Monday, 29 June 2015

Jupiter Ascending - The evolution of the secular gods

Jesus answered them "is it not written in your law 'I said, you are gods'?" 
John 10:34

Years ago, when I was in university, I had this desire to not so much review movies, but to critically analyse concepts that I picked up while watching them. I guess it had a lot to do with me studying English Literature and the realisation that I could take the same ideas and apply them to Hollywood movies. Okay, you may be wandering what one could possibly get out of Terminator II, but I have actually written a review and posted it on IMDB. However, that was back in the days before IMDB ever existed, so using my SMUG (Student Machine Users Group) account I created a basic webpage to catalogue my thoughts. Mind you, I doubt that website still exists, and even if it does it is floating somewhere deep in the web, cut off from the rest of the internet. A few years later a friend at church directed me to the website Hollywood Jesus which tries to get Christian meaning from Hollywood movies (while in many cases is not all that hard to do, it does depend on the movie: I doubt you are going to get any Christian meaning out of Debbie Does Dallas).
Anyway, I'm not writing this post to talk about my previous efforts at creating a webpage, or how I critically analyse movies the same way that English lecturers critically analyse books, but rather to explore a concept that has arisen out of some movies that I have seen recently: how the wealthy elite are being painted as gods. Look, this is not necessarily a new phenomena, there have always been a wealthy elite, whether they be the aristocracy claiming the divine right of kings, or the party that holds a tight grip on power in a totalitarian regime. However, I have recently encountered a couple of movies, In Time, and more recently, Jupiter Ascending, which seems to take this concept to a new level.
Before I delve into these two movies (and a couple of others), I first want to explore this idea by first looking at a couple of instances where European explorers have been mistaken for gods, then I would to have a look at the ancient world. I also wish to quickly touch on another movie that the makers of Jupiter Ascending also created, that being The Matrix. I also wish to look at Elysium where we see a 'heaven' created for the godlike elite to dwell. I then wish to conclude this discussion by exploring this idea and whether in fact the wealthy elite are truly all powerful gods, or whether they are basically mortal like the rest of us.

Jesus disputes the Pharasees

Humans as Gods

Jesus and the Jewish Rulers
In opening this post I have quoted a verse from the book of John where Jesus cites a passage from Psalm 82 during a debate with the Jewish leaders of the day. The full passage is as follows:
I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nethertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince."
There is some debate as to why Jesus was quoting this passage and what the original passage actually means. Mind you, suggesting that Jesus was debating the Jewish leaders is probably putting it a bit too lightly since the rulers were crying about blasphemy and wanting to throw some pretty chunky rocks at him. However, some have suggested that Jesus is implying that Christians are 'little gods'. Personally I think they are taking this out of context, however to understand it we need to consider the source of the quote: the psalm. A part of me feels that Jesus is being facetious, however when we see that the psalm is exhorting people to be just and merciful I wonder whether the psalmist is speaking to a ruling class. In a sense they have been granted power and authority by God, but God is reminding them that they are but mere mortal. In a sense that is true because the wealthy elite in many cases have authority over whole populations and their decisions can determine the fate of millions. This is why, I suggest, they are being urged to be just and merciful in their decisions. However, I am only speculating, and as I have suggested, maybe Jesus is being a little facetious towards the Jewish rulers of the day.

Hernan Cortez
It is interesting to note that there have been instances in history where Europeans meeting another civilisation for the first time have been welcomed as gods. When Hernan Cortez first encountered the Aztecs it has been suggested that they believed that he was the personification of their god Quetzalcoatl, a position that he welcomed since it enabled him to get close to the Aztec rulers and position himself for an invasion. This is not a surprising reaction, no so much that the Aztecs were ignorant people - they in fact were a very sophisticated society - it is just that Cortez appeared in metal armour with horses (two things the Aztecs had never seen before), and of course was white. 

Captain James Cook
When Captain Cook first arrived in Hawaii, the Hawaiians believed that he was their god Lono. According to their legends, Lono had appeared in human form, taught them their civilisation, and then left promising to return from across the sea in canoes. Okay, Cook's ship was probably a lot bigger than your average canoe, but once again we have a man of fair skin appearing in a ship bigger than anything they had ever seen before, so it is not surprising that their legends would have come to mind. Considering that a lot of these myths and legends were handed down by word of mouth, the Hawaiians, no doubt also sophisticated people, would have believed that this was their prophecy being fulfilled. Mind you, after attempting to leave to continue on their journey (they were seeking the legendary Northwest Passage - which at the time didn't exist) their ship ran into a bit of trouble, forcing them to return. Unfortunately for Cook everything went down hill from there as they ended up getting into a fight with the natives, a fight which resulted in Cook's death. However many of the natives still held him in high regard and give his body a burial fit for a king (or a god).

Man who would be king
Rudyard Kipling also penned a short story about a similar incident in Afghanistan. While the story itself is fictional considering the above there may have been some truth in it. The reason I doubt the authenticity of the tale is that while the Afghani people revere Alexander the Great, they are also Muslim which would suggest, at least to me, that they would not seek to enthrone a white man whom they believed to be a god. To me it simply does not seem to be characteristic of a monotheistic religion like Islam.

However, it is interesting how there seems to be these disparate stories of a returning god, which seems to reflect the belief of Christians that Jesus will one day return and remake society anew. However, it is also interesting that it was Europeans who were mistaken for gods while the Europeans never experienced the same misunderstandings. There are probably two reasons for this, the first being that it was the Europeans doing the exploring as opposed to them being discovered by another advanced society, and also they had pretty solid ideas that Jesus would no doubt be European in appearance. However, while these thoughts might be interesting, I think I will leave that for another time as all I wanted to touch upon here is the idea of how mortal humans have been mistaken for gods.

The Ancient Pantheons

I am sure we have all heard about how the Pharaohs of Egypt were venerated as gods, however what I want to touch upon is the mythology beyond this belief. You see, the gods that made up the Egyptian pantheon weren't a lose collection of individuals that identified with some force of nature but were inter-related through family connections (or at least most of them were). The Egyptians had a family tree for their gods. The major god, Osiris, was married to his sister Isis, had a bit of a fight with his brother Set, and gave birth to his son Horus. When Osiris was killed Horus inherited the throne, though Osiris took charge of the underworld.

The connections between the Pharaohs and the gods was that the Pharaohs were all descendants of the god Horus, who in turn was the son of Osiris. Thus because they were descended from gods they themselves held the mantle of godhood. Mind you, like Osiris, they also married their sisters, most likely because gods could only marry gods. However, the thing about the Egyptians is that while the Pharaoh was considered a god, the royal family and the nobility were not necessarily divinities in the same way. Granted, they were members of the ruling class, however Pharaoh had the ultimate say and nobody could challenge him (though Terry Prachett put a twist on this in his book Pyramids suggesting that while Pharaoh could issue commands only the priesthood could interpret those commands, meaning that if Pharaoh tried to go against the accepted order the priests would immediately reverse the decision - however, I doubt it could ever be known whether that was true or not).

It is interesting to consider this structure though because I suspect that this idea of being a direct descendant of Horus may suggest that the Egyptian pantheon were once living, breathing human beings, and the mythology of Set murdering Osiris and then being exiled into the desert may be based on fact. Another interesting proposition is that this came about through a form of ancestor worship. Okay, having spoken to a number of Africans, the term ancestor worship is a misnomer because while they may revere their ancestors (Africans hold a great amount of respect for their elders) they don't actually worship them as gods. However, if we consider that as generations passed, and the stories of the ancestors grew ever more distant, it is quite plausible that they move from simple reverence to raising them to godhood.

Ancient Greece
My suggestion with regards to the Egyptian Pantheon developing from a form of ancestor worship could also apply to the Ancient Greeks. The difference is that the Greek Mythology is a lot more developed than the Egyptian stories (or at least we know a lot more about them). However, unlike the Egyptians, Greek society was no where near as stratified as the Egyptians. In a way, as long as you were a citizen there was a sense of equality. Granted, if you were a slave, then you were effectively powerless, however, unlike the Egyptians, I feel that you may not have felt that you were a pawn in a game being played by a godlike nobility. In fact, slaves in Greece had much more freedom, and in some cases were much more educated than those in Egypt (or at least that is my impression, though I could be quite wrong - to me Egyptian slavery conjures images of thousands of people dragging massive stone blocks across the desert being whipped by slave masters, while in Greece I picture people cleaning the house, doing the shopping, and even participating in philosophical discussions, but I digress).

Now, the thing with the Greek gods is while they were divine they didn't necessarily behave as it they were divine. For instance they would fight amongst themselves, display jealousy (particularly Hera), commit adultery (especially Aphrodite) and punish innocent people for being victims (as is the case of Io who was punished for being raped by Zeus). In a sense, they appeared to be little more that a bunch of humans that lived in the heavens who had immense control over the forces of nature. The people of Greece didn't offer sacrifices to them in the sense that the Jews offered sacrifices, but rather they were more like bribes to sway them to act in a certain way. For instance Agamemnon offered up his daughter Iphigenia to convince Zeus to calm the weather so that they could sail to Troy. There are at least four accounts of Zeus lusting over an Earthly woman, and then going and having his way with them, only for the woman to be punished by Hera for tempting Zeus.

In a way they seem to be behaving little more than a ruling class. This is why I suspect that the Greek gods may have at one stage been real people and over time, as the stories that they left became more distant, their nature ceased to be that of human ancestors and instead become gods. Even some of the heroes who lived during the age of legends (that of the period of Theseus, Helen of Troy, and Hercules) ended up being worshipped as gods. If indeed, far back in the mists of pre-history, Zeus and his cohorts were human kings and queens, the people who remembered the stories and passed them down from generation to generation would no doubt have been from the lower classes, and while they were human, to these lower classes they would have been as gods.

The Senators Encircle Ceaser

Rome and her Emperors
Rome ended up borrowing her pantheon of gods from the Greeks, though in many cases they were a fairly secular society really only paying lip service to the gods. However when Rome shifted from a republic to a dictatorship a new religion started taking shape - emperor worship. It basically began when Augustus Caesar elevated his adopted father to the status of a god, and also deified certain members of the senate (since it would not have been proper for non-Romans to worship Caesar). Upon his death Augustus was also deified, as was Tiberius (though when we get to Caligula and Nero they dispensed with the deification and decided that only good emperors were entitled to such an honour). Interestingly the Roman emperors did not drift into pre-history so did not attain the status of the Greek Gods, even though they were worshipped as gods. No doubt this is because a lot of the recorded history of Rome was preserved during the dark ages, and also Christianity became the dominant religion and rejected Emperor worship. However, that did not mean that the Christians did not engage in their own form of deification, and we still see that today with the various saints.

I raise this because I have stated earlier that I have a belief that the gods of the Greeks and the Egyptians were at one stage humans who through the passage of time went from being human to being gods. What we see with Rome, and to an extent Christianity, is that there are instances where humans, after death, are granted a divine status, and as such, after a time, end up being worshipped as gods.

However, while this is all interesting, and I have been outlining areas where humans have been made divine, that is not necessarily the purpose of my post since my original intention was to paint a picture of how the upper classes can, to those in the lower classes, be seen, and in some cases worshipped, as gods. I will now jump to three movies where I wish to touch upon this idea, and then finish off with looking out our contemporary society.

Modern Literature

The Matrix
I'm sure many of us have seen this film, especially since it won 4 Oscars and grossed over $171 million dollars in the US alone. I have already written a review of this movie (though the original review was written years ago so please forgive my poor use of grammar and atrocious writing style). While the theme behind The Matrix may not strictly fall into what I am writing about here, I do wish to touch upon it because a) the creators of Jupiter Ascending also created The Matrix and b) the themes behind Jupiter Ascending also touch upon the themes in this film.

The basic theme behind the Matrix is that the world in which we are living in an illusion and we simply exist to feed an alien intelligence who keeps us enslaved in this reality. The hero, Neo, is offered the choice between waking up and seeing the truth or remaining asleep in the illusion. One interesting thing that I encountered though was a discussion by the philosopher Slavoj Zizek who questions why there has to be only two pills - why cannot there be a third pill. The reason he says this is because both pills end up putting you in a bad situation - a reality that is little more than an illusion but in which you are a slave, or a reality that is basically hell and while you may be free you are still quite powerless.

Some have suggested that The Matrix has a number of Christian themes running through it in that we wilfully blind ourselves to reality and live our days oblivious to the truth: the Christian reality that exists just beyond our senses. I even when to a church where they played this film at the youth group and had a Bible study around it afterwards. However these days I have grave concerns about this interpretation of the Matrix. Granted, the film paints the picture of us being enslaved to a world which is an illusion and that we need to break through that illusion to attempt to grasp the reality. The problem with the reality in the Matrix is that first of all it is horrific, secondly we are powerless, and thirdly, in the end, it is probably better that we remain asleep.

Yet this can apply to the world in which we live today because in many cases we live our lives day to day, going to work, going home, attempting to save what meagre earnings we receive so that one day we may 'retire', a goal that seems to be getting further and further away from younger and younger generations. In a sense we are living in the illusion that if we work hard we will be able to earn enough money so that we might be able to enjoy life before we get too old. In a way it is a story that is being painted for us by the upper classes who, like the Aliens in The Matrix, feed off of our consumerist nature. They continue to produce things for us to purchase, and if we cannot afford to purchase them we take out debt, and then we have to service that debt, which means that we have to continue to work. In many ways it is a vicious cycle, and also an elaborate illusion that keeps them in power and us enslaved.

In Time
Okay, this film was nowhere near as popular as The Matrix, particularly since it didn't win any Oscars, though its world-wide box office taking was $175 million dollars (which meant that it did make a tidy profit, but nowhere near The Matrix, which was more like $463 million dollars). Anyway, like The Matrix, I have also written a review of this film, and considering that this review was written in November 2011 I do hope that the grammar and the style is much better (and I think my tag line may he better than theirs - mine is 'in the future, time is money' whereas theirs is 'his crime wasn't stealing time, his was giving it away').

Anyway, this film was the first film I watched where I picked up the idea of the wealthy being a race of gods, or at least godlike beings. The basic plot is that in the future humanity has developed the ability to cease to age after 25. However there is a catch - you only have a year left to live. Everybody has a clock on their forearm which tells them how much time they have left, and when they clock reaches zero you basically keel over and die. Anyway, that time has become currency meaning that if you want to live and earn more time you have to work, however you are not working just to give yourself extra time, but also too feed, clothe, and house yourself. The thing is that this time is currency which means that even if you get yourself an extra 24 hours after working an eight hour day, you still need to purchase stuff such as food, pay the rent and, if you are lucky, entertain yourself.

The thing is that while the working class is working a hand to mouth existence and don't know if they are going to see the next morning, the wealthy have so much time that they can literally live forever. The thing is that they have created this system so that they can basically be immortal yet keep the lower classes enslaved. In fact the various districts are divided by walls and to pass through these walls you need to pay a toll, which means that if you are poor you will never be able to get out of the district in which you live.

So, while there is enough time for everybody to live a full and rewarding life, they have created the illusion that they cannot be generous with their time. Their argument is that if the working classes have too much time then they will have no need to work, which means that the economy will collapse. As such, to keep civilisation running they need to be given the incentive to work, and that incentive is that if they do not work then they die.

Once again we see here the idea of the wealthy elite being painted in almost a god like fashion. They are in effect immortal and the lower classes are effectively enslaved. The villain of the piece has a million years under his belt. In a way the arguments that they use in this film are similar to the situation today. For society to function we must work, but more so, we need to spend money. If we cease spending money the economy will ground to a halt. Where the society in In Time functioned through forcing people to work, our society functions on the need for the population to spend money. Wealth is created through companies making a profit, and the profit can only be made when people are spending more money. If a company doesn't make enough of a profit (as I have discovered recently) the companies' share price is punished. In a way it is a vicious cycle, and one method they have created to generate the illusion of ever greater profits is a tool called inflation. By causing prices to increase at a set amount it means that a company's profit grows, and to keep these profits growing you need to continue to inflate the value of goods and services.

Okay, I was only going to write about three films with similar themes, however as I was writing about In Time I suddenly realised that this film also falls into the same category. Well, like In Time, it didn't win any awards, but it did make a tidy profit of $286 million dollars world wide (and we do need to put it into context considering that it cost $115 million dollars to produce). Like the other two movies, I have also written a review of this one (which is not surprising since I have watched it - twice). Anyway, for those who have not seen it I recommend that you do, especially if you like science fiction (but then if you like science fiction I would be a little surprised if you haven't seen this film).

The film is, not surprisingly, set in the future where the uber rich have left the Earth and live on a space station called Elysium while the rest of the population live in an increasingly overpopulated planet inhabited by the working classes. The story is about a man, Max, who dreams of travelling to Elysium however drifted to the wrong side of the law and spent time in gaol and now works in a job where he manufactures the robots that become the law enforcers on Earth. However, after an industrial accident that leaves him with a lethal dose of radiation poisoning, he decides to risk everything for a chance to get to Elysium where medical technology exists to provide him with a cure.

While there are quite a lot of challenging themes about social inequality in this film it once again is the godlike aspect of the wealthy elite that I wish to point out. Once again we have the wealthy elite having access to medical technology that can effectively cure all diseases while the rest of the population must scramble for what is available to them. However, in Elysium we don't have them living being baracades that separate them from the lower classes, but now in a space station that separates them from the rest of the world. The name Elysium comes from the Ancient Greek version of heaven which is a place where the great heroes go to after they die and is no doubt where our modern ideas of heaven originate. In a sense with them inhabiting a paradise in the stars with an almost uncrossable gulf separating them from the rest of the world, and possessing technology that allows them to fight off death once again paints a god-like picture of these people.

The inhabitants of Elysium even separate themselves from the Earth's population by giving themselves special citizenship status. Their machines will not work on anybody that does not have the mark of a citizen, nor is registered in their database. Further, they are the bosses and the owners of production on Earth, thus taking the role of rulers. However, while Max may dream of one day reaching Elysium and living among the gods (the space station is forever visible from Earth, though impossible to reach) it becomes clear pretty quickly that this will never happen. The citizens of Elysium, while painting a picture of the possibility of one day being able to live among them, no doubt hold access to citizenship tightly so that their paradise may not be spoiled by the unruly mob living on the Earth below.

Jupiter Ascending
Now I come to Jupiter Ascending. At the time of this writing it is still in the cinemas so I am not able to give any details of how well this film has done, though at this stage it receives a rating of 5.9 on IMDB (or at least that was what it was at the time of writing). This suggests that the film has not gone down all that well, though there are still a number of people (such as myself) that did enjoy it. Rotten Tomatoes really doesn't seem to like it all that much with the audience giving it a rating of 47% and the critics 24%. Mind you, I generally pay little to no attention to the critics and if I want to see a movie, I go and see it.

Jupiter Ascending

Anyway, the story behind Jupiter Ascending is that our heroine, Jupiter, is a girl of very humble origins who suddenly discovers that she is in fact an intergalatic queen. This suddenly thrusts her into a world that is hidden from the eyes of the everyday human, a world of galactic politics ruled by a family of immortals.

The thing about Jupiter is that she is not so much the descendant of this queen, but rather she is the genetic duplicate of her, which pretty much makes her the same person. The problem is that her children do not like the fact that she has returned so are trying various means, including assassination attempts and disinheritance, to put her out of the way. Okay, they are human, they admit as such, but their technological ability has enabled them to live forever. There is a catch, their immortality is tied to the ability to reinvigorate their genes, and they do this by creating planets of sentient humans that they then harvest when their populations grow to a point where they are about to develop interstellar travel.

Once again we see an element of the rich and powerful reaching a godlike status, and in a way having godlike powers. Unlike Elysium and In Time, the elite in Jupiter Ascending, while being human, are not humans from Earth, but rather the ones who originally populated the planet. Of further interest, they have developed technology that allows them to create life - planets like Earth aren't colonised in the way that the British Empire colonised other lands, but rather they seed the planets by genetically altering existing species (in the case of Earth it was the Neanderthals) so that they can develop in a way that in the distant future they will become useful for their purposes.

We also see here the holding back of technology. Despite humanity's ability to develop and grow, these rulers make sure that their power cannot be challenged, and they do that by invading the planet at that time when they are threatened by the development of intersteller travel. They do not care about culture or art - that is not important because to them these planets are inhabited no so much by lesser beings, but rather by cattle that one day will be harvested.

'Nevertheless, like me, you shall die'
So, I have looked at four movies as well as some Ancient Cultures and other examples of humans being elevated to gods, so I guess the question is what is the point? Well, at times I have wondered, being an Australian, if we are 'like gods' to people of the developing world. In a way I would say yes, but in a way I would suggest otherwise. The only country that I have been to where I would feel like this would be Thailand, and in a way I did get the impression, while visiting a couple of pubs in the Nada district, that there was a distinct gap between the wealth that I have and the poverty of many of the locals. Granted, the Nada district is a pretty sleazy part of Bangkok, but it also seems to be a place where the rich and the poor meet, and the poor offer themselves to the rich for whatever crumbs can be thrown to them. Okay, I am not rich in any sense of the word, however the two nights that I spent in Bangkok put things into a much different perspective.

It is similar as I wander the streets of Melbourne seeing the beggars sitting at the side of the road with their caps in their laps. While we walk past going about our daily business, working to earn enough money to make sure that us and our families can live a comfortable life, they sit there in the hope that some small change will land in their hands. Look, I am not going to go into the argument as to whether they use that money for drugs or to actually get a bite to eat, but it does make me think, and challenges me, whenever I see one of them sitting on the footpath.

However, it has also been suggested that the wealthy live in a world of their own. We Australians live in a land that is held up under the rule of law. Many of us have food on our tables and a roof over our heads - and those roofs are of very good design. If we leave our shores we go to countries were this is not the case. People live in flimsy shelters scavenging food from the rubbish dumps - even in Australia the beggars know where food can be found, usually in the dumpsters out the back of the shopping centres.

Yet are the wealthy gods - are we gods? Those of us in the middle class may not feel like it, but once we step out of our middle class existence we enter into a completely different world, a world that could almost be considered hell. We live a comfortable lifestyle, and many of us blind ourselves to the absolute hell that grinding poverty creates. However, if we go up the ladder we see an even more different world - a world that shuts itself off from even the middle class, a world that is blind to the true struggles that the middle class faces, a world that seeks to enslave the middle class through the use of debt.

Yet we in the middle class work to elevate those of the upper classes to the status of godhood. Okay, we in Australia may not worship our politicians, but many of us see hope in the promises that they offer. We have our heroes and our idols, whether they be musicians, actors, or sports people. Some of them may only experience fame for a short time before they are stripped of their status, while others ascend to immortality through their death - Elvis is a great example.

However, despite their almost godlike status, in the end they are human beings - they live and they die, and in many cases they are oblivious of their adoring fans. Sure, they may live a luxurious lifestyle in Beverley Hills mansions, but their fans can only ever catch a glimpse through their barred gates and high walls. Sure, when our team wins the grand final, we may be ecstatic, but in the end what does it mean? Nothing really - we go to bed happy and then wake up the next morning to do it all over again. In the end, they may be like gods, but they die just like all of us mere mortals.

Creative Commons License
Jupiter Ascending - The evolution of the secular gods by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If use wish to use the creative commons part for commercial purposes, please contact me directly.

Horus Standing source: Jeff Dahl, use permitted under creative commons attribution-share alike 4.0 international 
Jesus Disputes the Pharasees source: Philip Medhurst, use permitted under creative commons attribution-share alike 3.0 unported

Thursday, 25 June 2015

St Andrews South Brisbane - A Friendly Queensland Church

I'm going to have to say that this is my home church whenever I go to Brisbane. Okay, I don't go to Brisbane all that often, but whenever I do (a grand total of four times) I have always paid this church a visit and my experience has always been the same, which is probably why I keep on coming back (to this church, not Brisbane - the last time I was in Brisbane was back in 2008). Anyway, I first heard about St Andrew's South Brisbane through a friend from a church that I regularly attended in Adelaide, which was generally how you would find out about churches back in the day, simply because you never knew what you were going to get when you walk in through the door (and I have walked into some absolute shockers). Actually, I don't mind wandering into random churches because, depending on the church, you can have some very interesting experiences, but I must say that every time I have come here the experience has always been wonderful.

The funny thing is that I have discovered is that there are a few churches named after Andrew the Apostle, including this one (and the Sydney Cathedral is named after him, as well the churches that I attend in Reservoir), which sort of baffled me because it is not as if he is one of the 'super apostles'. In fact I don't think he gets all that much air time in the Bible, beyond being mentioned as the brother of Simon Peter (in Matthew and Mark) and being one of John the Baptist's disciples in the Gospel of John. However, according the Wikipedia (the fountain of all knowledge in the age of the internet) it is suggested that he became the apostle to the Scythians (at least according to Eusebius - if you actually trust what he says, which I don't) and travelled north along the coast of the Black Sea to modern day Ukraine. I guess that is why he is a patron saint of the region. Also, the picture of him on Wikipedia is also pretty cool (and it's public domain to boot).

St Andrews is what some would call an Evangelical Anglican Church and is located in the suburb of South Brisbane. Basically it is one of those churches that if you consider yourself an evangelical protestant you can pretty much be guaranteed that you will get a sermon preached that is faithful to the teachings of Christ Jesus. Okay, like many evangelical churches they teach things that can be hard to swallow at times, and speak against a number of issues that is contrary to our society's beliefs, but then if that is not the type of church that you are looking for then I'm sure there are plenty of others out there that will give you one of those happy, feel good sermons and are little more than giving you a pat on the back and telling you that you are doing fine. As for me, if I wanted something like that I would go to a motivational talk, but then again you generally have to pay for such talks. However St Andrew's will stick to the teachings of Jesus, even if some of those teachings are hard to swallow.

I probably should give you an idea of where the church is located, so here is a map:

I remember when I first walked into this church years ago on my first trip to Brisbane with my brother (we actually drove there from Adelaide along the coast - it took us a week) we were immediately made to feel at home. In fact when we mentioned that we had come from Adelaide we discovered that an old friend of ours was regularly attending. Okay, the congregation wasn't all that large, but I have always enjoyed coming to churches with smaller congregations because as a newcomer, or a visitor, you are immediately noticed and made to feel all the more welcome. In some of the larger churches it can be easy to get lost in the crowd (not that that has ever bothered my brother who has never had a problem making friends at a new church).

St Andrews has two main services, one at 10:30 am and another at 7 pm. The 10:30 am one is a family orientated one, while the 7pm tends to be for a younger audience. Actually, a quick glance over their website indicates that they have a number of other services as well, though the leaflet that they handed me at the door indicated that the 10:30 am and the 7pm are the two major ones. They also have Bible studies during the week, as well a regular events throughout the year. Oh, I should also mention that they also support a number of missionaries in various places around the world (but then that is generally a given with most churches).

Anyway, I want to finish off with a lovely anecdote that I found in the leaflet (in fact you can find quite a lot about a church from their leaflet, though in the age of the internet you can also find out about a lot of these things by going to their website - in fact one of the churches I regularly attend no longer hand out leaflets at the gate):
  • If you never experience pain, how would you know I am a healer?
  • If you never had to pray, how would know know I am a provider?
  • If you never had any challenges, how would you overcome and grow?
  • If you never felt sadness, how would you know I am Comforter?
  • If you never made a mistake, how would you know I forgive?
  • If you had no questions, how would you know that you will find the answers in me?
  • If you never needed saving, how would you know I am your saviour?
  • If you were never broken, how would you experience my healing?
  • If you never had to walk through the fire, how would you become refined in my image?
  • If I gave you everything your wanted, would you appreciate it?
  • If you never felt alone and unloved, how would you know that I love?
  • If you were strong, how would you have learned to trust me?
  • If your life was perfect, why would you need me?
Love Jesus.

This post also appears on my Travel Blog.

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St Andrews South Brisbane - A Friendly Queensland Church by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Queensland Maritime Museum - The Last River Destroyer

HMAS Diamantina

The first thing that I noticed about this place was the River Destroyer sitting in the old dry dock. In fact it was on my first trip to Brisbane, after having lunch at a not very cheap cafe on the river bank and then deciding to cross the footbridge over the river to the CBD, that  we (that is my brother and I) saw the destroyer sitting in what looked like an old dry dock. At the time I was really impressed and was trying to work out how we could get down there and check it out, until we realised that it was actually a part of a museum. However, after taking a few photographs, we continued on our journey across the river (namely to see what was under the Pacific Freeway - not much by the way, with the exception of mangroves and carparks) then then proceeded to forget all about it. Anyway, on our recent trip to Brisbane, during the day when we decided (or should I say I decided because my brother will simply follow me where ever I take him - within reason of course: he has no desire to follow me to Somalia) to explore the Southbank parklands, that we ended up paying a visit the the Queensland Maritime Museum, where I suddenly discovered (having previously forgotten all about it), the destroyer sitting in the old dry dock.

As I have mentioned a couple of times, the Museum is located around an old dry dock. This dry dock used to be where ships were built, however the dry dock went into disuse after the freeway bridge was build over the river, namely because the ships that they would build there wouldn't be able to fit under the it (at least that was what I was told by one of the curators at the museum). I suspect that the dry dock had fallen into disuse some time previously, and I doubt they would have build the bridge over the freeway without actually letting the owners of the shipyards have any say in it. Anyway, the museum, who had been given a retired tug boat as part of their collection, approached the Queensland Government and where allowed to use the dry dock, and the area around it, to set up their museum.

HMAS Forceful
Doesn't look all that forceful

Okay, you can probably read about the Forceful on the martime's museum website, so I probably don't need to say all that much about it here (though I will anyway). The Forceful is one of museum's collection of boats, and it was the last coal-fired tugboat to be in service in the Port of Brisbane. It was originally commissioned in 1926 and served in a number to places, though mostly in the Port of Brisbane, until 1970. These days she sits on the Brisbane River, next to the musuem, so that people like my brother and I can wander around on its deck and stick our heads into some of the compartments. They did have a guard (or maybe just one of the museum volunteers) standing on the jetty, probably to stop people from stealing it. Mind you, I suspect that stealing the tug boat is not all that easy, considering that you probably need an experienced crew to actually get it moving.

In fact there are a number of ships on display, including a retired Pearl Diver, and Jessica Watson's yacht, Ella's Pink Lady. For those who don't know who Jessica Watson is (and I must admit that I'm one of them because after she completed her trek I pretty much forgot about her, not that I was paying all that much attention in the first place), she holds the record for being the youngest person to sail around the world (she didn't circumnavigate the globe because, apparently, there is a certain route you have to take, and she took a route that while it went around the world, it didn't travel the distance for it to be a circumnavigation - to actually circumnavigate the world you have to pass through the Suez and Panama canals).

Jessica Watson's Route
Jessica Watson's route

Circumnavigation Route
Typical Circumnavigation Route
Among the collection of boats, the museum also have a number of natucial items, such as a collection of buoys, engines, a radar, and some cannons. One of the sheds is full of smaller boats, including the Fury, which is a skiff-class dingy (a dingy that has a sail attached to it, much like a small yacht). There is also a building what contains a number of exhibits as well some model boats, though since we were pressed for time, and also a little hungry, we weren't able to look at all of the exhibits. The main reason is because we spent quite a lot of time crawling through the nooks and crannies of the Diamantina, which is the large River Destroyer sitting in the old dry dock.

HMAS Diamantina
It just fits

Once again you can find out all about the HMAS Diamantina from the museum's website, or else you could go to Wikipedia, though I suspect you would get more reliable information from the owner's of the ship (not that owning something automatically means you know everything about it - my Grandfather and computers is a prime example). Anyway, this destroyer (or is it a frigate - I'm not sure which - in fact I'm pretty sure I couldn't tell you the difference - as far as I am concerned they are both ships) was built during World War II and served some time doing what ships generally do during war - or warships at least - shoot at things, preferably the enemy. After the war it was then converted to an ocean-survey ship (which basically meant that they removed all of the guns) and was then retired in 1980 where it became a permanent exhibit at the museum where it sits in the drydock.

Diamantina Engine Room
The Engine Room

Okay, they could have set the ship up so you could wander around the dry dock and look at the outside, but that wouldn't be any fun, so you can go on board and wander around the inside of the ship. The first thing that I discovered is that this ship is huge. Okay, when I say huge I am not talking about aircraft carrier huge (now those ships are gigantic) but rather that to explore every nook and cranny of the Diamantina takes quite a long time. The ship itself has four levels, though the top comprises the bridge, while you can only go into a couple of the rooms in the bilge (which is what I believe they call the bottom level of the ship, the place naughty sailors are thrown because it tends to be dark and damp, with water shloshing around the floor). The middle two levels comprise of the crew quarters and the other operational parts of the ship, including the radio room.

Anyway, it would probably be better to simply show you a bunch of photographs - in fact it would be even better to go and check it out yourself, if exploring warships is your thing.

Diamantina - Front GunDiamantina - Side Gun
A couple of the cannons

Diamantina - Captain's CabinDamantina - Captain's Cabin
The Captain's cabin, including the table where he would have his meals

Diamantina - Radio RoomDiamantina - Radio Room
A couple of shots of the radio room

Diamantina - HallwayDiamantina - Medical Room

As you can see from the photo above the hallways are quite narrow and cramped, and the doors are also quite small. Living on the ship while it was out at sea was not the type of experience for those who like their space - most of the crew do not have that luxury (though checking out the captain's cabin, as well as the cabins of some of the other senior officers, you can see that they do). As for the medical suite (or whatever it is call) this isn't just a first aid cabin - you would have a fully qualified surgeon on board, namely because there would be times that you simply could not wait to get back to shore to perform an operation.

Diamantina - CabinDiamantina - Hammocks

If you were lucky, or held a senior position, you may have to share a cabin with a couple of others, however if you were simply the average seaman, then unfortunately your bed would simply consist of a hammock hanging in one of the rooms in the lower deck.

Diamantina - Crew BarDiamantina - Crew Bar

Of course, there were also places where the crew could relax, which included a bar (though I suspect that alcohol was not available - we can't have a drunk crew, or even one suffering from a hangover, operating the destroyer), though I suspect access would depend on one's seniority. However, they do have a kitchen and a mess, though once again the officers and the crew wouldn't generally share eating areas.

So, that is the museum. Pretty cool, particularly the River Class destroyer sitting in the dry dock. I found it interesting, and am certainly going to check out the one in Sydney (which I believe also has a submarine).

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Queensland Maritime Museum - The Last River Destroyer by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Diamantina source: Nick-D used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
Jessica Watson's Route source: Moondyne used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Workshops Rail Museum - Australia's Oldest Rail Workshop

Goods Train

Actually, there are probably older railway workshops in Australia, but they have long since been closed down, which means that the Queensland Rail workshops in Ipswich would be the oldest operating railway workshop in Australia (it is just that the title to the blog was long enough as is to add the word 'operating'). Anyway, as I am prone to do, I was looking at Ipswich on Google Maps when I discovered this railway museum (I actually discovered it by following a railway line, another thing that I have the habit of doing). Since my brother loves trains, and I think they're pretty cool myself (if only because as a kid I ended up following my brother's fascination with trains - he was always the proactive one - we just ended up following him because he made up his own mind), I decided to take him here when we visited Brisbane.

Seriously, there isn't actually all that much in Ipswich, but they do have this rather cool museum, the Workshops Rail Museum, which is mainly for kids but I'm sure anybody who has a passion for trains would enjoy spending a half a day here. Mind you, it isn't the easiest place to get to since you have to catch a train all the way up to Ipswich, and then catch a bus that happens to go past the museum. If you're up for a walk, all you need to do is look for the railway line that crosses the Bremer River and goes through the Riverlink Shopping Centre, and then follow it because that railway line will take you right to the museum. In fact that railway line is used to move trains from the museum onto the Queensland Rail network. Anyway, here is a video of a train for those who are simply itching to see a video of a train:

Actually, this video is 28 minutes of steam trains

Look, I must be honest with you and say that I'm actually not really a big fan of steam trains namely because they are so, well, old fashioned. Yeah, I like old stuff - I think old stuff is cool - but for some reason the old stuff that I like doesn't actually include steam trains. Anyway, you may be wandering why I am chatting about steam trains and that is because that is what you will find at the museum, but I will get onto that in a second. The museum is actually the front of the workshops, out the back are the workshops proper where trains are still worked on and restored. However they aren't the rolling stock that is currently being used by Queensland Rail for commercial purposes - those workshops are elsewhere - but rather they are what are more commonly known as 'tourist trains', which is why I mention steam trains: most of the trains that are being worked on in this factory are steam trains, the same steam trains that would be worked on here back in the days when this factory was being used for commercial purposes.

The original factory was located much closer to the city of Ipswich, and in fact you can still see one of the original buildings at the Riverlink Shopping centre. This was actually the first railway workshop established in the colony, and the reason that they were built in the regional town of Ipswich as opposed to Brisbane is because the Brisbane River provided adequate transport between the two localities, so the railway hub was established further inland. However by about 1900 the original workshops had become too small so they were expanded a little further north on the current site, which reached its peak production during World War II. For those who are really interested in knowing more about the workshops (without actually visiting the place), you can find a detailed account on Wikipedia, which as been sourced from the Queensland Heritage Register.

Original Workshop
The remain workshop from the original site
Anyway, since I have you to give you a map of where you can find the museum, here it is:

After paying the entry fee (and thanks to my beautiful brother once again I got in for free - he has a special concession which means that his companion, usually me or my mum, doesn't have to pay) we walked into the grounds and thought 'this place is huge'. As it turns out the actual workshops are huge, the museum only takes up one of the buildings (there are six in total), however each of those buildings are pretty large in and of themselves. 

So, we wandered around the area out the front and had a look at the steam locomotive at the entrance, and then the old goods train, before heading inside to discover that the place was full of primary school children. It seems like a couple of schools had the same idea that I had: visit the museum. Sure, there is that image that you occasionally see on Facebook of an old television that suggested that you were going to have a lot of fun if you walked into class to see one of them standing there, but I assure you, as a kid, the television was absolutely nothing compared to a school excursion. Mind you, I still remember in high school English when our teacher asked us if we wanted to watch a movie to which we all enthusiastically said yes, after which he then wrote a question on the board which indicated that we had to write an essay - but I digress.

Probably not a good indication of the size of the facility
So, the museum is basically everything to do with the history of rail in Queensland right down to the modern day. So, along with the multitude of kids activities that you will encounter in almost every section of the building (which is probably why this place is so popular with the kids) you will also find exhibits telling you about rail in Queensland from the early days of steam to the modern electric powered tilt train (there is even a model of the tilt train for you to go inside, if that is your thing). As can be expected from a rail museum you will also find the ubiquitous model train set (and honestly, what is a rail museum without a model train set?). Anyway, here is a video I took of that train set:

I wonder if I'm supposed to attribute myself?

While there were lots of interesting things in this museum to look at, the one thing that really caught my eye was cut away of a diesel train which not only showed the insides, but also how it works. Mind you, if you really want to see how stuff works, it just so happens that there is a website called, ironically, How Stuff Works, which includes diesel trains (though they don't seem to have one on electric trains, though you can learn that from wiki answers, and interestingly the electric train was developed because steam and diesel powered trains are simply not conducive to a subway system). In the end, it doesn't matter how cool the internet is these days, it simply does not beat the model in the museum.

Diesel Train Interior
Now isn't that cool.
So, this brings me to the next part of my adventure. When we bought our tickets the lovely lady at the counter told us that there were tours of the workshop and that the next one was at 12:00 pm. That sounded cool, and I'm sure my brother would have liked to go on the tour as well, so at 12:00 pm we met outside the gates to the workshop proper where we and another couple were taken behind the scenes into where the old steam trains were being restored. Mind you, they also work in diesel trains here, but at this time that workshop was off limits, so we only got to see inside the steam train building.

Steam Train Factory
Now this is one cool photo.
While we were wandering through the workshop looking at all the steam trains that were in pieces and otherwise, we were introduced to one of the apprentices (actually the one apprentice). I thought that it was odd that there was an apprentice steam train engineer since it is sort of like studying to become an Ancient Roman lawyer - there isn't really that much of a demand. Actually, I suspect that his apprenticeship was a little more general than simply working on and restoring steam trains, and I'm sure he could take the skills that he learnt here and apply them in other places, and other workshops, but still it would be pretty cool working in this place, though not as cool as doing work for the dole in an aeroplane museum (actually, the coolest job would probably be an aeroplane repo-man, but apparently it is pretty dangerous as well).

Steam Train Inside
There is more in there than just water
One thing we were shown as we followed our guide through the workshops was this stream train that was being prepared to be placed out into the museum. Basically they were doing to this steam train what they had done to the diesel train that was on display. I actually found it really interesting because I always thought that the boiler on the steam train pretty much contained only water. As it turns out there is a lot more to these machines than just a boiler full of water. The other thing that we were shown was this train that is affectionately called (by me) The Monster (actually, others might call it that as well). The reason I called it that was because it was huge. What our guide told us was that it was so heavy it could only travel on main-line tracks. In fact one of the problems with a lot of the powerful steam trains was that they were really big, and really heavy, which meant that they could only travel on certain railways. If they went onto a track that could not hold its weight then bad things would happen.

The Monster
It's bigger in real life
Anyway, after seeing The Monster and being told out how big and powerful it was, it was time for our tour to come to an end, with the exception of one really strange sight - the German Tank in a bubble. Apparently it is the only remaining German World War I tank left and it had unfortunately been caught up in the Queensland floods back in 2011. So they ended up having to move it out of the museum and bring it here, where it was put into a bubble so that it could be protected from contaminants.

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Workshops Rail Museum - Australia's Oldest Rail Workshop by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Workshop photo source: Queensland Museum used with permission under Creative Common Attribution non-commerical 3.0 Australian license.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Exploring Brisvegas

Brisbane at Night

Well, it has been about seven years since I was last in Brisbane, and since I have been to Sydney quite a number of times in the past couple of years I decided that I would go somewhere a little different. Mind you, I've never seen my football team (Port Power) play at the Gabba - in fact I have never seen a sporting match at the Gabba, so I decided to time my trip for that one particular event. Mind you, there generally isn't all that much about Brisbane that captures my attention, except for it being in Queensland and having some wonderful beaches, but beyond that there hasn't been anything that has caused me to jump onto the internet and book some plane tickets (and even then wonderful beaches generally isn't an excuse for me to go on a holiday).

For some reason the city seems to have earned the name Brisvegas, which I was also somewhat curious about because, well, from what I can remember, Brisbane and Las Vegas have almost nothing in common. When I think of Las Vegas what usually comes to mind are casinos, fountains, and a place where you can get married in a wedding chapel with Elvis conduction the ceremony. As far as I am aware there is nothing like that in Brisbane, so I guess that was another reason to go (as well as to visit some pubs and restaurants for my job as a reviewer, since most of my reviews, to date, focus on Melbourne and Adelaide, with a couple of places in Sydney).

My arrival
Well, being the sucker for punishment that I am (or should I say attempting to squeeze as much time into my trip as possible), I headed for Melbourne airport after work and jumped on one of the evening flights. I must say that plane travel is starting to get quite annoying. For one thing these flights are becoming a little cramped and stuffy, and sitting in a crowded plane for a two and a half hour trip is starting to lose its shine. Even though I have my trusty laptop and an entertaining book, a part of me has reached the point that I simply want to get off of that plane as soon as possible (which is not at all feasible when you are flying at 30000 feet). Mind you, despite the length of time soon enough those magic words 'we are now preparing to land' came over the speaker meaning that my time trapped inside the flying coffin was about to end.

Brisbane Airport has a train that connects it with the city, though there are a couple of problems: they charge a premium for the service (no doubt because the Brisbane Airport Corporation slaps a tariff on all train journeys, just as it does on every other trip to the airport) and it stops at 9:30 pm. That meant that poor old me had to catch a cab. Mind you, catching a cab can be an interesting experience at times because you find all sorts of people driving taxis. Once I have a former video editor, and another time a biology major who knew all about marijuana (not that he was a drug dealer). This time I had a automotive engineer from India whose wife happened to be a medical doctor. I am always amazed at some of these immigrants because they are all hard workers and are willing to do all sorts of jobs. I used to wonder why I never saw a white person serving at a 7-11, driving a cab, or cleaning an office. Now I know - we are job snobs. Hey, I have even seen people move through my office pretty quickly because it was just not the type of job they want.

The other thing about taxi drivers is that you can learn some interesting things from them. For instance this fellow from India explained that as a medical doctor you can earn a lot more in India than you can in Australia because not only are all of the hospitals private, but medical doctors can command much higher wages. He also told me that going to a dentist in India is a lot cheaper, not because their dentists are bad, but because there are so many dentists around that the market has pushed the prices down. I was curious as to why he was driving a cab, and he explained that it was because he was saving up to open his own motor mechanic. Gee times have changed. It used to be that if you wanted to fix cars you would take up an apprenticeship, however these days you have to go and get an engineering degree.

Ghost Town
This is why I am baffled as to why people refer to Brisbane as Brisvegas. Okay, from what I gathered Angela Merkal had a lot of fun when she visited the city for the G20 (and you can see that Brisbane is still trumpeting that by claiming to be Australia's new World City), however once I settled into my hotel I decided to do what I always do: look for a place to have a beer. Anyway, I suspect that I took a wrong turn because I headed up to Spring Hill which, honestly, is not a place to go for a late night beer, and the pub that I was going to visit happened to be closed. Well, I could have simply walked across the road from my hotel because there was a pub there, but the huge words proclaiming 'Cold Beer, Hot Girls' and 'Brisbane's only Topless Bar' sort of suggested that it wasn't a place for a good little Christian like me.

Spring Hill Hotel
it was shut

Anyway, after hitting a couple of blanks up in Spring Hill (though there was a pub just down the road that was open, however as it turned out that pub was one of Brisbane's gay nightspots) I headed back to the city on my quest for a cold beer. I did find a place called the 'Down Under Bar' however there was a line snaking down Edward Street from the door, yet through the window the bar looked open, and empty. I went to politely speak to one of the bouncers who rudely told me to get in line (as it turns out the bar is out the back). Anyway, when I see a line of young people that you suspect are all underage, it is generally a good indicator (at least to me) that it isn't a place to have a cold beer.

So, I ended up, once again, taking a wrong turn (because if I had continued down Edward Street I would have discovered another three pubs, though knowing Brisbane I suspect that they would have been closed as well) and walked through the Queen Street Mall towards the river (though that could be either direction because the Brisbane River curves around the CBD). Once again the place was pretty empty and all of the shops, cafes, and restaurants were closed. My quest finally came to a successful conclusion when I arrived at the Treasury Casino.

Treasury Casino
That is a bit of a long shot

Now, I must admit that I am really not a big fan of casinos because I have never been interested in gambling, or at least gambling which involves little to no thinking. Sure, investing in the stock market is gambling while betting on the horses involves research and educated guessing, but when it comes to casinos the ability to win money is based entirely on luck. Okay, there is an entire mathematical discipline involved in determining the odds of winning, but in the end it doesn't matter how mathematically inclined you are, or how good you are at determining the chance of whether you will win or lose, in the end it all comes down to the roll of the dice.

Anyway, the Treasury Casino is in the old Queensland Government Treasury Building so as you wander around the rooms and corridors you discover that it is a rather interesting set up. Unlike other casinos that are usually just a huge hall with a number of bars, the Treasury has lots of little rooms and alcoves, no doubt the former offices of the staff that used to work here. The main hall was once the courtyard, though I suspect that there are a lot more doors in here than there where when it was run by the Treasury Department (I doubt the offices were throughfares). Also, like many of the other casinos that I have been to in Australia (though the only non-Australian casino I've been to is Wynns in Macau - well there was another one but I forget its name) there are a number of bars with all assortments of cocktails and beers available, as well as the increasingly popular craft beers (though I have read that some people are slamming craft beers of late as being too hip and trendy).

Back to the Airport
The first thing I decided to do that morning was to go and find a place to have some breakfast, which wasn't all that hard since the deadness of the previous night had been replaced with the hustle and bustle of you average CBD, and there were plenty of places open for breakfast. Since I was going to be here for around seven days I decided to go for a bit of a wander and chose a nice cafe opposite the Treasury Casino. What was interesting was the guy that took my order was using what looked like a smart phone as opposed to the standard pad that every other waiter uses. I thought that it was a little strange that cafes here in Brisbane had taken up smartphones to record orders while back in Melbourne everybody still uses a pencil and pad. It could also be the case that I don't actually go to places that have table service, meaning that I end up ordering my meals at the counter.

Cafe Brisbane
A nice place to have a spot of breakfast

Anyway, I had to go and pick my brother up from the airport, so after finishing off my delicious pancakes (and taking a few photos), I then headed down to the railway station to get myself a ticket. Like most of the other cities around the world, Brisbane has dispensed with the need for paper tickets and reverted over to using a card, which the call a Go-Card. What I thought was cool was as a visitor I could get my card, pay a deposit, and once I had finished with it I would get the deposit, and any extra credit, refunded. That was very handy, particularly since I didn't end up having unused credit on the card after I returned home. Mind you, if you pay by credit card they can only refund you back onto the credit card (though I preferred to use the term 'cash out').

As I mentioned you pay a premium to travel to the airport on the Airtrain, though I only caught it there because my brother doesn't like dragging his bags on public transport. I also wanted to go for another ride through the tunnel connecting the airport with the city. That tunnel has an interesting story because when it was being built it was listed on the Australian stock-exchange as Brisconnect. The thing was that the company didn't issue your normal share, but rather you would pay a third when you initially invested and then at certain points during the project they would ask you to contribute the next third and then at a later point the final third. However, during the global financial crisis the value of these shares plummeted and a bunch of unsophisticated investors, seeing a heap of shares worth two cents a pop decided to pump a heap of money into them. There was a catch - when the project reached a certain point they had to cough up an amount of money equal to a third of the original value, which meant that these unsophisticated sods found themselves with debts of over a million dollars. I guess the moral of that story is: if a share looks cheap then there is probably a very good reason why it is that cheap, nobody is buying them.

I had to take a video of our journey through the tunnel

Once again our taxi driver was a rather interesting person: he was from Ethiopia. He had come to Australia in the early nineties, namely because Ethiopia was basically a basket case country and he could make a much better life for himself over here. I guess he was one of the really fortunate ones as Australia as since closed its doors to pretty much everybody in the intervening years. The days of packing your bags in a third world country and coming over here are long gone. He was quite lucky in more ways than one because he had the good fortune of actually having an education, which meant that he could both read and write in English. The education system in Ethiopia is pretty much non-existent meaning that to actually be able to go to school and learn is a real luxury.

A walk through the city
As my brother and I generally do when we arrive in a new city we go out for a walk to have a look around. As well as visiting a few pubs, we made our way to Central Station to where the eternal flame is located. It is located at the top of ANZAC Square, opposite the railway station, where there are numerous monuments to Queenslanders who fought in World War One. Opposite ANZAC Square is Post Office Square, named as such because it faces the old GPO. The thing about Post Office Square is that it is built on top of a shopping arcade and you can actually walk from the GPO to the railway station without having to wait to cross any of the roads. Mind you, like most cities, driving in the city centre is a nightmare. Our taxi driver decided that he would take the route through the city to get to our hotel as opposed to going around the other way. We ended up spending more time crawling along Ann Street than we did getting there from the airport.

The Eternal Flame
Artists have written songs about this place

I always have a chuckle when I walk past the Eternal Flamebecause I wonder whether people, late at night, jump the fence just so they can light their cigarette. I'm sure people have done that, especially if they are young, and drunk, since many of the younger people don't hold the same reverence towards ANZAC Day as the older generations. Hey, we didn't even have a public holiday this year, which kinda sucked.

There was a guy standing near the Eternal Flame wearing a UNHCR uniform, and I decided that I would go and have a chat with him. I should have listened to my brother because it turned out to be a big mistake. The thing is that this guy was a charity collector, and they aren't like the charity collectors of old that stand on street corners with tins. These days they try to get you to sign up to a direct debit arrangement on the spot. In a way it is better for the charity because they get an income stream as opposed to a one off donation, but I have spoken to these types of people before and what they do is that they give you a hard sell, but don't let you go away to think about it. In fact they won't even give you any information to read, unless of course you sign up on the spot. Charity collecting has changed a lot since I was younger, and these days the collectors give you high powered sales pitches, particularly since they also get commissions from these sales.

Anzac Square Statue
Some Queensland General

So, after managing to extricate myself from these sales people disguised as agents of mercy, we crossed ANZAC Square and over to Post Office Square where there were a number of people lying in the sun. We also saw what would become an ubiquitous sight in Queensland - the ibis, a long beaked bird that seems to be everywhere. In fact in Queensland the ibis seems to be a prolific as seagulls and pigeons are in other cities. Once again, I am sure they are what you consider 'flying rats' especially since you will see signs telling you not to feed them (though they generally are able to feed themselves without any help from us humans).

Don't see these things lurking around other cities

City Gardens
I would call this place by its proper name, the City Botanic Gardens, however, unlike other Botanic Gardens that I have visited, there are no signs underneath the trees with Latin names scrawled on them. So, making our way south from Post Office Square, we passed the Catholic Cathedral (after sticking our heads inside, but since people were doing Catholicy things in there we felt that maybe wandering around inside looking at the place was not all that appropriate), visited a couple of more pubs, and then headed to the gardens. The gardens are located on the southern tip of the CBD, where the river curves around to head towards the sea. I sort of want to call it a peninsula, because it looks like a peninsula, but since it is a river, and not a lake, it is probably not an appropriate term.

So, we walked around the gardens and I must say that it wasn't all that impressive, as a botanic garden that is. In fact it is more like a park than a botanic garden (or should I say a standard garden as opposed to a special garden). On one side is a university campus, and at the far end is a stage where I am sure a number of high profile bands have played in front of a crowd of adoring fans (while others sit outside in the park to listen to the music for free - but then they don't get to see the stage act). Well, we wandered around the gardens for a bit, but in the end there was nothing much to see, so we made our way down to one of the wharves to catch the ferry across the river.

City Botanic Gardens
One of the many photos I took

There was probably a time where the only way to cross the river was by ferry, and on this side of the city there is only one bridge - the Story Bridge (though if you go further down you will get to the Gateway Bridge). Unfortunately you can't realistically walk around and cross the Story Bridge because that will take ages, and unlike the Western Side of the city, there aren't any footbridges, so you have the little ferry that takes you from one side to the other. I do wonder whether any ships still come this far up the river - they must do since the Story Bridge and the Gateway Bridge are high enough for a decent sized ship to pass underneath. Mind you, with the size of some of the cruise ships these days I doubt they would even be able to fit down the Brisbane River, let alone turn around, without doing significant damage to the waterfront properties.

Story Bridge
Built by the same guy as the one in Sydney

Anyway, on the other side of the river there was this pub that I wanted to check out - the Story Bridge Hotel. The reason I wanted to check it out was because it is built under the bridge. Actually it is next to the bridge, but since they have added parts to it the hotel now extends under the bridge. It was around this time that I discovered Queensland's really strict smoking laws. Basically you cannot smoke where people are eating, which means that pretty much all of the outdoor areas have magically transformed into outdoor eating venues. Many of these beer gardens where built when smoking was banned inside pubs and clubs, but now Queensland has extended that to push all of the smokers to a corner of the beer garden where they can smoke without having to upset any of the diners.

Tilt Train to Caboolture
As it turns out the entire route from Brisbane to Rockhampton has been electrified and they run a 'tilt-train' between the two cities once every two days. Since my brother likes trains (and I don't think they're all that bad either - why else would I be uploading videos of trains to Youtube?) we decided to jump onto the Tilt Train and catch it to the next station - Caboolture. When we went to purchase the tickets we were told that the closest stop we could get the ticket to was Nambour (the town where Kevin Rudd grew up - you do remember Kevin don't you?). So we spent an extra bit of money but since I didn't want to go all the way to Nambour, we just got off the train, much to the surprise of the staff, at Caboolture (I'm not sure if we were actually supposed to do that, but hey, I paid my fare and anyway the lady who sold us the ticket said that there was nothing stopping us from getting off at Caboolture). Anyway, if you don't know what a tilt-train is, you can always check it out on Wikipedia.

I had to throw in a bit of train porn

Anyway, here we were, standing outside the Caboolture train station wondering what to do, so we did what every normal person does in a situation like this - go across the road and buy some lunch. I must say that we ended up walking into this wonderful bakery namely because the staff were just really, really friendly. She even made sure that the tea that I ordered was perfect (though I wasn't going to be so picky as to complain if it wasn't). We then walked around Caboolture for a bit, discovered that there was absolutely nothing here (with the exception of this nice old school building), so we decided to walk to the park and eat our lunch.

Caboolture Primary
Probably the best looking building in the entire suburb

Anyway, I'm sad to say that for the average tourist (of which I am not) there actually isn't all that much in Caboolture that is going to hold your attention. Okay, there is a nice park with some fancy sculptures, some fountains, and a few strange birds hobbling about, but other than that it is your basic, everyday, outer suburb. It's not like those outer suburbs that used to be farming communities that have been absorbed into the city due to population growth and uncontrolled sprawl - no, it's just an outer suburb where the land is cheap and main road is littered with huge stores selling this that and everything else (as well as an accountancy firm called Isis and partners - which I found a bit odd considering the current events, until I realised that they were referring to the Egyptian goddess as opposed to the extremist group).

Caboolture Sculpture
At least that have some nice artwork

So, after concluding that there was nothing all that much in Caboolture we jumped onto the train and returned towards the city, but we didn't go all of the way because being a train geek I wanted to get a video of the Sunlander (or is it the Spirit of Queensland) passing one of the inner city stations. However I had to try to time it correctly so I would be at the station when it passed. It turned out that I wasn't and ended up hanging around for fifteen minutes before I concluded that I had missed it. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the pub for a beer, and then went and got a cup of tea at a nearby coffee shop. Oh well, at least I got to see Albion (which is a pretty nice looking inner city suburb) as well as getting a cup of tea at a really cool coffee shop.

The Valley of Fortitude
Well, we had returned to the hotel reasonably early, so after tea my brother decided to stay behind and play on my laptop (actually, he ended up doing some research on Supercells - he likes storms) so I decided to do something that I have, for some reason, never done the previous times that I have been in Brisbane - visit Fortitude Valley. I sort of wondered why they actually called the place Fortitude Valley (Wikipedia tells you it was named after the Scottish ship the SS Fortitude)? Was it because when it was established only the strong could hope to survive here, or was it a more modern name, suggesting that those who come here need a lot of fortitude to last the night? Well, in the days of Wikipedia many of these myths come to naught simply because with the tap of the keyboard you can find the answer that you seek (which makes running a quiz night especially difficult these days).

Fortitude Valley
This is where it's all happening

Anyway, I should mention that Fortitude Valley is the centre of Brisbane nightlife and is a complete contrast to the CBD, which usually dies at around 9:00 pm. As soon as you step off the train you enter a shopping centre, and a short trip outside onto Brunswick Street you are suddenly assaulted with all manner of entertainment with signs proclaiming 'Girls, Girls, Girls' and establishments bearing the name 'Eye-Candy' (with a bikini clad girl plastered prominently on the window). As I walked towards the mall I then had to run a gauntlet of spruikers all trying you entice me into their establishment (with some of them handing out cards for free entry, but then again these establishments don't make money out of their entry fees, they make money out of drunken guys paying obscene amounts of money for naked girls to gyrate over their bodies).

A part of me was hoping that there was going to be more to the Valley than this and fortunately, once I had crossed Wickham Terrace, I was rewarded for my troubles. This is where you step onto Brunswick Street Mall, which is lined with bars and pubs. Mind you, a number of these bars have bouncers out the front with machines that are designed to determine whether an ID is fake or not, and I must admit, these guys are nowhere nears as friendly as the security guards at the airport. At least at the airport if you ask them why you have to take your laptop out of your bag, or why they check umbrellas, they will give you an answer (the metal detectors have difficulties checking laptops in bags, and the spokes in umbrellas make it easy to hide detonators - and you can also check out the screens on the metal detectors while your bags pass through the detectors) where as these bouncers seem to be gruff and unfriendly, even if you don't look like an immature teenager.

Fortitude Valley Nightlife
A night on the town

Anyway, I found myself, after checking out a few other places (and discovering later that Fortitude Valley is actually much more than just Brunswick Street Mall) I found myself sitting outside a wonderful bar called Brunswick and Ann. Okay, it wasn't as crowded as the Royal George on the other side of the mall, but I had checked that place out earlier and really didn't like it. This place seemed to be quite relaxed, played some decent tunes, and even had a really, really cool cellar bar. Oh, it was also a craft beer bar (which is my sort of bar) and had a Vodka Bar attached to it. Anyway, as I was sitting outside drinking my beer a friendly chap came and sat at my table and began to tell me all about Brisbane.

Brunswick & Ann
Probably the coolest bar in the valley

Basically, as I have learnt from other people who have lived here, it all happens in the Valley. As I suspected, the city dies at around 9:00 pm, and after 11:00 you can pretty much expect the place to be empty, with the exception of the handful of homeless people that are sleeping rough. Okay, I also noticed that there were some young homeless people sleeping rough in the Valley, and on the mall nonetheless (though if I was sleeping rough I would probably not pick the mall since it is not the easiest of places to sleep, however it is probably safer than elsewhere). Once again my suspicions were confirmed that people in Brisbane prefer the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast. Basically the Gold Coast is simply a tourist haven that really doesn't have any soul beyond the high rise hotels and the tourist glamour. If you want a peaceful and relaxing holiday (or even a good place to go fishing) then the Sunshine Coast is the place to be.

Cultural Immersion
The next morning I discovered another problem with Brisbane. Good luck finding a place open on Saturday or Sunday morning that serves breakfast. I walked around for about fifteen minutes and all of the places that I had seen bustling on Friday morning were closed. Its as if after 11:00 pm on Friday night the city literally dies, only to be resurrected the first train on Monday morning. Okay, that is probably being a little harsh, particularly since people do begin to emerge from their hives at around 9:00 am, which is when the shops open, however looking for a place to have breakfast was nigh impossible.

Which is why I ended up jumping on the train and headed out to Nundah. Why Nundah? I really don't know because to be honest with you there is nothing at Nundah that is worth seeing. Hey, it doesn't even have that hip inner-city feeling that Albion has (though it is a couple of stations north). In fact, the only thing that really stood out about Nundah were the holes in the ground. The reason I bring that up is because it looks like there is a bit of development going on here with the construction of not one, not two, but three apartment complexes. That is in addition to the others that have already been built turning this place into a modern, cement covered, residential area dotted with numerous cafes. Sure there are a couple of pubs, including one that is basically your stereotypical suburban pub crowded with old men moaning to the bartender while drinking their beers. However the other one has quickly transformed into a more middle class establishment, competing with the numerous cafes that dot the landscape.

That pretty much says it all
Well, after mentioning this residential development I find it interesting how housing has begun to change. These are probably better described as high density dwellings with retail outlets on the first floor, carparks on the next couple of levels, and a bunch of apartments occupying the remaining floors. Unlike the old blocks of flats you see everywhere, these places have security, staff, as well as nice places to eat on the ground floor. However owning such a place does have its drawbacks because you have to contribute a lot more to the cost of maintaining such a building than you traditionally would with other places.

By the way, I did end up finding a place to have some breakfast, as well as a really geeky shop that sells lots of geeky products.

Dancing with Dinosaurs
It was really fortuitous that we ended up in Brisbane this year because there was a dinosaur exhibition on at the Museum and my brother simply loves dinosaurs. The Queensland Museum does have a room full of fossils and skeletons (as well as a number of other exhibits, particularly one for bike geeks - though this is not a permanent display), but the Dinosaur Discovery was basically a bunch of robotic dinosaurs which would roar, gnash their teeth, and move their heads, set up in what could have been their habitat. To be honest, I found it entertaining, but I have been taking my brother to dinosaur exhibitions for years, so there wasn't anything much different that many of the other exhibitions that I have seen, with the exception that the dinosaurs would move their heads, gnash their teeth, and roar.

There were a few other interesting things in the museum, including a large collection of stuffed and preserved animals, and a stack of drawers containing insects of all varieties. There was also an aboriginal display, and it was interesting to view the stories of the original people, particularly when the colony passed the Aboriginal Protection Act, which was a thinly disguised attempt to turn them into carbon copies of the colonists. Mind you, this process has being going on since colonisation, and is still going on today with the Prime Minister's infamous statement that he sees no reason why we should be subsidising Aboriginals for what amounts to little more than a lifestyle choice. Obviously this is a controversial topic, but I tend to fall onto the side that we should allow the original inhabitants to live the lifestyle that they choose, either the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or the modern Australian lifestyle. Of course, their traditional lifestyle doesn't involve sitting around drinking alcohol, so if that is the 'lifestyle choice' that Tony Abbott spoke about, then I can understand his comments, but then again I suspect that there is more to this comment than meets the eye.

A World of Art
The Queensland Cultural Centre composes of a number of institutions, including the Centre of Performing Arts, the Queensland Theatre Company, the Queensland Museum, The Queensland Art Gallery, the State Library of Queensland, and QAGOMA (the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art). After wandering around the museum (and having lunch at the museum cafe) we then went and checked out the art gallery. To be honest there wasn't all that much there that really caught my attention. Well, it was quite interesting, but I had a lot of difficulty determining whether it was a modern art gallery or just a normal art gallery. In fact there wasn't even much in the way of an international collection. When I first walked into the doors all I could see were modern art sculptures, but after ascending a small flight of stairs I then entered into a room full of paintings.

Queensland Art Gallery
Balloon art

There were a couple of rooms which comprised the international collection down the back, which included a handful of European items (including a few medieval paintings) and a number of Indian and Chinese artifacts. What was interesting was that there were some exhibits from Communist China, which reminded me of the left wing revolutionary art that you see floating around. However, this was more an exhibition of Queensland art, which is probably what you would expect from an art gallery in Queensland. Mind you, I am probably more used to the NGV in Victoria, which has an extensive international collection, but then again it is actually dedicated to international art (the Ian Potter Centre, which I haven't visited yet, is where the local art can be found, or so I believe).

The State Library of Queensland is pretty much just that - a State Library, so after wandering around the media room, and looking at a collection of modern aboriginal art, we made our way towards QAGOMA. Unfortunately it was getting late so we were only able to check out a couple of the exhibits, namely Michael Parkowhai's The Promised Land, and a collection of visual art from the film maker David Lynch. I must say that both were quite impressive, however I will discuss these two exhibitions in a later post (since they probably both deserve a post of themselves). What I will say is that I never realised that David Lynch was an artist beyond his filmmaking career, and as it turned out his film making is an extension of his work as a visual artist. The collection of matchbook drawings on display were really impressive.

Headbutting Elephant
This is what I call Modern Art

A lazy Sunday
Okay Sunday wasn't all that lazy since we did go to church, wandered around Woolloongabba for a bit and then went to the football, but other than that we didn't go and visit any eye popping amazing places like we did on Saturday (unless you consider The Gabba an eye popping amazing place, but as far as I'm concerned, it's just a football stadium). However, getting to church was a little tricky as all of the trains heading south (the church was in South Brisbane on Vulture Street, which by the way I have always though was a really cool name for a major thoroughfare) weren't running due to track refurbishment. This meant that we had to catch a bus, which is a tricky proposition most of the time. However, when we realised that we had jumped on the wrong bus, the bus driver was kind enough to let us off at an unscheduled stop.

Okay, maybe I'm a bit of a public transport geek, but I do find it quite interesting. The trains in Brisbane run north-south (sort of, or more like from the northern suburbs to the southern and western suburbs) through the city. I would suggest that Roma Street Station is the major railway station, though from my experience Central Station in Brisbane is the busiest, namely because that is where everybody gets off to go to work. However if I needed to change trains I would do it at Roma Street because all of the trains pass through there (as well as a few other inner-city stations). Roma Street also provides access to the XPT to Sydney and the regional trains. There is also a major bus depot here where all of the buses from the Northern Busway pass through to the city.

Brisbane Central Station
For those train station geeks

The Brisbane Busways are pretty cool, and work almost like trains in and off themselves. The provide a relatively quick way to get into the city since the busways avoid all of the traffic lights (though there is a section of the Northern Busway that runs along Lutwyche Road which slows the bus down a lot, however the express buses also use the freeway to avoid that awkward section). However, the thing that I think is really cool about the Brisbane busway network are the underground bus stations at King George Square and the Myer Centre. In fact you can get off of the bus at the Myer Centre and walk straight into the shopping centre (or at least one of the food courts). It also works to get an awful lot of buses off of the city roads. It would be really cool to see busways like that in some of the other cities, but somehow I don't think that is going to happen.

Anyway, enough of public transport because I did manage to get to St Andrews Anglican in South Brisbane, which I have always liked attending when I am in Brisbane. Pastor Alan Moore has always been very welcoming, and he even remembered me despite not having been here for the past eight years. The preacher spoke on Psalm 4, which was a psalm written by David when all of his enemies (and he did have quite a few) were slandering him, and the speaker was discussing about how we should respond to such situations Mind you, while it is tempting to fight evil with evil I always remember something that CS Lewis wrote somewhere that if we do this we only work to increase the evil and animosity in the world, but by responding with love, or even simply ignoring it, we put a stop to which, which helps to make the world a better place.

St Andrew's Church
A great place to spend a Sunday Morning
So, after morning tea we then wandered down to the Gabba to buy out tickets, and on the way we passed the Chalk Hotel, which turns out to be the pub where all the Brisbane Lions supporters go before and after the game. Fortunately the game was still four hours away, so I stepped in to have a look around, and have a beer. However, we went to another pub, The Pineapple Hotel (that is so Queensland) for lunch before making our way back to the Gabba the long way (namely by wandering through the back streets and looking at a lot of the houses). I noticed that a lot of the houses around here are on stilts, which is probably due to flooding. What was interesting was that there were some houses being raised even further by a company that specialises in lifting houses. That would be an interesting task, lifting a house without it falling to pieces, particularly since most of the houses that are being lifted are made of wood.

So, we arrived at the Gabba about forty-five minutes before the siren so I decided to have a pre-game drink and we walked into the hotel on the other side of the road only to discover that it was packed to the brim with people. It seems as if everybody else had the same idea. The thing was that this hotel really exists in only two states - packed and empty. When there is a game on the hotel is packed, when there isn't it's empty. Which means most of the time the pub is empty, expect for a couple of hours before, and after, a game. Even the pokies room was full of people. However, I did get a pre-game drink, and then went back over the road to watch the football.

The Gabba
Just another football stadium (or is it a cricket ground?)

Well, all I can say was that it was a very disappointing game, but at least I got around to watching a football match at the Gabba. I'm not sure why I really wanted to go to the Gabba, but then it probably has something to do with having never been there before and wanting to check it out at least once. One of the guys at church told me that during the cricket people come from all over Australia to watch a test match here, apparently because they don't play tests at the WACA (in Perth) anymore, so the Gabba has become the go to ground for the cricket. I suspect getting into the MCG or the SCG for a test match is going to be really problematic, but who knows, Adelaide may also draw a huge crowd in that regards.

The Golden Beaches
I'm not sure why I always go for a day trip to the Gold Coast when I visit Brisbane because I really don't like the place. In fact the first time I came here I pretty quickly reached the conclusion that I didn't like the place. It is completely artificial and packed full of bars, restaurants, and beachware shops. There are also the three big amusement parks: Movie World, Seaworld, and Dreamworld. The main reason I originally came here was to first of all check it out, and to also take my brother to Movie World and Sea World. After doing those two things there wasn't really all that much to keep me coming back, yet for some reason a trip to Brisbane isn't a trip to Brisbane without visiting the Gold Coast.

It is a two hour trek by train and bus from the centre of Brisbane, so while it can be done as a daytrip, you may be pretty pressed for time. Anyway, the main strip is Surfers Paradise, though you will find that it is always full of people who go to the Gold Coast for the one thing that the Gold Coast offers - a chance to party. I don't mind my parties, and during the high season (which I have never experienced, and probably don't really want to experience) it would get a lot more crowded than it was when I have been here, but there are still enough people around even in winter to suggest that there is always something happening down here.

Gold Coast Beach
Not the most natural of settings

We took the bus to Broadbeach, which is a quieter part just south of Surfer's Paradise, and this was where my brother had his obligatory paddle in the ocean (he always goes for a paddle when we go to the beach, except for when it is really, really cold - or we are at Bondi, for some reason he has never gone for a paddle at Bondi). We wandered around for a bit before catching the new Gold Coast Tram to head up to Southport.

Southport really doesn't have all that much to offer, though it is the commercial centre for the Gold Coast region. What it did have was this absolutely awesome secondhand bookshop that had so many books that I could have spent the entire day wandering around and looking at what was available. I ended up spending quite a bit of money here and landed up with a number of books that weighed by backpack down considerably (especially since it already had antique laptop inside). There was even this old record shop, though since I don't own an antique (or even a modern) turntable I saw no need to go inside an have a look around.

Return to Southbank
The next morning I decided to once again go out and look for a place to have some breakfast, and as it turned out there was this heaps cool cafe across the road (the Java Coast Cafe). After the previous morning's disappointment this was a huge turn-around. From the outside it doesn't look like much - just your typical take-away stall, but when you step inside not only do you discover a dinning hall down the back, but behind the building there is this huge garden where you can sit in peace, away from the bustle of the city, and have some breakfast (or even a morning coffee). It is one of those organic fair trade cafes with a unique menu. Anyway, it turned out to be a really pleasant start to the morning.

Java Coast Coffee
The breakfast garden

So after breakfast we decided to spend a peaceful day in the city - no big adventures out in the suburbs. We have noticed that there was this tent located in King George Square, and we had been told at church on Sunday that one of their regulars had some artwork on display inside. I'm always happy to go and check out artwork and simply waste some time looking at pretty pictures. Also, King George Square was just around the corner, so it wasn't too far out of my way (but then again art never is). Anyway, it was run by the Mental Illness Fellowship of Queensland which provided a means for them to be able to put their art on display and hopefully make a little money from their talents. It was a gold coin donation and you could purchase the art if you wished. I was interested, but was not willing to purchase any on the spot. However, as it turned out, once the tent disappeared Wednesday night so did the ability to purchase any art.

Mental Health Artwork
Giving Warhol a run for his money

As I was wandering around the tent (or should I say gallery) I was impressed at how good many of these paintings were and that people with a mental disability were about to produce such quality artwork. However it then struck me that a number of the artists that we all know and love, such as Vincent Van Gogh, actually suffered from mental illness. Once again it didn't take me long to find a post outlining a number of famous artists who, alongside Van Gogh, also suffered from mental illness (though Van Gogh is probably the most well known). Actually, I was surprised to learn that Picasso suffered from manic depression, while Michaelangelo suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (though sometimes I suspect that having a mental illness adds to your ability as an artist - normal people are just plain boring).

More Mental Health Art
Renoir would be proud

A history of Brisbane
So, after a rather pleasant journey, once again, through the world of art, we decided to check out the Brisbane Museum. I had no idea that it actually existed until I discovered it one day while exploring Google Maps. Anyway, it is located on the forth floor of the Brisbane Town Hall, though while I was at it I wanted to go and explore the town hall itself - you know, go and see the office where Campbell Newman plotted to become Premier of Queensland (and the proceeded to get dumped after just one term). However, like most government institutions you simply cannot wander around looking in every nook and cranny (especially since the days of accidentally driving onto a military base trying to get to your local Westfield shopping centre are long gone). So, we simply made our way to the elevators (where a horde of grey nomads on a tour were congregating) and went to the museum.

Brisbane Town Hall
Not the easiest building to get a photo

Actually, we stopped off at the third floor where there was a sister city display. Basically it was showcasing all of the sister cities with which Brisbane had an agreement. These cities included Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Chongqing, and Kobe among others. While the city displays were somewhat interesting, in the end it was all about economic co-operation and development which is not something that impresses me all that much, especially since I don't get anything out of it. Still, as I said, looking at the displays were cool. Anyway, if you are really interested in knowing about Sister Cities, you can always check out Wikipedia.

So, on to the forth floor and the Museum of Brisbane (though we had to skip one lift considering it was packed full of grey nomads). Well, as I should have known it is a museum about Brisbane as opposed to a museum in Brisbane (and only I could have been a little surprised that a place called The Museum of Brisbane was actually about Brisbane). Anyway, as I mentioned, it is basically a museum that showcases everything that is Brisbane and has a lot of its history from a harsh penal colony to the modern metropolis. There is also a huge section on the river and if you are really into rivers you can learn an awful lot about the history of the waterway that happens to be the Brisbane River.

They even has exhibitions showcasing things that are uniquely Brisbane (and it seems that they have an exhibition of paintings by William Bustard, who happens to be a painter that painted Brisbane). When we were there they had an exhibition of costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood. While they admitted that this had nothing to do with Brisbane (with the exception that Warner Brothers does have a film studio on the Gold Coast, but then again that is not Brisbane - it is a completely different city) the collection is actually owned by somebody who lives in Brisbane and was kind enough to put it on display (I think its cool when rich people kindly put their collections on display for everybody to see). Mind you, it was fashion, and I'm not all that interested in fashion, but it was interesting to see what he actually had in his collection (though apparently when Hollywood started getting rid of these costumes, namely because they were made for one particular actor for one particular movie, they were going at fire sale prices).

Museum of Brisbane
He doesn't seem all that impressed
 A stroll through the Southbank

After our exploration of the Town Hall we then caught a bus across to Brisbane's Southbank where there is this huge park. For anybody familiar with Melbourne's Southbank it is completely different. Where Melbourne has a wide pedestrian walkway with cafes and the casino, Brisbane's is basically one long park stretching from the Cultural Centre down to where the river curves around and turns back north (though the park does continue around there, it just becomes a different precinct). The first part is just lawn outside the Centre of Performing Arts, however once you pass that building it suddenly becomes a tropical forest, though before the forest there are some interesting 'fake hills' where you can lie in the sun and read a book.

Fake Hills
An interesting way to relax

I guess these strange things do serve a purpose, particularly since lying on a gentle slope is actually a lot better (as far as I'm concerned) than flat grass. However I've never been a big fan of fake grass, though since my landlord did lay some of that stuff out the back I have discovered that it is quite easy to clean and you don't have to mow it. Still, being a naturalist myself I do prefer the real stuff.

So, we wandered down to the riverbank where the parklands suddenly become a tropical rainforest, and nestled in the forest is a Nepalese Pagoda. At first I didn't realise that it was Nepalese because I never realised that the Nepalese built pagodas - I thought it was Chinese. Anyway, we went and checked it out and I was baffled that I saw it covered in Hindu gods. It simply did not seem to work for me considering I never thought that Hinduism really penetrated China. It wasn't until much later when I was perusing the internet that I discovered that it was Nepalese. All of the sudden it made sense.

Anyway, just before the pagoda, on the riverbank, we found this blue combi-van selling coffee. Now that I thought was really, really cool, so I made my way up to the owner and asked if she did tea (expecting it to be a coffee only establishment, as I have discovered some places in Melbourne are). She did, and in fact she had some rather exotic teas, and I am not talking about herbal teas, I'm mean proper leaf tea that has an exotic flavour. I was most impressed, and when I got back to my hotel I immediately wrote a review about it.

Lost Bean Cafe
I've discovered one of these in Melbourne

Another thing that I must mention about this place, other than the cafes that are scattered about the area (though if you move further inland towards the convention centre you will find a lot more) is that there is a beach. Okay, you may not be all that surprised since it is on the banks of a river and it is not uncommon for there to be beaches on rivers, however this isn't on the river, this is an artificial beach. Okay, I didn't go for a swim (since it was too cold) and I'm not sure if it is deep enough for a swim. It seems to be more of a paddling beach, though it seems to stretch for quite a distance. Actually, it isn't just a beach but rather a collection of shallow pools and other watery things (though I couldn't see a waterslide). They even have a life guard, and while a part of me thought that it was rather amusing seeing a life guard watching over what is effectively a paddling pool, people can still get in trouble.

City Beach
The life guard watching over an empty beach

City Beach Pools
All sorts of watery fun
I even found a vegetable garden down the far end of the park, which I thought was pretty cool. Okay, it isn't the first time that I have seen a vegetable garden in a public place (there was one in the Fletcher Jones Gardens in Warrnambool) but still I thought it was really cool. They even encouraged you to pick little pieces off of the plants to give them a try. A little research has revealed that this is called the Epicurious Garden and is tended by volunteers. Produce that is ripe is harvested and placed into a cart and you can take it home if you wish - free of charge (meaning that it is a first come, best dressed basis). I'm sure the lure of free food ends up bringing all sorts.

The Last Destroyer
At the far end of the parklands you will come to the Queensland Maritime Museum. The museum is located at the old dry dock where ships where built, however the dock was closed after they built a freeway bridge across the river and the ships that were built there were unable to fit under it (which explains why the Story Bridge was built so high). The museum isn't hard to find because there is a destroyer sitting in the dry dock with is really, really easy to see.

River destroyer
Definitely worth the price of admission

The Diamantia is a River Class Destroyer, and the last remaining such ship in the world, and the museum claims that it is a Queensland icon (which doesn't surprise me because it is quite noticeable). Anyway, you can pretty much crawl into almost every nook and cranny of the ship, and it is an experience seeing what the living conditions on such a ship was like. Oh, and despite its name (which confused me a bit), a River Class Destroyer is actually an ocean going vessel - though until I checked up the museum's website I was under the impression that it only cruised rivers.

There are a number of other boats as well (though the Diamantia would be the star attraction), including a coal powered steam tug called The Forceful, and Ella's Pink Lady, the yacht that Jessica Watson used to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world (isn't it funny that there is this push to become the youngest to do something - not that it is bad, but I guess it is just another way to grasp our fifteen minutes of fame). Well, she did get a medal for her efforts.

Last Day at Ipswich
I'm not sure why I always end up going to Ipswich (or Ippy as the locals call it) whenever I visit Brisbane. Well, there was one time that I didn't go, but for some reason my Brother seems to like the place. Knowing people from Brisbane I have discovered that Ipswich is hardly a destination for tourists (though I sure the people of Ipswich would be more that happy for you to go and spend your money there), and in a way it reminded me more of where I grew up in Adelaide than some pleasant town on the Brisbane City fringe. I guess the reason that I ended up here, once again, is because I have this urge to catch a train to the end of the line just to see what is there.

Probably the same as every other Australian suburb

Anyway Ipswich is what you would call a satellite town at the end of the aptly named Ipswich line. Actually, the line continues on to the town of Rosewood, but if you want to go there you have to jump off of one train and onto another. I have this suspicion that the line was originally supposed to go to Toowoomba but the government ended up canning the project when it reached Rosewood (though a good government would find the money to extend it all the way to Toowoomba). As I was wandering around the town I noticed that there were quite a few pubs (which is probably a hallmark of a major town) though it seems as if a number of them have closed down. They also had a store for geeks as well as its very own comic book store (though I don't imagine Ipswich as being a destination for geeks of any persuasion - except maybe me). Oh, it also has an art gallery with an interesting local collection - including a mash of motorcyles.

Motorcycle Mash
What I call Bogan art
The Train Museum
Actually, there was a very good reason why we came all the way down to Ipswich, and that was to visit the Workshops Rail Museum. My brother loves trains so I thought it was something that he would enjoy: I certainly wasn't wrong. The museum is actually where the Queensland Rail Workshops are located, though these days the workshop only works on steam trains and old diesel trains mostly for tourist purposes (we don't use steam trains in Australia anymore, except for tourist trains). The actual rail workshops, as our tour guide explained, are located elsewhere.

Workshops Rail Museum
You can only get here by bus

Anyway the museum is what you would expect from a train museum in Queensland - it is a catalogue of the history of rail transport, in Queensland. They did have some interesting displays, however it was clear that it was geared mainly for children. In fact when we were there a school had come here for one of their excursions, so there were uniformed children running around everywhere. We were in luck because we arrived just in time for one of the backstage tours. Basically they take you for a tour through a couple of the workshops and show you all of the trains that are being restored. Actually only one of the workshops because there are quite a few, and we only got to see the steam train workshop. Still it was quite interesting, and I also discovered where welders got the name boilermaker - they originally made the boilers for steam trains (though boilers are used in a lot of other places than just trains).

Rail Workshop
Looks like the workers are having a smoko

Time to go home
Well, all good things must come to an end, as so did this holiday. On our final day we once again wandered around the city and visited the Anglican Cathedral, and finished it off with another movie, the third that we saw here - Age of Ultron, Fury Road, and Spy. While Spy was really entertaining, I'm going to have to say that the best film that we saw would have to be Mad Max:Fury Road, the film that in all intents and purposes should never have been made. As I was sitting in the cinemas watching the adds for all of the upcoming releases I realised that we have now entered the summer season of film releases with quite a few movies suddenly jumping onto my 'too see' list. As for Fury Road, well I have to agree that as far as action movies are concerned, this is indeed a work of art. Mind you, I really was not sure of what I was going to get, basically expecting more of the same for the previous films made more than thirty years ago, and it took me a bit to come to appreciate what George Miller ended up producing. In the end, if these is one thing that came out of that film it would have to be the Doof Warror, and here is a video tribute to this remarkably insane character.

So I will finish off with a couple of other things. First of all I still am unsure as to why they call this place Brisvegas. Sure, Fortitude Valley is a hive of activity, by in my travels I only found one casino and no wedding chapels. Also the place literally dies at 9:00 pm (though there was an adult bar across the road from my hotel, but then again one adult bar a Las Vegas it does not make. The other thing is that I really did feel like I was in another country. A friend of mine once said that upon moving to Melbourne from Sydney he felt as if he had travelled to a completely different world. The same was the case in my trip to Queensland. However I guess it has something to do with the vast distances that lie between the major cities in Australia.

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Exploring Brisvegas by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me