29 December 2008

Summer Blogging


We've been very quiet lately. That's because I've been pretending I'm a real writer. Most newspaper columnists, exhausted by the strain of churning out 500 words a week, are on leave now for up to six weeks, replaced by summer stand-ins. Ditto TV hosts, newsreaders and radio DJs. Most of us will have been back at work for weeks by the time Adam Spencer returns to brighten Sydney's mornings.

Xander and Nico (the blog, not us as people, or as person and cat) should have done the same. Maybe the apathy and plummeting readership around here could have perked up if we had a younger, lesser known but actually better guest blogger for the summer. But as always I didn't bother organising anything in time, so now you're stuck with a Xmas-leftover-and-wine bloated Nico until 2009 rolls around to improve my enthusiasm.

~~~~~

How many times have you heard it said, 2008 was a shitty year for just about everyone? The aforementioned disasters, no end to the conflict in Iraq, Rudd starting out with so much promise but turning out to be dull and (for many of us) useless, the financial crisis... then in our personal lives, just about everyone I know has had Something Shitty happen to this year. Health problems, break ups, financial worries (I had all three!). Despite the fact that it means here comes thirty, I've never looked forward to a new year more than 2009. Not the celebrations but the year itself. You have to love the Chinese Year of the Cow.

15 December 2008

Carbon Cutless


PM Rudd has just announced Australia's climate change targets, and no one is very happy. Environmentalists have rightly pointed out that the actual targets are far too low. The climate change denial brigade have declared global warming doesn't exist anyway. As usual, the most lively "debate" is to be found on the Daily Telegraph website. Witness this cherishable missive from "Benny Hill of Cessnock":

ITS A MYTH!!. The planet is cooling not heating and has been since at least 2000. Carbon dioxide is NOT a greenhouse gas, but an essential gas for plant growth. The more CO2 there is; the more plants grow. If KRudd was able to remove every skerrick of CO2 from the atmosphere - all plant life would cease. The biggest cause of heating in the atmosphere is water vapour; not CO2.

(Does he lie awake at night worrying people will try to steal his water by drinking it all from his garden hose?)

This blogger is not happy because, as usual, as a childless middle income earner I'll be having to pay more. I wouldn't mind doing so if it actually achieved some good, but the package includes $4 billion of subsidies to the coal industry. I don't understand these subsidisations. Did the government of the day subsidise the whaling industry when it was being phased out in this country? Why can't coal miners, and loggers, steel workers etc go get other jobs? Oh, I know there's an economic crisis and all, but this seems like a particularly poor argument, unless people think at least if the sea levels do rise they'll have more time to enjoy their newly waterfront homes.

A five percent cut in carbon emissions is ridiculous. It's weak. It helps nothing. Europe is aiming for a 20% cut by 2020 and surely U.S. President Obama will be similarly ambitious. Once the initial euphoria had passed, the Rudd Government have done little to impress in 2008; and they seem determined to doom us all.

03 December 2008

Even The Best Of Us Go Broke


Remember the days when you would have to ask your parents for an emergency loan, "just to tide you over" till pay or dole day? You'd offer immediate repayment, and attendance at your niece's school play, and anything else you could think of to convince them to fork over the cash. It was for many of us a necessary evil of our student/just starting out days, but you always felt kind of shitty making that call.

Well, you needn't have felt bad. The great General Motors is now doing the same thing. They've reached the corporate equivalent of being five days from payday with 3 cigarettes and a packet of two minute noodles that's past it's expiry date. These people who would have raised an unholy snit if their taxes had been raised, are now counting on the government to bail them out. So don't feel too bad about the cumulative $6800 you borrowed from your parents in your early twenties ($210 of which was ever repaid). It happened to GM as well, and you didn't have a team of accountants on staff (unless you did, which is probably why you were always going broke).

~~~~~

Overheard at Town Hall Station:

Announcer: The train on platform five is going to Bondi Junction. First stop Martin Place, then Kings Cross...

Teenage boy: Kings Cross? I thought that was just on Monopoly, I didn't know it was a real place.

02 December 2008

For Xander


Cat Macros - by Tom Smith

I is a kitty and I has good fun
I is entertaining everyone
Dint used to be an internet icon
Till my mom got a digital Nikon
Now she stalks me round the house
Interrupt when Ize chasin a mouse
Waitin for me to make a silly pose,
Stickin that camera up my nose
Goes to compooter, she starts playin
Makes up something I might be sayin
Upload the pic for all to see,
All her online friends go SQUEEEEE
Cat macros.

So I go cuddlin wit a stuffed bear
Gettin peanut butter all over my hair
Sprawled in a sunbeam, swattin at flies
Trapped in the laundry wit big sad eyes
Lickin at toesies, scratchin at fleas
“I Can Has Cheezburger, peese?” — [chz. FTW!]
Mom still doin her photo shoot,
Good thing my little furry butt is cute
Stickin my nose in an empty dish
Lookin for an invisible fish
I has no idea what you just said
So here’s me with a pancake on my head
Cat macros.

Now I is songcat singin this bridge
From my stage on top o’ da fridge
I is only two years of age
But I got my own MySpace page
Da silly pictures people wants
But only wit impact fonts
I keep dis up, but for how long?
Oh hi, I transpozed yur song

So I has lyric all my own
Can I has leftover to take home?
I is Emo Kitty, I has angst
I gots yur breakfast, k, thx
Invisible Walrus step on you
No, I has mighty feline fu
Yur full o’ win - Yur full o’ lose
Last Verse Kitty is not amused
I’m in yur Thai food, nibblin’ ginger
I is stealth kitty, bein a ninja
I’m in yur spookhouse, bein a haunt
I’m in yur limburger — DO NOT WANT!

funny pictures

(Click on pic to vote - we get on mayne page mayb? kthx)

01 December 2008

Just Not Cricket


A coworker of mine is a big cricket fan, so the TV in the office is tuned to whatever Beverage Cup is on during that given day. Now, I'm Irish, so I just don't get the cricket. No one in my family ever watched it and I have no idea how it is scored, or why. But it all seems very strange to me. How many other sports incorporate tea brakes, matttresses strapped to legs, or an audience who are considerably more physically active than the players?

And it goes on for days. It all seems such a gentlemanly game, yet the players - how do I put this nicely - tend to behave in a decidedly ungentlemanlike manner. And no wonder - they're bored. If my job consisted of standing around all day with zinced lips, interspersed with lavish meals, I'd be planning escapades at night too.

So the solution is to make the game faster. Take away the safety gear, switch to metal bats and stop taking the day off if it rains (how delicate do the players think they are?). The occasional scrum wouldn't go astray either. If Shane Warne had actually been properly worn out at the end of the day, I'm sure he and Simone would still be together.

27 November 2008

"Children are Sacred" - Let's Be Sensible


Nick Hornby wrote in recent years that if Jaws was made today, the movie wouldn't be about the shark, but the little boy it eats early on in the film; his death, the community's reaction to it. That's how much times have changed, to place children at the very pinnacle of society.

In fact, things have gone too far, leading to a sort of mass hysteria regarding the welfare of children. The latest beat-up, led - do I even have to say it? - by the Daily Telegraph is the DOCS mix up. A DOCS worker arrived at a primary school to take a child to a medical appointment. A staff member at the school office confused the child with another girl with the same first name and similar surnames,and fetched that child by mistake instead. The "wrong" child questioned what was going on, the DOCS worker realised the error, and the whole thing was soon sorted out. No harm done and that should have been an end to the matter, right?

No. Apparently the parents of the "mistaken" child are "distraught". (Once distraught used to mean something truly horrendous had occurred. It would be an understandable reaction if your child had been injured in a car crash, say, but over a simple and rapidly resolved mix up?).

The parents in this case are just starting to make a fuss. Already in full swing are the parents of Uriah Vollmer, who was locked in his childcare centre alone after staff went home for the evening. The staff attributed it to a mix up. A regrettable incident to be sure, but no harm was done.

Except that the boy's father, Tim Vollmer, is a journalist at the venerable Telegraph. Again, the term distraught is being thrown around. Once there was a time when the parents would have been annoyed, then come to laugh it off - perhaps shared the story at dinner parties. But Mr Vollmer wants heads to roll. He's demanded to know why DOCS did not immediatley return his calls - this for a child not in any present danger! - and
is calling for judicial reviews. Over a mix up? Have you ever made a mistake at work, Mr vollmer? And I'm sure you're not as overworked and grossly underpaid as a childcare worker.

The pendulum seems to swing the other way though when it comes to parents placing their own children in danger. Cases of parents propping the pool gate open and placing their toddlers at the end of an unprotected wharf at night leading to the deaths of children (and in the latter case, also the father who jumped in to save them) are occasions for "outpourings of community grief", not judicial enquiries. Apparently anything parents do to their own children is okay, but no one else is ever allowed to slip up. Just look at "corporal punishment". In Australia, parents - and only parents - are allowed to use "reasonable force" in disciplining their children. If smacking is such effective punishment, why aren't carers, babysitters, teachers etc allowed to use it?

We expect other people to take better care of our children than we do ourselves. A sign of that lack of responsibility in modern society? It's all very strange. But surely some sense is in order here. Things go wrong. Even parents don't have to become "distraught" about it all.

24 November 2008

Serious Blog Fail

  • You know you're in trouble with the serious blog stuff when you come to reflect on Kevin Rudd's first year in office and all you can think is, "Did Michael Jackson convert to Islam because he thought his 72 virgins would be young boys?"

  • So George W. Bush plans to open his Presidential library. Could this be the first presidential library to feature pop-up books?

  • Watching the Australian Idol final last night made me realise how bad the economic situation is. They couldn't even afford the fee to get inside the Opera House. I had been going to wander down and see the show, but I've been putting off organising my teatowels for so long, I tackled that last night instead.

  • Speaking of Rudd, the general consensus from Daily Telegraph readers is that Rudd is doing a bad job. Of course, these are people who think interest cuts are wonderful news, not a sign the economy is in bad shape. They also fail to understand that huge budget surpluses are bad economic policy - the Government is not meant to be a national saving bank. I'll reserve my opinion on Rudd for now.

  • I'm forced to do so because I've been on a diet. My brain, deprived of the usual nutrients of Tim Tams, cheese, pizza, fries with aioli dip (I must stop now), has not been working at full capacity. I've forgotten why I started this stupid enterprise and every time I see my lunch I lose a little more of the will to live, but goddammit I'm sticking at something for once and I've lost 8kg and that's all that matters.
  • 18 November 2008

    Eye on Sydney


    Newtown Festival



    Fountain, CBD

    Fake Bus Stop

    This last one is in the grounds, not of a pre-school, but of a nursing home. I found that inexplicably sad.

    12 November 2008

    What are they Doing at McDonalds?


    Recently re-reading Morgan Spurlock's Don't Eat This Book, I was left with a horrified feeling of "Wow, McDonalds is even more evil than I thought". Because even reading about the disgusting things that go into McDonalds food, the terrible effects it has on the body, and the fact that there's now a McDonalds restaurant at Dachau, I couldn't stop thinking, "I'd really like a Big Mac".

    On the face of it, I'd be the last person you'd expect to eat McDonalds. I love good food, and I love cooking. My idea of a great dinner is oven roasted salmon with a delicate sauce. I've eaten at great restaurants. I love the artistry of cooking a risotto, or carefully flavouring a recipe I'm making up as I go along. I also worry about what goes into my body, and know that McDonalds is about the worst thing possible. It's not just that it's high in fat - it's dehydrated, frozen, reheated Frankenfood - the stuff doesn't even rot! What is it doing inside your system?

    Then, of course, I'm opposed to big multinational corporations that do all those horribly evil things we hear about, like destroying the rainforest, swamping local culture, exploiting workers, and creating a bland McWorld of conformity.

    So why then do I regularly get urges for McDonalds food? Before I went on a recent diet, I'd give in about once a fortnight. I'd always hate myself afterwards (I'm now at an age where food repeats on me) but I can't deny I would enjoy it while I was eating it. Even now, enjoying salads and fruits - and I really am - I get cravings for Big Macs. I actually enjoyed Burger King burgers more, but I never developed the cravings I get for McDonalds.

    My theory? McDonalds lace their food with addictive chemicals. Why wouldn't they? Think about it. 70% percent of McDonalds patrons are what they themselves define as "heavy users" - people who visit the store once a week or more. There are another 22% of "super heavy users", who eat McDonalds food 4-5 times a week. They're hooked. I once didn't eat McDonalds for two years. Whatever I was hooked on was after a while completely out of my system. I'd rather have rummaged through a garbage bin for food than obtained it from the Golden Arches. Then a coworker, unasked for, bought me a chicken caesar deli choices roll for lunch. I ate it (the alternative was throwing the thing away), and sure enough, the bastards had me once more.

    Now I must live with the consequences of my addiction. I'm going cold turkey - if I break my diet, I'm determined it won't be over McDonalds. Damn them though.

    05 November 2008

    Obamagasm



    Thirteen years of hell*, all forgotten

    * Combined Howard/Bush years

    03 November 2008

    Sunday in Sydney


    Iberian Plaza


    The Chinese female swim team wants to know what steroids this guy is on.




    I wish this was still in style - this outfit would be very flattering to my figure.


    From the Art Gallery of NSW


    No Obeject Implies the Existence Of Any Other - Except for Xander and I.



    Polaris


    Hyde Park

    Doomed to spend eternity vomiting into a fountain. I said I wanted to come back as a turtle; maybe this is to be my fate.





    Woolloomooloo

    31 October 2008

    Around The City


    Martin Place, 2pm



    Good point




    Interesting urban renewal



    Play Mobil Man

    This Is Not A Plea For Sympathy For The Bali Bombers


    The Bali bombers are set to be executed very shortly. The temptation is to say "good riddance". But when one ponders the attitudes of some of the families of the victims, it all starts to seem a bit creepy and disturbing to call for blood.

    In this case, it would seem to be absolutely justified to call for the death penalty. The Bali bombings were horrific, a crime, cowardly. No sympathy should be extended to those who carried them out.

    But there's that word - justified. The bombers believed that they were absolutely justified in what they were doing. The belief that another human ever deserves to die is what caused all this in the first place. And if it wasn't for that belief, the families of the victims would still have their children with them - how can they share the love of death and revenge?

    Unlike my feelings regarding the execution of Nguyen Tuong Van, I don't have any sympathy for the bombers. I certainly won't be sad when they are executed - but that doesn't shake my belief that it's the wrong thing to do. Lock them up in fetid hell holes for the next sixty years with gruel and whippings, for all I care. But believing that the death of another person is ever justified is wrong. I don't care what side you're on.

    27 October 2008

    Latté In The Suburbs


    I'm not normally a big fan of the NSW Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell. But when he described the State Government as "making it up as they go along" following the announcement of the Metro line to Rozelle, I had to agree. What next, I wondered; was Nathan Rees going to call all his surprise witnesses again?

    But it was the Daily Telegraph who really stuck the boot in, describing how residents of Sydney's west would be funding a rail line for "latté sipping inner west residents". Hold it, I thought - can't you get lattés at McDonalds these days?

    In the article Why Campbelltown needs Newtown from the SMH, writer Kim Huynh states that Newtown residents hate the westies. But I believe that they hate us far more. And it's far more acceptable for them to state it - encouraged by papers such as the Telegraph (just check out the comments on their website).

    But what do we in the inner west do for them? We're more likely to be single and/or childless, therefore paying higher taxes to support the schools, hospitals and baby bonuses they need. We give money to charity, support the arts (and the taxpayer contributions to those are far less than the aforementioned middle class welfare) and contribute less to global warming. If it wasn't for inner city residents willing to be tolerant of other cultures, we'd all be eating grey lamb chops and over boiled vegetables for dinner every night.

    Also, westies often carry on as if it's an accident that they came to live where they did. Well, I work hard to afford my home. I planned to live somewhere with good public transport. How much rent would the cost of running your SUV cover?

    But it's still acceptable for them to hate us; we're elitists if we object. Latté sipping leftists, as if there wasn't a Gloria Jeans in Penrith, thanks to us popularising "good" coffee in the first place.

    22 October 2008

    Scenes from Circular Quay



    Public art is rubbish




    No talking at all



    Nice while it lasts



    The standard touristy shot

    20 October 2008

    From the Royal Botanical Gardens










    (I think The Satyr bears an uncanny resemblence to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Spooky.)

    17 October 2008

    Disquieting Muses


    Some of you may have been a little confused by my last post. Where were the disparaging references to Piers Akerman? The sarcastic observations? It was just a mediocre painting.

    The answer is, I'm thinking of taking this blog in a whole new direction. I've been doing this politics thing for a while now. And after a while, you just lose your mojo. It's worse than that - I've lost my muse. The muse is the person who inspires your passions, fuelling your creativity, taking you to greater heights of expression.

    And it was with a sense of horror that I realised my muse was John Howard.

    The man was an endless source of inspiration. And he certainly inspired my passions, mostly grim rage. Now he is gone. I blogged through the trauma of the 2004 Federal Election, the last of the dark days, the unravelling of the Howard government, the euphoria of the Rudd victory. But once that was over, what do we blog about? Be careful what you wish for...

    Of course, I would not for a second wish Australia back under the control of that malevolent little weasel. But I feel I've little to write about anymore. Kevin Rudd is...not bad. But he's not that great either. It hardly makes for scintillating prose: "Rudd made a few good points though there are aspects of the policy I disagree with". As for the rest, writing about the sad sick state of NSW limits the potential audience, as well as being too repetitive and depressing to believe. Sure I'm excited about the upcoming US presidential election, but I'm too far away to be able to blog as well as the many better bloggers who are actually involved with things.

    So inspired by some wonderful work I've seen lately (here and here for instance), I've decided to focus on posting, and posting about, photos and art for a while. I do after all live surrounded by both natural and man made beauty, and hope I can find inspiration in a whole new area. If not, then hang on a few weeks; I'm sure I'll abandon this as quickly as I abandon all my other whims.

    14 October 2008

    Solace



    Solace

    Watercolour and acrylic on paper

    A Plea For Fairness In These Difficult Times


    The key to understanding the current global financial crisis is knowing that merchant bakers trade derivatives, which are commodoties based on the value of I'm making this up.

    I'm yet to find any thorough yet understandable explanation of what's been going on lately. But I can certainly understand the Rudd government's solution - spend the surplus! The government has decided that the rainy day has arrived - the surplus, which had been earnmarked for major infrastructure projects, will be doled out to families, low income earners and pensioners, in the hope that the extra spending money will be spent, going straight back into the economy.

    Theres two points that can be made from this. First, just a few months ago we were being told to stop spending money, as excessive spending was driving up inflation. Now we need to spend to keep the economy ticking. We're used to government spin, but it rarely involves their entire heads.

    There's also the sinking feeling that once again, there's nothing in this resuce package for people like me, not falling into any of the categories who stand to benefit. Due to the dizzying array of bonuses and tax breaks available to breeders, half of all Australian families pay no net tax. Someone has to chip in to fund their procreation. This surplus was built off the work of industrious, childless people. We should be entitled to some of it back. I promise to plow it straight back into the economy through my favourite retailers. (Anyway, call me harsh, but I think the solution to pensioners' demands for more money is this).

    03 October 2008

    Musings for the Weekend


  • Whilst returning from Newcastle on the train last week, my pleasant journey was interrupted by wails and screams. Two heinously ugly children had missed their stop. I thought, well at least their parents will be releaved not to have to see the little trolls. I mean, these kids were not only obese, not only whiny, but possessed of faces that made you a firm believer in creationism - how could natural selection have led to this?
    Parental bonding is primarily a biological reaction to protect the young. That's why baby animals are cute - so we want to look after them. We've all heard the phrase "a face only a mother could love". But are there faces that are so cretinous, they would lead to complete maternal rejection?

  • Scott Adams recently wrote that he's optimistic about the current financial crisis. He's formed "Adams' Rule of Obvious Calamities. It states that any calamity that is foreseeable by the public at large won't turn out so bad after all. The best recent example was the Y2K problem, where computers worldwide were expected to fail. It seemed impossible that those issues could be resolved in time, but they were."
    It's certainly true. Menawhile, look at all the disasters which came out of the blue - the Asian tsunami, 9/11 (no, really! No one could have forseen 9/11). The lesson learned here is don't waste your time worrying - everything will be fine, unless it isn't, in which case you won't know till it's too late anyway.

  • It's Pink Ribbon day soon, and as usual work is trying to guilt us all in to handing money over for shoddy pens. I have to wonder, though - do they really need my money? Sure, breast cancer is a major health issue. But has their ever been a cause as well publicised or supported as breat cancer? On my desk right now sit a pink ribbon bottle of water and jar of coffee, both purchased without regard to causes - they just happened to be two of the many brands that get behind the campaign. It all comes to seem a bit cynical - until scenarios such as this seem like less of a joke. Where's the money going? Uusually to raise awareness - I think we must be at saturation point for breast cancer awareness by now.

    Well, I'm taking a well deserved break for a while. I know I haven't been posting much lately, but that just shows how hard I've been working. Anyway, I won't be posting much till about the 13th, so in the meantime read some good books, read some good blogs and remember I'll be back, ready to plagirise books I've read as blog posts soon. And I'll be Twittering in the meantime.
  • 01 October 2008

    Reasons To Be Thankful In A Dark Financial Time


    Now I know squat-all about economics - at uni, my economics lectures were ususally on around the time the bar opened, and even when I bothered to show up all I could think was "If the lecturer is an expert in money, why does he dress like a flood victim?" But it's apparent to all that the world is getting into pretty deep financial doo-doo. I overheard a colleague yesterday calling her mother and telling her to take all her money out of her superannuation, then realised it was not a joke. Last night (AEST) George Bush made an address to - well, I guess to everybody, as he referred to "citizens of all nations" - assuring us all would be well, and he hoped the bailout would go through after all. He was looking grave and standing in front of more books than he's ever read, so I knew things are grim.

    Meanwhile back home, all I could think was "thank goodness Kevin Rudd won the last election".

    The mantra of the conservatives is that economies should be allowed to do their thing unimpeded. The market is all. The market is the best judge. The market always get is right. But now the spinning plates of the market are falling down around them, and the emperor of the free economy has been caught without clothes, if I may draw a doubly dodgy analogy.

    We're likely to escape relatively unscathed by this recession/depression/panic in Australia, for two reasons. The first is in the past - a strongly regulated financial sector (that government intervention that conservatives hate). The second is for the present and the future: what we need now is tarriffs and economic protectionism, and would we have gotten that under Howard? He'd probably have donated $AU500 million towards the bailout. He relentlessly sold off as many government assets as possible, the futility and brainlessness of which is now being shown as government around the world nationalise banks and whatever else they can in an attempt to prop up the financial house of cards. But they haven't learnt anything. Dubya was even speaking of making a profit by selling the yet-to-be nationalised assets in the future, even though it was speculation that got everyone into this mess in the first place.

    Conservatives never learn. We were right in the first place. But, you know, we won't expect a thank you.

    ~~~~~

    If you think "women's rights" seem to be exclusively focussed on the rights of mothers these days, then this is the best article I can ever remember reading on the subject. I'l try to post on this later, but for now please read the thing!

    29 September 2008

    Newcastle: The Nanny State


    We're constantly hearing about the epidemic of violent drunken behaviour of today's youth. No one could deny that the problem was especially bad in Newcastle. So the authortities have taken drastic action - and the cure is worse than the disease.

    There's been demands for a curfew for years - I had my first letter to the Newcastle Herald arguing against the idea printed in 2002. But in recent years, more retirees are moving in to the city and the violence has worsened. Something Had To Be Done. so the authorities have gone for the most drastic course of action, and subsequently destroyed a whole drinking culture.

    The culture was this: in Newcastle, because there are a great many drinking establishments close together, people tended not to stay in one place all night, but rather move between several venues through the night. Of course, having drunk people on the streets can cause problems, but 90% of the people out never caused any trouble.

    Anyway, all that is over now. The new rules: no drinks with greater than 5% alcohol content can be sold after 10p.m. You can't get into any venues after 1a.m., and closing time is 3a.m. No exceptions.

    And it's killed nights out as I knew them. Over the weekend, I returned to the fetid swamp that spawned me for a visit, and was keen to recapture the memories of good nights of the past. We passed many venues you'd normally expect to be packed on a Saturday night, people merrily spilling onto the footpath, and they were all either shut altogether or half-empty. The streets were deserted apart from a few lost, hopeless and out-of-town souls like myself who didn't know what was going on.

    Lots and lots of people have lost their jobs, and Newcastle has deteriorated even further since I was last there - even the few businesses sustained by the late night crowd have shut up shop. Oh, and the curfew doesn't work. Still, at least the retirees who've moved into the luxury apartments in the city can have a good night's sleep, and that is the most important thing.

    ~~~~~

    In the "You people make me sick" category: today's front page of the Daily Terrorgraph is a blaring sensationalist headline about corrupt cops still serving in the force.

    A story in the public interest normally, yes. But today is Police Rememberance day. Couldn't they have exercised a little restraint for one day only?

    23 September 2008

    Blame The Woman


    In the early days of the "Iguanagate scandal", I remember hearing from a Labor party insider that "John Della Bosca is actually a lovely man. It's her [Belinda Neal] who's the bully; she's the awful one".

    It may be true. Watching Australian Story last night really didn't make up my mind one way or the other. Or it may just be the latest example of Adam and Eve syndrome - that there's a bad woman behind the downfall of every good man.

    There's a certain type of man who is threatened by the powerful woman. Woman was responsible for orignial sin, and therefore, for all the corruption in the Universe. Throughout history, we have couples where the female partner is blamed for the downfall of the man - Samson and Delilah, Caesar and Cleopatra, Nicholas and Alexandra, Hillary and Bill. (Who can forget those hilarious 90s bumper stickers "IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT - AND HER HUSBAND TOO!").

    Now there's John and Belinda. Does anyone really believe that the media would have made so much fuss over Ms Neal's behaviour if she'd been a male politician doing the same thing? Mark Latham was after all able to become Federal Opposition leader after breaking a taxi driver's arm. But the tough woman is threatening. Women are still expected to be demure, caring, "feminine" (Tim Ferguson was heard to opine that if Neal was sacked, "it would increase the proportion of women in Federal parliament".

    For now the men have, apparently, won the day. Della Bosca remains in the NSW cabinet; Neal is unlikely to retain preselection for her seat. But after thousands of years, we really haven't come as far as we would have liked to have thought.

    19 September 2008

    Faulting City Rail, and Other Foibles


    Earlier in the week, I went over to the CityRail website to check on upcoming trackwork. The website was down. Sure, it happens to the best of sites, but the failure message advised me to "Contact the site administrator and notify them of anything you may have done to cause the problem" (italics mine).

    It's CityRail policy that there is no excuse for travelling without a valid ticket. It doesn't matter if the ticket machine at the station is out of order due to poor maintenance and there's a twenty minute queue at the ticket window; it's your fault for not getting to the station twenty minutes early. If there's no ticket window at all and you don't have change for the machine, it's your fault. And apparently if the website is down, that's your fault too.

    ~~~~~

    Apparently, a hacker was able to break in to Sarah Palin's web based email accounts by guessing the answers to her password prompt questions, such as where did she meet her husband (high school). It's an amateur's mistake. If I used that same level of scrutiny, any idiot could hack into my email by guessing my cat's name is Xander.

    Luckily for me, I just use password prompt questions based on my alternate realities. The fact that Sarah Palin doesn't seem to have this option is at least one reassuring thing about her.

    ~~~~~

    Drew Barrymore has been popping up on TV lately, promoting Covergirl's new mascara. Apparently it offers more volume, better lash separation, and less clumping than ever before.

    Ever since I've been paying attention to make up - and I started at quite an early age, aware of how hideous I looked - each new mascara launched purports to offer unprecedented magnificent qualities. It's been nearly twenty years. Surely mascara should have reached perfection by now?

    17 September 2008

    In Praise of Stupidity


    When I return home at night from a hard day being Australia's most incompetent ad exec and shoddiest centre-left blogger, I like to relax. Some days I'll watch the 7:30 Report and give serious thought to the issues of the day. Other times, I might play Vivaldi's Four Seasons, or perhaps Pachbel's Canon, whilst dabbling in a little Chinese brush painting.

    But then there are the evenings when all I want to do is order a pizza and watch sheer escapist nonsense...like Today Tonight and 20 to 1.

    It's a confusing, scary world out there at the moment. The world's financial markets are collapsing, our state is a disaster, the U.S. may elect yet another incompetent, dangerous pair of lunatics to the White House.

    There is a place for stupidity in this world. Not willfull ignorance - that should never be accepted. But when you've spent 10 hours battling recalcitrant clients, difficult issues and looming deadlines, who would'nt want to sit down in a state of semi-catatonia as d-list celebrities discuss "scandals" involving other d-list celebrities you'd completely forgotten about? Oh, I wouldn't want to make a habit of it. But once in a while, it's nice. If ever the world starts to overwhelm me, I know there's always Today Tonight to make me feel much better about myself and my own abilities.

    ~~~~~

    The world also throws out ever-more-stringent "rules" for good health. Once it was enough to eat a reasonably balanced diet (bacon every other day, hard liquor two nights a week only) and go for the odd walk. Now we're told to worry about omega threes, anti-oxidants, carb-loading and I don't know what else. Now, finally, there is some good health news for people like me. And you know, I think I need a drink.

    15 September 2008

    Government Madness


    I'm sorry I let democracy down, but I didn't vote in the NSW local government elections on Saturday. But I have a good excuse, I swear. See, I've never bothered to change my electoral enrollment after moving 13 months ago. There's no absentee voting at local government elections, so in order to vote I would have had to travel out of my way to a suburb with no train station. "Screw that", I thought, "I'm having lunch in the City".

    Actually, come to think of it, I've never voted in a local government election. I don't know why; I just haven't. Maybe it's been a subconcious protest against local government?

    Local government is the pinnacle of evidence that Australia is over-governed. My current local government area covers an area of just 8km2, and has a population of 40,000. And it's still further divided into four wards. On Saturday, voters went to the polls to elect councillors who would be representing, in effect, a handfull of streets. (Incidentally, one poor hapless soul standing in Saturday's poll received not a single primary vote. Not even from herself! Not even from her mother!)

    Anyway, multiply that by all the Councils in the state; each of which requires managers, workers, administration staff...and ask if we really need more than 15% of it. Surely they could amalgamate into larger super-Councils?

    ~~~~~

    Maybe in the long run, it doesn't really matter.

    Sarah Palin has come out swinging, saying she wants to see Georgia admitted to NATO even if the U.S. has to go to war with Russia over the issue.

    Russia still has nukes, people!

    Who cares about excessive local government when we're all going to be killed.

    12 September 2008

    The Search for True Rememberance


    What with yesterday being the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I got to thinking about public memorials. Especially after reading that a U.S. Congressman blocked $10 million in Federal funding for building a memorial for the victims of Flight 93.

    That may seem unnecessarily frugal, even cruel (the man is, after all, a Republican), but then think about it for a minute. $10 million?

    And that's not the half of it. Consider the still-growing costs of building the WTC memorial. Is the school of thought that the extent of the memorial must be used to show the depth of grief? Just look at the Columbine memorial, which brings to mind a Greek amphitheatre. It seems to be a peculiarly American phenomenon, with some exceptions, such as the Princess Diana memorial fountain, which resembles nothing so much as a concrete drainage ditch.

    To me a memorial has always seemed like it should be a quiet place of reflection, not an elaborate monument. What's most important at a memorial is what the observer brings to it, not what they gain from it.

    The Shanksville memorial will feature 40 groves of trees planted over a 400 acre site, along with 40 windchimes, paths and a slate wall. The total estimated cost is now $57 million dollars. Surely it would be better to erect a dignified, sober rememberance wall featuring the names of the victims - total cost a few hundred thousand dollars - then spend the money on something worthwhile. I'm sure the victims would rather they were paid tribute with a school, hospital or library than concrete sculpture.

    A cousin of one of the Flight 93 passengers said of the Shanksville crash site, "I've been on the site. The land out there speaks volumes. Anyone who's been there senses there is something special."

    Seems like the memorial is already complete.

    05 September 2008

    Gone Baby Gone


    Well, it's official...the nightmare is over. Sort of. NSW has a new premier. (Wait a second, didn't I just post about this?).

    Anyway, amid tears (from the man himself), Morris Iemma has been ousted as NSW Premier, and Costa is gone too. In step Nathan Rees and Carmel Tebbutt as Premier and Deputy, respectively. Now, I know little about Rees at this stage, but his background as a garbageman should stand him in good stead for dealing with the state Labor right faction.

    Though as Faust said in reply to my excited SMS telling him the news:
    "Let's think about this for a minute...Carr... Iemma... things don't look good.
    If the trend continues, there will be a rock-melon sitting in that chair pretty soon.
    Although I am bloody glad to hear it... Carr was a fuckwit. Iemma was just flat out stupid." I can't argue the logic.

    There a certain delicious irony, or maybe it's simply absurdity, at the fact it was the now-exonerated John Della Bosca who made the big announcement about Iemma's ousting. And there's been more here, too. The stupidity of some people has long since ceased to amaze me; even from the woman of my age in the office, who had no idea what we were talking about as some like-minded colleagues and I discussed the days events. She didn't know who was Premier and who was Prime Minister or even which was which.

    I will keep arguing for the abolition of compulsory voting until you listen to me.

    Go Morris Iemma! Just Go.


    Update - Iemma has resigned. More as it comes to hand

    Twenty four hours may be a long time in politics, but it flies by too fast to be a blogger's friend.

    Yesterday I started off a post on the hopeless state of NSW politics, and the hopeless state of NSW generally - the economy here is actually shrinking. I vaguely found myself wishing this wasn't a democracy; the instead of waiting till 2011 for the election to get rid of the hopeless Iemma government, we could just have a revolution now. Anyway, work ran away from me, and I didn't have time to finish the thing.

    Now everything has changed. Costa has been sacked, Watkins has resigned, Carmel Tebbutt has become Deputy Premier, and there's even talk of an exit strategy for Morris Iemma.

    Of course, what we need is the whole pack of Iemma's gang gone, but this is a good start. Once we're free of those criminally incompetent clowns, maybe we can relegate our horror stories of train cancellations, surgery waiting lists, funding blow outs, planning disasters, decaying schools and ordinary people paying for public farces to the past.

    ~~~~~

    More on Sarah Palin: this piece expertly exposes the lies from the speech at the RNC. And it's from Perez Hilton! The truth will out in the oddest places.

    ~~~~~

    Lastly, a Friday Folly of sorts...from the Tremedous files, Elton and Lily go at it at the GQ awards. To the English: I love you, don't ever change.

    02 September 2008

    Fun Facts About Sarah Palin!


    In case you've got the warm and fuzzies that the Republicans have selected a woman as the Vice Presidential candidate, consider these Fun Facts about Sarah Palin...

    • As captain of her high school basketball team, her nickname was "Sarah Barracuda" due to her intense play and leader of the prayer sessions before games.
    • Runner up in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant.
    • She named her children Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig. (Sounds like kinds of tree fungus).
    • She has said that she is a "firm supporter of abstinence-only education in schools." "Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support", Palin has said.
    • Her 17 year old daughter is pregnant. This is only a fact about Sarah Palin herself in light of the above, and her failure to give her daughter a purity ring. Or, even more usefully, a talk about sexual health and condom use.
    • Wants to have polar bears taken off the endangered species list so as to open up the Artic National Wildlife Preserve to oil drilling.
    • Supports the teaching of "intelligent design" in schools.


    So there you have it. If America wants to boldly continue the Bush tradition of hypocrisy, stageiness and a complete lack of sense, here is the woman for the job.

    29 August 2008

    Don't Let Journalism Die!


    As you've no doubt heard, Fairfax Journalists have gone on strike this weekend to protest the axing of 550 jobs in the company.

    Fairfax say that their papers - including The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Financial Review - will be published this weekend regardless, using "strike breakers"...otherwise known as "scab labour".

    So, show your support for journalism, and the rights of workers, by boycotting Fairfax papers this weekend. Show Fairfax management that journalism still plays a huge part in Australian society and we won't stand by and let this happen.

    And hey, it's the easiest protest you'll ever be involved with - all you have to do is not buy the newspaper!

    Please sign up below to show your support and spread the word, or join our group on Facebook.

    26 August 2008

    Intermittent Tuesday Book Club


    Always interested in expanding my mind then boring you all senseless with the details, I've been doing a little reading lately. Based on a recommendation, I started with The World Without Us, a study of what would happen to the world if all humans somehow, someday, were no more. It was thought provoking, if a little confused due to a lack of a central hypothesis.

    By far the most profound book I've read in, well, ages, is Letter To A Chrisitan Nation by Sam Harris. It's only a slender volume, under 100 pages, and takes only an hour or so to read. But it's a book that could change the planet. Harris writes directly to the Christians of America, asking in effect, "Are you kidding me?" Some quotes:

    “The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.”

    “It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion—to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources—is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.”

    87% of Americans say they “never doubt the existence of God.”

    “A person who believes that Elvis is still alive is very unlikely to get promoted to a position of great power and responsibility in our society. Neither will a person who believes that the holocaust was a hoax. But people who believe equally irrational things about God and the bible are now running our country. This is genuinely terrifying.”

    It's all based on facts and logic, and impossible to dispute in the clear way Harris lays out his arguments. And it's witty. Many people, to take one example, believe they have been cured of disease through the power of prayer. Which begs the question, if God can cure cancer, why has he/she never made a single amputated limb grow back? Why does God hate amputees?

    I could talk about this book for longer than it would take you to read this book. So read it, come back and we'll talk about why religion is nonsense and the Bible a load of codswallop.

    22 August 2008

    Funnier! Sweeter! Fatter!


    Well the Olympics are drawing to a close. Thank God for that. Maybe we'll get some decent shows back on TV - although Ten is making us suffer through 6 solid nights of Australian Idol next week.

    Australia has - let's face it - not done as well as may have been hoped this Olympics. This can be exemplified by our cycling team: in Athens they won five gold; in Beijing they've managed one silver. Fingers of blame are already being pointed - at the Federal treasury. "We need more funding!" goes the cry from John Coates on down. Instead of admitting that maybe we're a bit crap these days, the poor workman blames his tools and wants more money. Well, maybe we could ask Stephanie Rice to chip in some of her endorsement dollars? Me, I'd like to see a Nobel prize winning tally, and demands for more funds to help Australia excel at winning the things.

    EDIT, Monday: The SMH makes this point beautifully in this piece.

    So what about the suprise of the games - Great Britain? I remember watching Clive James, sometime in the Nineties, ask the comedian Victoria Adams why Britain did so poorly in international sporting competitions. She replied, "I think it's because we can't be arsed, really". It seemed fitting. Britain leads the world in producing superior comedy shows and confectionery, and as I'm a big fan of comedy and sweets but have little time for sports, it was enough achievment to give to the world. But no. Now they want sporting achievement too. As long as they don't let the standard of Cadbury Dairy Milk buttons and BBC sitcoms slip, then that's fine, but it does seem like a great nation is selling out it's main legacy.

    (Incidentally, why are English sweets so much better than American candy? Since living in Sydney, where shops selling foreign confectionery abound, I've taken the opportunity to try all the products I've read about my whole life but have never sampled. And whilst English chocolate makes me weep with joy, American candy is invariably disappointing, meagre, and has no flavour at all whilst still tasting bad. I had my first Tootsie roll the other day, and would rather give an elephant a rim job than go through that again).

    So now it's Australians who can't be arsed. Forget what I said here, we're the fattest and laziest nation on Earth. Stand up and be proud Australia, if you can put down the pie, drag yourself of the Jason recliner, and overcome the wheezing.

    21 August 2008

    For Once, I'd Like To Be Wrong


    Sommething is rotten in the state of NSW, is the headline of the article in today's SMH. I'll say. The culture of corruption, smugness and slackness in Rail Corp is now starting to affect the rest of the NSW public service.

    Those public servants are only indicative of the real problem - emulating their political masters. A letter writer in Saturday's SMH described the Iemma government as the worst political administration ever visited upon an Australian electorate. It's hard to disagree.

    So far, for most of us watching carrcrash Iemma government is a source of irritation, and fodder for stand-up comedians. But re-watching The Day of the Roses, the mini series based on the Granville rail disaster, last week, the whole thing seemed like less of a joke.

    At Granville, a packed morning peak hour train derailed and hit the supports of an overhead bridge, causing it to collapse on the train beneath. 83 people died. The causes of the disaster? Smugness, slackness, muddle by and cost-cutting viewed as a higher priority than safety. Watching the re-enactment of the inquest, I was left with a sense, not that "this could happen again", but amazement that a disaster of such magnitude hasn't happened already. What, after all, would stop it? Why would the government be such a disaster in other areas, but doing a great job on rail safety?

    ~~~~~

    On a lighter note now - Lord knows we need one - last week John Howard held a
    farewell dinner (nine months after leaving office) for all his "true believers" in Western Sydney. Guests paid $100 a pop to dine, reminisce and hear a speach from their defeated hero. They also received a show bag - containing a tea towel, a John Howard DVD, two energy-saver light bulbs, three Ferrero Rocher chocolates, a mini-bottle of Bundaberg Rum, and a copy of Gourmet Traveller's January 2006 issue.

    Who on Earth selected this stuff? What was the rationale behind it? I'd love to know. So much of the Howard era made me feel the need to take drugs, and I think I'd need some to understand this. In a funny way I've missed that feeling.

    15 August 2008

    Dial P for Purity


    Who says Christians aren't trendy? They have their own bandwagons to jump on, just like everyone else. First it was WWJD? bracelets, now it's purity rings. Presumably the next step is for young Christians to have "DANGER! No entry" tattooed on their public mounds.

    The theory behind a purity ring is that it symbolises your pledge, to God and yourself, to remain a virgin until marriage. The ring will then not be taken off until it is replaced by a wedding ring.

    The problem, as has been pointed out previously, is that most people who make viginity pledges break them. And once they do, they are less likely to engage in safe sex and less likely to seek treatment for STIs. Apocryphal evidence would also suggest that those who are breaking virignity pledges are less likely to do so after mature consideration during a loving relationship, and more likely to get smashed at a party and wake up wondering who the hell that is next to them.

    But of course, if there is a way to make money, someone will find it. Purity rings are big business, helped by the fact they are worn by such "celebrities" as Jordin Sparks, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Why is it always teens who wear these rings? Are there any 26 year olds who openly wear them? An awful lot of 18 year olds are still virgins, Christians or not. If there are any proper grown ups out there who are sincere about wearing a purity ring, please prove me wrong, but for Miley Cyrus to wear one is meaningless - chances are at 15 she'd be a virgin anyway. Besides, we all remember the last pop princess who vowed to remain a virgin till marriage...


    Maybe the fact that young Christians feel the need to wear these rings says something about their culture. To quote Miss Manners: "Polite society does not recognize such a thing as a chastity ring. It is so polite that it presumes that a lady is chaste unless publicly proven otherwise."

    11 August 2008

    Olympian Vicariousness


    Boss, in front of TV: Come look everyone, we're about to win gold in the 400m relay!*

    Me: If I had enough energy to get up, I'd be there in the pool.

    It may seem contradictory that Australia is one of the world's great sporting nations, and also the fattest nation on Earth. Not at all. The athletes excel at sports so the rest of us don't have to.

    Taking pride in their achievements allows us to feel that we somehow had something to do with it, even if we watch the coverage in a darkened room, nursing a hangover and bruised legs. Actually I have made one contribution - the taxes I've paid which have gone to the AIS.

    Whilst I'm on the subject of the TV coverage, poor job Channel 7. I'm not sure what's worse, abandoning three hours of coverage on a Sunday afternoon for a dull AFL game, or not actually showing the "evening highlights" promised at the start of the session. (Four hours I waited last night to see the gymnastics). I'm capable of Olympian shouting at the TV.

    I had obviously intended to boycott the games entirely due to China's communist regime, but I was invited to an Opening Ceremony party, and I figured, What the hell? I just won't tell them.

    *In the end, "we" got bronze.

    07 August 2008

    August Check In


    Yes, things have been quiet here lately. But I have a good excuse! (I usually do). I've been sufferring a medical condition which is affecting my ability to concentrate and write. Rather than suffer the shame of posts not up to my usual standards of investigative wit, I'm taking some time to recover. We know what's wrong now and it's nothing serious, so I hope to be back to normal soon.

    In the meantime, I'm considering adopting this tactic:

    Married To The Sea

    31 July 2008

    Are the Olympics Worth It, China?


    Here in Sydney, we all complained about loss of freedom caused by the government's crackdown in the lead up to World Youth Day. Well, we're mere whingers. Sure, what the NSW government tried to do was arrogant and unacceptable, but it was minor league stuff compared to what's going on in China in the lead up to the Olympics - and the bravery of those who stand up to the government there.

    The foreign media are up in arms over revelations that the Chinese government will, in fact, censor their internet access whilst they are reporting on the Olympics.

    There have been reports of one million security guards and police working at the Beijing Olympics. They're there to do more than just crack down on student protesters. People have lost their homes to developers and received no compensation; they've also lost the right to petition the government, one of the only recourses for justice in a country without a free press. Foreign Correspondent has the full story, which I highly recommend having a look at; you certainly won't look at the bright, shiny opening ceremony in the same way if you do.

    I read recently an interview with a Chinese expat, a successful businesswoman, who said she would never return to China: "It seems to combine the worst of capitalism and the worst of communism." We're constantly hearing of "the economic miracle of China". What cost is it to the everyday Chinese people? And what cost the Olympics, so Stephanie Rice can get another contract to prance around in her underwear?

    28 July 2008

    Keeping Sonny Bill in Circulation


    So, apparently when Sonny Bill Williams left the Bulldogs and the country, he left his entire family homeless, just days before he was due to donate bone marrow to his biggest fan...

    Well, no. But you could be forgiven for thinking so, considering the public outcry. Some comments from the Daily Telegraph website*:

    What a money hungry little puppet. Have a great time in France Money Bill, cause your never welcome back here in Australia.

    What a dog act. He will never be able to repay the bulldogs in a thousand of years for what he has done. He has missed more games than he has played. I think he should go in the ring with Mason for a couple of more millions, so we can enjoy seeing him get belted for what he has done.

    Well we all knew he was a dog when he cheated on his gorgeous girlfriend with that skank in toilet cubilce.

    Never mind banning him from NRL for life, we should also ban him from ever coming back to Australia. We don't need such poor examples for our children.

    I'm not sure what a cubilce is (some medieval torture device, perhaps?) but it must be serious to suggest never letting the man return to Australia.

    A story like this is a win-win affair for the media. There's very little background investigation required, they can go to town with vituperative headlines, and best of all, reader reaction is a genuine part of the story. What editor wouldn't want to sell lots of papers with very little work required? All you have to do is whip the masses into a frenzy over some non-issue. In fact, I might start trying it here.

    * All spelling and punctuation is retained from the original.

    24 July 2008

    The Truth Behind World Youth Day?


    We at the Pod have been informed of a a possible real reason for the recent Sydney hosting of World Youth Day...

    Morris Iemma and many of the members of the NSW Cabinet are Catholics. "True" Catholics are famously hostile to homosexuals. However, Sydney has successfully hosted the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for many years. This must stick in their craw.

    So, in recent months Sydney has hosted both APEC and WYD. Both of these have caused massive disruption, but we've coped, sort of. Patience is however wearing thin. Perhaps by the time Mardi Gras rolls around again, the patience of the people of NSW with these huge events will finally snap, and we'll rise up against the Mardi Gras, ending it once and for all.

    This being the intention of the state government all along! They've been luring these events here to turn us against them.

    I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, but it is an interesting theory.

    ~~~~~

    Meanwhile, it's been said that every time there's a problem with CityRail, the state government's solution is to introduce a new ticket. Sure enough this week, the government has announced half-price tickets for those travelling outside peak hours. Just one little problem; the ticket barriers can't recognise the new ticket. Remember when I said my friends and I could better run the state? I meant it.

    22 July 2008

    Tuesday Debate - Parental Leave


    In 2008, how much responsibility should be people be made to take in the workplace for their decision to have children? According to Elizabeth Broderick, Australia's current Sex Discrimination Commissioner, very little.

    The idea of work-family balance is a noble one. But how far should it go? Ms Broderick states "If you have caring responsibilities and you want to get promoted then forget about it. The ideal worker is a male with no caring responsibilities". She would like to see employees able to, for example, leave work early a few afternoons a week to care for their children, with no detrimental effects on their career prospects.

    But someone has to pick up the slack. The work the parent has left behind still needs to be done. Should bosses be required to reward and promote employees who aren't handling a full work load, simply because they have children? Should childless employees - once, say, over the age of 50 - be allowed to take 14 weeks of paid leave to compensate for the parental leave they did not take earlier in their careers? And if it is acceptable to leave work at 4pm twice a week to pick up your kids from school, why shouldn't other employees feel resentful that they are earning the same money, and still at their desks at 6pm? Why has childrearing become the great sacred duty-above-all? If people decide to have children, should their companies and society have to compensate, or should parents accept that something, somewhere - careers, money, time - has to be sacrificed?

    I've asked a lot of questions here. So I'm throwing the floor open; please feel free to provide some answers.

    18 July 2008

    So That's What I've Got


    On this fine Friday, I'll leave you with one anecdote...

    I was in the queue at Dymocks, when a woman approached the counter and asked "Do you have any books on Melanesia or Micronesia?"

    The girl behind the counter replied, "Is that a health condition?"

    ~~~~~

    This gets better. I was standing in line at the time waiting to purchase a copy of Overheard in the Office, the book.

    Which I was buying because, whilst idly browsing through the shelves I picked up a copy, and it fell open on the page featuring an anecdote I myself had sent in a few years ago, and had long since forgotten about (it's on page 86).

    Serendipity in a crazy world. It must be my micronesia.

    17 July 2008

    We Need Climate Pain


    Kevin Rudd has promised that no one will be disadvantaged by the new Carbon Trading Scheme - there will be compensation for all. So then why would anyone actually reduce their carbon emissions?

    For businesses, details of the scheme include such allowances as receiving 90% of their (tradable) carbon permits for free if they emit more than 2,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per million dollars of revenue. So we could actually see businesses increase their emissions levels over the next two years, in order to secure permits they can later sell. Meanwhile, motorists are hardly likely to reduce their reliance on cars if they believe they won't face increased petrol costs to compensate for the damage they're doing to the planet for at least five years. Has anyone actually thought this through?

    The point of the carbon trading scheme is to discourage carbon emissions by putting a cost on them. The Rudd government though, has given Australia a scheme that doesn't involve anyone having to reach for the wallet (the Bush administration did the same thing to pay for the war in Iraq). They're willing to risk electoral dissatisfaction by launching the scheme, but not enough to ask us to pay for it.

    Still, their hearts are in the right places. Australia should take a leading role in combating climate change. Naturally, this has been one of the main points Piers Akerman has chosen to attack:

    But it is a tribute to the awesome egos of Rudd and his Cabinet that they believe other nations, or even neighbouring countries, stand poised, holding their breaths, until they see which course Australia takes.

    Unlike those on the right who honestly believe that terrorists cared if Australia was or wasn't in the Coalition of the Willing? There were a lot of nations against us on that, too. A consistent ideology is probably too much to hope for - from either side of politics.

    15 July 2008

    WYD - It Begins


    World Youth Day finally kicks off today. Your opinion on the issue is apparently based on what newspaper you read. The Australian is fervently behind the event, and taking potshots at the SMH for knocking it. (NewsLtd, publisher of The Australian, is a major WYD sponsor, but that's probably just a coincidence)

    I do wonder how Australia ended up hosting the thing. We have to be amongst the least religious nations on Earth. Apparently two thirds of people still claim to be Christian. But that's because people refer to themselves as Christian on the Census more from habit than faith - the donkey vote of religions.

    It is a terrifying thing to witness in action. I've just returned from a walk around the CBD, where I was almost anhilated by a group of hundreds of chanting, banner waving Catholics walking in the other direction (could this be divine retribution?). The pilgrims are everywhere, thousands of them in their bright jackets and national flags, generally making life jolly difficult for those of us going about our business. And they're all so darn happy and full of energy. Many of them were at St Mary's Cathedral midnight for the last countdown, will march all day today, attend the welcome mass, Stations of the Cross, pilgrimage walk, the overnight vigil and final mass; all this and they're sleeping in school halls...I think I can see how this is happening. I had religious fervour once. A guy named Electron was selling it on Oxford Street for $50 a hit.

    I haven't been arrested yet, which is a relief. It will be a bigger relief when it's all over. It's hard now to wonder, if these pilgrims wanted to do the truly compassionate, Christian thing, why they didn't stay home and give the money they spent on the trip to the poor. I'm sure that's what Jesus would have done.

    14 July 2008

    You Wanted Us All to Watch? I Don't Think So


    It is with mixed feelings that I learned of the demise of Big Brother - much as one would feel on hearing of the death of a former spouse. Sure, things had been over between you for a long time, but there were once warm feelings, and you think "I never wanted them to die".

    I was once a Big Brother fan, and yes I've heard all the stereotypes. Actually, I never missed an episode if I could possibly help it. Just the sound of the theme music at the start of a new season was enough to get my heart pumping. Everyone knew never, ever to call me when the show was on. I collected favourites along the way: Nathan and Alex and Kieran, Dan, Chrissie and Leah, Tim Brunero.

    So what changed? Partly it's a simple age thing. In the first BB, all the housemates were older than me execept Ben and Blair. By this year, only the token aged houemates are older. I also stopped drinking every day, which severely hampered my enjoyment of the show. And - let's face it - it has gotten dumber.

    I've barely watched an episode for the past two years (I missed Pamela Anderson's visit entirely). And that was the problem - hardly anyone else did either. So it's time for the show to go; in fact the time was two years ago. And yet, I say farewell with some sadness. We had some good times, and I hope those memories last longer than the disaster of recent times.

    ~~~~~

    From the comments on the Daily Terrorgraph website:

    "My son...had server learning difficulties and was struggling trying to lean to read and right English."

    Srsly?

    11 July 2008

    Follying All Over Friday

  • Drastic measures are now being undertaken to improve Beijing's air quality ahead of the Olympics. There were fears that the air pollution would harm the visiting athletes. Apparently, there are no similar fears about the health of Beijing residents. Thank goodness visitors would never be deemed more important than residents here.

  • After all the hype, World Youth "Day" finally kicks off on Monday. There is much to find creepy about the whole thing, nothing less so than the body of the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati being brought to Sydney and displayed at St Mary's Cathedral for the duration. Forget Resquiat in Pace - devote your life to your faith and you can spend eternity as a travelling exhibition!

  • I read somewhere that if the current growth in the number of Elvis impersonators continues, by 2019 a third of the Earth's population will be Elvis impersonators. Just think about that for a minute. Imagine going to the supermarket, and every third person you pass being an Elvis impersonator. Think of attending a meeting with 100 colleagues, 33 of whom respond to everything the manager says with "Uh-huh-huh". I can see a future where a third of humanity are Elvis impersonators, and the normal two-thirds of us are too creeped out to leave the house.

  • You might have heard or seen that when the homophobic brigade pickets churches and so on, a favourite chant of theirs is "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!", referring you the "fact" that God created a man and a woman, not two men, to be each others' life partner, and therefore homosexuality is an affront to God. Well, maybe they have a point...if you also consider that it's "Adam and Eve", not "Adam, Eve, Adam Jnr and Little Evie". God didn't create any children! Where are the protestors saying children are an affront to God?

    And on that note, this affront to God is shuffling off. Have a good weekend.
  • 09 July 2008

    Rudd at the Gate


    In a momentous day for the nation, Kevin Rudd will be speaking at the G8 summit today. Apparently his speech is being limited to six minutes. The people who organised this know what they're doing; it will be the first time Rudd has spoken so briefly in his life.

    I was suprised when I heard Rudd was even going to the G8 summit. Surely, if Australia had become one of the world's top eight industrial nations, someone would have said something. But no, Rudd is just going as a guest speaker, on climate change presumably. Brendan Nelson has said Rudd needs to be a "human blowtorch" and "apply pressure" to oil producing nation, which would dramatically increase extremely localised global warming if nothing else (I didn't know blowtorches produced pressure).

    Back home, the Grim Wowser is rearing their ugly head again. Now, whilst I believe government intervention can be a good, even civilisation-enhancing thing, I'm a libertarian when it comes to getting loaded. How then am I supposed to react to new calls to ban toss the boss and other driking games in pubs. Who is calling for this? Why, it's the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing. The head of liquor and gaming, Albert Gardner, whom I would dearly like to slap, has said "Do we have to link alcohol with drinking games?" Well, yes. What else are we going to link drinking games with - red cordial? We're not five. I know how I'll react to this on this of all days: I'm having a drink.

    07 July 2008

    Disposable as Kleenex


    Heartwarming news from our bestest friend in the whole wide world. Apparently, the U.S. planned to test nerve gas on Australian soldiers during the Cold War.

    Newly declassified Australian Defence Department and Prime Minister’s office files show that the United States was strongly pushing the Government for tests on Australian soil of two of the most deadly chemical weapons ever developed, VX and GB – Sarin - nerve gas.

    The plan called for 200 mainly Australian combat troops to be aerially bombed and sprayed with the chemical weapons – with all but a handful of the soldiers to be kept in the dark about the "full details" of the tests. in fact, given the timing of the tests, some may well have been conscripts.

    Kind of gives a new meaning to the words "cannon fodder". And we're supposed to be one of their closest allies. What do the Americans do to people they don't like? Kill them on their way to weddings, apparently.

    04 July 2008

    Stop The Climate Change Lies!


    The Garnaut report on climate change is released today, no doubt to be closely followed by howls of protest from the usual suspects. I've noticed that a lot of climate change deniers also tend to be religious conservatives. Which is amusing really, as their argument against global warming is "there is no scientific evidence that climate change is caused by human activity!", yet they seem not to be concerned by a lack of scientific evidence for the existence of God.

    When it comes to climate change, we all (as individuals, groups, corporations and governments) have one of four options:

    1. Admit it's happening and make changes for the greater good;
    2. Admit it's happening, do nothing and feel guilty;
    3. Admit it's happening, do nothing and not care;
    4. Deny it's happening.
    It will come as no suprise to regular readers that my old friend Piers Akerman is a climate change denier. So are Ann Coulter, Andrew Bolt, Rush Limbaugh and of course Alan Jones.

    I think we can see a pattern forming here. These people are always clamouring for honesty. So why don't they just come right out and admit that they really don't care about the state of the planet, and if future generations are bequeathed an Earth which is an unihabitable, smoking ruin, it's their own damn fault for not being born in more verdant times? (These people do rather cling to the notion that everyone's circumstances are their own responsibility no matter what).

    ~~~~~

    There is one Friday folly today, which speaks for itself:


    "Empire ends for Alexander the not-so-great
    Farewell to the Clouseau of foreign ministers: pompous, slightly ridiculous and self-important."

    And this on the front page of one of Australia's leading broadsheet papers. (Click on the picture to read the story).

    03 July 2008

    So Long and F**k Off


    Today in Sydney, there's a purer light in the sky...and I feel more nourished. The beast is gone, for now, and the warmth has returned to our hearts.

    Yes, the paragon of the Whingeing Westies, Alan Jones, has announced he'll be off air whilst he is treated for cancer. I don't usually wish ill on anyone, but...I like to think of my fellow Sydneysiders as open minded, tolerant people - so why do they listen to, and believe, radio hosts somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan?

    Jones shamelessly exploits the prejudices of his (mostly Sydney) audience, feeding on fear, ignorance and jealousy. Here's Jones in the lead up to the Cronulla riots:

    My suggestion is to invite one of the biker gangs to be present in numbers at Cronulla railway station when these Lebanese thugs arrive. The bikie gangs have been much maligned, but they do a lot of good things.

    These Middle Eastern people must be treated be treated with a big stick, it’s the only thing they fear. They don’t fear fines and they laugh at the courts.


    Lovely, huh? But it's nothing new. In 1993, Jones described the choice of Mandawuy Yunupingu as Australian of the Year as an "insult" and said he’d been granted the award simply because he was black.

    But for those who like this sort of thing, "They find it comforting to hear him. He seems so strong, it makes them feel safe. It's his strength and reassurance. Almost like they are listening to Daddy." (For more in this vein, see here).

    They'll have to cope on their own now. As for the rest of us, I think we deserve a few drinks - some to celebrate, some to forget.