Attack of the Very Badly Dressed Fashion Critics

badly dressed fashion critics

Have you ever stopped to think how crazy the fashion industry is? Some mincing fop in Paris decides that males would look a lot hipper in bilious green terry cloth safari suits and fire engine-red propeller caps, so every guy who doesn’t want to be labeled a dork races out and buys a bilious green terry cloth safari suit and a fire engine-red propeller cap and parades proudly about in his new ensemble, smug in the knowledge that no one can point at him and say “Look at the dork!” That is until the mincing fop decides some months later that bilious green terry cloth safari suits and fire engine-red propeller caps don’t look hip, they look ridiculous, and pronounces them out of style. Then the guy has to mothball his safari suit and propeller cap lest somebody (probably the fop) points at him and says “Look at the dork!”

If that wasn’t crazy enough, there’s the gobsmacking phenomenon of fashion critics who couldn’t dress their way into a nudist colony, bitching about what other people wear. Talk about hypocrites! It’s like Hugh Hefner scolding you for not being monogamous. People who look like a thrift shop that’s been put through a blender are in no position to tell anybody what he or she should or should not wear. But these hoity-toity ratbags do, anyway. It’s time methinks to give them a taste of their own bitter medicine.

Joan Rivers

I’ve included this delicate flower, even though she’s something of a retired fashion critic now, since she no longer does those red carpet excoriations of celebrity attire for which she is notorious. I appreciate that physical appearance shouldn’t factor into this discussion, but Joan has a face like a large blob of Play-Doh that’s gone for a ride in NASA’s 20-g centrifuge. I don’t know about you, but I have a hell of a time telling the difference between her and Mason from Hannibal.

Mason and Joan

As for Joan’s dress sense, here she is wearing a flock of black geese and a Morticia Adams knock off she doubtless snapped up from eBay. Fashion critic, her dermabrased hiney!

Joan does Morticia

Suzy Menkes

My goodness, gracious me! Will you get a load of this broad? Menkes, a British fashion reporter looks as if she’s shampooed her hair with Viagra. And what’s that she’s wearing around her neck? I’m thinking a Slinky that was backed over by an SUV. I have to give her full points for being environmentally conscious, though, because clearly that jacket is a recycled shower curtain she exported from a cheap Guatemalan hotel.

Viagra shampoo

Carson Kressley

Kressley, who has more gayosity than a gerbil in gold lamé, was one of the hosts of the mercifully short-lived TV series Queer Eye. Here he is flouncing about in what looks like a vest he cannibalized from a sleeping bag and jeans savaged by a hydrophobic shih tzu. You would imagine that being a fashion critic—though he never completed his degree—he would’ve said “no” to that striped tie and checked shirt combo. As Confucius once said: always dress sober.

gayosity gone wild

Diane Pernet

It seems to me that fashion critics become fashion critics so they can get away with wearing outfits that not even a corpse would be seen dead in. Maybe it’s their way of giving normal people the finger for crossing the road to avoid them. Let’s be honest, who would want to be seen on the same sidewalk as Ms. Pernet? Why she donned this ridiculous get up is anybody’s guess. Mine is she was planning to rob a bank but discovered her nylons were in the wash so had to wear fishnets instead. And dig those funky sunnies! Area 51 called and wants its experimental jet’s wings back. Then there’s all that frippery adorning her. She must’ve gone to the local flea market and bought one of everything.

bank robber in fishnets

Kelly Osbourne

I’m not sure whether that’s Kelly or her famous old man post-op. At any rate, she co-hosts a TV show called the Fashion Police with that desiccated cacophony Joan Rivers. Fashion police indeed. They should have arrested her and insisted on the death penalty for looking like that. Clothes by Wallmart. Face and hair by head-on collision.

Head-on Kelly

You Better Shoot Down the Plane and Other Song Lyrics I’ve Got Wrong

He sang what?

 

All of us experience certain rites of passage as we make the often arduous journey from adolescence to adulthood: pimples, that first crush, getting a driver’s license, disco-dancing naked on a neighbor’s front doorstep, wearing a German spiked helmet. Okay, maybe not everyone gets pimples. But if there’s one experience we all share, it’s mishearing pop song lyrics.

Over the years I must have inadvertently rewritten more lyrics than Weird Al Yankovic. When I began to take an interest in pop music in the early 1970s, singers such as Robert Plant and Paul McCartney had to compete with gales of static and hiss from the tinny low-fi speakers of my five-dollar AM radio. Sometimes it was like trying to listen to somebody whispering to me with my head stuck down a flushing toilet. How could I not mangle the occasional song line beyond all hope of recognition?The first song lyrics I remember stuffing up were those to Creedence Clearwater’s “Better Run Through the Jungle.” I could’ve sworn John Fogharty was singing Bellarongoo the chong. Then there was the Kinks’ “Picture Book.” When lead singer Ray Davies was belting out Picture book! Picture book! I was belting out Big shot boy! Big shot boy! And nobody could tell me that Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” wasn’t a touching tribute to Odie Cologne, the sage skunk in the sixties TV cartoon series King Leonardo and His Short Subjects.

While it could be argued, probably very successfully, that my revisionary spin on certain song lyrics is no improvement on the originals, occasionally I did manage to come up with something better. Case in point, the Rolling Stones’ “Get off of My Cloud.” The line Don’t mess around, three is a crowd was interpreted by my musical ear as Don’t hang around no union clown. In view of all the public transport strikes we had to cop here in Melbourne, Oz at the time, my version was far more socially relevant.

Delton Ron

If there was any one musical artist who caused me to mishear more lyrics than anybody else, it was the person formerly known as Reginald Dwight. As far as I was concerned, Elton wasn’t shouting Saturday! Saturday! in “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” He was pleading for Sanity! Sanity! Zap me, right between the eyes in “Philadelphia Freedom” sounded way too much like Zap me, ride the dreamy tide for me to think it was anything else. Even today, despite poring over the lyrics to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” I’m still positive that Your breakfast shoots down the drain is You better shoot down the plane.

I’m not the only one who’s had trouble with Mr. John’s vocal hijinks. A friend of mine was convinced that the line It kills me to think of you with another man in “Love Lies Bleeding” was in fact The things I could do with another man. I’m sure Elton and hubby would get a big kick out of that one.

The Hits Keep on Coming

The way I heard it, “Mind Games” by John Lennon was My Gorilla, “Beach Baby” by First Class was Bitch Baby, “Metal Guru” by T. Rex was Mittagaroo, “Once Bitten Twice Shy” by Ian Hunter was Once Bitten Twice Sharpie, and “Show Business” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC were Show Me There and Dirty Deeds and the Dunder Chief respectively.

The ’80s and Beyond

While the 1980s have much to answer for, Duran Duran and paisley sport coats for starters, they did give us crystalline sound quality via digitally reproduced music on CD and FM radio, which meant I could no longer blame cheap transistor radios for my lyrical misinterpretations. That left only pop singers’ dodgy diction because I knew that stupidity and a lack of attentiveness on my part had absolutely nothing at all to do with it.

Better watch out for the skin deep, as sung by the Stranglers in their song “Skin Deep,” sounded so close to Better watch out for the scoobies for me not to regard scoobies with a great deal of caution. By the time I was through with it, Les yeux sans visage, the French chorus in Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face,” had turned into Pleasure’s all used up. Why Prince wasted valuable studio time bemoaning When ducks cry was a mystery to me, and Billy Ocean had a damned cheek telling me to Go and get stuffed in “When the Going Gets Tough”.

Fast forwarding to the present day, I still mishear song lyrics. As a matter of fact, it was only recently I learned that Paul McCartney wasn’t singing You’ve got to give the other fella a hand in “Live and Let Die” but rather You’ve got to give the other fella hell. I’m so grateful for that clarification because I’d always thought it somewhat counter-productive that James Bond would be keen to help the villains he was licensed to dispatch.

The Top 10 Worst Pop Dirges of the ’80s

I Hate the '80s

Every decade has its fair share of crappy music. The ’50s gave us “Giddy Up A Ding Dong,” “Martian Hop,” and “Short Shorts.” The ’60s gave us, “Sugar Shack,” “Tell Laura I Love Her,” and “Snoopy Vs the Red Baron.” The ’70s gave us “Lucky Stars,” “I’ve Never Been to Me,” and “We Do It.” And the ’80s, well, the ’80s gave us more crappy music than you can shake a Shakin’ Stevens CD at. But what can you expect from a decade that started with Culture Club and ended with Milli Vanilli?

There is so much sink-foot-into-speaker music of that grievous decade to choose from that I would have to compile many lists to do all of it justice. So I’m going to list just one category of music: the dreaded pop dirge. The dictionary defines a dirge as a “funeral song or tune” or “any composition resembling such a song or tune in character.” The ’80s dog paddled in dirges.

1. I Won’t Let You Down, PHD

I Won't Let You Down, PHDThis could well be the dirgiest. That the public actually went out and bought this record, which sounds like somebody with a mouthful of tapioca pudding, burbling to an elephant breaking wind, probably means that all hope is lost for humanity. Scratch probably.
 

2. More than I Can Say, Leo Sayer

More Than I Can Say, Leo SayerLeo has sung some fine songs over the years, but what the hell was he thinking when he put his vocal imprimatur on this soporific tune? The song waffles on longer than a proselytizing Scientologist, and did they play it to death on the radio, though it was reportedly seen shambling about biting chunks out of the living not long after.

3. Fast Car, Tracy Chapman

Fast Car Tracy ChapmanThe ’80s saw the rise of political correctness, so the dopes who decide what goes on radio playlists thought they’d be extra-progressive by letting this painful slog through setting concrete burden our ear drums. Tracy Chapman was a black feminist with a cartoonish crop of hair who sang about the deeper things of life—fast cars for one. How could they say no?

4. The Power of Love, Jennifer Rush

The Power of Love Jennifer RushThree separate songs titled the Power of Love charted in the ’80s—as if one wasn’t enough. But this was easily the stinkiest. It was a big hit at weddings. No wonder the divorce rate soared higher than a taste tester for a Colombian drug cartel in that decade with this syrupy salute to ennui symbolizing so many marital unions.

5. Waterfalls, Paul McCartney

Waterfalls Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney has written and performed some of the greatest pop songs of all time. Unfortunately this isn’t one of them. It’s a dismal oil spill of a tune that coated the airwaves in sludge. If Linda had fed Paul a t-bone steak once in a while, the former Beatle would never have pumped out this musical pollutant.

6. Classic, Adrian Gurvitz

Classic Adrian Gurvitz“Gonna write a classic. Gonna write it in the attic.” Maybe Gurvitz couldn’t get into the attic, because this is no classic. I’m not sure whether it’s even a song, since it has no discernable melody, certainly none worth discerning. Next time write it in the study or, better yet, don’t write it at all.
 

7. Take My Breath Away, Berlin

Take My Breath Away BerlinThis was on the soundtrack of Top Gun, in which Tom Cruise plays a navy fighter pilot. What a pity he didn’t fire a couple of rounds into this yowling alley cat of a dirge before it slinked out of the recording studio. If the anemic droning of the female lead singer wasn’t excruciating enough, there’s the plodding synthesizer, an interminable feature of ’80s music.

8. Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli

Girl I'm Gonna Miss You Milli VanilliThis song was so bad that the original singers were too embarrassed to put their names or faces to it, but not the two poseurs and extremely poor lip-synchers who comprised Milli Vanilli. To think they won a Grammy, which was cheerfully revoked when it was revealed they couldn’t sing their way out of a karaoke night at a seamen’s mission.

9. Right Here Waiting for You, Richard Marx

Right Here Waiting Richard MarxWhatever became of Richard Marx? Once you’ve had a listen to this stultifying track, your answer will be “Who cares!” This song is like tooth decay: it’s slow, inexorable, and when it’s finished leaves you groaning in agony.

 

10. One More Night, Phil Collins

One More Night Phil CollinsOne more night, and one less song, namely this one, would have been good. Not a song you could sing around the campfire. Not a song you could sing anywhere really, unless you mumbled it under anesthetic during a liver transplant operation or something. Collins should’ve got the chair for this atonal drivel, but he’s still walking the streets. Tell me where’s the justice in that?

Nobody Expects the Truth About the Spanish Inquisition!

Nobody expects the truth about the Spanish Inquisition

One of my least favorite subjects in high school was history. To me history was something that mainly involved people very different from me, who lived in far-flung places hundreds or thousands of years ago. I used to wonder what possible relevance it could have to me in the here and now, shallow, acne-speckled ratbag that I was. But as I grew older I developed an interest in my genealogy—I’m Irish on my dad’s side and English on my mum’s—which evolved into an obsession with Irish, English, and then ancient history.

Before history became my hobby, I regarded it as something that was pretty much set in stone. While dribs and drabs of it had to be revised occasionally, when new information came to light, it never changed to the point where a major historical event had to undergo a massive rewrite. At least that’s what I thought. But I thought wrong.

Take the Spanish Inquisition. If I were to ask you how many people died in the Spanish Inquisition, what would your answer be? Hundreds of thousands? A million? More than a million? I bet that whatever figure you came up with would be a considerable one.

The Actual Number of Dead

So how many people did die in the Spanish Inquisition?

Try 3000 to 5000.

No, I didn’t leave out a few zeros. The current estimate really is 3000 to 5000 persons.

But how could that be possible? I hear you ask. How could so many historians have grossly overestimated the figures and for so long?

The answer is they had based their conclusions on a legend that over the centuries had grown to immense proportions. That’s not to say that the Spanish Inquisition never happened. It happened, all right, and innocent men and women were tortured to death, but the number of dead and much of what was supposed to have taken place during the 350-year period it covered have been grossly exaggerated.

Toward the end of the 20th century, historians were given access to archival records from the Spanish Inquisition, which revealed that the inquisitors kept exhaustive information on every man and woman who had been executed. To their great surprise, they found that the generally accepted death toll bore no resemblance to reality. Their discoveries were detailed in a 1995 BBC documentary, The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition, which is posted directly below.

The traditional view of the Spanish Inquisition is that it was a witch hunt where huge numbers of accused persons were tortured and burned at the stake at the whims of corrupt, fanatical inquisitors. But the truth is, compared to the secular courts of the period, those of the Inquisition were scrupulously just. Each inquisitor had to abide by a series of strict rules. If he broke one, he was dismissed from office. The accused were considered innocent until proven guilty, and if they suspected a judge of bias, they could have their case heard by a different judge. They could also confer with a lawyer and appeal a conviction. Anyone who falsely accused them was punished severely.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people found guilty by an Inquisition court were not sentenced to death. Most received a warning or had to give penance. Some were incarcerated, though incarceration didn’t always involve jail time. Galileo, for example, was placed under house arrest. Such was the Inquisitors’ reputation for fairness and leniency that people preferred to be tried by an Inquisition court than a secular one.

Torture was employed only in a small percentage of cases and for no longer than 15 minutes. Confessions extracted this way were disregarded if the accused didn’t confirm them the next day without the aid of torture. Moreover, the inquisitors tended to doubt the veracity of such confessions.

The Real Torquemada

As for that supposed torture-loving fiend Tomás de Torquemada, anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic propaganda caused his legend to grow with that of the Inquisition itself until he became one of history’s most infamous figures.

Prior to his appointment as an inquisitor, Torquemada was the head of a monastery who was known for his humility and devotion to the Church. Upon commencing his new role, he saw to it that the Inquisition’s prisons were clean and properly ventilated, and that each accused person’s legal rights were protected. He further ensured that the children of executed heretics were provided for and received a proper education.

According to fable, Torquemada’s primary motivation for torturing and executing the innocent was the large sums of money he received from Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand as a reward for his services to Spain and the Catholic Church. However, there is no documentary evidence to support this theory. In fact, historical records reveal that he gave most if not all of his money to charitable and religious works.

Historical Fact or Historical Fiction?

History is only as accurate and as impartial as the people who document it. Considering all the lies that have been disseminated about the Spanish Inquisition, one can’t help but wonder what other important historical events have been misrepresented by people with a vested interest in doing so.

Banned from Warrior Forum!

banned from warrior forum

Okay, I have a confession to make: I haven’t been banned from Warrior Forum, though I was racing like a lemming on a rocket sled in that direction. But “Why I Don’t Post on Warrior Forum Anymore” just didn’t have the same attention-grabbing pizzazz. Think of this article’s title as my tribute to the rectitude of the saintly folk who promote their invaluable products/services on that forum and would rather floss their teeth with a hair from a truck driver’s armpit than tell a fib.

For those who don’t know, Warrior Forum is the Net’s biggest and most popular online marketing community. If that has kind of an impressive ring to it, you probably haven’t had much to do with online marketers. Now, I’m not about to suggest that online marketers are in the main a dishonest, disreputable, and thoroughly worthless bunch. Well, actually I am. Although I’m sure there are some sterling individuals among them. Just as I’m sure there are Nigerian 419 scammers who don’t want to divest you of your life savings.

Into the Marketing Maelstrom

I became a member of Warrior Forum a couple of years ago to promote a now deceased blog of mine but had only made a handful of posts there until earlier this year when I began to haunt the Off Topic Forum to drum up business for my content writing service. Warrior Forum lets you include up to five links in your signature, so every time you make a post, you add a backlink or five to your growing collection of them. The reason I chose to make most of my posts in Off Topic is that I find discussions on marketing about as exciting as embroidery.

Warrior Forum comprises a swag of different sections, including, not surprisingly, an Internet marketing discussion forum, Warrior “Special” Offers—I put Special in quotes because they’re anything but—and a copywriting forum, where you can learn how to transmute a dog turd into a Faberge Egg through the power of the written word and a garish assortment of fonts.

The Main Internet Marketing Discussion Forum is Warrior Forum’s best section and the place to go if you have a question about online marketing. What a pity the rest of the forum reeks like an anchovy with a bladder infection.

The Copywriting Forum is Warrior’s most on the nose department. There is more ego per square inch in this section than in Justin Bieber’s dressing room. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe the copywriters and the copywriter wannabes who hang out there consider their craft an important one. Why, sure it is. After the apocalypse, people won’t be running to doctors, builders, or martial arts savvy mercenaries to make life tolerable for them, they’ll be running to copywriters. While it’s true that copywriters can make serious money, so can pimps and drug pushers and they don’t tell anywhere near as many pork pies.

The Warrior Special Offers Forum is where for a $20 love offering to PayPal entrepreneurial guns can flog their surefire methods to generate aggressive streams of passive income at a discounted price. (Why should idiots pay top dollar?) What beats me is how come nobody ever stops to ask why these “special” offers are being offered in the first place? I mean if I came up with a way to get rich online, I’d want to keep it a secret so I’d make all of the money. Yet we’re supposed to believe that these marketing geniuses are so overcome with altruism they’d rather headbutt a swinging wrecker’s ball than not share the wealth with their fellow man. Of course what these purveyors of center-formatted jetsam have come to realize, and hope you haven’t, is that there’s more money to be made from the dream than there is from the reality.

The Old Kids on the Block

As previously mentioned, Off Topic was my forum of choice, though that shouldn’t be considered an endorsement of Off Topic. That would be like endorsing scabies. When I posted there just about every thread would be hijacked by a witless clique of aging lotharios and post-menopausal women looking for that one last fling before romantic oblivion came to take them all away. Getting a Brazilian from a blind guy with a weed whacker would have been less painful than reading their excruciating badinage. Considering that Warrior Forum has outlawed discussions on race, religion, and politics, why on earth couldn’t it apply the same Orwellian censorship to this lot or just ban them for being so bloody irritating?

I wasn’t all that welcomed in Off Topic, because I have strong opinions and an often acerbic way of delivering them—as if you hadn’t already noticed. Newbies at Warrior Forum aren’t supposed to have their own opinions, anyway. They’re supposed to have the opinions of the veteran members. Some of these veteran members have made 1000-plus posts on Warrior Forum, which on the time-squandering scale is right up there with collecting Paris Hilton memorabilia and shuffling along city streets in filthy clothes, babbling incoherently.

You Can’t Ban Me, I Quit!

My downfall at Warrior Forum began as a result of a thread I started on bad English grammar. I should have known such an inexcusable topic would backfire on me, seeing that a guy had already been burned at the stake for starting a thread in which he had the temerity to ask forum members about their education level. My inspiration for this thread was all the sloppily written special offers in the WSO section. Many of these were supposed to have been composed by hotshot copywriters with years of experience behind them, yet were rife with grammatical and punctuation errors. Presumably proper English usage must only be an elective at copywriting school.

Online marketing pundits recommend that text written for the Web should be crammed into short sentences and

run down the

page like this so

you can get to the

end of the text quicker if

you don’t die of boredom first.

They also recommend that you pepper your text with images, so your readers—well, skimmers really—won’t be deeply hurt and offended by the presence of too many multi-line paragraphs in a row.

I elected to buck this brain cell-killing trend by posting one long paragraph. A detractor described it as a wall of text, a minor criticism I would have normally forgiven if it wasn’t for the fact that he began his post with “um.” If including mindless verbal pauses in posts is the shape of things to come, it won’t be long before stutterers post with a stutter, and people with Tourettes insert expletives randomly in their posts. Another detractor, a fellow Aussie content writer, took the opportunity the thread presented him to gripe about all the “ar**holes” who don’t appreciate the boo-boo-laden articles he writes for them. Well, I’m sorry, mate, but I happen to go along with the ar**holes on this one. Bone up on how to write properly or find alternative employment.

My main opposition came from a Warrior Forum superstar whose sole claim to fame, as far as I can determine, is that he’s published an online marketing newsletter since 1996. Maybe that’s something of an achievement in the online marketing world, but I couldn’t help but think of a pornographer accepting an award for the best bukkake video when I read about it. The bumptious fellow posted a link to a gaspingly tedious article he’d slapped together in which he likened a pedantic former teacher and by extension yours truly to a—wait for it—wombat. Why he chose a wombat as a metaphor is a question I don’t have the intellectual capacity to answer. Perhaps it’s like that bizarre gardening accident in This Is Spinal Tap, a mystery best left unsolved.

I responded to these sundry critics in a surprisingly polite fashion for me. I wish I hadn’t. I wished I’d rained simile-rich invective upon their unwashed bonces, but in the back of my mind was this faint hope that I could still gain some clients through the forum and thus refrained from opening up the heavens. The irony is that for all of the time I spent on that colossal waste of web code, I received only one enquiry about my services. When I informed the enquirer that I charged 10 cents per word, he or she ran screaming. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Although I’ve forsaken Warrior Forum, Warrior Forum, bless its precious heart, hasn’t forsaken me. Every day my email’s inbox overflows with Warrior Special Offers. That’s what I get for being stupid enough to include my email address in my forum profile. I tried to change it to upyourswsospammers@mail.com to stem the tide but no dice. Perhaps it’s just as well. By my reckoning I could be making in the region of $158,000.00 per day if I purchased all of them. With subject headings like “You’ve Got Cash,” “You Have a New Commission Payment,” and “re: $500 Bank Transfer Successful,” I’d be crazy not to.

The Shopping Mall Misadventure

The Shopping Mall MisadventureCount Meinrard is a pompous, near-sighted, self-proclaimed former karate champion with an unsightly toupee that refuses to sit still and more middle-aged spread than a 30-year high school reunion. Together with his bumbling assistant, Harry, he travels Australia, righting wrongs and beating up bad guys—or so he says. Truth be told, he just makes a complete fool of himself and causes considerable property damage in the process.

In “The Shopping Mall Misadventure,” the first story featuring the Count, he gets more than he bargained for when a humongous teenage boy turns on him during a karate demonstration. If that wasn’t bad enough, he then finds himself facing an even bigger threat: the boy’s more humongous mother.

You can read all of the story right here or download the free PDF.

“You had better get it right this time, Harry. You had better get it bloody right,” the Count muttered as he scrutinized his reflection in a mirror. “It’s ‘alive,’ not ‘online.’ Alive.”

He was checking his face for dermal irregularities—some people called them pimples. Cherry Ripes had a nasty habit of bringing out the irregularities. Last night he scoffed three king-size bars, a cylinder of sour cream and onion Pringles, and half a lobster that Tolly, the BO-sodden truck driver who lived in the flat above him, had traded him for some karate lessons. His pomegranates were still the worst for wear thanks to an unconscionable kick from one of Tolly’s steel-capped boots.

“You want me to take off me clodhoppers, mate?” Tolly had asked as they prepared to spar in the flat’s car park.

“There’s no need,” the Count said, “they’ll never touch me.”

At the time it felt as if he had made violent love to a concrete pylon. He winced just thinking about it.

“You don’t kick a man until he’s ready to be kicked,” he said to his reflection. He gave it an approving look. For a man of his 40-something years he was gaspingly handsome.

He scanned the tiny dressing room, which was sandwiched between the stage in the shopping mall’s atrium and an escalator, and clicked his tongue in disgust. “Sticking a man of my breeding in a bloody matchbox like this . . . It’s an insult to human intelligence.”

He consulted his watch: five minutes to show time. A hair unit check—some people called them wigs—was in order. He placed his hands on the unit and wriggled them about. There was only some minor dislocation. Apart from that, the double-sided cloth tape was doing a commendable job of securing the unit. He used to have a metal stud in his head that would click into a socket beneath the unit, anchoring it to his scalp. Unfortunately, the stud drowned out calls on his mobile phone with static and made him run to the toilet every time his electric kettle whistled, so he had to have the ruddy thing surgically removed.

Face and hair unit were impeccable. So too were his well-starched karategi and his white socks and black sandals. As a rule, he demonstrated his martial arts prowess barefoot, but corn pads made that a rule meant to be broken.

There was just one more item for him to inspect before he took the stage. He loosened his karategi to reveal a flesh-colored midriff compressor—some people called them girdles. He ran his hands over its elasticized surface. It was so firm he could bounce a shot put off it. Perfect.

He wiped the window-thick lenses of his glasses with a handkerchief, when a squeal of feedback told him his faithful assistant, Harry, had the microphone.

“Wadies and gentlemen—” A second, louder squeal interrupted Harry’s Elmer Fuddesque intro.

The Count grimaced. “Oh for goodness . . . you’re supposed to speak into the microphone, Harry, not eat it.”

Onstage, Harry, who looked like a malnourished Danny DeVito, leaned gingerly into the microphone, as if it were a deadly snake that could strike him at any instant. “Wadies and gentlemen,” he paused in case there was more feedback, “boys and girls, put your hands together for the gweatest martial artist in the whole wide world. Here he is, the deadwiest man onwine, Count Meinward!”

The Count rolled his eyes at Harry’s flub, then crossed himself and bounded onto the stage.

The 20-strong audience gave him a huge round of indifference.

He tripped on something sticking out of the floor and fell flat on his face. “Ooh, you bastard of a thing,” he said. He groped around for his glasses, which had flown off his face and were now lying somewhere in the blurry beyond. After several slaps of empty floor, his hand hit pay dirt, and the fog that had suddenly descended lifted just as suddenly.

Faces, sneering, grinning, snickering faces, were staring at him.

The Count sprang into damage control mode and started doing push-ups, as though this were his intention all along. He stopped at five. He didn’t want to aggravate his hiatus hernia.

He got to his feet, not altogether steadily, and straightened his karategi. “Carry on, Harold,” he said, then marched three steps back.

As Harry addressed the audience, the Count engaged in a spot of bird watching. Being a virile master of the ancient Japanese art of karate with enough testosterone to fuel a caber-tossing competition, he often found himself the object of women’s feverish yearnings. Chick magnet was too crude an expression for a man of refined tastes, but it was an accurate one nonetheless. His hands and feet were deadly weapons, but his lips and thighs were even deadlier. Many a fetching lass had swooned when his potent loins had come within hormone-firing distance of her.

A prepubescent schoolgirl digging out the last scraps of raspberry flavored ice from the bottom of a Slurpee cup, an old lady in a wheelchair who was either asleep or deceased, and a 400-pound Greek woman with a barbed wire tattoo around her neck, squawking into a mobile phone, were all the female companionship the audience had to offer.

“The Count would wike a vowunteer to come up onstage to help him demonstwate his kawate,” Harry said.

“What’s the old perv gonna do with them?” a young layabout with spiked hair said.

The Count stormed to the front of the stage and thrust his finger at the layabout. “I’ll have you, sunshine!”

Rather than flee, which would have been the normal, life-preserving action of any sane fellow, the layabout stood his ground. “Is that your real hair?” he said.

The audience chuckled.

“Hold me back, Harry! Hold me back!” the Count said as he shook his brick-smashing fists at the insolent whippersnapper. “Don’t let me kill him! Don’t let me kill him!”

Harry pulled the Count back from the front of the stage. “Don’t wuwee, Count, I won’t wet you.”

“Up yours, Pom,” the layabout said, giving the Count the finger.

The Count glared at him, furious. “Cheeky young baaaaastard!”

The layabout’s pink-haired, multi-pierced girlfriend coaxed him over to a smoking paraphernalia shop.

Harry returned to the microphone and scanned the shrinking audience. “Any vowunteers? Any vowunteers?”

Peering over the top of his glasses, the Count clapped eyes on an ideal candidate. Over by a map of the shopping mall was a 12-year-old boy begging his mother to let him go onstage. She shook her head but smiled at the same time. Just a little cajoling from Harry was all it would take to convince her that the safest place on earth for the boy—for anybody—was with the deadliest man alive.

“Anyone wike to vowunteer?” Harry asked once more, looking in every direction save the boy’s.

“Harry,” the Count whispered in frustration. “Harry!” Harry looked at the Count, who motioned to the lad and said, “The boy over there with his mother, get him.”

Just then, the boy and his mother scrambled up an escalator to be with some friends they had spotted on the next level, and in their place waddled the 400-pound Greek woman and her hulking 15-year-old son. When Harry finally looked where the Count had indicated, he saw the humongous pair instead. “How about the boy wooking at the map?” he said.

The boy gazed up at Harry quizzically.

Harry nodded. “Yes, you, young felwa.”

The Count was ogling a juicy bird in a pair of derriere-fondling shorts who was coming down the escalator. He glanced at the approaching boy mountain, went back to ogling the bird, and then did a double take that almost gave him whiplash. “Oh my goiter!” he said under his breath.

Grinning vacuously, the boy lumbered onto the stage, which groaned beneath his behemoth footfalls. He wore a maroon T-shirt with an ice cream stain on the front of it, black shorts, and lime green thongs which were absorbed into near-invisibility by his immense blob-like feet. At six-foot tall and 220 pounds the Count was no midget, but when the mammoth teen stood next to him he felt like Gulliver staring up at a Brobdingnagian barrel of pork fat.

“What’s your name, young man?” he said at sufficient volume for the audience to hear. He eschewed microphones because his lung capacity, which was greater than that of any normal man, allowed him to project his commanding voice unaided.

After several seconds of excruciating silence, the Count said, “Well, names aren’t that—”

“GEORGE!” the boy blurted into the microphone, which Harry was holding up to his mouth. The sound system shrieked in protest. “George Liacopolous!”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, George,” the Count said, somewhat taken aback. “And thank you for coming onstage. It takes a brave person indeed to face the deadliest man alive. And let me assure you . . .” he glanced at the boy’s mother, who was placing a bet on the fifth race at Randwick with her mobile phone, “and your dear mother that no harm shall befall you today.” He proudly displayed his timber-splintering hands to the boy. “These once saved Princess Margaret from an angry mob of merchant seamen in Barbados.”

The Count turned to the audience. “All right, ladies and gentlemen, what I’m going to do is—”

“BARBADOS!” the boy said, as if the answer to a jackpot-winning question on a TV game show had just come to him.

The Count jolted so violently that his glasses skipped off his nose and came to a rest on his bottom lip. He returned them to their rightful place, then opened his mouth to pick up where he left off, when—

“BARBADOS!” the boy said again.

The audience laughed. A couple of shoppers wandered over to see what was amusing them.

Undeterred, though a trifle irritated, the Count carried on like the eye-poking hero he was. “What I’m going to do now is demonstrate the superior strength of a karate master by chopping a timber beam in two with my bare hand.”

“Borrrrrring!” said an unappreciative and profoundly stupid fellow in the audience. He promptly received the Count’s death stare.

Harry shuffled over, dragging a table on which were two stacks of bricks spanned by a length of timber. Not looking where he was going, he slammed against the boy’s megalithic back. The boy looked over his shoulder and down at Harry, who gazed nervously up at him and smiled apologetically. The boy responded with an amiable nod.

Harry handed the piece of timber to the Count, who held it up to the audience and said, “To prove this is a genuine piece of two by four and not a stunt prop, I’m going to get George here to examine it.”

He placed the two by four in the boy’s baseball glove-sized hands. Then he grinned smugly at the audience while the boy made sure it was the real deal.

A reverberating SNAP shot his smug grin dead.

He wheeled to see the boy gazing in befuddlement at now two pieces of timber, one in each hand. The boy grinned at him and said, “SNAP!”

The audience applauded the startling feat of strength. The boy raised the pieces of timber in triumph, which brought him whistles and louder applause. “SNAP!” he said again, with delight.

The Count looked like a political candidate who had been caught torching an orphanage on Christmas morning.

Mocking laughter crashed onto the stage like a giant wave. He staggered back half a step from the sheer force of it.

A member of the audience chanted, “Fake!” Then the rest joined in. The din roused the old woman in the wheelchair, who choked back a snore as she fell awake.

At a complete loss, the Count glanced at poor Harry, whose look of utter discombobulation told him it was a glance wasted. He knew he had to do something—anything—to win the audience back, but what?

Take charge, Albert. Take charge.  

The Count recognized the soft, almost imperceptible voice immediately. It was his inner-sensei. Only his inner-sensei called him Albert. Well, he called himself Albert sometimes, as did Yaroslav, his local butcher, but that was neither here nor there. The fact was he had to take charge, now. Take charge like he did when he punched out a bank robber making off with the proceeds of a hold up. Who would’ve believed an 80-year-old cross-eyed midget would rob a bank? Take charge like he did when he stopped a bus filled with school kids from driving off a cliff. Thank God he woke up in time and jumped on the brakes. And take charge like he did when he dove on a crazed protestor lunging at the Prime Minister with a knife. He had been drinking at the time and had fallen off a second-story balcony.

The Count squeezed his eyes shut, sucked in a deep breath, and shook like a belly dancer operating a jackhammer as the limitless power of chi infused every cell of his body.

The audience watched the supernatural top-up in silent awe.

He stopped shaking and glared at them. “This. Is. Not. Fake,” he said through clenched teeth.

None of them dared say a word.

With the audience back in the palm of his steel-hard hands, he lightened up and said, “And I’m going to put the next one of you who yells ‘fake’ in a headlock. And when Count Meinrard, the deadliest man . . .” he cast Harry an admonishing look, “alive, puts you in a headlock, you stay in a headlock!”

From behind him came a booming cry of “HEADLOCK!” Before he had a chance to react, his head was being constricted by the boy’s anaconda-like arm.

“HEADLOCK!” the boy said to his growing fan base.

“Arrrrgh!” the Count hollered to no one in particular.

The boy’s bicep squashed the Count’s hair unit into either a crepe in bad need of a shave or Animal from the Muppets, depending on one’s viewing angle.

“Use your karate on him, Count!” some smart-arsed bastard in the audience said.

The Count stomped on the boy’s size 14 foot and whapped him multiple times in the solar plexus but stomped and whapped in vain.

With no thought for his own safety or the Count’s, Harry launched himself onto the mountainous brute’s back. “You weave the Count awone!”

The boy twisted this way and that trying to ditch his unwanted passenger. A bellowing Count shuffled back and forth in time to his thoughtless rhythm.

The audience whooped and clapped. Shoppers were pouring down from every level of the mall to get a closer look at the onstage action.

The boy’s mother had just found out she had done her dough on the gee-gees and was royally pissed, and was even more so when she saw her son being viciously assaulted by a pair of middle-aged bullies. “George!” she shrieked and raced to his rescue, her jiggling bulk skittling members of the audience.

Harry had the boy in a choke hold as firm as grilled cheese. “Lemme go!” the boy said.

“You wet go of the Count and I’ll wet go of you, awight?” Harry said, struggling to stay attached to the boy’s tree trunk of a neck.

The Count managed to wriggle his head free. The audience pealed with laughter at his hair unit, which had been squashed into a limp mohawk.

He was just getting his bearings when the boy’s mother, screeching like a 400-pound cockatoo, decked him with a running clothesline.

With the Count down for the count, she glowered at Harry. “Get your dirty hands off of my son!” she said, then body-avalanched him from behind. Groaning hoarsely, he slid off the boy onto the floor.

The packed audience was going mental.

The Count wobbled to a standing position. His collision with the floor had knocked his hair unit back into place, albeit back to front, though none would be the wiser. He focused on the boy’s mother, eyes narrowing into enraged slits. “Madam, a word in your rear!” (Her brutal clothesline had left him a shade wonky in the head.)

She was too busy examining the boy for physical damage to hear him, anyway. “Chocolates!” the boy said excitedly as he ransacked her bulging handbag.

The Count refilled his mighty lungs and delivered a louder, corrected version of his previous request. “I said, Madam, a word in your ear!”

This request too was ignored by the woman, who slapped the boy’s hand and plucked her handbag out of his reach. “No, greedy guts, you’ve had too much already.”

“Give him some lollies!” the audience chanted.

“Mind yer friggin’ business, ya bastards,” she said.

They came back at her with a “You’re an ugly fat bitch!” chant.

She returned fire with enough expletives to fill an urban dictionary. Two urban dictionaries.

“Madam . . .” the Count began to say again, but then stopped when he realized that a more hands-on approach was needed to gain her attention.

He stormed toward her but in his haste tripped over Harry and slammed into the boy. The boy caromed off his mother, who belly flopped the floor. The Count stumbled after her, his face splashing down between the vast acreage of her butt cheeks.

The atrium quaked with laughter. In seconds the mortifying configuration was being uploaded to Facebook and YouTube.

The Count’s nose alerted him to the alarming real estate he was inspecting, and he shot to his feet.

The audience chanted, “The Count!” in appreciation of his grand comic performance.

The Count beamed with pride. He thought they were paying tribute to his incomparable martial arts skills. He stood at the very front of the stage to address the adoring crowd. “Friends,” he said, “what you have just witnessed is a real-world example of why one should never tangle with a master of karate.”

Somebody tapped him on the shoulder.

He turned to see an enormous fist blocking out the world. It was attached to the boy’s mother. “That’s for hitting a lady from behind, arsehole!” she said as she smashed him in the face.

He flew backward off the stage and landed on top of a Vietnamese lady’s shopping jeep.

“Count!” Harry said. He strode toward the boy’s mother to give her a piece of his mind. “Hey, you can’t do that to the Count, wady.”

The boy intercepted him. “Don’t you hurt mama!” the boy said, then scooped him up and put him in an airplane spin.

As the Count struggled to emancipate his posterior from the shopping jeep, which was wedged tighter than a bowling ball in a drainpipe, the boy’s mother grabbed the microphone. “This is all your fault, ya big turd. So don’t blame me. I needed this like I need a kick in the head.”

Suddenly Harry’s feet whacked her noggin as the boy spun him a little too close to her. She lurched sideways and met the floor.

The audience eclipsed its previous high-decibel mark in terms of laughter.

With the aid of a burly bloke in a pair of overalls, the Chinese lady tipped the jeep over, causing the Count to spill out, posterior and all.

“Count, help!” Harry said as the mall whirled around and around him in a dizzying blur.

“I’m coming, Harry,” the Count said, scrambling back onstage.

The boy took one look at the Count and dropped Harry, whose fall was cushioned by the boy’s mother, who would soon have a bruise to add to the one already sprouting on her head.

The Count and the boy stood facing each other like two gunfighters preparing to see who was the fastest draw.

Time to bring this savage beast down, Albert, the Count thought.

I want some Mars Bars, the boy thought.

The audience clapped their hands and stamped their feet, egging the two combatants on.

With a frightful roar the Count charged the ginormous juvenile and rained karate chops on his neck and chest, announcing each with a “Haiya!” The merciless flurry would have leveled a tyrannosaurus, but the boy was completely unfazed by it.

The Count backed away from the boy to rethink his strategy.

The boy poked his tongue at the martial arts legend.

“Why, you insolent . . .” the Count said. “All right, you asked for it.” The “it” to which he referred was his jaw-breaking mega-kick. He only ever used it as a last resort because it could kill very badly, but on this occasion he was happy to take the risk. He placed all of his weight on his left foot and raised his right knee to execute the deadly maneuver.

Suddenly 400 pounds of bone-crushing femininity grabbed his right leg. “Just what were ya planning to do with this, ya fat bastard?”

“Madam, release my leg immediately. And you’re in no position to call an elephant seal fat, let alone myself.”

Her eyes flashed with rage. Snarling insanely, she wrenched his leg upward. He roared in agony as a cramp racked the underside of it.

Laughter flooded the atrium.

The Count made a mental note never to grace a shopping mall with his towering presence again.

The boy’s mother wrenched his leg higher. “How do you like that, homo?”

The Count lost his balance and swung away from her, inadvertently uppercutting her with his corn pads. She reeled backward and landed in the boy’s arms. “Hebrokemyfrigginchin,” she mumbled.

The boy dropped her like a cardboard box full of bricks and tramped irately toward the Count. “You broke mama’s friggin’ chin!”

Incapacitated by his cramp-assailed leg, the Count shuffled away from the approaching giant on his behind. “Stay away from me, you daft brute. Can’t you see I’m an injured man?”

The boy leaped into the air to bring his size fourteens down on the Count’s head. “CRUSH YOUUUUUU!”

The Count slid out of the way, just.

The boy’s seismic landing sent a shock wave through the stage floor, causing the Count to bounce a good three inches into the air.

The boy stood over him, nostrils flaring. The Count knew that a second attempt at a head stomp was imminent. He also knew that he didn’t have enough petrol left in his tank to shuffle, shimmy, roll, crawl, wriggle, or even fart his way out of this one. The Angel of Death in the guise of a gelatinous dullard was about to extinguish his noble flame and there wasn’t a bloody thing he could do about it.

Or maybe there was.

He could see Harry getting to his feet behind the boy. Whenever he had trouble felling an opponent, which was so rare it was statistically zero, he initiated his I’m-Cliff-drop-over-sometime maneuver. He would get Harry to crouch behind the opponent, push the opponent over Harry, then neutralize the opponent with an emphatic stomp to the groin area.

The Count held up a bent index finger to Harry, signalling him to take the position. He did. Now all the Count had to do was stand up. This was easier said than done, since neither the boy nor his cramped leg might let him.

Solving the Count’s problem, the boy’s mother grabbed him by his karategi and yanked him to his feet. He welcomed the solution with a pained grunt. “Youbrokemychin,” she mumbled. “NowI’mgonnabreakyerballs.” She rammed her knee between his legs to make good on her threat.

The Count’s eyes spun upward. “Oooooh, me pomegranates!”

“Howdoesthatfeel? Wouldyalikeanotheree?”

He shoved her away from him but went with her since she still had him by his karategi. They collected the boy. All three of them piled on Harry, pinning him to the stage floor. The section host to the human avalanche remonstrated at its colossal burden, then imploded with a thunderous crash, casting the quartet several feet below.

The audience went mental. A chant of “This is awesome!” started up.

******

“Who turned out the bloody lights?” the Count said as he came to in the darkness. He couldn’t see a thing. He reached up to ensure his hair unit was where it should be. It wasn’t. He fumbled around for it and found it hugging his face. After sliding it back where it belonged, he could see a small part of the world again but not much.

Voices filled with urgency.

He could hear voices filled with urgency.

“What’s all the kerfuffle about?” he said groggily.

A horrendous weight was dragged across his chest, which squashed the air out of his lungs and tested the breaking strain of his rib cage.

Light filled the hole in the stage floor. He looked up to see four mall security guards gazing down on him. “Stay back, I’m a master of the marital aids,” he said.

Two of the guards started to pull him feet first out of the hole. As they did, there was an explosive release of pressure on his stomach, then a hideous blob monster burst out of nowhere and barreled toward his face.

He emerged from the hole, flailing madly at his copious paunch, which had escaped the confines of his midriff compressor. “Oh my goiter! Get it off me! Get it off me!”

The next morning, the front-page headline of the Herald Sun read MALL BRAWL: MOTHER AND SON BEAT UP KARATE EXPERTS. The Count objected strenuously to it. Harry wasn’t an expert. No way known.

The Top 5 Habits of Bad Salespeople

bad salesperson

You walk into a store to buy a certain product. All you have to do is find it, take it to the sales counter, and pay for the thing. You already know that the store has plenty of them in stock and at a good price, but you end up storming out of the place without it.

What went wrong?

You encountered a salesperson who was so teeth-gnashingly bad you decided you’d rather go skinny dipping in molten lava than hand over your dosh to a store that would hire somebody like that.

This is an all too common experience for retail customers, since good salespeople, the kind that make you come away from a store wanting to go back there, are as rare as a cross-eyed tightrope walker.

So why do so many salespeople suck at selling? The answer is they’ve embraced most if not all of these lamentable habits.

1. Rudeness

This is numero uno because it’s so prevalent in the retail industry. You ask a salesperson a question about a product and he reacts as if you’d just backed over his mother in a truck. Alternatively he responds to your query as if he were granting you the world’s biggest favor, one that will cost him an arm and a leg and his large intestine. Either way, rude salespeople are great for sales, low sales.

2. Lack of Product Knowledge

You want to know what kind of RAM the computer has or how much power the 60-inch plasma TV consumes or whether the patchwork quilt comes in king-size. But the salesperson can’t answer your question and is about as keen as a slumbering sloth to find out for you. So you take your business to a store where the staff have a wealth of product knowledge and are happy to impart it. If you can actually find such a store.

3. Giving Priority to Customers on the Phone

You’re standing in line at a sales counter, the product you came to purchase in one hand, cash money in the other. Just as you go to the front of the line a phone rings, and the salesperson who was about to serve you takes the call. She then flits about the store in search of the item the caller is enquiring about. Having finally located it, she tells the caller that the store has it in stock and how much it is. But the caller doesn’t want to buy the item. He was just shopping for the best price. So, after several wasted minutes, the salesperson gets around to serving you. Well, the person who was standing behind you, anyway, since you fumed out of the store long ago, praying for fire from heaven to rain down on the bleeping joint.

Why a telephone enquiry trumps somebody physically present in a store, ready to furnish legal tender for a product, is a deep, dark mystery that only retail management can solve.

4. Dishonesty

It’s a trait often found in used car salesmen and other salespeople who get a hefty commission for flogging big-ticket items. But even salespeople who get little or no commission have been known to speak an untruth or two. Their philosophy is that if they need to tell a pork pie to get the sale, then tell a pork pie they shall. After all, where would the economy be without sales staff spouting whoppers to get consumers to buy stuff they probably don’t really want, much less need?

Dishonesty, however, has a deadly enemy: word of mouth. When you learn that a salesperson lied to you about a product, you don’t keep his villainy a secret, do you? No, you tell friends, family, and Facebook all about it. They too spread the word until hundreds, maybe even thousands, of consumers know to avoid the establishment where he plies his chicanery, avoid it like episodes of that 2013 Ironside remake.

The negative snowball effect of saying anything at all in order to get a sale is grossly underestimated by the retail industry. Silly fools.

5. Upselling

Having done your due diligence, you know what product you want to buy, right down to the make and model, but the salesperson is hell-bent on talking you into buying a different and, funnily enough, costlier model. The trouble is you don’t want it. You want the specific model you came to buy and only that model. But the salesperson does such a sterling job of bad-mouthing it that you leave the store empty handed.

Salespeople upsell, i.e. try to get you to buy a more expensive product, because they’ve been told to by store management or because they want to make more commission. Regardless, upselling is an annoying practice that, if anything, decreases sales while increasing customer dissatisfaction. It’s the retail equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot — with a rocket grenade.

10 Sure Signs You’re a Targeted Individual

A targeted individual

Government surveillance of citizens is running wild. Spy drones patrol the skies, private emails and telephone conversations are intercepted, security cameras monitor your every move and, if all that wasn’t bad enough, now there’s the growing phenomenon of targeted individuals. These are people who claim they’ve been singled out by clandestine government organizations for especially invasive scrutiny and harassment. This is seemingly done for no other reason than to drive them crazy, which some uncharitable folk might argue is like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted. At any rate, targeted individuals’ ranks are swelling as more hapless victims of Big Brother come forward. This raises the question: how do you know for sure you’re a targeted individual? Here are ten dead giveaways.

1. People drive past you, flashing their high beams, while you’re scuba diving.

2. You’re certain somebody has bugged your telephone. So is the man crouched under your kitchen sink with headphones and a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

3. You break wind while watching the evening news, when the newsreader pulls a disgusted face and demands to know what you had for lunch.

4. The cream floating on top of the caffè latte you purchased forms a message that reads “We use only the freshest nanobots in our coffee.”

5. You overhear complete strangers discussing your most intimate personal details. Worse, one of them says he’s encouraging your ex-spouse to get back together with you.

6. Government operatives bombard you with psychotronic communications through a biochip in your head. If that’s not bad enough, when they go to lunch they leave a Hooked on Bagpipes CD playing.

7. You call the Home Shopping Network to order a product, and Henry Kissinger takes your credit card details.

8. Whenever the bell on your microwave oven rings, you throw on a grass hula skirt and a propeller cap, then race up and down your street, shouting “The fleet’s in! The fleet’s in!”

9. Every Christmas you get a card from the NSA thanking you for all the overtime.

10. Perfect strangers dressed just like you follow you everywhere, aping everything you do. This is particularly embarrassing when you suffer food poisoning at a nudist colony.

A Sparrow Never Forgets

angry sparrow

Back in the days when I stood shorter than my mother, the boy who lived next door to me trapped a sparrow in his dad’s garage. He didn’t hurt it. He just wanted to see it fly around for a while. After about ten or so minutes of watching it flutter hither and yon, he raised the garage door and let it fly free.

He and I decided to celebrate his amazing feat of bird trapping by stuffing our faces with junk food, so we got on our pushbikes and rode to the neighborhood milk bar. A milk bar is like the Aussie version of an American drugstore, minus the drugs, though you can buy aspirin there, and some of the locally manufactured colas could land you on Mars if you sculled enough of them. Anyway, after purchasing our bounty of teeth-rotting treats, we got on our bikes and headed back home.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Now, we lived at the top of a road that was so steep the only way you could ride your bike up it was to zigzag all of the way, and even then you could do so only if you were feeling especially energetic. This particular day neither of us could be bothered doing the zigzag thing, so we got off our bikes and started pushing them up the hill. Halfway up, it began to rain. There wouldn’t have been anything unusual about this except for the fact that it was a sparkling summer day without the faintest wisp of a cloud in the sky. To add to the strangeness of the downpour, the raindrops were white and they left almost paintball-sized splats on the bitumen.

When we finally realized what was happening we laughed until tears tumbled from our eyes.

We stood watching the flock of sparrows that had just strafed us with birdie number twos fly into the distance, then noticed that not a single drop had hit its mark.

A sparrow might never forget, but it’s a lousy shot.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Pooches

A highly effective pooch

What is it about our canine companions that makes them so darn adorable and fun to have around? It’s not like they help with the housework, do the shopping, or pay their share of the power bills, or anything. And when they’re not dropping twirlies our feet are sure to squish, staining the lawns yellow with tinkle, or scaring the flapjacks out of hapless mailmen and passers-by, they’re just lazing around doing zip.

We feed them, groom them, walk them, play with them, clean up after them, and whisper sweet nothings in their floppy ears. Yet, despite our incessant pandering to their every need, we’ve conned ourselves into believing we’re their masters. How do these tail-swishing Mesmers draw us into their thrall and hold us there like besotted groupies? It all boils down to seven habits they use against us with stunning effectiveness.

1. The Doe-Eyed Doggy Habit

We’ve all copped this plaintive look from our rascally rovers when they’re eyeing some tasty repast we’re hoeing into or when they’ve done something they shouldn’t have, like turning mom’s prized Louis Vuitton handbag into a patchwork doily. But such is the compelling power of this look that it’s well-nigh impossible to resist. You want this chicken breast? It’s yours! You ruined a 2000-dollar fashion masterpiece that took me a year to save up for? Oh come here, you silly duffer. All is forgiven.

2. The Sit, Roll, and Stay Habit

We think we’re oh so clever because we’ve taught them a few rudimentary commands, like “Sit!” and “Fetch!”. We call it obedience. They call it humoring the poor fools to get free rent and board all the days of their lives. What a deal!

3. The Please Shake My Furry Paw Habit

Our furtive fidos sit before us, like adoring servants at their masters’ feet, and raise a paw as if wanting to shake our hands, issuing an encouraging woof in the process. We oblige them, unaware that they’re employing a neuro-linguistic programming technique designed to make us go weak at the knees whenever that paw comes anywhere near us.

4. The I’m a Loveable Nut habit

Whether they’re chasing their tails, snapping at the wheels of an ice cream truck, or racing around our backyards, as if their bums were on fire, after we’ve washed them, our balmy bow-wows know what makes us laugh. But the truth is they’re laughing at us, for they know that if we carried on like that, we’d be institutionalized. The cheeky barkers!

5. The If You Love Me Rub My Tummy Habit

Our pooches roll onto their backs so we’ll rub their furry bellies and, naturally, we’re only too eager to oblige them. But would we render the same service to a human with such a hirsute gut? Absolutely not! That would be gross. But a crotch-sniffing, flea-ridden, tush-licking dog? No problem.

6. The So Happy Together Habit

We arrive home from work and there are our faithful four-legged friends jumping out of their fur coats to see us again. It’s because they worship the carpets our comfy slippers shuffle on, right? Wrong! It’s because they were worried sick we’d died at work. No us means no free eats and no five-star accommodation with complimentary butler service.

7. The I’m Missing You Already Habit

We’re leaving home for work, and our pooches are barking mad about it. We think it’s separation anxiety, but our pooches are just out of their minds with worry that we won’t be coming back. Why do we put them through this hell every day? If we really cared, we’d go on unemployment.