Sunday, November 29, 2009

Recent movies

The flight to and from Europe allowed me to catch up on a whole bunch of movies that I had wanted to see (but never managed the time).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The shit-talker

I hate people who talk shit. I hate even more people who talk shit with authority. Take the young man who shared my flight from Frankfurt to Melbourne. Mid 20s. Spent a year in Germany. Coming back home. Still a year to go on his VCE. Talkative. I don't know his name but, for the sake of convenience, let's call him Shit talker (ST for short).

At the gate in Frankfurt, whilst we were waiting to board, ST struck up conversation with fellow passengers. He tells them that he went to Galipoli for Anzac Day in January. One of the fellow passenger looked perplexed and asks "Do you mean Australia Day?" The shit talker replied, "No. Australia Day is in February"....Cringe.

It gets worse. ST decides to talk about politics. Apparently, "Howard was the best prime minister we've ever had" (probably because ST isn't old enough to remember any other). On the topic of immigration, ST turns to an American guy and says "There are no Australians left in Melbourne. There is a suburb called Springvale. It's full of Vietnamese people and none of them speak any english. I went there once and I was the only Aussie in the whole street."... Double cringe.

Back from Berlin

I'm back from my whirlwind trip. Had a great time but I don't think I ever got into the European time zone (had a hard time sleeping and was waking up at weird hours of the morning). The conference went well. The food was fantastic...the Germans seem to really love their pork and cabbage. Hunted down and devoured a bratwurst (and a currywurst too).

Berlin was beautiful, just as friends had said. Lots of museums. Architecture was outstanding. Spent a whole day wandering the streets and taking in the city.

Notable trip highlights include:

1. Listening to the flight attendants bitching about vegetarian passengers and exchanging tips on how best to keep unwanted leg and armpit hair at bay.
2. Eating a hotdog purchased from a Christmas night market at Unter den Linden.
3. Picking out postcards from a street side vendor.
4. Shopping at H & M (bought a hat and scarf for me and a shirt for Nathan).
5. Checking out quirky carboard farm animals and dinosaurs at an exhibition called Shitrospective at Contemporary Fine Arts near the museum island (see installation view below).
6. Meandering through the Jewish memorial.
7. Devouring the best breakfast ever on an airplane (sausage, scrambled eggs, hashbrown, mushroom, tomato).

Friday, November 20, 2009

At last...

The exit row seats for my trip have finally been secured. Am now pretty much ready to go. Yay!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bratwurst in Berlin

Less than a week to go. My talk for the conference is pretty much done. I'll practise it today and try and get some feedback.

It's going to be a ridiculously short trip. Fly out Saturday. Arrive Sunday (German time). Conference is from Monday til Wednesday. I have half a day to explore the city on Thursday (and look for a bratwurst hotdog stand). Then it's homeward bound on Thursday night. By the following Saturday, I would have gone half way around the world and back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seat pitch

As far as long-haul travel is concerned, I am one of those people who always turns up extra early at the airport in an attempt to secure an exit row seat. At 197 cm tall (yes, I know I am a freak), such a seat is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Qantas has started charging for the privilege of this extra leg room. That's $160 bucks a pop each way from Australia to Europe.

In truth, I don't mind paying if it lessens the anxiety of potentially missing out (especially if it's actually my work that pays). However, the whole process has turned out to be quite tedious. First up, it doesn't seem like travel agents, or indeed Qantas staff, have much of a clue as to how the whole process works (judging by the long, awkward silences and the 'umms' and 'ahhs'). Second, if you do manage to find out how it all works (and eventually, I did), it would appear that (1) booking an exit seat online involves the use of a fickle online booking system which may not work, and (2) booking over the phone is only good during regular business hours. On top of it all, no one can actually access the system until one week before departure (that's next Saturday for me). the long run, I probably haven't really lessened the anxiety after all...just moved it forward by about a week before departure. The question remains: will I get my exit row seats to Germany or not? I guess I'll know tomorrow (if the computer system works) or Monday (if I have to call the 1300 number).

As a postscript, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article today bitching about airlines charging extra costs onto the price of the ticket. One of the things they discussed was, of course, Qantas' decision to charge for exit row seats.

Man on train...

...pacing back and forth, moving between carriages. Occassionally his head jerks back and forth involuntarily. I wonder what's his story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Different version of the same event

A few weeks ago, Nate and I went to the Greyhound and met up with one of his mates who is a regular there. We later heard that he had been bashed when he left the nightclub.

Anyhoo.I was speaking to one of my students today who works at the nightclub as a barman and he tells me that, contrary to what they had also been told, Nate's friend wasn't bashed after all.... He actually fell over and hurt himself when he was in a drunken stupor. I guess being set upon by a couple of thugs sounds a lot more impressive than falling over and breaking your own nose.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Art for art's sake

I spent my morning marking exams in a coffee shop in the city yesterday. After I was done, I went for lunch in Chinatown before catching a tram out to Richmond to pick up the painting I had bought a couple of weeks ago.

Nate hadn't previously seen the painting and his reaction, upon viewing the canvas, was one of surprise and utter disbelief manifested, rather irritatingly, in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

Nate (between bouts of laughter): "Jesus Christ. I could have painted that."
Me: "That's not the point. Look at the colours and the brush strokes."
Nate (still laughing): "It's shit"

By now, I felt like I was the National Gallery of Australia in the 1970s, just after it had bought Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles for a cool $1.3 million. Like Nathan, the Australian public just didn't get it. But look at the value of Blue poles now! It's worth hundreds of millions. Nathan found my over-the-top anology most amusing. So, feeling defeated, I crawled off to bed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The ultimate sea urchin experience

Sea urchins are spiky echinoderms that creep around on the seafloor on tiny, retractable tube feet. Unfortunately for them, they are also very tasty.

Took my dad and one of my sisters to Shoya on saturday night. They had the degustation; I opted for sushi.

Being the greedy pig that I am, I also ordered a side of 'uni', or sea urchin roe. The delicate slivers of yummy softness were presented inside the halved, spiky exoskeleton of an urchin that sat on top a leaf perched on a block of ice. It was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. The roe was soft and sweet and delicious....Heaven from a bottom feeder.