Stones keep rollin on

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Stones in full flight last Wednesday night

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The famous logo shining out from Perth Arena

I have been fortunate (twice) to see the best rock and roll band that ever strutted the planet, the Rolling Stones, in concert.

The first time, 16th July 1990, at Cardiff Arms Park, was possible only because the band had to cancel a few Wembley gigs due to Keith Richards’s injured hand, meaning they threw on the Cardiff gigs. I happened to be back in the UK and jumped at the chance.

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Jagger strutting as Jagger does

The second time, last Weds, only happened because their initial date in March was postponed due to the sudden death of Mick Jagger’s partner.

I had tickets but had sold them to a friend as the date clashed with something I could not get out of. The rescheduling allowed me to see them for a second time last week.

No more Bill Wyman, but they did bring on Mick Taylor (at 65, the youngest of them, although he did not look it, having been their guitarist before Wood from the death of Brian Jones in 1969 up to 1974). Some say Taylor was the best guitarist to have ever played with them. Judging by this performance, his effortless blues riffs were incredible, and a stand out of the night.

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Keif slow-mo’g a chord

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Charlie purse lipped

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Ronnie being Ronnie

Considering they were fantastic 24 years ago (when they were each in their mid to late 40s), I was not expecting too much this time around, now they are in the 70’s.

But Jagger stole the show, as always, with his trademark walk-skip as he moved around the stage, running around the elongated tongue extension stage all night.

Richards sort of played in slow motion, emphasising each chord, like a modern day blacksmith.

Ronnie Wood, too cool for school with a trademark ciggie perpetually struck out to one side rebel style, slung his axe to the side making faces at the crowd.

Charlie Watts, pursed lips, thwacked away with minimal of flourish, and maximum effect. Being a drummer, I watched Watts closely.

But you couldn’t keep your eyes off Jagger. A consummate showman.

He was off for 2 songs (note to all: Keith Richards, bless his little cotton socks, is one of the worst singers you will ever pay to listen to), but when Jagger came back on, the show soared again.

How 70 year olds can be so nimble, so cool, so professional… it was inspiring stuff.

If I have half their agility at their age, I’ll be more than happy.

Roll on.

Nice bucket challenge

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The #icebucketchallenge is the viral social media event of the year, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few weeks, you’ve probably seen countless videos in your news feeds or read about it online, in the paper or on TV news.

I succumbed last Sunday. My kids enjoyed the set up and execution, and one of the three people I challenged completed it within 24 hours. I’d first noticed it a week or so ago and now it’s reached saturation. The US charity that benefits has had $100million in donations in a month, more than twice what it raises in a normal year. Last week the UK charity’s website had more hits to its web site in one day last week than it receives in a year.

Along with the fun and good cause came the inevitable criticisms – of wasting fresh water, high % of donations going to admin, the narcissistic show-offs and icebucketchallenge fails. One of the founders of the challenge actually died (in an unrelated diving incident) earlier this month. He had started the whole thing to raise awareness and donations for a 20 year old friend who had just been diagnosed.

Motor neuron disease (which is also referred to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, sometimes Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a particularly nasty and progressive muscle wasting disorder for which there is no known cure, and usually leads to death inside three to five years. I have known 2 former colleagues who succumbed to MND, and the pain and anguish of their loved ones was terrible to bear as they saw these fine people literally waste away. Steven Hawking is one of the most famous people afflicted. He is one of the 4% that last over 10 years – he has lived over 50 years with it having been told he had 2 years at best. He (of course) also did the challenge.

While the repetitive challenges across social media (amusing at first) might be wearing thin for some, and be annoying for others, there is no doubt that a huge increase in awareness regarding this terrible disease has resulted, plus extra millions has been raised. This has to be good. Yes, some people do the challenge to show off, but the whole idea of the challenge had this at its centre, and is why it went viral. It included video (so easy to do now on your phone, click, up it goes to facebook or instagram) and the chain-mail letter idea of challenging 3 others meant it mushroomed. It also brought the world together a little bit – I’ve watched challenges of rock stars, politicians and adults and kids from all over the world. I’ve seen school and Uni friends I’ve not seen in decades do it, friends of friends and others.

The challenge has resulted in various forms of humblebragging (people trying to act humble but showing off – it is public after all), jealousy (people decrying the whole thing with aloof protest) and not a little creativity (my favourite being India’s rice bucket challenge, where Indians give poor people a bucket of rice and challenge others to do likewise).

Making this all possible of course is social media; none of the this would have happened without the connected world we live in; and for one thing, I prefer a connected world, to one where everyone is disengaged and removed.

Do the challenge or not; no skin off my nose – but all along, you can but marvel at its scope and power. If it helps find a cure for ALS, who are we to argue?

For more on ALS and to donate: http://alsa.org

Another thing happened at Stirling Station

I often take the train from Stirling Station into work in the city, but I was not there earlier this week when a commuter got his leg stuck in the gap between the edge of the platform and the train. (see video above, or click here).

Poor chap – he was one of the last onto a packed train, and stood on the door opening, only to slide down and get lodged. He could not free himself, but within minutes all the passengers got off the train and without any fuss carefully pushed it over so he could get his leg out. All ended happily, and he walked free, a little bemused and embarrassed and took the next train into work.

Such is the speed of our human connectivity, the video and the news of the escape shot around the country being featured on all the WA and Aussie media outlets such as ABC, and then off around the world including the UK, Iran, India and Russia.

About a week earlier I was standing on the same platform, waiting for a train to work. As the crowds gathered in the gloomy light, the train arrived, completely packed. Hardly anyone got off, so hardly anyone could get on. Me, and about 200 people had to let it pass. Another came and went. Same story. I wondered why Transperth would be putting on so few trains (and only 3 or 4 carriages per train) at rush hour when there were so many people waiting at our station? Then a familiar voice said ‘hello’ and it was Chris Baudia, CEO of GeoMoby – a Perth based tech startup company. We squeezed onto the next train, and had a quick catch up. Chris has recently flown to Seoul and won a global hackathon – yes, won the whole dang thing, against 2000 participants from all over the world no less. A few days later I am standing in the kitchen at Spacecubed (the centre of the start-up community in Perth), and I notice Chris’ award tamely sitting there on a side table. Such a modest fellow, our Chris.

So, here’s to Chris, GeoMoby and the spirit of the start-ups. They do amazing things, with no budget, and are forever pushing envelopes. And here’s to the wonderful Perth people who pushed the train together to free that guy at Stirling station. As an Iranian said on a blog regarding the incident: “Aussies are good when it comes to working together to get something done, even if its (sic) something unplanned and needs to be done immediately.

My only quibble – do you think Transperth could lay on more or longer trains so people don’t have to be crammed onto them? It would prevent someone getting their leg stuck again (or worse), and the ridiculous waste of time waiting for a 3rd train before having a hope of getting on. Too much to ask…?

The Night we dined with Dame Edna

{ Lisa and I with the Grand Dame, on stage, March 1999 }

{ Lisa and I with the Grand Dame, on stage, March 1999 }

Fifteen years ago, Lisa and I attended an unforgettable ‘Night with Barry Humphries‘ at the Regal Theatre with a few friends. Having just graduated with my MBA I was back teaching full time and for some reason I was not enjoying it anymore. I didn’t know why, but I was getting around to the notion that a career change might be in order. A night out with Dame Edna and other characters would be the levity I needed.

As we took our seats (in the second row) a sinking feeling came upon me. Known for ripping into his audience and making them part of the ‘entertainment’, I was not sure I was in the mood for public humiliation. The first half proceeded without incident, although I do remember that Mr Humphries was looking in my direction every now and again – sizing up his prey no doubt for the second half?

My worst fears were realised as Dame Edna bounded out to the second half with the lights going UP on the first rows of the audience. We suddenly felt very exposed, and increasingly, warm. A few minutes in, the Dame went along our row asking whether we’d had anything for dinner. As it got to me I blurted out something or other and for some reason this got a laugh. Edna rounded on me, inviting me to give more details, and wondering aloud if we might still be hungry. “Oh, they really are a lovely couple, ladies and gentlemen, shall we order them a meal?”. This he promptly did, live on stage. A gold plated telephone was produced on a silver platter: “Oh hello? Is this the Subi hotel? Agh yes, this is Dame Edna Everidge here, and I would like to order a chicken pasta, with a nice bottle of white, and a salad for this charming couple …”.

‘You’re in for it now‘ my friends whispered. We sunk lower in our chairs. Dame Edna continued her routine. About 20 minutes later the meal arrived and was set up on a table to the right hand side of the stage, red and white checked table cloth and all. “Agh where’s the lovely couple?” asked the Dame, and we were enticed up onto the stage.

Now I was quite used to performing, and ‘sort of OK’ with this, but I was more worried about Lisa, who I knew might not be relishing what was about to happen. The old pro in Barry Humphries instinctively sensed this planting a huge lipstick kiss on her cheek (see photo) and making us both feel very much at home. He sat down with us at the table on stage, carried on with his act, and kept what I can only describe as a ‘motherly interest’ in how our meal was going over the next 40 minutes (I was too nervous to eat, but I enjoyed a few glasses of wine) .

We had the best seats in the house – on stage! He was masterful in his performance, and seeing it up close like this was a special treat. I don’t think Lisa or I will ever forget it.

What a pro.

What was even weirder was later that night, on returning home I listened to a message on the phone. It was Nick, someone I’d got to know on the MBA, who had had a business idea for an online map-based real estate business. “It’s a great idea Charlie“, the message went on, “you and I have gotta do it“.

Yes, the same night as being hauled on stage with Dame Edna, the ‘aussiehome.com’ idea was born. I was ready for the change, and as the Dame was used to saying, “That’s spooky darling”. Sometimes things just happen, and in the strangest ways.

The airport lounge waterfall

March 22nd, 2010, Perth. The largest storm in 50 years tears through suburbia leaving a $100mn clean up operation. The largest hail stones ever witnessed in Perth (upwards of 6cm wide) fell with relentless force in under an hour, knocking out power to 150,000 homes. In some areas 55mm of rain fell in one hour, some places experienced 27mm deluges in under 10 minutes.

All of this was behind me as I drove eastwards out to the Perth domestic airport to catch my flight to Kalgoorlie. A 5pm flight was due to get me in the mining town an hour later, giving me a few hours to wander through the place before my training day the next morning. I could see there was a storm coming, but was only to know later that my colleagues’ cars left in the carbays at work were to be ruined by hailstones the size of golf balls, which pummelled everything in their path, stripping trees of their leaves which blocked drains and quickly led to flooding. The commute home for many was going to be a terrible one that evening.

Meanwhile at the airport, I parked in the long term carbays and tossed up whether I would walk to the terminal, but seeing the oncoming dark clouds wisely plumped for the shuttle bus. It was about then the storm hit the airport, and 5 minutes later I dived in to the building to check in and offload the baggage. You could hear the storm the overhead and guessed we’d be delayed, but it was about 20 minutes later I saw the roof start to collapse inwards, and water pour in at various places. I was wondering if the planes were OK. Meanwhile, the lounge bar quickly gained an unplanned waterfall (see picture). Within minutes we were evacuated out of the building, and 5 hours later allowed back in to take our flight. I arrived at my Kalgoorlie hotel 6 hours late, only to find out they have messed up my booking. I think I got a room sometime around 2am.

I’ll never forget that day, as will few others who experienced it. On returning to Perth a few days later, the damage done by a ferocious hail storm was incredible to see. Pock marked cars were everywhere, car garages were giving away hail-damaged cars at ridiculous prices. Repair shops had months of queues. Leaves were piled up and strewn over the roads. Carports were down, windows smashed.

More pix on the storm here; video taken a few streets away from our office (amazing to think this is 4pm in the afternoon) here.

From obscurity they come

OK, if you’ve read any of these posts before you get the feeling I like the noble ancient game of cricket. Well, it’s summer here and the local team has just finished top of the league and has a home semi final tomorrow. But anyway… an ex student of mine (now all grown up in India, where they worship cricketers) emailed me a link to a video of a T20 game played in New Zealand last Friday.

In what was otherwise a nondescript game at the end of the world played in front of a few thousand lazing spectators, suddenly, a 19 year old substitute fielder (he wasn’t even on the team, he was there to help field if someone was injured) leapt like a springing porpoise and makes perhaps the most miraculous catch of all time. The video shoots around the world, and is posted on Youtube, and in the Guardian newspaper in Britain (literally, the other side of the world). Thence my ex student in India somehow sees it and emails it to me. I share it on my Facebook page and here I am blogging about it to you.

None (NONE) of this would have been possible 15 years ago, and little of it 5 years ago. If this catch had been taken back then, very few people would have seen the amazing exploits of Bevan Small, flying over the boundary rope and in one smack stopping the ball travelling for six (a maximum hit, equivalent to a baseball home run) knocking it back for another fielder to complete the catch. Because he throws it back before he lands over the rope and the other guy then catches it, that’s out! The umpires deliberate, we get to see copious replays and marvel at the feat.

And somehow, thanks to the power of internet media, we all get to see something quite inspiring. As do 1.5 million others (the number of views in a week it’s already had on Youtube).