Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I suspect that many of us have bought things on eBay that were unjustifiable. However I like to think that only I would buy a metre-long vintage 1/100 scale model of a BOAC Boeing 747.

Maybe other people might consider buying it. All I know is that I was the only bidder.

I also know that it cost more to ship it from Melbourne to Perth than it did to buy it in the first place. But at least now I have a metre-long model airliner to go with my polished aluminium hare ice bucket, my rusted out 1940s pedal car and my collection of animal skulls. I feel fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Since he did such a good job with the dishwasher, I invited my friend JC back to install a new tap on my kitchen sink last night. The old one had cracked along its underside, meaning that every time I turned it on it sprayed water everywhere except in the sink. So after looking under the sink and determining that it would be relatively straightforward for two guys to install, I bought a shiny new one from Bunnings and made the call to JC.

We bring separate skills to these kinds of jobs. As JC pointed out, he spent many years working on the engine in his 1967 Mini, which means that he is used to dealing with obscure fasteners in inaccessible places locked into place by rust. I’m good at providing gin, and remembering little things like turning the water off at the mains before commencing work.

JC also has something of the berserker in his genetic makeup, which came in handy when we discovered that the central bolt holding the existing tap onto the sink was rusted into place. He attacked it with spanners, and pliers, and wrenches. With both of us straining on separate shifters, we almost tore the sheet metal of the sink apart. The nut, however, didn’t move.

Whereas a normal person would encounter a recalcitrant nut and conclude that the job is impossible, JC tends to see the problem as an embodiment of all of life’s frustrations. He takes the nut’s failure to oblige him as a personal slight, a slur against his character and his abilities. And if human wrath could be focused into a hostile glare, I’m pretty sure that the brass nut would have melted.

That’s the kind of tenacity you need in this sort of the situation. So it was that with extreme violence, WD40, the mangling of the other parts of the tap and the application of the largest forged steel wrench in the Western World, the nut eventually turned. Half an hour later the new tap was installed and working perfectly.

We celebrated with scotch, coffee, chocolate and South Park, not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I was in the David Jones city store this afternoon, hanging around waiting for a friend as he used the toilets there. We were there because David Jones has one of the few public toilets in the city centre that don’t look like a sewer pipe has exploded inside them.

McDonalds toilets are usually pretty safe, but I’ve been into the one in the McDonalds on the corner of Barrack and Hay Streets, and it was the nastiest restroom I have ever seen. It appeared that a junkie had been in there with Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo, having a fight to the death. One of those crash-around-the-room, breaking-bits-of-furniture sort of fights. Put simply: ewww.

While I was waiting I had a look at the men’s aftershave and cologne counter. Apparently the top-selling cologne in the store is L'eau d'Issey Pour Homme Intense by Issey Miyaki, so I squirted a bit from the tester bottle onto my wrist. And it was like no cologne I’ve ever smelt before.

It was bitter and botanical, with fragrances like gin and cinders and parsley. It was pretty horrible when I sprayed it on my wrist and actively sniffed it, but when it sank into the background it became oddly compelling. It’s a brave and strange scent, and I suppose it’s to be applauded for taking a risk.

But I wonder how it came to be the top-selling cologne in David Jones? Maybe the local male population is beginning to embrace the unconventional. Or, more likely, the people on the David Jones cologne counter are big fat fibbers. I don’t imagine that there are that many men in Perth with the self-confidence to go around smelling like Hell’s herb garden.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


My sister: Do you watch ‘Grand Designs’?

Me: I love it. Never miss it.

My sister: Your eight year old nephew just loves it too. He actually plays Grand Designs with his Lego.

Me: He does? How?

My sister: He builds little ruined buildings, and then he rebuilds them into little modernist houses with lots of big windows and tiny designer furniture.

Me: Really?

My sister: Really.

Me: Wow. I don’t know if that’s the cutest thing ever… or just sort of weird.

My sister: Well, it is a very good show.

Me: Presumably he has a little Lego man in a pink shirt with a little peaked hairstyle who walks around nagging the other little Lego men about the cost overruns and the lapses in stylistic coherence.

My sister: And who always turns up for a final inspection before the renovation is completed. Your nephew gets so frustrated when Kevin does that.

Me: Whoa, me too! It’s like we’re related or something.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Today featured a big bunch of nothing, or at least a big bunch of nothing interesting. I did plenty of useful stuff – took my suit to the drycleaners, bought some socks at Kmart, went to the hardware store to buy a new jigsaw blade – but that’s not what people want to read in blogs, or at least not what people want to read in this one. The only way that any of that would be of interest is if I bumped into Ursula Andress at the drycleaners, or if I discovered a range of socks patterned with little Tom Servos.

Both of which would have been way cool. But, sadly, they didn’t actually happen.

But it isn’t that sort of holiday. The best and most representative moment of the day occurred a little after 4pm, when I was curled up on a couch in a smart café, with a flat white and a caramel slice, reading the New Yorker, and just luxuriating in the fact that I had nowhere to be and nothing to do.

It was so comfortable and relaxing. Plus I learned a whole bunch from the New Yorker about Moldovan sex trafficking, so it was fun and educational!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


While I was in Blockbuster recently I picked up a DVD called ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’. I noticed that it starred Clive Owen, who is kind of cool, and Monica Bellucci, who is at least three kinds of rowrrr, and Paul Giamatti, who is possibly my favourite actor at the moment. So despite the fact that I’d never heard of it, I thought I’d give it a go.

Now excuse me while I find a calendar so I can kiss the day I decided to watch it.


There are no words to adequately describe just how awesome this movie is. It has car chases! It has explosions! It has violence… oh man, does it have violence! It has such a high body count it makes the average John Woo film look like an episode of The Saddle Club.

In short, it is the ultimate boy film. If you look at testosterone under a microscope, I’m pretty sure that what you actually see is a teeny tiny clip from this movie. It’s a film that jumps through your eyeballs, tunnels down to the very genetic structure of your cells, grabs the Y chromosome and takes it out for the wildest night on the town it has ever seen.

This means that girls should not see this movie. Girls should not even walk past it in the video store. I realise that Clive Owen is thought to be a bit tasty in some feminine circles, but trust me, he is not there to be your eye candy. He is there to open a can of whoop ass, throw the whoop ass away, and then bludgeon a dozen bad guys to death with the can. If you are a girl and you watch this movie, you will only find yourself saying stupid things like, “Oh come on, like Clive Owen could shoot bad guys and deliver a baby at the same time!” And if you do that, I’m sorry, but the men in the room will pick you up, throw you outside and lock the door behind you, so that they can watch Clive Owen killing a guy with a carrot without distraction.

Seriously, at one point Clive Owen kills eight guys while having sex with Monica Bellucci. I don’t mean that he has sex with Monica Bellucci and then shoots them, or that he pauses having sex with Monica Bellucci just long enough to shoot them. I mean that he shoots eight guys while having sex with Monica Bellucci! Shooting bad guys! Sex with Moncia Bellucci! AT THE SAME TIME! It’s quite possibly the single most awesome moment in the history of the male psyche!

So if you are a girl, go see ‘Dan in Real Life’, which has family dynamics, people talking about their problems and an aerobics scene. But if you are a boy, see ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’, and offer up thanks that you live in an age when such treasures as this are freely available.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I’m on holidays this week, so since I’ll have a bit more spare time on my hands I’ve decided to write at least one blog post every day. Of course, we all know what happened last time I took a week off and declared that I would blog every day – circumstances conspired to stop me.

But obviously I never learn, so here I am.

The most important thing, or at least the most involved thing that happened to me over the last few days is that I inherited a dishwasher. I’ve never seen the need for one in the past, but my sister has taken out a long-term lease on a house that already has a dishwasher, so rather than leaving it to rust in the shed she gave it to me. I have a space in my kitchen for a dishwasher, and all of the requisite plumbing, so it couldn’t be more perfect.

Now all I needed to do was get it installed.

I enlisted the help of my friend JC, who has a logical, scientific mind and is thus of much use in situations like these. Not that I thought it would be all that difficult. How long, I wondered, could it take to stick a machine in a gap and plug it in to power and water?

I will persist in asking these stupid, Fate-taunting questions.

How to Install A Dishwasher the Blandwagon Way

Drill first hole in kitchen cabinets for pipes to pass through.
Discover that drill only had twenty seconds of charge left in it.
Put drill on recharge and adjourn for gin & tonics and backgammon.
Return to drilling holes in cabinets.
Discover that gin is not a performance enhancing drug, at least when it comes to power tools.
Also discover that drill hasn’t quite recharged enough.
Battle on without drill, using jigsaw.
Discover that jigsaw is too bulky to reach all the places it needs to.
Use hacksaw blade.
Snap hacksaw blade.
Curse hacksaw blade.
Finally get everything hooked up, and turn on dishwasher for a test run.
Celebrate as dishwasher starts up.
Rend garments as dishwasher shuts down and flashes little lights in apparent consternation.
Discover that the dishwasher outlet nozzle on the waste pipe under the sink is a dummy that doesn’t actually lead through to that waste pipe.
Attempt to drill hole in outlet nozzle.
Discover that drill won’t fit under sink because the drill bit is too big.
Use tiny drill bit that just allows the drill to fit.
Laboriously expand tiny hole to medium sized hole with multiple woodworking files and swearing.
Reconnect hoses and turn dishwasher on again.
Celebrate as dishwasher works.
Attempt to push dishwasher neatly into space, only to discover that the pipes are blocking it and it has to sit out about a foot further than the rest of the cabinets.
Go to Bunnings and buy more flexible pipe, one specifically designed for dishwashers.
Get it home, hook it up, and discover it doesn’t fit.
Return to Bunnings for adaptor.
Get it home, hook it up, and discover that it leaks.
Call upon Cthulhu to smite Bunnings, Whirlpool, the dodgy Chinese factory that made the pipe, and whoever invented dishes in the first place.
Watch MST3K while Cthulhu does his thing.
Refit the pipe with a little more care and adjustment.
Mop kitchen floor for the third time in 24 hours.

But we finally got it working, and although I still don’t really generate enough dirty dishes to use it every day, I have to admit that it does a startlingly good job. Even running it without detergent resulted in glassware, crockery and silverware that sparkled like new. So all is hunky-dory.

More or less.

JC, sensibly hiding from Cthulhu.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Saturday was one of those days that make the rest of life worthwhile. It was a day of neat things happening, one after the other, in a cascade of good fortune that stands in stark contrast to the frustration, thwarted plans and stymied activity which characterise the rest of my life.

The day began, as my Saturdays often do, with breakfast at Food For Me. Perhaps it was the rain, or the fact that it was the day before Mother’s Day, but the normally packed café was half empty. I got a big table (large enough to properly spread out my newspaper), my coffee came quicker than normal, and they gave me an extra slice of fruit toast. Sometimes it doesn't take much to make me feel good.

Once I’d finished breakfast I drove into the city, found a parking spot, and walked up through Northbridge to visit the vintage clothing stores. I didn’t find anything I liked, but on my way back to the city I stopped at an antique store, saw this, and realized that my life could not go on without it.

You may ask, “Blandwagon, do you really need a larger-than-life-sized polished aluminum hare that converts into an ice bucket?” And I would reply, as any right thinking person would, “What a dumb-ass question.”

The saleswoman was kind enough to give me a 10% discount, and then just to be even nicer she decided to throw in the other thing I’d seen that I liked.

Everybody needs a Disapproving Bishop, even if he appears to be simply a leftover piece from an expensive but incomplete chess set. He will come in handy as decoration for any part of the house in which I am likely to be in need of stern moral guidance, such as next to the TV, or on top of the fridge, or beside the cement mixer full of warm tofu (don’t ask).

Chuffed with my purchases, I walked over to 78 Records to check out some music I’d heard on the radio. I found an EP by local group The Autumn Isles, and as I was taking it up to the register I decided to browse through the DVD sale bins. And can you say “treasure trove”?

Three of Roger Corman’s 1970s Women in Prison movies! Only ten dollars each! They were all made at the same time, starred the same people, had the same plot and used much of the same sets and dialogue, so frankly I don’t know what, if any, differences exist between them. But I’m looking forward to finding out!

There was also this Corman classic from 1959 for only five bucks.

It’s a classic of beatnixploitation. Trust me on this.

I took all of my goodies back to my car and listened to my new CD as I drove home. The Autumn Isles remind me a lot of The Shins, but there are shades of a lot of other things in there, from T Rex to The Blackeyed Susans. They’re simple, cheerful little tunes that make you want to get up and bounce around the living room. I liked it so much I decided to wander over to another alternative music store later in the afternoon to see if they had the band’s other album.

The other music store did indeed have their other album, so I bought that, along with a further CD that was prominently marked as being a product of The Bees. Since they’re one of my favourite bands I was very excited… for about four seconds, until I realized that it was a compilation of other people’s material chosen by The Bees. But then once I read through the track listing I got excited all over again. It’s a collection of the songs and styles that have influenced their music, and I figured that any friend of The Bees is a friend of mine. Accordingly, there’s a lot of very cool soul and funk from the 60s and 70s, with a splash of the blues, hip hop and gospel. It’s worth the rather outrageous cover price just for Little Ann’s sassy ‘Going Down A One Way Street (The Wrong Way)’ and Clarence Reid’s stomping classic ‘Nobody But You Babe’.

As an added bonus, as I was walking into the store I bumped into some old friends whom I hadn't seen in months, so after we'd made out purchases we adjourned to the nearby Exomod cafe for a restorative coffee and catching up.

So when you add it all up, Saturday gave me a big silver bunny, a sour-faced clergyman, four Roger Corman DVDs and a lot of great music, plus some time to spend in groovy cafes both in the pleasure of my own company and in the pleasure of friends'. If life gets any better than that, nobody's told me about it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Well, that's that done. I've finally finished my tax return and sent it off to the Australian Taxation Office.

Yes, I know it's ten months late. Shut up.

I can't help it. The Blandwagial lifestyle and the Financially Astute lifestyle exist on separate planes. Some people hold innumerable investments and tax offsets and spend hours coming up with imaginative deductions. I on the other hand work for one employer, I don't have a spouse or dependent children, I have no investments, and I don't need to buy anything to do my work. Plus, of course, I don't care. So tax time is not an opportunity to claw back from the government all the child rebates and uniform allowances and computer depreciation I can muster, but a boring acknowledgement of my complete absense of financial acumen.

Oh, and my wages are set up so that I pay too much tax during the year, so come tax time I can rest assured that they owe me money, not the other way around. I figure it's harder for them to get upset with me if they're the ones who have to cough up the moolah.

That may give you an indication of how distant my mindset is from matters financial - I've been able to apply for a great big wad of cash for ten months now, and the only reason I've finally done it is because I've realised that this year's tax return is coming up in only 7 weeks. I'd rather delay getting my money for ten months than have to deal with those horrible, complicated, maths-saturated forms.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


As anyone who has read this blog for more than twelve seconds knows, I am the lifelong host of an ongoing Festival of Bad Cinema. It seems to be the position I was born to hold. Even when I set myself up to watch a classic of the cinematic arts, it often turns out that I’m actually Festivaling like there’s no tomorrow.

So it was on Saturday night, when my bad movie guru GC and I watched the original 1966 version of ‘Alfie’, and I found myself asking every ten minutes or so, “Why is this slow-moving, loveless ‘comedy’ so famous?”

‘Alfie’ is fondly remembered as an iconic wacky sex comedy of the Swinging Sixties, but I’ve seen iconic wacky sex comedies from the Swinging Sixties, and ‘Alfie’ isn’t one. It’s a dreary kitchen sink melodrama dressed up as wacky sex comedy, which is nowhere near as interesting.

Alfie, as played by Michael Caine, is a charming cad who spends his days, or more accurately his nights, boinking his way around Greater London. In his constant asides to the camera, he explains his philosophies of life and love, whether it be rationalizing his obnoxious treatment of his many codependent girlfriends, justifying his adultery or simply holding forth about responsibility and mortality. Over the course of the movie, however, his various chickens come home to roost (most notably when he sees the end result of an abortion he organized, and when one of his women turns the tables and treats him the same way he’s treated countless girls) and we see the first, slow signs that he’s beginning to understand the error of his ways.

I can imagine that it’s possible to tell this story in the form of a wacky sex comedy, but this movie doesn’t... I suspect because the makers didn’t have their heart in it. Alfie does not live in the England of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Mary Quant or groovy girls in plastic minidresses. He lives in an England carried over from the 50s; the England of rationing, Butlins holiday camps and twee, underpowered cars. There’s no swinging, just a layer of forced jollity over a grim, deprived existence. It’s 1966, and yet in London itself antibiotics aren’t available to ordinary citizens, and people still treat radios as a major purchase - this major international city has the standard of living of a hick town in rural Arkansas. Even their version of smart jazz is pathetic; a horrible, music hall tinged cacophony that Satan no doubt plays to Django Reinhart, Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan down in Hell.

As a comedy, 'Alfie' owes more to the depressing Carry On movies than it does to sophisticated sex farces like 'What’s New Pussycat' or 'Boeing Boeing'. There seems to be something in the 20th century British character that doesn’t quite allow them to immerse themselves in the zaniness and ribaldry necessary for a good sex farce. It’s as if they don’t trust themselves. I’m reminded of something Bill Bryson once wrote about the British and their relationship with dessert: when they want a sweet treat, they look to scones and rock cakes, and if you took them over the Channel and offered them a genuine treat, like a chocolate éclair, they would freak out and retreat back to Putney.

Maybe I’m being unfair. There was definitely something different about the film, a certain freshness to its attitude which only becomes apparent when you watch other kitchen sink dramas of the era. But it’s not enough to explain its fame. The funny thing about 'Alfie' is that it’s very difficult to view it fairly: if you view it as a product of its era then it says more about the wretchedness of general British life in the 50s and 60s than it does about its hero or sexual politics. If you try and view it outside its era, however, it simply becomes a slow-moving, unevenly-wrought melodrama wearing an unconvincing comedy hat.

Maybe it just needed some Ursula Andress. But then of course that’s pretty much my answer for everything.


Let's face it, we can all identify with this.