oh my, canberra, how youâ€™ve grown
the cleanfeed project conroy cracks the inty-web
bottled whine how to complain without losing your mind
ISSUE SEVEN: the last one...
the canberran renaissance
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Issue #7? What? Did I miss issue #6? Probably. Although many of our loyal fans who visited our website were treated to our special onlineonly edition. But never fear, you can download it now and get double your twenty600 for the price of none! Moreover, yes, you’ve read right. This is our final issue, although you’ll notice the ellipses on the cover, which you can interpret to mean one of two things: our contributors will continue to provide their talents around Canberra, just not in this exact forum; or, in the future, you just may see different incarnations of this fine publication. Keep an eye out either way. Now for the acceptance speech part: I can’t thank our contributors enough; without their generous efforts, none of this would have been possible. I genuinely believe they’re some of the finest, most incredibly talented individuals this town has to offer. And I especially want to thank my editor, Claire Thompson, for being the most amazing person to venture into magazine land with—but mostly for making me laugh. I also need to thank all the advertisers who took the risk on this, a new publication. Without their dollars, you wouldn’t be holding these very pages. So go out and buy what they’re selling! Finally, I have to thank you, the readers. For every negative response we received, there were hundreds of extremely positive ones telling us that you loved what we were doing. And for that I thank you. You can’t imagine what impact the tiniest gesture can have. It’s been an amazing experience. Thanks for reading. George Poulakis EDITOR IN CHIEF
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brought to you by these tools When Arran McKenna grows up... Arran has drawn ever since he could clutch a pencil. He has never wanted to grow up, as growing up seems to mean taking things seriously and frowning a lot and being part of ‘the system’. He doesn’t see the point of playing that game unless the rules drastically change. Until then, he can be found running around inside his own head, chasing monkeys and playing with Play-Doh. You can see more of his silliness at www.happydance.com.au
Editor in chief George Poulakis Editor Claire Thompson Contributors Alice Allan, Charlie Big, Petunia Brown, Brooke Davis, Nick Ellis, Doug Fry, Sarah Hart, Arran McKenna, Jordan Prosser, Mark Russell, Claire Thompson and Stephanie Wang
When Doug Fry grows up... I always wanted to be a cop when I was growing up, a dream inspired largely by the procedural heroics of Sonny Bonds in Sierra’s Police Quest series. But my own personal police quest lasted about as long as the point-and-click adventure era; eventually I realised that what I really wanted to be was a struggling writer in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Goal = achieved. So I guess I can retire now.
Photographers Charlie Big, Michael Godfrey, Jessica Mack, Georgia Perry and Jordan Prosser Please do not send any contributions, cheques, compliments or ponies. And don’t bother with your incessant, whiny, pointless ranting. A very special thank you to Wing. You are the wind beneath my wings.
When Michael Godfrey grows up... When I was young I wanted to be many things. A pilot, a filmmaker, a police officer, a doughnut shop entrepreneur. But really, I just wanted to be older. Old enough to go out on my own, old enough to drive, old enough not to answer to my parents. Just older. Well, I achieved that goal and it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. I think I should have focused on the doughnuts instead.
www.twenty600.com.au (02) 6139 1078 twenty600 owns the copyright in this publication. Reproduction of its contents in whole or in part without permission is strictly prohibited. twenty600 welcomes all unsolicited text, illustrations and photographs. When you submit any content, you acknowledge that you have all necessary rights, including copyright, in the material that you are contributing. You agree that twenty600 may use the material, now and in the future, and that twenty600 retains the right to edit submitted work. While twenty600 endeavours to provide accurate and current content, no guarantee is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this magazine. Views and opinions expressed in twenty600 are not necessarily those of the publisher.
When twenty600 grows up... Ever since it was a wee little idea conceived in George’s head, all twenty600 ever wanted was to entertain people like you. It never took itself too seriously, while still managing to be a highly respected publication with thousands of loyal fans. Alas, its life was cut short when George, the restless man that he is, decided he was going to quit the magazine business and focus on his pursuit of becoming a novelist/screenwriter/photographer/musician extraordinaire. Selfish.
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Live and let play 16
The pros and cons of gaming
The car maketh the man (or woman) 20 Tools of the road
Conroy cracks the inty-web 22
The CleanFeed project
Oh my, Canberra, how youâ€™ve grown! 26
The Canberran Renaissance
Bottled whine 32
How to complain without losing your mind
Young (and) professional 39
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Live and let play by Doug Fry photo by Jordan Prosser
The sun revolves around the earth (which is flat). Women are too silly to vote. Iraq has WMDs. And now: videogames are for children. Fuck me dead, are we really still having this debate in 2009? OK, fine. Let’s start with some statistics (ieaa.com.au/research, you bloody sceptic): • In 2005, the average gamer in Australia was 24 years old • Right now, the average gamer is aged 30 • By 2014, that average age is projected to rise to 42 See the SUBTLE TREND emerging here? Australian gamers—who constitute 68 per cent of the Australian population, I should add—are typically within the realm of adulthood. And they’re only getting older. Partly this is because of people (like me) who have grown up with videogames, and continue to play them even as they start discussing interest rates and worshipping Kerry O’Brien and popping out kids of their own. The increasingly steep climb in the average gamer age, however, comes from the growing number of older people who have retroactively elected to start playing videogames. Like my baby boomer parents, who recently delivered a grand almighty headfuck by announcing their intention to purchase a Wii (or in Mum’s words, “one of those remotecontrol Nintendos”). These were the people who had constantly berated my brother and me for our epic adolescent sessions of GoldenEye and Diddy Kong Racing, warning us that videogames were a waste of time and would rot our brains. These same people suddenly found themselves craving a bit of after-work Wii Sports because “it looks like a lot of fun.” I held back an onslaught of ‘I-told-you-so’ type comments, and 16
instead assured my parents they were making the right decision. A lot of fun. Goddamn right, mum. What other reason would you need? We’re human beings, for Christ’s sake! Without fun, without leisure, we go batshit insane. Some people read, some people watch TV, some people go to Summadayze, some people go to Summernats… need I go on? There are countless recreational outlets available to us, and it’s pointless trying to pass judgement on any of them because we all have different needs. Live and let play, I say! Sure, Wii Sports might not offer the same level of intellectual or physical engagement as, say, reading Heart of Darkness while climbing K2 with a TED Talk podcasting its way into your ears. But then, nor is that the point. My parents want to play Wii Sports for the same reason you might watch House or read Harry Potter. It’s a readily accessible—and easily digestible—form of entertainment. And it’s not pretending to be anything else. However, just because it’s easy to get into Wii Sports, doesn’t mean the game is simple. Videogames are an inherently complex medium
that emphasise spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, timing and problem solving. The joy of ‘casual’ games like Wii Sports is that they tailor this complexity to suit a broad spectrum of player abilities—hence their widespread appeal. They still offer players a challenge, although not in the confronting (albeit classic) build/explore/ save/conquer the world manner that is so often the premise of videogames. Whatever the scenario, though—and whatever the resulting challenge—all games require calculated responses to elaborate audiovisual stimuli, demanding that players think before they act… …or interact, to be precise. Now, I don’t profess to be psychic, but I’m fairly sure I’ll never be a parkour expert named Faith who undermines an authoritarian government by carrying crucial messages across the soaring rooftops of a near-future American city. Having recently completed Mirror’s Edge, though, I’ve got a pretty bloody good idea of what the experience might be like. A decent sci-fi novel or film or dice-based role playing game could probably evoke the free-runner-in-a-dystopia theme as successfully as Mirror’s Edge. But I 17
can only interact with that theme, experience it so vividly and completely, via the videogame medium. In the 21st century, we are increasingly demanding of customisation and control over the media we consume—everything from iPod colours to Wikipedia edits to So You Think You Can Dance finalists. Videogames offer an entertainment experience that affords the audience an unprecedented (and ever-increasing) level of input, treating them as participants rather than just passive receptors—but still delivering subject matter to suit the entire spectrum of human tastes and requirements. Accordingly, the uptake of the videogame medium has become universal, with sales figures to match (US$21.3 billion in the United States alone last year). Videogames aren’t just for children. Nor are they just for adults. They are for everybody—including the doubters, the moral reactors, the media elitists of the world. Chill out, motherfuckers! Jesus, if my parents can, then you can too. Go get yourselves a copy of Wii Sports. Have some friends around. Get drunk. Then kick back and, God forbid, HAVE SOME FUN.
oh, shut up!
Pressing buttons and killing baddies
by Sarah Hart photo by Jordan Prosser
Here’s an observation: the fact that I, an educated adult, like eating massive amounts of fairy biscuits (the ones with the pink icing and sprinkles and pictures of fairies on the packet) does not mean that fairy biscuits are an adult food. In fact, I’m happy to admit that my biscuit fetish is a hangover from my seven-year-old self. I’m not about to write a thesis reinterpreting the fairy biscuit paradigm so that I can reframe my obsession with childish things as a legitimate adult interest in a food with Many Valuable Nutritious Qualities. Why? Because it’s a goddam fairy biscuit. There are thousands of people out there who, like myself, can’t quite let go of the simple pleasures. For some it’s food. For others, it’s playing videogames. Nowadays, videogames are not solely the domain of children and adolescents. They are also the domain of grownups who act like children and adolescents, particularly, for some unknown and probably complex reason to do with masturbating and Freud, those grownups with willies. But of course, having willies, they can’t just call a fairy biscuit a fairy biscuit and admit that they like spending time doing childish things. Genuinely intelligent, articulate man-children will put an enormous amount of effort and rage into legitimising their obsession. They’ll bang on about videogames having increasingly sophisticated narrative structures 18
and graphics, say that some of them really make you think, that some are really scary, and that all of them are really cool and have heaps of blood and cool stuff and probably make you a way better person. And the banging on will be done in Big Words, specially chosen to annihilate the uninformed (me). It’s all very impressive. Until you remember that this is all about grown men scuttling off to a hidey-hole to shoot cartoon people with a button. Because when you get down to it, playing videogames is not hard. You press a button, you kill a baddie. You press another button, you kill a hundred baddies. Then a baddie kills you, so you press another button and become un-killed. If you’re younger, there are bright colours and whizzy flashy things to distract the maximum amount of your brain. If you’re older, the bright colours turn to gore and the whizzy flashy things
grow enormous breasts, but the basic mechanics stay the same. You get a lot of points, or pretendy destroy a lot of things, then you arrive at the end and the program finishes and you can run off and inspect your spit jar. Or read Playboy for the articles, depending on your level of selfdelusion/age. Sure, I’m not actually qualified to judge whether people who play videogames are more immature than the rest of us. My videogame expertise is simply based on my observations of all the adult male videogame players I know, and the bazillion hours they’ve spent behind closed curtains fiddling with something down near their crotch while the rest of us live our lives. I’m pretty sure that back in the day, gents used those spare hours to, I don’t know, learn useful shit, like how to fix taps or read the money pages. These days, your average videogame loving 19
man-child is more likely to spend his spare moments yanking out the Xbox at parties, thus destroying any possibility of a decent conversation, or commandeering the lounge room for six weeks at a time, not realising that having a fixated zombie on the couch is not actually that much fun for the rest of the household. Sometimes, they’ll ask if you want to watch them play. Are you fucking serious? I get to watch you press a button? Really quickly? Holy Jesus shit. If only I didn’t have to go and fork myself in the eye. Here’s a revelation: it’s alright to keep enjoying the same daft, pointless things you enjoyed as a kid. Just don’t irritate the crap out of the rest of us by pretending it’s an intellectual pursuit worthy of your advanced years. Grow up and admit your immaturity. Now, to illustrate my superiority in all matters intellectual, I’m off to have a fairy biscuit and read a pony book.
The car maketh the man (or woman) by Petunia Brown
It’s a pretty standard rule that if you drive a 4WD, you are a tool. Of course, this is a grotesque generalisation (my favourite kind) and, for all of you sucking in the breath to start screaming, “What if you’re a farmer, what if you live on the land, what if you’re a park ranger, what if you go offroad driving?” then yes, whatever. I’m not talking about the people with a genuine need for an off-road vehicle. Farmers, rangers, people in rural and remote areas; please, four-wheel-drive to your hearts’ content, I don’t care. It’s the rest of you urban wankers who buy a 4WD with some vague idea of maybe driving up a cliff face from time to time, or off-roading across the Nullarbor once you’ve finally escaped the rat race, who I hate. Why should you care, you ask? Well, you probably shouldn’t. The fact that you are knowingly destroying the environment driving a car that you secretly know you’ll never use to fulfil all your hideous, clichéd, rugged adventurer dreams; the fact that you drive around wilfully squashing small children; and the fact that none of you can park in anything less than two parking spaces at a time tells me that you don’t really care much about anything other than your own self-image. And good for you. Here for a good time, not a long time, the environment won’t be our generation’s problem, blah blah, climate change is a myth, etc. (hey, did you hear about those bushfires in Victoria?)—yes, all these stupid ideas that scientists keep bringing up about how we should be consuming less, not more, have all been designed just to cramp your style. So please, drive the 200 metres on a flat bitumen road, order your cheeseburger at the
drive-through, and hurl the rubbish out the window as you motor yourself home. It’s your world too! Anyway, the point of all these (sorry, I appear to have become distracted) is that we’re killing the planet. No, no it’s not! It’s that, while it’s not considered kosher to judge people by their material possessions, said possessions are occasionally quite telling as an indicator of what sort of wanker you’re actually dealing with. So yes, here is the tenuous link to the ‘relationships’ that this column is supposed to be about: this is about my relationship with other drivers. And let’s be honest—sometimes, sharing the road with someone is at least as infuriating as sharing a bed. I got to thinking about this the other day when I was tailgated by a Yarralumla bitch in a big, shiny, blue BMW. Ever noticed that BMW drivers always think they’re in more of a hurry than you are? I don’t know what it is—I guess it’s driving all that money around town, and the stress of running late for your next colonic irrigation. Hey, being a trophy wife is a valid career choice! It’s not just the ladies, either—don’t get me wrong. Guys in Beamers, Porches and—weirdly enough—those big-arse Ford Falcons tend to be channelling a mind-boggling amount of inner rage. Yes, fancy banker dudes, you’re doing SUCH a good job with the global economy, it’s totally important you get to work as quickly as possible! Having said all this, if everyone is as superficial as I am, then I wonder what my car says about me? It’s a sedan, it’s fuel efficient, clean-ish, very regular, very safe. I suppose it says that I’m a bit dull, risk averse in my purchases and probably entirely flaccid in my daily life. Not too far off the mark, really. Which makes me comfortable in judging the crap out of everyone else around me, based solely on an ambiguous indicator such as the sort of car they’ve chosen to drive. And yeah yeah, for those of you taking a deep breath and getting ready to scream ,“Well you think you’re superior, you think that you’re better than everyone, you judge everyone by totally superficial means, you’re shallow, you’re a bitch, you pollute, etc. etc.” then yes, you’re probably right. 21
Conroy cracks the inty-web by Stephanie Wang
(To bring you up to speed, the following paragraph is an excerpt from Stephanie’s previous CleanFeed article, which can be found in issue #6). So, the CleanFeed. If your living quarters are the underside of an extremely large boulder, you might think that it’s a funny name for shinier horse food. If not, you’ll know that it’s the name of Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy’s latest project, trialled in December of last year; a project designed to filter content on the internet by blocking it through the internet service providers, or ISPs. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably have the shits. (And now for part two).
Did anyone happen to watch the March 26th episode of the ABC’s topical discussion show, Q&A? The one where Stephen Conroy was questioned, by a range of panellists and audience members, about the government’s proposed Internet Filtering Scheme? Yeah, me neither. I read the transcript, though. Along with a buttload of other articles, essays, and opinion pieces on the same topic, and I’ve since reached two conclusions. Firstly, if I ever have to read another drivelling rant about the CleanFeed, I will eat my laptop. It’s not that I’m uninterested in the topic. It’s just if I have to trawl through another jungle of this stuff, one of my organs may, to quote Douglas Adams, leap up through my neck and attempt to throttle my brain. The reason for this is my second conclusion: we have, as a group; as a lost and wandering whole, begun to miss the point. This whole debate about the CleanFeed has become a straw man war; the air is so thick with rhetoric that you could cut it with a knife, spread it on toast, and still have enough left over to bake a cake. I’m not saying there aren’t still people making coherent arguments on the topic. But by and large, they’re getting drowned out by the masses on both sides that seem to think emotional arguments are just as valid as rational ones, provided you’re yelling loud enough. Even worse, these tired, emotional arguments are being used as diversionary tactics on both sides, papering over things we really ought to be discussing. This is my major beef with Conroy at the moment. From what he was saying on Q&A; the point of the CleanFeed is “to stop access—from people 22
getting access to sites that include pro-rape sites, pro-incest sites, pro-child pornography sites and pro-incest sites.” Putting aside the fact that he listed ‘pro-incest’ twice to make a list of three things sound like a list of four things, the issue of access that he’s championing here is a separate one from the one he was advocating a few months ago; the issue of child pornography. We all know that the save the kiddies thing is a giant straw man. The CleanFeed is not about child porn, because the it isn’t specifically and exclusively targeting child porn. So if this is the case, why can’t the pundits let go of it? The SBS show Insight covered the CleanFeed on March 31st, and the first guy they interviewed was Wayne, a father of six, whose 14-year-old is frequently online. Wayne is so concerned about his daughter
“These tired, emotional arguments are being used as diversionary tactics on both sides.” 23
that, and I quote, “I take the little—the telephone link—and take it to bed with me.” No, don’t pity him. He votes. There are a lot of concerned parents out there. I get it. Normal parental concern is exacerbated by the fact that the internet is something many of their children can navigate far better than the parents can. The fact is, though, most ISPs offer PC-level filtering, which covers more material than an ISP-level filter would be capable of doing. If this were about saving the children, the Government would have put the $145 million it’s spending on the project into making this type of filtering more readily available and more userfriendly for parents who, like Wayne, aren’t particularly tech-savvy. And yet. Every time a legitimate point is made with Stephen Conroy, up goes the child porn deflector-shield. Maybe Conroy is simply trying to divert attention from the fact that his own knowledge of the internet seems a little lacking. Towards the end of the Q&A interview, Monash University academic Susan Carland made the observation that, given the likelihood that the CleanFeed will only drive unwanted sites underground, it would be more effective to “leave the sites there but watch them and use them as a net,”—in other words, use them to catch the perpetrators. In a vaguely Dadaist response, Conroy 24
replied: “This is one of a range of policies. Two days ago the Queensland Police, believe it or not, using technology, cracked peer-to-peer and they’ve arrested, in the last few days, a range of people involved in a child paedophile ring.” What? You get the impression that he thinks cracking peer-to-peer usually requires the use of a mallet. But it’s not just him, sadly. It isn’t even just the people arguing for the CleanFeed. One of the video questions sent to Q&A was from a high-school student called Jeffrey Wang. Jeffrey—in a spectacular effort to prove that if you can’t be cogent, you should at least be memorable—donned a mask and compared the CleanFeed to the Chinese system of censorship and oppression. He ended his rant with the lines: “We will fight for this. We will fight this. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” Jeffrey, if you’re reading this, I beg you not to help me. This thing was bollocksed up enough already; we don’t need the more vocal exponents going live on air and acting boogely-moogely-moogely. All the melodrama’s doing is adding to the confusion in a debate that is already full of heavily-disguised moot points. So this is a call-out to people on both sides of the camp—well, at least those who live in Canberra and read this magazine. Can we, as a group, agree that that the sound bytes aren’t helpful? Let’s turf out the rhetoric and for once just have a nice, lucid debate. We need to. Please. For the children. 25
“This whole debate about the CleanFeed has become a straw man war.”
Oh my, Canberra, how youâ€™ve grown!
by Jordan Prosser illustrated by Arran McKenna
Once upon a time, there was a place I woke up in every morning. A place I saw every day of my life. Every once in a while there are people, places and things like this in all of our lives, which we perceive through a kind of stop-motion processâ€”a collection of sequential frames, taken daily, deceiving us into believing that the very last frame is no different to the first, regardless of how much has changed in between. 26
Sorry—in English now: you see your older brother, you see your ex-lover. And although these people were once permanent fixtures in your life, now you only see them once a month, perhaps twice a year—and all of a sudden you can actually see how they’ve grown. The full impact of how they’ve changed and flourished or decayed hits you, whereas once upon a time, when you used to see them every morning or every day or every night, the changes seemed invisible, so incremental that it seemed there was no change at all. But now you see your older brother, you see your ex-lover—you see the town you grew up in. I see Canberra. And like a game of spotlight in your backyard at your 10th birthday party, the sneaky bastard’s crept up on you when you had your back turned. It, and they, have all changed. I left the low-sitting skyline and the award-winning, OCDinspired artifice of the suburbs, the highways, the boxed-in bushlands and bus shelters of Canberra at the start of 2007 for the archaic, the lush, the towering and terrifying badlands of Melbourne. But, like tearing your frozen tongue off an icy-pole, no matter how cleanly you think you’ve broken away from something, a little bit of you always remains. I’ve returned to
the place of my childhood, the land of my education, rearing and adolescent folly innumerable times during the past two years, visited family, friends, partners, experienceed grief, celebrated milestones. I marvel sometimes at all these little post-scripts, all these footnotes to my life in Canberra that crop up again and again. They swell in size and importance to become their own independent, fully-fledged subplots to my life which, when I’m sitting in my apartment in Melbourne or mixing and mingling with different foes and faces and encountering wholly dissimilar ways of life as I do most of the year, could just as easily not exist at all. But regardless of the recurring purposes (read: excuses) for my return, it’s not the pantheon of childhood friends or family members, but rather Canberra itself that somehow always manages to sneak up behind me when I’ve got my back turned, tap me on the shoulder and shriek in my ear, “Ha! I win again!” So it’s a race then, is it? The city of Canberra versus its own expatriate scum? Like a divorced couple, each trying to prove to the other that they remain more attractive, more cultured, more popular and more desirable in every conceivable way than when they were once together? There’s a Hugo Boss in Canberra now, and I’m baking individual chips for dinner. Slow start from the expatriate camp then, I guess. But it’s true: once I recover from the initial shock, when I come home I notice every fresh black stretch of road, every swanky new café, every emerging group of artists. I watch the continued romanticising of Manuka and Kingston and the gradual acceptance of the outer suburbs (because they just keep building outer-er ones). And the culture? The arts? Don’t get me started. I was talking to a friend a year ago who said, “Hey man, do you think 27
you’d want to come home for Trackside?” My response, of course, was, “What the hell is a trackside?” “Um… it’s a lot like Foreshore,” he explained. A pause. “What the hell is a four-shore?” Since when did Canberra boast its own music festivals? And the trend continues! Since when did anyone except Chris Isaak and Slava Grigoryan think it worth their while to come play in Canberra? Come on, it doesn’t even rate a mention in the national weather updates! You can’t even take a plane there from anywhere except a bigger, betterknown Australian city! The internationally accepted response to the phrase “Actually, Canberra’s the capital city of Australia, not Sydney,” is “… what the hell is a Canberra?” But now it seems all you need
to do in this town is put your ear to the ground on even the quietest night… sure, there are more government employees per capita here than in the Vatican, and it’s impossible to get a coffee anywhere after 9 freaking pm, but Canberra now has Scenes with a capital S—music Scenes, fashion Scenes—and I mean that in the truly extensive, truly cool sense of the word. These are Scenes that can actually stand up amongst other major cities. Surely, this didn’t always used to be the case. But what could have brought these changes about? When did everyone in Canberra start wearing skinny leg jeans and plunging V-neck tees and forget to tell me? Why was I not informed of all these sweet new bars? Why did I think Tongue & Groove was some sort of fungal infection until a mate actually took me there? There are the obvious answers, of course—that it’s just a new generation filling the cultural and, gradually, the political shoes around 28
the traps of the Can. That it’s thanks to a consistent local government. Or a shiny, brand new federal one. Hell, maybe this is all just since the North Quarter opened in Civic and Canberrans can now drink chai lattes, eat crab and buy Italian shoes without driving to Sydney. But no—I think I know why it is. For these last two years, I‘ve often struggled with the decision to reveal my true origins to those around me in Melbourne. As if a childhood in Canberra is something to be ashamed of. When I do bite the bullet and utter those five immortal words (“I grew up in Canberra,” like a branding iron on my arse) and people have cleaned up their spilt drinks and comforted their women, I’m suddenly and forcefully privy to all manner of biased opinion on what is, “in all truth, the most boring place on earth” (we already know that the rest of the country only ever experiences
Canberra through their obligatory Year 6 poli-sci excursion). In some cases it’s taken me months to redeem myself with these people. It’s as if a full denouncement of Canberran acquaintances and a healthy dose of Melbournian night-life, or a couple of pairs of black stovepipe jeans, or enough Coopers Pale longnecks, or a hearty run in with a Yarra Trams ticket inspector might snap me out of it and cure my geographical leprosy. But if there’s one thing the Bible/1980s American high school dramas taught us, it’s that the meek shall inherit the earth/the dude everyone picked on in school is going to rock up to your 10-year reunion in a private jet with an Olsen twin per elbow. And in so many ways, Canberra is just like that: the slow starter, or the nerdy friend, or just the younger sibling. Maybe the reason for all these changes, all these little fits and starts and growth spurts of cultural exploration that I can see and hear and feel crackling in all their glory whenever I fly over Black Mountain or finish barreling down the Hume, is simply that Canberra is growing up. I mean, how cool do you really think New York or London or Paris were 29
when they were only 96 years old? In fact, this could be Canberra’s golden age. A time of enlightenment. The Canberran Renaissance. Because what do you do in adolescence? Let me remind you: you screw things up and you piss people off, but by the time you’re grown, everyone has either forgotten or forgiven it all. No one reminds the billionaire at the reunion how they once pulled his underpants over his head at assembly, or whispers how Olsen twin number one is a definite improvement on ol’ pizza-faced Sally Bloggs (who, funnily enough, has started her own highly successful advertising agency in New York, and has a meeting with Nike today, but sends her sincerest apologies). So where does this all leave me then? Yes, I’ll see my family, I’ll see my dear old friends, and I will gaze upon the town I grew up in. I’ll be plagued for the duration of my stay by the thought that it, and I, are growing up and growing apart. But it isn’t a race. Maybe it’s merely a healthy challenge, so that when Canberra and I see each other again, when our eyes next lock across the crowded room at our reunion, I can confidently and calmly sidle up to it, (tell the twins to have a little more punch while the men talk,) smile, and say, “Oh my, Canberra… how you’ve grown.” 30
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Bottled whine how to complain without losing your mind 32
Everyone’s a jerk, right? Your phone company’s uncontactable, your travel agent’s ripping you off, your local council is sending debt collection notices to your four-year-old, and the Tax Office has lost your refund. Eventually, letting off steam to your friends over coffee just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. You’ve had enough, you’re righteously furious, and you know it’s your right to Take Things Further. And it’s for you, the disgruntled masses, that we’ve put together twenty600’s guide to complaining (without losing your mind).
required and keep you satisfied, so they’re more likely to get your concerns fixed quickly; b) it’s fair—you might have interacted with a complete wally up to this point, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the organisation is as stupid; and c) no external complaints handling body will touch your complaint until you do. Complain to the right place There’s no point shouting at the Qantas representative that you’re going to take whatever it is up with the Ombudsman—there isn’t an Ombudsman that handles complaints about airlines. And there’s no point calling the Commonwealth Ombudsman with a complaint about Optus—you need the Telecommunications Ombudsman, a completely separate bunch. So while it’s your right to complain about anything you like, you’ll just end up going around in useless circles until you work out who it is who can actually investigate your complaint. It can be difficult finding out who’s who, but luckily for us, some friendly interweb folks have done the legwork already—complaintline.com.au. Want to complain about your gym? Your doctor? Your neighbour? This site may well save you hours of your life. You got to know when to hold ‘em If I had a dollar for every time a complainant threatened me or my organisation with media exposure or legal action, I’d probably have enough for a decent pony. But the reality is, while media/legal threats really can get certain things moving faster, you have to know when and how to use them. If you get it wrong, you’ll just feel even more powerless, achieve nothing and sound, let’s face it, a bit silly. For instance, no one cares about a threat to sue. This is because in the
As a professional complaints handler of too many years standing, in both the government and private sectors, I can tell you right now that there is a right and a wrong way to complain. Doing it the wrong way will get you nowhere, decimate your karma, and may destroy the remainder of your sorry life (seriously—more on this later). So how to begin? Don’t create problems This might seem quite basic, but how many times have you left your personal admin to the last minute and found yourself in trouble? Get your visas in good time, remember to register your car before the registration runs out, and follow up on those weird bills as soon as you get them, not 12 months later when so and so has gone on maternity leave, so I’m not sure, I’ll just put you on hold for eight hours while I wipe your entire billing history... So keep good records, make notes on bills, get the names of people you speak to and do things now, not later. Give peace a chance So you’ve done everything right, but your electricity/gas/water/internet is still disconnected. You really, really want to watch TV/have a hot shower/ see if you won that useless thingy on eBay. Step one—allow whoever’s giving you grief an opportunity to resolve your complaint in the first instance. Call them, and give them a reasonable amount of time to do their thing. If that doesn’t work, ask to speak to their complaints department, and make a formal complaint. Why waste my time with the complaints department of an organisation I loathe with a burning passion, I hear you ask? Because a) complaints departments are supposed to be there to put the internal boot in where 33
criminal offence (in the case of violent threats against an individual). What you won’t get is quicker action on your problem. What’s much better than screaming and swearing is calm, organised persistence. No one can hang up on you if you aren’t rude, no one can fob you off if you have all the information at hand, and there are very few organisations that won’t respond to polite persistence. At worst, you’ll get a headache from bottling up your rage. At best, the person on the other end of the interaction will like you and want to help you and you’ll get most of what you want. Public floggings versus it not happening again—accept reasonable outcomes If you are the gentleman who informed me that you would like Helen Coonan publicly flogged in Garema Place because of an issue with your telephone bill, and that no other outcome would satisfy your complaint, here’s some news—I don’t think so. Try to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment when requesting an outcome to your complaint. Try gunning for a discount off your next bill, or a written apology. Don’t demand that people be fired. I’ve handled over 4000 separate complaints in my time, and had visibility of several thousand others, and only once has a person been fired as a result of a complaint by someone outside the organisation. And even then, there were other factors. It’s also a waste of time demanding that an organisation give you a remedy that they are not permitted, under law, to give. Laws are made by governments. If you want the laws changed, start with your local MP. But the fact that a law exists should not prevent an organisation from explaining it to you in a way you can understand, looking for alternatives where these exist, or apologising for the way they’ve interpreted the law if they’ve done
vast majority of cases, the chances of an action actually getting up, let alone being successful, are miniscule. Suing someone is not a matter of turning up to court, pointing the finger and walking away with a stack of cash. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars and can take years to come to a conclusion. And if you do manage to bring an action against an organisation, they will immediately hand your whole file to their lawyers, clam up and start refusing to comment until the matter is heard in court. So do your sums (money and time) before you call your lawyer. A media threat can be a bit more helpful, depending on the circumstances. The trick is you need to get a bit media-savvy before you make it. It would have to be a slow, slow news day before a television journo decided to write a story about Kevin Nobody’s Centrelink payment being three days late. On the other hand, found any poo in your ice cream lately? You also have to think about whether the exposure would really impact on the organisation you’re trying to manipulate. Independent complaintshandling bodies (ombudsmen, fair trading commissions, tribunals, review boards, etc.) are not for profit, do not own the product or process being complained about, and are too well known for their integrity to be worried by a bit of free publicity. Private companies, jostling for the consumer dollar, are a bit keener to avoid a Today Tonight exposé. Resist the urge to wreak verbal vengeance Don’t scream and swear at people handling your issue, no matter how irritated you get. At best, you’ll put them slightly offside and give them an excuse for a tea break after they get off the phone to you. At worst, you could be hung up on, barred from entering the premises or charged with a 34
it wrong. These are realistic remedies that are in the organisation’s power to give, and you can insist on being provided. Know when to walk away Even if you’re calm, reasonable, persistent and right, you’ll sometimes lose. And no matter how many letters you write, or people you shout at, or demonstrations you try and organise, you won’t get what you know you’re owed. It’s terribly depressing to accept that you’ve failed. What can be much more depressing is not to accept that you’ve failed, and to keep on well past the edge of sanity to the point where your calls are screened or not answered, there are office security procedures in place especially for your visits, or your family has left you and you literally have nothing in your life except the all-consuming monster your complaint has become. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a sad summary of too many complainants’ lives. Think about it. Be a good winner So you’ve followed our guide to complaining, your TV’s on, your phone’s working and your neighbour’s out there fixing the fence like a good citizen. What next? How about you use the phone to make a thank you call to the organisation that didn’t stuff you around? Or bust out and give a highfive to the good neighbour who’s never been a problem? Or write a thanks card to the restaurant with no poo in its ice cream? Sure, it’s our right, and in many cases our civic responsibility, to complain. But it’s also our privilege to show appreciation. Try for a little balance, and you’ll be surprised how much of your life is actually running pretty well. 35
little bits What would you do with your last day of internet?
often arbitrary in its tastes. So there’s a pretty good chance my meme-in-a-day attempt will fail. In that case, I’d switch on my webcam, play Cocoon by Björk on repeat, scrawl FAMOUS LIKE LELAND ORSER across my chest, then eat a fistful of nasty pharmaceuticals. After all, internet culture invariably loves an eccentric suicide.
DOUG FRY can’t live without internet access. Not because of the facebook and Google Maps aspect—I can survive without these. It’s the instant, infinite stream of trivialities that I thrive upon. For example, I need to know the name of that panicky guy in Alien Resurrection who also cameos as a glider pilot in Saving Private Ryan. I draw sustenance from facts like that. Taking the net away from me at this point would be like a pop-culture lobotomy, Ray-Liotta-in-Hannibalstylez. Christ, I haven’t even had my chance to become Internet Famous yet—or at least, create something that becomes Internet Famous. Accordingly, I’d spend my last 24 hours online trying to create a meme—something to rival, say, lolcats or Daft Hands or goatse. Of course, it’s hard to force a meme into existence—internet culture is unpredictable and
JORDAN PROSSER goes through the steps. First, denial: I convince myself that this is some elaborate practical joke, and spend 10 hours surfing the net as I normally would, but with an air of desperation that comes across in 36
status updates like, ‘Jordan DOESN’T NEED THE INTERNET TO BE FULFILLED, OKAY?’ Next comes anger, where I spend between six and eight hours trolling perfectly innocent forums, accusing pre-teens on Saddle Club fan sites of being fascist whores, and downloading leaked TV episodes just to spoil the ending for my friends. In my bargaining phase, I try to prove my worth to the 1.574 billion-strong internet community by posting every piece of poetry, prose and keen political observation of mine on a self-dedicated shrine/blog. I also sell my organs on eBay. The depression sets in by the 20th hour, and I weep for all my half-downloaded torrents and re-read every email I have ever received, dating back to my very first account: email@example.com. Finally, once 24 hours are up, there comes the acceptance phase, where I take to the streets, stripping naked and screaming to the people, “I am free, my children! Disentangled from the world wide web!” only to have some brat on his mobile phone record the whole thing and post it on YouTube under the title; crazy naked dude hate teh internets LOLZOR. It receives more than a million hits, but I never get to see it.
Finally, because of how jealous and angry I’d be that everybody else would keep enjoying the wonders of the internets, I’d spend what was left of my precious web time sending as many inspirational forwards as I could, urging people to spare a thought for Billy, dying of cancer, saved by an angel, or whatever.
CHARLIE BIG has no time to spare. My last day of internet would have to be 32 days from now, because firstly I would need to pick up the phone to contact a certain unpromiscuous broadband service in hope of actually getting online. After waiting on hold for two days, I’d finally be connected through to their mobile service. The team member who answered—Internet for Dummies in one hand, dictionary in the other—would explain to me that, despite being a phone service, they don’t actually have a separate line dedicated to internet enquiries, and that he’d transfer me. Many exacerbating conversations and 30 days later, I’d miraculously be back online—temporarily. With no time to spare, I’d look at as much porn as humanly possible, because pervos these days are obviously not content with looking at the same doodle and vagina for more than 3.5 seconds.
NICK ELLIS prepares for the end. The internet is ending? I head to Wikipedia and keep hitting the random article button. To Google and hit ‘I’m feeling lucky’, searching any 37
word that comes to mind. To Craiglist, facebook, MySpace, internet sex chat rooms inhabited solely by bots and lonely 60-year-old men. And I print. Everything. Reams of paper spewing out as much badly written, ill thought out, useless information as I can possibly find. And at the end of the day, as the internet dies, I collect my papers, bind them, and then taking my new bible into this post-apocalyptic world, I begin to preach; “How are you, gentlemen? All your base are belong to us!”
MARK RUSSELL has one final serving of crap. With only one day of internet left, I’d be happy
to nonchalantly cruise around YouTube, Wikipedia and facebook, secure in the knowledge that I only had to last one more day to have successfully avoided seeing 2 Girls 1 Cup, Cake Farts and every other depraved video the world wide web has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I support gross-out humour and I definitely support porn, but never the twain shall meet. The only thing worse than the plague proportions in which these cinematic gems exist is the plague of friends who seem to want to show them to me. “Check this out, I first saw it six months ago and my bowel movements are still irregular!” Thanks, but no, I think I’ll just watch Trent From Punchy for the 20th time. 38
SARAH HART cannot haz cheeseburger. On the last day with internet I would probably have a final squiz at icanhascheezeburger.com, check my bank balance, retrieve a few addresses and photos from my email accounts, then go get a cup of tea. I would need a lot of cups of tea on the last day with internet, on account of having to come up with a solution to the real problem, which would be what to do about my partner. He’d be out in the study with his manly arms clasped around the monitor, sobbing like a child and intermittently screaming, “Why? Why would you take away my one happiness, my heart’s delight?” Boys are weird. Anyways, I expect I’d end up encouraging him to build a sort of internet replacement machine out of old muscle magazines and random trivia. It wouldn’t make him happy, but it’d take his mind off the loss.
young (and) professional
KATE Spillane by Claire Thompson photos by Jessica Mack
Kate Spillane is an enrolled nurse. After spending a number of years working as a clinical nurse, Kate is now employed with Royal College of Nursing, Australia, the peak professional body for Australian nurses. 39
young (and) professional
Why did you decide to become a nurse? It’s the only thing I ever remember thinking I wanted to do. It was somehow just in me from childhood and it’s what I worked towards at school. I’ve always been interested in health and medicine and very much the patient care side of nursing. You used to work in a hospital setting and at the blood bank. And now you work an office job? What’s that about? Well, I sit at a desk and keep ‘normal’ hours, which is kinda nice after years on my feet doing shift work! My position is chapters manager, which means I manage our state-based groups of members across the country. I liaise with hundreds of nurses a week on various topics to do with their professional development, assist in organising education sessions and even get to travel the country every now and then. I manage content for a nursing publication and get to meet some really inspirational nurses. So nurses don’t necessarily have to work in hospitals? Nursing has an enormous range of career opportunities all over the world. When you say ‘nursing’, many people think of hospitals. While this type of nursing is invaluable, the scope for nurses is much wider than hospital (or as we call it, clinical or hands-on) nursing. There are nurses out there doing research, working in management roles, running 40
businesses, volunteering overseas, working in the public service and in a variety of private and not-for-profit organisations. Nurses can work as lecturers, in educating the public on various health issues, on hospital wards and in general practices, in prisons, schools and mental health facilities, visiting the elderly or disabled at their homes in the community, and in many specialty areas such as midwifery, oncology or emergency. The list goes on! What sort of education and/or training is involved in becoming a nurse? In the ACT, to become a registered nurse it’s a three-year bachelor degree at university. To become an enrolled nurse it’s a one-year TAFE certificate. Both courses involve quite a bit of practical training in various areas of nursing, which you do in practical blocks of weeks at a time. During my studies, I did my practical experience in aged care,
on a general medical ward, in the community and on a rehabilitation ward. What are the worst things about nursing? The suffering of patients and the sadness and grief of families involved with them. The most horrible situations are when a patient and their family know they’re not going to get better—it breaks my heart! Nurses experience a lot of sadness in their work; it can be a very emotional job and this aspect of it doesn’t really let up. I think it’s part of why nursing is so exhausting—the emotional side can really weigh you down. And the best things? The difference you can make to people’s lives. The opportunities. The people you meet. What sort of person would you recommend a nursing career to? Kind and caring people, willing to give their energy to help others. Must have patience! What would you be if you weren’t a nurse? Gosh, that’s a tough one. A paramedic? A preschool teacher? Or maybe working behind the scenes at JJJ… 41
“The goal is quite “The goal is quite clear. Don’t clear. Don’t lose lose yourself in your fear.” yourself in your fear.”
the sounds of autumn 09 with Charlie Big
“The goal is quite clear. Don’t lose yourself in your fear.”
The Break and Repair Method milk the bee.
Wes Carr The Way the World Looks
I’m hoping that people won’t refer to milk the bee. as the album by that guy who was in Matchbox 20—not Rob Thomas, the other guy (I think he was the drummer)— because it’s quite an inappropriate comparison to make. Paul Doucette’s side-project is packed with light pop songs and catchy melodies so infectious that you’ll be oblivious to the sound of your own humming. And it proves that music doesn’t have to be all deep and complex and brooding to impress. With influences ranging from The Beatles to ELO, The Break and Repair method is sure to make you want to dance around like an uninhibited twat. So ignore the comparisons, the ambiguous title and ironic cover, and give this one a listen.
Go on, laugh at me for liking an album by an Australian Idol winner. You know you want to. But you’re wasting your breath, because I’ve heard it all before. The truth is, many ‘critics’ have already made up their mind about Wes Carr before even giving him a listen (providing they even get that far). While I’m no 12-year-old girl, I can still appreciate good music when I hear it. An artist doesn’t have to be some indy-esotericalternative-unknown-wanker to get my attention. He just needs to make music worth listening to. By all means, be as sceptical as you like, but I’m not the one in denial here. So why not just come out of the Idol closet already and see The Way the World Looks. See what I did there?
Evermore Truth of the World: Welcome to the Show
Evermore are all about reinventing their sound. Why, just in 2006, they reinvented themselves as an average band that nobody gave a shit about. And now they’re back with Truth of the World: Welcome to the Show, which isn’t as emo as the title suggests. In fact, this is actually quite groundbreaking stuff for these New Zealand lads. A concept album set in a world that has been taken over by a TV network, this news bulletin of an album is presented as a single piece of music, with seamless segues between each track. Sound a little pretentious? Well, yes, it does border on the edge of Wanksville. Truth of the matter: you’re either going to love it or hate it. True Live Found Lost
What? Yet another Aussie classical/ jazz/hip-hop outfit? Sarcasm aside, I’d much rather spend the next hundred-odd words raving about The Shape of It, True Live’s insanely brilliant debut album. Instead I have the task of
than ks at JB to the g uy Hi-Fi Wod s en
reviewing their highly anticipated second offering. Not to worry, because Found Lost features more of the rhymes, keys and strings that make these Melbourne boys such a unique act. But I assure you, this is no gimmick (if only there were some sort of public forum that I could use to express what amazing musicians these guys are). All I can say is that this is a solid follow-up album, and that if you’re into hip-hop, you’d be crazy not to check it out. Tori Amos Abnormally Attracted to Sin
QUICKIES Gomez A New Tide What the folk? This is folking good. Gomez is folked. Take your pick.
First, the bad news. I hate to break it to you, but Tori Amos will never make another album that even begins to compare to Little Earthquakes or Under the Pink. Simple as that. But now, the good news. Abnormally Attracted to Sin is Tori’s best release in years. While it follows on from Tori’s previous offerings, and lacks that pianodriven songwriting her fans adore, it does contain some interesting tracks with gorgeous melodies. But what it comes down to is this: Tori Amos is like The Simpsons. We all remember what the episodes were like at their best, and even though we’ve acknowledged that the new ones are rubbish, we’re still reluctant to let go.
Diana Krall Quiet Nights Too marvellous for words. Yusuf Islam Roadsinger (To Warm You Through the Night) Hear that? That’s the sound of Cat Stevens! Carl Risely The Stillest Hour Risely somehow went from being the guy on Australian Idol who couldn’t hold a note, to becoming Australia’s response to The Boob. Impressive. Lady of the Sunshine Smoking Gun While Angus Stone has always been the preferred sibling, his side project, Lady of the Sunshine, proves that Angus still needs Julia. Madeleine Peyroux Bare Bones Really takes me back to a time when I wasn’t even born. Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 What Lies for Dark Times No matter the lineup, I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard this all before. 43
Go home by Brooke Davis photo by Michael Godfrey
On behalf of the entire female population, I’d like to formally thank Baz Luhrman for creating a movie in which Hugh Jackman could be mostly naked and pour water all over himself. Genius. Having said that, there’s a lot more to Australia (the country, not the failed tourism campaign) than monosyllabic males who only answer to their job title. Terra Australis Incognita—or Unknown Land of the South—is the world’s flattest continent, as well as the world’s driest inhabited continent (woot!). It is, of course, home to That Bridge, That Rock and That Reef, but it’s also home to more stuff. Lots more stuff. It’s a young country, but an ancient land, and it’s time we ditched the not-as-good-as-the-mother-ship mentality of our colonial oppressors. Here are a few ways of getting to know the spectacular country you live in, because, let’s face it, with this eco-mon-omic business, we’re all stuck here for a while anyway. 44 60
Animals You’re familiar with koalas, kangaroos and platypi (it’s a word), but did you know you can whale watch in the Nullarbor? The Great Australian Bight Marine Park is the world’s second-largest marine park (after That Reef), and, from May to October every year, a whole heap of Southern Right Whales camp out there to make babies. If whales aren’t cute enough for you, you can head to Phillip Island in Victoria, about 140 clicks south-east of Melbourne, and see the Little-Penguins-formerly-known-as-Fairy-Penguins. Every night at sunset these little blighters waddle in from the ocean to their sand dune burrows to settle in for the night. They’re so cute it hurts. More interested in animals that spit? Hop on a camel and do an overnight trek in Alice Springs. You’ll discover what they actually mean when they say ‘wide, brown land’ (and why we should probably just stick to riding horses). Adventures I’m probably showing my age here, but as Pseudo Echo once said, “Love an adventure?” Why not head to Kalbarri, about 600 kilometres north of Perth, for a surf trip? Not only can you surf the killer, world-class waves, you can also surf the killer, world-class sand dunes in a place they call the Sahara by the Sea. Feeling a little small? Head to the other side of the country and walk Mt Kosciusko, the highest peak of mainland Australia. Located in the Snowy Mountains in NSW, there’s a brilliant 21.5 kilometre circuit that takes you over the Snowy River, past all four glacial lakes, and onto the summit of the mountain. Just don’t say, “I’m the King
of the World!” when you reach the summit; it’s been done, and done badly. If swimming with the fishes (without the presence of the mafia) is more your thing, head to the Tasman Peninsula Coastline in Tassie and scuba dive caves, wrecks and huge kelp forests. Or, for adventures of the culinary, drunken variety, try the Poachers Trail in our very own ACT. Follow it through Murrumbateman and Gundaroo, and check out the cool-climate wines, local food and galleries. If you’re looking for somewhere to sleep after a long day, visit lighthouse.net.au, and stay in one of the many Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottages available all over Australia. Natural Wonders If you just want to see something cool that will knock your touring socks off, visit the Pilbara in WA. You’ll find ancient landscapes dating back two billion years, about 10,000 Aboriginal rock engravings, deep rocky canyons, waterfalls and rock pools. For some more old stuff, head to the Boodjamulla National Park in Queensland near Mount Isa, where you’ll find the World Heritage listed Riversleigh Fossil Field. Incredibly, some of the fossils here are up to 25 million years old and include giant snakes, marsupial lions and carnivorous kangaroos. You’ll see why they reckon Australia has the most isolated mammal evolutionary history in the world. If you prefer your natural wonders to have been the setting of an awesome movie in the 70s, visit The Coorong in South Australia for a taste of Storm Boy. There’s something timeless about this vast wetland ecosystem, with its dramatic dunes, and stunning sunsets. It’s fierce, humbling, and a little magical. 45
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back from making further savings by “government regulations and body corporate restrictions on the appearance of the building.” Nevertheless, Trevor Pearcey House certainly sounds like an enviable place to work. “There’s natural light, natural ventilation and a natural feeling of comfort. I’m sure all the public servants in the ACT wish they could open a window in their building.” According to Warren Overton, director of green building consulting company Viridis E3, and consultant on the refurbishment of Trevor Pearcey House, all the work was done for the same price as a conventional refurbishment. The original, 20-year-old building was purchased for $2.3 million, and the cost of the refurbishment came in at around $1.7 million. If those figures aren’t enough to convince the boss to give your office the green treatment, Overton also makes the point that there are business gains to be made along with the obvious environmental benefits: “Energy and water savings provide financial returns, but the increase in occupant productivity can be far more significant.” With all these positives on offer, it seems even government is beginning to see the light. “There is a lack of support to encourage green buildings in adopting new technologies,” says Overton, “but recently this has improved with the announcement of a number of new government funding programs.” Great, you might be thinking, but what if my boss likes our office air conditioned, our windows closed and our opinions on energy use kept to ourselves? If you can’t march back into work tomorrow and demand an environmentally-conscious overhaul, there are always smaller things you can do that will still make a difference. The classic suggestion, echoed by the Green Building Council of Australia, is to turn off your electronic devices and lights when they’re not in use, especially overnight and on weekends. The council also mentions the simple yet effective wonders of double-sided printing, low water use settings on office kitchen devices, and desk-side recycling bins. Hardly new or revolutionary ideas, but worthwhile all the same. After all, even a few stars are better than none.
In the unassuming location of Thynne Street, Belconnen, stands Block E of Trevor Pearcey House, home to the offices of Australian Ethical Investment. Trevor Pearcey House also happens to be only the third building in Australia to have been awarded a six star green rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. Six stars is as many as a building can have, and puts the building in the World Leadership category in terms of its environmental impact. The rating was awarded in 2007 after the building’s refurbishment, and takes into account everything from energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to air ventilation and internal noise levels. So, what makes this building so special, and why can’t we all work in such ecologically-conscious office spaces? Anne O’Donnell, CEO of Australian Ethical Investment, suggests that becoming a six star office is actually quite an achievable goal. “We’re a medium sized company. If we can do this, there’s absolutely no reason why bigger companies and government can’t do the same.” O’Donnell points out that there’s nothing particularly ‘hi-tech’ about the building. In terms of temperature control, for example, it’s the building materials that do nearly all the work. “The number of times the air conditioner has been switched on in the two years we’ve been here could be counted on two hands,” O’Donnell says. Greener still, the office building is full of recycled materials, from the carpet to the bike shed. “Even the artworks around the office are on recycled server room tiles, and we’ve got a feature wall made from recycled crates,” O’Donnell explains. “There’s a misconception that recycled products look tatty, but ours is a clean, professional looking office.” The building also boasts a 75 per cent saving in energy and water use, but, O’Donnell points out, was held 47
F4(7 or f1(710|\|? by Nick Ellis They are coming. The invasion happens innocently—a friend asks you to look at a photo or a funny picture, and before you know it, they’re in. They scurry around your personal files, scouring them for anything that looks like it could be useful. They reproduce, you start infecting your friends, and pretty soon everyone you know is zombified, their personal data leaching out to Eastern European criminals who sell it off to the highest bidder… It’s fun writing nightmare computer virus scenarios; they’re one of the few ‘future’ ideas that behave in a science fiction manner, and describing how they work ends up sounding like the plot to the next Terminator movie. However, it isn’t nearly as fun to find you’ve been infected, and increasingly, the infection can have some serious symptoms.
The big news recently has been Conficker (AKA Downup, Downadup and Kido), a particularly clever virus that hides itself on infected computers, spreads by almost any means it can (email attachments, infected USBs, even its own secret peer-to-peer network) and blocks you from visiting sites that can get rid of it. It also checks for updates or instructions from various internet sites—the much publicised April 1 update upped that number of sites to 50,000. Conficker checks a random 500 of these each time it connects to the net for new instructions, software updates and more nefarious ways to avoid detection (and even though nothing appeared to happen on April 1, that doesn’t mean it won’t start any time after [which also means that turning your computer off on April 1 only protected you on April 1—April Fools indeed]). As of this writing, conservative estimates put worldwide infections at 9 million computers, including government computers in the UK and defence networks in the UK, France and Germany. Computer viruses used to be about bragging rights or causing havoc; ‘l33t’ (an internet corruption of ‘elite’) hackers would write code 48
that could turn off someone’s monitor, wipe their hard drive, or similar, to prove to their peers that they could. But as more people started using computers to complete everyday transactions— especially financial transactions—hackers started to realise that there was a profit to be made. Why wipe someone’s hard drive when you could pull their credit card details off it? This possibility of profit also started gaining the interest of organised criminals, who started to fund hackers to provide them with the useful information. Today you can buy a botnet (the sort of operation mentioned in the opening paragraph) for roughly $300 AUD per 1000 infected computers (the actual prices can fluctuate massively; black markets tend not to be regulated). Once information has been taken from the botnet, a test transaction of a dollar is taken. If that works, the hackers start maxing out the accounts. Think about the limit on your credit card, times that by one thousand (even if the hackers haven’t taken card numbers off all the computers, most people have more than one credit card) and $300 suddenly seems like a pretty good investment.
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