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(no subject) [13 August 2008|11:57 pm]
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[Current Music |'Glow (live)' by Blackfield]

Wow, my use of LiveJournal has just dried up lately. I feel that the more time I spend at the computer, the less inclined I am to actually update. I suppose it doesn't help that the Superthread on Interference takes up plenty of my online time. I would like to get back into LiveJournal again and return to the level of discussion I once enjoyed in 2004, but that would probably require jumping back into communities, and I'm honestly quite over that. I do have a couple of ideas to get me writing again; fairly mundane ones, admittedly, but I figure anything that can get me back into regularly writing would be a good thing.

The most recent hindrance has been that I've fallen rather ill, and for the last few days I've been kept pretty quiet by a nasty strain of the flu. It has meant, however, that I've become addicted to the Olympics - whenever I'm sick, I find I can't stand music, but a TV on low volume is very welcome, and the Olympics is the only thing worth watching at the moment. Channel 7's coverage has been obsessed with the swimming and embarrassing to the point of hilarity, loaded with idiotic remarks from their commentary team, while SBS's has been pretty good but a bit too heavily focused on soccer for my liking (but it's SBS, so what do you expect?). I personally would've loved to see more of the synchronised diving, weightlifting, archery, and equestrian, but not much to be done about that. It also seems that I'm one of only about five people on earth who found the Opening Ceremony to be simply dreadful and nothing at all impressive. Now that I'm close to healthy, I wonder if I'll keep watching so much, or if I'll gravitate back towards my natural preference of music. Right now, with soccer on SBS and basketball on 7, it's music for me.

Other than an illness that I think I've now mostly shaken, not a whole lot has happened in my life. The second semester of the university year has now begun, and I am pretty happy with my subject selection. The first semester ended up going very pleasingly. I suppose I'll share my results, and what's more, to contextualise them for my North American friends, I have this link, which provides a Word document containing a rough comparison between Melbourne's marks and those given in North America; I think the two big points of interest are that everything 80% and above (i.e. an H1, honours first class) equates to at least an A in North America, while the lower passing marks in North America (from C- to D-) equate to failing marks here. Make of that what you will. Anyhow, for me:
Holocaust & Genocide: H1, 92%
History In The Field (the Royal Historical Society placement): H1, 84%
Terrorism: Shifting Paradigms: H1, 93%
Democracy, Terrorism, & Violence: H1, 90%

I'm most proud of the History In The Field mark, actually. That was not an easy gig and I feel like I worked for that mark. I wasn't even confident I'd get within H1 range, the least confident I've ever been of getting an H1, so I'm quite impressed that I came away with one, even a relatively low one. I'm pretty surprised I somehow pulled off a 90% in Democracy & Violence, as I pretty much bludged through that class, put in no effort, and spent most of its exam staring out the window thinking about how tedious the whole affair was and how I wanted to be anywhere other than half-arsing through a lacklustre examination. Apparently it just goes to show you really can put in minimal effort and still come away with one of the highest marks in the class. I hope to not half-arse things so much this semester, though, as my subject selection seems to have worked out well on the basis of the early weeks. International Relations And Its Others and Global Environmental Politics are my two Political Science subjects taken solely to have enough points to get my PolSci major, but they seem promising enough. As for History, where my passion lies and in which I now wish I were double majoring (but it's too late for that), I'm doing Historical Theory And Research and Aboriginal And Pacific Islander Histories, both of which will permit me to do work on New Zealand. I'm fucking thrilled about that.

Ideally, I'll be back with more tomorrow ...
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(no subject) [24 June 2008|05:49 pm]
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[Current Mood |goodgood]
[Current Music |'Some Day (live)' by Blackfield]

Praise the non-existent Lord, for another semester of university is done. Yesterday, I submitted one massive essay and half-arsed my way through an exam, and that's it. Given that I half-arsed my way through the essay component of the course in which I had the exam and somehow emerged with a surprisingly high mark for my insubstantial efforts, I'm not overly concerned about the exam. My arguments at least were well-structured and clear, even if I spent the entire time insufferably bored and glancing out the window at the great view of Melbourne (this is the problem with doing exams on the tenth floor of a building). Hopefully that will put me ahead of a pack who seem incapable of articulating clear arguments even when they have weeks to write an essay as opposed to the two hour confines of an exam. Seriously, people, how hard is it to write "this essay will argue [whatever]. Three core points sustain this argument. Firstly ...; secondly ...; thirdly ..." and then stick to the structure you just signposted? I am stunned how often I encounter people in both History and Political Science who simply don't know to do this and fail to make their argument clear in the introduction. Then they wonder why they struggle to get a worthwhile mark. It doesn't matter how brilliantly written the damn thing is if the marker has no idea what position you're arguing!

Now it's suddenly the winter holidays and I'm not sure what to do with myself. Bonnie from Interference is in town this week, so I'm sure we'll have a couple of Melburnian Interferencer meet-ups. And I imagine I'll drag Kat on some rail photography expeditions. But for now, I'm sitting around feeling like I should be doing something, like assignment deadlines and exam pressures should be looming ominously above my head, but they aren't. I'm sure it will take me a few days to get used to being on holidays. Happens every time, really.

After yesterday's exam, I took a few photos of the view from both the northern and southern sides of the Redmond Barry Building, so I suppose I'll share them here. Unfortunately, it was a rather gloomy day, so Melbourne doesn't quite look its finest, but oh well. Views of inner Melbourne.Collapse )

Now, I would like to whet your appetite for a series coming soon to this very blog. This week, exclusive to Axver's LiveJournal, it's the 2008 Shit Boring Entry Series. At least three entries of the most tedious updates you've ever read in your life. Paragraph after paragraph of uninteresting proposals. I'll probably post it over a delayed timeframe to make it go even slooower. With my typical emphasis on detail that makes it well nigh impossible to ever see why you should care, you'll soon agree this is undoubtedly blogging at its dullest. In fact, just posting blank updates would probably be more interesting. That's the 2008 Shit Boring Entry Series, live but definitely not lively, on Axver's LiveJournal.

(You may also wish to whet your appetite for the 2006 Shit Boring Golf Classic, since I really should link you to that gem of a clip from The Chaser's War On Everything if I'm going to plagiarise it.)
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(no subject) [18 June 2008|02:53 am]
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[Current Mood |tiredtired]
[Current Music |'As Embers Dress The Sky' by Agalloch]

OK, I don't normally do surveyish things. I don't like them. They're just one step down from posting quiz results. But here's one that I think has some validity. I've been so dodgy with updates lately, especially updates about anything tangible. So this survey seems like a quick, effective, and most importantly, downright lazy way for me to bring people up to speed. And it seems the rest of you have all been doing this anyway, so I guess I'll join in on the fun.

1. First Name: André.

2. Age: 21.

3. Location: Melbourne, Victoria. I lived on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand from January 1987 to October 1997, then the Gold Coast, Queensland until February 2006, Brisbane, Queensland until January 2007, and Melbourne since. I have absolutely no intention of going anywhere any time soon, and the only place I can ever really see myself moving to is back to New Zealand, say somewhere in the Greater Wellington or Wairarapa region. Featherston is quite attractive, or of course my beloved Kapiti Coast hometown of Raumati Beach. As of 30 June this year, I will have lived over half my life in Australia. I am not happy about this fact. Maybe I'll get completely sloshed and hope that when I wake up, I find myself on a flight back to Wellington

4. Occupation: Student. I'm in my third and final year of undergrad study for the Bachelor of Arts right now, intending to do my Honours year next year before proceeding to postgrad and hopefully a career in academia.

5. Partner: My library of books and music. It doesn't care if I spend a lot of time in other libraries. Seriously, I simply cannot be bothered with all the stupidity and bullshit of relationships. I have better things to do with my life. Maybe I'll stumble into one at some point down the track, but it sure won't be at my own instigation.

6. Kids: God help us all if I ever reproduce.

7. Brothers/Sisters: None. Well, I refer to the sons of my mother's partner as stepbrothers for conversational ease, because that's much easier than "the sons of my mother's partner", but I don't actually think of them as stepbrothers. Especially since they aren't, due to Mum and Alan not actually being married.

8. Pets: Six zebrafish. They ... swim and stuff. And since I like the little guys and don't want them to die, they give me a good excuse to not go on lengthy holidays. Though this may be a problem once I finally get together a group to go on a lengthy jaunt around New Zealand. Hoping to maybe put something together for summer later this year/early next.

9. List the 3-5 biggest things going on in your life:

- University, of course. Currently drowning under end of semester work, but in five days everything will be done and I can relax for winter holidays. I have one essay due on the 20th, another any time between the 20th and the 24th, and an exam on the 23rd. Bonnie from Interference conveniently arrives in Melbourne for a holiday on the 23rd, so an Interference gathering for dinner and drinks would be a quite welcome way to forget about this tiring semester.

- My mother's health, which was of such considerable concern a few months ago, seems fairly stable at the moment. It is not the best and it never will be, but right now she seems much better than she was and I'm accordingly a bit more relaxed about things. At the moment, it seems like there's just this slow process of consultations with specialists and occasional outpatient surgery.

- As stated in my last entry, I'm now officially legally blind. Unlike most people, I am happy about this, since my vision hasn't actually changed; it's just been acknowledged for what it is.

- My Mac won't connect with the Internet and I haven't gotten around to fixing it. Since I listen to music on it, this means I haven't been updating last.fm for months; I have been doing this dedicatedly since 2005, so it feels bloody weird not to be. I hope to fix it over the holidays. Having it out of action has rather cramped my studying style too, since I prefer to write essays on the Windows with all my research up on the Mac. I am very, very seriously considering buying a laptop as I can see it coming in increasingly useful for my academic work. It would have made things a lot quicker with regards to my Royal Historical Society work!

- After going through a process of intellectual enquiry, I suppose I should consider myself more atheist than agnostic. I'd write more about this, but I feel like it would come across as too preachy, too "hurrr God almost certainly don't exist you fools", and less "here's what I'm thinking at the moment; let's explore it a little", so I won't force it.

10. Where and for what did you go to university?: (Yes, I fixed this question. The phrasing was poor and I graduated school in 2004. I do not go to school. I go to university. Goddamn Americans.) I go to the University of Melbourne. I did my first year at the University of Queensland. Both are quality institutions, though Melbourne is superior. I actually began as an International Relations and History major, with IR my primary focus and History simply to provide context and background. As it turned out, I found myself much more attracted to History, so that is now my primary focus. New Zealand's history is my specialty. I am also completing a Political Science major, but only because I am so close to having the points for one that I might as well. Had I made my decision to focus on History prior to semester two last year rather than after it, I would've double-majored in History and ditched PolSci entirely.

11. Parents?: My mother is the most important person to me and I wish she did not live interstate. I think my father and I benefit from having the Tasman Sea between us. I think the problem is that we're simply too similar in all the wrong ways, so we inevitably clash. I regret that we are not closer and I imagine he does too, but we both have the kind of sufficiently distant personalities that we won't act. Or even say anything about it to each other.

12. Grandparents?: Grandpa, my paternal grandfather, died in February. I still have not yet accepted that he is dead. Partly because I have not been back to New Zealand, so I didn't go to the funeral, haven't been to his grave, and haven't visited my grandparents' place to find just Grandma there. I still expect him to be there telling lame jokes, pottering about in the garden with his chrysanthemums, and sharing random stories. As for my maternal grandparents, Nan is probably the person I'm closest to after my mother, and I also wish she lived in Victoria rather than Queensland. Grandad is still in New Zealand and I wish I got to see him more than I do. We've always gotten on very well, even if his own children don't quite view him with the fondness that I do.

13. Who are some of your closest friends?: Hard question to answer. This year has been a process of reconstructing my friendships. At the moment, I would say I have four circles. Firstly, the high school/Queensland circle, most of whom have unfortunately drifted away due to faults both mine and theirs, though I am still in touch with Jamie regularly and would consider him to probably be my best friend. Secondly, the Melburnian Interferencers circle, who are cool and diverse people. Thirdly, the albino/shit eyesight group, especially my fellow albino railfan, Kat. And fourthly my close online friends, such as numerous people on my friends list and people like Lauren and Holly who are a couple of my longest and closest friends. Despite this impression of lots of friends, all four circles are very small, half of them don't live in Melbourne, and since I am a very distant person, I'm not sure whether any more than 3 or 4 of these people should be considered anything approaching close by the standards of most people. Makes me feel a bit lost, as I've always been somebody to have one especially close friend in my life, be they Sean (1999-2001), Sam (2000-04), or Kate (2004-07). If Jamie lived in Melbourne instead of Toowoomba, I don't doubt he'd fulfill that role, but ah well. Probably the same applies to Sam, though his present religiosity is a little much for me sometimes.
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(no subject) [16 June 2008|10:27 pm]
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[Current Music |'Disappear' by Porcupine Tree]

It's been far too bloody long since my last update, so here's a brief one about what's been happening lately. I currently have two rather lengthy updates half-finished, but I don't have the time to actually complete them and they'll probably be of interest to roughly three people on the face of the planet, so I'm not in a tremendous hurry to finish them anyway. They should appear in 7-10 days or so. For now, the latest news from the (not) wonderful world of Axver:

1. I am now legally blind. In full seriousness, I say rock on. My vision hasn't actually changed; the optometrist just took into account my functional vision outdoors rather than just my ability to do some quality guesswork in controlled conditions indoors. So now I can travel for free anywhere in Victoria by train or tram - watch as I take complete advantage of this over the upcoming university holidays. Unfortunately, getting government assistance is a bit more of a hassle, since they require an ophthalmologist to declare me legally blind rather than just an optometrist. Strikes me as pointless red tape, but it's the government, so what do you expect?

2. The last week and this upcoming week are far too intense with university work for my liking. My eyes are certainly feeling the fatigue, but come this time next week, it should all be done and over. I've had to go on a hiatus from Interference to focus; sure, this entry itself is the result of a desire to procrastinate, but writing this is nowhere near as bad as burning a whole afternoon in the postwhorehouse. I'll be back there once one of the two substantial essays I'm working on now is done. Which, all going according to plan, should be by tomorrow night or Wednesday.

3. I am developing quite the distaste towards high school students, at least those that travel on my tram route. One school in particular seems to be quite the bogan institute of learning. I have to wonder why there are not school trams; there are school buses, after all! It would be quite nice if the Education Department would provide some funding to make that happen. Today, after an excessively overcrowded trip, I tried to disembark. Keep in mind, I was using my cane at this point (I actually had it out for balance rather than visual assistance, since the tram was so crowded that I could not reach a handhold), so I was hoping that even if they were a bunch of little shits, they'd move for the blind guy. Of course not. By the time I got out the door, "excuse me please" had turned into "move out the bloody way" as I had to physically push past one particularly dimwitted and inept student to actually get through the doorway. This turkey's brain was either not switched on or incapable of communicating with his legs, as he didn't have the common sense to take three steps backwards out of the tram, let me off, and then hop back on (as more sensible members of the community regularly do on overcrowded peak hour trams). Instead, he just stood in the doorway as I said "excuse me please", looking at me with an expression of "nah mate, there's nowhere I can move". If he didn't catch my "move out the bloody way" as I forcefully shunted past him and stumbled down the steps, I sure hope either my cane or my heavy backpack of books made enough contact with him to leave a nice bruise.

4. Went on steam train excursion to Albury on Saturday. It was the last run of a broad gauge Victorian steam train on the Seymour to Albury section of the northeast line, as the track is being converted from 5'3" broad gauge to 4'8.5" standard gauge starting later this year. We got struck by all kinds of unforeseen delays, not to mention idiot gunzels standing on the fucking tracks to take photos, and our arrival time back to Melbourne at midnight turned into somewhere around 5am - and since the train was so late, it was refused entry to Melbourne as the Craigieburn signalbox had closed for the night, so we had to complete the final stage from Seymour to Melbourne by bus. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and figure excursions can only get better from here! Particularly memorable moments would have to be pacing a goods train near Glenrowan that was running on the one standard gauge track already there, riding in the van behind the locomotive at a few points, cruising through Wangaratta station half out the window and waving to the locals who had come out to see the train pass, embarrassing myself with my appalling skills at pool on the return trip when we had a lengthy wait in Wangaratta and decided to kill time in a pub by the station, and (also while we waited in the pub) flatly condemning Kat's "pointless speculation" of trying to win chocolate from some game machine, only for her to get a huge pile of chocolate worth more than the money she put in. I took approximately 500 photos during the day, so expect a photo post when I get around to uploading them over the holidays.

I don't think much else particularly riveting has been happening in my little corner of the world. I hope all of you are keeping well. Have a good one!
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In which I write shitloads about having nothing to say [5 June 2008|11:48 pm]
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[Current Music |'Summer Stone' by 3Ds]

I have blogged about this before, and a recurring theme when I open the update page and stare at the blank screen is that I have nothing to say any more. I remember a few years ago, I wrote daily updates, often on political or theological topics, and then had rather lengthy discussions in the comments with you folks. I miss those days. Part of it is my own fault due to withdrawing into my own shell over the last year or two, and I am increasingly regretting my failures in communicating with many of you. Part of it is due to an increasing cynicism, which I have already written about recently and which I would like to take in a different direction.

Fairly recently, screwtape2 and I had a debate in the postwhorehouse on Interference. The outcome of the debate was insubstantial: we ended up going around in the same circles, talked past each other a lot, and I don't think either of us really learnt much from the discussion. It would have been nice to have reached a conclusion or some kind of shared understanding, but in the end we abandoned the topic and moved on. Yet it's recurred in various forms since then, and it came to mind earlier when I was staring at a blank update screen. I don't mean for this post to be some attempt to present my side of the debate at the expense of Screwtape's perspective or anything like that. I just want to use it as a launching pad for my own reflections on why I am struggling to write.

Our conversation was about social apathy and the role of social activism. It was based around the observation that in the 1960s, universities were often a hotbed of political discontent, social protests, student movements, and the like. Then through the 1970s and 1980s we saw groups like Greenpeace and Amnesty International gain credibility and prominence in the mainstream. But now, all around me at university, I see apathy. When people try to promote some cause, whether it's the Socialist Alternative or the Young Nationals or the Greens or whoever from whatever side of the fence, it seems most listeners just roll their eyes. "Oh, here goes the Socialist Alternative again!" Or people will personally agree with a protest, but be unwilling to attend - they don't want to look "stupid". There seems to be this attitude of "well, mate, quietly, I agree with you, but tone it down, OK? You're making us all look crazy." Nobody wants to be perceived as a fringe loony. Perhaps it is a tendency to the centre, to moderation, or if you want to look at it more negatively, to some uninspired, conformist shade of beige signifying nothing.

I think an important factor is the matter of results, and this is where my own writing comes in. Essentially, people don't want to waste their breath if there isn't a realistic chance of achieving their goals. I look at protest movements: people stand in the street and shout a bit in the hope it will influence politicians, but does it? Generally not. Politics goes where the money and influence takes it, and any clever politician can spin their actions sufficiently so that the electorate swallows it and votes them back in. On the little issues, sure, it can play a role, but on the serious stuff, hell no. When it comes to problems of structural magnitude, the people who have the power to make the changes are those at the very centre of the current structure, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, they have a vested interest in keeping that structure just how it is, thank you very much. I look at all the people on the Barack Obama "change!" bandwagon - and while I bloody well hope the guy kicks McCain's arse this November, anybody who actually believes Obama is going to initiate some kind of political paradigm shift is absolutely delusional, since anybody able to get as far as being a US presidential candidate is inextricably tied to the present political structure. (Yeah, now I've just doomed the comments to some Obama discussion, haven't I?)

To cut a long and potentially theoretical discussion short, my point is: you don't have the power to change anything. Well, maybe you do, if you happen to be somebody at an elite level of governmenr or business able to shape policy. But chances are, that's not you. It's certainly not me. I'm an undergrad uni student about to doom himself to that most scholarly but uninfluential of disciplines, history. I can sit here and tell you all about the problems with the world. I used to! I could talk until I'm blue in the face and type until I'm blue in the fingers. I could tell you all about political repression in Zimbabwe, I could rant about the callous stupidity of the junta ruling Burma, I could rail endlessly about the need to completely rethink our interaction with the natural environment, and I could put forth any number of proposals for how we could develop a more socially equitable society. But what's the point? There is none. It is pointless hot air. I would be preaching to the choir or arguing with somebody equally as uninfluential as myself. An argument about universal healthcare between a 21 year old leftie Kiwi albino and some 35 year old Republican guy who spends eight hours a day pushing paper in any one of a million bland offices in Bumfuck, USA isn't exactly going to achieve anything even if one of us convinces the other of a particular point.

We can talk all day, but to no results. I can summon all the righteous indignation I can muster about social injustices, but saying "THIS ISN'T RIGHT!" on my blog or joining some protest or printing pamphlets isn't going to do much since I don't have access to the levels at which meaningful decisions can be made. So what's the point? I don't need to keep proving I'm an idealist with nice, leftie ideas of how we can all live in harmony. If you think something needs to be changed, don't just tell me why or how; tell me how you will actually, realistically achieve this goal. Fuck talk; let's get some results. You want to solve world poverty? Right, give me your neat list of steps you can actually take and decisions you can actually make. You want to end racial discrimination? You want to put an end to homelessness? You want Robert Mugabe out of Zimbabwe? You want the Victorian government to fund public transport projects? Right, give me your neat list of steps you can actually take and decisions you can actually make. Oh yeah, you can't. You're probably just a university student or an average middle class office worker. It's enough of a challenge for you to actually, realistically take steps and make decisions that will get you that house you've always wanted, let alone change the socio-political structure of society.

You can't make a difference. You will not change anything. Talk as much as you like and solve all the world's problems in fifteen minutes; you will never be in a position to actually implement your good ideas. And if you somehow do acquire an influential role, chances are you'll be tied to the system and have a vested interest in not making changes. So you won't make a difference, even if you could. It's harsh, yes. But it's a harsh world.
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(no subject) [14 April 2008|11:53 pm]
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[Current Music |'Ruines Humaines' by Amesoeurs]

Wow. I have a hard time remembering the last time I had a week as hectic and busy as the last one. I've spent rather little time at the computer, which makes me feel bad because I owe some of you e-mails/comments and really need to get around to doing it. Part of the week disappeared down the drain of horribly dull and uninteresting university tasks. I am seriously disgruntled with one course, to the point that I skipped today's lecture because, quite frankly, grocery shopping was a more exciting prospect. The tutorials are fantastic and taken by one of my favourite tutors, but the lectures and assessment tasks frustrate me to no end. I finished and submitted one essay today that I would consider to be the most dull and unfulfilling load of tripe I have ever written.

University frustration aside, however, I had a very good week, despite how busy it was - or perhaps because of how busy it was; as somebody who quite enjoys the quiet and solitude of being at home, I'm not quite sure what to make of days where I'm awake for 18 hours and at home for less than 2 hours of them. harmonybear and I went out multiple times railfanning; I think the most insane example was dragging ourselves up at 6am on Saturday to catch the XPT and Overland departing Melbourne, and in the case of the former, arriving as well. I have some rather good photos, but thanks to the sluggishness of my Internet, I'm still catching up on uploading stuff from March! I am starting to think, though, that I need to diversify my photographic subjects. I absolutely love my train and tram photos, but I do want to take pictures of more things as I love using my camera.

I've also spent a fair deal of time with cool people from Interference, including two evenings of dinner followed by showings of U2 3D. Rather unfortunately for me, my vision is so fucked up that I only see it as U2 2D. There are brief moments where something seems 3D or at least 3D-ish, but we're talking no more than four seconds here and there in a 90 minute film. I didn't expect this going into the movie, so the first time around it was rather disappointing and hard to get into - while everybody else is oohing and aahing at what they're seeing, I'm thinking "well, this is just like every other movie". The second time, I knew what to expect, so I was able to enjoy it much more. Basically, part of my vision impairment means my eyes do not focus together properly, and this means I don't see the 3D effect. Instead, all the glasses do is turn the blurry image on screen into a 2D image like any ordinary movie. If you see U2 3D yourself, just close one eye and you'll see what I see.

Besides all that, I think U2 3D is better than I expected. The setlist is almost the exact opposite of anything I would want to see; it is far too much "greatest hits" and far too little on the songs that keep me interested in the band (if I were in charge of the movie's setlist, the only songs currently there that would survive are The Fly and possibly New Year's Day and Where The Streets Have No Name). Hopefully this won't be spoilerish for anyone, but what especially pisses me off is the on-screen animation during part of Love And Peace Or Else. Way to be completely fucking obvious. It goes along with the whole barrage-of-hits mentality the band seems to have with everything they do now; it's all calculated and obvious, nothing is left to the imagination. And yet, in spite of all of that sort of stuff, U2 3D proves to be immensely enjoyable. The editing is fantastic and leaves for dead all of the band's other live releases from this decade. The sound quality is simply amazing, and I would love to hear something like Under A Blood Red Sky given that presentation. The band are in peak form. Surely the fact I saw it twice, despite my quibbles, says something - and if enough Interferencers decide to do another outing, I'll tag along for a third time. What a wonderful and fun group of people.

Changing subjects but sticking to music, I've booked my Porcupine Tree jaunt. I still need to organise accommodation in Sydney; it's a shame nobody I know lives there, because I hate tracking down hotels. But as it is, I must be the envy of foreigners with weird ideas of Australia being some exciting and exotic destination, as I will be in four different Aussie cities in a matter of two days. On 26/04, I obviously start in Melbourne and go to Sydney in the early afternoon; late the next morning, I fly from Sydney to the Gold Coast, have lunch and stuff there with the family, then Mum and I will drive up to Brisbane. I'm really glad Mum's healthy enough to see the concert with me; I was afraid she wouldn't be, but the last couple of weeks seem to have been really good for her. The full schedule:

25/04: Porcupine Tree in Melbourne.
26/04: Fly to Sydney. Porcupine Tree in Sydney.
27/04: Fly to the Gold Coast. Porcupine Tree in Brisbane.
29/04: Fly home to Melbourne.

Three standing concerts in three nights. I'm going to be exhausted. But it's going to rule so much. I'm excited already.

Anyhow, that's it from me for now. Have a good one, folks.
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(no subject) [4 April 2008|11:53 pm]
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[Current Music |'Remember Me As A Time Of Day' by Explosions In The Sky]

I've had this rant before, but right now I'm too pissed off to care. I've frustration to vent.

I am thoroughly sick and tired of the undergraduate level of university. There needs to be a serious restructuring of the History and Political Science majors, because at this point, it is maddening. Right now, in my third year, I am doing exactly what I did in my second year, and it boils down to nothing more than regurgitating the arguments of others for the sake of a mark. The thin veneer of originality expected from the best essays is at the best of times a joke, and always a complete sham.

I've already thoroughly demonstrated that I can go beyond the course reader and employ independent research skills to access sources and bring them together cohesively. Frankly, nobody should pass the first year if they are incapable of doing that. It really isn't asking much to be able to do research beyond your course reader by visiting the university libraries or using online databases. If you are even vaguely computer literate and can't use JSTOR, you could probably be outsmarted by a donkey. Personally, I'm the guy who writes 2,000 word essays with 30 unique sources and feels my research is still inadequate. Furthermore, I have beyond adequately shown that I am capable of formulating an argument, placing it within a broader context on the topic, and coherently proceeding to sustain my argument throughout a piece of work with all necessary references to evidence that supports my assertions. Again, you shouldn't be able to pass the first year if you can't do this.

So why am I still sitting here in my third year doing this? Why am I churning out drivel with no purpose beyond getting some mark that assesses a narrow set of skills I have already demonstrated I possess and can use to a high standard? I'm not being challenged. Accordingly, my work is suffering. I don't care about what I'm doing, I've done it before. Oh, sure, the specific subject area may be a bit different, but change the key terms and you'll have every other bloody essay I've ever written. I'm not acquiring any new skills here, I'm not being tested; I'm just writing complete junk for no good reason.

I want to at least do something that challenges me. Something that requires me to gain new skills. Something where I have to produce work that is genuinely original. Something that I don't just hand in for a mark and say "thank fuck that's done". As it stands, this third year is a farce and a complete waste of my time and energy. I'm sincerely afraid I'm going to receive terrible marks because I just don't care.

I'm going mad. Certain people may get very carefully phrased e-mails full of measured frustration if this doesn't improve. I don't know what I'm doing here. I'm wasting my time. I want to move on already. I'm starting to have flashbacks to how frustratingly mindnumbing and intellectually unfulfilling high school was, and that cannot be a good sign.
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(no subject) [3 April 2008|11:09 pm]
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[Current Music |'The Twyncyn/Trembling Willows' by Pure Reason Revolution]

Well, April looks like it's going to be considerably busy and stressful. The fact I'm updating LJ rather than writing an essay surely isn't doing me any favours either. However, I feel motivated to update, while I can't say I feel terribly thrilled about rehashing arguments on the Holocaust in Romania in the quest for a mark, so update I shall.

March quite unexpectedly proved to be a rather good month. To tell the truth, it was probably my best month of the fourteen or so I've spent in Melbourne so far. When it started, I can't say I expected that. It was stinking hot, I was feeling fairly lonely, and Mum was not in the best of health at all. But it turns out the Internet is more than just a vehicle for porn and flamewars, and I can largely thank LJ and Interference for such a good March - my mother's all too short visit also significantly contributed. From Interference, the Maj. is not just in one of my courses at university but in the very same tutorial (what are the odds, seriously), while outside of uni I've caught up with Ali and TE/Melissa a few times and went to the National Gallery with them. It's been terribly good actually getting out and doing things, and a group of us are going to the premiere of U2 3D next week. I must admit I really don't care too much about U2 3D - it's a sort of ridiculous concept and only one song in the entire setlist really leaps out at me as worth hearing, but I'm not going to say no to passing the evening with a cool group of people and music I'm sure I'll enjoy despite my skepticism.

Meanwhile, in quite a chance encounter, harmonybear/Kat and I bumped into each other over on melbournemaniac. Would you believe there is another albino railfan roughly my age in Melbourne? No, I didn't either. But I'm not even joking. We've been out railfanning and tramfanning a fair bit the last few weeks. Most of it has just been around the central city, including one day when the routes 3, 64, and 67 tram lines were running via William Street to terminate at Dudley Street - I really wanted (and got!) photos of Z1s and As on a route normally run solely by Z3s and B2s. I've also ridden the Frankston - Stony Point line twice, once by myself and once with Kat; it's the only non-electrified train on the Melbourne commuter network. At the moment, it's operated by an A class diesel locomotive hauling either two or three of four MTH carriages, undoubtedly the most comfortable rolling stock of any suburban train. It's well worth the trip, especially as it's going to be replaced by Sprinter railcars rather soon. Kat and I are planning another trip later this month before the A+MTH are replaced, this time to photograph it between stations and also photograph the Long Island Steel train, which I frustratingly missed by a matter of minutes when we went down last weekend. Assuming I don't get too stressed over the next few days with essay madness, I'll post some of my pictures from my railfan adventures.

On another note, I'm considerably relieved with the very sudden departure of summer. Three weeks ago, Melbourne was melting in 40C weather. Today barely reached 16C. Looks like the coming few days are going to be rather pleasant and comfortable around 20-25C. Tomorrow evening, I hope it's fine as I plan to go out and do some more tramfanning, unfortunately without Kat as she'll be in Adelaide making me jealous by riding Adelaide trains. But it's the last weekday evening before the end of daylight saving and I don't yet have a photo of a 00 tram on the route 55. The 00 trams are return workings of peak hour trams that aren't rostered to actually run the 55 in the counter-peak direction; they are simply returning to Essendon Depot. Since they run in the evening and it will soon be too dark for my camera to produce worthwhile shots when the 00 runs, I'll go park myself somewhere in Royal Park, do readings, and photograph the parade of passing trams in the hope that at least one 00 comes my way when it's still nice and light. I do wonder if any counter-peak 00s run from Essendon Depot to West Coburg in the morning, but I'm never even remotely up that early to find out! I imagine they do, but I'll stick with catching the 00 in the evening for now. I don't think any of the Melburnians on my friends list or Interference would be terribly interested in joining me tomorrow, but if anybody is, let me know! I'm thinking about getting pizza.

And I think that's about it in news from Axverland. I've 3,500 words over two essays due in ten days, of which only 900 words are thus far written, and 4,000 words to do for the Royal Historical Society before the end of April. What fun. Have a good one, everybody.
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(no subject) [16 March 2008|11:58 pm]
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[Current Mood |hothot]
[Current Music |'Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony' by Agalloch]

What a remarkably social weekend. I went out for hours on both days. I would be lying if I said I could remember the last time I did that. It was fantastic too, and I would love more of the same in the coming weekends. I really don't get out much, but I always enjoy myself considerably when I do, and I'm sure I would be a much happier individual if I didn't hide inside my apartment so much. I would also be a much happier individual if the oppressive heat we're experiencing would go away. Today was amazingly uncomfortable. Tomorrow, my favourite tutor is giving the weekly lecture for one of my courses at uni and I really want to go, but unbelievably, the lecture theatre is not air conditioned (what century is this, people?!) and the forecast is for 39C. Ouch. I'll feel terrible if I don't go, but when I went to that theatre in 32C, I nearly passed out. I don't even want to think about what 39C would be like. I have to go in to the Royal Historical Society tomorrow for a meeting in the morning, but thankfully their building is air conditioned.

This heat is awful. It's making me put things off. I'm not going shopping until it cools down. I'm skipping lectures. I'm avoiding absolutely anything that requires me going outside any more than I must, which means I keep delaying having my hair cut. My hair has gotten too long and is a bit uncomfortable in the heat, but the walk to the hairdresser seems even less desirable. I guess I'll be waiting until an anticipated cool change rolls through on Thursday. I'm really not handling the heat well at all. I'm considerably thankful that I am not in Adelaide, which sounds like the very furnaces of Hell.

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(no subject) [5 March 2008|09:35 pm]
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[Current Music |'Here Today' by The Chameleons]

Two brief flickers of light in my day:

1. I have a work placement at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. Not yet sure what my project will entail, but I shall find out on Friday. I can't wait. It will be great to do some meaningful, original history work with a practical application rather than merely regurgitating information and arguments with a veneer of originality for a mark. But speaking of marks ...
2. I got the top mark in History subjects for second year students in 2007! I was notified of my award today. I'm fairly stunned. I never really expected to follow my award for top of first year History in Queensland with anything. Besides the obvious increase in expectations from from first to second year, I feel things at Melbourne University are simply on a higher level, at least as far as the History faculty goes. I felt a little out of place during my first couple of months, that's for sure. I don't think I really settled in until the second semester. But I suppose I finally settled in rather nicely in the end! Well, now let's see what I can do with the third year.

Anyway, back to my bleak world. At least it fuels my artistic creativity. Hope the rest of you have a good one.
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