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December 2008
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Eke Out A Living

What with the advent of MySpace and Facebook, my e-mail inbox nowadays consists almost entirely of spam.

Oh, there's a smattering of PR stuff that comes through, and the odd annoying individual that will seek to comment on a blog entry via e-mail rather than clicking the comment link on the blog itself (usually a religious type reacting to this post, demanding answers that are in fact explained in full within the entry, had he – and it’s always a he – bothered to read it) forcing me to cut and paste it into the blog as if it were a properly executed comment.

Amid the usual ‘increase your mortgage payments/credit rating/penis size’ offers there is always a Spanish lottery win or a variation on the Nigerian government scam.

Here’s the latest, from the Rev. Charles Eke, whose e-mail address is French, but who fails to disclose his alleged country of origin. His grammar and syntax in English is the most flawlessy executed I’ve seen. I’ve deleted most of the guff out of the original message.

Dear Friend,

After due deliberation with my colleagues, I decided to forward to you this proposal. We want a reliable person who could assist us to transfer the sum of US$40.5M (forty Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) only into his account.

As you may rightly want to know I got your address from our Chambers of Commerce and Industry. I am a top official with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR). We the officials involved in the deal have put in many years of services to our ministries. We have been exercising patience for
this opportunity for so long and to most of us, this is a lifetime opportunity we cannot afford to miss. This transaction is very much free from all sorts of risks.

NOTE: Your discussion regarding to this transaction should be limited, because we are still in Government service. Let honesty and trust be our watchwords throughout this transaction. And your Prompt reply will be highly appreciated.

Best regards.

Rev. Charles Eke

My response to Charles was as follows:

Dear Charles,

Discussion was kept to a minimum, but the honest reply, I trust you’ll agree, is certainly prompt, as you will appreciate. After due deliberation with my  colleagues, I decided to forward to you this proposal. We want you to go f&#% yourself.

Best regards.

Vulgar Dom Romeo

You might wish to join me in these sentiments towards Rev. Charles Eke, but be warned, once he has your e-mail address, you may well start receiving even more spam than before.

Perhaps keep a separate Spammer Bashing address – you know, one you set up only to send abuse to spammers, that isn’t linked to the same internet account through which you do your banking and purchasing, so that your financial details can’t be abused.

What? You don’t keep a separate Spammer Bashing address? You must have a life or something.

Watch out for spammers and online fraud.

Peace out.

You Are Soul

I just can’t help myself. A walk down the street is an opportunity to misread or see the potential for wordplay in every situation.

So I’m in a music shop and notice this Shuggy Otis CD. If you’re into good sounding guitar you should listen to this guy. His dad Johnny was someone Frank Zappa quite admired. I have two of his albums. But I couldn’t work out why this release was in a section called ‘No Funk Soul’– sure, distinguish it from ‘Funky Soul’ if you must, but what do those sub-genres even mean? And who’s deciding what areas they cover? Cos there are only two CDs in the ‘No Funk Soul’ section, and the Shuggy Otis CD, which I own a copy of, certainy has funk and soul.

And then I realise it’s a design flaw in the stationery: there isn’t a subgenre known as ‘No Funk Soul’, rather, the ‘N, O Funk/Soul’ section comes before the ‘P Funk/Soul’ section.


PS This post’s title comes from a chart-topping single by Doug Mulray

Glutton for Punnishment

Almost every time I have been reminded that “punning is the lowest form of wit” I’ve been able to point out that the person had involuntarily chuckled (occasionally belly-laughed) prior to forcing out the groan. Only once did someone counter this observation with, ‘yeah, but even though it was funny, it was still lame’. What? It’s either funny or it’s not.

Either way, I have my standards – and they’re usually tested by shopfronts. The multitude of Thai restaurants in Newtown, for example, that include Thai Me Up and Thai Foon, border on the painful. Although I do like From Here To Maternity in Neutral Bay. I do remember hooning around in a car with members of Leonardo’s Bride in the early ’90s, when someone suggested ‘The Yeeros Living Dangerously’ as an EP title (after the Peter Weir film). It was only a matter of time before a kebab joint adopted it, but Magic Lunchbox had a release out by that name the following year (on the Troy Horse label).

At university, when focaccia was all the rage, some mates kicked similar ideas around. We came up with a cafe called Focaccia Later. Yeah, such an emporium of fine toasted foodstuffs did eventually open under that name. But nobody’s come up with a similarly themed eatery called How the Focaccia, have they? Or the Oxford Street Turkish take-away called ‘Gay Pide’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

I was in Wagga Wagga in the week before Christmas — you can tell I’m just a visitor because I called it by its real name; locals shorten it to ‘Wagga’ — when I saw this travesty:


It’s crap because, in the first place, there’s no telling what the shop’s about. From Here To Maternity sells maternity wear. Focaccia Later and How The Focaccia would sell focaccia. Gay Pide would sell pide. What does a shop called Ruma....Has It sell? One can only suppose the owner is named Ruma. But what is it that Ruma has got?

Of course the name ‘Ruma’ is also a bit of a problem. On first sighting, it’s hard to tell how to pronounce the word – you need the context of the whole name and you have to be familiar with the phrase. In all, what Ruma has is a crap name. And the proof is the shopfront itself.


That’s right, gone bust.

What’s in a name? A shop by any other name might actually stay in business.


A blogger called Ben has undertaken a worthy sociological task to compile and maintain a repository of pun shopfronts, under the fitting title of ‘Tanks A Lot’. He accepts submissions; how could I withhold this little gem? He no doubt agrees: tanks a lot for ruma has it, Ben.

My Dingkom for a Shroe

Grabbing a drink of cold water in the early hours as Sydney’s latest heatwave began, I flicked the radio on to hear an ad for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), currently enjoying a season at the Sydney Opera House. It’s a humorous take on “all 37 plays in 97 minutes” – originally the work of a few mates knocking around “the woods of Northern California” who would perform at “Renaissance Fairs (ramshackle festivals where a bunch of hippies and bikers recreate what they think an English village would have looked like in Elizabethan times” (according to the programme).

Having just seen a performance, the ad was just annoying. Not funny, barely representative of the production, and unlikely have enticed me to see the show if I did not already know about it.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is an excellent parody, and in this case performed by a fine cast of comedians – Greg Fleet, Damian Callinan and John Leary (I guess Leary is technically a comic actor). The ad quoted from Romeo and Juliet: “What light from yonder window breaks?” at which point the cast (or the guys in the dubbing studio at the radio station, I daresay) adopt hip-hop accents to repeat ‘Break! Break! Break!’ Painful. There would be an almost endless choice of soundbites to grab that would be funnier, and more appealing to a broader audience. In the Romeo and Juliet section, for example, there is this lovely parody:

What’s in a name? that which we call a nose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Sure, to read it on the page, it’s almost groan-worthy. In performance, it was hilarious – and there was a wave of audience laughter to prove it. Why not take a sound feed from the mixing desk, with a couple of ceiling mics over the audience? There would be countless random samples to grab that would sound good, be genuinely funny, and convince a broad potential audience of the quality of the production.

Although it has enjoyed a season at least one other time since, the
Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) had a run some eight years ago, around about this time, again at the Opera House. That production, also a showcase the talents of Greg Fleet, included (comic) actors Darren Gilshenan and Justin Melvey, and I got to talk to Fleety about it before the run began. It wasn’t the first time I’d interviewed Fleety – but it was the first face-to-face interview I’d had the pleasure of undertaking with him. Given the production runs to the end of January, it'sas good an excuse as any to run that interview now. 

What a piece of work is Fleety

“I’m a NIDA reject, rather than a NIDA graduate – a NIDA expellee,” Greg Fleet points out over a cup of coffee. And now that I think about it, I’m not surprised: when I used the word ‘thespian’ in front of Fleety, he got the giggles. This is a comic turned actor, and not the other way around. As Greg tells it, prior to being accepted to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, fresh out of boarding school, had had spent a year “running amok.” Subsequently living with his girlfriend and “experimenting with various things”, Fleet was unready to settle down and work. Playwright Nick Enright, then Head of Acting at NIDA, was the one who took Greg aside for “the final conversation”. The really weird thing, according to Fleet, was that when it was clear that he had no idea what it was that he was going to do next, Enright suggested that he could still go off and do “the comedy thing” if he was so inclined.

“I just went, ‘whoah; what are you talking about?’” Fleety explains.” I had absolutely no interest in doing comedy at all. I thought, ‘this man’s insane… as well as frightening.’” Of course, a few years later, ‘the comedy thing’ was exactly what Fleet went off and did. “He somehow knew that that was what I was going to do,” Greg says, and as a result, Nick Enright remains one of the few people Greg Fleet finds truly intimidating. “If I saw him today,” he confesses, “I’d still desperately try to please him.”

Were Nick Enright to come across Fleety now, he’d have reason to be pleased. For although Greg Fleet pursued the ‘comedy thing’, he kept going until his comedy started to evolve into drama, appearing in productions of Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and more importantly. More importantly, he devised solo comedy shows such as Underwater World and Scary, giving him the opportunity to take the stage as characters. Initially, Fleety claims, he felt he “had a bit of a problem” with character-driven comedy; he preferred to be saying what he thought as Greg Fleet. Then, he says, he discovered the ‘comic character’ was a mode of performance that he could “sneak into”. Now he admits that he was often ‘sneaking into’ characters even in his earliest shows. “It wasn’t really acting,” he wishes to stress, just “pretending to be other people and doing what they did.” Hang on, Greg, this sounds suspiciously like ‘acting’.

In The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Greg Fleet is pretending to be lots of people, as are his fellow cast members, comic actor Darren Gilshenan and Logie-winning Home and Away star Justin Melvey. Fleety’s only regret is that his longest time off-stage is a mere twenty seconds. “It’s the only show I’ve ever done where I don’t even have time to have a cigarette, so I’m freaking out.” The situation is worse for Gilshenan, though, whose characters include all the female roles. “He’s got to do a lot more really quick changes,” Fleet observes. “He’s virtually running the whole time, which amuses me.”

His inability to ‘frock up’ like Gilshenan has not made Fleety jealous. In the past he’s had the opportunity to do the same, and more: “I’ve ‘nuded up’ in the name of comedy!” he says. But when Fleet played Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it was “a man pretending to be a woman”. With Gilshenan, he says, “you can’t tell the difference. It’s uncanny.” Right on cue, a gorgeous waitress delivers another coffee to the table, and Fleet announces that “that was Darren Gilshenan, just dropped in playing a woman.”

Fleet’s first contact with The Complete Works of Shakespeare came about “ages ago” when the comedy was first produced. “I did a really terrible audition and didn’t get the part,” he admits. The show went on to do very well both here and overseas. When it was decided to revive The Complete Works… locally, Fleety, who by now had a strong comedic profile, got a guernsey almost automatically. “They didn’t get me to audition, thank God, they just said, ‘Do you want to do it?’ So I said, ‘All right’.” When the decision to get Fleety came through, Greg happened to be in England, appearing in the final episodes of Time Gentlemen Please, a pub-based sitcom that has yet to appear on Australian television. Fleety plays the Aussie yob backpacker boyfriend of Julia Sawalha. When news of this breaks, Fleet acknowledges, “everyone in the world will be going, ‘I must kill Greg Fleet!’”

The Complete Works of Shakespeare provides the “perfect role” for Fleet. “There are bits in it where I’m left on stage, almost in a stand-up capacity, having to try to improvise my way out of situations,” he says. And, he explains, it is well cast: Gilshenan plays lots of characters, “which he’s really good at”, and Melvey, “the young, handsome one”, gets to play Hamlet.

Fleety insists that this surfeit of Shakespeare will not lead his appetite for the Bard to sicken, and so die. Instead, he explains, “it keeps piquing my interest– as it will for the audience – because these tiny bits make you want to go and read the play or do more of it.”

Well here’s the obvious challenge for Nick Enright: see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at the Opera House Play House Theatre and then direct Fleety in some Shakespeare thereafter.


Though alive and well at the time of publication of the interview, Nick Enright has passed away. So while the production is running in the same venue, the article’s closing is from the earlier production’s run, and is not intended to cause offence or distress.

And I suppose I’d better explain the heading…

Omigod, not half-eaten pizza!

Hilited_half-eaten pizza

I can't quite tell if the local journalist who cobbled this together is a bit shit, or just intent on showing how the Malaysian reporter of the New Strait Times is a bit shit. Essentially, it's the story of a sex-and-drugs scandal involving a couple of high profile citizens (including a newsreader, no less!) who also happen to be women, horror of horrors. But early on, in trying to paint a picture of the scene of debauchery, half-eaten pizza turns up as part of the damning evidence.

Perhaps the journalist just doesn’t like pizza.

Or perhaps pizza has long been a symbol of moral turpitude and I just wasn't aware of it: in the US, or at least, in US popular culture, pizza parlors (or, less fruitily, ‘pizza joints’) are frequently Mafia fronts – either a money laundering business, a place to hide an imported hit-man until the job is done, or at the very least, somewhere people with names like Frankie the Fish and Joey Clams can hang out between running numbers and collecting tributes. No doubt, in countries desperately resisting Coca Colanisation, pizza is just another symbol of the decadent west.

Or perhaps the paper should change its name to The Straightest of Times.

Here’s the original article:

Half-eaten pizza

Does it make you even a bit curious as to how the likes of Samantha Armytage or Juanita Phillips Nicole Chettle saw in the new year? Even though Andrew O’Keefe decided to stay in after the recent fuss (why did the phrase ‘gutter journalism’ not come up?!), I hear that he still ordered take away pizza and only ate half of it.