Archive for the ‘Venting and Ranting’ Category

CTCV tags appear over Melbourne’s world-renowned graffiti

"CTCV" tags drawn over more skilled works

One of the things I love about Melbourne are the amazing graffiti pieces we get. Apparently, we’re known internationally for it, in certain circles. We have a thriving and skilled population of graffiti artists – even under draconian laws that, for example, make carrying a can of spraypaint illegal (giving the police a pre-packaged excuse to stop suspected vandals that merely “look the part”, and haven’t actually been seen doing anything traditionally illegal).

The ‘Authorities’ choose to interpret graffiti as an eyesore. This has led to ridiculous crackdowns in the past, and masses of public money blithely wasted by our state and local governments on “graffiti clean-ups”, such as during the Commonwealth Games.

In the not-so-distant past, a police graffiti/transit squad was rumoured to have engaged in “tagging” of graffiti pieces. Graffiti artists would report catching police “slashing” graffiti pieces (painting over the top of them); I found one tale on an internet forum from a guy who says he left a can of spraypaint behind while being chased by the police – and later found that his can had been used to “slash” a range of pieces.

Tags began appearing, slathered across much better pieces, reading “CTSA” – rumoured to stand for “Cops Trashing Shit Art” or “Cops That Slash Art”.

My view of graffiti is obviously more positive than the “legal” view. I think you need to put it in some kind of perspective. Consider this: We’re bombarded with advertising wherever we go. A billboard is a genuine eyesore. We put up with lists of sponsors and corporate logos on sporting, artistic, and museum events, because we want their money. But they look disgusting. Most of the time, advertisers are outright insulting us; if they’re not insulting our bodies, they’re insulting our intelligence.

Graffiti, on the other hand, entertains. It’s not something put up there to make money; in fact, graffiti artists lose money on it, and sometimes carry it out at great personal (and legal) risk. Sure, it’s about prestige and showing off, and the worst of it – the texta tagging – can almost sink to the level of a company logo… not quite, but almost ;). But it’s often genuinely impressive. If not for the skill involved, then for the “How the heck did they get up there??” factor. Sometimes, there’s even a political point to it – while companies use slick advertising to gloss over their use of overseas sweatshops and other crimes against humanity, graffiti will occasionally bring you comments like “Stop Logging Our Water Catchments!”, “No Jobs On A Dead Planet” (in massive letters on a giant smokestack), and the bitingly ironic slogan “Shut Up And Shop“. And at least it’s your fellow Melbournians trying to grab your attention, just because they think your attention is valuable – not because they want to hustle you.

In around March of this year, Melbourne commuters began noticing a new tag – “CTCV” – used to “slash” a range of pieces. Mostly along train lines, and always over much better pieces.

CTCV tags along Melbourne's train lines.

CTCV tags along Melbourne's train lines.

A friend of mine pointed out that “CTCV” isn’t too far from “CTSA”, and apparently he wasn’t the only one to draw this conclusion. Do an Australia-centred google search for the initials, and you’ll find lots of forum speculation along similar lines by those in graffiti culture.

Is it the work of “gronks” – less talented kids trying to annoy the older graff artists and make a mindless mark of their own? Or could the “C” at the start of “CTCV” stand for “Cops” – as it has been rumoured to in the past? “CTCV” – “Cops That Catch Vandals”? “Cops Trashing Crap Vandalism”?

We’ll probably never know, unless they’re caught in the act. And then, the only people catching them would be graffiti artists themselves – reliable enough eyewitnesses if you ask me, but I doubt the “authorities” would concur.

Blast destroys Connex ticket machine

The attack is the latest in a string of problems for rail operator Connex, which has been under commuter fire for heat and maintenance-related train delays and cancellations.

Here’s another reason why the State Government needs to get their farking act together, remove the ‘exclusiveness’ of premium stations at every major and have ALL stations throughout the network fitted with real human beings.

What’s the point of having fake cameras that do not record, ‘safe’ zones within a yellow box and an emergency red button when ALL other stations are unlit, heavily-graffittied, dirty, smelly and a magnet for trouble, bogans and gangs?

Lynne Kosky the Farkwit, out.

A minister who actually utilizes public transport facilities and understands the deep-seated resentment of Connex and all things public transport, in.

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New Mayor of Melbourne – conservative Robert Doyle insults Melbournians, threatens to "clean up" city streets

Melbourne a has a new lord mayor – and it’s the much-reviled ex-leader of the conservative (sorry if this is confusing to American readers…) state Liberal Party.

In an article in The Age, Doyle has stated his antipathy towards Melbourne’s street buskers, declaring “They actually do need to be properly licensed and regulated so that we are not just assaulted by a whole lot of different sounds every 10 metres along the footpath.”

For those not familiar with our city, you’ll find yourself assaulted by a cacophony of raucous noises wherever you go on CBD streets – but not from the usually-talented and often-appreciated buskers; rather from the myriad of pseudo-trendy clothing stores that pump their bad pop music up as loud as the human ear can stand it.

But no, in true conservative style, Doyle has singled out one of the great things about Melbourne’s street life – our buskers. Some people may try to tell you that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or that cracking a smile at the less talented buskers is just a part of the fun of a city where people aren’t afraid to be out on the streets. But no, not Doyle.

Even more insidiously, Doyle has threatened to open up Swanston Street to car traffic. The street is already used by a minimum number of cars – taxis, buses, and police vehicles – but the basic idea behind Swanston Street is that it’s a relatively safer street for pedestrians and cyclists. It used to be called the Swanston Street walk. And as somebody who lives on one side of the city, and has to go through the city centre (parallel to Swanston Street) to get wherever he needs to drive, i can tell you from personal experience – there is absolutely no need to open it up to more car traffic. But Doyle wants to get his name out there. If you ask me, he’s only trying to make it clear to those of us who love Melbourne for it’s street life that he’s firmly on one side of the line (probably somewhere around the affluent suburbs… *ahem*), and we’re on the other.

This goal is only underlined by his reference to Melbourne as a “bogan magnet” – a bogan, for non-Australians, is a scruffy person with little fashion sense and a lower-class accent. According to legend they can be found around the far eastern suburbs, always close to a train line, a court, and a welfare office. Doyle doesn’t want any of that sort in his city.

So hey, New Yorkers, how did you get rid of Guiliani? We may be needing some expert scum-removing polish very soon, or at least a pest exterminator that specialises in country-club wannabes.

The Student Housing Action Co-operative!

Because landlords, real estate agencies and governments have worked to increase rents in Melbourne and make it as hard as possible for those on low incomes (such as students) to live, and because universities (such as U of Melbourne) have worked to bleed cash from as many international students as possible, while tossing them to the mercy of predatory landlords in the surrounding area, a group of students have taken over the vacant premises at 272-8 Faraday Street in Carlton and turned it into a student-run co-operative housing project.

This is an abandoned building owned by the university, that has been sitting there – empty – since the counseling service was moved out in 2005. The occupying students have apparently brought the building up to health and safety standards and intend to turn it into a permanent student housing co-operative. They run free vegan food nights on Mondays and barbeques on Friday evenings. They’re trying to set up skills sharing workshops, so if you have some useful skills/training to impart and are willing to do some volunteer training, they’ll probably be happy to meet you.

You can find them online here:
Student Housing Action Co-operative blog
SHAC Petition to “University of Melbourne Council”

Not tomorrow, but the next Friday, the University has told them to leave the otherwise empty property. So Friday the 28th November will be a rally from 12-2pm. If you can get down there and want to show your support for this sort of initiative, i’ll probably see you there. (Video cameras might also be an excellent thing to bring along if you have one, in case the University tries to waste the police’s time by calling them in to restore the property to it’s empty, useless state.)

NAB’s "Dream Festival"

www.dreamfestival.com.au

Hey fellow Melbournians,

Sick of having to switch on the television or open a newspaper to be advertised to? Well, this just in from a friend, “the Yarra River, our Princes Bridge, Birrarung Marr and that entire precinct of our city will be sold over to the National Australia Bank for FOUR DAYS to run a PR campaign”!

Apparently this National Australia Bank advertising campaign will feature art installments “depicting the dreams of Australians”.

Wow!

I know what one of my dreams is – nationalise the National Australia Bank, and re-regulate the country’s financial system! Wha… no? That particular installments not in there…? Oh. Ok.

How about something reflecting some of the dreams of Melbournian graffiti artists; to be able to walk down the street without being harrassed by police and fined for posession of spray paint. To have the same kind of access to public spaces that the National Australia Bank has, by being able to print your message up for all to see! That way, EVERY day can be a Dream Festival!

Oh… that’s not in there either?

Gee.

Well, get on down if you really haven’t seen enough ads this weekend. And please, go on to their website to see a mighty piece of prose called “Ideas.¬†Dreams.¬†Aspirations.” signed by John Stewart and Ahmed Fahour – the “Group Chief Executive Officer” and “CEO” of NAB, respectively – i know i’m dying to know what these intellectual and cultural giants have to say! I wonder what it’s like to get so much of the monetary reward from other people’s efforts? I hope they write some memoirs for us! Oh yeah, you better believe it. What a time to be a Melbournian!

Singapore Day

The weather’s a lot nicer these days (though it still warrants a light jumper), so if you happen to be around the Sidney Myer Music Bowl this late morning or arvo, check out some local and distinctive Singaporean fare at Singapore Day 2008. Note the choice words of Singaporean, not Asian. Asian food is so varied and colourful, calling it ‘Asian food’ like most Asian food stalls do is just another nail into an Australian’s stereotyped penchance for ‘fried rice beef with black bean sauce’ when they think Asian food.

But I digress.

With the inaugural Singapore Day in New York City a runaway success last year, organisers have brought Singapore Day into our antipodean shores. Although registration is required, there should be no reason why you can just waltz up into the grounds as entry is free.

Oh btw, Singapore Noodles DO NOT EXIST. That’s a bastardised version of our famous Prawn Noodles and Hokkien Mee. I’ll be making my way to the grounds soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a ‘Singapore Noodle’ stall existed. Or some ignorant foreigner walking around asking for a Singapore Noodle stall.

How did Petrova Hammond come in third…

…when she’s always experimented with fierce, kooky designs and colours? Or does the fashion industry just pay homage to the safe and commercial look?

Above from left: 1st Runner-up Leigh Buchanan, 2nd Runner-up Petrova Hammond, Host Kristy Hinze and Winner Juli Grbac. Inset Winning designs from Juli Grbac. Image from Brisbane Times

Wait don’t answer that, ‘coz the first winner of Project Runway Australia, Queenslander Julie Grbac played it safe the entire season and won the competition based on the strength of her beautiful but nothing ‘out of the box’ women’s wear.

Monday night’s season finale left a bitter taste in my mouth. Granted, Melbourne representative Petrova was voted out earlier in the show and threw a high dice roll to return to the show. Fate smiled on her and I thought it was down to Petrova or the very stylish Lui Hon (who I thought brought minimalistic style to a whole new level) to win the competition. Had the judges any sense of what a reality fashion show-cum-competition is, our cute-enough-to-eat Petrova should have won by a mile. Why give these designers a chance to show off what they can really do i.e avant-garde, risky and leftfield when all you’re really doing is finding the safest choice?

But kudos to the three finalists. I was an avid (even rabid) fan of the show and did not dispute the credibility of the final three. After putting all the ‘passion in your fashion’, multiple plot twists and ridiculous deadlines, you’d have to applaud them for getting that far.

Petrova Hammond’s boutique Lady is located at Shop 3, 237 Flinders Lane Melbourne 3000. Drop in to say hi, congratulate or even tell her what you really thought of Mark Antonio’s hairdo. Or visit the MySpace website here.

For or Against: Shopping bag levy

So, are you for or against the shopping bag levy? Started yesterday, major supermarkets in Warrnambool, Wangaratta, Fountain Gate and Narre Warren started charging 10 cents per shopping bag. It is a month long trial to investigate its feasibility and to test consumer support. Is it possible to have negative consumer support and yet have a successful trial? Oh yes, don’t shop there!

Personally, I refuse to pay 10 cents for a shopping bag. Its a rip-off and its environment impact is really just 2% of all plastics produced in Australia (according to an analysis conducted in 2002). Ireland is the only other country in the world that charges a significant (around 27 euro cents?) levy on plastic bags but supermarkets provide paper bags as an alternative as well as reusable bags. So, where are the paper bags in Australian supermarkets?

I use my green bags, because I am concern about the environment, just not fanatical about it, but more because I refuse to pay an additional tax just for living.

Another levy, another name for tax.

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Eh…just one little thing Australian universities do not do…

International students (from left) Seonah Kim, Lee Hee Jin, Lee Naree and Moustafa Ibrahim, outside Hawthorn-Melbourne College, are unhappy with the way they have been treated

International students (from left) Seonah Kim, Lee Hee Jin, Lee Naree and Moustafa Ibrahim, outside Hawthorn-Melbourne College, are unhappy with the way they have been treated

I pity these kids. They, along with 194 other fellow students from various part of the world, have become victims of a university scandal. Actually, I’ll call it whatever I like. Myopic Australian University Bureaucracy. Let’s Keep Hush ‘Coz They Don’t Speak English Anyway. Let’s Fuck With These Kids ‘Coz If They’re Rich Enough To Study Here, They Are Rich Enough To Fly Home.

It’s not the first time International Students have been fucked in the ass blindside and not given a sympathy kleenex to clean up. Australian universities market their education really differently from most internationally-recognized institutions. There’s a great disparity in marketing tactics between North American and Australian universities. While an average North American college markets herself based on the strength of their education (with no hidden agendas), their antipodean neighbours come with sharpened knives with dollar signs in their eyes.

In Asia, where Australian universities have a huge presence, there’s an untapped minefield of cash cows just waiting to be milked. In Singapore alone, there are at least three ‘international studying’ fairs a year, and Australian universities take up 85% of the shelf space. The figures vary for different universities, but an average of 20% of an Australian university’s funding is kept afloat by ‘off-shore’ money.

(more…)

Connex encourages fare evasion…

After riding into the city with a valid ticket this morning, I felt a little uncomfortable to be yet again confronted by the trench-coated Connex “heavies” standing over every turnstile to make sure we’re all doing the right thing.

I understand that Connex is losing money by the bus load every week to fare evasion, but I think it’s well time they took a moment to see why people aren’t buying tickets – the system is cramped, dirty, unreliable and overpriced.

Most of our train stations are unstaffed and the ticket pricing system doesn’t make sense. I don’t see why I should have to pay for a two hour ticket if I only want to travel two or three stops.

Time after time we see politicians and representatives from our public transport providers heading off on junkets to see how transport works better in other countries, but they never improve anything when they get back. Maybe it’s because these are people who don’t actually use the system.

I guess we’ll have to wait two years to see if the Myki system will change anything. Considering the time and money already wasted on this system, and the fact our government insists on pursuing it (hmm…can I smell dodgy deal or incompetence cover up?), I’ll try not to get too excited.

Our system is fixable, and in a way that would provide a better system for its users, and make more money for the providers. As money doesn’t seem to be an object for Connex, I can’t see why this problem can’t be resolved.

Charging the dwindling amount of people who actually pay for the system more, while providing an increasingly ineffective and unpleasant system is not the answer – quite the opposite, it’s why people give up and stop paying.

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