Monday, May 02, 2005


Do the hustle.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

What are you doing?

Go to the new blog at once!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The crustacean is dead. Long live the crustacean!

To live is to change, to stop to die. The natural world rises and falls in cycles. Just as the hermit crab must move to a larger shell when he gets a fat arse so too must I move to, er, a different blog host.

I’ve accepted the kind offer of Mark at donotuselifts to be hosted on his blog-host-server-thingy and be schooled in the arcane ways of non-blogspot blogging. Mark has already been voted Canberra ex-teenager of the year and is a veritable Black Mountain Tower of Canberra bloggers. (He also won the ‘fresh face of the retail industry’ award – liquor & tobacco division, 2002, 2003 and 2004. He’s a champ.)

The new URL will be but this blogspot site will be maintained for some time in the delicate transition phase. What can you expect? Plenty more of the same sporadic half-baked musings and anecdotes that go nowhere, that’s what!

Alas, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs (unless you happen to like omelettes with a high ‘crunch-factor’). While I can salvage my old posts, I can’t import comments from ordinary people like YOU who make it all worthwhile. But they’ll still be around on blogspot.

But I’d appreciate it if those of you who link to me could update their links in due course. Those of you who don’t link to me (New York Times, the Economist, I’m looking at you) well then maybe you should get with the program…

Hope to see you at the new digs…

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Tokyo crustacean

When I was in Tokyo last week (sorry, elsewhere, there’s no other way to say it) I wandered around with a borrowed digital camera trying to take the kind of hurried random snaps that will capture forever the soul of a complex and exotic nation.

Alas, I’m a crappy photographer and I have to say I feel self-consious taking photographs in public, especially if those photographs are of strangers.

So after a few shitty attempts at Tokyo night life:

And a crappy portrait of the author taken by a colleague (a little out-of-focus, I normally look better than this):

I decided to give up and fall back on that old standard: funny signs made by people who don’t speak proper English! as well as other vaguely amusing signs. Signs are easy. They don’t move, they don’t look at you accusingly and they don’t require any aesthetic input.

So as I shopped, I snapped. And here are the oh-so-amusing results.

Japan has been plagued by r’n’b and hip-hop created by robots. At last, there is a remedy:

A delightful pair of stickers on a Department store lift that demonstrates to Japanese and foreigners alike that when the doors close crustaceans attack!

Ever hunted for a spare key? Wondered where it went? Wonder no longer… (this Department store sign also explains soil erosion).

And from the tee-hee-hee department:

From a sign on a hotel in the Shibuya district (if you get any rest, you’re not doing it right):

I’m glad to say that it took me a while but I finally found Japan’s dark side beneath all the commercial glitz:

Yes, it was heady few days of profound cultural exchange. I like to think that when I flew out of Narita, both Japan and I were richer for the experience…

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Homeless in Hokkaido

In Tokyo last week, I was returning by metro from a frenzied but largely unsuccessful shopping trip in Shibuya when another Westerner entered my train compartment. He looked like Santa Claus in a lumberjack outfit, with a great beard stretching to the middle of his chest and kindly blue eyes.

‘You look familiar,’ he said as he sat next to me, which immediately marked him as either a jocular fellow whitey in a sea of Japanese or a common or garden public transport full bull goose looney. And he turned out to be a little of both.

Once seated, he immediately began removing clothes, a process which continued for most of the journey, so many layers was he wearing.

‘Where are you from?’ He asked.


‘Oh, I’ve heard that’s a great place. But a hard to place to retire in. Do you think they’d let someone like me move there?’

I said I didn’t know. But that wasn’t what I was thinking. He then said something about immigration to Australia and black people which I didn’t quite catch. I couldn’t be sure it was racist but I felt myself tense. Regular train loonies are amusing as long as you don’t have a three-hour journey but racist camel-jobs* are no one’s idea of a good time.

He asked me if Australia had any troops in Iraq. I said that we did but he wanted to know if they were actually shooting or just building bridges. It seemed somehow important to me that he not confuse us with the kindly Czechs, Koreans or whomever, who are solely there to dig latrines and get shot while dispensing oral hygiene leaflets.

‘No, we were there for the actual war,’ I said. And he seemed doubtful of this, miming the shooting of a rifle to make sure I understood. I assured him Australia had been in Iraq for the combat phase (as opposed to the current ‘non-combat phase’) but I don’t think he believed me. He probably thought there are only two countries, other than Iraq, dumb enough to have been there from the start.

He asked me why I was in Japan and I did something I don’t normally do with camel-jobs: I lied through my teeth. I knew the truth about my job would just cause more and more questions so I told him I was there for a wedding.

‘Oh I’m a protestant minister,’ he said, ‘I’ve done two weddings this week already.’ I imagine he does look like the Japanese ideal of a godly Christian priest.

I had my story roughly sketched out but he side-tracked back to war, saying that Australia had been there in Vietnam, now that he recalled. He told me an anecdote about having been around an Australian infantry unit who were stuck without their supplies and he tried to get them into an American mess tent for a feed. He talked them past the soldier on the door – an, er, black soldier – only to be challenged inside by a cook, to whom he replied: ‘I reckon we need all the men we got to do the fighting. You want to go up country to fight? Neither do I. But these men will. So let ‘em have a meal.’ Apparently this did the job.

Then he started talking about a friend who had been sleeping in Ueno park (which is the park around all the Tokyo art galleries and museums). And I was suddenly now sure that he himself was homeless, looking down at his enormous cheap plastic bag and his layers of clothing.

He showed me a photograph of his friend, who was a Japanese man with a long black beard lying on the foothpath. Inexplicably, the old man I was talking to also featured in this photograph, leaning into the frame and holding a banana in front of his friend’s grinning face. Go figure.

He never actually said he was homeless but he said that a hotel cost ‘two hundred Australian dollars’ a night and he could think of a lot better things to do with two hundred dollars than a bed for a night.

We parted a Ginza station; he to change trains and me to take my sad purchases back to my three hundred dollar a night hotel.

(* ‘Camel-job’ is a term invented by British comedian Jasper Carrot to refer to public transport loonies (as in the person sitting on his own, rocking gently, and saying ‘camel camel camel’ over and over) and is not to be confused with a racist epithet for a person of arabian origin.)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Heirophants & grilled swordfish cutlets

The Great Canberra Blogger Picnic was abruptly changed from the botanic gardens to a private home – allegedly because of the weather. But it wasn't raining and it didn’t rain at all that day.

I had to check if I had the address right because when I pulled up to the ‘house’ it turned out to be a disused sardine cannery on the edge of a light industrial suburb in Canberra’s north.

I knocked three times and, just as I was about to leave, the roll-a-door on an adjacent building began to open slowly and noisily – like the sound of a robot being disemboweled in a snuff film for engineers.

Inside, all was dark except for one flickering fluorescent light. I called out as I warily entered.

‘Hello? Hello? Zoe?’

Only when I got to the other end of the warehouse, which still stank of the mechanised slaughter of a generation of tiny fish, did I hear another sound -- the sound of the door closing again. I hesitated for a moment before sprinting back to the entrance.

Too late. One hand flapped stupidly for a moment at the airy freedom on the other side but then I was trapped.

‘Hello?’ I called again, somewhat more nervously. ‘Zoe?’

Slowly, light after flickering light filled the room and a shape appeared on a steel balcony bolted to one water-stained wall.

‘Are you…Zoe?’ I asked, shielding my eyes from the glare with one hand. I approached until I could see the figure more clearly. It was a large dwarf – and by that I mean an obese dwarf, straining at the fabric of the only garment it was wearing, a hessian sack bearing the image of a single grey fish. The dwarf was wearing eye-shadow and appeared to petting a cat that looked for all the world like a shaved ferret. I peered more closely and discovered that it was in fact a shaved ferret.

‘I am Zoe.’ It said, in a voice like distant thunder recorded on a toy microphone underwater.

‘Er, you’re Zoe? From crazybrave? Ah, OK. So is, uh, Kay, here?’

‘I am Kay,’ it said.

‘Uh, OK. Carolinkus? Rachel? Are they here?’

‘They are here,’ the dwarf said, pointing to its forehead with a long discoloured bone which it produced from underneath the ferret. ‘I am Carolinkus. And I am Rachel.’

‘Um, OK, mate, look, I’ll just be going now.’ I started to back away, unsure of how I could make my escape.

‘I am everyone you are seeking. Everyone,’ it said, with a piercing stare. ‘And I am you!’ It shrieked, and with a sudden movement which sent the ferret flying through the air in my direction, it pulled a crab’s pincer from a hole within the sack. I screamed as it pointed the pincer at me and ran back to the roll-a-door.

As the dwarf howled with laughter, the ferret scampering at its feet, I pulled savagely at a chain on the door until I had opened it just enough to slide out.

I stood outside gasping at the fresh air, hugging my sides. And then from inside my ribcage there was a raucous new sound, stabbing at my heart.

My mobile phone. Ringing. And vibrating.

It was Zoe, with an update. Right address, wrong suburb. I hate it when that happens.

So we had the Great Canberra Blogger Picnic. And it was great and there were bloggers there, as well as blogger-nippers and blogger-bits-on-the-side. A fun time was had by all. Yay!

[* This story is obviously a work of fiction because I don’t own a mobile phone. And yes I was stuck for a title.]

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Lost in transubstantiation

Just days after promising a resurgence in crustaceanist blogging, I’m back to announce another hiatus. I’m going to Japan tomorrow and will be back on Sunday morning. Just in time for the great Canberra blogger picnic.

But please... let no one else say: 'hey, it will be just like that movie...with you know, that funny guy, and that girl. And they're, you know, lost.'


Here’s a question picking up on a few blog posts of late: is Canberra bloggery increasing or does it just seem that way. Are we on the egde of a new golden age of prosperity?

Also, let me nominate Mark as Canberra’s loveliest blogger.


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