DAY 356: Getting psyched at a university opening day

22 Aug

I WAS hanging out with a fellow music journo recently and I realised he was storing facts and figures about the industry, and trading useful hair-curling anecdotes about the people therein, while I was more interested in opening up an artiste’s head and sympathising greatly.

The Florence Nightingale of music journalism, if you will.

So I’ve decided to go the whole hog and become a psychology student. I studied psychology for two years in my youth, but was scuppered by the maths. Surely by now, with the wisdom of age, I will be able to do maths.

Our future is in this generation's hands.

The open day is at LaTrobe in Bendigo, so I go along with Lucy, who also wants to interrogate people for a living and then discuss their strange little foibles over lattes. Confidentially, of course. My interest in university first time around was so low that I can’t remember if I went to the open day or not. At the very least, then, this is the first time I’ve been to an open day and paid attention.

For those not in the know, university open days involve lots of free mints, dirt cheap canteen food, professors talking in monotone and various stands. Our stand comes under ‘sciences’ – shudder. Lucy and I go to a lecture for mature students and blanch every time someone says ‘mature’. Better than ‘crone’, I suppose.

Keeper? TBC.

DAY 355: Entering competitions

21 Aug

This has nothing to do with anything, but it came up when I put "entering competitions" into Google Image.

APART from the odd No-Doz snorting competition, I’ve never bothered entering anything. Having worked on magazines though, I know how easy it is to win, particularly when most entrants insist on doing painful rhymes in their 25 words or less, and are therefore immediately eliminated by people like me.

(By contrast, someone once entered a meet-and-greet with Kings of Leon with a giant, cigarette-smoking beaver made out of chickenwire. They won.)

I register with a free website called and enter 10 competitions, all requiring a sincere little essay of 25 words or less. I am up to win Stevie Nicks tickets from Woman’s Day, natural skin products, a luxury cruise of the Great Barrier Reef, a Byron Bay break, a warm bodymat, a meet and greet with an opera star (I forget his name) in Malta, sensitive skin care products, yoga wear from Reader’s Digest (good for pyjamas, I reason), natural cosmetics (they wanted my No.1 health tip, which upon some musing turned out to be something I’d never tried in my life), and an eight-night Hawaiian holiday (this one! this one!).

I’m now on at least 10 mailing lists, which will probably transpire to be thousands of mailing lists, but never mind, never mind.

Keeper? We’ll see.

DAY 354: Totally banning ‘x’ ‘o’ and ‘:)’

20 Aug

I HAVE a new email account and I’ve decided I will not be tarnishing it with any kisses or hugs. Kisses and hugs are nice in real life, but in emails they’re a drag, an extra layer of code to interpret.

Whether it’s the PR chick you’ve never dealt with before, or the girl who was abducted by a taxi driver in England, and confounded police by putting an ‘x’ at the end of her I’m-about-to-be-murdered text, it’s all a bit of a minefield. Take these examples:

Okay, Jane is a Continental ‘xx’ girl, I’d better reciprocate with two.

John is unlikely to get this joke unless I place a winking emoticon here. But will he then look down upon me?”

Last time I didn’t exactly mirror Molly’s ‘xoxoxox’ she responded with one fewer ‘xo’. I followed suit, until by the end of the conversation we were down to ZERO. Whatever happened to Molly, anyway?

And it’s not like you can’t be nice without using an ‘x’. By the same token, you can use an ‘x’ and be a passive-aggressive pissant. So it’s nothing personal, okay? I’ll squeeze the life out of you when I next see you.

Keeper? Yes. If people can’t tell I’m being nice, I’ll just have to put heaps of exclamation marks in.

DAY 353: Sharpening knives so that I might prepare for a dystopian future

19 Aug

“THIS is why you keep failing your driving test,” says Emerson, making his point spitefully. “You’ve got to understand that very few things come immediately. You’re all meat and potatoes and no foreplay. You’d be great in the trenches; you’d be over the top in a flash.”

Today I’m learning how to sharpen a set of knives on a carbon block with a dash of olive oil, and I actually reckon I’m being pretty patient for someone with a burning need for instant gratification – but it’s a scientific fact that men are more methodical than women and can quite happily do the same thing again and again and again without wanting to scream, so Emerson begs to differ.

“Man had knives before he invented the wheel or discovered fire,” he says, stroking away, “and if we end up like Mad Max, you’ll need to know how to sharpen your blade properly, not gouge a hole in the block.”

scrick scrick scrick

Here are Emerson’s precise instructions, if you can make it through to the end:

20 degree angle for a thin blade, 30 for a thick blade (rule of thumb), five degree for the finishing strokes (called linishing), then you run it over a strop (leather belt that’s affixed to something to hold it tight). “Stropping” is usually only seen with shaving razors as it gives that super keen edge that only lasts for a few cuts, but it’s worth doing nonetheless. You saw me do it with the autosol and a kevlar rag, rather than the traditional leather way. 3 strokes each way for soft blades like bronze or copper (as used by ancient types: Normans, Gauls, Mesopotamians) 10 for steel or low carbon stainless, and 20 – 30 for high grade austenitic alloys, titanium and heavily folded irons. 2-300 for foamed alloy.


Keeper? Yes. Would like my own gear.

DAY 352: Having tantric sex

18 Aug

I’VE been determined to explore tantra as one of my missions, but the only morsels my Melbourne forays unearthed were a thinly veiled prostitution service, in which Tatiana offered to touch me all over while we were both naked for a mere $250, and a website for Tantric Dave, who lies stretched out with one thigh positioned over his ‘wand of light’.

Then I found a less salacious lady in Sydney.

The reason I’ve been determined to try this is because it sounds so excruciating. I mean, tantra’s all about spirituality, eye contact and effort, isn’t it? I doubt Sting saw his virginity as an indignity to be got rid of fast, or treats wanking like an aggressive formality.

My tantra teacher today is Brazilian, and therefore well placed to laugh at the sexual repression of the English. She greets me in leisurewear, but then produces a couple of skimpy kaftans. A room of her apartment is decked out New Age-style, with candles, incense, cushions, didgeridoos chorbling away and the heat up stiflingly high. Let me just open my kaftan a notch…

We start off with some pelvic floor exercises to get the blood flowing to the nethers and to learn how to, you know, sort of massage a man.

Breathing deeply through our mouths, we clench away, and Beatriz suggests I move my hand up my body to help me visualise pulsing the good feeling right up to my heart. It’s no use, though – try as I might, I can’t extend the warmth beyond the physiological vicinity of my reproductive organs. I feel like I’m swinging a hammer at a test-your-strength machine and not pushing past ‘puny’. Meanwhile, Beatriz is clearly dinging the bell.

Next, we sit opposite each other on cushions and take turns musing on “what touches my heart”, while staring into each other’s eyes. I know what you’re thinking – belt up the kaftan and run – but by now I’m so comfortable with Beatriz and her good vibes that the excrucio-factor is zero.

Beatriz talks about sexuality and how Gen Z girls are expected to recreate porn scenarios while so liquored up they can’t feel anything anyway. Tantra’s a method of being aware of your body and its every nuance. But anyway, on to the masturbation.

Sitting side by side, we slide our right hands down onto our sexual chakras, with our left hands over our hearts, where I find mine is opportunistically having a sly tweak of my nipple. Beatriz starts rocking in a figure of eight, arching her back in and out of the yoga cat pose. “It’s okay to moan,” she gasps. We’re supposed to be visualising a golden sphere of light, but thanks to years of an oppressive male regime, I’m only able to picture a massive cock.

When she’s done, Beatriz gets me to lie on my front and she skims my hair, then places her hands gently on the top and base of my back. They feel like they’re burning hot. I’m so relaxed I could just melt into this authentic Balinese mat.

Then it’s time for the strokes. Leaping up impishly, Beatriz pulls a phallus out of a drawer and lies down on the floor, holding it above her groin by the balls. She demonstrates a variety of imaginative ways to stroke it – ways other than furiously choking it, I mean – and gives me a go as well. I can now pop a cork and firestick someone with no worries at all.

That’s it for our session, and I’m feeling really good. There’s definitely something to be said for taking the time to acknowledge and nurture the sensations you’re feeling. Although, problematically, the idea of a bloke being into tantra makes my ovaries deflate.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 351: Touring Sydney Fish Market

17 Aug

THERE’S a quaint olde English saying that has been passed down from generation to generation – why, it was even scrawled upon the bottom side of the climbing frame at my local playground as a child. If a girl smells of fish, it dictates, she’s nary a doubt been to Billingsgate.

The Australian equivalent would be the Sydney Fish Market, and no doubt the glamazons in the lifts at the women’s mag later are whispering that I’ve been there, but that’s okay, because I have.

I’m up at five this morning, to take the tour. The Sydney Fish Market’s actually the third most popular tourist attraction of the city, but I’m here to thrash my fear of seafood once and for all.

Bailer shell

My guide, Portia, is fresh out of uni and says she has neither a background in fishing or tourism, but likes the idea of being an expert at something. Knowledge, for her, always has to have a purpose and earn her a dose of approval.

“I’m the same!” I exclaim, fudging my philosophies endearingly. “I could just do something new every day without documenting it, but it’s like the one hand clapping in the woods. If nobody’s around to acknowledge it, did it even happen?”

Portia gets exactly what I mean. What’s more, we soon establish that she too has been to a peep show recently, as her mate gave her a behind-the-scenes tour. What a smashing bond we’re forging. Now, on to the fish.

Part 1 of the great fish tour – consisting of me, an authentically beardy ex-fisherman called Horatio, and his girlfriend – involves watching the morning auction. The buyers bay abuse at the auctioneer, or at each other when someone bids too early. It’s a reverse auction system, based on the way the Dutch would auction flowers, so the price starts high and goes down, rather than up.

Pink ling.

Down on the floor, Portia walks us through some of the 100 species being bid for. We’re shown how to discern the sex of a blue swimmer crab (it’s all in the plate underneath: it’s either shaped ‘U’ for uterus, or ‘V’ for Viagra).

She picks up a pink ling, which is dripping with frothy mucus, but which is a good ‘starter fish’ for kids as it has big bones and makes non-fishy fillets. Then there’s the flashing silver ribbonfish, which looks stunning but tastes pretty foul. It’s mainly dried and used in Chinese cooking.

We learn that flake and hake, on a fish & chip shop menu, is shark; see what a cuttlefish bone looks like when it has a cuttlefish around it; peer into a bailer shell (“poor man’s abalone”) and peel off the jacket of an ocean jacket. I cut the tour short when we come to fiddling with live lobsters.


Keeper? Yeah, pretty interesting. Although for the next three days I can smell fish particles in my hair and clothes. Kudos to ya, Portia.

DAY 350: Riding a ride-on lawnmower

16 Aug

A-yup. A sedate ride, but a ride nonetheless.

Keeper? Yeah. Take that, VicRoads.

DAY 349: Sulking at drag queen karaoke

15 Aug

PEOPLE are pulling out of my drag queen karaoke night right at the vinegar stroke, so I ditch the girls’ plan to drag up and get in the spirit of things, and head to Scruffy Murphy’s on my own in my usual stylish gear.

Scruffy Murphy’s. That’s the first warning sign right there. An Irish bar, occupying valuable CBD real estate inches. Half full of English, Irish and German backpackers, it’s the waiting room of nightlife. If only someone in the know had told these poor schmucks there were other options in this, the largest city in Australia…. although the Sydney Pub Guide says it’s “the best bar in Sydney by a long shot” (and “rustic”), so what do I know? And at least it hasn’t slapped ‘VIP’ on any part of it, which seems to be the tactic of rubbish clubs these days, to distract you from the novel idea of going anywhere good.

Not much to report on the karaoke. We’re kept on tenterhooks for an hour, as a disembodied voice promises the drag queens are coming out any second. Once they do, they work the room and humiliate everyone in turn – except me. Weirdly, drag queens don’t pick me to humiliate, even though I’m willing them to this time round so that I’ll have something to write about.

Disappointingly, drag queen karaoke isn’t what I’d envisaged, which was wall-to-wall blowsy queens elbowing up at the bar and packing a few whiskies in over a rousing Celine Dion soundtrack, before stalking off to door bitch some club. Instead, it’s a bunch of regulars (backpacking regulars? That’s tragedy right there), who leap up to perform R&B tracks like they’re on Australian Idol. I can’t really talk though – I’m just tippety-tapping away poisonously on my laptop.

Keeper? No.

DAY 348: Going to the Ban Live Export rally

14 Aug

“DID you hear about the bear that killed itself?” sounded like it should be an awesome joke, but asked in the context of the Ban Live Export rally, I should have realised I didn’t want to hear the punchline.

The exporting of livestock to South East Asia and the Middle East has been going on for 30 years now, but it’s taken Lyn White – former police constable and now Communications Director of Animals Australia – and a gruelling Four Corners documentary to bring the appalling conditions to the public’s attention. As opposed to the attention of Meat & Livestock Australia, by whose standards transporting animals by sea and road for three weeks, slashing their tendons, gouging their eyes, breaking their tails and stuffing them into car boots has been a-ok for decades.

Lyn quotes social reformer William Wilberforce in his 1807 campaign to abolish slavery: “We may choose to ignore it, but we can never again say, I did not know.”

Other times, the language here in Sydney’s Martin Place (rallies are being held all across the country today) is over-emotional (yep, if a sheep could talk it possibly would say “don’t abandon me”, but anyway, you digress), when the facts are powerful enough.

On Thursday, August 18, federal politicans will have the chance to vote on legislation that will end this trade. Today I’ll be adding to the masses of protesters emailing Julia Gillard at to request that she allows a ‘conscience vote’. This way MPs can vote in line with their own beliefs and the wishes of their constituents, without fear of reprisal for ‘crossing the floor’.

Here’s the view of an Aussie beef producer.

And here’s a story on Lyn White.

Keeper? Soapboxing over for today, but I’ll keep putting my beliefs into action from now on.

DAY 347: Taking the Scientology personality test

13 Aug

FOR an organisation that’s vehemently anti-psychiatry, the Scientologists seem to be fishing for a lot of mental illnesses.

I’m taking their personality test, having walked past their Sydney HQ yesterday and having my interest piqued by the tatty façade.

Hitting their website back at Stacey’s house, I locate the 200-question personality test, which you can either carry out online or in a Scientology centre; the idea being they’ll then assess you, find you ailing and prescribe a course of rigorous doctrine. It’s called the Oxford Capacity Analysis test, which may or may not be to make you think of Oxford University.

I decide to crosscheck with Stacey and see if her answers for me would be the same as mine.

“Am I forceful?”

“No, I don’t think you’re forceful, I think you’re sly and petulant. I think you’re a stubborn mole. I mean, mule. You think you can just get in someone’s car and drive it. I think you throw precaution to the wind.”

“Would I use corporal punishment on a child aged 10 if it refused to obey me?”

“Corporal punishment? What, you’d murder it?”

“That’s capital punishment.”

Back to the anti-psychiatry, though, and I find I’m spotting all sorts of questions that seem to be rooting out cases of manic depression; variants of “Do you find yourself being extra active for periods of several days?

Then there’s paranoid schizophrenia (“Do you ever feel people are working against you?”), autism (“Do you ever browse through timetables just for pleasure?” “Is your voice monotonous, rather than varied in pitch?”), OCD (“Do you feel very uneasy in disordered surroundings?”), tourettes (Do you get occasional twitches of your muscles, when there is no logical reason for it?) and some pigeon-toed dancing around depression.

When I’m done, I get the message: “Thank you for completing your test – your answers have been forwarded to a consultant who will contact you shortly to go over the results with you and show you the graph.”

Keeper? Never got the follow-up call. It’s like the eHarmony Compatibility Test all over again.