2006 - A Vauge Look Back At The Past Year Or So

20 December 2006
It's been yet another year. A year of highs and lows. A year of joy and sorrow. A year of gains - more clothing, six inches more hair, at least eight kilos - and we've had to say goodbye to those who are no longer with us, such as the microwave.

Of course, the biggest thrill has been learning I've been named (and I'm sure Xander is included) as Time magazine's Person Of The Year, and about time too. So let's take a look back and see how we earned it.

Nico starts the year as she means to continue - making promises she has no intention of keeping. Her job seems like a lot of work. She develops an enormous prejudice against bigoted people. Money is spent, therefore assuring the long term survival of Australian clothing and alcohol retailers. In the larger world, the obvious solutions to global warming and terrorism are rejected, which is bad news for the planet but not for Nico, as it ensures she has plenty to blog about.

Xander reasserts his dominance, but then gets fleas, and no one is happy. Nico is so exhausted by this she decides to abandon the work-related blogging, and runs a quiz. She actually follows through on mailing out a prize, then never runs a quiz again despite promising to. She attempts to become a well rounded, cultured sort of person, then gives up and writes a manifesto of the bleeding obvious.

Wild comiserations are held to mark the tenth anniversary of the Howard government. The Pod gets a major overhaul, as Nico panics about the slightest change to the routine. Nico gets a new look as well, then abandons it just as quickly when she realises no one wants to see her out of a caftan. Cyclone Larry devastates banana benders across the country, the Friday Follies are launched to overwhelming apathy, and Blogger continues to make life that little bit worse.

Xander and Nico have issues. N
ico is betrayed by company loyalty schemes and skin creams that don't fight the signs of ageing as vigorously as they should. A tribute is made to those unsung heroes of the modern world, the admins. Xander and Nico vow that this year they won't watch Big Brother, at least until after the winner's name has been announced.

The sheer stupidity of humans continues to amaze long after it no longer should. Labor leadership polls are an omen of things to come. Australia's political reporting is still an improvement over that in the U.S. The blogosphere is discovered to be still alive and kicking, as is Nico when people make fun of her new rollerskates. The Pod however has it's longest ever break, and nobody notices. Nico returns from her holiday, and realises she still hates everyone.

Nico feels momentarily sorry for offending people, then decides they're all a bunch of coconuts. Xander and Nico switch to World Cup mode, sailing through the month on sleepless euphoria, then crash back down to Earth as vengence is vowed against all the referees in charge of Australia's matches. The axeing of Big Brother Uncut is a great victory is a great victory for the forces who think parents are incapable of raising their own children.

Crisis is averted when an asteroid narrowly misses the Earth. The joy is short lived when Nico realises this means she has become another year older. The state of political satire in Australia seems upon reflection to be going nearly as well as the war on terror. Nico offers her tips for a good blog, then ignores them all. Celebrity is found to have more substance than it would initially seem - the substance of the trees chopped down to print celebrity magazines.

More Australians are taking drugs than ever before, and Nico should have followed their example before attempting to climb in the window. A Liberal election loss is envisioned and lefties dream of no longer living in fear. Politicians may be poor role models, no more so than Tony Abbott, who has convinced Nico to oppose stem cell research on the grounds that it may one day be used to help him. Mid-to-late year topor sets in and even shopping isn't fun anymore.

Nico has her last night out, which still holds four months later. She turns to skittle vodka instead. The notion of compulsory voting is discarded in favour of plans for a better Australia. Tribute is paid to a great lady. Nico complains of awful noises, both security alarms and the musicians who entertain the troops in Iraq.

Xander congratulates Nico on the 500th post. Nico is greatful that he doesn't know what plagirism is. North Korea may or may not have tested a nuclear weapon, as Hollywood wonders whether or not Kim Jong Il enjoyed their latest blockbusters. Brendon Nelson states Australian troops won't be leaving Iraq whilst the Liberals are in power. Xander doesn't want to let Nico out of bed either.

Psychics everywhere vow revenge on Nico after "picking up" on the post she wrote disdaining them. Nico's faith in love is shattered by the break-up of the Spears/Federline marriage. She is however delighted by the results of the U.S. elections, but feels Australian Idol could do with some improvement. The G20 summit seems like a riot. Nico gets contact lenses, and sees what a waste of time her blogging is.

There's a sense of renewed hope and vigour in the Australian Labor party... again...as the Rudd Gillard leadership team takes charge. Nico hopes they don't fuck it up, and so does everyone else. Nico does her bit to improve society's punctuation. The world is still a very strange place. Nico reflects that 2006 is ending in an almost identical fashion to that which it began. Xander is just looking forward to having her home for a while.

Well, that's all we have to say about that. We'll be on hiatus (mostly) till the New Year, so see you next year!

Monday Follies...and A Favour To Ask

18 December 2006

Monday Follies? Well, although it may cause the time/space continum to collapse, we all need something to get us through the last tough week before Xmas.

So go check out the
Poligoths. Quite tremendous.

Then the Onion presents
Xmas gifts you really don't want from your comapny and slogans you hope not to see when doing that last minute shopping.


All right, now the favour. (You didn't think you'd get something for nothing now, did you?

There's a number of collections of "best blog posts of 2006" being put together right now. I wouldn't get on anyone else's list, but in the spirit of the Xander and Nico Pod, I'd like to slap together a half-assed collection of my own...so if there's any posts this year which particularly tickled you, leave a comment and I'll post a list of the best five or so. Of course, finding your favourite posts, may be a challenge as, being a Luddite, I'm refusing to make the switch to Beta and thus have no tags, but hey, the archives are there and nothing good ever came easily, right?

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

14 December 2006

*Tumbleweed blows past*

Yes, the Pod's been pretty quiet lately. A lot of blogs are right about now. That's usually because their owners are on hiatus. One surfs over to a blog last updated in late November, and imagines its writer merrily trimming a tree in a cosy room beautifully lit by a crackling fireplace, whilst rosy cheeked children look on with delight; or else on holiday, floating on a lilo in a resort swimming pool, thinking "My blog? The hell with that."

That's not the case with me, I'm afraid. I have bloggers block. Now, as you have probably worked out by now, I don't work very hard on my blog posts, but that's because for the better ones, the idea will pop into my head at random, shortly followed by a few witty remarks, and all I have to to is transcribe it and pad it out a little.

But that hasn't happened recently, and I blame Christmas. Apart from the fact that it's socially acceptable to drink a lot more than usual, there's not a single thing about Xmas I like. I wouldn't mind if the rest of the world would just let me ignore the whole thing, but they won't. Everywhere you turn, from decorations in the shops to strangers on the bus asking what your plans are, Xmas is shoved down your throat (and not a good shove, with eggnog, which no one in Australia really drinks anyway).

I often think that Christmas is massive case of society kidding itself. Xmas is a hard time for many people. I'm not just talking about the obvious ones, like the homeless and the recently bereaved, but also the parents adding up the bills and wondering how the hell they're going to pay for their kids presents; the recently seperated couple who have to play happy families at the extended family gathering; the people who have lots of friends but no one close enough to spend the big day with...but the thing is, no one will admit it. Everyone puts on a happy face and makes the appropriate noises. Even I do it. Normally these days I'm a pretty cheerful sort of person, but Xmas is a time of pretty acute misery for me...and I just can't explain it to anyone.

Wouldn't it be a lot more refreshing if everyone stopped pretending? If people stopped feeling obligated to visit family they don't even like much, to spend money they don't have, to act like everything's just delightful, because it's Christmas?

It won't happen though, and it probably makes everyone feel worse. Last night I had a phone conversation where we discussed Christmas, and by the time I got off the phone I felt drained and fractious and depressed (though that wasn't entirely because of Xmas). I would have sold Xander to Satan for a beer, but having been overdoing it lately I instead ate a whole packet of fruit and nut biscuits and went grumpily to bed.

So that's why no good posts are coming to me these days. Still, I'm sure I can throw together some lame year-in-review thing next week to tide me over till inspiration returns.

Another Of My Insightful Post's

11 December 2006

I sometimes feel as though I am waging a one-woman battle against the poor spelling, inaccurate punctuation, and general incomprehensibility that seems to be taking over modern communication. But I'm very pleased to report a minor, yet very personal, victory.

In my local shopping centre, there's a shoe repair/engraving shop which featured signs saying "KEY'S CUT". This used to send me into a lather of indignation. These weren't handwritten signs you understand, but professionally made signs someone had ordered and someone else had made up like this. I would pass that stand a couple of times a week, and every time I did a voice in my head would exclaim, "KEY'S CUT? KEY'S CUT!!! It's a plural, not a possessive!" I mean, key's what cut? Does key know you're cutting their stuff?

Then last weekend I was out shopping with some friends, who wandered over to the shop to look at possible christening presents. I followed, saying in a voice that was just possibly a tad too loud, "Oh no you don't! Look at their keys cut sign. Until they learn to punctuate properly they're not getting one red cent out of anyone!"

So I can't tell you how gratified I was to walk past the shop again yesterday and see that the offending apostrophes have been removed. The signs now read "KEY S CUT"
but I'm sure that will be rectified shortly. It's a great victory for anal retentives everywhere!

Anyway, I'm sick of hearing that spelling and punctuation don't really matter, that the basic message is what's important. Compare these sentences:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

I think we all know which is the truism here.

The Original Reality Television

06 December 2006

Idols may come and housemates may go, but the news remains the original and the best source for humour, stupidity and downright weirdness.

  • The new U.S. defence secretary has admitted the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq. The breakfast news commentary this morning went on to say, "This puts him at odds with U.S. President George W. Bush, who claims that he U.S. is winning in Iraq". For a flash of the bleeding obvious, I suppose the next big news story will be, "Defence Secretary Gates has admitted the Earth is not flat. As opposed to George W. Bush, who still claims the Earth is flat."

  • In yet another example of prima donna-like sports star behaviour, Matt Rogers is threatening to sit out the Rugby Union season unless the Wallabies release him from his contract so he can go back to playing league.
    What is with this man? He starts as a league player for NSW, then switches to Queensland. Then he dumps league altogther and plays rugby for NSW. Now he wants to retun to league. I'd hate to be married to him - one week he'd be saying he's gay, then running off with his high school sweetheart, then threatening abstinence unless you took him back. Thank god I only have normal relationships.

  • If it's not the news itself that is farcical, it's the way that it is presented.
    The "tragic showbiz story of the week" is the
    death of George Clooney's pot bellied pig. This has been in the top news stories in three different news bulletins I have seen in the past two days. Now as someone who knows what it's like to have a special bond with a pet, I do feel sad for Clooney - but come on people! This isn't news!

  • Lastly, the good folk at Club Troppo have added me to their blog roll. That in itself isn't what's so interesting, as the fact they've listed me as a Centrist (as opposed to a Leftist) blogger. This is a little bit of a shock to my perception of myself - sure, some of my views are changing as I get older, but my image of myself is Up With People all the way!!!

    What Do You Think?

    04 December 2006

    Yes, it's offical. Kevin Rudd is now Labor leader, defeating Kim Beazley 49 votes to 39. As Tony Abbott memorably put it, Labor has chosen the potential disaster over the proven failure. Or even more cruelly, as a wag commenting at News Ltd wrote, "Ladies and gentlemen, the deck chairs have been rearranged, and Ms Dion will now sing."

    I don't think it's as bad as all that, but I'm surely not the only one with a very bad feeling about this (see my previous post for why. In fact, while you're at it, see the posts from October 2004). All the talk of Newspoll results fails to impress me; after all, Labor's standing in the polls improved dramatically during the early months of the Latham leadership. There's only one poll that counts - the one that Labor always loses.

    It's hard not to feel sorry for Kim Beazley. All those years of work, all that effort and it repeatedly gets taken away from him as he's on the verge of...losing another election.

    Okay, I'm going to shake this pessimism. I'm going to rally behind the new Labor leadership, and hope we can focus on the most important task: defeating the Liberals. And I'm going to offer this advice to Rudd and Gillard, the best and only advice I have right now: For the love of God, please, don't fuck this up.

    It's Deja Vu All Over Again

    30 November 2006

    Here we are, it's nearly Christmas and ten months till the next Federal election. What does that mean kiddies? Labor leadership challenge!

    Well, maybe. Although Labor is ahead of the Coalition in the polls right now on a two party preferred basis, the erstwhile opposition leader Kim Beazley is having a rather unpleasant time of it lately. One might come to the uncharitable conclusion that his diet has left him so hungry he couldn't resist putting his foot in his mouth, but really, mistaking Karl Rove for Rove McManus was an astonishing faux pas - not only in itself, but for what it suggests. Polls are showing that voters would overwhelmingly prefer a Rudd/Gillard team to lead the Labor party. And although there are widespread grumbles in the Labor party that a leadership change is needed, supporters are coming out to announce their full confidence in Beazley, which means that things are looking very grim for him indeed.

    A seemingly unelectable Labor leader being replaced by the voters choice, the potential bright new hope. Yes, I remember back to Christmas 2003 as well. The thing is though, Kevin Rudd is no Mark Latham. Most would say that that could only be a good thing. Nonetheless, even his
    colleagues agree that Kevin Rudd has all the charisma and likeability of a cold fish (less, if that fish happens to be Nemo). That's not the problem though. I'm reaching the stage of despair at the election prospects of the Labor party, but I fear doing anything that might make it worse. There are many of us still scarred by the memories of the 2004 election loss, and I know I couldn't bear to see the same scenario acted out again. I guess I should stop living in the past, but that's exactly what another Coalition victory would mean.

    If there is a challenge, it will happen early next week, which is the last time the Labor caucus meets before Christmas. All we can do is wait and see - which is all Mr Beazley can do as well, even as he fears
    a challenge from Xavier Rudd.

    EDIT - Update Friday 10:15 am
    Kim Beazley
    has announced this morning there will be a leadership ballot next week, and Kevin Rudd intends to stand for leader. More news as it comes to hand. (I love saying that).

    So, Notice Anything Different?

    28 November 2006

    I can't believe none of you noticed! Okay, fine. After a decade of being bespectacled, I bit the bullet (bet you can't say that three times fast) and got contacts.

    There was no one single reason. I needed an eye test. I'm tired of glasses. And I can afford it now. So after putting it off for six months (that's nothing, by my standards), off I went to the optometrist. I was suprisingly unafraid, apart of course from my biggest fear - how the f**k much is this gonna cost me?

    Well, there's nothing to make one feel like an idiot like being unable to accomplish a task that children can manage - that Homer Simpson can manage! It took my poor, and exceedingly patient, optometrist twenty minutes to get the lenses in himself the first time. Then it took me an hour to do it myself under his instruction.

    Now, I'm not a very patient person. I get frustrated very quickly, usually throwing away whatever it is I'm trying to do, accompanied by loud profanities (and that's just me threading a needle). And if I'd been my optometrist I would have punched me. But he didn't. The punching was to come later, self-administered.

    It was Thursday night I was sent home with the lenses, to practice. An hour of practicing later, and I was in tears of frustration and had gotten nowhere (much like being a lefist these days). After phoning everyone I've ever met to complain, and get tips, I gave up and wondered if I'd just wasted all that money for nothing.

    By Friday after work though my determination not to lose a fair chunk of cash was renewed. This unfortunately did not translate into results. It was another 20 minutes of struggling, sweaty palms, frustration, and trying to remain calm knowing that to do otherwise would only make it worse (now I know how impotence must feel). I was on the verge of giving the whole thing up for good, when I looked skyward and said, "I don't know if you're up there...but a little help, please?"

    Now, I don't know what it means. But on the next try, both eyes...I got the lenses in.

    World Cup winning goals have been celebrated with less fanfare. Xander fled for cover as I ran through the house, whooping and cheering and generally making an idiot out of myself. I took a brief moment to give thanks for whom or whatever had just helped me, then rejoiced in the triumph of knowing I had gotten the hang of it; I was a contact lens wearer now.

    And I really do have the hang of it. I was told not to overdo it in the early days, so I just wore them for a couple of hours on Saturday, then for six hours on Sunday. Sunday though involved a trip to the beach (well, several beaches actually) and the wind and sand made my eyes a bit sore, so I thought yesterday I'd give it a break.

    This morning was the big one though: wearing the lenses to work. I had a bit of a hiccup, when I accidentally put the first lens on inside out. Putting a lens in inside out feels exactly the way you're afraid contact lenses are going to feel. My eye poured tears as I frantically removed it. I considered giving up for today, but took five and tried again, this time with success. I arrived at the office feeling rather chuffed with myself...and no one even noticed.

    Honestly, these people. I've worked here for four years, wearing glasses the whole time - and no one noticed their absence. Do I have to wear a pineapple on my head to get attention around here?

    Well, that's the entire saga of how I got my contacts. Up next - Nico returns to wearing make up (with glasses on, there never seemed much point). No, next I'll get back to writing about world affairs, rather than my own - just as soon as I get used to this (who knew the world is so bright?)

    The Follies That Pass All Understanding

    24 November 2006

    As I was hunting down the usual gang of idiocies for the Friday follies, I came across a story far more, well, folly-like: A 92 year old woman in Atlanta killed on Tuesday in a police-shoot out...after shooting three officers who were attempting to search her home for drugs (no, I haven't made this up!) A niece of the elderly woman said her aunt kept an old pistol in her house: "I don't know what kind and it was rusty but apparently it was working well".

    The elderly were so much better-behaved in my day.

    Rediscovering The Pool

    22 November 2006

    Yesterday afternoon, following an optometrist's appointment (of which much more anon) I was wandering the mall and feeling a bit low, so I decided to buy myself a little something to cheer myself up. I looked at some DVDs and clothes, but nothing really tickled me. Then as I was walking past the book shop I saw Lisey's Story, the new novel from Stephen King, on display. I hadn't even heard of it and certainly hadn't intended to buy it, but next thing I knew I'd handed over the money and was heading home with a carrier bag in my hand.

    As I've mentioned here before, I don't really read novels. I do have several fiction works which I re-read and enjoy very much; 1984, Pride and Prejudice, The House Of The Spirits...but when it comes to how long it's been since I sat down with a new novel to read, we're counting in years, not months.

    Anyway, I settled in with my new purchase. I was a little apprehensive reading the plot summary - it sounded, to be honest, like another Bag of Bones but with the genders reversed. (It also sounds worryingly like King was "writing for women" - and I'll only assume that he isn't, because a writer with his sales must know the market better than that).

    Then once I got a few pages in, I was hooked. It may have had something to do with the fact that in the opening scenes of the book, it's extremely hot and muggy - and so it was here, yesterday afternoon. Nonetheless, something took over me - the gotta of a good novel. It's different from reading non-fiction. I read non-fiction because I love it, I want to know more of the world and how it and people work - but let's face it, you always know how it ends, no matter how well it's written or how avidly you turn the pages. And there's more to it than that - not only do I want to find out how it ends, I'm enjoying the journey it's taking me on to get there. I read and read last night, barely glancing at the TV (I always have it on at night, if quietly - it's too creepy in my house otherwise), until I started nodding off as "Up-Late" came on. Then this morning, I even got up early to read some more, cursing when I came time to leave for work (sadly, the book is too large to fit in my laptop bag). I can't wait till I get home tonight and can pick up where I left off.

    How did I ever let this go? I must confess, I've actually held novels, and the people who read them, in a sort of low-level contempt - what good are they? What can you learn from them? Now I see it's not always about what you learn, that reading can be the simple pleasure of a journey somewhere magical, to the pool of words. And that can be a lesson in itself.
    One thing's for sure: I'm definitley going to do this more often from now on.

    From The Slime To The Ridiculous

    20 November 2006

    I must be psychic. Sure enough, the protesters made a huge kerfuffle at the G20 summit, and therefore no one knows what actually went on there. I was rather alarmed to see that the alleged leader of the student protest group is twenty-eight. 28! I can sort of understand why protesting might be appealing to a twenty year old, but frankly by 28, one should know better. What the heck is he doing at uni at 28 anyway? I suppose he might be a doctoral student. But I know a few doctoral students, and none of them are charging at police truck windows armed with crash barriers.
    Listen you lot: cut off your dreadlocks, wash your clothes, and go get jobs.


    The silly season is upon us again. Just as you know Xmas is on it's way when you see decorations going up in the shops, so when you start being bombarded with political propaganda, there's an election around the corner.

    It's just 124 days to the NSW state election, and over the weekend an independent candidate for my local seat parked a large promotional van for his campaign in the vacant block adjacent to my house. The region where I live is considered a safe Labor stronghold. Lately though, two state government ministers from the area have become involved in rather terrible messes. For legal reasons and the sake of decency, I'll spare you the details, but it's all badly damaged the Labor party locally and whilst the Liberals will never get a look in round these parts, for once independent candidates might have a chance.

    I feel a bit sorry for the NSW premier Morris Iemma. He seems like a decent enough sort of guy, but since he took over from Bob Carr mid-last year, his government has lurched from crisis to crisis, mostly crises not of his making. His ministers are acting up, the Cronulla riots and cross-City tunnel have become farcical, and NSW seems headed for a recession (the Australian economic "success" is being carried by the resources boom in Queensland and WA, whilst the NSW and Victorian economies play after-you down the toilet).

    Sympathy doesn't translate into votes though. I have little loyalty to the Labor party on a state level - I just want to know what's in it for ME. So I kept an eye on the candidate's van, thinking that when he returned to collect the thing, I'd go have a chat with him, just to find out what bang he could offer for my buck. It disappeared in the middle of the night, but I'm not put off. I've set myself a mission to talk to all the local candidates prior to the election, to find out just who is worthy of the Xander and Nico endorsement. Then on election day I will vote for the party with the most ludicrous name on the ballot paper. Because I know that no matter what the candidates tell me, as soon as they get elected they'll be droning on about What's Good For Families anyway. I'm not going to fall for it again.

    Out With The Old And In With The Nucleus

    19 November 2006

    Well, times change and bloggers come and go. So Xander and Nico would like to extend a warm welcome to the new members of our "blogs of real note" list at right. Some are funny, some thought-provoking, they all have something worthwhile to say. Visit them lots.

    The Confused Blogger's Guide To The G20 Summit

    16 November 2006

    So the G20, the group of the world's twenty leading industrialised nations, is having their annual shindig summit this weekend in Melbourne. But what's happening at the summit? Who is actually attending? What will they be discussing, deciding on? It's hard to make out. All the media coverage of the event is focusing on is the heightened security in Melbourne, and the protesters.

    The "heightened security threat" seems to be - can you believe it! - a media beat up. Seven news this morning made it sound like the whole Melbourne CBD is in lockdown, but a source on the ground speaking exclusively to Xander and Nico said that, apart from an extra security guard or two in front of major buildings, there's very little that's different to normal.

    Meanwhile, the protesters are actually having the opposite effect from the one I hope they intended, by diverting attention from the real issues...whatever those may be. There must be few things a news producer enjoys more than fresh footage of protesters clashing with riot police. Even so, it's hard to discern what exactly the anti-G20 group are protesting against, though their
    official website lists such articles as "Wanted: Big Bellies" (hang on guys, I'm on my way); "Revolutionary knitting circle: a call to action" (as practiced by Maoists in the Chinese civil war); and an "Origami coffee table toy for stopG20" (if folding bits of paper changed policy, then people with nervous tics would be running the planet).

    No answers are forthcoming over at the
    G20 Homepage itself either. There's a welcome from Peter Costello, accompanied by a picture of him looking creepy (the man has only three facial expressions: creepy, smirking, and the creepy smirk), and a brief explanation that the G20 is a gathering of the Finance Ministers and bank governors from the relevant nations. So while the summit promises to be a haven of debauchery and excitement, what will actually go on there?

    One thing's for sure, John Howard won't be honouring the delegates with his presence. He's off to the
    APEC leaders conference in Vietnam. There are embarrassing shirts which need wearing, after all. According to The Age, this year "the APEC shirt will be the ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese silk tunic - with possibly a turban." Can't wait for the glamour shots.

    Now She Thinks She's A 1990s Stand Up Comic

    14 November 2006

    But seriously forks, what's with dontdatehimgirl.com? I mean, have you seen this thing?

    Basically, it's a site where women can post profiles and pictures of their exes, listing all the dastardly things they've done, in order to to warn future victims. The current affairs shows are up in arms over it, wheeling out psychologists who condemn the posters as vengeful saddos needing to get on with their lives (you'd think ACA, Today Tonight et al would love the site - it "names and shames", after all!). Anyway, with the usual rigorous quality control standards which we all have come to expect from the internet, it's a morass of slander, innuendo and (this is what really gets me) lousy spelling. Of course, there are utter bastards out there, but there are also vindictive people putting unwarranted profiles up with nothing to stop them. Okay, sometimes revenge really is needed, but using the internet seems pretty tacky. If one needs to get one's own back on an ex-boyfriend, they should do the classic, ladylike, dignified thing - slash his tires, preferably on a rainy day.

    Friday Follies - Special Edition

    10 November 2006

    America decides...what Australia will be doing in a year's time

    Us whining, cowardly, pinko liberals the world over are celebrating this week. Thanks to the votes of some Americans, the Democrats have swept to power in the U.S. I'll leave the analysis to those who care about that kind of thing, and get on with some election humour.

  • Enjoy some of the most "memorable" quotes of the election.

  • Of course, the best stuff comes from the Onion. So, as politicians sweep the elections, the Republicans are of course blaming their losses on Democrats (have a look through all the news briefs while you're there).

  • What better way to celebrate the resignation of Chicken Little Donald Rumsfeld, than with a great collection of Rumsfeld jokes, and the Time cover we've been waiting to see. Don't feel too sorry for the man though - I'm sure he can find a shoulder to cry on.

  • Then we move on to the unintentionally hilarious. Piers Akerman tries to convince himself that the election wasn't about Iraq, whilst Ann Coulter denies it was a victory for the Democrats at all.

  • Poor George Bush has taken a lot of heat for his quip that he would give new House speaker Nancy Pelosi the name of a Republican decorator for her new suite in the Congress. It's not very fair. He was just trying to be nice, and so am I. George, I've been buying books to read to the children I hope to have in the next few years, but I'll send you my copy of The Little Leftist's Pop-Up Adventures for those long meetings with Pelosi (hide it inside a briefing paper - she'll never know).
  • Consolation

    08 November 2006

    Okay, I'm feeling better now. I realise it's better for us all that they be happily divorced than happily married. Moving on...

    We're approaching the end of yet another year of Australian Idol. I'm so excited that...q 5e-y834]-6u8 bk;6j4b80 98hi4i074b09
    (Sorry, I fell asleep and went face down on the keyboard). This is the fourth year of Idol in Australia though, and they seem to be running out of ideas. Take the theme nights - what with viewers choice, Idol's choice, and whatever else they've come up with this year, there's been hardly any genre based theme nights at all. Allow me to make the following suggestions:

    Australian Idol Theme Nights I'd Like To See:

    • Boney M night
    • Songs from The Simpsons (I bet Bobby Flynn would've done something
      interesting with "We Put The Spring In Springfield")
    • Number Ones from the day the contestant was conceived
    • German Beer Hall Songs Night (With thigh slapping)
    • Idol...the failures (songs from former contestants which never quite made the charts)
    • Novelty songs
    • The music of Avril Lavigne

    What's that I hear? A voice saying, "End this post. No, I really mean it - end this post!"? Okay.

    Oh Gnoes!

    Britney Spears has filed for divorce from Kevin Federline. I'm in complete shock. They seemed like such a perfect couple. I thought they'd be together forever, but if they can't make it, what chance do the rest of us have? No wonder my generation is so terrified of marriage. You think the world is a wonderful place, then this happens. I don't know what to believe anymore.

    What Does A Leftie Do?

    06 November 2006

    We've all seen the jokes...

    Teachers do it nine months a year

    Painters do it on plastic sheets

    Photographers do it in dark rooms

    ...and so on. But are there any good lefty/liberal "do it" jokes? What do we do? The best I've come up with is "Lefties do it with indignation." Yawn. Or - "Lefties do it with everyone." Better, but not great. Anyone got any others? Please submit your suggestions in the comments - I'll put the best ones in a later post.


    Obviously today I was going to write a high-minded post about Saddam Hussein and the death sentence. But everyone else got there before me. It's hell being a lazy blogger. Interesting, though, that the verdict was announced in time for the last full news day before the U.S. midterm elections (oh, I'm sure it was just a coincidence).

    All Those Who Believe In Psychokinesis, Raise My Hand

    01 November 2006

    Well, it was Halloween yesterday, and I've noticed a new phenomenon: people in Australia now celebrating Halloween as a holiday. Far from bemoaning this example of the incresing encroachement of American culture, I really don't mind; anything which manages to hold off Christmas for a while longer has to be a good thing.

    For most people it's just an excuse to celebrate a holiday, and why not. But I was amused yesterday when a couple of people told me that they were going to visit psychics or attempting to contact dead relatives, since on Halloween, the boundaries between "us" and the spirit world are thinner than at any other time.

    Then I realised that they were serious.

    I don't really understand all that stuff. Tarot cards, horoscopes, palm reading - as a Cancer, I don't believe in it. But it's harmless enough. What does irritate me though are psychics.

    Often I listen to the radio before going to sleep at night, and once a week my local station has a phone-in show where listeners can put their questions to a psychic. And of course, the psychic always tells them exactly what they want to hear. A listener saying, "My father passed away three years ago, is he watching over me?" will be told, "Yes, I feel your father's presence with you very strongly." Anyone could give answers like that, "psychic" or not.

    For once, I'd like to hear a psychic say, "No, your father is far too busy having it off with Marie Antoinette in the afterlife to watch you and your husband arguing about the kitchen renovations." (That's another thing - 90% of the callers are female).

    The psychic magazine columnists are even worse. I saw this letter from a reader in one of the columns recently:

    Q: I've been single for a long time. I'd love to get married and have a family. Will it happen?
    A: The angels say you'll definitely find a loving partner and get married. [Well, the angels were hardly going to say: "Get used to McCain meals-for-one, because that's all you've got to look forward to".] Your angels have been telling you to get out and join a sporting team or take classes so you can combine health and pleasure. [That's a good idea for anyone looking to meet someone new, it doesn't take a psychic to figure that out] Your future husband is looking for a natural woman who is comfortable with herself, laughs easily and doesn't wear a lot of make-up [as opposed to all the men out there seeking a nuerotic, uptight, humourless woman who can't leave the house without spending two hours putting her face on].

    ...it went on for another few sentences, which I will spare you. You get my point - that response could apply to anyone (there's nothing specific, for example "Look for the man walking a large white dog", that a real psychic might be expected to come up with). And yet, I bet the woman who sent in the letter read the reply, jumped for joy and rushed out to enrol in an Adult learners' course. So what's the harm in that?

    The harm is, that psychics make money out of this nonsense. And the people who pay them money are, for the most part, vulnerable, desperate people. They're lonely, bereaved, worried - and willing to pay for any answers. When all they get in return is a psychic responding to cues and spouting vague generalisations, then that's not a good thing. Sure, there are psychics who believe in what they're doing - but there are other groups I could name who don't think that what they do is wrong either.

    I should just add, I'm not exactly referring to the small-time psychics, the woman who charges $40 for a reading in a local coffee shop, in this. They aren't exactly getting rich from it all and anyway, may in fact do their customers some good, simply by giving them someone new to talk to. My ire is directed at the big names - we all know who they are: the TV psychics who talk to the dead; the syndicated astrologers whose horoscopes could mean anything to anyone and others taken apart by Penn and Teller.

    Still, I'm not exactly letting the small psychic fry off the hook. They are still feeding off the publics' delusions in this stuff. That's why I'm going to start my own radio call-in show. For every question that I'm asked, I'll just pause, and then reply, "Computer says no..." It will be as useful as anything else they've ever heard from a psychic.

    Where Have All The Peace Freaks Gone?

    30 October 2006

    Last night I watched the Australian music industry awards - the Arias - and I must remember to get new batteries for the DVD remote. As I've said before, I don't really know modern music, so basically the artists last night were divided into those I don't know very well, and those I don't know at all. It was about as familiar as watching the Eurovision song contest, except without the amusement of seeing a blonde lurex-clad Swedish lass belting out "Loff me, don't liff me!" or two ageing Dutch hippies singing "Zip Zip Zip...Zap!"

    What there was instead was a mostly uncontroversial variety-style love-in. I may not know much about rock n roll, but isn't it supposed to be about... rebellion? And yet, even though we live in "these troubled times", no one referred to them in their speeches.

    Until Midnight Oil rocked up (and that term is used advisedly) as they were deservingly inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame. Followng tributes from Bono and silverchair, the band members spoke out against the Iraq war...and the fact that there is little protest music being released these days.

    This was pretty suprising to me. I mean, for all I know, most of the songs on the current Triple J playlist could be about capsicums, but you'd think there would be something, some slice of the music biz warbling about blood for oil and the subversion of democracy. But as the Oils said "God bless you, John Butler, but you shouldn't have to do it all on your own." They then went on to blame the Australian Idol phenomenon for this, but I think that's unfair (it was amusing though, considering this year's crop were sitting in the audience). The Idols are, mercifully, only a small part of record sales in Australia. Are people so apathetic these days? If I were a musician, I know what I'd be singing about, and it wouldn't be I Love You Baby.

    Funny moment of the night went unintentionally to Bernard Fanning, who is rapidly growing in status as a wanker of the first order. As he stepped up to receive his award, his first comment was, "Does this thing [the ceremony] have to go on for so long?"
    He waited for the cheers. Dead silence.
    Looking around awkwardly, he added, "I mean, seriously".
    More silence.
    And he made a quick decision to get on with thanking people.

    Still, none of the Idols actually won an ARIA this year, and best of all, neither did Ben Lee. So I guess the Australian music industry isn't in that bad a shape.

    Mea Culpa

    25 October 2006

    Sorry, I know I haven't been around much lately. Nothing's wrong, I'm just busy with my new job...and feeling a bit burnt out. Think I need a holiday, actually (I haven't had the chance since then, and now things are two months worse!) One way or the other, I'll get back to posting soon; I've got about 5 half-written posts saved that I've been too busy, frazzled, or not-funny-and-smart-enough to complete!

    That Was...The Week That Still Is

    20 October 2006

    We know in the hectic modern world, it can be hard to keep up with the news. Being the kindly and condescending sorts we are, Xander and Nico are here to help, looking back at the week that is (almost) past.

  • In the face of Australia's worst-ever drought, the Federal government has announced a $2 billion drought relief package for farmers. However, for the first time I can remember, people are actually criticising the aid, claiming unviable small farms should be left to go under. The government of course immediatley labelled these views "un-Australian". I'm inclined to agree with the critics though. After all, in any other industry, if you're business is untenable, you need to do something else. Why should farmers be any different?

  • World War...(what number are we up to now?) hasn't broken out over the North Korean nuclear test yet. But the U.N. has imposed sanctions, so it seems the global community is in "wait and see" mode. Also, things aren't going so well in Iraq (okay, so that's hardly news, but I thought I'd better stick it in there somewhere - no soldiers on trial jokes, please!)

  • The government's new media ownership laws were never going to be a good thing for media diversity, but I didn't realise how bad until the news that News Ltd (hiss!) have bought a stake in their main newspaper rival, Fairfax. At the moment, News Ltd papers support the conservative, whilst Fairfax is more left-wing (that's an oversimplification, but getting into the details is beyond the scope of this post). What are the chances News will allow Fairfax to maintain their independent views?

  • And finally...Choice magazine have presented their annual Shonky awards, for the top ten shonkiest products on the market. Only in Australia...(there was even an "Awards Ceremony" at the Art Gallery Of NSW!) Among the "winners" were a set of magnetic balls designed to be used instead of detergent in the washing machine to "knock" the dirt out of clothes; a ready to drink gin, tonic and lime that has no gin, tonic or lime; a robotic vacuum cleaner that merely re-distributes dirt on the floor; and...the iPod.

    No Friday Follies...I figure, if you're in to funny web phenomena, you'll know where all the good stuff is already. But some tremendous news ahead of the weekend; Smirnoff have released a
    black cherry vodka. Now if only it was available in Australia, I'd be a happy, happy woman. (If anyone reading this knows someone who's returning from overseas soon, perhaps they could keep an eye out in the duty free?)
  • Xander Says: I Guess I'll Have To Post Myself

    18 October 2006

    What's a cat to do when his Mum is too busy to post? Sit in the sink! Honestly, I'm not used to having to do things for myself, but Mum is hardly ever home lately, and when she is, she complains about how busy she is...

    Mum's never home because she's "at work", and apparently her new job is really hard. At least, that's the impression I get from when she returns in the evenings, lies down on the kitchen floor, and moans "I've had the day from hell" ...every single day.

    She's also stressing about buying a house. I don't know why it's so hard. Normally when Mum buys a house, it only takes a few seconds, but then she starts to lose, throws a tantrum and shoves the Monopoly board away. Maybe this time she's worried abut being sent to jail?

    But what's really bad, is she doesn't buy drinks any more. Well, she still buys cheap drinks, like juice, but she won't buy the fun drinks, like green apple vodka. I miss it, Mum was fun when she'd had a few drinks. It's no fun not having drinks.

    So I have a Mum who's not even at home most of the time and cross when she is here. If things don't get better soon, I'm putting myself up for adoption.

    We're Only There Because We Love Them

    16 October 2006

    Suprise, suprise - Australia's Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has once again popped up in the news to re-state the Howard Government's position that Australian troops won't be leaving Iraq as long as they are in power.

    Almost everyone else is at least considering leaving. Even, Tony Blair now says
    he agrees with a call for UK troops to withdraw soon. As for the other members of the Coalition Of The Willing - well, you can see for yourself that most of them seem to have given it up as a hopeless business.

    But not Australia. The Government hangs stubbornly, grimly on to the idea that staying in Iraq is the right, the only thing to do. Well, they have to say that don't they. They can't admit that they were wrong, and they certainly won't say to the U.S. "Thanks, but we're gonna call it a day."

    Instead they keep feeding us, the Australian public, lines - they might even believe them themselves. One of the most frequent ones we here is, "An Australian troop withdrawal would be a great victory for the terrorists!"

    Yes, I can picture it now, in a terrorist "safe house", somewhere deep in the bowels of Iraq. The jihadis (jihadists?) cracking out the hookah pipes and whooping with joy at the news of an Australian troop withdrawal. Noticing one of the terrorists partying particularly hearty, his blood-thirsty mates saying "Wow Ahkmed, we haven't seen you this happy in months!"
    And Ahkmed replying, "I have to admit, I've been feeling pretty dispirited lately. I was considering pulling out of the jihad and opening a shoe shop in Baghdad. But now that the Australian troops are pulling out of Iraq, all my enthusiasm has returned! Bombings, kidknappings - it's game on again! Woooooo!"

    Another line that's being spun is that an Australian troop withdrawal would be the worst possible outcome for the people of Iraq. Yes, I'm sure the average Iraqi does see that as a worst case scenario. So much more terrible than the lovely time the Iraqis are having at the moment, what with the latest casualty estimates of
    over 650,000 deaths since the 2003 invasion (even if this figure is exaggerated, I don't know many people who'd think that sizeable numbers of civillian deaths are a good thing).

    The fact remains, the Australian troops could leave tomorrow. It wouldn't make much of a difference to the Iraqis - on either side - and it would sure as hell make us a lot safer, even if the U.S. did shut us out of trade talks as a punishment for not doing as we're told. But it won't happen. Australia has become the Dr. Zoidberg of international relations - so pathetically greatful for attention, we'll do anything the U.S. asks of us. Well, I'm sick of it. My taxes may be paying for this, but I'll dust off that old cliche - Not In My Name.

    Of Tattoos and Grease and Bad Language

    13 October 2006

    There's something rarefied and special about a day off that a weekend just doesn't have. I think it's the sense of guilty pleasure - everyone else is at the office - but I'm not. The best pleasures are the guilty ones, after all...*takes surreptitious swig from vodka bottle hidden in desk drawer*

    Hic. Where was I? Well, although I've outlined a day at the office before, I've never described what I get up to on a day off. And as yesterday was, sadly, my Last Day Off, I thought I should do something to mark the occasion...

    So I left the laundry unwashed, the bills unpaid, and headed to the tattoo parlour. The tattoo on my ankle I had done last year (
    see it here), I've never been entirely happy with, as it wasn't really the design I wanted. I wasn't sure what could be done to fix it, but just decided to get the centre fillled with purple as well. It took the guy all of three minutes to do, and he said he felt bad for charging me anything, but he had to cover the cost of the needles, which is fair enough. They're very nice guys there, even if it's the place where Andrew Johns gets his tatts...

    I've been making a concious effort lately to eat better food. So, although what I wanted for lunch was the offspring of the glorious union betwixt cheese and bacon, what I had was wholegrain rolls stuffed with salad, with carrot and celery sticks on the side. (I was a devil though - I had some mayonnaise). So much for healthy food leaving one energetic though - I know I needed a nap. And Xander always does.

    It was probably as well that I had a healthy lunch, for when I woke up I went out to dinner with Vati and Babybird, and ended up ordering the deep-fried seafood basket...which had squid, scallops, prawns, fish cutlets...and a "wedge" of lemon the width of my fingernail. I know about the banana shortage, but I didn't know lemons were so scarce!

    Home in time to catch The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The adroit Mr Stewart has coined a wonderful new word: catastrofuck. He was using it to describe the situation in Iraq, but told us all we were free to borrow it, and I will. I could safely describe my personal life these days as a catastrofuck. It's funny how whenever my career is going well, my personal life goes down the toilet - as if it's a see-saw that tips either way to ensure I'm never entirely happy. Things are pretty terrible right now, and I don't know what to do about it, so I'll just work all the harder so I don't think about it. Still, there is a kind of comforting familiarity to it all...

    There's only one Friday Folly today.
    But you'll like it. It's from The Onion, after all.

    To Tech News Now...

    11 October 2006

    The big story this week is that Google has bought YouTube. Google paid $US1.65 billion for the company, far in excess of even the $US580 million which Rupert Murdoch paid for MySpace back in July.

    The thing is, only a few weeks ago, the tech press were falling over themselves to write off YouTube as an investment, citing the fact that YouTube is likely to face huge law suits, a la Napster, due to it's breach of copyright laws. Mark Curran even
    famously declared that "only a moron would buy You Tube".

    Now though, they're lauding Google's investment. Either the tech press are in Google's pocket, accepting pressure from Google not to run stories that affect the company's value...or they just like jumping on the "If Google says it, it must be good!" bandwagon.

    Seriously though, why can't I think of some innovative internet phenomena that would acquire a cult following, go mainstream, and allow me to sell it for millions? It wouldn't necessarily have to make any money - after all, it's hard to see how Google will recoup their investment from YouTube. They can't make that much money selling advertising space, and what else is there? Selling user subscriptions? They always work real well. No, you just need the visitor numbers, and worry about raising revenue later.

    So if anyone would like to help me out here, with an idea for the latest internet fad, please let me know. I promise when we get bought by one of the "big boys", I'll give you a generous percent of our multi-million dollar windfall!

    A New World Awaits

    09 October 2006

    North Korea has apparently followed through on it's threats and carried out a test of a nuclear weapon.

    Apparently, the test was carried out at 11:36am AEST - the same time as South Korean monitors detected a 3.58 magnitude seismic disturbance.

    There's very little information available at this stage. The North Koreans claim that there's been no radiation leakage as a result, but they did conduct the test on a Monday...and we all know how sloppy output can be on back-to-work Monday.

    Aside from any environmental damage that may result, the political implication of this are staggering. As John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.,
    said on Friday, “We think the main point is that North Korea should understand how strongly the United States and other council members feel that they should not test this nuclear device...And if they do test it, it will be a very different world a day after the test.”

    Will the U.S. invade if they know a country actually has WMDs? Will there be a mass exit from the Korean peninsula? Would sanctions have any effect, or is it too late? Are you getting sick of rhetorical questions? I don't know, but we may have much to fear in the days ahead.
    06 October 2006
    The Five Hundreth

    Xander says: When Mum asked if I would contribute a few words on the occasion of the Pod's 500th post, naturally my first question was: "What's in it for me?" And she asked if I'd like to start getting my own meals and cleaning up my own messes. So, I'm taking time out from my busy "shedding winter coat all over the house" schedule to thank all of you who've dropped in to read this, left a comment, and - which is the most important - remarked on how gorgeous I am. (It's all the beauty sleep I get).

    It's true. 500 posts. Which is pretty respectable, considering when I started this thing (990 days ago, to be precise) I thought I'd get bored with it after a few weeks.

    So where have we gone since we started? Well, it was nearly three years ago, so obviously I'm a few months older than I was back then. This blogging thing was such a novelty, and I wasn't sure what to do with it. But I do know I was addicted - in the early months sometimes I posted several times a day (and I didn't even have a commenting feature then!) The blog used to be more personal - heck, in the first year I even posted memes!

    More recently, I've given the Pod over to more of my political and social observations. Mostly because, honestly, after all this time I think I've said everything there is to say about myself. Also, it's just what interests me right now. It will probably change, because that's where I'm at in life. I remember when I was young, thinking that by the time I was a proper grown-up, I'd have my life sorted. It was a bit of a shock to read Bridget Jones' Diary and realise that this might not be the case. Then I really did become a proper grown-up, and proved it. I'm as confused, vauge about my goals, and unsure what to say or do, as I've ever been (worse, if I have a hangover). Luckily, I think early senility is starting to creep in, so I really don't care.

    Still! This is no time for my lame amateur philosophy. (If you want lame amateur philosophy, watch George Bush "interpret" the Geneva Convention.) For me, it's time to celebrate the two major achievements that have come from this blog: that I get to write and people can read it, and that it's something I've stuck with longer than almost anything else I've ever done. So what would be an appropriate celebration? Well, I could do a shot for every post I've published, and die of alcohol poisoning. Or I could do a shot for every post that is funny or makes sense...sobriety awaits.

    And thanks to you all for reading this.
    04 October 2006
    ReD Dwarf Fans, Rejoice!

    Last night, I saw a story on the news* about an interesting new technological development; computer-generated digitised personalities which appear through a user's digital television, a post-millenial update on
    Max Headroom (whom my generation may remember as that vaugely scary guy from Saturday morning TV).

    The primary motivation behind this is the idea that they could serve as companions to the elderly, disabled and otherwise housebound. Of course, this is a very worthwhile ambition, but as a Red Dwarf fan, my initial reaction was far more selfish. It would mean I could finally achieve one of my long-held dreams - and I don't mean make sweet, sweet love to Rimmer in his red gingham dress. No, I could have my own
    Holly in my house! (Norman Lovett version, obviously).

    Aside from it just being awesome to have a Holly for its own sake, think of the possibilites! I would be elevated to the status of goddess amongst (wo)men. Receive answers to any questions that ever occurred to me on the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, all those song lyrics that pop into my head that I can't quite place. And I'd never have to turn the house upside down looking for my keys again. Anyway, aren't I entitled to some companionship too? Xander's a great cat and all, but not much of a conversationalist, and all attempts to play chess with him have ended with him running away with the rook in his mouth.

    It's occurred to me whilst writing this, that it says something rather worrying that of all the digitised companions I could possibly have - anyone I could have in my house, to look at whenever I wanted - I'd choose Holly. Well, that's the kind of sad geek I am.

    (Sad, lazy geek - I'd want a couple of scutters too. I'd give them time off to watch Westerns, though).

    *It was on the Channel 10 news, and Channel 10 unfortunatley doesn't have an online news service. Despite over an hour of searching everywhere from Rueters and the BBC to Slashdot, I couldn't find another reference to the story. So no link, but the important thing is that I didn't make it up.

    Friday Folly Your Brains Out

    29 September 2006

    It's a long weekend 'round the Xander and Nico way, so here's a batch of follies to keep you going until we return and you don't have to think for yourselves anymore.

    From Overheard in New York: you try these one-liners!

    Blockbuster getting really desperate for custom these days

    The guys on the treadmills (for both the people who haven't seen it yet)

    Engrish isn't limited to Japan

    If like me, you are addicted to lip balm,
    help is here

    Then no wonder people stayed virgins for longer back then

    Truth in blogging...

    classic Overheard at the beach to celebrate the approaching summer.

    See you when I can be bothered getting up off the bean bag!

    Let's Put This Behind Us

    28 September 2006

    Being as how I'm too old, I never got to blog as a teenager. But imagine an adult's post, written by a teenager...

    AAAGHH! I had the WORST day at work today. The day started badly because I looked in the paper and the prices of all my shares had dropped and I was sad :( So then I get to work and my boss was all, "Have you finished your preliminary budget report yet?" And I'm like "Yeah, yeah, I'm nearly finished! LAY OFF BITCH!" Went to cafe for lunch and had risotto which was yummy. But performance reviews are coming up and I am freaking!!! I hate this office, I can't wait till I'm more experienced then I can leave and go somewhere better they won't nag me all the time.

    I went shopping for a bit. I bought a new pair of shoes. Even though it seems like my credit card statement yells at me when I buy new stuff. It was worth it they are SO gorgeous with a patent upper and great arch support. I looooove patent leather!!!

    I miss all my friends. They're so busy with new husbands and babies and never have time for me. But some of us are going to the theatre on Saturday. So much cam whoring.

    No one cares what I say. So I shall go...

    ...The End.

    We Can All Be Greatful For The Silence

    26 September 2006

    According to a recent news story, several prominent Australian musicians are refusing to go to Iraq to play for the troops there. Pete Murray, the Whitlams, and Augie March are amongst those who say they won't perform Christmas concerts for the troops in Iraq, as they don't agree with the war. Even Col Joye, an entertainment industry veteran who performed for the troops in Vietnam, refused to go to Iraq, saying, "Sooner or later you have to stand up and say what you think. In Vietnam, we didn't know any better." Meanwhile, the Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has chided the musicians for not being able to seperate the politics of the war from the sacrifices being made by the troops.

    Well, it's not this story itself that's especially interesting. I won't describe the Australian contingent serving in Iraq as tokenistic (not this time, anyway) but there are only
    450 Australian soldiers on the ground in Iraq at present. So the issue of providing entertainment for them is not exactly major, especially since I'm sure the US happily invites the Australians along to their own USO shows.

    What's amazed me is the silence from the right wing columists on this one. Sure, Mark Latham has a new book out, so they're busy
    gleefully denouncing it. And I do understand that most right-wingers find it pretty much impossible to think about more than one thing at a time. Still, I would have expected the conservative bloggers (or con-bloggers, for short) to be all over this like Piers Akerman with the News Ltd expense account during a long lunch. Imagine the invectives they could come up with for the recalcitrant performers - "Cowards!" "Un-Australian!" "Chardonnay-sipping elites!" "Boycott them!" You know, they same drivel the cons come out with for all those they disagree with.

    But nothing. The few comments I've read generally agree with the stance the musicians have taken. As for myself, generally my feeling is it's up to the individuals to decide what they want to do. (Which is my opinion on more issues than just this). What if I were asked to perform for the troops in Iraq? Maybe they need someone to display an exciting new variation on stand up comedy - "fall down comedy". Though I'm sure the novelty of the sight of myself repeatedly tumbling over would tire quickly for a sober audience.

    Still, I have to admit I felt a little uneasy when I read the story, though I couldn't pinpoint just why. Maybe it's because I actually have more experience of military service than of attending concerts. Maybe because I think it is possible to disagree with the war, and still entertain the troops -
    Al Franken has been to Iraq twice. Maybe the unease was simply reading about the Australian "entertainers" who have been to Iraq so far - Lee Harding (the punk Wiggle) and Bessie Bardot (well, the troops probably would have liked that). Come on, Pete Murray, Tim Freedman - the troops over there knew they'd endure soaring temperatures, uncomfortable conditions and being shot at, but they never agreed to being forced to hear "Wasabi"! Go play them some real music!

    Give A Little, Get A Little

    25 September 2006

    Well, eagle-eyed readers may have noticed we've had a slight face-lift around the Pod. I won't be doing another major overhaul for a while, but I did want to freshen the place up a bit. (Also, I've always wanted a userpic where I look rather aloof and mysterious).

    So to mark the occasion, I'm borrowing an idea which I saw on another blog and just had to swipe for myself: ask me anything time! Put any questions (well, almost any questions) you have for us in the comments, and I'll post the answers on Thursday. Whether you want to know more about Xander and Nico, or you just want help with your homework, this is your chance.

    A New Day Dawns...Much Too Early

    21 September 2006

    Of all the things that have been annoying me lately, burglar alarms is the one really getting me into a lather.

    Barely a week goes by that I'm not woken up at 4am at least one morning by an alarm in one of the commercial buildings nearby. It usually lasts at least an hour and destroys any chances of getting back to sleep (not least because the sound of the alarm sends my cat into a frenzy).

    What on Earth is the point of having a security alarm on a property anyway? I doubt that it has every actually stopped a burglary. When was the last time you heard a security alarm and thought "Goodness me, there must be a break-in taking place. I must go at once and apprehend the scoundrel"? No, if you're like me, the only reaction you'll have is to scream "TURN OFF THAT FUCKING ALARM!" and pull a pillow over your ears in the vain hope of muffling the god-awful noise.

    Or you might go one step further. I haven't seen any statistics on this, but I wouldn't be suprised if the majority of break-ins were, in fact, people just trying to get into the building and shut off the damn alarm.

    All the alarm can do is notify the security company of the possible intrusion. And I really mean that's all it can do. One night, driven to distraction at 3am, I called my local police station to report an alarm which had been sounding for over an hour. The nice officer on duty explained to me that they'd had a lot of complaints, but that the security firm had been notified and was on the way. But the police weren't going to go and investigate if there had been a break-in themselves..!

    Anyway, when the alarm is triggered, the security company is notified automatically, so what is the point of all that whoop-whoop anyway? Just have a silent alarm, and then there's no risk of the having windows smashed in by irate residents. Then we can add burglar alarms to a list of banned noise pollutants, which will also prevent Paris Hilton from ever releasing another single.

    The Illustrated Guide To...

    19 September 2006

    Skittles Vodka!

    "Hey Apu, have you got any of that beer with candy floating in it? You know - skittle brau?"
    "No, but this is better!"

    In time to get it ready for the weekend, here is my so-easy-a-drunk-could-do-it (which is kind of the point!) guide to making your own, fabulous...skittle vodka!

    You will need a 700mL bottle of vodka and a 250gram (share-pack size) packet of skittles, another empty bottle, a funnel and a tea strainer.

  • Start by pouring out about 1/4 of the vodka, to make room for the skittles (you might at this stage want to do a quality-control taste test of the vodka). Then, put all of the skittles except for the green ones, into the bottle (the green skittles will turn the skittle vodka brown).

  • Then give the bottle a good shake to get the colours to mix, and leave it to stand. Over the next few hours, the skittles will slowly start to dissolve.

    After three hours

  • Over the next two days, the skittles will dissolve, and the sugar will form a thick scum on the top.


    Your skittles vodka is almost ready when there are no traces of skittles on the bottom of the bottle.

  • All that's left to do now is remove the sugar scum from the vodka! The easiest way I've found to do this is put the bottle in the freezer for a few hours. Then, place a funnel inside the neck of a clean empty vodka bottle, and put a tea strainer inside that. Then pour the chilled skittles vodka through the funnel into the empty bottle. The frozen sugar scum will be filtered out.


    Time now to enjoy! Try doing it in shots, or having in a highball with soda water (it is much too sweet to mix with lemonade - I even think so, and I have three sugars in my coffee). You could even try adding gelatine to make skittles vodka jelly - now there's an idea for next time...
  • I Don't Know How Much Longer I Can Keep Complaining!

    18 September 2006

    Well, I've had the weekend from hell.

    Recently I decided the time has come to move house. Call me precious, but I've reached the stage in my life where I want a house that doesn't threaten to fall over every time I sneeze. So last week I put in an application for a place that's just perfect; affordable, quiet leafy street yet close to where things are happening, and best of all, only 50 metres from Boof and Funky's house! (For some reason, they're not so keen). But I haven't heard back from the real estate agent yet, and the place was advertised again on Saturday. *Sigh* Back to the search...

    Then there was the football on Saturday night. Yikes. Watching the Knights get steam rolled 50-6 by the Broncos, the second-worst defeat in finals history, was a truly horrible experience. It was like an eighty-minute, slow-motion car crash you just couldn't stop looking at. All the commentators remarked how sorry they felt for the players. The players? It's all right for them, they can get a transfer to North Queensland and the next time we'll see them is when they're running at the Knights try line next season. What about us poor saps who are stuck here? There's not a lot to get excited about in Newcastle...

    To top it all off...I didn't win the $22 million lotto! After I picked up a lucky coin, my horoscope predicted a win, and I even bought a ticket! Everyone is going to have to wait a little longer for the cars I've promised.

    So, I ran a big, fat 0 for 3 on the weekend. And it wasn't quite over yet. This morning I got up - very tired, as Xander has taken to sitting under my bed at 4am and clawing at the mattress through the slats, which is as annoying as it sounds and can't be good for the mattress - to see that Manchester United had lost to Arsenal overnight.

    Nevermind. We all need times like this to make us appreciate the good things. Next weekend will be better.

    The Ten Point Plan For A Better Australia

    13 September 2006

    From the "silly" files...Kim Beazley has copped a lot of flack from all sides for his proposal that everyone who visits Australia would have to agree on their visa application to respect Australian values whilst they are here. Merely obeying Australian laws is not enough. Tourists would also need to agree to show respect for women, tolerance and mateship.

    Now, I do believe that those who wish to settle permanently in Australia need to make an effort to integrate and respect our way of life. But how does making visitors agree to this help us any? How would it work anyway? Nearly five million foreign visitors come to Australia each year. Who is going to monitor whether they're respecting Australian values? Imagine a situation where the "values police" board a tour bus and pull a guy off, saying to him, "Whilst in Australia, you've been keeping to yourself and not making friends with the rest of the tour group. You're not displaying 'mateship', as you agreed to do on your tourist visa application. Therefore, we're going to have to deport you."

    And Australia would become an international laughing stock.

    I have
    written previously about the difficulty of defining Australian values. The Chaser has solved the problem, with a proposed Australian values statement:

    I promise during my visit to Australia that I will:

    1) Respect other cultures if completely assimilated into Australia's own

    2) Respect for other religions as long as they're not fundamentalist (except Christianity)

    3) Respect for Australian institutions such as Don Bradman, Phar Lap, Steve Irwin and Peter Brock

    4) Respect Australia's democracy unless I have a Senate majority

    5) Respect the equal treatment of women, except when depicted in Ralph, FHM and ZOO. I note note that 'equal' does not extend to pay, hiring policies, seats in parliament or adequate childcare facilities.

    6) Respect hard work, especially when directed towards avoiding tax

    7) Respect Australia's Laws, and also its Jones and Mitchell

    8) Respect Australia's armed forces no matter where America may deploy them

    9) Respect Australia's parliaments, except the 'fun-sized' NT and ACT parliaments which no-one respects

    10) Above all respect Australians' most important value – the value of their mortgage repayments

    On a serious note though, if Beazley wants to regain "middle Australia", he's not going to do it on issues of national security (my polite way of saying, pandering to people's fears). The Democrats trying to be the Republicans didn't work in the USA, and Labor trying to be the Liberals hasn't, and isn't going to, work here. Labor needs to concentrate on where it can gain ground; the issues that affect peoples day-to-day lives, like the IR laws. We're just over a year away from the federal election, and I don't want my afro-wig run to be on hold for another four years...

    2,996: A Tribute To Yvonne Kennedy

    11 September 2006

    Yvonne Kennedy, of Sydney, Australia, dedicated her life to helping those who needed her. She was volunteered for the Australian Red Cross between 1976 and 1990, for which she recieved the Australian Red Cross Service Award in 1986.

    After her husband Barry passed away in 1990, Mrs Kennedy took up the role of NSW State Coordinator of the Voluntary Aid Service Corp (VASC) for the Australian Red Cross, recieving the service's State Distinguished Service Award on May 8, 2001. Shortly after, she retired aged 62, following 25 years of service to the Australian Red Cross.

    Mrs Kennedy then took a well-earned retirement tour of the US and Canada. Whilst in North America she got to experience things she'd always wanted to do, such as white water rafting - "Pretty amazing for a 62 year old woman", as her son said at the memorial service. On Friday 7 September, she sent an email to a friend to let her know she was returning from "a wonderful trip".

    On the morning of Tuesday September 11, she boarded American Airlines Flight 77 at Dulles Airport, Washington, bound for Los Angeles, on the first leg of her trip back to Australia.

    We can only imagine what Mrs Kennedy was thinking that morning; probably sadness that her trip was coming to an end, but no doubt looking forward to getting home and seeing her beloved family again.

    Sadly, that was never to happen.

    Mrs Kennedy should have been able to deservedly enjoy her retirement years with her two sons, Simon and Leigh, and her grandchildren. Instead her life was horribly taken that day along with 2,995 others. I have paid tribute to her life so that we might remember the enormity of what the world lost that day.


    My huge thanks to Krista at Purple Orb for producing the illustration for this post, and to all the others who have helped with this tribute.

    You can find more tributes remembering those lost on Spetember 11, 2001 at
    The 2,996 Project.

    Making Plans For O.J.

    07 September 2006

    If you were greivously wronged...how far would you go to get some sort of justice? Recently Fred Goldman, the father of Ron, who was murdered along with Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994, filed a lawsuit seeking to gain O.J. Simpson's publicity rights, as Simpson has never paid the damages awarded against him in the wrongful death case.

    Ostensibly, this is so Mr Goldman can receive the monies from O.J.'s public apppearances. But just think. If Mr Goldman wins the case, he could use O.J. Simpson's image for...anything.

    If it were me, I wouldn't be able to resist the comedic possibilities of this. Nor the chance to get a little revenge. I'd start by putting O.J.'s face to a line of butcher's knives. Maybe launch the O.J. law firm, specialising in defending people accused of sex offences. The latest SUV, "The O.J." 100% guaranteed (as opposed to 90% guaranteed, for regular SUVs) to roll on sharp turns.

    I wouldn't stop by making O.J. "endorse" undesirable products, either. I'd use recordings of his voice and mix them to produce rap songs where O.J. admits to all the sins of the universe.

    And I was going to suggest lifting O.J.'s digital image and inserting it into really, really crappy films. But the crappy film thing has been done, by the man himself.

    Does anyone have any other ideas?

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