Pillow Talk

Well that’s it.  My break-dancing career is officially at its end.  This, of course, changes everything.  No longer can I define myself in terms of the way I shimmy, move and shake. For I confess that I have had a secret life – one that existed solely whenever I had the house to myself.  Whilst I realise that this charade could not continue forever, I find myself mourning its sudden passing.

    Lost to me now are the days I could throw down a piece of cardboard and start performing back spins on the living room floor as the sounds of The Rock Steady Crew pumped from the speakers of my ghetto-blaster with the force of a 747 jet.  Gone are the afternoons spent popping and body rocking.  As for the Electric Boogaloo, I will bid it a teary-eyed goodbye. I must now look at myself in a way that is entirely and wholly inert.

It was a neck injury that did it.  Like a junior footballer that never quite realises the full promise of his natural talent due to a crippling knee injury, so too has my dancing career been snuffed out like a candle in a hailstorm.  The producers of So You Think You Can Dance have no idea what they’ve missed out on.

I knew I was in some trouble the moment it happened.  After going for my morning run and just before my daily callisthenic routine, I felt a pain in my neck.  Whilst I have often been accused of being a pain in the neck, I was to learn that having a pain in the neck is an entirely different kind of experience.  It soon became apparent that this was no mere transitory ailment that would vanish as quickly and unexpectedly as it had appeared.  Rather, upon realising that I could only move my head by using my hands, it became clear that something much bigger was occurring.  I’ll admit that it’s a very odd and somewhat confronting thing to need your hands to move your head.  It’s as though you’re a giant piece of claymation.

As unpleasant as it is to have a pain in the neck there is, at least, a scientific reason behind it.  The long and the short of it is that I have a long and short leg.  This, in turn, was the product of a brief and disastrous period during which I convinced myself that I could fly.  And, for about two seconds, I was absolutely right.  But when I plummeted to earth with all the grace of Skylab, there was the neat sound of my leg breaking.  That was not the worst of it.

    As my parents drove me to Frankston Hospital, I realized that the unsealed road from our house must hold some kind of record in the ‘most potholes’ category.  Things went from bad to worse when, in the emergency ward, they cut my gumboots off.  Naturally, I protested, but it was to no avail.  Often and to this very day when my sneakers are coated in mud, I look back in fondness at my fallen gumboots.

    Being possessed of legs like a mis-buttoned shirt, I get the occasional problem with my back.  When it seized up last week, I was faced with the prospect of making numerous trips to the chiropractor of the most serious variety – the type during which the adjustments to your spine sound like someone stepping in a puddle of cornflakes.  That, however, would not prove to be enough.  Sadly, I was sentenced to something far worse – I was condemned to life with an orthopaedic pillow.

    For those of you unfamiliar with an orthopaedic pillow, to understand the unique kind of misery it brings you must first forget everything you ever knew about conventional pillows and reject traditional notions of comfort.  If Marty the Monster were to cut up into tiny pieces as part of a bizarre voodoo ritual and you were asked to sleep on what remained of his battered carcass after it was dipped in concrete, you’d start to get the idea.  It’s like trying to sleep on a hardened piece of foam.

But sleeping on an orthopaedic pillow is not solely something you do.  It’s something you are.  For whilst it feels about as comfortable as sleeping on a telephone directory, I know that before too long I’ll get used to it and this will become my new normal.  In the not so distant future when confronted with regular pillows, I will screw my nose up in horror and tell people that I have to use my special pillow.  Indeed, those to whom I make this impassioned declaration will tell others that I am special, but in the worst possible way.

So whilst only a few short weeks ago I was a hipster b-boy break-dancing colossus, I am now reduced to little more than an orthopaedic pillow-toting nancy pants.  How the mighty have fallen.  Then again, perhaps it’s our weaknesses that define us.  If you were perfect, you’d probably not get anything done.  There just wouldn’t be a point in trying.  It’s your ailments that drive you to try harder, to think more deeply and consider just what it is to be the person you are.

Perhaps my break-dancing career need not be at its end.  Even as I’m writing this, I’m listening to the greatest hits of The Rock Steady Crew at a volume best described as ‘hyper drive’.  Perhaps it’s time to flatten out a cardboard box for one more spin.  As for my neck, it still occupies the space between my shoulders and my head and is becoming quite accustomed to the awesome and unfailingly firm support of my orthopaedic pillow. 

The Great Crocodile Slap Down

It’s difficult to know where to begin.  Whilst Elton John encouraged people to do the ‘crocodile rock’, even he would draw the line at the idea of climbing into an enclosure to give one of them a pat.  In truth, the old children’s song had it right: never  smile at a crocodile.  And, much like Advance Australia Fair, there’s a little known second verse of ‘Never Smile at a Crocodile’ which, in addition to encouraging people not to flash their pearly whites at any member of the crocodylidae family, flat-out urges folks not to get half-cut and decide to slap one of them around.  If only Michal Newman had been paying attention.

    Newspapers are sometimes accused of sensationalizing things.  Whilst this may be true from time to time, they handled the news of a crocodile attack on Mr Newman with a degree of understatement that can fairly be described as ‘beautiful.’  The attack occurred after Mr Newman climbed into the animal’s enclosure.  The newspaper reports simply stated that he was ‘believed to have been drunk at the time.’  

    Fatso the crocodile lives at Broome’s crocodile park.  Mr Newman usually lives in Perth but, on this particular evening, had taken up residence at a local tavern.  That is, until he was ejected on the grounds of being drunk.  In similar circumstances, many of us would probably head for home, notwithstanding a possible diversion for a souvlaki.  Mr Newman, however, decided to go and pat a five metre reptile.

    In his defence, Mr Newman noted that he believed that crocodiles were slow and stupid.  Given the events that were to transpire, Fatso the crocodile could be forgiven for reaching a similar conclusion regarding Mr Newman.

    Having entered the crocodile park, Mr Newman came across Fatso’s enclosure.  According to reports, the crocodile was ‘growling’ in its pen.  Frankly, that would have been enough to convince me that getting in was not such a great idea.  However, Mr Newman is made of, if not sterner stuff, then certainly stuff with a higher alcohol content.  After trying to touch the creature through the fence, Mr Newman decided that this was not enough and he went ‘over the wall’ in an attempt to get up close and personal.

    In 1978, Dan Hill had a smash hit with a song that claimed, ‘Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much.’  Whether Mr Newman was overwhelmed by honesty or the reptile’s razor sharp teeth as they sank into his leg is, frankly, anyone’s guess.  Leaving aside the fact that the creature is a crocodile, that its name is ‘Fatso’ should, of itself, be considered something of a cause for caution.  For myself, I make it a rule not to avoid altercations with anyone called ‘Fatso’, ‘Chopper’ or ‘The Enforcer’.  In my experience, little good can ever come from such confrontations.

    That said, the plan was faultless.  Mr Newman decided that he would jump the fence, walk up behind the animal and sit on its back.  He would then be well-placed to pat it to his heart’s content.  With a plan like that, it’s difficult to see where it all went wrong.  However, according to Mr Newman, before he had a chance to lay so much as a finger on it, the crocodile had turned and sunk its teeth into his leg.

    Whilst Mr Newman was, without doubt, surprised, the crocodile was most probably disappointed.  Poor Fatso must have thought all his Christmases had come at once and that he was about to chow down on some unsuspecting piece of fauna only to find he had an inebriated bogan stuck between his teeth.  As Mr Newman tells it, he grabbed the fence and told the crocodile to let him go.  Luckily, crocodiles are well known for their willingness to respond to such requests when put in the right way and released its grip.  It was all Mr Newman needed to clamber back over the fence to safety and, naturally, back to the pub.

    For whilst most mere mortals would probably head straight for the Casualty Department of their nearest hospital, Mr Newman decided that a different approach to pain relief was called for.  He returned to the tavern and had a beer.  Then, and only then, did he go to Hospital.

    We all do stupid things.  Frank Zappa put it best when he described us as ‘Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side.’  Truth is, for all the ridiculous and brain-meltingly, flabbergastingly stupid things we do, it’s important to have people like Michal Newman around.  It helps put our own stupidity into perspective.  Ever driven away from a petrol station with the petrol cap on the roof of the car?  That’s nothing compared to leaping into a crocodile enclosure and trying to give it a hug.  Forgot to pay your electricity bill on time?  At least you didn’t have a five metre reptile lodge its incisors in your lower calve.  

    Max Walker once wrote a book entitled How to Kiss A Crocodile.  I think I might send Mr Newman a copy to read during his convalescence so that, next time, he’ll be prepared.  I’m sure he’ll be excited to receive it and dive right in.  As for me, I think it only fair that both Mr Newman and Fatso should have something to sink their teeth into.

The Voodoo That You Do

Last year for Christmas I received socks, a book and a voodoo doll. It confused me greatly – particularly as I had just purchased a whole shed-full of socks and, short of growing a few extra legs – was unlikely to need any more in the foreseeable future. What was doubly disappointing was that no apparent regard was had for the actual items on my Christmas list. Sadly, it appears that my annual request for a Time Machine has become ‘tiresome’.

Still, there is something to be said for the element of surprise. Specifically, ‘what in God’s holy name is this?’ springs to mind, as I tore away the paper to be confronted with a small, featureless doll. It was a gift from my mother in common law who assured me that it was not intended to suggest that I was childish or regressive. Rather, the doll was a simple tool to allow me free access to the world of the black arts. Relieved, I examined the object more closely.

There were no distinguishing features. This was entirely on purpose; to ensure that I could rely on it whenever the need arose. Not for me a voodoo doll burdened with a specific identity – that would be wasteful. This was a voodoo doll fit for multiple uses. It meant I could use it to channel dark energy towards anyone – from a sworn enemy to the person that cut me off in traffic on the way to work this morning. If I stored it in the glove compartment, barely an infringement would go by without me plunging the sharp end of a needle into my voodoo doll. ‘Take that, SRZ468!’ I would cry as my car was overtaken in the fifty zone that everyone except me pretends is a sixty around Lakeside Drive. Perhaps I should strap it to the steering wheel rather than leave it in the glove box for ease of access. Rather than shout abuse at red-light running cyclists dressed in lycra pants that make them look like human anatomy models, I would both toot my horn and squash my voodoo doll simultaneously.

Notwithstanding the somewhat anonymous nature of my voodoo doll, there was a particular person who inspired the choice of gift – a point reinforced by the fact that a large number of sewing pins had been plunged into the genital area. As I spent the next hour or so removing the worst of them, I began to wonder why it is that there are so many options to wish the worst for people and so few to hope for the best. Nobody creates a doll for the sole purpose of wishing somebody well.

Back when I attended Flinders Christian Community College, dabbling in the black arts was something that, if not prohibited outright, was certainly frowned upon. However, I had no need for voodoo then, for I had something much better. I had a band. Not just any old band, either. Ours was a twelve legged rock machine of great renown called 20/20 Vision and I held the esteemed position of ‘lead singer’. You could say that I was the Justin Bieber of Tyabb, if not the greater Westernport area. And, if you did, I would probably feel compelled to hunt you down and extract some kind of revenge.

Last week it was announced that Justin Bieber has been the subject of more internet searches in the past year than any other human being on the planet. He outranks President Obama by a factor of three or more. I find this absolutely astounding. For those of you over the age of twelve and, therefore, possibly unfamiliar with his work, Justin is a sixteen year-old singing sensation who has sold millions of copies of his debut album ‘My World.’ Whilst such a title really ought to be more specific (is it Dreamworld, Sea World or Disney World?) given his age and experience, you’d be forgiven for assuming that such a CD could only really last three or four minutes at most. It’s a ridiculous title, right up there with The Shaggs and their memorably titled debut album ‘The Philosophy of the World’.

Being a teenage singing sensation is no easy thing. It rarely ends well. From Frankie Lymon to Leif Garrett, it’s a kind of success that rarely survives into adulthood. Worse still, it’s the type of popularity that guarantees that some people will dislike you intensely as a matter of principle. Not that they need a voodoo doll to wish you bad luck – the internet will suffice.

Firstly, there was the campaign to establish the words ‘Justin Bieber Syphilis’ as the top ranking item on a Google Search list. Other efforts include the bog-standard manoeuvre of replacing photos with pornographic images. Personally, I find that quite infantile. There are, however, other pranks I cannot help but admire. As part of the promotion for his apparently longer-than-four-minute album ‘My World’, fans were asked to vote for the country that Justin should tour first. The winner? North Korea. Whilst you’d be forgiven for assuming that this was the result of a nasty on-line campaign, it’s also possible that a certain Kim-Jong Ill pulled out all the stops to get a little Bieber action in downtown Pyongyang. Justin’s subsequent refusal to go has – let’s been honest – probably set back relations back further than the end of the popular TV series M*A*S*H.

I doubt that regular people in North Korea have much access to the internet, but I bet they have an ample supply of voodoo dolls. Poor old Justin Bieber. That said, if nothing else it would explain the high-pitched nature of his singing voice.

Great Blood-Nuts of History

There you have it. For the first time in living memory, a person of the red-headed persuasion has managed to ascend to the highest office in the land. That this was achieved with the kind of brutality that would make a Mafia kingpin blush is beside the point. Politics, much like Masterchef or germ warfare, is often a cruel business.

There’s no getting around the fact that our new Prime Minister is a red-head. Sadly, those with a titian tint are often the subject of unwarranted nastiness and prejudice. It’s not difficult to imagine that as a school kid, a nascent Julia Gillard may have been surrounded by snot-smeared children who would taunt her, throwing around terms of abuse like confetti. They’d have pitched everything at her; calling her a carrot top, a ginger, a ‘ranga, a human stop sign or blood nut, before tossing her in a pond to see if she floated. Luckily, those unenlightened days are behind us.

It’s worth noting that the term ‘red head’ is not merely a reference to a person’s hair colour. It’s also the title of a Tony-award winning musical from 1959. ‘Redhead – the Musical’ is a murder mystery set in a wax museum and, indeed, the similarities with recent events in our nation’s capital don’t end there. In fact, Music Theatre International describes ‘Red-Head the Musical’ as ‘a romantic, fast-paced adventure involving cunning disguises, spine-tingling chases, startling visions, an ill-fated show ….and a cold-blooded killer on the loose… not to mention some great songs and high-spirited dancing!’ It’s almost spooky. All except for the bit about ‘great songs’ and ‘high spirited dancing’. But imagine how much more gripping those events would have been with a bit of song and dance thrown in? If nothing else, the deposed Prime Minister’s final press conference could have been transformed by a rendition of ‘My Way.’ For all that, however, I have to profess some disappointment. Having been elevated to the esteemed role of Prime Minister, it must be said that Julia Gillard missed an important opportunity to bring other flame haired types with her. Granted, Martin Ferguson was already there, but surely there were other red heads who could easily have been catapulted into the Cabinet. Given that democracy has now been transformed from an expression of the will of the people to something resembling an episode of Survivor, the simple fact of not being elected should no longer be considered an impediment. It is, quite clearly, open slather. Luckily, there are many quality redheads to choose from. Maybe Nicole Kidman or Vincent Van Gogh appointed as Minister for the Arts? Or perhaps Thomas Jefferson as the Minister for Communication? I, for one, would certainly throw all my support behind having Willie Nelson as Health Minister. That Trotsky was a redhead seems not so much a revelation as it does a statement of the inevitable. Not that he’d necessarily take up the offer of a Cabinet role – he’s been on the wrong end of a factional dispute before and is probably, if not a little gun shy, then at least slightly paranoid when it comes to ice picks.

It was an opportunity that, sadly, went begging. Instead, the new Prime Minister elected to go a rampage of intolerance. Almost the very first thing Julia Gillard declared is that she didn’t believe in a ‘big Australia’. Naturally, I was outraged. How anyone can lead this great nation and not support the likes of the Big Banana and the Big Pineapple is beyond me. Perhaps her problem is not with oversized objects made of fibreglass but with fruit more generally. As it turns out, the Prime Minister was referring to was the country’s population growth.

Arguing against population growth is a funny business. In many regards, resisting an influx of people – whether by birth or by immigration – is something of a reflex reaction. Had the average Australian been asked the same question thirty years ago; back when our population was a mere twelve million, chances are most would have suggested that we were at our capacity. Granted, planning for the future is important. But ultimately, hysteria regarding claims of ‘overpopulation’ was best described by PJ O’Rourke who noted that such debates usually centred on there being ‘too many of you, but just enough of me.’ When you take into account that she was born in Wales and did, herself, immigrate to this country, it’s an odd way to begin. For any criticism that our immigration program might endure, there is no greater validation of its success than the fact that you can arrive here in pursuit of a better life and ultimately become prime minister.

Julia is not the first blood-nut to grasp political power. Winston Churchill is another ranga of note, as was Malcolm X. So was Judas Iscariot, as it happens. Not all red heads are quite so popular, however. Indeed, for all the wonderful redheads through history, there’s always the matter of Oliver Cromwell – an oppressive tyrant who was so despised that whilst he died of natural causes in 1658, he was exhumed for the sole purpose of being posthumously executed in 1661. No matter how her tenure turns out, hopefully Julia will at least have the comfort of knowing that she did better than Oliver Cromwell.