Last Saturday, I went to the Zoological Gardens in Melbourne, sometimes called the "Melbourne Zoo". It's a place where they keep animals in captivity, and the public can look at them. Another way to see animals would be to see them in the wild, but that would be not as fun, because the animals would either run away or they'd run towards you and bite you. And besides, some of the animals in the zoo can only be found in other countries, so you'd have to pay a lot of money to fly to the other countries to see them. Someone must have captured these animals and brought them across the oceans in planes and boats, to put them in the Zoo – I don't know who it was, but they must have been very smart.
You also have to admire the people who designed the Zoo. They had to take all kinds of things into consideration, and ask themselves questions like, "Does it look nice? Can we do something to the animals to make them more interesting? Will the animals die, if we feed them the wrong fish? Will the children die, if they stick their little arms through the wires on the lion's cage, and how much money will their parents want as compensation?" You see a lot of stuff in cartoons and other comedy shows about animals attacking people at the Zoo, but when you visit a real Zoo you realise that it couldn't really happen. That's why Zoos are cool – they make the scary things safe.
I saw some bison and some koalas and giraffes, and then I went into this really big, long enclosure where there were heaps of birds flying around, and there were trees and water-features to make it look like a natural environment, and I could watch the birds going about their birdly business just as if I wasn't there. Then I saw this elephant walking around, and he was all big and stuff. After that, I went into this air-proof cage which was really hot like a tropical rainforest, and there were butterflies everywhere. Some of them flew around me and landed on the hand-rails and the floor, and even on people's heads and clothes. They were very pretty colours – it was like a beautiful dream. I had to be careful not to step on any.
Then I saw this one butterfly that was sitting on a hand-rail, and I looked at it very closely. My friend Cat was there – she put her finger next to it and let the butterfly crawl onto her finger. There was a little girl, with her father nearby, who also had a butterfly on her hand, and Cat talked to her, and the little girl said to Cat, "The butterfly stayed on my hand for a long, long time."
And I thought to myself, "This is even better than the elephants."
The little girl who talked to Cat.
I saw some other bugs like spiders and caterpillars and praying mantises, then I went to this place where I could see a tiger pacing about behind a glass screen. Then Cat said, "Let's go and see the monkeys!" So we did.
We got to see some monkeys swinging in the trees, but some of the cages were less interesting because the animals were hiding and we couldn't see them. Cat was a bit disappointed at not seeing any orang-utans. We saw some gorillas, but only from a distance. The mandrills were cool, at least – some of them came right up to the glass and I could see them just a few inches away. It was around this time that I went to the take-away shop and bought a muffin. It tasted very nice – it had blueberry filling, or maybe it was rasberry. I ate it while I looked at the small cats.
me with porcupine
Cat said, "Oh, no – we're running out of time. The Zoo will close soon. Let's go and see the lions and stuff, before it's too late."
So she asked some directions from a zoo-keeper, and we went to this part of the zoo where they keep the big cats. I saw these two lions without manes sitting in a big open-air enclosure, they were just sitting there looking a bit bored, maybe with a hint of contempt in their eyes as if they hated me. I thought, "Wouldn't it be scary, if the fence just disappeared somehow?" But it didn't. Then, I went to this part of the zoo which was like a jungle with the trees growing thickly overhead, and I saw some leopards and panthers.
Then Cat said, "What's that sound?"
It was an animal sound – we followed it and it got louder, then we realised it was a lion roaring. He was right next to the fence so we could see him clearly – he was looking all upset. I could see the hot air coming out of his mouth because the weather was so cold. After a while he calmed down a bit. I looked at Cat – she had that look in her eyes, like she was in awe and she was in her own little heavenly universe of animal appreciation. We went on to see some snow leopards and maned wolves. "It seems a bit sad," said Cat, "to keep them in such small confined spaces. But it's so amazing to see them!" And she was right.
me with cat
The sun was going down behind the trees and it was almost time to leave the zoo, even though we hadn't seen the seals or the penguins. But we had just enough time, before we left, to see the reptiles. They were in a round building and we walked around the inside of it. We saw this huge lizard on a branch, staring at us – and we saw snakes and crocodiles. I saw this one turtle, or maybe a tortoise, waving its feet underwater and he was right next to the glass. He was so interesting, I could have stayed for several minutes just looking at him. But there was no time for delay – towards the end the zoo-keeper was looking at us like he wanted us to leave, 'cause it was about that time. So we left, and the zoo was closed.
click to enlarge
Cat asked me if I'd like to go home to her house, and I said yes. We caught a tram to the city. I was thinking about trams, and this led me to wonder, "Should I tell Cat about that incident that happened last night, after I was coming home from a gig by that band Bidston Moss at the Empress, and it was after midnight, and the tram was stopped for a while in St Kilda, and some guy climbed up on the roof of the tram and then he clambered down the front of the tram and broke the windscreen? And should I also tell her how the guy ran away and the tram driver didn't do anything at first but then he called the authorities on his radio and gave them a description of the guy? Should I tell her that? No, I won't." But later, while we were waiting for another tram in the city, I did.
In reaction, Cat told me that she had also seen some weird things on public transport. Like one time, she had seen this guy take off all his clothes on the tram and then he just urinated. And I thought, "That really is weird." And she said, another time, she had seen someone's head being chopped off by accident. And just a few days ago, she saw some guy fall eight floors, past the window where she has her office in the city, and maybe it was a suicide attempt but he didn't die. And I looked at Cat as if to say, "How shocking!"
We went back to Cat's house and watched some funny things on DVD, for an hour or two. Then it was time for Cat to go to a party at a friend's house. Cat's other friends arrived to pick her up, and she said "Can we give Stephen a lift to the city, and drop him off there?"
Cat's friends said "Yes."
She asked, "Can we also go to the supermarket to buy some of those lollies that are shaped like snakes? I really like those."
Cat's friends said "Yes." They went on to ask her what brand of snakes she was going to buy, and they had a bit of a good-natured argument when they heard she was going to buy some "Natural Confectionary Company" snakes. I listened to them and smiled because it was kind of funny to hear the way they talked to eachother. Cat did end up buying her favourite brand of snakes and she shared some of them with me in the car on the way to the city, while her friends discussed their favourite popular television programmes. It was a cold night but I felt warmed by the vibrant personalities of those people around me, especially Cat herself whom I like the best.
The next day, I went out again, alone this time. I went to see a band named Architecture In Helsinki, but what I remember most about the gig was the support band The Brunettes who are from New Zealand, and what I remember most about them was that they had this beautiful lead singer who played keyboard and xylophone and her voice was always right on the mark. They were a "fun" band, also with intelligent lyrics and catchy happy little melodies – there were four vocalists in the band and sometimes they sang all together, other times alternating in complex vocal arrangements. The crowd just loved them and they played an encore, even though they were the supporting band.
Flash animation – roll your mouse over the arrows
I stuck around for Architecture In Helsinki, 'cause they were good too – this time they were accompanied by a lady next to the stage who was blowing bubbles – I don't know if she was a friend of the band trying to help the visual effect, or if she was just some weirdo who blows bubbles everywhere, but bubbles are always cool. They reminded me of those butterflies, the way they floated around us. But I was a little concerned because I'd forgottten my watch and I wasn't sure if I'd be on time for the last tram or not.
So as soon as the music ended I left the venue (which was called the "Rob Roy") and I ran down the street, and then walked, and then ran, for about twenty minutes, partly so that I could catch the earliest possible tram, and partly because I wanted to keep warm in the chilly midnight air. As it turned out, I was too late to catch the most direct tram but I caught a similar one that took me some of the way home, and I had to walk the rest of the way.
Tuesday night I worked on my painting some more. It's coming along pretty well, and I think it will be finished next week, it just needs something extra.
There's a show on Channel 9 once a week at 3am, it's called The Oblongs. It's an animated comedy series about this family who are all dysfunctional. The mother is an alcaholic who has no sense of responsibility, the father has no arms or legs and he has no wheelchair, he just sort of bounces around – and the children, well, two of them are conjoined twins, and the others have little quirks of their own and they're very funny-looking. This show is funny 'cause it has a lot of good jokes and the characters are so extreme, like if they were real people they would be regarded as seriously disturbed mental cases. Like, this week, when the children were in danger from drowning, the parents tried to save them, but they didn't try very hard and they were easily distracted.
This Wednesday I went to the karaoke and I sang the song "When The Going Gets Tough The Tough Get Going" by Billy Ocean. When I sang it at home with the tape it seemed like fun, but when I sang it on stage it seemed too low and I couldn't really release all my enthusiasm, I should have transposed it up a bit. But it didn't matter, because the audience on Wednesday night didn't mind – they were dancing to everything. It was another wild night with lots of large groups of revellers – the air was thick with the smell of sweat and cigarette smoke, and people were spilling their drinks all over the floor like they couldn't control themselves.
The band Radiohead often make sad music. It's very touching – when I hear it, I think, "Oh, how sad – but what beautiful musical notes." And sometimes, when they're not being beautiful and touching, they're being experimental and adding things that we don't understand, just to make us wonder, "What's that all about?" I heard their album "Amnesiac" for the first time last week, and I didn't really appreciate it fully. But if it's anything like Radiohead's other work, I will like it a little more after I listen to it a few times, and later I will like it a lot.
I just finished reading the book
Something Happened, by Joseph Heller, and I'm so glad, 'cause I've been dying to say something about this book. I wouldn't call it a great book, but I will say it's unlike any other novel I've ever read. It's about this guy, and he's kind of a normal middle aged American guy with a family and a job in an office, and the book is a description of his life. There is no plot – nothing really happens throughout the whole book, except near the end where someone dies, but that's not a very important plot-development, 'cause it doesn't seem to have much effect on him – and it doesn't happen until page 552, of a 560 page book. So there's 551 pages in which nothing much happens, and somehow throughout the whole thing he doesn't tell us what his job actually is, and he manages to discuss his wife and two of his children in depth without ever mentioning their names.
What I couldn't understand is what motivates this guy to do the things he does. He's never happy – he doesn't enjoy anything – he doesn't love his wife – he's always scared of his superiors at work – why doesn't he try to change his life, to improve it? I got the impression that he's been brainwashed by society, that he's just doing what everyone else expects him to do because he doesn't know any better. And this guy has a normal life – I'll bet there are millions of people who feel the same way as he does. I'm glad I'm not one of them. This book carries a strong message – that modern society is wrong, wrong, wrong – the business world, the social customs, the way we raise our children – it all combines to make us unhappy and drain the fun out of life. And the author does not propose any solutions. If I had read this book when I was an impressionable teenager, I would've thought, "Oh, it's all hopeless! We are doomed." But the main problem with this book is that it's too long. He could have got his point across just as well in a book half this length. I got bored with it – the only thing that motivated me to keep going was the knowledge that there were other, better books on the horizon.