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Showing posts from May, 2006

Letters from Burma

There are few people in the world who capture my heart and mind more than the wonderful group of Burmese kids I met on the streets of Rangoon in 2004. With a significant language barrier, an unreliable postal service and a lack of email, communicating with them has proven rather tricky. Recently I received a pair of letters from them and thanks to a sensationally helpful Burmese man I met in Bangkok, I've managed to have their letters translated into English.

Whilst the English is far from perfect, and the names have been removed due to my (justified) paranoia about their safety, the letters give just a glimpse of life inside one of the world's most intellectually isolated countries.

Letter # 1:

Dear friend I am wating for you and also i am so happy that i get chance to write letter to you i am always remember to you , now i am not stay in 30 street there is only XXX and YYY.

I have been waiting for your letter long time, lastly i'm get it now and you are still rember .as …

If you fly and write, you're a bloody blogger

The blog-as-travel-diary idea is one that I relish. I made the most of it myself during the summer of 2004/2005, and I still regularly get emails from people who are heading to the same part of the world that I visited.

Now there's a blogging site dedicated to travel blogs: My Life of Tr@vel. Browse away.

Blog's second birthday and (another) Top 10

Last week marked the second birthday of AOTW, an event that went largely unremarked upon, except for a day of public celebrations in Kazakhstan. As I did at this time last year, I've put together a list of my ten favourite posts for the second year, again listed from most distant to most recent. Enjoy!

10. Off the artistic role call. I'm sad to say that this one is still the record-setter when it comes to comments on a post. Having found a rather unfortuante set of facts that suggested The Age had not been up-front with their readers, I chose to publish and my damned. I stand by my decision.

9. What a wonderful world. Welcoming Sasha and Natani Ernest into cyberspace. Surprise, surprise, S and N are not on the verge on their first birthday. Happy birthday, girls.

8. Ten of the worst. Ten of the worst ministers in the ten years of the Howard government. The good, the bad and the very ugly get a run, although mostly it's the lazy, incompetent and basically unnoticed o…

Taking childcare to market

In the parlance of modern politics, childcare is a barbeque-stopper: an issue that gets the largely disengaged suburbanite masses talking. Presumably these are the same people who spend much of their time talking to colleagues around water-coolers.

Yet again it's in the news, this time because of the 'problem' of non-working parents taking childcare places at the expense of working parents. Ho hum, yet another way to talk but not act.

It frustrates me that the issue has become a 'we need more Government funding' issue, along with health, education, criminal justice and just about every other manifestation of the welfare state. This is one issue where a market-based solution, rather than a government-centred one, would achieve plenty.

Here are the important facts, as I see it:

1. More and more parents are seeking childcare for their infant children so that these parents can re-enter the workforce.

2. Childcare workers are chronically underpaid.

3. The government pays a…

Be thankful for small mercies

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In November of 2004 I visited Bangkwang Prison and wrote about what I saw there. One of the most heartbreaking stories was that of Michael Connell, a Brit with learning difficulties who was 19 years of age when he was arrested for drug smuggling in 2003 and given a life sentence.

A small but significant piece of good news has come the way of Michael's family:

To: Mr. Derek J. Connell
Re: Michael Connell

Dear Mr. Connell,

We are pleased to inform you that yesterday Michael went to the Criminal Court and the judgement of the Appeals Court was read to him. The said court reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 30 years imprisonment.

We understand that Michael does not wish to further appeal his case to the Dika Court (Supreme Court) shall have to see him in Bangkwnag Central Prison to have his confirmation.

Yours faithfully,

Bangkok Legal Associates Law Office
Puttri Kuvanonda


Michael Connell

This may be the first of many pieces of good news this year for prisoners held in Thaila…

A firebrand he aint

Crean came, and Crean went.

Watching him in action this evening at Melbourne University was rather underwhelming. Looking at the body language, the tone and the complete lack of ideas, it seems that Crean still has quite got over being dumped as Labor leader. Despite a promising, although slightly earnest, theme - Young People and Australian Politics - Crean managed to completely lack inspiration. He spent some time rehashing Beazley's budget reply *yawn*, then went on to excuse the utter mediocrity of Labor in opposition. No hopes, no dreams, no inspiring words to give hope the true believers. This was a colour-by-numbers speech.

One of the more frustrating aspects of Crean's talk was an aspect that has long frustated me about the Labor Party - they're critical of the government for its supposed lack of generousity with the spending of the surplus, but completely lack any acknowledgement that the reason the surplus exists in the first place is frugal economic managemen…

Crean speaks... how's his Khmer?

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What is it with former Labor leaders, Melbourne Uni and young people in politics?

Info about this event has dropped in my in-box:

Guest lecture by Simon Crean, Federal Member for Hotham, on 'Young people and Australian politics.'
Date/Time: Monday 15th May, 6.45pm
Venue: Public Lecture Theatre, Old Arts Bldg

Anyone care to join me?


Guess who's next.

Geddit?

An SMS received this afternoon...

What do Beaconsfield and Collingwood have in common?
.
.
.
Both killed Carlton on the weekend!

Veryvery clever.

Comedy Festival Wrap-Up

The Comedy Festival has come and gone for another year and for yet another April I've found myself swearing more frequently than usual. The anecdotal evidence is that the festival was a huge success: plenty of shows were selling out (including a healthy bunch of locals), long queues were sighted all around the Town Hall, and Trades Hall has made a welcome comeback to the Festival scene.

Though some might have devoted themselves to the 20-hour Comedy Lock-In, I was more than content with cracking the dozen (see right) and seeing some quality shows in the process. Working as a reviewer for the second year has been a great opportunity to study the art as well as the humour. When a comic gets up for their 50 minute set, there's a hell of a lot going on that's not immediately obvious. Keep an eye out for it.

The Festival awards were given out last Saturday, with the results available here, although strangely the Barry Award has been left out - it went to Demitri Martin.

But …

MICF - The Space Cowboy: Mind Bending

Most of us are hardened cynics when it comes to magic and illusions. We've seen it all, know the tricks behind the trade, and mildly resent some smartarse making us feel stupid. But still we flock to see it, desperate to outsmart the performer. One performer who will take considerable effort to outsmart is the Space Cowboy.

Appearances can be deceiving. When he arrives on stage with less-than-perfect grace, the audience is lulled into a false sense of security. Space Cowboy is not a natural performer, and can at times feel awkward in the glare of the Umbrella Revolution lights. He stumbles over his phrases, occasionally seems to improvise with the order of his tricks and at times looks like an up-and-coming street performer trying to score some silver off passers by at Southbank.

Once he gets going, however, Space Cowboy is captivating. He starts with a gruesome bit of sword-swallowing that is not for the faint hearted (nor the faint of pancreas) and soon follows with his rea…

Blue and green should never be seen...

Does anyone really by this?

From the UK Tories in the lead up to local council elections:

Vote Blue :: Go Green

Vote Conservative on Thursday.

This is a great country, and with the right leadership it could be even better.

We’re going to have to wait a bit to make some of the changes Britain needs. The next election may be a few years away.

Conservative councils are greener, cleaner, safer and cheaper than Labour and Lib Dem councils. So voting Conservative on 4 May means voting for better local government.

I think it’s so important that you vote in these local elections on Thursday. If you don’t vote, you won’t have a say.

But if you do vote, you can vote for a cleaner, greener environment in your area.

Vote blue, Go green

David Cameron

Read more about this one on their website. It's a tough sell, and in the short term few will by it. In the long term, though...