'THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE (AND OTHER SHORT STORIES)' is available for purchase! Just follow the link for an on-line shopping experience that will surely blow your mind.  Upon request, Stuart will sign your copy, either with his name or that of somebody else selected by you.  The book was launched on 28 November 2011 at the Wheeler Centre and is now orbiting the third sun of Jupiter.   In doing so, it has become the first collection of short stories to reach a major cellestial body since Max Walker's 'How to Puzzle a Python' was smuggled on board the Soyuz TM-4 Mir Space Station by one of the cosmonauts.  Also, the first chapter of Stuart's upcoming novel 'GOODSIR' is available in a newly released anthology.  It can be downloaded for free from Amazon by using the following address: http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Novel-Anthology-2012-ebook/dp/B009YNMPPW  Frankly, it would be cheap at half the price.

A Nod and a Wink

Is it ever too late to reinvent yourself? Like week-old bread or the pair of unwashed socks that fall behind the back of the couch and are discovered only upon moving out, I have become stale. It’s time to jazz things up a little. By ‘jazz things up’ I don’t mean speaking in an odd time signature before undertaking a twelve-minute solo that sends people to sleep, growing a goatee whilst wearing a black skivvy or even donning a beret indoors, but some mild kind of metamorphosis that makes life a little more interesting. They options are many and varied. I could always try and alter my physical appearance; lose a little weight, perhaps even up the exercise quotient in the faint hope that my t-shirts will soon struggle to contain bulging muscles rather than wobble like a plate full of trifle. But all that sounds like a lot of effort. There must be a simpler option.

Deconstructing Degustation

When it comes to the culinary arts, I can put up with just about anything. I can tolerate ‘jus’ even though my heart longs to leap out through my chest and scream ‘pretentious!’. I can even put up with a wanton use of the term ‘reduction’. Heavens above, I can even turn a blind eye to things that have been ‘caramelized’ beyond recognition. When it comes to food, I can endure all sorts of chicanery. Anything, that is, except a dish that has been ‘deconstructed’.

Come Back Dexter, All Is Forgiven

Is nothing sacred? As it turns out, reality television is not the most reliable means by which to find the love of your life. Who’d have thunk that a process involving televised dates and horticultural beneficence might be anything other than failsafe? Let me frank (which, at this point, is a lot better than being Blake), I have never watched an episode of The Bachelor. As best I can tell, it’s an awkward mix of Survivor and team selection for the lunch hour cricket match in primary school. Even though the series ended with a marriage proposal, it was impossible not to suspect that, in fact, the whole thing would end in tears.

Insolent, Arrogant, Incompetent, Awesome

Perhaps something was lost in translation. Or maybe Russian journalists are simply accustomed to telling people what they really think of them so long as said people are (a) not Vladimir Putin and (b) located somewhere on the other side of the earth. There’s no doubt about it – our Prime Minister has been comprehensively slagged off. In Cyrillic script, no less.

I've Been to Bali Two

There’s a sign around the corner from my father’s. By the side of the Mornington Tyabb Road in a loose, spray-painted script, the sign promises ‘stable manure’ for just a few dollars per bag. What is left unsaid is whether the manure has always been stable or has achieved this through a combination of clean living and therapy. Perhaps it’s best not to ask. To tell you the truth, I’d prefer not to know the going rate for a bag of ‘unstable manure’. This is because I have a substantial fear of the stuff and will do almost anything to avoid it. This makes our decision to holiday in Bali – home of the infamous Bali belly – even more perplexing.

Tales of a Reluctant Traveler

Flying is the ultimate ‘don’t look down’ experience. But as I tighten my seatbelt on the plane, it’s clear that air-travel has changed. I wait for the moment to arrive, but it never does. It seems that somewhere in the quest for low-cost air travel we have abandoned the one thing that distinguished flying from other forms of transport: the hot towel. Frankly, without a hot towel I might as well be sitting on a tram. Who is it that makes such monumental decisions? Is there a committee? Was there a plebiscite? The stewardess refuses to answer any of these questions no matter how often I push the button. As a result, I’m forced to improvise by wetting one of my socks and using two biros as a makeshift pair of tongs. ‘Hot towel?’ I ask.

Et Tu, U2? Betrayal by a Mega Band

It’s hard not to take it personally. Irish rock group U2 decided to spam pretty much all of Western Civilization with their latest album by dumping it onto people’s iTunes accounts for free, whether they wanted it or not. They’ve unloaded it on pretty much everyone in the world – except me. Granted, it’s a huge exercise and my exclusion could be a mere oversight rather than a deliberate campaign to exile me from the broader pop cultural universe forever, but given a choice between accident and conspiracy, I choose the latter.

I.C.U.R.A.V.I.P. (Or, How to Buy A Rap Superstar)

At first I misunderstood. I was waiting for a take away coffee when an email appeared in my inbox without warning from a large Department store. The subject line declared: VIP Sale – Hurry last days! I know for a fact that ‘VIP’ stands for ‘Very Important Person’ and not, as I’d previously thought, ‘Voluptuous Idiot Pants’. I don’t know much about VIP sales except they’re about as frequent as a visit by Halley’s Comet. There was not a second to lose. Instantly, I leapt to my feet and abandoned my low-fat soy latte with half an artificial sweetener. Away from the madding crowd, my fingers worked furiously to type out the only question anyone would want to ask when time was so clearly of the essence.

The Finer Points of Time Travel

At first, I couldn’t be sure. Soon enough, it was a conclusion I could not escape – the clock on the computer at work was losing time. Seven minutes per day to be precise. This may sound like a lot of not very much – after all, what can you really do with seven minutes anyway? Turn up on time, for starters. Catch the right tram. When you think about it, dislocating yourself by seven minutes in each twenty-four hour period can really catch you off guard. Worse still, the effect was cumulative. Today it’s seven minutes. Tomorrow it’s fourteen. As I write this, I am not in the here and now but am stranded twenty-eight minutes ago. Spooky, isn’t it?

To Thine Own Selfie Be True

It’s over. The battle between modesty and narcissism has ended with the latter emerging victorious, fists bloodied but raised and clutching a mobile phone. Doubtless, Narcissus will shortly be posting photos of himself, a triumphant grin slathered across his stupid face, bragging to all of cyberspace about how he vanquished his foe once and for all. Forget about holding anything back or leaving something to the imagination. Give up altogether on wanting to foster a little mystery. The information superhighway is much like an international airport – everything, it seems, must be declared. And in a world of over-sharing, nothing strips away any remaining vestige of mystique quite like a ‘selfie’.

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