31 December 2007

New Year's Eve in Sydney, apparently

How we celebrate the New Year in Sydney, according to the website of the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India:

New Year is celebrated with great enthusiasm and gaiety by whole of Sydney. January 1 is the New Year's day in Australia as per the Gregorian Calendar. New Year Celebrations end on January 6.

All discotheques, pubs, clubs, hotels, party halls and even beaches are crowded with party maniacs. As soon as church bells ring at 12 midnight, everyone start producing loud noises with trumpets, drums, horns, etc and wish each other Happy New Year.

More than 80,000 fireworks lit the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. The splendid view enthralls the crowd leaving a memorable impression in their minds. The fireworks lit on the New Year's Eve can be seen from a 16 km radius around Sydney. A brilliant work of vocalists and the soundtrack made by the Sydney Council creates a perfect New Year aura. Then comes the Sydney New Year beach Party in a row. One must not forget to go for a cruise ride aboard some of the popular New Year Cruises.
Church bells? Book those cruise ride tickets now, party maniacs.

30 December 2007

2007: the year in tech

XO-1 laptop
Unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, the $100 laptop for children in developing countries went into full-scale production on 6 November this year. It uses flash memory instead of a hard drive and is equipped with a video camera, microphone, long-range Wi-Fi and a hybrid stylus/touch pad. All its software will be free and open source. You can donate one at One Laptop per Child.

Apple iPhone
If you can sell 270,000 products at $599 in the first 30 hours of release, you know every cent of your marketing budget was well spent. The most hyped product of the year was launched into an eager fanboy market and garnered lots of initial praise for its design innovations. A few weeks later, however, the dust settled and the reality emerged: tied to one carrier without 3G, crappy camera, the same battery trouble as iPods, overheating ... the list went on. The second-generation iPhone is on its way in 2008 – and, knowing Apple, the third, fourth and fifth as well.

It poked the world and the world loved it. Facebook has more than 58 million users and another 250,000 join every day. Microsoft bought a minority stake for $240m, putting its valuation at $15bn. Its 23-year-old founder, Mark Zuckerberg, sat next to Rupert Murdoch at Herbert Allen's Sun Valley conference. Simple to use and elegantly designed, users don't show signs of fighting its walled-garden approach. Yet.

When MIT unveiled its wireless electricity by lighting a 60W light bulb from two metres away – and through a wall – it signalled the death knell of rechargers. Expect commercial versions in three years. It turns out old Nikola Tesla had it right all along.

If you told me 10 years ago that a Nintendo system would be the best-selling game console I would have smacked you upside the head with an N64 cartridge. But the Wii turned out to have appeal beyond traditional gamers. It's the first time a product has been the Christmas must-have two years running, outselling the PS3 six to one. Amazon sold 17 every second in December and Nintendo admits it can't keep up with demand.

TV 2.0
Still in its infancy, the convergence of broadcast television and the internet will be huge news in 2008. Joost – from the people who brought you Skype – and video-on-demand services like the BBC's iPlayer are just the beginning.

The Google phone
Coming soon: not a piece of hardware but Google AdWords-supported software that will result in free mobile calls. Ads on your phone as a step forward? I'd rather pay.

29 December 2007

2007: the year in fashion

Not exactly a stellar year for fashion – you have to wonder what 2007 will be mined for in retro fads of the future. Anyway, here's my take on the good, the bad and the just plain ugly.

The handbag It reigned supreme, again, as the must-have accessory. Big, buckled, rivetted and studded. The rule seemed to be the smaller the woman, the bigger the handbag. Next up: the sleek clutch returns.

Peep-toed platform heels When did toe cleavage come back? And why? Cute on very pretty feet and good for added height and ventilation but enough, already. Next: architecturally high stilettos.

Silver ballet slippers The flattest flat imaginable in the cheapest-looking fabric imaginable. Did you see one pair that looked decent after a couple of wears? No more silver anything. Next: the gladiator sandal.

Black tights under everything Or worse: black leggings under everything with a pair of silver ballet flats at the end. Why not just wear trackie daks – they're just as ugly. If you don't want to shave your legs or you're cold, wear jeans.

White sunglasses Although last season's Yoko Ono-esque windshields were still popular – it seemed every second head was a double-sided Dior billboard – the retro appeal of white-framed Wayfarers won the style wars. Next: more of the same in Pop colours.

Red lipstick Dior redeemed itself for the enormous sunglasses with the best red lipstick ever, Rouge Dior in Red Premiere. Perfectly applied with a lick of mascara, a timeless, elegant look.

Short black nails Thank you, Kurt Cobain. Next: indigo nails.

Dead-straight long hair A boom year for GHD straightening irons. Less torture and maintenance is the key to 2008's looks, from Victoria Beckham's "Pob" and pixie cuts, to the return of the layered shag. Brunettes will rule.

Fake tans Every fake tan, regardless of brand or method of application, uses dihydroxyacetone to turn you that delightful shade of orange. Fake tanners weren't fooling anybody. Next: skin-coloured skin.

The jewelled neckline Everyone was turning out this dress-'n'-jewellery combo. It was one degree of separation away from being BeDazzlered. Next: actual jewellery – pendants that sits on the decolletage, to be exact.

For men: the suit and tie The strongest year for the suit and tie in years. Justin Timberlake performed most of his concert in a three-piece suit. Two buttons, skinny tie, and it's still dressy chic with a waistcoat and no jacket. Bye, bye, sportswear.

28 December 2007

2007: the year in viral videos

If you missed any of these during the year – really, where were you? – click on the titles to watch.

"Leave Britney alone!"
One train wreck defending another.

Miss South Carolina Teen USA
"U.S. Americans" can't identify the U.S. on a map because some of them don't have maps. Genius.

Filipino prison Thriller video
Rehabilitation with an MTV edge.

Funny baby

Dramatic prairie dog
Five seconds that became a meme.

2 girls 1 cup reaction videos
Taping reactions to a coprophragia video was the YouTube meme of the year. Link goes to the first one posted.

Chocolate Rain
Tay Zonday's song you can't get out of your head.

Vote different
DIY political attack advertising.

The Landlord
Will Ferrell negotiating the rent with a little girl.

27 December 2007

2007: the year in buzzwords

bacn n. Impersonal e-mail messages that are nearly as annoying as spam but that you have chosen to receive: alerts, newsletters, automated reminders and the like.

crowdsource v. To use the skills or tools of a wide variety of freelancers, professional or amateur, paid or unpaid, to work on a single problem.

global weirding n. An increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed to global warming. This includes freakish weather and new animal migration patterns.

I-reporter n. CNN’s name for citizen journalists who submit their own photographs and reports about news events.

lolcat n. On the Internet, an odd or funny picture of a cat given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters. Originally called a cat macro.

mobisode n. A short version of a full-length television show or movie, suitable for playing on a mobile phone or other hand-held electronic device.

mom job n. A package of cosmetic surgery procedures that will reduce the visible effects of childbirth, like stretch marks or sagging.

nose bidet n. A neti pot or nasal irrigator, said to help with allergy symptoms.

pap v. To take a photograph of someone or something, usually used to refer to paparazzi, from which the word is derived. Also as a noun.

vajayjay v. Euphemism for vagina, popularized by Grey's Anatomy and then Oprah.

vegansexual n. A person who eats no meat, uses no animal-derived goods and prefers not to have sex with non-vegans.

26 December 2007

2007: the year in news

The top 10 Australian news stories of 2007 tracked by Media Monitors. The numbers are total mentions across print, radio, television and internet.

1. Drought/water supply – 487,866
2. Climate change – 359,872
3. Industrial relations laws – 332,940
4. Iraq – 330,158
5. Federal election – 299,076
6. Interest rates/housing affordability – 216,356
7. Equine influenza – 169,333
8. APEC – 161,556
9. David Hicks – 161,228
10. Dr Mohamed Haneef – 150,053

25 December 2007

Spoilt for choice

You know we live in a wonderful world when you consider how many different brands of fake vomit are available.

24 December 2007

Strictly No Photography

Strictly No Photography is a new photo-sharing site for photographs taken in places where you are not allowed to take them.

It also has a great album of photographs of No Photography signs, here.

23 December 2007

The potato: no longer humble

The United Nations has declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato.

“The celebration of the International Year of the Potato will raise awareness of the importance of the potato – and of agriculture in general – in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment.”

People are being encouraged to help promote it, with this caveat:

“Please note that the logo cannot be used to promote deep-fried potato products.”

So, there’ll be no French fries or hash browns with that, thank you. (In the US, French fries, potato chips and things like Tater Tots account for 61% of the country’s 23 million ton annual potato crop.)

Official International Year of the Potato site here.

For the record, the UN has also declared 2008 the International Year of Planet Earth, International Year of Languages and International Year of Sanitation. The EU has declared it European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, while here it will be Australian Year of the Scout.

22 December 2007


"I just finished putting these back after the last quake."

Penny Walsh, a librarian at the local library in Gisborne, New Zealand, which was hit by a 6.8 earthquake on Thursday and a 4.8 one today.

21 December 2007

The Obelisk's sesquicentennial

The Obelisk in Hyde Park at the intersection of Elizabeth and Bathurst Streets is 150 years old this month.

I thought it was just an odd Victorian monument, but it turns out that it’s actually a sewer vent. That explains the filagreed finial. It's not solid – it's a chimney.

It was built to protect sewage workers from the accumulation of poisonous gases. From an 1894 council report: "The Obelisk causes a splendid draft in Pitt Street sewer – the foreman reports it is difficult to keep a candle alight when working in same."

It was unveiled in December 1857 by the then Lord Mayor, George Thornton. Soon after it became known around town as “Thornton’s Scent Bottle”.

Photo taken in 1954 – note the overhead tram wiring. Click to enlarge it.

20 December 2007

Lacroix's Histoires de Mode

Christian Lacroix has been packing ’em in at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs with a show he’s curated demonstrating fashion’s merry-go-round of styles and themes. “An eternal renewal,” he calls it.

He spent every Friday for two years in the Musée’s archives, fulfilling a student dream to be a museum curator.

Whittling down 80,000 costumes to 400 pieces, including some of his own, he mixes the centuries up in sections like “cobwebs,” “flowers,” “graphics,” “patchwork” and “stripes.”

You can see a few examples here. Click on “Diaporama” on the left for a slide show.

19 December 2007

Colour of the Year 2008

Pantone has announced its colour of the year for 2008.

Oh — it's blue . . .

Specifically, it’s #18-3943 Blue Iris.

Why? Let’s ask Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute:

"As a reflection of the times, Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspect of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.”

#18-3943 Blue Iris takes the crown from 2007 colour of the year, #19-1557 Chili Pepper.

18 December 2007

The Pit of Death

A local mystery.

This photograph was taken in 1970 on Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross. If you know the area, it’s where the Coles supermarket is now, under the Coke sign.

The Pink Pussycat is in the background, at number 88, above the Top of the Mark restaurant (formerly the Hasty Tasty). The sloping shopfront is WA Grubb butchers, at number 86.

What on earth was The Pit of Death?

17 December 2007

What Would Jesus Wear?

What all the cool Christian kids are wearing this season.

16 December 2007

Pop til you drop

The latest fast-food treats to be unleashed on the American public are these cute little devils from the Arby’s chain called “Cheesecake Poppers”. It’s cheesecake filling inside a sweet biscuit crust, deep-fried in their entirety and served with a raspberry dipping sauce.

One of the places serving them up, Sonic (“America’s Drive-In!”), is selling them like this:

During a season when most of your time is spent treating everyone else, maybe you should think about givin' a little something to numero uno (that's you). Think of it as a convenient indulgence that you can pop while you shop this holiday season. After all, an index finger and an opposable thumb are the only utensils required.

You’ll also be needing that index finger and opposable thumb to call an ambulance on your mobile.

All up, this “little something” is packing 1680 calories, just 320 calories – a large Coke – short of a physically active woman’s entire daily needs. There’s 90g of fat, including 6g of trans fat and 270mg of cholesterol, 80g of sugar and 1450mg of sodium.

That’s 50% more fat than you need for a whole day, 60% of the sodium and almost all the cholesterol. For 1680 calories the RDI is 19.3g of dietary fiber; these have 6g. “Convenient indulgence” is right, so long as you don’t stick anything else in your mouth for the rest of the day and half of the next.

On the plus side, the dipping sauce contains 58% of your RDI of Vitamin C.

Would you like Type 2 diabetes with that?

15 December 2007

Tom Luscombe, photographer

My friend Tom Luscombe has a new site showcasing some of his brilliant photographic work.

Go take a look, here.

14 December 2007

Défense de fumer!

The French are giving up smoking in cafes, with new laws coming into effect on 1 January. Everywhere else in the world, the ban has been on public health grounds. Only in France could it become a matter of philosophy.

Take Veronique Moran, 51, a regular at Le Cyrano on the Place de Clichy.

"Smokers are more passionate," she says. "We're more sensitive, we think about things and talk about things deeply, we get carried away, we rebel against things. The ban on smoking in cafés is the end of a type of person."

The owner of Le Panier, Olivier Colombe, puts it more bluntly. "All my customers smoke, all my employees smoke. What are we going to do?"

Suck it, Olivier.