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Bullfighting and the running of the morons

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

Numerous deaths, a crushed thorax, gored armpits, heart, groins, knees and thighs, even rectal and scrotum perforations.
Just part of the injury roll call from previous versions held in Pamplona.

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

Seriously, how much of a moron would you need to be, what copious amount of sangria 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 very 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 2017

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Finally, A Trump Whisperer

It’s getting very noisy in the whispering department. There are a lot of them about.

The President after a good whispering

You know, whisperers… as my friends Merriam and /or Webster define, “a person who excels at calming or training hard-to-manage animals using non-coercive methods based especially on an understanding of the animals’ natural instincts.”

Extensive and exhaustive research (ok, five minutes on Google) revealed a rather eclectic selection of people and businesses all purporting to be “whisperers”, and we’re not just talking animals. I suppose there are no qualifications required, there’s no whisperer governing body to deem people worthy to describe themselves as a “whisperer”. Australian singer John Farnham had a gazillion-selling album called Whispering Jack, but I don’t think he would describe himself as a “whisperer”. Not with a voice like that anyway, but I digress.

My curiosity in these whispering types was aroused by recent media reports by a bloke who was described in the venerable Daily Mail (obviously) as the “Vagina Whisperer”. Apart from conjuring up interesting and hard-to-manage mental images, I was quite intrigued by the word – “whisperer”, not the other one.

My research uncovered a veritable collective noun of whisperers. There’s The Dog Whisperer, The Original Dog Whisperer, Bull Whisperer, Terrorist Whisperer, Lawyer Whisperer, Thesis Whisperer, Horse Whisperer, Teen Whisperer, Stock Whisperer, Chicken Whisperer, Bra Whisperer, Bro Whisperer, numerous Ghost Whisperers (which is probably quite appropriate as I can imagine ghosts being fairly hard to wrangle). I discovered a Ghost Whisperer jacket, which I’m not sure is mandatory while grappling with ghouls. The picture of the jacket is slightly spooky.

Other whisperers include the App Whisperer, various Child Whisperers, the Water Whisperer, Breast Whisperer, Jeans Whisperer, the Wood Whisperer (who may or may not be connected to the Vagina Whisperer) and a Flube Whisperer. I have absolutely no idea what a flube is and why it needs whispering.

The standout however is the Trump Whisperer. If he can calm or train that hard-to-manage tangerine White House resident using non-coercive methods (I’d be happy with coercive),
he will be doing us all a huge favour.

©Steve Williams 2017

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Ghosts of Christmases Future

As it is approaching Christmas, and with President-elect Donald Trump about to take office
(I still can’t quite comprehend that), I thought it would be timely to repost my words on the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012…

I was going to write about the unbridled joy of being a kid at Christmas, the simple pleasure of waking up on Christmas morning, running out in your pajamas — after being too excited to sleep the night before — to see that new pile of presents under the tree. Yes! Santa has been!

“Yes! Santa has been!” (The writer, 1970)

The events of Friday morning at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut changed everything. The level of violence is difficult to comprehend, the fear those children would have experienced unthinkable, the stories of sacrifice by the staff unimaginable, the grief of the families immeasurable. It simply needs to stop. The system requires a reboot, this “right to bear arms” rethought. Who needs to have a military assault rifle in their home? Anyone?

Obviously, it will not be easy. As President Barack Obama said in an emotionally charged speech in Newtown, “No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”

“Better than this” will involve standing up to the lobbyists, the usual suspects who roll out the usual hoary old justifications, pathetic excuses and “helpful” suggestions including “what we need is more guns, not less guns.” I can’t even get my head around that statement. Then there’s the tip-toeing through the minefield of political machinations. Then there’s the NRA. Someone has to take that first step.

No doubt there are countless toy guns sitting under Christmas trees around the planet right now — the paper to be torn off them by excited little hands, so they can play cops and robbers or soldiers. One can only hope that in years to come, it will be much more difficult for these children to get their hands on the real thing and wreak the havoc we saw on Friday.

The time has come for the rhetoric to be followed through. We owe it to Friday’s children — Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin and Allison. As well as the adult victims, these names should have appeared on Christmas gift tags — not as statistics of another horrific mass shooting. They have now become ghosts of Christmases future.

©Steve Williams 2012

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Rugby League — Greatest Memories of All

Australian rugby league fans have a passion that can’t be dismissed.

It’s a game we played, grew up with, watched on the telly and listened to on the radio.
We still do. It’s our game.

Here are a few random memories from when I was a kid growing up in Sydney.

The greatest team in the history of sport (www.nma.gov.au and Melba Studios)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Getting splinters in your arse from those wooden seats at Cumberland Oval. The exuberant Eels fans that torched it after the 1981 premiership win did us all a favour.

*Running onto the ground as the fulltime siren sounded to try and grab the black and white striped cardboard corner post. I was successful a few times.

*Listening to the great Frank Hyde on 2SM. When people still listened to 2SM.

*The halftime entertainment malfunctions that have plagued Grand Finals — the busted TV allegedly to promote Optus Vision (which was actually quite prophetic), John Williamson serenading an inflatable rubber tree with “Rip Rip Woodchip” after loggers had threatened a blockade of the SCG, the cast of “42nd Street” standing forlornly in the centre of the ground waiting in vain for their music to start, and more recently, Billy Idol’s hovercraft cutting the power, which was a good thing.

*The sensational prizes bestowed on guests of TV’s “Controversy Corner” — including a Pelaco shirt, vouchers for a Viking Sauna and Kevin Junee’s Run For Your Life sports store and the piece of resistance — a bottle of Patra orange juice.

*“The Theme From Shaft” used over the closing credits of Channel Seven’s Sunday night footy coverage with Rex Mossop. Not sure what a “blaxploitation” film had to do with footy, but there’s probably a parallel. “Chips and eggs” was the standard Sunday night fare in the Williams household.

*The Chook Army (diehard supporters of Eastern Suburbs) singing “We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / we are the Ray Price haters”. One actually threw a grapefruit at him while he was in his petrified praying mantis pose — he didn’t budge.

*The “sand boy” running on with a small bucket of sand to for the ball to sit on before conversions and penalty shots at goal.

*Scanlen’s footy cards — that sweet smell of the thin pink strip of bubble gum lingering on the cards… and still lingers with me. Some bastard kid knocking the cards out of another kids’ hands in the school playground yelling “Scramble!!!” which meant a mad free-for-all.

*Having a birthday party with a few mates when I was about ten at Lidcombe Oval for the Chooks v the Magpies, we were sitting behind the try line and were captured in mid-try celebration mode in a photo on the back page of the next day’s Daily Mirror.

*The arse falling out of your meat pie at a brass monkey-inducing Sydney Sports Ground.

*The trainer scurrying on to the field with his “magic sponge” dunked in a bucket of water, mopping up a horrific head gash, then redunking it in the same bucket, primed for the next injury.

*One of my most prized possessions — the autographs of the entire victorious Roosters 1975 side (on an Easts Leagues Club wine list — thanks Uncle Pete).

For all its faults — and there are a few, it’s a bloody good game. It’s our game.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia
The Good Old Days When Rugby Was In A League Of Its Own

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You’re un-Australian if…

To celebrate Australia Day, one gazillion rainforests have been slaughtered creating weighty tomes of “what it means to be Australian”. Bugger that.

As a Wattle-waving Aussie, I reckon you’re un-Australian if…

If you don’t know who this bloke is, you’re un-Australian

*You don’t use “yeah, nah” regularly in a sentence.

*You know the mysterious second verse of the Australian national anthem.

*You don’t return from a Bali holiday wearing a Bintang beer singlet and / or braided hair.

*You use the word “sheila”.

*You don’t know what Wattle is.

*You don’t know what “wanker” means.

*You don’t drown your meat pie in tomato sauce.

*You don’t eat meat pies.

*You prefer a Sauvignon Blanc with a melon and ripe gooseberry nose to a stubbie you’ve opened with your eye socket.

*You don’t know what a stubbie is.

*You don’t think Kylie is bunging on that pommie accent.

*You don’t know what “bunging on” means.

*You drink Foster’s beer.

*You call a “prawn” anything other than a “prawn”.

*You’ve never had a bindi stuck in your foot (not the Indian forehead decoration or Steve Irwin’s daughter).

*You like the song I Still Call Australia Home even with Peter Allen bunging on that crap American accent.

*You prefer to sit on the grass at the beach rather than the sand.

*You take a soccer ball to the beach.

*You call a soccer ball a “football”.

*You don’t think the lead singer of AC/DC is still “the new bloke”.

*You don’t return from overseas bitching about how everything is better / cheaper / tastier / bigger / less crowded / less smelly / less foreign than here at home.

*You don’t think Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh should be the national anthem.

*You respond when some bogan chants “Aussie!, Aussie!, Aussie!…”.

*You don’t know what a “bogan” is.

*You think it’s ok that our head of state is a member of an English family.

Words and image ©Steve Williams 2016

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Random Swill Paris images

To slightly misquote the song, I love Paris anytime. Even more so following the events of last week.

If we stop travelling, those terrorist bastards win. And that can’t happen.

To celebrate one of the world’s greatest cities, time to relive a few of my Paris random images….

©Steve Williams 2015

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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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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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Cash For Corby — Schapelle It Out

Unless you have been living on the far side of the Sun, you would know that Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby has been released after serving nine years in Bali’s Kerobokan jail.

The beauty school dropout (had to use that) went from cell to sell, allegedly signing a contract with the Seven Network rumoured to be around $2 million. There has been a lot of anger and moral navel gazing about rewarding a convicted criminal, including outraged comments from one of the network’s biggest stars, David Koch.

Schapelle auditions for Downton Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the criticism is extremely harsh, considering the enormous benefit Schapelle can bring to the network and the viewers of Australia. The sit-down “tell-all” interview with a weeping bonus may be on hold, but she could be better utilised across Seven’s other programs.

For starters, Deal Or No Deal, Smugglers, The Price Is Right, An Idiot Abroad, Reef Wranglers and Border Patrol are far too obvious — I’m thinking Schapelle could bust a few Balinese Barong moves or a boogie on Dancing With The Stars, then there’s Home Shopping and Pawn Stars.

Other programming options include My Kitchen Rules — I’m sure Schapelle could plate up a nice caramelised onion tart — with some added greenery, and what about Million Dollar Minute
Apparently that would only take her about two.

Surf Patrol is a no-brainer given Schapelle’s experience with aquatic equipment and Better Homes and Gardens given her apparent green thumb. With her reported experience with mules, she’d be a natural for RSPCA Animal Rescue. I can also picture Schapelle’s mum on Cougar Town or World’s Strictest Parents, and the entire klan method-acting on Swamp People — Keeping Up With The Korbys. 

On second thoughts, I shouldn’t give them any ideas…

©Steve Williams 2014

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Foodporn — It’s already been shot, just eat it

When Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce shot the world’s first photograph in 1826, it was of the view out of his window, thankfully not of his coq au vin.

A restaurateur’s deterrent against food photography

Speaking of such meaty subjects, I’d like to discuss foodporn — amateur photographers recording their food for posterity instead of merely eating it. Today, if your phone isn’t equipped with a camera, you’re using iTroglodyte. That means basically everyone is a photographer — and this isn’t a good thing, especially when you’re trying to eat.

Amateur restaurant food photographers should be skewered, basted and lightly roasted. Instagram and Twitter have a lot to answer for. Why do you need to photograph your food before you eat it? Who are you going to show these badly composed, badly shot and badly shit photos to? Is the plan to bore your Facebook friends into a coma?

It is always a dining delight when the couple at the next table is photographing their fettuccine or shooting their shark fin soup. This is often undertaken with a ginormous SLR, emitting strobe flashes that illuminates the food and everyone in the vicinity like an atomic bomb has just detonated. If I wanted to book a table for two in an epileptic-fit-inducing lighthouse I would.

That’s just the entree — for main you get to sit back and marvel at the elaborate production of the couple photographing each other eating said food. Are we talking foreplay to some 9½ Weeks inspired erotic food-feeding-frenzy? Hope the shark fin comes to life in the bedroom.

There was a hallelujah moment last year when New York restaurants started banning food photography. The usual “freedom of everything” suspects choked on their amusebouche in predictable outrage, but f. them — they should be skewered as well.

I’d take a photo of that.

©Steve Williams 2014

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