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.