Thursday, January 31, 2008

Passport >>> Japan

I've filled out my visa application, now I only need to get a passport photo done then buy a ticket to Tokyo, or Osaka. I'm going in September. Not having been overseas since 1994, it's rather exciting. Something to look forward to, aside from the weekend, or a new Dragon Quest game.
One place I plan to visit is Mt Koya, which has an enormous cemetery on top of a mountain forest. There are paths throughout that are lit by hundreds of lanterns at night, and you can stay in a Buddhist monastery, if I understand correctly. I am hoping I can do some Zen practice, and get whacked on the shoulder with a bamboo staff by the Zen Master because I can't sit still for longer than two minutes.
I also plan to buy some schoolgirl underwear from a vending machine in Tokyo.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Not On Her List

An ex-girlfriend called me at work the day before yesterday. It was right out of the blue. We made some small talk, whatever that is, then she asked me for my email address. That night when I checked my email I saw that she had composed an email right after she had hung up the phone. In it, she admitted that she "missed the old times", whatever that means. Maybe she has the 'seven-year-itch' you hear about. She's married and got two kids. Another funny things she wrote was that I'd had a big influence on her, a positive influence. She missed talking to me. That was interesting because near the end of our five-year relationship she enjoyed telling me how disgusting and harmful my comic (Sick Puppy) was, and that since I had been in the mail room at my place of work for so long, I was a loser, with no ambition, that kind of thing. (I can usually take the slings and arrows, but that really hit me in the guts.)
In my reply I happened to mention that I'm planning to visit Japan later in the year. And Scandinavia in a couple of years. She wrote back and wanted to know what was so hot about Japan. She figured that it was because, when we were together, I "liked manga and Asian chix". Maybe she thinks I'm going on a sex tour. But wouldn't I go to Thailand or some place like that if that were the case? She also said, "Scandinavia is not on my list", as though that fact had some relevance to my list. She wants to visit Spain and Africa. That's great for her. She can go wherever she likes. And I can go wherever I like. And I'm going to Japan. And Sweden.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cotard's Syndrome

French military surgeon Jules Cotard lived only 49 years (1840-1889), but he will be forever remembered for discovering one of nature's most sincerely fucked-up mental illnesses: Cotard's syndrome is a mental disorder where the victim concludes that he or she is dead. Sometimes the symptoms are more specific: Patients believe that they are missing certain internal organs, or that there is no blood in their veins, or that they have lost their soul. However, the ultimate manifestation of Cotard's syndrome (classified medically as a nihilistic delusional disorder) is the victim's unshakable conviction that he or she does not exist. It is not that these people fear they are dying; it's that they are certain they are already dead.
Sometimes the victims of Cotard's syndrome think they can smell their own flesh rotting.

- from Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Currawong Adoption 1

About a month ago I started feeding a Currawong. Before that story though, I have to go back a bit.

There are big trees in the carpark between our unit blocks, and my balcony overlooks this. I like to sit out there when I smoke. Doing this, I got to noticing the different birds in my neighbourhood.

There are pigeons, for one. I was surprised when I first saw a couple of them turning over leaves and twigs in the soil beneath the trees, searching for bugs, or whatever it was. Before that, I had only known them for their scavenging in the city, in gutters, or near places where people ate. But this was different, and it changed my view of these birds. You hear them being called 'rats with wings' or 'gutter birds', and I had thought this way too, looking down at them, even with disgust, but seeing them poking around in the leaves and twigs like this made me see them differently.

Another bird that is everywhere here is the Indian Mynah. These are small brown and black birds with yellow beaks. They are an introduced species and considered a pest. For me, it's impossible to see them that way, the main reason being that years ago I saw one of these birds trying to rouse its crushed mate in the middle of a road. Its mate had been run over by a car, but the other bird was trying to make it get up. It would have to fly away when a car zoomed up, but then it would immediately return. Over and over this happened, and I thought, This bird is gonna get hit too. And I thought that people do things like this, people in stories, fairy tales, myths.

Similar in some ways to the Indian Mynah (and often confused with it), but an Australian native, is the Noisy Miner. These too have a yellow beak, but they are grey, white and black. These birds are well-named, since they are extremely noisy indeed. They are also bold and fearless, dive-bombing much larger birds when they get too close to their young.

Another bird that loves the trees in our carpark is the Rainbow Lorikeet. These birds are also noisy, and although they often produce low-volume, very amusing sounds, they are just as likely to screech and squawk as though they are throwing a tantrum.

Now to the Pied Currawong. These birds sometimes get confused with Magpies, since both are mainly black with some white feathers, but the easiest way to tell the difference is that Magpies have red eyes, Currawongs have yellow eyes.

OK, so here we are. How I started feeding these birds. One day, about a month ago, a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I was on the balcony. A Currawong searching for food on the ground under the trees in the car park. I thought of the mincemeat in my fridge and went and got some and threw a chunk down. The Currawong saw it and went for it. It flew away into the top of some distant tree. Not long after that, I saw the bird in our tree again, so put a chunk of mince on the balcony railing this time. It didn't do anything, but seemed curious, so I tapped on the railing, making a dinging metallic sound, what I hoped would sound like a dinner bell, then moved back and stood in the doorway.
[to be continued]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Boss Fires Staff For Not Smoking

[I love this story. It's about time some whining anti-smoking crybabies were put in their place.]

The owner of a small German computer company has fired three non-smoking workers because they were threatening to disturb the peace after they requested a smoke-free environment.

The manager of the 10-person IT company in Buesum, named Thomas J, told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper he had fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.

Germany introduced non-smoking rules in pubs and restaurants on January 1, but Germans working in small offices are still allowed to smoke.

"I can't be bothered with trouble-makers," Thomas was quoted as saying.

"We're on the phone all the time and it's just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It's time for revenge. I'm only going to hire smokers from now on."


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Professor Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman fandom makes a lot of sense.

Wake up!

I was riding home on the footpath because the road was too busy. Up ahead were some sleepy looking young women waiting to cross at the lights. I could tell they weren't gonna step aside a little to let me pass, so I screamed:


Well, it did the trick.

Monday, January 07, 2008

No Country For Old Men

I just got back from seeing the new Coen brothers movie No Country For Old Men.

Josh Brolin plays a macho cowboy type dude who comes across these bodies while out hunting. He finds a suitcase full of money and takes off with it. A total psycho played by Javier Bardem (with an excellent hairstyle, I must say) spends most of the movie trying to track him down. Bardem's character has a rather unusual weapon - a gas-powered bolt type thing that he uses not only to kill people, but also to blast locks out of doorknobs. Tommy Lee Jones plays the sheriff trying to solve this messy crime, and catch up to Llewellyn (Brolin) before Bardem puts a gas-powered bolt into his skull.

The movie is enthralling from start to finish, often violent, very funny, it looks amazing, sounds amazing, the desert location is great, and I can't think of any negatives at all.

It was also cool to see Barry Corbin, who played mayor Maurice Minnifield in Northern Exposure.

Since this movie was actually released here on Boxing Day, it screws up my 2007 Top Ten a bit, since if I had've seen it last year it would have been in there for sure. Oh well. This shit always happens, since so many good movies are released on Boxing Day, and it's not a good time to go to the movies because everybody else has the same damned idea around this time, being the school holidays and all.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mozzie Coil Quest

Why is it getting harder to find mozzie coils? Anybody know? I use mozzie coils every summer because I don't have flyscreens, plus I like the smell. Recently I asked a checkout dude at my local minimarket why they didn't stock mozzie coils any more. He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know, but they didn't stock them any more. Today I rode my bike to a mini market further away, where I found them last time, but this time there were none. What the hell is going on? I spent about ten minutes looking at the fly/cockroach/mozzie section and it seemed that everything is now geared towards flys and cockroaches. They did have Aerogard but I don't want that. You have to spray that on yourself, and I'll be damned if I'm going to bed covered in Aerogard.
So, tomorrow the search for another mozzie coil dealer continues.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Holding On

Finished a very good book today called Holding On : Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics and Other American Heroes by David Isay and Harvey Wang. Isay travelled around the US for three years (around 1991-93) interviewing these people, and Wang took their photographs.

I only found out about this book because I saw the obituary of Robert Shields in the Sydney Morning Herald. He was a guy who took diary-writing to an extreme, and he is featured here along with many other wonderfully unique individuals.

Miles Mahan is the creator of Hula Ville, a dusty theme park on the edge of the Mojave Desert. His inspiration came from a wooden cutout of a hula girl he salvaged from a Hawaiian restaurant in 1955.

Father Louis H. Greving is continuing the work of Father Paul Dobberstein who began building a Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa. The grotto consists of eight caves connected to one another by stone paths and winding stairways. The entire structure has been covered with millions of tiny shards of stone and shell pressed into concrete and arranged into intricate patterns and pictures depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ.

Dewy Chafin and his mother, Barbara Elkins handle serpents (chiefly rattlesnakes) in their small church in Jolo, West Virginia. Scientists have not figured out how more of these people do not die from their occasional snakebites.

Jim Searles is the President of the Brooklyn Elite Checker Club. All the members are in their seventies and eighties, with minds sharp as tacks from their passion for checkers.

Dugout Dick Zimmerman was a hermit who settled in a remote Idaho cave. People came by and told him they wanted a cave too, so he began excavating other caves, so now he rents caves for two bucks night. "The rooms are surprisingly pleasant, even cosy. Each has a wood-burning stove made from a trash can, and a box-spring mattress. The more deluxe rooms have an old school-bus seat fro a couch, and an empty icebox in which to hang clothes.

Stanley Killar from Klamath Falls, Oregon is a record collector who has collected so many records his house is buckling under the weight.

And that's only a handful. There are 43 more. This book is so wonderful. It's one of those books that is hard to quit reading. Each profile is from two to six pages, so it's very easy to read 'just one more'. And it's the kind of book you will go back to, maybe when your life seems grim and robotic, depressing, or utterly meaningless. Books like these show us that it's never too late to get a life.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Modern Teens

Teen girl 1: "You know [points to teen girl 2] Marie's pregnant?"
Teen boy 1: "Who to?"
Teen girl 2: "Don't know."
They all laugh.

Overheard on train from Wollongong to Kiama (by Pauli)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

East West 101

Watching new Aussie TV shows can be a disappointing experience. It's even worse when you are Australian. Naturally we want our own productions to be good, not to suck.
A new sitcom on the ABC debuted recently, it was called The Librarians. I didn't even make it to the end of the first episode it was so lame. I wanted to like it because my friend who works in the library at work told everybody to watch it that night. But it was terrible, and I was glad my librarian friend never got around to asking me what I thought of it.
On the other hand, a new Aussie detective show popped up on SBS five weeks ago and it's excellent. It's called East West 101. The focus is on two Sydney detectives. One of them is Detective Zane Malik, a Muslim who became a cop after watching his father get shot in the head in a bungled grocery store hold-up. The father survived but with serious brain damage. The other is Detective Sgt Ray Crowley, whose son has recently died from a drug overdose. Crowley has a problem with Malik, since Malik no doubt reminds him of the Lebanese smack dealer who was responsible for selling Crowley's son the hot shot that killed him.
Anyway, each episode deals with a separate new case that is solved by the end, while Malik's and Crowley's issues develop from episode to episode.
The show is top class and essential viewing.
Next week is the final episode of the six-episode season. That seems damned short to me, for a TV series. What the hell? Oh well, that's life. The best things are always over too soon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Can't Read Swedish :[

Another of my NY resolutions was to finish reading the Kurt Wallander novels by the excellent Swedish writer Henning Mankell. Two days ago I finished the eighth book, and there's only one more to read: Pyramiden, which is a collection of five short stories that deal with Wallander and his early years as a cop/detective. To my dismay, I found out this afternoon that this book has not yet been translated into English. So that's one of my resolutions foiled already.

Hope it's not a bad omen for the year ahead :[

Paging Mr Don Shula

The daily quotation on my Collins desk calender today is from Don Shula:

"Success is not forever and failure is not fatal."

That's not a bad line, I suppose, though I doubt Mr Wilde has much to worry about, but who the heck is Don Shula?

The name sounds Hawaiian.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

NY Resolution Fantasies

Happy New Year! to all my readers. One, two, three... Yep, you're all here. Good.
Anybody got any New Year resolutions? I'll bet you have been asked that before already, maybe more than once, and maybe you're sick of it. Or maybe not. Maybe you've got some good ones this year and wanna tell everybody. Well tell ME, go on! That's what the Comments button is for, after all.

As for me, quitting smoking is out this year. I'll continue smoking six or seven a day. I have tried quitting, but the fact is I enjoy the damned things too much.

Another one is... You can guess this one, it's not hard! That's right, writing in here on a more regular basis! OK stop rolling around the floor laughing your arses off. I know it's funny (like wishing for world peace), but it's true! I look back at how much I managed to write in 2005, something like half a million words or whatever it was. It sure felt like it. And they couldn't have been all bad. OK, mostly, but not all. Anyway, the main thing was how great I felt after writing a lot of that stuff. There may have been some delusion as to the quality some nights, but the main thing was that I felt like I had done something. "Something" meaning something more than eating or sleeping or watching TV. Or playing video games.

Plus, it's cool when somebody likes something you write. Even if it's only about your obsession with a woman who reads a book as she walks to work.

Anyway, either you know what I'm talking about or you think it's a load of self-indulgent bullshit. Of course, the latter may be true. But who cares? What the hell is wrong with a little self-indulgence anyway? Nothing, that's what.

That's all for now. More resolutions tomorrow! Maybe!