Friday, July 29, 2005

Inappropriately Touched By An Angel

The religious community of Australia is abuzz in the wake of a statement issued to the police by Mrs. Beryl Trotter last night. The 72 year old parishoner and part-time cleaning lady of St Reginald the Garrulous' church has alleged that whilst sweeping in front of the altar and humming a few bars of 'Hail Mary, You So Fine', she felt the hand of the Lord fall upon her nether regions.

Turning, Beryl saw what she claims was an angel - it was a being of terror and beauty that stood before her, born in the instant of Creation and all ablaze with the furious power of the Word: the thought of God made flesh. It asked if she 'wanted a root'.

Naturally, Beryl dropped her broom and ran, or at least waddled very fast. She explains in her statement, "I know He loves everyone, but that's no call to get physical. I mean, it was very flattering and all, but there's laws against that sort of thing in the workplace. Anyway, I'm not sure I can give the Lord what He needs. My Henry was always a bit...over-enthusiastic...if we hadn't, you know, gotten conjugal for a while; it's been 2000 years since God got involved with a gel. And anyway, look at all the trouble that caused."

The Vatican is yet to make an official comment, although sources close to the pope have admitted that his Holiness is extremely displeased, and has said that even if Beryl didn't go all the way, she should at least have knelt before the Lord. What He wants, He should get, as far as the pope is concerned, and if He wants an elderly broom-jockey, so be it. The Lord puts on the moves in mysterious ways.

Meanwhile, the police continue to look into the matter; rumours that their investigation is based on reports of the local vicar, the Reverend Ronald Tumble, being last seen at the local supermarket purchasing a blonde wig, chicken-wire, a bag of feathers and two hundred pounds of glitter are still to be confirmed.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

More on Interpol

Unlike Tim (see post below), I thought last night's Interpol gig sucked - but that's because I was expecting to go to a symposium held by the International Police, and felt I had been duped. I mean, sure, rock of the finest variety was perpetrated, but I had to return red-faced to the boys in the sleeper cell, and confess that I hadn't been able to assassinate Interpol's Chief Constable, and could they please unstrap this C4 from my body, as it was getting kind of heavy.

It was, however, nice to meet the charming Ladycracker, bloggist supreme. Unfortunately, she failed to compliment me on my evening dress with matching shoes and accessories, which sorely disappointed me. All that effort for nothing. And I was wearing my best wig, too.

Still, the night was not a total loss - if you like bitchin' music, and you like it played loud, and you like it played by lads in nice suits, then you missed out if you weren't there. Man, it sucks to be you. Hang your head in shame.


Last night's Interpol gig at the Metro was ace. It was also rad and awesome, but mostly it was ace. Not only did the band put on a great show - these boys have both aesthetic style and musical chops - but I also had my first real life meeting with a fellow blogger, the lovely Ladycracker, who was there with her equally lovely (in a masculine way) boyfriend. A good time was had by all. Don't you wish you had been there?

(Bit of a crap post, I know, but I'm busy, dad blast it!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jesus In A Jar

Conrad Charlton is not only the finest composer working in musical theatre today, he is surely one of the medium's great lyricists. "Igneous Heart", the love theme from his first major production, the fantasy-cum-romance Quarry: The Musical, contains, in this writer's view, one of the finest evocations of physical and emotional love yet penned for the stage:

Down in the Earth where they breed the monkeys
Who ride the bicycles

That power the moonbeams

An igneous heart has solidified

Yes, from your molten flesh

That special heart derives

Even decontextualised thus, Charlton's lyric retains its passionate intensity, its subtle yet unmistakable power. Charlton may be a fantasist, but his knowledge of the realities of the human heart is very great indeed.

Charlton's recent run of hits looks set to continue with his new show, Jesus In A Jar, which opened last night at Her Majesty's Stage Place in Sydney. Jar, as it is affectionately known, tells the story of Ronald Cowes, a lonely young man seeking what all lonely young men seek: love, success, a clear complexion. One day, lolling in his parent's backyard, Ronald makes an incredible find: a tiny man professing to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Acting swiftly, Ronald traps the alleged Messiah in a jar, thinking to make a wish-granting genie of his diminutive prisoner. Charlton, as one would expect, provides a rousing tune to accompany the moment:

I've got you trapped!
And now you're mine

You'll do my bidding every time

I've got you trapped!

And now you're mine

Yes you're my Jesus in a jar!

Cowes and Jesus then embark on a series of adventures, by turns hilarious and poignant. Jar's organisational binaries - good and evil, captive and prisoner, short and tall - allow Charlton great satirical scope. Songs such as "Christ On a Bike" and "Jesus, If You Pleazus" are merry yet pointed digs at the commodification of religion, while "When You Wish Upon a Jar" takes in everything from the war on terror to the dearth of decent alternatives to Tupperware.

From start to finish, Jesus In a Jar is a joy. Daryl Somers excels as the tiny Jesus, while Tod McKenny returns to the stage after his recent stint in prison for armed robbery with a performance as Ronald Cowes that is both believable and detestable. Overall, the production is one of the most professional I have seen in years, right down to the complimentary Jesus lollypops handed out during intermission. One could expend a good deal more ink describing the manifold pleasures of Jar, yet as is often the case with Charlton, his own lyrics say it best:

Miniature nose
Miniature robes

Miniature beard

It's miniature weird!

It is also profoundly moving. Bravo.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Left-Wing Comedian Celebrates 1000th Obvious Joke

Self-described "comic dissident" Ben Shore this week celebrated cracking his 1000th completely obvious and predictable joke.

"Why did John Howard cross the road?" Shore asked a packed house at Melbourne's Cack Rack comedy club. "Because George W. Bush told him to!"

For the remainder of his set, the young comedian kept his audience laughing by taking potshots at a range of easy targets, including the alleged immorality of the Iraq invasion, John Howard's eyebrows, George W. Bush's poor public speaking skills, and Amanda Vanstone's weight.

"I try not to let my insights rise above the banal," Shore told Sterne over a beer later that night. "I see myself as a musician, playing the audience's prejudices like a piano. Ultimately, I'm doing this to challenge the white, capitalist patriarchy, not to give my fans a hard time by making them think too much."

Audience member Jane Thrallsom said that what she enjoys about Shore is his ability to reduce complex issues to a series of black-and-white, us-and-them cliches.

"Ben has a refreshingly simple, undergraduate world-view. He makes me laugh without challenging any of my preconceived ideas. That's really what I'm after in a night out."

Ben Shore will make his television debut next Wednesday night on ABC's The Glass House.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Saturday (Stomach) Filler

A letter:

Dear Sterne,

Why do you always target a demographic audience of reasonably educated hipster doofuses, pedants, wild-eyed insomniacs, and Ayn Rand fans? Why do you never seek to express views pertinent to bored middle-aged housewives from Bentleigh? Why?!
Marjorie Wimple, Bentleigh.

Well firstly, Marjorie, if the plural of 'doofus' isn't 'doofii', it should be. Secondly, your wish is granted! House-fraus of Melbourne town, throw down your macrame, put away that mop - it's cake bakin' time! (Anyone else is welcome to join in the fun, too, so long as they promise no lawsuits will be forthcoming)

Now, a word of explanation before we start commencing to begin: my mother is a Cajun mulatto, descendant of a long line of vodoun priests who learned the black arts of ritual spicing deep in the swamps of N'Orleans; my father a scion of the gypsy kings of the Carpathian highlands, well versed in the ways of fortune-telling, knavery and cordon bleu. Fusion food being all the rage these days, I, their bastard offspring, have combined two ancient secret recipes handed down from both sides of the family. The resultant combination is the greatest gestalt gateau ever to grace your gullets:

Papa Gede's Traditional Black Mountain Sin Cake:

1. Slaughter a hog.
2. Grease a huge pan with fat from your freshly slaughtered hog.
3. Take plain flour, a knob of butter, and two emu eggs (fertilised for preference. Crunchy!). Mix 'em in a big ol' bowl.
4. Melt a pound of the bitterest, darkest chcolate you can find. Add to the bowl. If you're not stirring by now, better start.
5. Add 7 liquid oz. of congealed blood (from your now cooling pig). This acts as a fantastic binding agent. Keep stirring, I said!
6. Add half a cup of sugar.
7. Add the rest of the cup.
8. Add two shots of vodka. Drink the rest of the bottle as fast as you can. Drink! Stir!
9. Add a pinch of chilli powder, a pinch of rosemary, a scraping of mandrake. Also charcoal, saltpetre, sulfur to taste.
10. Turn the bowl widdershins thrice. Chant the shadow chant. Chant it backwards.
11. Sacrifice a black cockerel over the bowl with your favourite dagger, but be sure it is rune inscribed.
12. Dance a little dance.
13. Add the juice of half a lemon and pour the vile brew into your greased pan, all the while singing to ol' Mawu.
14. Stick the heads of three dead fish into the mix, staring upwards. This symbolises the plight of our people in the old country.
15. Invoke the deity of your choice and place the mixture in a pre-heated oven but do not, I stress, DO NOT place it in a wood fired oven, or any device using an open flame.
16. Best to leave the house for an hour or so, after updating your insurance.

Personally, I would not advise actually eating Papa Gede's Traditional Black Mountain Sin Cake (but share it with your guests, watch their faces), and Sterne hereby absolves itself of any and all untoward consequences that may occur by so doing. However, you will have had fun making it, if I am any judge, and that's the main thing. Happy baking, Marjorie!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ashes To Ashes

How obvious is that title? Anyway, the Ashes got under way last night with both sides proving shithouse with the bat, but excellent in the field. I had intended on starting a special Ashes blog, but chucked the idea at the last minute. Given how exciting day one of the series was, I wish I'd gone through with it. Those seeking Ashes-related bloggery ought to check out the appropriately-named The Ashes, or, for the view from over there, The Corridor of Uncertainty. There are heaps of cricket blogs around, but these are the best I've found so far. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Imaginary Friend Starts Non-Imaginary Fire

Binko, the half-rabbit, half-puppy imaginary friend of local five year-old Taylor Sharp has been blamed for the fire which destroyed the Sharp family home last night.

Mrs Sharp told Sterne that she was watching television with her husband at about 7 p.m. when her daughter ran into the room.

"She was screaming that Binko had set her bedroom curtains on fire. I didn't believe her - I mean, Binko has had some pretty crazy adventures in the past. It wasn't until the ceiling collapsed on my husband, killing him instantly, that I realised Taylor was telling the truth. That Binko - what a crazy critter!"

According to Miss Sharp, Binko used a cigarette lighter to ignite the curtains before fleeing into the night. A city-wide search last night failed to locate the fugitive firebug, and police fear that he may strike again.

"We're asking people to be vigilant," Sergeant Garry Dawson said. "If you see a pink rabbit with a puppy dog tail, wearing a bow around its middle and a collar with a love heart motif, please call the police. Do not approach Binko - he is armed and considered extremely adorable."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Small Victory

The air was thick with bogans as our heroes, Jon and Tim, boarded the 5:37 p.m. express to the city. With freshly oiled biceps glistening, they overpowered a gaggle of elderly ladies to take possession of a seat, whereupon they placed their god-like buttocks.

"Ours is a noble venture," said Jon, eyeing his fellow passengers haughtily.

"Immortality," said Tim. "Take it - it's yours!"

"Thanks, but I already bought some at the Churro Hut." Jon eyed his fellow passengers with still greater haught before continuing. "Superficially, we are merely going out to hear a talk by the writer Neil Gaiman. However, in the context of the War on Terror, our actions are truly courageous. At any moment we could perish in a terrorist attack."

"They hate our freedom."

"Yes, and there is no level to which they will not sink. Their morality originates in the Marianas Trench, amongst eyeless fiends with light bulbs protruding from their piscine bodies."

Soon, the lights of the city appeared, and "Welcome to the Jungle" burst spontaneously from the train's P.A. system. Once alighted, our heroes thrust forth their crotches, and walked with the poise of Apollo through streets lined with cowering wretches.

"Terrorists hate freedom," said Jon, "and capitalism is the embodiment of freedom and Hungry Jacks is the embodiment of capitalism. I say we go hence and partake of some freedom fries."

"I agree. Oops, watch out for that puddle of freedom vomit."

From the upper floor of the Swanston st. Hungry Jacks a majestic vista was revealed to Jon and Tim. The latter gestured towards the nearby State Library.

"Those who deny the reality of human progress need only take in this view to have their beliefs crumble like so much chocolate-covered honeycomb."

"Yes," said Jon, throwing a pickle at the menial scrubbing something red and sticky off the floor. "Compare the overblown triumphalism of that neo-classical pile with the utilitarian wipe-down-ableness of this family restaurant."

"We've come a long way, baby."

"The future is now!"

Full of greasy good cheer, our heroes proceeded to the Village Roadshow Theatrette, where they joined several hundred nerds to hear Neil Gaiman's talk. Afterwards, Jon was quick to pick up on the political symbolism of the event.

"Terrorists hate freedom," he said. "By attending tonight, we have shown we will not be intimidated - not by terrorists, nor by nerds! We shall prevail!"

"You know what else terrorists hate?"


"Indeed. Let us partake of some freedom beer!"

The adventures which followed need only be hinted at here. Jon and Tim were equal to the challenge set by the terrorists. With steely resolve they did battle with large quanitites of beer, emerging victorious some hours later. Any terrorists who happened to be watching would have trembled to see these two mighty warriors crossing Swanston st. with the sort of abandon that only comes from being truly drunk. And free.

As they walked, Jon spoke of battles past and future, while Tim sang selections from Ol' Dirty Bastard.

"This will not be the last time we are called upon to make sacrifices for the greater good," said Jon. "We must be prepared to fight for freedom at a moment's notice."

"Hey, Dirty," said Tim. "Baby I got ya money, don't ya worry..."

Despite the inherent danger, our heroes boarded a tram bound for the green hills of Box Hill. Various suspicious characters immediately disembarked, fearing retribution should their insidious intentions come to Jon and Tim's notice. One, however, remained.

"That man across from us has the pallid countenence of the fanatical jihadist," said Tim.

"How clever, disguising himself as a heroin addict," said Jon. However, the hour grew late, and the young men grew weary, so righteous action was postponed.

"We shall allow you to live this night," said Jon to the man, who pretended to be asleep. "But rest assured, we will return to slay you, for you are an enemy of the freedom we are sworn to protect."

"Know this, foul beast," said Tim, shaking his fist in the terrorist's face. "You shall perish by my hand!"

"Gurfrlargh," said the potential suicide bomber.

Once Box Hill had been reached, our heroes stopped only to urinate in a public place before going their separate ways. Tim developed a heroic case of the hiccups, staggering home through the chilly streets, proud of the small victory that he and Jon had achieved that night. Soon he was home, stretched out upon the conjugal bed, visions of glory dancing in his mind. And darkness veiled his eyes.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Generally I tend to steer well clear of children's literature. Being a bitter, cynical, mean-spirited sort, I have little place in my heart for things of joy and wonderment and whimsy. Which is of course why I love JK Rowling's Harry Potter so much: hers is the most formulaic and drearily prim invention to grace bookstore shelves since Biggles repressed his homosexuality by blowing up Jerry rather than simply blowing Ginger.

Although her source material draws on such rich grounds for exploration as the transition from childhood to adolescence and sorcerous subcultures lurking in the back streets, Rowling manages to turn these central conceits into a series of repetitive and highly sterilised riffs on the post-war boarding school novel, pitch-perfect in their asexual nostalgia. Moreover, the secondary world that Harry inhabits is mundanely Swedenborgian; all sense of the numinous has been sucked out, the fantastic replaced by the familiar.

CS Lewis' sehnsucht is turned on its head in Rowling's writing - instead of forcing us to bear witness to the magic inherent in the everyday, she infuses her magical world with the quotidian, the antiseptic, the routine. Do you remember how bored you were by school? It's just like that. And as such, the lack of the truly miraculous in Harry Potter prepares children for life by limiting their imaginations (and therefore the danger of false hopes and expectancies), and keeps the imagination of adult readers firmly in check (and also therefore the danger of actual thought) by offering a sanitised version of childhood in which to dabble. What can I say? I am a fan.

Which is why Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which hit the bookstores last Saturday amid the usual slightly arch media coverage, came as something of a shock to me, albeit a pleasant one. Rowling seems to have decided on a different stylistic approach for her latest opus; in order to drive home the point to kiddies who were looking for escapism rather than acknowledging reality, she has apparently embraced social realism, a la Ken Loach.

Hogwarts' society is rife with rumour as a prophecy concerning the emergence of the eponymous aristocrat is unearthed. Who is he, what is he about? The mystery deepens, until Ron and Hermione's trip to the family planning clinic after a particularly successful experiment involving Ron's 'wand' makes it perfectly clear from whence the half-blood prince will spring.

Meanwhile, school life takes an interesting twist for our heroes: under perfidious funding cutbacks introduced by the muggle conservative New Labour government, Hogwarts is forced to shut down all it's artistic and creative programs. Harry and Co. must now study to become wizard accountants, all except for Ron, who drops out to become a wizard brickie.

And Dumbledore, after all those years wearing poncey robes and making suspect rhetorical gestures, is finally accused by Malfoy of being a kiddy fiddler. Of course, Harry comes to the rescue and eventually proves the charges baseless, but Dumbledore's name is forever besmirched and his career in ruins. One of the most affecting scenes in the book comes when the former head-master, revealed at last as no more than a frail and spent old man, resolves to end it all, and places a loaded broomstick in his mouth.

Perhaps most interesting is Rowling's decision to openly address the more religious among her critics. The early chapter in which Harry, attempting to learn the identity of the prince, makes a blood-sacrifice of his pet owl and summons the arch-fiend Asmodiak (duke of the thirteenth pit) whom the young wizard addresses as 'lord and master', should put to rest once and for all the debate over whether the series is introducing young minds to the black arts.

Personally, I can't recommend this latest addition enough, and I'm only saddened that the next volume, tentatively titled Harry Potter and the Magic Pornography Ring will be the last. Bravo Ms. Rowling! We fans of the sub-par salute you.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sunday Filler

Sonic Youth have done their share of pop covers over the years. As Ciccone Youth, they wiped their dirty boots on a pair of Madonna tunes on 1988's The Whitey Album, while under the Sonic Youth moniker the band has covered artists as diverse as the Carpenters, Alice Cooper and the Kinks. Perhaps their most unlikely cover is of Plastic Bertrand's new wave novelty "Ça Plane Pour Moi" from a 1992 pro-choice compilation. It's a pretty straightforward cover, although naturally there is plenty of distortion fuzzing away in the background. Not sure the lyrics are particularly accurate, either - Thurston Moore seems to be replicating phonetics rather than the actual language. Not that it makes any difference, just thought I'd mention it to sound clever.

Download: Sonic Youth - Ça Plane Pour Moi

Friday, July 15, 2005

Briton Will Be Intimidated By Terrorists

Barry Spoon, chartered accountant and lifetime resident of Gasper-on-Stroke, Essex, says that despite Prime Minister Blair's defiant claim that Britons will not be intimidated by terrorists, personally he is shitting himself.

"This Briton is quite willing to be intimidated," Mr Spoon said. "If everybody else wants to continue about their business, that's fine, but don't come crying to me when you're a dismembered corpse."

Mr Spoon claims that the decision to live in fear was made long before last week's suicide bombings in London.

"I haven't left Gasper-on-Stroke since 9/11. For one thing, I've been far too busy stockpiling canned food, drinking water and shotgun ammunition.

"The fact is, terrorists could strike at anybody, anywhere, anytime. The only way to counter this is for us to become a nation of paranoid recluses. The terrorists hate our freedom, right? Well, once we give up being free, they're bound to leave us alone."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

OK Commuter

We all have our little horror stories regarding public transport. Sure, not all of us have had the pleasure of (allegedly) making friends with a ticket inspector's boot, but 'most everyone seems to have been party to some tale of woe. So you were felt up on a crowded tram? Some drunk threw up all over the carriage? A guy in the seat opposite pissed himself? Well, sad to say, but your petty complaints hold little interest for me, especially since in all probability it was me that groped, vomited on and micturated in front of you. Prepare to be one-upped. Brace yourselves, dear children, to hear about the second strangest, but easily most disgusting, thing that ever happened to yours truly on public transport.

Picture, an' it please you, a doe-eyed workhouse lad (i.e. me), pure of spirit but empty of head, emerging weary from eight hours at the grindstone and climbing aboard the crowded 5.25 tram home. By dint of my persuasive body odour I had managed to secure a seat close to the rear of the car, and was entering my habitual post-work stupor, when I noticed expressions of distaste among my fellow commuters. The reason soon became apparent: a pair of offensively teenaged bogans, sitting at the very end of the tram with their backs turned to me, each attempting to hoover the other's epiglottis out in a rather noisy manner.

But the passion of idiot youth will have it's way, and such scenes are a dime a dozen; I was prepared to ignore it for the duration. Until, that is, I happened to notice the she-bogan's arm begin to move up and down in rhythmic fashion...

Now, the mind (or my mind, at least) leaps to obvious conclusions. Nevertheless, one immediately reminds one's self that this is a packed tram, it's broad daylight, and certain things just don't happen. Maybe, I desperately rationalised, she is rummaging through her handbag for something. Her bible, perhaps. Fortunately, I didn't have to speculate for long about this behaviour. Unfortunately, this was because I had become distracted by the fact that her head had just disappeared down behind the seat. Again, my reeling brain conducted an urgent search for possible explanations. Had she perhaps dropped her bible? Or perhaps she was just resting her head on his lap. Yes, silly me - I was just misinterpreting a tender display of affection. Except, now her head was bobbing up and

...oh, my god... The slurping noises...

"Dear Forum, I never would have believed it..." None of the other passengers could, either. Red faces were turned to stare furiously out the window. Newspapers were lifted in an effort to block out the sight of the industrious couple. Two crazy kids were busily indulging in oral sex in an extremely public arena with every sign - and sound - of enjoyment, and everyone, everyone, was too embarassed to know what to do. And what could we have done? Sternly insist that she, "Take that out of your mouth right now, young lady"? Politely inquire if he knew that there appeared to be something attached to his dick? People continued to get on the tram, the couple continued to get off; everyone knew what was going on, no-one dared acknowledge the flagrant knob-swallowing.

But wait - it gets worse. There is a popular adage about nice girls (and presumably boys) always swallowing. Nice girls, however, don't go down on peak hour trams. This was not a nice girl. I do not wish to draw you a picture, but if, after reading this, you ever sit down on the seats at the very end of a tram, well... more fool you.

And what of me, do you ask? Well I, of course, was outraged. I was furious. Disgusted.

Why, oh, why, dear children, was I not bloody well getting a blow job on the tram ride home?

However, I am not about to merely sit here venting spleen and complaining about the decline in society's morals. This is not 50/50, and I am more than just a noted social parasite - I am an Ideas Man. Connex, Ventura, Yarra Trams: you may regard this as a note in your collective suggestion boxes. People - ordinary, dishonest people like myself - are dissatisfied by the service you provide. As a result, we vandalise your vehicles. We often regard them as travelling garbage bins, and, on occasion, travelling lavatories. But! how much more pleasant, how highly everyone would esteem your buses, trains and trams if your happy, smiling and decidedly ubiquitous ticket inspectors offered optional fellatio/cunnilingus to passengers? Think how we'd look forward to the long commute to work. Think how much better we'd function in our jobs. Think how much better the world would be.

Thank you, thank you, you skanky, exhibitionist and unhygenic teens, whomever you were. You and your lack of decency have taught me much - not least of which is the necessity of placing a plastic tarpaulin over tram seats before I sit.

Ask Jack Bauer

Dear Jack,

My husband has been behaving strangely. He comes home at odd hours, he seems flustered and distant, and he often disappears into the backyard to make calls on his mobile. I am worried he is having an affair, but I fear confronting him about it. What should I do?


Jack says: Your husband is clearly hiding something, be it an affair or a plot to kill the President. In my experience, the best way to extract information from an unwilling subject is to put a bullet into one of his thighs. You then aim the gun at his other thigh and ask your question. Nine times out of ten, you'll get your answer. While this may seem extreme, we live in troubled times, and sometimes ethical norms have to be cast aside in favour of the greater good.

Dear Jack,

My son recently started hanging out with a new group of friends, and I believe they have gotten him involved in drug use and petty crime. I am loath to question him, however, because his mood is so volatile. What is the most subtle way of broaching this subject with him?


Jack says: Two words, Harry: hand-cuffs. Once restrained by a good pair of cuffs, your son can be as volatile as he likes without posing any threat to yourself. Since you requested a subtle technique, I suggest you produce an iron bar and intimate that if your questions aren't answered, said iron bar will be used against your son's person. Perhaps demonstrate on some kind of soft melon - I find watermelons produce the greatest "splatter effect". By this time, your son will be owning up to everything he's ever done. If that happens to include plotting against the state, so much the better.

Dear Jack,

A co-worker recently began complimenting me on my appearance. At first I was flattered, but since then his remarks have become increasingly crude, and I now feel ill at the thought of seeing him. How can I tell him to ease off without offending him or embarassing myself?


Jack says: Unfortunately, this problem cannot be solved with torture, but obviously violence should be used wherever possible. Ideally, you would take your tormenter out to the car park and pistol-whip him within an inch of his life, but this is not always practical in an office environment. Try this: Allow him to continue his "compliments" for a few more days. Then, when you find yourself alone with him, knee him in the testicles and, while he is bent over in agony, smash his head into the wall a few times. Explain your concerns about his behaviour, then search his pockets. If you turn up anything you believe threatens national security continue the beating. Otherwise, leave him to bleed. He will have learned his lesson.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Brrm! Brrm!

Lady Sterne and I are buying a car - our first. This complicated, frustrating process is made slightly more complicated and frustrating by the fact that neither of us have a licence. Until recently, I have never really felt the need to learn to drive, and although it has occasionally been inconvenient, not having a car at least means you don't have to spend all your money on petrol, insurance, and fuzzy dashboard novelties. Anyway, at the grand old age of almost-twenty-seven, I am about to become a car owner.

Buying a car when you can't actually drive is about as much fun as it sounds. Car dealers tend to give you odd looks when you tell them your dad will be conducting the test drive. They also get a gleam in their eye as it becomes obvious that my knowledge of cars is virtually nil. My own mood is not helped by the fact that the salesmen look like they've escaped from the set of Used Cars.
Why are we buying the car before we have licences? Well, we want to learn in an automatic but nobody we know has one they are willing to teach us in. So we're buying our own damn car, then nobody can stop us! Not God, not Kurt Russell, nobody!

* * *

In other news, today I successfully installed a second hard drive in my computer with surprisingly little swearing or wall-punching and not even a hint of electrocution. Pardon me if I show off a little, but this was something of an accomplishment for me, given my general cack-handedness when it comes to technology. Upon prying open the computer case, I was confronted with an array of chips and ribbony things and delicate-looking plugs, none of which promised an easy time. Yet with concentration, hard work, and yes, some swearing, the job got done, and I'm pleased to say the computer has yet to explode.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Saturday Filler

It's been a shit of a day, the world is a cess-pool of violence, hatred and lies, and, worst of all, I have the theme song from Full House wedged in my brain. What I need is aural catharsis, something loud and angry hammering on my eardrums for three minutes to drive out the demons, particularly those demons that have assumed the form of John Stamos. So, without further ado, I give you the fist-pumping, head-banging, sphincter-assaulting sounds of... Joe Jackson's "I'm the Man"!

Download: Joe Jackson - I'm the Man

The title track from Jackson's 1979 album is the kind of frantic rock-pop he excelled at. Musically it's your standard bass-driven new wave sound, but what makes it a great song is Jackson's skill at interspersing wordy-yet-witty verses with a simple, catchy chorus. It may not get your fists pumping, but it does get the fingers tapping. Frankly, that's good enough for me tonight.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London Calling

At this early stage, it is difficult to know what to write about the terrorist attacks in London. Certainly, whatever I say will have been said better elsewhere. At the moment, the overwhelming feeling is shock, but it is shock tempered by familiarity - we've been here, done this before. This is not to suggest that most dubious (and, one hopes, largely imaginary) psychological condition, "compassion fatigue". I merely note that as terrorism proliferates, overt fear is giving way to - or rather being joined by - despair. This is perhaps the most pernicious long-term effect of terrorism - it removes from the target society its sense of hope, without which it stagnates, and perhaps even falls.

It feels inappropriate to point fingers at times like this, but terrorism is politics expressed as violence, so we must look to our own politicians for answers. Despair is not alleviated by the suspicion that our leaders' defiant reassurances are as empty as many of their actions. It is almost four years since the September 11 attacks, yet barring (with some qualifications) the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the "war on terror" has done little but increase instability worldwide and create a climate of (apparently justified) paranoia in the countries involved. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy of comic strip proportions, but his demise has done nothing to stop terrorism, and even less to gain the vital support of Middle Eastern governments. Iraq was and is a mistake, expensive and distracting, and many experts now warn that the present insurgency is essentially providing a training ground for future terrorists. The governments who committed to this costly action must be questioned; unfortunately, this seems increasingly unlikely to happen, especially when said governments have their incompetence rewarded with increased majorities.

As in conventional warfare, it is the ordinary citizen who is most often targeted, and whose individuality tends to be subsumed by politics. Each statistic, in Iraq as in London or New York, was a person, and that person had a family and friends and a place in the world they called their own. The political ramifications of terrorism cannot be ignored, even by those who might wish to do so. Equally, the human reality should be kept in mind, particularly when the memory of these first raw days begins to fade. It is for real human beings that the fight must be continued, both against the terrorists themselves, and against the political forces of our own countries whose ideology-driven blustering is helping to lead us down the path to despair.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

School Holiday Fun!

For many parents, school holidays can be trying. Keeping little minds busy and little fingers out of power points is difficult, and what should be a period of relaxation and enjoyment for both parent and child becomes a whirlwind of tantrums, broken ornaments and shattered nerves. With five whole days of the July holidays remaining, parents across Australia are doubtless running out of kid-friendly activities, and that bottle of bourbon in the cupboard will be starting to look very attractive indeed. Luckily, help is at hand with Sterne's guide to school holiday fun:

- Visit a soup kitchen. Kids and homeless people have a lot in common, including lack of possessions and, often, an overpowering stench of feces. Kids will enjoy seeing homeless people in their natural environment, while homeless people will delight in being fed soup. Again.

- Write a letter to your MP using macaroni and sparkles. Teach your kids that being politically aware doesn't mean you can't also be creative. Nothing touches the hardened hearts of politicians more than a letter objecting to asylum seeker policy or industrial reform written in gold sparkly pen, framed by a pasta rainbow.

- Shave your pet. The equation is simple: pets plus kids plus safety razors equals a damn good time! Your cat or dog will lap up the attention, and your kids will have the satisfaction of giving their pet a groovy new look. (Note: Please seek your pet's permission before you attempt to shave them. Howling, scratching, and mauling may be interpreted as a strong "maybe".)

- Contravene social conventions. An empty beer bottle can provide hours of entertainment if you simply get your three-year-old to carry it around a shopping centre for the afternoon! Likewise, a balloon placed just so underneath your pre-pubescent daughter's jumper creates an impression of impending motherhood that will have the local burghers pointing and whispering and quite possibly calling the police.

Failing all these, send your kids out into the neighbourhood with a paper bag full of dog shit and a cigarette lighter. They'll know what to do.

Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4th for Dummies

Today is America's day of independence: the anniversary of President Pullman's victory over the aliens! Let's give a big and hearty one to our coalition cousins. For those of you who need a quick refresher, America was invented in 1776, when - having caught a bad case of liberty from the French - the founding fathers, who loved the founding mothers very much, decided to give birth to a nation. As is usually the case, much blood and squealing was involved.

America's first president was George Washington, who was named after a basketball team. George loved liberty but hated cherry trees; to this day, if an Americanian sees a cherry tree, traditionally he must declare war on it or be shunned by his peers.

The greatest Americanian of all time was Ronald Reagan, who started his career as a cowboy and ended it as a vegetable, but the second greatest was Abraham Lincoln. Abraham loved his country so much he declared war on half of it, but this was probably for the best. He enjoyed amusingly shaped headgear, cheese, and avant-garde theatre, but not slavery.

Slavery was the process which Americanians decided would enable them to better appreciate their liberty, and involved the importation of other people, who would then be able to take care of the cherry tree chopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. It is generally reckoned to have been a Bad Idea, and understandably made a lot of people quite upset. As the movie Glory relates, slavery was ended with the crucial assistance of Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington, who was named after a basketball team.

The greatest female Americanian is Oprah Winfrey. Without slavery, we might not have had Oprah Winfrey. Slavery was indeed a Bad Idea.

Americanians believe in moms and apple pies, both of whose existence has been proven. They invented freedom, freedom fries, globalisation and just wars. And on the plus side, they also invented Abstract Expressionism, the telegraph, jazz, pizza, and Tom Waits. Not bad!

There are several million people living in America, a large percentage of whom do not support the Republian party, so why not join me in extending a hand across the Pacific, and say, "Hey America, enjoy your national day! Of all the countries in the world, you sure are one of them."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Rage Playlist Meme

Like most regular Rage viewers, I have indulged in speculation about what I would programme if given the chance. Then, when the Rage playlist meme was handed to me, I promptly forgot almost all of the thousands of video clips I've seen through the years. After much brain-punching, I managed to put together a list of twelve tunes that would probably make it to my final playlist. They're not necessarily my favourite songs (although some of them are), but they are all amusing and/or interesting and/or highly sexy clips. Obviously one of the great joys of programming Rage would be discovering just what is available. For example, the Zappa song I've included is the only one I've ever seen on Rage, but given his output it can't possibly be the only one they have. Maybe one day, I'll have the chance to find out...

(But probably not.)

I Wanna R
ock - Twisted Sister
O Superman - Laurie Anderson
The Rainbow Connection - Kermit the Frog

Little Drummer Boy
- David Bowie & Bing Crosby
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths

Crazy In Love - Beyonce
You Are What You Is - Frank Zappa
House of the Rising Sun - The Animals

Come to Daddy
- Aphex Twin
Shake Your Rump - Beastie Boys
Trip At The Brain - Suicidal Tendencies

I'll pass the meme to Ladycracker, if she has the time or inclination to accept.

Downer To Pyongyang: Eat My Sports

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is seeking advice on the possibility of banning professional sporting tours to North Korea in protest at the rogue state's nuclear brinksmanship and human rights abuses.

"It's time to take a stand," Mr Downer said. "If there's one thing tyrants can't afford to ignore it is futile, symbolic protests."

Mr Downer said that while such drastic action was unfortunate, it was also necessary.

"Kim, or Julie, or whatever the North Korean dictator's girly name is, is a menace to his own people and to the world at large. Perhaps when he realises that the Australian under-19s ping pong tour scheduled for later this year won't be going ahead, he will come to his senses and we will see the emergence of a democratic North Korea."

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Filler

For a thirteen year-old song that involves a lot of apostrophizing to God, Arrested Development's "Tennessee" holds up pretty well. In fact, the whole 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life Of album still sounds good, although that title never has. AD put everything they had into that album, and were subsequently a spent force, essentially repeating the same formula until they got as sick of it as everybody else and quit.

"Tennessee" is a fine example of early nineties hip hop, with big beats and a chorus you'll be singing for days. AD frontman Speech has some heavy shit on his mind, but here as elsewhere on the album his lyrical touch is light and he never stoops to sermonizing. This is a serious yet quite joyful song. It's a pity AD didn't go on to produce more music of this quality.