Thursday, April 27, 2006

I went to Mardi Gras...

...and I all I picked-up were these lesbians!
On the otherhand, they were absolutely FABULOUS girls - Liz and Penny the salsa dancing cowgirls from Sydney.
Penny is a 78er. Which, for the uninitiated, means she marched in the first mardi gras back in 1978... in the days when it was a protest and fewer people wore nipple-clamps and had their arses hanging out the back of their g-strings.
I think I prefer the sound of the good old days... Police beatings and all.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Not built to renovate

THE home maintenance gene is one I misse d out on.
When God sent my parent’s shopping for my personality traits, he completely left Bunnings off the list of stores to visit.
Everyone else in the family is incredibly practical. It really is just me. For instance, my sister recently threw a dinner party for us all and casually spent the preceding afternoon building a table to seat eight. It was a masterpiece. I, personally, would have only invited enough guests to fit the table.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being handy, it’s just that I’m not. So I’m totally addicted to those reality television shows where they transform dodgy dog-box flats (that look remarkably like mine) into palatial penthouses. Last week I witnessed a couple spend $15,000 on a room full of venetian blinds and mattresses. I couldn’t work out whether it was supposed to be the inside of a Bedouin tent or an elaborate setting for an adult movie.
The room would have been great for a family of narcoleptics, but outside that I couldn’t work out why anyone would spend so much money on blinds and cushions. Give me $15k and see how far I could make it stretch. It could, for instance, feed my World Vision kid for 32 years.
I have an idea for a new reality television show: Couples compete to build the best third world straw hut village with a serviceable well and access to cereal crop technology and health services. The winner is humanity and the prize is a standard of living for the villagers.
But I digress: I’ve been inspired to renovate my own little flat… starting with basics like painting and clearing the junk off the floor to assess what colour the carpet is. I also put new handles on the kitchen cupboards all by myself, which impressed family and friends no end. But generally, my sheer uselessness has meant I’ve had to pay someone to do it all. And that’s racked up the bill.
So far the amount I’ve spent could feed my little Ethiopian for three years. And I have been getting the odd twinge of guilt, thinking about how I’ve used the money. But I know in my heart of hearts little Solomon wouldn’t have been able to eat knowing I was living in a 1980s floor-to-ceiling blanket-beige hell-hole.
I guess this is all about priorities. To some people, $15k on a room is acceptable. To me, it’s ridiculous.
I may not be handy, but I do pride myself on being practical.

Faster, higher, stronger commentary

Printed below is the transcript of the Olympic opening ceremony commentary by Bruce Thatsamazing. (An old column of mine from the Advocate in 2004... it's funny if you can remember the opening ceremony).

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 28th Olympiad here in Athens, birth-place of Oozo… er… the Olympics.
Let’s put paid to the critics who said the venues wouldn’t be ready on time. Have a look at this. The Acropolis. The Parthenon. Mount Olympus. All Olympic venues, all completed well ahead of schedule. Some even in decay.
And the ceremony begins. What have we here? A giant strand of DNA. Not only have the Greeks had time to construct a stadium, they’ve deconstructed the human genome as well. Incredible.
There are little blue pixies flying everywhere. These drugs are great.
And what a wonderful Olympic symbol: a tableau of discus throwers. Harking back to the ancient Olympics. Do we have footage of that? I’m told we don’t. Obviously Channel Seven didn’t have coverage rights back then. That’s a shame.
Oh my Goodness - the Trojan horse! Somebody warn the Athenians. We’re all going to die horribly. Why doesn’t Jacques Rogge do something? Or one of the Gods.
The Gods are all here, too. Betty Cuthbert. Herb Elliot. We worship them all. And there’s Zeus. God of the Gods. Cat in the Hat. Sam I am, green egg and ham.
And now the athletes make their way through the scaffolding and into the stadium. Oh what a marvelous moment of anticipation. What are the athletes wearing? As long as the dive team looks good in their swimming cozies, who cares? Has the local team come dressed in togas? That’d be special.
They’re all here. Ian Thorpe. Grant Hackett. Little Travis Nederpelt. Petria Thomas. Pieter van den Hoogenband. Is he one of ours? Who cares? He is if he wins a medal. We’ll adopt him. Australia’s favourite son. Have the keys to Kirribilli.
And other athletes, too. Some of them aren’t even swimmers. Michael Diamond. Jiana Pittman. Or is she? Maybe not. Hang on… yes she is.
Dawn Fraser: I’m contractually obliged to mention her every fifteen minutes.
Light the cauldron. Athens has taken up Sydney’s challenge. We used a million gallons of water as Cathy Freeman lit a ring of fire. The Greeks have emptied the Agean into the stadium and lit five Olympic rings using a comet. But could the comet win the 400 metres? I don’t think so. The winner is still Sydney. It’s all Greek to me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Blemish Ballet

He told me off for ringing during his ballet lesson.
Why his phone was on is beyond me. Imagine doing your pas de deux with some fragile flower of a ballerina on one hip and your mobile shimmying to the Black Betty ringtone on the other.
But that’s Daniel for you - Nokia tucked in his leg-warmers - ever-raising the bar on what is acceptable in dance class.
I was ringing to invite him around to dinner. I find volunteering to feed students is the single-best way to actually get to see them as during examination time they disappear off the radar completely. Then, come their four-month-long summer recess, you can’t get rid of them.
When Dancing Daniel arrived he still had homework to do. Dance homework isn’t like maths homework – it involves moving the coffee table and rolling up the rug. And after dinner, I was roped-in to help him with it.
(I am willing to provide a note to the teacher to say that the choreography was all his own work).
His class had been asked to create an interpretive dance for assessment. Most students had chosen to dance about fantastically tragic issues like death, suicide, and loss.
“I’m doing a dance about what it is to be a pimple,” he said.
“You’re what?”
“It’s a three-minute interpretive dance about acne.” The Blemish Ballet.
That’s a long time to fill and I wasn’t sure how Daniel would squeeze life out of the subject.
“I’ve just got to get inside the head of a pimple.”
He planned to dance to a voice recording describing the acne lifecycle.
To do this, not only did he borrow one of my old cassettes, he wanted to use my voice for the recording.
All I had was an old Beatles tape, so we recorded over that. Then he practiced his dance to check the length. His pimple had just finished erupting all over my living room and the patronizing-yet-informative dissertation on whiteheads - delivered in a tone common to instructional videos for home appliances - ended on cue. He was frozen in his final tableau, when suddenly, at volume: “We All Live In A Yellow Submarine…”
I suggested he record some silence at the end of the tape.
“Nah. I’ll use it as my exit music,” he said, raising the bar, yet again.

Brolly Wars: It’s umbrellas at 20 paces

ON Friday it rained in the city.
It’s like a cock-fight down on the terrace in winter, you know.
The minute the rain comes down, umbrellas go up. And umbrellas, essentially, are the pedestrian equivalent of the car: They’re a chance to display how much of a man you are, whilst remaining fully clothed and vertical.
The competition is fierce. They come in all shapes and sizes, but any colour other than black and you’re out of the game. The more spokes the better. Mine has 16 and they’re titanium-tipped.
On my walk home a man with a six-spoker eyed me with envy and another, armed with a purple womans’ model hanged his head to avoid eye contact. I am the man.
I skillfully negotiated five bottlenecks caused by bus shelters – the key to success being extending your arm to the heavens so you can get canopy height and thereby pass with ease. A real man doesn’t queue to get by a bus stop.
At one shelter I noticed breaths held as one woman’s umbrella blew inside out. She struggled with it and forced it to fold back. Snap. A broken spoke. I looked at her with the compassion reserved for a one-legged seagull - as if she sought pity for her broken limb.
Instead of throwing her a chip, the man beside her reopened his umbrella, just to shake off excess some water. I thought, ‘I like your style’.
I noticed how the water fairly beaded off my own magnificent model, and drew comfort from the superiority of my brolly - my mahogany shaft being the most marvelous in view at the time.
Then, disaster. A suited fop with a spectacular seven-foot span came marching up the terrace towards me. How could I compete with a canvas force-field large enough to protect a good Catholic family in a blizzard? Worse still, we were going to pass at a bus stop, and he wasn’t budging for anyone.
I went for height. So did he. I went higher. Victory was mine for the taking!
Bang. My ferule hit the bus shelter as he strutted on passed. He knew the game.
I straightened myself and turned to look back at him.
He was looking back at me, too. Smarmy git.
Gracious in defeat, I shouted after him: “It doesn’t count if it came with a plastic table, you know!”

Sunday, April 23, 2006


IF they come at you with a phone book, duck.
It wasn’t terribly helpful, but it was the best advice I could offer at 3.48 on a Saturday morning.
My mates and I had spent the evening celebrating at the pub, but I’d departed for home and the land of nod early. I’d been inhaling my pillow for several hours when Adam’s text message woke me with a start.
Adam: We got pulled over by the cops. Rache got done for drink driving. We’re locked-up.
It had to be a practical joke. So in my hazy reply I made the crack about the phone book. Being hit with the white pages may not leave a bruise, but his ego was black and blue nonetheless. He telephoned.
A: We’re at the Police Station. I’m locked in reception. I don’t know where Racheal is, they’ve taken her away.
B: Bandyup? Don’t waste your one phone call on me, I’m not paying your bail.
A: What are we going to do?
B: Have you got a tin cup?
A: Huh?
B: Rattle it along the bars of your cell to get the guard’s attention. Ask when they’ll release you.
A: Can’t you do something?
B: I’ll buy you some soap-on-a-rope in the morning.
A: It’s not funny Bolton.
B: How about a cake with a file in it?
A: Can you come and get us?
B: They’ll keep you overnight.
A: But I have to work at eight o’clock!
B: Don’t worry, when they find out about this you won’t have a job, any way.
A: But I haven’t been charged, Racheal has. It’s so unfair, we were nearly home, too.
B: Can you hear yourself? And very gallant, by the way, letting her get behind the wheel. Why didn’t you drive?
A: Actually, the cops were going to let me drive her car home, but then I blew 0.1 as well, so they had to bring us both in.
B: Why didn’t you call me from the pub? I would’ve picked you up.
A: We thought we’d be fine.
B: No, you’re fined!
Seriously fined, as it turned out. Rache is looking down the barrel of a $1000 penalty and a three-month suspension. But, silver-linings, they’ve learned some serious life lessons:
1: If you drink and drive you’re not only a bloody idiot, you’re bloody poor and bloody stranded as well.
2: Cops don’t really hit people with phone books, and
3: Your mates will get more mileage out of your humiliation than you’ll get out of your car for the next three months.

Friday, April 14, 2006


The Immigration Sketch

Set A table, a chair, a stack of papers, two books.
Scene A new recruit to the Department of Immigration is given the tour by an old hand.

Official This will be your desk. Officially its nine to five Monday to Friday, but feel free to come and go as you please as long as you do your 12 hours a week.

Recruit 12 hours?

Official Yes, we work pretty hard at the Department of Immigration.

Recruit Well, where do I start?

Official This book is a full list of regulations. It outlines to you what our policy is on any given day of the week. You notice the policy on Mondays and Fridays is simply not to answer the phone, and Wednesday is early closing. We run a roster of our official position on absolutely everything and that changes from person to person. You’ll notice you’ve been colour-coded in red.

Recruit In red, I see.

Official And this book is a ready reckoner of places and situations in which we accept applications from people wishing to migrate to Australia. Basically we only let people in if they can afford to pay or if we have no choice.

Recruit In what situation do we have no choice?

Official Exactly. Now if people claim they can afford to pay you’ll need to see evidence of a bank account that has been active for more than three months, evidence of income, evidence of means of support for the first 10 years they will be in Australia, a bond of $10,000 a fee of $25,000 per applicant, and an affidavit promising they won’t bother Centrelink or Medicare… EVER, no matter how poor or close to death they get.

Recruit What about those who can’t afford to pay?

Official Oh that’s simple. You learn to love these – there is no limit on your imagination. Take for instance a Somali family living in a refugee camp in Uganda.

Recruit Okay.

Official Now how do I put them off migration to Australia?

Recruit Umm, make it too hard for them?

Official Exactly! We request appropriate birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates as well as DNA samples and pap smear results to ensure all people on the application are in fact related. The nearest DNA testing facility is in Kenya, so the idea of a good couple of days walking across the desert dodging bullets and guerrillas normally makes them realise how good they’ve got it in their little camp and changes their mind. If they persist we simply rely on the notoriously dodgy postal service losing the results. By the time they’ve gone through the process several times it’s taken five years and most of the applicants have died of disease, starvation, genocide, or natural attrition.

Recruit What if they’re still alive.

Official That’s easy. For instance we ask the refugees for police clearances. These are totally impossible to get for people in illegal asylum in a third country because, of course, they would be shot if the police knew they were there.

Recruit How do we put them off if they are not refugees and get to the final stage of processing.

Official It’s as simple as rejecting their claim on an obscure administrative point and sending them off to the confusing and expensive world of the appeals tribunal. Feel free to use your initiative and misunderstand anything that might be useful, as long as they descend into the appeals abyss, it doesn’t matter. But you’ll mainly be processing refugee claims. Basically there are only two things to remember in this particular area of the Department of Immigration. The first is we tell the whites they are not black enough to be convincing refugees. In truth white people don’t look like refugees and we certainly can’t put them in detention centres – there’d be an outcry. People are happy to go to the zoo and look at monkeys and apes, but they don’t want to see someone who looks like nice Mrs Thomas from number 47.

Recruit What’s the second thing?

Official We let the blacks believe that the White Australia Policy is still in place and unfortunately they aren’t allowed in. We tell the same thing to Vietnamese, Chinese and Indonesians and anyone from the subcontinent or Middle East. Got it?

Recruit I think so.

Official Where were you before you got the job here.

Recruit I was at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Official Oh I am sorry.

Recruit No, no. Don’t apologise.

Official Well I’m sure you’ll fit in fine. Just remember the golden rule

Recruit The golden rule?

Official Yes. Don’t let anyone in.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

This Is What It's Really Like Being A Journalist

You don’t see Make-A-Wish Foundation kids at council meetings. Think about it.
I certainly did as I spent another perfectly good Tuesday night on the back-benches behind the finest minds my allotted local government has to offer.
Between drifting in and out of unconsciousness, clock-watching, shaking my head in disbelief and doodling on the big WALGA desk calendar, I began to do some maths.
I started out in this crazy career in March of 2000 and in that time I’ve covered four councils. By my calculations I’ve done one full term as a local government councillor.
In fact, I estimate I’ve spent 254 hours in council meetings.
I’d say about 100 of those hours were spent listening to our civic fathers debate standing orders rather than the actual agenda item. I know them better than they do. Actually, I would suggest I have a better grasp on the Local Government Act 1995 than they do.
I reckon about another 50 hours were spent listening to residents whinge troublemaker’s question time. Things would be different if I was mayor.
Resident: The proposed extension overshadows my yard and they can see right into my bedroom.
Mayor Hatch: Right well we’ll refuse the loft but can the neighbours put a webcam in your room to make up for the loss of amenity?
About 50 hours were spent listening to posturing mayoral speeches about 300 civic functions and I’ve listened to at least a hundred “employee of the month” citations. All of which served to convince me these people are as boring in real life as they are on the job. Do councillors have steamy affairs behind the rates counter do you think? I suspect not. Men and women who can argue for hours about raising a fence 200mm to avoid setting a precedent do not get jiggy with it in the council photocopying cupboard.
I’ve listened to 25 hours of declarations of interest and then another 25 hours of intellectually exquisite political power-broking over whether or not the interest is an “interest in common” and the particular Brain of the City should be allowed to remain in the chamber.
CEO: Councillor Black has declared an interest in item 10.1.3, the demolition of an amenities block in Green Park, because he has been using the dunnies to carry out an extra-marital affair. He believes this is an interest in common with Cr Blue…
That leaves me with four hours. Four hours of our masterful community leaders taking decisive action for the betterment of the residents and ratepayers. Four hours of earnest deliberations that show leadership and direction not just to the community but other civic leaders. Four hours of technically brilliant and exquisitely executed debate. Four hours of the best guilt-free sleep I have ever had in my whole life.
You see, in those long hours between declaring the meeting open and closed it is just possible to dream. Dream about where the Make-A-Wish kid is right now. And dream about swapping places, knowing full well the consequences would be worth it, if not for the rides at Seaworld alone, then for the secure knowledge you need never attend a council meeting again.

Someone told me

Someone told me I should start posting again... so maybe just maybe I should... as I now have a readymade audience of one.

The only part of need to get the hang of is having something to say. And at the moment I dont have anything on file...

But I'll get there.