Corduroy & Cabbage 10 – The Reluctant Boy Scout

When I was a child I had great difficulty asserting myself. Consequently, I often found myself talked into doing things I didn’t really want to do. When I was about 12 years old, one of my friends invited me to a ‘bring a friend’ evening at the local scout group. I thought the evening was ‘okay’, so when he asked me to go again, I said ‘yes’ – but just this one last time.

Six months later, and I was still going. I’d been talked into buying a uniform. I was talked into learning to tie knots and build a campfire. I was soon chanting along with the others (‘dib dib dib dob dob dob’). My father was so impressed that he became involved in fundraising activities for the group. Pretty soon I realised I was trapped. (Meanwhile, the ‘friend’ who’d talked me into going in the first place had stopped going.)

It wasn’t long before I discovered that scouts provided bullies with yet another opportunity to pick on the weaker kids. This was particularly evident with any hiking or camping activities. The bullies shared the same tent, smoked cigarettes and looked at pornographic magazines together. The weaklings (like me) got the worst campsite, the worst tent and the worst jobs. I can vividly remember washing filthy pots and pans in cold water at night, while the bullies stood around the campfire sharing cigarettes and sex stories.

My parents were oblivious to any of this. They thought that I was having a great time. In fact, I can remember Mum remarking on the fact that I used to stand by the window and watch for my ride to scouts drive up to the house. She thought I was excited and couldn’t wait to get there, when the opposite was true. I dreaded going, and was praying that they’d forget me, or break down on the way.

It wasn’t just boys that bullied. Some of the adult scoutmasters were just as bad. I can only assume that they themselves had been bullied as kids, and enjoyed the opportunity to enact some kind of revenge by bullying others. One of the scoutmasters was in the army, and used the scouts as a kind of ‘proving ground’ for his warped idea of discipline. He used to scream at us until his reddening face looked like it was going to explode!

But the worst thing about scouts wasn’t the bullying, the camping or even the evil scoutmasters. The worst thing about scouts was the dreaded ‘Bottle Drive’. About once a year, all of the scouts and their parents had to go doorknocking for empty beer bottles. On their own, individual bottles weren’t worth much, but a whole truck full of bottles provided a fair bit of much-needed cash for the group.

We’d start as early as possible. People would often still be having breakfast, and would answer the door dressed in their pyjamas. It was usually the bleary-eyed ‘man of the house’ that guiltily led us to the bottom of the garden where his stash was hidden. The bottles had usually been laying there for some time, covered in dirt, tangled in weeds, with snails and slugs stuck to them. Sometimes there was still a trickle of beer inside, and it ran down your arm, or the front of your shirt, when you picked it up the bottle. We loaded the beer bottles into boxes and crates and stacked them in the back of the station wagon. By the end of the day everything stank of beer – hands, clothes, hair. It was revolting.

It was years before I managed to worm my way out of the scouts. Long enough to develop an aversion to uniforms, discipline, marching, camping, knots, and – most of all – beer.


Excerpts from ‘A Field Guide to the Lesser-Known Superheroes’

Since the 1930s, the stories of superheroes have evolved into an entire genre of fiction, dominating the American comic book, and crossing over into other media, such as television and film.

We’ve all heard of Spiderman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but what of those lesser-known superheroes, the ones that don’t get all the media attention and public accolades?

Here is a preview of Max Funt’s A Field Guide to the Lesser-Known Superheroes, due for release in early 2007.

Captain Lint

Captain Lint looks and behaves like an ordinary human being, but has the uncanny ability of attracting lint. With a simple wave of his arm he can summon lint from a coat pocket half-a-mile away. Unfortunately, there is little call for such powers, and Captain Lint finds himself limited to cleaning jobs and carnival appearances. He is also rendered powerless by a proximity to melons.


Is it a large and clumsy bird? Is it a small and clumsy plane? No, it’s Pelicanman! Faster than a speeding cockroach. Able to leap small puddles in a single bound. Apart from his ability to fly, Pelicanman can carry large quantities of fish in his enormous mouth. Unfortunately, this makes him less than popular at superhero parties and other social gatherings. (See also Codman, Eelboy and Slugwoman.)

The Pointer

The Pointer is fearless. He will point at anything – shark, bear, tiger, moose. Once, on assignment in the wilds of Siberia, this brave superhero pointed at several thousand trees, sixty-five rabbits, fifteen peasants and a badger. The Pointer is renown for his commitment to duty, in fact, it is said that he even points in his spare time.


When Trudy Ball was a baby she swallowed an experimental radio transmitter. Miraculously, she escaped serious harm, but discovered that her voice had acquired superhuman qualities. She can talk non-stop for several months at a time, speak backwards in over a dozen languages, and project her voice across continents and oceans. While her super-hero duties have reduced of late, Blabbergirl has acquired a steady job on breakfast radio.

The Invisible Chair

In the blink of an eye, this chair can make itself invisible. A frustrating addition to any game of musical chairs and a comical party piece, although its status as a super-hero has been debated.


A childhood accident left Stan Ovary with a bizarre and unique gift – the ability to fold napkins at the speed of light. His powers are highly sought by caterers and wedding planners. Unfortunately, this is the only activity with which he has even a semblance of coordination, as even a simple walk confounds poor Stan. (See also Poodleman, Tulipboy and Bubblegirl.)

The Woman with Three Eyebrows

Strange, but true. This woman has two eyes, but three eyebrows, the third hidden on the back of her head, disguised by surrounding hair. The Woman with Three Eyebrows is a skilled vegetable peeler, adept at sharpening pencils and can nearly count to twelve.


At an early age, Garth Diddle learned he had the ability to create puddles by simply dribbling water out of his mouth. He then learned to make puddles by pouring liquid directly onto the ground. While the use for such a talent in fighting crime is debatable, Puddleboy has developed quite a following among taxidermists and stamp collectors.

Atomic Artichoke

The result of a bizarre accident in a nuclear power station, the Atomic Artichoke was granted strange and unique powers. Unlike an ordinary artichoke, this vegetable can sing, play the ukelele and talk to cows. Unfortunately, it was not given the power of sight, and can only move around with the aid of a seeing-eye dog.


By day, he is known as Mighty Man, a being with superhuman powers of strength and speed. But at night, Mighty Man transforms into the extraordinarily ordinary Craig. He can walk almost 5 kilometres in one night, lift heavy bags, and draw circles and squares quite quickly. The only things that can stop Craig are a locked door, a length of rope or a pointed stick.

Howard the Nose

While working in a uranium mine, Howard Bent accidentally inserted a piece of radioactive material into his left nostril. Howard was left with a mild stutter and unable to father children, but has the ability to produce large quantities of radioactive mucus. (See also Gelignite Judy, The Leg and The Human Dumpling.)

The Bionic Sausage

After an incident involving a jet liner and packet of chewing gum, this sausage was considered all but lost. However, a team of surgeons and scientists were able to recover some of its remains, and created bionic replacements for the missing pieces. The result is the most powerful sausage in the history of the planet, able to withstand the hottest barbecue plate and the spiciest Tabasco sauce.


This superhero’s career was cut short when, having transformed into an oatmeal cookie, Biscuitman was eaten by a goat. (See also Broccoligirl, Mr Sandwich and Captain Cheddar.)

Deb Matthews-Zott – Guest Poet

This month I am very pleased to present the poetry of Deb Matthews-Zott.

Deb first read at Friendly Street in 1989. She was treasurer of Friendly Street Poets from 1997-1999, and co-edited the anthology # 23, Beating Time in a Gothic Space. Her collection Shadow Selves was published by Ginninderra Press in 2003. She is currently working on a new collection of poems ~ Learning Meditation.

Copies of Shadow Selves can be purchased directly from Ginninderra Press.


I have the body of a guitar.
When I lie down to meditate
my neck is straight
I clear my mind
of things I’ve fretted about
let go my strings of attachment.

My soul is a sound box
it draws in the songs of birds,
the pulsation of insects,
the gentle movement of breezes,
transforms the vibrations of nature
into meditation music.

I breath in
breath out
repeat the cycle
creating chords of calm
to lift me above the physical
resonating with riffs of bliss
tuned to perfection.


The day her boyfriend came home from gaol
She spilled out onto the quiet street
In a sheer red dress which showed
Her flattened breasts, her bones.
And the mad edge of her laughter
Held itself to the neighbour’s throats.


They all wished she would go back inside
And lie on her bed with a bottle of gin,
Or sit in a haze on the lounge-room floor
Flicking her lighter at a pack of burning cards.


The street could not contain
The riot of her voice;
Her stumbling red shape;
Her bare white feet on their bitumen road.

They preferred the hysteric of her scream
Bouncing off inner walls
Of crushed and shattered plasterboard.
There a fist or two,
There the crater of a skull.
A whole panel gone
Where he pushed her body through.


Her ecstasy lasted a day or two.
Then, in the middle of a night,
They screeched in the yard
Like a pair of ill-matched cats
Tearing at cloth; at hair and skin,
Drawing each other’s animal blood.

previously published in Cordite, Friendly St. and Shadow Selves

Lava and Rain

the lava sun burns and runs
concrete is volcanic ash

there’s a fire
and the sprinklers
are on heat

in the shade house, out back,
green corrugations distil light
to feeble shadow

a honey-eater drips
from the shade cloth sky
to steal a drink

I lie naked on a sofa
that’s drawn its own heat
and compete with silent monstera leaves

to catch the drift of liquid mist
the fragile cool
of fine green rain.

previously published in Shadow Selves


Please note that all material appearing on this website is protected under Copyright laws and may not be reproduced, reprinted, transmitted or altered in any form without express written consent of the author.

The Departed – a Review

Martin Scorsese has made historical dramas, biopics, thrillers, comedies, even a musical. But he is best known for his crime films like Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino. He seems most at home when exploring the darker elements of humanity – violence, corruption, obsession, and the abuse of power. Scorsese’s latest film – The Departed – marks a return to the crime film, only this time he examines both the criminal and the crime fighter.

Based on Infernal Affairs – a B-Grade Hong Kong crime film – The Departed tells the story of two men – Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) and Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio). Both grow up on the ‘wrong’ side of town, surrounded by poverty and crime. Both have a close association with criminals; Costigan’s father was a renowned thug, while Sullivan was virtually ‘adopted’ by Irish-American gang leader, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Both join the police force, Costigan in an effort to prove himself and overcome the deficiencies of his background, Sullivan in order to provide mentor Costello with valuable inside information. The twist comes when Costigan is asked to go ‘undercover’ and infiltrate Costello’s gang.

The movie follows Sullivan and Costigan as their positions within the respective organizations become compromised, and the threat of exposure increases. To complicate matters, both Sullivan and Costigan become involved with the same woman (Vera Farmiga), a police psychologist initially charmed by Sullivan, but later drawn to Costigan. Both men grow desperate as the tension and body count rises, and the film hurtles towards its bleak and bloody conclusion

The predominantly male cast is excellent. Jack Nicholson relishes his role as crime boss, Frank Costello, without turning the character into a cartoon. Matt Damon impresses as the duplicitous Colin Sullivan, while Leo Di Caprio shines as Billy Costigan, the undercover cop who must keep quiet while witnessing extortion and murder. It’s Di Caprio’s third Scorsese picture in a row, and this is his best performance of the three. The supporting actors like Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin and especially Mark Wahlberg as the foul-mouthed detective, Dignam, are all terrific.

The weakest character is, unfortunately, the only female role of any substance. Vera Farmiga’s Madolyn is a breath of fresh air amid all the swaggering men, but her character is both unlikely and unnecessary.

The dialogue is gritty and realistic, filled with a caustic wit and grim humour (although I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the macho ‘ball-breaking’). And, as is usual for a Scorsese movie, the soundtrack is spot on, and includes popular songs by Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, as well as a score by Howard Shore.

At 152 minutes, The Departed is a long film. But I got the impression that a great deal was cut out of the movie, for it seemed occasionally disjointed, with sudden shifts in mood or scene, while some minor plot threads are not developed or simply disappear.

For the most part, however, this is fabulous filmmaking. The Departed is packed with memorable moments and terrific performances. It’s Scorsese’s best film for some time.

Pieces Of The People We Love – a Review

Towards the end of the post-punk era of 1978-1984 many of the original punks and post-punks moved onto the dance floor and into the pop charts. Bands like Human League, ABC, Heaven 17, Cabaret Voltaire, Scritti Politti, New Order, and even Gang Of Four, were releasing radio-friendly dance music. It sort of makes sense that today’s post-punk revivalists might want to make a similar move.

New York’s The Rapture took a step in this direction with their 2003 single ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’, a searing slab of disco-noise. Their latest release, ‘Pieces Of The People We Love’, takes the ‘Lovers’ sound, and reshapes it into an album’s worth of fabulously funky pop tunes, reminiscent of New York’s ‘mutant disco’ of the early 80s, the minimalist sound of bands like Bush Tetras and Liquid Liquid, and most of all, Talking Heads, in particular, their 1980 album ’Remain in Light’.

The song most likely to draw comparisons with Talking Heads is album centrepiece ‘Whoo! Alright Yeah… Uh Huh’. This song sets the sonic template for the album – prominent bass, flickering guitars, bleeping and burping synths and a multitude of beats – all intricately interwoven over a steady dance groove. Lyrically too, the song reveals the band’s ‘manifesto’ for the album. Or, should I say, its ‘anti-manifesto’.

People don’t dance no more
They just stand there like this
They cross their arms and stare you down
And drink and moan and diss

‘Pieces Of The People We Love’ turns its back on the serious indie-types and their ‘crap rock poetry’ and celebrates the pop song. Elsewhere the lyrics seem provocatively simplistic – from the ‘Na-na-na, Na-na-na’ of the title track to the ‘love/above, kept/wept’ rhymes of ‘The Devil’.

In ‘First Gear’ – a kind of synth-funk driving song – singer, Luke Jenner, delivers a series of dopey sex-as-car/driving images before the backing vocalists join him in the ‘My My My My Mustang Ford’ refrain. It’s deliriously silly, as is the orgasmic yelp in the aforementioned ‘Devil’, and the Tom Tom Club-like call-and-response vocals of ‘Whoo! Alright Yeah…’

But while the emphasis is on the beat rather than the brain, these songs aren’t exactly slick disco retreads. There’s enough noise and warped sentiment to give them a little edge. ‘The Sound’, for example, features a wall of clattering rhythms and buzzing electronics, while opening track ‘Don Gon Do It’ embellishes the bouncing synth-bass and singalong chorus with screeching guitars.

Another highlight is ‘Down For So Long’. Like ‘Whoo! Alright-Yeah…’ it pieces together twitching electronics with intricate rhythm sounds to create something that wouldn’t sound out of place on Talking Heads’ ‘Speaking in Tongues’. (Even its vague references to ‘the man upstairs’ echo the lyrical preoccupations of David Byrne.)

The less successful tracks are those that stray from the pop-funk model. ‘Calling Me’ is built around a slower, shuffling rhythm and a tune that lacks the celebratory feel of the rest of the album. Closing track ‘Live In Sunshine’ suffers from a similar problem, but manages to overcome the slow pace by projecting an appropriately ‘sunny’ outlook with its ringing guitars and gospel-flavoured backing vocals

‘Pieces Of The People We Love’ is the type of album that is becoming increasingly rare. It dares to bridge the gap between the ‘popular’ and the ‘alternative’, a reminder of the days when it was acceptable for a ‘serious’ band to play dance music.

Excerpts from ‘Working with Concrete’

Many people have sought to understand the amazing variety of images produced by the sleeping brain, from ancient philosophers and fish merchants, to psychoanalysts, brain surgeons and interior decorators. Here is but a sample of the interpretations I have collected over a lifetime of study, soon to be published as Working with Concrete and other Pastimes of the Subconscious (The Third Ear 2006).


The appearance of bacon in your dreams might indicate a desire to sleep with barnyard animals. Bacon can also be a warning against skin disorders and genital warts.


Custard is usually associated with sexuality or death. But a pocket filled with custard suggests sudden wealth, while swimming in custard means you will develop a fondness for gravel.


The appearance of a porcupine generally indicates good luck. However, if the porcupine is wearing sunglasses or carrying an umbrella, you should beware of tall bow-legged women.


The appearance of socks or stockings usually suggests a desire for secrecy. Bras are associated with an interest in poultry farming, while underpants warn against antelopes and beer.


Freud was convinced that the earwig symbolised a fear of watercress, however, some contemporary thinkers feel that the insect may indicate a talent for papier-mâché or martial arts.


An astronaut may appear as an expression of the dreamer’s interest in water sports.


For some people, beetroot is associated with facial hair and carbuncles. For others, it may appear as a nostalgic symbol of childhood diseases or a warning against open-toed footwear.


The appearance of pancakes in your dream is generally good, suggesting money and nice teeth. However, if you should dream of sleeping with a pancake you may become allergic to magnets.


The butcher often appears in dreams offering heavily discounted chicken giblets. Rather than signifying generosity, the butcher might actually be symbolic of a desire to collect stamps or cook Mexican food.


A longing for oral sex may be expressed in the dream imagery of a sausage placed on the shoulder or upper lip. However, a flying sausage may symbolise a minor raffle win.


According to the Jungian view, riding on a hovercraft, or any other form of public transport, suggests that the dreamer is becoming boring or predictable. Therefore, a hovercraft dream can alert us to the need for a new hairstyle, penis enlargement or breast implants.

from Working with Concrete and other Pastimes of the Subconscious (The Third Ear 2006)


Please note that all material appearing on this website is protected under Copyright laws and may not be reproduced, reprinted, transmitted or altered in any form without express written consent of the author.