Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's Deja Vu All Over Again


Here we are, it's nearly Christmas and ten months till the next Federal election. What does that mean kiddies? Labor leadership challenge!

Well, maybe. Although Labor is ahead of the Coalition in the polls right now on a two party preferred basis, the erstwhile opposition leader Kim Beazley is having a rather unpleasant time of it lately. One might come to the uncharitable conclusion that his diet has left him so hungry he couldn't resist putting his foot in his mouth, but really, mistaking Karl Rove for Rove McManus was an astonishing faux pas - not only in itself, but for what it suggests. Polls are showing that voters would overwhelmingly prefer a Rudd/Gillard team to lead the Labor party. And although there are widespread grumbles in the Labor party that a leadership change is needed, supporters are coming out to announce their full confidence in Beazley, which means that things are looking very grim for him indeed.

A seemingly unelectable Labor leader being replaced by the voters choice, the potential bright new hope. Yes, I remember back to Christmas 2003 as well. The thing is though, Kevin Rudd is no Mark Latham. Most would say that that could only be a good thing. Nonetheless, even his
colleagues agree that Kevin Rudd has all the charisma and likeability of a cold fish (less, if that fish happens to be Nemo). That's not the problem though. I'm reaching the stage of despair at the election prospects of the Labor party, but I fear doing anything that might make it worse. There are many of us still scarred by the memories of the 2004 election loss, and I know I couldn't bear to see the same scenario acted out again. I guess I should stop living in the past, but that's exactly what another Coalition victory would mean.

If there is a challenge, it will happen early next week, which is the last time the Labor caucus meets before Christmas. All we can do is wait and see - which is all Mr Beazley can do as well, even as he fears
a challenge from Xavier Rudd.

EDIT - Update Friday 10:15 am
Kim Beazley
has announced this morning there will be a leadership ballot next week, and Kevin Rudd intends to stand for leader. More news as it comes to hand. (I love saying that).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So, Notice Anything Different?


I can't believe none of you noticed! Okay, fine. After a decade of being bespectacled, I bit the bullet (bet you can't say that three times fast) and got contacts.

There was no one single reason. I needed an eye test. I'm tired of glasses. And I can afford it now. So after putting it off for six months (that's nothing, by my standards), off I went to the optometrist. I was suprisingly unafraid, apart of course from my biggest fear - how the f**k much is this gonna cost me?

Well, there's nothing to make one feel like an idiot like being unable to accomplish a task that children can manage - that Homer Simpson can manage! It took my poor, and exceedingly patient, optometrist twenty minutes to get the lenses in himself the first time. Then it took me an hour to do it myself under his instruction.

Now, I'm not a very patient person. I get frustrated very quickly, usually throwing away whatever it is I'm trying to do, accompanied by loud profanities (and that's just me threading a needle). And if I'd been my optometrist I would have punched me. But he didn't. The punching was to come later, self-administered.

It was Thursday night I was sent home with the lenses, to practice. An hour of practicing later, and I was in tears of frustration and had gotten nowhere (much like being a lefist these days). After phoning everyone I've ever met to complain, and get tips, I gave up and wondered if I'd just wasted all that money for nothing.

By Friday after work though my determination not to lose a fair chunk of cash was renewed. This unfortunately did not translate into results. It was another 20 minutes of struggling, sweaty palms, frustration, and trying to remain calm knowing that to do otherwise would only make it worse (now I know how impotence must feel). I was on the verge of giving the whole thing up for good, when I looked skyward and said, "I don't know if you're up there...but a little help, please?"

Now, I don't know what it means. But on the next try, both eyes...I got the lenses in.

World Cup winning goals have been celebrated with less fanfare. Xander fled for cover as I ran through the house, whooping and cheering and generally making an idiot out of myself. I took a brief moment to give thanks for whom or whatever had just helped me, then rejoiced in the triumph of knowing I had gotten the hang of it; I was a contact lens wearer now.

And I really do have the hang of it. I was told not to overdo it in the early days, so I just wore them for a couple of hours on Saturday, then for six hours on Sunday. Sunday though involved a trip to the beach (well, several beaches actually) and the wind and sand made my eyes a bit sore, so I thought yesterday I'd give it a break.

This morning was the big one though: wearing the lenses to work. I had a bit of a hiccup, when I accidentally put the first lens on inside out. Putting a lens in inside out feels exactly the way you're afraid contact lenses are going to feel. My eye poured tears as I frantically removed it. I considered giving up for today, but took five and tried again, this time with success. I arrived at the office feeling rather chuffed with myself...and no one even noticed.

Honestly, these people. I've worked here for four years, wearing glasses the whole time - and no one noticed their absence. Do I have to wear a pineapple on my head to get attention around here?

Well, that's the entire saga of how I got my contacts. Up next - Nico returns to wearing make up (with glasses on, there never seemed much point). No, next I'll get back to writing about world affairs, rather than my own - just as soon as I get used to this (who knew the world is so bright?)

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Follies That Pass All Understanding


As I was hunting down the usual gang of idiocies for the Friday follies, I came across a story far more, well, folly-like: A 92 year old woman in Atlanta killed on Tuesday in a police-shoot out...after shooting three officers who were attempting to search her home for drugs (no, I haven't made this up!) A niece of the elderly woman said her aunt kept an old pistol in her house: "I don't know what kind and it was rusty but apparently it was working well".

The elderly were so much better-behaved in my day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rediscovering The Pool


Yesterday afternoon, following an optometrist's appointment (of which much more anon) I was wandering the mall and feeling a bit low, so I decided to buy myself a little something to cheer myself up. I looked at some DVDs and clothes, but nothing really tickled me. Then as I was walking past the book shop I saw Lisey's Story, the new novel from Stephen King, on display. I hadn't even heard of it and certainly hadn't intended to buy it, but next thing I knew I'd handed over the money and was heading home with a carrier bag in my hand.

As I've mentioned here before, I don't really read novels. I do have several fiction works which I re-read and enjoy very much; 1984, Pride and Prejudice, The House Of The Spirits...but when it comes to how long it's been since I sat down with a new novel to read, we're counting in years, not months.

Anyway, I settled in with my new purchase. I was a little apprehensive reading the plot summary - it sounded, to be honest, like another Bag of Bones but with the genders reversed. (It also sounds worryingly like King was "writing for women" - and I'll only assume that he isn't, because a writer with his sales must know the market better than that).

Then once I got a few pages in, I was hooked. It may have had something to do with the fact that in the opening scenes of the book, it's extremely hot and muggy - and so it was here, yesterday afternoon. Nonetheless, something took over me - the gotta of a good novel. It's different from reading non-fiction. I read non-fiction because I love it, I want to know more of the world and how it and people work - but let's face it, you always know how it ends, no matter how well it's written or how avidly you turn the pages. And there's more to it than that - not only do I want to find out how it ends, I'm enjoying the journey it's taking me on to get there. I read and read last night, barely glancing at the TV (I always have it on at night, if quietly - it's too creepy in my house otherwise), until I started nodding off as "Up-Late" came on. Then this morning, I even got up early to read some more, cursing when I came time to leave for work (sadly, the book is too large to fit in my laptop bag). I can't wait till I get home tonight and can pick up where I left off.

How did I ever let this go? I must confess, I've actually held novels, and the people who read them, in a sort of low-level contempt - what good are they? What can you learn from them? Now I see it's not always about what you learn, that reading can be the simple pleasure of a journey somewhere magical, to the pool of words. And that can be a lesson in itself.
One thing's for sure: I'm definitley going to do this more often from now on.

Monday, November 20, 2006

From The Slime To The Ridiculous


I must be psychic. Sure enough, the protesters made a huge kerfuffle at the G20 summit, and therefore no one knows what actually went on there. I was rather alarmed to see that the alleged leader of the student protest group is twenty-eight. 28! I can sort of understand why protesting might be appealing to a twenty year old, but frankly by 28, one should know better. What the heck is he doing at uni at 28 anyway? I suppose he might be a doctoral student. But I know a few doctoral students, and none of them are charging at police truck windows armed with crash barriers.
Listen you lot: cut off your dreadlocks, wash your clothes, and go get jobs.

********

The silly season is upon us again. Just as you know Xmas is on it's way when you see decorations going up in the shops, so when you start being bombarded with political propaganda, there's an election around the corner.

It's just 124 days to the NSW state election, and over the weekend an independent candidate for my local seat parked a large promotional van for his campaign in the vacant block adjacent to my house. The region where I live is considered a safe Labor stronghold. Lately though, two state government ministers from the area have become involved in rather terrible messes. For legal reasons and the sake of decency, I'll spare you the details, but it's all badly damaged the Labor party locally and whilst the Liberals will never get a look in round these parts, for once independent candidates might have a chance.

I feel a bit sorry for the NSW premier Morris Iemma. He seems like a decent enough sort of guy, but since he took over from Bob Carr mid-last year, his government has lurched from crisis to crisis, mostly crises not of his making. His ministers are acting up, the Cronulla riots and cross-City tunnel have become farcical, and NSW seems headed for a recession (the Australian economic "success" is being carried by the resources boom in Queensland and WA, whilst the NSW and Victorian economies play after-you down the toilet).

Sympathy doesn't translate into votes though. I have little loyalty to the Labor party on a state level - I just want to know what's in it for ME. So I kept an eye on the candidate's van, thinking that when he returned to collect the thing, I'd go have a chat with him, just to find out what bang he could offer for my buck. It disappeared in the middle of the night, but I'm not put off. I've set myself a mission to talk to all the local candidates prior to the election, to find out just who is worthy of the Xander and Nico endorsement. Then on election day I will vote for the party with the most ludicrous name on the ballot paper. Because I know that no matter what the candidates tell me, as soon as they get elected they'll be droning on about What's Good For Families anyway. I'm not going to fall for it again.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Out With The Old And In With The Nucleus


Well, times change and bloggers come and go. So Xander and Nico would like to extend a warm welcome to the new members of our "blogs of real note" list at right. Some are funny, some thought-provoking, they all have something worthwhile to say. Visit them lots.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Confused Blogger's Guide To The G20 Summit


So the G20, the group of the world's twenty leading industrialised nations, is having their annual shindig summit this weekend in Melbourne. But what's happening at the summit? Who is actually attending? What will they be discussing, deciding on? It's hard to make out. All the media coverage of the event is focusing on is the heightened security in Melbourne, and the protesters.

The "heightened security threat" seems to be - can you believe it! - a media beat up. Seven news this morning made it sound like the whole Melbourne CBD is in lockdown, but a source on the ground speaking exclusively to Xander and Nico said that, apart from an extra security guard or two in front of major buildings, there's very little that's different to normal.

Meanwhile, the protesters are actually having the opposite effect from the one I hope they intended, by diverting attention from the real issues...whatever those may be. There must be few things a news producer enjoys more than fresh footage of protesters clashing with riot police. Even so, it's hard to discern what exactly the anti-G20 group are protesting against, though their
official website lists such articles as "Wanted: Big Bellies" (hang on guys, I'm on my way); "Revolutionary knitting circle: a call to action" (as practiced by Maoists in the Chinese civil war); and an "Origami coffee table toy for stopG20" (if folding bits of paper changed policy, then people with nervous tics would be running the planet).

No answers are forthcoming over at the
G20 Homepage itself either. There's a welcome from Peter Costello, accompanied by a picture of him looking creepy (the man has only three facial expressions: creepy, smirking, and the creepy smirk), and a brief explanation that the G20 is a gathering of the Finance Ministers and bank governors from the relevant nations. So while the summit promises to be a haven of debauchery and excitement, what will actually go on there?

One thing's for sure, John Howard won't be honouring the delegates with his presence. He's off to the
APEC leaders conference in Vietnam. There are embarrassing shirts which need wearing, after all. According to The Age, this year "the APEC shirt will be the ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese silk tunic - with possibly a turban." Can't wait for the glamour shots.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Now She Thinks She's A 1990s Stand Up Comic


But seriously forks, what's with dontdatehimgirl.com? I mean, have you seen this thing?

Basically, it's a site where women can post profiles and pictures of their exes, listing all the dastardly things they've done, in order to to warn future victims. The current affairs shows are up in arms over it, wheeling out psychologists who condemn the posters as vengeful saddos needing to get on with their lives (you'd think ACA, Today Tonight et al would love the site - it "names and shames", after all!). Anyway, with the usual rigorous quality control standards which we all have come to expect from the internet, it's a morass of slander, innuendo and (this is what really gets me) lousy spelling. Of course, there are utter bastards out there, but there are also vindictive people putting unwarranted profiles up with nothing to stop them. Okay, sometimes revenge really is needed, but using the internet seems pretty tacky. If one needs to get one's own back on an ex-boyfriend, they should do the classic, ladylike, dignified thing - slash his tires, preferably on a rainy day.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Follies - Special Edition


America decides...what Australia will be doing in a year's time

Us whining, cowardly, pinko liberals the world over are celebrating this week. Thanks to the votes of some Americans, the Democrats have swept to power in the U.S. I'll leave the analysis to those who care about that kind of thing, and get on with some election humour.

  • Enjoy some of the most "memorable" quotes of the election.

  • Of course, the best stuff comes from the Onion. So, as politicians sweep the elections, the Republicans are of course blaming their losses on Democrats (have a look through all the news briefs while you're there).

  • What better way to celebrate the resignation of Chicken Little Donald Rumsfeld, than with a great collection of Rumsfeld jokes, and the Time cover we've been waiting to see. Don't feel too sorry for the man though - I'm sure he can find a shoulder to cry on.

  • Then we move on to the unintentionally hilarious. Piers Akerman tries to convince himself that the election wasn't about Iraq, whilst Ann Coulter denies it was a victory for the Democrats at all.

  • Poor George Bush has taken a lot of heat for his quip that he would give new House speaker Nancy Pelosi the name of a Republican decorator for her new suite in the Congress. It's not very fair. He was just trying to be nice, and so am I. George, I've been buying books to read to the children I hope to have in the next few years, but I'll send you my copy of The Little Leftist's Pop-Up Adventures for those long meetings with Pelosi (hide it inside a briefing paper - she'll never know).
  • Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Consolation


    Okay, I'm feeling better now. I realise it's better for us all that they be happily divorced than happily married. Moving on...

    We're approaching the end of yet another year of Australian Idol. I'm so excited that...q 5e-y834]-6u8 bk;6j4b80 98hi4i074b09
    (Sorry, I fell asleep and went face down on the keyboard). This is the fourth year of Idol in Australia though, and they seem to be running out of ideas. Take the theme nights - what with viewers choice, Idol's choice, and whatever else they've come up with this year, there's been hardly any genre based theme nights at all. Allow me to make the following suggestions:

    Australian Idol Theme Nights I'd Like To See:

    • Boney M night
    • Songs from The Simpsons (I bet Bobby Flynn would've done something
      interesting with "We Put The Spring In Springfield")
    • Number Ones from the day the contestant was conceived
    • German Beer Hall Songs Night (With thigh slapping)
    • Idol...the failures (songs from former contestants which never quite made the charts)
    • Novelty songs
    • The music of Avril Lavigne


    What's that I hear? A voice saying, "End this post. No, I really mean it - end this post!"? Okay.

    Oh Gnoes!


    Britney Spears has filed for divorce from Kevin Federline. I'm in complete shock. They seemed like such a perfect couple. I thought they'd be together forever, but if they can't make it, what chance do the rest of us have? No wonder my generation is so terrified of marriage. You think the world is a wonderful place, then this happens. I don't know what to believe anymore.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    What Does A Leftie Do?


    We've all seen the jokes...

    Teachers do it nine months a year

    Painters do it on plastic sheets

    Photographers do it in dark rooms

    ...and so on. But are there any good lefty/liberal "do it" jokes? What do we do? The best I've come up with is "Lefties do it with indignation." Yawn. Or - "Lefties do it with everyone." Better, but not great. Anyone got any others? Please submit your suggestions in the comments - I'll put the best ones in a later post.

    ~~~

    Obviously today I was going to write a high-minded post about Saddam Hussein and the death sentence. But everyone else got there before me. It's hell being a lazy blogger. Interesting, though, that the verdict was announced in time for the last full news day before the U.S. midterm elections (oh, I'm sure it was just a coincidence).

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    All Those Who Believe In Psychokinesis, Raise My Hand


    Well, it was Halloween yesterday, and I've noticed a new phenomenon: people in Australia now celebrating Halloween as a holiday. Far from bemoaning this example of the incresing encroachement of American culture, I really don't mind; anything which manages to hold off Christmas for a while longer has to be a good thing.

    For most people it's just an excuse to celebrate a holiday, and why not. But I was amused yesterday when a couple of people told me that they were going to visit psychics or attempting to contact dead relatives, since on Halloween, the boundaries between "us" and the spirit world are thinner than at any other time.

    Then I realised that they were serious.

    I don't really understand all that stuff. Tarot cards, horoscopes, palm reading - as a Cancer, I don't believe in it. But it's harmless enough. What does irritate me though are psychics.

    Often I listen to the radio before going to sleep at night, and once a week my local station has a phone-in show where listeners can put their questions to a psychic. And of course, the psychic always tells them exactly what they want to hear. A listener saying, "My father passed away three years ago, is he watching over me?" will be told, "Yes, I feel your father's presence with you very strongly." Anyone could give answers like that, "psychic" or not.

    For once, I'd like to hear a psychic say, "No, your father is far too busy having it off with Marie Antoinette in the afterlife to watch you and your husband arguing about the kitchen renovations." (That's another thing - 90% of the callers are female).

    The psychic magazine columnists are even worse. I saw this letter from a reader in one of the columns recently:

    Q: I've been single for a long time. I'd love to get married and have a family. Will it happen?
    A: The angels say you'll definitely find a loving partner and get married. [Well, the angels were hardly going to say: "Get used to McCain meals-for-one, because that's all you've got to look forward to".] Your angels have been telling you to get out and join a sporting team or take classes so you can combine health and pleasure. [That's a good idea for anyone looking to meet someone new, it doesn't take a psychic to figure that out] Your future husband is looking for a natural woman who is comfortable with herself, laughs easily and doesn't wear a lot of make-up [as opposed to all the men out there seeking a nuerotic, uptight, humourless woman who can't leave the house without spending two hours putting her face on].

    ...it went on for another few sentences, which I will spare you. You get my point - that response could apply to anyone (there's nothing specific, for example "Look for the man walking a large white dog", that a real psychic might be expected to come up with). And yet, I bet the woman who sent in the letter read the reply, jumped for joy and rushed out to enrol in an Adult learners' course. So what's the harm in that?

    The harm is, that psychics make money out of this nonsense. And the people who pay them money are, for the most part, vulnerable, desperate people. They're lonely, bereaved, worried - and willing to pay for any answers. When all they get in return is a psychic responding to cues and spouting vague generalisations, then that's not a good thing. Sure, there are psychics who believe in what they're doing - but there are other groups I could name who don't think that what they do is wrong either.

    I should just add, I'm not exactly referring to the small-time psychics, the woman who charges $40 for a reading in a local coffee shop, in this. They aren't exactly getting rich from it all and anyway, may in fact do their customers some good, simply by giving them someone new to talk to. My ire is directed at the big names - we all know who they are: the TV psychics who talk to the dead; the syndicated astrologers whose horoscopes could mean anything to anyone and others taken apart by Penn and Teller.

    Still, I'm not exactly letting the small psychic fry off the hook. They are still feeding off the publics' delusions in this stuff. That's why I'm going to start my own radio call-in show. For every question that I'm asked, I'll just pause, and then reply, "Computer says no..." It will be as useful as anything else they've ever heard from a psychic.