Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Pete Denahy – Sort of Dunno Nothin

[Just saw this for the first time on a Sp***s and Specks repeat]
[*** - would hate to offend anyone]

First bit of work I’ve had in yonks!

Got a new security keycard with prison photo.

Fiddled for ages with the lanyard trying to have the card/photo fall in such a way that no one could see the mug shot.
Finally got it sorted then wondered why I bothered if my real face isn’t covered up?
Had three days of induction and job training, which was all ‘death by slide’. Kept telling myself “I’m getting paid to sit here… I’m getting paid to sit here…”
Catching the train from Franger to the city is always an experience. Catching the train to and fro every day is another thing altogether.

Now leave home at the time I normally go to bed. [Daylight is so uncivilised – makes it hard to hide the mug.]

The second day coming home - again seeing no relationship between the train timetable I downloaded and realtime train movements - went back up to the ticket office to ask what the story is.
The ticketseller pulled out a timetable printed in May, then made a phone call. She was very nice and determined to help.
“Monday to Friday, trains leave from platform 13, and on the weekends, platform 12”.
Unfortunately, the May timetable and the platform numbers were about as useful as a hole in a pocket. Or should that be as useful as a hardcopy of the latest online timetable?
Now I know the trick is to catch a train that only goes halfway to Franger – because these actually do run from Southern Cross and on time – then get off halfway home and wait for an express that hasn’t passed through Southern Cross. This has cut a full hour off the home journey.
ICI House was the first ‘tall’ building in Melbourne – finished in time to impress visitors here for the [1956] Olympics.
We knew it was cold in Melbourne if the weatherman reported ‘there was snow on top of the ICI building today’.

Now it is owned by Orica [whose ‘new’ logo always looks like ‘Dorica’ to me], and the building is just a pimple. 
Melbourne was once a Marvellous city of laneways and little old shops and pubs and warehouses, with pockets of Stately Old buildings erected before the 1890 land bust. Right into the late 1930s, the height of buildings still seemed to be determined by the possibility that a lift might stop working and people would have to use the stairs.

At least the insurance and banking quarter has survived relatively unscathed. 

I always liked the way the ANZ incorporated a gothic design
in their modern tower

Many of Melbourne's classic buildings are still with us, but approaching the city by train, residential towers are starting to make my hometown look like a housing project.
ecchh--- Federation Square 


Now that the hideous Storey Hall/Fed Square craze has passed,
the new obsession seems to be tubular meccano
[though I must admit the station is growing on me]

Spencer Street Station [now “Southern Cross”] has lost all it’s lovely underpasses with wall tiles incorporating the legend “DON’T SPIT”, and signs like this advising which platform to use:

Gone, the metal pillars and Victorian Lacework.
Gone, the basement showers [on which I relied from time to time, depending on where I was living].
Gone, the Parcels Office where a person could actually send stuff by rail to anywhere in Victoria. [The wood stove in my mother’s house was delivered by rail, from Collingwood].

Thought the old History of Transport Muriel was gone but have just discovered it was re-erected in 2007. Must look around some more.

One of the great joys of suburban train travel anywhere, of course, is perving into people’s backyards. Everything from trampolines and junk to carefully landscaped, regularly manicured gardens.

Another great joy on this line is the mouth of the Patterson River at Carrum.

Peppercorn trees hanging over old weather board station waiting rooms.

Pity the train doesn’t go all the way to Mt Martha – Mt Martha is a perfect little village, and we are looking to downsize.

Monday, September 26, 2011


My other brother has just turned 58.
He’s a genius who can wire, plumb and build just about anything around a house.
For a long time he ran a mechanical repair shop and played with racing cars in his spare time, but now he fixes automatic doors for a living because it is easier on his back.
He builds computers and other electronic doodads, and they work. He even understands why, I think.
B2 keeps a large aviary full of budgies, and when everyone else’s vegie garden goes straight from seedling to seed, by passing the actually edible stage, he always seems to have plenty of homegrown tomatoes and greens to share.

He is politically incorrect, reserving the right to dislike all people equally. He also cries whenever bushfires and floods and famines invade our TV screens.

His wife is a special person too, and they are both fond of camping.
B2 likes nothing more than to sit by a river and toss a line in, and just sit - but without any hook or bait on the line.

After the bushfires, my brother and his wife delivered their caravan to whoever was coordinating emergency accommodation, and for the next year B2 and his wife reverted to camping with the original trailer/fold out tent/ everything [including the kitchen sink] he had built years ago.
They got their caravan back about 13 months later.
It was only 6 weeks old when they first lent it out… but they are like that.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

bruno and the blonde

A blonde goes to the hairdressers wearing headphones attached to an MP3 player.

"G'day", sez Bruno, "what can we do for you today?"

"Oh, I'd just like a trim and a blow wave, thanks," sez the blonde.

"Okay, I'll get you to sit here," sez Bruno, "and take your headphones off."

"I can't take my headphones off - I'll die," sez the blonde.

"Well honey I can't cut your hair while you are wearing headphones, so how about you just pop them off for 5 minutes, okay?"

"I told you," sez the blonde, "I can't take them off: If I take them off I'll die!"

By this stage, Bruno is getting annoyed. One of his favourite clients is due to arrive in 15 minutes for a hair colour and the works, and he hasn't got time for any blonde crap, so he just grabs the headphones and whips them off her head before she can stop him.

Within seconds, the blonde is on the floor, dead. He calls an ambulance, and when they eventually arrive the paramedic asks what happened.
"Well," sez Bruno, "she wanted a haircut so I asked her to take the headphones off and she said no she can't cos if she takes them off she'll die and I thought bullshit so I just took them off myself and she died."

Believe it or not, the paramedic has seen this sort of thing before. Sure enough, when he picks up the headphones and listens to what is playing, he hears a voice saying "breathe in, breathe out, breathe in…".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

enough, already

A year later Kamahl appeared on Spicks and Specks: [relevant comment at 3:00 minutes in]

While I actually like Kamahl - as a person, not his taste in music - and while I agree with some of what he says, I don't think he really answered some of the questions put to him.

I’m sure it’s grating for people to constantly comment on one’s colour and/or to be treated as “different”, but if it was really such offensive hell, why oh why did he go back time and again, for years, to appear as a guest?
He could not possibly have needed the money or publicity.

If he thinks it's divisive to mention colour, why draw attention to it himself.


A lot of people – including an Aboriginal woman at the end of one of Dina’s links – have said that Australia does have a history of blackface.

I don’t agree. Let’s start with some examples of what whitefella Australians are guilty of:

Still around in the 1960s was a hard working, steel-wool product called “N… Boy Soap Pads”. At some stage these were re-branded “Bigger Boy”.
There was also a brand of liquorice with a similar name.

In 2012 we still have a brand of cheese called “Coon”. [There are no raccoons in Australia.] 
Some old cartoons from Gary Foley’s Koori History Website

From the May 1888 edition of The Bulletin:

Bulletin May 1887
"His Native Land"

Plenty of Australian cartoons contained negative views of Indigenous Australians, but a special level of hatred was reserved for Asians.

From an 1895 edition of the Bulletin

“The Yellow Trash Question”
The Australian film industry had a long and noble tradition of patronising or insensitive attitudes to indigenous Australians:

In 1976 Kamahl appeared as an Aboriginal killer in the movie Journey Out of Darkness.
Ed Devereaux [Uncle Matt from Skippy] played an Aboriginal tracker.
Not just an insult to Aboriginals who might want to find work as actors, but to any viewer as well.

The movie Jedda was the earliest Australian colour film to feature Aboriginal Actors in an Aboriginal storyline

The film clips on the ASO website make Jedda seem almost respectable, but here are some of the posters used to advertise the movie:

In the good old days, Australian film was sent to France for processing. Rosalie Kunoth-Monks leapt from this peak in the Katherine Gorge for the movie:

The footage of her leap was lost when the plane crashed on its way to be processed. Rosalie declined the opportunity to give it another shot.
Were indigenous Australians viewed and treated as inferiors by many whitefellas? Yes. 
Were indigenous Australians hunted down, poisoned and murdered? Yes.
Were indigenous children selected for “rescue” on the basis of their race? Absolutely. [In fact not just on the basis of their race but on their racial bloodlines.]

Was Australia’s version of blackface the same thing as America’s Jim Crow version? Definitely not.

Jim Crow was not merely patronising or ignorant; it was deliberately vicious and dehumanising. By the 1930s minstrelsy was somewhat sanitised [though travelling 'medicine' shows featuring Jim Crow style blackface still toured in some of the poorer American states].

From an American article called The GarbageMan: Why I Collect Racist Objects, by David Pilgrim, curator of the Jim Crow Museum.

A confrontation with the visual evidence of racism -- especially thousands of items in a small room -- is frequently shocking, even painful. In the late 1800s traveling carnivals and amusement parks sometimes included a game called "Hit the Coon." A black man would stick his head through a hole in a painted canvas; the background was a plantation scene. White patrons would throw balls -- and in especially brutal instances, rocks -- at the black man's head to win prizes. A person living in the 21st century who sees that banner or a reproduction gets a glimpse of what it was like to be a black man in the early years of Jim Crow.

That carnival banner reinforced the idea that blacks were not as human as whites. It alleviated white guilt about black pain; it suggested that blacks did not experience pain the way normal people -- whites -- experienced pain. It helped legitimize "happy violence" directed against blacks. It functioned as an ego message for the white hurlers. How many poorly paid, socially marginalized whites expressed their frustration at the expense of "black heads?" The "Hit the Coon" game and its cousin, "African Dodger," were eventually replaced with target games that used wooden black heads. You do not have to be a psychologist to understand the symbolic violence. Not coincidentally, games that used blacks as targets were popular when the lynching of real blacks was increasing in frequency. The Jim Crow Museum has many objects that show blacks being thrown at, hit, or beaten. We do not have the carnival banner -- but I could teach a lot with one.

I don't care for a minute which country has the worst history of dehumanising a racial minority. Hate is not a competition. I'm simply saying that American Blackface and Australian Blackface were completely different.

David Pilgrim talks about the need to talk about racism:

The mission of the Jim Crow Museum is straightforward: use items of intolerance to teach tolerance. We examine the historical patterns of race relations and the origins and consequences of racist depictions. The aim is to engage visitors in open and honest dialogues about this country's racial history. We are not afraid to talk about race and racism; we are afraid not to. I continue to deliver public presentations at high schools and colleges. Race relations suffer when discussions of race and racism are verboten. High schools that "sincerely" include race, racism, and diversity in their curriculums increase tolerance for others. It is relatively easy to identify those high schools that are afraid or unwilling to honestly examine race and racism. There you will find a 1950s-like pattern of everyday race relations. Racial stereotypes will dominate, though they may go unspoken. Inevitably, there will be a "racial incident," -- a racial slur hurled, a fight blamed on "the other," -- and there will be no relevant foundation laid for dealing with the problem, other than hiring me or a similar "diversity consultant" to restore order. The Jim Crow Museum is founded on the belief that open, honest, even painful discussions about race are necessary to avoid yesterday's mistakes.

The museum website shows some items that help illustrate just how sick the stereotype was/is becoming again.

It is hard to know what is or isn’t racist, but I’m troubled that innocent and often quite insignificant events are often made a lot bigger than they are. An overly zealous approach to be being politically risks reinforcement of the idea that racism – past or present – was or is more benign than was actually the case.

For example, this sort of rubbish is an insult to all of those who have ever been on the receiving end of the real sickos:

Monday, September 19, 2011

logs, eyes, and fangs


Bernie Mac (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008)

Guess Who is not just any old desert island dvd, it is my current ‘when I’m doing the ironing’ movie.
  • Far less cringeworthy than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • Humour evokes a visceral response
  • “Fangs retracted”
  • Playing nice
  • “Prejudice and bias there for all to see and deal with one way or another”
In my short career as a blogger I have been lucky enough to find some friends who happily exchange ideas in a tolerant and civilised fashion. Words cannot express what this means to me.

On the other hand, many of the comments on YouTube in relation to contentious issues – especially those from Australians – are hideous. I can only assert they do not represent the Australian population at large.

Dina’s discussion of my previous blog had me laughing in parts. [She has a very understated sense of humour]. She talks about “…one of Australian’s and American’s favourite game to play with each other… You’re More Racist Than We Are!...”
“We should put together a game show. Australians against Americans. You try to prove we’re racist and we’ll try to prove you’re more racist.”
[Such a show would possibly be more to my own personal taste than watching Pauline Hanson on Dancing With the Stars. Of course, this might just be because shows like Dancing with the Stars are not my cappuccino anyway.]

Dina’s blog contained a link to other blog posts dating back to the original Hey Hey Blackface Disgrace era.
A lot of the discussion threads contained some interesting points, some of which might help shine a light on this whole competition to see who is more racist. Later.
I must confess I was quite deliberate in my choice of the clip about The View panel commenting on the Hey Hey scandal.
In part it has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the two panel members who simply annoy the tripe out of me.
[What a weird expression! No one would ever get tripe into me let alone have to work for its extraction. Gross.]
Where was I? Oh yeah.

Ignoring rude Australian comments on YouTube, the reaction of Joy Behar and a lot of other news pundits about the Hey Hey thing explains a great deal of the Aussie response of “take the log out of your own eye”. What compounded the problem was that the story went viral.

I guess it went viral because HC Jr does deserve respect for speaking up. He did acknowledge that there was nothing malicious behind it, but his explanation of why Americans would find it offensive was lost on Australians because we really had no idea what he was talking about – especially at the time.

It’s not that we think one country is more or less racist than another so much as that many of the comments on the Hey Hey thing were so bloody smug and self-righteous. Few comments stuck to the issue of the day; instead they were used as some kind of poor excuse to judge the entire [non-indigenous?] population of Australia:

Joy Behar, for example: “We’re in what people like to call post-racial America right now, with Obama in office…”
Whoopi: “Is that what this is???”
Joy Behar: “Well I mean I’m not saying that it’s gone, but we’re trying to grow as a country; and that’s kind of a demeaning sketch that we would never do here any more.”

Sorry Joy. We are trying to grow too. Credit where it is due, please. And seriously, I’ll forgive you for laughing at Edna’s “click click click” if you’ll forgive us for laughing at it too.

As I said, HC Jr acknowledged that there was no malicious intent. At this point, we have an opportunity to learn, but we are not going to learn from being written off as a lost cause.
Dina raises the reasonable question a lot of us have already raised, which is how come it is okay for thin people to dress as fat, or men to dress as women etc etc but suddenly it’s not okay for non-African-Americans to cross-dress?

The problem, according to some, was that the Jackson Jive’s get up constituted blackface. I beg to differ.
  • the make up and the costumes did not conform to minstrel styles [e.g. white mouths, straw hats, big fuzzy coat buttons etc]
  • no one was portraying any kind of demeaning, Jim Crow character
This was not a skit intended to win a 5 million dollar prize at the end of a series, the competition is meant to be stupid and fun and the prize is a token gesture. Black boot polish and some reject store acrylic wigs were about the appropriate level of expense in dressing the parts.

If – and I’m not convinced – we ought to never again dress as people of the genetically African type because we might offend, why was The Other able to watch this on TCM about two months ago? 

[Embedding disabled, please use link]
Personally, I would hate to see films like this withdrawn from circulation, because that would amount to censorship of history. But given that this minstrel stuff is still everywhere, how on earth were we to understand its true significance?
Next time; australian blackface, and kamahl

Sunday, September 18, 2011

correct me - if i'm wrong

The first 3 minutes of this clip cracks me up for a number of reasons:

While I was away on hols, Andrew posted a report about allegations the song and show title “spicks and specks” has been branded racist by the PC Police.

I missed all the fun, but can’t help trying to add my own 2 cent’s worth.
The View is a particularly unwatchable show for a number of reasons, but I do remember searching for YouTube clips of their response to the Hey Hey It’s Saturday blackface brouhaha.

As Whoopi says, blackface has no context for Australians.

Joy Behar expects Australians to completely understand the significance of blackface, and censor themselves because of American history, yet felt no hesitation at all about joining in with Dame Edna’s joke about the Khoisan click languages. We must protect American sensibilities, but she doesn't have any duty of care to Africans. Interesting inconsistency.
From Wikipedia:

In 2003 Vanity Fair magazine invited Dame Edna to write a satirical advice column. She created a storm of controversy with a piece published in the February 2003 issue. Replying to a reader who asked if she should learn Spanish, she wrote:

"Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that ... Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?"

Some members of the Hispanic community read this reply as a racist remark and complaints flooded in to the magazine. Actress Salma Hayek responded angrily, penning a furious letter in which she denounced Dame Edna. After Vanity Fair received death threats, the magazine published a full-page apology to the Hispanic community.

Humphries commented later: "If you have to explain satire to someone, you might as well give up." 

When Dame Edna was questioned about the controversy on the eve of her 2003 Australian tour, she retorted that Hayek's denunciation was due to "professional jealousy", and that Hayek was envious because the role of painter Frida Kahlo (for which Hayek received an Oscar nomination) had originally been offered to Edna:

When I was offered the part of Frida I turned it down, and she was the second choice. I said 'I'm not playing the role of a woman with a moustache and a monobrow, and I'm not having same-sex relations on the screen' ... I'm not racist. I love all races, particularly white people. You know, I even like Roman Catholics.

A joke only gets a laugh if the audience finds it contains some truth.
  • The truth might be objective; e.g. the seemingly impossible click consonants of some African languages.
  • Or the truth might be totally subjective; e.g. the hint that Madonna uses African babies as fashion accessories, or that children can be cruel about the names of other children.
When Dame Edna insults short people, or Roman Catholics, or gay people, I’m not quick to take offense or feel insulted - I’m delighted. The truth she is selling is not that any of these groups ought to be second class people, but that members of these groups are sometimes treated as second class people.
Her satire relies on audience members being able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. 

Freud concluded that a large element of humour is reliant on schadenfreude.
This is often translated to mean the kind of delight in another’s misfortunes that makes it funny to see someone slip on a banana skin, or fun [for some people] to watch 'Funniest Home Videos'. Schadenfreude might be interpreted to mean we enjoy seeing others suffer, but I think what Freud was really on about was our capacity for empathy.

Without both empathy and the ability to react at a gut level, the world will never change for the better.

It is schadenfreude that makes the Dame’s joke about talking Spanish to a leaf-blower funny. What is funny is the idea that Spanish people are more likely to be viewed as little more than a tool,  not hate for Spanish speaking people.

When we can see that others are suffering AND this is combined with relief at our own good fortune,  we react to suffering at a very visceral level. Humour can generate a far more powerful and personal response than a million boring sermons [like this one I seem to be delivering].
Political correctness has a role to play in asking us to rethink some of our assumptions, and I certainly don’t advocate giving people carte blanche to be cruel or insensitive, or to preach hate.

But if we try to control what people think, and stop them from thinking at all, the world is going to become a very, very tragic place. 
If we are not allowed to notice difference, how can we celebrate it? 
If hate is ignorance and we can’t expose it, how can we ever learn from each other?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

oscar's law

I think/hope this clip contains the cricket moment Red Nomad OZ mentioned in her comments about flash mobs:

Sorry customers, but given Essendon’s appalling performance against Carlton, I'm in the mood to share something serious. If you don’t want to read about puppy farming and choose to move on today I’ll understand, but hope you come back to visit another time. [We're off for a week's hols to visit my Aunt.]

Firstly, I’d like to introduce you again to Miss M on the left and Mr D on the right.

Mr D came from a breeder who was a well known friend, and he’s now 8 years old. 
He is fit and well and happy [except for a touch of tennis ball related OCD]. He still has a complete set of perfectly healthy teeth.
Like most boy dogs, Mr D reached an age where the local vet said it was time for him to have a little operation, to avoid prostate problems later. The Other said we couldn’t possibly do that until he had a chance to make babies, hence the search for Miss M. 
Mr D’s breeder had some time ago taken a shine to Dandy Dinmonts, so The Other looked elsewhere for a female mini schnauzer, coming up with an address in Gippsland.

Miss M’s previous owner was not running a puppy farm, but when we turned up we saw that Miss M had been living in a shed. When the ‘human’ person let her out, she ran out onto the grass and did a wee that would put an elephant to shame. 
It was pretty obvious that the 'person' had, at the last minute, hacked all her hair off [possibly in a panicked attempt to remove hair that a simple set and comb up could not fix].

Miss M was very clingy and whiney, and had the sort of sway back that results from a poor diet. [We’ve since concluded she must have lived for several years on a diet of nothing but kibble].
Over a period of about 20 minutes, the vendor called Miss M. by 3 different names, never bothering to ask if we might be good owners. She then handed over some papers showing Miss M herself was not registered, but supposedly came from good stock.

We were told she travels well, then a few minutes later told she had no vaccination records because she had never been off the property. There was no point asking for the name of her vet.
Miss M wasn’t likely to produce many more puppies, but there was no way we could leave her there, so we handed over a lot of blood money and brought her home.

The next week we spent over 1400 dollars on fixing half her teeth and removing the rest, vaccinations, having her microchipped, claws cut back and cauterized etc.
She had no idea how to climb a step, or jump, and is just now learning to play - a little.

After 4 years, she has only 3 teeth left, but is finally becoming almost normal. Human males made her nervous at first, but The Other’s brother was staying with us for a while, and over the course of the next 3 months, they became inseparable.

After she’d had 2 beautiful puppies, she and Mr D both had their operations.
Secondly, I must tell you that before meeting The Other I had only ever had strays. Looking after them can be just as expensive as special breeds, because their stories are not always very pretty either.

My last girl, Gemma, had probably been dumped because she was pregnant. She gorged herself for the whole of her pregnancy and even after, but kept losing weight.
As soon as her 9 puppies were 6 weeks old I called some advertiser, saying I didn’t want any money, but the puppies needed a new home. Gemma needed help desperately, so I’d started to wean the puppies early.
I tried not to become too attached to them [but did manage to give them all names…]

I didn’t mind handing them over to the woman who came to collect them; she was obviously a great fan of animals, she spent a lot of time with them, and it was almost an hour before finally they followed her to her car as if she were the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The vet took 3 or 4 hours when he operated on the Gem, and what he described was horrifying.
When she recovered, Gemma went to a new home where she and an autistic boy each decided the other was pretty special.

I only tell you this to stress that not all puppies for sale in pet shops [like Gemma’s] are the result of puppy farming [though I would still prefer to discourage people buying puppies from pet shops].
Today, the magazine supplement to the Sunday paper carried an article about a campaign for ‘Oscar’s Law’, a proposal for national legislation that might put an end to a fairly horrific industry.

If you are interested, you’ll find more info at www.oscarslaw.org

another prayer

The only way I can remember the date of that dreadful day ten years ago is by remembering the emergency telephone number we hear all the time in U.S. crime shows on TV. 
Nine one one.

I know that many people of many nationalities, races, religions and political persuasions were affected by these events. 
Particularly telling, for me, were the shell-shocked reactions of Australian kids who – in the majority of cases – not only had no direct experience of war or terror, but had not grown up with a parent generation who had lived through and survived such a horrible time.

It’s not easy to reassure 10 or even 18 year olds with concepts like ‘isolated events’, or ‘strategic’ targets. The images of the towers collapsing were pure pornography, shown on a 24 hour loop and totally unavoidable. How could the improbability of a small country town in Australia attracting such terror be enough to help these kids sleep?

But beyond the personal experiences of so many around the world, our friends in the States are the ones who will be walking on eggshells for 24 hours. The rest of us will be thinking of or praying for them.

some birds have all the brains

Cockatoos are very gregarious animals and the bonds they form with humans can be very strong. 

Photo shamelessly used without permission of Leader Group

After 15 years of sitting freely on a perch in a Coburg [Vic] store, the Department of Sustainability and the Environment told the owner this 85 year old cockatoo must be caged.
Thankfully, with some legal aid, this cruel decision has been reversed.

These birds are amazing and can make great companions, not just highly intelligent but very loving. Or not just very loving but highly intelligent. The tragedy is that they often outlive their owners.
They can also be quite destructive and way too noisy for anyone with neighbours. There are stories of some people who make arrangements to pass birds on to the next generation but as a general rule it’s probably not a good idea to keep them as pets unless they are already old.

A day near the cocky cage at the Melbourne Zoo can be fun, especially as so many have been handed over in frustration because of the noise they make, or the owner has become too frail to care for them. If you only need to know one rude word in every language on earth to be a polyglot, the zoo is the place to do your training.

It’s long been an open secret that anyone who builds a cedar home in the country is asking for trouble: Cedar is irresistibly yummy. A canvas tent would be cheaper and would probably last longer.

But now, people in some Sydney suburbs are asking for a cull of cockatoos, because they are destroying heritage buildings – the sort which usually have wooden window frames and so on.
Parties to this problem are still considering options.

Apart from keeping house chooks in a pen to protect them from foxes [or the dogs of who-gives-a-hoot neighbours], it’s wrong to cage birds anyway unless they are going to have plenty of room in a decent sized aviary.
Budgies, I don’t mind so much because decent owners let them fly free most of the time, but keeping birds continuously locked on their own in tiny cages is rather barbaric.
[To be honest, while I was looking on YouTube for a clip about a happy cockatoo, I was sickened to see how many have been attacking themselves and stripping their feathers – a sure sign they are miserable.]

Last week the NSW Parks and Wildlife service issued a permit to execute a magpie for swooping a 13 year old girl.
Maggies of the bird variety are in the list of top ten things I love. They can be great house pets and rooly excellent watchdogs. But in the wild, if a stranger walks too close to their nests, they will swoop during the mating season.
As many Australians know from experience, when a magpie beak connects with a human head it can jolly-well hurt or draw blood.

Believing magpies don’t like eye contact, some people resort to painting a pair of big eyes on the top of a safety helmet.

Professor Gisel Kaplan from the University of New England says the eye trick is self-defeating, because it will just make the wearer look even more threatening.

Others suggest just wearing a plastic ice-cream container on your head. When I was a lot younger we didn’t have plastic ice-cream containers. [In fact, we never even had ice cream from cardboard containers, it was always home made and I never liked it anyway.]
So the trick we used was to just hold a stick up higher than our head when walking near nests, because they will only swoop at the highest part of a ‘predator’.

Does a magpie deserve to die for swooping a 13 year old girl? No.
What next? 
Vegemite flavoured crisps: An excellent source of two of the major food groups, salt and fat.
And finally, a special cornflake is being auctioned. Supposedly it will fetch a mint because of its uniquely Australian shape.
Photo shamelessly lifted from The Age 01/09/2011

Poor Tasmanians… overlooked again.

Of course, if it had the shape of the Lord's face it might become a tourist attraction rather than an auction item.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Flash Mob Performs Haka in Queenstown
[action begins about 60 seconds in after the traffic lights change]

A 2002 article says Swarming is a classic example of how once-isolated individuals are discovering a new way to organise order out of chaos, without guidance. It reverses the idea that geography, in an Internet age, has become irrelevant - the whole point is to bring people together in one location for face-to-face contact.

More recently, this sort of activity is being described as a Flash Mob. Wikipedia says
A flash is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, artistic expression or—in some cases—violence. [The 2005 Cronulla riots were described by one criminologists as a form of swarming.]

International Pillow Fight Day took place on March 22, 2008. Over 25 cities around the globe participated in the first "international flash mob", which was the world's largest flash mob to date.

San Francisco Pillow Fight

The most common examples of Flash Mobs I could find on YouTube were dance, with the spontaneity – and the responses of surprised bystanders – making the whole business so appealing

Michael Jackson’s Beat It


Some years ago we went to see Bette Midler’s extravaganza Kiss My Brass, and a few minutes into the second half her mic started to cut in and out. Eventually she stopped the show, telling the techs “these people have paid good Australian dollars to see this show, so let’s get it right”.
Everyone waited patiently for the problem to get sorted. And waited. Then we waited some more. we’d all paid a lot of money for a night of great fun, and just as one or two fools started complaining out loud, a hand full of people started a Mexican wave, which was a perfect way to keep the buzz happening while we waited.
[Eventually the show re-started and then ran smoothly.] 

Melbourne’s city square was originally just a wide open space. Experts and planners kept haggling over what to do with it, but I was chuffed with it the way it was. In 1972 Gough Whitlam addressed a crowd that simply wouldn’t fit into the square today, and I must say the mood was rather positive.
But most days, something was happening, even if it was just people sitting in the sun to eat their lunch. One day some students pushed a piano all the way down from RMIT and started an impromptu singalong. We didn’t have video cameras to record the event, but everyone was beaming.

Dance crazes are good because, with the exception of those handicapped by a total lack of rhythm, just about everyone can join in and “belong” with a mob of perfect strangers; think the Bus Stop, Nutbush, the Hustle or even just C & W line-dancing.

In my wild imagination, I see protests turning into Flash Mob Dance sessions. For a few years, John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice” played clearly during the Palm Sunday Peace Marches. No idiots ever came along to hijack the marches or turn them ugly.

In fact, forget the protests, let's just cut straight to the fun. Bollywood, anyone?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Today, the term ‘redneck’ is associated with unbridled American nationalistic fervour, guns, pick-up trucks and behaviour generally recognised as typical of ‘white trash’.

The term redneck originated as a reference to the red necks acquired by dirt poor farmers as they toiled outside.
Following the green [as in agricultural rather than environmentalist] revolution, former farmers moved to cities in search of labouring jobs. They began to wear red scarves as a sign of their solidarity, working through the union movement to achieve better pay and conditions.
Identifying as a redneck was not, originally, part of a pro Republican or pro capitalist movement at all.

In his highly readable book Rainbow Pie, A Redneck Memoir, Joe Bageant talked about “the often-heartbreaking post-war journey of 22 million rural Americans into the cities, where they became the foundation of a permanent white underclass”. Over time, their allegiance shifted from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Bageant [1946-2011] was an eloquent, class-conscious autodidact who argued that “with the 'corporatisation' of the United States, Middle-America has become so politically disillusioned that it is now voting against its own economic self-interest.”

His memoir begins with a description of what was, for generations, an almost self-sufficient farming life-style in small but cohesive communities. These people were so independent that they lived, for the most part, with little need for cash or a fancy education.
His parents and grandparents had lived a simple life, believing in the Bible and the virtue of hard work and independence.

From the Great Depression of the 1930s, through WW II and the Korean War, growing corporations progressively ate up and consolidated small farm holdings. Able to afford and make full use of expensive farming equipment, chemical based increases in crop yields and widely established distribution networks, these companies changed the nature of agriculture and left these 'simple' [white] people looking for alternative ways and places to live, creating a new white underclass.

Bageant’s writing is intelligent and convincing, and comes from a decidedly class-based interpretation of the world. Far from racist or expressing any kind of superiority, he refers to the way the gross exploitation of African Americans gave corporations a lever to pit blacks against whites, and keep both groups suppressed.

His father had had brief flirtations with several organisations, including the Klan. These organisations, in parallel with today’s ‘service’ groups like Rotary or the Freemasons, offered opportunities to ‘network’ with people who had similar aspirations or problems, and might be able to work together or exchange useful information.
He was not remotely interested in oppressing African-Americans, or wearing a pillow-case over his head, and his association with the Klan ended as soon as he worked out what they were really on about. It was not in the nature of these proudly independent people to be told what to think or do.

It would seem that these displaced American rednecks once had a great deal of faith in America.

If they have become right wing and now voice strong patriotic sentiments, it may be that they have been disappointed by the [Democrats]/ government’s failure to provide the services or assistance which would have allowed them to become independent again, to make their own way in the world and to once again live the American dream. 
That dream is not just about the idea that anyone who tries hard can get rich, or that materialism is inherently good, but about being able to accept responsibility for oneself through honest work.

My guess is that the faith they once had in America has become a hope that America will once again become a country to which they'll feel they can truly belong. Or they believe it is theirs and they must take it back.
Already disenfranchised, the handing out of favours and social support to so many other groups - especially newcomers - is part of the reason they've not had the leg up they were counting on. Ongoing and never-ending reliance on government is not on their agenda, but what they do see is that government increasingly abandons them, because government is increasingly controlled by/seen to be favouring big business. And big business is what screwed them in the first place.

And so they cling to their belief in the bible and the constitution, and seek the minimisation of government – a return to the days when they were almost self-sufficient, had little to do with government, and lived in small, caring, viable communities.
Britain, in contrast, is a small remnant of Empire, and empire is a concept totally dependent on the notion of class divisions. Class is not new to Britons so much as a fact of life.

The post World War II reconstruction era in Britain became a time when there was no choice but to resort to a little socialism. Where slums and hovels had been destroyed in wartime, or people displaced, there simply was no way to reconstruct the poor conditions which had existed before 1939.
The establishment of new housing estates - distant from the locations where communities once had lived, marked the beginning of the end of the British sense community, and a process of separation which occurred once again along class lines. Families which had once shared buildings and streets found themselves scattered geographically by the need to take housing where it was available.

The nationalisation of health was not optional; without healthy males – now depleted in number as a result of the war – re-construction was a big ask, and there was simply no time to wait for private enterprise to rebuild the health system which had existed before the war, let alone one adequate to the task of enabling national reconstruction.

Enoch Powell’s calls for repatriation of “non-Britons” to their original corners of the old empire were not successful, but they reflected a British unwillingness to share with colonials the little they had. Forget that the Empire was originally built on theft, or that colonies had come to their aid during the six years they struggled to protect their own homeland.

If it is human nature to resist change, it is also human nature to resent having something taken away by others. As times and technology changed and whole regions in Briton suffered enormous unemployment growth, the need for structural adjustment was becoming urgent. The great cotton mills and shipyards which had once employed cities full of people, generation after generation, shut down.

Some years later, the long strikes by coal miners, and the riots which broke out when Thatcher announced her poll tax, established a pattern for future expressions of frustration as disenfranchisement and disenchantment grew. The turn of the century has brought with it the need for even more structural adjustment, and the outbreak of rioting in 2011 is the sort of unrest that will continue as more changes are effected or worse yet neglected.
Unfortunately, this change is unlikely to spread benefits amongst those already living as strangers in their own land.

The rise and rise of the National Front, of tribalistic football hooliganism, is a form of patriotism that does not embrace ideals in the way America’s rednecks do. It’s more likely just the cohesive force of a common desire to keep what little there is, for themselves.

And so what of Australia? Some suburbs, more than others, carry the disparaging title “Centrelink City”. These are the suburbs or country towns of transgenerational unemployment and disenfranchisement. 

While state and federal governments bicker over the appointment of [Christian] school chaplains, or insist on teaching non-negotiable values and beliefs [such as the political correctness which is beginning to stifle freedom of speech], the underclass is becoming increasingly alienated from the workplace. Education is focused on “good community values” at the expense of practical skills that will open up work opportunities, and open up the door to welcome the underclass back into mainstream Australia.

The phrase “structural adjustment” is simply not heard enough, but it is a pressing economic, political and social issue. We ignore the need for this radical type of change at our own peril.
Manufacturing industries which have already been heavily subsidised in the past to help people remain employed, are breaking down and shutting down. Footwear, clothing and even service industries are shifting offshore.
Australian fruit growers have long competed with countries like the United States or the Philippines. Perhaps the lifting the long term ban on New Zealand apples is yet another wake up call we will ignore. We don't need to work harder but we do need to work different.

It is in our Centrelink Cities that people are more severely hit by and more keenly aware of the failure of government. The phrase “structural adjustment” might not cross their minds, but they are all too well aware of its meaning. 
It is in Centrelink Cities that one is most likely to see those horrible bumper stickers which feature a map of Australia and the legend F*** off we’re full.

Small wonder that the asylum seeker issue is a favourite political football.
Small wonder foreign commentators have taken to interpreting asylum seeker policy as the rise of the racist redneck.
I think Joe Bageant was on to something. 
Nothing pushes people to the right more effectively than political disillusionment. 
If the government will not give us anything meaningful, then we don’t need government. In fact, let’s reclaim our country from the government and remind them the country is ours, nobody else’s.

All governments are faulty or self-serving or puppets in one way or another, and they probably both score the same in terms of incompetence whether left or right. The difference between left and right, however, is in the volume of incompetence we get.

My prediction, and probably that of many others, is that at the next election there will not only be a dramatic landslide in favour of the Liberal Party – ALL of their many shortcomings not withstanding – but it will be a very, very long time before the Greens or Independents will again have much of a presence in parliament at all.