Bastard Backpacks

Dear the bastard backpack wearing fraternity of the world.

I’m sure some of you are very nice people who like tickling kittens under their chin, but some of you are absolute bastards. Seriously.

Seat 12A on your next flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not talking about the noble types who trudge around Kathmandu et al taking-an-undisclosed-period-of-time-off-to-travel-the-world type of backpacker, more the commuting corporate warrior.

No, I’m taking aim at the women, but mainly men (who most likely work in the financial industry and wear pseudo-Batman utility belts for their various appliances) who infect trains, buses, ferries and planes with their massive growths on their backs, taking out innocent and unsuspecting citizens with every swivel of their shoulders.

So when you put your backpacks on, does your spatial awareness suddenly evaporate along with what was remaining of your fashion sense?

Don’t you realise that when you have your Dell laptop and other geeky apparatus strapped to your back like a dork baby koala, you may, just may, be slightly inconveniencing the rest of the world? No? Didn’t think so.

The next one of your kind who almost dislocates my shoulder as you bump your way down the aisle of a plane…

Words ©Steve Williams 2015

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Bullfighting and the running of the morons

“Good.” That was my first reaction when I heard of the latest horrific injuries suffered during the “Running of the Bulls” in Spain.

A crushed thorax, gored armpits, heart, groins, knees and thighs, even a rectal perforation.
Just part of the injury roll call from previous versions held in Pamplona. Enjoy.

However, that is small change compared to the 250,000 bulls maimed and killed each year in bullfights across the planet.

Harsh? Possibly. I hope these people recover, and then get some sense (try a 7-Eleven, it’s on special).

Seriously, how much of a moron would you need to be, what copious amount of alcohol or drugs would you need to have consumed to think that running 850 metres through narrow, cobbled streets in front of very big, very pissed off (and terrified) bulls, before they are corralled into the bullfighting arena is even remotely a good idea?

Bullfighting is cruel and barbaric and needs to be stopped, as does the running of the bulls. Thankfully there is an ever-increasing groundswell of support to do just that. ¡Felicitaciones!

If you want to get badly injured without inflicting cruelty on an animal who has no choice in the matter, may I suggest the time-honoured “sticking your hand in a blender”.

You can hear the purists cry “the running of the bulls is an intrinsic part of Pamplona’s San Fermín festival dating back to medieval times.” Bullshit. Don’t care.

Hopefully the running of the bulls and bullfighting will one day die a death — and you can add other barbaric practices to that list — such as fox hunting by people with double-barrelled surnames wearing stupid hats, animals in circuses, restaurants serving sharkfin soup and exponents of Traditional Chinese Medicine using basically every body part of endangered tigers in the vein attempt of getting a bigger dick.

One can only hope.

For more information on the (blood) sport of bullfighting, visit the World Society for the Protection of Animals, www.stopbullfighting.org.uk and PETA, (warning: the websites contain disturbing, but necessary facts and images).

©Steve Williams 2015

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Bavarian Break – Surfing in the city

As it’s a rather toasty 35 degrees in Munich today, this is a perfect time (and temperature) to relive my surfing in Munich story….

It’s not every day you see someone walking around the heart of the city with a surfboard under their arm – then actually getting on it. Especially when that city is hundreds of k’s from the nearest beach.

Welcome to surfing Munich style – wetsuits mixing it up with business suits.

The historic German city is probably better known for its annual Oktoberfest when lovers of the amber fluid invade in there millions. This year they downed 6.6 million litres of beer in 15 thirsty days and devoured 112 oxen. Nice work. Also, 900 passports were recovered by lost and found.

Running through Munich’s Englisher Garten – not hard to work out what that translates to – is a tributary of the Isar River called the Eisbach. It’s basically a man-made stream and the famous 1 metre high, 12 metre wide break is formed when the water hammers through tunnels, spews out under a very cool looking 19th century stone bridge and belts into submerged concrete blocks at over 30 k’s an hour.

We’re talking the middle of the city here. The break is next to an art museum called the Haus Der Kunst – be careful how you pronounce that last word. It’s pretty surreal seeing guys and girls in wetsuits wandering down a city footpath. A few gutsy Aussies were just in their boardies, maybe they’d knocked off a few litres of beer, the water temperature is brass monkey threateningly cold – the name “Eisbach” means “ice stream”.

It’s a permanent standing wave, the surfers climb down the river bank, face the bridge, and get straight onto the wave – easier said than done, the water is only about forty centimetres deep and really pumping out of that tunnel. Don’t forget those nice concrete blocks are lurking below, just waiting for you. The sound is quite intense too – like roaring rapids.

While I was perched on the river bank there was a real mix of talent that afternoon – some experienced old stagers were carving up 360’s, radical re-entries, slides and cut backs, to a few rookies some just barely getting up, then losing it bigtime.

Due to its small size, there’s only room on the curl for one surfer at a time, it could be ridden forever, but there’s an unwritten code that you stay up for a few minutes, then let the force of the water sweep you down the canal and you climb out and walk back. Which isn’t a bad thing, in summer the English Garden is packed with people sunbaking, so the eye-candy can be quite good.

Nudism is a bit of a national sport in Munich… you do get nudists in the Garden, people letting it all hang out during their lunch break, but that’s in another part of this massive park – it covers nearly four square kilometres. Sadly the only nudists I saw were some fat old German blokes who’d eaten all the bratwurst. Not a pretty sight.

The surfers patiently wait their turn on the bank, it does get pretty crowded. I didn’t see any drama, and it’s a pretty tight community. Apparently though there’s the occasional bit of agro with kayakers.

The Eisbach has been surfed since the 1970’s; those early pioneers used ropes tied to the bridge or trees to keep their balance. Back then river surfing was illegal, I think it still is, there are signs prohibiting it – look for the word “verboten”, but these rules aren’t enforced. It’s become quite a tourist attraction, hordes of tourists gazing down from the bridge and lining the riverbanks with camera phones clicking away, there was even a guy selling food.

There’s a bit of talk that the authorities are looking to shut the wave down due to insurance liability. So far, no one’s been killed surfing the Eisbach wave – though there have been quite a few fractures and dislocations over the years. A couple of swimmers have drowned in the river, but that was further down, a long way from the break, and they weren’t surfers.

There are a couple of other river surfing sites in the city, the Munich Surf Open has been regularly held at one of these other spots, but the Eisbach break is far more challenging. Which could be the problem, the old hands of the break really wish the rookies would stay away, because if there is a death, the wave could be closed down. So if you’re a rookie, join the crowds and just watch. It’s not something you see every day.

Words and images ©Steve Williams 2015

My story and images originally published in Surfing Life magazine Australia.

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A Fucking road trip (Fucking, Austria)

“Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Fucking?”
(with apologies to that Bangor-loving band Fiddler’s Dram).

The very quaint Fucking village

Indeed we did. It is the first time I have typed the word “Fucking” into the car’s GPS system. Though I have directed that word towards it many times.

Setting out from Munich, myself and two esteemed media colleagues (let’s call them Jane and Phil) embarked on a day trip to Fucking, a village just four kilometres east of the German border.
Why? To quote Sir Edmund Hillary, (who possibly never went to Fucking), “because it is there.”
Also for the giggling, childish entertainment value. And the selfies.

Fucking is quiet, very quiet — it is a tiny, picturesque rural village, with only one hundred
Fucking residents.

I was expecting to see tourist coaches spewing out pissed Aussie bogans and English chavs,
intent on stealing the Fucking signs. Thankfully no.

There is not much in Fucking at all. There are no Fucking shops, no Fucking restaurants, not even
a Fucking hotel. The only Fucking living things we encountered were some Fucking cows,
one Fucking person and a Fucking dog, who was quite protective of the Fucking sign I was being photographed next to.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Gasthof Lindlbauer in the next village of Haid, with an interesting decor of former Fucking animals, though we still had a lovely Fucking view.
The very hospitable waitress asked if we’d come for the Fucking experience, and duly presented us with bottles of Fucking Hell beer. Prost!

On reflection, it was a truly Fucking memorable day.

The Fucking directions

This Fucking way

A former Fucking resident

Another Fucking sign

The Fucking end

Words and images ©Steve Williams 2014

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Down the drones

Remember those annoying radio-controlled model aircraft that were popular circa 1982?
Those whining, buzzing love children of a mosquito on steroids and the Red Baron that used to invade open spaces everywhere?

The ultimate drone-downing weapon

I remember playing club cricket many years ago and being continually buzzed by one of them.
Two blokes thought it would be hilarious to dive-bomb the batsmen. Hilarious until one of my (rarely) well-timed hook shots obliterated the flying bastard.

Drones are the new aerial annoyance.

I realise they do have benefits, taking out terrorist types, and the extreme opposite — so called “ambulance drones” providing oxygen to people caught in a fire, lifesavers using drones to spot sharks and rescue swimmers, to photographers shooting aerial photography and video.

That is potentially the problem.
Drones are like a flying version of Google Glass, with similar privacy issues.

An Australian woman sunbaking topless in her backyard was photographed by a drone operated by a real estate agent who plastered the photo on a billboard to sell the property of her neighbour. Noice.

There are many stories of privacy being breached, including a drone “pilot” being chased off a nude beach (for some reason I’m hearing the “Benny Hill” theme music.)

Enough. It’s time to take up arms against photography perverts, exercise our rights and our arms and down the drones.

The solution to these high-tech space invaders? A very low-tech weapon developed by the original Australians over 40,000 years ago: the humble, yet effective boomerang.

Think about it. Your boomerang will come back, and the drone won’t.

©Steve Williams 2015

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Richie Benaud – the Voice of Summer

He is being lauded as the “voice of cricket”.

I would go further — to me, Richie Benaud will always be the voice of summer.

I was too young to witness his considerable feats on the pitch, though I remember my first game of club cricket for the formidable under 11/3 side in 1975 was played at Richie Benaud Oval in North Parramatta.

Snapshots of those summers in Australia include the aroma of zinc cream and coconut oil, trying to eat your Splice ice cream before it melted, the backs of your legs sticking to the bench seats in the HR Holden, and the deafening cacophony of cicadas.

But above and beyond all that was the cricket. Playing in the backyard after school (I was always Viv Richards – yes, unAustralian I know), playing Saturday morning, then “Saturday arvo” club cricket — my SS bat was a prized possession, and of course watching the cricket on the telly and listening to Richie.

When Richie raised the microphone there were none of today’s seemingly endless blokey in-jokes and “banter”. Commentary teams of today could definitely do with his eloquence and grace.

I believe it was what Richie didn’t say in his commentary that had the most impact, those dramatic pauses that landed, followed by an insightful, sometimes gently cutting remark, spinning away with that droll and very dry sense of humour.

Richie Benaud was the absolute master of word economy and unlike most commentators, he knew we were seeing in our lounge rooms what he was seeing down the ground, he didn’t need to be constantly speaking, those periods of silence were not “dead air”.

His knowledge of the game and its spirit was incomparable, effortlessly moving from test matches to day / night games, from the SCG to Lord’s and every ground in-between.

I’m loathe to use the cliché “doyen” but…

Vale Richie Benaud. Thanks for those summers.

Words: ©Steve Williams 2015
image: www.joe-digital.com

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St. Patrick’s Day… Munich style

The 20th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Munich was a great day for the Irish…
and Germans… and Aussies… and Slovenians… and dogs… and…

A few of my random images…

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich


St. Patrick's Day Munich

Images: ©Steve Williams 2015

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Why I won’t be going a Waltzing Matilda with the Apple Watch

Yep, the Apple Watch looks stunning and the technology is impressive, but I’ll pass.*

Apple Watch 2.0 :  iSundial

I’ve owned quite a few watches over the years, including an “unreal” Casio copy digital watch when I was kid. This hifalutin’ horological appliance played Waltzing Matilda (for un-Australian readers, this song is about a suicidal sheep stealer that should be Australia’s national anthem, as it doesn’t contain the word “girt”).

But I digress.

I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore Apple fanboy — I haven’t felt the need to break out the sleeping bag and queue up for a new product — but I have been picking Apple products for years.

Why? A) They just work. B) They look good.

My very first Apple was the Macintosh SE back in the day, which to be honest was fairly fugly and it was a bloody heavy thing. Since then iPhones, iPads, iMac, and MacBook. Love ’em.

The Apple Watch? Yeah, nah. I don’t really see the point. I know it does stuff… but not enough to make me want to buy it. My iPhone does everything (and more) than I need.
Sure, call me iLuddite.

A good thing you can monitor your blood pressure, with the top of the range Apple Watch costing several gazillion dollars, you’d need it.

Do I want to give someone a “digital poke”? No. That’s called assault.

Do I want to share my heart rate by sending it to another Apple Watch wearer? No.

Do I want to pay for things or open a door with my watch? No, I’m actually good.

Do I want to look like a Dick (Tracy) talking into my wrist? No.

*Disclaimer: If there’s an app to stuff a jolly jumbuck into my tucker bag Waltzing Matilda style
I could be convinced…

©Steve Williams 2015

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Queen – Thirty Years : Sydney to Munich

Thirty years is a long time between fandangos.

Adam Lambert worships at the Church of May (photo: mlk.com)

The last time I saw Queen was 1985 in Sydney on the Australian leg of The Works tour.

I had followed their journey since my first purchase of a single — Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, which still occupies the rockstar position in my record collection.

1985 seems like a lifetime ago, I was a fresh-faced twenty-year-old, but I remember the concert as though it was yesterday. “Spectacular” is merely one adjective.

Queen + Adam Lambert in Munich last Monday night was always going to be a different experience — Freddie Mercury’s absence, and John Deacon’s retirement from the band.

I was no stranger to Adam Lambert, having followed his 2009 American Idol journey, singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the audition, culminating in a performance with Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Lambert is no Freddie Mercury impersonator. A talented performer in his own right, possessing a rather insane vocal range and wonderful showmanship, he brought another dimension to the night.

It wasn’t Queen Karaoke — Lambert’s unique phrasing added another layer to the songs ingrained in music history. He brought a sense of playfulness — performing Killer Queen reclining on a chaise lounge, his powerful, arena-filling voice nailed Save Me and Who Wants to Live Forever, and he gave Queen’s time-honoured classics their due respect.

This wasn’t the Adam Lambert Show, he was the “plus” — it was all about Queen — Brian May and Roger Taylor were at the top of their game, enjoying performing to Queen fans and the new mix of “Glamberts” — deliciously indulgent solos demonstrating their extraordinary talent. The cliché “rock royalty” more than applies.

May mentioned recording in Munich — indeed,  One Vision (and the music video), Crazy Little Thing Called LoveAnother One Bites The Dust and Save Me among others were all recorded at Munich’s famed Musicland Studios.

Concert standouts? Hard to isolate one, but Freddie Mercury’s “duet” with Lambert on Bohemian Rhapsody had me back in 1985. Somewhat bizarrely, another of my favourite moments (or twenty two and a half minutes) was the background music playing before the band took the stage.
I always love that time — the audience is in place, the anticipation is building — everything is set. The piece of music was Queen’s atmospheric instrumental Track 13 off the Made in Heaven album.

It will be interesting to see how the fusion of Queen + Adam Lambert plays out.

Watch this space…

©Steve Williams 2015

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