29 January 2009

White Australian Pride


A few years ago, I actually gave serious consideration to getting a Southern Cross tattooed on my shoulder.

Thank god I didn't. At the time I just thought of it as a cool design, a constellation I liked to look at. It didn't mean then what it does now. Now it means "Hi! I'm a racist thug. Kiss the flag or get bashed".

It's the great Let's Not talk About It: that Australia is a racist country, and it getting worse. At Circular Quay on Australia Day the blogger witnessed crowds of drunken teenagers, draped in the Australian flag (isn't wearing the flag illegal?) yelling about the country being full and loving Australia or leaving it. There were police everywhere but none did anything to stop any of this although most of the offenders were clearly intoxicated and underage.

Things got even worse over at Manly, where crowds went on a rampage, jumping on cars with "ethnic" occupants, smashing shop windows and generally acting like little shits. But perhaps the worst aspect of this was hearing figures such as the Manly Mayor, denying the riot was rascist!

So here then is the Howard government's legacy to Australia's youth: thuggery, fear, intolerance and mistrust. These sorts of incidents were unthinkable even five years ago, but we now have a generation on our hands who can't remember life before the Howard government and think this sort of behaviour is fine - they grew up seeing the goverment do it on a grander scale. They've turned the Southern Cross in 2009 into what the Union Jack was in the U.K. in 1985, and turned Australian pride into something all thinking Australians should be vaugely ashamed of.

For once, the Telegraph actually published a thoughtful piece on this issue. Well worth the read and no offensive comments.

21 January 2009

Five Years Later: An Anniversary Post


There's little to celebrate about me. I'm dull, pedantic and not much fun on long trips. But today, the Xander and Nico Pod marks a milestone few blogs reach (at least so far): our fifth anniversary. So forgive me if I crow a little.

I've told the story of how we began in previous anniversary posts (see links on the left) but I've not much considered what came from this. No publishing deal, obviously. And I haven't met anyone interesting, although there was that stalker a few years ago, which was a brief if disconcerting thrill.

But the blog has given me an outlet for what I've loved the most - evolving over time, through the personal, then the political, and on to photography, with lots of stops along the way to rant about whatever was irking me most at the time. I now look back at starting the blog as the beginning of my second life - after a traumatic 2003, it marked my return to the real world. (Not that it was much of a world - Howard was PM, Bush was the U.S. President, and both would win elections later that year. At least it provided me with plenty of fodder).

So here we are, five years later. I never dreamed it would last this long, not in my worst nightmares. As has happened so many times over the years, I've no idea how to end this post. Which seems the most fitting way of all to finish.

19 January 2009

Say...What?


Have you ever sat down and considered what TV advertising is actually saying?

Recently I saw an ad for a well-known brand of shampoo, boasting that it contained the "smallest ever polymers to repair hair strands".

What are these polymers, and why is their being small a good thing? When you go to get your car fixed, do you ask for the mechanic who is 140cm tall, because he'll be the best at repairing your car?

Though it does sound like a great premise for a sitcom - the Littlest Mechanic in the Whole Wide World. If you steal the idea I want a producer's credit.

~~~~~

Reading a blog post furthering the argument that Ann Coulter is a man, based an analysis of her writings at Gender Guesser, I decided to test my own writings. I ran a few posts, from various times over the years, through the tool.

The result? My writings tested, time and again, as MALE. In fact I never got a female reading - weak male was the "best" I could do.

I have three theories as to why this is:
  • I grew up and lived most of my adult life in a tough place, and most of my friends are guys;
  • I'm left handed/right brained, and;
  • Most of the political/humorous writing I've read, and therefore the styles I've subconciously tried to imitate, has been by male writers - P.J. O'Rourke, Al Franken et al. The only female writer who had an impact on what I do - and it was a huge impact - was Molly Ivins. (And I wonder how her writings would test? I'll give them a whirl sometime).

    Oh yes, Man Coulter? I despise your childish name calling, but for you - who called Molly Ivins ugly when she was dying of cancer - I'll make an exception.
  • 13 January 2009

    Goodbye Friend


    It's hard to believe that in a few short days, George W. Bush will be no more than a foot (in mouth) note of history.

    Like all outgoing presidents, he's determined to stake out his legacy. In his final press conference, Bush has described the regrets of his presidency, which include not finding WMDs in Iraq.

    Really? You're sorry that Saddam didn't have chemical, biological and nuclear weapons lying around? Makes me think that, as so often with The Onion, this isn't a joke. (Except to Bush).

    ~~~~~

    Back in Sydney, from the "well, duh" files: publicans are reporting that the new alcohol lockdowns are causing an increase in violence. When people are turned out of hotels early, and/or refused entry when they may be perfectly acceptable by RSA laws just because of the time, they're not going to go straight home. All those people on the streets at once will cause trouble. Other ridiculous laws include only serving alcohol in disposable plastic cups (hello drink spiking!) and - this would be my favourite if it wasn't so condescending - not serving alcohol for ten minutes an hour, every hour. If anyone can explain the logic behind this to me in a way that makes sense, I'll buy you all you can drink in a venue of your choice, between 1:00 and 1:50am one night.

    09 January 2009

    Terror In Palestine


    Oh, Israel. When the Red Cross is all but accusing you of War Crimes (the Red Cross; we're not talking Amnesty International), then you're doing something pretty damn wrong - not that you, so far, appear to care.

    First a brief recap of the situation, as near as I can make out (sourced from Wikipedia - this is a blog post, not a Master's thesis). On 27 December, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a series of bombings designed to bring down Hamas, the ruling party of Palestine. Israel claims it wants to limit civilian casualties; however, they have been bombing infrastructure such as schools, mosques and housing, claiming Hamas operatives are hiding in such places. Either way, on 3 January Israel launched the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, and this is where things really start getting nasty.

    Israeli forces shelled a U.N. school in northern Gaza, killing more than forty civilians, many of them children. Israel claims Hamas was using the compound to fire shells on Israel, a claim the U.N. strenuously denies. The U.N. has now suspended aid operations into Gaza following hits from Israeli forces, including the death of an a worker on an aid mission killed by Israeli tanker fire. According to Palestinian officials, at least 350 civilians, including 130 children, have been killed since hostilities began on December 27.

    Okay, it's horrible. So what can be done about it? There's the usual rounds of international condemnation, including our own acting PM Julia Gillard, who has said "While recognising Israel’s right to defend itself from such indiscriminate attacks, the Australian Government supports the United Nations Security Council’s call for an immediate halt to all violence." Worthy sentiments (I do believe Israel has a right to defend itself. But just because you have a right to protect yourself in your own home doesn't mean you can go around destroying your neighbours' houses in case they attack you). Bush has just flat out blamed Hamas for the whole thing. Xander and Nico say Israel is being a barbaric bully. But what about an actual resolution?

    The best hope at the moment seems to be the Egyptian-French led ceasefire negotiation which is taking place in Cairo as we speak; Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian president have all sent delegations. Explicit details of the ceasefire proposal have not been released, but the fact that all parties are willing to attend (despite the fact Israel is refusing to sit at the table with Hamas) is a good sign. Best case scenario is a cessation of hostilities, then a joint European-Arab peacekeeping force to administer the agreement. If it works, it will show that the U.S. does not play the lone role as "World Policeman".

    Speaking of which, I know Barack Obama has a lot on his plate right now. And he's not actually the U.S. President yet. But still, his lack of reaction to the conflict has been disappointing. He says he will have more to say following his inauguration. I hope that is the case. We're all hoping for the U.S. to play a more positive, less aggressive role in global politics under the Obama administration. Former President Clinton has stated that his greatest regret in his Presidency is failure to act over the Rwandan massacre. Let's hope Gaza does not become President Obama's Rwanda.

    06 January 2009

    New Year, Same Old Problems Issues

  • Aren't CityRail good sports? First day back at work for most people (though not for me - this little trooper worked through) and they announce a fare increase, along with the news that train crowding - or crush loading, a wonderfully apt term - is only going to get worse and there's nothing they can do about it. The Tokyo subway system carries 13 million people a day. CityRail can barely cope with one.

  • Some are speculating whether Jett Travolta's life was put at risk through the Scientology beliefs of his parents, causing them to refuse treatment. I rather think the greatest danger for the children of celebrities is being in the Bahamas.

  • There's been a mixed reaction to the mobile phone ban being implemented in some Sydney shops. Most people interviewed on TV last night were in favour, but one tradesman-type said "When your phone rings, you have to answer it, that's why you have a phone." Does he take the same attitude to public masturbation, I wonder? If so I wouldn't want to be sitting next to him on a bus.

  • Ann Coulter has nominated Sarah Palin as 2008 Conservative of the Year. I wonder if Coulter is being that funny on purpose? It's hard to believe anyone takes either woman seriously.

  • Have you noticed, no one reads anything before signing it anymore?. I recently returned a piece of equipment for repair. The guy at the shop printed off a repair docket and handed it to me. I flicked my eyes over it and he's said "See? just sign there".
    No, I don't sign anything unless I read it or someone gives me the gist of it! For all I knew, I was agreeing to be a surrogate mother for his girlfriend's children (so her pole dancing career didn't have to be interrupted).

  • John Howard will next week receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom for "[B]ring[ing] hope and freedom to people around the globe." He did? Oh well, thus inspired, I'm going to nominate Ehud Barak and Mahmud Zahar for the Nobel Peace Prize, then I'm going to audition for Australia's Next Top Model.
  • 02 January 2009

    Now That's Behind Us...


    Economic woes aside, there's much to look forward to in 2009, starting with Obama's inauguaration. And in a happy coincidence, the Pod celebrates it's firth birthday on the same day. And then...okay, looking at the year ahead, there's not a hell of a lot to get excited about. But still, what are you looking forward to in 2009?

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