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!