Thursday, August 31, 2006

Action figures haiku

Playtrek is a Star Trek action figure mailing list, a wonderful online community of like-minded collectors. Currently, in between the Star Trek conversations, they are having a haiku verse-writing contest and Playtrek's members are busily counting syllables and getting creative.

Here are a few of my own entries, running the gamut of the aspects of toy collecting:

Andorian Haiku
Shortpacks: bane of all
So I buy up all the Shrans
Soon: rich on eBay!


Openers' Haiku
Celebrate your stash
Rip those packages open!
Be not a mint-ee.


Customizers' Haiku
Wander the toy aisles
Seeking out the perfect head -
Chop, carve, glue, paint, grin...


Shortpack Haiku
Feisty one: Esoqq
Limited one to a case.
As rare as hen's teeth.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

If it didn't sound true, I wouldn't have bothered linking to it...

Your Life Path Number is 4

Your purpose in life is to build your vision.

You are practical and responsible. You work hard, knowing that there are no shortcuts in life.
You work for a better life for yourself and those you love, but you are not an idealist.
Trustworthy and honest, you also demonstrate great courage. People can count on you.

In love, you are a loyal and committed partner. You are the ideal spouse.

You don't give up easily, and sometimes you can be too stubborn and unwilling to change.
You also can be too conservative at times. You sometimes miss out on good opportunities.
Also remember that not everyone can work as hard as you, as disappointing as that is!


Sounds right to me... (Gee, no mention of modesty?)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Plover patrol




My name is Jack, and I am back,
To rid the park of the plover.
It's Jack Russell time, and I'm still in my prime;
I chase every bird and its mother!
Yes, those birds are back, they are on the attack,
Swooping the heads of kids wearing red,
Or anyone not under cover.

I find the exact spot where they want to lay eggs,
Rub myself in the scent - all over my legs,
And I find the exact spot where they sit and poo
So I roll in that till I smell like plovers, too...

Well, the plovers have gone, they've moved right along.
We won't even have to phone WIRES!
But a nearby school doesn't think it's too cool,
Their principal will ring: "I must ask you something:
Did you send us your birds?"
she enquires.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ribbons, ribbons, ribbons!

This weekend was Penrith District Show weekend. Small potatoes when compared to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, but with all the same things scaled back to fit in Penrith's little showground area.

Show

Last year, my class of Year 1 and Year 2 students entered 38 art and craft items and won a total of 19 ribbons. I'd wondered how we could ever improve on that excellent result. It was interesting to study the various categories and compare the entries the 2005 judges had considered winners. For example, we'd managed to scoop the pool in Clay Work with our little dog statues. However, the small, preliminary black/white dog sketches we'd spent several lessons on (building towards our day of clay play), mounted up to be put in the Drawing section, simply couldn't compete against the large, full colour drawings from other schools. Did the addition of glitter make an artwork into a Collage, or was it still a Painting? Several other unique pictures, which I'd been planning to call Paintings (until I read the entry descriptions and realised that they better fitted the category of one-off Printmaking) ended up doing extremely well because no other school happened to enter that section, thus we collected all the Year 1/2 awards on offer in Printmaking.

Well, for this year's event, I helped to encourage the other classes and teachers to contribute their own entries and the school as a whole (K-6) ended up with over 120 display items in art, craft and cooking. A lot of work to catalogue them all, pin cards to all the entries, and ensure that each item was suitably mounted for display and wrapped for transport. (Good ol' bubblewrap!) My own students made sure we entered coloured Drawings this time, lots of Clay Work (we were studying Australian Animals this year), more of our sneaky/clever, one-off Printmaking (good ol' spraybottle of thick, white paint), and some beautifully mounted Paintings and Collages. I reckon the hardest thing about child art is knowing when to tell the child, "Okay, maybe you should stop now..." I'm sure many a great example of naive art has been ruined because of overdoing it.

Imagine my surprise, pleasure and pride to realise that 34 of my class's 36 Penrith District Show 2006 entries had won ribbons - blue Firsts, red Seconds, yellow Thirds, white Highly Commendeds - and, in front of one student's prize-winning clay kangaroo model, a huge, extra blue sash, embossed in gold lettering: Best Exhibit: Art - School Years 1/2. Research pays!

sash

The display of schools' work was excellent this year: variety, quality and the setting out of the display space. My sincere thanks to our school's talented teachers and students, our worthy competitors from other schools, and my utter amazement at the great singlehanded job of the woman running the students' art section at the Penrith Show this year.

But I dread to think of how we top ourselves in 2007.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The fifth Warble


Warbles plus one
Above: The Warbles plus one

A few weeks ago, my class attended a wonderful concert from the Musica Viva Performances for Schools Program: the a capella group called "The Song Company". A capella singing has certainly gained some notoriety of recent years, mainly due to those gruelling and telling auditions that "Australian Idol" puts all prospective contestants through (most of whom end up humiliating themselves). Perhaps because of several years of "Idol" on TV, the children were already really atuned to the concept of the performers' voices serving as the only instruments. (And, in after-show question time, the students inevitably asked the singers why they hadn't yet tried out for "Idol".)

According to my students, the highlight of "The Song Company" concert was when the soprano, Nicole, sang her caterpillar song, during which she contemplated her plight of being a lonely garden creature just looking for love - and locked eyes with me (sitting on the sidelines, trying to be extremely nonchalant). To no avail, as it turned out, because she crossed the floor and ended up in my lap being amorous, much to the audience's amusement.

However, today I began wondering is there's a really big target painted on me somewhere. We walked the whole school to A Real Theatre to experience "The Warbles", four classically-trained opera singers who dress in colourful costumes and have stage names which reflect their vocal level (boilersuited ocker, Terry Tenor; passionate woman-in-red, Sylvie Soprano; swashbuckling pirate Barry Baritone; and magical fairy Miffy Mezzo.)

Pirates of Penzance

Playing different characters from various musicals, such as "The Magic Flute", "The Pirates of Penzance" (above), "The Mikado", "Mary Poppins" and "Oliver", the talented Warbles entertained the students for over an hour, I thought I'd managed a very narrow escape when Barry (Jonathan Morton, below) approached me on the aisle, open-armed and looking for his long lost love from "The Magic Flute". I raised my arms in return and he scarpered off to the other side of the theatre, where his birdlike partner had just appeared (to pantomime-type screams of "She's over there! She's over there!" from the audience).

Barry Baritone

But then, only minutes later, Sylvie Soprano (Tania de Jong) was back on stage - this time as the passionate "Carmen", from the opera "Carmen", naturally. With a plastic red rose clenched in her teeth, she rejected her matador lover (Barry again), and selected... me from the audience. The next thing I knew we were down onstage, Miffy had confiscated my glasses - and there I was under the hot lights, dancing up a storm with the woman-in-red. Forget "Australian Idol" - this was now "Dancing with the Stars"!

By audience reactions, I guess I did okay, although I quickly reminded everyone later that on "Dancing with the Stars" the celebrity contestants are at least given a week of rehearsal for each dance. And hey, I embarrass myself, there are work colleagues in the audience with school digital cameras on hand, but noone sneaks off a shot of my three minutes of fame?

Monday, August 21, 2006

The thrill of the hunt! Part 2


Saurians

I wasn't game to mention my latest eBay purchase until it had arrived in the mail from the UK, in case I jinxed the deal, but the package arrived today, so I hereby scream,

"Yippeeeee!"



Two tiny, white-metal Saurians from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" officially join my extensive collection of Citadel USS Enterprise crewmembers, and United Federation of Planets' alien ambassador figures, from that movie. The miniscule character figures are intended to be used as playing pieces for roleplaying games, or in battle-scenario dioramas.

The majority of the set I bought in little twin-packs from a shop (originally hidden in the corridors above Dymocks' city store) called "The Tin Soldier". That store had a few TMP aliens missing from stock, but they sent me off to a sister store on the north shore one day, where I picked up a few more pieces - and even more, later that year, when new stock arrived from England.

Frustratingly, neither store had a packet of K'normians (described by the publicity materials for TMP as having an additional brain case) - and none of those aliens are visible onscreen in TMP, although a photo of one surfaced in Star Trek: The Magazine a few years ago. Luckily for me, one of my packs of other aliens bought from "The Tin Soldier" had a mispackaged K'normian lurking inside. (At least, I assumed he was supposed to be a K'normian, since I never saw a photo of one until a few years ago.)

Neither store ever had TMP Saurians or Klingons in stock, either. (I figured some Aussie Star Trek fan had bought them all up to make a Gorn versus Klingons miniature chess set.) I did get a whole boxed set of tiny, white-metal movie Klingons, made for FASA's post-"Star Trek II" RPGs (and the Citadel Klingons, in catalogue pics I'd seen, were fairly ugly, squat little trolls).

When I was visiting the USA in 1984, my penpal took me to a cool hobby store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I suspected that Citadel TMP figures would be unknown in the US, although American fans were able to buy TOS miniatures and ST II, ST III and even TNG RPG miniatures. What a thrill! This shop had a lone TOS Tellarite in a drawer. He thought it had been there since 1978. Very exciting, especially since there had been no Tellarites in TMP.

Alas, still no Saurians. So - although I enthusiastically spray-painted all my tiny aliens with white-metal undercoat in about 1983 - I never did get inspired to locate my three-haired (and one-haired) brushes, plus my trusty magifying glass, to paint up all the figures in authentic colours.

I tell a fib: I did paint one figure, only to give it away. I must mention: these figures are, in real life, only 25 millimetres (1 inch) tall! When I interviewed TMP actor Billy Van Zandt in 1984, and mentioned that his likeness had been licensed as an itsy bitsy figurine in the UK, he was amazed. (I'd bought a spare set of Rhaandarites, since that twin pack contained only one ambassador, plus Billy's Starfleet ensign character, and I was planning to bend the limbs of the second ambassador enough to create a different pose. Meaning that I had a spare of Billy's character. So I painstakingly painted it up, as a thank you for doing the interview, and posted the little Rhaandarite off to big Billy's agent in New York.

I must add that I had once bought a book on painting 25 mm figures... and nearly passed out when they described how to paint the coloured iris - and black pupil! - in the centre of each white eye! No matter: Billy's character was given authentic yellow irises, even if Billy himself needed a magifying glass to check up on how well I did!

About five years ago, trawling around on eBay netted me some very nice TOS and TAS aliens in the old US range, including the rest of the Michigan Tellarite's buddies, lots of TOS-style Andorians, and a whole bagful of felinoid Kzinti (from the animated episode, The Slaver Weapon). At least a Kzin has bigger eyes than a hominid! (Hey, I could use a five-hair brush on those!)

Last week, on a whim, I returned to eBay for the first time in ages, and entered "Saurians Citadel" in the search facility - and there they were, in an auction that had only about a day to run: oop ultra rare citadel star trek st23 saurians. Wonderful! And, you know, finding them online was just as exciting as the day I found the first batch in a bricks-and-mortar store?

Pure therindipity, eh? Ah well, I need to buy myself some new paints and very-few-haired brushes. And hopefully finish painting them before I need my first glasses with bifocal lenses!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bloomin' heck

My friend The Other Andrew's beautiful spring nasturciums pic reminds me:

Last October, I was holidaying at a dog-friendly farm stay B&B in Grafton, and the woman who runs the place had the most glorious, vivid yellow nasturciums - and she allowed me to take some cuttings. Knowing how prolific nasturciums can be, I had no doubt that the cuttings would grow like weeds - and indeed, there has been plenty of foliage. They trail beautifully.

It's been a very busy week - lots of late afternoons at work - and I've not really been out in the yard much before dark this week - and on Friday night I noticed that the first flush of (presumably vivid yellow?) nasturcium flowers has actually been and gone! Drat. And double drat.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The thrill of the hunt! Part 1

Since February 1977, I have headed into Sydney's Central Business District (CBD) for Thursday "late night" shopping, as it used to be called when it first came in (and the concept of extended shopping hours was still quite the novelty).

I had just started a three year, full-time course at the Guild Teachers College, now long since absorbed into Sydney College of Advanced Education and then the University of Sydney.

Where did I head on these great nights of exploration? Bookshops!

Do you remember when Sydney's CBD was filled with a wonderful array of second hand, new and/or quirky specialist bookshops: the orderly A-Z Bookshop, where I first discovered UK and US printings of the animated Star Trek adaptations; the Sydney Book Exchange (where I once found cheap mint condition copies of "Starlog" magazine, #1-24, alongside stacks of plastic-sealed kinky porn); tiny, subterranean The Pocket Bookshop, with a lone cardboard Dalek silently guarding the top of the stairs (not being able to descend them, I suppose); Mary Martin Bookshop (where I tried for a job in 1980, but Mrs Martin turned me down 'cos she knew I was awaiting a permanent teaching position); the wonderful Galaxy Bookshop (now in its fourth location, and still going strong); New Era, near Chinatown, where I found cheap, new Star Trek "Fotonovels"; the wonderfully messy, split level Gould's Book Arcade; the original, poky, little upstairs location of The Land Beyond Beyond in the Crystal Palace Arcade, above the original, amazing Ava & Susan's Records; Hoyt's Entertainment Centre Bookshop, which carried movie tie-in stuff I'd never seen anywhere else before (but that shop eventually turned into a Granny May's collectibles store, and then a Baskin-Robbins ice-creamery); eclectic Abbey's; and the fascinating media section of the Tank Stream Arcade Bookshop; to name just a few. Sigh...

Log5

Why did I commit to a traditional weekly pilgrimage - which continues in almost-unbroken pattern, to this very day? Well, going on a hunt for books every Thursday night is the most effective way I still know to ensure one sees new books as they are released. Sure, one can order in books, so long as they are new or in-print, but there's no guarantee it won't come in elsewhere while waiting in vain - sometimes prepaid. And sure, one can order via Amazon (hey, the new Amazon re-sellers' market is amazing - finally I can track second hand books internationally - by title or author, or publisher, or even a vague, half-remembered description!) Or one can try one's luck with eBay (but that's another blog entry entirely).

Nothing beats the thrill of the hunt. Even better if you find something that you had no idea you were even looking for. Nothing used to beat that feeling of walking down the steps of the A-Z Bookshop, glancing to their Star Trek section across the room, and realizing that an additional (red) spine could be discerned on the now-very-familiar shelves of second hand books. Yes, it was 1980 or 1981, and I'd just spied a rare, early edition of Bantam's "Spock Must Die!" by James Blish.

And, for bitter-disappointment-turned-to-ecstacy, practically nothing beats the night I was in Galaxy Bookshop when David Gerrold's brand new "The Galactic Whirlpool" had been put out on the shelves. Anticipating it from a few sample chapters in "Starlog", I picked up the Star Trek novel - quickly swapped it for the least-damaged, most-pristine copy... when all the lights went out, and we were floundering around in the dark!

Shayne McCormack, the then-manager, announced something like, "I'm sorry everyone. The till isn't working and I'll have to ask you to put down your books and leave the store. As there would only be another hour of trading, it's unlikely we'll be back up and running again tonight, so I'll see you next time."

Luckily, I'd swung back past the shop about 20 minutes later, and they'd been able to restore power and reopen after all - so I grabbed my copy of TGW anew and hastened over to pay for it.

Creating a traditional weekly pilgrimage - and sticking to it - quickly made me known to the various owners, managers, and shop assistants. Without even asking, sometimes they'd order something in for me, figuring I'd want it. Or they'd hide something especially fun under the front counter and surprise me with their thoughtfulness. I am grateful also to the other stores that have sprung up to keep me commuting the distance into the CBD just to buy books (and toys, DVD, and everything else): Comic Kingdom; Kings Comics; Borders; Angus & Robertson; Dymocks; and so many more...

The Internet really takes a bit/lot of the fun out of hunting for new and used, must-have, collectible books. I'm not complaining because, through the Internet, I've found some of my most important collector's items. But there's something to be said about the good ol' days of knowing only that a new science fiction media tie-in title is due, but you've only heard rumours as to title, author, cover art, blurb, size, due date, and so on.

Now if only I can find time to actually read everything I've bought over the years...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Uninspired?

There's something very ironic in that I haven't been terribly inspired to blog this week, or last - ever since my last post, called "Be inspired!", actually, which was essentially just a link to someone else's inspirational web page. Sigh...

But, at the same time, I feel I am close to a realization about my self image. Close, but not quite there. I have been doing a lot of thinking. As an eternal pedestrian - the world is a much safer place without me behind the wheel - I get a lot of time to think... Often lately it's been about me, and my place in the world.

It's strange that, for many years, I felt I was exactly the same person, inside and out. Then for a while, I felt I had become a lot snappier and intolerant to others, but was still the same person inside. These days, I often feel that I'm probably a very different person inside to the one I felt I used to be. My internal voices now chatter away quite differently, in so many ways. It makes me wonder how gradual this change of inner voices has been. Would it have happened if I'd stayed in the same job, or house, or support networks, as before.

Sometimes it doesn't take much to dislodge one's internal paradigms about The Way Things Are. For a long time, it felt as in my job as a teacher-librarian, and my voluntary position of president of two science fiction media fan clubs, constantly required me to make important leadership decisions, and also to be a role model to other potential leaders. Only some of these leadership opportunities faded away due to action on my part.

Filling in the Australian Census form last week made me recall that, five years ago, I was satisfied by almost everything in my life. As I filled in that Census form in 2001, I was keenly aware that my job, at the time - editor of a professional journal for teacher-librarians - was so unique; that noone else was filling in their forms with exactly the same occupation information. I restrained myself from putting "Jedi Knight" down as my religion. Not too hard to resist that one, being a Star Trek fan and all that. I had also just moved house, and had plenty of empty space for All My Precious Stuff.



So here's a diversion from this flow-of-consciousness: my other house. A quaint little clay holiday house, originally from the old Bandi City on a planet called Deneb IV. It's no longer located on Deneb IV, of course. Somehow it was transported backwards through time and space - and is situated on a plot of grass from the Genesis Planet. Yes, it's my Little Bandi House on the Prairie. I wonder if they require Census forms to be filled out for that?

This time, on Census night, I was back being a primary school teacher, a job so common it was regularly printed as an example in the Census form. Physically, I carry less mass than I did five years ago, but there's nowhere on the form to record that factoid. I'm at the same address as last time, but have filled up most of the empty spaces in the house in just five years. Some cardboard boxes of My Precious Stuff are yet to be unpacked from when I moved. (And they say that if one hasn't unpacked a box in five years, then its contents are no longer needed...)

In a few weeks, I find out if I'm moving back into a teacher-librarianship role. So, will it immediately present me with leadership opportunities again? And will the inner voices revert to a previous state, or is my old self gone/transformed forever? It's scary, but it's exciting.

Bloody Census, making me all introspective. Bloody blog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Be inspired!




These posters are classic!


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Monday, August 07, 2006

The bookish meme

The Other Andrew highlighted this book meme, and since discussions of favourite books usually brings out the teacher-librarian in me, here goes:

1. One book you have read more than once:
Like Andrew, I'm a hoarder when it comes to books. Wasting time on the Internet these days has definitely cut into the time I might have spent re-reading old favourites, but I would have to choose 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

In the 1980s, my friend, Elaine Lee, was appearing in the play version, opposite Judi Farr and the late Leonard Teale. To my horror, the season at the Marian Street Theatre, Killara, was completely sold out. They had just added one more performance by public demand (whew!) but, while I was waiting for the big day, I picked up the book out of curiosity - and was immediately hooked. It's the true story, told in letters, of a feisty New York woman who loves English literature (and the mystique of leatherbound second hand books), and her pithy correspondence - almost love affair - with the canny manager of a London antiquarian bookstore. I just love the way the personalities of both main characters permeate their letters, and to see the evolution of their deepening friendship and mutual respect over many years, and the positive effects a single deep friendship can have on others. One also gets a taste of life in both cities: while stoic Londoners soldiered on under post-war food rationing, hectic New Yorkers' career paths, dental health and rental crises was preventing the following of dreams. Inspiring!

The feature film version with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins is excellent, too, as is an audio version featuring Miriam Karlan and Frank Finlay. The movie's soundtrack album is also a firm favourite. When I finally got to see Elaine in the play, the curtain call bows by the cast were real tear-jerkers. An amazing theatrical experience.

After reading 84 Charing Cross Road (which included the sequel, "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street"), Elaine Lee herself recommended the hilarious "Underfoot in Showbusiness", also by Helene Hanff, which details her frustrating quest to become a playwright. I then found "Apple of My Eye" on my own, ironically just a few weeks after visiting New York for the first time. That one has Hanff and her friend, the aptly-named Patsy, exploring New York as if they were tourists. They made me want to go back immediately and see everything I'd missed. I eventually found a rare, second hand hardcover version of "Apple of My Eye" (the one with all the photographs), on my next visit to New York. There's this wonderful three-storey second hand bookstore in Greenwich Village, where every book is alphabetized and categorized.

2. One book you would want on a desert island:
I'd have to agree with Andrew on this one: the omnibus edition of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, . Supports endless re-reading, and I would love the luxury of time to read it again after all the fun of seeing the three movies. (I loved seeing Sawyer reading "Watership Down" as his book of choice or, rather, the default book for a desert island, on TV's "Lost" recently. But it's not long enough for an extended stay.) Coincidentally, the one book Helene Hanff absolutely hated when she had to critique it, as part of her job evaluating books in "Underfoot in Showbusiness", was... The Lord of the Rings.

3. One book that made you laugh:
Mmmm. I love the humour of Peter David, comic book writer and "Star Trek" novelist, who's extended his talents into several series of very funny, very punny, medieval/fantasy books, particularly his Sir Apropos of Nothing trilogy. See also "The Woad to Wuin" and "Tong Lashing". (I also love collections of newspaper comic strips of the 80s and 90s, such as "Bloom County", "Calvin and Hobbes", "The Far Side" and "Robotman". They often give me a good belly laugh.)

4. One book that made you cry:
The ultimate time travel novel, The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. A young guy inherits a strange time travel belt and turns his life upside down as its power tempts and/or corrupts him. It's a real coming-of-age novel, so as a then-stereotypical science fiction fan in my early 20s, this one really hit home at times. Jokingly known in some circles as "The Man Who Fondled Himself", it certainly adds layers of complexity to all those SF shows that so carelessly flirt with time travel.

I consider David to be a friend, now that we've shared several ST convention experiences together, including one where we were both guests of honour in New Zealand - but I barely knew him when I first read TMWFH. David, of course, is also the creator of "tribbles", those little prolific fuzzballs from "Star Trek". I've bought every novel David has written (and have read most of them), and he always takes his readers on an informative journey.

5. One book you wish you had written:
My unpublished social history on Aussie TV phenomenon, "Number 96". Sadly, after several close calls, the Australian literary market was unable to embrace my proposed manuscript as a commercial venture. (Maybe I should reconfigure it as a doctoral thesis?) The book would have contained behind-the-scenes gossip, previously untold anecdotes and celebrity interviews. Series creator David Sale corrected many false assumptions made about the show over the years. Former executive producer, the late Bob Huber, generously supplied unpublished documents, including writers' guides, confidential memoranda and personal production notes. The book was to have celebrated the indelible marks this ground-breaking series left on its family of cast and crew, on the TV industry and on Australian popular culture. Sigh...

6. One book you wish had never been written:
Worst "Star Trek" novel ever: Deep Space Nine: The Laertian Gamble by Robert Sheckley. I was shocked to realize he was a highly respected science fiction writer. This book was just turgid, turgid, turgid. I read every "Star Trek" novel, and this was just bloody hard work to even keep turning the pages. Ick.

7. One book you are currently reading:
Burning Dreams by Margaret Wander Bonanno. It's the very latest "Star Trek" novel, of course: the definitive and biographical novel of Captain Christopher Pike, whom we saw hale and hearty in footage from the first ST pilot, "The Cage", and so tragically disfigured in "The Menagerie", the only original series (TOS) two-parter. This novel celebrates ST's 40th anniversary, and I was one of the fans on Psi Phi and TrekBBBS who helped make it possible for the author to return to the ST fold after her long exile following the "Probe" debacle.

8. One book you have been meaning to read:
Mmmm. I've bought all of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next (and Jack Spratt) science fantasy novels as they've come out in mass market paperback. He was signing in Galaxy Bookshop one night - and anyone who owns a pet dodo (The Eyre Affair) and gets Lost in a Good Book sounds like someone I want to read about. The covers and blurbs are so compelling, I hope I do enjoy them when I finally get the chance.

9. One Book That Changed Your Life:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry. I knew ST from the animated series of the 70s, and pre-publicity about the making of the first feature film to revive TOS. Picking up this novelization in a supermarket checkout queue (and reading it before seeing the movie) turned me into a ST fan and opened so many new doors over the past three decades.

10. Now tag five people:
Well, tagging people made me feel a bit uncomfortable last week, so I'll cheat a bit and just invite anyone who is interested to play to leave their comments or hyperlinks below.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Party mix

Okay, so I bought a big bag of Kenman's Party Mix lollies (candy for the US readers) - and they're 99% fat free - but they are not the expected traditional varieties. No snakes, no bananas, no black cats, no strawberries-and-cream. A few jelly babies, sure, but the rest of them are quasi-fruit jellies in "party" shapes: little chocolate ice cream cones, cupcakes, drink bottles, shooting stars, life-sized lips, mobile phones(?) and decapitated clown heads. And you know what? Those clown heads taste funny. Boom, boom.

clowns

On Friday a parcel arrived from Amazon. About two months ago, I finally tracked down a cute little Christmas ditty that Baz & Pilko (Barry Ion and Tony Pilkington) used to play in the late 80s on Sydney radio station 2UW's breakfast show, now the home of MIX 106.5 FM. Every Christmas, little comedy guest voice, "Peter Plus", used to introduce a song, supposedly sung by his kid sister, "Personality". (Personality Plus, get it?)

The song concerned someone, strongly suspected of being Santa Claus, who was stuck in the chimney on Christmas Eve, and met his demise up there, and was still stuck a day, then a week, then a month, then a year later. "Plussy" (voice of Barry Ion, IIRC) never gave a lot of notice that the song was about to be played, so taping it off-air was impossible. At the time, and over several years, I tried to find out the details of the song, since I suspected it was a commercial track from the USA. Rummaging through the Comedy Section of many record shops didn't bear fruit. A friend, who knew one of the 2UW on-air personalities, music guru Gary Jaegar, also drew a blank. Gary had told us the song was probably someone's old demo track and therefore not available on record. So I stopped looking.

Well, thanks to the wonders of Google and the Internet, typing in Santa "stuck up in the chimney" brought me, not only the full song lyrics to "The Chimney Song", as sung by one Lorna List, but also a link to Amazon and the CD version, on which the song is available as Track #2. And so "Twisted Christmas" (1987), by the Bob Rivers Comedy Corp, arrived at my place - after a short delay while Amazon restocked (in time for Christmas, I presume) - but missing my Midwinter Christmas party by a full two weeks. Sigh.

Gosh! The coveted lyrics are now available as a ringtone, and even as a little window for a web page! Isn't technology marvellous?

It was Amazon's second recording miracle in recent months. My dog, Jack, accidentally broke a friend's precious 78 RPM record of Spike Jones and His City Slickers singing the novelty song, "Wild Bill Hiccup" (1949). This was a song from Maria's childhood - or, more likely, her mother's childhood - which the family played on her grandmother's antique, hand-cranked record player - and Jack destroyed the 78 in one, ah, record leap onto a chair (after the stack had been moved during some renovations to their house). Good ol' Amazon. Look what I found with a little diligent searching. Now, I'm sure my friend won't need to hear "Wild Bill Hiccup" on CD all that often, but at least I know that she can, if she so desires, and without thinking black thoughts about Jack-be-nimble and his mountain goat-like feats.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Jack antics




What a week for my Jack Russell.

With the drought and the winter devastating the grass out in the yard - it's really quite fragile at the moment - just the tiniest amount of Jack Russell-like over-enthusiasm in pawing the ground after a wee results in a bare patch. Then poor li'l Jack thinks that I will think he's dug a hole, and he goes straight off to self-imposed exile under the bed for a few hours.

One evening this week, Jack was happily playing with a large rubber chew toy when Chookie, the cockatiel, decided to start flapping his wings and screeching loudly. (Chookie loves the exterior scenes in TV's "Home and Away", as they feature genuine cockatiel chirps in the audio track. I suppose.)

Typically, when the cockatiel starts carrying on just so, Jack runs to Chookie's cage, with the toy still firmly wedged in his mouth, and barks through the hole in the chew toy, while shaking his head rapidly from side to side, thus ragging the toy and telling off Chookie at the same time. We laughed at Jack the first time he did this, about a year ago, and the action has passed into ritual and legend, and is thus oft repeated.

Unfortunately, this time, Jack managed to give his head an almighty thump against the furniture, and he came staggering around from behind the lounge suite, literally seeing stars (and, I guess, little chirping cartoon birds). That's all you need after wacking your head barking at a noisy bird, you know: more *&#!@#% birds! Jack was abnormally subdued... oh, for all of about ten minutes. But that's a long time for a Jack Russell to stay quiet.

We usually say to him, "That's enough, Jack. Don't be mean to your brother." What's really funny, though, is that when Jack wants to hide one of his doggy treats for later, he most often places it carefully under Chookie's cage stand! (And proceeds to bury the precious treat with invisible dirt for at least fifteen minutes.)

Later, Jack took another self-imposed exile under the bed when I pulled out my nail clippers to trim my own fingernails. All it took was one click, and Jack - with a memory better than any elephant - had recalled the one time, five long years ago, when I tried to clip his needle-sharp puppy claws with that same nail clipper.

Then last night, at about 11.30 pm, Jack managed to choke on a faux bacon-flavoured Munchie Treat stick thing. Gobbling it appreciatively, in typical Jack Russell fashion, he managed to get some of it lodged in his throat and, for quite some time, he was unable to breathe properly or settle on his blanket. I started to imagine a late night mercy dash in a taxi to a 24-hour vet. Or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. (Or would that be my mouth to wet-doggie-nose resuscitation?)

Any time I bent down to massage his throat externally, or to attempt to calm him, I got licked all over the face as he tried to plead with me to help him. Thankfully, the stick thing finally dissolved enough for him to swallow it (or he regurgitated it and I just haven't found it yet) and another traumatic moment had passed.

Ah, children...

He's so innocent when he's asleep. (Under my doona.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb..."

Remember that iconic scene from the feature film version of the 1960s "Batman" TV series? Yeah, the same film that had the unforgettable exploding rubber shark, four arch villains teaming up as the United Underworld, and those poor ol' dehydrated world leaders?

At a crucial stage of the film, Batman ends up with a huge, cartoony, spherical bomb, its wick fizzing noisily - and everywhere our stoic superhero runs to attempt to dispose of it, he comes across a crowded pub, a young couple necking, a marching band, a group of nuns, a mother duck paddling with her young...

Well, I felt like that today (er, * looks at the time *, yesterday). I took a parcel into work, to be sent via the internal mail/courier to State Office. I thought I was being really clever by recycling the padded envelope, and by peeling off the label to reveal the original address underneath. As I suspected, the addressee I needed was already mentioned on the envelope, since she had already recycled the envelope to me in the first place!

I had no packing tape handy, but the school's clerical assistant organised for her offsider to tape it up for me, then it was ready for the mail bag. Or so we both assumed. A few minutes later, the parcel was back in my classroom, albeit beautifully taped up.

Now, the package didn't have boomerangs in it, just children's picture books I'd been reviewing, but I had a strange sense of deja vu. I raced the package back to the mail bag, worried it had been collected by the courier during the parcel's unanticipated return sojourn in my room. (Actually, I'd already missed the mail bag collection before I'd arrived at work.)

But, Murphy's Law and all that, needless to say that when I went into the staffroom at morning tea break, and attempted to check my pigeon hole for incoming mail, the parcel was there, too! Now the boss had delivered it to me. The pigeon hole was crammed full... of that damned parcel!

Sure, my name was on the back of the package, but as the sender. This parcel seemed determined to plague me. That'll learn me, as Foghorn Leghorn (or someone) used to say, for not finishing the final draft of my reviews before the official deadline. As Batman (Adam West) once said, "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb..." I'm actually terrified to go to my pigeon hole before the weekend rolls around. I just know that parcel's not giving up yet.



The above Battalion Australia photograph (from 1990) features Brett Harrison as Batman, Ian McLean as Robin, Steve Simpson as The Riddler, Christopher Sequeira as The Joker (soon to be recast by Heath Ledger if the Hollywood rumour mill is running true) and Jonathan Sequeira as Two-Face. Photo by the very talented Andrew Rankin, wherever he is these days.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Playing tag

From KRAD's Inaccurate Guide to Life
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your Blog/Live Journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
6. Tag five people.

Beside her, on a chair, was the missing dress. In front of her, on the table was the missing ring. She said quietly, "Hallo, Harry."

The gin bottle clinked on the edge of the glass as Vera got herself a drink.


From Number 96: The Sins of Harry Collins (1974) by Marina Campbell.

I even have a pic I can link:



No cheating, I swear. My "Number 96" paperbacks were the closest to the computer. It was either one of them, or "The Macquarie Dictionary", and I figured KRAD expected it to be fiction. I hereby tag:

And If I didn't tag you, please feel free to add your sentences in the Comments section.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Who is that blue man...?




An interesting experiment: post a pic of a cute puppy and get more replies - the first of which came through only minutes after I uploaded it. I promise, there are plenty more Jack snaps I can add over time. Meanwhile, if you're into lovingly customised Star Trek aliens, then these pages might be of interest.

In point of actual fact, to coin one of Arnold Feather's old "Number 96" phrases (and that's another one), I'm more interested in seeing whether the Archive (below) will automatically click over to August. :) So indulge me. I'm still a newbie blogger.