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September 2008
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December 2008

For Whotles, the Bell Tolls

I wish I had the foresight to copyright the idea and name of the Whotles when I first came up with the idea and blogged about it. Now the Whotles – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – are all over the place. For example, a ‘live CD’ was recently listed on Ebay. Understandably, nobody was keen to shell out the ‘Buy It Now’ asking price of US$10,000. But the set list was interesting:

  1. When I Was 64
  2. Won't Get Fooled On A Hill Again
  3. Hello… Who Are You… Goodbye
  4. Baba O’Rigby
  5. Sgt. Pinball Pepper
  6. Behind Yellow Eyes
  7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-Baba-Da
  8. Magic Submarine
  9. PS I Love Your Squeezebox
  10. Lady Madonna, Who Are You
  11. See Me Help Me
  12. Here Comes The Magic Bus
  13. Call Me Beethoven
  14. Tommy, You Won't See Me
  15. You Better Get Back
  16. Revolution 515
  17. Hey Jude I Can See Your Eminence Front
  18. She’s A Bargain
  19. Baby, You’re A Substitute
  20. The Ballad Of John And John And Keith And George

Closer inspection shows more care could have been taken, however. From a comedy point of view, chose which Baba O’Reilly gag you want to make and use it (preferably, the best one – although it’s a hard call between Baba O’Rigby and Ob-La-Di, Ob-Baba-Da; Ob-La-Di, Baba-Da sounds just a bit better than the latter, but I think I like Baba O’Rigby better). The Magic Bus reference never worked in either instance – in fact, most of the offerings are a bit ‘first draft’. Here are some that I came up with:

Come Join Together (this should be the ‘title track’ of the album, clearly)
Magical Mystery Tour Bus
One After 515
Who Are You? I Am The Walrus
You’ve Got To Hide Your Eminence Front
See Me Feel Fine
I’m Looking Through Your Pictures Of Lilly
Come And Get Fooled Again

ADDENDUM - November 20, 2008

At the time of writing this blog, I had no idea – that is to say, no recollection – that I’d already come up with some of the song titles some months earlier in reply to someone who commented on the initial Whotles-related blog. I only discovered it now in the process of copying the URL of that blog for a publicist who has just announced the Who’s latest Aussie tour! Who knows – I may have even inspired the e-bayer.

Deep Image

The AWA Tower, Sydney CBD 02

I was flattered to discover on my Flickr page, a request that a photo I took (with either my phone or a none-to-flash digital unit I’ve had for about five years) be added to an online ‘Flickr Group Pool’ called Modern Times: Modernism in Australia. Chuffed, how could I refuse? It's this image of the AWA Tower on York St in Sydney’s CBD, seen, I think, looking back from further south along York St.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of the AWA Tower, although it would have been after stepping off a bus at Wynyard – something I only started doing as a way of life in 1990, when I started going to university in the city. Until then, trips to the city were few and far between, and – apart from trips in with school friends to visit all our favourite secondhand and import record stores one day during each set of school holidays – would have mostly been made by car, avoiding that part of the city altogether.

The infatuation with this tower atop its art deco building, emblazoned with the AWA logo, relates back to a childhood memory of the same logo on the side of a big box, in our garage. The box must have once held a television, though not ours. The first one I remember us owning was a black HMV model, the letters standing for ‘His Master's Voice’, with the standard logo of ‘Nipper the Dog’ paying attention to a gramophone horn from which a high fidelity reproduction of that sound must have been emanating. That was eventually replaced, in the late 80s, with a colour Rank Arena model. So how the box came to be in our garage is anybody’s guess.

Under the logo were the words Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia), which itself seemed interesting and mysterious. I’d never heard of, and so had no concept of, amalgamation or Australasia. I do also remember a couple of television advertising campaigns that I linked back to that box: AWA/Deep Image ads for television sets, with a jangly pop jingle of some kind. Later on there was an ad for the utter chaos society would descend into if all the AWA devices suddenly disappeared. I can’t remember what they all were apart from perhaps radar devices, in whose absence, a ship got lost, and utter gridlock as all the traffic lights malfunctioned. The same result would ensue in this part of the city if all drivers were as inexplicably infatuated with the AWA Tower as I am. I certainly think of it whenever there is a reference in the press or online of Australian Workplace Agreements, as they’re always followed, in parentheses, by the phrase’s initials: ‘(AWA)’.

Out to lunch?

For the last 18 months I have been employed – casually – as a sub editor, mostly for the magazines Modern Fishing and Modern Boating. The question I’m most frequently asked – and often I pre-empt it with the answer – is ‘what does a sub editor do?’

“My job is to put the apostrophes back in – and more frequently nowadays, take some of them out. Fact-checking, re-writing contributors’ terrible writing…”

I never realised, in all the years I was submitting comedian profiles to the street press and then reviews to FilmInk, that what made my more-often-than-not late submissions acceptable to beleaguered sub editors (or editors, where subs were not affordable) was that I mostly took the trouble to at least try to stick to word limit, and fact check myself that people’s names and films and television shows were all spelled correctly. I wasn’t always perfect, but I certainly put in a massive effort. Most of the errors that went to print were typos that tired editors, kept waiting until the last moment, had as much trouble spotting as the author, similarly tired, writing at the last minute: there/their/they’re, its/it’s. The usual stuff. Plus the words we never had to learn to spell because there was always going to be a (more often than not, American English) spell checker on the word processing program that we’d be using.

Given all of that backstory, you can understand my supreme amusement at the news item currently doing the rounds (it’ll probably be tonight’s ‘swimming pig’ story after the weather, but I got it from the BBC) about the bilingual sign in Swansea, Wales, that the ignorant council employee got wrong. The ignorant council employee who speaks English, and depends on a translator to provide the Welsh. The ignorant council employee who works for a council too tight to bother paying for someone to proofread everything in what I can only guess they consider to be ‘the other language’.


In English, the sign above clearly states, “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”. (Note the second full stop is missing. That’s the sort of thing I’m paid to notice as a sub editor.)

That this message was clearly e-mailed to the council’s official translator is evident in the translation. The Welsh phrase beneath reads “Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i’w gyfieithu.”

It translates as, “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.”

What’s awesome to consider is that the council either is so efficient that the information was dispatched and the sign manufactured and put up in whirlwind time (highly unlikely). Or the translator actually did what the e-mail claimed would be done – when back in the office, the sentences were translated and sent through. So what happened when the cacatintas (‘one who shits ink’) actually received the reply e-mail with the translation? Did he bother to check it against the initial reply? There would have been time to correct the error, surely.

And what of the translator? Wouldn’t make sense, if two languages are spoken and the service is to translate either of them into the other, to include e-mail signatures and ‘out of office’ replies in both? Especially when your clients include governmental cacatintas who aren’t paid to be precise and meticulous.

(To be fair, technically, I too am a professional  cacatintas. Thought I should add that  just in case you’re some public servant reading this when you should be financing single mothers’ flat screen TVs, sniffing colleagues’ chairs or helping increase public transport infrastructure where it isn’t needed while withholding it from regions where it most obviously is. Feel free to comment with any typos you’ve spotted in my work, I’ll happily correct them.)