Monday, December 15, 2008

nothing doing

Don’t sit down till you read this. It seems the standard for office chairs may have to be revised upwards in the near future. The requirements for chairs assume that users will weight no more than 100 kg but nowadays they often have to cater for people weighing 150 kg (I think that's 350 pounds in the old scale).

With ever increasing numbers of people being classed as “obese” it looks like chairs will have to be made stronger if we want to avoid having them collapse underneath us.


Today was Monday and to be candid I didn’t accomplish a darned thing today. And I won’t apologise for it.

The last couple of weeks have been so hectic I wonder when I would have found time to go to the office had I still been employed. I’ve eaten so much turkey I feel as though we’ve already had Christmas, since I’ve been to two different Yuletide functions in three days.

Not to mention the time taken up with learning the game of croquet. I even threw my back out one week, enabling me to claim (for the first time in my life) that I was suffering from a “sporting injury” !


I did take time out to finish reading Alexander McCall Smith’s novel The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. This novel, set in Botswana, has been a world-wide bestseller and the start of a series. Smith has a real feel for the dusty little nation of Botswana, though he doesn’t paint it as a utopia; it may be peaceful compared to its fellow African nations, but there are all the usual problems common to humanity.

There are a couple of plot twists that would be at home in a more traditional crime novel, but it’s the atmosphere and the characters that really draw you in.

I’ll keep an eye out for other books in the series.


You have to hand it to those Wurlitzer boys (and girls - don’t forget Beccy Cole) for the variety of music they produce. How many instruments could play not only “Nessun Dorma” but “Let’s Go To The Hop” in the same show?

You can download that week’s show here

And the following week is here

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Write a novel in 30 days

The final days of the National Novel Writing Month were in sight and I was trying desperately to keep up my quota.

Even though this was the fourth year I’d taken part in this writing challenge, the first two weeks were especially difficult. It wasn’t until the third week that I began to pick up speed. By the fourth week I had actually drawn a little ahead of the daily quota of 1,700 words and could see the target in the distance.

I wanted to try and be a little early, because I knew from past experience that different word-processors count totals slightly differently. There’s nothing worse than sending in your completed manuscript only to find that you are a few hundred words short of the 50,000.

So when I clocked up the magic total at 5 pm on 28th November I was happy but wary. And sure enough, when I entered it into the word count validator on the NaNoWriMo website, I was about 250 words short.

A determined effort over the next half hour managed to put me over the hump, and I collapsed in a heap.

I’ll never put myself through that ordeal again.... well, not until next year anyway.

To see my NaNoWriMo novels, go to this site

Some problems with the recording of today’s Theatre Organ Showcase, but the sound clears up after the first few minutes. Listen for yourself and see what you think. You can download it from here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

just lazing around

People kept saying to me “So, what will you do with all that extra time once you retire?” Let me think...

Last Thursday for example, I looked at the calendar and said to my sister Julie “Look at the date. We have to be at Parliament House in 45 minutes!” We rushed in to town to take the tour arranged by Adult Education followed by morning tea with the Speaker of the House.

Then we went to Julie’s house to feed her animals and swung by my sister Pauline’s place to pick up a mobile phone we’d left there the night before. After that we drove in to the church office; I may not work there any longer but Julie still had things to do in the church library.

From there we went on to dinner with friends at Claremont. We played cards with them for a while after watching the thunder over the hills.

And before I went to bed, I had to write 1,700 words for this year’s National Novel Writing Month.

All that extra time? Don’t think it will be a problem.


This year’s NaNoWriMo story was a difficult one to get started. It’s the fourth year I’ve done it, but I’ve never had so much trouble getting off the ground. I don’t even have a title for it.

I suspect that this year my creativity fuel-tank was so low that it kept running out before I could refill it each week. In fact the first week I kept thinking to myself “I’m getting bored with this story” - that’s never happened before.

But once I passed the halfway mark I started to pick up speed a bit. What’s still difficult is when you’re typing it late at night and you think “How much more have I got to go?” 500 words.. 400 words.. 300 words.. It can be arduous getting those last few sentences out.


Listened to the Theatre Organ Showcase on 96FM. Ah, the mighty Wurlitzer! Another great show. Where else will you hear the theme music from ‘Paul Temple’ and ‘Things to Come’ one after the other? You can download it at the link below:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Farewell faithful desk

So now we come to the final day. Yes, Thursday will be my last day at the church office, where I’ve worked part-time for the last two decades.

It will seem strange at first not to be there every Tuesday and Thursday. I fall into routines easily, and a habit of twenty years standing will not be easily broken.

This was the second of the only two jobs I’ve had in my life. It wasn’t difficult work, for the most part, but sometimes it was a bit overwhelming. I was there two days a week every week since 1988 -- no holidays or sick leave on that sort of job.

I hope that I was useful. Several people were nice enough to say kind things about my work. A couple even said “I never thought of you not being in the office!”

My response was “Sometime in the future, someone will say ‘This wouldn’t have happened when Michael was in the office.’ But whether they mean that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen!”

Time to clean out my desk, gather up the personal possessions that have colonised the area around my workspace, and try and leave things the way I would have liked to find them when I started there.

Still to come is the official farewell on Sunday, with the special morning tea, the gift presentation and the inevitable speeches. I will have to steel myself for that ordeal. One of the Elders invited me to lunch and presented me with a framed photograph of myself at my desk.

To quote from my father’s favourite song:

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where's the money gone?

The chronic global financial crisis has wiped trillions of dollars off world stock markets since it first erupted last year - but where has all the money gone? Nowhere, according to analysts quoted on the NineMSN website:

From New York to Tokyo, via London, Frankfurt and Paris, investors were gripped by another roller-coaster ride of turbulent trade last week.

Across the globe, equity markets have now slumped by 30-50 per cent since the same stage of 2007, as confidence has been ravaged by the collapse of the US subprime housing sector and the subsequent credit crunch.

Economists say markets have suffered massive "paper" losses that do not relate to the disappearance of cash - but instead to a dramatic drop in value.

"When we say that trillions of dollars have been lost, this is a miswording," said economics professor John Sloman at the University of Bristol.

"What we should say is: trillions of dollars of value have been wiped off from the stock market's value, which is totally different," he told AFP.

"It's not money, it is value, which is basically the price (that) people are ready to pay at one time."

Robert Shiller, professor of economics at Yale University in the United States, drew a comparison with the drop in the price of a house.

"Suppose one day you ask a real estate agent to estimate the value of your house if it were to be sold," Shiller told AFP.

"The next day you ask a second real estate agent to estimate the value of your house, and the second agent gives you an estimated value that is 10 per cent lower.

"Have you lost any money? Certainly not, the currency notes in your pocket have not changed, nor have any of your bank accounts.

"But you would be poorer, in a very real sense. It is just the same with the stock market. Nobody loses any 'money' in the strict definition of that term, but they have lost value."

(Of course it would help stop the panic if the media stopped making it sound as though we were all losing millions of dollars in cash every day.....)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stalk the ball

“This is a game for all ages which provides mental and physical stimulation. It combines strategy and precision and is a bit like snooker on grass or a combination of chess and golf. It is an ideal opportunity which allows for social interaction.” My sister read from the Adult Education brochure, adding “And it’s just around the corner. We should sign up for it.”

She read on. “This course will show you the basics required to play the game of croquet. Six 90-minute sessions.”

So this month we’ve been spending our Saturday afternoons out in the sun hitting coloured balls with wooden mallets.

They started us off simply, more or less playing the simplified game known as Aussie croquet. After a while in the first lesson, I started getting the knack of hitting the ball. Then they introduced us to the more subtle aspects of the game.

“Roquet, croquet, continuation,” I muttered to myself. “Stalk the ball. Mind the angle. Check your V. Ball in the hand. Make sure they touch....” I was starting to get a little dizzy. Playing for one or two hours a week means you don’t get a handle on the finer points of the game easily.

The third lesson they showed us the Standard Grip and the Follow Through, with special emphasis on using the shoulder muscles. Yikes!

After that lesson, they gave us a cup of tea in the clubhouse. I could see my coach at the other end of the table, talking to the Club Secretary. I could hear my name being mentioned but I couldn’t make out anything else. “Mumble-mumble-mumble Michael. Mutter Michael mutter.”

I wasn’t really that concerned. Playing croquet for a couple of hours in the sun can be surprisingly tiring. For the moment all that really interested me was getting off my feet and having a hot drink.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

my day in court

Not many people are happy to get a letter telling them they have to be at the Supreme Court at a particular time and date.

However since I had signed up for a special tour of the building with the Adult Education Department, I wasn’t intimidated.

They let the group in - there were about ten of us - then locked the doors. If anybody was passing in Salamanca Place, they must have wondered why we were going into the courthouse after hours.

We were greeted by a pleasant young woman. It took me a moment to realise that she was actually a Justice of the Supreme Court. She led us into Court #8, where she is sitting this month, and gave us a full description of what happened where.

I was surprised to hear that all proceedings are now digitally recorded; the last time I was in court the only electronics visible was a big square reel-to-reel tape recorder. For routine appearances that only take a few minutes the prisoners will often be there only on the audio-video link from prison.

There’s even a special court intranet that links courthouses around the country. Who knew?

The judge then led us down into the tunnel that links Court #8 with its mirror image Court #7 in the building across the way. Surprisingly, the tunnel zig-zagged and curved to an alarming extent. It seems that instead of going in a straight line it follows the edge of the property line around the court complex. It is not a place you’d want to find yourself during a power cut.

The courthouse was only built during the 1970s but is looking a bit tired and in need of updating. The oldest and least modern part of the whole place are the holding cells below the building. They are the classic jail-house cells -- thick metal bars, furniture fixed in place and big padlocks that would have been at home in the convict era.

Much of the court’s work is done on computer these days, but they still have a large library. We asked the judge if she ever needed to consult the old law books and she said she had been down there just recently to look up a 19th century case.

Our final stop was the judge’s own chambers. There were some personal touches (like the framed drawing of Rumpole of the Bailey) and her robes and wig ready for the next trial. The current Chief Justice is doing his best to simplify the robes, and possibly do away with wigs altogether. It would take away a lot of the atmosphere of the court, I thought. After all, every trade has its uniform.

90 minutes later we were back out in Salamanca Place, with the seagulls wheeling overhead in the floodlights that illuminate the historic buildings. It was hard not to feel a passing twinge of relief. It was a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t like to stay there....

Thursday, October 02, 2008

enter the Five

We call them the Famous Five.

Nothing to do with Enid Blyton.

These are five chickens that suddenly decided to take up residence each night on the old refrigerator outside the kitchen window. I don't know why they chose this spot. You might have thought they'd be bothered by the noise of me rattling round in the kitchen preparing the evening meal.

Sometimes they turn and glance at me over their shoulders. Maybe they're wondering when I'm going to go away and stop bothering them.

Or maybe they're checking to make sure I'm not having a chicken dinner.

Friday, September 26, 2008

One of those things

Very unsettled weather all this week. The equinox doesn't help, and being situated between the warming Australian mainland and the sea ice of Antarctica means the wind is almost intolerable.

To add injury to insult, I cut my foot on some wire while walking across the back yard when I fed the poultry yesterday morning.


The music of Cole Porter may no longer fill huge venues, however a small but enthusiastic audience turned out tonight at the Moonah Arts Center to hear Kaye Payne.

Out of his 800 odd songs, she chose for the evening
Night and Day
Too Darn Hot
So Nice to Come Home To
Love For Sale
Let's Do It
I Get A Kick Out Of You
Everytime We Say Goodbye
Don't Fence Me In
What Is This Thing Called Love
I've Got You Under My Skin
True Love
You Do Something To Me
Just One of Those Things


Reading The Freckled Shark which originally appeared in ‘Doc Savage’ magazine issue #073 (March 1939) written by Lester Dent under the house pseudonym Kenneth Robeson: ‘In his most exotic adventure, the Man of Bronze encounters the insane money lust of Senor Steel, president-dictator of Blanca Grande (a very unfortunate South American republic); decodes the awful secret of Matacumbe; and sinks -- for what may be the last time -- into the muddy horror of the primitive jungle...’

I re-read it last week and enjoyed it a lot. Doc Savage is one of my two favourite 1930s crime-fighters, along with The Shadow. There are some notable things about it.

-- We often have people bring Doc in to confuse things; this time we
get to see them beforehand and how they make this decision. (Tex and Rhoda are vintage pulp characters. They could have been spun-off into their own series quite easily.)

-- no super-villain or occult methods of murder for once. Just a
ruthless Latin American dictator. There are unintended frissons when
someone defies him, telling him that he can't lock people up on an
island and torture them without people finding out. Hmmmmm.

-- Doc has a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde period here, where he finds that he's actually beginning to enjoy being somebody else, rather than the straight-arrow scientist and do-gooder.

-- some nice bits of description, although I suspect that Dent (like
W.E. Johns) would have said that too much description slows down the
action for the reader.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday on my mind

The cat sleeps. He takes up almost the whole of the armchair.

In any other creature it would look awkward, but the cat's natural grace defeats this description.

"An ungainly cat" would be as much of an oxymoron as that old favorite "Military intelligence."

He pesters me for breakfast every morning, then goes in and out of the backyard, returning at regular intervals for more food.

Then when he's decided that he's done enough patrolling, he takes a long nap before lunch.

As he gets older, he takes more naps.

A bit like his owner really.....


Listened to the Friday afternoon show on 96FM. Always try and tune in for Alan Rider's programme -- gotta love those giant Wurlitzers who seem to be able to play any genre from classical to rock.

Download this week's show here

photo by Columbine at

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There's a roo in the roses

I thought the noise of the possums and wallabies would quiet down as the winter went on and feed was easier to find. But they still seem to be lurking around in the suburban gardens when I take the dog out for a late-night walk.

Even on a dark night you can tell the difference. If it’s a possum, they wait till you’ve crossed to the other side of the road, then they start making bad-tempered coughing sounds at you. But if you go past somebody’s garden and you hear that characteristic boing-boing sound retreating into the darkness, it’ll be a wallaby.

Sometimes they even come out in the daylight -- the picture was taken just across the road from my sister's front door.

They first started moving into the suburbs last summer when the drought caused a shortage of feed. I knew that wallabies liked flowers -- a friend of a friend has special permission to keep a wallaby in his backyard and it loves a rose as a special treat. But I hadn’t expected them to move into the gardens in my sister’s street.

One of her neighbours showed me the whitewashed front wall of his garden and you could plainly see the marks of the wallabies’ feet where they’d tried to scale the wall. He’s given up trying to grow anything in his backyard because they sneak down the hill at night and eat everything in sight.

And yet my sister, who would love to have a few wallabies going through her paddock, never sees them on her side of the road. Either they don’t like crossing the road or they won’t go through the poultry and horses that populate the property.

What will happen in the Spring? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

M R I and me

We want to study your brain. That's what the official looking letter from the Menzies Research Institute said. A study to contrast the brains of diabetics and non-diabetics.

OK, I thought, I'm willing to go along with it. An MRI scan, a blood test and a questionnaire. I could do that.

Saturday afternoon I present at Calvary Hospital. I'm not certain how much I have to do before the scan, but it turns out to be not much.

Since they're only interested in my head, I don't need to get undressed or even remove my belt. So long as I removed my watch, keys and coins it's fine.

They slide me into a long tube and give me ear plugs. Half an hour can be a long time flat on your back listening to a blacksmith in the next room.

They started off with a repeated bang-click-click, then after a few zing-zing sounds it settled into a steady clunk-clunk clunk-clunk.

I had a panic button in case I became claustrophobic. There was a little window so I could see out, but since they'd taken my glasses that was just a blur.

Thirty minutes isn't long usually, but I had no way of telling time so I tried to pace myself. I thought of some normal calming things for a while, then I sort of drifted off with the rhythmic pounding coming from all around me.

The next thing I knew I heard a muffled voice and I began sliding out of the tube. The technician looked down at me and said something but I couldn't understand her. Then I remembered the ear-plugs.

When I got my watch back, it was just half an hour.

If you're in a similar situation, I suggest you do what I did and don't look up the MRI page on Wikipedia until afterwards. I know if I had researched it in advance I would have found it hard not to think about all those atoms bouncing around in my skull !

Monday, July 14, 2008

world of winter

When we pass the shortest day, the days begin to lengthen but the cold begins to strengthen. The truth of that old saying is certainly proved by this winter. Some of the mornings have been breath-takingly cold and chilly.

Doses of gingko biloba keep chilblains at bay, but the skin on my fingers is beginning to crack. My remedy for this is to apply a cream for dry skin before retiring and put on a pair of white cotton gloves.

This seemed a bit strange at first, but you get used to it. In fact it's an advantage, helping to keep your hands warm on these near-zero nights.

There has been snow on the mountain for about a month now. Every year this sparks a debate about the merits of the mountain road. Whenever it snows, lots of people want to drive up Mount Wellington to see it, but they can't get there because.... well, because the mountain road is covered in snow and ice.

It seems to me that this is something to do with the modern attitude that everything should be accessible and user-friendly. What good is it having snow on the mountaintop if you can't get to it? Some have written to the local paper expressing the opinion that we should simply tell people to walk to the summit, the way they would have done a century ago.

That idea would be unacceptable to many, and the debates weigh up the merits of improving the road, putting in a cable-car or building a light rail service.

I don't know. I enjoy seeing the massive bulk of the mountain looming through the clouds, speckled with white streaks. It's a part of life in Hobart and personally I don't think we need to make it into a 24/7 tourist trap.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It's a new car! (Well, newer...)

"Now into its tenth generation, it's the world's biggest selling badge, with 32 million owners to its credit in its 40 year history. And, somewhere in the world, in one of the 140 countries where it's sold, someone buys a Toyota Corolla every 23 seconds."

When I started looking around for a new car, I thought I'd end up with something cheap and boring. I am still a little surprised that I ended up with a flame-red Corolla with mag wheels. Hardly the sort of car most of my friends would expect me to turn up in.

I saw Robin Johnson at the theatre the other night and I mentioned I was getting a new car. "I'm not surprised," he said drily. Cheek!

When you've driven the same car for decades, it becomes almost part of you. You know without thinking how much pressure to apply to the controls or how close you can come to another car. Then you get a new car and suddenly everything is different!

It's actually quite scary. The first few times you go out, you're concentrating fiercely. If you can avoid stalling when you start off from a red light, you're doing well. And going round a corner is enough to make you break out in a cold sweat.

After a while it gets better, but I don't know how long it will take before I can just get in and drive off without consciously thinking about what to do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where to now?

It was like an allegory. Those winds that blew in the bad weather felt like a reflection of the currents that seemed to be stirring up the stagnant pond that my life had become.

Remember those bio-rhythm tables we used to consult back in the 1970s? All the different areas of my life seemed to be moving to a crisis point simultaneously. The car had deteriorated till it can only drive on flat roads. My sister's dog died. Problems at the office made me consider my job might have a limited life span.

I was chronically short of sleep and the cat keeps waking me up at dawn to feed him.

My diabetes flared up, just as it had last winter. The house needed repairs but my bank account was sinking fast.

I couldn't even change the light bulbs in my house as they burned out, due to my vertigo that kept me from climbing ladders. I was slowly being consigned to the dark. Symbolism anyone?

Was I approaching some sort of turning point, I wondered. Since my mother died, maybe I'd just been marking time. Maybe I needed some sort of shock to galvanise me into action.

Like they say, "Sometimes bad things happen because God needs to get your attention." Could be.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wheels (or not)

What would you say counts as an "old car"? Some people who trade in theirs every two years may think that five years is old. Until about a decade ago, I was still driving a 1963 Toyota Tiara -- I only stopped using it because it began refusing to turn left.

Since then I've been driving a 1980 Toyota T-18 and it's been pretty reliable. But this year it's been developing a few problems and I've been meaning to get it looked at. This week I finally took it in.

The mechanic phoned me up a couple of hours later and said "Well, it's not good news." He gave me a run-down of all the things that were wrong and said it would cost $1200 to fix... and that this was more than the car was worth in his opinion.

So it looks like I won't be driving myself into the city again until I can find another car. I can get around the northern suburbs all right because it's mostly flat, but it can't handle the hills going in and out of Hobart.

In fact that's why I was finally motivated to get the car checked -- driving uphill in peak-hour traffic in the city centre was a nightmare.

Ideally I'd like to pick up something cheap and boring like a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic. My man at the garage said he gets them sometimes and he'll keep an eye out for me.

But if you're coming to town and you want me to drive out and pick you up at the airport.... sorry, no can do.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fuel prices

It's always difficult to work out the prices of fuel in other countries - by the time you convert the currency and then convert gallons to metric, your head is spinning. So it was nice to see this piece on ABC radio this morning:

AM - Wednesday, 11 June , 2008 08:05:00
Reporter: David Mark
TONY EASTLEY: Americans are complaining because their fuel has reached around one dollar a litre.

Australian motorists believe they're doing it tough at $1.50 a litre or thereabouts but petrol pain is acute in Europe where the prices are much higher. There, people have taken to the streets and highways in protest.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: Around the world petrol prices are rising. Motorists and truck drivers on the street are on the street.

In Spain where the price of fuel is the equivalent of $AU 1.89 a litre, around 90,000 truck drivers have blocked the country's motorways with their lorries in protest.

VOX POP (translated): This is like a tug-of-war we mustn't give up at the beginning. This is the last bullet in our gun, if this doesn't work, we're lost.

DAVID MARK: Spanish petrol prices are in fact among Europe's cheapest. In Portugal where truck drivers are also protesting, fuel costs around $AU 2.40 per litre. It's about the same price in the UK and Italy.

The price in France and Germany is only marginally cheaper at around $AU 2.30 per litre.

Europe's most expensive countries for fuel are Norway at $AU 2.67 per litre and Turkey at $AU 2.68.

(Sound of people protesting)

The protests aren't confined to Europe. Motorists in many Asian companies are also up in arms about the petrol price hikes.

In Nepal, protesters are on the streets of Kathmandu after petrol rose 25 per cent. The price there is the Australian equivalent of a $1.58 per litre

Protesters are also on the street in Hong Kong where petrol costs around $1.99. It costs a $1.06 in Pakistan and in India it's a $1.24.

In South Korea, where the Government has offered to resign in part because of fuel prices, petrol costs $AU 1.96.

But while most motorists are doing paying ever more, in some countries fuel is virtually free. It costs just 12 cents per litre in Saudi Arabia and just five cents a litre in Venezuela.

Most motorists can only dream of paying so little for the fuel, but they can take some heart in a forecast by the International Energy Association which is predicting oil prices will fall over the next two years to below $US 100 a barrel.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Quizzers of Oz

The monthly pub quiz run by the Irish Association was Monday night. Five of us formed a team under the usual name of The Amnesiacs but we failed to triumph this time round. We came second in our category (of course there were only three teams in that section!).

The categories this time were "Who am I?", Australian trivia, movies, music, books, "Yesterday's News" and a table quiz where we had to identify celebrities whose faces had been morphed onto other bodies (surprisingly difficult).

Sometimes you find that even things you thought you knew refuse to come to mind. Quick, what year did Roy Orbison die? [It was 1988.]

And at times the entire audience disagrees with the quizmaster. Only 16 countries in the Commonwealth? We all said 52. But what the question actually wanted to know was how many Commonwealth countries have the Queen as their Head of State. Like Elizabeth, confusion reigned.

We always have a meal while we're waiting for the quiz to start. Usually I have the Caesar salad, but this time on a whim I tried the Venison Sausage Pasta; not bad, but a bit spicy at times.


Fuel at my local station has reached 159.7 -- that's A$1.59 a litre. Forecast is it will only go higher. *Sigh*


You'll invariably find me at home on Friday afternoons listening to the Community Radio station to hear Alan Rider's show Theatre Organ Showcase. Always lots of great old tunes played on the Wurlitzer or the Hammond organ. This week's selection was particularly enjoyable.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Autumns dawns

Cold and dark these mornings as we get deeper into Autumn. My vision is not the best under dimly-lit conditions and one morning I found that I'd left my bedroom wearing not odd socks but odd shoes.

I thought my gait was a bit funny.

Very tired again. I've been so weary lately that I haven't updated this page for almost a month. Will do better next month.


Sally Lockhart Mysteries #1: The Ruby in the Smoke

Billie Piper stars as Sally Lockhart in this adaptation of award-winning author Philip Pullman's (His Dark Materials trilogy) The Ruby In The Smoke. That gave me pause - Pullman's reputation as an atheist is a bit off-putting.

In this story an orphaned teenager seeks the truth about her father's death in the dark and dangerous world of Victorian London.

If you nodded off and woke up after the opening credits, you might think you were in an episode of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" that you'd somehow missed. The evocation of 19th century London is very well done and the cast fit into their parts well. Julie Walters in particular is so submerged in her role it's almost impossible to recognise her.

Some plot elements seem a little implausible - the freedom enjoyed by young women and black people doesn't ring quite true.

What's a bit startling is the fact this is based on a novel for children. There are several fatal stabbings, drug use, brutal beatings and the implied threat of under-age sex. Children's books have obviously changed since I was a boy.

This month's wine list

Heritage Road Moonstone 2005 Semillon Chardonnay
Pleasant white from southeastern Australia with the apple-citrus of the semillon comlpemented by the peach-fig in the chardonnay. Goes down well with most meals.

Blue Tongue Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Nice drop that claims to blend passionfruit, gooseberry and kiwi fruit. I can't taste any of those but it's an agreeable white wine (even if it is named after a lizard!).

Yallum Ridge 2004 Verdelho semillon
Once again, a passable white from a vineyard I've never heard of before this.

Crittenden & Co 2007 Late Harvest Riesling
From Mulgrave Victoria comes this nice white with "hints of tropical fruits, citrus and lime".

Lennard's Crossing 2005 Chardonnay
This wine, that promises to be "full and soft on the palate" when served chilled with your favourite fish or meat, comes from Pokolbin in New South Wales.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Anzac Day

Anzac Day, my 58th birthday and the day that celebrates Australia's history at war.

It made for a thoughtful morning. Not only did I reflect on what I had and hadn't accomplished over the last twelve months, but it brought to mind thoughts of all the members of my family who'd served in the armed forces.

My cousin who went to Vietnam. My uncles who were in North Africa. Even my mother served in an anti-aircraft unit when Radar was a deep dark secret.

I took down from the shelf a battered little notebook that had been handed down to us from previous generations. It tells the story of my father's oldest brother, from the day he left home with his unit in 1915 till he sent it home from England a year later just before he left for France.

He never returned. In one of the many Australian graveyards in France, he lies to this day. We often think of him at this time of the year. My father's family mourned him for many years and among the bric-a-brac from the old family home are several framed memorials to the fighting men who were lost in a far country.

Rest in peace, 4385.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Garage Sale

Darkness. That's all I saw when I opened my eyes, but I couldn't go back to sleep. Today was Garage Sale Day in my street.

One of the women in the street had rounded up half a dozen households to participate in a joint Garage Sale (what they call a yard sale in some places). We split the cost of the advertising and benefited from being able to avoid the sunrise wolf-pack.

If you've ever had a garage sale, you'll know that there's usually someone banging on your door at 5 a.m. wanting to get a preview of what you're selling. This way, we just announced that there would be a garage sale in my street commencing at 8 o'clock. Right on that time, everyone who was participating opened their doors and put out balloons on their front fence.

That didn't stop a couple of cars driving up and down the street early looking for any signs of life. Dealers and bargain hunters hoping for a chance to get in early.

I felt like a vampire who'd been dragged out of the crypt by Dr Van Helsing, but as the sun came up I gradually got it together.

Originally I'd planned to spread everything out on the front lawn so that the passing trade could see everything, and I wouldn't have to depend on people wandering down my driveway.

Then at dawn there was a shower of rain and I thought to myself "Oh no, I'll have to change my plans and put everything under cover in the carport." So I did, and of course that was the only rain all day!

It made for a fairly long day. I took up my position at 8 o'clock and watched the clock slowly progress round to 1 p.m. People came and went. Families with kids. Old couples. Young adults. A few people who were obviously dealers.

One man was as transparent as could be. He glanced at a cardboard box of comics and said off-handedly "Those are a bit modern" in a dismissive tone.

"Depends on what you mean by modern," I said, well aware of what he was doing.

"Bit of silverfish damage on a couple of them," he added. I shrugged and said nothing.

"Will you take ten dollars for the lot?" he said finally and I nodded.

It was so obvious what he was doing. He had seen a few comics in there that he thought he could sell at a profit, so he began by denigrating their rarity and quality before making an offer to buy the lot cheaply.

I could see what he was up to, but that box of comics had been in my For Sale section for the last ten years so I took the ten dollars and let him do with them whatever he wanted.

That was the biggest sale I made. There were a lot of browsers but few buyers. Several people asked if I had any old records or old furniture. I could have sold the bird cage by the back door a couple of times.

By 12:45 the neighbours began wandering about making noises about packing up. The family on the other side were pleased that they'd finally been able to sell that three-piece suite that had been taking up room in their garage all year. "Now the kids can play table tennis again."

I checked the takings. $19, less $5 for the newspaper advertising. A total of fourteen dollars for five hours sitting there browsing through old magazines while strangers rummaged through your cast-offs.

Not a way I'd choose to make my living.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

is your stuff "shot from guns" ?

How much stuff have you got? That's the question being asked by a new Australian television series titled simply Stuff.

Its creator Wendy Harmer says in the show's outline:

[quote]This series looks at the human life-long love affair with material objects. It is a deeply personal and psychological portrait of our connection with our own “stuff”.

Stuff examines – from the cradle to the grave – the abiding passion all of us have for stuff – the stuff we buy, the stuff we treasure, the stuff we desire and the stuff that’s most important to us.

“In making this series I wanted to present a view about consumption that was beyond basic academic theory. I wanted to present a human view of consumption.

I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the many books, newspaper columns and documentaries that finger-wag about the way we consume. We consume, they say, because we’re “greedy”, “unthinking”, to “show off” to “have power over others.”

We are told that consuming is a habit we have to quickly unlearn, as if, somehow, we had only recently learned it.

In fact, we humans have been consuming forever. The desire to acquire goods is as much a part of our lives as is the desire to work.

In researching this topic, I was much inspired by a wonderful book: “The World of Goods – towards an anthropology of consumption” written by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood ( Basic Books New York, 1979).

In this book, the authors make the point that consumption cannot be discussed without looking at our social system. In fact, we humans consume for many different reasons - to keep our selves warm and fed, certainly, but we also consume books, poetry and beautiful objects that inspire; we use goods to celebrate; as gifts; to honour our spiritual life; to express our identity and encode memory.

Therefore stuff is both the hardware and software of human existence.

I am very proud to have made a documentary about consumption that does not contain the usual footage of factory smokestacks, landfill tips and bulging supermarket trolleys.

Instead, it features many happy human faces and all their wonderful stuff! It’s a study of a love affair as much as anything else.

The message of this programme is to be mindful when you consume and above all, love your stuff. It is as unique as you are. Hopefully, this series will have people thinking about over-consumption, but in a gentle and humorous way.[unquote]

The only problem, perhaps, is that Wendy is not a neutral observer - she is a self-confessed "chucker" who is visibly restraining herself from telling the interviewees they should just throw out all that junk.

This series is for those who get the horrors whenever they watch Collectors on Friday night!


I've been listening to some old radio serials recently and have been intrigued by one of the sponsors, a breakfast cereal that is "shot from guns."

I didn't think I would get very far asking about it at my local supermarket, but it took me quite a while to bring up a straightforward explanation of what this meant (even with help from Mr Google).

The best explanation was from a website where they were discussing breakfast cereals (!) and somebody spelled it out as follows:

"The 'shot from guns' slogan refers to the normal method of making puffed wheat kernels: a metal cylinder is rapidly injected with hot compressed air, causing the wheat kernels to expand, and then opened to release the puffed kernels. A similar process is performed with other grains. When the cylinder is opened, it creates a loud noise; the cylinders are generally referred to as guns, since this works very much like a shotgun shell and the process is most efficient when performed with long and slender tubes that resemble large rifle barrels."
So now we know.


New tablets mean a new leaflet about side-effects and all that. All about biguanides and metformin hydrochloride.

The paragraph about low blood glucose is a bit concerning. If not treated promptly, the leaflet warns, this can lead to
loss of co-ordination
slurred speech
fits or loss of consciousness.

They've certainly got my number -- most days I suffer from the first three anyway!

how bout dem shift keys??

I didn't write this, but I think you'll find it amusing....

The Shift Key FAQ - Version 0.001

by Alan Meiss,

Unleash the Power of Shift!

Q. What happens if I press both shift keys?

A. Even bigger letters may show up on your screen. You should not use this feature, however, because these letters are also brighter, and may cause Screen Burn-In, which would be particularly embarrassing if you were typing something naughty at the time. You might consider obtaining the author's Shift Key Burn-In Protector program for only $139.95. Or you might not, it's your computer, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Q. My shift keys have little arrows on them. Does that mean the *real* shift keys are located above them, and these keys are just little signs to point them out?

A. Nope, they're the Real McCoy. The little arrows mean "up", as in "look up at the screen". Your keyboard is telling you to learn to touch type and quit staring at your fingers.

q. my religion prohibits the use of shift keys. how can i type capital letters and punctuation

A. Discuss alternatives to the shift key with your spiritual advisor. Perhaps your deity would not be angered by repeated use of the Caps Lock key, or maybe you can retain a consultant to depress the shift for you. You might also consider replacing punctuation marks that require the use of shift keys with lower case expressions; replace ? with "huh" and ! with "zowie".


A. Do small children with a fondness for peanut butter use your keyboard frequently? If so, you may want to clean it off for more reliable operation. First, disconnect your keyboard by gripping each of its ends firmly and pulling as hard as you can. Next, immerse the keyboard in warm water and scrub thoroughly with your favorite lemon-scented detergent and lots of steel wool. Finally, you need to dry the keyboard. Either dry it to touch with a handheld blowdryer, or place it in the dryer for not less than 60 minutes. Be sure to clean the lint screen when you are finished.

Q. Why are there are no "shift" keys on my keyboard, but there are two keys labelled "hif"?

A. Again, you may want to consider cleaning your keyboard, and washing your hands more frequently for that matter.

Q. Are there shift keys on my Macintosh?

A. Yes, although instead of the notation "shift", the key may be labelled with an excited Mac face, something like :O . Press this key to use shift, and be thankful you're using a friendly Mac instead of a mean old PC with all them confusin' words 'n stuff on it.

Q. I'm sick of pushing the shift key every single time I want big letters. Is there any other way to do this?

A. This is the Modern Age of Convenience, and you may be able to activate the shift key merely with the power of your voice! Check to see whether your computer is equippped with speech-recognition equipment by saying the word "shift" very clearly and slowly into its speaker. Then watch the keyboard closely to see if the Shift key moves down. Note that you may have to repeat this action several times to "train" the computer to recognize your voice before the feature works reliably.

Q. There are two shift keys, which should I use?

A. Avoid unnecessary wear on either shift key by alternating between the two. Keep track of your usage of each key so that you press them in equal amounts. Your keyboard may be equipped with a small notepad; you should use this to make little tally marks in two columns for each time you shift. Remember, it's better to go to a little trouble than wind up with a broken shift key.

Q. Why are the shift keys bigger than the other keys?

A. They aren't. This is simply an optical illusion. Just as the moon appears much larger when it is close to the horizon, your shift keys look larger because of their proximity to other keys. To verify this, go out in a large field at night with your keyboard, place it in an upright position, and view it from a distance of 200 yards. Sure enough, the keys all look the same size!

Q. If I press the shift key at the wrong time, or too many times, will my computer explode?

A. No. Well, generally no. Not unless you are using a NEC laptop. Or vt100 terminal emulation. But even then, hardly ever. Really, don't worry about it. Forget I mentioned it. Just type softly. Move along, next question.

Q. No matter what I do, the shift key just doesn't seem to work. What's wrong?

A. Have you ever considered that the problem may not be your keyboard, the problem may be YOU? Perhaps God Himself has suspended the operation of these keys to send you a Message that you have strayed from the path of righteousness. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your life. Before rushing blindly ahead with a lot of shifting, consult the spiritual advisor of your choice for help in dealing with any unresolved issues in your relationship with the Almighty.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Present Laughter"

Name a Noel Coward play. Chances are you wouldn't say "Present Laughter" but that was Hobart Rep's opening production for 2008.

First staged in 1942, this comedy has been revived around the world many times with varying degrees of faithfulness. Here we have Nick Falk in the demanding role of theatrical superstar Garry Essendine -- Garry is seldom off-stage and never stops talking when he is on stage. His dialogue is like a Gatling gun, firing witty remarks, sarcasm and barbed comments at maximum speed.

The story takes place in Garry's London flat, where he is plagued by a never-ending series of visitors including his manager, his ex-wife, a star-struck admirer and even (a modern touch) a creepy stalker, all played by veteran members of Hobart Rep.

The Playhouse was full of enthusiastic theatregoers for this farce. It bodes well for Rep's 2008 season, though I notice they're only doing five plays this year. Most years they've been doing six.

There's a list here>

Friday, March 14, 2008

red hot Friday

I don't know about global warming, but local warming is certainly a fact. When I opened the back door this morning, there was a blast of hot air hit me in the face like I was standing at the door of a boiler room.

It stayed above 30 degrees from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. tonight -- that's 86 degrees in the old Fahrenheit scale.

At midday it hit 37 degrees, which is 98.6 in the old scale, meaning that the temperature was the same inside and outside your body. Not a pleasant feeling at all.

The hens in the backyard had found sheltered spots to escape the sun, and the goose sensibly decided to settle in under the table in the garden. No eggs today but I could understand that. I don't know where the cat ended up but he stayed there for most of the day so it must have been comfortable enough.

After I'd been to my sister's house to help feed the livestock, I suggested we call in at Subway in Moonah. It's air-conditioned and we could get something to eat that wasn't hot.

I'm glad don't live in South Australia. Their record-breaking run of hot weather must be unbearable for the people of Adelaide.

It's a shame I wasn't at work in the office this afternoon. Those old stone walls can withstand the most withering blast of heat for at least a day or two.

Not that it's always comfortable. I spent most of one day this week installing a new multi-function printer (a Brother DCP) and at one stage I was wriggling about on the floor checking the USB connections under the desk -- a real spaghetti dinner under there.

At least I was able to get a good deal at Officeworks. Originally $199, marked down to $129. They only had two left when I was there. There were some el-cheapo ones for about $95 but I tend to be wary of them.

What dog breed are you? I'm a Golden Retriever! Find out at

Friday, March 07, 2008

farewell to the queen

The queen of the seas. That's how I'll always think of her. The QE2 made her final visit to Tasmania this year and I drove down to the waterfront to take a last look at her.

Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) was named after the earlier Cunard liner RMS Queen Elizabeth. She was the flagship of the line until 2004. When she was built in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1969 it looked as though she would be the last of the great transatlantic ocean liners.

Who could have guessed that liners would not only survive but would become bigger and bigger until they now look like floating cities.

But the QE2 still has the old-world styling of the traditional ocean liner, a little like a wedding cake in appearance. And the discreetly lettered name Cunard on the side of the vessel still has gives one a little thrill.

On her many visits to my home town, the ship brought back a welcome whiff of the old days of ocean travel. Two of my uncles travelled on the original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary during the war, when their phenomenal speed made them the only troopships that could out-run German submarines and surface raiders.

We shall not see her like again. Modern liners look like office buildings turned on their side, and lack the prestige of "the Queens." She will be retired from active service in late 2008, to become a floating hotel in Dubai.

It was just a pity that modern security requirements meant that the townspeople of Hobart could not get close to the ship for a last look. I remember on previous visits one could stroll down the dockside and look right into the ship through open doorways and hatches.

To get a good photograph of the ship we needed to drive to the top of a hill in South Hobart and look back at the Derwent river.

Friday, February 22, 2008

boing boing in the brush

Wallabies and possums. Mosquitos and ants. The hot summer weather seems to bring them all out. The mozzies in particular made straight for my sister Julie at the Australia Day barbecue; she had marks all over her legs for weeks.

When I take Julie's dogs out in the evening, the bushes and the trees are full of sound and movement. The irascible possums glare at us from the branches of the trees, coughing noisily at us when we're at a safe distance.

In this weather there's often a wallaby lurking about in the back yards of the homes. They come down from the hills and feast on the flowers in the gardens. I hear some of them are very partial to roses.

It was odd at first to walk down the street and hear a rustle in the bushes, followed by the unmistakable boing-boing-boing noise as it hopped away. One of them got so used to us going past that it would stand there and wait for us to leave -- as long as we stayed on our own side of the road.

A sad day in Australian publishing this month with the country's oldest magazine folding. When The Bulletin's death was announced at a 10am meeting in Sydney, it ended a tradition that began 128 years ago with the likes of Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin, and survived into the time of Donald Horne, Les Carlyon and Laurie Oakes.

I never knew the magazine in its pre-war heyday. By the time I came along, Sir Frank Packer had taken it over and turned it into a modern news weekly. I doubt the magazine would have been axed if his son Kerry Packer was still alive, but today it's owned by a soulless international media corporation.

One of the galling things is that the magazine's end was announced between editions. The editors didn't even have the opportunity to write a farewell note to the readers.

The same thing happened with Australasian Post, which was scuttled at a moment's notice despite its equally long history.

They say Australians are among the world's biggest consumers of magazines. But sentiment counts for little among the bean-counters of the modern business world, and a long history is no guarantee of survival in the marketplace.

Just today I heard a report that Reed Elsevier are selling off their magazine business, which includes titles ranging from Variety to New Scientist. Apparently the company is unhappy with "the cyclical nature" of magazine publishing....

Saturday, February 09, 2008

American comics Down Under

I read a lot of American comics as a child. But they weren't exactly the same comics that Americans were reading.

Australian access to original US comics was limited until the 1980s, resulting in a relatively strong local comic industry.
Back in 1939, Australian Senator D Cameron railed against US periodicals being dumped in Australia, affecting local writers and artists. The problem was soon solved with the start of the Second World War: the Australian Government enforced the Import Licensing Regulation to control the spending of US dollars and from June 1940, the import of US comics was banned.

From 1947 until 1983, DC comics were reprinted in Australia by KG Murray Publishing Company/Murray Publishers Pty Ltd under a range of imprints— Colour Comics, Planet Comics and finally Murray Comics. Between 1983 and 1986, the Federal Publishing Company Pty Ltd released reprints as Federal Comics and finally Australian Edition DC.

K.G. Murray had some long-running black-and-white publications whose titles reflected their 100-page size. Century, Hundred, Five Score - you get the idea. But the size of these comic books meant that just reprinting one DC title wasn't enough. Instead the editors ranged over the decades and assembled a real smorgasbord of various dates, titles and genres.

For example FIVE SCORE COMIC MONTHLY #76 in 1964 featured as its cover story "The Terrible Secret of Negative Man" which had appeared earlier that year in DOOM PATROL #87. Another story "The King of Nightmare Jungle" had appeared a few months earlier in TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #83.

So far so good, but the rest of the stories were from a wild and wonderful range of sources. "Out of Nowhere" came from a 1962 issue of UNKNOWN WORLDS. There were two Captain Compass stories from 1952 issues of STAR SPANGLED COMICS and a Hopalong Cassidy story "Buffalo Riders of the Mesa" from a 1950 issue of ALL AMERICAN WESTERN! A range of 14 years from oldest to newest and a bewildering potpourri of art styles from artists as diverse as Alex Toth, Carmine Infantino and Ogden Whitney.

Of course these things never bothered us as children. We just accepted the variety of themes and styles.

What did worry me was when they started trying to fiddle around with the details of the stories. There were attempts to de-emphasize the American origins -- references to Washington DC were relettered to read "our nation's capital" and in the TOMAHAWK stories set in the Revolutionary War the captions talking about the British army were relettered to read "the Redcoats".

Not to mention the frequent censorship where knives or arrows were removed from dead bodies to reduce the amount of violence depicted.

The strangest incident was an ATOMIC KNIGHTS story in which the hero pointed to a map of the United States on the wall. Local artists clumsily replaced it with a map of Australia. The problem was that they didn't change the dialogue which referred to the mountains on the west coast. In Australia, of course, the mountains are on the east coast!

I must have read that page half a dozen times trying to make sense of it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A for ant-agony

Hollywood tried to warn us. Films like The Naked Jungle, Them! and Phase IV.

Even Joan Collins tried to sound the alarm in Empire of the Ants.

The ants are on the march. The last couple of summers they've been an increasing problem and this January has been the driest since they started keeping records around 1882. The result is that they are literally everywhere.

Some nights they've been so bad in the kitchen that when we're making dinner one of us stands there holding the plates in mid-air while the other dishes out the food.; then we take off for the dining room and eat before the ants can follow us.

I know from watching movies what to do in a case like this. You dig a trench and fill it with kerosine, then when the ants start to cross it you throw in a flaming firebrand.

That may be all right out in the jungle but I'm a bit reluctant to try it in a suburban kitchen.

My sister hasn't been well this week, but she was up bright and early after the neighbours called her in to consult on a poultry problem. Their hen has only hatched one chick, so Julie offered to help out. She caught two chicks at her place and brought them over to be put under the hen.

They plan to tell their children that the hen hatched two more chicks while they were away.

Let's hope they all get on together. I know Julie will be on tenterhooks waiting for news of their progress.

I had a routine day at the office yesterday but I felt downcast by the time I arrived home. I felt like dark clouds were gathering over my head, plunging me into increasing darkness as time went on.

Sitting out in the garden alone before dinner, I came to the conclusion that the obvious explanation was probably correct. Next week is Valentine's Day, which is also my mother's birthday. She would have been 86 this year.

It's unfortunate that her birthday falls on Valentine's Day and she died on Grand Final Day. Thus the media never let me forget when either day is approaching. The rest of the year I'm all right, but those two days of the year always get me down.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

go to the light

I need something. Maybe this is it.

This is from the Zazz website:

Full Spectrum Light with Ioniser -- Enhance your overall feeling of wellbeing -- $54

You know the slightly grey-tinged guy in the corner cubicle. You'd probably hardly notice him except for that incessant dry cough and the fact that although he never seems to take a sick day, he's always sick and complaining of chronic migraines!That man suffers from a bad case of SOS and SAD! (If you're not au fait with your acronyms - Sick Office Syndrome and Seasonal Affective Disorder.) Two sadly prevalent disorders in our oh so modern world caused largely by our artificial internal environments.

Introducing the "innovative" Full Spectrum Light with Ioniser that aims to undo the twin evils of SOS and SAD. The lamp produces glare and flicker-free light that emulates the natural effects of daylight. Normal lighting has an imperceptible but damaging flicker which is known to cause fatigue and stress. The Ionmax lamp however will bathe your world in a much kinder, gentler and natural light.

Its other function is designed to counteract the high amounts of damaging positive ions emitted into the air by our appliances. With an inbuilt air ioniser the lamp will spread negative ions into the air cleaning and refreshing your stale, recycled, coughed and sneezed in, indoor air. And in so doing reduce your sense of fatigue and disenchantment with your boring job... well at least the first part is true.

The combined effects of this device will leave you feeling like you've been frolicking in a meadow soaking up the sun and breathing in pure, freshly oxegenated air with little bluebirds and rabbits gamboling happily around you

OK, I suffered from SAD during last winter -- more than I ever have in the past. So I'm willing to be persuaded. I sent off for one yesterday.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

paltry day

Friday morning I enjoyed a rare hour of peace and quiet. There's a little window between when I finish feeding the chickens in the back yard and when I have to try and get my sister moving. I had breakfast, checked my e-mail and read the comic strips.

Later in the day I went in to the pet-food shop to get meat for my sister's cats and took it over to her house. It was so warm and humid over there that I suggested we go into Subway for coffee and a snack -- their coffee is all right and their air conditioning was definitely a plus in this weather.

At dusk we sat out in my garden with a glass of wine and watched the poultry as they paraded by. I don't mind having them there, but I look forward to the day when Julie finishes extending her hen house and takes some or most of them home.

In the mail today, received an e-book CD containing all 181 Doc Savage novels in PDF format. We all know that you aren't allowed to post these on the Internet, but they don't seem to stop them being sold on E-Bay. Remind me to tell you about the South Pole Terror sometime.

A fascinating interview tonight on Rod Quinn's radio show with David Ansen, the NEWSWEEK movie critic: "On January 26, 1958 (the date is written in pencil), I began keeping a list of all the movies I'd seen, using lined notebook paper that I further divided in half so that I could get upwards of 50 movies per page. I was 12 years old. I've kept up the list my entire life. It now fills 146 handwritten pages—close to 8,000 movies, though the number would be higher had I added all the movies I saw on TV."

Rod was especially interested because he keeps a similar list. I used to do the same thing.

Of course there was a very practical reason for this in the 1950s and 1960s. There was no Internet, no IMDB, not even any of those movies-on-TV paperbacks that you see in every bookstore.

It's hard for anybody under 40 to understand those days. In my young days I loved science-fiction movies but there was no way to have a list of all the SF films that had been made unless you imported an expensive specialist publication from the United States. (There was a copy in the reference section at the State Library but I could never have afforded a copy for my own use.)

I used to go through the magazines like TV WEEK and TV TIMES and make a note of any movies on the late-show that I hadn't heard of before.

I thought it quite wonderful the publication of "Science Fiction in the Cinema" by John Baxter (London: A. Zwemmer, 1970; New York: A. S. Barnes, 1970) which I was actually able to purchase.

It's a very different world today, where (to use a metaphor from the early days of the Internet), we are swimming in a sea of information.

Called in at the shop/post-office around the corner from my sister's house to pick up a registered letter for her. While I was there, I bought a comic book and the girl behind the counter looked at it, looked at me and said "Are you one of those people who are interested in old Phantom comic books?"

I reeled back in horror. "Is it that obvious?" I said tremulously.

"We just got in the end-of-year special issue this morning if you want one."

"Oh. Yes, I'll take one while I'm here."

Selling an average 30,000 copies an issue, The Phantom remains this country's favourite comic book. There is simply nobody else who comes close to the wide readership that the Frew Publications title has.

That's close to a million copies a year in Australia. Total Frew sales since 1948 are estimated at a breath-taking 35 million copies.

Friday, January 11, 2008

a hot time this morning

Hell. That's what it was like this morning.
I thought I was having a hypoglycemic attack,sweating and feeling like I was going to pass out. The expected cold change didn't come in and as it got closer to midday it just got hotter and hotter.

For about three hours it stayed up around 30 degrees (that's around 86 in the old Fahrenheit scale) and I think the humidity was about 55%.

One of Julie's friends Merv had come by to collect some rubbish that we'd cleared out of the driveway yesterday and I tried to help but I had to keep retreating inside to sit down and drink iced soda water. I just couldn't cope with it.

Thankfully the cold change did finally move in late in the afternoon and the temperature started to drop after 3 o'clock.

Fire crews and helicopters were out fighting brush fires that had sprung up during the hot and windy afternoon. More news here:

Roll on the autumn is all I can say.

Meanwhile we attended the Irish Association's usual monthly quiz night at the New Sydney Hotel. We had a team of five, with a wide span of general knowledge. In spite of that, we had a couple of disastrous rounds in the middle of the night and I feared the worst.

We chose the "television" round to joker for bonus points, but it was a debacle. All the questions were about obscure details from sitcoms that I never watched. I thought we'd sustained a mortal wound when we only scored two out of a possible eleven points, but when the scores went up I found that was not unusual. One table even scored zero.

The other categories - People & Places, Literature, Movies, Ireland, Music, Sport and History - were kinder to us and in the end we won in the Silver category. Of course it helped that most of the other teams went for Gold and there was actually only one other team up against us.

The prize is just a few vouchers for free drinks, but at least we could share those around the team. One of the other tables won a movie ticket -- how do you share that between six people?

From the news desk -- a sign of the times. The new Federal Government says all schools will be able to apply for help to assess their security needs.

The Government will spend $20 million on the program, which will see ASIO and the AFP (Australian Federal Police) assess the security risk at applicable schools.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard says while the scheme will specifically target some schools, all are welcome to apply.
"It would be of no surprise to people for example that many Jewish schools have had cause for concern about security arrangements," she said. "The program is there to assist schools who feel themselves to be at risk and who are at risk."
Times have certainly changed since my school days.
The only time you saw the police outside my old school was when they were directing traffic at the pedestrian crossing.