Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Glass half-full...of human suffering!

Last week I went to the opening of the new Canberra Glassworks Centre. Described as: ‘Built and funded by the ACT Government, Canberra Glassworks is Australia's only cultural centre that is wholly dedicated to contemporary glass art.’

It was built in the old power plant which has mouldered by Lake Burley-Griffin for 40 years since its decommissioning in 1957. As well as an impressive series of workshops, it also has a gallery for glass works. In particular, I was attracted to a small piece of glass art which turned out to be a magic looking glass into the future, limited alas to what is in store for the glassworks centre (otherwise I would have been off to the bookies).

I quickly jotted down the following chronology as it appeared to me through a glass darkly.

26 May 2007: Canberra Glassworks opens to the public.

31 May 2007: First courses in glass art offered to the public.

20 June 2007: Second furnace installed in the hotshop to cope with unexpected demand.

18 July 2007: Two more furnaces added and courses now run 24 hours.

31 August 2007: 68% of all Canberrans and fully 7% of all Australians have now taken one or more courses at Canberra Glassworks. These numbers increase at the rate of 2000 per week. A tent city springs up in the Kingston area to accommodate would-be glass art apprenctices.

30 October 2007: Treasurer Peter Costello proudly announces that the Australian economy grew by 4% in the last quarter, purely on the strength of the so-called ‘glass bubble’. 72% of all Australians now make their living by designing, making, selling or disposing of glass-art or by administrating one of Australia’s 786 Canberra glassworks franchises.

25 December 2007: 102% of all Christmas presents exchanged in 2007 have at least one glass component. Tickle-me see-through Elmo is particularly popular as is the new invisible glass iPod. (Economists are unable to explain how it is possible that the number of glass presents apparently exceeds the total number of all presents. Professor Charles Barreau shrugs during an on-camera interview: ‘I made my reputation as a hardheaded supply-side econometrician but, let’s face it, it’s in no one’s interest to speak ill of glass.’

15 January 2008: ‘Glass’ is now universally capitalized when written. As in ‘the business of Australia is Glass’ or ‘if you’re not for Glass, you’re against Glass’ or ‘Glass does as Glass sees fit’.

31 March 2008: the dark side of Glass becomes apparent as thousands of itinerant glassblowers sleep rough on the streets and try to harass passers-by (typically more successful glassworkers and arts administrators) into buying their tchotchkes : ‘Please mate, anything, give me anything, just buy one o’ me cold-worked, handcrafted baby giraffe tumblers.’ This aspect to the Glass bubble is desperately suppressed by frightened Governments in Canberra and State capitals.

15 May 2008: construction begins on the new Glass bridge to Tasmania using excess glass trinkets. The remaining few independent voices complain of rampant Glass welfare and an all-powerful Glass lobby. Lobbyists for the farmers, big business and Israel complain that the Government ‘doesn’t even bother to return their phone-calls anymore.’

31 May 2008: Feminists speak up about the paucity of nationally recognized female glass artists, complaining about a ‘new Glass ceiling’.

27 June 2008: 89% of all arable land is now covered by Glass.

26 August 2008: work begins on an ambitious project to build a giant Glass computer which will decide once and for all whose work is good and whose is shit.

17 October 2008: DeepGlass comes online and assumes responsibility for all Glass-related Government functions (which is estimated to be 109% of such functions by the Australian Buerau of Glass Statistics).

27 November 2008: DeepGlass goes global and takes over the earth, consigning a miserable humanity to a thousand years of applying for local community development arts grants in triplicate.

So I decided we needed a glass cyborg from the future to return to our present and destroy Canberra Glassworks before it dooms us all. Expect fire-works in a month or two so get your shopping done soon...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crush your rivals while you change the printer toner!

Hi, welcome to Relax your Way to Success in the Office! I’m Dr Jonathon Straub, author, psychologist and father. You might recognize me from such self-help mediation aides as Break Bread with Buddha: Relaxation for Today’s Bakery and Waste Away and Win: Make Anorexia Work for You!

In a moment I’ll begin and you’ll hear three chimes. But first, remember, if you can stay calm and keep the right attitude, you can go from the mailroom to the boardroom in an afternoon! There’s literally nothing to stop you!

[Brief pause]

[Ding! Ding! Ding!]

For this meditation, if it is possible, sit on a firm cushion which raises the buttocks off the floor so that your body makes a stable base with your head held erect and so that your upper half rises up in a straight line. However please use a chair if this is a strain.

Gently allow your eyes to close and bring your attention to your breath. Just observe your breathing. Allow your body to be still and calm. Allow yourself to be whole and complete in this moment.

And as you sit, picture the most beautiful mountain that you know or have seen or can imagine. Hold this picture in your mind’s eye as you breathe in and out.

Picture the quiet dignity of this mountain rising into the clouds. Imagine the pure white snow that elegantly caps its highest reaches. Now gently, like a sweeping bird, close in on that snow. Feel its coolness. Appreciate its brightness as it reflects the sun perfectly.

Now notice a small pattern of red drops on that snow. Follow those drops across the beautiful snow until you come to a burnished golden throne. Now notice who is sitting in that throne. A King. A King with huge bronzed rippling muscles, with long black hair and a chiseled jaw. He is wearing a leather loin-cloth and a leather breast-plate which can barely contain his awesome frame. He is holding a huge double-headed axe which stands almost as high as the throne and which is the source of the drops of blood you have noticed on the snow. Take a moment, as you gently breathe in and out, to fully comprehend this King in all his awesome terrifying but dignified wholeness.

Now look at his feet. Lying there is a slave girl, shivering slightly in her fur bikini. Her pale mounds of white flesh are wrapped around his giant leather boots. She is gazing up at him, adoring, with large blue eyes. Her golden hair spills around the toes of his boots like melted snow.

Now, become that slave-girl in your mind’s eye. Hold her beautiful image then merge with her to become her in your deepest essence. Imagine her quivering shape as your own.
Now imagine that your boss at work has come to you. Imagine that he or she is this terrible King and you are his slave-girl. Stare up at him with adoring eyes and mentally, spiritually wind yourself at his feet like a compliant snake.

Now imagine he or she has brought you a business proposal, a new project, some software to be customized in-house, whatever you are working on at the moment, whatever is in your minds eye. Read this project plan, read every word of it.

Now, carefully, in your mind’s eye, take every flaw in the plan, every unsustainable idea, every piece of inadequate research or wishful thinking or incomplete financial guess-work and roll them into a ball along with the bloody snow that surrounds you and your King. Scrunch this pink snowball up tightly, scrunch up every valid misgiving you have about this project and hurl it off the mountain into an abyss far below. Now smile at your boss and adore him.

Take this otherwise modest project plan, now free of error, and imagine that is actually a brilliantly conceived plan to conquer the barbarian continent of Entha’Gor and subdue its warlike inhabitants. Hold this plan up so that the sun shines through from above and the snow reflects onto it brightly from below.

In your mind’s eye, say to your boss: ‘I am your loyal slave-girl. You are my awesome King. I lie supine at your feet – in awe of your terrible powers and of the peerless brilliance of your project plan. You will crush Entha’Gor like a bug and I will remain at your feet always.’

Now picture other slave-girls at his feet. Onto their faces, place the faces of your co-workers. If for some reason Entha’Gor remains free and your armies suffer a terrible and humiliating defeat, know absolutely that it is their fault.

You are now ready to succeed in the modern workplace.

Take a few moments to come back to awareness of the room around you. Take as long as you need.

[Ding! Ding! Ding!]

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Europe, she is doomed!

Took the 'new' Saab (it's 10 years old) to Kidsafe to get a second anchor point for a kiddie seat fitted... Turns out they can't because, to lapse momentarily into advanced mechanic speak, there's only one ankle-biter seat attachment doo-hickey, right in the centre of the back seat.


Curse you Europe and your falling birthrates and its corollary evil of inconsiderate automotive engineering! Curse you and the semi-dried uterus you rode in on!

Still, nice cheese. (But who will eat it?)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Skippy: poet, diplomat, explorer

Continuing my occasional series of posts about ordinary ancient television -- I was watching a couple of episodes of Skippy the other day.

Two things stood out for me.

(1) It was the episode where Buddy or Tommy or Sharky-boy or whatever his name is (the older one, can't remember, don't care) was irritated he had to spend several weeks shepherding around a marine biologist looking at some aspect of coastal biota. But then he discovered that the deadly dull professorial biologist was actually a fox (as they used to say on Diff'rent Strokes) -- a nubile platinum blonde cutie with conical breasts (as was the style in those days).

Anyway when sea-cutie steps off her boat and into the scene, the most amazing music plays. It's all wokka wokka bow wow wokka wokka bow wow. Nothing but wah wah guitar and sleazy sliding trombone.

For Christ's sake, she was a marine biologist, not fishing for five dollar bills in her g-string (which reminds me, where the hell did I leave my wallet...?).

(2) So like the boy Sonny or Shitty or whatever (I know its Sonny -- I'm pretending not to care to remain cool and aloof) scares Skippy by holding up a lobster. Skippy backs into the boat's ignition which sends the boat shooting off causing Sonny to fall and hit his head, knocking him out in the boat. The boat continues to careen out of control in a fairly narrow estuary without a driver (the sea-cutie and Chocky are scuba-diving below).

So like they need to stop this boat fast before it hits the rocks. They've only got an hour or so. But how to get onto the boat as it zooms at 20 000 knots over the sea? Well sea cutie flies over in the helicopter, allowing Stimpy to jump out and land just behind the boat, but dammnit, he can't quite get onto the boat! Somebody needs to let the net down. But who? There's only a kangaroo and an unconscious 12-year old!

Luckily this is no ordinary kanga. It's Skippy, who went to Geelong Grammar and then a small liberal arts college on the east coast where he studied fine arts and law.

Sea-cutie leans out of the chopper and bellows out of a megaphone: 'lower the net, Skippy, lower the net.' She says this a couple of times before the roo wises up.

Oh, lower the net. Gotcha! So a pair of dessicated roo paws enter the shot without, er, the rest of the kangaroo (that's right, they're kanga stunt paws) and they untie the piece of string holding the net up. The net is lowered, Belchie climbs aboard, and the boat and boy are saved moments before hitting the rocks.


Can you believe they made 91 episodes of this? Every parody of Skippy you've ever seen (defuse the bomb, Skippy, defuse the bomb! Cut the red wire, the red wire!) is actually topped by the original.

Rewrite the Internet applicaton layer, Skippy!

Once more with feeling

Went out to dinner on Saturday night with Hazel Blackberry of A Bex and a Lie Down fame, as well as her gal pals (I’ve always wanted to say that) Sarah Ulmer (not really the cyclist), Jessie Mo, her twin Hydro Flo (I just made that up – people who were at the table may well laugh. You, eh, not so much), Zagreb Zoe (just made that up – it sucks but I got nothin’) and boy-toy TeeLaw.

It was fun, especially when Hydro Flo injected her own brand of fun by introducing us to various word games. Which I still can’t get out of my mind. Christ, I’m a nerd.

Anyway I promised to blog the evening. Consider it blogged.

Yes, there’s a reason why I don’t normally do, you know, stuff that happens.

Eventually Hazel will blog the evening and it will be funny.

Whereas this is all contractual obligations and yadda yadda and just going through the motions.

Friday, May 18, 2007

One Angry Pedestrian

Motorists beware! I have a pointy-tipped umbrella and I'm not afraid to use it.

A little internal bleeding is a small price to pay for scratching in a ridge in your duco that could have stopped the tanks at Stalingrad.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Liberte! Fraternite! Won't Put it Away!

My son the four year old has snuggled up to his latest linguistic trope. Bellowing 'no!' is no longer enough in the negativity, denial and refusal stakes. It's simply too weak-kneed and smacks of appeasement.

'Never' is the mot du jour.

As in:

'Will you please put your shoes on?'


'Can you please play outside with that?'

'Never, never, never!'

He puts me in mind of a pint-sized 18th Century revolutionary. Such righteous panache! Give me liberty or give me another chocolate-sprinkled babycino! Or both!

It's cute.

And it beats him calling me a 'stupid f---.'

Where the fuck did he learn that?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Ghost and Mrs Rapist

You know what I was thinking today? (He said, as a worthless and transparent way of opening a blog post.)

I was thinking about Mrs Muir. Those of you of a certain vintage might remember her as one of the main characters from 'The Ghost and Mrs Muir.' G&MM was one of those TV shows that everyone at the time seemed to watch because it was on at that pre-adulthood, pre- or during dinner peak viewing time of 5:30 - 6:00 or 6:00 - 6:30. Over the years, the ABC had Dr Who, Sweet and Sour, the Goodies and Monkey while Channel 10 had the likes of MASH and the G&MM.

Made from 1968-1970 (and repeated well into the 80's -- did you know the original Flintstones series was 56-60?), the story went:

Lovely young widow Carolyn Muir, her two young children, and the maid discover that the New England seaside house they've moved into is haunted by the former owner -- an old salt named Captain Daniel Gregg. Gregg at first resists this intrusion, but he develops a ghostly love for his uninvited guest.

Anyway, the exact bit which popped into my head today (and does so every couple of years or so), was the episode where Mrs Muir decides she wants to be a writer. So she writes something and leaves it out, allowing the the ghost to 'spice it up' and mail it off under her name. (It's never clear how a non-corporeal ghost is able to interact with physical objects like a typewriter -- that's right, I'm one of those wankers.)

So various people read 'her' story and then are shocked and tittilated [for such an important word, it's damn hard to spell] by it -- in place of her (we imagine) sedate feminine tale is a rollicking pot-boiler. Mrs Muir gets lots of winks and nods and comments to the effect that people had no idea she was capable of such stuff. What this is all about of course is sex, though in emmy-award winning US TV from 1969, it can never be acknowledged. (But I'm sure that if Cpt Gregg could poke the keys of a type-writer he could...)

We only really see one little excerpt of the bodice-ripping prose generated by the captain and I only recall one word, the most scandalous: 'ravished' -- which is both suggestive and old-fashioned. Of course, 'ravish' means the following:

1.to fill with strong emotion, esp. joy.
2.to seize and carry off by force.
3.to carry off (a woman) by force.
4.to rape (a woman).

I'm pretty sure definition 1 wasn't being used and 2-4 all add up to the thing.

So the licentious text in question attributed to a 'lovely young widow' was both coy enough to be used on a 1960's US family sitcom but also able to allude to non-consensual sexual assault... I just thought that was, you know, interesting.

I'm also working on world hunger.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Nothing perks you up like your daily mug of weasel shit joe

A colleague at work -- a co-member of a low-grade coffee and prostitution syndicate -- promised to bring in some Vietnamese coffee next week. It would be good stuff, she said, but not "premium" because the very best Vietnamese coffee is filtered through those parts of a weasel where the sun rarely shines. I chuckled. Good joke, nameless-and-faceless-fellow-office-automaton.

But she wasn't joking, because it's true. According to Professor McWiki, Chair of I-shit-you-not Studies at Couldn't-be-arsed University:

"Vietnam has a similar type of coffee [to coffee made using Asian civet cats], called weasel coffee which also comes from the droppings of weasels after they eat the coffee cherries. In actuality the "weasel" is just the local version of the Asian Palm Civet. Some sources erroneously claim that the beans are regurgitated instead of defecated. A synthetic process intended to simulate the weasel's digestive system is used to meet demand."

"The animals gorge on the ripe berries, and excrete partially-digested beans in their feces, which are then harvested for sale."

It's apparently the most expensive coffee in the world. In the unlikely event its available at your supermarket, look out for its famous logo: a red-faced weasel reading a newspaper...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Teach them well for they are the future of blogging

I drooped my four-year old son off at school today and watched as he started a drawing. He was watching the smart Asian girl across the table as she traced around her hands to make two purple hand shapes on the paper.

My son had a go but declined to actually include the fingers in his effort -- it looked like a mitten or a boxing glove (or more like a mitten or boxing glove than a hand at any rate). So he started putting little circles in the mitten.

'This is an alien and these are his eyes.' He said. Then he drew another vague shape sticking out from the mitten.

'The alien is spitting out a chicken which is wearing a chef's hat.'

[Wipes tear from eye.] I could not be more proud.

An alien spitting out a chicken wearing a chef's hat.

Now why didn't George Lucas think of that?