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.