Friday, May 13, 2016


It’s one of the finer feelings about having this car, and it should be recorded. It doesn’t happen too often. I move in the wrong circles, but it is inevitable. I work 9 to 5. I dress as such. I do my hair nicely for the office. I accessorise with scarves my wife has bought me. I drive a black Nissan Skyline. Loud exhaust. 

It’s late. Not too late, but 10:30pm. The line between home and party. I’m driving home from the hospital. I’m having fun up the windy hills roads. I’m not brave enough to exceed 40, but I sound loud. I’m a bullet painted black and a grown man making ‘brrm’ noises. Pull into the servo, I arrive at the servo.

A group of lads, men. Five or six, are hanging around the entrance, clustered about Park 1 next to the sliding doors where one of them, impossible to tell who, owns the Lexus IS300 with the aftermarket whiff about it. The Is-It-Pearl? paintjob not quite gleaming. They are talking cars. You can just tell. Someone is talking, everyone is nodding, one guy quotes a number, another an abbreviation. 

As I swing around past the pumps towards Park 2, necks stiffen. Exactly no one looks in my direction. No one. Someone begins talking again. Someone says the word ‘turbo’, not about the Skyline, but because it’s a common-use word outside the OTR sliding doors at 10:30pm on a Friday night. 

I turn the engine and leave all the windows open. I get out. I look like someone’s accountant. I’ve got checks where I should have logos. I have to step around a guy with dreads and say ‘G’day’ to a bloke exactly 5 years younger than me who’s pretty committed to the Tex Walker moustache. He says ‘g’day’ back. He’s the one who says ‘turbo’ again, on my way out.

You don’t buy a Skyline to be cool. You don’t buy your dream car to impress anybody. But passing through that throng of tuner car fan-dudes in my creased trousers with my intense hairspray, I felt cool. An article by Maggie Stiefvater in Wednesday's Jalopnik reported a guy showing pictures of his own stupid car and saying ‘This car is what I look like on the inside.’ It suddenly started to make more sense.

I love the feeling of looking like a career office worker driving a twenty-year-old boy-racer-mobile and having people have to concede that maybe, just maybe, all dickheads don’t hang around outside servos on Friday nights. Some of us have a backseat full of books because we took our wives on a Dymocks spree. 

Making the fan-dudes gathered around their mate’s Lexus have to re-think who they thought wanted to be in their club, is also pretty great. That’s the feeling.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I wanted to set an example. A bad example. Well, a good bad example. Not for my son, but for the men around me. 
‘Boys and their toys’ people say, wagging fingers and rolling eyes. 
Exactly. What is a boy with a toy, except for happy? And what’s wrong with happiness? 

Before we get all na├»ve about it, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with happiness when it comes from a  grown man clutching a metal thing he can see his reflection in and making ‘brrmm brrmm’ noises with his slightly moist lips. This slobbery gent has responsibilities. He has a family. He has a job. He has loved ones and limited time in the day. Happiness spent with his shiny metal thing is happiness spent in the absence of all those things one builds a fulfilling life around. Money spent on the shiny metal thing is money lifted away from comforts for those he shares his life with. 
Fancy Car can easily equal Selfish Dad. 
This is why Men In Flash Wheels are often regarded with suspicion. 

‘Who went without?’ is the question that readily springs to mind when we see two doors and a sloping bonnet. Of course, there’s no way of really knowing, but for my friends, there is.

I come across as a reader, I suppose. Car-Guyness is something I’ve kept hidden. The car helped me come out of the closet in a few ways, but one of them was putting that little germ in the minds of those men around me: toys aren’t bad. Cars are fun. (Well, fun cars are fun.) Since it arrived I’ve started conversations about cars and seen a faraway look of dreaming and scheming I haven’t come across.
‘Hell’ it says ‘if he can do it, it must be possible.’
Even entering your dream-date coordinates into is fun. I do it for people all the time.
‘Look!’ I write in an email out of the blue ‘There’s one in Melbourne! Look how priddy! Look how actually cheap the stupid thing is! Sell the Camry! Roadtrip!’

No one’s actually done it yet. The toy, for my friends, is a symbol of a very well-balanced life. No one’s trading folded arms and The Face of Disappointment for a 12 year old Beemer with a timing belt of indeterminate status. These things have to be thought through. 
Toys must be earned.

So when I dropped by the in-laws yesterday, and saw a 350Z, in black no less, parked where a reliable station wagon should have been, I knew that in some small way, I had failed. 
The good bad example was just a bad example. 
The automobile that should have been able to ferry elderly parents and a child who cannot legally sit in the front seat was instead the black, sleek nephew to my own little slice of happiness.
I’ve never been a fan of the 350Z. As long as I’ve liked Skylines, 300ZXs, Silvias, GTRs and everything else, the 350Z always seemed a little bit buggy. As in: it looked like a bug. From a lot of angles, the tail is too long, the proportions a bit chubby. That’s usually fine. We all have our favourites.

Now it’ll always be the symbol of a dolt. A buffoon who thought of nothing but himself, until I, with the naivety of country kindergarten teacher on his first Tindr date, skipped by in the little piece of positive incongruity that I imagined would simply send imaginations wandering over to Gumtree > Cars > Under $10,000. Instead, I was saying ‘Let them all go without. Look after yourself.’

Thursday, February 25, 2016


I blame Doug Demuro.

Doug Demuro is a kind of journeyman journo for auto-blog site, He first came to my attention as the guy who bought himself an actual Ferrari and drove around in it for a year as a daily driver. And wrote about it. The articles were interesting and well-written; good fodder for slow work days. But it was the idea that you could actually buy a crazy, stupid, insane car that ended up with me tonight taking loving snaps of my very own Nissan Skyline in my very own driveway.

I also heavily blame Top Gear. Top Gear became popular in Australia around the same time the Bugatti Veyron was born. Top Gear called the Veyron, the petrol-driven car’s ‘Concorde moment’. Nothing would ever go faster or higher or better. They were right. But they also fertilised the idea of ‘car talk’ in a way that had never existed before. No one who’s heard of the Veyron, or watched a thing about it on Youtube can walk away without being able to smugly recite at least one of its delicious factoids. The Veyron made you feel smart, interested. If you had a mind to, you could find more Veyron facts. All of them amazing. And there you are, reading about cars. And here I am, carefully pulling a car-cover over my jet-black R33 Series 2, and considering whether I should just take it for a quick spin before bed.

But, back to Doug. After he sold the Ferrari, Doug asked his readers what he should buy next. The American car market is different. It’s vast, and astoundingly cheap. European exotics abound, oddities and curiosities are freely available, if you can trust your mechanic and make the odd interstate trip for something special. Weirdly, Doug didn’t go with a vintage Porsche, or a hilarious land yacht. Doug bought a boring old 1990 Nissan Skyline. The R32 GT-R. America has another weird rule where they can’t have anything newer than 25 years old imported. Last year that age-of-consent passed in a non-creepy way and thousands of Doug’s readers applauded when he imported one of America’s first crop of Skylines. In thrilling gray. Exactly like the ones I’ve watched P-platers thrash around Australia for ever. Covetously watched. Australia doesn’t have that law. Skylines are cheap. So cheap that for many years almost every news item about a horrible street-racing fatality that didn’t contain an upside-down Commodore, contained a shot of about five metres of the twisted metal vomit that Skylines inevitably turn into. 

If Mr Ferrari could buy a Skyline in America and be called the King of the Internet (Car County), maybe I’m not dreaming?

And the Gumtree searching began …

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Of course I still post to this blog!

Problem is that it's less a diary of things I now put on Facebook and now a repository for either photos (which are easy to publish, but increasingly personal and so I don't post them) or for ideas I have which are either ill-formed, so why would anyone want to read them, or just plain boring.

But Bloggy is always in my heart.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Here's how everyone else should parent

The little boy, Charlie's size, but younger came over a few times to check out Charlie's Matchbox car. Then he came over and gave Charlie a series of little punches, right on the side of the arm. I didn't see it, but I saw the little boy scamper back after his name was called at his own table.
Then he came back and did it again.
'Can you stop your child from hitting my son?' we asked, loudly enough for everyone to hear.
Charlie wasn't hurt, or even that bothered. But the boy's mother dragged him over to our table and told him to apologise.
Then it began.
Charlie sat there and waited. All four adults at our table sat there and waited. The boy's mother crouched next to him and told him, goaded him, asked him, pressed him and nagged him to say sorry. But the boy did nothing. He didn't move his lips, he stared anywhere but at Charlie, at the wall, into the middle distance. He leant back into his mother, snaking his little arms up around for a cuddle, a hug, a chance to bury his face, and each time he was gently unhooked and told to say sorry. He was immediately ready to move onto the part where he was assured that everything he did was okay. This went on for minute after minute. No one spoke but his mother. There were no tears, no raised voices, just firm whispering and denied affection. The closest the kid got to verbalising anything was trying to kiss Mummy's ear.
Waiters squeezed by, Charlie became bored and still the snuggling and whispering went on. And on. Still the whispering and urging went on. The tone never changed, neither did the boy's facial expression - if vacant denial can be called an expression.
Finally, I think he managed to mutter 'sorry' to Charlie audibly enough that the ordeal ended. Hugs all round. Hand-holding, playing with cars, kissing goodbyes and the other table left.

Here are your questions for discussion:
  1. Why did it take five minutes of snuggling and explaining to get a kid to say sorry?
  2. How does a kid with no other obvious social impairments arrive at the idea to repeatedly hit another kid his own age?
  3. Why was saying sorry to someone's face the worst thing that could happen to that kid, as opposed to say, anything else?
  4. Are there any moral downsides to teaching your offspring to, when physically abused, retaliate with a single jab to the nose and a threatening catch-phrase, ie. "Don't mess with the Moose, motherfucker"?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Death throes

Sometimes you can spend an entire weekend doing something by not really doing it.
The 3 people who still read this blog know that I'm very very close to the end of my PhD. I'm actually at that point that I know other PhD students have reached where they chuck a hissy and submit it.
'Good enough!' they cry, dropping into the mail chute. Or giving it to the office. Or whatever ceremony goes along with it. I generally like to imagine an office admin pulling out a bell and giving it a few shakes. Nothing massive, but something out of the ordinary. Then we could all use a community-shaping euphemism:
'You rung the bell yet?'
'Nope, still got my conclusion to tidy up.'
That kind of thing.

My obstruction to 'ringing the bell' (maybe it'll catch on!) is the abstract. 500 words, what's the thesis about.
Easy, right?
Sort of.
It's a summary of a summary of a summary of my thesis.
I'm sure, once I get the wording right, I'll be asked to summarise it again. Maybe I'll just remove everything that's not a noun or a verb:

Class. Literature. Metaphor. Australia. Power. Novel.

At least I won't have to spend long on it when that time comes.

I spent the entire weekend thinking about it and not very much time actually doing it. Even less productivity came out at the end. I'll get there. Go, me. Go.

And, of course, the final absolutely last bit is (I think) the acknowledgements. I'm thinking of doing it year-book style with little portrait photos of everyone and awards underneath. But that could just be the procrastination talking ...

Monday, June 3, 2013


Something I've learned in the last week: The only thing a white Australian seems to hate more than being called a racist is seeing a black Australian being told 'sorry'.

It's the same objections that came up before, during and after Kevin Rudd's Apology. All these people rumbling away in the background how it wasn't them, it wasn't their ancestors, why should they have to feel bad?

I think there's some specific white terror that, if we say sorry, then we'll have to give everything back. I think the fear of apology is borne of an implicit knowledge that, boy, did we whites really get away with absolutely everything. And it's so close to the surface, that the merest suggestion that, perhaps, we should all take some responsibility for the current thinking on race in Australia, suddenly everyone's throwing up their hands and wagging their heads and generally behaving as though white privilege does not exist.

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32