Day of the Rhino

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I’ve had a rhinoplasty.

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

It’s actually my second.

The first happened 28 years ago back in 1990.

Yep, me and nose obsession go way back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You do?

Ok, now you get to see…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Eye-popping Aquaman!

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

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

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

And I used to love it.

Now he looks like this and I still love it –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No matter.

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

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

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

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World National Trivia Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slapstick outlandish but interesting all round I reckon.

And absolutely perfect fodder on WORLD TRIVIA DAY.

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

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That’s a Wrap 2018

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

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

And so it is in the blogging world.

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

No matter.

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

2018 for me marked a time of new beginnings.

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

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

Movies

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For All The Money in the World (January)

12 Strong (March)

The Wall (March)

Chappaquiddick (May)

The Incredibles 2 (July)

Entebbe (August)

Room 237 (October)

Books

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The Operator by Robert O’Neill (February)

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (March)

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena (March)

Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin (March)

And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic (April)

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

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

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce (April)

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

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

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

Favourite 2018 Book Titles List (December)

Television

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Midsummer Murders (January)

Underbelly Files : Chopper (February)

60 Minutes Interview with Jacinda Ardern (March)

Author Interviews

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Stuart Aken (January)

Iain Ryan (February)

Jim Toomey (May)

Deborah Abela (August)

R.I.P.

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Neil Simon (August)

Burt Reynolds (September)

Bonus Reads

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Unearthed (January) (Mine)

The Small Town with 5 Indie Book Stores (January)

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books List (January)

Afterglow (March) (Mine)

Desert Island Discs (April)

Imagined Descriptions of Women by Bad Male Authors (April)

2018 Top 40 Book Club Reads (April)

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

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

My Books (Bridget Whelen blogsite) (October)

Weird Whacky Wow!

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Pick a Slogan (January)

Death by Cricket Bowling Machine  (January)

Designer Icecream Handbags (March)

Death in Gold Class (March)

Pranking Oxley Golf Course (March)

Planking (April)

Sydney Road Rage Chainsaw Incident Madness (April)

Top Ten Martial Arts Movies (June)

Where the Money’s Buried (June)

Go Premium! (June)

Letter from Prince Charles (August)

Wrap Advertising for Cars (September)

Top 5 Spokespeople for SWS (November)

Computer Art (November)

Whatever Happened to Crop Circles? (December)

The Issues

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Parkrun Jogger’s Noise (February)

My New Favourite Politician (March)

Core Values (March)

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

The Great Vanilla Slice Ripoff (June)

Controlled Demolition Theory of 9/11 (September)

The Events

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Sth Korean Winter Olympics (March)

The Oscars (March)

West End Icecream Festival (March)

Winx sets world record (March)

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (April)

Inugural Women’s NRL Competition (April)

World Naked Gardening Day (May)

Jacinda Adern’s baby daughter (June)

New Car Purchase (July)

Thai Cave Rescue (July)

Sale of Brady Bunch House (July)

Oz Comic Con (September)

International Skeptics Day (October)

LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE Launch (October)

International Teacher’s Day (October)

Halloween 2018 (October)

House move (November)

 

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Made with the Scent of Juniper & Witch Hazel

The Only Blog With No Vampires

Pulsating Word Ectoplasm

Better Than Iron Man 2

My Own Personal Ringtone

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

100% Pineapple Wedge Free

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

First Draft Only Draft

No Bells ‘N Whistles But Shenanigans Galore

Are You Even Listening To Me?

You Don’t Need To Audition To Get In

I Know Nothing About Sri Lanka

Zero Irony

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

There’s No School Like Old School

Nestled Deep Within the Foothills of Literary Obscurity

Miscellany to the Next level

Twice As Exciting as a Pre-Fight Safety Demonstration

Seriously? Nah.

No Antman. No Wasp. But spellchecker Galore.

The Silicon Implant of the Literary World

King of Cliches. Emperor of Eiderdowns.

35% Funny65% Bad At Maths

Razzamatazz Desperately in Need of Shizzle

Good Different

Come for the view. Stay for the Cliches.

Micro-sleep-free Reading Guaranteed.

A Dedicated Blurter Blurts

Writing Several Notches in Quality above Burping the National Anthem

A Land-Locked Literary Hideaway Aquaman is Never Gonna Visit 

I Wake Up With Scenic Writer’s Shack

Absolutely No Hand-Eye Coordination Needed

You Don’t Need To Audition To Get In

Creativity Spoken Here

Attracting Interest from the Little End of Town

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

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

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

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

But always in an interesting way.

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Favourite Book Titles of 2018

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

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

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

These are my sweet sixteen best book titles of 2018 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trivia Knowhow Ain’t What It Used To Be!

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I could scarcely believe my eyes and ears.

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

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

All was going well until this question was asked  –

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

(A)   Michael Collins

(B)   John Glenn

(C)   Neil Armstrong

(D)   Buzz Aldrin

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

Like I say, I would have thought.

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

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

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

                             True or False.

According to NASA, outer space has no smell.

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The answer is false.

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

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

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

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

 

Whatever happened to… Crop Circles?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider these two cases –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so to the class of 2018..

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

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

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

Well, almost…

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In the Eye of the Beholder

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The painting you see above sold at an auction in London last month for $432 000.

To put that figure in some kind of perspective, $432 000 would be somewhere approaching the median house price in my neighbourhood.

So what was so amazing about what looks to be, at least on the surface and to the untrained eye a very minimalist, one might even say rudimentary portrait?

It was painted by a computer.

Or to be more precise, an Artificial Intelligence (A.I) generated algorithm.

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Viewed up close, this image cobbled together with 1s and 0s, becomes a grid of mechanical-looking dots, the man’s face a golden blur with black holes for eyes.

Created by a Paris collective, a data set consisting of some 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries were fed into a super computer to effectively teach ‘it’ by example the fundamentals of human portraiture painting.

Besides the soulless look and feel of this ‘painting’ the other giveaway that it’s not born of a human mind is the signature of the ‘artist’ in the bottom right hand corner of the work.

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It took only nine minutes of bidding at Christie’s London auction house for this work to reach the price of $432 000.

Creativity is something we have always closely associated with what it means to be human. For decades we have elevated ourselves above the level of mere machines by claiming that although a computer may be able to quantify the size of an atom or calculate the exact distance to the moon it will never, with heavy emphasis on the word NEVER, be able to create a true thing of original beauty like a painting or a music symphony.

In the age of Siiri, computer driven cars and speech recognition software, it may just be time to ever so quietly step away from those previously so over-confidently stated assertions.

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All this brings me in a quite round-a-bout way to what I really wanted to let you know about in this post. Every so often SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK justifies its name choice and talks something about actual writing. This is one of those occasions.

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A writing website run by Chris Fielden based in England is running what it calls a free-to-enter writing challenge. Entrants must use a news article as inspiration for a short, flash-sized fiction story. Mini-prose pieces submitted will be published in an anthology, part-proceeds of which will be donated to charity. If you’re interested in finding out more CLICK HERE

My fiction story, based on the A.I. created painting that was reported on in an on-line edition of the Australian edition of THE GUARDIAN newspaper last month HERE is  entitled ART BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT

Summoning every bit of his severe intelligence, Guy finally spoke. “If there’s one thing I hate it’s ridiculous attempts at AI expressionism. And you can forget cultural bona-fides. This painting is an evolutionary cul-de-sac, a Darwinian twilight zone that makes me feel like something is terribly wrong on a scale that dwarfs us all. To hell that it passes the Turing Test. It’s plain to see the damn thing’s got no soul!”

Guy was melancholic by nature. As he stood alone and muttering to himself, casting judgement in the floor to ceiling glass walls of the state-funded Petaflops Algorithm Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Munich – the world’s first gallery devoted wholly to showcasing computer-made art works – the somewhat depressing and certainly off-centre occasion was definitely no watershed moment for him. Beret-wearing Guy was a person comfortable in his own misery, you could tell. He looked and sounded as though he’d been here before.

The female security guard had begun staring arrows in his direction and speaking into her secret service earpiece by now.  Guy knew it was time to leave. He canted forward with his narrow shoulders hunched, as though heading into a bracing wind and made his way to the lift going to the ground floor exit.

On his way out, it took all his will not to shield himself with his hands as he travelled past the elderly reception person he couldn’t be a 100% certain wasn’t a robot. Instead he opted for a signature departure accompanied by one last under-his-breath but still audible critique – “ Flapdoodle I tell you! This goddamn machine art is all bloody flapdoodle! But in an interesting way – I’ll give you that”.

Ps. $432 000 might seem like an insane amount of money to pay for a piece of art, A.I or no A.I. but it pales in comparison with the $90 million, that’s right $90 million forked out just last week for this piece of aquatic eye candy.

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This artwork was done by a human (now 81-year-old British artist David Hockney) back in 1972 and has just set a new record for the highest price paid at auction for a painting by a living artist.

Regular readers will know I’ve currently got a thing for swimming pools, having just bought a house that came with one. So I can actually picture this attractive little number decorating one of our bare walls. The beyond gut-bustingly hilarious price tag however is obviously all wrong.

In light of my recent spate of extravagant outlays going right back to the purchase of a new Mazda CX-5 back in June, $15 wall art courtesy of the modest opulence of The Reject Shop is much more within my present budget.

And I reckon I spied one at that price last weekend in that exact store. And it didn’t look half unlike it’s multi-million dollar royal cousin pictured above.

Reckon it’s still there?

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Spokesperson Extraordinaire

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I’ve had wacky ideas before (HERE and HERE ) as to how I could grow this blog.

But this time I think I’m really on to something.

“That’s what you said last time and nothing changed”  a chorus of mutinous whispers I wanna slap hard reply in unison.

This time however it’s different.

This time I’m using star power.

The idea was to choose a mesmerizingly appealing spokesperson for SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. Someone with the sort of charisma to draw people in like a magnet and in the process elevate this blog to whole new leagues of aphrodisiac-level popularity.

You think I’m dreaming? Well yes I am but the good thing about dreams, especially my dreams, is they come with an unlimited budget. This makes it exceedingly easy to attract the type of supreme talent you’re after. Try it yourself some time.

The rules were simple.

Anyone – male or female, an actual person or a character created by that person – across roughly the last 50 years of human history was up for the nominating. With wide open parameters like those I was like a kid in a candy shop though ironically Willy Wonka as spokesperson for SWS wasn’t an idea that got past the initial culling stage (he was definitely considered).

Before I unveil the special individuals I’ll be pinning my foolhardy not to mention especially delusional (self-diagnosed) hopes on, allow me to share this gut-wrenching story of heartbreak with you all. It may in part explain why I am once more suddenly motivated in earnest to seek fresh recruits.

Last Sunday at around 3:30pm SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK had been riding high on 224 followers. 20 minutes later that number had shrunk like the reproductive organs of a male arctic swimmer to just 204 followers.

What happened in the interim was that I decided to create a Facebook PAGE. I place the word PAGE  in capitals to distinguish it from the more commonplace Facebook PROFILE. There’s a big difference between the two as I’ve now discovered. New rules governing Facebook that came into effect on August 18th this year (following a string of well publicised privacy and security breaches dating all the way back to the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections) mean a person can no longer link other social media platforms automatically to their Facebook account.

This means blog entries that were re-posted automatically (provided you had activated that feature in your blog’s settings) with a linked Facebook account (thereby enabling you to reach a larger audience) are no longer automatically able to do that. A person can still manually patch in a link to their blog’s latest post but they now have to remember to do it by hand each time if they want the benefit of the dual audience.

The alternative to the manual patch-in is starting up a Facebook PAGE. Facebook PAGESin contrast to Facebook PROFILESare intended for people running businesses. Blogs are in effect a person’s own brand, and whether monetorised or not, are also able to be classified for these purposes as businesses. A person is able to activate a setting on their Facebook PAGE so that all their published blog articles are automatically reposted there. This feature, as I’ve explained, is no longer available using a Facebook PROFILE.

For some unknown reason up there with the mystery of who built the pyramids and why Sally sold seashells on the beach when people could just pick them up anyway, within twenty minutes (actually it most likely occurred instantaneously but it took me 20 minutes to cotton on) exactly 20 followers (every one of my social media subscribers as distinct from email or WordPress followers) had disappeared from my subscribers list. Even after deleting the jinxed-voodoo-doll-with-a-hundred-rusty-pins-stuck-through- it Facebook PAGE, they have not returned. I crawled across deserts and scaled tall mountains to get those twenty followers. I think you can understand why I needed a decent sized vanilla slice and a couple of musk sticks to console me after the trauma.

The nominated spokes-gods – which is what this post was supposed to have been about – have been waiting patiently (and trust me, these are not people used to being kept waiting) in the wings all this time while I’ve been going on about this but a cautionary tale is in essence a community service and so I say ‘Beware of the doe-eyed, innocent-looking Facebook PAGE’ if you already have a blog. And have a good supply of wine gums or other comfort food on hand should you decide to chance your hand anyway after wading your way through this.

These are my preferred spokespeople who I’m trusting to lure back those 20 followers and attract stadiums more –

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Apologies to overseas readers who may not be familiar with ex-Wallaby (Australian Rugby Union player) Nick Cummins – more famously known as The Honey Badger. This guy proved he has what it takes in the spruiking department with his one-of-a-kind  Tradie’ underwear ads. Being the face and voice of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK would be an easy fit for the loveable larrikin and one which I have no doubt would be within his measure.

He may have taken a little flak recently after the season finale of the tv show THE BACHELOR (in which he was first prize) for failing to choose a winner but in my book that was an act of honour. I understand you Nick and you’re definitely ok by me.  The type of knock-about free and easy appeal Paul Hogan had for a generation of Aussies’s forty years ago is the same type of charm The Honey Badger offers now.

I want’im!     

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What’s not to love here?

With his sweet and well-intentioned personality and that irresistible ‘down on the farm’ Southern drawl, Huckleberry Hound would make the perfect spokes-dog for SWS. Metaphorically speaking his belt may not go through all the loops, he’s definitely no more than gargled from the fountain of knowledge and the skin tone is not your everyday, but I know when the avocado dip hits the fan and SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK plunges itself knee-deep in controversy, as it seems to do on a semi-regular basis (vanilla slice anyone?), the relaxed, kindly tones of the blue anthropomorphic dog would be just what the marketing department ordered.

I’m pretty sure if ever I hit a sour note on this blog and voiced an idea or opinion that ran contrary to those held by others, all I’d have to do would be wheel out ‘ol Huckleberry playing his guitar while gloriously off-key singing “Oh My Darling Clementine” and all would be forgiven.

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A bit of gangsta chic might be just the trick to give SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK that hard edge and ‘badboy’ appeal it’s been missing all this time. I could just have easily nominated Al Pacino‘s detective Vincent Hanna character from the same movie since he and Neil are really opposite sides of the same driven, lazer-foccused persona. But mid-nineties De Niro – in THAT suit – is an offer just too irresistible to pass up.

I try not to imagine Neil walking away from an offer of a spokesperson’s role for SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK like he walks away in this scene from the one woman (Eady) who promises him a better, more stable and loving future.

 

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Well… what else would you expect from a person who moonlights a second blog going by the name of LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE? Would I hand over the spokesperson’s job to a man dressed in a silver space suit and wielding a laser gun? You bet your sweet intergalactic apple sauce I would!

Actor Guy Williams (who was also Zorro in the 1950’s tv series) played the head of the Robinson family for three seasons on the original tv series of LOST IN SPACE and had the type of leading man looks that were standard for the day. When he spoke people, aliens and robots all paid attention. I think John Robinson could have a similar effect here at SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

This compile reel drags on for over five minutes but 30 seconds worth should be enough to establish his spokesperson credentials…

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With a name like SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK there had to be at least one genuine writer on the list, right? The author who created James Bond and whose novels have sold over 100 million copies also more importantly was the creator of the seminal children’s masterpiece CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. Versatility like that could come in handy if he took on the role of spokesperson for SWS.

Of course to be accepted for a glamour gig like SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK naturally he’d have to give up the nicotine sticks first, ’cause that just ain’t healthy.

The refined English tones on display in this video could definitely lend an air of class to the goings on around here. But if he was ever hired I’d definitely want to have him sign a ‘hands-off’ copyright agreement for the name SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK based on his form in this interview…

There were a number of other contenders that made the shortlist but sadly didn’t get the final nod for a spot in the Top 5. Those included my mother, wife and daughter, current New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Ripley from the Alien movies and tennis great Serena Williams. Serena ended up not making the cut due to her sometimes over-forceful exuberant delivery style (and I’m not referring to her tennis serve).

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Ps. A big thankyou to all the people who sent through kind thoughts and congratulations last week on the occasion of me displaying photos of my new digs. Material possessions do not happiness make (that’s me trying to sound tastefully Shakespearian but coming across more as someone with two left feet as far as English usage goes) but they usually don’t hurt so I’m thankful for what I’ve now got (I’ll be even more thankful when I can actually say I own it rather than the bank owns it).

Included in last week’s post was mention of our saga with the new houses’ swimming pool. If I thought I’d experienced pool problems… well, all I can say is things have sunk to a new low. Check out this –

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Ok, so that’s not my car and that’s not my pool (and that’s definitely not my crashed through fence) but by golly… someone’s got some explainin’ to do haven’t they? 

And the saddest part for me as a now clean-obsessed, ever vigilant, algae-killing pool owner is when I look at that picture all I see is the leaves on the surface down one end that will need removing!

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Pss. With all the hoopla this week surrounding the 50th Anniversary reissue of the Beatles 1968 ‘White Album’ as a remastered, remixed boxset, I thought it timely to revisit my appraisal from June of last year of what some (but not me!) have called the greatest album ever recorded.

READ IT HERE

 

 

A Very Moving Experience

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Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! (with downward glide)

Pardon me if my exhale came close to knocking you over with its force.

What that is is the sound of me finally expunging  releasing  letting go a huge, well-earned, relieved sigh that the whole thing is finally over.

What whole thing?

The months upon months of dealing with real estate agents, finance brokers, lawyers, banks, every sub-species of tradie you can name from plasterers, electricians and plumbers to roof tilers, retaining wall builders and glass repairers and at least a dozen guys named ‘Mick’, utility companies, removalist firms, skip-hire outfits that specify ‘mattresses go on top like the last layer of a cake’ and a literal army of other assorted professionals and people that entered our world for the time it took us to look for, find, buy and move into our new house and move out of our old house – that’s what ‘whole thing’.

Wanna see?

Course you do!

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Wanna see inside?

Course you do!

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If you happened to have stumbled on this site somehow by accident for the very first time, no, this is not another real estate blog.  What this is is Glen unashameably for the first and only time displaying the spoils of his hunt. And my what a hunt it was! Every weekend for three solid months. One firm offer made on a two-story house that fell short because of a last-minute glitch at the finance end. And popping bubble wrap just to relief the stress of it all.

In fact an on-line search just now under the heading “Top Ten Life Stressors” puts ‘Moving house’ right alongside divorce, death of a loved one, major illness and job loss. I’ve always thought ‘assembling furniture’  deserved to go somewhere on those type of lists as well but that’s a discussion for another day.

I think I’m fairly safe in declaring throughout my life I’ve never been the type of person who’s gone about feverishly trying to acquire ‘status symbols’ in a bid to advertise and elevate their perceived social standing. I will  however now allow myself one small concession on that front. I can now officially claim to own a house that is actually big enough and has ceilings high enough to have its own real-life echo. You heard me right. When we are in the main dining area our new house boasts a slightly surreal, cathedral-like, definite echo!

I say cool. I also say two thumbs up to that!

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Probably the weirdest part of this story is that all this effort was expended to move into a house just two kilometres from and in the very same suburb as our old house. Back in primary school I had a best friend whose parents one year did exactly the same thing. I could never work out why someone would go to all the trouble to pack up their worldly belongings only to move a stone’s throw from where they originally were. I’ve waited forty years for the answer to this riddle and it finally came last week – for a better house!

Ps. As you can see from the pictures, this new house came with a pool. For a person like me who’s never owned a swimming pool before, the week-long experience of nursing it back to clear and sparkling health – courtesy of $500 worth of serious-sounding chemicals and hired technical expertise to get the salt-chlorinator back on its feet – from the swamp green colour it was on the day we moved in (thanks previous owners!) was something I wouldn’t want to go through again.

It’s also comedy/drama-riddled enough to warrant a blog post completely on its own sometime in the near future. There may even be a Powerpoint Presentation. 

Consider yourself warned!

15 Argle Place