Relaxation

YOU LEFT THE IRON ON TOP OF YOUR BABY! The opposite of that.

THE STARS:
In today’s fast paced world of business naps and multi-tasking the making of a sandwich while abseiling so you can live IN THE MOMENT, it seems everyone is on a desperate quest to relax. The sheer blood-sweat effort that goes into providing that blissful moment of release has always seemed like a catch-22. I’d always prided myself on living a life of near somnolent easiness, where the only stress I experienced was just how many hippies I could high five after midday before I rode into the sunset on a Labrador. 
Yet somehow over the past year, I found myself juggling a day job, writing and producing a fringe play and following half a hundred other writing projects, living a rich and varied social life and taking my lady love out to dance at romantic Afro-Cuban themed night clubs – or as we call it , ordering Thai and watching Community.
And all you policy makers for the UN or nuclear safety specialists are probably guffawing into your thick coffee substitutes at the nerve of this waifish, whimsy-merchant possibly claiming he has experienced stress. Yet, I would argue that the goals we set ourselves in life are the ones we measure ourselves to. So while the deadline of your ninth draft for your play about genocidal lizards doesn’t really compare globally to the deadlines of a bomb squad or human rights lawyer, they are my deadlines and my responsibilities. 
So when my parents kindly invited me to spend Christmas with them for a relaxation-centred holiday in Bali, I happily agreed. A week of lazing around on the beach or beside a pool, with no laptop or email would be just the thing to recharge my batteries.
LACK OF STARS:
Of course, the traditional formula for relaxation is also apparently my bane. What was an idle jaunt to the beach for a small swim and a stroll in the afternoon sun, was to me a chance for Old Yeller to burn my pasty skin with it’s death rays, or for enormous blisters to form on my feet or for me to discover my skin is allergic to either salt, chlorine or sand. Maybe all of them. Relaxation was trying it’s best to kill me.
In response to this, I spent the majority of my time drinking gin and tonic and reading a book in the shade. That’s right – basically what I do at my home. Don’t get me wrong, the holiday itself was wonderful and I got to see and eat some amazing things, but the traditional recipe of beach relaxation is deadly.
This is exemplified by what happened when I decided to get a massage. After the 90 minute long experience, it was true. I was incredibly relaxed. I’d had oil rubbed all over me, my feet and hands had been rubbed, I felt great. So as I left the massage room, I put my thongs on my feet and set off down the wooden stairs. My oiled feet immediately slipped on the slick rubber of the thongs, and I hurtled through my footwear and down the stairs. I managed to grab the bannister, but of course my hands were greasy as well, and in a second I hurtled all the way down to the ground floor, and skidded across the floor in a heap. No real damage was done, mostly because I was so greasy I just kind of kept skidding along the ground, and because I was so relaxed,  I didn’t tense up and tear any muscles. As a side note, I’d broken right through my thongs and they had gathered somewhere at the top of my thighs.
Relaxation is trying to kill me.
THE SCORE:
2.5/5

Driving

Wearing giant wheeled exo-suits and steering them with nothing more than a complex mixture of hand/foot gesturing.

THE STARS:
Until we have teleportation, cars are clearly our best option of travelling quickly from one area to another. I understand that. Doesn’t mean I have to like doing it.
LACK OF STARS:
 I’d like to point out that I have my full license, and can drive extremely well. I just hate it. Although, come to think of it, my first experience driving was actually an intensely stressful ordeal – which perhaps I’ve never gotten over subconsciously. 
On my first driving lesson, a big deal was made about learning with the same company that taught my mum and my uncles. When I turned up, a gangling mass of pale sixteen-year-old awkward, I swiftly discovered that not only was it the same learners company, but exactly the same man.
As we shuddered down the back streets of Miranda, this wizened, ancient gnome interspersed his calm, bored instructions with a series of elderly lecheries. If having ‘ease on the brake’ mixed with ‘that’s a nice little filly, eh?’ wasn’t nerve inducing enough, another problem was becoming rapidly apparent.
At first I thought it was a slightly odd mistake, when my driving instructor elbowed me in the ribs and pointed out the window at a five-year-old girl, saying ‘There’s a pretty one.’
But rather than taking this story into the traumatising realms of pedophilia, the mistake was cleared up as we turned a corner, and my very own suburban Dumbledore pointed out the window and said ‘Ooh, what do you think of that one, eh? Get’s the old ticker going.’
He was pointing at a small tree.
I mean, as far as shrubberies go, this one probably resembled an attractive young lady more than most. But the disturbing implication was not one of dendrophilia, as I feared, but that my driving instructor was going very rapidly blind. I’ve never really been able to relax in a car since.
I think you need to leaf her alone. You’re clearly barking up the wrong tree.
  Really need to look elsewhere for a root.
 I know you’re acorn for it, but it’s berry wrong. 
My very favourite stories about the inherent fears and horrors of driving all come from my mate Bob. Living for the majority of his youth in the Royal National Park, meant that he would have to drive for 45 minutes through winding bush roads of absolutely stunning scenery just to get anywhere at all. It’s also meant he has had a lot of road incidents, despite being an excellent driver. Here are my favourite stories, and I apologise if I get all the major details wrong:
1. Driving with Bob in his old Volkswagen Beetle through the National Park, down steep windy hills, he turns to me and says ‘If you open all the windows, it feels exactly like driving an office chair with a motor. 
2. On that same trip, he also said ‘It’s a good thing you’re so thin, because apparently with this model, if you put enough weight on the passenger seat, it impacts something with the motor and causes the car to burst into flames.
3. Bob is late for uni, so is probably driving a little bit faster than he should. He turns a corner and hits a patch of water mixed with oil that has dripped from the eucalyptus trees, which is very common on these roads. Rather than crashing, it spins his car around 180 degrees. He eventually stops spinning but ends up on the other side of the road, facing the opposite direction. So shaken by his near death experience, he drives all the way back home before realising what had happened.
4. In my first year of university, I’m at the bar with my newfound writing friends, probably in about the first week or two of session. Bob, who has been at uni a year already, comes to the bar and says hello. A whole bunch of us have to go to the train station, and he kindly volunteers us a lift in his car. As the motor starts up, there is this sudden, horrifying stench. Nonchalantly, Bob tells us that the other morning he’d rounded a corner and hit some roadkill. It was a deer carcass, that had spent many a long summer day rotting on the side of the road. When he hit it, Bob described it as ‘Exploding into a fine red mist’. He then goes on to explain that it had got all up under the car, and when the motor heated up, sent the smell of decaying flesh through the air-conditioning system.
5. Bob and his brothers are driving home, listening to Michael Jackson. They find a box of surgical gloves that Bob’s girlfriend, who is a nurse, had left there. They each put one glove on, in homage to their musical icon, and then start using that one gloved hand to wave at the drivers of other cars. Because they are teenage punks. They pull up alongside some guy in a truck, and impudently waggle their gloved hands at him. The truck driver stares at them for a moment, and then pulls a shotgun out from the seat next to him.
THE SCORE:
2.5/5 stars

Clones

This is a story that I originally read at Penguin Plays Rough, which is completely awesome and you should drop any and all responsibilities to go to. Your child? Your crippling cancer? Drop them.
THE STARS:
This is a story about clones, doppelgangers and to a lesser extent, celebrity lookalikes. After a steady diet of pop cultural references, we should all understand by now that these hateful beings are not our friends. They might start off as a clever way of getting out of family lunches or as an elaborate alternative to mirrors – but it will always end with us kneeling on a rainy street screaming
 ‘they stole my face, my faaaaaaaceeeeeee’.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Whether grown in labs as narcissistic sex aids, or sprouting bodily from your unconscious desire to hunt down and kill Derryn Hinch, it’s certain that there’s always something to learn from these ungodly abominations. Sometime’s it’s as obvious as the parallel version of yourself who crosses dimensions to give the warning of ‘whatever you do, don’t get drunk in a penguin enclosure on New Years’ before showing his horribly mauled and pecked visage to you from under his hood. Or perhaps it’s as simple as realising ‘Huh, Mum was right. My posture is awful’, as your sullen clone hunches up the stairs to the belltower.

Of course we’d all love to believe we are unique – freaks of nature and lonely aberrations. We can only hope that passers-by see us lumbering down the street and scream in abject terror, ‘My God, look at that malformed jellyfish man, you don’t see that every day’. And with a wink and a grin, we are safe in the knowledge that there isn’t another ectoplasmic nightmare in the world to steal our thunder.
Unfortunately I’ve discovered that I’m generic looking. Yes, there are other loping, corpse pale, lank-machines in this world, and their appearance has been documented. One of my favourite incidents was when I was introduced to a young man who looked like me in the same way that cake resembles bread. Yet my thrilled friends decided he was definitely my clone. Neither of us could see it – that was until we both laughed, and stared into the terrifying gaping maw of each other’s excessive gums. Or there’s the elusive ‘hot arts building guy’, who seemed to be distinguished as different from me by both his hotness and his presence in the arts building, which was upsetting as I was also frequently in the arts building.

There was one clone with a more significant impact on my life. He’s always a step ahead of me, invisible, mysterious, yet there’s no doubt that he exists. It’s like walking into a room and smelling the strong perfume or bear-musk of the person who’d been there before you. Or bear.

When I came back to Australia after living and completing my primary school education overseas, I was slightly worried about fitting in to my new high-school. But I wasn’t stressing too hard, because I knew that if I was the victim of schoolyard bullying, taunting or discrimination, I could take refuge in Narnia, where I plan on starting a lucrative turkish delight bartering system.
At first everyone was really nice, nobody really singling me out as different, and readily including me in their activities. But after a week or so, I realised that these people were also calling me Jeremy. It took about a day before a few bright sparks realised that I wasn’t their ex-school chum Jeremy, and actually some foreign interloper. I didn’t last long at that school, not so much because of the mysterious clone shenanigans, but mostly due to the rampant face punching.
In year 8, I go to my second High-school, a little older, a little wiser, a bunch more traumatised and no longer believing that if things didn’t work out at this school, I will be whisked away by the Jesus-lion. But on the bright side, the school could have been run by malevolent toad gods with a view to world domination, and i still would have felt safer than in the last one.
Somehow during all the punching I had forgotten the whole Jeremy Clone incident, but was swiftly reminded when as I was awkwardly introduced to my new class, and someone pointed at me and said ‘He’s looks exactly like a gay, English, Jeremy’. Keep in mind I had an absurd secret garden-esque accent at that point. That’s right. Jeremy had been in this school as well, and then moved on at around the exact time that I arrived. “He took my life, my liiiifeeeeeeee”.
Now let’s move on. Naturally the majority of the teachers didn’t realise that I was a different person. This didn’t mean much, until the waterpolo shanghai incident. One day one of the PE teachers pulled me aside and told me to grab my things as we were heading to the pool. If there’s one thing you learn in high school apart from basic arithmetic, journeys and awkward formal dances, it would have to be a kind of resigned obedience to uncomfortable physical education. It wasn’t until I was standing on the edge of the pool, looking at another schools water polo team that I realised I may just be about to play water polo. It was only after we’d started playing water polo that I realised maybe this was because Jeremy had been a water polo player, as nobody had yet explained how to play the game to me. What followed was about fifteen minutes of sheer terror as I swam around trying to seem useful and unthreatening. When the ball skidded across the water to me, I would surreptitiously disappear under the surface, like a hyper-energised ‘Jaws’ victim. But after a while that got boring, so instead I tread watered in a corner thinking about Xena.
LACK OF STARS:
Since writing this story, I’ve been struck with the horrifying realisation that it shouldn’t be too hard to track down the elusive Jeremy. With the stalk-tastic power of Facebook, he could be only a few clicks away. But as I started trawling my old school-friend contacts, I had to hypothesise about where this would end up, about the dire ramifications of having an apocalyptic showdown with my clone. Here is my hypothesis, and I challenge anybody to think of a more logical conclusion.
We decide to meet up for drinks. I say cocktail bar, he says boutique beer garden. Well played, Jeremy. It turns out whatever resemblance we once shared has probably been obliterated by a difference in life choices. Namely, he’s continued his morbid obsession with water polo and I’ve developed a couch addiction. He’s probably tanned and chest haired. He has feature wrists sticking out of his casually hip shirt.
He is friendly, and generous with buying drinks. I am nervous and awkward until at least three drinks are in me. Conversation hits an awkward pause. This is when I probably say something like ‘Nice water polo arms’. He chuckles uneasily, and gets slightly skittish eyes, like a horse remembering thunder. By now I’m having a great time, throwing back drinks and drunkenly meandering through a heavily edited version of my life story. I start calling him George Cloney. He goes to the bathroom, and I yell after him ‘don’t leave me a-clone’, cackling like an ancient pig.
kekekekekekekekke
By the time he comes back, I’ve forgotten any and all reasons why it isn’t completely logical to hit on your own clone. It’s just a fancier type of masturbation! Jeremy is fidgeting with his empty beer, and asking if I have enough material for my article yet. I’m jolted out of my creepy staring, remembering slightly too late that I’m probably posing as a journalist to make this meeting seem less weird. Jeremy naturally leaves, after ignoring my slurring requests to ‘see where the night takes us’. He gives me a passive-aggressive limp handshake and leaves.
Afterwards, the feeling of existential dread deep inside my chest is not simply from another experience of being a complete drunken ass. It’s a cold, dead sensation aroused by watching the person I’ve thought of as ‘my clone’ leaving the building, and realising that he is in fact, the original. It’s always been me stumbling after him, sucking on the dregs of his life like a toothless goat on a discarded ice-cream cone. With a weary heart, I know what I must do. I have to steal Jeremy’s face.
THE SCORE: 2.5/5 stars

Swimming

One of the most unnatural things that humans can do.

THE STARS

When I was a kid, I was a surprisingly good swimmer. I never really did anything with it, because I lack anything resembling competitiveness in my body. Or maybe it’s because when I was doing swimming squad in primary school, the scary instructor guy spent the entire time on the side of the pool calling me Wilhelm. When I didn’t answer (because it’s not my name) he would get increasingly apoplectic. I remember at one point wondering why he ignored me, and why he hated that Wilhelm guy so much.
Then when I was in high-school, I entered the breast stroke race at the swimming carnival because I was hot, and then I won and had to go to regionals. At regionals, all these swim-mums hassled me and asked who my coach was and tried to psych me out. It worked.

LACK OF STARS

Today I decided it was time to do something about my incipient heart disease and given the excessive sun that we’re dealing with (see last post) I thought swimming would be the way to go. There’s an aquatic centre around the corner of my house, so I felt like it was meant to be. Admittedly, the hangover was probably a bad idea. I didn’t realise that I would drink so much at a chess themed party on a thursday night. Obviously I haven’t been playing chess right. My second mistake was hubris. You see, I remembered my time as Wilhelm, and still had all his cocksure swimming arrogance.

What I was scared about, was the whole administrative side of things. I’m really bad in new situations, where I don’t know precisely what to do, and was worried i’d create some sort of large international scandal when I hang my backpack on a child and discover that my swim wear is now illegal. But I was so excited about getting rippling abs and a new pastime that doesn’t involve alcohol, that I pushed forward anyway.

So after finding my century-old bathing suit, I strut on down to the pool, and walk confidently up to the attractive, tanned young man at the desk, where I proudly announce ‘that I’m making my long awaited comeback to the sport of swimming’. The poor  gentleman blinks and nods slowly. I then proceed to thrust money into his hand saying “I’ll have one of your finest pools, please. I understand the general notion is I swim from one end to the other.” He nods again. I shake my head enthusiastically, quite aware of the fact that my nerves have given me a vastly psychotic demeanour. To cover the awkward silence, I mutter ‘rinse and repeat’ a few times, before confiding to him that it was all in aid of ‘my health’.
With exaggerated care he picks out the six dollars needed and sets me on my way.

Despite the ludicrous nature of my initial foray into this bold aquatic world, I’m not ready to give up, and even believe the worst to be behind me. So, padding awkwardly around the pool, I discover the sensible planning of three different lanes, from fast to medium and slow. I scoff at slow, and vaguely consider the fast lane. I did use to be Wilhelm, you know. But, considering the fact that it’s been over a decade since I last swam a lap in a pool, I decide to play it safe and start off in the medium. Maybe when I’ve hit my pace at around 30 laps, I can leap over the barrier like a Mako shark and speed out the home stretch.

I dive into the water, and start a few awkward strokes. I am secretly jubilant, as the breathing rhythm and everything just comes naturally. It’s like riding a giant wet bike. The next thing I notice is that the water is ridiculously warm. Disappointing, yes. The water is also… rather burny. Then it’s really burny. It’s a weekend at burnies. My eyes are spasming in pain, and my skin is crawling, but I’m pushing on. I do an entire lap, and things are great. I start out on the second lap, and everything feels wrong. My arms and legs are really sore, and it’s getting harder to breathe right. Maybe i’m supposed to exhale more under water, I think, doing so and choking down a big lungful. My clean, economical strokes become claws pulling desperately at the water, and my breathing, even above the roar of the water, sounds distinctly gaspish. This is all wrong. Maybe the water isn’t as buoyant as it used to be.

I’d like my abs now, please.

I clutch the wall, breathing heavily, trying vainly to rub the chlorine from my eyes. Two pregnant ladies are next to me in the slow lane, bobbing around. One is worried that she’ll be picked up by the transit officers on the train, because she hasn’t got a new concession sticker at university yet. Still clawing my eyes, I shriek at them the valuable news that last years sticker is valid until March. They are taken aback. Then one gently suggests I buy some goggles.

Can I help with any more administrative matters, ladies?

I decide to do a lap of breast stroke. If I take it ridiculously slow, I’ll be fine. But then I discover it’s hard to stay afloat without momentum. And some large walrus man has lapped me, and is bearing steadily behind me, at what I can only describe as a terrifyingly slow speed.  I barely make it to the other end. By this point, all illusions are gone. But I need to do one more. At one point, I start bodily hauling myself along with the barrier rope. People are looking at me. The lifeguard is sizing me up. I actually think I’m going to die, startled at the lack of air making it into my lungs.

I AM INEXORABLE!!!!!!!!!!

But I make it, and on rubbery legs I stumble into the change rooms, to face the mirror and look into the boiled red pits that used to be my eyes. They are like two meteors jutting out of my face. It’s like somebody tried to pack my eye sockets full of weed and smoke a bong through my nostrils. Suddenly the incredible fear of the pregnant ladies makes sense.

So tired and despondent and skin irritated, I prepare to make the final humiliation and hand in my locker key to the tanned young man at the desk, about 15 minutes after receiving it from him. He stares, I stare back. Not so witty and psychotic now, I think.  Nevertheless, a rapport had been forged, not a great one, but it was there, so I dredged the depths of my exhausted mind (can I just reiterate how tired and trembly my muscles were? I’m pathetic) for something to say. I end it simply on…
‘Next time I’m using the slow lane.’

And then, because humiliation this complete needs yet another layer, as I exited the Aquatic Centre, a small girl was sitting on the stairs, playing a clarinet, and the two notes she played were

‘Bom boooooooom.’

THE STARS

2.5/5 stars. Cause let’s face it, most of that was my fault.

This Thing I’m Holding – Guest post by Daniel East

Daniel East fucks up the whole discourse on us. ps – it’s not his penis. OH HOLY GOD WAIT A MOMENT IS IT HIS PENIS? – ed
THE STARS
First of all, I’m giving this object a star for being solid-state matter at room temperature. None of that bullshit “liquid” state – what is that anyway? Fat, lazy gas? Substandard solid? Boo-urns liquid-state matter. Laziest of all the states.
Isn’t this a territory and not a state, thus negating your joke? – ed

EXCEPT THE NORTHERN TERRITORY, WHOSE CHIEF EXPORTS ARE RACISM AND BOX JELLYFISH
Next, it’s blue. A nice, sky blue. With a black switch-y thing. Switches are cool. Why can we not control more stuff through old school switches? Everything’s buttons these days. Buttons for your computer, for your shirt, for your iron, for your ironing board cover. Button earrings, button mushrooms, button wholesalers (not a switch in stock!), vintage buttons, custom buttons, I can’t believe it’s not button! ENOUGH WITH THE BUTTONS! Switches are way cooler. One star for its blue-and-black colour scheme/switch combination.
Finally, this thing I’m holding has a sheath. You can’t even THINK that word clean. Just say it – sheath. Sheeeea-th. Google search ‘sheath’ without the safety filter on. Yeah. Xena porn. One whole star for obtusely related to Xena porn.
Isn’t this ancient history, thus negating your joke? – ed
WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT IT! WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO MENTION IT!
LACK OF STARS:
Finally, minus a half star for the one word written on it: “Dorco”. Dorco, yeah? Sounds pretty funny, right? Well it’s not. I’M NOT A DORKO, BRADLEY WATSON IT’S JUST THE WAY MY SPINE IS.
I hate you Bradley Watson.
I hate you, Dorco.
(But it is a funny word to say over and over until a gangly eight year old hate-chokes you until you’re eligible for a disability pension).
SCORE:
2.5 stars
Daniel East firmly believes that life is a cabaret, old chum.
He blogs over here, at The Great Affairs.

Death

Death wants YOU.

The hoary undertaker, unraveller of the mortal coil. Old frost-face. “Don’t touch me, dun dun dun dun”.

THE STARS:

Death has a terrible reputation. I heard he hired some PR people, but they died. But seriously, anyone who has lost a loved one knows that death is pretty shit. However, using my vast hypothetical resources I’ve put together  two scenarios about what would happen if death wasn’t around. These are the only options:

1. Giant skeleton dancing party.

Every day is Halloween.

 Sure, we can’t eat, drink or make love, but we eventually adapt to being a world full of skeletons, because instead of dying we just decay to a calcified state. There would have to be a segmented society between the dead skeleton portion, and the people who are yet to die. Naturally the skeletons would vastly outnumber the living. They would somehow get through an eternity of torment by dancing, until the excessive number of dead reach such a level that they are driven into the sea, to rest uneasily in ocean trenches, looking at whales and shit. Eventually the dead would kill off the living, from sheer lack of space, and humanity would stop producing any more skeletons. Great piles of bones would be heaped in enormous barrows the size of continents, and the skulls would be constantly singing ‘Eye of the tiger’.

2. Each continent is ruled by a zombie Hitler, Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar. The evil undead tyrant would institute a slave society, where most of the dead are burned into piles of greasy ash, except for the vast, unstoppable armies they use to rule the cowering living.

The Aryan ideal.

Now obviously both these options are no fun.

LACK OF STARS:

Death is not a democracy. But imagine if it was. Imagine if we could live forever, as beautiful, un-aging sparkly youth people, forever able to enjoy life and grow wise and solve problems etc etc.
 “But Patrick, that sounds like hell. There would be rampant overpopulation, and you’d have to live with jerks FOREVER.”
I know, I know. But using the wisdom of a little show called ‘Survivor’, what if we were able to vote people off the earth. That’s right, selective death. Criminals, people who use the word ‘literally’ badly, Bob Katter… all these people could be voted off from our utopian, undead society. Thus keeping the population in check, people able to have childrens, and the ability to live forever. This is clearly an awesome idea, and i’m going to deduct a bunch of point from death for not coming up with this previously. However, death, if you’re reading, you miserly bastard, those stars can easily be redeemed if you start getting your act together.

THE SCORE:

2.5/5 stars.