Saturday, March 27, 2010

Riding in the rain

Tonight I rode home from a meeting in the rain! It was a beautiful experience.
Somehow everything seemed to be timed to perfection. We were sitting outside and at about 9:00pm a cool breeze came through... Then came the gust. Everyone who's lived in Darwin (or any other tropical place I imagine) knows exactly what to expect soon after that blast of cool air arrives! About 5 minutes later it hit! A beautiful tropical shower complete with the most amazing display of sheet lightening.

It came down pretty hard but by the time I was ready to leave the rain had petered out to a light drizzle and the sky was bright with a constant display of sheet lightening behind the clouds. It really is a wonderful experience to be in this kind of weather.

digression - a rant about my bike (and Biopace Chain rings)
I was riding a fairly old Giant Perigee road bike. It was a bike I got cheep from the tip and ended up giving to my mate Martin. Martin fixed the bike up and a friend of his was riding it a couple of years ago but it has since been returned to me and has been sitting in the yard for most of the past year . It was a pretty slick little bike to ride and I was glad that I'd lent/given it to someone who could be bothered to get it into reasonable shape. I hadn't really ridden it much since Martin gave it back so tonight I had an unexpected treat. The bike is quite smooth and fast too. Although it's a much smaller frame size than would normally suit me I felt very comfortable on it... with a good set of tires I didn't feel at all unsafe riding in the rain... Actually I felt like I was just gliding along. The biopace chainrings probably added to this feeling. Biopace is a kind of elliptical cog system that was introduced back in the 80s and lasted only until the early 90s. There are forums full of arguments about their merit, a lot of people don't like them, but as my knees seem to be getting worse, I am finding the biopace more and more appealing, based on comfort. It's funny because I've read the exact opposite in forums but generally the people who discredit biopace rarely seem to have ridden with it and then I keep coming across people who say that they've ridden 1,000s of miles on them and find them to be very good. I can only judge by my own experience and I'm quite happy. Even to the point where I'm contemplating fitting biopace to my Xtracycle.

(The Giant Perigee with Biopace... I know it looks rough and needs oil)

I have several bikes and only ride with biopace occasionally, however I often feel much more comfortable on the biopace bikes, my knees are much happier too. Everything I've read suggests that they had little effect on efficiency or in overcoming any particular problems... People say biopace offered nothing special to the world of cycling and they eventually disappeared from the stores. It seems that the cycling world is quite fashion oriented and often quite fickle so it seems that by 1993 biopace went out of production.

Well I don't care what other people think of them! I like biopace I have two bikes with biopace chain rings and both are far more comfortable to peddle than any of my other bikes. That's good enough for me!

It's evenings like this that make me feel really grateful that I live in Darwin. It's the warm moist air, a mist of light rain as the storm passes, the smell of wet frogs (maybe Cane Toads) , wet vegetation and the amazing light displays! To ride in the rain wearing just a Tshirt and shorts is a very pleasant experience. My ride home brought me past what are usually pretty dark streets. However on this night I could see perfectly well just from the amount of lightening around. With each flash I saw the drops of rain glistening on my skin and glancing down the frame of my bike was beaded with rain drops. A fine rooster tail of water arched from the wheel in front of me as it picked up water from the black shining road. I wish I could describe the euphoric feelings that can be produced on a night like this. It's electric!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Film Premier - Our Generation

Word was passed around last Sunday that there'd be a screening of a locally made film on Tuesday night... Two days time! Some people probably knew about it the previous week but I bet most didn't. The film was to be screened at the Nightcliff Uniting Church, a reasonably small building with room for maybe 100 people... That's in the dry season when it's reasonably comfortable to be huddled close together...(It's not the dry season!) On Tuesday 16th March people were lined up past the reach of the lights and into the dark of the carpark wanting to get in and see this film. The building was packed to the rafters! In a crowded hall on a balmy evening with fans whirling and people sweating we gathered to watch the documentary of Yolŋu testimony about how the Federal intervention has affected their lives. Every chair was taken and the audience filled every bit of floor space and spilled out into the yard where they watched through the doorways and slanted louver windows! It was a sellout crowd!

The Film (From the Our Generation Website)
"This project started out in June 2007, in response to the Howard Government’s controversial “Emergency Intervention” into Aboriginal communities in Australia’s remote Northern Territory. All in the name of “protecting children”, the Intervention took away all existing Aboriginal land rights, suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and placed over 70 communities under compulsory government control. Subsequent government measures have had little to do with directly improving the wellbeing of children, but instead have disempowered traditional owners, opened up access to valuable Aboriginal land, and sought to forcibly assimilate Aboriginal culture."

It was a truly special night! Shelly Morris came along and entertained the crowd while people were still trying to find a place to sit. There was a real sense of ease and camaraderie between the film makers, organizers, special guests, and the audience... This was not yet another occasion for Balanda to sympathize with Indigenous people from a distance. The audience consisted of a fairly broad range of people; there were those actively involved in Aboriginal issues , members of the local community, several Theological Students from Nungalinya College and Yolŋu folk currently living in Darwin.

The night was a hot, we were all squeezed in together, but the atmosphere was extremely friendly but intense. The story after all is about the outrageous offenses committed against Indigenous people in the Northern Territory by way of the Federal Government's Emergency Intervention! I think it was a validation of the sense of betrayal many of us have felt as a result of our Government's deliberate attack on the rights and dignity of Indigenous Australians.

The story was told primarily from the perspective of Yolŋu people from North East Arnhem Land. People who have endured colonization and to a large degree have managed to maintain much of their traditional culture. Due to their strong connection to their own law, (in many cases there has also been the influence of mission culture and Christian values) coupled with tools such as the Permit System Yolŋu had managed to avoid the full brunt of many of the social problems associated with exposure to Western Culture. The Federal Intervention seemed to have been based on a supposition that all Aboriginal Communities are suffering from the same degree of dysfunction that can be found in those most affected by the influences and corruption brought by Western Culture. This documentary tells of the bewilderment and dismay suffered by Yolŋu at the way the Intervention was forced upon them. The degrading ways in which many people had been treated as a result of the Intervention and their determination for justice.

The film contains excellent interviews with people who have been affected by racially discriminatory Government Policy. Each person presents a compelling argument against the validity of the Intervention but more disturbingly their testimonies indicate the obvious harm caused by a Government that is unable to recognize the cultural diversity within it's own country.

There is plenty of catchy music, some great footage from past and present, and including replays of the announcements made by our previous Prime Minister when the Intervention was announced. It still turns my stomach to see him speaking with so little respect.
The film also rightfully challenges the actions of our current Prime Minister Mr Rudd who delivered a very moving Sorry Speech but has proceeded to implement the same racist agenda of the previous government. With all his lovely words Rudd has only added sweetener to the poison! It looks like just the same discrimination against Indigenous people that our Governments have perpetrated ever since the British claimed this land for themselves.

After the film we had a panel of about 6 people including Yolngu, Balanda, and Larakia people. The prominent question and conclusions drawn from discussion was that we are currently living in a country that has actively and deliberately diminished the rights of it's indigenous people. The current situation is unacceptable to those who believe in justice and equality. It is the responsibility of each of us to stand up and fight for the rights of our fellow citizens.

If you ever get the chance to see this film I would highly recommend it. I hope the film makers continue to tour with the film and hopefully are able to include a panel similar to the one we had to engage the audience and get to the Heart of the matter.

Monday, March 08, 2010