Suleiman Kangangi is ready.

Suleiman Kangangi is ready for pain. He is ready for exhaustion, hunger, thirst, dust, dirt and heat. He is ready for Africa. The Kenyan cyclist is ready for the first Migration Gravel Race in the wilds of Kenya from June 23 – 26.

Kangangi will battle some of the world’s best gravel riders as well as 650 kilometres and a total of 8000 metres of elevation. He will traverse single track, game trails, red clay, and rough hard pack gravel around the Maasai Mara region. He is also ready for the average elevation of 1900m – he grew up in the Rift Valley at much higher altitudes.

When asked how he was feeling just days out from the big race, the quietly spoken Kenyan said simply,

“Good…motivated.”

Most of the race will pass through Maasai villages as well as plains, rivers, mountains and across big game country. Kangangi has ridden much of the route in training and in helping to establish the route. As organisers have promised:

Not all kilometres are equal.

Kangangi is also ready to seize an opportunity. He has raced all over the world as a member of German road cycling team Bike Aid, Kenyan Riders and the national team. He now enjoys the opportunity to race the world’s best on his home soil, and to benefit from one of the founding principles of the MGR: to bring the world’s best cyclists to Africa and expose African cyclists to elite competition without having to leave home.

One of the pioneers of Kenyan cycling is now fine tuning his preparation for the big race, and his steely exterior hides a strong undercurrent of excitement,

“It’s gonna be hot,”

ABC cancels special episode of You Can’t Ask That.

EXCLUSIVE: The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) has been forced to cancel an upcoming episode of You Can’t Ask That after the Australian politicians participating in the program refused to answer any questions.

An anonymous source within the ABC revealed that the episode will never be seen by the Australian public despite hours of filming.

“The show contains nothing worth putting to air. Hours of film were wasted because every time a politician was asked a question, they replied: You can’t ask that!”

Federal and state politicians volunteered to participate after being approached by the show’s producers, but were given a rude shock once filming began.

“They had to answer to the Aussie public. This stunned them.”

“The politicians expected to be able to vet all of the questions before recording started. Apparently that is standard practice with Australia’s mainstream media these days. However, You Can’t Ask That is a show built on honesty and transparency, and a show which welcomes questions from the Aussie public, no matter how uncomfortable those questions might be.”

Typically, participants in the program read questions submitted by members of the public, and attempt to answer them as candidly as possible.

“We’ve since learned that the politicians all agreed to come on the show because they thought it would be good publicity. They obviously haven’t watched the show.”

Producers have confirmed that most politicians either ‘took questions on notice’, said they had ‘no knowledge of that’ or referred the question to a junior staffer. On condition of anonymity, the ABC source also leaked some of the topics and questions which politicians refused to answer:

  • The Prime Minister’s links to QAnon.
  • Actions taken against the alleged rapist of Brittany Higgins
  • Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his staffer. Though he was willing to answer questions about his recent book.
  • Bridget McKenzie and Sports Rorts.
  • Angus Taylor and Grassgate
  • Richard Colbeck and anything to do with Aged Care
  • Water theft from the Murray Darling Basin
  • Clive Palmer’s influence on the LNP.
  • Why Craig Kelly wasn’t sacked years ago
  • Why Andrew Laming wasn’t sacked years ago
  • Why Stuart Robert wasn’t sacked years ago
  • Christian Porter and those allegations
  • Why Anthony Albanese is still leader of the Labor party
  • Funding of the ABC
  • Funding of government schools
  • Funding of Australian universities
  • The bungled vaccine rollout
  • Biloela

Instead of airing an episode of You Can’t Ask That in which politicians refuse to answer questions, the ABC will air footage of recent Senate estimates.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

LNP destroys highly-paid occupation.

The Liberal National Party (LNP) is being blamed for killing off one of Australia’s most lucrative careers after it forced fossil fuel lobbyists out of work.

“The LNP is the fossil fuel lobby,” stated a representative of the resources industry.

“We don’t need lobbyists advocating on our behalf in Canberra anymore.”

Fossil fuel lobbyists were until recently a common feature of Parliament House, and sought meetings with politicians on all sides to persuade them to create policies favourable to activities such as coal mining, natural gas and coal seam gas extraction. The lobbyists were highly-skilled operators who earned substantial salaries courtesy of the enormous profits of resource companies. They also represented some of the most influential people in Australia such as Gina Rinehart and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

That has all changed.

“All of our lobbyists were given substantial redundancy payments in recognition of their valuable contribution to our cause, and invited to seek alternative employment, because the LNP is now firmly under the control of the fossil fuel industry,” continued the spokesperson.

“Politicians from Morrison down now take orders directly from Gina and Twiggy.”

Experts suggest the LNP became a branch of the fossil fuel industry when Tony Abbott became Prime Minister. It wavered slightly under Malcolm Turnbull, and has strengthened under Scott Morrison. Many claim the close relationship started during the era of John Howard, like so many of Australia’s current ills.

“Tony is a great advocate for coal,” the spokesperson explained. “He is so committed to coal that he rode his bike all over the country to promote coal mining, and Matt Canavan is another disciple. Others like Keith Pitt and Angus Taylor are also devoted to fossil fuels, so any LNP member who is not will never be heard.”

“That said, it’s not just the LNP who have made lobbyists redundant. Joel Fitzgibbon is under the thumb of coal, and Labor as a whole will not commit to ruling out coal as an energy source. If Labor do manage to win the next federal election, our lobbyists may be called upon gain, but as of now, the job of the fossil fuel lobbyist is done.”

As for the plight of the lobbyists themselves:

“One of our former lobbyists has seen the writing on the wall, and last I heard he was working for a solar energy company.”

Image: Mark Nolan

A Life Lived in Headphones.

There are two people in the cafe. Both are sniffling, and I am defenceless. My headphones are at home and the only armoury I can access is a serviette. I roll it into two little balls and push them into my ears. It’s a method I first used while driving from Arnhem Land to Sydney in a beat up old 4wd with no volume control.

The two people with whom I share the cafe look at me strangely. They appear concerned for my state of mind. I’m more concerned that one of the snifflers is about to serve me my food.

I wasn’t planning to lunch at this cafe, but I missed the train home and had no desire to sit on a windy platform for an hour. I also ventured out of the house armour free because it is only a short ride on a seldom crowded train. Normally, my armoury comprises headphones and second phone with downloaded music and white noise, and this helps to drown out other people’s banal one-sided phone conversations, other people’s music, other people’s eating and other people’s sniffling.

We are huddled in the cafe for sustenance and protection from the biting wind which warns us of the impending winter. The weather provokes sniffling, but it is too hard to carry a tissue, and to use it? Or to clear one’s nose with a serviette, so I don’t have to shove them in my ears.

The train ride home passes without incident. No snifflers, no talkers, and no second-hand music, and I make it back to the trenches unharmed, even without protection. I relax with the promise of a heater and relief from the wind, then I see it. The silver Volvo. Derrick is here.

DIY Derrick has arrived at his humble weekender from the city He will begin his stay by mowing his substantial lawn, clipping his lengthy edges; greeting the neighbours with the piercing whirr of his ageing lawn mower and angry line trimmer. He will stop for tea, then spend the remainder of his stay engrossed in DIY projects around the house and in his shed, determined to play with every power tool he owns. I find my headphones and plug them into my laptop, then turn on the 40 minutes of thunderstorm and rain sounds.

DIY Derrick’s projects and lawn care take longer than 40 minutes. Much longer. I press play again. This is how I defend myself against DIY Derrick. Derrick may or may not be his name, that’s just what I call him.

I pray for rain. Rain defeats my enemies. They can’t attack their lawns in the rain. They don’t blow their leaves away in the rain. Their edges grow unkempt in the rain, and chainsaws remain sheathed in the rain.

I pray for rain, but I’m a lapsed Catholic.

Nigel is another nemesis. He is quiet and mild-mannered, until he goes to war with his lawns. Nextdoor Nigel can strike at any time, and his attacks are brutal. He waits until 6pm in summer, or 4pm in winter, before he storms out of his trenches to cut down his enemies. Nigel is a seasoned campaigner with a trusty old weapon, and waits until his opponent is relaxed, complacent and not expecting an attack. He waits until his enemy has returned to the trenches after a day of toil, and is relaxing. That’s when he strikes. Nigel is relentless, and does not cease the bombardment for three hours. It is only when the heavy latch falls into place on his storage container that it is safe to remove the headphones. Safe to unplug. Safe to strip off the armoury.

Bored Baby Boomers and their power tools force me to live a life in headphones.

The wind which drove us into the cafe at lunchtime is sometimes a saviour. It comes from the west. It carries the cold, but it carries the noise from the highway towards the waves on the coast, and away from me. The braking trucks, the farting Harleys, the unmuffled V8s; all bombarding me with noise. Truck after truck braking and accelerating through the centre of town under the command of their rotund controllers. Similarly proportioned Harley riders crackling through town on unnecessarily loud machines which garner their owners fleeting attention from those within earshot. Attention they cannot earn in any other way. I long for the days of electric vehicles, quiet vehicles, cleaner vehicles, but in this country?

When will it be safe to take off my headphones?

Image: Brett Jordan

Australia’s most popular actor revealed.

Australians are in shock after a recent survey revealed that the country’s most popular actor is Scott Morrison and not international superstars such as Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson or Chris Hemsworth.

“Scott Morrison pretends to be Prime Minister,” stated the survey’s authors when explaining the surprising result, “…and good actors pretend.”

“An actor attempts to convince the audience they are someone they are not, and Morrison has done that very successfully since he back-stabbed Malcolm Turnbull to become PM in 2018. Morrison is clearly not a leader, but he played the part so well that he fooled more than 50% of the voting public and was re-elected in 2019. That is a masterful piece of acting.”

Stunned observers and members of the public argued that all of the actors listed above have a far greater international standing and profile than Morrison, and are all more popular. In response, experts referenced a number of key factors which earned Morrison the top spot.

“Firstly, consider Morrison’s nicknames: Liar from The Shire – all actors ‘lie’ about being the character they portray and Morrison clearly does this expertly. Scotty From Marketing and Scotty from Photo Ops also suggest an obsession with image, a veneer, a facade, and a well-honed persona. In other words, a character. Morrison is a persona, who appears relentlessly at the football, behind the wheel of a truck, drinking beer, doing handyman jobs. More discerning audiences automatically identify the flaws in all of those performances, but the masses don’t, and the masses vote, which is why a huge number of them voted for him in this survey. Furthermore, Morrison does nothing. Apart from photo ops, he does nothing, yet he is still far more popular than the opposition leader. That’s acting!”

Puppet power.

“Of course, it doesn’t hurt having the boss of 20th Century Fox in your corner. In fact, many would argue Rupert Murdoch is Morrison’s creator and puppet master, and none of the aforementioned actors have that kind of powerful support driving their popularity or careers. In contrast, Hugh is a good friend of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner”

Survey authors offered more insights into the results. They stated that actors must persuade audiences to suspend disbelief, and that Morrison and his huge PR team do that so well. In contrast, everyone knows Hugh doesn’t have steel blades popping out of his knuckles. Everyone knows Cate is not an elf, and Russell is no master of the sword. Mel didn’t free Scotland with nothing more than a kilt, and Nicole never rode a BMX down a waterslide. Chris finished behind Morrison in the survey because he obviously doesn’t command a flying hammer, but there is another reason he failed to win.

“Aussie men are intimidated by Chris’ impossibly-chiselled physique, whether they admit it or not. No one is intimidated by Scotty in speedos.”

Not only is Scotty more popular than Australia’s best actors, he is probably earning more than all of them. The PM collects a handsome salary, while COVID-19 has halted production of movies, TV series and theatre shows, so even the richest actors are earning very little right now. Compounding this is the Morrison government’s refusal to allocate adequate funding to the Arts and Entertainment sector in Australia despite the financial blow of the global pandemic. Cynical observers asked if Morrison deliberately withheld funding knowing that it would increase his chances of topping the survey, to which organisers replied:

“Well, he craves popularity”

Image: Benoit Debaix

Qingdao: sailing city.

Qingdao is made for sailing. The coastal city boasts a long and attractive shoreline fringed by numerous islands which await exploration under sail. Summer temperatures soar into the 30s and invite days by the sea and refreshing swims in the ocean.

The city hugs the shoreline roughly halfway between Beijing and Shanghai, and successfully avoids the congestion and heavy air that besets so many other large Chinese cities.

Anyone who has visited China, and anyone who loves to sample imported beer, will know of Qingdao. They will of course know it by the name Tsingtao, which graces the labels of the most popular alcoholic beverage in China. The drink is made in Qingdao, and has been since 1903 when German migrants established breweries throughout the city. German influence is still evident in the architecture of various sections of the cities central districts

Tsingtao and Qingdao are different names for the same city. Simplified Chinese has used two different systems since it was first written using letters instead of Chinese characters. Tsingtao is the Wade-Giles system and Qingdao is the Pinyin system.

A city known for its beer has to have a beer festival, and it does. The multi-day festival focusses on beer, and the consumption of said beverage, but also includes amusement park rides for the kids and a number of other attractions to keep visitors entertained all night…so they stay and drink more beer.

An undeniable connection to beer explains the city’s unofficial motto: ‘He pijiu, chi gala’ – which roughly translates as:

Drink beer, eat shellfish.

Gold medals were contested in Qingdao in 2008 when the city hosted the sailing events for the Beijing Olympics. In recent years, the port city has hosted numerous rounds of the Extreme Sailing Series which showcases elite sailors on some of the fastest sailboats in the world. The marina of Qingdao offered an ideal setting for days of fast and exciting racing close to spectators and cameras.

Qingdao: a city for sailing.

IOC announces new sport on eve of Tokyo games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has added Jousting to its official program in an effort to ensure the Tokyo 2021 games are completely COVID-safe.

“Jousting makes a welcome addition to the Olympic family,” read a statement from the IOC.

“We are very excited to add the ancient sport to the Equestrian program and did so for one very good reason: social distancing. Jousters will not pass within 1.5 metres of each other while competing because if they did, they would be smashed with a jousting stick and fall off their horse. In this way, Jousting is very much an extension of Fencing – a very long extension.”

“The sport forms the centrepiece of our COVID-safe games and it will not replace an existing sport. Jousters wear harnesses, or armour, which helps stop the potential spread of infection, and if they sneeze, they will sneeze straight into their full-face helmet and not onto anyone else.”

Jousters will compete on horses supplied to them, as all horses must have been in Japan for at least 12 months prior to competition, in line with strict quarantine rules. Riding a new and unknown horse is expected to add to the unpredictability and excitement of the event. Competitors, meanwhile, are ready to make their Olympic Games debut despite the very short notice.

“The IOC scoured the web for historical medieval re-enactment societies to find jousters, and the response was overwhelming. Jousters from all over the world immediately completed the application form and contacted their respective National Olympic Committees. Some even had patriotic medieval uniforms already made, and we look forward to seeing these on display in Tokyo.”

“Our other new sports also encourage social distancing. Skateboarders compete one at a time, sport climbers do not share the same rock wall, and surfers will never come together, as any elite surfer knows never to drop in.

Golf is largely risk free, because players can clean their ball at every tee, and sports such as Archery and Shooting are also guaranteed to be COVID-safe, because no one will get too close to a competitor carrying a deadly weapon.”

Traditional sports such as Boxing and the martial arts disciplines do present some challenges, the spokesperson conceded.

“Governing bodies and the IOC are still discussing a proposal to have wrestlers compete naked, like in the ancient Olympics, but to cover themselves in sanitising gel instead of essential oils. Boxers will coat their gloves in sanitiser before their match and between rounds.

Relay runners at Athletics will pass through a mist machine containing disinfectant at each baton change. In this way, the baton is sanitised before being passed to the next runner. High Jump and Pole Vault mats will be coasted in sanitiser, as will the bar. Likewise, throwers will select one Putt, Discus, Hammer or Javelin in round 1, write their name on it, and use the same one throughout the competition.

Rowing will see some changes. The 8’s become the 4’s, and the 4’s becomes the pairs and so on, because rowers must leave one seat between themselves and other competitors, just like on public transport. We’re certainly not expecting any world records in this sport, especially since the cox will be a robot instead of a person.”

The extended statement from the IOC then outlined further changes to existing Olympic sports amid the global pandemic.

“Handball poses a problem, even if just for the name itself. Meanwhile, a handball in Football will now result in an automatic red card and two week period of self-isolation for the offending player.

Water Polo will be played in pools so heavily chlorinated competitors will feel like they’re in a swimming lesson during an English winter, while Rhythmic Gymnastics coaches will use Super Soakers to spray the apparatus with disinfectant every time the gymnast throws it into the air.”

The spokesperson also conceded that Modern Pentathlon gives little cause for concern, not just because the 5 sports are all individual.

“It’s because nobody watches the event anyway.”

The biggest risk of transmission at any international multi-sport event is, of course, the athletes village. Asked what specific protocols will be implemented to separate the world’s fittest, healthiest, most athletically-gifted young people from all over the globe, the spokesperson replied:

“We’re not going to bother…”

Image: Vladimir Wrangel

Politicians demand mental health leave.

Politicians throughout the world are demanding fully-paid mental health leave after learning that they cannot attend the Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games due to COVID-19 restrictions. Politicians are distraught that they cannot enjoy free holidays to attend the games, as strict bio-security protocols restrict entry into Japan of non-essential personnel.

Politicians the world over are demanding at least one month paid mental health leave to recover from the distressing news that they cannot enjoy the quadrennial junket.

“Politicians need support and understanding at this difficult time,” read a statement form the International Organisation for Politicians (IOP).

“Their worlds have been turned upside down by the news that they cannot attend the Olympic Games or Paralympic Games and enjoy free travel, accommodation, dining and tickets to witness the world’s best athletes. This is a very trying time for politicians and they ask for their subjects’ understanding and support in this hour of need. That support includes paid mental health leave.”

The IOP explained that the Olympic Games are not just a free holiday for the world’s leaders, but a rare and important branding exercise.

“Only every four years (in this case five) do politicians enjoy such an opportunity to bolster their personal brand in such a manner. Only every four years can they photograph and associate themselves with the world’s greatest athletes in order to raise their own standing in the eyes of the public – whether the athletes like it or not.”

“Only every four years can politicians align their brand with principles of dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, discipline, honesty, teamwork and success. Consequently, politicians order their staff to seek out any photo opportunity with a gold medallist from their own country, or a respected athlete from any country. Political staff are also instructed to scour social media for all and any opportunity to like, tag or link to any athlete displaying the founding principles of the Olympic Games. Of course, social media links can be created from anywhere in the world, but a live photo opportunity with a newly-minted national hero offers much greater benefits to the politician, and it is impossible to find so many elite athletes all in the one place except at an Olympic event.”

The IOP also explained that leaders will miss more than just the photo opportunities.

“Networking is another important role of the Olympic Games. IOC sponsors include some of the world’s largest and most wealthy corporations, and the games provide countless functions at which politicians can secure lucrative post-political consultancy roles.”

“Furthermore, they will miss out on the first-class flights and luxury accommodation. They will miss out on dining at the finest restaurants and being chaperoned from one glamorous function to the next during their stay. They will be denied the chance to feel important, and to collect an assortment of gift bags containing so much swag they need another taxpayer-funded jet just to carry it all home.”

Scott Morrison changes national anthem just weeks before the Olympics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dropped the word ‘Advance’ from the Australian national anthem and has instructed the IOC to play the new anthem if Australians win gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The national hymn will now be known as ‘Australia Fair’ after Morrison made the shock announcement from Parliament House.

“Australia is not advancing,” he stated.

“If anything, the country is going backwards, so keeping the word ‘advance’ in the title and in the anthem is misleading.”

“If Australia was advancing, we would embrace renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels. If Australia was advancing, we would respect Indigenous Australians and the world’s oldest surviving culture. If Australia was advancing, women would be paid equally and treated fairly. If Australia was advancing, koalas would not face extinction. If Australia was advancing, our national broadband network would work. If Australia was advancing, women would not be getting harassed in parliament house. If Australia was advancing, public education would be adequately funded and literacy and numeracy levels would improve. If Australia was advancing, Rupert Murdoch would not have so much control of our media. If Australia was advancing, Clive Palmer would not be able to influence the outcome of a federal election. If Australia was advancing, most federal coalition politicians would have been sacked for their corruption or immorality. If Australia was advancing, we would not lock up asylum seekers indefinitely. If Australia was advancing, Pauline Hanson would still be selling fish and chips. If Australia was advancing, the populace wouldn’t be easily swayed by slogans and nicknames. If Australia was advancing, we would not be destroying The Great Barrier Reef.

“If Australia was advancing, I wouldn’t be prime minister, so it was imperative that we drop that word from the anthem before I announce the next election.”

Morrison first changed the anthem in December 2020. He changed the second line from “for we are young and free” to “we are one and free”. The change was the only work he did all year, and earned him a Christmas holiday. Following this most recent change, he is expected to take another holiday with Jen and the girls.

Official instructions have already been sent to schools, government departments and every athlete so far chosen to represent Australia in Tokyo, informing them of the changes.

Meanwhile, Australians and the media were left shocked at the sudden announcement. Many are angry that they were not consulted and are dismayed that the national hymn can be changed permanently with such ease, and some wanted to know if the word advance can ever be returned to the song.

“Only if my party gets voted out,” answered Morrison.

One perplexed citizen commented on social media that Australia Fair is the name of a giant shopping mall in Southport on the Gold Coast, Queensland. He questioned whether a national anthem should take the name of a large, soulless, characterless, generic shrine to capitalism full of stupefied citizens, to which Morrison replied,

“Of course. That’s the country I’m creating”

Image: http://www.worldatlas.com

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 4.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Literacy dogs

Children can now read to dogs. Reluctant or weak readers can now attend sessions at local libraries and read to therapy dogs. Organisers claim it encourages reluctant readers to develop the vital habit of reading and thus improve their literacy skills.

Surely that’s a good thing. Yes, but is it necessary?

First of all, dogs can’t read. Secondly, reading to dogs won’t solve Australia’s literacy problems. Australia has some of the lowest literacy (and numeracy) levels in the developed world, and solving this problem requires a joint effort from society, governments and parents, not from dogs.

Parents must:

Read to their children.

More actively support reading and study in every year of schooling.

Spend less of their own free time glued to their devices while at home.

Buy and read books themselves.

Stop attacking teachers.

Stop buying their children smart phones, and stop paying for their data.

Society must value school teachers and academia, and governments must adequately fund all levels of education as well as increasing teachers’ salaries. Otherwise, the following scenario is likely to develop:

One reluctant reader enjoys reading to a therapy dog. The child insists on reading to a dog, even at school where most reading occurs. The student is allowed to bring a dog into every class. That student is not the only reluctant reader. Soon, school classrooms are overrun with therapy dogs. Teachers are then forced to integrate dogs into their curriculum after attending at-cost ‘literacy dog’ training sessions in their free time. Multiple dogs cause chaos in classrooms and in the playground, and at the end of the day, who will be forced to clean up the mess?

Even some university students, at one of the more prominent universities in Sydney, are able to pat a dog upon entering an exam hall – to help calm their nerves. The country’s best and brightest can’t handle the stress of doing an exam. More proof that this country has gone soft. More proof that this country has gone to the dogs.

Image: 2PhotoPots