to unearth it, to listen to this other voice.

You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key—not only to consciousness-but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in. It’s not just parroting your parents or the thoughts of your learned teachers. It is now more than ever about understanding yourself so you can become yourself.

"To accept duality is to earn identity"

I talk about this contradiction, and this tension, there’s two things I want to say about it. One, it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.

The other reason is because you are establishing your identities and your beliefs, you need to argue yourself down, because somebody else will. Somebody’s going to come at you, and whatever your belief, your idea, your ambition, somebody’s going to question it. And unless you have first, you won’t be able to answer back, you won’t be able to hold your ground. You don’t believe me, try taking a stand on just one leg. You need to see both sides.

Now, if you do, does this mean that you get to change the world? Well, I’m getting to that, so just chill. All I can say to this point is I think we can all agree that the world could use a little changing. I don’t know if your parents have explained this to you about the world but… we broke it. I’m sorry… it’s a bit of a mess. It’s a hard time to go out in there. And it’s a weird time in our country.

"The thing about our country is—oh, it’s nice, I like it—it’s not long on contradiction or ambiguity"

The thing about our country is—oh, it’s nice, I like it—it’s not long on contradiction or ambiguity. It’s not long on these kinds of things. It likes things to be simple, it likes things to be pigeonholed—good or bad, black or white, blue or red. And we’re not that. We’re more interesting than that. And the way that we go into the world understanding is to have these contradictions in ourselves and see them in other people and not judge them for it. To know that, in a world where debate has kind of fallen away and given way to shouting and bullying, that the best thing is not just the idea of honest debate, the best thing is losing the debate, because it means that you learn something and you changed your position. The only way really to understand your position and its worth is to understand the opposite. That doesn’t mean the crazy guy on the radio who is spewing hate, it means the decent human truths of all the people who feel the need to listen to that guy. You are connected to those people. They’re connected to him. You can’t get away from it.

This connection is part of contradiction. It is the tension I was talking about. This tension isn’t about two opposite points, it’s about the line in between them, and it’s being stretched by them. We need to acknowledge and honor that tension, and the connection that that tension is a part of. Our connection not just to the people we love, but to everybody, including people we can’t stand and wish weren’t around. The connection we have is part of what defines us on such a basic level.

Freedom is not freedom from connection. Serial killing is freedom from connection. Certain large investment firms have established freedom from connection. But we as people never do, and we’re not supposed to, and we shouldn’t want to. We are individuals, obviously, but we are more than that.

So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before.

And that’s why I’ve been talking only about you and the tension within you, because you are—not in a clichéd sense, but in a weirdly literal sense—the future. After you walk up here and walk back down, you’re going to be the present. You will be the broken world and the act of changing it, in a way that you haven’t been before. You will be so many things, and the one thing that I wish I’d known and want to say is, don’t just been yourself. Be all of yourselves. Don’t just live. Be that other thing connected to death. Be life. Live all of your life. Understand it, see it, appreciate it. And have fun.

25 Responses to ‘You are all going to die - Joss Whedon’

Surtac would have you know...

Posted May 27

Not bad.

But not as good as the David Foster Wallace one, 'This Is Water', imnsho.

Lobes swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

tl;dr But i guess better than the shitty Dr Seuss one that ditzy girls always wank about and cry over on Facebook

TC has opinions thus...

Posted May 28

If you're talking about "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" then I would like you to please stop reading what ditzy girls write on Facebook and go and read the book from cover to cover. It's an excellent life introductory story that young kids can actually relate to. And adults too, if you have an open mind and can read between the lines.

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted May 27

PNB

Kindly keep your outdated and judgemental opinions to yourself.

Really? I find that quite offensive!

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 27

: ' (

Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted May 27

PNB

I can now see a Punctuation mark in your comment.

I believe it changes everything.

If that was there before kindly disregard my comment, I spoke too soon.

If however...

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted May 27

PNB's comment on Joss Whedon's Commencement address serves as a devastating rebuttal of the U.S. conservatives' world view as expressed by George W. Bush in his comment on Iraq.

“When the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma” George W. Bush (Sept 2006)

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Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 27

Better than any address I've heard, of my own or my kids. You could do a hell of a lot worse.

Boylan's effort above for example says nothing to me. It didn't stir or inspire me or provide food for thought. Just . . . nothing.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted May 27

Pah. PNB offering was pithy, suscinct, and punctuated. Not to mention the characteristic economy of words for which he is reknowned.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

Thanks.

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Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted May 27

JB

I liked it.

Can't really argue with the 'terminal velocity' concept.

I know it's cheesy but the 'Carpe Diem' line comes to mind.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 27

Yeah I liked the David Foster Wallace one too Surtac.

"Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better"

The has resonances with one of the great motivational speeches of all time

"I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let... lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may..... You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world" - Tyler Durden.

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Red swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

Yes. Embrace your inner conflict and the shitheads around you. We're all going to die, so that's a relief,

Paul, I found your minimalist comment, ".", deeply touching. It sums up the vastness and unknowability of time and our place in the cosmos. We are, as you succinctly point out, mere ants or perhaps atoms or starlight, in the scheme of things. I agree, PNB, history is a continuum. Be the Zen, dear professor.

,

Joanna

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 27

Far better than the sad fuck who came to Cindy Marie's commencement and told us, among other things, that meaningful relationships can not be formed and maintained via technological means.

I felt an overpowering urge to run down to the podium with a copy of Without Warning and smack the fuck out of him.

Among other things.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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pitpat mutters...

Posted May 27

Yeah with PNB ,

He didn't say what I couldn't say better than I couldn't have said myself.

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w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 27

Warning : The following message contains amateur psychology

All that stuff about duality, establishing identity, seeing both sides so you can hold your ground.
As a teenager, Whedon was sent to spend a couple of years at an English boarding school, Winchester College no less. Bingo!

I saw film of a Q&A (extras on a DVD of his Firefly film, Serenity). Whedon was talking about his care with language and creating a specific argot for characters. Someone hypothesised about the influence of his boarding school experience (american boy thrown into a bear pit for upper class English boys) as influencing his care with language forms.
Whedon was visibly stopped in his tracks by the observation, paused, agreed, and then complimented the observation. I see a similar influence of his English boarding school experience in his speech quoted above.

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Mothy asserts...

Posted May 27

For the tl:dr crew, at least read the two paragraphs commencing with "I talk about this contradiction..." Great advice. Thanks for highlighting JB.

Meanwhile why is a graduation ceremony called a "commencement"?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

I dunno. Commencement ceremonies here tend to be about the start of the academic or legal year.

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 27

I think the logic is that "commencement" indicates you plan on paying society back for all (very little) they have invested in your education.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Mothy has opinions thus...

Posted May 28

Ah, the commencement of bonded servitude in the name of repaying student loans?

My wife surses her HECS debt, but honestly, it coud be worse, we could have gone through the US system...

Meanwhile Wikipedia gave me no clarity on it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduation - but did at least make "commencement" seem a less obscure word to use for a graduation ceremony. I mean convocation and invocation? Unless there is a cauldron involved, surely not...

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Disco Stu reckons...

Posted May 28

That was a great speech. And I think all the students gathered should thank their lucky stars Whedon didn't turn into a giant snake at the end.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 28

Nice one, though that would have been kinda awesome too.

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TC swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 28

I think it's an excellent speech for university students. None of them will recall the details, but hopefully a few keep a version of the gist in their minds and critically self-evaluate from time to time.

I was going to swear about how it was too fucking long but I keep my contradictory sociopathic self locked in a 1964 Mini Cooper completely enveloped in duct tape. He aint gettin out anytime soon and I don't wanna see him anyway.

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted May 29

As someone once said the most honest commencement address would contain the following words of wisdom:

Statistics show that at least 2 of you are going to die in a drunk driving accident tonight. And, for a majority of you this will be your peak.

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Music in space

Posted May 26 into Music by John Birmingham

Everyone should have seen Commander Chris Hadfield's cover of the Bowie classic Major Tom by now. If you haven't, shame on you. Here 'tis.

In the vid below, shot before he took off, he talks about about how important music can be to the astronauts, cosmonauts, whatevernauts up there. And I have to say it's something I never thought of. The latest Apple ad, featuring nothing more than people groovin to their phones' itunes libraries, does a great job of reminding us how important music can be to us as a species. And yet you almost never see it in SF.

It was important enough to the space agencies involved in the ISS to commission a bespoke guitar.

Somebody, Blarkon or Damien probably, will now interject with three examples of seminal space operas featuring the protagonists playlists as pivotal plot devices. But I don't recall any, and that's all that counts.

Watch the vid. It's fascinating, especially if you've seen Hadfield's Bowie act.

18 Responses to ‘Music in space’

yankeedog reckons...

Posted May 26

I did see the video, and Cmdr. Hadfield does a fine job.

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BobGrrl reckons...

Posted May 26

I dunno about protagonist playlists from space operas, but the music in the Battlestar Galactica remake became an important part of the plot by the end of the show. (In addition to it being easily the best original soundtrack from any TV show I've ever heard.)

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NicF reckons...

Posted May 26

Speaking of BSG, Bear McRearys version of All Along the Watchtower remains my favourite of all time.

But while trying to think of SF with music as a centrepiece I couldn't come up with anything except that great Futarama episode with Fry learning that silly instrument.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 26

"how important music can be to the astronaut"

I think that was harrowingly portrayed with Captain Picard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtmbzJNPsaQ

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Lobes is gonna tell you...

Posted May 26
  1. Close encounters of the Third Kind
  2. The Fifth Element
  3. Cloud Atlas

You're Welcome

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JBtoo has opinions thus...

Posted May 26

Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer & Ship Who Sang books. Not exactly seminal, but SF all the same.

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Dylwah swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 26

William Gibson uses music s bit, there was the dub of the rasters in space in Neuromancer, and a punk band in one of the 'Bridge' books.

Arthur C. Clarke used toccata and fugue in d minor in one of his short stories set on mars. Can't remember the name tho.

I think my favorite music in a sci fi flick is "Hardware" with PiL and Iggy as the radio dj. (Sorry mr Williams. )

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Mark Duffett ducks in to say...

Posted May 26

It's not in the film, but there is a passage in Arthur C Clarke's novel of 2001: A Space Odyssey where David Bowman 'more alone than any man in human history' after disabling HAL, tries to take solace in a range of operatic pieces including Dies Irae before eventually (from memory) settling on Bach.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 26

Dave Lister's favourite band was Rastabilly Skank. Rimmer was very familiar with their work, but greatly disliked them.

In the novel, there was some more detail about Rastabilly Skank. Amongst other songs, reference is made to Rastabilly Skank's popular love ballad,
"Hey baby, don't be ovulating tonight".

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted May 26

JB

That's a nice sounding geetar!

He can sing as well and I noticed a Dsus4 and G chord in there so I petition he do a version of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Of course they'll have to lift up a Les Paul, Fender Twin Reverb Amp(original vibra) and a Jimi Hendrix wah wah pedal.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 26

From the YouTube evidence, he did quite a few covers up there.

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damian mutters...

Posted May 26

I'm sure there must have been a reference to music at some point in Keith Laumer's Retief! stories. Can't quite remember... I liked some of the musical themes in Banks' stuff , the latest one as well as Look to Windward - but I suppose that is different to the sort of thing you mean.

Does seem to be relatively little explored, and I'd have thought it's more about how much extra imagination it takes and the near certainty of going wrong.

Anthony would have you know...

Posted May 27

The one that makes a ukelele sound good? The Antagonistic Undecagonstring that needs four arms to play...

There's also the baddies in Eric Flints Empire novels. Course of Empire and Crucible of Empire. The Ekhat are a rather unpleasant xenophobic lot of musical nasties who are so bad that any sort of rythmic sound terrifies the various species who have come into contact with them.

John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series also contains a significant playlist. Someone's put together a (not definitive) YouTube playlist for the seriest at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBE19F761F632BEF3

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DNABeast ducks in to say...

Posted May 27

I'm a much bigger fan of ISS - Is Someone Singing where Cmdr. Hadfield sings along with Ed Robinson and the Barenaked Ladies.

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Red ducks in to say...

Posted May 27

Commander H did a brilliant cover. He's a pretty good singer for an astronaut. A couple of flat notes at the start, but he gave a credible performance and hit all the high notes. I wonder if he'll go on tour now.

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Bondiboy66 has opinions thus...

Posted May 27

Star Trek, the original series - Spock hangs out with the Space Hippies and plays a....somethingorother that is sort of guitar-like.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 27

Sure, Bondi. But that really doesn't explain this.

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