Thursday, 21 December 2006

Burning questions

There have been huge bushfires raging across the state of Victoria for a couple of weeks now. So bad are the fires that when I woke today, the weather wasn’t overcast (as it seemed at first) but instead the sky was completely blotted out by a huge smoke cloud. The sun seemed like a torch seen through a newspaper and it wasn’t just asthmatics that had trouble breathing.

On my lunch hour I took a stroll through the park near my office to try and conjure up some sort of focus as the impending holidays have made me very distracted. In between splutters and coughs I noticed that, rather than clearing, the smoke had only gotten thicker. Everyone was going about their day as per normal but to me it felt like we’d fallen into a Wellsian plot - the kind often copied by science fiction writers. The typical scenario is: a huge ‘event’ occurs; the populace, at first, are confused and mesmerised by the ‘event’; common opinion is that it is benign and everyone gets on with their life, adapting to the ‘event’; until the true, malicious nature is revealed and the very existence of the human race is under threat because of the ‘event’.

I’m not scared that triffids or Martians or Specials are on the verge of ripping the world in half but is says something about humans (and the observational skills of sci-fi authors) when a huge atmospheric change is very quickly absorbed into the background and simply seen as being another sort of weather.

Note – We have been married for one year as of today. Being married, put simply, is the "Best. Experience. Ever."

I love you Roo.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Sick of it

I’ve been sick the last week with a cold. Phlegm-filled sinuses, sweats followed by chills followed by sweats, a muddle-headedness that had me actually believing that England had a chance at retaining the Ashes. And how did I react? Like a heartbroken cheerleader from sitcom land. I wore tracksuit bottoms, shuffled around the house feeling sorry for myself and craved for nothing but ice cream. It would have been easier to hold up a big sign saying, “I want sympathy”. If nothing else, it may have got me served sooner when I went back to the shops for another tub of rocky road.

The thing that annoys me the most is that the weather has started to become a bit summery. The temperatures are up in the late 20s and I wore shorts on Sunday. When the gutters are blocked with leaves and Robyn and I have arguments about who should get out of bed to turn off the light I don’t mind being ill (not just because it’s a handy card to play when Robs claims that I’m closer to the switch). Coming down with the lurgy is part of winter. If there’s cricket on the tele, there’s something unjust about having watery eyes and a runny nose unless you’ve got hay fever or Pietersen’s just given away his wicket cheaply.

So I’ve decided that I’m not going to get sick in the summer anymore. I shall simply will my body to do my bidding and I will not succumb to any virus between the months of November and February from this point onward. Having said that, I seem to remember always being the one to switch out the light so if I can’t convince Robyn to kill the light now and then I don’t think I have much hope of conditioning my body against its tiny invaders using the “please tell them to call again when it’s more convenient” argument.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

That’s you that is

There’s a new image up there in the top right. Phil came up with the idea, I took the photo and then combined it with Claude’s far superior original. I still don’t know what Reality Splinter really means but taking a great work of art and mashing it up with a holiday snap definitely falls within it’s jurisdiction.

Here’s a better look:

Monday, 13 November 2006

Bloc-notes? Non! C'est un Blog

I'm usually all for the proliferation of the English language but lately I’ve become annoyed every time I encounter a certain word. When I read it in the sports pages or hear the rich tones of Les Murray spoilt by its use, I just groan and curl up inside. The word in question is brace. I'm happy for sailors to brace themselves in high seas, carpenters can use a brace to help support a beam and Legolas wannabes can still wear a brace to protect their forearms. Dentists may still ruin teenager's social lives by fitting them with braces and I have no problem with couples (of either, both or many orientations) clasping one another in a loving embrace.

I simply wish that commentators (especially those of the Association Football persuasion) stop describing two goals, trys, points etc. as a brace. A dozen, score or century are all perfectly acceptable as they describe a number which is substantial enough that it warrant's being highlighted by the use of a specific term. Three wickets, penalties, aces is an event that needs the phrase 'hat-trick' to note the rarity of the occasion but one less is nothing to write home about.

What the hell is wrong with two? “Henri scored two goals,” is a fine quote but to elevate it as being something of mark, by replacing the number with a specific noun takes something away from those that achieve one more. I'm not some crazy Frenchie who wants the word banned. When we start forcibly removing words from the English language, we might as well start building bonfires and throw the books on as well but if this one tiny, little word were to have an ‘accident’ would anyone care?

Sudoku – From the Japanese meaning, “Not as hard as a crossword”

Last Friday I was riding to work on a packed tram. Normally I get on early enough into the route to secure a seat but because there had been a hold up there was a flood of commuters waiting and when the #96 finally turned up I had to stand. I was hanging swinging from a hand loop like a planter hanging basket full of fuchsias, when, just as we passed the casino, I glanced down at the lady seated to my right. She was busy at work on a Sudoku puzzle (difficulty: tedium) and after sucking on the biro for a moment she filled a ‘4’ into a box just off centre of the puzzle. It was too cramped to read in any comfort so was easily hooked by this woman’s scratches.

I studied the grid a little closer and realised that she shouldn’t have placed the “4” there. There was already a “4” in the bottom of the column and based on the answers she’d filled in so far, she should have in fact placed either a “1” or a “3” in the box. I had a huge compulsion to point out her mistake but then that opens a whole jockstrap full of crabs as it would reveal that I’d been spying at her puzzle over her shoulder.

What is the etiquette in situations like this? Should I point out the failings of a stranger or leave the status quo knowing full well that placing the “4” in the wrong place has thrown every other placement out of whack in a move similar to a butterfly beating it’s wings in China. At this point her mobile rang with a horrible polyphonic explosion of Kung Fu Fighting. I relaxed and let my staid, non-confrontational side win. If she thinks its amusing to inflict faux-Asian 70’s pop on the rest of us then fruitless repetition followed seething rage as she realises her mistake is far, far less than she deserves.

Friday, 10 November 2006

You've (always) got mail

There's a website called FutureMe that allows you to write a message, address it to yourself and then specify a date for it to be delivered anywhere from one day to 30 years into the future. When you compose the letter, you have the option of giving FutureMe permission to publish the letter on the site for others to browse. It makes for some interesting reading. Most are letters of encouragement - “You should have achieved X by the time you read this. If not, why not? YOU CAN DO IT! You just need to believe in yourself. You are a TIGER! Master of the Jungle! Grrrrrrr!” - letters to the writer's newly born child - “Hey Kido. You're all grown up now. I hope I haven't screwed you up too much. Can I borrow your flying car?” - or excited birthday wishes to theirself - “Dude, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me from me. I hope your day ROCKS! Have we banged Kelly Kirkpatrick yet?

The thing that amazes me (other than how much people abuse CAPS lock and exclamation points!!!!!) is that its likely that the majority of these little 'pearls of wisdom' from the past will arrive at their destination. Five years from now, (hell, one year from now) I don't know if I'll live in the same house, hold the same job or answer the same telephone numbers but unless Google falls down, I can't see why I wouldn't be using my Gmail. Seeing as I'll most probably won't change my name, I could easily keep the current email address until I die, Hagrid wipes the InterTubes by mistake or I get too old to care about communicating with other people; whichever one comes first.

We live in a throwaway society where products have a built in obsolescence of about 11 minutes, you can divorce people by txt message (we're all looking at you Ms. Spears) and every other summer blockbuster has a plot based around new and interesting ways that the planet is going to destroy vast tracts of highly populated areas. You can buy disposable cell phones, underwear, petwear, urinals and even camcorders but at least there is now a third certainty to add to death and taxes; your email address. So please think carefully when you choose yours, you don't want to be stuck with for the rest of your life.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

At least Three’s Company had the sense to call it a day after seven years

The term Jumped the Shark is used to describe a piece of pop culture that is past its use-by date. At first it applied only to television shows as the episode that had the Fonze (on water-skis) jumping over a shark is usually pinpointed as the moment when Happy Days started to go down hill (I’m amazed that the term isn’t The Moment Joanie Stepped on Screen, but that’s just me).

It’s a useful idiom that one customize to many situations; Tom Cruise (Jumped the Couch), The Sopranos (Jumped the Gun) and even your aunt’s annoying spaniel (Humped the Bark). However, if anyone has jumped the proverbial shark it has to be the American Republican party.

At the time of writing, the GOP has lost the House and are within spitting distance of losing the Senate as well. And yet they are using phrases like "the headwind was just very, very strong this year” and "This just was a little too steep of a mountain to climb." No, you lost because the Monkey-Boy you have as president has finally got the country into such a bad place that the populace has decided, “Enough!” Unfortunately, they can’t easily get rid of him so instead they’re taking it out on you.

Now if only instead of jumping the shark, Bush just rode straight into it. I think a lot of people would tune in to see that and that’s about all that the Republicans can hope for if they are to save their show from cancellation in two years time.

Monday, 6 November 2006

I want my aioli

In today's 'on demand' consumer climate, it's quite a shock to find something unavailable. “You want it your way? You got it!” screams the marketplace. I can now order trainers that are made to measure, credit cards with my pets on them and bespoke 4x4s. Even politicians are thrown into a spin because the spectre of designer babies is (apparently) at the foot of the slippery slope that is stem cell research.

So imagine my disgust as a consumer when I discovered as I did my household shopping this evening (yes, I chose to visit my grocery store at 9:15pm on a Sunday) that I couldn't buy the garlic aioli dip I wanted. It wasn't merely sold out or temporary out of stock; the price tag was no longer on the shelf, there wasn't anything else available from the range and the space among the other dips was now occupied by something called Tasty Trout Seasoner. I felt outraged and wanted to complain. How could the store not have the item I wanted. Whatever happened to the customer is always right? When did Flemington become Communist Russia? What next? Replacing bread with Nutritious Wheaty Slice?

Before my fury could start curdling the dairy section, I stopped asking a pottle of nouveau riche fish paste rhetorical questions and let my anger subside. The world hadn't fallen over when the Malaysian-spiced chicken fillets I liked had been cancelled, nor had anarchy reigned following the non-availability of Bubble and Squeak Veggie Patties. I realised that I had become so spoilt by the variety of choice available to me I took it personally when one of the options had been removed. What had I done to pull down the wrath of the Ǚber-Marché? I can change, I can be a better shopper. I'll redeem my coupons, make full use of the Christmas savings plan and put my trolley back in the bay instead of leaving it at the foot of the car park like I had that one time I just popped in for milk and then rushed home so I wouldn't miss the start of House.

At this point I realised I'd started bargaining with an imaginary God of the supermarket. I was scared that I would begin grieving over my lost Aioli or denying that I even wanted it in the first place so I skipped ahead, accepted that it was gone and moved on to the next item on the list.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

When cults go wrong

There was a report today about a cult in Kenya that predicted the world would end on the 12th of September 2006. They all went down into their bunkers early last week and then popped their head out today, “Did we say nuclear war? No, no, no. You must have misunderstood. What we actually said was, the beginnings of the destruction of the earth would begin on the 12th and the world will end at some point. You must have misunderstood.”

I know about memes and the brainwashing that must have taken place but how do the followers buy into this? They've somehow been convinced that a highly improbable will occur and then when it doesn't happen, they somehow swallow a whole new pack of lies that contradicts the first lot.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

The over-ambitious guitar intro has finished and I now launch myself into the furious first verse

I've been in a bit of a funk recently. Not depressed but I just feel like I'm treading water. I'm loving my home life, everything from 6pm-8am is peaches but work has been on autopilot and with us going away in two weeks time, its been like I'm holding my breath waiting for something to happen.

And that's been the issue, I'm not very good at waiting. If things aren't going in the right direction I like to take hold of the wheel and I haven't been able to do that. I thought I was in the driving seat but just found out it's a left-hand drive car. Then I realised that for the first time in my life I feel like an adult. Not that I want a shed and have started reading the finance section of the paper (though maybe I should) but up until this point I've never felt that different from when I left school. I know I've changed and I'm definitely not the same person but I always felt (mentally) closer to high-school 'me' than to whatever age I physically was. I'm beginning to feel like this has changed. I'm more in control and while I still having a hard time believing I'm 28, It doesn't seem as far off as it used to.

Among my teenage friends I was something of a security blanket for some of their parents: “Oh George is going, then that's okay then.” Even when I wasn't going to be at parties, friends would tell their parents I would be just to reassure them. Hell, one night I think I was at three parties at the same time. This perceived responsibility led to a guy I was at school with commenting, “George, you've been 36 since you were 13.”

Perhaps that's it. Maybe I'm finally going to be able to start acting my age; about to come into my prime. If that's the case then I'm not going to wait another eight years, I've decided that 28 is the new 36 and this is the beginning of something good. I don't know what's going to happen but I'm going to pass my funk and I feel energised. It could be the White Stripes I have playing in the background (damn right no Seven Nation Army's going to hold me back). It could be that can of Red Bull I'm drinking. No matter what kicked this off, something's going to happen.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Matlock redux

I know I still owe a post on the Arctic Monkeys, I haven't forgotten (well, I had but I remembered when I saw that they'd won the Mercury Prize). Apparently its more important that I write about a way-point on the road to getting old.

I sat in front of the TV and watched Boris Becker play Michael Stich in the 1991 Wimbledon final. As the game was being played in the British summer, it got a bit cold and I distinctly recall Becker pulling on a cardigan between ends. At the time all I could think was, “Wow, only Grandfathers wear cardigans.” There I was accusing the youngest ever winner of a men's Wimbledon Single title of being old at the age of 24.

So now I get to the good bit, the bit that Hagrid's been waiting for; on the way home yesterday I saw a cardigan in the window of a shop, thought it looked nice and have since considered going back on the weekend to try it on.

If Andre 3000 is allowed to wear paisley, then surely I can wear a cardigan if I want to. I may have taken a like to clothes Mr Hooper might have worn but I'm comfortable with that. I suppose that part of the human condition is the drive to constantly reinvent yourself and if this is the first step in a certain direction what's next? Tartan slippers? 6 o'clock glasses of sherry? A need to read the obituaries in the paper? I just hope I stop short of developing a taste for lard sandwiches.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Just call me Ash

Robs has a work thing and so isn't home yet. I didn't turn the TV on as I came through the house (I know there's nothing on tonight) and I'm yet to fire up Winamp. The cats are twirling like leaves caught in a drain around my legs as I stand at the kitchen counter dolling out food into their empty bowls. At this moment, do you know the one thing that decides to float through my head at this point?

“I hope there hasn't been an apocalypse and nobody's bothered to tell me”

Its not that I actually think that Mad Max is sitting outside the door waiting to give me a lift to the Thunder Dome (even if he was I wouldn't accept the ride as he'd likely be drunk). Nor do I think that there is even a chance that Strangelove will drop the big one. Its just that this is how I've always imagined it happening. No large bang, no blinding light, not even a distant lone air raid siren. I'm alone, it's night *snap* I'm suddenly a survivor and I don't even notice.

I must emphasize that this isn't a strange fantasy I have nor do I dwell over this, sleeplessly staring at the ceiling waiting for the end. Just when I get caught in a quiet moment I notice that perhaps I should start stockpiling food. Similar to the “Maybe I'm a millionaire?” thought on Sunday when you've forgotten to check your ticket.

Once again I blame my childhood, if in fact there is blame to be assigned. Exposure to Empty World, Night of the Living Dead, Z for Zachariah, When the Wind Blows, the Tripods trilogy... is it any wonder some small part of my brain is left on sentry duty. Having done all the 'research', I've now got a stupid self confidence that I would survive an extinction event. I know not to eat anything other than canned food for at least 50 years, I've scoped out the best places to hoard batteries and, if needed, I've put in enough hours on first-person shooters to be pretty confident of making a headshot about 80% of the time.

I know what you're thinking, “What if we're talking meteor strike and not nuclear bomb or zombie plague?” Not to worry, I've prepared an escape route to make for the high ground. Just be thankful that I had the foresight to watch Deep Impact as well as Armageddon.

Thursday, 17 August 2006

In defence of the clown

I had a six-pack of Chicken McNuggets on my way home. Looking back to my post from the 29th of March, I can say that it has been 141 days since I last had McDonald’s and the difference is that this time it didn’t totally suck. The meat was processed beyond recognition and 10 minutes later my stomach was gurgling again but I enjoyed the actual dining experience. The counter staff were courteous, I hardly had to wait and it hit the spot I felt needed filling.

This maybe one of those implanted memories caused by misfiring neurons or simply a recollection hazed by the passage of time but I’m pretty sure I remember the first time I had Chicken McNuggets. It was at the franchise in Lower Hutt that is near all the used car yards; the same place I got growled at by the store manager because I worked out how to climb on to the head of the big purple Grimace shaky cage and was teaching all the other kids. We normally took the drive through option but for some reason we ate in on this occasion. I can still summon up the feelings of excitement and wonder from the time. Here was something new I’d never tried before and it was the one thing on the menu that wasn’t a burger.

I was clearly a cheap date when I was little but the point is, the 18 year-old taste that I’ve held on to was no where as good as the nuggets I ate today on the Melbourne Central train platform. Maybe we’re at the tip of a fast food renascence. Back before franchises and chain restaurants, your typical burger or pizza or leg of chicken was actually cooked on site by following a recipe rather than the modern assembly line approach. The meals were once good and fresh but then through business efficiencies the variation was smoothed out, homogenising the product to the extent that taste and nutrition were ignored by both the companies and the consumers.

Then our friend Morgan Spurlock came along, asked McDonald’s if they wouldn’t ‘Super Size’ him and suddenly the buying public woke up. Subway, sushi and salads start taking bites out of their market share so Big Hamburger jumped on the bandwagon, “We know our stuff used to taste like bag it came in so now we bring you food that is actually worth your while.” Admittedly, they were pushed rather than jumped. Make that thrown over the edge clawing and screaming but does that matter if we get better all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions between our sesame seed buns? Does this all add up to a return to the Golden Age of fast food?

Or perhaps I’m just on a nostalgia trip at the moment and Ronald & Co. are shovelling out the same stuff they always have and the only thing new and improved is the marketing department.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

An episode from my teenage life; a sitcom on the verge of cancellation

I was a prefect in my final year of school and so at the end of the first term instead of cleaning up the boarding house I got to order the younger boys about, telling them where to scrub, what to tidy and why they had it so much easier than when I was their age. As was the norm, a large amount of loose clothing had been found in the course of the clean and I’d been marshalling the creation of a pile of lost hoodies, t-shirts and socks in the middle of the house pool table.

I walked into the common room to deposit an errant rugby boot onto the growing garment mountain and came upon my housemaster, Dr. Hazlett, looking at the mass of clothes. At this point I should explain, for full comic effect, that the common room was an ‘L’-shape. From the doorway, where I stood, the room bent at right-angles, meaning that I couldn’t see the pool table from my current position. Paddy (Dr. Hazlett was Irish so of course we all called him Paddy behind his back) was in the junction of the ‘L’ and facing back towards me he could easily glance from the clothes and to me. “What’s that doing there?” he asked pointing at the obscured clothing mound. He had a frustrated look to his face that wasn’t a stranger to his face as his job was to herd 60 boys for every hour of the day except when they weren’t in someone else’s classroom or playing sports.
“I’ve got the fourth years to clear the changing rooms in the annex and I told them to start a pile on the pool table.” That’s right Dr. Paddy, you can count on me, I’ve got everything under control here, you can go back to guarding your pot of gold.

But no, the praise I was expecting didn’t come. Instead his face started to turn red. He had an extremely short fuse and so a ‘Paddy-nova’ was a common sight around the school. “Don’t you know who it belongs to?” He rasped, his face turning from Salmon to Gaping Wound to Faded Rust.
“No Sir,” I stammered, not exactly sure what I had done wrong to cause his head to go into meltdown, “I was going to hold them up during Callover and ask people who the owners were.” I knew I was experiencing biblical levels of rage when I noticed the little moles on his face had started turning white.
“Not good enough,” he bellowed, his yell stripping paint from the wall behind me. “I want it out of here as soon as possible, throw it away if you have to!”
Before I could say that we could always take the clothes to the lost property room in sickbay, he stormed past me and huffed back to his residence.

I was in shock, I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened. At this point Mutton, a kid a couple of years below me, came into the room to place a wayward sock on the pile. He rounded the corner and started laughing, “What’s that?” he said pointing at the pool table. His guffaws shocked me into action and I went to see what was so funny about a heap of abandoned clothes.

The clothes were still there but at the front end of the pool table was an oversized replica of a penis that one of the guys had created during a slow day in art class. It wasn’t just a lump of clay that looked a bit like a phallus; there was definition, veins and even some hairs where it emerged from its plinth.
The whole thing had menacing, lifelike air to it and the stature was such that even Shaft would have felt inadequate if he had seen it astride our poor pool table like that.

It would have been funny, if my poor little 17 year-old self hadn’t been so horrified as he replayed the conversation he’d just had. I was angry and humiliated so I gave Mutton a dead arm (not one of my shining moments), told him to grow up and instructed him to take the sculpture off to Shaun to see if he still wanted his ‘piece’ (see, such was the roll I was on, I couldn’t have stop the double entendres if I tried).

Dr. Haslett’s head didn’t explode and the moment was never spoken off again. It was only my complete naivety that stopped him from flailing the skin from my bones and I can only imagine what a complete cock he must have thought I was.

Thursday, 3 August 2006

Monkeying about

I just got back from an Arctic Monkeys concert and when I left the venue I had every intention of writing a full report as soon as I got home but fatigue has gotten the better of me so I’ll write it up properly later but the short version is that I didn’t even know amps could actually be turned up to 11. They lifted the roof and it was a fantastic night.

Note to self – Remember to stretch before any future gigs. What with all the jumping, moshing and general dancing that went on, I think I’ve pulled one of my hamstrings.

Note to Rupert - No, I'm not getting old, I just forgot to stretch.

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Post-it paradise

Is it easier to remember things these days? Comparing 2006 to 1906, the daily items we take for granted never existed. My desk here at home and at work is covered with a forest of self-adhesive messages; one-liners, shopping lists and phone numbers that I know I don’t need to remember because the little yellow bits of paper are doing it for me. Instead of a multitude individual insignificant things I just have to remember one: “Look at your desk.” Add to this the fact that I can walk into almost any room in the house and find a pen. I don’t have to worry about running out of ink or leaving my fountain pen somewhere, in fact the biro is so ubiquitous that I suspect that the house is build on top of an untapped ballpoint mine.

Even if I’m out and about I still have my cell phone on me most of the time so I can make notes and reminders to myself on the fly. I only have three phone numbers committed to my biological memory (my home, work and mobile numbers – even then that’s only because annoying forms keep on asking me for them) because I tend to speed dial everything else thus removing the need to remember any other numbers. I’m not saying that this is all a new thing but compared to tying a piece of string around one of your fingers, it’s certainly a lot easier to take notes in today’s society. The modern man has the equivalent of an external hard drive. All these notes, reminders and memos allow us to use the freed up space for important tasks such as pondering the point of the bagpipes and wondering why Hurley hasn’t lost any weight?

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

¡Scorchio Melbourne!

I had to drive into work on Friday and the moment I reached the City I was reminded of why I normally take public transport. Then, as if struggling against the traffic wasn’t bad enough, I was also with out any tapes or my MP3 player so I was reduced to listening to morning radio show banter. The dial constantly shifted as I attempted to find something that my ears didn’t find offensive. Unfunny American comedians/B-actors relating ‘hilarious’ on-set tales from their latest bland Sandler inspired film that they have come to Australia to promote in a final attempt to increase the international box-office sales, cackling self congratulatory minor celebrities who laugh too hard at their own jokes and ugly washed-up musicians who have become radio hosts as a last gasp effort to remain involved in the music business.

Then there’s the music; bland pop anthems about how hard it is to be young that offer no new insight but are hyped as the next Jeff Buckley, repetitive hipity-hop about gettin’ some and terrible covers of Pet Shop Boys songs that would have Neil Tennant spinning in his grave were he dead. I seriously found two different recordings of PSB numbers where the ‘musicians’ behind the number simply got an average female vocalist to sing over the top of a Fisher Price drum machine and a sample of a Casio keyboard. I know that’s not a whole lot different from the original tracks but at least they were being innovative the first time around.

Eventually, I found a Spanish-language news station and was about to skip onwards when I realised that it was the first thing my radio had belched out that didn’t make me want to rip out my auditory nerve. I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed learning that the weather was going to be “la lluvia siguió por el granizo” but it was neutral and non-offensive. In fact the only negative fallout from listening to “Buenos Días Victoria” was that I had a craving for paella all day.

PS - I know that the moment that you start lumping it all together and thinking about all modern music as a single genre it’s a sign that you’re getting old but come on, Maroon 5 have nothing on Fat Gary’s Band.

Friday, 28 July 2006

Calls cost no more than 55c; please ask the bill payer first

I'd like a community consensus on this one please. Yesterday morning we had run out of milk and I contemplated putting cheese in my tea. Is this wrong of me?

Thursday, 27 July 2006

Just below a triangle and slightly above the kazoo

For some reason I’d always thought that the bagpipes were a difficult instrument to play. There seemed to be more pipes than a tweed convention and some sort of circular breathing that needed to be mastered. What I worked out today is that it’s all complete bollocks. It turns out that the noble Scottish instrument is just a recorder with a hopper. Take a look at the picture.

If you ignore the Renaissance fair reject you can see it’s just a big balloon with a pair of pipes out the top to allow air in and out, a lengthened neck for the ‘musician’ to blow into (no tricky didgeridoo type breathing needed there Angus), and a stem out the bottom to play the different notes on.

Zooming in, you can even see that this final part is just the bottom of a recorder. No wonder it always sounds like a bunch of cats sliding down a blackboard; the whole thing is just a child’s instrument played loudly. The recorder is a terrible instrument to start with so quite why anyone would want to stick an inflatable amp on to it is completely beyond me.

I’ll acknowledge the historical worth of the bagpipe but my cousin Cressy at age 8 could master the tune from Eastenders on her recorder so how hard can it be to combine this with squeezing a big bladder at the some time?

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

It's not a joke if you have to explain it

It was 1991 and the sports shoe stood alone as the most important fashion accessory (at least to the 14 year-old boys in my year). One kid was strides ahead of anyone else I went to school with – Sloth. It wasn’t that he had amazing fashion sense or a gay uncle in the clothing trade, he just had a truck-tonne of the things. I don’t remember exactly how many he had but the bottom of his cupboard was… well, you know that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indy drops the burning torch to the floor of the hidden chamber and a writhing fury of snakes is revealed? It was like that but instead of venom and scales and fangs think white faux leather, multicoloured laces and names like Jordan, Pump and All-Star.

In prep one evening (20 boys all sharing the same room for two hours every night to prep-are their homework for the next day) the sixth-former who was supervising us (I don’t remember his name but he was a lanky wanna-be English surfer type) got bored and started making the rounds. He wandered around the room looking in people’s lockers and tuck boxes (yes, some people still had tuck boxes; no, we didn’t use words like ‘what-o’, ‘gosh’ or ‘spiffing’) for food to borrow. When Surfer-boy got to Sloth’s he let out a “Fuckin’ Hell” when he saw how many trainers were in there. The older boy then proceeded to empty the locker of shoes into a pile on the floor counting off as he did so. I forget how high he got but I imagine it was somewhere in the mid-twenties. “Why the fuck do you need so many shoes?” the pseudo-slacker asked. Sloth just shrugged and said that he liked them.

For no reason at all I decided to chip in with “Yeah, his mum’s Imelda Marcos.”

The sixth-former looked confused and turned to Sloth, “Is your mum someone famous?”

I should have realised that my attempt at a joke had been pitched at the wrong audience. Instead of walking away from the microphone and working on my material some more, I decided to try and clarify matters, “She was this wife of the leader in the Philippines and when they kicked her out they found thousands of shoes that she didn’t even wear.”

I had made the cardinal adolescent mistake of making the biggest guy in the playground look stupid. For the remainder of prep he made sure that I was mocked as much as possible. He went through all my stuff, pointing fun at my Dungeons and Dragons dice (RPGs are never cool), the Chelsea magazine I was reading (we didn’t start playing well until the mid-nineties) and the picture of Niki Taylor I had on my notice board (“That your girlfriend?”). I didn’t enjoy the experience but it wasn’t actually that bad as the idiot never came up with anything more witty than “Ohh, say something clever now Clever-boy”. The thing that hurt the most was that as if by magic all my food was missing by the time the teenage Nazi had left the building. He even took the packet of emergency Chedders that lurked at the bottom of every tuck box, only to be opened if you’d eaten every other source of food including (non-chocolate) Hob-Nobs, black jellybeans and toothpaste.

Afterwards Sloth gave me a dead arm. I don’t think he had a specific reason but somewhere in his Neanderthal brain he’d picked up that I’d made fun of him. He wasn’t exactly sure how but it was easier for him to hit me than to try and defend the Marcos government’s footwear purchase policy.

Monday, 24 July 2006

Sprechen sie Deutsch?

Schadenfreude: pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. Or if we break the word down, Damage-Joy; ‘Schaden' meaning damage and ‘Freude’ meaning joy.

The reason Laurell & Hardy, Itchy & Scratchy and (insert country here)’s Funniest Home Videos are so popular is that it’s enjoyable to watch someone other than you take a pie to the face or getting hit in the groin with a football. There is research to show that this is the most universal, and therefore it's theorized, oldest type of humour. If this is the case, if laughing at others really is that basic why do we still use an obviously Kraut word to describe this phenomenon? Why hasn’t a shorter and easier to spell version of the word entered common usage? The closest English word we have is slapstick but that is the type of comedy rather than the actual act of “Ha! Rupert just slipped on a banana skin.”

There is a touch of shame associated with laughing at other people’s misfortune so perhaps by keeping the Germanic moniker it somehow allows us to blame them for this theater of the macabre in much the same way as we blame the French for rudeness, Americans for obesity and the Canadians for Tom Green.

The problem with comics

I remember reading a comic when I was little (not sure when exactly but definitely younger than ten) that had a story about the Beagle Boys breaking out of prison but the Moon was so bright that they almost got caught. It all gets a bit hazy at this point but for some reason they decide to get back at the Moon by blacking it out, thus making any future night time heists more likely to succeed. They some how jump-started a rocket, landed on the moon and then proceed to colour the lunar surface with black paint. I don’t know how it ended but I’m sure Scrooge McDuck turned up, foiled their plan and made some quip about how they should "Look on the BRIGHT side!".

Ignoring the whole viscosity of house paint in the frozen waste of space issue, the point is that I grew up reading about scenarios where best practice was to dye Tranquility Base rather than, oh, I don’t know, cutting the alarm system or drugging the guards. No wonder my decision-making is a bit flawed at times.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Just a quick one

I paid a visit to the facilities at work today and I looked down at the urinal. Sitting there against the drain guard was quite a large orange pip. Now, I know that someone most probably spat it out post-urination but I couldn’t help squirming a little as I thought, “I bet that must have hurt.

Note - Today is Roo and my six-month anniversary (Doesn't time fly - Ed.). We're off to dinner out, hence the short post, but I'd be remiss if I didn't take this moment to shout from the highest metaphorical rooftop how fantastic life is with Robyn as my bride.

Like us but special

Another post with it’s origins in football I’m afraid.

During the England-Trinidad & Tobago match, there was a shot of Prince William and Franz Beckenbauer sitting next to each other. They were conversing like a pair of old family friends and I got to wondering how close the two countries would be (politically) if it hadn’t been for the dustup in '39? The aristocracies of the countries are more interbred than a than a rose garden and there are a lot of traits that the national stereotypes have in common – patriotic, hard working and both fond of their beer. Even the competition between Blighty and Deutschland is something a kin to sibling rivalry:
“Michael Schumacher ist dieser uber driver nach Jenson Button”

“Yeah, well we beat you in the football 5-1 last time we played.”

“Ja, but ve have knocked you out of more FIFA World Cups.”

“We beat you in 1966 and in Two World Wars!”

“Scheiße! Why must you always mention the war?”

But then there are the unique traits that we use to describe their psyche - methodical, emotionless, lacking a sense of humour. Take that into account and does that make Germany our autistic Brother?

Friday, 16 June 2006

Or I could just learn how to wiggle my nose

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been getting hay fever lately. Well, I had a reoccurrence on the train into work and by the time I got to my stop I thought that perhaps the Euphrates had been diverted into my sinus and no one had thought to tell me. I stood on the packed escalator with one hand pinching my nose, hoping that I’d reach the street before I sneezed all over the guy in front of me.

As the moving stairway peaked and I could finally see the exit barriers, another previous guest of Reality Splinter showed up. Just there on the concourse were three energetic, brightly dressed, beautiful spokes models, handing away free samples of Sorbent Velvet tissues (with aloe). For just a moment I felt as if the white-toothed angels were giving away disposable hankies purely for my benefit.

As I carefully blew my nose on the way out of the station, I thought about how cool it would be to go about performing god-ish tasks. I’m not asking for epic powers like the ability to cure disease or invoke peace. Yeah, the headline grabbing stuff was best left to the professionals like Buddah, Jesus and Darwin. I’d prefer to perform more personal miracles such as causing lonely people to bump into one another in the street or creating a ten dollar note in the pocket of a coat that hadn’t been worn in a while. Even the minor feat of making sure there was always enough milk in the fridge for your cup of tea would be more than enough for me. I wonder if there’s a way of getting into the wish granting industry without selling one’s soul to Beelzebub or a life of servitude in a magic lamp?

Thursday, 15 June 2006

I wish the World Cup would never end

I stayed up to watch Australia vs Japan on Monday. It was a match with everything: goals, controversy, a moment of individual skill and the hard graft of a team playing as one. The Socceroos ran out rightful winners but they had to wait until the last minutes of the game to do so.

Kris had come over to watch the match and as soon as the final whistle blew he was out the door and off home. Sensible guy, seeing as it was 1am. For Australia the result was huge. Not only their first goals ever scored in the World Cup but their first win also. The fact that it was the highest rates broadcast ever on SBS (the terrestrial channel that is show the tournament) illustrates how interest has spiked over here.

The following morning, standing on the platform, I could spot the commuters who had stayed up to watch Viduka, Cahill & Co. making Australian football history. The hair was a little unkempt and they met your gaze with a glazed stare from their puffy eyes. All the while there was a constant half smile on their face like they still hadn’t come down from the previous night’s high. It was all I could do to keep from giving my fellow stalwarts a thumbs-up as we passed on the trains and trams.

Once I got to the office it was like being back in England, everybody was talking about football and had an opinion:

“How didn’t that Egyptian see it was a foul?”
“They should have played Kewell out wide.”
“That Viduka, great captain but have you seen the size of his head?”

For once I was the proverbial one-eyed man. It was well know that I’d been hyping the tournament to anyone who’d listen for a long time and so I got more visitors to my office in the one morning than I’d had for months. People were taking my predictions as gospel and going away smiling when I told them that “Australia had a chance if they could keep the score low against Brazil and then get a result in the Croatia game.”

I know the water cooler chat will likely return to Aussie Rules and Shane Warne as soon as Jules Rimet finds a new home but until then I’ll continue to enjoy my late nights and new found status as the office Alan Hansen.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

It’s not you, it’s me

I know I’ve been neglecting you but we just had a long weekend so I’ve been able to watch all of the World Cup games that were on, despite them all happening between the hours of 11pm and 6:30am.

So now I must sleep lest my brain turn to mush. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I promise.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Tunisia are the new Senegal

One day to go so I feel I should put some predictions out into the ether just to give Hagrid some fodder to mock me with after the tournament is over.

Dark Horses of the Apocalypse: Tunisia
An African team always seems to punch above their weight at the World Cup and Tunisia have a good chance of doing well in Germany. Not an easy group but I see them drawing with Spain, beating the Ukraine and then knocking over Iran in the final group game to make the second round where their likely opponents are France, who they’ll push but eventually lose to after extra time.

Sleeping Giant: France
After their hopeless turnout in Japorea, a lot of people have written off France but they have a relatively easy group that they should win. A quiet early tournament should leave them fairly fresh for the later stages compared to the likes of Argentina and Italy who will have to fight for every game they play. They are without Cisse but Henry is the form striker of the moment and ZeZu will want to do well in his final World Cup.

So much Promise: England
I really do think we have the players to win it but by all accounts Sven seems to have sent his brain on holiday. He seems to be desperately looking for his Plan ‘C’ now that his Plan ‘B’ (Peter Crouch) has had to become his Plan ‘A’. The “Give the ball to Rooney” tactic isn’t going to work now that he can’t play until the second round. I would love this year to be the one we go all the way but I think in order for that to happen, Gerard, Cole and Frank “the Man” Lampard are going to score almost all our goals. There is a chance of us getting to the final but if we do I think we’ll face Argentina and lose.

Eventual Holders of the Jules Rimet: Argentina
They have a tough group and will be pressed in all their games (they’ll most probably only go through on points difference) but I think they’ll really kick into a high gear later on and be really hard to beat. Messi is a fantastic playmaker and Crespo always seems to play well when he’s not playing for Chelsea. I think they have the right blend of young and old, talent and experience, to go all the way.

The Rest
Brazil are the Real Madrid of international football and I think their egos will cause them to self destruct. Spain rely too heavily on Raul, Holland seem to be trying too hard to be the new Italy. Big Phil has already won it and so Portugal aren’t allowed to. Italy are still a superstar or two short of a great team and Germany with Klinsmann in charge are complete arse.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Just be glad you got something

I've had to bring work home with me tonight (which I hardly ever do) so as a filler here is the first bit of the third chapter of the book I'm trying to write. I think Roo is the only one to have already seen this so its kind of a world exclusive. Bits won't make sense but you should be able to follow it for the most part.

It was either this or a clip show.


With Two gone, my life has fallen into a terrible state of disrepair. I have so many overdue fines at various video shops that I have been blacklisted. I had to open an account at a video store half an hour away, under an assumed name, just to rent a copy of The Godfather. On top of that, in the absence of Two, no one is about to put a stop to Ed’s harebrained ideas before they get out of hand. He’s started carrying out what he calls his ‘Investigation into the Entropy of Human Waste’. This involves him eating a banana while he takes a dump. Keeping a bowl of bananas in the bathroom is pretty disconcerting, but not half as bad as when I spied the measuring jug on top of the cistern. “What is this for?” I asked as I dropped the jug in Ed’s lap.
“Be careful. This is an integral part of my experiment. If you throw the calibration off I’ll have to start over.”
I knew I was going to regret it but I asked the question anyway. “How is it a part of your experiment?” Whatever he used it for it couldn’t be as bad as some of the stuff I’d imagined.
“Well I’m trying to see if the body performs better at full capacity. You know, if there is always the raw materials around then the furnace can burn at full flame.” I nodded but I didn’t like where this was going. “So I need to know how much I displace so I can replace it.” Please don’t say he has been…”So I pee into the measuring jug and then I know I have to drink at least as much water as I’ve just ejected.”
I didn’t know quite what to say. I thought for a moment he had been drinking his urine, so it wasn’t as bad as that but it still wasn’t good. I played the hygiene card, “This can’t be good for you. It’s piss. Surely you’ll get sick or something.”
“Urine is sterile, you can drink it. I know this ‘cause Tyler knows this.” Bloody Fight Club. I knew taking Ed to see it was a mistake. He is exactly the kind of person who would be stupid enough to ask you to hit him in the face as hard as you can. “And besides, I’m not drinking it, just measuring it, then it goes down the loo. I also sterilise the jug after every trial. It helps me to align my karma. I am perfectly in balance. What ever goes out is replaced in equal measure.”
What could I say? “It’s just gross.” Not the best argument but I really couldn’t think of a better one. And that’s the problem. I like Ed, he is a little left of centre but at least he’s not dull. If the third flatmate wasn’t running around Spain trying to sort things out with his possibly homosexual girlfriend, he would have found a way of stopping Ed eating bananas on the bog.
Then there is my work ethic. With Two constantly studying (he uses the line “I do this or people die. It’s as simple as that.” The tragedy is that his Jack Nicholson impression is so bad that I just laugh at him) I used to get shamed into doing at least a couple of hours work a day. With him gone, its got to the point where I’ve had to fake the last three entries. Steve was on my back the other day “Where the hell are the Naktong River, Nakuru and Nakuru Lake entries Jez?”
I held the phone over the keyboard and randomly tapped the keys. “I can’t understand this.” Type-type-type. “It says I sent them to you yesterday.” Type-typety-type. “I’ll try sending them again.”
Its not like they were important so I just used last edition’s and updated a little. The 2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for Nakuru read:

Nakuru, town, west-central Kenya. It lies near the Mau Escarpment, 95 miles (153 Km) northwest of Nairobi, near the heart of the Kikuyu people’s homeland. An important agricultural centre, Nakuru is the headquarters of the Kenya Farmer’s Association. It is the site of Egerton College, an agricultural training school. Nakuru is a busy commercial and transport centre of west-central Kenya. Pop. (1984 est.) 101,700.

The 2007 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry will read:

Nakuru, town, west-central Kenya. It lies near the Mau Escarpment, 95 miles (153 Km) northwest of Nairobi, near the heart of the Kikuyu people’s homeland. An important agricultural centre, Nakuru is the headquarters of the Kenya Farmer’s Association. It is the site of Egerton College, an agricultural training school. Since 1998, it has benefited from an increase in tourist numbers and has become the number one Kenyan destination for European travellers. The main reason behind this is the large open-air concert, Barlowstock, which is held at the end of October every year. Initiated by Gary Barlow (former member of British pop group Take That) in 1997, it has now become the world’s premier music festival, with as many as 100,000 people from all over the world attending. Nakuru is a busy commercial and transport centre of west-central Kenya. Pop. (1984 est.) 101,700.

It could be true.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Things I did as a kid #7 (continued)

I still don’t know why I did (maybe Mum or Dad can help out here) but I played softball for a season when we lived in Eastbourne. It wasn’t long after we had arrived in New Zealand and though I was an overweight Pom, I somehow decided that it would be a good idea to choose the sport that the boys too rough for cricket were exiled to and given aluminium bats.

Other than my bulging waistline, I bore no resemblance to Babe Ruth. I couldn’t catch, my throw was about half that of my team mates and I would strike out more times than Charlie Brown. In fact, the only chance I had at bat was if I bunted and even then I’d have to rely on a miss-field to give me any chance of making first base. As a result I was put at the tail of the batting line-up and normally thrown into deep left field when we took to the diamond.

There were about 11 players on my team but with childhood illness and family holidays there were always a couple of kids missing except once, when the planets aligned and on this particular Saturday, everyone turned up to play. At the same time, our opposition had a player AWOL. It was only the equivalent of little league so our coach took me to one side and said I was lucky because I got to play a whole game for the opposition rather than only half a game for our side. I was shy and didn’t want to collaborate with a bunch of kids I didn’t know so said that I’d rather play half a game but he just laughed and sent me over to the enemy.

This isn’t some feel good movie, I still sucked but for once my ineptitude with bat, ball and glove was actually helping my team to win. About half way through the game, just after my second dropped catch, a car pulled up and a young boy came running across the playing fields bat in hand. The missing player had turned up! I started walking towards where my side was sitting, waiting for their turn at bat, when my coach started complaining that once a player had begun a match they couldn’t swap onto the other team. The other coach wasn’t going to get stuck with some no-hands defector so he argued that it was only fair that the new kid had some game time. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, a compromise was met and the late arrival took my place while I had to sit out the rest of the game.

Having seen the ugly side of organized sport, I chose not to play softball the following year. I did eventually take up cricket and while I was no Don Bradman, at least I always made it on to the field of play.

Monday, 5 June 2006

Things I did as a kid #7

I went to primary school with a kid, lets call him Donald Dunkins*, who was the Bart Simpson of my peer group. The one child that Dad was reluctant to allow at my twelfth birthday party because he was scared that Donald would set fire to the shower or add heroin to the hundreds & thousands sandwiches or put aluminum foil in the microwave or something.

One time Donald boasted that when he went to the rugby trials that weekend, he was going to put rocks in his pockets so that he got to play against the bigger, rougher boys. Once again, my juvenile brain misunderstood the context and believed that the stones in his pockets would hurt the kids trying to tackle him, making him look more like John Kirwin and therefore putting him into a team with the tougher boys in the years above us. What I missed was that the coaches split the young kids by weight rather than age so that the early testosterone gorilla boys don’t end up mugging the Niles Crane look-alikes every Saturday.

I played soccer at first but with the country on a high from the first Rugby World Cup and the All Black devotion that you just can’t escape in En Zed I had decided to give rugby a try that year. However, the prospect of cracking my jaw while trying to tackle an opponent who was trying to pull a geological Ben Johnson was all a bit too risky for me and so I returned to the safe fields of Eastbourne F.C.

Next time on “Things I did as a kid” I’ll talk about the ill-fated season I swapped cricket for softball.

*Possibly not his real name

Friday, 2 June 2006

Couldn’t find his arse with both hands and a map

I had to work late this evening and the company has a policy of paying for the taxi ride home if you need to stay after hours. So I got my travel voucher and flagged down a cab on the road outside our offices. I got in and said “Flemington please.” To which the driver replied, “Can you tell me how to get there?”

As the picture shows, I wasn’t asking him for a ride to Tranquillity Base. This was a 30-minute drive across the city centre. Flemington is where they have the Melbourne Cup every year so at the very least it would have made financial sense for the cabbie to have known how to get there. And this isn’t an isolated incident. Not long after I arrived in Melbourne I had to find where we were going on a map and direct the taxi from the passenger seat. It was as if I was paying for the privilege of being the navigator for a really crap rally driver.

One thing is for sure, the taxi drivers in Melbourne would definitely benefit from a little bit of The Knowledge.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Today’s post is brought to you by the Order of Canonical Hygienists – Australian Youth Echelon

I started flossing my teeth about four years ago. Up until that point I somehow thought of it as something that only Americans did. My dentist at the time was a fierce Scotswoman who gave me an ear bashing during one appointment “What’s the point in brushing if you’re not going to floss?” She asked like Professor McGonagall with a dental probe. The combination of Hibernian fervour and a fear of future root canals (caused by not using dental floss) started me down the road buffing my teeth with a piece of string.

Another factor preventing me from improved oral sanitation was my poor past experience with floss. The stuff I’d used in the past would split during operation so that I’d just end up with all these individual threads stuck between my teeth. But this time we (Robyn had also been to see Ms. Braveheart by this stage) used dental tape and the difference was massive. It couldn’t break, wouldn’t split and didn’t get snagged, making the entire flossing experience a lot less fuss.

And now I floss every night (I know I’m supposed to do it after every meal but baby steps) and when I think about skipping it so I can get to bed that little bit quicker, I remember Jock McTartar’s intimidating face and figure that I’ve already brushed so I might as well floss as well.

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

A monkey could have seen what the problem was

Working purely from my posts, a reader might imagine that I spend all my time travelling to and from work, trawling through the fruit and veg aisle looking for unusual produce and reminiscing about my childhood. Not wanting to disappoint, today’s instalment deals with an amusing situation the writer observed on the way to the train station.

With Frou Frou acting as a ghostly soundtrack, I spotted a short Alexei Sayle attempting to put a Swiss Ball into the back seat of his car. He was carrying it with his arms spread-eagled and his little bald head poking over the top of the sphere like the rising sun. The guy would approach the open doorway, walk the ball into the hole and upon finding it wouldn’t fit he’d back off a couple of steps, rotate the globe a seemingly random number of degrees and then approach the car once again. As I advanced, I must have seen the guy repeat this process at least six times like a malfunctioning automaton caught in a logic loop.

The situation was so ridiculous that I was scared I was being punk’d (as in Ashton Kutcher not the prison slang) but as I pulled level with the car, he gave up on the idea of getting it into the back seat, slammed the door, then moved to the back of the car and proceeded to attempt to put the giant orb in the boot. I bent over and pretended to tie my shoelace just to see how it played out. Unfortunately, after a couple of failed attempts to push the ball through a gap that was physically impossible to get the thing through, he swore, removed the stopper, thus deflating the whole thing and finally getting it in his car.

From the look of it, Alexei could have really used a couple of sessions with the Swiss Ball so I’m glad that he managed to conquer the devilish device. Also, I was reminded that we should never forget that watching the misadventures of short, bald men will always be funny.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006


Sorry, tapped out today. Work and a cold have sucked out any creative juice I had in the tank. You can either close your eyes and pretend that I've enriched your lives with a jocular pondering about the place occupied by wagon wheels (the biscuit, not actual wagon wheels) in today's society or you can go here. Either one should amuse you until tomorrow.

Friday, 26 May 2006

Things I did(n’t do) as a kid #6

When I was about ten, a friend and I were mucking about one Saturday. The house we had was way up on the side of a hill looking out over the harbour and down towards the South Island. We were out on the balcony, talking about whatever ten year olds talk about (Transformers) and I threw an apple core over off the edge. We couldn’t see anything below us and as far as I knew it was just bush and forest all the way down to the road so we were surprised to hear a rattling *DOINK* as the core bounced off an unseen roof.

At this point we definitely didn’t run into the garden to gather stones and there’s not a chance we then returned to the balcony and took it in turns to chuck the stones. Every time there was a satisfying *DOINK* we certainly wouldn’t have high-fived each other like we were Maverick and Goose. The last rock that wasn’t thrown returned not the soft *DOINK* we’d been aiming for but the splintering crash of glass breaking. We stared at each other in dumb amazement and ran inside to do whatever ten-year olds do when they don’t want to look suspicious (listened to MC Hammer in my bedroom).

About 20 minutes later Dad called us upstairs and I just about filled my pants when I saw him standing at the door with a policeman. It seemed that there had been a glasshouse smashed on a property below us and Dad wanted to know if we’d seen anyone throwing rocks down the hill. Showing all the cunning of a Decepticon we both acted dumb and muttered something about a couple of the Clendon boys going up and down the street on their skateboards. Again, once the fuzz left, my friend and I did not stay shut in my room for the rest of the day planning how we’d flee to Australia if the cops came knocking on the door again.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Getting my bubble on

As I tramed into work today I spotted that a bunch of teenagers up to no-good or possibly some bored university students, had filled one of the city fountains with soap flakes creating a island of foam along the side of St Kilda road. Every three months or so someone will soap-up one of the municipal fountains and while I realize that putting laundry detergent in the water supply is not something we should be condoning (let alone encouraging) for some reason, when I see a growing bubble blamange, it always makes me smile.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Whole body transplant

Through work I have contact with Mike (not his real name) once every couple of months. The picture I have in my head of Mike when I speak to him is of a guy who used to busk for money outside the Countdown supermarket in Dunedin. The Countdown Guy was in his 40s, wore a red knitted woolen pullover regardless of the season (granted the temperature doesn’t vary that much over the course of a year in Dunedin) and had a straggly black beard. He would stand outside the entrance, a tin box half full of coins at his feet, and with his hands clasped together in front of him, he’d badly sing songs that screamed out for some type of accompaniment. The saddest part was that on the days when Countdown Guy wasn’t belting songs out, his place would be taken by some 10 year-old cello prodigy who’d play so sweetly that if you closed your eyes you’d swear that Yo-yo Ma was slumming it in Dunedin.

So when I call to Mike, in my head I’ve some how transplanted The Countdown Guy to Australia and placed him on the other end of the phone. I’ve met Mike in the flesh a number of times and yet every new time we meet I’m surprised when he steps out of the lift and looks like a tall Sean Fitzpatrick. Somewhere along the line I made the connection between Mike’s voice and the Countdown Guy and it’s stuck. Just another one of those Reality Splinters that have become embedded in my brain.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Oh, boy

This was bound to come up sooner or later as I’ve seemed to have had a hate-hate relationship with my hair as long as I can remember. I cut it and product it and pull it this way and that. The whole time it just flat out refuses to do anything except grow straight down like a shower curtain. No waves, no curls, I’d even take a white man ‘fro if it was on offer as at least then I wouldn’t have any decisions to make. I could come to terms with the perpetual tight curls and then move on.

I had little cavalier curls when I was young, an annoying fringe as a teenager and then since I left school I’ve gone with variations on the messed-up look – 10 minutes in front of the mirror in the morning just to make it look like I hadn’t done anything to my hair. All the while I’ve never been happy with it. Somewhere there is the right haircut for me but unless I get queer-eyed, I’m just going to have to continue leaping from stylist to stylist, (as they) strive to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that my next cut... will be the cut home.

Monday, 22 May 2006

Rebel without a hole

I often see teenagers walking to and from school with little tan plasters over their ears. With guys its almost exclusively one on the lobe of the left ear and girls will often have a standard set of pierced ears but then lots of tiny stickers up the side of their ears. It’s obviously done to stay within school regulations about jewelry without allowing the earhole to close over but like the clothes and music you listen to, I’ll bet its more important to have the trappings of rebellion than to have actually rebelled.

I wonder how many cuckoos I see every day? Kids strutting about as if they’re Snoop Dawg because they’ve stuck an elastoplast over both lobes, one eyebrow and their left nipple when the truth is that they faint at the sight of blood and the only thing they’ve got under the tape on their ear is a rash from the daily application and removal of the bandaids.

KiwiBerry Update - I went to the supermarket today and the KiwiBerries had gone! Either there was such a demand after the review I gave them on Reality Splinter that they have become too lucrative for normal food stores and can now only be found in the hyper-exclusive Japanese markets where they can be found selling for thousands of Yen along with square watermelons and transparent apples. Or I was the only one who ate them and you'll find them on internet lists of the Top Ten Biggest Business Disasters along side Betamax and the Sinclair C5.

Friday, 19 May 2006

Things I did as a kid #5

My cousin James got a GameBoy (this was the GameBoy 1.0, before DS, Micro, Advance or even Color were even a gleam in Miyamoto's eye) for his birthday during one of the big family holidays that were a regular fixture of my summers growing up. I’d never before encountered the hypnotic Russian rhythms or spinning blocks that came together to create the kids crack going by the street-name of Tetris. There were about eight of us children on holiday and from the moment the devilish machine arrived we were all in one of three states: either playing the game, waiting for our turn to play the game or tetchily awaiting the return of which ever one of the adults that had been dispatched to get more batteries so we coould play the game. Even the parent’s weren’t immune from the dot-matrix temptress. The GameBoy went missing one afternoon and while James was looking for his mother to help him search, he found her crouched behind her bedroom cupboard twisting 4-blocks and rotating L-shapes as she tried desperately to smash through ceiling of level 10.

This early addiction led to a misspent youth beating Tetris that, in turn, I blame for my current fascination with packing the dishwasher. I attempt to tessellate pots and plates as best I can; my mind desperately hitting the figurative A button in an attempt to make sure every last dish fits. I now get a twisted release when I set the dishwasher in motion and there’s not a single piece of kitchenware left on the counter or in the sink. But this evening I was beaten. As the house hummed to the gentle noises of the rinse cycle, I walked through the sitting room only to discover a half finished glass of water that had some how avoided being packed safely away and somewhere in the distance I thought I heard 8-bit balalaikas playing a repetitive tune I know better than my own heartbeat.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

In which our hero puts his Geek proudly on display for all to see

I’ve been reading a series of OEL graphic novels by a Canadian creator, Bryan Lee O'Malley. They are a really smart combination of romance, action and pop culture drawn in a post-Manga style with dialogue straight from an episode of Spaced. Just really different and fun to read.

The third volume (Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness) is out this Thursday so I checked the book’s site and found that the first 100 people to order it direct from him get a signed copy with a sketch of one of the characters in the front. I was number #68 and after a couple of emails back and forth (with Mr Lee O'Malley himself no less) it seems that I’ll be getting a copy.

Pre-internet that wouldn’t have been possible without lengthy drawn out postal communication and even then it was unlikely as who would give out their address to a bunch of Fan-Boys.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Come to think of it, my brain has been feeling a little scratchy

I’ve been getting this weird kind of hay fever the last couple of weeks, where my left eye is a little bit itchy and my nose runs just enough to piss me off. It’s not really been bad enough to take my regular brand of Make-eye-no-itch-ozyl so I’ve been trying to ignore it. Of course my previously documented over-imaginative internal doctor decided I must have an eye parasite that’s going to eat through my optic nerve before the months out so I took anti-histamine to shut him up and it got better. Maybe my stoopid immune system was tricked into submission my the wonders of modern chemistry or perhaps the bug living in my ocular cavity has decided my retina just isn’t that tasty and has chosen to move up in the world and dine on my temporal lobe. If I go all Phineas Gage around July you’ll know why.

Monday, 15 May 2006

Sometimes I doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion

I stayed up to watch the FA Cup Final last night. The game kicked off at 11:30pm local time and I didn’t get to bed until after 3am. Cup finals are normally such turgid affairs so it was great to ‘watch’ a game that was at least eventful, if not a great game.

I put watch in inverted commas up there because I kept dropping off. The national anthem started and then the next thing I know there shots of Jamie Carragher holding his big-jawed head interspersed with replays of the own-goal. Then all of a sudden we’re at the half time show, with the pundits explaining what Liverpool need to do to take control of the game. The rest of the game continued as a succession of narcoleptic snapshots. The whole thing felt like I was watching a badly cut highlights package.

I only properly became conscious for the last five minutes and was willing the game to end so I could go to bed when Stevie G. sends in a screamer to take the match into extra time. I don’t know how I’m going to survive a month of this once the World Cup starts. The games kick off between 10:30pm and 4:30am locally. I’ll have to go into training now if I want to survive the tournament. I’ll condition myself to sleep on the tram home and start looking for a reliable source of No-Doze. It’ll be like studying for exams all over again.

Friday, 12 May 2006

Things I did as a kid #4

Growing up in New Zealand, every school holiday seemed to consist of a car journey to visit relatives in exotic cities such as Auckland, New Plymouth or Gisborne. I would always be in the back seat because Joanna would get 'car sick' if she didn’t ride shotgun (the same way Roops is ‘allergic’ to kiwifruit) and the air would have a citrus tang from the lemons that filled the seat pouches. Mum said the smell prevented Jo from hurling but they seemed more like some kind of totem to ward off the evil vomit spirits. On these long trips up and down the North Island, the one constant would be the ratty looking power lines that would line the route for miles on end. I would stare out the window as the Return of the Jedi audio book played in the background (“When you hear R2-D2 make this noise, Booble-be-beep, turn the page”) and trace the wires with my eyes.

That’s it, just a short memory today. So that you don’t feel cheated I’ll appendix it with a public consumption warning. Don’t buy this product:

It’s called FIFA and surprisingly enough it’s a cereal to tie in with the World Cup (OMG 28 days to go!!!!). In a nutshell; Cheerios in the shape of footballs and it tastes like rancid porridge laced with vanilla.

Thursday, 11 May 2006

The fifty-eighth sense doesn’t quite have the same ring

Taking shots at Scientology is far too easy. It’s like winning an argument by comparing the other person to the Nazis: anyone can do it and it doesn't make you Churchill. However, when I find something like this, its just too sweet a chance to pass up.

El Ron decided that there are 57 senses or "perceptics" (an extra 52 more than the five us norms already know about) and through looking at over-sized chairs, riding fairground attractions giving money to Scientology you too can access them. The highlights include:
  • Solidity (barriers) – Not so much a sense as not being a ghost.
  • Relative sizes (external) –You don’t need to tithe John Travolta a new jet for the privilege of learning this one.
  • Motion of self – W.A.L.K.I.N.G. El Ron. Walking.
  • Saline content of self (body) – Why would anyone want that one? “Hmmm, sense… turgidity!”
  • Emotional state of other organs – Boo hoo, my liver feels rejected.
  • Reality (self and others) – TomKat should spend some more time on this one.
  • Emotional state of groups – Boo hoo, GLADD feels rejected.
  • Awareness of not knowing – Ahhhh, I didn’t know what I was missing.
  • Personal emotion – Boo hoo, I’ve followed Scientology and now I feel rejected.
If they were hocking spider sense or x-ray vision then maybe it would be OK, but if you call the whole thing Super Power then you really have to offer something more 'super' than Perception of Appetite.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

If you decide to blame the zombie, turn to page 58

The train was all sardines, I had my headphones on to drown out the funk and I expelled a little wind. Problem being, I couldn’t hear if I’d let a raspberry out or slipped a silent but violent down my trouser leg. Should I put on my best Sam “the Man” Jackson impression and look my fellow commuters in the eye while locking a stare that said, “Yes I cut the cheese but what are you going to do about it? Punk!” Or was a better tactic to fix my gaze somewhere in the middle distance and if I catch someone’s eye smile and give them the “I can’t smell anything and if you can then it’s come from your direction not mine.” It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure written by Hunter S. Thompson.

Of course I played it innocent but the expression on the suit’s face next to me revealed that I might have trumpeted a little on the way out. Regardless, I put my head down, read my book and swayed gently to the rhythm of the tracks. Yes, I took the coward’s way out, judge me if you must but which of you would have raised your voice in a crowded carriage and announced “I Farted”?

Saturday, 6 May 2006

Cat descending a staircase

The pet door we have for our cats had to be put in a window so we can have the glass replaced when we move (we don’t want to have to spring for a new door) and so it is about four feet off the ground. For Fisher this is no problem as he, strangely enough, possesses the dexterity of a cat. Tandem unfortunately, being older and part sloth, has all the grace and agility of half a kilo of mushrooms – and that’s your common button ‘shrooms I’m talking about, not those high-wire circus shitake you can find in the Orient.

So yesterday, I made my way to Bunnings (Mitre10 or B&Q for our foreign readers) for supplies. I got a plank of treated pine and some thinner wood to nail across the board as foot holds. 20 minutes there, 20 minutes back and as I started to get my tools out, I found that I didn’t have the right nails (the ones I had were too short) so I had to go another 12 minutes there, 12 minutes back (I found a quicker route that avoids the traffic lights of the other way). Everything finally at hand, I fashioned a gangplank. Now it might not look like much but it does the job and it means that we can finally get rid of the litter tray.

As you can see from the photo, I’m one of the last people in the world you want manual tasks yet I still enjoy visits to the modern Hardware Megastore. A guy at work told me the tale of a friend of his who has been banned by his wife from returning to Bunnings because he went out to buy some screws and came back with a welding kit. And that's the reason right there, they seemingly contain every tool I could ever need. Even though I go in for a length of timber and a hand full of nails, the potential is there for me to leave with a bolt gun, a DIY fallout shelter kit and an eight-burner barbeque meaning I could potentially attach, survive and flame-grill anything the world can throw at me; given the right tools.

Friday, 5 May 2006

Rule of acquisition #42

Coming home yesterday I was first confronted by a guy in a fish outfit. As I tried to walk past him he thrust a jar of NEW JOHN WEST SPREADABLE TUNA into my hand. I walked on across Flinders Street Station and a hoard of Neighbours extras and out of work foot models swarmed about dressed all in blue. From a guy who looked like he could have brought a muffin in the background of the café in Summer Bay I got not one but two bottles of NIVEA BODY - SMOOTH CARE LOTION. I had almost gotten to my platform when a smiling idiot motioned for me to take my head phones off. I thought they wanted me to buy a doctor but turned out she was just canvassing for donations to Médecins Sans Frontières.

Just traveling to and from the office, I get at least two offers of free stuff per week and daily propositioning from various charities and credit card bootleggers. As a trained and practicing marketer I like to think that I’m immune but you can’t help but be influenced by the launch campaigns and trials that are so commonplace today. I foolishly included the question “Do you enjoy receiving free items?” in a questionnaire I ran as part of a third year investigation. What I wanted to ask was “How much does free stuff influence your purchasing habits?” but instead I got a load of positive responses who some how thought the question was a veiled offer and were now expecting giveaway items. Basically, even if you don’t know what it is or if you want it you’ll still take a handout as a moment ago you were a loser with nothing but now, worst case scenario, you’re a loser with something.

Before you go, there is a point to all this. First, the obvious revelation “everyone likes to get presents”. And B, if you see a dude dressed up as a giant tuna run the other way as NEW JOHN WEST SPREADABLE TUNA is nothing more than 1970s fish paste in a new coat of paint.

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

This is my church

I’d say that I’ve solidly supported Chelsea F.C. since the ‘92/’93 season and yet it wasn’t until last year that they won the league. Sure, we took a couple of F.A. Cups and a European Cup Winner’s Trophy but you couldn’t make a solid argument for them being the top, or even one of the top teams in the country until Jose came along and whipped the boys into shape.

So what did I get out of following them for over ten years with only limited success? I’ve been living overseas for most of it so it’s not the camaraderie. Since I’ve been away I’ve found one fellow member of the Blue Army who has enough knowledge of the team that I could reminisce with him about the glory days back in the mid-nineties when the team seemed to be a veritable clan of short, big headed, mediocre players. Roops started following Newcastle back when they when they had Kelvin Koogan at the helm and came 2nd in the league but when their fortune took a down turn and they swapped David Ginloa for David Batty why didn’t he jump ship and start following Man U or even the Arse? He went against just about every member of his family by turning his back on Chelsea to follow Toon and yet he’s stuck with them through Sourness and Boumsong.

Why do football supporters follow lost causes? I can’t imagine a situation that could arise that would stop me supporting Chelsea. The only explaination I can give is that following football makes you a wee bit daft in the head. If you accept that all the supporters are not quite right upstairs, suddenly the hooliganism, the chants and the post goal celebrations make a lot more sense.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Bergamot of champignons

A patch of self-reassessment has arisen and I’ve decided that I don’t actually enjoy what I’m drinking in the morning. At school there would be these huge urns sitting at the head of the dining hall that would serve enough tea for 200 boys every morning. I only ever saw them filled once (I had been in a food fight the day before that had involved choc ices and oversized ketchup bottles and had to be at breakfast early as part of my punishment) and they required a ratio of two huge cauldrons of water to one tea bag the size of a paperback. By the end of breakfast the ‘tea’ in the urns would be quite passable if sold commercially as a kettle descaler, paint stripper or industrial spermicide. Years of exposure to this explains why I take my tea with milk and two sugars.

I’m going through my mid-morning crisis because I miss a cup of cha that throws my eyelids open after the first mouthful. I currently have time in the morning to have a cup of tea but not enough time to wake up properly without chemical stimulus. I usually drink Earl Gray but I find it doesn’t have the punch I’m after. I want to hotwire my morning without resorting to coffee as I drink more than enough java at the office. I’ve tried leaving the Earl Gray tea bag in for longer but then you just end up with a bitter after taste that I want to describe as burnt bergamot but I’m not entirely sure what bergamot tastes like.

So off to the tea store I trekked (I actually dropped in while shopping with Robs and her folks two weekends ago so a more accurate description would be “I came across the tea store in the course of my travels”) where the delightful Loraine listened carefully to my requirements and suggested Irish Breakfast (like English Breakfast but less likely to get drunk and try to take advantage of the sugar pot). They only sell the tea as loose leaves so I brought a new strainer and I now drink a mug of Irish Breakfast with my coco pops. It’s not quite what I wanted (would you believe not enough bergamot this time) so I expect I’ll be heading back to Loraine in a couple of weeks. Perhaps I should take the time before I go to find out what bergamot is.

Note – Don’t try and work out the title. I came up with it before this post was finished but wasn’t able to get a link to mushroom tea into the entry. However, I liked the pun enough that I left it in.

Friday, 28 April 2006

This explains a lot

A show I’ve been watching has the David Bowie song Life on Mars in its first episode. LoM is a wonderful rock opera track that has Ziggy’s haunting vocals crying out over a fantastic piano piece. And the truth is that I don’t think I’d ever heard it until 10 days ago. I know who he is, I know about the whole alter ego thing and how he has different coloured eyes because he was hit on the side of the head as a child but Heroes, Young Americans, Man Who Sold the World, China Girl and then I run out of songs of his I can actually name. I think the majority of my Bowie knowledge comes from Zoolander and Pop-up Video.

And in a rather predictable way, I blame my parents. As far as my audio education goes they covered off most of the classics. I was exposed to The Beatles, Clapton and Springsteen from an early age. Dire Straits and Billy Joel also feature prominently as did The Beach Boys and Queen. There were some mistakes along the way in the form of the Gypsy Kings and Françoise Hardy and I unfortunately know all the words to Rod Stewart’s The First Cut is the Deepest. Also, I did have to discover Pink Floyd by myself but that didn’t result in any lasting damage as I came across them before I reached my teens.

How then did I not discover David Bowie until I was 28? Has this lack of critical music retarded my development? Is this why I feel uncomfortable in certain social situations? Are there hidden references in everyday conversation that I’m missing because I wasn’t exposed to Space Oddity in my formative years? I feel slightly Amish. Come to think of it, the only Bob Dylan tracks I can name are The Hurricane and Subterranean Homesick Blues and even then that’s only because of a film reference and the reoccurrence in trivia contests respectively.

Thursday, 27 April 2006


Robyn’s folks and Lara came over for her cousins wedding last Monday. It was held at a place called Mt Buffalo, which is a ski resort five hours out of Melbourne. As we’ve just a wee car (a little three door Daihatsu) we decided to hire a large Mitzy Magna wagon so that we all arrived at the wedding without having to origami ourselves into the car.

The drive was deadly and I was lucky that Graeme was there to share the mind numbing drive. The problem with Australia is that it all looks the same. I think the gum trees are lovely but the land is so flat that there’s nothing to break it up. This lack of geographic variation means that there’s no reason for the road not to go straight and so result is a country where you can make three right turns in eight hours and get from Melbourne to Canberra.

The saving grace of all this was that I discovered cruise control. Sadly lacking from the Volvo Land-Brick that I used to own, the automated speed made it feel like I was behind the wheel of the Knight 2000. The only down side is that it was all a bit MarioCart MarioKart, in that I only had to steer and not bother about the speed. Luckily we made it there and back without incident but who knows what would have happened if I had spotted a turtle shell in the middle of the road.

We also had a great time at the wedding.

Monday, 24 April 2006

My fellow watermelons

So here we are 30 days later and where are we at? As a start, I’ve managed to complete 23 posts. That’s seven less than I was aiming for but to be honest more than I expected when I set out on this communication experiment.

For only a month of service, Reality Splinter is actually fairly developed as far as blogs go. I’ve had 489 non-unique visitors (at time of writing) at an average of 16.86 per day, with 86 of you visiting over the last seven days. Most sites don’t develop a community until they have been established for at least 90 days so we’re way ahead of the curve. Not only do we have a couple of fully-fledged conversations in some of the comments areas but I also have my very own troll. In this case, the prowler has an unfair advantage as he happens to also be my brother but there has been no holding back on the flames. Other tropes of proper blogs are also starting to arise - one post has graffiti placed in it by my lovely Bride and another has been altered to protect the innocent.

So what’s come out of this adventure in text? Firstly, I’ve really enjoyed it. Blogging has exploded my hunger for writing and reminded me of how much I enjoy sitting in front of a blank screen and telling stories. Also, the response I’ve had has been better than I hoped. I’m in touch with some people I let fall off the radar and hopefully it’s helped to reduce the implied space that is an unfortunate physical reality. In fact, I’ve have been chatting with some major players* with regards to merchandising possibilities so don’t be surprised if you receive a signed Reality Splinter T-shirt for Christmas this year.

I’m AFK for the next couple of days so the site will be running quiet but I’ll be back with an (almost) daily dose of ramblings, nostalgia and nonsense before you can say “Kiwiberry.” As I said in my first post, this is a two way street - I have to write it and you have to read it - so drop by if you want, just remember to watch for flying starfish. I hear they can really sting if you get one in the eye.

*Major players of Sega Rally that is

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Old enough to know better

On walking back from lunch on Thursday I felt like chocolate. There is a vending machine on the 4th floor at work and a couple of 7-11 convenience stores on the way but I was passing the supermarket so I ducked in to hit my coco-fix. As far as bang for my buck went, biscuits seemed the way to go. I could get 20 Chocolate Digestives, 16 Tim Tams or a dozen Mallowpuffs for the price of a block of Dairy Milk.

I was tossing up between Chocolate Fingers and a roll of Hob Nobs when I spied a packet of Jaffa Cakes. This was like a sighting of Tom Cruise at a Psychiatry conference - they were the last thing I expected to find in a place I hadn't anticipated. I’d just never seen them in Australia before. Come to think of it I don’t recall them on sale in New Zealand either. Lets just say that I can’t remember seeing a packet of Jaffa Cakes since coming south of the equator. Not that I ever had a great affinity for JCs in England but as I’d been deprived of them since coming Down Under I was suddenly mad for them. Like when tourists go half way across the world only to discover they don’t like the food and end up eating at Burger King Bangkok.

Having purchased the biscuits (I know name might indicate that they are more cake than biscuit but I think we have to agree that they seem more at home as part of the Biscuit genus) I swiftly ate a third of the packet on the walk back to the office and then the rest disappeared before the day was out. I didn’t have to share them, I didn’t need a special occasion and no one warned me that I might spoil my appetite. I’m married, have two degrees and work full time in a job that I don’t enjoy but somehow gorging myself on tiny choc-orange treats makes me feel like an adult.

NOTE – I left this post half finished and when I came back I found the following typed at the bottom of the page:

I like to snoozle, snoozle. I like to snoozle, snoozle. I like to snoozle , snoozle. I am the snoozle Roozel.

I tell you, it’s like being married to a Fraggle.

Thursday, 20 April 2006


As a side effect of living in both New Zealand and England growing up, I have memories that are as clear as a bell but have no cultural content to give them any geographic grounding. From my early childhood I can remember a clay-mation music video for a song called “Reet Petit”. The easy beat and tame lyrics tell me it is just a re-recording of a song from the 50s but I have no idea whether it was a global success (an early 80s Crazy Frog) or some kind of home grown Kiwi oddity. In about the same era I can recall another stop-motion animated music video for the Nina Simone song “My Baby Just Cares for Me” using anthropomorphic cats. It was a lot slicker than “Reet Petit” and from the parts I can remember, looked a bit like it was a primitive Aardman Animation but I have no idea where I saw it.

Even with corroboration I have a hard time placing my young memories correctly. I have a vivid recollection of Mum lifting me up so I could post a letter in a post box and as I let go of the letter a hand comes out of the mail slot and grabs me. The postman was just clearing the box and having his little joke but the memory is so thick that I can still feel the terror of being attacked by the post monster that was going to eat my hand. I’ve since been told that this happened in Scotland when I was about three but for some reason my brain has filed the whole thing under Te Awamutu, 1982.

This doesn’t make them any less trust worthy but it does lead to confusion when trying to relate shared experiences and getting blank looks from the other people because the memory you have occurred on an entirely different continent to the one you thought. Try explaining Live and Kicking to New Zealanders or What Now to Brits. It just doesn’t work.

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Zoned out

I’ll be down to the last chapter of a book and the tram will pull up at my stop. The movie will just be getting to the big reveal and the phone will ring. I’ll finally be about to find out what the hell they are doing on that stoopid polar bear infested island and the fuse will trip leaving me in darkness, swearing at the set. Time and time again my crazy knack of getting interrupted at the worst possible moment will rear its head as I’m devouring some kind of pop culture.

Its probably just that I spend more time reading and watching TV than the average bear and it only seems like I get more than my fair share of interruptions but that doesn’t stop it from being a fingernail in the soup of my existence. Its not that I get left in the dark because I do get to finish what I’m doing; I’ll get to the conclusion of the book after work, I hit play once the telemarketer gets off the phone, I’ll watch the last 5 minutes when they collect the season on DVD. But when I do get to end I’ve lost my groove. I’m not in the same headspace I was at. Half the reason I enjoy reading good books and watching inspired TV is because I get sucked into the world they create. I block most everything else out and just exist in the splinter of reality (sic) that the medium has created. I get into what they call ‘the Zone’ in sports and when something jerks me out, its like a baseball bat across the shins. I’m not saying I want to live in an “imaginary make-believe world” but I do feel lucky that once in a while I find something that allows me to visit.

Sunday, 16 April 2006

Things I did as a kid #3

I remember being at my Grandparent’s house in Te Awamutu. I was about four and while everybody else was saying goodbye to my Uncle before he drove back to Auckland, I was ferreting around in his car. To me it was like having a celebrity parked in the drive as the car had a digital speedometer. I had only ever seen one of these futuristic displays on Knight Rider so in my mind it was only a matter of time before I found the switch that would make the car talk.

Under the passenger seat I found an A4 envelope and so I pulled it out and asked my Uncle why it was under the seat. He told me it was under there because he needed to get the photos in the envelope ‘blown up’. Now I knew he meant enlarged but I thought the act of placing them under the seat was the key to making the photos bigger. I felt that he had let a vital piece of information slip and I now had a piece of knowledge that The Adults had been keeping from me.

Over the next couple of weeks I hid chocolate bars, toy cars and even a caterpillar under my parent’s front left seat in the vain attempt to get them ‘blown up’. I imagined riding to school on a giant caterpillar that would one day undergo a Mothra-like metamorphoses into a mega-butterfly. Strangely enough all that ended up happening is that the dog ate the chocolate bars, my cars got lost and my trusty insect steed turned into a green gooey splotch.