a little east of reality

Thursday, August 24, 2006

holding patterns

The usual format of a scrapbooking class is that you learn some new techniques (eg tonight's array included walnut inking to simulate aging of the paper, etc) and then you use the photos you've brought to create a double page spread, hopefully (but not necessarily) incorporating something you've just learned.

I'd forgotten all about this until ten minutes before I had to be there and so ended up grabbing the first reasonable group of photos I laid hands on before running out the door.

The photos were of one of my farewell parties when I left Japan. This particular dinner was courtesy of the little group of older ladies whose English Circle I'd helped run for about eight months. They took me to the most expensive and traditional Japanese restaurant I've ever experienced. All of the food looked like art. We also had a huge baked fish completely encased in a hard salt shell about half an inch thick. The waiter opened it at the table by hitting it with a hammer! It was a fun night. I thought about how surprised they would be if I turned up at their circle night on my next trip to Japan.

I spread the photos out on the table, looking at all their faces, when it suddenly hit me - one person in the photo, Yoshiko-san, was no longer there to visit. She took a trip to Alaska to visit her daughter, Shima, about two weeks after I left Japan. She wanted to see what her daughter did at work and accompanied her on a mail run in the little twin-engine plane that Shima piloted. They crashed in open waters and their bodies were never found. This happened about three weeks after the photo was taken. We had talked about the upcoming trip at that same farewell dinner. She was really excited about going, because she hadn't seen her daughter for over two years.

As if that had not reminded me enough that life is short and unpredictable, today the strangest coincidence brought the point home again. I'd taken a phone message for my workmate late yesterday. This morning he came over to my desk:

"You know the Chris who phoned yesterday?"


"He died last night."

"He died? Really?"

"Yep. Heart attack."

One minute he's just living a normal day, then he's gone. Same with Yoshiko. She must have been so excited to watch her daughter piloting the plane ~ something Shima had done week after week for two years without mishap. Then suddenly they are in danger and finally crash. It brought to mind other unexpected deaths: my close friend Darren, shot during a senseless argument outside a bar when he was nineteen; a lecturer's wife who died instantly when an aneurysm she was unaware of ruptured in her brain. She had been out at a staff dinner earlier that night, apparently fine and having a good time. They were a pretty shell-shocked group the next morning.

And so it goes. Life really is that fragile and it sometimes takes precious little to end it. I'm not sure what I think about that. Should it influence how I live? I have a certain amount of existentialist verve, but in my experience thinking only of today has led more to debt than to celebration of life. Occasionally I've managed to combine the two. I don't want to die, but I'm not afraid of it either. Of course ask me again when I'm crashing into the ocean off the shore of Alaska and you might get a different answer. It does make me want to stop wasting time and get on with some personal projects I've had on the boil for a while now.

I'm not sure how to end this post, and it's not about being profound. I just found myself pondering this idea that life could end suddenly and without warning. Sometimes we wait a really long time before doing things we need to do, want to do, should do. We behave as if we know how long we will live and it's a long, long, time. And I'm not going to look at some old photos and then go running through the streets yelling "Carpe diem, dammit!" at every person who just doesn't seem to taking it all seriously enough. But maybe there's stuff I've waited long enough on.

Monday, August 21, 2006

crap, crap, crap!!

Yesterday was one of those 'shaking fists at the sky' kind of days. About 1.30pm, just before I was due to leave to pick up my new boarder (Cam) from the airport, the phone rang. It was the police, informing me that my car had been found in a clump of trees about two suburbs north of my house. A phone call to Qantas revealed that they have no system in place to get any kind of message to their passengers, and Cam has no cell phone for me to call him on. His English is okay, but not really the level you'd hope for when you suddenly find yourself abandoned at a strange airport with no idea what's happening with the person who's supposed to be picking you up. Rev to the rescue. He raced back from church to pick me up and we scooted down to the airport. Poor Cam was relieved to find us, but worn out and quite green with travel sickness. We actually had to stop twice on the way home so he could be sick. When we got back to my place he slept for about four hours before he was fit to really meet us properly.

As for my car, here are the crappy facts:
~ the ignition lock is damaged and I can't get the key to turn;
~ the driver's seat has been busted so that it won't stay in one position and slides back so much that I can hardly reach the clutch;
~ the passenger door lock has been tampered with (how they got in);
~ the radio/CD player is gone;
~ the steering column feels a bit shaky. Not sure if it's damaged.

The not-so-crappy facts:
~ no damage outside, no broken windows;
~ there was nothing of any great value in the car;
~ the most valuable thing, a bag with about $100 worth of scrapbooking materials, they didn't take;
~ it was already found when I learned it was stolen, so no waiting for days wondering where it is and if it will be found.

Oh wait, I forgot one more crappy fact: MY INSURANCE WILL NOT COVER IT! Yes, that's right. A fact I only discovered today (oh joy!) Whether my fault (not checking the policy properly) or theirs (giving incorrect information) I will never know, but whatever the case, theft is not covered and I will be paying for this one myself.

Kudos: to the lady who let me make a call from her house when my mobile died, the friendly tow-truck guy who helped me get all the stuff out of my car before he took it away, my friend Rev who, as noted, came to my rescue (and Cam's) and the police officer who agreed to do the stolen vehicle report on the phone instead of making me bus it to the police station. Without them, yesterday would have sucked even more than it already did.

Friday, August 18, 2006

judith lucy

Friday night I saw Judith Lucy's new stand up show, I Failed. Basically she was hired to do breakfast radio in Sydney ~ supposedly the best job in radio in Australia, the breakfast show being the Holy Grail of radio announcing ~ and about a year later was fired because, quote: "our core demographic...hates you."

And so they should. Oz Stereo's core demographic is the Britney Spears generation. You know, the ones who list 'instant messaging' as a hobby and think they are making a difference in the world by adding their vote in the Australian Idol competition. Judith Lucy is dry, sarcastic, intelligent and informed. She is hardly cheerleader breakfast fodder.

The show was great! When someone can make you laugh uproariously at tales of colonic irrigation, you know they are truly funny. Although the main theme of the show was her story of breakfast radio and all the stupid gimicky things they reluctantly did (get an LA wax, on air) or refused to do (create 'something light-hearted' on accusations of sexual harrassment against rugby players that were prevelent in the news at the time) or couldn't believe someone had even suggested they do (eg run a competition, the winner of which would get to impregnate themselves with a volunteer celebrity's sperm...good grief!) she took lots of detours along the way.

If you're a fan, or would like to check her (and her humour) out, she did an amazing interview with Andrew Denton recently ~ amazing because it's so honest about her seriously shocking upbringing. Very interesting.

The written interview with the picture of the terrible hair cut she refers to in the interview.

The whole interview in mp3 (plays in the browser).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

how to break your own heart

Tonight I was heading out for the evening when I heard a weird sound from our driveway. I couldn't recognise it at all, this clumsy banging sound, and it was with total surprise that I rounded the corner to find a small kangaroo lopsidedly hopping down the drive towards me. The reason for its awkwardness was immediately obvious - it's right leg had snapped at the ankle and it was hopping on the stump while the foot flopped along with it, still attached but completely useless.

It's interesting how easy it is to panic quietly. I didn't want to frighten it, so I had to be calm and keep my voice tone gentle, but my mind was racing trying to figure out who to call and how best to keep the kangaroo confined until help arrived. I was so worried that if I went inside it would manage in spite of its injuries to hop out into the road and get hit by a car before I could get back to it. After all, it had managed somehow to get from the national park to our driveway.

I got the number for the RSPCA and then was so happy to see my downstairs neighbour coming out of her door. She'd heard the weird banging too and come to check it out. From there she took over the phone calls while I stayed outside with the kangaroo. Eventually she got hold of the local ranger, who promised to come as quickly as he could. The whole time we waited the kangaroo just stood nervously like it wasn't sure what to do next. It didn't look frightened of us, but each car that drove by made it tense up and occasionally it would kind of shake its head from side to side as if it was trying to clear its head.

Watching it, I realised just how useless its short arms are in this kind of situation - too small too take any real weight, so short that the kangaroo would topple over if it tried to used them to walk anyway. That's why it was no surprise when the ranger arrived and immediately concluded that it would have to be put down. Not only was the break really incapacitating, but he also said that it was clearly not a fresh injury, which meant that it was likely already infected, and kangaroos with infected wounds died slowly and painfully. Kinder to end it now.

You know, a kangaroo isn't a person. It can't sit itself in a wheelchair and spend the rest of its life pursuing different goals than the ones it had when it was able-bodied. It would have done nothing much more than die in that condition, and painfully at that. It had looked at me with such a quiet confusion; hurting but not knowing why or what to do about it. So I knew the ranger was making the right decision. But it was just awful to look at that sweet soft animal and realise that someone was right then getting a gun to end its life. I didn't watch when he did it, but the noise was enough. He was good. He killed it with one clean shot to the head and immediately checked to make sure it was dead so it wouldn't suffer.

It was only at that moment that my neighbour and I realised that the time was just about when our other neighbour was due home. The last thing we wanted was for her six-year-old son to come home to that. So the ranger dragged the body to his truck and I quickly got the hose and washed the blood off the driveway. Just in time, too. They pulled up just as I finished. The fifteen minutes I stood in the driveway with this kangaroo had felt much longer and clearing away all evidence of its death so quickly seemed weird, like we were covering up a crime. It really was a sad experience. God help me if I ever hit one of these beautiful creatures with my car and actually have to put it out of its misery myself - I think I'd drown in my own tears.

Monday, August 14, 2006

well, duh

Bart Simpson more famous than US judges.

They discuss these results as if they're surprising. Where's the surprise? Do people watch supreme court judges every Tuesday night?

Seriously, if you can recognise a supreme court judge, you're probably a lawyer. Or a criminal. Or both.

You want recognition? Put them on TV. I bet the people surveyed knew Judge Judy.

Friday, August 11, 2006

step on a crack, break your mother's back

I've had two days at home with some kind of pinched nerve action going on in my back. It wasn't so bad - the first day I slept away and the second (today) included a great visit to the chiropractor. This guy is pretty good - it never takes him long to figure out where the problem is and each time I see him the long term problems are that little bit better. He's also cute, but that's another story. ^_^

I worked two days with this twingy back pain, and it seemed to aggravate it, so the last couple of days I've been avoiding sitting at the computer too long. This of course was a little frustrating, as most of the things I want to do most are on the computer. I mean, gosh, after getting a few pressing things done (eg tax forms, resume revamp for a friend), I could have spent hours writing the 17 or so blog entries dwelling in virtual draft mode in the back of my mind.

Still, as long as "rest" includes being able to read and watch DVDs, I'm cool with it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

jurassic january

I just paid a little too much to get great tickets to the "Walking With Dinosaurs" show coming to Sydney in January. I only just found out about it the other day and I can't believe I had to buy tickets in August to be able to see a show in January. Crazy.

When the 6m-tall snorting, roaring Torosaurus stalked up alongside David Moore, the six-year-old could hardly hide his awe.

"It was freaky. It scared me a bit when it roared," David said after coming face to face in Sydney with one of the stars of the Walking with Dinosaurs Live Experience.

The Utahraptor, a 5m-long, 2m-tall carnivore lizard that lived 132 million years ago, also had young onlookers in its thrall.

"It actually came up and sniffed us. You could see the blood on its teeth," nine-year-old Nick Thorowgood said...

The creator of the original BBC Walking with Dinosaurs television documentary series, Tim Haines, said the mechanical monsters were so believable, people will feel as though they are standing beside a living and breathing prehistoric animal.

"They are good enough for you to suspend disbelief," Mr Haines said.

And that's all I want. Ever since that scene in Jurassic Park where I sat just as awe-struck as the people on the screen in front of me in the cinema when the herd of brachiosauri first appeared, I have wanted to see life-sized dinosaurs. It's okay that they are not real. I just need them real enough for my imagination to take hold.

The ones in the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios Japan were okay, but hardly real looking once you got close enough. The small display last year at Questacon was even less believeable, mainly because you got so much time to examine them close up, and I still enjoyed seeing it. So I'm thinking that maybe $12 million dollars worth of puppetry and mechanics, each of the sixteen dinosaurs having more than 40 movements and over 20 distinct sounds) will be enough to let me suspend disbelief for a little while and imagine Sydney's gone a little prehistoric. Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

google earth

...reveals house on fire:

Ah, the Onion. =)

Friday, August 04, 2006

molto molto moleskine!

Just ordered my first Moleskine notebooks. Nice to the touch, lay flat when open due to their signature sewn binding, lots of different types. Now I just have to wait for them to be posted to me. I hate waiting.

I ordered:

<- a ruled one

a plain one ->

<- a weekly planner for 2007 (which happens to come with a bonus 6 months from July 2006)

one for travel info->

<- one with Japanese style concertina folded pages, and

one with 6:9 panels for storyboarding ->

The last one is actually for Scorcese my director friend, who will (I hope) find it a bit groovy to have at the moment, being in pre-production for a film project as he is.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

use your words, if you have any

I heard an interesting take the other day on the radio on the "boys don't cry" thing. Apparently girls develop linguistically faster than boys. This means that boys cry to communicate needs/wants longer than girls do. Because they are older, the boys are told off more for crying, because the parents expect them to be able to explain what they want like a girl of the same age probably could do, and this contributes to boys being told that they shouldn't cry. Of course there are other reasons some parents tell their boys not to cry, but I found this one interesting.

In regards to the linguistic thing, my (boy) cousin didn't speak at all until he was four years old. Given some of the stuff that's come out of his mouth since, it could be said it was a pity he started at all. =)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

dancing on ice

One of the few reality shows I've gotten into recently is Torville & Dean's Dancing on Ice. Like the dancing version and the singing version of this theme, total skating novices are partnered with professional skaters and learn to skate. However, there's one important difference with this show, and that's Torville & Dean. These guys created and performed the most beautiful piece of ice dancing I've ever seen (Bolero, 1984 Olympics) and they are not only training the skaters personally, but also choreographing the pieces they perform each week. So even though they are beginners (though doing hella better than anything I could manage on the ice) the dances they perform are beautiful, playful, cute, sexy - fit to the person and the music. It's astounding to me how much people can improve over such a short time. They only trained for eight weeks before starting and now there's a show, and therefore a new routine, every week.

My favourites are Jake and Maria, and Lara and Matt. (There's a little credit card ad before the performances start.) But the guy who's become very popular with the viewers is one of the worst skaters, Jules. Jules started training about three weeks after everyone else, so his skills are running behind the crowd, but he's funny and entertaining. One of the judges told him he looked like a giraffe on the ice and the nickname has stuck, with a fan even bringing him a little stuffed giraffe with skates on.

He was getting a bit of flack the first couple of weeks because he was very much avoiding the spangly costumes that make ice dancing so uber-camp for the guys. So on episode 3 he decided to, as he put it, 'embrace the little dancer within" and came out (no pun intended) in this little number. Incidentally that crash at the end isn't his mistake - he was supposed to slide out the doors for the finale, but someone forgot to open them. This week (episode 4) he and Christina got their highest score ever, which still put them right at the bottom of the scoreboard. But like I said, the guy has gotten up a bit of a following, and viewer votes (which are combined with the judges scores) kept him in the show another week.