My neighbourhood is a poem

Lately I’ve been collecting the names of houses in my neighbourhood. Where I grew up, houses didn’t have names. They were just houses. Everything else had names, including apartment buildings, but not houses, and that didn’t seem strange.

When I moved to Australia, I was surprised by how many houses had names, and announced those names via name plates as if they were attendees at a networking event. But I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the house names because I was a busy person with places to be and things on my mind. My neighbourhood is a poem, Ashley Kalagian BluntNow that I’m sick, I don’t have places to be, or much on my mind. When I can walk, I drift along like a fatigued tortoise, trying to reach a precise step count.

Interestingly, this seems to have cleared up some mental capacity for noticiting details, such as all the strange, poetic house names I’ve passed for years but never noticed. Consider these actual local house names:

Orana
Nebraska
Lochinvar
Norwich
Flinders
Hurlstone
Millbrow
Allerton
The Lily
Elton
Divo
Mea Mai
Banyak Pintu
Austin
Hartford
Sedainota
Shangri-La
Edna
Orielton
Karuah
Monteith
Rosedale
Samian House
Darley
Ventura
Boro
Cornucopia House
Durham
Enom Roo
Grosby
Abna
Pleasant Cottage
Huon
Derwent
Lymington
Elk
Toorack
Moss-side
Clareville
Minora
Rosstrevor
El Nido

Even though Edna and Elton are on different streets, I picture them as a friendly elderly couple. I also picture Elton with a purple glitter finish, maybe some rhinestones (the actual house isn’t living up to its name’s potential). I also quite like Rosstrevor. I assume it was a gay couple who argued for ages about the house name, and finally agreed to mash their first names together.

Shangri-La is a terrible choice. If I came home daily to a place called Shangri-La (or in my case, rarely left) and it was dusty and someone had left clipped nail shards across the bathroom counter and there were burned out lightbulbs that only an electrician could replace because that is not at all inconvenient, I’d feel pretty disenchanted with life.

I mentioned my house name curiosity to my colleagues recently, and one of them told me about a man she knows who migrated to Australia and decided at some point to name his house. He had a tasteful nameplate made with the image of a rosella and a fancy font spelling out “Bella Bosta”.

“It’s Brazilian slang for beautiful shit,” she said.

Which is just about the best metaphor for life I’ve ever heard.

 

Congratulations, you’ve won post-infective fatigue syndrome

Congratulations, you've got post-infective fatigue syndromeThank you for playing Why Am I So Sick All The Time? It’s been an exciting several months, but we’re finally ready to announce the outcome. Remember, all of these conditions and more were in the mix:
Lupus
Malaria
Ross river fever
An allergy to cockroaches
Pregnancy
Maybe some kind of cancer?
Multiple sclerosis
Syphilis

After much consideration and approximately 8500 blood tests, we’re delighted to announce that you have chronic fatigue syndrome! But wait, there’s more! Medically unexplained fatigue comes in a variety of colours and styles:
Standard chronic fatigue
Post-cancer fatigue
Post-concussion fatigue
Post-infective fatigue

Since you’re lucky enough to have post-infective fatigue syndrome (or PIFS, for fun), you’re probably wondering what ‘infection’ you had that kicked this all off, right? Well, it could have been anything. A cold, a flu, that one time you sneezed so loud your husband dropped his iPhone in the sink. In fact, the infection could have been subclinical, meaning you never had any symptoms! Imagine that!

Curious how post-infective fatigue differs from standard chronic fatigue? No-one will adequately explain that to you, ever.

With PIFS, you can enjoy a wide range of new and unpredictable symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

Fatigue, obviously
You’re so tired, it feels like you’ve been awake for a week straight. It feels like you just ran an ultra marathon. You’re so tired, the physical act of holding yourself upright in a chair is unbearable.

Wakefulness
Combing nicely with your overwhelming tiredness is a complete inability to fall asleep or even catch a short nap. Ideally, you should be awake as much as possible to contemplate all the things you could be doing if you weren’t so horrifically exhausted. This also gives you ample time to catch up on social media, so you can see how everyone else’s lives have gone on without you. Look at all your friends and family, achieving their goals and living life to the fullest!

Impaired concentration & short-term memory
You know that thing when someone introduces themselves and you forget their name within 8.29 seconds? Now imagine that for every third thing said to you. And you know how sometimes, you walk in a room and you can’t remember what you wanted there? Well, replace sometimes with always. And replace walk in a room with open a cupboard or click on a desktop file. Then you’ll get it. Except you won’t, because by the time you’ve reached the end of a sentence, you’ve forgotten how it started. Something about mangoes?

Pseudo-nausea
Are you nauseous? Or are you just so tired you’re starting to mistake that for nausea? It’s hard to tell!

‘Unrefreshing sleep’
This is the technical term specialists use to describe how even when you do get a decent night’s sleep, you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a lawn aerator.

Shortness of breath
Sometimes your lungs feel constricted and you can’t get a full breath. Maybe you’ve got asthma. You never had asthma before, but maybe you’ve coincidentally developed asthma at the exact same time as this other mystery condition. No, seriously, pay $25 to blow into this tube. Blow! Blow! Blow! Well, there’s definitely something wrong with your lungs, and it’s definitely not asthma. That’s all we know.

Thank you for playing Why Am I So Sick All The Time? We hope you enjoy your new life with PIFS!

 

The 7 Wonders of My Sock Drawer

  1. Sausage dog made from plastic cocktail sausages
  2. 7.35 in convertible pesos smuggled out of Cuba
  3. Piece of fool’s silver (balled-up aluminum foil)
  4. Journal with entries for January 1 through 3, 1997, remainder blank
  5. Really old raisins or maybe rat droppings
  6. Bar of soap shaped like a toilet
  7. Three socks without holes (unmatching)

2017’s Hottest Fashion Trends

Ashley Kalagian Blunt hottest fashion trends

  1. Habanero sauce, rubbed everywhere
  2. Skirt made from rings of fire
  3. Miniature Hadron Collider vest, set to 9.9 trillion °F
  4. Actual fireplace strapped to your waist
  5. Paper mâché volcano hat
  6. Suit made of quasars (they’re very hot)
  7. Full-body skin suit of 2017’s Sexiest Man Alive
  8. Gloves that are actually Carolina Reaper peppers
  9. Dwarf star fascinator
  10. The Hope Diamond, after you stole it
  11. Flame-shooting bra
  12. Suit of toast fresh out of the toaster

 

How to be Australian according to your passport

Your passport contains the distilled essence of Australia. Study its images carefully during the interminable minutes in line at Immigration. Each image is a puzzle piece. Fit them together, and you will know what it is to be Australian.

Australian passport
Australian passport images, in order of appearance

  • Parliament, featuring the largest free-standing stainless steel structure in the southern hemisphere
  • A kookaburra who really wants you to know about travel insurance
  • A Tasmanian devil suffering lockjaw
  • Surf lifesaving chicks about to launch floaty things into the water
  • A camel caravan
  • A thorny devil
  • A depressed wombat
  • A water tank, windmill-thing and what might be a station house
  • People sitting on car bonnets observing a horserace
  • An even more depressed platypus
  • A man being cruel to a herd of cattle
  • An open-mouthed saltie
  • Cricket
  • A smarmy koala
  • A noble dingo who definitely hasn’t eaten any babies this week
  • Two scuba divers checking out coral
  • Beachgoers
  • A page translated into French, Australia’s unofficial second language
  • A pointy-nosed chipmunk?
  • A highway leading to distant hills, with trees
  • A love-struck emu
  • An RV hitched to a ute, maybe Uluru in the background?
  • A bearded dragon who’s ready to party
  • A kangaroo whose grandfather was a horse
  • Two ladies in togs holding a rope in knee-deep water staring down a big wave
  • A lone surfer
  • A patriotic eagle, the eternal symbol of Australian freedom
  • Just a regular echidna
  • A rural town hotel that definitely has a pub
  • A semi-truck (the designers must have been getting desperate at this point)
  • A sulphur-crested cockatoo who just came out of the dryer
  • Maybe a bilby?
  • Girls playing rugby in skirts because females play sport too
  • Another lizard-type thing – wait, is that a goanna?
  • Sailboats on a harbour
  • A man in an overcoat and fedora staring off towards some power lines or possibly a fence with a definite serial killer vibe
  • Also a lot of plants. Give me a break, I’m not a botanist.

 

Blind dating with books: the game

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.21.15 pm

I recently hosted Blind Dating with Books as part of Noted Festival’s LitHop, where a Lonely Reader from the audience played to find the book of his or her dreams.

Some of the books the Lonely Reader met included the fine, well-known titles listed here. Can you guess the identity of these books? They may be fiction or non-fiction, for adults or kids. Answers below. No cheating!

Book 1
Setting: New Zealand
Themes: good vs evil, heroism, climbing volcanoes, love of jewellery, friendship, long journeys, getting out of your comfort zone, The Great Outdoors
Plot notes: Supernatural big brother, communing with trees, etc

Book 2
Setting
: The Middle East, or a vaguely desert-like place
Themes: Salvation, good vs. evil, begetting, killing your child, the patriarchy
Plot notes: Probably the most famous beginning, major flooding, getting swallowed by a whale, giant vs. slingshot, murder via DIY woodworking

Book 3
Setting
: modern Europe
Themes: ancient conspiracies, bad grammar, murder, “symbology”
Plot notes: murder in a museum, cryptic clues, famous artworks, historical and scientific inaccuracies

Book 4
Setting
: Nazi Germany
Themes: Survival, friendship, how great books are, hatred/racism, death
Plot notes: hiding from Nazis, book burnings, orphanhood, getting whipped (but not in a sexy way)

Book 5
Setting: A fruit bowl?
Themes: counting, transformation
Plot notes: chocolate cake, ice-cream cone, pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, cupcake, a lot of various fruits

Book 6
Setting
: Old timey England
Themes: love, romance, marriage, social inequality
Plot notes: boarding school, secret spouse, dead parents, typhus and other old-timey diseases, horse-riding accidents, a proposal from your cousin, arson

Book 7
Setting
: Northern Europe, present day
Themes: murder, justice, challenging stereotypes
Plot notes: computer hacking, open marriage, lucrative ghost-writing, Nazi relatives, amateur tattoo artistry, patricide

Book 8
Setting
: A private island
Themes: murder, mystery, survival, justice
Plot notes: cyanide poisoning, message in a bottle, confession, life imitates poetry, a marble clock shaped like a bear

Book 9
Setting
: Old timey England
Themes: love, romance, marriage, family
Plot notes: snobbery, balls, fever, never-ending marriage proposals, horse riding, the worst brother-in-law

Book 10
Setting
: Melbourne
Themes: love, romance, acceptance, reducing inefficiency
Plot notes: very specific menus, ‘affirmative’, cocktails, trip to New York, project work, bicycles, science!

Book 11
Setting
: small-town America
Themes: childhood trauma and its echoes in adulthood, ugliness lurking behind small-town quaintness, overcoming evil
Plot notes: stuttering, oversized spiders, Dracula, Hansel & Gretel, a werewolf, Frankenstein’s monster, blood oath, a random turtle

Book 12
Setting
: Modern day US
Themes: power/control, life choices
Plot notes: “I don’t do the girlfriend thing”, drunk calls, private helicopter, “written consent”/nondisclosure agreement, “hard limits”, a lot of crying

Book 13
Setting
: The universe
Themes: Science! Learning! Amusing anecdotes! Terror!
Plot notes: How did the universe start? What are supernovae? Big Bang Theory, the size, shape, weight and orbit of the Earth, theory of relativity and quantum physics, the fabric of spacetime, potential deadly meteor strike, Yellowstone supervolcano, global warming; possibly recurring ice ages

Book 14
Setting
: London
Themes: love and romance, self-improvement (?), weight loss
Plot notes: Having a crush on your boss, how confusing men are, a time-share scam, awkward dates, culinary disasters

Answers
1. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
2. The Bible – God et al.
3. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
4. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
6. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsen
8. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
9. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austin
10. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
11. It – Stephen King
12. 50 Shades of Grey – EL James
13. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
14. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

5 life hacks you absolutely must follow or you’ll be dead by Friday

1. Taupe is your colour. That’s right, taupe.

2. Attach paperclips to a hanger, then put in your freezer to avoid thinking about your credit card debt.

3. If you’re driving in snow and spin out, pour a bucket of hot water under each tire. Seriously. Your neighbours won’t laugh at you.

4. Put a piece of white bread inside your shirtsleeve to soak up sweat.

5. Get 37 people to retweet you within exactly 29 seconds, and a unicorn will appear to grant you one wish.

The overlooked cultural achievements of spam mail

This week I received an email from someone named Cletus Woodham, with the subject  Spam: part 3. This reminded me how wonderful spam is. I mean, Cletus Woodham? 

Cletus Woodham - a spam love story by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

My curated collection of spam screenshots are a testament to spam mail’s magnificence, a fact sadly overlooked in modern society. I argue that spam is one of our greatest cultural achievements. Consider:

1. Spam is comedy. No one else sends you emails with subject lines like

Spam screenshot: comedy from Ashley Kalagian Blunt

2. Spam has your best interests at heart. Without it, how would you know about common attraction killing words to women?
comedy Ashley Kalagian Blunt
(Turns out it’s ‘honk’. Women hate that.)

3. Spam is an art form. Consider this brilliant poem:
comedy Ashley Kalagian Blunt

4. Spam alerts you to new products you never knew about but absolutely need. Spam screenshot: comedy from Ashley Kalagian Blunt

5. Spam cares. It wants to make sure you ‘do not die in pain and silence’ when your problems can ‘be handle with full force of our oracle and ancestors’.

comedy Ashley Kalagian Blunt
There are a lot more reasons why spam is great, and trust me, I will probably tell you about them sooner than you could possibly hope.