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A Devilishly Nice Place

October 6, 2017

We recently took a short holiday and decided to explore a part of Australia we hadn’t seen before.  We talked to our friends and decided on Tasmania, which up until that point we knew only as an island south of Australia, the home of Tasmanian devils and a former penal settlement.

We flew to Hobart, the capital and largest city and drove right around the island in a counter-clockwise direction.

There was just too much to see and a chronological narrative would get way too complicated, so I’ll just describe some of the highlights.

First of all, a little geography.  Tasmania is 240 kms (150 miles) south of mainland Australia separated by the Bass Strait.  It is just a little smaller than Ireland or Sri Lanka but only has a population of about half a million.  Almost half of the people live in Hobart, the capital, so you can imagine, the rest of the island has lots of wide open spaces.

Aborigines are believed to have settled in Tasmania 40,000 years ago but they were virtually wiped out by the British settlers.  For 50 years, from 1803 – 1853 the colonial population grew, largely because of transporting of about 75,000 convicts from the British Isles.  There are a number of museums where you can learn about convict history and the settlement process.  People were sent to Tasmania for infractions such as stealing a handkerchief or loaf of bread.  And both men and women were transported.

Because European settlement began in the early 1800s, there are a lot of interesting old buildings all over the country, and an amazing amount of history.

Here are some of the more interesting buildings we saw along the way.

Downtown Hobart and Launceston (the second largest city) are an interesting mix of old and new buildings.

And in Richmond we saw the oldest stone bridge in Australia, built in 1823 with convict labour.

Of course one of the highlights of any trip to Australia is the wildlife and Tasmania is extra special because of the Tasmanian devil.  We saw a lot of them—both in wildlife sanctuaries and as road kill.  They are about the size of a big cat or small dog, but they have a few special features.  Notice the teeth for one thing.

We learned that they have the biting strength equivalent to three pit bulls!

But for the most part, Tasmanian devils are in more trouble than they cause.  They are mostly scavengers and they will defend themselves, but they don’t attack or do feeding frenzies or anything like that.  They got their name because they have red ears and eyes and when the early settlers saw them in the light of their campfires, they looked rather satanic, so they got the name “devils.”

Also at the wildlife sanctuaries we were able to see a lot of interesting animals up close and personal!  We got to feed some kangaroos.

And check out the koalas:

This is a wombat:

The peacocks didn’t feel like spreading their tails, but seemed happy to drag them in the dirt.

I’m no kangaroo expert, but I think this baby is too big to get back into the pouch.

This is a black currawong, a native bird endemic to Tasmania.  Locals told us that they were bold and friendly and this one didn’t hesitate to hop up on the bench we were sitting at.

We also saw some rocks that reminded us of animals!

What animals/ birds can you spot?

 In addition to interesting animals, there was nonstop fantastic scenery, and because of the size of the island, in one day we could find ourselves in snowy mountains, sunny beaches and rainforests.

It is technically spring in Tasmania, and you could see the transition from winter to spring as we drove along.

The wattles and acacias were flowering and the variety of yellow flowering trees was amazing.

However, not all yellow flowers were a welcome sight. In one region there was an invasion of gorse, a plant that was brought in from England.   The entire plant is prickly and in England, where they regularly have frosts, it is used for fences and hedgerows.  In Tasmania where summers are warmer, there is nothing to slow it down and it is growing wild in huge areas and there are eradication programs in place.

Speaking of frost and cold weather, however, we encountered plenty of that.  This is the view as we drove to Cradle Mountain:

And this is part of the drive across the island from Strahan to Hobart:

But there were also some really nice beaches, although it was too cold to enjoy the surf!

This is the beach at Scamander where we stayed one night.

And this was our room!

We also learned about the interesting trees and forests.  A lot of Tasmania is covered in eucalyptus forest. There are numerous varieties of eucalyptus, and all these trees have amazing character.

This is the Eucalyptus Obliqua which can grow up to 90 m (295 feet)!

We also learned about a tree called the Huon Pine, which isn’t a pine at all but rather a unique tree that has its own genus and species.  It is native to Tasmania and stands of the tree have been almost destroyed because the timber is so valuable.  In addition to beautiful grain, the wood contains an oil that prevents it from rotting and so the trees live several thousands of years.

Between loss of habitat and logging, the tree became threatened and it is now illegal to cut down live Huon Pines.  We visited a timber mill with an amazing old but still functioning saw that was over 100 years old.  The mill has a special license to collected Huon Pine logs that were submerged when the hydro dams were built and the timber is sold to artists and furniture makers.

This is a Huon Pine in the wild.

Speaking of trees, we visited an interesting place called the Tahune Airwalk.  It is an amazingly engineered forest canopy walk at the confluence of the Huon and Picton rivers.

We saw the amazing trunks from the ground.

And then went for a walk in the canopy.

View of the Huon River and surroundings from the airwalk

We were up there!!

In addition to an elevated walk in the trees, you can cross the rivers on some hair raising bridges.

The locals told us that the rivers were unusually high because of heavy rain, but they weren’t as high as they were during the last floods.

And speaking of water—as we drove around we visited a number of interesting waterways and waterfalls.  This is the Cataract Gorge in Launceston which you reach by means of a chair lift.

There were lots of interesting rock formations, some with spooky faces.

And this is the St. Columba Falls, the highest in Tasmania:

One of the most interesting places we visited was Cradle Mountain National Park.  Cradle Mountain is 1545 metres high and got its name as it reminded the early explorers of a baby’s cradle.

There are several volcanic lakes in the area but the largest, Dove Lake, at the foot of the mountain has a walk way established all around it. It is one of the prettiest walks in Tasmania and it took us almost three hours because of the ice and snow, which we hadn’t expected, but that made it even more interesting.

There was some interesting vegetation.

This section is called the “Ballroom Forest” because the canopy of beech trees is so dense nothing grows under the trees and, I guess, you could dance away!

Also as we drove along, in addition to meeting interesting and friendly locals, we got some insights into life in Tasmania and also had a chance to see efforts being made to revive small towns and attract visitors.

This is Franklin, population 500, where they have a great weekend farmers market and some nice heritage buildings.

The Huon River flows through Franklin so it is also a boat building and recreation centre.

Lilydale, population 288, distinguishes itself by having artists paint power poles along the main street.

In Sheffield, population 1600, artists decorate the buildings with murals and there is a competition for new murals each year.  They also have a nice mosaic walk in the main park.

This is a directional sign to the actual suburbs of Sheffield.

In Devonport, you can get the overnight ferry boat to Melbourne.

And in Hamilton they are cashing in on their convict history

One of the most memorable towns we visited was Strahan (pop 800) on the west coast of the island.

It is a fishing town with nice walks and beaches.

But what was most memorable is that it was the scene of my theatrical debut!  A local theatre group has developed a fascinating, entertaining and funny historical play about convicts in Tasmania called The Ship That Never Was.  It is Australia’s longest running play.  It is an institution in Strahan and it has been performed by just two actors in an open air theatre every evening (except in winter when they show a movie of the play), since 1994.

We went along and settled into our seats.  It starts out with just an introduction of the 10 characters, all of whom are actual historical figures.

As the play progresses, the two actors actually assemble the ship that never was and then, assemble the crew from the audience.  I’ll spare you the details, but the plot involves convicts building a ship, mutinying, stealing the ship and sailing to Chile.  Even though they got caught eventually, they got off because of a technicality in which the ship had never been properly registered and therefore they successfully argued that there couldn’t have been a mutiny and the ship couldn’t have been stolen.

Anyway, I was press ganged into serving as the ill-fated captain of the ship who has to deal with the mutineers.  I even got to wear an oversized Napolean hat!

It was a lot of fun and all of the proceeds from the show go to help disabled children.

We were really impressed with Tasmania and its wonderful animals, scenery and friendly people.  One of the things that was most interesting was the sense of the island being poised for growth as more people move from mainland Australia to escape the heat.  It is also rapidly developing as a tourist center.

There is a lot of emphasis on making sure that the development doesn’t have an adverse impact on the natural beauty, and there are many reminders about what happened to the Tasmanian Tiger, a wild dog that was hunted to extinction in the early 20th century.  Everyone knew what would happen.  In 1863 this warning was sounded:

And people recognized the problem:

But the last Tasmanian Tiger died in the 1930s and today, people are looking to protect what is left of nature.

It’s definitely worth experiencing Tasmania and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

 

 

 

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Rodent Code Red—Could It Be Karma?

September 7, 2017
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One of my jobs at CUE Haven is pest control, which entails stocking poison bait stations and maintaining traps to keep invasive possums, weasels and rats from killing both our plantings and the native birds we are trying to bring back.  Just last week I gleefully updated our running totals of pests caught and a few days ago gave a presentation to some high school students on the benefits of whacking introduced baddies.

Somewhere in the rat world, they decided it was time to extract a little vengeance.

As a result of this merciless campaign, among other things, we’ve learned what dead rat smells like and that’s why I was alarmed when we got home the other day and my wife said, “Do you smell a dead rat?”

“Indeed I do,” I responded.

I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about our living conditions, but this has happened before.  We have lots of bush around the house and a crawl space underneath and every couple of years we get a whiff of something that’s not quite right but at the same time not horrendous.  I’ve been able to deal with it by spraying some stuff a guy gave me that he claims is used to deodorize cars and hotel rooms that have been smoked in and crime scenes.  And it’s always worked.

Not this time, however.  The stench just got stronger and it seemed to be coming from everywhere.  I kept spritzing until the bottle ran dry and the look on my face was probably how Bruce Willis would have looked if he’d ever run out of bullets in Die Hard.  He probably would have said something similar to my utterances, too.

There was only one thing to do.  Actually two–a sane person would have called in professional help.  But I decided it was time to gird my loins and go down into the crawl space to see if I could find the source of the problem and (the horror) deal with it.

Over three days, I went down twice but was unable to find anything—it didn’t even smell down there.  But the odor was becoming localized in the downstairs bathroom which shares two walls with the crawl space.  That spawned a new theory of where the creature was and a plan for extraction.

Because I didn’t have one of these

I went to plan B, the homemade version

It was hard for my wife to get a clear picture because she was laughing too hard to hold the camera steady.  But she wasn’t the one who was going into the hole!  I, for one, wasn’t laughing.

Even with the greater confidence that my protective gear afforded, I was unable to see any evidence of a rodent incursion.  The insulation was intact, nothing was chewed or disturbed and there were no body parts in evidence.

I gave up the search, but we were truly getting alarmed at the quality and intensity of the smell.  I had inspected every inch of the bathroom where the scent was the strongest but found no possible source.  For some reason it seemed strongest in the shower.  There was no way it could be coming from the drainpipe.  I’d even knelt down and checked.  I looked around for a possible source and that’s when I saw the recessed light fixture.  Please, no!

Getting up on a ladder confirmed my suspicions and my worst fear.  These recessed lights sit in the ceiling cavity.  What if the rat had been walking along and got zapped?  Would it catch on fire?  I was forced to act and the only thing to do was to pull the fixture out of the ceiling.  But what if the rat fell out when I did that?  With maggots on it? There wasn’t enough digitalis in the Southern Hemisphere to bring me back from that experience!

Ascending the ladder and making sure I wasn’t positioned directly underneath,  I took out the light bulb.  I tugged at the fixture while holding a bucket underneath.  The fixture slid out easily and there was nothing there!

Except a lot more stink!

I examined the cavity with a flashlight and didn’t see anything.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy about that or not.  Emboldened by not having had a decomposing rat flop out of the ceiling I took a closer look.  I saw something that looked like a wire where no wires were supposed to be.  Using some kitchen tongs that will never be used again I gave it a tug.

OMG

Of course, the thing didn’t have the decency to pull out easily.  Which somehow made it even scarier.  How could it have gotten wedged between the light bracket and the insulation?  Shouldn’t it have shrunk?

My new primal fear became having the thing come flying out at me when I finally dislodged it, but after a bit of breathless (literally) work, it plopped obligingly into the bucket.

Open windows and a lot of incense are getting things back to normal odor wise.  My blood pressure will take a little longer!

Did You Know They Can Do This?

June 5, 2017
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For some time, I’ve had a creeping feeling of powerlessness in the face of corporate bureaucracy.  Ever since Mitt Romney gave us that business about corporations are people too, it seems like they have more rights than me.

Things like phone companies not letting you carry over unused minutes come to mind.  You paid for it, but you didn’t use it.  Bye bye.

But phone companies are positively charitable compared to banks.

Banks seem to have this attitude that any cost they incur is supposed to be covered by customers.  Or, if the loss is big enough, the tax payers.

This was brought home to me recently when I received a $60 check from a Fortune 500 company.  Which I duly deposited in the bank.

A few days later I got an advice in the mail saying that the check had been returned to the company due to insufficient funds and that for trying to deposit a bad check I was being penalized $12.00.  The fee was 20% of the check amount.

My first thought was WTF, the economy must really be bad if blue chip companies are bouncing checks.

My second thought was WTF is the bank charging me for?  How was I supposed to know?  What did I do wrong?

I have to admit that the thought of trying to sort out the problem was terrifying.  But I girded my loins and called the 24 x 7 customer service line.

After pressing “1” for English and a few other numbers for other things, I navigated through the tense moments of trying to remember if my secret question was my first pet’s name or my favorite teacher’s name.  Duly verified, I then had the pleasure of telling a computer what my problem was.  You know that faux-friendly and encouraging voice that says, “Please tell me in a few words how I can be of help” and never understands what you are saying?

Because the conversation may have been being taped for training purposes, I didn’t say what came to my mind, but rather said, “Returned check fee.”

“You want to open a checking account?”

I’ll spare you the entire dialogue but after a few iterations, I wasn’t able to control myself and said “I want to talk to someone other than a ***** machine.”

“You want to know the location of the nearest ATM machine?”

At that point I was pretty sure that their strategy was for me to say “it’s only twelve bucks, forget about it.”  But this was getting personal.  I finally got “Press pound to speak to a customer service representative.”  Which is what I’d been trying to do for the past ten minutes.

I wonder if the people answering the phones at the bank call center know that the people they are talking to have just been subjected to an exercise in frustration guaranteed to put them in a state of mind that is not conducive to rational discussion.

But, again remembering that the call may be getting recorded for training purposes, I maintained a pleasant demeanor when a person came on the line and asked how he could help.  I was polite and friendly, asking about his day, the weather where he was and all that.

Then I got to the point.  I was reasonable, suggesting perhaps that a mistake had been made.

All to no avail.  I got a polite but stern lecture that as result of presenting the check to the bank, I had initiated a series of Herculean efforts on their part to process the check and they had incurred costs, only to find that I was wasting their time.  So not only did I not get the money I’d deposited, but twelve bucks was being taken out of my account to compensate the bank for me having inconvenienced them so thoughtlessly.  The semi-scripted lecture the guy gave me actually had me thinking I’d done something wrong.

I reasonably inquired as to whether the bank had in fact expended twelve dollars worth of effort during the process.  After all, McDonalds seems to go to a lot more effort to give me a burger and they don’t charge that kind of money.  Could he send me the details of the charge?

No.

At some point you feel as if you’re talking to the computer again and you don’t care if the call is being recorded for training purposes.  I asked the guy if he thought the charge was fair or reasonable.  I told him I didn’t think it was totally legal because there was no way I could avoid the fee.

He agreed that I couldn’t have known that a check from a Fortune 500 company would bounce, but I could have avoided the fee if I hadn’t presented the bad check.  Further, he advised me helpfully that if I maintained a balance over $200,000, all fees would always be magically waived.  That wasn’t very helpful!

We were at an impasse but I wasn’t going to give up. And we continued to talk.  Things escalated.  Over twelve lousy bucks!  I’ll spare you the details, but I played the let me talk to your manager card and voila, they finally reversed the fee.  It was the hardest twelve bucks I’d ever earned.

And of course, the conversation ended on an upbeat note “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

What scares me most about the whole thing is the way it unfolded.  First I interacted with a machine and communicated by pressing buttons.  Then I interacted with a machine which tried to guess what I was saying.  Then I had a lengthy interaction with a disempowered human and finally got someone able to resolve the situation.

When you consider that human jobs are being replaced by computers and robots, I bet you some cost accountant at the bank is looking at the customer interface process and putting their finger on a blip in the cost curve that shows that human interaction is the most expensive part of the process.

Can you imagine negotiating with a perfectly logical robot?

Welcome To The Future

April 9, 2017

I just read an interesting article that made me say, “OK.  I think that’s enough.”

The article was a breathless description of how technicians at the Stuttgart University Institute for Computational Design are at the leading edge of “the rapidly evolving field of robotic architecture.”

Apparently these guys have designed robots that “make not only the components of building but also assemble the buildings themselves.”  They claim that using the robots “could reduce the construction time and manpower by as much as 90%”

How cool is that?

Or not?  The pace at which human jobs are being eliminated, or are about to be eliminated by robots and machines is increasing.  No one is safe.  Excited technocrats talk about doctors, lawyers and even policemen being replaced by robots.  Even airline pilots may go the way of taxi and truck drivers.  If a robot doesn’t take your job, Big Data will.

What are all those people going to do? is a legitimate question to ask. And if you are comfortably confident that your job it safe, it’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say that they should go back to school or upskill.  Or worse, you may think that technology really will solve all our problems and come up with some new and exciting solution we haven’t been smart enough to foresee.  But that has a sort of “I’m not in Aleppo, why should I care?” attitude to it.

The fact that there are tons of jobs for new IT graduates does not solve the social problem of millions of unemployed and possibly unemployable people.

And that’s the other point.  This is a social issue, not a technical issue.  We can’t rely on the technocrats to solve it.  We can’t expect people who are comfortable and excited by technology to understand the two cultures that we are creating.

I know that arguing against technological advance is like peeing in the swimming pool.  Totally unacceptable and a sign of deep seated problems.  But is it so unreasonable to ask what people are going to do if machines are doing everything?

If all humans are equal and have human rights, it seems to me that when one group benefits at the expense of another, there should be some way to equalize things.  We aren’t barbarians who raid rival villages and kill and enslave our neighbors any more.  Are we?

The best solution I’ve heard is one that is both fair and makes sense.  If the people rolling out the technology are making the money on it at the expense of others, why not make it fair by taxing those gains and using the money for training or support to people who are adversely affected by the technology?  After all, if a person were doing the job, they’d be earning income and paying tax. So a robot doing an equivalent job should pay tax.  But since robots can do just about anything but pay taxes, the check would be written by the person employing or manufacturing the robot.

I can hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth already.  Another tax to transfer money from hard working innovators to the lazy.  Companies will tell us that it will make robots too expensive.  They will have to pass the cost onto us the customer.  And that  will make the technology too expensive.

I doubt if taxing technology will slow down the pace of change, but I’m not as concerned about that as I am about the social cost.  Remember, the economy is driven by consumption and robots don’t consume.  People do.  If they don’t have any money, that’s not going to happen.

Not only that–and here’s something to think about,–your pension gets funded by the contributions of current workers and I don’t think there are going to be enough programmers and server-farm tenders to keep Social Security running forever!  So maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have robots help out with that.

Robot Army recruitment

Some Ado About Something!

April 2, 2017

It may sound like heresy, but I think that some of the best live theater I’ve ever seen has been in Auckland.  I think it’s a combination of the English tradition combined with Polynesian humor and creativity combined with a willingness to take chances and be innovative.

All that continued last night at the Pop Up Globe where we saw Much Ado About Nothing.

Let me answer your first question, which I’m sure is “What is the Pop Up Globe.”  It’s a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre made of metal and wood scaffolding with corrugated iron walls.  They call it “the world’s first full scale temporary working replica of the second Globe.”  The term pop up comes from the fact that it can be taken down, moved and reassembled.  Last season it was downtown but this year it’s moved out to the suburbs where there’s more room.  And free parking!

We got to the theater and had a walk around.  It really does look like the Globe Theater.

And of course, it wouldn’t be the Globe Theatre without . . .

This year they are doing Henry V, Othello, As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing.   The company includes some well known NZ actors and the entire company performs in all of the plays.

The atmosphere was more like a rock concert than a Shakespeare play—the venue and the theatre helped to create a party atmosphere and the audience was definitely there to have fun.  The demographic was definitely not what we are used to when we go to the more mainstream theatre.  For once we were above the average age of the audience!

To be honest, the venue is suboptimal for sound and viewing.  But that didn’t matter.  It was more about the event.

To add to the fun, when local NZ companies do Shakespeare, they take huge liberties.  One time we saw an outdoor Macbeth in which the final sword fight took place in the seats among the audience.  Another time we saw a Taming of the Shrew which started outside in a field.  A pickup truck drove up hauling a trailer with a boxing ring.  Kate’s suitors all took her on in the ring and she knocked them all out until Petruchio showed up in a 60s surfmobile.  The play then went inside, but for the wedding scene moved into an auditorium and the audience were the wedding guests with the cast circulating among us.

It was no different for Much Ado About Nothing.  Ancient Messina became Samoa and the costumes were sort of a mix of Samoan and Renaissance.  For the wedding scene at the end they did this wild Polynesian dance complete with fireworks—which of course got everyone remembering that the first Globe theatre burned down because of sparks from cannon fire!

The character Dogberry, who is the constable, for some reason is portrayed as an airport customs officer with a (real) sniffer dog.  (For most of the play, the dog is “lost” and spends its time wandering among the groundlings getting petted.)  Anyway, at the beginning of the play, Dogberry pretends to confiscate a cell phone off someone in the audience and starts on what sounds like the usual make sure your cell phone is off reminder.  Instead he encourages everyone to leave their phones on to take pictures but to make sure they are on silent.  Then he says if you don’t put it on silent this is what will happen and throws the phone to the dog who destroys it.

Here are some of the authorized pictures I took.

This is the view from our seats—you can see the scaffolding the theater is built with.  And yes, they used all of the doors and windows and top balcony on the stage in the course of the performance.

This is the scene where Benedik is supposed to be hiding in the arbor and overhears the guys talking about Beatrice.  He’s really hanging from a swing which came down from above and which he has to tell the operator when to raise and lower it.  For some reason, Friar Francis is playing the saxophone to the right.

This is the final scene with the wedding dance. The fireworks are just starting on the sides of the balcony.

I’m sure some Shakespeare purists were offended but it was a lot of fun.  They use the same cast for all of the plays and it will be interesting to see how they do the history and tragedy plays because the comedy we saw was so irreverent.  There were references to contemporary events, digressions as the actors addressed the audience or consulted the crew on points of staging and of course a lot of audience interaction.

We took our nephews, ages 14 and 16.  Before we went the younger one asked “It is a comedy comedy or a Shakespeare comedy?” They both had a really good time and absolutely loved it and now actually want to read the actual play and see more live theatre.  Mission accomplished!

Congratulations and best wishes to the Pop Up Globe company for their rich addition to Auckland’s artistic life—a great way to get people interested in Shakespeare and live theatre!

New Review of I Too!

March 15, 2017

My recent novel, I Too, has been reviewed by Flaxflower, a New Zealand literary magazine and I’m happy to share it with you.  It also includes a nice synopsis of the book to give you an idea of what it’s about if you haven’t read it.

There have also been a couple of reviews posted on the Amazon and Book Depository web sites but I’ve gotten a lot of reviews privately via e-mail.  Many people seem to be too shy to put their thoughts out on the web, but if you’ve read the book, do please write a review on the web where you obtain the book.

Here is a link to the Flaxflower review.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

Another Thing I Missed

March 12, 2017

I’m the first one to admit that I’m out of the loop on social trends.

So it should come as no surprise that I was oblivious to the fact that one of the defining items in anyone’s wardrobe these days is a pair of Kanye West shoes.  Did you know he had a shoe brand?

I didn’t until I read an article titled “’Sneakerheads Camp in Nottingham for Kanye’s Latest Shoe.”

Before we continue, you should know, as I just learned, that “Sneakerhead” is a real term.  Apparently there are people so into shoes that they have evolved a specialized language and everything.  Carnegie Mellon University in the US has a course on the phenomenon called “Sneakerology 101.”

Anyway, last month these new shoes came out and the asking price was £150, which is about $260.  In order to part with that kind of money for a pair of shoes, “devoted fans” were lining up for “several days” in order to access the limited number of shoes that would go on sale.  According to someone who was waiting in line, “As you get close to release time you get a real buzz around and people get real excited.”

The shop selling the shoes explained demand as being due to “. . . the power of the brand.  Kanye is a giant of popular culture – and he is married to Kim Kardashian – so the hype around his brand is huge.”

The article didn’t delve into the demographic of the assembled crowd but it’s fairly clear there were two classes of people.  One were those who could afford to pay that kind of money for a pair of shoes and had nothing better to do than camp out on the sidewalk in winter weather for a few days.  The other group were people who were probably used to camping out on the sidewalk in winter weather but generate their income by buying Kanye shoes and turning around and selling them.  Apparently these things are such a hot commodity that they can be resold for a more than 100% profit on the same day.  Not a bad day’s work!  I don’t know all the details of how the aftermarket works but Kanye shoes have been known to sell for “thousands of pounds.”

This shoe is priced at NZ $3,240 on the Internet

Some retailers, and Adidas, who make the shoes, in particular discourage this. They will only let you buy one pair at a time.

In case you are wondering why the shoes have such value, here is the explanation from an 18-year-old aficionado: “You need style if you are an 18-year-old boy – you look at people nowadays and everything is about what you look like.”

I do remember various “must have” things over the years, but reality has gradually made me immune to the exhortations of advertisers.

However, while I’ve been quietly living my life, a whole alternative culture of brand identity has grown up.  Around clothes in general, but definitely with shoes.   There are whole websites (and apps) devoted to notifying people of product “drops.” A “drop” is a product release.  Times were, bad, underperforming product lines were dropped by manufacturers but now hot new stuff is dropped, as if from heaven.

And once you get your hands on a coveted new drop, life really gets complicated.  I saw an article entitled “Sneakerheads:  Stop Wearing Good Shoes With Trash Outfits.”  Why should you do that?  “Because the virtues of a good sneaker are endless,” and “. . . your shoes deserve so much more than the stylish equivalent of stepping in dog shit.”

This pretty much sums it up: “And you want your sneakers to be happy, right? You didn’t shell out a whole month’s paycheck on them to make them neglected, right? If you truly want to show your appreciation for your footwear game, pay them a compliment: Style them correctly.“

The article closes with the warning: “Because even though the clothes don’t make the man, the clothes and a good pair of sneakers might.”

This is serious business.  I found out that there is even a hashtag #NTDenim where people who wear the wrong kind of jeans with their sneakers are photographed and shamed.  To help others from making “the same regrettable mistake.”  To help you, there are also websites and apps that “curate” all these must have things.  Incidentally, however, another website urged people not to use that hashtag because people were purposely assembling hideous insults to their sneakers and posting them “in order to be famous on the Internet.”  Another thing I missed.

In a radio interview, after being asked about his priorities, a young man said, “Don’t judge me.  I can spend my money however I like.  These shoes define who I am.”

One can only wonder, who these people are and where they go to see and be seen and what they value other than their shoes.

Try This Look Instead!

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