Archive for Category ‘Uncategorized‘

0. Prologue: Split Enz, Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth (1993)

THE Ur-New Zealand band, on their 20th anniversary tour, in all their erratic, costumed, ageless in greasepaint glory.

Under 12s get in for free. Me mercifully pre-pubescent at 13.

Noise. Lights. Finns (two of them). Weird smells. Out past bedtime. And people everywhere. Doing THINGS. Oh man the things.

What things (I hear nobody at all ask)? An impartial observer would probably sum up the things as “a bunch of small town New Zealand bogans getting pissed and yell-pashing* each other” but to a pudgy bookish 13 year old it was like if Bosch had painted Woodstock.**

A voice cut into the PA several times during the set to warn the punters clambering onto the forestage area that it wasn’t safe. They must all retreat through the murky waist deep bond to the their assigned seating. The stage couldn’t bear their weight. It would collapse and they’d all be thrown into the soupy pond and drown in the accumulated shit of a 1000 generations of waterfowl. Their bloated gawp-mouthed corpses would be seized by the New Plymouth City Council Parks Department and fed to the vicious black swans, with their well known penchant for human flesh.

The stage failed to collapse. The defiant dancers danced. The band played on. Everyone appeared to be having a great time.

Strike one, disembodied voice of authority.

On the way out we passed by a woman, insufficiently clad, hugging her knees, wet, shivering (covered in duck shit). “She’s drunk” was the verdict from the supervisory adults.

“Well that doesn’t look like any fun at all” thought I.

*to use the academic term

**the original, not the Limp Bizkit one. The man had limits.

Just realised that…

Our plan to train from Hanoi to Beijing (via Nanning) falls smack bang in the middle of national day holiday (which is a week long, of course).

An initial check had revealed that our train options for the 36 hour Nanning to Beijing leg are limited to sharing one ‘hard seat’* or clinging to the roof.

This could get interesting.

*ie an unpadded wooden bench shared with at least three others and designed by someone who was either abused by an ergonomist as a child or believes that good Chinese spines are rodd straight and bend at 90 degrees exactly.


(a bit) Oudomshite.

Sarah, not impressed

This place basically exists as a transit hub for northern Laos and southern China. The roads are generally good (if serpentine) an accordingly are choked with traffic. Apparently the surrounding hills serve up some nice trekking but the town itself is about as good of a dusty, grey dystopia of socialist non-planning as you’re likely to see outside of China.

Our stop there was only as long as to get the bus out the next day (which almost didn’t happen) but at least in the meantime we got to enjoy this magnificent vista:

Room with a view

And the promise of delicious, fresh and one assumes, electric, eels on tap (a promise that was unfulfilled, as was that of hot water)

up inside ya

In short: did not like.

The purple sticky rice at the bus station was pretty good, if a little turdy.

skeptical but ultimately satisfied

Luang Namtha

Something like 6 heavily compressed, bone shaking, windy ascending hours north of Huay Xai is Luang Namtha.

Luang Namtha is nestled within the Nam Ha National Biodiversity Reserve and it was here we made our first unsuccessful attempt to book a kayaking trip.

With that idea shot down, and the thought of trekking through knee-high leechmud not really appealing, we figured that Luang Namtha was pretty much a wash. In the end all we could do was:

Gorge ourselves on delicious foods (and some larvae)!













Ride bikes through beautiful fields!









Watch children (clad only in crude garments spun from the purest MS Paint) frolicking in dangerously swollen waterways!












Mis-judge the depth of dangerously swollen waterways and plunge in up to our (well, my) necks destroying valuable electronic equipment!



Admire the efforts of fellow brick-makers!










Stare at majestic vistas!










Consult maps!










Climb lots of stairs!












Enjoy the local statuary!





























In conclusion: Spend some time in Luang Namtha. It’s pretty great.

So this thing is back

Probably. At its new home.

Come in, make yourself comfy. Things are still a little messy, links are broke, pictures are overflowing their boundaries. I may or may not tidy things up. I probably will write some stuff about traveling through south east asia.

I know, all the cool kids are on tumblr.


The subliminally implanted choice of a new generation

This comes via one of my students, who gave a presentation this week about the development and effects of video games (or something. It was about video games anyway).

They began by running through a few ‘classic’ video games (classic to people born after 1990) including the usual cast of hedgehogs, bandicoots and italian plumbers. The greatest nostalgic sighs however were reserved for this guy, heretofore unknown to me :


Game synopsis (based on my viewing of the above): Our spandex clad corporate branded hero, Pepsi Man, is on the trail of a delivery truck with an improperly secured cargo of sugary caffeine water. On his way he must battle the evils of the municipal trash delivery, jaywalkers (who by the looks of things he ruthlessly murders on contact) and white picket fences. Each level ends with our hero posing mightily in front of a Pepsi vending machine, from which he drinks a well-earned can of Pepsi. Its a shame they felt it necessary to cut the most exciting part, where Pepsi Man restocks the machine with the bounty of soda that he found on the roads, backyards and living rooms of the game’s denizens.

By way of background: Bahrain was for many years a no-Coke zone, for various reasons that I can’t be bothered researching properly (*cough*bottling-plant-in-Tel-Aviv*cough*). Pepsi was (and to a large degree still is) the sugar-water of choice. The good folk at PepsiCo obviously decided that the next step from complete monopoly was ‘use video games to indoctrinate a generation of spandex clad Pepsi fueled super-soldiers’. Death to the Jaywalker!

NB: I understand that the sequel: “Pepsi Man 2:  Battle against Type 2 Diabetes and Tooth Decay” didn’t do so well, despite what critics described as a “thrilling final boss fight” (against colon cancer).

Borneo Diaries Day 1


After passing the signs that said “SELAMAT DATANG!” (“Welcome!”) and WARNING DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW (“Warning death for drug traffickers under Singapore law”) I had the following delightful exchange at Singapore airport:

POLITE, SMILING MAN IN UNIFORM: Excuse me sir, could you please come with me?

ME: Sure.

PSMIU: Would you mind putting your bag on the xray machine.

ME: No problem.

PSMIU: Where have you come from today sir?

ME: Most recently? Uh Colombo, just for a stopover (apparently this is the wrong thing to say)

PSMIU: Ah. And you are aware that it is illegal to bring empty bullet casings into Singapore sir?

ME: Uh… okay.

PSMIU: Please put your bag on the table sir .

(I do so)

PSMIU: Do you have any bullet casings sir? Any knives or guns?

ME: Uh… n…

PSMIU: How long were you in Colombo for sir?

ME: About two hours? I got on the plane in Bahrain

(PSMIU gives me a quizzical look)

ME: …it’s in the Middle East (this is definitely the wrong thing to say)

PSMIU: Ah. Because as I said it is illegal to bring empty bullet casings into Singapore

ME: Okay

PSMIU: And guns

ME: Yes…

PSMIU: And knives.

ME: ….Okay. Because I don’t…

PSMIU: Okay? No bullet casings.

ME: Yes, sure but I don’t…

PSMIU: Just so you know. For next time. No bullet casings.

ME: yes of course…

PSMIU: Thank you sir! Welcome to Singapore!

ME: Uh, thanks, I… what?

If I knew nothing else about Australia…

Aside from what I observed at last week’s Australian Society Dinner, I would think:

1. Oily, shirtless American Marines are an important national symbol of some sort, as they both opened the show and circulated all evening, bringing joy to the heart of many a ‘just one more wine dear’ middle-aged woman (and several men I’m sure).

2. Aboriginal people look just like Filipino people, but with paint on. Also whenever they appear they are accompanied by jazz/ballet dancers and piped Yothu Yindi

3. Kylie Minogue’s hits are only to be performed by men in drag.

Actually that last one might be true.

The only thing that stopped the whole evening from being deeply racially offensive was the slathering of absolutely bizarre homo-eroticism.

That’s Australia fer ya.

Would you like larvae with that?

I guess he/she didnt eat much.

I guess he/she didn't eat much.

Differences between [redacted] and [redacted]

EDIT: Now with bonus self-imposed censorship!

Part 1 in a saga of epic proportions:

In [redacted], if you wanted to get propositioned by a scrawny [redacted] prostitute, you’d have to pick the right bar (preferably near the [redacted] Naval [redacted]) and then fight your way through the [redacted] punters.

In [redacted], you need only wander 100m from your hotel in search of food, and you will be literally flooded with offers to spend some [redacted] and contract new and [redacted] diseases.

I seem to have a knack for finding the most [redacted] [redacted] parts of any city I visit. I guess that’s like a kind of really [redacted] super-power.