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Showing posts from 2007

And now, the end is near...

After two-and-a-half years, 572 posts, and a lot of late nights that could have been spent watching Letterman, AOTW will enter a permanent hiatus. It's been a fun journey, traversing an ecletic range of topics in a way that impressed some and bemused many. I've said plenty of things that I'm proud of, and a few that I regret, but either way I've enjoyed the process of finding my own voice and claiming a small soapbox as my very own.

I've been debating with myself whether or not to take the AOTW archive off-line. In the end I think I'll keep it accessible, both because of the reality that once something is published it can never really be unpublished, and because I think readers are intelligent enough to realise that one's past can never be a guide to one's future.

Now I'm moving on to greener pastures, having started this week as a trainee reporter at one of Australia's most influential newspapers. The blogosphere is regularly gloating over th…

Musings on a sorry State

On Saturday I returned from my five week sojourn to the United States. Whilst I landed with the best intentions in the world to share my wild ride with my blog-post parched readers over the weekend, I ended up doing rather more pedestrian things, like overcoming jetlag and shopping for groceries. Come Monday, I commenced my new job (more on that soon) and so my opportunities to write about the trip are rather limited.

So, rather than the careful, sober analysis that such a trip deserves, I offer up a few random thoughts on things that captured my imagination.

The United States is a sick society, caught up in a pique of hyper-consumerism in an unsuccessful attempt to fill the psychological void of post-industrialism. It's nothing new to suggest that literally everything is for sale in the US, but it's still unnerving to see it close up.

A few examples help illustrate the point.

Inside many trains on the New York subway is wall-to-wall advertising for self-improvement of a…

Deep in the heart of etc, etc

Having spent almost a week in Texas, I'm disappointed to see that it's not nearly as Texan as I was expecting. San Antonio is a big city with lots of fat lanyarded conventioneers flocking into town to eat overpriced shrimp and slap other fat landarded conventioneers on the back.

Austin is a little nicer though, like a slice on Byron Bay in the heart of Far North Queensland. It's a fun city, with plenty of live music, some supurb improv comedy, a mayor called Will Wynn (I shit you not) and an unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Wierd". That's my kinda place.

UPDATE 5/2, 7:50pm. In response to the comments:

- Austin as Byron Bay was not meant as a geographic reference but as a cultural reference. Whether it's in Queensland, New South Wales or Timbuktu is irrelevant to the comparison I was making.

- I'm trying to imagine the conversation I might have with this Jason Traxal: "Hi Jason, my name's Ari from Australia. An anonymous person told me to…

Can I, y'know, help you?

Normally I like nonchalance in people who are delivering services to me. I don't want my waiter to be a sycophant, my station master to stress out or my airline steward to twist an ankle in my service. Still, quite often in this country, service is beyond nonchalant - it's just plain rude in its cantgiveafuck-ness.

I had a nigling feeling that something was not quite right on my first meal in Los Angeles after landing. After being shown to our seat at a 1950s-themed diner, our waiter roused himself from his comfy booth and approached us. With earphone still wedged in his left ear, he flung some menus in my direction, and returned a few minutes later only to ask "Yeah?", which we soon learnt was an invitation for us to recite our order.

This was far from an isolated experience. On many occasions, you can't help but get the feeling that your mere presence as a customer is intruding upon the leisure time of the person you are trying to deal with. From Greyhoun…

Boom! Chicago

The front page of the tabloid commuter giveaway in Chicago this morning reads "Obama-rama", and this Barackaphilia has spread nation wide. Obama, a local Illinoisan, has only just dipped his toe in the Presidential waters, but he has received a reception normally reserved for deity making the presence felt on earth. He's charming, charismatic, and oh-so-electable. For newspaper editors sick of the tiresome partisan politics that has become entrenched since the numbing effects of September 11 wore off, Obama is a breath of fresh air.

Having said that, being the leading candidate 21 months out from election day is a bit like leading the Melbourne Cup at the first turn. There is plenty more of the race yet to be run. Leading up to '04, Howard Dean was the lead Democrat significantly closer to the Convention, but by the time the big day came around he was no where to be seen. Still, for Democrats this is an exciting time, and Obama is an exciting candidate, and one…

Pricey internet means few posts

Sorry

UPDATE 12/1, 7:30pm: It also means mysteriously misspelling easy to spell words. The US is a strangely unreflective society, steadfastly refusing to take a moment to think but instead indulging itself in an orgy of mindless consumption. It's a society with a sense of entitlement, where the very idea of leaving an urge unsatisfied in frowned-upon. The cultural differences are subtle, but the collective mindset is more obvious.