Sunday, December 31, 2006

The little book of monster wisdom

A heart in the hand is worth two in the chest cavity

Beggars can’t be choosers and are seldom missed

Children should be tasted and not heard

It’s always brightest before sunset

Once bitten, twice should finish them off

The early wolf catches the paperboy

Brain is better than brawn for a zombie after dawn (brawn is better than brain for the wolfman down the lane)

Don't hog a dead horse

A barking dog never bites once you are chewing its voice box

All that glitters is not the wrist-watch of a lost hiker

Blood is thicker than amniotic fluid

Life is not a bed of noses

When in Rome, eat Romans

When the cat’s away, the mice taste OK

Beauty is only skin deep, meat goes to the bone

A watched tot never wanders

Monday, December 25, 2006

It's all about meme, meme, meme

Suddenly the whole Australian blogosophere-village which I inhabit has gone meme crazy. The peer pressure to conform is immense and I have a very weak personality and am easily led.

The meme I've chosen to respond to has no title. I've hesitated in posting this simply because it is so intimate and revelatory. But here it is.

* * *

A goat attacks you and you are forced to kill it in self defence. How would you honour its memory?

With a simple elegant funeral restricted to family only.

Thomas a Beckett: hero or disgrace?

Hero. Definitely.

In an alternative reality, it’s 1976 and you’re flying to intervene in an ill-advised business deal which will lock-up the world’s fresh water in a single brand of cola drink. Also, you’re black. (Unless you are already, in which case you’re Chinese). What colour is your rocket car?

Metallic turquoise with Foghorn Leghorn decals.

IKEA or margarine?

IKEA. Definitely.

Name your favourite President of South Korea.

Choi Gyu Hwa. Definitely.

You’re drinking a glass of wine which you suddenly realise has been made from plastic grapes. Do you (a) refrain from spitting it out in deference to your host or (b) discreetly swallow it?


In no more than 27 words, explain how you think cold fusion would work if it were scientifically possible?

Tiny sub-quark particles, let’s call them leprechauns for the sake of argument, would come together in stale, loveless marriages in which the only issue would be boundless energy.

During your favourite television show, the TV starts pulsating and wobbling like an infinitely dense neutron star. Is it a Sony?

Yes. Definitely.

Christmas only comes once a year. How often should it come?

Twice. Also in November, to let the year end with a double bounce.

Name the best meme you have ever participated in on the Internet.


How many people have you murdered and why?

3. Revenge. Love. Money.

* * *

Well, I feel as if I'm an open book now and that you my reader know everything about me there is to know.

So be it.

I tag the really popular blogs that will link back to me and make me popular like them. (Does everything have to be about you, Nick? -- Nick.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Everybody is beautiful in their own special way. Especially me.

I note with cool disdain that the Australian blog awards are on again. I'm certainly not interested in the slightest in that kind of popularity contest at all, in the least, even a little bit or to any degree whatsoever. I'm above such things. I really don't care how many people read me (I only check sitemeter several times a day because I accidentally click on the little button. I'm in this to help the environment. And disadvantaged people everywhere.)

Interesting to see I've already been nominated for several awards in the following categories:

  • Best blog post using five or fewer words for "Too busy. Will blog later."

  • Best blog post providing textual description to vision-impaired people of lithographs of dogs riding in scale-models of armoured vehicles (NSW/ACT Division) for "War never loses its spots: images of dalmation pups commanding light tanks in Korea 1950-1953." (I'm very proud of this post but I don't expect to win. It's a crowded field.)

  • Best blog post about char-grilled eggplant (but, disappointingly, not for for best blog post about pan-seared aubergine which I'm rather upset about) for "How purple is my eggplant (lipstick): two months in drag in an Andalusian restaurant kitchen."

  • Best blog about masturbation in a cross-cultural context for my other blog Onanism in Oman: Jerk-off of Arabia. (I really think that one is breaking down barriers and helping to combat misunderstanding of the Islamic world in Australia. It was also great fun to do.)

  • Best blog post about global development issues for "Why don't poor people in poor countries just go to supermarkets like everybody else?"

  • Best blog ever except for all the others.
Ha ha ha. Light-heartedness all round! Jolly japes for all!

But if someone doesn't freakin nominate me for:

  • Best ACT blog
  • Best new blog
  • Best humorous blog

then I'll freakin cry. Alone. In the toilet. With a tim tam.

(Does that sound needy?)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blog of Binky Merryweather: lothario, trouble-maker, elf

24 December 2006

[Previously: the semi-secret blog of 'Nick Claus']

The old man is working us to the bone. I’m so dog tired I hardly know which way to fart. If I have to solder another Playstation I’m gonna jam it up his merry twinkling Xmas-hole. Everyone’s pulling triple shifts and we’re up to our freakin pointed ears in reindeer faeces.

I’m blogging from an air-conditioning vent in the main hall while I puff on a pack of Winnie reds. When I finish I need to wrap this laptop up for some over-privileged little shit who should have got a smack upside the head but instead is gonna get $2000 worth of cutting edge IT. But I’ll throw in the DVD-drive jammed with cigarette butts for free.

If I stand up on my toes, I can see making Mrs Claus making rocky-road in the kitchen. Damn I wish those hands were all over my marshmallows right now. Feels like there’s a candy cane in my pants. Wow that Mama Claus is some kind of primo MILF (apart from the hairs on her chin and the fact that she’s got a caboose you could land a sleigh on. But hey, I like my puddings plump.)

I think the old guy is starting to suspect that she digs my little elfin pink-bits. Better get back to it or the jolly fat man will send one of his hench-elves looking for me (fuckn WorkChoices). I don’t need any more trouble after they found the 300 iPods I made with the gay porn pre-loaded…

Update: 7pm. Finally! It’s dark and St Prick is off around the world on his annual gift-giving frenzy. He won’t be back til dawn and then he’ll drink himself into a coma until mid-Jan.

Time to kick back with a monster joint and three-fifths of Jacky D. And if Mrs C is real lucky I’ll let her open her present early…

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion: W is for whale

A new entry from the upcoming second volume of Stephanie Alexander’s famous Cook’s Companion: W is for whale.

"My first taste of whale came as a girl on the coast at Eden in 1960. My mother had dragged a still-thrashing southern right whale calf from the beach and artfully flayed it with a nine-foot blade. I still recall the dark, slightly oily meat which my mother had lightly sautéed. Magic!

Although Escoffier, in his incomparable 1932 work Foods of the Oceans, Tastes of the Deep, described whale as ‘a giant in both the sea and the kitchen’, it has fallen out of favour with modern taste-buds. There are a variety of reasons for this. Perhaps the foremost is the decline in the availability of properly-prepared fillets. In these busy times, few cooks are prepared to put in the effort required to correctly fillet this vast creature. How if you can find the time, I think you will find the effort well worthwhile. (Alternatively, those of you lucky enough to live in a city with a decent whale butcher, rejoice!)

It is universally known that whales are mammals and not fish but what is less well understood is the difference this makes to the discerning consumer. It does not taste like fish. (Perhaps the closest comparison I can come up with is the flesh of the South American three-toed sloth but even this is not really similar). And there is a great variety amongst the different types of whale meat available: it is easy to tell apart the rough gaminess of the sperm whale from the smoky delicacy of the narwhal or the tangy appeal of the minke from the exquisite melting flavour of the blue whale.

Many of the recipes which follow are from Japan, Russia and Scandinavia where the popularity of whale continues unabated. These recipes also make use of parts such as the eyes, the internal organs and the flukes, parts which Western cooks are inclined to jettison. However, do so at your peril, for some of the greatest prizes are to be found in these unassuming places.

Whale and blue-cheese salad
1 medium sized whale fillet (I prefer blue whale ‘veal’)
4 table-spoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup of sweetened dolphin oil
300g of a mild blue cheese
15 black olives
4 large tomatoes
A large handful of any salad leaves (I prefer arugula)
Freshly ground black pepper

Coat the fillet with oil and sear for three minutes on each side on a hot grill. Put aside. Crumble the blue-cheese in the dolphin oil and combine with the other ingredients except the salad leaves. Slice the whale fillet and arrange on a bed of the greens. Pour the remaining mixture over the salad and serve immediately."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Excerpts from the Semi-Secret Blog of ‘Nick Claus’

14 December 2006
It happened again last night. Couldn’t get the ‘sleigh’ up. Mrs Claus tried her damnedest to coax it into the air for nearly an hour but to no avail. She said it didn’t matter (just like she said it doesn’t matter how big your sleigh is, just how much reindeer-power you’ve got) but I know it does.

Stress, God knows, I know it’s the stress but do you think that helps at all? Every year it’s like this, she says, always the same this close to the big night. She’s half right. Every year is the same. Every year is worse than the one before.

15 December 2006

I’ve got the elves working 18 hour shifts, I’ve got the elf kiddies in my little pony sweatshops. I’m cutting corners left right and centre (trust me, you don’t want your kids to get the chemistry set this year) and still it’s not enough.

Every year there are more kids and every year more people want in on the Christmas thing. What business have the fucking Hindus and communist Chinese got with Christmas? Christ know you don’t have to be religious to have me shitting presents down your chimney but in the good old days you pretty much had to be white, Goddamnit. They tell me its called globalization. I know where they can stick their globe.

‘Sleigh’ still snowbound. Mrs Claus barely pretended to try.

16 December 2006

Regular readers know I harp on this theme all the time but in the old days you could make ends meet by slipping a few borderline kiddies onto the naughty list. Always more lumps of coal to go around. But now every fucker is so litigious. If I so much as consider taking someone off the nice list I get hassled by Parent Teacher Associations and their lawyers.

How dare I ruin their Christmas? Who the hell do they think they are? Who the hell do they think I am?

Timmy microwaves the cat, Timmy still gets fucking rollerblades. What’s up with that?

Caught Mrs Claus eyeing off Binky Merryweather in Workshop #13.

17 December 2006
I can’t eat, I’m losing weight. I thought Mrs Claus might like me a little more trim but no she says she likes a little roof over the ole snow-mobile. I can’t do anything right.

Binky hasn’t got a roof, sure as shit. He’s lithe, perky and great with his hands. He’s like a four-foot Jude Law. When all this is over I’m gonna bust him down to the my first potty assembly line.

When all this is over…. 8 sleeps, 8 fucking sleeps to go.

Special Bonus Update: the blog of Binky Merryweather

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The lists McSweeneys rejects (vol 2)

The second in a multi-part series. Rejected by McSweeneys lists thingie.

Some recent advertising campaigns to promote the smoking of cigarettes that you may not have noticed.

  • The Federal Government wants to take away your guns and your cigarettes – don’t let them pry them from your warm flavor-filled fingers !

  • Cigarettes: edgy but legal!

  • Extreme sports for the lungs! Radical!

  • Smoking: still no absolute scientific consensus after all these years.

  • Only the coolest people know this right now, but cigarettes are back!

  • Smoke cigarettes: no reason, just because!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The true meaning of Xmas

Dear Whale Sushi

People these days are so materialistic. It’s all about me, me, me at Christmas time. People have forgotten the true spirit of Christmas, don’t you think?

Traditional of Turner, ACT

Dear Traditional

How right you are (although it’s actually spelt 'Xmas', not 'Christmas', after the treasure-hunt game Jesus used to play on his birthday every year, as in ‘Xmas-marks-the-spotmas’).

People have forgotten what Xmas was really about. Here’s a few little historical reminders of what we should be celebrating on 25 December:

  • Gift-giving. This really is at the heart of Xmas. Because it was his birthday, Jesus naturally got lots of presents. So on Xmas morning, conduct a little exercise in WWJD (what would Jesus do?)? Answer: Jesus would get presents and then be really appreciative if they were good and say a polite ‘thank you’ if not. Once you understand this, you’re that much closer to building a personal relationship with Our Lord.

  • Santa Claus. Yes, Virginia, there really was a Santa Claus. He was a portly Dutch gentleman named Stephen Van den Heuven who lived down the street from Jesus. Most days he could be seen out the front of his house in his red under-wear, watering his lawn. How and why he came to be known as the North-pole dwelling giver of presents to the world’s children is lost to history.

  • Sony Playstations. Today it’s impossible to imagine an Xmas day without those familiar black boxes but that’s exactly what Jesus had to contend with. He made do with an old gameboy until his twenty-third birthday.

  • Easter eggs. These were traditionally hidden as part of Xmas-marks-the-spotmas but later, after Christ was crucified and then rose from the dead to redeem humanity, they were moved to a new holiday in the early part of the year which was designed to pad out the slack period between New Year and Queen’s birthday.

  • Praying Mantis Day. Throughout the Nineteenth Century, the day after Boxing Day was known as Praying Mantis Day and it was de rigeur for people to exchange large stick insects (or a small clutch of mantis eggs for mere acquaintances). Over time this tradition has largely dropped away. However I can’t help but think how much nicer it would be if we extended the holiday season one more day, don’t you agree?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Make up your own mind – now with extra truth sauce!

McDonalds’ new campaign is designed to dispel age-old myths and prejudices about their product range. Here is a sample of some of the as yet unreleased questions and answers which will banish various vile untruths from the Internet.

Has Ronald McDonald ever been a member of the Nazi Party of the United States of America?

No, he merely innocently accepted several leaflets from a number of party members without realizing where they were from. He later dialed their toll-free number 1-800-NAZI-INFO, again without realizing what it was. Ronald loves all people regardless of their creed, colour or ethnic origin.

Did Ronald McDonald ever share a bed with Michael Jackson and several children?

No, Ronald did not ‘share’ a bed with anyone on the occasion to which you are referring. He was innocently staying as a guest at Neverland Ranch; after a full day of healthy outdoor pursuits, Ronald retired upstairs to sleep. A number of other guests and residents, similarly tired, also slept in his vicinity. That is all.

Is it true that when you harvest cows from the Amazonian basin for use in the Brazilian market that you simply bulldoze them into a giant mulching machine, cows, forest and all?

No, we do not use bulldozers. Also, the alleged presence of DNA belonging to indigenous Amazonian Indians in McDonalds beef patties is well within acceptable limits.

Is the dough used to make McDonalds’ sesame-seed buns ever strained through the skin of freshly slaughtered babies from various third-world trouble spots?

No, this is a pure fabrication. McDonalds’ buns are not made with dough because they are not actually made of bread. They are sugar-yeast hybrids grown in large industrial vats. Rumours that some ‘proto-buns’ have escaped into the sewer system are just that.

Is it true that your products have no flavour except for sugar and salt?

You don’t like sugar and salt?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The god of victory and conspicuous consumption

You are a corrupt border guard working in the run-down airport of a small third-world nation. As deplaning passengers file past you, already sweating and flapping uselessly at the heat, they press crumpled 20 dinar notes into your dirty palm.

It’s a living, you know?

Today there is a new guard working a second queue next to yours. His uniform is clean and smartly ironed. He smiles and chats with the passengers. He does not seem to sweat at all.

You can’t help but notice that he receives crisply-folded 50 dinar notes. Later you ask him about this and he shrugs.

‘It’s all about giving the people what they want. I strive to create an atmosphere where passengers are happy to participate in a little show. It’s just important to make sure that everybody’s having fun,’ he says, counting out money into a leather bill-fold.

That night your door is kicked in by the vice squad. They exchange pleasantries with you, beat you up and take you to the station.

‘How much do you spend on prostitutes every week?’ The police inspector demands angrily, leaning in and wetting you with his spittle. You deny ever using prostitutes and they beat you again. And again each time you deny it.

Finally, spitting out teeth, you splutter: ‘1000 dinars! I spend 1000 dinars a week on prostitutes!’ There is general laughter.

‘1000 dinars!’ roars the Inspector, ‘my God I spend twice that every day!’ Suddenly he stops laughing and puts an arm around your shoulder. ‘This is so awkward,’ he says, ‘I just feel awful about what’s happened. 1000 dinars!’ He shakes his head sadly and leads you back into the hallway where you see your new colleague chatting and smoking cigars with the police. He winks at you.

A nice young police cadet gives you a ride home. As you get out of the car, you pray for assistance from Nike, Greek god of victory and conspicuous consumption.

Nike responds: just do it!

Thanks be to Nike, god of victory and conspicuous consumption!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Radio-active is just another word for ‘likes to party’

A paid message from the Association of Polonium Manufacturers and Distributors of Australia

The ‘recent’ ‘allegation’ regarding the ‘assassination’ of ‘Russian’ ‘dissident’ Alexander Litvinenko using the radioactive isotope polonium-210 has sparked predictable but misguided calls for this little-understood substance to be more tightly regulated. This could not be more wrong-headed and unfair. At the end of the day, polonium-210 is just another cute, shiny powderised metal unable to look out for itself. Who at the end of the day will stand up for this perky little marvel of nature whose greatest crime is that it likes to mingle?

Indeed, after petroleum, water, liquid natural gas, ammonium and 17 other types of liquids with industrial applications*, polonium may be fairly said to be the life-blood of our economy**.

Just look at some of these everyday products which would have to be manufactured differently or with different materials if polonium suddenly became less accessible due to a heavy-handed and ill-advised Government intervention:

  • Tank armour
  • Cigarette filters***
  • Weather-proof playground matting****
  • Tank armour-piercing bullets
So next time you light up or fire off, spare a thought for polonium-210, the plucky little isotope that could!

*but not including human or animal blood distillates.
** polonium is not normally a liquid except when under great stress.

*** cigarettes manufactured before 1983
**** as used in the former East Germany, Albania and China before 1997.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The god of piercing self-awareness

The apartment building where I live is full of people who might uncharitably be called ‘losers’ – people with too many cats, people who claim to see ghosts. Probably unemployable, possibly certifiable.

I dislike them but can afford no better.

But the worst of them moved in next door two weeks ago. She collects styrofoam. I hear the horrible scritching through my walls of her moving it about and pushing and pulling it into different formations.

Finally, I can stand it no longer and knock on her door. She is a loathsome creature, all angles and lumps.

‘Why do you keep all that bloody Styrofoam?’ I ask, as politely as I can muster. She fixes me with her two tiny blue eyes.

‘Because this styrofoam carries the hidden shape of my life. The styrofoam retains the form of every toy I ever got for Christmas, every small electrical appliance I got for my housewarming, every piece of Ikea furniture I ever bought. And although all these occasions have passed and all these things have gone, their shape remains with me forever.’ And then she smiles at me and invites me in for a coffee.

I slap my forehead and walk back to my flat. ‘Bloody weirdo’ I call her over my shoulder.

‘Why does it bother you so much if I collect Styrofoam,’ she yells.

‘It’s peculiar,’ I yell, ‘and it’s freaking out my ghost cat.’ You slam the door and say a quiet prayer to Fromm, Germanic god of piercing self-awareness.

Fromm responds: you know it, dude.

Thanks be to Fromm, god of piercing self-awareness

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The god of gods

It’s a good day to be a god! The sun is shining, the wind is gently blowing the soft grass on the hills and the massed ranks of the mighty army of your people are preparing to attack. Their enemy, the army of your rival and colleague Thramos, Hittite god of war, is just now crossing the river and looking mighty vulnerable.

Your people burn not one, not two but ten fatted calves in your honour! And a virgin too! So you pull out all the stops for a big one today. You encourage all your guys to give 110% as they scream your name and pour down the hill. It’s wolf-on the-fold time, boys and girls!

Holy crap, it’s a trap! Hittite archers pop-up and begin cutting your dudes down! Man, you hate it when that happens! The day wears on and things just get worse. Your general really is a stupid guy and leads his army, your army, into dead-end after dead-end. Note to self: smite him upside the head when you get a moment.

The sun sets on the battle and the screams of your soldiers echo through the valley. No victory offerings for you tonight. (You can see the offerings to Thramos and damn that shit smells good).

You’re beat. It’s been a hard day and you head down the corridor to drown your sorrows. There’s Thramos, exchanging high fives with other gods and pumping the air with his fist. He sees you and gives you a friendly little smile. You shake hands and he says: ‘hey, coulda happened to anyone.’

After a while you’re laughing and drinking and swapping funnies from the day (the arrow hit him where?). Later, SJHY, the god of gods drops by and you politely corner him for a quiet chat.

SJHY responds: don’t sweat the small stuff.

Thanks be to SJHY, god of gods.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The lists McSweeneys rejects (vol 1)

The first in a no doubt multi-part series. Rejected by McSweeneys lists thingie.

Beyond the Boulevard of Broken Dreams: other lesser known thoroughfares that don’t lead where you’d hoped

The crescent of unreturned phone-calls
The avenue of three-minute sex
The alley-way of unexpectedly cold mornings in late Spring/early Summer
The eighteen lane expressway of disappointing full-time employment
The bridge of sighs

Monday, November 20, 2006

The god of orchard similes and space metaphors

You’re in that tricky relationship transition, going from blazing-heat-of-a-new-sun to satisfyingly-warm-orange-star-that-snuggles-and-goes-furniture-shopping.

‘Tell me how beautiful I am.’ (Look out, fellas! It’s a trap! Not even light escapes this black hole!).

‘Your hair is like silk. Your eyes are like diamonds,’ he says. Uh-oh, he’s got a brown dwarf upstairs. Prepare for escape velocity.

‘Your breasts,’ he says, ‘your breasts…are like two mangoes.’ He’s a mango-lover, you have nice mangoes. What does it matter if he sheds more heat than light?

But then you both drop into the fruit’n’veg shop to get the coriander he forgot and see the other mangoes in his life. They’re small, lumpy, bruised and even the flies only saunter over at closing time. The grocer shrugs his apologies.

‘Sorry. End of the season,’ he says, ‘but why not try these beauties?’ He directs your attention to the most fantastic melons right next to the mangoes. They’re round, they’re firm and oh my god, the scent!

‘In the ten or so years I’ve had this shop,’ the grocer says, ‘this is maybe the best fruit I’ve ever had. Have you ever seen melons like these?’ he says to your dim boyfriend.

‘Apparently not,’ you reply on his behalf. Welcome to planet single, population you.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The holy crab-Mother goddess

And the winner of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Actor and/or Actress in a Dramatic Motion Picture is… F’narrl Garrk in Frozen Rings Around Your Heart.

Oh, holy crab-Mother, holy crab-mother, I’m sorry [wipes diatomaceous particularate from proboscis]. This moment is so much bigger than me. This is moment is for R’al Thark, Shalbar Nernt’h, Y’’’jll Ren’z. It’s for the non-humans who stand beside me, Joo’g Op’w and Rey U’u. And it’s for very every formless, headless alien from whatever dimension that now has a chance because this airlock tonight has been opened. And I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the blessed gourd-cup into which the holy crab-Mother’s sacred acid-spit might flow. Thank you.

I want to thank my manager and breeding partner, Vin’h U’pp’h. He was with me for 68 long years, 14 of them out of cryogenic suspension and 6 of them bonded at the j’ca’n. You loved me when I was up, when I was down and when I was drawing nourishment from your spinal coloumns. You have been a manager, a friend and the only meal I could ever really talk to.

I want to thank every member of the breeding circle which spawned me. I owe you so much. And to every one of my six thousand progeny who managed to outrun me, well your judgment and your speed inspired me to new heights. And those that didn’t, well, you contributed even more directly to the strength I needed to carry me through each day.

I want to thank New Line Cinema for taking a chance on an Alien-American. There was a time when creatures like me couldn’t ride on buses or eat in restaurants without being shot in the face. But you believed in me and although my people were holding your planet hostage you still had no idea if this whole crazy idea would come off and I thank you for that.

I want to thank my agents and lawyers, especially for adapting to my people’s ancient life-fluid draining customs so readily. Thank you. I, I, I, who else? [wind up music begins] Ok, wait, wait a minute, now don’t cut me off! Don’t cut me off, this has been a long time coming. Don’t cut me off! Or I’ll draw off your retinal fluid and use it to lubricate my psuedopods. [music ceases]. Thank you people of Earth. You have no idea how long we’ve been watching, just watching and waiting for our chance to be on this stage.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The god of 180 degree turns

Some days, most days, you wish it would rain and rain and rain and wash all the scum from the streets. (You would not believe how much scum there is on the streets). You sit in your room all day, rocking back and forth on a small bench. The din of the city below rises up and it disgusts you but you cannot ignore it.

You have an impressive collection of fire-arms but best of all you like to polish a large butchers knife that you once found in a dumpster.

Sometimes you talk to yourself: ‘the city is a sewer pipe and I am a pipe-cleaner.’ But you do not often speak because the sound of your own voice scares you. Mostly you play heavy metal at maximum volume. Sometimes the neighbours bang on the wall and you stare in their direction and shiver.

But this particular day, there is a knock upon your door. It is the banging neighbour. He is a 54-year old dental surgeon and he is wearing a large white linen shirt.

‘Now you listen to me,’ he says officiously, wagging his finger in your face, ‘listen to me.’ He is taller than you and you know he is consciously using his height to try to intimidate you. ‘You cut out that racket at once. Your behaviour is unacceptable’. Ever since you were seven years old, when you strangled a cat, people have been telling you your behaviour is unacceptable. You can feel your hands clenching into white-hot fists. ‘If I am forced to come back and tell you this again,’ he continues, ‘I won’t be answerable for the consequences.’ And then he stalks off, leaving you alone with your thoughts.

You return to your bench and your rocking. The city is louder then ever in your ears. You sit and rock and think and stew. Finally, silently, you leave your apartment and knock on your neighbour’s apartment door.

‘I’m sorry,’ you say to him, ‘I’m sorry for the all the noise, the strange hours I keep, the hostile attitude I frequently display towards you and the other residents. I’m sorry for the loud music, which I know is awful. I’m sorry for the way I stare at you out the window. I’m sorry for the fact that I’m unemployed and that I force you to support me through your taxes. I’m sorry for the fact that I wear military khaki instead of proper clothes. I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done that has inconvenienced you. Truly. Starting tomorrow I’m looking for a job and I’ll also take evening classes.’

He is initially taken aback but then invites you in. Over a glass of merlot, he shows you pictures of the latest model Subaru which he is thinking of buying while you listen to an Art Garfunkel record. Mmm, you think, Paul Simon really knew how to write a trenchant pop song.

Silently you say a prayer to Thail, Celtic god of 180 degree turns for getting your life in order.

Thail responds: kill him. Kill him now.

Thanks be to Thail, god of 180 degree turns!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The god of false consciousness cleansing

You are a biscuit-making love-lorn religious freak. That’s what you tell yourself as you cry yourself to sleep each night.

Your father is the awesome patriarch of the secretive Third Dawn cult which finances its proselytising activities by running a biscuit factory on the outskirts of Melbourne. Because of your father’s position within the cult, you have the powerful job of floor manager at the factory. But there is more to life than biscuits or messianic flying saucers from the Horsehead Nebulae, you tell yourself!

More than anything you yearn for love. But you work long hours at the factory and are only permitted to socialize within the cult. In three years you will be married to a cult member you have not met from Oregon.

You rebel in the only way you know how – by mixing biscuits. You spell out I-LOVE-YOU in Chocolate Surprise alphabet biscuits (the surprise is there’s no actual chocolate in them) and then drop these biscuits into a soon-to-be sealed packet of Honey Goodness alphabet biscuits (there’s no goodness in them, honey or otherwise).

Soon you’re dropping messages into packets fifty or sixty times a day. LOVE-ME. I-NEED-YOU.TAKE-ME-AWAY-FROM-ALL-THIS. I-HAVE-NEEDS-TOO-DAMNIT.

Little do you know that a single mother of three and anagram whiz in Box Hill is spelling out all your messages on her kitchen table. The messages touch her and she resolves to find out who is sending them (and then fall in love with them if possible). However, her phone-calls to the factory are met with open hostility.

So she tries a different tack. She begins writing letters of complaint about the quality of the biscuits with hidden messages:

Dear Sir

The sour taste I encountered in your box of Succulent Strawberry Alphabet biscuits has made me return them. Your quality is normally better than this – I have some affection for the company going back many years now. But I have not been thrilled by recent developments.

If you would like to discuss this further please call me on 9794 5623.

Yours etc.

You are incensed by all these letters. There has been no drop in quality! And then you notice the messages in each and every letter and your heart races. You arrange a meeting with the letter-writer and your spine tingles as you sit across from each other on a park bench. You both immediately sense that a beautiful relationship could blossom between you.

But you tell her that you could never really, truly love someone who is so disparaging of your life’s work. So you thank her for her interest and go back to your factory. One year before your arranged marriage is to take place, the flying saucers come for you and take you to the Horsehead Nebulae where you no longer have to make biscuits. Things are better there.

You walk up to Moluku, Third Dawn god of false consciousness cleansing and thank him personally for his intervention.

Moluku responds: don’t mention it.

Thanks be to Moluku, god of false consciousness cleansing!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The god of special victory and true power

You are NASA’s goto guy. You can do all the really tricky stuff that the brainiacs with their black-rimmed glasses and their rocket-to-the-moon yadda yadda have no idea about.

But you don’t have much to do so most of the time you just do routine stuff. It ain’t rocket science.

One day you get your big break. Everyone else is busy as hell but you have your feet up on the desk and you’re reading the paper when the Flight Director comes bustling in.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ he says, looking like he hasn’t slept in months and he’s aged a year in the last week. It’s not unusual for the big cheeses to tell you their problems. ‘We lost contact with Apollo 11 shortly before it entered lunar orbit. We’re screwed. Fiery death for the astronauts in all likelihood. An end to the moonshot. Massive loss of prestige to the Russians. They’ll be up there in a heartbeat you know. If we fail now, they’ll can NASA. Just goddamn fire us all or turn us into a little offshoot of the Air Force. We have to be seen to succeed to keep the space program going. Otherwise there’ll be no moon colony by 1980, no goddamn Mars colony by 1990 and we’ll all be stuck on this goddamn rock in 2000 when the next ice age comes. Ah crap,’ he says, and lurches off, both hands rubbing his temples.

He never said it directly of course. Never said it in a way that could be attributed back to him and NASA management. But you knew what he was talking about.

We have to be seen to succeed to keep the space program going. We have to be seen to succeed…

Immediately you put Plan Snow Blind into effect. Just a little thing you’ve been tooling about with in the basement for an occasion such as this.

A black back-drop. Loads and loads of styrofoam. Spare astronaut type junk. Three buddies from down the hall and a TV camera.

One hour later it’s done. America did land on the moon. And you have the documentary evidence under your arm to prove it.

‘How’s it going, sir?’ You wink as you hand the tape over to the Flight Director.

‘What?’ He says blinking at you madly. ‘Huh? Fine, everything’s fine, after the radio glitch cleared up’. He gives you a why-am-I-even-talking-to-you? Look but you see him put the tape down on his desk. You know the drill.

That night, in your apartment, you light a candle to Kratos, Greek god of special victory and true power. You don’t muck around with Zeus, you go straight to the real authority.

Kratos responds: Do not waver. Final victory is at hand.

Thanks be to Kratos, god of special victory and true power!

Friday, November 10, 2006

The god of like, whatever

You were kids, just screwin’ around for Chrissake. And you inadvertantly committed a crime so terrible it has been collectively expunged from the memories of two towns and one school for intellectually disabled teengers.

Something about a yellow school bus, four metres of Hungarian salami, thirty-eight half-starved weasels and a combine harvester.

The rest of your life is to be spent in a series of ever more grim maximum security prisons. But you don’t take it lying down. You’re no one’s punk or bitch or patsy.

You rise to the top of the heap and start planning a daring and cunning escape. (It helps that before you were a crazy mixed-up teen, you were an architect. Luckier still, right before your final project – a post-industrial art gallery in Guangzhou – you designed the very prison in which you now serve time. Some break!)

Your escape is both daring and cunning and it goes off without a hitch. Until you get outside the walls at which point your three comrades are shot dead. You survive by hiding yourself in the haystack of a nearby farm until you are discovered by a wide-hipped, rosy-cheeked, gingham-aproned farm girl who takes a liking to you.

She hides you in a loft until you are eventually discovered and then accepted by the rest of the family. In time, you marry the girl who bears you six children. You work the farm as if born to it. Your skin tans and your biceps bulge as does your belly as you feast on rich farm produce.

Many many years later, as you are bouncing one of your grand-children on your knee, you suffer a heart attack. Your entire family assembles around you at your death bed. As your hands are cradled by many familiar hands, the light begins to dim and you can feel death approaching.

As your lungs begin to cease breathing, your bedroom door bursts open and four prison guards storm in with pump-action shotguns.

With your very last breath, you say a half-prayer to Nori, Sioux god of like, whatever.

Nori responds: yeah, whatever dude.

Thanks be to Nori, god of like, whatever.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The god of lying about running

You’re a busy office worker with no time to meet men. You mean to get to the gym once a week but never quite make it. It’s a waste of money but its better than doing nothing. Out of your window on the third floor every day at lunch time you see a hot guy jogging past.

‘He’s French-Canadian.’ Someone says. ‘Un hot guy.’ Day after day, you see him running through the park and eventually he runs into your fantasies. And then one day you meet him. You’re walking, he’s running. He smiles, you smile. He stops. You talk about nothing and then there is an awkward pause and then he says: ‘I like to rern. Do you like to rern?’ He is un hot guy but also un running fanatique.

‘Sure.’ You say. ‘Sure, I run all the time.’

‘Ow far do you rern?’ He is looking at you intently. You have never jogged in your life. You pick a distance from thin air.

‘Ten kilometres.’

‘I will rern with you. Ten kilometres.’ He says. ‘Tomorrow.’And then tomorrow morning at six-thirty you are running. How hard can it be?

At four hundred metres, you stop, gasping for breath.

‘I am asthmatic.’ You lie. ‘And I have forgotten my inhaler.’

‘Use mine.’ He says, producing one from his pocket. You thought he was pleased to see you. He watches with concern written all over his face as you take two puffs of ventolin. You have never tried it before and the taste is not good.

After another four hundred metres, you must stop again. You are nervous, unfit and the ventolin does not agree with you. You vomit. You keep vomiting until your stomach is empty. And then you vomit some more. The hot guy looks at you in surprise.

‘Cancer.’ You blurt. ‘I have cancer.’ As he reaches out to gently touch your shoulder, you mouth a quick plea for help to Arak, Norse god of lying about running.

Arak responds: Leave the country of your father and your mother. Go where the footprints of men are obscured by freshly fallen snow. Grow old and die in that place.

Thanks be to Arak, god of lying about running!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The god of edible higher life-forms

Your older sister went to America as an exchange student and had a great time. But America seems old hat to you (and last year some kid in Florida got stabbed). So you think Denmark would be cool: the girls are hot, it has novelty value and it snows.

But Denmark is full this year so you have to find somewhere else. You’re flipping through an atlas, talking it over with your mate Tim when he says: ‘Oh my God you have to go to Japan. It’s so cool. The anime, oh my god, is so cool. Have you seen Akira? Have you seen Robot Bitches in Heat (or something) ?’ Blah blah blah.

He convinces you that Japan is it so you off you go even though you later watch Akira and find that it’s really long and sucks and you don’t like anime anyway. And they send you to Osaka where it doesn’t really snow.

But you love your host family and they love you. Great big black-pupilled eyes brimming with watery sadness just like in anime!

And they want to please you so bad. But they know almost nothing about Western cooking. So one night they give you something to make you feel at home. It's weird but you eat it. And then you break through their English to discover it was whale sushi covered in beschamel sauce. They wanted to please you so much! And it didn’t taste so bad really.

That night though you have a dream you’re driving on the motorway in Japan and you have a minor collision and the other driver gets out to respectfully apologise and exchange details. Only the other driver is a minke whale. And you start screaming at it in English which it can’t understand. And then you hit it with a baseball bat and all the while it keeps apologising. And then you kill it.

And you keep having this dream for a fortnight. So you offer up a silent prayer to Ravati, the Hindu god of edible higher life-forms.

Ravati responds: I feel bad that you feel bad.

Thanks be to Ravati, god of edible higher life-forms!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Your differentness is the best thing about you

Diversity is our greatest strength as a society but sometimes it can be a little confronting in the workplace, for people both inside and outside the mainstream. Take some tips from my new book: Difference – Deal With It: A Guide to Tolerating Other People in the Workplace.

Things you might like to say in otherwise tricky situations:

[When a woman succeeds at a long and difficult project]

I’m so happy for you! You took this project from go to woe in sixty days and I totally thought PMS would send it off the rails at some point. Your menstrual blood proved me completely wrong and I’ve learned a valuable lesson!

[When a black person scores a try at inter-office touch rugby]

Although sporting excellence is second nature to your people and to be expected, I still felt thrilled and excited for you as you scored that try. God knows your people could do with a win now and again.

[When an Asian scores a try at inter-office touch rugby]

Wow, if somebody had told me that [name] was going to triumph at footy, I would have said: ‘maybe at footy tipping, and maybe with the assistance of advanced computer modeling.’ But no way did I think your little legs were ever going to carry you across that try line. Unless the other side let you win. Which totally didn’t happen in this case.

[When a person with a mental illness pulls off a difficult task]

For a moment there, I totally forgot you have mental issues! That was great! That was better than great! It was more than most normal people could do!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Skim-Reading Through the Ages

You might be interested in an excerpt from my forthcoming book: Once Lightly Over: An Illustrated History of Skim-Reading Through the Ages:

‘…skim-reading became a crucial part of Lincoln’s time-management strategy during the latter part of the Civil War. His two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay, began competing for his attention by bringing him ever more documents to read and sign. It was only Lincoln’s chronic unwillingness to read anything ‘properly’ that kept his Presidency and the Union afloat.

It was John Hay, his usual speech-writer, who wrote for Lincoln a seven-hour 400-page epic which began ‘War is a really, really dreadful thing, I pray you avoid it’ for presentation at Gettysburg. Lincoln skimmed the document over his customary macchiato at Jenny’s Coffee Shop. Doodling on a napkin, he quickly reduced the speech to the following (now historically sanitized) words:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. yadda yadda

Now we are engaged blah blah blah in a great civil war… [etc]

Order your copy now and learn how Churchill balanced depression, a fondness for Gray's Anatomy and 48 different plans for D-Day by having an assistant read out 'the interesting bits'!

Notes from the class war

Proposed bumper sticker: 'Yes, the road rules apply to tradesmen too.'

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ask Whale Sushi

Q: Dear Whale Sushi. How do I become a great writer? Please note that I am 47 so I do not like the idea of a long apprenticeship. Also I do not want to work too hard or tap deep personal feelings because I find the whole idea embarrassing. Impatient of Isabella Plains.

A: Dear Impatient. It’s often said that ‘a writer writes, always.’ However I’m unconvinced by this. It’s so hit or miss. And it says nothing about greatness. I would say: ‘a great writer writes great stuff at least some of the time, frequently writes quite good stuff and hardly every produces crap or not so you’d notice.’ I think if you abide by this rule you can’t go wrong. I expand upon this in my book Simple Solutions to Difficult Problems which is available in some good bookstores.

Q: Dear Whale Sushi. I googled ‘whale’ and ‘sushi’ just to see what would turn up and your ‘blog’ appeared. What gives? Do you really make sushi from whales? Isn’t that a terrible waste of a beautiful creature? Random Googler of Reid.

A: Dear Random Googler. You wouldn’t ask your final question if you had tasted whale sushi. It’s marvellous and craps all over tuna. They’re not really that beautiful, let's face it, and speculation about their intelligence is just that. I think deep down you suspect what I'm saying is true otherwise you wouldn't be googling those two search terms. Next try 'owl' & 'terrine'.