On Wog Palaces

Important Note: In Australian English the term ‘Wog’ – while historically a racist slur – has over many decades been reclaimed by the immigrant community and is now a marker of pride for Australians of Greek, Italian and Balkan heritage, and a neutral term for describing said Australians for the rest of us. With that cleared up, read on!

In the wake of World War II Australia found itself in need of workers, and unable to supply that need from traditional English and (slightly less desirable) Irish sources relaxed its horribly racist immigration policies a smidgen to let southern Europeans slip in as if they were proper white people. With Europe in ruins many Greeks and Italians took advantage of this and relocated, bringing with them exotic fruits and vegetables (broccoli? what the hell is broccoli?), proper coffee culture (Starbucks lost $165 million when they tried launching here in 2000) and food preparation techniques beyond ‘aggressively boiling into submission’, enriching the nation beyond all measure.

They also brought the distinctive architectural styling of the Wog Palace.

You are an Italian immigrant and decide to start a new life in Perth, Western Australia (if you were Greek you’d likely go to Melbourne). You arrive in a country where you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a decent coffee anywhere and the locals treat you with scorn and suspicion. Nonetheless you buckle down, work your arse off – likely in the construction industry – twelve or more hours a day, seven days a week and after some years have saved enough money not just to bring your family out from the old country, but to buy a block of land on the edge of the city and build a home for them. Naturally you do the labour yourself (with your kids’ help as soon as they’re old enough to safely pick up a brick) and after several years your luxurious new home is ready to move into. You have a Wog Palace to call your own!

So, what are the distinctive features of a Wog Palace?

Size: You have a large family to accommodate, and you’ve secured a large block of land, so you’re going to have five or six bedrooms, and plenty of entertainment space. It’s common to go double story, particularly if you decide to include an integral garage, and if you do include a garage why not make it a double? Some outbuildings for storage and food/wine production are also a good idea, and why not a swimming pool too?

Verandas and Balconies: What use is a house if you can’t sit outside in comfort and enjoy the view? On a two story Wog Palace you’ll have balconies. On a one story you’ll have a verandah instead.

Brick: The material of choice for a Wog Palace is brick. Preferably dark brown, but lighter shades will do in a pinch. Plastering over the brick for a smooth exterior can be done, but is a bit gauche.

Gardens: A productive garden is a must! Vegetable patches, olive trees, grape vines and fruit trees. These will usually be out the back because the front garden will likely have been concreted over for parking space.

Arches: Anglos may be content with right angles, but a proper Wog Palace will use arches instead. Arched windows, arched doors, arched verandas and balconies. Arches are class!

Pillars and Lions: Need a balustrade or something to stop the kids falling off your balcony? You need white, semi-classical pillars! And why not throw up some statues of lions to guard the place while you’re at it?

Low Pitched Roof: A subtle distinction but an important one. Anglo houses have steeply pitched roofs to prevent snow build up – which is not a threat in Perth’s Mediterranean climate and actually something of a disadvantage as they tend to trap heat in our blazing summers. The architectural tradition of the Wog Palace – developed in an actual Mediterranean climate – uses lower pitched roofs sufficient to shed rain without all that wasted space. The roof may even be flat enough to be used as an additional entertaining space in fine weather.

It is an entertaining game to look for Wog Palaces while driving around Perth. They’re a useful marker for the edge of urban development during periods of heavy immigration – which is why you can spot so many along Morley Drive and up in the Swan Valley. They are, in my opinion, some of the best houses even constructed in the city, and where I even in the position to upgrade from my apartment to a house I would definitely be on the lookout for one.

A few examples of Wog Palaces in their native habitat

Wasp

The shape of the Australian continent and its position on the globe means that Perth summers are plagued by hot winds from the east.

A high pressure system halts its drift eastwards over the shallow waters of the vast bight that cuts into the continent’s southern edge. Its anti-clockwise winds sweep out across the Tasman Sea, swing north, then west, crossing the Queensland coast laden down with heat and moisture from the tropical waters of the Coral Sea.

Continuing west they encounter the ancient line of the Great Dividing Range, whose complex ridges and plateaus wring out the moisture like a fist squeezing a sponge. The warm, dry air rolls down the far side of the range into the vast plains of the interior. As the wind continues westwards the land becomes dryer and drier until it transitions into the red-dirt deserts of the continent’s dead heart.

The wind races across the Tanami desert of the Northern Territory and crosses the Western Australian border into the Gibson, soaking up heat from the burning land and blazing sun. It starts to swing southwards, passing out of the deserts and across the Wheatbelt, rattling the kernels on their stalks, and ascending the gentle rear slope of the Darling Escarpment before finally cresting the ridge and falling upon the city, bringing all the heat of the central deserts with it.

As long at the high pressure system remains in the bight the easterly wind grows stronger, hotter and more northerly until the city – buffeted by scorching gales – bakes in temperatures in excess of 40 centigrade. But eventually the pressure behind the high grows too great and it grinds back into motion, resuming its eastwards course. The winds shift dead north, fading away to nothing, then return from the south, cooler but laden down with moisture from the Southern Ocean, and the city perspires until the humidity fades, a new high moves into the bight, and the cycle begins again.

My primary school (elementary school for Americans and other aliens) stood on top of a hill with the parish church at one end of the block, separated from the years one to three classrooms by a narrow gap, leading to the grotty old toilet block and the long grassy slope down to the school oval. A concrete pathway hugged the school side of this gap, the rest was theoretically grassed, but the baking summer sun and the regular passage of hundreds of juvenile feet meant that it was usually a morass of hard baked sand and stone shards. The gap was oriented south east and when the summer easterlies got going it formed a perfect wind tunnel, scouring the bitumen assembly yard at the school’s front with gale force furnace blasts, laden with grit from the exposed ground.

So it happened that one baking summer day my best friend Gerald (stress on the second syllable please) and I were perched on the low wall surrounding the church, just in front of the gap. We were about nine years old and the easterly was howling through, pelting us with sand – but sitting in the wind felt slightly cooler than sitting in the still, baked air of the verandah or lunch area. We were discussing whatever it was that nine year old boys discussed in the mid 1980s when I felt a sudden, intense, stinging pain in my left foot.

Looking down I beheld a tiny wasp – no more than five millimeters long, pinned by the wind against one of the leather straps of my school uniform mandated sandal. As it struggled to free itself it raised its abdomen and plunged its stinger into my foot for a second time.

I swatted it away and – not being a particularly robust child – immediately burst into tears, crying and wailing at both the pain in my foot and the brutality of the universe in general.

Gerald helped me limp across the assembly yard to the school office where we expected to find Mrs Marsh – the school secretary – who could always be relied on for a sympathetic ear no matter how ridiculous our problems. Instead we found Mrs Billington the school principal, who on being informed of my dilemma immediately lowered herself somewhat in my opinion by asking if I’d got the sting out, despite my clearly stating that I had been stung by a wasp.

Entomological ignorance aside I was soon furnished with a cold drink, some anti-inflamatory cream and a bandaid and was allowed to lie down in the sick room for a while, which is really all a healthy nine year old requires when stung by a microscopic insect.

So that is the story of the only time I have ever been stung by a wasp.

Walking Arcadia part One

When I was a kid, my parents always went out of their way to watch an extremely boring British soap opera named Howards Way. This was not because they found it particularly compelling, but because it was filmed in the vicinity of the Hampshire village resided in by my Aunt. As such any given episode would feature glimpses of places they knew, with an outside chance of spotting someone they’d met walking past in the background.

The idea that we all eventually turn into our parents is a cliché, however the problem with clichés is that they only become clichés in the first place because they’re true. As such I now find myself in a similar position, making room every Thursday night to watch the ABC’s The Heights, solely because it’s filmed just down the road.

(Excuse me for a minute, I appear to have been bitten on the wrist by a spider or something and have to go put some cream on it. If I never post again you’ll know why.)

Anyway, yes, The Heights. Needing both some exercise and some direction in life I decided yesterday to go on a walking tour of Heights shooting locations, and take some photos along the way.

My first stop was Arcadia High School, which is actually the Mount Lawley TAFE college on Lord Street. I caught the bus down there and arrived just as it started to rain.

A short walk through the drizzle to East Perth train station and an equally short train trip bought me to Arcadia Hospital, which funnily enough is another TAFE college, this time the East Perth branch at Claisebrook. Along the way I realised my camera lens was filthy and cleaned it – hopefully making subsequent pictures a bit sharper.

The fact that it’s directly across the road from Perth’s ABC headquarters is surely a complete coincidence…

A short walk along the reconstructed Claise Brook – which doesn’t seem to have had any maintenance in the last 10 years, seriously, can we do something about that? – takes us to the steps that I think are where Shannon got bawled out for arriving late for community service. It was certainly somewhere along Claise Brook anyway.

Following the steps upwards takes us to the old Boans furniture factory, home to the apartment inhabited by Claudia and Sabine.

By now the rain was starting to get serious. I had plans to walk down to the river and take some shots of the parks and bridges which often show up in episodes, but instead decided to stop in somewhere dry and have some lunch. I had a quite decent pizza at the Royal while drying out and reading the latest Fortean Times, then considered my options.

My original plan included a trip down to Trinity College (AKA Embleton) then across to Wellington Square (location of many open air scenes), hitting up the Towers themselves just behind the Old Mint, then getting a bus across to Iris’s store near Hyde Park. But the weather didn’t look likely to improve much, so I decided discretion was the better park of valour and I’d be better served by taking a quick jaunt directly to Wellington Square, see if I could grab a long shot of the towers, then head home. This turned out to be complicated by massive roadworks all along Wittenoom street, and work being done on the square itself but I did my best.

And thus ended my grand day out.

Sooner or later I’ll get around to some closer shots of the towers, the river parklands and Iris’s store. In the meantime I did take some shots last year covering the old Perth Enterprise Centre that serves at the exterior of the Railway Hotel, and the mural on Moore street that’s often seen as an interstitial with trains rushing past it. I stepped in an actual human turd (the city really needs to do something to support the homeless population) getting these pics, so appreciate them!

And that’s your lot! Be sure to tune in to ABC at 8:00pm Thursdays to see these places on air. Or not, I’m not your dad.

Do You Believe in Life After Frud?

Channel 10 News should really take a look at their closed captioning.

While I’ll happily support “Family Frud” taking over from the banal and pointless Family Feud any day, I’m not so sure about tomorrow’s predicted “60% chance of a Cher or two”.

I mean, one would be bad enough…

Truth, Justice, Freedom and a Boiled Egg

The big thing in WA politics at the moment is local council amalgamations. The State Government – in its wisdom – has decided that there are too many councils these days, and intends to force a bunch of them to amalgamate for reasons of ‘efficiency’. This despite the fact that it’s only twenty years since a couple of large councils were broken up, also for reasons of ‘efficiency’.

The local councils themselves are having none of this, presumably because it means they’d have to share, and have whipped their rate payers up into a state of open rebellion with claims that fees will go up, and services go down.

I have no idea who’s right or wrong in this debate – my interest in the affair is limited to the fact that the mooted amalgamation of South Perth and Victoria Park is to be named “South Park” after the Government were dumb enough to listen to a number of thoroughly trolled online polls, and in the rather interesting anomaly revealed when the official maps of the new council boundaries were revealed the other week.

The plan as laid out is that the City of Perth will be expanded to encompass (among other things) all of Kings Park and the University of Western Australia – presumably so the PCC can have easy access to kangaroos and sweet, sweet student cash. To the west of this expansion the swanky suburbs of Mosman Park, Peppermint Grove, Nedlands, et al. will be forced together into the newly created and rather poorly named City of Riversea. Where the fun lies is that the east border of Riversea doesn’t quite meet the west border of Perth, resulting in a strip of land along Hampden Road with no council at all.

The Government insists that it’s going to fix this in the next version of the proposal, but as someone who happens to work in the disputed zone, I say nay and hereby seize the territory in the name of the People’s Republic of Hampden Road! No more Local Council tyranny! We shall have Truth! Justice! Reasonably priced love! A lack of parking fines and (if we have time) a boiled egg!

As Benevolent Dictator I hereby seize the assets of Spices Supermarket, Jester’s Pies, Baskin Robins, and the Burgermeister. Citizens are directed to assemble upstairs at the Byrneleigh for the first meeting of the Revolutionary Council, where we shall use materials collected from Educational Art Supplies to construct a flag and suitability official uniforms. Then it’s to the barricades brothers and sisters! For Liberty! Fraternity! And a certain measure of strictly controlled Equality!

(Please note that anyone singing songs from Les Miserables will be shot, and I need to get home in time for Lost Girl, so we’ll aim to have the Revolution done and dusted by 8:30 at the latest, OK?)

Later: Hmmm, It looks as if I may have been a bit too eager with my territorial ambitions, as the Zone of Alienation apparently only covers the east side of Hampden Road. As such, seizing the supermarket, pie shop and Educational Art Supplies would constitute an act of war against Riversea. I must therefore reluctantly relinquish my claim to these businesses, and we’ll have to make our uniforms and flag with what we can get from the newsagents opposite instead.

On the plus side it looks as if UWA and the new children’s hospital fall within our borders. As does the Yacht club, so I’ll have somewhere to keep the Presidential Schooner.

For the Emperor! Supanova 2013

Headed over to the Supanova Con on Saturday with Ryan, Paula, Bek and Bek’s daughter who’s name I can never actually remember. It was a pretty good day overall. I didn’t get any autographs or photos – I’m always starstruck to the point of imbecility when meeting celebrities, so there’s really not much point, but I did enjoy the panels with Karl Urban, Alan Tudyk and (of all people) David Hasselhoff.

Yes, I went to see the Hoff. Mainly just so I could say that I saw the Hoff. I actually enjoyed his panel, mostly I suspect because I expected him to be a complete train wreck, and he wasn’t. He could in no way be said to be a humble man, but he had some interesting stories, and I was surprised to discover that he can actually sing pretty well – perhaps those Germans aren’t quite as crazy as we all thought.

Karl Urban was fun. He started off his talk by awarding Judge Dredd badges to audience members who could identify movie quotes. This didn’t go terribly well at first, until he clarified that they weren’t specifically quotes from his movies. After that he answered audience questions in a highly entertaining fashion, did a Batman voice, and threw in some good natured trash talk about the Wallabies 🙂

The final panel we went to was Alan Tudyk, who was a complete riot. The hall was completely packed out – standing room only – happily Paula and Bek had got a place in line while I was seeing the Hoff, so we got seats halfway up. Notable incidents included someone asking him to say his “leaf on the wind” quote – which he delivered as “I’m a leaf on the wind, watch me GHURK!” – a self admitted fangirl asking him if he were her and he were still him what he as her would ask him as him – which completely threw him in a most entertaining manner – and a story which he reckoned he’d never told before about how he found himself identifying with a Billy Joel song while working in a racist bar before he got in Juilliard (he knew it was a racist bar because he threw a customer out for saying abominably racist things, then got told off by management).

He also did some Karaoke at Deville’s earlier in the week. Awesome! 🙂

Apart from the guests we had a good look around the stalls. I had finally given in to the inevitable and dipped my toe into the waters of cosplay by wearing my Commissar hat (a few people even requested photographs!) and found an amazing replica chainsword for sale. Unfortunately it was priced at $215 which seemed a bit excessive for a piece of painted foam, so I had to leave it. Bek got a friend’s block mounted Star Wars poster signed by Carrie Fisher, and just about died of excitement at meeting her. We also did a lot of sitting around watching cosplayers.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Supanova, but I was quite surprised by the quantity of Adventure Time cosplayers. You couldn’t have throw a rock without hitting four or five Finns. A bit of aiming would have easily brained several Fionas and Princess Bubblegums. There were at least two Ice Kings doing the rounds, one Flame Princess and a Marceline and Marshall Lee with actual guitars. On the 40k front there were some generic guardsman and at least two other Commissars, but they had much better uniforms than me, so I stayed out of their way lest I be accused of Heresy ;D

All in all, an excellent day out!

Common Decency

Proof – if any were needed – that acting legally and acting decently are not necessarily the same thing.

When Clyde and Lesley Bevan were told the $6500 gold and diamond bracelet they had lost months ago had been found, they were delighted and grateful […] Their happiness turned into incredulity when the finder told them he now owned the jewellery […] He said he would give Mr and Mrs Bevan the bracelet but only if they made a claim under their insurance policy and gave him half the payout. […] The finder was a clergyman, the Rev. Terry McAuliffe, of St Paul’s Anglican Church in City Beach. — The West Australian, June 26th 2013

Proof also – if any were needed – that being a minister of religion is no guarantee of being a decent human being.