Friday, February 23, 2007


In going over the stats for Get on the Blandwagon!, I've noticed a new trend. I'm getting a lot of traffic coming to rather than the ordinary address. Further investigation reveals that is a site that allows people living in repressive societies like China and Iran to access "forbidden" content... like... erm... my blog.

I don't know what's so challenging to despotic regimes about bad movie reviews and unimpressive personal anecdotes. Perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a big Coleman Francis fan and doesn't appreciate mockery of his idol. Hmmm... that would certainly explain the fatwah on Tom Servo I saw on the news the other night.

I could put a banner across my blog announcing my dedication to democracy, truth and liberty, but since most of the pkblogs traffic is coming via searches for Raquel Welch in a bikini, I might be deluding myself. In any case, let the freedom bells boobies ring!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


And now, The Neverending Trials of Alfina the Vague, in which our heroine battles an idiot.


I went out to the Hyde Park Hotel on Monday night for another burst of jazz. It was great, as it always is. You'd think that some of these people came out of their mothers' wombs with a tiny trumpet or guitar clutched in their bloodied little fists, such is the ease with which they play. I was disappointed that no one wore a suit, but then I always am. To me suits and jazz go together like flares and wocka-chicka-wocka music, but only one of the performers even bothered to tuck his shirt in. I'm sorry, but jazz played while wearing a stripey polo shirt is NOT REAL JAZZ, no matter how good it sounds.

There are some lavishly talented musicians in the Perth jazz scene, but with such a small pool, it's not surprising that they all tend to sound the same. Not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but very samey. Listening to their music is the aural equivalent of watching a gang of beer- and testosterone-charged footballers jostling each other to see who can piss the highest against a wall.

Or, to put it another, less rambunctious way, Perth jazz is like a dizzyingly intricate Persian mosaic.

It's incredibly busy, with details crammed in to the point at which your eyes (or ears, as the case may be) lose their focus. It's enjoyable, but more because you marvel at it rather than because it touches you.

What I'd like to hear is jazz that's a bit more like a Matisse sketch.

Just a few lines, deceptively simple but placed so perfectly that they are sufficient to convey all that the artist desires to convey. I'd like to hear jazz that uses the silences as well as the notes. I'd like to hear jazz that's intimate and sensual.

When it comes to a choice between delivering jazz by blitzkrieg or seduction, I know which I'd prefer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Chuck Norris. The name says action… although I’ve yet to figure out why. Let’s face it; Chuckles is about as lively as a glacier and has fewer facial expressions than Mt. Rushmore. And in 1985’s ‘Code of Silence’ he doesn’t even seem to do much fighting, which I would have thought was the whole point. It’s not like we watch Chuck Norris movies for the zesty dialogue and innovative camera angles. Twenty minutes randomly selected from a Jackie Chan movie will yield at least one lengthy, beautifully choreographed fight scene. Twenty minutes randomly selected from ‘Code of Silence’ will yield a lot of stony glowering and high-waisted jeans, and that’s about it.

Still, the good thing about Chuck Norris is that he was at the height of his powers in the mid-1980s, and there’s a certain sense of comfort to be gained from taking out your list of Mid-80s Cultural Signifiers and time-stamping the relevant items as they appear.

First piece of supposedly soulful saxophone music – 0.02

First appearance of a freakish man-mullet – 4.06

First appearance of a Rubik’s Cube – 7.27

First appearance of jeans worn a little too short, so as to display blindingly white tube socks – 12.52

First appearance of a room full of women with explosive perms – 17.35

First appearance of Henry Silva playing the same character he always plays: a rich evil white dude in a suit – 22.02

First appearance of a fanciful robot, a la ‘Short Circuit’, that isn’t possible with today’s technology, let alone 1985’s – 25.32

First appearance of awful, candy-coloured 80s art – 35.13

First appearance of a woman with a girl-mullet and earrings the size of New Jersey – 36.10

First appearance of a cutting-edge personal computer with less processing power than a Tickle Me Elmo – 38.56

First time Chuck Norris actually fights somebody, possibly in reaction to the audience’s cries of “Sweet merciful crap, Chuckles! We’ve been watching for three quarters of an hour! Punch someone in the head already!” – 46.01

So how does it end? It ends the way these movies always end; with the hero bloodied but triumphant, as the camera pulls back to reveal the setting in which he just fought his final battle, now crawling with cops and paramedics who appear despite the fact that no one had a phone with which to call them.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Over the weekend I bought The Klaxons' debut album 'Myths of the Near Future' because I vaguely recalled liking what I heard when RTR-FM had it as their feature album a couple of weeks ago. I didn't recall any details, because I only listen to RTR-FM when my alarm goes off in the morning, and anything I hear has to make it through the foggy layers of sleep to reach my brain. But apparently it made it through, and apparently I liked it, because I bought it and now I'm very happy that I did.

Why I like it is hard to say, since I can't really compare The Klaxons to anyone I know. I looked up a few reviews on the web, and I learned a couple of things.

One, they're part of something called New Rave, or nu-rave, depending on how cool you are, which apparently is almost but not completely unlike Old Rave.

Two, I am totally over that bitchy, sneering, jaded tone universally adopted by the British independent music press. A few of the reviewers actually admitted that they wanted to say how much they liked the album, but because of something a Madchester producer said to the New Musical Express sub-editor in 1994 regarding Damon Albarn's haircut, they couldn't. Or, you know, something like that.

However, I waded through all the snark and the bitterness, and I did find one idea that seemed to sum them up: they sound like somebody trying to re-record mid-90s dance music using indie-style guitars and drums. And indeed they do. Why couldn't someone just say that at the begining?

Sadly in going to the CD store and reading some music mags, I've also discovered that I am now too old to keep up with music. I mean, I've heard of Gnarls Barkley and Snow Patrol, but if you put a gun to my head and asked me to say what they sounded like, or to name one of their songs, well, I guess my brains would be splattered all over the wall by now. That's not to say that I wouldn't like them if I heard them - I'm not that far into decrepitude yet - but I'm just incapable of keeping up with the ever-changing names.

Maybe it's also a sign on incipient fogeyism that I love OK Go's video for 'Here It Goes Again', without worrying about whether or not it is cool to do so. I salute any young person who says "I will practice flawlessly timed and choreographed treadmill dancing until I can do it in an unbroken three minute take." Therein lies the future of our great civilisation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


It's easy to review bad movies, but rather more difficult to review good ones. I went out to see 'Stranger Than Fiction' last night, and I loved it. It was beautifully paced, literate and subtle, with some superb acting and a witty, elegant script.

There, you see? So far, so boring. Go read one of my Bad Movie reviews if you want to avoid my dreary, patchy, long-winded analysis, or if you want to avoid spoilers. Otherwise you only have yourself to blame.

One of the most obvious things I appreciated about 'Stranger Than Fiction' was the set design. I love good set design. In these sorts of movies, the set design can actually do half the work of creating the characters. For example, Professor Hilbert's office in the neo-Brutalist architecture of a university foreshadows the ascendancy of ideology over compassion in his own soul. Karen Eiffel's writing suite is a sterile, unwelcoming space, but the sparse furnishings are whimsical designer pieces, reflecting her struggles between her craft and her feelings for her characters. Even the peripheral character of Dave gets a worn retro-futuristic apartment, embodying his thwarted childhood dreams of Space Camp.

I don't mention Ana Pascal's shop or apartment, both of which are eclectic, colourful spaces filled with hand-crafted objects and warmth, because here I think the film makers faltered. Ana Pascal doesn't quite work. For a start, Maggie Gyllenhaal is too plumply cherubic for the role, not to mention far too young. The character needed to be older, more angular, and less nice.

You see, at her core, Ana is obnoxious. She's a self-righteous, narrow-minded left-wing bigot, smugly demonstrating her supposed moral superiority by keeping a homeless man as a sort of pet, and yet treating Harold with astonishing levels of bile and contempt before she even knows what sort of person he is, based on her prejudices about what he represents. She accepts no priorities or morals that are not her own, and as such she's about as genuinely caring as a Hallmark card. When the movie tries to avoid this, it forces actions upon her that clash with her character.

If that simple truth (that despite her right-on opinions and socio-political awareness, she's a plain, old-fashioned shrew) had been recognised and embraced, it would have given her more room to develop as a character. A little more bitterness, a few more grey hairs, a little more badly concealed disillusionment, and she would have been a better yin to Harold's yang, and they could have grown together, rather than just having Harold grow toward her.

Still, Ana Pascal's deficiencies notwithstanding, 'Stranger Than Fiction' is the best movie I've seen since 'Sideways'. I even liked Dustin Hoffman's performance, which, since I've never forgiven him for the awful hash he made of 'Death of a Salesman', is quite an achievement.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Perhaps it’s because my house is so clean, but lately I’ve been in the mood for redecorating. For a while I’ve been dissatisfied with the part of the house that lies directly behind the front door… I suppose you call it the vestibule, or the entry hall, or something else that sounds ridiculous when applied to anything less imposing than the Palace of Versailles.

So, in this instalment of The World of the Blandwagon, I give you the Chez Blanders Reception Foyer.

entry statement

Apparently, according to interior designers, home owners are supposed to make an “entry statement” so that guests will be suitably awed when they cross the threshold. That’s if you do it right. Do it wrong and your guests may instantly decide that you are a pretentious bastard, and spend their evening surreptitiously grinding sundried tomato canapés into your couch cushions out of spite.


People always ask if the phone works, and in fact it does. However it can only be used for answering calls, as the spring has gone in the rotary dial, and if you dial a ‘9’ it takes several minutes to work its way back around. On the other hand, it does have a nice loud old-fashioned ring. It’s also made of quarter-inch thick bakelite and cast iron – you could club a burglar to death with it. Or, indeed, a vindictive guest with a sundried tomato canapé.


I made these cows out of scrap wood left over from an extension to a rental house back in the early 90s. I still think they’re one of my more serendipitous efforts.


There was this bit of wood left over from another project, and some good nails, and a packet of tealights, and it all just sort of came together. Unfortunately when the candles get hot and soft, they tend to fall out. Well, I’m an artist, not an engineer! Excuse me while I hurl my beret to the floor and go cry into my absinthe.

pew end

A friend of mine picked up some carved legs from the pews of an old church that was being demolished, and he gave them to me. They are solid jarrah and would also be useful for sundry burglar/canapé-grinding guest bashing.

fishing spear

This is one of a pair of fishing spears from Papua New Guinea. They will be useful for impaling any salmon who are foolhardy enough to ring my doorbell.

I found this old mirror in a junk shop. It’s possibly Edwardian, and possibly off a dressing table, although it seems far too tall and narrow. Perhaps it was a custom job for someone with a conjoined twin growing out of the top of their head?

Unfortunately after guests make it past the Reception Foyer, they are immediately confronted by my living room furniture, which is old, grimy and splitting where the fabric has rotted. Frankly the only thing holding it all together is the dried bits of canapé. Thus any good impressions my guests had are immediately undone. Oh well.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Over the weekend I watched Russ Meyers' 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls', a 1970 sexploitation farce written by, of all people, Roger Ebert.

Behind the psychedelic colours, afro hairdos and lines like "This is my happening and it freaks me out!", it didn't take me long to realise that 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' was almost exactly the same film as 'Josie and the Pussycats'. An all girl band (consisting of two white girls and one black), dispirited by their lack of success in their small home town, run off to the big city where they are catapulted into fame and fortune, based more on serendipity than their music. Then they succumb to the Perils of Fame, and the band is nearly torn apart until they realise that friendship is more important than money and accolades.

Of course 'Josie and the Pussycats' didn't have quite so many naked or semi-naked women... or lesbian love trysts, drug abuse, decapitated men in leopard-skin bikini briefs or fat Nazis being impaled on antique swords*. But basically it was the same movie.

If you're unfamiliar with Russ Meyers, all you really need to know is that he was all about teh boobies. One could argue that all men are all about teh boobies, but Russ was positively monomaniacal... or perhaps more accurately bimaniacal. Sometimes the boobies were being jiggled around front and centre, but more often they were captured more subtly, cast in silhouette against a bright window, or shadowed in an artful display of chiaroscuro beneath an actress' lit face. His love of boobies was almost transcendent. It was certainly profitable.

It's also very telling that in the end, when the villain of the piece is unmasked, or rather unbloused, we are treated to boobies that look like a couple of flaccid pyramids with pink dice glued to their tips. Far from being the buoyant globes sported by the heroines, they look like roadkill. In the Russ Meyers world, bad boobies are the mark of a bad person.

* Although let's be honest, if you liquor up Tara Reid anything can happen.

Friday, February 09, 2007


We live in a decadent and depraved society, and as anyone with a computer and a modem will tell you, the sickest of the sick tend to gravitate to the internet. Cyberspace's unique blend of public access and anonymity allows them to display their most perverse desires for all the world to see.

At this site you will see things so degraded as to make you feel physically ill. The people involved have been denied even the smallest measure of human dignity, and yet they seem to take part so willingly. It is an abomination... but you feel yourself drawn back to it, hating yourself even as you do.

Consider yourself warned. If you can't control your curiosity and do decide to click on the link, just make sure you turn your volume down first, since there's some pretty hardcore embedded music.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


In 1977 television producer Quinn Martin created a pilot for a TV series called 'Code Name: Diamond Head'. It was not picked up by any of the American television networks, possibly because the network executives had seen it, and then promptly died of boredom. Frankly, in a list of the most reviled pilots in history, it would have to rank somewhere between Kiyoshi Ogawa and Mohamed Atta.

Thanks to an iron constitution, a firm will, more than two decades of bad movie desensitisation and the guiding hand of MST3K, I have seen this pilot in its awful, awful entirety. And yet I couldn’t tell you what it was about. Nobody can. It seems to exist in a sort of self-negating limbo, in which it can exist and yet have absolutely no defining characteristics. As you can imagine, this makes it very difficult to review.

A creative and lateral solution was needed. So I decided to review the movie’s poster instead. What does the poster tell us about the movie? Well, more than the movie told us about the movie! Hooray!

Let’s start with the title. Note the font. It says future! It says computers! It says dated within five years of release! This movie must have had a strong technological component, even though the most advanced piece of technology in this picture appears to be some guy’s polyester windbreaker.

On to the most important part of any movie poster: the tagline. “One man stands between the release of a deadly gas… and the fate of the world.”

Ahem. I’m sure we’ve all been that man at some point… usually after eating chilli.

Possibly, just possibly, this is the most hilariously inept tagline in the history of cinema. Even if we play along and studiously ignore the scatological double entendre, it still doesn’t make any sense. Logically the fate of the world must occur whether the deadly gas is released or not. A more sensible tagline would read, “One man stands between the release of a deadly gas… and the non-release of a deadly gas.”

I really wish tagline writers would think these things through.

Moving on to the images themselves, we can discern that 'Code Name: Diamond Head' starred Roy Thinnes, presumably as the titular hero, since his picture is bigger than everyone else’s. He is shown here apparently trying to shoot down a Concorde with a revolver. In a brave piece of casting, he has been given the lead role despite the fact that he has no legs.

It also apparently starred Ian McShane as some sort of army guy who makes a phone call. We do not know who is on the other end of the phone. Judging by the expression on his face, it may be the Emergency Incontinence Hotline. He too has no legs.

Then there’s France Nuyen as a woman in a bathing suit, being menaced by someone… possibly Huggy Bear, to judge from the oversized hairdo. As the only person with legs in this movie, she will have to do most of the running around. True, she doesn’t appear to have feet, but in the kingdom of the blind, as they say, the one eyed man is king.

There is also a yacht, a mountain, a lot of water and at least one palm tree. None of them have legs either. After all, if they did, they would have run away. Anything to avoid being in this horrible, hideous, mind-defiling wreck of a movie.


You may recall that I posted a few weeks ago about a number of New Guinea artefacts that I acquired from a distant relative, via my parents. I'd picked out the pieces I liked from the pile, then left the remainder in their shed for them to deal with as they saw fit.

In addition to the masks, fossils and stone axes I'd already collected, my parents have recently delivered a pile of weaponry I'd picked out but been unable to fit in my car. They include flared bamboo arrows, trident fishing spears, and long stout tapered pieces of wood with knots of woven reed on the ends, which might be long bows.

But cunning devils that they are, my parents also dumped the rest of the entire collection in my living room, then buggered off to India for two months on a short-term employment contract. Either I have to haul it back to their shed, four hundred kilometres away, or I have to dispose of it all myself, one way or another.

I was slightly annoyed to have several large boxes of unprovenanced artefacts cluttering up my house, but at least it gave me a chance to go through them a little more thoroughly and work out some more of their story.

The first thing I wanted to know was if they really were as old as I'd been informed. Knowing my family, the story about these items being from a missionary's journeys in the Highlands in the 1960s and 70s could have evolved, like a Chinese Whisper, from someone's two week holiday in Port Moresby in 1992. However, there was a degree of proof. The latest dated material in the boxes was from 1989, but the bulk of it was published in celebration of independence in 1975. The oldest dated item I could find was a modest breadboard, decorated with a tiny pokerwork map of New Guinea, and dated 1966. It came from a Baptist Mission on the Baiyer River, deep in the jungles of the Western Highlands.

1966 may not seem that old, but you must remember that there were still tribes in the New Guinea Highlands that had never had contact with the outside world at that time. Indeed, I read in one of the books that New Guinea still had cargo cults well into the 1970s, if not later. If you're not familiar with cargo cults, their logic runs something like this.

1. The white man doesn't seem to do all that much physical work.

2. The white man has guns, tools, farming equipment, tinned food, radios, cameras and colour posters of Raquel Welch in a bikini.

3. To get all this cool stuff, apparently without working for it, the white man builds airstrips, radio towers and warehouses, and hey presto, ships and planes bring it all to him.

4. Ergo, if we build airstrips, radio towers and warehouses, ships and planes will bring this stuff to us too!

So members of cargo cults abandon their farms and their hunting parties, and instead build remarkable imitation airstrips, radio towers and warehouses in the middle of the jungle. Then the cult dies out when they all starve. You have to wonder at how limited their experience of westerners must have been for them not to understand how these things actually worked.

The second thing I wanted to know was how "genuine" or "authentic" these items are, and on that count, I'm no wiser than I was before. Some of the items are made from fishing line, plastic beads and other western materials. But some others are made from intricately woven reeds and plant fibres, unsawn wood and natural thorns, seeds and shells. They could have been made twenty years ago or twenty thousand years ago. Without doing enough research to make me an armchair expert on tribal handicrafts, I just can't tell.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Anatomy of a Wasted Sunday Afternoon

1. I think that the vintage lava lamp in the kitchen might look better in the living room.

2. Hmm, it's a bit greasy from being next to the hotplates. Better clean it.

3. While I've got the paper towels and the sugar soap out, I really should clean the grease off those cannisters as well.

4. Moving the cannisters has revealed the filth on the splashback tiles. I may as well clean them too.

5. And the window sill.

6. And the ornaments on the window sill.

7. Now that the garbage bin is full of greasy paper towels, I'd better empty it.

8. Now that it's empty, I can see that it's filthy. Time to clean it.

9. And the floor tiles underneath it are disgusting!

10. I should vaccum the floor tiles before I mop, just to get the bigger bits of crap.

11. While I've got the vacuum out, I really should do the living room as well.

11. Now that I've vacuumed, I need to empty the bag.

12. Even when empty the bag is gross. Time to chuck it in the washing machine.

13. Now the bag is clean but I have to pick a lot of crud out of the washing machine drum.

14. And when did the top of the washing machine get so dusty?

15. While I'm dusting, I really should clean the dust off the hardwood floors under the TV cabinet and the coffee table where the vaccum cleaner doesn't reach.

And so on and so forth. Now the kitchen wall tiles look pink rather than a pinkish shade of beige, there's no traction on the kitchen floor, the house smells of sugar soap and disturbed rancid grease, and I can see my reflection in a whole bunch of surfaces that used to be matt. It's very unsettling.


Email Correspondent @ Work: Check out this video! It's a riot!

Me: My computer won't play it for some reason. What's it about?

EC@W: It's a comedy skit using real graphics of Gearge Bush (sic) and Candolece Rice (sic) having a discussion. Bush, being stupid, doesn't get what they're supposed to be talking about. It's really witty and incorporates Yassar (sic) Arrafat (sic), and some guy in the UN whose name sounds like Coffee (sic) .

Me: Er, would that be Secretary General Kofi Annan?

EC@W: Sounds like it. It's very funny!

Me: Yep, that Dubya sure is an idiot.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Recently, over drinks and antipasto, I had the following conversation with a church friend whom I hadn't seen for a few weeks.

Me: So, do you have any news?

MC: (guardedly) What do you mean?

Me: You know, have you been up to anything fun, gone anywhere cool, killed a man in cold blood. You know, whatever.

MC: (relaxes) Oh, yeah, sorry. It's just that a lot of people are asking that question in relation to CT. You know, engagement-wise.

Me: Oh please. You've only been going out with her for two months!

MC: Yeah, but even so. You know what people are like.

Me: Sheesh, I really hate the fact that you can't even talk to a single woman in a church for five minutes without certain histrionic gushers hearing wedding bells. What the hell is wrong with them? They should at least give the two of you a chance to get to know one another before they start buying confetti!

MC: Ain't that the truth.

And so the conversation moved on to other topics. Needless to say, five days later, I had a phone call from a certain histrionic gusher.

CHG: Guess what! MC and CT are engaged!

Me: Sweet merciful crap! Really?

CHG: Yes!

Me: Well, isn't that... delightful.

Obviously the pressure became too much for him. Sometimes I wish I was an atheist.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Newsflash from Achewood: Chris Onstad can't draw cows.

Mind you, he can't really draw cats either. However he does draft a good Mini.