The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

24 Sep

The most monumental of all triumphal arches was constructed between 1806 and 1836. Although it’s original plans underwent a number of modifications reflecting political changes and power struggles, the arch still retains the essence of its original concept as a powerful, unified ensemble.

P1040291.JPG

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (Arch of Triumph of the Star) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l’Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It should not be confused with a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe (in English: “Triumphal Arch”) honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces.

P1040262.JPG

The Arc de Triomphe is the highlight of the Axe historique (historic axis) a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which runs from the courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense. The monument was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 and its iconographic program pitted heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments, with triumphant patriotic messages.

It’s entire decorative cycle belongs to a high tradition of sculpture of the first half of the 19th century. Figures, friezes and bas-reliefs are works by Jean-Pierre Cortott, Antoine Etex and James Pradier. The most celebrated sculpture is that by Francois Rude, La Marseillaise. It’s tomb of the Unknown Soldier and memorial flame has become a revered patriotic site.

P1040287.JPG

On 15 December 1840, brought back to France from Saint Helena, Napoleon’s remains passed under it on their way to the Emperor’s final resting place at the Invalides. Although it was ordered by Napoleon I, the construction of this triumphal arch was only completed in 1836―15 years after his death―during the reign of French King, Louis Philippe. Prior to burial in the Panthéon, the body of Victor Hugo was exposed under the Arc during the night of 22 May 1885.

The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin (1739–1811), in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture (see, for example, the triumphal Arch of Titus). Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; François Rude; Antoine Étex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire. The main sculptures are not integral friezes but are treated as independent trophies applied to the vast ashlar masonry masses, not unlike the gilt-bronze appliqués on Empire furniture. The four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc are The Triumph of 1810 (Cortot), Resistance and Peace (both by Antoine Étex) and the most renowned of them all, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 commonly called La Marseillaise (François Rude). The face of the allegorical representation of France calling forth her people on this last was used as the belt buckle for the honorary rank of Marshal of France. Since the fall of Napoleon (1815), the sculpture representing Peace is interpreted as commemorating the Peace of 1815.

In the attic above the richly sculptured frieze of soldiers are 30 shields engraved with the names of major Revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories. The inside walls of the monument list the names of 660 people, among which are 558 French generals of the First French Empire;[12] the names of those who died in battle are underlined. Also inscribed, on the shorter sides of the four supporting columns, are the names of the major victorious battles of the Napoleonic Wars. The battles that took place in the period between the departure of Napoleon from Elba to his final defeat at Waterloo are not included.

P1040286.JPG

There was at the top of the Arc from 1882 to 1886, a monumental sculpture by Alexandre Falguière, “Le triomphe de la Révolution” (the Triumph of the Revolution), a chariot drawn by horses preparing “to crush Anarchy and Despotism”, that remained only four years up there before falling in ruins.

Inside the monument, a new permanent exhibition conceived by the artist Maurice Benayoun and the architect Christophe Girault opened in February 2007. There are two ways to reach the exhibition, via an elevator that was put into service July 1929 in the north west pillar of the arch. The harder way and probably the more enjoyable way for a fit person is the staircase. There is I’m told 284 steps to reach the viewing platform, I’m sure there are also a few extra sneaky ones as well, there is a stunning 360 degree view of Paris which makes all those steps worthwhile. If you are worried about tight staircases I recommend walking up the staircase of Notre Dame Cathedral first, if you’ve already conquered those you will have no worries. I would also recommend buying the Paris Museum pass, this will get you entry to many of the sites of Paris.

IMG_1385.JPG

The first time we visited the Arch was on the inauguration of France’s new president in 2012, we were unfortunate enough not to be able to cross under the road as it was already blocked off for the procession coming through, luckily enough we got to see the French flag flying inside the arch. It should be noted we were actually sort of lost, we were in fact looking the the Eiffel Tower, the bus we jumped onto that morning went in the opposite direction towards the Arch by accident, we were able to see it before being crushed by the celebrating crowds later in the morning. Yes we did get to the Eiffel Tower later in the day, and that’s an entirely different story. Obviously the second time was much more productive.

IMG_0667.JPG

P1040276-0.JPG

Advertisements

Three pints and a towel please…

25 May

Three pints and a towel please…

I have been asked to write about some of my experiences getting into pubs whilst drunk, sober or being mostly harmless following a rather quick off the mark answer after being refused entry to one of my favourite bars in Sydney last December.

20140525-112409-41049952.jpg

My wife and I were celebrating her and her best friend’s birthday. After a fabulous meal at a much overpriced restaurant in The Rocks area of Sydney, we made our way to one of my favourite bars. Jackson’s on George has long been renowned as one of the most exciting and vibrant venues in Sydney; I always try and have at least one drink here when ever visiting. There’s a fantastic sports lounge out the back with the old style pub feel; there’s also a great bar and dining area at the front which looks out to the hustle and bustle of George street. It’s recently been taken over and is now what’s considered an Irish style pub. My wife and our two close friends were in front of me; my so-called mate being the cheeky one and unbeknownst to me at the time had told the security guard to not allow me entry when I decided to rock up.

Boris the security guard stood there arms folded, muscles flexing and chewing gum with a smile on his face casually says, “mate, give me one good reason I should allow you into our fine establishment?” With a flourish I pull my iPad out of my satchel with an equally smug grin and say, work for the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, would you like a write-up?” Boris laughed and then in a barely audible whisper whilst chewing ” that will do nicely.” Boris was obviously no mug, we swapped several quotes and I was given good advice to make sure I settle the bar bill, look out for any savage birds and disembodied hands. He also said, don’t ask for credit because having your throat torn out by a savage bird while a disembodied hand smashes your head against the bar often offends”. I was then given entry into his fine establishment. If your best laid plans don’t turn out especially when they involve drinking at a pub make sure you have your guide and always know where your towel is.

Readers, you come along with me and have a good time. The U.K. is a fun place to be. You don’t even need a fish in your ear. This year I celebrated what I consider a milestone birthday. Can you guess? It’s the answer to life the universe & everything; yes that’s right, it’s 42. To date, I am yet to find the answer, let alone understand the question.

Over the Christmas and New Year break of 2013/2014, my family and I travelled through parts of Paris, England, Scotland, Ireland and about two and a half hours of Wales. Whilst we were away for roughly five weeks, my plan involved visiting as many pubs as I could fit into what was already a hectic schedule. One of the planned highlights would be my 42nd birthday, which also fell on a Thursday. Of course, all through our lives we’ve had this strange unaccountable feeling that something was going on in the world, something big, even sinister, and no one would tell us what it was. But, that’s just perfectly normal paranoia— everyone in the Universe has that. It would be celebrated in Liverpool, home to many important things. The Beatles, Jerry and The Pacemakers, that famous football team & the Mersey ferry to name a few. I should also mention Jamie’s Italian restaurant, which was my food moment for the trip; the only time I drank red wine, for which the-mother-in-law was paying so I ordered a few…bottles.

20140525-105445-39285608.jpg

What was the plan? Well my daughter and I have a love for the late, great Douglas Adams. If you’ve read his greatest work, you’d know how during the first few chapters Arthur Dent is having a terrible Thursday. Arthur’s house is about to be demolished to make way for a bypass. His friend, Ford Prefect has taken him to the local pub and is trying to explain where he’s from, what’s about to happen in the next few minutes and why he wants Arthur to accompany him off world. Yep, the planet is about to be demolished to make way for a Hyperspatial Express Route by the vogons. ( You can check the Vogon Demolition Projects as well as their rates here: http:/www.vogon.com/mirror/fleet/)

When the pair walk into the bar Ford makes his order to a dismayed publican. “Six pints of bitter, and quickly please; the world’s about to end.We so much wanted to walk into a random pub on my birthday and do exactly that to see what would happen. We’d chosen my birthday to also do the fab4tour which I highly recommend for any Beatles fan. We finished the tour in the CBD of Liverpool and decided to go into one of many places celebrating the life and times of the Fab Four. As fancy named cocktails were the order of the day it, didn’t have the desired effect. Or maybe the blank stare we got from the waitress really summed it up. I’m sure she was thinking, Thursdays, they always come in on Thursdays. How miserable. We asked for a Pangalactic Gargle Blaster the next time. Unfortunately for us, some frood claiming to be the Galactic president had been there night before and left the pub high and dry.

20140525-114325-42205277.jpg

Further along on our travels we visited the Camden Burroughs. It’s taken its scruffy image and turned it around in favour of becoming a tourist haven, particularly at weekends when elbow room is scarce around Camden Lock and the market. The colourful shops sell tacky souvenirs, tattoo parlours and food takeaway. Here we found one of the best pubs-The World’s End. Very old and it immediately drew us in for what else? Beer. There’s all sorts of quirky signs proclaiming all sorts of rules and different aspects of its history. We perched ourselves at the bar, ordered pints of beer and wine for the ladies. After a few, I decided to ask what’s a great local beer? I’ll have a pint. Still can’t remember what it was, but it went straight through me. After the 3rd we decided to leave, unwillingly I add, vowed to return one day.

20140525-111921-40761293.jpg

Although, the Guide says that there is an art to flying—we thought we’d better take the double decker bus to Trafalgar Square. Having no idea how far away it was, it could have been the improbable night bus from Islington which wouldn’t have been due for two million years, I settled in on the top floor. Pure torture- I think the driver knew I’d had a few by the amount of bumps we hit. It’s times like this you really think, if only I could tie it in a knot. After a while I couldn’t take it any longer and informed the travel party I was getting off. I didn’t care where we were, I’m off. The button is pressed, I slide down the hand rail, and out the bus before the rest had a chance to even blink. I run across the road to the closest pub, and I ask for directions to the toilets to be told by the lovely lady, “you need to buy a drink love before you use the privy.” Bloody hell, 1 pint of Guinness, 1 Carlsberg, a red wine, a glass of water and a coffee. I run back outside and shout across the road to my bewildered family who didn’t know where I’d dashed off to, having another drink, come and pay!”

The barmaid points to the right and downstairs, was this the disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard” that Arthur Dent mentioned? I reminded myself as I had done most of this trip so far; Don’t Panic. After that was achieved and a lot of laughing, at my expense, we settle down for another drink in a pub called Molly Moggs. We enquire to our whereabouts and we are told that we are in the Leicester Square Theatre district. I might add we spent a fair bit of time here in the end.

20140525-112116-40876131.jpg

Did we make it to Trafalgar Square? Yes we did, the very next day as we drove out of London in the direction of Scotland; all I could hear from the back seat was laughter. Where I’d hopped off the bus the day previously was only a five-minute walk to Trafalgar Square from the Theatre District.

I’d lost track what day it was I mean who needs to know when your on holidays. I should have known, bloody Thursday. Luckily for us all; this year Towel Day is not a Thursday. It’s a Sunday for me, and yes I’ll be posting from my local pub towel and all whilst I raise a glass to an inspiring man called Douglas Adams. A man who gave us the question and answers to Life, The Universe & Everything…. ( cue the music )

Douglas Adams’ Virtual 60th Birthday performed by Dave Gilmour “Wish You Were Here“

Cheers, hoopy froods. Have a great Towel Day. The rest of you… Keep banging the rocks together.
Shano a.k.a. @wombatjedi

20140525-112702-41222700.jpg

20140525-114325-42205277.jpg

An audience with the lords of time.

21 Oct

I wrote this piece a number of months ago, left it till now to upload and publish to coincide roughly with the 50th anniversary, share & enjoy.

20131021-163213.jpg

The Lords Of Time in Sydney is the biggest Dr Who convention that I know of in Australia, it’s also hosted in Brisbane. The audience I recently experienced is the more intimate one, there’s approximately 260 guests in a room, on stage there’s four former time lords, a former time lords companion, the voice of K-9, to top it off, the scary voice of the Daleks and the cybermen. I normally read about the events like this after they happen, most times it’s a case of, “oh well,” I haven’t missed anything. This year it’s was a different matter, there’s going to be four of the classic Dr Who actors coming to stage. This I think is something that will probably not happen again anytime soon. I’ve priced the tickets online, already the goal posts have been moved much further away than I had imagined. As the saying goes, “You pay for quality.” Now I don’t mind paying good money for meeting great TV or movie stars, it really can hurt the hip pocket is all I’m saying. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to fork out a lot of money to meet said celebrity. I had to evaluate what I really wanted to do this year, Supanova or the Lords of Time gathering.

20131021-160151.jpg

Its at this time I think to myself quite selfishly, why not try for both. How can I achieve this outcome? The promoters nearly always give the fans an opportunity at different times the chance to win free entry to the event they are hosting. Win a ticket to this, I will still be able to attend Supanova, don’t win, I still go to Supanova. All I need is to be the winning entry, yeah righto. The question being? Tell us your favourite Dalek Story and why, and you could tell Nicholas Briggs yourself. For those that don’t know, myself included at the time, Nicholas is the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen, he has also provided the voice of the Judoon. Without a doubt the best episode for me was always The Genisis of the Daleks, the introduction of Davros was scarey, half man half Dalek. And with that simple answer I won.

20131021-155455.jpg

It wasn’t a hard choice who to take as my plus one, my youngest daughter decided for me as soon as the news left my lips whilst carrying out a nerdy happy dance round the house. Having already had some experience in getting to these shindigs early we decided an early rise and drive would ensure us a better chance of getting excellent seats and less time lining up to get the tokens for signing and photos. We planned to get ourselves photographed with the four doctors seeing as this would’ve covered the cost of entry anyway. We arrived at the Rydges world square Sydney hotel roughly around 8:00am, an easy drive from home that time of the morning, we skipped breakfast just in case we hit any traffic also as we thought to get great seats. The first hurdle is approaching, the line is already forming, that’s ok, there’s not many people there yet. The overwhelming smell of coffee and bacon wafts through from the dining room, tummies are grumbling but that’s ok, we are up front in the line. We are told after standing in line for roughly 10 to 15 minutes only the VIP’s need to line up at the moment and the other tickets are assigned seating anyway. That explains why the tickets were to be picked up as you enter, this I find out later keeps costs down for the day. All of the staff are all there on a voluntary basis. VIP’s go in first, ok, we are now able to dash for coffee and be back in time. During this time I remember people are going to be dressed up, there is a stunning variety of costumes being worn, some very convincingly, then there’s the case of, you know the saying? “look at yourself in the mirror before venturing out in the world.” That does sound rude but sometimes you just have to shake your head in wonder. Having said this, there was a couple of excellent Doctors, one in particular was a David Tennant Doctor, there was a cute little baby dressed in a home made Dalek dress, the young lady dressed as Clara the impossible girl was one of the best, also lots of different Doctor Who & Dalek T-shirts and I remember at least one bow tie and a Fez. Anyone that’s travelled through the time vortex would know, “bow ties are cool.”

20131021-160448.jpg

The stars of this gathering are as follows: Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. They are joined by Janet Fielding who portrayed Tegan Jovanka, John Leeson who voices the adorable K-9 and also Nicolas Briggs who I’ve mentioned earlier. They all get stage time to reminisce about their time on Dr. Who, as well as a question and answer time. This is the time to think of really important questions to put towards the stars, some where excellent, there were also some so disturbing I was cringing in embarrassment thinking you’ve got to get outside and maybe ride your bike in the sunshine for a change buddy. The best questions would’ve undoubtedly been the costume related ones, did they have a decision for their specific wardrobe? No surprise most of them didn’t, if they had a choice it would have been a leather jacket and jeans, the real tough cool look, but no, that wasn’t in keeping with the way the show was being directed. You hear a deep sigh from the actor being questioned, oh well, and then they point out how cool Christopher Eccleston looked when the re-boot actually happened. Do you remember his clobber? Leather Jacket and jeans.

There is an opportunity through the day to get your photo with the stars, buy merchandise, books, DVDs, clothes even a wide variety of sonic screwdrivers. What I failed to notice at first was the guy sitting in the “dealers room” with excellent pieces of artwork on display for sale. Stewart McKenny is a talented artist who has worked at DC Comics, Dark Horse and also Marvel comics. I first met him last year at Supanova where I brought a copy of Star Wars tales with Boba Fett on the front. Stewart had no worries about signing it for me at the time, he is very approachable guy very eager to give up his time as well. Now it sits pride of place in my Star Wars cabinet, stil in mint condition, still unread. My daughter was quite excited after buying a print of Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood fame Stewart offered to sign it. There was at least one happy teenager there on that day. After we lined up, brought our photo tickets and signing tokens we’ve realised he’s selling a special print for the day for a fraction of the price of what we just spent on the photo. I have already failed in following my own advice of doing your homework before making your purchase decisions. As a result the only other purchases we made was a Tom Baker scarf brought by my daughter for me when Father’s Day comes round later in the year. I can’t wait to wear it through the UK for our holiday at Christmas. I’m already regretting not buying the TARDIS beanie. Why not a sonic screwdriver? As everyone that knows me I’m a regular Frank Spencer with any kind of tool whether its a simple screwdriver or one of these high tech ones. (Yes I know they don’t actually work).

The program for the day is a little confusing for first time attendees such as us. I assumed the dealers room would be closed whilst different guests were on stage. This wasn’t the case and it was this fact that nearly cost us dearly, I don’t like to belittle the voice actors but its during the time John Leeson was on stage the photo sessions were being carried out, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too interested and seeing as our seats were right at the back I took the opportunity to go back into the dealers room and succumbed to buying a print from Stewart, I’m ashamed to say I brought a Star Wars print of the bounty hunters and not a Dr. Who print. While he was signing it we got to talking about Supanova and how I made a purchase last year, the nerd factor hit and I showed him a photo of my modest Star Wars collection, feeling very pleased, he noticed the previously mentioned signed comic. When I vaguely hear “last call for photos with the four doctors!” What the heck? Panic sets in, I go racing back into the seated section and drag my daughter back into the dealers room, quick find the tokens, fix your hair up, are my eyebrows straight, do your zip up. Like herded cattle we were pushed in, a quick hello to the stars, stand here, snap, ok please exit this way. Were my eyes closed? Was I smiling? Is that a piece of spinach in your teeth? Do we get a do over? Two minutes tops I think we are in there. Truth to be told they probably have sore faces smiling for so long themselves. Big sigh of relief. Lets do lunch dad, I’m starving. We quickly peruse the program and we have at least two hours to spare.

It’s decided the Irish pub down the road will serve our needs for refreshments, counter lunch and a pint of bitter always goes down well. After lunch a quick visit to Kings Comics. Why is it when I walk into a cool comic shop I can never pick something I will be satisfied reading at the end of the day over a hot chocolate? There’s way too much to choose from. After ten minutes I throw my hands up in despair and walk out empty handed across the road to a second hand book store, sometimes you’ll find the book your looking for, most times it’s in the window display not for sale. Empty handed again back outside with the empty feeling of a wallet full of cash.

20131021-160658.jpg

Once back in we pick up our photo, I’m not going to discuss it other than to say, “photobomb”. The main part of the day is about to begin, well it’s supposed too, waiting, waiting. As part of the VIP ticket you have the luxury of sharing lunch with all the stars, or at least the stars come around the tables for five or ten minutes and you get to casually chat while downing a fair amount of wine & food, nice touch. Unfortunately it goes way overtime by roughly an hour or so, three quarters of the audience are patiently waiting. The natives are very restless. Finally Nicholas Briggs comes out on stage for his Q & A. It’s very interesting to see how he changes his voice to suit the different characters he portrays onscreen. As it turns out the other actors and actresses find they are able to respond better to Nicholas actually being there on set then responding to a recording of his voice while filming scenes. A trivial fact I’ve recently learned is that he’s actually had a part in Torchwood. He played the part of the Deputy Prime Minister in the Children of Earth episodes. He also directs many of the Big Finish Production audio plays. He has to go a little overtime to cover for the main stars. Finally it’s time, Geronimo!!

20131021-160950.jpg

Paul McGann walks out on stage, the applause starts, there’s a feeling of paparazzi taking photos, flashes from every camera in the room. Paul (can I use his first name as if I know home personally?) is a very unassuming person who quietly goes about reminiscing about his time as the Doctor, as he explains it, he was technically the Doctor for only 6 weeks whilst filming was carried out for the cult Doctor Who movie, it was a failed reboot in 1996. In other words a whole entire episode that also starred Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso, Eric Roberts and of course Sylvester McCoy for his regeneration scene. As a result of the failed ratings in America Doctor Who had to wait till 2005 to be on TV again. I’ve only seen this once but still rate it up there with the great episodes. Nowadays Paul enjoys varied success on TV and movies, but for the fans he still lives on in the audio dramas of Doctor Who.

20131021-161206.jpg

Sylvester McCoy! Wow! Ask anyone there on the day what their high point of the day was? I’d take bets, it was the craziness that followed in Sylvester’s wake. After being introduced to the audience he firstly refuses to take to the stage and sit down, armed with his trusty brolly and a microphone you’d best to keep a clear path. The usual order for question and answers flor the day is, the MC picks you after holding your arm in the air for at least 3 regenerations, you are passed the microphone, you ask your question pass it back and you are given an answer. Not so with Sylvester McCoy. He carried out his own Q & A with much hilarity ensuing. Firstly, we get to practice how to pronounce his Lord of The Rings character Radagast the brown, he likes to throw it in all of his friends faces it seems, and relishes in the fact he has a major starring role in The Hobbit, his words not mine. He walks around the audience giving it a very personal feel, if you are chosen to give a question, he will not let you hold the microphone and will hit you on the head if you try, much to the delight of nearly everyone. If your question is deemed good enough you’ll get a great answer. If not, you will be afforded a simple deadpan “no” and he continues on his way. If anyone could work a crowd it was Sylvester, he went way over time and didn’t care, he was here to entertain and that’s exactly what he did. At one stage he described the current Doctor Matt Smith as a 12 year old referring to his young boyish looks and charm. Everything he said was funny, he had an incredible amount of energy working the audience and was thanked with a huge thunderous applause.

20131021-161914.jpg

Colin Baker comes out next. For most people in the Who fandom you’ll know how after 3 seasons or series depending how you look at classic episodes, Colin was basically shafted from his position after much turmoil in the BBC. He was asked how he felt about the shabby treatment he received and it was quite clear to everyone it’s still a sore point. I actually squirmed in my chair when this was asked, I felt like it was a crossing of a line drawn in the sand and felt very sorry for him. Colin held his chin up explained how he saw it from his point of view and also went on to say how all the other actors who have portrayed the Doctor after him are fakes, he’s still to officially regenerate. It was Sylvestor who wore a wig briefly as the 6th Doctor for the scene. As with most of the others he now enjoys of more successful stint as the Doctor on the audio dramas. At the time he was cast as the Doctor he had become the only actor to have appeared as another character prior to taking on the leading role. He still remains enthusiastic about his part with much grace.

20131021-161730.jpg

Peter Davison was my Doctor when I really started to become a fan as a kid, everyone that watches the show has their own one. I’d first met Peter Davison on my TV back in the day when he played Tristan on All Creatures Great & Small based on the excellent books written by James Herriot. The stories he told about that role were quite funny if not slightly gross. They actually lived like the vets they portrayed onscreen, yep your whole hand up the cows back end was a more notable memory. Peter’s run was also the last time I watched Doctor Who for a fair while after the screen death of the companion Adric. This episode gutted me, the rules of time travel as they have written for this particular fiction have remained the same throughout. This is explained best in the final episode of Amy & Rory Pond, (Spoilers!!) Peter was at the time the youngest person to have played the Doctor, a record he retained for nearly 30 years until Matt Smith was cast. Peter has said he always felt too young to be the Doctor, he says given the chance he’d be better at it now if given the chance. Something I found out later is the fact he filmed a small episode with David Tennant called Time Crash back in 2007, you’ll find it on YouTube as I did.

Whilst Peter was still on stage Janet Fielding aka Teagan the air hostess companion was invited up on stage and the audience is shown how good these two people can still mix it up on stage, very funny, witty and sassy, recreating memories of filming and remembering forgotten and imagined slights, they played the part with great hilarity. We are then treated to all four Doctors on stage, well sort of. Once again Sylvester steals the limelight by carrying out the Q & A’s from the floor walking energetically around the audience with a passion I’ve never seen in a celebrity before, it was a truly great moment to be a part of.

The only thing left of the very long day now is the signings of photos, books posters and whatever else you can think of by the celebrities. Now this part of the day really brings into perspective what a VIP ticket entails. The VIP’s are entitled as part of their ticket, photos with the stars, early entry to the dealers room, lunch with the stars and now as it turns out, first in line for the signings. It’s roughly 6 o’clock in the evening if memory serves me right, and we’ve now just been told how the signings work. Bugger. We are called in basically ten to twenty at a time on the basis of our ticket seating. Yeah… That’s right, we are right up the back and therefore will be in the last handful of people. Battery on the phone is near flat and there’s nothing else to do other than wait and think what’s for dinner tonight? It’s hard to criticise this procedure, it’s just the way it has to happen, it seemed like an eternity, everyone wants ink on something. The one thing I can say when it’s crammed into one day it also takes a major toll on your guest stars. I take my hat of to these guys, by the time we do get in for our signing and a quick snatched conversation they are all still smiling and laughing, they looked absolutely exhausted. This quick chance to say hello, thanks and I admire your work brings forth quite a lot of satisfaction and washes away any doubt you’ve had throughout the day when you worry about the money you did or could’ve spent, for me it was so worth it.

20131021-162135.jpg

All said and done it was a good thing to experience. I’m very thankful to Culture Shock Events for the opportunity to attend with the free tickets. Most of all it was a chance to spend a day with my youngest daughter, we don’t often get a chance to share and bond together, something like today will be something we will always be able to have a good laugh and reminisce about regardless of any regenerations we go through as parent and daughter.

20131021-163415.jpg

The misogynistic attitudes of men behaving badly

12 Jun

I’m not one to normally to rant and rave about things that cheese me off, I normally write about my travels or interesting happy things, if this is what you’ve clicked on to read this time skip to something else I’ve written, tonight it got to the stage where it’s 12:30am in the morning, I’ve been lying in bed for 2 hours now, thinking about what I read on twitter earlier on a simple comment made about the press conference in regards to the new PS4 and XboxOne platforms and games. I cant sleep and I’ve decided to get up and put down in words what’s bothering me for peace of mind. It was a simple statement made about female protagonist’s in new release video games, or the lack thereof. The misogynist attitude backlash that followed was to me how the inequality of the sexes really still promotes itself in our world and how it’s still so widely acceptable in a day and age where the human race seems to be spiralling so out of control. Maybe it really is time to be like the dolphins and leave.

20130612-131904.jpg

The tweet in question to me seemed an honest opinion of the shape of the gaming industry and the backlash to a simple observation spoke for itself. If you look a little wider you’ll find it’s commonplace in many areas of our lives. The replies posted which 50 where displayed with their names and twitter handles, was also published, that way there no doubting who said what. In all frankness the variety of opinions was very one sided ranging from rude to the extreme of being from my point of view not fit for human consumption. It’s disturbing to think these people sit behind a tablet, phone or computer and actually have the gall to believe what they are typing. The use of offensive descriptive words I would never reprint or even say to a lady, girl, woman or mother. I was interested to see one of the replies with the tweeter in question, his avatar showing what could be said as his girlfriend with him, I wonder what said girlfriend thought of his boldness? My wife would’ve not even let me pack my bags, my Mum? Probably would’ve disowned me.

Where did this attitude originate? Lets go as far back as the, “original sin.” when Eve first bit into that crunchy, juicy apple and tricked Adam into taking a bite as well. If the bible is to be believed (I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t) the female of the species has been paying for her lack of submission to God’s will ever since they were cast out of Eden. Don’t eat from the tree. It’s just like the sign “wet paint” somewhere, sometime sooner or later someone’s going to touch it. Curiosity killed the cat, Pandora’s box and all those other stories. Ever since then it’s always be the female of the species to prove they can hold that position of power, hold down that job, have the main part in the movie, be the writer of the song in a band thats made up of the male dominated world. It’s continued on for many centuries right up to today. A few examples would be the lack of rights when it comes to voting, sitting in the same club, and more recently locally swimming in the same carnival races. The church? Well that’s a whole different area again where there’s just too much to say. Could it be deep down we men are frightened we will be shown up?

There’s also the other type of inequality attitude towards woman. That’s the still widely accepted fact of the husband or the man going to work and providing for the family while the stereotypical little lady stays home and becomes the submissive housewife. Cleaning, cooking, ironing, washing and don’t forget the children. Yes let’s talk about childbearing mothers. I was privileged nearly 18 years ago to be present at the birth of my 2nd and 3rd children, twins. The miracle of childbirth is something you do not understand until you are actually witness to it. What does it feel like? I’ve been told to stretch my bottom lip over and behind my forehead and then I just might understand the pain ensued in giving birth. From woe to go women have the raw deal, it’s the way genetics works unfortunately, until men are able to give birth women will be the superior species, without them we would be an extinct race. But hey, I still want my dinner on the table when I get home after a hard days work. I still remember the day I came home and noticed that my wife was already in her pyjamas early in the afternoon. Well I learnt well that day. Unfortunately my wife had yet had the chance to change since the morning, the twins had surely given her a run for her money that day. Lessoned learned. In some places it’s unfortunately a cultural way of life, most other times it’s just plain arrogance and the power that men have over their supposed love one or what they think is their right to what they are entitled too.

20130612-131519.jpg

I’m glad to see here in Australia our current Prime Minister Julia Gillard has the job of being our first female Prime minister, her partner Tim is often seen as just the person in the background. I don’t agree with all of her views but its refreshing to see Julia hold her own against an opposition party and also that of her own disloyal team, it’s an awesome thing to hear her say, “bring it on.” I should add at this stage, the first time i heard the term misogynistic it was used by our esteemed Prime minister. Theres also my local council, back in September 2011, our council had its first female Mayor an deputy Mayor elected, whilst its never all roses it was a turning point in local politics. These days there are more and more women achieving great things in high places, all it needs is one to plant the seed.

20130612-131313.jpg

I’ve not recently arrived at these views, I’m sure they’ve been there, just not in plain Sight. How did they come about, well that’s interesting thing all in itself. I’m sure my respect of the fairer sex was partly due to the upbringing of my parents and more today to the fact that I have a strong minded wife whom I support in all of her endeavours. Recently after proving herself more than capable for 22 something years, my wife threw her hands up and said “enough is enough”. Unless you have the dangly penis thing between your legs you were just not taken seriously, no matter how good your qualifications, ability and strengths are, you will not be allowed to play in the sandbox, in certain sectors its definitely a man’s world attitude.

20130612-131636.jpg

Another thing that made me stop and open my eyes was a simple twitter chat, I was discussing the merits of the latest Star Trek movie, it was pointed out all to often at its lack of credible female depth, I will have to be honest, the scene with Carol Marcus and Captain Kirk in the shuttle while Dr. Marcus was getting down to her underwear was so not needed. It’s been done. Really all they were doing was following the formula, basic story filled with action, comedy, tragedy, victory, courage and hey!! A little bit of hanky panky in the shuttle. We ended taking comfort in a parallel universe in sci-fi Princess Leia was now a Jedi Master, happy sigh. There are of course other fictional characters we all relate to and even put up there as female role models. There’s the obvious choice straight up for the gamers, Lara Croft, Tomb raider, brains as well as brawn and helpfully looks. Steer a little wider and you’ve got Kara Thrace aka Starbuck and President Roslin of Battlestar Galactica, the fictional list is long. In real life we have the likes of Madame Curie, Aung San Suu Kyi, Amelia EarHeart, Elizabeth I, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa and louise Sauvage to name a few. There’s a diverse variety, Scientists, politicians, singers, authors, Doctors, athletes and most importantly mothers.

20130612-131757.jpg

So the next time you blokes have the balls to say what you think, keep it to yourselves and be a whole lot more respectful, after all, somewhere, sometime ago, someone gave birth to you, thank your lucky stars they dipped you in the lacquer straight away and you didn’t fade away like an old photo.

20130612-132024.jpg

Wombats – A Last Chance to See

25 May

20130525-101907.jpg

What came to my mind first after I received an email from a friend asking me to contribute a piece concerning wombats? As all my creative juices or lack thereof oozed from my peanut-sized imagination, I remembered one important thing. DON’T PANIC.

Towel day approaches next week 25th May 2013, hoopy froods are writing, baking, sewing and building. After reading an interesting article concerning the land down under called Australia, written by non other than Mr. Douglas Adams I laughed until my insides hurt, read it again and thought to myself: “this piece describes how most of the world including us Aussies think when we look at ourselves. This is what our sunburnt dangerous island really is like.” It does tend to read like the writer had his tongue firmly planted in the side of his cheek with the biggest grin on his face, but I can assure you, it’s a more serious matter than I had ever imagined. So I followed great advice, I went and found my towel and opened my guide for advice whilst sipping away at a Pangalactic Gargleblaster, and yes, it is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped ’round a large gold brick.

My nickname at high school was sometimes an affectionate one whilst also at times a put down. I was as many teenagers for a time overweight and hence called Wombat. Not sure who first called me that. It still gets used today as my twitter name, many would know, Shano the Wombatjedi. I’m quite proud being associated with one of Australia’s most endangered species. Until today, I had no idea what diabolical straits the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat population was like. After a little research and reading I’ve decided to make this post a more serious one, I’ll leave the humour to someone with a more tongue in cheek ability, I wonder what Douglas Adams knew about our iconic popular native animal. Im certain he knew more than he let on.

20130525-101721.jpg

Bringing a species back from the brink of extinction is never easy. Typically, it takes long-term commitment, amounting to lifetimes of hard work by dedicated scientists, managers and supporters. That is especially true if the species is a big animal with a low breeding rate, because such species respond slowly to efforts. No species of Australian wildlife better illustrates these points than the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat.

The Northern Hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) is the largest of Australia’s three wombat species. It is distinguished from the Southern Hairy-nosed wombat by its broad muzzle and black eye-rings as well as large size, and from the Common wombat by its silky grey fur, long ears and (of course) hairy nose. Northern Hairy-nosed wombats require deep sandy soils, in which to dig their burrows, and a year-round supply of grass, which is their primary food. These areas usually can be found in open eucalypt woodlands.

Wombats dig burrows that they rest in during daylight hours, but not all soils are suitable for burrows. At Epping Forest National Park (Scientific), Northern Hairy-nosed wombats construct their burrows in deep, sandy soils on levee banks deposited by a creek that no longer flows through the area. They will forage in areas of heavy clay soils adjacent to the sandy soils, but do not dig burrows in these areas, which become water-logged in the wet seasons. At Epping Forest National Park burrows are often associated with native bauhina trees, Lysiphyllum hookeri. This tree has a spreading growth form and it roots probably provide stability for the extensive burrows dug by Northern Hairy-nosed wombats.

A Northern Hairy-nosed wombat burrow can be spotted by the mound of dug-out sand at the entrance, which can be more than one metre high and several metres long. A ‘runway’ passes through the mound and leads to the burrow entrance. Wombats dig the burrow with their forepaws, and throw loose sand behind them with their forepaws and hind feet. They then walk backwards out of their burrow to bulldoze the sand clear. They will mark the entrance and mound near its burrow with dung, splashes of urine and scratches.

Early in the 20th century it was thought that the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat was extinct, after the disappearance of the only two populations then known (one near St George in southern Queensland, the other near Jerilderie in New South Wales). Then, in the 1930s, a small population was discovered in what is now Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland. This population was in decline, and by 1982 there may have been only 30 or so animals left. A capture and release program in the late 1980s and early 1990s suggested a population size of about 63. That study also showed that trapping to this extent caused significant disruption to the wombats, so a better census method was found. This involved collecting hairs on sticky tape at burrow entrances, and amplifying DNA to identify the individual wombats.

Monitoring the population suggests that the increase has been intermittent. The wombats live in a dry tropical environment, where most rain falls in an unreliable summer wet season. Several good wet seasons in succession may be needed for females to breed and for their young to survive to weaning. It might be only in periods like the last few years, with three excellent wet seasons in a row, that the population increases. Evidence from remote cameras and footprints suggests that many young have been born recently. Past declines were probably caused by competition for pasture from cattle and sheep, especially during drought. Northern Hairy-nosed wombats never venture far from their burrows to feed. When overgrazing removes all pasture from around their burrows, they starve.

The goal of management is to establish populations elsewhere. The search for a suitable place for a second population began about 20 years ago. A good site, now known as the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge, was eventually found and, happily, made available by the landholders. It was prepared by de-stocking, fencing, and digging artificial burrows. The first animals were transferred from Epping Forest in 2009. So far 15 have been moved there. They have settled well, and breeding was confirmed in March 2011. Unsurprisingly, there have been setbacks. Some animals died of unknown causes, and while three young have been born so far, only one survives. But all nine animals currently living there are in good condition and the population should grow.

20130525-102057.jpg

This information was given with permission courtesy of Christopher Johnson. Professor of wildlife conservation & ARC. Australia Professorial Fellow at university of Tasmania & written with help from Dr Alan Horsup, who leads the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat recovery project in the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. I’ve promised Christopher after this blog is posted I will also republish the whole piece he has written to show my gratitude for allowing me access to edit and reuse the article as I please.

Just so that not everything is doom and gloom I’ve decided to take certain liberties and include the post made by Douglas Adams that had me in stitches. I hope no one minds but its so well worth a read, I’ve copied and edited parts of it to suit this post.

“The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this. The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and
Sheep.

It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. But even the spiders won’t go near the sea. Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are more dangerous. The creature that kills the most people each year is the common Wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs. The wombat kills people in two ways: First, the animal is indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weight lifters. At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes a symmetrical launching pad, with results that can be imagined, but not adequately described.

The second way the wombat kills people relates to its burrowing behaviour. If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the Wombat will feel the disturbance and think “Ho! My hole is collapsing!” at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse. Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die, and Australians don’t talk about it much.

Last chance to See by Douglas Adams.

Whilst I’m all for wildlife and forest conservation I sometimes think we look at it the wrong way. I get posts from many valued friends asking me to support the orangutans, pandas, and the majestic gorillas, I agree with them wholeheartedly and think its great, I also understand a lot of these species come from countries where there just isn’t the funding. I still think we should look in our our backyards or outback and take stock of what’s happening there first while never forgetting at the same time to give a little elsewhere as well. In the future I will be spending a little time getting to know some of our Aussie endangered species and will also try where I can to show a little support. But if you do choose a conservation plan why not look at the save the Humans campaign the dolphins are currently pursuing, I hear they like the fish.

20130525-102332.jpg

20130525-102503.jpg

Towel Day

24 May

Towel Day.

The Lords of Time – pt 1

14 May

Dr Who?? It has been written that the transmission of the first episode was delayed by ten minutes due to extended news coverage of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy the previous day; where as in fact, it went out just eighty seconds late. Due to it being felt that the coverage of the events of the assassination as well as a series of power blackouts across the country may have caused too many viewers to miss this introduction to a new series, the BBC broadcast it again on 30 November 1963, just before the broadcast of episode two. The serial introduced the eponymous aliens that would become the series’ most popular monsters, and was responsible for the BBC’s first merchandising boom. The Daleks!!

The BBC drama department’s Serials division produced the programme for 26 series, broadcast on BBC 1. Falling viewing numbers, a decline in the public perception of the show and a less prominent transmission slot saw production suspended in 1989. Licensed media such as novels and audio plays provided new stories, but as a television programme Doctor Who remained dormant until 2003. They did try a unsuccessful re-boot in 1996 as a co-production between Fox, Universal Pictures, the BBC and BBC Worldwide. Although the film was successful in the UK (with 9.1 million viewers), it was less so in the United States and did not lead to a series. Thus Paul McGann was the Doctor for only six weeks.

Doctor Who finally returned with the episode “Rose” on BBC One on 26 March 2005. And with it the Lords of time where born again on the TV.

I’ll be honest, Dr. Who scared the willies out of me as a child, for a lark or to get me to bed, I remember my father tuning into the ABC, what did I hear? If the music introduction was on you stayed in bed, the monsters could get you. You’d hear the TARDIS dematerialising on the TV, it was time to run. Stick with Star Wars or Star Trek, that wasn’t make believe, really it wasn’t. But Dr. Who, those salt & pepper shaker machine things and the tall scary silver robots with their expressionless face whoa!! They’d haunt your worst nightmares.

Skip a few years to high school and I’m a sponge. The school library was the place to be if your a nerd. The selection of Dr. Who novelisations was phenomenal at my school, Mrs. Tucker our librarian was so happy one of the kids was reading sci-fi, I even got dibs at reading the reference book all about the time lords, I had the privilege of having my name first in that one.

Everyone has a Doctor of their own growing up, even the actors who play the role now, ask them and most will say Patrick Troughton or John Pertwee, mostly everyone wishes it was Tom Baker. My Doctor was Peter Davison, he was known as the fifth Doctor. Yes the one that wore the cricket outfit with the stick of celery to his lapel. Some people will remember him from the Vetrinanian TV show All creatures great and small. The spoilt one called Tristan. I remember what I liked most was his companions, Teagan the Aussie air hostess and poor Adric. The death of Adric scarred me forever, how can a companion die, why can’t the Doctor go back just before he dies? Only after watching the Pond’s demise do I truly sort of understand why if you are a fixed point in time it can’t be altered. Hang on, it’s only fiction isn’t it?

I tuned out for quite a number of years, different things came to television, Star Trek, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate. Sci-fi was once again popular in a very big way. When the BBC started letting rumours of new Who coming out, then there was pictures of that blue police box being spotted in different places, BBC staff were seen with strange film canisters labelled Torchwood, everyone held their breath. Then came those words, ” hello I’m the Doctor, RUN!!”

The onset of social media these days has assured that the popularity of all these different TV Shows remain alive in one form or another. For example there are many home made versions of your favourite show with the advent of the digital age and the Internet, we have people uploading to YouTube, commenting and sharing on Facebook and for me more importantly Twitter.

In the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Sydney Supanova Expo, it’s the Aussie form of a comic convention. Lots of TV and movie celebrities signing and getting photos taken with adoring fans, many different types of merchandising opportunities in the form of comics, figurines, books, cloths and the famous dressup form called cosplay. Last year I had the same conversation with my daughter as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the movie Paul as they discuss the pros & cons of buying a samurai sword from a dealer. Madaline do you really need to buy that sword, it will break off at the handle the first time your boyfriend decides to cut someone in half with it. Dad, don’t be a moron. More recently we shared a funnier moment at The Rydges Hotel World Square in Sydney while lining up to enter a whole different type of convention. We were fortunate enough ( I think ) to win a double pass the the Sydney Lords Of Time!!

20130514-150431.jpg20130514-150509.jpg

20130514-150603.jpg

20130514-150614.jpg

20130514-150641.jpg

20130514-150657.jpg

20130514-150727.jpg

20130514-150746.jpg

20130514-150759.jpg

20130514-150807.jpg

20130514-150815.jpg

20130514-150825.jpg

20130514-150835.jpg

20130514-151306.jpg

20130514-151315.jpg

20130515-075549.jpg