Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Not Quite The Olympics - Part 2

Sorry, ran out of time on the Library computer I was using, so got caught short. Which leads me nicely to...

Accompanying the fanfares, the rebuilding and restructuring, and the cynicism, there are scare stories emerging, such as emergency blood supplies not being sufficient [those discuses have sharp edges, you know... and as for the javelins...], transport inadequacy [despite the fact that the venues are public transport only, with no public parking in an effort to reduce the potential congestion], not enough taxis... and most bizarrely, not enough toilets. Melbourne is having to import portaloos from overseas, screamed the headlines over the wee-kend.

Now, public toilets are a bit of an area in which I have expertise, although not in a George Michaelesque way, of course. Holding on [ahem] to the adage that, having attained a certain age, it is foolish to turn down any opportunity to use the facilities when they are available [safety first, fun last], I can confidently say that public loos are easy to find here, with lots of shopping malls, train stations and other places having adequate [sometimes spectacular] and abundant venues with which to powder one's nose or other protuberances. And, as my ever-wise spouse rightly commented, if Manchester can manage it...

The gentrification process has included spending something in the region of a million dollars [£420,000] on cleaning up graffiti. This follows Australia's recent banning of a Playstation game that encourages players to "tag" a fictional city, lest it encourages its advocates to take up the physical challenge and get out their aerosols. The counter-argument is, of course, that shoot-em-ups and driving stolen cars very fast [GTA etc.] are all sold here, as its consumers are presumably too smart to try to do the real thing once they have a taste for guns/speed. Perhaps a more symbolic ban of a niche game with a limited market than something that is consistently maintained against what is deemed anti-social behaviour.

Now, Melbourne has a thriving and well-organised alternative / anti-establishment culture that does not trust, and actively opposes, "The Man" [i.e. governments, rich people, or anyone who has disproportionate power at their disposal], and part of that includes graffiti artists. The laneways of Melbourne have an abundance of often witty and creative [although, it must be said, not always so] "urban art", that eschews much of the random and repetitive "tagging" [kind of like marking your territory with your name or initials] that appears around much of the world's major cities. See Banksy for really fantastic examples of a [UK-based] graffiti artist who challenges the status quo with his political art. His book is also recommended, and available here [ah, but you have to pay The Man to get it. Tricky business, anarchy].

So, can you guess what their response is to the clean-up, or more specifically to the Victorian Government's trumpeting of its zealous "zero tolerance" to any form of urban art? Yep, they've declared war, of course. More specifically, they've declared a competition called the "Graffiti Games 2006" [can you see what they've done there?], with [presumably symbolic, or perhaps painted] medals for stencil, slogan and graffiti works about the city centre, particularly rewarding complicated, humourous or daring art, including caricatures of... you guessed it, local dignitaries. "The Man" has, quite inevitably, gone utterly ballistic, describing the artists as "Neanderthals, losers, mindless idiots". Oo, get her.

The fact that the quite appalling, tacky, sanitised and terribly 70s-retro brown-and-beige-with-a-bit-of-glitter [and actual no glamour] monstrosity that is the Crown Casino, the star [piece] of Melbourne's South Bank, continue to exist, makes you think that perhaps these graffiti chaps may have a point after all. A carbuncle, a blot on the landscape, a vision of hell - none of these descriptions captivate the sheer appallingness of the place.

So I say, and I think I'm unanimous, not to say unilateral, in saying this, Let The Games Begin!

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