Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category

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.

The more you travel, the more you have to read.

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

News_2

Researching new destinations is only part of our reading.

The big increase to our daily news consumption comes after we have discovered a new place.

Every time we visit a new country, we naturally take an interest in its people and culture. And every time we see a news article about that country, we feel we need to read it.

It could be about avant-garde art in Uzbekistan, wild fires in California, the Himbus People of Namibia or dissidents in Central China.

If we travel with a guide we usually get to know them.

So our interest gets personal.

In Iran our guide was Rasoul, a delightful young man who we got to know very well. We still communicate with Rasoul on a regular basis.

We even met his family.

We have just been travelling in Ecuador and spent seven days with José, who showed us some of his top spots.

José even took us to his home town of Gulaceo. Here we visited the local market and José introduced us to his favourite meal of Roast Pork with rice and beans.

On a walk around Lake Toreadora in Ecuador we met Yap, a intensive care nurse from Singapore. She was a great companion on the grey and sometimes damp walk, especially for Thea.

The two didn’t stop chatting for the entire two hours.

These experiences give you an affinity with the places you visit and the people you meet along the way.

Now, whenever a news article pops up regarding a place we have been or an experience we have had – we read it.

So far this trip we have visited eight new countries. That’s eight more places we now have to read about.

Don’t follow, lead.

Sunday, October 29th, 2017
Laisvės-Alėja. The longest walking-street-in-Europe

Laisvės-Alėja, Lithuania. The longest walking-street-in-Europe

Soomaa National Park Peat Bog walk in Estonia

Soomaa National Park Peat Bog walk in Estonia

As a tourist it’s easy to buy a package tour and visit the places that are high on the wish list.

This can have its problems.

The issue is that you are not alone, as there are millions following you.

As mentioned in a previous blog, this was highlighted in a BBC article about tourists flooding popular destinations such as Barcelona, Venice, Florence and some Greek islands.

And more recently Iceland.

It is expected that over 2 million people will have visited this spectacular and sparsely populated country in 2017 – completely overwhelming the local population of just 334,000.

This has been exacerbated by the influx of tourists from China, India and Russia, plus the growth of cruising.

Some of the popular destinations are so overrun with tourists that the locals are moving out during the high season.

This year 70 million tourists will have visited Spain.

Another factor that changes the state of the destination is the accommodation.

The more tourists there are, the more places they need to stay.

In steps Airbnb and other accommodation sharing businesses.

The result is that the locals move out, because their apartments are worth more when they are rented.

Apart from the sites, the other attraction in a destination are the locals.

Increasingly the only people you see in the tourist areas of Berlin, Athens and Santorini are other tourists.

Another casualty of excessive tourism is the loss of local cuisine.

Unless you venture into the backstreets of Geneva, Hamburg or Prague you won’t find much more than pizza and pasta.

The local restaurants all left with the locals and moved into the suburbs, well away from the tourists.

Try finding good Catalan food in the centre of Barcelona.

What is tourism about, if not experiencing the culture, food and people?

On this trip we have been to some big cities like Berlin, Helsinki and Warsaw. There English is always spoken and everything is relatively easy.

But you are not alone, tourists are everywhere.

The prices are higher and you are more likely to get fleeced, as the locals are aware of what the punters will pay.

While in many unexplored countries the prices are very reasonable.

This trip we have been fortunate enough to visit Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovakia. In Banská Štiavnica in Slovakia we seemed to be the only tourists that weren’t from Eastern Europe. Most seem to be from bordering countries, such as Hungary Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The countries we visited offered us an insight into Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. It also gave us a new perspective on the history and culture of these places, both before and after the Second World War.

Both the German occupation and subsequently the seizure by the Soviet Union left its mark. However the history before that was equally as turbulent, as invasion from neighbouring countries seemed to happen on a regular basis.

Travelling to unique places allows you to experience different people, cultures and geography. We discovered the ‘longest walking street in Europe’ in Lithuania and walked in a peat bog in Estonia.

However travelling in uncharted water isn’t without its difficulties.

Language can be an issue as English isn’t widely spoken and communication can be an issue. Especially when it comes to ordering from a menu that’s only in the local tongue.

Tour guides at these tourists sites tend to deliver the narrative in the language that most of the tourists speak and in many cases this wasn’t English.

Failing to find an English speaking guide we turned to the next best thing – maps and and printed information.

Even this had its problems, as on many occasions they weren’t printed in English either.

In large, well patronised, tourist towns you can always find a meal, at any time of the day or night.

When you are in these smaller places you have to eat when the locals eat, which isn’t necessarily when when you’re used to eating.

The benefit here is you are eating and talking with the locals and having a genuine tourist experience.

One of the real pleasures in visiting these off-the-beaten-track destinations is that you are an oddity to the locals and local tourists.

People want to engage you in conversation, just to discover; “Why on earth are you here?”