Monday, February 27, 2006


In my travels hither and yon on the internet, I've come across the homewares retailer Design Within Reach. Ah, at last! The beauty of good design at a price ordinary people can afford.

Well, yes. As long as by 'ordinary' you mean 'ordinary when compared to Donald Trump'.

I've learnt a lot from browsing through this site. Apprently you can charge $400 for a $40 mirror just by attaching the label 'Minimal' to it.

minimal mirror

Remember, nothing says minimal like a depleted bank account!

Failing that, how about a Tibetan goat hair couch cushion? Only $298! C'mon, you paid nine thousand for the couch... don't skimp on the accessories.

goat pillow

And don't forget the kids. Delight their bourgeois little hearts with a box of wooden animals, at a price hand-crafted by DWR's finest marketing artisans; $478.

wooden animals

At that price, they can buy a second set with their pocket money!

But Design Within Reach does have the occasional good deal. How about a classic Eames chair with ottoman for only $575! Bargain!

little eames

True, it's only five inches high, but let's face it, $575 for timeless Eames style is a steal, and now your hamster will have somewhere to sit while he's watching Extreme Makeover with you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


"For every film that pushes the stylistic and narrative envelope, there is an equal and opposite film that sucks it back in again." - Newton's First Law of Cinema

'Monster-A-Go-Go' is a case in point. In true MST3K fashion, it contained almost no go-go-ing and precious little monster. A more accurate title might have been 'Middle-Aged People Standing Around Talking Inaudibly Because Someone Didn't Mike Them Properly'. But that wouldn't bring in the punters, would it?

It takes a certain kind of perverted genius to take the relatively simple and straightforward monster movie genre and mess it up. Let's face it; it's not that hard to film a guy in a rubber suit menacing bikini babes for eighty minutes. As long as you follow three basic rules, you just can't fail.

1. You need a monster.
While it's okay to be coy about what your monster looks like until the third reel, just showing a tentacle here and a glowing red eye there, it's not okay to briefly show him off in all his awful glory in the first half hour, then relate his subsequent exploits through exposition. Somehow having one guy in a grey suit tell another guy in a grey suit, "The monster killed again last night," is just not quite as interesting as, you know, seeing the monster kill again. It's like making a film about the birth of the aeroplane in 1903 by showing the Wright brothers having brunch afterwards and complaining about their lost luggage.

Afficiandos of this genre will know that it doesn't take much for a monster to kill people. A light tap on the shoulder will usually do it, which is lucky, since movie monsters generally have all the hand/eye coordination of a thalydomide baby. So in order to actually show the monster killing his victims, all the film makers really need is for everyone to turn up on set at the same time.

But could 'Monster-A-Go-Go' manage this? No, it could not. Each scene appears to have been filmed with whatever friends and relatives of the director happened to turn up that day. Perhaps the monster had another job to go to, menacing the crowds at the opening of a new hardware store on the other side of town.

2. You need a hero.
Not a bunch of interchangable guys, all middle-aged and boring, who spend the entire film schleping around after the monster without ever actually meeting him. They do, however, hold a lot of meetings. The film could just as easily have been called 'White Collar Workers-A-Go-Go'.

3. You need a heroine.
Or at least a love interest. There was a frumpy lady scientist, but since she spent the entire film trailing about after the men and bitching about being blamed for stuff, and never wore anything more glamorous than an overcoat, she didn't fill the need.

There were some hot babes, in a range of tight pencil skirts, stilettos and snug angora sweaters, but they only appeared briefly in small, meaningless scenes, then scarpered before the monster could shuffle his way into camera range. My theory is that they were bussed in by the distribution company after the end of shooting, then spliced into the film wherever possible to give it what little appeal it has.

So, without a monster, a leading man or a love interest, what do we have left? Bupkis, that's what. Lengthy scenes of office workers fretting about the sorts of things middle-aged people fret about (their career prospects, the shortcomings of their relationships, the difficulties of having to share their workspaces, radioactive monsters upsetting their project management schedule, etc). It may thrill the hearts of mild-mannered accountants, but the rest of us are left out in the cold.

But there were at least two positives about the 'Monster-A-Go-Go' experience:

a) it was the catalyst for some good gags:

Narrator: It is the one word that nuclear physicists fear most...

Crow: "Oops"?

Narrator: ..."Radiation".

Crow: Oh.

b) we have the knowledge, as Tom Servo noted and imdb attests, that none of these actors ever worked again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Ten Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You.

I think he tried 'Telekenisis' on me last night when I was cleaning mould off the bathroom ceiling. Then again, it might have been bleach fumes.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Ay Carumba! Some things just don't translate well from TV to reality.


Ben Cousins, football player, local icon, alleged cokehead and over-privileged himbo, is in a spot of bother with the police and may actually be required to face some of the consequences of his dim-witted actions. Quelle horreur! Someone in the WA Police Force has obviously not been told of the ancient understanding that footballers, by virtue of being good at football, are above the law. What is the world coming to?

Personally I like to think that the reason why this isn't all being swept under the carpet, as these matters usually are, is because someone in the police has a well-developed aesthetic sense and has taken umbrage with Cousins' choice of vehicle.

He drives a gold Mercedes SUV. Read that again slowly. Gold. Mercedes. SUV.

gold mercedes SUV

A similar make and model, but not the Cuzmobile. The Cuzmobile looks like it's been on Pimp My Ride.

Perhaps Ben would have us believe that he didn't grow up in the leafy suburbs, attend an exclusive private school and lead a charmed WASP life. Perhaps he wants us to think that he's a poor dumb rapper from the ghetto, complete with a large bling-encrusted Mercedes, a posse of homies, and innumerable hos.

In which case, we should really be calling him B-Cuz. And if you have any spare snow lying around your crib, please send it to him. He probably needs it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Kerry Nettle, the Australian Greens senator I most love to hate, is in the news again after wearing a rather tacky T-shirt to parliament, as if the highest forum of Australian politics were the student union at one of the lesser university campuses.


"And furthermore, I DEMAND that Spiderbait play at the Guild Hall Social on Friday!"

I could go on for hours, and in much detail, about my deep loathing for our Kezza, but instead I'll just ask a question: am I alone in my curiosity as to why the Young Women's Christian Association is producing "get your rosaries off my ovaries" T-shirts?

I mean, aren't Catholics considered to be Christians? Or has the YWCA joined the Red Cross in turning away from its religious roots in the mistaken assumption that a secular organisation devoted to charitable works is somehow more laudable than a religious one?

Or do they simply believe that we should all heed Lady Whiteadder's famous injunction: "Cold is God's way of telling us to burn more Catholics!"


Separated at birth? The disapproving frown is eerily similar...

Happily it appears that The Australian, too, has noticed this incongruence, and indulged in some of its occasional sly editorialising in the midst of an ordinary news article. Putting aside the complete falsity of her actual statements, observe their contextualising of this quote from our Kerry:

"Religion has no place in politics, and religion has no place in a decision for a women about what drug is safe for her to use."

The T-shirt was sponsored by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Australian can be quite the bitch when it puts its mind to it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I was sitting in the living room last night with the Houseguest, watching the last few seconds of The Simpsons, when we heard the distinctive screeeeeeeeee-crump-thud-shatter of a car accident right outside.

We looked at each other, with that "Was that what I thought it was?" expression. Then the Houseguest leapt out of his chair and capered outside like an excitable puppy suddenly offered a walk in the park. I followed. My front garden is walled, blocking off all view of the street, and I think he was actually hopping from one foot to the other as he hit the button and waited for the garage door to fold up and let us out.

It appeared that the driver of a red car (to judge from the debris) had panicked when the car in front of him braked suddenly, and swerved at considerable speed onto the median strip. He'd flattened a not insubstantial young tree, caromed onto the other side of the road, then panicked at all the oncoming traffic and shot back over the median strip onto the correct side of the road, and sped away.

There was a huge drift of woodchip mulch over one side of the road, bits of car trim crunching under the wheels of other vehicles, and a rather devastated fallen tree blocking one lane of traffic. The Houseguest and I dragged the tree back onto the median to clear the road, and wondered what, if anything, to do next.

Houseguest: You should call the police.

Me: I doubt it's a police matter.

Houseguest: No, you should definitely call them.

Me: I don't see why the...

Houseguest: Call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police call the police.

Me: Okay! I'll call the damn police! I've just got to remember the number.

Houseguest: It's 000.

Me: That's for emergencies.

Houseguest: They can put you through.

Me: (rolls eyes) I'll look up the number in the phone book.

Of course, once I did find and call the appropriate number, the officer on the other end seemed slightly confused as to why I'd phoned him. If there wasn't any injury, or private property damage, or debris blocking the road, or an uprooted tree going on a bank robbing rampage, he wasn't particularly interested. I can't say I blamed him.

At least the local council will know who to sue for the cost of replacing the tree and cleaning up the scattered mulch, since the driver left his front bumper, complete with licence plate, in the middle of the road. Mr 8JD-484, they're coming for you.

Monday, February 13, 2006


On Friday night I took a carload of friends down to Rockingham, one of Perth's numerous outer suburban armpits, to see a play being put on by a local amateur theatre company.

I know what you're thinking; this is where Blandwagon commences choking on his own snark, in the manner of Mama Cass with a ham sandwich. Amateur theatre! Argh! The Trabant of the acting community!

Actually, the play was very good. It was 'The Woman in Black', a ghost story set at the turn of the century, and almost entirely played out by two actors. Like a lot of these sorts of tales, it relied chiefly on chills rather than thrills, evoking the feeling of dread that comes when a man is alone in an ancient, solitary house on a dark night, and he become aware that there is something else there as well.

The actors were both great. The set design was imaginative, especially when it used a gauzy curtain to create both an impression of a misty graveyard, and to distance the hero from the audience when he was most in peril, making him appear even more vulnerable. The lighting and sound effects were very effectively used to make up for the inadequacies of the props (two metal chairs, a metal footlocker and a wooden crate, all painted matt black).

And yet, even as I became engrossed in the fine perfromances and the spooky story, irritation simmered just below my surface calm. At the end I felt like jumping up on the stage and shouting my wrath at all concerned. Not because of anything the company had done, but because I had come into contact once again with Elderly Rubes at the Theatre.

The majority of the audience was aged somewhere between fifty five and eighty. Even under the best of circumstances this is never good, as they tend to cough and sneeze and snort and hack as clapped-out immune systems struggle with the transition from summer evening to refrigerated air conditioning. But at least that settles down after half an hour or so.

The real problem comes from a mindset that I have encountered in amatuer theatre audiences before, but still can't for the life of me comprehend. It's the idea of laughing to relieve tension.

The hero is stumbling about the dark rooms of the mansion, unnerved by strange sounds that seem to come out of nowhere. He turns to open a door, then cries out and stumbles back as a dark shape steps out of the shadows so close that it's almost touching him. The audience jerks back in their seats too... then they let out a little girlish titter. Ooh, dear me, that was a bit of a surprise. Isn't that clever? Hee hee hee, I must have looked like a silly old goose! Ha ha ha!


And it's not just in moments of sudden surprise. It also happened when the characters became hysterical, or staggered half out-of-control down a flight of stairs, or even raised their voices to express their fear. The worst offender was a woman sitting two seats away from me. She tittered at anything more dramatic than an explanatory monologue, and her husband, sitting next to me, obviously felt duty bound to give a little chuckle about a second later.

I have no idea why they do it. Yes, laughing relieves tension, but the tension is part of the pleasure of the piece. Can your pacemakers not cope with slightly elevated heartrates? If so, THEN DON'T SEE A PLAY ABOUT GHOSTS, YOU WORTHLESS SACKS OF PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION!

At least the other danger of Elderly Rubes at the Theatre, the high-decibel whispering of the deeply deaf, was only attempted by one old man, who happened to be sitting in front of me. Fortunately his wife appeared to have died during the previous scene so he gave up after only two attempts.

Friday, February 10, 2006


As some longer-term readers will know, last year I created the Australian Blandwagon Collection CD, a compilation of Australian songs for each letter of the alphabet from A to Z (well, actually only to U, because CDs aren’t long enough).

This year, I’ve gone with a project with a slightly more disturbing title: 20 Years in Blandwagon’s Ears. It’s a compilation of one song for each year from 1986 to 2005, and thus tracks the evolution of my taste (or lack of it) from teenagerhood to my current elderly decrepitude.

To a certain extent, it’s a history of pop music over the last two decades. Who can forget the one-finger-piano-and-diva zeitgeist of 1993? Or the fey, Smiths-inspired sounds of the late 80s which seem to celebrate impotency through every falsetto note?

But in another way, it demonstrates certain ongoing personal themes. For example, it seems I’ve always had a thing for retro, whether it be The Primitives tapping into the Swinging Sixties, Chris Isaak covering The Yardbirds, or the Chemical Brothers getting their Miami Vice thang on. I’ve also got a long-term thing for BritPop; eleven of the acts are British, while there are six Australians and only three Americans.

So, as before, the rule is this: email me (at the address in the top left corner of my profile) with your postal address, and I will mail you a copy of 20 Years in Blandwagon’s Ears. In return, you send me a bunch of your own music – 20 Years in Your Own Ears would be much appreciated. Bear in mind that it just has to be music from the relevant year, not necessarily what you yourself were listening to at the time. Otherwise I’m going to get a lot of Sesame Street Disco from younger readers, and frankly, I don’t want it.

Except ‘C is for Cookie’. I love that song.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I told JC last night that when I die I want to be buried with my MST3K DVDs. And I don't mean for them to be simply tossed into the hole: I want to be clutching them to my chest as they close the lid on the coffin. That's how much I love them.

Even so, occasionally a dud episode will surface, and last night's offerings, The Unearthly and The Sidehackers, unfortunately fall into that category. Unlike every other TV show ever recorded, MST3K actually got better the longer it ran, so the episodes from seasons 9 and 10 are funnier, on average, than those in earlier seasons (in this case 3 and 2 respectively).

The Unearthly was made in 1957, but looked so shoddy and cheap that it may as well have been recorded twenty years earlier. In an isolated rural mansion, evil Dr Conway and his assistant Dr Gilchrist (playing Eva Braun to his Hitler) need human guinea pigs (or, if they're unavailable, guinea pig humans) for their experiments with anti-aging glands. They use their colleague Dr Wright (another member of the Royal Society of Evil Physicians) to bring them orphans and loners who won't be missed, in the promise of treating them in their bucolic sanatorium. However, the only treatment they'll be receiving is 20ccs of PURE VILLAINY! With perhaps some intravenous UNADULTERATED TREACHERY if there are any side-effects.

Dr Wright's latest referral is the lovely Grace, who finds herself arriving at the same time as the mysterious Mark. Little does she know that Mark is an escaped convict, who has been offered sanctuary in the house by Dr Conway. In turn, little does Mark know that Dr Conway really plans to use him for his experiments.

Not being as dim-witted as the rest of the people in the house, Mark soon discovers that the patients who have been 'cured and released' have actually been 'turned into hideous freaks and locked in the basement'. He tries to warn Grace, but she's been told that he's psychotic and delusional, so she doesn't believe him. She doesn't believe him when she's in her swimsuit, and she doesn't believe him (twice!) when she's in her filmy negligee. She only starts to believe him when she's fully clothed, which may imply that sensible clothing makes you smarter.

Or maybe not. It's never wise to look at implications in movies like these.

In due course, it's revealed that Mark isn't really an escaped convict. He's really an undercover policeman, pretending to be an escaped convict in order to infiltrate this Hospice of Wickedness. This is good news for two reasons. One, he can call in some backup once things come to a head, around the time that Dr Conway gets stabbed by a zombie. Two, the fact that he's an upright upholder of the law rather than a murderous low-life finally tips the scales of Grace's affections. I mean, she liked him well enough before, but the fact that he's got a good job and a pension makes her fall into his embrace and attempt to suck out his tonsils. Gentlemen, never underestimate the appeal of a uniform.

While The Unearthly looked twenty years older than it actually was, The Sidehackers, made in 1969, was a movie ahead of its time... in that it foresaw the 70s fad for killing off the entire cast in a blaze of bullets and nihilism.

Sidehacking is a wildly successful motor sport involving motorbikes with sidecars. At least that was the theory behind the film. In reality sidehacking, if it actually existed at all, was a short-lived sporting dead end somewhat less successful than roller derby.

Hero Rommel (insert many a Desert Fox gag here) is a sidehacker by day, motorcycle repair guy by, um, alternate days, and lover by every second Thursday. He impresses the ladies with his sidehacking prowess, his buttonless shirts, his hilarious souffle-like white poorboy cap, and the fact that he can change his hair colour from henna red to bleach blonde depending on which scene he's in.

He and girlfriend Rita, who sports a foofy blonde hair-do seemingly modelled on someone's pet Pomeranian, are going to be married. They spend the days of their engagement frolicking through meadows of summer wildflowers, tripping, then rolling through meadows of summer wildflowers. And rolling. And rolling. My theory is that they're practicing to roll their way to Canada for their honeymoon.

Their future married life is a subject that Rita never fails to bring up when they're snuggling (or indeed rolling). The foolish girl is obviously unaware of one of the great movie maxims: he or she who dwells too much on forthcoming nuptials is doomed never to reach them.

The agents of her destruction are JC, a professional motorcycle daredevil and owner of innumerable satin shirts that resemble glamorous dentist's smocks, and his girlfriend Paisley. JC has just stumbled across sidehacking and is very impressed. Paisley has just stumbled across Rommel and is similarly enthralled. But Rommel rejects her advances, and in a fit of pique, Paisley tears her dress and tells JC that Rommel assaulted her.

JC is not a sober, thoughtful person; he goes through bipolar cycles the way normal people go through Tic-Tacs. Incensed by the attack on Paisley (a duty he had previously kept for himself), he takes revenge by getting his posse together and going on a good old-fashioned violent rampage, beating up Rommel and killing Rita.

Poor Rommel; he's lost the only person who ever wanted to roll to foreign lands with him. Understandably he's now up for a little vengeance himself. He enlists the help of JC's disenfranchised token black man to form a posse of his own. With their assistance, he raids JC's hideout (located in one of those abandoned quarries so beloved by film makers), and in the process... well, everybody dies. Rommel's posse dies. JC's posse dies. Paisley dies. Rommel dies. JC... is wounded, but as he's personally murdered at least three people and the police are just entering the quarry, he's going to die sooner rather than later. The leaden fate of all who dare to dream of love and freedom in a world of Cold War politics, nuclear threat, environmental degradation and tie-dyed fashion is thus confirmed.

It's amazing what a difference just twelve years can make. In the late 50s, your leading man could be assured of a pash session with a bullet-bra'd babe by the final scene. In the late 60s, he could be assured of a bloody death, possibly with a side order of bloody death for his love interest.

I know which universe I'd prefer to live in.


I never wanted a rabbit until now.

big bunny

It's like having your very own living Goodies gag.

Friday, February 03, 2006


It took me several minutes of clicking through the pages, and a close reading of the text, but I think... think... that this is satire.

That's the problem with Americans. You can never be quite sure.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Last Wednesday, on the evening before the Australia Day public holiday, I was sitting in the living room watching a DVD with a friend. Midway through the movie, The Flatmate dropped in. He's been housesitting for his sister and brother-in-law, so I've only seen him sporadically over the last three weeks. Still, I've had my hands full as I've had a friend of my parents staying in the spare room for a few days.

I say hi, and he says hi. Mindful that my houseguest's car is in The Flatmate's space in the garage while he's housesitting, I ask The Flatmate when he'll be moving back in, so I can tell my houseguest when to park his car somewhere else.

"I'm not moving back in," he says.

"Er, what?"

"I'm not moving back in," he repeats, with exactly the same air of genial blankness with which he makes all his statements.

I wait for something futher, but nothing comes. "Where are you going?" I ask.

"I'm moving into my sister's place."

"And, er, when's that?"

"Oh, tomorrow."


"Yeah." There follows a long, and at least on my part stunned pause. "Oh, I brought over that DVD you wanted."

And off he trots. The next day I half-expect him to pop up at any moment to collect his stuff, but he doesn't make an appearance, and I begin to wonder if I've just misunderstood him. Maybe he meant that he was just staying at his sister's place longer than he'd expected, and the idea hadn't quite made it out into coherent communication. He has a brain that makes molassas look like the Jet D'Eau, after all.

But when I got home from work on Friday, his room had been cleaned out and his food was gone from the pantry. It appears he'd waited until he could be sure I wouldn't be at home.

Does that sound paranoid? Well, here's the kicker. He still had his keys and his garage door remote. I was going to go over last night and collect them, but I ran out of time, and I decided I'd just get around to it eventually. Then this morning I came out of my bedroom to discover them sitting on the hall table.

The thing is, they hadn't been on the hall table when I'd gone into my room five minutes earlier. I listened and I heard a car start up out on the street, then pull away.

The houseguest was in the spare room reading, and I'd been in my bedroom with the door shut getting dressed for work. Neither of us had heard a thing. The Flatmate must have let himself in, very quietly, and left the remote and the keys, then stolen out again. He must have known that someone was home, because both cars and the scooter were fully visible in the garage, and he didn't bother to lock the front door or the front gate on his way out.

I still don't know what's going on. Did I do something awful? Did I merely do something annoying? Did his sister offer him a cheaper deal? Did he want to be closer to work? Is he just deeply, deeply enamoured with his brother-in-law's widescreen plasma TV?

I received 36 hours' notice and no explanation, and it doesn't look like I'm going to be any wiser any time soon.

Hello again my darlings!

It's Rose here *cough* *splutter*! Mr Baldwagon has kindly allowed me to use his 'blog' once more to write to all my fans, because I know you're all very concerned about me and my health. I appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers.

It's true; I am very sick at the moment. It's very distressing as it's keeping me from all my social engagements, portrait sittings and inconvenient court appearances. I barely have the energy to traipse down my marble staircase in a different outfit six or seven times a day!

Willie has been an absolute angel, taking care of me and putting up with my little moods (and hurled crockery). He is such a sweetie! I call him my 'darling little springbok'. He doesn't really have any pet names for me, although his did once call me his 'beard', which is very strange, because he's never liked facial hair. I don't understand, but then lately I been finding a lot of things confusing.

I tried to be proactive and prescribe myself some Prozac, since it's in all the magazines these days, but the stupid chemist won't fill it. He protests that prescriptions aren't usually issued on the backs of the pages of an expired chequebook, nor are they usually written out with an eyeliner pencil. Nor, apparently, is Prozac usually spelt with an 'e'.

Well how was I supposed to know all that? It wasn't even my idea to write the prescriptions in the first place! The poodles told me to do it, just after I took those blue pills I found in the downstairs bathroom medicine cabinet. They all agreed that it was the best course of action... except for Linus, who just wanted me to kill Sandra Sully and eat her skin. That Linus! He's always been the mischievous one!

I fear I may not be long for this world, my darlings. There's a black shadow hanging over the house, and for once it's not just this awful Melbourne weather or Gina spying on me from a hot air balloon. I fear that soon I'll be flying up to heaven, where once more I'll be alone... all alone.

Except for that nice Kerry Packer, of course. Hey, wait a moment. Since his wife Roslyn is still alive, that would make Kerry... available. Hmmm. Maybe this dark cloud of mortality could have a silver lining after all!

Farewell my darlings!

Rose Lacson-Hancock-Porteous-TBA