Cracked Pepper?

One of the runaway success stories of Australian television is a subversive comedy show called The Chaser’s War on Everything. This very funny show takes constant potshots at every conceivable social and political norm, often drawing attention to the many stupid and inconsistent things we do. During 2007 the show aired every Wednesday night on ABC TV, and was also podcast via

My son Alex is a huge fan of the Chaser, and one of his favourite sketches was one in which the show’s host, Chris Taylor, rants about how annoying those waiters are that interrupt your meal to ask you if you’d like any cracked pepper. The sketch goes on to look at a variety of interesting situations in which a pepper-toting waiter might interrupt to offer his wares… if you’ve not seen it, here is the clip…

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So the other day I took Linda and the kids for lunch in Coogee. As we strolled down the sidewalk past all the funky little restaurants and bars, both Alex and Kate noticed that the Chaser’s Chris Taylor just happened to be sitting at a window-side table with some friends having a drink. “Dad, that’s the guy from The Chaser!” said Kate excitedly.

We kept walking and ended up sitting at a nice little restaurant a few doors down. Once seated however, my 15 year old son Alex started musing on the idea of how funny it would be for a waiter to offer Chris Taylor cracked pepper. Never one to pass an opportunity to make people laugh, Alex decided to borrow a pepper mill from our restaurant and, you guessed it, go next door to offer Taylor some cracked pepper of his own. I followed him up the street as he wandered into the restaurant with the pepper mill behind his back, walked up to Taylor and interrupted him with “cracked pepper sir?” I was standing on the sidewalk with Kate, intending to capture all this with my mobile phone’s video camera but was laughing so hard all I got to do was watch it unfold. Taylor was a good sport, and just smiled at Alex and said “No thanks”, to which Alex responded with “Are you sure sir?” Perhaps you just had to be there, but it was very funny.

The thing that amazed me the most was to see just how brazen Alex can be when he needs to be. He is normally a pretty quiet and introverted kid, but he had absolutely no trouble wandering up to this well known TV personality and turning the tables on him. I know it’s not exactly a paparazzi moment, but it was pretty funny.

Of course, trying to decide what to include in Alex’s Christmas stocking this year was easy… yes, he got his very own pepper mill. Cracked pepper, Santa?

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Last night Linda and I went in to the Sydney Carols in the Domain Christmas concert.  All this southern hemisphere Christmas-without-snow was causing some mental disconnect for Linda so she was having a bit of trouble getting into the spirit ot the season… seems that the carols has gone some way to helping alleviate that.  (And Sydney really does know how to throw a great outdoor event.)

For those that live on the top half of the planet, here are a few photos to show you what an Aussie Christmas looks like…

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Oh Darling! Nice shot!

I spent a lovely afternoon in the city yesterday showing My Linda around. We walked around Darling Harbour for quite a while before heading down to the Rocks and Circular Quay. Sydney really is a very pretty city.

While we were at Darling Harbour I took this shot. (click to enlarge)

This photo-panorama is actually a composite of 20 individual photos. Each photo was taken slightly overlapping the previous one, and there were three rows of photos – one across the middle, then a row above and a row below. They were then taken into a wonderful piece of Mac software called Calico, which I think does an incredibly clever job of stitching them all together into a single shot. You don’t even need to tell Calico which bits go where… just dump all the photos in and it figures out where the overlaps are.

Windows users might like to look at a similar product called Autostitch.

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The New Journalism

Helen CoonanIn a recent speech delivered by Senator Helen Coonan, I was impressed by some of what she said about the changing nature of the world. Coonan is Australia’s Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (yeah, we like to give ’em broad portfolios down in Australia)

Her speech was entitled “An Integration Plan for Digital Migrants”, and although there didn’t seem to to be a lot of action points for a “plan” as such, I found it an interesting speech. Of course, a lot of her talk will sound quite familiar to many of us who live in the educational blogosphere, but it’s good (and unfortunately somewhat unusual) to hear insights like these coming from the political world.

Among other things, Coonan said…

Digital immigrants are, on the whole, outpaced by the hoards of digital natives who do not see technology as technology but as an appendage. It’s not technology to the teens – it’s routine, it’s run-of-the-mill, it’s life.

They don’t marvel about how their mobile or their computer has made their life easier or more convenient – they can barely remember a time when these essentials did not exist.

The Pew Internet Project in the US found that the average 21 year old has, in all probability, spent 5000 hours playing video games, exchanged around 250,000 e-mails, instant messages, and phone text messages, and has spent 10,000 hours on a mobile phone and 3500 hours online.

These same 21 year olds are more likely to access their news and opinion online, do research online and shop online. They date online and can even pray online. For advertisers they are fast becoming the ‘lost generation’.

They are fickle consumers, are difficult to tie to one place and they are increasingly sceptical of attempts to market to them through their online communities or other new wave mediums.

These are surprisingly insightful words from a politician and ones that make me very glad to think that maybe, just maybe, someone at government level actually gets it. Good onya Helen.

Here is the whole speech if you’d like to check it out.

Dropping like Flies

What on earth is going on back in Australia??

First I awoke the other day to the news that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was killed. I’m amazed at the response here in Canada and the USA. I can understand the outpouring of emotion back home is Australia, since Stevo was a well known and mostly well liked bloke who did good things to promote the environment and wildlife. Despite the way Irwin often came across as just a bit too over-the-top, he was absolutely passionate about what he did and that showed through. Even if he got on your nerves a bit, he was still the real deal… a genuine Aussie bloke that was just excited about life. Such a shame to lose him like that.

It has been amazing though to see the way that his death has been mourned and reported here in North America though. I had no idea he was so well known and loved by so many people outside Australia. There have been endless news stories about the incident since it happened, and current affairs feature were still talking about it days after it happened. I’ve heard it mentioned on the TV and radio here numerous times… a surprising amount of airtime actually. Just goes to show what a great job Steve Irwin did of promoting Australia. Vale Stevo.

And then today I heard the news about Brockie. OMG, I couldn’t believe it. Peter Brock was one of the most well known racing drivers in Australia. Nine times winner of the gruelling bathurst race, Brockie was the undisputed King of the Mountain for many years. He’s another one who is just a fair dinkum, down to earth, good bloke. To have him die in a targa – a minor rallying event – is just unthinkable. He was a major promoter of road safety, did heaps of great charity work and you just couldn’t help but like Peter Brock. Australian motor racing has lost a legend, and the Australian people have lost a great Australian. You’ll be missed Brockie.

Let’s hope things don’t really happen in threes.

Oh, and Germaine Greer…  why don’t you pull your head in and piss back off the UK.  You’re talking shit.