In the suffocating pre-dawn heat on the morning of December 2, 2005 drug smuggler Van Tuong Nguyen was executed at the end of a rope in Singapore.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
In the suffocating pre-dawn heat on the morning of December 2, 2005 drug smuggler Van Tuong Nguyen was executed at the end of a rope in Singapore.
Monday, November 29, 2010
I chose to play the clarinet as a child because it was black and shiny but quickly learned it was almost impossible to have a one-man jam session on a clarinet without looking like you’d missed the turn-off to the loser museum (which I have been to, and highly recommend).
The clarinet can be a funky addition to an ensemble but it’s a bit too goofy and arrogant to ever take the spotlight for itself.
But I like to think even I made a fairly circumspect choice in choosing the clarinet over, say, the pan flute. I have never met anybody who has seriously admitted to playing the pan flute but then, you’re as likely to admit that blemish as you are to admit a burning desire to knit charity sweaters for homeless possums.
But there are instruments people play and learn with gusto and diligence that make me wonder why. I met a 10-year-old child recently who was evidently quite at home with the fact that he played the bagpipes. In my experience, children are noisy enough already. Willingly purchasing a young child – not to mention a boy – a bagpipe is very much like grabbing them by the shoulders and telling them, in all seriousness: ‘no, your contribution to the decibel level in this household is deplorable. Time to step it up’.
And, as a parent, you’re kind of obliged to go with the flow if you want them to end up with a musical education and they choose the bagpipes as their outlet. If music be the food of love, play on.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a set of bagpipes. They are calibrated to a pitch and resonance more or less exactly managing to displease the ear. Crafted originally in Scotland for reasons of making the weather look perfectly dandy by comparison, I suspect.
There are other, curious instrument selections as well. The triangle has always baffled me for reasons I’m happy to explain. There’s not a lot of sex appeal in playing the triangle.
Drummers are cool, saxophonists have soul and piano players are dignified and instantly popular at parties that conveniently feature a piano and nobody to play it. But triangle players have a singular lack of appeal, notably because they are attacking an equilateral triangle in a manner that would make a mathematician giddy with delight.
You might disagree but, at the end of the day, you can’t really play the Star Wars theme tune with the full emphasis on the triangle. That’s a fact. It’s science.
You can also go horribly wrong if you choose to play an accordion which is the musical way of saying no, I don’t believe you are in enough pain.
If the accordion is abominable, the piano accordion just seems cruel.
The piano accordion is for families whose aspiring children wanted to play piano but ended up with the squelchy accordion because, well, near enough is good enough. Our ears will collectively tell you that this is not the case.
Of course, there is one instrument that trumps them all for naff value and that would be the inglorious recorder. It’s safe to assume that any instrument that costs about $6 isn’t going to be featured in any symphony of repute.
We’ve all been there though, haven’t we, learning songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb on the recorder which is considered by most as a gateway habit to greater instruments.
Rarely pleasant to listen to, and frequently abused, the recorder takes the cake I reckon.
But I must admit, I’ve never found it easier to play My Heart Will Go On in perfect pitch, with perfect pace, entirely through my left nostril.
And that’s something I never quite achieved on the clarinet.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Witness: video conferencing calls. Oh yes, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets connected to Dubai. Accidentally.
It’s the kind of technology advancement that happens in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re re-arranging fridge magnets out of boredom and the next your toaster is telling you to lose weight because it noticed you only ate white bread and crumpets.
You might remember fondly the days when you and you alone could hotwire a home entertainment set-up in under 15 minutes with a projector, digital computer feed-in and three types of DVD player (because you need three).
I remember those days with a sort of technological snobbery.
But then my flatmate went and purchased an extra console game which requires on-the-go re-routing of the myriad wires behind the television screen. I went to go reconnect my console the other day, got lost in the snake-pit that is the recess of wires and cables behind the television and eventually became ensnared on several of them, dazed, confused and sucking my thumb.
I wasn’t discovered for several hours, at which point I’d tried connecting several plugs into my ear. It feels like dismantling a bomb in a movie.
Take out the red wire. Replace with the blue wire. No, wait, the green wire!
Now pull on your ear lobe, close your eyes and count to ten.
Not one of us has bothered to label any of the plugs behind the television – there are more than seven – but there are only two power points. An investment in a powerboard might be wise, but in the meantime attempting to remove any given plug from the power socket is preceded by a few minutes of fretting and worrying that you’ll pull the wrong one.
I’m half expecting one day to pull the wrong plug and plunge the city into darkness.
Friends have a television so complex that each of them in their apartment had to be lectured on its use by the resident nerd, who had kindly monopolised tech knowledge in the building so as to rule by default. His seminar included discussions about the timing and appropriate use of three remotes and different settings. Unfortunately, none of the others listened and now whenever he is out of the house the television remains in the ‘off’ position.
This situation has, however, led to the dramatic increase in the amount of Orbit Tennis played in the backyard.
Things aren’t getting any better as, proportionately throughout life, you have less and less time to spend familiarising yourself with why indeed a robot is cleaning your house. I’m not looking forward to the day a bunch of young’uns have to show me how to turn on my computer using a voice-controlled headband.
They’ll laugh and they’ll snigger and I will probably hit them over the head with a book, before telling them a long-winded story about what exactly a book is.
The coming technological apocalypse will leave me well and truly in the dark.
Mostly because I’m daft and partly because I won’t be able to figure out how to use my clap-operated lamp.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
She was a little enamoured with animals of all sorts at that point and I probably should have thought my answer through more thoroughly before responding to my sister’s innocent question: “Where are the pigs going?”
To be honest, I had any number of options for a response. I could have said the pigs were going to a little piggy party where the piglets wore party hats and ate food scraps from fine china. I could have said they were going to the movies to see Babe. I could even have said they were on holidays and that pigs frequently went on holidays because pigs liked doing different things very much.
These were my options.
I decided, as my oath implored me to, to answer the question truthfully and explain very carefully and in a degree of detail not called for in the situation that the pigs were going to die.
I further divulged that the next time we ate pork, or bacon, or ham she was probably to blame for not leaping from the moving vehicle and rescuing the truckload of porkers right there and then.
We used to kill our own cattle on the station where I grew up and, as a child, there was a very direct connection between the bullock we had shot and the steak which found its way upon my plate.
It was a very direct connection to a very particular animal, the eyes of which I had often looked into the moment before it ceased to become an animal and morphed into a series of steaks.
I don’t ever remember being shocked at this turn of events; probably because I found the steak to be rather delicious and cows to be rather docile. But see, my sister really liked pigs. Piglets, moreso.
My mum, thinking on the spot to try and quell the riot of meat-inspired tears in the backseat, devised what would become an everlasting system for animal management in our househould.
“Oh, those pigs probably have names poppet, and we don’t eat anything that has a name,” she said.
I was fairly certain that those pigs did not have names, but was prevented by rear-vision mirror death stare eyes of letting this fact be known to my sister. And thus it was that she began a lifelong campaign of naming every animal she ever saw.
Ida, Betty, Hessy, Hector, Sally.
My sister figured her spree of animal naming would prevent them from certain death, though the butchers of this world scarcely adhered to this system and, to be frank, it wasn’t widely used outside our house at all.
Mind you, after declaring she would never eat pork again, my sister was wooed back to carnivorous ways by a spectacular pork dish on one occasion which we naturally presumed musn’t have ever been named by some kind soul like my sister.
Which is why I used to think, quietly and to myself at dinner time, whenever I spied a new slice of meat on my plate: Here lieth the cow without a name.
And I’d offer up a very heartfelt prayer for its nameless soul before declaring, as oft was the case, that it was particularly delicious.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
One is a carpenter and the other works on roofs. He has Pavlovian responses when driving past particularly complex roofs, as if he might be asked at any moment to work on one of them.
If he ruled the world, all our roofs would be rectangular, finally vindicating my inability to draw triangles as a child when putting the finishing touches on my houses. My brother tried to teach me for roughly longer than his patience lasted when I was young and ended up bashing his fists on the table and yelling ‘I QUIT’ before storming out of the room.
Geometry could be so cruel.
Anyway, my point is, I thought these two beacons of masculinity would only serve to emasculate me even further when we moved in together. I thought I would surround myself with such a flurry of carpentry projects that the last of the testosterone in my system would call a cab and make for the airport.
More wrong I could not have been.
While searching for more space to put our microwave, carpenter flatmate placed a little table over a sunken step which was tremendously impractical, so he tried to chock it up using an empty drill case. It’s still not lying flush and to this day using our microwave is like trying to reheat food in an MC Escher drawing.
Last night, carpenter flatmate spilled a roast dish with water and oil in it on the carpet leaving a stain that looks strikingly similar to a charcoal drawing I completed as a child. At least four people made the sign of the cross when they saw that drawing.
After scrubbing the carpet using washing detergent (don’t ask) carpenter flatmate and roofing flatmate constructed a blow-driving device using an old fan, an empty bucket and a large chair for stability. It’s a contraption of such crushing gracelessness. And MacGuyver wept.
I was watching the other try and assemble a bookcase yesterday as well, which was rather like being trapped in the Twilight Zone where up was down, left was right and everything was backward. On the plus side, we now have quite a functional chair.
I’m not saying my skills in construction work should be applauded. More often than not, they make people burst spontaneously into tears. It took me 45 minutes to assemble a pedestal fan the other day during which I lost several screws and my temper at least twice.
Turns out numerous expletives fired promptly into the blades of a fan are enough to power it, or at least it would be if the blades weren’t screwed on to the base.
I just didn’t expect two professionals and myself to be on something approximating an even playing field when it comes to being handymen.
I do, however, require them to change my light bulbs.
I’m OK with this.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
EXACTLY three weeks from today I will be padding silently through a giant shopping centre looking for presents I probably should have bought in May, the month when nobody does anything of note.
While Santa and his sub-ordinate Clauses are allegedly putting the finishing touches on wooden train sets and lumps of coal, I know where the real present action will be happening.
And it will look vaguely like a mental breakdown, a flurry of hundred dollar bills and general stress all set to the infuriating and unsettling dichotomy of a Jingle Bells soundtrack.
It will be me, pounding my tiny fists of Christmas ire against storefront windows begging them to stay open just a little bit longer so I can buy that one present for that one person I haven’t spoken to in years.
I’m a terrible gift giver.
I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, I’m just very bad at scheduling it into my busy schedule of working and doing nothing else in particular.
And the whole lustre of Christmas wore off for me a long time ago when the illusion of Santa Claus was shattered by my brother during a night-time audible wish session on my part.
I was convinced Santa would bring me whatever I wished for, not least because I was perhaps one of the most well behaved children you would ever encounter.
If you doubt this, ask my mother. If she tells you otherwise, then I think we know who is lying.
My brother, eventually growing tired of my endless lists of toys (a Sega Mega System, an action figure, world peace), turned to me and in a fit of anger yelled out: “SANTA CLAUS DOES NOT EXIST, HE’S MADE-UP’.
This sounded, had I known it at the time, very much like the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch.
Santa Claus was not real, a former Claus, a figment of my imagination.
This was embarrassing because one Christmas a year earlier I had nodded adamantly when my family asked if I could see Santa’s sleigh lights in the night sky.
I nodded yes because they told me they could too, an assertion on their behalf that is clearly very false.
That’s why if my mother ever tells you I was a bad child, she must not be trusted; her track record for falsities on a diabolical scale was clearly cemented with the Santa Claus fabrication.
When the news of Santa’s non existence finally sank in, incredulity turned to shock and then to rage.
I rose from bed, stomped down the stairs (which sounded suspiciously like the sound I heard a year earlier, which my family tried to convince me were reindeer hooves) and confronted my mum with a thunderous: “YOU LIED TO ME!”
I don’t remember much after that, although I presume she tried very hard not to laugh while trying to engage me in a logical conversation about the merits of infusing Christmas cheer with one of the biggest lies ever told to children.
What next, I wondered, who else didn’t exist?
The Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Jesus? To attempt to describe the Earth-shattering triple-whammy the sudden removal of the Fairy, the Bunny and the Fat Man from my life caused me would do it an injustice.
Suffice to say I became a temporary Christmas cynic, hurling baubles across the room in what turned out to be the most literally colourful display of violence ever recorded.
That ended promptly when my sister was born and began to grow older; the role of Santa Claus and spinning the lie falling to me.
Kids are such funny creatures and I understood, at that moment in time, exactly why the Santa Claus myth was so much fun to sustain.
The children, they believed your every word, and you could make Santa Claus anything you wanted, including a most wonderful tool of bribery.
“What’s that, you don’t want to clean your room? If you don’t clean your room, Santa Claus won’t bring you any presents. And he’ll probably steal at least one of your puppies.”
At this point, I would like to remind child psychologists everywhere that my methods were sound.
Santa Claus is a weapon, a weapon for good behaviour.
Needless to say I have been re-converted to the charms of Christmas, even if it means buying presents so I can perpetuate the myth to another generation of wild-eyed kids who think Santa will fly away angry if his milk isn’t warm.
Tell me that isn’t bliss.
Monday, November 22, 2010
I've written about my mother's inhuman fascination with our chooks before. But now the unearthly exaltation of the poultry has reached entirely new heights. You see, there's an attempted chicken murder mystery afoot!
Three days ago - at 2.30am my mother reliably informs me - there was a beastly squawking coming from the back yard. A chicken had been snatched, like the proverbial chicken from a backyard. I realise that metaphor requires more effort.
My mother climbed down the backstairs, flashlight in hand, and must have fought the irresistible urge I know she was feeling to call the police.
"Officer, there's been an attack! Why on my chickens of course!"
At which point the police would place our home on a permanent 000 block leading to the eventual tragic loss of our pet rat BamBam after we couldn't get through to an ambulance. I'm pretty sure that's how it would pan out.
Sherlock Holmes-style she noticed drag marks in the mud...the scene of the crime. At this point, I like to think that mum had a minor anxiety attack over the fact she didn't have an assistant like Watson to discuss her remarkable detective skills with.
And there, in the distance, she found a scraggly chook left frightened and roughed up in a corner. Mother presumes it was a cat that did the job. Or, as she proudly proclaims, a quoll. I don't know if you realise how rare quolls are in this area, but they're about as common as a Republican conscience. Or as rare as hen's teeth. Boom tish.
The next few nights mother would rise from bed, about 2am, and lurk in the shadows like a wraith in the hopes the animal would attack again. It never did. Possibly because the chickens are way too heavy to drag over a fence or possibly because mum's 'Alaskan shooter' style chequered hat is such an effective deterrent against animal crime it's now been placed on backorder by the RSPCA.
The end of this story is, however, that the chickens are now far too frightened to roost in their traditional spot at the back of the yard in some sort of tree. If I'd seen that tree when I was 4-years-old I might just have assumed that's how chickens were made.
Nope, now the chickens are roosting in a vine on the railing by the backstairs, like some rare breed of Tarzan poultry. In the picture I am about to show you, you can clearly see the rooster.
If you look closely, you can see the sneaky face of a ninja hen behind it.
But buried, I kid you not, deep within the vines are two entire chickens. Sitting there, possibly playing poker, and definitely talking about the price of eggs in China.
So instead, I’m going to post a brief, heart-warming thank you to the team at Mamamia and particularly @sharpestpencil for seeing fit to publish my little volume of anti-gay marriage arguments below.
And a thank you to the breathtaking bevy of you who commented in support, and those who disagreed but at least did so in a fashion that sought to continue the discussion.
The tide is beginning to turn on this issue, rightly so, and it’s now only a matter of time.
When that day comes, I will be all smiles.
And probably very drunk.
Friday, November 19, 2010
So to help those who feel like they need to keep peddling the marriage-go-round of mistruths, I have compiled this Stupendous Compendium of Anti Gay Marriage Arguments (and why they’re wrong).
It’s about religion.
No, it isn’t. Going to church is about religion. Loving thy neighbour is about religion. Marriage is a secular contract presided over by Government. Like taxes. Atheists get married. Religious people get married. Some churches won’t marry inter-racial couples, or previously divorced couples. They’re welcome to. That’s their right. But that doesn’t preclude these people from marriage altogether. Because it’s secular.
Legalising gay marriage only affects a small number of people, why bother?
There are two flaws with this. If we’d followed this logic then we would have had no black civil rights movement. And asking ‘why bother’ about a human rights imbalance is a little like ignoring the service station when your car is on fire and your face is melting. Tis merely a flesh wound, come back and I’ll bite your knee caps off! The ‘only them’ argument has consistently been shown, throughout history, to be reprehensible. We cannot afford to stand by while ‘only them’ becomes a chorus of our own inability to act. One day, and this is the lesson we still haven’t learned, ‘only them’ could become ‘only you’. It’s a lonely outpost. Would they care to make the same argument about disability funding?
It’s about procreation.
Then you might also want to ban marriages that take place later in life, beyond a couple’s child bearing years. Or you might consider banning marriage for heterosexual couples who don’t want children. Families are about procreation or adoption or surrogacy. Marriage is about love between two individuals. The idea that we must procreate to protect the human race was spawned, forgive the pun, during a time when sabre toothed tigers were an actual health threat and actual health care consisted of medicinal screaming. So yes, prolific bonking used to be a shared duty. The times have changed, somewhat.
We have more important problems to deal with!
This is disingenuous. Yes, I will help you with your civil rights movement but really, this trash isn’t going to take itself out. This is a familiar refrain. We have to fix health care! We have to fix the welfare system! And we do, we do. But if Government’s cannot multi-task, especially to instate a basic right of equality, then we are all in a little bit of trouble. And if you forever want to put gay marriage on the backburner, because the country has had a sudden need to legislate invisible cigarette packages, then we’ve successfully woven a beautiful too-hard-basket that would look simply delightful as the centrepiece on a hardwood table, fit for a gay.
Homosexuality is against the natural order!
And so are those farm animal ornaments with slinkies for legs. But they’re still in our homes. Truth be known – and science can be a wonderful master – homosexuality occurs quite often in nature. If you’ve never seen a pair of male dolphins doing miraculous things with their blowholes, you haven’t been watching enough SBS. Christian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas was a bit of a fan of looking to nature for validation of humanity’s own habits, which might explain the brief fad in the early days of raising our young in a burrow. There are actually some animals that spontaneously change sex from male to female and vice versa, so relying on the ‘natural order’ of things is rather a bit misleading.
Homosexuality is a choice. They made their gay bed, let them lie in it.
There is only one group of people capable of answering the question of choice and homosexuals. They are The Gays. I happen to be one of these. I was born this way. I like men the same way you know you like the opposite sex. Nobody taught you to. You just do. You’re hardwired and so am I. The implication that gay kids, a larger proportion of whom commit suicide because of horrendous bullying and identity issues, would choose to endure the torture of their childhoods is insulting. It’s insulting and you have no authority to tell us you know better. Because unless you’re gay, you don’t.
It’s a slippery slope. Just wait until The Gays can marry their brothers. Who are also animals.
Consent. Repeat after me. Animals cannot provide consent and beastiality is an avenue where consent cannot be provided in a ‘loving’ relationship. Unless you’re donkey has a Speak ‘n’ Say, there is no consent. And there are medical reasons why incest is frowned upon. But there is no decent, scientific, medical or moral reason why two loving, consenting, non-related adults should not be afforded the same rights as the majority.
It’s about morality, man. Think of morality, won’t you?
Two words. Las Vegas. Shotgun weddings that last 43 minutes aren’t really the pinnacle of morality. Nor are they sacred, for that matter. It’s only a slight affront that a heterosexual couple jacked up on cocaine and the better part of an entire bar can slur ‘I do’ with the full support of the law. That The Gays are forced to settle for ‘I Would’, even while measured against this same impressive yardstick, is simply unintelligible. Nothing is more moral, one would have thought, than a couple willing to devote themselves to each other for the rest of their lives. And this is true in the eyes of the law if you have both a penis and a vagina. You must have one of each between you lest you be cursed forever more to de facto relationships and cloudy legal rights in your old age. Morality indeed.
I totally agree, but let’s not call it marriage. Let them have civil unions!
Ahem. Let them eat cake? Those who adopt this argument can be the most frustrating as this is the one that glosses over the exact issue at stake here. This isn’t about every gay wanting to marry. This isn’t about the words themselves. It’s about what the options are and who has access to them. Apartheid South Africa had a water fountain for blacks and water fountains for whites. Essentially, nobody is missing out except that they’re both lapping at an entrenched division made possible by discrimination. Call it whatever you want. Call it Skiddlepop, if you must, but give it to everybody. If one doesn’t, then discrimination continues. Refusing to amend the marriage act is tantamount to saying The Gays are not worthy of the institution. And blacks aren’t worthy of the same drinking fountains, nor women the vote. Oh, history, it’s like an embarrassing echo.
I like gay people, but I don’t think they should be allowed to marry.
Let me guess, you also have lots of gay friends? And I have a hat made from kitten whiskers. You might like them – everyone has that token gay guy who hogs the karaoke machine at company functions and they’re a right hoot, I’m sure – but you don’t respect them. And respect is really what we’re after here.
But the Marriage Act clearly says it is between a Man and Woman!
Stop shouting. Yes, it does. Unfortunately that Act wasn’t amended by scholars in the 4th Century. It was amended by John Howard. In 2004. It was a deliberate move to exclude and it didn’t take long to execute. Amending the Act would be simple and absolutely no impediment to the debate whatsoever.
Well, here is my analogy about a soccer player joining an AFL Game and wanting the rules changed!
Except the soccer player did choose to be a soccer player. And AFL isn’t the only game in town. And then all the men shower together at the end anyway. Hang on.
But, why should The Gays get special treatment?
If by special, you mean unequal. The Gays don’t want more than what the straights have. We want the same. Which is ironic, because that’s what homo means.
But if we let The Gays marry, I might turn gay.
No, you won’t. Honest. We’ll even promise to stop casting spells on your testosterone or oestrogen. Promise. It’s actually scientifically proven that touching a gay, or hearing about a gay wedding will have absolutely no bearing on your life whatsoever. Some very brave scientists risked homosexuality to empirically test this hypothesis, so best you show them some respect.
But a gay wedding would ruin my heterosexual marriage!
False. Unless a gay couple in the middle of their nuptials literally fell on top of your wedding ceremony, this is not going to happen. And I think you’ll agree that is a very unlikely course of events. Unless we all of a sudden legalise gay air weddings, which is just plain dangerous.
But if we let them marry, then they’ll have kids and we’ll end up with a gay society.
This one is simple. I am gay. My parents are not. Work it out.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I am not necessarily a rolled-gold Potter fan, although I did enjoy the books and I once owned an owl. They weren’t the status symbol back then as they are now and all the neighbourhood kids would try and sneak into the house believing that somebody had died there. It was a real hoot.
I’m not like my flatmate, who ordered a Boost Juice the other day under the assumed name ‘Luna’. She’s a bit weird. She took one of those fancy (and by fancy I mean absolutely borked) online tests the other day which revealed her to be Draco Malfoy, one of the odious nemeses of Mr Potter.
Good Lord Voldemort, did I not hear the end of that.
“I couldn’t possibly be Draco Malfoy, it’s wrong!” she yapped on before I considered plunging a wand (or kitchen knife) deep into my heart to end the pain.
So, point be made, I don’t much care either way about the Potter world. I love the books as books and I tend to leave it at that.
Which brings me to my gripe. I have gripes from time to time. I have so many gripes I’ve been trying to think of a collective noun to accommodate them all.
I have a group of gripes is simply too common, you see, if somewhat poetic.
So, people who play fake Quidditch on the ground while still riding broomsticks.
Stop it. Just, for the love of all that is decent and good in the world, fucking stop it.
These lumps are the same lot who used to upturn Drumstick wrappers on horse heads and pretend they were galloping around on highly commercialised, lactose tolerant unicorn steeds.
I once saw a wildlife documentary where this adorable kangaroo rat was stomping its itsy bitsy foot to ward off a snake. The snake ate it.
Fake Quidditch is even more heartbreaking than that.
Fake Quidditch is more heartbreaking then Bambi re-runs at the Forest and Friends Deer Orphanarium.
Never has the plight of people so obviously muggle been so heart-rending.
Now, stop it, please.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
When I was a child, my questions about the world and how and why things worked were directed at three people.
My mother, my father and, if I was in an absolute pinch and not fussed about receiving the correct answer, my slightly older brother.
I grew up on a cattle station and this was my world.
I could see as far as the horizon in any given direction and I knew inordinate amounts about the rooting (read: foraging) habits of wild pigs, but the trade on actual information beyond this was a monopoly held by my parents.
This explains my early-held beliefs that the sky was blue ‘because it just is’ and my empirically challenged worldview that people with darker skin then me were like that because they had spent too long in the sun. I would later learn this to be false and I remember the moment I realised with ridiculous clarity. The moment I realised I had been jibbed by my father (who thought it amusing) made a complete mockery of my general habit to stay in the shade. For those playing along at home, yes, my father was a little bit racist. I’m lucky I made it out the other side with an open mind but I’m not entirely sure how.
But there was no central telephone-expert-database for my parents to consult. The closest thing to this was the Poisons Hotline which we had to use once when I swallowed a berry (it was not delicious).
In short, there was no Google.
The information superhighway was a dirt track that went ‘round in circles which exhausted its own opportunities for discovery fairly quickly. It was a little like playing ‘I Spy’ in the middle of the desert.
Fast forward 20 years and parents are being done out of a trade, at least in some areas. If you, even as a four-year-old, want to know the answer to a question about the gestation period of a Teletubbie you can just Google it. I’d recommend not doing so, but if curiosity is your master then let us not be pedantic.
An algorithm will aggregate the collective wisdom of humanity and place the answer for you right there on the screen, in under a second. If you live in country areas, it might take a little but longer and this should be just enough time to check how the potatoes are faring.
You don’t even have to ask anybody with a pulse. You’re not asking someone, you’re asking – essentially – everyone. At the same time. Through a machine. It’s easy and you only occasionally have to put up with the odd penis picture in your search results. But hey, better an AWOL dong in your bower-bird-style arrangement of information then going through life thinking that chickens will only hatch if you swear at them from your verandah (this was more an observed behaviour, so please do not judge).
And this is what genuinely snatches my goat (I will have to Google the correct colloquialism of goat’s having been gotten so I don’t sound like your exchange student). People who say the Internet is making us dumber.
We’re smarter than we’ve ever been. We’ve got access to virtually all the information in the world in our pockets (if you use a smartphone) and in our wristwatches (if you’re a super secret spy, or Russian).
And you don’t even need Google anymore. Personalise it. Ask your 850 Twitter followers the question instead and receive myriad responses from people in the know, allowing you to aggregate your own response after siphoning out all the people telling cat jokes and LOL-ing at your ineptitude (so, basically, me).
These people are instant. If you never thought you would live in a world where people openly admitted to being ‘too lazy to Google’ a 0.17 second search response, then you haven’t been on Twitter.
This isn’t about doing away with the need for creativity or future Einsteins, it’s about how quickly we can get to the jumping-off point for creativity. Ideas are more efficiently processed when you start with all the information you need first. It’s a bit like making an omelette, in that you need a whisk. Actually, it’s nothing like making an omelette. I’m just hungry and wanted an excuse to write the word ‘whisk’.
I only came here to talk about how bloody brilliant it is to have all this information completely at hand. If it’s been thunk then it is probably on Google, along with the correct conjugation of the verb.
In years that were yester, information was passed down in what amounted to a haphazard game of Chinese Whispers which resulted in the less-than pragmatic advice on keeping yak: purple bubble gum blubber. And then some card invented the written symbol and another dude invented the printing press, which paved the way to the enlightened ages where most people realised all the Priests were lying to them and hoarding the information during the worst lie of omission since your parents forgot to tell you about wet dreams.
We’re in the next information age now where you can click it into existence on a whim. You can also snap-your-fingers it into existence, assuming you have a butler with Internet access. The world is at your fingertips.
There is a far more technical discussion to be had here – about computer science, cloud computing and the hive mentality and mathematical formula – but I’ll leave that to the people who have the expertise.
Of course, if anybody ever breaks the Internet one day after Googling ‘boobies’ one too many times then I recommend outrageous panic before building humpies in the rainforest and squirreling yourself away forever. If you can manage it.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Monday, November 15, 2010
This might explain my short outbursts while making dinner.
“I’ve SEEN the future man, you’re the one living a dream. I KNOW what happens and we’re all doomed. We’re all fucking doomed!”
Granted, it was melodrama to some small degree but who are you to tell me how I should feel when my chicken for the amazing Coq au Vin dish I was making wasn’t searing properly.
Incidentally, the end of the world looks something like this:
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Once, when I was rather younger, my School of Distance Education teacher told me that we were going to build a space rocket (as opposed to ordinary rockets, which were so 1980 at the time). This was going to be a construction project of such compelling wonder that, I thought, I would be blasted off into the ether, never to return.
This says little about my gullibility at the time and much about my faith in alfoil (long before I realised its potential in the cooking of fish).
To be fair to my fledgling brain, the rocket was big. Like, I could totally fit my two dogs in there and something approximating a fridge. Like the rocket, the fridge had little actual functionality and - had I actually ever blasted off - my warm milk and unfrozen meat would have given the game away on this point.
I was fully, utterly, convinced that I was embarking on a true adventure, without any cause for concern that my rocket lacked a serviceable launch pad and other basic space amenities.
I was in part spurred on by my parents who felt it necessary to explain to me that I actually was from space, because I could read from a very young age and clearly this is something that only happens to extra terrestrials.
Glad Wrap made up the windshield of my rocket and I was most definitely not concerned about its untested properties in deflecting space junk, asteroids and gamma radiation.
If Glad Wrap could protect my chicken, it could damn well protect me, I reasoned.
There are few things more disappointing in my living memory than the feeling after my T minus 10 countdown when my rocket failed to lift-off (I was blaming propulsion issues related to contaminated rocket fuel).
I had a similar moment where the wind was swiftly whipped from beneath my wings, literally, after I became convinced at a tender age that I could fly. No, really fly.
I enlisted my skeptical brother (his grasp of physics while only a few years older was really quite remarkable) to trace the outline of some wings on butchers paper.
They were over-sized (I had no illusions about the size needed given my bone structure and propensity for meat pies) but they definitely looked like wings.
Thumbing my nose at my brother's inability to think big, I dramatically duct-taped the wings to my arms and proceeded to the trampoline to make an absolute mockery of the generally accepted way of the world.
I bounced, I leapt. It was important, you'd understand, to build momentum.
I fell. I fell like a slightly emasculated Icarus.
That was the beginning of the end for me. Childhood dreaming is really rather wonderful. As a child, the world is your oyster. No, the world is your dragon with dragon fangs. And possibly a wizard. With dreadlocks! The world is whatever you want it to be.
Slowly, over time, possibilities are stripped away like bark on a tree and your hopeful exterior is whittled to a cynic's core. You harumph at the way things are, forget to wonder about how things should be and dream a little less every day.
Those two stories from my early childhood were markers to me that there are some things you won't change - can't change - in life. It was the end of an era when Santa Claus was still real and twisty straws were still totally fine and not at all inefficient.
Without wanting to sound outrageously wistful, I miss the days when using your imagination wasn't reinforced with crushing pragmatism. When you could dream without budgets or caveats or sunset clauses. The innocence of wonder, the wonder of innocence, is something that people forget about all to often.
I'm no Peter Pan. I like the independence I have had for a while now, I like knowing things.
But if I had a time machine I would go back and I'd encourage my little self to do nothing different.
I'd tell him that alfoil is just perfect for aerodynamics and that Glad Wrap is a sufficient deflector shield. I'd tell him the fridge would work as soon as the rocket blasts off.
After all, he'll figure it out for himself soon enough anyway, and why rob him of the initial exuberance of possibility?
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Consequently I do not remember what his reaction was.
Having said that, there were already more than a few clues he could have taken into consideration.
The most telling, and I’m no expert, might have been the fact that I was standing in a gay bar and wearing a tie clip. Master of disguise, me.
Now, I’m not saying that every person that walks into a gay bar is a screaming homosexual. But I am. And it’s even more obvious when I am drunk.
So, there’s that.
Monday, November 8, 2010
In my blog’s previous guise I wrote a post about my mother, the ninja whinger, she who could whinge from a thousand paces and behind blast strength titanium doors.
Deprived of anything substantial to do after 7pm in the country town where she lives, she took to writing down the number plates of hoons in a rudimentary data log.
She would find all manner of complaints about my social life, about my finances (I happen to enjoy being very liquid, thank you very much) and about that chicken who is incubating that fucking lump of concrete again.
Having been exposed to this for the better part of my life I had always vowed to become the opposite.
I’ve never been a complainer in the strictest sense of the term.
I once knew a douchebag who fleeced me out of $3500 and fled the country and rather than doing anything particularly proactive about it, or even ranting on his Facebook page, I lit a smoke and went ‘ah, fuck it’ before wondering if there was a way to monetize my smoke rings which I hadn’t invented yet.
Oh I will mutter under my breath and – with the invention of blogging – I’ll bash out a particularly vitriolic piece about something or other (probably moths. I fucking hate moths) but I’ll move right along.
The difference between that and my mother is that my mother is Queen of the Official Complaint. A complaint is just an underling until it has been triple-stamped in her own venom, posted and delivered from whence the offending behaviour originated.
Well, last week, I made my first official complaint.
I was in a mood similar, and possibly exactly the same, as the people during the French Revolution.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which I love dearly and will defend to the death, had essentially said to me: “Let him watch Jon Stewart.”
All well and good except, The Daily Show had been replaced by an episode of Scrapheap Challenge.
THE SAME EPISODE OF SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE THAT I HAD JUST WATCHED.
A little like rubbing salt into my wounds using a javelin.
I am a very mild mannered person, believe me, but this was the straw that mutilated the camel’s back on this particular day.
It didn’t help that my flatmate’s thought my mood particularly amusing.
Driven to distraction, I phoned the ABC complaints line. It was that or throw several of the people in the room out of our third story window.
It was engaged.
So I fired up the laptop using nothing but the radiant energy of my melodrama and typed off this hasty complaint after checking several thousand effing check boxes.
“First, two weeks ago Daily Show and Colbert Report were scheduled on daylight
savings time and I missed both. Now tonight Daily Show has been replaced by the
same episode of Scrapheap Challenge which I have already seen. I have had a very
long day at work and you are ruining my quality of life. Please have this
I know. Arrogant. Entitled. Completely and utterly unreasonable.
Today I received the reply:
Thank you for your email.
Due to a
technical fault, Scrapheap Challenge was broadcast twice in Queensland on 2nd
November, replacing The Daily Show. Also on the 19th October the picture on
ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3 was frozen for some time in the afternoon. When this was
resolved the channels were then broadcast nationally in eastern daylight saving
time. On behalf of the ABC I apologise for any inconvenience caused by these
faults. I can assure you that our engineers are investigating the cause of the
problems to ensure they do not occur again.
That specific episode
of The Daily Show is available to watch on iView http://abc.net.au/iview/ - As
you may be aware, ABC iView is a free internet broadcasting service offering
full-screen video, streamed on demand and at high resolution. It's designed to
work with computers that have a high-speed broadband connection. Please also
note that usage may be metered by your ISP, so may affect your download
Thank you for taking the time to contact the ABC with your
Now I feel like a complete fuckwit.
I’m sorry ABC!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
We’d spilled beer on our answer sheet and had drawn obscenities on the picture question but that doesn’t mean we weren’t serious about winning the game of pub trivia.
I’d even won a hat during one of the initial prize rounds, a hat designed by no-one in particular it seemed with a cracked and faded VB logo on the front.
I love winning things I’ll never use. Like birth control pills. Stupid lucky dip.
Our team name sucked because my brilliant suggestions Trivia Newton John, Let’s Get Quizzical and Quizz on my Face were all over-ruled by partially blotto simpletons on my team who opted for ‘The Jersey Shore Appreciation Society’.
Yeah, because that’s going to nab us the all important bonus points you cretins!
So we were off to a rocky start, especially after having to write out what ‘YMCA’ stands for and then only writing out what the ‘A’ stands for because Flatmate #1 thought that was all the questioner wanted.
Turns out I also know what a horse’s forearm thingy is called – a fetlock – which just goes to show you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t wipe the many years of country-breeding from the memory of the boy and oh God why won’t it let go of my mind.
But the body blow came at the end of the tournament. I like to call it a tournament because you can’t prove there wasn’t jousting.
Question: Which planet takes 228 years to orbit the sun?
Now, you’d probably want to say Pluto until you realise that it was decommissioned as a planet in 2006. I remember this because the newspaper I worked for at the time saw it fit to put a picture of the Disney cartoon dog Pluto on the front page, as if the two were related even a skerrick at some particular juncture which I can quite safely say they are not.
So we wrote down Neptune, assuming it to be a trick question.
I needn’t fill you in on the answer – it was Pluto – at which point our table erupted in a sustained heckle that was so long we were almost ejected from the premises. Our marathon heckle, I am led to believe, has only been bested by the mating call of a Gibbon in intensity and duration.
“Pluto is not a planet!” we jeered.
“It’s a dwarf planet you dickhead!” we confirmed.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to lose gracefully.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Specifically, how soon after being faced with the predicament should one take of their clothes and share body heat?
Dismiss the question as fanciful whimsy if you must, but it’s a legitimate thought experiment that pares back the layers of false civility we must all project.
When to get naked indeed.
The fragile few seconds after driving your car off the road and into a ravine, for example, should not be used to get naked.
Pre-empting possible necessary nakedness is no excuse to get naked in the present.
Especially if there are witnesses and the fire brigade is on its way.
Procrastination, when it comes to getting your bits out, is a virtue.
It’s all well and good if you’re on your own and rescue is far away as getting naked will not serve to help you at all.
It will make you look like an ancient marble (and non-clothed) statue when you freeze to death.
Like David. Do you really want to look like David and have people point at your crotch forever more? I didn’t think so.
But in group survival situations, if your plane has crashed into a snowy mountaintop or somebody’s turned the air-con up too strong in the Hey Hey it’s Saturday studio audience, getting naked can be the difference between life, death and a primetime national audience.
But the diplomacy in suggesting everybody get their kit off, and when, is key.
For example, nobody wants to hear this from the flaming wreckage of your place in the minutes after it’s ploughed into the mountain:
“Right, we need food, water and a game of naked survival twister, stat!”
Also, be careful of snow ninjas.
That’s just rude. Also, people are probably bleeding.
But you’re going to have to do the rude huddle eventually, particularly if the crash has incinerated all of your luggage and hasn’t conveniently killed a woolly mammoth in the process.
Timing is crucial and is different depending on the circumstances.
A man who has crash-landed with the majority of an Avon ladies conference shouldn’t be too quick off the mark in suggesting. In fact, he should probably leave it for others to make the call.
Likewise a gay man stranded with footballers. They are free to suggest because if they do it’s purely a heterosexual pursuit of eternal life. And, like, totally not gay.
And don’t use Bear Grylls as a role model. That guy is always naked. And he once pissed into a snake and then drank it. We don’t need those types telling us how to huddle.
The key point to remember is not to leave the decision until your core body temperature is drastically reduced.
You’ll make almost no sense and the last thing anybody needs is another gibberish-merchant shrieking about impending doom and bumping uglies.
Don’t be that person.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Mind you, last year my horse reached critical mass and turned into a nag halfway before collapsing under the weight of its own mediocrity so any improvement would need to be a big one.
This year I punted an amateurish $40 on four separate horses that all possessed the unique quality of sucking in a variety of ways.
Here’s my form guide written by a person who knows nothing about racing:
So You Think
Suffers performance anxiety. Has not yet delivered on promises on the packaging including ‘supersonic hooves’ and ‘no, look, I can seriously run over 3000m’. Very similar to my one and only attempt at the 800m in high school. Sprinted for 100m and thought I was winning. Died around the halfway mark. Was reincarnated and came in last.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Except this time.
The odds are long and so is its face. Because it’s a loser.
If you receive this name in your office sweep and your first instinct is to cry, you are probably correct. Also, it sounds like ‘the feet’ which is anatomically incorrect anyhow.
I’m not really one to bet on horse races, but there’s just something about the Melbourne Cup. Namely, its unceasing ability to take my money and my attention each and every year.
Next year I’ll be putting $100 on my losing money, creating a paradox so strong and unbreakable that figuring out the vagaries of the Melbourne Cup will seem like child’s play.
Update: Just found out I 'won' $6 for coming in last in the office sweep. Let this be a lesson to you all. Failure can pay. Aim low. Be reimbursed.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. A very gay, one trick pony. Or is that a unicorn? Not sure. I digress.
Last week two very close friends of mine became engaged.
It was very sweet; ring, romance and the whispered words of a couple planning to spend their entire lives together.
Now, I’m not much of a romantic. I grew up on a cattle station and, let me tell you, romance was a dangerous concept surrounded by so many bullocks. It’s very hard to have candle-lit dinners when you have hooves for hands. Imagine all the house fires from knocked over candles in moments of opposable thumbless romantic whimsy.
Anyhow, my friends are engaged and that’s the end of the road for them in Australia.
They can’t get married here because they are gay. And not ‘that’s so stupid I’m going to call it gay’ gay. Gay.
Those of you who know me have heard my thoughts on gay marriage before.
I don’t have a boyfriend let alone a fiancé. Hell, I probably shouldn’t be allowed to keep cats (I don’t, but it’s one of many options I have reserved for senility down the track). Marriage, for me, at this point is about as probable as a pet rock coming when you call it (they don’t). But at some point I developed the clarity of mind to look beyond my own circumstances and wonder what it was that would make other people genuinely happy.
For some people it is marriage. For many more people, it is not. For others it is pogo sticks. Really, who am I to judge?
The real issue here is that some want to enshrine inequality by dictating what you are worthy of. Most, according to the law today, are worthy of marriage. Some of us are not. I’d like to have the option in the same way I’d like to have the option of eating corned beef for dinner even though I can’t guarantee right now whether I will.
It depends whether the right corned beef dinner comes along, really.
Faced with the engagement of two great friends, this is the first time the glaring deficiencies in the marriage act have been writ large in my life, despite being quite fabulously queer myself.
Speaking about it, it’s almost as if some of my less understanding friends don’t value the engagement at all. Like it’s somehow the Clayton’s engagement. The engagement you have when you’re not having an engagement. I can’t believe it’s not an engagement!
My friends have been together for 6 years. They live together, one of them collects a lot of frog ornaments and the other is British. Some might argue this is grounds for discrimination right there and the point, I suppose, is arguable. Frogs, let me repeat.
I challenge you to define in precise terms how their love is any different and why they’re not worthy of the mantle of marriage.
I understand religious sensitivities on this subject, but with respect marriage has ceased to be a purely religious custom. Atheists get married. Religious people get divorced. Some people get married for a couple of seconds and others for a lifetime.
This is no longer about a religious custom in its own right.
This is about human rights, pure and simple.
I’ve been to many engagement parties recently between my heterosexual friends, complete with tables stacked with gifts and plans hurriedly put in place for the big day.
It’s a simple thing, but I wonder whether I might be afforded the same hullabaloo.
Will people bother buying gifts for my partner and I if we ever take the plunge?
Or will they question the authenticity of the engagement?
After all, why buy gifts for a non-event?
PS: If they’re invented then, I would really like a fast slow cooker.