Friday, April 28, 2006


It must be the time of year. I keep getting these weird Proustian flashes when I've walking down the street. Maybe it's the increasing chill in the air, or the waning light, or the smells aroused from the pavement by the recent rains. I keep getting reminded of other cities, be they Melbourne, Sydney, Geneva or London. For a split second I have a sense of these other places, before the breeze shifts or a Transperth bus rumbles past, and I'm jerked back to reality.

Maybe it's just because it's getting colder, and I associate being cold with being away from home. If I'm walking along trying to burrow deeper into my coat, and watching my breath mist out into the darkness, then it just stands to reason that I can't possibly be in Perth.


Dear Anonymous Internet Hordes,

There are a couple of people on one of the arcs of my social circle who are causing me some concern. Let's call them Miss A and Mr B.

Miss A likes Mr B. Actually, no; let's be brutal - Miss A wants a man, and Mr B is a sufficiently acceptable unit. He's single, kindly, intelligent, chipper of personality and an altogether agreeable person. However, I'm pretty certain that Mr B has no romantic interest in Miss A. While she is a friendly and caring woman, she is also unhealthily obese, very loud and possessing a need for attention that verges on the pathological.

Mr B is not the sort of man to bluntly rebuff women, but frankly, Miss A is the sort of woman who requires rebuffment in the most violent terms possible if she's going to get the message.

So we have the unpleasant situation of naive Mr B bestowing on Miss A the blanket cheery friendliness he bestows on everyone, and Miss A misinterpreting that, almost wilfully, as a sign of his affection. She bears this out in a desperate physicality, sitting close to him, draping her hand over the back of his chair, lunging at every and any excuse to touch him.

It's ghastly to watch. It brings to mind a line from MST3K's version of 'Space Mutiny': "She's presenting like a mandrill!"

This can only end badly. I keep having to fight down the urge to yell, "For crying out loud, woman, show some dignity and quit pawing at him!" So far I've been able to control it, but I don't know how long I can continue. What should I do?

a) Have a word with Mr B and open his eyes to what he might not want to see?

b) Mind my own business and avert my eyes whenever necessary?

c) Get over myself and my prejudices against loud fat needy chicks?

d) Yell "For crying out loud, woman, show some dignity and quit pawing at him!"?

With concern,


Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Earlier today, as I passed by a newspaper open on the TV guide page, something caught my eye and made me turn back and look more closely.

It was a documentary called 'Piracy in the Straits'. The only thing is, my initial glance had read it as 'Piracy with the Stars'.

Well, fair enough. It's a logical extension of 'Dancing with the Stars' and 'Ice Skating with the Stars' and 'Circus with the Stars'. 'Piracy with the Stars' would no doubt involve a dozen network favourites dressed in ragged stripey pants and tricorn hats, with big gold earrings and stunt parrots, sailing around in an authentic reproduction Spanish galleon creating pirate mayhem. Each celebrity would be teamed with a genuine pirate and given a crash course in lootin', pillagin', rapin' and buryin' treasure, then sent out to terrorise the seven seas.

Memorable moments would include game show hostess Lavinia Nixon bursting into giggles when faced with the task of slitting her enemies' throats, ex-footballer Glen Jakovich genuinely losing an eye during a moment of boisterous swordplay, and TV handyman Scott Cam facing network discipline following his rendition of an extraordinarily lewd sea shanty during the crew's nightly rum ration.

Hell, I'd watch it. It certainly couldn't be any worse than 'Dancing with the Stars'.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Last night, as we were low on numbers, my Bible study group decided to play a board game instead of doing our usual study. OL just happened to have a copy of Bibleopoly, which had never been opened, much less played. It seemed appropriate, so we thought we'd give it a go.

Bibleopoly is based on the same basic board layout as Monopoly, except for the fact that the streets are renamed as biblical cities (Corinth, Jerusalem, Thessalonica, etc). The money is unadorned, except for a decorative border and a numeral, such as "five" written on it. We were left to decide for ourselves what the currency actually was. Some said "Shekels". I liked "Hail Marys" (as in "You landed on my Corinth. Give me three Hail Marys!"). Others opted for "Human Sacrifices", suggesting that they'd been spending too much time playing MMORPGs and not enough time in church.

Instead of Community Chest and Chance cards, there were Faith/Contingency and Abyss cards. Faith cards were generally bad news, such as, "Proverbs 11 v 25: 'A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.' Give two Shekels/Hail Marys/Human Sacrifices to each of your fellow players." Abyss cards, on the other hand, were even worse. We didn't actually come across a card that said, "God smites you as he smote Job. You lose all your property and money, and the other players are entitled to kick you until you start bleeding internally", but then again we gave up before we got to the bottom of the pack, so we can't be certain that it wasn't there.

As for the rules, they were about as simple and succinct as one of the books of Hebraic Law. You can't ask for the rent on your properties - it's supposed to be freely offered. If you roll three doubles in a row you have to pay a penalty. If you're caught in Meditation you're trapped until you roll a double, or for three turns, but if you do stay for three turns then when you get out you have to go back the number of spaces you roll on one die...

The message of the game seemed to be this; it doesn't matter how kind and helpful you are to your fellow man, because a faceless, vengeful God could strike at any second, for absolutely no reason, and leave you broken and penniless. Furthermore, God doesn't have a plan for you. Good things and bad things happen entirely at random, based on the roll of the dice and the shuffling of the cards. As a result of all this theological nihilism, playing Bibleopoly actually resulted in us partaking in all seven of the Deadly Sins:

"What? I have to pay everyone three times the value of my most expensive property? What the hell kind of rule is that! No freakin' way!"

"Only an idiot would want to play this game."

DR:We're down to our last three shekels. What happens when we run out? The rules don't say.
AB: We'll have to become temple prostitutes.
Everybody else: Gaaaahhhh! The mental pictures!

"How come he gets to buy Jericho for 16 bucks while I have to pay 30 at the whim of some stupid Abyss card?"

"Oh dear, you landed on Jerusalem. And because I have the whole set, you owe me 16 big ones. Ha ha ha ha ha!"

"Is it my turn? Oh joy. Can someone else move my piece? I can't be bothered."

OL: I've had enough of this. Let's just declare NH the winner and go have cheesecake.
Me: Yes! Sweet, sweet cheesecake will numb the pain! And I'd better have three servings, just to make sure!

So what do we learn from Bibleopoly? It may be instructive to compare it with normal Monopoly.

In normal Monopoly, people are transparent and straightforward about their motives, honest in their business dealings, committed to improving their properties, and not forced to reenact the sufferings of Job on every second turn.

In Bibleopoly, the gameplay is random, blatantly unfair, full of people only doing good deeds solely for personal gain, and not overseen by a powerful or loving deity. In short, Bibleopoly feels like it was designed by Satan... or possibly Friedrich Nietzsche... and playing it is like being stuck in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Games are games and religion is religion. It's not wise to attempt to mix the two.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Trees are UNCONDITIONAL LOVE... especially for Brody.


On Good Friday JC asked me to do this quiz. He'd taken it and discovered that there's a reason why he's so disillusioned with Anglicanism - apparently he's supposed to be a Quaker. And as he said himself, the Internet told him, so it must be true.

I duly took the quiz, complaining constantly, as is my wont, that none of the multiple choice options covered what I believe, or that more than one of them did. When I eventually found my way to the end, the quiz told me that I was 100% compatible with two Christian faiths. One was Eastern Orthodox. The other was Roman Catholicism.

Not to doubt the veracity of a quiz contained on a website that celebrates the spiritual yearnings of Antonio Banderas, but Catholic? Me? Hello? Is this reality on (tap tap feedback whine)?

Let's just run through a few tenets here. Transubstantiation? No. Deification of Mary? No. Intercession from a priest? No. Getting excited about the Pope? No. Insisting on celibate priests, eschewing birth control, and partaking of a proscribed Mass? No, no, and many further instalments of no. I may think that Catholicism has certain elements from which the Protestant church could learn, including their sense of holy mysticism, but that's a long way from muttering Hail Marys, counting a rosary or asking for forgiveness from a man in a dress.

I am 93% compatible with my chosen Conservative Protestantism, so there's no need to sic the church elders on me just yet. And no, I don't know where I'm going 7% wrong... although possibly it has something to do with my refusal to drive a Toyota and/or buy Michael W Smith albums.

My lowest score was for Secular Humanism (9%), which is a relief. It means that if I get caught in a conversation with at a party with a secular humanist, I'm entitled to spend 91% of the time just glaring at them.

Oddly enough, the quiz also told me that I'm 60% compatible with Islam.

Me: No way am I 60% Moslem.

JC: Well you'd probably agree with all but two of the Five Pillars of Islam. That'd be 60%.

Me: Which two?

JC: Making the pilgrimage to Mecca, and revering Mohammed.

Me: So what are the three I'd agree with?

JC: Let's see... prayer, doing good works, and... um... what was the other one...

Me: Blowing up busloads of Israeli schoolchildren?

JC: Er, no.

Me: 'Cause I'm totally up for that. Not that I have anything against the Jews. I just really hate kids.

I got to test drive my newfound compatibility with Catholicism an hour or so later, as we went to the historic St Joseph's church in Wembly for a special Good Friday performance of Mozart's Requiem. The choir and the orchestra were both wonderful, as were the church's acoustics. It was a fairly standard interpretation, with just a few subtle flourishes to give a little extra tone to its beauty. Perhaps the most transcendent moment came, ironically enough, just before the performance started, in a lull during the orchestra's tuning. One of the horns started practicing the first few bars of the Tub Mirum, without voices or any other instruments. It was low and sweet and wistful, and so pure in its solitude, drifting around the dome of the church like a melancholy ghost.

I looked out across the church, at the soaring architecture, the stained glass windows, the old Mediterranean ladies with improbably coloured hair, and the painted statues of major saints, and I wondered if I could give up Protestantism for Catholicism. True, life-sized painted statues are sort of creepy, but then again, they're nowhere near as wretched as the poetry of Helen Steiner Rice.

Perhaps I really could change to Catholicism. All I'd ask in return is that Catholicism make a few tiny changes for me.

Me: I've got one word for these statues.

JC: And what's that?

Me: 'Animatronics'.

JC: I see.

Me: Don't tell me it's not a great idea.

JC: Okay, as long as you don't tell them I'm with you when they set you on fire.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Americans, generally to their credit, have a can-do attitude. The traditional, deeply egalitarian idea that anyone can acheive anything if they work hard enough is highly laudable, and has resulted in some spectacular success stories.

On the other hand, it has also resulted in innumerable disasters, so small-scale, pathetic and banal that their tragedy is all the more poignant. One such minor glimpse into the dull grey fog of failure is 'Future War'.

These people had no business making a film. The actors couldn't act. The editors couldn't edit. The director had a fatal combination of sheer, lunk-headed lack of talent and the delusional self-confidence required to fool a person into thinking that they have what it takes to make a film, when all evidence suggests otherwise. In fact it's difficult to see how any of the people involved in this production managed to convince themselves that it was a worthwhile endeavour.

However, let's be fair. Film making is by all acounts a lot harder than it looks. The question is, could any one of us do any better?

Well, now you can find out, just by taking this quick and easy Get On The Blandwagon quiz!


Do You Have What It Takes To Make a Bad Science Fiction Movie?

1. When filming a scene in which a TV cameraman is covering a piece of breaking news, and you don't have a spare camera for him to shoulder, do you:

a) film the scene from the cameraman's point of view, cleverly showing what is going on without actually having to show a second camera?

b) glue an old lens assembly to a cardboard box, paint the whole lot black with silver stickers, and get your actor to pretend it's a real camera, EVEN THOUGH IT'S PATENTLY OBVIOUS TO THE AUDIENCE THAT IT ISN'T.

2. The script requires a scene of two actors running up a street, fleeing a menace in a previous scene. As the film's editor, you should:

a) cut to the scene once the actors are at top speed from their standing start, in order to imply that they have been running for a while.

b) cut to the scene about half a second after they've started running, thus implying that they've just bolted for no discernable reason in the middle of an empty street.

3. To demonstrate that two actors involved in a life-or-death fight are working hard and taking serious blows, you should:

a) encourage them to emote as if they really are in a fight for their lives, or at the very least, to alternate the sounds of exertion between various "ughs", "arghs", "oofs" and "hnngggs".

b) instruct them to go "HUUUUUUHRRGHH!" every time they move an inch.

4. In order to demonstrate that a cyborg is in part mechanical, is it acceptable to dub the sound of someone revving a power drill over his movements?

a) Well, perhaps, if the budget doesn't stretch to anything less instantly recognisable, and providing that the power drill effects are synched to the actor's movements. Otherwise, no.

b) Hell yeah!

5. A scene depicts a threatening visit from a senior FBI agent. Who would you cast for the role?

a) a tall, lean man with a crewcut and the cold professionalism of a detective.

b) a short, rotund man with long, stringy, unwashed hair and the cold professionalism of a dumpling.

6. In your final cut, you realise that the characters appear to have run away from a killer dinosaur, leaving it with a small defenceless child whom they were earlier protecting. Then they are arrested by the police for no apparent reason.

a) Oh crap. You're right. Let's call the editors back in, go over the footage, and see if we can salvage it. If we can't, we'll just have to get the relevant cast and key crew back for some additional scenes.

b) Um... your point being ...?

7. What is "continuity"?

a) the discipline through which a filmed narrative is kept in a logical linear flow, despite the fact that the individual scenes were shot in a completely different order.

b) er, is it a new fragrance by Calvin Klein?

8. Your film is about cyborgs, with trained dinosaurs, from space, who cause havoc and death. It is not set in the future, and isn't about a war. What do you call it?

a) Terror of the Cyborg Space Dinosaurs.

b) Future War


So how did you go? Let's find out:

Mostly a)s

Get back to your uptight documentaries and slow-moving relationship movies, hippy.

Mostly b)s

Congratulations; it's like Coleman Francis and Ed Wood somehow had a baby, and now you're gracing us with your presence! Here's a film camera and $20,000. Go out and make us a) proud and b) a movie about time-traveling robot lemurs and the women who love them.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Diary of a Rollercoaster Tycoon

March 1st:
I've got myself a new job as the designer and manager of a new amusement park. Man, the economy must be booming if they're reduced to hiring clueless chumps like me to do a job like this. Do I have any experience in amusement park design? Have I worked in PR? Marketing? Engineering? Could I do a cost/benefit analysis on a rollercoaster design to save my life?

No. Whole galaxies of no.

I wonder how I managed to get this job?

March 5th:
Apparently it's only going to cost me $500 to put in that new ferris wheel. $500! I paid more than that to get a new set of tyres for my Subaru! Do we have Oompa-Loompa slave labour building these things?

March 6th:
Actually, that Oompa-Loompa theory may not be that far off the mark. Has anyone else noticed how all of our guests are squat, excitable midgets? Are we near a leaky nuclear plant or something? You know, that might also explain the constant barfing.

March 8th:
I've asked the guys running the food and drink stalls to give me a list of the ingredients they use in their products. I figure there's got to be a reason why my guests seem to puke their guts up the second they go on any ride more exciting than "walk in a straight line". Is there antimony potassium tartrate in the lemonade or what?

RCT2 puke

March 11th:
"Chocolate Log"? We have a a big, brown rollercoaster called the "Chocolate Log"? Are our rides being designed by sniggering twelve year olds?

March 12th:
And don't get me started on the "Mango Muncher".

March 15th:
I knew that the construction prices on these new rides were too good to be true. The damn things seem to break down every few minutes. The Verticulator broke down for several hours today, and I discovered the repair guy caught in the walkways of the Mango Muncher, going around in circles. I'm pretty sure he's retarded. No wonder he only charges $80 a month.

March 17th:
"The Circus has broken down"? How can a circus break down? What, did a performing elephant blow a gasket?

RCT2 circus

March 21st:
Apparently the guests are complaining about the "disgusting state of the paths" in my park. Well excuse me, but who here is responsible for coughing up so much half-digested hotdog and candy apple that certain walkways look like a zit the size of a Winnebago just burst over them? It ain't me! Nor is it my fault that the handymen are all so dull-witted that they are thwarted by a complicated path layout. That leaky nuclear plant theory is looking more plausible by the minute.

March 25th:
I purchased a wooden rollercoaster today for less than $7,000... which is $20,000 less than my rec room extension. Every night I wake up in a cold sweat, wondering if tomorrow will be the day that one of these cheap track supports snaps and plunges half a dozen squat lumpy teenagers to their deaths.

March 31st:
From my lofty vantage point I gaze out over my park. The once massively popular bumperboats now sit inexplicably idle. Guests keep pouring onto the Great American Scream Machine rollercoaster, even after they've hurled copiously following their last ride on it. The handymen wander uselessly about in tight circles while the mechanics get trapped in queue lines. And the security guards are so dim that you could walk out of the park with a merry-go-round under your shirt and get away with it.

At least I know now how I managed to get this job. Even a clueless chump looks like a rollercoaster tycoon next to these people.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


If I fax some information through to you, can you pass it on to your boss?

Absolutely. Send it through and I will make sure it gets to her. Perhaps I will even summarise it for her through the medium of interpretive dance.

Er, okay, if you really want to.

I do what I have to do.

I didn't know your job required interpretive dance skills.

Yep. It's in the position description, right between "Must be a team player" and "Must possess advanced computer skills": "Must be able to express higher administrative issues through interpretive dance."

Well lucky for you you're good at interpretive dance.

Actually I'm not. But I stumble my way though it. Fortunately for me, it's not a very common skill set.

That must be a handy bargaining chip when Performance Review time comes around.

Yes it is. Although I do sometimes wake up in the night, gripped with the fear that somewhere Mikhail Baryshnikov is looking over my position description and thinking, "Hmmm, this does look interesting..."

Monday, April 10, 2006


I had a houseguest briefly over the weekend. My houseguest was small, troublesome, very fluffy, and given to inappropriate acts of biting.

Yes, it was Cindy Sheehan. No, wait, hang on... that was the previous weekend. This weekend was my mother's golden retriever puppy. He's too young to be left on his own, so my parents left him with me while they went to a wedding.

They say that you can tell how a person will deal with parenthood by looking at the way they deal with puppies, and if that's true, then it's probably a good thing I don't have children. I gather children thrive on stability, not on being referred to as "my widdle furry bumble-puppy" one minute and being shouted at for headbutting the screen door the next.

There are many other important differences between babies and puppies:

1) People get all angsty when you make a baby sleep in a cardboard box in the laundry.

2) Babies can't be relied upon to kill and eat annoying crickets.

3) Babies are unlikely to do well after drinking water from the stagnant goldfish pond in the back yard.

4) The police take a dim view of allowing a baby to be transported in the back of a ute.

5) You can't tie a baby to a post in the back yard and pop down to the shops for half an hour.

6) Babies are generally allowed on the furniture.

7) Few babies thrive on a diet of water and kibble (and crickets).

8) A baby is unlikely to come when called.

9) Nor are they much good at fetching.

10) Babies are utterly hopeless at tail-wagging... unless they come from rural Tasmania, I guess.

Of course there are some similiarities; both fart with alacrity, both lick interesting substances off the kitchen floor, and neither shows much interest in Uncle Blandwagon's MST3K collection, except to bite the DVD covers. Maybe I should just stick to crickets.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Last night I went out to see 'Ubu Roi', a one act play put on by theatre students from Curtin University as part of the Artrage Festival... sorry, that should just be ARTRAGE. WE SHOUT BECAUSE WE CARE. It used to be the artRage Festival, back around the turn of the century, when reArranging capital letters was the fashionAble way To subvert the DominanT ParaDigm. It's nice to see one's artistic betters keeping up with modern grammatical trends.

As a white middle-aged middle-class Christian male, and thus having the words "fair game" tattooed on my forehead, I was a little concerned going into the performance. The outline in the program said, in part, that this play embodied "a style of theatre that embraces chaos and eschews morality" and operates outside of "safe and non-offensive boundaries". And we all know what that means in alternative theatre, don't we. Full frontal nudity. Simulated (if we're lucky) sex. Ear-blistering profanity. Blasphemy. Bodily fluids whose presence would ordinarily breach Occupational Health & Safety laws. And, worst of all, audience participation. I felt a certain amount of trepidation, not least because I was sitting in the front row and wearing my favourite suit.

And twenty minutes into the performance, it was easy to see why 'Ubu Roi' caused a near-riot when it was first performed. ... the caveat being that it was first performed in 1896. They didn't even have full frontal nudity in the bath in 1896, much less on stage, and the closest they came to profanity was shouting words you can just as easily hear in thirty year old episodes of 'The Goodies'. Whew! I hate being offended. It's so left-wing.

It's a play about the avarice, cruelty and infantile misbehaviour of our political masters. Of course it would have been scandalous in the late 19th century, but between 1896 and 2006 the years of Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and anyone who so much as mentioned politics between 1967 and 1979 have altered the philosphical landscape so dramatically that the idea of a greedy, violent, stupid leader is not a cause for scandal but an accepted piece of political reality. One might as well try to scandalise an audience with the concept that real estate agents occasional embellish the truth to sell houses.

Pa Ubu, a creature of more or less pure acquisitive id, plots with his wife Ma Ubu and his colleague Captain McNure to rise up and overthrow the Polish royal family, and take the throne himself. King Wencelaus and his family are duly massacred, except for his youngest child, Buggerlaus, who escapes into the countryside.

Ubu cheerfully overhauls the tax system, kills off the nobility and the judiciary, has punch-ups with his wife and turns on McNure, locking him in the dungeon. But McNure escapes and runs away to Russia, where the Emperor Alexis, accessorised with a furry hat, a tutu, a vodka bottle and a Russian accent so thick you could insulate your house with it, agrees to help him overthrow Ubu.

Meanwhile, Buggerlaus is inflaming the peasantry to revolution. While Ubu and the army are off fighting the Russians, Buggerlaus takes back the throne from Ma Ubu. She escapes, meets up with a routed Ubu, and together they stagger down to the sea, jump on a ship, and set sail for a new life in France... where it's implied they'll get up to all their old tricks again.

Of course that's just the bare bones of the plot. In the meantime there's shouting, banging, a foodfight, a bear attack, a chainsaw massacre, a huge fight scene that even the stage hands and prop wranglers got involved in, and, most terrifying of all, shadow puppetry. It was originally intended to be a scathing satire of socio-political mores, but with the way society has evolved since 1896, it has simply become a cheerfully surreal and idiotic romp, celebrating the fun of physical chaos.

And despite the bits of fried chicken and fake blood spurting all over the place, I'm glad to say that none of it splattered on my suit. I did get hit in the head with a cannonball, but fortunately it was polystyrene, so no harm done.

Oddly enough, the most subversive part of the performance was unintentional. In the middle of the big fight scene, I noticed something tiny and bright green creeping towards me across the cement floor. It was a small praying mantis, which had obviously hitched a ride in on one of the props. It looked terrified, lurching across the floor with that drunken gait that mantises have, as men in tutus and women in army uniforms shrieked and crashed and thudded all around it. I imagine that the only thing going through its head was "Oh crap oh crap oh crap just what in the HELL is going on up there!!?"

It made it to the safety of the bleachers, by the way. I thought you'd want to know.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Tuesday, April 04, 2006


On Saturday afternoon I caught up with CW, whom I have not seen since last year. We went to a Crispin Akerman exhibition at the Greenhill Gallery on King Street in the city.

King Street, or rather one block of it between Murray and Hay Streets, is like one of those light boothes that Scandinavians use in the winter to keep the Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay. It's a place where Perth people can go and get a dose of a hip, affluent inner-urban lifestyle... before they head back to real life in our ubiquitous suburbs. It's nothing but polished cafes, designer clothes and "homewares" boutiques, and high-end art galleries, of which the Greenhill is the oldest and most august.

Ackerman's exhibition consisted of a series of small still-lifes, painted in oils on linen, and generally depicting a few pieces of fruit sitting on a lightly swagged piece of white cloth. They were lovely works, showing great proficiency, and capturing the colours and textures of the fruit almost perfectly. When he painted a bunch of red grapes, you could see their exquisite combination of opaqueness and translucence. When he painted a nectarine, you could fully see the blushing merges of colour on its surface. All this despite the fact that his style, while realist, was not photorealist.

Even so, there's not a lot one can say about a painting of two limes sitting on a cloth. There are suggestions of purity, of the paradoxical sense of control in depicting nothing but a couple of limes. There's a sense of the fruit cast adrift from its base in vulgar reality and locked, alone and isolated, in a sterile environment, never to either rot or be eaten. But such philosophy can arise from a photo of a peach as much as a painting of one. When a painting says "I am a piece of fruit" you can muse over the layers or meaning, but you can also do that with a pencil you found on the sidewalk. I don't know how much these paintings say that can't be said by anything else, if placed in the context of Art.

All this would likely be neither here nor there if it were not for the small matter of money. The cheapest painting, about 30cm by 30cm, was $1,800. Larger ones climbed up into the high thousands. Call me a philistine, but I couldn't look at a small picture of a bunch of grapes and think, "Yes, that is worth $2,500." That's a month's wages for a good percentage of the Australian workforce. "I am a piece of fruit" is not worth a month's wages.

Afterwards, we headed up to a new cafe on Beaufort Street called, for reasons only known to themselves, Exomod. It's always very clean and polished and pristine, and so wonderfully, ruthlessly minimalist. Everything there has had the hell designed out of it, from the oddly-weighted knives that are difficult to hold to the bottom-heavy water glasses that are too fat to get your hand around. However it has two redeeming features:

1) The staff are as bright and polished as the decor, and call out friendly greetings as soon as you set foot inside their establishment, as if they've spent the day marinating in sunshine and rainbows just waiting for you to turn up.

2) They serve a large flat white in coffee cups that could literally double as vases. Ordering one costs $4.80, a good dollar and a half more than a cup of coffee at most other places, but in terms of millilitres of coffee per dollar it's cheaper than going to McDonalds.

The food also looks tantalising, but since I'm on a diet I've had to resist its siren call.