That Gum You Like

OMG IT’S BEEN LIKE FOREVER

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on October 20, 2009

Hey Hey Hey–

Nope, I haven’t been devoured by a rapid kangaroo or crushed by a mob of footy fanatics. Just lazy and unmotivated to blog, considering the relative lack of activity in these parts. I really frontloaded my activities for the trip– since I updated last, I’ve really just been working in the plant and getting used to life in Melbourne. Which really means a lotta movies, few books, and lotta x-files. I’ve been doing some exploring too, but this mostly means getting lost on my way to buy bread.

Easily the most bloggable thing in my life these days is my job working for Electroimpact Australia, in the Boeing plant in Melbourne. Boeing is working on a big new airplane, the 787 ‘Dreamliner’, utilizing carbon-fiber something or other, and have contracted Electroimpact (full disclosure: I have this job exclusively because my uncle is a bigwig in the company) to build assembly lines that will build the wings.

At least I think this is what I’m doing. Really, I could be building assembly lines that wrap Starbursts or stuff teddy bears, for all the comprehension I have of what’s going on around me. Really all I know is that I show up four days a week from 830-5 and do tasks that could be completed by an inbred Appalachian with a learning disability. The plant is enormous, and I walk through various Boeing activities everyday, and as far as I can tell, the most important requirements to work in this plant are the existence of thumbs and a willingness to heckle whoever happens to walk by. As well as the incredible amount of courage it takes to dodge seagull attacks on your way into work.

To delve a little further into specifics, here’s what I did today. I got to work very late, around 10 (really, nobody cares what I do, I have this job purely as a favor, and my co-workers could care less when I show up and when I leave), changed into my steel-toed boots and headed down to the little corner of a gargantuan warehouse where I’ve been working. I then got into a little trench that runs under a long row of floor panels (which I spent the vast majority of my first week assembling) in one of the assembly lines. The trench is maybe two feet deep and two and half feet wide, so my latent claustrophobia kicked in immediately, meaning my movements were frantic, uncoordinated, and destined for painful encounters with the walls of my narrow cave. I spent the two hours till lunch slowly schooching my way along the trench, bolting the floor panels to the wall. After my hour lunch break (so luxurious!), I spent a few hours leveling the floor panels (an extremely particular process that actually required a level, as opposed to the “eh, looks aight” technique I’ve been taught since arriving). Then, I finished off the day hammering a rubber tube onto a rail, so as to soften the impact of the moving parts of the floor.

I wish I could illustrate this fascinating process with a few pictures, but cameras are banned in my part of the factory. Trade secrets for the 787, I suppose, although I wouldn’t know what secrets to steal if someone asked. So, a brief list of other jobs I’ve done. Greasing the teeth of a long (long) rail with several cans of the stickiest, most penetrating green goop I’ve ever encountered, watching my more skilled coworkers play with an enormous crane, assembling 250 bolt and nut combos, looking for washers, sanding huge steal plates and then rubbing them with a deadly liquid known as prep-solve (I was told that if I didn’t wear a mask I’d be high as a kite in about five minutes, and as tempting as that proposition was, I was also told the high would be followed with a cripping headache caused by the death cries of the vast majority of my brain cells), and trying to figure out the espresso machine (fail).

All in all it’s diverting work, and I get to wear headphones most of the time, giving me a good opportunity to listen to Prince and giggle to myself (srsly, “Head” is a hilarious song), drawing stares from any number of super masculine bot-builders. I can’t say I’m really learning much except I don’t every want to work in a factory for real, but it’s more or less perfect, given the circumstances. I suppose, if I’m learning anything, it’s the kind of subconscious environment absorption that I could never get in any other way but spending two months at work. Like, I can definitely say that I have a very good feel for the way the company works, in a way that’s kind of inexplicable. It’s like in fourth grade, when your teacher asks you to explain what division is to a martian, and you can’t do it, because all the building blocks are so taken for granted that you forget to explain them. Was that everybody’s fourth grade teacher? Just mine? Okay, well, I think you get my point nonetheless. What I’m trying to say is that I’m glad I’m getting this kind of inexplicable experience.

But okay yeah, other than the factory, I’ve got nothin’ new for ya. My frequent wanderings throughout Melbourne are mostly without a strict goal in mind, so I haven’t seen any of the “sights” since I last updated. Or at least not on purpose or that stick out in my mind. I do think I have a much more defined view of Melbourne though. It’s is an alright city, but it’s seriously flawed in a few ways. It’s extremely spread out, where the suburbs have grown into miniature districts of the city. The effect this creates is a total lack of a real “downtown” and makes the goal of having a handle on the layout of the city as a whole nearly impossible. But my little corner of it grows more manageable by the day, and I’m starting to feel comfortable cruising around the neighborhood (I’m at least getting lost a lot less, only about 25% of the time I leave the apartment. Although probably more like 75% if I venture beyond 10 blocks in any direction.

I promise to get better about blogging, now that I’ve gotten over the hump of not having a whole lot to talk about, I’ll be more diligent about rambling. Hopefully soon, I’ll have accumulated enough pix and necessary songs to do a media post.

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Media Update

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on September 26, 2009
Sorry about the watermark, I'm too lazy to do this myself.

Sorry about the watermark, I'm too lazy to do this myself. But it's the view from my balcony.

Saint Kilda Saints. They lost.

Saint Kilda Saints. They lost.

Police is Serious Business.

Police is Serious Business.

Rugby Parade. Obnoxious.

Rugby Parade. Obnoxious.

Yellow Building of Something or Other.

Yellow Building of Something or Other.

My Building. I'm on floor 15. If you look real close, ours is the one with the dead plant. (You probably can't actually see this.)

My Building. I'm on floor 15. If you look real close, ours is the one with the dead plant. (You probably can't actually see this.)

Oh I intend to find out. My guess? Brutally Tender.

Oh I intend to find out. My guess? Brutally Tender.

Bizarro Burger King.

Bizarro Burger King.

HA!

HA!

My Room. And/or Closet.

My Room. And/or Closet.

Hot Chip albums are crafted with lazers:

Hot Chip – Over and Over

Lo-fi pop genius smothers accessible, friendly pop tune in layers of off-putting fuzz. Dig through and you’ve got a jam.

Ariel Pink – Loverboy

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In which Dave gets to Melbourne

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on September 26, 2009

Hola Amigos,

I know that it’s been a while, but forgive me, it’s been kinda chaotic. Also I keep screwing myself over with this thing, because if I let it go for a few days, I’m always daunted by the amount of time it’ll take to write and upload an update, so I put it off, which obviously makes it even harder the next time. But whatever. Here we go.

So after my day at the races I spent three more days with the Body’s out in the QLD, where Simon finally really put me to work at Tarrawonga. Sunday was a flashback to my landscaping past, as I spent most of the day destroying a massive hedge that had taken over one of the fences in the Body’s yard. Then, during the week, I helped Simon with “mustering”. Mustering involved me driving an ATV around the ranch, driving about 300 cattle from one fenced off chunk of field (AKA a “paddock”) to another. Apparently the cattle had devoured most of the edible scrub in their existing paddock and we were driving them into one of fresh oats. It was actually a pretty fun job, driving an ATV was pretty sweet, and the cattle were stupid and hilarious. I thought that driving these massive crowds of huge animals would be difficult and perhaps a little intimidating, but cows are real dumb and responded pretty well to me driving the ATV nearly into them over and over and over. So it took two days to finally get all the cows into the new paddock, as many of them were resistant to moving or got separated from their calves, and jumped the fence back into the original field.

On Wednesday we moved another herd of cattle, this time into the cattle yards, as they were being sold that day. This time, instead of the ATV I was driving the Ute, which gave me access to the radio, which in turn gave me access to the jewel of information that it was Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday. I know, holy shit. In a fortuitous coincidence, the only tape in the Ute was Born to Run, and even though I’m no fan of the Boss, I couldn’t fight against fate. Besides, my only other option was 106 Hot Country. So, for me, the definitive moment of my visit to the Body ranch was driving cattle while blasting Born to Run with the windows down. Seemed appropriate, somehow. (For the record, Born to Run pretty much sucks, but Thunder Road is impossible not to sing along to with all the heart you got.)

After driving the cattle into the yards, I got to see the beginning of the process of sorting them into varying grades before I had to go. The yards were a complex maze of fences and gates, and sorting them was a nutty process that’s I can’t possibly describe in any sort of convincing detail. Let’s just say it involved hitting the cattle with plastic pipes to keep them from ramming into you. Pretty much all I got. But I had to leave shortly after the process began, to begin what would turn into a hilariously drawn out bummer of a travel experience. Before I get into that though, I feel like I should wrap up the whole cattling experience somehow.

Although I obviously didn’t really get a feel for the ranching life in the five days I was there, the time I spent there left somewhat of a weird taste in my mouth (although that easily could have been the dust storm that came up on the day I left). As far as my feelings about eating steak, they remain essentially unchanged. At this point, I remain unconvinced that raising cattle like this is particularly inhumane. They basically are on vacation from the day they’re born until the day they die, and the people who own them are entirely focused on keeping them fat and happy. And at this point in the evolution of cows, they’re as helpless as zoo animals, and an existence in the wild would be a complete disaster. Is it sad that they’ve been domesticated to that extent? Maybe. But probably not. As far as the life they’re living in this situation, it seems pretty ideal. Okay, sure, they’re not “free” but honestly, I don’t think that distinction really means anything to cows. I’m still gonna eat steak, even having seen the face behind the plate, or whatever the hell those PETA ads were on about. I could easily see myself being a vegetarian someday, but certainly not for moral reasons.

The thing that stuck with me the most, and left me the most confused about my whole experience though, is the life that these ranchers live. It seems like a touch-and-go business, one that is left largely up to unpredictable factors like rainfall and the ever variable grain and steak prices. Many of the people I encountered, though, seemed to fall into the category of “gentleman farmers”, people who farmed because they liked it, and had money to back them up in case everything fell apart. Simon didn’t really fall into this category, I don’t think, but the general cultural feel I got out there was one of land=wealth=entitlement. And everyone out there has buttloads of land. It just seemed that I had dropped into a very weird world of intense isolation from the general populace, where everyone was preoccupied with the things that affected them directly, and not much concerned with society at large. It’s a life that left me confused, with my only certainty that it’s not for me. It’s not even that I have a problem with insulating yourself from the wider world, which is something that I see the romance in quite clearly, but more the combination of that isolation with a community of wealth and entitlement.

Having said all that, everyone I encountered was incredibly nice and gracious, and couldn’t have been more welcoming to this snobby jerk who’s left them to criticize the life they life. I don’t want to give the impression that these people were anything but fantastic in person, but I also can’t deny the culture shock that I experienced.

ANYWAY, I left the Body’s on wednesday and began my travel adventure to Melbourne. I started with a crowded, double-layover Greyhound trip to the Brisbane airport. Greyhounds out here are classier than in the states, but still draw the kind of people who are looking for cheap transportation, i.e. young people and grungy old boozehounds. But the Greyhound was pretty painless, I spent most of the time listening to Dirty Mind on repeat and reading As I Lay Dying.

I arrived at the Brisbane airport around 7pm, and went to check in for my flight that left at 6am the next morning. Of course, as soon I went up to the desk, I was informed that I couldn’t check in overnight and would have to wait until about 430 the next morning. I wasn’t about to take a cab into the city and pay for a hotel, so I cozied up in the ludicrously uncomfortable baggage claim waiting area and watched something like 7 episodes of the X-files. I didn’t particularly trust my neighbors and had too much stuff strewn about me to get some proper sleep, so I relied on the escapades of Mulder and Scully to keep me awake (not a difficult proposition (Question: Is X-files the theme of this blog so far? I seem to find a way to mention my obsession with it in every post. Still, I stand by its greatness.))

So around 430, I went to check my baggage, only to be told I was about 4kg overweight and that it was going to cost me 40 dollars. I suppose that’s what I get for bringing a box of books, but c’mon. My next encounter with the delightful Qantas people was when they confiscated my deodorant, toothpaste, and shaving cream at the security check. I’m still not really sure why, I didn’t have any problem bringing that on the plane on my flight over here, but I guess there was the danger that I was planning on not smelling and looking like a hobo on my flight to Melbourne. Oh well.

But I do have to say that once up in the air, Qantas was a great airline to fly on. They fed me breakfast and lunch, gave me unlimited coffee and free newspapers (which unfortunately follow the general trend over here of having totally bullshit crosswords) and were generally pretty nice. I landed in Melbourne to find it rainy and about 30 degrees colder than it had been in Queensland. After a bus into the city and a cab ride where the cabbie and I had to pore over a map for 10 minutes to find the apartment I’m staying in, only to discover it was a 3 minute walk from the bus station, I arrived at my apartment at about noon on thursday.

After meeting the fiancee and girlfriend of the two dudes who work at the plant where I start on monday I went off into the city. Didn’t do a whole hell of a lot aside from drink coffee and get lost, but already I really like Melbourne. It’s a little bit expensive, but it has everything you could ever want in a city, as well as a seemingly limitless number of weird neighborhoods to explore. At this point I hadn’t slept in about 24 hours, so I went back to the apartment and napped before meeting the two dudes, and had dinner with everyone, including two other Americans employed by the plant. Everybody is really really nice and it’s been great to hear American accents and to live with people who are equally confused by the difference between Rugby League, Rugby Union, and the AFL. Also, my apartment is killer, with an incredible view of the main downtown area. My internet is a little sketchy do properly do photos, but I’ll do a photo post later, where you can see the incredible view from my 15th floor balcony. When I do that I’ll also show you my hilarious closet/room where I’m living, which although small and windowless, it’s perfect for what I need (i.e. it has a bed).

Friday I slept in, had a delicious breakfast at a cafe nearby (hint to future travelers: all bacon is canadian bacon, and these people do not believe in homefries.) and went off to the ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image) which kept my record of free museums at 100%. The museum was really really awesome, with two aggressively experimental exhibits, Remixing Hollywood and a survey of the work of Len Lye, a New Zealand filmmaker. Len Lye apparently pioneered the technique of painting directly onto film, and although that work hasn’t aged particularly well in the 80 or so years since it was made, it was still really cool to see. Lye also apparently worked a lot with scratching onto film, and the three I saw in the exhibit were incredible. Particularly “Free Radicals” which I could watch for days. Remixing Hollywood was also fantastic, with films by Martin Arnold, Virgil Widrich, and Peter Tscherkassy, none of whom I’d heard of or seen anything by, but it was all really good. So yeah, the ACMI was definitely my best museum visit since getting to Australia, and if you’re ever in Melbourne, it’s definitely worth a visit. After my stop there, I just went back to the apartment and enjoyed my view and passed out early.

Today all I’ve done is travel over to Richmond, one of the dozens of Melbourne suburbs that are basically in the city and go to the awesome Picture Search Video, where I opened an account and got some flix. It’s currently about 130 here, and the AFL (more rugby) Grand Final starts in a half hour, so I think I’ll join the rest of the Melbourne population in watching that. Seriously, people here are going insane, I had to walk through a parade yesterday to get to the ACMI, and nearly everyone has either a red and white (Saint Kilda Saints) or blue and white (Geelong(I think) Cats) striped scarf. I expect nearly the entire city plans on getting tanked and screaming like idiots, so it should be a great day to get a feel for the place.

Like I said, my internet is too slow to upload photos or tunes, but I’m on the hunt for an internet cafe, so a media post is forthcoming.

kisses.

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