Hikers Guide to Budget Tech and the Dark Reign

The Ghost Who Walks (I’m trying it out as a nom-de-plume) returned to Randwick on a perilous mission – find something to read at Randwick City Library and buy some cheap CD’s at Vinnies. Yes, I’ve now got a CD Player, but it’s not actually the one I expected.

The CD Player on the stereo I just bought is indeed cactus, as I was warned by the seller on Gumtree, and no amount of time running a lens cleaner made any difference. That’s the second Sony stereo I’ve had with a busted CD player – I don’t think it can be an accident. Still, the amp, radio and networking work, so I got what I paid for.

But a Bluray/Home Theater unit I picked up from the trash on the way saved the day. Not only does it work fine, but it even plays CDs, and the amp isn’t bad at all. It will also play my videos both over the network and with a USB stick, neither of which my dodgey TV will do without its help. Mind, it has no remote, but a little improvising with the SURE Android universal remote allows me to operate it. I have to use two different SURE remotes, as none of the Disk Player remotes have a volume control, which is only found on the Audiovisual Receiver remotes. But hell, it cost me NOTHING!

I spent the morning working like a navvy doing internet piracy. I found a torrent with a substantial portion of the oeuvre of one of my favourite composers, Claude Debussy. However, when I downloaded it, I discovered that the files were in flac format, which in addition to being huge, won’t play on either the stereo or the Bluray player. So I had to install the awesome Audacity free audio editing suite and use its Apply Chain function to batch convert the files to mp3s, which (between installation and file conversion) took about 2 hours. Sometimes being a cheapskate is really hard work!

Speaking of costing nothing, how good are public libraries! Borrowed a cool text-book on Photoshop, Bad Monkey – a novel by the great Carl Hiaasen, and a Marvel trade-paperback comic, which should keep me going for a while. Then I popped down to Vinnies, where I scooped up some jazz and classical CD’s to give me something to listen to. I felt a bit betrayed to get home and find that one of the taped-shut CD boxes was empty – when for once I’d actually paid for the music! Karma. But the rest of the CDs are pretty good, especially the Tschaikovsky.

While in Vinnies, I overheard a guy telling his friend that when he’d been young he had a job selling paintings like the ones at Vinnies. He had to go door-to-door and pretend to be the artist. I told him it was as honest a job as most work and that he was selling dreams. He said he had been ashamed of it and had given it up after a short time, even though he was making $1000 a week. He then delighted me by doing a magic trick where he pulled a coin out from behind my ear and made it disappear. Perhaps he made my CD disappear too!

I’ve already finished the comic, Secret Invasion Front Line. It ends with Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin, being put in charge of US national security. Crusading journalist Ben Urich, of Daredevil fame, writes a lead article about what this will mean. The story talks of the Dark Reign which is coming. I rather fear that in recent days life might be imitating art.

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Moonwalking

Tonight I went to see the movie Dr Strange and discovered that I have a super power which lets me enter new dimensions – walking.

Instead of catching the bus from Coogee to the Spot at Randwick to see the movie, I decided to walk. On the way there, it was a revelation how close the cinema actually was. The buses are so slow and infrequent that I’ve started to think of Randwick as somewhere distant, like the City or Newtown. But it actually only takes 20 minutes to walk the mile which separates me from it – the same time it used to take me to walk to the station to buy my comics when I was a kid. Sure, going uphill on the way there is slightly strenuous, but the workout gave me the perfect excuse to enjoy a beer on the balcony of the Ritz Cinema bar.

The film was a total trip of computer-generated augmented reality. Coming out of the darkened screening room into the bright labyrinth of the art-deco cinema, patrons had trouble working out which door was the way out. We joked that perhaps we were trapped in another dimension. The stairs down with their geometrically-patterned carpet looked like they could dissolve at any moment into a multi-dimensional Escher tableau.

Walking around at night is really to enter another world. There is a little short-cut through a neighbourhood garden just before The Spot, lined with palm trees, with no street lights. The fruit-bats shrieked in the fig trees and the crescent moon was haloed with mist. Down on Dolphin St, someone has sculpted a pair of bushes under a street-lamp into perfect spheres. A few blocks on, the stink of sea-salt wafted over from the beach. Suddenly I was home again. What a magic, mystical evening!