Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Notions Recollected In Tranquility

I Came, I Saw, Icon
Everything in Melbourne is an icon, but some things in Sydney are an icon too. Gowings was an icon; so was Valhalla Picture theatre, but they both closed down. Norton Street is an icon, and Glebe Point Road was an icon - or is in the process of becoming something that once was an icon. How many icons does Sydney have? From my cosy abode on Paramatta Road, it was rather hard to work out over the traffic. On Saturday night, I decided to take a walk down to Norton Street, perhaps pick up a meal, and see a film. Norton Street was absolutely packed, full of yuppies and yeppies making puppy eyes at one another over bowls of industrial-strength al-dente pasta. After a while, I began to feel guilty about even thinking of getting a meal in one of those places. What would I do, sitting hunched over a table with only my pen and notepad for company while I waited for dinner? It seemed selfish. I'd be just taking the place that a couple could be using. Besides, I was having so much fun taking in all the hotties decorating Norton Street from my vantage point on the footpath. I decided that I had enough to digest already, so I turned into the Palace Picture Theatre to see Wordplay.

1. (across) Nerd God Surrounds Nothing (9)*
As it turned out, I'd been to the Palace before to see 'Being John Malkovich'. It had swanky digs, alright - there was even a fully-blown Italian restaraunt sitting right outside the theatre. More of what I'd seen on Norton Street, really. They had an Italian film festival going, and plenty of people were here to see that, too.
Wordplay is a simple documentary about crossword compilers and crossword solvers. It looks at some of the competing players in the American crossword championships.The nerds were out in full force, with characters who are fond of completing gigantic cryptics in 2 minutes flat, and pointing out obscure anagrams of 'altercations'. Hilarious stuff.

So that was my Norton Street night.

* This caption dedicated to Tony T.

Random Fact
Nothing tastes better than hot pie with sauce and cold ginger beer in a hotel room at midnight.

Let's Get Out Of Here! It's The Bus Appreciation Society!
On Sunday, I shaved, bought the long-sleeved shirt that I forgot to come from Melbourne with, whacked on a bow-tie, and went and caught a bus down Paramatta Road to Glebe. The bus went in stops and starts, with one or two people getting on occasionally. At some point in Annandale, about thirty people got on in one hit. The bus went from being undercrowded to overcrowded, just like that. Is there some Bus Appreciation Society operating in Sydney where people get on just for the pleasure of standing around in public transport?
A couple of stops later, a fat guy jumped off the middle doors and the following dispute occurred between him and the driver.

FAT GUY: Hey driver, why don't you put too many people on the bus, you dickhead!

BUS DRIVER: Screw you!

FAT GUY: (Struggling across a crowded Sydney street and yelling obscenities which we can't hear) *&%&$*%&*%&$(!!!!!!!!

BUS DRIVER: Yeah, maybe I can smell you too, you dick!

Of Beauxs and Ties
Wandering down Glebe Point Road, I thought about going into Sappho Books again as the woman who was there last time was fully hot. Though when I peeked in through the door there was a 50-year-old behind the counter, so I decided not to go in. Not that I think my bow tie and shirt alone would pick up women. You have to, like, totally connect with them and stuff, too.

Here Comes the Bride, the Groom, the Bride's Family looking at the Groom's Family who are carrying suspicious violin cases, the friends, the priest, and some rather curious selected passages from the Song of Solomon.
So! Wedding! Caz told me, a few weeks ago, that she expected my report on the wedding, not only with reference to the musical choices, but also with a full report on bridal gowns, hairstyles, jewellery worn, etc, etc. I'm happy to report that everything went off brilliantly. The wedding was held at a church in a quiet corner of Glebe. I had a quiche and salad at a nice little cafe on Glebe Point Road before wandering down the side street in sunlight with a McSweeney's book to keep me company. A photographer turned up shortly afterwards. He was followed by the groom's older brother, in a sleek black car, wearing a tuxedo, dark glasses, and a red hat, joking that people would have looked at him suspiciously if he carried a violin case. I turned out to be the only guy not wearing a tux.
The wedding was well planned. It had to be, being the joining together of A, the groom (from a Maltese/Australian family) and L., the bride (from a Chinese/Australian family). The ceremony itself was Catholic, but had been chosen to coincide with an auspicious day on the Chinese calendar (apparently there are only four or five such days every year). The music was tastefully selected, with simple selections from Bach and Purcell. The bride wore the classic bridal dress, with a simple white necklace and hair done in a fancy curly way. (I'm sorry, I can't be any more specific than that).

I nearly pissed myself laughing when S., brother of the groom, got up and read this passage from The Song of Solomon:
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.

I've known these guys for ages, and I was surprised how S. could actually get up there and read the whole thing without cracking up. Actually, I think that I was the one who'd first shown them these saucy passages in the Bible. (The holy father who was presiding over the ceremony was so moved that he actually said the word 'erotic' in church. )

Everyone's a yolker (amusing anecdotes about eggs.)
The reception was on The Rocks, looking over the harbour. I went along with the parents and some family friends to help string up some lanterns outside, and then we stood around in the sunlight while waiting for the place to be opened up. Little yachts bobbed by on the water, and at one point, for no reason, a huge barge barged through until we couldn't see it behind the hotel (we all found that rather bemusing). I sat at a table with P. and G. and we started talking about Collingwood and Coburg. Later, the father of the bride came around to our table and thanked us all for coming. When he was called to speak later in the night, we weren't sure what to expect, but it was interesting - consisting mostly of a little humiliation of A. and amusing anecdotes about L. and how she once threw an egg yolk into a bin as a kid ('that was the only time I ever remember her being naughty' he said). S. got up and read from an old school report of Aaron's that he'd dug up before quipping that he reserved the first bridal dance for himself.
Later, they started playing some weirdo 80s and 90s dance tracks. Since it seemed to be a time for guys to make a goose of themselves on the dance floor, I actually got up and made a goose of myself as well. Maybe it was the alcohol.
All in all, it went off wonderfully.

BONUS! Icon Count
Which is more iconic? Glebe Point Road in Glebe, Norton Street in Leichhardt, or King Street in Newtown? Let's consider the pros and cons:

Pro: Cafe Badde Manors is still in business.
Con: More touristy venues.
Pro: Glebe Markets are still cool.
Con: Valhalla has closed down.

Pro: Hot Italian girls.
Con: No secondhand bookstore (that combined secondhand/firsthand bookstore opposite the shopping centre doesn't count).
Pro: Palace picture theatre, doing extremely well.
Con: Yuppiefication seems imminent.

Pro: The new store Elizabeth's Books, which made me think of Elizabeth Street in Melbourne, and with a decent range. (Although no humour bookshelf that I could make out).
Con: Working class lefties have all moved out, to be replaced by Uni Class lefties.
Pro: Pulp Books.
Con: Pulp Books was closed when I came round Sunday morning. (How could you do this to me, Carvan!)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Notes from the Tropics

There In The Hell!
I'm in Sydney - flying back to Melbourne on Monday! I'm here for a wedding. Not mine, you scurrilous gossips - or at least, not that I'm aware of ...

Cloud and Clear!
Gosh, I like flying. There was a gorgeous cloudbank folding over Melbourne when my plane flew out from Avalon; there was about two minutes when we were absolutely surrounded by white heavy clouds. Then we came out and actually had the opportunity to look at these mounds of gas - from on top. You could see how the clouds made shadows on the land, and the shape those shadows took.
It was very cool.

A Groom With a Crew
Went out on the town last night with A., the husband to be, and a few of his family and mates. Started out at a place called 'The Slip Inn'. I didn't even realise it was a pun until I spoke it out loud. Completely by coincidence, when I was looking for the folks at the pub, I thought up the name of a possible McSweeney's article: "Conversations held in a pub where the music is so loud that no-one can hear anyone else talk."

Look Back Lacks Books!
Hit the bookstores this morning and late this afternoon. The cool second-hand poetry bookstore on Norton Street is gone. Neither of the two swanky stores remaining had P J O'Rourke's new book in (apparently the publishers delayed printing). On Glebe Point Road, Sappho books and Da Capo Music have both moved and merged into one store, in the process attracting a cafe. (The Valhalla is also closed). And the Cornstalk seems to be perpetually closing. When I looked in, half of the shelves were empty (a few more than last time I looked in). Also had this conversation with the guy playing Solitaire at the computer.

TIM: Hi.

GUY: Hi.

TIM: Got any S J Perelman?

GUY: No.

TIM: That's rather deflating.

GUY: That's life.

TIM: Oh well. I guess I'll just keep on looking. I might find something amongst all these ... books.

I said 'bye' to him when I left. He actually waited until I walked out of the store, then looked up and said 'bye' while I was passing by the window. Guess he just wanted to check that I wasn't having him on.

Sines and Wanders
"Doctor. Specialising in sleep disorder and chest pains."

Specialising in taking it away, or giving it out?

"The Leichardt Council Does Not Support the Howard Government's Workplace Anti-Union Agenda."

That's nice.

I Spent a Month There One Saturday Afternoon
Saw my brother this afternoon. Disappointing? Well, disappointing is his favourite word. He grumbles about perpetually painting his house. He sighs about the shopping centre not having a bookshop. He makes sandwiches for lunch and when I make a silly joke chides me for being 'smart'. I retort huffily that I try to be honest. He says in a singsong voice that being diplomatic is the key to civilisation or similar. I make a joke about how his dog is similar to our old dog, Bella. He immediately closes the conversation by saying 'That's different' and talking about the weather. He's sad but he doesn't want to say it.

Later, he shows me where the books are. Inexplicably, he starts painting again for two minutes, then stops. He shows me an old organ where most of the keys don't work in the garage. "It seemed a pity to throw it out," he says.

On the car back to the train stop, he starts yawning. I start yawning. "Tired?" I say. "I'm always tired," he sighs.

When I get on the train, I ask him about the pipe band competition he's in tomorrow. He immediately cheers up.

"It was good to see you," I say.

Get a ticket to Carlingford. Catch the train to Liverpool. Stop. Get off. Catch the train back to Granville. Stop. Get on the train to Clyde. Stop. Get off at Clyde. Get on the train to Carlingford. Realise that the train to Carlingford is actually filled with pretty girls with silly hats. Hear the voice saying 'This train stops at Rosehill Racecourse" Get off the train to Rosehill Racecourse. Look at the timetable for the train to Carlingford. Realise that the train to Carlingford doesn't come in for another hour. Wait. Get on the train to Carlingford.

Visit your brother.

Get back on the train to Clyde. Repeat, in reverse order ...*

Yawn, Yawn, Here Cometh The Dawn
I'm beginning to think it may have been a mistake to stay in a hotel on Paramatta Road!

*I'm working on an article entitled "Train stops I have known."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Curious History of the Man Who Looked Like Someone Else

(This story is for Erin, who commanded me on Friday to write it. For better or worse, I obeyed.)

Once there was a man who looked like someone else. Eugene was his name, but everyone kept on mistaking him for John, or James, or Joseph, or Jeremiah, or Jason, or Jefferson, or even Jennifer. For some reason, he was unable to be recognised for himself. As a student at school, other students would mistake him for the teacher, and the teachers would mistake him for the district supervisor. At work, workmates would mistake him for the boss, and the boss would mistake him for a another workmate, or the state manager, or even just a person off the street. It was very frustrating: he was either being admired for achievements which he had never actually achieved while having his own talents ignored, or not having his own mistakes recognised in preference for the mistakes of other people. In the hands of a mighty leader like Winston Churchill or an espionage genius like Mata Hari, this strange quirk of fate that kept him from being recognised could have achieved great things, but not with Eugene. He was just an ordinary guy who was the victim of extraordinarily annoying circumstances.

There was, however, one person who actually could recognise Eugene for who he was and not someone else. It was not his father, who kept on mistaking him for his sister Emmeline, and it was not his sister Emmeline, who was very social and he hardly ever saw anyway, or even his mother, who was incredibly forgetful and kept on mistaking him for his twin brother Barry. But it was his twin brother Barry, who was a little short-sighted and kept on mistaking everybody. Eugene's identity was perpetually mistaken anyway, so when Barry met up with him, he would habitually mistake his mistaken identity, which evened things out, although it made for a lot of confusion in the family. Tragically, Barry was lost for many years in the Amazon rainforest with the rest of biology class 8B during a one-off school excursion to the region which had been intended mostly to look at some of the native bird life. So Eugene had no-one to recognise him. Still, he got by.

The first time I met the man who looked like someone else, I recognised him immediately, as I had never seen him before. It was at a quiet bar near Sydney Road in Coburg, and I had just dipped in for a quiet drink; instead, I found myself engaged in deep conversation with this unfortunate individual who was unable to look like himself. Eugene poured out his heart to me, telling me something of his story, explaining how his whole existence was an existential dilemma. I had had a beer or two by that time, so I was naturally able to sympathise, and we became firm friends. Over the years that followed, I learned more about the remarkable life led by this unremarkable individual, or rather, the remarkable things that people were constantly mistaking the man who looked like someone else as being responsible for.
On later occasions, the man who looked like someone else effortlessly looked like someone else each time I saw him. Of course, this did not bother me in the slightest: I never remember names and faces, and so I have always recognised him straightaway. He was deeply grateful to me for this.

I can only set out a few bare details from his life here in this history ...


Clothes were always something of a difficulty for Eugene. He had no eye for fashion, but his mother had bought him up to keep neat and clean - just like his brother Barry (who she kept on mistaking him for). He liked to order his clothes before he ordered his day or his life, which was often not possible; when he faced himself in the mirror, he was never sure what he was going to see. Some days he would have the face of Patrick Stewart and the hair to match; on other occasions, he would look like a bum from the street. After all, the man who looked like someone else to other people looked like someone else to himself, too.

He was constantly being mistaken on the streets for various individuals famous for their achievements, such as Thomas Edison, Jackie Chan, and Al Capone. He could not, naturally, control how he looked like, and so could not help being consistently recognised for who he was not. If other people were famous for doing this or achieving that, Eugene was often, simply, famous for being famous. It was incredibly frustrating for him. He was forever being dragged off the streets by deluded fans asking for autographs (which of course he usually refused) or being dragged by screaming wasabi chefs into their restaurant asking why he was late (he was not, but evidently whoever he looked like was), or being chased by either gangsters or the police (depending on whoever was closest at the time). Several times a year, he was mistaken for a super-criminal or a terrorist by national and international authorities, and I hear the government was building a whole dossier on him.


His genealogy was curious. He told me that he had inherited his facial features (whatever they were at the time) from either his father or his mother. His father, apparently, bore an uncanny resemblance to a mirror - as did his father before that, and his father before that. His mother, on the other hand, more closely resembled an actress (she was, in fact, a teller at the local bank, but merely appeared to everyone who saw her as an actress.) I doubted this description of his parents and family at first, but then he showed me pictures of his family. His father really did look remarkably like a mirror and his mother really did appear amazingly like an actress.
He went on to describe to me several other curious family traits. His children, it seemed, did not appear like any of their parents or grandparents. Rather, they bore an uncanny resemblance to one another, despite being of different ages and vastly different sexes. He concluded his strange family history by telling me of a great aunt of his who looked curiously like a metaphor - although she was so alarmingly large and threatening, no-one of his family members wanted to know what sort of metaphor ...

Eugene became married to a university friend of his, but the marriage was not a happy one. Her name was Jasmine, and although she was kind and understanding in her way, she had a changeable nature. Their marriage lasted, in its own way, partly because Jasmine kept on mistaking Eugene for someone else, and falling in lust or love with that other person. Eugene, for his part, simply wanted the stability and contentedness that marriage provided; unfortunately, this was only possible with a person like Jasmine. After some years of things carrying on in this way, the couple split out of mutual dissatisfaction. The children - a boy and a girl of equal height but different ages - went to live with Jasmine. Whenever Eugene came to visit them, they would fail to recognise him, and instead tell him stories about how mean their mother was, and how she stayed out for hours with strange men at night, and how much they wanted to live with their father, who was kind and neat and who they loved very much and always took care of them. For some reason, Eugene always found visiting his children a very depressing experience, but still, he kept on with the visits.

For a time after his break up with Jasmine, Eugene did consider plastic surgery. He had come to hate the way he didn't look, (which was like himself). He wanted more than anything else to be recognised by his friends and family; and he fell into a deep depression. He consulted with a doctor about his difficulty, pouring out his problems a kindly grey-haired old physician. The doctor looked at him, looked away, and looked at him again and decided that he did indeed look like someone else. He drew out a ruler, took measurements of Eugene's face, and sent Eugene on to a team of quantum physicists he knew. The team of quantum physicists looked at Eugene, looked away, and looked at him again, before deciding that he actually did look like someone else. They took out geiger counters and gravity-beam detectors and various other gadgets and meters that made strange noises, and began to perform various tests on Eugene. After a while, the man who looked like someone else got bored and got up to go, leaving them at it.

On the whole, Eugene decided, plastic surgery was best left to the celebrities, and it didn't do them any good either. Besides, he decided, it was against his personal beliefs.

He grew infinitely weary with being insistently mistaken for who he was not. For days he would not move from his house. Finally, one day he bought a small farm in the countryside and took up a small business breeding fox terriers, and refused to speak to anyone, even customers (unless absolutely necessary). The dogs, after all, didn't really know who or what he looked like. If they did see him, it was rather fuzzily, and they didn't have the brains to not recognise him. They just thought he had a friendly smell. Sometimes, Eugene did not take a bath for days in order to oblige these simple creatures. They loved him for it. He lived this way for some time, but he grew tired of the company of the dogs. They may have thought he had a friendly smell, but occasionally he really felt like going to see a movie with some friends. Eventually, he moved back to the city (taking the dogs with him)


Eugene was by this time 40 years old, an older and wiser man who looked like someone else. I had known him for several years, and was amongst the first to welcome him back from the countryside.

We sat down together, as we always had, in the local bar, and he told me about how his life was. Things were looking up; several months ago he and a girl he knew from work had fallen deeply in love. Her name was Iphigenia, and she was a ballet dancer who liked pink flowers and poodles and cooking cupcakes and heavy metal music. Their relationship, of course, had some difficulties; Iphigenia kept on mistaking Eugene for her ex-husband, a man who worked as an accountant to a group of international ivory merchants, and who she detested with all her heart. However, Eugene told me, he felt sure they could work through these troubles together.

We raised our glasses and drank late into the night. Above all else, I shall remember one thing of that time; a warm tableau that comes at me from out of the chill of the winter night, with Eugene's eyes winking at me from across the top of his glass: the man who looked like someone else was smiling.

(Cross posted on my other blog.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Off To Sydney

This Friday, I'm off to Sydney to attend a friend's wedding and plunder some of the city's precious water resources. I'll be out from Friday to Monday morning, but will try and update at least once in the city. Over and out!

Socialism: Is It a Political System or a New Age Health Clinic?


Socialism is not a political system, it's a New Age Health Clinic: I'm putting the argument out there. Scoff all you like, but let me present you some of the facts I have marshalled for my case.



Freedom of immigration

Elevating global consciousness

Social revolution through mass agitation*

Global hegemony

Sympathy for the colonised.

Rectal irrigation

Elevating person consciousness

Personal revelation through meditation

Aubergine enemas.

Colonic irrigation.

(*Note: "Mass agitation"or "Masturbation" - whichever comes first)

Now, if that doesn't convince you, well, I think you're being rather fastidious. However, let me present you with more damning facts:



Really crappy music
(Depressing folk music, boring activist chants)

Requires you to bend over and take it up the arse for the good of society

Attracts crazy old dudes with beards (and Bob Brown).

Really crappy music
(Depressing folk music, boring neo-tribal chants)

Requires you to bend over and take it up the arse for the good of yourself.


Ladies and gentleman, I think the evidence is clear, consistent, and overwhelmingly in support of my thesis. One of the great dilemmas of the ages has been solved: Socialism is not, and was never meant to be, a coherent political philosophy at all, it's merely a New Age health clinic masquerading as a political philosophy.

Now that we're all agreed on that - anyone up for a little colonic irrigation followed by a nourishing glass of prune juice?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Seven Kinds of Sleep

A non-exhaustive list of the exhausted

The quiet sleep of the damned.

The restless sleep of the not-so-damned who are wondering what they can do to stop themselves from being damned.

The surreal sleep of those who have eaten one too many marshmallows before going to bed and whose dream life is consequently filled with horrifying visions and phantasms.

The after-nip kip (or the nip nap)

The afternoon nap (that can by simple degrees be extended to the evening nap then the night nap then the day-after nap)

The moment after waking from a dream and falling back into the dream again.

The slumber of content.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Banker Poetry

I went to the bank on the corner of Bell Street and Sydney Road this Saturday, as I often do, to save some cash and take some other cash out. I wasn't expecting amusement from the banker - I guess you never do - much less to get the most prosaic slap-down ever. And she looked so nice, too ...


TIM: ... and can I get forty dollars cash, please.

BANKER: Okay. Just type in your pin number, please.

TIM: Actually, make it Forty-five dollars, cash. Five dollars for top up. In notes.


(Banker does her thing and Tim does his thing and things are quiet as things tend to be).

TIM: (Wonderingly) When I say cassssh .... what do you think of?

I mean, do you think of coins or notes?

BANKER: I can give it to you in coins if you like.

TIM: No no.

(Opens up wallet and takes out a coin, rolls it around it his hand, throws it up in the air once or twice and catches it, enjoying its glitter and flash in the Westpac light)

I mean, coins feeeeeel different, don't they? Coins feel different to notes.

BANKER: Yeah, coins are heavier.

TIM: (Places coin back in wallet).

BANKER: (Bats at a fly with a piece of paper)

TIM: (Looking around at the hermetically sealed bank) Where do they come from, do you think?

BANKER: (Nods to the door) The door.

TIM: Yeah. They come from the customers. If only they didn't have customers in the bank, then everyth...

BANKER: No. They come in through the door.


Gosh, I liked her. I was reading Raymond Chandler at the time, but Chandler's sparse prose had nothing on here that day. Hope I get her next time I go to the bank ...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Having the Weather Over For Breakfast

After pumping oodles of carboniferous compounds into the upper atmosphere, stratosphere, troposphere, globosphere, carbonosphere and othersphere, the denizens of the planet earth are apparently due for an extended swelter. It's science! Or at least, it's what the newspapers tell us is science. Climate change, it's called - the idea is that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere, rather than locking heat out. I'm a tad doubtful about becoming the victim of a hypothesis that makes predictions about events that happen over thousands of years and millions of kilometres, and have a margin for error that would extend into the next ice age, but scientist I'm not.

Still, if we've put the planet in the condition that it is now, it seems to me that we can put it back. It's like cleaning up your room, only on a slightly more globalistic scale, with a smidgen of terraforming and a smattering of explosions. In short, I think that with a little can-do attitude and ingenuity, people can change the environment to have it any way they want!

So with that in mind, I would like to submit for your perusal and criticism SEVEN MODEST PROPOSALS FOR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN TACKLE GLOBAL WARMING. This is by no means a definitive list, but it will do for a start. Hopefully, a science-person will pick up on these suggestions, and we can start working on one of them!

1. BOMBS! If carbon-dioxide traps heat INTO the atmosphere, we just need to find something that traps heat OUT of the atmosphere. Simple, really. Apparently, there are elements and compounds which will do this quite nicely. I remember reading in Ian Plimer's history of the planet earth that volcanic eruptions tend to cause global cooling because of the vast amounts of sulphur they spew into the atmosphere.

So. All we need to do is plant a couple of MILLION TONNES of sulphur bombs in the atmosphere, set them all off at once, and - voila - instant cooling!

Of course, with atmospheric engineering on this scale, things might get a little cool a little too quickly. But that's simple; all we need to do then is fly another couple of million tonnes of carbon dioxide bombs into the atmosphere and blow THEM up, too! We repeat the whole process, altering sulphur bombs with carbon dioxide bombs until we reach a happy, temperate medium. Simple!

2. MIRRORS! The ice caps at the north and south pole currently reflect a good deal of heat away from the earth. This effect could, with a little imagination, surely be extended. All we need to do is to construct a couple of millions of miles of mirrors! We have tonnes of space out there in the Australian desert that aren't being used, and there's plenty of Saharas and Nevadas and so forth that we would be able to use as well! We wouldn't have to worry about them being too heavy. After all, we could just make the mirrors, like, very thin.

3. We could deliberately target a comet at the earth. In the past, large comets have collided with the planet, raising vast plumes of dust which apparently have caused a net cooling effect. Well, what nature can do to the planet by accident, we can surely do - on PURPOSE! We just need to make a comet the right size, and make sure everyone gets out of the way for all those earthquakes and tidal waves and stuff.

4. Put the entire world in a gigantic refrigerator. Of course, in powering the refrigerator, we run the risk of burning off a heck of a lot of coal power and producing more carbon dioxide emissions, but we could simply power the refrigerator by geothermal means, hooking it up to the earth's core. It wouldn't be that difficult, we could just run a refrigerator element through all those mirrors that we put up in 2).

5. Alternatively, if we don't want to make a refrigerator THAT big, we could simply make a refrigerator that's thousands of miles long rather than millions. We'd then use it to turn chunks of the ocean into gigantic ice cubes, and then plant those ice cubes in places where we really need them. Like, say, the Australian desert. I'm sure they could do with some ice cubes about now! Or we could cart those ice cubes out to the north and south pole and set them up there, supplementing the mirror effect those places have on the sun.

6. Set up a GIGANTIC umbrella in space - we could string it up to the moon or something. Then we could use it to block out the sun when things get too hot. You know, just like a Sunday picnic!

7. Alter the orbit of the planet Earth so it's juuuust that much further away from the sun, and juuuuust that much cooler. This could be achieved by, say, everybody going to stand on one side of the Earth and jumping at the same time. Maybe we could all go and jump on America, because nobody seems to like those guys. (Except for me! Hey, guys, we still seeing one another in February? That's alright then ...)

So there you go, science-people! Seven simple solutions to global warming. If you're going to go with the 'umbrella in space' idea, well, I'm up for a trip to the moon! So who's going to take me up on it?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Making The Facts Say What I Want Them To Say

A Brief* History of International Funk Day

International Funk Day
is a somewhat inaccurately titled week beginning every year on October 18, that is, if the participants remember to celebrate it. It is similar to regional festivals like the 'Mojo and Turnip Appreciation Afternoon of Wapping-on-Sea', in north England and the 'South-east-south Wyoming District Evening for Mutual Bohemian Admiration'.

The modern International Funk Day began way back in the mists of time, or at some point before then. Traditionally, participants in this 'Day of Funk' would roam the streets, looking for hippies to stir, some niks to beat, or some other type of suffix, prefix, or 'just any kind of fix, man'. (This quote is attributed to famous funk-man Joey 'Jo Jo' Joe of Joestown, Joesville, but he claims he was elsewhere at the time).

In the early years of International Funk Day, the proponents of funksterdom quickly distinguished themselves from the crowd of niks and hippies by a number of distinct, if not distinguished, terms. In the words of one famous funkster, 'The squares think it's hip to be a square! But I say it's hip to square a hip.' Nobody knew what this meant, which was rather comforting, as they were all stoned anyway.

A brief list of Funk Terminology follows:

Funkle = Funkster who may or may not be related to you, depending on whether you feel like admitting to it or not.

Funkamentalist = A person who preaches funk ('He preaches the gospel of funk - he does not feature the gospel of punk!' - anon.)

Funkoordinated = Being able to live the jive.

Funkwit = Non funky person. 'Person who acts like he has it, but he REALLY don't got it.'- anon

Funk Hair = Hairstyle. Kind of like punk hair, but kind of not.

Funklestein = A funkster who finks on another funkster for the greater good of funksterdom.

Funk Flunk = See Funkwit, above.

*Brief=Possibly longer than it deserves.

Rhymes About Various Poets

Just been re-reading some Ogden Nash. He's a really good poet, did you know that? I thought I'd write a couple of rhymes in his style, just to try it on for size ...

He spenced, I spence, we will spence

Sir Edmund spenced both up and down -
He spenced in Ireland and London-town -
He spenced for all - to great acclaim -
So folks made Spencer his last name.

Who the hell would marry a guy called Donne?

When I first heard that Shakespeare's first name was Will
I started to wonder if he Will or Won't.
When I first heard that John's last name was Donne
I started to wonder what John Donne and what he Don't.

The naming of mixes, or, the first poet of spring

When I first began at the start of the year,
I couldn't tell my Shakesworth from my Wordspeare,
Then to the teacher's continued mirth,
I mixed up my Willspeare with my Shakesworth.
Now I get on, it becomes clearer and clearer
Which one is Wordsworthy, and which is Shakespearer.

Melbourne Streets - the Bookshop Count

Darlene's got a post up on her blog naming some of the fancier streets in Melbourne, but what hasn't been mentioned so far is something of vital importance - namely, the BOOKSHOP COUNT! I thought I'd rectify this oversight by listing the bookshops on some of the better-known Melbourne Streets.

Sydney Road - one and a half, a very unfortunate state of affairs. (Brunswick Books closed down a few months ago). There is, however, a rather ramshackle 'artistic' bookshop on Albion Street, just a block away from Sydney Road. Also a comic store that never seems to be open in Moreland. You can buy a comic, and then drive off down Sydney Road and the Hume Highway until you hit Sydney!

Lygon Street - Three. Borders and Readings, opposite one another. There's that gigantic bookshop on Rathdowne Street which is worth mentioning, and there's another bookshop, right down the end of Lygon Street, which is usually run by pasty-faced Goths playing classical music. You can pick up some nice poetry and SF volumes in that one.

Chapel Street - 2 and a half. Angus and Robertson sometimes set up a 'bargain' store at the Yarra end of Chapel Street. 'Penny Syber's Books' is an excellent, traditional second-hand bookshop just a few stores down from the Astor Theatre. You can go bookshopping, go to the Astor museum, then see a movie! (Penny's husband* David Syber also ran an off-again on-again bookstore in St Kilda - apparently he keeps on re-opening his failing business in different places. They both specialise in sf and fantasy, but aren't limited to that.) Also a good graphic novel/comic bookstore on Chapel Street. Oh, and Borders right down the South Yarra end.

Fitrzoy Street (St Kilda) - Two bookstores, one a very good second-hand bookstore at the end of the Street (I once picked up an excellent collection of Aubrey Beardsley poetry and art there, as well as several Raymond Chandler's and 'Father Brown' stories). The other is a slightly wanky one right in the middle. It's tiny and has several political mags displayed prominently in the window out front. Seems to specialise in left-leaning authors like Monbiot.

Brunswick Street - three-and-a-bit bookshops. One a swanky new store called 'Brunswick Street Books' with two levels and a great range, if you like new books. The others a second-hand store a bit further along, which I think specialises in first-class second-hand books, if that makes sense. They have several weird alcoves. There's also a (clothing?) store that has a table out front with books on it. Polyester Books, of course, is awesome. And there's another record store which has a couple of mags and comics (I picked up a copy of the American 'National Lampoon' there). I think there used to be ANOTHER second-hand bookshop on Brunswick Street, but they closed down.

Smith Street - two-and-a-half bookshops. There's one right at the start, which I think metamorphosed from a second-hand store to a 'new edition' store. Quite small, some interesting books. There's also a second-hand record store which has a good bookshelf (SF, but I think there's even some poetry there). There's a specialist Travel bookstore that sells mostly Lonely Planet books, too.

For those in the Fitzroy area, Gertrude Street also has a good bookshop just on the corner with Brunswick Street. You can get a new book there and saunter across the road to the French Creperie, (A place where they sell pancakes, not a place frequented by sleazy Jacques Chirac types). Elizabeth Street in the city also has several interesting locations, one of them being Magnation on (I think) the Collins Street corner, a two-storey shop devoted solely to magazines.

*'Husband' - not sure about that, he could be her brother!

Monday, October 16, 2006

An Untitled Unquiry

I've just finished reading The Ill-Tempered Clavichord by S J Perelman. The titles of some of his other books are even better: Acres and Pains, or Underneath the Spreading Atrophy. He goes absolutely overboard when titling some of his chapters: 'The Song is Endless, but the Malady Lingers On', 'Sing Out, Sweet Opiate', 'Nirvana Small By a Waterfall.'

A few days ago, I even thought of making a list of the first words of Perelman titles: 'Up', 'Nesselrode', 'The', 'Cloudland', 'Chewies', 'Salesman', 'Cloudland', 'Personne' ... It is clever enough to use Latin words in your title, but 'Chewies' is sheer genius.

One or two had me stumped. 'Nesselrode to Jeopardy', for instance. What the hell does that mean? Is it a Spoonerism? Does it make any more sense if we swap the first letters around, so, 'Jesselrode to Neopardy'? Or 'Jeopalrode to Nesseldy'? Maybe it's a pun about somebody called Jessel (whoever he was) who rode to Lombardy (wherever that is) to do something important (whatever that was) for somebody else (whyever ... ah, to hell with it).

I love Perelman's writing, but I can't claim to understand it.

Ogden Nash, who once wrote a musical with Perelman, came up with some corkers of his own. 'Quick, Hammacher, my Stomacher!' 'What To Do Until The Doctor Goes, Or, It's Tomorrow Than You Think', and 'Polterguest, my Poltgerguest'. Maybe there was an American tradition in the 1950s to work in a mixture of clever popular and classical references into the titles. Woody Allen's titles are presumptuously unassuming, if that makes sense (and it's not supposed to). 'Lovborg's Women Considered' . Or 'The Early Essays'. Though when Allen comes up with a title like 'If The Impressionists Had Been Dentists (A Fantasy Exploring the Transition of Temperament)', you know you're in the hands of a master. Which might be a bit of a problem, if your name happens to be 'Mia Farrow' ...

P J O'Rourke wrote some of my favourite titles. 'How To Drive Fast While on Drugs And Getting Your Wing Wang Squeezed and Not Even Spill Your Drink' pretty much sums up the whole Gonzo journalism aesthetic. 'Harry Interviews a Grown Up', a wonderful early O'Rourke vignette, delivers what it promises. A personal favourite is the deviously titled 'An Intellectual Experiment' - in which O'Rourke reads the New York Times Book Review for three hours and then watches television for three hours 'in order to determine which is best: smart or stupid.'

Most of my favourite examples come from America, although that's not to say that British writers don't come up with some wonderful captions. One British paper - was it The Sun? - called Paul Keating 'The Lizard of Oz' in a headline after he placed his hand on the back of the Queen. Strangely, highbrow British and European papers seem to title their essays with whole sentences. You know, 'The rich West must stop grabbing the profits but ducking the costs', that sort of thing. This style isn't without its own humour. I like this one from a recent edition of The Spectator: 'Michael Foot: Gordon will do the job very well', although it really only works if you follow it up, as The Spectator did, with the caption: 'Michael Foot led Labour to defeat in 1983, the year Blair and Brown entered Parliament. He tells John Reynolds why Iraq was a catastrophe and why Brown will be a great PM.' Bitchy and polite at the same time - exactly the sort of thing you expect from a Tory mag!

Blog titling, of course, is an art all of its own. I like the following, for various reasons:

A spectre is haunting my brain ...
Interview with the Gempire
Primal Duckness
Ask a hyperactive fat kid

Tony T's blog titles are the best (and his posts are even better). I think he told me once that all he cared about was getting a good headline. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. But here's just a few - all taken from the past few weeks on his blog:

Lausten Translation
Captain Dumpy
Away Caesar
And Justice for Hall
Post Lacks Visible Panty Line
Larvatus Owe-Deo

Of course, titling a blog post all about titles might just be a title too far. Maybe Tony would have been able to come up with a better title for this one. Maybe I should have just titled it 'Sir' and been done with it ...

What's your favourite title? At the moment, I'm rather fond of the Mel Brook's film with the grandiose nomenclature, 'History of the World: Part 1'. What the hell comes after Part 1? (Part 2 never will be made, but apparently contains episodes called 'Hitler on Ice' and 'Jews in Space'. Is there a part 3, do you think?)

More importantly still, how else am I going to end a post about titles but by saying that the book I'm currently reading is by an author who calls himself 'Lemony Snicket', and that it's the 13th and last book in a series titled 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. So: not only is the book titled 'The End' the end of this post, but the book titled 'The End' is also the end of a series called 'A Series': of all fitting ends to this series about titles, no end is more fitting than to use the title 'The End' to bring this post to the end. The End.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Going Winter For The Summer

I don't like the summer and it doesn't like me. Spring's fine, and autumn is just dandy, but winter is the time of year I really love. Maybe it's just me, but rain and biting cold winds and frost are just the ticket. The moment the temperature gets up to thirty, my body starts sprouting alarming dermotological growths and viridescent sores of eczema, and no amount of lotions and balms and unguents can persuade them to calm down. If you ask me, any Australian who says they like the summer is nuts; how can they feel comfortable in all that heat and sweat and humidity?

We got a taste two days ago of what summer's really going to be like when, for no reason, the capricious weather Gods that reign over Melbourne smote us with a temperature several degrees over thirty. The entire city was sweltering, and out to the bush, fires started sprouting all over the place. It wasn't pretty.

But this summer, I've got a plan. I'm going to take my holidays in February, and go winterwards while the worst excesses of the Australian summer wash over the city. Fuck forty degree-plus temperature, I want snow and ice, baby! My passport came in just today, and I have a couple of thousand dollars saved up in the bank, so I really don't have any excuse. For my first trip to the northern hemisphere, I've got an American trip in mind. There's several things I have in mind, including a Broadway excursion, and possibly visiting a few of my favourite writers, but I think I'll throw the comments box open to my readers. Where do you guys think I should go? I'll even consider travelling to Texas to cream-pie George Bush in the face, if you pay me enough money. Otherwise, I want to keep it fairly low key. Anyway, what do you reckon?

American readers, tell me: why is your country the greatest country in the world? Go on, don't be shy!

UPDATE! Bumped this post to the top - scroll down for my opera review.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Went to the Barber of Seville, And Didn't Even Get a Lousy Haircut

I needed to get a haircut, so this evening I went to a little hairdressers on Collins Street called The Barber of Seville. Sure, there were a lot of people there, but the haircut apparently only cost twenty dollars, and that's good for this city.
When I got inside the Barbers, the place was absolutely crowded. They had several rows of seats, some on the top level and some on the bottom level, and I couldn't tell how the hairdresser was going to get around to all these people before the night was out. Besides, most of the people looked as if they'd already had their hair cut, and shampooed, and combed, and dried, before coming to the Barbers. What the hell kind of avant-garde hairdressers was this anyway, where the customers got their hair cut before coming to the Barbers? I started to feel pretty uncomfortable; I don't like these newfangled hairdressing salons much. You never know what's expected of you.
Just as I was looking around at all the people crowded around me, I noticed right in front of the seats was a stage and orchestra that were tuning up. And heck, while their hair looked a bit more dishevelled and in need of cutting, it was nowhere near the same level of dishevellement as my hair, which is never naturally shevelled anyway. But I was pretty much blown away by the fact that this 'Barber of Seville' had a freaking orchestra.

Anyway, after about ten minutes of me looking around, a pair of red curtains that had been fallen down on the stage were raised, and the orchestra started noodling away on the most divine piece of muzak it has ever been my misfortune to hear. (And just between you and me, let me tell you that I've had much worse misfortunes than this orchestra). A guy in a suit walked on stage and for no reason at all, started singing to the wall. I noticed that he didn't have much hair on his head. Actually, he was positively bald. Well, I thought, that can't be a bad sign; shows this Barber (whoever he may be) was pretty thorough.
So the orchestra (and I still hadn't worked out why the heck they were there) were vamping away pretty nicely; and one or two other characters came on stage, though I didn't really get much of a look at their hair at first, because most of them were wearing big hats. I got a bit distracted at this point by the orchestra, because the cellos started getting out of time, and the violins (for once) started getting in time. It was pretty strange having a Barber hire an orchestra in the first place, but a third-rate orchestra? I mean, if you're going to get a symphony orchestra for NO FREAKING REASON AT ALL and put it in the middle of your late-night hairdressing salon, why not hang the expense and get the Vienna Philharmonic?

After a little while, a couple of women started coming on stage. I can't say I'm an expert in women's hairstyles, but they seemed to be done pretty well; the younger of them had a perm, and the older had it done up in a kind of bun. Fair enough, I thought; this Barber is a unisex kind of guy. Just so long as he gets around to doing my hair at some point.
At which point, the Barber actually did come on. Finally, I thought; at last, we're going to get some hair-cutting action around here. Nope; apparently not. For some bizarre reason - perhaps it was something in the air tonight, perhaps it was merely a momentary fit of insanity that came this Barber guy at the same time every night - he decided to join in the singing. And what a singer he was! He carolled on for, seemingly, ages about none other but himself!

It was at this point that I have to admit, my heart broke; I despaired of ever getting my hair cut. I still don't quite know what it was that kept me there. Maybe it was out of a stubborn desire, having paid my twenty dollars to get my hair cut, to stay until the end, and perhaps assault the Barber afterwards for a job badly done. Or maybe it was because some of the music was actually quite pleasant.


All in all, I have to say, this was one of my more unpleasant hairdressing experiences. Out of a rating system of five snips, five being perfect, no snips being terrible, I'd have to give this particular Barber two snips. He did actually make an appearance and some of the music was nicely done, although I'm not a fan of the avant garde hairdressing experience as a whole. I probably wouldn't go again, that is, unless a really big singer hairdresser like Michigan J Frog performed cut hair there at some point in the future.

Next time, I think I'll stick to the Coburg hairdressers. Or maybe I'll give that new Spanish salon in St Kilda a go. It's called 'Un Salon Andalou', it's run by a very well-known hairdresser called Dali, and apparently only the occasional eyeball gets sliced in the way of a trim and a shave ...

HAIRDRESSER NAME: The Barber of Seville
LOCATION: Athaneum Theatre, Collins Street
RATING: Two snips out of five.

UPDATE! - Slightly more serious review in comments.

Conservative Calls Bunch of Trotskyites and Marxists Maoists; Trotskyites and Marxists Disagree

Incidentally, can anyone tell me why teaching today's kids to read and write SMS messages is so much worse than the "traditional" approach of teaching them to read and write telegrams?
- Gummo Trotsky, LP

The Call of the Mild
A Science Faction About The Inner Workings of the Department of English
By Tim Train

A middle-aged man named Neat sat at his desk in an office in the Department of English. He had sat there for so long that parts of his body were rumoured to have become fossilised; and his receding hairline had receded out into the hallway and down the stair. Mr Neat had a red pen in his right hand, and with his left he riffled through pages of official documents, occasionally making marks in them. At random intervals, he would fold up a word and put it in a subjunctive case, and sometimes, he would pick up a participle and pass it on to his secretary, Ms. Amber Prism, who sat a little way away by the window, tucking the participles into envelopes.
It was autumn in the office. A gentle breeze wafted through the Manila folders on the shelves. A flickering fluorescent globe cast a lucent, milky glow upon the office. Neat surveyed the room through his glasses, or, it may be more accurate to say that he surveyed his glasses through the room. Not a comma or dash was out of place.

Suddenly, as often happens in such scenarios, and without warning, a young man named Burst did just that into the room. His eyes were wild and his hair was absolutely ridiculous; he stood there, haloed, in the doorway for a few moments, shaking his head this way and that before striding to the desk.
He was just about to live up to his name again by yelping out a few urgent words at Neat, when his elder officer (and better in every way but two) quick-wittedly began the conversation with a long and thoughtful pause.
"Now, Burst,"continued Neat smoothly, after he had counted all the ellipsis in the pause with his customary precision, "What can I do for you?"
"Terrible new!" hissed Burst. With these two words and no more, he slapped down a telegram on Neat's desk that indeed verified what he had been saying:


Leaping from his chair with the dramatic intensity and inrush of air to be expected from a man who had not leapt from his chair for decades, Neat cried with alacrity, "Ladies and gentleman! To the Examination Department! This stop must be filled!"
"Er ... don't you mean that this fool must be stopped?" queried Burst.
"That also!"snapped Neat from the hallway. "Now hurry up, man!"


At the bottom of no particular stairwell and a few offices, an arrow, and a parenthesis to the right of that was a medium-sized office with the label 'Educational Progress Department' on its door. As you might expect of places with the word 'Progress' on their door, all was quiet and calm inside. In the shadows in the far corner sat a young man who perhaps held the position of the assistant to an assistant to an assistant. His feet were up on his desk, and he lazily wrote love letters on tiny slips of pink paper which he would then roll up, tie to the leg of one of the pigeons he kept handy in his desk drawer, and send it to the the girl diagonally opposite him. This bored looking girl spent her time stretching one leg out from behind the desk and arching it in the air. When she received the message from the man opposite, she would pick a pair of flags up off her desk and send the young man semaphore messages. In a day or two, the couple expected to move on to blowing kisses to one another.
Across from the young man, on the other side of a window which looked out upon the outside of another part of the Department of English, sat an accountant. His job was to do nothing, and he did nothing badly. Right at the moment, fired with revolutionary zeal, he was busy chiselling a revolutionary Trotskyite tract onto several tablets of stone which he planned to hang upon on his superior's door by the end of the day.
His message, so far, read:
Into this quaint shadowy corner of bureaucracy arrived, with no trumpets and less fanfare, the gauntly heroic figure of Neat, closely followed by Ms Prism and Burst.
Neat surveyed the inactivity and nonprogress in the room with pleasure. This was exactly the way mispent youth should be mispent, he instinctively felt.
In three terse lopes, Neat stood amongst them all. He waved Burst's telegram eloquently above his head.
"Friends!" he cried. "Do not be alarmed - but there may be a Maoist amongst us!"
The young man in the far corner immediately desisted from tying his latest message to his pigeon - the girl diagonally opposite immediately placed her flags down from the desk, withdrew a stockinged leg back into her skirt, and folded her hands in her lap - and the incipient Trotskyite looked up amongst the falling marble dust and seemed to grow smaller and paler. He may have been a Trotskyite, but he didn't mean anyone any harm, really.
Having their attention, Neat continued to outline the details of his communique, noting that the criminal was supposedly in the Examination department (here the Trotskyite accountant breathed a sigh of relief). He concluded with a few customary rhetorical flourishes, exhorting the denizens of this little office to give directions and aid so that this subversive Maoist could be found - for the good of the Department! - and eliminated!

You could have heard an apostrophe drop in the silence that followed this speech. The accountat looked as if he was about to burst into applause, but had forgotten how. Eventually, the girl who had until then sat by the door unnoticed cleared her throat, and announced,
"I believe, Mr Neat, that you will find the Examination Department two floors down and to the side ..."
Neat acknowledged this vital information with a rapid nod, lasting no longer than a mere minute or three. Finally, he picked up the tablet the accountant had been carving, chided him for an errant comma, and turned on his heel.
With a peremptory stride, Neat, Prism, and Burst exited the room ...


With a speed positively alarming to bureaucracy but scarcely noticeable in the outside world, our heroes raced through the building on their mission. They scarcely had time to acknowledge - although Neat certainly noted with pleasure - the occasional educational officer clutching scrolls of papyrus, or billet doux, or tapestry versions of James Joyce. He only wished that he could stop to correct the occasional spelling mistake. Downwards they went, into the bowels of the building; the fluorescent globes flickered with a slower and slower rate, timing themselves with the circumambient rhythms of the body; even the shadows grew shadowier. In these infernal regions of the Department, only the most bold bureaucrats would dare to venture. It was rumoured that here, years ago, the first infinitives had been boldly split and where colons had first been turned into semi-colons. Now, however, they were merely inhabited by governmental underlings - the result of decades of depredation to a once proud public service; an underclass of bureaucrats who spent their time mostly sending smoke messages to one another.
Neat, Prism, and Burst drew handkerchiefs to their respective mouths and pressed on.
Eventually, they burst through the smoke messages and came to a door labelled with a simple message:
Beneath this message was writ another.
Beneath this, a third.
Neat shuddered at the dreadful import of these few short words. Turning and nodding briefly to each of his companions, he placed his hand on the doorknob, wiped his feet on the mat, turned the doorknob, pushed the door inwards, adjusted his eyes and his glasses to the view inside ...

... and SCREAMED!


It is not every day that a well-dressed, careful official from the English Department has to face up to a room full of Maoists. Normally, all he has to deal with is the occasional Marxist and Trotskyite, which is as it should be. However, what met Neat's eyes that day was worse than anyone could have imagine; a roomfull of subversives, bent double over their mobile phones in a sweatshop-like atmosphere, frantically texting Maoist tracts to one another. On Neat's scream, they turned as one, and waving tracts of Mao's lesser-known masterpiece, the LITTLE READ BOOK, in their hands, advanced on the small band of brave comrades.

Grinning, ghastly, ghoul-like, the Maoists descended on the small band of public servants. Soon, all too soon, this red tide would swarm over and engulf the brave band, and the revolution to take over the English Department would begin!


Resourceful as ever, Neat rapidly grasped a nearby hyphen and armed his comrades with an asterix and a bracket that he saw hung on the wall. Wordlessly, this band slashed at the oncoming red tide of Maoists, subduing them and earning a place forever in the annals of bureaucracy!
It took them several days to subdue the last of the Maoists, but when they had done, Neat and Prism and Burst rounded up all their bodies and threw them, one by one, onto a funeral pire (which, of course, it had been okayed by the nearest Health and Occupational Safety officer.) Then, methodically, they went around the room that had been inhabited by the Marxists, rounded up every last mobile phone, and committed these to the pire also.

It had been a close on. But they had saved the day - for bureaucracy. But when would the Maoists try again to subvert the course of education?

Neat shuddered to think ...

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Show And Me Just Happened To Bump Into One Another

I don't normally watch David Tench Tonight, but let's just say the show and me happened to bump into one another last night. Tench is an animated interviewer, literally: kind of a mix of Troy McLure and Kent Brockman. I'm not sure how the animators get him to look so convincing; I guess they get the people being interviewed to sit in the studio alone while the actor behind David Tench asks them a couple of basic questions, and they add all the Tench jokes and reaction shots in afterwards. It's a bit of a puzzler. Anyway, last night Tench was interviewing once-was-a-comedy-star, Mick Molloy, about upcoming movie Boyztown. It's an Aussie film about a 1980s boy band who get back together to form a 2006 boy band.

It took me a few moments to get all this straight in my head. A fake cartoon character performing a pre-prepared interview with a once-was-comedy star about a fictional film which is about that most contrived of musical institutions, the boy band.

Somehow, I don't think the entertainment industry is quite familiar with this whole thing called 'reality' ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Irresponsible Propaganda


Artist's representation of Global Warming.

Millionaire heiress Jasmine Juiceloop was abducted from her home yesterday by international supervillain and her one-time lover Global Warming, after he found her in the arms of a rival!
What followed was an exciting car chase where Global Warming broke several road rules and nearly ran over a puppy.
He ev entually left Ms. Juiceloop lying by the road before speeding off along the highway to Mexico!
In his spare time, Global Warming is rumoured to entertain himself by swearing at small kittens and taking candy off babies while twirling his magnificent black moustache, as well as causing the Greenhouse Effect.

Mr A. Lawyer, a lawyer representing Global Warming, says "My client could not have committed these crimes he is being so unfairly accussed of. He is an abstract scientific theory, not a specific entity."
The Chief of Police in Hollywood when approached by reporters had only this to say: "Global Warming is being held for questioning. And what's all this about Global Warming being innocent before being proven guilty? Tell it to the judge!"

INSIDE: Global Capitalism Implicated in Bag Theft!
Capitalism says: "I didn't do it, it was Communism! Why does everyone always blame me?"
Police say: "Abstract economic theory or not, he's in a lot of trouble!"

An exclusive interview with The Baroque School of Painting: "Drugs drove me to crime!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fat Controller Has Heart Attack, And Other Shocking News

Children's Television, the Gossip Column

News from England - the beloved Fat Controller who works with Thomas the Tank Engine and all his loveable friends has been rushed to hospital following a heart attack! Looks like he's going to have to lay off those chips and flake now! And seems while the fat guy's away, the trains will play, because news from several media outlets has it that Thomas and Gordon have been having it off with one another in a set of saucy sexcapades. Says Gordon from an interview with Who magazine two weeks ago: "I don't see anything morally wrong with two old buffers coupling with one another. I mean, there's nothing more simple or natural than two powerful steam engines shunting together along the tracks. Happens all the time!" Yowsers! Keep it in the train closet, boys!

This news just out of Bedrock - Wilma Flinstone has been photographed at the Prehistoric Prenatal Clinic. Is toddler Pebbles about to have a little bro' or sis'? One thing's for sure: Fred's not going to like this news! According to our secret source, he and Wilma haven't been on speaking terms for months, every since a one-night stand with Barney Rubbles - that turned into a one-year-and-counting fling! But we can't help wondering, if Wilma really is pregnant, how does she keep that wonderful figure?

Sesame Street seductress Gina, fresh from her flirtation with Tony Soprano, is now apparently sleeping with none other than Oscar the Grouch! Despite the so-not-rightness of this couple, we think that it might have something to do with Gina still having feelings for Tony and wanting to get back at him! By all accounts, Oscar is chuffed! "Hey, the most I usually have to look forward to is having some puppeteer shove his hand up my bleeper," said Oscar to reporters the other day. "Now RACK OFF!"

Unlikely television success story the Booh-Bahs, spies tell us, have hit the town hard! For the past four nights, the Booh-Bahs have been touring through America with their companions The Hoobs, and rumours abound that they've been taking LSD, cocaine, heroin, and every other drug, from hard to soft! Seems all that money they spent on a luxury celebrity recovery clinic on the Rhine River in Germany have come to nothing! But personally, it's not the Booh-Bahs we're worrying about; it's The Wiggles. Why is Jeff never able to wake up? And why the heck do they wiggle so much, anyway? We think we can smell a waccy-baccy story in our next gossip column!

But did we say Bananas in Pyjamas? We meant Bananas OUT of Pyjamas! Apparently the increasingly weird ABC children's stars have joined a mysterious nudist cult operating out of Australia's Northern Territory. We always knew they wanted to get those pyjamas off!

Spotted at parties this week: Red Smarty, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Koala Brothers at a nightclub in New York; Ronald McDonald, Hamburgler, and Hungry Jack at the opening of an exclusive Chicago restaurant; and 1990s television star Linka, from long-running series Captain Planet, accompanied by a mysterious stranger, outside a theatre in London. Obviously she's got over her on-again off-again affair with Captain Planet!

NEXT WEEK! Find out what Fifi REALLY gets up to with those Flowertots, and we reveal the SHOCKING SECRET that Big Ted has been hiding from Little Ted all these years!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Melbourne's Least Worst Newspaper

Looking for some reading matter? Why not buy The Harold Sun, Melbourne's most respected newspaper by our youngest septuagenarian!

A 53-year-old octogenerian from Moonee Ponds yesterday took a chunk out of a chihuahua!
"The dog bit me - so I bit it back!"chuckles the almost toothless Harold, who runs a newspaper agency at the Moonee Ponds shopping centre.
Harold was later taken to the pound by the RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), but the RSPCH (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Harold) shortly ensured that Harold was released.
"Harold's not a savage," said a spokesman for the RSPCH. "He's just misunderstood."

(Continued on p. 5, including analysis and photographs)

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Doctor Old, Doctor New, Doctor Who

The second series of the new Doctor Who ended on ABC television today. I have to say, the second series have been a vast improvement on the first, although whether either the first or the second series of the new Doctor Who is an improvement on any of the series of the old Doctor Who is debatable.

The first of the new Doctor Who series was interesting enough, and it was cool to see Doctor Who back on television again after a wait of almost twenty years. Christopher Ecclestone wasn't a brilliant choice for Doctor, but it was obviously in keeping with the producers' attempts to jazz up the image of an old series, by hiring a younger actor. For all of his overacting, though, Ecclestone didn't play the role well at all; Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee had more charisma in their little finger than Ecclestone could ever have. And Ecclestone's decision to quit the show after one series out of fears of being typecast was pathetic. You'd think that an actor accepting the role of the Doctor would be aware of that the role kind of required a commitment to several series, not just one.
Russell T. Davies was in charge of the first series. His scripts were usually pretty poor; I'm still not convinced that this guy has a feel for science fiction, since in between the admittedly cool special effects and the occasional interesting plot twist, he worked in tediously long emotional subplots. You know, the sort of emotional melodrama that's common to badly-written modern sci-fi: "Oh, I want to love him - but I cannot - for he is a being from another planet! And besides, I still have my boyfriend from another dimension to deal with!"
The other thing with Davies scripting was, he did seem to have an odd agenda which was apparently more important than the science-fiction storyline; so he worked in a large number of weird sexual hints into the subtext of the first series. This climaxed in the last show of the first series, where he used a ridiculous plot device - ("Oh, shit! The universe is going to explode", or something along those lines) - as an excuse to get the Doctor to pash Rose Tyler. Fucking hell, Davies! If you want the Doctor to snog Rose Tyler, why spend the entire bloody first series working up to it? This pathetically cheap plot twist I think demonstrates that Davies didn't really understand how the series worked; what keeps people coming back to Doctor Who isn't the romance (which is always going to have to be low key anyway because of the kids who watch the show) but the monsters.

The second series improved in a couple of ways. The sexual innuendo was still there, but it wasn't so constant or ridiculous as in the first series. And for me, there were several moments in the second series that were quite funny; not so much in the first series. Best of all, the plots seemed to be more self-contained and clever. Each show saw the Doctor facing a new type of weirdness (a personal favourite was the one with people being eaten by televisions.) I personally think this might have had something to do with the involvement of Stephen Moffat as a scriptwriter; he was the writer behind the hilarious (and often experimental) sitcom Coupling. Although of course it's possible that Davies had begun to get in the swing of things.
One of the major problems of the second series, for me, was the way the scriptwriters had of working basic storylines into either one or two shows over consecutive weeks. There often wasn't quite enough room in one show for a whole plot. On the other hand, in two shows, there was way too much room, so we ended up having more of the silly emotional subdramas, essentially by way of filler. And it's striking how often the scriptwriters relied on corny , overwrought science-fiction ideas; almost every week we saw another fucking monster being dragged out and - guess fucking what? - it was going to destroy the entire world/solar-system/galaxy/universe. Fucking AGAIN!
By way of comparison, the running-over-six-shows approach to storylines taken up in the original Doctor Who series was much better, allowing for subtle plotting and interesting unfolding dramas. During the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the original Doctor Who series covered a LOT of science-fiction ideas, from time travel through to dimensions through to drug-taking through to evolution through to hallucination through to surreal dream sequences. What was really fantastic about the original Doctor Who series, in retrospect, is the way it found of melding traditional science-fiction concepts, that you might find in books, say, by H.G. Wells (time travel, alien invasion) with more modern science-fiction concepts that were being put forward by writers like Ballard and Aldiss and Moorcock (drugs, hypnotism, alternative worlds).

I guess the writers may be still getting into the swing of things; there were some great moments in the show that screened tonight. It pitted the Cybermen against the Daleks in a kind of ultimate battle. Dalek to Cyberman: "You will be exterminated." Cyberman to Dalek: "You will be deleted." In another scene, a Cyberman offers the Daleks a truce: "Join with us, and we will upgrade the universe." I don't know if it's possible for a metal-man to be sly, but I quite like that line. In yet another scene, a Dalek evilly taunts the Cybermen in the way only a Dalek can: "You are only superior to us in one way. You are superior at dying." Now, that's real science-fiction stuff - can't you just feel the emotional nuances?
The parting of the Doctor and Rose Tyler was sincerely touching. (The emotional high of theis series, though, must have come a few episodes earlier, when the Doctor met Sarah Jane Smith, who he'd left several regenerations and decades ago). All that stuff was fine, and I think handled in a smarter manner than in the first series of the new Doctor Who; but the plot was needlessly complicated in other ways. There's nothing especially hard about the fundamental premise of this show - a bunch of Cybermen run into a bunch of Daleks and both set about destroying one another. Why bother with all that mumbo jumbo about bridges between worlds and Rose Tyler's mother have an other-dimensional love affair with the father of her other dimensional self who ... I mean, what a bunch of FUCKING WANK!

In the end, though, it was a bit disappointing; the first series ended with the Daleks. The second series ended with - guess what- the bloody Daleks again! It'd be nice to see the Doctor being held to ransom by, say, more killer televisions or malignant swamp beasties or gigantic intergalactic cockroaches, or even Salvador Dali-style dream creatures ... you get the picture.
Hopefully, the third series will start delivering on this!


In a moment of madness or inspiration (or possibly neither), I offered this poem in a LP comments thread this morning:


"Good afternoon, Milady:
Now, I don't mean to sound terse
But could you be a darling
And empty out your purse?"

"Good afternoon, my robber;
It's a pistol-packing-purse!
So, I think I'll have to shoot you - BANG!
And load you in this hearse."

Thinking about it now, another poem in a similar vein comes to mind:


Over the teeth
And under the uvula;
Through gastric juices
And assorted effluvia;
Into the intestine
And out of it, too;
Via the urethra
And a kidney or two:
Only to discover
Something truly appalling:
Gall bladders are fine,
But gallstones are galling.

I've even got another poem I'm working on. Here's how it goes so far:


He's boring in bed

But, as Maxine McKew says to her partner, I think we'll leave it at that! Have a great weekend, people!

Friday, October 06, 2006

It's Snot Good For The Environment

Dear Senator Bob Brown,

I have an innovative suggestion for a sustainable agriculture project which I'm sure the Australian Greens will support. Namely, I think we should start a wholescale program in Australian schools and universities, encouraging our young people to PICK THEIR NOSES and to EAT THE RESULTS.

Now, inevitably, some right-wing refuseniks and conservative reactionaries will say things like "That's disgusting!" and "Ew, yuck! We should never eat our own waste products!"
In order to counter these predictable arguments by the fascist automatons, I suggest the Greens initiate a counter-campaign in the media. This counter-campaign would consist of four main arguments:

1) Picking your nose is easy and FUN!, and students (little grots that they are) will quite happily take to the practice!

2) It's efficient and sustainable; the person themselves produces the the item which they then ingest!

3) It would do away with many environmentally wasteful items, such as handkerchiefs and tissues. (Think of all the trees we could save)

4) Finally, snot comes in an attractive green colour!

Of course, we'll have to be very careful that scientists, under the guise of 'progress', don't try to introduce dangerous Genetically Modified snot into our noses, under the pretence of health. I mean, let's face it, GM food is dangerous, and there's no telling what eating that shit could do to us!

Thanks for the time, Bob. I know the Australian Greens will support me on this one. Keep reaching for the sky!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Naming the Shameless

I have a piece published in Quadrant magazine this month, or rather, Tim Train has a review published in Quadrant. It's the name I use to sign off my rare pieces in print, though not the name I use here in the blogosphere.

The piece is a review of John Hyde Page's book The Education of a Young Liberal.

Maybe to make my name sound really impressive, and my authorial identity sound suitably authoritative, I should start using a triple-barrel name, like Msrs Hyde Page, above. Unfortunately, Tim Huw Train doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Huw? It sounds like the noise a drunken Welsh owl would make.

Alternatively, I guess I could get a few more middle-names, and I could end up like one of those authors without a last name preceded by several initials. C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, W. B. Yeats ...

Strictly speaking, I could even have initials that initial nothing. The 'S' in the name of Harry S . Truman didn't actually stand for anything. (Or maybe it stood for itself - I haven't quite worked that one out yet.) The advantage of this sort of name is that you can't ever really write it in lower case, unless you're a rude bastard willing to flout the rules of English grammar.

What do you think? T.H.H.H.H.H. Train? Or maybe I'll vary the syllables around a bit. T.H.U.R.B.E.R. Train, T.H.A.C.K.E.R.A.Y. Train, T.H.O.R.E.A.U. Train, T.H.O.M.A.S.C.O.M.M.A.D.Y.L.A.N. Train ... Sure, it will be a bit difficult to remember at first, but I'm confident I'll get the hang of it sooner or later.

Anyway, if you want to check my piece out, Quadrant should be out in the newspaper stands in a few days time. It was also Quadrant's 50th birthday last night; so congratulations to them!
Email: timhtrain - at -

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