Is this why the normal people drink?

For probably the last 25 years a fragment of music and a snatch of lyrics have been haunting the back of my brain.

It’s an energetic piece. The vocalist sings words along the lines of You can roo-ooo-ooo-oam in your own way with a four note descending scale on “roam”. Then there’s a rather 80s style guitar riff, and the lyrics repeat – You can roo-ooo-ooo-oam in your own way

Emperor Charles V of Spain in case you were wondering

Now in those long ago days before YouTube and Google it was actually really hard to identify a song. If you wanted to look anything up you needed to go down to the local library and search through books, and while it was trivial to find information on, let’s say, Emperor Charles V of Spain, there were very few, if any, books cataloguing song lyrics. And if you did manage to find a book of song lyrics, how could you search it for a random snatch of words from the middle of a song? There simply wasn’t a way to do it.

So my only option was to rack my brain, hoping that some random neurons would connect in the right pattern to throw up some more details. And occasionally, over the years, they did. For instance, I was quite certain for a while that the song had to be “Roam” by the B-52s. I mean, the word ‘roam’ is right there! Careful listening to the radio and the eventual coming of digital music meaning the radio no longer had to be relied on however eventually showed that my random neurons were wrong, with the mysterious phrase appearing nowhere in the work – for all that I could hear Kate Pierson belting it out in my head.

With that possibility eliminated my brain went back to brooding and eventually suggested Transvision Vamp, who I had – frankly – completely forgotten even existed. Checking out their their discography led me to Baby, I Don’t Care.

Which was a slightly better fit – the backing vocals in the chorus actually sounded kind of right – but the bit I remembered still wasn’t there!

So I abandoned the quest. I decided that my brain had smashed together elements from the B-52s, Transvision Vamp and lord knows what else to create an entirely fictional fragment of music that never existed in the first place.

Oddly enough I’d been in this situation before with another fragment of music hiding out in the back of my brain. For years I was haunted by a small piece of violin that I was certain came at the start of a song, and spent just as many futile hours trying to figure out where it originated. I eventually concluded that it was a distorted memory of the start of David Bowie’s Sorrow and remained convinced of this until one wonderful morning when I heard it playing over the radio in the bakery opposite Bayswater railway station like some glorious beam of sunshine bursting into the greyness of the day.

I could only make out fragments of it – not enough to identify the song. But I heard enough fragments to know that there was only one band in history who could pull off such a combination of orchestra, synths, electric guitar and overlayed vocal harmonies, and later that day a search through the works of ELO revealed that the song that had been haunting me for decades was Sweet Talkin’ Woman.

So, imagine my shock and delight when on Sunday, doing my weekly grocery shopping in the Morley branch of a major supermarket chain, I heard the snatch of music that had eluded me for so long!

Yes they ri-ii-ii-ise in their own way! Yes they ri-ii-ii-ise in their own way!

It was history repeating! Another musical memory I’d decided was false unexpectedly revealed as genuine in a place of business! I found my way to one of the ceiling speakers and stood beneath it, memorising as much of the lyrics as I could make out over the hustle and bustle of the supermarket.

As soon as I got home I leapt onto the internet and started frantically typing in lyrics. In no time at all I had it pinned down and discovered that the song that had been haunting me for a quarter of a century was…

…by Daryl f’ing Braithwaite.

It’s Rise – the title track from Braithwaite’s 1990 album.

I was, and remain, not happy. And what’s even more embarrassing than being haunted for decades by the lead singer of Sherbet is that on hearing it I instantly remembered about 90% of the lyrics.

I’m honestly starting to suspect that the reason the normal people fry the memory centres of their brains with alcohol is specifically to avoid this sort of thing.

The Mystery Church of Garratt Road

As I am sure has escaped no one’s notice I am a bit of a nerd. A lot of a nerd to be honest. And given that two of the way ways said nerdery manifests are as a love of maps and a love of history, it should surprise no one that I know a bit more about both the geography and history of my suburb than the average punter staggering out of the Bayswater station Cellarbrations of a Friday night. As such I was quite intrigued of late to stumble over a strange and tantalising local history mystery…

In the run up to Christmas developed a most lamentable and lazy habit of getting the bus home from work rather than getting some exercise in by catching the train and walking from the station. There are several buses that I can catch, the 48 and 55 for instance will drop me right outside my door. The 950 will get me to Morley where I can swap to a 48 or 998, or I could even get the 998 directly from work if I’m happy to spend an extra hour looping around the far side of Herdsmans Lake. If I was feeling particularly insane I could even get the 999 and spend three hours taking in Fremantle and the desolate land of wind and ghosts (AKA south of the river) before returning home. But the bus relevant to this particular mystery is the 41.

The 41 bus behaves like a decent, ordinary 48 or 55 for most of its route before recklessly and without warning veering off into the wild lands between Guildford Road and the river at Maylands. It wanders back and forth through the tangle of suburban streets, emerges briefly back into the light of day at Garratt Road, then plunges back into the wilderness before finally coming to rest only a few blocks from my domicile. If the weather is behaving it’s quite a pleasant walk, taking in both historic Halliday House and the day care centre constructed on top of a PCB dump (if the crazed photocopy stuck up on the IGA noticeboard a few years back is to be believed).

It was at the turn off from Garratt Road a few weeks back that the mystery began. Looking up from my novel I spotted something extremely curious in the distance. It looked for all the world like a church!

Now, I know the local churches. There’s the Catholics at the top of the hill, the Romanian Baptists at the bottom of the hill, the Anglicans halfway down the hill on the other side, the – well I don’t know what it was originally but nowdays it’s the Sikh Gurudwara just a block along from the Anglicans, the Russian Orthodox by the railway line, the Buddhists near the McDonalds, the Ukrainian Orthodox just near the Buddhists and even the Happy Clappys up at the old council offices. But an ecclesiastical building between Guildford Road and the river?!  I’d never heard of such a thing!

So, it was time for research! By which I mean jumping onto Google Earth and zooming around the area looking for a suitably religious looking rooftop. It was hard going. I thought I had it briefly but it turned out my sense of scale was off and I was looking at someone’s garage. A good ten minutes of scrolling and jumping in and out of street view left me baffled. Where was this mystery church? Was it a mirage? Was it a hallucination? Was it an illusion created by Ozzy Osbourne? (He does that more than you’d think). I just could not find it!

So I went back to first principals. I dropped back into street view at the Garratt Road turn off and sighted along the line I remembered for the mysterious building. Then I jumped back into satellite view and traced the line forwards…

And it turned out I’d done goofed up.

I had assumed – as I so often do with street grids – that the street grid around Garratt Road was regular. It is not. The street I sited the punitive church down was not parallel to Guildford Road, but was angled to converge at it. To converge in fact dead on the Romanian Baptists. The mystery church that puzzled me so much was an already known church seen from an unexpected angle. Boy was my face red!

So, what is the moral of this lurid tale? I’m not sure there is one. I’m sure I could spin something together about being prepared for unexpected viewpoints and the destination being the starting point, but I’m a web developer, not a self help guru. Just take this as another pointless interlude in my pointless, carefree life.

Urban Reflections

A few weeks back I needed to do some banking.

Given that this is the 21st century and I’m not completely out of touch with the new information super highway style of doing business I handle most of my banking online, but for this particular task I needed to speak to an actual living human being in an actual physical branch of my bank. Given that my local branch no longer opens on weekends (boo!) I had to gird my loins and prepare for a trip into the wild northlands of Noranda – a place we natives of the Bayswater riverlands do not visit lightly – if at all!*

(* This is dramatic nonsense, but it reads well!)

My first order of business was to figure out exactly where the bank was and what buses I would need to get there. So I fired up a certain popular mapping service and plugged in the address. This showed me that the branch was located in a shopping center (that’s ‘mini-mall’ for Americans and other aliens) that looked oddly familiar…

Back in my high school days my mother worked as a nurse at a doctor’s clinic in a small shopping center in the northern wastes. I hadn’t been there in decades, but I rapidly realised that this was the location of the bank! What a surprising development!

Except… as I looked closer things began to nag at me. Sure, there were parkland and playing fields to the south, but I seemed to remember a road ran through them straight to the centre? And I didn’t think there was a major road running down the east side of the carpark? The more I looked the more I realised that while the shopping center was incredibly similar to the place my mother worked, it wasn’t actually it!

Racking my brain turned up the fact that the clinic was located in Eden Hill, not Noranda. Scooting around the map a bit soon found the place, five kilometres to the south east. It’s no longer a shopping center – it’s been turned into a slightly suspicious looking church – and a chunk of the carpark has been reclaimed for housing, but the list of similarities between the two places are remarkable.

* Both sites are on the south side of a major road east-west road.
* Both sites slope downhill from said major road.
* Public parks are located on the the other side of said major roads.
* The main buildings are located at the south of their large carparks.
* Another building sits (or sat in Eden Hill) at the north west corner of both sites.
* A park and playing fields are located to the south of both sites.

It’s as if both shopping centers were cloned from the same original template, then altered slightly to fit the local conditions.

This reminded me of a something similar I noticed many years ago. In two separate places in Perth for many years you could stand at a major intersection, facing an art-deco theatre. Beyond the theatre to your left was an Italian restaurant. Beyond it on the right was a Geláre ice cream store. In the same direction (a bit further on for one of them) was a branch of Grill’d burgers, and just across the road from both theatres (in different directions though) was a Dôme coffee shop.

The theatres in question of course were the Regal in Subiaco, and the Astor in Mount Lawley. Both were originally movie theatres, the Regal converting to a stage theatre in the late 70s and the Astor following suit maybe ten years ago – which would have made the similarity even more striking if the Mount Lawley Italian place hadn’t moved a few years earlier.

I don’t think any meaning can be drawn from this, apart from a general commentary on how all cities are shaped by the same needs (and perhaps that Dôme, Grill’d and Geláre branches are everywhere), but it’s still kind of weird to spot these kinds of recurring patterns – as if we’re living in a procedurally generated simulation (if you never hear from me again please assume I have been taken away by late 90’s Hugo Weaving).

Oh, and in the end it turned out I could do the banking I needed to do online anyway, so I didn’t have to journey into the wilds of Noranda – which is good because the weekend bus services up that way are appalling.

Schadenfreude and Salt

Ah, depression and having to work for a living are not really conducive to blogging.

Anyway, since I last made an update we’ve had a state election. Schadenfreude is an ignoble emotion, but it was still sweet to watch the Liberals* kicked out of power with a 16% swing. Not that Labor are likely to be much better, but at least it’s a new set of faces screwing us over.

And they won’t (probably) sell off Western Power, and they will (probably) cancel Roe 8, both of which suit me just fine.

Switching subjects wildly in that crazy way you love me for, I’ve noticed lately that salt lamps are making a comeback. You know, the ones made of a big chunk of Himalayan pink rock salt with a light bulb shoved in the middle? I’ve got no problem with people buying these as decoration – they look great, if I could afford the ridiculously inflated prices I’d get one myself – but when people buy them because of the ‘health benefits’ it makes my blood boil in the particular way I reserve for scam artists ripping off the vulnerable.

The supposed health benefits of salt lamps derive from them releasing ‘negative ions’. Now, it is true that if you sufficiently heat up salt it will release negative ions, but the ionic bond between sodium and chlorine in salt is extremely strong. So much so that you need to heat rock salt to a few hundred degrees before you get any more than a tiny trickle of ions out of it.

It should go without saying that if a lamp in the corner of your lounge room is heating up to hundreds of degrees, then the resulting plentiful supply of ions is probably not going to be your chief concern.

On top of this is the fact that there is very little evidence of negative ions having any beneficial effect whatsoever. The idea is based simply on the observation that people (some people anyway) feel ‘energised’ after a thunderstorm. Somewhere along the line someone attributed this to ‘negative ions’ and the pseudoscience industry ran with it. Negative ions may under some circumstances reduce dust but that’s about it.

Finally ‘Himalayan’ rock salt does not come from the Himalayas. Most of it comes from a completely different mountain range located in Pakistan. The remainder actually comes from Poland. So not only are you paying big bucks for completely fictional heath benefits, you’re not even getting the material you think you are!

So yeah, quit it with the rock salt lamps people!

Anyway I’ve been grooving to this Chvrches track lately. Not only is it a great song – I particularly like the contrast between Lauren Mayberry’s and Hayley Williams’ voices – the video clip is a lot of fun too. The toast makes me laugh every time.

Finally as prompted by the always amazing Haiz I’ve been getting into Thrilling Intent of late. This is a massive series of videos where an RPG group has recorded their extremely stupid adventures. The style – mostly audio with icons being moved around a map – takes a bit of getting used to, and I suggest setting the speed to 1.25 for the first few eps, but the characterisation and improvisation are brilliant.

The characters are Markus Velafi – a fast talking, magic using, impulsive Tiefling bullshit artist, Gregor Hartway – a well meaning but idiotically naive fighter, and Aesling (Ash) a magic user of some description who is the only voice of reason in the group (she spends a lot of her time yelling at the others). It’s downright hilarious and highly recommended.

So, that should keep you busy for a while. Have at it!

(* Which is to say Conservatives. Don’t ask.)

Twit

I think this whole ‘Twitter’ thing might just catch on

Twitter is an interesting technology.

I can state this with certainty because I finally caved to the temptation to instantly broadcast my inane mutterings to the internet at large, and have been quietly tweeting away as @Purple_Wyrm for the last couple of months.

I have not mentioned this previously as there was every possibility that I would either massively embarrass myself or simply get bored and abandon the whole thing after a week, but it’s been a bit over two months and I’m still going, and reading back over my history does not make me cringe (much), so I figure it’s time to officially announce my getting on board with what everyone else has been doing for the better part of a decade.

As I said, Twitter is interesting, particularly in the way that it allows weird little moments of interaction. For instance, early this month I tweeted about how much I like Ali Barter’s latest single. A few hours later Ali Barter herself retweeted my comments. As a contrarian pseudo-luddite that’s very strange. I’m used to blindly sending missives about my latest enthusiasms out into the digital void, but actually receiving proof that the person I’m commenting on has seen said missive is a whole ‘nother level of missive sending that is quite startling.

And on Tuesday I tweeted that I think Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spinoff Class is rather spiffing. Next thing I know, Fady Elsayed – who portrays Ram on the same show – is replying to me, which is downright surreal. Awesome, but surreal.

I’m pretty sure that the rest of the world figured this out ages ago, and I’m just a laughable newcomer stumbling around mooing like a digital moon calf, but it’s still a hell of a thing. I’m not sure, but I think this whole ‘Twitter’ thing might just catch on.

(PS: Yes, I’m following a girl I went to school with 20 years ago and haven’t spoken to since. I’m not cyber stalking her – she just happens to be getting married to an ex-work colleague of mine who doesn’t have a Twitter account. So if I’m cyber stalking anyone, I’m cyber stalking him).

An Open Letter to Vodafone

You know, when you say that your Subiaco store opens at 9:00am it would be nice for those of your customers who work for a living if it actually did open at 9:00am and not at 9:11am, by which point said customers have had to leave and catch a bus.

It would so be nice if your goddam website worked properly so your customers could do something as simple as updating their credit card details without having to go into one of your poxy storefronts in the first place.

Thank you.

Can God Fill Teeth?

Six months back – about a week after I had a checkup with the dentist – one of my teeth really started to hurt. I went back, and – after sending me off to an expensive specialist – the conclusion was reached that the tooth had a crack in it and would need a crown. In the meantime the specialist patched it up with metal strips and resin and all kinds of funky stuff so bulky that I spent an hour or so in front of the bathroom mirror filing it down so it didn’t make me feel like a walnut was stuck in my gums.

Last week a big chunk of resin fell off it and this morning a long piece of wire unspooled from the side while I was brushing. This is not a major disaster as I have a dental checkup scheduled for this Friday at which I’m sure they’ll be able to patch it up, but while I was trimming the wire with a pair of scissors I couldn’t help but recall Lard’s absolutely insane track about supernormal dental happenings and self surgery Can God Fill Teeth?

Enjoy!

The Alleged Confectionery

Against my better judgement I ate a doughnut from the much lauded Krispy Kreme today.

The dough tasted like medical waste, and the jam was like something extracted from a drum snuck out of chemical plant at three in the morning.

But here’s the weird thing. When eaten together the two horrible flavours cancelled each other out to the point where the alleged confectionery tasted not stomach-churning, but merely bland. Like sweetened, semi-congealed polyurethane wood glue. It was in fact quite edible – in the sense that you could chew it up and swallow it without any violent reactions from either taste-buds or gut.

I’d investigate this phenomena further, except that I have no desire to subject myself to anything from Krispy Kreme ever again.