Amak Axver

You'd think I'd forgotten about this or something!

Well, come June this year I'll have been on LiveJournal for a decade. That's pretty scary. Not that I've updated much over the last couple of years (nothing for 2012?!), but still, that's a damn long Internet presence. I'd disown most of the teenage shit now, but you get that.

I suppose the main reason I've stopped using LJ is because of the monumental way they fucked up Scrapbook in May last year. I like photography. I'm not good enough to be a pro photographer, or even an amateur who sells their photos here and there for some spare change, but it's fun. I like experiencing the world through my camera, and Scrapbook - since I've got so much space here via my permanent account - was where I hosted all my pictures. Then LJ pretty much destroyed everything in the migration to a new Scrapbook. I had spent hours upon hours, literally days, meticulously cataloguing my photos. There was an intricate, well-sorted web of sub-folders, tags, etc. Now? There are no subfolders, just a mess of folders (and no tags!). Almost every photo is not where it should be. There are photos from Geneva in my Wellington folders, photos from the Kapiti Coast in my Melbourne folders, and most stuff just ended up as an indistinct mess in a single generic folder. The task of re-ordering thousands of photos is simply beyond me. I guess the photos that are currently online will stay in the ether of the Internet, but I currently have no intention to add more or to even begin sorting things out. I don't know what I'll do with my photos either. I post fun or silly ones on Facebook, just personal shit, and I post my gig photos on Tumblr, but that's it. My landscape and hobby photos? Fucked if I know what'll happen to them. Sit on my hard drive I guess. Somebody can dig them up in fifty years and publish them in a book so people can remember what places and things looked like back in the day.

Anyway. My PhD is disturbingly close to completion. The money runs out at the end of August, so I better get it done by then - I can be granted further time but my scholarship can't be extended. It's terrifying. I wish I was back at the start. I've made so many mistakes, and I guess everybody says this when they get to the end of a project, but now that I'm at the end I know what a much better start would've been. Still, I think the final product will at least be some shade of decent, if not spectacular. I'm proud of some chapters, and hopefully the revision phase will improve the quality of the rest. The real challenge is not so much completing the PhD, but getting a job. There aren't exactly many jobs available for historians right now (fuck every stupid fucking recent government that's decided the humanities don't matter) but hopefully I'll be able to make a go of something or another. It doesn't help that I do not want to leave Melbourne. I don't want to lead the stereotypical academic life of setting up shop in one university, only to bustle off to another place three or four years later, and keep moving around chasing slightly more senior jobs, no matter how drab the actual city the job's in may be. I love Melbourne. It's home. If I have to leave, it will be fucking hard.

This entry all sounds terribly anxious or frustrated, yet in reality life's going great right now. Charlotte and I have a nice place and are having copious good times. Melbourne has so many good cafes and pubs and bakeries, and if I end up obese and penniless it will be the fault of this extraordinary culinary culture. The people I work with in the School of History are wonderful and fun people. There have been so many sensational gigs lately, and so many good albums have come out; it's an awesome time to be a music obsessive in Melbourne right now. I get to go back to New Zealand on a fairly regular basis - three times in the last year, including one brief jaunt to my beloved South Island. The 2013 footy season is almost upon us, and hopefully Essendon can push past the pre-season scandals and perform well on field. The horrendous heatwave is (hopefully) over and I'm still alive. Awesome.

I hope to hear from some of you on here who I haven't spoken to in ages. The Internet can be so ephemeral sometimes; people who are a big part of your life for a couple of years drift away, and it's always nice when you encounter them again. So if you want to keep up with me on a website where I can currently be found frequently, then add me on Facebook or follow my gig photography on Tumblr.
Tram: SW5 728


Best year ever.

PS Damn straight this is Axver, returning from the blogging wilderness after not posting anything since March. I guess after many of my friends drifted away from blogging here, so did I. Also, much to I think everybody's surprise, after years of resisting I finally caved and joined Facebook. I've been using that frequently, so if anybody on LJ wants to keep in contact and doesn't already have me added, feel free to add me there.
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New Zealand

A win for the ages and other cricket rantings

Holy fucking shit, the Irish knocked off England in the cricket! Forget when they turfed out the hopeless Pakistan in 2007; this is something else. This has got to be one of the greatest results in cricket history, up there with Zimbabwe knocking off Australia in their very first ODI in 1983. God I hope they can sneak into the finals and fucking stick it to the ICC for cutting the 2015 World Cup to ten teams. Results like this are exactly why the associates need to be in the World Cup.

Seriously, ten teams, who are they fucking kidding? Twelve, I could live with. But ten?! It's just going to be an old boys' club of the ten Test playing countries (although Zimbabwe and Bangladesh can't quite be described as old boys yet). Ireland deserve just as much a place as Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, so let's up the count to eleven straight away. Then there's the Kenyans, who may be a bit woeful now but showed so much promise in 2003 and will hopefully come out of this present lull much stronger. The Dutch are on the ascendancy, and if they can get some more international cricket against real opposition, they may actually be able to cultivate and retain some good players (rather than losing their best players to other countries, like Dirk Nannes coming to Australia so he can actually get some recognition). And Afghanistan has certainly made its future intentions clear, even if their short term prospects aren't so great. So there's plenty of competition for the twelfth spot.

And let's not overlook the current dreary state of the New Zealand and West Indies teams, or Pakistan's fitful history. Trying to act all high-and-mighty towards the associates and claim they're not good enough and the "CLUB'S CLOSED, PISS OFF!" is just absurd given the form of these supposedly great and impossibly superior countries. I'm grateful New Zealand doesn't have to play Ireland in the group stage, because if we did, we'd most likely lose. I'm already dreading our game against Zimbabwe, and I honestly won't be shocked if we walk away from this tournament only with victories against Canada and Kenya. It's an embarrassing time to be a Kiwi cricket fan. Remember less than a decade ago, when we had an amazing team? Sure, it was inconsistent, and too many players had bad days too often, but on our day when everybody fired, we could beat any team in the world. Today, we have two or three truly world class players, a couple of promising young talents, and a group of has-beens, occasionally-ares (which I'm fittingly mis-reading as "occasionally-arse"), and rash twits who don't even have the focus for T20, let alone real cricket.

I suppose that New Zealanders sometimes forget that we're a country of just four million people and can't dominate the world at everything, but given the way the All Blacks dominate rugby (and, on a comparative basis, have stats to make anybody in other team sports jealous) and how much we punch above our weight in other sports and world competitions, we come to have certain expectations. Certainly I believe that one day, I will live to see us lift the Cricket World Cup ... if it lasts long enough and isn't usurped by this T20 bullshit. I actually rather enjoy watching T20, but let's face up to the facts; it is fast food cricket. The analogy works on more than one level too; I watch T20 while drinking, then when I wake up horrendously hungover, it's time for my occasional fix of nasty, greasy fast food. T20 has its place, but if ODI gets forced out ... well, having just T20 and Test cricket would be like Melbourne just having fast food outlets and the swankiest Lygon St restaurants, with no cafe culture or bakeries in between for quality, regular dining. And Melbourne without its culture of cafes and bakeries doesn't bear thinking about. It's almost as horrible a thought as Melbourne without trams.

Oh god, did I just write four paragraphs on cricket when all I meant to do was say how impressed I was by the Irish knocking off the Poms? Sorry!
Amak Axver

Earthquakes, blogging, cricket, etc.

The natural disasters in this part of the world seem endless. I'm sure that by now you've all heard about the devastating earthquake in Christchurch last Tuesday. Luckily it seems all the family and friends Charlotte and I have in Canterbury are OK, though a couple of my cousins had fortuitous escapes by the sounds of it. It's so depressing to see in pieces a city I visited regularly in my younger years and remember so fondly.

And to think, the earthquake happened while I was in a meeting that had a very positive outcome: I'll be a course tutor at university this semester (for those of you familiar with the American uni system rather than the Commonwealth one, I'm not sure what the equivalent role is called). I'm somewhat intimidated but excited ... I've never taught before and they gave us just a morning's worth of training, so talk about being thrown in at the deep end! I'd honestly prefer to lecture, but that's not exactly on the cards at this stage.

On a totally unrelated note, I think Mow Your Lawn! is coming along well, so please do head on over and comment and follow. Charlotte's produced some rather good entries lately; amongst others, she's discussed a rather creepy footbridge, a house that looks like a garden shed, and a house made out of tinfoil. Meanwhile, I've gone after hideous architecture at university (a mouldy building and brutalist garbage), one of the ugliest railway stations ever, and Melbourne's scummiest live music venue. We've been having a great deal of fun with this, if you can't tell.

Switching gears again, god I wish they'd schedule more games per day in the Cricket World Cup. Just one game some days is ludicrous, and no wonder there's a popular perception that the tournament is bloated and excessively long. Didn't the organisers learn anything from 2007? It seems their solution for 2015 is not to host more games per day, but to just cut teams. I bet the tournament will still somehow last from Easter until Christmas anyway.

That's probably about it for now, though I'll try to be back soon with an entry featuring some photos and stuff. We're just enjoying a lazy weekend after a long week that culminated with Alpine playing an amazing show at the Corner to launch their EP. We're so proud to see how far they've come since I first saw them live in November 2009, and their concerts just keep getting better. Now we're just hoping an album happens in the near future ...

Two updates in one month? What strange alchemy is this!

If I have learnt one thing in life, it is that headphones and I are not friends, as much as I love them. For somebody whose "good" pair of headphones never leave his desk, I am somehow quite adept at making one channel work only intermittently within 7-10 months of purchase. Meanwhile, Charlotte's "good" pair get all kinds of rough treatment and are somehow still going three years later. No doubt if I borrowed them, they would somehow explode in a shower of sparks and black metal within a month.

Headphone calamities aside, yesterday's confirmation went very smoothly, so it looks like I'm somehow still cruising with this PhD business. This year's agenda includes conference presentation and article publication; next thing you know, people may start taking me seriously for a few minutes! Don't live too dangerously now, folks.

I am pretty sure the world is a better place after the way the Indian cricket team skittled the Australians in a World Cup warm-up. Let's hope it's a harbinger of even better things to come.

Charlotte and I have done some more updates over on Mow Your Lawn! for your reading pleasure. I have a couple of interstate and international ideas lined up to improve the geographical spread somewhat, and I may just try to take a peek inside a couple of nearby abandoned houses. They're just intriguing me a little bit too much. Plus they'd make awesome photographic subjects.
Amak Axver

(no subject)


After such a long absence, I'm really not sure how to begin an entry. I actually haven't been completely absent from LiveJournal - I use the photo-hosting side of things pretty heavily. I keep meaning to blog about the photos; I've uploaded hundreds of shots over the last month, so maybe I'll do some entries to highlight the best stuff and give people a reason to wade through it all. Anyway, the photography is here; 2010 is complete, 2011 is close to up-to-date (I'm just working on February's photos now) ... 2009 is still embarrassingly incomplete. Sometimes the captions descend into sarcasm and farce because I get bored writing the same crap over and over again.

Charlotte and I have started a blog together. It's called Mow Your Lawn! and it exists to document all the decrepit and rundown places that have intrigued us, and architectural monstrosities that have made us want to vomit. Whenever we go out for walks, we inevitably find ourselves remarking on which places do or don't appeal, and the blog is a fairly natural development of the "don't appeal" side of that. Mainly just because it's more fun to write about the dingy places, and because I can think of slightly more things to say about them that are hopefully amusing or interesting.

So now that I've whored out my photos and my blog, how's life in general? Well, next week I've got a pretty big review of the progress of the first year of my doctoral studies; my supervisor assures me it's a formality and I won't face any problems, so I'm trying to pretend I'm not nervous, despite the mountain of paperwork accompanying it. I'm longing for more time in New Zealand, but that's pretty impossible to organise until we know what Charlotte's university schedule will be and whether or not I will be a course tutor. And no, we haven't drowned in any of the recent flooding, though where I lived in Brisbane a few years ago went under in the epic Queensland floods! Land of drought and flooding rains alright. Australia's climate is ridiculous.

I'm glad it's 2011. The pre-Olympics year in any four year sporting cycle is inherently the best year, thanks to the Cricket and Rugby World Cups. I cannot wait, even if the Cricket World Cup looks set to be incredibly humiliating for anybody who supports New Zealand. We're probably going to manage to somehow lose to Canada, the way we've been playing lately; if we make it out of the group stage, it will be a minor miracle. It should go without saying that I have somewhat higher expectations for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup! Charlotte, of course, despairs that she is about to lose me to cricket for over a month - her lack of interest in cricket makes me question whether she really is English/Kiwi. Thank god she likes rugby.

I've managed to avoid politics for most of this entry, but I would like to end by saying something that everybody in Australia should be told every day: Tony Abbott is a reprehensible little turd.

Have a good one!
Little Kaiteriteri

Setlists and stuff for Alpine

Hi. I'm cropping up here again, and for once with an apolitical post! I'm mainly making this post for my own reference, but it's a good chance for me to whore out a good new Melbourne band to the world. If you think the idea of an indie pop sextet with layered female vocal harmonies sounds good, then check out Alpine on their MySpace or Yes, it's not quite the usual from this fan of post-rock, metal, jangle pop, shoegaze, and whatnot, but what really sets Alpine apart for me, and makes me think they're probably the best new band in Melbourne right now, are their amazing live shows. Phoebe and Louisa have got to be two of the most energetic and enthusiastic vocalists I've seen.

And the live shows are the point of this entry. I've snagged the printed setlist from all four of their last gigs I've seen, but I can't post them on yet since they aren't on musicbrainz, a database that just looks like a mess to use and I don't even know if they qualify for inclusion until the Zurich EP comes out later this year. So in lieu of that, for my personal reference and for anybody else who's interested (maybe if somebody who went to the gigs stumbles across this entry?), here are their setlists.

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More politics, of course

So we go from one election to another.

The Australian federal election proved pretty agonising. I think we all dodged a bullet in the end; the right wing Coalition just unable to form government after the tolerably-enough-centrist Labour Party managed to cobble together the numbers to govern in a hung parliament. I, for one, spent way too much of the seventeen days of negotiations refreshing The Age's website waiting for something to happen. I'm one of these cynical people who doesn't buy any of the "new paradigm of politics" talk and just expects the current parliament to be all kinds of awkward. Sure, nobody can ram through an agenda, but I don't expect many tangible outcomes to be achieved either. The Coalition now just seems to be behaving like a spurned lover towards the independents, acting as if they had some divine right to govern when clearly the uninspiring campaign gave us an uninspired result that gives nobody any kind of popular mandate. Personally, I'm just hoping the Coalition goes and self-destructs in a spectacular fit of petulance.

Now, here in Victoria, we are heading for a state election in November, and after the federal seat of Melbourne fell from Labour to the Greens, Labour's getting nervous about losing up to four inner Melbourne state seats to the Greens. Including mine! Oh, glorious day; I finally live in an electorate that matters in an election. So I was reading an opinion piece in The Age today, and I was a little surprised to read this bit:

"The problem for Labor is that, at this stage, no one really has any data on why its supporters are turning Green. What is really driving them? Is it simply a protest or a more permanent shift?"

Well, as somebody whose preferences go to the Greens and other like-minded progressive parties such as the Socialist Alliance, Sex Party, and Secular Party, I frankly think the answer to this is pretty bloody obvious. A few decades ago, it is safe to say that I would have been a rusted-on, committed ALP voter. However, in the intervening period, the ALP - like so many formerly social democrat Labour parties across the planet - has drifted to the right. It's staggering to realise that the Labour Party in the UK is today further right than the Tories were pre-Maggie Thatcher. The Australian Labour Party has not quite fallen that far, but the shift has nonetheless been pronounced.

Those of us who believe in progressive and leftist politics just don't believe in the ALP any more. We don't want a wishy-washy centrist party that makes token gestures in our direction while failing to make any meaningful progress on important issues, and that continues to pander to base and regressive viewpoints in a race to the bottom with the Liberal Party and their backwards claptrap. We want a party that is actually on the LEFT. A party that has an ideological platform we can actually identify with on a broad and general level, rather than one we can settle for and begrudgingly accept if we absolutely must compromise and water down our core beliefs. Fundamentally, we are deeply unsettled by the general shift of politics to the right and to neoconservatism since the 1970s, and surely the continually increasing vote for the Greens is a clear sign that a sizeable amount of us want a real left wing, progressive option in politics. We don't want to choose between the centre and the right. It's not so much about the Greens per se as it is about keeping left.

State Labour isn't going to get much traction if they just try to attack the Greens, because it misses the point for so many of the voters who are defecting to the Greens from Labour. We already know that the Greens are just another political party and that they have their faults. Most of the ideological critique the ALP can offer is meaningless; it's preaching to the choir for people who weren't going to vote Green anyway, while those of us who are voting Green don't agree with the critique Labour is offering. If Labour ever wants to win back this consistuency, they have to re-establish their credentials as actually being a viable left wing party. Maybe it's too much to hope they will rediscover their social democrat roots, but a shift somewhere away from the centre towards a more firm left footing is what we want to see.

And if some of the members of Labour's right wing faction don't want to come along for the ride, then they can hop off the train and be left behind by history. I don't subscribe to any sort of theory of historical determinism or that political history progresses in a linear fashion, but it is the left that has consistently stood up for social improvement, for rights, for freedom, and for a better, fairer world. It is the left that has kept asking "how can this world be better?" The conservative historical lineage is one of opposition to democracy, the secret ballot, minimum wages, workplace safety, religious freedom, sexual freedom, reproductive rights, racial and cultural equality, ecological sustainability, and helping the poor and marginalised. They usually come around. I don't know why the rest of us are expected to wait for them and pander to them, though.

Furious election-time tl;dr rant

I knew it would probably take something big to get me back to blogging, and of course, it turns out to be politics - more to the point, my absolute inability to tolerate any longer the infuriating Australian political scene in the lead-up to the federal election.

I don't even know where to begin. It seems that with each passing campaign, things manage to deteriorate further - 2007 was all kinds of dreadful, but 2010 has just kept on digging deeper. The campaign is utterly hollow; the coverage is dire; the parties themselves are miserable, clutching desperately at straws to capture marginal seats rather than providing anything resembling political vision or comprehensive ideology. Of course, the Senate is a battleground where everybody's ballots matter, but as far as the House goes, if you're not in a marginal seat, your contribution means precious little. Here I am, in one of the safest Labour seats in the country. It makes no difference who I vote for, because a duck could run instead of Kelvin Thomson and still win.

The knowledge that my vote might as well not count just makes it all the more sour how much rage this election provokes in me. I can rage all I want, and it makes no difference, since I don't have the luck to be voting in a marginal seat. Meanwhile, the candidates are vying desperately for the votes of politically ignorant bogans who'll just decide on the day that "oh I don't like that ranga's voice" or "my Daddy always voted Labour so I will". I really don't know how anybody with two braincells to rub together could possibly be undecided at this point in the campaign, or could have possibly been undecided ever since Tony Abbott was inexplicably elevated to Liberal leadership.

I'm sorry, I don't normally try to ridicule people who vote a different way to me. Democracy is all about difference of opinion. But in this case, what am I meant to say? A vote for Tony Abbott is fucking stupid. There is no more polite way to put it without sacrificing intellectual honesty. I'm not at all a fan of the ALP either, especially given how far they have drifted towards the right, but at least they aren't actually reprehensible to anybody who sits down for a minute and thinks about it.

The Liberal campaign strategy has been staggeringly effective in deflecting the campaign from the real issues or hiding just how reprehensible Tony Abbott and his policies are. We've had a campaign that's been all about Julia Gillard, when it should have always been about Tony Abbott. It should always have been about how he doesn't understand or even pretend to care what it is like to be disabled, or to be a single mother, or to be a working family stuck below the poverty line. It should always have been about how he thinks everybody on welfare is a miserable bludger and doesn't deserve it. It should always have been about his xenophobia and the way he plays on latent community racism to create a fictitious threat in a paltry amount of desperate refugees that Australia can handle with ease. It should always have been about how he is so lacking in compassion and empathy that he thinks most homeless people choose their plight and that social work is not a virtuous or commendable occupation.

It should always have been about how he is going to drastically cut funding for education, starting with the poorest and most disadvantaged students and schools. It should always have been about his complete ignorance of broadband technology, the most significant infrastructural development facing this country. It should always have been about how he is so staggeringly tied to his car that he cannot comprehend the major economic, environmental, and social importance of public transport and rail freight in making our communities and our industries more efficient and sustainable. It should always have been about his unwillingness to learn, his unwillingness to overcome his ignorance, and his anti-intellectualism. It should always have been about how he cannot seem to separate his personal religious convictions from secular public governance, to the point that he is oblivious to the fact he is doing it.

It should always have been about how this man is a relic of a past age, a relic from 1910, a relic that should never have even been put in this position, let alone realistically able to win government.

I don't like the ALP either, but at least they're trying to move into the 21st century, excluding their backwards attitude to gay rights. Of course, anybody who actually believes in improving our society, in human rights and Aboriginal affairs, in protecting our environment, and in helping the least fortunate and most marginalised amongst us, would be voting for the Greens, the Socialists, the Sex Party, the Secular Party, and similar parties. What a shame we don't live in a multiparty country or somewhere with mixed representation that would allow forward-thinking parties more of a shot at entering parliament. For now, what matters is keeping Tony Abbott out of office.

I think the hilarious post-script to all of this is that the majority of Liberal voters would actually be burned if Tony Abbott's pet policies were enacted. It's testament to the spin of the Liberals, like the Republicans in the US and the Tories in the UK, that they can convince anybody who isn't already well-off that they will benefit from Liberal policies that favour the wealthy for no good reason and punish the poor for things beyond their control.
Tram: Royal Park sign

Keep left

I have been following with increasing agitation the moves being made by the right wing parties in Australia and New Zealand to cut back social welfare. In New Zealand, the governing National Party unveiled a raft of changes in March, while in Australia, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, has been mouthing off about restricting the dole so that only those over 30 can receive it. National's proposals remind me all too much of Ruthanasia in the early 1990s, which is one of the main reasons why I do not live in New Zealand any more.

If ever you need proof that the right wing completely misses the point on how to look after the poor in society and is totally out of touch with daily realities in the working class, this is it.

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