Dissing the Lexic or Making Sense of Nonsensical Spam

naturally huge spammers

The spam that’s stormed my inbox over the years like Jason Statham with an AK47 has followed certain trends. Trends set by spammers, funnily enough, who prefer to be called electronic marketers, which is like hookers calling themselves street urologists. But I digress. The first waves of spam I copped were mostly hawking penis enlargement pills and Viagra. Then they moved on to bogus lottery prizes, non-existent freight consignments, and fake job offers, anything to entice me into clicking the malware-loaded links in the body of the emails.

Predictably, Nigerian 411 scams have been a staple of my spam diet. It’s hard to believe that a third-world country like Nigeria would have more multi-millionaires per square mile than Bel Air, but terribly ungrammatical emails sent to countless random people don’t lie.

The latest batch of spam I’ve received has seen a return to penis enlargement pills and Viagra. I guess spammers have finally realized that what the world needs now is love truncheons. Mega-sized, titanium-hard ones.

Incidentally, when spammers commence a new “electronic marketing” campaign, their aim is to get one out of every million people they spam to purchase their products. Which means that people who buy spam-advertised penis enlargement pills and other questionable items are one in a million. Literally.

If I Had Me a Spammer

The other day, I was poring over such uniquely punctuated headings as “C A N A-D_ I_ A_N–…P…H…A-R…M A-C…Y…” and ” S A F_E- &_-F..A S..T –_P E..N_I_S-_-E..N_L-A..R..G E_M..E_N T!” and the word jumbles that accompanied them, when I had a brilliant idea.

I could make a swag of money rewriting spam.

I mean if there’s anything that needs a little syntax refinement, it’s spam. Am I right or am I right?

Soooooo I’d like to take this opportunity to advertise my services as the world’s first spam editor. If you’re a spammer—I beg your pardon, electronic marketer—I’ll gussy up your emails and make them so entrancing that nobody will be able to turn down your incredible range of value-for-money products. As proof of my editing skills, here are some samples of my best work and the actual electronic advertisements from which they were taken.

Lenora X. Khanel writes: Be a shagedelic Casanova. Yeah baby! Yeah! Yeah well as Beth moved past. Last night Matt is going at Cassie. Stop at the table matt. Beth said.

The Content Bloke’s rewrite: Be the world’s greatest lover. You’ll have Beth singing, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!” as you move her past the point of no return. Matt got Cassie to do likewise last night when he bonked her on the table, or so Beth said.

Gweneth N. Loup writes: Bronte chapter twenty four year old enough. Smiled in front seat next. Thank you.

The Content Bloke’s rewrite: At 24 years of age, Bronte is old enough to smile in the front seat, which is much better than her smiling in the back seat, seeing she’s driving. Thank you for staying in the front seat, Bronte.

Leena Q. writes: Blow her away with your gigantic weapon. Answer her being called over. Hughes to bring it was Josiah. Mountain men were close to rest. May they as we.

The Content Bloke’s rewrite: She’ll be flabbergasted by the size of the pistol you’re packing when you answer her call. Hughes and Josiah were going to bring theirs over, but those two mountain men have been going at it so hard they need a rest, like we all do from time to time.

Mrs. Emma Robot writes: Greetings from Mrs. Emma Robot. I am Mrs. Emma Robot from South Africa. I am married to late Mr. Solomon Robot, who worked with South Africa Embassy in Ghana West Africa for Twenty-Six years before he died in the year 2006 after a brief illness that lasted for only five days.

The Content Bloke’s rewrite: Hello there. My name is Mrs. Emma Robot—Robot by name but not by nature, I can assure you. I live in South Africa. I was married to the late Mr. Solomon Robot, who was even less robotic than I am, which is not robotic at all. Mr. Robot worked in the South Africa Embassy in Ghana, West Africa before he died in 2006. After his death, he worked as an automated teller machine in Johannesburg but had to take an early retirement owing to a permanent back injury he suffered during a ram raid.

Impressed?

I’m available to edit all your electronic marketing campaigns seven days a week. I accept cash, checks, credit cards, and economy-sized bottles of penis enlargement pills.

The Flesh Eaters: Greatest B-grade Horror Movie Ever!

The Flesh Eaters

It’s an outrage, a meretricious atrocity, a blaring, brazen bloodbath. It’s The Flesh Eaters, a cinematic Grand Guignol shot in ghastly black and white and produced with frightful thrift that just so happens to be the greatest B-grade horror flick ever made—and I do mean ever.

This movie has got the lot: a crazed naziphile scientist, a beefcake hero who doesn’t know the meaning of the word pain or emote, a whining, drunken trollop and her blonde good-girl assistant, a platitude-spouting beatnik imbecile, and a giant luminescent monster that looks like the spawn of Squiddly Diddly and a fried dim sim. If that’s not enough to whet your exploitation movie appetite, there are gouts and gouts of inky gore. In fact, such is this motion picture’s gruesomeness that when I first saw it almost 20 years after its 1964 release it had been given a short back and sides by a TV censor.

The Flesh Eaters was directed by Jack Curtis and scripted by Arnold Drake, a veteran comic book scribe who conceived DC’s Doom Patrol and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the feature film version of which has just blasted onto cinema screens. Drake’s ability to fit a big story into a small comic book keeps the movie galloping along at a Kentucky Derby pace. There’s no time to be bored with this celluloid wonder.

Warning: Spoilers Galore!

Pilot Grant Murdoch is flying sloshed actress Laura Winters and her personal assistant, Jan Letterman, to Provincetown in his seaplane when engine trouble forces him to make an emergency landing on a deserted island. While looking for shelter from an approaching storm, they encounter Dr. Peter Bartel, a marine biologist with an almost impenetrable German accent, who lumbers out of the misty surf in a scuba diving wetsuit. Bartel claims that he’s conducting research on shellfish.

So drunk she can barely crawl, Winters stumbles across a human skeleton washed up on the shore. Bartel puts it down to sharks despite the fact that the skeleton is intact and has been picked cleaner than a box of chicken McNuggets at a stoners’ party.

Bartel invites the new arrivals to spend the night in his tent, where he introduces them to his pet parrot, Lewis. He says that Lewis keeps him company on long, lonely field trips. The bird’s confounded screeching has a miraculous healing effect on Winters, turning her sober instantaneously.

Murdoch takes Jan aside and tells her that he doesn’t buy Bartel’s explanation about the mysteriously well-preserved skeleton, and that he suspects the marine biologist is hiding something from them.

The next morning Bartel approaches Winters on the beach. Seeking the kind of companionship a parrot just can’t provide, he asks her why she’d want a virile hunk like Murdoch when she could have an aging marine biologist like him, who knows shellfish better than anybody. She laughs at his lame pick-up technique and bites him on the hand.

Hey, that's not the doggy-dinner-bowl look. That pickup seminar was a gyp.

Hey, that’s not the doggy-dinner-bowl look. That pickup seminar was a gyp!

Winters hits the bottle hard. She then collapses on the beach as pickled as an onion. Meanwhile, Bartel casts the seaplane adrift, stranding her and the others on the island.

Alarmed by the number of fish skeletons littering the shore, Murdoch informs Jan that they have to leave the island and fast. He goes looking for Winters and finds her at the water’s edge, staring stupidly at the rope that had been anchoring his seaplane, which is nowhere to be seen. He blames her for casting it adrift. She storms off in urgent need of another drink.

Murdoch happens upon the titular flesh eaters, glowing carnivorous microbes that infest the ocean around the island. They attach themselves to his legs when he rescues Winters from a sea-locked boulder on which she has the alcoholic sense to get stuck. Bartel digs them out with a pocket knife. Not wanting to see Murdoch bleed to death, Jan doffs her blouse and tears it into strips that she uses to bandage his leg. He gallantly drapes his shirt over her.

They hear jazz music. It’s coming from a phonograph on a raft offshore. Omar, a goofy beatnik, is the raft’s sole passenger. They holler at him to stay away from the island, but he’s too busy shouting beatnik drivel to hear them. He comes ashore with his sandals caked in flesh eaters. Surprisingly helpful for a mad scientist, Bartel cuts off the sandals with his trusty pocket knife.

They all enjoy a spot of tea on the beach. Afterward, Jan and Murdoch are exploring some sand dunes when they come across a huge black box covered in white polka dots with a power cable attached to it. Murdoch surmises that it’s a solar battery. How Bartel managed to get it on the island without the help of a crane is left for the more mechanically-minded viewer to figure out.

Bartel zaps a fishbowl full of flesh eaters in his tent with 10,000 volts of electricity while the others look on. He says he’s going to kill the flesh eaters in the ocean the same way. They leave Bartel to continue his pioneering work. He grins fiendishly as he watches the flesh eaters fizz back to life.

A motorboat approaches the island. The speed-happy guy piloting it cops a spray of saltwater in the face, which flesh eaters promptly reduce to a very bad make-up effect. The boat does a U-turn and skips back the way it came. Murdoch and his companions, who’ve been watching from the beach, sorrow over what would’ve been their means off the island.

Bartel sends Murdoch and the ladies out to find a spot where he can jump-start the ocean. While they’re gone, he offers Omar a flesh-eater Micky Finn. The idiot sculls it. Black gloop pumps out of Omar’s stomach as Bartel holds a microphone to his mouth and records his agonized howls.

Sometime later, Murdoch and the ladies hear Omar screaming. They spot him sailing into the distance on his raft. Unbeknownst to them, the screams are coming from a reel-to-reel recorder next to his corpse, which is lashed to a mast. Flesh eaters have eaten his stomach clean through.

Okay, that settles it. Vindaloo is now off my menu, like, forever.

Okay, that settles it. Vindaloo is now off my menu, like, forever.

Winters is taking a nap in the tent when she’s awakened by a boiling sound coming from the fish bowl. She lifts a tarpaulin covering it and recoils at what she sees. Rather than flee, she does her makeup. And then she flees. The tarpaulin rises as a heaving mass beneath it grows bigger and bigger.

Winters comes on to Bartel. She explains that she wants to be on his team now because his team is the winning team. They pash. Then Bartel stabs her with a wooden stake. He buries her body atop a sand dune, which isn’t the ideal place to hide it, but he’s in a hurry. As he hastens away, her hand pushes up through the sand.

Murdoch has a heated argument with Bartel, who pulls a gun on him. Bartel reveals that the flesh eaters are the creation of Nazi biologists. (Who else!) He says that being a patriot he plans to sell the flesh-eater tech to the US military, but that if they don’t want it, he’ll sell it to the Russians.

Bartel orders Jan to fetch some equipment from the tent. She’s confronted there by a hideous glowing blob creature that’s scarfed poor Lewis. Realizing that the creature is the result of Bartel’s fish bowl experiment, she races back to the beach and warns him not to electrify the water. But does he listen? No, instead, he forces Murdoch to throw a saucepan-cum-electrode into the surf.

The blob creature bursts out of the tent, electricity arcing from its two tentacles. Bartel tells Jan and Murdoch that he has to shoot them so he can escape the island while the blob creature is busy chowing down on their corpses. Suddenly, Winters teeters toward him, clutching the wooden stake he stabbed her with. She snarls that she’s going to kill him. He shoots her in the face. Dead for real now, she rolls down a dune and collides with the blob creature, her lifeless hand plunging the stake into its beach ball-like eye. Blood drips off her hand into the eye, and then the creature explodes.

Bartel and Murdoch deduce, brilliantly, that human blood is deadly to the flesh eaters when they’ve become a blob creature. Their deduction comes right in the nick of time, for a second blob creature is forming in the ocean. They jury rig a giant hypodermic needle so they can inject it with blood.

Bartel holds Jan and Murdoch at gunpoint again. He says that killing them is the only way for him to avoid the electric chair. Murdoch knocks the gun out of his hand. They fight and Bartel ends up in the drink. Roaring in pain, he staggers out covered in flesh eaters, then grabs the gun with his flesh-stripped hand and shoots himself in the head.

A condo-sized blob creature bubbles up out of the ocean. Murdoch, wearing a wetsuit and armed with the hypodermic needle, trudges into the brine to kill it. The creature wraps one of its tentacles around him and lifts him high into the air. He falls, landing on its colossal eyeball. He empties the needle into the horrid orb, then leaps to safety just before the creature goes up in a cloud of smoke.

Murdoch and Jan embrace on the beach. They walk off together as the sun sets behind them.

No Home Should Be Without The Flesh Eaters

So there you have it, folks, the greatest B-grade horror movie of them all. Dark Sky Films released a sparkling transfer of The Flesh Eaters uncut and in its original widescreen format on DVD some time ago. It’s available at all good DVD stores and a few bad ones as well.

Why Flash Fiction Sucks

The Flash hates flash fiction

If you’ve ever read an article about how to write effective web content, you’re bound to have come across the term skimming and how dreadfully important it is for your articles to be skim friendly. Apparently most people, even geeks locked away in their noxious bedrooms for days on end, don’t have time to read online articles all the way through. Instead they skim over the text, pausing to read only headings and the occasional excerpt. They’re like adolescent boys in the pre-Internet porn era, flicking feverishly through the pages of Playboy to get to the soft-focus shots of young ladies baring their airbrushed personalities. Who gives a spittoon about all that boring filler stuff?

According to web content experts, who are right up there with beer coaster experts, paragraphs longer than one or two lines, like *gulp* the previous one, are as welcome a sight to readers—excuse me, skimmers—as fire ants in their undies. They don’t want to work up a sweat hacking their way through dense jungles of prose. They want to tumble effortlessly down a series of short waterfalls.

Flash Fiction: The True Truncated Story

Flash fiction was born out of this raging need, be it real or Marilyn Manson, to get to the end of an article/story in a big hurry. Text messages and Tweets, where so much is written in letters that have fled the words to which they once belonged, helped precipitate its genesis.

For those who don’t know, flash fiction is short stories, really, really short stories, written in 1000 words or less. If you blinked, you’d miss them. If you didn’t blink, you’d probably still miss them. The term flash fiction was popularized by an anthology of flash fiction published in the early ’90s, but flash fiction itself didn’t become popular until fairly recently, doubtless a lot more popular with the people who write it than the people who read it. Flash fiction also goes by the names of micro fiction and sudden fiction, but I prefer to use the all-inclusive term of crap fiction.

I’d never heard about flash fiction until I read about it on a freelance writing blog several months back. The blog was promoting a dedicated flash fiction website that was offering $35 for every published story. It seemed to me like a pretty easy way to make some money, provided I could write a story as if a mafia hitman were holding a gun to my head and barking at me to hurry the hanky panky up. So I submitted the TV Guide version of a short story that had been loitering in my head awhile.

It was blithely rejected by one of the site’s quality control inspectors.

Why My Flash Fiction Sucks

The piece was destined for the recycle bin from the very start because I had about as much enthusiasm for it as I have for slowmoing footage of a lawn bowling competition. To me, trying to cram a story into 1000 words or less is like trying to view the Grand Canyon through a microscope. The tiny window you’re given just isn’t big enough to present the whole picture.

With flash fiction, proper story and character development are forced to stand aside for a fleeting snapshot of a much larger narrative. Even the better examples of this dwarfish literary sub-genre make you come away from them, asking, “Is that all?”

Every story, if well-constructed and written compellingly, will dictate its own word count. Stories come in all different lengths. There are long stories and there are short stories, and then there are dancing Munchkins. That’s what I liken flash fiction to: dancing Munchkins, stories that are too diminutive to be seen as anything other than a novelty act.

I worry that like reality TV shows about cooking (I forgot to add the sea salt! Dear God, help me!) flash fiction is here to stay, not because it’s an exciting new vehicle for aspiring writers to display their word-arranging skills, but because we’re living in a creeping idiocracy where, as people grow more and more stupid from an increasing dependence on bite-sized and often borderline illiterate information, flash fiction will become the norm rather than the exception.

Is there a place for flash fiction?

Yes. In the cold, damp soil beneath a serial killer’s basement floor, next to all the human remains.

In closing, I’d like to point out that this article weighs in at 791 words. Does that make it flash non-fiction?

The Secret to Selling Anything

secret-to-selling-anything

Although you’ve probably never heard of me, I’m a leading authority on selling. I’m an authority even though I haven’t worked in sales since 1985. Incredibly, some might say impossibly, I acquired my expertise despite the fact that I’ve never read a single Neil Rackham book, listened to a Zig Ziglar CD, watched a Marshall Sylver DVD, or attended a Tony Robbins seminar, and people walk on hot coals to walk on hot coals at a Tony Robbins seminar.

So how did I get to be such a sales titan without buying some of the moon-reaching pile of motivational aids offered by these and other maestros of self-improvement? If I didn’t learn from the best, from whom did I learn?

I learned from the worst.

Bad Salesmen Are the Best Salesmen (Kinda)

Bad salesmen taught me everything I know about how to sell. Actually, they taught me everything I know about how not to sell, and I do just the opposite—or will do if I ever get involved in sales again, which isn’t likely since it’s not my bowl of beef broth.

Now, you’re probably wondering what possible value there is in reading an article on selling by somebody who likes selling about as much as he likes finding half a used Band-Aid in a souvlaki he’s just taken a big bite out of. What can I tell you that a deluxe set of Zig’s CDs with four hours of bonus material and a 10 percent discount off all future purchases can’t?

Great question. I’m glad I asked it.

You see, although I can’t rattle off the latest killer sales-closing techniques or let you in on how to triumph over the most formidable objections, I can tell you what works in the real world and what doesn’t, because I’m a picky customer who responds well only to the best salespeople. By the way, if you need directions to the real world, just take the dirt road five miles out of the Internet, turn right, and stop at the first human being you come to.

The Uninvited

Out of all the bad salespeople, door-to-door salespeople are easily the worst. This makes them the best to learn from. I’m not sure what kind of training is used to get these stumblebums street ready, but if it isn’t Jerry Lewis movies, it’s probably video clips of people falling off garage roofs and running into brick walls from America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Here in Australia most D2D salespeople are on a mission to get consumers to switch power companies. On average they stick at the job for three days. By then they’ve realized that getting 50 bucks per signed-up customer isn’t much of a deal when nobody is signing up and they’re frequently being told to go and grind groins with somebody.

Where do they go wrong?

For starters, they come to my door uninvited. Only friends, family, lotto representatives about to hand me a prize-winning check, or swimsuit models with a thing for paunchy web content writers are allowed to come to my door uninvited. So they’re hopping around on the wrong foot right from the get-go. But admittedly there’s not much they can do about that.

Then when I answer the door, they pummel me with more manic insincerity than an Amway Convention: G’day, sir, how are you? Beautiful day for it. Now, don’t worry, I’m not here to sell you anything. Perish the thought. No, really. Hey, did I mention it’s a beautiful day?

This approach is supposed to make me feel at ease but it doesn’t. Since I know they’re putting on an act, I naturally presume they’re out to scam me and tense up like a nun in a bikers’ bar.

In an effort to get rid of them, I issue my standard response: I’m sorry, I’m not interested. But rather than take the hint and skedaddle, they stay right where they are, making me resent their presence even more.

Finally, upon realizing that their 50-buck commission needs defibrillating stat, they resort to asking the same stupid when-all-else-fails question that they always wind up asking: Don’t you want to save money on your power bills?

Why is it a stupid question?

Because what they’re really saying is that I’m an idiot for not wanting cheaper power bills. Now, I don’t care if they think I’m an idiot, or if indeed I am an idiot, you don’t close a sale by insulting the customer or arguing with him. File that one under D for Duh.

So how could they do better?

Meet the Door-to-Door Dynamo

A friend of mine is a D2D-selling genius and, like me, has never taken a sales course in his life, apart from some on-the-job training, so I’ll answer that question by telling you what he does.

First off, he’s very likable and easy going. People feel they can say no to him without worrying that he might start frothing at the mouth and feed them into a wood chipper. Some D2D hawkers get pretty darn stroppy when their sales spiel goes up in a fireball for the umpteenth time. As my friend doesn’t put any pressure on the people he cold calls, they tend to listen to him longer than they would somebody channeling an infomercial spruiker, which gives him a better chance of making a sale.

He sells pay TV subscriptions. But before he lists all of the benefits of subscribing, he asks his prospective customers what they like to watch on TV and then tailors his approach accordingly. If they’re into sport, he tells them about the sports channels. If they’re into movies, he tells them about the movie channels. Simple, huh?

On a good day, he sells five times more subscriptions than his co-workers. And as hard as it might be to believe, he does this without demeaning his customers or sticking around when they tell him to go away. Basically, he ignores his sales training, which like most training of its kind is inhouse in theory but outhouse in practice.

Now About That Secret?

Okay, the title of this article is “The Secret to Selling Anything,” but I haven’t yet divulged the secret. So without any further ado, the secret to selling anything is:

Common sense.

Common sense and breath mints.

Classic Moments in Australian TV comedy

The Norman Gunston Show

All of us have our own golden age of television comedy, a time usually bookended by our early teens and late twenties, when we laughed the loudest and longest at the lovable imbeciles and cantankerous dirtbags who rule the TV comedy roost. For me that time lasted only from 1973 to 1979, but what a time it was. That’s when towering British comedies such as Till Death Us Do Part, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin strafed the family telly with their side-splitting electrons.

Australian TV comedy never reached those leg-rattling heights. With such a small population and television production budgets to match, we just couldn’t approach the quality or quantity of the UK’s comedy output. Still, we turned out a few great comedy moments here and there. Some of them intentional. Some of them not so intentional.

Sally Struthers on the Norman Gunston Show

Norman Gunston was a fictional tissue paper-speckled (he was a “bleeder”) media personality who hosted and starred in several comedy shows bearing his name from the 1970s to the 1990s. There were many classic Gunston moments. I’ll never forget the time he visited an L.A. cinema that unbeknownst to him featured live sex acts on stage. “What’s playing, cowboys and Indians?” he asked the ticket booth lady. As he disappeared inside, she turned to the camera and said, “Who is that psycho?” Seconds later he stormed out with a grave look on his face and reported, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s absolute bedlam in there. The projector has broken down, and people are up onstage, tearing each other’s clothes off.” Norman was most famous for his hilarious celebrity interviews. This is one of his best.

Iggy Pop on Countdown

Countdown was a top 40 music program that showcased live rock acts and music videos from Oz and elsewhere in the world. One of Countdown’s creators, Ian “Molly” Meldrum, presented a pop news segment on each edition. Even on the best of days, he dithered and blundered his way through it, but when a chemically-enriched Iggy Pop made a guest appearance, he had no hope. Check out Iggy’s dance moves in the following clip. He looks like he’s trying to struggle out of a straitjacket while having an epileptic seizure.

Graham Kennedy on Kingswood Country

Kingswood Country was a comedy series about Ted Bullpitt, a bigoted grumble bum who only had eyes for his Holden Kingswood. If his wife or another family member asked to borrow his beloved car, he’d leap to his feet in protest and roar something like, “You’re not taking the Kingswood. I just Ajaxed the dipstick!” In one episode, Ted’s wife, Thelma, won a competition where she got to cook dinner for TV legend Graham Kennedy. Kennedy used to host In Melbourne Tonight, a long-running variety show. Thelma is supposed to serve Kennedy her prized meatloaf, but the ever-erring Ted brings in a plate of dog food from the kitchen by mistake. The look on Kennedy’s face when he realizes he isn’t chowing down on meatloaf is one for the ages.

David Thai on Pot Luck

Pot Luck was a talent show that aired in the 1980s. The quality of the acts that appeared on it ranged from the bad to the naked flame in a munitions factory. David Thai fell into the latter category. Thai was a needle-thin fedora-wearing Vietnamese singer who fancied himself as a combination of John Farnham and Michael Jackson, with a dash of Bruce Lee. The flamboyant and mercilessly candid judge Bernard King, who once gave a hapless Sinatra wannabe a score of minus five, delivers one of the funniest critiques in talent show history.

Rags the Kangaroo on the Early Bird Show

Kangaroos are gentle, cuddly, harmless marsupials, right? Wrong! Rags dispels that gross misconception in this classic clip from The Early Bird Show, a Saturday morning children’s TV program of the 1980s. With headlocks, face jabs, and crotch kicks, Rags shows his bungling handler and Marty the Monster who’s the boss. Incidentally, Marty is what a gerbil looks like when you’re on drugs.

Sir Les Patterson on Parkinson

The famous British TV interviewer Sir Michael Parkinson did a number of his talk shows here in Oz over the years. Sir Les Patterson, Australia’s cultural attaché, was a guest on one. Sir Les is a creation of Barry Humphries, the comic genius behind Dame Edna Everage. How to describe him? If you took the most disgusting, politically incorrect wino you could find and passed him off as a politician, you would have Sir Les. This clip is safe for work. If you work on a wharf.

Bert Newton on the Don Lane Show

The Don Lane Show was a top-rating tonight show which was beamed into Aussie homes from 1975 to 1984. The talented and very likable Bert Newton was Don’s sidekick, as he was Graham Kennedy’s years before. Often when a major overseas guest appeared on the show, Bert would impersonate him or her during the show’s wheel segment. Here Bert sends up the whistling kettle-voiced crooner Demis Roussos. It’s thirty-nine seconds of twenty-four-karat comedy gold.

John Clark and Bryan Dawe on Lateline

Lateline is a news analysis program which is still going strong on ABC TV. Once a week, comedians John Clark and Bryan Dawe appear on the show to satirize a current news story in the form of a studio interview. In this instance it was a supertanker that from all accounts was designed and built by Mr. Magoo.

What If Every Product Were Designed by Microsoft?

Intel warhead

I have a laptop with Windows 7 on it. Not a day goes by without Microsoft bombarding it with multiple updates for the OS and other software. These consist of patches to cover yawning security holes, and various tweaks to help underperforming code lift its game. Once the updates have been installed, a dialogue box gets in my face, demanding that I restart the laptop or else. So I do. Then I nervously wait to see whether the laptop still works properly, since the updates are a lot like liver transplants: sometimes they take, and sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, I have to restore the system to its last fully functioning state before the updates came along and buggered up everything.

Microsoft has such a vast monopoly on the computer chip and software markets that unless you go completely Apple you’re forced to put up with its Keystone Cops approach to software design. Sure there are free open source alternatives to Microsoft software out there, but they’re often fraught with compatibility issues and have so steep a learning curve that you need your own oxygen supply and Sherpa guide to get up and over it. The sad truth is Microsoft has backed us into a corner and there’s not all that much we can do about it except grin and bear more updates.

Notwithstanding, we really ought to be grateful that Microsoft confines its monopolization to the personal computer world, for could you imagine how disastrous life would be if it designed every consumer product?

Soft-Top 7.0

You’re driving down a winding mountain road in your brand new Microsoft sports car when you receive an urgent update that will fix a flaw in its braking system, which you learn works only on straight stretches of road and only when the vehicle is ascending a hill. Naturally you’re in a hurry to apply the update, just as soon as your corpse finishes charbroiling in a fiery wreck at the base of a 1000-foot cliff.

HDTVista

Your Microsoft 60″ plasma TV has been acting ornery since the company despatched its last security update. It only lets you watch commercials and generates so much static electricity that every time you step near it you get a wedgie. After you install the latest update, which is supposed to correct all of the problems created by the previous update, you cop the following message: “This Microsoft television is not genuine. And next time buy the 70″ model, cheapskate.”

Intel Cardio Chip

A critical security patch to plug a hole that could make your Microsoft pacemaker vulnerable to hack attacks causes your body to function so erratically that you can’t go to the toilet unless you’re running backwards or eat unless you’re asleep. You contact Microsoft tech support for urgent assistance, and Bill Gates hurries around to give you a vaccine injection.

Windows over the World

During your Microsoft Airways flight, you make the alarming discovery that using Excel’s if function on your laptop causes the plane to spin into a nosedive, while spell-checking a Word document kindles flames in the starboard engine. If that wasn’t bad enough, a security update that inadvertently turned all of the airline’s food fresh and tasty was overwritten by another update, which restored it to its normal state.

The Update to End All Updates

It had to happen. Microsoft got the bomb. All of them. Yep, that’s right. Every thermonuclear missile on the planet became a Microsoft thermonuclear missile—or Parking Lot Ultimate Edition as they were trademarked. But when a mass upgrade to a new operating system went horribly awry, well, you can guess the rest. Now Microsoft’s software design team comprises a toothless old miner and his burrow, Josiah, who are busy working on security patches to fix a nuclear winter and roving bands of cannibal mutants.

Some Internet Filters I’d Like to See

Net filter wish list

Internet filtering software is primarily designed to remove porn from web surfing, which is a real bummer if you’re into porn, but I’d like to see it expanded to block even more offensive material. The following is a list of things I don’t ever want to see in my browser again.

Billionaire Babble

If I see another quote from Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or some other ridiculously rich entrepreneur posted online, my head is going to go sploosh like a bolognaise-filled balloon dropped on concrete. Look, let’s stare reality right in its ugly mush. You and I are never going to be billionaires. We’re probably never even going to be millionaires. That means all of these pearls of wisdom are wasted on us, so I want them disappeared from my PC monitor. While I still have a head.

YouTube Auteurs

Why do so many people who upload videos to YouTube feel the need to add blaring music to them or lame self-promotional intros that run longer than the video footage itself? Do they truly believe that anybody not in a straitjacket or higher than a telecommunications satellite is going to go “Wow! Great music!” or “Dynamite intro!” I have news for these people: nobody wants to see or hear your rinky-dink creative flourishes. They’re bloody annoying!

Do Not Adjust Your Monitor

You click on a link to a blog or website that came up in a search result. You’re taken to the home page of that blog or website, when all of a sudden your PC monitor grows dim as though it’s on the fritz. As unwashed sentiment spews from your mouth, since you think you’ll have to get it fixed or buy another, a pop-up subscription invitation appears. Spewing further unwashed sentiment, you kill the pop-up and hit the back button, vowing never to darken the virtual doorstep of that blog or website again.

I suspect that not too long ago some self-proclaimed online marketing guru posted an article in which he cited a bunch of dubious statistics that proved these monitor-fading intrusions boosted subscriptions and sales by a significant factor, and his many followers were fool enough to believe him. May he open the attachments of 1000 spam emails.

Bewitched, Bothered, and Botoxed

Have you ever seen a photo of somebody who looked better after being injected with Botox? Me neither. But celebrities, admittedly not the brightest of people, can’t get enough of the stuff because they reckon it makes them appear younger. If looking as if somebody is trying to asphyxiate them with saran wrap makes them appear younger, then they’re right. At any rate, photos of Botoxed celebrities give me the heebie jeebies. I don’t want them on my PC.

Wiki Anything

What do you think when you think Wikipedia? I think cluttered, highly unreliable information that can be edited by just about anybody. Wikipedia is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica would read like if all of the entries were voted on by the audience of America’s Got Talent. Such is its popularity that many websites now have their own wikis, which is just what the Internet needed: more poorly presented, questionable material. Nothing with a wiki in it will get past my Net filter. Bank on it.