Monday, November 24, 2008

The reality check

The last assignment has been finished, no more lessons, and I've just received my final marks.  It's over, it's finished, and perhaps what has most probably been the busiest year in my life since leaving school in 1988, has come to its end. 

Unfortunately though, I'm experiencing the reality of inertia, where mentally I'm flying a thousand miles an hour, but everything around me physically has stopped.  What I would like to do now is to work a few days a week, or even better a full-time job.   Though I have made many friends this year, the current employment environment is still an unwelcoming one for those with asperger's. 

With sending off a number of e-mails, and following up an application, I spoke to an employer who owns a company that specialises in digital music.  Within a flash, my breath was taken away with his full on "ENTITLEMENT" attitude; "what can you do for me, what can you do, that I'm not doing already".  His mind-set was very much, "I couldn't give a monkey's on who you are".  In the age where there has been so much more awareness of Asperger's, I kind of expected a more intelligent approach, particularly as the company was part of one of Sydney's successful radio stations. 

It seems the "Gordon Gekko" mind set is alive and kicking still in a big way, and that despite so much more awareness for employees and employers to become more casual and understanding in the work place, it seems nothing has changed.

I suppose I'm now getting to a very fine line without sounding to pessimistic, but then I also don't want to guild the lily.  I'm amazed with the amount of press I've appeared in, including television coverage, national and local newspapers, and radio interviews.  In particular there has been so much stuff on the internet, so much to the point that even a short wikipedia article has appeared about me.  Perhaps if Warragamba Dam is still empty, I could fill it to the brim with all the compliments and congrats I've received.  So through all that stuff, it would only be normal that for me to expect that someone has seen something about me, and to have offered me a job, but yet one month on there has been nothing.

My brother and I spoke about some current affair issues on one of the television sites.  He noted that my story of "Rainman goes to Rockwiz" was next to another story about a mother and her child.  Apparently he noted that the mother-child story received over 720 comments, while my Rainman story only received 5.   This is despite the fact that both stories went to air on the same night, at the same time, on the same channel.

So to conclude, this is not about thinking the worst, or trying to be pessimistic, but just to realise that as an Asperger, there's no real fame or party.  It is a constant reality check and a bite of the tongue every-day. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reminicing the days of huge CD shops.

Current Mood: Sad

Perhaps it was inevitable, but then somehow I hoped that it wouldn't happen.  The death of CD shops as we know them seems to have reared it's ugly head again with the closure of another CD shop, but this just wasn't another store.  It was Dirt Cheap CD's on Sydney's shopping strip, Pitt Street Mall.

I think they may have opened about 2001, but a friend told me about the store in late 2002.  From this time to about the earlier part of 2008, this shop you could say was one of my favourite hangouts.  I guess it's a place where I've spent hundreds, but admittingly I would have to confess that I've spent thousands of dollars over the years in this one particular store.  in 2004 - 2005 it would not be unusual for me to be walking out with twelve to fifteen CDs at a time. 

Today, my mother and I went to the city, to get my eyes checked, but fortunately, the appointment went quick.  My mother needed to look for some books at Dymocks on George Street, as I went to Dirt Cheap CD's on Pitt, discovering to my horror that the door was semi-open with all the shelves stripped.  The lady came and thanked me for my patronage, and told me that they were moving their business to the internet. 

Expecting to be browsing through the store for an hour, I ended up going to the JB Hifi underneath, but the range and price was just not the same.

It was only August last year, that HMV closed its huge mid-city store, due to mall renovations.  HMV did state in a newspaper article that they wouldn't re-open that particular store, due to the high rental costs of retail space. 

Reading this stuff took me back to the days of 1990 when the HMV Mid-City store just opened.  Directly opposite was a huge Virgin Megastore, two doors down was Strand Music, and at the end was an Edels Superstore.  A short walk down the southern end of Pitt Street would of taken you to the Brashes Superstore with another Edels three doors down from there.  December 1990 seemed to be the peak of CD retailing.  You only had to think of a CD back then, and any one of the six stores was bound to have it.  Now in 2008, it has become impossible to purchase anything, as the only place to get it seems to be Amazon. 

While flashing through the papers this evening, I came across the following article, noting that the Australian dollar had also pushed them out. 

So in the end, could the death of the CD be one step closer?

CD stores suffer death by download
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 31st October 2008 at 9:17 am

The CD is going the way of vinyl. So, Too, are the cheap CD stores, as Kelsey Munro finds out.

NOT too long ago, you could walk south from the mall along Pitt Street in the Sydney CBD and pick up new CDs for $10 or less each and find plum bargains at several second-hand CD shops stretching all the way to Chinatown.

Things have changed.

The second-hand shops are disappearing and the discount options are narrowing. Today, the final NSW franchise of Dirt Cheap CDs on Pitt Street is the latest to shut down. At its peak, the six-year-old chain, known for $10 CDs, had five shops in Sydney.

Walter Lehne, the owner of the Dirt Cheap CDs chain, says the market has changed completely. "It's no secret that a huge amount of music is now legally downloaded," he says.

CD sales are suffering generally but the second-hand market has dropped even further, store owners say.

Michael McRae, who works at Red Eye Records' second-hand shop, says: "Where we are in Pitt Street there used to be numerous stores up and down; now there's basically nothing. It's all pretty much gone."

Along with downloads eating into retail sales, Lehne points to the buying power of big-chain CD retailers and the struggling Australian dollar for his decision to sell his business (the online store will continue.)

"The whole price market has changed: record companies now do deals with big major stores, like the JB Hi-Fis and Big Ws, Kmarts, Harvey Norman, so they go out at prices sometimes below what they sell to other people," Lehne says.

As for Dirt Cheap CDs' model of importing cheap CDs, margins were thin but the weak dollar has made it worse.

Specialising seems to be the secret to surviving as an independent. That has been the case for niche stores such as Ashwood's Music and Books, on York Street, and Red Eye, the 26-year-old record store that sells new and second-hand music in three shops in the Sydney CBD.

"Jazz and classical are still strong, vinyl is selling," says Ian Vellins, the manager of Ashwood's. "It's just that the contemporary pop CDs aren't selling because everyone downloads them. The only thing that's not selling is everything that would get an ARIA award."

McRae says: "Downloads have obviously had an effect on things but in general our business is OK - not as bad as you'd think."

Many small retailers cite competitive pressures on CD prices from JB Hi-Fi, which its chief executive, Richard Uechtritz, says is now Australia's sixth-largest retail chain, with 45 to 50 per cent of the music retail market. JB's policy of having a large range, deep back-catalogue and low prices has paid off, he says, and it still invests as much in its CD market as it did eight years ago.

"Unlike others, we've kept on in the doom and gloom about the hard-copy CD business," he says. "We've had great faith in the fact that people will want to continually buy CDs.

"The biggest threat to CD sales is not downloading, it's from movies and games."

The DVD film and games markets in Australia now surpass the CD market: games were worth $1.4 billion last year while music sales were only $700 million.

Uechtritz says it's not the end of cheap, legal music for people who still prefer CDs - that market "will be around for a long time yet".
-------------------END OF TRANSCRIPT-------------------

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Remembering February 1983

Current Mood: Lethargic:

It seems that this RockWiz journey that I've been riding is about to hit its climax.  Being aware that I might get much exposure over the coming days, it's going to be somewhat nerve wrecking.  With two radio interviews lined up early tomorrow morning (looks like I won't get much sleep tonight), and the premier of my doco tomorrow night, it's going to feel very much like a strange dream.

My memory for charts has impressed many people, and without gloating, I feel more that I'm now in a position to demonstrate on a whole, what Asperger Syndrome people can do.  For me, it's 70s 80s music, but for one of my friends, he can tell you every model of car and piece of trivia there is to know about motoring.  I guess his lucky that he has a good job, but I would bet for every one in his position, they would be thirty aspie's sitting on the unemployment scrap-heap,

Now that there is more awareness of the condition, there is real hope that things may change.

With this in mind, I thought I would take the opportunity to demonstrate my chart research skills, and bring out the original inspiration of this blog..... to take Triple M to task with their sloppy music research.

Triple M 104.9 COLD 30
Tuesday 21st OCTOBER 2008

For the month of February 1983

CH#  TRACK TITLE ARTIST/GROUP (correct chart date) LABEL CAT No:

30. Power and the passion Midnight Oil (28 Mar 1983) CBS / Sprint BA 223010
29. The safety dance Men Without Hats (29 Aug 1983) Big Time BTS 1000
28. Burning down the house Talking Heads (12 Sep 1983) Sire 7-29565
27. Should I stay or should I go The Clash (14 Feb 1983) Epic ES 807
26. Let's dance David Bowie (26 Mar 1983) EMI America AMI 958
25. My girl The Hoodoo-gurus (31 Oct 1983) Bit Time BTS 1072
24. Australiana Austen Tayshus (25 Jul 1983) Regular RRT 606
23. Sunday bloody Sunday U2 (Non charting track) Island (Announcer’s personal pick)
22. Always something there to remind me Naked Eyes (4 Apr 1983) EMI EMI 847
21. Overkill Men at Work (28 Mar 1983) CBS BA 223038
20. Our house Madness (31 Jan 1983) Stiff K 8933
19. Drop the pilot Joan Armatrading (4 Apr 1983) A&M K 9019
18. The swing Inxs (Non charting track) WEA (Announcer’s personal pick)
17. 1999 Prince (14 Feb 1983) Warner Bros 7-29896
16. White wedding Billy Idol (31 Jan 1983) Chrysalis K 8918
15. Electric Avenue Eddie Grant (20 Jun 1983) Ice ES 861
14. Cuts like a knife Bryan Adams (16 May 1983) A&M K 8993
13. Dance hall days Wang Chung (4 Jun 1984) Geffen GEF 3837
12. I was only 19 Redgum (18 Apr 1983) Epic ES 844
11. Read about it Midnight Oil (Non charting track) CBS / Sprint (announcer’s personal pick)
11. That's entertainment The Jam (Non charting track) Polydor (Announcer’s personal pick)
10. Sweet dreams The Eurythmics (16 May 1983) RCA Victor 104123
9. No sense Cold Chisel (24 Oct 1983) WEA 7-259773
8. Karma Chameleon Culture Club (26 Sep 1983) Virgin VS 612
7. New years day U2 (18 Apr 1983) Island K 8983
6. Let’s go to bed The Cure (6 May 1983) Sire 7-29628
5. Twisting by the pool Dire Straits (7 Feb 1983) Vertigo 6205-062
4. Reckless Australian Crawl (10 Oct 1983) EMI BUG 3
3. Billy Jean Michael Jackson (28 Feb 1983) Epic ES 823
2 Rain Dragon (15 Aug 1983) Mercury 812 763-7
1. Every breath you take The Police (20 Jun 1983) A&M K 9104

Though they are supposedly counting down the top 30 hits from February 1983, in reality, the entire chart is incorrect with songs from late 1983, the middle of 1984, and many album tracks that never charted.  I guess the biggest crack up was listening to Australiana again, followed by Ugly Phil getting the numbers mixed up.  He also noted 'Austin Tayshus' Australiana only got as high as No.24', whilst it actually reached No.1 on the ARIA Charts, and No.4 on my personal top 40 charts.

To compare notes, I have retrieved the original top 40 chart from my archives, from the week ending Sunday 27th February 1983.

Weekly National Top 40 Singles Chart
From the Week Ending Sunday 27th February 1983


1. Shoop shoop diddy wop cumma cumma wang dang Monte Video and the Cassettes (14 Feb 1983) White Label K 8906
2. Baby, I need your lovin’ Carl Carlton (7 Feb 1983) RCA Victor 104051
3. Under attack Abba (14 Feb 1983) RCA Victor 104088
4. 1999 Prince (14 Feb 1983) Warner Bros 7-29896
5. All touch Rough Trade (27 Feb 1983) Big Time BTS 697
6. Twisting by the pool Dire Straits (7 Feb 1983) Vertigo 6205 062
7. The other guy Little River Band (14 Feb 1983) Capitol CP 918
8. You can’t hurry love Phil Collins (31 Jan 1983) WEA 7-259980
9. Sexual Healing Marvin Gaye (17 Jan 1983) CBS BA 223007
10. Up where we belong Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes (27 Dec 1982) Liberation LS 900
11. Allentown Billy Joel (17 Jan 1983) CBS BA 223011
12. Science fiction The Divinyls (17 Jan 1983) Chrysalis K 8953
13. Young guns (go for it) Wham! (17 Jan 1983) Epic ES 816
14. Gloria Laura Branigan (13 Dec 1982) Atlantic 45-4048
15. Living on the ceiling Blancmange (14 Feb 1983) London BLANC 3
16. Our house Madness (31 Jan 1983) Stiff K 8933
17. Zoom Fat Larry’s Band (13 Dec 1982) Virgin VS 546
18. Love in store Fleetwood Mac (27 Dec 1982) Warner Bros 7-29848
19. On the wings of love Jeffery Osborne (31 Jan 1983) A&M K 8661
20. Peek-a-boo Devo (20 Dec 1982) Warner Bros 7-29931
21. Mirror man Human League (20 Dec 1982) Virgin VS 522
22. Shadows of the night Pat Benatar (13 Dec 1982) Chrysalis K 8931
23. Walk on by Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons (17 Jan 1983) Mushroom K 8941
24. IGY (what a beautiful world) Donald Fagen (29 Nov 1982) Warner Bros 7-29900
25. Truly Lionel Richie (6 Dec 1982) Motown 1644 MF
26. All of my heart ABC (29 Nov 1982) Mercury 6059 571
27. The traveller Big Red (20 Dec 1982) Mercury 6038 069
28. I eat cannibals Toto Coelo (29 Nov 1982) Radialchoice POW 0102
29. Stand up The Angels (22 Nov 1982) Epic ES 792
30. Can’t take my eyes off you Boys Town Gang (20 Dec 1982) RCA 104067
31. The woman in me Donna Summer (18 Dec 1982) Warner Bros 7-29805
32. Aftica Toto (29 Nov 1982) CBS BA 222906
33. Ain’t no pleasing you Chas and Dave (10 Feb 1983) Liberation / Towerbell) LS 870
34. True love ways Cliff Richard (21 Feb 1983) EMI EMI 903
35. Are you getting enough happiness Hot Chocolate (18 Dec 1982) EMI America 8143
36. The clapping song The Belle Stars (8 Nov 1982) Stiff K 8824
37. Down the line (making love on the telephone) Mi Sex (6 Dec 1982) CBS BA 223001
38. Heartbreaker Dionne Warwick (6 Dec 1982) Arista K 8883
39. Shock the monkey Peter Gabriel (20 Dec 1982) Charisma 6000 872
40. Hey little girl Icehouse (15 Nov 1982) Regular RRSP 721

Interesting to note the accuracy of each chart, when compared to the data of David Kent's Australian Chart Book.  Note the dates given after the artist/group in each chart, as these are the dates when singles first charted or debuted into a particular chart.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I think I woke up this morning without my stomach!

Current Mood: Sick

It was just heading onto 8:00 when I heard John Logan announce the finance figures, on ABC Illawarra's 7:45 news bulletin.  His low solemn voice somewhat reminded me of someone reading out a funeral eulogy, when he announced some share prices, and then the moment came when I felt somewhat sick; "just a few moments ago the Australian Dollar was 71.83 US cents".

Yep, I guess a few four-letter words slipped from my tongue, but then I kind of reminded myself that I must have misheard what he said.  My horror was confirmed 25 minutes later when Tony Eastley confirmed the value of the Australian Dollar, as it was still around 71 cents.

Yeah, now I was wide-awake, and immediately thinking how there is the need for me to curve my purchases from the US.  Because of Australia's crappy CD market, I buy all of my music from America.   I also purchase material from the US as well, that is related to my Asperger's.

So in the end, it's pretty much a case of things becoming much more expensive.  Somehow I see the dollar going back to 50 cents US, but then we have to thank Bob Hawke for floating the currency back in December 1983.  Considering that some people have lost hundreds and thousands of dollars in stocks, I suppose in the end, the aussie exchange rate is just one of those annoying trivialities of life.

Those days of mid July, when the rate was 98.40 cents US, are now unfortunately just a distant memory.  At that time there was real hope that our dollar would reach parody, and even over take the green-back.  That would have been incredible to see. :) :) 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It's time to double double the Disability Support Pension!

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged, but hell; in the true tradition of 2008; the year where things keep on happening..... and happening...... have those politicians suddenly found a bone of compassion; or perhaps more to the point; a guilty conscience? or being serious, have the poles moved to opposite sides? :) :)

It was early September when to my amazement, and somewhat amusement, I actually saw Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard, Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd and a host of other politicians declare that they "COULD NOT LIVE ON THE PENSION".  The sights and sounds of pensioners stealing the headlines of the day, on the evening news and current affair shows was a somewhat strange reality.

At first, I was very excited and hopeful that us "Disability Support Pensioners" would be lifted out of financial poverty, up to an income were we could afford things like dining out, take away food, wardrobe updates, broadband internet, and yeah; the occasional luxury... a holiday.

Though the momentum was charging along, to my disgrace, two issues were hijacking the debate; a single group of pensioners just thinking about them selves, rather then thinking of all pensioners, and the same old politicians attitude; there's no urgency, we've got the next twenty years to figure it out.

This segment from ABC Radio's AM program from Tuesday morning 23rd September highlights the firery debate in parliament, and how us "Disability Support Pensioners" are left out in the cold.
5 minutes and 18 seconds

The Liberal manager of Business in the Senate, Helen Coonan puts forward the pension rise bill, but only covers old age pensioners.  Why just one group?  That must of been the reason why Labor voted it down.

In the second portion of the above podcast, Tony Eastley notes how disability pensioners face considerable costs above food, clothing and housing.  Faye Druett, a vice-president of the lobby group, People with Disabilities Australia, notes how she recently paid a $550 electricity bill for her heating.  This is something I relate to very much, as the heater remained off at my place, just a case of wearing ten layers of clothes during our last winter.

One of my friends from Kingsford has to take taxies everywhere, because of the condition of her legs.  Though she receives the MT40 taxi subsidy, her transport costs are very expensive.  Another one of my friends, who I worked with in Blacktown radio twelve years ago, had his pension totally consumed by home-care costs, as he suffered Spina bifida.

This next news-bite from ABC's 7:00 news later on that day shows the politicians taking their time, debating how to do something, that really is a no-brainer.  I suppose you can imagine the analogy of 40 politicians getting together to ad a dollar in change, and them taking five months to do it.
About 3 minutes

On Tuesday 9th September, ABC's Nightlife presenter; Tony Delroy aired a program with Centrelink's general manager; Hank Jongen.  This show generally covered several centrelink issues; however note one of the people, Martin, who rings in eighteen minutes into the show, expressing much disgust on the little amount of money that is the DSP.
43 minutes and 25 seconds

Wednesday 10th September saw Nightlife's Tony Delroy deal again with the pensioner issue, this time with the "Issue of the Day" segment.  One of his first callers is June who notes "AGAIN" how more then half of her pension is eaten up by her rent.

Note about ten minutes into the program, Roger who meagerly exists with having to leave his car in the garage, because he can't afford to run it, and lives on cereal and a small meal every day.  I wonder if Keven Rudd has any real idea?
44 minutes and 25 seconds

Though Tony notes that Australia's Welfare bill is somewhere in the facility of $60 million a year (possibly billions), the conservative argument here would be that social security is a bottomless pit, and that pensioners can't always get what they want.  It is the conservative argument that these people should just go out and get a job.

Funny though, when the tables are turned, and when it comes to the corporate world of manager directors and Wall Street, taking sloppy, irresponsible risks with huge amounts of money, there seems to be an open "entitlement" attitude.  There seems to be an expectation where the government of the day should just "bail them out".  As noted in the recent congress bill of the United States, this "just bail them out" attitude was in the path of US$700 billion.

Without the bagging of any right or left view, or the cry of any pity or shame, I think that it is time for all to sit up and have an honest look on the plight of disability pensioners.  In particular, those who really would like to work, but genuinely can't, because of the nature of their disability.  They still is a fixed idea in many minds that those who have such a condition should just rot on the scrap heap.

Without gloating, I guess I've been very lucky this year, and have found several people who have been able to look at me with a different light, to view my strengths, rather then my weaknesses.  I guess it's a time when I'm able to progress in life, and on the way, hopefully highlight some of the issues I've had with the pension, particularly so with Asperger's Syndrome.

For the last media bite in this blog, I have dug up a segment from Sunday 5th October that went to air on 2UE's weekend program with George Moore.  He is interviewing Barbara (finance journalist for Money lift out of the Sydney Morning Herald) who notes that the average annual pensioner amount is $19,000.

Unfortunately this program like many of them were skewed toward the old age pension, but she spoke about a Westpac retirement index where they estimate how much money would be required for a basic standard of retirement.  Again the issue here was that the recipient would not be able to eat out, have take-away, couldn't have holidays and would have trouble trying to run a car, if the rate was 19 grand a year.  This is $4,000 more then the disability support pension.

The main focal point of this bite is George Moore statement on how all pensioners are at the MERCY of the government.
10 minutes and 25 seconds

So to rap up, it is quite an incredible thing to hear that so many of the power-brokers of this country note how they can't live on a pension, but they seem to have all the time in the world to commission reports and find excuses.

So until a miracle happens, happy pensioning. :)