Is 1 hour and 10 minutes long enough to visit Ik*a?

December 9, 2016



The short answer is no – especially if you don’t have anyone helping you – but let’s start by pronouncing things properly. If you go back to the shop’s nordic roots, the name should be pronounced “i-kay-uh” (with the i sound as in igloo) and not as us Aussies tend to say “eye-key-uh.”
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I would like to share with you my visit to a retail prison.

It was a cold and rainy night. I thought it would be best to visit after work because there would be less people. This was certainly true, but I faced some other difficulties: finding all the items on my prepared list, deciding whether the items met my standards of quality, resisting unnecessary purchases, completing the circuit before close, getting back to my car and escaping the carpark.

I piled my plastic containers and half-size bookshelf into the trolley, paid and wheeled myself out to be met by steel barriers- no trolleys past this point. I wheeled out to the pick-up area and asked the last teenage staff on deck how I could get to Lower Ground Green.
“I can look after your trolley for you while you get your car”…
“But don’t you close at 9pm?”
“Oh yeah. You’ll have to get back here by 9pm”
“Well it’s 8:55 so I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“You can’t take the ikea trolley out.”
Fenced in. Trapped. Would I sleep on this loading dock? Or would the boy be kind?

“You can use that” he said pointing to the small Coles trolley standing in the rain. The trolley for unorganised single people. The trolley allowed into the carpark.
I transferred my purchases into the smaller, wet trolley – playing a special balancing game. The teenager had to “buzz” me out of the carrells – a privilege saved for wheelchairs and prams. I moved carefully toward the carpark lift – no access to Lower Ground.
Ok then what? A long ramp. I rolled down and checked for another lift- no access to Lower Ground. Ok then what? A long ramp. I rolled down and checked for another lift- nothing – but a crash. One of my plastic containers fell onto the concrete and cracked.

No lift or ramp in sight. I went back into the shopping centre towards the travelator. A sign: “No trolleys -please use lift” (with vague arrow)..But where is the lift? I started to sweat. I finally found it and I found my car, but where was my parking ticket? The one I thought I put in the small pocket in my backpack. I was thirsty. The ticket finally appeared – creased. I managed to get free parking, but was it worth it? My plastic was cracked.

In a tizz. Drink bottle, wallet, parking ticket, receipt, phone, strewn across the passenger seat. I accelerated out of the boom gates. I had escaped the labyrinth, but the night was not yet over. The orange petrol light came on.

I will leave you know to ponder the most perplexing riddle of my visit – why does the green pear-shaped lamp cost $24.99 whilst the exact same version in white costs only $9.99?



January / February 2013 Book reviews

February 24, 2013

***** 5 Star – Extremely engaging, conceptually fascinating, masterfully written.

  • The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972) by Angela Carter. Disturbing. Creative. Surreal. Like nothing I’ve read before.
  • Primeval and Other Times (1996) by Olga Tokarczuk. Mythical. Unusual. Surreal. Like nothing I’ve read before. Link to review.

**** 4 Star – Very engaging and well-written.

  • Science Fiction, the New Critical Idiom (2000) by Adam Roberts. I only read the chapters on race and gender, but they were ace.
  • My Stroke of Insight (2006) by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. This book was extremely difficult to rate. The author is a brain-scientist who had a stroke, survived and recovered. There are a few amazing parts to the book, particularly her detailed, step-by-step re-telling of the stroke and what it felt like. Other parts of the story were a bit repetitive, but that didn’t bother too much because of the overall positive message.
  • The Age of Miracle (2012) by Karen Thompson Walker. Speculative fiction.

*** 3 Star – Fine for a holiday 

  • Gone Girl (2008) by Gillian Flynn. Crime. The first half was much better – rating up at 4 stars –  with a particularly smart writing style. The book just got too farfetched after that.
  • Roadside Picnic (1972) by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky. I was expecting a lot more from this novel, but I fear it lost quite a lot in the terrible translation into American-English. I’ll just have to watch the film version (titled “Stalker”) made by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1979.

** 2 Star – Pages were skipped to get to the end.

  • A Child’s True Book of Crime (2012) by Chloe Hooper. Sorry Chloe.

* 1 Star – Don’t bother.

  • I’m glad there were no books in this section. 

Snippets 100th Post! Review: books I read in 2012

January 10, 2013

***** 5 Star – Extremely engaging, conceptually fascinating, masterfully written.

  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood.
  • Concrete Island (1973) by J.G. Ballard.
  • Highrise (1975) by J.G. Ballard. Best opening line for a book, ever.
  • The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) by Philip K. Dick. This was the last book written before his death and addressed the usual themes: madness vs reality, belief systems, life after death.
  • Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem. Polish author. This amazing story was made into an amazing film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972.
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now… (2012) by Craig Taylor. Non-fiction. Fascinating.
  • Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) by Jeanette Winterson.

**** 4 Star – Very engaging and well-written.

  • The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007) by Iain M. Banks
  • The Man in the High Castle (1962) by Philip K. Dick.
  •  Two Steps Forward (2011) by Irma Gold. Australian author. Highly recommended. Hang on, maybe this should have 5 stars?
  • The Sailor who fell from Grace (1963) by Yukio Mishima. Somewhat disturbing.
  • The Prime of Miss Brodie (1961) by Murial Spark. Funny.
  • The Garden of Evening Mists (2012) by Tan Twan Eng. Quite a page turner even though it’s a bit unbelievable in places.
  • EcoHouse 2. A Design Guide (2003) by Sue Roaf. Non- Fiction

*** 3 Star – Fine for a holiday 

  • The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins.
  • Blackwater (1993) by Kirsten Ekman. Swedish Crime.
  • Stasiland (2003) by Anna Funder. A great example of how an author can ruin some fascinating subject matter- I didn’t enjoy the author’s somewhat pompous voice.
  • The Dark Wet (2011) by Jess Huon
  • Drink, Smoke, Pass Out (2012) by Judith Lucy. There’s a certain skill required in making a reader laugh out loud on almost every page. This would’ve rated higher if the book wasn’t so closely related in content to the author’s recent TV show. (Spiritual Journey)
  • Thérèse Raquin (1867) by Emile Zola. I learnt that In mid-19th century France the morgue operated an open-house viewing of corpses to aid in identification. It was also a popular kind of entertainment for all walks of life.

** 2 Star – Pages were skipped to get to the end.

  • We All Fall Down (2012) by Peter Barry
  • Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley. Considering how long ago this was written, I know this book deserves more stars- it’s just that I was bored out of my brains whilst reading it. I did, however, learn what a “charnel house” is.

* 1 Star – Don’t bother.

  • Money (1984) by Martin Amis, I got interested in this author because he had written Invasion of the Space Invaders only two years earlier.  So I was disappointed to read Money – it was billed as a great tongue-in -cheek black comedy, but I just couldn’t see the humour in the main character: an ugly, drunk, misogynist, capitalist, travelling the world to be obnoxious. I didn’t bother finishing it.
  • Hotel Iris (2010) by Yoko Ogawa. There seems to be a certain genre of modern Japanese stories which are selected to be translated into English; often containing sex and violence. This story was about a much older man and a 17 year old school girl involved in a sadomasochistic relationship. Not my cup of tea.

2012 in review

January 10, 2013

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Review: books I read in 2011

January 22, 2012

The Top 3

  • The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Leguin. Although this book is set on an imaginary planet of ice (where characters wear great fur outfits), it covers topics of racism, cross-cultural understanding/misunderstanding, fear and acceptance of difference, and political intrigue. The chapters alternate between two culturally different characters’ points of view as well as some historical background to each of them. A beautiful story.
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) by Jennifer Egan. This book has won some awards- and rightly so. I enjoyed the setting (and critique) of the American music industry. I also found the book quite moving, sad in places and I suppose bittersweet. Each chapter is set in a different time frame and/or location through the eyes of separate, but interrelated characters. I cannot seem to do this book justice so you may wish to read The Guardian review to get a better idea. Not recommended for the Kindle – apparently the powerpoint diary chapter doesn’t display well.
  • The Year of the Hare (1975) by Arto Paasilinna. A hilarious story about a Finnish journalist who isn’t enjoying his boring city life and unexpectedly drops out of conventional society. He rescues an injured hare and takes it with him on his trip into the wilderness- picking up part-time work and saving cows from bush-fires along the way.

The Disappointment

  • IQ84 (Books 1-3, 2009-10) by Haruki Murakami. This book was not the masterpiece it was supposed to be. I felt I could hear (read?) the voice of an author growing into an old conservative Japanese man. The main female character seemed stereotypically oppressed. (Maybe this is just a realistic interpretation of the position of the female in Japanese society.) On one hand, she was sickenly obsessed with her image and clothing and on the other, she was a driven, tough, intelligent vigilante. This book has some stange fantastical moments. It is written well and weaves together seemingly separate characters in an enjoyably slow, yet engaging, pace. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is just a conventional love-story dressed-up as fantasy. You are much better off skipping the 900-odd pages and going back to the author’s earlier work The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1998).

The Old Favourite

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1998) by Haruki Murakami. I never thought I would read books twice, but I really do love this novel and re-visited it in 2011. It is a very creative, unique and well-told story. There are alternate realities included.

Speculative Fiction with a Drop of Fantasy

  • Parable of the Sower (1993) by Octavia E. Butler. What happens when corporations take control of water supplies; poverty, fear and violence is on the rise; and people live in compounds to protect themselves? In a not so distant future, a teenager leaves her compound, in search of a better life. It’s a believable situation with a fantastically strong, positive female lead-character on a journey.
  • Transition (2009) by Iain Banks – Oh what a fast-paced and thrilling action-novel this is! There is lots of movement and surprise in the story. There is a torture scene I skipped, but apart from that, highly recommended.
  • The City & the City (2009) by China Mieville – This modern author has some very fascinating ideas and a fascinating first name. This book made me think about space in a new way. It also made me think about 3D modelling and computer games. Lastly it made me think of Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars which is a mind-blowingly futuristic novel for 1961, a classic which I prefer over The City and the City. In Mieville’s book I found the dialogue between characters too artificial. There was also something about the writing style which irked me.
  • The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ – I don’t really know what this book is about. I was trying to catch up on female sci-fi authors and discovered this one about several time-travellers of ambiguous genders. It’s a weird book. I heard it was radical for its time. I found it quite radical.
  • Vermilion Sands (Short-story collection, 1971) by J. G. Ballard. Interactive/replicating sound sculptures, flying stingrays, flying machines, plants which respond to music, disturbed women. Nice creative Sunday afternoon stuff.
  • The Drought (1965) by J. G. Ballard. There is a character named “Quilter” in this story who adorns himself with a dead peacock. It is a queer (odd) and compelling read – as most Ballard novels are. Instead of trying to escape the situation which has brought hardship, the central character immerses himself within it. I love reading Ballard and have to make sure I evenly pace myself with his novels- unfortunately no new titles are going to be published posthumously.

Crime / Thriller

  • In the Woods (2007) by Tana French. Irish crime. I got sucked right in to this compelling crime book. Lots of interesting characters, especially the investigating detectives. Very good entertainment.
  • The Broken Shore (2008) by Peter Temple. Australian crime. Short, punchy writing style with great descriptions of regional communities. Very good.
  • Garnethill (2007) by Denise Mina. You can read my polite review of a shit book here. Extremely poorly written.

Review: free games I have played on my Android phone

August 11, 2011

Star Solitaire
I have a friend who had to ask her partner to uninstall Freecell from all the computers in their household so she could continue living her life. I just took a leaf out of that book.

You keep a virtual fishtank, cleaning and feeding as required. The amusing part of the game is that you can breed different species of fish to create hilarious and sometimes beautiful mutants. It takes about 3 days for the fish to breed, so the pace of Tapfish is slow and ongoing- which is somewhat refreshing. The downside of this game, however, is you have to use real money or engage in advertising and promotional behaviour to buy the interesting fish. As I refuse to do this, I will uninstall this game as soon as I have created my long-nosed angel fish and taken a screen grab for posterity.

Bonsai Blast
The music in this is mesmerizing and relaxing. There is a “winds of change”-like sound effect when all your coloured balls snake into the black-hole and you lose. There are about 90 levels. The aim is to match strings of coloured balls which then burst and reduce the length of your snake. If you can’t burst them, they disappear into the hole and you get to try the level again, and again…and again. It’s similar to Puzzle Bobble, but more varied and with an Asian bent – each screen has a ying and yang area and the coloured balls roll along different shaped paths in each level. Highly recommended.

Glow Hockey
The graphics of this game scream early nineties rave. I didn’t really play it much.
The Art of Glow
An experimental application made by the team (person?) who made Glow Hockey. This is an interactive realtime graphics display, which makes you feel as you have stepped into a good wharehouse party at the docks. There’s no aim to it -or levels- it’s just lovely to look at. I think this could keep a child or a graphic designer amused for at least 3 minutes.

The original text-based game invented in 1984 is one of my top 3 all-time favourite games.* You are a drug dealer with a measly starting budget. You must travel to different locations in New York, buying drugs when they are cheap and selling them when demand is high (for big profits.) Police and thieves attempt to thwart your efforts. The Android version is disappointing because you constantly get mugged if you don’t put your money in the bank. What a drag.

Jewels (Droidhen)
I was introduced to the original version of this game (Bejewelled) on the internet by my friend’s mother. When the player groups three or more of the same type of gemstones together, they shatter and the arrangement shuffles around. It’s a long and constant battle to create order, which never arrives. This version is all about the sound effects – imagine dropping marbles into a cannister followed by thin, expensive glass shattering. Delightful.

Friut Slice
Installed on a recent whim, I’m not convinced this will be a stayer. Capitalising on the swipe touch-screen action, your finger is transformed into sword which slices through 3D fruits such as pineapple, pears, strawberries and so on. It is a fun idea. I am obsessed with the inside view of the fruit, which happens to be rendered quite well on this game, so Fruit Slice did capture my imagination.

Sokoban TAG (Pictured left.)
Out of all the phone games I have played, I think this one is the best for challenging the brain. It is a copy, or version, of the 1982 Japanese game Sokoban (meaning “warehouse keeper”) where a cute character strategically pushes boxes into designated spaces. Objects and wall obstacles ensure the box-moving is carried out carefully and in a specific order. I’m stuck on level 10.

Remember those plastic sliding puzzle toys from the 80s? This is similarly puzzlish, but a lot more challenging because the sliding shapes vary from the square norm.

It’s just like the nine-letter target word from The Age newspaper. I couldn’t love it because it allows ‘s’ plurals and weird slang.

Air Control Lite
This game reminds me of work: stressful multi-tasking to the point of mental and physical breakdown. Not recommended for playing before bedtime.

*The other two are Ms Pacman and Rez.

Review: Severed Heads at the Forum, Melbourne. 14th May, 2011.

June 7, 2011

“Who will tell my drunken friend that she will die and go to hell?” is a catchy lyric of the inspiring and long-serving Australian electronic band Severed Heads. Pioneering the use of video graphics in filmclips and during live performance (hello VJs),  I got reacquainted with the band after being given the CD collection of a good friend from the 1990’s. I was wondering what had become of Severed Heads in April this year when I noticed that they would be supporting Gary Numan for his latest Australian tour. Supporting?! I found it a real shame that they didn’t perform their own show, but having said that, the Forum was a good venue to get up close and have a good look at these Australian legends. I imagine a bit more dancing might have occurred if the audience was crammed into a small warehouse. (Are there are any left in Melbourne?)

Placed between the two band members was a central screen filled with engaging 3D graphics: cat’s head turning into flowers, skeletons, pilots from hell, humans with cars attached to their heads, a pinball machine and a naked man-machine walking in a pool of blood. As for the sounds, I do swoon upon hearing the elocutionary voice of Tom Ellard. This was beautifully coupled with choice synth sounds and driving beats. I was so pleased to have seen and heard Severed Heads play. I will admit that a slice of nostalgia did contribute to my enjoyment, but I wouldn’t have missed it.

p.s This has not much to do with anything – I think it’s called “painting a picture” in writing terms – but there were a lot of 40-something males at this gig who decided to take their leather jackets out of the wardrobe and give them a good outing/airing. Needless to say I was in close contact with a few stale smells. I think the leather was for Gary Numan, not Severed Heads. That is all.