Falling the Jac

Main quad jac


When, as an undergraduate enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney, I was told – or perhaps it was written in a handbook or on a noticeboard – to sign up for Philosophy subjects under the jacaranda tree, it sounded very quaint and ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’ English.

Until I realised the entrance to the faculty offices were in the part of the Main Quadrangle behind the jacaranda tree, and the relevant notice boards were around the entrance.

I was to discover just how much of a role the jacaranda played in campus life, as much a part of the quadrangle as the tables laden with jugs of juice and platters of pastry (provided as post-graduation refreshments back in the day when budgets allowed such lavish morning and afternoon teas); Christians dry rooting on the lawn in front of the clock tower; and random students inviting you to bible studies.

I remember signing up for SUDS (Sydney University Dramatic Society) auditions under the jacaranda, and reclining on a lawn garlanded with the tree’s petals during marathon O-Week debates featuring PUIs (pronounced ‘poo-ease’, and standing for ‘prominent university identities’) who have gone on to careers in politics, media and, occasionally, international celebrity.

It was said that students who hadn’t started studying by the time the jacaranda began to bloom would fail. I was oblivious to this element of folklore – probably because my own experience had proven that students who didn’t take Sudafed had a harder time pulling all-nighters to cram or complete essays.

But don’t mistake this for evidence of nostalgia for my varsity days – my most fondly recalled days were after the degree, editing publications for the Student Representative Council and then being employed by the University of Sydney Union.

I am saddened by the passing. Not of those days, or of campus life, which, back in the 1990s, seemed only a pale imitation of previous decades as depicted in various collected memoirs of past students (but shine more vibrantly than the ensuing decades til now). Rather, I am saddened to hear that the landmark jacaranda tree, around and under and behind which students gathered to fulfill a myriad of agendas, collapsed on Friday 28 October. it had ‘thrived’ in the Main Quadrangle since 1928, apparently planted by Professor E.G. Waterhouse, McCaughey associate professor of German and comparative literature, in preparation for a visit by the Duke and Duchess of York.


Jacaranda collapse



After 88 years its passing is sadder than that of free education, compulsory student unionism and legendary halcyon days of 50-cent cappuccinos and 20-cent donuts. (Did such days exist? Oft-promised by many a candidate in the lead-up to student elections, I can remember no occasion of the 20-cent donut discount taking place in the same week as a 50-cent cappuccino discount, during four years of my three-year degree, or the subsequent two-and-a-half years of forgetting to leave the campus and editing publications for my supper…)

However, I’m not shedding a tear. To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn, etc.

The jacaranda’s imminent passing was announced in 2014 – it was nearing the natural end of its long life. Cuttings were taken by a specialist jacaranda grower, two clones produced, and thus, the university reports, the now defunct jacaranda will be replaced with genetically identical stock.

Future PUIs – the offspring of PUIs past who progressed beyond dry-rooting on the lawn – will go on to marathon debate, dry root, audition for SUDS productions and register for courses and subjects on or around the jacaranda in the future, just as they have always.


Collapsed tree




Beware the dreaded Kitchen Dunny!

Kithen dunny


"This extremely well-located, ground floor, Art Deco, studio apartment boasts both character and charm," claims the page dedicated to it on realestate.com.au. "This," it concludes at the end of its spiel, "is city living at its best." I'm calling b*llsh*t! Closer inspection to the photo above demonstrates what it actually boasts: a dreaded kitchen dunny!

It wasn't a problem in the 'olden days' when the euphemistically described 'smallest room in the house' was outside the house - hence that other euphemism, 'the outhouse'. It would be strategically placed - when space allowed - down the bottom of the garden, and the choko vine, ubiquitous to Aussie backyards, ensured putrid aromas (the sillage of sewage) were contained.

When hygiene and technology enabled outhouses to be moved in-house, its understandable why many ended up adjacent to the kitchen: that's where the plumbing was. I'm not sure if indoor choko vines were ever in vogue, but they weren't necessary. As long as there were walls and doors separating the can from the room where foodstuffs were prepared, and a window in the smallest room of the house to allow circulation of air, it was all rather bearable.

So what's with the kitchen dunny? Shouldn't there be a solid, non-see-through door (along with a wall) blocking the view of the lav?

It's barely two months since the prosecution of a landlord in Cambridge for turning a backyard shed into a granny flat. Which involved the loo becoming… yes, you guessed it... a kitchen dunny.


Lifted from MailOnline

It's not like I'm some sort of expert - even though I have written the odd article regarding remarkable restrooms during my time in trades publications. But I was, for a time, the victim of the dreaded kitchen dunny.

About a year ago, when the career trajectory dipped back into retail and I discovered that absolutely nobody wants a table, I also discovered the stinginess of shop owners could stretch to amenities. Rather than creating two rooms or a room within a room, the 'office' out back - separated from the shop floor by a curtained doorway - was more than an office. It was the classic kitchen dunny. Sink in one corner opposite the door, bar fridge diagonally opposite, dunny in the other corner. It was close enough to the fridge to leave no doubt that the stains running down the side were not from the herbal teas brewed atop the fridge, where the kettle was kept.

There was a strict 'no solids' rule for the kitchen dunny. There was no door separating it from the rest of the store, let alone the other elements of the room that constituted 'office' or 'kitchen' accoutrements and differentiated it from being a dunny. Which is good. As the saying goes, one should never eat where one sh*ts.

Although, if I had to, I could perhaps have pretended I was sucking nipples.

You know, like the dude who licks ashtrays since that's what 'kissing a smoker' was supposedly like - during a time in the late-'70s/early-'80s when that was the clever anti-smoking campaign.

The breastfeeding of babies within the toilet cubicle, because nursing mothers often have no other option, has been compared to eating a meal on the loo.



However, I never ate in the kitchen dunny, because that was also forbidden. Couldn't have customers smelling food or its by-product, as they browsed furniture.

Leaving the shop for meal breaks suited me fine, anyway. I had to go for a wander at lunch: I had to find a usable dunny!

There was a KFC across the road - but I resisted setting foot inside the whole time I was employed across the road from it.

The local Coles didn't seem to have a public loo.

There was a Thai restaurant that kept itself clean, but how many times a week could you have an indulgent Thai meal for lunch?

The café on the next blook was more of a 'most days' haunt.

Of course, the owner of the service station across the road from it didn't mind how often I borrowed the key. But you know how servo dunnies are: definitely not worth the cost of the cherry ripe or can of soft drink I'd buy out of politeness every time.

There was a rather clean office building next door. And it had amenities. Typically, the guys who worked there rarely flushed, and only occasionally lifted the seat, but it was better than all the other options. I'd even take my own lavatory paper. I had to: the non-flushing, non-seat-lifting pigs rarely replaced lavatory paper.

I discovered it because one of the tenants in the building was a magician of a physiotherapist who did amazing back work. He made all the horrible pain disappear. And there tends to be a lot of back pain when working in a furniture shop.

However, being a regular client of the physiotherapist wasn't enough: an accountant who also had offices realised I visited most days and would lie in wait behind his door, to jump out and tell me off.

"This isn't a public toilet you know!" he'd sternly admonish me.

"Look mate," I'd explain, "I'm his patient…" - pointing at the physiotherapist's office - "… and I'm doing you a favour - I'm the only person using the gents who knows how to lift the seat and flush; I'm keeping the place clean for you pigs…"

The thing that had me stumped, the whole time I worked there, was how did my boss get through the day?

I think I can best express the differences between us by drawing from the theme music to the nostalgic sitcom Happy Days. Remember it had two themes? Earlier seasons opened with 'Rock Around the Clock' by Bill Haley and His Comets; it was later replaced by a purpose-written theme song, an earlier version of which had been closing the show from the beginning.

When it came to crappy days at this place, my boss's disposition could best be described by a variation of the latter theme:

Sunday, Monday: he don't poo!
Tuesday, Wednesday: he don't poo!
Thursday, Friday: he don't poo!Saturday, what a day –
Waiting all week to poo!

My case, however, was clearly defined by earlier theme:

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock: poo!
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock: poo!
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock: poo!
I'm gonna poo around the clock each day…

I've no idea how he got through the day without taking a dump. Maybe I was 'banned' from eating in the store so that, while I was out, he could shut the shop and duck out the back to lay a cable of his own. I don't know.

Point is, it's the 21st century; Australia is a civilised, industrialised, first-world country. There's no reason, let alone excuse, for a kitchen dunny.






In front of Liberace



A factoid I knew as a kid but never thought much of is that Liberace came to Australia, 'discovered' the talents of a local kid, and took him to America.

I remember this factoid being reiterated during a music lesson. By an old man who used to teach English.

Let me back up a bit: Mr Barrington was an old codger who could have been a granddad. But he had a teenage kid. He spoke like an old man - not a cranky old man, more a Sandy Stone type. He had a tendency refer to students as 'young rabbits' - as in, 'settle down, you young rabbit!' Or maybe he didn't - maybe that was an 'elementary, my dear Watson' line attributed to him in impressions. He'd also hand out Butter Menthols to keep kids on side, apparently. But he had a teenage kid, to which, whenever someone brought it up in conversation, I'd have to exclaim with a Harry H. Corbett impression nobody could possibly get (Steptoe & Son hadn't been on telly for a long time, nor was it currently available on video, and DVDs had yet to be invented), "you dirty old man!"




One day our music teacher was away, and Mr Barrington supervised our elective music lesson. We were supposed to be composing some piece of music or other in a specific key… and he insisted that if we couldn't hear it in our heads, we weren't real musicians. We got into a discussion about favourite musicians, and Mr Barrington brought up the young singer who had been taken to America by Liberace.

I must have known this already, because Mr Barrington couldn't remember the singer's name, but I could: it was Jamie Redfern, a 14-year-old with the voice of an adult opera singer, and an original member of Young Talent Time's Young Talent Team.

I hadn't thought about it again.

Not even when I went and watched Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra.


The film is based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson, a young man who became Liberace's paid companion at age 16. Surely Jamie Redfern must have become 'of interest' to Aussie journos when Behind the Candelabra was released.

But I didn't think about it, hadn't remembered Jamie Redfern.

Until the other day, wandering through Epping, when I came upon a St Vinnie's a block away from Station and succumbed to that constant urge to browse through old vinyl in charity shops.

And I saw a copy of a Jamie Redfern album with Liberace on the cover with him. Of course, the cover image is at the top of this blog post, but I've included the hastily snapped, out-of-focus image of it here too.

Worth noting: Liberace doesn't seem to perform on the album - his only appearance is in the publicity photo appearing on the cover.

Turns out Jamie Redfern was briefly of interest to Aussie journos this year, on account of the Liberace biopic. He says nothing untoward happened, apparently.

A more in-depth interview with Jamie Redfern was conducted as part of a profile on the ABC show George Negus Tonight, back in 2003.

Oh, and speaking of 'elementary, my dear Watson' moments - I was disappointed that Liberace never got to say, 'I wish my brother George was here' in Behind the Candelabra.


Jamie Redfern album


Bird Brained


On my way to work, lost in my own thoughts as whatever latest new release – or, at my age, new rerelease – was blaring through my headphones, I was about to step over the threshold into the foyer of my building when I was startled back to attention by a solid CRACK!

It must have been loud: coming from the other side of the noise-cancelling headphones with sufficient un-cancelled noise to more than merely cut through the music, it made me jump as well.

I looked around, no idea what I expected to see. The glass awning over the doorway was still intact, and although I still picture it vibrating, as I type this, from some kind of impact, that's my memory playing tricks.

What I do remember is gazing up at surrounding buildings and seeing nothing out of the ordinary.

Again, no idea what I’d expected, but there were no rifles laying idle against railings while a sniper's last silhouetted elbow disappeared behind an air vent; no slingshot-bearing kids smirking at the sight of the fat bastard shitting himself as a result of their prank; nothing.

But in that moment, my mind unearthed a sudden, shuddering recollection of an event, long since buried:

I must have been in Year 6 - so, about 12 - making my way from my classroom past the main school building to the art block with two other boys. I don’t know who was in front, but I was definitely behind, and dancing around like a fool (the sort of thing I did as a kid) when I… well, at the time, I thought... I heard the snap of solid twig underfoot, the solid CRACK that means you’ve stepped on a piece of fallen branch, or the more painful thing you often mistake for stepping on a piece of fallen branch, twisted your ankle. I was certain it was the former because there wasn't any of the intense pain that accompanies the latter.

Not for me, anyway.

One of the other guys ahead let out a roar and clutched his right should with his left hand. Turns out there was no twig snapping or ankle twisting. It was an air rifle. Apparently.

I was still dancing around like a fool, but more purposefully, slowing down a little and moving in closer.  The kid neither clutching his back and roaring, nor dancing around foolishly, said, “Did you hear that? He’s been shot.”

Now I'll be honest, this friend was prone to melodrama. One time, another mate was upset and was crying a lot. No idea why. We were kids. Some kids are a bit sookier than others and go to water easily. But mister 'did you hear that he's been shot' described it, when we went to tell Mrs Tobin, the Head of Primary, our concern for our mate who couldn't stop blubbering, as "he's having a nervous breakdown!"

"He's just having a bad day," Mrs Tobin explained. Or, you know, had lost his pocket money, hadn't done his homework, was busted doing something embarrassing, something earth shattering like that. So I thought the 'smoking gun' theory was a little dubious. But then I noticed the... 'victim', if you will... writhing in pain, hand still at shoulder trying to locate and remove the source. He couldn't quite reach the epicentre, however, visible in the form of a tiny hole in his white school shirt, bruised skin visible through it, broken in an incomplete circle that had started to spot with blood. 

I know.

Just back-da-f*ck-up, right?

You thought I was making this up. You’d definitely know if there’d been a high school massacre in my local, personal history. I’d have spoken of it before now.

There wasn’t one.

Not in Australia, in New South Wales, in a suburban school in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

There wasn’t some chick leaning out her window, taking potshots at kids in a playground cos she didn’t like Mondays and needed to liven up her - and our - day.

But someone did lean out a window and take a shot.

“One of the guys in my brother’s year brought his air rifle to school,” the non-victim said. I looked up to the classroom window that would best correspond to 'book depository' and noticed a bunch of guys from his brother's year. Looking down at us. Two of them caught my school bus home each afternoon. One of them disappeared from the window and materialised before us faster than any laws of physics should have allowed. Turns out, he was the one who'd brought the air rifle. Why, I've no idea. But I knew him well. Knew his family. He was in the school band, like me. Foolish fat clown of a kid, also like me. Only, older; fatter; more of a clown - not that there was any correlation, necessarily.

“They took it out of my bag,” he said, not explaining who 'they' were, why they’d 'take' it of his school bag, or why, indeed, 'it' was in there and at school in the first place - without ever naming 'it' for the air rifle it was.

But seriously.

Who brings an air rifle to school?




It was the age before lockdowns and massacres and he not only brought an air rifle to school, people had fondled and caressed it before class. And, between classes, while waiting for the next teacher to replace the one who had just departed, they’d taken it out again to fondle and caress it some more. For some reason, someone had seen some kids walking past in the playground below and decided to fire a shot at them.

Good thing it was only an air rifle. Clearly, the victim was going to live. By the time he’d been helped to sick bay, me and the other guy were babbling our version of events to Mrs Tobin.

"...and someone took it out of his bag..." we said, repeating his story.

Turned out, that was a lie. The foolish fat clown of a kid who'd brought the air rifle to school had indeed been the one to take it and fire it between classes. What had he been thinking?

We never thought to ask him. Rather, the more popular question, after he'd returned from his suspension (yes, they'd let him back) was how had his folks reacted? His reply was to mime a bunch of slow-motion punches to his own head, accompanied by explosive sound effects. I suppose enough time had passed for black eyes, swollen lips and other lumps and bumps to have subsided over his period of suspension. I wonder, though, if my father were the time to punch me in the head for misbehaviour/discharging a firearm/social embarrassment, perhaps I'd also be wont to carry a weapon to school.

He'd had to go to the victim’s house and apologise to the parents. “His dad and my dad used to run a petrol station," he explained. "In Mittagong.” No idea why the location of the business partnership was pertinent. Mittagong was a town we always seemed to pass through on the way back from a school excursion that involved sleep over in Canberra or Hill End or Goulburn. As I got older, I learned to recognise it as a 'nearly home' long distance journey marker, but I've no idea if it was ever a mitigating - or Mittagonging - factor in this incident.

Even then, however, I thought it incongruous to aim a gun at a guy you’d virtually grown up with. A guy whose dad was your own dad's colleague for a significant period of time

What struck me at that point, some 30-odd years after the event, was a disturbing realisation. Bringing up the rear and dancing around like a fool... not having a father who'd been in business with his father in a servo in Mittagong... not having a brother in his year... It was most likely me that'd been the intended target! Somehow I'd - ahem - dodged the pellet.

But I'll never got the chance to ask the foolish fat clown why I’d been chosen. I never saw him again. School holidays soon followed the event and his subsequent suspension and return. And when classes resumed, neither the air rifle nor its foolish owner were to be seen at the school.

But it wasn't the air rifle that had gotten him expelled.

According to rumour - very strong rumour - it was an incident involving his father’s car. Taken for a spin. Spotted by cops. Who gave chase. And called for back-up. Who lay in wait down the street. Where he proceeded to sideswipe their car.

Idiot. I bet even the cops punched him in the head for that one.

All of this came flooding back as I looked around to see what had struck the awning hard enough to jolt me from my reverie.

No nasty boy, nor fatter more foolish one hanging from windows or on rooftops.


What it was, I discovered, was a rainbow lorikeet. It must have flown full pelt into the glass awning, or an upper storey window, with a great deal of force because it not only produced a loud CRACK, it had bounced back to the ground quite a few metres away from the door. There it lay, head, body, wings and feet arranged in quite an uncomfortable looking manner. I was certain it was dead, until it looked up at me with glazed eyes, limp neck, weak squawk. (Merely resting; it had been stunned; etc.)

It was certainly scared.

What should I do, I wondered. Snap its neck and toss it in the bin? Would I be doing it a favour? Not likely. But even if I’d wanted to, it had the good sense to scamper out of reach as best it could, under the big paper bin next to the doorway of our building.

“Strange thing just happened,” I announced to my colleagues as I entered the office, explaining about the bird. “I’ve no idea what to do.”

“Maybe call WIRES?” one of them helpfully suggested.

“I will,” our lovely office manager offered.

“WIRES says, they’ll tend to be stunned for a while after they’ve flown into a window,” she told me a little while after, having made the call. “If you leave them, when they’ve recovered, they fly away.”

“Maybe I should go down and check…?” I offered half-heartedly.

But she’d anticipated me. “I have. It’s gone.”

Later on I went for a walk to grab a coffee. Straight away, there was no mistaking it, next to the paper bin: cartilage attached to a couple of bones and some tail feathers of what was once the rainbow lorikeet.

So what was with the whole "WIRES says it'll fly away, I've checked, it's gone" routine, you're wondering.

I've given it some thought and I can only assume:

The office manager ate it.







I have a very old iPhone 3GS. I'm quite keen to replace it with an iPhone 5. I approached my service provider online. They have a chat system for immediate service. Here's the transcript of our conversation.


Thank you for choosing [mobile service provider]. Please wait for a site operator to respond.

Connected to [Operator's Name]

Me: Hi [Operator's Name]. I'm an existing [mobile service provider] customer with a very old iPhone and I'd like to upgrade to an iPhone 5 [1]

Me:  Hello?

Operator: Hi there, I'm an Online Sales Support rep.

Me: Cool.

Me: Where do we start?

Operator: Let me help you getting one.

Operator: Please provide me your mobile number.

Me: [number provided]

Operator: If I can have your full name, billing address and DOB, I can look into the account for you.

Me: [name provided]

Me: [address provided]

Me: [date of birth provided]

Operator: Thanks for providing the information.

Operator: I checked and found that you are eligible for free upgrade. [2]

Me: Excellent.

Me: What do I do?

Operator: You can upgrade for a new iPhone 5 with out paying any upgrade fee. [3]

Operator: Please let me know the plan you like along with the iPhone 5.

Me: Is there one similar to the plan I'm on? [4]

Operator: Let me check your current plan.

Me: I like the $80 per month because it includes 2GB of data.

Operator: I see that you are currently on a $59.00 plan. [5]

Operator: Not to consider data a concern.

Operator: I will offer you 1 GB free data every month.

Operator: How does this sound.

Me: That sounds great. Can I have that free data and remain on a $59 monthly plan? [6]

Operator: The $59.00 plan no longer exists.

Operator: We have $60.00 plan instead.

Me: That sounds good. So I'd effectively have 2.5GB of included Data?

Operator: Yes. I hope this saved you spend.

Me: I think it will. Thank you.

Operator: You are most welcome.

Me: What do I do next? Do you send a phone out to me?

Operator: Yes, the handset along with the SIM will be sent to your door step.

Operator: You will not be charged for delivery.

Me: Thank you very much.

Operator: You are most welcome.

Me: How do I ensure I don't lose data like phone calls and messages from my current phone?

Operator: Not to worry.

Operator: You will be receiving alerts based on your usage.

Operator: This will help you plan your data usage further.

Me: Thank you. I am referring to address book information and other information currently stored in my phone.

Operator: Yes, please.

Me: Is there an easy way to ensure none of that is lost?

Operator: Not to worry at all.

Me: Thank you.

Operator: I will be making a note in your account stating all the offers that was offered.

Me: One final question

Me: Am I eligible for the 8000 frequent flyer points bonus?

Operator: Please proceed.

Operator: Yes, you are eligible for 8000 QFF poins as well.

Me: I am very pleased indeed.

Operator: Thanks.

Me: You, sir, are most welcome.

Operator: Thanks for your appreciation.

Me: When may I expect the new handset to arrive?

Operator: The new Handset along with the suitable Nano SIM will be delivered in 3-5 business days.

Me: Thank you.

Operator: You are welcome.

Operator: Is all good to proceed to process the order?

Me: Yes please.

Operator: I would like to know your preferred colour of the handset and the storage as well.

Me: Black, please

Operator: Okay.

Me: Do you need anything else?

Operator: I would require your email and shipping address.

Me: [shipping address provided]

Me: [email address provided]

Operator: Thanks for providing the information.

Me: Thank you for being most helpful

Operator: You are welcome.

Operator: We would like to be helpful to our customers.

Operator: Do you wish to add on an Insurance to your handset?

Me: How much extra will it be?

Me: Per month, I mean

Operator: It will cost you $13.99/month.

Me: Yes, I will add insurance.

Operator: Thats an good idea.

Me: Is there anything else I should know?

Operator: It is almost done.

Operator: You will have to accept the Critical Information Summary.

Operator: The CIS outlines you the plan inclusions and pricing details.

Operator: This will appear next to your chat box.

Me: okay

Me: Waiting for it to appear

Operator: Please accept the CIS that is sent to you.

Me: I see the handset costs $11. How much would change (price etc) if I wanted a 32GB or 64GB phone?

Operator: If you go for 32 GB handset the fee will be $15.00/month.

Me: So when you say 'free upgrade', I'm still paying for the phone.

Me: Which part of this transaction is 'free'?

Operator: I meant to say that you are eligible for free upgrade.
That means you will be not paying any fee to upgrade the contract.

Me: My contract was for two years, and it ended.

Me: You're not actually giving me anything for free.

Operator: As few customers will not be eligible for free upgrade, they will have to pay the upgrade fee and proceed with the upgrade.

Me: The ones who are upgrading before their contract ended?

Operator: Yes, correct.

Me: I have to decline. You've not given me anything for free. You've not rewarded my loyalty at this time.

Me: You've been very polite about it though.

Operator: Let me offer you $100.00 credit.

Me: Let me offer you, I'm going to consider my other options with other service providers. Let me offer you, be honest up front. You almost had me.

Operator: I am sorry for any misunderstanding in this interaction.

Operator: I apologize if it is my mistake.

Me: I'm sorry I let you waste half an hour of my time.

Two days later my iPhone 3GS mysteriously died.

So who can tell me which company does the best deal on a 64GB iPhone 5?

I should be able to get one for free once the rumoured iPhone 5S finally appears, right?




 1: Note my use of the word 'upgrade' relating to my intention to procure an iPhone 5. At this stage, I'm happy to purchase one.

2: Oh joy! Did you hear that? I want to upgrade to an iPhone 5. My service provider tells me I can - for no charge! You know what I thought he meant. You thought the same thing initially, didn't you - unless you work for my service provider, or share my service provider and have been in my position.

3: It clearly sounds like I'm being offered a free iPhone 5.

4: I'm not actually on a plan; my last one expired. I'm still billed at the same rate, but I now own my own handset, and could take it to a new service provider and get on a cheaper plan. Or pay as I go. I've just been too lazy. And I figure, if I go back to this service provider, they may even reward my loyalty.

5: But I'm not really on a plan though.

6: Still not on a plan though.




Party platter
Click image to enlarge

When it comes to family parties/dinners, I find myself in charge of the nibbles platter. Somehow, one time, I must have put stuff on a plate in an obsessive compulsive manner, and now it is my official duty.

After MasterChef became a thing, some relative or other would suggest or imply that I must have learnt how to apply boring repetition from watching that show.  Truth is, they'd never 'plate up' anything in so boring a manner. And I normally wouldn't make that much of an effort. I mean, I don't even bother draining rice. (And besides, regular readers of this blog will know my attitude to that show.)

If Jungian psychology had any bearing on… well, anything anymore, really, I might posit such a platter constitutes my mandala.

This is the one I put together a couple of weeks ago for a visit of some cousins who, until they moved away many, many years ago, lived down the street from my mum when she was a little girl.

Let me deconstruct it for you. I'll move from the inner core to the outer edge, but when I constructed it I worked in the other direction.

At the centre we have bocconcini cheese. It's name comes from a word that means 'mouthful' - because that's what each little ball of cheese is. I know I should probably be buying these fresh from the deli, if not the boutique dairy farm outlet - but I get them in a plastic container from the supermarket. I've stacked them in a pile - easier to do when you're doing it last of all, in the centre. There are always some left over that you kid yourself you'll eat another time. But you never do. You come back to a container of hard balls of cheese best left for the worm farm. There's a good reason for keeping bocconcini at the centre - you can include all of it so it gets eaten by you and the people you like.

Next we have a circle of black olives. Yes, I confess, also from the jar. Ideally you'd get some different kinds from the deli and mix them in the 'olive orbit' more-or-less randomly. Because bocconcini from the tub and olives from the jar are wet, best to put them towards the centre, and certainly not next to the crackers. Nobody likes damp crackers. Except surfer dudes in the 60s or boarding school educated boys forever, according to apocryphal stories. I pitted the olives in this instance, but I don't always bother.

Another circle of cheese, this time provolone - the prince of all cheeses. If you buy provolone as a whole cheese, it comes in a cylinder. I slice thick circles, and then chop them into quarters so the pieces can stand. If you buy your provolone in slices from the deli, you can roll them and fold them, or roll them and slice the rolls in half and stand them up.

The thin orbit of salami that follows was an after-thought - there was so much cheese and so little cold meat. I know processed pork products such as salami are not for everyone. But they're certainly for me. One time when I was seeking professional help for my psoriasis, the quack of a snake oil salesman tried to convince me that, to cure my rash totally, I'd need to give up pork, wheat and tomato. I suggested I just give up breathing since it would be much easier; I'm a southern Italian - those foodstuffs are the basic building blocks of virtually everything. Well, certainly almost everything - because they are what you make spaghetti and meatballs with. Pasta Bolognese e polpetti. That's virtually every meal.

Yet another circle of cheese. One of the soft French varieties. It's either Brie or Camembert. I have no idea which, and anyone who claims they do - without reading it on the label - isn't really your friend; they're just pretending. It doesn't matter which anyway.

More o' that yummy salami.

And a final orbit of Jatz. Your favourite cracker is suitable, even if it doesn't happen to be Jatz.


Pimp my head (yes, it's for realsies)

Dom hairy

"Now," he smiled; producing like a magician a lump of modeling clay with which he replaced the broken-off nose. "What sort of nose did you have in mind?"

What else: Irish, she wanted, turned up. Like they all wanted. To none of them did it occur that the retrousse nose too is an aesthetic misfit: a Jew nose in reverse, is all. Few had ever asked for a so-called "perfect" nose, where the roof is straight, the tip untilted and unhooked, the columella (separating the nostrils) meeting the upper lip at 90 degrees.
V. - Thomas Pynchon

Dom bald

Turning the Tables


After the usual series of career missteps, I find myself back in retail. It’s less fun this time because rather than the music shops of the past – few of which still exist – I’m selling furniture.

While all retail is painful, at least customers in music shops either wanted to buy the CD, or they didn't. Sometimes they’d need to listen to a bit in order to decide. And maybe haggle over a couple of dollars. But they’d make a decision: they genuinely wanted to buy some music.

Furniture’s different. Nobody wants to buy furniture. They certainly don’t want to buy a table.

Sure, they'll pretend they do, admiring the exquisite, intricate marble inlay that makes a golden mango wood extension table even more attractive than the rustic paneling of the Tasmanian oak equivalent. They’re both fine tables: handcrafted from solid hardwood whose respective grains display great character, they’re beautiful as well as sturdy. Built to look good and to last.

You'll show them how the mango wood’s synchronic extension mechanism works: pull one end and the other moves automatically. Much nicer than the Tassie oak, where it takes two of you, or just one running up and down the length of it.

Sometimes your customer has no self-respect, and is happy for you to have none for them either. They'll tell you they love the table so much, they’ll go home to measure the room to ensure they have the space for it.

You won’t be seeing them again. They don’t want a table. If they did, they’d have come armed with measurements.

Although measurements are no true measure of a would-be table buyer. When they want you to believe they’re serious, they already know whether or not the double extension table will fit in their house, both leaves unfolded, with room to spare. If they still need to ‘go home and think about it’, you won’t be seeing them again. They don’t really want a table.

Sometimes people have far too much time on their hands. They’ve been in with the measurements, gone home to think about it and returned to pretend they want a table some more. Beware these time-wasters. They’ll feign a preference for chairs as they discuss the cleaning convenience of wood over fabric and the frustration of sticking to the leather in summer and freezing on it in winter… but rest assured: they don’t want a table. Not even if they send their cute daughter in a tight top and too short a skirt to have a look at it the next day.

Her outfit won’t influence the final price, of course. Her parents have ‘gone home to think about it’ twice. The purchase of no table requires that much thinking time, so she’s not fooling anyone. Just smile, perve as best you can without getting caught, but don't waste more time than it takes to commit her to your spank bank. Everyone has better things to do. Maybe tomorrow they'll send their dog to yap at a table they don’t want to buy.

My favourite one’s the guy who comes at closing time, the ruse of ‘customer’ so well developed he’ll go as far as to declare the one table he could actually afford as ‘ugly’, somehow implying that it's for reasons other than the wrong colour, size and style. Don’t fall for that – he’s just the furniture equivalent of a tyre-kicker. After running up and down the length of the Tassie oak, he’ll develop an infatuation for the extension mechanism of the mango wood so disturbingly intense that he has to ‘pop home – just around the corner’. Not to ‘think about it’, mind, but to ‘get the Missus’.

“Yes,” I’ll assure him, “of course I’ll stay open.” After all, isn’t that why a shop still exists? Otherwise we’d all have to pretend to want tables online, and that’d be no fun. Whose daughter would we perve at then?

When he returns with his wife, he’s clearly extolled the virtues of the mango wood table a little too enthusiastically. She regards it with the same distrust wives have for husbands’ sudden love of unlistenable chart-topping hits – that happen to be performed by impossibly proportioned, near-naked nymphets. She’ll roll her eyes whenever he’s sprung looking at it longingly. This leaves no option but the Tassie oak – a fitting punishment, as far as she’s concerned, since he’ll be forever consigned to the Sisyphean task of running up and down the length of it whenever they entertain.

Except he won’t. Because they don’t want a table.

But don’t imagine that they’re done.

He’ll start asking about the chairs. How much for the Tassie oak with fabric chairs? With wooden chairs? With top grain leather? Honey legs? Chocolate legs? How do all the variations compare with the mango wood (wife rolls her eyes and shakes her head)? What about, he asks, his decision to stop punching above his weight momentarily taking you by surprise, the one he can actually afford? The ugly one? The one that happens to be the wrong size and colour?

“Sir,” I’ll politely point out, more to the clock on the wall than to him. “Happy as I am to determine the price of something you definitely don’t want, wouldn’t it be more helpful to determine the price of something you might actually want?”

But that’s just it: he doesn’t actually want a table.

Now’s the time. Not to close the store – that was twenty minutes ago – but to have some fun. This is where I’m compelled to offer the customer the impossible discount: a sale price so good that he’d be a fool not to take it and I’d be an idiot to show my face in the store again even if my employer was too stupid to sack me. “But,” I’ll add, as I stand with the purchase order form in one hand and the key to the door in the other, “you have to buy it now. Before you leave.”

“Um…” they’ll reply, clearly torn, their world standing still for just a moment. “Let me go home and think about it…”

Lucky me, I get to keep my job. They just don’t want a table.

Da Doo Ron Ron de Jeremy


I don't know if you're familiar with the concept of the doppelganger. It comes from the German word 'doppelganger'. Which means 'doppelganger'.

It's just that I have one. A significant one. An actor.

Actually, when I say an actor, he's really more of a p…

Well, let me start at the beginning.

The first time anyone made the connection was on a Saturday afternoon quite a few summers ago, when I'd started growing my hair. (That's such a stupid phrase, 'growing my hair'; I didn't actively 'grow' it. It grows on its own. I stopped getting it cut regularly.)

I used to present a music segment on an afternoon 'magazine'-type radio show. I was on air after the book lady, and before the gardener and the vet. One time, during the introduction, the host suggested on air that, what with my long hair, I'd started to look a bit like… (he paused for dramatic effect)… a porn star.

"Dude!" I admonished him in mock outrage. "My mum listens to this…".

But I had no idea what he meant, to be honest.. How did having long hair make me look like a porn star?

Then, a couple of weeks later, a kid on a scooter called out to me from a across the street, insisting I was Ron Jeremy.

"Wha?" I thought.

I googled him. (I mean, I googled 'Ron Jeremy', not 'that kid on the scooter'.)

Turns out Ron Jeremy is a porn star. With quite an endowment. And I look amazingly like him. From the waist up.

Around this time somebody at work dubbed me 'Dom Jeremy', and it stuck. 

And then I started doing stand-up. Despite writing about it and interacting with the industry just about forever, judging Raw Comedy heats and finals and all of that stuff, I didn't actually start standing up for myself until 2010. And I realised I needed to write some specific material to deal with hecklers. Because often, on stage, the heckle I'd receive consisted of just two words: "Ron Jeremy!"

One time the audience consisted solely of federal police. They were on a night out. Of course they gave me the 'Ron Jeremy' heckle. Only, this time it was before I even started talking. I'd barely taken the stage, and in the split second between my getting to the microphone and opening my mouth,

My friend Hayden Brotchie had suggested I point out that I "get mistaken for Ron Jeremy 9.75 times out of ten" (because that's how big his dick is, in inches).

One time I had the good sense to announce, "Mate, if I had an inch for every time someone called me Ron Jeremy, I'd actually be Ron Jeremy."

And so it went.

Cut to March this year. The NSW Sexpo - a "sexuality lifestyle expo" - is on at Darling Harbour. Ron Jeremy is going to be there.

Yeah, whatever.

"No, but you've got to go there and meet him. Have your photo taken with him," my friend insists.

So I go. But my Catholic sensibilities really need pornography to be less out-in-the-open. Self-conscious as ever, just less self-assured. I don't last long. I don't encounter Ron Jeremy. Funny thing is, nobody mistakes me for him, either. I guess Sexpo is the one place where people are going to be so familiar with him that they can't be fooled by someone who happens to look a bit like him.


But I spend the whole time walking around without my glasses, assuming someone somewhere will come up to me thinking I'm Ron Jeremy.

No such luck.

It's the day-trippers who mistake me for Ron Jeremy. The people who deal with him and his product on a regular basis will know full well that I'm not him.

Then I get the phone call.

My buddy Chris North, currently working on the Merrick Watts Highway Patrol drivetime show on Triple M, says they're doing some kind of promo with Ron Jeremy's rum company, and I should rock up to one of the events and be my doppelganger's doppelganger.

So I rock up at Triple M, where Ron's been in attendance, figuring someone's gonna mistake me for him. But nobody looks at me twice. (Clearly everyone there watches so much porn that, like the patrons of Sexpo, that will not be fooled by me. Or they watch absolutely none. I reckon it's the former.)

I end up going to the first bar with Chris. Some heads turn. A staff member approaches, but realises, up close, I'm not Ron.

The rum corps appear: the Aussies importing a new brand called 'Ron de Jeremy' ("the adult rum"!) Dutch people arrive. They are the originators of this particular spirit. Turns out, 'ron' is Dutch for 'rum'. Realising the famous man with the impressive encumbrance is in fact called 'Rum Jeremy', they came up with the idea to make a 'Rum of Jeremy' - or Ron de Jeremy - figuring Ron Jeremy may well be happy to front it. And he is.

When Ron appears, he's amused that I exist, mostly because it seems to drive his minder mad. We chat. I tell him I have a 'Ron Jeremy' routine in my stand-up set. He gives me pointers. He especially gives me comebacks - that would work a treat if I was Ron Jeremy. ("Tell them, 'Ron Jeremy's dick is so big, it has it's own dick. That's bigger than yours.")

Strangers want to get into photos with me because I look like him - they figure I'm his twin brother or something.

The sort of thugs who would normally be trying to beat me to a pulp for 'looking at' their girlfriends are offering them to me. Which is weird.

Eventually I head home, utterly hammered on Ron de Jeremy (hammered on Ron de Jeremy, not by Ron Jeremy, mind). Not without some cool photos. And even a clip of Ron Jeremy giving me Ron Jeremy lessons.

The question I was asked most, after the event, was, 'did you compare willies?'

Yes. Of course. I was totally prepared to compare dick size with a renowned porn star that measures nine-and-three-quarter inches.

And let me tell you something:

Mine is precisely as long as his is.



Compleat Beatles Treat


Beatles Anthologywas a mammoth project begun in 1992 that involved a mutli-part television documentary – later expanded for DVD release – plus three double-CD sets with unreleased songs and alternate versions of Beatles favourites, coming to fruition from 1995. The project actually began in 1970 with a 90-minute documentary entitled The Long And Winding Road. It was constructed by Apple boss (and former Beatles road manager) Neil Aspinall from all the Beatles footage he could get his hands on.

It appeared nothing would come of it until John Lennon referred to it in a court case brought against the producers of a stageshow entitled Beatlemania! in 1980. Lennon claimed that the Beatles were intending to stage a reunion concert that would form the ending of the Long And Winding Road doco. Yoko Ono concurs that it had been Lennon’s intention to return to England after he’d come out of retirement with the album Double Fantasy. His subsequent death put an end to the reunion and The Long And Winding Road.

In 1982, a two-hour documentary entitled Compleat Beatles appeared. It was not just an amazing revelation. At the time – when the remaining Beatles hated being described as ‘former-’ or ‘ex-Beatles’ and were so keen on retelling the story – Compleat Beatles told it through in-depth interviews with the likes of producer George Martin, Liverpudlian contemporaries like Gerry Marsden, Bob Wooler and Bill Harry, snippets of news footage and clips from throughout the ’60s, narrated by Malcolm McDowell. It was brilliant. So much so, it even had a brief cinema release in 1984.

Not that I ever watched it in its entirety. Not in one sitting anyway. Or rather, one standing. Because there was one summer when it was the hot video for Christmas, and was playing on endless loop on the biggest television the David Jones department store at Warringah Mall had at their disposal. It sat at the front of the audiovisual section, near the records (or ‘vinyls’ if must – but I prefer you didn’t) and on my regular pilgrimage – taking place more frequently than weekly, but not quite daily – I’d begin in the David Jones record department and end at the Mall Music Centre (one of the best independent record stores, in its time; my first summer job was at Mall Music, as was my first full time job).

I’d stand there for between 10 minutes and half an hour at a time – always at different stages (though never at the beginning or end, it seems) – utterly transfixed. I remember hearing George Martin divulge the way in which Paul McCartney’s ‘Got up, got outta bed’ interlude was inserted into John’s ‘A Day In The Life’, how the orchestral freak-out part was constructed and recorded to comply with Lennon’s desire that it be “orgasmic”. In a time before the Internet, this information, this footage and this detail was just not available anywhere else.

It was a massively successful video release, is my point, and my family did not have a video cassette recorder and would not, still, for some years. And when it got its limited cinema release, my area (possibly my country) wasn’t so blessed.

But it’s probably why EMI attempted to release The Beatles Sessions – a single album collection of the best completed but unreleased Beatles songs – in 1985.

Eventually, Compleat Beatles (and The Beatles Sessions) were superseded by Anthology. Yet, while Anthology was far more comprehensive, it was the official, sanctioned story, as approved by all the interested parties. Compleat Beatles provided an objective approach and a particular charm.

I know you can still get the Compleat Beatles VHS video from some sources. And I’m sure it’s doing the rounds as a bootleg DVD. But people've ripped their LaserDisc and VHS versions, and uploaded them YouTube, which is much nicer (ie cheaper). Enjoy it in all its un-remastered glory while you can.