Monday, December 17, 2007

Franzy is ... out.

I'm quitting Facebook.

I've had enough. It was one of the quicker internet crazes I've seen whoosh by, but the difference was that this one hooked me in a bit. The attractive bit was the ease of interface and the instant rush of popularity when another person invited you to be their 'friend'.
'Okay. Fine,' I said. 'I'll be your 'friend'. No problem.' And that was it. Spend a bored five minutes at work filling in your details and suddenly, a week later I had replied to a few dozen 'friend requests' from people I already knew, and was already friends with, to be 'friends'. I resolved never to send out a friend request, however. Just to see how long it took before people got sick of including me in their cyberworld. It never really stopped, because other bored people at work took to scrolling through their friends' friends to see if they were friends with, knew, had met, knew of or just plain liked the look of any of the hundreds of people that were grouping together online.
But it wasn't just being 'friends' (which entailed nothing more than being another number on someone else's personal page - ie. 'I've got 238 friends now!). There are also thousands of other little games, add-ons and personalisers that you could link and share and play with, all designed to strengthen your ties with your 'friends': scrabble, movie quizzes, daily quotes and personal photos in which you could place a name-tag on your 'friends' or have a tag placed upon you to identify yourself in a blurry photo of a party from three years ago. All of these things serve to elevate the size of the numbers on your page. All of them quantifiers. But not of anything more than more than how much time you spend on Facebook. Someone who has 300 Facebook 'friends' isn't any more or less fabulous than someone who has 10, they just spend more time sending friend invites.
Facebook also emails you when someone does something to your profile. Anything. When you have been sent a 'gift' (a picture of a gift), had a funny picture or movie posted (by someone else) at the top of your message board, been compared to someone else in a computerised version of those 'would you rather' games. People even send you emails through Facebook, even though they have your email. Things that stopped being fashionable to send by email five years ago (spam warnings, naughty pictures, "send this and get the answer to the question" riddles) are suddenly back in our inboxes because Facebook doesn't let you choose who to send it to, but who not to. The default setting for that less-than-hilarious photo of the fat chick in angel wings is "Send All".
I won't even begin to discuss the lax privacy policies that permeate most of Facebook's third party applications. The default setting for every game that you play and photo that you send is "Everyone Can See What I'm Doing At All Times, Especially Advertisers Who Now Have A Direct Way Of Contacting Me Through Facebook".

None of that sounds particularly attractive, does it?

So I'm out. Fortunately there is a 'Deactivate Account' button hidden in the profile settings and the moment I have finished posting this blog, I'm skipping on over there and freeing myself of an opportunity to waste more time I don't have on things I don't care about. I believe the common term for bowing out of Facebook is the rather drastic 'Facebook Suicide' and I've heard it mentioned a few times, especially in the last few weeks. These are people who quietly and with dignity chose to end their commitment to FunWall, SuperWall, Quote of the Day, Phototagging, Friendwheel, Eggs and Aquarium and move onto the higher plane of real life.

I was inspired by Shippy, whose blog I've just learned about after he came to my birthday (photos soon) and bragged to me about his new surf-ski. I'm not sure cutting down on internet network sites and an increase in physical activity are directly related, but I'm sure that one is healthy and the other isn't.

The Jimmythins Style is up and running! Dig his cool movies!

The Blob Attacks!


The Blob Attacks: The Soldiers Fight Back


GTH - Jono is champion for this post. River gets an honourable mention (but no points!) for her further than diligent research on the 'Gedenke' header.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Flowfield Duality?

A month or so ago I left a comment on one of the few of my favourite comics that actually encourages reader feedback, The Flowfield Unity. It's a weird comic; eclectic, imaginative and simple. It's creator, Adam, writes his comics like small stories instead of punchline-directed ramps to laughter that don't always propel the reader over the requisite number flaming of buses that they should. The title of my small collection of internet comic links below - Comics are better than poetry - is probably mostly inspired by his desire for succinctness and talent for compactness. His comics often concern themselves with alternate realities as directed by scientists or madmen or both. They take a small change and explore the possible reaches of its effects.
As I always do when confronted by creativity, I get all excited and inspired and jumpy-up-and-downy, so I left the following comment on this truly hilarious comic, Teach a Man To Fish:

I have an idea for a comic that I feel only you can draw: my digital camera (and I'm assuming many other digicams) has a setting where it will play the sound of an SLR shutter clacking when it takes a photo. It doesn't have to do this, but the option is there. I've noticed that some mobile phone cameras do this too. Why is this necessary? What other new, improved technologies are designed to emulate the things they replaced so that people don't get too freaked out at the New World Order? I'm thinking mobile phones with ye olde winde upe telephone ringtones already exist, why not laptops that play a soundtrack of harddrive checking, floppy disc-drive grinding, and screen turning on boinking? How about an iPod that plays a bit of needle-find-the-groove static before each song? A Prius with hidden external speakers that play super-loud V8 sounds?
Flow it, field."

You can imagine my ecstasy and pleasure when this morning I checked my email and came across this note:

"Being as speedy as I am, I finally came up with this, an ode to televisions of yesteryear:
I've given you a shout-out, but if there's anything else I can do to say thanks, just let me know..."

What a scholar! What a gentleman! Yet, for some strange reason, he believes that
he should be thanking me, and not the other way around. So people, please, visit The Flowfield Unity, link it as recommended by franzy, or (if that little endorsement doesn't help) just leave a comment, subscribe to his RSS and enjoy!


GTH - I'm going to give points to River and Milly Moo here because they were both correct in guessing Germany. River for her diligent research and Milly Moo for having a go. Everybody wins a prize! The wall in question is in Coburg, which we did indeed visit on our EuroHoliday last year. Gedenke translates (in my muddled German head) roughly as "Memorial" but I can't read what exactly it's for in the original picture.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

*Tag* I'm it.

Memes are always a bit naff. And I'm actually quite bad at them. But, at the end of a long day of advanced bogonics (you'll find out what that means in due course), it seems like the perfect wind down. Milly Moo has tagged me and I accept the challenge!

1) Eight things I am passionate about:
The people I care about

2) Eight things I want to do before I die:
Go to Japan and eat the cuisine.
Go to Scandinavia in the winter.
Eat an entire pig.
Own a Nissan Skyline despite how embarrassed or mockful everyone I know and love will be.
Drive a Ferrari. Fast.
Publish a(nother) book and have it not be trashed as badly as I have trashed others.
Get my PhD.
Cook for someone famous. (I'm scraping the barrel here).

3) Eight things I say often:


4) Eight books I've read recently:
The Cursed.
My Swordhand is Singing.
Extra Lemon!
The Trial of Colonal Sweeto and other stories.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan.
Monster Blood Tattoo by DM Cornish.

5) Eight songs I could listen to over and over:
Blue Monday by New Order
Jambi by Tool
Know Your Enemy by Rage Against The Machine
Got Glint? by The Chemical Brothers
Nessun Dorma as sung by Pavarotti
Rez/Cowgirl (live) by Underworld
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk (I liked it way before Kanye mashed it up)
In White Rooms by Booka Shade

6) But if I were doing a triple CD set, I’d include (8 x 3 = 24)
I mentioned above that I was passionate about music, so much so that I don't believe that I can restrict I my music taste to 24 songs within an efficient time limit. That is, if I were to do justice to this question - whittling down my favourite music to just 24 - I would not be doing justice to the other things that I am passionate about: writing, friends, family, cooking. It would be a full time job and one for which I would not get paid. And after all that, I couldn't possibly do justice to my passion for music by cutting it down to 24 songs. Sorry.

7) 8 things that attract me to my friends:
They laugh at my jokes.
They tell good stories.
They are all very successful.
They are all part of me.
We agree on most things, but thankfully not all.
They still surprise me.
Most of them can juggle to a certain extent.
They would say the same things about me.

8) 8 movies I've watched at least into double figures
Life of Brian
The Holy Grail
Wayne's World
The Meaning of Life
Terminator 2
Star Wars
... and that could be about it. Which is surprising, because I'd always rather watch a movie I've seen before than one I haven't, but I suppose my saner friends have restrained me from the kind of madness that takes this practice into double figures.

So who do I tag?

Lion - Welcome to Blogworld, buddy. Here's something naff for your second post!
Jimmythins - Something to do until those movies get posted


GTH - Will of the 'not public' profile has taken the first cherry from his tree! It was indeed from the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art. And as I explained, this was an illegal photo (see previous post's comments about museum guards and life-sized porcelain sculptures of Michael Jackson and Bubbles). Welcome Will, to the honour wall!

Friday, December 7, 2007

This can't be happening!

Hello, dear readers!

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately not doing RQF reports and (obviously) not blogging. I have been, however, indulging a little too vigorously in my own selfish pass-time of being amazed at the true drongos out there floating around the internet, leaving anonymous comments on Audrey's excellent blog. Which you must all read. If you glance at the bottom of the comments on my last birthday invitation post, you'll see the confusingly hilarious extent to which these debates run.

Aside from that I've also been wrestling with mixed feelings about the election. I realise that I should be happy, ecstatic that K-Rudd got in, that a Labor government probably won't treat its citizens like naughty children. But there's a pause in that sentence, around the word 'probably'. I have lived my entire politically interested life under Howard. My understanding of the words 'government', 'politician' and 'representation' are enmeshed with the words 'disappointment', 'disillusion
' and 'resentment'. For me, elected members of parliament are people who look after other people's mortgages at the cost of the next generation's education and health. I never stopped being angry with the federal government for as long as I could understand that what was going on in Canberra effected how I felt about my country and my future. I did stop hoping though. Even on election day when we drove down to Port Elliot to watch it all unfold on a friend's TV, I felt less excited than simply resigned. I had voted. I had done all I could bring myself to do to stop the tide of Australia's trained, ingrained selfishness for yet another election. But if Howard had scraped it in again, I would have nodded and gone back to my studies and my writing and looking out for myself and the one's I care for.
'That's what he's turned Australia into,' I would have said. 'We're not interested i
n how we look to other countries, we're not interested in art or soul or each other. A few are, but the majority of us just want to work and watch TV. Not even the threat of exploitation could stir us from our conviction that if we all just work hard enough and look out for ourselves and our families, then everything will be great and comfortable forever.'

Now that the unthinkable has happened - a Labor government - I literally don't know what to believe. It is as though the sky were suddenly legislated green. Kyoto, an apology to th
e Stolen Generations, scrapping of Work Choices - they are all happening, but I still don't believe it. There must be a catch in it somewhere. I'm almost almost hard-wired to think like this. I say almost because ... I don't know. Nothing I know tells me that my government will perform in my name as I would like them to. I'm almost waiting for Kevin to support the capital punishment of drug smugglers or privatise the roads or something so that I can stop floating around in this political dream world where the rest of the country isn't taught to distrust higher education.
I am the man on the right:


I mentioned earlier that I've been enjoying Audrey's latest blog posts, not just for their lively comments pages, but for the fact that they are reprints of her published work as the latest opinion columnist for the Sunday Mail (Radelaide's local Sunday tabloid). So she has inspired me! Not to write opinion pieces for the local arm of Murdoch's Minions, but to publish on my own blog, things that I've had printed on real paper in real life. I've done this once before, my review of Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big In This? actually secured me a regular reviewing spot in the young adult book reviewing magazine Viewpoint, printed by Melbourne Uni and also received a few comments about how harsh I was being on a fellow first-time young adult author. Rest assured that I have continued on my quest to "tell it like it is" in the world of young adult novels, publishing the following review in the latest edition (available in your local library ... maybe) on an adventure book aptly named The Cursed.

The Cursed by Michael Panckridge (Black Dog Books, 2007, 9781921167553, $16.95) has one of the most imaginative ideas for an adventure novel on the shelves today. An invisible tribe in the Amazon jungle, a sinister, secret society which has vowed to rid the world of evil and the twelve-year-old schoolboy whose destiny is entwined in both. The concept is intriguing and exciting for readers of all ages. Any author talented enough to dream up these elements and brave enough to combine them in a 300-page adventure novel must surely produce tale of worth telling, indeed, worth reading!

The Cursed, while being a story worth telling, is not a book worth reading. The standard of editing is such that there doesn’t seem to have been any kind of intervention between the author printing out his manuscript and Black Dog Books giving the go-ahead for a print run. Ignoring the punctuation that veers from clumsy to incorrect and the many instances in which words were missing from the text, it is almost as though the author were deliberately trying to break every commonly-accepted rule for readable writing. For example: ‘Show don’t tell’ is a mantra for anyone who has ever come in contact with the supply end of fiction. After a sentence describing one of three hostages telling diverting stories of travel and adventure to his fellow prisoners, Panckridge felt it necessary to add: ‘He was trying to lighten the mood’ (p.219). Apparently the motive for telling diverting stories to one’s fellow captives in a hostage situation was unclear. Clichés are another aspect of writing that should begin disappearing once the author can think of their own descriptors. Panckridge actually has a laser beam slice through metal ‘like a hot knife through butter’ (p.74).

Moving on to characterisation, but staying with clichés, the schoolboy’s mentor and guardian warns the bad guys that they ‘won’t be getting away with this’ on two separate occasions. In the previous issue of Viewpoint I recommend readers watch a Jackie Chan movie instead of reading Jimmy Coates: Revenge. In the case of The Cursed I believe that an old Scooby-Doo cartoon will suffice. It was a surprise at the end when the villain didn’t complain that he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids (which, predictably, is the very reason he does not get away with it).

On the back cover James Moloney himself claims that the arch bad guy, Raymond Brampton, is ‘surely the most sinister villain since Voldemort’. Voldemort is an evil wizard who enslaves, tortures and kills. Raymond Brampton is Richard Branson but without the beard. The only difference is the spelling and pronunciation of their names. Voldemort heads up the Death Eaters, an order of wizard murderers and torturers mainly concerned with ethnic cleansing. Raymond Brampton heads up a multi-national corporation that only makes masks and yet has somehow managed to survive for over a century and turns a higher yearly profit than Westpac Bank.

Lewis Watt, the central character, barely has any character to speak of. He spends more than half the novel reading a very detailed letter from his mother that tells the story of her own run-in with the invisible Amazonians in prose that, were it not italicized, is barely discernable from the regular narrative of the book. This example of telling instead of showing is not just unskillful, it is utterly perplexing. In a book aimed at younger teens about a twelve-year-old boy and an invisible Amazon tribe, why send the boy’s mother to have the adventure? And instead of actually having the adventure with her, he only gets to read her descriptions of it after the fact. The book is 278 pages long, yet Lewis doesn’t leave for the Amazon until page 201. His mother spends more time having jungle adventures than he does. The closest Lewis comes to real action before he is finally chauffeured to Brazil is stealing the school’s four-wheel motorbike to chase the bad guy, using the GPS ‘tracking thingo’ (p.186) he just happens to build himself. This scene itself is a great contender for the silliest moment in the book. Lewis rides the quad bike into a narrow street ‘cobbled and crowded with speed jumps, tyres and ramps’ (p.191). Maybe, maybe ‘speed jumps’ instead of speed ‘humps’ or ‘bumps’ can be put down to bad editing. But I guarantee that there isn’t a city in the world that installs ramps in its narrow streets for no reason.

As amusing as it is to poke fun at the enormous list of authorial bloopers (and there are dozens more examples), it is only hollow laughter. The Cursed is a great and worrying disappointment. Not just for its poor editing, lazy writing, forgettable characters, sloppy dialogue, conflicting information, all-too-convenient technology and even-more-convenient action scenes. I suspect that this low, low standard of book was published in the first place because Michael Panckridge has sold over 100,000 copies of young teen books set in and around sport. He has probably been instrumental in encouraging boys to keep reading during an age where they traditionally stop. But sending out an undercooked second-draft like this is capitalising on Panckridge’s name as a popular author, rather than anything to do with his ability to write adventure fiction. This shows his audience a great disrespect by treating them as young buyers rather than young readers.

GTH - To River, as usual, for trying so darn hard! Not a seafood buffet, just the local deli's fare at Cinque Terre.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Goodbye Gazza

Yesterday afternoon we had to take Gazza to the vet to be put down. He had crippling arthritis and the drugs we gave him to alleviate the pain also prevented him from moving around. He had no quality of life left after 15 years of a life led to the highest quality. Gazza is the reason people own dogs. His utter love, devotion and excitement made him the perfect companion. But 15 years of non-stop aerobics finally began catching up with him and for the last few months he was barely able to climb the two steps into the house.

We met as a family and drove him in the green station wagon to the vet. He had a freshly laundered carpet to stand on in the back. He had his usual exciting time, staring maniacally out of the window on at the green world going by. He was so bloody sore he snarled at Dad when he had to be lifted out of the back. We explained to the vet that it was time and the vet took out a bottle of green liquid, a syringe and a little bucket of dried liver treats. Dad helped him to lie down on the table while he snuffled the liver treats out of my hand. We all patted him while the vet shaved his leg and put the needle in. He snuffled a few more dark little squares and then relaxed his head. We rested it down and lay him carefully on his side. We stroked his wonderful mane and Dad let me take his red collar off. We cried, thanked the vet and went sadly home.

He was a good dog.

If you knew Gazza and would like to say something or tell a story about him, please write it in the comment box. We'd all love to hear about it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

THIS is what's next!

And it's not even all there is.

But what next after this? Tune in Friday for full details ...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Cut, sprout, colour or shave?

It is such a fucking beautiful day outside I just can't make myself do it. I can't sit down and write another report.
So I'm blogging instead.
I've got the stereo up REALLY loud and I'm sitting right in front of the fucker playing my totally awesome music collection that no one else really understands. Or at least understands why it needs to be so loud. The reason it needs this particular volume is that I'm going slowly deaf. And the reason for that is because I'm one of those tough guys who has always liked incredibly bassy music and appreciated the need for high-quality speakers with decent low end response to fill out the musician's intended sound design. You know: a dickhead!
So today's puzzle for all you wonderful readers to decide on is quite a treat: How should Franzy deal with his hair? There are a few options and I will illustrate them with various photos:

1. The haircut. A fairly popular option, considering that's the one I've chosen for most of my life:

2. Let it grow! Less popular, to be honest. Especially at home. Mele doesn't really relish the thought of combing her fingers through my silky locks.

3. Dye, Muthafukka! It has never been a secret that my mother loves me better as a blond. So the few times I've dyed my hair she goes weak at the knees and asks me why on earth I don't dye it blond all the time. The thing is, when she sees me with blond hair, she is probably seeing this:

When she is actually looking at this:

4. I believe the expression is ... shaved? Obviously the one I'm aiming for here, but I've only ever done it once before and that was when I was a) 19 and b) travelling around Germany and Austria. Those Germans love a shaved head. Sort of. I remember getting all sorts of disapproving looks from people who would never have looked at me twice, scared looks from people would normally have smiled at me and nods of comradeship from people who scared the shit out of me. It was obviously a confusing time in my life.
The pros stand thus:
1) Cooler for summer
2) It's free!
3) No maintenance.
4) Lots of people touching my noggin.
The cons weigh in with:
1) I have a double-pointy head. One point on top like a dunce's cap and one behind like a speed cyclist's helmet. I don't know what the hell I got up to during the brief period of my life when my skull bones were still knitting, but it must have been EXTREME.
2) Another perhaps even more embarrassing head trait, one which is at this stage an unknown. It's actually a bit embarrassing to even think about typing, but here it is: head scabs. When I get into a period of concentration, creativity, mental stress or (frequently) all three I scratch at my head. Not in a "thinking hard" scratch your head, but an unconscious tick that I never realise I'm doing until I stop concentrating, creating, stressing or Mele yells 'Head!'. I'm a little concerned that if I shave my head then it will be covered with scars and pits.
3) I could look balder than I need to.
4) Lots of people touching my noggin.
And so, for you consideration, I provide you with the only clear pictures taken of me as a fuzz-nut. The first is kind of cool, I feel. A good, comfortable look suited to an Australian summer in the early throes of global warming:

The second is more of an indication of how I will look for at least 60% of the time. And you can't even see the pointy bits.

What do I do team? Cut, grow, dye or shave? Keep in mind that shaved it has the potential to look like this.


The Other, other Sam takes out the honours this time, with his concise information, his astute guessing and his sly knowledge of where I probably would have taken my photos. It is indeed The IR Rally. The one that I feel started it all; unionists, workers and pissed off voters alike.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I refused to spellcheck in support

Television and film writers in the US are on strike. Which you have to admire, given that their's is a profession that practically guarantees unepmloyment for at least 75% of the time.
Their employers are working very hard to work out all sorts of ways to make money off of new technologies like podcasts, but not very hard at all to work out fair ways to share these new profits with the people who provide the words. And the stage directions.
I'm not sure if blogging counts as scabbing, but I guess not because I'm not making any money. Instead, I will be posting the two comic tributes to my striking cousins stateside:



River slipped in again with a sly guess at a dusty field. I was actually hoping for more interest around the whirlwind that was blowing in the picture, symbolising all kind of seemingly uncontrollable turbulence in the Australian desert. Or something.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wake up, Australia

It's been a little while since I mounted a crusade on this blog. In fact, I've only ever mounted one from memory and that seems to have either been very effective, or so unimportant that it dropped from view anyway.

This one, however, is an issue I have come to feel very strongly about. As all of you will know from her blog, Nai, of Legend of a Cowgirl fame, has recently completed a month of working in the Pitjantjara Lands in Central Australia and has written two of the most confronting and evocative blogs I have ever read. They are the thoughts and emotions of a young white woman working in an indigenous community in 2007. The two posts, entitled Welcome to the Hellmouth (Parts 1 & 2) show her journey from feeling the responsibility of a gentle, comfortable, white outsider to respect and work with the community

"I like to think (and man, I hope I'm right) that I am in a different category from the reactionary right because I can see the 'how's' and the 'whys' not just the mess that needs fixing, but I could be wrong." (Part 1)

to the shock, anger and despair for the current (almost?) irreversible situation that indigenous Australian communities are in:

"Here is another basic timeline: Stone-age hunter-gatherer culture, invasion and disempowerment, dehumanisation (not citizens until 1967!), indentured and forced workers, limited education possibilities for the majority of indigenous people and then; "Here, have a multi-million dollar corporation and welfare/guilt money- but don't fuck it up". (Part 2)

If you only read one blog post about the current state of indigenous Australia, read this one. It's in two parts, and I strongly urge you to read them both:

Welcome to the Hellmouth (Part 1)
Welcome to the Hellmouth (Part 2)

If you have a blog, an email, a large-readership print publication, whatever, please try to direct your readers to this fascinating and infuriating piece.


GTH The points go to River for getting in first and fastest in this week of multiple blog entries! They were ginger pork dumplings from Beijing and the most delicate things I've ever eaten.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Captain Caveman deals out the parenting tips

I just had the incredibly frustrating experience of typing a long and whimsically intelligent comment on Milly-Moo's blog, only to have Blogger eat it. So I'm turning it into a blog post. Clever eh? Yeah ... well ... to you too, buddy.

Her excellent post revolved around the dilemma that must be facing thousands of Australian parents at this very moment: you and your family live in Australia and ascribe to Australian culture, but your children want to go trikRtreetin. Why? Because they saw it on telly. Or one of their bratty (let's face it) little friends saw it on telly and thought it'd be a swell way to get their paws on some free candy. They want to dress up in the spooky costumes that are just about covering every retail shelf available and knock on strangers' doors, squeal the magic words and be showered with the high-sugar vittles from the huge bowl that every Australian stranger knows to keep by the door on the 31st of October every year.
How the hell do you resist that kind of cultural blackmail? How do you stop the little darlings from harbouring resentment for ever more because you didn't let them join in the assimilation-I-mean-fun?
How? HOW?
Yes, it's simple.
That got your attention, eh?

This is a trick my father taught me (because he used the same basic technique on me once, which I will tell you about in a minute): when your eager-eyebrowed offspring ambushes you with the innocent request to go skipping about the neighbourhood for candy and treats like they do on TV and like Melinda-Jane did last year, you simply sit them down and explain that Halloween and trikRtreetin are American customs. Not Australian ones. We have our own customs, like eating yiros' and voting compulsorily. Then, while that's sinking in, you take them down to the supermarket, give them ten bucks and tell them to buy as many sweets and lollies (use the proud Australian vernacular) as they like. Then take them home and sit on the couch watching movies with them while they pump their guts full of whatever it is they've bought and yelling "Fuck off! We're in Australia!" in loud, cheerful voices whenever a trikRtreeter comes a'knockin'. They still get the lollies, but without the horrid cultural indoctrination. After that, they can make of it what they like.
How did old Dad pull this one over me?
I wanted to go to McDonald’s. Oh yeah. Despite being the son of Captain Anti-America, I still coveted the Big Mac, the Cheeseburger, Hamburglar’s fries. I wanted to be served by Grabble or Grobble or whatever the fuck his name was and live in shiny-benchtopped heaven.
Dad always said no.
I probably only asked him once, but once was enough to get the theme of future requests, debates and discussions surrounding Maccaz. But, they’re a sneaky, evil, wicked bunch (in case you have
n’t seen Super Size Me or McLibel). They got to me eventually. Through school. Free Big Mac vouchers. I could hardly believe my luck. To a seven-year-old, this was the winning scratchie. I put it carefully in my bag and took it home. I had a brief panic when I couldn’t find it, and then another after I’d found it when I realised that the expiry date was the next day.
‘What do you want for lunch, Sam?’
‘Dad, um, I’ve got this, um, can I
, can we, can you take me to McDonald’s? I got a voucher thing from school.’
Silence. Unimpressed, disaffected silence.
‘Fine. Let’s go now, I want to make my lunch.’

McDonald’s. I was finally getting to go to McDonald’s! Not for fries or a cheeseburger, but a Big Freakin’ Mac!
We walked out to the car together. It was very hot and I held my voucher in my hand to make sure it didn’t blow out of the open window. We drove quickly to the McDonald’s on the Cross Rd intersection and parked in the car park. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but Dad followed me inside and up to the counter. I quietly gave my precious voucher to the man behind the counter and he turned around, yelled something and passed me a hot cardboard box.
‘You ready?’ asked Dad.
We went out and sat in the hot car in the car park. I opened the hot box and took out the big, not-so-big Mac. It had tart mayonnaise and orangey cheese and lots of thin shreds of warm lettuce kept falling out of it and onto my t-shirt. I felt a bit sick eating it in the sun, but I was still eating a Big Mac. I finished it and put the cold, soft edge bit back into the box.
‘Put that box in the rubbish bin.’
I got out of the car and walked across the hot car park and put the box into a bin filled with more greasy cardboard. After that we drove home and Dad made a sandwich and I never felt like McDonald’s again.
Take away the facepaint, the charities, the music, the quirky music, the toys and the worldw
ide safety-net for those who are squeamish about unfamiliar food and all you’ve got is a crap burger.
Like Halloween: take away the marketing, the money spent on dress-ups, the incalculable cost of taking on yet another aspect of American culture as our own and all you’ve got is an expensive sugar spew.


I would like to extend my congratulations to Tallora and Luke on their engagement last weekend, and in particular the immense amount of fun we had dressing up for their Halloween Engagement Party.

Monday, October 29, 2007

He should have gone with the magic beans

I just finished watching Four Corners.
No, this is not going to be a blog about how I'm becoming my parents.
Tonight's story was about Australia's fleet of aging fighter planes. In order to keep the ladies interested, I'll keep the technoporn to an absolute minimum:
The F-111 has been Australia's fighter plane for ages. In an age where you replace your computer more regularly than your car, these things have been flying around blowing up shit since the 60s. So, it's time to replace them with something new. Something exciting. As any fan of technology will tell you, "new" and "exciting" almost always equal "spine-gougingly expensive". There are a few planes around to replace the Kingswood Of The Skies, but Four Corners focused on the one we Australians eventually bought to replace it: the Boeing Super Hornet. It interviewed a bunch of pointy-heads who said that it was a piece of shit, and a couple of jarheads who loved it.
I can't tell.

It flies, it shoots. Done deal.
Four Corners made it seem like a bucket of bolts, and that may be true, but it's not my concern. What piqued my interest was the little tale about how we ended up pressing the "Ship Now" button on the Boeing website in the first place, on a whizzer that apparently the US didn't really want, but bought anyway because it felt bad that no one else in the world wanted it (except for eventually Sheriff South-East Asia). Brendan Nielson apparently watched the Boeing promo video, decided it was tops and told the Australian Government to hand over its credit card. The rest of the show was about how shithouse the Super Hornets are and how we should all just stay with the Kingswoods Of The Skies. The bit that caught my attention most, however was how much a carton of Super Hornets cost:
6.6 BILLION DOLLARS! (place little finger on bottom lip). That is with a 'B' as in 'bullshit', by the way. For 24 planes that are only being used to fill a gap until the next bargain comes along from Lockheed-Martin, which should arrive sometime before we all divide into Eloi and Morlocks.
I was dumbfounded, as I'm sure you are (or better be). I'm not about to debate the cost of effective military hardware and arms races and all that frankly macho bullshit. The point is that it's $6.6 Billion that I seem to remember a certain politician taking away from my colleagues and myself during the horrors of V.S.U. $6.6 Billion that he carefully trimmed away from higher education like so much long-pig so that he could spend it on planes that fly and shoot, but, as demonstrated in a simulation on Four Corners, couldn't actually make it to Indonesia and back without needing paddles, inflatable life-raft and a few infants to toss over the side to ensure national attention around election time.
As someone who is about to start work on the dreaded Research Quality Framework, making humanities and social science academics justify the positive life influence of their research (like trying to extrapolate the cost-benefits of telling children stories at bedtime), I want to just send this video along instead of every report with a note that says "I might be studying poetry in an extinct language, but at least I'm not blowing $6.6 Billion on shit that don't work!"

The only catch is that in this economically conservative environment, the cost of paying for those fighter planes is probably less than the cost now needed to re-invigorate Australia's education system to the point where we can actually think our way out of the need for them.


I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome to the blogoblag, my personal hero: Jimmy Thins. The Jimmy Thins Style is a publication of taste, hilarity, hand-made flash and chocolate chips. I wanted to link one of his videos here, but he is mix mastering them to a new location, bitches. I will host the next one. I urge you to check it check it one two. Now!


Trent rolled out with the dirtiest joke (I won't reprint - check last post's comments!). Sorry O.o. Sam, crapped out. Jono was geographically closest with his guess at the Cologne Cathedral for the picture, sorry Neil, it was the St Peter's Cathedral in Prague.

Monday, October 8, 2007

One size fits all my butt!

I have long considered the possibility that I may be religious.
Allow me to pause a moment while those who know me well wipe whatever it is that they were drinking from their screens, keyboards and sinuses.
It's true, I don't tend to hold religion in the highest regard, although lately I've come to think that it's perhaps not the nature of religion itself that causes so much torture and pain in the world, but the silly people who use it to justify cutting off their own testicles and forcing other people not to enjoy themselves.
I've just finished reading Robert Winston's The Story of God, which, apart from being very informative and a wonderful companion to Sophie's World (a young adult primer on philosophy from Socrates to Foucault), seemed to hold the view that religion resulted in the quite evolutionary need for soft pink monkeys to hang around in groups in order to survive. This, coupled with the evolved monkey brain's need to explain the things it couldn't (ie. What's the sound? and How did this banana get here?), formed a sort of mud-map of existence and meaning.
A + B = C
Water + Dirt = Mud
Og + Punch = Fight
Dancing + Chanting = Rain
Sacrifice + Gold = Prosperity
No Prosperity + More Virgins = More Sacrifice
That kind of thing.

Read in conjunction with
Sophie's World, The Story of God allowed most religions I had heard of to make sense. Religion is very similar to philosophy in that it attempts to explain the world. I think religion is a bit more proactive in that it attempts to explain what to do once you've explained the world, which is probably why it gets into so many fights with science. Science is still stuck on the first bit about how the world works while religion seems to behave much like the impatient maths student I once was, throwing the answer sheet on the teacher's desk and bounding out the door without bothering to show all working out.
I admire that in religion. It's a very selfish philosophy, really. Not in a bad way either. If the answer seems right to you, who is anyone else to say any different? We're not talking about numbers here folks, we're talking about whether you should steal, swear or have sex with certain kinds of people! It must be very gratifying to follow a religion and be right about these questions all the time.
Swearing? No! Never!
Sex with boys? No! Evil!
Fish on Fridays? Yum yum yum!
See what I mean? Always the correct answer! You don't get that kind of positive reinforcement anywhere else!
I do have a tiny philosophical issue with religion in that since I regard all people as different, I think that every single person needs their own code of practice. What's great for one person isn't necessarily wicked cool for someone else. That kind of thing. Religion doesn't really provide for that diversity of people in society. Each religion has its own set of rules to be followed and most religions have great rules: don't hurt other people, be nice to your parents, be nice to your children, don't steal, etc, etc, etc. You see where Robert Winston got his enthusiasm for the theory that religion developed out of a need for physically defenceless monkeys to form groups to survive. The monkeys that had the best groups survived and the best groups tended to have least number of thieving arseholes in them - hence the rules. 'Follow these or you're on your own the next time a sabre-toothed tiger turns up'. Good incentive, that.
But these days sabre-toothed tiger numbers are down, sadly. Monkeys are up. Yet the rules remain. They're still great rules, but mostly self-evident, I feel. The problem is that the rules still seem to be under some kind of moral copyright, as though the values and modes of nice human behaviour were held in holy patent offices, stamped and traded to the thankful consumer.
'Oh, thank [insert deity] I did not kill my parents!'
'Praise [insert deity] that this beautiful day exists/my lotto numbers came up/I got the job!'
It's entirely ego-centric of me, but having lived a life entirely without religion, I am yet to come across a moral conundrum that I couldn't sort out myself. Of course, there have been a few fuck-ups along the way, but I own those. They were all part of the learning process.
And here comes the schism between my own beliefs about correct moral behaviour and religion:
I don't think that you should tell other people how to live.
That's it. The difference between my perfect ethos of life and religion is that I don't think other people should follow this rule, because it's not even a rule yet. It's just a philosophy, a theory that could be proven wrong at any second! But I'm pretty confident it won't be.
Religion has a whole set of these rules and explanations that have kept billions of people happy for thousands of years, so it can't be doing too badly for itself . But it's still telling people what to do and how to live without letting anybody figure it out for themselves. This might seem tough to live by, just letting people do what they want and trusting that they will do the right thing, but remember, I'm not peddling answers and explanations here - this is all about me.
Get your own.

The thing I do admire about religion is its art and its rituals. To the right here you will see my favourite building ever. It is the Cologne Cathedral and is, without exception, the most remarkable thing I have ever seen. I will write about my first, exquisite encounter with it another day. Without religion, it would not exist. Would anything be in its place? The answer to that is as pointless as the question and best left to fiction, but churches can be incredible things to behold. But, being devoid of religious influence, they simply cause me to wonder at the glory and talents of human beings, rather than explain my rapture through some intangible feeling about the inexplicable.

The ritual is another aspect that I find strangely attractive; comforting even. To me every religious ritual from prayer to blessings to yearly festivals seems utterly meaningless, but soothing, fun and calming nonetheless. Rituals are that aspect of religion that causes the individual to stop all else, re-centre, re-focus and engage with whatever explanations for existence, meaning, hope, despair and life they have in their brains. I imagine it's like the comfort a mild sufferer of obsessive-compulsion feels when they switch the light off for the second time, safe in the knowledge that it didn't blow the instant they turned it off. The engagement of ritual sets the scene for a world about to be put right and its completion brings satisfaction and strength within the self.

I said at the beginning of this post that I have considered the possibility that I may be religious. I'm not, but I do have a ritual. A calming, meditative state that can be achieved only at a certain time of day and under the correct conditions. Those conditions aren't always present, but not a day goes by when, at 6pm, wherever I am, my mind enters its own little prayer-room and, if fortune is with me, my body follows. Here is my own personal ritual for calm and peace, followed by a call to prayer:
At 5:55pm I finish all activities, save all documents, close all webpages, bookmark all pages, stack all papers and remove my shoes. I go to the fridge. I select a bottle of Cooper's Pale Ale and place it in a stubby holder. I do not remove the cap, but I ensure to invert it gently to allow the yeasty mud to trickle through the sweet, heady liquid, just as my own troubles dissipate and disperse, diluted with perspective and calm. I fetch a packet of fancy chips. Never plain, never chicken. Every day needs a luxury, a treat, a reward for feeling happy and a salve for feeling sad. I banish all others, sit comfortably in front of the television and watch Jane Riley visit another part of the Adelaide microcosm to report the weather. I watch the post-news Channel Ten plug and am grateful that I don't care about whatever it's talking about. Life is good.
The music starts:

GTH: For those of you who just skip to the end of the writing for a grab at glory on a the world's 1,803,855th most popular website, the winner is The Other, other Sam. It was indeed taken at 2006's Adelaide Arts Festival Opening Night. There were dozens of beautiful floating globes drifting around the river, forever ingrained into the minds of the hundreds of Adelaidians who were so thoroughly disappointed at the school pageant/lighting warehouse clearance sale that was the OzAsia Opening Night. However, there are points to River and Neil for their kick-arse jokes.
I also mentioned in the last comment thread that there would be a joke-related competition this post. So: dirtiest joke wins. That's it. Make of it what you will. Nothing shall be censored, unless it's racist or in any way supports the Dutch.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This Sim is Unhappy!

I have just been to one of the more poorly-organised festivals that I imagine I will be attending in my life. The OzAsia Moon Festival was, at the outset, brilliantly conceived: a gentle night of family entertainment and cultural enrichment on the banks of the still-not-so-stinky-you-can’t-ignore-it River Torrens. Lanterns, music and food were promised and banners, posters and television commercials have heralded its coming for quite some time.

If you weren’t in Adelaide this evening, I also need to confirm that it was a balmy summer evening of perfection. Neither too sweaty or breezy. Perfect.

However, someone forgot to organise the festival. I counted three food vendors, including the mooncake shop and the over-priced, over-worked Festival café. The lantern parade was less a spectacle than a school pageant. A somber announcer read out the names of each school and informed the increasingly puzzled 3000 attendees that the children had been making their own lanterns from paper and that some particular schools actually had a few students who were from Asia itself. The undoubtedly excited kiddies paraded around the edge of the park past a parental guard of honour that was just enthusiastic enough to block the view from everyone else. I did mention music. That was also provided by the junior members of local Asian music societies and was, I’m sure, brilliant for people that age.

A few dragon boats with a Chinese lantern fixed to their bows punted up and down, but mixed with the now-incredibly-attractive reflections of the streetlights from War Memorial Drive. When the martial arts demonstration began, Mele and I decided it was high time to high-tail.

I felt particularly sorry for the poor women behind us who defended every inch of their turf from the encroaching crowds. ‘Don’t sit on that jacket please!’ they would politely call. ‘We have seven other people coming!’ Saving festival lawn-space without a blanket is no picnic. Heh. Shameful jokes aside, the bitchy looks they got from every pusher-carrying dad and hamper-toting mum were enough to win a little bit of my respect. And my pity when the seven people finally turned up. They hugged, apologised for being late (the traffic was a nightmare), sat in their long-fortressed area, craned their necks to glimpse through the gloom nothing but the backs of about a hundred proud parents of primary schoolers, declared the event fucked and left.

We knew how they felt.

Jokes ahoy
The little book shall go to Jono for his multitude of number puns. Ever since embarking on this joke book I have come to two theories. 1. There is no clean joke, suitable for children that is not in some way a pun. 2. There is no lower form of joke, gag, whit or humour than the pun. It has often been posited to me that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour, but I am here to tell you now that at least sarcasm has a bit of worldliness about it. The pun, the putting one word in place of another, contains humour surely no more deserving of laughter than putting your gloves on backwards. Since reading a large collection of joke books published for children I believe that I have truly discovered the most depraved forms of humour and whimsy. I am devoid of hope for those who expected to get more laughter out of these jokes than from twisting the stalk from an apple or looking right when crossing the street. Behold:
What has fins and buzzes?
A fish gnat (fish net).
Which bugs should you hire to build your house?
Carpenter ants.
What corn do spiders make?
I see why the authors rarely put their names to these joke books. Could I do better? No - this is about as punny as it gets here in Writing.
What did the pun say to the egg?
Is this a yolk?

The point goes to River for playing on to win and playing creatively at that.


My faith is restored! While trawling joke sites for inspiration (read: stuff to plagiarise) I came across this little ripper on a site where all the jokes are submitted only by kids from around the world:

How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?
You wanna go ride bikes!?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do you really think I would have asked for a 12-inch pianist?

Team Franzy: Another cry for help. I am compiling a joke book for children 12 and under. I require 300 (yes, three HUNDRED) suitable jokes. Having looked through much of the literature surrounding the topic (ie. my old joke books) I have discovered that 12-year-olds don't really have a lot of jokes published in them with swearing, sexual references or whimsy based around various moral and ethical crimes. These are the only jokes that my brain seems to retain. Observe:

What's Salmon Rushdie's next book going to be called?
Buddha, You Fat Fuck!

The others I can't even bear to type out (however, meet me in person and I will regale you with them all! The 28-year-old joke, the sushi joke, the baby jokes and the famous Feminist Light Bulb zinger!)

So, I call to you, dearest readers, friends and weirdos coming across this page by entering "what is anchovies fishthesis proposal" and "marbles tombolla" into various search engines, tell me your jokes. Tell me them all. Dredge your memories and drill your dads. The best joke will win a copy of the joke book when/if it gets published (looking good at this stage).


GTH - River steals the point from Jono with the beautiful (and well-guessed) metaphor for my painful yoking to the desk of research. Neil gets a raised eyebrow for the hairy nipple/lumpy breast.
The photo is of me (of course) on holiday in Cairns. It was taken about an hour or so after a long Blue Bottle jellyfish tentacle wrapped itself around my neck while I was snorkelling. THE single most painful experience of my life. Flaming razor-blades across the throat most accurately describes the sensation. But I would still take that over a year of stressing out about my proposal. There's no steroid cream for the research heeby-jeebies.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The PhD Student's New Proposal

You're right! You're all right! It has been far far far too long between posts. Mea culpa! But I was working. As has been said on this blog before: the less frequent the posts, the more that's actually happening in my own backyard (ie. 2 well-swept square metres of concrete porch).

I have been workin' it and workin' it hard.
The Proposal is finally out and over. For those who don't know the tortuous story, here is the condensed version:

A year ago my supervisor flicked me an email asking me to bring along everything I had for my exegesis (the mini-thesis one writes in conjunction with their creative work) and give the proposal (a speech about what your research is going to be on) a first run. I walked into the tute room with my bibliography and a few notes about the interesting news articles I had been collecting and, relying on my ability to speak in public, started telling everyone what I thought my research was going to be about.
I cringe even now. It was like one of those dreams where you're naked and can't find clothes. I didn't so much conclude my little speech as trail off. Everyone was very constructive about it, through their embarrassed shock at my lack of preparation, and I slunk away, promising to have "something more polished" to show my supervisors by the following fortnight.

Two drafts later: I still hadn't shown my face at any PhD meetings and I was having a Very Serious Meeting With Both Supervisors in which they were using words like "framework" and "methodology" and I was using words like "newspaper clippings" and "um". Finally an exasperated Jeri asked me: 'What sort of research did you do for your Masters and your Honours?'
'We didn't do any research. It was all creative writing coursework.'
I admired their extreme professionalism in that they didn't gasp in horror.

Then I got married.

Another quick draft later and I dragged my sorry arse into another meeting with Double Supervisors, seriously missing the glory days of being a sumo suit operator.
They liked it.
They understood it.
My half-baked idea about looking at class in young adult fiction made sense.
I rushed straight back to my study and slaved away, spewing 500-word-long sentences wondering when the emperor's new clothes were going to stop fooling people.

The presentation went well. People shook my hand afterwards. Two of the other academics who turn up to make sure you're not crazy actually made sure to congratulate me beforehand for finally taking a proper look at social class in literature. It is all done.

The week before the official presentation, I had finally completed enough of a draft to present in front of my colleagues again. A year after I stood up in front of my class and actually read out the sentence 'This is the hazier part of my thesis' (never were truer words spoken), I was able to regain some confidence and claim that social class can be used as a metaphor for the oppression experienced by the young protagonists of young adult fiction without anyone avoiding my eye afterwards.

However, I almost didn't go through with it. Just before I was due to give a 'dry run' presentation, a few of us were in the tea room, preparing warm brownness for my upcoming seminar. Another lecturer and supervisor saw me and said that she thought my proposal was very interesting, but that she didn't quite understand it. My heart turns to porridge.
'Oh?' I said, trying to sound non-suicidal.
'Yes,' she continued. 'I tried to read quite a bit of it, but it didn't really link up. There didn't appear to be any real cohesion between the sections.'
I edged towards the window, ready to make a break for the Tasmanian wilderness. A life of cold rain and hunting stray sheep awaited.
'I even tried clicking a few of the videos, but it still didn't ...' It was her turn to trail off.
Ohhh. 'You mean my blog, you mean my webpage.'
'Well isn't that what you sent in the email to everyone?'
'No. I mean, yes, but the email had the proposal attached mmm anyway, yes I have it here, it's different I think we're starting ...'
In my piss-poor quest for publicity every email I send has the signature "Writing (click here!)" at the bottom. It almost had me living a self-sufficient lifestyle among the forests of Vaginal Euphemism Island.

I'd like to extend a massive congratulations to my great friend Stefan Laszczuk for winning the 2007 Vogel Literary Prize for his unpublished (but soon-to-be-published) manuscript
I Dream of Magda. There were nicer photos around, but I believe this one is the funniest and the one he'd probably appreciate the most.
He was on the ABC news last night. They filmed him in his self-imposed uniform of t-shirt and backpack strolling along and then sitting on a concrete wall with a tiny notebook and pen to quickly scribble out some notes for the next prize-winning novel. The novel is about a young man who fantasises about the characters played by Maga
Szubanski and so they also had a short interview with Magda herself, who looked very flattered and puzzled at the thought that someone had written a prize-winning novel staring her own creations. Media publicity is indeed a strange thing.
All ribbing aside, I am extraordinarily proud of him. And instead of feeling insanely jealous like I suppose one probably should in the ultra-competitive world of Australian literature, I am surprised to find that I'm inspired to continue writing my own work (which I haven't really had a chance at since Captain Proposal took over). No more! Back to blogging! Back to the novel(s)!

GTH - Aye, it's been too long in coming and The Other, other Sam does indeed take the prize. The photo was taken during my last grand final in 2004 by Trent, who was too slow to check the blog to win the points. It shows a Coopers Pale being drunk at The Pines Hockey Stadium in Gepps Cross and the shadow may well have been me. Speaking of grand finals, this year's hockey campaign is over as of last weekend. Beaten by Port the Nemesis again. Well, not beaten, but after a 2-all draw, the highest team goes through and it was them. Darn.
And for a little insult to injury, today I am going to watch my old team, the Div 4 Rhinos play in their own grand final to which they have pretty much cruised after thrashing the shit out of most sides in the division all year and which I had to hear about as I rehabilitated quick enough to have joined them on this perfect day for a final. Sunny, cold and a little breezy. The Knee would have loved it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

In the blogosphere no one can hear your audience groan

I might have said it before, but when the blogs go down in regularity, the work rate in real life goes up. A shame really, because I should have capitalised on the unforeseen popularity of the Guess The Header poser from last week. I'm actually surprised that people didn't guess more books, but I suppose that's only because I'm the one that sits there looking at them all the time.

I would like to extend some mad props to the hockey boys who zinged me with my own pet peeve before training on Tuesday night, thereby proving my theory right that I would regret bringing it up. Unfortunately I had been listening to Tool very very loudly and hence was in no state to understand what the hell they were talking about when they kept saying "That was
so funny!" So, as promised on the night: Number 7: Contextless jokes.

A quick hi to Herr Rogers who also got me a ripper last weekend in similar circumstances:
'And what about that one: "I would never, ever drive stoned ... not unless I was
really hungry."'
I thought that was a solid gold pearler. Pissed myself laughing, I did.
'Where did you get that?' I asked once my breath had been regained.
A short silence followed.
'That was you, actually.'

The reason I'm so slow on the uptake is because I have been working and studying almost non-stop, apart from brief hockey and beer-related activities. The "good" news is that the PhD proposal presentation that I've been worrying about for nigh on a year has been rescheduled from mid-October to ... dum dum da dum ... a week-and-a-half's time! Wish me luck! Aargh!
When I received the email that broke this "wonderful" news, I was lucky enough to have my webcam running so you can see for yourself my reaction shortly afterwards:

And now, without further adodo

Guess The Header

Pretty anti-climactic really: Here are the pictures, as promised:

And the original source of all the trouble:

Points go to Nai for actually getting a title, Milly-Moo for turning her computer sideways and squinting and Neil for being a smartarse with the answer about counting the books and for being a spelling-nazi. I'm tempted subtract points from Trent for planning to come over and scour my bookshelves, but I'll leave them there because he admitted it and he's got a sore ankle.


In this week's GTH we return to a simple guessing-game: where was this photo taken? There is an important clue: somewhere in Adelaide. The winner will be the person who gets the closest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

That reminds me of the time ....

A while ago Audrey tagged me in a meme that asked you to think of ten things that you hate about people. Not being a particularly hateful person, I found it reasonably difficult and petered out after five.
Well, I've thought of a new one:

6. Bad storytellers.
I'm pretty tired, so I'll probably regret writing this, but there it is. My secret shame. And it's not getting better with age. I thought I could hold this one in and prevent causing awkwardness among pretty much everyone who knows me who might have a story to tell me in the future (don't worry - I've got some soothing words for you folks later), but I've just read a published young adult novel that I am to review that was literally the worst book I have ever read. Laughably, hysterically awful. And that got me angry about storytelling in general. There are a few things that steam my hams* about bad storytelling, and here they are:
The Number One bad story telling sin is when the punchline is "And it was
so funny!" If you told the story, minus that last bit, and your audience isn't laughing, it wasn't funny and you're a liar. You know when you tell a joke, and then have to explain it? Same principle. I used to go out with this girl, most of whose stories ended with: "And it was just fantastic," followed by a reassuring nod. Rest assured that the just-related experience founded none of my dumbness.
Number Two is when stories are too fucking long. When the story turns into a biography, just finish the page you're on and pass the conversation stick to the next person.
Number Three is best illustrated by the surprisingly-lacklustre-of-late Toothpaste for Dinner

I think this little cartoon shows a story-telling situation that is almost on par with possibly the worst story telling crime out there: recounting your dreams. At least with drug stories, there is the possibility that the person you're talking to will remember the happier times they've had on drugs and will be able to recall them while you explain in great detail how you thought the bean bag was hugging you with ants. Telling someone your dreams, however, is just as useful to everybody's further meaningful existence as stopping a complete stranger in the street and reciting a random string of letters at them.
Number Four on Franzy's Whining List of Storytelling Sins are the words "He/She/They then proceeded to..." followed by some vaguely foolish activity. This is a technique usually employed by people not used to public speaking, but who have been forced to recount an episode that was whimsical at the time and to people who were present or familiar with those present in front of a large gathering of people of varying dispositions and tolerances for the words 'penis', 'urinate' and 'raunchy'. It's actually not a bad thing, but it gets up my toff nose.

I am guilty of all of the above offences. I've encouraged people to react in appropriate ways when I've finished telling a story that didn't gain a reaction. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I carry on stories until the last person has fallen asleep. I've told meaningful, heart-felt, hilarious, life-changing drug stories and, being a dreamer of epic dreams, I've recounted entire hallucinatory journeys to whoever was around. I have then proceeded to stand up in front of a large crowd of people I only half know and attempt to win them over with pseudo-courtroom-speak.

Cue soothing words: And you should as well. Tell your stories. Don't be afraid. If it's interesting to you, it'll be interesting to someone, eventually. The point is to practise. Tell them over again, in different ways to different people. Emphasise the bits that people like and skip the bits where they start sending "Get me outta here" texts to their friends in front of you.
Maybe ease up on the dream reports, though.


GTH - The points to the last entry go to Deadly Trently who correctly identified the place, the various timbers, the world's coolest shirt brand, its place of purchase and the settings of the watch. Well done, Hop-a-long.

New competition on this post's GTH: The winner is whoever guesses the most book titles in the picture.

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