APEC

APEC Fence - Sydney Indymedia

I keep thinking about the events this weekend here in Sydney as APEC takes hold. There are posters around the city proclaiming “21 world leaders, 1 great city”. Before last week I joked with friends saying it should read “21 world leaders, 1 police state”. After seeing the overkill of police presence in our fair city, it’s unfortunately no joke.

It kind of struck home when I saw a police bus in the city – they’re literally shipping in police – and then saw a bevy of about 30 police at railway square “protecting” us from about 30 odd peaceful protesters. It was ridiculous.

I thought to myself that with all this focus on “security”, there must be gaping holes there. I mean – we had fighter planes and helicopters circling the city, thousands of extra police. Streets closed, transport services canceled. Simply ridiculous.

So I cheered out loud when I saw what the Chasers pulled off. I was watching TV late on Thursday night when I saw it. Priceless.

As it turns out, the Chasers didn’t even know they were in the restricted zone and voluntarily gave themselves up. Puts lie to Alexander Downer’s smug comment that “they were caught weren’t they?”.

What was even more ridiculous is the media feigning indignity about the Chaser’s pranks. Makes me want to support them even more…

After the stunt, the Chinese president Hu Jintao has called for increased security, and Channel Ten then trotted out a line about protests by “the religious cult” Falun Dafa.

Wittingly or unwittingly, I’m not sure which, Channel Ten became party to the Chinese government’s propaganda machine. Falun Dafa is not a cult, but the government uses those terms as justification for imprisoning and torturing Falun Gong practitioners in China. If only it was as unexpected as it was disgusting to hear such rubbish in the mainstream press.

But as a friend pointed out the other day – what does Hu Jintao think they’re going to do – meditate him to death or something? This is a religion founded on the principles of “Truthfulness, Benevolence, Forbearance”. No wonder the Chinese government, which practices none of these, is scared.

The Australian government, and the media, have been painting the protesters as violent and unruly. Most protests in this country, unlike protests overseas, are peaceful. Where violence has occurred, it’s usually been at the hand of a small isolated group, easily contained. There was never any chance of protests turning as violent as those in say, Genoa or Seattle.

But, of course, the government has to demonstrate it’s “tough on terror” – has to assure world leaders that Australia is secure. What better way to demonstrate that than to not lock the city down, to let it operate as it usually does. It seems, we have to see an unprecedented turnout of police.

One argument that I’ve overheard is that security forces had intel on an attack – that it’s because of this security that something bigger didn’t occur. But with such lax security that the Chasers can make it to outside Bush’s hotel without being detected, I find it hard to believe that the emphasis on security this past week is what stopped an attack…

The (big) question that remains unasked in the coverage I’ve seen is what, exactly, are the protesters protesting? The media’s penchant for plainly painting them as “anti-globalisation” protesters masks a plethora of reasons behind the civil disobedience.

From human rights abuses in Russia and China, to the attacks on civil liberties here in Australia, to the devastating (for Iraqi civilians) and mishandled war on Iraq – there are reasons aplenty. But none of those issues made it to the headlines.

(As an aside, I heard at an Amnesty International event that the Chinese government displaced over 1,000 of its own people, without remuneration or repatriation, just to construct the Olympic swimming complex – and that’s just one of the many abuses that have taken place in the lead-up to the Games that were won on the back of a “human rights” message.)

No – it’s not the dangerous men behind closed doors making deals that we’re being warned about. It’s those dangerous, nasty, evil protesters. It’s those people with a conscience that are exercising their rights of free speech – they’re the ones we need to be afraid of.

If it wasn’t so ominous, it would be hilarious. If this is the future, I think we need to turn the car around…

Update: A fascinating Flickr slideshow of the protests to give some sense of the overkill. I also forgot to mention that police stopped anyone from leaving Hyde Park for over an hour – including families with kids – during the protests.

Update 2: NewMatilda.com also has another piece on APEC (from which I grabbed the photo).

Cradle to Cradle

After having a late night coffee, I sat up last night and finished reading Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

I’d heard good things about this book, especially from the folks at work, and given I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I want to go professionally, and eco-design being a big part of that thinking, I thought I’d borrow a copy and have a read.

It’s a fantastic book for anyone interested in eco-design (in the broadest sense of “design”, but especially product design). Although some of the core ideas are now finding wider acceptance (I first heard about the Cradle to Cradle approach through Worldchanging, and further via Joel Makower and Gil Friend) there are still many insights, ideas, methods and examples throughout the book that make it well worth the effort.

McDonough and Braungart’s vision is a compelling one. The basic gist of it (and I certainly can’t do it justice in a short review) is that we have an opportunity to rethink the way we design things – from architecture to products to systems – that work in harmony with nature, rather than just doing “less damage”. Not just doing “less bad”, but actually playing a restorative role – or moving from “sustainable” to “nurturing”.

They use the metaphor of a cherry blossom tree, and how in the tree and surrounding ecosystem – there is not concept of waste in nature. The “waste”, as it were, become nutrients to the earth and organisms around the tree.

They invisage a design thinking that creates products that become nutrients for both biological (e.g. can be safely buried) and/or technical systems (re-used in original form for industry etc.). They imagine buildings acting like a tree – cleansing water, purifying the air, creating habitat for local species (including humans). And if we have buildings that act like trees, they extend the metaphor to imagine a city acting like a forest.

As the book progresses they introduce additional tools and insight into how we might make this shift in thinking – from “eco-efficient” (less bad) to “eco-effective” (nurturing).

The book is not a “how-to” guide – it is very much putting forward the Cradle to Cradle. The examples serve to show that, in fact, it can be done – factories that clean the water that they use, that are net positive in terms of energy consumption (i.e. they collect more energy than they consume) – rather than demonstrating how it can be done.

Overall I was really inspired by the book and got a lot out of it. Even though some of the concepts were already familiar, reading them “first hand” really cemented some of the ideas much more solidly – I feel I now have a better sense of the nuance in the argument, rather than just the broad brushstrokes I had previously.

I’d highly recommend it – 5/5 stars – I really can’t think anything that could be improved…

Strummer and Once

This week I’ve been lucky enough to make it along to Newtown Dendy to see two music related films. The first was Strummer: The future is unwritten – a documentary by Julien Temple, probably best known for his pair of films on the Sex Pistols – The Great Rock and Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury. After the film, Temple took part in a Q&A session.

The film follows the rise and fall (and reprise) of Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, and later in life Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. I knew some of the more classic Clash’s songs, and vague bits and pieces about their history. I knew that Mick Jones, Clash guitarist, went on to form Big Audio Dynamite. But that was about it.

The archival footage in the film is amazing. Temple was a friend of Joe’s – and was part of the scene that gave birth to The Clash. During the Q&A we learnt that Temple lived in a squat near Joe, and helped to sneak the band into his film school at the time to record early Clash material.

The film flicks between this archival footage and interviews with people that knew Joe, from the early days in the 101s through to his final band, the Mescularos, and is punctuated throughout with segments from Joe’s World Service radio program, London Calling. What’s cool is that for the first 20 minutes or so of the film, all of the people interviewed had unfamiliar faces – they are the people who Joe grew up with, people like your next door neighbour. You do get an insight into his history and up-bringing, and some of the experiences that influenced his move into the punk movement.

The odd celebrity then appears, seeming almost out of place: Bono, Flea, Anthony Kiedis, Steve Buscemi, Matt Dillon, Johnny Depp, John Cusack and Jim Jarmusch all make appearances. At the Q&A session, Temple apologised when asked about the stars in the film. Not quite sure why, but perhaps he also felt they were out of place in telling Strummer’s story.

Through the film I got a real sense that Strummer had a kind of artistic rebirth – starting in London slums and joining The Clash, then joining the rave circuit in a tent around campfires then rekindling his musical passion over a decade after The Clash imploded.

Overall the doco was really inspiring and fascinating, but despite its depth I still don’t feel I really know “Strummer” all that well. But I certainly feel like I now have a little insight into what shaped his life and brought him to become the star he was – as much as any film can do that I suppose. I’d definitely rate it 4/5 stars.

The other film I saw last night was Once, featuring The Frames‘ Glen Hansard and Czech songstress Marketa Irglova. I have to admit, going into the film, I wasn’t familiar with Hansard’s work with The Frames, nor Irglova’s work as a solo artist and with Hansard. I’d read good reviews of the movie, and Dave at work had highly recommended it to me, so was keen to check it out.

By the time I saw the film I’d forgotten the plot line from the review I’d read and only had Dave’s comment that it was a loose musical of sorts – having seen the film I now know what he means – so I was pretty much going in without much expectation.

The film follows an unnamed “guy” (I didn’t realise he was unnamed until the credits – “Guy” and “Girl” are how the leads Hansard and Marketa Iglova are credited) as he meets “girl” when he is busking. They discover a shared interest in music and start writing together as we learn more about their lives.

There is a loose romance that is apparent between the two characters, but always at a distance. The plot is very loose – pretty much joining the various musical pieces together. We follow them on their journey to record a record and returning to their previous lost loves.

The film walks a fine line between becoming a naff parody and naive gem, but luckily falls on the right side of those two extremes. The music is great, written and performed by the two leads – I am keen to get the soundtrack after seeing the film. It’s a delightful film – another I’d recommend. 4/5 stars.

New music gear

I just picked up a new (for me) guitar – a 2003 Fender Telecaster Deluxe 72 Re-issue. (You can check out the details at Fender’s site, on Wikipedia and some reviews on Harmony Central).

This is the first electric I’ve had since I was a teenager – I’ve been playing a lovely Maton Performer acoustic (more reviews) for some time, but decided to pick up an electric to fill out our live sound now that we’ve recorded the Fuzu EP.

Like any new instrument, I’ve been bitten by the bug on this one, and have been playing it heaps since I picked it up. It’s got a lovely tone across the 3 pickup combinations, though I’m finding I’m settling for the neck pickup an awful lot. I was looking for a guitar that handled the type of open chords I enjoy playing – with a bit of dissonance – and it does the job beautifully.

I read in the Wikipedia article that switching out the pots (behind the volume controls etc.) to a different impedence helps a lot, so I’m probably going to get a friend to help me give that a try. Overall I’m stoked with the guitar especially at the price I got it for.

I also picked up an MI Audio Tube Zone at the same time and it’s awesome. I really wanted a nice, character-ful tube-like distortion that could range from just biting when I dig in to being pretty rocky too, and it does the lot (thanks for the demo Damian). I highly recommend it.

I also picked up a Line 6 Toneport UX 1 (thanks, again, to Damian) that I’m really digging as a practice rig (my practice space is right where my computer is, so I don’t mind having to hook it up to my iMac to get it to work). It’ll work great for demo recording too (already started playing with some ideas). Solves a couple of issues with my home studio setup too – leaving my Presonus dedicated for live.

Next on my list is an amp – gonna crawl for a secondhand one, but failing that probably look at a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (more reviews). Looking forward to gigging again soon (Tobes is due back in a couple of weeks).

Update: Two quick things – one of the things I really love about the tele is the neck. It’s really chunky, which for me, coming from bass guitar and acoustic, is perfect.

The other thing is that the Toneport keeps randomly dropping out, esp. when using it in Ableton Live (which I just upgraded to v6). Because the Toneport appears to offload some of the FX/amp emulation to the hardware, it needs a custom driver (a rare thing on the Mac as far as hardware goes). I suspect it’s a bug with the driver, but not 100% sure. Gonna see if I can reproduce it consistently and report it to Line6. It isn’t a major deal at the moment, given I’m using it for practicing and demos, not live performance. But annoying all the same…

Ethical investment review

Choice magazine has a great review of ethical investment (also known as socially responsible investment) funds in Australia.

My long-time fave, Australian Ethical is the only one that has stayed out of all of the so-called “sin stocks” of alcohol, tobacco, weapons (euphemistically labeled “defence” in Choice’s comparison) and uranium.

If you’re considering ethical investment as an option, perhaps for your superannuation, the review is well worth a look.

On a related note, Choice recently announced their sustainability policy. Hits a lot of the right notes…

Do we need more bling?

Kineda – With a tagline of “the fabulous lifestyle only bling can bring” and featuring $1 million laptops made with leather and precious metals, it’s kinda the antithesis of the sustainable lifestyle. I’m sure somebody will dig it, but I’ll pass thanks…

Blog action day

Blog action day:

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment.

Let’s hope I remember to blog on that day – chances are it’ll be on topic if I do 😉

Oh – they ask the question “what would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day?” I’ll take a (cynical) punt – not much except a bunch of bloggers feeling good about themselves. Not that that’s such a bad thing :p