Saturday, 9 November 2013

Handshakes


What’s the deal with handshakes anyway? Is there no better way to greet another human than clasping one of their filthiest parts and then shaking it vigorously?

Handshakes between dudes are the worst. Dudes are gross. Who wants to touch another man’s hand anyway? For one, there are the guys that use it as a power play where they all too firmly grasp your hand in an effort to injure. And then there are those who are so completely in acceptance of their own position as perpetual beta male, that they hand you this limp wet lump and don’t even attempt to move it up or down.



Plus, at some point you come to realize that 100% of men regularly touch, scratch or otherwise use this hand to pleasure their genitals. So it’s basically this:



Rubbing up against you. For anywhere up to 5 awkward seconds that feel like 5 awkward months.

Even air kissing European-style is nearly preferable, but of course, still really gay. So I propose a different method. If people have to touch at all, why not a solid respectable shoulder pat, where my right hand pats you once on your left shoulder, whilst your right hand pats me once on my left shoulder, we can then share a very brief moment where our eyes meet in mutual respect. No skin conditions shared, no sweaty grease rubbed against unwilling flesh. Just an unawkward second of physical contact, mitigated perfectly by clothes (neither party should attempt this whilst unclothed, as dudes have back hair and weird moles and shit, and seriously fuck that).


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Why Assassins Creed 3 is a great game and a fucking terrible game.

I don't like stealth games that much. Stealth games can be fucking lame. The bad ones actively remind me of how little patience I have in a consistently frustrating way. If I'm playing a game I don't want to lurk around in a shadow for 2-3minutes watching the pattern of guards patrolling in stupid zig-zags, where they inexplicably spend a large amount of time staring closely at a wall whilst facing away from the direction you're approaching (why on earth do they do that? Who is the guy paying these guys to walk back and forth day and night in the same exact pattern? Was, "I am good at walking up to walls and staring for long periods with my back exposed" a bullet point on each of these guy's resumes?). It really breaks up any chance of being an immersive gameplay experience. After watching them walk back and forth and waiting for my opportunity, I can then proceed unseen to the next point where I sit and wait and watch and memorize another pattern. Great, just great. Is this what fun is?

Some people like stealth games, and that's fine. I'm not saying they're bad or that people that enjoy them are wrong, I'm simply saying that I personally don't really care for them, or at least, I don't care much for Assassins Creed 1, 2 & 3. Having said that, Assassin's Creed 3 is a decent enough stealth game in parts. Climbing buildings, running and jumping is so fluid and natural in all of the AC series of games that playing something like Uncharted is a complete and utter joke. If you've tried climbing something in uncharted and compared that to AC series then you know what I mean. Fighting dynamics are also, generally, fairly okay.

However, ignoring that I don't like stealth games and am inherently a little biased against them - ignoring that - there are some glaring failings of the AC series:
  • The Story/Animus/Desmond. After a bunch of hours as a powerful assassin you get dicked around, told you're not an assassin, get power-nerfed back to a baby and told to collect feathers. Fuck. Okay. So for whatever reason you decide to persevere, you spend even more hours growing up, rebuilding your strength back to what you had before in the interests of progressing the storyline. Your mum dies at some point but you won't give a shit because you basically met her 5minutes ago and you're still pissed off you just got made to collect feathers and trap bunnies for a few hours. Then at some point the storyline picks up, shit gets a little exciting, you're getting into the game..... BAM! COITUS INTERRUPTUS happens and you're being pulled out of the animus thing. Now you're in the future, the character and storyline you've been striving to get into suddenly wrenches away from you and you're told to climb a crane and do some base jumping and parachuting. What the fuck is the point of this? Why can't I have a cutscene at the start of the game telling me about the animus, why I'm an Indian, and then one at the end saying whether we were successful or not? Why interrupt the flow of the game by launching me into the future sporadically to play a character who I don't give a shit about? This is a big gripe of mine with every game in the AC series. The whole future storyline is dumb, make a standalone game about it if you like it so much, don't ruin games that are supposed to be set in the past by putting that shit in. Or if you have to do it, do it when the game/narrative is plateauing not when its in one of its very rare rises, it really kills it. Desmond is a giant loser. 

  • Horses. What. The. Actual. Fuck. Why is riding a horse in AC3 equally as bad as riding a horse in AC1 - actually no, its probably worse than AC1 because you don't get a stamina meter for your horse anymore. As it was with AC1 and AC2, in number 3 your horse just stops running without much warning, gets stuck, refuses to jump over things, occasionally forcing you to dismount, move ahead a little and whistle for it again. This can be super frustrating when doing any inconsequential horse riding whilst getting from A to B, but time critical horse riding when you're chasing someone down becomes completely fucking infuriating. Red dead redemption did it perfectly in 2010. AC3 was released 2012. Riding a horse in this game makes you angry that you can't shoot it to death and skin it like in Red Dead. This horse riding is not fluid, nothing feels natural or right about sitting ontop of it, every horse feels slow and rigid like a big stagecoach horse, with 0 manoeuvrability. You'll be hoping you can dismount asap. Even if I have miles of distance to cover I often choose to run it on foot just to avoid how shit it is to ride a horse in this game. 

  • Running away or running after someone. This can be almost as annoying as the horse related issues I mentioned above. Running is good in fairly flat and open areas, you can nearly run faster than the horse across different surfaces. It nearly makes the horse pointless. However, when suddenly time is critical and every misstep matters, your run button becomes extremely frustrating. You'll latch onto things you didn't want to. You'll jump onto things you didn't mean to. Not occasionally, but frequently. It can be difficult to disengage sometimes when you have inadvertently launched yourself into a climb, and by the time you're free, you're going to have to start the mission again because the escort or target is now out of range. This is the kinda shit that was annoying in AC1 and 2, and continues to be so in number 3. 

  • Liberating a fort. So you liberate English forts and turn them over to the yankees (even after they betray or dick you around repeatedly). But if your wanted level is high after killing English soldiers and doing liberation missions, yankees will have no qualms with shooting first and asking questions later. What the fuck. I literally just liberated this fort, you all walked in whilst I was there, you saw my face, you saw what I'm dressed in. Now you're trying to kill me. It's all the thanks I need!

I got around 2 cities into the game of AC1, the story was fairly unappealing to me and the gameplay horrendously repetitive. AC2 I made it a little further, the addition of developing your homestead was interesting, but ultimately the game itself suffers from the same problem as AC1, a completely repetitive set of missions in similar looking locations, whilst riding a horse that regularly disobeys you. And all that fucking climbing and synchronizing bullshit (why in the fuck is the synchronize button when you're at the highest points in the game, the same button as the drop button anyway?) AC3 at least attempts to break up the monotony with hunting (fairly useless but fun for 3-5 minutes), more homestead stuff (large amount of trading and crafting available, all utterly pointless) and naval battles (good where it fit into the storyline, but wouldn't seek them out as they grow repetitive). Is it better than AC1 and AC2? Yes, absolutely, its almost a playable game.Will this be the first AC game I finish? No. But, having said that, being native american and slaughtering people with a tomahawk is an absolute joy. When I got bored of the main mission I would simply hunt down guards and kill as many as I could just to see how cool it looked hacking people up with a custom tomahawk. This game introduces a lot of new things into a series which was stale from the outset, but unfortunately it still can't get the basics right. Seriously, fire the guy who does the horses. Out of a cannon. Into the sun. 



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lighten Up Dorothy

This is my punishment. My penance, for whose sins I don’t know. My only remaining chance at permanence. I wake up and look out the windows at my audience of one. There he is as always, waiting anxiously. “We want melancholy, we want melancholy! Come on you fucking cunt, do something sad!” he demands.

What is there to do in a glass box with nothing to even hang yourself from? If the absence of something doesn't already speak volumes to him, tell him I'm already feeling melancholy, tell him I'm already doing something sad, then nothing will.

I dream of churches instead of boxes but they’re always on top of a hill, where the effort always far outweighs the will. I fall asleep and look out from the pew at my audience of no one. There I am, praying anxiously. “I want release, please I just want this to end! Come on you fucking cunt, for once in my miserable life just do something for me!” I demand.

And then applause.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Heartsease


I knew something was wrong when I filled the bowl and he didn't come running.

I'd filled that bowl every morning of my life as far back as I could remember. It was the first thing I did every morning after jumping out of bed. My mum used to help me when I was younger of course. She'd hold the bag for me and I'd pour the biscuits in, the noise as they hit the metal sides would send him scampering hurriedly toward us. His face, a big dopey mess of lopsided grins and hopeful excitement, would dart around, sniffing and monitoring the situation carefully and waiting until we were done. Then he would charge head first into the food and start munching, his eyes always making sure we were nearby. He'd never eat alone. If I left the house, the food would remain untouched until my return. It was as if he never felt safe or relaxed when I left him alone.

Wherever I went around the house or the yard he followed. Watching me with a happy grin and only leaving my side to fetch a ball or toy. He'd then sit and wait patiently, never demanding but simply ready at all times, on the off chance I might pay him some much desired attention.

He followed me so religiously that he even followed me to school once. He strutted himself about, making all the other kids jealous. He'd greedily take their lunches but still only have eyes for me. When mum found out she took us back home and marched me into my bedroom meaning to smack me. He gently grabbed her wrist in his mouth. He always did that, and she hated it. Every time he did it she would say that she was going to send him back to the pound where he belonged, but she never did. Over the last 17 years of our lives he'd saved me a hiding more times than I could remember.

But he'd been slowing down lately. A few less fetches before being happy to give up and lay panting on the grass, watching me go about my business. His eyes had slowly changed from bright sparkling orbs, brimming with the simple joys of being alive, to duller more wizened eyes, content to watch rather than to experience. And lately those eyes had grown over a misty green, blurred by cataracts. He could no longer see me and I knew it upset him. I took him to the vet, but the vet said he was old, and what was the point, that I should think about scheduling an appointment sooner rather than later for putting him down. I flinched and tensed up, the same way I did before my mother smacked me, he sensed something was up, his ears pricked and he looked at me, ready to thwart whoever was the cause. I told them I'd think about it and took him home.

Without his sight he became anxious, confused and easily scared. He'd bark for several minutes at shadows. The life he loved had turned on him, it began tormenting him. I now had to stand beside him whilst he ate, so he didn't think I'd left him. He ate less and slept more. I'd find him sleeping at night out on the grass in the rain, oblivious and helpless. I had to carry him inside. When I picked him up he'd look at me, his once muscular body all haggard and gaunt, his eyes sunken and blurred. He looked through me, bewildered by what was going on but relieved I was there.

He'd become nearly deaf too, the only sound that could raise him these days was the familiar noise of biscuits against metal. He'd always wearily heave himself up and shamble his way over.

Except this morning. This morning I rolled out of bed, bleary eyed and took the bag of food out of the cupboard.

The last biscuit clattered and was still. The dog door did not flap.

The memory came flooding back. The appointment was yesterday. I picked him up and placed him on the metal table at the vet's office. His whole body began shivering, clearly petrified and confused, as if he could sense my trepidation. And then came the least proud moment of my life. I failed him, in his final moments, my best friend in the world. He looked at me for re-assurance, to steady his trembling body and tell him he was a good boy and everything would be all right, as he had done for me my entire life. The only time he ever needed me to help him, I couldn't. Instead I backed out of the room, racked with guilt over what I was doing and the inability to deal with my grief. I watched his face as the door closed, begging me to come back and make it all better. The door clicked closed and I never saw my best friend ever again. I left him to die alone.



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Centering

Every summer spent sat on your throne. “But Mum, if I'm a King and this is a throne, then why do I spend every summer all alone? And when is Dad coming home?”

You remember when they used to take you to the park. You remember when your mother still knew how to laugh. Now you just sit indoors all day and watch the dog bark. You don’t know if she wants you to stroke her, you’re too scared to ask. Even if only accidentally, you long to be outside decorating the edge of someone’s photograph.

So on the last day of summer, you abdicate your throne. Crawl into the garden, and keep crawling until you can no longer hear the dog barking. Trapped underneath a temple of stone, by the time your mother comes home to find you, from which not just the birds have flown.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Weathering

My favourite sound in the world is rain. The constant steady thrumming, almost distant but yet enfolding. The way it gently taps away on the window panes and the iron of the roof. The occasional splosh as a heavy drop lands in one of the gradually rising puddles. All I ever wanted, as I drifted off to sleep, was to be one of those raindrops, slipping down the corrugated channels of the roof, pooling in the gutter and flowing freely to the creek. There would be no choices, no push nor pull, just the relaxing, inevitable flow.

I used to draw her maps on the footpath using chalk. "This way home," they said, with arrows all along the street pointing to our front door. There were secret symbols too, that I was sure she would understand - an eye, a heart, and a picture of a sheep. If she could finally understand me, then why wouldn't she come home?

I had planted seeds through the garden beds all along the path up to our door. I thought that perhaps when she came she would see how pretty life could be again. And, perhaps, she'd want to stay.

But the flowers never bloomed, and she never found her way.




Monday, 19 August 2013

What are the IP addresses of Engin's DNS servers?

This is the list of the Engin DNS servers. Looked all over the Engin website and couldn't find anything about DNS  settings... none of their setup guides mention them, and the only mention of DNS on their website merely explained what it is....

Hopefully these help somebody:

Primary: 203.161.169.200
Secondary: 203.161.169.210
Secondary: 203.161.169.211

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Setting the time and date on Siemens HiPath / HiCom 3000 / 3550 PABX

This procedure has to be done from the first or second phone on the system - usually they will be the lowest numbered extension, i.e. 11 or 100. The phone must be in the idle state (on-hook, currently displaying the time/date on the screen (albeit incorrectly!)). This works for all 3000 PABX / PBX series (3550, 3500, 3350, 3300, 3750 & 3800) as well as the 2000 series (2030, 2036), and even older models like the HiCom OfficePoint and HiCom OfficePro also called 150 H. And it can be done on any handset model, be it optipoint 500, 400, 420, optiset E or openstage.


  1. Enter the following code to access the main menu: *95 (i.e. star button then 95) (if you get "access denied", you are not using the main console phone, try a different phone)
  2. It will prompt for your username, see below 
  3. It will then prompt you for your password, see below (IF THIS IS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE HAS ATTEMPTED TO USE THIS USERNAME/PASSWORD it will prompt you to enter a NEW password, then prompt you to enter it again - DO NOT PICK A NEW ONE, KEEP THE DEFAULT - so if you were entering as customer level for example, may have to enter 1234 four times total! But next time you will only have to enter it twice. If you stuff up or are not sure, just pickup the handpiece and put it back again, it will exit)
  4. Once you are in, you will be able to browse different menu options using the left and right arrow buttons, it is sometimes best to scroll backwards (left arrow) as time and date are usually the last options in the menu. 
  5. Press the tick/ok key to select time/date when you come to it, and then it will prompt you what format is required. 

  • Username and passwords:

3000's
Default customer level username: 1234, password: 1234
Default service level password: 31994, password 31994
Default development level password: 18140815, password 18140815

2000's
Default customer level username: 633433, password: 633433
Service/development levels are the same as above

If you can't get any of these working, a last resort is inputting *95 as the username, and not entering a password. So the procedure would be:

  1. Enter *95 in the main phone
  2. It will ask for your username, enter *95
  3. It will ask for your password, don't enter anything, just press tick/ok to the blank
  4. It may then ask for your new password, and then to confirm, just press tick to the blanks DO NOT enter a new password. 
  5. If that works, then you can now get in by using *95/blank as the username/password combination

  • Important things to note:

- If you are having trouble getting in with any of these username/passwords - pick up the handpiece, hang it up again and try the procedure again with a different level username/password. 

- Sometimes the service level password will not have a time and date option. If that's the case, then you will need to use customer or development

- If someone has changed all your default passwords there's not much you can do. Except yell at whoever did it and make them change them back for free. The only reason to do it is to lock you into one servicing centre/technician.

>>> Update, Siemens is now known as Unify.... this document applies from v1 through to v9. Openscape Business Version 1 (also not known as HiPath Version 10) no longer needs to worry about setting time/date manually as it is web based. You can change it by browsing to the URL of the PABX. Although it is still possible to get into the menu and edit the time/date in the manner detailed above!


Setting up adsense for Australian accounts with BSB numbers

When setting up your payment method with adsense, it will request "bank code" and "branch code" as well as your account number.

In Australia we have BSB's and they're a 6 digit string in a xxx-xxx format. 

The first three digits are your bank code, the last three digits are your branch code. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Adventures in the Solomon Islands - PART 3

(I was going to call this "The Rise of the Eco-Terrorist", but then it descended into war and it seemed more apt for a title like "Clash of the Super Powers".)

There is one group of tourists who are loud, boorish, completely insensitive to others around them and ignorant of other cultures. In Australia we generally call them “Americans”, but here they’re called “Chinese”.

The thing about having your hotel room high on the side of a hill is that the water takes a while to get there and a really long time to get warm. You can turn the tap on for a shower and then make a leisurely breakfast, consume the breakfast, and get halfway through a shave before your shower is ready. There was no time for that this morning though, as we were off on an early morning adventure, so it was cold showers all around and half a slice of banana bread.

At too-early-o’clock in the morning I was heading by boat to a pristine, uninhabited tropical island... with forty strangers. One of which was struggling to piss me off already by standing on his seat behind me, with his hands grasping the back of mine, hovering his head above my own he screamed and shouted, sneezed and coughed. This little round bellied Chinese boy of about ten or eleven kept touching me and bumping me for about an hour. Finally we arrived. It wasn’t what I was expecting when they said things like untouched and unspoiled. For starters there were pagodas, kayaks, a couple of huts, some beach chairs, and a whole lot of chickens. I haven’t seen any seagulls in the Solomons, but chickens quite adequately take their place. They had a racket going on, as soon as you turned your back and headed to the beach, they were on top of your picnic table rifling through your bags. During lunch I was sitting opposite Kate at a picnic table, she got up to get a drink and my eyes followed her for a second. When I turned back I noticed I was now having lunch with a large hen, who was sitting in Kate’s chair, happily pecking away at her plate. It all happened so quickly and quietly that it didn’t even register, it took me a full second before I realized it wasn’t meant to be there and shooed it away.

Apart from the chickens and beach paraphernalia, it was truly a sight to behold. There were jungle islands jutting out of the sea all around us and hovering amongst clouds in the distance. Shallow, bright blue coral-filled waters stretched out around our island 50 meters on all sides. Kate and I were first in there, finding the whole place teeming with aquatic life.

Anyway back to this kid, his sisters, cousins, his father uncle mother and aunt. Back to this brave new world of the nouveau riche Chinese eco-terrorist. I was standing with Kate up to my waist in the beautiful blue water, being as still and quiet as possible, as fish swam past us in and around the coral. I was trying not to get my shirt wet, and trying not to scare the fish, when a Chinese man, bellowing loudly, charged into the water behind me and soaked me through. His children began screaming too. One of the daughters screamed at no one in particular at the very top of her lungs “ITS BEAUU-TIII-FUUL”, repeatedly, for at least three full minutes. The peaceful silence was well and truly shattered. I retreated from the water, and when the “ITS BEAUTIFUL” screaming finally stopped, it was actually beautiful. The silence didn’t last though, a minute or so later a boatful of Americans turned up, dropped anchor, and cranked their stereo.

That’s when it began, a war between two super powers jostling for position of most obnoxious and inconsiderate tourist ever. The Americans kicked it off by blaring some rock and roll cover version of the song “man in the mirror”. The Chinese were not caught off guard though, almost as if he’d expected a challenge, the father had spent the last fifteen minutes gathering every starfish the coral could offer and had waded back to shore. He began hurtling them over-arm like ninja stars into the water around the children. The children did their part by screaming and yelling, and rowing their kayaks straight into the coral and then stabbing their oars heavily into it to un-beach themselves.

The Americans countered by turning up their stereo loud enough that it could be heard across the entire island. The peace that I thought simply shattered, was swept into a pile and crushed under foot into a fine dust.

The Chinese began collecting up the starfish again, this time throwing them ashore to dry out and die within minutes in the hot sun.

The Americans cracked beers and played a dirty trick – they played man in the mirror for a second time, surely the most annoying play they could make.

The Chinese began collecting other specimens, there were literally no starfish left to kill. I couldn’t find a single one on that whole side of the island again. Next to the fifteen or so sad looking dehydrated starfish, a sea-cucumber was now drying out and dying slowly on the sand. They were out there all day, jamming their oars into the coral, looking for more things to kill.

Kate tried to intervene; she put the starfish and sea-cucumber back in the water when the Chinese family weren’t looking. They immediately removed them again. These creatures were going to die, and there was nothing a pesky interfering white woman could do about it.

The Americans sent their kids onto our tour boat to jump from the side whilst playing another song twice in a row and getting progressively drunker and, as a consequence, more loud.

The Chinese cracked some beers as well. Their level of speaking volume didn’t get much louder – it already started at full volume, sounding loud and angry at all times. Shouting back and forth over long distances was also a given. They gave Chinese take-away containers to their kids and sent them forth to wreak further havoc, collecting more specimens, fish, crabs etc. Kate had made the mistake early on of trying to distract the little Chinese boy from destroying coral by telling him to look at a clown fish and its baby near the shore. “Look at Nemo,” she said. There was no such thing as look and not touch for this kid, except in this version of Nemo it was the dad clown fish that went missing and not the son. Perhaps it was in one of those Chinese containers being eaten alive by crabs?

The Americans played “man in the mirror” for a third time. Then to nail it home, they played it a fourth time.

I’m not sure which country won – was it the Americans who came uninvited all the way to this tranquil island, just to drink beer and play music really loudly, whilst the tourists who had each paid $100 to be there tried to enjoy some peace and quiet? Or was it the Chinese who made sure that the next batch of tourists would find the place a little less magic by destroying what they could of the environment?

The chickens didn’t seem to mind, they certainly seemed to like the Chinese father after he knocked over a bin, turned around and said “it’s alright” to himself, and then walked off leaving it for someone else. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Adventures in the Solomon Islands - PART 2

The guide was telling me something about the movie "The Thin Red Line", but I couldn't hear him, I was too busy dying. 

We had planned a leisurely walk to a waterfall. One of Kate's acquaintances had said it was an "up and downhill stroll -- mostly downhill". It wasn't. All I could work out was that perhaps the guy loved walking so much he'd been filled with endorphins and forgotten how arduous it was, like a woman with one child forgetting the pain completely when planning to have a second. 

It probably hadn't helped that I'd been up half the night before with my second bout of food poisoning in a week.

So there we were, up and down hills like jackrabbits – well to be honest, I hadn’t even gotten to the downhill part yet as I’d almost thrown up on the ascent of the first one. I was literally tensing my stomach and clenching my jaw so I wouldn’t spew. Waves of nausea hit me and I thought I could happily just lie down and die there. The air was thick, heavy, moist and warm, like breathing a creamy soup. I’d stupidly decided it’d be a good idea to eat something in the morning to steel me during the walk, and my one slice of banana bread had had the opposite effect, churning me up inside and making me want to eject it if not for the audience of 6 watching on. The others we were walking with were clearly fitter, they had clothes designed for walking or running for starters, which meant they were far more professional than I. All I had was a pair of boardshorts, some old sneakers and a shirt that proclaimed in engrish that “Japan fish is very beautiful”. They had lycra bits and pieces, reef shoes and water contained inside bladders built into back packs.

It occurred to me then, that this acquaintance who had recommended the walk, also recommended for us not to bring a water bottle as the water in the waterfall was clean. Yet here he was with a 1.5L water bladder built into his backpack, and here I was, breathing my last, desperate to curl into a ball and disappear. Something certainly seemed lost in translation.

By sheer determination, and the fact 3 of the 6 were females my own age, I managed to not throw up, and to lurch my ruined legs forward. I was already ratshit though, all of my strength was purged before the rest of the group had even broken a sweat. I stumbled, I dawdled, I very nearly crawled along in tears and puked like a baby. There were at least 4 more steep hills after that, perhaps 8, or 20, I don’t know. But by the last descent I was simply sitting down and sliding myself along in the mud. It was steep enough that I’m sure it didn’t look quite as pitiful as I felt. So steep in fact most people were sliding down on their haunches by the end of it. Except the guides, they were shoeless and surefooted. You could tell they’d done it a thousand times. Though I doubted they’d seen an attempt as pissweak as mine, they were good about it and merely smiled toothless red betel-nut smiles.

In my defence these hills, or the track rather, required you to often lift your foot as high as it would go to make it to the next step, then to heave yourself up. Of course after the first hill, I was so sore I wobbled about. The guide told me not to go off the track as the whole place is full of foxholes. I wondered what foxes were going to do to me before I nearly fell in one and saw the size of them. They weren’t for foxes at all, the Japanese had dug them in World War 2 to defend against the Americans. I’d expected a small tripping hazard to sprain an ankle, but what I saw was a bottomless pit and the two broken legs that awaited me. What possessed them to make the track right alongside these foxholes I’m not sure – perhaps to show the walkers? They probably hadn’t predicted a wobbly, woefully unfit I.T. technician from Australia when they carved the track I supposed.

On the last descent we went past an unexploded Japanese bomb that I couldn’t bring myself to care about. The tour guide mentioned he’d found a crashed Japanese plane somewhere in the jungle and that he’d carried the bomb all the way here to show the walkers. I staggered on like a zombie mummy whilst the rest marvelled. The waterfall was just ahead. I had reached my goal, I was finished. I didn’t know how I would get out of here, but at least I’d made it.

It turned out there was a cave above, which the water came from, about 400m you could trudge in darkness, before the river plunged below ground and you had to float back out. I opted for lying in the lagoon at the bottom of the waterfall whilst the others explored above with the tour guides and the acquaintance's dog. I was all alone, half dead, floating in the cool water with just my mouth out. I had decided against drinking the water in case there was some dead animal upstream, after the “downhill stroll” proved to be so lamentably inaccurate, I couldn’t bring myself to try out the supposedly “clean water”. Just as well I didn’t too, as after 10 or 15 minutes when my body became cold and cramped and I had to drag myself from the water, I noticed a small log float past. And then another. Except that it wasn’t a log, clearly it was poo. Dog poo.

When they came back I realized that this lagoon and waterfall was just a ledge above another waterfall. They meant to drop down it and swim back along the river. The idea of climbing those hills again did not excite me, but neither did drowning due to my cramped useless legs that could barely carry me, let alone keep me afloat fully clothed with shoes on. I asked the guide how deep it was, he said it wasn’t too deep, “just 10 metres.” So then we climbed part way down a waterfall, and then dropped into the water below. You were committed then, there was no way out as the waterfall was not climbable again and the sides of the river were sheer rock walls of 50 meters or more. I had visions of someone putting an arm around my neck and swimming me out, then visions of that hospital, which made me try desperately to float. I couldn’t kick my legs and so I rolled on my back and floated. I floated down a river deep in an uninhabited jungle, and it was glorious. I came out covered from head to toe in cuts and bruises, due to hidden rocks and branches, but it went from one of the most excruciating hours of my life to one of the most amazing.  I tried not to think about the dog poo that was floating somewhere about me.

And then we were back to habitation: a village on the outskirts, farming pineapples, bananas and sweet potatoes. Now, dotted all along the river bank, were these outhouse sized buildings with a PVC pipe running below them directly into the river. They couldn’t be toilets though, because the river was full of people washing their clothes, and children frolicking and playing. Thankfully we’d exited the river and were walking along a dirt track beside it at this point, because I realized they were indeed toilets and not a single person seemed to care apart from me. The girl next to me remarked how she’d love to spend a year in a village just like this. I agreed for her sake, even though I couldn’t have imagined spending a single moment there longer than I had to. I refrained from pointing out to her that everyone here was swimming in, washing themselves in and drinking effluent, because I’m certain she already knew.  

It wasn’t until a few nights later, Kate and I were dining at an Indian restaurant in the dark as the power had gone out (as it is wont to do around here). She mentioned the tour guides hadn’t gone in the cave with them above the waterfall, and that the “dog poo” I’d seen was almost certainly human, because dogs don’t defecate in water, but the humans around here definitely do. They mustn't have thought much of me, sitting in the lagoon downstream.

Adventures in the Solomon Islands - PART 1

Honiara - first impressions


The first thing that hits you about the place is the humid wet heat. As if you've just thrown yourself into a crowd of invisible marathon runners and all of their sweaty bodies are pressing and squeezing up against you and making you about as uncomfortable as they possibly can. The steam and stink rising from their invisible skin makes you feel instantly ill, and then you turn your head toward the airport, which is not much more than a small shed, and there upon the roof is a crowd braving the beating sun and pressing heat. They're up there waving us weary travellers a warm welcome behind a wire mesh barrier. It's at this point you realize your plane went through a low-flying wormhole and you just went back in time about 50 years.

The first counter is visa, they simply check the card that you're meant to fill out on the flight and then stamp your passport. There is two counters operating at excruciatingly slow efficiency. On the left a cheerful looking man is chatting to people as he waves them through, on the right, a man whose face looks soured by impetuous disgust murmurs at each person who hands him their card. I was hoping to god I got the left one, because on the flight I didn't have a pen. The lady next to me had a pen, but she was wearing one of those SARS breathing masks, the window was icing up and my nose began to run. I didn't have the heart to ask a germophobe for her pen whilst wiping my nose. Of course, when it was my turn to the counter, I got the sour guy on the right.

 "Fill it out," the man grumbled as if this hardly ever happens, but perhaps just often enough that it irritates the hell out of him. "Sorry, I have no pen..." He doesn't even look at me but a flash of annoyance creases across his face, "wait." So I wait, whilst he continues to serve everyone else in line. It turns out he only has one pen. So does the man on the other counter. I wait and have a look around this shed, its hotter inside than out, badly painted and in a state of disrepair. A roller door opens on one side of the shed, revealing a small Chinese man proclaiming "duty free" and surrounded by a tiny hole in the wall full of shelves of various liquors and cigarettes. Eventually someone finds a pen and I'm the last to go through. "Have you got any food stuffs?" the next counter asks, uninterested. "Yes, peanuts," I reply. She doesn't care and waves me through. That was immigration and customs, nothing checked, no computers, just a stamp and a blasĂ© wave. I was now a tourist, perhaps the only one, perhaps the first ever?

I found a waiting taxi. He didn't even make a half hearted motion as if he would get out of the car and throw my bag in the boot, in fact, he didn't even look up to acknowledge me at all, simply grunted that he knew I existed. I heaved my bag into the back seat and climbed in as well, he was lost in his own world of reggae, fluffy dice and the chewing of betel nut. We sped off toward the hotel, except sped is the wrong word. We ambled and weaved around potholes the size of the Tasmania, at one point the cabbie deemed it safer and quicker to suddenly swerve onto the footpath and hurtle off along it at sixty kilometres per hour with pedestrians scrambling out of his way. It certainly was a much smoother ride, I watched the road out the window, with the other cars struggling defiantly along it; it looked like a dusty, craterous moon surface which would require a moon buggy with jet propulsion systems to navigate successfully. I supposed that was why everyone was driving Japanese 4x4's, with not a single Ford or Holden anywhere in sight.

Eventually we bounced off the gloriously smooth footpath and meandered back around the craters. The footpath had ended, we were slowly creeping past a wasteland. Clearly we had stumbled our way to the outskirts of the local tip, rubbish was everywhere, it was choking the streets, the fences, even the craters. Dilapidated shacks jutted awkwardly in strange angles on poles, whilst naked children wandered barefoot willy nilly. There was no such thing as grass, lawns were dust and plastic bags were the flower beds. I couldn't see myself living here, and it seemed the locals didn't really want to live there either, or at all, as they would often walk in front of traffic without so much as a cursory glance. The driver played chicken with them the entire car ride, just as you thought they were going to stop walking, and there was no way they could step out, suddenly they did, and we hit the brakes. Eventually we got there, and to the driver's credit not a single person died. His suspension and my nerves were the only things worse for wear.

The first thing you notice about the hotel is the two beefy guards standing out the front. Everything else is obscured by trees. Opposite the hotel is the Australian embassy, a fortress of fences and concrete buildings of a menacing prison like architecture, where windows are forsaken in favour of slits of one-way mirrors. I suddenly remembered all of the Australian federal police standing watch at the airport and begun to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. Wandering into the hotel bewildered and shell-shocked by a drive that saw nothing but poverty and desolation, I climbed into the cable-car, which was the method of transport up the steep hill the hotel buildings were scattered upon. It demanded all doors be closed before setting off, but they were left wide open, a weight limit was not specified, but it certainly couldn't be much judging by the minuscule gauge of metal cable that pulled us stutteringly upward. It turns out to be a very temperamental device. It only listens to the first order, and ignores all subsequent ones. Thus if you get on at level 4 and select ground, the people on level 3, 2 and 1 will watch you go by with a confused look on their face as if you are intentionally not stopping to pick them up. It'd be fine if the car was closed like with an elevator, but its not, its open and they can look in at you as it crawls its way toward them at less than walking pace and their faces change from one of expectation to confused annoyance as it passes slowly by. All you can do is shrug at them. Occasionally you will get on and someone elsewhere will call the car before you have the chance to press your destination, so instead of heading to your level you stagger by it and end up much further than you wanted to be. And then there are the other times when it just stops, randomly, wherever it pleases. You press 4, it goes somewhere just past 3 and then stops. You press 4 again and it does nothing, again, nothing, again - bingo - slight movement to the point you can hang yourself off the ledge you normally alight from, and pull yourself in. Of course if anyone pressed the button whilst you were doing that you'd have more luck taking your chances falling to the ground below than holding on and getting sliced in half against the ledge. Though, judging by the hospital we went past on the way from the airport, any kind of broken bone is probably still going to do you in.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Excerpts

On The Other Side From You (Novella by Dom)


It’s just an undulation, a wave of pain washing over, filling out around you. Let it wash past, or soak it up and wallow in it. Like a bandaid coming off, its pain only increases in intensity toward the end. And so I held it down. Pinned it to the ground by the neck. It writhed beneath my fingers, struggling for freedom.

I can remember when I was younger – we had a chopping block out the back. A hard wooden stump stained red-brown from frequent use. What would it be like to lay there, head detached in searing pain, watching your body run around without you? Even your body leaves you in the end, with only seconds ticking down till the moment of expiration. We all die in pieces. We all die alone. It’s such a quiet thing, such an intimate thing. Being herded like cows into the gallows. Being skinned and ripped to shreds by the cold metal machinery. Just to be eaten, chewed up and spat out. Discarded, taken away and interred into the ground. The drop, that’s the worst part. The slow motion fall from life into death. Life starts with a roar and ends with a quiet thud.

The Melancholy Detective (Novella by James & Dom)


This grey world which was the most diametrically opposite you could get to the greenery of life. An urban jungle, thick and dense but not seething with life or growth. Seething with death, or more correctly, undeath. The people skittered to and fro between work and home, work and home, work and home. The only deviation was to the grave.

The Creg Chronicles (Novel, by James & Dom)


I looked at her quizzically and motioned for her to take a seat on the end of the bed. There was obviously something wrong with her if she wasn’t impressed by Bruce Lee. She sat down, closing her eyes and trying to reclaim her composure. Either she was being swept off her feet like one of the girls in those Victorian dramas, or she had a headache. Girls always got headaches; I’d learnt that from watching half an episode of Friends one night when my mother was out. The key to girls was to catch them before they got a headache, or to distract them if they felt the onset of one.

The Creg Related Chronicles (Collection of Short Stories by Dom)


“Jack are you okay?” someone asked through the dark. A whisper really, it floated, lingered in his mind for a second. Clearly not. Clearly he wasn’t fine at all. What was she doing in bed with twins? Them over him, what a ridiculous notion. Takes two to compete with him, that much was right. What the hell had he gotten himself into with her? Nigel, this was Nigel’s fault. Picking him a slut, encouraging him that she was perfect. Obviously not. Obviously she was bedding two guys at once, wasn’t she? They were topless they must’ve been. At least, he thought they’d been topless. They could’ve been wearing anything, or nothing at all. He grasped at the memory but it was gone. The swirling of his mind had whipped it away, like a gust of wind through a photo album it pulled everything apart.

I stepped through and grabbed the small wooden boat, flipping it over and pushing it across the plants toward the waters edge. Creg was hot on my tail, padding through the soft ground which permeated that familiar smell of marshy pond mud. We both climbed in as I pushed us off. The sun hung high above us, a perfect yellow, dripping down through the blue arching sky. It was like a painting drawn by a child, strikingly vivid colours that melted into each other without any care to convention. It was beautiful; we were beautiful. It was the first time I felt beautiful in my entire life, but it was there, and it felt amazing. The boat wasn’t too big, it provided just enough room for the two of us. It only had one small oar, but we didn’t need it. We floated perfectly toward the middle of the pond. Both of us lying on our backs in the sun, enjoying it’s warmth on our faces and naked bodies. I had to rest my feet up and over the side, hanging them out of the boat, but Creg fit just fine.

“I wonder if we’ll get any freckles Bill,” Creg said with a smile in his voice.

“Maybe,” I whispered, feeling content.

“When I was little I asked my dad what they were and why I got them. He told me they were kisses from the sun.”

You Shall See (James & Dom)


I could smell cocoa powder for some reason and I imagined her on roller skates, her who looked so much like Maggie Gyllenhaal it struck me, and her who I wanted to blow a kiss to - through the window, through the air, through her lips. Or even just hang around, like some kind of half demented dog, kneeling at the letterbox that may as well have been on my own front door; waiting, lapping and excitedly expectorating as she came upon me like a hail of sealed up secrets, desperate to be explored.



Musings of a Bald Man

It’s trashy and inconsequential, but that’s life in a nutshell really. A thousand punches of pseudo-reality and the whirring traumatic nausea of nothing working. As of late I’ve been plagued by that uneasy feeling akin to acid coursing through the centre of my bones. As if they’d been hollowed out to allow my recently all-consuming misery a new place to hide away and regroup. New pockets to fill with the liquid anguish that oozes from me every waking minute. It’s inspired and legitimate pain; borne from the realization that you’re just as pointless as everyone else, flitting along from relationship to relationship as if it all ultimately means something. I took the torture of high school because I expected that some day I’d grow up and be able to rub people’s noses in the fact that I’d made it. Movies and music encourage those of us that are different – a future of making more money and becoming more successful awaits you.

But it’s lies.

You’ll earn just as little, or even less, than the sexually successful linebacker who had orgiastic intercourse with every girl you ever had even the remotest interest in. He’ll get a job where his dad works, or down at the local supermarket (the same one that sneezed your application into the bin). His confidence and arrogance get him into a managerial position and someday he runs the store. Meanwhile you’re tapping out inane reports on a ten year old computer, trying as best you can not to tear out what remains of your hair and shoot everyone around you directly in the face.

There’s a girl giggling at the photocopier behind me and it’s becoming rather distracting. Her friend, sex buddy or fiancĂ© is slapping at her flirtatiously with a ruler whilst they wait for the files to print. I can see on the reflection of my monitor as he darts his eyes about to check for witnesses before pulling her in for a quick kiss. The last time someone wanted to kiss me it was halfway through the great depression, or at the very least my great depression. I’d scoped out the water cooler, waiting for the moment I could sneak over without encountering anyone. It was a similarly hot day, as if the sun had stuck a spike through the earth’s axis and was slowly spit roasting it. I kept my head down and my eyes straight ahead, moving my cup toward the tap. Our hands brushed together and sparks literally flew, my shoes having dragged themselves timidly across a static inducing carpet. I recoiled rapidly, having not expected any company. She apologised, sounding flustered as if in her clumsiness she’d done more than just brush my hand and had somehow destroyed something precious. I should have cottoned on I suppose – that she had somehow managed to mistake me for a higher up. I’d mumbled my way into accepting her offer of a drink later on. A kiss at the end of the night and a bit of uninspired and disinterested lovemaking later and she found out I was just a lowly desk slob.

I’d love to tell you that she was displeased but to her credit she took it in her stride and moving quickly on, she suggested in her post-coital drawls that she didn’t care about my career. In fact she said she was more interested in sleeping with a bald man and that’s how the whole thing came about. It’s hard to respect someone after an admission like that. I mean - who in their right mind would want to have sex with a bald man, really, when the choice presents itself – the woman is a reverse-lion – surveying her savannah filled with prey, her eyes normally don’t rest on the weak loner that strays to the sides of the flock. She goes mercilessly for the throat of the most muscle-bound and obnoxious, walking-turd of a male, and failing in her bid to keep him subdued in her smothering choke hold, slowly works her way down the food chain until she finds something too weak to resist. I remember lying awake in her bed that night, wondering if perhaps I was the least in a line of previously unsatisfactory matings; whether my fairly average and awkwardly more-or-less upright phallus stood up to the beatings of younger and more manically desperate stiffenings. The bed head stood at an awkward angle above me, as if about to collapse on my face, as if it had been shaken to the brink of splintering on repeated occasions. As I lay on my back looking at her darkened ceiling, I couldn’t help but feel a pressing, sweating shadow writhing above me; the ghosts of lovers’ past haunted me, begging me to high five them for their incomparable acts of vigorously spectacular copulation. The spectral linebacker winked at me as he scored his fourth goal of the evening, hardly breaking a sweat as he pushed away at every correct button, note for note, as if he were the perfect maestro of her genital keyboard.

Of course, if I had the sense I would’ve snuck out and left her to wake up alone. She’d accuse me of simply using her for sex, but a reputation like that is hardly a cause for consternation for a man. Instead I lay there for what seemed like hours, trying as best I could to think of anything of consequence. As usual, what little spurts of intelligence that fleetingly lurked forth from the crevasses in my mind, drained away as quickly as they were imagined with no pen nor paper with which to capture them. The smell of sex was deafening amidst the tedium....

An extract by DB