Monday, August 30, 2010


Recently I had the opportunity to watch ‘Savage Journey’, a 1983 dramatization of the early years of the Mormon Church. And being an idiot, I took it. In my defense I wasn’t the only one – my viewing buddies JC and BM were also part of the ordeal.

With a lack of objectivity to rival the work of Leni Riefenstahl, ‘Savage Journey’ lumbers its way through the story of Brigham Young, the most prominent early disciple of Joseph Smith. Apparently it was hard being a theological nutbag in 19th century America, which is ironic, given that theological nutbagdom was all the rage at the time. But Brigham Young soldiered on, through persecution, plagues of locusts and the demands of having more wives than baths. His legacy was Salt Lake City, Utah, a place of hideous architecture and no coffee.

It would be cruel of me to go into any more detail about the plot, or its meandering path from one hardscrabble backwater of America to another. I am forced however make a couple of notes about the cast and crew.

This is what the director thought that Joseph Smith should look like, and I can’t work out why. He looks like an alien cunningly disguised as a handsome man. Of course it may be intentional; if the Mormon Church was actually a horrible alien plot it would certainly explain a lot.

Also difficult to explain is the decision to conclude the movie with a depiction of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith gazing out over modern day Salt Lake City, apparently taking a break from spending the afterlife in a Vegas chorus line.

But the most alarming aspect of ‘Savage Journey’ actually came in the closing credits.

Art direction by “Roger Pancake”? Seriously?

Music orchestrations by “Dick Hazard”? What the hell?

Me: Is that like in golf?

BM: What?

Me: You know, when you have a water hazard.

BM: I don’t… gaaaaah!!! The mental images!!!

I just wonder if there was a point in the production when someone was going around doing the introductions, and they actually said, “Dick, this is Roger Pancake. Roger, this is Dick Hazard.” Then as they shook hands, everyone got the horrible sensation that the movie was doomed.


Despite the prediction I made in this post, that I’d let inertia rule my life and stick with my old scooter until it fell apart, I’ve gone and purchased a new one.

Well, new for me. I bought a 2009 Piaggio Zip.

The word that springs to mind to describe the new scooter is "snazzy"... a term which is not entirely positive.

From an engineering perspective the new scooter is superior. It's better built with a more sophisticated engine, the ride is more comfortable and it’s more fuel efficient. When I turn it on it burbles competently, unlike the old one, which whines like an irritable hedge trimmer.

However from a design perspective, both practically and aesthetically, it's the loser. It lacks the gorgeously rounded retro lines of the old scooter. The new scooter has big flat slabs of plastic covering all of its internals, which means that there are no places for me to clip my garage door remote, and the shaped footwell means that I can't safely stow my briefcase at my feet like I used to. And that colour is the gayest shade of yellow yet conceived.

You might wonder why I didn't just buy a new version of my old scooter:

The simple fact is that despite the lovely lines and graceful design, the old scooter was all style and no substance, thrown together using cheap parts and corner-cutting mechanicals. It was also the last of the Vmoto models built with any eye to longevity – the new models are designed to last barely 10,000kms. If I rode a new one as much as I did the old one, it would probably die within two or three years. The Piaggio, being better built with a hardy four-stroke motor, should still be ferrying me about in a decade’s time.

So I’m confident that I made the right choice. I can actually feel the improved quality as I ride it, and the whole point of owning a scooter is to commute to work as cheaply and efficiently as humanly possible. Still, I’ll miss the charm of the old one.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


On our way to breakfast at my favourite café this morning, The Flatmate and I were discussing class signifiers. I recounted Paul Fussell’s observation that the middle class likes to extend the number of syllables in everything it touches – hence the outdoor pool we were driving past was called an “Aquatic Centre”.

“Why do they do that?” The Flatmate asked. “Is it to show that they have an education and know some big words?”

“I think it’s just because it’s more. And more is better.” I replied.

“Not necessarily.”

“Well no, but for most of human history it’s been the case that extra = prestige. The prestige car was covered in chrome bits. The prestige house had fancy wrought iron railings. The prestige icecream had chocolate-coated almonds and butterscotch bits in it. In our modern age of cheap excess we know that understated minimalism can speak volumes, but the further down the class ladder you go the less this is understood.”

By that stage we had reached the café, and as I was crossing the road I kicked this little object that someone had dropped.

It’s a key ring. The BMW logo is a tiny battery-powered colour LCD screen that flashes. The other side is coated in a reflective hologram film.

Sometimes life hands you these little proofs of your viewpoint on a platter.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Ever since it opened a couple of years ago, I've been meaning to visit The Ellington. It's a jazz club that takes both its jazz and its exclusivity seriously. It offers the best live music available, if you're prepared to shell out the cash and jump through the hoops to get at it. It's not simply a matter of breezing in and snagging the nearest table - entry is expensive, all of the tables are numbered and must be booked for the act you want to see. Even the fabulous Bennetts Lane in Melbourne is more relaxed.

However The Ellington has been a rampant success since its opening night. Either we've been jonesing for a decent jazz club for years, or we're a shallow people who are attracted to exclusivity like moths to a flame.

I was invited along by some friends to see Courtney Murphy perform with some of the best local jazz musicians, although the style was closer to funk than jazz. In any case, they played my favourite blues song (Willie Dixon's 'I Just Want To Make Love To You') so I could forgive them anything.

But as is often the case, half of the fun of going out to see live music was experiencing the crowd. Highlights included:

1. The girls at the next table, who made me realise that to some women every night is a Hen's Night. I haven't heard so much brainless screeching since I walked past the line at the cinema waiting for entry into 'Twilight: New Moon'.

2. The homogenous nature of the rest of the crowd. There were hundreds of them, all ages from teens to seniors, and all castes from hipsters to bogans, and all classes from scruffy students to well-heeled executives. But they were as racially diverse as a Klu Klux Klan gathering. I spied one Asian girl up the back, and a striking African woman sitting near the front, but other than that it was like a snapshot from the book launch of 'Stuff White People Like'.

3. One young woman wearing a simple black cocktail dress and no jewelry, but somehow being the absolute centre of attention wherever she went. This was entirely due to her proud display of one frankly astonishing set of breasts, so large and gravity-defiant that they appeared to have been professionally cantilevered by an architect to rival Sir Christopher Wren. She was basically a pair of spectacular boobies with some sort of blonde attached to them.

I must go there again.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I sort of imagine him as a cross between the Mayo brothers, Eric Dane and MacGyver.

And I bet that car has built-in machine guns somewhere.

Hat tip: The Awesomer

Monday, August 09, 2010


Over the last couple of months I've been thinking about selling my scooter and upgrading to a better one. My six year old Vmoto Milan has done about 30,000kms, which is approximately double the standard lifespan for this model. Built in a Chinese sweatshop out of cut-price parts and wishful thinking, the poor old thing is in the twilight of its days. Or, alternatively, in the Twilight of its days, since it's a slow, cheap, simple piece of plastic only appreciated on a very shallow level by the undiscerning.

Everything still works, more or less, but without much enthusiasm for the job. The engine floods under all but the gentlest acceleration. The oil reservoir leaks if it's filled more than halfway. The seat is tearing along the seam. If it starts on the first go it's milding astonishing, and if it starts on the 30th go it's entirely unsurprising. On top of all that, over time it's developed a comprehensive collection of rattles, clatters, whines and squeaks, meaning that I'm not so much riding a scooter as a cacophany.

A brand new Vmoto Milan can be purchased almost anywhere for around $2,300, but all evidence suggests that it wouldn't last anywhere near as long as my current one. I'd like to upgrade to a more robust brand, like a Honda or a Vespa, but I have little idea of how affordable this might be. Most scooter websites are coy about listing a recommended retail price for their scooters, in much the same way that the average burqua-clad Muslim woman is coy about flashing her knickers. would apparently rather burn in Hell for all eternity than tell the world how much a new Vespa LX 50 costs.

There's always the second-hand market, of course, and at first glance it would seem like an ideal source, since scooters are often impulse purchases whose appeal fades on the first rainy day. However it seems that demand is still outstripping supply. According to the most popular car and motorbike selling website, it's easier to buy a used Rolls Royce around here than it is to buy a used 50cc motorscooter, by a factor of more than two to one.

It's all too hard. In the end inertia will probably win out, and I will continue to coax my scooter along as carefully and gently as I can.

Until one day it coughs, makes an entirely new and horrible noise, then dies... probably in heavy traffic, on a street with no exits, in the dark, while it's raining.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


A website called I Write Like has been popping up all over the blogosphere, using the power of Science to identify the famous author whose style most closely matches your own.

I tried a few entries from my blog, and the program came to this conclusion:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Apparently he wrote a lot of Ursula Andress movie reviews. Either than, or I'm writing a lot about being scared of fish.

Just to test the program, I entered the following line of deliberately bad writing:

Yeah I'm really good at the writing and stuff. Back in high school I used to write stories and shit for my English teacher Mrs Backfat and she said I was really good. She was the English teacher so she must know what she was talking about. That was before she got fired after she got drunk on homemade vodka and drove her Subaru into the chem building. That was awesome!!1!

And the writer that most resembles?

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!



Am I the only person who wonders why Chelsea Clinton chose to have a Gay Pride themed wedding?