Friday, February 25, 2011


Over the last ten years property prices in my city have tripled. One of the interesting side effects of this explosion is that the commissions for real estate agents, which are charged as a precentage of the price of the property sold, have naturally also tripled. The workload hasn't changed, but the job suddenly pays three times more.

Unsurprisingly, as a result, people with no interest in either sales or property but a large interest in money have flocked to the profession, and the city is lousy with underskilled individuals trying to flog houses. It seems that anyone with expressive hair, a poorly developed sense of shame and a failure to graduate from high school can be a real estate agent.

A case in point is a young lady named Jodie, currently selling this property in the suburb of Wilson.

Call me pedantic, but I'm bothered by the errors in this blurb. With so many to cover, it's probably best to do them in order of appearance:

Australian Property Alliance is pleased to present this beautiful architecturally designed home in the highly sort after suburb of Wilson.

One, it's architect-designed, not architecturally designed. Two, Wilson is a highly sought after suburb, not a highly sort after one.

Featuring 4 Bedrooms, all with built in robes, 2 Bathrooms including ensuite from the master bedroom and another separate wash closet.

It's called a water closet, not a wash closet.

Modern open plan Kitchen, Family and meals area and separate Lounge/Theatre room.

Why is "meals" not capitalised like the other rooms?

Stunning outdoor alfresco, perfect for entertaining, low maintenance gardens and storage room.

It's "al fresco", not "alfresco". It's Italian. It literally means "in the fresh air". Therefore an alfresco (sic) is by definition going to be outdoors. Let me know if you ever find one in a basement.

Well positioned in private complex of 8. This property is close to all amenities and only a short walk to the Swan River.

Sweet merciful crap. It's only a short walk to the Canning River, not the Swan River. This would be unforgivable even if it WASN'T PRINTED ON THE MAP CONTAINED WITHIN THE LISTING!

What more could you ask for

I'm going to be bold and ask for a question mark.

Apparently the commission on this half-million dollar property isn't worth Jodie's time to run a spellcheck, correctly identify major watercourses or insert punctuation. And to be fair, she did get the name of the suburb right - what more can we expect for a measley $10,000 or so?

Friday, February 18, 2011


Everybody say "Ahhh..."

Or possibly "Oooh..."

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year: AndressFest!

Get ready, people. Only one month to go...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Early last Thursday evening I left my office, trotted downstairs, and walked out to my scooter to ride home. As I passed the scooter bays, lost in my thoughts, I developed a sudden feeling that something wasn't right. I couldn't figure out what it was. I walked back the way I'd come. Was it something I'd forgotten in my office? No. I turned around and walked back to the scooter bays, and finally the feeling coalesced into an actual thought. My scooter was not where it was supposed to be.

I ran through all of the possible explanations - did I actually drive today? Did I park it somewhere else? Am I suffering from momentary scooter blindness? - before coming down with a sad little thud to the only possible explanation. It had been stolen.

It's not easy to steal a scooter. The steering is locked, it won't start without the key in the ignition, and the helmet is locked away in the seat bin. The only way to steal it would be either to use some sort of master key in the ignition, or to pick it up and carry it to a waiting ute or van. Both require a certain amount of forethought. Plus it was a sunny afternoon, in a nice suburb, in a carpark shut away behind electronic boom gates, not late at night on some ghetto street. It seemed like a lot of risk and effort for a bottom-of-the-range Piaggio Zip, but I'm not a criminal so I don't necessarily grasp their motivations.

After my boss kindly gave me a lift home, I rang the police. As is always the case when I phone the police, to report a theft or an accident or a burglary, their response was brusque. Reporting a crime means having to enter information into a database, and that smacks of effort. Of course actually investigating a crime is absolutely out of the question. I gather the police force is now little more than a useful data collection service for the insurance industry. Which is not much help to me, as it's not cost effective to insure a $1,500 scooter.

It hurts that my poor little scooter is probably in pieces by now, hacked apart in some backyard motorcycle repair shop for the value of its components. There's little chance of it being sold whole, since the thieves don't have the keys and any check of its license plate or VIN would show that it was stolen. The most logical thing for a criminal to do would be sell it for its anonymous parts. And this pains me, because it was a wonderful scooter - carefully maintained, quiet and comfortable to ride, and with tens of thousands of trouble-free kilometres still in it.

The other depressing thing is the issue of a replacement. Leaving aside the one and half thousand dollars it'll cost, Piaggio no longer make 4-stroke 50cc scooters, and second-hand ones sell very quickly. I'd forgotten that I only found mine because the previous owner had put it in the wrong section of, making it invisible to most searches. I've found a few for sale, and put out my feelers to the owners, but there has been a lot of interest in their machines, and no one has answered my texts or emails.

I find that I'm sinking deeper and deeper into sadness about it. Besides the scooter I'll also need a new helmet, new riding gloves, new sunglasses and a new garage door remote. And worst of all, once I get a replacement, there's absolutely no reason why it can't just happen again. I could chain it to a post, but let's face it, if criminals are well-prepared enough to have skeleton keys or a van standing by, they're well-prepared enough to have bolt cutters.

There's no closure, no chance of recovery, no investigation from the police and no guarantee that it won't happen again. Just me, with a big pile of work to do and money to spend to get back to where I was on Thursday morning.

Saturday, February 05, 2011


On Thursday night I fulfilled a longtime dream and caught a concert by the man responsible for more music on my iPod than any other. It was a performance by Sufjan Stevens: musician, hipster Presbyterian (“Hipsterterian!”) and all-round groovy whackjob.

Sufjan made his name as a folk musician, crafting melodies so exquisite that he could play them on a banjo and still make them cool. But with two most recent albums he has taken a sharp turn into technology, replacing his banjo and piano with drum machines and synthesisers. The concert I attended was intended to showcase the latest album.

A Sufjan concert is not like a concert by any other group of musicians. For the audience, there's almost a sense of voyeurism. There's no banter between the members of the band, and every song is tightly choreographed. No solos, no improvisation. It's like watching a well-organised circus.

In this particular show, there is a certain child-like aesthetic. They play dress ups with feather boas, tinfoil hats and tinsel. They adorn themselves and their equipment with flashing lights, and plaster everything with day-glo tape. They're as self-involved as little kids putting on a show for the assembled adults.

Sufjan doesn't talk about himself, or even about his music, except in generalised terms. It's as if he's afraid of anyone knowing anything too definitive about him. Nor does he treat his fans to any new material. He doesn't even smile, except once or twice, in a self-deprecating manner as a dry witticism falls flat or he realises he's just said something flaky or pretentious.

Meanwhile his backing singers/dancers have a tightly structured routine, full of gestures as stark and stylised as soviet statuary. But there's no smirking irony in their dorky dancing. They're serious about their dorky dancing. They know that it's dorky, and they realise that its dorkiness is fundamental to its appeal. It's completely self-actualised; think of it as how Jung would want us to dance if he were in a position to insist on it.

All of this may give the impression that I didn't like the show, but that's not the case. I absolutely loved it. There's something very "New York" about the band's total devotion to the artifice of the program. They covered themselves in flashing lights and fluorescent tape because they completely bought into Sufjan's primitive-meets-science-fiction conceit.

I’ve often wished that more people could just throw themselves into creating art, without feeling the need to remind themselves and others that they still have one foot in reality. I think that Sufjan might agree with me on that point.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Every time I log out of my hotmail account I'm confronted with, the website compiled by people almost too stupid to write for the benefit of people almost too stupid to breathe. Today this little link was featured:

Yes, why not look to 'Mad Men' for that 50s aesthetic. While we're at it, let's look to 'Happy Days' for the styles of the 40s, or 'That 70s Show' for the cutting edge look of the 60s.