Sunday, January 27, 2013

back to the future

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, 'Who's on First?' might have turned out something like this:
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO : Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
COSTELLO : No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT : Your computer?
COSTELLO : I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT : What about Windows?
COSTELLO : Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT : Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO : I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT : Wallpaper.
COSTELLO : Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT : Software for Windows?
COSTELLO : No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT : Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT : I just did.
COSTELLO : You just did what?
ABBOTT : Recommend something.
COSTELLO : You recommended something?
COSTELLO : For my office?
COSTELLO : OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT : Office.
COSTELLO : Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT : I recommend Office with Windows.
COSTELLO : I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal.  What do I need?
ABBOTT : Word.
COSTELLO : What word?
ABBOTT : Word in Office.
COSTELLO : The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT : The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO : Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT : The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.
COSTELLO : I'm going to click your blue 'w' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO : That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT : Money.
COSTELLO : I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT : It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO : What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT : Money.
COSTELLO : Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT : Yes. No extra charge.
COSTELLO : I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT : One copy.
COSTELLO : Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT : Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO : They can give you a license to copy money?
(A few days later...)
ABBOTT : Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO : How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT : Click on 'START'.............

the evils of demon drink

“If you love me you will go up to the local shop and buy some cream so I can have a pina colada…”

I went anyway. [just kidding]

Went into the shop and blindly [spectacleless] forked over an arm and a leg for the last bottle of cream in their fridge.

TO had her pina colada. In order that she might enjoy it I refrained from sharing the image in my head of cream curdling in a bath of acidic pineapple juice.

At 4 am I wakened to the sound of the most awful groans coming from the euphemism [bathroom].

“Do you need a bucket?” asked I solicitously.

“Yes please.”

Off I pops downstairs only to realise, halfway to the laundry, that my social ladder was full to overflowing and detoured towards the downstairs euphemism. “If a bean is a bean, what’s a pee?” my grandmother’s voice echoed in my head.
The answer, of course, is “a relief” – exactly what I felt as I used the euphemism. Mid-stream, I heard an almighty thump. It occurred to me that something awful had happened in the upstairs euphemism, but felt I had no choice but to continue the task at hand before investigating.

Free at last, upstairs I went without a bucket, only to find TO passed out on the euphemism floor. I gazed with concern at my soulmate lying there. She was breathing and had a pulse. What to do next? Sit her up? Get her back into bed?

She is not tall. How not tall is she? She is shorter, even, than I.
…Yep, that short!
How heavy is she? She is a healthy weight. A much healthier weight than I. Did I attempt to lift or move her? No. I thoughtfully put a fresh towel under her head and went back downstairs to find a bucket, hoping that by the time I returned she would have recovered.

Sure enough, by the time I returned she was staggering but mobile. A lump the size of an egg was apparent over her left eye. I persuaded her to relocate to the downstairs guest room – she would need bed rest and as I planned to go to work that day, she needed to be downstairs so Aunty could nurse her.

I was running a bit late for work that morning, and gave Aunty a business card, asking her to ring my new workplace and let them know I would be a little late.
After arriving and doing the most important just-arrived-at-work task – i.e. making lattes all round on the biggest, butchest looking commercial sized espresso machine you ever did see –related the story of things that go thump in the night.

Ever the problem solver [as if coffee connoisseur is not enough], the top boss suggested we put a seat belt on the toilet. “You must stay sitting when you are shitting” he warned gravely. “Shitting is a very serious business, you know.”
He even volunteered to write to the government suggesting they pass a law making it illegal not to have a seat belt on the toilet. He was sure the government would leap at the opportunity to create a new regulation.
[Never let it be said that toilet humour cannot be witty, or at least segue into political commentary.]

At approximately 2.30 pm on the day in question I answered the phone using my best, 25 year old blonde bimbo receptionist voice. The caller was Aunty explaining that she had been in the kitchen and heard a very loud thump. Considering Aunty is as deaf as a post, the thump must have been loud indeed.

TO, she said, had passed out on the euphemism floor, and she did not know what to do. “I can’t lift her,” Aunty said, sounding rather distressed.
I suggested she call an ambulance and, when they had arrived, ask one of the ambos to talk with me on the phone.
Aunty rang back a few minutes later to say TO had told her not to call an ambulance.

I said I would be home as soon as practical given the time and distance involved.

Arrived home to find TO fast asleep in the guest bed. The door handle had pushed a massive hole in the euphemism wall when TO fell. The floor, in turn, had pushed something close to a massive hole in TO’s head.

Fainting results when one has a stressful bowel movement because all of the body’s fluid rushes to the affected area. This is why infant mortality rates are so appalling in third world countries where clean water is in short supply – the infants are not dehydrated for lack of something to drink but because what they do drink is inadequate to compensate for what is lost as a result of drinking tainted water. [That’s not very well explained, but I think you will be able to nut out my meaning.]

TO was frightfully dehydrated, but not still being unconscious on the floor it was hard to justify calling an ambulance, and it was too late to take her to the local GP clinic for an hour or two on an IV drip.

Like all good health workers, she waited til four days after the last gastro symptoms before returning to work, but only lasted an hour on the job before being sent home.

Doctors doubt that the cream being three days past its use by date would cause such severe gastric “issues”; in fact they suggest she has been harbouring “super-bug” germs for some time and the cream just hastened the inevitable.

She’s still seedy and faint a week and a half later, and until a few days ago had cuts and bruises on her face suggesting a night “on the tiles” – or at the very least on some gravelly footpath after a night on the town.

I hope she is back to normal soon. I’m waiting for the right time to offer her a pina colada and see if she groans.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

not everyone likes dick

Dick Smith is not a happy little vegemite. An ad designed as an Australia Day promotion of Dick Smith food products has been rated PG, which means it can’t be shown in peak timeslots.

Offensive? Well, it certainly will be once the new anti-discrimination act gets the nod, and for many reasons, but even before that happens… wot do you think of the ad?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

so far… not too sure

Yay! Peninsula link opened this morning. Which way should I go? Our house is more or less an equal distance from Penlink and the old Frankston Fwy. Turning left is easier, so I turned left and headed along the Cranbourne-Frankston road to take the Frankston Fwy.
Surely Penlink would be crowded with drivers keen to lose their Penlink virginity?

At 6.15 am the corner of C-F Road and McMahons road [Moorooduc Hwy] was so deserted it was weird. No queuing required to turn on to the FKN Fwy. No right lane hogging required on the Fwy, as hardly any traffic was coming down the on-ramps. Hardly any traffic on EastLink before the Penlink interchange.

If I heard the ABC announcer correctly, traffic was not in short supply because everyone was on Penlink – au contraire, traffic was in short supply because the north bound lanes did not open til after I had passed the interchange.
Eastlink and then the Eastern Fwy were both quiet. I got to work in 1 hour and 5 mins. Perhaps my watch was eating magic mushrooms? Maybe there won’t be much traffic til after the Australia Day weekend?


I left Thomastown for the return journey at 4.00
The Eastern Fwy was a carpark from Chandler Hwy, right through to the first few sections of Eastlink, where the tolls are.

At some point the signs advising how many minutes to subsequent exits showed it was only 19 minutes to the Frankston Fwy. There was a red line [red being a don’t bother sort of colour] on the sign from Thompsons Rd on. Overhead signs advised there had been an “incident on Penlink” and that we should “expect delays”.

I took the Thompsons Rd exit, giving myself a pat on the back for being in the left lane and able to escape the stalled traffic a few hundred metres further on. Thompsons Rd took me past the worst of it, then led me back on to the FKN Fwy. The lanes heading to Portsea [via Penlink] were strangely uncluttered.
Perhaps I had been eating magic mushrooms myself?

At Kananook Railway Station I took the North Frankston exit [just before Skye Rd]. Traffic has often been banked up from Kananook to the Cranbourne Frankston Rd, and weaving through local traffic is probably no quicker but definitely less frustrating than crawling along a freeway. From Beach Street I saw the traffic jam beginning at Kananook had evaporated and that I could have stayed on the FKN Fwy to the bitter end, after all.

Stuck in Beach Street I plodded along, coming to a messy halt where the roundabout is being re-somethinged. As it was re-somethinged only about a year ago, I hope “they” will find some way to deal with the traffic that builds up waiting to get onto the Cranbourne-Frankston Rd.

Finally got onto the C-F Rd, grateful I was only 3 minutes from home. Well, it would have been only 3 minutes if the traffic had been moving. I suspect a lot of Langwarrin residents were spewing. I sensed some kind of mass disappointment in the air: Penlink was going to change our lives forever. Struggling to move along the C-F Rd was hardly the change anyone was looking for. Maybe the C-F Rd was just incident affected?
I hope that was the reason but, if so, I hope there are not too many incidents ahead.

Friday, January 11, 2013

should they pay the ferryman?***

At 45 seconds you can hear how a fair dinkum Aussie says "focaccia" 

Thursday morning B1 rang and said “will bread rolls and some ham be okay?”
“Oh,” sez I, “you were going to ring on Monday and tell me what day you were coming for lunch. We’re all on our way to the hairdresser’s in Mornington.”
“Oh,” replied my big brother. “What street is the hairdresser in, we can meet you there?”.

TO had “had her roots done” last week, but Aunty and I were still in desperate need of a haircut each. B1 and his lovely wee wifey M arrived just as Aunty and I were coughing up for our new coifs, and in no time at all we were seated around a table at Kirks* for a lovely lunch by the sea.

Towards the end of the lunch, B1 enquired about the Sorrento ferry. B1 and M live in Sydney, but young Liam [see FruitCake’s dazzling portrait] and his parents live in Gisborne, across the bay and far far away.
Wee wifey M put her head down into her hand and groaned quietly at the mention of a ferry. She is not a seafarer, it seems.

We all as one [wee wifey excepted] swivelled our heads to look out on to the relatively calm waters of Port Phillip Bay. Well, the whitecaps were small-ISH. And we were not in the middle of a heatwave even though the sun was shining.

“I promise you,” I promised wee M, “you’ll be fine. If TO can cross on the ferry without being sick, anyone can.”

50 years ago TO was a Sea Ranger. She has been a mad keen fisherperson more than 50 years. She still loves nothing more than to climb into a dinghy sized boat and go a few miles out to catch snapper or flathead – so long as the Bay is glassy calm, the tide is right, the moon is right and the wind is not blowing.

“Gosh,” I assured M, “TO and I were heading across to Tassie on the ferry, and she took a whole packet of Phenergan and 3 gross of motion sickness pills. We were fine for an hour or two until the ferry reached the heads, dipping its toe into the treacherous waters of Bass Strait.** The hull moved up about half an inch then dropped down again. TO sat bolt upright in her bunk, eyes wide open demanding, in a slightly forceful tone, I tell her WHAT’S HAPPENING?

If TO can take the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff without being sick, anyone can.”

Wee wifey M still looked pale and unconvinced.

“Seriously”, I continued. “TO has told me many times about how rough it was the first time she crossed the Irish Sea…”

“How rough was it?” you would ask if you were listening on Skype rather than merely reading a blog.

“She says it was so rough, even the nuns were throwing up.”

I know, I know. You are wondering, as I often do, why the inability of nuns to hold on to their tucker should be an indicator of how rough the sea is. Has it something to do with casting bread upon waters? Were they simply scattering berley as part of the fishers of men bizzo? Or is it something they don't make a habit of?

When TO and I finally made a trip across the Irish Sea together, it was a tad choppy but there was nothing remotely like a swell happening, or even a large-ISH wave. As TO sat at a table in the ferry's bar, groaning and greening with her head in her hands, she looked up and realised I was filming.

“Turn that off!” she had snapped, a tad disappointed to see me filming her attack of mal de mer. Or perhaps disappointed that I was laughing while filming.

I kept the camera rolling, and panned across to where some drunk was nonchalantly walking while using one hand to balance a tray with half a dozen pints of Guinness on it, not spilling a drop.

If I had started to hum My Breakfast Lies Over the Ocean while filming this was not to be cruel but only because my indie doco was in need of a sound track.
But I digress.

“By recommending the Sorrento to Queenscliff ferry I’m not dismissing your dislike of the water,” I assured wee wifey M. “Things that are all in the mind are very powerful, I know. Why I once saw a very Samoan friend turn green standing at the end of a jetty over the Burnett River….When the tide was turning.”

The Sorrento to Queenscliff ferry is not overly cheap, but what you save in road tolls, time, petrol and stress more than make up for the cost. And if you are on holidays or simply having a day out it’s a lovely drive. Along what is only a narrow-ISH winding-ISH road.


*Kirks gets mixed reviews. It always seems packed at night time, but Mornington is a village sized… well, village… that attracts city sized crowds in beach season, so packed makes sense.
It was relatively busy at lunch but we had no trouble getting a table. I was excited to find a pasta dish that didn’t have carbonara or pesto in it. [Pumpkin and parmesan ravioli with a sage type sauce thingy. V nice.]
The menu choices didn’t seem overly cheap, but plenty of pubs in Melbourne suburbs charge the same prices for horse-sized portions of much less imaginative grub. 
The service was pleasant and, because it was a get-together lunch we were not in a hurry. At least the meals arrived together.

**Well, this is not exactly how I put it, but the substance is true

***Here's a link just in case you would like to revisit Who Pay's the Ferryman's theme

Thursday, January 10, 2013

feeling disconnected

This Cobb cartoon appeared around the same time as countries, states and cities around the world first started declaring themselves “nuclear free” zones.* 

There was another Cobb cartoon in which some character with zonked out eyes was complaining he’d been watching TV for 24 hours straight and was yet to see one good program.

It’s not TV these days but the ‘net that sometimes leaves me feeling something’s missing in my life. If I’m away from home and don’t have access to the ‘net, every 30 minutes someone says “I’ll have to google that”. Of course, one instantly forgets what is so googlable, because one is unable to instantly google it and therefore commit the googlings to memory.

Maybe we need paper pads with the heading “List of things to Google”.

Another cause these days of the sort of “lost” feeling illustrated so well by Cobb above  is sitting in front of a pc, ‘net ready, and thinking “I wonder what I should search for?” It’s a digital form of writer’s block.

I’m only telling you this because I have an overwhelming urge to do something digital but am uncertain about what. [And you in the corner… yes you, young man… you know who you are… stop sniggering please.]

*such declarations being about as effective as declarations that by the year 2000 no child would be living in poverty, or that we are working to close the gap between whitefella and indigenous Australia. You know the sort of thing... it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy for a very brief moment only, until you realised you've just peed your pants.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

mind over matter

Eight people were trapped for more than an hour today when this ride, at a theme park on the Gold Coast, came to a grinding halt. Later in the day it stopped again but “only” for half an hour.

Some kid will go back to school and write a gripping essay called "My Holidays".

Of course, when I say “mind over matter” I’m referring to having my head way higher than my lunch. Well, that’s what happened in 1967 when I looked at the scenic railway from outside Luna Park.

the plat that’s a hat

HealesvilleSanctuary is one of my top five places to take visitors from interstate or overseas. Healesville has now added the Ornithorhynchus anatinus to it’s list of feature animals.

I only mention this because today The Hun* published a picture that made me go “aw shucks, paw!”.

It’s not only a cute photo, but it gives a pretty good indication of just how tiny a platypus is. Presumably the plat that’s a hat in the photo above is a female, as the male has a poisonous spur on each of its hind legs.

Platypi are very hard to spot in the wild, and sometimes even hard to see in zoo tanks. 
Like their cousins the echidnas they are monotremes – egg laying mammals.

The following clip is a tad long if you’ve got a lot of blogs to visit, but the story teller is very engaging, and is standing in a spot that shows you the platypus’ ideal habitat.
This is an Aboriginal Myth with a very nice moral to it.

*The Hun – local name for the Herald Sun newspaper, known for its right wing columnists.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

don’t think about kangaroos

Prince Charles is worried. Legislation is about to go before the UK parliament which will do two things:
  1. Change the laws of succession so the throne [and other titles] will pass to the first born child regardless of gender, and
  2. Allow the monarch to marry a Roman Catholic

I can’t find anything to explain what his problem is with abolishing primogeniture. I certainly can’t imagine what his problem might be. If it’s okay for his mum to be a monarch, why not a granddaughter?

Historically speaking, inheritance rules have always been about property, and Charles’ objections just seem to be more of the same.

If Wikipedia is right, this is Charles’ title
His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty*

We know the Duchy of Cornwall makes him filthy rich, and heaven knows what else he owns in amongst all that lot above. His brothers and sons also have decent titles that presumably come with property

Princess Anne’s title is Princess Royal. The only special treatment she gets, as far as I can see, is protection under a statute of 1351: This means if any bloke slept with her before she was married he committed an act of treason punishable by death.

No wonder she behaved like a grumpy bum anarchist as a teenager.

[*Honestly. It’s no surprise a country with a Privy Council would be ruled by someone who sits on a Throne.]

Charles’ objection to the Roman Catholic thingy almost makes sense – if you look at it from his point of view. The monarch of England is supposed to be the “defender of the faith”.
I suspect Lizzie believes in God and takes her role as defender seriously. But she has about as much power over the Anglican Church as she does over the parliament. Less, even.

God forbid one of Charles’ grandkids marries a papist and this leads to Charles’ great-grandkids being raised as papists. There would be something of a conflict of interest between being Catholic and being Defender of the Anglican Faith.

It makes sense that women can be Vicars of villages like Dibley but can’t be Bishops. After all, the area controlled by a Bishop is a Bishopric. The female version of Bishopric would not sound very holy at all.

The Anglican Church is going to lift its ban on gay men being bishops, so long as they remain celibate.
Traditionally, celibacy was about not being married. It came to be assumed that unmarried clergy would, because they are not married, abstain from and not even think about sex. Personally, I think telling people not to think about sex would be as effective as saying don’t think about kangaroos.

What Charles is really worried about seems to be, in summary, that the King/Queen is supposed to defend a faith that thinks women should stay below a glass ceiling, and that gay men should not think about sex. A Roman Catholic King or Queen could not be so liberal. Gosh, Roman Catholics are not even supposed to be root rats, cheat on their spouse or get divorced. I'm sure they could not go round wishing they were tampons.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


We went to see Quartet this arvo.

Is it interesting that the first film directed by Dustin Hoffman is an English film?

What often makes English films disappointing is the sound. It can be very uneven. I don’t know how many English films have won a best sound Oscar, but maybe there should be a Most Improved Sound in an English Film award.

At home Aunty uses some hi tech wi fi hearing gizmo she bought from a hearing aid specialist. This means we can all watch TV together and all hear what’s happening without anyone suffering noise pains.

Uneven sound isn’t usually a problem in a cinema where the volume is so loud my ears often bleed, but about 20 minutes into the story I realised just how hard I was focusing to pick up some of the dialogue and I wondered if Aunty was hearing any of the dialogue at all. The answer is that she’ll have to wait for the DVD to catch the good bits. She loved the music.

The story is about a home for retired musicians. The music is absolutely fantastic if you like opera, which I do. Well, okay, I’m a bit of a music slut, really. Any genre will do. [Well, almost any genre.] There’s also a wee bit of Gilbert & Sullivan with just a soupcon of music hall thrown in as well.
I know it’s a well made story because nothing is harder than fighting the urge to lean back, close the eyes and give in to good music, but I managed to stay awake.

English movies can be very good at exploring human issues in a positive way without being uncomfortably earnest. This is a story that works because it’s not a film about ageing so much as a film about several older people coming to grips with their own age and perception of decline as a process.

It's advertised as a comedy but this is typical marketing bollocks. The Life of Brian is a Comedy. Quartet is a very good drama with quite a few laughs in it - a completely different creature altogether. 

It was interesting to see Billy Connolly play a proper dramatic role. It takes a while for the story to unfold, and the script/Dustin have made good use of Connolly’s naturally amusing personality to keep up some momentum til all the characters come together. It works without being distracting.

Pauline Collins is incredibly good in this. Her usually ‘cheerful’ face isn’t quite so relentlessly cheerful, and in this case her cheerfulness fits well anyway.

How could I ask “who’s Tom Courtenay?” Because, from a quick peek at imdb, it seems I’ve missed some good films with Tom Courtenay in them. He’s awfully good in Quartet.

With the exception of one or two moments, Maggie Smith gets to not be Maggie Smith in Quartet. While she does do the withering look and sardonic comment thing well, she is capable of so much more, and in this film she gets to show some depth again.

Michael Gambon? Irritating. It’s not him, it’s the part… I think.

Someone somewhere compared this movie with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but my goodness, will Best Exotic become the benchmark for every movie featuring older people? I hope not. Quartet is infinitely better in many ways.

vroom vroom

Any advice would be welcome, please :)

Currently driving the purple hurtle i.e. Hyundai excel auto w 1.3L motor which has served me well, until just over a month ago when two things happened:
a) I finally found a job but it means driving from Frankston to Thomastown and back each day, and
b) coming home one night it kindly waited til I drove into our court before crapping out completely [killed me trying to push it into the kerb with no power steering working, let me tell you]

It was always gutless but for just going to shops this didn’t matter. Now, even with a new alternator etc it’s got less oomph than ever which is to say even just merging into 80 kph traffic is a tad dangerous.

With a budget of $10,000 tops, what would you be looking for? Any recommendations as to miles on the clock, makes or models to avoid?
I’m thinking an auto about 3 L size would be a lot safer on freeways than the paper bag I currently risk my life in.
Plus driving without cruise control is exhausting especially on eastlink with all those vicious and unforgiving speed cameras.
I’m no hoon but it’s hard keeping a speedo under 103 for a whole hour without giving up and just sitting on 90 thus precipitating a million cases of road rage and probably being indirectly responsible for a good deal of domestic violence or at least excessive alcohol intake.

What’s the story with car dealers and trade-ins? The purple hurtle is insured for $2,000 but of course since moving to melb it’s been rammed, side-swiped and dented, [not by me – I cause accidents but don’t have them] - will soon need new tyres, and I’m not sure I could be bothered “detailing” it. Personally I reckon it’s worth the rego refund. Is using it as a trade-in really going to have much impact on the final price a dealer asks for a newer car?

If anyone out there has had to buy a car with such a small budget recently, perhaps you could suggest whether it’s best to look for a private seller or just go to a dealer? Does Granny Davis still sell cars?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

levon helm; james lee burke

Levon Helm & Sheryl Crow - Evangeline

LEVON HELM 1940 - 2012

James Lee Burke

I always tell people I’m not a great fan of fiction but that’s not strictly true. Perhaps what I really mean is that I’m not a great fan of what some would call literary fiction.

My type of fiction is yer typical US crime novel, the sort of story that has ‘place’ as a character, and offers interesting moral dilemmas. But wait – there’s more: How about a peep into different communities we’re unlikely to ever visit, each with their own belief sets, social divides and power structures?

The Tin Roof Blowdown, the first of James Lee Burke’s books I’ve ever read, is set in New Orleans during the arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. [Was it really that long ago?]

News reports at the time showed us people trying to find shelter, and showed the widespread destruction Katrina caused. We heard reports of how ill prepared the city/state/country was for a disaster like this, and we heard how early warnings to evacuate were totally useless for poorer people with no cars, no money for transport, or who had no money to stock up on food.
Burke’s book is quite atmospheric, and goes much deeper than news reports could, offering a lot of insights into what it must have been like to live in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

As well as the Katrina story, TTRB provides traditional criminal twists and turns – not so much who-dunits in the Agatha Christie style as why-dunits, how-dunits and who might-doits.

Burke’s writing is not just entertaining, it’s above average good. Just one thing I like in a book is reading a passage and having a “Yeah” moment, or thinking “I really like the way he said that”.
Here’s one of those ‘way that he said it’ moments from TTRB:

Actually I think Sidney had a peculiar kind of secular theology at work in his life that was similar in many ways to those who conflate nationalism and religion and business. For Sidney, “sin” and “failure” and “poverty” were the unholy trinity.

Friday, January 4, 2013

personally, i blame the guvmint

Back in the early 60s, whenever I stayed at my grandmother’s place she would let me watch Zig and Zag on the TV.

The were only two episodes I recall in any detail. One was about how the two clowns helped repair the King? St Bridge after it developed a crack in it. Naturally it was hard work and they had a break half way through and each ate a Peter’s Ice Cream.

In another episode everyone was complaining about the weather, so Zig and Zag decided they could do a better job than the weather bureau. Some people rang up because they wanted to go skiing, and they set the meter to snow. The next call was from someone who wanted to go to the beach for a swim. I guess the moral to this story was that we can’t please everybody. [There have been some wholesome influences in my life.]

My own personal variation on the theme is that I refuse to be satisfied at all – and that’s not just about the weather.

The chill, not the temperature, makes a Melbourne winter a bit hard to take. On the other hand, it’s not much fun in summer having sweat pouring from every pore. Evaporative cooling has its limitations.

As a kid the heat never seemed to bother me because we were always in water. Well, the sunburn bothered me a bit, but not half so much as it will in ten or 15 years’ time when I’m having cancers burnt or cut off my skin all the time.
Once I hit my thirties I stopped going outside at all.

Keeping cool inside during a heatwave was a simple matter of using the bathtub as a plunge pool every 20 minutes or so. The other trick was to hang wet sheets over the screen door, which acted as a type of evaporative cooling system.

Okay, so it’s a bit much for me to wish I could have the temperature steady at 19 C +/- 2 all year round. But seriously, if we can’t please everybody, wouldn’t this be a good compromise?
Everywhere round the world, of course. It’s not just about me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

the learn and earn scam part 3

I’ve commented before on the Labor Party’s move to bring forward the time by which single parents will be shunted on to the pittance known as the dole.

And, okay, it’s a done deed and I’m almost ready to roll over on the issue. I would even go so far as to say the Labor Party’s slogan of “learn or earn” reflects a good idea in principle but even the principle has been abused by this latest appalling con.

Today, the Honorable Jenny Macklin Minister for Families – gosh I feel like I’m channelling Orwell here – stated distinctly and clearly that she could live on the dole. It rolled off her tongue and onto Sky News footage with barely a second’s thought on her part.

Macklin’s office has now released a transcript of the interview in which the words “I could” have been replaced by the word “inaudible”. Perhaps someone in her office has realised this was a transparently idiotic statement that should be buried as quickly as possible. Perhaps they have no contacts at Sky News. Or perhaps they simply don’t have an online subscription to a newspaper and are therefore unable to check what she said.

The traditional costume for Speaker in Australia’s House of Representatives included a horsehair wig.

Archie Cameron, Spkr 1950-1956

The wig might be gone, but the place is still knee deep in horseshit.

Granted, Macklin is not exactly Stalin, but when did re-writing history become okay?

all change, all change, we have now reached the end of the 2012 line

As with armageddon, I fail to understand the significance of New Year’s Day. At best, it means I will spend January, February and March writing the wrong date on everything.

At it’s worst, it means being kept awake til 4 a.m. or thereabouts by neighbours playing what they think is music at increasingly competitive volumes. At midnight there is also a brief increase in noise while some shout in the street, demonstrating that despite living in Frankston they are able to count backwards from ten.

This is actually a welcome respite from the usual street brawls occurring when one of the occupants of a nearby house [choose any house at random] seeks to evict another. Reasons for attempted evictions range from “You *****ing *****ed **** you ***”,       to       “***** you, you *****ing ****”.

The bright people two blocks away do not join in the pyrotechnic activity on New Year’s Eve, preferring to keep their marine flares for the other 51 weekends of the year.

You say you’ve made a resolution
Well, you know
We all want to change ourselves
You tell me that it’s self improvement
Well, you know
We all want to be our best
But when you talk about giving up [insert vice here]
Don’t you know that you can count me out…


Yet another YouTube video mentioning Frankston has gone viral. Last time the press insisted the racist abuse was ‘on the Frankston line’. It was, in fact, perpetrated by some creep from a more eastern suburb who was travelling on the Frankston line but neither to nor from Frankston itself.

The latest shows an incident of gross violence [a tautology, surely] also occurring on the Frankston line. Please note the creep charged was from Chelsea.

The Frankston foreshore, statistically, was the most popular family beach in Victoria, for the calendar year 2012.


Oh, I know I scoff and denigrate Frankston but I am comforted by the knowledge this could not possibly lower house values here. I’m just making cheap use of a stereotype. If I replaced the location names Frankston, Franger or Frankghanistan with placenames like Upotipotpon or Tittybong [real place names, BTW] you would think I was talking about Dad and Dave, wouldn’t you?


On our way home from Corowa yesterday, we dropped one of TO’s relos in Coburg after which I crossed the Sydney Road to drop in on some of my own relos in Brunswick. Having lived most of my citified years in the inner suburbs, revisiting streets and houses and landmarks I have known intimately left me saddened to think of how much it would cost to move back. Sigh, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Coburg [once a suburb named Pentridge and then later simply home to a prison named Pentridge] was my home for a few years. State governments being what they are, there seemed to be a problem keeping gates locked from the inside.

Many times I was awakened at night, not by the sounds of the police choppers swooping rooftops like grumpy magpies, but the bloody bright beams of chopper-lights illuminating the hairs up my nose.

One particularly memorable night I was awakened before the choppers and lights arrived by a very loud explosion 3 houses away over the back fence.

“Oh ****", said a woman, in tones not unlike those one often hears in Frankston. “Oh, now you’ve done it you ****, you’re in real ****ing trouble now. You’ve really ****ing done it this time!”
Some bloke’s only but repeated response was a great deal of loud groaning.

The sounds of ambulance and police sirens added to the yelling and chopping.

Dressed in appropriate evening wear [jimjams and slippers] we went out to watch the entertainment from a distance safe enough to avoid annoying our fearless peacekeepers.

The groaning moaning bloke, it transpired, had tried to rig a bomb to the car of his ex-Mrs but stupidly touched the car himself before leaving the scene of intended crime. One can only hope he was not left handed.

There was no report in the next day’s paper, nor was there any such thing as YouTube nor even, apparently, a Frankston Line involved.

As we wended our way through these inner suburbs yesterday it occurred to me that if Frankstonians migrated to Coburg, perhaps the average IQ in both areas would be elevated.

Oh well. I miss the inner suburbs, but miss the peace and quiet of a country town more.



Mary had a little skirt
With a slit along each side
And everywhere that Mary went
The boys could see her thighs
Mary had another skirt
With a slit right in the front
But she doesn’t wear it very often