Monday, July 31, 2006

more surely-they're-not-pirated DVD hijinks!

Another DVD that has found its way into my apartment. This one boasts a "4 in ONE Collection". Exciting, no? And which four films are on offer? "Surely they will be related through a common theme?" you ask in that annoying, stilted monotone of yours. Well, you might think so -- after all, I do have a 2 in ONE DVD that carries both The Piano and The Pianist. As a fussy, pretentious, think-you're-a-cultured-film-buff, you'll probably suggest that these two films are as thematically related as Animal House and Animal Farm. Wanker.

Anyway, the four films are in the order best suited for this blog post:


Comedy. Dodgy remake of the 1974 original. Panned by critics. (Disclaimer: I haven't seen any of the following except the last one - but I DID look at a few online reviews.)


Comedy. Dodgy remake of the 1967 original. Panned by critics.


Comedy. Panned by critics. Described thusly by Stephen Holden in the New York Times:

The desperately unfunny kidnapping farce King's Ransom is the cinematic equivalent of trampled chewing gum on a subway platform. Like that spat-out detritus, the movie is so negligible that you barely notice it under your feet until it gets stuck to the soles of your shoes, and you find yourself spending the next hour and a half.


Drama. Based on true story of genocide in Rwanda. Acclaimed by critics.

Can YOU can pick the odd one out?

Maybe Chris Rock should have played Paul Rusesabagina.

For other secret wombat DVD cover shenanigans, go here and here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


This is a photo of what I think is a cumulonimbus cloud (but, hey, I'm no meteorologist), taken from my office window on the 21st of this month.

ENJOY the power and glory of nature, people...

the scatology files (more of them!)

Please note that my scatological posts are always in context and are NOT gratuitous.

This is the perfectly reasonable, if slightly awkwardly worded, sign posted on the inside of the door in the cubicle in the men’s toilet nearest my office. An appeal to one’s better nature when nature calls.

(My only questions are on the importance of keeping the toilet seat cover dry -- wouldn't it be better to keep the toilet seat dry? Though keeping the cover dry is a good thing, too -- I'm all for that. AND -- do you love the euphemistic use of the word "it"? Rhymes with...)

It is here that I perform my most important task each weekday at around 9am.

You may think that the reason behind this sign is that we are all man-child savages here, who don’t flush. Not so! It’s because the FLUSH ACTION is rather poor and often inadequate. (A common occurrence in these parts, let me tell you. The loo at home often requires up to five – yes five – flushes after a particularly healthy release).

Occasionally, one flush does the trick at work. More often, two flushes are the go. Thus, I have a simple routine: flush – wash hands – flush. The cistern refills during the hand-washing phase. Simple but brilliant. Brilliantly simple!

Today, though, my one true fear came to light. I’m a thinker, you see. Months ago, when I devised my system, my analytical abilities allowed me to PROJECT FORWARD INTO HYPOTHETICAL SITUATIONS. I presciently realised that there was a chance that somebody might enter the cubicle DURING THE HAND-WASHING PHASE.

Today, I shudder to report, this happened. MOREOVER, the perpetrator/victim (YOU decide which) was B, the bizarre, retentive editor.

I watched helplessly from the hand basin. I saw him pause. I saw him enter. I got the fuck out of there.

Let us never speak of this again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

boring, sort of introspective stuff (part 2)

Following on from yesterday

So, I’m not sure that I fit into the local culture (for obvious reasons) or the expat culture (for its transience and for more complex reasons).

The expat culture.

Note that everything here is generalised; for every point I make, there are invariably exceptions.

Where I live, in a town 60km south of Manila, almost all the expats I know are people who work at the same place as me, plus their families. Of the people I socialise with in this group, there are two main subgroups: those slightly older than me, who live in the staff housing complex and who have children, and those slightly younger than me, who are mostly students and live outside staff housing.

I have the right to live in staff housing, but I’ve stayed outside. My apartment is just off the main street and, as a MAN OF ACTION, this suits me well. Plus, my rent is about half that of the cheapest apartment in staff housing. (Remember: money saved in rent = money to spend on pointless material goods and fossil fuels! The world is going to hell people, consume while you still have the chance!)

I have good friends in staff housing, but the with-child versus childless lifestyle is just different. One of these days, who knows – I may have a child (or at least a HIGHLY ACCURATE robotic equivalent) and my lifestyle will necessarily change too. For example, I’ll have to take the kid’s nanny to the hardcore underground raves I frequent most nights.

Kids are not an impediment to friendship, but they are – completely understandably – the parents’ first priorities, so hanging out etc falls by the wayside a bit unless arranged well in advance.

Also, I’m not quite comfortable in staff housing. As much as I like most of the people I work with, I’m not willing to spend all day at work with them then trundle the same route home and live in the same row of houses every day. That’s not supposed to be snobbish – I just don’t want to do that. Having said that, most of the people in my apartment block are also from work – but the student lifestyle is still closer to mine than the parent one, and I don’t bump into senior staff with whom all I can do is make awkward small talk about some job I haven’t finished for them.

Time to go.

More later perhaps…

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

boring, sort of introspective stuff

Pouring outside…Typhoon Glenda (yes, Glenda) is has already reached Taiwan, but she’s still drenching the northern Philippines.

There are two main communities I have access to here – Local and expat. Within each of these are, of course, many sub-communities. After my last trip home, I had my usual couple of dark, scowling weeks at work. I miss the community of friends I have at home. Not just the friends themselves, but the community that they help define. (And I do recognise that I get a skewed view when I flit home for a week or two and spend every day just hanging out, eating and drinking).

Lately, though, I feel I haven’t really fit into any community here. As a non-Filipino (and as a westerner who isn’t searching for a way out of western culture), I’ll never truly fit in to a local community. And I don’t really feel at home in the expat communities I’ve experienced.

I’m certainly not lonely – I have plenty of friends here. But, bar a few exceptions, I don’t have the depth of connection I have with my close friends at home. And, given the transience of expats here, I get the feeling that developing that sort of closeness is even rarer than it is back home – despite the fact that the shared experience of a different culture can bring you together quite quickly.

More on this later, perhaps…

Friday, July 21, 2006


A friend, who I know from my one year teaching English in Japan, suggested in an email that after almost 3 years in the Philippines I’d be fluent in the local language. Here is my reply (slightly edited for blog-reading pleasure):

Ha - fluent in Filipino - that's a joke. I've been here almost 3 years and I still know more Japanese than I do any of the local languages. It's because most people here (those who are educated, at least) speak great English (it's actually an official language here, courtesy of being a US colony for 50-odd years in the first half of the 20th century - I have to confess I had no idea before I came). E.g., university lectures, exams etc are in English.

Without the need for the local language (which I had in Japan, where almost nobody in Otoyo could speak English - or they could but they didn’t), I just don’t have the motivation to really learn it. So instead I know a few stupid phrases that make people laugh at parties (e.g., "My armpits are smelly").

It’s all true, people – I’m a lazy shit. But I can also say things like:

  • YOUR armpits are smelly
  • You’re disgusting!
  • I’m a bit drunk
  • I’m good looking/ugly/tall/fat
  • Cooler! More delicious! (trust me, it's funny in the right context)
  • Fabulous! (in ladyboy lingo)
  • I’m hungry! (in ladyboy lingo)

AND I know the word for the sort of creased area where your upper thighs blend in to your groin region (singit) – if only English had a word for that.

Mabaho kilikili ko... (seriously)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

going down, sir? Or: you are now qualified to ride

If you drive to Manila via the South Luzon Expressway, you'll pass the building pictured below. If you have any idea what the fuck happens in it, please let me know.

( ... socially awkward people ... poor sense of personal space ... not good in confined areas ... practice catching elevators ... improvement ... success ... happiness ... )

the slow cut

Below is the large sports field (Baker Field) on the University of the Philippines Los Banos campus. The size of the people walking across it should give you a sense of scale. It fits 3 or 4 soccer pitches on it.

How would you mow the lawn here? Ride-on mower? Push mower? No? How about a whipper-snipper? THAT'S more like it!

I guess the uni doesn't have the budget for anything more. But it's certainly a good way to turn a couple-hour job into something where you almost have to start again at the other end when you finish.

The lawn at my apartment gets cut with one of these, too. It would take maybe 15 minutes with a regular mower. With the whipper-snipper, it takes a couple of hours -- usually starting at 7:30 on a weekend morning.

Note that I'm not being condescending or complaining (except for the Saturday morning bit) -- merely observing. So don't judge, damn you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

my name is not Joe

I am tall. I am of Anglo appearance. I live in the Philippines. I do not look like a Filipino. It is to be expected that I’ll get some looks and comments in public. Early on, it was quite endearing – even if the usual comment (“Hey Joe!”) meant that the speaker assumed I was American. (Joe = G.I. Joe = hangover from US occupation/long-time presence of US troops.) And the usual question that followed “Hey Joe!” offered a good opportunity for some lighthearted banter. “Hey Joe, what your height?”

Eight-eleven!” (From me, cheerily.) An exaggeration, of course. But goodness, what fun we had.

Gradually, the ensuing hilarity dwindled. My responses dried up. The novelty wore off. Now, I’ve been here almost 3 years. And god help me if I don’t turn towards the next Hey Joe! and scream, “yes, I look different to you; yes I’m tall – please fucking deal with it! You’ve had fucking Europeans in this country for at least the past 400-odd years, get the fuck over it. Please.”

Yes, much of the time people are just being friendly. No, it’s hardly the worst example of discrimination (or whatever you want to call it – singling someone out because they look different, for whatever reason) on Earth. Yes, I'm just being a whingeing foreigner. Yes, if I don't like it, I should fuck off back home to Australia. But, fuck, I'd love to be able to just walk down the street in peace.

Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. Please indulge me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

merry christmas

From today's Sydney Morning Herald:

PM Howard jeered by protesters

About 100 people, angry at the federal government's industrial relations reforms, have jeered and booed Prime Minister John Howard as he arrived at a function in Sydney's west.

A heavy police presence surrounded Mr Howard as he arrived at the Blacktown Workers Club just after 10.30am on Wednesday.

The protesters waved union flags and banners attacking the government's workplace changes.

Mr Howard's convoy pulled up outside the club, but he ignored the protesters who chanted "John Howard, go home, hey hey, ho ho".

Really, I'm with the protesters on this, but "John Howard, go home, hey hey, ho ho"??? Not sure how much time went into coming up with that.

My favourite (not my own) remains: "John Hunt is a coward."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the cafeteria diet

Maybe the food I get at the work cafeteria is OK if you don’t have to eat it every day for several years. Maybe. It’s been so long since I started eating there, I no longer remember. Now, I buy more than I need to eat in the knowledge that I’ll only consume about half of it. This depresses me. I love food; every meal that isn’t thoroughly enjoyed seems to me a waste. An opportunity I’ll never get back, like the two hours you’ll never get back after watching a film that should never, ever have been made (of the two that leap immediately to mind, the first was a ill-considered borrowed DVD, the second the most pathetically hopeful choice of a poor, poor selection in a Manila cinema). But I’m hardly one to talk when it comes to time-wasting; I waste about two hours a day in the office, in a last-gasp burst of work that’s meant to make me feel better about doing bugger-all from 8 to 5. I’ll keep on eating at the cafeteria, of course – there’s no hope of me getting organized enough to bring lunch to work. Every day I stare at the same tired, limp, tepid dishes and they blankly stare back. I used to ask the staff to heat things above room temperature, but the microwave broke a few weeks ago and there’s no sign that it’s ever coming back. Occasionally I pop back into town to eat. I should do that more often. There’s always The Big Oz.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sylvia Plath, comic genius

The second exciting installment in secret wombat’s “Back of the DVD cover” series!! Click here for the first Krazy-with-a-Kapital-K effort.
There is, in my apartment, a DVD containing the film Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig, and which I’ve yet to watch. DVDs seem to appear out of nowhere here; I’m sure I never actually bought this one myself. I’m also sure that it’s a 100% BONA FIDE, LEGITIMATE, NON-PIRATED COPY. Here is the blurb on the back of the cover:

And here (at the bottom of the image) is the quote taken from a review of the film (at least I assume it’s from a review due to the quotation marks – no source is cited):

Of course! From the blurb, it certainly sounds like a riot. Brilliant but troubled woman attempts suicide. Survives. Finds love. Loses love. Commits suicide. ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY HILARIOUS!!!

Like I said, I haven’t seen it yet. Maybe it is hilarious. Or maybe somebody scanned the Caddyshack review onto the Sylvia cover. Hard to believe that would happen on a 100% BONA FIDE, LEGITIMATE, NON-PIRATED COPY, though. Whatever, I’ll watch it when I’m feeling down and need some slapstick light relief to perk me up.


Friday, July 07, 2006

fired up and alarmed

-----Scatological content warning (this seems to be a regular theme...)-----

This morning, for the first time in my life, the work fire alarm sounded while I was on the throne, giving birth to YOUR twin (a.k.a. laying a Boss Hogg). I am proudly regular in this exercise, usually mounting said throne between 8.30am and 9.00am, Monday to Friday (the weekend tends to throw my routine out).

I was presented with a quandary – do I:

  1. Assume the alarm is false and calmly wrap up proceedings in the men’s room before exiting clean but sheepish?


  2. Assume that the alarm is not false and rush/shuffle outside with now-soiled boxers and trousers?
Of course, I chose option 1. I’ve never once experienced a work fire alarm that anybody thought was real. People tend to blithely gather their belongings and saunter casually out the fire exit. Sure enough, none of the alarms I’ve experienced has been real. But, obviously, some are. I guess people need to see flames and smell smoke before they take things seriously.

The question you are no doubt dying to ask is: WAS THIS CONVERGENCE OF EVENTS A MERE COINCIDENCE??? Well, you don't need me to tell you how puerile -- how downright INSENSITIVE -- that is. I shan't dignify it with a response.

Anyway, I got to the outside meeting point a couple of minutes after everybody else. One of the IT women (as in "information technology" -- not "It"; I don't know any "It girls"... not that I couldn't move in those circles if I wanted to, mind you) told me, smiling, “If it’d been a real fire, you’d be dead!”

Yes, but at least I’d have died with clean undies.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Lifesize figures depicting the stations of the cross, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley, PHILIPPINES.

That's what the post card says on the back -- but what it OMITS is what interests you and me. Had the author been a little more observant, perhaps the caption would have read thus:

Lifesize figures depicting the stations of the cross, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley, PHILIPPINES. Note that SECRET WOMBAT hovers beneficently above -- his face a picture of benevolent serenity, his tail obscured by the sphere of light that propels him ever forward.

Ageless. Eternal. Munificent. Secret Wombat.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


He’s back! For the first time since the VERY FIRST MONTH he appeared online, in April 2005! Is that REALLY Secret Wombat trying to serenade his favourite species of ungulate with Billy Idol’s “Sweet Sixteen”?

Someone's built a candy castle
For my sweet sixteen.
Someone's built a candy house
To house her in.
Someone's built a candy castle
For my sweet sixteen
Someone's built a candy house
To house her in.

I think you know it is ... he's certainly got his tail up, the cheeky blighter!