Monday, January 31, 2005


Yesterday at the growers mart there was a half-price sale on blueberries (woo-hoo!) and cut-price figs. If the growers mart stock is anything to go by, figs are in season each year for roughly eleven minutes, so I bought some to make my favourite ever salad, which I had for lunch.

It's a Jamie Oliver dish named, in typical Jamie Oliver style, "The Easiest Sexiest Salad In The World". One can argue over whether salads can by their nature be 'sexy' to anyone except a very tiny handful of very specific perverts, but it's certainly easy. My version of the recipe involves:

Two fresh figs per person, cut into wedges.
Two bocconcinis per person, cut into slices.
Two pieces of mild coppa per person, roughly shredded with your fingers.
Two tablespoons of fresh basil per person, roughly shredded with your fingers.

Put everything in a white bowl. Drizzle a dressing made from lemon juice, honey, olive oil and freshly ground black pepper over the salad. Gently turn the ingredients over in the bowl to mix them.

It's best to get a representative from all four ingredients on your fork at the same time, because the flavours are spectacular together. It's also important to use an expensive, unsullied white bowl, because the colours are just as spectacular as the flavours, if not more so.

And yes, I do recognise that, in succumbing to the temptation to post recipes on my blog, pictures of my kitty cat cannot be far behind.


At a backyard barbecue last night I spotted a friend I hadn't seen for a while, so I went over to say hello. He was leaning against a ragged old trampoline, talking to a girl I know only slightly. I made some casual opening remark, he responded, and the girl said, "Give me a cuddle."

I was taken aback, but who am I to argue? I gave her a hug, and that seemed to make her happy.

I leaned against the trampoline and my friend and I traded a few more comments, but then I suddenly felt a very gentle pressure on my shoulders.

"Poppy," I said, for that was the girl's name, "Are you giving me a massage?"

"Yes," she replied.

"But aren't you supposed to, like, squeeze or something?"

"I'm rubbing," she protested.

It wasn't very strong rubbing. In fact it was a very Zen massage, just the lightest pressure, like two butterflies alighting on my shoulders.

"She's balancing your energy levels," my friend said, with a straight face. He's a physiotherapist, and could probably give me a massage that would turn my muscles to jelly. Instead I was getting the dainty touch of Poppy, which, while not unpleasant, didn't seem to be achieving all that much.

Oh well. I suppose you can't expect a really top-notch massage from a three year old.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Ten Things I Learnt From Watching Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho'
1. A boy's best friend is his mother.
2. Women are lousy at buying second-hand cars.
3. Police psychologists are usually hammier than a bucket of bacon.
4. Never trust an old lady whose taste in interior design runs to having more cherubim per square foot than Heaven.
5. If sufficiently distracted by grief, younger sisters will stick their hands into a strange motel toilets without hesitation.
6. Instead of playing it cool and lulling him into a false sense of security, it's best to antagonise your deranged murder suspect and make him desperate and homicidal.
7. Sharing sandwiches with a creepy, unstable young man in an empty motel miles from anywhere can really help an attractive young woman understand where she's been going wrong in her life.
8. If you are in desperate need of cash, and a dirty old millionaire who is literally throwing money around flirts with you, treat him with disdain.
9. Women in 1960 could have sex without removing their heavy-duty underwear.
10. In 2005, it is impossible to hear Mrs Bates call out "Norman!" and not respond by calling out "Seymour!".

Thursday, January 27, 2005


My Two Second Review of The Bourne Supremacy, as seen on DVD last Tuesday:

Can you please hold the camera steady for FIVE FREAKIN' SECONDS!?

Other than that, a jolly fine romp. It's nice to see Karl Urban still getting chances to practice his glowering.


Sorry, Keka. I didn't have lamb on Australia Day. I was invited to a dinner party at the last minute, and was served Vietnamese chicken parcels with satay paste and coriander. Dessert was mixed berry parfait, all washed down with a delightfully subtle sauvignon blanc.

I feel like such a traitor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


This afternoon on the way home from work, I looked out of the window of my car and saw a hubcap travelling in the next lane over. There it was, scooting along in a perfectly straight line, without any of the usual hubcap attachments such as, say, a car. It was perfectly spaced between a car in front and a car behind, and doing about 80kph.

I don't mind sharing the freeway with commuting car accessories, but the little bugger was overtaking me. That hurts.


Things To Do To Not Waste The Australia Day Public Holiday

1. Clean up the yard. Prune the plumbago. Pick up that spider-infested chipboard tabletop that bowed into a banana shape after years of absorbing rainwater and take it out to the curb. Move on the illegal immigrants who've set up a refugee camp next to the compost tumbler.
2. Wash the car. A Hummer looks cool when it's covered in dirt and road grime, but a convertible Golf just looks like it's been stolen by a redneck.
3. Catch up with DM, because right now I only seem to see him when I want to borrow something, and I think he's beginning to notice.
4. Eat lamb, thus expressing solidarity with Sam Kekovich in his antipathy towards long-haired dope-smoking dole-bludging vegetarians.
5. Watch 'Firefly' live at 12.30am, because I don't have to get up for work in the morning.
6. Hug a kangaroo.
7. Hug an emu too, thus sharing the love with both animals on the Australian coat of arms.
8. Visit the Emergency Department for treatment of extensive kangaroo gashes and emu bites.
9. Get rid of the mess in the garage, including the box that the water heater came in, the spare radiator for the car I no longer own, the hubcap I found on the nature strip six months ago, and the stack of accumulated junkmail. The Flatmate's 1985 Nissan Pulsar will probably have to stay, even though it lowers the neighbourhood property values.
10. Write new lyrics to national anthem, so that while others are going on about "wealth for toil" and our home being "girt by sea" I can sing about what's really important to Australians: beer, avoiding work, a healthy mistrust of Tasmanians, and wondering what in the hell is up with Shane Warne's hair.

Note to non-Australians - If you don't know who Sam Kekovich or Shane Warne are, use Google. That's what it's there for. What am I, your mother?

Monday, January 24, 2005


Another Saturday night, another opportunity for a Festival of Bad Cinema.

Actually the first movie wasn't bad at all. It was "Shaun of the Dead", wherein an underachieving retail worker gets an opportunity to change his life when zombies suddenly take over London. The real fun of this movie is in the fact that Shaun and his friends are so ground down by their boring, repetitive, aimless lives that they're aren't even aware of the plague of zombies until about halfway though the film. Shaun is forever on the cusp of noticing the frantic TV newsflashes, screaming newspaper headlines, wailing sirens and staggering undead, before getting dragged back into another argument with his flatmate or a fight with his girlfriend or just the humdrum mechanics of suburban life.

It's a clever exploration of how Londoners might deal with the end of the world. Before Shaun finds a cricket bat, he's trying to fight off zombies with a toaster, a coffee mug tree, a plastic laundry basket and a Sade album. Later attempts to keep the undead at bay involve a totem-tennis set, some darts and a hatstand. The entire cast is woefully unprepared to deal with anything more threatening than a dodgy kebab, and those few that survive do so more through luck and classic English stubborness than anything else.

Second up was Hammer's 1972 classic, "Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter." It's sometime in Ye Dayes of Olde, and Captain Kronos, a blonde-haired ponce with an unconvincing fake scar, is hurrying to investigate reports of vampire activity in a quaint English village. On the way he rescues a sexy bra-less serving wench from the stocks, takes her with him to the village, and asks her where she'd like to go from there.

Sexy Bra-less Serving Wench: I'd like to stay here with you, if you'll have me.
Captain Kronos (with porn-star suavity): Oh yes, I'll have you.
Audience convulses with even mixture of gaffaws and cries of "Ewwwwwwwww!"

Then it gets a bit confusing. The vampire only attacks women wearing polyester wigs, to judge from the victims. Instead of being drained of blood, they're drained of youth, and their hair goes from blonde or brunette polyester to grey polyester before they die (probably from an allergic reaction to the petrochemicals).

Captain Kronos responds by getting his hunchbacked assistant to do all the investigations, while he takes several rolls in the hay with the Sexy Bra-less Serving Wench. Eventually Kronos and his assistant find out that the vampire is the widow of the local lord, butcher her in front of her horrified children, then abandon the Sexy Bra-less Serving Wench in the middle of nowhere and ride off into the sunset, or whatever passes for a sunset in the eternal English drizzle.

Lastly, we had Hammer's 1956 effort "X: The Unknown". In this one, a group of plucky British Tommys are threatened by a giant radioactive oil slick, and it's up to an imported American scientist and a small number of eager British boffins to stop it before it totals Inverness, or something equally grave.

The movie was obviously modelled on the Hollywood monster movies of the same era. But Britain in the mid-50s was a drastically different place to America, and the Brits are an entirely different species. Whereas the Americans in, for example, "Them!" responded to giant atomic mutants by sending in tanks, flamethrowers and helicopter gunships, the Brits send in a couple of soldiers in an Austin A30, armed with nothing more threatening than a stiff upper lip. It was like watching the War on Terror being fought by Beatrix Potter characters.

Major: I say, Sergeant, what seems to be the problem?
Sergeant: It's young Private Expendable, sir. He was closest to the mysterious blast.
Major: What's wrong with him?
Sergeant: I'll show you, sir. Expendable, look lively and lift up your shirt, there's a good lad.
Major: I say, it looks like horrific, pustulating third-degree burns. That must be jolly painful.
Private: It is a bit rich, sir. The MO says I got a spot of radiation sickness, too.
Major: Well I must say, that is damned unfortunate. Well, off you go to die, Expendable.
Private: Yes sir. Thank you sir.
Sergeant: 'Ere, Expendable, don't give the Major none of your lip.

No doubt the medic responded with an IV of lukewarm tea, and maybe some scones, STAT!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Earlier today I was reading MooCow's blog, and his mention of bumper stickers reminded me of how much I love to hate the "I [insert action or cause here] ... and I vote!" genre of rear bumper punditry.

If you've never seen them, one of the better examples is one my ex-brother-in-law used to have on the back of his car, saying something to the effect of "I own firearms... and I vote!"

Whether it was a simple statement of fact intended to lobby for shooters' rights, or a threat intended to make people think twice about cutting him off on the freeway wasn't really clear. Frankly with him, it could have gone either way.

I've occasionally thought about having some gag bumper stickers made, just to stir things up a bit. Some early drafts:

I club baby seals... and I vote!
I watch reality television... and I vote!
I love fluffy baby ducklings... and I vote!
The CIA is controlling my thoughts... and I vote!
I am the Angel of Death... and I vote!
I molest children... and I vote!

The last one is pretty sick and wrong, but it would make a great statement about the dangers of moral equivalency and the inherent stupidity of bumper sticker politicking. If it weren't for the pain I'd have to go through with people who didn't get it (church elders organising interventions, bumper sticker printer informing the police, strangers fire-bombing my car), I'd be tempted. I'm all about the stirring.


There have been large bushfires burning around Pickering Brook for four or five days. And when I say large, I mean like nuclear holocaust large. They've burnt out 15,000 hectares and merged into a single fire with a 100km long front.

When I look out the window of my inner-city office, I can see a fog-like haze obscuring the next building, and even though this is a sealed, climate-controlled building I can still smell the distinctive scent of woodsmoke. If the breeze shifts in the right direction, I can even spot the occasional fluttering wisp of ash.

Goodness knows what this is doing to asthma sufferers.

Monday, January 17, 2005


After returning the DVDs on Sunday night, I went home and watched 'Carnivale'. Or, as the ABC insists on pronouncing it, 'Carnivalee'. No doubt many viewers have already written in to correct them, probably using bad self-penned poetry to do it. We pretentious middle-brow types don't take these things lightly.

At the moment I'm enjoying the character of Rita-Sue, simply because I think of all the characters she must be the most fun to play. It can't be very often that a plus-sized actress gets to play a sex-bomb, all bleached blonde hair and breasts, swaggering around a carnival like a blowsy Napoleon. To do it without the character turning into a campy reprise of Mae West shows the talent of the actress as much as the opportunities of the role. I imagine that if you're an actress in Hollywood, perpetually surrounded by roles suitable for what Edna Mode called "stick insects with poofy lips", characters like Rita-Sue must seem like a godsend.

Assuming of course the existence of deities who approve of cheating, lies and adultery. That'd be a pretty limited pantheon.

And also in her favour, Rita-Sue is the only one who ever seems to be clean. I realise the show is set in the dustbowl, but if Rita-Sue can look like she takes a shower occasionally, then the rest of them can too, damn it!


Despite it being a perfect weekend to do stuff, I spent the weekend not doing stuff. I had a couple of coffees with a couple of friends, cleaned the kitchen (including mopping the floor*), bought a couple of CDs, and broke my own personal record for Number of Babylon 5 Episodes Watched in a 24 Hour Period.

The new record is 10 episodes in just under 20 hours, which, when you count in eight hours of sleep, two breaks for meals and one for church, is pretty impressive. In a sad, geeky, pathetic way.

*thus fulfilling the ancient prophesy; "Ande there be one tyme, and one tyme onlye, whenne Blandewagonne shalle cleanse his kitchenne floor of spilte coffee, cake crumbes, bits of escaped pasta, and other encrustede unmentionables. And lo, the cleansinge will take a thousande years, and coste the bloode of a thousande brave-hearted men. Or, alternatively, twentye minutes and a dashe of Domestos."

Friday, January 14, 2005


There is no joy in my life at the moment, because I am on a diet. I experience only numb nihilism and the unjoy.

The unjoy is that feeling you get when you think, "Hmmm, I could really go for one of those handmade imported Italian gourmet biscotti I have in the pantry," and experience a moment of contentment, before you suddenly remember that you are on a diet and cannot.

I dislike the unjoy.


Australia is not a safe place. Australians are safe, by and large, but only because we are so bamboozled by beer, high temperatures and reality television that we never get around to threatening anyone. The danger in Australia comes from our animals, or our Psycho Blood-Crazed Deathbeasts, as I prefer to call them.

Make no mistake; every Australian native animal is dangerous. The sharks are bitey and the rest of the fish are poisonous. The snakes are infamous for sinking their venom-enhanced fangs into innocent passers-by. Ants sting, magpies divebomb, and parrots can bite clean through a finger.

Male platypuses have poison spurs on their hind legs. Cranky kangaroos have been known to kill dogs. Dingos go one better and kill little kids. Emus are just plain nasty. Even the koalas, who are basically big sacks of eucalyptus-flavoured flab, are dangerous, if you are a certain Federal Minister for Tourism and having your suit ruined by koala whiz during a photo op constitutes 'danger'.

But my beef for today is with spiders. More to the point, my beef is with redbacks, the sleek, jet-black, unconscionably evil denizens of every household in Perth. They are not actually deadly most of the time (the last recorded fatality was in 1955, before the antivenom was developed), but their bite causes severe pain and often requires several weeks for recovery. My mother and one of my sisters have been bitten in separate incidents, and in both cases they required hospitalisation. All this might be academic if redbacks were not so ubiquitous. Leave a barbecue or a set of patio furniture in you backyard for more than a month, and it's pretty much guaranteed that there'll be at least one redback living in it.

So when I opened my meterbox this morning to turn on the sprinklers and felt my fingers touching cobweb, my instincts jerked my hand back instantly and let the door bang shut. When I opened it with a twig a moment later, there was a redback, hunkered down perhaps a centimetre or two from where my fingers had been.

I'm sorry, but it broke the rules. Stay out of the way, under a planter box or inside the hollow legs of the barbecue, and I'll pretend you're not there. Hide under the handle of the meterbox, on the other hand, and you'll only get what's coming to you. I did what all red-blooded Australian males do when provoked like this. I went inside, grabbed the bugspray, and sprayed it until it was a little white blob not dissimilar to a molten styrofoam peanut.

We Australians go through a lot of bugspray. Someone's got to show the Psycho Blood-Crazed Deathbeasts who's boss.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


In the mornings as I'm getting ready for work I listen to Heritage FM, a strange little community radio station based in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Their playlist is completely random - they skip from Boney M to Regurgitator to Elvis to Bread, one after the other, without commentary. It's like they have a roomful of CD stackers that they set to "shuffle" sometime around 1997 and nobody's interfered with it since.

But there's one thing about Heritage that runs fingernails down the blackboard of my equanimity. It's an ad. Specifically, an ad for the Gosnells Railway Markets*.

For a start, the woman doing the ad has a remarkably annoying voice. It sounds as if her voice tried to escape her throat and make a run for it, but got jammed somewhere in the lower reaches of her nose and can't get out. "Make shopping a pleasure, and experience the atmosphere," she enthuses, as if this lower-middle-class outer-suburban market were a cross between the Rive Gauche in Geneva and Harrod's in London. From there it just gets worse.

But it's two specific phrases that really get my goat and then do unnatural things to him.

"Visit the exciting range of specialty shops," she says. According to her, the range of shops at this place will actually cause your pulse to quicken, and a delicious frisson of anticipation to ripple across your skin. Entering the markets will be like standing on a bridge with bungee cables looped around your ankles, or driving too fast around hairpin bends, or realising that a beautiful woman is making eyes at you from across a crowded room. Apparently.

Damn it, these shops are NOT 'exciting'! 'Interesting' is probably still making too much of it. There'll be a shop selling stinky candles, another selling wood-turned crap, and another selling resin dolphins and plaques with teddy bears holding their arms apart and exclaiming "I wuv you THIS much!". There will also be shops selling counterfeit T-shirts, cheap DVDs that nobody wants, and really, really bad art by ladies with too much time on their hands. The only thing likely to give you a buzz is finding cherries at $5.99 a kilo at the fruit and vegetable stands.

And "You can have a fantastic meal in the food hall," she says. The cuisine will be so exquisite, so beyond the range of normal possibility, that you will question the very laws of nature that allow it to be. It must have come from some supernatural place, the Halls of Asgard or the realm of the faeries, to so transcend the mundane food of this plane of existence. It is "fantastic"; the food of fantasy, such that every bite of the other food you consume for the rest of your mortal days will be as ashes in your mouth, and you will weep bitter tears of regret and loss.

Ahem. Food hall food is not "fantastic." At a pinch, I'd go with "tasty". In general, when you eat in a food hall, there's enough salt and fat to give the dishes an agreeable taste, but that's it. You go in, you choose form the standard range of Chinese, Japanese, Tex-Mex, Vegetarian/Healthy and Kebab stands, and you get an acceptable meal for a low price. Hunger assuaged, money saved, everybody happy. I have had meals in my time that make me question whether the kitchen is staffed by ordinary humans or angels in disguise, but I did not have them in a food hall. And I never will. It is the way of things.

This ad actually makes me crazy, and I mean crazy in the scientific, literal sense. When it comes on, I go all OCD and have to either make a dash for the radio and switch it off, or, if I'm in the shower, stick my fingers in my ears. And with both options, I have to shout "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU VOICEOVER WOMAN FROM THE BLACK LAGOON LA LA LA" to make sure nothing gets through and invades my brain.

I have a low tolerance for linguistic inflation. So sue me.

*A community market set in an old railway depot, not a market for railways, which would be a helluva lot cooler.


My Two Second Review of the theatrical trailer for Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith:

Massed Wookies = YAY!

The rest of it looks like the usual load of old toss.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I went out last night with some friends to see The Incredibles for a second time. It was just as good as the first time. I think it may even supplant Toy Story as my favourite Pixar film, due in no small part to the fabulous 1962-tiki-loungesque soundtrack. In the scene where Bob is cruising towards the island in his private aquajet, eating prawns and drinking mimosas, the lounge music so smooth and frictionless it could have been coated in Teflon.

And then there are Bob's stylin' cars. I want them all. The Batman-inspired convert-o-car with the turbines in the sides. His mid-life crisismobile which looked like the product of a night of steamy passion between an 1961 E-Type Jaguar and a 1954 Mercedes Benz 300SL. I'd even have room in my garage for the tiny blue one with rocket-shaped rear indicators and run-on issues.

Oh, and a private monorail system with those little egg-shaped bubblecars, please. That's a given.

I could gush about the film in general - the exquisite animation, the rich and complicated characterisations, the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design aesthetic - but that would get tedious (if it hasn't already). I'll just note one other thing. I was sitting next to a girl I didn't really know, and the principal thing I remember about her is that every time Edna Mode came on screen, she would laugh her head off. And we're talking Hearty Guffaw, not Girlish Titter. Edna didn't even have to do anything; her very appearance in a scene was enough to set this person off. It was sort of heartwarming, and also that kind of laughter is infectious.

So today when I drove into the carpark at work, and leaned out the window to swipe my card through the boom gate scanner, I had an overwhelming urge to announce "EDNA. MODE. And guest" at it, then snigger uncontrollably and wait for a security canon to pop out of the shubbery. What a sad little fanboy am I.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Yesterday morning at church we had an appeal for the victims of the tsunami, where we took up a collection to give to the various church-based aid organizations in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In Saturday’s newspaper, it was reported that Australians had already given over $100 million to the cause, while the Prime Minister announced a staggering $1000 million aid package over the next five years. That night, the three commercial television networks simultaneously broadcast a charity concert expected to raise further millions. Meanwhile, every shop I’ve been into over the last few days, from the Dome in Applecross to the petrol station on the corner, has a donation jar in the counter, and they’re always stuffed full.

I’d like to think that this astonishing rush of generosity is a result of human empathy; an act of grace by people who recognise how richly they’ve been blessed with peace and prosperity. But I’m a cynical old bastard, and while I appreciate that some of this largesse springs from such a spirit of pure altruism, I don’t think it’s the whole reason. I think this has become a fad.

Make no mistake, it’s a good fad. It’s possibly the best fad ever. But it is a fad, just like razor scooters, hypercolour T-shirts or tamagochis. In the first few days following the tsunami, I think people gave as a direct result of pure charity, but as time wore on, donating became a demonstration of being in touch with the Now. If you donate, you’re up to the minute. You know what’s going on. You’ve conspicuously consumed the product du jour. I’m not saying that this is a conscious thing - quite the opposite - but I think it’s there.


The colour blue has been very kind to Chris Isaak.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


I watched many DVDs over the Christmas/New Years break, inlcuding the 1997 Bollywood classic "Something's Happening", which is quite possibly the most misleading film title in the history of cinema. Like most Bollywood features, it goes for three hours, contains many bright colours, is interspersed with big sappy musical numbers and requires its actors to weep on cue, several times, while being noble. The dialogue is technically in Hindi, but it's more accurately desribed as Hindlish, as characters throw English words and phrases into the mix and make it sound like they just can't make up their minds.

The plot involves a love triangle, or rather two love triangles and a tangent. Maybe that makes it a love trapezoid. In any case, two sides of one of the triangles produce a little girl, who's supposed to be a cute little moppet, but actually comes across as a demonic entity bent on harvesting the souls of the living. That's how she came across to me, anyway. It made for interesting viewing:

Hero: Where's my daughter? Ah, here she is. What have you been up to, honey?
Me: She's been serving her Dark Master, that's what! Don't look into her eyes!
Everyone else: Shut the hell up, will you?

Actually I think my main problem with the little girl, other than the fact that she was a evil manipulative uber-bitch, was her terrible acting. There was so much ham in her performance it's a wonder she was allowed within 50 feet of a Hindu.

Another stellar film I enjoyed with my junk-movie cronies was the 1957 classic "Them!" Again, there's something not quite right about that title. It's supposed to be the only thing a little girl can say after surviving an attack by giant mutant atomic ants, but let's face it, if you were attacked by giant mutant atomic ants, would "Them!" be the first thing that sprang into your mind to say? What about, well, "Ants!"? Possibly "Aarrgghh! Bloody Big Ants!"

If she'd been a little more precise it might have helped the rest of the cast:

Science Guy: Hmmm. All the victims have been pumped full of formic acid. Their attackers left the money but took all the sugar. We found this 10 foot long antennae next to the body, and this copy of "How We Ants Will Take Over The World" next to what looks like the footprint of a giant ant.
Irritating FBI Guy: So do you know what did this, Doc?
Science Guy: I'm guessing teenagers.

Thank goodness they had flamethrowers, because they were never going to out-think their new insect overlords.


Over the holidays I had a list of things I wanted to get done around the house. Until two days ago, I had done precisely none of them. But that doesn't mean that my holidays were wasted, unless by 'wasted' you mean 'frittered away in profitless pfaffing'. In that case then yes, they were wasted. But here's a list of the things I did anyway.
  • I painted the hall, which made it match the rest of the house and reminded me how quickly I lose interest in these things.
  • I built a console table for the dining room out of some old bits and pieces I had in the shed. It's supposed to be shabby chic, which is handy because 'shabby' is an admirable description of my carpentry skills. It actually doesn't look too bad, and it's just what that room needed.
  • I bought a goldfish and a waterlily for my pond. The fish seems to suffer from agoraphobia and only makes an appearance when I turn the fountain pump on and startle him into movement. The plant doesn't have the option of hiding, but since it cost six times more than the fish I expect it to be at least six times more visible.
  • I cleaned out the pantry, which was a little bit like spring cleaning King Tutenkamen's tomb. The Riddle of the Sphinx is as nothing compared to "Why do I still have half a packet of ancient barley sugars?", "When exactly did I buy almond essence?" and "Is campari supposed to go that colour?"

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Yesterday I was wandering around the house singing my Beer Song. It's basically the 1st movement of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik in G Major (K.525), but instead of the violins, there's me singing the word 'beer'.

I was singing it in celebration of the fact that I was going out to buy some beer.


I attended CW and KR's wedding on Thursday. The service was held in the gracious stained-glass-stuffed church of St. Alban's, where a string trio serenaded the congregation with works by Handel and Hayden. The absence of Pachelbel's Bloody Canon from their repertoire meant that I didn't have to set fire to the church and kill everyone concerned (as I have sworn to do if I hear Pachelbel's Bloody Canon at one more wedding). So that was a plus.

A bullet-pointed summation of the ceremony:
  • bride = lovely. No 'meringue'-style dress, demonstrating good taste.
  • groom = handsome. No flubbed lines, fainting spells or projectile vomiting.
  • tacky wedding kitsch = none. No horse-drawn carriages, no ridiculous train, no glurge-ridden self-composed vows. And there was much rejoicing.
  • minister = dignified.
  • sermon = moving.
  • inappropriate congregational clothing = low. I'm convinced that some people think that 'formalwear' means jeans without any holes in them, but fortunately they were in the minority.
  • Blandwagon Overall Approval Rating = High
The reception lunch was at Matilda Bay, where a leaking airconditioner gave us an impromptu water feature in the middle of the restaurant. When the waitresses turned it off, it converted from a dibbling trickle into a waterfall, so we left it on. The gentle drip of water into half a dozen silver champagne buckets was actually rather musical and soothing, especially after a few glasses of their decent chenin blanc.

As Master of Ceremonies it was my job to liaise with the restaurant staff and make a decision on whether it was more offensive to have water dripping into champagne buckets or a repairman on a ladder trying to fix it, no doubt exposing copious butt cleavage to the bridal party. I went with the dripping water, and I stand by my decision.

I'd arrived early to coordinate things, and when I had a chance I chatted with the guests as they arrived. Despite it being a happy day, conversations inevitably turned to the tsunami of a few days earlier. I was very disturbed when one man, apparently bright enough to hold down a high-level job with an international company, said something about having to wonder if it wasn't our fault. I asked him to elucidate, making a conscious effort not to let my jaw actually go slack with astonishment.

He said that he wouldn't be surprised if, with all the oil that we're sucking out of the ground, it doesn't destabilise the tectonic plates and cause earthquakes.

It being a happy day, and me being in a position of responsibility, I couldn't slap him upside the head and and demand to know what drugs he was on. Also he was bigger than me. I was restricted to gently suggesting that the amount of oil extracted from the earth is infinitesimal compared to the size of the planet's overall crust. Then I needed to change the subject and talk about cows.

It still makes me angry. Finally, we have a disaster that is palpably, totally, 100% not the result of human activity. It's not the war in Iraq, it's not a terrorist attack, it's not a hole in the ozone layer caused by CFCs, or a wave of cancer caused by pollution, or a hurricane that people can, if they are so inclined, blame on global warming. It had nothing to do with war, pollution, ideology or greed. It was just an unforeseeable natural disaster; probably the last type of natural disaster (other than maybe an asteroid strike) that we can't shoulder even a smidgeon of blame for, no matter how hard we twist the circumstances.

And yet people like him try. Somehow it has to be our fault. Because if it isn't our fault, then that means we aren't really in control. Nothing makes a Humanist crankier than having the illusion of control momentarily lifted. After all, if your only god is yourself, and you're proven not to be in control, where does that leave you?