Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Hard-Boiled Poet"

I was watching a dying fly spinning in the dust on my desktop and taking a shot of rye – me, that is, not the fly. Some people use alcohol as a crutch, but I prefer it as a drink.

I lived in a writer’s block on Narrative Drive. It was just off Memory Lane near the Information Superhighway. My neighbours were Budda, Krishna, Jesus and Mohamed. They lived next door in the Messiah Complex. But that’s not important right now. I looked in the mirror and reflected – I’d grown accustomed to disgrace. My life had been tough - I was born in kitform, but managed to stick myself together to become a model citizen.

There was a knock, and this girl at the door: all coal-black lips and blood-red eyes - obviously dyslexic. She looked the type who liked pulling the wings off angels. She said “what do you do?” I said “me? I’m self-unemployed. What about you?” She said she was a fortune teller. I said “in that case I demand to see my eternity”. She said I looked like a man with a great future behind him. I said “yeah, I wanted to quit when I got to the bottom, go out on a low”.

But she was upwardly nubile and came at me oozing grievous bodily charm.
I said “whoa, doll, I don’t believe in sex on a first date. I believe in getting it out of the way long before that. We should have met last week. You see, I’m a hedonist of my time.” But she just hung around like a regrettable tattoo. She said “you think this has been a mistake?” I said “doctors bury their mistakes, I just sleep with them.” Well then she got mad and said I hadn’t been treating her as an object lately, and that it was lucky my face wasn’t my fortune because I looked like a bum. I said “at least I’m a crackup. You wanna hear another joke? – three guys walk into a bar-mitzvah ….”

She said “stow it, you drink too much.” I said “hey, I don’t need alcohol to be interesting, but if it can discuss a little philosophy that’s fine by me. My life’s an open book.” She said “yeah, it’s just a shame it’s a comic.” I said “orr, don’t get sore sweetie, three bits of advice: never shop when you’re hungry, never propose when you’re horny and never call a dog Lucky – it won’t be.”

She said “you’re so cynical, where’s your optimism?” I said “optimism?
Optimism’s believing your call is important to us. Optimism’s me buying a wine-rack. Optimism’s me believing you walked through that door to offer this hard-boiled poet a job … by the way, my fee is 25 puns a day plus expenses, more if I’m firing blank verse.” She looked at me blankly. I said “you got the picture. So what’s the case doll face?” Well, then she spilt the beans - my breakfast, all over the desk. While I cleaned it up she said her father, this professor, was in trouble …

So that afternoon I found myself at the university outside this door with a sign that read Caution, de-construction in progress. I entered to find the professor being whipped by an obese transexual leprechaun in a jockey uniform. Something didn’t add up, and it wasn’t just my two-dollar Chinese calculator. I said to the prof “you look disturbed”. He took affront and said I looked like poor white trash. I said “strictly speaking I’m more Lower-Middle-Class-Semi-Educated-Slightly-Tainted-Recyclable-Refuse. But I shouldn’t mince words – you end up with syllables All over the floor. Anyway, what’s the problem, Prof, spill the beans ….”

Well, as I was cleaning his beans from my pants, he said I had to help him because his life was trying to kill him. He said he had nothing to lose and then he lost it. He talked about how he’d spent his deformative years as an ambience driver, but that he’d been sacked for disturbing the local resonance. He tried taking a trip down memory lane but got mugged again. I said “nostalgia sure ain’t what it used to be.” He agreed, and said he had a lot of hang-ups and that I could call him well hung. I said I’d rather call him insane, and to quit blubbering and cut to the chase.

Well, turned out he had this fear of inventing new words. I said “how curious, what’s this condition called?” He said “I don’t know, maybe Lexiphobia.” I said “Lexiphobia? It’s not in this dictionary. You must be making it up.” Well he started screaming, “there I go again, there I go again!” before jumping out the window and impaling himself on a gargoyle. One-way ticket to the eternity ward. The guy was an idiot anyway. But hey, I’m not throwing stones ‘coz people who live in glass houses are exhibitionists who attract perverts and get sunburnt.

Case closed. (Ow! My fingers!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Bloody Cadel!"

I caught up with a poet mate the other day at a pub performance. He’d just come off stage to a patter of bitter applause after reading a new poem, something along the lines of “the streets are full of bloody Cadels, hell’s bells budding Cadels, packs of peddlers going pell mell, hell’s bell’s bloody Cadels …”. I said “mate, I know Cadel’s got a Welsh name and a weird head, but we’re all Australians now. Isn’t it a bit petty and mean-spirited to begrudge the man his glorious page in history? To have a go at him is as cowardly and un-Australian as it is to attack pokies and smokes”.

He said it wasn’t Cadel himself, but the legions of lycra loonies he’s inspired, and that on a recent drive to Wollongong he’d had to duck and weave through about 6000 of the bastards. “They’re in plague proportions”, he whined, before going into his pet rant about sport-versus-art in this country, blah, blah. He said something about Margaret Olley winning the Tour De France, but I’d switched off by then. I let him froth away for a while, then tried to hose down the hoary old sport/art furphy, and lay to rest the idea of our supposed national obsession with footballer’s gammy groins.

I said “mate, at the end of the day we’re not in the same ballpark. I’m trying to keep the ball in your court but you won’t do the hard yards and stick to the gameplan like a good team-player. You’re always wanting time-out for a spell on the bench when I’m trying to step up to the plate, raise the bar and tee-up a hole in one. I mean, here’s me giving a hundred-and-ten percent, jumping hurdles to make every post a winner, and you won’t run with the ball. You’re always dropping the pass when I’m trying to kick a goal. I mean, I’m not playing hard-ball or calling time out for a line-ball but it’s not a level playing field. If I’m first past the post you have me side-lined in the sin-bin for foul play. I mean to say, everyone gets stumped on a sticky wicket occasionally, but you can’t just throw in the towel when the chips are down. If you win by a nose an inch is as good as a mile in this game, know what I mean?” But I don’t think he did. In fact he was crying. I said “sorry mate, but in my book sooks don’t get a guernsey”.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Flippin' Evil!"

Dolphins have had a lot of good press. They’re cute, loveable and smart, with complex modes of communication and tightly-knit family units. They’re sleek, playful and human-friendly, and have been known to save people from sharks. They have big brains and large, intelligent eyes. The U.S. Navy train them for complex and often dangerous underwater tasks, such as laying tracking devises and defusing mines. Whenever a dolphin becomes entangled in a driftnet there are howls of outrage.

As far back as the sixties the appeal of the dolphin was being exploited in TV shows like Flipper. Flipper was a kind of aquatic Lassie who effortlessly breezed through a heroic checklist of brave deeds – thwarting villains and greedy property developers and saving children from calamity. At the end of the show everyone always laughed at Flipper’s loveable hi-jinx. Other televised animals such as Gentle Ben, Rin Tin Tin, Mr Ed and Skippy were way down the food chain compared to this fun loving fish.

More recently, tourist meccas have taken to adopting the dolphin as their symbol. Whereas you’ll never see a Cane Toad being flaunted as, say, Townsville’s civic emblem, in Byron Bay the Dolphin is rife. Every hotel, motel, butcher-shop, New-Age Mart, golf club, bowling club, RSL, petrol station and newspaper ad features a dolphin prominently plastered somewhere. This is ironic given that Byron Bay used to be a whaling town.

The community in general has taken the dolphin to its heart. Ask any kid what’s the first thing they want to see at Sea World and invariably it’s the dolphins, leaping through hoops and snapping fish from the trainer’s hands. Images of dolphins feature in countless posters, carvings, photographs and documentaries as shining symbols of peace, and the pinnacle of New-Age dreams and aspirations. The dolphin has long been surfing the crest of a dream PR run and, it seems, can’t put a flipper wrong.

Until now. Yes, the time has come to highlight a darker, hitherto unseen side of our precious little friends, a side that those with vested interests are loathe to reveal. Recent studies suggest that behind that sleek, lovable façade lurks a malevolent, at times vicious beast, only too ready to take full advantage of man’s gullibility.

An extensive two year study of dolphins in the Maldives by a research team working aboard the research vessel SS Bluefin has revealed more about the dolphin than many would care to know. Greed, selfishness and vanity are among its more endearing qualities. Add to this list emotional blackmail, philandering, lying, bullying and cheating and the emerging picture is not pretty.

Contrary to the dolphin’s popular image of being human-friendly, the research team was alarmed to note that on more than on occasion pods of dolphins actually herded Great White Sharks towards divers. Other divers proffering food found themselves rammed by the beasts in vicious and seemingly unprovoked attacks.

But all this barely rates a mention compared to the case of the diver who was systematically pack raped by an entire pod. After his twenty-seventh dive back into the swirling melee of randy mammals he reportedly said “that’s it for me, I’m not going back in.”

The team found the animals to be highly voracious sexual predators who indulged in a smorgasbord of perverse carnal delights. One of the most shocking examples was of dolphins sexually abusing their young in debased paedophilic frenzies. The team reported: “We’d often see males sexually penetrating the blowholes of their young and, because of the phenomenal tantric staying power of the adult male, these young invariably suffocated before the climax of the act, after which their bodies were torn apart and eaten by the pod.”

Further to this, in decoding parts of the highly complex dolphin language, the team from the Bluefin established that dolphins were thugs who ostracised and bullied weaker and less well-developed members of the pod, with the victims often driven to beaching themselves in suicidal despair. Similarly, crippled, lame and aged dolphins were usually abandoned and left to fend for themselves on the high-seas, rarely surviving more than a week.

In fact so obnoxious did the dolphins become to the research team – who, to a man, had previously been totally smitten by the beasts – that they took to shooting them for sport.
I reveal this startling new information on the secret life of the dolphin in the public interest and, I might add, at considerable personal risk. Since going public I have received numerous anonymous threatening phone calls and letter bombs post-marked Byron Bay. But rest assured, as a representative of John West, I vow to strenuously and zealously pursue my campaign until the true facts relating to this scourge of the high sees are fully known.

“What can I do?” you ask. I’ll tell you what you can do. Next time you pick up a tin of dolphin-friendly tuna in the supermarket, do the environment a favour and put it back.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Arboreal Thing

"The Arboreal Thing"

I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a tree

Me and the boy took a stroll through the Botanic Gardens yesterday – green grass, blue sky, sunshine, sculpture, ducks and botany. Luver-ly! We came to a massive old Moreton Bay Fig, fenced off with a sign: “For your safety keep outside the fence as tree may drop branches without warning”. Hmm, I pondered: what kind of warning might a tree be expected to give - a week’s notice in writing? In triplicate? Or might it bark something more cursory: “Oi, fatso, move your arse, I’m gunna snap a big one!” No, no. That would be the uncouth locution of a loutish eucalypt, or bogan Melaleuca. An elegant old Moreton Bay Fig would surely be better mannered: “Look, I’m awfully sorry about this … it’s all a bit dashed awkward … but you see, the thing is, I’ve got this beastly branch that’s been agitating for some time to part ways with me, and I’m afraid you’re sitting right under it, so, err, [sounds a bit like Hugh Grant] if you wouldn’t mind awfully moving your picnic a few metres to the right … that’s it, that’s it, just the ticket … now ERRRR, [CRASH!], ahh, that’s better. So kind of you. Lovely spot of weather we’re having, isn’t it? …”

No, there’s no malevolence in trees. For all the carnage we’ve inflicted upon them I don’t believe they’ve ever hurt anyone on purpose. In fiction? Okay, there’s Harry Potter’s Whomping Willow; a grouchy orchard of apple trees in The Wizard of Oz and grumpy Ents in Lord of the Rings. And, I suppose, you could argue for some ambivalence with Jack’s beanstalk, a tree-like monster that helps Jack facilitate the death of an innocent giant, who, as far as I can tell was hurting no-one, just minding his own business in his cloud castle when Jack rocks up to thieve his property and bring about his brutal death. At a stretch you could argue that the apple (or olive, or fig) tree in the Garden of Eden left a fairly nasty taste, but that wasn’t an act of malevolence on the tree’s part, per se, but an engineered outcome by the Master of Puppets to set the Bible in train. And these dark fictions can be balanced against the fiction of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree, a benign portal to a land of wonder and delight.

One of my favourite trees is the Liquid Amber. They look great, are a cicada mecca in Summer, colourful Autumnal wonders and the big ones are brilliant to climb. You have to love the name for a start – Liquid Amber – it just flows. Same as the Camphor Laurel, which I’m fond of too. Okay, I know the Camphor Laurel is introduced and considered a pest by many, but, like coral trees, I think they add character and charm to a farm. (These trees would also make great names for twin daughters: “Liquid Amber, Camphor Laurel, your Aunt Petunia and Uncle Russell are here!”)

Other fave trees? – oaks, elms, beeches, poplars … spot the pattern here? Yep. I’m afraid most of them were introduced to Australia. But then again, who wasn’t? I know it’s unpatriotic of me, but I’m a shameless Anglophile in many regards, including matters arboreal. I’m a dyed in the wool Wind-In-The-Willows-Alice-In-Wonderland-Pooh-Bear-English-Garden-Woodland fantasist. There, I’ve said it. Gums are okay, in their place, which is mostly in the mouth. But compared to English trees they’re bland as batshit. (Is batshit actually bland? Anyone?). If I must have Australian Wild give me rainforest. The really old primeval kind, thick with creepers and vines and massive mossy fungi-studded boles, twenty metres in circumference, with big veins creeping down into the forest floor like the necks of old people; the kind of rainforest with deep, clear creeks and trickling icy streams replete with Platypi and Yabi, the kind of deep terrain to give Bob Brown a woody, with hobbits, and Ents, and trees with doors that lead to fairyland, and …

Err, sorry. Where were we?

That’s right, pointless, dumb signs about trees not giving due warning of impending falling branches. It puts me in mind of those roadside signs along steep embankments: “Warning, Falling Rocks”. Hmm. Okay. Fair enough. But what the fuck are you going to do about it?: “Hey kids, keep your eyes peeled for any five ton boulders hurtling from the cliff up there that are about to crush the car. I want plenty of time to take evasive action.”

Nah. Trees are prettier and smarter than us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Jackpot and the Damage Done"

I’m an unprincipled, unscrupulous, amoral, hypocrite with less integrity than Colonel Gadaffi. And that’s just what my friends are saying. See, I’m the cad who did the Clubs Australia ad, the one designed to fight the government’s plan to introduce a pre-commitment plan to play pokies. It’s a hard rap to defend, but let me have a crack at putting my side and trying to set a couple of things straight, at least as far as the charge of hypocrisy goes.

Case for the prosecution: “It’s wrong for an actor to do an ad supporting an industry whose machines cause misery and hardship for gambling addicts and their families. More damning is the defendant’s double-standard in doing such an ad, given that in the past he has written and spoken out against poker machines”. Fair enough, to a degree. But to describe me as a “strident anti-pokies campaigner”, as Crikey’s Andrew Crook* has, is a bit of a stretch. As evidence of my anti-gambling stridency, Crook sites a Heckler column I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald a few years ago which was principally about how businesses are morphing into other businesses^ – i.e. post offices have become tacky two-dollar shops; newsagents flog Lotto and Scratchies to such an extent it’s hard to buy a bloody paper. I ended the piece by envisaging Centrelink offices morphing into a Centrelink Bar and Pokies chain where punters could have their welfare direct debited straight into their favourite machine. A satirical jape stretched for comic effect, yes, but hardly evidence of a red-ragging “anti-pokies campaigner”.

To be fair, I don’t doubt I’ve written and said other negative things about pokies in the past. It would be surprising if I hadn’t. Over ten years of doing radio, first on Triple-J, then ABC 702 , I wrote and performed hundreds of poems, rants, monologues and sketches lampooning pollies of every stripe, as well as every other target under the sun ripe for a satiric salvo, including that hoary old cliché “Ordinary Australians”, a phrase which I once dissected in a poem, and now utter, without irony, as an actor in the Clubs Australia ad.

As further evidence of my nefarious double standards, Crook points out that I myself have a gambling history and quotes me talking about it in a Radio National program, “The Deal”, broadcast in March this year, which was about the very same time I was shooting the Clubs Australia ad. Oh, damnable villain! Yet Crook neglects to point out that the program was a repeat, and that “The Deal” was originally broadcast in November 2005. Sure, at the time I was going through a phase of blowing too much on pokies, but I’ve been pretty much untroubled by them ever since.

The late American comic Bill Hicks is dear to me. As well savaging Republicans, shock jocks and the religious right, he vented spleen upon anyone who would stoop to do a tv commercial, particularly rich celebrities who didn’t need the money. But he did make an exception for struggling young actors. Sorry Bill, I’m not young. But my living is pretty much a peripatetic hand-to-mouth affair (violins please, folks). I’d love to say I’ve nobly dedicated my life to working in disaster zones, and in a way I have. I perform in schools, as well as doing the occasional ad. Any peak of recognition I had was a blip on the radio radar years ago. If I’m still known and remembered it’s in a circle the size of a dot. The point being: I’m not famous. I was a voice on radio, not a face on tv. I’m not recognisable and I’m not a big name lending credence to a product, and if I was a big name why the hell would I bother doing ads? I’m an anonymous actor, a cipher, a blank slate, and as an actor I’m under no more obligation to believe in what I’m plugging in an ad than I would be to condone the behaviour I portrayed in the role of a wife-beater or rapist.

Okay, call my arguments sophistry and decry my lack of integrity. Yes, credibility would be nice, but it’s a luxury a self-unemployed performer with a family can’t afford.

*Crikey piece

^Heckler piece

Daily Telegraph piece

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Me and my old mate A.J. cooked up this little gumbo of a script a decade or so ago. From memory it was intended to be part of some aborted comedy project of ours involving sketches and other stuff to showcase our genius. I'm sure you'll agree it's actually quite brilliant. Channel Nine has the vision of a mole in a badger's belly up Kyle Sandiland's bum! Maybe part of the problem was finding a seafood wrangler willing and able to stop/start animate prawns for hours on end in the midday sun in our backyard in Stanmore on a hot Sydney Summer's afternoon. WARNING: contains traces of pun. Do not consume too soon before or after eating.

Stephen Eelberg presents

Staring Mussell Crowe, Cray West, Salmon L. Jackson, Barramundi White, Prawn Connery, Joan Crawfish, Dory Smelling, Killpatrick Swayzee, Tuna Turner, Cod Stewart, Marlin Brando, Clamela Anderson, Mackerel Bolton, Blowfish, Octopussy … and introducing Marilyn Fishroe.

The opening shot is an aquarium over which credits roll to a funky wucka-wucka porn soundtrack. As a voice-over reels off actor’s names they are shown in various attitudes of repose, in deck chairs, lounging at the bar, in their trailers etc.


Prawn Connery, as Bond, writhes in deckchair in passionate embrace with Cray West. Bond theme music.

Prawn: I’d always hoped we’d meet like this, salmon-chanted evening.
Cray West: Oh James, I’ve felt so abalone.

As they grunt and groan to climax a big dollop of mayonnaise splats onto them. Cut to Larry Lobster, the director.

Larry: Cut. That was great Prawn, beautiful work Cray. Go and get yourselves cleaned up. Okay people, moving right along to the Dory Smelling close-ups. Okay Dory, get your shell off honey.

Cut to Dory Smelling on waterbed in pool.

Dory: My What?
Larry: You heard sugar, get raw. It’s time for some clam cam.
Dory: But the script says this is the Hillary Clinton Story!
Larry: Oh it is, babe, believe me it is. Now come on and quit being so precious. Get shelled, get wet, it’s show and tell time!
Dory: I will not. This film is disgusting and so are you. If you want me I’ll be in my trawler.

She storms off and Larry confers with Sam Squid.

Larry: Jeez, the bait I gotta work with! Can we get a replacement Sam? What about Tuna Turner?
Sam: She’s got crabs.
Larry: Joan Crawfish?
Sam: Sea-philous.
Larry: Clamela Anderson?
Sam: She died of Cod-oreah. She stank anyway.
Larry: Hey! Don’t speak eel of the dead. Okay then, go and see what you can do about little Miss Smelling.

As Sam heads off to Dory’s trawler Larry addresses cast and crew.

Larry: But in the meantime we got a picture to make, so let’s move it. What’s the next scene?
Assistant: Err, seduction of Marilyn Fishroe by Salmon L. Jackson and Barramundi White.
Larry: Okay people let’s go. Either this picture comes in under budget and oversexed or you’re all fried! Aaand action!'


Marilyn Fishroe on bed. She is a pile of caviar with a blonde wig. Salmon L. Jackson enters room.

Salmon: Mmm mmm, now what have we here? Looks like one tasty little fishcake, and my friend and I are mighty hungry. Hope you don’t mind if he joins us, mam?
Marilyn: Well, I don’t know …

Barramundi White enters room to slick soul soundtrack, giving smooooth Barry spiel.

Barramundi: Don’t fight it babe, just come and embrace something that is beautiful, you are my golden, glimmering portal of light, my cascading champagne chandelier of sweetness and goodness…

Marilyn sighs with pleasure.

Marilyn: Oh Barramundi, do you really mean that?
Salmon: Like the man says babe, you got the goods.

Marilyn squeals with delight as Salmon and Barramundi get down to business.


Sam Squid knocks at door of Dory Smelling’s trawler.

Sam: Dory, oh Dory, I know you’re in there.
Dory: Go away, I’m not coming out. You’re sickos, all of you. I can’t believe I got hooked into this.
Sam: Oh come on honey, we promise there won’t be any more dirty stuff. We know you got class. Larry says he’s real sorry and that it won’t happen again. You know what these Lobsters are like, all hot under the collar. But he’s cooled off now and wants to make up by giving you a present.

Trawler-door opens a crack.

Dory: A present?
Sam: Yeah babe, a pearl necklace!

Dory fully opens door.

Dory: A pearl necklace?
Sam: Yeah, a big one, but only if you come now.
Dory: Oh, alright. But only if he promises to be nice. No dirty stuff, okay?
Sam: Oh, he’ll be nice, baby, we’ll all be nice.


Cut back to Salmon and Barramundi’s bed scene with Marilyn Fishroe. The caviar is almost entirely eaten and only a blonde wig remains. Music is slick soul. Salmon and Barramundi grunt away for a bit longer before the mayonnaise arrives. Marilyn sighs and sings:

Marilyn: Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me …
Salmon: Mmm mmm, you sure was tasty Miss Fishroe. But I’ll be damned if I ain’t got a hankering for a second course!
Barramundi: You said it bro, let’s go and find us some more tasty vitals!


Larry lobster is making sleazy moves on a giggling seahorse starlet as Sam approaches.

Larry: Well, did she swallow the bait?
Sam: Hook, line and sinker.

They both snigger evilly. Cut to Dory poolside, peeled, with her shell beside her.

Dory: Now are you sure nothing’s showing?
Larry: Trust me baby, like I said it’s real tasteful (heh heh)
Dory: Well, when am I going to get my pearl necklace?
Larry: Real soon sugar, real soon. Aaand Action!

Soul soundtrack starts. Salmon and Barramundi jive into scene.

Salmon: Mmm mmm, Well lookee what we have here - sweetmeats! Doll if you don’t mind I think it’s high time my friend and I dined.

Dory screams as Salmon and Barramundi sidle up to her.

Dory: (To director Larry Lobster) But you said no dirty stuff, you promised…!

Seductive wucka-wucka soul track amps up, as Barramundi White starts his spiel:

Barramundi: Don’t fight it babe, you are my Cleopatra, my Godiva, my Joan of Arc, my Shiva, why you are every woman in the world to me.

Dory sighs, won over by Barramundi’s charms, as both he and Salmon assume the position.

Dory: Oh, that’s beautiful. But I still want my pearl necklace.
Larry: Oh it’s coming baby, it’s coming, any minute now, special delivery.

A squirt-gun of special sauce sprays the prawns to end the scene.


Prawn Connery is tied to a bed, as Cray West in bondage gear whips him. Blowfish (a lacquered Pufferfish) reclines smugly in chair near bed.

Prawn: I suppose you think you’re pretty smart Blowfish, planting this poison little double-crossing anemone?
Blowfish: Yes, she’s a lovely specimen, isn’t she Mr Bond? She usually gets what she wants.
Prawn: You’re wasting your time Blowfish. Fishfinger couldn’t extract the secret cod and neither will you. Torture me all you like, grill me, braze me and baste me, but I’ll not tell.
Blowfish: Ah, but I think you will, Mr Bond. I have a very persuasive, shall we say, friend. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, Dr Wasabi?

Dramatic music - Da da da da! - as Blowfish holds up tube of Wasabi sauce. Prawn struggles
desperately at his bonds. Blowfish and Cray West laugh evilly at his discomfort.

Prawn: You’re an animal, Blowfish, that’s inhumane. Wasabi Sauce was outlawed in the Geneva Codvention!
Blowfish: Geneva Codvention? I don’t think I’ve heard of it. But then I have such a bad memory for details. Perhaps your memory will improve with a little stimulation to the nether regions?

Prawn screams as Cray West starts rubbing Wasabi into his genitals (where is that on prawns?). But gradually the screams turn to moans of pleasure as he starts getting off on the pain.

Blowfish: You may never spawn again, Mr Bond, had enough?
Prawn: No, more please, more, lots more!
Blowfish: What’s this?
Cray West: I, I think he's actually enjoying it!
Blowfish: But that’s impossible! What’s going on here?
Prawn: Come on Blowfish, don't be a fool. You know as well as I do what’s going on. You want me, you’ve always wanted me, and I’ve always wanted you. Screw the Cod War and the arms race, kiss me Blowfish, kiss me now!
Blowfish: Damn it you’re right, Mr Bond, of course you’re right. What a fool I’ve been. What fools we’ve both been. I surrender, I surrender to you utterly.

Sweet romantic strings well up as Blowfish, in slow-mo, approaches bed to embrace Bond. Blowfish and Cray West mount Prawn and they all begin making mad love. Larry, excited, directs cameraman.

Larry: Oh this is gold, pure gold. Is he hard yet? Are they hard yet? Get in close for the woodshot, I want the woodshot now!

Cut to image of chopstick.

Larry: More wood, I want lots more wood!

Cut to massive tree being felled.

Cut back to frantic orgy of Prawn, Cray West and Blowfish, just as Barramundi White, Salmon L. Jackson and Dory Smelling enter the scene.

Salmon: Mmm mmm, this sho looks mighty tasty!
Barramundi: Don’t fight it babe
Dory: I want another pearl necklace!
Salmon: Mmm mmm, I think that can be arranged!
Prawn: Oh, Blowfish!
Blowfish: Oh, Mr Bond.

All the prawns pile into one rampantly rooting, writhing heap as the music climaxes.

Larry: Oh, this is gold, solid gold, now get ready for the money shot!

Several quick cuts back and forth between Larry and cast, in time to fucking, as excitement mounts. Finally as the music, grunting, panting and squealing reach a crescendo, a bucket of mayonnaise is poured over the cast, who writhe and moan in orgasmic ecstasy.

Larry: Genius, pure godamn, solid-state, bona-fide genius. Okay people, that’s a wrap, get yourselves cleaned up, I think we’ve earned ourselves a drink.

Whoops, cheers and applause from cast and crew, high-fives, sounds of celebration, congratulation, elation etc.

Camera pans back from Prawno set to reveal it has been staged on a table at a backyard barbie. Real people stand near the table casually talking. Two people approach the table of the prawno set, dip a couple of prawns into the mayo and bite into them. As they bite there are piercing screams. Screen fades to black. Music, Credits, the end ...

(well, I did warn you ...)

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Sin City"

There was an utterly redundant article in this morning’s Silly Boring Herald on the way Melbourne has it all over Sydney for the yartz, vigour, zest, transport, etc. Apparently Sydney’s getting too costly, congested and mean spirited. Sydney’s an ageing Liz Taylor, compared to which Melbourne is a vivacious, energised Helen Mirren. What does that make Nowra? Amy Winehouse? No cliché left unturned. You know the drill: Sydney’s a mindless, hedonistic sun and surf worshipping bogan, Melbourne a philosopher in a beret writing poetry in a coffee shop, Kulcha coming out its bum. (Oh, the writer forgot to mention it’s also the gangland murder capital of Oz. Maybe they’re kulchured gangsters who take in Romanian arthouse films before doing hits). Why bother endlessly regurgitating this kind of crap? Then again, why not? If the Herald can do it so can I. So here to perpetuate that farrago of clichés is a monologue I wrote a few years back (with a slightly freshened ending):

Sin City

After being voted the city with the World’s best
Restaurants, location and lifestyle
Sydney had a quiet drink and
gave itself a modest pat on the back.

Then after a few more beers
Sydney loosened up and made a
rude little joke about Brisbane.
Adelaide and Perth smiled nervously
while Canberra said it was tired and going home.

But Sydney kicked on with some Martinis and Margaritas,
before heading off to snort coke in the dunny.
Sydney swaggered out and started doing tequila shots
and wolf-whistling at waitresses.

Then Sydney saw Melbourne quietly reading in a corner
And yelled across the bar:
hey Mel, ya big poof, ya readin’ ‘bout
how to pick up a root, or what?

Melbourne just gave a disdainful look
and went back to its book.

But Sydney continued: Hey Mel,
did you know the sun shines out my harbour?
Here, cop a look at Godzone!

At which Sydney leapt on a table
dropped its daks and flashed Melbourne a
blazing bright yellow eye.
Then Sydney started dancing on the table,
lewdly gyrating with its pants around its ankles
taunting Melbourne, saying
na na na na na! Sucked in Melbourne
you old drizzle-bound Goth
you Camus-cuddling wanker
you fossilised pile of snob dung.
You’re just jealous of my beautiful sun
and my beautiful harbour
and my beautiful bridge

and my big silicon hills
and botoxed beaches
and pectoral-pumped horizons
and the Sydney Swans beating you at your own stupid game …

All you got’s your poxy trams and flat-chested streets
and pigeon-shitty monuments to crumbling colonial boredom …
What’s that? Oh!, You had the Commonwealth Games?
Oooh, how Maaarvellous, darling!! …
Yeah, good on ya,
must have been fun watching that piss-poor flea-circus

huddled in your anorak-clad igloo
trying to warm yourself with your own pathetic
moussaka flavoured farts …
Oh, by the way, did you know that I, Sydney,

Well, Melbourne just shook its head
finished its macchiato
and quietly got up and left.
And by now all the other towns had gone home as well,
even hardcore party towns like San Fransisco and Acapulco.
So the manager came over
and politely asked Sydney to please leave.
But Sydney just snarled ah, get fucked!
and had the manager re-developed.

Sydney used the manager’s blood to paint itself red -
drank more, smoked more, snorted more
dropped more pills
Went clubbing till six
then had an orgy with itself
before crashing round ten.
Sydney woke up pregnant
reproduced and became the World’s first
truly hermaphroditic city.
But then Sydney got too big and old and tired and fat
with constipation, bad circulation and blocked arteries.
Sydney de-hydrated, got asthmatic, obese
and finally collapsed in a blubbering, wheezing heap.

Sydney got carted off to re-hab
where they said: what seems to be the problem sir?
And Sydney screamed:
look, stop personifying me!
I’m not a person, okay!
I’m just a city with faults like anyone, okay!
So stop stretching this stupid bloody metaphor anymore, okay!
… but there is one little favour ya could do for me ...
reckon ya could hire Melbourne to do a hit on Keneally and O'Farrell
and feed their guts to the Greens?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Deathstyles of the Stiff and Infamous"

Death’s been done to death in fiction, right from the start. From Homer’s Iliad, to Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, onto TV’s Six Foot Under, we can’t get enough of the stuff. Agatha Christie left us a trainload of corpses to eternally reanimate, and just how the hell anyone can possibly be still alive in the English county of Midsomer is a mystery worthy of Holmes. There’s a whole abattoir of crime fiction out there, and surely by now they must have run out of acronyms for all those cop/ambo/paramedic/forensic-dissection shows. We’re gagging on corpses and obviously love it, just so long as it’s all cosily enough removed so as not to present any real threat: don’t worry love, they’re only actors being clubbed, shot, sliced and diced. But surely there’s a market for something a little closer to the bone. We have an infestation of Lifestyle Programs, how about a Deathstyle Program - My Mausoleum Rules or Better Tombs and Funerals?

I got the notion recently while watching Better Homes and Gardens (I was at the loosest of ends). It struck me that the show, with all its chirpy gloss and easy-can-do-on-ya-mate camaraderie, was just one great big denial of death. Of course you could argue that getting out of bed in the morning is a denial of death, but something about this show, with its instant gratification fixation, its zippily edited footage of the buffed tradie dude showing you that, yes, even you can easily whip up a pagoda, wishing well and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in your own backyard in an afternoon, rankled me. TV “teaches” us how to perform these and a whole slew of other wondrous feats - make pavlovas, buy houses - but the one thing we’re never taught is how to die. No, death is the elephant in the tomb. If you can’t say anything nice about Death, don’t say anything at all.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not looking forward to my trip over the Styx. It’s just that I think we could all benefit from a little more preparation to help ease the passage. When Dylan sang “I will not go down under the ground” it was about his refusal to ever enter a fallout shelter in the event of nuclear war. He could equally have been singing about our refusal to ever contemplate entering the grave.

My newsagent buddy Trevor told me of a man he knew who on his deathbed found the energy to start screaming “I DON’T WANT TO GO! I DON’T WANT TO GO!” Quite. I imagine compared to my own end his will seem a model of stoic dignity. As things stand, I’ll be praying, weeping and screeching with the best of them, thinking “If only I’d taken Pascal’s Wager!” which basically says it’s better to believe in god than not. If you’re right and there is a god, great, and if you’re wrong, so what?

Death needs to be made a more integral part of everyday life. The public cremations of Bali and India, and Parsees placing their dead on towers to be eaten by vultures are clean, green, in-your-face salutary lessons in death. We could adopt similar practices in Australia and have public cremations on footy fields before games, or leave corpses in shopping trolleys atop traffic lights for crows to eat.

Terrified or not, if I’m suffering unduly when my time comes I’ll definitely go the happy exit pill. Enlightened thinking on euthanasia has been around for longer than you might think. In his book of 1515 Utopia, Thomas More has a priest address a terminally ill citizen thus:

“Let’s face it, you’ll never be able to live a normal life. You’re just a nuisance to other people and a burden to yourself – in fact you’re really leading a sort of posthumous existence. So why go on feeding germs? Since your life’s a misery to you, why hesitate to die? You’re imprisoned in a torture-chamber – why don’t you break out and escape to a better world? Or say the word, and we’ll arrange for your release. It’s only common sense to cut your losses. It’s also an act of piety to take the advice of a priest, because he speaks for God.”

More goes on:

If the patient finds these arguments convincing, he either starves himself to death, or is given a soporific and put painlessly out of his misery. But this is strictly voluntary, and, if he prefers to say alive, everyone will go on treating him as kindly as ever.

Thomas More himself was euthanased, after a fashion. His boss, Henry the Eighth, cut off his head.

But to business: Our deathstyle show Better Tombs and Funerals would operate along similar lines to its famous lifestyle-orientated cousin. The buffed young tradie and his cheerful crew would rock up to the house of someone suffering a terminal illness. Let’s call her Miss Mortis. First a doctor gives a frank appraisal/prognosis of her condition, goes through her and her family’s medical history, her dietary habits and vices, explains to the viewers exactly how the tumour is ravaging her system, which organs it’s attacking and why, the kind of pain she’s in, how long she’s got, how common the condition is and how many people out there can expect to suffer the same fate. Next a priest/rabbi/imam or atheist councillor would sit down and discuss her afterlife outlook – was she a believer? Does she want to start believing/dis-believing now? This is what she can expect to meet beyond the grave; would she like a religious service; what form should it take … etc.?

Next the crew talk Miss Mortis through her coffin and plot options. They’ll craft and fit out a lovely casket and then find a home for it, anything from a humble-yet-dignified little patch in Rookwood Cemetery, to a marble mausoleum overlooking the ocean. Whatever your needs, taste and purse, they’ll build it and bring it in on budget. Meanwhile Miss Mortis chats with industry pros: funeral directors, grave diggers, crematorium technicians, morticians and embalmers. She works through pictorial catalogues of the kind of dress, makeup, hairstyle and expression she’d like to be left with, and talks about the venue, invite lists and kind of music she wants: “many of our clients opt for Nick Cave, though perhaps you’d prefer Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive?”

Once Miss Mortis croaks, a follow up program would show the actual moment of death, embalming process and funeral. As a last touch, we’d have “Crema” or “Coffin-Cam”, in which a camera captures her immolation and the pulverisation of her bones in a crematorium, or is placed in the casket with her so viewers can check in on the net every few months to see her state of decomposition.

Better Tombs and Funerals – It’s Mortality TV to take the sting out of death and put a spring in your step while you’re still around!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"The Gospel According to Mel"

Given that the Pope has just exonerated the Jews as collective Christ killers, I thought it'd be nice to dust off this oldie, from around the time Mel brought out his sensitive and considered Passion of the Christ

Now in the days of studio governor Harvey Winestain,
there came to Holy-wood a man
lead by his star,
and on the road to Burbank he had a vision
and his father Hutton spake to him saying
"Mel, why don't you make a serious film,
one that truly affirms our faith?"
"What?" said Mel, Mad Max 4,
Lethal Weapon 6 ... we've already
remade Vatican 2"

"No", said his father, "redo the Book,
The Greatest Story Ever Sold.
It's out of copyright, the script'll write itself
and with any luck we'll have
atheists picketing cinemas".

And the cocaine scales fell from Mel's hands
and his wine turned to mineral water
and he said "yeah! But we godda do it right, dad,
just like it was.
Forget those pharisees at Miramax,
I'll do it myself, with accuracy and truth.
Now the lead role of Jesus is obvious ...
Ah, c'mon dad! I warmed up for this in Braveheart.
Oh, alright. Now let's see.
This computer graphic shows
exactly what an Aramaic man
would have looked like 2000 years ago ....
stunted, bent, big nose ...
Christ! It's Woody Allen! Only uglier ...
Screw that. Find me a six-foot-four
lantern-jawed babe-magnet with
dazzling dentistry. That'll affirm the faith.
I mean what is truth anyway?”

"Oh yeah, and scourging,
I want lots and lots of scourging."

And it came to pass.
Mel's film was made
and all were astounded by its success.
On the third day his box office takings did rise
and he appeared before TV hosts
and spake saying:
"no comment. Leave my dad
and his big bigoted mouth out of it.
But I tell you this - beware false profits.
The true profit will be
well over the hundred million mark.
And that's before the miracle
of the videos and DVDs.

And for forty days and nights
Mel suffered a grueling round of
press conferences.
But he knew his critics were jealous
and plotting against him.
They tried to catch him out with questions:
"Mel, is it right that a man should
make a sanctimonious, self-aggrandising vanity project
backed by a cunningly orchestrated media campaign
of selective leaks and screenings,
beaten into a frenzy on the controversy and hype of
violence, blood-lust and anti-semitism -
not to mention a bogus stamp of approval from the Pope -
and then cloak it all in the guise of faith?
Isn't this film just boasting ‘my faith is bigger than yours?'"

But Mel knew the critics were out to trap him,
and so answered saying,
"the greatest commandment is to love one another ...
but this is personal,
so listen up sugar tits
if you don't shut your trap I'll twist your
guts on a stick,
stuff you and turn you into a punching bag."

He then spoke in parables about the days to come:
"Holy-wood's become a moral sewer.
I'd like to clean it up by remaking a few films,
like The Good, The Bad And The Eternally Damned,
and Gentiles Prefer Blondes

"But what I'd most like to make
is part two of this film - The Second Coming.
Trouble is I'll be the only one round to see it.
You're all going to the other place”.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"It's Art, Baby!"

All art basically boils down to one thing: you’re gonna die, or memento mori as those wily old wops the Latins had it. I don’t know much about death and even less about art, but how hard can it be? Tracey Emin’s messy bedroom, Damien Hurst’s pickled cows - making that stuff’s like shooting fish in a barrel with an Uzzi. You want an instillation? How about an exhibition of used nappies crucified to a gallery wall with titles like “forgive them father for they know not what they poo”. Stick a crucifix in anything, juxtapose it with something weird and offensive other than plain ole Jesus, give it a provocative title and wait for the acclaim. Take your pick - a gay leather Jesus, Jesus with a vagina, crucified Hitler, crucified Chihuahua, crucified television etc. and you’ve got an instant piece of avant-garde, cutting edge, in-your-face art. Rad, maaan!

These days I’m up to my neck in nappies, but over the years I’ve written a disturbingly large number of anti-baby poems and rants, like Inner-child Minding, which ends in me luring my inner-child and his inner-child mates into a kitchen blender and hitting the switch: “he mixes well with other children”.

It might have been inspired by the Mark Twain short story A Carnival of Crime in Connecticut, in which Twain’s character is tormented by a guilty conscience that materialises in the form of a malicious dwarf. He finally manages to catch the dwarf, rips it to shreds and gleefully embarks on a guilt-free crime spree. Check it out, it’s great!

I wrote a monologue about ten years ago called Newtown’s got a Baby Shop (and I’m not getting any younger). It was born from the shock of seeing a baby shop open in my artsy old ‘burb, and realising that this really did signify a cultural and demographic shift from libertine licentiousness to mum and dad money. My anti-baby output dried up about five years ago with the arrival of my son Rock [pictured]. Call me a wimp, but it might seem somewhat hypocritical to be frothing from stage about the baby plague when my partner Gini is at home with a kid leaching her boob.

People say stuff like “I bet having children has changed you. Kids must have given you a whole new perspective and loads of new material”. But no, not really. Apart from one or two little ditties I haven’t been inspired to write an avalanche of “all-new” soft Tug material. Besides, the world is serviced enough in the baby writing department.

What else might pass for art? Ears are fascinating. How about a photographic exhibition of ears in massive closeup? Or herd people into a blackened theatre and bombard them with a relentless soundtrack of belching, hacking and farting; or the wheezing breath of a terminal cancer patient juxtaposed with a purring kitten; or a sound instillation of titters, chuckles, chortles, snorts and guffaws, increasing in intensity all the way up to a laugh of screeching megalomaniacal lunacy, all backed by Ravel’s Bolero.

Or an instillation of volumetric representations of all the bodily waste expelled by a human over the course of an average life – a roomful of all the hair you’ve ever grown, piles of toenail and fingernail clippings, tankfulls of snot, semen, pee, poo, earwax and menstrual blood; a swimming pool of sweat. What does it mean? Who knows. But surely it could be somehow twisted into a statement on the human condition, and the ephemeral nature of life etc.

One of the most profound art instillations I saw was not really intended as art at all, which is the best kind. The Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London contained piles of discarded spectacles and shoes, some of the shoes very small. There’s something very poignant about shoes, and not just death camp shoes. The sight of my dad’s empty shoes laid neatly side by side at the bottom of the stairs can give me a funny little flutter in the guts. They somehow make me miss him even though he’s not yet dead.

Or how about this: a guy with a leafblower comes on stage and starts blowing around a crumpled ball of paper. Another guy with a leafblower joins him and they start blowing the ball of paper to each other. More leafblowers appear until we have twenty-two leafblower operators. They assemble into two teams, and, with the arrival of a ref on a ride-on mower, start playing a game of leafblower soccer. The ref starts systematically issuing red cards to the players who then have to shut off their machine and depart the stage. Finally we are left with just the original leafblower guy and the ref, who issues him not with a red card but the Ace of Spades. The ref departs leaving the original leafblower guy to shut off his machine. As the lights dim he falls into a state of despair and start howling like a wounded animal into the existential void. Again, a poignant comment on the human condition and man’s essential aloneness in the universe.

But to end where we began, let’s think babies. Specifically, a play directed by a baby. A spotlight comes up in a darkened theatre to reveal a baby in the middle of the stage. The direction of the play is dependant purely upon the baby’s actions – the direction it crawls in, which rattle it picks up or toy it decides to chew will guide the other actors, who take the stage to enact a standard kitsch’n’sync drama, or play of social mores, maybe something by David Williamson. If the baby picks up the red rattle then an actor has to get drunk. If the baby picks up a teddy the police arrive to conduct a drug bust. If the baby goes for an orange ball the actors have an orgy. The action continues in one particular vein until the baby changes toys, or crawls in a certain direction. The actors might drop the Williamson dialogue to tango, or crawl around grunting, get naked and put nappies on each other. If the baby starts crying they surround it and start performing in mime, or a minstrel show, or Three Stooges routine, or start in on Waiting for Godot. You’d also want to mount a video camera on the baby’s head to project its view onto a screen. The play doesn’t finish until the baby falls asleep, which means that while some performances might only last ten minutes, others could last four or six hours, or until the audience tires and leaves. The actors have three lifelines, in which they can hit an intervention button to bring on an enormous old Victorian-style wet nurse, who has a five-minute limit to suckle the baby, change it, wrap it up, give it a dummy and try to put it to sleep in a pram.

It would be a test for the actors and no two performances would be alike. I’m not sure where it sits ethically in the Cruelty to Baby Act, but it might be a nice early break into show biz. Anyone want to volunteer their kid for the first production? It pays union rates, and I think we might go with Macbeth.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I’m an ill-disciplined fellow, which is not a good thing to be if you work mostly from home. Maybe that’s why I do work from home. The freelancer – let’s call me that – has to be a self-starter, wily and adept at avoiding the many pitfalls that will keep him from the task at hand: chewing toenails, gentleman’s websites, destroying wasp nests with an aerosol flame-thrower. These are just a few of the distractions that are hard to pull off in an office, but will pull your nose from the grindstone at home. Then there’s YouTube, an endlessly reductive maze that’ll suck you in and swallow you like Poe’s Maelstrom.

You know the drill, you’ll need to do some serious academic research for a piece you’re writing, and so turn to the highest scholarly authority available - Wiki. You’ll be browsing some details on, say, Mussolini’s death, which will then necessitate some further scholarly delving into whether there’s any footage of IL Duce and his squeeze being strung up by the legs in a service station forecourt (a foretaste of poor Silvio’s fate?). It’s all legitimate research, of course, in the name of nailing the story. But lo, by some weird process of YouTube osmosis you find yourself, three hours later, viewing chucklesome footage of a couple of Norwegian toddlers beating each other to death with rakes. How did this happen?

DMR, or Discipline, Motivation and Routine, are apparently what you need, and the things they keep banging on about in writer’s advice manuals: “Grahame Green said write five-hundred words a day … blah, blah, blah.” There’s rarely a good time to write and a thousand excuses why you can’t stick to a schedule. Taking out the garbage, scrubbing shower recesses and plucking nostril hairs all become appealing alternatives to going snowblind in front of a blank page or screen. Apparently Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or another of those cheery Ruskies said “I don’t like writing, but I like having written”. I suppose in that respect writing’s a bit like doing the washing up.

Norman Mailer said “if you wanna write, don’t drink the night before”. I say if you wanna write, don’t have kids the night before. Of course I love my tykes and wouldn’t trade them for Vegas, but they do cramp my style. They make demands, they don’t understand me. “Ok”, you say, “so write at night when they’re asleep. There are lots of good hours going begging then”. But what if there’s an Everybody Loves Raymond marathon on the box? I’d be a fool not to enjoy that with a glass of wine or two. Plus, night is when I have to read. To be a good writer you have to read, right? So I try and read a page or two of writer’s advice manuals before falling asleep from too much wine, promptly forgetting what I’ve just read. It’s like this: out of three things - Writing, Drinking, Kids - I can successfully maintain two, but not all three. I could have kids and drink and elect not to write, or I could drink with no kids and manage to write during the day. Or I could have kids and write at night so long as I didn’t drink. Kids, I hate to break this to you …

But nah, much as I’d like to, I can’t just blame my kids. They’re imprisoned in daycare and school for great chunks of the week. Also, I realise that wasting time writing a blog about not having enough time to write really puts the iron in irony. But still, some solution to my lack of discipline needs to be found, and I think I may have hit upon it in Rent-a-Boss. Rent-a-Boss is an agency that hires out a boss to come to your home to supervise and structure your day. He’ll keep you chained to the desk and make sure you’re not skiving off by timing your tea, toilet, lunch and ciggie breaks. He’ll crack down hard on personal phone calls and eBay browsing, keep the keys to the liquor cabinet and guard the wine rack like a junk yard dog. Rent-a-Bosses would come in all makes and models, tailored to suit your profession. Thus, a patched-elbow academic for your writers, besuited white-collar boss for your IT bods, a fluro-vested, big-gutted site-foreman for your home renovation and landscaping projects, and a domestic dominatrix to keep you cooking and dustbusting. If you want to get adventurous feel free to mix and match. Perhaps an abattoir overseer in a hardhat and offal stained coat would be the ticket to keep your Reiki Massage or home manicure business on an even keel.

If you were nostalgic like me, you might go retro and opt for a good old-fashioned public-service boss, like George. Ah, how fondly I remember George and my time working as a lowly shit-kicker at the Tax Office. These were the days when blue uniformed tea-ladies with names like Betty and Dot brought round urns and pastries on clattering trollies at break time; a golden age of punching on and off on Bundy clocks, when ashtrays overflowed on desks and a blue Peter Jackson fug hung in the air like a Somme gas attack. These were the days of George. With his burnt Spanish features, dead eyes and bad greasy comb-over George was not a dynamic man. He was in his forties and still lived at home with his mum and dad. He wasn’t all that high up the tax office food chain, but I was the mercury-laden mud at the very bottom and so that made him my boss. I can’t remember exactly what I did, apart from doing as little as possible, which was impossibly little, apart from write poems that I’d hide as George approached. Then I’d pretend to get back to inputting whatever data it was I was supposed to be inputting. If George queried the seemingly untouched pile of files I could always claim a computer malfunction. The machines, like George, were slow, bulky and primitive, except George didn’t come with a blipping green Pac-man font. To distract him from my slackness, I’d try and humour him by faking interest in his weekend’s fishing exploits. Along with Lotto, fishing was George’s hobby.

George’s other hobby was smoking. George smoked a lot. Everyone in the Tax Office did. If you never saw George smoke you’d know he smoked from the smell, which was handy as you could get wind of him approaching. It wasn’t just his breath, but his clothes and body, right down to the very fibre of his being, the ashtray of his soul. George smoked for six, which was good, as around this time the OH&S Nazis decided that, rather than turn the eight floors of the tax office into a blackened lung, it might be wise to encourage smokers to smoke outside. So between his supervising duties, George spent a fair amount of time either outside smoking, or in transit to or from another smoking engagement, which gave me a decent amount of time to work on my poems and flirt with the tea ladies. Even so, George caught me skiving off enough times to occasionally have to threaten and reprimand me. All in all, just the kind of balance I need these days in a hired Home-Boss. I could stick a Bundy clock on the wall to punch on and off, and George could keep a lazy eye on me from a desk in the dining room while I wrote. He’d still have to pop out to top up the tar, and I could use the time productively to conduct vital YouTube research into an Otter attacking a Pitbull. Now, if only I could afford a tea lady …

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"The Eleventh Hour" - a book proposal

There’s a line in Pulp Fiction that really slugged me in the gut when I first heard it. It’s simple but effective, and happens when the big black mobster Marsellus Wallace is trying to convince Bruce Willis’s washed-up boxer character, Butch, to take a fall in a fight. He says “Butch, if you were gonna make it, you would have made it by now.” I was about 30 when I first saw the film. I’m now 45, and the line no longer slugs me in the gut. No, it injects me with an ice enema. I mean Jeeze, am I still an ‘emerging artist?’ Or a submerged artist? Have I emerged and re-submerged without my brief emergence being noted?

Hence The Eleventh Hour – an inspirational book of potted biographies of people who’ve ‘made it’ late in the arts, like Geoffrey Rush, who at the ripe ole filmic age of 45 scooped an Oscar and global recognition for his first film Shine. Later editions of the book might take in other fields of endeavour, like science, business or sport, but for now we’ll focus on creative types – actors, writers, poets, painters, sculptors, accountants …

Think about it. The world is disproportionately burdened with millions of quietly desperate people nurturing long unfulfilled artistic ambitions. They know the clock is ticking, and has, in fact, probably ticked too far for them to ever make serious waves in their chosen field. What constitutes ‘making it’ is debatable, but let’s start with a little income, recognition and acclaim. And maybe groupies. For our purposes, making it means being able to take out a crippling mortgage on a ramshackle shoebox, nee ‘renovator’s dream’, in my inner-city suburb of Darlington, Sydney.

If you’re an actor, making it means being occasionally recognised, and not just from police line-ups or an erectile dysfunction infomercial that airs at 3am. No, you’d want to be known for a reasonably fat role in a moderately successful Australian film. Or even a bit part in Baz Luhrmann’s remake of Citizen Kane. Making it as an author means you can live for six months on the advance for your second novel, which will hit the critical sweetspot and be reviewed with rolled gold lines like “major new Australian voice”. As a painter, making it means your first major exhibition garners the phrase “shades of early Whiteley”. (Shades of late Whiteley being a little smelly).

Yep, there’s a whole planet of arty aspirants just out your window, fretting, sweating and mouldering away in crap life-sentence jobs, dreaming of swapping the drudgery of writing bitter post-it notes on the office fridge for the drudgery of writing books. They think their hour has passed and that their talents are doomed to join them unlamented in the grave; that their great artistic gift, unwrapped and unwanted by a race of pig-ignorant philistines, will do nothing but languish and rot (good name for a law firm, that, Languish and Rot). It’s all too cruel. If you’re not dancing Swan Lake at the Opera House by the time you’re 22, forget it. If you’ve not published/recorded/exhibited by at least 35, default to dream number two and become a junkie windscreen washer, or loon who stands on street corners sandwiched between cardboard placards that proclaim the second coming of Anthony Robbins, or L. Ron. Hubbard, or UFO’s. Because, of course, most of these artsy wannabes are deluded, many of them mad. Most are talentless dabblers who couldn’t conceive with a whole sperm bank, let alone conceive a decent novel. But that’s not your problem, in fact that’s your meal-ticket: these poor saps are the ones who’ll buy your book!

In spotlighting artists who made it late, The Eleventh Hour will give heart to the artistically disabled and inspire in them the unreasonable expectation that ‘yes, it’s not too late! If they can do it, so can I!’ Design-wise, I envisage a smallish front-of-counter at the bookshop book, something that sits next to that bloody Blue Day Book right up beside cash register; a book bought at the last minute on impulse to cheer up your poor old mate Terry, who’s peddled his tattered manuscript to every publisher and his dog for years only to suffer repetitive rejection syndrome. He’s just been knocked back again and this is the book to buck him up. (Though rather than bucking him up, Terry may well snarl ‘fuck off’ as he shoves the book up your arse). The fact that you’ve read Terry’s manuscript, Portaloo Sunset, and know it to be derivative, illiterate tripe that stinks worse than said Portaloo after a three-day rock fest, is beside the point. It’s the thought that counts, and it might just cheer Terry up. (Although at 87 he really is starring down the barrel, and a Euthanasia for Dummies handbook might be a better bet).

Okay, some random examples of folks who’ve made late arrivals? Joining young Rush on stage we have Anthony Hopkins (30, first film), DBC Pierre (42, Booker Prize for first book Vernon God Little), Tug Dumbly (45, first … err, let’s move on), Kev Carmody (49, first album), Charles Bukowski (49, first book), Stan Lee (in his 40’s when he cooked up Spider-Man and a bunch of other superheroes), Raymond Chandler (45, first short story, 51 The Big Sleep), Elizabeth Jollie (53, first book), Laura Ingalls Wilder (65, first book in Little House on the Prairie series). But taking the cake the late, great Emily Kngwarreye, an aboriginal painter who held her first exhibition at 80, and whose work now sells for squillions. The list goes on, but for simplicity’s sake let’s focus on the small picture and keep the first edition Australian – Geoffrey, Kev, Liz, Emily, et al. (Later on you can franchise localised versions to other countries).

The format’s a snack. A snappy introductory essay, followed by two pages on each subject, one being a nice full-page photo of them at work, and on the facing page a potted bio and history of the artist’s trials and tribulations on the corpse-strewn road to glory. List their breakthrough moment and life philosophy, showing that with work, determination, commitment, dedication, single-minded focus and burning self-belief (Phew, I’m buggered!) anyone can make it to pursue their dreams and live to the hilt the truly authentic life they were destined to live. (We wouldn’t have to broach the pesky idea that talent too might be a pre-requisite). The subjects could be living or dead (preferably at a decent age) and interviews/séances would have to be conducted, permissions sought, backgrounds sourced and researched. It’s a little bit of work, but not too taxing. If you’re really lazy employ a research assistant, like I have for this synopsis. (My sweet Gini helped me Google up the above list of candidates. Thanks a ton, hun!) The subjects wouldn’t necessarily have to be outrageously famous, and in fact it’d probably be good to highlight a couple of more obscure late bloomers so as to make the punter’s dreams seem more achievable.

If you could be bothered doing it the project’s a sure-fire hit. How do I know? I once told a publisher with Penguin about the idea at a party. I was under the influence of ego at the time, officer, and promptly failed to remember the conversation. But a couple of weeks later he emailed me out of the blue to say he’d put the idea to a meeting of his fellow Penguins and they liked it and wanted me to send a fleshed-out proposal. I emailed back saying I hadn’t actually been pitching the idea to him at the party, just chewing the fat, and I couldn’t actually be arsed doing the thing myself. He emailed back in perplexity and annoyance that I’d been wasting his time. I emailed back a pitch for an idea to publish my Book of Ideas. I’m yet to hear back.

So, there you have it, The Eleventh Hour (or possibly Bloomin’ Late?). It’s yours for the taking, served up on a platter. All I ask is a small acknowledgement and cut of the loot. Get researching!

Friday, February 4, 2011

"One of our Parking Officers is Missing"

– idea for a sketch, short film or feature.

Everyone hates parking cops, even their spouses and pets. That’s why they usually roam in pairs, so they don’t get punched out by irate motorists. A while back in the news there were concerned reports of attacks on parking officers. I was puzzled. Parking officers? Being beaten up? Is there a problem? And not to seem shallow, but why are they all so bloody unattractive? Are ugly people attracted to the job, or does the job turn them ugly? I mean they are uniformly, without exception, to a man and woman, as ugly as a hatful of arseholes – waddling dumpsters with faces like a panful of burnt bacon. With all the walking they do you’d think they might lose a bit of lard. Then again, these days if their prey is parked more than a block away they’ll drive. No point sweating off good calories.

But somebody’s gotta do the job, right? I mean just imagine if these zealous tyre chalkers weren’t taking their daily quota of scalps. What would the poor council do without all those millions milked from parking-meter miscreants topping their coffers? The Mayor would be reduced to busking in train tunnels. Look, I know it’s not rational to shoot the messenger. Someone’s gotta be the hangman. Someone’s gotta burn dogs at the pound. But it doesn’t mean you’d want to invite them around for a foot massage.

I should be able to empathise with parking cops. In another life I worked for Centrelink, deep in Dodge City at their Redfern branch, so I know what it is to be hated. Part of the job was manning the desk at reception (“deception”, I called it). With a security guard hovering close, I fielded flack and foam-flecked fury from the glowering queue of “customers”, who frequently felt they’d been screwed by some bureaucratic bungle, cut to, or cancellation of their dole. Frequently they had been screwed, and had kids and grievous ice habits to feed. Only not in that order. I also did time in Centrelink’s call centre, dispensing bad advice and trying to patch up what few blunders I could. People rarely rang to wish me a good day. A good many wished me dead. Even protected by the anonymity of a phone line, their rancour made me cringe.

Years later - and on the other side of the dole counter - my shortest job was as a telemarketer. It lasted fifteen minutes. I didn’t even have to sell stuff, just ask a questionnaire. (Mind you, the questionnaire was on “in vitro fertilisation”, a tricky concept to explain to an eighty-year-old Albanian pensioner). I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand bothering people, plaguing them like a malarial mosquito right when they were in the middle of dinner, or tv, or chucking crockery at each other. After a few fruitless calls I hung up the headset and said “I quit”. The supervisor, haunted eyes packed with heavy black bags, nodded his understanding. I walked out and celebrated by blowing my dole on cigars and Veuve Clicquot.

I found those jobs tough. How much more impossible then would it be to pull on that parking officer rig each morning and walk out to face a hating world? You might as well stick a leper bell around your neck. Though who knows, maybe they’re proud of their job. Maybe they’re brave, or insane, or maybe they’re sadists. Who knows, out of uniform they might be kind, loving, charitable human beings, crossbreeds of Ghandi and St Francis. But I don’t care. I just can’t wring any pity from my shrivelled black heart for a creature that would stoop to ticket my car with a $200.00 fine early on a Sunday morning in a deserted back lane where I’d stopped for five minutes to drop my kid off for a playdate. Bastard! No, like all my fellow victims, I hate ‘em, which is why a film serving up some vicarious revenge would chime with a big audience. Here’s the idea:

“One of Our Parking Officers is Missing”. A parking officer disappears off the streets, and the next day another. Then, before panic sets in and security can be upped, dozens of parking cops go missing in the one day, just spirited off the beat and off the street into thin air. Their cars are found undisturbed, ala the Mary Celeste, with engines still running, radios set to Alan Jones and half-eaten buckets of Kentucky Fried inside. Where are they? They’ve being kidnapped by a gang of aggrieved motorists who’ve banded together to exact revenge after being slugged with a ticket for some triviality once too often - maybe their car was a few millimetres too far from the kerb, or they were ambushed in a no-parking zone right outside their house, where they’d stopped for two minutes to unload a car of groceries.

So, the captive cops are transported in a lorry to a secret prison farm in the country, where they are forced to conform to a severely rigid set of rules. The camp is festooned with warning signs that detail all kinds of prohibited behaviour, and denote zones where certain things must be strictly complied with. For example “PRISONERS MUST BOOTSCOOT BETWEEN BARACKS AND TOILET BLOCK. SEVERE PENALTIES FOR NON-COMPLIANCE APPLY”.

Even the slightest infringement attracts a ticket from the guards, which they stick, in its manila envelope, into the perp’s top pocket – say, $125 for a messy bed, $175 for slovenly uniform, $200 for anything-less-than-spotless washing-up in the mess hall (where, cruelly, the inmates are fed nothing but salad and forced to listen to Radio National). Tickets are issued for walking too fast. Or too slow. Or too close or too far away from boundaries. Loiterers and malingerers are ankle-clamped to the spot. The toilets have parking meters that expire every minute, and if not re-fed with coins auto-issue a ticket from the toilet paper dispenser. The bunks also have meters attached, which if not re-fed every two hours trigger a violent mechanical shaking of the mattress.

Obviously the inmates would soon run out of cash to pay all their mounting fines, so the tickets get forwarded to the particular council that employs that parking cop, along with a demand for settlement: “ … OR ELSE MR RAMAREZ GETS IT!” What Mr Ramarez gets wouldn’t be specified, but we can assume some cruel and unusual punishment, like being strapped to a chair and smell-boarded with the aroma of deep-fried chicken. But the system would have to be fair. If they wished, prisoners could elect to dispute the fine and have the matter heard before a court – a court convened via live video linkup with a jury of aggrieved motorists.

How to end? There could be a mass escape, like the Cowra breakout. The bush swarms with desperado parking officers on the run, waddling towards freedom. But the very sight of them, in parking officer uniforms and with the words “I AM A PARKING COP” crudely tattooed across their foreheads, makes farmers set dogs onto them. Drivers not only won’t pick them up, but swerve to try and run them down. Hunters mistake them for feral pigs …

… Or, try a nicer ending …

The parking officers are re-educated, ala Alex in A Clockwork Orange, but instead of being forced to watch footage of cruelty, horror and violence, they are subjected to unrelenting scenes of charity, sweetness and kindness – gambolling lambs, laughing children at play, newborn babes, Kristina Keneally being euthanased ….

Or just give them a good old fashioned brainwashing, ala The Manchurian Candidate. After they’ve been programmed, drug and deposit them back to the location from which they were abducted. They wake with no recollection of anything that has occurred between their kidnapping and now – no inkling of who took them, where they were taken, or even that they were taken at all. Of course they undergo an intense barrage of questioning and speculation – where the hell have they been all these weeks, these months? But it’s a mystery, no one knows, least of all the cops themselves. As far as they’re concerned they just had a bloody good sleep on the job. (A sleep in which, oddly, they dropped twenty kilos).

Things eventually settle down and the cops return to the beat (replete with homemade salads and a Pavlovian repugnance for fast food). Only now, the act of lifting a wiper to slap a ticket on a windscreen triggers a sudden compulsion to screw up the ticket and replace it with a flower and card, worded something like “Dearest driver, please, if you wouldn’t mind awfully, at some stage in the near-ish future, might you perhaps kindly consider relocating your car? I mean, only at your convenience, of course! Thanks a million. Have a really, really special day!”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

History On Wheels

(pictured: Harold Holt's Foreplay)

Invention: “History on Wheels”: A GPS which alerts you to the presence of sites of historical interest which you happen to be nearing or travelling past.

The idea came to me driving through the Cotswolds a couple of years back. It was a lovely winter’s day with a pale blue sky, and sun suffusing a misted landscape of bucolic English charm – farms, brooks and quaintly cobblestoned villages. We were heading from Ireland back to London, which was our base on a three-month house-swap. After stopping at Stratford-Upon-Avon for the obligatory tour of Shakespeare’s House (he wasn’t in), we soon hit the Cotswolds and caught the district in all its glory - at least in all its glory for the twenty minutes or so before we were hoovered into the guts of a howling black storm and got horribly lost: we didn’t have a GPS, conventional or otherwise.

Anyway, I got to mulling over the sheer amount of bloody stuff that must have happened over the millennia in this country we were travelling through, just layer upon layer of densely packed history – Celts, Romans, Germanics, Vikings, Normans, Celebrity Chefs … All those invasions, battles and tribal wars (just imagine the wealth of relics still buried). Of course this also goes for Europe and most of the rest of the World as well. The predominant sense I get in such places is one of wonderment at the incredible length and richness of the history that lies before me and beneath my feet, especially compared to Australia, in which we’re still just scratching the surface.

So, this is how History on Wheels - or HOW - works. You’ll be driving along and the GPS will volunteer information. Maybe something along the lines of “coming up three hundred metres on your left stand the remains of Brentwood Abbey. It was built in the late 10th century by an order of Nasturtium Monks, an obscure and austere sect of albino flagellants who venerated badgers and survived on a diet of earthworms and sand”. The commentaries would of necessity be brief, although if you did want to investigate something more fully you would have the option to press for more detail. You could opt for a broad, general commentary of the area you were passing through which wouldn’t have to stick to just history, but could include stats and facts on the district’s agricultural and economic mainstays, population, demographic, weather etc.

Alternately, you could focus more narrowly and in more detail on an area of special interest, like conflict: “this was the site of the Battle of Hastings”, or “Agincourt” or “Evermore.” You could select crime and infamy: “you are approaching the one-time home of Peter Sutcliffe, better known as the Yorkshire Ripper, who in 1981 was convicted of murdering 13 women …” Or punch in science, art, sport, music, pop-culture: “This is where the Sex Pistols performed their first gig” … “You are passing the house where Gustave Holst composed the Planets.” Perhaps a political slant: “Here at Cheviot Beach on December 17, 1967 Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared into the sea. An inquest found him missing, presumed drowned, although there is speculation that he was abducted by a Chinese submarine.”

A literary focus would yield rich pickings: “The cottage on the right is where Enid Blyton lived and worked for thirty-six years, and, it’s rumoured, indulged in ginger beer-fuelled orgies with Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the village constable”. You could signpost locations used in fiction: “In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck, Tom and Nigg … err, Slave Jim come ashore at this very spot.”

Hurdles? Just how the hell would you research, edit and record all those millions of facts, those billions of words? I dunno, it’s not my problem. But it sure would create a lot of work for voice-over artists. Speaking of which, you could of course select from a range of voices. Or the machine could subtly change accents as you moved, so as to fit in with the local intonation of the area you’re passing through. Perhaps celebrities could be enlisted to give commentaries on their old home towns, so you might be guided about Edinburgh by Sean Connery. Though Billy Connolly’s lowdown on Glasgow might be more problematic, lasting, as it would, for twenty-six hours and refusing to switch off – “ES JUS FOOKUN GREEEEEET!!!”

So there you have it, History on Wheels (“HOW”, don’t forget). Get to work, pitch it, develop it and make a shitload of dough! (Just don’t forget to give me a cut).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Bible in an Hour

Shakespeare’s been abridged and had all his 37 plays telescoped into one breakneck production, so why not pull out the big guns and do the Bible? I mean, it’s a best-seller and has a huge audience with a limited attention span.

Not counting the Apocrypha, there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, giving a total of 66 (spooky). This means in an hour-long show you’ve got roughly 1 minute to perform each book (any leftover time could be lavished on Revelation for a nice big bang of a close).
Forget Ben Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told. Keep it simple and make it a one-man show, with snappy costume changes to denote some of the major players, like Pharaoh, Pilate and a couple of the Maries. Use slides, props and models, like a light-up globe of the world for Genesis, a desert diorama for Exodus, a bathtub with shower for Noah and a K-Mart nativity scene for J.C’s birth. For the Revelation finale you’ll want a smoke machine and slide of Sarah Palin as the Whore of Babylon. (Judas, of course, is Bob Dylan).

Get Nokia on board as a sponsor and then Paul can preach all his epistles to the apostles via a simple group text: “Hey guys, I’m gay! p.s. love one another, coz Jesus is way cool! XX”. The crucifixion would have to be tasteful so as not to offend delicate sensibilities. Maybe McDonalds could also be a sponsor and instead of a cross the actor could hammer himself to a pair of glowing Golden Arches (of course, as ever, the last nail would be problematic).

Inevitably, the integrity of the Bible might be somewhat compromised. For instance, I think there is something like 42 generations from Moses to Jesus and their lineage is all meticulously listed. So all that essential “Zebulun-begat-Gad, Naphtali-begat-Simeon” stuff would obviously have to be trimmed into, say, a 10 second Begat-the-Begat scat.

But on the bright side the Bible’s chockers with comedy gold. Somewhere in there there’s the story of a she-bear that attacks and kills several dozen people, which makes you wonder what the hell all those dozens of other people were doing while the she-bear was busy chewing on their buddy’s skull – not running like hell, but patiently queuing up till the she-bear can get around to them for dessert? (And have she-bears ever been native to the Middle East?)

It’s not all smooth sailing. One bummer is that in order to write the show you have to read the whole Bible and then carry out the severest edit on it since John the Baptist parted ways with his head. But with a little elbow grease you’re onto a winner. Publicity shouldn’t be a problem as Christians who aren’t watching the show will be picketing it, and I’m sure some deliciously illiterate death-threats will be forthcoming, particularly when your tour swings through Alabama.

Once The Bible in an Hour is a bona fide hit you can expand the franchise by adapting other seminal religious works for the stage. Though the Koran may be problematic.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Here's an Idea!

Over the hols my sister suggested that I start a blog. Why not? Nothing much else is happening on the creative fiction front. Why not join the rest of the planet in airing my dirty laundry in public (assuming there is, or ever will be, a public to sift through the soiled garments of my mind). So my buddy Benito set up this blog for me. Seconds later I hit the wall. What the hell do I write about? I mean I’m full of ideas, bursting with ‘em – one-liners, puns, poems, outlines for novels and plays, concepts for films, short stories, radio shows, character names, band names, business names, song titles, gadgets … . I don’t invite these ideas, they just come knocking, and then insist on being put them down in my Ideas File (96 pages and counting). But that’s as far as the ideas ever go. They remain ideas. I couldn’t be arsed developing all these wonderful ideas into anything more substantial.

One idea I’ve kicked around till it’s black and blue is to turn my Ideas File into a book, a Book of Ideas. But that would take work – discipline, dedication, ambition, energy, time, sacrifice … (just add nauseum). And all that stuff would eat deeply into my leisure hours which I’ve been jealously nurturing for a number of years now. But for what it’s worth, the idea for my Book of Ideas is that people would buy the book and if there’s an idea in the book that they like and want to develop then they’re free to do so, on the condition that if the idea they develop – book, script, play etc. – blossoms into some megahit of the magnitude of Harry Potter – or even the minitude of a new Matthew Newton show – then they pay me a royalty. Now I realise that this idea is fraught with problems. How do I collect royalties from realised ideas from my Book of Ideas? I suppose I’d have to somehow patent every single idea and then any interested parties could negotiate with me, which would prove to be prohibitively ridiculous. In any case the point is moot as the Book of Ideas will never get off the ground, let alone off my p.c.

But now another idea is fermenting: rather than let all these fine ideas just moulder in my mind, maybe I should publish them on my blog. Yes! That’s the plan. At least for now. Like an intellectual garage sale I’ll lay out all my ideas and concepts – old, new, borrowed, blue - and see if anyone wants to have a rummage. If at the end of a short trial period – say, three years – I have more followers than just my sister (she promised) I might be encouraged to continue. Who knows, I might even strike a fat publishing deal and my Blog of Ideas will become a Book of Ideas and rocket to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Then again, people may think my ideas are a) crap b) plagiarised c) plagiarised crap.

Speaking of which, one of the ideas in my Ideas File is for a how-to handbook for criminals. It’s a short entry that I put down about five years ago and reads like this: “A How To book for criminals – how to shoplift, murder, mug, burgle etc.” Okay. I’m not claiming it’s genius, but it’s an idea none the less and ideas are about all I have. I’ve just been reading Steve Toltz’s book “A Fraction of the Whole”, published about two years ago, and its plot features … guess what? Yep, the publishing of a how-to handbook book for criminals. Now, I’m not suggesting Steve Toltz ripped me off. I don’t know Steve Toltz and as far as I know I’ve never met Steve Toltz (then again I do drink a bit). I’ve never published the idea or spoken about it from stage, so unless Steve Toltz is some kind of psychic burglar (now there’s an idea!) then it’s just purely co-incidental that this idea of mine happens to feature in Steve Toltz’s fine novel. Ideas ripen and fall off the vine and if you don’t want them then some smart, industrious bastard will come along and scoop them up before they rot. So I might as well try and find a nice loving home for my malnourished intellectual property (Lost Intellectual Property Office, anyone?).

But I’m not precious. If by chance there’s an idea that you like, you’re welcome to it. That’s right! Take it and develop it, flesh it out into something fat and substantial, and if it’s a hit all I ask is a small credit in the titles and a modest reality cheque of, say, five percent. I suspect this, my first entry, my mission statement, is longer than your average blog, if not smarter. If you’ve got this far congratulations. As I say this is an experiment and I may alternate the ideas with the odd poem, satirical snippet or scathing piece of social commentary.

Okay, so here’s my first idea. (And please, don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before):

Idea for an illustrated children’s book: “The Boy Who Cried Shark!”

You get the picture, an Ozzified update on a classic. Simple but effective, and there shouldn’t be any copyright issues as I’m sure The Boy Who Cried Wolf has been in the public domain for centuries.

The setting is a packed beach on a boiling day with a mischievous brat – shall we call him Gavin Meany? – who scrambles hundreds of swimmers from the surf with the cry of “Shark!” Confusion, panic, sirens, p.a. announcements, screaming kids, old folks having heart attacks, lifeguards in a frenzy, assisting people and launching boats. But there’s no shark to be seen. The lifeguards quiz the kid who swears he saw one.

Next day, with normality restored at the beach, same deal. The kid hollers “shark!” and hundreds of swimmers come boiling from the water. The third time it happens the lifeguards click that young Gavin is pulling their leg, so they decide to pull his. They construct a massive fake shark fin propelled by a diver – let’s borrow the one from Jaws – sneak up behind Gavin in the water and scare the shit out him – literally! (I suppose they scare the shit out of everyone else as well?). With young Gavin screaming and thrashing they reveal the fraud of the fake fin and give the boy a stern dressing down. Having learned his lesson a snivelling Gavin and the lifeguards are about to head back to shore when someone cries “shark!”

They turn around to see a humungous fin slicing through the water straight towards them, but this one’s real! … How to end? On a closeup of their horrified faces? With the shark being repelled by the smell of Gavin’s poo? With the real shark trying to hump the diver with the fake shark fin? (err, perhaps not for the kids), or very blackly with a bloody massacre? … The thing writes itself. Get a good illustrator on board and Bob’s your uncle!