Sunday, February 27, 2005

Politically Incorrect Celebrity Actually Just An Arsehole

Former Geelong footballer and media celebrity John "Sammy" Newman, whose controversial minority-baiting antics have long been feted as refreshingly non-conformist and politically incorrect, last week revealed that he is, in fact, simply an old-fashioned arsehole.

In a statement, Newman said that while he had often dismissed criticism of his brash public persona as evidence of "political correctness gone mad", he was now willing to concede that it was more likely caused by the fact that he can't open his mouth without saying something incredibly stupid and degrading.

"In the past I have defended myself using broad socio-political arguments, painting myself as the victim of a monolithic lobby of politically correct whingers," Newman said. "I now recognise, however, that whatever the social context, my behaviour tends towards the reprehensible. I guess I really am just a fucking prick."

Gavin Tate from the League of Outraged Citizens applauded Newman's confession, although he had some reservations.

"As a person with an anus, I object to Mr Newman's use of the term 'arsehole' in its pejorative sense," Mr Tate told Sterne. "However, the spirit of his statement is commendable."

Newman's confession is already having a negative impact on his media career, with Channel Nine expressing its disapproval in a private meeting with the star on Friday. The network later released the following statement:

"Deprived of its 'culture war' context, Sam Newman's schtick is rendered indefensible, and as such we are in negotiations over the nature of his role at Nine."

Newman was unavailable for comment, but Gavin Tate has assured the beleaguered star of his organisation's support.

"It is an outrage that Mr Newman can be victimised simply because he possesses an objectionable personality. Repulsive, bigoted members of the community have the same rights as anybody else. I call on Channel Nine to retain Mr Newman as an inspiring example to other juvenile boneheads who are unfairly denied opportunities on the basis of their being, in Mr Newman's words, 'fucking pricks'."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Policing the Pickets

Every year, thousands of people gather at Melbourne's MCG for the Boxing Day Test. Most come for the cricket, but there are always anti-social elements in any crowd. It is the job of the Victorian Police to ensure that poor behaviour is swiftly curtailed. The following police report, one of hundreds filed on Boxing Day 2004, reveals the sheer bravery of those officers on the front line at the 'G:

At approximately fourteen hundred and nine hours, December twenty-six, two thousand and four, Sergeant Watts and myself, patrolling the lower bays of the Great Southern Stand, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Richmond, spotted the alleged offender being inflated by person or persons unknown seated at or near the fence. Once fully inflated, the individual in question was lofted into the air to a height of approximately eight metres, with person or persons unknown inciting the assembled crowd to continue this illegal elevation by means of cheering, clapping, and chanting. Sergeant Watts and I pursued the suspect for approximately nine minutes and thirty seconds, until person or persons unknown knocked the suspect over the fence and were informed by the rest of the crowd that they were a wanker. At this juncture, I directed Sergeant Watts to climb over the fence to retrieve the suspect. This done, I issued a further order that the suspect be placed on the ground and sat upon by Sergeant Watts until completely deflated, in accordance with the Harmless Fun Prohibition Act 1997, Clause 85(a), which states that "inflatable items deemed 'fun' (where 'fun' refers to enjoyment or satisfaction arising from the use of such an item) are to be detained with all reasonable force. If inflated, items may be deflated by a police officer qualified in the specific procedure, using standard issue feet and/or buttocks, before, during or after questioning". Sergeant Watts and I proceeded to escort the suspect from the ground, whereupon Sergeant Watts and I were informed by person or persons unknown that we were wankers. End report.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Funny Man

Think you're funny, do you? Yeah, I thought I was too, a long time ago. Hell, we all did. Called ourselves the Funny Gang, went around being funny - or so we thought. Ridge was the funniest, always cracking jokes, doing impersonations, acting crazy. The cops would taser him, throw him a cell and beat him while he crouched on the floor with the dry heaves, and that crazy bastard would just keep on joking, playing the room. Then there was Kat. She was funny as. Funny as what? Funny as Ridge, maybe. Funny as me, for sure. We developed this thing, Kat and I. After a night roaming the streets being funny, we'd go back to her place and tell jokes while we screwed. Funny stuff. The cat seemed to like it. He'd curl up in the corner and yack it up, laughing and licking his nuts and doing all sorts of crazy shit. Damn cat was so damn funny. Kat's cat - yeah, that's funny. But then it all went unfunny. Ridge went pro, started getting paid for laughs, a buck here, a buck there, next thing you know he's got his own sitcom. Unfunny as. Unfunny as what? Unfunny as Kat - she followed him, funnying it up every week on the box, selling out the craft. Not funny. Me? I kept it real, kept it funny. Going around the streets being funny, doing the work of three. But it just wasn't funny anymore. You know? Sometimes life ain't funny. Now I'm settled down with Kat's cat, things are just nice. Not funny, just nice. So if you think you're funny, maybe you should think again. It ain't all funny, being funny. Funny, that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Not Meant to Be Literature

Move over Hemingway - clean, economic prose has a new poster boy. In a recent interview, Australian action novelist Chad Firethorn declared that he has further refined his already lean prose style, so that what once took ten words, he can now get across in six. Firethorn demonstrates this economy in his new book, Space Tower, cramming more action into 1228 pages than most top thriller writers manage in their whole careers. This paragraph, a characteristically fine piece of controlled compression, is from page 387:
Max not feel good. Bad man bang bang Max's leg. Flesh wound. Max grimaced. Bastards, he thought. Bastards! Reached for gun. Felt better, cold steel. Max grinned. You dead, he thought. You dead you bastards.
And this is from page 615:
Max grabbed gun, shot ten men, exploded helicopter. Shouldered his rocket launcher, thought, must shoot big bad man, must get Hitler's supernatural testicle before bad guys get it, sell it to aliens, for power space tower thing. Bang bang. Max put down gun. Armoured assault vehicle burning. Max grimaced. No sign of bad man or Hitler testicle. You bastards!
The plot is vintage Firethorn. Max, a former SAS commando, is introduced by a work-for-the-dole scheme to a group of UFO-worshipping occultists. He is contacted by GAG, a shadowy government agency whose brief is to prevent alien forces laying their slimy green hands on seven mystical objects, including Hitler's testicle, Rembrandt's toe-nail clippers, and a lock of Hillary Clinton's chest hair. GAG's grisled leader General Ray quickly realises that Max holds the key to toppling the alien's mysterious space tower, whereupon our reluctant hero is drawn into a cat and mouse race against time where the clock is ticking all the way up to eleven.

Firethorn fans will lap up Space Tower's smorgasbord of thrills, spills and kills. It is undoubtedly his most accomplished book to date, the action backed by a clever plot, believable characters, and a handful of emotion-charged moments that really pack a punch. The scene where Max's love interest, Lieutenant McKee, is almost devoured alive by a nine tonne acid-dribbling alien death-fiend is one of the most touching moments I have experienced in a lifetime of reading. Buy Space Tower today. It is a work of literature whose equals are few indeed.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

by guest reviewer W.G. Sebald

Not long ago, I found myself for reasons beyond my control at the Rivoli Cinema, Camberwell, an art deco building of some local historical significance. [Lengthy digression omitted.] I was approached by a small, slightly-disheveled man whom I was only mildly surprised to recognise as Austerlitz, an acquaintance from my travels in Europe. This reminds me of something Montesquieu wrote about bat droppings, said Austerlitz. [Lengthy digression omitted.] I suggested we see Million Dollar Baby as I felt its title had some significance to our meeting, although I could not put my finger on it precisely. The film was unremarkable, save for Clint Eastwood's trousers, which were hitched up almost to his nipples. I am reminded, said Austerlitz, of old Hoffenbach, the architecture professor whom I later discovered was my natural father. Of course, that is another story. [Another twelve inter-related stories as it turns out, here omitted.] I believe, said Austerlitz, that Morgan Freeman's character is almost superfluous, a species of deus ex machina that, its job done, keeps hanging around waiting for further opportunities to influence the plot. I told Austerlitz that I found the story predictable. Yes, said Austerlitz, predictable in its attempt at unpredictability. The moment the major plot twist occurs, one remembers an earlier conversation that blatantly signals the film's resolution. And the father/daughter subtext is laughably unsubtle. Yet the film has awakened in me memories of childhood events I had long forgotten. [Meandering anecdote of questionable relevance omitted.] Later, as we sat in a nearby cafe, Austerlitz reflected on the enigma of Clint Eastwood's trousers. They are a symbol, said Austerliz, of mortality. They are a shroud, inching ever closer to the seat of reason. Clint is old, said Austerlitz, as are we all. We all have our trousers hitched up too high for comfort. And, without another word, Austerlitz walked away, leaving me to pay the bill.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Novelisation

A Fragment of a B-Grade, Dino De Laurentis-produced Dream

"You're a loose cannon! By rights I oughta kick your no good ass out of here but lucky for you I gotta look out for the interests of the paper! The paper, ya hear me?"

The speaker is Bill O'Brien, veteran editor at the Daily Star. Bill is yellowed and crumpled, with a good line in apoplectic ranting and a hard-earned smoker's cough. Where does Bill come from? Bill is a figment of Danny Mettle's imagination. Danny Mettle put Bill on a page, and Ralph Black (in association with hundreds of people, millions of dollars) put Bill on the screen, and now I am putting Bill back on the page. I am novelising Bill.

Bill's interlocutor, a scowling young man, sits opposite, doodling genitalia on a notepad. This biro Dali sketches his deformed privates with studied insouciance: he has heard this speech before. Bill rattles on. We pick up the occasional word - "ethical...responsible...trustworthy" - and we sense that Bill is compiling an antonymous description of the young man. Whoever he is, he certainly isn't ethical, responsible, trustworthy.

Suddenly Bill is leaning across the desk, his wrinkled mouth inches from the young man's face. The latter looks up in time to see Bill drag his pale pink slug of a tongue across his thin, nicotine-stained lips.

"Are you listening to me, Davage?" says Bill, flecks of spittle launching from his palette as he speaks.

"Sorry, sir," replies the young man - Davage? - his stalwart eyes never wavering from those of the older man. "My mind was elsewhere." He holds up the notepad to reveal his juvenile markings. Bill's face turns a shade of red bordering on puce. He knocks the pad to the floor and Davage springs to his feet, apparently ready to take a swing at the old coot, when the door opens and an attractive brunette enters.

"Bill," she says, "I wonder if I might borrow Jack for a moment."

Bill reluctantly assents, and, with a final heated glance at the editor, Davage leaves the room in the company of the young woman.

"Jack," she says as they wander through the chaotic newspaper offices, "You gotta stop getting on O'Brien's bad side. He could end your career like that." That being the verbal accompaniment to an emphatic snapping of fingers.

Jack isn't so sure. "And lose his best investigative journalist? I don't think so."

"Well, be careful." She touches his arm; he smiles.

"Don't worry, Susan," he says. "Let's go get some lunch, huh?"

Cut. End of scene one.

***

Of course they are having sex now. Jack kisses Susan's shoulder, she his chest; we see a hand caressing a thigh, half a buttock, a nipple - no, two nipples. He raises himself on both hands and, apparently, enters her without manual guidance. She grimaces blissfully, and he kisses her face as a chorus of syncopated moaning begins. A silk sheet remains tastefully draped over the healthily tanned couple's nether regions, but we are recompensed by ample shots of Jack pinching Susan's breasts, Susan biting Jack's pectorals. The length and detail of the sex scene indicates that this is an adult film, not in the pornographic sense, but in the sense of being sophisticated entertainment for adults. No kids allowed: film may contain nipple-biting and fake orgasms. Adult themes.

We assume that this is a regular thing for Jack and Susan. They look the type to indulge in a heated office romance. And why not? They are young, good-looking, unfettered. The sex is great. Look at the way Jack turns Susan over, the camera focusing on her pendulum breasts as he thrusts from behind (the silk figleaf remaining miraculously in place, as if physically pinned there). Finally, glistening with a fine layer of sweat, the young lovers collapse onto the bed, into one another's arms.

"Oh, Jack," Susan says, rather predictably.

"That was better than going one-on-one with O'Brien," Jack says, panting. They both laugh. Next moment, Jack has climbed out of bed (stopping only to gently peck his lover's bare shoulder) and - what's this? - he is wearing underpants. How is this possible? Is our Jack such a virile stallion between the sheets that he need not even remove his jockeys? Such mysteries go unexplained, though, as Jack takes himself off to the bathroom for a shower.

Susan is satisfied with Jack's performance. We can tell because whenever a movie woman is sexually satisfied she begins to groom herself. Some like to sit at the mirror, combing their hair; others enjoy painting their nails. Susan's preferred post-coital distraction is to pick up an emery board from the bedside table and set it to work on her fingernails. They are ragged, no doubt, from all the recent digging into Jack Davage's back.

It is hard to know whether Danny Mettle's original script specified Susan file her nails with both breasts exposed. Nevertheless, this is what she does, setting off little tremors in those glands, tremors which fail, however, to distract our attention from what is happening elsewhere in the bedroom. For there is a third party present, lurking in the shadows. As Susan files and Jack showers, this sinister figure - dressed in black, face obscured by a balaclava - moves with stealth towards the bed. A blade glints in the dim light.

Susan notices this presence too late. She opens her mouth to scream - is that the word "Jack" on her lips? - but the figure beats her to it. There is blood; there is a lot of blood.

By the time Jack emerges from the bathroom, the killer has gone, leaving the knife protruding artfully from Susan's chest. Jack is drying his hair. He says something flippant. Wonders why she doesn't respond. Sees her body, draped over the bed, cut and bleeding. Rushes to her side, searches vainly for a pulse. Tears smart at the corners of his eyes as he covers the indecent decedent with the sheet. He sits on the bed, in shock, in his underpants.

Only then does he notice the writing on the ceiling above the bed. In strangely neat letters - some kind of serif font? - is written: TWO DOWN. The final N is pale, streaky. There was, it seems, barely enough blood in Susan's body to finish the job.

***

At this point the opening credits begin, revealing the names of those responsible for Ralph Black's film of Danny Mettle's script of Susan Number Seven. It is a cast of unknowns: Jonny Ham, B.J. Boston, Iggy Stentish. They made this thing for next to nothing, and it made a fortune at the box office. Suddenly Ralph Black and Danny Mettle are next big things. The cast? They're still essentially unknown, but that could change. Jonny Ham is tipped for an Oscar nom for another film (Wheels of God) in which he plays a wheel-chair-bound missionary. He's also negotiating to return as Jack Davage in the sequel to Susan Number Seven, which Danny Mettle may or may not have started writing.

Credits don't belong in a novelisation. Credit fails to append itself, in any shape or form, to such an endeavor. It's all debit. I know I'm not doing myself any favours writing this. I'm doing Danny Mettle a favour. I'm doing Lion's Den Publishing a favour. I'm doing my creditors a favour.

Why do they even want this job done? Who wants a written description - a transcription - of a film whose sole merit is its visual flair? Answer: Plenty of people. Novelisations fly off the shelves. Seen the movie? Now read the book. I've gone even further: I've seen the movie, now I'm writing the book.

Obviously you're reading the book. Well, you'll just have to bear with me, I'm afraid. You'll have to tolerate the digressions, the asides, the off-the-cuff remarks. They told me to write it as I saw it. I see it like this. I am seeing it like this.

Unpause.

***

A police-station at dusk. Cop cars buzz around, stopping occasionally to disgorge a pair of uniforms, some with hand-cuffed criminals in their possession. Inside, hookers and pimps, users and dealers, line the walls of the waiting room, but Jack Davage has been taken deeper within the building, to the captain's office, for questioning.

There is a certain kind of actor American casting directors look for when they need a police captain. Middle-aged, black, with a neat crop of frizzy hair, an ostentatious moustache, and a drill-sergeant's gift for high-decibel oratory: these are the attributes they look for when flipping through the talent books. One such actor is seated on a desk, across from our man Jack Davage, whose dark good looks have, if anything, been improved by his recent ill fortune.

"Shit, Jack," begins the captain, "I haven't heard shit from you in the three years since you quit and now you're mixed up in a murder?"

Jack remains silent, staring at his shoes.

"Shit, Jack," reiterates the captain. "You were my best detective, then you go off and become a hack? Well, I'm not happy about it, never was, but I ain't about to accuse you of murder. Give me some credit, boy." We get the point, but the captain, bless him, is not done furnishing us with back-story. Listen:

"Remember in the Gulf, Jack? Shit, you were my right-hand-man, taking out towel-heads left and right, and when we came home, who was it gave you a job on the force, watched out for you, made you the detective you were?"

Jack looks up, meets the captain's hard, but not unkind, eyes.

"You let me down, sure. But I ain't about to suggest you done something like this. Not by a long shot." The captain, with some awkwardness, lays his hand on Jack's shoulder. "You're a good kid, Jack. That was some bad shit you saw today with your lady friend. I feel for you, son."

"Thanks, Cap" Jack says, and we sense that tears are again near. Lest this touching display of male bonding tip over into homo-eroticism, the spell is suddenly broken by the incursion of a group of people, three non-descript men and a woman. This last is young, good-looking, dressed to intimidate. Her eyes are an odd hazel-orange colour. She looks a lot like Rose. Back in the old days.

"Special Agent Raven," she says, drawing her badge like a pistol. "F.B.I."

The captain stands, looks indignant.

"Now look," he says, "I ain't having you people come in here taking over our case. This is under our jurisdiction and--"

And thus follows the standard Jurisdiction Argument, common to just about every policier ever produced in Hollywood. By this point you have no doubt figured out that Susan Number Seven is an assemblage of cliche. This realisation is authentic: it is about now the cinema audience would be thinking the same thing. So why is the film a hit? Because the visuals are slick; the performances are strong; the editing clever. The inadequacies of Danny Mettle's script are compensated for in the film; they are harder to obscure, however, in the novelisation.

For example, in this scene, Special Agent Raven asserts her right to investigate the murder case, giving Captain Jones - for that is his name - chapter and verse for some thirty-four seconds screen time, during which Ralph Black has his camera trained not on Special Agent Raven, but on Captain Jones. Extreme close-ups, in the Sergio Leone mould. His nostrils, his eyebrows, the beads of sweat forming at his temples. We are all face fetishists. It is a weakness that cinema panders to. The tension builds because we see it build on Captain Jones' face, and because we know that Captain Jones is a type, a type given to anger. A type who, when harangued by a young up-start from the Bureau is going to wait her out, before fixing her with a hard stare and saying:

"Honey, I spent the best years of my life fighting for this country, so that punks like you could go to college and join the Feds, and now you stand there and tell me, a man who put his life on the line in ninety-one, that my men are incapable of handling a murder case? Let me tell you something, sugar - you are wrong, dead wrong, and I suggest you leave before I get on the phone and start making things hot for you down at the Bureau." The captain is shaking with anger, and Ralph Black lets the camera linger, allowing us to see that his rage is not spent, that there is more where that came from. Which makes it all the worse when Special Agent Raven blithely ignores the captain and, looking at Jack Davage, says:

"Is this the witness? We'll question him here. Captain Jones, may we have the use of your office for an hour or two? Thanks." And with a professional nod, sees the seething, yet powerless, captain from the room.

"Now," says Special Agent Raven, as her sidekicks busy themselves securing them room for interrogation, "let's see what you know, Mister Davage."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Chip Off the Old Block

Few things are more pathetic than the sight of my dad trying to operate a computer. This is a man who has difficulty using the TV remote, so putting him in front of a PC is like handing over a bulldozer to a caveman who is still struggling with the concept of stone chisels. At the keyboard he's all thumbs, hesitant to the point of paranoia. He seems to think that the slightest wrong move will result in meltdown. As for the internet, forget about it. Dad's not interested. That's why I can write this stuff about him - he's never going to see it. (But if he somehow does, love ya, Dad!)

Still, I must admit that my own computer literacy is something of a sham. I can point and click at Windows icons. I can browse the web with ease. I can fiddle around with my mp3 player software. So long as everything runs smoothly, I am lord of all I survey, a fully paid-up member of the tech generation, as comfortable with my computer as I am with my lady - if not more so, since the computer can be shut down at will. (How many of my nearest and dearest can I offend in one post? Let's see, shall we...)

But computers are complex machines, and as is the way with complex machines, it is more or less inevitable that things will go wrong. For example, as I type, an insidious virus is busy burrowing into the soft underbelly of my computer, breeding adware and data miners and taking control of my web browser. For all I know, it could be installing software that will enable evil types to access my bank account, with which they will be extremely disappointed. My very identity could be under threat. Yes, it is time to panic.

Or, rather, yesterday was time to panic. Alerts appeared on the screen, little boxes with red writing warning me of the presence of malware. "What's malware?" I asked the computer, then received my answer when about fifteen pop-up ads for pornography and online casinos appeared in quick succession. Internet Explorer had been hijacked, its home page unchangeably set to some crappy search engine called about:blank, its pretty face disfigured by an unremovable links bar. Elsewhere, strange things were going on - programs failed to open, or shut down as soon as I tried to use them. It was all a bit scary.

I've had this problem before, and found it reasonably easy to get rid of. Just run a few cleaning programs, and everything goes back to normal. Not this time, though. This time the virus has mutated or something, and is proving to be resistant to all non-violent means of eradication. It probably has a name, but I'm calling it the Hydra Virus, because decapitation only makes it angrier, without even reducing its number of heads.

This assault has left me feeling violated, frustrated, and not a little confused. I find myself flinging dad-like invective at the computer screen. I want to gouge out its innards and throw them out the window. I want to find the little fuckers who set the virus loose and inject them with ebola and see how their operating system likes it. In short, I have become a raving lunatic.

The only option is to have the computer seen to by a professional. By "professional" I mean somebody who will charge me anywhere between fifty and one hundred dollars to repair a problem that I could fix myself if I could be bothered learning a little about how computers work. But that's both time-consuming and dull, so I will have to pay. Meanwhile, I'm starting to come around to my dad's point of view. These computers really are bloody useless.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Death Squads to Put the Terror Back Into Australis

Prime Minister John Howard announced on Monday that trained Death Squads will patrol Australia’s streets from mid-2005, killing innocent civilians at random.

The initiative follows concerns that Islamist extremists are attempting to import their own brand of terrorism onto Australian soil. In a statement, the PM said, "These attempts by outsiders are a danger to our way of life. Australian citizens expect and deserve to be terrorised by locally-based lunatics. The new Death Squads will protect our national honour by providing bloody mayhem by Australians for Australians."

Entrepreneur Dick Smith has put his name to the project, saying that "For too long these foreign types have been coming here and taking our jobs, our livelihoods, our kids’ future. It’s time to fight back, with Dick Smith’s Brand Death Squads. This time we’re taking our own lives, our own kids’ future!"

The distinctly Australian Death Squads will ride around in the back of Holden utes, decked out in Drizabone camouflage gear and ugg boots. It is expected that locally produced terror, backed by American capital, will become a major export market for Australia within the next five years.

Undercover Dada Pt. 2

Three days later, I tried to put Mackenzie's disturbing anecdote out of my mind as I joined Crucified Slug at their headquarters for a last-minute briefing.

"Counts his days, shines them on his bed post phallus," Mr Cheese told the gang, "thoughts sticking like lime-covered branches at sunset." These words - an abbreviation version of the Crucified Slug manifesto which prescribes the destruction of bourgeois art and culture through a combination of irrational aesthetic and bank robbing - were greeted with a round of buttock-applause. Mr Cheese then then assigned roles to each gang member.

Mr Wiggles and I were to drive the two getaway vehicles, respectively a 1974 Volkswagen convertible and an unwieldy three-person push bike. Messrs Dribbledrop and Wainscoting were responsible for disabling security staff and cameras, while Mr Barnyard Clown was in charge of retrieving the booty from the bank's safe deposit boxes, with the assistance of Mr Hootnanny, whom I was led to believe was some kind of apprentice. For his own part, Mr Cheese was to act as ringmaster and general font of absurdist hilarity, or, as he put it,

"Doodle plum pudding, Frank Sinatra on the beanstalk, where's the midges, Kevin?"

All gang members were armed with automatic weapons, but each also carried an alternative, Dadaist weapon: phallic fruit or vegetables, large cuts of meat, or German dictionaries with half the words blotted out with purple ink.

We drove/rode in mini-convoy to the bank, located in a small office building in the CBD, where the gang - myself included - donned rubber masks modeled after our own faces, before the five members of the raiding party stormed through the bank's revolving door, brandishing their firearms and/or other weapons as personal taste dictated.

Through the window, Mr Wiggles and I watched the team go to work, beating guards with dictionaries and turnips, and forcing customers to the floor by licking their foreheads. Mr Cheese began spray-painting the walls with random words, while Mr Wainscoting entertained himself by covering a male teller's knee with lipstick. Another teller was forced to kneel with her backside pressed against the window.

"Elle a chaud au cul, eh?" said Mr Wiggles, nudging me with a plastic hand on a stick he seemed to have brought along for just such an eventuality.

Four minutes later, the robbery had been effected, and we made our escape, weaving down side-streets and alleys to avoid being spotted - although I knew, of course, that the police would not strike until we reached the hide-out, so as to catch the whole gang red-handed.

"Bindi gamma kraken," said Mr Cheese, when I arrived at HQ with Messrs Wainscoting and Dribbledrop. I returned the compliment, and slumped to the floor, exhausted from the effort of peddling. Mr Cheese stood on one leg in a corner, grinning madly, while Mr Barnyard Clown recited a poem in honour of our achievement.

"My little slug buried
In crucified taste
Wet fingers married
In days of dark waste
This pitch-brittle liar
Begotten in haste
My little slug buried
In crucified taste"

A cheer went up, but was cut short by the sound of approaching sirens.

"Holy shit!" cried Mr Cheese, momentarily slipping into the bourgeois mode of discourse. "The cops!"

Suddenly, all was chaos. I stood with arms raised while the members of Crucified Slug bolted around the room, scooping up armloads of jewelry and gold, before taking flight out the back door. I could hear the police breaking down the front door, glass shattering, raised voices. I wanted to be identified and removed from that dingy lair as quickly as possible. There was apparently some sort of stand-off in the entrance hall, Hugo holding Special Ops at bay to improve his friends' chances of freedom.

"He's got a...a...what is that?" I heard somebody shout.

"Put down the cabana, old man," said somebody else. "Nobody has to get hurt."

There was a moment of silence, then a single shot rang out, followed by a thud as Hugo hit the floor. I tensed, waiting for my fellow officers to enter the room, guns at the ready. Just as the door handle was being rattled, the world suddenly dropped away from beneath me.

***

I found myself in darkness, with the sound of running feet above me. There was a flash of magnesium; I stared by match-light at the smiling face of Mr Cheese.

"Vertical slums in the odd metal king, hm?" he asked. I told him no, I hadn't noticed I was standing on a trapdoor.

"Gill," he said, laughing, "udders with a flange in the great sty pie."

My heart skipped a beat. He knew. My cover was blown. I tried to stand, but Mr Cheese held me down, murmuring absurdities into my ear, absurdities that I hadn't the will to translate. In a spasm of animal fear, I lashed out, catching him on the side of the head, but he struck back, knocking me cold.

I woke to find I could barely breathe. My mouth was stuffed with something soft and peculiarly avian, and I had a moment of panic as I recalled Mackenzie's horrific tale of the unfortunate Barry. The other accoutrements seemed to be in place, too. Thick cardboard cylinders were fastened around my arms and legs, and in the dim light I could just make out the frills of the pink tutu I had been dressed in. Yes, there was even a Belgian waffle stapled to my shoulder. I struggled to right myself, but I had been tied down. Fear gripped me; I knew nothing save that I wished to be free.

Soon, Mr Cheese emerged from the darkness, bearing a platter of grotesque devices. Behind him, the members of Crucified Slug, all of whom had apparently evaded capture, stood with their rubber masks affixed. They began to chant, an atonal wail of animal noises and nonsense words, while Mr Cheese walked ever nearer with his collection of tools.

When he raised them to the light, and their cutting edges glinted, I began screaming through the dead bird, thrashing against my tethers like a madman.

"Shhh," said Mr Cheese, putting his lips close to mine. "Green dollar, monkey shines children in the September showers, Veronica." He began repeating this, again and again, as he selected an instrument for use on my prone body. I must have heard this phrase several thousand times over the next few days, before I was freed to whatever kind of existence is left me, if any. The doctor tells me our cryptographers have managed to translate the sentence. It means, "Office skylight blueberry, put your coats on high-beam, nanna," which in turn means "Red folders in the towel-dry dove, eat rodent meal," which in turn means "Half-baked diskette rolled over pizza in the apse, mother Johnson," which in turn means...

Note: The account continues for a further fifty pages, detailing translation of translation of translation until the point at which Detective X was relieved of his writing implements. The phrase "Green dollar, monkey shines children in the September showers, Veronica" is, according to cryptographers, merely the surface code of a series which may have a final solution but which may in fact prove to be an infinite absurdity. The most recently determined translation (at some three thousand removes from the original message), is "There the giant ping-pong grazes in the sunshine, baldy". The search for the phrase's ultimate meaning continues.

So too does the search for Crucified Slug. The gang quickly bounced back from their brush with capture, and are believed to have been responsible for a number of recent robberies, including one in which a security guard named R. Mutt was beaten to death with a replica of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Undercover Dada Pt. 1

I met Mackenzie by the river at dawn. He looked me over and nodded with approval.

"Ready to go?"

"Yes."

"I like the little hat. Moustache looks good. Don't get too Dali, though. These guys are old school." Mackenzie spat green phlegm, and sniffed. "I hate doing this shit. Sending a good man into a nest of thieves." He fixed me with his pale blue eyes. "Sure you want to go through with it? Last chance to pull out."

I swallowed.

"I'm sure."

"Right." Mackenzie stood up, handed me a piece of paper.

"That's the address," he said. "I'll hear from you at eleven."

As the Senior Detective walked to his car, I glanced at the paper, memorised its contents, then threw it in the river, where it floated for a moment before sinking into the brown depths.

Thirty minutes later, I knocked on the door of a double-storey terrace house, somewhere in the inner suburbs. A small, overdressed man opened the door, and led me into an unfurnished entrance hall. Staring at my feet, he said with a slight German accent:

"Dada is beautiful like the night who cradles the young day in her arms."

I bent forward and licked the outer rim of the little man's left nostril, before delivering my half of the pass-code.

"Dada is the sun," I said, "Dada is the egg. Dada is the police of the police."

At "police", the man gave an involuntary jerk, but the code was good. He smiled at me, saying, "Welcome, friend. Dada speaks with you." He took me by the elbow and ushered me into a poorly-lit room where the seven members of Crucified Slug, the world's foremost gang of Dadaist thieves, were assembled.

"Mr Goose has arrived," the little man announced, to a round of applause generated by fourteen hands vigorously slapping fourteen buttocks.

"Welcome," said a man in a witch's hat and green fur coat whom I identified as Mr Cheese, nominal leader of the gang, and number three on the FBI's most-wanted list. "You come highly recommended, Mr Goose. Please take a seat; the meeting is about to begin. We shall, of course, dispense with the bourgeois mode of discourse from this point forward."

I offered a shallow bow, then skipped to the proffered seat, which I treated to an impromptu waltz around the room, before seating myself on it. I knew from six months of preparation that this was the kind of thing of which Crucified Slug approved.

Mr Cheese settled into his own chair, and, smiling serenely, began to speak.

"Although the moon-dog night has flowed into the vein of capillary absence," he said, "the freckled maw of King Lear's life-stone buries neatly the giant's ostrich farm with the camera noodle's donkey."

"When the Godzilla fundamental shifts ballpointed the caryatid notary?" said another of the gang, known as Mr Wainscoting. Mr Cheese nodded.

"Vulgar precarious in the nervous procedures manual," he said, with some force. "Ezra Pound dime a dozen with the gorilla student, glass of water, cocoa."

I listened intently, rising occasionally to shout "Cabbages!" or to howl like a wolf. The other gang members offered their own absurd interjections, but otherwise paid close attention to their leader's speech. The Crucified Slug code was tricky to crack, but specialist cryptographers had finally done it, and as a result I was well-versed in its permutations. A robbery was being planned, some twelve million dollars worth of jewelry and other valuables to be forcibly removed from the safe deposit boxes of a private bank. This was big time stuff, and I made sure to remind myself not to be seduced by the Dadaist charade. These were hard men, career criminals whose devotion to Dadaism extended only so far as it obscured their illegal activities.

After forty minutes or so, the meeting was called to a close. Mr Cheese approached me for a private word.

"Clothes rack dystopia, business card with the woo-woo handbag, clasp the bright away?" I was being offered one eighth of the proceeds of the job, in return for driving one of the getaway vehicles. There was only one thing I could say.

"Candy zoo, banana shaking Sherlock."

Mr Cheese stroked my chin for a moment.

"Gentian," he said, smiling. "Gentian sticky tape gerbil!"

He somersaulted from the room. I looked at my watch. Time to check in with Mackenzie, get started on a plan. In three days time, I was helping to rob a bank.

***

The news that I had been accepted into the gang after only one brief meeting was greeted with agitation by Mackenzie. Running through plans and counter-plans, he drove me straight to a dingy pub where he began medicating himself with an endless stream of cigarettes and vodka shooters.

"It's all bullshit, you know," he said, lighting a fag with the dying embers of another. "All that Dada claptrap. It's just a cover."

"I'm not so sure," I said, ill-advisedly given the alcoholic flush of my superior's cheeks. "I mean, it is bullshit, but it's a kind of refined bullshit. Crucified Slug have perverted it to their own ends, but there's a trace of the original movement in their disregard for conventions."

"A disregard that embodies itself in yet more conventions. Passwords, codes, secret headquarters, silly noms de crime. All the usual bullshit, dressed up in artsy fartsy fantasy. They're still just a bunch of bank robbers, and savage buggers to boot."

"I agree, but there's something else to it. There's--"

"There's nothing else to it!" Mackenzie shouted, grabbing me by the collar. His hot, sweet breath hissed onto my face, his burning eyes only inches from my own.

Realising that people were staring, he relaxed his grip, smoothed my shirt and ordered another round of drinks.

"I shouldn't tell you this," he said in a low voice, "but I will, dammit. My first big case was investigating the Crucified Slug gang. This was years ago, when they first started. A string of robberies up and down the eastern seaboard. Much more violent than their MO tends to be these days. We had security guards being beaten half to death with cucumbers, bank tellers forced to stand on their heads reciting absurd poetry..."

Mackenzie was silent for a moment, staring at his own reflection in the bar top. I knew the history of the gang backwards, but for me it was all abstract, dates and descriptions. For Mackenzie, it was real, and evidently painful. Finally, he took a deep breath and continued.

"I found out where they were hiding, managed to contact the secretary, Hugo - the guy who greeted you today. I made out I was a big time player, willing to provide some equipment and funding in return for a cut of the action. Said I'd send over one of my own men to finalise the deal.

"We asked for a volunteer to go in. Barry - young guy, about your age, lovely kid - put his hand up. We dressed him up like Max fucking Ernst and sent him to the meet thinking he'd walk out with enough information to help us land the gang. When he failed to check in I started to panic. Three days later, still no word, and the gang's HQ apparently abandoned. Four days: nothing. On the fifth day, Barry turns up at a northern suburbs station, dressed in a tutu, with cardboard cylinders encasing his limbs, a Belgian waffle stapled to his shoulder, and a dead bird stuffed in his mouth. We got the bird out - some kind of lorikeet - but Barry was beyond help. His body was all cut up, disfigured. And his mind...Well, he just kept repeating, 'Green dollar, monkey shines children in the September showers, Veronica.' Again and again. To this day we don't know what that phrase means. Poor kid. Whatever they did to him, it broke his brain."

"Where is he now?"

Mackenzie looked at me.

"Died in hospital, repeating that shit until his final breath leapt from his lungs."

"Jesus," I said.

"That's the kind of people we're dealing with here. No amount of whimsical 'anti-art' quackery can disguise the thuggery and greed of Crucified Slug. You watch yourself, mate. Watch those fucking Dadaists like your life depends on it."

Stay tuned for the hastily-contrived yet thrilling conclusion to Undercover Dada...

Monday, February 14, 2005

New Band Destined For Chart Success, World Domination, Says NME

Influential British magazine NME, renowned for its sober, conservative assessment of new talent, this week announced that the Gonads, a four-piece group out of Glasgow, are "the best band in the world - ever!"

Reviewing the Gonads' self-titled debut EP, NME staff writer Chris Johansen drew attention to the band's "kick-ass melange of Bowie cool, Stones swagger, and punk rawk 'tude" and suggested that the Gonads, if given the chance, "would shit all over the Beatles, even the dead ones - especially the dead ones!"

The Gonads, who have played only a handful of much-hyped industry gigs since forming two months ago, are currently in the process of writing new material, hoping to increase their catalogue to an even ten songs by mid-year.

Martin Wales, a journalist at Baby Boomer music magazine Q, said that while he thought the Gonads had potential, he didn't think they would make it onto his magazine's new list, Aerosmith to Zevon: Twenty-Six Tunes That Rocked The World.

Johansen, however, stands by his appraisal. "This band reminds me why I got into music in the first place. Rock is now divided into two eras: before the Gonads, and after the Gonads. I proclaim The Gonads deities, and beseech all music lovers to prostrate themselves before these leather-clad rock lords from the north!"

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Children's Summer Holiday "Ever So Crappy"

The Brown children, Dick and Lotty, this week expressed disappointment with their recent four week stay at Aunt Fanny and Uncle Tom's farm. While "pleased as punch" to be heading back to the countryside after a long year at boarding school, the children soon discovered that unpleasant changes had occurred since their last visit.

"For one thing," Dick said, "Merrylegs [the farm's resident spaniel] went mad over winter and Uncle Tom had to shoot him. And Uncle Tom won't talk to Aunt Fanny any more. He says she's a biscuit-baking bull-dyke."

The children were horrified to discover that the Enchanted Forest, where in previous summers they had spent hours creating a rich imaginary world, had been cleared by loggers.

"I asked Uncle Tom, 'Whatever will become of funny Mr Sun-Cheeks, or Miss Titty, the sociopathic washerwoman?'" said Lotty. "He told me they've been pulped and turned into Ikea furniture and cheap porno magazines, just like the rest of the forest. It's ever so horrid!"

Dick revealed that even the nearby Smuggler's Cave had been transformed.
"Once upon a time, we had ripping adventures in that cave, especially with our gang, the Fantastic Fourteen. Now it's full of broken glass and teenagers with no pants on. I saw one boy's winkie. It was positively ghastly!"

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Obituary: Roger Saint-Douche

Noted French philosopher, Roger Saint-Douche, who died last week aged eighty-four, was, according to the four people who claim to understand what he was talking about, one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century. He is perhaps best known for posing the question: "Why should we be restricted to reading books in the traditional manner, when radical approaches can reveal hitherto unsuspected meanings in the text?" Saint-Douche later conceded that one possible answer is that books tend to make a lot more sense when read in the usual front-to-back, left-to-right fashion, with the significant exception of the philosopher's own works, which can only be understood when read backwards through a kitchen sieve under a full moon while wearing a lady's frilly undergarment.

Son of a wealthy Breton trowel-monger, Saint-Douche was a studious child, skilled in languages (by age five he was fluent in French, Canadian-French, and comedy-accent French), and with several keen interests, including philosophy, literature, and manual self-stimulation. He fought the Germans at Rouen in 1940, and again at Paris in 1976, when the vacationing von Richter family attempted to maneuver their Mercedes into a parking space outside the Sorbonne Saint-Douche had clearly declared his intention to occupy. By all accounts Saint-Douche was a generous friend, a sparkling conversationalist, and a bit of a dud in the sack.

Professionally, Saint-Douche's big break came in the late 1950s, when he published his book Language and Culture in the Post-Imperial Era, later filmed as Young Love in Monte Carlo. The book was immediately hailed as a major piece of philosophy and Saint-Douche was embraced by the Parisian intelligentsia, particularly those disillusioned with Sartre, whose habit of talking with his mouth full was really quite disgusting.

Saint-Douche continued to expand on his theories throughout the sixties and seventies, attaining fame on the other side of the Channel when the Beatles included his likeness on the front cover of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album (Saint-Douche's distinctive cauliflower ears can be seen protruding from somewhere near Edgar Allan Poe's crotch). His thought was popular with the counter-culture set, particularly the ideas set down in his 1968 book Notes Towards a New Grammatology , which had really cool cover art by the guy who did some of Pink Floyd's albums.

The philosopher's dotage was spent in quiet seclusion, dividing his time between refining his thought and maintaining his fleet of classic American convertibles. He died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by family and friends. Roger Saint-Douche's final words were not recorded, but a witness at his death reported that they were "something or other in French".

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Elites Won’t Let Right-Wing Columnist Join Their Gang

Australia’s academic and cultural elites have dismissed right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt’s latest attempt to join their gang.

While enjoying a taxpayer-funded latte and baguette brunch at a small, inner-city cafĂ©, elite spokesperson Robert Manne told Sterne that Bolt’s application had been rejected "for obvious reasons".

"Andrew needs to understand," Mr Manne said, "that we’re running a sinister left-wing elite here. The presence of a right-winger could seriously disrupt our campaign to undermine mainstream Australian society by means of secular, humanist brainwashing."

Fellow elite David Marr concurred. "What’s the point of having an elite if you just let anybody in? Besides, I doubt whether Andrew would be capable of mastering the gang’s secret handshake. It’s quite tricky."

Sterne contacted several other prominent elites, but all were too busy disseminating subversive anti-Australian propaganda to comment.

Mr Bolt expressed disappointment at the decision. "This graphically demonstrates the insular, exclusive nature of our so-called intelligentsia. My wife even baked them a nice cake, and they still wouldn’t let me in," he said, before storming off in a huff.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Jiminy Cricket!

As another stultifyingly dull summer of cricket limps to a close, it's as good a time as any to reflect on that great tradition - the bad cricket song. There's been a few, through the years, from advertising jingles to novelty hits and even some "serious" pop songs. Here are some highlights:

Dreadlock Holiday - 10CC

Of all the faux-reggae pop songs by bands named for the volume of a man's ejaculate, this is in the top ten. "Dreadlock Holiday" doesn't have a great deal to do with cricket, but its catchy "I don't like cricket, I love it" chorus makes it the ideal soundtrack for those end-of-broadcast montages beloved of Channel Nine, so long as you ignore the fact that the third verse is about smoking pot, which Nine's sport producers seem more than happy to do.

Howzat - Sherbet

Probably the oddest cricket-themed pop song of all time. Some see the cricket references as a metaphor of love, loss, and saying goodbye, but a deeper reading reveals that "Howzat" does in fact concern the homoerotic love-hate relationship between two burly men with grass stains on their whites.

C'mon Aussie, C'mon - Shannon Noll

Originally written to promote the first season of World Series Cricket in 1977-78, "C'mon Aussie, C'mon" has recently been "revived" in a desperate attempt to evoke the spirit of a time when cricket was actually interesting. Although genuinely bad in their own right, the constipated vocal stylings of Mr Noll cannot distract attention from the sheer awfulness of the updated lyrics, viz: "Pigeon's pounding down like a machine/Dizzy's scarin' batsmen - lookin' mean/Gilly's gettin' wickets/Punter's clearin' pickets/And Warney's just the best we've ever seen".

Bradman - Paul Kelly
Our Don Bradman - Jack O'Hagan

There's something about "the Don" that causes otherwise talented people to churn out cliched mush. Paul Kelly, usually a solid lyricist, proved no match for the debilitating influence of his subject when he penned this biographical sketch of the master batsman. It's clunky stuff ("And at the age of nineteen he was playing for the State/From Adelaide to Brisbane the runs did not abate"), and would scarcely be worthy of Greg Matthews let alone Australian cricket's central figure. Mind you, things weren't much better back in the Don's day: Jack O'Hagan's 1930 tune "Our Don Bradman" features the memorably stupid lyrics, "Our Don Bradman, now I ask you is he any good?/Our Don Bradman, as a batsman he is certainly plum pud".

The Baggy Green - John Williamson
I Made a Hundred in the Backyard at Mum's - Greg Champion


Written by Steve Waugh and Gavan Robertson, "The Baggy Green" is every cricketing cliche you can think of sung to the tune of "Click Go the Shears". It's terrible stuff, and the fact that it is performed by John Williamson only makes it worse. Champion's popular song, however, is not without its appeal. It ain't art, but it's evokation of the pleasures of a casual game makes a nice antidote to the commercialism and hero-worship so prevalent in the international game.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Portrait of a Book Shop

McLeod's Used Books is my local, the place I go for a quick browse whenever I feel the urge. It's not a particularly welcoming book shop. It doesn't have a coffee machine, or a comfy couch, or a computer inventory. It doesn't have a web site, or snobby university student staff, and - a word of warning - it often doesn't have change for a twenty. McLeod's is of the old-school. It doesn't want to be a hang-out, a cafe, a trendy little meeting place where university students gather to discuss their dearly-held political views. It just wants you to come in, browse quietly, buy some books, and leave without disturbing too much dust.

Admittedly, McLeod's is an acquired taste. Those accustomed to attentive staff, alphabetised shelves, and the luxury of finding what they're looking for would do well to steer clear. McLeod's is not about finding what you're looking for. It's about crappy sci-fi paperbacks, crumbling art books, dog-eared classics. Good books buried under piles of bad books, as if to spite the browser. Inappropriately labelled sections ("Philosophy", in McLeod's, seems mostly to involve UFO encounters and the works of L. Ron Hubbard). The occasional biblio-avalanche. McLeod's Used Books, in other words, is about confusion and death. Like life, really.

The eponymous owner has his quirks, too. Over the years he has built up a system whereby good will can be purchased along with books. McLeod doesn't care for browsers. He wants buyers. If you spend half an hour sorting through the True Crime section without finding something grisly enough to take home and curl up with, don't expect sympathy. Don't even expect a grunt of farewell. You're scum, baby. But if you front up to the counter with an armload of books, well, you've just made yourself a new, if temporary, best friend. Enjoy it while it lasts.

McLeod's Used Books, 926 Whitehorse Rd., Box Hill, Victoria, (03) 9890 4405

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Tragic Sword

There’s no denying that swords can be enormous fun. Watch Lord of the Rings, or better yet, Kill Bill, and the entertainment possibilities of waving about a heavy piece of sharpened steel are thrust into relief. Swords are far more elegant than firearms, less sneaky than knives, more spectacular than fists and feet. Yes, when it comes to savagely cutting down large numbers of your fellow human beings, swords, if you’ll pardon the incredibly bad, Channel-Ten-news-worthy witticism, have really got the edge.

But the sword-play rennaisance is not limited to the big screen. In what appears an incongruous trend in a modern, industrialised nation, swords are fast becoming the weapon of choice for Australia’s psychopaths. How many times in recent years have I opened the paper or switched on the television to be confronted with images of some sword crime or other? I’ll tell you exactly how many times: quite a few. If it’s not a guy in a kilt holding up traffic with his broadsword, it’s some nutter with a home-made slicin’-stick carving up suburbanites as they sleep.

Why this sudden rise in sword crime? I have a few suggestions.

First, following the national gun amnesty of a few years ago, deaths from firearms have decreased dramatically. But taking away people's guns hasn't taken away their unslakable thirst to kill. And while the government has done its bit, providing lots of juicy wars so that the joy of killing may be enjoyed vicariously by all Australians, sooner or later it's going to get too much for the more unbalanced members of society, harshly deprived of their main means of wet work, and an alternative to guns will be sought. So while some have opted for knives, the more aesthetically-minded nutbags have found themselves drawn to the timeless elegance of swords.

Second is what I like to call the Carl Sagan Theory, because it takes one of that thinker's actual theories and distorts it to perverse ends. We live, Sagan wrote, in a demon-haunted world. In the midst of grand scientific achievement, new age religions, DIY spirituality, and all manner of irrational belief systems are flourishing. Partly the trend is a reaction against the supposedly inhuman coldness - and often, to all but a few geniuses, sheer incomprehensibility - of modern science. It is only a short leap of logic (with a quick stop at the bottle shop on the way) to suggest that the same atavistic drive is behind the rise in sword crime. Disillusioned with the blunt power of modern firearms, people are returning to simpler methods of doling out bloody vengeance. In an increasingly impersonal age, swords provide the human touch which is so lacking in guns. It is to be hoped that victims of sword crime appreciate just how lucky they are.

Finally, we cannot forget that always reliable scapegoat, popular culture. Films, in particular, have played a large part in demonstrating the style, versatility, and sheer brutal fun of swords. Who could watch Uma Thurman massacring the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill without wanting to get up and start cutting strips off the annoying teenage boys sitting in the back row? I know I couldn’t, which is why I write this piece while awaiting trial on three counts of murder, and one of attempted regicide (how was I to know the kid with the Limp Bizkit t-shirt who kept talking during the quiet parts was the rightful king of Sweden?)

Having established the prevalence of sword crime and suggested some of its possible causes, the next question is: what are we to do about it? From July 1 2004, swords - ornamental or otherwise - have been illegal in Victoria. The new law is to be applauded, however it fails to deal with the root causes of sword crime established above. It is clear that further measures will be necessary.

Obviously, one of the first steps is to ban movies. I mean all of them, even the ones that don’t feature swords, and especially those starring Jim Carrey. This may sound like draconian censorship, and indeed it is, but the result will be an infinitely better world, one in which films like Bruce Almighty will never be made, let alone seen. Sword crime will probably fall, too.

I recommend a range of further strictures, including: the banning of all kilts and associated highland wear; the abolition of martial arts schools, adult education centres, mother’s groups, and senior’s knitting circles; a nation-wide campaign to blunt all kitchen knives longer than three inches; the banning of fantasy novels whose cover artwork depicts swordplay of any kind, but especially the kind in which a muscly dude is raising his sword to the emerald clouds as a busty Amazon clutches at his rigid thighs while staring admiringly at the lofted phallus; the banning of the word "sword"; and, finally, the life-imprisonment of anybody who has read Lord of the Rings. You just can’t be too careful.

Most important, however, would be the institution of a police unit to deal specifically with sword crime. Members of Sword Squad would be the only people authorised to carry swords, their brief being to counter sword (and kilt) crime in all its forms. For too long sword-wielding psychos have been brought down with bullets or capsicum spray, methods which are not only unfair, but inelegant. Sword Squad would bring down offenders honourably, not to mention in pieces, providing a sense of closure both for those watching the action, and for the swordsman himself. Perhaps the head of the vanquished swordsman could then be mounted on the wall of Sword Squad HQ as a warning to those thinking of messing with the new anti-sword laws. Perhaps it could be made into a nice lamp.

Naturally there would need to be armed sword-marshals riding anonymously on planes, patrolling public transport, hiding in the boots of taxis, and so forth. Sword Squad would require a helicopter or two, from whence to rappel into battle. All this may sound a little overblown, but I think on reflection you’ll see the benefits to be derived from my plan. Freedom is a precious thing, and freedom from sword crime even more so. But it comes at a price. Oh, by the way, Sword Squad will need your fingerprints and DNA on file, just in case. Anyway, as I was saying, freedom from sword crime comes at a price, but as I breathe the atmosphere of terror these steel-wielding maniacs have created, I know that any price is worth paying to become, once more, a swordless society.