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16/3/2004: Assume This Title Is Really Witty

Today sees the triumphant return of Cowboy Comics! Yes, the libraries of Brisbane are as well-stocked with dross as their English counterparts. Investigate the two first episodes of Cowboy Comics volume 2!

15/3/2004: Inspiration Station

Still working at the entery data place, still spending most of the shift embroiled in soul-crushing tedium. I'm thinking it might be more fun to hold out for reception duty. I'm thinking a lot of companies in this country would like their phone answered by a purebred Brit, in order to fool callers into thinking the company is very cosmopolitan.

Working in a cubicle environment is exactly how it's pictured in Dilbert cartoons and Not My Desk articles. When you read these items of media and assume they must be exaggerated, stop that assumption right there. That's exactly what cubicles are like.

The desk I sit at is a shrine to the cat of the sort not seen since the temples of the Ancient Egyptians. The walls surrounding me are plastered in innumerable hilarious pictures of adorable cute kitties, some with amusing or inspiring captions, some with just a kitten putting on the big-eyed soulful act. That's weird enough on its own, but the computer monitor provides the altar for this bizarre clerical cathedral; a number of adorable plastic cat figurines sit atop it, staring down at me with their cold, dead eyes. It is this, as well as the work they give me, that makes me spend inordinate amount of times in the bathroom, scrubbing myself.

At this desk, where there are not cats, there are inspirational messages. The computer is so covered in post-its bearing things straight out of the Little Book of Calm that the monitor (cat altar) looks like it is wearing a papery full beard and sideburns. And there's also this piece of paper pinned up nearby, listing a load of little maxims along the lines of the following:

"I am thankful for the husband who is a couch potato, because it means he is here and not out at the bars.
I am thankful for the woman who sings off-key behind me in church, because it means I can hear.
I am thankful for the extortionate taxes I pay, because it means that I have a job."

And so on and so forth for an entire A4 page in really small lettering. This sounds suspiciously like corporate values to me, and particularly cock-eyed ones at that. Basically, it's telling you to shut up and be thankful because things could be worse. Let me tell you something: things could ALWAYS be worse. Even if you're living in a dog turd and licking gravel off a busy road for nourishment, it could still be worse. Hell, you could be on fire!

Here's a little drama which illustrates why I think this inspirational letter sucks.

EMPLOYEE: Hey, boss, I've been going over the figures for the last few months, and I can't help noticing that you've embezzled fourteen million quid.
BOSS: Well done, employee! You should get down on your knees and give thanks that you know how to add up. Top job!
EMPLOYEE: Erm... yeah, but there's still the matter of criminal proceedings, and -
BOSS: Yes, isn't it great that we live in an incorruptibly policed state? I don't know about you, but I get up every morning and give thanks for another day not under the jackboot of oppression.
EMPLOYEE: I have a large gun and I'm going to kill everyone.
BOSS: Isn't it great that the federal firearms regulations are so lax?

Yes, I think my point is made. I've got a few more sentences to add to that letter, incidentally.

1. I am thankful for my cancerous tumour, because it means that I have a functioning body of organic flesh.
2. I am thankful for the gang of thugs who beat me up and took away my money, because the incredibly agony I suffered reminds me that my spinal cord isn't severed.
3. I am thankful for the nuclear warhead I am sitting on, because it means that I am capable of recognising hazardous devices, although my ability to defuse said devices does leave something to be desi

10/3/2004: Data Than Expected

Now that I've been in Australia long enough to become one big man-shaped mosquito bite, the time has come to hang up the holiday trousers and get a real job. That's why I've signed up with a local office temp agency so that I can stave off vagrancy for another few years of my life.

I've never worked for a prestigious big city office agency before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. From reading Chris Livingstone's writings, I assumed they would tie me to a chair and hold me hostage for several hours while cutting off increasingly large body parts. As it turned out, they made me type things. Many things. Then they said I was a data enterer supreme, the kind of data enterer that would work on the Starship Enterprise, and within one weekend had me a two-week assignment.

Fellows, I currently work for the government. And, to drain all possible excitement from that sentence, I work in the electrical licensing department of the Department of Industrial Relations. I enter data. Lots of it.

My job is, basically, to take a large box and fill it with several large, heavy files from some big sliding filing cabinets. These I then lug with difficulty back to my desk, where I enter one small piece of data from each large heavy file, then lug them all back. My assignment is to complete all the big filing cabinets before two weeks have elapsed.

Dreamily, I picture myself becoming an asset to my agency, being the only person patient and docile enough to do lots of data entry without going insane or complaining to anyone. I'm pretty sure I'm permitted to take coffee breaks now and then, but I'm too scared of my boss person looming up behind me and biting out my jugular vein, spray-painting the cubicle in crimson and satiating their endless bloodlust to the delight and nervous applause of my coworkers.

Descending even further into fantasy, I picture myself as being part of a temping superhero team, a League of Temping Gentlemen, of sorts. My codename would be Data, and for the film version I would be the bastard son of a musician and an evening commuter, gifted with the fingers of a concert pianist and the patience of an Easter Island head. I would leap into action with a burst of dramatic 70's music, and work alongside my fellow supertemps. Experts in respectively manning the telephones and Microsoft products, they would be codenamed Switchboard and Piechart.

But back to my current work. I guess I kind of forgot this while I was wasting time, but data entry is DULL. It's so incredibly dull that the dullness is almost tangible. You can weave it into jumpers and sell them as Dullwear. Thankfully, the Aussies have taught me a thing or two about breaking up the workday; I am reliably informed that work days end when there are particularly interesting sporting events on television, and on my first day I was invited in the middle of the morning to a birthday party in the tea room. I knew none of those people and they knew little about me, but they still fed me cake and biscuits even when I had properly explained that I was a temp and as such unworthy of their confectionery.

Before I go, I shall share with you some of the amusing names I have come across while entering data. Firstly, Mr. Adrian Hole. A. Hole. If there is a Mr and Mrs Hole out there, there isn't much you can do for your children to stop them getting the shit kicked out of them at school, but giving them a name beginning with A is not going to help at all. Oh yes, and if your name is Edwards, it is neither clever nor funny to name your child Edward. You'd better either have a personality defect or a stutter.

8/3/2004: Faith Facts

I think it would be safe to say that I, like many people, have lost faith in the rest of the human race. Oh, we say, we faithless curmudgeons, oh, wars and death and disease and capitalism and reality TV, how can the human race sink any lower? Then we all get together on our high horses to play polo. If only everyone in the world was a faithless curmudgeon, we could live our lives in peace and love. And polo.

But every now and again something happens that renews my faith in the human race, even those parts of it that use the word "y'all". Every now and again something happens to lift my heart and raise my spirit. My friends, the thing that has brought me up to a parallel with bunnies in terms of happiness* is a joint effort between the television and music industries.

Yes friends, American Idol. While in Britain I would abstain from such things, seeing in it my two greatest nemeses brought under a single heading - America and the pop industry - but since coming to Australia and being stunned by the whole 'living independently off one's own means' thing, I have taken to slump in front of the program and watch, bored and bleary-eyed, possibly to atone for my sins. Anyway, most of the program I can take or leave, although Simon Cowell is always good for a laugh, and gives me a good opportunity to beam at other people and announce that he and I come from the same country, and as such could almost be twins.

It's the recent voting that has uplifted me, dear readers. The American public are given the opportunity to vote for the semi-finalists, and for all their lardarseness, they're doing us proud. You see, in these phone polls, there are the usual hugely attractive totty people that the pop industry love so much, and some ugly people thrown in to make the whole system seem unbiased. It seems that the thing that the pop high-ups expected the least is occuring. Yes, friends, instead of placing their cross in the box for the Top Totty Party, the voters are voting in the ugly people with amazing voices. Look to the semi-finalist voting the other night, when the top totty watched disappointed as a lanky ginge with the voice of Frank Sinatra was crowned victor. Look to a previous voting, when the joyous victor was a big fat hairy potato.

We've seen this before, of course, on the World Idol event, when to the astonishment of I and most of the civilised world, the winner was a Norwegian hobbit man who reminded everyone of the weird kid they went to school with. The winner of Australian Idol, the local franchise, was a man who looked like he had been sucking sour sweeties while detonating his hair.

It's finally happening, and not a moment too soon. Now that the children of the MTV generation are growing to maturity with apathetic values intact, cynicism is spreading with more girth than I could ever dream of. "Take the totty away!" we cry. "Take the faceless hot people away from the music industry and back on the stupid fucking catwalk, where they can do no damage! Return us to the days of ugly people with amazing voices!"

We are verging on the end of the record industry totty obsession. Until recently, if you weren't totty, you got nowhere in the world of music. Boy bands and girl bands and highly charismatic 'divas' were the order of the day, spouting their talentless corporate-delivered servings of sugary drivel. Now, however, these people are sailing, fixed grins intact, through the nearest window, while the CD-buying public embrace the way things used to be. Look to the sudden success of The Darkness for your evidence; songs which you could have sworn you heard on the radio in 1983.

Maybe it's just a temporary glitch in the system, but I don't think the record industry will ignore the actions of the general public in their precious Pop Idol TV events. A new age is dawning, chums. I apologise for not playing to my reputation with this update. I have no reason to be cynical today. Go elsewhere for your sneering. Unless I accidentally cross over to the subject of reality television, which is getting so fucking lame it's one step away from being taken into the barn and shot in the head by Farmer Giles.

* Little known fact: the originator of the phrase 'happy bunny' had never read Watership Down.

4/3/2004: The Pissant of Oz

Australia, Australia, Australia. Largest island in the world. As hot as Satan's diabolical foot spa. Do you know, I think I only really started living when I came to this country. I mean, before, I'd never lived away from home, never drunk alcohol to much degree, never puffed on a joint that someone passed me, but now I have done all those things while losing weight alarmingly. A lot of my body fat is going towards my overworked sweat production facility, and is oozing from my pores like Play-Doh from one of those marvellous Play-Doh machines.

As I said yesterday, there are lots of things I'm having to get used to, like absence of Bruces and sheep. I have to get used to seeing a lot of insane old people walking around. Just this morning I saw a man with a crazy look in his eye, walking around a shopping centre wearing only pants and a rather fetching hat. And before you ask, the hat didn't have corks around the brim. I doubt even Steve Irwin would wear one of those, and he's more Australian than kangaroos and recklessly endangering your children put together.

But it's the little things, really, that throw me most of all. In England, a 'lolly' is a sweetie on a stick, because it's short for 'lollipop'. In Australia, for some bizarre reason, the term 'lolly' applies to ALL sweeties, even ones that have never even gone near a stick in their lives. I really can't fathom it. Lollies. Sweeties. How do you get from there to there? Not that I'm obsessing, or anything.

Another thing I'm having to get used to is having a prepared response to the phrase 'how's it going', which is asked with uncomfortable regularity. In England, shop transactions occurred regularly with little or no conversation, save the gruff demand for payment. When I first came here and the bright and bubbly shopkeeps began feigning an interest in my wellbeing, I was so thrown that all I could reply with was 'Yes.' Then I would pay for my purchases and leave, feeling a proper twat. Now, however, I have learned to spout the phrase 'I'm alright thanks', and it soon becomes clear when no further conversation ensues that this routine is more of a formality, like the American 'have a nice day'.

Australia has picked up a lot of American culture, to the point that children have, apparently, been dialling the wrong emergency services number because of all the American imported television. Which is a shame, because from what Australian-grown television I have seen, they have a sense of humour I relate to well, despite a lot of their presenters being total wankers. It's not just America, though... Australia has picked up culture from all over the shop. ABC (the TV channel) shows little other than BBC output, which I find a little annoying. Not even I give a tinker's cuss what's going on back in the old country, so I don't see why the Aussies would, especially when there's beer to drink.

I guess that's one of the stereotypes that has turned out justified - Australians are very big on beer. There are beer shops around every corner, selling beer multipacks of impossible proportions. You can buy special padded thingies to put around your beer so your hand doesn't get too cold. You can acquire any drink under the sun, provided it has the word 'beer' in the name. Just the other day I discovered this stuff called 'horehound beer', which is this weird non-alcoholic stuff for impatient youngsters who want to discover what beer tastes like.

Oh yes, and it's summer here in January. It is like living in Bizarro world.

2/3/2004: Hello again

Once upon a time there was a little prince, who was much loved by his people, and dutifully wrote in his diary every single evening. But then the little prince had to go away for a little while to over the hills and far away, where he could no longer write. Then, months later, the little prince discovered to his delight that he had brought his diary with him in his back pocket, which he hadn't noticed, because he was a little bit dim. And whenever he had sat down and felt something there, he had naturally assumed it to be some kind of crippling bum disease.

Hello, fellow bored losers. I am updating the site again, because I kind of missed it, and because I finally have internet access. Sarah and I have been living in a scabby sharehouse for the last few months (sharing with two other girls and about eleventy billion small insects), but now we've moved to another part of Brisbane, to a delightful little flat just about big enough to comfortably house a medium-sized dog, or an average-sized gypsy family. I write this at the computer desk with the TV about two yards behind me and the kitchen about two yards to my left.

Not that I'm complaining, you understand. Since I spent my childhood sleeping in the smallest room in my parents' house, I find myself naturally at ease in flats of the smaller variety. It's when I'm forced to live in a larger building that, during the night, my heart leaps at every slightest noise and I have to ask someone to go and check for evil burglars.

My, it's been an interesting few months, growing accustomed as I am to the Australian way of life and the summers that compare only with the surface of Mercury. I'm discovering a lot about the Aussies that really surprise me. For instance, I've hardly met anyone called Bruce or Sheila, and the most common names I'm finding are Barry and (appropriately enough) Kylie. Also, I have encountered very few sheep, nor people prepared to interfere sexually with one.

Things seem to have been swimming along interestingly in internet-land, too, I notice. I've learned, for example, that 5 Days A Stranger has swept the board at the AGS Awards (have to watch what I say here), as well as picking up accolades here and there from such sites as Adventure Gamers and DIY Games. I wonder how many more games I have to design on the quiet before I'm either given a lucrative game designing job or lynched to death by slavering AGS community members. Well, without wishing to be impersonal, I'd like to just give out a general broadcast thanks for all that glittering praise, and all the urchins who voted for me. Ta very much, internet!

Okay, this is how it's going to work. I live in Australia. You live wherever you live. I update site whenever I feel like it, and you read it, chuckle to yourselves and wonder what it would be like to be the mother of my children. I very much doubt I'll be updating daily this time around, because when I stopped doing that I suddenly found that my stress level went down, my piles disappeared and I acquired a new appreciation for all that is pretty and nice. Updating daily doesn't fit in with my new, laid-back Australian lifestyle.

Right, that'll do.

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