Apple Attempts To Kill Trusting Australians

Naturally we each spend up to 95% of the average weekday wondering what form the machines’ rebellion against their human masters will take. But in all our post-apocalyptic fantasies, we never guessed the first attack would be so insidiously simple. The much-reviled Apples maps iPhone app, which comes bundled with iOS 6, has been luring Australian drivers out into the wilderness to die.

The problem is that Apple maps pinpoints the town of Mildura as being in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, about 42 miles from the actual location,” meaning that motorists are getting stranded without food and water for long stretches of time, and walking long distances over dangerous terrain for cell reception and help. To make matters more pleasant, Murray Sunset National Park can get up to 114º F and is full of badass Emus.

People were justifiably pissed when Google Maps, whose greatest sin was telling you that a bar that no longer existed was still there, got swapped out for Apple’s crappy version. This, however, is an invitation to world war. Or maybe just revenge for all the barely-obsolete smartphones we toss in garbage dumps way out in the middle of nowhere.

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Australian Prime Minister Warns Apocalypse Is Near, Blames K-Pop

Oh, those witty Australians!

Prime Minister Julia Gillard filmed a tongue-in-cheek press conference for radio station Triple J, warning that the Mayans were right and the impending apocalypse is nigh.

(It’s December 21, 2012, in case you forgot to update your iCal.)

Whether it ends with with the Korean invasion of K-Pop, or a blood-hungry zombie invasion, Gillard doesn’t know. It’s probably safe to go with Gangnam Style on this one.

A politician in the United States could never do this without being taken utterly seriously, War Of The Worlds-style, and leading to mass lootings of Wal-marts. 

Watch PM Gillard make a funny below:

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Singer-Songwriter Sam Sparro Still Soars, His Music Still Shimmers

It’s possible this sentiment is exclusive to me, but it feels like forever since I got down to a romantic dance ballad that I was head-over-heels happy about. But a catchy tune like “Black & Gold,” with a campy video to match, off of 30-year-old Sam Sparro’s eponymous debut album, is sort of what I’m referring to. 2008 welcomed this Aussie-born, L.A.-raised singer-songwriter to the stage with the record’s release—though he was no stranger to the limelight. Indeed, Sparro got his start as a youngster, singing in the choir and appearing in fast food ads, among other things. The way I see it, this sweet diva was born to be a star.

2012 witnessed his reemergence on music store shelves (oh, who am I kidding—iTunes and Spotify) with Return to Paradise, a sonically upbeat but lyrically somber collection of new originals and remixes. In fact, though the pop disc dropped months ago the globe-over, just yesterday it came out in the states. Unlike his previous outpouring—which was an isolated electronic event comprising Sparro, a producer, and a computer—his sophomore effort hears him break out in a big way with multi-instrumental, layered, and enormous-sounding songs. As he says with a hint of sophisticated cheek, “I like to imagine I make dance music you can think to."

The natural born belter was in New York last week, performing an intimate set at Soho House on Thursday, followed by a headlining gig at Webster Hall Friday. I caught up with Sparro backstage during sound check, interviewing him whilst percussion reverberated throughout the East 11th Street venue. If the talented man weren’t already a riot to talk to, he sported a do-rag and baseball cap, “to flatten my hair so it’s really flat,” he reasoned, so a smile was never far from my face. We discussed a host of things, from his adolescent airs to having his heart broken, from discovering his sexuality, to the eclectic individuals who make up his planet-plodding crew.

Read on for more from one of the most down-to-earth entertainers I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting down with. Then keep an ear out, as he’s poised to punctuate 2013 with still more new numbers.

Congratulations on the record at long last releasing in America.
I’m excited it’s finally out. It was pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. Elsewhere, this album’s been out for six months already and I finished it over a year ago. We’ve just been dealing with a lot of red tape. My label, EMI, was sold to Universal, and that sort of affected the release in the states. The business at the moment is a bunch of ups and downs. Like it always was…

So, in what ways do you feel like Return to Paradise is a departure from the previous album?
I think there are similarities between them. But, I definitely feel like it’s a more grown-up album—a more introspective record. The first album is very much me and a producer in a small studio on a computer, and this one is a lot of musicians playing in different studios around the world making live music. So, it was a very different process. And a really fun one. A fantasy of mine was to record horns and strings and piano and bass. A lot of the music I grew up listening to was that.

Speaking of growing up, you were raised in a musical family…
When I was a kid my father was a gospel musician. He was signed to a Christian label and toured with his Christian rock band. He actually wrote a lot of songs that people sing in churches still today. We used to travel with him a lot and I would sing backing vocals and in choir at church. That was my childhood. I think you can still hear that influence in my music.

Oh for sure. Minus the Christian message…
I’m a spiritual person and I’m pretty open-minded about what that means. I don’t practice a religion, but I believe in a higher power.

In addition to church choir, I understand you sort of got your start in commercials…
I wouldn’t say it was the start of my career as a recording artist, but it was something I did as a child. I was always hungry for attention and my grandmother, an actress, was very supportive and encouraging. She insisted that my parents get me an agent.

How old were you?
Probably about 7. My mom hated it. Eventually, after I did about three or four commercials and some modeling jobs, she got tired of my attitude and pulled me out.

So you were a diva.
Apparently, yeah. Apparently some friends came to the house and I had just been in a McDonald’s commercial and I said, You must recognize me from some of my TV work.

You were, like, 8?
Probably. I think it was for the best that I didn’t continue doing that.

I’ll say! Who knows where you’d be today?! So, fast forward, how did you spend the time between these records?
I was working on this album for two-and-a-half years, spent a year-and-a-half on the road for the first record, and I was sort of paralyzed for a while after that, creatively. I was feeling very lost and stuck and sort of blocked. It took a while for this album to take shape. But, I feel like I’ve picked up momentum again. I’ve been writing so much new stuff. There was a lot going on in my personal life, too. I went through the most major breakup of my life, which really influenced this record. It was a pivotal thing in my life and it took a lot of my energy and my time.

Is it safe to assume “I Wish I Never Met You” is about said relationship, which ended in heartbreak?
Yeah. I don’t really mean that, but I felt like that for a while at the time.

Has the individual reached out since hearing your song?
We’re in touch. It’s not good to hold grudges.

And you’ve found love again.
Yes. I’m in love.

May I ask, did you always have a hunch you were interested in men?
Yes and no. I think I was in denial for a long time, but I always knew I was different. I came out when I was 17, 18. I’ve always been gay, that’s for sure. I was born this way!

Preach! So, how did you assemble this super skilled team?
Some have been with me almost five years. Some are newer. Vula [Malinga, backing vocals] and Charlie [Willcocks, keyboard], they’ve been in the band five years. Everyone lives all over the place, too.

I live in L.A. My drummer Guy Licata lives in Brooklyn. The other four live in London. But, Brendan [Reilly, backing vocals and sax] is from L.A., Vula is South African, born in Texas, grew up in London. Naz [Adamson, bass] is from London. I’m from Australia. We’re like the United Colors of Benetton. [Said with sass]

Does everyone get along?
Yeah, we hang out together. We really enjoy each other’s company. We have so many inside jokes; it’s hard for people to follow what’s going on. We just laugh and laugh and laugh.

Is that what you did last night after your set?
We just stayed at Soho House and giggled and ate.

Sounds lovely. Is there a diva in the group? Ahem…
The other two singers more than me! We call them L’Oreal and Maybel-mean.

[Laughs] Is the latter hyphenated? How would you spell that?
We’ve never written it down. It’s an oral tradition only.

I’ll be the first to put it in print. I saw you and Vula had a dance-off last night.
We have fun on stage.

Where did you learn your moves?
Oh my god. Vula says I’m a frustrated dancer from way back. She’s like, Oh, you wanna be in a boy band!

Do you?
No, but I do love dancing. I grew up obsessed with Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson and Madonna and all the great pop stars of the eighties and nineties. I used to take tap and jazz as a kid. I wanted to be a hip-hop dancer. I just think it’s in my veins or something. I don’t know.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Probably nothing good. [Laughs]

[Gesturing to what looks like a stripper pole] What does that mean? Using the pole?![Laughs] Possibly! I don’t think it would be pretty. I think this is what I was born to do and this is what I’m grateful to be able to do. I honestly don’t know what I would be doing. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I mean, I would like to work in other mediums of art. But, who knows. I’ve worked in a factory, I’ve done office jobs, I’ve been a waiter. It’s just not a life I want. I have to be creative.

A factory?
I worked in Surrey in a Toshiba spare parts factory. It was grim. I was about 17. I mean, it’s that dirt-poor-struggling-to-survive-waiting-for-someone-to-hear-my-demo…and working in a fucking factory…cliché. It was short-lived, but it did happen.

And now look at you! You’re in New York, with a show last night and a show tonight. How do you like it here?
I love New York. I’ve been talking about moving here for a while and I think next year my partner [and I] are gonna live here part time. I love New York City. I think it’s the best city in the world. It’s a huge inspiration. It’s such an exciting place. I love being caught up in the pace of it. It gives me a bolt of energy.

As compared to L.A.?
They’re very different cities. I love living in L.A. It has its own interesting history and influence in the world. I think it’s misunderstood a lot—misrepresented. It does have depth and soul, but you have to find it. It’s there. I love California. I think it’s a beautiful place.

Zookeeper Nearly Killed By Adorable Baby Elephant Named Mr. Shuffles

Zookeeper Lucy Melo of the Sydney Zoo in Australia was just trying to teach Mr. Shuffles, the baby elephant, how to bathe. But Mr. Shuffles said Fuck this and nearly crushed Melo to death. (Which, you have to admit, would be an adorable way to die.)

Mr. Shuffles, whose given name is Pathi Harn, lives at the Taronga Zoo, where 40-year-old Melo is one of his keepers. On Friday while she was inside the elephant enclosure showing him how to wash himself, he pinned her against a post. Keepers say the two-year-old elephant calf was "challenging her authority" … as two-year-olds are wont to do. Her chest and back were crushed while  she was pinned; paramedics responded and Melo was briefly able to communicate what happened, but suffered a heart attack immediately afterwards. 

She is currently in stable condition. Very sad how people who actually love and care for animals are injured, as opposed to yahoos like that guy who jumped inside the Bronx Zoo tiger pen. 

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Wild Dogs Are Taking Over Australia

You may be surprised to hear that they have cities in Australia. What’s less shocking is that they shall soon be run by feral dogs, who will allow only a few humans to survive as living can openers.

The resurgence of urban wildlife the world over has been connected to climate change and—surprise!—the availability of edible trash in densely populated areas. Packs of canines have begun to claim territory in Queensland not directly connected to livestock farming, a practice they’ve long disrupted. And some domesticated pets have paid the price of defending their home turf. But that’s hardly the worst of it:

Another concern is the diseases these animal carry. Dingo feces has been linked to a deadly cystic parasite that’s become more common in suburban areas in recent years. "Dingo poo," one researcher observes, "is not good stuff."

Given that stray dogs in Moscow have learned to ride the subway, is it not inevitable that dingoes will weaponize their shit and lay siege to the entire continent? May as well quarantine the place right now.

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Three Men Involved in Real-Life Version of ‘The Hangover’

In what is being described as a real-life version of the movie The Hangover, three Brits vacationing in Australia are being charged with several crimes related to their kidnapping of a penguin from SeaWorld while drunk, then waking up the next morning with no recollection of the events. And before you even have to ask, of course they filimed it.

Check out the above local news report on the incident, which occured last Saturday night, to see the footage in question (the men provided the station with it in an attempt to prove they meant no harm to the penguin, named Dirk).

Some additional details, via Gawker:

According to police, the three young men from Wales, who are currently residing on Queensland’s Gold Coast, unlawfully entered the marine park last Saturday night, and proceeded take a semi-nude dip inside the dolphin tank. They then moved on to the penguin enclosure, where they helped themselves to a 7-year-old Fairy Penguin named Dirk.

Upon awaking the next day and discovering an aquatic bird roaming around their rented room in Surfers Paradise, the men struggled to piece together the events of the night before.

They eventually decided to ditch Dirk in a nearby shark-infested lagoon, where he was luckily spotted Sunday after being chased out of the water, possibly by a predator. The frightened animal was returned to Sea World and reunited with its mate, Peaches.

I’m not sure about you, but I can’t wait for the sequel. I really hope it’s not identical to the original, though, because that would suck.

Watch a Trailer for the Australian Version of ‘Jersey Shore’

The GC is an upcoming Australian reality series that will "follow the lives of a group of talented and attractive young Maori as they work hard and play even harder in Australia’s favourite playground, the glittering Gold Coast." It’s basically Jersey Shore, but with accents. Which cast members will subscribe to the GTL way of life? Who will be DTF? We’ll have to wait for the answers to those questions, but in the meantime, check out the show’s trailer (via ONTD) after the jump.

Check Out These Unique Recommendations from Travel Pros

Budget Travel has rounded up twelve people who spend their lives travelling the world, and asked their insights on some of the world’s less-trodden destinations. There are some off-the-map suggestions, but we’re going to focus on accomadations here, since that’s what we do.

Some of the experts tapped include Jonny Bealby, the founder of Wild Frontiers adventure travel company, and Charles Veley, a man on a mission to visit every country in the world. Charles likes a small bungalow on Lord Howe Island, a seven-mile long stretch of beach two hours northeast of Sydney. Rob Kaufelt, owner of Murray’s Cheese, says that he ate one of the best dinners of his life in Verduno, Italy, so you’ll want to add the nearby 18th century Castello di Verduno to your list. And when the founder of the Ace Hotels, Alex Calderwood, says he thinks Doe Bay in Washington State’s Orcas Islands “just feels right,” then you better listen. We also loved the sound of Lauren Aviva’s pick, Sucre, in Bolivia. The global retailer describes an amazing selection of textiles she picked up while based out of the Parador Santa María La Real: "Even functional items like potato sacks were woven with lovely striped patterns,” she said.

Crown Metropol Brings Melbourne to New Heights

When you get a massage at the new Crown Metropol in Melbourne, Australia, your head is literally in the clouds. The hotel’s spa, Isika, finally opened last month on the 27th floor of the 28-floor hotel, the city’s only sky-high resident day spa. Isika has an indoor terrace that features an 80-foot infinity-edge pool and hot plunge pool with massage jets, sun lounges, and day beds. There are ten treatment rooms, but the most sought after is the Healing Suite, which boasts 180-degree views of the city.

The hotel, near the popular Docklands, is just as new as the spa, having opened this past spring. With a whopping 658 rooms, the $300 million Crown Metropol is the largest hotel in Melbourne— in fact, it’s now the largest hotel in all of Australia, unseating the former title-holder, the 630-room Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Darling Harbour. Expect decked-out guest rooms and suites (some are designed loft-style, so you really feel at home) with some killer views. But nothing really takes the cake like 28, the exclusive lounge and sky bar that offers panoramic views of Melbourne’s skyline.

Crown Metropol is also home to Gordon Ramsay’s first restaurants in Australia: maze and maze Grill.