Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This week I have been mostly observing: Bench Etiquette

Now, bench etiquette, what is it you may ask? I would classify it as the responsibility we all have not to impinge on other people’s basic right to comfortable occupation of a public park bench.
As a white collar office worker who spends on average 8 hours a day huddled in a tedious pit of despair with only the picturesque view of a rusty air conditioning unit out of my greasy office window as visual stimulation, I cherish the half an hour of freedom that is my lunch break.
Usually, during this period of sweet relief, I head down to the small local park situated near my office to relax and nibble on a tuna sandwich.
So, picture the scene, a sunny day in a nice little pocket of greenery in amongst the drabness of the office buildings. I walk into the park with a spring in my step and survey the 3 benches on offer.
When sitting on a bench I observe the following rules:
1.       Always position yourself to the furthest left or right extremity of the bench thus leaving maximum bench space for other patrons
2.       Once seated do not spread out your lunch paraphernalia along the bench unnecessarily taking up valuable real estate
3.       If another person is occupying the bench you choose to sit on, ensure you position yourself in such a way that physical contact is not made with that person at all costs. (You don’t want an awkward conversation with a stranger interrupting your lunch now do you?)
Now, if everyone observed these rules the world would undoubtedly be a happier place and many of the more violent wars in human history may have been avoided.
But do they observe these rules? No. They sprawl themselves across these park benches in flagrant disregard for other patrons. A park bench seats 2 in my book, 3 if you’re willing to occupy the middle section of the bench, (or the corridor of uncertainty as I like to classify it) although this does take some fortitude, and may result in breaking rule 3, especially if either one or both of the other people on the bench have a fat arse. A park bench definitely does not only seat 1 person.
It is an atrocity to selfishly occupy a bench in its entirety as I’m sure you’ll agree, but I saw this happen as recently as yesterday.
Yesterday I walked into the park in my normal way and surveyed the seating opportunities on offer. 2 benches were occupied with 2 people sitting on each; as I was not willing to occupy the corridor of uncertainty (and risk breaking rule 3) I turned my attention to the one remaining bench and was stunned rigid by what I saw.
Now I hope you’re sitting down (I certainly wasn’t), as this may shock and appal you.
I saw a man............. a fellow white collar inmate.................. I saw him......lying.....yes that's right, lying....... full length along the bench with his eyes closed and a self satisfied grin plastered across his smug face.
The whole bench taken.
By one man.
One selfish Bastard.
So, what do you want me to do? Where shall I sit you cheap bench whore? On the cold wall in the shade of that tree over there? With the ants on it? And risk getting piles or my lunch infested with insects?
So I beat that inconsiderate bag of excrement to death with my cheese and ham baguette.
You may think this extreme, but in my position I’m sure you would have done the same.
There are bound to be casualties in the war of bench etiquette, and sadly my cheese and ham baguette was one of these casualties.
It’s going to be a long battle, but if we stick together we can eradicate the problem of our benches being taken from us. The rest of Europe stood by as Hitler invaded Poland but we must not be as complacent.
In the words of Winston Churchill “We will fight them on the benches”   or did he say beaches?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week I have been mostly watching: Films with a Christmas theme

As we hurtle unfettered into the bosom of the yuletide season you may notice a fair amount of Christmas themed films and TV shows airing on the good old idiot box in the coming weeks. It was my misfortune to actually witness a particularly tasteless example of one of the these films on the weekend, and I must say, I was shocked and stunned by the bloodthirsty violence on show.
Now, you're probably thinking that I'm talking complete balderdash, Christians are a pious and peace loving lot (lets ignore the crusades for a minute), would they stand by and watch the festival of Christmas desecrated by association with sadistic violence?
Well, apparently so, as this film was made back in the 90's and is still being aired. And what is the offending article in question? Well, its Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, starring former child megastar Macaulay Culkin.
If you haven't seen it, the premise of the sequel is pretty much the same as the first film, Kevin (Macaulay) is left by his family again when they go on holiday (how someone has failed to inform the authorities regarding this shocking negligence is simply beyond comprehension) and to occupy the lonely hours until he's found he decides to torture and torment two petty criminals (one of which is Jo Pesci, why did you do it Jo?) to death in ever more dastardly and cruel ways under the pretext that he's trying to stop them stealing money from a philanthropist toy store owner in New York.

The slapstick cartoon violence is gratuitous and slightly disturbing, I found myself wincing as bricks were hurled repeatedly into the forehead of the unfortunate criminals from the top of a tall building by that grinning angel of death Kevin, I was stunned as Kev rigged up a blowtorch and filled a nearby toilet bowl with petrol just so he could watch Jo Pesci's head be set alight, and planning to douse the flames, stick his flaming melon in what appears to be toilet water but is in fact a highly explosive flammable substance.

Now if this happened in Itchy and Scratchy or an old Tom and Jerry cartoon, it would undoubtedly be hilarious, I watched many violent cartoons growing up and I've managed to suppress my homicidal urges easily enough, but when a live action movie portrays the kind of violence where the protagonists bounce back from crushing blows and explosions with Wolverine style resilience then its a bit worrying.
I certainly wouldn't let my daughter watch this when she gets older, I'd want her to realise that violent acts have a consequence and not find myself turning the corner of our street on my way back from work to see her launch an ingeniously constructed home made mortar bomb at me as a practical joke.

Anyway, the movie winds its way to the inevitable conclusion of Kev being saved from being shot in the face by Joe Pesci by a pre fame Susan Boyle and the horde of pigeons she has under her command (I'm sure everyone saw that coming a mile off). The bad guys end up safe and sound back in prison out of reach of the evil clutches of Kev and Kev grows up to be the mastermind of several new torture techniques for the American army.

There's not much left to say on Home Alone 2, by far the most gratuitous and disturbing film I've seen in a while that masquerades as a feel good piece of Christmas children's entertainment, lets hope we never see its like again.
If the devil has a face, its the eerily cute blond, blue eyed, Kevin, he would have made Adolf Hitler proud.

Lets just take a look at a brief clip ...... what a that?.....I think it is you know........its Susan Boyle

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This week I have mostly been listening to: other peoples conversations on the train

I am one of the unfortunate people who travel daily by train from the cultural vacuum of Gosford to the corporate snoozefest of North Sydney.
Occasionally while sat alongside my fellow automatons sporting their doom laden expressions of resignation to another arse numbing day of tedium in office purgatory I overhear nuggets of wisdom such as the following: 'The first one was bad enough, then it felt like someone was holding a gun to my head during the second, and I just can't bring myself to start the third'
What was the young woman in question talking about you may ask, well,  it was the Twilight series of children's novels. I'm sure you're aware of the Twilight phenomenon, which like the threat of global warming has been hanging over us all for what seems like centuries now, but if not, its a love story between a teenage girl and a century old vampire, with a bit of werewolf action thrown in for good measure. I haven't read the series mind you, as a fully grown adult its not really aimed at me, which is why I turned around to the woman who uttered the aforementioned comment and said:
'Excuse me, if its so bad don't read it then, you are aware that this drivel is aimed at emotionally unstable teenage girls approaching puberty who are craving a bit of escapism and romance aren't you? For pities sake woman, the literary fruits of the greatest minds of the last 2 centuries are at your fingertips, why not try a bit of Tolstoy, some Dostoevsky perhaps, a pinch of Virginia Woolf maybe? But no, you just sit there don't you, filling your brain with such vacuous waffle and then having the gaul to complain about it, no one forced you to read the god awful things did they, the last time I looked Twilight wasn't on the curriculum of English literature degrees, I bet you also sat through the film adaptions didn't you, I bet you shook your head in derision at how utterly tedious the whole thing was, like watching a bad episode of Dawsons Creek spliced together with a bad remake of the Lost Boys, although there was a cheap thrill to be had from watching the male eye candy waltz around with their shirts off I bet, you.... make.... me ....sick.'

Well, I didn't actually say that at all, I just sat in my seat exuding an air of superiority while struggling to understand the pretentious novel I was reading, but the point is valid, how come Twilight has become so darned popular with adults when it is essentially a children's book? It is probably because our minds have been so dumbed down and blunted by the cultural vacuum of modern civilisation that the only literature we can process revolves around irritating little wizards and falling in love with a member of the mythical undead.

That's it from me, I'm off to look at my calender of Robert Pattinson, fingers crossed its an oiled torso shot for November, but before I go, here is a clip of a far more menacing vampire who I was a fan of in my childhood:

Your thoughts on Count Duckula or Twilight would be most appreciated.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This week I have mostly been admiring: the perseverence of aging rockers

Its one of life's cruel inevitability's that we're all going to have to suffer the unfortunate, embarrassing circumstances and symptoms of aging. Being a man, well, technically anyway, I have to look forward to finally giving in and purchasing that nasal hair trimmer, coping with an expanding prostate and on receipt of a spam email selling Viagra, seriously contemplating taking the plunge.
But I had a dream once as a younger man, a wonderful dream, a dream that would let me forgo the tedious responsibilities of adult life and be free, yes, I was once in a half baked, half assed rock band called the Hot Freaks.
We were on the cusp of fame, we had a myspace page (sadly no longer operational, the only thing remaining is the background of the page showing "The Hot Freaks ROCK, YEAH!!" written on a toilet wall situated in a service station near Colchester"), we played a generation defining gig at a friends barbecue where, during the grand finale, (we were playing our best song, an epic, emotional paean to Reginald Mitchell, inventor of the spitfire) I looked up from my guitar to discover the entire crowd of 4 people had nipped out the back for a smoke. The fact that 2 of them didn't even smoke made it seem much worse.

Then fatherhood, marriage, a contract position in Swindon and an unexpected circumcision came along and the band dissolved.
Some people though don't let this deter them, they continue to follow their dream even though the years rapidly turn against them.
Living indie rock legend Bob Pollard for instance, he toiled in obscurity for years writing and recording songs in his basement until he finally gave up his job as a primary school teacher in his mid 30's and released 2 of the greatest, most badly recorded rock albums ever forged by man. See Bob and Guided by Voices here.
Then theres Anvil who soldiered on for 30 years after their initial 15 minutes of fame in the early eighties until they finally got the attention they deserved as the subjects of the inspirational documentary 'The story of Anvil.'
And of course there is the most famous example from recent years, Susan Boyle, the slightly deranged cat lady who on Britains Got Talent unexpectedly turned out to be a deranged cat lady with a warbly singing voice.
Now I'm not saying she can't sing (or am I?) but it was the whole package that made her famous, the hint she may be a closet axe wielding maniac, the bushy eyebrows, the frumpy dress that looked like it was fashioned from a pair of old curtains. This is what made made watching her achieve her dream of performing in front of a large audience so compelling, because it was so unexpected.
And in Australia we now have Altiyan Childs, he occasionally sleeps in a cave and when he sings he looks like he's taking part in a gurning competition, but before the evil corporate bullies of X factor polish him until any remnants of personality are gone, I find the aging rocker strangely inspirational.
All these people and others I haven't had time to mention give me hope as I ride into Sydney on my interminable commute to my tedious office job, because if they didn't give up as they drifted into the mediocrity of middle age then why must I give up my dream of getting off the hamster wheel of misery that is a 9 to 5 job.
So why not crack open the guitar case and record that over earnest ballad that I wrote 10 years ago, where theres life theres hope and in the words of Jimmy McIlroy "If you dream it, you can do it".

Have a look at The story of Anvil below:

If you have any comments on Bob Pollard, Reginald Mitchell or the overuse of brackets in this posting then please feel free to leave them. I could really do with the attention.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This week I have been mostly looking: into the cold dead eyes of Kyle Sandilands

Now, loath as I am to dwell on the cultural vacuum of X Factor, which like a year old McDonalds happy meal, refuses to perish. I would like to bring your attention to a disturbing discovery I made while watching it last weekend.
While Altiyan Childs, the scrawny bearded god of rock, was leaving the rest of the distinctly moribund contestants in his wake, my eyes were drawn to the unpleasant blot on the TV screen that is Kyle Sandilands melon.
As he looked on at Altiyan transcend the general malaise of the rest of the show I expected to see at least one or more of the following emotions flicker across his face: envy, admiration, joy, wonder, lust
But no. He just looked on with his cold, dead, expressionless eyes.
When his estranged wife made a guest performance on the show a couple of weeks ago as part of a simply dreadful sub Lady Gaga pop parody duo, I expected to see at least a hint of regret of love lost, or a saucy grin as he remembered the last time he saw her in the nude, but no, he just looked on with his cold dead eyes as the brazen strumpet cavorted on stage with female dancers in a suitably desperate fashion.
And as I looked into those eyes, the eyes of a shark, the eyes of the T1000 from Terminator 2, I thought.....hmmm......he really reminds me of another power hungry scourge of the poor and innocent from times gone by......and then it hit me:


Kyle Sandilands is the reincarnation of Henry VIII.
When you think about it the similarities are striking, the syphilis, the crimes against the catholic church, the beheading of wives(sentencing your wife to a short lived career in an insipid pop duo is the equivalent of beheading in my book).
I would wager that of a weekend, Kyle likes nothing more than strutting around his suburban mansion wearing an over sized ornamental codpiece.
After this frankly terrifying mental image we need a pick me up, and what better than a viewing of Altiyan from last week.
While you watch, consider those orgasmic expressions on Ronan Keatings face, the polar opposite of Kyle Sandilands, are they being caused by sheer joy at Altiyan's performance? Or could he possibly be being felated under the desk by some un-named floozy? And what would be the expression on Kyle's face if he found out the shocking news that Mr Keating was having his trumpet blown live on air? Well of course, he'd be looking on expressionless, out of those cold.....dead......eyes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This week I have been mostly watching: Australian X Factor

Now, you’re obviously aware that X factor is further evidence of the downfall of western civilisation, but the Australian version appears to have thrown up an intriguing character in the form of Altiyan Childs. He’s in the over 25’s section of this overblown karaoke fandango and is so cheesy you could grate him onto your spag bol.
Before I continue with Altiyan though, I’ll give you a quick rundown on the Australian judging panel:
Kyle Sanderlands – this mildly obnoxious misogynist breakfast DJ plays the pantomime bad guy Simon Cowell role and is the ‘mentor’ of the boys, who he menaces convincingly with his well groomed beard.
Guy Sebastian – winner of the inaugural Australian idol, this man ‘mentors’ the groups and is often seen sporting a ridiculous sailors hat for reasons beyond comprehension.
Natalie Imbruglia – she ‘mentors’ the girls and is far more palatable than Danii Minogue.
And finally...... Ronan ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ Keating, perpetrator of numerous crimes against humanity, he is the mentor of our beloved Altiyan and has tried to trip him up at every turn with his atrocious song selection.
In fact, Australia appears to be the graveyard of these Irish purveyors of turgid ballads and insipid dance pop. For a country famed for its tight border security, it is surprising that they would let in such insidious organisms as Ronan Keating and Brian McFadden who pose such an undoubted danger to the eco system of the country.
But back to Altiyan, he’s an aging rocker who is using X factor as his last throw of the dice and it’s about time that I show you how spectacularly this man can deliver.....just look at that neckerchief for God’s sake.

I'm sure you're dabbing the tears from your eyes after that wind blowing performance, and I sincerely hope the Australian publc continue to support Altiyan so we get to see him sing a Miley Cyrus cover at Christmas.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This week I have been mostly reading: The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass

I thought I'd kick this whole enterprise off by bringing your attention to a book I have been reading this week entitled 'The Tin Drum'. The book is written by a German author called Gunter Grass who received the Nobel Prize for literature for this and his other novels. Now, I haven't read any of his other works but if the only product of his writing career had been this novel then he would've been a worthy recipient of the prize for this alone.
The novel is the fictional memoir of Oskar Matzerath, a severely deformed man who is writing his life story from a mental hospital. It charts the history of his family from the moment his grandmother was impregnated by a Polish arsonist who she was sheltering from the police under her expansive skirts while sat in a potato field, to the events resulting in Oskars incarceration in the mental hospital.
Oskar is born in the free city of Danzig in 1924 with a complete awareness of his surroundings and with mental faculties completely intact. On hearing at his birth that his 'presumptive' father Alfred has plans of making him follow in his footsteps in the family Grocer business, Oskar quickly becomes disillusioned with what the next 60 years on the planet has to offer him and finds the only saving grace appears to be his mothers promise that she will buy him a tin drum on his 3rd birthday.
On receipt of his drum, Oskar, who has no interest in the cruel and pointless grown up world that surrounds him, decides to stop growing completely and live his life as a permanent 3 year old who just simply won't stop drumming.
When his thoroughly drummed out family try to take his drum from him they discover he possesses the novel ability to shatter glass with his piercing screams, which he does when anyone tries to lay a hand on his precious drum.
No-one pays much attention to young Oskar as he drums his way through the not too clandestine affair his mother is having with her cousin Jan (who he also suspects might be his real father) and the rise of Hitler and National Socialism.
The book highlights the cruelty and absurdity of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany through the eyes of Oskar as he undertakes a dizzying array of adventures with a multitude of unforgettable characters including Nazi propaganda specialist Bebra, the circus dwarf, Oskars first love Maria who seduces him with some strategically placed sherbet and Klepp the rotund jazz flutist who forms a band with Oskar after the war.
Oskar isn't the innocent 3 year old through all this mind you, he has a sinister streak and portrays himself as both Satan and Jesus throughout the story.
This book caused some controversy on its release in 1959 and was classed as blasphemous pornography (Oskar does have a surprisingly active sex life) but I would simply class it as a work of genius which portrays the German people who took their part in the atrocities of the war as what they were, just normal everyday people who chose to ignore what they had become a part of, Oskar opted out by deciding to stay 3 foot tall and evoking all his emotions through his drum.
Now there are some scenes in this book I'll probably take with me to my grave, the chapter when Oskar and his family see a longshoreman catching eels using a dismembered horses head is one of them along with the poignant moment when the Jewish shop owner that sells Oskars precious drums commits suicide when the Nazi's ransack his shop. What with the sherbet infused girl on dwarf action as well, you're probably thinking someone should make a film of this. Too late, they already have: