Queer Boy’s Guide to: common street wildlife

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Chances are if you venture out onto the street in your Gender Non-Normative Clothing, you will discover a world of reactions and expressions you’ve never encountered before. The ordinarily quiescent wildlife of Sydney undergoes a startling transformation in the presence of gender unicorns, developing odd quirks when spotting you in your outrageously cute dress or gender-ambiguous overalls.

While explanations for this phenomenon differ historically, recent scientific evidence suggests that visible deviation from the norm can radically alter neuronal pathways in cisgendered and heterosexual members of the population, thus “breaking their brain”. It’s important not to be alarmed by the bizarre behavior resulting from these mental short-circuits – indeed, the savvy binary-breaker will soon observe patterns emerging.

Here are a few of the common public archetypes you may stumble across while out smashing the patriarchy, and advice for safe observation of these curious beasts.

The Perpetually Confused

These eternally-puzzled creatures are readily identified by their deeply furrowed brows. When glimpsing a queer crusader, misfiring chemical producers in their skin emit large quantities of a hydrophilic substance known as conformisone.

Conformisone absorbs moisture rapidly from the forehead, drawing the skin tight into a distinctive “confused” expression, while simultaneously distending the skin around the eyes into a painful-looking squint. Due to shock, victims of burst conformisone production are often unable to look away from the individual who triggered the reaction, and have been known to walk into parked cars and fall down while their gaze is thus locked.

Remember, if a victim does fall over while staring at you, it’s acceptable to shake your head in disapproval and refuse to offer help, mostly because it’s their own dang fault.

The Repentant Catcaller

Repentant Catcallers tend to travel in groups and strike from the rear. Upon seeing you, a hot boss in sick floral leggings, from behind, these obnoxious males confuse you for someone remotely interested in them and utter the raucous, offensive cry they have mistakenly been taught attracts others of their species.

Despite your deliberate refusal to acknowledge them, these wretched creatures are riddled with entitlement and feelings of inadequacy and will usually only desist upon catching sight of your face. At this stage, they will groan in collective remorse and engage in desperate acts of performative gender in an attempt to absolve themselves of what they consider the gravest of crimes: openly expressing desire for an individual not among their customary prey.

Repentant Catcallers can be effectively dispatched with laughter, but be cautious. Their fragile egos are easily damaged, triggering inexplicably violent reactions.

The Unfazed

Studying this single-minded creature is nearly impossible thanks to its unerring ability to blatantly ignore anything and everything around it. Regardless of the circumstances, the Unfazed will advance with a quick yet measured pace along the sidewalk, skirting obstacles, disaster zones and queer high-heeled leg monsters alike with unfocused eyes and a blank, soulless expression.

Experimental evidence suggests that the Unfazed are always en route to a very important meeting. As such, these implacable creatures are best regarded as a force of nature, like snakes or the market value of smashed avocado: be aware, take care, and leave them to their own devices.

The Darter

Many a down-with-it queer jivemaster has mistaken a Darter for a human suffering a stroke. The physical signs are broadly the same: erratic head motions; small beads of sweat forming upon the brow; a frozen expression of helpless panic. Yet, with practice, Darters may be easily distinguished from those in need of urgent medical help.

When confronted with a potential Darter/stroke victim, conduct a quick checklist. Do their eyes flick restlessly towards you when you stare at them?Does their look of panic intensify if you shoot them a smile? Are they clutching at their left arm and having trouble speaking?

If you answered yes to either of the first two questions, they are probably a Darter, and can be safely ignored. If you answered yes to the last question, the person is experiencing a stroke and you should dial 000 or the local equivalent at once.


The above list of archetypes is representative, but by no means exhaustive. For the full list, look inside the July edition of The Queer Boy’s Guide, available at all good bookstores and also Amazon, which eventually will own everything including you.

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[Creative science] Birth by perturbation: strangely stable sand waves

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Science has a problem. As a field, it’s suffering from a critical shortage — not of resources, funding, or direction, but of people who care. On the street, you hear the plaintive cry go up: “I was never very good at maths!” The time has come for change.

If you follow Australian politics at all (and my sympathies if you do) you might have heard our Most Illustrious Grand Nabob Malcolm Turnbull and his science minion — sorry, minister — Christopher Pyne ranting on about innovation in science and how Australia just doesn’t have enough. They’re proposing measures like extra funding for CSIRO (in all seriousness, yes, please fund science, thank you) and investment in quantum computing.

I’m here to tell you these are unnecessary. You want to really get people interested in science? Plonk them down in front of a clear stretch of ocean shore for a few hours and have them watch the sand in shallow water.

This brilliant idea stems from an excursion I took with some friends down to the farflung shores of St. Kilda in Melbourne. Every day around dusk, hordes of fairy penguins come zooming in back home to their nests on a length of the beach. This trip is memorable not only for time spent watching these adorable critters waddle around and the mysterious “penguin flu” our party subsequently contracted, but for the time spent prior to the penguins’ arrival.

For the three hours before our flippered friends’ return, my friend and I crouched by a piece of shore lapped by very gentle waves. While slowly moving water offers myriad fascinations — the shifting, shimmering refraction of dying sunlight off of crests or the motion of random debris caught in the currents — what we were watching was a tiny patch of sand engraved with an ornate pattern. What was enthralling about this pattern was not only the squiggles and whorls that composed it but the fact that it appeared to gradually inch towards us across the seabed intact, its shape undisturbed by the motion of the ten centimeters of water above it.

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[Creative science] In circulation: semi-autonomous functions of the body

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How much of your body can you consciously control?

Wiggle your toes. Breathe in and out. Lift your arm above your head and wave. These are all comfortable motions for us, minute muscular manipulations that we perform, unthinkingly, everyday. Evolution has gifted us with an astonishing degree of control over these fleshy vessels our brains call home. No nerve is just an ending — our skeleto-muscular system is an intricate and intricately-connected network of muscles, tendons and ligaments all interwoven and hooked up to our spinal chord and hypothalamus.

These parts of our nervous system are in charge of coordination, and translate multiple tiny movements into what seems like a relatively simple action, like grabbing a drink or scratching your nose. Next time you whack yourself in the face or trip over your own feet, you know what to blame!

But how much conscious control do we really possess?

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[Nostalgia] A decade of Humongous Entertainment

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A while ago, I wrote a short flashfiction entitled “And they call him Pajama Sam.” As I stated then, this character is not my invention — the blue-skinned hero is the brainchild of Humongous Entertainment and is just one of a series of incredibly engaging point-and-click adventure heroes that shaped my childhood. Humongous Entertainment was formed in 1992, the year after I was born, and I like to think that we grew up together.

The company itself changed hands a few times over its lifetime, being purchased successively by GT Interactive in 1996 and Infogrames Entertainment SA (which later became Atari) in 1999, before falling into decline around 2001 and being revived (albeit in a much-reduced capacity) in 2005 by another incarnation of Infogrames Entertainment. After a few years of relative inactivity, the now-bankrupt HE was bought out by Tommo Inc. in 2013, which released a bunch of the old HE titles into the wider marketplace on Steam in 2015. So here we are!

While all the cool kids were hooked on Phonics, I was hooked on HE games from their first PC release I played at the age of five, Pajama Sam In: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside in 1996, which I played on my (shared) family computer. It’s a testament to the game’s enduring impact on my childhood when you consider it survived competition with fighting endless hordes of Rattata and Zubat in Pokemon Blue, which came out in the same year.

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[Science/opinion] Altervision

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You’ve heard of infra-red vision, right? You pop on a pair of funny-looking goggles that look like the ones the Doc wears in Back to the Future and then suddenly you have magic eyes — access to a whole chunk of the spectrum previously invisible to your mammalian peepers! No more is your perception limited to the lamentably narrow range of the visible, for the mysteries and wonders of the infra-red are an open book!

Put those goggles on. When you peer now at a live body, you don’t see the hideous mustard yellow of their grandma’s knitted sweater, but mottled gradated patterns that shift and change as their hearts pump warm blood through their veins. When you gaze upon a mural that’s been heated by the sun, you can see the microscopic cracks in its coating from the places where the heat’s leaked in, raising the temperature minutely above their surroundings. Everything is different when you shift your vision to infra-red, and it’s extensively employed for navigation and surveillance, medical imaging and infrastructure.

What if we could see other frequencies, other spectrums?

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[Opinion/feminism] Hate online is still hate: the male ego hat

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If you’re not already aware (and if you’re not, Van Badham has a great article in the Guardian to bring you up to date), superstar feminist and Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford has published a blog filled with pages and pages of misogynistic hate she’s received mostly for daring to have an opinion. These attacks range from hundreds of calls of “slut” and “whore”, to encouragements of suicide, to chilling death threats in case she can’t manage it alone.

Recently, these calls intensified when Ford pursued a complaint against one such poster by informing his employer, who — entirely of his own accord and at no encouragement from Ford — terminated the man’s employment. This was not Ford’s fault or responsibility: the man’s behavior and the consequences of his actions are his own.

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[Opinion, nostalgia] A crate full of throwbacks: Man Crates

ManCrates-CrateRecently, I was approached by a friendly representative from Man Crates, a company that prides itself on compiling big wooden crates stuffed to the brim with good gift ideas that can only be opened using a crowbar. Apparently, they have this shiny new box called an ‘Old School Crate’ which doesn’t contain bacon or pipe-carving kits (like some of their others), but rather nostalgia! Or nostalgic items, anyway. They had seen my post ‘Cartoon Memories’ about growing up with Cartoon Network and decided that I was well-qualified to speak on this topic.

Well, if time is money, then nostalgia is the currency of our time, so here’s my list of a few of the things that stir up dusty memories from my childhood. Note that I’ve thrown in a couple that have maybe less-than-positive associations in my mind, because as far as I can tell nostalgia is nostalgia and there’s nothing which ain’t cured by its sepia haze.

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