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.

Friday, 14 April 2006

Came A Good Friday

Robyn’s parents were supposed to fly in from New Zealand at 8am this morning but have been delayed and will now only get here at about eight tonight. With the change of plans, Robs and I decided approach today in a laid back manner. We went out for a brunch (at a café that did a great strong latté without making it bitter) and then we wanted to go and see a movie. While waiting for my cooked breakfast to arrive I flicked through the paper to see what was showing at the local multiplex and discovered that nothing was on.

  • Ice Age 2:A sub-par sequel to a sub-par animated film. I refuse to sit through another 90 minutes of Ray Romano doing his grumpy mammoth voice.
  • She’s the Man: Just because Gwyneth won an Oscar for cross-dressing doesn’t make this an acceptable premise for a film.
  • Failure to Launch: Matthew McConaughey’s parents want him to move away from home so they hire the Sex in the City lady to help them. Hilarity ensues.
  • Scary Movie 4: We didn’t want the first three, why would we want the fourth?
  • March of the Penguins: Apparently it takes Morgan Freeman to get people interested in natural history.

OK, so there were movies showing but nothing worth $14 and two hours of my time. Instead we went to the Nova (the art house-ish cinema near when we used to live) and saw The Squid and the Whale. It was a really good yarn about a family in New York in the early 80s going through a separation. Think Tenenbaums meets The Ice Storm without Frodo fooling around with Wednesday Adams.

We’re back home now and it is raining outside so we’ve got the heating on. Robs is taking a nap upstairs and I’m going to play computer games for the next couple of hours. It nice to take a load off and do nothing for a couple of hours as long as I don’t have to listen Ray Romano bitching about how cold everything is.

Thursday, 13 April 2006

This is my life and its ending one-second at a time

Here is what went through my head when I felt a little tightness as I took a deep breath while waiting for the kettle to boil last Sunday:

Is this the start of a heart attack?

I don’t ignore it like most people do; I blow it out of proportion and then try and think of a more dramatic solution - as illustrated by the second thought out of my brain:

I have lung cancer.

You see that? No maybe about it. I had flat out decided before I had even finished my breath that I had cancer. Then with every inhale I psyched myself further into the ICU:

My parents were smokers as I was growing up so it was only a matter of time.
Robyn is outside in the garden and it’ll be a while before she finds me when I pass.
Getting the big ‘C’ this young means that it is going to be really bad.

There you have it; with that last thought you can see that I determined that having cancer was not bad enough. Oh no, I had to then diagnose myself with a terminal, extremely aggressive, non-operable tumor. I won’t bore you with the next five minutes of neurotic thoughts but suffice to say that by the time the jug boiled I was already fretting about my lack of life insurance and what songs I wanted played at the service.

And this isn’t unusual, my standard practice is to take any physical defect that I discover - actual or perceived - and spin it wildly out of proportion (I once decided that a twinge I felt in my lower back was in fact the first symptom of ebloa and it was only a matter of time before my organs turned to into a cloudy liquid and I started vomiting my spleen into the kitchen sink). I know that I do this and so tend to reign it back in pretty quickly but to many of my spare thoughts are taken up a worse, worst case scenario of how I’m going to come to a grizzly death.

In case you’re wondering I don’t have a tumor or respiratory parasites or any of the things that danced across my mind as I made my cup of tea. I just had the start of a cold.

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Pet Sounds

After I saw the film Pulp Fiction, I decided I wanted a dog called Ezekiel. A great, big bullmastiff or wolfhound (I’ve never known if wolfhounds historically hunt wolves or are, in fact, a hound with wolf-like characteristics) to take on long walks and bark at squirrels. This then evolved into the need for a friend for Ezekiel and I decided that a Corgi named Zucchini would be perfect as then I could have a pair of complementary sized dogs with the nicknames Zeek and Zuuc.

My imaginary dogs never really progressed any further than that as I was about 17 at the time and had other things on my mind but I think the need to create them in the first place stems from the lack of naming opportunities that had occurred in my life. I was too young to name our first dog, Ky, and somehow Jo got to name Bonnie, the cat we got when we lived in Eastbourne. Then, later on, Mum and Jo picked out Tarquin and when I complained that they had chosen a terrible name that would lead to the poor mutt getting teased by the local dogs I was told that as he was a rescued greyhound, Tarquin was the name that he had when they picked him up. I didn’t find out the truth for another four years; Jo and Mum, knowing that I would hate the name, sketched out the “He had the name when we got him” lie prior to speaking with me and conspired to keep me in the dark as to the origin of the unlucky animal’s real name*.

Then, when we took in a cat during our first year of living together, Robyn and I resisted naming the creature as we were students and couldn’t possibly look after a pet but after a while of calling it Her, She and The Cat, I buckled and came up with Tandem (named for the two stripes running across her back). As we had suspected, the moment Tandem became Tandem, the chances of her going to the SPCA dropped to zero.

I tried the same no-name-for-you trick last November when Robs rescued a kitten from an air vent at an abandoned house, as I didn’t think it was a good idea to take in another mouth to feed just a month before we were due to be married. I was, of course, unsuccessful and after the little monster got into the crawl space in the kitchen I christened him Fisher.+

I think the real waste is when regular human names are used for animals. You’ll never be able to call your kids Captain Applejack or Brolly so why waste your opportunity by calling the dog Max? I’m also against the use of puns as this is something you’re going to have to live with for years and I doubt even gems like Chairman Meow are still funny the thousandth time. So after finally getting the chance, I’ve decided that naming your pet is one of the best parts and I am actually looking forward to the day that Robyn gets the West Highland terrier that she’s always wanted. I think he’ll be called Franklin but I’m not entirely sure why.

* It was the equally horrific Flash incase you were wondering.

+ Its only fair to note that I have come to love the Fisher King and am glad he finally made it out from behind the kitchen wall.

Monday, 10 April 2006

Flame on!

The weather has dropped about 10 degrees in the last fortnight and I think I’m the only person living in Melbourne to see this as a positive thing. After six years in Dunedin, the six before that in a drafty boarding house and my formative years at a primary school that had shorts as part of the uniform 365, I miss cold weather. There is a stage when it gets too cold and I start to hate it again (like the time while walking around Venice in January when I thought my nipples were going to freeze off) but as long as icicles don’t start to form on the end of my nose I’m OK.

I figure I can always put more clothes on or cover myself in another blanket when the mercury starts to decent but there is a limit to what you can do as the heat rises. I don’t have air conditioning at home so when the temperature gets into the late 30s I start to expire. Survival occurs largely by taking a lot of showers and putting my underwear in the freezer before putting them on. My ideal situation would involve emergency showers (like you see in laboratories in case of a chemical spill) situated all over the house so I could step under for a cold blast anytime I start to break a sweat, supplemented by a valet to bring me a continuous stream of chilled pants so I can swap my undergarments for a fresh pair as they begin to lose their cooling properties.

A more likely solution is that I just don’t live in tropical Australia for too many more summers. Robyn is ready to start studying for her Clinical Psychology degree so I think I’m going to order a prospectus for University of the Faroe Isles. I hear they have an excellent post-graduate program there.

Excuse me are you German?

Life is filled with social agreements that we enter into simply by being present.
  • I/we will stand on the platform while waiting for the train and I/you will not push you/me in front of it as it arrives.
  • A coat laid on an adjacent set indicates the seat is taken.
  • I/you will not attempt to start a conversation with you/me for the duration of the elevator’s trip.
My case in point is the escalators that I ride in and out of the train station during the course of my daily commute. The convention is that standers stand on the left while walkers walk on the right. Every now and then someone will take a couple of steps up the right-hand side and then stop. High school kids chatting to their friends, lovers holding hands, confused elderly tourists; there’s no way to tell who’s going to be a stander so everyday it’s a lottery no matter how carefully I choose which of the three escalators to ride. I try to survey the people ahead of me but every time I think that I’m finally tuned in the rhythm of the herd, an idiot I didn’t spot will stop halfway up the flight and decide that now is the right time to tie his shoelace.

I consider myself fairly patient but this is one of the things that really brines my pickle. It’s not that the dufus is slowing me down (the way things currently stand I really don’t want to get to work any faster than I have to) but the lack of awareness offends me. What gives them the right to break the unspoken contract? All I’m asking it that my short trips up and down the moving
stairway are unimpeded and irritation free. Is that too much to ask?

Friday, 7 April 2006

Things I did as a kid #2

As well as I can remember, every Saturday afternoon growing up in Eastbourne consisted of going to garage sales with Mum. I would sifting through puzzles with one piece missing and old golf clubs looking for something to take home with me. Its where I got an Optimus Prime with the arms snapped off and a set of Uno card that smelt faintly of nutmeg. And it is at these garage sales that I imagine we picked up about half a dozen ‘Solid Gold Hits’ records.

I vaguely remember the TV show Solid Gold as a knockoff Top of the Pops with musicians performing their songs accompanied by the Solid Gold Dancers. I’m guessing here, but I think the LPs Mum found must have been compellation albums of the songs that appeared on the show as one on the tracks on one of the albums was the theme from The Greatest American Hero.

I remember cueing up the record, sitting on a stool and lip-synching ‘Believe It or Not’ into a banana. In my head I was giving the performance of a lifetime. In actual fact I was most probably the 80s version on the Numa Numa Guy.

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Knowing me, knowing you

I listen to music on my MP3 player as I travel to and from work every day. The music helps me to drown out the other passenger’s annoying one-sided mobile phone conversations and the tired, brief encounter flirting that seems to occur from time to time just over my shoulder (line actually heard on the tram last year - Yeah, I try to get to India at least twice a year. I just find it so… spiritual). I catch the tram near the start of the route during both the morning and evening legs of my trip so I normally get a seat and while I usually read a book, I’ll occasionally just listen to the music while watching the traffic flow by.

I set up my playlist for the rest of my day on the walk from home to the train station. I pick a handful of albums and then slot individual songs between them. I find this stops the different albums from melding into one. ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ or the new Arctic Monkeys are one great song after another but something like ‘the Bends’ or Beck’s ‘Odelay’ just have that little bit extra because of the way that the songs play off one another and combine so well in the particular order they were put into; you get an experience rather than a collection of music. So that’s why I like to an album from start to finish, I’ve even been known to walk slowly from the tram stop to work in an attempt to give the album a chance to finish.

Like I said, I divide it all up with singles. I just thumb through the songs until I come across something I haven’t listened to for a while. Today I was scrolling through by artist and I came across Norwegian synth sensations a-ha. So I threw them in between ‘Liquid Skin’ and ‘The Three E.P.’s’ and went on my way to work. As Gomez faded out I suddenly got a couple of strong chords and the song ‘The Living Daylights’ came over my headphones. This completely threw me as I was expecting ‘Take on Me’ and not the theme from one of the worst Bond films. It was like I had fallen through the cracks into an alternate universe and the rest of the day was just slightly off, like when you miss one of the belt loops on your jeans; I couldn’t tell what was wrong but something definitely wasn’t right.

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

A public service announcement

Don’t squeeze pimples that you find in your armpit. I tried to pop one once without thinking and almost passed out from the trauma. I fell to the ground and my eyes watered like I’d just watched Travis take Old Yeller out back. For a good couple of days after, I couldn’t reach to the top shelf in the larder for the Frosties. Just wanted to spare someone else the pain of having to go through something no one rightfully should.

Tuesday, 4 April 2006

My (lack of) sporting life

Originally posted 4th April 2006

I feel a bit like a sporting refugee sometimes. I’m here in Australia busting to chat about the Hurricanes-Crusaders game or the Birmingham-Chelsea match from the weekend and I might as well be speaking Klingon. All anyone wants to talk about is how the Crows did against the Pies and whether I think Buckley or Hurst is the better player. Melbourne is a sports mad city as long as the sport is AFL aka Aussie Rules aka “FOOTIE!”

I understand the game, its kind of a hybrid of a myriad of other sports. You play with something similar to a rugby ball but you’re not allowed to tackle someone below the hips. Like basketball, you can’t take more that a certain number of paces without bouncing the ball but its played on a cricket pitch. There are a lot of huddles and piles of bodies squirming for the ball like Gridiron but if someone takes a fair catch on the full then you’re not allowed to interfere while they take their kick – and somehow we’re back to rugby again.

I’ve tried to enjoy the game but its just not that great. There is violence and body blocking but not as much as ice hockey. There is some skill involved but you’ll never see anything that compares to a bit of Brazilian heel-toe magic. The game is played over a three-hour period (including stoppages) and they cover a hell of a lot of ground so if anything it’s a celebration of endurance. I know a number of ex-pat Brits and Kiwis have become converts but I can only put this down to some kind of desperate need to fit in or a total lack of exposure to any other sport during their formative years.

One thing I am thankful for is that Australia has made it into that in World Cup so there’ll be coverage in the media here but there still won’t be the depth of understanding that I yearn for. The average Aussie can’t see that they are going to be roundly thumped by Brazil, Croatia and Japan. They’ll all walk around in Green and Gold, humming Waltzing Matilda in complete blissful ignorance of how the offside rule works. And still, they’ll most probably get further than England.

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Not Philip Seymour Hoffman. The other Hoff

I don’t have an office mug. If I took one to work it would only get nicked when I put it in the dishwasher at night and to be honest there would be a lot of pressure involved in picking the right one. Like home clothes days at school, this is one of the few clues my workmates would have to decide who I am. Because of this, I just grab whichever mug is sitting in the cupboard under the industrial sized tins of Nescafe and Milo.

About September last year I was walking back to my desk and Bec (one of the receptionists office admins) exclaimed “Never Give UP!” in a loud, faux enthusiastic cry. Turns out I had chosen a mug with a ‘hilarious’ cartoon of a stork eating a toad and out of the beak, the toad’s arms had stretched down to strangle the stork like a scene from a rather disturbing Aesop’s Fable. See what I mean. You wear the wrong clothes and all of a sudden your classmates think that you’re the kind of guy who thinks acid wash jeans are still in fashion.

I explained that it wasn’t mine and we had a good old laugh about how terrible the picture was. When I had finished the cup of tea, instead of taking it back to the kitchen I threw the stupid thing in the rubbish. I then took it upon myself to slowly cleanse the office of all offensive ceramics. Over about a month I destroyed every motivational, greeting card or punny mug in the kitchen by making a hot drink in the offending piece of pottery and then discarding it in the trash once I had finished. Bec knew I was doing this and even became something of a co-conspirator by bringing to my attention any mugs that may have evaded me.

So when Bec went on holiday to Suva she brought back a piece of tourist crap that might just be the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen. Worse than the 3D representation of the Last Supper that I once found during a trip to Bourton-on-the-Water. Worse than one of those little Asian restaurant cats with their motorized paw held in the air rocking back and forth like a door-to-door salesman in purgatory. Worse than the “My Mom/Dad/Swim Coach/Rabbi went to Athens/Birmingham/Des Moines/Gore and all I got was this stupid T-shirt” T-shirts.

But I haven’t thrown it in the bin. I love it and it is currently sitting not three feet away from me on our desk. I grin just looking at it because it is so very terrible. One of our stranger pieces of sociology is that things can become trendy because they are so un-trendy. Look at how one man has gone from cool (Knight Rider), through uncool (Baywatch Nights), to very uncool (singing 'Looking for Freedom' on the Berlin Wall) and back to cooler than he ever was (The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie). No one decided this, its just some weird evolving meme that probably has The Hoff in with a very good chance of becoming the next Governor of California.

I know this phenomenon has been discussed a million times before but like the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, it’s a piece of humanity that amazes me.

Saturday, 1 April 2006


In the supermarket today I stopped to look at the action figures they had for sale (inexplicably opposite the organic food section). They had your standard Batman, Dragonball Z and Hotwheels toys but the thing that caught my eye was the Chewbacca with “Wookie Rage Action” (squeezing his legs together make his arms raise up in the air making “French Surrender Action” a more accurate description).

As you can see, the thing looked like a bad Tom Baker-era Dr Who monster. I couldn’t believe how crappy and cheap it appeared. It was just further proof of how Star Wars George had betrayed the fans (someday I’ll write a post on the exact moment I decided to exclude the prequels from the Star Wars cannon). When I got home I sat down and began to vent my rage onto this virtual page. I began describing how much I hated the fur pouring off the arms and the stupid mock growl plastered to his face like a confused, botoxed panda. I wanted more to rant about so I Googled “Chewbacca action figure” and came across a picture of the Empire Strikes Back era toy and suddenly all the anger left me like I’d been dipped in carbonite.

I should just point out that I was a huge Star Wars fan growing up (I remember hiding under my seat during the Rancour pit scene, the first day RotJ came out in Te Awamutu). Continuing on from this was my love for the Kenner line of toys. I have particularly fond memories of my snowspeeder that got left in the rain so that when you now push the button to make the lasers go, it emits a strange gurgling noise that sounds not unlike a whomp-rat farting. In my mind the original Star Wars figurines were not mere toys but accurate scale replicas of the characters from the movie.

I demand a recount.

I can’t believe they look so shitty. I’ve poured over pages and pages from collector’s websites and it isn’t just Chewbacca. Obi-Wan looks like a Thunderbird reject, Han appears to have been modelled on a blow-up sex doll and R2-D2 is clearly made from an upside-down yoghurt pot. I feel like my entire childhood was a sham. Suddenly I’m beginning to question whether Hungry, Hungry Hippos was in fact the best game ever and if it was worth getting to school an hour and a half early just so I could play Elite on the computer lab’s Beeb.

I think this whole experience, though painful, has lifted the wool from my eyes. I’d always assumed that an Anakin-like conversion to the dark-side had taken place at some point between 1983 and 1999. But it’s apparent that Old Man Lucas has never cared for the fans. Even back when A New Hope was released, all he ever cared about was selling crappy toys to kids too young to know better.