Thursday, 29 October 2015

Are You Being Served?

To this child, the British comedy series Are You Being Served served as a milestone. Acting as one of my first notable uses of a VCR, I would re-watch episodes with my uncle and we would laugh at it again and again. I guess, in retrospect, it also served to teach me English (as well as the German word for bra, it has to be noted). Sure, by today’s standards this was a sexist + racist + homophobic show, yet it is so well etched in my memory that I still do revisit it from time to time.
Alas, nothing has prepared me for the Wikipedia news bulletin. Apparently, from the entire original cast, only one of the actors is still alive – Mr Rumbold (actually, Nicholas Smith, but to me he will always be Mr Rumbold). Conforming with my morbid mood of late, the bulk of this crew had departed during recent years:
  1. Mr Humphries (John Inman) died in 2007, age 71, as consequence of food poisoning.
  2. Mrs. Slocombe (Mollie Sugden) died in 2009, age 86.
  3. Ms Brahms (Wendy Richard) died in 2009, like her boss, but age 65. Cancer is all the proof one needs for the absence of a loving god.
  4. Young Mr Lucas (Trevor Bannister) died in 2011, age 76. He died while gardening, which should serve as a lesson to us all.
  5. Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton) died in 2013, age 92 (good on him!).
I take my hat off to all of them. You have all served me very well indeed.

Image used under the assumption of fair use

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Bluetooth Headphones

Bluetooth headphones give me the shits.
They need power to run.
The need for power means they’re heavier.
Sound quality wise, the bit rates they can run on nowadays imply they cannot handle audiophile grade throughput (although they should be able to handle Spotify rates; at the same time, new Bluetooth standards do cater for improved speeds).

Indeed, now that I have tried myself a cheap $20 pair of Bluetooth headphones I bought off eBay, it has become clear to me that barring some sort of a miracle I will not be purchasing any type of wired headphones anymore.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Last week I heard familiar echoes on the train. The voice of the concerned Israeli.
Somewhere behind me, a woman was frantically calling her mother. Speaking Hebrew, she told her she just received notification on her smartphone of a stabbing in Ra’anana (an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv), and therefore wanted to speak with her as soon as possible to make sure she’s alright.
I admit, by now I forgot this state of mind. But hearing that voice on the train reminded me of the first time I was in such a mode myself.
It was during the first Gulf War. We would receive news of scuds fired from Iraq towards the centre of Israel, and then there would be the immediate rush of people everywhere trying to use whatever phone available the make sure their loved ones are fine. Back then no one knew what a mobile phone was. Often calls could not be made due to excess demand.
A lot has happened in Israel since. We now all have a smartphone stuck up our ass that, amongst others, can tell us of the latest act of mass violence. Clearly, our technology has advanced over the years, even if our humanity hasn't.

With regards to the embedded clip:
If you ever sought the definition of musical perfection, this is it.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Coffee in a Land Far, Far Away

Hope had me sampling all the coffees I could spot. Maybe, just maybe, the next one I’ll be trying would actually be worthy of its title, rather than yet another cup of dirty [soy] milk?
I was away from home. I was desperate. Desperate for a decent cuppa, like the ones you can get at every street corner of Melbourne (not to mention the really good ones that are there for the picking, too).
Looking around me, I noticed I was the only grumpy faced person around. Everybody else was loving their coffee, admiring it, a facsimile copy of my face upon consumption of the real thing from Melbourne.
It was then that it occurred to me: these people are at risk of living out their entire lives without ever knowing what a proper cup of coffee tastes like. Through the relative obscurity of good coffee, they will suffer for their ignorance, missing out on one of life’s biggest joys while wasting their lives in mediocrity.
What a shame.

As inconceivable as it may sound, coffee isn’t everything. There are more important things in life. Even I will concede that. Thus the question I found myself asking, as I was watching these miserable people sipping their dirty milk and waste their lives in their blissful ignorance, was this: what other things are we missing out on through our ignorance? What things are there, ripe for the picking, but are left on their low hanging branches because we’re simply not looking the right way?
Take the average Sydneysider or Melbournian who never had the opportunity to get away much from Australia. They could lead their entire lives completely unaware of what a properly functioning public transport system feels like. That could lead to them appointing captains like Tony Abbott (good riddance!) to lead them, a guy that will fight against public transport with the full might of his religious fervour while seeking to invest billions after useless billions on jammed up roads.
If we cast our eyes State side for a minute, we can state the obvious and note just how dumb American public discourse sounds like to everyone else (i.e., the rest of the world). Democrats tear the Republican guts and vice versa, but both stand out like total morons on matters such as health care. Probably one of the most beneficial experiences for your average American would be to have themselves a medical emergency when visiting the UK, just so they could experience the wonders that the absolutely free NHS health system has to offer.
How can such horrors of ignorance take place?
Well, it’s not too hard to see that we all grow up accepting that what we see in our immediate surroundings is the universal truth. To an Australian, public transport is a worthless endeavour; to an American, free public health is synonymous with murder. When public discourse is controlled by self interest, and let’s face it – the level of political discourse in Australia is lower than kinder, with the two major parties ecstatically happy to keep it right there – there is not much hope for the general public. When the media is, in effect, a monopoly held by one guy whose name starts with Murdoch, the process of critically reviewing that public discourse is aborted prior to birth. And when the Internet, once deemed the secret weapon of democracy, is ruled by a few greedy giant conglomerates through which we consume the wealth of our information about the world – your Facebooks, Googles and Twitters – the hope of us individually crossing the divide to open our eyes to the world plummets to previously unexplored depths.
The only tool available for us to gain our freedom of mind with is travel. We might experience plenty of disappointments as we go about – the poor coffee that lies in the realms beyond Melbourne, the medical emergency awaiting us at the UK – but with it comes a new way of seeing the world around. Travel is the most effective removalist of ignorance.

All of which leaves me asking a personal question: what experiences am I missing out on? What is that excellent cup of coffee that is not at the end of the rainbow, but right around the corner, waiting for me to try and marvel?

I do not know the answer to that frustrating question. What is clear to me, though, is that I am almost certainly doomed to never read the book I would find the best ever. But I can try; I can explore books in order to climb up the tree of that crusade for the holy grail. At the end of it all, it is that exploration that counts and it is all that really matters.