Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tell me fat man, why do you knit?

Some of you might remember the time I used a Greek kid as a Hellenic buffer to protect me from a potentially deadly piece of mail while riding on our amazing public transport system.

Thankfully I've since managed to avoid any similar encounters with randomly abandoned parcels but the merry antics of using public transport keep on comin as reliably as the 233 to Marion.

Do you want to know what I saw on the bus today? A fat man knitting.

A fat, big bearded man with sausages for fingers, two knitting needles and a ball of wool, nah bugger it, I'm going to call it yarn. It was definitely yarn.

How fat was he?

Put it this way this bloke was no jumper but he was definitely a sweater. Put it this way, if you wanted to pull the wool over his eyes, you'd need a flippin lot of wool. Put if this way, if he asked you to darn his socks it would take four people two years to do the job, working 27 hours a day just to fix one toe.

Listen: he actually wasn't that fat.... but he was knitting.

Now, I don't know what "the rub" means, but if you want it, here it is: not only was the man knitting, he was knitting in front of other people and he didn't care a jot. Didn't drop a stitch. Just kept right on knitting when people got on the bus, knit, knit, knitted happily when they got off. He even kept on knitting when I tried to take a couple of sneaky pictures of this knit wit with my camera phone.

NB: In a bizarre coincidence, as I was trying to take pictures of the knitting man with my camera phone, another person who was totally separate from me was sitting on the other side of the aisle, two seats back. He was watching me.

Here's what he was thinking: Shit! I think that Italian man is trying to detonate a letter bomb with his camera phone! What do I do? What do I do?

After shifting seats three times and breaking out into a sweat, he wisely positioned himself at the back of the bus using a perspex shield, two african school girls, an old woman and a Sikh man as a flesh barrier. It was no hellenic buffer but I admired his strategic thinking under pressure.

I admired it so much I decided to ease the tension by putting my camera phone away. By this time the pudgy knitting machine had retired his yarn and needles to a smart black bag and helped his elerly mum off the bus with the patience and care that only a man who knits could possess.

As the bus pulled away, there were so many things I wanted to know. Who are you knitting man? Who taught you to knit? Why do you do it so openly and freely? Did you dear old mum teach you to knit like that? I bet she did, didn't she?

These are open questions, these threads of life, like an unfinished scarfe in a supermarket bag stuffed with coloured wool. Maybe one day I'll see him again and get him to tie up the threads. After all, life is a pattern of sorts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bullshit Books - volume II - The Vegemite Painter

Ok so technically this latest installment of Bullshit Books could be ruled null and
void by the blog police because what we're talking about here is not really a book.
But I've decided it qualifies because when Petstarr and I found it at a garage sale recently, I thought it was a book. And besides, this shit is way too funny to disqualify on a technicality.

So before we start, I've just got one question; Are you ready to get down with Peter Browne?

Check it.What we're dealing with here, is a 1st, Limited Edition, mint-condition, straight-out-of-the-jar, straight onto the bread knife, straight onto the palette, straight onto the canvas, straight into the Art hall of fame set of Vegemite paintings by Australia's OWN Vegemite painter Peter Browne.

Do you even know how HEAVY this shit is? Even his SURNAME is Browne. (That's Peter at the canvas with the fuzzy muff beard in the poo-brown shirt.)


"But hold it right THERE, Raoul," I hear you exclaim, spraying milky tea and well masticated Vegemite toast over your computer screen. "I've spent my whole life, right until this moment in time and space, believing Australia's greatest living artists were (in order of importance): Sydney Harbour Ken Done, Cuddly Koala chewing gumleaves Jenny Kee and Two little boys,tie me kangaroo down sport,paints creepy portraits of the Queen Rolf-Harris!"

"Why haven't I heard of this Peter Browne character before?"

It's a very good question. Maybe you've been in prison, or you've been traveling the world since the early 1980s looking for your biological father. Maybe you sustained a frontal lobe injury after receiving a blunt blow to the head during your work on the docks or maybe you've just been been living under a rock. To my knowledge I am not your biological father and these are matters for you to discuss with your family.

All I know is you would need a pretty compelling excuse for never having at least heard of this man's talents if his fine work doesn't already take pride of place in several parts of your home.

Unlike many of the masters, Peter is not camera shy and his work has appeared on such relevant and contemporary television programs as:

Today Show (the Steve Liebmann years)
State Affair
Simon Townsend's Wonder World
Crooks Down Under etc

That's not all. Peter's Browne Bravado has also been featured in:

Australia Post
Sunday Telegraph and
Adelaide Advertiser

But why take my word for it? Here's what someone (probably Peter) has to say about his work under the clever headline "spiel".

"Peter Browne is fast becoming a household name in Australia for his reputation as a Vegemite Painter and has made many public appearances to entertain children and adults alike with his ocker art. His paintings are unique in colour and content, Brown by name and brown by nature. The humourous and satirical nature of his work is a delight to every true Australian with a taste for Aussie Culture. He insists he doesn't try to capture beauty just rust dust and bull dust. This first edition of his work must truly be a collectors item."

Of course Browne's career has not been without his detractors, although their jibes are rarely clever.

"You're shit, Browne," "You're paintings are poo, Browne", they sneer.

Others mock the very substance, the essence, the yeasty life-force of Browne's paintings; Vegemite.

"You've got Alzheimer's Browne. You probably eat paint on toast for breakfast."

But Browne's resolve, like the Vegemite he lavishes boldly onto the canvass is thick and despite his knockers has gone on to produce some of this country's most endearing and recognizable portraits, or as I like to call them, "Kraft singles".

One of my favorites is "Concentration camp". This painting speaks directly to Browne's personal experience in a concentration camp in the 1950s, where in the absence of any paint, Peter first learned to paint with Vegemite, thus bringing brown and white together for the first time. Browne went on to win the Kraft(C) Peace Prize for race relations in 1971.

Here's a further selection.

Emu Races

Training Dingos

American Grafitti

Notice in this painting, Browne is making an incisive social commentary on the cancerous spread of mass consumerism - driven wholly by the US, and the threat is poses the delicate integrity of life in the bush - by juxtaposing the insidious golden arches with the wrought-iron shacks of the township.

Browne faced great difficulty with this piece because of the need for colours other than poo brown. Eventually he had the friend (pictured earlier) punch him in the nose to provide a red substance for the sign, which also served to illustrate the toll extracted by the company from its employees while he used his own semen for the 'M' as a subtle way of telling the restaurant chain, in his own way, 'to go forth and procreate' with itself.

The Grass Is Greener

A Bit Late

Wayward Sheep

Don't go out in the woods...today

Despite his clearly prolific output, Browne has been flying somewhat under the radar for the past few years, releasing only a few Browne nuggets, much to the disappointment of his millions of fans around the world.

But for those of you wondering whether Browne is still regarded as an active and important part of the art world or has been relegated to a Browne skid mark on the canvas of life, I've got news for you.

As this
news report testifies, Browne is still producing work, owns galleries in Broken Hill and is a welcome guest at art shows.

It just goes to show, this is one Browne you just can't flush.

Brown by name and brown by nature.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rodent rage

You know those moments when you suddenly find out that something you always believed to be true, or not true as the case may be, turns out to be untrue, or true, as the case may be? I had one recently. Ever since I can remember, I believed it to be true that the staple part of a mouse's diet was cheese. For all I knew, they didn't eat anything else. They certainly hoovered it up in the Looney Tunes cartoons.

My dad seemed to have the right amount of success in snuffing out any mischievous mice that happened to make a home of our pantry using cheese as bait. And not just your garden variety cheese, mind. The trick was, he said, you had to toast it. That way it emitted a pungent, cheesy odor that, evidently, was to mice was kryptonite was to Superman. They simply couldn't resist it.

Enough times I saw him relieve (and with delight, I might add) a wooden mouse trap of its sorry, lifeless prize that I felt confident enough to walk around in public thinking mice, if they didn't love cheese, were certainly not lactose intolerant. If I were a betting man I would've put my pants on it.

Just a few months ago, I discovered why I'm not a betting man. One day, when I was living alone, I came to the conclusion that I had acquired a few extra tenants and as far as I knew they hadn't put down a deposit or signed the lease. I had mice, I reckoned. The peppercorn pellets and the smell of piddle were the giveaways.

Ok, I'll take care of this. I found a few wooden traps, loaded them with pieces of hot, bubbly, cheese that I had roasted over an open flame on the stovetop and placed them strategically in the pantry, saucepan cupboard and behind the wine cabinet in the lounge room.

If my experience counted for anything, anytime between now and the next morning I'd hear a familiar snap, and go to the traps to see some sorry rodent in the last throes of death, with a bloody nose and a steel bar slapped down over its broken neck.

But I never heard the snap. Weird. And if finding the traps mice free was not enough of a let down, imagine my disappointment when I discovered that not only had the traps failed to discharge but that the fucking cheese was gone. Talk about cheeky.

I was prepared to chalk the incident down as a bit of dumb luck on the part of the mice. But when, over the next several days, I found my traps still set, some with bait in tact, some robbed of it, I knew I had a problem.

For one the traps were no good. They were too stiff. Not sensitive enough to be triggered by a mouse's weight. For all knew the diseased little beasts were using the mechanism as a trampoline and inviting their friends around for wild parties.

About this time I started to feel like Lou Monte, the Italian singer who gets played by a cunning mouse called Pepino. "Pepino oh you little mouse oh won't you go away, find yourself another house to run around and play. You eat my cheese, you scare my girl, you even drink my wine, I try to hard to catch you but you trick me every time."

Meanwhile, the pellets were piling up, my cheese stocks were being depleted, my gas bill was soaring from all the cheese toasting, the mice were brave and getting braver and the whole affair was taking its toll on my social life.

When friends came to visit, they would commonly spot a tailed flash of grey scurry across the kitchen floor or squirt into a cupboard or behind the TV cabinet. Eventually my nerves got so frayed and frazzled I gave up on the traps and took to hurling projectiles every time I saw one of the vermin making a mad dash across the room.

Things got ridiculous. One day, Scootikins came over to watch a film and not far into it the mouse presented itself in the lounge doorway to feast on some crumbs. Shhhhhh. Quiet. We paused the film and sat silently watching the furry little fellow as he nibbled away. Discreetly and with slow movements I slid a sandal off my foot, raised it slowly above my head and shot it like a bullet. Thump! missed. As the afternoon went on, the mouse bravely returned as Scootikins and I took turns flinging footwear at the bastard so that we found ourselves watching Withnail and I each with an arm cocked behind our ears and loaded with nikes and birkenstocks. The irony of watching two destitute actors smearing heat cream on their bodies to guard against the cold while we waged war in a mouse-infested lounge room was hardly lost on either of us.

Sometime later, something incredible happened. One of those most incredible things I've ever seen, in fact. And it happened in my kitchen. It was about 10pm one night and I had gotten out of bed to get a drink. I got to the kitchen and turned on the light when I saw one of the mice dart behind the sink taps, stopping to hid behind my fruit basket. That's when I saw an opportunity. If I could arm myself, and stir the mouse out from behind the basket, I might have a chance to flatten him. It was a long shot, but worth a try.

So I grabbed a wooden spoon from the draw and crept over to the basket. Here goes. I rattled the basket and he shot out but only as far as one of the drip pans on the stovetop a few centimeters away. So here we were, face to face. Him curled up in the dish, eyes full of fear and breathing heavily. Me, dead still, spoon cocked above my head. A strange and unnatural meeting of man and mouse. Staring. Man. mouse. man. mouse. Eyes fixed. Man. mouse. man. mouse.

Something had to break the deadlock so I lunged at the stove to force the situation. I was expecting the rodent to shoot out of the pan like a bullet, giving me the slip in the closest cupboard. But he made a mistake. At this point, time got stodgy and lethargic and while everything that happened next, happened quickly, it felt like an eternity and I could see it all, a frame at a time.

The mouse leapt out of the pan and into mid air, arms stretched out as if it were diving into a pool and was heading to my right at about a height between my hip and my mid torso. With one, deft, crisp and precise stroke with my left hand I sliced the spoon's blade through the air, connecting it sweetly with the mouse, at which point time reverted to its normal speed.

The mouse fell to the lino, the last impulses of life draining from its broken, twitching body. Suddenly everything was quiet. And, despite our differences, the sight of the rodent lying still on the floor, next to the spoon, which had been cleft in two by the impact, was one of the sorriest scenes you will ever seen. I took a picture with my camera phone, tossed the body out without ceremony and went to bed.

Postscript. Not long after a friend moved in to share the house and was duly appraised of the situation. It was she who made the revelation. "Cheese? cheese? mice only eat cheese in the cartoons. The fact is they don't even like it."

Hmm so mice don't like cheese? I was totally flawed. I imagine my reaction was much like that of the bunch of guys who were standing around listening to this bloke called Gallieo. "So not flat, you say?" Either my friend was full of shit or for 25 years, my dad had been over-run with cartoon mice. Either way, I was interested.
"So what do they eat then?"

My friend went on to explain that her professor dad had a sure-fire, never fail bait recipe and reliable traps. Soon after she came home with a couple of sleek black plastic traps and a sandwich bag containing a curious bait made from rolled oats and peanut butter. And I'll be buggered if it didn't work a treat.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Brought to you by the letter...run for your lives!!!!

In the resonant words of the Lizard King, strange days have found us. As HST said so eloquently, we are now living in the Kingdom of Fear, where capital T truths are as rare as lips on a chicken and nothing, nothing, is as it seems.

Not even a decade ago, an envelope left absentmindedly on a park bench or a bus, was still just an envelope. But now, dear friends, it is a letter bomb. And a few days ago, I was a hair's breadth away from being snuffed out by one of the suckers.

But I'm too wiley for that. And whichever degenerate son-of-a-bitch set up the ambush severely underestimated me.

It was just after 8am when I got on the bus and took a seat about half-way down the aisle on the driver's side. Being one of the first stops on the run, the bus was as good as empty with only me and a couple of others on board. I had my iPod playing some smooth beats while I fished my copy of Kerouac's On the Road out from my equally snazzy man-bag to round out my image of the suave and eminently casual commuter.

And I was just opening my book to the right place when I saw something strange out of the corner of my left eye. I looked down on the floor, across the aisle, a couple of seats ahead and noticed an envelope. I wouldn't have given it so much as a second thought had it just been a flat, garden variety, letter. The kind that can easily slip your custody, when you're on your way to the nearest post box. But this little fucker wasn't flat. It was slightly raised. And that meant I had some decisions to make.

My first reaction was to think about reporting the strange package to the driver. No big deal. "Hey driver, I think someone lost an envelope back there. You might wanna sort it out."

Nah. That could be embarrassing. Even if I did it casually and didn't cause a scene, the others would think I'd been spooked by a silly little envelope, even if my intentions were just to help some poor bastard find some potentially important property.

And it didn't take long to realize how thoroughly ridiculous it was to think for more than even a moment that a perfectly innocent letter strewn on the floor was actually a sheath for a dangerous explosive. Don't be a twat. Go back to reading your book.

Next Stop. A chubby Greek boy gets on and sits in the seat where the envelope is.

Hmmm. If it was a bomb, which it's not, the Greek boy would absorb most of the impact from where he's sitting. I should be safe here. Cruel, I know, but this is the kingdom of Fear and the only rules are there are no rules. These days, picking a seat on a bus is like buying a lottery ticket and this poor fucker just bought a dud.

Hang on, hang on. Why should the Greek kid have to die to protect you? What did he ever do to anyone?

"Well, for all I know, he could be a callous little prick. Probably shot his sister in the leg with an air rifle and burned ants with a magnifying glass when he was a boy."

I go back to reading my book but it's no good. Who am I kidding? I'm not safe here? If that baby blows, I'll be rained on by glass and steel shards, even with my Hellenic buffer in position.

I move back a couple of seat's on the driver's side but I'm only there a few seconds before I get nervous and move again. This time I choose a seat on the opposite side of the aisle, and very near the back where the seats are raised.

Not only is it a good seat in relation to the epicenter of the explosion, I'm pretty well protected by a sheet of perspex. And as the trip progresses and the load swells, there are plenty more human barriers to help ease my worried mind.

Miraculously, the trip ends without any bloodshed. To make doubly sure, I tune into the 9am news bulletin at work to see if any buses have exploded in the past five minutes. Apparently none.

Having cheated death I feel triumphant until a sickening thought occurs to me.

What if the thing had gone off and the authorities went to the security tapes for clues and "well, well, well, what do we have here? Some shifty little fucker, looking as worried as a lobster near a pot of boiling water, and oh, what's this? he's moved seats and moved again. He's proper fucked now."

"Should we send him a letter sarge?"

"Yeah, care of Guantanamo Bay."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

the car boot's connected to the...

WE all know life is a complex and richly woven tapestry, replete with all manner of strange quirks and ironic connexions, which give us pause to marvel at the majesty of whatever omnipotent deity or lifeforce was responsible for them.

Through the instrument of science and other analytical tools we have garnered deep understanding about various aspects of life and the world, from the flight of birds and the industriousness of ants to the inner workings of the human body and other machines.

Yet, for all our advances on these fronts, I wonder whether science is yet prepared to contemplate one of the most bizarre and perplexing questions we are facing today.

Why does my car boot pop open when I press the button to turn the airconditioner on?

Those closest to me will know I have been grappling with this strange and embarrassing conundrum for more than two years and seem no closer to an explanation for it.

Rewind to 2004 and imagine my bewilderment, after taking possesion of what is otherwise an immaculate and very handsome car, to discover this curious case of crosswiring.

Innocently, pressing the button, the next sound I heard was the distinct unlatching of the car boot.

"Hmm, must have clipped the boot latch with my foot at the very time I pressed the airconditioner button," I naively rationalised.

After repeating the exercise dozens of times in the weeks after, I finally realised I was the proud owner of the funniest car not used for business by a team of clowns.

In the years since, I have become practiced, indeed conditioned, to the quirk, routinely getting out of the car at the lights in heavy traffic to slam the boot shut, ignoring the intrusive stares of my fellow motorists.

But so tiresome has the burden become sometimes I have found myself simply ignoring the problem, driving along obliviously, the boot flapping and banging away happily.

Most of the time it's fine, but on at least two occasions this approach has backfired.

I was going up a steep hill with a 90km/h limit when FUCKEN physics kicked in and the boot flew right open, completely obscuring my rear view.

I've become accustomed, too, to the concerned drivers who try to alert me to the situation, by mouthing through their wound up windows and pointing frantically, AS IF I DIDN'T KNOW.

Numbnuts driver: "Your (inaudible) boot's (whoooshh whooosh) open, mate" (with much pointing)

ME: "What???"


ME being fascesious: "Che?? You're quitting smokin? huh? you can see my scrotum?''

I've discovered, if the boot pops on my way to work I can use the dips and undulating parts of certain roads to let it shut by itself. That's lateral thinking.

It may also be laziness - the same kind of laziness that has allowed me to go for more than 24 months without consulting a mechanic.

I've probably passed dozens of the bastards on my travels... but it's not all that easy to spot them with the boot up.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

changing lanes...

YOU may recall that last week I appraised you on the nuances of toilet etiquette.
This week, our topic for discussion is conduct at a public pool and if you know anything about one, the two topics are not entirely unrelated.

I've been regularly attending an indoor heated pool in an undisclosed location in our fair city, and even after executing the ritual dozens of times, I still can't quite work out what the rules are.

Take the men's change room for example. Encountering others, is it right to acknowledge their presence with a slight nod of the head and polite hello, or simply pretend the half dozen hairy arses and floppy cocks stepping in and out of K-mart underwear are simply not there. Hey, it worked for the Catholic Church.

Sigh. So much to know.

It always demands a level of cunning when choosing a lane.

Being only a moderately competent swimmer, it is quite the wrong thing to do to jump in the 'fast lane' where ridiculously fine chiselled people make a mockery of the average swimmer with their smooth, methodical and efficient technique.

Better to choose a lane more suitable to your ability - somewhere between the silver bullets of the fast lane and the hapless, floundering nuff nuffs of the beginners lane will do just fine.

Boy, I've seen some beauties.

As I've already intimated, I hardly cut the water like a knife through butter with my unorthodox approach but neither do I feel great cause for embarrassment.

I never realised there were so many ways to swim incorrectly.

The woman with the aversion to getting her face wet who swims with her upper body almost completely above the water line; the man with the painfully clunky technique who rolls an arm over once every ten minutes (you can actually induce deep sleep if you stare without blinking); the portly middle aged woman who drifts aimlessly across lanes, ignorant, oblivious.... so many degrees of wrongness.

The strangest experience I ever had was the night I encountered the human washing machine.

Imagine an epileptic fit then add water.

This bloke was thrashing his limbs about with such enthusiasm I didn't know whether to call for a lifeguard or toss in my smalls in with a cupful of washing powder.
I had to do something and I'm glad I did. My underwear have never been softer.

Hygeine must always be a consideration wherever large numbers of people and their spandex covered genitals come together, so to speak.

By some stroke of good luck I have yet to have the misfortune of drifting into a sudden current of warm water suspiciously near a nervous looking and crimson faced chap, looking towards the roofbeams whilst whistling the guilty pissers tune but neither has my behaviour been entirely innocent.

The truth is, when I go swimming, I get an attack of the sneezes. BIG TIME.

It usually happens after I've completed a lap and, of course, where the greatest numbers of my fellow bathers are congregated.

I try to control the impulse but, I have discovered, trying to muffle a sneeze in a highly cacophanous indoor pool is like farting into an amplified buscuit tin.
Not subtle.

My nasal ejaculations are generally more sound than "substance" but evidently still enough to draw daggers from others.

"What? this is the leprosy lane, isn't it?''

Maybe it was something I said, but lately, even on the busiest nights, I can always get a lane all to myself.

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