Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Home made fridge magnets based on Achewood and other internet cartoons.

Monday, August 27, 2007


If anyone's interested (and I freely admit that this is a slim possibility) here are some before and after pictures of my new ikeahacked bedside tables, laboriously stained and varnished to match the rest of my bedroom's woodwork.

room of doom

I think it looks much better. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that I vacuumed before taking the photo this time.

bedside table left
left bedside table

Besides the stain and the varnish, I've also added a plant and my antiquated iPod. Hopefully neither of them will die in the near future.

bedside table right
right bedside table

Nothing much changed here. Move along.

plate o' crap

A couple of commenters asked how I would stop little bits and pieces falling between the slats. As you can see, I have a glass plate to hold all of my important odds and ends, like my iPod Shuffle, phone, cuff links, bookmarks, interesting pebbles and the absolutely vital red plastic horsie I found on the road.


On Friday night I met up with a friend to go to the opening of a new art exhibition. Three things stood out:

1. Most of the art was awful - technically mediocre and appallingly overpriced. There were a few exceptions, but most of it wasn't worth a tenth of the asking prices, and wouldn't have looked out of place in a shopping centre art show.

2. Here's the news from the emerging artists of Perth: the 80s are back, baby! Two strong themes in the exhibition were a) strong geometric shapes in bold colours and b) slutty stylised naked ladies. It was like being attacked by massed Duran Duran album covers.

3. While I was waiting at the bar for a drink, a woman put a tray of canapes down next to me and walked off. I picked one up and ate it, and discovered that it was even worse than the art. It tasted like a paste made from cigarette ash, and as it was a grey goo, it may well have been exactly that.

The thing is, at an art exhibition, you can never be quite sure whether these things are intentional. There are a number of possibilites. One, the platter may have been a wittily transgressive artwork, not meant to be actually eaten. Two, the platter may have been a cunning piece of guerilla performance art, forcing elegant gallery patrons to consume cigarette butts as if they were delicious tidbits. Three, the platter may have been saboutaged by a disgruntled waiter, sick of the aforementioned patrons and their pretentions. Or four, they may have just been really crappy canapes. Even now, three days later, I have no idea which one of these possibilities is true.

Still, wandering around with a glass of champagne making rude faces at bad paintings is almost more fun than making awed faces at good paintings, so I was happy.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I bought this book from a junk shop nearly twenty years ago, at it's been lying on the bottom shelf of my bookcase ever since. It was only last night that I realised it might be blogworthy.

modern boy's annual 1937

All hail the modern boy, who dresses like Where's Wally and has his own speed freak chauffeur!

When I bought this in the late 80s, 1937 seemed old, but not all that distant; speak to any grey-haired person and they'd probably remember it well. But now, in 2007, 1937 is starting to feel historical, a place not really accessible to modern people. Very few people who were adults in 1937 are still alive today, and thus our connection with that era is dissolving.

The book is full of all those things in which modern boys from 1937 were interested. Fast cars! Big machines! Science! Progress! Explosives! Tales of strapping British gentlemen overcoming dastardly swarthy types! And also The Future, which is now a helluva lot closer than The Past.

As you can see, their depiction of London in 2037 is eerily prescient.

London 2037

- Double-decker express trains are common.

- Thanks to Ken Livingstone's Congestion Tax, private cars have been pretty much banned.

- Nobody, including signwriters, knows how to spell.

- London's iconic architecture has been torn down, presumably because it was judged too controvertial and imperialist*

- New architecture is heavy on the 'cool' and light on the 'wise', such as building an airstrip on top of major rail lines. Yep, there's no way that architectural decision could come back to haunt you.

*St Paul's Cathedral - offensive to Moslems. Nelson's Column - symbolic of phallocentric authoritarianism. Big Ben - sexist and sizeist. The London Eye - insensitive to the visually challenged. And so on.

Monday, August 20, 2007


As I've mentioned before in this blog, I'm on a serious, long-term quest for some new living room furniture. I've searched across Perth, from budget furniture warehouses to luxury boutique showrooms, and even scoured the stores in Melbourne, all without success. All the couches I saw were too bulky, or too squooshy, or too girly, or too expensive, or too cheap. The upmarket design magazines are filled with sleek minimalist sofas, upon which one can imagine sitting with a martini, discussing the use of the feminine ideal in the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. But go into the stores and there's nothing but overstuffed monstrosities, intended for slumping upon to watch Adam Sandler movies on your home theatre with surround sound.

There is, however, one exception. In the Art Gallery of Western Australia they have a collection of matching benches and couches, upon which to lounge while viewing the art, and I've been enamoured with them ever since I first saw them when I was in college in the mid-1980s. They are very long, very firm, and very black, made of quilted leather and chromed steel. A single couch seats four but looks light and graceful, thanks to the simplicity of the upholstery and the sinuous flow of the legs.

I rang the Art Gallery a few months ago to ask where they'd sourced them, but unfortunately no one knew. The furniture was installed back when the gallery was built in 1979, and as such it was older than the curator to whom I spoke.

So I had my friend the interior designer ask the senior staff at his office if they knew about it, since they've been on the local commerical design scene for decades. And oddly enough, one of them remembered them. Apparently the couches were copies of a Danish Modern design, built locally because it was considered too expensive to import them. However, in the intervening 28 years the people who actually built them had gone out of business, and I hit a bit of a dead end.

My interior designer friend found another company willing to take on the job of duplicating the couches. He could create some blueprints using CAD software, so all I'd need to do was provide them with some comprehensive measurements and some good photographs.

So last week I rang the Art Gallery again, and told the receptionist that I wanted to speak to someone about getting permission to photograph the furniture.

"Photography is not permitted inside the Art Gallery of Western Australia", she told me, in an exquisitely cultured western suburbs accent.

"Yes, I know that", I replied. "That's why I'm ringing to arrange permission. I don't want to photograph the art, just the furniture. Maybe there's some in a storage room or workshop?"

She told me she would check with the curatorial staff, and put me on hold. Over the next few minutes she popped back onto the line and politely told me that she was still checking. Then after one lengthier than usual period of holding, she came back with the verdict. She graciously informed me that I was permitted to stand in the foyer, where the cloak room and giftshop are, and use a zoom lens to look into the gallery and take pictures of the furniture across the main concourse.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I admit that for a moment I couldn't say anything. I thought to ask, "Is there anyone else there I can talk to?", but obviously there wasn't, otherwise she'd have put me through to them.

"Well, is it alright for me to come in and take some measurements?" I asked, trying to push the incredulous tone out of my voice.

"Oh, certainly," she responded.

"Thank you for your... help," I said, and hung up.

Ironically enough, I'm sure that if I did stand on the foyer and start snapping away with my zoomed camera, exactly as she suggested, I'd get thrown out by the security guards anyway. Obviously she was hired on the strength of her ability to produce rounded vowel sounds, not on any sort of competence.

But at least I could take measurements without getting hassled, so on Saturday morning I went to the Art Gallery with a pencil, a tape measure, some rough initial CAD drawings from my friend, and my pocket camera, just in case I was feeling particularly rebellious.

I found one of the benches in a quiet part of the gallery and began measuring it up - the size of the leather panels, the height of the legs, the points at which they attached to the frame, and so on. The security guards wandered by every couple of minutes, but I made a point of not acknowledging them, and they didn't disturb me.

After half an hour I had every conceivable measurement of the bench, so I went off to find the matching couch. I'd seen one earlier, but it had been occupied by an emo girl noisily playing with the ringtones on her mobile. By this stage, however, she'd moved on, so I could measure that couch in peace. I figured that if the security guards tolerated an obnoxious teenager playing screechy polyphonic versions of Dashboard Confessional songs, they'd tolerate me and my quiet measuring tape.

Of course, I was wrong.

The security guard who eventually confronted me was all smiles and friendly conversation, since he hadn't yet established whether or not he could reasonably throw me out. "Well, this is something I don't see every day", he said, with bright, passive-aggressive jollity.

"No, I expect it isn't," I replied, with a comradely little chuckle.

"What's all this for, then?"

"I'm having copies of these couches made, and to do that I need detailed measurements."

"Oh. And you're doing this on a Saturday?"

"Well, the rest of the week I'm at work."

"You have your own furniture business, do you?"

"No, these are just for me. I've already found a contractor to do the construction, once I give him the measurements."

"Most people just buy a couch from a furniture store", he observed.

"Yes", I said, with a little sigh. "But I'm not most people. My life would be a lot simpler if I were."

"Well, I guess I can't stop you measuring," he said, wistfully, perhaps envisioning a perfect world in which he could.

It occurred to me to ask him why he should want to stop me, but I was determined to keep these exchanges bright and friendly, so I just smiled and continued with my work.

Every few minutes thereafter he would swing by me again, to test out some new avenue of discouragement. My favourite was a suggestion that I might be violating copyright.

"I sincerely doubt that the Art Gallery gained permission from the designer when they had these copies made in 1979," I pointed out, still with my best disarmingly genial tone of voice.

Whenever one of his gambits failed, he would engage me in a few harmless exchanges of cheerful, interested conversation before inserting some subtly veiled threat, just in case the power relationship had become diluted by all this friendly banter. As a member of the public, albeit one who was acting weirdly, he couldn't be rude to me, but neither could he allow my actions to escape without disapproval. If I'd thought to bring a psychologist with me we could have a written a fascinating article about it for a professional journal.

Note to self: always take a psychologist with you wherever you go.

After an hour and a half I had as many measurements as I could get, and although my camera was in my pocket I was being watched too closely to use it. However on my way out I surreptitiously snapped a picture of a bench with the camera in my mobile phone. Of course it was too blurry and low-res to be of any use, but after all the crap I'd put up with, I needed a meaningless little act of rebellion.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I'm a little teapot concerned that so many of the blogs I read have gone south lately. Or down. Or off. Or off down south.

There are three general varieties:

1. The suicide. Some suicides just stop abruptly following an ordinary post, never to be seen again. Some wind down gradually, posting less and less, and eventually petering out with a post about an indefinite hiatus. Still others officially declare that they are over blogging and wish everyone well in their future reading, wherever that may be. The effect is the same in each case - no more reading for me, and a vague sense of being snubbed.

2. The protectionist. For whatever reason, the protectionists have decided that having their blog up on the general Web for everyone to see is too risky. They fear that a slip of "my boss is such a dickhead" or "those illegal drugs sure made sex with that underage hooker last night more memorable" might land them in hot water, once the googlebots find it and index it for acrimonious authority types to find. So they decide to restrict their readership. Often they give you the opportunity to follow them to their new gated blog, but it's rarely worth the effort of delurking to do so, and frankly, I don't like having to jump through hoops just to find out what someone thinks of the new season of 'My Name Is Earl'.

3. The professional. I read a few big professional blogs (Tim Blair, James Lileks and some others), and while they're reliable, they're also impersonal. Assuming you're even allowed to submit a comment, it'll just get lost in the hundred or so others, probably without the blogger realising that it was there. I like the fact that in my blog each of the comments feels as if it is directed at me, not just pasted onto some vast, crowded messageboard.

My old blog supply is drying up, and I need a fresh deluge.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Following a link from James Lileks and grubbing around a bit, I made an interesting discovery about comparative budget housing in the US and Australia.

In the US, $50,000 (Australian) will buy you a five bedroom, two bathroom house in Belle Plaine, a little farming town in Iowa.

The house is over a hundred years old, but needing a fair bit of work to recapture that turn-of-the-century charm. It's only a half hour drive up the interstate to Iowa City or Cedar Rapids, or a little further in the opposite direction to Des Moines.

By contrast, $50,0000 (Australian) will buy you a two bedroom, one bathroom house in Mt Magnet, a wretched, dusty hole of a mining town in Western Australia.

The house probably dates back to the 1980s, and as such has no charm whatsoever. It's about a seven hour drive to Perth, and probably a three or four hour drive down a corrugated dirt road to Geraldton, the closest town of any size.

If that's not quite close enough to the action, $50,000 would also buy you a beachside home in the tourist town of Albany (population 30,000, five hours from Perth). This would be rather nice, if not for the fact that your "home" is actually an on-site caravan. If you're an American and don't know what an on-site caravan is, think trailer park trailer, only without the roominess or the classy interior design.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Sick of the Big Bad Wolf's crap, Little Red Riding Hood served him the eviction notice from Grandma's house backed up by the United Woodcutters Militia.

Translation: You can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a man's woman, no time to talk.

'Godzillastein versus the People's Glorious Red October Revolutionary People's Army' didn't do too well at the box office.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I did an IKEA run last night and picked up four 'Babord' wooden shoe racks for $8.95 each. Stacked on top of each other, they make rather nice bedside tables.


Bed linen by Sheridan. Painting by Blandwagon. Dirty marks on the carpet by appalling slovenliness.

bedside table left

It's 9.35: I could be watching "Difference of Opinion" but instead I'm photographing shoe racks.

bedside table right

The framed butterflies and beetles are from New Guinea (via Melbourne). Sadly, they are probably not the only bugs in my bedroom.

Next comes the hard part - staining them to match the room's woodwork, and then a protective coat of furniture oil.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


People who have spent a lot of time with me will know that I occasionally become convinced that I have Asperger's Syndrome. I was a very maladjusted child, I place a little too much emphasis on routine, I get obsessed with patterns and puzzles, and I have the keenly calibrated social sense of someone who tells Yo Mama jokes at a Black Panther meeting.

So when the opportunity arose, I completed this test for Asperger's and other Autistic Spectrum Disorders. And here are my results.

There are two things I can take from this. One, I don't have Asperger's. Two, I am nevertheless more autistic than the average math contest winner.

I don't know whether to jump for joy or punch myself in the head.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Semiotic analyses of advertising images are always interesting, especially when the images don't quite make sense. Take, for example, this flyer that came with my new mattress.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the message here is either "Sleepmaker mattresses make you feel like you're sleeping with another person lying on your back!" or "I'd rather lie on my husband than on a Sleepmaker mattress!"

I suppose they were limited by the relatively few girl-on-boy positions that aren't overtly sexual. Possibly a different pictoral approach might have been a good idea.

However, it is a good opportunity for a bit of Wacky Captioning:

1. Jack and Sarah remained faithful to their True Love Waits promises, which resulted in a certain amount of confusion on their wedding night.

2. Warren only discovered the awful truth about "Charlotta" when it was too late.

3. Janet came to regret buying a Karma Sutra edited by Jerry Falwell.


Here I am, saying that I don't want to appear mean-spirited, and then I go and discover The Chorus of Women. How am I supposed to just ignore this? How, I ask you?

A Chorus of Women came into being when 150 women filled the Australian Parliament with the song "Lament" on 18 March 2003, the day Australia's intention to invade Iraq was announced.

We have been singing ever since. Like the ancient Greek chorus on which we model ourselves, we have commented on the events of our time. We try to listen to the wise course and seek to activate integrity and compassion in our communities.

Leaving aside the fact that "listen to the wise course" is literally nonsensical, it implies that integrity and compassion are inactive in their communities unless they open their big mouths. Personally I take exception to that, particularly when my accusers' moral authority comes from listening to whatever the "wise course" is whispering to them out of the ether. What form does this listening take? Perhaps it's a feeling they get in their waters, or some kind of feminine intuition?

Come on, ladies. It's 2007, and you're not so much a Greek Chorus as a team of nagging housewives from a 1950s sit-com. Far from being strong, modern Australian women who can take the reins of power for themselves, you're basically a gaggle of musical Hattie Jacqueses, nagging and scolding those in power without taking on any responsibility for the outcomes.

Kenneth Williams joins the Chorus of Women for a touching rendition of "I Will Arise (Especially in the Morning, Ooh!)"

I might be slightly less snarky if the music had a degree of profundity or poetry, but it's the worst kind of whiny emotional blackmail:

Planet We Share

Mourn, mourn
a planet in danger,
Mourn, mourn a planet we love,
Cry, cry our longing to save her,
Cry, cry for strength now to move
Love the earth, love its waters,
Cherish its soil and its air
Protect all its creatures
And put a coaster under that glass or it'll leave rings.

I admit I may have altered one of those lines; see if you can guess which one!

In conclusion, here's my advice. If you want to control the destiny of Australia, get voted into government. It's not as much fun as dressing in purple and playing "Greek Choruses" with the girls from the book club, but at least it has an element of dignity.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I've written a couple of posts over the last week. The first was mind-numbingly boring, and the second was unacceptibly mean-spirited. So into the trashbin they went. Excuse me for wanting to fool people into thinking that I'm a) interesting and b) nice. Suckers!

Hence the silence. To judge was the dearth of recent posts on all my favourite blogs, I'm not the only one with nothing to say.