Nostalgia


Ingredients:

•150ml Glycerine
•100g KY jelly
•1 level tspn sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
•1½ cups detergent concentrate
•1 cup hot water
•Filtered water to make up 2 litres

Hardware:

•1 x 2 litre plastic bottle
•1 small bucket
•2 x 1 metre lengths of wooden dowel
•5m natural fibre string

Method:

Dissolve the sodium bicarbonate in the hot water. Carefully mix in ½ cup of the detergent, all the glycerine and the KY jelly. Stir until dissolved as much as possible. Pour about 1 litre of cold water into the 2 litre bottle. Slowly pour in the remaining 1 cup of detergent, taking care not to make foam. Very slowly add the warm glycerine/KY/detergent/water mix. Add water to bring to 2 litres.

Gently rotate the bottle until the contents are mixed as much as possible (there will probably still be undissolved NaHCO3 and visible threads of KY & glycerine – don’t worry). Leave the bottle to stand for 2 days.



Meanwhile braid the string into a loop about the size of a basketball and attach to the ends of the dowel like this:

After two days have passed, check the solution and make sure it is completely uniform – there should now be no visible traces of any of the individual ingredients.

Now, go to a park or a beach – somewhere sheltered and not too hot. Pour some of the solution into the small bucket and dip the string into it – make sure you get it nice and saturated. Now do this:

You might even be able to make one like this…

Science! Just because something isn’t imaginary doesn’t mean you can’t believe in it…

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Bubble photos by Violet Towne.

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Today it is six years since my beautiful Kate faded from this world. I miss you always buddy.



Because we’ve ventured back onto the topic of Bonox, it occurred to me that many of you across the various ponds may be interested in the most recent news from Bonox’s creators, Kraft, who I’m sure you will know better for their much more famous product Vegemite (we’ve discussed it before here).

Vegemite has been around in Australia since 1922, and has remained virtually unchanged. A year or so back, though, Kraft did a survey on their website to find out what Australians ‘wanted’ in their Vegemite, quite obviously with an eye to boosting the sales of their atramentous spread. This notion that you can somehow ‘improve’ an already perfectly acceptable product, is, it has to be said, a quintessentially American one. Australians don’t tend to think like that.[tippy title=”†”]Well, Australians who don’t subscribe to nutty ever-accelerating economic models, anyway.[/tippy] So it will come as no surprise to you at all to know that Vegemite is now 100% American-owned. Like most of the rest of Australia. But I digress. Vegemite occupies that most privileged of positions on the supermarket shelf, alongside strawberry jam and peanut butter; it is what it is, and trying to make it into something else ‘more successful’ is really only the kind of fluffy dream that fills the restless sleep of advertising people.[tippy title=”‡”]Yeah, I know what you’re going to say – peanut butter comes in crunchy and smooth, but I really don’t want to contemplate a crunchy Vegemite.[/tippy]

Anyhoo, Kraft got all kinds of suggestions about how Vegemite could be improved – there was a website you could visit and put in your threepence-worth about how you’d like to see it combined with muesli or salmon paste or whatnot. There were a lot of rather nauseating suggestions and I speculate that Kraft neglected to understand that they were not really seeing a proper representation of the Vegemite-buying public, but rather a whole bunch of people who evidently thought it had some kind of defect (although there were some like me who visited the site and left comments to the effect that they should simply leave it alone). As it turns out this led, eventually, to the announcement of a wonderful new product which has been sitting on supermarket shelves for the past few months sporting the moniker ‘Name Me’. Yes, that’s right, in a transparently sad grab for publicity, the people who run Kraft’s advertising campaign have attempted to rope in the hoardes of loyal Happy Little Vegemites to come up with a name for the new stuff.

This is not the first time that Kraft have tried to spin Vegemite off into something else. You’d have thought they’d have learnt their lesson about fiddling with an iconic cultural lynchpin after their merger of Vegemite and cheese in the 1990s failed to gain traction in the world of toast-topping comestibles.

But no. Now they’re doing pretty much the same thing again – this time it’s Vegemite and cream cheese. And, my prediction is that it will follow the same ignominious trajectory of the 1990s effort, particularly in light of what I’m now about to tell you.

You will have noticed that I haven’t linked to anything Vegemite so far in this post. And it’s not going to happen. Because, when I was doing a bit of legwork for y’all to read about the grand Vegemite saga, I came across this incredible disclaimer on the Vegemite website:

All other use, copying or reproduction of any part of this Site is prohibited (save to the extent permitted by law). Without limiting the foregoing, no part of this Site may be reproduced on any other internet site, and you are not authorised to redistribute or sell the material or reverse engineer, disassemble, or otherwise convert it to any other form that people can use. You are also prohibited from linking the Site to another website in any way whatsoever (emphasis mine).

Putting it succinctly, Kraft expressly forbids you to link to the ‘new Vegemite’ site!

There are few things quite so sad as business people who just completely fail to grok the zeitgeist. I can’t say whether it’s Kraft or their advertising agency who has prompted the instigation of Vegemite v.2 and this harebrained web campaign, but I know where I’d put my money. Mr Kraft, if you’re reading this, sack those goobers. NO-ONE in this early part of the 21st century makes a website that you are not allowed to link to and protects it with a legal rider! That’s the internet equivalent of building your retail outlet in Upper Siberia and then posting security guards with tasers at the front door just in case anyone does find you.

I can only surmise that Kraft is so nervous about their new product that they really don’t want to attract attention to it. Either that or they have arrived at the quite unbalanced conviction that someone might want to steal the idea. Really, I can’t think of one single sensible explanation for why you’d want to prevent people from wording up your spread. Or spreading your word.

I haven’t tried the new ‘Vegemite’ and I had no real intention of doing so. I like Vegemite just as it is, and I miss it if I can’t get it (like when I visit… well… anywhere…). But as you know I will pull out all the stops in the service of science, so I make a pledge to you Acowlytes – this weekend I will throw off my cultural preconceptions and try the new ‘Name Me’. This will allow me to post an appropriate food review to coincide with Kraft’s Grand Reveal of the new name on September 21.

I’d link you to where you can find out all about that, but hey – my hands are tied.

ADDENDUM: It’s been pointed out that the legal rider on the Vegemite site is probably intended to stop users in the Vegemite ‘community’ from posting links from inside the forums to other places. If this indeed the case, for a legal document it’s sloppily ambiguous (viz: ‘in any way whatsoever’), still dopey and in all likelihood just as unenforceable. And it’s madness that you are compelled to agree (via an irksome and irritatingly flakey Flash crawler) to a set of legal requirements before you can even read the ‘No Name’ site – something pretty much unparalleled on any commercial site I’ve ever visited, and again vividly demonstrating Kraft’s lack of web acumen.

ADDENDUM #2: The Flash User Agreement has now vanished from the Vegemite site. Obviously its ridiculous nature has been pointed out to someone. The site still retains all the conditions in its Terms of Use though, so nothing has really changed, other than that you’re not forced to agree to them before you can view anything.

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†Well, Australians who don’t subscribe to nutty ever-accelerating economic models, anyway.

‡Yeah, I know what you’re going to say – peanut butter comes in crunchy and smooth, but I really don’t want to contemplate a crunchy Vegemite.

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My new coffee cup (a NOT birthday present from Cissy Strutt), with my new favourite beverage (Hot NOT Bonox).


While in my local video store a few days back, in a rare moment of consumer weakness1 I succumbed to a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offer and picked up a DVD compilation of all the episodes and the ‘movie’ of the 80s science fiction tele-epic V.

It didn’t seem like such a bad deal really – Violet Towne and I both had fond memories of V. You remember the schtick I’m sure: huge alien space ships the size of Donald Trump’s ego appear rather abruptly over a good number of the world’s major cities and hover there j-u-u-u-s-t long enough to give everybody the heebie jeebies. It turns out that the wait is merely due to the alien leader putting on her face. The doomsaying of a few negative Earthling Cassandras is, it appears, just overactive xenophobia. Shucks – the alien ‘Visitors’ are a jolly happy lot who want nothing more than to lend a helping hand to the struggling new kids on the intergalactic block. And to eat all our hamsters, steal our water and suck out our brains – but it’s not like anyone could have seen something like that coming, right?

Sure, there were a few troubling indicators, if you knew where to look: the aliens’ appalling dress sense (well, it was the 80s, so it’s not like they stood out that much), their insistence on wearing sunglasses indoors (that didn’t start happening for Earthlings until the 90s, so I guess that was a demonstration of the visitors’ advanced culture) and their habit of snacking on mice out of dumpsters (but hey – if you’re discreet…). Oh, and if you happened to tear their skin off, there was a surprise lizard underneath.2



In any event, it didn’t take VT and I long to realise that our fond memories of V had taken on the rosy glow that only nostalgia can lend. The series (which David Icke probably thought was a documentary), was, in fact, pretty damn awful. The general structure of the thing certainly did have potential (ham-fisted Third Reich analogs notwithstanding) and the feeling of distrust and helplessness in the face of an implacable adversary is an idea that has a lot going for it. Our twenty-something selves evidently saw past the frightful soap-quality acting and into something of the concept’s promise – over the years our memories have thankfully expunged much of the dreadful dialogue and appalling plot contrivances.

Last night we got to the end of Series 2, in which, overcoming the sobering improbabilities of mammalian and reptilian genetic structures being anywhere near compatible, one of the cast gives birth to alien twins, the arrival of the second of which was undoubtedly supposed to instill terror in the viewing audience. But when the little toothy green reptile muppet ‘baby’ lunged ‘menacingly’ toward the camera (several times for good measure) Violet Towne and I simultaneously shrieked in unison, snorted our pinot through our noses and fell on the floor laughing. How did we ever accept such abominable bathos? I mean it’s not as if there wasn’t any better precedent – V post-dates Ridley Scott’s impeccable (and still mightily effective) Alien by a full 5 years! I guess we were just a lot better at the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ in those halcyon days (and it was television – which in those times was in most cases notably inferior to anything you could see on the big screen).

At several times during our V marathon, VT and I remarked that it was surprising that no-one had attempted a remake of the concept, and, of course, teh internets piped up to let us know that someone is doing just that. It will no doubt thrill all you V aficionados down to your little webbed toes (and have David Icke struggling even harder in his straight jacket) to know that ABC is airing a new series of V this November. And the subset of those devotees who are also fans of Joss Wheedon’s lamentably short-lived Firefly will be doubly chuffed to learn that the Visitor leader is being played by Morena Baccarin – a woman so impossibly beautiful that apparently she can only get roles that require an impossibly beautiful woman who is really a lizard (well, seriously – after a smashing debut in Firefly, she fairly disappeared without a trace. WTF?) Alan Tudyk (Firefly‘s ‘Wash’) also has a major role in the new V3



I think we can assume that ABC is attempting a Battlestar Galactic-style remake of V, which, all things considered, could be kinda fun. At least we can expect the acting to be better, and hopefully something a little less lumpen in the way of allegory and story.

I have to confess, though, Faithful Acowlytes, that these musings have become something of a digression from my original purpose for this post – I meant to use my examination of the colourful antics of V to illuminate an entirely different matter involving aliens and earthlings. As this post has already become rather lengthy, I’ll forbear for now. But stay tuned for Part 2, in which we’ll ask some serious questions about alien/human interaction. And no, it doesn’t involve kinky lizard porn.

  1. I’m not much of a ‘bargain’ shopper – I figure that bargain is just retail code for “We’ve got too many of these bloody things Hank – see what you can do to free up some shelf space…” []
  2. In what must be one of the cheapest budget decisions made for a science fiction movie EVER, the Visitors never appeared as their lizard selves. Never. Not once. They goose-stepped around earth in their orange-uniformed monkey-suits, procreated with Earth women without giving anything away (now that must have been interesting) and relaxed in the privacy of their own off-Earth ships in their stretchy homo-prostheses. No alien in the history of science fiction has shown such dedication to keeping incognito! []
  3. One is inclined to speculate that people at ABC actually watched Firefly (unlike anyone at Fox, evidently) and knew a good thing when they saw it… []

Happy Birthday!

Edgar Allan Poe is 200 years old today (but still doesn’t look a day over 40!). So break out the Amontillado and raise a glass at midnight to one of the Great Dark Geniuses of our age.

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