Thursday 29 March 2012

I like the look of this

John Carter. Never heard of it until tonight. Now I just have to see it.

What the frack?

It's always the same - I write something, then I get too busy with work and family stuff to do any blogging, and then I suddenly find that I've been mentioned by a couple of major league media/blog sites. And when it's happening, I'm too busy to even stick a post up to say, "Hi, sorry about all the photos of fat cyclist bums, but there is actually a bit of analysis in here somewhere". I emerged from a shift several floors underground today to suddenly find that Earth Hour is finally under the spotlight.

Enough of that - here is my latest must read blog - Prick with a Fork. Why didn't I find this masterpiece sooner?

Sunday 25 March 2012

And more

Cyclists aren't the only non-motorised people out and about each morning - there's also a lot of people walking or running to work, or just out walking or running for a spot of exercise.

I didn't bother trying to race this bloke up George St - he would have killed me.

One odd thing about the joggers in town is that they love running in some of the cycle lanes - and they run with their back to the traffic. At least this blonde had the courtesy to move to the left - many run with headphones on and can't hear you frantically belling and shouting as you come up behind them. I reckon the rude ones are probably taxi drivers getting a bit of exercise.

The week that was

OK, now that I have your attention, it's time for the serious stuff.

Another bloody ninja - all dressed in black, including a black back pack. Boy, that's a way to make sure motorists spot you when it's dark.

I'm going to have to get me one of these shiny back pack covers. Over on the right, there's a camera crew setting up to film a news story. The news broke that day about the Monorail being torn down, and you can see part of the monorail in the top left hand corner. 

Take note of the idiot pedestrian standing a foot or two out from the kerb. Note also the Mercedes coming across from the left - it has done a right hand turn from the road behind me to my left. Then look at the next photo.

This photo was taken on a different day, but shows a bus coming from our right and doing a left hand turn. The way the arrows work at this intersection is that turning traffic gets a turn, and idiot pedestrians and cyclists often try to cross against the lights without realising that vehicles are turning into and out of this street from several directions. I've seen no end of near misses here. No wonder the cops have been booking people for running the red.

This is the scene during the evening rush hour - bike chaos around 5pm. And I am in the middle of the pack.

It's then a scramble to get across the road whilst the light is green - in a fit of generosity, the RTA gives motorists 20 seconds and cyclists get 3 seconds of green. That's not enough time for the cyclists at the front of the pack to click in and get 2/3 of the way across the intersection before the light goes orange. Such is life.

Monday 19 March 2012

I'm sure they're worth it

Behold, the packages paid to the mandarins at the Australia Council

It's not just the big wigs up the top who are paid well - the Council has about 120 staff, and the total salary bill came to $12 million in 2010 - an average of $100,000 per employee (that includes super etc). 

The Board met 5 times that year, and the Board members raked in between $15,000 and $59,000 for making the effort to show up.

It must be a tough gig, deciding how to shovel $164.5 million out the door as rapidly as possible. If I'm reading the table above properly, the CEO of the Australia Council earns more than the Prime Minister.

Remember that next time someone - anyone - calls for more funding of the arts.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Arts funding - some more info

Arts NSW publishes a spreadsheet each year showing how deep in the trough the luvvies have their snouts. Here's a few highlights:

The Sydney Writers' Festival received $417,380. I'm not sure why. The Festival boasts it attracts 80,000 people - is it that hard to charge them an extra five bucks a ticket? Strangely enough, the Festival doesn't appear to have ever published an annual report, so we can't see where all the money is coming from and going to. That really annoys me - if an organisation is taking money from the taxpayer, it should be clearly accountable and totally transparent about how it spent the money. If anyone manages to track down one of their reports, please let me know. Antony Beevor attended a few years ago - I would have paid good money to see him speak if I had known he was in town. It's not like the cost is an issue for me - I've already spent about $100 on the hard cover versions of several of his books.

The Performance Space received $667,808. Here's a snippet of what you can see there at the moment:

RRAMP: Christine Johnston, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson
1- 4 Aug, Bay 20
An electronica dance metal rock set reflecting on compelling stories of collections, animal love, social commentary, childhood imaginings and human frailty.

Animal love?

If you don't mind getting your kit off, you can see a show about a naked artist.

The Performance Space is a wonderful example of how to milk the taxpayer through a variety of avenues. Consider the following snippets from their 2010 Annual Report.

income from the box office (ticket sales) was $66,676. Audience levels are noted elsewhere in the report as reaching over 27,000. That's an average of $2.47 per ticket. I guess they did an awful lot of free shows.

I'm interested in the "co-producer contribution" of $58,214. I have no idea what it means, but I doubt it has anything to do with the paying public handing over any money.

Total income was $1.84 million, of which $1.63 million was subsidies. As the paying public only chipped in $66,676, that means ticket sales covered a miserable 3.5% of costs. Clearly, this is not a profitable, going concern. Either there is a market for what they are doing, and they are comprehensively failing to tap into it, or there is no market for what they are doing, which means it is just a bunch of self indulgent mental masturbation - funded courtesy of the taxpayer.

I love this "statement of purpose". What the hell are "new contexts"? What is "art that explores the intersections between art forms, questions assumptions about the relationships between artist and audience, and engages with the concerns of the ever-evolving society in which we live"? The level of wank gets worse with every passing line.

I always have a look at annual reports for the section on the compensation of key management personnel. I hope they have more than one key manager - otherwise, the key manager is taking home a total package of $187,235. Not bad - that's nearly three times what they made in ticket sales. 

It's also worth noting that they had marketing costs of $158,042, which is 2.5 times what they took at the box office. That's pretty atrocious when you think about it. 

I did wonder where the remaining grants came from, so I had a look at the Australia Council website. It has this nifty search tool where you can dump out a list of all the grants that any individual or organisation has received since 2008.

The Performance Space Ltd has received 20 grants since 2008, ranging from $1,000 to $1.5 million (over three years). Some of these projects included:

  • Performance Space commission a new work: 'Applespiel Make A Band and Take On The Recording Industry'
  • To commission Diana Smith's The Living Room Project, a series of performances in artists' homes
  • Return to Sender: a curated program of short dance works exploring international peer exchange
  • Commission   See Saw Collective (OYEA)
  • To enable the artists of Field Theory to extend their skills as Live Art strategic leaders.
  • Present Nightshifters a commissioned site based video event involving eight Australian artists
  • Present SEXES, an exhibition of contemporary Australian art considered through sex and gender

"To enable the artists of Field Theory to extend their skills as Live Art strategic leaders." WTF???

All 20 grants from the Australia Council totalled $2,322,887.

The Performance Space annual report lists the City of Sydney as a Major Program Supporter, so they might have squeezed some funding out of them as well. if that's the case, that's not bad - they would have wallowed in taxpayer's cash from all three levels of government.

There there is $36,000 for:

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art will support the creation and presentation of major new work by Ken and Julia Yonetani, created in response to the recent nuclear tragedy in Fukushima. It will present new work, accompanied by film screenings and a significant public program that brings together Mirrar people from the Northern Territory and Japanese nuclear specialists.  The project will investigate parallels in cultural articulations of shared anxieties about nuclear experimentation and the future of the environment

Nuclear tragedy? I thought they had a FUCKING TSUNAMI that killed 20,000 people. And what's the deal with bringing in blackfellas from the Northern Territory? Do we have plutonium whisperers now?

Someone had to work global warming into their funding proposal - it must have worked, as they got $24,306:

A Return to the Trees' is a physical theatre work including aerial dance on a stark web of steel with bungee rigging systems and a spectrum of intricate multi-media motion tracking, gesture recognition music and soundscapes. The non-narrative 'story' is set in the depth of a near-futuristic society exploring the beautiful yet ultimately animalistic nature of humanity struggling to survive in a world of over population, global warming and the inexorable march of technology

Sounds about as successful as Water World, except with trees.

I had to get down to page 94 (of 96) to find this $3,000 gem:

A hybrids arts performance where the movements of musicians in a string quartet are triggered by seismic activity via electric muscle stimulation. Seismic data, collected via an online database provided by observatories around the world, is converted to an audio file and used to generate movement in performers using a midi-controlled electric muscle stimulation device so that they involuntarily 'play' their instruments. The work questions assumptions about the role of the musicians agency in musical performance and provides a reflective look at both the utility of information and the lack of agency we have with respect to global systems.

Once you've read something like that, you realise that the NSW Arts budget should be abolished, the departmental building burned to ashes and the ground upon which it stood sown thickly with salt.

Stuff happens

Stuff happens - like I try to take a picture of an idiotic taxi driver, and I get something all arty and farty. Reckon I could get a government grant for that?

Here's what the above photo is all about. You've got three lanes heading away from me here (plus a pink bus lane). At peak hour, the right hand lane is for right turns and the other two lanes are left turn only onto the Anzac Bridge.
Every once in a while, an idiot tries to avoid the big long queue of cars turning right and drives right up to the front of the line and tries to push in. They never succeed. What happens is you get a few hundred angry motorists stuck in the lane behind you, with half of them leaning on their horns. What makes it really funny to watch is that the drivers in the right hand lane, who are doing the correct thing, also get mad at the idiot driver, and they refuse to let them in. So you've got two lanes of angry drivers all taking it out on one idiot. I could stand on this bridge and watch them do this all day.

The Apple shop this week, with queue stretching around the corner.

I think about half the crowd was made up of media types trying to interview nerds. The photos are a bit blurry because I think the camera is half full of water - it's been a bit wet of late.

Coming home, the traffic was even worse because a cement truck rolled over at pretty much the same spot. By the time I got there, a crane had turned up and flipped it back onto its wheels, and the fire brigade were using sand to mop up a diesel spill.

The last photo is from the SMH.

I bet that driver won't be in such a hurry to go around corners in the future.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Wednesday photos

Don't say anything rude, Cav - she looked like she could rip your arms off and beat you to death with the bloody ends.

Cyclists version of "bricky's crack". Not a good look. Remind me to never wear a jersey that is too small.

The blonde in this picture had a helmet - dangling from her handlebars. I'll never understand that. If you don't want to wear a helmet, leave the blasted thing at home.

This was the queue at a red light tonight - I was 12th in line. Funnily enough, with the continued growth in people walking and riding into the city, I've been having more close calls of late with cyclists and pedestrians. I found myself braking hard enough twice today to have the rear wheel sliding out to avoid collisions. The free and easy days of being one of the few cyclists on the road are well and truly over.

I also thumped a car today. I was overtaken by a very new, very black and very shiny BMW X6. Well, it didn't quite overtake me as I was doing nearly 40 along a stretch where that's as fast as the cars can travel. And then then X6 simply drifted into my bike lane. That's when I whacked the rear door window with my knuckles - and I hit the window hard enough to hurt. I had to check my knuckles for blood afterwards.

The X6 came to a rather stunned halt. The driver was probably wondering if they'd hit me or something else, or if I'd just hit their car because it was a black BMW. I'll be clear on this point - I thumped it as a warning to stay out of my lane and to avoid being squashed.

The X6 overtook me shortly after that, and then stopped at a red light.

The reason for the lane drifting became pretty clear.

The driver was on the phone. She was paying more attention to her call than to the road.

Motorists are supposed to leave a 1 metre gap when passing cyclists. I measured my arm tonight - it is about 60cm from armpit to wrist. I didn't have to stretch to whack the X6 - I just half flicked my arm out and that was enough to make contact, so the car was probably less than a foot away from me.

I wonder if I should start to wear a big chunky ring with a few sharp edges?

The Police were out again this morning, booking cyclists running red lights through Pyrmont. The sneaky sods moved up a couple of intersections, and were busting a few unsuspecting riders when I went through. 

The intersection they were booking at has three lights - a pedestrian light, a cyclist light and one for motorists. When I got to it, the pedestrian and car lights were green, but the bike light was red - the detectors at that intersection rarely detect bikes. It's a downhill stretch, and I was moving pretty quickly. I just blasted through, and the four cops hardly gave me a glance as I tore past them. I didn't notice them until I was right at the intersection. If I had been running a red, I wonder if they'd have been able to stop me? Crikey, if one of them stepped out in front of me, the result would have been awful. 100+ kilos of rider and bike moving at nearly 40km/h....ouch. I think the cops were only booking cyclists who ran a red motorist light. I'll pay more attention tomorrow morning.

Big Green

From Bishop Hill.

It's enough to drive you batty:

Night operation of the windmills in the North Allegheny Windpower Project has been halted following discovery of a dead Indiana bat under one of the turbines, an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.

But wait - there's more!

Evergreen Solar is asking a bankruptcy judge for permission to walk away from its former plant in Devens.

The company, which received tens of millions in state aid before shuttering its facilities last year and moving its manufacturing operations to China, filed the notice in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware on Monday.

Interested parties including MassDevelopment, which helps finance and develop new projects, have until Friday to respond to the filing.

A spokeswoman for MassDevelopment declined comment Tuesday, saying the filing speaks for itself.

Evergreen received more than $20 million in grants and $11 million in tax and lease initiatives from Massachusetts. That doesn’t include other tax benefits and millions in upgrades to roads and utilities around the plant.

And yet more!

It Took $10M in Taxpayer-Funded Subsidies To Create $50 "Green" Light Bulb to Replace a $1 Bulb

ha ha

From Argghh.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Ladies day

Dunno what it was about today, but it seemed that I was surrounded by women on bikes everywhere I went. There are days when I don't see a single woman on two wheels - and then suddenly there's mobs of them. My apologies for the blurry first photo - I was hammering up this hill at nearly 35km/h and it was a bit tricky doing that and riding one handed and taking a photo in the near dark.

The only down side was the prick in the Falcon ute this morning who overtook me as I was passing a parked bus - and he left me a good six inches of room as he went past. Some drivers just have no brains. Which is why most of them choose Fords.

Monday 12 March 2012

Monday photos

That's not a ship - that's the Iron Cove Bridge in the early hours of the morning. Can't wait for daylight saving to be over and done with. 

Some cyclists are their own worst enemy. Look at the top photo, and how dark it was. And then look at this bloke - all dressed in black with no lights - just a small red reflector at the rear. I almost rear ended him myself as I powered up behind him in the gloom.

Although the Harbour Bridge is quite impressive, the approaches are pretty huge too. In the middle of the lawn there's a bloke sitting on a park bench, enjoying the view - with his bike parked beside him. Not a bad way to start the day.

It's a dog's life. I prefer the idea of huskies - having them out the front pulling you along. And why isn't that dog wearing a helmet?

I thought this bloke was going to bolt through the red - and then not one, but two police vans went by. He thought better of it.

Spotted this old beast chugging up the road - it wasn't hard to miss. It almost disappeared in a cloud of blue exhaust smoke as it accelerated. It just goes to show how far automotive engineering has advanced over the last 100 years.

Look closely - this bloke has a kid balancing on the top tube. I guess he has picked his son up from school, or music practice, and is dinking him home.

Yellow saddle bags - gotta love them.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Saturday 10 March 2012

Arts funding - nice if you can get it

If you want to be astonished at how our money is poured into the arts, have a look at this spreadsheet - and this is just what the NSW government hands out.

We, as in the taxpayers, gave the Sydney Theatre Company $712,600 in 2011/12 for a program to employ some resident artists.

How many artists do you think you can get for $712,600? Given that they're all supposed to be starving in garrets, I would have thought that would pay for a few dozen at least.



The Residents in 2011 are:
Cameron Goodall 
Julia Ohannessian 
Zindzi Okenyo 
Richard Pyros 
Sophie Ross 
Tahki Saul

Assuming the STC splits the grant six ways and passes on all of it to these six, that comes to $118,767 each. Not bad going - beats waiting on tables.

Before the kids came along, we used to see up to six shows a year at the STC - most of them were pretty good (as you'd expect when the tickets cost $70-$120 per person). The only show that didn't do much for me was Julius Caesar - I fell asleep half an hour in, and my very loud snores distracted the cast on several occasions.

We'd have dinner at a nice restaurant before the show, and of course there were taxis there and back, so a single play would usually cost the two of us around $400 all up. Nowadays, it's whatever is on TV on Saturday night and some home made popcorn.

I don't recall seeing too many Westies in the audience at the STC. Why the westies should have to subsidise the entertainment preferences of the likes of me is something I will never understand.

Friday photos

Friday was just wee bit nicer than Thursday for riding. That is, the sun was out, the roads were dry and I didn't have to swim my bike across any flooded intersections. 

There are some cyclists out there who are just asking for trouble. I photographed this bloke not long after dawn - don't let the brightness of the photo fool you - the light was very dim at the time. He's got a black back pack on and black knicks, which makes him close to invisible from behind - and he was riding without lights fore or aft. Which makes him completely daft. If he keeps riding like this, he's going to get collected by a car one dark morning. And I wouldn't be blaming the driver if that happens. 

This bloke had it right - bright lights front and rear and a vest that you could spot from several miles away. 

Speaking of getting collected, it almost happened to me. I was going through a green light when a car coming from my left went straight through the red and turned left into the street that I was going into. It was only a bit of emergency braking on my part that stopped me slamming into his driver side door. I was so glad the roads were dry - if they had been wet, I doubt I would have pulled up in time. He gave me a bit of a surprised glance, and then floored it and took off. He proceeded to rat run through the back streets to get to the City West Link - probably a tradie in a stupid hurry to get to a job. It's not like the lights had just gone green for me - I had been proceeded by a bus and a truck through that intersection. I reckon he saw the truck go through, figured there was no other traffic behind it, and decided to run the red (it was early, when there was bugger all traffic about). 

The bike paths were full of wimps on Friday - all the fair-weather cyclists who decided not to ride on Thursday because it was a "bit wet".

From the SMH
Pfft - that's not wet. That's just a slight case of dampness.

This set of lights is right outside the Harlequin Inn. I've often thought about stopping here for a beer, but I know that there are only a few possible outcomes if that happens.

  1. I'll chunder halfway up the Anzac Bridge, or
  2. I'll have more than one beer, and be going home in a taxi

The council spoilsports have put up a sign over on the right banning the drinking of booze outside the pub. I think it would pretty nice on a warm day to park the bike off to the right, grab a cold one and settle down to watch the world go by. But no, the wowsers think that is a Bad Thing. Curse the wowsers.

Care to join the Aboriginal Fishing Advisory Council?

I wouldn't know one end of a fish from the other, so this job isn't really for me. And somehow, I don't think I would fit in that well with the existing board. Here for instance is Associate Professor Stephan Schnierer, who is the "Other Aboriginal Person appointed by the Minister". I'm afraid I just couldn't work with someone who thinks wearing a bandanna is cool.

And then there is Chels Marshall, who is described as:

Chels is from the north coast of NSW and has extensive cultural knowledge of land and sea. Chels also has experience working with communities in this region in natural resource management matters. 

Is this the same Chels Marshall who lists their interests on Facebook as:

Senator Bob Brown, Youth Decide '09, Vote Green, Say Yes Australia, The Bellingen River Festival, Sustainable Seafood Day Australia

Somehow, I think me and Chels would have a few clashes.

You'll notice that the advertisement calls for expressions of interest from Aboriginal persons. I wonder if anyone from the Litijus-Mordy Nation will apply?