Monday, October 31, 2011

Stevie Wonder does Superstition on Sesame Street, 1972 or 1973

Someone else has commented on youTube that they blog this song every Halloween. Not a bad tradition - I might do that myself. This amazing rendition starts slow and builds like crazy. One particular kid is really digging it. The band are great looking - could they have found three whiter white guys?

Richard works blue

About twelve or so years ago at work we put together a CD-ROM called The Tragedy and Myth of the Tasmanian Tiger. We have boxes and boxes left over still. They don't work on Macs any more, but still spin up OK on PC (sing out if you would like one).

I donated some to the school a few years ago. I just looked at the intro clip for the first time this century (it has a skip button and I always skip it). I put together most of the contents, but we hired a young auteur to create the opening clip. It utilises sound grabs from the interviews and readings elsewhere on the disk.

I have just realised that about 20 seconds into the intro, Richard Flanagan, who is reading from his book The Sound of One Hand Clapping, says with gusto "it's a fuckin' Tassie tiger!"

So. I recall now that when I followed up and asked if the disks were any use, Marcus's teacher was non-committal.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


This weekend we have doubled down - four kids and two black labradors. And if our demands aren't met, we’ll do it again until we've got ALL the kids and ALL the black labradors. Then we'll ... er.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chinese acrobats and "comedian clowns"

[This is a review of a show we went to nearly a week ago. It is a bad idea to try to write something that much later - it will be at best impressionistic.]

Last Thursday it hit 34°. By Sunday night it was down to 4° again. I am just glad I am not a tourist - at least I have a whole wardrobe full of clothes for all seasons. As it happened Thursday was the day we went to see a free concert by a visiting troupe from subtropical Fujian province, China, which has been twinned with Tasmania since the 1950s! I did not know this.

By the time we arrived at the concert hall it was about 90% full. Marcus and I sat in the very back row, at a ridiculous altitude above the stage. Elf couldn't bring herself to keep climbing that far so she and Michael were a few rows below us. People everywhere were trying to save seats. One lady was trying to save an entire row. Two groups of people eventually double-teamed her, and the forces of good manners prevailed.

That chubby young lass who is our Premier did a good job with her speech, getting out some authentically Chinese sounds when she had to say the names of visiting dignitaries. When the Trade Envoy or whatever replied he was interpreted by an interpreter. Who popped up again later.

The acrobats were all terrific, a lot of thrilling diving and leaping and so on. There was a lot of male harem pants. The juggling and plate-spinning (there was a lot of plate-spinning) was all fairly incredible. The rest of the program was a bit patchy, and it went on and on and on. The puppets were too far away. Chinese pop and bel canto singing was just not my cup of tea.

The magician's segment was called Mystical Smile-Magic. The now-disembodied interpreter asked for volunteers, then tried to get them (young kids) to do the right things with a hanky by booming at them distantly. “Fold it in half. No - from the corner. Move forward. Not there. Forward. Fold it”. It was excruciating. As was the “comedian clown”. The program called this segment funny and relaxing. It didn't really manage either. But to be honest the acrobats were so good, they made up for all the other stuff.

The program went on so long, that by the end the many parents in the audience were straining to get their kids home to bed. We then had the unusual phenomenon of a standing ovation combined with a mass exodus. People (including us) were clapping their hands raw while simultaneously streaming to the exits.

Japan six months+ after the tsunami

There is a quite inspiring set of images going round, showing photos of many locations taken a) just after, b) six weeks after, and c) six months after the tsunami. I found it here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Richmond get my goat, even in October

Richmond FC have been bleating in the media about their new logo, and asking for comment whether we like it or not. Despite being a professional graphic designer I have no opinion on the new logo. I think if you are a football team that has only made the finals twice since 1982, you should forget about logo redesigns until you STRING SOME BLOODY WINS TOGETHER.

When you finish a season with more wins than losses, I might be slightly more interested in your corporate makeover.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assorted mammals, on the flop

More fine tubesmanship

A classic cardboard tube skirmish begins with the ritual statement "I respect you, and I will not hurt you". Then combatants "bap" each other with tubes for some minutes. it ends with a handshake.

Get out of my way, relaxed people

I am not a very relaxed person. But I did meet some very relaxed people on the road this morning - they strolled in front of my car. It was a quiet street, with a park on one side. Little Athletics was just winding down. A boy stepped onto the road without looking, with his mum behind him.  It wasn't very dramatic, I was probably only going about 15kmh when they stepped out. As I braked I thought "she'll look, and either pull him back or hurry him across".

She looked, saw me, and they continued sauntering, down the road across my path. Not even directly across the road, more sort of diagonally in the direction of their car, which was shorter and more convenient for them. As I swerved around them at about walking pace, I locked eyes with the lady and looked for some sort of awareness. No - she was really pretty relaxed.

Just one of those things. I don't usually let it grind me for this long. It's the kid, his blithe stepping onto the road, that gets me. He has learned this from his mum. How many people have accommodated her all through her life? Swerved around her in one way or another? And this kid has learned to expect the same. It's OK mate - people will swerve around you. Relax.

Whereas my poor kids are loaded down with all these rules about how to behave, look both ways, do unto others, look after your guests, take the one that's closest to you, etc etc. Like I was. I am concerned with doing the right thing - and I am teaching my kids to be the same. I am responsible for them, and I am teaching them to be responsible too. It's a burden I am handing on to them.

It's hard not to be envious of the relaxed ones who just don't worry, and their lucky carefree kids who don't worry either.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Royal Hobart Show 2011

It was time to return to the Show after 2 years away. After all, we get the day off for a reason. And that reason is: diving pigs. And the also very handsome non-diving pigs, goats, cattle and sheep.

It was a stinking hot day yesterday, and today promised to be almost as bad. We planned to get to the showgrounds early but failed. My workmate who is a member of the Agricultural Society gave us his free entry and free parking tickets. This was a fantastic bonus - saved us nearly fifty bucks. But we did waste time driving all over looking for the members' parking area, which we never found.

Meet you at the sign o' the smoking gun-totin' cowboy puppy
Having saved the entry fee, I was determined to embrace the spirit of the show, and not carp about the cost of things. The boys went into their first of two giant bouncy castles. They loved it, and I loved seeing them in there sticking together among the teeming bouncing dozens of kids. There was a slide and they went down with their arms around each other several times.

I have to have a dagwood dog at the show, so that was next. They came without sauce - which is an outrage. There were squirt bottles there, with a choice of tomato, bbq, mayo etc, but everyone knows that a dagwood has to be dipped head-first in about 100 fl oz of sauce. You just cannot get enough on it with a squirt bottle. While we ate the dagwoods, we watched knights in armour from the Society for Creative Anachronism, bash each other with swords.

The combat went on for a surprisingly long time. Knight 1 would defeat Knight 2, then they would have a rest while Knight 3 defeated Knight 4. Sort and repeat. They were all pretty beefy men and I admired their persistence. They wound up with a sort of tag team all-in, then turned to us and bowed. Crazy.

We just had time for an ice cream before the Racing and Diving Pigs. A grizzled old country-music-star-looking showman has been touring the land with his pigs for 20 years. He was announced as “The voice of pig racing...” The boys were up the front and probably saw it all, but I saw no pork until the diving pigs came on at the end. They trot down a kind of gangplank that suddenly ends above a little swimming pool. It's pretty steep and there is no going back. They pause and try to retreat, fail, and then it looks like its just going to be an undignified flailing plunge. But it's not! Pig thrusts out front legs in internationally recognised "dive" pose, and dives into the pool. Impressive.

It was Farm Mammal time. We started with the dairy cows - holy hell, there were some whoppers. I love the country kids who are up in town for the week, and occupying a camp in a stall with a cow/pig/anglo-nubian goat. A couple of littlies sitting on chairs had rigged a rubber spider on a thread, dangling from a rafter. As punters walked past the kids would release the thread and spider them up a bit. Occasional screams. Old fashioned laffs. We covered all the standard farm animals. Pigs - sometimes look a bit too human. I am not saying they should be made to wear pants - but some of those pigs should have gone to the toilet before they left home. That's all I'm saying.

We went on the boys’ first serious ride, the Gee Whizzer. Because of having kids, neither Elf or I have been on one in decades. Elf went with Marcus then I went with Michael, taking it in turns to mind the growing pile of stuff. The Gee Whizzer was more violent than it looked, but Michael loved it, and I loved it too, in a fun plane-crashy kind of way.

It was crowded and very hot in the showbag pavilion. We had made a recon earlier in the day, but I was dismayed to realise that no-one had actually made up their mind yet what they wanted. After some false starts, we plumped for the Skittles (Michael, $7) and the Original Idiot Bag (Marcus, $20). The latter included a skateboard. Yes, an actual skateboard.

This morning Michael had been ungracious about having to leave the house for a day at the Show. In an attempt to jolly him along, I mentioned some of the things he had loved last time, when he was 4 years old. These included the very sedate boat roundabout ride. When we got to that ride, he insisted on having a go. He barely fit in the boat, looked ridiculous, and highly bored. The ride went on and on. I said to him afterwards that he is probably the only person that's ever taken that boat ride who can name 12 Egyptian gods.

And that was about it. It was similar in many ways to our last visit to Melbourne Zoo - very hot day, incredible number of tatts on show, and a surprising number of Muslim families with the ladies in full hijab. Of course there were face-pierced bogans, but this is their thing now. It's only marginally about agriculture - its more about face-pierced bogans. They were all on their best behaviour and I have no complaints. If the Show was held in South Hobart it would be a South Hobartly po-faced blend of Circus Arts, Pilates demonstrations and organic pumpkin bread.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Perfect two-frame cartoon by Michael

Sunshine Harvester - final animation

I finished this back in March, and have been meaning to pop it up here. It is part of a touchscreen interactive kiosk, that sits next to a harvester on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The true story of Ernest Shackleton

Marcus' class has been studying polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. Everyone has been urged to create, in various media, work on a Shackletonian theme. Marcus made up an Antarctica board game ("You are in danger of severe frostbite - go back 7 squares to save your extremities"). His mate Avon wrote a one-man play. However when it came time to perform it, he realised he needed a bit of help, so he drafted in Marcus to play several parts.

At one crucial point in the story, Shackleton made the wrenching decision that the ailing sled dogs had to be shot for food. The dogs were played by balloons with faces drawn on. Avon, playing Shackleton, made a moving speech, then dispatched them with a nerf gun.

I was not there, but if I had been I would have been on my feet shouting Author! Author!

Cardboard tubesmanship

Like all boys, ours love a swordfight. They have been involved in a series of skirmishes with the boys next door, with all combatants armed with sticks. I am always worried about eyes being poked and fingers being broken, but so far there have been no serious injuries.
Master and student. Student is permitted to wear flowerpot helmet.
We came into possession of a some long cardboard tubes, and now we are having indoor tube fights between Marcus and Michael. I am much more relaxed about this - a tube end to the face is no joke, but its not going to cost anyone their sight. The best thing about it is that Marcus is coaching Michael, and Michael is lapping it up.

Marcus: "OK, I'm down here, so what have you got?"
Michael: "A sword?"
Marcus: "You have height, you have the advantage of height, right?
Michael: "Ohhhh - cool".
Marcus: "So if I do this, what are you going to do?"  (etc.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some more of my favourite imaginary cars

Drysdale-Fisk Sasquatch 12
Timms Osprey
Hereford Herring 18/80
Tripplehorn Tempest X7X
Mumford Apocalypse
Velasquez Marionette Six
Monk Garrigle Poltergeist
BGH Singh Obstacle Plus
Saxby Semiquaver
Ingham Ostrogoth
Moto Italia Super Elk
Tropicana Tradesman
Congo Weltschmerz Funf
Glastonbury Viper
Wagstaff Gazelle VII
Dear Leader Triumphant Struggle Vanette
Croxton Parallax
Shaolin Pinky
Bagshaw Blunderbuss GLX

Sunday, October 09, 2011


This is our stuffed prehistoric giant squid, Squiddy.

And this is Squiddy, re-imagined by Michael as a guard at Buckingham Palace. Note rifle.

Michael reinvents music


Michael did some interesting genealogy diagrams recently - showing how half each of Elf and I became half of he and Marcus. It was beautiful, although it might not exactly reflect the latest science.


In any case - Michael has now been repurposed this diagram to be a kind of music notation. Like so many creative things he thinks up, this has been co-opted into his parallel world of "Noogets" - this is how Nooget music is written down. Apparently all Nooget music "starts with a quadruple note [chord] and finishes with a unaple note".

Michael adddress Grade 2 on the subject of "seminal emissions"

Michael's class are "doing"  China this term. He has not thrown himself into China unfortunately - because it has never interested him before, he has not read a lot about it. Then because he is not an expert on it, and can't parade his knowledge before the class, he sees no value in it, to his teacher's frustration.

I have been trying to help by nudging him in the direction of Chinese things that he will be interested in, such as archaeology, calligraphy, weapons and wars and so on. I think it is starting to work - every now and then he sees something Chinese-ish, and latches on to it, saying "Ooh - can I take this to school?"

Latest example: my mum's book The Chinese System of Food Cures. I had a flick through it, and was a bit concerned about some of the anatomical details, but thought it was worth the risk to encourage some China Interest. Some of it is a little flaky - Mum has underlined with question marks this suggestion: "Fill a plastic bag with vinegar and tie the bag around the hand overnight to heal greyish nails."

So, of course the part Michael read aloud (related to me yesterday by his teacher) was about the benefits of walnuts, which "lubricate intestines and prevent seminal emissions". It could have been worse - the amount of swollen scrota and anal bleeding in this book beggars belief.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

School fair dominated by apple products

Today was the school fair, and it went very well. We usually take the approach that our job is to attend and spend money, rather than run a stall. Although we usually do end up manning someone else's at some stage, and today it was Imp and Ed's apple stall. Imp is a master networker. She wheedled a donation of dozens of bags of apples, and a huge sack of choc buds. "Value-adding" is one of her favourite terms, and she turned 50¢ apples into $3.00 chocolate-coated apples. We also sold fresh apple juice, 2kg bags of 6 varieties of apple, and individual "swirly-whirly"ed apples - peeled and sliced by an ingenious peeler-slicer - like this thing.

We managed to shift almost everything. When I last saw Imp she had set up a table near the exit and was beseeching people as they left to consider taking home a bag of red delicious. Some likely lads had taken the other remaining bag and had offered to hawk it around the remaining crowd - it was possibly never seen again. But that's OK because we all know - red delicious are actually yucky.

There was a "bevy tent" selling all kinds of refreshments through the day. At one point I was mildly startled to see one of my customers, while buying her daughter a choc apple, had a stubbie of beer in the other hand. The people who run the stall are very nice, and I'm sure it raised a lot of money, but I always feel a bit uncomfortable seeing grog on sale at the school. A tradition has snuck in of "after parties" that start while the tidying up of the first event is still going on. I am bemused at seeing people sitting back with their third or fourth lager while others are carrying out their third or fourth load of furniture.

We saw a lot of people from outside the school, including Steve, Meredith and Finton. We are very proud of the school, so it's delightful to have outsiders come in and see what its all about. Sadly, Steve was targeted by a couple of urchins (I have a fair idea who) that tried the old "lost bus money" sob story on him. He said the giggling was a bit of a giveaway. My suspects live about 100m from the school.

Due to the fair, I have been on a sugar roller coaster all day. I have just been handed a cup of tea and will accompany it with some large chunks of toffee, to finish off the day.

Finton turns 1

The other day we attended another first birthday, this time for our dog-walking buddy Finton. He lives with his parents Steve and Meredith, over the valley from us. (I feel like I have blogged about these people, but I can't find it anywhere in the blog so I will continue). In our early dog-owning days, Winston fell in love with their dog Motchi. They often come by our back gate and take Winston with them for a walk with Motchi and their newly arrived but older dog Cougar. On Saturdays they usually drop in after the walk and Finton gets to bash around some of the boys' old toys.

The party was down in the Cascade Gardens near our house. We were honoured to be asked to be the wet-weather fallback venue. Fortunately that wasn't necessary as it was great day. We did contribute some furniture - we dragged a bunch of folding chairs and a plastic table down to the gardens.There is a spot in the gardens near the barbecues, where silver birches grow on a grassy slope, making a bit of a grove. You just want to run through the trees and swing around them. This is where we had our boys' first few birthdays, and this is where Finton's party was set up. The little fella did very well - its not easy being the center of attention for hours, when you are one.

We did not know anyone there except the birthday boy and his parents, but everyone was very pleasant and we chit-chatted for some hours, while the boys climbed excessively high trees. I sat down with Steve's 70-ish dad who I understand is a bit of an inventor. I got away half an hour later having gathered that he is a climate-change denier, who holds the only good science being done is by the Russians. They have announced that not only is there no human role in the greenhouse effect, in fact the world has stopped warming and is now cooling, so we need to pump as much carbon into the air as we can. I took this on board in as open-minded a way as I could.

One of Steve's work colleagues was there with his family, including his daughter who is in Nobody's Grade 8 class. She was put out because it was too sunny to use her iPad. She had a lot of opinions, and was what I would term 'snippy'. I mentioned to Nobody that I had met her, and he said snippy did not begin to cover it.

After birthday cake we departed, dragging our table and chairs behind us. We found the boys impossibly high in a massive pine tree, with two Chinese men pointing at them and grimacing in amazement.

Monday, October 03, 2011

AFL Grand Final Day entertainment

For now I won't do my usual review of the game. Although it was a corker, the talking point today at work was Meat Loaf's staggeringly poor pre-match "entertainment". I was listening on radio and simply had to turn it off until he was removed from the arena. I have since seen the footage and wish I could erase it from my mind, along with his tuneless gruntings. Never before has someone been paid so much ($500,000+) to look and sound like a beached dugong. However if you would like to see how much a t-shirt cannon can look like a penis, feel free to watch it on YouTube.

The AFL has a solid history of poorly judged, under-performing and simply bizarre pre-match entertainment. It is actually cherished by the football-loving public - we all love to reminisce about Angry Anderson coming on in the Batmobile, the giant inflatable footballer that wouldn't stand up, and so on. But this was just loathsome. He chewed gum right through the performance.

How many of this list do you remember?

For instance in 2005 "The Whitlams performed No Aphrodisiac." Whaaat? It must have taken an hour or so for the vibe to recover from that little dirge-like number.

In 2006 "Brian Mannix, John Paul Young, Sean Kelly, Daryl Braithwaite and Shane Howard performing a medley including Up There Cazaly, One Day in September, Solid Rock, Yesterday's Hero, The Horses, Everybody Wants to Work and I Hear Motion." So - pretty much the moment the mash-up was invented.

Not as terrible but equally lacking in judgement was the national anthem, sung by Vanessa Amorosi. The saying "she made the song her own" is meant to be a compliment - but its not something you are supposed to do with Advance Australia Fair. She was OK until the near the end when she Mariah Caried it to death. This national anthem is now unfit for any further use and will need to be replaced by a new one.


We were talking in the car about common sayings that aren't literally true. I can't remember where the conversation started, but I mentioned "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I have always had a bit of a problem with that one. Michael suggested a rewrite, that is 100% correct in all situations.

"What kills you doesn't make you stronger".