Apr 26
Family Ties
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My dad’s brother has long been interested in genealogy, the tracing of our family history. I recently found, in the Snubian archives, copies of some notes and papers detailing part of my distant ancestry. It makes for interesting reading.

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Brazel, pronounced to rhyme with hazel. If you trace the Brazel line (or Brazil, or Brasell, or a variety of other spellings) back three further generations you meet her great-grandfather, Michael Brazil.

Michael Brazil was born in Manchester, England, around 1814. He was a petty criminal who had already served a short stint in prison before he was sentenced to seven years for housebreaking and transported to Australia in 1833. As a convict he was assigned to a Mr Henry Baldwin at Windsor, north-west of Sydney. He received his ticket of leave in 1839, and his full freedom in 1841, at which time he took a lease on some land at Brookfield, in the Upper Hunter Valley north of Newcastle. This is where the story gets interesting.

Michael, now in his late twenties, married seventeen year old Rebecca Hampton, one of three daughters from a local farming family. She bore him three children before she died on Christmas Day, 1848. A coroner’s inquest was held as it appears the circumstances of the death were suspicious. The coroner eventually ruled that her death was from natural causes, Rebecca having been struck by lightning while ironing!

With three small children, the eldest having been crippled in an accident, it was necessary for Michael to re-marry, and quickly. The obvious choice was the late Rebecca’s sister, Diana. They were married in April 1849, when Diana was just fifteen years of age. Diana bore two more children to Michael, a daughter and a son, Alfred, who is my great-great-grandfather. Diana died tragically in childbirth, along with her baby Dinah, in 1855. She was twenty-one.

By this time Michael was around forty years old and had five children aged from two to fourteen. As a working farmer, for him to look after his family on his own would have been almost impossible. The records are ambiguous here, but there is evidence that Michael did marry again, this time to Mary Ann Hampton, sister of Rebecca and Diana and the sole surviving daughter in the family. Although there can surely be few men who have married three sisters, in the context of this story it makes perfect sense!

Michael and Mary – now in her late twenties – had no more children together, although there is a record of Mary giving birth to a child way back in 1845, with Michael listed as father. In 1845 Mary was just sixteen and Michael was married to his first wife, Mary’s sister Rebecca! I think Michael might’ve received a visit from Mary’s four brothers around that time too.

Michael died in 1885 and is buried in Coolongolook cemetery. Mary lived to see in the new century, passing away in 1900 in the town of Dungog.

As I said, it makes for interesting reading. There must be a novel in there somewhere!

Apr 20
Pig’s Arse!
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Yesterday we went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It was a lot of fun, we saw animal displays & woodchopping, ate too much food, and so on. One event, however, stands out above all others. I am talking about the racing and diving pigs.

I was very excited to hear that there would be diving pigs at the show. It has always been my dream to see a pig dive from a great height into a shallow body of water. And I have no ethical concerns – surely the pigs wouldn’t dive if they didn’t enjoy it, right?

Of course, human nature being what it is, the diving pigs are a huge crowd puller, and one of the most popular events at the show. Long queues form an hour before each exhibition, and in fact we were lucky to get in at all. The audience was crushed into the small arena. I sat cross-legged on the ground in the blazing midday sun along with dozens of others unfortunate enough to miss out on a seat.

Before the pigs came out to do their daredevil stunts we had to sit through the warm-up act. I forget the guy’s name now, but he was a somewhat grizzled singer-guitarist who chugged his way through a couple of toe-tappers (“See See Rider” and “Midnight Special”) with the aid of a backing tape. Talk about padding! I counted three separate guitar solos in the first number alone before I momentarily blacked out. I don’t want to contemplate how this guy feels when he looks in the bathroom mirror in the morning. “Is this what my life has become? Opening act for a diving pig.”

The racing pigs were next on the bill. A U-shaped sawdust track, about 25 metres long was the course for this display of porcine speed. Each section of the audience was given a pig to cheer for, so all my hopes were resting on Pig #1. After a poor start from his inside barrier, Pig #1 clung to the rail and hammered down the finishing straight to win by a snout.

The diving pigs were the headlining act, and so were last to perform. I’m sure the rest of the crowd, like me, were on the edge of their seat (those who were lucky enough to have a seat). Soon we would witness the absolute zenith of animal aerobatics, a plethora of pirouetting pigs, the Greg Louganis of the barnyard.

Let’s just say I was underwhelmed. Two pigs waddled out to the end of a gantry and tumbled into a small pool a few feet below. The first one looked decidedly freaked out by the whole affair, but the lure of food a few feet away was more powerful than its fear of a watery death. The second pig didn’t even pause before its jump, clearing most of the width of the pool in one leap.

Exciting as it was, it did not live up to the blurb on the Easter Show’s website, which promised that Smokey the diving pig would jump from a “platform 4.5 metres high”. As you can see from the video below, the platform is barely above head height, and the pool is only a few feet below that. Those lying bastards.

Apr 15

I am just listening to Holy Roller Novocaine, the debut EP by Kings of Leon. I was inspired to buy this when it came out in 2003, mainly because of the cracker opening track “Molly’s Chambers”. It’s two minutes and 18 seconds of ballsy, straight-ahead Southern Fried rock.

I didn’t really keep up with the band after that. But recently I was shocked to find what difference a few years in the “music industry” can make to a band’s appearance and sound.

This is how Kings of Leon looked circa 2003:

Then the record company got its hooks into the band. This is how they looked a few years later:

 

Is this an ad for Schick or Sunsilk?

I saw the above photo in the newspaper a year or so ago, to promote the band’s tour of Australia, and I honestly thought they had made a mistake and printed a promo photo of some ponced-up boy band. You may be familiar with Kings of Leon from their 2008 worldwide hit “Sex on Fire”, which is a favourite on Australian Idol, and almost as annoying as that Eskimo Joe song about black fingernails and red wine.

Now enjoy Kings of Leon as they were back in the day, playing “Molly’s Chambers” live on the Late Show.

This has been part 1 in the series “Why the Music Industry Sucks”.

Apr 13
From Russia With Hate
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Well, perhaps I spoke too soon. I have received another comment on the same post from the same Russian Snubian fan, though this time in English. It reads:

hm. luv it..

Clicking on the link attached to the commentor’s name leads to a commercial website. I have been fooled by the oldest trick in the book. A brief, generic yet flattering comment which in fact conceals a spam link. And I thought he liked my “Monkeying Around” post. Oh, the shame! I feel just like Jane Bennett when she gets fucked over by Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice.

Almost certainly my nemesis is part of a highly sophisticated gang of Soviet spammers, known to operate under the guise of an aged care facility in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Below is a photo taken during a recent undercover operation.

The poor dears are literally chained to their computers sixteen hours a day, forced to degrade themselves in all manner of online crimes. At the back stands the mastermind behind the operation, Yuri Dubbelclikov, international cyber-terrorist, wanted in 74 countries.

Apr 11

I recently received my first comment on Snubian in a language other than English. It appears to be Russian, or perhaps Martian. My new Russian friend left a comment on my post Monkeying Around, and says:

нда… актуальная тема  ..

… which Babelfish translates as:

[nda]… the vital topic

Not sure what the “[nda]” means, but by “the vital topic” (with a smiley face) I suspect that my comrade was jokingly alluding to the importance of my observations regarding human-simian relationships.

Hooray for glasnost!

Apr 10
A Night at the Opera (House)
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We went to the ballet last night at the Sydney Opera House, in the Opera Theatre, which is the smaller of the two big white, shell-like things. We saw the Australian Ballet performing “Firebird and Other Legends”, although I prefer the title “Ballet for Dummies”. And when it comes to ballet I am a total dunce.

The first performance was Les Sylphides, which is a non-narrative ballet (i.e. it has no story) with music by Chopin. The music was great, but I got a bit bored by the dancing itself. The dancers were dressed in tutus and tights – it looked just like real ballet!

After the first interval we saw Petrushka, which is the story of a puppet who comes to life. (Some people say Disney copied this story when they created Pinocchio, but those people are all dead or in jail.) I really liked Petrushka, because the dancers were in costume, and it had a story. The guy who danced the character of Petrushka was very good indeed. And the music by Stravinsky was great.

In the second interval Rach and I went outside and looked at the harbour, just like actual tourists. Then we went back in and saw the third performance, which was of The Firebird, also by Stravinsky. This was the highlight of the night, with the character of the Firebird danced by the Australian Ballet’s principal artist. She was tops! The story was a bit hard to follow; there is the Firebird, and also a strange lizard creature. The hero comes and releases a girl who is trapped inside a cage made of tree branches. A giant white egg sits at the back of the stage. I think everything turned out all right in the end though.

All in all, we both had a lovely night. We had cheap $28 tickets, so it was definitely a bargain. I also learnt a new word – “loge” – which is a fancy word for a private balcony. (It has a soft “g”, as in “luge”.) We were sitting in Loge A, although it’s far from private and our view was slightly obscured. But I had a good time anyway.

Let me finish by asking the immortal question: what is going on in the front of male ballet dancers’ tights? Why is the “package” of a danseur – or in Italian, ballerino - so large and well-shaped? Is it someone’s job backstage to “sculpt the bulge” (to coin a phrase)?

Some quick research leads me to the following conclusions:

  • all danseurs strenuously deny the use of supplementary padding to increase size, rather it is used for purely aesthetic reasons
  • the (ahem) testicles of the dancer must be tucked up somewhat to avoid being crushed between the legs during certain ballet moves – perhaps this is the origin of the term “Nutcracker”


Nureyev, the most famous bulge of all

Apr 4
Happy Birthday to Me
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Today is my birthday. I was born in 1970.

Also born on this day in 1970 was Michael Schwartz, aka Mix Master Mike. Here he is with the Beastie Boys in their clip for “Three MCs and One DJ”:

Not many interesting things have happened on my birthday. On 4th April 1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen officially formed Microsoft. On the same day in 1994 Netscape Communications was founded. Remember Netscape? On 04/04/1979 Heath Ledger was born. Yawn. Kenny Everett died on the day I turned 25. What a downer.

Today is the International Day for Landmine Awareness, so be aware boys and girls. Stick to the path. If you hear a click, don’t lift your foot whatever you do.

Apr 3
Jesus, I Trust in You
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Last night, Rach and I (isn’t it strange how many Snubian posts begin with those words?) had a lovely evening in the company of Jaye, Archduchess of Newtown. On the train home at around 10:30 PM, somewhere between Central and Strathfield, there appeared in our carriage a young man, who sat in a double seat a few rows away from us. He was carrying a large framed picture, probably 30 cm x 50 cm, which he carefully placed on the seat opposite him. This is the picture:

At the bottom of the picture, in a sort of scroll, were written the words “JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU”.

This struck me, and most other people who witnessed it, as a little bit odd. People would walk down the aisle, pause and do a double take at the picture, sitting propped up on the train seat. A drunk dude stumbled by and sat down next to the picture. He tried, unsuccessfully, to engage the young man in conversation, presumably to figure out exactly what was going on here. After an awkward few moments he got up and staggered off to find some other passengers to torment.

For those that don’t know, the order of stations on the express Northern Line train is Central -> Strathfield -> Epping -> Hornsby. Between Epping and Hornsby a pack of Cityrail Nazis invaded the train and began demanding to see passengers’ tickets. When they got to Religious Dude he dutifully held up a ticket. The ticket inspector looked at it, started to walk away, and then leaned in to take a closer look.

“This ticket is to Strathfield”, he said.

Interpretation: You bought a ticket from Central to Strathfield – the cheapest possible ticket – while intending to travel beyond Strathfield. If I had thirty pieces of silver for each time someone tried this trick I’d be a rich man, Jesus boy.

Religious Dude ummed and aahed and managed to concoct the following explanation: He actually wanted to get off at Strathfield, but had missed his stop.

Train Nazi was having none of this.

“But we’re past Epping now. Why didn’t you get off at Epping?”

Religious Dude had that one covered too. He was concerned that if he got off at Epping he would have trouble getting a train back to Strathfield, so he figured he would stay on the train until Hornsby and get off there. This is obviously a pile of steaming shite.

A brief discussion ensued, with the result being that Religious Dude could get off at Hornsby. Without a fine. I wonder whether he would’ve got off as lightly if he didn’t happen to be carrying a framed portrait of Jesus of Nazareth. Crooked cap and skateboard, BAD; picture of Jesus, GOOD.

But I ask you this: Whatever happened to “Thou shalt not steal”?

It turns out Rach is a distant acquaintance of Religious Dude. He lives on the Central Coast, so certainly would’ve travelled some distance on his commandment-breaking ticket scam. He is also apparently a Christadelphian, a wacky Christian group who believe, among other things, that Jesus will return to earth at some point to take control and get the whole Kingdom of God thing happening.

Whatever.