Yesterday, I lost my favorite hat. While changing from hat to helmet out the front of Bridie's in Brunswick, I put Monty somewhere, obviously not in my bag, and rode off into the sunset. 30 minutes and 10 kilometers later, whilst eating my dinner in a delightful restaurant, I realised Monty was gone. I checked my bag once, twice, and later, thrice, but alas, no sign of Monty. Nor Mark Latham.
Monty was a faithful hat and so much more. He was a friend, my greatest confidant, and erstwhile traveling companion. I first met Monty after a long search to replace his predecessor (Monty II), whom I foolishly left on a BA flight somewhere in Austria in 2005. It was a terrible flight. It was delayed two hours because someone vomited on a seat. Instead of being informed of this before trying to board the aircraft, we were told only when we were in the airgate. Two long, long hours with 30 strangers in a freezing airport appendage, and one single copy of the daily mail to share amongst us. This was the fateful day Monty II would be lost, and the hunt for Monty the latter would begin.
And similar in tone was Monty's final day upon my scalp. He came with me as I visited a pub I intensely dislike, kept me company while I drank pint after pint of terrible domestic beer - and at what price will I lose my standards? $5 a pint, apparently - and even stayed by my side during a set of what can only be described as Kew's finest rap quintet, who regaled us with fascinating tales of dealing with terrible associates who waste their lives stealing drinks from Liquorland, and other varied songs about the life threatening dangers of walking the mean streets of Melbourne.
I couldn't agree more. Melbourne is fucking terrible. Just last week, I was riding my bike along, and I was assaulted by a dastardly rain drop and icy cold wind, but somehow I get the feeling we're on different pages with that one. Either way, don't let me tell you that they weren't tough motherfuckers. And Monty's last ride; he was there, he protected me from it all.
So, now the search begins for a new Monty, a wonderful new cap that will wear well and be as hardy and strong of character as Monty II and Monty were. I'm sure I will soon find him in my travels, but in the meantime, anyone with suggestions of where to find a good, rugged, short peaked black cap (I am open to minor decoration, such as pinstripes and other such low key fancies), please let me know.
Goodbye, Monty, my dear friend. You will not be forgotten.
I recently read a fascinating article in The Age regarding the ongoing urban development plans for Coburg. I suspect this isn't of much interest at all to those of you who have nothing to do with Moreland, let alone know where it is (about 9kms north of Melbourne, incidentally), but lets just run with the whole redevelopment - if it ever happens - as having big implications for the remaining suburbs to be molested by the Melbourne 2030 plan.
Moreland City Council seems to be approaching the redevelopment in a cool enough way - they want to preserve the character of Coburg (presumably with less smackies). They recognise that industrial closures in the area over the last 30 years have gradually led to little in the way of employment for those who live in the area. They want to reinvigorate the suburb for the locals who have made it what it is and what it was (and recognise that's a good thing to do). So why at the centre of all this reinvigoration, are there plans for massive townhouse and apartment developments? Further still, why are the fuck are only a fifth of these new and proposed apartments actually categorised as "Affordable living", in a residency with acknowledged depleted employment?
Surely, this council might have worked out by now that placing expensive multi story apartments right on a train line isn't exactly establishing housing for locals, but is instead, you know, maybe aimed at attracting city workers to Coburg in a hope to increase rates and decrease dependence on community facilities? Now wait... what's the word for that again? That's right, it starts with a G...
Oh yeah - gentrification.
The reason traditional employment in Coburg has dropped in recent years, is not just because of those nasty industries closing down - though I have to say that the closure of Pentridge is one industry I'm happy to see in decline - but because of rocketing value of real estate in the area given its proximity to the city centre in the middle of a very, very long housing boom. However, while employers can move where they wish without much hassle, surely they'd have less incentive to if industrial land was not rezoned as residential – making it incredibly profitable - so willingly by councils?
Maybe someone needs to remind these Councillors that you don't protect jobs or community by razing factories and building unaffordable apartments, and that no amount of creating 'green squares' and - rather oddly - sinking rail lines and stations will help that.
Now I'm not arrogant enough to deny that I'm part of one of the key groups that benefits pretty well from this sort of gentrification, and that while I've spent the last ten years odd on my preferred side of the Yarra, I wasn't born there; my parents weren't born there; I have no connection to these suburbs other than what I directly choose to have now. That said, even I have felt driven out of these areas by overdevelopment, displacement of heritage, and just general fuckwittery – all of which doesn’t just force massive rent increases, but destroys community culture. It happens so slowly, too - one day you realise that the road that you would never choose to go north of, you would now never go south of. Why? Because the shops have changed so completely that they don't so much cater for the locals and blow ins, but cater almost exclusively for half cut 16 year olds from Ringwood trying to up their credibility over the space of a weekend. Basically, when people stop wearing moccies and hangover appropriate eyewear and instead start styling themselves after Corey Worthington, with the added touch of designer moccies, you know you're in the shit. Get the real estate guide out right now, you're going to need it.
But at least when this happened to Brunswick, and yes, I'm going to be the first to say it - right here, right now - Brunswick has gone to shit. It used to be great. Then it was AMAZING! Then it was good. Then less good. And now it just sucks. I have a few minor exceptions to this rule, and those are the Brunswick Hotel, Cafe Mingo, and Warwick Thai. Don't even fucking think about trying to placate me with lines such as "Oh! But have you been to The Retreat!" Have I fucking ever. It's a soulless cesspit smacking of the arrogance and desperation of the coked up owners clinging to their youth*. It was, is, and will be the future of Brunswick, I have no doubt. But sorry, I think I was saying there was some kind of silver lining about when and how this happened to Brunswick. Ah, yes, that's right. They didn't start knocking down buildings. Well, not many of them. I suspect it's just because I got there a lot later in the piece, but just in the same way that Fitzroy suffers in a different way to Collingwood, Brunswick will suffer in a differently to Coburg.
But lets get back to Coburg. The hypocrisy of the Councillors involved in this decision making process astounds me. The really wonderful thing about places like Coburg, and why I love living in these suburbs, is because they have not just a sense of history, but a sense of community. These aren't suburbs where the Italians are hidden in one corner, and the Asians in another - the cultures are there, they are vibrant, and they have living communities. Food, language, religion, art, and hell, even architecture** is all practiced, shared, and celebrated in its own way, and living in these places I've always felt every bit like the fly on the wall - I get to see all these wonderful interactions around me, I get involved in them as much as I please or want, and overwhelmingly, I've felt a part of it without much effort at all.
And that's what I find strange when I cross back over the river to visit family, or head further north visiting friends and so on. Hell, driving around Mill Park, you find house after house shuttered up behind a myriad of security devices (bars!!); other places, you find yourself as out of place as Shirley Bassey’s corpse in the set of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Some, you turn up and you get the overwhelming sense of unsettled, unsatisfied, restless people. I'm glad I don't live in these suburbs, but I think that as rent inevitably rises, I'll probably have to sooner or later.
To see Councillors actively destroy that awesome community culture of Moreland, shouting down gentrification while committing all the worst tenets is truly awful. These suburbs should be protected, and the council is absolutely correct that they should be reinvigorated; the residents deserve that at the very least - but expensive apartment living and eradication of industry is not the answer. It's great that they want to spend money on this community - but maybe that money would be better used in finally providing Coburg with a public high school, by supporting its desperately under funded sporting centres, and by giving industry an incentive to stay in the area, and even to move back into areas like the old Kodak site; all those issues that the residents have been fighting for over the last decade. Once that's done, maybe then you can talk about placing the rail system underground. Is that what we want to see as a model for the Melbourne 2030 redevelopments? Why the hell not.
To hell with their apartments, The Rantolotl.
* I have a great story about that. Remind me to tell you one day.
** I have many great stories about that too. My favorite involves a dug up road, a burst water main, and four elderly Italian men complete with stubbies, knitted singlets, shovels, and ridiculous hats trying to convince any concerned passers-by that everything was A-OK.
As I contemplate spending day number three lying on my couch, watching vastly improved daytime television (thanks, GO!), and dozing, I can’t help my mind drifting to all the food I currently can’t eat. I am so hungry, yet drinking half a glass of juice in the terribly greedy amount of time, of say, half an hour leaves me feeling absolutely disgusting. While I hope to return to the world of chewable food in another day or so, I also know full well it’s going to be a few days I can eat the food that I started craving almost the minute I was told I couldn’t eat it. Yep, my two favourite food groups – cheese, and chilli.
It’s funny – you get to the point in your life where you think you’re right on track to fulfilling your career as a raging alcoholic, but after two days off the piss, it’s cheese you crave, not a drink. Hell, it’s not even like I actually eat cheese all that often – but remove my ability to enjoy a delicious platter of David Jones’ Foodhalls finest, and I’m not a happy camper. Remove my access to Sriracha, Tabasco and all inherent varieties, and my mood improves none at all.
Luckily, one kind person has delivered me a stash of supplies to keep me going in my temporary home imprisonment. So, in the interest of ensuring others who get struck down by food poisoning/gastro/other various bodily complaints, I’m going to review the foods I would not ordinarily buy, let alone eat.
Triangle Juice: The thing about Triangle Juice (or Preshafruit, as the company actually likes to call it), is that it’s quite cute, and as such, appealing. In this particular 350ml of triangular juice packaging, I found an apple and strawberry combination which tasted every bit as fresh as the label suggested it would, but wow! So, so, incredibly sweet. Unless you are a two-sugars-in-your-coffee sort of person, I would not advise drinking nor purchasing said juice. I am guessing it is popular in Queensland.
Tiger flavoured Gatorade I’m not kidding you, the label actually says TIGER! In large letters, forfeiting pretty much any ability to market the product as something relevant to your tastebuds at all. However, I’m sure that if it was trying to appeal to your tastebuds, it would be very successful and indeed impress many a persons tastebuds. Some would call this cheating, some would call it sporting prowess. I mean, delicious taste. Hmmm. Anyway; if you add a couple of ice cubes to it to thin it out a little, it fares quite well as both food replacement and rehydrator of rather sick people. As with any sweet drink, it just gets sickly and horrid after awhile.
Gatorade Lemon-Lime You know how any time you eat anything blue coloured, it doesn’t have a described flavour, just ‘Blue’? Well, this drink makes me believe that sometimes the same thing has to happen with ‘Yellow’. This beverage is indeed very yellow, in both colour and taste. Again, thin it down with a couple of ice cubes to make it drinkable in useful quantities.
Vitamin Water I kinda figured these drinks would be a lot like the Gatorade varieties, just with different packaging. This was largely because the ‘flavours’ of these drinks were named ‘Super-V’ and ‘Triple-X’. Now, far from the contents of these bottles being filled with strippers, as the name might suggest, they were indeed filled with something vitaminy. Super-V was actually quite nice, a light lemon flavour, and a little less sweet than the Gatorade. Triple-X however, tastes exactly like a 500ml bottle of cough syrup, and I suspect, without any of the benefits. I think it just exists to trick dirty old men in trench coats into drinking it, just to make the rest of us laugh.
Campbells Condensed Chicken Soup This was the one item on the shopping list that I asked for, and somewhat insisted upon. I had childhood memories of being a bit crook, and eating a bowl of this soup, and somehow everything being a bit better. My conclusion, is that child memories are fucked. There’s nothing remotely nice about this soup as an adult, it’s pretty much the equivalent of eating clag with extra salt and some chunky bits.
LaZuppa Microwavable Creamy Chicken & Vegetable Soup This soup was everything I expected the Campbells Condensed to be, but with bloody excellent peas. Marketed as a delicious and healthy convenience lunch, I currently recommend it as a highly enjoyable sick food. It may also double well for a standard lunch, depending how much you like bloody excellent peas.
Salada biscuits Ohhhh, Salada! How I’ve missed you from my life! How has it happened that I’ve gone this long without your delicious, dry, crunchy wonderfulness? The salada is a truly under-rated biscuit! Perfect with vegemite (which I am hoping to broach tomorrow with success!), with butter, with cheese, or just by its lonesome, the Salada is surely the king of the plain cracker world. I heartily recommend it, regardless of your dietary requirements. I am almost certain that it will fix any kind intolerances you might have, from lactose to gluten. Trust me, I’m a doctor.
Unfortunately, that’s about it from the food assessments for me for a few days. Other interesting factoids I can comment on from the comfort of my couch are: I have a bat-tree outside my window which also acts as a doorbell; Digital TV has vastly improved Australia’s televisual landscape; My fish are boring as fuck and are free to a good home.
Catching a train often seems like a good idea until that moment you’re standing on the platform, left wondering where, exactly your train might be. From there, if you happen to be a Victorian, it just goes downhill. Quickly.
A large part of this feeling of rapid decline could well be attributed to the fact that there aren’t really any regional trains anymore. Oh, yes, they say there are, but it’s pretty obvious they’re lying through their back teeth like the scum dogs they all inevitably are.
Once upon a time when I was just a little Rantolotl, I went to school in Melbourne and caught the train home for school holidays, the odd long weekend and other momentous occasions. This was in the days where the train actually ran all the way to Wangaratta, and in fact, they bothered to run more than once a day. My school would foolishly transport us all to Spencer Street Station some time in the afternoon, and let us loose on the unsuspecting public. We would spend hours cruising the dodgy little subway, the dodgy giant cafeteria, and the even dodgier pub across the road - the one that is now boarded up - where amazingly, we would get served despite being fifteen year olds in full school uniform. Mind you, in those days the ‘unsuspecting public’ largely consisted of junkies, thieves, particularly grotty homeless, and exceptionally low grade hookers, always presumed to be the retarded cousins of the ones we had heard about in St Kilda. But none the less, we ran riot. It was great fun! I might also add that these were the days where Spencer Street Station actually had character. Not necessarily a nice one mind you, but character none the less. It made you feel alive. Doubly so if you survived a mugging.
The trains themselves had character too. Just like the suburban lines, the regional lines all had a different feel about them, and different regard in the eyes of the seasoned V/Line traveller. Geelong line passengers were just taking the piss. You call that a train trip? I’ve seen better train trips coughed up into a hanky. Yeah, that’s right. A HANKY. It was trips to Mildura, Wangaratta & Warrnambool that earned you the real train-cred. In retrospect, I’m not sure I understand why Wang scaled to the dizzying heights of that illustrious list, but for some reason it did. I’m beginning to think it got extra points for danger.
I recall not once, but twice, that there was a police chase in the train. Somewhere around Benalla. My favourite one involved the bandits in question leaping off the train as it slowed down to stop at the platform. The police somehow didn’t quite anticipate this, and just stood on the platform looking dumbfounded as these guys ran off in the opposite direction while the train slowly came to a halt. Clearly they decided to make a day of it and searched and interrogated the train anyway. WHAT WERE THEY DOING! They barked. DRINKING! I replied with equal enthusiasm. WHAT WERE THEY DRINKING?! They responded. STRAWBERRY BIG M! I replied with gusto. And that was my interrogation over.
These days the train is far less fun. It’s full of old people and young regional refugees like myself. As I type, I’m sitting on the train, still waiting for it to leave Spencer Street (It’s now an hour late) and am surrounded by avid Herald Sun readers, and a nice young man, who, unfortunately, is reading a Dan Brown novel. The elderly are clambering over themselves to get little microwaved treats from the buffet car, in total denial that there are now places at Spencer Street that you can get food at much cheaper. Without the risk of stabbing.
Once upon a time, the punters on this train were all sorts. Families, kids, the elderly, bogans, farmers, scrubbers, ferals and bush pigs. In between the carriages people would drink tinnies of VB, and craftily open the door and smoke cigarettes and spliffs, usually in equal amounts. Occasionally someone would walk through on their way to the buffet car with a kid on their shoulders, having a chuckle and telling the enshouldered child not to breathe too deeply – a lesson/joke that would be lost on the child for about ten years or so, I suspect.
Now, the punters, particularly midweek, are mostly holidaying elderly or country residents who have lost their license. There’s also a smattering of younger country refugees (the lucky ones who escaped) like myself, who are almost inevitably heading home for a birthday, funeral or family illness. I will probably see a lot of these people on the return train tomorrow. And when we’re all collected on a train like this simultaneously – some in tears frantically trying to contact their mum or dad or brother or sister or hospital at each stop when there’s a hint of mobile coverage, some desperately trying to wrap their last minute birthday presents, almost certainly bound to be some random crap bought at a Spencer Street chemist(Happy Birthday! I bought you a travel pillow! Don’t like it? Here, have a luggage lock!), and some just patiently biding their time with laptops and ipods – boy, do we stand out. We’re all dressed to impress our regional acquaintances, while remaining hideously under dressed for Melbourne - unless you're heading directly to a funeral, in which case the standard Melbourne uniform of black on black is just perfect! It’s a delicate balance, one that involves jeans, sneakers, a smug look, and careful t-shirt selection. The delicate art of making it clear that we are at home on a farm, but are also successful Melburnians is clearly deeply entrenched in us all.
But for all the reminiscing, the dubious romance of train travel is not all gone. Why, just now, the conductor – who I might add, in my long career of regional train travel have always been wonderful, helpful and friendly – declared that she has a ‘sweet little super charger’ waiting for her at home. I’m not sure what the prompt for this was exactly, but she soon moved on, telling me that she likes my t-shirt, and proceeded to explain the graphic on it to me in full detail: "I like how the space invaders are learning to become space invaders! With a blackboard and a teacher!".
It’s very nice that VLine give country types a job. Since they don't really bother with the trains much these days, perhaps the conductors are the last honest thing you can really expect out of them.
Say what you will, but I'm still a bit sad that Latham was never elected to the top seat. Australian parliamentary politics would have so much more engaging. In fact, I suspect they’d be at least 60% more awesome. Better? Perhaps not, but definitely more entertaining. For starters, he wouldn't be afraid to grab Abbott by his stupid flappy ears and give him the beating he deserves. HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES!, he would scream, foot firmly planted on the back of dear old Tony’s sodden head, stuffed into a filthy toilet bowl out the back of some kind of gambling hall of ill repute. WHAT APPLES, MARK?! WHAT FUCKING APPLES?!
Surely this is the sort of behaviour we should expect and encourage from our erstwhile leaders. Bring back the days of honest politics where blokes were blokes and your ability to drink enormous quantities of low grade beer measured your mark as a sportsman, family man, politician, hell, even race car driver. Nothing says ‘responsible member of society’ like a booze cruise turned pirate-like expedition somewhere between the consumption of slabs number eleven and twenty three.
Australian cricketer David “The keg on legs” Boone famously drank 52 tinnies of full strength beer on a single flight. Bob Hawke, later to become Prime Minister, managed to down a yardie in the record time of 11 seconds. Now we live in a world where the little talking Boonie’s distributed with VB have been banned for setting a poor example to the darling little young‘uns. I reckon if they were stupid enough to be buying slabs of VB in the first place, a talking Boonie is the least of their problems.
But what would I know? I have a shrine to Melbourne Bitter in my house. I’m not sure there’s an official mascot for good old Melbs’ yet (do you like my abbreviation? Do you think it will stick? Is ‘Bitters’ better?), but I’m going my damnedest to create one. Recent visitors to my house have been sent away with a traveller of Melbs’, and some kind standout adornment. Last week it was capes, goggles and sailors hats. But it’s been disappointing. Not once have I seen anyone else in the street walking around with a good ol’ Melbs’ imitating the dress style of my unwitting social experiments. That said, I have noticed increased sales of Melbourne at my local, so maybe I just need to ramp up the accessorising a little and see what happens. Or just move further away from a white trash pokies venue.
As a society, we crave all these things and more in politics. We love a good stoush! And despite the weird ultra conservatism we seem to be slowly sliding into - I mean really, a drinking age of 21?! How on earth are the kiddies meant to be proud of our celebrated cultural heritage when they can’t actually participate in it? – we clearly love a bit of biffo. There’s a reason footballers – particularly the drunken-rampage-assaulty-lets-take-a-shitload-of-coke ones – get more public sympathy and support than our politicians ever will. Perhaps it’s the honesty that wins us over. “Yes, I’m a dickhead, and yes, I was pissed. But seriously, that guy deserved to be smacked in the chops! What’s wrong with that?”
I think Abbott would be up for it too. While I’m not sure he’d fare that well against Latham, I reckon he’d give it a red hot go. It’s really very difficult to imagine the same thing of Rudd. Or Bob Brown for that matter. In fact, the only thing I can think of those two dudes bringing to a schoolyard fight is a blimp and an inflatable raft. Don't ask me why, that’s just the way my brain works. Gillard would be into it I reckon, and she’d give Abbott a run for his money. Wayne Swan would of course be the little fat kid in the corner who’s screaming PICK ME! PICK ME! on the inside, but will of course remain there, sulking, silent, and unchosen. Naturally, he’ll have to defect and lead the Democrats.
As Gough Whitlam famously said; It’s time. Time for a leadership deathmatch, that is. All parties; all leaders; all cabinet and shadow cabinet members: Fight like it matters! Fight like you mean it! Show a bit of passion! But for the love of christ Abbott, do not show a bit of leg. The budgie smugglers were bad enough the first time.
The problem with Australia Day is... well, that it exists. But beyond that, there’s a whole bunch of reasons it’s a bit shit. That it celebrates genocide is certainly a biggie, but then there’re the more practical and less political reasons it’s worth avoiding. Starting with the fact that the 26th of January is totally meaningless in the national sense – I mean really, if we want to pick a day to mark on the calendar to celebrate the successful invasion and colonisation of this large island rock we call home, then surely celebrating federation would make a touch more sense?
But just like how we search and scrape and hunt high and low now for some kind of national identity – something more culturally binding than a burnt sausage and a can of VB - federation wasn’t exactly a matter of great consensus either; more of a matter of solidifying an economy rather than any great push for national independence. It’s this kind of enthusiasm we see echoed in polls today indicating that supporters of a republic are now down to 44%. This might be a weird drop in numbers tied to the recent Prince visit, as well as those echoes of British colonialism that we hark back to every Australia day in total ignorance of the Australia we actually do have around us.
I’m pretty sure I’ve harped on about it here before because it is something that really engages me, but the whole notion of a united, federated Australia was a crock in 1901, and is still a crock in 2010. It took actual decades to get the now federated states to agree to federation, and let it not be forgotten that at the drawing board, there were a whole lot of other colonies slated to join. On top of that, for better or worse (no doubt better for the Pacific Islanders enslaved at the time), Queensland (and other now familiar states) very almost didn’t make the cut – because federating would mean giving up its slave labour force (unfortunately it remained more or less legal to enslave/withhold wages from indigenous Australians for a few more decades… after all, they were fauna, and not citizens). On the whole, white settlement of Australia was an incredibly disjointed affair, and the people who actually lived here had very little interest in actually cementing it into a single nation state… a sentiment that’s still reflected today if you scratch even slightly beneath the flag be-caped surface.
What does it mean to be Australian? This time of the year, you can find thousands of us useless dickheads asking that question, and invariably answering it with that list of qualities that are obviously unique to all ‘true’ Australians… such as:
Mateship. Yep – no wonder we’re such an awesome country – no one else in the world understands this whole friendship thing! Weird, cause every time we travel, we seem to accumulate masses of new ‘mates’… clearly we are very influential and effective ambassadors for our cause. Frankly, I’m surprised the UN hasn’t cottoned on and started deploying Australian friendship brigades to all the worlds’ major military conflict points. Oh wait. We already do that. We just throw grenades instead of joy.
The Fair Go. We (apparently) generally believe that everyone should be able to have ‘a go’, if for no other reason, then so we have an opportunity to do that other uniquely Australian thing, the slow clap, in response to their meagre efforts. Having ‘a go’ is not to be confused with ‘Having a go’. The two are mainly distinguished by tone, and blood alcohol content (though to have ‘a go’ can produce a great exponential curve in any measurement correlating ‘fun’ and ‘beer consumption’), and resulting violence. If you end up being chased by a pack of angry sportsmen waving various sporting implements, you’ve probably misread the situation, and have indeed confirmed that you are ‘having a go (mate)’.
Mate. Not to be confused with mateship. ‘Mate’ can be used as a greeting to a best mate (not to be confused with Mate, or mateship), as a warning to a stranger, acquaintance or enemy, or, as a direct insult to someone you’re about to either punch, or get punched by (friend or foe, doesn’t really matter). Generally, you can determine any potential threats to your short term health by assessing the length of the word if it is used against you; Hey Maaaaaaate! (Greeting); Mate Mate Mate Mate Mate Mate! (potential warning); Mate. (potential threat). My personal favourite use of the word is: “Look sharp, Mate!”. Even I can’t tell if it’s an insult, a warning, or a greeting.
Barbeques. We like to burn the shit out of meat while rat arsed and standing in a kiddie pool (or perhaps even an eski) in a park/backyard/balcony. Anything that gives us the excuse to stand around for six hours and murder a slab of cheap domestic beer while eating large amounts of salt, fat, potato and bread is alright by us. However, just because we like to do this, doesn’t really make it uniquely Australian. I was tremendously disappointed when I first travelled overseas and found that pretty much wherever you go, you will find bogans barbequing things and getting outrageously pissed at the drop of a hat.
Recently, equipped with these ‘qualities’ and a few Maaaaaaaaates, I made a return pilgrimage back to the States. While that’s a story for another day, we ended up staying in a house filled with 9 adults at one point - with combined heritages covering corners of Australia, Europe, and all over the US, including the deep south, where the drawl will put any proud Aussie bogans’ to shame. We spent three weeks being mates, trading stupid accents, barbequing, ‘having a go’ and having ‘a go’, and getting completely, utterly, rat arsed drunk. Either we’re bigger ambassadors to our nation than we’d ever care to admit, or maybe – just maybe – people are pretty similar and pretty awesome all over the world if you give them half a chance. Except for the dickheads. You should just avoid them. A good start is not leaving your house on Australia Day.
...He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win.
Unfortunately, no pun in ten did. *
When I grow up, I want to work for a newspaper. No, not as a journalist. Nor a columnist. Not even as an editor, copy writer, typesetter or any of those other important sounding jobs. No. I want to be that very special person employed by News Limited to create the most inane, cringe worthy, spectacular insults to modern day communications; that’s right – the person who comes up with the headlines.
Obviously, the pinnacle of this particular field would be being responsible for the front page of the Herald Scum, or some other capital city distributed tabloid rag. There’s challenge in such a job; three to seven words in the boldest of bold type, accompanied by a picture from a completely different story, in a daily paper which seeks an audience of society’s lowest common denominator. It must be defined by scandal, it can’t be too clever, and anyone who lives in a caravan backing on Kananook Creek must be able to relate to it in some way. Dodgy plumbers (Dishonest brutes taking advantage of widowed pensioners!), immigration scandals (Indian student gets bashed – own fault for listening to an MP3 player in public!), hard done by footballers (Sure, I raped that girl, but all I ask for is my wife’s understanding and support!) and other imminent threats to the Little Aussie Battler™ are king.
But sometimes, they really get it right:
But for those headline crafters who are lower down the ladder, they might get paid less, but there is a particularly silver lining in that very hefty cloud. Just as they must suffer, so must we, the readers. They have a captive audience, and very low standards to meet in the editing and readership world. They can resort to the most groan worthy, stupid, ill conceived, offensive, backwards, extremely un-witty, and sometimes – surprising and rare times – they pencil actually witty titles and headlines. In short, they can make Queensland look good. In case you haven’t worked out which particular litter box liners I’m talking about today, stand up and take a bow mX.
For the uninitiated, mX is a free daily Melbourne commuter rag, which appears to have very similar equivalents in every city I’ve visited, from Prague to Brisbane. Equally similar are the despondent uni students hired to hand them out at train stations around the globe. They really look the same everywhere, and not just because the logos and banner of these papers are virtually the same (yellow/orange/blue or red/black/blue), but because they’re poor bastards whose job it is to be surrounded by rude, arrogant commuters who are in a hurry to get home and be fed, bask in the warm glow of the telly or sit and cry in a dark corner or whatever it is that these people who can’t say ‘please’ or ‘thankyou’ do with their spare time. And they do it well. They tolerate the pushing and shoving, the snatching and the interfering, all the while resisting the urge to punch people. I couldn’t do it. Day one, and there’d be shredded bits of paper, Armani, and metcards everywhere.
Such is the quality of the mX that once upon a train, people seem to either settle into the crossword (which is shit), the sudoku (which is alright, but usually a bit on the novice side), the ‘witty’ one line observational comments about the world today interspersed among the pages (which are shit), or the ‘mX Talk’ pages (which are really shit). Or the quality journalism. Hahahah! – Oh, I’m clutching my sides!
I‘m one of the mX talk reading people. For the same reasons I cast an eye over the Andrew Bolt column whenever a copy of the Scum is left lurking near me, I like to peruse what the good people of Melbourne have to say about life, the universe and everything in the space of a text message. Just like Bolt, the submissions either remind me why I always keep an escape from Australia plan up my sleeve, or just leave me wordlessly shaking my head. That is, until I started submitting them myself.
In an effort to find out exactly how stupid a message the mX would accept, I started texting in numerous entries, all from different names, with the same mobile phone. So far, they’ve published every single one of them. Big and Beardy wrote in to the ‘Here’s looking at you’ column, requesting contact from someone of a non-specified gender who caught his eye after falling off a train platform and gaining assistance from a lawyer. In peak hour. The genius who published that one titled it “Platform Souls”. Another submission, this time from a shady character named “More punk than you”, detailed to the Melbourne public, in form of argument with both a non existent person and a non existent previous submission, exactly how influential Green Day were in the baby days of punk rock. So influential that they invented the flannelette shirt, it seems.
I intend to keep this going for as long as possible and encourage you all to join in. Let’s turn this paper from something disappointing and mundane into the absurd and confusing. Theological debates about Lego? Bring it on! Thinly disguised innuendo about unlikely subjects? The more the merrier! The beauty is that you don’t even need the paper itself to do this – all the numbers you need are here. General comments should be texted as VENT to 1994 4000. "Here’s looking at you" (train stalking colum) can be texted to the same number, with HERES in place of VENT. If you’re not in Melbourne, let us know you’ve submitted in the comments, and I’ll be sure to pick up a paper and keep you posted. The submissions usually take about two days to appear.
But lets face it. With headlines like mine, I'm never going to make it in this industry. Not unless I start to get some serious coaching. In the meantime I'Il leave the headlines to the professionals and get back to whatever it is I'm meant to be doing.
* Courtesy of Krus; aspiring News Limited editor.
** Big thanks to Mr Fandango Jones for capturing what would have to be the most entertaining Herald Scum headline of 2009.
Instead of turning this into yet another apologetic post stinking of Yirmumah type shame, commitment and remorse, I'm gonna come right out and say it: I am more than a bit shit at maintaining a functioning blog. I thought I'd got away with it until the last couple of weeks when the international period of seasonal slow-down/work-slacking kicked in. Take note: Everyone who has commented on the lack of posts in recent history, I've kept a record of who you are and when you asked, and I'll be forwarding those details to your respective managers ASAP. That is... unless you purchase me a nice, cool, refreshing beverage in the interest of seasonal goodwill.... wink wink.
The good news though, is that I have a backlog of material, all so out of date that I'll probably never bother to publish. So you'll be spared that particular bullet. Phew! I hear you gasp with relief! Well, the next bit of news you may, or may not also enjoy, is that I'll be changing the format of this blog a bit in some kind of attempt to make sure I start publishing it in some kind of timely fashion again. What does this mean for you? Probably more frequent posts, even more flippant material, and best of all, they'll probably be a damned site shorter.
If you're still around, let me know your thoughts. Otherwise, to hell with 'ya.
As usual, here I stumble in; head hung, slouching, and full of half arsed apologies regarding the frequency of my updates. Oh! The updates that could have been, but never were! I can no longer recount! Tragedy! Drama! Foes! Vanquishment!
Some time ago when I was probably quite bored and on the curious side, I checked out the stats for this blog over a couple of years, and was tremendously surprised to find that I average an entry once a fortnight – not once a month, or indeed once in a fucking millennium as I would certainly have suspected in my recent updating history, but once a fortnight! Well! I thought to myself. Slack I am, and slack I can be! And since then, I’ve obviously never looked back.
That is, of course not entirely true. While I’m certainly on the unforgivable side of slack, let me recount to you by way of apology in a manner more or less completely ripped off the Good Author* of Well Done Fillet, what my life has been since we last met.
Since my last entry, I have:
Caught trams. Not an exciting prospect in itself, no! But when you add a good handful of Brunswicks’ finest crazies to the mix, you just count the seconds down to sheer fucking insanity. In just three consecutive days, I’ve suffered a number of affronts to my dignity, nay!, my very person and property on these normally adequate trams.
One of the more notable incidents was a mentally ill (I hope) semi-elderly woman who… well… I’m not quite sure how to say this, but… assaulted me… with her rude bits.
There I was on a tram, sitting on the nanna seat up the front, when I was surrounded by elderly people refusing the offer of seat, instead choosing to glare in my general direction while coughing sick germs all over the place in that way only elderly people can. Oh look! You had toast for breakfast! Isn’t that just lovely? COVER YOUR FUCKING MOUTH.
Anyway, the tram is at capacity. I am studiously focusing on playing my DS, refusing to even begin to engage with the horrible and smelly world around me. I’m completely hemmed in by stubborn elderly. That is, until they start topping over like loud, smelly and very fucking angry bowling pins. People are shouting exclamations in more languages than I can recognise, and walking sticks are flying. Well, maybe just one, but none the less, commotion is afoot. I further refuse to engage in this strange game the listless elderly are playing.
They settle down, I did not think to perhaps examine why. Had I, I would have found right before me, a completely bonkers woman, surrounded by a ring of elderly doing everything they can to keep their distance, avoid eye contact, and by all means not engage the woman in speech. Oblivious to all this, I continued to play my game, occasionally considering that the person standing in front of me was falling on me rather a lot while the tram was jostling. That’s okay, I thought. Trams jostle, and not everyone is sure of foot.
More and more, I found myself justifying the woman’s constant bashing into me; however it reached a point – and I note this with quite some alarm - that I could no longer justify a damned thing. The woman was now straddling my leg, her entire weight it would seem, supported by her crotch on my knee. I froze, looking to my neighbours for help. Their expressions, I believe, reflected my own. They stared on in absolute horror, as the crazy woman made little to no effort to stand up, occasionally doing so only to end up right back where she started. I tried to wriggle away, but there was no room. People around me hurriedly offered her their seats, but she refused. Some old men even tried to jostle her away, but to no avail. There I sat, screaming on the inside, my sudoku game long forgotten. Eventually – and I doubt I will ever say this again – a pram came to my rescue. The woman had no choice but to move on the presentation of a pram into our little commute of horrors, and the woman was whisked away. There I remained, stunned. I reflected upon what had just occurred, still staring mindlessly at my DS, and I think, inside, a little bit of me died.
The previous day, a completely different nutter had punched me in the back of the head in some kind of crazy-speak way of asking me for my seat. I found this to be a preferable approach, sore head and possible concussion issues aside.
Listened to ‘metal’**. I’m always a bit reluctant to get onto the topic of ‘metal’ - whatever that might be these days. I know absolutely fuck all about it (and certainly don’t profess to), but through the people around me I seem to have latched onto the odd band here and there. But what I don’t get about metal are the two extremes of what I would personally call enjoyable music***, and what I’d like to call unenjoyable music****. I get that some people ‘ironically’ enjoy the whole theatre, makeup and general glam/cheese overtones of the latter category, but I’ve certainly got fuck all time for it. But back to what I don’t understand… what on earth gels these two – I think – vastly different styles of music under the ‘metal’ banner? That’s a genuine question, too - I really have no idea. I honestly see way more in common with a wing of my traditional genre of choice – old school punk – with many of the metal bands I like, than I do with the likes of, well, Satyricon.
Anyway, enough of that. What I’d really like to discuss now is a great little gig VG, Fandango and myself attended a few weeks ago – the Musicians Against Police Violence benefit gig for Lex Wotton. It was a genuinely fun gig, and for a rather good cause, but the overwhelming thing I noticed was the number of people there at the gig, really getting into the ‘metal’ on offer, were like little lost man-child-nerds who somehow missed the punk boat of the 90's. Or perhaps thought the boat wasn’t manly enough for them. Or that not enough people were running around shirtless, growling and throwing horns up in the air sweatily enough, on said boat. Perhaps, the boat was goatless, and they were forced to shed a very manly tear in its notable absence.
Maybe it was just a bit of a bad lineup, I don’t really know, but I can’t say it’s inspired me to turn up to any future gigs officially sanctioned by the united board of metal. After all, one vocalist could be heard repeatedly screaming “Lets hear it for contact lenses! WOO”, and sadly, the crowd responded, cheering her and her stupid showboating on. It was all just a bit sad.
Maybe I’m just old and far more attached the good old nerdy punks of the day who were equally shirtless and sweaty and yelly and stampy, but at least managed to refrain from working on their ‘crazed maniac’ stare for the crowds, or indeed, their hair solos. Plus if anyone had gone on at length about contact lenses, we’d have just set fire to ‘em.
Toyed with the notion of firing a steady stream of landlords straight into the sun. The short version of this story is: We’ve been evicted! The long version is: We’ve been evicted so our money-grubbing landlord can flog it off to the highest overpaid, Brunswick invading scumbag they can find.
Real estate agents are making our lives unbelievably difficult in the process, and I’m downright sick of looking at houses claiming three bedrooms, but actually having one quantifiable bedroom, and a garden bed in which one might be able to erect a tent or two. I’m also getting fed up with filling in completely ludicrous applications that usually involve some kind of certification that you had a kidney removed when you were two years old, and YES, I am certain that this is the name, address and indeed first-born of the doctor in charge at the time. I bet they secretly sell identities to shady types on the side. The real estate business: very profitable indeed!
So; it’s goodbye to Brunswick (but not Hanover Street – we’ll be taking that with us), and hello to somewhere beginning with P, where we will become the overpaid, place-beginning-with-P invaders. Such is the food chain, I suppose.
Over and OUT! The Rantolotl.
* Certifiably so! I guarantee it!
** By the time you have finished the 'metal' bit, you will want to kill me for putting the word metal in between these ''. Don't worry, I do too.