A Travellerspoint blog

January 2009

Australian Advertising

The Australia Day "Be Australian, Eat Lamb" commercial I posted yesterday got me thinking about Australian advertising. I can't really speak for TV advertising since I haven't watched any TV since I've arrived, but we see plenty of ads when going to the movies. It amazes me what companies (and even the government) are allowed to put on the big screen.

To compensate for lack of visual stimulation in form of a TV, Dawn and I have been going to the movies at least once a week since we got here. It started because our landlord told us that tickets were only $10 on Tuesdays (as apposed to the $15 usual price), so we thought it'd be cool to see the new movie Australia since we'd be living here for the next 4 months. We showed up at the movie just as it started and prepared for the onslaught of previews. To my surprise, we had to sit through 20 minutes of advertisements before even getting to the previews!

The commercials range from simple soft drink ads and restaurant ads to gruesome images convincing people to stop smoking (a lady smiling with mouth cancer, a picture of a gangrene foot, someone squeezing crud out of a clogged artery, black juice draining from a cancerous lung) and skin cancer warnings (live footage of a large chunk being cut out of someone to treat melanoma). You are enjoying your buttered popcorn and cold soda and then BAM, you are shown infected body parts and scenes from nasty surgery. The rest of the ads cycle through, but at every movie the smoking/cancer ads are displayed. I have to stop talking about them now, it's making me sick just thinking about it.

The rest of the ads use large amounts of sarcasm or sexual innuendos to grab your attention. I looked up the 10 most offensive ad in 2008 according to the Advertising Standards Bureau to see what actually offended Australians. Below are the results.

WARNING: What you see below may be offensive. However, if you have a sense of humor, keep on reading to have a good laugh.

Riding in the bus around Sydney I used to see this sign:

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This is actually a premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction nasal spray advertisement. This caused a huge ruckus in the newspapers and eventually forced the nasal spray company to change their billboards to this:

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The masses still weren't happy. More fuss in the papers. The nasal spray company then changed the billboards to "PREMATURE EJACULATION NASAL SPRAY" and "ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION NASAL SPRAY" in the same font and colors. Personally, I was less offended by the two previous signs (and slightly amused). These were the 3rd ("Have Sex Longer") and 9th ("Bonk Longer") most complained about advertisements in Australia (and some of the few that were forced to be changed). However, I have not seen one complaint about the smoking or cancer ads at the movies (I guess because they are from the government and not some company trying to make an extra nickel).

The number 1 most complained about advertisement according to the Advertising Standards Bureau in 2008 was one that was frequently shown in the movie theater. Take a look.

I had a slight inclination where this ad was headed the first time I watched it, but I thought that was my mind dragging through the gutter. I was stunned, but not in the least offended by the commercial. In fact, I thought it was hilarious.

Another commercial that is shown (and that I absolutely love) is this one:

People do speed like crazy through Sydney. Since it is sponsored by the government and addresses an issue, it did not make the top 10 list. The above two videos are the only ones I've actually seen at the movies. For your entertainment, I'll go through the remaining 10 ads as well.

Number 2 on the Most Complained about ads in 2008 is hardly offensive in my opinion, but here it is:

What's offensive about a man named "Many Toppings" who says "Supercalafreakinawesome"? Maybe because the guy is Maori (race in New Zealand before Europeans), it's derogatory?

Number 4 on the list is another good one, but I could see how some people can be offended (although I agree with the ad). I don't know which one caused the offense, so here are two:

Ok, I need to print a retraction. As I'm writing this list, I see that there were 65+ people who complained about a smoking ad in Victoria (more liberal, artsy state south of here). It made number 5 on the list, and since I've had enough of the no-smoking ads, I'm not going to show it here (it's not even one of the gruesome ads, it's a young child left at a train station who begins to cry while the tag line "Imagine how he'll feel if you die from smoking" comes across the screen). I'll also be skipping number 7, which refers to tasteless pamphlets showing aborted fetuses (this was one of the 4 ads canceled by the Bureau).

Number 6 was an ad that was also squashed by the Advertising Standards Bureau. I wouldn't think many Coke commercials get banned, but here it is:

I guess the line "we didn't like the taste of your mother" didn't sit well with too many people.

Number 8 was a "Go Topless" ad by Virgin Mobile. I'm not sure if this was the exact one, but it's along the same line:

Lastly, Number 10. I don't see how this add is offensive at all (maybe violence or the subtle stripping), but 40+ people complained. Here it is:

I have one more video to share, something that at least deserves an honorable mention (although I don't think it is from 2008).

It's slightly ironic that most of the advertisements I've seen (and now most people who read this blog) in Australia are claimed to be offensive. By printing a list of the 10 most offensive ads, the Advertising Standards Bureau has drawn even more attention to the ads. I may have to make a complaint.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 21:31 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia Day

rain 75 °F

January 26th is Australia Day, a day of national pride that commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the unfurling of the British flag at Sydney Cove, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia.

Australia Day is analogous to the 4th of July, a day off work intended to be spent drinking a beer, lighting fireworks, and grilling out. Our friend Rob was having a party and invited us to come along. It was slightly ironic that we were going to an Australia Day party hosted by two Americans, but it was going to be a good time. Rob also had an awesome view of Darling Harbor from his apartment (the harbor is where the TV announcers, dancers, and fireworks were going to be). Here's a picture of Rob and Dawn.

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We went to Pyrmont (next suburb over from Glebe) and walked up to Rob's apartment. After picking up some of the finger food that had been laid out, I made my way out onto the patio to check out the view. I knew then that we had come to the right place for an Australia Day party, the largest grill I had seen in Australia lay waiting on the balcony. Rob had tray upon tray of uncooked meat, my mouth began to water.

Later in the evening (after several beers, a piece of steak AND a piece of chicken, and a piece of buttered bread with sprinkles on it), we claimed our spot on the balcony to see the fireworks. A boat parade preceded several dance routines on a floating barge, the national anthem was sung, and the fireworks were let loose. It was a good show, but I was glad I could witness it from the dry balcony as a light rain began to fall.

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After the fireworks, the rest of the party began watching the Australian Open tennis event. Andy, Jeff, Dawn, and I lingered on the patio to take in the view and enjoy the cool air. The last week had been broiling in Sydney, temperatures staying in the 90s & 100s around the clock. Hoping that the cooler air was also cooling the inside of our apartment back home, I looked forward to not sleeping in a puddle of sweat.

PS - Before someone rails me for not having lamb on Australia Day, I think I had some pig-in-a-blankets made from lamb sausage.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 17:13 Archived in Australia Tagged event Comments (1)

Arthur's Pass & Antarctic Center

sunny 69 °F

Although we made it into Arthur's Pass late at night, we hit the road early in the morning to make the most of our last day in New Zealand. We were going to backtrack into Arthur's Pass to see some of the scenery we missed while driving during the night.

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We only had 150 km (100 miles) to travel today, so we took our time coming down from the mountains.

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The views were still beautiful, even after spending the last week immersed in similar sights.

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Around lunch time we reached Christchurch. We topped off the tank to the rental car and made our way to back to the airport. There was still one stop left on our agenda, the International Antarctic Center.

The Antarctic Center focused on showing how the scientists survive the harshest weather on the planet and give you insight into their typical day. We meandered through the various exhibits, watched the videos, viewed the pictures, and did all the quizzes meant for little kids. The main attraction was the room that allowed you to "step onto Antarctica."

It was a really, really cold room. You had to put a heavy jacket and special shoes to keep the snow clean. They had a giant thermometer showing the temperature. You could stand in front of a fan to get a feel for a slight wind chill. Dawn was most excited about the slide made of ice blocks (once again made for little kids).

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Every 30 minutes the room would reenact being out in a storm in Antarctica. The temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and the lights went out. As the timer counted down, a nervous excitement built up inside me. Guys feel this urge to test their limits. How would I fare on an ancient battlefield defending my homeland against the Romans? How would I do if I had to settle America in the 1600s? How would I react if I was caught in a storm in Antarctica? One of those questions was about to be answered. I left the hood down on my jacket to see how long I could last. The lights dimmed as a simulated voice came over the radio and announced the storm was fast approaching. The temperature dropped and the winds picked up. After what seemed like minutes, the wind nearly blew you off your feet and I couldn't feel my ears or nose. I put my hood on and squinted my eyes against the freezing gales. Dawn tried to snuggle closer to steal some of my body heat, but I beat her back. Just when I thought I'd never feel warm again, the storm started to lighten up. Before leaving the storm room, I took a ride on the snowmobile.

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We walked to the penguin exhibit to see the local residents. Injured and handicapped penguins live in the Antarctic center. Apparently one penguin was blind, another continuously molted. One penguin had custom flippers to help him swim.

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We went back through the center, watched a short film on Antarctica, and left. It was time to head home, our trip through New Zealand had been completed.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 08:34 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals museum Comments (1)

Franz Josef

all seasons in one day 60 °F

Dawn and I woke up early and drove back into town. We checked in at the Franz Josef Guides lobby. Along with the other hikers, we were fitted with water-proof pants, a water-proof jacket, water-proof boots, gloves, hat, and crampons. We climbed into the bus and headed to the foot of the glacier.

Dressed for an assault on Siberia, we first had to walk several miles to the base of the glacier through a temperate rainforest. After about an hour we reached the foot of the glacier and were instructed on how to put our crampons on over our boots. The glacier was beautiful. It wasn't covered in gravel like the glacier we had seen 6 days ago, but a brilliant white and blue. The wind coming down the glacier was freezing cold. A slight rain fell, but it was hardly noticed. I couldn't wait to get started.

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The guides asked for everyone to divide into groups of 10 based on skill level. The higher skill level groups were going to grind out the path for the rest of the groups. Rain makes the glacier glassy smooth, and we had a lot of rain the night before. As people move over the tracks, their crampons chew up the ice and make it easier for the following people to make it through the glacier. I had originally planned on being in the 2nd or 3rd group (out of 5), but few people volunteered to go in the first group. Dawn and I decided to give it a shot. As we started up the mountain, I ended up being the first hiker leading the rest of the group behind the guide.

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The first thing I noticed about the glacier is that it was really cold to the touch. This may seem obvious since it is a block of ice, but walking across it you begin to view it as white rock. When used correctly, the crampons do a good job of gripping the ice. We began climbing up the glacier using the steps the guides were cutting with their axes. We climbed over the first series of ridges and began weaving through the crevasses in the ice.

Glaciers are formed by giant snow fields way up the mountain. Snow falls year round and is then compacted into ice. This compacted ice gets forced down the mountain as more and more snow falls. As the glacier moves down the mountain, the ice melts in the warmer air, rain, and sunlight. The water seeps down through the glacier forming holes, eventually draining into the river at the base of the glacier. The melting causes some areas to be weaker than others, and as the glacier moves, the surface shifts and slides to form huge cracks called crevasses. This is what we walked through.

The crevasses could rise 20 feet on either side of us. It was a little unnerving to walk between two walls of ice. The crevasses were never flat, so you had to constantly walk at an angle, careful to always get a good footing so you didn't slide down the glacier. Because the crevasses are the lowest points on the glacier, the guides like to keep the hikers moving through them (you can't really fall because you are already as far down as you can get). The fear is ice falling from above you, so you have to keep a look out for lose blocks overhead. We kept climbing and climbing and climbing.

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I realized why it was so important to have waterproof clothing. You were constantly squeezing between the blocks of ice. The surface of the glacier was wet as the exposed ice melted. My gloves instantly were soaked as I used my hands to keep my balance. When you did slip, you couldn't really catch yourself. The ice was very slippery, and if you could grab a block of ice, you had to be careful because they can be razor sharp. The wool did keep my hands dry and warm though.

After a couple hours of making our way through the glacier, we came to an ice cave. Shifting in the ice had formed a hollow in the glacier that could be climbed through. The ice was a deep blue in the cave. We were told that all the ice not exposed to the sun looks like this. As the ice is compacted and pushed down the mountain, all the air is squeezed out. With no air the ice acts like a crystal reflecting only the blue portion of visible light. The ice on the surface is porous and prevents light from passing through giving a white color. The cave was beautiful.

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We continued climbing for a little while longer and stopped for some lunch. I thought we would start making our way back down the glacier since we were supposed to spend 5-6 hours on the ice, and we had been climbing for 3 hours at this point. But after lunch, we kept climbing up. In fact we kept climbing up steadily for another hour.

We reached the high lines, the tallest point we would climb. When we reached this point, the guides realized a new crevasse had formed from the rain last night. They bounced around excitedly about a new ice feature. I guess after going up the glacier every day, new ice features add some excitement to the job. Our guide climbed to the top of the crevasse and began knocking ice into the gap. The newly formed crevasse looked like a very narrow "V". It was very deep, I couldn't even see the bottom of it. The theory was that you could knock larger chunks of ice into the gap and walk along the blocks to make your way through the crevasse. It was the same strategy we had been following all day, but the ice had been packed in over the past couple weeks. The guides worked furiously for about 20 minutes to knock ice into the gap. Dawn was first in line and the guide called for her to start making her way across the crevasse. I didn't really think it was wise for Dawn to boldly walk along a new path that the guides hadn't even walked through, but Dawn went on anyways. It was a tight fit for her, very tight in fact, so I knew I was going to have a tough time. I began making my way, shoving myself into the crack in the ice. I decided to follow the guide's advice to consider this "a rebirth" and force myself through the slippery, tight gap. Right at the tightest part the ice gave way beneath me. The ice only shifted down about 6 inches, but my body only slid down an inch, leaving me suspended between two very cold pieces of ice. I was stuck.

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I couldn't move forward because my feet couldn't reach anything. I couldn't pull myself up because I was between two slippery pieces of ice. Trying not to panic, I posed for pictures for the rest of the group waiting to make their pass through the crevasse. Dawn was calling frantically to the guide for help. Our fearless guide had a solution. He cut a piece of ice from the wall of the crevasse and pushed it down towards my foot. I was able to reach it and pull myself out of the gap. The above picture is actually just after I got unstuck and reached the wider portion of the crevasse (can't you see the relief on my face?). Once through the crevasse, I climbed up onto the ledge to thaw out. My hands were frozen from trying to push myself out of the gap. I tried blowing on them and sticking them in my armpits, but the heat hurt tremendously. I gingerly rubbed them on my shirt.

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As we waited for the rest of the group to pass through the crevasse, we took in the views of the glacier. The view was beautiful. Here is a view further up the glacier:

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Here is the view back down the glacier:

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My hands had warmed up by the time the rest of the group made it through the crevasse, so I was ready for the hike back down the glacier. The hike back was significantly easier as we walked along the top of the glacier back to the bottom (instead of winding through the crevasses).

On the way down the guide told me that since we found the new crevasse, we got to name it. Since I had become the most intimate with the new crevasse, he wanted my input. Claiming to be finished with that crevasse forever, the guide decided to name it in my honor: The Cold Sausage.

We reached the bottom of the glacier, but did pose for one last picture.

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We hiked back to the bus and turned our gear back in at the office. As tired as I was, Dawn and I still had to make it to Arthur's Pass that night. We had 240 km (150 miles) to drive. We grabbed some dinner and some powerade to rehydrate and hit the road. Tomorrow would be our last day in New Zealand.

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Posted by Mike.Flynn 07:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains hiking glacier Comments (0)

Queenstown

sunny 67 °F

Originally Dawn and I had only planned to pass through Queenstown on our way to Wanaka. Having spent half the day at Deer Park had put us way behind schedule. We decided to scrap our hike in Wanaka and spend a little more time in Queenstown.

Queenstown is the adventure capital of the south island. You are encouraged to paraglide, bungee jump, sky dive, and any other event that will cause your heart to stop. We chose a slightly less adrenaline pumping activity: the luge.

We took the gondola up to the top of one of the mountains in Queensland. Queensland was definitely the most touristy place we visited in New Zealand (really the only touristy spot). Everything was designed to suck cash from the visitors. Tacky souvenir shops, restaurants with scenic views, pictures of you getting into the gondola, pictures of you riding the gondola, pictures of you getting out of the gondola, and of course, riding the luge. We followed the signs to the luge tracks, picked up a helmet, and got in the ski lift to go to the top of the tracks.

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The luge is a plastic seat that is pulled down the hill by gravity. You have a handle that acts as a brake as you push it down (if you keep it up, you go full speed ahead). I don't have any pictures of us on the luge (I refused to buy the picture at the bottom of the hill), but I did find a picture of a guy that personified the fun that could be had on the luge track.

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Dawn started down the hill first, and I was right behind her. As we made our way down the hill, I was surprised by how fast you actually started going. I thought it would be prudent to apply some brake, but my heart jumped into my throat when I realized that my legs got in the way of pushing down the brake. I had no way to slow myself down. While Dawn was screaming joyfully down the track, I was screaming bloody murder. Things got worse, I saw a hairpin turn coming up on the track. I was able to press the brake, but it was way too little way too late. I ran into the barrier of the track and wiped out. Just then a 6 year-old passed me taking the turn like a professional race car driver. I picked my luge up and started back down the track. Unfortunately I had lost all momentum and cruised across the finish line at about 3 mph. If Dawn asked to do it again, I'd probably leave her on the mountain.

We rode the gondola back down to the city and grabbed some lunch. We had 360 km (225 miles) to travel, so I was eager to get on the road (and leave the luge debacle behind me). The destination was Franz Josef to do a glacier walk the next day. As we left Queenstown, Dawn notified me that she was finally ready to take her turn at the wheel. I had been driving for the last 5 days and was surprised that Dawn decided she wanted to drive. I pulled off the side of the road and we switched seats. The Dawn driving experiment had begun.

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When you are used to being on the right side of the road, and used to the driver being on the left side of the car, riding passenger in the left lane and in the left seat can be a little uncomfortable. You feel like the car is about to run off the left side of the road. I realized Dawn had exercised a great deal of self control to not constantly pester me to move to the right. Dawn had chosen a span of road that wound up the mountain cliffs above Queenstown, not exactly the best terrain to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road. Trying to resist the urge to yank the wheel to the right, I focused on being the navigator. Not being nearly as good as Dawn, I gave her none of the useful details like "the next turn will be in approximately 43 km" or "the Daudaidai Mountain Range is on your left", but instead focused on reading the history of New Zealand in the back of the guide book. After an hour of Dawn at the wheel, she had her first single lane bridge. We had the right of way, so she sped across the lengthy bridge with no problem. However, when it came to leave the bridge, Dawn went to the right side of the road instead of the left side of the road, just as a car was approaching from the other direction. I uttered an "Ooooooh" and closed my eyes. The car swerved and the seconds passed by with no collision. We had survived, but Dawn's driving adventure in New Zealand was coming to a close. We switched places again further up the road.

We reached Franz Josef in time for dinner. Inspired by the trip through Deer Park the day before, Dawn ordered the lamb shanks and I treated myself to venison. It was delicious. We drove to the hotel, but staying in the room had no appeal after a long day in the car. We decided to head out on a short hike to see the Franz Josef Glacier at sunset. We drove 10 minutes back out of town and found our hiking trail. It was a 30 minute hike to the viewing point, and we were rewarded with the most spectacular view of the entire trip (in my opinion).

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We went back to the hotel to get some sleep, tomorrow would be a full day hike up the glacier.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 06:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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