Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Which Nothing Is Said, And Great Deal Isn't Implied

This is the cover of Quadrant Magazine for this month!

It's the magazine of choice for Right-Wing Death Metrosexuals! Check out the covers of some previous issues of Quadrant...

Apparently, there was a time when Quadrant used to have actual cover-art, pictures, cartoons, and illustrations. Now the best thing to look forward to visually are the headings to the articles (In bold! And sometimes in CAPITALS!) and the columns (and very nice columns they are too).
Interestingly, just recently, Quadrant seem to have been trying to get in on the fashion racket. See the evidence here: and note the sunglasses!

Whatever, I still like the magazine. Against my better judgment - (not that I have a better judgment, so perhaps I should say against my least-worst judgment) - I found myself discussing the merits of conservative writers over on Alexis' blog the other day. I should have recommended* Quadrant then: it is always a joy to read, with the literature edited by Les Murray, regular poetry reviews, thoughtful essays, and the requisite 'cranky old bastard' rants by former Melbourne University Press publisher Peter Ryan.

Just while I've got this thing on**, look what I got in the mail on Wednesday...

"One Touch Of Venus", by S J Perelman (with lyrics by Ogden Nash). This book is ridiculously rare - I had to hit abebooks to find copies of it. It combines a libretto by a favourite humourist with songs by a favourite poet, and it's a handsome publication to boot. They turned it into a movie, with Ava Gardner playing the part of Venus (a statue that comes to life), but apparently it wasn't very good. Well, it's a handsomely written play, and it has one of Ogden Nash's best songs in it:

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That's how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

And there's more where that came from!

Music was written by Kurt Weill, though it's not included in this publication. Methinks I might have to do some more browsing of the internet. Be warned, folks: I could be slowly evolving into an Antiquarian. I'm popping off now to grow a beard and start smoking a pipe while leafing through many a volume of forgotten lore, or Viz Magazine, whatever I can get my hands on first. Cheerio!

UPDATE! - Well, what won't we talk about today, then?

*Hah! As if I know what I'm talking about!

** Photoblogging? Sheesh, how low can this blog go?

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Serious Case Of Conceptual Pornography Art

Spencer Tunick is an artist who takes pictures of naked people. I saw an interview with the guy on Rove Live once. It went something like this.
ROVE: In the studio with me today, I have Spencer Tunick. Spencer, what do you do?

SPENCER: I take photographs of naked people.

ROVE: Why do you take photographs of naked people?

SPENCER: I am a conceptual artist.
And that was it. He clearly didn't go in much for introspective personal analysis. And he didn't really have any explanation, just a punchline: 'I am a conceptual artist'.

I still don't know why he's not taking pictures for Playboy. What's the difference between taking pictures of naked people and selling them as porn, and taking pictures of naked people and selling them as conceptual art?

And it's not as if nakedness is so revolutionary now anyway: ancient Greek artists were taking pictures of naked people, only they used up more chisels and blocks of marble. Tunick pretty much does the same thing, only more so - instead of having one naked person, he'll throw naked people all over the place. People crowd up to be the naked people in his photographs of naked people.
There's a documentary about Spencer Tunick on television at the moment, and I just saw one naked woman in Melbourne break down. "That was the most beautiful experience I had in my life!" she sobs (collapsing in the arms of the HIV positive 'Health Supervisor' for the whole event). A few moments earlier she had been telling us how wonderfully calming the whole thing was.
Spencer waddles through all this with a compulsive grin on his face, the grin of a man who thinks he is doing something naughty but has forgotten what.

Apparently Spencer describes himself as a serious conceptual artist, though it's possible this guy hasn't had a new concept for a long time. I think he should take up a job selling ads for Hustler magazine.

Just conceptually, of course.

Mummy, when I grow up, I want to take pictures of naked people but it won't be porn.

Spencer Tunick quotes:

"It has to be me... they don't have to be technically good shots..."

"It's certainly exciting to be in the show with a lot of these artists. It's great!"

"I think the Brazilians are getting too close to my photographs."

Post Made For The Purposes Of A Pun

Alimentary, my dear Watson.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Off Topic

Yes. Yes it is. So if you're going to comment, try and keep it on topic, okay?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stuff Wot I Have Read

What ho, got a couple of potboilers on the backburner and all that. Here's just a few of them...

The Railway Children, Edith Nisbet
Edith Nisbet is great; I read some of her stories about the Bastables a couple of years ago and loved them. She typically writes realistic stories about England at the turn of the century, from the perspective of children, with a bit of bluestocking rhetoric thrown in as well, if that makes sense. In some of her books (Five Children and It, for instance) she'll throw in some weird gnome or fairy, which kind of stuffs up the realism a bit, but still makes it interesting.
I like 'The Railway Children', though; it's the story of a family whose father is taken away to London, and probably imprisoned, for mysterious political reasons. As a result the family have to go and live in the countryside, where the rent is cheaper, supported by their mother, who spends her time sending off poems, stories, and articles to various quarterlies. (Occasionally she sends off letters to Members of Parliament and Secretaries of Societies and what-not, too). Let's quote a bit of it, shall we? Oh, do lets!

Mother, all this time, was very busy with her writing. She used to send off a good many long blue envelopes with stories in them - and large envelopes of different sizes and colours used to come to her. Sometimes she would sigh when she opened them and say:
'Another story come home to roost. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!' and then the children would be very sorry.
But sometimes she would wave the envelope in the air and say:
'Hooray, hooray. Here's a sensible Editor. He's taken my story and this is the proof of it.'
At first the children thought 'the proof' meant the letter the sensible Editor had written, but they presently got to know that the proof was long slips of paper with the story printed on them.
Whenever an Editor was sensible there were buns for tea.
One day Peter was goingg down to the village to get buns to celebrate the sensibleness of the Editor of the Children's Globe, when he met the Station Master...

I say, how perfectly ripping!

Serious Concerns, Wendy Cope
I picked this up in Readings a couple of weeks ago and started leafing through it. The first poem that I read was 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' - it's a parody of a painting of the same name by Chirico:

I am a poet
I am very fond of bananas.

I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.

I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond ...

The second poem I read was even better. Cope's verse is typically light, the tone hovering somewhere between Pam Ayres and Ogden Nash, but she makes some serious points, about life and relationships and stuff (apparently the book was written at an unhappy period in her life.) What can I say, I enjoy it.

Oh, alright then, let's quote one more Cope poem, the one from which the book gets the title:

Write to amuse? What an appalling suggestion!
I write to make people anxious and miserable and to worsen their indigestion.

War of the Wing-Men, Poul Anderson
I couldn't resist the title.

The Legends of Lennie Lower
I read some of these on the plane flight over to the US, but to tell you the truth, a bit of this humour is on the nose. Lower is the author of the classic Aussie novel 'Here's Luck', a tale about the anarchistic life led by a father and son in suburban Sydney during the onset of the depression. It's narrated with drunken eloquence by noted toper Stanley Gudgeon (the father) and ends with their house being burnt down.
I was sort of expecting more of the same when I picked up this book, a collection of comic newspaper articles written by Lower. The best of the articles here are packed full of hilarious puns and Lower's typically anarchistic humour; some of the nonsensical fairy stories, for instance, are great. But then, Lower also has the occasional habit of making appallingly un-PC jokes about, for instance, men hitting their wives. It's a real head-scratcher, this book - by turns quite funny, and occasionally quite awful. I just don't know what to think of Lower.

The Pilgrim's Regress, C S Lewis
An odd allegory about the Christian life by C S Lewis. The title suggests a parody of John Bunyan's classic renaissance English text, but it's not really a parody; it's a serious allegory in its own right. Some writers have a way of writing characters that resemble people in your own life; Lewis has a way of creating allegorical figures (Mr Sensible, Mr Vertue, Mr Enlightenment) that resemble specific philosophical and ethical flaws. This book is pretty interesting - it seems to start out as a comedy, and ends up reading like a medieval text.

Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker
The New Yorker published some of the best - Nabakov, Thurber, E B White, S J Perelman, John Updike - but it's amazing how simple some of these stories are. Entertaining stuff. Unfortunately, my book has the habit of making a 'Screech!' noise when the pages rub together, which twists every stomach in the vicinity of the book into knots.

I'm off now to eat a bowl of freshly picked grovels with a runcible spoon and vorpal sword. Any reflections on these books, reader? What are you reading?

Monday, March 26, 2007

An Explanation of un-Australianess.

Right then.

An un-Australian is a person who is not necessarily non-Australian, but is definitely a little bit anti-Australian.

Being non-Australian is definitely un-Australian, but being un-Australian does not necessarily make you non-Australian. Indeed, with the increasing amount of un-Australians in Australia these days, it seems that it un-Australianess is fast becoming a pre-requisite for Australianess.

Furthermore, there are some pro-Australians (called pro-pro-Australians) who argue that un-Australians should all be non-Australians. But there are also a larger group of pro-Australians (Relatively-pro-Australians) who maintain that un-Australians do not have to be non-Australians, although they would prefer if they became less un-Australians.

It gets a little complicated, though, because some un-Australians are prone on occasion to act like pro-Australians, and some pro-Australians are occasionally fond of acting in an un-Australian fashion. This leads to the phenomenon of un-pro-Australians, and pro-un-Australians. And let's not even get into the subject of non-un-Australians, who are either non-Australians who are also anti-Australian, or un-Australians who have left the country, depending on who you ask.

Once a day, all the un-Australians gather in a room together, look at a big picture of John Howard they have on the wall, and weep.

Do you understand now? Good. Neither do I.

Now run along and do something good and healthy, like playing Grand Theft Auto on your X-boxes, boys and girls.

A Cultural Evening

Recently I enjoyed an evening of entertainment and culture as I undertook to view the film Jackass as it screened on late night television.

Fig 1

It is a simple film, yet deceptive in its simplicity, as it masks a number of enduring cultural themes: familiar relations, friendship and comraderie, the relationship between man and nature,
and running into hard objects at very fast speeds. Occasionally they fall on hard objects at fast speeds too, or get hit with hard objects, insert hard objects into their body, or... but let's not get bogged down in petty details.

In one scene, the beauty and fragility of the American wild is evinced as one of the merry pranksters puts a fully-grown crocodile into his parents house. And yet, the scene is heartfelt, too: the jolly jape is is merely carried out in order to get his mother to say 'fuck' for the purposes of the film. Thus the great and noble tradition of the family in culture ('Little House on the Prairie', 'Tom Sawyer', 'The Simpsons') is continued.
In another touching family scene, another of the chaps bursts into the toilet while his rather corpulent father squats upon the john, screaming and shouting. He then removes the shirt from the back of his pater familias, who continues to squat there in a Buddha-like position. After some moments, a thought occurs to the old fellow, and he calls to his wife: "I think the boy is finally losing it."

This is not to say, however, that this movie does not touch upon the stylistic works of other artists. For instance, in the scene 'Monster Truck Disco', the chaps dance to disco music in the back of a truck that is cutting corners at very fast speeds. This scene is at once a tribute to the work of Gloria Gaynor, in that Gloria Gaynor had something to do with disco music. And yet it also references the work of Jean Paul Sartre and his fellow existentialists: for although the chaps are dancing to disco music in the back of a truck driving at very fast speeds, we do not know why they are doing it.
In several other scenes, the thriving cultural influences of Asia are referenced, as the fellows dance semi-naked through the streets of Japan, or roller-skate through the streets of Japan dressed as gigantic pandas (see Fig 1, above.)
There is also a scene where one of the lads rolls through a room full of loaded mouse traps to a gigantic cheese, while dressed in a large mouse suit. Note the significance of production details like costume: in this scene, the large mouse suit is very important, in that it is what the lad is wearing as he rolls through the mouse traps.

And yet, for all this, the movie is unpretentious. Time and again, it returns to the simple joys: seeing the lads put sharks into their underpants, give one another bungie-wedgies, punch and kick one another, get fired at with live ammunition, place firecrackers in their neither regions, put crocodiles on their nipples, and drive at very fast speeds about abandoned parks into gigantic plastic animals.

In years to come, when my grandchildren sit upon my knee and ask me whether I saw Jackass: The Movie, I will squint my eyes, look far back into the past, puff on my pipe reminiscently, and say, "Yes: I saw Jackass: The Movie. Which is to say I was in the room and the television was on at that time. How dare you ask your grandfather questions like that? And did you see my dentures this morning? And have you remembered to sign up for Chairman Rudd's youth rally? You know what the party will do if you don't go. And was it you that put the crocodile in my old folks home bathroom yesterday?"

And we will all laugh.

UPDATE: Just cross-posted this here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Slam Sham

Toddling off to this event this afternoon. Performance poetry is kind of fun, if you get the right atmosphere happening and there's not too many idiots on stage, so we'll see how it goes. I'm just jotting down some ideas after a poem was suggested to me yesterday - here's what I've got so far:

A Poem By Timothy H. Train

1. Orthodox Jews

I like Orthodox Jews,
From their yarmulke to their shoes!
Stuff drinking at the bar,
I prefer Bar Mitzvah -
Yes, I like Orthodox Jews!

I never get the blues
When I'm around Orthodox Jews!
They can talk about the Torah
More, and more, and morer -
Yes of all the people in the world,
It's the chosen people that I choose!
I like Orthodox Jews!

2. Palestinians

Palestinians are funny,
Though suicide bombing is so very, very wrong.
Their beards are long and runny,
Their disposition is generally sunny,
And Yasser Arafat reminds me of the Easter Bunny!
Although suicide bombing is so very, very wrong,
Palestinians are funny!

3. Americans

Really, there is a lot that can be said for the Americans!

4. Amish

Hooray for the Amish!
Some people like Martin,
But I prefer Kingsley Amish!
Hooray for the Amish!

5. Italians

The Italians look especially cute
If you put them in a business suit!

6. North Koreans

I really am quite fond of the North Koreans,
And I don't mind the Japanese either!

Needs more work. Anyway, I'll let you all know later on how the event was.

UPDATE! - Well, the attempted irony in this poem seems to have had a use-by-date of half a day. I think I'll give it a miss this evening and read out one of my better efforts. Cheers folks. Sorry to inflict that nonsense on you.

UPDATE UPDATE! - Right then. Apparently they changed the time, or it was never going to be on, or something. Well, the poster said register by 8pm. And it still does, on their website. God, what a load of bollocks all round.

Dude Food Blogging

My Saturday morning had two notable events, if notable is taken to mean 'I sent a letter off and made some gingerbread', but let's not get all prosaic now, shall we?

This was the letter. The envelope was addressed to 'The Literary Editor, Quadrant Magazine'.

Behind that note you can see parts of the story that I'd been meaning to submit to Quadrant. I'm quite proud of it: it's titled 'Sex and Sclerotica', and my favourite line is:

"Bloom goggled, and, as so often when that happened, his glasses began to film up. He took them off and absent-mindedly began to clean them with the letter of resignation he had kept on his desk for the last 20 years."

Leaving that on the table for the time being, I set about making the gingerbread. I got the recipe from, would you believe it, doing a google search and ending up on the ABC website.

I sifted Self-Raising Flour, cinnamon and ginger together into a bowl before mixing in some brown sugar:

Mmm - lardiferous!

I used margarine instead of butter - I prefer that in cooking. After this was melted on the stove, I mixed in treacle, milk, and an egg:

(Note: just looking at this photograph, I'm gargling in a Homer-like fashion. Just thought I'd throw that detail in.)

I also chucked in some raisins that were lying about the place. Because, you know, I'm a rebel, dude, and I do what I like.
All I had to do after that was mix the ingredients together and throw them in a greased cake-tin. The tin went in a 160 celsius oven for about half an hour. Actually, since the oven is in Fahrenheit, AND the Fahrenheit markings are hard to read, it was pretty much guesswork.

The results! And the best way to eat them (in my opinion)?

Fresh out of the oven with butter and black coffee! (By the way, if Rupert Murdoch is reading - Rupe, hope you notice the subtle product placement I'm doing for your paper. Want to pay me?)

Gingerbread's almost gone now, but you can make some of your own by finding the full recipe here. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Seven Derangements of Doctor Arturo Quar

There comes a time in every bloggers existence when they whack you with details of their dreams. This is that time for this blogger*. I had the dream this morning; it's a variation on the usual 'running dream' theme that I get - I'm usually running away from somebody, and going through an enormous building that never seems to end.**

The text is largely copied from my comment on Redsaid. The title of this post, by the way, is a title for a book that once occurred to me in a dream. I don't think the book has ever been written (or will ever be written), but it was too good not to re-use.


Last night I dreamed somebody was chasing me through a major department store. I can't remember why, or what happened, exactly, but there was a lot of falling curtains and breaking chairs and things like that. I got in a lift and got down to the ground floor, but then for some reason I decided to hide out from the felon chasing me on the second floor. This was a floor that only the staff were allowed on, but I thought I could blend in.

When I reached there, everyone looked at me strangely, and I ran into an English lady who looked like she was out of one of those English Department Store movies of the 1950s (I'm sure there's got to be a movie genre that fits that description). She then read out to me something that I had apparently said before:


She then told me that I had to go to the re-education department, and I was taken by the store guards (via the lift) presumably to Room 101 to be 're-educated'. (Thankfully, at that moment, I woke up.)

Analyse THAT!

* See Comic Strip Hero's recent battle with her subconscious.

**When I was a kid I also used to dream about walking down the street in my pyjamas or naked. Why does everyone seem to have this dream? And then there was the one where I would be in a car that would drive right up the side of cliffs. Deep, man, deep.

My Charity Is Bigger Than Your Charity

As the world already knows, Angelina Jolie has recently pretended to be 'single' so as to be able to legally adopt another little kiddie from a foreign country, in her quest to buy at least one needy child every time she goes to the supermarket.... Jolie has been quoted as saying: "I will stay at home to help Pax adjust to his new life. I have four children and caring for them is the most important thing for me at the moment. I am very proud and happy to be their mother … Photographs and press coverage will make (Pax) upset. I'm very worried about that. I would like to say I'm sorry for bringing this into Pax's life." - Caz

Maybe she should adopt off the biological child, would probably have a much better childhood that way. - Chazz.

Every day, from all four-corners of Hollywood, children are suffering. Wretched souls have been plucked from out of poverty in deepest Africa or Asia or somewhere like that, and are made to suffer in the cold, harsh glare of the media. And their number is growing every day: as Hollywood celebrities become richer, so their desire to 'save' these children from their happy, primitive existence increases.

How often have you said to yourself: the problem is so big? What can I do to help?

Well, now you can help: by donating to the


We are a world-wide fund devoted to rescuing children all over Hollywood from the clutches of their celebrity mothers and fathers. By donating as little as 10 cents a day, you can help to rescue a suffering child and return them to their native country.
Tibor's Story
My adoptive mother had the biggest breasts in all of Hollywood, and I used to own a Ferrari and several mansions in Italy. Thank you, SCFCF, for freeing me from all this. No, really. Thank you.

With larger donations, we will be able to rescue the biological children of celebrities and return them to simpler, more noble ways of life.

Matik's Story
I ate mud pies for breakfast and I will eat mud pies for dinner. Thanks a f*cking lot, SCFCF.

The SCFCF also plans to sterilise large parts of Asia and Africa (and possibly Alabama and Australia, also) in order to ensure that celebrities never again are tempted to 'rescue' children from poverty.

Mbofo's Story
No! I don't want to go! I like it here! I like being photographed! I like my mummy! Don't take me back there! My brother works in a sweat shop! Waaaaaaah!

Please. Think of the children.

Sarai's Story
I hate it here. You guys really are a bunch of arseholes, you know that?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Craptitude Test

A shit story, but not a story that is shit.

In My Humble Opinions

Maxine McKew is the thinking man's Maxine McKew. Maxine McKew is also the unthinking man's Maxine McKew.

In short, although Maxine McKew may not be all things to all people, she is some things to some people, and that's good enough for you and me (and Maxine).

Thank you.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Celebrity Dog? Give Me Snowy Anyday...

They're advertising a new show on Channel Ten called 'Celebrity Dog School', and judging from the name, it's either a show where celebrities go to get their dogs trained, or where celebrities go to get trained to act like dogs, or where celebrities and their dogs go to get trained to act like one another. It's not clear from the title which. I went to the website to find out, and didn't:
Each week, six Australian celebrities and their dogs are set one obedience task (sit, stay, drop, come etc) and one agility task (over jump, through tunnel, weaving around poles etc). At the end of each week, they’ll then have to perform these tasks in front of their fellow celebrities... and the expert judges!
So if watching a second-rate Australian celebrity and/or their dog sit, stay, drop, come, over jump, through tunnel, weave around poles, and so on, floats your boat, then tune in, I guess. Whatever the hell the show is about, one thing is certain: in the eternal battle of man against dog, dogs have lost another round.

PS Apparently the celebrities and dogs featured on the show are pictured here. It's hard to tell which is which ...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Possible Solution To Our Energy Woes

SCIENTISTS have created rabbits that glow in the dark.

Geneticists in France produced the bunnies by inserting a gene from a fluorescent jellyfish into a rabbit’s egg.

They are now selling the white bunnies to research laboratories.

I got this story from Harry. It seems to me that these marvellous glow-in-the-dark bunnies would form a wonderful, environmentally-friendly solution to our energy woes, if you don't think so much about the soil erosion or the destruction of native species' habitat, and why on earth should you?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the future: I call it Mr Snuffles.

I think I'm going to get one of these things so I can have a night light to read books by. A strangely irritating, twitchy night-light that hops about everywhere every time I read more than two words, and keeps on eating out of the lettuce bin, true... but a night light, nonetheless. I guess if I really wanted to stop them hopping about, I could shoot them. And you can't do that with a normal night-light, can you? No. No, you can't.

Don't tell the RSPCA I said that, though. Those scoundrels just don't appreciate the torment we cultured types have to go through to read books. It's hard being literate and educated, let me tell you. Honestly, I don't know how Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote their plays without one of these glow-in-the-dark bunnies, I really don't.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Fable of the Largely Unsatisfying Fable

Once upon a time, there was a hackneyed opening to a story.

The ending wasn't much better.

The end.

Moral: Not really, no.

Another Moral: As you travel along life's highway don't forget to stop and smell the flowers, unless the flowers smell really crap, which they probably do.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Headlines Spotted

Kudos to Bernie Slattery for these two headlines spotted on the Coober Pedy News website!
- Peculiar Knob Excites

- International Women's Day Celebrations

A Pointless Story

Justine Larbalestier, who I suspect was my tutor for some course I had at university, has a thing about zombies (she likes them) and another thing about unicorns (she doesn't like them). For no reason at all other than I'm a bit bored, here's a story that will either piss her off or not piss her off.

upon a time it was night. Sure, that's not a very imaginative opening to this story, since it's night lots of the time, but for the purposes of this story, it's got to be night, okay? So anyway, it was night and in the middle of a graveyard, because a graveyard is where these things happen, and an old man called Norris was wandering around in the moonlight. Norris was just some guy the producers Civic Cemetery Authorities paid to wander around with a shovel. Occasionally he would stop and say "Ooh, arrrgh, Oy be garrrrgh!" in a Somersetshire accent. The authorities didn't pay him to do that, that was just him ad-libbing. All of a sudden it burst out of the ground - the decaying, putrefying yet strangely elegant and unearthly form of

THE UNICORN ZOMBIE OF DEATH (and associated acts of destruction and brain-sucking).

Norris gave up a melancholy "Ooh arrrgh!" as the malevolent zombie-steed leapt upon him, and, piercing his skull with its evil but weirdly beautiful horn, proceeded to feast upon his cerebral organ beneath the cold, cold moon.

Over the next few weeks, this malicious zombie-steed wreaked havoc on the Kingdom of Og, galloping from one corner of the kingdom to the other and feasting on the brains of all of the goodly citizens of Og. At first the citizens thought it was the tax inspector, but then realised it wasn't taxing season (And besides, even though the Labor Party, who were in power at the time, were pretty fond of this sort of thing, even they wouldn't go this far). The entire Kingdom of Og was held in the grip of a reign of terror by this wicked yet eerily sublime zombie-unicorn. Finally, they all gathered together in the Castle of Og to figure out what to do, or at least get a drink out of it.
It was then that an old man piped up and said,
"I say we FIGHT back against these Injuns! It's either fight back or..."
Once they had bundled him out the door to mutter about Injuns and General Custer to the moon, they got to talking again about the Killer Zombie-Unicorn.
"There be some that say," said Siegmund Glouch, of the Greenhill Glouches, "That this zombie-unicorn can only be caught by a virgin maiden, or, if that be impossible, any old girl will do."
"Ooh!" said one citizen.
"Aaargh!" said another citizen.
Which I guess was their way of agreeing with him. I don't know, I'm just writing this down, it's not as if I can speak foreign languages like Somerset, or anything.

But as it turned out, the only person they could find to catch the zombie-unicorn was Old Mad Sal, who lived in a cave on her own and didn't talk much, just had a disturbing laugh (or possibly that was her emphysema). She wasn't too happy about doing it, either, but the housing minister threatened to demolish her cave if she didn't agree. Anyway, just to be on the safe side, she secretly took a virgin pledge on the side with the local Baptist Minister, who was happy to oblige, since she promised to come to church every Sunday.
Everybody in the town thought it was going to be the end of Old Mad Sal, but as it turned out, Sal got along quite well with the zombie-unicorn, so much so that they both decided to take over the kingdom of Og.

And Old Mad Sal galloped to and fro across the Kingdom of Og on the demonic palfrey, who gored hither and thither and yon with his horrendous but hypnotic horn. And the two held the Kingdom of Og in the grip of terror for a thousand and one years. The end.

Esq Train, Third Gutter on the Left

I was thinking of taking out a subscription to the New Yorker shortly, and I think I bored the heck out of most of the people at the grogblog last night by talking about obscure publications. So why don't I do some more of it now?*
It's probably not the smartest time for me to be thinking about this, what with my rent not being paid and me being dissatisfied with my job at the moment, but what the heck - I figure if I lose my job and get tossed out on the street, I can at least be the most educated bum in the gutter. The post man can just knock on the newspapers that I use as a bed and ask if I'm at home.

I could always resubscribe to The Spectator, which I received for a year while living in Newcastle. It was ludicrous, really - there I was receiving a Centrelink pension, going along to the occasional meeting with a welfare worker and talking about how hard, really, I was trying to find a job - and then I'd disappear back into my falling down house and read this high-Tory magazine from Britain from cover to cover. I loved it, but I think I took to it rather too enthusiastically - by the end of the year, I could hardly pick up the magazine, because I knew when I did, I'd have to read four or five articles in a sitting. It was just too much of a commitment - I had to give it up! I treated the slightly-boring-but-worthy Quadrant with similar enthusiasm when I subscribed to that.

For a while, perhaps with starry-eyed dreams of becoming a celebrity science-fiction writer, I contemplated subscribing to Andromeda Spaceways, a neat little Aussie production specialising in comedy-themed science fiction writing. But despite my love of the genre, I don't actually read much sci-fi nowadays - perhaps a short novel every two months. I've also thought about signing up to Viz, not because I'm a cartoon devotee, but because I love some of their artists (John Fardell is close to a genius), their humour, and their ability to find satire in the most unlikely of forms - newspaper advertisements, board games, and crosswords, for instance.

If I were a better person, perhaps I'd subscribe to a magazine that challenged me politically and morally. Harpers is a very good left-wing American publication, although Lewis Lapham's editorials seem to get more and more embittered as time goes on. And come to think of it, the one time I bought a copy of The Weekly Standard, a right-wing American publication, I was just as challenged. And I'm steering clear of crap ideology-masking-itself-as-journalism, like The Green Left Weekly and The New Statesman.

But it's not the politics that is the most important thing, anyway. What I love about The New Yorker is that you can still open it and find pieces by Woody Allen and Steve Martin. It's the wit and the eloquence that I enjoy - I don't care much what a writer believes in, so long as they are able to talk about it easily, with intelligence and honesty.

But then again, subscribing to the New Yorker might be just another way of finding out more about a fascinating city on the other side of the world, a city that I visited for just enough time to find out that I didn't visit it for anywhere near enough time to find out everything I wanted to find out about it.

*Blogging is the perfect medium for rhetorical questions, don't you think? Yes, you do.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Whale of a Time

Three days back at the job, and it's depressing how much of the news stories I come across that are exactly the same as they were four weeks ago.
There's a radio interview with two guys about an airport development, or a development under an airport, or something. The same two guys were talking about exactly the same thing, in separate interviews, a month ago. They might have just as well been locked in a studio together in order to produce the same opinion in a more efficient way. Or then there's an item about water in the outback, and leaks, or bores, or leaky bores, or borey leaks, or at least one of those things. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Work is a drip. I'm out of here. I'm going to throw it all in, and take up charity work for children growing up in poverty in darkest Northcote who have been affected by John Howard's brutal dictatorship. From now on, I'm handing this blog over to a new proprietor, a Southern Right Whale - Charlie, his name is:

Say hello to Charlie, or, as he is called in his own language, Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaoooaaaaae Aeeeeeeeeoooooaoooooooaaaaaa. He likes growing flowers, caring for nature, and children; he unwinds by listening to folk music and drinking soy chai; and he votes for the Democrats, but has many friends in the Australian Greens. I'm sure he'll bring a unique perspective to this blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Life is Change...

Just a quick post to note the silencing (hopefully not forever) of Sternezine.

Sterne was run by two very witty and eloquent guys, Tim and Jon, from out of their homes in Box Hill. By the time I found it, it had already had a wide reputation as being a cuttingly satirical Aussie blog. Here's two somewhat random sample from the Sterne archives, by Tim -

Leslie converts to Ninjaism, silences critics - forever!
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Or this one, by Jon -

OK Commuter

Later, Tim revealed a more serious literary side in his posts on Sarsaparilla. He's a writer who's occasionally prone to astounding flights of comic inspiration. When I read his posts, I'm alternately filled with jealousy (why can't I write like that?) and admiration.

There were plenty of imitators - including Jeremy and, from time to time, myself - but Sterne is the original and the best.

According to Tim,
Sterne may be revived some day by one or both of us, but don't count on it. Still, blogging is an addiction, and I'm already drawing up vague mental blueprints for my next venture. I picture something quieter, with more music, a more positive outlook.
Let's hope we see more of this new project soon. Although, given the amount of literary talent on offer at Sterne, it's probably time for Tim and Jon, respectively, to start working on their first books ...

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Magazine For Highly Concerned Inattentive People

(Any resemblance to a famous blogger is by name alone ...)

The magazine that doesn't know what it wants to be.

Hard-hitting ambiguities for the present day ...

Who should you vote for: John Howard, Kevin Rudd, or this plush new velveteen lounge suite?

Current affairs:
Is the early hurricane season in the US a sign of global warming, or is Mischa Barton's new hairdo worse than her old one?

We explain nuclear power, astrophysics, rocket science, and the latest fashion designs coming out of Paris!

Reader feedback:
Psychopathic serial killers and the shoes they wear - YOU decide in our exclusive reader poll!

Other things!
Something else!
And more (or less!)

High-class waffle, tackled in a no-nonsense manner, delivered to your newstands every month... or so.

OUT NOW soon-ish!

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad (In Your Pants)

(A fable inspired by a parlour game.)

Not many boys are regularly asked to drop their pants at school, and then get lauded and idolised for it, but then, Horace Argle Freeley was not like many boys. Horace had three testicles.

Whenever he told new friends that he had three testicles, he would be met with stars of incomprehension, disbelief, and outright anger.
"Go on, prove it," his friends would insist.
So Horace would.
"Wow!" his friends would say.

Horace became very famous for his three testicles. He eventually became the host of a progressive talk show called 'The Channel Three Tritesticular Talkshow at Ten!' There, Horace got the chance to meet many interesting people who had met challenging difficulties in their lives and risen above them, like the bearded woman who shaved, or the siamese twins who had once mistakenly dated the same woman before breaking up with her. Here is a sample interview:

Hello! I'm Horace Argle Freeley, and I have three testicles!


Today, we're going to meet Janet de Graf. And what's special about you, Janet?

I don't have a navel!


Wow! And what else do you do with your life?

For the last twenty-three years, I have sold safety pins for a living!

Well hey, how about that? Coming up next, a dog with two tails!

One morning, Horace woke up with a severe case of testicular cancer in one ball.

"Horace!" said Horace's Doctor. "You are going to have to get that testicle amputated!"
"But Doctor," said Horace. "Is it serious?"
"You will be in severe pain!" said the Doctor.
"You don't say!"
"You will eventually get spasms and your breathing will be constricted," continued the Doctor.
"Bearable!" scoffed Horace.
"You WILL die." said the Doctor, severely.
"Everyone dies!" laughed Horace.
"After your other two testicles have dropped off, that is."
"Oh my GOD!" cried Horace. "I didn't know it was that bad! Help me, Doc, help me!"
"I recommend you have this amputation," said the Doctor, forcefully, "Tonight."
Horace gulped and nodded his head.

The next day, Horace woke up in his hospital bed, looked down and saw that his testicle had indeed been amputated. He burst into tears.
"I have lost my testicle!" he cried. "Now I have only two!"
"Oh, come on!" said Nurse Brown, who had just started her shift, and was feeling cheerful. "At least you're not dead."
"With this testicle, I stood out from the crowd," moaned Horace. "I was special! What will I do now I have only two?"
"Hey!" said Nurse Brown, sharply. "That's more than some people! Like Mr Evenson over there. Why, just last week, a rare urethral parasite..."
"But you don't understand!" wailed Horace. "Without that testicle, I am neither more nor less than normal!"

Horace went on to have several nervous breakdowns (several a day, that is) and took extended leave from his talkshow. Later, he wrote several self-help books with titles like,

Coping With The Un-Copeable Loss

How to Go On When You Can't Go On


You Think YOU'VE Got It Bad, Bud - I Lost a TESTICLE!

Unconsolable, he took to the streets, crying to the people in their houses, "I have lost my third testicle!"
He stumbled into the fields, howling to an uncaring God, "I have lost my third testicle - why, God, why?"
He turned his face in tearful and furious protest to the blank sky and cold moon and indifferent stars, crying:

If for self-glorifying purposes you should one day drop your dacks,
You say less about what you has than what you lacks.

More Moral Moral:
It is better to be happy for what you have got
Than to mourn for what you once had that others have not.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A New Lexicon For International Air Travellers

Jet lag: The most common aircraft illness. The body has difficulty adjusting itself to different time zones. An extreme case of jet lag occurred in 1977 when famed international aeronaut J P Botherskyte flew around the world five times, leaving his body five days in the past. He would have fallen into a coma there and then had he not had the presence of mind to fly backwards around the world, five times fast, by which time his body had caught back up with him.

Reverse jet lag: Occurs when you fly backwards too much. J P Botherskyte's arch-nemesis, Artilo Magniolosque, made the mistake of attempting to win the 'Flying Backwards Championships of 1988' by flying backwards around the world 365 TIMES! By that time his vbody had got so far ahead of him in the future that it decided to stay there. Magnilosque promptly crashed his plane in the Pacific Ocean, and if his body had been there it would undoubtedly have drowned.

Lug lag: Feeling one gets after heaving gigantic items of luggage around airports for extended spaces of time.

Claustrophobia: Fear of being in enclosed spaces - ie, fear of sitting in a seat that is just a little too short, small, and low to be comfortable. Usually justified.

Laustrophobia: 1) Fear that comes upon a person halfway over the Pacific Ocean - that the pilot has no idea where they are.
2) Same as 1), except the person who has that fear is the pilot.
3) Fear that one is about to become part of a bizarre television plot that increases in unlikelihood as the season progresses.

Bleughstrophobia: Fear of the dangers of regurgitation on long distance flights.

Cordonblestrophobia: Fear that the curious French-style foodstuffs given to you will come alive mid-flight, develop tentacles, and attempt to devour your brains, a la Alien. (Uncommon)

Cramputation: Effect caused by sitting in a seat that is a little too short, small, and low to be comfortable, resulting in loss of sensation to one's limbs after a long flight.

Metromania: Pathological dislike of cities, causing one to fly to extreme distances and politically-unstable Pacific Island economies to avoid them.

Tasmania: Pathological dislike of people called 'Tas', causing one to fly extreme distances (and to unlikely Australian states) to avoid them.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

At Narita Airport

On the Narita stopover during my flight back to Australia, I noticed that the Japanese referred to the high-paying customers of another flight as 'First Crass Customers'.

I love this. It suggests that passengers can get a good seat by simply fronting up and saying swear words:

"Herro, first crass or economy?"
"Prease step this way, sir!"

"First crass?"
"Wercome aboard!"

"First crass passenger, sir?"
"Sorry, sir: we are not taking on second crass customers yet. Onry first crass!"

A Definition

Intergroper (n) An unknown third party who intrudes on the amorous advances of others by copping a feel for himself while the others are distracted.

Sample Sentence: "Oh, Horace, you beast, you have never touched me like that before!"
"Nor am I now, my dearest Beatrice: I have discovered a wily intergroper has inveigled his way into our boudoir!"

(See also: Armed and Langorous and Schlepping with the Enemy.)

Broadway Nights and Subway Days and Matinees

Times Square on a Saturday Night.

Times Square on Broadway is sparkling with light: golden, white, red, green, blue. It starts about a block before you reach Times Square, on 42nd Street, with a huge pink neon sign titled 'PARK HERE', flickering hypnotically. When I saw that sign, I was filled with an overwhelming desire to park my car - and I neither own a car nor drive.

Later I got to know Times Square very well indeed. And some of the other places in New York, as well - from Brooklyn Heights to The Village to Carnegie Hall to Smoke, a small jazz bar on Broadway and 105 st. But it was Times Square that dominated my time. I certainly can't say I saw all of the shows on offer, but I saw quite a few more than some. Herewith find appended a brief list...

The Drowsy Chaperone
This is a musical about a cranky old fart who tells us about his favourite musical, offering comments as he plays the LP. It's an interesting conceit that becomes funnier as the play continues on. He starts off by saying "I hate theatre!" and complaining about modern drama, before drifting off into reminisces about the shows he saw as a child - this as a way of introducing us to his album. Halfway through the play, he says "I hate intermissions. So we won't have one!". Then for the next few minutes he sits in the chair and drums his fingers...

This was the first musical I saw on Broadway. I went to see this basically because it was advertised on the side of a bus and I had no idea what else was on. But it was well worth it!

Avenue Q

Lucy the Slut with a friendly - very friendly - human.

This was a parody of Sesame Street. There's one Cookie-Monster-style character who spends all his day inside looking at porn on the net and beating off, and another monster who seems to be styled after Mae West named Lucy the Slut. You get to see puppets getting drunk and you even get to see what happens after the puppets get drunk and get in bed together. The whole thing was absolutely hilarious, and made even better by the sign I spotted outside the theatre:

Jim Henson Puppets would like to make it known that it does not endorse this production in any way.

Gutenberg: The Musical

Two of imaginatively-titled characters in 'Gutenberg: The Musical': 'Monk', and 'Another Monk'.

This was an off-Broadway production at a small theatre called 'The Actors' Playhouse' in The Village. (That's lower west-side Manhattan.) It's a rich part of town that Phillip Glass and Woody Guthrie and other artistic types used to live in when it was a poor part of town (hence making it into a rich part of town). 'Gutenberg' is more a comedy-style show about two daggy guys who have written a musical about the most unlikely of subjects - the guy who invented the printing press and used it to print Bibles. It covers a number of weird topics: anti-semitism, education and 'The eternal debate between God and stuff!' You kind of have to see it to understand, but it is great stuff. If this thing ever comes out to Australia for a comedy festival or something, everyone - go and see it!

The Producers
As absolutely everyone should know by now, I am absolutely obsessed with this musical, so it was kind of inevitable that I see it while it was still on Broadway. (The doors are finally closing on this show on April 22). The cast was pretty woeful: Max Bialystock - he of the penetrating voice, dramatic entrances, and showstopping numbers - was played by small, husky-voiced Tony Danza (of 'Who's The Boss' fame*). He can't act, he can't dance, he can't sing, and he has no stage presence, but he is naturally sympathetic with the part of Max - after all, they're both losers.

Still, I'm glad I saw this - the original dance numbers and sets are still intact, and a few of the songs in the theatre show aren't included in the movie - or in the outtakes on the DVD. There are also a few references that can only be understood if you know Times Square. Like the fact that Springtime for Hitler is staged at the Shubert Theatre - a competitor of the St James Theatre, where The Producers played. Or the following words in this Leo Bloom song:

I want to be a producer,
Wear my top hat on Broadway:
I want to be a producer -
Dine at Sardi's every day.

Sardis is the restaurant just next to the St James. Maybe this is actually just product placement, but who cares? It's still funny and clever.

I got a matinee ticket to this one on the day of production, partly becaused I liked the theatre - The Al Hirschfield Theatre, named after a Broadway caricaturist (he also did illustrations for a number of Perelman books) contains a number of Hirschfield illustrations and New York Times covers. The theatre itself is very old, with beautiful filigree designs around the stage, painted walls, and very tight seats - like the St James theatre. (Except with the St James theatre, you also sometimes have the pleasure of walking up several flights of stairs before squeezing yourself into one of the bone-crunchingly-tight seats).

The show itself was so-so - written by the guys who made Chicago and Cabaret, it's a whodunnit set in the backstage of a large theatre. The leading lady of a new show dies on opening night, and the detective insists that none of the actors leave the theatre. The rest of the show basically consists of a number of ridiculous excuse to get the actors in as many costumes as possible, and to perform as many large, showstopping numbers as possible. (The intimate love-duet between the two leading stars has an intimate twenty or so people singing at once, while wearing preposterous white silk costumes).

Oh, and just to prove that I've done my research for this review, and stuff, I'll just say that the guy who played the detective was played by the guy who was in Frasier. No, not Kelsey Grammer - the other guy.

The Pirate Queen
I got tickets to the first preview of this show on my first full day in New York. The tickets were for March 6 - the day just before I was due to fly out of New York. Frankly, I had no idea what it was going to be like. The comments in 'Time Out New York' magazine, which has great reviews of every show on Broadway suggested the show was going to be awful. So when I rocked up to the Hilton on the night of March 6, I was feeling a tad apprehensive about the whole thing.

And the show was pretty silly. Unlike almost all of the other shows I saw, the script had very little wit to it. Sometimes there were conscious attempts to be funny - the English women were made to wear big dresses, for instance. Big dresses are funny, get it? The show was based on the story of a girl who became captain of a pirate ship and led an Irish rebellion against the English, so as you might expect it is full of fight scenes and dungeons, and there's even a birth scene thrown in there just for fun. I was VERY disappointed with the lack of piratical adventures in this show, though - there was very little that was piratical at all, in fact. The Pirate Queen spends most of her time singing big show-stopping numbers and heaving her bosom voluptuously and getting married to the wrong guy. The show writers obviously wanted to get something with big emotions and passions, but they've ended up with a pale imitation of a Mills and Boon novel.

Though it was kind of fun when the villain got killed and dragged down to hell. You've got to appreciate a Don Giovanni reference.

Another part of Times Square on a Saturday night. Note the crowds, by the way: This was 44th Street, between Broadway and (I think) 8th Avenue, the busiest part of Times Square. The street, from one end to the other, was completely packed. It was hard to even breathe, let alone move...

*I'm not sure whether the phrase 'Of 'Who's The Boss' fame' is an oxymoron or not. Can anyone help me out here?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I think, therefore I Amish: Further Scintillating Conversation

More conversational gems, similar to the ones recorded in this post.

"You're in New York. What are you doing in New York?"

"You're an Australian? What are you doing in New York?"

"Why the hell did you come to New York?"

"Nice hat!"

"Nice hat! You look distinctive! You look fine!"

"Are you Amish?"

"Nice hat! Are you Amish?"

"You're not a Mormon, are you? With that hat you look like one."

"Are you Amish? The hat makes you look Amish."

"Are you going to wear that hat in the performance."

"This is your first time in New York? Okay, the first rule for people who have just come to New York is this: never let people know it's your first time in New York!"

"What are you doing in New York?"

"Are you Amish?"

Great Moments In Junk Food

They taste like Cheese Twisties, in case you're wondering.

Loving Expletives Redolent With Nostalgia

It's my last full day in the USA today! This morning as I took a step out onto 47th Street I took a lusty breath of the freezing, smog-laden air and hacked out several nostalgic coughs. I sauntered out over 3rd Avenue towards the Breakfast Deli on Lexington and cocked my ear to hear the inevitable angelic chorus of car-horns and drivers screaming at me in several languages at once. I heartily turned towards them and launched into my own version of the New York tirade, lacing my speech with several loving expletives. One of the drivers even felt moved enough to launch his car at me, but I think he sensed the quiver in my voice, as there was something almost gentle in the way I was lifted into the air and...

Minor details like narrative hyperbole and road rage aside, I shall miss the USA. It's a vast country that I still hardly feel like I know, but I've had a fun three-and-a-half weeks. I've been to San Francisco, Marin County, Boston, Philadelphia, and of course up-and-down all of New York. Currently I'm occupying myself by seeing as many Broadway shows as possible, following the example of Jellyfish. I'll try and give a run-down of those tonight, after I see the final musical on my itinerary, a gigantic affair entitled 'The Pirate Queen'. Hmmm. We'll see how that goes.

The GREAT AMERICAN JUNK FOOD EXPERIMENT post never eventuated, but let's just say I've had a fun time doing research, discovering a few weird food-stuffs in the process. (Twizzlers, anyone?)

I'll post again a bit later, but for now, as they say in this country - um - bye!

Ex-Ex-Gay Comes Out Of the Closet (Again)

"I am gay and I am proud," said Richard G. Jerome, 37, of Alabama. "Again."
The proud gay man has come out of the closet for a second time after going into the closet for a second time after coming out of the closet for a first time.
"It's the circle of life!" laughs Jerome. "I like to explain it like this: I was proud of being gay, then I was proud of being ex-gay, now I am proud of being ex-ex-gay. I was, and am, proud of all of those things. It's just a matter of maintaining different paradigms."
Nor is this unusual. Jerome personally knows several Ex-ex-ex-gays, two ex-ex-ex-ex-gays, and one ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-gay. "That's too many 'ex'es!" laughs Jerome. "I just call him ex, to the power of eight!"
Sociologists have been noticing this phenomenon increasingly in parts of Jerome's community. Indeed, the results can be plotted on an X-Y axis - or, as sociologists have taken to calling it, an 'Ex/Why-Not' axis:

Jerome even introduced his boyfriend to the concept. "That was amusing!" laughs Jerome. "I lost a gay friend but gained an ex-gay-ex-boyfriend!"
But things turned awry when Jerome's ex-gay-ex-boyfriend became gay again and turned into an ex-ex-gay-ex-boyfriend.
"He tried to tell me that he wasn't ex-ex-gay, he was just gay all along. He'd only become ex-gay to humour me," says Jerome sadly. "I could tell he was lying - that bitch!"
And when Jerome's ex-ex-gay-ex-boyfriend met Jerome's other ex-gay-ex-ex-boyfriend, Jerome was horrified. "They were traitors to the ex-gay movement!" he cries. "But eventually I came to see their position. It's what eventually brought me round: I now realise I can be ex-ex-gay and proud."
"And who knows what the future holds?" he continues. "I look forward to coming out of the closet a third time after going into the closet a third time after coming out of the closet a second time after... ah, you know what I mean!"

"It's a beautiful thing, man, a beautiful thing!"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Just You, Me, My Subconscious Mind, and All Those Other Things

Last night, Broadway: wandering around Times Square for no particular reason after seeing a long-running Broadway show nearing the end of its long-run, I noticed Sponge-Bob Squarepants being escorted off the premises of Toys'R'Us by a bouncer, or something.

What do you have to do to get escorted off the premises of Toys'R'Us? I mean, kids go in there and jump on one another and throw shit at their mothers and bang one another on the head until they give each other a cerebral haemmorhage.

Sponge-Bob Squarepants is clearly a bad-ass.

Trip to Philadelphia - a Photo Essay

My alarm went off at 6.00 or thereabouts. By 7.00 I struggled, bleary-eyed and cranky, into Penn Station

with a few things plonked into my backpack and a three-day pass hastily shoved into my pocket.

This was one of the first things I saw:

I'd like to see them publish that in Australia!

About an hour-and-a-half later, I was plonked out of the train and on to the streets of Philadelphia. Wandering down a few streets, I found a little terrace of shops, and the full horror of exploitative Capitalism hit me!

I reeled as if I had been struck! If only people could learn to distribute their goods in a more equitable manner, and not give in to... Oh, wait. Things were pretty quiet that day, actually. And I did give in to my consumeristic urges and buy a nice Ogden Nash book of poetry from that bookstore. Damn you, Capitalism!

I noticed there were light-rail lines laid out across the street, but not much light-rail going by. They didn't actually start up until noon or thereabouts:

You can't believe how excited I was when I saw this tram. I was all, like, 'Gee. It's a tram.'

The excitement lasted all of half-a-second.

For a while I contemplated taking a wander in the graveyard to take my mind off my gathering ennui and think about something light and frivolous - ie, death:

Good thing I didn't. I don't think the zombies come out of the ground in these places until after dark, and I had a train to catch.

I was so relieved when I got back in New York. What with their exciting Macy's store (with the missing 'S')

and the Yiddish equivalent of Wendy's icecream

Well gosh, it's the place to be.

For three more days, at least.

Pennsylvania is nice, though. It would be interesting to catch the town on a livelier day. You know, when the zombies burst out of their graves, or something.

The Things On Pier 39, and other San Francisco Pictures

There they were - huge colourless mounds of gray alien blubber, sprawled about: an involuntary shiver went up my spine as I contemplated them. Occasionally, they would open up their huge mouths and emit fearsome bestial yelps and howls - it was terrifying!

And those were just the tourists!
A little down from the famous Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf, I found this:

The little known Pier One-and-a-half.

Later on the same day, I met with the infamous Tom Miller (commenter extraordinaire on Rachy's blog), the irascible Mark, and their respective partners!

Two days later, I met up with Mark and Pam and Mark took me to see some sites around the countryside, including the church where Hitchock filmed 'The Birds' ...

And through the impossibly rich Californian countryside!

After a while, one blade of grass came to look just like another. I'm buggered if I can tell where any of these pictures were taken, now.

Back in the city for a final two nights:

This is the cable-car stop on Powell Street and Market Street at night.

And this is the shot of some poets at a bar I went to on my final evening in San Francisco. Doesn't it look all arty with the lighting and stuff? Plus, if you squint hard enough, you can see her... ahem!

I'm off now to see a musical, but I'll be back later with some pics from my trip to Philadelphia!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Tip on Tips

It was on a Sunday afternoon in September 1975 on my initial visit to America that I first learned about the custom of tipping. I remember it well, as it was two years to the day before the occasion of myu birth. I had been visiting a Cocktail-and-poodle bar on Upper East Side with my confidante, personal Jungian archetype, and sworn enemy, Gelbson. We had just worked our way through the hors d'ouevres and the Pomme au Frittes and had arrived at the faux pas. We were replete and leaned back, casting our eyes over the pleasant mise ene scene. It was then that Gelbson chose to open conversation with me on the subject.
"It is an unspoken rule," he said, "That you must know of."
I leaned forward wildly, afraid that I had breached some law of etiquette unbeknownst to myself (but beknownst to Gelbson). "What is it?" I whispered frantically. "Tell me - please - I beg of you!"
"I cannot speak of it," said Gelbson, "Except to say that the things I would say of it must remain unsaid."
"I say!" I replied, impressed with Gelbson's deep and direful tones.
"Instead," said Gelbson, rising from his chair and dusting his smock off with a feather duster he had procured that afternoon from Tiffanys, "I will show you. In such matters as tipping," he continued, "Things must be shown - not told."
And he showed me.
Signalling to the waitress with his index finger, Gelbson waited until she had sashayed her way through the milling crowd, a tray of Ming China delicately balanced in either hand. Then, with the slightest, most graceful of movements, Gelbson pushed the tip of his index finger forward on to the waitresses hip, upsetting her most delicate balance and sending her crashing to the ground, amidst several screams and the smash and tinkle of precious antique china.
Gelbson turned to me, a look of infinite satisfaction and wry amusement on his face.
I watched, horrified, for an instant before berating my companion thusly:
"THAT was IT?" I cried. "THAT was tipping? It's... it's... it's BARBARIC!"
"It's American, kiddo," smiled Gelbson, raising both palms in the air.
"But... why have I never heard of this?" I cried. "It's outrageous that in a civilised, ordered, modern society, THIS! - should be expected of anyone! - let alone on a regular basis!"
"That's how things are done here, kiddo," insisted Gelbson. "Now - are you going to tip the waiter for your meal - or shall I?"
The water stood by my seat, the slightest curl of French superiority on his lips.
"It is expected in zees country, sir," he said. "Not so much in Paris, but zees is America. We have a saying in old Europe, you see: when in Rome - do as ze Americans do. Ze bastards have all the spondulicks, after all."
The Waiter stood there expectantly, but it was all I could do to reach out two small, quivering hands and upset his balance just enough to send him crashing to the floor.
"Good God!" I shouted. "What have I done?"
I leaped from my seat to help the French waiter from the ground. Before I could reach him, however, he had returned himself to his standing position with a practised, not to mention maladroit, ease. With a dignified, "Merci beaucoup, sir - I hope you have a pleasant day," he waltzed over to the adjacenty table, where a snuffling overweight man was complaining that he had found an orangutan hair in his soup (most unusual, as they had only advertised Symbionese monkey hairs on the menu.)

Over the course of the next few days, Gelbson and I dined in a number of restaurants in Manhattan while he trained me in the finer points of American tipping. In other words, we went on a tipping rampage. I can still remember, even now, the fiendish zeal that seemed to possess Gelbson as he sent waitress and waiter alike crashing to the floor by way of initiating me into this curious Atlantic custom. As much as I tried to fit in, I feel I could barely imitate the manner in which he shoved all classes of serving staff to the floor with barely concealed malice. Nevertheless, it is with no little pride that I admit that I gained some proficiency in the art by the time my visit to Manhattan was at an end.


It is curious to me now, on returning to New York, to consider that the practice of tipping is now coming in to some vogue in Australia. I discussed the matter with Gelbson as we consumed some local lager in a pub on Brooklyn Heights yesterday.
"Do you think it will catch on?" inquired Gelbson.
"I don't know," I replied, meditatively. I considered the matter as I absent-mindedly paid the barmaid and sent her crashing to the floor before picking up my beverage.
"I suspect not," I continued, after some moments. "We Australians prefer a system where the wage is minimum, the prices high, and children may be paid no more than a higher subsistence fee set by the Government due to an expectation that they live with their parents. So much more civilised, don't you think?"
Gelbson grunted non-committally and opened his Wall Street Times to see how his stocks in the start-up adult internet search engine, Bloogle, were doing today...

Friday, March 02, 2007

San Franciso, in an Unpredictable Fashion

Committing Random Acts of Tourism
When I came to San Francisco I saw: a street in the water, a street in the air, a street that went in several directions at once, an eight-way spaghetti junction, a bus that thought it was a tram, a tram that thought it was a bus, and people carrying a tram instead of the other way around.

Clearly, this was a very confused city.

Maybe the whole place was still on drugs from the 1960s era when hippies came all over to Haight-Ashbury and did whatever hippies do while on Haight-Ashbury. Nowadays, though, there seem to be more yuppies than hippies on the street, and more tourists than both.

City Lights
On a hill, on the six-way intersection between Grant Street, Columbus Avenue and Broadway (there's a point when you're in the middle of all that that the street names lose all meaning and just become blocks of concrete and asphalt) is the City Lights bookstore. A large three-storey bookstore, it was set up by poet Laurence Ferlinghetti: it's where the Beat writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg congregated in the late 1950s and 1960s. There's a big photograph on the wall of all the Beat poets sprawled about on the pavement. Right in the middle is one sensible-looking woman. You've got to wonder what the hell she was doing with that lot.

Or maybe you don't.

If you go down into the basement of the bookstore, you will notice bookshelfs devoted to 'Stolen Continents' and 'Socialism' and 'Green Politics' and 'Anarchism' (there's nothing, on the other hand, about conservatism, liberterianism, or right-wing politics in general). In the loft of the City Lights bookstore is a huge poetry room, with a sign inviting browsers to sit down and read a book. It has poetry going back as far as ancient Greek times, as well as books by its own publishing label. (Ferlinghetti, as well as being a poet and a hippy, was one of the original entrepreneurs - one wonders if he was the original hippy-turned-yuppie.)

Random Street Names
You can tell a lot about a city from its streets. At least, for the purposes of a blog post, you can...

The Embarcadero
Divisadero Street
Haight Street
Noriega Street
Columbus Avenue
Masonic Street
Castro Street
Vallejo Way
Valencia Street
Union Street
Washington Avenue
Pier 1 and a half
Golden Gate Bridge
Lombard Street

Train Stations I Have Known, Number Three
Okay, it wasn't a train station, and it wasn't really a tram station, either. It's the cable-car stop-off point on the corner of Powell and Market Streets.

Purchase a one-way ticket on this cable-car, and as it travels up and down the rolling hills of San Francisco, you will become acquainted with various points on the compass between the vertical and the horizontal. Your body will sway back and forth like a metronome wand while behind you, the cable-car driver will be working like a madman on the switches and pulleys and levers.

It isn't the most efficient method of travel. When I bought a ticket, it definitely wasn't the quickest way to get where I was going.

Sometimes, you have to just do these things for the hell of it.

Random Conversations with San Francisco Strangers
"Are you Irish?"

"Are you Irish?"

"Are you Irish?"

"Are you Irish?"

"You're not from here, are you? Are you Irish?"

"Are you Irish?"

"I don't have an accent!"

"I guess I have an accent. I don't think about it."

"San Franciscans don't have an accent!"

"Accent? Me?"

"Are you Irish?"

Just when you thought there couldn't be any more trees in the world...
On Monday and Tuesday, Mark showed me around the countryside. Just when you thought there couldn't be any more trees in the world, woah! There you go, the countryside! Of course, you can't swap dirty jokes or have a conversation, political or otherwise with a tree... which is where Mark came in. We drove about a bit, gossiped about blogging and politics, and ended up that night at Mark's place in Cotadi.

California in the winter is unbelievably lush, and every few kilometres you come across another small community with a museum and a town-park and a statue of some guy who shot a bear or started a revolution or something. It's a fascinating state, although, as Mark explained, the modern history really only goes back one hundred and fifty years.

Though He Was An Ordinary Sized Man, His Personality Was Too Big For One Taxi
Returning from a poetry gig on Haight Street, I had one of my stand-out taxi experiences:

"You are Irish? No? You come from Australia? Yes! You see, my second guess right! Australia is a big country far across the sea. I tell you this: my geography teacher tell me this before me.
Australia has a principle industry of sheep and wheat. But inside, there is much desert. Australia has five state and two territories! There are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. Canberra is the capital city of Australia!
And across the sea is Tasmania Island. And do you know the name of the capital of Tasmania Island? Hobart City! There are many types of kangaroo on Tasmania Island - yes, many types of kangaroo, very small kangaroo and very big kangaroo. And I tell you the name of another Tasmanian creature. Do you know name of this creature? I tell you: the Devil! The Devil eat lots of meat and he have big teeth!
The interior of Australia has much desert and not many people. It also has a big rock that is famous, all over the world! I tell you now the name of this rock: yes, I tell you! It is Ayers Rock! Okai, my Australian friend! I tell you okai, for it is word you Australians use! I wish you safe journey! I wish to see your wife and many children!"

Yeah, I wish to see them, too. He seems to know more about me then me does.

Oh, yeah, and by the way...
San Francisco rocks! California rocks! I love you guys!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Not Me

There was a landslide in San Francisco yesterday. Basically, one of the peep shows on Broadway suddenly became one of the peep shows under Broadway. You'll be relieved to know that I was not there at the time.

Actually, no-one was there at the time. That's the thing about peep shows, after all: if you ask people about them after the fact, you will usually find that nobody was there at the time. If someone else denies this, just ask them if they were there at the time: they will usually be unable to confirm or deny the fact that you weren't there at the time, and if you say they were, you can't prove it.

In other words, the frequency of people at peep-shows is frequently infrequent, which is a relief when we consider the peep-show in San Francisco yesterday morning. After all, if the infrequency of people at the peep-show had been infrequently infrequent, then we might have found rather more of the people who didn't attend the peep-show yesterday morning were hurt. Frequently.

All in all, when we consider the statistics, it is heartening to know that of all the people who didn't attend the peep-show on Broadway that went under Broadway, none of them was hurt: because they weren't there.

And neither was I.

Now isn't that nice?

Out of all those people who didn't attend the peep-show, a very small figure of over 100 non-attendees were evacuated from the peep-show that they didn't attend.
Email: timhtrain - at -

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