Monday, December 30, 2013

14 Melbourne Things for 2014

  1. DF Tours
So you got a new camera for Christmas but have no idea what to do if you switch it from auto to manual. Join a photographic walking tour exploring some of inner Melbourne’s most famous and infamous locations and a few hidden gems. The two hour tour is also an ideal way for tourists to start their exploration of the city.

Tours will cover many of the camera’s functions as well as composition techniques. Tours start from Federation Square. Day and night tours available as well as private bookings.


  1. Bounce
Remember the sheer joy you experienced bouncing on the bed as a child, well now you can relive that feeling without the fear of being yelled at by your parents. Bounce has over 50 interconnected trampolines on its floors and walls as well as a 5 foot deep foam pit. Lessons are available, join the dodge ball league or just go their and release you inner child.

Must be 110cm tall, for general sessions, junior jumper groups available. Bookings are essential

from $15/hour

  1. Kayak Melbourne
Take a relaxing paddle down the Yarra River to see the sites of Melbourne CBD from a new perspective. No experience is necessary, kayaking provides an excellent opportunity to exercise and relax all at the same time. “Accidently” splashing each other is also a great way to cool down during the Australian summer.

A variety of tours are available of differing lengths. Day and night bookings available.

from $72 for 90min tour

  1. Cutler & Co
Fine dining without the pretence. Treat yourself!

Cutler & Co offer a la carte and degustation menus. For those on a tighter budget try their set Friday and Sunday lunch menus. The friendly atmosphere compliments the exquisite combinations of flavours of the food as perfectly as the wine selection.

Next door is the Supernormal Canteen, described as Cutler & Co’s experimental kitchen, is laid out like a casual dining café. Currently it is right next door to its parent restaurant in Fitzroy, but is cutting the apron strings and finding moving into its own place on Flinders Lane in March 2014.

$60/person Friday lunch

  1. Flying Trapeze
Remember sitting, eyes skyward, watching in awe as the men and women of the flying trapeze seemingly flew through the air? Here is your chance to do it for yourself. Classes teach basic techniques and even beginners will get the change to do a back flip and release in their first lesson. One off classes and term courses available.

Fly Trapeze also offers classes in a range of circus skills including acrobatics, tumbling and contortion. Stretch yourself, literally!

$89/2hr beginner class

  1. Kryal Castle
Kryal Castle offers jousting, knights, maidens, horses, torture, throne rooms and a hanging or two. Whilst the Kryal Castle experience is more A Knights Tale than Game of Thrones, this medieval theme park may just provide the escape from reality into Ye Olde times that is all the trend at the moment.

Sure the scenes might be a little cliché and the actors are not likely to win an Oscar® anytime soon. Recently renovated, Kryal castle is a full day’s activity for the whole family. Dinner shows and accommodation are also available

$17/child, $28.50/adult

  1. Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
Originally opened in 2008, for 40 days, it has been under repair for 5 years and is now back in business. The wheel is 120m high and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete a full rotation. The “flight” gives visitors the opportunity for uninterrupted views of up to 40km over Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay.

Each cabin can hold up to 20 guests. Take your camera and practice the skills you learned with DF Tours.

from $19/child, $26/adult

  1. Melbourne International Comedy Festival
One of the worlds premiere comedy festivals, MICF attracts some of the biggest names in the business. The festival boasts over 300 acts performing in rooms all over the city. Go and see the international artists or the household names from Australian TV and radio, sure, but this is a festival. Festivals also offer an opportunity to explore something new.

Comedy comes in many genres and all of them will be on display, as well as the big names the festival is full of new comers and artists still learning their craft. There will be some hits and misses but it these acts that will provide the biggest comedic surprises of the festival. For every big act you see make sure you see an unknown.

  1. AFL ANZAC Day Match
AFL is the national sport and the ANZAC Day match is one of its biggest games. This is a chance to get the grand final atmosphere without the grand final price tag.

The game to see is at the MCG between Collingwood and Essendon after the ANZAC Day Parade. The media will provide the hyperbole comparing the “battle” of a game with the life and death struggle that was the landing at Gallipoli in World War II. Ignoring that and the fact that you may not follow either team or even understand the sport, there is nothing quite like 93,000 in full voice at the MCG. There is also nothing like the same crowd falling into complete silence in tribute to the fallen service men and women

  1.  Melbourne Zoo
Melbourne Zoo boasts a large and exotic animal collection each housed in enclosures designed to replicate the animal’s native environment and encourage natural behaviours as much as possible.

The success of the Asian elephant breeding program and the regularity of the births is a good indication that they are doing something right. A highlight is watching and listening to the lions respond to the overhead p.a. system, defending their territory against announcements about seal performance times and lost children.

The zoo also has a large walk through exhibit of Australian native wildlife, perfect for international guests.

$13.30/child, $30/adult

  1.  D’Lish Fish & Chips at the Beach
Catch the 109 tram to Port Melbourne Beach, opposite the tram stop at the end of the line walk in to D’Lish Fish and order your, fish, chips, salads, dim sims the walk west along the beach to watch the sunset or east to watch the Spirit of Tasmania com into or leave dock.

Walk along the beach, to help the guilt of enjoying your meal settle, and soak in the Australian evening before returning for a deep fired Mars Bar for dessert. A simple indulgence that can be enjoyed all your round.

  1. Federation Square
This public access venue is in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, on the banks of the Yarra River directly opposite Flinders Street Station. Fed Sq hosts many free cultural events, exhibitions and festivals throughout the year, as well as showing major sporting events on the big screen – watch the Socceroos battle it out at the 2014 world cup with thousands of your newest and closest (at least in proximity) friends.

Numerous bars and cafes surround Fed Square and spill down onto the riverbank. Grab a drink or a bite to eat and then waste an hour or two people watching, or being entertained by the ever-present street performers.

  1. Federation Bells
A short walk along the banks of the Yarra will take visitors to Federation Bells in Birrarung marr. This collection of 39 upturned bells sitting atop poles ranging from 2  -6meters high are played 8am, 12.20pm and 5pm daily.

Federation Bells host live events throughout the year, often in conjunction with a Melbourne-based festival, where the bells are played live. The website also allows for budding musicians to compose music to be played on the bells.

  1. Last one
Comedian Jeff Green jokes that Melbourne has a café per head of population, and he may be right and the choices of venue are as countless as the quality prices and coffee styles. One that stands out is SheBeen, a fully licensed venue it not only sources free trade ingredients where-ever possible they donate the profits from each menu item back to the community from which the ingredients were sourced.

The service is relaxed and friendly, the quality is good, and it is wall-to-wall hipsters. Could any café be more Melbourne than this?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bah Humbug

A time when people get together with people they have generally avoided and feigned only casual interest for the past twelve months, to pretend they are the closest of friends or relatives for an hour or two before it slowly dawns on everyone present why they only have minimal contact throughout the year. Long non sequitur stories with no easily discernable point are the bane of any dinner party. Open hostilities between some of the guests, however can prove highly entertaining for the spectators.

People spends weeks planning the Christmas meal, discussing it with friends and colleagues building the expectations, describing feasts that would make Master Chef judges shudder at the extreme degree of difficulty involved. No-one ever considers their culinary ability when planning Christmas lunch. People, who throughout the year think that adding cheese to mashed potato is the height of home coked fine dining suddenly believe they can make honey glazed leg ham, perfectly seasoned turducen and roast vegetables that simply melt in your mouth. And all of them ready at the same time and on time. In reality, gravy without lumps is considered a Christmas miracle.

Gifts come with a great sense of excitement and enjoyment, despite the fact they are the wrong size or colour or did not come with batteries included. They say the joy of gifts is in the giving, that’s because there is nothing but anguish in the purchasing and often more disappointment than pleasure in the receiving. As a guy, the only thing worse than receiving deodorants or shaving products is a jar of peanuts. Is it possible to put in less thought? Yes…a jar of unsalted peanuts!

Purchasing of gifts might be more pleasurable if not for the carols piped through the p.a. system of every shopping centre and mall, or worse played live by children whose parents believe they are ready for public performance on the trumpet or violin they received as a gift last Christmas.

Christmas decorations, why would anyone buy expensive decorations, they all look like they were purchased from a $2 store anyway. Hours spent setting them up, endless vacuuming all of the bits that are guaranteed to drop or break prior to being packed away. Christmas decorations do create a great school holiday activity, just untangling the lights can take hours. Packing them away is never as fun or rewarding for children – the perfect consequence for them continuously waking you up from afternoon summer naps in front of the cricket.

The best thing about Christmas is Boxing Day, there are no expectations for Boxing Day. Every meal is leftovers, if you actually have meals as opposed to a day of continuous grazing. The Boxing Day Test Match commences, this year it is an Ashes series and Australia has rediscovered its dominant winning ways so definitely worth waking up early enough to roll onto the couch for the first over. Dozing off on the couch is almost a national past time on Boxing Day. If there are children about then it is never too early to teach them about respecting “adult time”. They have new toys to play with, argue over and break, and they can do it quietly in another room, or outside or at a friend's house or anywhere that is not where you are watching cricket. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Faking It

Seinfeld Season 5 Episode 1 "The Mango"
Throughout the ages the concept of faking it has been debated between the genders. Generally, it is accepted that sometimes it may occur, and we are ok with it. Not everything in life is as easy to fake. Well not in a convincing way.

Take the man who provided “sign language interpretation” for President Obama’s speech as Nelson Mandela’s memorial. It could be argued that it was the truest form of interpretation – as it was basically a man improvising hand movements with no relationship with what Obama was saying, and no resemblance to any actual sign language signs.

Driving a formula one car would be difficult to fake, in race conditions. Though I would like to see one of the pit crew jump on the back of US$7million machine and take over the steering, like an attendant in a dodgem car rink for the one person who inexplicably can not get their car out of the corner.

Brain surgery, sure anyone could get a garden drill and bore into the back of someone’s skull. To do it with the precision required so that brain matter does not wind its way back up the drill bit or that the drill bit does not hit the spot that would make the patients leg spasm like a dog getting its belly scratched.

Australia’s most recent collection of Prime Ministers have proven that it takes more than merely winning an election to actually lead a country. The programmatic specificity required in the top job proved too much for both Rudd (twice) and Gillard, and if Abbott’s approach to international diplomacy and employment in the car industry are anything to go by things have not changed for the better post the recent election.

Ben Elton proved that writing funny and entertaining television is difficult to fake, twice. In 2011 his Australian show Live from Plant Earth survived just 3 episodes. In 2013 his UK sitcom The Wright Way was blasted by critics and viewers alike.

Personally I have demonstrated that fine handcrafted wooden furniture is difficult to fake. Even average handmade wooden furniture takes some talent. The aquarium stand I made required the weight of a full fish tank on it to square it up enough for all four legs to touch the ground simultaneously. The surface of the coffee table I made, a glass or mug could only be filled half for risk of spillage the angles were so great. 

Every generation will lament the next generation of musical artists for faking their musical ability. It is part of the parent handbook to complain to one’s offspring “that’s not music, there is no tune and I can’t understand the lyrics”. In the case of Bob Dylan it is the children complaining to the parents.

Earlier this year the zoo in Henan Province, China demonstrated it is difficult to fake animals. A Dog no matter how big and hairy is not a lion, nor a wolf, not even if it is a Tibetan mastiff, and a fox is not a leopard. For that matter a sea cucumber is also not a lizard.

Being a fake stunt person could present some challenges. Sure the crashing of the car, jumping from a burning building or participating in a gun fight whilst riding a wild horse through a forest, down a steep incline into a river might be easy to fake. The staying alive whilst doing it is the tricky part.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Warning - Cyclists

20 things to be weary of when cycling

  • Car doors opening
  • Cars turning
  • Cars turning without indicating
  • Cars
  • Debris on the road surface and along the road’s edge
  • Low hanging branches
  • Pedestrians who think on-road bike lanes are actually extensions of the footpath and stand in them waiting to cross the road
  • Other cyclists ignoring more road rules than yourself who will pop up unexpectedly in traffic
  • Magpies
  • Traffic in all its forms that can not  maintain a straight line, instead gradually veer from left to right as you attempt to overtake
  • Pot holes
  • Shoe laces that like magnets are attracted to gear cogs
  • Lycra overdose
  • Delusions of grandeur, wearing 30 different sponsors logos does not mean they will sponsor you or that you will win the Tour de France
  • If you are in the tour avoid riding directly behind someone who stands up in the saddle when they are not increasing power for a hill or a burst of speed. I hear stopping to go to the toilet wastes precious minutes
  • Kangaroos, ok this might only be for Australian cyclists, but with one being caught at Melbourne International Airport inside the terminal, they might literally appear anywhere,
  • Reflector/light overdose, sure some might be appropriate or even a legal requirement to increase your visibility, but it you look like you are signalling the mother ship to take you back to your home planet then you might be a distraction and danger to others
  • The drinks holder is not for café latte
  • Cycling shorts are for cycling not for shopping or dining
  • Bicycles do not fit on commuter trains, so get your bike off the train and RIDE it