Innocent in Australia

A Scot down and under in Melbourne

Archive for the ‘comedy’ Category

I dream of Carmen Miranda, and waking up with an Aussie banana

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Ooh, yeah, I'd be smiling too.

At the weekends, I sometimes stand with my kids and wife in the supermarket watching the bananas. There are fewer than there used to be, and they’re way more expensive.

Where bananas of old were yellow, many now have a silver tinge: they’ve been rubbed to a shine by the curious and the envious – even though store security guards are under strict orders to smack your fingers with a ruler if they see you stroking the merchandise.

My sallow-cheeked boys look up at me as the well-to-do barge past us, lift one of the few remaining bunches and sweep through the checkout.

I smile and say: Daddy’s sorry.

A bog-standard Cavendish these days sets you back $3.50, or $15 a kilo – nearly 20 times dearer than Britain, where they retail for 18c.

They’ve shot up 470% since my arrival in Oz. How I rue those banana–taken-for-granted days.

You rarely see the dainty Lady Fingers variety any more – only when you look through the window of a high-class restaurant, salivating and banging on the window, as some posho rams one into their gob.

You don’t have to peel back the layers very far to see the problem’s due to Cyclone Yasi in February, Cyclone Larry in 2006, flooding and mudding in the north.

Australia has gone from producing 550,000 trays a week to as few as 35,000.

Trade restrictions mean you can’t import them legally; but something of a black-spotted market may yet come to fruition … the country’s ripe for it.


We get a weekly fruit delivery at work with loads of oranges. But I don’t want an orange. I want a banana. And I want one now.

Thanks to a frosty winter, the nanas that have made it through are of poor quality.

The one time I did splurge, a few months ago, slicing the banana into four equal parts and serving these with water for a special weekend family meal, it didn’t taste the way I’d hoped it would. A bit dry, a bit stringy.

My boys are potassium-deprived – we all are. We gather together to watch Bananas in Pyjamas – it has become our favourite show.

I’ve found myself whistling songs by Bananarama.

We’ve talked as a family about bananas we have known in the past.

I read somewhere years ago that the world’s bananas, after 1,500 years of agressive inbreeding, now come almost exclusively from two wild species, musa acuminata and musa balbisiana, and as such are vulnerable to extinction.

I was concerned enough at the time to write a song about it. It seems I was way ahead of the curve.

Of course, it’s the hope that kills you. I dream at night of six-foot, seven-foot, eight-foot bunches … then wake to realise it’s all come to naught.

State news on the topic is infrequent and unreliable. They say it’s going to get better, that we’ll soon we swimming in peel … But maybe this is to quell the riots.

Meanwhile, I stroke my boys’ heads in their cots at night, tell them I love them.

It’s all I can do.

Some 99.9% of life forms that ever existed have gone extinct, including 29 other two-footed ape species. We’re hanging on in the last 0.1%, alongside bananas – but for how long?

Chiquita, you and I know, how the heartaches come and go.

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Hyperlinks (and tits)

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The way hyperlinks are anchored or seeded in copy causes consternation in certain circles.

Essentially, it boils down to whether it’s better to say “click here“, thereby giving readers clear direction (a bit like someone shouting “jump” really loudly when your at the edge of a cliff), or to embed your links subtly as you go.

For sure, the constant clamouring of blue or purple lettering in an otherwise monotone text can be off-putting.

But it depends what’s being linked to: if it’s amazing tits or a big red dong, people are more likely to click.

A passing link to Synthesis of lamellar niobic acid nanorods via proton-exchange and their conversion to T-Nb2O5 nanorods is way less appealing – especially in an article about tits.

Because so few people read them, links are a labour of love on the part of the writer.

Getting to links means cracking through the ice of a text, rescuing those pages and pictures bobbing helplessly under the surface? – it’s an inconvenience, and generally you can’t be arsed.

They’re simply footnotes, or those little numbers in modern editions of Dickens next to “cutting the throats of the Graces” and other obscure phraseology. Who actually flicks to page 487 to get the full explanation? Erm, I dosometimes.

In their defence, hyperlinks do a few important things:

1) They show there’s a primary source, whether or not you choose to verify it, even just to make sure the author’s not having a laugh at your expense.

2) Well thought-out hyperlinks give you more than the link to some crappy Wikipedia page or a some gigantic, scholarly tome. Done well, they add real value.

3) As the writer, if you can’t be arsed, they give you an opt-out from explaining sexual selection or macropodidae, or even describing something as simple as two kangaroos shagging in front of stunned boy.

One less obtrusive approach is the Easter egg link – seemingly random gifts that take your most diligent readers in new directions. Whether a word or a single letter, they’re saying: you won’t see me, but I’m here, blue and waiting, like the undead …

Sometimes links can lead you down a dirty black hole or to a horrific dead end, and that’s frustrating

By the way, did you see the previous three posts in this series?

Click here to read How I got my first million blog subscribers
Click here to read Sex gives SEO a spanking
Click here to read Gaga Lady Spears Britney Claiming: Charlie Bit My Finger

How valuable have the insights been so far? What are people really looking for online?

More of that later … maybe tomorrow.

Part 4 of 5

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 3

Click here for part 5

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Google makes me SEO happy

Written by Paul Dalgarno

July 7, 2011 at 8:42 am

I am dag, but am I bogan?

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I seem to have drifted into a space where I’m a dag. In some ways this is nice.

Who hasn’t grown up at the opposite end of the world watching twice-daily episodes of Neighbours and not wished they lived in a world where people could say: “you’re such a dag, Mike,” even though you’re name’s not Mike. The point is: you could have been Mike. We all could have been Mike.

But be careful what you crave.

I recently turned round a computer screen to show a woman something I thought was quite funny (a man dressed as a gnome, sitting in a car, pulling a gangsta pose, since you ask).

It was one of those situations where you have to hold on to your titters; where you know, as soon as the other person’s face starts contorting, you’re going to piss yourself.

Then, amid all the frenzied chortling, she said: “You’re such a dag.”

She slapped her knees as she said it. I slapped mine. If we were Swiss we might have slapped our hands together, then our knees and started yodelling. But from that point, for me, things changed.

Something that had never bothered me in all the years of Neighbours-watching snaked up through my body, wrapped itself round my brain and started squeezing; its tongue a forked question: what’s a dag? WTF is a dag?

It struck me that I should ask the woman. And so I did.

“It just means you’re really daggy,” she said, still laughing. “It’s nothing to worry about – I’m a dag too.”

This was comforting, but only to a degree.

I decided to quiz people discreetly. It was like the first time you heard someone on Home and Away calling someone a spunk and had to check they hadn’t actually meant “spunk”, that “spunky” didn’t, by extension, mean covered in jizz. You knew it didn’t – how obscene would that be? – but you needed to be sure.

I had a word in the ear of someone who used to live in the UK and is fluent in Australian and British.

“It’s just like ‘naff’,” he said.

“Oh, right,” I said. “Ha, ha …” Naff?

That’s the problem with questions – people sometimes give you answers.

A man dressed as a gnome, sitting in a car, giving a gangsta pose: naff. Was I naff for reshowing it? Transmitting this man’s japery? Stupid man. Naff bastard gnome.

But could “naff” really be the meaning? The Urban Dictionary’s fine, but you can’t always trust it, so I looked up “dag” in the Oxford Concise Australian Dictionary: “a lock of wool clotted with dung …” Hmn, that’ll be right … Now, what’s this?

Yes: “colloq. An eccentric or noteworthy person; a character (‘he’s a bit of a dag’ ).” Yes, I’d settle for eccentric and noteworthy – but I don’t think that’s what a dag is.

I kind of thought it meant “dafty” or “spoon” – something like that. You’re such a spoon? Yeah, I could live with that. You’re a dafty-pants? Yup, that’s ok.

But could the dictionary have it so terribly wrong? Why not?

I looked up “bogan” and it said: “a gormless person” (versus the Urban Dictionary’s definition: “a hideously repugnant and unintelligent … beast”).

Both seem wrong although, oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bogan.

My wife assures me they don’t exist in the numbers they used to; they are the lesser-spotted bogan.

I’ll point to someone – mullet, skin-tight jeans, Sherrin footy balls tattooed on their eyelids – and whisper: “Is that a bogan?”, to which my wife will reply: “no”.

The temptation is to transplant “neds”, so that ned-like people would become bogans.

You don’t see many neds here – sadly, in my opinion – and maybe that’s why you don’t see many bogans.

It’s also used as an adjective. Someone’s choice of clothes can be bogan, as can their hair. If they’re wearing sawn-off shorts, for example, their heaving chest on display, their skin green with rage, they’d be … erm … Hulk bogan …

Apologies: that’s such a daggy thing to say.

You can be daggy and a bogan, incidentally; but I’m not sure a bogan can be spunky, except in the eyes of another bogan, particularly is he/she says something daggy.

I won’t know for sure until I see one.

This brings to mind the old adage: if you can’t spot the bogan at a party, the bogan is you, especially if you’re drinking James Boag’s.

How does this make me feel? Not awesome. Not awesome at all.

Written by Paul Dalgarno

April 27, 2011 at 9:17 am

Google makes me SEO happy

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One of the joys of writing a blog, as opposed to writing on bits of looroll you let the wind rip from your hands as you step from a Portaloo, is the little box on your dashboard – with WordPress at least – that shows the search engine terms people have used en route to finding you, the actual words they tap into Google.

I look at these regularly, searching for hints (over and above Site Stats, that love-hate numbers game of the blogger) that people like what I’m doing, or have at least thought to look for me.

In my case, I’m glad to say there are quite a few instances of people keying in “Paul Dalgarno” (and a not-surpising-because-it-happens-a-lot number looking for “Paul Delgarno”. Sure, I sometimes imagine snapping off the finger that’s typed the erroneous “e” but mostly I kind of like it: it makes me feel Cuban, like Scarface, and hard as nails.)

Some people type “innocent in australia” too, but the vast majority seem to have stumbled on to the site by accident. They’ve come to it blind and grappling.

An awful lot could be described as “miscalleneous” – search engine terms such as “sliding partition”, “mothers and sisters forego food in India”, and the diminutive “buh means”.

Sometimes I try matching the search term to the post, a wonderful game. When I see “craig mclachlan”, for example, I assume the person has ultimately clicked on Go Neighbours, go Yasi, a kind of kamikaze; when I see “adelaide drop dead”  it must have led them to Adelaide you’re drop dead gorgeous

The philosophy behind search engine optimisation involves making your posts, and particularly your headlines, rich in terms people are likely to be looking for anyway.

The first time I really tried to do this was with Oprah Winfrey and the Stanford Who’s Who. I was thinking, of course, that a percentage of people who punched Oprah Winfrey into their search engine of choice would find me, and that I’d become an internet sensation, and that Oprah would invite me on to her show. I had it all planned, you see.

On the day of posting I received the lowest readership figures of my blogging career and, I sincerely hope, my career as a professional writer.

It was a shock to the system. When no-one reads your blog, three things go through your mind:

  1. I’m not getting paid for this.
  2. Everyone hates me.
  3. I’m not getting paid for this and everyone hates me.

Now, some months later, that same post is one of my most-read and, in time, will almost certainly be number one.

Not for the Oprah part but the Stanford Who’s Who. Barely a day goes by without several, sometimes many more than several, searchers stumbling on to my site with search terms such as:  “Stanford Who’s Who Australia is robbing me”; “Who is really behind Stanford’s Who’s Who?; and “Stanford who is who is legitimate”.

In case you haven’t read the post (ya punk!), I don’t endorse the Stanford Who’s Who; in fact I’m highly suspicious of it. But shit, what a goldmine.

As is fecal matter generally. My site is fourth IN THE WORLD, yes, IN  THE WORLD, for the search term “crack the shits” thanks to the post Cracking the shits. I know, I know, stop boasting … pride precedes a fall …

Sometimes I find myself trying to picture the people making the searches and find it helps if I break them into types, a la:

The inquisitor

Many find themselves beached on the shore of the site with questions such as: “are thongs innocent?” (which leads them to this post); or the even more philosophical: “is australia innocent?”

With a certain class of inquisitor – “what happened to the innocent convicts on the first fleet?” or “what is a australia day to write and at least not that long?” – I hope they haven’t taken my account of Australia Day too seriously. I wonder what their teacher might have said (because surely they’re teens trying to plagiarise) if they submitted a carbon copy of the post in question.

The sexually depraved/chronically bored

I feel ambivalent about these searchers. On the one hand, a reader’s a reader; but on the other, it’s a peculiar soul who wants to see a “nude woman in stirrups please”.

Someone else typed in “turboteats”, which I thought I invented in a post about turbo-birthing.

I’m unconcerned that someone out there was searching for “black booty bouncing nude” (for who among us hasn’t?) but am slightly taken aback that they then clicked on a post called Sydney (let’s whisper this), I love you.

I can only hope he/she found what he/she was looking for.

The precarious

I’ve come to think of these searchers as “people in trouble”. Consequently, I feel guilty they’ve wasted time on my site, and only half-hope they’ll become life-long readers.

There are many people in this category, including whoever wrote: “my license was seized in melbourne airport”; and “I’m under snow in scotland”; and the very suspicious: “8.40pm accident heathmont”.

Call me a cynic, but could that have been the person who caused the accident trying to see if it had been reported? And then reading my blog!

The slayer

These are search terms that make me feel glum. Such as: “possible causes of gurgling in throat and coughing up mucus in the elderly.” (Is it too much to hope they had a chuckle reading Kids are plague crow snot goblins that cause man flu?) The same post snared “crow cough and hot head fever in kids” and the charmingly illiterate “plague crow am we good?” Poor things. Sniff.

The silver bullet

These are by far the saddest of all; so sad, in fact, that the category can only handle one search term at a time. Until recently it was “find me friendly anyone in Melbourne” which went some way to breaking my heart. But that was replaced just last week by someone who must then have read the post When will I be famous?: “i want to be famous but i missed my calling.”

Oh, what was your calling, dear reader? Don’t despair.

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