A Week without the Dreaded iPad !!

Today marks one week since we allowed Dani access to that bloody iPad.

Addiction…

It’s an addiction. Pure and simple. He can’t seem to function without it. Like the teenagers you see with their mobile hones surgically attached to their arms. OK, I will be the first to admit that it’s fantastic if you have a film loaded and let him watch it in the car if we are travelling for hours. Otherwise we would have to stop every twenty minutes and/or he gets car sickness (same as I did at his age). If he is watching a movie on his beloved iPad (actually his mums) he is fine. It allows me to hit the road and make some distance.

That aside however…

I really hate that iPad. Of course it’s not the fault of a so called ‘inanimate object’. It could just as easily be a Laptop, PC, desktop computer – whatever… But is it really an ‘inanimate object’? I don’t think it is. Certainly the stuff he watches on youtube or he games he plays are anything but inanimate. They are highly interactive and definitely addictive.

There is a documentary out there right now called ‘The Social Dilemma’ which goes into the addictive and deceptive nature of social media. I haven’t watched it yet and don’t really want to. I know the message as I have read a lot about what this film describes.

How did it go?

This is how the week has played out. Every day (after school and even at breakfast time) he almost begs for the iPad. Even for just 20 minutes. Pleeeaaase!!!! But like any alcoholic or drug addict if you give it him for that short period it will be very hard work getting him off it.

My idea is just the good old fashioned one You have to be cruel to be kind. When he is ‘off’ the device he is a nice pleasant little boy. When he is ‘on it’ he is happy and quiet but he will just sit in the corner. The real problem is when you try to take it off him. That half hour slot (or whatever it is) will never be enough. He wants more…and more….

From here on it will be more difficult as he thinks he has done his week’s sentence! How will he cope if we limit his time to say 30 minutes a day? And not even every day (which is my preference). I actually believe a clean break is the only way. We shall see…

Any Ideas?

Does anyone have any good ideas for weening kids off this crap? It would be great to hear form you if you do. Please leave a comment.

Wandering Around the town of Broken Hill – Part 2

Here is part two of our days roaming around Broken Hill. We took in museums, art galleries and checked out sights of general historical interest. There’s plenty more to come too, in future posts…

The Syndicate of Seven

The photograph below shows the sculptures of the guys who basically made BHP and put the town of Broken Hill on the world map. In 1883 seven work-mates each put £70 (seventy pounds) into a joint venture to stake a claim on what became the richest deposit of silver, lead and zinc in the world.

Their names are: David James, James Poole, Charles Rasp, George McCulloch, Philip Charley, George Urquhart, George Lind. These men became known as the Syndicate of Seven and formed what became BHP.

The Syndicate of Seven

The Broken Hill Proprietary company (BHP) was formed in 1885. Although it ceased operations in Broken Hill in 1939 it went on to become BHP Billiton the world’s largest resource company.

Old mine workings. Things like this are dotted all over the place in this area.
Giant Ant sculpture – dedicated to hard working miners everywhere.

Another BHP?

After visiting a few places we stopped for some lunch in the classic Broken Hill Pub (aka BHP). Classic looking from the outside but modernised inside. Broken Hill probably has more pubs per square kilometre than anywhere else I have been so far in Australia. Mining is thirsty work though I suppose…

The Broken Hill Pub – aka BHP hahaa

Railway museum

The original railway station on Sulphide Street has become the town’s railway museum. Enthusiasts could spend a full day in there but a short visit with a six year old was enough for me. There is a charge to enter the museum – I forget how much now; typical – but it is worth it.

Original Sulphide Street Railway Station
Dani on board one of the steam train carraiges.
There are a few examples of old steam engines…

The main thing I wanted to see was the old train that carried passengers on the route we had just travelled. It is called the Silver City Comet. A classy looking art deco design, this train operated from 1937 to 1989 and was Australia’s first air conditioned train. It actually only ever ran the send half of our journey – from Parkes to Broken Hill.

The Silver City Comet

There were also old fairground attractions at the railway museum. This one with the clowns looked particularly spooky…

Vintage fairground game, although this one looks a little scary eh? Straight out of a horror movie in fact…

The Big Picture…

‘The Big Picture’ was painted by a local artist, Peter Anderson (aka ‘Ando’) and is housed in the Silver City Mint and Art Centre. Before you get to see it there is this large painting…

The sign besides this large work of art (above) basically tells you what to expect. “The Big Picture is 82 times larger than this painting.” Indeed it is. It measures 100m wide by 12m high and used 9 tonnes of paint. It is said to be the biggest acrylic painting by a single artist in the world.

Part of The Big Picture
More of The Big Picture
Yet more of The Big Picture

The picture itself is huge but it is made all the more dramatic by the 3-D scenery in the foreground. Very impressive and well worth a visit. This work of art has become the number one tourist attraction in the town. When you see it you soon know why… Again, there was a charge to enter the Big Picture area, and again I forget how much. Suffice to say it is definitely worth the money.

I tried to make a video to capture the full length of The Big Picture but it’s not great. Not to worry….here it is anyway…

 

Around the town of Broken Hill – Part One

We spent a coupe of days in total wandering around the town and its outskirts. Here is part one of a mixed montage of the things we saw and places we visited (in no particular chronological order). The first thing that strikes you about Broken Hill is that the place has so much to offer for such a small town.

Your Usual Tourist Attractions?

Consider the usual touristy things like; museums? Check. Art galleries? Double check! This place has heaps of them and we barely scratched the surface. In fact to see artwork you don’t even have to visit a gallery in Broken Hill. There are plenty of oversized murals painted on the sides of buildings. Many with some real significance either historically or culturally.

A Workers Rights Mural on some backstreet wall
The Ghan Mural – celebrating the famous Ghan outback train, that oddly does not even pass through Broken Hill.

I saw many while driving around but only photographed a few. I wish I had taken more of an effort to photograph more of the murals. Maybe next time eh? the whole town is like a living open air art gallery…

What’s in a street name?

Any town with the main streets called Chloride Street, Cobalt Street and Sulphide Street has to be worth a visit, right? Most of the town centre streets are named after elements or things related to mining. The main street is called Argent Street. ‘Argent’ being Latin for silver. This place was and is still known as the Silver City.

Here are  a few examples:

Argent Street with Oxide Street
Cobalt and Sulphide Streets

Historic Buildings

Architecture is another thing that this small town has some great examples of. There are plenty of examples of run down miners dwellings that show that not everyone who came here struck it rich. But there are also some grand old buildings in the centre which clearly show that many did.

Trades Hall

The Trades Hall is one of the most important buildings in Broken Hill. It was built and paid for entirely by the people of the town and was a centre of union activity when the workers rights were being fought for.

Old miner’s houses
The old railway station at Sulphide Street
The Imperial Hotel

Town’s Newspaper…

Here is a great name for a newspaper. The ‘Barrier Daily Truth’ no less. The town of Broken Hill is credited with doing more for worker’s rights than anywhere in the country and this newspaper played a large part in that. It was anti-capitalist and pro-union and featured many articles about safety and death in the mines during the early 1900s.

Broken Hill’s only remaining newspaper – The Barrier Daily Truth

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert…

There are plenty of places in the area that have been used as locations for films and/or commercials. Perhaps the most famous is the Palace Hotel on Argent Street. This was the setting for a fair part of a great 1994 Aussie movie, The Adventures of Priscila, Queen of the Desert. I remember seeing it many years ago not long after it was released – which means I would have watched it on VHS (that’s video tape to any youngsters reading – ask your parents).

The Palace Hotel Showroom and stage
Showroom painted ceiling at the Palace Hotel
“Broken Heel”… and the colourful murals at the Palace Hotel
Dani and the Giant High Heel shoe from the movie

I only remember the basic plot and certainly could not remember the places in detail but after watching clips of the movie on youtube later it all came flooding back. But this is now another film I need to watch again having visited some of the locations.

The hotel used to be called Mario’s Palace Hotel and the owner (Mario) even played himself in the movie. The spirit of the film lives on as the place holds regular events on stage. Also every September there is a week long drag queen related carnival called the ‘Broken Heel’ festival.

Not all good news however…

I don’t like doing things like this but I have to report on a place called ‘Outback Pizza’. After being unable to get a table to eat in the Palace Hotel restaurant we decided to get a takeaway pizza and eat it in our motel. I only opened the box when we got back to our room.

One of only two downers on the trip. A shit pizza from ‘Outback Pizza’ on Sulphide Street.

I have to say that it was the shittiest, crappiest pizza I have ever paid for. Just look at it! I actually think that it was one they had left over, standing there for some time and they just heated it up. A little too much!! We were hungry so we gave it a good go but had to throw half  of it away.

This so called “pizza” and the lack of taxis waiting for the arrival of the train are my only two complaints about the our stay in Broken Hill.

Train from Sydney to Broken Hill, Video: Part Four – Parkes to Broken Hill

Parkes to Broken Hill

OK. Let’s start with an apology. Or is it an excuse? You be the judge…

The sun set about an hour before the end of the train journey. Just before we reached the final station before Broken Hill, a place called Menindee.

Obviously I was not going to video my reflection in the darkness of the train window so here is the final video instalment – in as much as sunlight allowed.

 

If you haven’t already read the detailed posts about the journey…
Hopefully these videos will compliment the two part blog post of the journey. You can read part one here and part two here.

Redfern – Through a Wide Angled Lens

Redfern is an inner city suburb just south of the Central Business District (CBD). Redfern station is just over a kilometre from Central station. It used to be associated with the seedy side of Sydney but is one of those areas that has had a resurgence in recent times. I went for a quick stroll around the area with my clapped out mobile phone camera in hand.

Murals in Redfern

Redfern has many murals. Some are shown in this post from just a short walk around the area. I know I need to buy a new mobile phone but in the meantime having only a wide angle lens is not quite the end of the world… Especially when photographing large murals painted on the sides of walls and  buildings.

This first one reminded me a lot of paintings I saw by a local artist in the Crossroads township of Cape Town in South Africa. Basic and chaotic but probably telling a story.

Large Mural in Redfern
A colourful mural on the side of a shop on the main street
A Pro-Gay Marriage Mural on the side of a café building on the main street in Redfern

This last one shows former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as both the bride and groom. In the bottom left corner there is a hashtag urging people to ‘Vote Yes’. This mural was painted when the country was being asked to vote in a referendum on whether or not to legalise gay marriage back in 2017. When Tony Abbott came out on the Vote No side of the debate, Aussie street  artist Scottie Marsh decided to paint Tony marrying Tony and this wall in Redfern was made available to him.

Redfern and the Aboriginal Community

The area has always been known for having Australia’s biggest urban Aboriginal community. This was mainly based around an area known locally as “The Block” in and around Everleigh Street. Much of this street was run down and in need of refurbishment or regeneration. A cooperative called The Aboriginal Housing Company is nearing completion of new ‘blocks’ and they really are blocks! One is a horizontal block of concrete while the other is a vertical block of concrete as seen in the photo below. The tower block is meant to be student accommodation (I think) Hardly inspired architecture is it? It remains to be seen how this will all look when finished…

The new “Block” being constructed by the Aboriginal Housing Company, really is a huge concrete block

Inner city murals are often socially or politically motivated. Many in Redfern certainly fall in to that category.  Take the wall on the railway station bridge for example. The messages such as ‘Say No To Drugs’ are good ones but in this case is aimed primarily at the local community.  Possibly for good reason.

Say No To Drugs (and other things) Mural, on the bridge over the railway at Redfern station.

Be Deadly

The saying “Be Deadly” appears as a small mural on a wall at the Redfern Jarjum College. Aborignal people also use the word “mob” when talking about their group or community. Can you imagine black people in say the USA using such words as ‘deadly’ and ‘mob’ when describing themselves? Anyone would think they were a street gang of hoodlums. But in Australia the words are not meant in that context. In fact the word ‘deadly’ in this case means something like ‘great’ or ‘excellent’. I know from my time working in the Emerald Isle that is is used in a similar (slang-like) manner in Ireland. Telling kids to ‘Be Deadly’ in this context is actually an attempt to inspire and encourage them.

“Be Deadly” Mural at the Redfern Jarjum College

Redfern Park

Like many suburbs in Sydney Redfern still manages to have some urban green-space. Redfern Park may not be very large but it is attractive enough and neatly presented. It even has its own rugby stadium.

Redfern Park
Rugby stadium in Redfern Park
Redfern Park from the rugby stadium

Film Review – Honest Thief

Honest Thief – Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

Liam Neeson plays a professional bank robber (Tom) who has apparently amassed nine million dollars through his dirty deeds. The “honest” part of the story is that he then promises to return all the money he has stolen in return for a special deal – like a reduced sentence. He tries to make this deal with none other than the FBI.

Wait a minute…

OK. My immediate questions were: Has he not spent any of his ill-gotten gains? Nothing?  Why ever not? Maybe he had always been honest and was keeping the money safe. Banks are clearly not safe if people like him can rob them. So maybe he was just being an alternative bank? Let’s leave that one for now… As part of the “deal” Tom also asks to be sent to a minimum security prison within an hour of Boston and with lots of visiting times. Cheeky eh? But possibly worth nine million dollars…

My curiosity aside, the most obvious question most people would ask is; Why would he want to do that? Good question. Well, it turns out that he has met a woman who he loves and wants to spend the rest of his life with. He can’t possibly live with the guilt of knowing he has robbed all that money (that he never spent). Basically he wants to be totally honest with her.

Back to the plot… (and possible spoiler alert)

But there’s a catch (of course). When Tom speaks to the Feds they seem interested enough. But then two different FBI agents turn up and when they see all the cash their greed kicks in and they realise that they con Tom – who after all is a wanted bank robber – and trouser the dosh. End of film.

No, no, no, wait! Obviously, it is never going to be that easy.  One of the honest FEDs turns up and the situation quickly turns ugly. The honest FBI agent gets shot by one of the dishonest FEDs. His (not quite so dishonest) partner finds himself reluctantly going along with the plan. Lo and behold, Tom was a marine before a career in robbing banks (as they do) so he manages to fight his way out and escape. That doesn’t matter because the nasty FEDs can frame him for the murder of the nice FED.  Tom then has to go on the run, initially with his lady friend – which quickly goes pear shaped. He is then hell bent on clearing his name and of course bring the dishonest FEDs to justice. Ah yes; justice. Something professional bank robbers know all about right?

What follows is a classic game of cat and mouse. The partner of the murdered agent soon realises there is more to the case than meets the eye. The situation unravels fairly rapidly amid the compulsory car chases and odd shoot out. It is pointless putting any more as it would be a spoiler. But it is really all pretty much predictable. One thing is that Tom was an explosives expert in the marine corps (not really a spoiler alert).

Critique & Conclusions

There are plenty of movies out there with similar themes. “Why the hell don’t the FBI just employ known criminals?” I hear you cry. “I don’t know” is my response.

I quite like Neeson in these type of movies. He always plays the same type and sounds exactly the same and shows the same (lack of) range of emotions. i.e. None as such! But he still gets  way with it. A bit like Clint really. Not that I am comparing the two directly but their cam one dimensional acting just works.

His love interest is played by Kate Walsh and as actresses go these days she is definitely one of the least annoying. In fact I quite like her. The baddie, agent Nivens, is convincingly played by Jai Courtney. Also Tazzie the dog plays herself. Yes you read that correctly.

Overall it was an easy watch and on a five star scale I would give it a rating of (say) two and a half (maybe?). An average but watchable action movie with an average story with minimal plot twists and even fewer surprises.

Train from Sydney to Broken Hill, Video. Part Three: Bathurst to Parkes

Bathurst to Parkes

This is the third video instalment of our long – but let’s face it folks, epic! – train journey from Sydney to Broken Hill.

This video shows part of the trip from Bathurst to Parkes. Arriving at Parkes marked the half way point in the journey’s travel time. But it was only about one third of the distance.

If you haven’t already read the detailed posts about the journey…
Hopefully these videos will compliment the two part blog post of the journey. You can read part one here and part two here.

‘Down Under’ – Great Song, Sad Story

‘Down Under’ by Men At Work

”Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder’

While listening to the radio I recently heard that great 1980s song ‘Down Under ‘ by Men At Work. I really like that song so I have since played the video many times on youtube. Then I did a little digging, read about the song and was very surprised at what I found. Not just surprised. It is fair to say that some of what I read really pissed me off.

Meaning…

Firstly there is that thing about the supposed meaning of the song. I will admit that all those years I never paid much attention to the lyrics. But in actual fact this song is not meant to be a proud national chant. It is meant to speak of how the land is being plundered by greedy people. It is about overdevelopment and Americanisation (of all things). That outlook was from back in the early 1980s. Right now, some 40 years on, I wonder who will write a song about how Australia is being sold and plundered in 2020? And who is doing the plundering? Hmm…. would anyone even dare? Would such a song be allowed?

‘Down Under’ was such a great song, it just took on the guise of an unofficial Australian anthem. And why not? It’s a great song with a catchy melody and a fantastic sing-along chorus. It is a little like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ which is meant to be an anti-Vietnam-war song but unwittingly became a patriotic anthem which Americans instantly shout along to after a few drinks.

Copyright!!!??? Are you having a laugh?

‘Where beer does flow and men chunder’

Some 28 years after its release the song became the subject of a copyright lawsuit. Thanks to a 2007 Australian TV programme called ‘Spicks and Specks’. It is one of those quiz shows I really can’t stand. Two teams of smug “celebrities” thinking they are being so funny. Personally it just makes me want to chunder. There are many similarly structured TV shows around the world. ‘Spicks and Specks’ is still a popular show here in Oz.

Here’s what happened. The show’s presenter asked this question: “What children’s song is contained in the song ‘Down Under’?” The answer that the TV show gave was an old kids song called ‘Kookaburra (sits in an old gum tree)’. One of the guests finally answered after being cajoled into hearing the connection by the presenter. Utterly incredible and total bullshit. Note that the question did not suggest that part of the song may sound similar. It says that it is actually contained in ‘Down Under’. What gave them the right to do that? Twats!

It turns out that even though the writer of the ‘Kookaburra’ song was dead, the song still had copyright and the rights belonged to a publisher called Larrikin Music. Following the broadcast people contacted Larrikin Music to point out the alleged plagiarism. Two years after the Spicks and Specks show, in 2009, Larrikin Music sued Men At Work for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff of “Down Under” was copied from “Kookaburra”. What a crock of shit!

Amazingly some judge ruled that ‘Down Under’ contained “a substantial part of ‘Kookaburra'”. Get the f*#k out of town judge! Are you off your fecking head?

After further arguments on both sides the dopey judge’s decision was for a settlement of 5% of all royalties backdated to 2002. It could have been a lot worse – and for one band member it was (see below) – but it should never have come to court, or at least should have been thrown right out.

You be the Judge.

Someone who clearly thinks the same as myself added this video to youtube which compares the two songs side by side. Watch and listen for yourself and you decide. Click on this link and listen to part of the two tunes – you should be as pissed off as me!

Please let me know with a comment whether you think ‘Down Under’ was ripped off from the ‘Kookaburra’ song. I definitely think that this was an injustice and it does piss me off.

Note that you can find several versions of both songs-  in full – with a quick youtube search…

♪♫ Do you come from a land downunder? ♪♫

Ironically the man who wrote the song, band frontman Colin Hay, does not come from a land down under. He is actually from Scotland – although he did emigrate to Australia with his parents when he was 14 – and now lives in the USA. He was reported as saying that he thought that the death of fellow band member, flute player Greg Ham, in 2012 was directly linked to the stress of the court case. Greg Ham can be seen sitting in a tree playing the flute riff in the song’s video. Could he be pretending to be a kookaburra in that tree? Maybe that influenced the judge in the case? Who can say? But for me, something really stinks with this one.

Colin Hay also appeared as a guest on that Spicks and Specks show a couple years before they (undoubtedly) stabbed him and his band in the back.

By the way…

In May 2001, the Australian Performing Right Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Top 30 Best Australian songs from 1926 to 2001. The list was compiled by a hundred-strong industry panel. “Down Under” was ranked as the fourth song.

The No. 1 song was from 1966, ‘Friday on My Mind’ by The Easybeats.  At number 2 was Daddy Cool with their 1971 song ‘Eagle Rock’, while the classic 1987 song ‘Beds are Burning’ by Midnight Oil was at No. 3 . That number 3 song incidentally (another Aussie song I really like) was far more politically motivated than ‘Down Under’.

Meanwhile at number 5, one place below ‘Down Under’, is a country song by someone called Slim Dusty (nope, me neither!) with a 1950s number titled ‘A Pub with no Beer’. I kid you not! That’s how bad it is! Personally I would have thought the top 30 Aussie songs would have been a lot more inspiring than this one by the APRA but there you go… Look it up online and also check out all those other songs I mentioned. They are all available on youtube (as you would expect).

Anyway, that’s it folks. I just needed to get that one off my chest…

First Day in Broken Hill – The Daydream Mine

After the long train journey and the nightmare of no taxis at the station we still managed to get a good night’s sleep. (Dani always has a good sleep!) Which was just as well as we were up and out early for a busy first day in Broken Hill.

Daydream Mine

When I asked Dani if he wanted to visit a mine his eyes lit up. He plays that stupid Minecraft game whenever he gets the chance – which would be never if left up to me! – so he naturally thought visiting a real mine would be great.

The Daydream mine is about half an hour out of Broken Hill. The name comes from one of the  early miners digging away to reveal a large deposit of silver, some five feet tall. He thought he must be daydreaming.

It was the first silver mine in the area and ceased being an active mine  years ago. It began in 1881 before the formation of the Broken Hill Proprietary company (better known as BHP). The current owners do allow tourists to go down into part of the mine however so this was a must see in an area famed for mining.

The tour starts with a walk around the surface and a look at how the miners used to live.

Daydream Mine Tea Room and shop
The original miners lived in tiny houses like this. Some with their families.

One of the old shafts
Surface tour

We were obliged to wear those bloody face masks because of this infernal covid crap. There is no way those things can be any good for you. They make breathing almost impossible. Still on we went…

An unintentionally dramatic photo…
Recent rain had brought out some greenery…
Fitting out to go underground

Going Underground…

After being kitted out with a hard hat complete with miners lamp we were ready to go underground.

Ready to descend
Underground
Mine shafts built for his size…

We were only allowed to go several hundred feet below the surface but that was enough. Although it was only a short trip inside the mine Dani loved it. It lived up to his expectations I think. You can still see silver deposits in the rock but mines like this are uneconomical as the price of silver is now too low to make it viable. That has been the case for quite some time.

Dani helps out by very dim candle-light

The kid definitely enjoyed being asked to help out in a demonstration of how they used to use some of the tools. Although the picture (above) is not very good he was actually holding and turning a bolster while the tour guide was hammering it into the rock. Those were the same lighting conditions the early miners would have had.

Down in level 3.

If the tunnels in the mine look like they were made for someone of Dani’s size it is because they were. Kids as young as 8 years old worked in these mines. In fact, slightly more recently,  Dani’s great grandfather (of the same name) went to work down a coal mine when he was only fourteen  years of age. That was the age they used to leave school in those days. Kids today eh? They don’t know they are born…

Almost incredible…

For me the most amazing thing about this place (and others like it) is how the hell they happened to come across this particular piece of land all those years ago and discover anything. Never mind discover metals worth mining and actually produce something form it! Sheer luck? Or what? Because even now it is still very remote, tucked away in a valley, yet founded by miners from Cornwall in England’s south west. There would have been no roads nor dirt paths back then to get anywhere near this spot never mind the rest. It is difficult to get my head around it all.

Some of the old gear used down here
Souvenir for Dani. An old tin tea mug.

And that was just the morning of our first day in the Broken Hill area…. I got the feeling that this was going to be a great trip…

Train from Sydney to Broken Hill, Video. Part Two: Lithgow to Bathurst

Lithgow to Bathurst

Here is the second video instalment of the exciting (sarc) train journey we took to Broken Hill. This (part two) is the line from Lithgow to Bathurst. As I said in the earlier post it is mostly rolling green pastures. Very similar to the countryside in the UK in fact. This area is indeed dominated by farming.

I decided to keep these videos short as they take up a lot of memory and time to save etc… (Etc = lots of crap tech stuff. Basically videos in the blog are a pain in the a**e)

Excuses, excuses…

I am not sure what the view was from the right hand side of the train but Bathurst town centre was on the other side of the train so apologies if this is a little boring…

Anyway, enjoy…

If you haven’t already read the detailed posts about the journey…
Hopefully these videos will compliment the two part blog post of the journey. You can read part one here and part two here.