Saturday, May 29, 2004

Hazelblackberry: Matte finish

Dear Nick,

Yesterday I was walking through Myer (or Myers, as we all tend to say; Myer's I suppose). It's a little like Tim Tams. Take a look at the packet sometimes: it says Tim Tam; without the word of a lie.

I was on my way to buy stockings. I had twenty minutes to spare before my dentist appointment, so I thought what better way to kill time than by purchasing some quality - or possibly mid-range - hosiery. Thank goodness I didn't attempt to buy them afterwards when my face was numbed by not-so-local anaesthetic. Although my face was generally okay, only looking a trifle post-stroke, my speech was deeply inarticulate and Joseph Carey Merrick-esque. I imagine the lady behind the stocking counter would have recoiled in distaste and horrified surprise in much the same fashion as those Victorian-era Poms at the freak show. Poor little Elephant Man. I still cry and cry and cry when I see that movie. Because he was so courageous and loving, and deserving of love. And yet who of us would love an Elephant Man in real life? Now that's a question for the ages.

So with twenty minutes to spare, and denial ever gentle on my mind, I wandered through Myer. I stopped first at the 'costume' jewellery section and I'm ever so glad I did because it was there that I heard a young woman ask someone, 'Do you have the correct time?' First of all, that really is an odd question. But second of all: I couldn't believe that one so young and dewy-fresh would ask a question in that way; in that old-time two-step way. Perhaps she was raised in a little two-bedroom cottage somewhere on a forgotten bend of the Swan - or Canning - River? Perhaps her great-grandmother was her only companion, educating the girl-child at home and dressing her in long floral-print skirts and sensible flat brown leather shoes? I know not. I do know that it gladdened my grizzled old heart to hear that turn of phrase.

A few weeks ago my friend, The Antiquer, told me he was in a bakery in South Perth admiring their range of vanilla slices and Paris buns when in walked a young apprentice-type lad. This antipodean Dickon had obviously worked up a healthy, outdoorsy appetite and ordered a meat pie. The surly, blonde chickie behind the counter asked "anything else?", to which he replied, "I'll just put my name to that beesting." Marvellous. The Antiquer was quite overcome with emotion.

I have a small though manageable addiction to journals and web-sites that devote themselves to old-style language and/or the Australian vernacular.

I think Bloody Ern must be the only person I know of who still uses the word 'cobber'. I know there is a small yet significant population out there who still use it, but Bloody Ern is the only one I know. You need a certain crustiness about you to use cobber, don't you? As the men of Australia get their crusty edges all knocked off (of) them, 'cobber' will probably die out; around the same time as the last 'legs eleven' call is made in a lonely multi-purpose bingo/CWA hall somewhere in the dusty wheat belt.

The visit to the dentist, it must be said, was not as awful as I had expected but bad enough - what with all the drilling and scraping and visions of blackboards dancing in my head. Dentists and hairdressers induce in me the most dreadful feelings of inadequacy and shame. And then, of course, you pay for the humiliation.

Until next time, Nick.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Forgotten Cinema, Volume I

Tonight, When crustaceans attack! brings you a few fun facts about lesser known cinematic gems for you to sprinkle into dinner party conversation.

This Man's Navy (1945)
The engaging tale of two Navy vets who compete to see whose son is the bigger hero. Wallace Beery, James Gleason, Tom Drake. D: William A. Wellman. BW 100m

This propaganda effort, made in the closing days of World War Two, is notable for what was only the third homosexual screen kiss and the first to feature tongue.

Corporals on Parade! (1948)
A scewball comedy about new recruits from all over the United States being put through their paces at an army base in South Carolina. Jay C. Flippen, John Gilbert. D: Frank Capra. BW 100m.

Made during the depths of Capra’s little-known battle with depression (which Warner Brothers worked hard to suppress), this film is chiefly known for the closing scene where the young private from California screams into a thunderstorm ‘I did not take your shoes, I did not take your shoes,’ over and over again, as the torrential rain washes the Drill Sergeant’s blood from his broken fingers. Bracing!

It Happened One Afternoon (1934)
A newspaperman tracks a runaway heiress on a madcap cross-country tour, finishing in a men’s prison where the two find love at last. Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Walter Connolly. D: Mark Sandrich. BW 105m. CC

The first Hollywood film to capture the brutal reality of prison rape, this movie saw audiences walk out of the twelve minute ‘laundry’ scene. It is also thought to be the first film to feature the now standard line ‘don’t drop the soap!’.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Asquith’s immortal film of Wilde’s most popular work. Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans, Richard Wattis. D: Anthony Asquith. C 95m

Audiences warmed to this film after initial discomfort with screen-writer Paul O’Hare liberal changes to the original script. Best scene: Lady Bracknell gives her famous line: 'To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness' to which Jack retorts in a flash: 'why don’t you just shut the fuck up?'

Adventure (1945)
A rough-living sailor has trouble adjusting to domestic life when he marries a librarian. Clark Gable, Greer Garson, Thomas Mitchell. D: Victor Fleming. BW 126m. CC

Poorly undertood when it was first released, this film has become highly influential. The scene where Clark Gable strides naked, clad only in a coat made from Greer Garson’s skin is, of course, later echoed in Silence of the Lambs. And the pulsating sound track was later imitated by Miami Vice.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hazelblackberry: the hyphenation

[Welcome to a regular feature here at crustaceans. Perth correspondent, Fightin' Hazelblackberry will post in with whatever floats her boat (down the Swan River. Did I mention she's in Perth?)]

Dear Nick,

Come and get it, come and get it
With Peter Russell-Clarke
Come and get it, come and get it
He's Australia's brightest spark
Come and get it, come and get it
Good food you'll love to eat
Come and get it, come and get it
And there's people you can meet

Cook a shark or make a damper
Feed your ego, pack a hamper
On the farm or out at sea
Learn a recipe or threeeee

Come and get it
With Peter - g'day
Russell - g'day
Claaaaaaaarke. (See ya later)

Where would Ian Parmenter be without the pioneering work of Peter Russell-Clarke? I saw Ian Parmenter a few weeks ago in Subiaco. In real life he is even more bon vivant than on TV. I was so anxious to keep an eye on him and hiss out of the corner of my mouth (and when I got home and checked out what I look like hissing out of the corner of my mouth while my eyes roll conspicuously in my head, I vowed I would never attempt such a covert operation again) at my lunch friend to turn around and notice Ian that I failed to notice that my lunch friend had turned a rather nasty colour and was quietly and most politely vomiting into her napkin. This wasn't due to the cuisine of the establishment at which we dined. She had a pre-existing queasiness.

And yet is there anything on the web - anything at all? - about Peter Russell-Clarke? The answer is a resounding yes. I did a search and came up with a few sites that mention him, but none (that I could find) that CELEBRATE the man. They all seemed intent on either selling books by him or taking the mickey.

I mean, come on, "Where's the cheese?" I think the only person who comes close to having such a great line is the lovely Yorkshire gent on Gardening Australia who signs off each show with, "Well that's your bloomin' lot..." Anyway, with that beard and mumbling laugh, PR-C was like a weird cross between Kenny Everett and Simon Townshend - and thank goodness Townshend didn't have a cooking show because, let's face it, food and drooling dogs just do not mix.

I used to come home from playing with my friends or swimming down at the town pool, eyes red & foggy with chlorine, sucking the remnants of bacteria-ridden pool water out of the bottom of my plaits, to watch Come and Get It while Bloody Ern cooked dinner. I never made much of a connection then between what was being concocted on TV and the food that Bloody Ern placed on the table. Not that I am knocking BE's cooking. He could whip up a mean bit of fish, would patiently stir pancake mix in a little yellow jug, getting the lumps out with a fork, knocked up a hearty porridge on a slightly cooler Sunday evening, with lettuce leaves sprinkled with sugar for dessert. And no one could touch Ern for heating up those roast meals lovingly cooked and packed into individual servings by my grandmother, Don Mary; snap frozen and air expressed to wherever we were living at the time. But when it came to stews and other, shall we say, combination cooking, even BE has to admit, "some days a diamond, some days a stone". Many a miserable evening was spent as a prisoner of the dining room table, exhorted to eat every last morsel.

In case I've been a little harsh on Bloody Ern's cuisinart, let me just note this: no one, but no one, comes close to him for appreciating just how delicious a tepid can of caramel Rice Cream can be when all the power's gone off.

Until next time, Nick.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The (Tim) Blair Watch Project, Volume II

Tim's latest post takes Time journalist, Mary Corliss, to task for criticising US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumself when he said: 'I'm a survivor.' He was speaking to an audience of US personnel in Iraq.

Corliss' idiotic point was that the only things you could 'survive' were the Holocaust and cancer. Her argument only works if she's allowed to re-engineer the English language on the fly. So score 1 point to Tim for spotting journalistic stupidity.

But take 5 or 10 off for being immune to the astonishing chutzpah of a harried bureaucrat, Rumsfeld, telling a bunch of soldiers, marines and civilians-in-harm's-way that he's a survivor.

These guys have survived bullets, grenades, mines and car-bombs. What has Rumsfeld survived of late? Well, I understand he dodged a sharply-worded newspaper editorial that very morning!

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The (Tim) Blair Watch Project, Volume I

For those who don’t know, Tim Blair is like the Godfather of Australian bloggers – ever ready with words of wisdom and support, a (non-gay) kiss or two and a helping hand, punctuated by extreme violence for dramatic effect. (I’m not sure who I’m explaining this to. He has, like, two million readers; somewhat fewer are reading this.)

I’ve read a fair bit of Tim over the last couple of years. He has an amusing turn of phrase, strong (right-wing) opinions and he’s fast on the break. But sometimes he, well, talks shit. So, to act as a check and/or balance on Australia’s Blogger of Record, I present the (Tim) Blair Watch Project. (Also, of course, I’m hoping that he’ll acknowledge this blog and fling some meagre traffic morsels my way. Everything is self-interest, no?)

On to volume 1: I looked over the last ten or so posts and sure, there’s plenty to annoy the casual reader and there’s plenty of the same sort of material that Tim purveys on a daily basis (Michael Moore is a big fat liar, David Marr of Media Watch is, er, a skinnier liar) but there’s little there that is absolutely head-kickingly stupid. (Soft targets are easier and therefore my preference).

Luckily, there was something upon which I could cut my teeth. Tim’s post here puts the boot into Gary Trudeau (Mr Doonesbury) for following the lead of Ted Koppel’s Nightline and publishing the names of all US servicemen and women to die in Iraq. Tim claims: (i) it’s easier than actually drawing a cartoon (well, duh!) and (ii) that its essentially motivated by anti-war sentiment rather than a genuine motivation to honour the dead because they could have screened/drawn the names of the victims of September 11.

Granted, those who post the names of the US war dead are perhaps motivated to some degree out of opposition to the war. But is it really more appropriate to list the victims of September 11?

Firstly, the situation in Iraq is the number one news story day in, day out. The deaths of US soldiers and marines are relevant to that. The victims of September 11 are not. There is no proven connection between that terrorist atrocity and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Why not post a list of men who died building the Brooklyn Bridge? There’s no connection there, either. (There were 27, by the way).

Secondly, surely the victims of September 11 are some of the most honoured people in history. Their names (all of them) have rolled across television screens several times. Hundreds of websites are devoted to their memory. Major benefit concerts have been held for them. A hugely expensive memorial will be built for them and each and every name will be included. Is it really some kind of injustice that their names are not broadcast one more time instead of another set of dead being honoured?

By contrast, 1.3 million children die each year from diarrhea, for cying out loud. Where’s their memorial? Where the list of their names? Did all of them even have names?

Perhaps Tim might pause to consider the deaths of some people who have nothing to do with any of his political causes? (Of course, the same can be said of Messrs Koppel and Doonesbury, but I only signed up to bug Tim.)

Well, jeez, that started out light and upbeat and wound up kind of depressing, didn’t it?

[The (Tim) Blair Watch Project. Witty, huh? Alas, some Pommy SOBs got there first with reference to Mr Tony. But the really witty part is the ‘Tim’ in parentheses, eh readers?]

Pigeon research will not stand still

Pigeon research will not stand still. The truth of that statement fairly reaches out and smacks you across the chops, doesn’t it?

The BBC reports on plans drawn up, but alas never acted upon, to extend the WWII war-fighting capabilities of the humble pigeon into the cooler and greyer skies of the Cold War. Pigeons did play their part in Hitler’s downfall, serving as a secure means of secret communication. (A trench-coated pigeon flits from shadow to shadow; one wing pressing a tiny package snugly to its downy breast. The bloody Jerries won’t get their hands on this, it coos to itself, even as it spies the distant but unmistakeable shape of a Gestapo falcon on the wing.)

After the close of WW2, the British started a ‘Pigeon Committee’ acting upon the blood-chilling warning that: ‘Pigeon research will not stand still; if we do not experiment, other powers will.’ Pigeons, the War Office mused idly to itself, could carry small explosives or even biological weapons directly to the enemy. The pigeons themselves were not asked for their views on this mode of warfare. One wonders whether sufficient feathered British volunteers would have been found or whether Whitehall would have been forced to rely on swaggering, sun-browned Colonial pigeons.

Of course, as in many fields of industry, ultimately the British blew it. They lost their pigeon edge. The gruff, no-nonsense English pigeon could not stand against the sky-darkening hordes of Chinese pigeons, raised as fearless fighting machines in the brutal hot-house of the Beijing State Circus.

I will add, however, that pigeons have been found in Iraq. Where these pigeons came from and what they were doing under Saddam's regime remain a mystery.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Stop thinking and start living!

Since this blog first went public, we’ve been inundated with calls, emails, faxes, and facetious remarks from off-duty police officers. Everybody wants to know everything about When crustaceans attack! What’s your position on Zimbabwe? What’s your take on the new Sichuan cuisine? What letter does 'pharmacopoeia' start with and where can I buy one?

To get a few of the obvious questions out of the way and let us get on with the serious job of providing 24-hour news and commentary every couple of days or so, we decided to post this list of official When crustaceans attack! positions.

Terrorism: against it.
Gay marriage: only in church.
Digital photography: sure, why not?
Teenage sex: never tried it.
Belgium: no.
Democracy: against it.
Sitcoms: only if they’re set in a doctor’s office, a bar or space.
Space: against it.
The music of REM: love it except for their early stuff before they went commercial.
Googie-egg and toast soldiers: yes.
In: the new out.
Neutrons: way better than protons.
Intolerance: yes, if it’s carefully considered.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

This blog: now in it's amazing 17th year!

I hardly know how to begin celebrating the 17th anniversary of the blog that predates the web itself. What can be said that hasn't been said already? And better?

When the archeologists come, in their shiny eco-suits, fresh from a hard and fast round of ‘SupaRazz!’ played in the low-grav pleasure domes of Ganymede, they will pry the keyboard from my cold, dead fingers and know this:

I was a fresh-faced 15-year old, angry at the world and at myself, looking for a way to blow off steam, meet chicks and revolutionise the written word.

I rapidly outgrew poetry (too commercial), the novel (a dead art form) and the sitcom (rarely done well in Australia) but was still too young and full of hope to immerse myself in the unforgiving world of contemporary dance set to spoken word monologues.

I had a message and the world had a need to hear my message. Not next month, not next week, but now! As soon as I’d cashed my grant from the Australia Council, I was ready to be the cruel mistress that the English language was begging me to be.

In that first weekend, I must have used up a hundred pens, like a pimp goes through junkie prostitutes. I ‘posted’ several thousand entries (or ‘posts’) on the ‘cobweb board’ inside the shed, settled down with a hot cup of tea and a Boston bun and waited for the invention of some kind of electro-magnetic interactive hypertext protocol (any one would do).

And that was it! History was made though history didn’t know it at the time. (History is like a very pretty girl at a party – she won’t notice you unless you’re rich, good-looking or take Moscow before the winter).

My mind ranged freely in those early pre-web years (and my actual arrival on the web was delayed for some time because of a rusted lock on the shed door): music (I predicted the rise and rise of Shannon Noll – is he not a terrible strutting god? Where can I get me one of them tiny triangular sub-mouth beards? For they are heavy cool…), film (I authored a peer-reviewed paper that mathematically proves most movies suck the fat one) and the giddy heights to which the human spirit can soar (when it isn’t, you know, being machine-gunned or forced to learn French).

The remainder of this decade will be devoted to a steady unpacking of my thoughts from July-October 1987. If you wish to 'rap' with me about those heady days, send me a friendly pigeon.

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