Death stares in the carpark at 20 paces

Death Stare

This was gonna be one of my most ambitious (some might say, before knowing the full details, ridiculous) writing challenges.

How to compose a credible letter of complaint to (Indooroopilly) Shopping Centre Management alerting them that one of the retail employees working on their premises had looked at my wife, seven-year old daughter and myself with less than welcoming eyes?

You think I’m joking?   I’m not.

For starters, let’s substantially upsize the aforementioned ‘less than welcoming’ look to what it more correctly resembled and really was:  a withering stare of unbridled loathing that could easily have peeled the paint off any unsuspecting metallic street sign for miles around. A common enough weapon amongst the passive-aggressive crowd I know, but when it’s directed at you, you’re left in no doubt you’ve just been given a deliberate black-eye minus the visible mark.

Then there was the time factor.

By that I mean how long this malevolent optical blowtorch was applied for.

Which, if you haven’t begun forming a mental picture yet, was, I’ll tell you, a bloody long time. Too bloody long. Way too bloody long! Like ‘mentally irregular’ (as Rocky Balboa might say) way too bloody long!

Still reading? Good, ’cause here’s the details.

Last week’s blog post mentioned a family outing to the movie CARS 3 I had taken along with my wife and daughter. I described that though the movie may have been full of car chases spun in together with the occasional car crash, the real action, at least for my family and I, had started in the shopping centre carpark before the movie had even gotten underway.

At this point in the retelling, it’s simpler if I just reproduce the letter of complaint I was asked to compose after contacting both Indooroopilly Shopping Centre management and McDonalds Brisbane head office (located at Chermside). Yes, you read that correctly. This is another one of my adventures involving the golden arches, only unlike last time, (February 24th – Miracle at the Drive-thru  ) this was definitely no McHappy meal.

Hi Courtney,

This morning around 10am, my wife, seven-year-old daughter and I entered the Centre car-park from the Musgrave Rd side near the cinemas. The purpose of our visit was to take our daughter to see the movie CARS 3.

In the process of parking our car an awkward and unnecessarily uncomfortable encounter occurred with what I was to later discover was one of the store employees who works at the Centre.

I chose to reverse park my car into the available space. Immediately, I activated my hazard lights to signal to cars behind me (of which, important to note, at this time, there were none) my intention. In the process of reversing, a car with a young female driver continued to approach and come forward, making it a very tight turning circle for me to enter this space. Once parked, my wife and I watched the driver of the car pass in front of us making every effort to cast her best unblinking hard stare in our direction for what seemed like an overly long time as she drove past.

Unfortunately, as we were to find out 30 seconds later, this driver then regrettably chose to park in a space approx 8 metres behind us (when there were numerous parks available further down). Upon exiting our vehicle, we were greeted with the sight of the young lady now standing next to her car and continuing to stare in our direction with what was, to our eyes, a look of hostility. This was unpleasant and I felt unnecessary (in layman’s terms – I believe she was spoiling for a fight). Bizarrely, as she walked ahead, going toward the sliding glass doors that open to the cinema, with us also pointed in the same direction, she continued to look around at us defiantly while all the time walking with her elbows noticeably cocked outwards from her sides like something from the Wild West. As I say, awkward!

After purchasing our tickets at the cinema, my wife and daughter then visited McDonalds in the foodcourt to buy a coffee. As luck (if you could call it that) would have it, who should we see behind the counter working as an assistant manager but the young lady we had just encountered in the carpark. My wife then spoke to the manager (Luke) who offered the idea that Megan (the young lady’s name) hadn’t meant any harm and was probably just in a hurry. While I understand Luke was seeking to calm the situation down, we were not content with this explanation as Megan’s actions were most certainly a display of deliberate impatience/bordering on aggressiveness from someone who should have shown a more responsible, peaceable attitude while wearing an identifiable company uniform.

My family and I had been looking forward to this day since the beginning of the current school holidays but to have the morning blighted in this way (when we did nothing wrong in the first place other than to inconvenience a person for at the most 10 seconds by our reverse park) by the unpleasantness of a worker who, one would think, should be acting as a role model to others in their interactions with the public, was disappointing and did to some extent take the shine off the morning.

I have no doubt Megan is a very nice girl under other circumstances but on this occasion, to us, she did not act in a remotely friendly way or one which I believe her employer would support. While there was no swearing, rude finger signs or horn beeping from her, she did everything else in her power, I believe to ‘punish’ us for our reverse parking action which impeded her travel so briefly.

If, based on what I have described, you see fit to speak with her at some future time, her manager or possibly both, I would very much appreciate being let known the outcome. I may be contacted either by phone or email.


Glen Donaldson

Forest Lake

Ph: 3372 3958


If I live to be a hundred, don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the sight of feisty young Megan walking that last 30 metres across the car-park and then stomping into the shopping centre with elbows cocked like a gunslinger and a stride like she’d just stepped off a horse. If it wasn’t so bizarrely over the top it would undoubtably have qualified as a moment of bona-fide comedy gold.

My wife and I joked later that maybe that day it would have been more fitting had we seen the movie DESPICABLE ME(GAN). Was I too hard on the young girl, dobbing her into her bosses? (My wife also spoke face to face with her and her in-store manager while being served at Maccas).

I don’t think so. A person who chooses to get all huffy like she did while dressed in a company uniform and direct their frustrations (and hate) at a guiltless family, including a seven-year old girl, needs, I believe, to be corrected by someone outside of her immediate colleague serving alongside her in the same store.

It all goes to prove my theory that try as one might to avoid conflict in this world, there’s no getting around the fact conflict sometimes comes searching to find us. Really, there are times when I think the only reason I go out some days is to get me a fresh appetite for being at home. That, and to see with my own eyes how truly strange some people can be.


** Bonus Read**  Click here if you’re interested in Nude Maids for Hire (You read that right!)



Vroom Vroom!


This movie has car crashes and car chases, as you’d expect, but the real action happened in the car-park before we’d even arrived at the cinema. More on that later.

It’s been ten years since the first CARS movie hit cinemas and the hero of the series, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson using his best Texan drawl), is not as young as he once was. He’s facing challengers from next-gen racers that use new fangled training methods, embrace ‘data’ to inform their racing tactics and show little respect or even knowledge of the past achievements of the ‘legends’ of their sport.

CARS 3 is a movie that draws on our collective fear of ageing and irrelevance. In posing the question “When does a past champion call time on their career and stop trying to compete with the youngsters?” it can easily be seen as a kind of ROCKY BALBOA (2006) on four wheels. In fact, this movie pays indirect homage to a number of sports films including, most obviously, the Tom Cruise starring ‘vehicle’ DAYS OF THUNDER (1990). (Underlined by the fact that the other main ‘car-racter’ in the movie besides Lightning McQueen is named ‘Cruz’).

Favourite scene?

Glad you asked.

Predictably for me, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it bit-part that shows Lightning McQueen finishing up in the locker room after yet another humiliating training session on the racing simulator, suggesting to him again his best days may be behind him. Into this scene glides a talking polishing machine whose job it is to clean the tiles once everyone’s left for the day. We hear the tile-polisher remark under his breath,”You’re all washed up McQueen”, but the former-champion racer picks up on the comment and challenges the cleaner to repeat it. “They’re all washed and clean” says the janitor-bot again, pointing to the tiles while not missing a beat.

As to the ageing theme, Owen Wilson, who’s now 48, in an interview for the film, pointed to real life parallels. Describing a recent press junket whereby actors from the film moved from table to table talking to journalists, Wilson related the following amusing anecdote –

“I’m quietly talking and they’ve got their litle recorders out listening and there’s some light chuckles – but at the table over from me, Cristela Alonzo, who’s playing Cruz, would be just laughing, seeming like they’re having the best time.

It reminded me of the time when I was doing press on Armageddon (1998), maybe because it was one of my first movies and I was really excited to do the press junket, I remember my tables really laughing it up, having a great time and Bruce Willis saying, “What are you guys talking about?”

I felt like I’d moved over into the old veteran who’s just boring my press junket while Cristela’s knocking them dead.”

And the car park incident?

You get that one next post, so…



The List

Top 50

Clearly I have too much time on my hands.

At least for another week or so anyway.

What’s also clear is that I must have rocks in my head to even consider undertaking  a whale of a task such as this.

Rocks undeniably, but as I think you’ll agree, once you’ve scrolled the list, by no means have I overlooked the pop, hip-hop, dance, electro, funk and a little bit of country if you please as well.

How to reduce four decades of fervent music listening down to a list of just 50 of my all-time favourite songs?

Wasn’t easy, but here we go –

Start reading

Each entry has a link underneath it if you want to listen. The list can also be found on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK under the tab ‘Best Of’.

Got a comment?

This is the place.

Don’t be an invisible bundle of your own ideas.

Your thoughts will be welcomed, as always, but most especially on this subject, like bread-crumbs handed to a starving lag.

Any of these tunes appeal?

If not, what’s a song on your desert island playlist?

desert island




Case of the mystery letter


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.



The Great Wrinkle Machine


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 –   


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 –


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?



The Great Re-read


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:


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.






One star review for a classic album


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


(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.)


Rocky Raccoon

Don’t Pass Me By

Why Don’t We Do It on the Road

I Will


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.





A feather in my cap…tion

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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.


View live link here

How the mighty have fallen


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


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.


  • “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