Tuesday, 30 June 2009

In Hugh We Trust: why we love the Aussie actor

I must be getting old because I rather enjoy reading Reader's Digest.

The July cover features actor Hugh Jackman.

It's the whole package (well, head and shoulders - and he is wearing a suit) 5 o' clock shadow, lips curved in teasing smile and those lazy bedroom eyes staring right down the barrel of the camera.

Imagine all the 60-something nannas having a 'spell' at the sight of 'our very own' Hugh!

As it turns out, Jackman is there for a reason. He features high up on the mag's annual Most Trusted People list.

He finishes in 6th position after a burns doctor, brave soldier, cancer researcher, Clean-Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan and ex-cricketer Glenn McGrath, who is highly respected for his fundraising for breastcancer research (his lovely wife Jane succumbed to the disease 12 months ago).

IN 2007, Jackman made it to 21st place on the list and in 2008 he climbed to 16th.

But what's he done to deserve top 6 in 2009? It can't be just that he's hot-to-trot?

The article's author Heidi Krause writes that since '08 Jackman has hosted the Oscars and stamped his hand on Hollywood Boulevard.
She continues: "But despite his success we view Jackman as a normal, unaffected, devoted family man. He is down-to-earth, a great ambassador for Australia and exudes trustworthiness."

However, social commentator Bernard Salt, hits the nail on the head when he touches on the fantasy element.

Salt says of Jackman: "He is an idol. Half the population want to marry him and the other half want to be him."

I don't know about wanting to marry him, but...

it's easy to see why Jackman is one of the pin-up boys for romance writers.
Tip for our Hugh: To fly in at numero uno in 2010 all he has to do is a bit of fundraising - selling a couple of boxes of Cadbury's Freddo Frogs to raise money for his kids' footy camps should do it.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

On Michael Jackson and why good friends are worth their weight in gold

I've led a lucky life where I've managed to make some very brainy, erudite friends.

Friends like this are priceless because they make me look good, ie: occasionally witty and erudite on the rare occasions where I haven't overimbibed. I definitely benefit from their wisdom and worldliness.

One such friend, Q, lives in Germany. After the news of Michael Jackson's death, I sent Q a brief email along the lines of 'isn't this sad?'

Jackson was around our age and we grew up with his music. I know it's selfish, but when he died I helpessly watched yet another fragment of my youth spin off into the vortex. (Goodness, there goes Farrah Fawcett, too! So long chicky babe.)

But let me quote my Aussie-expat mate now based in Mannheim, Germany.

Q wrote:
"I've been watching TV for the last hour, catching multiple reports about Michael Jackson's life and death. He was certainly odd, but a great talent and musically amazingly influential.

"For our generation, his death is comparable to Elvis Presley's all those years ago. We've focussed so much on MJ's eccentricities over the last decade, that we forgot what a wonderful entertainer he was. Some of the '80s and '90s clips of him dancing I saw this afternoon still give me goosebumps.

"A great loss and - cynically - a smart career move. No doubt his album sales will hit a new peak.

"Can't wait for the tribute concert with (guessing here) Elton John, Madonna, Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie, Janet & Jermaine, Justin Timberlake (duh), etc."

Already eBay has gone berserk with MJ memorabilia and his CDs have sold out on Amazon.

Let's just wait for the tribute gig. It's only a matter of time.

The two-pronged moral of this story is - 1. surround yourself with clever people and you'll always look smarter than you really are 2. don't inject prescription drugs.

PS: If MJ had friends like mine he'd still be alive today and probably doing the occasional ocean swim.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Show pony gallops home after Mona Vale Cold Water Classic

Whaddya reckon?

This is a pic of my brother-in-law Davo, snapped by Mr Ocean Swims at http://www.oceanswims.com/.

The reason I'm 'full' exposing Davo is because this pic helps illustrate our ocean swimming relationship. We're good mates and it's all grand, but there is an undercurrent of rivalry.

Davo usually beats me out of the water, and I'm cool with that (sort of).

But recently, the competition has moved from the ocean to the oceanswims website.

Up until last Sunday's Mona Vale swim, my photo had appeared twice on the ocean swimming bible, since I started swimming three years ago.

I was chuffed!

Davo only featured once - though his mug was on the website's homepage back in February after a chilly Bondi sprint (see pic right: 'frozen in time'. That's Davo).

But last Sunday, Mr Ocean Swims snapped Davo running along Mona Vale Beach to the finish line.
Not only did Davo get homepage billing with this shot, but it was used again in the photo gallery, with an ebullient photo caption: 'See you next year!'

It's a deceptive shot because Davo needed an intravenous paracetamol drip and a good lie down by the end of the swim. But he put on his 'this-is-a-piece-of-cake, mate' face and gave the royal wave.

And that did it for him. He is a self-proclaimed show pony. And, I might add, a fine figure of a man.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bull shark cruises Sydney Harbour from Manly to Abbotsford and back

Rupert Murdoch's tabloid The Daily Telegraph has managed to run a story on SHARKS, even though it's mid-winter in Sydney.

Last summer SHARKS were Page 1 headliners.

In early February, navy diver Paul de Gelder lost a hand and a leg after he was attacked in Woolloomooloo Bay, Sydney Harbour, at around 7am. The culprit was a BULL SHARK.

Less than a week later, a 2.5 metre GREAT WHITE SHARK almost tore off Glenn Orgias's hand while he was surfing at Bondi around 8pm. His hand could not be re-attached.

Now SHARKS ARE BACK. But the thing is, they've never really been away.

In March the Department of Primary Industries tagged over 55 SHARKS in NSW to trace their movements. The newspaper story is mostly about a tagged BULL SHARK that recently spent quality time in Sydney's waterways.

From March 24 to April 4, the '2.47m menace' travelled more than 300km around Sydney before heading out to sea. Interestingly, it cruised 230km during the night - when it would have been feeding.

If you know Sydney, you might be a little unnerved to learn the SHARK visited Abbotsford twice. That suburb is a long, winding way up the Parramatta River.

The SHARK also visited Manly twice.

My theory is the BULL SHARK did what a lot of Sydneysiders do - checked out the real estate, found it too expensive and headed north.

Headline idea: Smart SHARK attacks bull market

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Surf's up and I'm OUT at Mona Vale winter ocean swim


After the indecision over whether or not to do the Mona Vale winter ocean swim, Davo and I decided to give it a whirl.

We arrived at the beach just after 9am and the surf was pumping - a little too much for mine. I kid you not, the waves - bigger than the 1.7 metres predicted on http://www.seabreeze.com.au/ - were breaking over the first set of cans we were to swim through. There was loads of chop and surfers all over the shop. It was a big sudsy surf.

I was filled with dread, memories of Mollymook (read the bloody blog post - April) caused the panic to rise. For the next 45 minutes we debated our course of action.

Davo explained why he might pull out. Last night during a friendly game of Scrabble at a mate's house he consumed a few too many sorbets - he guestimates a bottle of wine (we're talking 750mls).

This behaviour reconfirms the Aussie male stereotype, though Davo is a refined sort of bloke who enjoys art, cinema and that great national game, rugby league (Gawd - if you're not familiar with the sport, Google 'Brad Fittler', 'Matthew and Andrew Johns', 'Greg Bird' and 'Brett Stewart').

Last night, Davo got carried away. Scrabble is a competitive game and can drive real cultured blokes to drink.

So, the morning after (there's gotta be...) Davo was feeling pretty ordinary.

I was happy to leave the beach and head up the road to my friend, Ms Loveachat's house for a freshly brewed cuppa.

But no. Davo says, "Let's do it."

So, into the pounding surf we charge, and I'm thinking, "Here we go again. I am a sad, sad puppy."

Then, surprisingly, I got into the rhythm and started enjoying myself. "I can do this," I thought, as a sense of jubilation washed over me. I think that was just before a 3 metre wave bowled me over and tore off my goggles, not far from the cans I mentioned earlier.

There was no point carrying on. I can't swim without my goggles and they were well and truly gone.

I refused the offer a ride back in to the beach on the surflifesavers' inflatable. I still had my pride.

I also had a nasty scratch up the back of my leg from the swim start - we all entered the water in the one wave, which can be really scary (lots of big boofy blokes thrashing about like Terminators) - and a wounded ego.

I'm feeling OK now, sort of, and Davo is probably feeling very pleased with himself. As he struggled up the beach, as did every competitor mind you, he confessed that he nearly spewed at the first can, and it took all his mental mettle to battle on.

The wine seemed like a good idea at the time.
By the way, the water temperature was magic - I'd say around 20-21 degrees Celsius. Not bad for the winter solstice.
There's always next year! I'll be back!
*Did Not Finish (small sob)

Friday, 19 June 2009

That's not a hunk - this is a HUNK!

My friend Mrs Onyabike was not happy when, several posts back, I used a pic of US actor Dylan McDermott to illustrate the stock-standard alpha male romance hero. She called poor old Dyl a "nancy boy".

Strong words indeed.

Mrs Onyabike does not suffer fools gladly, so I thought it wise to share her choice of romance hunk with my 14 loyal blog followers (includes one blind dog and a sea slug). She really should get her own bloody blog.

Mrs Onyabike would love to have her way with star of HBO series The Wire, Dominic West, who plays Officer James 'Jimmy' McNulty.

He is rather gorgeous and still manages to fulfill the romance hunk criteria - dark hair in abundance, chiselled features, strong jawline, generous lips, crooked smile (god, doesn't Stephenie Meyer overdo that one), dreamy smiling eyes that crinkle at the corners when he laughs - men's eyes can do that, but not women's.

Mrs Onyabike assures me the rest of him is hotter than the steam room at St Kilda Baths. Her words: "I just saw him with his shirt off in the last ep and realised it's NOT all over down below after all. Ya-hoo."

Please explain!

Just for the record, 'our very own' (Australians love saying that) Hugh Jackman is the poster boy for many romance writers, who refer to him as "Huge Ackman".

Monday, 15 June 2009

NO sex please - we're naked ocean swimmers and our bits are frozen

A couple of posts back, before I became preoccupied with SEX, I wrote about a 1.2km ocean swim coming up this weekend at Mona Vale on Sydney's Northern Beaches. It's called the Cold Water Classic.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting warmer. In Singapore it's always hot and steamy.

But here in Sydney, Australia, we have a winter - of sorts. And now it's cold by Sydney standards. For the past month, temperatures during the day have hovered around 12 degrees Celsius. I know that's laughable to those of you used to sub-zero winter temperatures, but cut me some slack. It's snowing down south in Perisher Valley, NSW, and Mt Hotham, Victoria.

So, this swim at Mona Vale is a challenge for someone like me who lolls around in heated pools and, like an old cat, seeks out the sun on the back verandah to catch some winter rays.

But my bloody brother-in-law Davo is at it again. He has registered for the swim and is egging me on to enter, not in the 'wettie' (wetsuit) division, but the 'naked' (just togs). Of course I have to do it - because he is!

I went to the bible - http://www.oceanswims.com/ - and looked at the entries so far. A rough count shows 20 wetties and 59 nakeds.

Naked wins every time. It's only natural.

Friday, 12 June 2009

More sex in romance writing

From my limited experience in the romance genre, I find the sex scenes the most challenging to write.

For example, how does one describe all the body bits and pieces without sounding like (a) a gynaecologist or (b) a 16-year-old boy out to impress his mates?

And how too does one write about the sexual act in such a way that it is both subtle yet titillating? Poetic and horny? It's got to be a turn-on for the reader, but it can't be vulgar or bawdy.

In a film with a romantic angle the director simply cuts from the kiss to the morning after. Or goes soft focus, with the camera panning artfully over the curves and dips of the entwined couple and honing in on the rise and fall of their bodies as they reach an exquisite climax - simultaneously. Like, get real.

In the romance novel, the writer has to describe the love making, including the foreplay and apres cigarette, in detail. And that's no mean feat.

So, what do you call a penis or vagina in romance writing? Not a penis or vagina, that's for sure!

The other challenge for the romance writer is to keep the sex scenes lively and varied. It must be earth-shattering every time for the hero and heroine - and versatile (unlike the love lives of most ordinary mortals).

That means finding a range of creative euphenisms - not just a 'shaft' or 'soft mound' (don't laugh - think about it in context) - to describe the male and female genitalia.

Sex in romance writing is an art in itself. For the author, it's the hard labour of love.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Let there be sex - but not right away

sex sex sex sex sex sex sex...

Sexy sexual sexuality sexiness sex-on-a-stick sexational sextet sex six sux (that's for New Zealanders) sex with the ex sexual healing sexploitation...

A while back I promised a post on S E X in romance writing.
Sex is all about making the reader wait and anticipate. Sex doesn't usually happen in the first chapter (unless you're writing erotica). That's a one-night stand.

The first sexual encounter in a romance novel starts with a kiss. But it's gotta be a fireworks-and-all precursor to the eventual nuclear-charged consumation. After the initial fiery locking of lips the sexual tension between hero and heroine heats up like a wok in a Thai restaurant and stretches to breaking point.

I'm about two thirds of the way through a Janet Evanovich novel (pure pulp plot-driven thriller) and the unlikely hero and heroine haven't done it yet, even though he's been trying with his hardest hard-on to get into her teeny-weeny pink undies since they first met.

The reader (moi) expects that sooner of later they'll get their gear off and go the whole hog. They better - that's the only reason I'm still reading!

So, as an unpublished yet-to-be-critiqued romance writer (aka wanker) my advice is to make 'em wait and salivate.

Sex - to be continued (I want to see if the Clustr map explodes/climaxes if I use the word SEX a lot in a post. God knows, my ego needs stroking or should that be poking?)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Readers of romance don't prefer blond heroes

Tall, dark and handsome. That's the physical criteria for the romance-novel hero.

And it makes perfect sense. No discerning female reader wants short and fair, with an ugly mug. God knows, she probably lives with one (throw in a beer gut for good measure)!

But back to hair colour - from what I've read, a blond hero doesn't figure in the genre.

His hair has to be thick, jet black or dark brown (maybe the tips can be sun-kissed, but never bottled!) and there has to be lots of it. There's no such thing as a hunk with a comb-over on the Greek archipelago.

Romance-novel covers are a good indicator of hair-colour preference - no blonds feature, even when we're talking Sweet or Medical.

The book titles also say a lot - you won't find any golden follicles on the noggin of a bloke in The Spanish Doctor's Love Child or The Greek Tycoon's Blackmailed Mistress.

Even historically, blonds have never fared well. They are usually portrayed as weak and/or villainous.

In film, blond actors tend to play the baddies (eg: nasty Germanic types in the Die Hard films and Paul Bettany as an albino monk in the Da Vinci Code) or hapless himbos (Owen Wilson = endearing). They're just not sexy enough.

So, to all the cute Magic-Silver-White surfie types and gorgeous Nordic gods I have ever loved -


When it comes to romance writing, you just don't make the cut.
(The photo is of dark-haired - do I detect golden tips? - American actor Dylan McDermott. He'd make the perfect playboy prince/recalcitrant billionaire rancher/moody genius surgeon - take your pick to fit the pic)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

An ocean swim in Sydney in the middle of winter is for mugs only

It's been miserable in Sydney over the past few weeks. Rain, drizzle and blustery winds. Who'd wanna live here?

So, to even consider an ocean swim at this time of year is foolhardy.

But that's what I'm doing. The Cold Water Classic, a 1.2 kilometre swim at Mona Vale beach, is on June 21 - and I'm thinking of entering.

The organisers have done the right thing and divided the categories into naked and wetties. By naked they mean cossies/togs/swimmers (but you all knew that). Wetties means wetsuits.

My mad brother-in-law, Davo, is going 'naked' a la budgie smugglers.

The water temperature is currently 18 degrees Celsius. I do my laps in pools around 25 degrees.

In Australia, June 21 is the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year.


(Watch me talk my way out of this one!)

To freeze or not to freeze, that is the question.

Anyone got a spare wettie?