What is Sweden good for?

I’ve just finished watching a programme about Abba and found myself wondering what else Sweden is known for. It took me a while but I thought of Ikea. Whether that’s good or not is debatable, but I had problems with coming up with more than Stockholm Syndrome, and unsurprisingly, Seasonally Affected Disorder. And then there are the high taxes, which lead to a mass exodus of high-earning Swedes.

Some deeper reflection on the subject and I remembered Coleslaw and Smorgasbords. And that just about summed up Sweden for me. Oh yes, there’s also its policy of neutrality during the Two World Wars, similar to Switzerland’s.

Why bother with books or bookshops?

This morning I decided I wanted to reread some of O.Henry’s short stories. I reached for my copy of his Complete Works and found it was heavy to hold. So heavy that I had to sit down with the hardcover copy I own because my hands were straining under its weight. As were my eyes because the print was so tiny it was uncomfortable to read. I usually have no problem with seeing normal print but this collection was impossible to enjoy.

So I went online to Amazon.com, downloaded “The Complete Works of O.Henry” for $1.99 to my Kindle electronic reader (E-Reader for short) and now I have no problems with the bothersome weight of hardcover books or microscopic fonts.

I am surprised by how I much I enjoy my Kindle because I’m not a naturally technical person. But I had to make the decision to give it a go when I found that the paperback edition of Dickens’ “Little Dorrit” was too awkward to manage. Holding it was a drag and turning the pages was cumbersome if you were trying to read in bed.

The Kindle is easy to use, easy to hold and can store a great number of books. Holding it in bed with one hand is a cinch, turning the pages is effortless and you can make the font as large or small as you wish. It is also marvellous for travelling or when you are sitting somewhere and waiting for an appointment.

I could go on forever about its virtues, but what I really want to say is that books cannot compete with the E-reader. No printing expenses, no transporting of books, no storage in bookshops and how about the price?

Books in Australia are ridiculously expensive and have always been dearer than overseas because of some arrangement with publishers. The end result of that arrangement is that the public has been ripped off for years. I used to go wild in the U.S and buy as many books as I could fit into my luggage because they were half the price that they cost in Australia.

Buying books online was the next step for me and I indulged in it. Did I want to support Australian publishers? Not for one minute, since they were quite prepared to charge us the Earth.

When E-Readers were introduced I did not rush out and buy one immediately. I thought about them for a while. Finally, I decided that the time had come to try one. And I haven’t been sorry. Now I can get all the famous literature for free because it’s out of copyright. I even pay for some books e.g “The Finkler Question” which won the Booker Prize this year. It cost $5.75. Wow!

There are several brands of E-Readers on the market and some have more features than the Kindle. I just happen to have chosen the Kindle for the time being. But even better E-Readers are coming and when they do I will not hesitate to invest in one. It’s still much cheaper then paying for the hard copy.

I imagine that the smaller I-Pad with illustrations and internet would be worth considering. At the moment the I-Pad is a bit too heavy, but if Apple can make it smaller and lighter as they have been suggesting I would be keen to get one.

Meanwhile, I will cuddle my Kindle in comfort.

What is wrong with the 2010 BMW Navigation System?

Imagine you are driving along the streets of Melbourne, Australia. You would like to know where you are. What suburb are you in?

If you are in the latest model of the BMW Series 5, forget it. The main screen will not easily display the suburb or the street you are in. To find out the name of the street you have to look at the adjacent split screen because the main screen will not give you that information. Moreover, neither screen will tell you what suburb you are in.

So you are stuck with only knowing that you are in High Street, Melbourne, for example, but this street is so long and cuts through so many unnamed suburbs that you are none the wiser. “High Street, where?” Malvern? Toorak? Prahran” Hawthorn? And then there’s the problem of other High Streets scattered all over Melbourne

Sure, the system can navigate you to a selected destination. It can even tell you what your altitude, longitude and latitude are, so that a search party may find you in the wilderness. BUT if you are just taking a normal drive in a city or town, then the screen will not tell you what suburb you are in.

This is very frustrating since we would like to know where we are. We don’t care whether we are 30 metres above sea level. Of what use is that to us for everyday driving? And why have the main street names on the screen been changed to numbers? Why do we have to look at the adjacent screen to translate what S21 or S26 refers to?

Ironically, in our previous Series 5 BMW we could look at the screen and read the name of the suburb and the street that we were in. In other words, we knew where we were and we knew which was the neighbouring suburb. After all, location, in my opinion, is just as important as destination when you are driving. Oh how I miss that!

I also miss the pleasant voice on the earlier model navigator. The current one is robotic and offputting. It always makes me bristle with an urge to stand to attention and click my heels.

I have no idea why BMW went backwards in this latest Professional Navigation System. They wanted a change, I guess, but not all change is for the better.

The rest of the car’s features are good. It’s beautiful to look at and drives well, but the problem with the navigator is constantly there, in your face, reminding you of its failing.

We have complained to BMW Australia and they told us we are stuck with it. What a pity!

Good riddance to FIFA World Soccer 2022!

I wish that Australia had not fallen for the bribery fest of bidding for the FIFA World Soccer competition in 2022. I wish that Australia had decided not to suck up to the selection committee. Instead, it should have taken the moral high ground and refused to pay for all those those greedy demands of the selectors. The entire process has an unpleasant stench about it.

We stooped to conquer and were outbid by those nations who were prepared to pay more to hold the soccer matches in their country. Surely, something that has to be bought from people who have demonstrated a lack of moral principles, should be rejected.

I would like to think that Australia is above such activities.

If you have to buy someone’s vote then you really can’t trust that voter. How do you know that the nation which has been bribed will not betray you? Well, you don’t know and that’s what happened to the U.K and to Australia. And I say it serves them both right.

What we have learned from the FIFA fiasco is that the selection process should be changed if the stink of corruption is to be eradicated. In future, perhaps a few interested nations who can provide the facilities should throw their names into a hat and then the winner will be randomly drawn out of it. This should offer poorer nations who love soccer a fairer chance at the “coveted prize”.

Better still, isn’t it time we grew up and stopped competing over stuff that’s as trivial as hosting a ball game? The cost of selling your soul for that privilege is way too high.

It’s time to talk about moving forward.

Whenever I hear the words, “Moving Forward” I want to throw up. Flashbacks of our Prime Minister droning on about moving forward will have that effect on me for many years to come. I can’t help it. She has totally ruined that phrase for me. It was the same with ex Prime Minister Rudd who used the word “robust” so often that I have had to cross it out of my lexicon. And then there’s “argy-bargy” which was done to death by the former Premier of Queensland and is being regurgitated by the current Premier, Anna Bligh.

Who can forget “incentivisation” or “incentivation”? Now that was trendy, wasn’t it and so corporate. The former Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, adopted the latter as his motto. Fortunately, it has gone with the wind.

The latest annoyance comes from the overuse of “paradigm”. We are served paradigms with breakfast, lunch and dinner. The politicians have grabbed hold of this term and will not let go of it. We have new improved paradigms, hormone-free paradigms, gluten-free paradigms, environmentally friendly paradigms. For crying out loud, give it a rest!

These politicians act like pit bull terriers. They latch on to a word until it becomes the mot du jour. Over and over and over again it will be repeated on TV and in the newspapers. It is mind numbing. I find that I don’t even listen to what they are saying because I’m too busy counting the number of times they have repeated that infernal word.

And so I come to the coup de grĂ¢ce… the phrase, “the elephant in the room.” Apparently, there is an elephant in the room. We don’t talk about it. We should because it’s there. What is? Well, the elephant is. It’s there but we are ignoring it. So when are we going to notice it or acknowledge it, whatever it is? I don’t know. Nor do I care. Let’s just go on to the next tedious phrase, shall we? Can we? Yes, we can… Oops…

The hills are alive with the sound of Julia Gillard

Poor Prime Minister Gillard. First, Hillary Clinton refers to Gillard’s nemesis, Kevin Rudd, as being the current Prime Minister of Australia. And now during the G20 meeting in Korea, we find an official display figurine of Prime Minister Gillard sporting the Aussie national costume. Except that it isn’t.

It’s definitely a dirndl which is worn in some parts of Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The costume consists of a bodice, blouse and full skirt and is very fetching indeed, but I can’t quite imagine the Prime Minister of Australia discarding her comfortable pantsuits for the colourful peasant garb.

I have to admit that there is a niggling desire in my mischievous mind to see her front up to an official G20 function in a dirndl. I guarantee that if she did that nobody would confuse Austria and Australia in the future. Go ahead and do it, Julia… please…

Film Critics should study the History of Cinema

It amazes me how film and TV critics reveal their lack of knowledge of the medium. They come out in praise of ancient filming techniques as if these were innovations.

Take “The Social Network” as an example of this.

I had to laugh when a film critic by the name of Adam Kamien actually described the use of actor, Armie Hammer, in a dual role of identical twins, the Winklevoss brothers, as “a stroke of genius.” This is hardly new nor is it a stroke of genius. Does anyone remember “The Patty Duke Show” (1963-1966)? It’s a very old and common device in movie production.

Personally, I picked that it was a dual role as soon as I saw the Winklevosses on the screen and no, I had not looked up the cast before going to the movie theatre.

The Social Network movie- a big yawn

Had it not been for the ABC’s “At The Movies” high rating for this film, I would not have thought of going to see it. However, when a film about the founder of Facebook receives a high five from a critic like David Stratton, then I am persuaded to give it a go. David had said that he had not expected to like “The Social Network” but was pleasantly surprised. I, on the other hand, expected to like this film because of his review but was very disappointed.

Why? Well, it seemed disjointed and poorly scripted. The main actor who played Mark Zuckerberg, was excellent. But the other actors resembled caricatures, monofaceted and so many of them overacted. It is not easy to make a story of a young man’s rise to fame and fortune tedious, but this film managed to do it.

We should have been fascinated by this “genius” but he seemed like he was just playing in the lost children’s section of Toys R US. Poor little hacker…

I found myself looking at my watch to see how long there is to go. There were some noisy coke (as in cocaine) scenes. The portrayal of young women in the film was abysmal. They all seemed to be rather sluttish, apart from the one who had broken Zuckerberg’s heart and sent him on the road to billions.

It was a rather sad and confusing movie which had much potential in the beginning but which failed to deliver. Having said all this, I realise that other reviews have been favourable and my opinion is not that of the majority.

I would even go so far as to admit that had I been watching “The Social Network” at home on TV I would have switched channels after the first dreary half hour, but you know how it is, I had paid for my movie ticket and by George I was going to get my money’s worth of suffering lol.

Tony Curtis made me do a double take last week

Many of us remember how good looking and affable Tony Curtis was. He was a mega film star in his day and with his passing last week we lost another great from the Golden Years of Hollywood.

No matter how successful Curtis was he never forgot his humble Bronx roots and that was part of his charm.

I did a double take when I read that he was buried with a copy of “Anthony Adverse.” For some reason I got the notion that “Anthony Adverse” had been written by Henry Fielding, the Eighteenth Century novelist responsible for “Joseph Andrews” and “Tom Jones.”

Well, it did sound like the sort of thing that Fielding would have written. It could even have been the work of Samuel Richardson, perhaps. Imagine my surprise that Tony Curtis would have chosen to be buried with a copy of an English Eighteenth Century classic!

I was amazed and very impressed to have learned of this facet of Tony Curtis’s character. I mean, not only was Tony a hunk but he was also an intellectual! I practically swooned. He wasn’t just a pretty face.

I decided to google “Anthony Adverse”……….