Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adventures in Newcastle. Part One.

Tonight’s post has two bits. But they both relate back to my recent becoming-a-Novocastrian. Enjoy.

The trip down

We were supposed to leave at ten that morning, but running on true Hazelgrove time meant that we didn’t get away until after lunch. Dad was still busy working on the Suzuki, and I was doing some last minute boxing. At about 11am Dad pulls me outside for the most intense ten minute car-mechanic-intro I think most people could experience. It is one of those little things that I wish I could do – like speaking Japanese or being able to build small explosives – be a bit of a closet mechanic. There’s something cool about grease-marked hands and the feeling of working with your hands.

My session went something along the lines of

“Radiator. Pressurised. You have a butterfly’s chance in hell of getting it open when the engine is hot, so don’t try. Coolant goes in there - it’s green.

Oil. Dipstick. Don’t get oil on the engine when you pull the dipstick out it’s bad this is the full line don’t let it get below halfway down the indicator tare the stick before you measure.

This is the lock for the bonnet; make sure you can open it without looking at it.

Coolant overflow. Window-water. Check everything once a week. Engine gets over halfway on the temp gauge that is bad. Come around the back spare tyre….”

From there I was suddenly engaged in the act of removing the rear left tyre using the other definite piece of anti-darking-metal in the car. I quite like my tyre iron. It has an ‘I’m serious’ feel to it. It doesn’t have a name yet. 

Anyhow, changing the tyre probably would have been more fun if I hadn’t had the sun heating up my unprotected shoulders and back. I could feel the heat, and almost expected to hear the sizzling of pork-like-meat as I knelt by the jack and tyre.

The last lesson I had with the car before bailing back inside to continue streamlining the crapola I was bringing with me was how the steering lock worked. Dad explained the purpose of the oddly-shaped piece of steel and how to operate it and why I should definitely not put with the end on the right side of the car because that would damage the window.

Once again, the anti-darking-metal-topic crossed my mind, and I’ve got no idea as to whether the idea manifested itself there and then or formed over the space of this week. Either way, my blue steering lock is now called Appropriation.

I'll give you a photo of it tomorrow. If I remember.

(By the way, if all this is refusing to make sense I would suggest looking for a trilogy of books by Scott Westerfield. It’s called The Midnighters and the main enemies hate steel, groups of thirteen and new things.)

So. Fast-forward to leaving time; Prue has located a mixed CD that I think I burnt in 2004 or 2005. Either way, it’s old and there is an embarrassing amount of bad music on it. 

Jack had located the gorilla costume he’d purchased online which had arrived on Friday and he put it on, in spite of the oppressive heat outside. Laughter ensued. 

There’s just something that I think is about full-body-animal suits. It’s like they have some sort of power because other people cannot see your face = anonymous = act stupid. Well, more outlandish than normal, at the very least. Ten minutes of side-splitting, tear-generating laughter and I ducked inside for the last, almost-most-important-thing-to-do-before-travelling.


To put it this way, the dear Swift had the window tint peel off about six years ago. It is a two-door car, and it predates air conditioner, so the only form of ventilation is the window. Open window. Sun. Lots of it.

Equals sunscreen. Lots of that too.

Prue and I headed up the party, with Dad in behind driving the Tarago. We weren’t even halfway to the stop when I began to feel the sensation of burning flesh, so by the time we pulled over at Coolongolook, my left arm was roughly the same colour as….as…..well, go and look for some pencils. Coloured ones will be of more use. Look for the one called ‘Vermillion’. Got it? I was that colour.

We pulled out a towel and I draped it over my shoulders in the hopes of delaying skin-cancer by approximately two hours.

It was on the next leg that more things happened. Dad started to film us driving, and Prue pulled out her camera to take the odd photo of the two of us. I drove.

Me trying not to laugh.

I think she was secretly very pleased about wearing my top-hat the whole way.

Or not so secretly.

Dad continued behind us into Newcastle, which was one of the single most scary things I have ever done. City driving + cars + cars + cars + directions + big intersections + red lights + cars = lots of stress.

There was also the 'green apples' tree that Dad had hung in the car. It was incredibly pungent. The car continues to reek of 'green apples' in an eerily similar fashion to as it had about ten years ago when Dad first bought the car and had 'green apple' in a spritzing bottle. It's still in the laundrey somewhere, harbouring memories of what 'green apple' should smell like. I think.

The end of this part of the story I guess was that we did get to Russell’s in one piece. Prue and Dad and I started unpacking stuff until Dad went to go buy food. The bottom line?  We were all knackered, and probably the simplest pleasure we derived from that evening was sticking our legs in the pool at 10pm. 

That’s right. I’ve now got immediate access to a pool. Be jealous.

Dad and Prue left at about 11:30pm and I headed inside. It was so hot; that was one of my primary impressions. Russell, the landlord, found a louver fan and I slept with it pointed at my head.

Bec arrived the next day with her family, whereupon a similar process was repeated, albeit with slightly less drama, and they arrived at three. PM.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


In short, I like talking about music.

Today I bought Pendulum’s newest release – ‘Immersion’

Admittedly, it’s not hot-off-the-stamper-new, but that’s okay. I suddenly feel the need to tell you all about electronica.

I had this album on my iPod earlier last year, and then last month the thing reformatted itself, so I lost all my music. I couldn’t replace the album in question because I had sourced the files from my brother, who had probably sourced it from someone else, and so on, and so forth.

I don’t know. I think that there’s a small feeling of satisfaction that I gain when acquiring a particular album, even if I’ve already got a copy of it – since usually the copy wasn’t entirely legit. And then brain sits back and thinks,
“Okay. Awesome. I actually own this one now.”

There’s something special in it, and at the same time there’s no anticipation of the purchase. I’ve already filled my ears with the sound, so why should money be required? It’d be the difference between looking up the spoiler cliffhanger for a season you follow and waiting until you get to it. I’ve done that so many times with Bleach that eventually I resolved to keep off the wiki until I caught up.

I hardly visit the wiki anymore because I caught up and can remember most of the character’s names.

What were we talking about? Ah, music. Again.

The anticipation is greater when you have had as little contact as possible with a new album, but there is the satisfaction of knowing that you have at least legally obtained something.

I think that Pendulum has been a relatively different genre of music for me. Usually I listen to rock, if you wanted to know what I typically listen to. In reality though, my taste behaves closer to sand. It gets most places with minimal effort, like a ninja. I listen to rock, pop, metal, alternative, j-pop, jazz, classical, grunge, punk, indie and electronica: almost everything from Owl City to Flyleaf. I just have a wide range of influences, that’s all.

Anyway. I first discovered Pendulum mid-last year, when I drove home from Bible Study. Triple J was on, and suddenly this song came on with the most amazing electronic riff I think I’ve ever heard. Even though it’s only a very short drive from our place to the house Home Group was at, I stayed in the car, lost in the awesomeness, headbanging to this song. I dashed inside and hopped straight on Tank the Laptop, determined to find out exactly what it was. I had a fragment of the chorus to go on, and after visiting Triple J’s high-play-frequency list, youtube, and a quick conversation with my brother, located the song.

From there, Jack located the rest of the album and I listened to it frequently while working at TAFE. It was good music to lose the type of thinking where you use words. Because then when someone needs you to respond to their query regarding the accessory you think is absolutely not necessary, you don’t have words. They’ve all been drummed out by the awesomeness.

Ranting about the music itself wasn’t actually the main cause for me blogging. It just came as a byproduct.
No, what I actually wanted to talk about was the case.

I haven’t seen a CD case like this since the early 2000’s. The spine is ribbed black plastic, and the jewel case overall actually feels brittle. There’s no other way to describe the fact that this case feels more cheaply manufactured than others I’ve bought. That and the print job on the CD itself looks just a little grainy.

I privately wonder if this legally purchased copy was legally manufactured, and then I remember that this is the twilight era for optical disks. I suppose, as much as I hate to think about it, that finishing cases will deteriorate slightly if everyone is just going to purchase downloads or stream off various sharing websites. I can’t name any since I don’t know what’s still out there. I think Limewire died sometime last year.

Did it?

Doesn’t matter to me. There’s just something….something about being able to physically hold what you’ve purchased. That the music has a physical substance to it. That was the argument of a friend of mine a few years back when iTunes was just starting to sell music online; about why he preferred to purchase the CDs rather than files over the internet.

Four years on, I can’t help but agree with him.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Eye.

If you had asked me when I first discovered that I was going to London what I wanted to see, it probably would have been 'The London Eye'. Admittedly, it did number at 3 on my bucket list (after Tower Bridge and Big Ben) but it was definately in the forefront of my mind in the planning stages.

For some reason I left it to my second-last week, but that's cool because I could see most of the landmarks and go 'I've been there and there and...' well, you get the idea.

Decided to go on the 'flight' in the later part of the afternoon, so we'd get to see lights on the skyline as well. Moot and I arrived when the sun was still doing the 'eye-burning' thing, so I went looking for the fourth thing on the bucket list -

4. Cafe Manga (behind the London Eye)

So, I got a coffee and wrote a musing in the Travel Journal:

"Manga Coffee.
So, let's hear it for more incongruities with Frommers! (The travel guide I got for this adventure)
I was so keen for Cafe Manga that it hadn't crossed my mind that since the book was printed in 2009, that some things might have changed...
...evidently. Either that, or I was expecting a themed-cafe. That is what the blurb said, after all.
So now I'm in County Hall, and there is no Cafe Manga. There is a Chopstix with anime painted on the walls. It's an all-you-can-eat though, and I don't feel like spending £8 when I'm not really that hungry.
So 'Zen Cafe' it is. They have a 'manga coffee' which I am dissecting flavours on now. It is really odd.

There was half a mountain of whipped cream on top and since I stirred about half of that in, it is sweet and bitter at the same time.

It tastes like they've mixed chocolate in with the coffee, which might-or-might-not-be-flavoured. It has a slightly burnt flavour. The taste was smooth, but the smell is not. I suspect it's hazelnut.
The barrista is probably trying to figure out what I'm doing.

*UPDATE* I asked the guy. It was a coffee with chocolate poweder and hazelnut shot."

So, post the pulp-fiction coffee I went and watched the red pod on the giant ferris wheel make about three-quarters of a turn and suddenly noticed the expansive cloud cover ruining the clear day that was predestined for sky-soaring. The blue owl and I made it past the metal-detector and boarded the great hunk of steel.

The pod was constructed from a steel skeleton and double-glazed glass windows, and the skeleton stuck far in enough that Moot was able to sit on one spot and enjoy the whole ride. It got more exciting as we went further up. As we rose above the skyline, more and more of the buildings melted into the cityscape below us, until finally we sat on top of London.

At this point, I was moving from vantage point to vantage point, taking photos like a busload of Japanese tourists would when accosted by a Koala.

It. Was. Captain. Awesome.

I really enjoyed it and got to wanting to go for another circuit. As we descended I took more photos of the vista to the south of the Eye. I think that Moot really enjoyed the experience, whether he was animate or not.

If it is not yet clear, Big Ben is south of the Eye. And the clockface had lit up.

I seem to have developed some sort of stigma with the iconic clock. It's like, a first impressions sort of thing. Well, maybe not entirely first impressions, but definately...ah.

See, every time I see this I half-expect to also suddenly see Sora and co. fly around from the back, sweeping wide circles and firing fireballs at some giant wraith. I am also certain that the save point is located on the other side of the tower. I've seen it from three sides and still expect the glowing green thingie to be on the other side.

Nerd tendancies aside, I finished the ride on a high and impulse-bought the picture that they took. After all, I don't actually have many images of me doing things here. One of the many reasons one needs a bro' when travelling. Moot is in the photo also - my family has a tradition of anticipating ride photos and doing interesting things in them.

I don't know who the other guy is.

Here's to taking a photo of a photo of me acting like an idiot.