Dork Geek Nerd

"Rational romantic mystic cynical idealist"

Monday, August 06, 2018

Steak'N'Kidney

Breakfasted on muesli, fruit salad and plain yoghurt, then caught the train to Sydney. Across the aisle, three elderly ladies communicated silently, rapidly, in Sign Language. Had they been friends since their youth? Finished my book on the way and left it on a bench at the station, with a "Free! Please take" note sticking out of the top.
Walked to Central Park, the Japan Foundation office and the free "Anime Architecture" exhibition. Photography wasn't permitted, so you'll have to settle for the above snap of a watermelon man. "A/A" focused on older animated films, but that didn't make it any less impressive when I learnt the crazy level of effort that's put into anime backgrounds - scouting locations, preliminary paintings, etc. Watching out-of-context clips from the flicks really made me appreciate their architectural detail.
Walked to Darling Harbour, passing 8bit. This wasn't the time to sample a Golden Axe Burger or 1942 Hotdog, however, as I'd brought ham'n'salad sangers from home. My next stop was the National Maritime Museum, to see "James Cameron - Challenging The Deep". It covered the director's long fascination with underwater exploration, from "The Abyss" and "Titanic" to his expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. While not the first to reach the ocean's deepest point, JC was the first to do it solo. Trivia: there was a commemorative Rolex strapped to the outside of his craft.
Walked to The Domain via Kings, where I picked up "Conco And The Fudge #1", which DL had raved about and the "Serious Issues" pod had reviewed positively in two separate eps. It's a wrestling comic, but it's also a sweet time-travel romance/mystery. It has no right to be as good as it is.
My third exhibition viewing for the day was the Archibald, Wynne & Sulman Prize pictures at the Art Gallery Of NSW. The above shot, swiped from the gallery's Instagram feed, shows artist Yvette Coppersmith with her deservedly Archie-winning self-portrait. The Archibald entries on display this year were of an amazingly high standard, in my opinion. Shame about some of the trash littering the Wynnes and Sulmans.

Forgot to mention that in Hyde Park there was a protest against the "racist" South African Government. And that ahead of me at the gallery's bag-check counter was a woman dressed as a taco checking in a helium balloon!
More walking. The upstairs area of the State Library was closed. While contemplating buying a juice from the cafe downstairs, I spied an unusual vending machine filled with small, yellow envelopes. The instructions said that if I inserted any coin and selected an envelope, I would be directed to a random section of the library. I dropped a 50c piece in the slot, pressed "A", "7", and received my directions...to be followed at a later date (i.e. never).
Walked to Circular Quay, to peruse the free Xun Sun exhibition at the MCA. That owl comes from a room-wrapping alternate Zodiac entitled "Maniac Universe" and in actuality is quite luminous. Like Ms Coppersmith, XS was born in 1980. Dunno what that signifies, it was just a fact I noted. Got short-changed in the gift shop by a Bohemian beauty. Not free, then :-)
Walked to the Opera House. Sad to say that backpacks must now go through an airport-style scanner before you are granted entrance. I was there to hear Chris Cheney (The Living End), Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Josh Pyke, Tim Rogers (You Am I) and a mighty backing band perform The Beatles' "White Album" in its entirety. It was FANTASTIC - a unique musical experience I would recommend to anyone - with the highlight for me being "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". TR's banter was amusingly wacky, e.g. explaining his theatrical dress and stage moves: "I was beaten as a kid. Beaten in a chess game in Kalgoorlie in 1985."
Walked back to the centre of the CBD and checked into the QT Hotel, where I scored an upgrade. The executive suite was cool, with decor that evoked both trendy nightclub and expensive brothel. The bathroom was overkill - two "rain showers" and a huge tub.
Skipped dinner and dashed to the Genesian Theatre for the Agatha Christie play "The Unexpected Guest" (image from their website). Overall, it was OK. The preposterous plot was par for the course. What bothered me was the inconsistent accents, which ranged from heavy to light to nonexistent. It was jarring, and made suspending disbelief even harder. I'd have much rathered all of the actors spoke in a neutral accent. Returned to my sexy suite for a packet of Bombay Mix and "Paddington 2".
Rose early Sunday and watched "The Limehouse Golem" while eating the deluxe room-service breakfast.

Walked to Newtown to search the secondhand bookstores for treasure. Left Elizabeth's empty-handed and Gould's showed no signs of opening. Bugger. Thought I'd better purchase supplies for the train to Newie. Unfortunately, the boutique supermarket I chose to visit was mostly empty racks. The best I could manage was a bottle of water and a paleo bar (and I detest the paleo concept!). "Sorry if there was something else you were after," apologised the cashier. I made a joke about Communist Russia...which feels tasteless now that I write that line.
Walked to Railway Square, where Basement Books supplied a decent spy novel for $4. The return trip lasted 5.5 hours instead of the usual three due to a track blockage and unscheduled train change. It didn't worry me. I had a book, I had water, I had a stupid paleo bar and I'd crammed a crapload into my minibreak.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Heart strings \/

* Alicia Vikander in "Tomb Raider"
* Deepika Padukone in Bollywood epic "Bajirao Mastani"
* Erik Fermina, aka Lala Lemonboots in gamecast "Girls Guts Glory"
* Italian volleyball star Francesca Piccinini
* Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman"
* Superest model Karlie Kloss for Victoria's Secret lingerie
* Keira Knightley in "Princess Of Thieves"
* Singer Tzuyu (from the group Twice) competing in the K-Pop Olympics. Yes, really.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Past libe

DL was telling me how much his kids like visiting their local public library. This prompted a discussion about the changes these institutions have gone through in the previous few decades.

Nowadays, I use a plastic card to log into a terminal, scan my selections (20 per visit, to a maximum of 40), tear off the receipt, and usually leave without ever having interacted with a librarian. If I later need to renew some items, I can simply do so online.

When I was a lad, it was very different. For a start, we knew all of the library staff well. We had to because, besides stamping the due date in/on the back of everything, they decided if a selection could be reborrowed or reserved. More importantly, they had an intimate knowledge of the library’s contents. There was no electronic catalogue to check.

Access to material was strictly controlled via pieces of coloured cardboard. Kids received four orange library cards, two pink cards and one white. The orange allowed you to borrow hardback books. The pink ones were for paperbacks. The white card was for borrowing thickly laminated posters. Either the orange or pink cards also did for music/spoken-word cassettes. Can’t remember which.

Adults were dealt a similar hand, except their library cards were light blue, yellow and white. And instead of children’s posters, they could take home art prints to temporarily adorn their walls.

Note that the two groups weren’t accessing the same hardbacks and paperbacks, at least not as far as fiction went. The adult versions were clearly marked “ADULT” and precocious lads like me couldn’t borrow them unless we convinced a parent to devote one of their cards to the purpose.

When, as a teen, you graduated from orange’n’pink to light blue’n’yellow, it was a big deal. Suddenly, no-one could stop you grabbing a whole stack of B-grade sci-fi yarns with titillating covers. Ahem. What I mean to say is – suddenly, no-one could stop you accessing more intellectually challenging fare and broadening your cultural horizons.

Back then, libraries didn’t loan out movies on VHS or Beta. The idea of borrowing a videogame was unimaginable…although you could book the Apple IIe for 15 minutes at a time and hone your platforming skills on “Sammy Lightfoot”. Instead of a free Wi-Fi link to Wikipedia, etc., we had the Reference Section. Do they even still make almanacs?

Leaving without using my six non-poster cards was not an option. If, for whatever reason, the family didn’t make it to the library the following week, there was a chance I’d run out of unread stuff and die of boredom. As a result, I tackled a number of series completely out of order, based on which volumes happened to be on the shelves. Young me had faith the missing chapters would turn up eventually.

The library of my childhood was floored with carpet squares we’d sneakily lift, then press down into place again before anyone noticed. There was an English librarian we called The English Lady. For a while, there was a stray kitten hanging about that we tried unsuccessfully to adopt. Our existing cat wouldn’t accept it. Placid by nature, at the sight of the interloper it went hissing-clawing berserk!

The cassettes were housed in revolving racks. The posters stood longways in planter-type boxes. I recall competing for Apple IIe useage with a girl from another school, the two of us repeatedly rebooking the green-screened machine after each other. To get to the male or female toilets, you had to walk through the study room. Shithouse building design, that. (Sorry.)

It’s hard to convey what a source of constant wonders public libraries were prior to Netflix, iBooks, Steam, comiXology and the rest. Before most folks had instant, virtually unlimited access to fillums, novels, games, comics, etc. at low cost. The first time you heard of a book’s existence wasn’t when the author tweeted the contract signing – it was when you spied the published tome on the New Releases shelf, freshly covered in plastic and just begging for a due-date stamp.

I won’t claim that we loved our local library any more than the kids of today love theirs. But we did.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I was in a writing group

I was in a writing group. It was held in a seminar room at the uni but outsiders were welcome to attend. One of the English lecturers oversaw proceedings, donating an hour of his time each week. Sometimes, we'd improvise on a given topic, scrawling madly for half of the session. (No-one owned laptops then!) Most times, we'd bring along works in progress. Prose or poetry, never plays. We'd go around the circle, taking turns to read our compositions, then others would have the opportunity to comment. Finally, the lecturer would offer brief, constructive criticism and suggest relevant authors/poets we might wanna investigate.

The group was very liberal and very supportive. There was a young gal with a cool haircut and an endearing lisp who was just coming out and clearly appreciated the reassurance she received. There was a young guy who resembled Mallory's artist boyfriend Nick from "Family Ties" (another reference that'll date me), and who, though not a student, was all about things poetic. There were worldly, mature-age arts majors, and youthful engineers, scientists and economists who also happened to be lexically inclined.

I remember writing an impromptu piece about a borrowed BMX bike left outdoors to rust as a symbol of the corroding of a neglected friendship. I recall taking along a strange free-verse poem about how predestination meant the third of the heavenly host who fell were blameless pawns. (Pretentious or WHAT?) Scapegoat Lucifer's prison was an endless beach. "How do angels procreate?" asked the lecturer, enigmatically. "Inside the minds of humans," I replied. He seemed satisfied with that. Or perhaps he just realised I was beyond help :-)

One week, a woman joined us and monopolised the 60 min. reading a sci-fi romance. When she didn't return the following week, there was bitching about the fact that on top of denying anyone else the chance to read at the previous meeting, she obviously had zero interest in receiving our feedback on her speculative sauce. I didn't bitch. I knew the lady in question from the gaming society and we'd compare genre finds when our aisles intersected in the library. She was the only person in my early-20s circle who was already married.

Towards the end of the academic year, the lecturer in charge ran a poetry competition, with the winner to be announced at a formal dinner for writing groupsters at a local club. I dashed off a short entry in which a dude reflected on life through a bus window that was below average at best. On the night, a Highly Commended nod went to a quiet, diligent regular. We didn't get to hear her poem but were told it involved a violin. I imagined - not in a mean way - that the subject might be a quiet, diligent violinist.

The victor hadn't attended a single w/g session. He wrote about an unavoidable fight in a pub car park. It was excellent! The kind of offbeat-yet-believable work Triple J (that's an Aussie radio station, international guests) might have set to a soundscape and hammered for a fortnight. I'd borrowed Mum's trusty Ford Laser for the function and was able to give a few folks lifts home, including the unfamiliar bloke who'd won. When I saw where he lived, I realised he may well have known about unavoidable fights in pub car parks!

There was an unspoken rule that you took part in the writing group for two semesters, then "graduated" to make space at the table for the next band of aspiring bards, so there's nothing further to add...except that, in hindsight, the experience taught a naive lad as much about people as it did word choice or sentence structure.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Balloonacy or logic?

Speech/thought bubbles are one of many techniques used by lads' mags to add extra humour to a story. For example, an article about sex addiction might have a stock photo of an amorous-looking couple on a bed, with a speechie coming from the mattress saying, "Would it kill youse to have an early night?" OK, not my funniest hour, but you get the idea. Some editors are stricter than others on the use of such devices. I had an ed who wouldn't permit inanimate objects to be shown speaking or thinking. Animals could only have thought balloons, with the exception of parrots, who were allowed to give full voice to their opinions.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Halloween '17

It was a weekday, so I had to work. While getting ready in the morning, I chucked on the latest Halloween-themed episode of "The Purple Stuff Podcast", in which hosts Jay and Matt answered listener questions with their usual enthusiasm, knowledge and humour.
In the evening, I ate dinner, washed up, etc. while watching demonic possession yarn "Deliver Us From Evil" (2014), starring Eric Bana and Olivia Munn. It was all right. Supposedly based on incidents experienced by an NYC cop. [Cough] bullshit [cough]. At least it had an internal logic and a badass priest.
I'd been legit excited to read 2000AD's "Scream! & Misty" special, resurrecting series from two classic British horror comics, on the most appropriate night of the year. Sadly, the strips felt half-arsed and more like ads for future releases. Cracking cover, however.
Having not done any seasonal shopping, my sugary treat was based on what we had in the pantry. It was these ghostly gunslingers or nada. After four, I'd hit my limit.
Don't ask me why, but I also opted to replay the 10th Fighting Fantasy gamebook, "House Of Hell". Having beaten it back in the day, I came up short on this occasion. Anyway...extremely black, tricky map and the letter-association test (at the hands of a torturer) remains a piece of mad brilliance.
We began with a cute illustrated Marceline The Vampire Queen, so here's a different take on the character, pinched from the Instagram feed of beautiful South African cosplayer Kinpatsu. HH!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Two Sundays ago

Wandering the bushland campus of my first university in the mild spring sunshine, I spied:

* A "leave a book, take a book" hutch containing a number of worthwhile tomes...and a VHS tape by kids' entertainers Hi-5

* An older lady riding a motorbike without a helmet. (Maybe she was only travelling between buildings)

* That whole departments had moved, been amalgamated or disappeared

* A Terracotta Warrior statue like those found in the tomb of China's Emperor Qin. (Snapped a pic and stuck it on Twitter)

* Nowhere to buy vittles except a hole-in-the-wall cafe in a study room under the main library. (At my second uni, there'd have been proper restaurants and a minimart open, even on a Sunday)

* Posters advertising a fully catered retro videogame night held last month. (Wish they'd had 'em in my day!)

* Willie wagtails harassing or being harassed by Indian myna birds. (Couldn't tell which. Probs the latter. Invasive species and all that)

* Asphalt over the green slope where once I'd lain, lost in a Charles De Lint novel in the mild spring sunshine.