For several days recently, there was a "fault" on my telephone line. Whenever I listened to the phone-receiver, I heard a kind of electrical crackle, like static – it was always there, whether I was connected to someone or not. Sometimes, when people spoke to me on the phone, they said stuff like, "This is a very bad phone line." At first I thought maybe it was a problem inside the phone. But then I noticed that the modem had the same problem.
I could have put up with it if it was just the phone. But with static mixed in with the computer data coming through the modem, it really slowed things down. And sometimes I got faulty data and unexpected disconnections. So after a few days of this, I decided to do something about it. It not only slowed the internet down, it also played havoc with my answering machine – the machine doesn't stop recording until it knows the other person has hung up. When there's static on the line it thinks the other person is still talking so it keeps recording until it fills up the little tape.
On every phone-bill, there is a number to call for reporting faults, so I called it. The man from the phone-company warned me that I would be charged a hundred dollars if it turned out to be a fault with my own equipment, but he sent a technician around to fix it. The technician came around the next day. He didn't need to come into the apartment – I never found out exactly what caused the fault, but it must have been something to do with the wires outside, because he fixed it without going near my phone. And now the phone-line is loud and clear. I am relieved.
It's a pity, in a way, that he didn't test my phone – I had gone to a lot of trouble to make the phone-plug accessible. You see, the only way to get to the plug is to move the large wardrobe which stands in front of it. And the only way to move the wardrobe is to take stuff out from inside it and on top of it, otherwise it's just too heavy. So that's what I did. But that's okay – this week was a big cleaning and vacuuming week for me so that was just one of many pieces of heavy furniture I moved about my apartment.
Co-incidentally, there was another maintenance problem in my home last week, and this one was just as mysterious – Wednesday night, I found that there was no gas. What I mean is, when I tried to turn on the gas-stove, it wouldn't ignite, and I when I listened closely to it I couldn't hear any gas coming through. My hot water system is also gas-powered, so I had no hot water. "What's all this?" I thought. "I don't know what's going on!"
Flash animation – drag the gitchi container back and forth to catch the drips.
The next day, the gas was back. But I still had no hot water because the pilot-light in the hot-water system had gone out. It's one of those really old hot-water systems – I don't know how it works or how to re-light the pilot-light. So I called the estate agent, and she said she would call the plumber. I waited for about four hours for the phone to ring again. I didn't know what to do in the meantime so I attended to one of my other ongoing projects: cutting an old sleeping bag into little tiny pieces and stuffing the pieces into shopping bags.
It's quite a large and important task, but it's one of those things I can only do when the floor is clear, because the bits of featherdown tend to go all over the place so I have to vacuum the carpet afterwards. I say it's important because, the more bits of sleeping-bag I get rid of, the more storage-space I have. Anyway the plumber called me at four o'clock and asked me if I'd be home for the rest of the afternoon. I said I'd be going out at half-past five. He said he was very busy but he might be able to fit me in at five-fifteen.
The plumber was as good as his word and he came around at five-fifteen to re-light my pilot-light and restore the hot water service to my apartment. But there was no time for a shower, because I had to go on my planned outing which was to Federation Square in the city. This was something exciting – I was looking for something different do to and I heard that there are free dance lessons for the general public every day during the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
When I arrived at Federation Square, I came across a crowd of people much larger than I had expected. And it was cool – they were watching the Wickid Force Breakers, a group of dance-teachers who specialize in "hip-hop" moves. There was a stage set up in the square. It was big enough to accommodate at least two hundred people – they were learning the dance moves. The teachers were at the front of the stage, wearing microphones in front of their faces so they could be heard by all.
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There were also several video-cameras on the scene, and the video-images were being mixed and transmitted to the giant video screen on the building behind. This was for the benefit of the audience so that they could see everything clearly. The dance teachers had this simple yet impressive routine that they were teaching to the crowd – they went through it slowly and patiently so that no-one would be left behind in frustration. They counted the beats, "One! and Two! and Three! and Four!" and demonstrated their moves. The crowd were having fun trying out the moves for themselves, 'cause they wanted to be cool like that.
this is one of those photos which is too good to be small, but not good enough to be a 'click to enlarge'.
When it looked like the crowd were doing one part of a routine correctly, they moved onto the next part and thus they made it a longer and longer dance. I didn't dance, because I had arrived late and I was too busy taking photos while the daylight was fading. Later I thought to myself, "Look at all these people trying out the dance moves, both on the stage and off it! I wish I could have paid attention to the dance-instructors, then I could be having fun like them." But it was okay – I was having fun all the same, just watching.
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Perhaps the most entertaining thing to watch was the sign-language interpreter lady who stood at the front of the stage and did her sign-language translation of what the dance-teachers were saying. She was funny – some of her enthusiatic facial expressions were highly entertaining and she tended to do her own sort of dancing when the dance-routines were going on. You should have seen her translation when the dance-teachers said "When you find yourself lost on the floor..." I couldn't help laughing.
The Wickid Force Breakers presented an extremely good dance-tutorial, which concluded with a show of their best skills as they cleared the stage to demonstrate some of the most difficult hip-hop dance moves. They were spectacular – the crowd went "Ooooh aaahh!" and they cheered. This whole event had a spirit-lifting effect – I was part of a mass of people who were just there to have fun. And it wasn't evil fun, like with alcahol and drugs – it was like, educational fun.
One of the bands I'm in cancelled their practice at the last minute this week. The band leader called me and said the drummer couldn't make it – "He's broken his back, or something." He added that we may have to practise twice as often in the future because we've missed so many practices. That's a worry. Anyway, as a result, I was able to attend the karaoke this Wednesday night.
I was one of the first people to get up and sing at the karaoke this Wednesday – the song was called "Daughter", by Pearl Jam. I sang it pretty good, almost like the guy from Pearl Jam does it, although the high notes were a bit beyond me. Anyway, there was a guy in the audience who said he really liked my choice of song, and he invited me to join his little group of friends. So I sat with them near the back of the room and he told me repeatedly that it's good that I chose an "alternative" song because he likes that kind of music. He asked me if I was planning to sing again later. Well, I had been planning to sing something in a disco-pop style. But I didn't tell him that – I didn't want to disappoint him. So I just said I hadn't decided yet. Then, when he wasn't looking, I took out my list of song-possibilities and searched for a suitable "alternative". Later, when he asked me again, I told him I would sing "Song 2" by Blur. Then he talked about many other things and I felt like I just wanted to ignore him and pay attention to the singers on stage. Eventually I did break away from his group because I wanted to be down with the action at the front of the room. It seemed like once again I had been changing my own behaviour too much to fit in with the opinions of other people. But on the plus side, I had fun singing "Song 2" later and I didn't have to worry about causing an awkward sense of disillusionment.
Tonight I watched a show about political cartoonists (True Stories: Hired Assassins). They are the guys who do caricatures of politicians and make funny pictures for the newspapers. The documentary followed the process by which they formulate their ideas and draw their pictures every day. You know, those pictures look like comedy but they're actually making serious statements about current events. I was surprised by how much these people really care about the issues, and how their art is motivated by anger – they're not just clowns who look upon everything as a joke. I also admired the way they're so good at drawing quick caricatures and adding fine shading and colours in the final product. I wish I could do it that way. But I don't have those kinds of ideas.
Last Saturday I went out to see a thing called "Anthea's Diary" which was a one woman show featuring singing and talking by this woman named Anthea. She had a guitar and she was also sometimes accompanied by pre-recorded backing tracks. She talked about herself and how she was finding her own identity, and she told us some anecdotes about how she used to have cancer. Her singing voice was great. The music itself was not very interesting in its arrangement.
The audience sat in chairs, listening to her. Many people arrived in the middle of the show and there were about thirty people by the end – I got the impression that she knew most of them personally. In the last song she was joined by a belly-dancer and she tried to get other people up dancing as well. So it was quite fun that way. But the show didn't leave much of an impression on me and I can't regard it as money well-spent.