New York New York

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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

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

Slept like a baby

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I came out of the movie BOSS BABY feeling happy, refreshed and like a brand new person.

Because I slept through most of it.

I waited until the set up was complete and Alec Baldwin gets to say his classic line “Cookies are for closers” (referencing his memorable performance in the 1992 Al Pacino movie Glengarry Glen Ross) and then I was out like the proverbial house lights. In truth, it wasn’t even completely the movie’s fault. Those cinema seats are so damn comfortable!

Conspiring also to bring about this comatose state (if it had of occurred during the new POWER RANGERS movie – like BOSS BABY also currently labouring under the weight of  poor to scathing reviews – I could have at least enjoyed the jounce of calling it a ‘power nap’) was the fact I maintain I was also purposefully lulled into a state of droopy eyelids prior to the movie even beginning.

The before-show included all of nineteen ads. That’s 19! (as in the average age of the combat soldier during the Vietnam war). What’s even more amazing than that figure is the fact that I bothered to count them. Who does that right? Well, it seems I’ve become one person who does, especially when I wasn’t looking forward to the main feature in the first place. Actually the ad count exercise commenced from what I estimated was number 10. I totalled at the end. And that’s not even mentioning the four full length ‘coming soon’ movie trailers plus the reminder to turn mobile phones off.

Still, my seven-year old daughter enjoyed it and I got to see the best trailer I’ve ever had the privilege of watching for a kids film – CARS 3 (Pixar’s 18th animated feature film). Then again, come to think of it, the trailer for BOSS BABY looked pretty enticing as well.

Next time I venture out to a juniors movie it had better be to see a sure-fire hit.

Will somebody please bring on FROZEN 2!

Hippie

 

Welcome to Economy-Minus class

Boarding a Plane in a Group

 

Can you guess what year this picture was taken?

It was the same year U.S President Richard Nixon resigned from office and more locally that floods devastated Brisbane. 1974 was a time back when people still ‘dressed up’ to travel aboard commercial aircraft and international travel wasn’t yet the $2 store commodity for the masses it is today.

My most recent time on a major airlines flight was towards the end of last year. I was seated next to an individual who I guessed to be in their very early thirties. This person was kitted out in thongs, draw-string boardies and a sweat-stained, faded Metallica singlet. Face stubble the colour of cigarette ash and  a full sleeve of owlskull tattoos (with a Mickey and Minnie Mouse feature inset thrown in for added quirk) completed the picture. I can’t be certain but I think I also spotted fragments of a tree leaf caught up in his nest-of-black-mambas dreadlocks. Would it be unkind to remark there’s a reason they call it cattle class?

Contrast that to the picture above and its no wonder some airlines have now introduced what in the industry is known unofficially as ‘economy minus’ class for flight passengers.

Cheaper tickets anyone?

Redneck

PS.     This all comes in the wake of last weeks’ United Airlines dress code furor where three teenage girls (all travelling for free courtesy of the Airline’s employee friends and   family rule) on a flight from Colorado to Minnesota were asked to remove leggings.

PSS.     I’m on a flight to Sydney in 5 days time. I’ll report back on the quality of the steak                and lobster, and whether my leggings make it on board, sometime after.

PSSS.   Joking about the leggings.

 

What’s in a name?

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The old-school biblical rain that has fallen pitilessly over the last 48 hours may have stopped, but as I write this, the wind is howling like some kind of horror movie opener. The ground lays sodden, unpaved paths are awash with mud, wheelie bins lie overturned and streams and rivers are swollen.

Here in Brisbane we were subjected to merely the ultra-mellowed-with-age tail end of Cyclone Debbie. Far North Queensland, the spinning behemoth’s true wrecking ground, has now been declared a catastrophe by the Australian Insurance Council with damages estimated in the billions.

Oh Debbie! You may have looked almost beautiful on the satellite image – a perfect swirl of white no more threatening than milk stirred into coffee – but boy did you get angry!  And nasty! You meant to hammer us until we smudged like a Monet masterpiece. But how did you get your name? Now that your fury has weakened and your chaos has diminished, I may reveal all.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) actually has a list of names. The list was complied in 2008 and its exactly 104 names long.  The monikers alternate between male and female. All the names on the list had to be approved by the World Meteorological Organisation Regional Tropical Cyclone Committee for the SE Pacific.

If you want to play along at home, the next few cyclones will be called Ernie, Frances, Greg and then Hilda.

Anyone of a certain age will remember the days back when cyclones carried exclusively female names. That changed in 1975, which was declared International Women’s Year. The Science Minister of the time decided to add male names to the list because both sexes “should bear the odium of the devastation caused by cyclones”.

So where did Cyclone Yasi, (2011) that also devastated North Queensland, fit into this naming scheme I hear you ask. It formed outside the area the BOM is responsible for, so they didn’t get to name it. The BOM keeps the name given to a cyclone by the relevant weather agency if it heads into Australian territory. That’s why it didn’t get a traditionally male or female sounding name.

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You can name a cyclone … but it’ll take a while

The BOM accepts requests to add names to its list, but only in writing.

The names are added to a supplementary list that is used when a name is retired from the original list.

But because so many people want to name a cyclone, these letters are closed for any further submissions:

  • Male: A, B, F, J, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z
  • Female: A, B, G, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z

If you pass all those hurdles, here’s a note from the bureau’s website on how long it’ll take:

“Note that it can take many decades for a suitable slot to become available, then a further 10 to 20 years for the names to cycle through, so it is likely to be well over 50 years before your requested name is allocated to a cyclone.”

Just think of it:  if you write that letter tomorrow, by 2067 your suggestion may just get the gong.

Publishing pipe-dreams anyone?

CapturReal girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for answers..

Money

It’s been observed many times before that ‘money changes everything’.

This is exactly the effect police are hoping for with the launch of a new weekly true-crime television program called MILLION DOLLAR COLD CASE. A life changing amount of money is being offered for information leading to the arrest of suspects in Australian cold case homicides.

The first episode detailed two cold case murders – one that took place in Melbourne in 1984, the other that occured in Sth Australia in 1989. In the first, a mother and her nine year old daughter – Margaret and Seana Tapp – are found strangled in their beds at home. In the second, Christopher Phillips, a 42 year old civil engineer who was an employee of the Board of Works, is found bludgeoned to death on the floor of his family home. Both cases to this day remain unsolved.

The program combines newsreel footage interspersed with re-enactments and interviews with family members. We also hear from detectives who originally worked on the cases as well as a contemporary police perspective.

There have been programs like this before that have sought assistance from the public to solve crimes but never on a cash incentive scale such as this. The series has not only the endorsement of the Victorian Police Cold Case Team but their participation as well. Their members not only give interviews throughout the series but agreed to be a part of the storytelling.

With a show such as this, Police are sending a clear message that they do not give up; that in the pursuit of justice for victims, it matters little how many years have passed since the crime was committed.

Updates on progress or breakthroughs are promised as the series continues.

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*** Just yesterday, NSW police announced the arrest of a 63-year-old man in connection with the disappearance of 3-year-old Cheryl Grimmer who went missing at Fairy Meadow Beach, south of Sydney, 47 years ago.

 

 

And the winner is..

Special Forces

A while back, I let it be known I had in mind to follow a UK-based reality show (broadcast here on Wednesday nights on Channel 22 over six weeks) called SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK.

The idea of this program was to take 22 of England’s fittest civilians (marathoners, endurance athletes, former olympians etc) and subject them to 12 days of intense and sleep-deprived Special Forces military training. The aim, apart from generating a sizable audience to witness these bouts of televised torture, was to gradually weed out the also-rans from the fire-breathing serious contenders in order to arrive at a last-person standing ‘winner’ by the final episode.

Series one of this ‘show’ aired two years ago. In that incarnation, 29 Bravo-Two-Zero wannabees were put through similarly harrowing challenges designed to test (and break) their mental and physical reserves. That series was won by a 55kg, 32 year old female (Dr Claire Miller) and reignited the debate about whether women should be allowed to join Special Forces units.

Wednesday night’s episode was the final, and as such only three competitors remained – two females and a male. For a while there it looked like things were headed for a similar result to Series One, before it was announced the fit looking gentleman pictured at the front of the line in the photo above, 28 year old Londoner Onyiuke (that’s his first name) -who listed his real life job as Project Manager – would get the honours.

Over the six episodes of the program, these ‘pain warrior’ recruits were pushed to breaking point by ex-instructors from Special Forces units from six different countries –

Flags       France              Poland            Sth Africa               U.S.               Sth Korea           Australia

There was blood, bruises and plenty of blisters. Waterboarding, hooded interogations and induced hypothermia also got a regular look-in. Carrying heavy concrete blocks across rough terrain while weighed down with 30kg backpacks (sorry.. bergens) was a standard warm up.

‘Highlights’ for me (yes, I feel a little guilty calling them that) included the sight of recruits drinking the blood and eating the liver of a freshly slaughtered springbok (one of those Sth African deer things). And most who watched would remember the moment in Episode 4 when the bearded guy (2nd from the front in the picture above) abruptly exited the show after telling the Sth Korean instructor exactly what he could do with his request to assume the thinking man’s stress position (standing on your head) for the 59th time after yet another perceived minor discipline breach.

So what’s the attraction to these torture-as-entertainment type reality shows?  That’s probably better left as a dedicated post for another day but suffice to say the crazy Japanese game shows of the 80’s that started this modern phenomena have a lot to answer for. It would not surprise me if the yet to be announced Season 3 of SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK included a brief foray into cannibalism.

If that kind of ‘next-level’ mental toughness exercise actually did ever get the go-ahead, things would still be ok: just as long as nobody tried acting the clown. I’ve heard comedians taste funny. (Ok,  20 pushups for me for that poor imitation of a joke!)cartoon

 

 

Where Bad is Beautiful – and terrible is divine

bulwer-lytton

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the most awkward sounding single sentence they can conjure while still conforming to basic rules of grammar and, for want of a better word, storytelling.

Named in honour of the English novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), this yearly foray into the absurd has been running since 1982 and attracts thousands of entries from all over the world. Competition for bad writing has never been so fierce. I’ve entered the last two years but so far haven’t managed to sink to the depths necessary to attract the judges eye. To give you an idea of the (sub)standard of writing required to achieve success in this arena, below is the winning entry as well as the runner-up from the 2016 contest:

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runner-up

This year I thought I’d sling some word wackle into one of the specialist genre categories. This is my entry for the horror section, though I believe it could just as easily qualify for the Purple Prose or Vile Puns’ sections:

 

Two of the ghastly mutant creature known as Son of Triceratops’ heads had stayed up all night debating whether their dentist really did deserve the plaque awarded to him that day by the Royal Association for the Prevention of Monster Cavities, whilst the third head, having already made up its mind on the subject and recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep, nodded off early.

3-heads

If you think you’ve got what it takes as a bottom-of-the-barrel word fumbler, entries close at the end of April.