Friday, 25 April 2014


Dawn Service at Kings Park, WA.
Image from Wikipedia
I find it hard to fully get behind ANZAC Day.

On the one hand, I'm still a foreigner here in Oceania/Australiasia. I feel compelled to tell my friends and family back "home" (?) in the UK what life is like, both in Aus and New Zealand - like a BBC correspondent or Louis Theroux, talking about the language, culture, mindset, the things that matter to people here.

ANZAC Day is clearly and obviously one of them.

But I have problems with ANZAC Day the same way I have problems with Remembrance Day (Armistice Day, 11th November) in the UK. I've already written about White Poppies and 2 minute silences here, 4 years ago. Have a read. I still feel the same.

People who are very patriotic, very militant, or just don't know very much, will say these days are simple and should be simple. Remember our dead soldiers. Be thankful. Don't be selfish. They gave their lives for our freedom, it's really easy.

The problems arise when you think harder and understand that ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day honour soldiers (only soldiers) in wars which were, and are, complicated and political, and that the way we commemorate them is complicated and political too.

Both ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day are about military myths, but ANZAC Day is much more specific: for Australia and NZ, it is about myths of nationhood and nation-building.

While Australia and New Zealand both have separate national days (Australia Day and Waitangi Day respectively), ANZAC Day is more than just remembering the country's war dead. It was born from Australia and NZ's involvement in World War 1, and falls on the day of the Gallipoli landings, where the widespread understanding is that cowardly blundering British generals sent brave Aussie and Kiwi soldiers into a deathtrap.

I'm not going to go into the exact history. But the notion of sacrifice, which is important but vague for Remembrance Day, is absolutely essential for ANZAC Day. The idea of sacrifice is inherent to mainstream New Zealand's and (particularly) mainstream Australia's understanding of their own identity. For many people, Gallipoli and its sacrifice marks the moment both countries became separate from Mother England.

Ironically, the conservative Aussies and Kiwis who believe in this idea the strongest are usually the biggest supporters of Aus and NZ staying part of the Commonwealth and keeping the monarchy.

The service on ANZAC Day is typically at dawn (when the soldiers at Gallipoli were sent forth). I still haven't been to one yet. I'm not going tomorrow morning (in about 6 hours), largely circumstantially. I intend to go to one some day, although mainly as an observer, because like I say, I don't do well with either outdated rituals or glorifying the military, and just like Remembrance Day I believe ANZAC Day is both.

In my liberal, lefty, progressive bubble in Wellington, ANZAC Day was clearly seen as a political issue. But being here in Australia makes the whole of New Zealand look like a happy, relaxed, comfortable family in so many respects, and ANZAC Day is no exception.

In Australia everything is brasher, bolder, harsher and stronger, especially in politics, and certainly around ANZAC Day. When it comes to anything patriotic, Australia resembles our stereotypes of the USA - flags and bunting and parades override any meaningful discussion of national identity, government policy, terrorism and war.

For example, many will say ANZAC Day is a highly inappropriate and disrespectful day to criticise the government over its decision to pay $12bn for 58 fighter jets. (The Age has already removed all mention of this issue from its front page, just 2 days after reporting it, although there is a story on an ANZAC ghost and countless articles on the royal visit.) I would say it's a perfect opportunity.

Surely the best way to commemorate the war dead is to stop making more of them?

So this is why I find it difficult to sign up to ANZAC Day as just another of Australia and New Zealand's customs. In the same way that Aborigines still have no place in Australia Day, ANZAC Day can't just be accepted without question. It has worth, and it is valuable in some respects. But in other ways, it is confused, mythical, questionable and political, just like Remembrance Day.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

CULTUUR SUGOI. Time for a new album.

I'm making another album!

The working title is CULTUUR SUGOI. It's a nonsense name, but I like it.

It will be my 3rd album after WITHOUT FEAR (2009) and AIRFIX DEMOCRACIES (2012).

It will be fun, catchy indie-rock with a hint of punk. But you knew that already.

It will feature politics, science, space and animals. But you knew that already.

It will be all killer and absolutely no filler. But you knew that already.

It will be 12 tracks, like Airfix. Most are all written.

Below is some rubbish draft artwork. Expect something rad for the final version.

Expect the launch in October 2014.

Expect cool things before that.

I'm excited. Good thing I already started recording.

Australian Time Zones & Daylight Savings Explained: A Country Divided By Time

Clocks have just changed in (most of) Australia, so it's probably a good opportunity to cover time. Ladies and gents, buckle in: it's time to go to time!
Australian Time Zones

Australia has 7* main states/territories - think of them divided into 3 vertical areas:

- UTC** +8hrs Western Australia
- UTC +9.5hrs Northern Territory + South Australia
- UTC +10hrs Queensland + New South Wales + Victoria + Tasmania

Why are Northern Territory and South Australia +9.5 instead of +9?
Where is the +9hrs time zone hiding?
Sorry friends, that's a long and tedious story for another day.*

Daylight Savings in Australia

YES -> New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia
NO -> Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia

The YES states move clocks forward +1hr in spring (October), and back -1hr in autumn (April). So:

  • Queensland is +10hrs but stubbornly refuses to do daylight savings because it scares the pineapples
  • South Australia is +9.5hrs but does do daylight savings, because they're effeminate wine-drinking poufters like NSW and VIC

This creates the bizarre situation in summer where Brisbane (QLD) is 1 full time zone ahead of Adelaide, but Adelaide (SA) is 30mins ahead of Brisbane.

So if the sun rises at 6am in Brisbane, it rises 1hr later at 6:30am in Adelaide. It's like a magic trick! A really stupid, stupid magic trick.

Let's not forget the obvious issues too. Driving north from South Australia to Northern Territory means putting your clock back 1hr, and going from NSW to QLD means putting your clock back to 1956. (Oh, it's an old joke but I couldn't resist.)

Western Australia meanwhile has an entire time zone to itself and doesn't give a flying fox's arse what time it is on the East coast, or in fact anything about the East coast. To be fair they don't need daylight savings with it being so dark down in the mines.

Tasmania has a post-it note saying not to call New Zealand after 3pm (unless it's Snapchat).

And of course, The Weird Exceptions
And there you have it, time in Australialand. Confusing? Not really.

Next week: Australian public holidays! Because in case this post wasn't clear, Australia is barely even the same country.

* What's the difference between a state and a territory? Why isn't Northern Territory in line with South Australia? Do they really trade in bananas in Queensland? All these and more questions are part of Australia's Rich and Bizarre Colonial History***, which may or may not be covered in future blog posts.

** UTC is GMT, in case you hadn't worked it out. Most British people think that Britain invented time, and therefore all nations say "GMT" in submissive respect to the Throne Of Time in Greenwich, which naturally everyone has heard of. If you're not British, you know this isn't true. If you are British, pretend you didn't read this and keep clinging to miles and inches and furlongs like it's 1853.

*** According to Australian education, nothing actually happened before white people arrived.