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Talkin’ ‘Bout A Resolution

It’s the start of a brand new year, and it’s time to celebrate in the traditional manner by regretting what you did on New Year’s Eve.

If you’re lucky it was something harmless, such as running down the street naked or sleeping with a complete stranger. Sure you’ll have to do some explaining, and possibly book a flight out of the country, but after a few days it will all be forgotten — at least until the footage goes up on YouTube. (Let’s hope it’s just of you running down the street naked.)

But if you haven’t been outside all week, and are refusing to answer the phone, then you probably did the unthinkable: made a New Year’s resolution and told your friends about it.

Historical fact: Osama bin Laden made a similar mistake, which is why he’s gone into hiding.

Normally there’s nothing to worry about. You simply make an effort to change some major aspect of your life, realise it’s a lost cause a few days later, and get back to drinking, smoking, or eating your body weight in chocolate.

However, chances are that after your fifteenth cocktail you decided to shared your life-changing plans with your friends, which by then was pretty much everyone. And having just solved one problem (”How do I stop the room from spinning?”), you realise you’ve got a problem that’s much, much worse. Your friends may struggle to remember your name (or even their name) by the end of the night, but they will remember what you said you were going to do. Especially if they’re women.

The good news is that with a little lateral thinking, and a lot of lying, you can not only achieve your goals, but also take advantage of them.

Let’s take one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions: stop smoking. Years ago it was a real effort, because you could only go cold turkey (which is incredibly hard to light). But these days with just a few… dozen nicotine patches, you can not only give up cigarettes, but also cover up unsightly scars on your body.

Alternatively, you can colour in the patches with a black felt marker, arrange them in a checkerboard pattern on your stomach, and charge people to play chess on it while you sleep in the park.

Of course, if their pieces keep toppling over then you’ll need to lose weight, the most popular New Year’s resolution of all. In an article by Amy Ireland in the Northside Chronicle, Brisbane-based hypnotherapist Tony Romano says you are getting very sleepy. (Your wallet is also getting very light.)

No, what he actually says is you can try “visualisation”, where you picture how you’ll look and feel in your new body. So cut out a photo of a supermodel (you’ll find one in any women’s magazine), and stick it on your wall. Then, when you’re ready lose weight, simply look at the photo and hurl darts into it as hard as you can. You’ll not only burn calories throwing the darts, but also pulling them out again, not to mention replastering the wall between throws.

Mr Romano also says you should break your resolutions into smaller, more manageable tasks. Yes, it will take longer to achieve your goals, but it also means you’ve got longer to come up with an excuse as to why you failed. (The “El Nino” effect is a good start.)

Your ultimate goal is to drag them out until New Year’s Eve, where you can replace them with a whole new set of totally unrealistic goals. (Pretend you’re a prime minister or president with an election coming up.) Just keep them to yourself this time.

But don’t be afraid to celebrate. After all, it’s the start of a whole new year, and there’s a lot to be happy about.

At least until the footage reappears on YouTube.

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Cashing In On Tuning Out

As a community-minded person, I’m always looking for ways to improve people’s lives and make a lot of money in the process. Well, I think I’ve finally worked out how to do it, thanks to the mobile phone industry.

No, I’m not going to start inventing new ringtones, even though there’s certainly plenty of money in it. (People spent $30 billion on ringtones last year, which means a lot of teenagers will be asking for a bigger allowance). There are too many obnoxious sounds out there already – even without telemarketers.

Of course, things have changed a lot over the years. The early ringtones sounded like a two-year-old playing a recorder, making you want to grab the phone and hurl it against a wall. These days, ringtones can sound like a demented frog making motorbike noises… making you want to grab the phone and hurl it against a wall.

And now, thanks to the hardworking people in the mobile phone industry who keep pushing technology to the limit (not to mention everyone’s credit cards), ringtones are about to change again.

With the new third-generation phones (known as ‘3G’ phones, because that’s roughly how much they’ll cost), people will be able to download actual recordings of songs and use them as ringtones. So now, instead of a demented frog making motorbike noises, you’ll be subjected to something even worse – the “Top 20” songs they’re already playing on the radio a hundred times a day (even more if they’re having a “music marathon”).

You’ve probably only heard the first few seconds of these songs, depending on how long it takes you to switch radio stations or rip out the power cord. But now you’ll be forced to listen to at least 30 seconds worth (i.e. the same four bars repeated a hundred times) while the person fishes it out of their bag, looks at the number being displayed, works out who’s calling them, and finally pushes the button to answer it. Assuming someone hasn’t killed them in the meantime.

Discussion question: Have you ever seen someone look at the number, go “Nope, don’t want to talk to you” and hang up? Or do they talk for twenty minutes, hang up, and then turn to their friend and say, “I wish he wouldn’t keep ringing me”. Do you think there’s a setting on their phone that stops them from doing it, in case they accidentally hang up on a boy they like?

At one stage I thought I could make my money by hiring myself out to answer people’s mobile phones. I’d answer the call for them, say who’s ringing, and either give the phone to them or end it appropriately. “I’m sorry, but Jenny does not wish to speak to you right now, and suggests that you walk out onto the highway and try to stop a bus with your head.”

But then I read a story in The Sunday Mail about people who couldn’t use their mobile phones in Brisbane’s “black spots”, which apparently can’t be killed with pimple cream. And that’s when I realised how I could make my fortune: colouring in all the black spots for money.

No, that’s when I realised people would probably pay a lot of money to live in an area where they wouldn’t hear anyone’s ringtone, or those stupid beeps whenever someone gets a text message that normal people can’t understand, such as “DO U WAN2 C ME L8R” (literally, “My thumb hurts”).

So if you’d like to live an area where you will never have to listen to another mobile phone ringing again, then send me lots of money, and I’ll let you know when the place is finished and ready to move into (Just look for the sign saying, “Welcome to the town of… hello… hello?”)

And if you’re bringing your two-year-old, make sure they’ve got something in their mouth besides a recorder.

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The Odds Of Graduating

In a bid to look ‘cool’ without having to wear baseball caps backwards, the Australian government is banning compulsory student union fees at universities, and fining anyone who tries to introduce other compulsory charges (such as the “give us some money or we’ll fail you” fee) to get around the decision.

These fees pay for vital student services, such as cheap alcohol, diaries to keep track of their overdue assignments, and felt tip pens to write “Down with [insert name of cause here]” slogans on their bed sheets to wave at whatever protest is coming to town.

Of course, the students think the fee cuts are a great idea, because it will give them more money to spend on things they really need, such as decent beer, food or, if they’re really desperate, textbooks.

But according to an article by Steven Wardill in The Courier-Mail, the move has “sent shockwaves through the tertiary sector”. Naturally this got the engineering students all excited, until they realised it was a journalistic cliché and not the plotline for a new Star Trek movie.

Now the universities are working on other ways to come up with the money. And with some of the most brilliant minds in the country (as measured by the number of acronyms after their name) working on the problem, they’re certainly coming up with some interesting proposals.

The first thing they’ll try, of course, is asking the government for more money. But I doubt the politicians will come to the party, because everyone will be drunk and try to steal their ties. Besides, why would they want to pay students to yell obscenities outside their offices and risk spilling their cappuccinos?

So the universities are looking at other businesses to help them come up with the cash. Sydney University has indicated (probably with a banner, if it hasn’t run out of felt tip pens) that it may introduce poker machines. This will be great for the students – they’ll have a much better chance of getting money out of a poker machine than out of the government.

But I doubt we’ll be seeing poker machines at universities here in Queensland any time soon. University of Queensland union president Leah Sanderson said they’d be looking at other funding sources before they looked at poker machines. My guess is they’re leaning more towards roulette tables so the staff can earn some extra money as croupiers.

The Queensland University of Technology (“A university for the real world, wherever that is”) won’t be getting any poker machines, either. According to Guild president Kate Perry, poker machines were not an option at QUT (probably because there’s a chance they could pay out, unlike the vending machines currently scattered around the campus).

But she did say they were considering more lenient rules to allow big business (i.e. anyone with money) to gain a greater foothold on campus. So we could soon have McDonalds “restaurants” at university, posing a serious challenge to the student cafeteria as the biggest oil-producing facility in the area.

I think it would be great for McDonalds to get involved at universities, and not just so the Arts students can go straight from the graduation ceremony to their first job without leaving campus. They could actually help people with their education.

For instance, they could run a competition where every time you buy a burger or drink, you get to peel off a sticker to reveal a letter. Then, when you’ve collected enough letters to spell ‘degree’, ‘diploma’, or even ‘doctorate’, you get to graduate. (If you think it’s a silly idea, I’ve got two words for you: ‘Honorary Doctorate’.)

And finally, when you’re at the ceremony to receive your McDegree, and the Chancellor is shaking your hand, you’ll finally hear the words you’ve been waiting to hear ever since your first day at university.

“You want honours with that?”

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Parental Guidance Recommended

The first concert I ever went to was at Canberra’s Bruce Stadium in December 1991, where I got to see dIRE sTRAITS, one of the first bands to suffer from the dreaded caps lock problem.

Rather than sit in the grandstand with the mums and dads, I stood in the centre of the arena with the “kids”, soaking up the atmosphere and, as the heavens opened, half the Pacific Ocean as well.

(Ironically, the support band was Hothouse Flowers, whose hit at the time included the words, “I can sing clearly now, the rain has gone”.)

Well, for my birthday in December last year my wife gave me tickets to see Mark Knopfler, the man responsible for both the band’s music and a worldwide shortage of headbands. And this week I got to see him in Brisbane and, more importantly, indoors.

They were great seats, too – about fifteen rows back, directly in front of the stage. Unfortunately the two tallest people in Queensland were sitting directly in front of us, so we had to lean from side to side whenever they moved so we could still see past them. (This is why people sway gently from side to side during the show.)

At 36, I thought the place would be full of teenyboppers (which for me means “anyone in their 20s”). But when I looked around the stadium, everyone seemed to be a lot older. In fact, by the looks of things I was one of the youngest people there. (My wife was the other one.)

Admittedly 1991 was a long time ago. Even Mark is starting to show his age – his hair is now silvery grey, and the headband has been replaced with a pair of glasses. But the kids I stood with in the rain all those years ago were nowhere to be seen, and I was about to spend a night with the parents.

Fortunately there was no support band this time around, or someone in the audience surely would have complained (“Who the hell is that? That’s not Mark. I didn’t pay to see this idiot. Where’s the manager…”), at which point the person beside them would be legally obligated to ram an Official Program down their throat.

Of course, when you realise their ticket cost over a hundred dollars (as did the babysitter), and they won’t enjoy another night out until the kids leave home, you can understand why they were so keen for the show to start. (And end – they still had to get up early to make lunches and go to work.)

Unfortunately, being surrounded by people with poor communication skills (children, bosses, etc.) for so long means they’ve forgotten most of their social skills. And that’s a bad thing when you’re with thousands of other people who’ve also bought tickets (not to mention Official Programs).

If you’re one of these people, and you’re heading off to a concert soon, here a few ways you can avoid spending the night in hospital getting an Official Program surgically removed.

Don’t sing unless you know the words.

Unlike a church service, no-one expects you to sing along to every song. If you know the words, then go ahead. But if you don’t, just keep quiet and wait for the next karaoke night.

Clap in time.

If you’re going to clap along, clap to the rhythm. Otherwise it sounds like someone has set off a load of firecrackers, and the building will be evacuated.

Don’t try to dance.

Remember how your three-year-old jumped up and down at that Wiggles concert? Well, that’s what you look like when you try and “dance” in your seat.

Now that you know what to do (and what not to do), I hope you have the time of your life at the concert. Who knows? I might even see you there.

I’ll be the young guy buying the Official Program.

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Tourist Trap

Thanks to the millions of computers, cables and porn sites that make up the Internet, my column can be read by millions of people around the world. And if you’ve read a few, you may even be thinking about coming to Australia to break my fingers.

But before you book that plane ticket, you should find out a bit about this wide brown land. And then, once you know all about my front garden, you should learn about Australia, and the people who live here.

There’s no point going to a travel agent, because they’ll tell you anything to get you on a plane and out of the country. That’s why your ticket was so cheap – it’s only one-way.

Trouble is, the Internet isn’t going to be much help, either. According to an article by Kate Patterson in The Sunday Mail, a lot of the travel web sites designed to teach people about Australia are “fraught with out-of-date guidelines”.

This raises an obvious question, namely: What does “fraught” mean? But we should also question what is being said on these web sites. Looking at the article, here are just some of the things people are being told:

  • “G’day” is still the standard greeting.
  • Eating with your hands is acceptable.
  • Many Australians don’t wear shoes.
  • Swearing is quite common.
  • Australians are difficult to impress.
  • “Fraught” is a real word.

So just how inaccurate are these guidelines? Local manners expert Patsy Rowe said, “I had to have two puffs of Ventolin when I read that”. (Obviously she’d run out of Chardonnay.)

Well, I for one don’t want Australia to become the Ventolin inhaling capital of the world. So to set the record straight, here are the myths and realities of Australia and its people (I’ll let you decide which is which).

“G’day” is still the standard greeting.

The only people who’ll greet you this way are a) tourists, and b) guys trying to demonstrate how “manly” they are around women. They usually follow it up with a handshake, where they try to crush as many bones in your hand as possible.

Most Australians will greet you in a more traditional manner, such as “Hello”, “Hey you!” or “Have you got any spare change?”

Eating with your hands is acceptable.

Hey, you should be thankful. When I was at university I had to watch someone eat an entire meal with his hands tied behind his back.

The truth is, unless it’s something like pizza or KFC, we use knives and forks like everyone else. Just don’t make us use chopsticks unless you’re willing to risk losing an eye.

Many Australians don’t wear shoes.

If by “shoes” they mean “sneakers endorsed by some sports star that cost more than a small car”, then they’re right. We wear regular shoes, although during summer we tend to wear either sandals or thongs to stop our feet from spontaneously combusting.

About the only time we don’t wear shoes is when we’re at the beach.

Swearing is quite common.

Probably because we’ve just stepped on a syringe at the beach.

While we swear more than people in, say, England (then again, so does the Pope), we’re nowhere near as bad as they are in the American cop shows we see on television. In fact, that’s how most Australians learn to swear in the first place, which is why we rarely do it before 8:30pm.

Australians are difficult to impress.

Actually, we’re very easy to impress. All it takes is four words: “Drinks are on me”.

As you can see, we’re really no different from anyone else. So grab that ticket, jump on that plane, and let us show you our food, our beaches, and our hospitality. And if we happen to meet up somewhere, I’d really like to shake your hand.

Just go easy on the fingers, okay?

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Animal Crackers

If you’ve just started a family, then you’ve probably thought about getting a pet, because sleep deprivation has turned your brain to mush.

No, actually there are good reasons for having a pet in the house when you’ve got kids. According to various studies, having a pet teaches them essential life skills, such as nurturing, non-verbal communication, and trying to eat everything they see.

(Needless to say, the people conducting these studies don’t have kids.)

What you need to do now is work out what kind of pet to buy. And chances are it will come down to either a cat or a dog. Sure, you could get something smaller like a bird or a fish, but these pets don’t last very long – especially if your child tries to pat them.

So which one should you choose? Well, over the years I’ve lived with both, and I can honestly say they each have their good and bad points – although the cat’s bad points are usually a lot sharper.

One good thing about cats is they’re very clean animals, and usually do their business outside. (I’m not sure what their business is, but it probably involves catching live animals, because they always seem to be bringing their work home.)

But don’t think your child can run up to a cat, pull its tail and get away with it. No, your child won’t get anywhere near that close. In fact, your child probably won’t even see the cat. They’ll just walk out one morning and find all the furniture ripped to shreds.

Dogs on the other hand, are very people-friendly. Your child can virtually rip its tail off, and five minutes later it will be back, licking their face. This is partly because they’re stupid, but mostly because kids’ faces are often covered in food.

But dogs aren’t perfect. They bark at practically anything, and soon your letterbox will be so jammed with death threats that you might not get your lingerie catalogues. And if you think your child poops a lot, just wait until you get a dog. (No, you can’t put nappies on them.)

Still, when it comes to the safety of your child you might think the dog is a better choice, especially if the dog lives outside. And you’re probably right – unless of course your dog joins the “wrong crowd” and starts getting high on hallucinogenic poison like they are here in Australia.

According to a report in Adelaide’s The Advertiser, dogs in the Northern Territory are licking the backs of cane toads and getting high from the poison. And if you’re asking yourself why they’d even try such a thing, then you’ve obviously never owned a dog.

Megan Pickering, a vet in the town of Katherine, said that after licking the toads the dogs “get a smile on their face and look like they are going to wander off into the sunset”. And they probably will, just as soon as they can get their paws on the canine equivalent of a kebab.

We have cane toads here in Queensland too, and so it will only be a matter of time before the local dogs hear about it and start “experimenting” as well, thinking it can’t be any worse than what they’ve been licking so far. It won’t take long for them to find out either, as a dog’s bark can be heard for miles – especially at night outside my bedroom window.

So if you own a dog, you might want to keep an eye out for cane toads. And if you notice your dog acting even more stupid than usual, you should grab your dog and lock it up somewhere safe before it goes wandering off into the sunset.

The good news is you’ll finally be able to get some sleep. At least until your kid wakes up again.

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Love Is A Many Gendered Thing

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and guys around the world are working out how to best convey those three little words: “I’m really sorry”.

But ladies, before you cross out the word “Gorgeous” on that card for your “Drop Dead Gorgeous” man, I should point out that he really did try. It’s just that Valentine’s Day is a totally non-guy concept – like Power Tool Appreciation Day would be to you.

Let’s face it: Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a way for greeting card companies to make money (something flatly denied by Hallmark during their press conference announcing National Greeting Card Day in August.)

“But how hard can it be?” you ask. “All he has to do is buy me some flowers, maybe a nice piece of jewellery, and take me out to dinner.” But for most guys, you may as well be asking them to split an atom, and it’s just as likely to blow up in your face.

(Incidentally, if a guy had to choose between the two, he’d definitely choose splitting the atom, because it means he has an excuse to tinker around in his tool shed all night. “Now where did I put that chisel…?”)

Let’s start with the flowers. The “rules” say that you should buy your partner a bunch of her favourite flowers. But the average guy has no idea what his partner’s favourite flower is. In fact, he wouldn’t even be able to name a flower let alone pick one out, unless it happened to be a rose. Then he’s happy, until he realises that one long-stemmed rose costs as much as the monthly car payment.

But of course, guys, you don’t just buy a bunch of flowers. No, you have to buy an “arrangement”, which is just like a bunch of flowers except it costs twice as much. The florists also talk about something called “baby’s breath”, which most guys don’t want to know anything about, at least not for a few years.

Hint for women: If you really want those flowers, just go ahead and order them yourself (but say they’re from him on the card). Don’t worry – he’ll be in such a tizz about the whole event that he’ll just assume he bought them somehow. (Of course, to complete the illusion, you should also charge it all to his credit card.)

And if you thought guys were clueless about flowers, then you obviously haven’t seen him try to buy jewellery. Actually, you probably never have seen him buy jewellery, because the only piece of jewellery he owns is a watch. And you bought it for him.

Please, be grateful for whatever he buys you, because the price tags will have his head spinning so fast he’ll have bought whatever the salesperson showed him. “Oh, look,” you’ll hear yourself saying. “A calculator. How thoughtful.”

Hint for guys: Women will love any jewellery you buy them, especially if it has a) lots of glittering jewels, and b) the receipt.

Traditionally, the evening wraps up with a romantic candlelit dinner for the two of you. Of course, all the good restaurants were booked out months ago, and so you’re probably going to have to settle for a slightly less romantic restaurant where they call out your number when your meal is ready. But look on the bright side: imagine how happy you’ll be if you end up winning that meat hamper.

If you really want to have a romantic day with your man, forget about the stupid traditions, and just spend the day with him. He’ll cook for you (providing there’s popcorn in the cupboard), and he’ll hold your hand while you watch television (he may even tell you how the scoring works). And at the end of the night, if you’re really lucky, he may take you by the hand and lead you to the most sacred of places.

His tool shed.

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Warming to the occasion

It’s a “boom” time in the real estate market right now (“boom” being the sound people’s hearts make when they work out the monthly repayments). People are buying up properties left, right and centre because they’re sick of wasting their money paying rent when they could be wasting their money paying interest.

You may even be one of these people, unpacking the last of the boxes and trying to find a place for everything. (I recommend the dumpster.)

Well, if you think you can put your feet up on whatever furniture you have and relax, then you’ve obviously forgotten the next step in home ownership – hosting the all-important housewarming party.

This tradition dates back to prehistoric times, when primitive man would find a new cave and then light a fire inside to make it feel like a home. Unfortunately this would wake up the vicious beast still living there (they didn’t have leases back then), which would then decide to “eat in”. Eventually primitive man learned that to make it feel like a home he also needed to be surrounded by his primitive friends – especially those who ran slower than he did.

Of course, these days we no longer have vicious beasts to worry about (they’re called bank managers now). But it’s still traditional to have friends around to help you celebrate your new purchase, though hopefully yours are a little more evolved.

The first thing you need to do is work out which friends you’ll invite. Like most parties, the trick is to invite those people who’ll bring that certain something to the occasion (i.e. an expensive gift). And while you can’t actually tell them what to buy, you can certainly offer a hint in your invitation. “We’d love you to come to a party at our new home which, unfortunately, doesn’t have a 42-inch plasma TV.”

As your guests arrive, you’ll need to show them each room and explain what it is. “This is the kitchen,” you’ll say, pointing to the kitchen. If you want to make a bit of a game of it, you could point to a room and say, “Guess what this is”. (If you really want to liven things up, point to a room and say, “This is where we sacrifice the goats”.)

The traditional housewarming meal is the backyard barbecue, which serves two important functions:

  1. It provides a relaxed, carefree setting where people can mingle, and
  2. It keeps everyone out of the house.

This means you’ll need lots of meat, sausages and tomato sauce. Don’t bother buying the expensive stuff – it all tastes the same when it’s burnt.

Drinks are easier to organise, because everyone will bring their own. But they still need to be kept cold. A good idea is to fill your bath with ice, and put all the drinks in there. Not only will it keep them cool during the night, it will also stop people trying to use it as a bed for the night. (If someone does fall asleep in there, draw some scars on their chest and leave a note saying you’ve removed their kidneys.)

As the host, you’ll spend most of the night “circulating”. This is a great time to catch up with friends you haven’t seen lately, because you’ve got an excuse to get away from them when they start telling you about their son’s toilet training. “I’d better keep circulating,” you’ll say, and disappear into the night, vowing to join the witness protection program as soon as possible.

Eventually it will be time to call it a night (at least that’s what the police will tell you), and you’ll be left to clean up the cans, paper plates and sleeping bodies scattered around the yard.

Don’t worry. It won’t be long before you’ll get an invite to their housewarming party, and you’ll be able to return the favour.

Just make sure you pick out a suitable gift. I’d start looking in that dumpster.

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A Sly Career Move

Just when you thought you could watch movies without the subtitles again, Sylvester Stallone is talking about making another Rambo film.

It’s been nearly 20 years since we last saw John Rambo, the Vietnam veteran with so many medals he’d rather walk than try to get through airport security. And with Sly turning 59 this year, the question everyone’s asking is, why make another one now?

Some say he’s doing it so people will forget about Spy Kids 3D, while others say he’s getting back at his mother for appearing on Britain’s Celebrity Big Brother. But whatever the reason, Sly is ‘psyched’ about it.

“We’re in the kitchen and we’re cooking,” he said. Or at least that’s what the reporter thinks he said. The way Sly speaks, it could have been anything.

For those of you who weren’t around during the 80s (or who were, but are taking medication to forget) and don’t know what it’s all about, here’s a summary of the first three Rambo movies.

In First Blood, Rambo drifts into the small town of Hope (“Population: 16,000 and about to plummet”) for something to eat. But before he can even find a Burger King the local sheriff escorts him out of town, because that’s what it says in the script.

This really ticks off Rambo (they didn’t have drive-through in Vietnam), and so when he’s arrested for bad acting he quickly escapes and heads to the hills. The police learn about the medals, but come after him anyway, because what can an expert in Guerrilla warfare possibly do to them in the dark? Of course Rambo (now disguised as a tree) nearly wipes them out.

They limp back into town, and call in the military, which blows up the cave he’s hiding in. (They used the same script to try and catch Osama Bin Laden.)

Fearing the film will be too short, Rambo escapes, heads into town, and blows up most of it. Finally, he sees his old CO Colonel Trautman, and makes a heartfelt speech that linguistic experts are still trying to translate.

In Rambo: First Blood, Part II, Rambo is smashing rocks with some friends when the Colonel offers him a job with the paparazzi. His assignment is to go to back to Vietnam and “just take pictures”. But when he spots some Americans being tortured, he rescues one of them and heads back to be picked up.

Of course, when the chopper pilot realises it’s not a Survivor contestant he heads back, leaving Rambo at the mercy of the locals, as well as some Russians who think Vietnam is a great place to try out their English.

A local girl helps Rambo escape, and when she gets killed he finds a chopper and goes ballistic, firing enough ammunition to affect the earth’s rotation. Luckily, all the Americans survive, and after taking out a Russian gunship with a rocket launcher he finds in the glove compartment, he delivers the Americans safely.

He receives another medal, but rather than risk breaking his back, Rambo runs away to Thailand.

Rambo III starts with our hero taking part in a stick fight to see who will be the drummer in their new band. (He tried out as lead singer, but no-one could understand him.) Then, while fixing a roof on Bangkok’s “How To” channel, the Colonel finds him and asks him to come on a holiday to Afghanistan. Rambo says no, but the Colonel goes anyway, only to be arrested for driving without his headlights on.

When Rambo finds out, he mounts a rescue mission with the locals to rescue the Colonel and fight some more Russians, who realise that Vietnam was a stupid place to try out their English, and are giving Afghanistan a shot.

So what will Rambo get up to this time? Hunt down Osama Bin Laden? Look for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq? Or maybe just head off to Russia to improve his English skills?

Whatever he does, one thing is certain.

You will definitely need subtitles.

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Flat Out Staying Healthy

Today’s topic is: Health and fitness.

We all know how important it is to be fit and healthy these days, thanks largely to the miracle of television. We only have to switch it on to see some fitness moron talking about it while demonstrating the latest gizmo to help you “trim down” and “tone up” – thigh blaster, fat blaster, photon blaster… No, wait. That was the Sci-Fi channel.

Naturally, these are the most hated people on television next to Rosie O’Donnell. It’s only a matter of time before someone uses their “three easy instalments” to buy a gun and get them off the air permanently. (Obviously they’ll need to use armour-piercing bullets to penetrate the “rock-hard abs”.)

The good news is these people might be blasting their way to an early grave (“a $50 saving!”) According to a new book, The Joy of Laziness: Why Life Is Better Slower — and How to Get There, the key to a long life is actually to just sit around on your butt all day.

According to its authors – a retired German professor and his GP daughter — we are all given a limited amount of “life energy”, and how long we live depends on how quickly we use that energy. (I should point out that these people were both long-distance runners, so they could just be making excuses for always coming last. “We were conserving our life energy” sounds a lot better than “We got a stitch”.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Okay, so we now have an excuse not to walk to work every day, or even to the front door. But without all that exercise, won’t our stomachs blow up quicker than a drivers-side airbag? How can we keep our weight down enough so we can still see the television?”

Well, some hardworking people at the Eastern Virginia Medical School (who obviously hadn’t read The Joy of Laziness) have come up with a suggestion: sleep in.

You might think they’ve been mixing their medication a bit too much, but apparently they studied 1000 people and found as people’s body mass index (which measures how likely they are to break a couch by sitting on it) increased, their sleep time decreased.

Now they won’t actually come out and say that sleeping longer will help you lose weight, at least not without a large government grant. But the study does say that “an extra 20 minutes of sleep per night seems to be associated with a lower body mass index”.

The obvious question is, can you sleep in longer and lose even more weight? Of course! Sleep in for an hour or two every day, and you’ll really start shedding the kilos, especially when you get the sack and can no longer afford food.

Of course, the real problem with the Lying In Bed Doing Nothing diet is that you risk losing touch with the world, or at least the latest screw-ups on Jerry Springer. Sure, you could get someone to move the television to your bedroom, but you’d still be wasting precious life energy holding your head up.

Well, I’m pleased to announce that your problems will soon be over, thanks to Gary Raynor, an MBA graduate at the Queensland University of Technology (“a university for the real world that costs the earth”). Gary has invented the PillowVue, a small unit that sits on your bedside table and projects the picture onto the ceiling.

But you’ll need to be careful. Before you know it you’ll see a whole new batch of morons on television, selling their exclusive Fat Blaster pillows, as well as the doona that weighs three tonnes so you “get a workout, even as you breathe”.

And you don’t want to be wasting any of that life energy patching up the bullet holes in your ceiling.

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