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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Nine #3

I think my priorities may be a smidge out of whack. I left a harbourside restaurant, some lemongrass and ginger mussels and an excellent Sauvignon Blanc to rush home and watch this festering garbage. So now I not only sound like I'm a complete wanker (if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…), I'm also about three IQ points worse off than I was at dinner-time.

To be fair, though, there's not many other places where, in the space of an hour (or twenty minutes if you subtract the time spent viewing retrospective Tyra photos), you can see cross-dressing scary nurses, purple pom-poms and couture rock-climbing all in the one spot. Colour yourself barely entertained – it's the Nitwit At Hanging Rock episode of America's Next Top Model.

· I think we're supposed to hate Bianca. If I can bring the jury's attention to exhibits A through F:
EXHIBIT A: The purple fringe.
EXHIBIT B: The phrase "Don't let the hair fool you, bitches – I can be very high fashion". Emphasis on the word "high", I'd venture.
EXHIBIT C: The practice of intentionally giving bad advice to the other modules as a competitive strategy.
EXHIBIT D: The phrase "My mouth can get me anywhere". Monica Lewinsky gives a wink and a knowing smile at this point.
EXHIBIT E: The phrase "I will kick 'em where it hurts. I'm a start cuttin' up clothes". Who needs witty repartee and articulate comebacks when you've got a chip on your shoulder and a pair of pinking shears? Huh? Arsehole.
EXHIBIT F: The purple fringe.
The only thing that saved it for me was her habit of using the phrase "Aaand I'm done!" to close her arguments. I may use that in meetings today.

· The usual Tyra Mail/Bus/walking into building scenario brings us to a dilapidated hospital signposted 'Fashion Madhouse'. Now, on the original planning outline for this episode, a producer probably just scrawled 'Miss Jay – walking lesson' on a napkin. Somehow, in the following weeks, this simple concept evolved into 'Spooky hospital, skulls, strobe lights, straightjackets and ugliest nurse on planet'. This is why television is both my secondary electronic lover and potentially the catalyst for the downfall of the human race as we know it. After some Halloween-esque theatrics, screams and tears, Miss Jay emerges in a nurse's outfit complete with skewiff deflated beehive 'do, making Nurse Ratchett look like Tinky-Winky. Sarah (who?) comments that she'd love to have Miss Jay as a nurse, which makes me suspect that she has a little pencilcase in her luggage filled with razor-blades and bottles of iodine. Miss Jay announces (subtitles my own):
"I'm here to cure you of your fashion ailments" (I'm here to teach you how to walk, because if anyone tells you that it's just a matter of putting one foot in the other whilst looking constipated, I'm totally out of a job).
"There's method to this madness" (It's in the script, y'all).
"Sometimes couture is restrictive, and you have to bring it alive" (We're about to put you in straightjackets, and this is the producer-sanctioned rationale).
So… the girls put on straightjackets and walk up and down and stuff. Now, I know a scene involving walking and implied insanity in a strobe-lit hallway should be interesting, but I'm momentarily distracted by the Microsoft Excel help page.

· Hey, guess what? No, guess, go on! Saleisha's done some modelling before! I'm serious! She's done a bit of catwalk, and a bit of being photographed, and, most likely, a bit of sipping wee bottles of champagne through a straw whilst being discreetly felt-up by a bisexual designer! Yes, way! I just wish she'd mention it every now and again. Like, every five minutes, maybe. Kimberly, on the other hand, summarises her modelling experience by telling us that her dad's been taking pictures of her all her life. I don't know about you, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable if it had been her mother taking those pictures. Still, as long as there's no homeless art student who's willing to pose in exchange for a bowl of soup involved, I suppose it's okay.

· Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time to play All Up In Them Bitches' Faces! Today's two contestants are Saleisha, who says she loves modelling, has modeled before, would like to be a model, and can rent out her forehead as a landing strip, and Bianca, who likes unnatural hair colours, saying the word 'bitch', and cutting up your clothes. Welcome, ladies. I'm sure you both know the rules, but I'll just run through them for the poor exasperated bastards playing at home. Each contestant must rag on the other until one of you either storms out of the room or clicks your fingers dramatically in the air. You might be distracted by the tears of laughter coming from your co-modules or an errant item of bedding, but stay focused! Extra points can be scored by:
o using the word 'stank';
o insinuating that the other contestant is 'borderline plus-size'
o using the phrase 'Mama look atchoo!'
o getting so close to your opponent that you can smell her fear.
Points will be deducted for mentioning that you've modeled before, or stating that you're not interested in making friends because this is a competition. These statements may, however, be edited for use in our Predictable Shit We've All Heard A Million Fucking Times Before Christmas Special.

· Challenge time, and the girls are met.. oh, I don't know – somewhere – by Roy Campbell, a 'runway show producer' famous in my mind for having big gums and little teeth. He explains that this week's challenge will involve dressing in restrictive (read: mildly bizarre products of a mushroom-induced design workshop) couture gowns by Colleen Quen (read: Isn't she that mean skinny chick from Grey's Anatomy?) and walking up and down a catwalk. A third of the frocks are boring. A third of the frocks are gorgeous. A third of the frocks are hideous construction experiments including elements of Art Nouveau and Mies Van Der Rohe architecture, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like putting an IKEA Henrik chair in a cement mixer after a few Bundy and Cokes. Ambreal sports purple pom-poms. Jenah is a strange, bumpy, warped silver gastropod. Heather is an insanely beautiful bird of paradise, Sarah (who?) is a purple puffy mini, and Lisa is an awesome gold mermaid in my favourite frock of the bunch. Kimberly is a stack of flowerpots, which is unfortunate and awkward for her, yet highly entertaining for me. Saleisha wins the challenge prize, which is a trip to Paris to take part in a real Colleen Quen show (if Colleen can get time off from the hospital, of course). Bianca's pissed off. I think. It's hard to tell when your face is sponsored by PermaScowl.

· Traditionally, ANTM photo-shoots do not - how do I put it - skip joyfully through realism daisies in the meadow of the sane. In the past, we've had motorised hair-pieces, ice-caves, angry racing cars, Thai elephants, cross-dressing celebrity couples and prosthetically-enhanced circus freaks. It's good to see, then, that this week the modules are just posing in expensive designer gowns with mildly artistic make-up. Hanging in the air. In harnesses. At an indoor rock-climbing gym. For fuck's sake. Suspend your disbelief and your emaciated bimbos – I feel a summary coming on…
o Lisa explains that she's afraid of heights, but this doesn't really show once she's up in the air. Her undies, however, do.
o Janet offsets her awful short hair with an awful leopard-print dress, and underwhelms. Next.
o Saleisha, after quickly mentioning that she's modelled before, is told to 'think art' by Mr Jay. Apparently 'thinking art' means 'turning up-side down'. Huh. When I was at art school, it meant 'finding enough change in your bag for another beer and getting high on turps'.
o Bianca wins second prize in an Ears Like A Wingnut competition, and apparently epitomises 'punk glamour'. She's like, an oxymoron, you know?
o Victoria tells us she's going to 'bring on her super nerdy skills' and does pretty well in a colourful flappy smock dress. She then nabs Quote Of The Day by describing herself as 'a sea nymph on acid scaling a wall in the sunshine'. Anyway, she piddy. She piddy lady.
o Ambreal is boring. Seems to be a habit. What?
o Chantal is a pink parrot who would fly south for the winter if she didn't have bad fluffy hair and wonky eyes. Fly, parrot, fly!
o Ebony, in a pink mini, claims that people expect a lot from her. I expect her to make up words, and she doesn't disappoint. Ladies and gentlemen: 'exterialise'. As in 'I'm going to exterialise my anger and maybe throw up my lunch a little bit'.
o Sarah (who?) is… um… wearing stuff in the air.
o Kimberly, taking out the undisputed Wingnut Trophy, is in an okay black frock, and strikes okay poses. She tells us she 'wants to be a role model for the girls that just have a normal life'. Way to hitch your wagon to a star, Girl Next Door.
o Jenah, who has been rock-climbing since she was twelve, manages to hoik her massive teeth up the wall without too much trouble, and poses surprisingly well. Damn, though. Those teeth. Damn.
o Heather is perfect and looks perfect and is perfect. Y'know – except for the autism n'all. Shut up.

· A Tyra Mail sends the girls to the Elimination of Wake-Me-Up-When-It's-Over, where the bag of fried chicken herself greets them in a dress that looks like Pucci threw up on a stiff sheet after a particularly aggressive bowl of oysters. She robots through the prizes, which I think this year include a tape measure and a single dead gerbera, and then introduces the judges, including Miss Jay (slightly bigger afro than last week), Twiggy (slightly more of an Egyptian matron than last week), Roy Campbell (teeth still the same inadequate size), and Spunky Nigel Barker, who I'm making sure the carpet matches the curtains for. For some reason, Tyra starts speaking with a French accent, until she pauses and says "Why am I speaking in a French accent?". Then she keeps doing it. And doesn't stop. Trou du cul.

· Photos are whisked through, with a smattering of worthwhile moments:
o Tyra is troubled by the fact that, to her knowledge, people with Asperger's Syndrome characteristically have trouble making eye contact, yet in Heather's photo, she seems to be making 'amazing' eye contact with an imaginary person in the distance. So, like, I'm colourblind, but I'm awesome at picking colours on an imaginary colour-wheel. It's sort of like a miracle and stuff.
o Nigel sees Ebony's photo and just says "Legs-a-million". I'm sure he meant to say "Just a little to the left, Jo. Thaaaat's it".
o Tyra's critique of Ebony consists entirely of telling stories about her own start in modelling, including booking twenty-five shows in Paris on the basis of three photographs. Ebony looks like Confused And Sad Dionne Warwick Doll – Now With Disturbingly Jutting Collarbones!
o Tyra tells Kimberly that her favourite part of her is her ears. I wish Kimberly had immediately said "Sorry, what?". It's just a theory, but I think if someone tells you your best feature is your ears, consider a career in accounting.
o Nigel tells Chantal that her photo might have been better "had she owned her legs". What, is she renting them?
o Miss Jay says that he sees 'no nutritional fashion value' in Kimberly. I… I don't know what that means.

· The judges deliberate, and finally Tyra commences calling names and doling out photographs, until only Bianca Pinking Shears and Kimberly Wingnut are left. Kimberly is told that she's a gorgeous girl with perfect ears (shut uuuup), but a little pedestrian (not like the guy on the 'don't walk' sign), and Bianca is told that none of the judges liked her photo. I wipe some catatonic dribble from my chin, and Kimberly is given her marching orders, but not before Tyra lovingly caresses her ears. Bye, Kimberly! Don't dislodge any mantelpiece ornaments on your way out!

Next week, a grasshopper invades the Module Mansion, the modules suspect they're about to get a makeover, and then.. they.. kind of… get a makeover. Wild environs. Warning sirens. Curling irons.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keeping Me Up At Night #9

Why is it a "cotton-picking minute"?
Like, how long does it take to pick cotton?
How is a cotton-picking minute different to a normal minute?

I need a coffee.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Nine #2

Okay, so I missed Episode One. As far as I can tell from the "Last week, on America's Next Top Model" bit, I missed some denim leg-warmers, an ocean cruise, a life-jacketed walk-off, a bunch of tears and screaming, and Tyra dressed as a feathered showgirl from The Best Little Fried Chicken Joint In Texas. I'm not overly distraught.

What I am upset about, though, is missing seeing actual evidence of the unsuccessful contestant named "Spontaniouse". I can't think of anything else except the name Spontaniouse. I can't say it enough, I can't write it enough, I can't read it enough. It epitomises everything that is perfect, good and right about this show. Plus, it's like, way fucked up.

But let's not roll around in the fetid carcass of the past. Let's dive headlong into the blossoming, scented chrysanthemum of the present. ANTM has a message, which surprisingly isn't 'Be Sure To Tweeze Out Any Strays' or 'Undies First'. No – as Tyra makes crystally and polyunsaturatedly clear, this is a Non-Smoking Show. So stub it out and move away from the ashtray – it's the Gettin' Ciggy With It episode of America's Next Top Model.

· I'd better start with a brief rundown of our module finalists. I said brief rundown, not briefs down, ladies. Important distinction. As usual, many of the modules' parents seem to have named them by shaking up Scrabble tiles in a bucket. Starting with my two current favourite modules and then just randomly plonking:
o Heather – has Asperger's Syndrome, a kind of autism characterised by limited social skills and clumsiness. If Naomi Campbell is anything to go by, these symptoms are no barrier at all to a successful modelling career. Heather is endearingly awkward, and gob-smackingly beautiful.
o Lisa – at times looking like she's missing the top of her head, Lisa is otherwise stunning, like a blacker Christy Turlington, and ever-aware that there's a camera on her. Her hair is quite possibly thinner than a porno plot, and she'd know – she's an 'exotic dancer' by trade.
o Chantal – Blonde and pretty, but unfortunately God ran out of matching eyes on her birthday, and just picked two at random, accidentally sticking one of them on the side of her head.
o Saleisha – Cutey McCute from CheekPinchingVille.
o Mila – If you got some pale tumbleweeds and blew them across a dewy hot-tub in Sweden, you would have Mila. At high school, I bet she was voted 'Most Likely To Say "Um… What?" A Lot'.
o Kimberley – oh, please. Didn't I used to sit next to you on the school bus? So girl-next-doorsy I can see into her loungeroom from here. Apart from her ability to summon Essence Of Slut in photographs (just like the girl next to me on the school bus), there's not much to her, really.
o Bianca – I'm glad this girl has a bitchy ghetto personality and a penchant for mouthing off at anyone who gets in her way. It keeps me from developing a deranged tic trying to figure out why she's dyed her fringe purple. Way to look like a trailer-park grape, arsehole.
o Victoria – goes to Yale, so much is made of her gigantic brain. Fortunately, not anywhere near as much hoo-hah is made of her chunky legs. Shut up. It's a modelling competition. This matters. Gorgeous Merchant Ivory face, personality of an erudite shrew. We'll see.
o Ebony – Oh, hello Ebony. When you're finished looking like Dionne Warwick with a bead fetish, would you mind being this series' Psycho-Bitch Megalomaniac? Ta.
o Janet – is fulfilling the Short-Haired Girl quota for this series. Or Tyra owes one of her paler cousins a favour. Or the show is being sponsored by the American Fund For Pointy Faces. Or the producers are being sued by someone Ginger. Or.. I really don't know how to explain her presence. A little help?
o Ambreal – oh, BULL that's your name. Decent body, but the face is nothing to write home about, unless it's to say "Saw some uninteresting people today, mum. Oh, and please send fifty dollars". Meh.
o Jenah – I think they're PhotoShopping contestants now. Half-lemur, Jenah can probably see in the dark and suck apples through her strange teeth. And I really hate a redundant 'h'. But that's probably not her fault.
o Sarah – Who? So non-descript I'm considering legal action. A little bit fat.

· Mr Jay shows the girls the new Model Mobile, telling them that Tyra wanted to show concern for the environment this series, so the car is "bio-diesel". Luckily, this saves all the petroleum in the world for use in Vaseline, Tyra's Favourite. Beauty. Product. Ever. There's grass on the back of the seats, which are made from recycled tyres, and there are leaves painted on the outside of the car. Mila, helping out by preserving thinking energy, comments that it's good "to be aware of what makes the earth good". Now, I know an intensely detailed tour of a big green environmentally-friendly bus should be interesting, but I'm momentarily distracted by methane.

· Our modules are driven to their bio-soy-recycled-raffia-solar-powered Module Mansion (see: 'Same Shit Every Series', especially subtitles 'Scream', 'Claim A Bed Is Yours', 'Admire Omnipresent Tyra Imagery' and 'Suggest A Skinny-Dip'), and everybody plays the get-to-know-you game. Everyone, that is, except Heather, who sits by herself drawing and writing in her notebook. She holds the notebook right up close to her face, and I think I hear her say "Aren't I pretty, book? Look at my pretty face! You, book, are my only friend". But I'm not sure. In the Hippie House, showers are limited to ten minutes, so ten of the modules all pile into the bath together, in a scene I'm either calling "Boyfriends Can Watch This Glorious Shit, Too" or "Soup With Dumblings".

· No time or bleach is wasted as Mr Jay introduces the first photo shoot of the series, and announces The Message, which is 'Smoking Is Bad'. Next week: 'Dogs Have Four Legs'. Each module will pose for two photographs – in the first, they will pose glamorously in front of a mirror brandishing a cigarette, and in the second, which will be superimposed into the mirror, they will be made up to demonstrate the harmful effects of smoking. It's a bit like the juxtaposition of realistic and dream-like imagery in the Surrealist movement, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like looking at yourself in the shiny bit on the inside of a Violet Crumble wrapper. Whether it's activism or autism, it's time for a summary:
o Ambreal reflects lung cancer, and spits fake blood into a tissue.
o Jenah reflects hair loss from chemotherapy, and looks like the saddest novelty condom in the world.
o Mila also reflects hair loss from chemotherapy, and looks like Mick Hucknall in a wind tunnel. She finds it hilarious, but I'll never be able to look at a rambutan again.
o Janet reflects a burn victim with scars, and I kind of feel like eating steak.
o Chantal reflects a tracheotomy with a hole in her neck, making it look like God slipped when applying one of her eyes and her anus.
o Heather and Saleisha together reflect second-hand smoke, and are made to look old and ugly. They have trouble relating to each other, which must be a huge surprise to the producers, who recently devoted fifteen minutes of the show to exploring how bad Heather is at relating to other people.
o Kimberly reflects a sunken face. Headline reads GIRL NEXT DOOR LOOKS VAGUELY LIKE SLIGHTLY OLDER GIRL NEXT DOOR. Next.
o Sarah reflects premature aging, with lines on her face. What? Who?
o Victoria reflects a stillborn child. She cries whilst holding a dead baby. Like, I know these photos are supposed to be disturbing, but that's… disturbing. Sort of a lot.
o Ebony, in a gold dress that does nothing to take away from the whole Dionne Warwick thang, reflects a collapsed lung with an oxygen mask, and Jay comments that she looks like she's sitting on a toilet. Be nice, Jay. Smokers have to crap too.
o Bianca reflects gingivitis with rotting teeth, and except for the implied associated halitosis, is uninteresting.
o Lisa, after having a borderline-awesome snarky bitch fight with Bianca in the make-up chairs, reflects a facial tumour, and looks like she's balancing a Subway foot-long on her cheek.

· One problem with seeing about five hundred thousand episodes of this show across two continents is its predictability. Just as you'd expect crowds of Emperor Penguins to display the same behaviour in two different documentaries, crowds of emaciated bimbos tend to all waddle in the same direction, too. Hence heated arguments (in this case Lisa and Bianca) get all up in them bitches' faces. Hence the 'outcast' (in this case Heather, and granted, at the time she's sitting outside clutching a toy monkey) is usually easily able to hear the other modules making fun of her. Hence Tyra spouts senseless drivel, gesticulating with her great drumstick appendages. Hence I want to be buried with an International ANTM DVD box set.

· It's Challenge Time, and also time for me to question the direction the show is heading. The winner used to be on the cover of Elle, not Seventeen. The photographer of the winning magazine spread used to be Gilles Bensimon, not PixieFoto. And the shopping/styling challenge used to be at Rodeo Drive, not Old Navy, a place where you get the feeling the change-room walls are made out of egg cartons and Paddle-Pop sticks. Benny Ninja The Flourescent Pirate appears behind a rack to introduce the moduels to their challenge – they have ten minutes to find an outfit comprised of 'model basics'. Just like Emperor Penguins, the girls run, scream, trash the store, and line up looking plasticky and flammable. Most of the girls have interpreted 'model basics' as 'denim on the bottom, polyester on the top'. The real challenge here is to not throw a brick into the television.

· A Tyra-Mail summons the girls to the Elimination of Doom, and they file in wearing their new outfits, nervous and machine-washable. Tyra is mercifully scarf-free this season, although she appears to have forgotten her iron and remembered her arse. She enthuses about the prizes, which I think this year include an A4 envelope and a pair of nail scissors, and then introduces the judges – Miss Jay (in disturbing close-knit afro wig), Twiggy (dressed in traditional boring), and Spunky Nigel Barker (who I'm visiting the chemist for).

· Outfits are assessed, and Saleisha is announced the challenge winner. She gets excited until she's told that the prize is a one-thousand dollar shopping spree at Old Navy. It's a bit like winning a case of beer for overcoming alcoholism, only much more likely to induce sobbing. Photographs are trowelled through, and aside from Heather being the most stunning person in the entire world, and Tyra telling Kimberly she "doesn't have to hoochify herself to be beautiful" (in the Bible, this would be referred to as 'Tyra 3:14'), I'm already waiting for the closing credits. Tyra then announces that, as of tomorrow, there will be a ban on smoking, so the girls should get in their last puffs tonight. PS: Heather is really, really pretty.

· Eventually Tyra grabs the photos and starts calling out names one by one, until only Mila the Swedish Meatball and Ebony Warwick are left. Mila is told that she's a pretty girl, but not a model, and in an unexpected twist, Ebony is told that she's a pretty girl, but not much of a model. Mila stares into space like she's trying to find Sputnik, but Ebony takes it one step further. Gone are the days where being faced with being in the Bottom Two merely elicited a single, slow-rolling crystalline tear. Ebony ups the ante by producing the most magnificent glistening snot-glob I've ever seen, balancing it between nostril and lip with the light-catching grace of gossamer. Several mucousy minutes pass, and Mila is given the arse. Bye, Mila! Don't bump the IKEA smorgasbord on your way out, Frauline.

Next week, the girls practice their walking skills, fights develop about body image, and people in scary costumes instill terror into every module. Walking Scenes. Venting Spleens. Halloweens.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pre-emptive Scrag Lag

Okay, so Series 9 of America's Next Top Model starts tonight on pay TV.
The thing is, right, that I'm in Broome, see, and I won't be watching it.
I said I won't be watching it.
If I can get a copy of it (email me now, people), and if I have time to recap the first episode before the second one thunders down the catwalk in an inappropriate bikini, I'll be more than happy to throw my two bitchy cents in. Vitriol is like a fart - if you try to hold it in, it just makes you feel sick.
Until then, I've got fishing, desert-crossing and sky-diving to do. I'm sure you understand.

That's me. At about eleven thousand feet. I know, right?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bum Shot #8: Australian Idol 2007

My job means that Idols come to my place of work to eat sausages and turn their buttocks towards the lens. Just lucky, I guess.
Carl Risely.

Chicks n'that. Lana Krost, Natalie Gauci, Tarisai Vushe. Totally not fake.

Mark Da Costa. No sun. Sunglasses. Because we rawk.

Matt Corby. Pretty eyes. Pretty arse. Then there's him.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Made-Up Word of the Week #3

invisible camera

Imaginary photographic device which confuses at one end and amuses at the other.

Origins: Last year, staff at my office got to meet all the Australian Idol contestants at a drinkies do in our boardroom. I was chatting to my mate Olivia when one of the more aesthetically pleasing Idols walked past, and she mentioned she wanted a photo with him, primarily so she could nestle into his barely post-pubescent armpit. Unfortunately Olivia didn't have a camera. I suggested that she should go up to him anyway, pose with him, and I would just mime taking a photo of him on an imaginary, invisible camera.

She wimped out.

Later in the evening, Olivia and I went out, and eventually she found herself being chatted up by an outrageously good-looking, stunningly stupid man.

She tapped me on the shoulder and, smirking, said "Hey Jo - do you mind taking our picture?"

"Sure!" I replied, going through the contents of my bag to find my invisible camera.

Having found it, I raised it to my face and mimed pressing the shutter button.

The guy barely blinked.

"Wait," said Olivia. "The flash didn't go off. Take another one".

Anyway, here's the photo:

Damn. I cut their heads off.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Scrag.

Today is a grey, wet, rainy day in Sydney.
On the upside, it's also the day for malnourished persons of questionable education to audition for Series Four of Australia's Next Top Westie Scrag!

Auditions are being held at Warringah Mall in Sydney's Northern Beaches – I was going to pop along to join the queue for the chance to get some surreptitious photographs of rain-drenched wanna-be modules and some choice quotes, but:
a) I'm busy at work;
b) I'm too old;
c) I'm a size 10-12, and therefore massively overweight;
d) I'm four centimetres too short; and
e) I can spell 'queue'.

Luckily, one of my spies has managed to send a photo of one of the girls in the queue:


Friday, October 26, 2007

Why The Big Pause?

My brother Mike, who lives in the remote and tropical town of Broome, is a dreamer and an innovator. You might even say he's a pioneer.
He's long had a dream to ride around Australia on a postie bike wearing a panda suit, with his dog, Cowboy, as company.

Unfortunately, Australia is a really, really big place, postie bikes are really, really small, and panda suits get really, really hot inside. Ask any panda.

Fortunately, Mike's girlfriend Naomi is not only a red-hot spunk, she also makes dreams happen, albeit on a slightly reduced scale.

A few days after his birthday this year, Mike received instructions from Naomi which directed him to a skip bin in Broome. Behind the skip bin was a postie bike and a freshly-purchased panda suit in Mike's size. Henceforth began the adventure known as Panda's Big Day Out, in which Mike-as-Panda was required to complete designated tasks in different locations and then await further instructions. And off we go…

1. Withdraw $40 from a teller at the ANZ bank.
There is a sign outside most banks letting customers know that motorcycle helmets are not to be worn inside. They seem, though, to have an open-door policy for pandas. Funnily enough, Mike is wearing a motorcycle helmet under his…um…head.

2. With the $40, buy four specific items from Coles.
By this stage, Mike had noticed the Pied Piper effect a panda suit has with young children.

Unfortunately, there is no Express Lane in Coles reserved for endangered species.

Fortunately, Cowboy recognises his master using scent alone.

3. Go to Broome Museum, give the purchased items to the ladies there, and buy a postcard.
Wish you were here… because I only have stumpy little pretend-thumbs, and postcards are really small.

Plus, it's thirty-eight degrees here.

4. Get through security at Broome airport and give the postcard to an unknown passenger.
Sadly, photographs of six-foot (some would say 'giant') pandas are not permitted at Broome Airport. Six-foot pandas, however, are.

5. Return some scandalously overdue books to the Notre Dame Library, pick up a skateboard and head towards local skate park.
Can you believe nobody offered him a lift? Mind you, it's pretty difficult to hitch-hike when you only have stumpy little pretend-thumbs.

6. Get skating advice from local skate hoons. Skate.
Mike is not a natural skater, so he listened intently to his teenage mentors. Luckily, he picked it up quite quickly, with extra points for his post-skate swagger and baggy "pants".

7. Go to Cable Beach, stand in front of Web Cam and call sister, who will tell you to meet your friends for a well-deserved birthday dinner.
It took a while to unfold the piece of paper with the telephone number on it. Big… paws.

Special note: if you are a panda, check that there are no small children watching before removing your own head.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm A Country Member. Remember? Part Two.

Despite the Ghosts Of A Surprisingly Moderate Number Of Beers, I woke up at the Knickerbocker on Saturday bursting with the joy of living and all but surrounded by animated woodland creatures. Pesky little bastards.

Showered and ready for our first full day of regional ramblin', Milly and I made our way downstairs to the bistro, where both Jude (our generic name for ladies who serve bacon) and the Bitch Toaster From Hell were discovered to have had miraculous makeovers since our last visit. One smiled and served perfectly poached eggs, the other made things brown and crispy. Buoyed by our mutual love of condiments, Milly and I declared Saturday 'International Pepper Day'. Mark it in your diaries.

Without further ado, adieu, or Aga-Doo, we jumped in the car and continued our journey westward, driving through the gorgeous town of Blayney and noting the majestic façade of its Chinese restaurant, the Hang Sing, or as Milly dubbed it, "a zinger of a chinger". Chinese restaurants in country towns absolutely rock, and Milly formed a plan to document them photographically as a special side-project.

On this trip, we decided we should stop off for more sight-seeing, and started as soon as we spotted the turn-off to Blayney Wind Farm. For the uninitiated, wind farms are energy-generating "farms" consisting of gigantic white windmill-like structures. Some think them noble and picturesque. Milly thinks they're spooky as all get-out. The viewing area, whilst affording a distant view and some informative placards, didn't freak Milly out anywhere near enough, so we drove up the hill on a dirt road to get a closer, eerier look, also enabling us to hear their chilling whoooOOMP whoooOOMP noise. Milly was on edge, evinced by the fact that she kept calling the windmills "freaky alien motherfuckers". I, being a supportive and comforting kind of friend, laughed and laughed and laughed.

Whilst planning this particular road trip, our initial goal was to stay our first night in either the town of Barry or the town of Neville, mostly due to the fact that, once we had discovered they existed, the urge to visit them became irresistible. Coming soon: Road Trip Visiting Only Towns Named After Blokes. Unfortunately we hadn't been able to book any rooms in either town, so we abandoned the idea. Just as we were leaving the Wind Farm, however, we happened upon a road sign pointing to Barry. Our pupils fully dilated, we wordlessly turned the car in Barry's direction, using fate as our navigator and kismet as our co-pilot.

Barry is a tiny town (population 80), primarily consisting of grass, houses and a sign.

During our two-minute stopover, fate and kismet (doing their assigned jobs most bodaciously) caused us to discover another road sign pointing towards Neville. Needless to say, we followed it.

Neville (population 100) is slightly more spunky than Barry, and in addition to having its own sign, it also plays host to an instantly endearing style of accommodation in the form of Neville Siding. At Neville Siding, you can sleep in a converted train carriage on a hill, and their website lists "fossicking" as one of its available activities. There is nothing I don't love about Neville Siding.

Back on the road, Milly and I entertained ourselves by looking at cows. Despite being one of the most rock n' roll chicks in like, the known cosmos, Milly used to work for a rural newspaper, making her the resident expert on bovines. Strange, then, that:
a) after a long time of being ignored by the cows no matter how often we yelled "MOO!" at them, a small herd by a fence looked up at us when shouted at, and watched us drive by. Milly got very excited and squealed "Oh my god! They totally looked at us! They totally did!"; and
b) Milly was also heard (herd?) to say "They're tops, aren't they, cows? They're like giant Rotweiller/Staffie crosses".
Okay, so I saw where she was coming from, but I reckon they're less like dogs than - oh, I don't know. Cows?

Observational Aside: Mark Rothko may have got all his artistic inspiration from observing great big fields of Canola blooming in country New South Wales. Either that, or he got it from the perceived erosion of mythological boundaries as a result of imperialism and scientific discovery. I always get those two mixed up.

Our next stop was Cowra, where we discovered to our dismay that the Cowra Smokehouse, home of tanks of frenzied trout, big men with small heads, and various different-shaped globs of deliciousness, had closed. The only thing that could possibly cheer us up was the sight of another chinese restaurant and some morning tea.

The morning tea part would be efficiently taken care of, we thought we could safely assume, at the Rose Garden Coffee Shop, so we entered, queued up, and ordered a cup of coffee and a cup of tea. Note: we did not order golden chalices filled with the breast-milk of rare lemurs. The Rose Garden Coffee Shop has eight staff members who seem to all use the one brain on some kind of time-share plan, provided the clock dictating the "time" part is about three days too slow. Half an hour later, we were finally handed a cup of magma-hot coffee, and another cup of dark liquid with a teabag hanging out. This is what Milly looks like when she's been in a room with slow stupid people for a long time, and has scalded the length of her digestive tract from mouth to anus:

The only thing you should ever say to a woman with this facial expression is "Have you lost weight?" Otherwise, just shut up.

Another hour of driving, and we finally arrived at Cuzza's place in Quandialla, where we were greeted by eighteen kinds of excellence known as Cuzza, and twenty-three kinds of cute known as Reuben, her one-year-old son. After hugging and telling each other how gorgeous we all still are, we headed off for the Bribbaree Show. For those of you who don't know, Country Shows give locals the chance to:
a) showcase the fruits of their labour;
b) catch up with other locals;
c) drink beer whilst admiring tractors; and
d) eat all kinds of god-awful shit.

In other words, Country Shows are awesome. Right girls?


To be continued…

Baby, Baby, Where Did Our Pegs Go?

Imagine, if you will, that you're on a yacht in Croatia, like my sister, brother-in-law and parents were recently.

You have a one-year-old son who needs to be entertained.

Your son is very discerning when it comes to his own amusement, and the entertainment value of the few toys on board has been exhausted.

What do you do?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

You Had Me At 'Tooheys' #8 UPDATE

Simon is very tall.
Simon is very charming.
Simon is easy on the eye.
Simon is excellent, intelligent company, and not shy when it comes to keeping a girl in gin & tonics.

Simon is twenty-one years old.

Simon, who was in kindergarten when I was starting university, will never, ever see my underpants.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Made-Up Word of the Week #2

maracas of doom

Eclipse mints as carried in pocket or handbag.

Origins: It has been proposed, in various recent earnest conversations, that if one were a terrorist wishing to drug or poison a large percentage of the Australian population, all one would have to do is find a way to infuse the aforementioned drug or poison into packets of Eclipse Mints. The gusto with which the local populace has embraced the Eclipse Mint is nothing short of phenomenal, and one can hear the mouth-freshening blighters shaking around rhythmically in their distinctive blue tins wherever one goes. In fact, in order to find my own stash, all I have to do is shake my handbag and follow the noise. Hence, if Eclipse Mints were drugged or poisoned, they would become the Maracas Of Doom.

"Got a mint?"
"Nah, fresh out - try Tina. I heard her maracas of doom when she got up to go to the photocopier."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You Had Me At "Tooheys" #8, or This Week's Pick-Up Line

I've always thought it's wonderful that, while I sleep, thousands of people are scurrying around busily, ensuring that when I wake up the streets are sparkling, my garbage has been magically whisked away, and there's fresh bread waiting for me at the corner shop.

Similarly, I'm pleased to know that now, while I sleep, I also have people out there busily picking up blokes for me.

On Sunday night, I'd just settled into bed with a book (rock n' roll types need their literature too, y'know), when my 'phone rang. It was my mate Kylie, and from the sound of her voice and the ambient clamour, I could tell that
a) she was out at a bar; and
b) her bloodstream was at least 13% champagne.

Kylie knows a lot about me, including my weakness for obscenely, freakishly tall men. I'll often excuse shortcomings like arrogance, sub-standard grammar or bumpy noses in men if they have to duck their heads to get into my house. Kylie is also a very pro-active, industrious person who would rather stick a fork in her eye than waste time. The phonecall (primarily one-sided) went something like:

Kylie: Hi, Josie-May. I'm just out for a drink, and there's this great guy here – he's really, really tall, his name is Simon, and he's Irish. He's lovely, and he's gorgeous. Well, I think he's gorgeous. Anyway, I was telling him about you, and I think you should go out on a date. Anyway, here he is…

And I heard her shout "Simon! Simon! It's my friend Jo!" and all of a sudden I'm in my pyjamas chatting to a six-foot-seven-and-a-half Irish guy about how hilarious it is that I effectively have a pimp and that he's really, really tall.

Anyway, we're probably going for a drink next week. Am I insane?

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm A Country Member. Remember? Part 1.

As you may have gathered previously, I'm in love with Road Trips. I want to be Road Trips' virgin bride, and have loads of little baby Road Trips, and possibly have an affair in my early forties with a Weekend Cabin, but then come to my senses and realise that I could never leave Road Trips.
Plus, I like being driven around the country to an appropriate soundtrack, staying in country pubs, and laughing myself a new arsehole.

A couple of weekends ago, it was time to revisit Quandialla, home of old uni mate Cuzza and her new family, one third of which was merely gestating last time we visited, but by now was, apparently, no longer in utero or kicking her in the bladder. My Mate Milly and I packed up some clothes, music and beer money and settled our delightful buttocks into bucket seats for a jaunt through the rolling hills and less-rolling plains in the west of our state.

If I was David Caruso, now would be the time to say: "And this…" (cock head, put sunglasses on), "… is our story".
Wait - maybe I just mean 'cockhead'. Whatever.

Milly picked me up in St Leonards on Friday afternoon, and we drove into the sunset, panicking about what music to play first until we realised that, by the time we got back to Sydney, we would have listened to each CD around eighteen times. The White Stripes won pole position, as it's possible to drive, unwrap a Mintie, knit and mime Meg's uncomplicated drum "solos" all at the same time. I didn't unwrap any Minties or knit, but I did think about my doorbell a little bit.

First stop was Blaxland McDonalds for a toilet break and some processed foodstuffs. The first rule of Road Trips is: You Do Not Eat Salad On Road Trips. Blaxland McDonalds was notable for two reasons:
1. Milly and I were wolf-whistled at in the carpark. The last time I was wolf-whistled at in a McDonalds carpark, I think they were serving Pat Benatar-themed Happy Meals.

2. Someone had vandalised the sign on the door leading to the toilets, so instead of "PUSH", it just read "PU". Irony kind of follows me around.

After a quick stop for petrol in Lithgow and a couple of hours playing Let'sch Pretend We Have A Schpeech Impediment, we eventually arrived in Bathurst and made our way to our old friend, The Knickerbocker Hotel. After a year and a half, their rooms are still sixty dollars per night, with your own bathroom, telly, bar fridge, tea, coffee and cooked eggs-and-bakey in the morning. Sterling value, my friends. Sterling, I say. Unfortunately I didn't have the means available (read: studly young man-friend) to test the bed in the traditional sense, so I settled for the only method at my disposal:

After settling in, we wandered down the road to Shanahans Family Hotel, or "The Family" as it's commonly known, remembering that the place was heaving with friendly artsy types on our last visit.

"Look out," said Milly, squinting towards a bunch of people on the pub's verandah. "Looks like the cops are here".
"No…" I replied. "…I think that's just a guy in a blue shirt…"
"So it is" said Milly, heading for the bar.

The crowd at The Family was a little less friendly and age-appropriate than the last time we were here, but still pleasant enough, and a sterling example of why a number of local high school students may not be passing their exams this year. We got chatting to the only other two people in the pub who weren't minors, and discovered that they were, in fact, miners. Irony kind of follows me around. They were also motorcycle enthusiasts and habitual mumblers, so we gathered that one of them was called "Rod" and the other one was called something else. After an acceptable number of beers and an unacceptable number of words consisting primarily of vowels, Milly and I called it a night and headed back up to the Pub Named After Pants.

Hanging back in Milly's room, we busied ourselves with three things:

1. The Bible Game. Hotel rooms still have a Bible in the top drawer of every bedside table, and opening the bible at any page and reading out a randomly-chosen passage whilst pretending to have a speech impediment is a reasonably amusing pastime for Girls Who Are Full Of Beer.

2. Cups of Tea. Because we're grownups, and it was free.

3. A Spot of Telly. A confusing 70s war movie wasn't anywhere near as fascinating as the SEVEN racy smut-hotline advertisements shown in every ad-break. Like, seven in a row. I can just imagine a guy dialling enthusiastically after seeing the first one, then hesitating, confused, wondering which phone number will guarantee him the best stiffy.

Once I'd had my fill of gospel, tea and smut, I headed back to my own room and nestled into bed, dreaming of the following day's adventures. And bacon and eggs. But mostly bacon.

Made-Up Word of the Week

seafood pants

misheard underwear made of fish, seaweed, crustaceans, etc.

Origins: Whilst at the pub on Saturday, the ever-shy-and-polite Steve mentioned to Kylie (who was wearing a shortish skirt) that her undies were visible in her current seated position. She immediately rectified the situation, commenting that she should be more careful, as she was wearing "see-through pants". Steve and I both misheard her, thinking she said "seafood pants". As is so often the case, the misheard phrase was far preferable to the actual one, causing a good ten minutes' worth of mirth and insinuations of venereal disease.

"Did you hear? Apparently Miriam has crabs"
"Serves her right. That's what you get for wearing seafood pants".

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bum Shot #6: Julia Morris

Julia Morris gets paid to be funny.
I do it for free.
See? See my funny face? It's that funny thing at the other end of my funny spine from my funny arse.
I'm so funny.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Cups Runneth Over

I like beer.

It could be said that I'm fairly indiscriminate with regard to my taste in beer, as I'm a bit like a heroin addict when it comes to the frothy amber-hued stuff – it doesn't really matter about the quality of the hit, as long as I get some.

Usually, if I'm drinking beer in someone's house, I drink Carlton Draught because, thanks to the trivia questions printed on the underside of the cap, I get to quench both my thirst for beer and my thirst for looking like a know-all smarty-pants. In fact I think it should be a rule that, when asking for a Carlton Draught at the bar of a licensed establishment, the barman should have to ask the customer a trivia question.

"Carlton Draught, please barman".
"That'll be three eighty and the names of both Darrens on Bewitched".

I digress.

A while ago I was at a party, and a bunch of us windswept cool kids were in the kitchen drinking the aforementioned tipple. Every time someone cracked open a fresh bottle (which was often, because all your friends are doing it, and it won't kill you), they'd pose the under-cap trivia question to the kitcheny throng, and whoever answered correctly got to keep the cap. Due to three contributing factors, namely:
a) my handbag being in another room;
b) my contemporary and fashionable outfit not having any pockets; and
c) me being a know-all smarty-pants,
I soon had a large number of beer-bottle caps stashed away in my bra. Unfortunately, there was plenty of room for them.

Fast forward a few hours and I'm at home in my bedroom, muttering happily to myself and trying to undress without falling over, probably having tipped the cab driver a fifty dollar note for a twelve dollar fare. As always, I'd been very, very careful not to wake my housemates – a difficult task in heels on creaky polished floorboards and flammable vapour oozing from every glamorous pore. Finally, after strenuous attempts to figure out the combination to my bra, I get it loose, having completely forgotten about the fifteen bottle-tops nestled snugly within its confines.


I'm not sure what woke my housemates first – the sound of bottle-tops bouncing in all directions on the floorboards, the sound of me desperately scrambling to catch them, or the sound of me suddenly laughing up my spleen.

I can also be classy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hit Me Baby, Two More Times

If I worked in the marketing side of the media (which I don't), I reckon I'd Google myself all the time (which I do). It just seems like the kind of thing someone working in the marketing side of the media might do, in between marketing and attending cocktail parties.

If I'm right, then the following will probably not go unheeded:

Hey, Nicole! Nicole Cusack! Nicole Cusack from Brand New Media!
You left your name-tag on the floor at the cocktail party last night, outside the toilets!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Beige Heelers

I don't want to sound like I'm an ignoramus,
But Lisa McCune – please explain why she's famous?
Surely, in auditions, producers don't say
"We'll have that one! The girl with hair coloured like hay!
Oh, see how light shines off the bump in her nose!
And lo! The broad twang which infuses her prose!
She's the visual equivalent of tepid milk!
Not for us, femme fatales, nor others of that ilk.
Picture a police station, set in Mount Thomas,
And how she'd elicit indifference from us!
If groceries were what we needed to sell,
She could be mediocre in adverts as well!
And imagine a boat with her there, at the helm,
Why, just think then how thoroughly she'd underwhelm!"
She's no doe-eyed enchantress, nor villain, nor slattern,
And frankly, I'd rather just watch the test pattern.

You Had Me At "Tooheys" #7, or This Week's Pick-up Line

A pick-up line isn't always intentional.
Every now and then, when meeting a gentleman, he will inadvertently say something in the course of conversation that, unbeknownst to him, is the most romantic, heart-stopping phrase a girl has ever heard.

Case in point: on Saturday night, in a cosy alehouse in Surry Hills, I was engaged in getting-to-know you conversation with a tall, handsome gentleman. I asked him what he did for a living, and he said, oblivious to the effect on my heart and loins:

"I make beer".


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Steak N' Chicks Tuesday #12 - UNIFEM Charity Gala

It's been a long wait between Steak N' Chicks reviews, but it's taken me this long to both digest all the food and wipe the smug, self-satisfied, charitable grin off my serenely gluttonous face.

You see, we did what is commonly known as a Good Thing. Sure, it looked like we were just stuffing our maws with gourmet deliciousness, having a right old girly gab-fest and taking home mounds of prettily-wrapped spoils, but what we were really doing was raising money for charity. I know, I know. I always get those two mixed up, too.

Gone are the days where being charitable goes hand in hand with sensible shoes, humility and spartan self-deprivation. For July's Steak N' Chicks Tuesday, to mark the one year anniversary of the oestrogen fest (Est fest? Festrogen?) Alex had the sterling idea of throwing a charity gala and raising money for a good cause. Alex is superb like that. She's the brains. I'm the… er… well, I suppose I'm the bottom. Anyway, put together charity and chicks, and what do you get? Unifem, the UN Development Fund For Women, the organisation we chose to support. For the bargain, costs-less-than-a-decent-lipstick price of twenty-five dollars and a plate of food, the benevolent bevy enjoyed gastronomic goodness, seemingly endless cups of fermented grape juice, conversation and networking with the most fabulous women alive, and three tickets in an extremely glamorous raffle. What does one call such a thing?

The Steak N' Chicks Anniversary Charity Gala and Whopper Raffle for UNIFEM.
Alex's house, Bellevue Hill.

The Place.
Everyone who visits Alex's house says the following things:
At the front door: "Oh, this is cute!"
In the kitchen: "Wow. Nice kitchen. I do love the spacious preparation island. It's choice".
In the loungeroom: "Ooh, I like your painting. Is it by som… GET STUFFED. That is not your view. Look at the size of that freakin' boat!"
On the stairs: "Jeez, this place just goes on and on! I wouldn't want to do these stairs drunk, though".
In the courtyard: "I've been looking for a table like this. Are those the herbs you planted like, three years ago?"
Much later, on the steep stairs again: "Bugger. I wish I hadn't had that second flagon of wine. Where are my crampons?"

It's nice, is Alex's house, and the perfect space for girly gatherings and food consumption.
As always, I do need to mention the bathroom facilities: Shiny. Modern. With signs pointing towards it saying "Toilet", because Alex thought of everything.

The People
Lordy, what a turn-out.
Much as I'd love to, I won't list all the windswept-and-interesting attendees, because:
a) it's pretty much guaranteed that I'll miss someone out; and
b) if you're only reading this to see your name on the internet, then sucks to you, you egomaniacal trollop. And thanks for coming. We love you.
Suffice to say, a whopping great thanks to all who turned up, all who didn't turn up but still donated prizes, money, or food, and again to all who turned up, because you deserve it, and because I'm probably still drunk. I didn't write my name on my plastic cup of wine just to under-use the thing.
And here you are. Hands up who likes cupcakes!

The Food
Jings, what a spread.

If I wanted to set a trap for fashionable sophisticates, I'd just put a whole mess of spicy meatballs, cupcakes, dips, mini-quiches, lasagne, wasabi tuna balls, chocolate brownies, cheeses, incredible salads, roast vegetables, pastries, spinach triangles, more cheese, and a never-ending stream of wine in a cage and just wait. If you cook them, they will come.
Nothing brings good food to a gathering like charity, the rumblings of one's own stomach, and the promise of some friendly gastronomic competition. From the fresh raspberries tumbling down the brownie mountain, to the painterly daubs of wasabi circling the tuna balls, to the great wodges of steaming lasagne, to the orgasmic squeals emanating from salad-filled mouths, this was a feast indeed. Anyone who claims they didn't go back for thirds is lying through their well-employed teeth.
Ladies, never has the call to "bring a plate" been so artistically and deliciously answered. You rock. And you completely ruined my diet. Beeyotches.

The Raffle
Blimey, what a bounty.

When Alex and I put out the call for raffle prize donations, we desperately underestimated the generosity and well-connectedness of our friends. We take this opportunity to apologise for merely expecting a couple of cleanskins and a lip-gloss sampler-pack. We didn't know.
On offer, prompting many to take advantage of our constant encouragement to buy extra tickets, was:
Napoleon cosmetic pack
CDs from SonyBMG, Warner, and Universal
DVDs from Warner Vision and BBC Home Entertainment
Magnum of champagne
Australian Idol Sing PlayStation game
Book pack including tomes by Janice Dickinson and Martha Stewart, my polar-opposite heroines Yoga Mat
Tickets to Australian Idol

We were all winners. Well, except for those people who didn't win anything. Mind you, we all became aware of the spooky fact that, if your name starts with 'E', raffle tickets are magnetically drawn to you. Odd.

The Summarising Bit
I'm not sure I remember feeling more satisfied after anything, ever (sorry, gentlemen – you were great, really. A for effort). There was food. There was drink. There was a festive, chatty, I-love-your-hair atmosphere. There were prizes. There were cupcakes on more than three available flat surfaces.
We raised just shy of nine hundred dollars for UNIFEM. It wasn't only easy, it was outrageously enjoyable.
If you were there: thank you so, so much.
If you weren't there: go and hold a charity face-stuffing fiesta of your own. Great for that warm fuzzy feeling, catching up on gossip and instant social advancement.
Plus, there's wine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spring. A Time For Springs.

A mate of mine, who shall remain nameless for the sake of propriety (which, as you know, is always a concern of mine), has recently found herself a new paramour.
As couples do when first acquainted in the Biblical sense, they've been taking advantage of most available opportunities to make the beast with two backs, the beast with two fronts, the beast with two sides, and the beast who, fifteen minutes later, is ready to go again.

Unfortunately, their furniture is not made of the same flexible, lithe, youthful stuff that they seem to be.

In the last five days, the following three notes have been discovered wedged into my mate's letterbox.

I like that the "neighb", even though obviously quite adamant about their clearly-made point, takes the time to offer some support, understanding, and relationship advice. And of course, under any circumstances, it's nice to be called "dear".

America's Next Top Model Series Eight #13 - The Big 'Un

We made it! To the end! I'm so proud of us.
I'm especially proud because this week's episode was like a mini United Nations, but with only three or four countries represented, and everyone in stilettos. We're like, totally ethnic, y'all. We're a melting pot. We're a hotbed. We're the She'll Have Fun, Fun Fun Until Her Daddy Takes Her Green Card Away episode of America's Next Top Model.

· ENOUGH with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge already. We get it. Sheesh – it's like if you're not either aboriginal art or an architectural parabola, you just don't get a look-in on this show. I'm sick of it. I'm moving.

· No time to dwell on site-specific stereotypes. This week's episode was fast-paced and fierce, what with having to cram two eliminations, two photo shoots, a catwalk show and Tyra's eyelashes all into an hour. Perhaps if we just edit everything really quickly and talk really fast, no-one will notice how flat this highlight-sparse episode is. If it can work for the Gilmore Girls...

· The final three clomp into a studio, where Mr Jay greets them in the most macho way possible – by smiling, clapping his hands together, and exclaiming "It's Cover Girl Daaaaaay!". The girls will be posing for a still shot and filming a "My Life As A Cover Girl" segment, all the while looking 'commercial' and smiling the vacant smile of the thoroughly PhotoShopped. Renee confesses to camera that she and her sister used to practice the 'Cover Girl wink' as young children, chastising each other every time they copied it imperfectly. Take note, Mums and Dads. Buy your kids a bike. Caridee, winner of Series Seven and all-round good egg, appears to coach the girls, and she starts with the valuable tip: "Don't over-think today". Don't you worry, Caridee. The likelihood of these girls over-thinking anything is about one in… um… hey, look! My hair's pretty!

· Natasha's Cover Girl spot is filmed 'backstage at a photo studio', or 'on a chair in front of a mirror, because we spent our entire budget on wigs and fried chicken for Tyra'. Natasha is determined to do well, claiming that she must "bring udon". I guess… if you think soup will hel - what? Oh! "Bring it on". Gotcha. This ethnic stuff's hard. She's a little wooden during the shoot, and Jay comments that, even though the challenge is to ad-lib most of the chit-chat, she sounds like she's reciting a grocery list. Let's see: beetroot… vodka…

· Renee's shoot takes place on a boat on Sydney Harbour, with the fucking Harbour fucking Bridge in the fucking background. I assume that at some point during the series she made one of her characteristically bitchy comments to the wardrobe and hair assistants, and that they chose today to take their revenge, as she emerges, as if on the Dynasty set, with Krystle's hair and Alexis' sequined frock. Shut up. I am not living in the past. You are. Shut up. Her ad-libbing does not start well. Want a lipstick that's going to alienate half your market and send them running to Aunty Xanax? Make your opening line "I had a baby nine months ago, and I thought my life was over". After some gentle coaching by Mr Jay, she makes her spiel a little more upbeat, and does very well. Although my hastily-typed notes say she "dies very well". Thank you, Freud. Same time next week?

· Jaslene is filmed in the back of a limo (the good way), and speaks like she's trying to keep her teeth dry. She's an aggressive, surprised-looking Cover Girl, but when she throws in a couple of lines in Spanish, Mr Jay soils himself with enthusiasm (the good way).

· For the still photo-shoot, our modules smile and look pretty for the camera, and I'm momentarily distracted by lanolin.

· We've barely had time to suck the salt off our margaritas when a Tyra-Mail arrives announcing an impending elimination. Renee tells the camera that she hopes Natasha is eliminated so that she doesn't get to take part in the upcoming Runway Walk-Off, apparently because she "walks like a pigeon-toed duck with a piece of poop hanging out of her arse". I won't even get out of bed without a piece of poop hanging out of my arse, but then, I'm not a model. Jaslene tells the camera to "expect the unexpected". But… if I expect it, then it'll be expected, surely? She's just so goddamn postmodern. And, you know, skinny. Maybe she also digests the indigestible.

· The trio traipse into the Elimination Opera House to face both their penultimate fate and the sight of Tyra-meets-Barbarella-meets-Fire-Your-Stylist. Somehow, through the eyelashes and huge hair, and over the noise of her shiny, shiny frock, Tyra greets the girls with "Here they are – the three baddest bitches in town. Holla.". Mind you, my mistyped notes say "Hola". This ethnic stuff is hard. Judges are introduced, including Remind-Me-Why-You're-Here Twiggy, Drowning-Under-The-Weight-Of-A-Thousand-Ruffles Miss Jay, guest judges Sass and Bide, and Spunky Nigel Barker, who I'm flexing my buttocks for. Still. Cover Girl photos and ads are screened, and the judges are unimpressed with Natasha's version of English, but quite impressed with the way she holds her hair when she laughs, just like the way things in the real world aren't. Jaslene's ability to pull off a 'commercial' photograph is questioned, whilst surprisingly her ability to look cross-eyed and drunk isn't. Renee is told that she 'photographs old', and had to have her wrinkles and puffiness retouched. She looks insulted for some reason.

· The judges deliberate, and as the girls file back into the room, Barbarella looks very serious indeed. Jaslene is given the all-clear, and it's just down to Subtitles Natasha and Nanna NeNe. Natasha is told that she always takes criticism on board and improves, but that her Cover Girl spot was weak, and Renee is told that she's "a strong woman out on a vengeance to make her family's life better", but that she looks like a forty-year-old in photographs. Two seconds pass (we're on the clock here, people), and Renee is given the old heave-ho. Bye, Renee. I said BYE, RENEE! Turn up your hearing aid, pet. There's a good girl. Mind you don't break your chalky hips on your way out. I said MIND YOU DON’T BREAK – oh, never mind. Fuck off.

· Renee is shocked, sheds some geriatric tears, and hugs the remaining modules, whispering "Win this for the mamas, okay?" to Natasha. Yep. The modelling world needs more mothers like the Surrealist movement needs another urinal, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like the NRL needs another thick-necked boofhead on ecstasy with a suspended driver's licence. Jaslene is surprised that Natasha made it through, saying "If she wins, I'ma pull off all my hair". Natasha hopes she wins for her family, because then she'll be happy, and as everyone knows, "A baby not want unhappy woman to be raising them". I want Natasha to write a book about child-rearing, including chapters like Feeding From The Bottle Of The Milk Why Mother Breasts Stay Small And Humble So You Will Not Confuse Them With Mountains, and of course Borscht.

· I blink and miss a photo-shoot for Seventeen magazine. Something about a pink hoodie. Whatever.

· It's time for the crucial point in any series of America's Next Top Module – the Great Fashion Show Runway Walk-Off With Real Models And Stupid Hair. Natasha and Jaslene turn up at Quay to take part in a Sass & Bide show, which will include Caridee, a raised, ricketty, sloping catwalk and, of course, the Opera House in the background. Mr Jay explains that the theme of the show is 'evolution', meaning of course that at first, the girls are required to walk the runway in hunched-over, Neanderthal fashion, and then gradually straighten up and strut their haughties Homo-Erectus-style. Pffft. Homo. Erectus. Pffft. Oh, grow up. As is the tradition in all high-end fashion shows, the modules look ridiculous, having had their eyebrows eradicated but supplemented with tangled wads of Hessian in their bagel-esque hair. The frocks are nice though, and Spunky Nigel's there. Hi, Nigel. Call me.

· Jaslene looks incredible, and rocks her way down the catwalk like a pro. Natasha looks a bit odd and abdominally bloated, but does reasonably well until she's halfway down the catwalk and her skirt starts to fall off. Of course, she gracefully covers the fact that her garment is slipping with a lithe sweep of the hand and a quick jaunty hip thrust, and makes it to the end of the runway without anybody being any the wiser. No, wait – that's not strictly correct. She ignores the errant garment until it's swimming around her ankles, and then kicks it into the crowd, finishing the walk with her arse making a break for the border, all with a follicular croissant on her head and no neck. Nigel whispers to Tyra that she almost manages to make the Great Sydney Harbour Skirt Debacle look deliberate. Nigel is a lying, sexy cad.

· Tyra comes backstage after the show to congratulate the girls, saying "You guys ripped it". Natasha starts to say "I didn't, I swear! It just came undone by itsel – oh. You are just using whacky Western vernacular, yes?" Instead, she says "I definitely think I rock it enough to win. I am American. I win it for millions of girls who feel like strangers in America". Jaslene, not wanting to be out-quoted, says "I'm the Latin spice. I bring… spice". Way to work a metaphor twice, ChaCha.

· Suddenly we're in the Elimination Ultimate Deciding Room, and Natasha and Jaslene both look like they're going to faint, either with nerves or under the weight of the eighteen kilos of make-up they're both sporting. Tyra greets them, and I… I like what she's wearing. And I kind of like her hair. I just don't know who I am anymore. She blathers on about the multicultural-ness of the two finalists, and Nigel sits there looking hot and probably sending me a text message. Clips from the runway show are screened, and each girl is given a last chance to endear themselves to the judges by mangling the English language some more and adding some last-minute superlatives in their mother tongues. Da. Si. Get on with it.

· The judges deliberate for what seems like aeons and look through all the photos from the whole series, in an obvious attempt to avoid discussing the fact that NATASHA'S SKIRT FELL OFF. The two modules walk back into the room, Tyra gushes some more about some stuff, the girls hold hands, and my sphincter quivers. And the winner is…. the winner is…

I'm sorry, is that the 'phone?

Oh, come on. It's Jaslene. Natasha's skirt totally fell off. Der.

Next week, I get my life back. Thanks for reading, kids! You're fierce. All of you. Especially you. You smell delicious.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Eight #12

Little boys like to pull the heads off their sister's Barbie dolls. Everybody knows that.
Have you ever noticed, though, how Skipper always remains relatively intact and unscathed?
It's always the pretty ones that get hammered.

It's the Stabbed In The Back In The USSR episode of America's Next Top Model.

· I think we're still in Sydney, but it's only the subtle reminders that give me that impression, like the fact that every single scene of this episode starts with a picture of the Sydney Opera House followed swiftly by a picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Or a picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge followed swiftly by a picture of the Sydney Opera House. Or the bridge with the house in the background. Or the house with - come on, you know how this song goes – the bridge in the background. This dead horse has not only been flogged, it's been embalmed, dragged down the road, cremated, and had its ashes sprinkled over Sydney Harbour.

· The girls are tired after the last elimination, and plod into the Module Mansion on weary, bunioned feet. They're nervous about arriving at the pointy end of the competition, and Dionne ponders over her recent criticism: "They said I do this thing called scowling a lot?". That's the beauty of Dionne – she doesn't know what scowling is, and she phrases everything like it's a question. "Whatever happens," continues Dionne, "I'm just gonna take my ass to sleep". Word, sister. Have yourself some dope dreams, dawg. Bust a cap in them bedbugs' arses.

· Before putting on her jimmy-jams and going off to sleepy bo-bos, Natasha puts in a quick call to her husband to wish him goodnight. By that, I of course mean that she kneels at the end of the bed, squashes her face onto her 'phone, writhes around and says "Hiiiiii, baybeeee! Baby, I larff you so much. I'm gonna be so next to you baybeee". That's it. I'm taking Natasha's lead. Next time I'm out at a bar, I'm going to stand near a hot guy and say "I'm next to you, baby". Then we'll get all married and shit. Awesome. The other modules smirk and raise eyebrows over Natasha's behaviour, thinking her obvious and obscene inferences that sex is enjoyable are the rantings of a sick pervert. Everyone knows that proper American women are just supposed to lie there, wriggle a bit, be naked and shut up afterwards until the baby comes out. Right, Renee?

· No Big Pink Hummers here. We're in 'Straya, mate. A four-wheel drive utility vehicle with lots of grunt and a special compartment for carrying wild boar carcasses drops the girls in the bush in the middle of freakin' nowhere, where they're met by Aboriginal elder, Uncle Max. Remember the Uncle Max in The Sound Of Music? How he wanted to get a bunch of naïve, under-aged brats, force them to sing and dance, and exploit the bejeezus out of them? Huh. Uncle Max, with the help of his… er… comfortably-proportioned niece Calita, tells the modules that today's challenge will consist of telling their personal stories through words, dance and body art, and that they'll perform in front of the punters at the Salzburg Folk Festival. Or in front of some girls from the local community and a chick from Seventeen magazine. I can't remember.

· In the traditionally sub-zero temperatures of the Australian outback, the modules prepare by daubing themselves with colours from the Cover Girl Fluorescent Culture-Insulting range and smearing some little black dresses with Puffy Paint, just like they used to do in the Dreamtime. Dionne doesn't really want to dance, as she's confused about the lack of arse-shaking in traditional Aboriginal dancing. She says it's "more like acting-type dance". You know – like you do for Agadoo. Renee completely understands this type of dancing, saying that everyone, including modules, has a story to tell. "They tell their stories through dance, we tell ours through pictures and runway". Right, Renee. I think there may even be cave paintings of skinny girls throwing up into a stone toilet, wearing primitive Manolos. Grow up.

· Renee is up first, and she points to her red-painted legs and tells the audience that this signifies the abuse she suffered as a young girl. This both explains a hell of a lot, and absolutely nothing, as she moves swiftly onto her painted torso, signifying growth, strength, and a distinct lack of nutrients. In all honesty, she does a pretty good job, getting appreciative nods and applause from the gathered dusky throng.

· Jaslene hints at a theme running through her story, using phrases like "the only way out was through true love", "true love was my dream", "I stand here so in love", and "all I do is live, love, and laugh". Ironically, there's not much love for her, as she finished to the sound of one hand clapping.

· Dionne points to a splodge of paint that tells the story of how her mother was shot and paralysed, and then apparently takes the brown acid when she says "This line represents the line that I walk to represent which way I should go, if it was right or if it was left". So… you're saying that the line represents… a line. Got it.

· Natasha decides to use that wondrous theatrical device of old – speaking so no bugger can hear you. Grasping and waving two tree branches, she rocks, kneels, and whispers about weak children and dreams. Dionne says "I see her lips movin', but I don't hear a thang". Renee says "Sweet girl, but a few fries short of a Happy Meal". Natasha, confidently, says "I use tree branches, and I am barefoot".

· Carissa Rosenberg from Seventeen Magazine declares Renee to be the winner, saying that the readers of Seventeen would relate to her, especially the abused ones with blood on their legs. Renee picks Jaslene to share her prize of some Autore pearl jewellery. Now, I know that watching two skinny girls drape themselves in thousands of dollars worth of ritzy baubles should be interesting, but I'm momentarily distracted by dental plaque.

· Renee, Dionne and Jaslene decide to go out on the town and let their hair down (read: sit in the corner at Crystal Bar, drink and inhale canapés), but Natasha stays home with a fever and a chest full of mucous. Rather than bringing her chicken soup and pseudoephedrine, the girls instead decide to stick a knife in Natasha's back and turn it slowly, inch by bitchy inch. Jaslene, with condescending whimsy, says "She was a funny Russian girl, now she's just annoying to me". Dionne says "Right now, I'm over her. I wanna see her go home. She got some lies floating around somewhere". They justify their meanness by explaining that Natasha doesn't wear a wedding ring, and has no photos of her husband or baby with her. The unspeakable cad! Surely that's an automatic disqualification? Arseholes.

· Natasha is even sicker when she wakes up, and is "scared that I am not gonna be rocking these photo shoot". The girls are once again dumped in the middle of the bush (although admittedly, it could be the bit of scrub just next to the Channel Nine carpark), where they're met by Sharon Williams from the Ngemba tribe. Now, apart from the traditional aboriginal name, there's something about Sharon Williams that just doesn't strike me as quite authentic, but I can't quiiiite put my finger on it. Luckily, one of my housemates has her Perceptive Bonnet strapped firmly on her head, as she exclaims "A Ginger Abbo!". Sharon explains the shoot, telling the modules they'll be dressed in traditional outfits and body-paint, and, just after Dionne says "Please tell me I don't have to dance again" Sharon says "and you'll have a traditional dance to perform". Nice editing, boys. Postmodern. I can feel a summary coming on…
o Jaslene does the dance of the Red-Breasted Robin, which she interprets as "lots of turning, and shaking my knees like a chicken". I love it when chickens shake their knees. It makes the farmyard come alive. She does quite well, and brings out her usual Jaslene Face – lift chin, flare nostrils, raise eyebrow, look proud, hide penis. Works a treat.
o Dionne is taught a Food Gathering Dance, which involves walking, picking things up, shaking trees and looking around. Jay comments that her face still looks mean, and complains that she has to be coached through every shot. He says she has a beautiful spirit, but looks controlling and scowls a lot. A model looking haughty, cranky, and condescending? Call the police.
o Natasha is taught the Willy Wagtail Dance, or "The wiggly wagtail bird – always jarmping, always heppy, it's a heppy bird". Still sick, she finds it hard to both pose well and cough herself a new arsehole, but Jay is unsympathetic and tells her to push through her pneumonia, or tuberculosis, or whatever it is that Russian ladies die from these days. She does not do well, and I'm disappointed. It's a bit like finding an undiscovered Coleridge manuscript full of awkward limericks, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like asking for chicken salt on your chips and then just.. you know… getting ordinary salt.
o Renee rocks the corroborree with her Dance Of The Butterfly, which she nails through the careful use of flappy elbows. When Renee's bitchy, manipulative and the obvious product of a dysfunctional family, she's fabulous. When she's really good at stuff, she's boring. I kind of want to see a picture of the Sydney Opera House right now. I'm not left hanging long.

· A Tyra Mail drags the modules towards the Great Elimination Gunyah Of The Dreamtime, and they stand before Tyra, who is never seen in close-up this week, possibly due to the fact that she borrowed today's wig from Donatella Versace without washing it first. Tyra emotes through the prizes, which I think include a didgeridoo and a photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and then introduces the judges, including Nine-Ruffled Miss Jay, Festive-Sleeves Twiggy, guest Carissa Rosenberg, and Spunky Nigel Barker, who I'm whittling a woomera for. Hi, Nigel.

· Photos are flashed up on a screen, and each module is asked to nominate who they think most deserves to be America's Next Top Module, and then who they think least deserves it. Everyone except Dionne (who nominates Jaslene) nominates themselves as the most deserving, and in the Great Xenophobic Back-Stab Of 2007, everybody nominates Natasha as the least deserving. Pathetic reasons given are that she "comes off as real phony" (like all other models), that she "plays games" (like all other models), and that there's "something missing" (like all other models). Nobody explicitly says "she's prettier than me, she talks funny, and she's a horny little root-rat", but those of us who can read are doing so between the lines. Natasha, nobly, says in their and her own defence that "If Gisele Bundchen was standing behind me right now, I would say she had the least potential". Now, I know I should have mentioned this before, but GODDAMN, I love Natasha. She's like Russian crack, only good for the soul, and not available in crystalline form.

· Whilst the judges deliberate, the modules again serve Natasha a steaming cup of hot bitch in the 'holding room' until they're called back in to learn their fate. Renee is called first, and then Jaslene, leaving just Dancin' Dionne and Randy Natasha. Dionne is told that she started off rough and has had a rocky ascent ever since (a concept assisted immeasurably by Tyra's fried-chicken hand gestures), and Natasha is told that she started awful, improved, and then took some shit photos. Eons pass, and Dionne is given her marching orders. Bye, Dionne! Don't scowl on your way out, honey. Except she does. And when Natasha goes to hug her, she stands rigid, shooting darts of poisonous Wholahey bile from her scowly, mean eyes. What the HEYLL?!

Next week, the girls talk about Cover Girl on camera, try to show that special somethin' somethin' on the catwalk, and the winner is announced. Speak. Mystique. One more week!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

You Had Me At "Tooheys" #6, or This Week's Pick-up Line

I had my car serviced on the weekend.
As you may remember, I don't use my car much, so rather than drive it six whole blocks to the mechanic, I had the mechanic visit my house.
He was a pleasant enough bloke. Well, aside from the whole overweight and grubby thing. And the whole leaving-globs-of-freshly-hoiked-phlegm-all-over-the-pavement thing. And I would never mention the revolting haircut, bad diction and constant use of the word "fuck", because that would be distinctly impolite.
Still, I feigned some interest in what he was doing, not wanting to look like I knew nothing about cars, didn't want to know anything about cars, didn't like making conversation with grimy people I don't know, or just wished that pixies could come in the dead of night and fix my car for free. I'm nice like that.
Conversation turned, inevitably, to the weather, and then, even more inevitably because it's all I've talked about for the last month, to the fact that I ran in the City To Surf just the previous weekend.


He looked me up and down, and then said "So… you're pretty fit then, eh?".

"Oh… er… I… guess" I replied, taking a step back to give the impression that this conversation would soon be over, and I'd be racing back inside the house to find the Dettol, a wire brush, and a picture of Clive Owen.

"Did you run it with your boyfriend?" he asked, putting careful and creepy emphasis on the word "boyfriend".

"Pffft!" I said quickly, rolling my eyes. "He doesn't run!", and off I scampered.

So basically, if anyone knows of any rich, handsome, intelligent, funny, limber gentlemen who live in Sydney and don't run, let me know.
We can't have me looking like a liar, can we?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Naughty Panda: An Introduction.

My brother Mike lives in Broome with his girlfriend Naomi.
For the geographically-challenged, Broome is the most isolated town in Australia, up near the top left-hand corner. It's known to many as the 'Gateway to the Kimberley', and to me as 'Place So Stupidly Gorgeous A Little Bit Of Wee Comes Out'. It's idyllic somethin' awful, it never gets cold, and the only noise to keep you awake at night is the sound of mangoes thumping to the ground from everybody's backyard tree. Plus, they have beer.

There is, however, a sinister force at work in Broome, and its name is Naughty Panda. Naughty Panda lives at Mike and Naomi's house, and he is, by way of understatement, Not Like Other Pandas.
At first, most people think Naughty Panda is simply an innocuous hand-puppet. I say he's the result of an evil distillation process that involves collecting evil juices from the rotting carcasses of dead despots, concentrating them, and putting them in a sinister-looking bottle. Or, y'know – like Bindi Irwin.

You never know when Naughty Panda will suddenly appear with a havoc-wreaking twinkle in his cold, dead eyes. Like, you could be just taking a stroll on a grassy hill…

When suddenly….

Imagine the terror.

Mike and Naomi often keep me up to date with tales of Naughty Panda's activities, and on every occasion I'm shocked and saddened that such diabolical badness can besmirch the red-soiled, blue-watered paradise that is Broome.
He's even tried blackmail, sending threatening emails and attaching photographs of what might happen to Mike and Naomi's personal items should they not come through with the goods:

-----Original Message-----
Naughty Panda []
Sent: Monday, 11 June 2007 5:57 PM
To: Naomi, Mike
Subject: i no were you liv

i want

1 millyon bucks

and a hellicopta

or els

you no wot.

Kind regards,


It's getting to the point where Mike and Naomi can't leave the house at night, for fear of what may await them upon their return:

Even religious holidays are no longer sacred. The joyous practice of giving chocolate rabbits at Easter? Just an opportunity for meddling, disguise, and brutal decapitation for Naughty Panda:

Mike and Naomi have now renamed Naughty Panda "Terry", in the hope that a more benign (and, frankly, poncy) name might help modify his deviant behaviour.
Only time will tell.
I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, lock up your liquor and buy pants for your soft toys. This kind of evil travels.