Monday, February 26, 2007

Several Unlikely Uses For a Ballerina

I'm not an entirely uncultured slob. I know never to eat my potatoes with just a knife, even if I'm really hungry; and that I shouldn't blow my nose on cafeteria serviettes unless I'm outside the cafe. That's why this afternoon I went to the San Francisco opera house to see the ballet. If you're unfamiliar with the word, let me fill you in - the word has a silent 't', so it doesn't rhyme with - say:

"This rendition of the terpsichorean arts has left me so mad that I want to smash some heads in with my mallet!"

But it does rhyme with:

"Mrs Frobisher had a delightful afternoon at her chalet"


"She spent an extravagant amount of time there with Jesmond, her valet."

Basically, the ballet is an art where the blokes wear clothes that are too tight and keep on throwing themselves into the air and at walls; and the women keep on putting as many limbs into the air as possible until they have no more to put in the air, and then gravity takes over. It's a highly-cultured, exquisite combination of extreme calisthenics, jazzercising, and several sadomasochistic bedroom arts. As such, it makes for a fine afternoon's entertainment.

Now, I know what you're saying: "Tim, the ballet is all well and good, but what use is it nowadays? What does it have to do with the price of eggs?" I'll have you know that the ballet is very useful. That's why I would like to now propose Several Unlikely Uses For a Ballerina.

1. A Ballerina would make a great female presenter on Wheel of Fortune. Every time she has to turn a couple of letters over, she could pirouette and leap to the board to the sound of Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky: it would be a game show to make Diaghilev proud.

"Can I have a P - for pirouette, please, ma'am?"

2. Seller of hot dogs.

There would be no way you could turn her down!

3. International supervillain: you have to admit it. In the heart of every lead ballerina lies a heart of evil. They're not just delicate ethereal creatures bent on spreading joy and happiness, they have just as much desire to spread death and destruction as the rest of us.

4. Pig farmer.

To be a ballerina, you need strong limbs - and coincidentally, that's exactly what you need to help a mother pig give birth to piglets. The connection is obvious.

5. High school teacher in a crime-ridden neighbourhood.

If there's anything that Hollywood films have taught us, it's that children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods can be won over - with the power of dance.

The Fable of the Metaphysically-Challenged Street

Once upon a time there was a street called

When it was born, Filbert's Designer had said to the gathered San Francisco media, puffing his chest out and pulling at his coat-straps:
"Filbert Street is going to be my greatest creation! It will fulfill my long-held desire to create a street that runs from Here to There!"
"What do you mean, runs from 'Here' to 'There'?" cried Filbert from beneath its concrete and asphalt surface. "How can I be both 'Here' and 'There' at once? I am 'Here', that is obvious - but where is this 'There' that I am supposed to get to? It is so difficult!"
"Perhaps you may ask," asked the Designer, rhetorically, "How will this street get There?"
"Yes!" cried Filbert. "How?"
"I say it will get There by starting Here and going until it reaches There!" the Designer said.
"But how will I get There if I don't know where There is?" asked Filbert. "I may very well end up 'Somewhere Else' - or even 'Anywhere Else But There' - I'm just a little street! It could be a disaster!"
"It's easy if you think about it," continued the Designer. "It will just go on until its Almost There, and then soon enough, it will have got There."
"I'm not going Anywhere at the moment," replied Filbert Street, miserably, "Except Mad. I am certainly going Mad. And I don't have to do anything but stay here to go Mad."


Finally, Filbert Street was finished and it started off on its quest from Here to There.
It started Here, went to Just A Little Bit Over, continued on to Where Am I Again, and stopped at Not Quite There Yet.
"Ah," said Filbert Street to itself. "This has to be Almost There. Now all I have to do is continue in this direction until I reach There. Simple!"
Unfortunately, Filbert Street at this point seemed to take a wrong turn, because instead of ending up There, it found itself in Some Other Place.
Desperately, Filbert asked a passing lane if it had a street map so it could know where it was going.
"Oh no!" cried the Lane. "They won't draw the map up until we all get where we're going! Anyway, just passing through, friend! Toodles!"
"Then I am Lost!" cried Filbert Street, mournfully to itself. And lost it was indeed.
Filbert never found its way to There from Some Other Place. When informed that his street had lost its way, Filbert's designer wept for three days and three nights, and died: a desolate and broken man.


Forever afterwards, people who wanted to get There (wherever There was) would set off down Filbert, the metaphysically-challenged street, with great determination. They would stride lustily along Filbert's concrete paths, stopping occasionally to gaze in the occasional bookstore window. Inevitably, they would end up in a part of the city that no-one had ever been to before.
At this point, the traveller may or may not have stopped, and inquired of a local How To Get There: the local would never know for sure.
As a result, all sorts of strange people found themselves on Filbert's welcoming asphalt surface:

- People Who Wanted To Get There But Were Easily Distracted (so that by the time they got wherever Filbert Street ended up they thought that that was where they wanted to get to)

- People Who Just Wanted To Get Away From Here

- Teenagers Who Wanted A Direction In Life (although they didn't care where that direction was, really)

- Experts in the theory of Quantum Mapmaking, and Mapmaking in Five Dimensions (who found a spectacular justification for their theories on Filbert)

- Councillors and Religious Figures who Were Concerned That Filbert Street Didn't Have A Proper Aim in Life (although they were at a loss as to how to give it one)

And of course, anybody who was lost and wanted to get back Here would sometimes find themselves on Filbert - who was originally designed to be a two-way street, after all.

Filbert became a very popular street, covered with bright cafeterias and bookshops, and festooned with gay banners (in both senses of the word). Lovers who (for whatever purposes lovers have) wanted to get There would often mistakenly find their way on to Filbert Street, causing the ladies to clap their hands together and cry, "Oh! How romantic!" and the gentlemen to shuffle their feet and mutter something in agreement.
Many shopkeepers wanted to keep their shops on Filbert as a consequence.

Filbert Street never did get There, but just incidentally, it was very happy.


Later, planners came along and built an overpass over Filbert and an underpass over Filbert Street and under the overpass. Both the streets got 'There' very efficiently indeed. Unfortunately, their designers neglected to start them from Here, which caused no end of traffic confusion. This gave hours of mirth to all the users of Filbert Street, as they drank their martinis and held hands in their journey from Here to Some Other Place, admiring the glories of modern street design.

And Filbert Street didn't mind much, either.

UPDATE! - I'm trying to figure out a moral for this story. "Rather be here and drink a beer than be there and be square?" Hmmm ...

Somebody give me a moral for this story. Anything! I mean, even 'Be nice to children', or something. Please!

Larry, Curly, and Gizmo

Yesterday I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mark, who has a blog, and Tom Miller, who, um, doesn't have a blog, and their respective better halves at Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf. Pleasant times where had, in a pleasant atmosphere, with pleasant company. Tom Miller and Mark promised to show one another their gizmos, and Tim promised to record the conversation for posterity. A photo to follow...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Notes Taken After a Walk Back From Fisherman's Wharf to Downtown San Francisco

First there are the rolling hills and the broad streets lined by two or three-storey houses. I buy a paper from the newspaper agent on the corner of a street and continue on. It's almost evening: I descend the hill into Columbus Avenue and take a small detour to look at St Peter and Paul's Church, on the other side of a green park.

Columbus Avenue continues down past City Lights bookshop. In the window I notice for a first time a broad poster of a picture from the 1950s, of all the Beat poets slouched around the then-new bookstore. Around the corner from City Lights is Grant Street and Chinatown. I walk down past the two-dollar stores and a newspaper agent selling the San Francisco Chronicle and several Chinese-language newspapers. He's leaning forward on the bench, bored. The streets of Chinatown are crowded with parents and their children in strollers, daggy youths from the Chinese cocktail shops, and touristy folks like myself. As I get further down the hill and look down the intersecting streets towards the Bay, I can see the Golden Gate bridge.

There's a sound of loud drums in the distance, just like there had been last night when I walked through Chinatown. I assume it's coming from one of the side streets, but as I get closer and closer I realise it's from a bunch of kids from a local Kung Fu school in yellow t-shirts. They've got two Chinese dragon suits out and are dancing around in the streets; there are crowds out and people are taking photographs. Then after two minutes the dance stops, the music ends, a car honks, and the crowds part; I dash quickly across the street and continue on. Past the tourist stores selling postcards, fake snakes, joke dollar bills, into the last block of Chinatown, bearing ridiculously antique-looking antiques; on the left-hand side of the street is a store packed with golden chandeliers. The last store I see before I go through the gates to San Francisco Chinatown is a 'disposable camera' store.

The evening has drawn in; and there's a small, slight spray of rain on my face as I hurry past the impossibly rich galleries with paintings by Chagall and Picasso and turn by the saxophone player on Sutton Street. There's four blocks and several galleries to go before I get back to the hostel...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Virtual Utopian Community Riven By Petty Disputes Over Fences, Rubbish Collection and The Neighbour's Growing Android Army

"C___ F___ shows her Second Life persona.... She built a virtual home but wasn't happy with her neighbour." - LA Times, Thursday, February 22, 2007.

Xalquod the 4th Speaks:
She wasn't happy with me? Well! She's got a nerve! Let me tell you, when I first came here, this was a nice little corner of virtual reality - a peaceful cyberplace where you could raise your cyber-children, grow a little cyber-garden, and they had a happy little cyber-Fairy-party every Sunday.
It was when C___ moved in that things really started going wrong. She seemed pleasant and polite, but I really started getting suspicious when she began to hold virtual battles with Klingons and Cardacians at odd hours of the night. I mean, there is a time and place for that kind of thing - not here, and not now! Of course, I had a word with her straight away about that. She apologised and promised to keep things quiet; and we were happy for about a month.
But then, quite suddenly one night, I was woken up at midnight, and found that my neighbour was firing a multi-nuclear warhead, with inbuilt biological warfare capacities, right into the living room of myt house! It was a good thing I had just that week had an Ultra-cyber-shield installed, or things could have got really ugly.
I'm a firm believer in peace and goodwill: so the very next day, I went over to C___'s virtual house with a box of chocolates and a 'Let's Be Friends' card. Not only did she refuse to let me in, she told me that "She had declared War on my evil empire and was determined to end my reign by the use of Fire, Flood, Famine, Pestilence, Death, and Hacking." It was intolerable!
Later that afternoon, when I logged on again, I discovered that she had sent a legion of Undead Zombies to my house and they were in the process of eating my brains! It was just like the old days, when I used to comment on left-wing blogs!
I'm absolutely fed up with this. I've tried to explain to my neighbour, repeatedly, that this is a Virtual Utopian community, dedicated to peace, love, and sustainability - not the real world. The next time she wants to send an army of Undead Zombies to eat her neighbour's brains out, she should do it in the real word - not the virtual world. This type of thing has consequences, man, consequences!

NEXT WEEK: Telos Meets Skaro in a Real Virtual Life Love Story! He was a cyber-Dalek, I was a virtual-Cyberman. Could we ever reconcile our very real fictional differences in the name of true internet love?


As a member of the growing cyber-community, what do YOU think should be done when a neighbour marshalls an army of zombies to eat your brains?
Talk to them about it - we should be able to come to a peaceful solution.
Retaliate with a legion of demons from the infernal regions: it's all in good fun!
Complain to your regionally-elected Virtual Representative (whoever, whatever, and wherever they are)
Leave. The cyber-community just isn't what it used to be (not that it used to be anything, but it isn't now what it once wasn't)
Free polls from

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gawd, Not More Pictures, Please, No!!!!

Picturesque New York steaming manhole.
(The steam is coming from a demonic seance they're holding in the sewers of Eastern Manhattan.)

New York streets even have gigantic cigarettes poking out of them. It's like a demonic barber's pole, or something.

Liberty Island cafe - a bustling hub of activity! Come and freeze in enjoy our outdoor gardens while seeing one of the marvels of the free world!

This is the ONLY pink building in Boston, and as such should probably be preserved by the State. Incidentally, I went to Boston and couldn't even get a cup of tea to drink - how crap is that?

Gratuitous Squirrel picture. Oh, he may look small, but barely seconds after I took this picture, the creature leaped on a passing tourist from New Jersey and tore his throat out!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From Somewhere in Brooklyn

Is this train:

a) A one-way train on a no-way track?
b) Going nowhere fast?
c) Going somewhere slow?
d) Anywhere else, including here?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Being Unavoidably Detained in the northern hemisphere, Tim Train is unable to make it tonight, except in person

One week ago, I left Australian shores with a small case of clothes, a much-needed dose of jet lag, and two shekels to my name. A day or so and several cases of leg cramp, arm cramp, and cramp cramp (after a long series of plane flights, even your cramps will have cramps) later, I arrived in the USA, Homeland of the Puritans.

New York is vast and fast. The slowest thing in the US is the baggage carousel at JFK Airport; a black rubber thing that creeps forward by minute jerks. Occasionally it jerked to a halt and wouldn't move; an electronic buzzer began to ring; and (presumably) a little old guy responsible for loading the baggage on to the carousel banged it with a broom in a tender manner, saying, "Come on, Emma!"
Or maybe I've just watched too many episodes of The Simpsons.

Over the past week, I've been to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty, walked up and down and around and over and under Manhattan, been to The Strand bookstore on Broadway (outside Union Square), been to see one Broadway Musical and booked tickets for two more, went to one performance poetry gig at the Nuyorican in Lower East Manhattan, been to a reading of several short stories in a crowded pub in Brooklyn, visited the Frick Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, and taken a day trip to Boston. I've dined on two hamburgers, two bagels, several New York hot dogs, one pretzel, one Lobster Bisque, and several pancakes. And that's just to begin with!

New York is an extravagant, confusing, and delightful city; sometimes, all three of those adjectives apply at the same time. You wander by a store on 46th Avenue titled 'Hale and Hearty Pies' and wonder if they're not confusing it with another store that may or may not have been called Hertz and Hailey's Pies. You look for a place that sells bagels, and end up walking into a bag store. (El's Bags? What the 'ell?). Just this morning I was sitting on a train next to a whole classroom of boys speaking French to one another and their teacher, (who was wearing a yarmulke). It's the kind of thing that happens in New York.

I've got to confess, I haven't done as much as I wanted to - a lot of the time, I've just been walking around and around and around, trying to find places and familiarising myself with the bizarre Subway system. (Some trains are identified by numbers, some trains are identified by letters, and some interstate and intercity trains are on a whole different system). But then, I'd say that's a defining characteristic of this city: you never end up doing as much as you want to. I've had just enough time to become familiar with the place, which is more time than many people get.

This evening I'm off to see the musical Avenue Q on the recommendation of the marvellous Ms Jellyfish! It will probably be the last cultural event I have before I fly off to San Francisco on the morning afterwards. Once I get settled into the hostel at San Francisco and find an internet terminal, I'll be back, because I've got a tonne of pictures to inflict on everyone. Until then, cheer ho, and all that, folks!


I was interested to read on a US Post Box that most services don't even have to be conducted over the counter now; the US postal service is almost fully automated.


Through rain or hail
Or sleet or snow
Or fire or flood,
Postrobotman will go.

If it be high,
Or if it be low,
Postrobotman will get there,
Postrobotman will know.

Bold deeds of derring-do
Earn it acclaim;
Great feats of bravery
Bring it world-wide fame:

Here's to the computerised,
Streamlined and digitised,
Automated, customised
Robot Express!

Through rain or hail
Or sleet or snow
Or fire or flood -
Postrobotman will go.

Let us pause for a minute to reflect upon all the Postrobotmen who have given their non-lives in sacrifice for their nation.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Umbrella Story

By the way, did you notice the umbrella here? It was a good umbrella. It was a very good umbrella. That umbrella and I will have a lot of memories - five hours worth, in fact. I bought it that morning from a vendor of parasols and associated materials on 49th Street and 2nd Avenue. It lasted me all the way to the park and then some of the way back.

Somewhere between 80th and 50th street, the wind decided to start playing silly buggers with it. It turned the umbrella out, so I rotated the umbrella to the other side of my body and let the wind turn it in again. The wind changed direction and turned the umbrella out, so I switched the umbrella back and it blew back in again. Then the wind started really fucking my umbrella up; I swung it here, there, everywhere, but the wind seemed obsessed with turning it out the wrong way. Finally, I gave it up for dead and dumped the useless thing in the bin at the end of the block.

Things weren't all bad, though. Later I popped into the restaurant P J Bernstein on 1215 3rd Avenue, between 70th and 71st streets. True flaneur and epicurean Nottlesby, and his cousin Herr Nottlestein, would doubtless appreciate this venue, serving dishes such as soup with matzoh ball and Borscht. Even better, it's just down the road from one of the only real espresso coffee venues in New York. A small consolation for the loss of my umbrella.

Now if you excuse me, I have to go and stand outside a venue on 2nd Avenue, and yell loud Yiddish imprecations at the staff.

To Staten Island, one Pretzel at a Time

My flatmate: What's your philosophy, Tim? What's your travel philosophy?

Tim: Er.... to have fun?

Today I've been doing touristy things like standing in queues waiting for the last ferry to arrive, visiting monuments of state and walking around them in a circle for five minutes, taking photographs of various parts of their anatomy, staring at brick walls surrounding the public monuments, entering dirty Subway stations and catching the wrong train to odd parts of the city. This is travel, ladies and gentlemen. When I'm old and grey, I'll be able to say, 'I was there! I was there in the United States, where the queues are larger than anywhere else in the world, and the public monuments are the most extraordinarily ordinary public monuments that you'll find!'

Why do we travel? Why do we inflict this on ourselves? I don't know. I guess if we're going to contemplate the meaninglessness of existence, we might as well do it in unlikely destinations while eating bizarre foodstuffs.

Tomorrow, I will catch a morning train to Boston and sit in the park for five hours playing chess with a statue with George Washington. He can have white and with it, the advantage of the first move. It's the sort of thing that traveller's do.

By the way, the Americans have got the whole 'statue of Liberty' thing wrong:

Statue of' Liberty', indeed! She's signalling for a taxi! Show the poor girl some respect!

Thursday, February 15, 2007


It was bitterly cold yesterday; a few wisps of snow started drifting down in the evening, and by 10.30 it really started coming down. I imagine about now the TV networks will be going absolutely ape: OMG! Snow in New York for Valentine's Day!

I'm heading down to Central Park this morning to see what it's like down there, and this evening I'll probably be going to a performance poetry event. I wrote this for the occasion:

A Polygamist to his Loves
(Written on St Valentine's Day)

Let us go then, you and I... (and everyone else)
I've booked us a place in the sun;
A cosy set of hotel rooms
With beds for twenty-one.

Just you and I, my dear, and no-one other
And all my children's other mothers.

It's you alone, my love (in the collective sense)
That gives my heart this great experience.

Love is the medicine, restorative, and cure-all -
And works much better, don't you think, in plural?

I've got some news for everyone - you'll be delighted
To know:
............................ I'm getting married!
................................................................... And you're all invited!

More to come. I'll try and get some pictures up today, if I can work out how to do it on these computers.

UPDATE! The proof. Such as it is.

Night before.

Outside my window. That roof at the bottom is normally ridiculously grotty.

The rooftops of NY.

Central Park. Not included are the pictures of famous writer-statues. I'm afraid to say that I laughed at one of them and called him not very nice names.

My ugly mug. Feel free to make fun of me and call me not very nice names.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Arts of Modern Peril

Going to the toilet in the Museum of Modern Art on the corner of 5th Avenue and 53rd Street is an intimidating experience. Is this where you do it? How can I tell that it is not just another PoMo art installation? After all, the entire building is brilliantly designed by one of those famous European architects with big glasses and large names. One longs for the days of the Australian outhouse: a hole in the ground, some paper on the wall, and a redback spider to provide sport and excitement. No one could really feel guilty about defacing that.

I have been to Art Gallery toilets in Sydney, Melbourne, and now in New York; and each time I do, my apprehension increases that I am part of an immensely clever conceptual-surrealist-dadaist-avant-gardist-whateverist joke: the security guards will burst in on me any moment now. It's a tragic consequence of the link between form and function: I don't doubt there is a link, I just wish I knew what the form and the function were.
Wandering through the MoMA and surrounds, this uncertainty increases exponentially. One sees a sculpture where the clay has been twisted and tangled in gigantic knots, creating a gigantic, porous ball. In front of this is parked a tiny clay car. The entire model is called something like 'Design for a Family Home'. I'm not sure whether to congratulate the sculptor for his penetrating vision or chide him for his overly-optimistic view of family life.
Picasso's working ladies of Avignon are there, still naked, after all these years. In the bone-chilling New York winter, I wonder if they wouldn't like to put some clothes on.
And then, in one room, there's the famous The Lights Going On and Off, by some artist whose name escapes me*. It consists of a room with the lights going on and off at periodic intervals; presumably it was shipped straight from the Turner Prize to the MoMA. (I wonder if the lights had to be turned off while it was being shipped? The artist could sue for vandalism.)
There is also a Chirico painting of a studio full of abstract, cubist sculptures; the sculptures are grouped around a traditional landscape painting of a house. One is moved to ask the deep philosophical questions: is this a portrait of 'reality'? What is really 'real', anyway? Why do I care? Will I have white or black coffee this afternoon? Can I go now?

One sees a window. But is it really a window or part of the architects design to showcase the building? It is the function of a window to let us see the world outside: but what is the function of this window-shaped object? Come to think of it, what are windows shaped like, anyway? Basically, I have no reason to believe that this window-shaped object is a window, anymore than that window-shaped table (as opposed to a table-shaped table, obviously).
One dissolves into paroxysms of anxiety merely by approaching a doorway. It is the function of a doorway to let you through to the other side. But it is not the function of a door-shaped object** to let you through, which is much the same as saying that this is a door that won't let me through to the other side at all. Basically, it would be like walking into a brick wall, and that would hurt. Artists may be sadistic, but I am not.

On the whole, I am beginning to doubt this form/function law. It's not fair: three blocks away from the MoMA is a Damien Hirst sculpture of a gigantic naked pregnant woman tearing strips of her flesh away, right there, in broad daylight. Imagine if I stood naked in broad daylight tearing strips of my flesh away! That's right: I'd be locked up. The whole thing is fundamentally inequitable. (Not that I want to stand naked in public tearing strips of my flesh away, but it's the principle of the thing.)

In conclusion, modern art is full of crap, communism is so very, very wrong, and I think I might go and see a Broadway show tonight. Thank you.

*In the way that names have of escaping you when you didn't read them in the first place.

** Whatever door-shaped objects look like, but let's not get into that again.

Fun Facts About Japan!

Here are some fun facts about Japan that I made up learnt during my one-day visit to that country:

- Japanese trains are arranged in three classes, depending on how much money you pay: First Class, Worst Class, and Absolutely-Bloody-Awful Class (where you have to sit atop of the train and fight off atttacks by marauding samurai while you wait to get to your destination).

- The capital city of Japan is Tokyo! It's principal exports are fish, steel, Astroboy videos, and magazines about dogs!

- Interestingly, the name 'Tokyo' rearranges to create the name of another famous Japanese city - Ookyt City!* The principle exports of Ookyt City are fish, steel, Astroboy videos, and the 'Michiba Zebra', a rare Japanese breed of zebra that has pink and blue stripes instead of white and black.
I don't know where Ookyt City is, and neither do you!

- In 1967, the Japanese Government were so impressed by a photograph of Mount Fuji they saw in National Geographic magazine that they decided to build one of their own! Completed 10 years later at great expense, it still ranks as one of the most impressive feats of geo-technical engineering ever attempted.
Just to give you an idea, here's the original picture as it appeared in National Geographic:

Fig 1: The original picture

And here is the Mount Fuji that the Japanese Government completed:

Fig 2: The Japanese Mount Fuji

Impressive, isn't it? They're almost identical! However, I feel bound to point out that there is a stone out of place in the second picture.

- You might have great difficult speaking to people in Tokyo City. They kept talking to me in a language I couldn't even understand - it might as well have been Japanese, or something!

- It's well known that Japanese toilets administer push-button enemas after you have done your business. However, a recent toilet design patented by a large Japanese firm actually injects tiny robotic men into your anus, which quickly zero in on specific sectors of your brain and take over your body, a la The Matrix or Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters!
Professor Clumbert Ogbers, of Lyman University, predicts that by mid-2060, the cyborgs produced by this Toilet Technology - or the "Astro Men", as he calls it - will TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

- You're probably aware of the famous Japanese film 'Godzilla'. What you probably didn't know is that Godzilla was actually a documentary! That's right: all those films of Gamera biting off the tops of buildings, stomping on cars, and battling with Gamera for the city were real! The real Godzilla retired from his career as terrorist and saviour of Japan in the 1980s, and devoted his time to helping children of poor families by giving them rides. Uncle Gamera now lives in Tokyo, and only bites off the occasional tall tower, when he gets hungry.

- That's all for now! Thank you for patiently bearing with these lies; you will be graded at the end of my holidays!

Eaux de New York

I'm in New York, and the first thing I noticed about the place is it smells. Smoke pours out of the gutters; the streets even have something that look like giant cigarettes stuck in them. I like to think I spotted somebody smoking on the top of the Empire State Building last night - there was certainly steam coming from it. Maybe somebody was having a bonfire on top of it. The odour is really quite a peculiar combination of ashes, the sewer, rotting food, and an undefinable something.

It would be wrong to title this post 'New York Stinks' - it doesn't, it's a beautiful city. Maybe call it 'Cologne de New York'. Only, that might risk mixing up New York with Cologne, in Germany, which would just get confusing.

More to come, later. I've been taking a few pictures, so I'll try and put them up soon.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Train Stations I Have Known Number Two

At Chiba Station between Narita airport and Tokyo, if you stand on the number ten platform and look towards the bridge, you might just see a train travelling upside down.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bow Ties, Much Better Than Tai Bo

A search of my site tracker the other day led me to this post about bow ties, and this late - very late - comment:
Wow! Scary. My name is Tim and I own a bow tie site ( and have a blog ( and have been planning a future trip to Thailand. Funny, eh??
He's right, you know. He does have that site. Bow tie fanatics even send in pictures to be featured in posts. And he has a company. In bow-ties, naturally.

I like the cut of this fellow's jib.

Hmmm... lives in the USA, makes regular trips to New York... I reckon I should meet up with this dude and we can discuss all things bow-tie related!

Paradigming the Dominant Subversion

A City Defaced
Our beautiful city, famed for its graffiti and taglines all over the world is being defaced!

Look closely: and please don't be shocked. Behind this seemingly innocent graffiti is a 'building', produced by a local 'architect'. 'Architecture' is a growing problem in our cities...

An exclusive survey by the WTFF Daily has revealed that roaming gangs of hoods calling themselves 'architects' or 'developers' have been putting up buildings behind our once pristine edifices of graffiti and taglines.
One upset graffitist has claimed to the media, "Before I just had the words 'John Howard, Fuck U!' sprayed in mid-air. Then along came one of these thuggish 'architecture' kids and just had to put a gigantic wall up behind the words. I actually caught him in the act, and cornered him and asked him why he was doing it. He said, he was just looking for something for the words to rest on. He said he was afraid they might fall down. The nerve!"
Another graffitist revealed to us, "I was just putting the finishing touches to a set of brilliant graffiti tags; my masterpiece, I liked to think of it. Line after line of pure poetry: 'SHAZZA SUCKS DAZZAS COCK!', 'U R A DICKHEAD!' and - my personal favourite 'GET FUKKED FROM ME TO U!' And then what happens? This train turns up from nowhere and all the words fall down on it! Who let trains into this beautiful city? They're getting in the way of our wonderful culture of graffito!"

A Concerned Sergeant
Police are increasingly concerned about the growing numbers of these self-styled 'architect' gangs.
"We need to get the message out there," claimed Senior Sergeant Bidwell Bangs, of the Camberwell Police Force. "Architecture is vandalism - pure and simple. Why, how would you like it if someone came and whacked a great big building in the middle of YOUR graffiti? Huh?"

A View From The Inside
While there are claims that a culture of juvenile delinquency, low employment rates in the suburbs, the spread of counter-cultural 'classical' music, and the prevalence of drugs and crime have led to the current problem of architecture, our sources inform us that there is also a new type of 'Architecture' culture developing.
Interviews with an unnamed member of an inner-city 'Architects' group gives us fresh insights into the culture of this group.
"It's all about the buildings, man," claims the 'architect'. "We just want to make things for us to live in - it's a fusion of form and function... just tell the pigs to get off our backs, hey?"
The unnamed 'Architect' agrees that he does get a thrill out of 'developing' buildings and town squares late at night. "Yeah, it's cool to get away with that. It's a rebellion against civilised society, man. Or something."
A spokesperson for the Melbourne Youth Drop In centre agree. "Look, these kids are basically alright," she says. "They've proven they have talent by putting all these buildings up. I have every confidence that they'll grow out of this phase and go on to produce many lasting works of graffiti, all over the place."

We hope she's right.

Places You Are In When You Want To Be In Some Place Else

This Saturday, I'm catching a plane on an eccentric and probably expensive trip to the United States and the northern winter. It's going to be one great big mess, as I haven't planned anything, and I'll probably end up getting mugged by Garrison Keillor in Kansas or something. But in the process, I expect I'll have a few places to add to this list. I originally wanted to call it 'Train Stations I have Known', and I started writing it when I visited Sydney last year and ended up catching train after train after train. It's a work in progress, and I'll update it when I get back.


Moreland Station, Melbourne
Moreland Station has all the hallmarks of the classic Melbourne station: a square lump of concrete and a metal fence.
Occasionally, it is inhabited by Middle Eastern youths or businessmen or women. On weekday mornings, it regularly fills up with folks on their way to work; on the evenings, it vents these same people - often in the same positions - onto the concrete again.
It is an in-between station, a middle station - a station that does not possess the verve and energy of Flinders Street station, nor the hell-like qualities of Frankston.

It is best appreciated on a Saturday morning in late spring, perhaps with a can of lemonade for company.
PLUS: Bonus Bogan on Saturday!

Elizabeth Street Tram Stop, Melbourne
Located on the corner of Flinders Street and Elizabeth Street, this train stop has everything the modern beggar, or "Man About Town", could wish for!

- Open seating!
- A crowd of travellers immobilised by the Melbourne cold!
- Cheap pizza shops, alcohol venues, and peep shows within close proximity
- German tourists who like giving out money!

Sometimes a tram even comes!

Parliament Station, Melbourne
The interior decor of Parliament Station bespeaks the classical elegance and restraint that we have come to expect from the Victorian State Government. (Other highlights in the career of this master design firm include those metal toilets on Chapel Street in Windsor, and the footpath with a hole on it in Alma Road.)
The walls are lined with plush blue-and-white plastic, and the seating is made from sensual metal. The stations themselves are accessed by an interminable series of escalators, reminiscent of Dante's descent into hell.

As our travellers go onwards, the ambience of the everyday, sunlit world is stripped away, until at the bottom, we find our true selves: tribes of blacks and whites leering and sneering at one another while they wait for their train.
Just because we are all racist does not mean that we can't all get along with one another.

Town Hall Station, Sydney
Town Hall Station has a faint but distinct perfume, redolent of dirty people and excrement. It is exceedingly popular with tourists, and some will even pay for a ticket and go through the gates, without even bothering to catch a train - just to enjoy the experience of sitting there for an hour or two, enjoying the sites and sounds, and say they've "been there" to their grandchildren.

Just for fun, why don't you pay for a ticket and do the same thing?

Broadmeadow Station, Newcastle
Broadmeadow Station was located in Newcastle, NSW. Then Melbourne decided to have a Broadmeadows of its own and turned it into a plural.

Broadmeadow in Newcastle is usually populated by footy supporters, fat people who have come from the local McDonalds, and shouting school kids.

PLUS: Every 100th customer at Broadmeadow Station gets a rambling alcoholic to accompany them on their trip - for FREE!

Williamstown Airport, Williamstown (near Newcastle)
Williamstown Airport, outside Newcastle, is a bustling hub of activity without the buslte and the activity. It is essentially a long room where the customer checks themselves in at one and and their baggage in at the other end. Sometimes a plane lands outside and the pilott comes strolling in as if he were out for a Sunday drive.

And maybe he is.

Williamstown Airport is a pleasant enough place to spend your time when you want to be somewhere else.

Camellia Station, Sydney
To find the Carlingford line in Sydney, you have to change trains at several stations with obscure names and curious functions in the Sydney train system. After playing the complex and unsettling sport of train hopping (a process fraught with difficulty and with uncertain results), you will finally arrive at a station that shares the same name with an old uncle you may or may not have: Clyde. This is the juncture at which you will catch the Carlingford line.

If you do make it to Clyde Station, then you will certainly arrive at Clyde Station on a Sunday afternoon, when the Carlingford trains only run once every hour; and you will assuredly arrive at Clyde Station five minutes after the Carlingford train has left. By a curious coincidence, whether it be arranged by fate or the Sydney transport bureaucracy, everyone who arrives for the Carlingford train does so exactly at this time.

The Carlingford line runs through a small number - about eight, if I recall correctly - of obscure train stations with melodious names, vaguely redolent of the 1950s: Telopea, Rydalmere, Rosehill Racecourse ...
Camellia Station is neither the first nor the last among these stations. It holds a special place amongst the litany of little-known Sydney train stations. With a name reminisicent of flowers, of sunlight, and of a girl in the full bloom of her beauty, Camellia is the smiling partner to her older, more staid relative, Clyde.

I have never been to Camellia Station. I shall probably never be to Camellia Station. And I shall love Camellia Station until I die.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Position Vacant

A part-time Stand-up Drone is required for a convention of Manic Depressives in the Manic stage of their illness. For this unexciting position, you will need to have several requirements:

- Lack of a sense of humour

- Some experience in either accountancy or general bureaucratic positions

- Commitment to coming up with unexciting, unoriginal, and usual initiatives

- Commitment to increasing workplace tedium, indifference, and boredom.

- Must have an inability to cause laughter. Our previous stand up drone made our Manics laugh on several occasions, and barely escaped violent death!

To apply, call 9000 0000 and simply tell us about yourself, in 10,000 words or more. Users of long, difficult to understand words will be highly regarded. Yawn inducing capacity a must!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

An Open Letter To The Emerging Writers' Festival

Dear Emerging Writers' Festival,

It was nice to see an apostrophe given pride of place in your title:

But what happened to the capital letters? Why choose to omit the capital letters but include an apostrophe? (Other events or organisations with similar names don't bother with those pesky apostrophes). When you refer to the festival in the text on your website, you use capitals: why not be consistent and use it in the title? If I didn't know better, I'd think that you hate capital letters.
I'm a little perturbed by some other things on your website, too. For instance, you shorten the title

Emerging Writers' Festival 2007

to the acronym


What happened to the space between the acronym and the year? Granted, back in ancient times, when writers didn't even have enough money to buy a garret (which wasn't invented yet, anyway), they chiselled their words into hunks of stone without leaving one space between the words. But later, spaces between words really caught on; and a good thing, too. Spaces give you a spot to breath; a place in the text to contemplate the word that has come before and prepare yourself mentally for the word that comes after. I want the space back!
Reading on, I noticed this sentence:

As I type this we're excitedly putting out program together, which will feature a special culturally and linguisticaly diverse writers' focus.

I'll go past, for the moment, the rather unfortunate use of the adverb there - 'excitedly' - because it's the second half of the sentence that I really want to look at.

'... special culturally and linguisticaly diverse writers' focus.'

'Special' and 'diverse' are politically-correct cliches*, the word 'focus' really isn't needed, and, worst of all, 'linguistically' is mispelled.

Going on to the 'Program' page, I find more examples:

How does English reflect the way we think about the world, and how are writers bending English to reflect reality?

You're mixing metaphors here; and it's not at all clear what you mean by the second metaphor - 'bending English'.


I don't think that colon really belongs between the first word and the other three words; and it doesn't make the whole phrase any more grammatical. When I was studying at University I noticed that academics seemed very fond of using the colon in their titles, but this was a particularly ugly practice and I don't see any good reason for you to perpetuate this.


There should not be a question mark at the end of this sentence.

Am I being hard on you for this? No, I don't think so: there are many festivals and organisations that will resort to sloppy use of the English language in which meaningful language gives way to ambiguous cliche. That's hardly an excuse to continue the practice yourself.

Am I being pedantic?

Well, yes.

I am a writer, you know.

*Website Diogenes Lamp has an interesting take on words like this.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Extrapolate! Extrapolate!

Hi! Guess what? Just when you thought you'd had way too much of me to bear on this blog already, what do I go and do but bring out another Zine! I'm a real sod that way!

Yes, that's right - my official Annual Bi-monthly Omnibus, 'Waiter, Would You Please Femme My Fatale', is OUT NOW SOON! It's eighteen pages of unremitting nonsense, including:

The racy! 'Sextra Sensual Perception'

The (not-so) pacy! 'The Customer Disservice Industry, Now More Deficient Than Ever!'

The literary! 'Which is better, James Joyce or a train timetable'?

The poetic! 'If Shakespeare Dropped Acid'

The phonetic! 'On The Grammatical Structure of Non-Existent Words'

Plus, there's a never-before-seen (and probably never-ought-to-be-seen) essay on the development of the movie industry and Mel Brooks' little-known Silent Movie entitled 'Waiter, Would You Please Femme My Fatale'.

Want a copy? Heck, why not!

YES! That sounds almost as exciting as a case of testicular carbuncles, I'LL TAKE TWO! Please send the copies to me, __________ [insert name here], of ________________________ [insert address here], you smooth-talking blogger, you!

NO! Terribly kind of you to offer, old chap, but that sounds less attractive than the prospect of being ravished in the wilds of Siberia by a pack of starving timber-wolves with Downs Syndrome, while I'm wearing extremely unattractive underwear! Please do NOT send a copy through to __________ [insert name here], of ________________________ [insert address here], you sweary-mouthed con-man, you!

There! Now you've finished defacing your computer screen by filling out the form above, why not send me an email to let me know? I can send the zine out to your home address, your work address, or your enemies address (whatever you care to give me). timhtrain at Post away!

Meaningless Ramblings for a Saturday Evening

(Submitted to Vibewire's Life column several months ago. Never heard back from 'em.)

I am acquainted with dreams in an ordinary way, and familiar with wildness in a general fashion, but never in my wildest dreams was I prepared for the moment when I stood, outside a news stand on Swanston Street the other day. Amidst a dazzling halo of gossip magazines about celebrities and superstars, my eye was drawn into one particular cover. There was a dated 1980-style supermodel, juxtaposed with a cryptic conjuration of four letters: B – A – R – K: Bark!
I was thrown into confusion. Was this a strange Freudian game of association being played on me by the magazine publishers? Was it a new style of conceptual art, designed for the news stands of Melbourne? Perhaps it was a publication about dated supermodels who barked? If this was the title, then I wondered what other headlines in the magazine would be like …
I sauntered over to the purveyor of these literary, (if not literal), rags, and raised a copy of the magazine in question to scrutinise for several seconds. The full title of the magazine was ‘Australia Bark’, and the dated supermodel on the cover clutched a Shi-Tzu dog. Or did the Shi-Tzu clutch the dated supermodel? From this distance, it was hard to tell. I tried to get closer, but the cover of the magazine got in my way.
It is needless to say what doesn’t have to be said; in short, and shortly, I found myself standing on the corner of Bourke Street and at the other end of a minute with a copy of this iconic magazine in my hands.

As I was soon to discover, ‘Australia Bark’ was one of the publications to be stamped with the brand of Ita (last name Buttrose). It seems it is simply the latest project of the slightly famous editor of that august and respectable collection of literature that is Woman’s Day.
Within two or thee pages, the synonyms dog, doggy, pet, canine, hound, pooch, mutt, best friend, and companion, had been used up, thrown out, taken to the dumpster, raised up from the dead by means of various occult incantations, and recombined. Indeed, the writers of the magazine seemed to have developed a surreal predilection for placing dog-related words in incongruous positions. “Woof-worthy cause!” shouts one headline. “Lactose free puppachinos!” gets an airing. Ita herself uses the joke, “May the hounds be with you”. It doesn’t make sense, but – as one guy said to another guy in some movie or other – “Shut up, he thinks he’s witty.”

There is also an off-putting article about human-canine relationships:

“Some mornings we play ball in the backyard and I give him a treat [or two] before I’m off to work. I tell him when I’ll be back and have a good quality, private conversation with him … Cockers do need a lot of love but what you give in love you receive back tenfold.”

Never has a more disturbing non-pornographic sentence been written.

Dog makeovers abound; the writers of ‘Australia Bark’ have a bizarre habit of anthropomorphising what cannot be anthropomorphised. Dear little Fluffy finds himself primped, permed, preened, pruned, pressed, picked, pricked, pickled, and plucked to within an inch of his palpitating skin. But it is not Fluffy who loses his dignity in the process …

One wonders how the authors find content for each issue: surely only with dogged persistence (pun, sadly, intended) and a hound-like ability to sniff out a good story (see above). There is a dog psychology column, an item on The World’s Largest Dog Show, several interviews with celebrities and their dogs, a Barkscope (nothing less and, sadly, nothing more than a horoscope for dogs), and an article upon a newly-opened dog cafĂ© – which is, oddly, just down the road from where I used to work. Coincidence? Or are the authors running out of ideas already?
Conspicuous in their absence are any articles treating at length with subjects dogs might be partial to: hunting, urination, sniffing other dogs posteriors, and fresh meat. The canine creature, in this literary portrayal, is steadfastly separated from its wild origins. Not content with anthropomorphising their pets’ coats, the publishers of ‘Australia Bark’ also cast their own gentile thoughts and snobbish aspirations upon the dog's personality.

Whither does ‘Australia Bark’ lead? For surely it portends a new direction for Australian magazine publications. Today we shall have publications treating dogs and their owners; tomorrow we shall have a ‘New Idea’ for dogs:

‘Lassie’s millionaire grandson was this week seen sporting on the beach with Gwyneth Paltrow’s poodle. Could they be a new couple? Sources tell us that Paltrow’s poodle was just doing it to spite Lassie …’

Or maybe we shall soon have a ‘That’s Life!’ magazine for dogs, full of dog crosswords, with clues like:

Across: 1 A sound that a dog makes (4)
3: A sound that a dog makes (4)

Then again, some people might like to say that the publishers of ‘Australia Bark’ are barking bad, have gone to the dogs, have a couple of dingoes loose in their top paddock, and have somehow managed to outfox themselves. I prefer to think that they are people who are merely following a passion. Hopefully, this passion will keep them as far from me as is humanely – and caninely – possible.
(Cross posted here.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Oh, Goyous Day

Follow the Lederhosen.

Milkshake with extra Schmalt.

Unhapfy Apfeln.

Spratz with Spritz.

Fritz with bitz.

Learning To Share

No! No! You can't have that deadly strain of man-killing virus, it's mine, all mine!
Just who owns a disease?

The Indonesian Government believes it's got ownership over its strain of avian flu and it's upset about a new bird flu vaccine developed by an Australian drug company.

Indonesia's Health Minister, Siti Fadillah Supari has told the ABC that the Indonesian strain of H5N1 is Indonesia's intellectual property, but it's been used by the Australian company, CSL, without Indonesia's permission.

Kids! Stop fighting! I've got it. Indonesia can have one strain of the virus, and Australia can have another strain.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari has told the ABC that the Indonesian Government is developing its own vaccine with the American pharmaceutical company Baxter, and is in the process of applying to protect its intellectual property rights to the Indonesian strain of H5N1.

SITI FADILLAH SUPARI: I never gave permission to send a specimen of a virus to Australia.

GEOFF THOMPSON: And you think that that permission should've been asked for and it should've been granted by you?

SITI FADILLAH SUPARI: I think so. I think so.

No! Stop squabbling! Oh, now look what you've done! You've gone and broken the test tube! Now you're all going to have to share! This is just what happens when you don't behave!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Comment Unpolicy

Alexis suggested here that I put a word limit on comments in my blog, but I don't know about that. I don't mind long, rambling comments as long as they're not spam. But maybe she's on to something. For instance, I could insist that nobody leave a comment on my blog unless it contains no fewer than five-hundred words, which would certainly make for a lengthier, if not higher, standard of entries. (Or maybe it would be even more interesting if commenters could make each of their sentences five hundred words long.)

I'm toying with the idea of introducing a couple of other comment rules as well. As an example, I could make it compulsory for every comment on this blog to contain the words ' Flabbergasted', 'caterwauling', 'thumbscrew', 'toe-rag', 'cauliflower', 'Edinburgh', 'codswallop', 'aglets', and 'zabaglione'. Even better, try and throw three or more of those words in the one sentence together and see what happens. (And no snirtling in the corner, Caz and Kath!)
Another good idea would be to insist that every second sentence is only ten words long. I don't care how long the comments are, just make sure every second sentence has ten words in it.
For the clever-clever commenters out there, they could try this one: write a comment using four plurals that do not use the letter 's'. And make sure the comment is relevant to the discussion we're having (whatever that is) too!
I'd of course place strict limits on commas. There are far too many commas being used nowadays, I feel. No commas would be allowed in my comments - see how long you can do that and get away with it!
Of course, the whole point of having a comments policy on this blog is that it should raise the tone around here. So from now on, if nothing else, I'm going to absolutely and utterly insist that every comment contain a properly-worded quote from either The Bible, William Shakespeare, William Blake, Dorothy Porter, or Mae West.

I guess it's customary when writing these comment policies to also insist that commenters not be rude or abusive or nasty or anything like that, but quite frankly, I couldn't give a shit about any of that stuff. If you want to go to a nice blog, read LP or something, they have a REAL comments policy and stuff. Abuse away, people.

*The Willtypeforfood Comment Unpolicy is not posted regularly. Commenters are not asked to read or follow the Comment Unpolicy. I don't know why I posted this at all, really. Feel free to suggest some additions to the Comment Unpolicy in, um, the comments.
Email: timhtrain - at -

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