Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tooth and Error.

The following follows on from yesterday's entry, Dilemma. I was five minutes late to the dentist and so didn't even get to sit down and sort through the antique National Geographic magazines before I was ushered into the surgery. When I walked in Dr Doe (I'm embarrassed to say I didn't even get his name) already had his gloves on and was adding instruments to an existing pile of cutters, scrapers, fillers, and piercers. "Hi, take a seat." I did. "So we start root canal treatment today, huh?"

C-DOG: Probably.

Dr DOE: Probably?

C-DOG: I've still got some questions.

Dr DOE: Questions? OK, shoot.

C-DOG: Well, just say I got one of those drill bits lost somewhere in my head, would...

Dr DOE: Yeah?

C-DOG: ...would I have to pay for a replacement?

Dr DOE: [Laughing] No, no you wouldn't. The first few are on the house.

C-DOG: You know, I'd probably buy you a new one anyway - hopefully a better one than the one that broke. I think that's just being polite.

Dr DOE: Right. Thank you.

C-DOG: Another thing is almost everyone I've spoken to who has had root canal work done reckons it has largely been an expensive waste of time - the teeth break or turn beige and fall out, or keep oozing pus or pulp or hurting them in some way. Things like that.

Dr DOE: Actually, the real success-rate for the procedure is around 90%.

C-DOG: I'm not sure I understand. At what point after the operation is "success" indicated?

Dr DOE: I'm not sure.

C-DOG: It seems important to me - crucial.

Dr DOE: I can chase up the study if you want, but look, you know, the mouth is a very hostile environment. All dentistry is really just stalling tactics - delaying degeneration. It can't stop it.

C-DOG: Surely that's not just true of dentistry but of all medicine, isn't it?

Dr DOE: I guess so, when you put it like that.

C-DOG: Right.

Dr DOE: That's a bit depressing.

Depressing?!? I didn't conjure up this vision of nihilist medicine. He did.

C-DOG: Anyway, you see I'm still not sure I want to do it.

Dr DOE: The root canal work?

C-DOG: Yeah.

Dr DOE: Well, it's either that or get the tooth pulled. They're the only options, you know? There's not a lot of things you can do.

C-DOG: I know. I'll get my tooth pulled.

Dr DOE: What?

C-DOG: I'll get the tooth pulled.

Dr DOE: [LONG PAUSE] OK, that's easy.

C-DOG: Maybe - but I think I still want you to do it.

Dr DOE: You don't want to have a go yourself?

C-DOG: No.

Dr DOE: Oh, OK then. We'll get started.

C-DOG: Because, you know, if I did it well you might feel humiliated, given that I've had no dental training.

Pause. Weirdish look from Dr Doe. Unsure if it's a half-smile or a wince.

Dr DOE: Well it's good in a way, because I've felt a bit sick today and, to be honest, I wasn't looking forward very much to starting the day with a RC procedure. So it suits me.

Yes, he really said that. In his defence, at one point today he excused himself and coughed violently in a corner of the room for a while. When he finished he muttered "I'm dying" (although but I'm sure he was saying it is the sense of "Zikes! I'm dying out here," rather than "I'm dying of cancer.")* Dr Doe traded some of his implements - swapped a multitude of space-age ones for a few brass and iron barbershop weapons - the ones you'd gravitate towards if a fight broke out in the surgery - or it was invaded - and you were forced to defend yourself.

The course was now set, and I was upbeat - albeit having a few articulation problems. "Everyone wins," I said. "And, you know, if I did get root canal work done I wouldn't be able close my mouth and lick my cheek."
"You want to do that?"
"I'm brainstorming."

He loaded me up with lidocaine, not without some medium-to-large expressions of pain. From me. After the second injection he said: "I've got two seven year-old girls at home who are tougher than you."
"Two on one isn't fair. So I'm a wuss. I came here to get my teeth fixed, not my character."

I was out of there in just under twenty-five minutes. And it cost me $115. That's a saving of $2875 - although they didn't let me take my tooth home. Why not? "It's a biohazard." ("Listen, you're the one who's dying," I thought to myself - and then felt guilty in case he was, in fact, dying. OK Chris, he's not.)

A few hours out, I'm already enjoying pushing my tongue through the gap and licking the inside of my cheek - all with my mouth closed. I keep imagining that my tongue is a slug that pokes its head through a hole and steals some food before darting back to safety.

As I said, everyone wins. Thanks for people's valuable feedback. (Were any of you actually dentists? Or dental hobbyists? Pretty cocky bunch if you weren't.)

* Dr Doe appeared to change into "civilian" attire and leave straight after he finished with me. This would seem to corroborate his claim that he was not feeling well. But there are other possibilities: Was he even a dentist? Or could some needle-happy prankster just have walked in off the street and treated me for kicks?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Because of an upcoming recording session with Mindy Sotiri (aka. Dr Prisonsongbaby), I've been going to a rehearsal studio in St Peters, and I've learned something as a result. Question: If you couldn't see the members or know anything about their taste in music, how would you spot the X-Gen band? Answer: They're the ones talking about their teeth. Gene, Chris, Mindy, Scott and I talked about the cost of root planing and took a quick filling tally; later we debated the longevity of crowns and cursed the fragility of post-root canal teeth. Don't be misled.

We rock hard.

And why should you or anyone else expect otherwise? It shouldn't be embarrassing to openly discuss dental care - and to do so does not automatically disqualify one as an artist. This is not the first time I've discussed teeth on this blog - and it won't be the last. My mouth, into whom I have poured staggering amounts of capital in the last year, is still revolting. A poor but hardened vet of countless extractions, fillings, braces, plates, and - most recently - "root planing," I am due to start my first root canal treatment at 8 tomorrow morning.

Or am I

Let's start with some facts: apart from the cost ($1500 for the root canal procedure and $1500 to fit the "crown" which completes the treatment), almost nothing else in this herculean feat of molar compassion is guaranteed. Root canal therapy also comes with a "reputation" - serves as a paradigm case of dental suffering. As overstated as this popular image might be, I am not so skeptical of the cliche that I am seduced by Kavo Corporation's likening of the procedure to a hummingbird sucking gently on some ornithophilous flower. (Perhaps this oral Eden can be realised only when your dentist uses Kavo Corp's "SONICflex endo," a product whose revolutionary use of upper and lower case letters hints at a possible breakthrough in oral technology. Dental surgery or dental perjury? It's hard to know.)

Doctors and dentists - especially the subset of these that are men - still don't seem to like to discuss things with their patients, engage in dialogues with them. But they are much keener than they used to be about talking to (or at least at) their patients. Even those older dentists, those who have never known gentleness, hardened men whose coarse hands are strangers to human feeling, seem just as likely as younger medicos these days to discuss "treatment options."

Like I'd been on an excursion, I was given a disturbingly bright A4 information sheet about my illness, possible treatments, risks, and chances of success. It seemed passably complete and systematic. After the high-school-textbook section "The Healthy Tooth," we are told of its enemy - "infection or inflammation" - and its victim: "Pulp." The sheet concluded with a pornographically detailed description of the surgery and a sobering list, which sat under the heading "Possible Side Effects of Root Canal Treatment" - a bulleted bestiary of tics, traumas, and paths to ruin: "altered feeling" in the mouth, tooth discolouration and loss, infections, "pain and discomfort," and "weakness" (poetically remedied by wearing a "crown.")

And there was also something else worth reporting back on. Have you heard of "file fracture"? If not, here is the description:

"Special metal files are used to clean the inside of the root canal. These instruments are very fine and occasionally may break during use. Special procedures may be needed to remove the broken portion of the file, or you may be referred to a specialist. In some cases, it may not be possible to remove the fractured portion of the file: the long-term effects of this will depend on many factors. Such as whether the canal was infected and whether it had been cleaned before the fracture. Your dentist will discuss this with you in more details if a file fracture occurs."

It's an amazing admission really, a touching display of medical honesty. And here's an equally interesting display of honesty - a comment left by someone on an "Ask The Dentist" discussion board:

"About two years ago, I had a root canal done. In the process, the drill bits being used by the dentist broke three times. I have three tiny pieces of metal stuck inside my gum, under my molar. Should I be worried?"

Not a problem, came the reply. Regular dental appointments, your dentist being aware of the problem, and periodic x-rays of the area, should minimise significantly the risk of infection. The denstist concludes:

"If the thought of having these tiny pieces of metal in your gum bothers you, you can talk with an oral surgeon."

The implication here is that the person needs counselling, like the sentence could have continued "...and if you can't find or afford the services an oral surgeon, try talking to a close friend or relative about it."

If an optometrist, for instance, informed us that the eye test we were about to take may not only fail to diagnose weaknesses in vision, but actually burn our retinas and blind us, it wouldn't be unreasonable to want more details. So, what are some of the "many factors" that determine the "long-term effects" of file fracture? Can we even be told? Would we have ears to hear it? Or are the realities here best faced solely by the braver members of the dental corps?

The unease wrought by things left unsaid in the information sheet continued. In the last paragraph we are warned - as if it were a fact yet to be established - that the list "is not complete." There are also "less common complications," the natures of which are (predictably) left to our respective imaginations, which are to be constrained only by the stipulation that what is imagined shouldn't resemble anything so run-of-the-mill as having medical instruments break off and lodge permanently inside our bodies. We we need to picture are abnormal complications.

This blog is entitled "Dilemma." Here it is: rather than spend six hours and $3000 on a tooth destined to fall out and amount to nothing more than the world's ugliest marble, should I just get the troublemaker yanked and look after those children who need only for me to clean and floss them? Besides, it's not my only tooth. And it's much cheaper.

Or is this Crazytalk, the ravings of a man whose pulp has been so obviously and grievously assaulted by infection and inflammation that he can no longer think straight?

I've got to make my mind up very quickly. By 8am in fact.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I promised in a previous post ("Amateurs") that I'd provide Security Guard Guitarist News as it came to hand. I'm honouring my word.

R. caught me playing guitar today. I'd grabbed my beautiful blonde Maton acoustic, headed down to the lower playing field on campus and positioned myself - for reasons hard to comprehend - inside a baseball practice net. Side question: Why do we even have baseball nets on campus? Answer: I have no idea. Perhaps planners thought that the mere presence of the nets would be all that was required to entice potential players to take up the sport. (The only other sporting facilities in the vast field are two mint-condition triple-jump tracks. Obviously two were required to prevent the kind of student unrest that would have ensued if keen jumpers on campus were forced to stand in long lines waiting their turn.)

Whatever. The place is relatively isolated; the nearest structures - the gym and the Assessment and Examination Unit - are a few hundred metres away. People working or working out might see someone holding a guitar and lurching about drunkenly but wouldn't be able to tell if they were actually playing or (with all due respect to mimes) just miming; or if they were really drunk, or just a bit weird; or whether or not the performer's eyes were open or closed. (This last point will become relevant.)

I had a cigarette, got into my Chris Fleming - Live at the Budokan pose, and began to sing and strum like...I was playing live at the Budokan. I shut my eyes, craned my neck, and swayed. The Blind Melon Fleming act is part emotional fact and part rock-star act. At its best, playing music is a bit like pulling off some improbable illusion and then believing in the trick. To do this, apparently I need to shut my eyes and contort my face.

Another thing is that I, like my father, often close my eyes to help me to concentrate. And I, also like him, have had to occasionally placate people who judged me to be an intolerably sleepy interlocutor. During the interview for my first academic position I was asked a tangled question about "the origins of modern disciplinarity and disciplinary knowledge." I'm told that I shut my eyes midway through the question, kept them closed while I considered it, and only opened them about a minute into my reply. Even the person who recounted this, long after the fact, admitted that he himself had worried for a few seconds that I actually had nodded off.

I hardly need to remind people that this isn't a self-help blog - and voluntary blindness isn't a panacea. But it's rarely a problem when I play guitar and sing. It may look unusual, but it's not dangerous* - and I can't see myself anyway. (Besides, I got the job.)

But Bat Vision was a problem today. It prevented me, for instance, from noticing the security van as it approached the net - and also from noticing that the car had stopped only metres from where I was standing. And then, finally, it was a major player in me not notice R. roll down his window and then listen and watch for a minute or two. (In my defense, it's surely unreasonable to expect anyone to notice someone listening to them.)

Then, miraculously, I emerged from my coma.

But instead of seeing a blurry and beneficent Oliver Sacks leaning over me, his tears of joy pinging tunefully as they dropped into the bedpan beside my bed, R. sat motionless in the jeep, addressing me with a massive (and possibly psychotic) smile. I hoped that this was a signal that he was amused - or at least that even if he weren't a famous neurologist, at least he wasn't psychotic.

The song he caught me playing is ostensibly "funny." The first verse goes like this:**

Everything in my life is bad, everything is sad.
Everything in my life is shit 'cause of my mum and dad.
Got no money, got no friends, I'm of uncertain health.
Got no woman to call my own, I think I'll shoot myself.

I try to perform the song in a way that would move any Ray-Cyrus. (So "everything" is pronounced "ayvraythang," "I'll" is "owl," "shit" is "sheeyiet," and so on and so forth.) R's stained, Stonehenge smile seemed to have become frozen onto his face - like "the wind had changed," as my mother used to say. Perhaps, I thought, him being amused was no reassurance at all; maybe psychotic people would find the song funny. Like Petrucio taming Kate, I tried to out-mad R's madness, match him smile for smile, and wait him out. I won.

"Drone tones," he finally said. "The ole drone tone."
"You gotta love those drone tones. Play anything with drones and it sounds good - even really simple stuff."

He snapped back into the smile like an alien hoping to avoid detection.

"Yeah, stuff you could play with your eyes closed" I said.

The deep-space silence following my private joke gave me enough time to reflect on the fact that R. had just simultaneously implied that what I was playing "sounded good" - but that whatever its merits were, these were entirely reducible to my reliance on a technique so rudimentary it could have formed the basis of pre-hominid folk communication.

"So you just came down here to have a bit of a bash, huh?" R. asked.
"Actually, no - this is a gig. It's just that only you guys turned up."

The guard in the passenger's seat laughed - albeit about ten seconds - too late. Keep joking, Dr C-Dog, keep joking.

"But thanks for doing security for me anyway."

Finally, R. laughed. (Or perhaps it was just an unusual cough.) "OK - catch you later C. Enjoy yourself." I started playing again as the two drove off and circled the playing field in the jeep. Ignoring what was in front of him R. pinned his eyes on me as they passed from a distance of about fifty metres. I sang as loudly as I could.

My principal fear wasn't that they'd think I was a shitty player, singer, or comedian - but that, despite being payed more than them while working at the same institution, I apparently had so little to do that I could bring my guitar to work and wander around playing it with my eyes closed. I don't know whether either of them actually did think this - but it worried me that they might. It wouldn't have been the first time.

I've worked with members of "non-academic" staff who've come to realise that what they do - like use Excel, check student records, and get people to fill out long forms - is similar to what some academics do. The main difference seems to be that the academics are: (a) far shitter at the designated tasks; and (b) get paid more money. No one realised this fact more clearly - and was more willing to articulate it - than B. How embarrassed I was then when she walked into my office and caught me reading. It wasn't The Telegraph and so it shouldn't have been embarrassing.

"Hi C.. You waiting for someone."

She wasn't asking a question, just requesting confirmation.

"No, actually, I'm reading."
"Oh. Lucky you. What?"
"It's called The Scenic Imagination. It's about..."
"Sounds boring."
"It's good that you don't have to read it then, huh?"
"Do you?"
"No I don't. I'm just reading it because I hate myself. What do you like to read?"
"Reading is boring. It makes me sleepy."
"But, you know, I actually do read magazines when I go on leave. Have you been on leave?"
"No. Why?"
"Or to the beach a lot?"

Ah, I see what you're getting at. I prickled at the question and the prejudice it expressed. You see, I tan very easily, and as a result people are always asking me if I've "been away" when all I've done is walk to IGA a couple of times or push a pram around Sydney Park. I'm not trying to look like a Bra Boy. I wear sunscreen and a hat and try to walk on the shady side of the road. But I'm not going to traipse around wearing The Hengtai Corporation's Umbrella Hat simply to prevent people making spurious assumptions about my work ethic. It would be un-Australian to prefer to be seen by others as a wanker rather than a bludger.

The painful truth is, however, that I work very hard - and am, in fact, something of a wanker. (By way of demonstration, I draw your attention to the fact that this blog has endnotes.)

* To nuance that assertion slightly, the technique is only mildly dangerous, in that I'm about 100% more likely to walk into things. That's one of the reasons I tend to play and sing in parklands rather than, say, jewellery stores.

**I refuse to say, as is common amongst singer-songwriters, that it "goes a little like this" or "something like this.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ping Pong and Lions.

I'm yet to met an adult who doesn't think that he or she is good at table tennis. You can test it for yourself. If you happen to find yourself in a garage or basement - or any hall or hotel which has a table - ask the person next to you whether they play:

"You mean Ping Pong?"
"Ah, that's not its proper name, but yes."
"To tell the truth, I'm pretty good at it. Surprisingly good, even. Well I was."

Question: What kind of sport is it that everyone thinks they're good at it, even though they don't play it? (And, more pointedly, what kind of trivialising contempt must people have for sports so considered?)

The thing is, I really am good at table tennis. Very good. Excellent even - even though you most probably couldn't tell this just by looking at me. (What were you expecting to see? I mean, what does a typical "great table tennis player" look like? Only genocidal racists would contend that green-tabletop legends like Guo Yuehua, Seiji Ono, Wang Liqin, and Mitsuru Kohno all look alike. And do I look that much like Jan-Ove Waldner, arguably the greatest TT player ever? Surprisingly, yes. But appearances can be deceiving - and people can be deceptive.

And so I am led to discuss briefly a documentary showing tonight on Channel 7 about "Christian the Lion" (so named, I speculate, because he was thrown to humans at an early age). A Lion Named Christian is a story about how two lesbian geologists adopted and domesticated a lion cub. (Actually, having not seen the show, I'm not sure about them being lesbian geologists.) Regardless, after being taught Latin, Rhetoric, and Rubgy, Christian the Lion was released back into the wild - thrown to the lions, so to speak. But rather than devour himself for the amusement of bloodthirsty hordes, he survived ethically for years. Devoutly eco-friendly and respectful of the rights of other animals, Christian recycled and ate his own faeces and conserved huge amounts of energy each day by sleeping. Equipped with a camera, he filmed his everyday successes and disappointments. Anyway, to cut the lion story short, after many years the two lesbians - or male flatmates, or alien triplets - sought out Christian to see whether he would recognise them.

What is my view of the film, given that I haven't actually watched it? My strong sense is that far from being just another example of the English "catsploitation" film, A Lion Named Christian represents a genuine watershed event in cinematic - and perhaps natural - history. Tens of thousands of years of mutual enmity and hostility between lions and humans hangs in the balance tonight. The rest,as they say, is documentary.

(Pursuing for a moment the theme of lions being thrown to humans, I note that immediately following the doco tonight is live coverage of the Wallabies versus the All Blacks in Tokyo.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Toe Lessons.

I originally took photographs to accompany this blog entry, but after viewing them again have decided to withhold the images in the name of good taste and the public interest. Dr Prisonsongbaby is in New York City so, functionally speaking, I'm a single dad.

The boys awoke today at 5am and I blearily went to the toilet, swung the door open, and caught the top of my foot under the door. I'd swung it with such force that I actually tore a toenail off - the nail of the toe next to the big toe (does it have a name? Are you eating? Stop reading) on the left foot. For the next ten or so minutes I bled a lot – far more indeed than I might have expected. I probably didn't help matters by seizing the nail, which hung on merely by threads of skin at the quick, and tugged at it, trying to pull it off. With blood all over my hands and the bathroom floor, and the nail still attached - although now upright - I began to feel a bit woozy.

I moved to the kitchen to lie down on the slate - but before I could lower myself fully I passed out, smashing my head on the tiles. Then my head started to bleed. Oblivious to it all, the boys sat on the couch, looking at their books. I lay on the ground and collected myself for ten or so minutes. I dressed my wounds, cleaned the bathroom and the small amount of blood off the tiles in the kitchen and put on Day Clothes.

The boys then requested the song "Roundabout" by 70s prog rock band Yes. They're big on Yes at the moment. I retrieved the CD from the car and placed it outside on a table. It was a lovely day and I looked up and admired two magpies frolicking in the fig tree. "It's not so bad, this life," I thought. And then one of the magpies shat on the CD - not the case, the actual CD.

So what lessons have I learned? And what can you draw from my experience?

I'm not going to answer that right now. But I will.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nice Canada.

I'm writing this from Canada. I'm due to give a paper on Sunday morning at the University of Ottawa. I love Ottawa. The city must have the highest proportion of blondes outside of Norway and the highest number of cyclists outside of China. Everyone seems to have a tan, although - given the weather - I'm not sure where they get it from. There are also about five churches within spitting distance of my hotel on the Rue Elgin, so there's plenty of space to pray if I feel the need. It's not a hostile environment, though, and so it's unlikely that I'll need to enlist any divine support while I'm here. Everybody in Ottawa seems fit, happy, and polite. 

On Wednesday I met a blind guy while we were both waiting to cross the road. I offered assistance and he gently hit back. He first thanked me and then, very politely, said that he was capable of crossing roads. I defended myself - and added that I probably wasn't a good guide anyway, as I'd been hit by a number of cars over the years. He was on his lunch break and we ended up having coffee at Starbucks. He studied philosophy at Laurentian Uni and then international development at Oxford and now works for the Canadian government as a lawyer. He was, as expected, overwhelmingly positive, cheerful, well-humoured, intelligent, and courteous. Indeed, in that forty-five minutes he did everything he could to make me feel welcome, short of giving me cash and making love to me. He was Canada without the adventure sports. 

I don't really want to labour the point - and I know I'm playing into a cultural cliche - but Canadians often seem so happy that they sing to you, rather than just speak, sometimes with incredible pitch variations. Depending on a person's Relative Joy Quotient, their sentences often finish with a kind of soprano waver. Even the men here do this. An enormous guy in a bookstore must have covered three octaves just saying good morning to me today. I felt like applauding. Initially at least I thought that perhaps all this goodwill was class-related, but now I'm not so sure. The niceness is fairly democratically spread: rather than wolf-whistle at her, yesterday I witnessed a construction worker tip his hardhat at an attractive woman and say "Afternoon ma'am." 

Another piece of evidence: I met my first Canadian heroin addict this morning - also probably schizophrenic. She was wearing no socks but a pressed, collared shirt. (I'm sure she would have thought that Australian junkies, with their tracksuited attire, look slovenly. Or perhaps she'd be very generous about it, and attribute to a generic "Australian athleticism." Actually, that's more likely.) At first she looked like she was going to walk right past, but suddenly angled in like someone had pushed her towards me. Suddenly standing much too close, and talking straight into my chest as if it were an intercom system, she asked me if she could buy a cigarette. Unfortunately, I'd only brought down one from my room. I said I could go up and get one for her if she wanted.

"No, no problem. That's OK. You from round here, hey?"
"No, actually - I'm just visiting here."
"Where from?"
"Australia, hey. Visiting family?"
"No, I'm going to a conference."
"A conference, hey?"
"I see. A conference. Wow. How long you staying?"
"Five days. I leave on Sunday."
"Well, enjoy your stay here, hey. Have a look around. Welcome to Canada."

With her eyes darting around and her body jerking, she swiveled 45 degrees, waved goodbye to the tree next to me and fell away down the street in pursuit of the cigarette. I saw her again a couple of hours later, in town, with her boyfriend. (I knew I didn't stand a chance with her anyway.) I stood behind the two of them on an escalator; the guy sang a few bars of Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator" (- yes, I know, he should have changed the lyrics) and they open-mouth kissed, lips improbably pared back, tongues sliding around each other like warring slugs. Very touching. Heroin brings people together. Even in Canada. Lovely Canada.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I've been writing a lot over the last few days. Almost all the time, actually - day and night. This kind of thing doesn't happen very often - about once every couple of years. Today I arrived at work late, but planned on making up for it with another burst of writing in the evening. I was relieved that office hours were over and the risk of things like people just walking into my office were therefore virtually eliminated. I use the adverb "virtually" advisedly.

At just after 7pm, a security guard entered my building, doing his rounds. I sort of know him - and sort of know that he sort of plays the guitar. Yesterday I took my own acoustic guitar in to the office to provide me with a safe and easy diversion: I write "funny" songs on it when I want a break from my "serious" work. He saw it.

"Guitar? You brought your guitar in?"

He didn't actually ask if he could play it. We smiled and exchanged guitarist's nods, which effectively gave him the go ahead. He stopped momentarily and apologised for one of his fingernails. It had been hanging off, getting caught on clothing. He cut it today; it might affect his playing, though.

"I'm sure you'll be fine."

He picked up the guitar and sat down.

"What kind of guitar is this?"
"It's a Maton."
"What model?" he inquired.

"I don't know, it's um..."
"Where's the pickup?"
"I'm not sure."
"Oh, it's on the bridge."
"Oh yeah, that's right."
"Hang on, no it isn't. It's inside somewhere."

He strums it, then winces.

"It needs a bit of a tune."
"Yeah, I know. [And let me just say again how sorry I was to hear about your nail.]"

He started playing. For the next twenty-five minutes he played almost non-stop, each segue invariably punctuated with a question, asked by him of both of us: "What's the name of that one?"

Me: I don't know.
Him: Oh yeah, that's right, it's My Funny Valentine.
Me: Right, of course.

Only at one point did I know what he was playing. I actually joined in and quietly sang Honey Pie. I kept singing it a little after he'd stopped to make my point.

Him: What's that you're singing?
Me: Honey Pie. You were playing Honey Pie, right?
Him: No, Blue Moon. They sound similar, though, don't they? Honey Pie actually goes like this...

He played Honey Pie, The Boy from Ipanema, and Caravan - and gave scary impersonations of Scotty Moore and Merle Travis. In short, he was spectacular - a shockingly good musician. The problem was that he couldn't stop. At the start I was smiling at him and the guitar as he played; by the end I was staring morbidly at the wall, motionless. He kept going. I announced that I needed to eat some dinner, took a tin of salmon and two slices of bread from my cupboard. I went to the staff kitchen, made a sandwich, put it on a plate and returned. I then ate the sandwich. Still he played.

Him: What's that one called again?
Me: Khe Sahn.
Him: No...what is it?
Me: [Silence]
Him: I can't remember.
Me: [Silence]
Him: Oh, that's right, All the Things You Are.

Great tune - beautifully played. Robert, I hate to say it, but all good parties have to come to an end. I've got to do some work.
Yeah, I've got to go too - I'm late.

He went to hand me my guitar, but I motioned for him to put it on the other side of the room -to lean it against one of my "consultation" chairs. I wasn't going to play after that. Or perhaps ever.

Chris, we'll have to have a jam.
Yes we must.
I'll bring my guitar in to work and we can jam in your office.

I'll announce it here if we do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Were They Then?

On Tuesday this week I sat in a coffee shop and picked up a magazine and read a thoughtful, extended retrospective on a band called Captain Beyond. By the time I got to a discussion of their seemingly limitless number of former drummers (one improbably named "Brian Glasscock") I couldn't shake the feeling that the whole thing was being made up by the writer: Captain Beyond never existed and neither did the 847 former members of the band. Later I investigated and found out that they did indeed exist. Even the 1999 (Swedish-release) tribute album to the band, Thousand Days of Yesterday, existed.

I thought it might be a good opportunity here to construct a series of retrospectives on bands that never existed but could have (unlike Captain Beyond, who did exist but probably didn't need to):

Retrospective: Pax Dukey
Until his 1972 song “I Hate My Father, Even Though He’s Dead” came out, most people hadn’t heard of Pax Dukey. Most people still haven't.

Retrospective: Exploding Cock
Seminal punk band Exploding Cock proved to be hugely influential on bands that were to follow them, but not on those bands that immediately followed them. Indeed, post-Cock bands like The Ballbags and Pubic Tube had nothing but contempt for Cock and the band’s many hangers-on. (The Tube’s vocalist Grotto Capri remarking that Exploding Cock were “unique in music history for their staunch advocacy of the shittest music yet made.” Cock-heads were undeterred – and later Pre-and Post-Slag bands (see ELECTRIC SLAG) often cited the Cock as an important influence on their music.

Even now, Exploding Cock tends to polarise people. Advocates of the band have long argued that the French nationality of their lead singer (Michéle LeCoq) have always put the band in a precarious state. When the Cock were hot, LeCoq was crowned “British Punk Queen,” but just like Marie Antoinette, when feeling for the band waned, one always suspected that LeCoq might be hauled off to the Revolutionary Tribunal. In the end, however, it was LeCoq herself who was charged with lopping off someone else’s head – her mother’s.

Conventional rehearsal and recording denied her, LeCoq embarked upon an intense period of spoken word performances, which her once cellmate Sharon Lukes described as “always sounding very intelligent.” Others thought it rubbish. But it was then Lukes’ turn to kill – this time, LeCoq’s father. Although appearing distraught, LeCoq was soon after charged with organising a homicide herself. Although the evidence against this former punk star looks, by most standards, very clear-cut, a movement has begun to protest her innocence. If the campaign to free her is successful, LeCoq promises to make another album, although not with former bandmates, as she says they’re “all stupid arseholes and bullshit artists.” Spoken like royalty.

Retrospective: O/S
O/S claim to be the first band in the world to have had a website. A heady mix of synth programming and a vision of the future that could be drawn straight from the pixellated poetry of Space Invaders and Pac Man, O/S claimed a lot of other things about themselves: that they were the “first techno band” (which they later modified to the “first real techno band”); the first to have a video-clip (which, presumably, was a joke); and the first to do a cover of a piece of classical music and have a big hit with it. (The flimsy basis of the last claim is O/S head-man Finbar Burke’s early involvement in a Dino-Music release of “Modern Pop Christmas Carols,” a TV-advertised family album that precedes Burke meeting Robbie Rengger, O/S programmer and co-founder.) Of all the claims, the one about being the first to have a website is probably the one closest to the truth – O/S are arguably the third Australian band to have their own website. This is, of course, still a considerable achievement.

O/S always proved themselves to be early adopters of technology. Before it was even released in Australia, Burke got his parents to order him an IntelliVision computer games console and the steering wheel for the Indy500 racing game. Critics said that the band were highly immature – themselves trapped in their own pre-pubescent techno-science fantasies and game-scenarios. Burke and Rengger responded to the charges in different ways. Burke was fond of saying to such critics “I know you are. But what am I?” and Rengger warned them that “such statements” didn’t “put them in the most advantageous position when the Machine Uprising comes.”

But O/S’s detailed visions are more mature than the simple fantasies of pimply boys. The liner notes to O/S’s albums contain precise, almost angular, proclamations about man-machine hybrids and the redundancy of all “interface technology.” At the height of their powers, drawing on a sceptical – but increasingly intrigued – American public, O/S released Burn the Interface in 1992. Released to a capacity crowd at the Three Level Kitchen in New York, O/S were forced to stop their performance after only eleven minutes because of persistent mouse problems. Afterwards, a belligerent Burke said the failure “just proved his point” and “that none of this would have happened if I could have controlled the sequencer with my brain.”

Burke and Rengger haven’t made music together since 1996 and haven’t released an album since 1993. Burke has led the life of a recluse since. Of independent wealth before becoming involved in music, he has been spotted working for his living – driving cabs in the Sydney metropolitan area. After a brief return to high school teaching, Rengger soon took a job as a policy advisor in Creative Industries in Farklin’s state Labour Government. Asked about his former colleague, Rengger says “I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that Robbie has lost his strategic direction, and desperately needs to clarify his values, moving forward.” Asked whether Burke’s silence distressed him, Rengger simply said “I manage.” The book is not closed on this one. Or let’s hope not.

Retrospective: Euphoria
As huge as they were at their peak, Euphoria weren’t widely-known outside Europe, although that situation is starting to change. Euphoria were arguably the most influential German soft metal band of their generation, a brilliant and blinding flash of hair and latex that, amongst other things, shared the stage with Saxon and The Scorpions at the now-infamous 1983 Donnington Monsters of Rock festival in 1983. They also had an international hit with the song “(Now Is) Time for the Birds of Freedom” – a surprise hit in Eastern Germany. Indeed, this song was itself arguably the biggest single factor contributing to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But it would take more than a single song for state socialism as a whole to collapse. The demise of the communist states in East Europe was the result of a handful of the band’s songs, including a number of tracks from their seminal album “Euphoria: Live at the Gdansk People’s Arena.” Some now think that it is this album alone that precipitated wholesale political change in soviet Hungary and Romania.

However, for reasons still unclear, the band’s lead singer, Hans Schrift, fled his hometown of Duisburg and became – it is now confirmed – a mercenary fighting for the highest bidder in numerous civil wars and bloody internecine conflicts in sub-saharan Africa. He was killed, strangely, not by enemy hands, but his own: Schrift, we have learned, inadvertently decapitated himself with a machete while preparing a local staple called “Tjinywe” (authentic pronunciation demands that a popping sound precede the “T”). Local militia reported at the time that the death was “not suspicious in the least” and “had nothing to do with the police.”

But that is small comfort in the end. Corruption or not, world metal lost one of its great leaders on that day in 1993. Flawed, of course – but what geniuses aren’t? Schrift once said in an interview on Top of the Pops that he “loved democracy and the memory of his mother’s breasts” (he explained later that his poor English expression didn’t capture his point, which was about being nurtured and “washed in the dirt” of his “mummy country”). But is this proclamation – however awkward – consistent with both the champion of democratic reform and the actions of a Soldier of Fortune? Who can say? Perhaps the thing is not to attempt to resolve the contradictions inherent in the person, but simply to let them be there, and let his art speak for itself:

“I’m like an eagle coming home again,
With lots of food to eat.
I love our babies – and the way that we made them.
You’re a horny animal,
Desperate for me – like the world is for
 - Hans Schrift, lyrics to “Make Children, Not War.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Conversation Stalking

On Saturday I took the boys to Sydney Park, a large section of which has been converted into an "environmentally friendly" children's playground. It's like the water conservation technologies and whale-friendly slides are still trying to cover over the formaldehyde and dioxin which surely still sit only metres beneath the bark.

The boys quickly decided that they wanted to play in the sandpits and I obliged. While they were entertaining themselves - largely through a game I'll call "Running and Falling Over Safely" - I overheard a conversation taking place about ten metres away. Two fathers, who had obviously just met, were talking about the Easter Show with some verve and wit, shuttling effortlessly between good natured-humour and rye skepticism. They ventured some interesting observations about the child psychology of rides and I found myself quickly wanting to weigh in - to offer some crucial distinctions between those kinds of rides that spin around and those go quickly in one direction, as I feel they require different dispositions and perhaps even types of courage. Then, with a segue worthy of Frank Zappa - simultaneously graceful and surreal - they moved onto scientific calculators and what had changed about them in the last ten years. It was almost irresistible; I wanted to be included - but it was hard to justify my move across to join in.

Within minutes, however, they broke up. The guy who I judged to be the more interesting of the two excused himself and wandered off. This would have made it easier to chat to the high-school physics teacher, but I had my eye on Interesting Guy and he had gone. I asked a leading question of the Sol and Dom: "Do you boys want to do something else?" When they're not mechanically contrarian, children are highly suggestible. I eyed my target across the way, at the base of the slides. "How about the slides?" "Yeahhhhh!" But as soon as we left the sandpit enclosure, Solly darted off to look at himself in the bendy mirrors. Foiled. "Dom, do you still want to go on the slides?" "Yessss! Sliiiii!" Dom and I began to wander towards the slides, but about half-way there, Interesting Guy again shifted position, now moving in the direction of Sol and the funny mirrors. "Dom. Where's Solly?" Dom saw Sol over by the bendy mirrors and began running at him. With Dom's pace, we'd beat Interesting Guy there - and so would avoid having to make the approach. Interesting Guy stopped, in fact, just near the bendy mirrors - his boy wanted to spin around on...a Spinning Around Pole Thing. The distance between us wasn't great, but it was still too far to "chat." If I already knew him I'd be able to call out a few things, but it's not the way you start an adult relationship in a playground. Dom, however, began to walk over in the direction of Interesting Guy.

It looked set. I checked myself in a bendy mirror. My head appeared enormous, but perhaps this would be seen by him as a sign of intelligence. But again, disaster. Without warning, Interesting Guy left once once more. This time I'd had enough of his toying with my affections and so I decided to give up. It was just too humiliating, and maybe he might even think I was stalking him. After a while I looked up and noticed that he'd gone back to the sandpits, to see his old flame, the maths teacher. Tart. If he couldn't see my conversational value, then that was his problem, not mine; I didn't want him, or his interesting conversation.

After about half an hour of distorting ourselves in mirrors (during which most of the time I appeared small and insignificant), Solly made an announcement: "I want to play on the bridge." OK - the bridge. We started heading over and who should we see at the top of the hill near the bridge? Right. Interesting Guy. I couldn't get my hopes up, though - he'd hurt me too much already. I hung off to the side of the hill, playing hard to get, adjusting children's clothing and applying sunscreen. When he looked towards me I coyly looked away. Eventually, contact was forced. Dom decided that he was going to climb the hill to get onto the bridge and this would require some parental supervision. Eventually I was standing almost by his side, looking at our kids and occasionally giving him a smile. His own two children were racing, with the bridge serving as part of their course. As they approached they were pushing each other out of the way. Interesting Guy gently - but firmly - intoned: "Hey, be nice." The boy gave way and then the girl shot past him on the bridge. The boy, now aggrieved, called out, "Hey!" Here was my opportunity.

Smiling at his kids - or perhaps even "Kids-in-General" - I offered. "Nice guys finish last!" He smiled, or rather winced, back at me and said "C'mon kids, it's time to go. We've got to go see Aunty Millie." Yeah right. I bet they don't even have an Aunty Millie. And it was a joke.

Dr Prisonsong baby later suggested that my relentless pursuit combined with my tight pink t-shirt might have suggested a homosexual advance. If so, I'm kicking myself. I can't believe I fell for a homophobe.

Friday, April 10, 2009


On Wednesday, Dr Prisonsongbaby (Dr P) and I went to a periodontist in Market Street, dragging Solly and Dom along with us. Our mouths were a disaster - and half of them still are. (Scalar root planing is fairly intense and so the good Dr C only did half of his work - concentrating on just the left sides of our mouths). The number of needles required to complete the process without toe-curling pain was five for Dr P and four for me, with Dr P lucky to even get a big shiny silver spine straight into the roof of her mouth. That must have been special.

The result was that we left the Market Street surgery mid-morning looking less like dental victims than stroke victims - with the left sides of our faces falling off like Dali's clocks. Dr P actually suggested that we looked like we'd actually met at a Young Stroke Victim Support Network and had later started a family together. Every time I tried to say a word beginning with "S" my mouth made a farting sound. The producers of Australian Story would have loved it.

To understand dentistry, forget the high grades, white coats, and city addresses. Dentistry is a trade. Our periodontist has good postgraduate qualifications in dental medicine - but, more importantly, lots of shiny metal tools and a pair of extraordinarily strong wrists. There's something incongruous about it all - a branch of medicine in the twenty-first century that actually looks like dentistry does. It doesn't take a massive leap of historical imagination - if we discounted, of course, the advanced degrees and a working knowledge of anaesthetics - to realise that dentistry retains much of it barbershop origins. 

Dr C sharpened his scraper on his scraper sharpener, planted the saliva sucker, and just got in there and filed and chiseled for around forty minutes. He didn't even fill. He was red and huffing by the end of this exquisite and well-credentialled pounding of my face.

"That might have been quite tiring but it's over now," he said.
"Actually, it looks kinda tiring for you."
"It is - it's exhausting, actually."
He let out a long sigh.

I wouldn't encourage you to feel pity for him. This is certainly not the moral of the blog: "feel sorry for dentists." We gave him more than $1000 bucks to go ahead with the ordeal. I doubt he'd still be so committed to the health of people's teeth and gums if it was him who was paying for the operations. 

A stupid point to finish on, no doubt.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The God of Small Things

The title of this week's blog is apt to mislead. It is not about Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize winning novel - or indeed about anything so worthy and refined. Indeed, if you are a small child (or even a large one), I'd recommend you stop reading now and get together with your friends and do something useful - like give another English word an alternate meaning that will be sure to confuse adults. (I was told this week by my students that "hectic" now means "good." I still don't believe them.) So...go run along.

Enough delays - let us begin.

When I was younger, a girl (a "young woman"?) asked me to her year 10 formal. No girl had ever even asked for so much as a potato chip from me, so I said yes. The day arrived, I showered, dressed, stuck on my cummerbund, and applied generous amounts of Brut 33. Before we were to depart she said she needed to "use the bathroom." D. disappeared behind the bathroom door while I chatted awkwardly to her parents, most likely about the rain and school and where I was going to find a park. Then without warning, a noise came from behind the door reminiscent of the one that a tennis player makes while serving - an "effort noise" if you will. I'm not sure if I grimaced,  but her parents continued on as if everything was just the same as it had been only moments before. It wasn't. I'm ashamed to admit that I no longer wanted to go to the formal with her any more. I'm not proud of my reaction; I'm not even sure I quite understand it. My son can go to the toilet and carry on a full conversation about Batman through the whole process, with his voice wavering at various stages of the process. (OK - I warned you. There's still time to stop.) 

But things were different in 1986. D. even looked different coming out of that bathroom - and I don't just mean lighter. I didn't "fancy" her, and yet she was a different woman emerging from that bathroom to the one that entered it. Did I want something more radical perhaps? A friend's mother once managed to somehow sustain a fart all the while walking through a large-sized room: a textbook rasberry, the blast began before she entered the room and was still hissing and flapping wildly at us as she left; what's more, she even managed to chastise G. about his room on the way through, just for good measure. An original multitasker. If anything, G. and I were shocked and awed - and perhaps even had more respect for her after this display of virtuosity and chutzpah. But with respect to D. I wanted to go home.

What is it about certain small things in certain places that destroy everything for us? I recall once arguing with a school friend about religion while he had a piece of beetroot stuck to his cheek. The small piece of vegetable matter somehow managed to destroy his credibility for me in ways that, even now, I find difficult to account for. Part of this is surely just a matter of attention. I couldn't put the little purple sliver out of my mind; and yet it was more than simply a matter of being distracted. Something that reframed his whole personality - sort of like a negation at the end of a sentence that inverts the whole meaning of what preceded it - like "I think that of all the people I know you have to be the greatest [long pause] at stupidity." Beetroot isn't a phoneme and faces aren't, strictly speaking, syntactic - but the analogy at least reassures me that there's some meaning to my prejudice, even if I can't quite articulate it myself.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is That the Truth, Or...

I am a sick man. I am a deranged man. There is something wrong with my newspaper.

Today, walking through campus, I was spruiked at virgorously by a bottle-blonde Englishgirl  - or someone putting on an accent for the express purpose of improving their spruiking (no one spruiks like the English). She offered me a free subscription to The Daily Telegraph. Free. Pay nothing. Ever. Really?

"But I am a staff member - not a student."
"It doesn't matter. It's for everyone." 
"But the form asks me when I graduate." 
"Write anything."
"Write anything."
"Anything. Fill out the form to the best of your ability."

I filled out my form (to the best of my ability) and was, for my efforts, given a small plastic card which I'm entitled to flash at the newsagent on campus who then responds by giving me my paper. It works - but it has created another dilemma. 

How do I actually get the paper from the newsagent back to my office? What if someone else in my department actually saw me with a copy of The Tele in my hand? It would be like being caught walking through campus with a copy of The New Testament or Dianetics. How could I explain it to them? 

"Dr Flemo, what are you doing with that? You read The Telegraph?"
"It was free."
"Free? I wouldn't read it if they paid me."
"Actually, they paid me."
"Even so..."

Perhaps the colleague would even be wearing one of those shirts that say "Is that the truth - or did you read it in The Telegraph?" Fortunately, however, it is Wednesday and I buy The Australian on the first Wednesday of every month to get a copy of The Australian Review of Books. I figured that I could fold up hide my copy of The Tele inside my copy of The Australian. Perhaps that was Murdoch's plan all along - targeting academics from the Humanities and Social Sciences with free subscriptions to The Tele in order that they then have to fork out the cash for his other publications to cover up their supposedly "free" paper. Cunning. But then how do I cover up my purchase of The Australian?

One solution I've contemplated is to bring a marker pen to the newsagent and - before leaving the shop - draw one big quotation mark on the first page of the paper and then another large quotation mark on the last page, to signal that I'm reading it ironically. Not reading, but "reading." 

That's it. I'll give that a go.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Me Everywhere

I work with someone who looks a bit like me, albeit older and perhaps - loathe as I am to admit it - a little better looking.

I console myself with the fact that he has only written around fourteen novels - and some of them haven't even won any awards.

Once, in a department meeting, I turned to the person next to me and asked whether he thought that the person in question looked like me. He confirmed my assessment. If we were actors, he could be cast as my uncle or older cousin; at a stretch, we could even be brothers. (He looks more like me than my actual brothers do, anyway.)

Once, in the late 1990s, I was stopped in a supermarket in Hillsdale NSW and asked whether I was Frank Woodley, the Australian comedian.

Stupidly, I denied it. With precise Freudian logic, further denials simply confirmed her suspicion. Encouraged by my evident humility, she congratulated me on my show with Colin Lane and said that, of the two of us, I was "much funnier." Eventually I demurred and thanked her - even if she did look a bit disappointed that I wasn't funnier in person.

I do, in fact, look a bit like Frank Woodley - although I tend to think that Woodley actually looks more like a cross between me and a friend of mine, Lucas Ihlein.

If one were to line the three of us up, with Woodley in the middle and Lucas and I on either side, then the effect would be something like a physiognomic colour-wheel, with a gradual morphing of the face. I'm sure - given the inclination and adequate resources - we could locate other points on the wheel. But it's not a bad start.

Please allow me to continue this narcissistic meditation...

Another Flemo lookalike is surely Colin Vearncombe, the lead-singer of the English band Black, who had a big hit in 1986 with the song "Wonderful Life."

In fact, I tend to think Vearncombe looks like a cross between me and the English singer/"pop sensation" Rick Astley. (Unfortunately, I think he is well-known enough for me to not put his picture here. Moreover, I don't want any pictures of Rick Astley on my blog - and if you know what's true, beautiful, and just, you won't either.)

When faced (literally) with these kinds of bodily similarities I have been tempted to wonder if the person in question and I are somehow related - or rather, given the "mitochondrial eve" hypothesis, just how related the person is. "Woodley," for instance, is an Anglo-Saxon name and my surname is Anglo-French, but perhaps the stronger genetic link here is on my mother's side. (Further proof of the Woodley connection: Like Woodley, I am also extraordinarily funny.)

I'm not sure why, but I find it frustrating the extent to which I can't really investigate these connections with any precision. I've long had a fantasy that I could make small lit signs appear above people's heads which would announce their familial link with me. The labelling could be switched from the technical "Fifth cousin twice removed on your mother's side"-type of a classification, to the simpler "Peter Smythe: Person most closely related to you within a five kilometre radius." The people themselves wouldn't be aware of the information - but I would.

These are not the only connections I've entertained. A few years ago my sister was seeing an elderly patient who began to cry shortly after the start of the consult. She asked why the woman was crying and the woman replied: "You remind me of my Ray." Without pause, and not knowing quite why, my sister shot back "Ray Crisford?" "Yes! My Ray! How did you know him?" My sister didn't - they'd never met. Ray was our uncle and his plane was shot down over Germany in 1945. He apparently survived the crash but later starved to death in a forest. The elderly woman in question was "with" Ray prior to him heading off to war. The woman married but she apparently never quite got over the loss. I know this story sounds apocryphal, but my sister has stayed in contact with the woman in question ever since, sharing pictures and getting stories. I'm not sure what the woman's husband thinks of it all, however. (Chances are that he has probably also been convinced by now that he should have married Ray as well.)

That was a connection - admittedly not genealogical - that might never have been discovered. It would be odd to suddenly be able to actually see all these threads wherever they might be. Imagine you are sitting next to an elderly gentleman on a bus. Perhaps he looks like this:

After ten minutes he leans over to you and says: "You know, young man, I had an affair with your grandmother. 1957. Paul Anka and a fine bottle of Petit Verdot. It was a magic year. You know, the way she used to..."

"I'm sorry - this is my stop."

Perhaps it's not such a good idea after all. I don't know why I made such a big deal out of it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Titties

All week I've been seeing an ad for the Australian series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities where it is announced that, in this week's episode, actor Kate Ritchie will "come of age." I thought it was extraordinarily odd that it was the actor's name being spoken of in the commercial, and not the character's name. How, I wondered, does an actor "come of age" in a show? Then my actor friend, Chris Tomkinson, clarified matters: "coming of age" is a merely a euphemism for Ritchie showing her breasts for the first time on national television. Get the VCR ready. 

Given the nature of this particular show and its' capacity to integrate plot and the pendulum swing of the female breast, I was ashamed to have not realised this myself. Underbelly perhaps represents one aspect of Channel 9's general strategy to pilfer some of the loyal audience of SBS - a station that has been built on a reputation of combining high-brow with high-nudity. SBS has obviously anticipated 9's "booby trap." It's show, My Big Breasts and Me, airs this Friday at 10pm. Kate Ritchie - watch and learn.

Get a blog up you

I've finally cracked. First I caved in and watched Back to the Future. Then I got a mobile phone. Now I've got a blog. My parents will soon be worrying about the future popularity of people setting themselves on fire. I've always loved what other people do.

If you're wondering, I settled on the name "Seadog Blog" on the strict criterion that it was available. I'd investigated a variety of names, including "The Nervous System" and "Kermit the Blog." Both were taken, but neither have been active since soon after Y2K ended the world. (Remember that? Horrible.) I'm now wondering whether I should have perhaps chosen "Bjorn Blog." The only pleasure I get from the name of my blog (besides the fact that it's mine) is the possibility that it will - at some indeterminate point in the future - deny someone else the possibility of using it. I hope it crushes them. 

I didn't use to be this nasty. Blogging has done it to me.