Twitter avatars for Empire Day

On Monday I discovered by accident — well, by a 5am media release from the Prime Minister — that it was Commonwealth Day. Which used to be called Empire Day. Or even British Empire Day. I thought I’d celebrate by using a selection of avatars on Twitter. These are their stories.

From left to right, a slightly retro illustration of Britannia stolen from the Daily Mail; a model showing off the Fever Rule Britannia Sequin Dress, which you can hire from Bryony Theatrical; some random British military beefcake; Angus Stewart’s photo of Rule Britannia Pete; the DeviantArt profile picture of Britannia–Angel, a male of unstated age from the UK; and some random picture from Sodahead that you can trace back if you can be bothered.

Comm Games Commentary Revelations

Enough will be written about the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony itself — about how the flying W Class tram symbolised Melbourne, and how the drag queen and the underage boy with a duck symbolised something else about Melbourne entirely — possibly something connected with the Chippendale with a koala’s head.

No, what interests me is the TV commentary on Channel 9 and what that reveals about the people involved… About their love of money in particular.

Bucket Time (Briefly)

Thankfully the most Purple of Prose was limited to the introductory voice-over, before the ceremony proper started. Carpe diem was the theme:

“The moment must be seized now or it will be lost forever,” we were told. The Commonwealth Games are “a sporting birthright, a reminder of who we are… We love winning, and even more than that we love winning at home. Starting tonight in Melbourne, this is the chance of a lifetime.”

The Australian women’s swimming team is “a generation to be savoured and revered”. And then we were introduced to “the faces we’ve seen but don’t really know”, before seeing token pictures of entrants in other sports.

After that, the script descended into Commentary By Numbers — a recitation of data that’s meant to inspire us: 71 countries, 4000 athletes, 13 days, 52,546 hamburgers, 8,302 shoelaces.

Memo to Channel 9: Numbers do not inspire people, emotions do.

Thankfully we heard the phrase “quintessential Australian icon” only once.

Ray Martin’s Dollar Fetish

Channel 9 wheeled out veterans Ray Martin and Liz Hayes as their commentary team.

Now male-female pairs are common enough. They represent Everyman and Everywoman, and perform different roles. One will take care of the left-brain stuff like facts, figures, announcements of what’s coming up next, the other will be right-brain and talk about colour and emotion.

But last night Ray and Liz took it to extremes — and in doing so, revealed Ray Martin’s true motivator: money.

The first thing Ray had to say about the Games was that “they’ve spent half a billion dollars” tarting up Melbourne. Then immediately after Liz startled us with her emotional revelation (“All my bumps are goosed up!”) Ray was straight back to the filthy lucre, telling us that up next “we’ll be able to see where they spent the money.”

But Ray did reveal his caring and connected side. While describing the chain of symbolic fish running up the Yarra River, he told us that Australia was represented by an eel, “and that’s pretty much what the indigenous people used to eat of out the river at this time of the year”.

Another blow struck for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Walking on Water

The power of Her Majesty’s Disco Stick inspired Australian Football League (AFL) legend Ron Barrassi to walk on water — looking for all the world like Charlton Heston.

But if Ron then Ascended the Blue Neon Disco Stairs like an American TV evangelist, only to be met by retired long-distance runner Herb Elliott — does that mean Herb Elliott is St Peter?

We couldn’t see for sure, because Ray’s hair had started to interfere with our digital TV reception.

Her Majesty’s Disco Stick

Photograph of Commonwealth Games Baton

According to an unknown retired Major-General, the Queen’s Baton (pictured right) has become the beacon, a shining symbol of unity, of hope and the shared aspirations of a world sorely in need of such healing and inspiration.”

Get me a bucket.

The Queen’s Baton for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games is a subtle and dangerous trap. It is sucking out our brains and it has already formed a parasitic relationship with the Prime Minister.

The Baton grasps John Howard

I urge the People of the Commonwealth to re-name this crass object “Her Majesty’s Disco Stick”.

HM’s Disco Stick is inspiring such pretentious drivel that we’re in danger of forgetting how to think.

“We should applaud Her Majesty’s foresight and wisdom in sending this remarkable baton on its wonderful journey throughout the commonwealth nations she loves so much,” gushes the Major-General. Oh, apparently he’s the Governor-General, I’ve just been told.

Behold the Disco Stick!

Behold the triumph of feature-list over taste!

  • Disco Stick is jam-packed with cutting edge technologies never before utilised in a Games baton, including front and rear view Baton Cam.
  • Disco Stick has Global Positioning System (GPS), so we can track its every move — at least when the website’s not overloaded and the satellite link’s working.
  • Disco Stick’s front slots glow with a green light, like a hotted-up computer case from Chinatown.
  • Disco Stick’s green lights flash in a chaser pattern! The green light moves up and down its length like an athlete’s self-love!

Behold the subtlety of Melbourne’s self-promotion!

The gold tip reflects Melbourne’s elegance and grandeur and the important role the metal has played in the city’s history and prosperity. Melbourne thrived during Victoria’s 1850s gold rush, which drew many people from diverse nations to the great city to seek their success; not unlike the athletes that will flock to Melbourne for the Games in 2006.

Magnesium, often referred to as the “metal of the future”, is used in the front panel of the baton. Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of magnesium and the metal has special significance to Australia’s prosperity and economic future. The green colour used on the back of the baton reflects Melbourne’s park surrounds and Victoria’s place as “The Garden State.”

And behold the People’s Praise!

Geoff Strong scored a free trip on The Ghan and used his journey well:

The Queen’s Commonwealth Games baton rests in its case like a sculptural tribute to the underground nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. When its batteries are activated the thing radiates a rippling phosphorescent green, its Melbourne-based designers perhaps inspired by a Doctor Who episode or a Star Wars movie.

But what I love is that amid all this mucilaginous praise, this Baton is still an Australian baton: the night before its Big Day, the Baton is going to a party.

Assigning Blame

Charlwood Design's wireless EFTPOS terminal

Her Majesty’s Disco Stick was designed by Charlwood Design in Melbourne. They’re also responsible for empire-inspiring wireless EFTPOS terminals (pictured right), hotel door locks, ventolin inhalers and a thing for bashing down asphalt on the roads.

I don’t blame Charlwood’s designers, though. They had a hard act to follow.

In 2002, Manchester gave us the magnificent Jubilee Baton — fashioned from sterling silver and engraved with traditional symbols of the creative artists’ families and cultures, including a wolf, a raven and “an eagle with a frog in its mouth”.

Jubilee Baton from the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games

A Final Plea

Once again, I urge the People of the Commonwealth to re-name this crass object “Her Majesty’s Disco Stick”.

Tell your friends. Tell them to tell their friends.