Case of the mystery letter

Sherlock

A letter arrived in my post-box the other day.

A handwritten letter.

Allow me to say from the outset how unusual that is.

The only things I normally get to pull from this brick-encased substitute trash receptacle, besides bills, are fast food discount vouchers I never use, real estate company invitations for free house market evaluations I have no intention of taking up and overly enthusiastic solicitations to have my roof inspected, which, without exception, are always the first to be propelled into the actual trash bin.

On the outside of the envelope was written my street address in small, neat, adult cursive script. A blue pen was used  but there was no name included for who the letter was addressed to. My curiosity began to build like a cat fixated upon its prey. Once inside my house, I placed my bag and belongings on the kitchen bench and launched straight into eagerly tearing open the white envelope.

Within a few lines of reading, I realised that I was not the intended recipient of this letter.

The opening sentence read – “Thank you for visiting this weekend!”Letter 2

After a few more sentences, I began to awake to the fact that what I held in my hands was a letter written by a prisoner to a friend or relative on the ‘outside’. Somehow, this very personal correspondence had, by some means, landed in my letterbox. On closer inspection, I realised the front address label included the correct number of our house but an incorrect street name (but one that began with the same first letter as our street).

I should make known at this point that my family and I live exactly 8.6 km’s (I know ’cause I googled it) from not one, not two, but three prisons – two Government-run and one privately managed; so make that a cluster of prisons… sorry, ‘correctional institutions’. Our adjoining suburb (the one next to ours) called Inala, is also home to the state’s largest ex-prisoner population.

My point in making known this information is to help explain why a mail mistake like this in a locality such as ours probably had a higher likelihood of happening.

The letter included the following paragraph (transcribed as written) –

“I did some checking and the only thing I’m able to receive through the mail are letters and photos (no alcohol, jp’d and signed for minors), and in March and September, underwear to the value of $150 with receipts. Anything we may want (ie. books. movies etc.) has to be purchased through the centre. Movies sent through the post is taken and deposited by the officers. So letters it is!

How precious and prized the written word must  become under such captive circumstances. As good karma would decree, the letter has since been forwarded to the correct address.

Letter

 

The Great Wrinkle Machine

Capture

I just couldn’t help myself.

I’ve been informed numerous times by my wife that one of these days my (on-line) mouth would land me in hot water.

And while the story I’m about to tell hasn’t produced any sparks so far, it so easily could have.

A few days back, I was sitting at home in front of my computer when a peek-a-boo message alert popped up on the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

This was a notification that someone had just posted an item for sale on a closed on-line group I am subscribed to called FOREST LAKE ONLINE GARAGE SALES. I’ve never bought anything from this local 2nd-hand sellers site before nor have I ever offered anything for sale. I don’t even fully recall why or when I signed up to the group but still I allow the alerts to come.

Why? Because as a study of human behaviour and an anonymous look into the goldfish bowl of people’s lives, nothing tops garage sales.  I don’t roam the hedge-trimmer shaped streetmeadows of the Twistiverse that is suburbia with the same abandon I once used to so these days on-line it is. 

Offered for sale on this site are the usual collection of no longer needed prams, treadmills, tents, ornamental vases bearing the internationally identifiable KITSCH label and kids playsets with the missing pieces, but every now and then something more unusual appears that catches the eye.

And so it was when I came upon the following picture –

Wrinkle removal

accompanied by these lines of description –

TOBI Wrinkle Removal Machine.Comes with instruction manual and attachments. Upright and portable.      

I was fairly certain this was a device intended for either clothes or carpets but I couldn’t resist sending the following query to the seller –   

Mine

I expected to receive back as good as I gave in the sarcasm department but instead I snagged this rather to the point, matter-of-fact response –

Narelle

I’m guessing at this point the seller still believed there was some chance of a sale and so thought it best to hold back from any punchy-type replies.

All joking aside, I still say in the right enterprising hands, this TOBI WRINKLE REMOVAL MACHINE could apply its doubtless vast sucking power to a person’s facial features and deliver that artificially pinched look folk pay plastic surgeons huge sums for.

I know. I know. Keep up this type of charmless derision and biting flight-risk banter and someone’s gonna really drop me in it. In the meantime, there’s a lot of fun to be had with on-line garage sale queries. I could claim it’s all in the name of consumer right-to-know advocacy, but who’d believe that?

Old

 

The Great Re-read

capture

Nostalgia can be such a seductive liar.

As the wise amongst us know, revisiting stuff from one’s past, stuff that at one time we may have held dear and close to our hearts, is hit and miss at the best of times. Some things hold up over the passage of time better than others. Sadly, the late 70’s/early eighties hit show DIFF’RENT STROKESwhich I used to hold in the ultimate high regard as a kid, what with its laughter-track assisted antics of Willis, Arnold  and Park Avenue Mr Drummond, no longer hits quite the same high notes of hilarity it once did 40 years ago. Funny that.

I recently revisited a book I first read some twenty-five years ago:

CHOPPER : FROM THE INSIDE

Mark Brandon Read was a Melbourne-based career criminal who at one point in the early 2000’s was listed as Australia’s best-selling author. ‘Chopper’ as he was known to friend and foe alike, ended up writing more than a dozen tell-all type books, all of them documenting with characteristic lashings of dry wit, an undertaker’s sense of black humour and near unparalleled word flair his real life adventures as a Headhunter: a bare-knuckled and weaponized stand-over man who terrorized and extorted money and favours from other criminals for profit and pleasure, back before the term became widely adopted by the Human Resources Recruitment Industry. Preying exclusively on the no-good types of the underworld, a case exists for such a person to be regarded as the criminal version of pest control.

In spite of what your personal view may be regarding criminals profiting  from their crimes via publishing deals, films, paid television interviews etc, the fact is Chopper always stuck to the story that he never bashed, belted, iron-barred, axed, shot, stabbed, knee-capped or set on fire a single law-abiding, tax-paying civilian amongst his sizeable tally of victims. To his mind, at least, these were acts of community service that resulted in society being rid of several dozen killers and violent crims.

I’m a little reluctant to admit now that the twenty-five years younger version of myself became somewhat fascinated  (I’ll stop short of using the word ‘enamoured’ for fear of the wrong impression that word might likely create) by these books back in the early nineties. A quarter of a century later had I matured and outgrown the blood-splattered  vigilante aura of this type of true crime confessional?

Well, it appears, sadly no.

Rereading the first book in the series all these years later ended up only reinforcing my view that this was a person who lived one hell of an extraordinary life on their own terms and survived against all odds and countless attempts on their life (Read died of natural causes in 2013) to eventually earn an honest living as a highly entertaining author and paid public speaker.

By this point there may be people who’ve stopped reading because I’ve declared my liking for written accounts of a person and subject manner they find distasteful. For everyone else here’s a little taste of Chopper’s writing smarts. In this excerpt taken from page 33 of CHOPPER : FROM THE INSIDE he’s talking about his dear old dad Keith –

“Once, when he was young, Dad got the idea that the next-door neighbours were mistreating their family pet. Every time he looked over the fence the animal seemed to be getting thinner and thinner.

He complained to the neighbours and said he hated cruelty to animals. Every time he asked them if they were feeding the dog, they swore they were.

But it seemed skinnier than ever, and one day Dad could take no more. He jumped the fence, threatened the neighbour with a beating, then took the dog and drowned it to put it out of its misery.

It was the first time he had ever seen a greyhound.”

Not everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, but after twenty-five years and withstanding the ultimate test of time, I’m gonna have to finally admit, it is mine.

time

 

 

 

 

One star review for a classic album

Beatles

This time last week, sections of the music media were commemorating the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That made me think of a discussion earlier in the year on English author Bridget Whelan’s blog (5000 + followers) that raised the question – “Is it ever appropriate to give one star reviews on Amazon?”

The companion question to this might read – “Are one star reviews really nothing more than an expression of mean-spiritedness that says more about the writer and their prejudices than it does the work being considered?” Mentioned was an article that appeared some time back in THE NEW YORKER that awarded one star reviews to a number of ‘classic’ creations, including the movie THE GODFATHER (1972) and Mark Twain’s celebrated novel HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1884).

Also mentioned was the WHITE ALBUM (1968) by the Beatles. Boasting some 30 songs (it was a double album), it is seen by many as an iconic cultural artefact of its era and a work of inspired genius. It still regularly makes it into respected music industry critic’s all-time Top Ten albums list and has been referred to many times as one of the greatest albums of all time. The White Album reached # 1 on music charts in England and the U.S.

I bought a CD copy (complete with commemorative booklet) about six years ago. In that time I have played the album a total of four times. That should tell you what I think of the ‘genius’ on display amongst its tracks. Having been told to expect the ocean, what I got instead was agitated water in a saucer. Admittedly there are good tracks, even a couple of classics amongst those good tracks –

Back in the U.S.S.R   –  Dear Prudence   –  While my Guitar Gently Weeps  –  Birthday  Helter Skelter 

but for the most part, those good songs are buried amongst ceiling-high piles of self-indulgent filler material sung in flat, slightly depressing tones with plodding, uninspired musicianship that, had the record execs at Apple (this is 10 years before the birth of the computer technology company) not opted for a double album, would surely, under ordinary circumstances, never have made it off the cutting room floor. Many of the ‘songs’ bear more resemblance to music hall ditties and the private jokes contained in a lot of the lyrics fall completely flat decades on.  Tracks such as –

I’m so TiredMusic

Blackbird

(In a recent issue of MAD Magazine, under an article entitled “Kanye West’s Most Moronic Tweets” was this little gem # Now playing – Blackbird by The Beatles / Greatest song ever! This underwhelming, wafting little tune also features in the equally underwhelming and wafting BOSS BABY movie.)

Piggies

Rocky Raccoon

Don’t Pass Me By

Why Don’t We Do It on the Road

I Will

Julia

Yer Blues

Mother Nature’s Son

Sexy Sadie

Long, Long, Long

Honey Pie

Cry Baby Cry

contribute to the reason why The New York Times considered the album “boring beyond belief” and labelled over half the songs “profound mediocrities”. A number of other critics, writing in more modern times and therefore less inclined to be under the sway of the cultural frenzy that surrounded the Beatles at the time, have called the White Album ‘at times unlistenable’.

Double meh

When I read that most of the songs were written while the Beatles were attending a three-month Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh – India, well.. that explained a lot. The variable quality of musicianship and song writing on the album can also be explained by the fact that, even though the band broke up less than 18 months after the release of this album, at the time, the fab four were still at the height of their popularity and, as was popularly observed at the time – ‘could have sung the phonebook and people would still have listened.’

Wrapped forever as it is in mythology – Charles Manson had the album on endless rotation at his hippie commune in 1969, preaching to his followers that The Beatles were instructing them via messages contained within song lyrics to initiate the ultimate race war known as Helter Skelter which would be the precursor to the end of the world – minus the pot smoking that would have been the standard accompaniment to this music back at the time of its release – this album, to my ears, is overrated in the extreme.

Then again, what do I know?

Opinioning back in the day for a University student newspaper, I wrote of GUNS ‘N ROSES debut album Appetite For Destruction – “I’d rather go clubbing with my nan that have to listen to this putrid earwax again. Destined for the $2 bin within the week.”

Yeah, good one Nostradamus.

Cartoon

 

 

 

A feather in my cap…tion

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s not like you weren’t warned.

Two weeks ago I mentioned an entry of mine in the New Yorker Caption Contest had been announced as one of the three finalists. This in a contest that attracts in excess of 5000 entries from countries around the globe each week.

What I also said at that time was that if the entry went on to actually win, expect to have to suffer me talking about it all over again. And if it didn’t, guaranteed you’d never hear me mention it again.

So here I am talking about it. Again.

Earlier this week when I logged onto the site to check if they’d decided on a winner, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I spotted my name next to the first place flag.

My seven-year old daughter has since taken to calling me ‘Champion’ (as in at the dinner table at night, “What drink would our Champion like?”) and I’m making no effort to correct her.

And only now can the full story of this long-awaited triumph be told.

A little on two years ago I read an article about how famed American film critic Roger Ebert had taken 107 attempts before he finally won the notoriously difficult to win New Yorker Caption Competition. I set out at that time to attempt to match his record but resolved if I had not met with success by the 108th attempt, I would give up.

The caption I sent in two weeks back that has ended up winning this competition was my 105th straight week of submitting an entry. I’m ready to retire now, content I’ve achieved what I set out to do. But I’m gonna pop a few champagne corks before I do.

Capture

View live link here

How the mighty have fallen

Roger

How does a person go from a once highly decorated NSW police detective to luring, (at the age of 73) a 20-year-old to a Sydney storage unit, murdering him and then dumping the body at sea the next day in waters off Crunulla?

This is the question that author and former police detective himself Duncan McNab sets out to answer in what is his second book on this country’s most infamous and crooked former cop. The answer is delivered across 30 chapters in this book but may be summarised in just one word – ‘incrementally’.

In Australia’s long, inglorious history of bent coppers – going right back to the country’s very first constable James Smith, dismissed by Governor Arthur Phillip for larceny – there has been none more tarnished and synonymous with crime then Roger ‘The Dodger’ Rogerson.

In a notorious career, which included associations with some of Australia’s worst criminals (he famously ventured on speaking tours with professional stand-over man and alleged author Chopper Read), extrajudicial killings, being implicated in various murders and disappearances; countless allegations of threatening behaviour, bribery and drug dealing; and convictions for perverting the course of justice and perjury, he was dismissed from the police force in 1986 and jailed twice.

He is now 76 years of age and began serving a ‘life’ sentence in Sydney’s Long Bay jail in September of last year for the 2014 pre-meditated murder of twenty year old Jamie Gao, that took place inside Rent-A-Space storage shed 803 housed within a deserted industrial estate in the Sydney south-western suburb of Padstow.

Channel 7 has a telemovie co-starring Toni Collette planned for release on the whole sorry, sordid tale later this year.Use

 

 

New York New York

Capture

He’s something else that Arnie isn’t he?

Coming on all dramatic like that.

But having him as my campaign manager in a contest decided by popular vote has its up side.

Here’s what’s happening.

I maybe, with extra heavy emphasis on the maybe, about to enjoy my 15 minutes of fame.

No, I’m not going on THE VOICE, so that idea can be put to the samurai sword straight away. Although I have watched with interest two fellow Queensland school teachers give it a whirl on the current Seal – Boy George – Kelly Rowland – Delta season.

My turn in the spotlight is way less show biz than that but no less exciting (for me). It’s all about an entry I sent in for the New Yorker Caption Competition. An entry that has been announced as one of the three finalists.

For anyone without a real knowledge and interest in such things that is hardly a thunder-clap announcement. For someone with knowledge and interest in such things that is most definitely a back-slaps-all-round, buttered crumpet slice of news.

The New Yorker Caption Contest runs weekly on-line and is open to anyone aged thirteen or over. It attracts in excess of 5000 entries per week from countries across the globe and is therefore notoriously difficult to win. Renown American film critic Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013) famously won after no less than 107 attempts.

This week’s contest cartoon is pictured below, along with the three finalists – one from California, one from Texas and one mine.

cartoon

  • “And where was the outrage over Alan’s standing desk?”
  • “Like I’m the first person who’s tried sleeping their way to the top.”
  • “Don’t just stand there. Tuck me in.”

I won’t tell you which is mine.

It’s more fun that way.

What I will say, being a realist, is that in my opinion my entry is not the funniest and therefore doesn’t deserve to win. Which will not, in any way, stop me from hoping it does.

If I do win, (announced next week) expect to have to put up with me spending the next couple of posts positively wallowing in it and talking up how great it is to stand in the winners corner, breathe in the exalted, sweet-smelling air of success etc.

If I don’t win, guaranteed you’ll never hear me mention it again.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to cast your vote for one of the three finalists –

Vote here

vote.PNG

Percolating no more

Closed

My local coffee shop closed down recently.

In its place now stands a nail salon. Maybe they’ll be a little less snobby.

This was a coffee shop that took itself way too seriously. The coffee was good but by the manner the staff carried on you’d have thought what they served in the cups was an elixir so precious that the barista doubted the customer could be trusted with it.

Their business model included suspiciously eyeing and then ignoring any customer who walked through their doors as if that person were some kind of bare-butted Beverly Hillybilly in-bred.  Dressed in their black noir aprons 30 years after funk/pop group BIG PIG (1985-1991) first coined the fashion, the staff would smile eventually when you went up to order but never with their eyes. It was the smile of a predator to its prey. Fairly predictably the uniform would be accompanied by some kind of goatee beard, a Che-Guevera t-shirt, and an overpowering righteous air. I’m betting a few of them even owned guitars. I’m guessing some may even have grown up down Melbourne way.

In their part-defence, I might offer up the theory that many workers in jobs such as theirs are probably so used to customers taking a superior tone as soon as they walk through the door, that as soon as they come upon someone who might actually bother to preface their order with a ‘G’day’ greeting in a gesture of ‘level playing field’ humanitarian acknowledgement, they’re tempted to think to themselves –  ” The master-servent code may just be on hold here. Time to punch back!”

I remember watching the look of barely disguised disgust spread across the face of a coloured-frame-eyeglasses-wearing female employee when I handed her a loyalty card to stamp that belonged to, and had just been used a minute before, by my bearded mate.

Then there was the time I was greeted by uppity surly face just because my order was a little more ‘complicated’ then they were used to. I mean what part of –

“Triple venti chai tea latte, double-pump, cinnamon dolce soy milk, extra whip, extra shot, then extract that shot, foam on the bottom, with salted-caramel drizzle served at 48.8 degrees celsius” did this person not understand?

Anyways, gone now. All gone.

My new go-to hipster cafe?

Maccas, of course.

Coffee

PS. Does coffee really taste any better if it’s brewed in a whimsical contraption?

MAD but not Crazy (or Cracked)

Mad

Does anyone remember MAD MAGAZINE?

It’s been around since 1952 and I used to read it (and love it) as a kid growing up in the late 70’s. If memory serves me correctly, it stopped being funny sometime around the mid eighties (coincidentally when I had outgrown my teens) when they started putting out an Australian Edition.

It’s satirical comic rivals CRAZY (1973 – 1983) and CRACKED (1958 – 2007) may have long departed this planet but MAD carries on. At its peak in the mid seventies MAD boasted sales of 2.1 million copies per issue and carried on selling in excess of one million copies per issue well into the eighties. These days sales top out at 100 000 copies. Like so many print magazines, the free-to-read recesses of the internet have opened up a plethora of competing humour outlets that the magazine did not formerly have to contend with, resulting in barely sustainable readership numbers.

I picked up the April 2017 issue the other day at my local library and guess what? It’s funny again! The television and movie parodies are still there as well as old favourites like ‘The Lighter side of..’ and Spy vs Spy. The back cover still doubles as the mighty ‘Mad Fold-In’ and the freckled features of ageless Alfred E. Neuman endure.

In the edition I looked at (and borrowed – my excuse being I wanted to initiate my 7-year-old daughter) the following illustrated features were included –

  • Yet another Fairy Tale we’d like to see ( a bloody version of Rapunzel)
  • Places your lost Airpod is sure to wind up
  • Other uses for live Lobsters
  • Signs of an Unsuccessful Foodtruck
  • A Mad look at Drones
  • Goosebumps books for Millenials
  • Things you don’t want to hear from your Uber Driver
  • Star Wars fans then and now
  • Mad’s Celebrity Supermarket showcasing products such asproducts

For those of you who’ve always suspected I may be harbouring some kind of epi-pen sized dose of madness, look no further for your proof.

PS. Take a closer look at the Mad front cover pictured at the top. The words where Alfred        E. Neuman’s mouth should be, read –

        “Believe us – we really, really wish there was no…” 

 

Crash! Bang! Pow!

colour cars

I had a car accident.

Or put more accurately, a car accident almost had me.

The graphic above shows what happened apart from one detail: we were tail-ended by a truck. A very, very big truck.

Here’s pretty much word for word my description to the insurance claims officer as to precisely what took place –

I was in ‘pole position’ (meaning first in line), sitting stationary at a red set of traffic lights. For approximately 15 seconds prior to the accident, a large Isuzu truck had been in line behind me, also waiting for the light to change. As truck drivers seem fond of doing, this oversized vehicle was resting so close behind me I could practically feel the drivers breath on the back of my neck as I sat waiting for the light to change. Suddenly, with the lights still red, I felt and heard an almighty crash-bang impact to our car from behind.

The hit from behind felt more like we’d been the target of a shoulder-fired RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). For an instant, it felt like our car was in the grip of a magnitude 9.5 earthquake. The back windscreen instantly shattered into tens of thousands of tiny shards of plastisized glass and the explosive noise of that was one of, if not the loudest, sounds I’ve ever heard in my life.

And all because, in an ill-timed moment of relaxation, the truck driver behind me let his foot ease off/slip off the clutch. Well, that’s my theory anyway, and according to a number of people I’ve spoken to since, that is the only logical explanation for what happened. Because, important to note, the traffic light was most assuredly still red when the wallop happened. Thankfully I also have the name and address of a male witness who stopped at the scene who’s prepared to vouch for that if the need arises.

Did I mention that my seven-year old daughter, still dressed in her pyjamas, was in the  back seat at the time? Safe to say, she took a lot more of the impact than I did. Don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on the truckie’s face after he’d approached my driver’s side window to exchange details and saw her perched smiling in the backseat with a slightly perplexed though calm look on her face gazing up at him. Both my daughter and I sustained no injuries but my wife and I have since taken our daughter to the doctor for a precautionary checkup and been given the all clear.

Mercifully the insurance claim process (we’re with the company with the two joined pronouns for a name plus the slogan “We get you”) has been pretty painless to this point. Although we do have to wait 17 days until our car can be fitted into the insurance company’s preferred repairers’ overtasked schedule for a new back windscreen fit.

witch

That means we faced the prospect of driving around for the next fortnight and more, sans rear window. That was until my wife came up with what I think to be a rather novel and cost-effective solution to our missing back window problem. At her prompting, I have now affixed, with water-proof taping, two study-desk plastic place mats we just happened to have lying around at home to the gaping space. They’re see-through and now secured in place with the tape to serve as our temporary back windscreen. From a distance you can’t even notice anything is different.

Necessity (and penny-pinching DIY)  is the mother of invention.

Capture

Desk-bound no more. Our new (temporary) back window panel.