On Your P (Personalised) Plates

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You definitely see some sights when you’re out driving.

On life’s highways the bold and the bizarre come into view on many an occasion.

Varied coloured cocoons each filled with people hermetically sealed within their own worlds, moving at speed to the rhythm of green lightyellow lightred light – for starters.

There I was stuck in traffic, two lines of steel and tire, each capable of over 160 kilometres per hour and each averaging about five in their stop-start fashion. My viewing options were limited so I chose what most others would do in this situation… to gaze zombie-like at the car in front of me. This turned out to be a not entirely wasted experience. In a vision of loveliness sullied only by the grey mist exhaust coming from its tailpipe sat the sleek chrome rear of a mustard yellow Nissan GT-R sports car.

That type of auto-eye-candy under any normal circumstance would have been satisfying enough but this particular sleek unit of hot metal came with a bonus: a personalised number plate that read SIR YANG”. (To supply added context to this story, the location for my stuck-in-traffic experience was the Brisbane suburb of Sunnybank which is recognised as having a higher than average Asian population).

With time on my side and not going anywhere fast I tossed over in my mind exactly why that particular combination of words seemed so.. so.. unique (not to mention hilarious, at least to me). The best I could come up with was the idea that mixing the most English of sounding royal titles ‘Sir’ with the quintessentially Asian sounding surname (or is that first name?) of ‘Yang’ results in a most unlikely blending of European and what used to go by the name of ‘Oriental’ flavours one could possibly imagine.

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Probably the most out-there personalized plate I’ve seen on a car on the road was one that simply read ANTS (to be honest I can’t recall if it was spelled with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’) Make of that what you will.

Naturally that’s nothing compared to the likes of the wanton weirdness you can find online –

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 And they’re just the G-rated ones!

In the minds of some, there isn’t an item that screams ’empty status symbol’ more than the personalised number plate, or ‘vanity plate’, as they are still referred to in some circles. So why do people sometimes mentally roll their eyes when they see another driver’s attempt at being funny or what they may interpret as a gaudy ‘look at me’ gesture?

In part, it’s a legacy of the fact that personalised plates were born in the eighties, a decade when bankers’ greed had poisoned the well of public opinion against conspicuous displays of wealth. Getting a personalised plate was seen as something that was done by those with more money than sense, a rather gauche, loadsamoney thing to do.

But three decades on, the general wealth of the middle class has risen exponentially and personalised number plates, much like tattoos or piercings, are now widely considered simply a fun thing to do ‘because you can’.

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An early adopter – Lady Penelope from the 1960’s tv series ‘THE THUNDERBIRDS’.

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Ps. Your bonus read this week is the incredible story of the car that carried Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the day he was assassinated in June of 1914 (an event that triggered a series of events which lead to the outbreak of World War 1) and the eerie significance of the number plate of that motor vehicle.

It’s helpful if you keep in mind when reading this article that the peace treaty that ended World War One was signed on the 11th of Novemember 1918.

READ IT HERE

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Into the Snakepit of Friendship

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About a month ago a well-written US-based blog I follow going by the name of YEAH, ANOTHER BLOGGER published an uplifting ode to the joys of friendship (HERE)  It was a refreshing and affirming celebration of how friends enrich our lives while doubling our joys and halving our sorrows.

Such unabated cheerfulness was simply too much for me. With ice running through my veins in quick time I proceeded to pour acid-scented cold water over the whole notion by posting this comment on the site –

This friendship-themed post comes with a lot of good vibes Neil.

Unfortunately, along with some of your other readers like Alyson, Mahvish, Paddy and Les my experience of friendships has been more mixed. To this extent I’ve come to somewhat reluctantly believe over the years in two adages –

(1) Friends come and go but enemies last a lifetime and
(2) Keep a watch on your enemies but keep a closer eye on your friends.

Despite the slightly mafia-sounding ring to these old sayings, there’s no disguising a cynical (or is it just born-of-experience adult realism?) viewpoint at the heart of both. To be brutally honest, without even really trying, a great many adults I come into contact with begin to grate on the nerves after anything more than a short time in their company. Sad but true (for me)

And of the others, if a person who I’m compatible with on a friendship level isn’t prepared to put in at least something approaching a similar amount of effort to keep that friendship going, then whamo, unfortunately up in smoke goes another glorious ‘what might have been’.

I’ve heard that in order to thrive the one ingredient all friendships need is FORCED REGULAR CONTACT. Like back in Primary school! Remember those days? Back then friendships for all of us were based on innocent choices centred on the laws of personality attraction. These days work and family occupy the bulk of my time which is not to say I’m not on the lookout for personality types who I think could become friends.

Sorry for what probably comes across as an anti-friendship tone in this comment Neil but I just wanted to put across the idea that, at least in my experience, despite the best of intentions friendships and the desire for friendship don’t always go according to plan. Which is certainly no great truth bomb on originality count I think it’s safe to say.

And just when I was starting to feel guilty that maybe I’d popped the feel-good party balloons that up to that moment seemed fairly inflated, came this comment on the same site from a person named Pazlo  –

I’m tempted to quote Mark Twain and say “The more I know of people, the more I like dogs.”
However, you have painted a lovely picture of brotherly love from the city famous for such.

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See, I’m one of those people who believes the word ‘friend’ is often mistakenly used by people who are simply referring to someone they’re on friendly terms with. And there’s a big difference, as we all know, between the two. With possible misunderstanding hanging thick in the air like negatively charged particles before a rainstorm, what else was there to do but haul out the analytical blowtorch and see if I could make any sense of it all.

Let’s start with exhibit A below – The Friendship Schematic

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Tier 1 Friends – Those who feel somewhat like brother’s and sisters. This is hallowed territory indeed.

Tier 2 Friends – You might be invited to their wedding, but you certainly won’t be delivering any Best Man or Best Woman speeches.

Tier 3 Not Really Friends – Your relationship tends to exist mostly as part of a bigger group or through the occasional Facebook like.

Tier 4 Acquaintances – When you hear that something bad happens to one of these people, you pretend to be sad but you don’t actually care.

Tier 5 Strangers – We get to ‘meet’ about 80 000 people in our lifetime (that’s everyone from the teenager who served you a flat white in the coffee shop this morning to the uncle you only ever saw a few times back in your childhood) and the overwhelming majority of those will remain as barely one step up from complete strangers to us.

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Before leaving this topic, I’d like to aim the cross-hairs at a couple of very recognisable friendship types –

 THE NON-QUESTION ASKING FRIEND

You can be having a bad day. You can be having a good day. You may be having marriage problems. You may have just loaded a bloody body into the boot for all they care. None of it matters because  none of it will be discussed by the non-question asking friend who never, ever asks you anything about your life. This friend can be explained in one of three ways:

1) They are extremely self-absorbed and only want to talk about themselves.

2) They avoid getting close to people and don’t want to talk in-depth about either you or themselves or anything personal, just third-party topics.

3) They think YOU’RE incurably self-absorbed and know if they ask you about your life you’ll talk their ear off about it.

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THE LOPSIDED FRIENDSHIP

Whether we like to admit it or not there’s a power-balance at play in all friendships.

Friendships can be lopsided in a variety of ways. Someone can want to spend more time with a friend or vice-versa. One member can consistently do 90% of the listening and only 10% of the talking.

A near 50/50 friendship is ideal, but anything out to 65/35 is fine and can often be attributed to two different styles of personality. It’s when the number gap gets even wider that something less healthy is going on—something that doesn’t reflect very well on either party.

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THE FRENEMY

Infamous by name, white-anting by nature. The frenemy is a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. They are common in workplaces the world over. The frenemy can’t disguise their pleasure when things don’t pan out for us.

The word itself has appeared in print as early as 1953 in an article titled “Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?” by the American gossip columnist Walter Winchel  in the Nevada State Journal. 

The trick to dealing with a frenemy is getting them as low down your friendship mountain – at least Tier 3 but more ideally Tier 4 or 5) – as is humanly possible.

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THE HISTORICAL FRIEND

A Historical Friend is someone you became friends with in the first place because you met when you were little and stayed friends through the years, even though you’re a very weird match. A true Historical Friend is someone you absolutely would not be friends with if you met them today.

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THE FRIEND IN THE GROUP YOU CAN’T BE ALONE WITH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES 

In many groups of friends, there’s one pair of individuals who can’t ever be alone together.  It’s not that they dislike each other—they might get along great—it’s just that they have no individual friendship with each other whatsoever. Awkward? Yeah, awkward.

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There’s no denying life is a far richer experience in the company of good friends. It’s just that, like anything, friends exist on a continuum, meaning that there’s a range. There can also be a dark underbelly and I’m just sorry I had to be the one to raise it.

Then again what would you expect from a person who used to loath with a passion the television series FRIENDS (1994 -2004) and would rather have root canal surgery than have to endure the indignity of watching a single episode in its entirety based around the romantic and career lives of a collection of twenty and thirty somethings?

Sitting through the antics of an ensemble cast of perfectly groomed and overprivileged, what used to go by the name of ‘yuppies’ back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, just was not on my wavelength either back then or now.

On the other hand …hitching my viewing wagon to following the ups and downs of working class married life centred around the odd-couple union of an overweight courier driver and his underpaid, feisty Manhatten secretary wife who both live in a small apartment with the wife’s hilariously volatile widowed father (who always manages to get in the way) was much, much more my thing. More my type of virtual ‘friends’.

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Ps. I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that in a lot of ways its easier to like a person from a distance than it is up close and warts and all via a lot of daily/weekly contact. This is the theme explored in Australian author Lisa Ireland’s (Check her website HERE)  novel THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP released last year.

Libby and Kit have been best friends since Primary school. They’ve maintained their friendship over many decades via emails, phonecalls and an annual face to face catchup. So when Libby announces she is moving to Kit‘s city of Melbourne, the two besties are initially overjoyed. But both are about to discover the person they thought they’d known and stayed in contact with all these years has changed  in ways not revealed by their polite emails and up-beat phone chit chats.

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Just how Unique is Unique?

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My fingerprints are all over the keyboard that typed these words.

Your fingerprints are on the mouse that’s scrolling them.

Both sets are different.

Right?

Of course it’s right, if you accept the idea we’ve all been told, many times over, that no one who’s currently living, has ever lived or will be born in the future will ever have the exact same fingerprints as us?

But what if you don’t accept that notion?

What if that idea is really a bunch of pink-cinnamon-lip-gloss-flavoured-old-school- codswallop perpetuated by the same people who told us an apple a day keeps the           doctor away, you get warts from touching toads and frogs and sharks don’t get cancer.

As is pointed out in this clip from the ‘ol tv series NUMBERS (2005 -2010) unless you were to take the fingerprints of every person who is currently alive today (7.7 billion) plus the fingerprints of every person who has EVER lived but is NOT alive today (estimated to be a little in excess of 100 billion people) you can’t say you categorically ‘KNOW’ that no two people have the same identical fingerprints.

That’s why when experts state they have a DNA match they don’t say it’s a certainty but rather reword things to state more cautiously that, for example, there’s a one in three million chance that the DNA samples are NOT from the same person.

Naturally arguments along these lines that contend a person is prevented from stating something as impossible unless they have checked every single existing specimen that is living or has ever lived to see if it might in fact be possible are plainly ridiculous. Science more often than not arrives at not facts but what, to be fair, must be labelled assumptions (though these ‘assumptions’  are about as air-tight and scrupulously investigated as are any likely to ever be).

We are told the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 149.6 million km’s. But since no person has ever boarded a space ship, set the odometer to zero and then travelled the distance to measure it, how do we KNOW it’s 149.6 kilometres? For that matter how does the average person KNOW the Earth is not flat?

The answer is we don’t.

Instead we rely on armies of scientists from every country on Earth whose life work is to use super-sophisticated instruments based on empirical measurements  to make  calculated estimates based on scale. (FYI, and so I may appear mildly intelligent,  in the case of interplanetary distances, astro-scientists transmit a radar signal at another planet (or moon or asteroid) and measure how long it takes for the radar echo to return)

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The same mischief-making argument can be applied to poke holes in the adage that says no two snowflakes are alike. How do scientists actually KNOW that to be true unless they’ve personally examined every single snowflake that’s ever fallen to Earth? (Here I go again attempting to pass myself off as some super intelligent being  but apparently there’s estimated to be one septillion – that’s a trillion trillion – snowflakes that fall from the skies every year).

According to Jon Nelson, a physicist and formerly assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, there are this many possible snowflake shapes – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000.

That’s a one followed by 768 zeros making the chances of finding two identical snowflakes not good.

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There was actually a scientist who claimed back in 1988 to have found two identical snowflakes. Nancy Knight, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado was studying wispy high altitude cirrus clouds. Her research plane was collecting snowflakes on a chilled glass slide that was coated with a sticky oil.

She found two hollow hexagonal prism shaped snowflakes in a Wisconsin snowstorm that she claimed were identical. The news made headlines around the world at the time. Closer examination under a microscope revealed in fact the snowflakes were not identical but rather amazingly similar.

So for the moment at least in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I’ll be sticking to the beliefs that hold fingerprints are indeed unique and that no two snowflakes are identical.

Old school I know.

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Ps. On a contrasting but not entirely unrelated note,  you may have heard there’s a new KEANU REEVES movie doing the rounds. It’s called REPLICAS and features a pretty ‘out there’ plot line.

Reeves’ character is a researcher at a biotech firm who suffers a tragedy when his wife and three children are killed in a car accident. After carefully laying out the dead bodies on the side of the road, he calls not the police but rather a co-worker at the biotech firm. Together the two of them go about  preserving his family’s neural maps, cloning their bodies, and re-imprinting their memories into the clones.

But this being a sci-fi film centred around freaky experiments you know things are bound to go wrong. And they do.

And just so you know, these are my favourite six Keanu films

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Day of the Rhino

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I’ve had a rhinoplasty.

That’s nose job for those of you unfamiliar with the technical term.

It’s actually my second.

The first happened 28 years ago back in 1990.

Yep, me and nose obsession go way back.

So where does one venture to if one is thinking of changing the all important centrepiece of one’s face?

Where else but to the undisputed World Headquarters of plastic surgery – Seoul, Korea. Take it from me – this place even trumps Beverly Hills, California when it comes to image conscienceness. For the sheer number of folk in pursuit of ‘the look’ who are prepared to part with their hard-earned to achieve it this corner of the world comes out on top.

Over there plastic surgery – whether it be eyelid nip ‘n tucks, rhinos, chin implants, cheekbone sculpting or what have you – is just something you do. Sort of like Aussies and tattoos, but price-wise on a much grander scale.

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Before I take you on the tour of my op, I need to share this. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the course of my many decades long journey regarding nose reshaping surgery it’s the importance of having realistic expectations. Every surgeon you meet in this field emphasizes this.

The dramatic transformation before and after pics which are so easily found on the internet, like the one of the woman below, are much harder to come by in ‘real life’. I should know. I’ve trolled through literally hundreds of before and afters contained in handsomely bound volumes in the waiting rooms of plastic surgeons as well as via on-line surgeon sites and I’ve never, repeat NEVER come across anything as miraculously transformed as the sheer magic that pops up on the internet. I might add too that 99% of the before pictures of these clients you’re absolutely straining to see what the problem was as they look perfectly normal, in many cases even beautiful before any modification.

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The surgeon (or Photoshopper) who pulled off this miracle deserves at the very least inclusion in the Rinoplasty Hall of Fame.

When it comes to nose surgery, at least on my face, the word I’ve discovered has been important  vital for me to adopt is ‘subtle’ – as in ‘subtle improvement’ as in ‘modest improvement’. The aim is improvement not transformation, as exampled more by these patients –

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Opinions on plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons range along a continua all the way from seeing it as an act of self-empowerment right through to the other end of the scale of it being a form of body dysmorphia (HERE) I regard it as a way to be more comfortable in your own skin. It’s also an aid to cease the self-loathing whenever a mirror is around and free oneself up to be the best possible version of themselves, more fortified and better equipped to handle everything life can dish up.

Now that the preachy part of this post is over, it’s time to get on with the main show. In none of these pictures am I smiling. That’s because (A) I’m not a smiler in photos at the best of times and (B) in some of the clinic photos they request deadpan (Not sure what the Korean word for ‘deadpan’ is but that was the gist of the message to me). And just remember what we spoke about… subtle!

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Here I am at Brisbane Airport about to fly 8000km away to meet a guy who’s gonna take to my nose with a hammer and bone saw. And you think you’ve got problems! What am I in such deep contemplation about? Possibly whether airline food has improved since the last time I travelled or whether they’ll have any Barbra Streisand movies on offer in the in-flight entertainment. They’re flared jeans I’m wearing btw.

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A little over 24 hours after that Brisbane Airport pic was taken this is me waking up shortly after the operation. This shot was taken in my private suite inside GNG Hospital located in the Gangnam-Gu district of Seoul, Sth Korea. The thumbs up was mildly ridiculous not to mention spectacuarly cheesy I know but how else is a person to pose. ’cause you’re sure not allowed to spread your face into a smile. Now that CREED 2 is out in theatres it’s a pity that they’re not going to make anymore of the ROCKY movies ’cause I could have nailed the part of one of his worse-for-wear sparring partners.

In fact, another movie reference comes to mind when I look at that post-op picture of myself. One of my all-time favourite movies if not my FAVOURITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME has always been and continues to this day to be the Clint Eastwood action pic DIRTY HARRY (1971). There’s a scene in that movie involving the villain Scorpio (played to perfection by Andy Robinson) who pays a person to beat him up. He in turn then tries to pin the blame on his arch nemesis Detective Harry Callahan played by Clint Eastwood.

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Anyone without the stomach for film depictions of strong violence would be better forwarding straight past the first 60 seconds of this clip.

The recovery phase post-op consisted of me being holed up in a Korean hotel room for 10 days living on a diet of ramen noodles and nori wrapped rice triangles plus enough round-the-clock, infection fighting antibiotics to inoculate a herd of wild elephants. Oh, and can’t forget to mention the 42 Korean TV channels that played a mixture of news, crazy game shows and soaps (there was even a Korean fishing channel – lucky me!).

I’m still trying to work out whether watching that stuff night and day for the duration helped save my sanity or almost sent me over the edge. I think depending on the day it was a bit of both. It wasn’t all sacrifice and discomfort though. I never did tire of looking out our 12th floor hotel window and watching the snowflakes fall like a million buzzing white moths every morning.  That’s a memory that won’t turn cold anytime soon.

So there you have it. My face transforming Korean Odyssey. What’s that? Oh, you want to see the final result? Yeah, had a feeling you might. But before I do, remember our little chat earlier about realistic expectations? Recall me not so subtly emphasizing the word ‘subtle’.

You do?

Ok, now you get to see…

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The ‘Before’ picture was taken on the morning of the operation. The ‘After’ shot, with bruising and swelling still clearly visible, was captured on Day 9 of recovery.

Bear in mind apart from aesthetic reasons I also undertook this procedure on medical grounds in order to open up blocked airways that have restricted my breathing for as far back as I can remember. If you’re straining to see the difference between the nose on the left and the one shown on the right, I understand. But trust me it’s there. An elevated bridge and more contoured volume courtesy of donated cartilage is no trick of the light.

Have I got the nose I always dreamed of having? Not by a long shot. Is it an improvement on what I had? Yes it is. After two go’s at it I now know with complete certainty a Hollywood ‘Brad Pitt’ style of nose and I are destined never to be united. Not in this lifetime anyway. The goal now, as it always has been, is to make best use of what I do have and try to find happiness in that. I’ve taken longer to learn to do this up to this point in my life than anyone I’ve ever met. The second goal is to repay the faith shown in me by my family who’ve supported me throughout the whole literal and metaphorical ‘journey’. For now it’s time to get back to the real world.

Last year brought a new car, a new house and a new blog in LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE. I’m starting off 2019 with a new nose at a brand new work place. Funny, huh? Life is never dull (except when it is). And all these changes are SO going in the scrapbook!

P.S. Check out these before and after’s of President Obama‘s rhinoplasty. Like I say, difference-wise, subtle.

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PSS. Don’t think any of you woke up this morning thinking “Today I absolutely must see a rhinoplasty video” but in case there is anyone who did wake up feeling that way, you my friends, have just struck pay dirt. I promise it’s not real footage, just an animation. Here you go then…

PSSS. Two other funny little moments connected with this odyssey are worth mentioning here. What do you think the chances are of hopping on a flight to travel half way around the world, arriving at your snow-bound destination and then, as your standing in line to present your passport, turning around and spotting a person from your workplace who’s also standing in line?

‘Cause that’s precisely what happened the moment we arrived in Sth Korea – a country which in no way could be mistaken for the number one holiday destination of Aussies going abroad. The remote likelihood was rendered even more against- the-odds of happening when you take into account the fact that my holidays had commenced exactly one week earlier than anyone else at my place of work (or so I thought) since I had applied for and been granted one week’s special leave earlier in the year. Freaky? Just a liitle yeah.

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The second noteworthy moment occured while having a consultation at my local GP’s office for an unrelated matter. This took place about a week after arriving home. There I was being examined by the female doctor, which consisted of her asking me if there was tenderness when she gently squeezed particular areas beginning with my scalp and forehead. When I could see she was about to get all hands on squeezy with my nose I had to lower the boom gate pretty fast and ask her to please back off.

I explained I’d just returned from having a rhinoplasty in Sth Korea. I then asked her if she’d ever known anyone who’d had the operation. She replied, “Where I come from… plenty!” I then said  I’d discovered Seoul, Sth Korea to be the World’s capital when it comes to plastic surgery, eclipsing even Beverly Hills, California. She replied, “Iran would outdo both of them put together!”

Looking at this video made me think she might be right.

 

 

Eye-popping Aquaman!

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I may be forty years outside the intended target audience age for this movie but that didn’t stop me staring amazeballs with my jaw dropped firmly to the floor in dumfounded amazement for just about every minute of this film. Marveling at what $225 million gets you these days as far as circus-like, cinematic mega-extravaganza wild rides go turned out to be so much fun.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t go within a 100 miles of any cinema showing a superhero movie, having grown up a number of decades past. But we’d promised to take our eight year old daughter to her first ‘adult’ film (she still needed one of those black leather child booster cushions to see the screen) so I was in some ways living vicariously through her.

When I was my daughters age, Aquaman looked like this –

And I used to love it.

Now he looks like this and I still love it –

Yep, there’s stunning eye-candy and then there’s AQUAMAN. ‘Next level’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Filmed principally at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast in Australia, critics have rightly labelled this the best thing to come out of the DC Universe canon since the THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).  Considering that Christopher Nolan directed masterpiece with it’s Heath Ledger imbibed turns of genius rewrote the standard for what superhero movies could aspire to be, that is high praise indeed.

kidmanApart from where it was made, the other Aussie connection to this film is Nicole Kidman (who coincidentally, along with AQUAMAN star Jason Momoa, was also born in Honolulu, Hawaii). 51 year old Kidman, who looks barely a day older than when she appeared in my all-time favourite movie of hers, the mid-nineties Gus Van Sant directed TO DIE FOR, plays Aquaman’s mother Atlanna.

In another coincidence, Kidman is the exact same age as Jason Momoa’s real life wife Lisa Bonnet (she of the THE COSBY SHOW back in the 1980’s, the series she was famously fired from in 1991). That’s the same real life 12-year-age-gap between Aquaman and his reel-life mother and Aquaman and his real-life wife. Whatever, right?jasonAnd speaking of Jason Momoa, how about him! He’s undergone quite the transformation to assume the hulking form he is today, as the pictures above testify to. He portrayed the title protagonist in Conan the Barbarian (2011), a reimagining of the 1982 film of the same name and a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his rise to fame includes parts in BATMAN Vs SUPERMAN (2016) and JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017).

He plays Aquaman with the sort of charm reminiscent of an early Marlon Brando. Instead of a blonde All-American boy type (see 1960’s cartoon opener) Momoa plays him more as a leather-clad, tattooed biker. He also genuinely looks like he could physically pulverise with one hand tied behind his back a posse of other superhero’s who, for dignity’s sake, shall remain nameless here. (Ok then – Ironman, Spiderman and Captain America – are you listening?) And to complete the picture he fights all comers like a thrashing machine in this adrenaline-charged thrill-ride of a movie.

Throughout the length of this movie I watched with interest the character of King Nereus, the father of Aquaman‘s love interest Mera (played by Johnny Depp’s ex, Amber Heard) with the nagging suspicion that I knew the actor playing this part from some place. Yet try as I might I just couldn’t place him. That was until the credit’s came rolling on (this is one movie you won’t want to leave the theatre in the middle of the scroll-through of production names due to unfinished end scenes that play in the middle of them) and I realised for near two and a half hours I’d been gazing at my old mate Ivan Drago! (Dolph Lundgren). I know the producers inserted him in AQUAMAN just for the likes of me so I’m pretty grateful.

dolphEvery frame of AQUAMAN has marvelous details that you might not catch on first viewing. The Atlanteans use their mouths to speak, but there are no visible bubbles, only vocal distortion that suggests “bubbly-ness.” When the characters aren’t swimming at dolphin speeds, they square off against each other as if they’re standing on a sidewalk on land, bobbing ever-so-slightly. It’s all so well done.

Naturally there’s been the odd dissenter (HERE) who’s given a less glowing account of the film then the one I’ve provided but haters gonna hate and haters most definitely gonna nitpick. As I’m departing a movie theatre I usually like to eavesdrop on a sample of conversation to gauge what people thought of a film. On this occasion I overheard this from a popcorn maxi-box holding teenager – “The visuals were great but everything else was crap”.

And as to that critic who wrote – “I did not think Warner Brothers and DC Films could make a worse movie than Green Lantern, but Aquaman is that movie.  The point at which Aquaman stepped on my last shred of hope was when the octopus played the drums” – I say two things (1) It’s pretty clear you don’t know your AQUAMAN backstory and (2) it’s called a sense of humour. Perhaps you could try developing one.

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No matter.

I went into this movie expecting the usual ‘valleys and mountains’ type rhythm commonly found in these type of films ie moments of explosive action interspersed with slower periods of exposition, dialogue and back story. Yet for me this film passed in a heartbeat with not a dull moment.

AQUAMAN flows. God does it flow! Just like water.

Ps. How’s this for AQUAMAN backstory: according to lore within the DC Universe, it was actually The Flash that came up with the name AQUAMAN

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World National Trivia Day

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Welcome to the very first officially sanctioned event of 2019 – World National Trivia Day.

You can be forgiven for not having circled this one on the calendar. Trivia is after all by definition something you don’t NEED to know.

But now that you do, let’s play it for all it’s worth… 

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For two years, from 1835-1837, the city now known as Melbourne was named Batmania after Australian grazier, entrepreneur and explorer John Batman.

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Some suspect this might be a case of a well-known quote being misattributed to a famous identity – but according to the theory: no more beesno more pollinationno more plantsno more animalsno more us.  (I thought there were other creatures that pollinate flowers – butterflies, hummingbirds, hoover flies, even bats?)

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American teenager Adrianne Lewis (her picture is NOT photoshopped) makes Gene Simmons from KISS look tongue-tied by comparison.

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1823 – German chemist Wolfgang Debereiner invents the first cigarette lighter.                               1826 – English chemist John Walker invents the first self-igniting match.

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The Blue Whale and the sperm whale are the two loudest animals in the world and can both make a sound up to about 188 decibals (dB). For comparison, a jet engine at take off is about 140 dB, and the human pain threshold is about 120dB. Humpback Whales are not as loud, but they’re more like the Mariah Carey of the whale world as they have really complex whale songs with a really wide frequency range.

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The world record for the fastest growing plant belongs to certain species of the 45 genera of bamboo, which have been found to grow at up to 90 cm (35 inches) per day or at a rate of 0.00003 km/h (0.00002 mph).

Slapstick outlandish but interesting all round I reckon.

And absolutely perfect fodder on WORLD TRIVIA DAY.

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Ps. Your bonus this week is my end-of-year tribute to another blog I read ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED. Take it in HERE

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That’s a Wrap 2018

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For singers and bands, history shows their second album is often much harder to bring forth than the first.

The sheer euphoria and novelty that helped fuel the debut has often become a thing of the past once it comes time to roll up the sleeves again for a second bite of the cherry. The added expectation that accompanies a follow-up second stab at success is another factor that ensures lightning doesn’t always strike twice.

And so it is in the blogging world.

This much heralded second year of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK has been just as satisfying for me as the first yet my bolstered experience as an on-line chronicler of thoughts and views  ensures I naturally no longer harbour those same freshman-style “I’m gonna rock the world with this post” thoughts to quite the same extent as perhaps I naively may have (embarrassing as it is now for me to admit that) back in my debut twelve months in 2017.

No matter.

I still get some semblance of that ‘first-ever kiss with fireworks’ feeling every time I have my finger hovering over that all-powerful ‘publish’ button. As long as I have that feeling in my nerve-endings to some degree I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. Given that I originally conceived SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK as a three-year project, and 2019 marks the beginning of that tri-year, I’m pretty content with how things have been travelling this second year.

2018 for me marked a time of new beginnings.

New car. New house. And with LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE, a brand new blog. And I’m not done yet. I still have a couple more surprises up my sleeve before this year is done. You’re sure to learn about those sometime during 2019.

Journey with me now (can’t believe I just wrote that with a fully straight face) as we take a thumbnail sketch look back on the shaken-snowglobe-shenanigans of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK these past twelve months –

Movies

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For All The Money in the World (January)

12 Strong (March)

The Wall (March)

Chappaquiddick (May)

The Incredibles 2 (July)

Entebbe (August)

Room 237 (October)

Books

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The Operator by Robert O’Neill (February)

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (March)

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena (March)

Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin (March)

And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic (April)

Friday, the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson (April)

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland (April)

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce (April)

Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff by Sean Penn (May)

The Book Ninja by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus (June)

The Hunter & Other Stories of Men by David Cohen (October)

Favourite 2018 Book Titles List (December)

Television

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Midsummer Murders (January)

Underbelly Files : Chopper (February)

60 Minutes Interview with Jacinda Ardern (March)

Author Interviews

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Stuart Aken (January)

Iain Ryan (February)

Jim Toomey (May)

Deborah Abela (August)

R.I.P.

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Neil Simon (August)

Burt Reynolds (September)

Bonus Reads

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Unearthed (January) (Mine)

The Small Town with 5 Indie Book Stores (January)

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books List (January)

Afterglow (March) (Mine)

Desert Island Discs (April)

Imagined Descriptions of Women by Bad Male Authors (April)

2018 Top 40 Book Club Reads (April)

The Book Depository’s Top 95 Books Of All Time List (May)

The Hyman Archive (World’s Largest Magazine Collection) (June)

My Books (Bridget Whelen blogsite) (October)

Weird Whacky Wow!

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Pick a Slogan (January)

Death by Cricket Bowling Machine  (January)

Designer Icecream Handbags (March)

Death in Gold Class (March)

Pranking Oxley Golf Course (March)

Planking (April)

Sydney Road Rage Chainsaw Incident Madness (April)

Top Ten Martial Arts Movies (June)

Where the Money’s Buried (June)

Go Premium! (June)

Letter from Prince Charles (August)

Wrap Advertising for Cars (September)

Top 5 Spokespeople for SWS (November)

Computer Art (November)

Whatever Happened to Crop Circles? (December)

The Issues

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Parkrun Jogger’s Noise (February)

My New Favourite Politician (March)

Core Values (March)

AVENGER’S: INFINITY WAR release on ANZAC DAY (April)

The Great Vanilla Slice Ripoff (June)

Controlled Demolition Theory of 9/11 (September)

The Events

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Sth Korean Winter Olympics (March)

The Oscars (March)

West End Icecream Festival (March)

Winx sets world record (March)

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (April)

Inugural Women’s NRL Competition (April)

World Naked Gardening Day (May)

Jacinda Adern’s baby daughter (June)

New Car Purchase (July)

Thai Cave Rescue (July)

Sale of Brady Bunch House (July)

Oz Comic Con (September)

International Skeptics Day (October)

LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE Launch (October)

International Teacher’s Day (October)

Halloween 2018 (October)

House move (November)

 

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Made with the Scent of Juniper & Witch Hazel

The Only Blog With No Vampires

Pulsating Word Ectoplasm

Better Than Iron Man 2

My Own Personal Ringtone

More Uplifting than the Great Potato Recession of the 1840’s

100% Pineapple Wedge Free

Thinking ‘Here Goes Nothing’ Could Be the Start of Everything

First Draft Only Draft

No Bells ‘N Whistles But Shenanigans Galore

Are You Even Listening To Me?

You Don’t Need To Audition To Get In

I Know Nothing About Sri Lanka

Zero Irony

I Don’t Read Novels So I’m Sure As Hell Never Gonna Write One

There’s No School Like Old School

Nestled Deep Within the Foothills of Literary Obscurity

Miscellany to the Next level

Twice As Exciting as a Pre-Fight Safety Demonstration

Seriously? Nah.

No Antman. No Wasp. But spellchecker Galore.

The Silicon Implant of the Literary World

King of Cliches. Emperor of Eiderdowns.

35% Funny65% Bad At Maths

Razzamatazz Desperately in Need of Shizzle

Good Different

Come for the view. Stay for the Cliches.

Micro-sleep-free Reading Guaranteed.

A Dedicated Blurter Blurts

Writing Several Notches in Quality above Burping the National Anthem

A Land-Locked Literary Hideaway Aquaman is Never Gonna Visit 

I Wake Up With Scenic Writer’s Shack

Absolutely No Hand-Eye Coordination Needed

You Don’t Need To Audition To Get In

Creativity Spoken Here

Attracting Interest from the Little End of Town

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I will leave you finally with a little joke to end the year.

On female whale says to the other female whale – “My New Year’s resolution is to lose 18 000 kilograms.”

Thankyou for the second consecutive year for playing along with the idea that I have anything at all of value to say. It is a funny experiment indeed I will agree.

See you all on the other side, where 2019 promises to pack in as many twists and turns and flood our comfort zones with pepper spray every bit as much as 2018 did.

But always in an interesting way.

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Favourite Book Titles of 2018

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Some books grab you before you’ve even turned the first page.

The allure of an intriguing title that piques a reader’s interest and makes you WANT to read a book should never be underestimated.

All of the books pictured below were first published sometime this year. I have read none of them. But I HAVE read and re-read the titles of these books over and over,  because for me each time I do it’s the feeling of magic pixie dust being scattered into the air.

These are my sweet sixteen best book titles of 2018 –

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And while we’re on the subject, U.S. based literary website BOOKSTR (HERE)

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last year released a list of what they consider to be the 10 Best Book Titles of All Time

1.   Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  (1968) by Philip K. Dick

2.   Everything I Never Told You  (2014) by Celeste Ng

3.   Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) (2011) by Mindy Kaling

4.   The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test  (1968) by Tom Wolfe

5.   Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (2008) by Chelsea Handler

6.   The Devil Wears Prada (2003) by  Lauren Weisberger

7.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  (2003) by Mark Haddon

8.   How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) by Dale Carnegie

9.   Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (1978) by Judi Barrett

10.   Love in the Time of Cholera  (1985) by Gabriel García Márquez

Some of those titles are unusual that’s for sure. But they merely scrape the tip of the weird iceberg. Next, try on these little crazy-town gems for size –

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Trivia Knowhow Ain’t What It Used To Be!

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I could scarcely believe my eyes and ears.

There I was planted in front of an afternoon episode of Millionaire Hot Seat watching Eddie McGuire do his shtick before six of at-least-average-intelligence contestants and a studio audience ready to laugh at Eddie’s knockabout style jokes.

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It was the first half of the show, known as ‘Fastest Finger’ (introduced last year as part of the rejigged format), where the contestants are pitted directly against each other in competition for a cash prize before the main ‘Hot Seat’ part of the show gets underway.  15 one-at-a-time questions are offered in the quest for what is essentially an entrée cash prize seperate from the eventual big kahuna jackpot. The players enter their guesses to the multiple choice questions into an electronic keypad infront of them and then wait to be told by Eddie if they’re (A) correct and (B) the fastest responder.

All was going well until this question was asked  –

Which of these astronauts was not part of NASA’s  Apollo 11 Mission which was the first to place a man on the moon in July 1969:

(A)   Michael Collins

(B)   John Glenn

(C)   Neil Armstrong

(D)   Buzz Aldrin

Incredibly only one of the contestants got the answer correct. And if that wasn’t astonishing enough (at least to me ‘playing at home’) compounding the jaw drop was the fact only one of the players (not the person who answered correctly) was a twenty-something iGener. In other words, no one, besides the female law student Centennial in the candy apple red dress, I would have thought, had any reason not to know.

Like I say, I would have thought.

I realise it’s been a number of years since any generation of school children was standardly taught the name of the first person to walk on the moon, but still I would have thought some things, like the fact the ancient pyramids are located in Egypt or that Albert Einstein was the person who first conceived the equation E = mc2 , are just generally known fragments of knowledge people living in Western countries acquire by at least the time they’ve reached adulthood.

But they are assumptions on my part and as the ‘ol chestnut saying goes, when you assume anything you run the risk of making an ass out of you and me (or should that be an ass out of you infront of me?). I’m not even going to assume that people get that older-than-the-hills wordplay, hence the use of colours to spell out the double meanings).

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Those punters on Millionaire Hot Seat didn’t go so well with the astronauts question so likely they’d be fumblin’ on this one as well –

                             True or False.

According to NASA, outer space has no smell.

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The answer is false.

According to those who would know (NASA) outer space smells like welding fumes.

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Ps. If you’d like to see a quite nutty answer from a contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat  CLICK HERE 

Pss. The astronaut listed who was not part of the Apollo 11 Mission to the moon in July 1969 was John Glenn (who was the first American to orbit the earth in 1962 – and I didn’t expect you to know that!)

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Psss.  There’s a new movie with a writerly theme just been released. It’s called CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? and stars Melissa McCarthy. It is based on the 2008 confessional memoir of American writer Lee Israel  (1939 –  2014), an author known for her involvement in literary forgery. 

 

Whatever happened to… Crop Circles?

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Back in the late nineties and early 2000’s, crop circles – like hair scrunchies, platform sandals and Carrie Bradshaw – were once all the rage.

Reports of their mysterious appearance in farmer’s fields in countries across the globe – especially England – were daily newspaper fodder.

So where are they now and why don’t we hear about them anymore?

The short answer to that question may be that after so many crop circles were exposed as the work of pranksters (or ‘planksters’ as they were once known) using planks of wood to flatten down wheat fields in intricate patterns, the mystery of their origin was solved and the world lost interest.

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Like the Sasquatch being revealed as a man in a gorilla suit and the ol’ silver foil pie tray suspended with fishing wire UFO trick, when you finally admit to yourself it really was your own father or crazy Uncle dressed up as Santa all those years ago, you release yourself from naivety and in doing so dissolve away the magic spell forever. At this point a person is also allowed a knowing chuckle for letting themselves be hoodwinked ‘back then’.

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But like believers in ghosts who acknowledge some but not all so-called otherworldly apparitions can be explained away by deliberate hoaxes, meaning there are some cases that, upon rigorous investigation still defy logical explanation, crop-circle believers today still cling to the argument that just because some crop circles have been shown to have been made-made, that in no way proves all crop circles are the work of humans.

Consider these two cases –

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This massive (238 meters in diameter) crop circle appeared in 2001 in the remote area of Milk Hill in Wiltshire, England. The elaborate design is composed of 409 circles that form a pattern called a double, or six-sided, triskelion, which is a motif consisting of three interlocking spirals.

(1) This formation appeared in a field of oats on the night of August 12th, 2001. The farmer who owned the field discovered the pattern early the next morning. There had been torrential rain during the previous week and as the farmer walked down the tractor tram-line he noticed it was unmarked. When he looked back over his shoulder, however, his footprints were clearly visible in the waterlogged ground.

When he reached the formation he also noticed there was no mud on the flattened crop, which there would have been if the crop had been flattened by some implement such as wooden planks. In his opinion the only way anyone could have entered the field to make the incredibly detailed pattern would have been by abseiling in, possibly by helicopter.

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This formation, consisting of 151 circles, appeared on July 7th, 1996 very close to the famous Stonehenge, a pre-historic rock monument in Wiltshire, England.

(2) The story behind this one is perplexing on an industrial scale. A light air-craft pilot flew over the site of Stonehenge at 5:30pm and swore there was nothing in the field. Little more than a half hour later he flew back and the impressive formation was there. A farm worker also confirmed the absence of any shape in the field throughout the day. A Stonehenge security guard who had looked down into the field  also was adamant there was nothing there all day long.

I remember reading these two accounts back in the day and being convinced they provided hard evidence (tee hee) that ‘something mysterious was going on’ which did not involve human intervention in the creation of crop circles.

Today I find it difficult to contain my laughter at the porous frailty of these same manufactured accounts with their C-grade-fiction-style unnamed farmers, pilots, farm workers and security guards.

Speaking of laughter – if you want to get some – actually a lot – click (HERE) or (HERE)     or (HERE) (this last video contains the immortal, knee-slapping line “His footage astounded the people at the pub.”)

And so to the class of 2018..

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With the exception of the one photographed in Switzerland, these artful little renderings have all decorated parts of the English countryside this year.

I’ve always felt sorry for the poor farmers whose precious crops get fairly trampled and presumably are at least a little worse for wear afterwards.

We can at least be thankful that in these more photoshop-aware & education-protected times the whole mystical psudo-science sideshow responsible for attempting to pass off crop art back in the last century as being some type of ‘higher being signs’ from extraterrestials has been all but laid to rest.

Well, almost…

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