Archive for May, 2008

You missed Robotron 2084, I was just warming your feet and I’ll just mind the van shall I?

The Wandering Nerd May 22nd, 2008

My flight into Melbourne didn’t get in until pretty late, and by the time I made it back to my friend’s place it was gone midnight. I’m staying with Max and Marty - from the band Asleep in the Park - whom I met in Amsterdam and later on met up with in Prague. They were kind enough to let me crash and also pick me up from the airport and drive my very exhausted cloaca into the city. The bassist from the band - Naomi - was out having drinks so I put on my big boy pants and went out to catch up with her. Being my first Saturday night in Melbourne, I had a duty to uphold to you, my kind reader. Collecting experiences just like little glass beads and sharing them with you via the interwebs. We’ll call it ‘existential marbles’. The intent was merely to meet some of the people in my new home city, have a couple drinks, and head back…I ended up watching the sunrise. A very interesting introduction to the city…MY The City!

There’s a big rivalry between the two cities in Australia. Yes, Virginia, there are more than two cities in Oz, but don’t tell the inhabitants of either Melbourne or Sydney that. I’m not sure they have enough scorn to expand their scornfulness, what with scorn being a limited resource in most humans. Me, I’m a font of scorn, I have a boundless supply of tumultuous scorn at my scornful disposal. They really have a thing about taking swipes at the other city. I found them both to be pretty cool, they are both very different so it’s like comparing a wheelbarrow to a collie. Sydney has a really metropolitan vibe, all glass and steel, and the people there are the classic model style beauty. Blondes and beach bums, flashy bars and nightclubs all trying to out cut the edge of style with the others. Melbourne on the other hand is all retro chic, a really artsy vibe with a lot of music venues and galleries. Mostly people there are in the alternative fold. I liked them both for different reasons, either one is frickin’ sweet.

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I stopped by the Melbourne Museum - getting free admission with the fake student ID I picked up in Bangkok - and got wrangled into being part of some study that the University was doing. It boiled down to having a little Malaysian guy follow me around taking notes on what I looked at, and what route I took. You’ll see some of the photos, it’s one of the better museums I’ve been to. I did a little bit of research on the indigenous animals of Oz while I was there, mainly the ones that can kill you. Which is pretty much all of them. Spiders, snakes, scorpions, box jellyfish, giant squids, wild dingos, etc… perhaps the most frightening are the legendary and terrifying Drop Bear. They pounce on you from their evil lairs high up in the trees, sometimes devouring whole tour groups in one go. Just look at that thing…*shiver*

The ACMI was also hosting an exhibition called “Game On” - a history of video games. It’s like this city is just trying to woo me isn’t it? Good food, great music, lovely ladies, and every video game from the original pong up to a bunch of Wiis - still a stupid name. On of the presentations was on Machinima - using in game engines for the purpose of making movies, shorts and general animation. One that was very impressive:Ballad of Black Mesa do check that one out when you have a minute, even if you have no idea what Half-life 2 is - in which case I may question why the hell you’re reading this little bloggy thing - it’s still an impressive effort.

On the flip side, aussie commercials suck. Full stop.

I had another with synchronicity - twice actually, though not involving Ayers Rock. One of the guys I met from Melbourne when I was in Paris hadn’t been in contact with me for a long time. While Naomi was driving me around the city showing me some of the sights we passed him on the street waiting for a bus and stopped for a chat. Then, when engaged in a version of Project Mayhem - which I’ll cover more in a minute - we were walking back past a bar where a group of girls were getting kicked out for being too drunk. Turns out I knew two of them from back in Laos, so thousands of mile away, not knowing we were even going to be in the same city at the same time, I was walking past a random bar that was no where near where I was staying and at that precise moment I ran into people I’d known. Small small world kids.

Our Project Mayhem involved putting up flyers and posters for the band. Little did I know that there’s a hefty fine if the cops catch you doing it, to the tune of $200 per flyer…I find this out when I’m walking around with 50 flyers. Then we hopped in a white van and drove around putting up full size posters, everyone wearing black beanies and hoodies. There’s some sort of poster mafia that runs in Melbourne so we had to be surreptitious in how we did it, sneaking around and seeing if any of the other white vans rolling around were rival ‘gangs’. Thug life, dog…thug life…

The stay in Melbourne was very productive as well. Spent time sorting out more information with the uni, had a good few days of wandering about the city getting my bearings and finding some possible neighborhoods to live, checking on basic services, etc… I wasn’t just there for fun you know. I’m a doctor of journalism goddamnit!

And, as it turns out, I have been awarded a scholarship for the University as well. Seems like fortune does indeed favor the bold…so go be bold gang…be bold everytime.

Tiltviewer Link

will drive our ships to new lands,
to fight the horde, singing and crying:
valhalla, i am coming!
-led zeppelin

Aussi, Aussie, Aussie! A bit pricey, and how many *&#!@ commercials are they gonna show?!?!

The Wandering Nerd May 19th, 2008

I’m in Australia! Sydney, to be precise. I got in on Wednesday and have been having a great time getting caught back up with some friends I’d made in Venice: Liam, Anja, and Chad - who susequently went on to travel with me through most of Italy and Greece. I’ve met tons of people on this whole ‘let’s travel aimlessly!’ thing, the vast majority I assume I will never, ever meet again. But there have been a select few that I seemed to develop a kinship with beyond the usual single serving friendship. It was strange, Liam, Anja and I were only hanging out in Venice together but we all became firm friends just in that short time. Good kids that I have really been looking forward to catching up with. They’ve been most kind in ferrying me around, showing me the sites, providing crash space and buying more for me than I would have liked. Stupid stupid Australian hospitality….

I can’t describe to you the joy and peace that filled me as I walked out of the Sydney airport to not be greated by hundereds of touts and taxi drivers. Don’t get me wrong, I loved southeast Asia. Going back through sometime in the future is definately in the cards, especiallly to Thailand. The madness and cacophany of the place had just finally worn down my last little bit of nerves. I spent five months over there…wow…I hadn’t really thought about that until I just wrote it. That’s a long bloody damn time of “TUK-TUK!” “TAXI!” “You want marra-whana?!” “First sale of the day! Good price!” “Boom boom?” - all of which translates to the very simple ‘give me your money.’ You’re not so much of a tourist as you are a money belt with legs. It adds up and soon you want to strangle everyone that says ‘Hello’ because you’ve become so jaded that they are just talking to you for a sale. Enter Sydney and be free the shackles of misused touristika capitalisma!

Being picked up at the airport by friends made me feel like a rockstar, well a rockstar riding shotgun in a little Mazda, but I’ll take it. For the first time I didn’t have to worry about figuring out the city, finding a hostel - or the nearest bar. It was magical. Hell having the street signs in English was a bit of a rush. Though the names of places are only loosely English. I mean c’mon, ‘Woolloomoolo,’ ‘Waggawagga,’ ‘Tittybong,’ ‘Tittybong’!?! Actually I kinda’ like that one. In some cases it’s like they got all of the extra vowels the eastern European countries misplaced and felt that something must be done with them.

Australia, Aussie, or ‘Oz’ for those that want to be hip, is great. People are friendly beyond all rational concept of the term. I was walking around the city and a girl asked if I could help push start her car, as I was pushing along, three other guys joined the effort. Upon starting a round of ‘Good on ya’ Mate! and ‘G’day!’ was said and we all dispersed. Yeah they really do say ‘G’day’ and ‘No worries!’ all the damn time. It’s clean and beautiful. I also need to point out that per capita I think Oz has the largest number of gorgeous girls of any country in the world. I don’t think you could swing a dead cat on any street in Sydney and not have it hit a hot girl/woman/chica. More than likely the longer you do it the better the chances go, as they’ll start coming up asking to have a go at swinging the thing and tell you a dirty joke while they’re doing it.

Anja and I walked down around the quay and the opera house. This has been mentioned before, but periodically there are moments when traveling when you realize exactly how far out of your…context…you really are. Walking up to the Sydney Opera House I had one of those moments of existentialist wonder. Who’d have thunk it, lil ‘ol me, all the way on the other side of the world. Later that night we partied it up at Liam’s bar - having a friend who is a bartender is both good and bad mind you. Chad showed up and we spent a lot of time getting caught on the adventures and misadventures that we’d all gotten into over the last 6 months, as well as going back over all the laughs and gaffs of the times we were together. ‘Twas a good night all around.

Today Anja, myself and Liam all took a big driving tour of the north of Sydney checking out some smaller bays and beaches. This whole place - once you’re out of the downtown district of the opera theater and skyscrapers - reminds me so much of small town America it’s unreal. Well, like 1960-1970 small town America. Before Wal-mart and Home Depot moved in and destroyed the very idea of small shops. These are ‘main street’ communities, with a row of shops, eateries, and services surrounded by housing. Which, according to the many, many hours I spent playing Sim City is a woefully inefficient method of constructing a city, but it seems to work. All of these little communities moved happily along and grew into what is now Sydney, and they all cheerfully moved into the 21st century without losing the charm and hospitality that comes with a small town.

So far, I’m unabashedly saying that I am well and truly enjoying this country….

Tiltviewer link

you must not know about me
you must not know about me
-beyonce

Yes, they actually do, I was born a year after it was over! and alright, now what?

The Wandering Nerd May 12th, 2008

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Welcome to lovely Hanoi! I only stopped in Hue long enough to change buses before hopping on the next overnight sleeper bus here to Hanoi. Finally landing in a hostel - a much needed change. I’m not really a ‘guesthouse’ sort of guy. They are just really cheap hotels and the moment you compartmentalize people, even travelers, they stop wanting to interact with each other. All of the guesthouses really seem to be this sterile environment, and people freeze up if you try to talk to them. In the hostel environment you end up getting to meet so many people in such a short time frame that you can’t really help but have a good time. I have been really in an anti-social sort of mood of late, so this is really what I need to recharge my batteries. Well this and vodka tonics the size you see.

If I am never ever on a sleeper bus again, it will be far too soon. The one thing to remember when dealing with the bus is that the horn is used at the slightest provocation - often I think the driver was simply bored and needed to mentally stimulate himself by playing little tunes. Rather foolishly, I picked the top bunk directly behind the driver thinking it would be convenient for the whole entry/exit thing. By about 4 in the morning I was still awake and franticly fighting the urge to garrote the guy from my perch. I’m only slightly joking. Sleep dep-ing someone who doesn’t sleep well anyway is a recipe for something that ends in ‘-cide’. He and I had a tenuous relationship. When you get on the bus you have to take your shoes off, apparently I went up one too many steps with my shoes on and he slapped me across the thigh and babbled at me in Vietnamese pointing to my feet. I may have said something unpleasant to him, possibly even something rude, but we had this great thing where I didn’t understand him yelling at me and he couldn’t understand me cursing him so we both just stood there and yelled for a while. He made it a point to hold the little plastic bag - in which were meant to keep said shoes - open for all of the girls getting on the bus which meant sitting up a few steps and leering down their shirts as they took their shoes off. All class this guy.

The Vietnamese use the buses for more than just travelers. It functions as an impromptu public transit service - people will just sit in the aisles while we’re all asleep - as well as a parcel courier service. This means that the bus, throughout the course of the night, makes frequent stops where the driver slams on the breaks while blowing the horn - in point of fact any change necessitates the application of the horn - then he engages in a lengthy, loud and heated debate with some random person on the side of the road, a package is tossed in the bus, they give him some money and we rocket off into the night once more, me cursing the dark gods for not granting me a quick death.

Hanoi is the best city I’ve found yet in Vietnam. It’s loud, and I’m talking really really loud when you’re walking along the street, the horns don’t seem to ever end. I’m developing some sort of pathological hatred of horns. Maybe I’m just beating a dead dog here, but really the horn over here has transcended any acceptable balance of usefulness. I’m sorely tempted to set up a shop selling ‘horn fluid’ and telling people they may run out if they don’t stock up.

I stopped by the Vietnam Army Museum for a quick wander. They were supposed to have an old F-111, but apparently no longer. At least I couldn’t find it, and it’s not like they’re small. They did have a UH-1 - Huey , a couple of Migs - Mig-21 and Mig-17 and an A-27 Dragonfly - which later became the strangely named T-37 Tweet, still used for USAF undergraduate pilot training. I had some Firefox moments, dreaming of hopping into the Mig-21 and heading out…too bad there was no engine, they’d mounted in in concrete and all of the guards took a special interest in me for the entirety of my time there. I must look shifty.

The ‘museum’ was mostly written exclusively in Vietnamese, so I mainly just looked at stuff that interested me, not feeling the need to read everything. As I’ve said, it’s a pleasant way to enjoy a museum. You just focus on the things that you find cool. A number of strange looks were thrown at me while I was in the museum area, I think I was the only westerner. By the way the girls at the ticket counter looked at me - then at each other - I assume that most people don’t answer ‘America’ when asked where their from as they buy tickets.

This kinda’ brings up the whole ‘do you find you get negative reactions from the people you meet when you say you’re from America?’ The answer: Nope. The only times I’ve ever even had people be even remotely churlish about where I’m from, they’ve been guys invariably from Canada. I don’t know what it is lately but all the Canadian blokes I’ve met have been arrogant sots, and from me that means something. The ‘American’ stereotype isn’t something I’ve ever been accused of, other than the loud part. Which is true in my case. So it goes.

Speaking of going, my time in Vietnam is rapidly drawing to a close. My next post will be from a completely different area of the world. Where could it be you ask? It could be…

*Updated*: I don’t know if I just haven’t noticed this before or if there’s a bug in the NextGen Gallery thing. Seems to me now that when you go to the next page of a gallery it forces a full page reload - not that big of a deal - but it also jumps back to the top of the page. I find this very annoying, especially on slow connections. Sadly the other options all require Flash and I want something with minimum requirements for you, my gentle audience. So here’s the solution. I’m going to include a link to a Tiltview version of the gallery, as well as keep the older style. If you’ve got the PC and bandwidth to handle the fancy schmancy Tiltview, go for it. If not, you’re sort of stuck with the page jumps until I get more than 20 minutes in an airport to come up with a fix. Trust me, keeping this thing going isn’t as easy as I make it look….and I make it look gooooood. -Nerd->OUT

Tiltviewer link

sometimes i want to move to the other part of town
but to keep from going out of my mind
i move the furniture around
moving furniture around
-the handsome family

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