Friday, September 26, 2008


I didn’t have much in the way of achievements today. I went to Harbour Town and bought some new bed linen. I was going to buy some Chuck Taylor All Stars as well, because I’d noticed that Mike wears them in Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I didn’t for several reasons:

1. The Converse store is badly laid out and I couldn’t tell which shoes were men’s and which were women’s.

2. Even in an outlet store the All Star range is really expensive.

3. I realized that if I wore All Stars for the MST3K connection, I’d probably have to wear a jumpsuit too, and I suspect that this may be going a little too far.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The other thing keeping me from blogging at the moment is my new toy. The shiny, expensive toy sitting out in the garage. I’ve been seizing on any excuse to drive across the city several times a day, just to experience that enthusiastic little engine, the exquisitely tight chassis (the Great Pyramid of Cheops has more body roll than an MX-5) and the panoramic sense of space that emerges as soon as you drop the roof.

It really is the spiritual successor to the MGB, only with less of a proclivity for breaking down. It’s tiny, it’s low to the ground, and it has the same sense of being a machine for driving rather than just a means of getting from A to B. The acceleration isn’t stunning, but that isn’t what a two-seat roadster is about – it’s about racing up and down the gears, pushed the revs up, and skipping nimbly through traffic that suddenly seems full of bloated, ungainly barges.

It does have its faults, of course. There’s a worn bearing in the front right wheel that causes a faint thudding sound and a very slight throb in the steering wheel, which doesn’t affect the car’s performance but gets very annoying once you notice it. The CD player, which the salesman boasted he’d installed to replace the original radio cassette, is a second hand Alpine with contacts so loose that when you turn up the volume it’s just as likely to go down as up. And that beautiful dark green duco is impossible to keep clean - it looks dusty within a few hours of being washed, and there’s no material on this planet that will prevent it from looking streaky.

And then there’s the eternal problem of gender identification. Put bluntly, the MX-5 is a girls’ car. ‘Top Gear’ may say that it’s the best affordable roadster in the world, but everyone knows it’s a girls’ car. Hollywood certainly knows it – I was watching ‘Entourage’ last night and was appalled to notice that Ari Gold’s blonde receptionist drives the same MX-5 as mine. Same make, same model, same freakin’ colour. Dammit!

Still, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that most cars are girls’ cars. No, it’s true. Ironic, given that men are the ones who obsess about them, but true. Do as I did today and appraise the other cars around you next time you’re on the freeway. I passed a VW Golf (upmarket career girl), a BMW X5 (trophy wife), a Mitsubishi Lancer coupe (slapper), a Hyundai Excel (female student), a Honda Jazz (Asian female student) and far too many Toyota Corollas (Mum’s Taxi).

This is why so many men drive utes. They don’t want to – they’re ridiculous, overpriced and impractical – but they’re the only vehicles that don’t have a feminine taint. They’re the only car you can show off to your mates without fearing that one of them will say, “Oh yeah, my wife has one of those.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


My friend BA, with whom I had lunch today, noted my blogging has dried up after an initial burst about two weeks ago.

What can I say? I am functioning at holiday speed. It’s like unemployment speed, only with more money and less despair. Suddenly an entire day can be taken up with a single task which, under normal circumstances, would take half an hour.

Take today. I woke late, then meandered down to a local café to read the newspaper over a couple of cups of coffee. When I got home I decided to wash the scooter (not a euphemism), then walked over to BA’s work for our lunch date. When I got home, I watered my plants, tidied the house and played computer games until dinner, then went over to a friend’s place to watch MST3K. When I got home I watched another DVD and ate chocolate cake, then checked my emails and wrote this.

The previous day was even more aimless – my most significant achievement was buying the New Yorker.

I sort of wish I could get more done, but sometimes it’s just nice to loaf.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I've reached that stage of the holiday. Having exhausted the possibilities of hanging out in cafes and shopping for cool stuff (largely because I no longer have any money, thanks to my folly), I'm reduced to cleaning.

My study before:

My study after:

You may notice that The Disapproving Bishop has vanished from the first picture to the second, along with the old computer games, useless scraps of paper and random pens. But don't worry, he hasn't been accidentally tossed out or shut away. I've given him something new to practice his disapproval on.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


You see? I warned you. I get stupid when I go on holiday.

Too much time on my hands equals mischief and foolishness and a general lack of responsible behaviour.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Whenever I'm on holiday I like to start each day with a visit to a local cafe. There can be no better way to start one's day than with a well-made cup of coffee, a good newspaper, and maybe a little something carbohydratey. Perhaps scientists will one day discover a better way to start the day, probably around the same time they invent individualised Jessica Albas, but not yet.

Yesterday I tried out two cafes that a friend of mine recommended. Thus was I launched into...

A Tale of Two Cafes

by Charles "Where's My Damn Affogato?" Dickens

The first cafe was Velvet Espresso, nested in the permanent shadow of the surrounding buildings on King Street between Hay Street and St George's Terrace. The first thing I noticed about it was that it was very busy, packed with people who by all rights should have been in their offices at 9.30 on a weekday morning. Didn't they have work to do? And didn't they have the exact same espresso machine in their conference rooms? Why were they here?

Obviously I am not au fait with the ways of the business world. It seems that Velvet Espresso has always been popular with the sort of obnoxious suits who are bullying their way up the corporate ladder in the skyscrapers next door. You know the kind: 30-somethings in fitted pink business shirts who drop the F Bomb in every sentence to show how hard and street they are. A quartet sat next to me, comparing nightclubs they'd been to and new waterskiing equipment they'd purchased and which of their circle had lately become even richer. In a word, loathsome.

However the coffee was good, subtle and unpresuming but full of flavour. My New Norcia fruit toast tasted like toast that had been politely introduced to a grape at a party six months ago then promptly forgotten its name.

The second cafe was Tiger Tiger, which came about, I suspect, because someone really wanted to be in Melbourne and wasn't going to let the little fact that they were stuck in Perth get in their way. Like inner Melbourne's iconic cafes, Tiger Tiger is tucked away in a crooked laneway, only reached by passing through a short tunnel from Murray Street.

The vibe was far more relaxed and alternative than at Velvet Espresso. There were still arseholes in suits everywhere, but they were quieter and not waving their enormous penises at each other quite so much. Some creative types were holding a job interview at a nearby table - no doubt when they got back to their design consultancy or graphics studio or whatever it was they powered up their Apple Macs and emailed someone named Gustav.

The furniture was worn and battered, mostly from the 1930s and 40s, and complemented by edgy urban artworks and random potted plants (begonias next to a cactus next to some flat leaf parsley). My coffee and homemade pain d'amandes arrived on mismatched charity store crockery, and Portishead played softly overhead. It even started drizzling while I was there, adding to the Melbourne vibe.

As for the coffee, it was good. It didn't smack me in the face with its awesomeness, but it did all of the things that good coffee is meant to do.

While I don't think I'll bother with Velvet Espresso again, unless I suddenly find myself needing to liaise with a dickhead in a $2000 suit about fiscal projections, I'm certainly going to put Tiger Tiger on my list of holiday haunts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I knew there was a reason why I don't take holidays very often. As I fortified myself with a late morning coffee at Cafe 130 in Leederville yesterday, I totted up how much I'd spent in the four hours or so I'd been awake.

Newspaper - $1.30

Breakfast at Food For Me - $13.20

A few odds and ends from Ikea that I probably could have lived without - $18.50

Essential supplies (Tia Maria and a 12 year old scotch) from the Re Store - $87.90

Three CDs from Urban depot - $70.85

Coffee - $3.50

Total - $195.25... and I was only just on my second cup of coffee for the morning.

At least my three CDs proved to be winners. I found Nina Simone's 1958 debut album 'Little Girl Blue', which I've never even seen in a record store before. I have most of the tracks on various Nina Simone compilations, but I bought this one so that I could give it to my brother-in-law, who only knows Nina from her later work. He's missing out - the combination of Nina's deep, sultry voice and her classical training in piano gives standards like 'Love Me or Leave Me' and 'Mood Indigo' a rich new life. And her version of Rodgers & Hart's 'Little Girl Blue', bizarrely mashed with the melody from 'Good King Wenceslas', is exquisite.

The second CD was also Nina Simone's, after a fashion. 'Nina Simone - Remixed and Reimagined' is a compliation of her songs given the remix treatment by the sort of black skivvy wearing Eurotrash who do this kind of thing for a living. The standout track is undoubtedly Groovefinder's infectiously exuberant version of 'Ain't Got No/I Got Life'. By adding a throbbing funk bassline and an excitable brass section, the song evolves from being a cry of political defiance into a celebration of its success. Although of course this is before it's sold to a German dairy corporation for use in a yoghurt commercial.

It's more of a curiosity than a work of art in its own right, but we all need some curiosity in our lives.

Lastly, I found Amy Winehouse's debut album 'Frank' going cheap. I was expecting it to be lacklustre - a false start before her massive success with 'Fade to Black' - but I think I actually like it more. It's a retro influenced modern urban sound, rather than the full blown appropriation of Motown she immersed herself in for 'Fade to Black'. It was recorded when she was a relatively clear-eyed nineteen year old Jewish girl from North London, before the beehive hair, the bad prison tattoos and the drug habit responsible for making her look like a pikelet wrapped around a skewer with a slash of lipstick on it.

Now, at this point it's traditional for bloggers to appeal to Amy Winehouse to pull herself together and stop it with the drugs and the skeezy men for the sake of her health. I'm not going to do that. To hell with her health. I want her to stop it with the drugs and the skeezy men for the sake of me.

Yes, me. I say get your act together for the benefit of Blandwagon, woman! I like your music! I want to hear more of it! I can't do that if you're passed out on a concrete floor in Brixton with broken bits of crack pipe embedded in your cheek.

Failure to oblige me will result in crankiness. And we wouldn't want that, would we?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Blogging may be less coherent than usual over the next few weeks as I'm on holiday. My plans are very flexible. I may do dramatic and outrageous things, or I may spend my days lying on the couch in my pyjamas watching 'Oprah' and drooling vacantly into the couch cushions. Only time will tell.

Thanks to the election on Saturday and my church duties on Sunday, yesterday was my first real day of holidays, and I had big plans for fun and frolics. My body, however, had other ideas. I woke up on Monday morning feeling as if someone had delicately balanced the Chrysler Building on my forehead. It was uncommonly painful, and after I'd had a shower and changed into some new clothes, I surrendered and crawled back into bed.

And there I stayed. I got up for maybe an hour in the middle of the day, and for almost exactly three hours in the evening to have dinner and watch 'Top Gear' with The Flatmate. The rest of the time I was not just in bed, but asleep. I slept all Sunday night, then almost all of Monday, then all of Monday night. I'd thought that, having slept all day, I'd be lying in bed wide awake at 2am, but I wasn't. I did wake every hour or two, just long enough to groggily push some thought processes around for five or ten minutes, but I always went dropped back into sleep.

What the hell was wrong with me? In the spirit of scientific enquiry, albeit yawning, befuddled scientific enquiry, I ran down the list of possible causes but was unable to come up with anything that adequate matched both the pain and the snoring. Maybe my body needed a break more than I thought it did.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Yesterday, because we’d all been especially good, we Western Australians were treated to a state election. As usual I had my extremely casual job working for the Western Australian Electoral Commission as a polling place attendant, helping the voters to cast their votes for the future governance of this state, no matter how senile, bong-addled or downright dim those voters happened to be.

The polling place I worked at last year for the federal election wasn’t available this year, so I was assigned to a new site. I had no idea what to expect, and to be honest I wasn’t looking forward to it. The extra money is very welcome, but somehow the prospect of working from 7am to 10pm virtually without a break didn’t exactly fill me with glee.

However the experience turned out to be entirely painless. This was largely due to the considerable differences between our polling place and a normal polling place, in terms of venue, amenities and workload. Helpful fellow that I am, I have summarized these in handy point form below.


Normal polling place: a worn, ramshackle school hall with dodgy airconditioning and an occasional glimpse out a dusty window of a car park.

Our polling place: a cleared out restaurant in an upmarket retirement village, with efficient climate control, elegant furniture and one huge wall of glass looking out over a manicured park.


Normal polling place: working without a break to assist the tired, irritable voters who’ve been standing in line for half an hour.

Our polling place: helping the few hundred voters who showed up over the ten hours of polling, and spending the rest of the time playing patience on my iPod and chatting to the bubbly Italian-Australian housewife at the next desk.


Normal polling place: whatever one brings from home.

Our polling place: fish and chips with a nice salad, made for us by the cheerful Vietnamese ladies from the nearby kitchen.


Normal polling place: wretched International Roast instant coffee, possibly left over from Satan’s last dinner party.

Our polling place: the restaurant's state of the art, $3000 espresso machine that produced cappuccinos with the press of a button. Plus a big bag of choc-orange muffins I brought in.


Normal polling place: listening to ABC FM on a hissing portable radio belonging to the Polling Place Manager.

Our polling place: watching ABC TV on a vast wall-mounted plasma screen.


Normal polling place: standing around like unmotivated zombies while the Polling Place Manager dithers over the final few tonnes of paperwork.

Our polling place: being sent home an hour earlier than normal because our Polling Place Manager was a terrifyingly well-organised Napoleon of Bureaucracy.

We still don’t know who won the election – we’re facing a hung parliament, as the voters apparently voted at random, having sensibly concluded that all politicians are as dumb and self-serving as a particularly venal troop of gibbons. But as far as I’m concerned, I was the winner.

Monday, September 01, 2008


On Saturday afternoon I put the finishing touches on my garden renovations. I planted the remaining seedlings, laid out some pea hay mulch, hung new strings of lights around the garage's eaves and through the lilly pilly trees and swept the paths. I was on a deadline since I'd invited a couple of dozen people around for a celebratory garden party, and the first guests arrived just I was finishing pulling up the last stray weeds.

What they saw had gone from this:

The front yard after I'd bought the place and ignored it for a month.

to this:

The Flatmate takes out his frustrations on one of his many arboreal victims.

to this:

Having recovered from The Flatmate's devastation, the garden thrives under the protection of the Giant Killer Robot.

I'm satisfied that all the hard work has been worth it.


It was a drizzly, dull morning, with a rain that seemed to have had second thoughts about coming down in drops and settled instead on just hanging around as vapour in the air. As I rode to work on my scooter I knew that there wasn't enough water around to make me wet, but even so I had a feeling of slight trepidation. Ever since I came off my scooter and broke my arm a year ago I've been nervous about riding in the rain, and even dampness makes me cautious.

Perhaps too cautious, I wondered to myself as I gently buzzed along Riverside Drive. I do have a tendency to be excessively risk averse. Perhaps I should stop being a wuss and just relax.

Then again, I countered, perhaps the reason why I haven't come off this thing more than once is because I'm so cautious on it. I don't know - am I overesimating the risk or just being realistic?

And literally two seconds later, as I drew abreast of another motorbike rider on a Kawasaki, coming off the Mounts Bay Road roundabout, I heard an odd scrabbling sound. I glanced over just in time to see the Kawasaki sliding along the road on its side, with its rider close behind.

He'd been traveling fairly slowly to negotiate the roundabout, and he was wearing full leathers, so I doubt he was hurt. Even so I wanted to stop and make sure he was okay, but there was nowhere to do so on that stretch of road.

I had to continue on to work, more nervous than ever, but thankful that God's Irony Ray is apparently miscalibrated and shooting wide.