Sunday, 28 December 2008

Finnigan, Begin Again

It's happening again.
Christmas is past, the New Year is approaching and I am being blinded by the endless possibilities of a fresh annual slate and drawn on by the siren song of 'this time...'.
Is it completely insane to admit that I'm addicted to New Year's Resolutions?

I get the same way about a new year as I do about fresh stationery.
All pristine and new with so much potential.
It could be filled with something interesting and beautiful or the most horrendous scribble.
Just like your year could be full of fresh, fascinating things or just another round of same old, same old.
And if you don't start things off right straight from the get go there's always a temptation to give up and try again next year. When things might be perfect.

This rush of manic wide-eyed enthusiasm and philosophising may be due to the fact that I spent the best part of the last two days sleeping late and then lolling around reading a book by Jeremy Clarkson and eating a block of dark chocolate with lovely crunchy bits of coffee beans throughout.
I generally spend this part of the year sleeping late, lolling around and reading a book of some description.
And now here I am hopped up on two types of caffeine and British sarcasm and making ten point plans on how I'm going to change the world - or at least my little bit of it - for the better and how this time it'll all work out exactly as per spec.

The trouble with these giddy visions of future perfection and adventure is that I am like a kid who has just chugged an entire bottle of red cordial concentrate when it comes to actually taking up these plans.
I am so excited I want to do everything.
All at once.
At the same time.
Perfectly.
And can't prioritise.
And in fairly short order I get frustrated with myself and my failure to learn how to do twelve things at once and integrate them into my habitual daily schedule which I should also have fundamentally altered and have to spend a week watching a mish-mash of Stargate Atlantis, Invader Zim and West Wing or similar until I have calmed down, and then I keep going another week or two until I've gone a bit wrong and wash up convinced I am a transplanetary mercenary politician. With a pet robot.

I know there is little I can do to stop myself from going off on these delusional planning sprees but this year I'm going to try to limit Actual Resolutions to a couple of key items and put Idealised If I Have Time/Become Magic Resolutions to one side to do later or intermittently.

And as few things are more helpful in spurring me into action than the possibility of virtual public embarrassment mine resolutions are as follows:
  • Resolution the First: Take Italian Classes
    My Italian has slumped into a mumbling shambling heap and started to slowly disintegrate since I stopped practising so it's time for a little bit of 'you paid for this, you'd better damn learn something' incentive. The glow from my classroom nostalgia and new stationery penchant will last until exactly the first time I am asked to contribute in class or hand in a homework assignment at which point my procrastination nostalgia will try to take over but the hell with me. I am a spoiled brat and will not indulge myself in that behaviour. Much.
  • Resolution the Second: Get First Aid Certification
    I've been thinking about this one for ages and if anything ever goes wrong and I'm first on the scene, if I or someone I love is involved in an accident or if - God Forbid - the zombies rise, knowing basic first aid would be very useful.
  • Resolution the Third: Take Up The Guitar
    Well, at least try. I haven't really had a crack at any real (as in not electronic or fake assed) musical instruments since music classes stopped being mandatory in high school and always wish I had done. I haven't the rhthym to warrant buying a drum kit (though I would secretly love to), had a mutual break up with keyboards/pianos that was totally mutual in my youth and have wanted to try the guitar but avoided it just in case I was crap at it which is a very mature and clever way to act indeed.
So there we go.
Three goals for 2009.
And by avoiding grandiose proclamations using words like 'fluent', 'life saving genius god-child' or 'virtuoso' I should actually have a chance.

OK.
Good.
That's that done.
Now if you'll excuse me this chocolate isn't going to eat itself and Mr Clarkson has some very intriguing opinions to raise on the nature of, well, just about everything.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Time For The Deprogramming. And Maybe Some Pudding.

Ah, and here we are again at the end of the year where going anywhere that has even one shop in the vicinity can either be a terrifying fight for survival or a hilarious macabre dance of consumerism depending on your outlook at the time.

In case you can’t tell, I’ve been trying to do my Christmas shopping and at this time more than any other it becomes apparent that the retail/service industry has broken me.

Put me in front of a counter and I can’t help but smile and be perky at people. Even when I’m the one ordering or paying for something. Stupid goddamn coffee-slave brainwashing!

I could be wearing black from head to toe, my most fun-time hair-do and my favourite jewellery and the moment I go to buy something I lose all my street cred, if I ever had any, which I suspect I didn’t.

I don’t know whether it was this train of thought that led me to take the route I did through the city but as I was bravely elbowing and eye-gouging my way through the Christmas shopping crowds this fine week I happened to GBH my way past an old workplace.

It took almost a block for the sign I had read to click and then I had to turn around and shin scrape my way back to read it again.

The place was shutting down and was going out in a blaze of ‘everything must go’ glory. My nostalgia had a brief stoush with my bitterness before I wandered inside to have a lookie-lou.

I hadn’t worked there for two years and none of my old co-workers were there so I got to wander around pretending to be a regular customer and feeling strangely uncomfortable, like I was about to be caught doing something wrong. Probably because I was going about taking dodgy and surreptitious photos of the place and hoping I didn’t look as guilty as I felt, like a fetishist who hopes nobody will notice they’re taking pictures of peoples’ elbows.

I wasn't by the way. Taking photos of peoples' elbows. I was just taking pictures of the store. I mean there's nothing wrong with elbows, they're very useful and functional, I just don't find them of particular interest... I'm sorry, I've gotten off-topic.

Once I’d finished playing at being a very badly trained spy I headed back out into the hurly burly with my reminiscing gland unfortunately kicked into full effect.
I’d left that job to bum around Europe for five months, I hadn’t gone back for a lovely array of reasons.

  1. The owners seemed nice enough until you realised that they thought it was completely acceptable to use the most offensive racial slurs in everyday conversation. Only in the company of appropriately pale people of course, taking it for granted that anyone in that category would agree with them by default and operating under the theory that “it’s not racism if they don’t hear you calling them names”.
  2. You were expected to be perkier than Richard Simmons, faster than The Flash and have a deep and abiding bond with each of your customers without actually talking with them for too long. This insistence continued despite the fear and consternation that this combined behaviour inspired in patrons.
  3. I was not willing to drink the kool-aid. I can accept a certain level of ‘above and beyond-ing’ in jobs that have a ladder to climb or might form a ‘career path’ or even in a job where you are genuinely matey with your employers and are doing a favour but for a hospitality job with no prospects of promotion I was not willing to put in hours upon hours of unpaid overtime in the name of pitching in or team spirit.

So as I re-entered the stream of consumers being battered from one side of the city to the other and spent a rather surprising amount of time standing in queues that coiled their way through the entirety of some stores I was looking at things slightly differently.

I was looking for the people acting contrary to their normal behaviour due to the orders of their overlords. I was looking for the people who were just realising that the co-worker they thought was kind of cool when they first met is actually a complete tool with a thin veneer of interesting. I was looking for surrogate me’s and trying to work out whether I missed the life they were still living, having shuffled into office-land.

Funny thing is I do kind of miss it, not that particular workplace but general things: the crazy hours you kept, the almost hallucinatory state you might be in at the end of a split shift (or a week of them), the people, the music, the relaxed dress code.

But not the sheer insanity of working during the Christmas period, Jesus God no.

I don’t miss it enough to go back to that.

Instead I will just try to be as pleasant and patient and efficient as possible when I get to the register - in an attempt to lessen the suffering of the person trapped there by even a small degree - and resist the programmed urge to be manically perky at them.

Nobody needs that at the best of times let alone at this time.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Cooking With Ricochet: How To Make Kourabiethe Biscuits

Makes about 40 biscuits.

Ingredients
250 grams* butter
2 cups of icing sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
1/2 cup of toasted almonds
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon of backing powder
Whole cloves or or ground cloves or ground cinnamon

Steps
  1. Whilst staring out the window at your neighbourhood being lashed by an overly enthusiastic rain storm, decide that you want to make biscuits and spend 10 minutes trying to remember where you hid the mixing bowl.
  2. Gather your ingredients, utensils and measuring bits and bobs and find the biscuit trays whilst you're at it. Marvel as the rain manages to get even heavier.
  3. Pre-heat your gas oven** to 160 degrees Celsius*** and put some baking paper onto the biscuit trays.
  4. Sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, pop the chopped or slivered almonds under the grill and go to give the butter a quick zap in the microwave to make it more compliant if it is straight from the fridge.
  5. Come racing back into the kitchen and quickly pull the almond slivers out from underneath the griller before they go from toasted to charcoal.
  6. Cream the butter and icing sugar together.
  7. Blink stupidly as the power goes out and you are plunged into complete darkness, except for the gentle glow coming from your pre-heating gas oven****.
  8. Bump around the place for a bit locating that torch you are sure you bought a while ago and the candles for your oil burner. Light a bunch of candles, turn on the torch and stick it under your bra strap***** so that it is pointing at the mixing bowl.
  9. Add the egg and vanilla essence and beat well, tilting your shoulders every now and then to redirect the torch beam from the mixing bowl to the recipe.
  10. Add the almonds and stir through.
  11. Read the direction to sift the flour and baking powder twice. Remember that you are using your only mixing bowl. Sift the flour and baking powder into a saucepan, and then into another saucepan.
  12. Mix the flour lightly into butter mixture and knead until smooth. Almost drop the torch into the dough.
  13. Take pieces of dough the size of walnuts and shape. You can either just roll them into a ball and flatten them with a fork or roll them into a tube/cylinder shape and then curve them into a crescent.
  14. Press a clove into the top of each biscuit, or one on each half of the crescent, or sprinkle ground cloves or ground cinnamon over them instead. Drop some of the cloves in the darkness for standing on barefoot later.
  15. Put the biscuits in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. Realise that your mobile phone battery is almost flat and it cannot be used as a time keeping device, that your alarm clock is not on as there is no electricity, that you still haven't bought yourself a new watch despite regularly declaring that you are going to since last April then wonder if you are going to have to count to 1800 before remembering that you have a wall clock that runs on those old-fangled batteries. Hazard a guess as to how long all this intellectual reckoning took and then take note of the time.
  16. When you go to take them out of the oven the biscuits will have puffed up a bit and will still seem soft but will dry out as they cool. As long as they aren't shiny and smooth but lightly dry looking when you take them out they should be OK. If you leave them in until they 'seem' cooked they will be harder, crunchy and more biscotti-like when they cool. So whatever you prefer.
  17. Allow them to cool, remove the cloves and then dust them with icing sugar so that everybody can experience the joy of dropping icing sugar down the front of their shirt whilst they're eating them.
  18. Treat yourself to a celebratory biscuit and a cup of tea/coffee/cocoa/whiskey made by boiling water on your gas stove-top****** or a glass of whatever takes your fancy. Congratulate yourself on having freed yourself from the shackles of electricity dependence. Decide this must have been what it was like in the old country back in the day, despite the fact that the people in the old country back in the day probably didn't do damn fool things like try to bake in the dark. If you don't have an old country or can't remember which one it is, the first country that pops into your head at this point is now your 'old country'. No you can't swap, it's too late, birthrights are like that. Raise a glass/mug/bottle/whatever to your possibly newly acquired heritage and feel smug.
  19. Blink stupidly as the power comes back on and you realise that you are standing in the middle of your kitchen with a shirt front that is a sweetly flavoured constellation of icing sugar and crumbs with a torch jammed in your bra strap.
  20. Abandon your new found self-sufficiency in the face of adversity and disdain for electricity and check if there's anything good on TV/put on some music/fire up your Tesla coil. Whilst eating a biscuit.


*A little over half a pound, 0.55 pounds according to the internet.
**Yes, fine, the recipe does work with electric ovens as well but this is important in this instance, trust me.
***320 degrees Fahrenheit
****See? I told you it was important.
*****If you don't have a bra strap you could stick it into the neck of your shirt or your mouth or something.
******If you haven't got a gas cooking range by this point I really can't help. Oh and you needn't heat the whiskey unless you want to make yourself a Hot Toddy.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Mother? Is That You?

Hi Internets, how's it going?

Well NaNoWriMo is over, sleep is once again plentiful and my co-workers have stopped backing away from me and muttering cryptic things about crazy eyes.

I won't lie to you Internets, I didn't make it this year.

My word count topped out at 21 099 but I'm not disappointed, I learned a lot getting that far.

Last year's plot was a very by-the-seat-of-the-pants plan-as-you-go affair so as long as I could keep thinking of one more thing for my characters to do each day, I could keep them moving forwards and I ended up with the 50 000+ word count and a passable story.

This year I decided to try come up with a storyline to follow, got a little bit ambitious and the learning began.


Lesson the First: A Plan Is A Beautiful Thing (or If You Are Going To Base Your Story Within A Complex And Esoteric System Or World Of Any Kind, You Should Probably Have An Idea Of How The Whole Thing Works)

I started off with an idea of how I wanted things to run and was pootling along but every few pages I would have to stop and have a huge brainstorming session as the plot turned out to be very very heavily intertwined with how my exciting and strange situation actually worked. I couldn't just mock it up and keep going because the 'reality' of the situation was intrinsic to what was going on. It would have been like a murder mystery where none of the clues fit together and when you re-read it you realised that there must be more than one killer but no one actually died and also the characters had all swapped names midway. And the continuity was shot to hell.


Lesson the Second: Priorities Are Not Just For Self-Help Junkies (or If You Have Suddenly Realised That You Have This Situation On Your Hands You Should Stop, Sacrifice A Day To Putting Together A Framework And Go On From There)

I was so caught up in the 'must achieve word count' rush that I figured I could just nut it out as I went along. I was able to refine it slowly, with much revisioning as I worked out the bits that didn't work or didn't make sense once they'd been fleshed out, but what with the refining and the slow going without a clear picture of where I was going it was more difficult to tap into those type-til-your-eyeballs-feel-like-overfried-eggs bouts which are so helpful during NaNo. If I'd sacrificed a day or even two I might have had a clearer run at it. Maybe not, but I might give it a try next time and see how it pans out.


Lesson the Third: Your Characters Are On To You (or If You Don't Know What You're Doing Your Characters Will Get Short-Tempered)

Along with my having a crack at having a real plot, I had a bit more of a go at building characters and trying to have more complete back stories and characteristics that came through slowly in a structured fashion. It's hard. I've heard some writers say that it can be easier to get the bare bones of the story down and then go back and insert and flesh out different characteristics or plot points or backtrack to plant the red herrings and I definitely think that is the way to go after trying to get it all down from the start. Especially as for me I was still meeting my characters as each sentence wandered onto the screen. My characters got a bit tetchy at the underwhelming pace things seemed to be moving at, this created some useful and interesting tension that I'm planning to keep in, I like them when they're all cranked up.


There were a lot of other lessons to do with the juggling of work and sleep and writing and remembering to eat but those are just the lessons I've been told you learn every year doing NaNo. Like getting all nostalgic about going camping until you're out bush again and being handed the toilet diggin' shovel and slapping at the mosquitoes swarming your face and then you remember last time... And yet it's still fun.

I have ended up with page upon page of 'world-building' notes and even though I am exhaustipated I'm actually excited to continue with this one beyond NaNo.
I want to finish telling this story and find out what happens. And I could certainly use the practice.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Under Pressure

You ever feel the weight of responsibility pressing down upon you?

That terrible feeling of accountability and the fear of failure?

The careful balance between doing too little or too much?

Knowing that if you mess things up it will be visible and real and you will have to deal with it?

I'm there right now.

But soon it'll be over and I will be able to put it all behind me.

Because tomorrow my workmate comes back from their holiday, their bloody potplants are still alive and they better damn well still be that way tomorrow morning.

God help them if they ever ask me to mind their children.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Oh Dear


*AHEM*
This week I realised that I managed to blissfully press 'SAVE NOW' instead of 'PUBLISH POST' for the past two weeks running.
Gosh I'm bad at the internet.
I reserve the right to blame November but secretly know it is because I am techno-challenged.
*AHEM ENDS*

Prices and Prices

The cat is asleep on my lap which makes it impossible to settle my computer there to get on with the job of frying my ovaries.

Instead it is balanced on my left forearm like an oversized Predator wrist console as my right hand taps out the code for nuclear destruction of the immediate vicinity aka this blog.

What with the bracing challenge of NaNoWriMo and my suddenly bustling social calendar - when the heck did that happen? - November has been exhausting so I hope you will forgive me as I crap out in the grand tradition of those who have gone before me and post a little 'woe unto humanity' chunklet I wrote a while ago

~ ~ ~

It’s nothing special, no magic insight, everyone knows it.

Big stores sell you things more cheaply and have a larger range.

Little stores have less and charge more, sometimes the employees are a little… strange.

Not quite right or too close or too verbose or rude as hell.

But they’re a story to tell, a memory to have.

In both instances you walk away with a purchase but in one you have been robbed of your memory, your story.

The experience has been laminated and nothing sticks.

It is shiny and sterile and we have nothing to talk about with each other anymore.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Hungry Eyes

You know what, I’m actually not that worried about certain aspects of the inevitable break down of society. Food shortages specifically.

I have this sneaking suspicion that human beings are delicious.

I went to an exhibition a couple of years ago called Body Worlds with my mate Awesome*. It was an array of plastinated human bodies, bodies that have been prepared using certain plastics until these plastics replaced their normal fluids, preserving the bodies just as they were when the process began. And in this case 'just as they were' was for the most part without clothing, without skin and without certain of their bits.

One man was looking reflectively at his own skin which had been removed almost in a single sheet and was now draped over his arm… like a jacket.

Other figures were posed as if frozen partway through a tennis game or football match, different muscles stripped away to allow you to see exactly what is going on inside the body as they undertook different motions.

One woman had been carefully sliced into one centimetre thick segments so you could see the different bone structures and organs as they appeared within the body by following where they disappeared or appeared in the revealed pieces. And then you saw the tattoo on her wrist and you realised, properly realised, that this was a real person. Who had one day decided to get a tattoo that meant something to her.
And yet...

And yet as Awesome and I circled around, marvelling aloud at the intricate construction that is homo sapiens all I was thinking inside my diseased*** brain-case was ‘we are all made of meat, tasty looking meat’.

Everyone else was chatting loudly about tendons and cartilage but then I realised so was I. Was everyone else thinking thoughtful things about ‘long pig’?

As we wound our way to the end of the exhibition and stepped out into daylight again my question was answered for me as Awesome slipped on her sunglasses and said "Let’s go get something to eat, I’m starving,"

"Any preferences?"

"Anything made of meat. Was it just me or did you have to stop yourself from thinking of those guys as big strips of beef jerky?"

"... I love you,"

"…?"




*You remember Awesome? From this Thrilling Adventure! Her awesomeness, as you can see, is fairly consistent**.
**Hey look! I just linked to a previous post on my own blog! I have hit the big time!
***And I mean actually diseased, not just 'I am a weirdo' diseased. After seeing what passive smoking has done to my lungs via the medium of plastinated lung display I am fairly sure I also have the brain mould that accompanies other such 'oh what can it hurt, I'm just in the vicinity' leisure activities. PS Ha ha! You thought I had crapped up my asterisk system until you got down here didn't you!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Priorities Of Bureaucracy

I received one of those little cards in my letter box last week.

Not one of the kind that says ‘you may already have won’ or ‘you’re next, sleep with one eye open’ or even ‘you were out when we called but have you heard about Jesus?’ but one that said ‘you have registered post waiting for you at the Post Office’.

Of course I did what anyone would do. I started imagining that I’m going to end up in Cartagena being pursued by Danny DeVito.
Despite the fact my sister isn’t married, doesn’t live over there and nobody we know has been chopped up in a bath tub.
That I know of.

So a week later I finally get down to the Post Office during opening hours* and it is not a package but a registered letter which once opened informs me that my rent is going up. Five whole dollars.
‘Shut up, you smug bitch,’ you might be muttering right now and rightly so, who am I to complain what with the economic crap-splosion being experienced by most of the world right now.

Fair enough but my point wasn't the rent increase. What actually tickled me about the situation was the fact that my real estate agent’s office – which is closer to my home than the Post Office is – routinely sends out things like, oh, I don’t know, the lease to my street address** where it can be gently moistened by the falling rain, dyeing the document a light yellow to match the cheap envelope. IF it isn't stolen or pushed into the wrong mail-box OR caught between the fence and the box in a way that invites tetanus or exciting faux tribal scars around the hands if you wish to retrieve it.

I expect it is so you can’t claim ignorance of the rate increase, which is probably more substantial for the people in less ‘characterful’ vintage abodes***, so that if you try to say ‘What? Rent go up! When? What an outrage!’ they can point calmly to your signature acknowledging receipt.

My lease is due for renewal in a month but the politely harrassing calls about why I have not returned the canary coloured document of joy have already begun and are set to continue.
Especially as I stubbornly hold on to the thing for just a little bit longer to bring a little panic and excitement to their lives.

Bah, I suppose I'll sign the thing and send it off just to hold their whist.
Now all I need to do is find the bloody paperwork for the rent payments so I can update the amount...



*Call me Ms Lazy if you must.

**My letterbox is of the ‘don’t want nothing too fancy’ design where you cut a rough rectangle in the corrugated iron of the fence and then shoot a box type shape you made in woodshop onto the back of said fence with a nail gun.

***The building in which I live was built by Jesus in his architectural experimentation days when he was on exchange to Australia. What? He can't visit other continents? I've heard otherwise...

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Is There A Problem Ossifer?

I tend to have realisations in cyclical patterns.

I realise something, am astounded, forget about it and realise it again a few months later when it comes up in the rota.

For instance, I am surprised at each change of the seasons by a vague sense of nostalgia, of dejá vu, that this all seems kind of familiar.

As the weather heats up I am amazed each night at how annoying the sheets are getting and how I need to remember to put the fan on before getting into bed.
I have this strange premonition that it’s going to get warmer before it gets colder, seeing as it isn’t even summer yet… but I’m getting off topic.

The astonishing revelation that I am re-experiencing at the moment is that I used to read far more books far more often.
I would knock over a book every day or two easily and have a stack ready and waiting to go on with.

I have no idea when I stopped hitting the library on a semi-regular basis but it coincides suspiciously with my last year of university when I had books being crammed in both of my eye sockets as literary theory was dribbled into each ear.

Determined to right this wrong, I rocked up to the local library, had a bit of a browse and came away with a stack of books. The first one I picked out was Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham which led to another epiphany.
I really need to stop reading crime fiction for about... 20 years.

Not because I don't like it. I think it's fantastic.
It's just all the impassioned, grizzled, principled detectives/policeman are all about 40+ as a rule and when I start getting all misty eyed about their angsty emotional problems and their bad luck with dames and how the system is always against them no matter how many people they save and how they suffer... *coff*

Tom Thorn, Sam Vimes, Salvo Montalbano, Adam Dagliesh* - and many others - all 40 to 50ish and all so very honorable**.

While many 40+ year old men would be A-OK with the idea of a 25 year old woman giving them the glad eye*** it just makes me feel a bit... reverse cradle-snatcher. There's a term for it... not grave-robber, something else... Anyway, back to my point.

The young fictional policeman just aren't that exciting. They're either wet behind the ears and still being taken under the wing of scruffy-but-ethical older detective or they're hot-headed and there to get stabbed up by some psycho for being too overzealous and going in without back-up and dammit, what are we going to tell the kid's mother?
By the time they've been on the job long enough to have an eye for the job and to have suffered enough to be attractively damaged they are getting into that age bracket and I just feel like I'd be taking advantage****.

So the best thing to do would to just put the crime fiction aside for about 10 to 20 years and by the time I came back to it we would be of an age and everything would be fine*****.

Actually probably the best thing to do would be to actually get some sleep once in a while and not get on the internets when in the grips of that out-the-other-side-of-exhaustion bug-eyed clarity. And a nice bottle of Merlot.
Damn Adam Dagliesh.



*Yes Adam Dagliesh is a bit of a ponce but I let him stay on the list as every time I read any P D James I end up making myself really fancy meals and drinking nice wine, P D James really loves talking about food. And clothes. Woolen clothes. Go figure.
**And cynical! And sometimes sarcastic! I really like cynical sarcasm...
***If they actually existed and all...
****If, y'know, they existed...
*****If they weren't fictional characters in books.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Lurking Rhythmically: Curse/Or: Not a peaceful dream sequence

Lurking Rhythmically: Curse/Or: Not a peaceful dream sequence

Dang I'm bad at the internets.
Either that or they're cross with me because for the life of me I can't comment on your blog, Palette.
It just won't let me.
Possibly something to do with the subscribe-y doovy? Is that new?

In the meantime I will write my comments here!

its voice barbed wire and mutilated dogs

This is a fantastic sentence as each reader will construct a unique and personally tailored terrifying audio to go with the already freaky dream imagery.
The 'evil in the guise of something usually harmless' dream is a shocker to have and it'll be great to see where this goes.


Now back to trying to master this new-fangled technology!

How Do I Love Thee...


I would kill for you.

Not like on request or anything.

I've got this list I'm working my way through.

But I'd dedicate it to you.

Like a book or a song.

Oh, what?

That's still romantic, isn't it?

Jeez!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Adventures In Language Modification Update

If you stop using qualifiers, emoticons and and contractions all at once in your emails and SMS everyone will think you are cross with them.

Some of them will then apologise for things you did not even know they had done.

This is a very informative side effect.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

I Kind Of Sort Of Understand To An Extent What You Are Talking About. Maybe.

Because my brain is hand-crafted from the finest Stupid, the closer it gets to NaNoWriMo the more hung up I get about language.

I use a lot of qualifiers in both my written and verbal communication.
A lot.
Until I thought about it I hadn’t noticed just how many.
Hardly a sentence goes by without me throwing in a ‘somewhat’ or a ‘pretty’ or a ‘probably’ or something of the ilk and I decided that it would be amusing and slightly masochistic to try to go a week without using qualifiers.*
To try and cut down in the long run.

I’m not sure why this new self-knowledge concerns me so much.
Possibly because I noticed it in myself after I noticed it in others.
Because I only realised how much it softens sentences out once I test-drove a few without them and heard how unambiguous it makes things sound.
It makes you feel a bit naked to just make a statement.
You don’t like doing it.
Just in case you’re wrong.
Just in case someone who feels more passionately about it takes issue and wants to fight you about a passing comment.

When used too often, qualifiers stop being the escape hatches of conversation and bury your point so deep that it’s hard to tell if you have an opinion at all.

But qualifiers play an important part in the world of NaNoWriMo as they pad out your word count wonderfully when the old inspiration train is late to the station, especially if you let your character stammer and um and ah and change their opinion often enough.
So even if I go ahead with my overall plan to cull qualifiers down to an acceptable level I’m going to let them run wild and breed like rabbits within the confineS of my NaNoWriMo novel.

Another language practice that I test run for last year’s NaNoWriMo was the doing away with contractions.
Don’t became do not.
He’s was always he is.
And so on and so forth.
It is amusing how ye olde this makes some sentences sound.
Especially if you do a blanket search and replace without restructuring the sentence first.
The casual utterance ‘isn’t it?’ becomes a wonderful renn-fair-esque ‘is it not?’
I wonder how long it would take people to ask me what the heck I was getting up to if I stopped using contractions as well.

So to recap, trying to change my habits and customs in the lead up to NaNoWriMo when I should really be expending my energy on planning, getting things tidied up so I don’t have to deal with them during November and catching up with people who will be put out when I either disappear or turn into a gibbering loon… would be unwise and problematic.

I’m still going to do it, of course.

As I said, my brain is hand-crafted from the finest Stupid.

*Or emoticons.
That shit has just gotten out of control.
I must write one hundred times: Emoticons aren’t punctuation.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

You Don't Because You Don't

It's turning warm again.
Warm enough to throw off a couple of the blankets.
Warm enough to sleep with the window open and let the breeze rattle the blinds and startle the cats.
This time of year always makes me pause a moment because sleeping with the windows open used to be banned.
Flat out not allowed.

I didn't know why at the time, I just knew that every night before bed my mother would do the rounds and make sure our bedroom windows were securely shut and remind us in no uncertain terms that they were not, NOT, to be opened again until morning.
Insofar as I thought about it... well, I didn't.
The windows were closed at night.
End of discussion.

Fast-forward a few years to when I was slightly older but still young enough to think that scrunchies were awesome.
It is the hottest spring night in years, it is stifling, but outside there is a gentle movement of air that whilst not any cooler eases some of the oppressiveness.
So I ask my mother if it would be OK to leave my window open.
She says that's fine, seems surprised I even asked.
Even more surprised when I suggest that it's forbidden, isn't it?
I jog her memory.

And she tells me that one summer our town was the location of a string of bizarre assaults.
Almost every night a report would come in of children awaking to find a man crouched at the end of their bed sucking on their toes.
He would run away the moment they screamed and despite the high level of public alert it took weeks to catch him.
And when they did it was the guy who ran our local video store.
We'd been in there once or twice a fortnight for years.
He'd handed out sweets at the counter.
We'd stopped visiting that video store after that.
I hadn't asked why.
But I did keep my window closed.

So it's turning warm again and it's time to put away the winter woolies and pull the pedestal fans out of storage.
And over a decade later I still hesitate just for a moment before leaving my bedroom window open for the night.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Urge To Kill Rising


For her birthday my siblings and I bought my mother three seasons of Get Smart* and whilst I still love the exciting retro spy gadgets and the humour and what not I've discovered that I can't watch more than about two episodes in a row before I start to want to kill 99.
With a brick.

Apart from the fact the come-hither eyes and pouting started to bug me, what really had me twitching was the incompetence! Oh the incompetence!

Example: In one scene 99 and Max are both walking around a darkened building with their guns drawn looking for the villain. The unarmed villain gets the drop on Max, TV-comedy-fu chops him in the arm and disarms him.
99 still has her gun.
And yet in the next scene they are both tied up and awaiting their terrible fate.
Because the man was so scary she forgot she was armed or something.
I don't know.
But there she is tied to a chair yelling 'do something Max!' whilst he waits, much more securely restrained, to have his head cut off.

Just one in a long string of many instances of her being tied to something yelling 'do something Max!' whilst he is in a lot more danger and she has a much better chance of being able to move and save them both.
Despite the fact Max is a bumbling simpleton (not that there's anything wrong with that) and 99 is clearly more rational and observant she continually defers to his 'experience', asks him what to do and takes the backseat.

When, as she was dragged off-scene in one episode crying 'No!' in a tone of voice that resembled nothing more than a toddler throwing a tanty, I found myself yelling at the TV 'Oh if only you were a highly trained secret agent! Oh wait, you are!' I knew it was time to take a time-out.

And that's not even taking into account the episode where she's suddenly quitting CONTROL to marry some guy who proposed to her whilst she was on holidays 'because a girl's got to think of her future'** and keeps asking Max if there's any reason why he might want her to stay.
No, by all means, honey, you try and force him into a relationship by threatening to marry someone else and when he doesn't bite go ahead and almost marry the other guy because you already said you were going to and it's too late now.... Fstfgvr!

I know the show was light entertainment and it was all part of the formula that they crap up all the time and despite his bumbling Max gets to rescue the girl, I just wish that it wasn't also so heavily dependent on her bumbling.
The fact that the show gives the strong impression that her ineptitude was feigned so as to not challenge his masculinity or muddy the waters of her femininity somehow makes me more rather than less angry.
I know that 1965 was a vastly different time to 2008.
Possibly even implying her intelligence existed even if she didn't fully utilise it was progressive and exciting at the time.
But still! Fstfgvr!

Now here's a Don Adams related spy partnership I can get alongside!


Penny may not take credit for saving Inspector Gadget's ass all the time but his ass, she saves it.
All. The. Time.
Also when I was a kid I would have killed someone for a computer book. That thing was bad ass.


Ah, who am I kidding. I'd kill someone now for that computer book.



*Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeey! I've just realised my bastard siblings haven't payed me back yet! Son of a bitch! Crap, sorry Mum, not you! I love you!

**What, and being an awesome spy isn't a future?! Pfft!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

When You Say What You Do With Those Words That You Use

I love House, even if the increase in complex and exciting medical diagnostic medical dramas does mean that every time Joe Bloggs stubs his toe every member of his extended family tries to cram into the consulting room with him, howling things about how they think the problem is caused by an electrical instability in his prelaminated cortex.

The reason for my love is pretty simple.

Hugh Laurie.


Hugh Laurie is awesome.
And even if I do have to work through my default images of him as George in Blackadder (Larks Larks Larks!) or as Bertie Wooster (having his spuds pulled out of the fire by Stephen Fry's Jeeves) in Jeeves and Wooster before I get to grumpy, crippled genius I can still appreciate the beauty of a Pom pretending to be a Yank cussing out an Aussie for being a colonist*. Whilst deeply worrying me about the validity of medical diagnoses. Boy I hope I never get a confusing illness.
And, oh the sarcasm! Oh the arrogance! The world loves a bastard as long as they're at a distance and not sharpening their tongue on you personally.
I know I've dreamed of telling folk exactly what I think of them but am at heart a profiterole - flaky with a sweet squishy filling - and would melt into apologies the moment I made them cry.

And now I come to think about it, Hugh (I like to think we'd be on a first name basis if we'd ever met and I wasn't half his age and about as edgy as a circle) isn't the only fellow today regularly pretending to be from somewhere he is not.
The British especially seem to have such fun playing American characters. Like Damian Lewis who plays Charlie Crews in Life, which I also love**.


Another show, strangely enough, with someone wandering around on the outside of normal behaviour, enjoying themselves an inordinate amount and playing with conversation like a kitten with a ball of wool. Also there is murder.

Using a foreign accent can draw actors a lot of flak, especially when it's an American pretending to be anything else than an American. Some American actors can do it wonderfully, others not so much. But if you aren't an American you seem to get a bit more leeway. It's a harsh system but so it goes. The negative version of affirmative action.

So who else have we got?
Oh yes, there's Eddie Izzard also being American in The Riches and acting devious and roguish which is the way I like Izzard to act.


Then there's Stuart Townsend, an Irish actor who I have seen playing characters with decent French and English accents.
I've always thought it must be more difficult coming at one distinctive accent from another, like having to unlearn one set of conventions as you try to replace it with another.
I could be wrong though. I know nothing about elocution and have never established with any confidence why the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.


You may be wondering by this stage what my point is.
Well I'm pretty sure I had one when I started but somewhere along the way I forgot what it was and used that as an excuse to post pictures of guys I wouldn't mind doinking.
What?
I get distracted easily.



*I am aware that he was also the father in the Stuart Little movies but have thus far not seen them as I have been warned that the combination of cross-species adoption, tiny outfits and family values may be too heartwarming and spontaneous human combustion is a hell of a way to go.

**Partly because I would just like to take Charlie Crews home with me and nibble him all over.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Honorary Literary Viking!


I'm'a pillage your word count and ravage your genre!

Also there will be mead!

Hooray!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Children Should Be Jim Beamed, Not Heard

I know we're supposed to be encouraging the younger generations to cultivate a more active and healthy lifestyle.

To get out and about more.

But I really wish the kids next-door would take up some new hobbies.

Like video-games.

Or drugs.

Because it's two a.m. in the morning and they're playing basketball up against the wall next to our freaking house and I can't bloody sleep!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

What're YOU Looking At?

Ah poop and dang it.
I'm apparently drunk.
I mean not poop and dang it I'm drunk but poop and dang it I'm drunk and still remarkably lucid and not even at the stage where I start rambling in a slightly poetic and disjointed way that lets all the words run together and ends with me ranting in a slightly 'you know what, I should get my own free to air TV program' way that I will regret in the morning.
I'm all full of logic and shit.
Stupid moderate-to-high tolerance to alcohol!
Why am I able to type right now?
I mean seriously?
I'm spelling all the words correctly and everything and haven't even put extra 's's on the end of anything in a 'look at me I'm pretending to be like the internets' way that always ends with you accidentally saying 'LOL' in serious conversation and realising that you weren't actually being ironic that time and have become 'one of them'.
Two of my mates are having one of those deep conversations with extra +4 honesty that only comes with extra drinks and they are so profound right now that they haven't even realised that I'm posting to my blog on their computer.
I'm like an electronic ninja.
A stupidly sober-for-a-drunk-person electronic ninja!
OK maybe I am a bit drunk.
I will surely rue this on the morrow.

Update: Ruing has commenced on schedule.
Stupid normal-to-high susceptibility to hangover!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Knee Bone May Be Connected To The Thigh Bone But What Should I Do With This Shirt?

Many moons ago I used to op shop*, I used to op shop like a crazy person.
Not because I like to get all whimsical and think about who might have owned the clothes before me**, I just like second-hand clothes.
They've already been broken in, you're less likely to bump into anyone wearing anything like what you're wearing*** and you don't have to go into the other shops with the scary folk and the teeth-grating repetitive music****.

Having recently found my way back into this interesting rummage-fest way o' life, I decided at the same time to try and reorganise my clothes for maximum efficiency only to find that I'm all crippled up with annoying overcomplications.
This is a basic run-down of the clothing classifications I've come up with so far in an attempt to cope.
  • Stand-alone - You would look stupid wearing anything else with this, like a bag lady and not in a Derelicté fashionable way. Just don't try it, you haven't the skills to pull it off.
  • Base - You can't wear this by itself, you will look like a hooker, but it is a good thing to wear other things on top of (especially if the other things have a plunging neckline).
  • Mid-layer - You can't wear this by itself, you will look like an early 90s pop singer, put something on underneath it for heaven's sake!
  • Outer - Usually a cardigan-type thingie that can go on top of other thingies, plays well with others.
  • Either/Or - Possibly a base, can be a stand-alone, maybe a mid-layer, probably not an outer, this item of clothing writes tortured poetry in silver ink on black paper about being misunderstood.
  • Jacket - This is a jacket, doi.
  • Accessories - Oh Jesus, no! You are not ready for those! You can barely dress yourself, you're lucky you're being allowed shoes!
And that's not even taking into account pants*****.

This is probably the wrong way to go about things.
Next thing I know I'll find myself drawing up graphs and pie-charts that show the frequency of wear or patterns of item rotation and assigning the clothing cross-referencing ID numbers so that it's easy to coordinate when...

Y'know what, I'm just going to go back to getting dressed when half awake.
I'll leave them all in their exciting new categories but let the blissful blur of semi-consciousness dictate everything else.
The other way madness lies.



*Op shop = opportunity/charity/second-hand clothes store. Yes, yes I used it as a verb.
**Y'know I don't think I've ever thought about that until typing that sentence. Huh, how about that. As that kind of musing can lead to thinking that things may be haunted. Have I mentioned that before? That things that aren't under imminent threat from zombies or axe-murderers may be haunted? Just so you know.
***This may not be something that you're too worried about.
****Though you may be confronted by some older ladies with fearsome moustaches or people with truly awesome anime-inspired hair-dos.
*****My learning on the road to clothing enlightenment concerning pants has gotten as far as 'if you are wearing pants that have a striped pattern on them DO NOT wear a shirt that has stripes on it. Or else.'

Monday, 8 September 2008

I'm Doing This As Hard As I Can!

It is a commonly accepted fact that it is still the weekend until the sun comes up on a Monday.
Therefore it is still the weekend, I am not posting this late and could you all keep it down a bit?
The beer buzz is giving way to proto-hangover and my neck is killing me.

The week started out innocently enough, with me sitting in my office, tissue boxes on my feet, the evicted tissues jammed into the gaps around my closed door, effecting a self-imposed quarantine. Not because I was sick but because everyone else was* and I couldn’t afford to get any of their dirty dirty germs as I had tickets to Opeth and Disturbed.
In Adelaide and Melbourne respectively**.
Within two days of each other***.

Whatever doesn’t kill you might in some instances make you stronger but I didn’t appreciate the timing of this potential bout of viral empowerment. I had riding and rawking to do and didn’t want to be bubbling phlegm whilst I did it so I spent Monday and Tuesday eating meals comprised primarily of garlic (for both health and coworker repelling benefits) and mainlining orange juice and Echinacea.

One of my mates (whom I will call Awesome) was coming to Adelaide to see Opeth with me so Wednesday morning Awesome and I rocked up to the coach terminal for our trip to Adelaide and after a very short time came to this simple conclusion:
DON'T TAKE THE FREAKING COACH!
It’s 10 hours crammed into a recirculating box of smells, there are people loudly reenacting episodes of Days of Our Lives into mobile phones**** and they will try make you watch Nancy Drew on the coach’s AV system.
DO NOT WATCH! Close your eyes and listen to The Downward Spiral or something.

Adelaide may be a smaller city than Melbourne but it has some truly award winning nerd stores (everyone, go visit Shin Tokyo! Go now!) and we sacrificed a respectable amount of moolah at the Altar of Geek before washing up at the Opeth gig Thursday night.

OPETHIAN OBSERVATIONS

  • Windmilling guitarists' heads look like adorable tennis balls whirling about on rubber bands
  • Samantha Escarbe from Virgin Black(the support band) is pretty damn good
  • Mikael Åkerfeldt is a funny bastard
  • Martin Axenrot may look like Legolas but Legolas could never drum like that
  • Opeth are freaking unbelivable live

The atmosphere was great, everyone was there for the music and even though Awesome and I are both quite short we had no problem seeing the show and didn’t get stepped on once!

When we surfaced on Friday there was recovery time and then I took the overnight coach back to Melbourne. A word of advice:

DON'T TAKE THE FREAKING OVERNIGHT COACH!

There is less foghorn mobile talking than the day coach but it can be bloody difficult to get any sleep depending on a) whether you can get comfortable and b) what you think the likelihood is of the person next to you doing something to you whilst you sleep. Also they will try to make you watch Grace Is Gone.

DO NOT WATCH! Listen to Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Edit or something.

I rolled into Melbourne at 6:40am (blergh!), trolled around the city like a zombie splurging more cash on comics and sundries before realising that I am already not as young as I once was and catching a Nanna-nap at a mate’s place before the Disturbed concert.

DISTURBED OBSERVATIONS

  • Yelling out the band’s entire discography in the form of requests/suggestions does not impress anyone, fella, we know the names of the songs too
  • Hannibal Lecter gear is a simple and elegant choice of evening garb for a vocalist
  • Boy I like dreadlocks…
  • Disturbed are also damn good live*****
There were more shaved heads and ‘Hey, can your mother sew, pal?’ types about but the mood was still pretty decent. I did have to spend the entire P.O.D set standing in line for beer but then I bought double beer and was very very happy.So at the end of it all I have spent about 20 hours on the road, about 15 hours on the piss, about 7 hours at concerts, I have to turn my entire body like Robocop to look at anything on the periphery (as I may have overdone it just a tad with the rawking) and I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with something but that’s A-OK with me.
Everyone at work should have recovered from the last bug they tried to foist on me and I’ll be bringing them something exciting from interstate to deal with.
Now I’m just going to have a little bit of a lie down and try to stop grinning like a loon.



*Whenever one person gets sick at my work everybody gets sick in a pattern that could probably be excitingly depicted by toppling rows of dominoes, if as each domino recovered from its first fall it was knocked over again with decreasing frequency until all the dominoes had become immune to that current ailment in time to catch the next one.
**Opeth’s Melbourne show sold out in June and I do not take defeat gracefully.
***It seems like every couple of years every band in the world throws down rock-paper-scissors and they all agree to come to Australia at the same time (if you don’t believe me have a look at this year’s line up) and in previous years I have been too poor. Not any more capricious universe! I have some monies!
****Complete with vehement declarations that ‘You’ve got your f*cking money, don’t dare call me again!’
***** So now I am chock full of high expectations. Everyone I see must be awesome live or they will feel my wrath! Or be entirely unaware of it. Either/or.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Sweet Jiminy Christmas!

Crap in a hat it’s almost September!
How the hell did that happen? Where did the rest of the year go?
I don’t remember slipping into a coma but I suppose you wouldn’t… though if I did you'd think people would at least have the decency to ask me how I was recovering…
Anyway, it’s almost September which is practically October which – apart from heralding the indecently early arrival of Christmas carols in the stores – is right next to November which, as everyone knows, is NaNoWriMo time. Holy shits!

I haven’t done any preparation at all!
After I dragged myself weakened but victorious to the end of last November I had all these plans of writing various length pieces of a specific nature, having plotting practices and working on my dialogue until it sparkled like a very sparkly thing but um… I didn’t do that.
Oh jeez, what am I going to do!?
I already used a swag of ideas to get through last year’s run!
What if I can’t think of any more!?
What if that was it and I end up staring blankly at the screen, the cursor burning its blinking image onto my retinas as a cold sweat breaks out of my brow!?
No! Keep it together Ricochet! You can do this!
Stop listening to the Doubty McLogic part of your brain! When has logic ever done you any favours? You’re barely on speaking terms except when it comes to contemplating how to ‘remove the head or destroy the brain’ in the event of zombmergencies.

This fun-time panic all boils down to the fact that I can indeed talk a lot of shash but wouldn’t even be able to keep my own interest for 50,000 words without some kind of structure and direction. Being equal parts lazy and – if I’m being honest – perennially terrified of failure there is always the temptation to bail out on an idea when finding a Step B to follow my current Step A gets particularly difficult.
Finding a story worth telling is also tricksy – on an entertainment level or a deeper meaning level – as I certainly don’t want to end up with the ‘let’s say there’s a person a lot like me except with awesome powers/abilities and she saves the day and totally shows all those people who gave her crap; also she has this mysterious and alluringly dangerous guy hanging around her who in no way resembles any pre-existing sexy fictional characters’ story. If that kind of thing is allowed to run unchecked it can go very very wrong and the sense of achievement at the end wouldn’t be as high as an effort of 50,000 words should warrant.

I guess it’s just time to buckle down and have a think about the basics and psyche myself up to actually let something really bad happen to a couple of my characters this time.
I am such a wussie when it comes to really putting the screws to my little darlings. They give you the most betrayed looks. Big eyed puppy dogs have nothing on figments of your imagination who only wanted to live free under an endless sky and not accidentally or deliberately get booted off the top of a 20-storey parking structure just to keep your plot moving along.

Hmm, you know that could work…
Just have to calculate the velocity of a plummeting 80 kg man, factor in the wind resistance for the Panda suit and the probable impact on the vehicle below… let’s say it's a Rav 4…

Saturday, 23 August 2008

I Gave My Love A Chicken, It Had No Bones...

It's 11am on a Saturday and I have just made myself pizza for breakfast.
This is in keeping with the Healthy Weekend MealsTM that brought us such breakfast dishes as steamed dim sims, mystery left-overs with sauce and half a block of jarlsberg served with salt and vinegar pringles.
Oh sure, I had cereal in the house. I had bread for toast. Hell, I even had bacon and eggs but pfft!
How pedestrian!
How everyday!
Sure, any one of those other more traditional options would have been quicker to prepare and possibly better for me but... I didn't wanna.

It's so refreshing to be able to stamp your feet and pout and say "I don't wanna!" and then realise that you don't gotta!
You can eat pizza for breakfast!
You can go down to the supermarket wearing those clothes!
You can go to bed without brushing your teeth!
The face-melting morning breath, increased risk of cavities and strange looks in the supermarket are nobody's concern but your own!

Heck, I'd be jumping on my bed right now if I wasn't sure that I would instantly plunge through the floor of my upstairs flat and land on the family below. It could be kind of cool... but no!
The little girl downstairs thought I was a vampire, I want to preserve a mind like that*.

Of course, there are perils to doing everything you want...**


But it's nice to have the option.



*She never saw me during the day and only heard me moving around at night and drew the obvious conclusion. It is without a doubt the most awesome thing that anyone has ever said to me :-D Whatever that says about me...

**Oh Randall Munroe, how I love thee!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Curiouser And Curiouser


At some point about a week ago an ice-cream freezer appeared at the bottom of my stairs. The sort you get in get in milk bars*.
You know the type. One of those long bench affairs with the sliding glass top and the brightly hued casing that is supposed to remind you of the joy and brightness of a summer's day... or drive you into an ice-cream buying frenzy by hypnotising you with vivid colour combinations and dynamic shapes.

This, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, was all a bit of a puzzler.

I didn't order a large cooling unit for frozen dairy snacks and no-one else in the building seems to be doing anything with it. As far as I can tell.

I mean there is a blue plastic tarp taped over the lid.

Probably to protect the glass and to prevent people from opening the lid and leaving it open to the elements and potential damage.

Probably not to hide the fact that it is filled to the brim with carefully sectioned and stacked dismembered body parts, like a better padded version of the Parisian catacombs**.

I mean it's not plugged into anything so if it is full of cadavers it'll probably start to smell soon. It's been pretty cold recently but not that cold...

Y'know I'm going to be really disappointed when I sneak a look under that tarp and find out it's empty or full of old Tupperware or something.

I always assume abandoned items are full of bodies. Well, except for that shipping container near my Dad's work. I'd just watched Resident Evil 3 when that one turned up so I figured it'd be full of... other things, but technically they'd still count as bodies so...***

What with all the lovely exciting crime dramas we have entertaining us and giving us unrealistic fantasies about the heart-pumping excitement of forensic labs, is this assumption surprising?

You can't open a port-a-loo door, garbage skip, investigate an abandoned car, frolic innocently near the local storm drain outlet or wake up in a strange bed without having a cadaver leap out at you in an exciting way just in time to usher in the opening credits. Anywhere a body can fall out in a startling manner, a body will fall out in a startling manner.

Of course I probably shouldn't automatically follow my first instinct on these sorts of things given that I am the kind of person who whilst having a shower will wonder if my having Awakening by The Damning Well blaring away in the background makes it more likely that I'll be attacked by a psychopath****.

I know I'm just being fanciful.
There's probably a perfectly logical reason for the ice-cream freezer to be there.
I'm pretty sure one of the fellows downstairs owns a couple of businesses. He's probably just keeping the fridge there until it can be delivered to its end destination.
Or until I play something appropriate on the stereo so he can stab me up in the shower and then put my bits in the ice-cream freezer.
Either/or.



*Uh... corner stores? Small shops with overpriced merchandise. Like the 7-11 except independently owned so they get to use the excuse of being 'small business' and 'battlers' to justify charging $4 for a 1-litre carton of milk.

**I shouldn't have watched the entire first season of Dexter in one night, I really shouldn't.

***Does that count as a spoiler? Nah, I don't think it does.

****Or, y'know, vampires.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Extra Protein And One-Sided Arguments

Oh gross! There's a fly in my beer!
Argh, I have been drinking that for ages!
How long has it been in there?
Oh jeez, it's still moving! It's swimming in my beer! That's just not on!
I mean I've never been that excited about the idea of the worm in the tequila* and fly in the beer was not part of my plans for the evening!
Game little bastard is still paddling about.
See, now I feel torn, I can't in good conscience sit here and watch the fly drown but if I pour it out I'll feel odd about swatting it like I usually would. The temporary reprieve would feel too much like mental torture. But I don't want a sticky, beer-flavoured fly buzzing unsteadily about my lounge room, bumping into windows and explaining to my Venetian blinds that they're great really, they're like his most awesome best friends ever and if anyone says differently he'll punch them right in the cord toggle.
I guess a quick death is more merciful than a slow one and at least it'll be drunk and probably won't notice.
Huh, well it looks like I managed to drink enough of the beer to be having an ethical dilemma about a fly (dialogue included) so I suppose I'd better forge on.

[Empty bottle, squash fly, hold memorial service, obtain fresh beer, place protective thumb over mouth of bottle]

OK, so before I got distracted by anthropomorphising insects and weighing up modes of execution I was doing what now?

Oh Right! Blogging! Right, OK, back on track...

I'm trying to work out whether I'm obsessed with advertising or just addicted to sass-back.
I thought I had gotten the bug out of my system with the exposé about the car wash but it persists. Then again, seeing as I've been talking back to the television for about as long as I've been watching it I shouldn't be surprised.

One of those exciting 'drugs = hugs' ads came on just now, explaining with upbeat music, a suspiciously happy family and some mumbling about dosages and side effects how if you take this magical pill your crippling back pain will dissipate and you will be able to swing your 30kg** child above your head like a loveable sack of potatoes and I found myself snorting and saying something like...
"Oh that's fabulous, so instead of addressing the root of the problem you briefly dull the pain enough for you to do extra damage to your already faulty body so that your kid, momentarily elated by their whirl about your head, will be extra crushed by having to resort to child slave labour to support your crippled ass when you crap out like a pile of crap"***
... or something completely rational like that.

The ones that tend to send me off on mini Lord of the Rings style rants with everyone's family trees and complex retellings of other rants included are the stupid cleaning product ads for toilets.

Did you know that there are germs in your toilet!?
No really!
The place where you put your poo has germs in it!
Oh my God!
But if you use this magic new cleaning gel you can get rid of the germs you can't see!
In your toilet.
Like inside the toilet.
WHO CARES!?
What are these magical germs going to do?
Form an army and dive up your bottom?
They're in the bowl of the toilet!
They are only a concern if you routinely drink out of the toilet and if you do that you've already got problems!
If you wash your hands properly after you've been to the toilet it doesn't matter how many 'scary invisible germs' you have in the bowl of the toilet which you don't touch, your hands are as clean as they're going to get!
Stop drinking out of your toilet!

Ahem.
I should probably take a bit of a time-out. I got a little overexcited.
Also I seem to have my thumb stuck in the neck of my beer bottle.
You carry on without me and I'll catch you up later.



*I don't think we even get that in Australia, probably against the quarantine laws. We are an incredibly laid back people until it comes to things like crop contamination, invading insects or suss looking animal products. On the upside, the cavity searches are is surprisingly gentle and they hardly ever hose you down with pressurised water any more.
**About 66 lbs.
***I had already had a couple of beers by this point (hopefully fly-free) and was a little more detailed in my objections than might be considered usual. For other people.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Trial And Error, My Friends, Trial And Error

Soooooooooooooooooo anyway I set fire to my kitchen the other day...

Not like in a big way. It was just the oven. I mean, just the griller of the oven.

I was making lamb chops and those things spit like bastards, so they were sparking little bits o' fat up at the gas element and I decided to take a "eh what's the worse thing that could happen?" approach rather than panicking and looking on like a nervous nancy. People are too nervous these days, don't you think?

Apparently one of the worst things that could happen is the fat that has been slowly gathering around the chops can finally catch fire, leading to a tiny re-enactment of Sodom and Gomorrah* as fatty spitty fire rained down upon the hapless chops.

It was really quite instructional.
I realised that I hadn't gotten around to buying a fire extinguisher for the house**.
I figured throwing water inside the grill would be tricky and a bad idea.
I noticed in time that if I pulled the grill out to extinguish the alleged 'fire'*** I would melt the knobs off the front of the stove...
So with my mad improvisational skills I took a pizza tray, shoved it into the grill over the burny thingy and bits of unfortunate and victimised meat and successfully extinguished the tiny tiny blaze.
Also I found out that meat that has caught a little bit on fire can still be quite delicious and still maintain a light flavour of seasoning and pepper.

It's the second episode in my latest series of Xtreme Housekeeping Events.

The first was flooding out my local Laundromat.
Technically I can't claim full credit for that one though as it had more to do with a faulty washing machine than it had to do with me but still... Having a washing machine jittering and spewing water and suds from both ends, freaking out both young and old alike was quite entertaining.
I do own a washing machine which should exempt me from the Laundromat experience but apart from the fact it was a little venerable to start with, it got dropped a little bit between the moving van and my latest place and has never actually, y'know, worked again.
Hence the local Laundromat and the joys that it brings****.

The simplest solution to this particular dilemma would be to buy a brand new washing machine.
That just seems a little extreme.
I don't really want to go into an electronics store because the barely controlled desperation and resentment lurking in the eyes of a salesperson on commission is second only to that seen behind the eyes of clowns.
There is also the little surly old person voice that has muttered from within me since mine birth that keeps on insisting that appliances aren't what they used to be and that the minute I buy something it'll either break down or be featured on a hard hitting news program as the sole cause of global warming.
This is, as I'm sure is obvious, a lovely lovely excuse for not having to go shopping and wade through a sea of minor differences between products and lies with the end result of being allowed to give other people money for an object that may or may not get dropped a bit on the way up the stairs...
Ah well. I expect I'll snap sooner or later.
Probably the next time someone comes up behind me whilst I'm folding sheets and tells me that I smell nice and not at all like socks.


*Just the 'fire and brimstone from above' imagery, not the ridiculous twitchy-eyed behavioural accusations and blatantly discriminatory bit.
**No! No! Bad! Buy!
***OK, yeah, it was really fire.
****Eg: Getting to see other people's smalls, being accused of stealing someone's drying after they'd only left it in there for seven hours whilst they rustled someone else's cattle (just going by smell here), wondering how on Earth you can raise a kid to be morbidly obese by the time they're, what? Seven? I can't quite tell...

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Secret Meanings Of Dreams (Or Why You Shouldn't Eat Cheese Before Bedtime)

It looks like even the earnest flowery 'Interpret the Meanings of Your Dreams' books and websites are trying to get with the times. Or at least keep their source material relevant enough to maintain the rate of crystal sales.

A few years ago there would never have been any mention of what it means when you dream about zombies - not so much as a passing reference - leaving those of us who had seen Dawn of the Dead without any way to work out what our subconscious was trying to tell us.
Apart from 'have a zombie survival plan' of course.

Now you can find online dream dictionaries and the like that tell you that dreaming of zombies means that 'parts of your greater self are stalking you'*, whilst others suggest that it means that someone might be threatening you in real life 'emotionally, mentally or physically'**. Oh, and if you dream that you are a zombie it means you are 'not in touch with your humanity, compassion, feelings etc'***.
The bit where you are terrified of being ripped to pieces and communally devoured like a large dish of paella isn't addressed in the various entries for 'zombie'. You have to look at entries for 'cannibalism' for any hint of what the consumption of flesh might signify****.

Unfortunately these illuminating guides to the collective human psyche still dwell heavily on the meaning of individual symbols without giving you any clue as to how to combine and interpret them as a whole.
If waterfalls indicate 'goals and desires' and a unicorn means 'high ideals, hope and insight' does a dream about a unicorn by a waterfall mean that you've had an insight about your dreams and hopes or is your idealist unicorn thirsty for direction?
What if you barely notice either of them because you're too busy running from zombies?
The nerd in me wants a point-based scoring system where zombies are clearly trumped by monster trucks which therefore dictate the overall message of any dream that features both*****.

So despite having access to this new information I am still unable to determine which parts of my greater self are stalking me when I dream that I'm hiding in a butcher's shop while zombies rage around looking for meat and whether this reveals a self-destructive streak or a more than healthy dose of stupid.
And I've got even less to go on with the dream that starred a bungee-jumping Indiana Jones-esque sheep!

Maybe I should just stop eating so late at night.
Or start drinking less.
Or more.
Or possibly just accept that my dreams are crazy goobaloo nonsense and that I can't apply blanket or standardised interpretations to every item or event.

But seriously, if anyone could explain the dream with the bungee-jumping sheep that'd be awesome.



*Whatever that means!
**Thanks for the vague warning, I'll get right on that.
***Sociopaths Anonymous: Your membership card is in the mail.
****You are concerned about exploitation and submission/domination apparently. Nothing to do with being eaten alive at all. That'd be too simple.
*****That you should go out and commandeer a monster truck and mow down zombies!

Additional: Sure I could link to various dream dictionary websites but imagining hapless folk searching the interwebs randomly for dream interpreters and analysers is so much more rewarding.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Back In My Day...

The world is changing at such a rate that we've become old fogies decades ahead of schedule.

You start talking about something with someone else anywhere near their mid twenties and at some point or another you might accidentally use that type of phrase. You know the one.
  • You can remember when petrol cost 60 cents a litre (or your local equivalent).
  • You can remember when the milkman used to deliver glass bottles of milk to the door.
  • You can remember when the internet was empty and boring.
  • When you were a kid there were no mobile phones, handsets were still shackled to the wall and when someone couldn't contact you by phone they assumed you were just out instead of dead.
  • When you did assignments at school we had to look in books and encyclopedias, there were very few electronic journals/books and no such thing as Wikipedia*.

You see!?

I can honestly remember saying to a friend something like "Pfft, these DVD things are never going to take off. What is everybody going to do? Get rid of all their VHS?"

*coff coff* Yes, well we all make mistakes. Nostradamus I am not.

I expect to be completely confused by the changing technology years before my 82-year old grandmother was and to have to ask younger relatives to give me a hand with my visual medium recorder** well before my mother had to.

See how advanced we are?
We're moving so fast my knowledge has become obsolete before I've even gotten to my midlife crisis!
And by the time I do I probably won't know how to operate my shiny new car!


*That bastion of reliability and truth
**I'm not going to date myself by naming the recording medium

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Hey, Did I Leave A Blog Post Around Here? It's About This Big...

It's no picnic being absent-minded.


Sure you get a decent amount of exercise as you wander endlessly through the house trying to remember where you were going and why but there are drawbacks as well.


CONS
  • Self-Inflicted Social Alienation
  1. Step One. Almost give yourself heart failure when you get back to your car and realise that the laptop you had carefully camouflaged with environmentally friendly shopping bags is gone.
  2. Step Two. Scare the crap out of a small child and his unamused mother as you start to swear like a sailor and perform a frantic little dance whilst trying to work out how anyone managed to steal anything from a locked car.
  3. Step Three. Finally remember that you stopped off home before going to the shops and your laptop is safely there and have to come down off an adrenaline high as those around you try to decide whether you are epileptic, schizophrenic or have Tourette's before they finally settle on 'you're just a weirdo'.

  • Outing Yourself as Pants-On-Head-Retarded*

    "Holy crap..."
    "What?"
    "Holy crap!"
    "What? What is it!?"
    "I can't find my phone! It's not in any of my pockets or my bag! It's just not there! It's gone!"
    "Oooooooooooookay, then what are you talking to me on?"
    "What? I... Oh. Oh right. Heh."

  • You Always Assume You've Forgotten Something
  1. This may sound helpful but means that you end up looking for things on the off chance you might remenmber what they are when you see them.
  2. You will check that you've locked the front door three times before you leave the house because your short term memory always cuts out halfway down the stairs/driveway/street.
  3. You will realise that you were right and you did forget something but this will happen when you're either halfway to your destination or have arrived and it is too late to do anything about it.


Though to be fair there are some definite advantages.


PROS


  • Being Forgetful Could Be Mistaken For Existential Philosophy And Net You Some Hot But Pretentious Party Booty

    "Why am I here?
    "What am I looking for?"
    "Where am I meant to be?"

  • It Cuts You Some Slack For Being An Inconsiderate Ass-Hat

    "Oi! Where are you?"
    "Um, at home watching The Mighty Boosh. Where are you?"
    "I'm down at the pub where you're supposed to be."
    "What!?"
    "You said you'd meet me at the pub at 7pm on Friday."
    "... Is it Friday?"
    "Oh for the love of- *sigh* Are you coming now?"
    "Yeah, gimme 10 minutes."
    "Bye."

  • You Probably Won't Notice When You Actually Start To Lose Your Marbles
  1. Slip further and further into good natured befuddlement.
  2. Get quite excited when the nurses take it in turns to explain that you are actually Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Hugh Heffner or Evil Knievel.
  3. Believe them implicitly when they tell you that you're "going home" and quite enjoy the slide show of green fields and waterfalls and the like until the spiked drink kicks in and you get sent off to the Soylent Corporation.


And of course if you completely forget what you'd been planning to write about this week you can always write about having a mind like a sieve and hope that anyone reading this does as well so they won't notice when you do it again a few months down the track.



*Oh Yahtzee, you visionary poet!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

What Do You Mean They Don't Have To Make Sense?

Despite the fact we are all well aware that the advertising industry is a seething pit of con artists and shysters there are some bits near the edge of the pit, the ‘shallow end’ if you will, where the small time or slightly slow advertisers dwell.

There’s a carwash in my home town which I won’t name* which sends me off into a spiel every time I see it.
The sign above the carwash depicts a small pod of dolphins energetically leaping out of foaming waves.

There are few things that weird me out about this:
  1. The town is two hours inland.
  2. Unless the dolphins want to face-plant on the beach, why are they leaping forwards out of crashing waves?
  3. The hell do dolphins have to do with cars? Does anyone ever see a dolphin and think wax polish? And if they do… ick.
  4. Either the dolphins are leaping about in soapy fresh water (bad for the dolphins) or the carwash appears to be suggesting that you wash your car in salt water (bad for your car) Does anyone else remember that cartoon where Goofy/Donald Duck backing his boat and car into the ocean? I rest my case**

The number of people who are actually willing to let me wax poetical about this topic (few) and those who haven’t heard it at least once before (even fewer) always try to reason with me.

“It’s a sign for a carwash. It isn’t a scientific treatise***” they say, “So Sammy Signwriter isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed! It got your attention didn’t it?”

Yes, I reply, it did get my attention but in a way that makes me worry about their facilities and/or what they do to dolphins in their spare time. I’m certainly never going to patronise their carwash.

“I’m sure they’d be devastated to learn they’ve lost one crazy person’s business… You don’t even have a car!”

That’s not the point. It’s a matter of principal.

“Sure not taking the car you don’t have to a particular carwash is a matter of principal. Say does someone already have your power of attorney?”

I’m already leaving you my CDs imaginary composite of everyone I know, don’t get greedy.

Fair enough, Sammy Signwriter probably isn’t running with the big boys of the advertising world and possibly there are those less OCD than I who, once their attention is caught, forget about the dolphins and focus on sluicing down their cars who love that sign. I guess what I’m more worried about is what advertising is doing to the way we think

Someone I met recently works for an insurance company (but I forgive them) which ran a light-hearted ad about a family building a new house and the little daughter being downcast to find a brick wall behind the door where her new bedroom should be.

They had been expecting a few calls from the usual overexcited people accusing them of child abuse for putting such a broken-hearted look on the little girl’s face but what they hadn’t been expecting was the flood of other complaints.

People calling up to say that the little girl was too ugly to be on TV and asking what the insurance company intended to do about this.

So after years of bemoaning the overly pretty and slim folk with uncomplicated lives or speed-freak levels of energy pedalling our consumer faff to us we’ve come to this.

Go home little girl.

You’re too ugly to be on TV.

Worries me, it really does.

But if you’ll excuse me I’m off to pay some of the local ne’er-do-wells to spray paint ‘SAVE THE DOLPHINS’ on a certain carwash. They’ve already got the spray paint and if they get caught at least they’ll be able to plead ecological conscience and the passion of youth as a defence.

And I’ll be able to deny everything as long as everyone I’ve ever met can keep their mouths shut.


*I can’t remember what it’s called.

**Stay tuned for my post on how we should be using that invisible paint on our heavy artillery equipment in Afghanistan and Iraq.

***They didn't actually say treatise but I wanted to make them look good for the internets.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

A Moment's Grace

I got lost in my own fairytale.
I followed all the rules but I was running late.
I adorned my hair with faerie blooms, held forth soft light in my eyes and walked with an angel's tread but the revels had already started.
The prince's eye fell elsewhere and far less steady.
I found myself useful rather than ethereal.
A hand offered and ignored whilst around me all others took their place in the story.
Even my mother lay in sheets of vivid red, spelled to ever sleep, murmuring a request for a restoring cup when stirred but blissfully unaware of her predicament.
So I gave up.
I accepted.
I embraced my invisibility and helped myself to the dessert table.
And watched as the prince and his chosen princess slowly broke each other's hearts.
Whilst I ate cake and made my mother a cup of tea.