Art of The Niggle

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Clear the decks ’cause some 5th-rate fiction is headed your way.

MY 5th-rate fiction, to be precise.

In the fair-dinkum stakes it might actually bleed over in some passages to sixth-rate. Consider yourself warned.

This was an entry I submitted to a recent fiction writing competition run on the first weekend of every month by the Australian Writer’s Center. Entrants had just 500 words to sculpt a story that included the following ‘must haves’-

  • mention of the word ‘nineteen’ 

  • mention of the word ‘desert’

  • mention somewhere in the story of a list

  • some reference to ‘new beginnings’

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I wrote mine and submitted it. I then rewrote it, expanding it to double its original length. Before we get into it here’s a book-jacket blurb summary of the story… 

Kenneth and Anita Glossop can’t remember the last time they sent each other a Valentine’s Day card. But after 36 years of marriage would anyone really expect them to?  They’re a couple who believe Sun Tzu’s book THE ART OF WAR was really a marriage counselling guide. Though deep down they love each other, their worst kept secret is their devotion to ‘the niggle’ – the ancient art of verbal sparring.

They might bicker like the old married couple they are and somehow still remain on speaking terms but what happens the day Ken discovers a list written by his wife entitled 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT MY HUSBAND. Has the niggle finally gone too far? Can the Glossops prove that marriage is more than just shouting ‘What?” from other rooms. And what’s up with the snail secretion beauty mask Anita received after their last fight?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in ART OF THE NIGGLE. 

Before starting you should probably know one thing. A lot of research went into the writing of this short story. And by research I don’t mean the Wikipedia and Google kind. Saying anything more about that could get me into a whole lot of trouble… so on with the main show.

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New beginnings?

Pfffft!

Not likely.

The flipped over page of the calendar may have read ‘January 1st’ but after 36 years of marriage, the last nineteen of which had witnessed, amongst other low points, the creation of custom made voodoo dolls in each other’s likeness, Kenneth Glossop and his gaunt, bitter wife Anita no longer bothered with New Year’s resolutions. In place of a calendar they may as well have had a cuckoo clock attached to the wall that sprang open on the hour, repeating the gloomy phrase – “Today is another day – just like yesterday.”

Over the years, arguing with Anita had become as natural as rolling on another pair of worn socks. And since he was by this advanced stage more likely to be deeply hurt by rude bus drivers than anything she could assail him with, ‘the niggle’ as he referred to the daily pantomime of working through marital gripes and annoyances, had become somehow more subtly enjoyable to him than soccer, his game of choice from back in his youth.

CaptureTo relax he devised cryptic crosswords and she practiced her violin, which she played semi-professionally with a local quartet. Their time spent together had evolved to fulfill what could only be described as barely the most functional form of companionship. Kenneth and Anita Glossop’s marriage had long ago assumed the look and feel of a barren desert of course non-affection and tactical belittling on both sides. There were also rolling hills of disinterest for as far as the eye could see broken up only by the mutual care of a golden retriever named Stradivarius.

That morning at the kitchen table Kenneth had formed his hand into a fist and brought it down hard onto the polished pinewood surface covered by a tablecloth with sunflowers on it. “I don’t want Grape Nuts” he said with absurd emphasis, in a querulous voice that saddened and diminished them both. Later in the day there had been a disagreement about the rights and wrongs of a reputable newspaper running an astrology column. Anita had agreed with her husband that astrology was an insult to the intelligence but had then added the caveat that the public had a right to get what they wanted even if it was bad for them.

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As with a great many of their disagreements, for a long time they seemed not to be arguing at all, but merely carrying on an extended intellectual debate, the locus shifting from breakfast table to kitchen sink while she washed the dishes, to the bathroom while he shaved, to the bedroom while they dressed. On some occasions, Anita would be handed a present the next day when a waxed-mustache-twirling Kenneth sensed things had tipped over the edge into outright animosity. His past offerings had included a snail secretion facial mask, a book of poems purportedly written by cats, pine tar soap and most bizarrely and impractical of all an absinthe making kit (Anita didn’t drink alcohol).

One day while searching the glove box of their beloved silver Plymouth Valiant, Kenneth had happened upon a list Anita had written one night some months previous while propped in front of their television set blaring news of a perilous world.  It was handwritten with the title “Ten Things I Hate About My Husband”. As his eyes moved down the charge sheet, a faint smile of recognition came to settle upon his face for the type of grievances he expected might be on such a list mixed in with mild shock and a feeling of persecution for the ones that took him in a sneak attack by total surprise. It incensed:

  1. He has to be taught basic life skills
  2. Snoring
  3. His stupid puns
  4. Driving
  5. He’s 79 years of age and plays video games!
  6. Putting tape across the tv remote control sensor stops being funny after the 10th time.
  7. He never puts the decorative pillows in their proper place when making the bed.
  8. His ridiculous ‘Lost in Space’ replica robot.
  9. When he goes to the bathroom at night I’m pretty sure he’s aiming for the walls.
  10. The time he admitted he used to be a serial streaker at sporting events was a new low.

Kenneth was intrigued and consoled himself with the fact at least she had not complained about his admittedly maddening habit of misplacing things, although he guessed that had the list been entitled “11 Things I Hate About My Husband” that would have rounded out what definitely looked to be an exercise in cataloging his perceived faults like pinned moths.

CaptureDeep down, Kenneth loved his wife but in doing so also realized, and sensed she did too, that they were both sufferers of the affliction known as Hyper-vigilant Personality Disorder (HPD). This condition classically manifested itself in asocial types who upset their fellows and distracted themselves by constantly searching for hidden meanings in ordinary things.

Still, having ridden the waves of the one-damn-thing-after-anotherness of a lifelong shared existence together, finding a list like that written by your partner wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person or a marriage.

Kenneth reached into his shirt pocket and found a half full packet of skittles. He pored a handful of them into his mouth, drew in a breath as if to say something, but then checked himself. For a moment he felt absurdly powerful at the thought of what was to come. He would save his energy, for he was a person who couldn’t resist the distraction a good argument offered. 

Kenneth knew it would be quite the sparring session with Anita later that night. He’d save what little energy he had for the important things in life: the things he could rely on to still give him pleasure after all these years. And he knew, deep down, Anita felt the same way.

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Ps. While putting this post together I came upon an old-school, single-panel comic called THE LOCKHORNS. It’s been going since 1968 and is syndicated in a jillion newspapers around the world (in 23 countries) still today. It centers on a married couple – Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn – who constantly argue. There’s been at least nine Lockhorns book collections published over the years.

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Go HERE  if you want more old school LOCKHORNS humor. For way more new-school humor go HERE

PPS. BelowKenneth and Anita in their younger days?

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Top 50 Songs (Another batch)

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It’s that time again music lovers ‘n loathers time to deliver my annual Top 50 Songs List.

When I originally conceived of the idea back in June of 2017 (HERE) I knew fully well the enormity of the task I had agreed to take on. How could one possibly manage to cram INXS of four decades worth of dedicated music listening into a meagre list confined to just 50 entries?

I’ve always been pretty rubbish at twisting and turning a Rubiks cube in order to find it’s solution and that’s what trying to compact the thousands of great songs still going around in my head after all these years into such a tiny list felt like. The sheer impossibility of the task saw me have another go twelve months later in June 2018 (HERE)

Three years on and by now I’ve concluded I easily have enough classic songs in my like  ‘worship the ground they walk on’ collection – catalogued in my head – to churn out an annual “Greatest Hits’ list for the next 10 years.

Maybe 20.

Music taste being what it is it’s very possible there may not be a single song in this collection you either like or are even familiar with. That said, there are songs here taken from every decade dating back from the 1950’s right up to the year 2018. That opens up the appeal factor of such a list, at least in theory, a little wider. As well, this catalog includes exactly seven songs from Australian bands/artists.

You’ve been kept waiting long enough so without further ado, I give you my all new list of TOP 50 FAVOURITE SONGS

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2

3

4

5

6.

HEAR IT NOW

7

HEAR IT NOW

8

HEAR IT NOW

9

HEAR IT NOW

10

HEAR IT NOW

11

HEAR IT NOW

12

HEAR IT NOW

13

HEAR IT NOW

14

HEAR IT NOW

15

HEAR IT NOW

16

HEAR IT NOW

17

HEAR IT NOW

18

HEAR IT NOW

19

HEAR IT NOW

20

HEAR IT NOW

21

HEAR IT NOW

22

HEAR IT NOW

23

HEAR IT NOW

24

HEAR IT NOW

25

HEAR IT NOW

26

HEAR IT NOW

27

HEAR IT NOW

28

HEAR IT NOW

29

HEAR IT NOW

30

HEAR IT NOW

31

HEAR IT NOW

32

HEAR IT NOW

33

HEAR IT NOW

34

HEAR IT NOW

35

HEAR IT NOW

36

HEAR IT NOW

37

HEAR IT NOW

38

HEAR IT NOW

39

HEAR IT NOW

40

HEAR IT NOW

41

HEAR IT NOW

42

HEAR IT NOW

43

HEAR IT NOW

44

HEAR IT NOW

45

HEAR IT NOW

46

HEAR IT NOW

47

HEAR IT NOW

48

HEAR IT NOW

49

HEAR IT NOW

50

HEAR IT NOW

Ps. Just saying…the completely mouth-watering idea that anyone would go so far as to leave a comment about a song from this list they have fond memories of is one that fills me with literally octaves of musical notes of joy…

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This is your Captain Speaking

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Back in February last year HERE I chronicled (I love ‘chronicling’ – I especially love just saying the word ‘chronicling’) my thoughts on a book written by ex-Navy Seal Robert O’Neil entitled THE OPERATOR (published 2017).

This memoir was devoted to chronicling (ha!) highlights from his 400 mission career. One of those highlights included firing the shots that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Another successful mission spoken about in that book was the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from the clutches of Somali Pirates back in April 2009.

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After recently seeing on DVD the 2013 movie CAPTAIN PHILLIPS starring Tom Hanks in the title role, it was time to read the 2010 book written by the real Captain Phillips (co-written by Stephan Talty whose 2017 book THE BLACK HAND – about Italy’s version of Sherlock Holmes – is set to also be made into a movie, starring Leonardo Dicaprio).

Like the movie, this book gripped nice ‘n tight. It didn’t disappoint.

The first 100 pages of the book details Phillips early life as a Boston cab driver, his graduation in 1979 from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and his years working in the merchant marine prior to the events of 2009.

Phillips notes there are a thousand ways to die on a ship – from storms that produce 70 foot waves to mad cooks, scurvy, mutiny and just plain loneliness. His recollections of docking in ports of war-torn third World countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Monrovia and seeing scores of people on the shore-lines whose right hands had been chopped off because they’d voted for the wrong candidates in corrupt local elections sends a chill down the spine.

The rest of the book renders a minute by minute account of the four-day hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama, captained by Richard Phillips, while it was located in the Indian Ocean, 240 nautical miles southeast of the Somalia port of Eyl. The ordeal began on April 8th, 2009.

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With a crew of 20, the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. It was carrying 17,000 tons of cargo, of which 5,000 tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.

The four pirates who hijacked the ship and took Captain Phillips hostage in the orange-coloured covered lifeboat were aged between 17 and 19 years of age. Three of the pirates were killed by U.S. Navy SEAL snipers’ bullets to the head. The fourth is serving a 33 year prison sentence in a U.S Federal prison in South Carolina.

In the year prior to the attack on the Maersk Alabama there were 111 attacks on marine vessels by Somali pirates in that area of the Indian ocean, resulting in 42 ‘successful’ hijackings. What was noteworthy about Captain Phillip’s experience was the Maersk Alabama was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century.

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The hijacked container ship MAERSK ALABAMA (since renamed the MV TYGRA and now owned by a different shipping company) as it looked back in 2009. In the years since there have been at least four other attempted hijackings on the ship by Somali pirates, the first of these  less than six months after Captain Phillips’ experience.

The video below unpacks some of the reasons why Somalia (population 14 million) is such a hotbed for piracy on the seas. Ravaged by a 30 year civil war, drought and famine, with a life-expectancy of only 55 years and a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) output that ranks it 193 on a list of 199 countries (United States, China and Japan naturally occupy the top three positions) it’s not hard to see why the promise of big pay days via extorted ransoms (some running into the tens of millions of dollars) are a huge lure for poorly educated Somalians desperate to escape the poverty cycle.

In A CAPTAIN’S DUTY, Phillips relates the mind games played by both himself, the Somali Pirates and the American Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge across the four days. He details the insults, denial of food and water and mock executions he endured while all the time trussed up with ropes like a pig ready for slaughter. Describing one of the pirates as having “Charles Manson eyes” (p118), at one point they even tried convincing him the whole nightmare was a Navy training exercise they’d agreed to roleplay.

Richard Phillips used any technique he could to try to stay mentally strong in the face of prolonged psychological torture which included taunts he wasn’t a real sailor because he couldn’t tie certain intricate knots the way his captors could.

There are passages that are as entertaining as they are distressing –

“What did you do?” I yelled up to the leader.

“Shut up” he said.

The leader turned his head and spat.

“Shut up”

“Oh, you mean ‘Please be quiet Captain’ “

I heard Musso snicker at that. Even the leader cracked a smile. That was the first and last I’d get out of him.

The battle of wits and wills would continue right up to the end, with the pirates trying to constantly wear Phillips down, confuse and humiliate him. Sometimes they succeeded, causing him to pen thoughts in the book such as this –

“I’m a big John Wayne fan and I remembered a line from one of his movies THE SEARCHERS. A cowboy has apologized for shooting a desperado. And John Wayne says something like, ‘That’s all-right. Some men need killing’.

I’ve never met a man who needed killing. But right then, Young Guy did. He was like an assassin toying with his victim before he put him out of his misery. He was enjoying it all to hell.

Unlike this footage of an attempted pirate attack occurring in a similar part of the Indian Ocean in 2012, on board the Maersk Alabama that day there were no guns or rifles for the crew to use to fight back and certainly no trained security personnel.

Richard Phillips returned to sea fourteen months after the pirate attack, sailing as Master of the vehicle carrier M/V Green Bay until his retirement in 2014. His memoir is a powerful, intoxicating read.

Ps.  The video above might be titled THE REAL MAERSK ALABAMA STORY but as with most things there’s another side. Go HERE  if you want to know. If you’re not completely video-ed out by this point you’ll also get the gist here in this commentary as well –

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These pictures were taken more than 10 years ago. Today Richard Phillips is a 64 year-old retired ships’ captain.

Ps. On a completely unrelated note, the 2019 AP Stylebook (AP stands for Associated Press and has been published every year since 1953) went on sale this week and celebrated by officially removing the hyphen from “best-seller.” Henceforth, it’s just “bestseller.” Thought you should know.

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The Worst

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Now the third installment in Keanu Reeve’s JOHN WICK trilogy has made it into cinemas, I can think of no better time to share my thoughts a mere half decade late on the original film that lit the wick five years ago.

Put simply, I have no hesitation in declaring JOHN WICK (2014) underwhelmed me to the extent it was immediately relegated to my WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME / HALL OF COMPLETE SHAME list.

If that’s too ambivalent for you let me make it even clearer: I did not like this film – even a little bit. ‘Utterly Ridiculous’ is the best description I can use to sum up a story based solely on 100 minutes of non-stop slaughtering all because someone killed the title character’s puppy at the beginning of the film. I’ve seen some quality revenge films in my time but this is definitely not one of them.

CaptureIt’s a pity because the fight choreography in this movie (correction – the fight choreography IS the movie) is next level eye-candy stuff: a complete knockout in every sense of the word. Yet without well-drawn characters to cheer or boo for and something resembling an engaging, possibly twisting plot, it’s simply all desert and no main meal. That becomes unsatisfying well before the end credits roll.

I get that stripped-back movies like JOHN WICK  (MAD MAX 4: FURY ROAD is another example) which deliver spectacularly on the promise ‘never a dull moment’ represent pushbacks to the traditional Hollywood rulebook insisting that movies, no matter what their genre, be padded out with needless subplots, predictable romances and unnecessary character super tropes (eg the troubled teenage daughter, the beautiful girlfriend who delivers the moral speech which gets the main character back on track etc).

But in the case of JOHN WICK and it’s cartoonish, hard-to-like-or-take-seriously-for-a- single-moment main character, the experiment just doesn’t come off – at least for me. If I want to see a stripped-back actioner spotlighting a no-nonsense person on a single-minded, succeed-at-all-costs quest, I’ll call on Denzel  – THE EQUALISER 1 (2014) and 2 (2018) – or alternatively go retro with a dose of snarling Kurt (Russell) – ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).

Not being one to hold a grudge (very unlike John Wick himself) here’s the trailer (anyway) for JOHN WICK 3

All this pent-up negativity brought on by a movie now five years old – a movie that deserved to be forgotten the moment it ended but somehow managed to linger in my subconscious simply because it was SO DAMN AWFUL – got me thinking about  some of the other film turkeys I and others have endured over the years.

Movies can be relegated to the fifty cent bin for a variety of reasons – (A) they’re turtle slow (B) they’re silly but not in an entertaining way (C) they’re populated by unlikable or worse still bland characters it’s impossible to care about or relate to (D) the landscape is literally riddled with plot-holes you could likely drive a wide-load prime-mover through that you might possibly have been prepared to overlook had it not been for the presence of any combination of the aforementioned A, B or C.

There are plenty of movies that disappoint because for a variety of reasons they fail to meet our expectations. That is not what is being talked about here. These movies are true stinkers from start to finish. Here is my dirty dozen list of WORST WATCHED MOVIES

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The only small consolation with that list is that half of them I saw via free passes. Not hard in retrospect to work out why they were free-pass movies. Before leaving this subject for good I thought I’d patch in what might be called a ‘bonus’ list. A bit of quick research on my part revealed these films are amongst a sizeable list of ‘D’ grade celluloid that regularly makes it onto critic’s and filmgoer’s ALL TIME WORST MOVIES lists.

Of those mentioned here I’ve only seen two – THE SWARM (1978) and THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012). While I can confirm THE IMPOSSIBLE was truly wretched, by comparison THE SWARM was watchable and even entertaining in parts. Then again, that movie, about a killer bee invasion of Texas based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Herzog  (1927 -2010) was produced and directed by movie mastermind Irwin Allen, the genius behind LOST IN SPACE, so admittedly I might be a little biased there.

Here’s the list –

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P.s And then there’s this…  Go ClICKETY CLICK HERE

Pss. News is that JOHN WICK 4 has already been given a scheduled release date of mid 2021.

Psss. In the interests of journalistic balance click HERE for a really, really positive review of JOHN WICK 3.

 

Silent Rage

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I can feel it.

Bit by bit, year by year, I’m slowly turning into that funny little man with the red earmuffs from the tv series GET SMART – Albert J. Pfister (the ‘P’ is silent).

Pfister was the fanatical anti-noise campaigner who determined the only way to eliminate the noise of the world was to eliminate the world itself.

THE Pfister

Pfister developed the silent explosive NITROWHISPERIN. His other inventions included a very quiet shotgun, a silent phonograph record, sound-absorbing wood and a cuckoo clock which Max described as having laryngitis.

Yep, this little gnome-like man was determined to silence a noisy world.

And so it appears am I.

Regular readers will remember my skirmish back last year with the organisers of ParkRun  (HERE) That difference of opinion centred on the disputed right of some runners to inflict their over-amplified music on others by deliberately choosing not to wear earphones. The jury’s still out on who came out on top in that one.

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Albert J. Phister and I have a lot in common (not counting his preference for bow ties).

Now the war drums are sounding again.

This time there’s a canine involved. A barking canine. A late-at-night barking canine. A will-not-stop-for-anyone-late at night barking canine.

Weird thing is it’s not the neighbour’s dog.

And when I say ‘neighbour’ I mean left, right, opposite or behind.

It’s not even from anywhere in our street.

Nor anywhere from the next street along.

Believe it or not the source of all the noise is a dog that’s chained up in it’s back yard on a three metre leash in a street 500 metres away! Living pretty much opposite a large public park that at night-time collects and amplifies noise like the Grand Canyon has its disadvantages and I believe I may have just found one of them. Or, better said, this un-neighbourly ‘wide-open-space’ megaphone echo-effect has found me. Tracked me if you like.

About 10:30pm the other night I was on high alert while manning the single-person operation I have dubbed Neighbourhood Noise Watch. I’d been unable to sleep due to fear of losing count of the number of barks coming from somewhere outside in the darkness (I stopped counting at 158 and the continuous ‘bow-wow’ had already been in full swing for at least 20 minutes prior to that).Capture 55Closing our front door gently behind me, I headed off on my search in a pair of thongs, bathed in moonlight while a gentle night breeze caressed my face. I felt like a cross between some kind of late-night vigilante and the local neighbourhood Sherlock Holmes. I was determined to find the source of the disturbance, and when I did, I was amazed just how far from my own house I’d had to travel to find it.

There was only one other person to be seen at this ungodly midweek hour in the street I’d come to be standing in the middle of.  It was a person going up the front stairs of their house only two or three up from the slightly overgrown property hosting the raving canine lunatic still going like the clappers.CaptureAs I  strained in the near darkness looking for someone else who might actually be bothered that something every bit as loud as a fire-engine’s emergency siren was letting loose full blast under their very nose (incredibly every resident of this apparent ghost street had either gotten so used to the barking by now they were past caring or they simply preferred to adopt the ‘someone else will deal with it’ approach) I at last spotted the lone figure scurrying up their front stairs under a protective cloak of darkness.

I called out to the person in a bid to perhaps find out if they knew anything about the chained-up dog and it’s owners (who were obviously not at home) but suddenly they were in their house with the door closed behind them faster than you could say “There’s a weirdo on the street late at night who wants to talk to me”.  Before scurrying inside though I know they heard my “Excuse me” but chose to ignore it.

With my recon over and the address of the house hosting the distressed lonely angry bummed out border collie now inscribed on a scrap of paper, I began the fresh-air walk back to CONTROL headquarters, keeping my eyes peeled all the while for any strays of the human kind that may have been wanting to launch a surprise sneak attack on a do-gooding neighbourhood noise vigilant such as my good self.

The next day while still in the throes of deciding my next move with the freshly gathered noise intel, I stumbled upon an app called BARKUP!.

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In summary here’s how it works –

BARKUP! allows neighbours to anonymously notify the owner of barking incidents through an automatically generated letter. If the owner chooses to register on BARKUP! any future reports made will be logged directly on the owner’s account.

A letter is posted to the owner’s address with instructions for registering on the BARKUP! website. On their account owners can see further details about the time, duration and type of barking for all recorded incidents.

The dog owner has a summary of all reported barking incidents on BARKUP! They now have the opportunity to reply to the reporting neighbour by choosing from pre-set responses. This communication is anonymous. When they are registered on BARKUP! all further reports will go directly to their account and they will be notified by email. No further letters will be sent to their address.

The website notes unresolved barking issues need to be referred to local council.

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The only problem I discovered about BARKUP! is that presently it’s only available to residents of the city of Ipswich (the next closest city to where I am in Brisbane). That means my next Bobby Fischer style move on this particular chessboard is still in the planning stage. And that means this post has little choice but to end on this note…

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Ps. Think I’m a serial complainer do you?

You’ve imagined nothing until you’ve read this article about a man who filed over 6000 noise complaints against Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C. in a single year (2015). That sanity-robbing figure works out to be an average of 17 complaints a day for 365 consecutive days. Read the story HERE

Pss. The noise-hating character of Albert J. Pfister featured in the 1968 GET SMART episode SPY, SPY, BIRDIE. Pfister comes knocking on Max’s apartment door asking him to sign a petition asking for the world to rid itself of excessive noise. Max refuses, declaring  quiet to be ‘Un -American’.

The episode runs for 24 minutes but Pfister makes his appearance from the beginning so the first couple of minutes should be enough to give you the idea. 

What Happens in the Library stays in the Library

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I’ve known a few librarians in my time.

From schools I’ve worked at to friends I went to Uni with who went on to join the ranks, the lived research for this write-up/mock-up is, trust me, literally years in the making.

The stereotypical librarian, shushing patrons and glaring evilly from behind the circulation desk, all while sucking us dry of spare change for those late books is definitely still a thing.

These days however the humble book jockey’s job is just as likely to involve teaching on-line literacy to seniors, navigating and helping patrons to navigate what used to be called the ‘book catalogue’ but now standardly goes by the name of an ‘information ecosystem’ or preparing a triple venti soy, no-foam latte for a visiting guest-speaking author.

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This was my local library as a child. I still remember walking up those concrete steps and taking a sharp turn to the left to encamp myself at the children’s fiction section. 
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The several-generations-ago nerdatorium has certainly had a facelift or three in the intervening decades. Some time ago it morphed into one of those post-modern  mallibraries.

These days my local ‘Club Lib’ is in a completely different neck of the woods. The times I go there let’s just say I have my escape exits planned well in advance. It’s one of those libraries in a rougher part of town (Inala) that has its own uniformed security guard and a large proportion of its clientele aren’t want you’d label avid readers. Instead they make the trip for the first-person shooter video games and attaching themselves to the public use computers for hours on end ’cause they don’t have one at home.

This same library is unfortunately also located right next to a public hall that every Saturday and Sunday is used for church gatherings. Someone in that church is pretty partial to using a microphone set to ‘airport runway’ volume to implore people to ‘Give their heart to Jesus’ – for hours on end. When that’s going down you can say goodbye to library quiet and hello to “What in God’s name is that racquet?” Whenever the automatic glass doors of the library open, in pours the puritanical ravings of a holy man who has no off-switch. Comical is but one polite word I can think of to describe what’s supposed to be a holy temple of sorts for book-lovers.

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Lunacy such as that pales into comparison with the goings-on in ABC TV‘s series THE LIBRARIANS.

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The opening credits sequence of this twenty-episode series features the head librarian, Frances O’Brien (played sublimely by Australian actress Robyn Butler) alone in her private office breathing rhythmically into a brown paper bag. This is her routine to steady herself for the onslaught of the coming apocalypse once the library doors open and the great unwashed (general public) come trolling in.

This series features an uncountable number of memorable one-liners each episode.

Sample: One librarian remarks to the other at the end of her shift – “Oh what a day! They were two deep at the counter at one stage.”

And if that clip doesn’t turn your pages try this one….

If that wasn’t enough to convince you there’s a funny side to libraries and librarians maybe these two pics will –

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Ps. If that failed to get a rise then this definitely stood no chance: today’s post came within mere precarious inches of being named THE HIDDEN TRUTH ABOUT ‘LIE-BRARIES’. Cheese like that could gain lose me followers faster than this feebleness – Did you hear about the librarian who handed the blind man a cheese grater? The blind man said “That’s the most violent book I’ve ever read.” Better stop there.

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Pss. The library-themed shenanigans aren’t over just yet folks. Those crazy folk over at EVERYDAY P-12 SCHOOL have had a serial prankster on the loose in amongst their library for some weeks now. You can read the whole twisted tale HERE

The Sting (Part 3)

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If you’ve come late to the party or just need a refresher here’s  PART 1  and PART 2 .

My fun-filled (for me) quest to scam the scammer who emailed me with the promise of unlocking a metal trunk containing $4 million endured for a total of 26 emails exchanged across 9 days.

We rejoin the frolicks beginning with email number 15 –

Ok, but we will take it slowly until you get your money Glen.

I will give you my personal number sooner.

Have a wonderful day dear. 

Kate. 

Playing the part of a love-starved tragic for all it was worth, I shot back with –

Your ‘personal’ number Katie?

Now you’re talking dirty!

Since we are getting to know each other better, could we start using pet names for each other?

If you feel comfortable doing it, I like to be called ‘Bumpkins’.

May I call you ‘Sweet Pea’?

Glen

Now it was time to get my first dressing down from ‘Kate’. Because if it’s one thing a true scam artist insists on at all times and that’s keeping it professional.

Dear Glen, 

What’s that all about “Bumpkins”?

Kindly step it down a notch.

If giving you my personal number makes me dirty then I will not.

I hope you are doing great anyways.

Mr. Badenhorst will be paying the fee today. 

I will keep you posted.

Kate.

Was I going to let a little reprimand from by beloved scamming ‘Kate’ come between us and possibly stop me wasting even more of her/his time. Not on your life! She did say ‘Step it UP a notch’… didn’t she?

Hello Sweet Pea,

I want to take our relationship to the next level Katie.

And the money? Forget it. It is your love I yearn for.

I am in love with you now and I doubt the spell can be broken.

Yours forever,

Glen

Ps. Don’t tell Badenhorst about us. He may be jealous.

This is how I picture ‘Kate’, ‘Katie’ or ‘Catherine’ may actually have looked in real life –

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The person variously calling themselves ‘Kate’, ‘Katie’ and ‘Catherine’ in all likelihood probably came sporting face stubble and chest hair.

The next email that arrived from ‘Katie’ marked a turning point on at least two fronts –

(1) ‘She’ had conceded to my request to use pet names for each other (when this happened I knew I’d truly struck comedy gold)

(2) The scammer had decided the time was right to finally reveal their hand and request payment of $3000 in order that the mythical metal trunk containing the equally non-existent $4 million be released from customs. What a giggle!

Hello Bumpkins,

I appreciate your affection and will never let Mr. Badenhorst know closer now, but you already made it obvious you have something for me with the way you talked to him that you want to deal only with me.

My boss hasn’t time getting jealous, he is much interested in the successful completion of this transaction and he is working very hard on it, so I will advise you to be focused to follow his directives and sooner than later we will meet ourselves.

As earlier stated, he has paid the Non Inspection fees of $3,200 which caused the initial hold up. After making the payment, he was required by the customs to settle the accumulated demurrage fee of $6,640.00 otherwise clearance will not be issue for final delivery to you, and the delivery department will not board the luggage. 

He has been battling this issue with them since early morning after the payment trying to convince the customs to allow the shipment to be made and for him to be held responsible for paying the fee within two days of delivery, but to no avail. 

The extra fund he was able to source was not also accepted as part payment which left us in dilemma since today because no one envisaged this turn of event.

So we are now left with only about $3,600 which the customs refused to accept as part payment and allow the delivery for the balance to be paid later.

It is imperative for you to support us at this point, so that we can make this payment as required to avoid delay and additional demurrage charges.

We have also made frantic efforts to get financial assistance and still waiting for feedback. But I want you to be updated, so that you can add to our effort since so far what is available is $3,600, requiring an additional $3,000. Let me know how much you have so that it will be easier and faster for to source and complete the balance.

Find attached payment receipt for Non inspection.

Regards.

Katie.

Cue me, in classic poker-playing tradition, calling ‘Katie’s’ bluff –

Hi Sweet Pea,

 

If it costs me a few thousand to secure your heart then it will be worth it, my love.

First though, I would like to see what you look like.

I wish to see if my mental picture of you as a ravishing beauty with high cheekbones, full lips and a Hollywood nose matches the real person who’s been sending me these delicious emails.

Are you able to send me through a photo of yourself?

 

Bumpkins

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In this next email, at my request, I’m still being called ‘Bumpkins’ by fraudster ‘Kate’. That’s the good news. But wait! Here ‘she’ goes again trying to remain all professional by insisting business and personal be kept separate. Sorry ‘Kate‘, but with the likes of you, that’s not how I roll…

Hello Bumpkins,

You are really funny and exciting. But I am sorry I can’t send you my picture in order for you to do what you are supposed to do. I will do that in due course. We can get to knowing ourselves better as time goes on but attaching any part of your business condition on our perceived relationship is not what I will do please.

Let me know if you have the needed balance or how much of it you have so that the demurrage could be paid in time for the delivery which I almost certain I will accompany. They you can see me.  I will surely send you my pictures before I set off to make the delivery at Australia.
You can be fast about it because Mr. Badenhorst negotiated for payback of the non inspection fee, so he may call of the transaction and take all his money back if he has no help. He confided this in me. He would have told you directly, but he sees you as a jerk. Sorry about that, but you shouldn’t have talked to him that way in your mail. I am doing my best to manage the bad blood you created with that mail. So you are not helping with the fee, he will definitely call it off. 

I await your prompt response.

Yours Sincerely,
Kate.

Bad blood indeed!

Turns out cranky BADenhorst really knew how to hold a grudge. Who would have guessed such a well-meaning, kind-hearted and downright helpful (he was, after all, going to go to a lot of personal effort to get a metal trunk containing $4 million through customs all for me – a person he’d never personally met) would be that way?

The writing was definitely on the wall by this late stage…

Hi Catherine, (formerly known as Sweet Pea, Katie and Kate),

It seems our love is fading.

You speak only in terms of business and money.

My heart sheds tears of sadness for lost opportunities between us.

And no photo?

When you threaten to “call it off”, I ask in return “Call what off?”

Our blossuming love has barely had a chance to sprout like the geranium seed I spoke of several emails back.

Alas, I am so confused right now.

Bummed out Bumpkins

The final email I ever received from ‘Kate’ came a few hours later. It completed an entertaining  (I thought) nine-day exchange between the two of us –

Stop confusing yourself.

I sent you a mail from my boss about a business and you started getting funny ideas. There are several dating sites if you need a date and not try to pollute business ethics with conceited love affair. 

I never contacted you about a date so why are you changing the business to your pervertted mentality? 

Good bye if that is what you mean. It’s business and can’t be missed with pleasure. Men work to make money before pleasure but you are putting the cat before the horse. 

Me put the CAT before the horse? THAT is something I would definitely never do. And there ‘she’ goes again lecturing me about business ethics without even the tiniest hint of irony. I recognise comedy gold when I see it and this is 24 carat.

There was only one thing left for me to do and that was to say goodbye…

Oh gosh..

I think I’ve really blown it this time.

Love is blind and it appears the cat has indeed been put before the horse and both are pulling a rickety cart with one wheel in the ditch while tumbleweeds blow this way and that (but mostly in a southerly direction). 

It seems what ever we had between us is now lost.

I will slink away silently now into the night like some kind of wounded animal (raccoon? beaver? alleycat?) and alas I shall never darken your email doorstop again.

Your heartbroken Bumpkins.

Ps. Don’t suppose you know any LEGITIMATE business that can mend a broken heart?

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And that, dear readers, was THE GAME.

You may say “You might have succeeded in wasting a lot of the scammers time but you wasted a lot of your OWN time doing it”. Thing is – sad to say – I had the time to waste (six weeks of paid holidays to be exact) and the big difference between myself and ‘Kate’ was I knew from the beginning how it was going to end.

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I was ready to hang up my pranking boots and draw the curtain on the whole caper, when, less than 24 hours later, this email – from a completely unrelated source – landed in my spam folder –

Dear Beloved,

I greet you in the name of the Lord.

Saw your profile on Google and moved to write you believing you are capable to handle this for me and God.

I am Mrs. Beatrice Potters, 65yrs from USA but now undergoing medical treatment in London. I was married to late Mr. Alex Potters.We were married for eleven years without a child.


My late husband deposited the sum of US$7,506,420.00 with British Arab Commercial Bank and that’s the reason my late husband’s relatives hates and wants me dead to claim this fund. I will send you details as soon as you indicate your interest in capable of claiming the funds and use this money to help orphanage homes to fulfil God
words in my life.

I will also issue you a letter of authority that will make you the beneficiary of this fund. I want you to always pray for me because the lord is the only strength I have but my happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian. I don’t need any telephone communication as i am in the hospital.

Please assure me that you will act accordingly to my will.

Remain blessed in the name of the Lord.

Yours in Christ,
Mrs. Beatrice Potters

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Ps. There’s always time for one last scam. Right?

A school down in Victoria has been rocked by revelations a parent of one of its students has been running a clandestine Uber-Eats style delivery service at lunchtimes under the noses of teachers and senior staff.

The mother has defended her actions by saying it is a push-back against the enforced ‘healthy eating’ menu recently introduced at the schools tuckshop which has proved  less than popular with many students and parents.

You can feast on the whole story HERE .

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The Sting (Part 2)

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Since this is the continuing 2nd part of a three-part series of posts, let’s begin with a brief recap from last time. Fed up with mountains of spam emails flooding my inbox each week, I decided to enact some good-natured revenge on the scam artists on behalf of all similarly afflicted email users.

The plan was simple. I would choose an email promising me riches beyond my wildest dreams, feign interest in what they had to say and in the process attempt to waste as much of their time as possible. I took inspiration for my mischief-making scheme from the likes of on-line videos such as this one –

By the time I’d finished, a total of 26 emails across nine days had been exchanged between myself and the not-so-bright fraudster at the other end. This person claimed to be female (something I’m pretty certain wasn’t true). Gender then would provide me with the angle I needed.

As our conversations across the days unfolded, I cranked out my very best ♥♥ ‘lonely hearts’ ♥♥ persona and managed to pretend to become totally besotted by this person. The aim was to gradually move our exchanges more and more away from the business side of things and more on to talk about ‘us’.  Part 1 can be found HERE.

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Now bring on Part 2

My Dear Glen,

I have seen your details, I will hand it to Mr. Badenhorst as soon as I am at work in less than two hours to start processing the release of your luggage to you.

Have blessed new day.

Yours Sincerely,
Ms. Catherine Bessant.

Badenhorst. Great name eh? I never did get to meet him put I pictured him in my mind looking something like this –

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I fully realize positioning the word SCAM not once but twice next to my mind’s image of Badenhorst does absolutely nothing to enhance his credibility but with a name like BADenhorst I figured he was kind of behind the eight ball from the beginning.

I  further gilded the honey trap with an encouraging follow-up.

Hi Catherine,

Things are moving along nicely.

Glen

Catherine then takes the time, God bless her, to wish me a swell day…

Hello Glen,

Mr. Anderson have completed all the necessary forms and waiting for some authorization. He will write you with more details. I don’t know if you have already heard from him, but expect to hear from him.

I hope you had a swell day.

Catherine. 

Time for me to shoot cupid’s arrow… (This is gonna get weird!)

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Hi Catherine,

‘Swell’ doesn’t begin to cover it.

Hearing from you is uplifting, exciting and right royal all rolled into one.

 Glen

Next came the following email from Big Daddy BADenhorst himself –

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Good evening Mr. Glen Donaldson,

My secretary Ms. Bessant has been corresponding between us because from you mail you prefer communication with her. You are at liberty to always communicate with her, but there are certain aspects of the transaction I must communicate with you in person that is why I am writing you now.

I received your contact details and have commenced processing of the release of the trunk box to you. 

Everything is working out well. So far I have completed the necessary release forms with our vaulting department and same have been submitted to the US International Airport Vaulting Headquarters here in JFK.

I have the money to pay the non-inspection fee and I am waiting for approval to make the payment as soon as that is granted. When that is done, I will pay the Non-Inspection fee and secure release of the shipment and notify you with delivery details.

I will let you know.

Yours Respectfully,,
Mr. Willem Badenhorst.
Phone. +1 (917) 473 0062.

NB. I will give you a call now.

Big Daddy Baddie may have signed off with ‘Yours Respectfully’ but things were about to turn sour between him and I (along with my dear Catherine)…

Willem do not, I repeat do not call me.

I will only deal with the beautiful creature known as Catherine.

 Glen

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The next day came this from ‘Kate’

Hello Dear Glen,

Thanks for this beautiful mail. I hope your day is going on well. It’s good to hear from you too.
Mr. Badenhorst asked me to call to reconfirm your number, but it was picked by a woman who didn’t hear me well. I tried sending you sms but it didn’t go through. Kindly reconfirm your phone number please. Especially the one you can use to receive text messages. 
He said he wrote you and got insulted, and so wouldn’t want to interfere between us again. I might as well be the one to make the delivery to you when the time is ripe.
Meanwhile approval has been granted for the payment of the non-inspection fee to facilitate the delivery of your consignment.
The fee will be paid before the end of this week since Mr. Willem Badenhorst will make up the money shortly and make the payment.

Kate.

Time to lay it on nice ‘n thick. The phone number is of course another falsie…

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When you permit me to call you Kate, I know the trust is building – like a geranium seed that may one day come into full bloom. I don’t mind admitting that checking my inbox for an email from you has now become a highlight of my day. There was a connection between us from the start so why deny it?

And who needs that big bad Mr Badenhorst when we have each other, right?

Glen

Call me on (07) 5656 9111 and don’t tell Badenhorst about us!

Just when things are starting to hotten up… it’s time to conclude Part 2.

Tune in next week for the concluding chapter when all will be revealed about Big Bad Baddenhorst, Dear Kate and the promised metal trunk containing the knee-slapping $4 million.

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Ps. On a completely unrelated note, hands up anyone who remembers that woeful Kevin Costner movie (and blatant Mad Max ripoff) from back in 1995, WATERWORLD?

I spied a collection of spoof movie posters recently all proposing one change to really bad movies that would have made them so much better. Considering I spoke in glowing terms about AQUAMAN back in January (HERE) I thought it only fitting to show you how with just one little modification WATERWORLD could have been so much better –

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The Sting

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If your junk email inbox is anything like mine, then like me, every week you too are forced to employ nothing short of heavy-duty earth-moving equipment to clear away the mountain of excrescence that has built up over the preceding seven days.

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You KNOW the type of ooze I’m referring to – emails from the ‘Healthy Hearing Institute’, the dodgy loan companies you’ve never heard of, the unnamed organizations offering everything from denture upgrades, military flashlights, home roofing deals and butt enhancement cream (ok, so I clicked on that one) to diabetic strips for cash, medical ‘cannabliss’, all manner of rubbish gift cards, as well as the stock standard bogus blood pressure alerts and naturally enough that old chestnut – weight loss products by the barrel full.

That’s nothing to say of the linguistically challenged red flags whose minimalist subject headings always read something like ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘Good morning’ or the most annoying of all ‘What’s Up?’ (but never with a capital ‘W’). There’s regular droppings from Casino4You, Bitcoin and Huggle Hoodie Offer as well as the ‘Private Message for You’ type. The so-called ‘Russian Beauties’ who claim to want to meet me are pretty persistent as well.

Most conniving of them all however is the offal whose subject heading begins ‘Re:’, giving the impression they’re responding to a message you sent them.  I bet they think they’re so clever and maybe they were a couple of years back when that type of deception first appeared but really… that guile is so 2015 the dimwits really ought to have come up with something new by now. (Other tricks in their arsenal – the ‘ol CONGRAULATIONS! subject heading as well as the emails asking you to confirm an order for something you know you’ve never made).

There’s absolutely no point as well in me requesting the person who calls themselves ‘Backdoor 66’ to cease sending me the crude invites. ‘Cause every time I click  ‘Unsubscribe’ you can bet the house what I’m actually doing – according to the twisted logic at work within the vast scamiverse – is precisely the reverse ie. confirming my renewed interest in continuing to receive this blather.

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I got to thinking – and after ploughing through that rogues gallery roll-call of unsolicited detritus listed above I’m quite sure you’d agree – a little bit of payback was long overdue.

The plan was simple. I would choose an email promising me riches beyond my wildest dreams, feign interest in what they had to say and in the process attempt to waste as much of their time as possible. The blueprint for my ‘scam the scammer’ little rouse was the video I’ve included below. It goes for close to 10 minutes but if you can stay with it it definitely delivers on laughs and the slightly snide warm inner glow that comes with comeuppance.

Yeah, love even just the sound of that word… comeuppance!

 

In truth, the internet is littered with stories and videos of people getting their own back against admittedly not-so-bright scam artists. As always the first question is “Where’s the game?, something I ask myself regularly.

In the end, a total of 26 emails across nine days were exchanged between myself and the flippy fraudster I chose to engage. This person claimed to be female (something I’m pretty certain wasn’t true). Gender then would provide me with the angle I needed.

As our conversations across the days unfolded, I cranked out my very best  ‘lonely hearts’ persona and managed to pretend to become totally besotted by this person. The aim was to gradually move our exchanges more and more away from the business side of things and more on to talk about ‘us’.

And I’m pleased to say, things worked out quite well in this regard. A lot of time and effort was outlayed by this swindling shark for zero reward.

It all started with this unsought email I received from a person calling themselves Catherine Bessant

Hello Dear Friend,

I am Ms. Catherine Bessant deputy to Mr. Willem Badenhorst the head of luggage/baggage storage facilities at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY USA.

In our last withheld-package routine check at the Airport Storage facility, we discovered an abandoned Metal Trunk Box prior to state confiscation, and decided to electronically scan it and ascertain its content.
When scanned, it revealed US Dollar, but due to the extreme security and seals of the metal trunk box, we could not ascertain the amount it inside, but I am sure it wouldn’t be less than 4 million dollars.

If you are interested I need your prompt response in order to update your information in the general waybill ledger, and we will take care of the United States Non Inspection Fee of 3,200.00 USD as well as arrange for the delivery and handover to you to you. If you can be fair enough, you will part with 40% of the money to us for our effort, while you take 60%.

However, to facilitate processing and delivery to you as the recipient, I want you to provide your complete names, Phone Number and delivery Address to affect the official documents. Also include the name of the nearest Airport around your city.

As a result of the sensitivity of this deal, we will not transact with our official email account or phone. So send your response through this my private email address or through the email address of Mr. Willem Badenhorst williebadenhorst15@yahoo.com as he will be communicating directly with you as my boss.

We can get everything concluded within 5 working days upon your acceptance of the terms with an immediate feedback.

You can always call me on Mr. Badenhorsts telephone number: +1 (917) 473 0062 or drop sms if he is not available to accept your call.

Respectfully;
Ms. Catherine Bessant.

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I responded the next day with a ‘hard of hearing’ old-school clarifyer –

Hi Catherine,

How much did you say was in the metal trunk?

Glen

What followed was an attempt at what’s known in the trickster trade as a ‘handover’ to another person (supposedly higher up the clown-infested pecking order).

Mr. Donaldson,

please contact my boss Mr. Willem Badenhorst or I will have him contact you.
Phone: +1 (917) 473 0062
Email. williebadenhorst15@yahoo.com

Mrs. Bessant

I declined the offer to deal with someone else and so commenced my plan to bit by bit romantically connect with ‘Catherine’

No Catherine.

I prefer to deal with the likes of you.

Glen

Feeling like the fish may just have climbed on to the end of the hook and my plan was beginning to gain steam,‘Catherine’ appeared fine with this and replied in this long-winded fashion –

Good Evening Dear Glen Donaldson,

I have shown your mails to my boss and your desire to be dealing directly with me. That is fine by me since my boss is also fine with it. 

Thank you for your response and understanding. As I stated in the first mail you received, I will commence negotiation with the airport vault authority for the release of the withheld luggage to you since we are on the same page now.

The starting point is getting approval to pay the US Non Inspection Charges of $3,200 on your behalf. Inability to make that payment initially was the main reason the consignment was withheld by the Airport authority.

If approval is given I will pay the fee, and negotiate for the release of the luggage to you, and as soon as I am able to clear the major release requirements, I shall make arrangement for final delivery to you.

You have to assure me once again that my own share of the money as agreed will be given to me as I undertake processing the release of the luggage on your behalf.

You know it is easy to make promises in the absence of tangible reality, so please I want you to respect my part of this effort, while I promise to do my best to pay all the needed fees, and work out a plan to ensure I am with the delivery department when hand over will be made to you. If not, I will have to depend on your sincere magnanimity and charity to get my part. But I will do anything I can to be with the courier department when it will be delivered to you or even be with you before the delivery is done. I hope you understand.

Once again to ensure the full protection of our persons since it is only you and I that know the content of the box so far, I would respectfully request for confidentiality. I want you to keep the contents of our communication confidential since I will be retiring soon and wouldn’t want to end up risking my pension and retirement benefits, or lose this opportunity. So I would strongly advise you to be discrete as ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’.

You should provide your contact address, phone number and nearest airport for processing to commence.

Yours Sincerely,
Ms, Catherine Bessant; for
Mr. Willem Badenhorst

Use of the adage ‘loose lips sink ships‘ was the first of many unintended crackups from ‘Catherine’. In turn I replied with some false details of my own –

Hi Catherine,

This is starting to get exciting!

My details are as follows –

23 Orchid Avenue

Surfers Paradise 4217

(07) 56 57 6888

I would prefer to transact through the Gold Coast Airport.

Glen

Ps. With you 100% on the ‘loose lips sink ships’ thing and therefore agree with the decision to go via plane.

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And that brings to an end Part 1 of THE STING.

Tune in next week for the continuing adventures of Catherine, myself and the mythical abandoned metal trunk containing the even more mythical unclaimed $4 million.

Ps.

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I haven’t seen it myself yet but from the first-hand reports I’ve been getting from people who have, Nicole Kidman‘s new undercover cop movie DESTROYER is next level hard-core, gritty and downright ghoulish.

Last time I remember something being given the title DESTROYER was rock group KISS‘s fourth studio album back in ’76. That turned out well for those guys so let’s see how critical reception lands for Nicole.

Funny Bones

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Tomorrow is Jerry Lewis’s birthday.

The iconic comedian passed away two years ago at the age of 91.

As the cliché goes, he lives long in my memory.

His career as an actor, film director, stand-up comedian, producer and screen writer spanned eight decades.

I loved him as a kid and if I was to think back over my all-time favourite comedians, Jerry Lewis would come out on top from a list boasting the likes of Dave Allan, Woody Allen, Tim Allen, Richard Pryor, Benny Hill, Chris Farley, Don Rickles, Warwick Davis (all 107 centimetres of him), Mel Brooks, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Kevin James, Peter Sellers, Jack Black, Don Knotts, Martin Lawrence, Paul Hogan, George Burns, Jay Leno, Phyliss Diller and Peter Sellers.

Comedy is subjective. One person’s comedy mastermind is another person’s Adam Sandler. But for me, Jerry Lewis was King.

Not many people I know remember him these days so I’m happy to be the one to pay tribute. His films never seemed to get the full recognition they deserved (he failed to be nominated for a single Academy Award) and he was more popular throughout Europe and in particular France than he was in his native U.S.A. Many folk just simply didn’t ‘get’ Jerry Lewis.

Those factors made me love him even more.

As an adult, I’ve read enough stories about him to know I may not have liked him that much in real life. (Don’t click here if you want to remember Jerry fondly) That doesn’t diminish in any way my love for his films and performances.

On the eve of the anniversary of his birthday, here are my Top Ten Favourite Jerry Lewis movies

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As cruel as it was to relegate Lewis’s recognised masterpiece THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) to second spot, my true heart belongs to the work of comedy genius he produced, directed and starred in 49 years ago WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT?

Lewis plays the role of Brendan Byers III, a rich playboy who forms his own privately financed army platoon during World War 2. He and his men travel to the front lines where the plan is he will impersonate and take the place of a German General just long enough to order a troop retreat.

In the clip below, Jerry Lewis as Brendan Byers is attempting to learn German in preparation for his impersonation of that German Army General. If nothing else, watching this scene should prove beyond any doubt that what makes me laugh may make you, well… not laugh. Or cringe. Or at the very least doubt my bona fides as a judge of quality mirth making material.

Here goes anyway…

Now that wasn’t so bad was it?

Here’s the other nine films that round out my list…

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And because I couldn’t find space for it in that collection here is a clip from another of my favourites THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY (1964) which underlines the case for why Jerry Lewis was a master of non-verbal comedy and what used to go by the name of ‘mugging’ (ie. contorting one’s ‘mug’ or face in the name of laughter – think Jim Carrey.)

The over-talkative patient in this scene being wheeled around by Lewis’s orderly is played to perfection by actress Alice Pearce (1917 -1966) who played the nosy neighbour Gladys Kravitz for three seasons of BEWITCHED (1964 – 1972).

This is hypochondria played for laughs…

Jerry Lewis appeared /starred in more than 60 films including his last, MAX ROSE (2016) as well as the documentary METHOD TO THE MADNESS OF JERRY LEWIS (2011).

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If you’d like to get a sense of the esteem with which Jerry Lewis is held in the world of comedy by the likes of such professional funny men as Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase as well as film director Steven Spielberg, take a look at the trailer inserted below for the documentary METHOD TO THE MADNESS OF JERRY LEWIS.

Ps. I really have saved the best for last with this bonus clip.

It’s long at seven minutes but if you consider yourself a connoisseur of the art of comic timing and delivery then this time will literally fly. This scene is taken from the 1961 movie THE LADIES MAN.

Jerry Lewis plays the part of a young man who, fresh from a breakup with his girlfriend, swears off romance and then takes a job at a genteel, women-only boarding house.

In this scene he greets a gangster who has dropped by the house to see his lady friend.

Seeing this again reminds me of another aspect of Lewis’s films I always loved so much – the small band of sublimely talented character actors he surrounded himself with and used over and over in small roles in so many of his movies. The gangster in this scene is played by Buddy Lester (1915 – 2002) who appeared in five of Lewis’s films (four of which feature in my Top Ten listing).

Enjoy this.

Enjoy this as I unashamably wheel out the wobbly-wheeled cliche cart one last time and declare – ‘They don’t make ’em like this any more.’

They really don’t.

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