Now that the inevitable alien invasion is upon us…

Tough.  If you were hoping that 2023 would be, by some miraculous dent of good fortune, less crazy than 2022, you are fresh out of luck.  After the collective iceberg lettuce frenzy and communal freak-out that defined last year, we now find ourselves besieged with balloons.  They are, it seems, everywhere and are readying themselves to attack.  I, for one, am determined not to be taken prisoner by alien spacecraft.  Again.  For that reason, I am digging a bunker in the backyard which, given that it’s mostly concrete, is quite difficult.

I’ll admit I’m rattled.  This whole balloon thing has both come out of nowhere and come out of the sky completely without warning.  It’s undermining my sense of confidence.  Of the phrases I never expected to hear in my life, ‘spy balloon’ is right up there with ‘nuclear-fueled spatula’ and ‘guerilla buttons’. Once, I only had warm feelings for balloons.  Now I’m convinced they’re not to be trusted. 

Worse still, I’m becoming suspicious of not only balloons but party accessories more generally.  The thought of party blower sends a shiver down my spine, to say nothing of the wretched, raucous noise that it makes.  Conical hats are no longer just a bit of fun but thought-controlling mind clamps.  The less said about streamers the better.  It begs the question: how exactly did we get here?

  A couple of weeks ago, a balloon appeared over North America.  It was no ordinary balloon.  Hovering high above the earth, it was claimed that it’d been sent by another country to spy.  This alters my understanding of spying entirely.  James Bond would be a very different proposition if, instead of running around and blowing things up, he was filled with helium and just floated around all day.  Chances are he’d also sound different.  No one would take him seriously if he said his name was ‘Bond, James Bond’ in a voice that sounded like a cross between a jockey and a chipmunk.

The spy balloon wafted around for a while, presumably collecting data, stealing people’s dreams and hiding their car keys.  Even the fact that an iceberg lettuce only costs two dollars a head was not enough to prevent people from descending into a full-blown panic.  The balloon had to be stopped.  Preferably with an awe-inspiring display of force.

As soon as it was safe to do so, the balloon was blown out of the sky.  Presumably lasers and Luke Skywalker were involved.  Then, within days, there were balloons popping up all over the place.  Alaska, the Canadian border and in the drawing room with a butcher’s knife; it suddenly seemed as though North America was being invaded by balloons. Much like that scene at the end of Ghostbusters where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attacks New York, it now appeared that balloons had come to wreak vengeance on an unsuspecting world.

They didn’t remain airbourne for long.  These balloons, too, were soon dispatched to balloon heaven by cutting edge military technology.  As someone who often has his balloon burst, I can’t help but wonder if there was a more cost efficient way to bring these things back to earth.  I find a nasty remark often does the trick.  I’d like to think that rather than a conventional weapon, the armed forces used something more appropriate to the threat they were facing.  Like a giant safety pin.

Now that balloons are no longer objects of harmless whimsy but threats against humanity, things will have to change.  Children’s birthday parties will only occur under military escort, lest a balloon should attempt to escape.  Heaven help the child who accidentally looses control of a helium-filled balloon only to watch it float off into space.  Whereas the loss of the balloon was once considered punishment enough, these kids now run the risk of being declared enemies of the state.

After a week of balloon-mania things got even worse.  A White House spokesperson stated that there was “no indication of alien or extraterrestrial activity” which is exactly what you’d say if you’d just taken E.T. into custody. Rather than ruling out aliens, they made it sound as if they were waiting for the results to come back from the lab.  Turns out we were way off with all that ‘flying saucer’ malarkey.  ALF is coming back in something built for comfort rather than speed.

Things may well escalate.  Now that the cat is well and truly out of the balloon about the whole alien thing, I feel they might try and provoke us.  Surely the day can’t be too far off when giant balloon animals slowly float into view, casting a large and malevolent shadow over the city.  These mega-balloon animals won’t be cute horses or dogs, but aggressive, feral creatures such as weasels and marmots, with huge, gigantic teeth that threaten us all.

Granted, you probably think I’m letting my imagination get the better of me.  It’s probably true.  One thing’s for sure – I’ll never look at Mr. Gasbo the same way again.  Before long, they’ll probably reveal that these balloons are escaped thought bubbles from the mind of Elon Musk.  So be it.  But until that happens, leave me to my panic and, whatever you do, don’t burst my balloon.

When Rock Stars Attack!  A Message to Roger Waters

Thank goodness for rock stars!  If they’re not ridding the world’s hotels of unwanted televisions by selflessly tossing them out windows into swimming pools, they’re devoting themselves to acts of spectacular self-righteousness.  Take Roger Waters.  Please.  Preferably somewhere far, far away where he doesn’t have access to the Internet or humanity more generally.  Somewhere where he’ll be required to keep his thoughts to himself.

Roger Waters used to play bass for Pink Floyd.  Until, that is, he left in 1985.  Since then, his major hobbies have included being ridiculously rich and foisting his ill-informed opinions on anyone unfortunate enough to possess a working set of ears.  Frankly, he’s the kind of dinner guest that makes you want to hide in the broom closet, lest you should be stuck listening to his incessant waffle all night as you try and keep your food down.

Roger, apparently, has a view on the current invasion of Ukraine.  I suppose that’s true for lots of people.  But instead of dribbling his useless, malformed opinions on other late night bar patrons after him performing a bass rendition of ‘I Wish You Were Here’ on open-mic Tuesday, Roger decided he should share them with the United Nations Security Council. 

Getting up and addressing the UN Security Council isn’t something you or I can do whenever the mood takes us.  In fact, it’s not something that even Roger Waters – despite his wealth, privilege and the fact that he knows Van Morrison – can do at the drop of a hat.  He went because he was invited to go.  By Russia.

Some invitations should be treated with suspicion.  In the case of Roger Waters, he should certainly be pickier as to the invitations he takes up.  For someone who advocates boycotting Israel, his willingness to accept an invitation from Russia is not so much disappointing as it is head-smackingly bizarre.

For those who are unaware, Russia is currently controlled by certified cretin and former shirtless back up dancer for Soviet pop sensations ‘Tatu’, Vladimir Putin.  A lying ruthless autocrat responsible for misery and mayhem the world over, he’s essentially a super-villain who’s only missing a hairless cat to stroke as he chuckles maniacally.  Vladimir Putin is not the kind of person you want to invite you for a day out at the United Nations.  Not under any circumstance.  Nevertheless, he called and Roger came-a-running.  The fool.

Here’s a tip – when invited by a murderous tyrant to address the Security Council, give careful thought to saying ‘no’.  You’re not being asked because they drew your name out of a hat.  Roger Waters hadn’t won a prize.  He was asked so that whatever he said would benefit those who asked him to come in the first place.  Tragically, he made the mistake of thinking he’d been asked by Russia because they were genuinely fascinated to hear what he had to say.  As though they’d never heard any of his solo works.

I’m sure he saw this as his chance to promote peace or, alternatively, a new single.  He’s desperately unqualified.  Pink Floyd are not known for being peaceful.  If anything, they’re infamous for their intensely visceral hatred for other.  They’re the kind of band who’d spend days squabbling over what kind of sandals to wear. 

Perhaps I’m being too harsh.  Maybe Roger Waters is trying to diversify, now that interest in seeing yet another touring rendition of ‘The Wall’ is waning.  I can imagine his newly printed business card – ‘Roger Waters: Bass player, diplomat at large.’  As for the speech itself, he conceded the invasion was illegal but described it as ‘not unprovoked’. 

This is possibly the stupidest thing anyone’s said to the Security Council since Henry Kissinger recited the lyrics to Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘Cock-Eyed Optimist’ in an ultimately futile attempt to persuade Mao Zedong to crack a smile.  It is a substantial irony that a man who once penned the words ‘We don’t need no education’ feels compelled to be both uninformed and opinionated.  It’s a terrible combination.

You’ve probably gathered that I’m annoyed with Roger Waters.  To be silly enough to do the bidding of a foul and despicable tyrant and the man most likely to steal pretzels from a child is one thing.  But to suggest a country that has been ruthlessly invaded, its people massacred and way of life generally blown to smithereens somehow had it coming is simply unforgivable.  I’m so enraged that if I had ever listened to Roger Waters’ music, I’d vow never to do so again.

 What’s next?  If Roger Waters can address the UN Security Council, can we expect to see Britney Spears as a member of the AFL Tribunal?  Snoop Dogg at Senate Estimates?  Now that would be something.  But if I could say just one thing to former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters it would be this: please stop.  Now.

The Fat Possum Stabiliser Bolt Debacle

Moving house sucks.  In fact, according to my chiropractor, moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, along with changing jobs and getting divorced.  Given the circumstances, I decided to avoid changing jobs – two out of three is bad enough and a clean sweep would be overkill.

To be honest, I’m not sure why my chiropractor was so concerned.  If anything, he stood to get a substantial windfall by my moving house.  Inevitably, I’d overdo it and require his services if I were to have any chance of standing fully upright ever again. 

For several weeks, I judged everything I owned in terms of whether it was worth packing or should be recycled into oblivion.  My choices were, it must be said, somewhat arbitrary.  I kept the school project from when I was seven – a short story about a magical sheep (and, let’s face it, ‘Avengers’ would have been vastly improved had more farmyard animals been involved).  Other more useful items didn’t make the cut, mostly clothes.  It wasn’t that I’d grown out of them physically as much as mentally.  Suffice to say that I ended up with a bag labeled ‘shirts of regret’.

What’s especially terrifying about moving is the risk of some kind of condition or requirement you simply cannot satisfy.  A couple of weeks before the big day, I read through a checklist from the movers and a chill went down my spine.  In big bold print, it warned me to make certain the washing machine had its stabiliser bolts.  These are, apparently, essential for ensuring that the washing barrel maintains its balance and preventing a disturbance to the space/time continuum.  Frankly, it sounds like something we could all use.

To find the stabiliser bolts I had to imagine what I might have done two years earlier.  This involved putting myself in my own shoes – many of which I’d already packed – and summoning up my earlier self.  It was simple.  Some objects demand pride of place, hung on a wall or displayed on a mantle piece.  Other items are mysterious and there’s only one place they can go – the bottom drawer in the kitchen.

Batteries, odd bits of string and washing machine stabiliser bolts – they all belong in the bottom drawer.  It’s the place to put anything you don’t need yet don’t feel you can throw out.  I’d packed the bottom drawer a week earlier, but knew which box held its assortment of weird contents.  Rifling through the menagerie of oddities, I soon found a bag of alien-looking plastic brackets and long, silver bolts.  I knew in an instant these were stabiliser bolts.

It was a miracle.  Now my washing machine would finally have the stability it so richly deserved, even if I didn’t.  I continued packing, a task that seemed infinite.  Given the enormity of the task, it was difficult to believe that I’d been here for a little less than two years.  I had arrived at a time of crisis and was leaving not just with my dignity intact but entirely repaired. 

The act of packing forces you to confront things you’ve successfully ignored for ages.  Some objects hadn’t been unpacked after my last move, remaining veritable moths inside their plastic tub cocoons.  It’s a melancholy business.  Eventually, my house was a sea of boxes and neatly stacked items, patiently awaiting transportation to their new home.  I was almost ready.

I was asleep when I heard it; a scratching at the front door.  It sounded like a very large and grumpy possum, so I ignored it.  Then the sound seemed to move.  From the front to the side until I thought I could hear creaking at the back.  As possums go, it was clearly very active.  I decided to investigate. 

When I move around at night, I’m like a ninja.  I never turn the lights on.  Instead, I rely on my enhanced panther-like senses to navigate through the darkness.  As I got to the kitchen, I could see through the night shadows that the back door was wide open.  Worse still, the possum in question was about six feet tall, standing on two legs and in the middle of my living room.

I wish I could say that I remained cool and said something awesome like, ‘Big mistake’ or ‘You’ve just made a very powerful enemy’, but instead I yelled ‘Hey!’ at the top of my lungs.  The intruder bolted.  I quickly locked the door before realising that there may be others still inside.  Turning on all the lights I could, I inspected every nook and cranny until I was satisfied I was alone.  It was only then that my thoughts turned to whether anything might be missing.  Turns out, he’d taken my car key (but not the car) and a clip containing my license, ATM card and gym membership. 

Thankfully, the dirty varmint didn’t steal the washing machine stabiliser bolts.  Perhaps he was ignorant as to their value.  Maybe he doesn’t wash his clothes.  Either way, the bolts remained mine.  Never before in the history of humankind has there been a better time to move house.  As I write this, I can hear the washing machine gently whirring away, everything perfectly balanced.  I feel exactly the same way.