Awesome Toilets

Possibly NSFW since some of the lavatory designs depicted are of questionable taste. But what with the Aegis Australia call centre of Werribee in the news for docking workers' pay for loo breaks lasting over 90 seconds, here's my sustained loo break - a piece on toilets that appears in Issue 21 Apr / May 2013 of What Tradies Want in a slightly different (ie less whimsical and indulgent) form. It was sponsored by SaniFlo (in the magazine, not on this blog). The Zappa image was not part of it.



Though essential to life, the act of ‘going to the toilet’ tends to be a taboo topic in polite society, so we sanitise it with euphemisms and silly humour. 

You might ‘powder your nose’, ‘see a man about a dog’, ‘drop the kids off at the pool’, ‘strain the potatoes’ or ‘splash your boots’. And you’ll do it in a ‘washroom’, ‘restroom’ or ‘water closet’ when it’s not a ‘thunder box’ or ‘stinkpot’. As for ‘loo’, from the French word lieu, it means ‘place’. Hence the folk song ‘skip to my loo, my darling’ actually means ‘stand by my side’ rather than ‘proceed in a rather flamboyant though seemingly carefree manner to the toilet’. Although, when it comes to toilets, ‘flamboyant’ is certainly making a comeback.

Since civilization has progressed enough to enable us to discuss a lot of things we never used to, we’re able to – ahem – ‘take the piss’ when it comes to making toilets. Vulgar and distasteful – but funny – urinals are a particular favourite, the bowl or trough frequently replaced with anatomy and religious iconography. Open mouths and the Virgin Mary/nuns appear to be particularly popular.

Mouth urinals

Nun urinals

So are women, either watching from the wall, or as part of the structure.


Ladies watch urinals


Body part urinal

Sexy lady urinals

But beware – going to the toilet should never result in getting the horn.

Tuba urinal

Not even if you’re an über-nerd and your favourite fictional characters have been incorporated in the design. 

Harry Potty

The ‘Harry Potty’ is tacky, but the bathroom in the Hang Fung Gold Technology showroom in Hong Kong has a greater inherent value. It’s solid gold.

Gold lav

As is the one located on the aeroplane owned by the Saudi Prince: it’s worth about US$2.88 million.

Another gold lav copy

The ladies’ toilets in the Lemina Building in Shinjuki, Tokyo, aren’t made of gold, but they are certainly priceless. You sit on them, opposite giant carved heads.

Big heads

That begin to sing. And start moving towards you. Good thing you’re on the loo – it’s so unnerving, there’s a chance you’d… well anyway, they stop when they’re close enough to just about kiss your knees:

If the experience is so scary as to cause an unfortunate ‘accident’, Swedish company CWS has devised the perfect solution: the toilet with the self-cleaning seat. Once you’ve finished, a small, self-contained unit automatically moves forward to cover a small section of the circular seat, rotating and cleaning it. CWS came up with a particularly ingenious ad for it, too, in which a young model attempts to ‘powder her nose’:

Another excellent application of technology is the built-for-comfort Washlet, manufactured by Toto. Its built-in bidet enables you to wash your nether regions at the touch of a button, without having to move off the seat, thus doing away with the need for toilet paper. It would be a welcome addition in those countries like Greece, where the plumbing isn’t quite suited to flushing toilet paper. That’s right – you have to place it in the bin provided; a sad irony given the ancient Minoans, on the isle of Crete, may well have invented the first flush toilet by having the loo at ground level and a reservoir of water above.

The traditional bidet – a cross between a toilet and a sink – began, in France, as a basin in which you could ‘wash yourself’. Intime, nozzles and hoses were added. But some cultures never required the bidet or lavatory paper, choosing instead to clean oneself by hand. Left hand, of course. Which is why all dining and greeting must be done with the right: it may sound poetically symbolic to be ‘unclean’ when ‘removing the body’s impurities’ with the same hand you touch your food, but in an age before antibacterial soaps, illness and death would be a likely result of such poor hygiene.

And it still is. In 2000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that almost half the world’s population – mostly situated in Africa and Asia – did not have access to “good” toilet facilities: they had no suitable way of getting rid of excrement. The WHO solution is the implementation of simple ‘squat toilets’ – basically a hole in the ground with a plastic seat above.

Grateful as we are that such issues don’t affect our quality of life, it’s good to know we also have convenient, flexible and affordable means to place a toilet - or bathroom - virtually anywhere. Consider Saniflo’s range of macerator pump units: by grinding waste into small particles, a 20mm pipe, rather than the customary 100mm, can be used to transport waste. Which means, if you’re renovating and want an en suite in your bedroom, you can have one, no matter how far away from – or how far above – your room the sewer happens to be. It’s so cost effective, in fact, that you you’ll be able to afford the solid gold toilet (or scary giant singing head) a lot sooner.

That’ll have you skipping to the loo, no worries.


That time of decade again!


I must be afflicted with some degree of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Apart from the desire to own various editions of the same albums or books, a need to organise all knowledge of comedy into a working body (which I like to refer to as a ‘unified field theory’ of comedy; relax, it doesn’t actually mean anything beyond being an intellectual-sounding metaphor) and becoming irrationally annoyed that we in Australia have given in and now spell the word ‘gaol’ as ‘jail’, I also get the irrits when we treat the wrong year as the end of a decade or millennium.

The new millennium didn’t begin in 2000, it began in 2001.

The new decade doesn’t really begin in 2010, it begins in 2011.

But I guess if we started counting the new millennium in 2000, this is the end of that decade. (And even Arthur C. Clarke made the error; after correctly selecting ‘2001’ as the important year in 2001: A Space Odyssey, he followed the story up with 2010: Odyssey Two.)

So here we are, December 2009 about to begin, and journalists are compiling their ‘round-up of the decade that was the “noughties”’. A year early, if you ask me. But nobody seems to be asking me if their timing is right.

No, it’s nearly the end of the first decade of the current millennium, and what journalists are asking me – and you, and anyone else who appears to be listening – is to do the news-gathering for them. Here’s a question I was asked earlier. I can’t help but have an answer for that.



A journalist’s tweeted reply to my comment is as follows:

Could say the same 4 comedians. As ppl whose job it is to comment on society we HAVE to rely on getting input from the masses

I disagree.

In the first place, the comedian’s job is to entertain. News has only taken on that mentle in recent years in order to keep turning a profit – having to entertain audiences that would prefer sugar walls and happy endings.

Good comedians are the ones that have their own world view, and reveal it more-or-less by stealth: ‘you think the world is like that, but have a look at what I can see from where I’m standing – actually it’s like this’. Their degree of skill at revealing to you what you know, but didn’t realise you know, is a mark of how good they are. The art is to conceal the art.

News, on the other hand, used to be about reporting the facts. Uncoloured. No agenda. (Of course, everyone has an agenda.) And professionals were paid to gather those stories. To use all their skills. Now, they depend more and more on stories coming to them. And people love their brief moments of fleeting fame, so love to step forward with their stories. Maybe they should try to perfect the art of concealing the art also: be well read, be ‘metropolitan critics’ who get around and hear all the opinions and sniff out those leads…

Back to the ‘decade in review’, however.

A news service ought to know what the big stories of the past decade were. They just spent the past decade presenting the stories. It’s not supposed to be a live concert by your favourite old rocker. You might feel ripped off if you see David Bowie live and he doesn’t do ‘Changes’ or ‘Fashion’. You shouldn’t – he was, up until his last world tour, still making brilliant new music and I’m happy to not hear ‘Space Oddity’ if it means I do hear ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’ or ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’. Bowie is canny enough to poll his online fanbase for a list of songs they want to hear live, if he wanted. I’d much rather he presented the show he chose, but will accept that he may actually ask the people that keep him in nice designer suits what exactly they want to hear.

But the news is the news. Don't ask me whether I want to hear about September 11 or Weapons of Mass Destruction or the first black president over the deaths of Belinda Emmett or George Harrison, the end of John Howard’s term as Prime Minister (and the erosion of our rights as citizens that coninued beyond his  leadership) or our first female Governor General. I’m not gonna switch the channel in disgust because you failed to remind me of Paris Hilton’s sex tape, the bizarre media fixation on Maddi McCann, Tanya Zaetta ‘entertaining the troops’ or the story of Chantelle Steadman and little Alfie Patten. Particularly when we perhaps ought to be reminded of Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine, the Cronulla Riots and talkback radio’s role in inciting them, East Timor’s independence and Australia’s assistance in that struggle (only maybe this time point out there was oil involved, and lots of it, and also add the reminder that much of it is currently spilling into the ocean, bad for both our energy needs and our ocean resources…).

See, when you specifically skew the news to the audience, it stops being news. It starts being entertainment. And then comedians do start having to do your job for you: reminding the audience how the world is, and in particular, reminding them that it’s not necessarily the way people who sell airtime and audiences to advertisers would necessarily have you believe.

So, news outlets. Tell me. What do your beancounters want you to tell us the big stories of the last decade were, exactly? How does that differ from the way you believe you ought to placate your audience with the big stories? And going through your archives, what actually were they at the time?

If, after all that, the likes of Juanita Phillips, Samantha Armytage and Chris Bath feel the need to pepper their bulletins with dick jokes in order to keep the viewers’ attention, it may well prove more entertaining, but it’ll still be a case of the news not doing its job properly anymore, not proof that journalists and comedians are essentially the same thing. (Although, we can afford to lose ‘Kochie’; doppelganger James O’Loghlin is a fine comedian who does ‘serious’ much better than Kochie does ‘funny’; there’s no need to have them both loose on the airwaves!)

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.