Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Signs of the times

I recently saw these two signs:





The first is plastered on the window in London Court and I have to wonder if the State Government (or whoever regulates Secondhand licences) was being a little ambitious when it comes to their licencing number scheme. Was it really necessary to cater for just shy of a billion possible licence holders?





The second picture is boldly displayed on a furniture store in Osborne Park. It left me wondering:

Is this the place where furniture goes after it has died?

Analogy

I like a good analogy as much as the next anthropoid, but sometimes journalists go a little too far in their superlatives.

Raising Women's IQ Where It Matters

Odd Spot #57:
A snail can sleep for more than three years.


"So," Skribe said. "If a woman slips one of these pieces of trivia into a conversation, that means she's unavailable?"

I nodded glumly. I mean, sure, perhaps some women use Odd Spots as a verbal code to denote that they're internally redecorating, and it's entirely possible that some women actually find these factoids enlightening, but not me.

Odd Spot #96:
Althaiophobia is a fear of marshmallows.


Perhaps I'm just over-reacting a little. Just another hyper-sensitive female. I guess I can't help being a little curious about what Libra are going to print next on those little throwaway adhesive strips - great sex scandals from history? Beauty tips? Christmas cracker jokes? What do women really need to know during that time of month? I think I'm going to have to include one of these with every post, see if I can collect the whole set.

Odd Spot #58:
During a kiss, as many as 278 bacteria colonies are exchanged.

Monday, November 29, 2004

ToxicPurity Reviews Team America: World Police

Short Review: WATCH THIS FILM! FUN-NEEEE!

Longer Review: The very instant I first heard about this film I knew it would be funny. The guys who created South Park, satirising America's War On Terror, with marionettes.

Not since Peter Jackson's Meet The Feebles (1989) has there been an R-rated musical action-comedy puppet film like this. Or ever, come to think of it. It has been described as an equal opportunity offensive film. It has a plot loosely based around a conspiracy by Kim Jong Il to use the Film Actors' Guild (F.A.G.) to destroy the world. Never mind, it's not important. It has the single most explicit sex scene you are ever going to see outside of a porn flick, and which you will be able to watch with your loved ones. (And remember, it was the sex scene they had to re-cut nine times before the censors were placated; the decapitations, maulings, and assorted bood and gore of the violence was okay, but puppets performing fellatio was a no-no.)

Skribe and I scored a double pass to the preview screening tonight at Greater Union Innaloo thanks to the wonderful folks at Flicktease, and I can honestly say this is the funniest film we've seen all year. Probably the funniest the rest of the audience had seen, too, judging by all the laughter, groans, and applause.

From the opening sequence which introduces Team America and leading to the accidental destruction of the Eiffel Tower and the Arch of Triumph, to the unrepeatable inspirational speech at the end, this film just kept topping itself. You will laugh as the over-zealous Team America blows up half a city to kill one terrorist, you will groan as Gary pukes on and on and on, you will leave the cinema humming Kim Jong Il's song "I'm So Ronery".

South Park purists may bitch that the film has recycled some of the gags and even a song from the cartoon series, but they're missing the point. Team America is supposed to be a pastiche of bad over-the-top action flicks; it's devouring its own genre as much as it's drawing on the body of previous work created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. If you can't laugh at yourself, if you aren't prepared to deal with parody, then don't see this film.

Astoundingly, Team America somehow manages to be both biting satire and (apparently) proudly patriotic at the same time, leaving one with the conclusion that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are among the very few USians who have mastered the fine art of irony. If that's not enough, you have to watch it for the sheer beauty of the production design and technical wizardry. This is beyond Thunderbirds, but it is also delightfully self-aware, and utterly ludicrously hilarious in true South Park mode.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone were right: sex, death, terrorism... is funnier with puppets.

I'm rating this 9 out of 10 instead of giving it the full 10, because the film-makers should have put in longer gaps between gags so the audience wouldn't keep laughing over dialogue and missing the next joke.

TIP: Stay til the end of the credits to hear Kim Jong Il's other song, which explains why he does what he does in the film, and why he therefore hates Alec Baldwin so much.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

QOTD

It's terribly important that people decide for themselves who are the terrorists and who are not. Governments that think that they can decide for their citizens are merely tyrants, and tyrants often fall when they become intolerable.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

QOTD

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

-- H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

Friday, November 26, 2004

QOTD

I am a very temperamental dish-rag.

-- ToxicPurity

Endings, Stallings, and Ringings

Today marks the end of assorted eras. Skribe and I actually set the alarm for six so we would hear all of Wil and Adam's farewell episode. I'm going to miss these guys. They've been my default morning alarm for so long I can't imagine what it will be like waking up to some one else's prattle. Sure, Wil and Adam have had their holiday replacements, usually some other Triple J hosts who may well own their timeslots but haven't a clue what wake-up radio really needs. When you're lying there resolutely ignoring the alarm and trying to hang on to the last shreds of sleep, you don't want pleasant, well-informed, and nice. What you want - what you need - is bizarre, bewildering, and probably obscene. At least, that's what it sounds like. At that time of your day, you need a reason to be dragged out of bed, and trying to work out if Wil just said what you thought he said, or whether there's any truth to the weird shit Adam has just shared with you about the funky world of higher mathematics... well, it was a wake-up routine that worked.

Still, Jay and the Doctor as the replacement hosts would be fun. It's already been listed in the Wikipedia so it absolutely has to happen now :)

Speaking of other endings, tonight marks the last episode of Burke's Backyard, or the end of ordinariness, as the Don would have it. Until I came to Australia, I could never have conceived of a gardening show as prime time television, and I will confess that for the longest time, while not exactly a fan of the show, it remained one of the few Channel 9 programs I would watch. Hey, on a Friday night, it was often the least idiotic thing on air. Hoo-roo, Don Burke. No doubt you will resurface on another channel. I mean, there's a gardening slot on the ABC now, isn't there?, and the George Negus show has gone, too. Ah, well. C'est la televisione.

On to things that matter, like learning how to drive like there's no driver in the car.

Noel sent me on a leisurely cruise up to Guildford and back, which helped my confidence on the roads no end. Then on Thursday, Noel sent me through the tunnel so I could learn to merge with traffic at 80k.

That was interesting. Almost metaphysical, in fact. For the half minute or whatever that I was screaming through the tunnel, trapped between a wall of concrete and a wall of trucks, fluorescent lighting throbbing epileptically overhead and no end in sight... it was like experiencing some weird haiku metaphor of my life - hurtling down some too-tight too-long tunnel too fast on overwatch and always one eye on the speedo and another on the trucks all around you and your knuckles whitening on the wheel and you're not thinking anymore - you just want out of there.

After that, we stuttered round the Scitech carpark and practiced reverse parking while not running over incidental groups of small children, then completely failed to hill-park in East Perth.

Not a good day all round, and my apologies to everyone who got stuck behind me at lights while I flailed with the clutch.

On the up side, I have a phone! yay! Well, yes, I had a phone before, but now it works! yay! And because a certain mobile phone service provider with a numeral for a name still hasn't figured out how to port over Skribe's number from his previous mobile phone service provider, we've scored free leather phone cases and a sizeable chunk of credit.

It is quite possible, if said unnamed mobile phone service provider keeps this level of service up, that it will result in them paying off our phones entirely. I can't think when I last applauded a phone company for being inept. Fingers crossed, I hope they keep this up :)

One point five

Day fifteen. The fifteenth day since you got your phone. It's twenty-eight days since this entire mad journey began.

You are still waiting. Three days ago you went to visit Stephen again. He spent several hours - yes, hours - talking to Three Customer Care on your behalf. Eventually he got a promise. One of the phones would be ported that day. The other would be ported within 24 hours.

If one is an optimist one might say that half-a-promise kept is better than no promise kept. But you are not an optimist. You're just fucking mad, because your best friend's phone was ported two days ago, and you're still waiting. At least you can console yourself knowing that every day of delay earns you and costs them $25.

Monday, November 22, 2004

AU

It's amazing how important those two little letters can be. Especially in a web address. For the Australian Idol winner. When you're making up full page newspaper ads that will be published across the country. Proudly supported by Telstra.

Instead they went with this address: www.caseydonovan.com.

I wonder if anybody noticed.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Plastic Fantastic

Yes, we all know that it's important to save the environment, and we all know that reducing plastic bag usage serves as a vital component to achieving that. However, Woolworths has gone a little too far in their diligence, don't you think?





And yes, this was taken with my phone.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Living In The Sixth Best Country In Europe the World.

The Economist journal has just published a poll listing the best (and worst) countries to live in, and Australia comes in at no. 6, the only non-European nation to feature in the entire Top 10. Yeah, I wasn't impressed either. Should've been no.1. Admittedly, if not for us, that Top 10 would have been the Ten Best Places In Europe To Live In.

So, what's it feel like living in the Sixth Best Country In Europe the World? Hmm... well, it's our day off, so that's always nice. Being in a position where we can have days off, that's even better.

Having shiny new phones that were last year's newest model in Asia is nice, even if our new service provider still can't port us over from our previous service provider. (Why is their company name a number, one is forced to wonder. What quantity of thing is being implied in their name? Weeks? Months?) But it is fun having a phone I can play my MP3s on, and take pictures with, and cruise the internet, and use as a really high-tech mirror..., real soon now, I'll even be able to use my shiny new phone to take calls with.

I've finished my first round of driving lessons! Wow. I can start at a red light without stalling. Mostly. I can change gears without the car making those horrible crunching, grinding noises. No more burnouts or kangarooing about the place. I can even concentrate on two things simultaneously while driving (speed + steering, steering + gears, gears + speed...etc). Next round of lessons, Noel's going to see if he can get me working on all three at the same time. I like Noel - he's such an optimist.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, according to that Economist poll, the very worst country you could live in is Zimbabwe. Frankly, that's reason enough for me to be happy to be living way over at this end of the alphabet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

1.9

Your phone has brought you much contentment, but you are still pissed at not having had your number ported across from your old service. So, during a lull in your day's activities you ring Three Customer Care (also known as Calcutta).

You get through almost immediately and you believe it is probably because you are using your new mobile to make the call. Now you know why it normally takes so long to be answered when using a landline. Landline calls only get their attention when all the Three mobile calls have been cleared. Or that's what you suspect.

The woman who takes your call asks you the usual details. You give them and then ask her when the numbers will be ported over. As usual she hums and hahs and hmmms as she reads the details off the computer screen.

Evidently, this is some sort of feminine mannerism that is prevalent on the subcontinent because every single one of Three's female customer service officers you've encountered on this zany journey has done exactly the same thing. Strangely the men don't.

She hmms a few more times and then calmly tells you that your contract has been cancelled. Yesterday. By someone named Tina. Now, you know that Kim cancelled the original contract the previous Wednesday - remember Adam checked that the following Thursday - so it can't be that one so it must be the one that you got from the Three store. You calmly explain to the woman that it can't have been cancelled because you have the phones and that you're using one of them to make this call. She is adamant. But so are you. Your manner seems to cast some doubt into her mind and she puts you on hold so she can check with her manager.

Moments later she returns with the same story. Someone named Tina has cancelled the contract. 'Where's the authorisation?' you ask her. She says that none was needed. 'Can you do anything about this? Can you reinstate it?' She's unsure and puts you on hold again.

Fortunately your first three bills are free because you're going to need it. She's gone a long time. You're tempted to hang-up and a small part of your brain is wondering if you've somehow managed to score two $700 phones for free. 'If Three come looking for them,' you reason, 'I'll point them in Tina's direction.'

Eventually the woman returns - this call has already lasted 16 minutes - and from there on it becomes a shouting match. Every time you say something the woman's response is that the only people that can fix the problem is the shop where you bought the phone. This really pisses you off and you hang up as she's mid-mantra.

You storm off to the Three store - where you bought the phone - hoping to catch Adam. 'Adam will sort this shit out,' you think. Instead of Adam you get Stephen.

Now, from previous experience you've decided that Stephen is mostly competent but Adam is better. Stephen proves you wrong. Stephen calls the service centre immediately. While he's waiting on hold you ask him if there is a Tina working at the store. 'No,' he replies.

A few queries and comments on the phone and Stephen has the problem fixed in no time. He even arranges for you to receive a bonus $25 credit for every day the number isn't ported. ON BOTH PHONES. He still reckons it could take until Monday for the numbers to be ported. But you don't care. At $25 per day per phone, you reckon you could wait at least until the middle of December without complaint. After all, that way you really would get the phones for free.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Two

The 96 hours have long passed and your phone numbers still haven't been ported over. You've been carrying around two phones now for the better part of a week and have found that there is at least one advantage to doing so - that you can listen to your 5 mp3 tunes on one phone and check the time on the other. You have forgone wearing a watch now for almost four years - it's so 18th century. However you still have an irrational fear that one day, when you have your tunes turned up loud, someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and point out that your other phone has been ringing for the past five minutes and could you please answer it. Of course the other irrational fear you have is that they'll both ring at exactly the same time.

By now you're starting to really get pissed at the level of customer service and so you ring up Goa to find out when the numbers will be ported. Strangely enough it takes less than five minutes to get through to a human being and so you're more than a little surprised when an unaccented female voice inquires about your problem. 'Maybe I have the wrong number,' you think. You decide to answer anyway and before long the woman has your record up on her screen and is reading the details back to you. You stress that the number porting is taking entirely too long and she agrees with you - although you do note that when she is placed under stress traces of a sub-continent accent peeks out. She says that she will have to have someone call you. You ask, 'In an hour, six hours, a day?' She answers that it will depend on the queue and that it will be between the hours of nine and five. You ask her, 'Is that Eastern, Western or where you are?' She ignores the obvious implication of your question and politely informs you that all times are Australian Eastern Standard Time.

You hang-up and go about your day. Half-an-hour later you receive a call. It is a woman. An Australian woman. From Three services. She mumbles and so it takes a moment to understand what she's saying. You get her to repeat it. 'I'm from Three Services and I'm ringing because you said you wished to cancel your contract.' You get her to repeat it a third time. Not because you didn't hear her the second time, but because you can't believe what you just heard and need further evidence of the Universe's vast practical joke that is your life. 'No,' you answer levelly, 'I just want my numbers ported over.' 'Oh,' she says, obviously taken aback. It sounds like she's pumped herself up ready for a fight and now that energy has nowhere to go. 'I'll call you back,' she says and hangs up before you have a chance to ask her when. She never does.

And so we enter Day Six...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

ToxicPurity's Favourite Odd Things This Week

Ever wanted to go hunting, but just couldn't drag yourself out of your armchair? Wished you could just point a remote control at the beastie and BOOM! It's dead? Well, these guys thought so, too.

The fabled lost continent of Atlantis has been spotted yet again.

They say that when dog bites man, it isn't news, but when man bites dog, that's news. Awwww.

According to experts, the biggest cause of computer malfunctions is human idiocy. They didn't quite put it so bluntly, but we all know someone who's dropped coffee/beer/cola all over their keyboard, or backed their car over their laptop, or stuck a fridge magnet to their computer, or....

Now, techies can add to their horror stories the one about the guy who stuck his hard drive in the freezer, or the guy who tried to flush his laptop down the toilet, or the laptop that was run over by a plane.

And finally, just in case you thought there was nothing of educational worth here, I present you with the true history of the Hello, Kitty vibrator.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

QotD

"If Yasser Arafat is dead, and the Middle East is in turmoil, how will we know?"

- Wil Anderson, on the Glass House

Friday, November 12, 2004

Three

It is Thursday and you realise that after 4 years you need to upgrade your phone. The battery is dying, the gaffer tape is coming loose and the sim card keeps popping out. So you go to your friend, who just happens to work as a communications agent, and you say, 'Kim', because that's his name, 'I need to upgrade my phone. The Sony Ericsson Z1010 and the $99 cap from 3 looks good. We'll take two. How about it?" One for yourself and one for your best friend - because under the $99 plan you can chat to anyone on the Three network for FREE.

Kim smiles and says, "Good choice," his irises forming tiny dollar signs, and then proceeds to deluge you with paperwork. An hour later you're finished and Kim leaves with this promise ringing in your ears, 'You'll have the phones by Thursday or Friday next week and the transfer of your number from Optus will occur on the following Monday.'

You wait anxiously, pawing over the small pamphlet Kim has left behind trying to imagine what it will be like to have your very own Z1010. The week-end rolls by agonisingly and then on Monday you get a call from a Three girl asking for some more details that Kim forgot to get. You give them to her without a thought and then ask her when the phones will be arriving. 'Thursday or Friday', she says. You agonise. You wait. Thursday eventually arrives. You sit by the door all day watching through the spyhole ready to assail the delivery guy when he arrives. You've waited an entire week, why wait the extra few nanoseconds it will take for him to actually knock on the door? Then, as the image through the spyhole dims you swear you're just developing cataracts rather than admit that the phones aren't coming today.

A sleepless night. The next day you are forced to go to work - yes your work week starts on a Friday. Get over it. Your mind is not there. You make mistake after mistake worrying about your phones and the journey you'll have to make out to the airport to retrieve them because the delivery guy missed you. 'Will I actually survive that long?' you wonder.

You arrive home from work and rush to the letter box. Bill. Bill. Spam. Spam. Spam. No message from the delivery guy. He must have left it behind the flyscreen. You race upstairs and throw the door open. Nothing. Not even after you've searched the mat, the meter box, the cat, the next door neighbour's cat. The phones are late. You call Kim, but like most telco guys on a weekend he's not answering.

If you thought the week before was agonising then the weekend teaches you a new definition of pain and suffering. You want your phones. You need your phones. You sit in the corner, rocking back and forward, repeating 'Z. 10. 10. Z. 10. 10." for two days and three nights.

Monday. 8am you're on the phone to Kim. 'Good business men should be awake at 6. 8 is a decent hour', you reason. No answer. You call Three. You wait for 30 minutes on hold and then are put through to the call centre in Lahore or Mumbai or Chennai to speak with a girl named Brooke - or at least that's what you think she said her name was. The accent is a little hard to decipher and you have to keep fighting the urge to mention the Australian cricket team. You want your phones and now is not the time to antagonise the person most likely to get them to you.

Brooke takes your details and you can hear her entering them into the computer. She hums. She hahs. She hmmms. Then politely tells you you don't exist. They've lost the record. She continues to reassure you that they'll find it and sort it out in no time but you don't hear her because all you're worrying about is that you won't be getting your phones today or even tomorrow. Then the words 'Wednesday or Thursday' echo from the phone speaker and you make Brooke swear on a herd of Brahman bulls that they will definitely arrive then.

You wait. 5 minutes. Then you call Kim. No answer. Another 5 minutes. No answer. Shower. Call. No answer. Breakfast. Call. No answer. Journey to work. Call. No answer. Stare at the computer screen for 2 hours pretending to work. The phone rings. It's Kim. He's listens to your complaint and promises to follow it up and call you back later that day. He doesn't.

Another sleepless night. Another call to Kim in the morning. 'I don't know what's happening', he says. 'I've lost 5 customers this week.' Perhaps his work week starts on a Friday too. 'I'll tell you what we'll do,' he continues, 'Give them until tomorrow and then if there're no sign of the phones we'll cancel the contract and you can go into a Three store and they'll give you one in 20 minutes.' You agree and you hang-up wondering why you didn't do this nearly 2 weeks ago.

Wednesday. No Phones. Call Kim. Cancel contract. Go into City. Hay St store. Stephen serves you. He's a cool guy. A little too cool, but he's friendly and mostly competent so you can deal with that. You tell him what has happened. He smiles and tells you there won't be a problem and that you should never ever deal with agents. He just smiles and nods when you tell him that the problem was with Three and not with the agent.

He takes your details. Puts them right into the computer there and then. 100 point ID check. Everything okay until the credit check. Your credit is great. You know there's not a problem, but the system won't let Stephen sign you up because of the previous application - through Kim. 'You'll have to come back tomorrow,' Stephen tells you. You smile and are fairly sure he never saw the clenched teeth behind it. Before you leave you make him promise that he'll start charging the phone batteries as soon as the credit check is done. That way you'll be able to use the phones straight away and not have to wait. Stephen readily agrees.

That night you download the manual from the Sony-Ericsson website. You paw over it memorising every detail especially the fact that it takes 4 hours to initially charge the battery.

Thursday. 9am. You attempt to call the store to remind Stephen to charge the batteries - and if you passed the credit check. 90 minutes later you manage to get hold of Stephen, via the website, the yellow pages, the white pages and New Delhi. 'You passed,' he says gleefully. 'Just hold on a moment.' You can hear him singing loudly to himself and you know he's dancing as well. 'Yep. You passed.' You remind him about the batteries. He assures you that he'll put them on right away. You check the time. 10:35. At 14:36 you should have your phones - fully charged and ready to go.

You take extra care with your shaving and showering. You get out your best clothes. Today is a special day.

At 13:29 you head into the city - taking your time, enjoying your day off. You arrive at the store at 14:02 and wait. Stephen is out the back and will be with you shortly. That's okay. You have 27 minutes and 17 seconds until your batteries are fully charged in any case. You're early. You wait. Look at some of the other phone models available. You avoid touching the mock-up of the Z1010 lest the temptation become too much. You wait. You sit. And eventually Stephen comes out and immediately hands you over to Adam - the store manager. Adam is cool, but not too cool like Stephen. He's a businessman but a friendly one. Stephen has told him all about you. Adam is sympathetic, and reminds you never to use an agent. He smiles and nods when you tell him that the problem was with Three and not with the agent.

He takes the last of your details. Lets you use his mobile so you can call Optus to get your account number so the transition will go smoothly.

After 10 minutes on hold you decide to walk the 20 or so metres to the Optus store to get the details yourself. After all, you have 17 minutes until the batteries are fully charged. You go to Optus and wait while the solitary attendant is serving another customer. Then when she serves you, you ask her for your account number. She's eager to please. Too eager, because she breaks the law by providing you with your best friend's account number too - you have 2 phones, remember?

You return to the Three store and from there on everything goes smoothly. Adam delivers the phones to you with a smile - all fully charged. He then tells you that it will take anything up to 24 hours for the transfer to occur. You barely hear him. You have your phone and it's silver. You depart the store bouncing. You're awake until 1am playing with your phone. You sleep with it beside your pillow - set its alarm function to wake you in the morning.

Next morning - today - you eagerly wake and grab your phone to call your best friend - the person who is half-asleep less than 20cm from you. 'That Three service is unavailable.' comes the voice in your ear. It sounds nothing like your best friend. Oh well, it could take another 6-7 hours to transfer.

2 hours later you receive a call from Kim - on your old phone. 'Did you manage to get into a Three store and get your phones?' 'Yes,' you tell him, 'Why?' 'Because two phones for you were just delivered to me.' 'You cancelled the contract didn't you?' 'Sure did. They must have been in transit. I'll send them back.'

5 hours later. Try calling out again. Same message. Call Calcutta direct via old phone. Told it could take another 96 hours for the transfer because of the influx of new Three customers. Pout. Hang-up. Continue pretending to work. Instead copy mp3s over to your phone. Copy mp3s from your phone to your best friend's phone via Infra-red and Bluetooth. Listen to mp3s on the way home. Feel good even though you can't call anyone to tell them about your new hoopy phone.

Get home. Write blog about the last two weeks.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

When "Actually" Means Someone Made It Up

When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd say "Journalist", and everyone would ooh and ahh and nod in amused approval. So young and already so serious-minded, they were probably thinking. Actually, the way I figured it, it was an indoors job with air-conditioning plus travel to exciting warzones.

Well, now I'm allegedly grown up, I know for a fact that real journalists spend all their time buried in research, and get about as much respect as lawyers, used car salesmen, and reporters who work for any Rupert Murdoch news service.

Oddly enough, something of the old-quest-for-the-truth urge must have been immanent even in my childhood - then, and now, I've always been driven to find out how things work, and what things really mean, and is-it-true..?

Like, is it true that the word "butterfly" actually developed from the description that the insect "flutters by"? No, since the word "butterfly" predates the word "flutter" by a good few hundred years, and "butterfly" occurs in related languages to English with the similar meaning of something yellowy (like butter) that flies.

Is it true that the expression "rule of thumb" actually once referred to the thickness of a rod a man was once legally allowed to hit his wife with. No, it refers to the once common practice of referencing body parts as measuring aids. Really. Back before metric. People had more important things to measure, like wool and cloth, and if they wanted to hit their spouses they used their fists.

And is it true that everybody's favourite four-letter word actually began in Olden Times as an acronym for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" or "Fornication Under Consent of the King"? Insert some colourful anectdote about rapists and adulterers being punished by wearing sign around their necks, or some other equally colourful anectdote about the supposed rights of monarchs in Olden Times.

Good bloody grief. Sure, "fuck" is a funny-looking word, but it's real. It's from a Germanic root word. (Oh, ha ha.) As opposed to all those claims made in those stupid email lists that people keep sending me, not because the lists are hilarious, but because they genuinely believe the lists are true. Doesn't anyone look up a dictionary anymore?

I like that us humans are such a bloody inventive people, I love the creative impulses that drive us to gossip, share jokes, scare each other silly with campfire ghost stories, and just plain bullshit one another over a beer or a cup of English Breakfast. It's one of our defining characteristics, our great socialising capacity.

I hate that we've grown so lazy we'll accept anything old cock, however blatantly ludicrous, as the truth, instead of taking a moment to check the facts. One mouseclick! Maybe two! I hate that we seem to be losing our sense of irony, and seem instead to be embracing credulousness.

You want words with funny meanings? How about "plagiarism", that started off as a description of the theft of someone else's slave or child, rather than the theft of ideas that we understand today. Or "boudoir", it wasn't a lady's private chamber, it comes from a French word meaning "to pout, to sulk".

There's more, of course. But it involves looking them up for yourself, making discoveries of your own, on the weird and wonderful little oddities that have accumulated over hundreds of years of English. Just don't email me a list of them, thanks.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

ToxicPurity Learns To Drive

Noel fears I'm turning into a revhead, now that I'm up to my third burnout from a standing start. Am trying to persuade him that he needs to teach me to do donuts and handbrake turns, so I know how to do it right, of course, but he's not falling for it.

I think I'm still taking corners a little too fast for his liking. On the one hand, after all that business with checking your blind spots and mirrors and signalling and hugging the kerb without actually running into the kerb and braking and clutching in to a rolling stop...etc, it's hardly surprising I'll forget a little thing like gearing down to 2nd, is it.

Other than that, I've surprised myself with how much I'm enjoying this. I don't know what exactly it was about driving that seemed so intimidating before. It all seemed so unnecessarily complicated, perhaps. Well, it is complicated, but there's a certain logic to the sequence of actions involved, most of which are gradually beginning to become apparent even to me: It's all about clutch control, damnit!

When Noel first put me on the road, I'd do little things to make an otherwise stressful situation more interesting, like confuse the accelerator for the brake, stall on a right-hand turn against traffic, miss 3rd gear entirely and stick it into 5th...etc. Little things like that. Little things that would prompt Noel to leap for the handbrake, and talk in extremely conversatonal tones about how the driving centre is shortly about to get dual-control vehicles, and wouldn't that be nice?

Noel still leaps for the handbrake now and again, and invokes the holy hoped-for dual controls, but not quite as often anymore. I take this as a sure sign that I'm definitely getting better at this driving thing. Or else, Noel's simply too petrified with terror to react. Either's likely, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Twilight of Sanity - Oddbits of Oddity

A strange time this, between All Hallows' Eve and the US federal elections, like coming out of an Evil Dead movie marathon to learn that Bush won in Sri Lanka.

The joy of Halloween is that it's a festival of death and the dead - the only one in the Western calendar. It's a time to embrace the inevitable and laugh at it, to acknowledge our morbid fascination with ghasts and ghouls and goths, to caricature ourselves as belly-dancers and zombies and IPods, and ultimately to celebrate being alive here and now.

Halloween isn't a big deal here in Australia, nor in Singapore, but for a lot of people it's still an excuse to dress up and party.

Not that Australians need much convincing. Take today: Melbourne Cup Day. It's probably the most significant homegrown holiday after Anzac Day, and it's a ruddy horse race. It's only a matter of time before they make it a proper official holiday, even here in Perth. Go on, convince me your workplace didn't have a pool on. Or there wasn't a hat thing happening. Most people I know don't dress up for weddings, funerals, or even the courts, but come Melbourne Cup Day, and suddenly sensible women have to mince around in ludicrously high heels and feathered hats.

Maybe it's a female thing. Like spending more time in the toilets then men. Although these days it could be because us girls are reading in there. Some bright spark at Libra apparently decided that the packaging on <POLITE>feminine hygiene products</POLITE> just isn't fun and funky enough. So they came up with the punfully named Odd Spots! a random list of excitingly fun and funky bits of trivia such as:

Odd Spot #76 Until 1990, sausages were still legal tender in East Germany.

Odd Spot #105 The reason honey is so easy to digest is that it's already been digested by a bee.

Odd Spot #125 The electric chair was invented by a dentist.


Next time someone drops a "Hey, did you know..?" like that out of the blue into an otherwise sane conversation, you'll know where they got it from.

Precedence

It is very human to lie. All of us do it, even if we are not aware that we do. It is second nature to us, so it is only natural that our political representatives spend a great deal of their time obfuscating, but it always comes at a risk. Until now. The recent victory by the Conservative Coalition has set a new and dangerous precedent.

In the past if a politician flat-out lied or knowingly misled and they were caught they would be forced to resign. Parliamentary tradition dictated this. One only has to look back to the Howard government's first term to see evidence of it. IIRC six ministers were forced to resign in the first year alone and most for even the barest hint of impropriety - at least compared today's standards. If there was no resignation the media and public outcry could conceivably bring down the government. How things have changed in the intervening eight years.

Since then we have had Children Overboard and Iraq. In both cases the Australian citizens have been knowingly misled and caught the perpetrators at it. And yet those responsible refused to follow the tradition and resign. At the recent election not only wasn't the government punished for this they were rewarded with an increased majority.

Now the precedent has been set. Politicians can lie and cheat with impunity. We said that that was okay. Now, when we say 'all politicians lie' we know exactly who to blame. Ourselves.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Toxic Purity Learns To Drive Part... (insert number)+2

So now you know my terrible secret: I have absolutely no head for numbers. None. Nada. Zero. Free! I mean, Niente. Where were we? Numbers, right. Can't keep track of them. Break the sequence, and I'm lost. Today's date? Not a clue.

Other things I haven't a clue about: the verifiable existence of the other driving instructor Wendy, which I can't prove, and whom I am beginning to suspect is an utterly made-up person.

And gears. They have numbers. Therefore, cannot keep satisfactory grip on them. However, am getting much better with changing gears while taking corners and while not running into things like buses, streetlights or even kerbs.

Can reverse drive just about anywhere as long as it's in a straight line.

Can mostly drive while holding conversations about random topics, such as Hollywood flicks, weather, and the score value of runnng over jaywalkers who don't bother to check for traffic.

Did my first burn-out at some lights. Have no idea how, so unlikely to ever deliberately replicate it :(

Also still have no idea how to figure out where I am while on the road since all street signs appear designed to be read tangential to direction of travel. (Is it really asking too much to have the name of the street stencilled onto the road at convenient intervals? They can do it for Stop, and Slow, and Speed Bumps Ahead, but they can't tell you what ruddy road you're hurtling along at 60k/h?)

Assuming I get my licence, have resolved never to drive above second gear for the rest of my natural life. And to get a GPS interface permanently inserted into my skull so I'll always know where I am, right down to the seconds, not that that helps with street names.