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Archive for the ‘City Life’ Category

After barely blogging these last few months, I had planned to see the year out with bang. A ‘round up’ post of the big thoughts that defined 2010, namely, that instead of having a second child within the seemingly mandatory ‘two year gap’ could I just buy more mirrors and teach him that his reflection is in fact a new sibling? And, if you write a blog post but fail to comment on anyone else’s, does anyone hear your blog post fall?

But sitting down to write, I got a little waylaid by the feeling, once again, that I was mad and the world was full of fucktards.

Because on my way to the library I stopped for a coffee and a barista in a beret made me a Cappuccino instead of a Latte, which I would have happily just drank had I not watched his eyes dart from side to side to check no one was looking then scramble for a lid to mask his mistake before handing me my ‘latte’. The mild deception irked me and I found myself saying, with mock innocence, ‘Oh, is that my latte? I thought it was a Cap…’

Which meant that he had to make me another one, which I would have only felt slightly foolish about, had he not made me a fucking Cap again. By this stage, coffee starved and back breaking under the weight of my overladen backpack, I would have gobbled that Cap in five seconds flat, but, realising his repeat mistake, he tipped it out before I could even speak up. So three fucking attempts later I finally had my froth free coffee in my hot little hands, but not yet coursing through my body so it was no surprise that by the time the cheery chirpy Christian man (I overheard him making church arrangements) waiting next to me openly gave me a ‘look’, passing judgement on the vicious snarl I just gave the beret barista for making me wait so fucking long, I was totally pissed off.

Trudging up the ramp to the library bent over like a peasant under the weight of poverty (only I was bent under the weight of relative privilege) I furiously cursed the Christian for glaring at me while I was rude to the coffee man. What right did he have? Is that really what Jesus died for, so you could pass open judgement on those who can’t match your Bex like cheer after being forced to wait through the pain of THREE coffee cock ups? I don’t think so. And hasn’t he ever heard of subtly? From the way he bounded up to the counter two seconds after he placed his order, stood smack bang in the middle of everyone’s way and said “I’m fine, I’m fine” even though bounding up expectantly to the counter seemed to suggest he was not in fact fine at all, I seriously doubt it. But did I make him aware of my judgements? Did I make it known that he looked like a classic passive aggressive the way his obnoxious actions indicated one thing and his cheery chirpy mouth espoused another? No, no I did not. I did my judgements in private, storing them safely away in my head so I could post them publically at later date. So stop glaring at me asshole.

And as if that’s not enough I enter the library, back still breaking under the weight of my privilege, coffee in one hand, a pile of audio books in another, staggering to the counter only to have my precarious pile of audio books come crashing down dramatically all around me. My back is so sore I can barely comprehend having to bend down and pick them all up, when the librarian informs me that I cant even return them at the counter anyway, I have to take them to a fucking automated Do-It-Yourself chute out on the street. What the hell is this? Mechanisation gone mad? Why have gainfully employed librarians handle book returns when you can get the general public to do it themselves? And what? Save two minutes of librarian labour that you can instead funnel into the fundraising department and see the next budget come down in surplus and win efficient management award for your labour saving and cost cutting techniques? Well guess what? It’s a government funded library dickheads, save your petty assed efficiency for the day you defect to the private sector.

And then, I sit down, happy to have finally found a nice spacious desk to work at, and what do I hear? In a library? Nail clippers. Yep, fucking nail clippers. Behind me there is a young lady, loudly, snip, snip, snipping at her fingernails in the library. And where is she putting these discarded pieces of human growth and refuse? On the floor. So not only is she shattering the silence with the sound of her incessant clipping, she is using the library as her human waste bucket. God help me if she decides she needs to take a shit.

But worst of all is that despite these encounters with fairly harmless fuckards, I am the one left feeling like a badly behaved little brat. And here is the greatest irony of all, I sat down to compose a blog post for my annual mix CD, which I titled, “Happy People Dance”.

Stay tuned for that happy day folks.

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CAST (and what they are wearing)

 

RTS –  a sometimes bitter, cynical thirty something woman who has wind battered, smog splattered hair from having driven manically across town with the window wound down in peak hour traffic. She is wearing a plain white summer dress that has been smeared in vegemite and snot from her young child, who has also torn the bottom two buttons off.

 

Producer Boy – a well meaning, highly excitable, documentary maker that for some reason now working in the field of making documentaries, minus the footage. He is wearing daggy ‘middle aged men’ shorts, which is ironic because he is not middle aged, matched with a child’s size livid green jumper that, being five sizes too small, rides high on his midriff.

 

The Talent – a comfortably confident young woman, who without trying to hard is stylishly dressed, and for the most part, quite sensible sounding.

 

Contributor Chick – a large haired young woman with a booming, over confidant, perfectly articulating voice. Outwardly she projects her ‘just a country girl’ roots, but this is matched with a fierce and striving city living ambition. She works at the ABC and even though it is well after work hours, she is wearing her identity card around her neck like a VIP card carrier mingling with the masses at a rock concert

 

Hipsters  – A homogenous bunch of twenty something’s that would be mortified to know they have been grouped together homogenously.

One – Has a long blond fringe swept to one side, which, mysteriously, hangs in his eyes. He is wearing a flannelette shirt, which is a trademark garment of Bogans, who wear them because they are cheap and warm, as opposed to hipsters, who wear them because they are not Bogans, which means they are making a fashion statement

 

 

Two – Is wearing tight blacks jeans matched with a tight white shirt and heavy black rimmed glasses, he seems to be shooting for the ‘cool, but intellectual’ look, which he might have had more luck with if he didn’t look like a fresh faced twelve year old.

Three – Is in blue jeans that are so tight they could have been painted on. The bottoms are rolled up at the three quarter mark and his singlet is so large, loose and low cut that the neck line comes down to his belly button, revealing a small, but prominent, patch of chest hair. On his pinky finger is the kind of solid bold, gold ring that Tony Soprano would envy.

Four and Five – two young girls that have so fully embraced their hipsterhood they are almost bowed under the weight of their clanking, clashing accessories. They scream ‘fashionable’ so loudly that your eyes hurt. Yet despite this brashness, their eyes are timid and nervous looking, and when no one else is looking, they give each other’s hands a little squeeze.

 

 

EXT – BUSY INTERSECTION OUTSIDE PRODUCTION HOUSE

We watch as RTS, in a blaze of blunders, pulls up to the traffic lights, frantically checking her watch even though she knows she is going to be late.

Three young hipsters sail past on free wheelin’ bicycles as RTS sits stuck in her car, they leisurely park their bikes outside the production house. While RTS is perspiring smog, these fine young things have barely broken a sweat, having only had to ride less than five blocks to arrive here

RTS, caught between fond nostalgia for the times when she too lived a car free life in the inner city, and a stabbing bitterness for the naive bubble she believes they live in, stares vacantly at them, not noticing the lights have turned green until the cars behind her start blaring their horns.

 

 

INT – PRODUCTION HOUSE MEETING ROOM

 

We follow RTS as she arrives, late, into the production house meeting room, which is a harshly lit room enclosed with glass sliding doors. It sits right at the very entrance to the building, and the glass wall makes the inhabitants seem like they are in a cramped and over exposed fish bowl.

Over sized office chairs form a ring around the large circular table, the ridiculously pompous chairs are such an inefficient use of space that no more than 10 people can sit comfortably at the table. This has the rather unfortunate awkward side effect of their being no room for all the latecomers.

As people continue to arrive late, the over sized chair dwellers make cursory gestures of moving along, which mostly involves shuffling their asses in their seat but not actually moving, before looking up at the late person and giving a soft smile and a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, “I tried my best”. Contributor Chick is the most guilty of this.

As a result a small cluster of late comers forms at the door, some squeezed in on stools, and the rest left standing.

RTS, shocked by the fact that not one person who has entered the building has shown any signs of age or ordinariness, is starting to wonder if there is some kind of ‘NO plain clothes or hair cuts’ door policy, and if it was the vegemite stains on her dress that saw her slip past it, when Producer Boy coughs to signal that the meeting should start….

 

Producer Boy (positioned in front of the white board):

I think we should get started. I’ve chosen a special topic for the next show, “Home, House and Holden”

He scrawls this up on the board then looks around the room as if expecting no one to guess the immediate link here, he smiles knowingly and elaborates:

This is taken from a famous Menzies speech back in the day where he captures what he believes to represent the ‘quintessential Australian Dream’; that all Australians wish to own a home, a holiday house, and a Holden car. I think we can do a great contemporary take on this, starting with a story about a Filipino Housing Coop living in harmony with chickens and organic vegetables, that operates out in….

He pauses, screws his face in concentration, then continues finally recalls the name of the non-inner city suburb and says it slowly, like people are deaf, or have trouble understanding English words not pertinent to city centric lives

Auuuuburn. That’s it. They have recreated an Asian type village out there, and it would be fabulous to look into that.

He scrawl this suggestion up on the board

Ok. Other ideas?

 

Hipster One:

A have a friend who lives in his car and rents out a six room inner city warehouse he owns. So he is, like, homeless, but also, like, a landlord. I think that would be really interesting to look into (laughs) like how he just lives in his car by the beach surfing all day!

Small laughter erupts around the room

HI (continues): Yeah. So he is like totally homeless, which would just be a really interesting take on the whole, outdated, ‘own your own home’ thing.

A few murmurs go around the room

 

Hipster Five:

What about another homeless person story. Like someone living on the street. Does anyone know any real homeless people?

 

Hipster Four:

I might know someone who saw someone talk to someone on the street once

 

Producer Boy:

That sounds great, chase that up. Can you chase that up? What’s your name again?

 

Hipster Two:

Oh, there is this man I know of, he is a costume designer, and he lives in this, artist coop. He would be great. He is so wild. Like, oh my god, I have never seen anyone like this man. Wait. Check him out. I have a photo

(reaches into his bag and roots around for his digital camera, then holds it up for the room. No one can see the tiny image on the screen, but this does not dampen his enthusiasm)

He is just The. Craziest. Thing. I. Have. Ever. Seen.

Looks up beaming

 

Producer Boy:

Ok. Go for it. He sounds amazing. I love it. I love this man. Who is he?

 

Hipster Two:

His name is Zio.

 

Producer Boy:

Zio. That’s fantastic. I love this. You have to do this.

 

The Talent:

What about a story of someone who actually has a home and and house and a holden?

 

The room goes silent. Everyone is stumped by this suggestion

 

Contributor Chick:

I can talk to my contacts at the ABC, they might know of someone ordinary

 

The Talent:

Oh, and maybe a refugee family story, like, what is their take on what the “Australian dream is”?

 

Producer Boy

Oh Yes. Absolutely.

 

Hipster Two:

I think it is fair to say that the Australian Dream is really just a postulating reconstruction of the ever failing American Dream both being driven by larger economic imperatives and national aspirations that greater reflect increasingly outdated ideologies

 

A few people agree ‘yes’ and ‘totally’ while others stay firmly silent

Producer Boy has been busy scrawling all the suggestions on the board. He stands back to assess them.

 

Producer Boy:

Ok well lets take a look at this (scanning down). Great, great, it is looking great. Um, hang on, what’s this one, the ‘someone who actually has a ‘home, house and Holden’ – where is the ‘quirky’ take on that?! I’m not sure that’s going to work….

Oh but, the Refugee family, now that’s important. It’s really important that we tell that story.

Murmurs of accent roll around the room, with many people nodding meaningfully in agreement

 

The meeting continues in much the same fashion for another hour or so until Producer Boy wraps things up by declaring that they should all ‘pedal to the pub’. RTS slips quietly away, gets back in her car, and drives home, feeling ever so slightly judgemental….

 

….ENDS

 

 

 

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It started ominously when we stopped to pick up Lady G from an outskirts train station and found her on a bench, hunched and huddled from the wind. It was here that we saw what should have served as the first warning for the dark outlook ahead: an old lady fell over in the rain.

We all rushed to help her but the old trooper was alright, so after seeing her get patched up we continued on our way, spurred on by the excitement of arriving at our idyllic camp spot.

But it wasn’t long before the lashing wind and dark rain clouds started to dampen our spirits. By the time we arrived at the camp ground pretty much all hope of starry nights and summer sun was stamped out when an eerie and macabre looking woman came and hissed at us, “soooo, are you going to stay?”.

When we all shot her glares designed to imply, ‘what the fuck do you reckon, that we drove for five hours so we could just park our car here for a minute?’ She pulled out a white sheet of paper citing a severe weather warning for the area.

“Ranger told us to move”, she drawled, “storms a’comin. We’s gotta watch for falling trees”. She allowed for a meaningful pause, or possibly it just took that long for her thoughts to form words, before adding, “the three of us can’t agree on what ta do”, and as if on cue, what seemed to be two of her closely related cousins emerged from the depths of the tent behind her.

We backed away from the Macabre Clan as Lady G whispered that “the freaks are going to kill us”, and even though Lady G is prone to hysteria, being a total city slicker unaccustomed to the glacial pace of some Australians, we all knew we wanted to heed the rangers warning and move the hell away.

But as we cast our eyes skyward to the towering old gums all around us, the only question was, where, in a national park that was full of, you know, trees, would we be safe from falling timber when this storm rolled in?

After some protracted group deliberation we finally settled on a spot. Then no sooner had we told the other groups of friends we were meeting where we had moved to, did the Macabre Clan show up. Beneath the pent up growl of the brewing storm, you could almost hear the low, horror movie type score of pounding piano keys as the wierdos circled around us, and settled on a spot less than a hundred metres away.

When it came time to further explore our surroundings, we found that the storm coming in off the east coast had transformed our placid holiday bay into a squall revenged coast line. Our clothes bellowed out around us, our hair looked electrified, and our toddler became possessed. Upon seeing the ocean, he repeatedly ran headlong to its open claws with the kind of zeal to suggest he was part water creature urgently heeding the call to return to his maker, the Ocean God. Not allowing him in to play in the icy 8ft waves that were dumping right on shore seemed to him an unjust torture akin to denying a pilgrim entry to Mecca.

That night, after eating our dinner in the dank, dark shelter of the public barbeque area with sheets of rain pouring down the sides, we were only too happy to retire to our little camper tent. But it was only a matter of time before the sanctuary of this shelter would too become stained, in vomit.

The Yang and I were woken by the unmistakable hurls of our poor dear boy violently vomiting in his little travel bed. The rain was still bucketing down outside as we raced back and forth between the camper tent and the car desperately trying to clean him up and settle him back in to what was to remain a vomit clad bed (we just mopped up what we could then chucked a towel over it, believing its important to establish from an early age not to be expectant of comfort and luxury – some kids don’t even have beds, let along vomit filled ones).

The rest of the night was spent in a fitful and restless state of anxiety, punctuated by my regularly getting up to hold a finger under the boy’s nose to check if he was still breathing, because, as I reminded The Yang, “Bon Scott died choking on his own vomit”. This turned out to be just the kind of reassurance The Yang and I needed to make sure we didn’t sleep another wink.

When the cold clutch of the morning arrived and I sat miserably eying off the toilet block imaging having to scrub The Boy’s bedding in a cold grey sink with a bar of soap and some billy boiled water, The Yang, rather sensibly, suggested taking the dirty laundry into town and having it washed. The notion of simply driving into town rather destroyed our carefully crafted illusion of camping in the depths of the wilderness (we had positioned ourselves facing away from the toilets and barbeques), but it sounded bloody good.

The car was the only warm place to be on this bizarrely and unseasonably cruel, cold day, but still, our dear boy was not happy. The Yang popped into the local doctor with him, just to be on the safe side, and the poor little bugger turned out to have tonsillitis. But he was a real trooper, and rather than turn back home with him, we had a few beers, and he seemed as good as new.

After two days of bitter cold wind and rain, the sun finally came out. Despite The Boy being irritable and tetchy, and me coming down with a touch of ‘stress-stroke’, things were looking up, for us. The same can’t be said for our beloved friends, who had the all too typical camping experience of encountering some space invaders.

It was a weekday by this stage and the entire campground was completely empty save for ourselves and our friends (and we had deliberately set up with space between us). Yet when a young couple and their two children arrived they set up camp right next to our friends, with barely a metre separating their tents.

We all sat around exchanging eye popping, jaw dropping glares, but didn’t say anything on account of the fact that the newcomers would have heard every. fucking. word we uttered. Unlike us, this couple seemed perfectly delighted with the set up (I think they couldn’t believe their luck at being able to leave their kids in the care of Miss APlus, who was left holding her own baby in one arm, and separating biffing toddlers with the other, all the while sporting a tight lipped smile as she declared it was “fine” to the other mother who was kicking back in her mosquito net harem shelter).

But the actions of these close campers only got more odd, when New Neighbour Man came over to our fireplace and wordlessly placed a pile of his wood there like some kind of territorial pissing. Given we were sitting there, and had been using that fireplace all weekend, we were totally baffled that he didn’t decide to go and piss elsewhere, like on one of the other twenty or so EMPTY fireplaces.

But rather than challenge him to a fire walking duel to declare who would reign over this fire pit, or worse, risk encountering some ‘fire and marshmallow’ bonding with these far too friendly strangers, we just went back to the barbeques. No sooner had we done this when we hear a big shout from New Neighbour Man, asking if we have some spare room on our hotplate….

We figured the best way to get away from these friendless freaks was to pack up and leave the next day, mainly because this is what we planned to do all along. So we pilled in the car and then spent hours upon hours fruitlessly cajoling the boy into having a nap on the drive, which he finally succumbed to, minutes from our front door.

Once we finally got home, The Yang and I relaxed with some ice cold beers on the back porch. Within the hour, right after we had all sent a series of ‘safely home’ text messages complete with virtual air kisses, beaming smiley faces and promises to do it all again, we were hit with a bout of gastro….

 

 

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One of the great advantages of living in Sydney is that within two hours drive in almost any direction, you can be in a relatively natural, and stunningly beautiful environment. Just this week we went to a beautiful little holiday house in the Blue Mountains, it had sweeping mountain views from its floor to ceiling windows, a cosy log fire and was within a stone’s throw of the local village shops.

It was the kind of place that payed close attention to detail so that you could enjoy a quintessential ‘mountain’ experience, like by having a beautifully leather bound Guest Book with the current page carefully marked for you to leave your comments (in the antiquated mountains, people still consider comments to be of the kind that you write by hand onto a piece of paper).

Flicking through the book, it was great of interest to discover what some of the other guests had to say:

*

Clarissa and John:

This house was lovely and we had a wonderful stay! I really knew I was in the “bush” when I went to the shops and found a packet of home made muesli for $20! You don’t get that in the city, such a quaint yet monopolised market here! We will definitely be coming back for more (provided John gets his bonus this year).

*

Julie:

We came here for our annual Beaver Family gathering and the house was just perfect for us. Of course, Uncle Jim complained about being in the downstairs bedroom, but when he tripped going down the steep staircase on the first night leaving him holed up in bed for the rest of the holiday with a sprained ankle, it was the highlight of my trip! I couldn’t thank you more!

*

Craig and Anna:

We came up here from the city and while I admit it is a pretty place to drive around and look out the car window, I have to say, I was a little alarmed at how slow people were. All the cars seemed to be driving at such a snail’s pace that I wondered if they had their engines turned on, or if they were just left in neutral and allowed to roll around the streets? I even had one bloke stop his car so I could cross the road in front of him! Why wasn’t he in a hurry? I find that unsettling. And what’s with all the quiet?

*

Anton and Paul:

This place was simply gorgeous. The log fire was so beautiful, and I had no idea you could have one with real wood! All the ones I have seen are made from gas. It felt so historical. The only problem was that for the life of us we couldn’t find the switch to turn it on. If only it came with a bona fide (hunky, haha!) “country man” to help us light it. In the end we just sat around trying to warm our hands in front of our gold case Zippo lighter.

*

Chrissie:

A lovely home, with a beautiful outlook. The kitchen was well appointed, and I found the bathroom to be punctual also.

*

Stephan:

This is my first accommodation since arriving from Norway. We have mountains there too. Very large scale. I want to compare. I come straight here right away instantly – but I no see a thing! I bring the rain. All the way from Norway. Oh well! Nice time.

*

Brad:

Lovely spot, great views too. Will definitely tell our friends, and maybe bring some of them back next time. Not to sure about that yet, will have to sleep on it. Decide tomorrow. Depends on what they can do for us. Definitely one to think about though. Great house.

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In the hotly anticipated sequel to Turf War, RubyTwoShoes makes a dramatic exit from the dimly lit café (which unfortunately goes largely unnoticed due to the poor lighting). Rather than attempting to wrestle back her café table territory from the Pack of Five, she turns her back on warfare once and for all, and instead looks towards new and uncharted territories.

But as we will see in this riveting new take on the original, while the rules of engagement have changed, with all new players and a brand new location, the underlying threat remains the same: Territorial Challenge…


In a quest to find new land, I did what any good explorer is won’t to do, I expanded my horizons. I began to imagine what life outside the confines of the café might look like, and unrestrained by the fear that might grip a lesser adventurer’s heart; I set off up the road.

Armed with little more than a backpack, a meagre supply of water, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure (and as it turns out, more water) I made a discovery not dissimilar to Pythagoras in learning that the world was indeed round – that being, I found the local library.

Although a far cry from being uncharted territory, the library was a harbour, a haven away from the cold, cruel winds of the wide open suburban street I had just walked up.

But it didn’t take long before I also discovered that this harbour sheltered not only me, but a rowdy, skanky swag of misfits. My long held belief that libraries represented civilised and stately spaces for quiet reflection and learning was quickly replaced with the knowledge that the local library was little more than a bawdy bar, minus the much needed free flow of alcohol, that housed the many and varied detractors of mainstream society.

After only a few repeated exploratory journeys into this heart of darkness, I knew that I would need to keep my wits about me, for it was here, at the local library, that I had encountered scenes and noises that still haunt me to this day….

…The terrible squealing coming through the paper thin walls of the toddler room, that only proved pleasing in comparison to the noise that would erupt come ‘Nursery Rhyme Time’, when the whole place would hum with the eerie sounds of young children gaily singing about boroughs breaking and babies and cradles coming crashing to the ground…

….the thunderous sound like the hooves of a thousands horses made by children racing up and down the polished wooden floors of the hall directly above…

….Or, more disturbing still, the screeching yelp of a grown man that refused to accompany his carer back down the road to the local mental health facility. (I must admit however, that his howls were somewhat more welcome than his other tactic of avoiding home time, that being sprawling his humungous, ill clothed, body all over the couch, and promptly falling into a deep, sonorous sleep, causing the librarians to engage in loud arguments with his carers about ‘appropriate library behaviour’)….

All of these things are seared in my memory will stay with me for the rest of my days, along with the awkward discomfort of one day foolishly sitting at the end of the romance novel aisle, and having to spend 15 long minutes sharing the narrow space with a middle aged women who was agonisingly selective over the 50 ‘sexy’ romance titles she was taking home to read in the three week borrowing period. We both favoured acting like neither one could see the other, despite us being only one foot apart while she slipped titles off the shelf, and poured over the title, back blurb and opening pages of Each. And. Every. One. Of. Them. before shoving them into her black plastic bag and finally departing with her stash.

Yet despite this harrowing encounters, I returned again and again to this hardened harbour, and then, one day, using the same kind of deft skills that lead me overhear things with my ears at the café, I discovered, by looking with my eyes, an island in this tempestuous sea of library society. A room, without a view, or a door, but with a table.

Like the white man arriving on Australian shores, I chose to see this table as empty, as having no history, no prior owners, no custodians. A terra nullius table, sovereign to no one. But me.

It wasn’t long before I developed a sacred bond The Room, believing it existed to keep me sheltered from the raging squall of society outside it’s door, that was not a door. Whenever I had a free morning I would rush off to The Room and marvel at how quiet a room without a door could be.

But after a brief and blissful honeymoon I began to suspect that The Room was contested land, after one day an elderly man with coke bottle glasses walked and made to sit next me.

The Room being a tiny space barely a metre squared, and the man’s glasses alone taking up a large potion of that, caused my finely honed personal space invader alarm to siren. I coughed nervously, in case he was so blind he hadn’t seen me, then gave him my best, “what the fuck are you doing if you sit here, in this confined, SMALL space you will practically be sitting on top of me and, you know, it is just going to cause discomfort all around, and really, I shouldn’t need to tell you this” look, and he backed out but not before asking me if I was going to use The Room for long.

Ever since that day, I knew I had to keep it crafty (I don’t mean I had to fashion a doll out of crinkle paper, paste glue and discarded egg cartons, I mean I had to extra precautions in securing my territory).

I took to sprawling my belongings all over the table, and turning up earlier and earlier to make sure I secured my spot. Arriving just after opening time, I would breeze in with my take away coffee, make a beeline for the room (I never a walked a straight line to the room just as an extra precaution. Precaution for what ask? My point Exactly.)

But none of my efforts would hold off against the inevitable, and one day, although I arrived close to opening time, I wasn’t early enough, and The Room was seized by a Blond Pirate with a flighty look in her eye.

Forced to sit down the back in cattle class, where two rows of tables were squashed up against each other separated by flimsy dividers that only came up to your nose, I stewed over my loss while my personal space invader alarms went into overdrive.

But it was here that I made a further discovery; Blond Pirate had a partner. Her Man Pirate was on the corner table, and all throughout the day she would flit back and forth between him and The Room, desperately whispering things like, “ Ive done another puzzle. I have done so many puzzles”, before slinking back off while Man Pirate stared straight ahead, not even blinking an eye.

Then she would come back and say, “I don’t know about this library. We might have to find somewhere else”, then scat off again before finally returning at the end of the day and hissing at him, “the kids. The kids. We have to go get the kids”.

Unlike the Pack of Five, these pirates may have only had two members, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in creepiness, under his lowered baseball cap he had a dark glint in his eye, and her flighty frame and pastel pink accessories made me nervous.

But I knew I had to take action….

I woke early, before the sun had even rose in the sky, and then I did some things at home because the library itself wouldn’t open until ten.

Then, just before ten I set off up the road, The Yang and The Boy in tow in case I needed reinforcements. When I got there, my worst fears were confirmed. The pirates were waiting by the still locked library doors

Outside of standing behind them, and then, as the doors swung open, elbowing my way past them and making a sprint for the room, I had no way of getting in before them.

Unless…I used The Boy as a decoy. If I could only get him to run through the doors as soon as they opened, pretend to run in after him, but in fact quickly peal off to the left and into The Room, I would be in. And then I could stay there. And never, ever, leave.

But when the doors opened and The Boy ran away from the library, instead of into it, my final hope was foiled.

I had lost. I limped in behind them but really, I had nowhere to go….

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After doing some light reading the other day on anxiety disorders (and by light, I don’t mean reading “100 Anxiety Disorder Jokes for People with OCD: we would have made it 101 but we didn’t want to fuck with you”, I mean that I only read the first three pages) I discovered that over 15 million people in America suffer from anxiety each year (it would be interesting to know a more localised statistic, but given we are a mere backwater cousin country, and the ‘brain drain’ has already meant anyone capable of producing such research has already relocated to the seat of the empire, these foreign statistics will have to do)

The causes for these phenomenally high rates are, apparently, plain old genetics, and growing up in families like this. But of course, living in a world that is batshit crazy, is also thought to have something to do with it.

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For my own part, while I don’t discount the powerful influence of a certifiable family of origin and misfiring genetic codes that produce involuntary twitches, I find myself deeply interested in how modern day madness attributes to our rather poor state of internal affairs.

I was hoping to share some stand out examples of these crazy circumstances here, things like how many times we have been forced to listen to the worlds worst advertising jingle while sitting in traffic for 540 hours a year and driving to work where we spend 80,000 hours of our life contributing to a system inherently hell bent on destroying our natural environment all the while producing enough waste that there is now a rubbish tip the size of the Northern Territory milling about in the Pacific Ocean.

But it all made me, well, rather fucking anxious, and only really served in giving great credence to the not altogether accurate, but seemingly fitting analogy of great hordes of lemmings charging off a cliff, mindlessly plummeting to their doom.

And because I kicked off my half baked investigations by looking at the number of marketing messages we are exposed to  – about 3,000 a day – I just couldn’t seem to get past the, not entirely related but still fucked up and fascinating, world of corporate advertising.

There is no telling what relationship, if any, this has to anxiety levels, because, to date, the psychological impacts of corporate advertising remain largely unexplored. But there is no denying the steady rate of ‘ad creep’ into more and more aspects of our lives. And if sitting on a bus, your view out the window slightly obstructed by the ad that has been painted over it, taking an automated call from your mobile provider *informing* you of nifty new services on offer, then biting into an apple only to find you have a taken a mouthful of a carefully placed stick on slogan isn’t enough to alarm you of the ever encroaching ad army, then check out some of these more *inventive* ways of grabbing our attention.


* In 1993 Space Marketing Inc proposed launching a ‘Space Billboard’ into low orbit to be visible on earth. The 1km squared illuminated billboard was designed to look like a full moon with the idea that every dawn and dusk huge “Pepsi” or “Toyota” messages could beam down on us, and instead of old folk lore about the boy in the moon, a new day would come where we lull our children to sleep with the ‘oh what a feeling’ Toyota jingle. Sadly, the impact from unwieldy pieces of space debris flying into the ‘moon board’ stopped the project from progressing.


* Since the 1990s there has been a growing trend of ‘brand naming babies’, and labels like Nautica, Lexus and Armani have joined the ranks of America’s top 1,000 names. There are also, apparently, at least four American boys sporting the name ESPN.

Now, I know what you are thinking, your thinking ESPN is a perfectly versatile name, and one you wish you could have thought of yourself, one day you could be calling out to your beloved Example of a Sporting Parent’s Neanderthal, and the next, you can just ‘change it up’ and go with Ever Spill Pepsi again and you’re Nailed!

(ref)


* Last year, a company was equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about the gender, approximate age, and time spent looking at the billboard by passersby. The details were then transmitted to a central database with the goal of tailoring a digital display to the person standing in front of it, i.e, to show one advertisement to a middle-aged white woman, for example, and a different one to a teenage Asian boy. Unclear however, is how the company will respond to an aging cross dressing transgender person holding hands with young Asian toy boy clutching a Bichon Frise lap dog and staring at the billboard in a bleary barbiturate daze, for days.

(ref)


* Every year, companies send commercial messages into the classroom of youngsters unfortunate enough to attend schools that are partially privatised in order to ‘make ends meet’, mostly commonly in the form of sponsored educational materials.

But before you jump to any rash conclusions here, this is not just any willy-nilly branding, for the corporations are expertly matched to the subject, and could you get any better a match than McDonalds and Nabisco Mars candy sponsoring education material on nutrition? I think not. And McDonald’s don’t limit themselves to nutrition either, they also ‘teach’ about deforestation, namely how best to clear fell large chunks of the Amazon to rear beef that is nutritionally as good for you as Mars bar sandwich….

(ref)


* In 2008, Jason Niebling opened up on of the few remaining untapped advertising spaces in the world, his face.

Although tattoo advertising has been around since 2003 when American Jim Nelson sold the space on the back of his head to a web hosting service for $US7000, Niebling would be the first to bring the practice to Australia when he offered up the right half of his face for sale to the highest bidder (his left side was already taken with the ‘commercial free’ content of skulls and things).

Like many of us, his goal was to avoid, “getting up every morning and having to work for the man”, via the less common means of “working for whoever’s on my head”.

For whoever had enough money, Niebling promised that the entire right side of his face would be the “ultimate advertising space”. And by ‘ultimate’, he meant providing the company with direct expose to the local population of a little known Australian town, filled with people like this woman. A hard opportunity to pass up really, especially considering the ‘moon board’ is out.


PS – on the quest for this unintended advertising rant, this was the favourite ad I found:


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As I have made mention before, when I moved from the trendy inner city to the suburbs not that long ago, one of my prime concerns was where to source a decent coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to find my dimly lit little arcade haunt and have been coming regularly ever since.

But sadly, the peace of this quaint and ordinary café life is under threat.

The insurgence is being led by a group of five regulars that come in every day together and cast a (figurative, and some may say literally ineffective) cloak of darkness over an already poorly lit café.

Now this is not the kind of café where you need to scramble for a free spot in amongst the hustle and bustle of people leaving, people queuing for takeaways and posers just standing around trying to look cool. No, this is a daggy, ill frequented café in a near deserted arcade mall of a far-flung suburb.

And yet, a turf war, led by the Pack of Five, is brewing.

Because if the Pack of Five don’t get the table that we both clearly favour they stand right next to me sitting at it and say – “are we going to fit on another table? Have we got enough chairs?” – as if the other, exactly the same configured 4 seater tables are somehow inadequate for their hugely popular group. They say this as if being presented with a logistical nightmare on a scale that not even a team of specialists working in a post natural disaster zone could comprehend.

Now if they had of ever once returned one of my smiles with something other than a snarl, or not manoeuvred their chairs one day to obstruct me just as I was reaching in to get some toys so out of the playpen for The Boy, rolled their eyes at my noisy and clumsy pursuits of my clearly ill bred child, or jumped and turned in their seats to watch the entry of every mother that enters the café with a child that makes so much as a squeak, then this looming war may have been averted.

And I might have let it slide that one of them never fails to turn up in an Aussie flag clad Regional Figure Skating Championship sports jacket that her middle age and sagging figure suggest she probably earned back in her teenage years but continues to wear in a bid to promote the dizzy heights of a figure skating career long forgotten but still desperately clutched onto for a sense of pride and identity. Yep, I might have refrained from such judgement and slander, had my hand not been forced.

But in what is fast becoming the world’s greatest turf war outside of Gaza, things are bound to get dirty. To this end, I have taken it upon myself to prepare for the potential of all out warfare and begun to study the enemies every move.

Their objective seems clear enough; extending the Pack of Five Empire to over the entire café via a series of harsh intimidation and judgement tactics.

I am yet to identify what it is about my individual presence that causes such disdain, and apparently, from they way they all turn and give me a thorough once over any time I move, neither have they. But I believe general disdain for your subjects is a vital perquisite for tyrannical rule.

This alerts me to the fact that I should tread very carefully in dealing with these potential dictators and so I deploy state of the art clandestine surveillance tactics, such as sitting in a corner table and peering over the top of my laptop at them, to gather further intelligence.

I quickly determine that they never deviate from a set routine. They are always a Pack of Five consisting of four females and one male, never four males and one female or four females and one cat.

They enter at precisely o-nine-hundred hours and stay for one hour. Foolishly, they always arrive together and out in the open, which gives me reason to believe that I am dealing with amateurs unaccustomed to taking the kind of high security precautions as seen in Kevin Costner’s The Bodyguard, as I never see them use decoys or disguises either. But I do not let this fool me into letting my guard down, as I have seen what a deft hand they are at slicing down opposition with a well-aimed snarl.

However, I am yet to determine any details of their ‘secret business’ that may hold important clues into the motivations behind casting a (figurative) cloak of darkness over the cafe. To this end, I hold a stake out at a nearby table (or rather, I get too scared to get up and leave before them because it would mean exiting via their table and subjecting myself to unforgiving scrutiny). So I instead bunker down and arm myself with steady supply of staples – fresh coffee – and recording devices – ears, and try to decipher some clues.

After getting their coffees, which some of them drink in take away cups despite the fact that they are clearly not taking them anywhere, they huddle down, and in between casting stony glares at me and the other patrons, begin to discuss things like what kind of cakes are good at Michel’s Patisserie (a low grade chain store).

The chocolate cake, I learn, is “really, really nice”, and apparently Michel’s Patisserie “really do some things quite well”. Then, just as a rare silence falls after this hearty discussion and I being to think they have run out of steam on the cake comparison convo, one pips up that “the lemon cake’s not that good” and great gusto returns once again to the table as they milk the topic a little more by moving onto biscuits, and segueing to recipes.

When this then turns into a thorough investigation of where one can purchase the best liquid cooking chocolate, complete with taking driving routes, traffic congestion and toll costs into the equation, I decided it is time to switch off my recording devices.

Because it is at this point that I recall the mistakes of the ill fated Bush administration, and decide to roll back Operation Dark Cloud lest it gets carried away with gathering (a lack of) intelligence and starts storming into sovereign territories, i.e their table, in search of WMD (Woven cloaks of Massive Darkness) that were quite possibly never there…

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