Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category

Hagia Sophia – what’s good and bad about Turkey.

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

After 85 years the conversion of Hagia Sofia, from a museum back to a mosque, marks a turning point for modern Turkey. 

The basilica of Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1, was inaugurated in 537 and apart from a few changes, especially to the dome, is largely intact.

The emperor had building material brought from all over the empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

It held the title for being the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years and was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, four minarets were added to the exterior.

As part of the secularising of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1935, the basilica was tuned into a museum. 

This UNESCO World Heritage site is the most popular tourist destination in Istanbul. In 2014 over 3.5 million people visited the museum. Since then numbers had dropped off, due to terrorist concerns, but have steadily risen again with 3 million visitors in 2019.

It has been a wonderful example of how Turkey spans both the east and west, faiths and cultures.

This retrograde step is yet another move by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative, popularist  government to turn back the clock on history. It’s a rejection of the secularism that has made Turkey such a diverse and interesting country.

Isolation.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and in an effort to ‘level the curve’ we have gone into social isolation.

From a personal point of view there are good and bad aspects in being forced to become a hermit.

The case for:

If you are a recluse like me, isolation is rather welcome – now I have an excuse not to socialise. 

Our years of travel, especially in countries with a foreign language, have taught Thea and me to become dependent on each other’s company. We may have been in bustling cities like Barcelona, or Bucharest but in essence we were on our own.

Teaching myself new skills has been a lot of fun. 

I love T-shirts and except for the rare occasion, wear one every day. 

I also like to create my own bespoke designs, with graphics that are verbal, visual and hopefully amusing. 

In the very early days of the lockdown I started to develop a range of tees featuring the facets of our new norm. No hand shaking, no touching and lots of hand washing. 

Developing the graphics for these was challenging and rewarding and taught me a lot. See my previous post ‘It’s gone viral’

Trying to help some of my Bravo Tango Bravo (BTB) clients, to weather this pandemic storm, has also been a bit of fun and stretched the mind.

Also through BTB I re-engineered the T-shirts and they were presented to a poster company. The ideas were offered free of charge with the suggestion that they run them as a community service.

I have even approached some new businesses to see if I could help. A hand sanitiser concept for Bad Shepherd, a local craft brewer and a repurposing of reusable coffee cups for Think Cups in Sydney.

 

They all fell on very deaf ears.

My brother-in-law Mark, not a man to sit around and do nothing, decided to distil some 100-proof alcohol while in isolation. From this he is making Limoncello and a Botanical Gin.

Naturally he needed some labels.

I modified my own Limoncello label for him and designed a new one for the Gin.

In researching the history of Gin I discovered an interesting story.

During the Eighty Year War (1568–1648) in Holland, English soldiers drank it to calm their nerves, this gave rise to the name, Dutch courage.

This surprising fact naturally found its way onto the label. After all, everyone loves a ‘I didn’t know that’ moment.

Our holiday house at Sorrento has always been an enjoyable retreat. Over recent months, since our last overseas trip, we have been spending two to three days a week there. 

Now it’s almost become our home. 

The roles have been switched between Sandringham and Sorrento.

We are truly isolated there. 

The house is open, spacious and on a large block of land. There are only a couple of neighbours and they are a fair distance away. 

But best of all there are many more places to walk and the tracks are varied and very often almost empty. 

We have got to know the back streets of Sorrento and Blairgowrie very well and seen parts of the amazing coastline we didn’t know existed.

Before we made the move to Sorrento we were also finding interesting new walks in Sandringham. This was in an attempt to keep away from the crowds that were now overrunning our favourite beach paths.

These walks were made more interesting by trying to spot rainbows and teddy bears.

As part of a British idea to keep kids occupied, while in lockdown, they were encouraged to create rainbows and put them up in their windows or draw then on the footpath outside their houses. They then had fun finding them in their neighbourhood when they were allowed out for a walk with their parents.

Another similar idea, this one from New Zealand, was to put teddy bears up in places so they could be again spotted by the local kids.

I did spend some time drawing a teddy and a rainbow so friends could print them off and put them on show.

While in Sorrento I have been forced to become a handyman, or sorts, making repairs rather than having it done for me.

In Sandringham I even helped a new owner install a key safe. She thought that I was very good, while I was just happy that I didn’t stuff it up.

The downside to this is my toolbox is rather meagre, so every new task I undertake seems to require a new piece of equipment.

Fortunately hardware stores are still open.

Usually when were at Sorrento we would visit the video shop, in the cinema, and get a DVD for the nights entertainment.

Yes, there is still a video shop in Sorrento.

Due to the pandemic the video shop closed so we were forced into buying a new ‘smart’ TV, in order to avoid watching ‘Free-to-air’. Now we can, almost seamlessly, continue watching the same series we were watching in Sandringham.

I say “almost seamlessly” as the TV we have in Sandringham operates on Apple TV while the new one in Sorrento is an Android.

One is a Mac and the other a PC – how ironic.

Reading is another boost to my entertainment format.

I have been through about six novels since lockdown, not all of them great, but they do help to fill in the day and night.

Owning a Kindle means that as soon as one book is finished, I can easily download another one – without ever leaving the house.

It’s the perfect quarantine library.

I get more BBQ time at Sorrento.

The grill is on the back deck and out of the weather. So most nights, when it’s not raining and the menu requires it, I BBQ.

We even invented Scarborough Fair Chicken. Naturally it’s stuffed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, all of which are now grown in our ever expanding herb garden.

I no longer carry cash. 

With so many businesses rejecting hard currency, I’ve gone digital. I’m now using an app to pay most bills – large and small. 

I’ve had $25 in my wallet for at least nine weeks. 

As international travel is off the agenda for the foreseeable future, I have started to revisit some of our past adventures.

In recent years, as we have done so much travelling, my blogs have become an electronic diary rather that an expression of my thoughts, attitudes and ideas. 

Now is the perfect time to reflect on what we have seen and done. So I have been going through many of my blogs and updated them with dates to make them more succinct.

The case against:

For a time there, when we were walking, people didn’t like you touching their dogs. This was rather a bore, especially when you are a ‘serial dog patter’ like me. 

Living 30 metres from a supermarket makes you complacent about planning your shopping. 

If we needed anything we could just walk over the road and get it. 

Now when we are in Sandringham we are trying to restrict time spent out of the apartment, so we have been forced to plan our menus. This isn’t easy, when most of our shopping has been on impulse. 

At Sorrento we are limiting our shopping to once a week, rather than four or five times per day as we have done in Sandringham. This has forced us to plan a menu rather than just come up with something on the day.

What a strange time it is.

In December I got the VicEmergency app because of the bushfire danger. Then, come April, I’m downloading COVIDSafe, for obvious reasons. 

As I have mentioned I welcomed social distancing, as it was a confirmation of my nomadic tendency. 

Then everyone discovered Zoom.  

Now People are meeting more than ever, even if it is in the cyber universe.

Many have found comfort in daytime TV and discovered programs that they would have never seen before.

Sadly, the only daytime TV we watched was the live streaming of a funeral. 

The advertising and marketing industries have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 and Bravo Tango Bravo is no exception.

I do miss the work I get from BTB, it has always been stimulating and an opportunity to develop new skills and keep up with contemporary marketing trends. Over the years I have worked on a variety of interesting clients and have learnt a lot about trucks, tradies, machinery and engineering.

Social distancing has forced the closure of sporting venues, bars, restaurants, schools, factories and a myriad other places, including airlines and even counties.

I must admit that I am missing the Friday night drinks we used to have at Hobsons in Sandringham and the odd meal out at a local restaurant.

However the biggest negative to this whole disaster is not being able to travel.

Again this year we had planned to spend several months in Europe and the US, starting in May. This new adventure was built around the wedding, in Italy, of a mate’s son and his partner, plus celebrating our granddaughter’s first birthday in Granada. This has now been cancelled and we have no idea when we will be able to reschedule our trip.

But to be very honest, this is a first world problem and we must consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to live the way we do.

There are millions around the world who aren’t as lucky and will be effected in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.

It’s gone viral.

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

As part of our forced isolation, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been teaching myself new skills on the computer.

Part of this has involved developing a suite of T-shirts that dramatises the new ‘social responsibilities’ that have now become the norm. 

I already had a range of Tees designed and ready to print. These were having a go at the Federal Government for its lack of action regarding Climate Change and last summer’s disastrous bushfires. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has overshadowed these events and these Tees now sit on the back-burner as unfortunately do the issues.

A catalyst for developing the COVID-19 Tees, was a ‘Call to action’ to the world’s creative community from the United Nations. The article was published in the US marketing and advertising magazine AdWeek. It was seeking submissions from around the globe for creative people to come up with ways to promote social safety and a resolve to stop the pandemic.

I felt that T-shirts were a logical platform to express these ideas, especially if they had simple graphics done with a sense of fun. 

After all, humour has always been a great way of making a serious message memorable.

I had already designed three Tees and had them printed at Tee Junction, so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a few more and make a complete set.

I have also offered all these designs, free of charge, to Tee Junction and hope that they will promote and sell them on their website. I have asked them if the profits could go to a community charity supporting the effort of the First Responders.

As another initiative, I have taken the ‘It’s gone viral’ idea and developed a range of posters. Through Bravo Tango Bravo these have been offered to a poster company in the hope that they run them to promote social responsibility.

Let’s see what happens.

It’s sad but true and also very very funny.

Friday, April 24th, 2020

 

In the midst of all the plethora of pandemic pandemonium around COVID-19, we have been bombarded with a lot of rather humorous stuff.

I first saw this on Facebook and few weeks ago and laughed at it’s poignancy. As the weeks went on and more and more finger-pointing, back-stepping, back-stabbing and lunacy emanated from the White House, I kept on thinking back to this cartoon.

Sometimes political cartoons are the funniest and that’s because truth is often stranger than fiction.

Priceless.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

In the midst of all the gloom and doom, resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s refreshing to see someone with a sense of humour. Especially when it’s taking the piss out of all the idiots hoarding truck loads of toilet paper, in the slim chance that they are going to be put into quarantine.

I spotted this wonderfully improvised poster in a Sorrento fish and chip shop window last Saturday.

It was a long weekend and judging by the giggles from the many passers-by, it was having the right effect.

Is the Coca Cola Company clutching at straws?

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

On our most recent trip to Berlin, I was surprised to see this street poster for Coke.

Roughly translated it proudly proclaims: ‘For serious pizza serve the original.’

I fully understand food and wine, matching, even food and beer matching, but food and Coke is just silly.

While the uptake of bottled water is growing worldwide, Coke’s market share, especially in Germany, is on the slide. Their worldwide business has shrunk by 2% per annum over the last ten years.

So it’s no wonder that they have adopted the rather bizarre strategy of trying to make a fizzy, sugar laden soft drink match with food.

We must take the politics out of climate change.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Joel Pett USA Today 2009

Joel Pett USA Today 2009

 

Expecting that world leaders will adopt meaningful strategies to halt climate change is wishful thinking.

In the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Madrid, Spain, the majority of delegates came from the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This group consists of 197 parties and 165 signatories and they are sourced from existing governments.

There in lies the problem.

With popularism on the rise, so comes nationalism and an: “It’s all about me” approach to world issues.

Take Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy as an example.

Politicians aren’t concerned about the future of the world, only their own future prospects at the next election.

As Todd Stern — the US Climate Change envoy has said: 

“Climate change is not a conventional environmental issue … It implicates virtually every aspect of a state’s economy, so it makes countries nervous about growth and development. This is an economic issue every bit as it is an environmental one.”

A possible solution would be to take the power of these decisions away from the politicians and give it to the scientists. Both sides of parliament would, in a bipartisan election, vote for a group of eminent scholars. This would be the group that would devise the strategies and goals for our future wellbeing. 

They would be unencumbered by political divisiveness and bring a rational, science based logic to  the plan moving forward.

Obviously if this idealistic system was to work it would have to be adopted on a world wide basis.

I doubt that this could ever be achieved.

The other alternative is for people power to decide and that means that there needs to be more climate change activists and increased demonstrations – in other words revolution.

This may well work as has been seen by the reaction to seventeen year old Greta Thunberg’s growth of influence. She and her ‘School strike for climate change’ movement must be doing something right to have scared conservative world leaders and political commentators to the extent she has.

On December 12, 2019, Donald Trump, in reaction to Greta being named Time’s Person of the Year, tweeted:

“So ridiculous,” then followed up with, “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

So this so called world leader’s approach to climate change is to ridicule a teenager for having an opinion that differs from his.

Given the right incentive this people’s revolution could also extend to involving sport’s lovers.

On December 27th the ABC wrote:

“Extreme heat due to climate change could send cricket’s Boxing Day Test into extinction, researchers say.”

This article warned that if temperatures continue to rise, sporting events like the cricket would have to be greatly modified or even moved to another season.

There were crowds of over 200,000 at the Boxing Day test in Melbourne – they would not be pleased.

Then there are the other international public summer events like tennis, golf and the Grand Prix.

A sure way to put the average Australian offside is to threaten their sporting fixtures.

And there is the participation in summer sports by the Aussie sports lover. Just imagine the outcry if venues were to be shut down on days of extreme heat due to health risks. Tennis, basketball and netball courts closed while athletic fields, golf courses, cycle paths and even beaches would all be off limits on days when the air quality was poor.

It’s therefore no wonder that the authors of this particular article, the Australian Conservation Foundation, were encouraging Cricket Australia to take stronger climate change action.

I started to write this blog in December, before the full extent of the early bushfire season was evident. Since then, as the fires rage and spread from state to state, more news about the effects of climate inaction are hitting the headlines.

On January 9, 2020, news.com wrote this article:

“Australians believe there’s a climate emergency and want the country mobilised like it was during the wars.”

This introduced a research study, carried out by the Australia Institute, and done in November, 2019, before the bushfire crisis. It pointed out that almost two thirds of Australians want action on climate change.

Also on January 9, the ABC wrote:

“Australia suffers tourism blow from bushfires and air quality as US Department of State updates travel advisory.”

This was just a week after Tourism Australia launched a lavish television campaign, staring Kylie Minogue, aimed at getting more tourists to visit.

Then the next day, on January 10, the ABC’s TripleJ Hack wrote:

“Are we looking at the end of summer music festivals as we know them?”

This was as a result of four music festivals, Lost Paradise, Falls Festival, Day on the Green and Rainbow Serpent, either being cancelled or postponed due to bush fires or poor air quality.

Our government is even copping flack from overseas politicians, as seen in this Age article from January 10:

“British MPs attack Australia’s climate change efforts as bushfires rage.”

Australia’s emissions reduction targets were criticised as being inadequate and the Morrison government was urged to lift its game on climate change.

As British Labour’s spokesman for peace and disarmament, Fabian Hamilton, put it: 

“Any group of individuals who can look at those figures and continue to deny that global warming and climate change are real issues are equivalent to those people who still insist that the world is flat.”

He went on: 

“Yet, sadly, such individuals include the current President of the United States, Donald Trump; the current President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro; and – I say this with great regret, given what his country is currently experiencing – the current Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.”

Even the European press is having a go at our government’s policies. This article in Deutsche Welle, the German state owned newspaper, wrote on January 10:

“The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Australia last out of the 57 countries for its climate policy, describing Morrison’s conservative government as a ‘regressive force’.”

Our politicians aren’t just being lambasted overseas but here in Australia. That’s if the latest opinion polls have any bearing on the matter.

This headline was in news.com.au on January 13:

“Scott Morrison suffers a brutal poll setback as another firefighter dies amid the Australian Bushfire crisis.”

The revolution has already started, with both the Liberal party and Scott Morrison taking a hit in the polls. And there is one thing that governments, on both sides of the floor, agree on and that’s public opinion.

Rupert Murdoch has suddenly found a conscience by pledging $5 million to the bushfire appeal. But whatever you do, don’t mention ‘climate change’.

And now his son, James, has come out and strongly criticised News Corp’s stance on the climate crisis denial. 

The future of the world shouldn’t be decided by ‘Old Farts’ like me but the people that climate change will really effect – the next generation. 

And if the effects of climate change play out, as they have so far this year, then that change will come sooner, rather than later – despite what the politicians think.

What a surprise.

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

 

Brighton Beach Rail Tunnel

On my first good walk after returning home, I went north towards Brighton.

Just opposite the Brighton Railway Station is a bricked up tunnel that used to run under Beach Road. There has always been some form of artwork there but I was very surprised to see this new mural.

Painted by John Lawry, it cleverly links the history of the St Kilda and Brighton Railway Company with the tunnel.

Built in 1861, the tunnel was created to link the railway line, at Brighton Beach Station, with the pier that was apposite.

The new artwork is painted in the Trompe l’Oeil style (French for ‘deceive the eye’) which dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. By using perspective the mural gives an illusion of depth and dimension.

It suits this space perfectly.

Street dogs.

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Colonia, Uruguay, they have a unique way of dealing with homeless dogs.

And there are quite a few of them.

The local animal welfare organisation has a list of the dogs and makes sure that they receive annual vaccinations, health checks and are sterilised.

The locals feed them, give them water and make sure they are cared for. Even the restauranteurs leave food out for them, once they have closed for the night.

We were told that the dogs never show aggression, which has helped them to become an accepted part of the community.

The dogs inhabit different areas of the town and are known to the locals and even have names.

There is even one group that follow the tourists, keeping them company while they explore this classic colonial town.

It is a symbiosis between those who needed help and those who could help.

Our tour guide told the story of one dog who was adopted, given a bright red collar and a home. Being separated from his street friends and the life he had grown up with, he became so depressed he would escape and return to the streets.

His owner eventually removed his collar and set him free – he was a much happier dog.

They are now an old group of dogs, and due to the desexing, dying out.

I think the people of Colonia will miss them when they’e gone.

The subway in the sky.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Mi Teleférico (My Cablecar)

La Paz in Bolivia is one of the highest major cities in the world, sitting at 3,640 metres. While the adjacent town of El Alto, which is part of the metropolis of La Paz, sits at 4,150 metres.

The Le Paz CBD is in a canyon that has been carved out, over millions of years, by the Choqueyapu River, while the residential areas cling to the surrounding mountain sides.

This topography presented the government of La Paz with a unique public transport problem.

The only public transport before 2014 was taxis and mini busses which are chaotic and unreliable.

The solution was Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car), an urban, mass transit system that spans the city and the suburbs.

Phase one was opened in 2014 and consisted of the Red, Yellow and Green lines. Phase two opened in 2017 adding a further two lines, Orange and Blue. A further six lines are under construction or planned.

This will make it the longest cable car system in the world, covering nearly 34 kilometres and the only public transport system to use cable cars as the primary mode of transport.

It was relatively easy to construct, as the footprint of the towers is small and less disruptive than building a rail or subway system. It is environmentally friendly as it runs on both solar and hydro electricity – there is also no noise or pollution.

Mi Teleférico is lateral thinking at its best.