Sunday, 27 April 2008

Law & Order: DUI

Recently I was sent a little note about a crime-writing competition, and accompanying it, a useful pamphlet with crime-writing tips.

One stuck out to me: Don't take 'crime' too literally; most crime fiction involves murder. Fraud and espionage rarely makes for a good crime novel

Well, there went all my fantastic ideas, just like that, but I just don't see why people are so bloody (excuse the pun) narrow-minded. I can assure you that every crime has its thrills and spills, and if you think you can just get your jollies out of murders, then you're missing out on a whole buffet of potential ecstasy the crime world has to offer you.

Here was a synopsis I had all planned:

Stacey is a beautiful and misunderstood young lady with a traumatic past. We follow her throughout the story as she divulges more and more about her difficult childhood. She has few friends and has isolated many in her life. The suspense is immense, until one day Stacey is at the mall and decides to rebel against the world that has caged her glorious soul by stealing two erasers.

That one was going to be called "Winona Forever".

Then I sketched out:

The detectives are called to the crime scene. The evidence is scanty, but they are making do with the photographs they have. They have no eyewitnesses - at least there are none who'll make a statement - and the man who owns the nearby pub is tightlipped. But Special Agent Shamrock Combes will figure it out in the end - he always does - which bastard really was the owner of the sedan that was driving 10km over the limit past the camera, and possibly under the influence, given the probabilities? If only the camera had taken a slightly better shot ... (but difficulties like this never faze Shamrock)!

Friday, 18 April 2008

If we're man's best friend, why do you still call us bitches?

The heading is my answer to the question "What would dogs say if they could talk?", but I'm sure plenty of people out there have their own idea about that.

The question was spun out by HarperCollins, and winning answers won a Selby pack - mine got me a pack, but I really thought it wouldn't, because Selby is a children's series and I thought the bitches bit might exclude me. Seems not.

A Selby pack was a copy of Duncan Ball's Selby Santa, a dog plush toy and a Selby cap. It's childish, but then Selby's a favourite of mine. I got the first Selby book when I was a kid (even then it was a simple read for me) and the series is still going strong. And I must admit that I catch up on Selby's adventures every now and then when I'm in bookstores!

For those who haven't had the joy of Selby in your life, the premise is this:

Selby is a normal dog, who lives with his owners, Dr Trifle, a somewhat eccentric inventor/scientist, and his wife Mrs Trifle, Mayor of Bogusville. Then one day Selby realises he understands human language. He decides to teach himself to speak it. After acquiring language skills, he thinks it'll be a great idea to reveal his secret to his owners as a Christmas present.

He's just about to do it, when he overhears a conversation that makes him realise that if the Trifles (lovely people though they are) knew that he were an intelligent, conversant dog, he'd lose his laidback, leisurely life. He'd be running errands, answering phonecalls, and in general being a slave.

He's best off keeping his secret a secret and using it to his advantage when he can, but keeping his old life where he can laze about the house and be the adored and looked after pet with no responsibilities.

Of course, this isn't easy, because Selby's ability to understand language makes him a sensitive, feeling, understanding, intelligent dog with curiosity, ambition, worries ... and the ability to get himself into a lot of trouble, all the while trying not to give his secret away while trying to use his skills to his advantage when he can.

There must be something like 30 Selby books out there now.

I find Selby fun - maybe also because in the whole thing, he's incautious, and just a bit up-himself! Just as many kids like their books - the adults around him are kind of gormless, even if one's a scientist and one's the Mayor, and Selby the talking dog is far wittier than them - and knows it - and doesn't try to hide it.

In Selby's Secret, Selby kisses himself in the mirror, saying "Oh you perfect pooch! You're my kind of dog."

He's my kind of dog, too!

Two More Lessons, 10 Minutes Better!

Driving Update:

I have now had 2 more driving lessons in the last week, and my driving instructor's comment is that I am still a danger on the road, but I improved in the last 10 minutes of the second lesson.

Hey, some improvement is better than no improvement!

Apparently there is a big difficulty in the fact that I mix up the accelerator and the brake. That is a problem. Also in that I need to look at the floor to figure out the answer to "Is your foot on the brake?"

Also there is a problem in that I am not 100% sure which is my left hand. I have tried to explain that there is so much more to concentrate on than really piddling things like left hand, right hand, I mean, gosh! There's things like traffic and road signs and mirrors and stuff - pick 1 thing for me to concentrate on man!

My driving instructor also repeatedly asks me "Why do you not brake when we get to a T-intersection! I don't understand! We will go over the edge!"

I can't explain it's because I know he has the emergency brake, because he doesn't react nicely to that.

In lesson 1, we drove around, I made lots of mistakes, but I didn't die.

"You know what the problem is? You are too tense! you grip the wheel too hard and you are too worried about everything!" he said.

So in the next lesson, I was determined to not be tense. I relaxed completely. Serene. I settled back.

I refused to worry. Even when the car was speeding down the hill and we almost crashed into the back of the car and my driving instructor asked "Why didn't you brake? I had to brake for you?" I sat, laid back, with a satisfied, serene smile on my face. Nothing would break my mood! Nothing would make me tense today!

We drove in the middle of the road and swrved to the side and almost road up the kerb. But nothing would make me nervous today! Not even rocketeering down a hill or being yelled at for speeding over a speed hump!

Next lesson: 11 days' time

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Crap Service for Crap Signage - at Coles

I have had a hang up about the incorrect use of the words "less" and "fewer" - most people use "less" instead of "fewer" rather than the other way round, which urged me to write this ode to Coles last year.

But the "12 Items or Less Service Lane" actually does grammatically make sense.

It's just that you never seem to get to get to choose.

Even if you take 12 items, you still get crappy service, it's just as crappy, not any better, than when you take 11 or 9 items through. So you aren't really choosing between 12 items, or less service. They should take the freaking sign down.

Has the Pope got this the right way round?

News from The Daily Tele, April 17:

WASHINGTON: Pope Benedict XVI yesterday told how he was "deeply ashamed" of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that stained the US Catholic Church and pledged to work to make sure paedophiles do not become priests.

Well, it's a step in the right direction, sure, but I'd feel it were a better step if the Pope were making sure priests weren't becoming paedophiles ...

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

How would we dispose of the Queen?

I've just been reading a book called The Queen and I. I've done everything a bit topsy turvy because late last year I read Queen Camilla by the same author, Sue Townsend, and I've just realised you're supposed to read them in the other order. Still, I understood Queen Camilla at the time. However, I recommend reading them the other way round. And if you're into Royal Irreverence, I recommend them fullstop.

Anyhow, I'm not a monarchist, but the book did make me feel sorry for Queen Elizabeth when she got ousted. The start of the novel is when the Queen gets kicked out of her Queenship and Britain starts as a Republic.

The Royal Family is exiled into a slummy area, and they exist on payouts and stuff. Phillip goes nutters, the Princes talk in street slang, Anne starts flirting with commoners, and Charles gets thrown in gaol for assault. And Princess Di is bugger all use at assisting him from the outside.

You've got to feel sorry for the Queen and all, trying to feed her dog, make a broth, deliver a neighbour's baby and get poor useless Phillip out of bed, while still trying to visit the Queen Mother who is in a time warp. Oh, and trying to cope with the fact that her son's in gaol.

It did make me think a bit about how we keep going on about how we should just get rid of the monarchy, but get rid of them .... HOW? We never really talk about that. WHat should we do, chuck them in the river and drown them?

When we get rid of a politician, we give them a hefty pension, in thanks for services rendered. Lots of politicians take time to get another job after politics. Some don't get one at all.

But what about the Royal Family?

After all, while we may think it's a bt annoying they've been living off us for years, it's probably cruel to throw them into the streets when they've grown up with skills like polo and curtseying, and this isn't entirely their fault. In fact, it's a lot our fault - our fault as a society, not individuals, so it's our duty to set them up so we don't have little Prince Phillip hobos with cardboard signs round their necks saying "donate 5c for a bit of high tea and scones and jams and cream, please"

We could possibly pension The Queen off completely by selling some of those nice jewels in her Crown, and maybe give her a complimentary life membership to a bowls club and let her keep her dogs. A nanny flat out the back of Charlie's place and she'd be all set.

Charles has all his gardening skills at his fingertips; what he doesn't have is the practical skills to make a go of it. Perhaps a gardener's apprenticeship, or a course in setting up his own small business, charged to the state.

We could also think about complimentary surgery for his ears.

Camilla could just do with a new wardrobe, and she and Princess Anne could probably get together and put their love of horses to some profitable use. I think both are past the jockey stage - Camilla especially - but surely grooming, training and breeding aren't out of the question. Or maybe they could just dress up as horses and amuse kids at birthday parties. The possibilities are endless.

And as for the Princes, Prince Harry probably just needs someone to keep him from becoming another Corey Worthington and throwing an Internet drug fuelled party. That would be enough for now.

0.3% difference of PC

According to Piers Akerman's article, the 0.3% of extra women at the 2020 Rudd summit, or "gabfest" should make each woman their question her own merit as a speaker.

Bernald Salt, a KPMG summiteer, noted that women make up only 50.3% of the population, but the summit had 50.6% female delegates. He ranted then that the summit was preoccupied with political correctness, and that the percentage was carefully engineered.

"If I was a woman at the summit, I would now wonder whether I was selected on merit or whether I was selected on gender."

Now, certainly the figures look very engineered, but come on - out by 0.3%!

Let's look at some other places where people are suppose to represent the public - say Parliament. I think we've overdosed on the testosterone there, and there's a good more than 49.7% reps in Parliament. But do male MPs walk around questioning whether they were voted ini on political correctness or merit. Not bloody likely. In fact, I don't think we've heard a peep about it in the papers, that male MPs should question their validity as Parliamentarians because there are too any males and they were just put in there because of political correctness but someone overdid the numbers.

How about board meetings, with a stronghold of men, or the High Court - still with more males than females?

It says more about the sexism boundaries in this country that Bernald Salt would bring into question a woman's merit merely over the fact there are a few more delegates at a summit than males when we do not question the merit of men (and I wonder if Mr Salt does) when there are more men than women in decision making or representative groups.

Note: I found this interesting piece on KPMG (Bernald Salt's company). The US branch announced the partners it admitted very proudly on its website, and seemed to put an emphasis on how it welcomed women and ethnic minorities:

"The new partners come from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, with more than one third of the new class comprised of women and ethnic minorities."

Gee, 1/3 which are from women and ethnic minorities. Which means, I assume, 2/3 are male and in the ethnic majority. But should we question the merit of that 2/3 ... after all ...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

How to sell yourself, when there's nothing much to sell

I've been idling away at job applications recently. I really don't know what to write, so many attempts go something like this:

Dear Employer-Hopefully-To-Be,

I am writing to apply for the position of Personal Injury Lawyer. My interests are in paper craft and my responsibilities at the moment include making coffee. Consequently I can relate to paper cuts and burns.



This attempt sounded really lame, so I decided to try to big myself up a little for the big law firms. Unfortunately they all seem to want copies of academic transcripts, something I hate being scrutinised. Who needs to know how I did in that elective, or that I took Post-Communist Law for an elective, or that I tried Time-Travel as an Arts subject?

Dear Very Big Impressive Law Firm,

I feel that I am most suited to your firm as my favourite colour is blue and your logo is also in blue. This could not be just a coincidence.

You have requested my academic transcript. Unfortunately a small terrier of my next door neighbour gobbled it up recently. I am sending a photograph of the terrier in lieu of the transcript.

Yours Sincerely,


I have tried to vary this a bit by changing the breed of dog, and sometimes going for a wallaby or hamster instead.

I got bored recently and threw off this attempt, but haven't sent it yet:

Dear Big Bone-crushing Law Firm,

I feel I would fit into your corporate culture as I am also an over confident paper-pusher and pathological liar.

Here is a copy of my academic transcript, doctored especially to impress you.

Yours Sincerely,


Review: The Birds

OK, here's anothertime where I swoop in for a peck at a disappointing book-to-film.

I had read Daphne Du Maurier's short story The Birds, but it wasn't devotion to that which mde this film so disappointing. I wasn't exactly expecting it to be the same, as the short story - chilling as it was - wasn't what I thought could be made into a feature length film. However, I did expect better from Hitchcock the LEGEND.

I wasn't so disappointed in the not so fab effects, of course it's an older film (1963) and the fact that it's oh so obvious that the heroine is driving a stationary car against an indoor scenery when it's meant to be a fine sunny day outside, and the blood and wounds are fake as (the birds peck faces, they scream, drop almost dead there's fake blood, but the blood is washed off and there's not so much the sight of a gash) was to be expected. Nor that the accents were unbearably plummy. Or that the little girl was an unbearably tryhard child actress, labouring every line.

Trouble is, the film just isn't suspenseful enough. That's really it. There's some scenes with hope - for instance, the birds in the attic, or gathering on the play equipment, but there's too much levity in between, you just don't realistically feel that the birds have got into everyone's heads. I wanted them freaked out more.

I would have liked Hitchy to have built up more on the idea of the birds getting to people so much, they witchhunted his girlfriend and they went mad, and that they drove his mother REALLY loopy. That kind of psychological terror could really have been explored further, with the birds just wearing people down more and more.

It would have been different from Daphne's idea, but I think, would've worked better than what was presented.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

I'm a bus!

This is a true story:

Recently, someone, a close relative, called M, was caught by the police and fined.

"It's not quite right," said M. "I'm a good driver, people like me shouldn't get fined! (or lose points!)"

It's a sad tale, M was on the road and a naughty person in front of her was pretending to be broken down, or so it seemed, and pretending to be one of those horrid annoying people who acts broken down to hold up traffic. M was sick of being stuck behind the poser.

And you know what you do when you see one of those people - you OVERTAKE them!

At all costs - it's the rule!

So M ducked into the nearby bus lane, fully intending only to be there for a couple of seconds, just enough to get around the posing pretend-to-be-a-broken-downer.

Shock horror!

Suddenly M found she was in a bus lane - and the poser was not a poser, but just someone stuck in a traffic jam, and there wasn't anyway M could get back into the normal lane. She was stuck in the bus lane!

It was all the POSER'S fault!

Unfortunately a police officer came by then and said "M, you're in a bus lane - TICKET!"

and M spluttered "If it weren't for the poser, this wouldn't have happened, it's her, not me!"

Too bad.

Later on, M went home with her fine, and consulted me on several possible ways to clear her otherwise perfect driving record.

The only excuse I could think of was:

"Officer, I have chronic multiple personality personality disorder, at the time I thought I was a bus"

Any other offers?

Kids - Who Needs 'Em?

Just about ... well ten letters to the Editor I read this morning were about how we desperately needed more babies in Australia because we have this huge aging population.

To me, the argument that we should rapidly give birth because people are living longer and we have this bulk of old people we can't support is a bit like Pauline Hanson's intellectual response to the economic problem "print more money".

Why the desperation? Everywhere I go, I see kids. It's not like we are in some country where kids are all dying off or we've become infertile, suddenly. It's just that we've got a lot of oldies too, sitting on our cash. But unfortunately kids, a lot of them, become oldies too one day, and this mass of babies we produce is going to become a whole mass of oldies some next generation can't figure out what to do with, and then the next generation will probably start hysterically procreating all over again - and putting a strain on diminishing natural resources. Yeah, we're really solving a problem.

Several obvious solutions pop into mind:

1. Mandatory Euthanasia for oldies, once they reach a certain age, to keep strain on population down
2. We put our energy not into babies but into adult clones or robots that can actually work right away, not into little babies who sit around bawling for food and toys for the first 5 years of their life.
3. We have fewer babies, and do it tough for the next several decades, while the aging population dies off naturally. People will have to go without luxuries or a few generations, but then the population will have got down to a number that's easier to handle for the natural environment. Then we start trying to concentrate on maximising brain power and multitasking, and using tools, rather than think about each human = certain amount of work, so if I want more produce, I need another baby.

Certainly, the robots idea appeals to me. Why do we think of producing babies of all things, as the solution to the oldies problem?

We have an economic burden, and people's first reaction is to want to create more of the same kind of creature - beings that wet the bed, need help getting dressed, can't go to work, have trouble reading, often are lacking in the hair and tooth department and are mainly good for getting posed next to during an election campaign if you are a politician? The only thing that babies do that oldies don't is shut up about the war.

We need a serious rethink over our Baby Bonus policy.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Review: Hating Alison Ashley

OK, I saw Hating Alison Ashley (the movie) on TV last Friday and I've been busting to write a review, while at the same time knowing I ought to hold back because there was just way too much venom.

Firstly, I should add a disclaimer - I didn't watch the whole movie - i saw up to the bit where Barry Hollis and Erica are caught by the phone at night at school camp. Fans of the book should also know aht I'm referring to. They will also be disappointed to know it's not nearly as funny as the book.

"Not nearly as funny as the book" could have been the tagline for this movie.

Hating Alison Ashley, the popular book by Robin Klein, was a success because of its beautifully drawn characters - but most of all its humour. Getting inside Erica Yurken's head was marvellously done, on paper. And the stage play doesn't do a bad job either, which means that it's not as if this book could not be translated by actors and still retain its liveliness, humour, and cleverness.

The storyline is like this:

Erica (Erk/Yuk) lives in the culturally disadvantaged area of Barringa East. While there are losers and delinquents all through tthe area, she believes she's destined for better things - a glittering career on the stage. She thinks she's naturally above all the riff-raff in her suburb.

Then one day, due to rezoning, Alison Ashley turns up at her school. Alison lives in the picture perfect suburb outside Barringa East, and is quiet, well-behaved, good-looking, healthy, rich, and intelligent. Suddenly Erk realises that she has competition. She teeters between hating Alsion and wanting to be like her.

The action culminates at school camp, and the school play is where Erk decides to show off her acting skills and put down Alison once and for all.

I found Erk's mother, and possibly Erk's older sister Valjoy, about the best drawn characters in the whole movie. The common, cheap, gaudy but loving Aussie mother came across nicely, and the gothic, nightclubbing older sister worked well.

Erica and Miss Belmont, her teacher, I felt were played competently by Saskia Burmeister and Jean Kittson - however they grated, possibly because they were far more comical and poignant in the book, as main characters - but this I felt had more to do with a lousy script than the actors themselves.

Delta Goodrem ... WHY cast Delta as Alison, except for the desire to preserve her goody goody image and get her a screen role?

It looked all wrong. Firstly, Klein's book was written set in 6th grade, the movie moved it to 9th grade (a mistake, I felt, because it lost some of the childish liveliness and innocence behind jokes and attempted to go for innuendo and sex). However, even so, Delta looks like a 20 year old in the movie, not a 9th grader. Her attemps at playing Alison a the goody goody made her look more like one of those girls in an American High School playing a role about sexual revelation.

Yes, I know sometimes in movies they choose much older people to play High School students, but then they usually get all the actors to look similar. Delta stood out like a sore thumb as the oldie.

Then, there was too much narrative used. If the movie was better directed and acted, we wouldn't need Erk giving us somewhat annying and meaningless narrative explaining things to us - and what narrative she gave us wasn't particularly well scripted so it slid in cleverly or provided good background. It stuck out like a sore thumb "I'm telling you this because I think you can't see it on screen"

There were some clever screen techniques used, but not enough for them to become a winning feature on the film. For instance, Scrubs-like dream sequences where Erk imagines the world in a more "dramatic" way could have made the movie funny. This was done about twice or three times that I saw - fairly well, but didn't become enough of a feature to be really funny.

Craig McLachlan tried to be funny. Enough said.

I thought Lennie was too tryhard rather than just likable.

Some of the best sequences showing rivalry were cut - for instance, the photo competition, being shown Alison's place, and Erk got way too hysterical far too easily instead of there being the comedy of a built up rivalry, each trying to outdo the other, and then a showdown or a haughty silence.

Yes, you could have a very different experience if you hadn't read the book first - it could just be another fun romp of rather funny characters (I admit that Craig McLachlan pays a dopey teacher, which is just his style) who get mad at each other. Miss Belmont would would probably be very amusing. If you're a Delta fan you might enjoy it, too.

Just don't expect faithfulness in any way to the book, including tone or humour. Which is what I so valued about it in the first place.

And since I know so much of the book by heart, I would get to scenes ... and watch them deviate into stuff I thought was so much less funny.

(Must say Margeart Collins was quite amusingly characterised)

It was so painful I switched off.

Oh yes, That Barry Hollis scene at the phonebooth was clever in the book. I squirmed as they mished it in the movie and made it look like Barry might ... even ... kiss Erk?


Sunday, 6 April 2008

Driving - Easy as ABC!

I had my first driving lesson with a professional driving instructor recently. He's a professional driving instructor, so I can't show a blog picture of his face. However, I will hint at the driving school I used in my blog post name.

I decided it would be a good idea to get a driving lesson in while there was still some light, and as I have a job now (gosh, I can't help but repeat that over, even if it's a junior, pay-little job) I'm kind of constrained as to when I can have lessons. I decided to go for one before daylight saving ended, so I managed to sueeze one in last week even though the guy had a very full schedule.

This was one where I actually managed to drive on some roads rather than just in a parking lot.

Firstly, the instructor talked to me about the car and the seats and mirrors, and how I should be comfortable. He also explained where the brake and accelerator were and how to use them.

However, despite this, I kept getting them mixed up later on.

I don't think it's a great idea that you use your right foot for both brake and accelerator. It's very confusing. I kept braking when I ought to have been accelerating. After all, it's all the same foot, isn't it?

Also, who got the idea to have the indicators where they are? I never learnt that properly, I always assumed the right indicator would be on the right hand side and the left indicator on the left hand side - makes sense to me! Naturally this meant I was wiping my windscreen to indicate I was turning left a lot.

I also don't know why people actually try to cross the road when there is a Learner about. Don't people value their life at all; don't they realise I'm a temperamantal fool who's likely to miscalculate and mow them down without notice, with a passing "Whoops!"

I managed to stay out of trouble for most of my lesson, mainly due to an excellent instructor grabbing hold of the wheel every time I felt an urge to drive in front of buses.

I have another lesson coming up in a little over a week's time - I think he just needed some time to see a psychiatrist.

P.S. He did assure me I'm not the worst driver he's taught yet. How sweet!