Learn Australian English in this episode of The Goss where we talk about pesky sharks, escaped pythons, women bodybuilders, and much more!
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G'day you mob. Welcome to this episode of The Goss, where we sit down each week, my dad and I, and we talk about the week's news in Australia and world wide. So it's getting harder and harder to find good news stories, guys. I'll tell you what; there is definitely one certain news story that is on the news, that is in the media, that is soaking up all of the headlines. And it is driving most people nuts I think. They're getting a bit over hearing about the C-word, right. The C-word. Anyway, today's a really good episode. It ended up being a massively long one. So again, I'm going to divide it into two parts for your benefit, but also for my transcribers benefit as I'm sure he doesn't want to sit there for two hours and just do one episode.
So in the first half, guys, we talk about blind piano tuner Graham McGowan and his job. We talk about how Queensland fishermen are fighting with sharks over their livelihoods. So they're trying to catch fish, but sharks are giving them a hard time and they're getting sharked, right. They've turned the word into a verb: Sharked. We also talk about a five metre albino Burmese python that was found in Queensland this week and a bit more about introduced species in Australia and the exotic pet trade. And we compare it to the United States of America. And then lastly, we get onto middle aged women who are turning to bodybuilding. They are becoming bodybuilders. And more broadly, we talk about the fashion scene and bodybuilding and unrealistic expectations with body types and how they may affect children and teenagers.
Don't forget, guys, if you want access to the entire episode today, make sure to sign up for the Aussie English Premium podcast or for the Academy. You can do so at aussieenglish.com.au to get the video, the full mp3 and the transcript. Without any further ado, guys, let's get into today's episode. Smack the kookaburra and let's begin.
And we're going.
We're going. So, dad, welcome to this episode of The Goss, number 13.
13. Lucky 13. Yeah.
So that's twelve weeks' worth, I think.
Yeah. We doubled up for one.
Exactly. We might have to do that today. We'll see how we go. But how's your week been? You don't want to talk about it or you do want to talk about it?
Yeah, it's been okay. We've got a field trip for the photography class that I'm running and then tonight's class has been cancelled. Yeah. So the local community centre is basically shutting down. That's only their admin staff who are going to be working. So there's no classes on.
Are we mentioning the reason...
... Or are we trying to avoid that today?
If we can avoid it... But it's the only bloody story in the news. And in fact, even the other stories opened with the line 'you're probably sick of hearing about the C-word. So we going to talk about something else.'
So it's become the new C-word, right?
It's pretty irritating because I'm trying to find news stories and it has just dominated the news completely. Like every single thing is 'covid, covid, covid,' and, you know, you go on to reddit, where quite often there's really good news stories, and again, fortunately, they've put the tags on there.
So, you know what the stories are about.
Yeah, Jesus! No one's talking about anything else. So it is difficult.
I do have my usual sort of news trawls that I do with a couple of online servers and a couple of newspapers online.
Which ones do you trust?
Which ones do I trust? Well, the ABC News. The Guardian.
And then The Age. And then there's a bunch of other things that crop up and... Like news.com.au is the most popular, whatever that means, news website but it's basically a trashy magazine setting themselves up as news because 90 per cent of the stories are clickbait celebrity stories.
Or the ads for them.
Yeah. And so I think they gain their status as the most popular just simply by the fact that they get more clicks through because they push things through all the social media. So it pops up on Facebook in particular. It's all over the place. Every time I go into Facebook, the second story will be an ad coming up from news.com so I try and avoid them, but... But yeah, every one of them... You go to the ABC News website thing and they go "Today's highlights," and the top six stories, which they highlight on their website, are all coronavirus yesterday. And went, "Ugh, really?" Oh sorry, I mentioned the C-Word. I just sit there and go, "I want to know. Just give me the bloody summary."
Here's one news story. Here's the summary. This is the latest from the medical advice. This is the latest thing states and the country are doing. This is the international highlights. I don't need 27 human interest stories about how somebody managed to get off a cruise ship without being tested and now they've got coronavirus. I don't care unless they're my next door neighbour.
All right. Well, let's move straight on. So you had a story that you wanted to share about a blind piano tuner named Graham McGowan.
I did. We'll do it upfront. But this is one of those ones I've been trying... I sent it to you under the heading of 'puppies and kittens stories.'
It was kind of sad. So I didn't get the 'puppies and kittens stories.'
It was it was sad in one sense but he's retired. And I think it was more the celebration of a life and a life at work. And I was just thinking about with all of the down news that we've done we've been talking about, and it really dominates the news stories, it'd be useful to do what a lot of television news have done in the past and have that... And I used to joke about calling it 'puppies and kittens story,' the closer with the two minute human interest, you know, warm and fuzzy feeling. And this is the closest I could find.
There's a cliche where I remember... I don't know if it's a film. I don't know if it's like 'Anchorman' or something, but it's one of those films where they have, you know, the news is like murder, death, whatever, and then at the end, they're like,1 "And now check out this this little chipmunk or squirrel that's riding, you know, behind an electric boat on a thing, just zooming around in the water." I think that's 'Anchorman.' Yeah, it is so much like that at times. So what's the story about?
Well, you know, this guy... And I can't remember his name now. You'll have it in front of you.
Graham. Hey, Graham, if you're listening. A really nice human interest story, in a sense that he's been a piano tuner for 50 years and he's blind and he's just retiring from work. And the story is really about him saying that piano tuning is one of those jobs, one of the very few jobs that he was aware of, that somebody with a visual disability was actually in a better position to do than somebody with normal sight.
And why is that?
Because they have enhanced hearing. And it doesn't mean that their hearing sensory system is any better but just their brain is more tuned into hearing because that's their primary sense. Whereas for most people, who are sighted, our primary sense, the way we get most of our information from the world is by sight.
Well, I think they've shown, haven't they, in studies for people who have lost a sensory perception that there are physiological, biological ramifications where parts of the brain have enlarged to take over.
Take over the load of other senses.
Yeah, and that's definitely the case with hearing, right? There's even... I've seen a blind guy riding a bike, clicking, and he can hear when... He's almost using echolocation I think, effectively, where he can tell when something is getting close to him or not. And it's pretty surreal to think, you know, that that's possible.
Yeah. Yeah. So the story is really about him saying that he says that he is better than electronic tuning because he has such a fine-tuned ear. And I think what that... And I'm not a audiologist, nor am I an audio technician. But I suspect what's happening there is that electronic detection will detect a pure note. But pianos are not pure. And so it would be very difficult for an electronic thing to exactly hit what a pure note sounds like when it's not pure. You hit a middle C on the piano and it's because it's got the vibration of a steel string.
It's not going to be that pure note that you would get out of an electronic...
And I would imagine that, too, the piano just needs to be tuned relative to itself, right. So you would start with middle C and then...
Tune every note up and down.
Yeah. And potentially, based on the essence of the piano, what wood it's made from, the temperature, whatever it is, you could imagine that that middle C note might not necessarily be perfect for the piano itself if you were to just do the very technical... "This is the exact, you know, frequency." Maybe we tune it sharp or flat and then do the rest of piano relative to itself. Because obviously if it's just you playing the piano by itself, it doesn't need to be perfectly in tune with everything else because there's no other instruments.
The separation of the notes needs to be correct.
And look, obviously it'll depend on the soundboard and the piano, you know, the backing of it and those sort of things. And if you're playing a grand piano or even a standard piano, whether you've got it open or closed, because I'm sure that will affect the, you know, how we... How we detect the transmission of sound from the actual chord itself. But yeah... So that was just an interesting story, that he's saying that this is something that is sort of going out of style because anybody can walk in with a tuning instrument now and just go "ping, ping," providing they understand the mechanics of piano, and that's not going to take long to teach someone. Then they can do it. Whereas he's saying that, you know, his ear, and the ear of other people who've done it in the past, is better than the electronic version.
It's tough too. I imagine that it's, you know, the sort of law of diminishing returns. You could probably buy a cheap electric tuner and do it yourself.
For 100 bucks you can buy something and do it yourself as opposed to paying whatever you pay for a piano tuner. Ironically, we've got a piano at home that hasn't been tuned for 30 years.
Imagine having a guitar and having a guitar tuner to come around every time it need to be tuned. "Ah, screw that!"
And this is this is a random aside, but I was watching Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman fooling about on Instagram the other day where he obviously has cancelled concerts, and instead of that, he's now doing these random studio concerts out of his home studio. I think it's his warehouse, not his home. But... And because of the rules of the number of people that you can have in these places and so on, he's got a technician, himself and Nicole who's doing all the running around and rubbish and singing background vocals and stuff... Excuse me. And the technician is actually playing...
As Keith said himself, "I'm really playing karaoke," because he's playing guitar and singing and this guy's just playing all the instrumental tracks from his songs behind it. So he's singing live to his own recordings without the voice and guitar track on them. And so that was really interesting. But I was watching him and he was messing about with one and he was retuning his guitar, and you're a musician so you'll be able to understand it. I'm not.
You were. But where he just strummed an open chord and then played a chord, strummed a plain chord and then he picked one string and went tweak and said, "Right, that's it."
You just need to know it, though.
Yeah. You hear the instrument and obviously... I could hear when it's off but I don't know how to fix it.
It is the same as you being in your four-wheel drive, driving around and you hear a rattle or you feel a bump somewhere and you're like, "Okay, I know what's wrong," instantly, or a mechanic knowing that, right. You just hear a sound, a buzz and they're like, instantly, "That's it."
I've got to move the G chord just a tiny bit sharper.
I think, too, you're controlling the strum and so you know which chord, which string you hit, and what time. And then which one needs to be tuned.
Just the fact that that becomes innate is a pretty interesting thing.
I was watching some stuff recently on acoustic guitar stuff. There's a guy called, I think it's Estas Tones, and he does like a lot of Spanish acoustic stuff. And you see him giving a concert or something and he'll tune halfway through a song. Yeah. And that's crazy because he can just hear it and then just bang.
And you see a lot of musicians doing that in rock and roll and stuff, although most lead guitarists, certainly lead guitarists who are also singing... Like Keith Urban is a good example. Bruce Springsteen, a bunch of others that I've seen. They have five or six guitars that after every song, maybe two songs, they're handing it over to a technician who's running out the back with it, tuning it, and bringing it back out to them.
I think the trouble there, too, sometimes is that they'll be using different tunings. So you'll have drop D, drop C...
Exactly. So they obviously have specific guitars that are tuned to different keys, but they'll also have, presumably different guitars that they know with the pedals in front of them. They can get exactly the sound they want out of one guitar that they can't get out of another one.
Well it probably gets annoying, you know, once you get to the size of Bruce Springsteen where you're such a talented player, you probably want very specific tone and sound and everything coming out of certain instruments for certain songs, for certain parts in certain locations. And so you have the skill to be able to be like, "You know what, I'm not just going to use one guitar for this whole thing, even if it stays in tune. But I want to, you know, actually keep playing with my art and tinkering with that."
Look, I mean, I think there's also things like audience expectation. And Bruce Springsteen is a good example of that. Because whenever he plays Born To Run, he plays it on his old hybrid Telecaster, which is the one that he wrote that song on, back in the early 1970s. He recorded it on that. And that's what people expect him to play when he's playing that song and a bunch of others he'll do... He'll use it as well. But if he just played his, you know, an old Stratocaster, people would go, "That's not right. You don't play it on that guitar."
So what do you think stopped you from becoming a musician?
George Benson. I blame him.
Why is that? He was just too good? He's a guitarist, right?
Yeah. A jazz guitarist and... Sort of popular jazz guitarist. I first saw him live when I was about 13 or 14, I think. And I'd been messing around with an acoustic guitar, you know, cheap acoustic guitar that a friend of mine gave me because he was sick of playing it, and... much to the chagrin of his parents, but I think I might have given it back eventually.
I don't think that got handed down to me.
No, it didn't. You know, yours was my sister's guitar, which was a classical acoustic guitar. And yeah. I had played and I learned a few chords and messed around, and I could a three chord tune and so on. But that was about as far as I went. And then I saw George Benson play and went, "This is not human. If that's the level that you want to aspire to, forget it. Take up tennis." And I was never that interested and into it anyway. I suppose if I had... If I'd been really into it, I would've looked at George Benson and go, "That's who I want to be. And I'm going to practice and practice and practice until I can be as good as I possibly can." Which I used to do with sport. And yeah, I was perfectly happy to watch Bjorn Borg play tennis and go, "I want to be like that one day," knowing full well that I was never going to be but, yeah, I wanted to get better.
But yeah, music really didn't do that much for me, so... I could read music in a sense and understand music, but I never got to the point of being able to sight read it in time, you know, be able just literally scroll across, scroll across the music and say yeah... And play it to that. So I'd have to learn by ear. And then I would translate that into the music and go, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense." And then I've got friends who can't read music at all, but they're really good musicians and there are some very famous... There's some very famous world class musicians...
... Who can't read music, you know, Bruce Springsteen can read music, but he doesn't write in music. Tommy Emmanuel was the classic one. I heard that story about him when he was a child.
I wonder how many musicians these days, though, write in music, I would imagine that most of them just sit down and play and write something. And they're not writing notes down...
And with the electronic technology now you can sit on a piano or a guitar, play it, and a software will generate the music for you.
Now you got to tweak it and things, but it'll generate the basic chord structure or the notes if you're playing individual notes.
Some of that stuff's amazing and coming back to, I guess, disabled people, Beethoven at the end of his life was deaf.
Yeah. He went deaf between the fifth and sixth... Well he was going deaf in the Fifth Symphony and he was deaf by the time he wrote the Sixth.
Yeah, exactly. So he had obviously, like with tuning the guitar with Keith Urban and just knowing the sound and when to do what, he obviously had everything still in his mind, even if he couldn't hear and could just write down the notes and know what he wants. And so the tragic thing there, but the amazing thing, is that he wrote the six, then by the time he finished it, he'd never heard it.
No. And arguably... As soon as you use hyperbole, people will turn this into an argument, but arguably the most beautiful piece of music ever written is Beethoven's Ninth. Ninth symphony. And he never heard it. He wrote the most beautiful music ever written and never heard it.
Well, he heard it in his head, right.
And that's crazy, you know, imagine being a painter who's blind. You couldn't fathom that. But I guess, you know...
Yeah, but because painting is a pure aesthetic.
Whereas music is technical in that you can play music without having to hear it. And so you can write music without having to hear it.
It's so crazy.
But you have you heard that Tommy Emmanuel story about when he was a child? And I've heard him tell it, and I'm obviously paraphrasing and I'll probably get half of it wrong but... When he was about five or six years old, he went with his mother to visit her sister, his aunt, and he was just dicking around in the lounge room and they got sick of him, and his aunt just said, "Oh, there's a piano out in the next room. Why don't you go and play it?"
And he just went and walked in there and started playing it. And his aunt turned to her sister, his mother, and said, "How long's he been having piano lessons?" And she said, "He's never played the piano before in his life." He just sat down there and sat and played a few notes and just worked out, "Oh, this is what this is. I can make a tune out of this and I could play something from memory." And so some people just have that. I've got a friend that I haven't seen for years, but he could pick up an instrument that he'd never played before and just play it because...
You can work out those patterns.
Yeah. I remember I was at his place once, years ago, and he went and he bought a saxophone and then I said, "You don't play saxophone." He said, "No, I've never pick one up before." But he picked it up and within two minutes he could play it. All he had to do was work at which the fingering worked. And because he'd played other wind instruments, the fingering is basically the same. And so he just... And it wasn't that he'd played other instruments in the same family. He played a flute, but he just went, "Yeah, I can do this." And he did it.
You would imagine that'd be the same thing for you, say with sports. You were a decathlete back in the day and, you know, you had an all round good ability at different sports. And so once you get to that point, you could probably start any other sport and, much more quickly than someone who is completely naive to any sport, pick it up.
General eye-hand coordination. And for me, and I've always said that most sports are about your feet.
And if you've got good foot coordination and you can work what the footwork is, and if you can do that innately, which you tend to do if you play a lot of sport, you know, if you play basketball and tennis, you'd look at them and go, "This is completely different." They're completely different sports, but they're all about footwork.
Yeah. It's positioning your body in the right place.
So the next story I had here was that Queensland fishermen want to relax shark fishing rules to stop predators taking their catch. You heard about that recently?
Yeah. It's a bit weird, isn't it?
Well, it's interesting because, yeah, my first reaction is like, "Fuck these guys." Sharks got decimated, their numbers, completely decimated for years and years and years. Thanks movie Jaws. And then, you know, they're starting to make their way back. Same as the crocodile, right? Didn't they get like down to a few tens of thousands?
Yeah. Estuarine crocodiles in Australia...
Almost went extinct.
Yeah. Almost went extinct. And now they're overpopulated, according to most people who live in Northern Australia.
The story here was that Queensland fishermen are saying that sharks are now taking 70% of their catch and they want the state government to do something. And there was like one trawler who has to now tie steel chains to the back of his neck that he's dragging through the ocean because they don't like the noise of the chains banging together. But he'll have up to 30 sharks just following the boat anytime he's, you know, trawling to try and catch it, up to nine feet long. And if they destroy the net, one, he loses his whole catch, but then he has to spend all the time fixing that...
Thousands of dollars of work to repair...
He was saying he's losing a thousand dollars a night, potentially. So sharks are also causing trouble for recreational fishermen. Significant amount of fish that are being caught by recreational fishermen, they're getting sharked.
I like how they've made a verb.
Turned a noun into a verb, like Google.
So it's when you've cast your line out, something bites and you start, you know, fighting to get it in. And just as you get it in...
A shark takes it, it becomes the super bait.
Yeah, exactly. The head comes up and that's it. So you've been sharked. But they were saying they're losing between, you know, up to 58 out of 60 fish that they reel in, and there's just part of them missing. So they're wanting the government to reconsider laws so that they can hunt sharks of 1.5 metres and they want to be able to harvest sharks in proportion to fish, which is where the article then got me because it's kind of like, "Okay, we're protecting the apex predator, but we're taking all their food and so their numbers are potentially, you know, outgrowing the resource that they're living off." So should we be harvesting apex predators at the same rate, in proportion to the other animals that we're harvesting in a food chain or in an ecosystem?
Yeah, it's really hard when we start messing with it to the point where the numbers start to count, where we're messing with one part of the food chain without adjusting the others.
But you know, if we're... There's one side of that argument, I think, that just says, "Look, if we're messing with it so much, why not keep messing with it?"
And the other side that sits there and says, "Well, you know, should we be taking that much?" But then we've been harvesting you know, people have been harvesting fish from the ocean for tens of thousands of years. And the fact is that our population keeps increasing and this is only going to get worse. So we have to have a way of balancing it. I think if we're looking at ways of having economically and ecologically sustainable fisheries in combination, then that's the way to do it. And if that means we do have to cull sharks, then so be it, because then the choice is... People are going to ramp up and say, "Well, we shouldn't be culling sharks," and I can understand their argument in isolation, then the alternative is, well, the fishing industry dies.
Do you want to eat fish? Then we have to cull sharks. And people will simply say, "Well, don't eat fish." Well what else are you going to eat? We'll eat vegetables. And how are we going to grow the vegetables?
Yeah. Clear land, kill the animals that are there. I find it ironic too, that shark are fish, but we don't seem to give a shit about killing tuna or mackerel or whatever other fish. But when it's a shark, everyone's like, "God, no, leave it alone."
Why do you think we favour things like apex predators like that and don't consider them equally with other animals that we're farming or hunting?
Oh, look, I mean, I think it's that, you know, in this case, one of the terms I'll use is obviously irrelevant. But it's the big and furry. We like lions and tigers and so on.
Unless they're chasing us.
Unless they're chasing us. But even so, people are just going to look at that and go, "Why do we go out killing lions and tigers?"
But if you were to go out and shoot deer or kangaroos...
So I think there's an element of that. Obviously, sharks aren't furry, but I think it is that big sort of apex predator thing that has some mystique around it.
Why do you think we find them so awe inspiring?
Because they can kill you.
Yeah. Is that the main thing?
And they're big!
But do you think this has been around the whole time, where tens of thousands of years ago we were still in awe of such creatures compared to say, you know, wild sheep or wild rats or whatever? Because it always seems to be that with indigenous stories and culture, it's always these large conspicuous animals that have the mystery and stories and magic, you know, revolving around them. So do you think it is that they're just...?
I think it is. And we and we've invented stories around them, too. We invented dragons.
Yeah. From dinosaur bones.
Yeah. Big scary things that we wanted to create fantasies and fairy tales about.
But how much would you shit yourself? Imagine being around in the Middle Ages and, you know, mining some resource like gold or something and digging up a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and trying to make that fit in your mind...
Over a metre high and it's got teeth 30 centimetres long.
Yeah, well, I imagine that's why we believe that dragons live in caves, right? Because they would have always been when you're digging them up. They're not going to be necessarily on the surface.
Maybe in Mongolia or China.
Yeah. It is a bit of a weird one, but yeah, that's...
And is this just the price of a healthy ecosystem, too? You know, maybe this is what a healthy ecosystem looks like where you have a lot of these predators at the top. Do we just have to suck it up and say, "This is... If you want a healthy ecosystem, you have to have all these predators at the top?"
Yeah, well, that's what's going to happen. And as I say, if we want to continue using natural resources like fish. Other than farming fish, which we do, you know, if you go down to the supermarket and buy salmon, it's Atlantic salmon that we haven't imported, we've grown it mostly in Tasmania. So we can create those. Now they have their own challenges because of growing so many fish in a closed environment, effectively closed environment, even though they're in see. They're in cages, then there's increased chance of disease and all those sort of things.
But the choice is do that, or if we're going to use the natural environment and exploit that, then we have to do it in a way that is going to be both economic and environmentally sustainable. And fisheries have been renowned over the last two or three hundred years for being economically sustainable and not environmentally sustainable. You know, the cod fishery in the Atlantic just disappeared 100 years ago.
And why is that?
Because every person who could get a boat went out fishing cod.
So it was the tragedy of the commons, right, where you've got this shared resource or shared piece of land that anyone and everyone can use. And even if it were sustainable, if everyone stuck to a common rate, like with toilet paper in Australia guys, everyone just rushes in and gets as much they can.
And from an economic point of view, and this used to be the story that we would teach in environmental education around environmental versus economic sustainability. If you find a new fishery, let's imagine... And look, orange roughy is a good example, one that came out a few decades ago. These are deep sea fish that people didn't really discover. They're edible and they actually taste all right. And so once they were discovered, a bunch of reasonably wealthy fishermen at the time who had big boats went out and just said, "Well, that's all we're going to catch."
Talk about the biology. So these guys live deep, deep sea on seamounts. So they congregate around these underwater mountains in the hundreds and thousands but the big problem that they discovered after fishing them quite quickly is that these things get to like 100 plus years old, right...
And so they took a really long time to grow to a reproductive stage. And so, yeah, the best thing you could do as a fisherman was to spend millions of dollars on getting better and more efficient boats and technology, go out there and catch every orange roughy that you can possibly find. Once the orange roughy fishery just closed, effectively, you then say, "I don't care, I'm going to sell my boats for the next sucker. I'm going to go and lie on the beach in the Bahamas because I've made as much money as I'm ever going to need."
Whereas if you did it environmentally and said, look, like we've done with lots of fisheries in Australia now and said, "Look, there are catch limits if you're going to go out. You can only take this many individuals. In the case of fish, it's more you can take this number of tonnes per week, per month, per year. And we're going to regulate that in order to balance the reproductive cycle with the animals so that we've got an environmentally sustainable thing that there is... In a hundred years time, there will still be that number of fish available for people to catch."
And yet we're getting to that point now. But then where we've got the shark issue of saying that even if people are doing this and saying, "I'm catching what is environmentally sustainable on a daily basis, but if I'm losing 60 or 70% of my catch, then I actually have to catch three times as much in order to take home." And how does the fisheries organisations then look at that and say, "Well, we're going to drop it to a third because we know you're going to lose two thirds of them just by the physical act of catching them. And so it doesn't matter how many end up on the table, it's how many disappear from the sea."
One of the things that sort of shocks me is how people are encouraged to hunt certain size animals. So you'll have over a certain size limit or under a certain size limit. I mean, and I'm sure that this is well thought out a lot of the time, but it's interesting with sharks, I think it's... They have to be under a certain size limit but with fish, quite often it's over a certain size limit. And I mean, again, I haven't looked this up. I'm sure they've worked it out. But generally you want to kill... Counter-intuitively, you want to kill the younger animals, right. Because there's more of them that aren't at breeding age, whereas you want the older ones to be able to keep breeding, to keep producing the younger ones. So counter-intuitively, you should be hunting the smaller ones as opposed to the big ones, because if you knock all of them out, there's no more small ones eventually.
Yeah, but the trouble is that that's a short term solution.
Because if you're going to knock off all the small ones, you never get any big ones to replace the old ones when they die. And so the reverse thing about taking... Having a size limit that is a minimum size is to say that that minimum size is usually judged to be animals that have gone through one or two breeding seasons. And so they've already replaced themselves in that sense, they've already bred, whereas if you take them any smaller, you're going to knock them off before they breed. But in long lived animals like sharks, then you could possibly balance that up. But I think if we go down that short term thing of saying, "Well, you can take any shark under one and a half metres," then how long is it going to take? It'll only be 10 or 20 years before we're really struggling to repopulate because the older sharks are going to be dying. And if there are no younger ones growing up, then they're gone.
I think they were in a difficult position, too, because there is no sort of market for sharks here in Australia. We don't have shark fin soup. We don't really use them except for maybe flake.
And they're a small species of shark. And we only eat school shark and gummy shark.
What's the issue with eating the big ones?
It's mostly just the fact that they've ended up with a whole lot of heavy metals in them.
And how does that happen?
Well being top predator and living a long time, you're eating other things that have got heavy metals in them, but you don't excrete those heavy metals. They stay in your system forever. So if you're 50 years old and you've been eating fish for 50 years, each one of which has got a tiny little bit of toxins in them...
... You end up just, you know, collecting a whole lot of really... And look, there'll be the toxins thing but I suspect that the flesh of a large shark just doesn't taste very good. So, you know, that might be the other side of it, too.
All right. Onto the next story. There was a five metre albino Burmese python.
I saw this one. What a ripper!
Caught on a little old lady's doorstep in Queensland. As much as I was like, "Holy shit, that's awesome." I was also like, "Holy shit, we've got a Burmese python in Australia. What on earth?"
Yeah. It's a pet that's escaped.
But they're illegal.
Yeah, I know.
It's like, "What the hell?" So, I mean, to give you guys a bit of context; Burmese pythons are a huge issue in Florida, in the United States of America. And these guys were introduced there in, I think, the 90s. Yeah. So apparently there are tens of thousands of them now in the wild. And the issue is that they're native to South and Southeast Asia and they get to massive sizes. I think they lay up to one hundred eggs a year. They live for about 15 years. They can be up to 7 metres long, weigh more than me at 90 kilos, and they can be as thick as a telephone pole.
And can eat a medium sized dog.
Yeah, exactly. It's insane. But they first arrived in Florida as part of the exotic pet trade. And over time, they made their way into the Everglades, which is a really large wetland kind of habitat ecosystem over there, right.
Yeah. It's basically a river through grass.
Yeah, exactly. And so the problem was that they got in there because they were pets kept in people's houses. And I think that was a big factory that was breeding them up. And Hurricane Andrew came through in 1992 and just smashed everything and blew them into the Everglades. And ever since they've had tens of thousands of them in there. Raccoons and opossums now at 99% gone. And possums and... Sorry, foxes and rabbits are all but gone. So they're a huge issue killing a lot of animals in the Everglades.
It'd be nice if alligators ate them.
Well, they probably do, but just not enough.
Alligators don't climb trees. Thankfully.
How do these Burmese pythons get to Australia?
Somebody would have imported it illegally. Either kept it as a pet themselves or sold it off in the black market pet trade. It's just weird. I don't know... You've had kept a snake as a pet before, but it was an Australian snake that was, you know, level one licence. So, you know, very low level requirement to keep them. But I can't imagine why anybody would want to keep a large python that can get to, as you say, 90 kilos, 5, 6, 7 meters long.
Well, I would imagine that's the reason they probably dumped it. I'd be very surprised if this thing escaped.
I would imagine they got it when it was very young, and crapped themselves when it got to the size of something that could eat a baby or a small dog or something. And were just like, "I don't want to kill the animal. I don't want to admit that I have this animal illegally because they'll probably take everything that I've got and my licence." So they've just dumped it. I would imagine. But yeah, why is Australia so strict on exotic animals in comparison to somewhere like the US where you can buy a tiger in certain states and there are more tigers in captivity in the US than there are in the wild.
There are more tigers as pets in Florida than there are in zoos around the world.
Now, as we spoke about in a previous episode, there are people who own farms with 60+ big cats. So why are those laws so different when you would imagine that the US, just like Australia, has a lot of natural environment that needs protecting from invasive species like the Everglades and the Burmese pythons?
Well, I think Australia has an advantage that we'd like to keep, and that is we're an island. And so it's very difficult for animals to migrate here by themselves. They need some human assistance to do it.
Boats or planes.
Yeah, exactly. We've got yeah... Anything can fly. So birds and bats, we've got birds and bats that have flown here over hundreds of thousands of years, millions of years. But our mammal population as an example, our reptile population is unique. It's, you know, there's nowhere else in the world that has these animals. And what that means is that if we want to keep it that way, then we have to keep out exotic animals. If you're in places in Europe, Asia, North America, South America... A jaguar in Central America can walk to the United States. Might have a bit of trouble crossing the fence from Mexico into the US now...
They used to have them there in the US, apparently.
They did. Yeah. So those large predators, as good examples, are already around. They're natural so... Because your country, you can't necessarily have... The United States as an example, can't necessarily say to Mexico, "Well, you have to be the boundary. Mexico, you're not allowed to have animals in here because they could just walk into the US," whereas in Australia, we don't have to do that. We can simply say that, you know, we have a natural sea boundary. And to say that, you know, you can't bring animals in here because they couldn't get here by themselves.
Is it a historical thing, though, with their sort of 'freedom' and 'I'll do what I want' libertarianism.
Yeah, there's an element of that I suspect as well, but I think that...
Because the average Australian wouldn't expect, you know, "I have the right to own a god damn tiger...
... Or a monkey or a Burmese python." So yeah, I think there's an element of that "We have a right to do whatever we like," but I think it's always been allowed to happen because of that underlying thing of, "We can't protect our borders. We have land borders between Canada and Mexico," as in the case of the US. So how do we prevent animals moving backwards and forwards from those? We can't, particularly with Canada, obviously, you've got thousands of miles of unprotected border. And, you know, Canada has... You've got bears crossing... Bears on understand where the Canadian-US border is but they're wandering around, so what's one extra tiger in somebody's backyard?
Just blow my mind a bit, though, here, because I would love to own certain Australian animals that you can't necessarily get easily without a zoo licence. You know, it would be sweet as to have a wombat as a pet or even a kangaroo, right. But strangely...
It's not... You can get sugar gliders, I don't know about feather-tailed ones...
With feather-tails you can't because they're threatened.
And you would imagine that would be a big part of potentially conserving these animals, would be introducing them into the pet trade where people have a reason to value them all of a sudden, right. I mean, this is what I was trying to sort of, I guess, talk about a lot more when I was doing my PhD on rats. But I was like, "Why can't we get a lot of these rat species in Australia and encourage people to have these as pets instead of rats, which they can own or mice that they can own?" And again, yeah, you can get all of these domesticated animals like rats, mice, cats, dogs, horses, donkeys, whatever, as pets. And they're arguably, you know, some of the worst animals when they run off into the wild but you can't get, say, a frog from the US or a snake from Europe.
Look, it's probably that it's just easier politically and socially to make more restrictive rules than to say, "Well, yes, we'll allow people to have some Australian animals as pets. But we are going to determine what they are and anything else..." I mean, you worked on rodents. How many species of rodents are there in Australia?
70 species of rodents. More than half of which come from the tropics or the northern deserts in the country. Most of those are probably, ironically, going to be the easier ones to keep in a small enclosure as a pet because all you got to do is keep them warm. What happens when they get out?
Well, they die.
Maybe. Cane toads. And so I think there is that element, too, of saying, "Well, you know, why would we allow people to have effectively undomesticated animals as pets?" I think is the bigger question, not whether they're Australian or not. Because, you know, you have to... Even keeping a snake as a pet is not the same as a cat or a dog that you effectively let them do whatever they like around your house or in your backyard or whatever you want to do. But when you got a snake or if you've got a kangaroo or something, they're not going to be domesticated to the same sense. Now, some can be. I know people have had pet wombats in the past and they can sort of form a relationship with people.
But in the end, it is going to dig into a backyard fence and go, you know, you'd have to have them in a cage. And is that the right thing to do for an animal? It's a much bigger challenge of a topic to talk about than the news.
Middle aged women are turning to bodybuilding and they've got the edge on their younger rivals. So have you seen this in the news and what do you think of it?
They don't produce oestrogen anymore.
Is that it?
Yeah. And, look, if you're a 50 year old woman, you can get ripped really quickly because your body is not trying to put on superfluous body fat yet, where it's oestrogen saying, you know, "You need energy because one day you're going to breed and you're going to have this parasite growing in you for nine months." Whereas post-menopausal women no longer have that amount of oestrogen going around so they can get ripped really quickly.
Yeah, it seems crazy. There are women from teenage years up to octogenarians who are now competing in bodybuilding competitions. More than a third of those who competed this year were over the age of 40. And it's a proportion that's unheard of in most other sports. So what do you think the good sides of women turning to bodybuilding at that age are?
Well, firstly, if you're going to be fitter, that's got to be a good thing. Now, bodybuilding is always on the edge of fitness to extreme. And do you push your body? I've seen women who have arguably less than 1% body fat, you know, surface body fat. And you go, "That's just not healthy." You're going to be pushing your physiology to a point where it's going to be unhealthy. You're going to be pushing your liver and your kidneys and doing all sorts of other things. Again, I'm not a doctor, but I think that is unhealthy. But if it's done in the sense of, "I want to be fit and I want to body shape sculpting," rather than just getting completely ripped and having no subcutaneous fat, then I think that's a good thing.
Mostly it's about lifting weights as well, which particularly for middle aged women and older is really good...
Is that because of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis, where if you're lifting weights, putting extra stress, from a weight point of view, on your bones, providing you do it in a way that is not going to be too much stress, then that's encouraging your body to keep pushing calcium into bones.
To make them denser.
To make them denser and able to put up with the sort of stress you're putting them on. So, you know, weight bearing exercise is a good thing for middle aged women. So I think it's, you know, generally it's a good thing, but if it's not done to the extreme... And the irony is that bodybuilding is a purely aesthetic sport.
Would you call it a sport?
Well, it's a sport in a sense, if you're doing something physical to compete. Is chess a sport?
Well is stamp collecting? You're using your body to collect the stamps.
But it's a competitive thing and it's physical. So you can put it in that. In the broadest context, it's a sport.
It is weird, though, because it's almost modelling in terms of the actual competition, right. Ultimately there is no, "Let's see what people can lift," it's, "Let's see what people look like," prance around in a G-string and then we'll judge you.
Have a bunch of people going, "Yeah you get nine out of ten."
I'm not denigrating that in a sense, but it's sort of a bizarre thing where it becomes a purely aesthetic... Well it isn't becoming, it is a purely aesthetic sport. But I don't like the look of it. Now, from a male watching female bodybuilders...
And it's not necessarily just a woman thing, right.
No, it's not.
A healthy, fit woman is attractive. A healthy, fit man, I assume to women, is attractive. It's appealing to me in terms of wanting to be fit...
Whoever appreciates healthy fit men.
But once you get to that extreme, it starts getting to the, "This doesn't look natural anymore and it's freaky."
And particularly with... I know there are some bodybuilders around. I saw somebody on a YouTube video a while ago, the guy who has biceps that are twice the size of most large male bodybuilders. He's injecting drugs directly into his biceps and they're completely disproportionate. The irony is, they're not very strong.
Because mostly it's just fluid retention. You know, there's enough muscle in there to hold it, but... So he looks completely disproportionate and he's not doubling his arm strength.
He might have been the guy who had them collapse on him because of a massive infection, right, where he was constantly injecting them...
I don't know if it was him. I remember hearing that. So people get to the point of doing weird things. And look, male bodybuilding has been around since the 1940s and 50s...
Well that was something I was going to ask you about; How has it changed since you've been around?
Well, you look at Charles Atlas, who was, you know, the famous bodybuilder in, I think, the 1950s. And he looks like most adult male actors who are reasonably big and fit. He's got big shoulders, narrow waist. He doesn't have excessive pecs or lats or biceps and triceps. Doesn't have ridiculous abs. He just used to do weights and go around posing as a... It was effectively a circus act. It wasn't a competitive sport then. And then that became a competitive sport after that, because by the 1960s, biomedical science had got to the point where artificial chemical inductions used to be used.
Was that following the use of steroids in something like the Olympics? Did that did that bleed over into...
No. Bodybuilding came first, I think.
Yeah, there's certainly the use of steroids. And I'm not again, I'm not a sports scientist, but my understanding of the use of steroids in male athletes really didn't hit until this late 70s, early 80s. There were certainly women in the early, late 60s, early 70s, particularly from Eastern Europe, who were using steroids. Raelene, I love you. And I am still sorry that you are the greatest sprinter in world history. Never won a gold medal.
Because she was competing against people on steroids.
She was competing against Renate Stecher, who was built like me now. And so that had occurred. But I'm pretty sure that in the 1960s, a lot of male bodybuilders... Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "Oh yeah, I use this shit all the time!"
But that was the weird thing about looking at the history of it. When the steroids were first starting to be used, it was very nonchalant, we'd talk about it openly. "Yeah. I's what everyone's doing." And then I guess it made a change in the 80s and 90s. But do you think that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are the ones that kind of brought bodybuilding to its current... I guess, you know, position in the world and how everyone knows it now - Because of his films?
Yeah, I think so.
And he won Mr Universe several times.
He did. And so there was those sort of things. He became a celebrity bodybuilder. He became a celebrity because he was a bodybuilder. But clearly he's an articulate, intelligent person. And, you know, he's been governor of a state in the United States, which does not necessarily... Being a politician does not necessarily equate to being articulate and intelligent.
I think he's a good guy, though. Ultimately he has a good heart.
And look, you know, he got into the movie industry and that's, you know, his celebrity became... You know, he became an actor and then he got into movie producing. So he's an intelligent person and he really just use bodybuilding as a way to do that. I don't know that he started off his life in Austria and said, "I'm going to be a bodybuilder so that I can become governor of California." But I think he realised that, you know, life in bodybuilding has got a time limit, particularly if you're a steroid-using male. You know, by the time you get to 30, you're going to be struggling to going with 20 year olds who are doing more shit than you are. And so I think he realised that, you know, "I've got to have another life." Name a modern bodybuilder.
I don't follow the...
Doesn't matter. I guarantee you... Do you follow golf?
Name a golfer.
Well, that's it.
You can name golfers and tennis players and you could probably name a jockey and you don't follow horse racing.
There are a few. I can't remember the names of them. But if you were to say them, I would know. Yeah, same with golf. I could tell you, you know, Tiger Woods and that's about it. But if you were to say some of the other names, I'd be like, "Yeah, I recognise them."
I know. But I'll guarantee you, and I don't know any of them, that's my point, is that these are... This is no longer... It was for a while, when Arnold was around, you knew, you know, Lou Ferrigno, who again went into acting. He was the original Hulk on the TV series and stuff. But a few of those people became celebrities because they were well-known as bodybuilders. I just think the whole bodybuilding thing now has disappeared from that celebrity status. And fortunately, now, most bodybuilding competitions actually ban the chemical enhancements.
Why is that fortunate?
Well, I think it's fortunate because it's just not good for your health.
Body building in and of itself isn't, right. Being an ultra marathon runner probably isn't in and of itself healthy.
No, I know. But you're just choosing to do something by exercise, rather than, you know, in the case of... You know, if I go and lift weights and run a lot and do exercise to body-sculpt or body-shape, that's different from me taking drugs in order to enhance bits of my body that are just going to get bigger.
See, I guess that a libertarian thing for me, I'm kind of like, "Let them have at it." You can have both competitions. Have the ones where it's openly, you know, they're using drugs and have the ones where it's all natural and they get tested.
I'm not saying that we, necessarily, as a society, ban the use of those drugs for people who are choosing to do them. But when an organised sport is set up to allow those people to do it, it effectively means that everybody has to do it. And you can still do it. But as I say, I think most bodybuilding competitions now are done for natural bodybuilding. And so natural bodybuilding in a sense that, you know, if you're getting to be drug tested to do it, it means that you're just doing it by exercise. And that's a good thing. And I think that's what most women are doing now. Certainly women's bodybuilding 20 years ago, a lot of those bodybuilders were bigger than the men. And ideally they'd end up being shaped like men because they were taking, effectively, testosterone-replacing drugs. Anabolic steroids to get bigger, which made them look like men.
Well, and is the reason that the men are the shape they are, because of the testosterone...
Testosterone means you get bigger shoulders, you get bigger musculature, and bone structure and so on. And so women who are taking those drugs ended up looking like that. And whether you like that or not isn't the point. But I think now female bodybuilding, getting back to where this story started, is now that body shaping and saying, "This is the best shape I can be," and if I want to work on my legs, I go to the gym or I run or swim or I do whatever I'm having to do to do that. The extreme sense of that, though, where it's just exposing muscles through skin that has almost no subcutaneous fat in it, I just look and go, "I don't understand. Why?"
I think it's always the extreme right. It's the hardest thing to acquire. And that's what people start appreciating because that's what people go towards. They want to be... "I want to get to the point that you can't get to or see if I challenge myself to get to that extreme."
But it's the same thing as the models and movie stars, female models and movie stars. You don't see male models looking like bodybuilders.
The clothes wouldn't fit them!
But if we assume that the US, they'd be wearing a towel. Exactly.
But if we assume the aesthetic of being a male is with big shoulders, big chest, big arms, ripped belly, big thighs, big calves, models don't look like that. Whereas female models tend to be skinny.
And heads on sticks.
But again, it's the clothes, right. It's not about being sexual or being...
But the point is that those women who are in an American context, our sizing is different in Australia for women's clothes, but the American context, we got women who are size zero as so-called 'supermodels.' Now, I've never understood what a supermodel was because it appears now that everybody who's a model is a supermodel. But those so-called supermodels that are the celebrities around it, you know, that's not the ideal because they're effectively a coat hanger. You can hang clothes on them, but those clothes can't be worn by a normal woman because a normal woman who's a size... In America I think a size 6, 8, 10, simply can't wear those clothes because to make them that size, they don't look like that. It becomes bizarre. The industry of fashion is no longer about selling people clothing. It's now an aesthetic art.
Well, it's a culture, yeah.
Yeah, but what's happened is that that assumed body type of being skinny having no excess body fat and also being tall... And you know, you can't affect your height, but you can make yourself look tall... Well you can but...
You can get surgery, just go to Russia. You can have the long bones in your body extended.
And that sort of aesthetic is an awful thing for your average... Girls in particular, as young girls and teenagers to say, you know, "That's what I want to look like."
But is it then just as bad for young boys to admire bodybuilders?
But my point is that not... There are very few men around, as modern celebrities, who are built like bodybuilders.
I would say there's quite a few, though. You know, you look at Hemsworth, you look at...
Yeah, but Hemsworth is just big. ...
Hugh Jackman. I would be suspect, especially people like Christian Bale... Have you seen the transformations he's made? Between 90 kilos, 60 kilos? You know, 87 kilos, 50 kilos for his movie roles. There's no way he's doing that naturally. 100%, I would put my life savings on the fact that he's supplementing that in terms of the speed at which he can transform from tiny to huge, so...
But it is funny that bodybuilders and men who look up to those kinds of, I guess, famous people and admire that don't receive anywhere near the same amount of criticism as women who admire models or, you know, who look up to that. Yeah, it's interesting to see the difference there. You never have men complaining about bodybuilders, saying that's an unrealistic body type that we're held to, you know. And the same... But you'll hear that from women with models. But the ironic thing I find there is that men aren't selecting for ultra thin women.
We're not the ones out there saying, you know what, "I wish you were just razor thin with no boobs, no arse that clothes could sit on like a coat hanger. So it is a very weird thing because I think it is a... The culture of fashion, I definitely think is the woman's realm.
There's an ironic thing about it, I reckon. There's got to be a point where we need more nudity in films and television. Of natural people. Because I'll guarantee you that your average Hollywood actress, who is B-grade Hollywood actress is trying to get skinnier, looks awful naked.
And so... Elle MacPherson, who's one of the most beautiful women ever. She was one of the original supermodels back in the 70s when, you know, that sort of status of being a model came around. She was in a movie in her... I think she was in her early 40s or late 30s, and she had to put 15 kilos of weight on in order to look normal when she took her clothes off. So, yeah, 15 kilos! And she's a large... And she's six foot tall.
It just goes to show how much she didn't have on her because she was a model.
Because she was a model. It's all a bit weird.
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