Monday, February 28, 2005

Magic Monday...

Rather sketchy for a Monday. What with St Jerome's Laneway festival, company all (ALL) taking Monday off, cheeky halves and lashings o' Melbourne Bitter, all dished up on a pleasantly post-yum cha stomach, I deserve all I get.

I don't know if I made any sense in the job inteview this morning.

Friday, February 25, 2005


As homage to the woman who made my day, I give you her meme:

Choose a musical artist/band and answer only in their song titles:


Describe yourself: When I Grow Up
How do some people feel about you? Shut Your Mouth
How do you feel about yourself? I Think I'm Paranoid
Describe your ex-partner: #1 Crush
Describe your current partner: Supervixen
Describe what you want to be: The World is not Enough
Describe your current mood: Special
Describe your friends: Fix Me Now
Share a few words of wisdom: The Trick is to Keep Breathing

Thursday, February 24, 2005

In the worlds before Monkey...

Primal chaos reigned. Heaven sought order, but the phoenix can fly only when its feathers are fully grown. The four worlds formed again and yet again as endless aeons wheeled and passed. Time and the pure essences of Heaven, the moistures of the Earth, and the powers of the Sun and the Moon all worked upon a certain rock—old as Creation, and it magically became fertile. That first egg was named Thought, Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha, said, 'With our thoughts we make the world.' Elemantal forces caused the egg to hatch, and from it then came a stone Monkey. The nature of Monkey was irrepressible!

Did you know there were 13 "lost" episodes of Monkey? 13 that were never dubbed into English, never shown on the ABC. Well, there were. And they found 'em a year or two back. But the really good bit is this: they were dubbed last year. By most of the original voice cast! Which is bloody lucky because less than a month after they finished dubbing these "lost episodes" the voice-actor who played Pigsy—easily the most recognisable of the bunch—kicked the proverbial.


Vale Peter Windthorpe

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Skander-san's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld 5
or Apt Pupil

Having missed last Wednesday's kendo sesh due to the incomparable presence of one Mr David Mitchell, I decided to keep a somewhat low profile this time around. That is what I decided. But that's not what happened.

Sometime after the warmup, I got afflicted by a disease I have now identified as hyperhidrosis. And not just a little bit o' extra sweat round the pits or nothin'. It was streaming, streaming down the sides of my face for an good hour and a half. It was a fucking nightmare. My tops were soaked through, both of 'em, my fisherman's trousers were wet. I was a laughing stock. Stock was the bloody-well right word too. And yet it only seemed to come from my head. That's what I couldn't get. Why had this suddenly happened? It wasn't like I was training twice as hard as ever before, yet even the instructor commented "that's a lot of sweat there". Poor bloke put his hand on the small of my back at one point, and I'm sure it was not a pleasant experience.

Was it because I hadn't washed the shirt since the last kendo? Like, as if the hint of male in it from the week earlier had evinced from me some impossible reaction, drawing out all my reserves of seat? Not likely, really. Or because I had drunk a ship-load of water during the night before, which I needed to dispel? I mean, we'd had a fairly quiet Saturday night, a couple of DVDs and a pizza [Japanese Story, very good, Plots with a View, very bad]. Not even any wine for God's sake. Then again, I couldn't look any alcohol in the eye on Saturday—during the day that is, as I'd been spending most of the early hours of Saturday morning downing cheap champagne and stubbies of beer at a great rate of knots. In my white t-shirt, brogues, baggy jeans and a boxy jacket 80s costume. The costume went down well, as did the grog. As did the cheeky half. Which is what I have put this bizarre unstoppable- sweating episode down to. God aging is a cunt.

On the upside, we learnt passes. I spose that's what they're called, three steps and then a lunge into a men. Then two steps and a lunge into a men, and then one, and just the lunge—which can be quite difficult from your kamae. And then it was the turn of the good old kota, or wrist cut. By this stage, as well as looking like I'd just walked out of Port Phillip Bay (à la a clothed male Bo Derek, as opposed to that scene in Flash Gordon where Flash emerges from the slime with his blow wave intact), I had developed a slight pain from standing on the ball of my left foot for two hours—in other words, a blister on the sole of my foot. Diddums.

Then we're worded up: for last 10 minutes of class, we're going to face off against the seniors. I think every single beginner's stomach did an ickle backflip at that—we're gonna what? Are they gonna hit back? What if we fuck it up? Are we, like, duelling? Help!

But it was a piece of piss. And fun. Charging at the blue-clad seniors and whacking them on the helmet (men) with our men cuts. Yeah, fun. And then with some kota cuts to their blue-padded gauntlets (kota). Except of course for my unfortunate situation, and the fact that somewhere during my second or third pass, I felt that squelch on the ball of my foot and realised that, hey, my blister had burst. All yummy and pussy n bloody n stuff.

When it was all over, which wasn't long as we were only given 10 minutes, Mau, our instructor, gathered us all around to tell us that that usually doesn't take place till week 6 or 7. And we're on week 3. Hah! Does that mean we're shit-hot or what? I'll got for shit-hot, and try to ignore the excessive-sweating thing.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sorry Folks (subtitle: Fuck off)

I just received an email that began "Sorry Folks".

Any time I receive anything with the endearingly quirky term "folks" in it, my automatic reaction is to destroy said piece of communcation immediately due to the imbecility of the sender. Nothing beyond that word can be deemed of any possible worth whatsoever.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

2 good things

The first is a story I heard on AM yesterday ["Good Morning, I'm Tony Eastley"]. It seems some of the fundo loons in the states, the same ones that re-elected the monkey king, have actually come to their senses and realised that the end of the world is not nigh, and that perhaps, it is not actually their God's will that we should use it like the town bike. Although they have to eschew terms like "environmentalism" because to the untrained ear, that sounds all too similar to "darwinist" or "evolution", they have come up with their own twee term for people who care about their planet [ooh, that might be just to close to evolutionism itself— how does the Bible justify the universe, you know, planets and stuff? Hang on, I've always wanted to know how it explains dinosaurs, too.] and that term is... creation carers. Doesn't that sound like fun? Well it does to me because apparently it wasn't meant to happen like this and it's got Karl Rove screaming down the phones to his moles in the ministries, pleading for them to stop the rot—they can't have the electoral base thinking for itself now can we? Suck dogs' balls Rove.

The second good thing is that tomorrow, Britain's first supersoap Eastenders, turns 20. That's be Feb 19, 1985 it hit the airwaves. And Neighbours is to follow, hitting the double-decade on March 18.

I first came across Easties in Fallowfield in Manchester, sleeping on the couch in some friends' lounge room while she and her flatmates all piled in on Sunday for the omnibus. Oh, what a joy an ominbus is: two-an-a-quarter hours of soap in a row, with no ads! And not just any soap, but the gritty, grimy, depressing lives of a bunch of poor east end sods.

The storyline that made me appreciate the show, lying there hungover in a grotty Mancunian student flat, was the Tiffany Mitchell exit plotline—no driving off a cliff on your wedding day here. What happens is that she finds out that her mum and her husband have been at it by no other medium than overhearing them talking about it on the baby monitor. Yes, the baby monitor. She rushes up the stairs, falls down them, and ends up in hospital, unconscious and badly injured. Did bovver-boy husband Grant push her? Did she fall? Did cuckolding mother Lousie push her? But lo, she doesn't die. She recovers, and is able to leave the hospital on Xmas day, what joy!—the soap opera Chrissie day episode is something of a tradition over there I hear—and so she does. Only to be mowed down by her father-in-law—one of the finest soap characers of all time, Frank Butcher—on his way back "down the mo'away from Manchestahh". Ah, wonderful stuff.

The 20th anniversary double length ep involves two separate murders—Andy Hunter and Dirty Den Watts to breathe their last. It's be the second time for Den, who had been shot multiple times and left for dead in a canal, only to resurface again 11 years later. He surely has to be one of the nastiest, most sinister, lecherous characters soap has seen. And we think Paul Robinson is bad. Pah!

And he was

You know how, when you really like something or someone—like a web-buddy or a band or in this case an author—there is a certain amount of trepidation, that niggling worry that when you finally get them in person, they are not going to live up to your expectations and therefore forever ruin your enjoyment of whatever it is. It's like those expectations you build up when you get really excited about a new film. And then you see it and it's verging on shithouse. And you get really pissed off with yourself and your intended and your infatuation and well everything.

David Mitchell lived up to the infatuation. What a genuinely nice, smart, down-to-earth fellow, almost shy with his stutter and his vewy, vewy soft rs. He read two passages from Cloud Atlas—the first consisted of the first few pages of "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", encompassing the rooftop cocktail party, and the second began with the legend of the origins of fire from "Sloosha's Crossin'" and ended with the raid. I reckon he read rather than spoke simply because it's tough to get up in front of bunch of people and dissect your own processes, particularly with regard to creative endeavours. And those who do are wankers. But while reading, he told those following along not to mind any differences between what he was reading and the text: as an author one is continually editing and re-editing one's work, he said, it is impossible not to, even long after it's gone to the publisher. What other gems did he drop for us mere mortals? That Tim Cavendish and Luisa Rey both appeared in Ghostwritten, similar to the way Eiji and number9dream developed. That he's got a 2½ yeaor old kid. That Cloud Atlas was inspired by Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, or the frustration of it. That he doesn't want to be known as the "wacky structure" guy.

The only way I can see him fucking up this wonderful relationship we've developed over the last 3 years is by writing a genuinely crap book. And that, my friends, doesn't seem as though it'll happen. Ever. The next one's about a 13 year old boy, vignettes set to a deteriorating domestic environment. So, yeah, I think he'll be stuck with the "wacky structure guy" moniker for a while yet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sign it, damn you

In keeping with the japanese theme of my day:

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S to the United Nations
The Kyoto Protocol is born

Cloud Atlas

I am boning up all day today. My favourite novellist, a young chap by the name of David Mitchell is in town. And he's at Readings in Carlton at 6:30 tonight, just a hop, step and jump from where I am. Yay! But it does mean I shall be missing kendo.

This guy rocks my world. I can't get enough of his writing, and it's not simply because he and I are both japanophiles. If I could write, I'd write like him. He's almost too smart by half, and that's my role. In another life, I would be him. Aaaargh.

Since his first novel, Ghostwritten, he's been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice—first for number9dream, and then last year's tour de force, Cloud Altas. As pretentious as I can be, I don't think I've ever had an occasion to use "tour de force" before. But nothing can describe that book better—it blows the mind.

Best. Book. Ever.

Skander-san's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld 4
or Honour Amongst Sheathes

This week's Sunday Session started off with our "first full warm-up", according to the instructor de jour: "Beginners (such an endearing term), you have just experieincee your first full warm up" he said. It really wasn't that different from the ones we had done before—a bit longer with more hip rotations, perhaps—but perhaps I am just feeling a little jaded because we practised rather than learnt this day. Or because I do not feel particularly inpired at the mo'.

And practise we did. We even had to dump the shinai and simulate our swings without them. And I actually got picked up a few times for not extending my left arm to its full extent. Ever since the notorious Sardinian moped incident of 2002, I have a bunch o' trouble with the ol' left shoulder. Most probably because it is a good inch shorter than it used to be. fucker.

Swings were perfected. First sans shinai, then one-handed, which is tough on the old left arm after a couple of series of ten swings. To the point where we all seemed to be doing the right thing, apart from me still having a spot of bother with the full left arm extension. The other thing that is doing my head in is the parallel feet thing. My left heel quite likes keeping the position it always has kept, namely slightly tucked in towards the right. And that's not parallel. Which means I have to keep my mind on it, reminding it where it should be and forcing it there because it is not a natural position for my old size 10½. So, I've got to keep my mind on a whole bunch of things at once and yet on nothing at the same time. I spose that's zen for you...

What we did end up learning was the ritual of the rei, which is the process you go though when facing your opponent. And it's kinda fun—we enviously notice all the 'seniors and juniors' as they're called getting on with it, while we're swinging in the breeze, so there is a certain joy in moving on and actually facing someone. The rei, which is the bow, begins the ritual as follows: stading approximately 9 paces from your opponent, shinai at ease, you bow the 15° degree/eye-contact bow; come to attention, with your thumb on the tsuba; take three strides forward, drawing you shinai on the second step and coming into kamae on your third; now we descend into sonkyo, but with our shinai crossing at the tip; and then back up to kamae. At the end of our 'bout' we reverse the ritual, sheathing our shinai in the sonkyo pose, and taking five small steps backwards, rather than 3 larger ones. Then bow again, and we're done.

What resembled a proper training then followed: we line up along either side of our half of the dojo, rei to one another and complete our enjoining rituals, then practise 10 men cuts each way, and complete our rituals—which actually make it a helluva lot easier to hold that constant eye contact we're meant to be holding, and give us a brief excuse for a bit of emotion or familiarity at the end of each bout. Then we all move one place to the left. New partner, same practice. It's certainly much more fun than simply lining up and swinging in the air.

Finally we were shown what the do cut is: the cut to the waist. But we didn't get to practice that as we were out of time and my parents awaited me with some yum cha and a room full of my old crap to either keep, sell or toss out. Instead we were shown the do and how to block it. Pity I can't make tonight. I feel I'll be left behind.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Load shipping

I've had this feeling for a little while—well, since last Thursday with the whole Lawman wrestling bizzo— and now I've come across a spoiler implying as much. It's just a pity I couldn't have posted it yesterday on the day it deserved...

Love match 2005:
Lyn Scully vs Jared "The Toad" Rebecchi


They look as scared as we are. Bring on the Load!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Come fly with me

Fluffy came across this nifty little world map, visited countries generator thing. And like her, it's made me realise that there is a whole ship-load of countries out there that have not yet been graced by my presence. And they don't know what they're missing out on. Well, not yet, anyway.

So, after a Friday and a Sunday evening talking about it, we're going to try to marshall some funds and get hopping over to NYC for this wedding we've been invited too. We've heard there are some airfares going for about $1,000 around, which doesn't seem to bad. And it's what the missus wants—I can't let her down after only 3 months of marriage. We might even be able to do a day trip to Canada so I can fill that part of my map in.

My favourite painting in the world is in the MoMA in New York. And I'd be very happy whiling away half a dayin front of The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni

The best part about all this, and particularly once I have acquiesced and we have been, is that there are a couple more functions we've been invited to in various parts fo the globe. So while she wants the New York City wedding, I'm personally more keen on the Brazilian one in January. And while we're there, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and even Colombia, perhaps. Which is the one continent yet to have been tarred by my brush, if I can put it that way. Bring on the red pixels, I say.

Further down the track, we've both agreed that the Iran-Syria odyssey is on the cards for sometime in the year after that, hopefully before Georgie-boy gets there. Or Johnny starts making stupid fucking racist fearmongering belligerent calls about the place (too late!). You see, my grandfather gave me a travel diary long ago. It only had one entry in it: Isfahan. In the north of Iran. So I want to witness what he saw and wrote about. Before moving on to other parts of the Med I've been storing up, like Palymra and Craq des Chevaliers.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Skander-san's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld 3
or The Silent Kiai

I arrived 15 minutes late to the dojo on Wednesday. It was half-purposeful. Oh hell, it was intentional. Not only had I read the bit in the handbook where it says 'lateness is a sign of disrespect and will not be tolerated', but I wanted to see if they meant it. And I was up to the boss level fight in EarthLurker with my strange creatures in Jade Cocoon 2 and I just had to get up to the 3rd level of the earth world ['Groundwork'] before I left. Which I started at five-to-seven and still got there within 20 minutes. And beat the beast. Ha!

It was back to mostly novices again tonight. And they were well into the warm-up routine. Those crazy Japanese. They really do have a thing for ritual. So I bowed, shuffled and joined the circle mid-way through the calf rises. And they're still making themselves known my calves, now, two days later.

Again it was mostly practicing our single men cuts. 30 at a time, over and over again, with the prowling instructors ready to slide their shinai between your ankles if they're getting too close together, or to prevent you from swinging back further than the mandated 45° behind the head. The first time they do that, holding their shinai up to stop your shinai in its tracks, I tell you, it gives you qute a fright. Because you can't see them and you're certainly not expecting to hit something. And they do it silently. I think I must've jumped a good foot in the air the first time I got pulled up.

A lot more footwork, a lot more men. And then something new. Like an unexpected gift, and I don't count syphillis and its ilk in this analogy, we were bidden face an opponent. Of the same height. So of course, when I turn, I happen to be opposite the smallest girl in the whole class, a sweet little chinadoll with big eyes and a cheeky smile. Then again, there is only one other bloke in the class who is over six foot. As the number of attendees was uneven I get saddled with of the experienced fellows in blue. Actually, by the end of the session, I'd faced off against three of them. And, not wanting to be too much of a suck (which is damn-near impossible as a 'mature-age student', even in an all-ages class), I'm glad I did. It meant that I got a bit o' special attention. And someone to say "you're coming along quite well there" at the end. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So we're facing each other. Me and the encouraging middle-aged bloke who started "in the May class two years ago". And we're in kamae. With our swords crossed. With our eyes focussed on one another. Now that's a concept that's hard to get used to. It's kinda like a staring competition, where you can't laugh or smile or break eye contact, and you're all 'how soon till I get an excuse to look away?' It's all so serious. Then again, the point of holding their gaze is that it gives you an excellent level of peripheral vision.

And this time we're to maintain kamae, maintain distance and, no, you'll never guess what else. Hands up those who said 'practice our footwork'! You got it. This time though, the main instructor was calling 'forwards' or 'backwards' in Japanese for each step, and we had to react and move as a pair. I must have gotten a little cocky, because my partner in blue told me 'don't anticipate which way he'll call'. But then he kept doing it himself, so I could rightfully smirk . Kendo suck.

Once that was out of the way, more stroke practice was in order. This time facing a partner—the first time we've actually had a chance to swing the shinai in the general direction of an opponent. Yay! So our opponent holds his (or her) shinai horizontally above their head, about 2 fists out from the forehead, and we get to whack it. The general idea here is to teach us to master the finish of the stroke; that is, to teach us where the stroke should end—in other words, embedded an inch or so in our opponent's forehead. Again, eyes locked on one another's, not watching your shinai, not watching their shinai, but straight ahead, our gaze focussed on our oppoenent's gaze. And away we go. Firstly against one instructor, then another, where everyone else is chopping away at fellow students. See, now I get more feedback from the professionals; indeed, two professionals. Like having a private tutor. Yeah, I'm a fucking dork.

The last act of the play this time round involved a little introduction to the kiai. We all know what it is, we've just never heard the word. Ki means spirit (as in genki, meaning health) and ai means yell. So it's the spirit yell. But we all know it as those strange screams Bruce Lee, or any other martial artist, does. It is meant to capture and concentrate the spirit, thereby focussing the manoeuvre you're trying to execute. It's got other physiological purposes too, but I haven't sussed them fully—along the lines of reticulating one's breathing and stuff. This is the reason behind the "ichi... ni... san... shi..." business we constantly have to recite. Though most of the class are moderately to very shit at the shouting bit. I mean, come on guys, it's not that fucking hard. All it takes is a teensy-weensy bit o' courage, that bit that will override the embarrassment of losing count and shouting out 'ichi' when you've already completed your 30 or whatever reps.

What did I tell you, I'm a mature-aged student. We are all fucking nerds.

There was a fitting little addendum to the nerd action this night however. Put your hand up those of you who came in late. Sure enough it's about half the class. 100 extra star jumps please. 60 extra calf raises. You won't be doing that again, now will ya?

Turd Blossom

Did no-one else notice the similarities between the Bush and Howard campaigns? Bush used gay marriage as his touchstone issue to 'get out' the conservative vote. Howard tried it, but Tania Plibersek trumped him by agreeing. Now we have to endure a pointless, ideological debate on abortion . Why? Dennis Glover puts it all in perspective. It's all about making conservative voters identify with your agenda , without necessarily spelling it out or targeting their hip pockets. Call it subliminal politics. It scares me.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Skander-san's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld 2
or Episode Two: The Phantom Sensei

Sunday morning 9am. Back into the nasty nylon fisherman's pants I picked up in Cambodia under threat of interminable wailing, pleading, and desperate competition among the touts outside Banteay Samre. "You buy from me, mistaaaaah".

And off to the dojo. It's lucky it's local is all I can say.

The motley group of greenhorns dressed in everything from lairy boardies to dirty trackies was this time matched by an equal-sized group of fully-fledged club members, all helmetted and clad in their blue keikogi and hakama. Laps around the dojo first, then star jumps and calf-rises. And on to the quite elaborate stetching routine. First the left hand side of the body: top of the left foot and wrist; then the left achilles and bottom of the left wrist; left calf and a lateral stretch to the left wrist; left quad, and finally left hamstring. All the while shouting the count to eight in Japanese. Twice. And then on to the right-hand side of the body. And finally the groin and the neck.

"Ichi... Ni... San... Shi... Go... Roku... Shichi... Hachi..."

Now we go through a whole series of stroke-practice-cum-warm-up exercises. 30 jogeburi—large swing cuts ending at knee height, 30 nanameburi—large swing diagonal cuts to knee height, 30 single men—short swing cuts to the head, 30 single diagonal men—aimed at hitting the skull on a 45° angle, 30 double men, 30 single diagonal men and finally, "not for you beginners", 30 double-time double men cuts. Phheww. And we don't even get taugh men until the last 20 minutes of today's session, so you can image what we all looked like.

Now we separate into the newbies and the old-hands. You mean even when we complete this introductory course, we'll still have to sacrifice our Saturday nights for our Sunday mornings? Okay, so it might be be a boon for my liver but it's going to murder my social life. I'd hoped they were all here to aid and encourage us neophytes with our awkward footwork and over-zealous swings, but no. They head off to their side of the dojo, turn their backs to us as through we are the hideous mangled result of an ice-cream-van/motorcycle accident to be patently ignored, and begin charging each other with kiais reminiscent of Brain Damage. While we return to footwork practice, sneaking envious glances at the experienced practitioners.

And I tell you, this footwork practice is not easy. Bare feet, gym floor, the aim is to use sliding steps on the balls of your feet. So it's okuri-ashi, the small steps leading with the right foot, where the feet return to the same position after each pair of steps, right foot slightly in front of and parallel to the left, and ayumi-ashi, where the same sliding technique is applied to normal walking strides. Now try telling those two commands apart at 30 paces. And so we move up and back, up and back, across the dojo, over and over again, always beginning with and returning to the kamae.

The kamae stance—back straight, knees slightly bent, feet in the usual position, shinai pointed at your opponent's throat, a fist's length out from your abdomen—is considered the most stable, and therefore the best position to attack or defend from. So, all movements, cuts, slices and steps, all return to this position. What we're all aiming for here is muscle memory, so these movements become second nature.

And I think we're getting there. While the boys (and girls) in blue continue to charge each other, we continue practicing our footwork and our cuts. What more did I expect in my second class? It's certainly different from the few sessions I went to at the Melbourne Uni Kendo Club all those years ago, where it was all grab a shinai and off we go.

Today we have the senior sensei supervising our session, a little old Japanese man who I'm sure has a viscious temper and a stern, economical way with his words. He watches the contenders, but every now and then turns his attention to us as up and back, up and back we go. Is that a faint self-contented, almost Howardian smile I see? Yet not a word do we hear from him throughout our 2½ hours in the dojo. Not a peep.

Finally we learn the men cut. It is intended to hit the forehead and slice it open. On the first step (always the right foot) the shinai is raised to 45° behind the head; on the second step, when the left foot joins the right, parallel with its toes still aligned to the right heel, the cut is made, stopping abruptly where the forehead would be, so basically your sword is embedded just an inch or so into your opponent's skull. And then—this is the bit I like—as we return to kamae slowly dragging the sword back to its restive position pointed at the throat, the blade would slice deeper into the brain and then down the face. You know, just to make sure.

See, it does sound fun after all.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Man Overboard

I've been playing this song on belt-repeat for the last few days. And it doesn't even have a chorus. A classic from '85, and the only really big one from Do-Re-Mi, I think it's the anger I'm fancying, [I had a job interview on Friday, grrrrrr] but there's also a kinda Australian suburban æsthetic going on, which reminds me of storytellers like Paul Kelly and Mick Thomas.

More properly, I have a thing for the jaded rock-chick, all fucked-up and sexy like Shirley Manson, but who doesn't? Would you believe these feisty feministic lyrics were penned by a former Big M girl?

I try not to stand too close to myself.
I try not to listen to the things I say.
They say there's no such thing as self-abuse,
But you wonder how I can be trusted
If I'm finely-tuned or well-adjusted.
Oh, pity about you.
Oh, pity about me.
What’s the pity about that?
Every time she comes inside,
You had to run.
You had to run.
You wish that crush would go away.
You're not the only one.

Squinting in broad daylight,
Drumming up a conversation,
Parson's brass is pealing, appealing,
Drumming up a congregation.
Hands reaching for a glass of water,
Dry socks and razor rash,
Your shoes under my bed,
Dandruff to my cigarette ash.

I've tried to play it open-handed,
I've tried to make a fist of this.
Even when the questions are candid,
my arrows miss.
I've heard about your fragile ego,
Your shield, your sword,
What am I expected to do?
Shout "Man overboard"?

Come around when I’m asleep
Roll around and try to wake me.
That's alright, you've got to go now.
Words overtake me.
Your pubic hairs are on my pillow,
Your stubble in the sink,
Your words under my skin,
Your table manners stink.

I’m proud of all the things I love—
You want to spar for trivia.
In a vase with insincere I-love-yous,
Next door's camellias.
I'm sick and tired of this position,
Hatched underneath the wall.
A crutch under stress,
No matter when it's gone.
I'm bored, staring at the ceiling
While you point out my flaws.
I watch the wallpaper peeling
from slamming doors.
You talk about penis envy
Your friends applaud.
What am I expected to do?
Shout "Man overboard"?

Come across to other girls
Look around, start a rumour.
Tell us why things raise a smile at parties,
Like anal humour.
Are you addicted to attention?
Do you do it for effect?
Your wit out of control,
Misunderstood and hen-pecked.

As a lyrics nerd, I've been trying to nut out all the angry stuff she's getting at, but have been having trouble with the bit before the vase. If anyone has any idea what she's saying there, let me know because it's really shitting me.

And anyone know where I can get hold of a copy of The Happiest Place in Town?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Skander-san's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
or Enter the Dojo

So along I trooped on Wednesday evening, all kitted out in the closest things I have to (dreaded) exercise clothes—I think I must be the only male in the entire western world who has still not stooped to the level of actually owning a pair of tracksuit pants. Through the torrential rain I trudged, shinai in hand, head bowed to Kura-Okami, the god of rain.

Upon arriving at the building, I was bade remove my shoes. No surprises there. And into the gym-like dojo. A rag-tag bunch of drowned rats like myself were milling around, some with, some without shinai. It was a bit of a nighmare actually, like that first day in a new school: some kids know each other and are all chummy, while others like me stand around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the bell to ring.

And it did, kinda—out with the $135.00, and before we knew it, we were all being taught about the ancient art of kendo. About how to handle the shinai—it is an ersatz sword , so should never be a) held by it's blade or b) stepped over or c) fondled without permission of the owner. About bowing to the "High Place" upon entering and leaving the dojo, each and every time you leave the gym-surface for the carpet or the vestibule: this should be done to approximately 30°, focussing one's attention on the ground 1½metres ahead; how to show appropriate respect to one's adversaries in the dojo, in this case maintain eye contact and bow 15°.

See, it's all fun and games. Not at all a cult like my love surmises. I made the mistake of taking her to an aikido class once. I was never allowed back.

So once we were instructed in the niceties of the art, it was time to start bashing each other with our bamboo poles. Well, not quite. First, there was a half hour of warm up and stretching. A lot of stretching, mostly calf stretching, because most of the people there were weak as piss and don't have strong, masculine calves like moi.

So now we can lunge at each other with out teeth bared and our shinai ready to slice some mother-fucker's head off? Again no. Now we learn the age-old eastern arts of crouching, kneeling, paying respect, centring, meditating, and some sort of simulation of prayer. Which is all fine and good if you don't have a bloody ingrown toenail on your left big-toe meaning the thing is next to useless most of the time, but hurts like buggery whe pressure is applied the wrong way. Which the movement from crouching to kneeling and back again did. Ouch is an understatement. Throbbing pain that distorts your universe until you feel like Munch's Scream is more appropriate. In comparison, buggery is quite a pleasant experience actually.

[how funny that the Norwegian for scream is skrik, so close to shreik, but I won't even start on The Amazing Race at this stage of the day]

Now, drawing you shinai is actually quite fun—a simulation of drawing your katana, just like Toshiro. But it isn't something that is too easy to explain. Just imagine you're unsheathing a Japanese longsword.

The next stage we the impure moved onto after drawing your shinai, was how to hold it. Left hand at the base, right hand just behind the tsuba, with the V-shapes formed by your grip aligned with the tsuru which symbolises the cutting blade. Haaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-ya!

So finally, we get to wave this fucken thing around? No. Now we learn footwork. (It's always the way, isn't it? Try watching eastern movies—a whole different form of narrative.) Left and right feet parallel a foot apart, right heel aligned with left toes. Easy. Now try getting about and always returning your feet to the same position, and god help you if you rest on your heel at any time. That, it seems, is the cardinal sin. I have always wanted to be able to steal around like they do in those Japanese films, silently sliding the shoji back and pounce on my unsuspecting victim as he, I dunno, fornicates with some fourth-level courtesan. And now, without using my heels, it seems I can! Woo Hoo!

So now it's coming up to 2 hours, and it's time for all good greenhorns to get back to their normal lives. But now, yes, now, we ge to wave the stick around. 20 like this please. Ok. 20 more. Ok. Now try 20 this way. yeah, c'mon, my noodle house closes in 15 minutes and I don't want to starve tonight. Or eat wedding sausage. I'm actually quite partial to wedding sausage but not as a meal. 20 more this way. Louder. In Japanese. I can't hear you. 20 more. 10 more each side. ok, you can go now.


Would you believe I'm looking forward to Sunday?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Shinai or shinai not?

Taking a leaf from Jonas' book, I'm making a start on a month without beer. Not alcohol, just beer. The humble prince of beverages and friend of the poor man, for the next four weeks the amber ale is consigned to history, like Madge Bishop and Mark Latham. And hopefully, as a pleasant little side-effect, I might finally be able to kick the fags too.

So no more beer. Hmm. I've survived almost 48 hours so far, which means I have only approximately 624 to go. And I would bloody choose February too, wouldn't I? The hottest month of the Victorian year, and I spose I'll be poncing about on red wine or gin & tonics or campari or some such. How about vodka + campari + tonic, no straw? Or a nice big pitcher of Pimms? I wouldn't be unhappy if that was waiting for me when I got home each night. Yes, that's starting to sound a bit better.

And on top of this I've decided to join up at the local kendo club for a 7-week exercise in doing something other than drinking beer and watching crap telly of an evening. But then this too has backfired with the news that the intro- classes are held every Wednesday evening and every Sunday morning. Yep. Sunday bloody morning. Every Sunday morning for the next 7 weeks. That in itself requires the sort of discipline I am trying to give myself, but it also precludes going anywhere for the next 7 weekends—not down to the beach or off to the country. No sudden trips to Sydney for a party or a random overnighter on the TT line. Fuck, it means I'll barely even make it across the river for the next 2 months. God knows what St Kilda will look like by the time I'm a fully-fledged warrior of the stick!

January 2003 Omeo Valley

North Eastern Victoria, January 2003. Half the state is alight.
The fires burnt out Omeo Valley on Australia Day. What's more Australian than that?

Devastation, no?

That isn't a sun setting behind the mountains. It's the main fire away to the north, where the arm that torched the valley above came from. It got south into Omeo too—the cricket pitch, the official safe-haven, caught alight. There were 7 different fire fronts I could see that evening, stretching along the horizon from the west to the east. Three of the four exits from the valley were blocked by fire, and the southern one, the open one, the one I had powered through that day, had only had the all clear that morning.

How's that for gravitas?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I go out on friday night and I come home on Saturday morning

It's Friday night. I'm leaving the pub. Melbourne has been stinking all week long, and tonight is no exception—move determinedly enough and you'll break out in an uncomfortable sweat—but it's past ten and the evening is cooling down a bit. I wander down to the closest main street, and start that craning neck thing you do when looking for a cab, walking backwards and that.

Eventually a yellow falcon with a white light on top comes by. I jump into the front seat, like you do. I see the driver's name is something I can't put a nationality against.

"Busy night mate?"
"It's okay" Heavy wog accent.
"Where you from mate?"
"Oh nice" (I spose) And I start going on about this Albanian rug I've got. And even if the Macedons and the Albanians do hate each other, they're next-door neighbours. He sorta cuts me off. I've mentioned the wife.
"Ah you married mate?"
"You ever, you know, cheat on your wife?"
"Why not?"
"We've only been married two months" A fact. "Do you?"
"Yes. You have to mate"

So you can see, it's starting to go a little off the usual course of pissed-passenger/sober-taxi-driver repartée. My responses start becoming more and more monosyllabic—if it is possible to be more or less monosyllabic, as opposed to just simply monosyllabic.

"Sometimes I take the headjob in the taxi" he tells me. "You know, if they have no money. It's not so bad."
"Ugh" I'm sure you do, Mr middle-aged, married, Macedonian taxi driver.
"My wife no like the headjobs." Pause. "I like the headjob. And sometimes also from the man." Curiouser and curiouser. "Have you ever had the headjob from the man?"
"No" I lie.
"Why not? "
"Never been propositioned, I spose"
"It's the best mate, the best. The man, he know what to do. The woman, she no idea."
"Ugh" I'm repeating myself.
"You a handsome man" Fucken oath! "why you never been with a man?"
"Oh, the man, he's so much better. You know, I also suck the dick sometimes..."
"Really?" ok, two more sets of traffic lights.
"Yes, really. Is not so bad."
and then
"Maybe we go somewhere quiet, I suck your dick?"
"You like that?"
"No, sorry mate, I'm already running late for my mates. Not tonight." Not ever Mr middle-aged, married, macedonian taxi driver with three kids (did I neglect to mention that?)
"You sure? What time you go home? I pick you up. You know. I suck your dick. I like it."
"I don't know what time I'll be finished, sorry mate."
"I'll give you free ride. You handsome. I like to give you headjob. You will like it. I'm very good. And I drop you home after. Is easy"
"Just here please mate, at the 7-11" Still a few blocks to go but I don't want any more of this.
"You sure you no want? We can go round corner here, is dark."
"No thanks mate," handing over the approximate fare.
"Here, I give you my card. You want, you call me when you finish here, I give you headjob, no charge for ride home. Sounds good, yes?"
"Here you call me"

So I took the card. And used it for roaches.

The moral of the story?

Don't. Wear. Pink. Polo. Shirts.