Thursday, January 31, 2008

I said Do... You... BELIEVE?

Yesterday I had an experience, while in the line of duty, that made me very uncomfortable. Itchy, even. You know that movie Magnolia and the role Tom Cruise plays as a slimy motivational speaker? Yeeeaah it was kinda like that. But with stockmarkets.

Surprisingly it wasn’t the undercurrent of capitalist greed in the room (most of the people listening looked like retiring types who wanted to do those things thing ageing folk like to do and drive around Australia or, you know, retire or something) so much as the attitude of the speaker that troubled me. He looked like he’d had his teeth capped. But that wasn’t the problem. He also looked like he’d deliberately purchased and chosen to warn the most godawful flashy and presumably expensive-as-fuck watch he could find. But that wasn’t it either. He… he was just kind of a bully. He was sometimes amusing, smart and, at times, even a sympathetic fellow (who isn’t sympathetic if their apple-cheeked granddaughter conveniently, and allegedly, has cystic fibrosis – I mean really). But he was also a bully.

Now, it’s not hard to bully people who know less than you, particularly when these people have come along to hear you speak and are a generally polite-looking group unaccustomed to telling anybody to fuck off when they deserve it, but it’s not exactly God’s work either is it?

You might reasonably argue that people who attend these sorts of free seminars on how to make money on the stockmarket expect, if not deserve, to be forced to shout answers aloud, raise their hands when told and have it heavily implied that they’re a stubborn pussy if they don’t sign up for the not-nearly-so-free ‘training’ to be held days after the free seminar. Obviously just because you can get away with it doesn’t much it okay but, fair enough, most of these tactics seem to me not incredibly dissimilar to the same tactics employed in schools. So all of this I could dismiss as, if not quite my bag, then nonetheless within the confines of acceptability. The problem came when the tooth-capped fuck in too-tight jeans (God I wish he’d had a ponytail but, sadly, he didn’t) moved in to clinch the deal.

I fear I must move to quoting more-or-less verbatim (memory faults aside) to do true justice to the terrible cunt and his cuntish ways.

“Now I’m going to ask you to do something and I think it’s quite a brave thing,” the would-be-preacher warbled about an hour and forty minutes into this thing. “I want everyone who is brave enough to take this next step and sign up for this program to stick your hand in the air - come on don't be shy.”

It was just about here that I exchanged a glance with the person sitting next to me and was quietly thrilled to see on his face a No Fucking Way expression that matched my own.

“That’s it,” cockhead-with-a-microphone crapped on, “stick your hands up and everyone else just stay where they are.”

Stay where you are, I thought, we have secured the exits.

“Now everyone who has their hand in the air just stand up, that’s it, stand up – don’t be shy. Alrighty there were a few more of you – there you go. Congratulations. Now everyone who is standing up come out here, yeah, come over here and line up, I want to count you off.”

It was right about here that previously unseen tables winked into existence at the back of the room and strangers holding sign-up forms for the five-grand-a-pop training popped out of the wormholes they’d been hiding in as though they’d always been there Suddenly everyone standing in a line had a clipboard and a form in their hand as they were shunted, like poor big-eyed cows, to their death.

I don’t know what happened next – it was here that I walked out, shamefully feigning an urgent phonecall instead of kneeing cap-tooth in the groin and opening the doors to lead the poor fuckers to safety. None of this was illegal, of course, and nobody forced anyone to sign up for anything, listen to anything they didn’t want to or even feign interest in the dicksnap’s three grotesque progeny and their supposedly fascinating lives. Yet I still left the room and fled down the street with the simultaneous desires to a) never attend another such seminar, even for the purposes of a grimy expose, b) keep my money in a hessian sack under the bed, c) Punch that shithead in the face.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

High Expectations

I love Westerns. I love, love them and I have since I was a young 'un and used to watch them with my father and brother. High Noon, Shane, Unforgiven, The Magnificent Seven... I ate and continue to eat up all this stuff up with a spoon.

There's something about the genre that appeals to me, and it's not just the pretty horsies. I don't particularly love violence, so I doubt that's it, and I don't really go in for men with faces like a piece of old leather so I don't think that's it either. Sad as it is to admit I think it's just the often scholcky 'one man against the world' crap that I like. A lot of genres gives this stuff a crack but westerns do it best, never better exemplified than in the true classic High Noon where Gary Cooper spends half the movie unsuccessfully trying to gather up a posse to meet some bad dudes coming to town and as you watch it the realisation he could be on his lonesome sort of slowly descends on you on a way that beats lamearse plot twists (looking at you M. Night S-----) for suspense value. That's good moviemaking right there.

Anyway, this is just a long-winded way of saying I am squeeing myself with excitement about 3.10 To Yuma - based on a story by the brilliant Elmore Leonard and already (apparently) drawing comparisons with High Noon. Now, I've been hurt before by inflated expectations (yeah I actually thought Troy would be, um, you know, good) and this movie does feature Russell Crowe - not a favourite of mine - but I'm throwing caution to ye olde winds and saying this is going to be the Best Western Eva. And if worst comes to worst at least it's got Christian Bale somewhere in the cast. Old leather he is not.

In which I scale new heights of insensitivity

Now I know there’s nothing good or exciting about murder. Obviously. Even worse if the would-be victim is a lovely Turkish novelist. So why does this story actually give me a bit of a thrill?

“Thirteen people have been arrested in Turkey as part of an investigation into an ultra-nationalist gang reported to be planning the assassination of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. According to reports in the Turkish press, the author of international bestsellers including My Name is Red was targeted as part of a campaign to sow chaos in preparation for a military coup, scheduled for 2009.”
Partly, p’raps, because I’m a terrible person but mostly, I think, because the idea that novelists still play an important enough role in the lives of countries that they could be considered a target of assasination appeals to me. Instead of being seen as machines to pump out the next Scarpetta novel or whathaveyou, novelists can still be seen as significant and dangerous. Not much help if you’re getting gunned down in the street, obviously, but appealing nonetheless.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Then again I may have been writing about markets for a smidgen too long…

The worst thing about being a pessimist is that you’re pretty much always disappointed. Life’s going well? Oh well, it’s going to get bad soon enough so don’t get too excited. Life going badly? Oh, of course it is, but it can always get worse. Optimists, on the other hand, have it sweet because the best is always just around the corner.

The absurd thing is that all of this pessimism, optimism stuff is, obviously, entirely psychological. It’s more or less a case of mind over matter. With that in mind, I did attempt once, years ago, to reshape myself into an optimist through pure force of will. Why, I figured at the time, shoud I waste all this energy expecting the worst to happen when I can be happy all the time instead? Hmm, yeah, I think most of you can have a crack at guessing just how well that turned out.

But the weird thing is I’ve started to think of my mindset like the sharemarket. Yeah, I know, I know but seriously…

The market, like my mind, has some sort of natural equilibrium point – an average of all the ups and downs. Sometimes the market goes up and sometimes it goes down but it always comes back to equilibrium. Of course it doesn’t stop at this middle ground – it gets oversold or it gets overbought. When the market’s going up part of you feels like it could keep going up forever even as you know it won’t, just as when the market is plummeting to earth it feels like the end of the world, even though reason dictates it will recover.

Although it is quite a sad simile to pair something as lovely as a mind with something as cold and capitalistic as a sharemarket it’s also quite a reassuring thought. What goes down must come up and just as there is always a way to make money out of a sharemarket slump there is always a way to make the best out of a shitty mindset. Or so I hear. Myself? I’m on a bull run to the sky.


"Dead men are heavier than broken hearts"
(Raymond Chandler)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy Australia Day

I have not always proud to be Australian. In recent years, for obvious reasons, I have been more embarassed than proud. Sometime I feel I have spent the past ten years being embarassed and ashamed as I watched the Howard Government slowly but surely dismantle everything great about the country, when I wasn’t reading the demented bleats of the redneck numnuts who write Letters to the Editor complaining about refugees/Aboriginal people/the youth of today/welfare layabout/insert your own minority group here. Consequently, although I know I’m unbelievably lucky to have been born into this country, I haven’t often felt like a proud Australian.

But this year it all changes. One of my favourite people in the world once told me (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) that while my moral fortitude could sometimes be on the flabby side I had my heart in the right place - and that’s the way I’ve decided I’m going to view the country from now on, or at least for this Australia Day.

Australia, in many ways is fucked. We are selfish, we are polluters, we are cruel, greedy and we take everything we have for granted. But we’re not all bad. I do think, for instance we are also mostly a friendly bunch, we don’t take things too seriously and, if the election has taught us anything, we are (sometimes) open to new ideas. Jesus, we’re a good-looking bunch of bastards too. I think most Australians do want to make the world a better place, even if many of them have seriously messed up ideas about how to achieve that. Most of all, damnit, we’re still very young in the scheme of things. And it's a stroppy teenager's right to be a bit wrong a lot of the time, and a lot confused and angry the rest of the time. They all grow out of it (or so my parents are hoping).

So from now on I will make an effort not to run down my country and lambast it for all its (many) failings. I will no longer mumble the name of my home town, or pretend to come from “New Ziland”. Instead, every time the country lets me down, as it inevitably will and probably much sooner than I fear, I will simply make that cluck-cluck noise, in my throat, shake my head indulgently and ruffle its hair. “Oh, Australia," I’ll say "You’re an annoying little scamp sometimes aren’t you?"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Funeral Blues

Lindsay and Dan have already beaten me to it but it’s inevitable that a death like Heath Ledger’s – unexpected, too-soon and to someone we almost felt we ‘knew’ – makes us think about our own mortality. Gosh, what a downer.

It’s been years and years since I was really frightened by the idea of dying (unless we’re talking slowly and painfully in which case the fear remains, I assure you) but the idea of how we will be remembered does worry me. A funeral is, naturally, a limited, inadequate way to ‘remember’ someone - the real remembering, the real impressions people leave behind, stay with friends and family years and years after you’ve taken off the black clothes and felt guilty about chucking out that little program that tells you what dreary psalm is being read in what order. But talking about legacies and the like is both depressing and boring, whereas talking about funerals is fun, fun, fun. So, just in case I should plough my car into a light pole on the way home or, heaven forbid, fall asleep in the bath and drown myself, I’m relying on the blogging community to ensure I’m sent off just right.

1. Music must be Nick Drake’s Day is Done (to make ‘em cry), and either the Flaming Lips’ Realise or Belle and Sebastian’s There’s Too Much Love (to cheer ‘em up). If there is an organ or a harp involved in any way, so help me I will get out of the coffin and beat the offending musician to death that they might serve me in the afterlife as some kind of slave or, if they’re cute, sex object.

2. Will someone please, please, please read my favourite bit from The Great Gatsby (The bit that starts “And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.…” and runs onto the end).

3. Burn me up, ensuring I am dead first, or, if possible, please feel free to donate my body to science on medicine or, hell, a lonely necrophiliac. I won’t give a toss.

4. No church. Lots of booze. Try to restrict the sobbing to a single aesthetically-pleasing tear or two.

5. Tikki must attend, if at all possible and in the unlikely event she is still alive. If someone can find her a fetching little hat to wear I’d be most appreciative.
"Alfred was growing a moustache.

An untrained observer might think he was idling, at a loose end in the countryside, but this wasn't the case. In fact, he was concentrating, thinking his way through every bristle, making sure they would align and be all right.

His progress so far was quite impressive: a respectable growth which already suggested reliability and calm. There were disadvantages to him, certain defects: the shortness, inelegant hands, possible thinning at his crown, habit of swallowing words before they could leave him, habit of looking mainly at the ground - and those few extra pounds at his waist, a lack of condition - but he wasn't so terribly ugly, not such a bad lot."

(An extract from the winner of this year's Costa book prize, Scottish writer AL Kennedy, who apparently only has sex once every 5 years.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A model of bitchiness am I

Okay so I know this story about a WA model freed from captives is an upflifting tale, blah, blah but did anyone else look at the picture, read the story... look back at the picture and say to themselves "a model? Really?"

You know what really grinds my gears?

You know what really grinds my gears?
The fucking Veronicas.
Okay, now, to be strictly honest, I don’t know much about their music other than the fact that every song of theirs I ever remember hearing has filled me with the mild desire to bludgeon someone (mostly myself) to death, but honestly – how fucking annoying are they?

It’s not just their shiteful music or that faux angry girl Avril Lavignesque thing they do (as though black eyelines is just shorthand for being, like, really deep n' shit). It’s that fucked up oh-we’re-sisters-but-we-sometimes-like-to-suggest-in-photos-we-might-be-much-much-more-to-help-teenage-boys-everywhere-masturbate-furiously thing they’ve got going on. I know, I know - I'm a complete killjoy.

It’s not that I have anything against a little bit of ho-yay (as long time readers know it's quite clearly quite the reverse) but it’s the commercialisation of it that shits me. And how blatant it is. And the fact that lesbianism (Er… lesbianism? Now that doesn’t sound right…) gets reduced to a marketing schtick. You can imagine the kind of conversations that go on at these photo shoots (“just a little closer, thaaat’s right…”) and for some reason it infuriates me.

Why? Why should I care if they want to sell a few extra albums by suggesting they have hot big-nosed (hey, it’s true) sex? And am I such a joyless curmudgeon that I can’t give a rueful smile at the marketing saviness of it all? Can I not simply appreciate what must be, for some boys at least, a delight to look at? Isn't there an argument to be made that they're just exploiting horny boys for their financial gain? Hmm nah. They still grind my fucking gears.

Um yay me?

So I was going to be all cool and calm about my first page one this week, I really was. There’s no point blowing your own trumpet, I told myself, self deprecation has served you so well in the past so far so stick with it you big-headed buffoon. And yet… it was a pathetically big thrill for me, so there. So um, yeah that’s all I’ve got to say.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A LOT more...

I loathe New Years resolution because they’re ultimately depressing. 12 months after filling a sheet of A4 with vows to Teach Self Physics or Learn Another Language – No Really This Time, you find the paper, realise you haven’t done any of it and go into a shame spiral that takes another year to wear off (Unless of course you’re Dan in which you not only live up to your wild promise to become a gym bunny but learn Russian in your spare time – hey man, nobody like an overachiever, I’m just saying…)

The solution to my consistent failure to live up to my ambitions has pretty much been simply not to have any. Why not set the bar lower enough you can stumble over it with a drink in one hand? And, sad as that sounds, it’s served me pretty well so far.

But this year I find myself tempted, even long after the new year has come and gone. Because Lesley and Ms Gant have declared this the year of Getting Shit Done and this is something that appeals to me. The shit that gets done will not, I’m sorry to say, be stuff like learning a language, understanding the futures market or becoming Someone Who Runs. All of that I would quite like to do but… eh, who has the energy? The shit that is going to get done is the stuff that actually matters – the things that are important to me. And while I don’t have an apartment to sell or a marriage to flee there are some things I really, really want.

First up is to deal with TCNTDNSIN. It may indeed be very crappy. It may indeed be too crappy, even, to speak its name but I haven’t busted my chops for a year(ish) on it to toss it in the bottom drawer. At the very least I would like to get it to the stage where I quite like it, even if nobody else does.

Next up we have finances. Bleh. But, seriously, it’s time I got them in order. Will it be the share market? Property? Or a big sack under my bed with a dollar sign on it? Who can say, but it’s going to happen.

Thirdly it’s all about doing good. I have become very slack as far as the old pussies are concerned – ever since I started the new job I find I need my weekends now more than ever but I feel horribly guilty every time I miss it. Fair enough – I should feel guilty because I’m a slack beggar but there’s no point in making myself miserable. When I can’t do the cats I’ll donate some cold, hard cash in my place. Not quite so meritorious, I’m sure, but more achievable, given my state of mind by the time I get to my weekends these days.

Finally I plan to drink more. Because it would be nice to be certain I’ll get at least one of these things done.

Just FYI

Dear Friends and Family,

If you should come across my cold and apparently lifeless body some time in the future. Please check I am dead before you chuck me in the incinerator and divide my belongings between you.



Monday, January 21, 2008

I want to do you slowly, mate

There’s a moment in the musical Keating! when Paul Keating breaks off from a rap battle with Liberal opposition leader John Hewson to segue into a Barry Manilowesque “I wanna do you slowly (holy moly)” duet with Hewson. That was pretty much the moment I died and went up to heaven.

Watching Alexander Downer writhe onstage in a corset and fishnets (“I’m just too freaky”), listening to Gareth Evans and Cheryl Kernot’s love duet and seeing PK do reggae (“I am the ruler of the land… who’s da man? You’re da man – Yes I am”) I laughed until I nearly wept. Listening to PK croon “The Light on the Hill” after being beaten by dicksnap Howard I nearly cried for everything the country had lost.

See it now with the warm chime of Labor’s victory still ringing in your ears.

Paul Keating – Redfern, Sydney. December 1992

“(This year) will be a year of great significance for Australia. It comes at a time when we have committed ourselves to succeeding in the test which so far we have always failed. Because, in truth, we cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous pople of Australia - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people […]

"We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us. Didn't Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia? Isn't it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians - the people to whom the most injustice has been done.

"And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.

"It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask - how would I feel if this were done to me?

"The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include indigenous Australians. There is everything to gain. […]

"Imagine if ours was the oldest culture in the world and we were told that it was worthless. Imagine if we had resisted this settlement, suffered and died in the defence of our land, and then were told in history books that we had given up without a fight. Imagine if non-Aboriginal Australians had served their country in peace and war and were then ignored in history books. Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice. Imagine if our spiritual life was denied and ridiculed. Imagine if we had suffed the injustice and then were blamed for it. It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice then we can imagine its opposite. And we can have justice.

"I say that for two reasons: I say it because I believe that the great things about Australian social democracy reflect a fundamental belief in justice. And I say it because in so many other areas we have proved our capacity over the years to go on extending the realism of participating, oppotunity and care. Just as Australian living in the relatively narrow and insular Australia of the 1960s imagined a culturally diverse, worldly and open Australia, and in a generation turned the idea into reality, so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into reality. […]

"I think we are beginning to see how much we owe the indigenous Australians and how much we have lost by living so apart.

"I said we non-indigenous Australians should try to imagine the Aboriginal view. It can't be too hard. Someone imagined this event today, and it is now a marvellous reality and a great reason for hope. There is one thing today we cannot imagine. We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through 50 000 years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of dispossession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation.

"We cannot imagine that.

"We cannot imagine that we will fail.

"And with the spirit that is here today i am confident that we won't. I am confident that we will succeed in this decade. Thank you."

Friday, January 18, 2008

I’m sorry

I have been a slack little blogger lately for a number of reasons. The first is simple – due to extreme imcompetence (not mine, I swear) I am still without the internet at home. This situation is clearly unacceptable but what did the genius’ at iinet have to say about it the other day? “Hmm it should be working”. Brilliant, take a two hour lunchbreak, boys – you've earned it.

The second is less depressing and it starts with a ‘w’. Yes, work is rattling along rather well lately, if you enjoy living in a climate of fear in which two different bosses give you two different sets of instructions for the same story and you spend the entire day trying to pleae both of them, only to find out an hour after you’ve filed the story that they’ve both changed their minds anyway and you have to start from scratch.

Grumbling aside, work really is going quite well and I’m starting to get genuinely excited about some of the stories and issues I get to cover. How sad. But the combination of both of the above points means I have a) no time to blog at work and b) no means to do it at home. So you can take this as my apology, dear reader(s) - especially as this puppy is about to tick over to the 6000 mark. Even if it is, quite frankly, unbelievable (but, hey, I appreciate the patronage, Mum).


A friend of a friend of mine is being paid $400 a month to grow a beard for a stranger’s viewing pleasure.

This isn’t a joke. He’s… actually getting paid. He’s…. actually growing a beard. His beard (as you can see above) is pretty magnificent. His benefactor is a man known simply as “beard fan” and the deal is that this friend-of-a-friend has to grow the beard, not trim it and take 10 photos of it a day. Beard fan posts these photos on his flickr site (which you can see here) and everybody wins, right?

Well actually not so much the friend-of-a-friend because his moustache has apparently grown so long he has trouble eating without getting food stuck in it. So he’s continuing to grow it until the end of the month and then get out. But, seriously…. beards? Is that what some people are into these days? Really?

My confusion aside I actually love this story because it seems weirdly sweet (though possibly more weird than sweet). In a world in which some people are into some pretty twisted things it’s nice to find a man who just likes beards. Reminds me of simpler times. Or something.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Leg it

Brilliant. As though I didn’t already suspect my stumpy hobbitesque legs were so repulsive as to make grown men vomit in the streets now I have flipping science on my back about it…

Monday, January 14, 2008

A novel thought

To make up for my wrist-shredding post below, which plunged new depths of self indulgence, I have some good news. Well, okay it’s good news for me and it’s really just more self indulgence but this is my blog so what’re you going to do about it? Oh you’ll, um, leave and never come back? No, wait, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.

Aaaanyway the news, such as it is, is merely that as of this weekend I have officially finished The Crappy Novel (from here on known as The Crappy Novel That Dare Not Speak Its Name or TCNTDNSIN for, um, short).

Now when I say “finished” I mean I have written a beginning, a middle and an end. I do not mean it is finished in the sense that it is ready for eyes other than mine to glance upon it and marvel at its many crimes against the english language.

Which brings me to a dilemma. A friend of mine, who is in a position to offer very good criticism, has offered to give TCNTDNSIN the twice-over with a red pencil and a critical eye. Has asked to, even, kind soul that he is. The problem is that, while I know his advice would be genuinely useful I fear it may also crush my spirit. Showing writing to a loved one (not that I do that either) is different because a) they can look upon it with an indulgent eye and b) if their advice isn’t complementary you can discard it with a ‘what do they know anyway’ sneer. If, on the other hand, the critique comes from someone who does actually know something and it’s similarly critical… well then what do you do? Die a little death, is my fear. As those who have tried to dispense it to me know I have never taken criticism well and it seems likely I will start now.

Essentially the options are to allow TCNTDNSIN to languish in the bottom drawer of my desk, read by nobody and critiqued by nobody or to push it out in the wider world and risk having it come back with ‘learn to write better’ scrawled across the top. In the first I remain unscarred for life. In the latter I could be driven to cut off my fingers and start a new career as a tax accountant.

Hmm, I’m thinking, I’m thinking…

In which I lose the plot

Well life never misses an opportunity to shit on your chest does it? Feeling good? Having a good ol' time? Whistling a jaunty flipping tune maybe? Well we can fix that. Just give me a minute to ease down my pants and... No sooner does something lovely happen in one corner of your life (ie: the very welcome return of a much missed friend) then something terrible happens in another (ie: to another much loved person) and it's just not fair. You hear me: it's just Not Fair. Fuck you.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Token Smokin' Hottie: Michael C Hall

Some people are born hot. Oh okay maybe not in the literal sense but there are those people who, once they reach a certain age… blahmo, they’re smokin’ and there’s nothing they can do to hide it. Tragically I don’t speak from personal experience but can you, for instance, imagine finding Clive Owen unattractive on screen these days short of his gaining 200 pounds, ageing 20 years and masturbating into a sock while staring into the camera? Actually I’d probably still go there and you would do, y ou dirty slut. Anyway the same could be said of many of the token smokin hotties I’ve featured here before now: they’re hot in pretty much anything they do.

And then there is Michael C. Hall.

I loved Michael C. Hall in Six Feet Under back when that show was good and hadn’t disappeared up its own arse. As the uptight-undertaker-gay brother Michael C. Hall was one bit neurotic, one part hilarious and many parts complex. Yet, to me at least, he was no parts hot. Being a ho-yay enthusiast I think this had more to do with his dweebish haircut and uptight attitude than his orientation onscreen. Plus his older brother was a fox.

And yet. Under Alley Cat’s recommendation I’ve just started watching the Showtime series Dexter – a series with the completely ridiculous premise of a forensic blood spatter expert who is also a serial killer… but only of other serial killers (blahmo!) Sounds stupid right? Well, it works, by gum. Not only is the series incredibly beautifully shot and produced, funny and engaging but Michael C. Hall is… well, okay, he’s sort of become hot.

I don’t generally get off on the idea of bad boys, at least not bad boys in the I-kill-people-quite-often-and-animals-too sort of way (faux Bad Boys who return their library books late and fold down the corners of pages while they do it.. well, yeah sure). But I think Michael C. Hall might be converting me. It does help, of course, that – as I say – the series is so beautifully shot I can see every drip of sweat gleaming on his silken brow and watch his muscles ripple every time he… you know, murders someone.

Michael C Hall epitomises what we here at What Katy Did like to call a Two Face Hottie. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry was dating a woman who either looked gorgeous or hideous depending on where she was sitting or standing or whatever? Well that’s Michael C. Hall. It’s all a matter of doing the hair, shaving or getting some stubble on and greasing the motherflipper up. He can be your dorky older brother or the hot neighbour you perve on when he leaves the curtains open even though you have to kinda stand on the toilet seat in the bathroom and stick your head out of the window to do it. You make the call.

SIDE BAR: I know this photo is a bit weird and his sideburns look kinda… ginger but it was disturbingly hard to find a photo that didn’t make his head look like an egg in a wig. Seriously – dude has a big head. If we ever sired children together the poor suckers wouldn’t have a chance in the world.

The amazon wars

I have become accustomed to getting some pretty weird recommendations from over the years.

You know the way they give you suggestions like ‘if you bought The Office, why not buy ‘Extras’? Now, I’m not saying this annoys me or anything – I like it. Actually I’ve bought a couple of things purely on the recommendation of this sort of malarky and it all worked out rather well. Even the brief bout of soft to not-so-soft gay porn they tried to schlock me for a solid few months after I ill-advisedly purchased a novel called The Back Passage (shut up – it sounded good. It is not.) seems to have died off. And that was kinda fun while it lasted anyway.

But now I am slightly pissed off. Because the staff at amazon have gone a step further. Instead of merely recommending books to me they’ve pretty much just started shopping on my behalf. Lo, witness my confusion when an amazon box arrived this week. The first book out of the box was the much awaited Charlie Brooker’s Dawn of the Dead (which is brilliant, by the way). The second? Dealing with Depression: a workbook. A Workbook. It’s not even a flipping self help book – it’s a workbook, with empty bits for you to fill in. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and if it works for people then kudos. But why, given that I did not purchase this book, do I have it? I have no idea. I’ve gone back to look at my emailed receipts… the book does not appear. I would swear, in fact, that I’ve never seen it before in my life. I can see why it would end up on my recommended reading list, having recently purchased Spike Milligan’s excellent (co-written) Depression and How to Survive It, which is a biography rather than a self help book, but to actually send it to me…. Well, damnit, that’s taking liberties.

I can imagine, all too clearly, some poor, concerned amazon employee looking at what he or she thinks is my downwards trajectory. “Gosh,” he/she says to his/her coworker “this poor girl started out so full of promise and novel-buying optimism. Now she’s into gay porn and apparently depressed about the fact.” I can see him/her slipping the workbook into the box and even the warm glow on his/her face as he/she imagines he/she has improved my life for the better.

So on the one hand – bless them for trying to bring a little sunshine into my day, right? I'm not made of stone and I can appreciate the gesture. But charging me $13 for the privilege? Oh I think not.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chin, chin

The best thing about the steady flow of “news” in the form of what food or drink or habit will kill you/extend your life/grow you a second head that does nothing but kiss you and tell you you’re lovely is that you can pretty much pick or choose what you want to listen to. For those of us who don’t like being told they are drinking and eating themselves into an early grave this is simply brilliant.

For instance, I tend to plead a temporary blackout when someone mentions alcohol consumption being tied to short term memory loss, brain cell damage or um, the rest of it, but as soon as I hear good news, I crack open another bottle. So I had cause for celebration today when I read the following:

“Moderate drinkers are at 30% lower risk of heart disease than teetotallers,
according to a study of nearly 12,000 people.”
Hurrah, bring it on I say. However I’m forced to claim blackout again a sentence later to tune out this bit:

“And those who combine a mild tipple with regular exercise are even less likely
to die of the disease.”
Because, you know, I’m lazy. Exercise, schmexercise – I walk to get the bottle opener don’t I? Oh wait it’s a screw top…

Similarly the rest of it – the “moderate” drinking emphasis, the repeated mentions of exercise and the absence of the call to drink whatever you want whenever you want and in whatever quantities you want – I gloss over. Thus in my head this article is telling me that not only is my drinking completely great, I should be doing more of it. In fact I should be drunk right now. God bless the internet, my selective memory and the people who do these studies. And make mine a double.

I see you, motherflipper

(Jigokudani, Japan: In sub-zero temperatures, a baby Japanese macaque monkey soaks in the warmth of a mountain hotspring at Jigokudani, known as Hell's Valley.) Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


While discussing my less desirable qualities with a friend recently (yeah, I might need a hobby) I had a bit of a disagreement.

Jealousy, is my friend said, is a curse. But I think I disagree.

Maybe this is just because I am a jealous wench (Seriously: I’m jealous when my close friends have other close friends, I’m jealous when my partners fancy other people and I’m jealous when anyone I fancy fancies someone else… all very mature I know) but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Jealousy can turn us into terrible, shrivelled raisin-like horrors, perhaps, but I don’t think it has to. For instance the fact that I’m jealous of my friends’ other friendships is a sign that I care about them and don’t take their friendship for granted. And yeah I know that sort of sounds like an abusive spouse who only hits his/her partner “because I love you so much, baby” but I think the point is slightly valid. Yes, jealousy can drive us to anger and despair and depression but it also shows us what’s important to us and remind us what matters..

I have had relationships where I felt a complete lack of jealousy about the other person’s flirtations with the opposite sex. At the time I thought it was great in a ‘oh we’re so close and so trusting I don’t even feel jealous’ but in hindsight I think I had the wrong idea. The truth was I actually didn’t care enough to be jealous. I have also had relationships where the other person has refused to get jealous no matter what I say or do and that has made me quietly despair for the same reason: I secretly suspect they either don’t give that much of a shit or they believe I’m so undesirable to everyone else that they have nothing to worry about.

In short? Embrace your inner green demon, flirt with that hottie in front of your partner and embrace the (possibly slightly unhealthy notion) that jealousy can give any relationship a welcome little shake up. And, you know, if your partner is so crazily jealous that he or she refuses to let you leave the house or hang out with other people now you know it’s just because he or she really loves you. Same reason they put out their cigarettes on your arm. Now shut up and make their dinner.

No, Hamish, nooo!

I know it was some brainbox or other who said death should always be a tragedy because, if not, it means life has become one but sometimes, gosh, it can be amusing. And if this headline - Labrador shoots its owner dead on hunting trip – isn’t one of the best of the year then, frick me, we’ve got some hilarity to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Stressee, moi? J'amais!

I am a worrier. Not on a Woody Allen scale, fortunately, but somewhat constantly. About little and big things. About things I can control and things I can’t. I even worry that I worry too much.

Anyway among the cacophany of anxieties shrieking in my ear is my fear of hearing loss. I have long feared that my bad habit of ipodding (and before that listening to my discman and before that my walkman and before that, at the tender age of 10 or so, being rather attached to a very clunky but cute tape player I used to carry about with me - yes, really) is damaging my ears. Rather I think it has damaged my ears already, partly because I listen to it much too often and at disturbing volumes, and partly because my hearing is actually quite poor. I don’t know if I’ve always been in the habit of watching people’s lips when they talk if there’s a lot of background noise, or if my tendency to ask people to repeat themselves is a new development but I have noticed both of these things over the past few years. And it scares two or three types of shit out of me.

So new research showing one in five French teenagers suffers from hearing priblems because of exposure to excessively loud volumes on personal stereos and night clubs should scare me further, right? Well you’d think so but you’d be underestimating just how petty I am.

The way I see it my ears are already screwed. Bless their cotton socks they’ve served me well these past 25 years and I have rewarded them by blasting them with regular doses of Phoenix, The Libertines and, in my younger years (I’m sorry, guys) anything from Europe to Bros. So all I see in this latest piece of research is the prospect that I won’t be alone, adrift on a soundless world all of my own. I will have company.

Even better it seems like a lot of them will be French.

Monday, January 7, 2008

This is a rhetorical question but...

Have you ever read a plot summary better designed to induce projectile vomiting and the vague but persistent desire to set your eyes on fire than that of The Jane Austen Book Club? This nauseatingly smear of chick lit has apparently attached itself to a still-extremely-popular-and-considered-literary author in the desperate hope of gaining some kind of cache in the process, unaware that all it’s doing is throwing up the blinding differences between something that is funny, clever and holds up years and years later and something that looks and reads like the plug of hair that accumulates weekly in my shower. And will be considered about as significant in five years time.

The most recent in a series of frustratingly regular Borders email alerts I unwittingly signed up for describes it thusly:
“Six people - five women and a man - meet once a month in California's Central Valley to discuss Jane Austen's novels. They are ordinary people, neither happy nor unhappy, but each of them is wounded in different ways, they are all mixed up about their lives and relationships. Over the six months they meet, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable - under the guiding eye of Jane Austen a couple of them even fall in love...”
Dear. God. I’d rather paper cut myself to death with my copy of P&P.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Poetry corner: Survivors

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're "longing to go out again,"--
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk,
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,--
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
(Siegfried Sassoon, 1917)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

TV Go Home

Now I know the idea of a website parodying a TV guide sounds lame. Even I, who some may call a TV-phile, can see that. But while the idea may be lame the reality, as I’ve just discovered, can be quite brilliant. Enter TV Go Home – a former website (now existing only in archive form) created by my Older-Bitterer-Man Crush Charlie Brooker.

It’s pure class and features, among other things, ongoing references to a fictional ex-public school media wannabee Nathan Barley who spends his time wearing aviator sunnies, riding a scooter and living off his parents money. The show, simply called “Cunt” is more or less a forum for the TV guide to rip ten types or merciless shit through Nathan Barley and everything he stands for. Exhibits A through C:

Cunt, 8pm
“Decked out in a gigantic parka and a pair of asymettical trainers with tiny sole-mounted speakers that play MP3 breakbeats each time he taps his tiny, cuntish foot, Nathan Barley attends the launch party for a new digital entertainment TV channel and spends the entire evening wandering around with an oily smirk, failing to strike up conversation and pretending to have a good time.”

Cunt, 8pm
Perched atop a stem like aluminium stool in a bar called Diagram, painstakingly modelled on a scientific illustration from a 1970s school textbook by the cuntiest interior designer in the world Nathan Barley picks at a six pound 99 pence roast beef sandwich and awaits the arrival of a girl called Sacha to discuss an online CV he has absolutely no intention of putting together for her if she doesn’t get tipsy and imply she might fuck him.”

Cunt, 8pm
“Nathan Barley strides down Oxford Street in an All Your Base Are Belong to Us t-shirt, sucking in his cheeks and nonchalantly puffing his chest out, a bit like a
peacock might if it turned into a human and had its brain replaced by a big ball
of shit.”

Oh Char-lie… call me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bathe me

Talking about the joys of reading in the bath is either like pushing an open door or banging your head against a brick wall. That is to say that people are either already converted to your cause and start nodding in agreement as soon as you get up to the bit where you use a special neck pillow thing, or they stare at your with an expression on their face that might give an unbiased observer the impression you had just farted.

I have been a bath reader for years and years – I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t content to slosh around ion my own filth with a book in one hand, mastering the art of turning the pages and supporting the book with only four fingers and a thumb. There were library books lost to the pitch and swell of my white ocean in those days, I assure you.

Somewhat pathetically I used to study for tests in subjects that bored me (read: high school maths, and by ‘bored’ me I don’t wish to imply I was bored in the way that, say, Einstein or Stephen Hawking might be ‘bored’ by high school maths) in the bath, because it was the only way I could force myself to read the textbooks.

Now, after having lived nine months without a bath I have been reunited with one in my new house and find myself discovering its delights almost all over again. No longer are my books in danger of getting wet thumbprints, let alone doing a face plant to a watery grave (you try drying a 300-page novel with a crappy hair dryer and see how quickly you learn) and one strange side effect is that the mere location of being in the bath to read eases my (ocassional) guilt that I am Wasting My Time Reading. Not that I think reading is a wasting time (far freaking from it – reading achieves that rare trifecta of being fun, educational and making you into a more interesting person) but, whereas I feel no guilty having a long bath in the morning before work to finish off, say, The Well of Loneliness, I would feel guilty sprawling on the couch at the same early hour to do so. Does it make sense? Not really but there you go.

In fact it’s been clinically proven that the only way to improve on a hot bath and a book is to place a cold diet coke by the reader/bather’s elbow. ‘Tis all true, I swear it – cold, hard science.

SIDE BAR: I should take time to mention here that I do not endorse taking books that are particularly precious to you into the bath. I’m not a stickler for keeping my books unblemished but there are certain books (including those on loan to me from other people, I assure anyone fretting over the fate of books they might have lent me) I wouldn’t risk. All it takes is an exciting passage or a momentary lapse of the fingers and those splash marks will ensure the page is never quite the same again.

The whole freaking system's out of order

Much has been said on the subject of forensic partying – a lovely term coined by Dans which I have since appropriated and will henceforth refus to acknowledge as his invention at all.

Forensic partying, if you’re joining us late, is the art of putting together the events of the previous night based on a)the text messages on your phone, b)any cuts and bruises you may have acquired on various limbs, c)morning-after phone calls received from (former?) friends and d)the presence or absence of someone on the other side of the bed.

It truly is an art and one with which I flatter myself I have much experience. But the system, though a good one, breaks down when the evidence amassed the following morning is Completely. Freaking. Contradictory.

For instance, to take a purely hypothetical example let us suppose that upon waking up on New Years Day I was informed by a semi reliable source I had been a drunken mess the night before, only about one more drink away from putting a lampshade on my head and doing a silly dance. Oh Fuck, I sighed, just brilliant.

But just as I am about to make an apologetic ‘sorry, by the way, if I threw up in your cupboard/insulted your partner/passed out on your shoulder’ phone call enter exhibit two: an email received from someone I vaguely recalled meeting the night before, who assured me I had been a charming and a passionate conversationalist the night before. And what did we talk about, according to this semi stranger? The stockmarket. Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. On the one hand: drunken mess, on the other: charming schmoozer who cares about shares and the people who make money out of them. Who was I to believe?

Enter parties three and four. Party three being the host of the party in question, who greeted me on the street the following day with the ominous yet thoughtful suggestion that I “must be feeling a bit shabby”. And yet, on the other hand, she was still smiling at me, still talking to me, and did not appear to be handing me the dry cleaning bill to get vomit out of a silk dress.

Onto Party four, someone who hadn’t been at the party at all but was friends with most of the people who were. Having sent me about two emails over the entire course of our friendship he sent me Email Number Three today saying simply “I heard you didn’t have enough to drink on New Years Eve”.

Now this is, I assume, sarcasm. Or is it? No, no, it must be, of course. Or is it? So scrambled is my brain, so confused is my reasoning that I actually sit here and stare at this email for five minutes, trying to decide if there was in fact any chance I didn’t have enough to drink on the night, was able to converse in a reasonable if impassioned way about business matters and was, in fact, quite charming?

Yeah, that’s what I figured too.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Down these mean streets a man must walk who is not himself mean...

Clive Owen. Raymond Chandler. Frank Miller. All of these things I like. A lot. At least two of these things make me swoon.

So excuse me for a moment, won’t you, if I go and have a long lie down on news that Frank Miller will be adapting Raymond Chandler’s book of short stories Trouble is My Business with Owen as the classic noir detective Philip Marlowe.

My. God. Not since Stephen Fry played the titular role in Wilde has there been such a splendid marriage between subject and medium or um fictional character and hot English dude playing that fictional character.

Chandler’s famous line to a struggling screenwriter was “when in doubt have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand”. Might I suggest, instead, to all the screenwriters off all the world: when in doubt have Clive Owen come through the door with a gun in his hand. And by ‘the door’ I mean ‘of my house’ and by ‘a gun in his hand’… well, I think we all know where that one goes…