Sunday, February 26, 2012

fruitcake's mistake

Yesterday when I opened my Blogger Dashboard I found some comments awaiting moderation which I read and then deleted. I now wish I hadn’t.
One of them was a comment on my post about Magda Szubanski’s support for gay marriage legislation.

Firstly, the author referred to Magda’s comment that some gays are reluctant to come out while there is a risk young family members might be subject to abuse.

My reference to the abuse of youngsters because they are somehow associated with gays was not the tactical error the author implied it was. The reference to abuse was in no way a concession that gays are selfish for exposing those around them to potential harm. 

The bullying of young people by their peers is not okay.
Not ever.

Bullying is usually “justified” on one flimsy excuse or another. If a bully’s target were not somehow associated with gays, the bully would fabricate some other “reason” for his or her aggression. This aggression is not the responsibility of a victim’s gay relatives, it is behaviour for which the bully him/her self must take full responsibility.

The bullying of young people is a pastime of those who have not been shown, by the good example of the adults in their life, that all life deserves respect. For this reason I believe the author’s reference to the abuse of youngsters was not a tactical error on my part, but rather a tactical error on his/her part. Presumably the author identifies as heterosexual and has portrayed him/her self as someone who thinks bullying is normal, or okay, or inevitable in some circumstances.
This lack of a good example is something for which adults must take responsibility.

Secondly, what I hope is that scuze i is a forum for the considered exchange of ideas. I am not always right, but I am prepared to learn from others, and I believe adults should be able to agree to disagree.

The comment I deleted had a tone which put me in mind of question time in parliament, where the behaviour is appalling, and the points scored are points scored for their own sake, and totally lacking merit.

I do not plan to approve or publish comments which are rude, or seek to denigrate my blog-world friends.

Monday, February 20, 2012

a reply to Dina's reply

While trying to reply to Dina’s reply to Gattina’s comment on my post “more on magda and marriage” some text kept disappearing from the "comment box" because I talk too much.
This post is just an extension of that conversation with the full text of what I was trying to say.

Gattina said:

I have nothing against gay marriages as long as they don't want to adopt a child !

I replied:

Hi Gattina, I'm glad we agree about gay marriage.
With respect to children, I can understand your doubts but will disagree. There are already gay people in Australia who have children.

Maybe the real problem is how to make sure ALL parents - whether gay or not - will be good parents.

to which Dina replied:

What ARE the doubts? Are there any that exist outside religiously-inspired prejudices?

It seems to me that two mothers or two fathers could be as capable of taking care of children as a mother/father pair or a single mother or single father.

Or they could be as awful as some straight or single parents.

I don't think gender has that much influence on parenting.

If a child shouldn't be adopted by gay parents; is it better that they have no parents? Better that they have unloving and/or abusive parents?
The whole of what I was trying to say:

I tried to reply to Dina’s reply:

Hi Dina,
I suspect there are still many people who have doubts about the wisdom of letting gay people adopt, and I would like to address that part of your comment first.
The people of the generations who dealt with WWII and its immediate aftermath are now the elders in our communities, and I'm prepared to accept they are a product of a time and place which no longer exists in the west. They deserve a little credit, perhaps, for some of the social changes which have happened in their lifetime. If they were not all responsible for initiating change, many of them have nonetheless responded to the changes in good faith and not necessarily from a position of hate.

Over the past few decades we've learned an awful lot about abuse by too many people in "social or charitable" positions of authority, and as someone who was raised a Catholic it pains me to know that too many of my "own" have been responsible for a range of crimes including physical or sexual assault, mental cruelty, exploitation of children for slave labour, and the transportation of children to fill anticipated labour force needs.
The good news is that these social and religious authorities are now reaping what they have sown, and are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the generations they once claimed to serve. I'm enjoying watching these arseholes squirm. I'm enjoying the death throes of religiously inspired prejudices. Yes, these prejudices were/are religiously inspired and supported. The influence of religion is different from one country to another, but it's shrinking . If anything, the increasingly strident calls on god to justify hate are evidence that the influence of religiously inspired prejudices is waning.

The rules of logic would tell me I shouldn't argue from the particular to the general. On the other hand my own experiences are all I have to go on. I've grown up listening to most [though not all] older people parroting ideas they've never questioned. In this, they were only doing what I have always done, which is filter the world through my own [limited] personal experiences.
Their unquestioned ideas caused me quite a bit of anguish when I was younger, and made me wonder if they would be as hostile to me as the rest of the world if I began to live a more openly gay lifestyle. Thankfully, they were willing and able to question these assumptions when the issues became personal, and see me as a person rather than just as a "difference", and they didn't need any coaxing. In fact, in my whole vastly extensive Irish Catholic family, only one person let me down - and it wasn’t my grandmother who was born in 1902.

The more we learn of the abuse of authority, the more these issues become personal to people who once parroted ideas without questioning them. People like the man in Dunnolly who knows 44 poofs and thinks they are okay has shifted from an unquestioned idea to a positive idea based on his personal experience.
He's no longer neutral but an active campaigner for reason in his own way.

Then there are people like yourself - I doubt you've ever been neutral about anything. You have a passion for reason and justice and have probably always questioned everything. The unfortunate reality is this doesn't make other people “wrong”, so much as it just makes you special. But neutrality is a disappearing norm.

The second point you make, which is spot on, is that gender and sexuality have bugger all to do with the quality of parenting. Again, the neutrals have little to go on except their own personal experiences. To some extent, the power of the pulpit has been replaced by the power of media, and the media can't even claim to come from some inherently good place.

What's unspoken in the unquestioned "they shouldn't adopt" idea is partly the assumption that all poofs are paedophiles and all paedophiles are poofs. Of course this is crap.
Our man in Dunnolly, through personal experience, can be counted on to know this is crap. If he ever once believed or said gay people shouldn't adopt, it was probably because he thought the welfare of children was more important than gay rights.

I’m all for abandoning religious prejudice, and I guess for me the scriptures have been replaced by a new benchmark: to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr, in a better world, people will be judged for the content of their character.
This is not just the right ideal, but it is a value which I have always believed is one of the best things about the real Australia as I see it.

There are public figures in Australia who, I agree, have no excuse for their doubts. Julia Gillard's position on gay marriage is as despicable as it is inexplicable. It totally fails the “content of character” test.

Jeff Kennett recently jumped on the "all children need a mother and father" bandwagon. In this, he reveals himself as someone who is not prepared to allow either logic or personal experience to challenge his preconceived notions.
He was responsible for a huge mental health organisation, but could not see the role of prejudice in suicide.
He sees the same appalling stories in the media that I do - for example a "father" prepared to throw his little girl off a bridge just to spite his ex-wife. Well, examples abound but let's not make ourselves sick.
It seems he’s no more interested in the content of people’s character than Julia.

what next?

Who leaked this footage? Was it someone from the Julia camp, or just a Liberal stooge?

One of the first public criticisms of Rudd’s leadership was that he was too obsessed with the daily media cycle. But was it all about spin, or was he simply trying to beat the media at their own game?

I had thought the recent media focus on who caucus hates most – Julia or Kevin – was a beat up. The tragedy for Julia is that she could not get on top of the rumours, and has done nothing terribly positive outside this issue to take back control of her image.

But nothing shows who frames the debate or who is deciding what questions are important than this clip of Rudd doing a dummy spit. No wonder Kev was obsessed with trying to control the media cycle. Politicians seem to be more accountable to the media than to voters – so much so that I feel not just impotent but that, as a voter, I am being manipulated.

If the media really frames all political debate, maybe the question is not one of whether we truly get the government we deserve, but one of whether we get the media we deserve.


Rudd is reputed to be a bit of a perfectionist, reputed not to be a team player, and reputed to be someone who does his block over trivial things [like crappy sandwiches on a long flight].

While I don’t know that it’s okay to swear at an innocent flight attendant over someone else’s failure to provide decent food, I must admit that I have, from time to time, lost my temper and used bad words just the way Rudd does in this clip.
It doesn’t change my impression of him one bit.

God help us if the media gets wind of some politician breaking wind.


It does the Liberal Party no credit that Tony Abbott has had their loyalty for so long. If they stood for anything, they would want to be represented by a spokesman prepared to tell us what that is.

What the leak suggests is that the ALP is a party at war with itself.
And if the party is at war with itself, this is because it doesn’t stand for anything, any more than the Liberal Party does.

If no one wins elections, but simply takes power by default because they are the lesser of two evils, who will win the next election? Who do you choose when there’s not even anything left to scrape from the bottom of the barrel?


The Westminster tradition of having the leader chosen by the majority party in parliament is no longer workable, for the majority party no longer sets the agenda or frames public debate. At the moment it seems the media pulls all the strings. Unfortunately, the media is no more offering any leadership or vision than the major parties.

We are leaderless and – no pun intended – rudderless.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – to myself as usual if that’s the best I can manage – the person who represents this country and sets an agenda and vision for parliament should be chosen directly by voters. It must be someone who is free to speak their mind, not someone beholden to a bunch of movers and shakers.

A reasonably independent agenda would hold parliament accountable, by framing debate and asking those who work against this elected vision to explain themselves.
The corollary of this is that any directly elected leader would be held openly accountable by parliament, not simply threatened behind closed doors.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

more on magda and marriage

[If you are over the Magda story by now, you probably won’t be very interested in this post. If so, I do apologise, and promise normal transmission will resume soon. But do check out this Smack The Pony sketch before you go!]

While I originally thought Magda’s coming out might be something of an anti-climax – and I did miss the big event on the teev – some of the comments she made on ABC’s Breakfast Radio started me thinking.

It’s only during the lifetime of too many of us that homosexuality has become legal in all Australian states and territories, similarly it’s only relatively recently that we’ve had the right to nominate a same sex partner as the beneficiary of our superannuation.

Well, now that we aren’t being tossed in jail or robbed of our life saving’s, why should we care about the right to marry?

I must confess I’ve been rather lukewarm on the whole gay marriage thing in the past, mainly because Kevin 07 promised all the remaining discrimination had been sorted. This turned out to be a porkie, given gay people cannot qualify for a Prospective Marriage Visa.*

Kids are still committing suicide, or being kicked out of their home for coming out, and some poofta bashing is still happening.

Every time someone like Magda puts their hand up, gays become human again for a while, rather than just a statistic.
No Magda doesn’t think she’s particularly brave, Karen Phelps et al have made their own sexuality public before this and help lay the groundwork. Having lived openly as gay herself, Magda simply thought "coming out officially" would open up the media and provide a forum for a discussion on the gay marriage legislation presented to parliament.

She makes a good point that people don’t stay in the closet for no good reason [e.g. nephews, children etc at school who shouldn’t be at risk of bullying for someone else’s “crime”.]

Magda values love above the promotion of shame and fear and victimisation – and if public acceptance is enshrined in the law then it sets a better standard.

I would add that “tolerance” is not the same thing as “acceptance”. When some complain that allowing same sex couples to marry would cheapen the institution of marriage, that is merely tolerance rather than acceptance speaking.

Presenter Fran Kelly threw a quote from Julia Gillard into the breakfast show discussion:
I think there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future; for our culture, for our heritage – marriage being between a man and a woman.

But marriage, Magda said, is a symbolic union of 2 souls - gender is not the core issue. If marriage wasn’t flexible, if it hadn’t evolved, it would have gone the way of the dodo bird.

After my previous [rather hasty] post about Magda, Windsmoke and Andrew’s comments on yesterday's post prodded a little more activity between the ears.

If our sporting heroes in general, and AFL champions in particular, are reluctant to come out as gay, then there is one truly disgusting double standard at play [in addition to our Prime Minister’s incomprehensible stance on the issue].

Our whole legal system is underpinned by two articles of faith; the sanctity of property, and the notion that we should do no harm.

Why is it then that AFL players can get away with what they get away with?

I don’t particularly care whom Wayne Carey bonks, nor understand why any woman would even go near him, but it’s not okay for him to grab the breasts of a woman he has never met and tell her her breasts aren’t big enough. His subsequent behaviour doesn't really seem to indicate any remorse or attempt to get his act together.

I don’t pretend to understand addiction well enough to judge Ben Cousins, but, let’s face it, he has let a lot of other people down as well as himself.

It strikes me then as a tad unfair that so many players can be forgiven just about anything, or even have our support and prayers for their rehabilitation, while others are held to another standard.

Matthew Newton** doesn't seem to be getting quite the same level of forgiveness - is this because his family are seen as "ours" while footballers are deified in the "them" category? On the other hand, is he getting fairer treatment than an identifiably gay person would get under the same circumstances?

Garden variety gays who quietly get on with their lives, inflicting no harm or distress on others, for the most part have to keep reinforcing the idea that they are more human and less threatening than commonly perceived by some.

*So long as the definition of marriage remains confined to “a man and a woman”, an alternative solution would be to change the Immigration Act to include gay couples.

**Matthew Newton is the son of a long loved TV family: His father Bert something of an Australian Johnny Carson.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

shock horror magda admits she's a desi arnez- prime minister still unmoved

Magda Szubanski came out last night on Channel 10's the Project, talking about proposed changes to Australia's laws to permit same sex marriage. It was possibly Australia’s worst kept secret, but she felt it was time to make a public stand.

Some of us who are older may or may not feel coming out was more difficult 30 or 40 years ago than it is today, but as Mazda points out, young teenagers are still committing suicide because of the problems they face in dealing with their sexuality.

The following [rather dated] sketch shows just how subtle some anti gay messages can be, especially at home where most of us assume there might be unconditional love, or at least hope for a little tolerance.

Monday, February 13, 2012

the year of brendan brodie

Brendan Brodie was the most envied boy enrolled at Our Lady Help of the Hopeless; he was never there. None of us students had ever seen Brendan, but we had all heard of him. Every morning after assembly Sister Mary Tortia would lead us in a prayer for Brendan’s recovery. His family had come out from England and enrolled Brendan in our school, only to learn he had some unpronounceable illness. He had never attended a single class.

We finally saw Brendan one morning after playlunch. We always had arithmetic after playlunch, and Sister Mary Confusia had just written a sum on the blackboard which said:

Divide £64/17/11 evenly between 17 people.

Sister had a very special way of stabbing the blackboard with her chalk, to make sure her i’s were dotted and her pound signs crossed. After she finished writing on the board she would usually add a few extra stabby dots just for the heaven of it, and this morning was no exception. She stood back to admire her handiwork.

If doing plain long division was Purgatory, trying to do long division with LSD [pounds shillings and pence] was my first glimpse of Hell. I still couldn’t even rule red lines properly without getting finger bumps in them from where I was holding the ruler.

Normally we put the letters AMDG at the top of every page of our exercise books to remind us our work should glorify God. For arithmetic, however, I preferred the more direct cry for help, JMJ.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph [I place my trust in thee]” was a popular ejaculation, as it would obtain an indulgence of seven years each time it was said. [An indulgence is the Catholic equivalent of a remission of one’s sentence, or time off Purgatory for good behaviour. It was not until years later I would learn of another sort of ejaculation; a different type of indulgence which could only add to one’s sentence.]

We were forbidden to use biros, not just because they were expensive and could lead to a sin of pride, but because they were designed by the devil, a protestant, to induce slovenly writing habits in Catholic kids. I scratched away with my fountain pen, praying the inky mess would conceal my ineptitude. I wrote:

£64 ÷ 17 = 3 with £13 remainder.
Convert £13 to shillings:

It was just then, when I thought that even Our Lady Help of the Hopeless couldn’t save me, Brendan opened the classroom door. At first we didn’t know who he was, but we didn’t care. He didn’t stay long; just the few moments it took to open the door, produce a couple of armpit raspberries, and run off. Our prayers were answered.

When Sister Mary Succour, the Principal, went to visit Brendan’s parents they were surprised to hear about Brendan’s illness, and he was exposed as a brilliant but shameless forger.

Mr Brodie found the only way to get Brendan to school was to escort him right up to Sister Confusia, our grade teacher, and hand him over. From time to time he would just get up and run away, but eventually he came to think of school as fun.

Within hearing of the nuns, Brendan spoke only arpy-darpy. To speak arpy-darpy, thereby becoming unintelligible to all but the most practised speakers, one simply inserted the syllables arp or darp into normal words at regular intervals.

When Sister Confusia said “Good morning, class”, Brendan would answer “garpood marpornarping”. When Sister said The Lord’s Prayer, Brendan would begin with “Ourpy Farpytharper”. When Sister upset Brendan, he would smile beguilingly and tell her to “Garpet F’darpucked”.

It was Brendan who told us that the seed pods from plane trees make great itchy powder. It was Brendan who told us how to paint pennies silver and pass them off as two bob bits. More importantly, it was Brendan who had an endless supply of deener sized washers: We could play pinball machines for hours and, eventually, when the coin box was full, every washer dropped in would force a real shilling out of the coin return.

We felt so close to him it hurt us too whenever Sister Mary Tortia, herself the very model of a modern Corporal Punishment, gave him the strap.

Brendan, we discovered, was a child genius. He could not only work out long division of pounds, shillings, and pence: When the government announced our currency was going decimal in a few years’ time, he was the only one who could work out the new, simpler system. He could quickly calculate, for example, that a motor car which cost 999 Guineas today would cost $2,097.90 in the new money. He warned us that a Coke bottle which was now worth threepence [and which would therefore buy 12 licorice blocks] would soon be worth only two cents [or eight licorice blocks]. He also correctly predicted that we would have trouble buying anything with halfpennies unless we had two of them together.

Sister Mary Confusia could not adapt at all. Every time she wrote on the blackboard, her stabby chalk would leave little decimal points all over the place, making it difficult for her to divide the new money up amongst the average sized Irish Catholic family. [Seventeen was the number of children recommended to those with a special devotion to St Patrick, as his feast day is the 17th March.]

At Brendan’s urging, we all developed crossed nibs, causing little decimal dots of ink to flick all over our exercise books. Sister relented and permitted us to use biros for arithmetic.

Not long after our world went decimal, Catholic services became vulgar. Priests now faced the congregation to say mass, and could see who was fidgeting in Church. [They could also see who was still sneaking halfpennies into the collection plate.] Nuns developed new, ugly little habits, and Brendan’s parents decided to go home to England.
Brendan promised he would come back one day, even if he had to forge his own ticket and passport.

He probably did.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

the rich is gettin’ richer quicker

The other day in The Age there was a reference to something called the Gini Co-efficient. Off goes I to the OECD website to see how this works, only to feel my eyes glazing over and my brain going into a flap when I found the answer.

On moves I quickly – for health reasons – to Plan B, which was to look for something written in English rather than Numberish. [Perhaps the word “numb” is derived from the same root as the word “number”?]

Anyway, here’s the story as at 2011:

In OECD countries today, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% – a ratio of 9 to 1. However, the ratio varies widely from one country to another.

It … reaches 10 to 1 in Italy, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom; around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey, and the United States; and 27 to 1 in Mexico and Chile.

So now it’s official: In dollar terms I’m dancing the two steps forward three steps backward uh-oh.

If we don’t think the gap is morally wrong, we might at least think it doesn’t contribute much to social cohesion.

I’ve always been impressed by the idea of personal responsibility. There’s no question that I’ve made some dumb choices over the years, and failed to make the most of some of the opportunities given to me. Gosh, I’ve even failed to make the most of opportunities to create opportunities.

On the other hand, some have more opportunities to create opportunities than others.


During the great era of privatisation in Australia, Jeff Kennett was premier of Victoria. Recently, while rabbiting on about the government propping up the car industry, he said socialism

“is defined as "a political system which advocates public ownership of industries, resources and transport".

I would define it as the irresponsible use and waste of public monies in the absence of good policy with a single purpose: to buy political support.”

It’s a pity he has tried to pass off the crime of buying votes as socialism. Every democratic country has an economy that is mixed; that is part socialist and part free market:
  • Those holding socialism up as a bogeyman, more often than not, are usually looking for an excuse to avoid doing something about the gap between rich and poor. [The corollary is that those who hold free markets up as ideal are usually in the top 10% of rich folks].
  • Public ownership of industries, resources and transport is not such a great evil either.

There is something rather shortsighted about selling our agricultural land to overseas interests. Why aren’t we holding on to the means to feed ourselves? At the very least we should be just leasing the land, rather than flogging it off.

There is something rather shortsighted about handing over control of our public transport systems to overseas operators, even if just on long term contracts.

And as our electricity and gas bills are proving, the great god free enterprise has not necessarily done a better job of providing essential services than the public service used to do.

Large companies can be as bureaucratic and inefficient as any public service arm. Some private employees can get away with being as slack or demotivated as the worst public servants, while the majority in either sector are more productive and motivated when they are treated with respect.

When I look at joint ventures between governments and private enterprise [e.g. Victoria’s desalination plant] I’m not seeing proof that the public service is as great an evil as it has been painted.

The public service is not inherently evil. With the right public servants, we get the benefit of experience, as well as stability in tender processes and contract administration. [Think insulation batts.]

The only thing wrong with the public service is that it can be abused by governments - on either side of politics - as a job creation tool. It's governments that do the abusing, not the public service, just as it's governments that decide which industries or companies to prop up with public money.

Free market theory holds that if a company goes broke it’s either inefficient or it’s making something nobody wants. This sort of thinking has no place in the area of essential services.

Essential services are, by definition, the services we rely on to keep our world [and economy] running. When the electricity supply in any city in the world comes to a halt, it’s a disaster.

Everybody wants electricity, and while we have government approved “watchdogs” to protect citizen consumers, these private operators will not go broke if they are inefficient, they will simply charge more.

As every person who does unpaid work around the home knows, [whether doing the laundry or fixing their own washing machine], price is not the only measure of what can benefit people.

Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a perfectly free market. There is a role for governments to play in the market place,
  • making it as free as possible [so there are incentives to succeed, reward for risk etc]
  • making it accountable to “the people” [just because a free market exists for heroin does not mean it makes the world a better place]

What we are lacking here is not the great benefits of private enterprise so much as the accountability side of the equation.


The car industry is a massive creator of jobs and, even if the companies are owned by overseas interests, the job losses involved if they leave the country would be incalculable.

Successive governments on both sides of politics have, from time to time, propped up industries to keep people in jobs. The only thing wrong with this is we don’t always get a share of the profits: Businesses [Australian owned or otherwise] for some reason can get great injections of money, with no obligation to repay anything in the event of a profit. They then sell off a hunk of assets and give nothing back to the government, because the assets are not secured in any way.

This is neither free enterprise nor socialism, it’s just stupid government.


Like many industries, the car industry in Australia is suffering because of the high value of the Australian dollar.

The high value of the Australian dollar is largely due to a mining boom.

The stuff in the ground being mined belongs to all Australians. This is not socialism, this has been law in English style colonies/countries for a thousand years. That’s why mining companies have to pay royalties to the government.

Taxes have always been used, not just to raise revenue, but to influence behaviour. If we want to encourage people to take out private health insurance, we subsidise it. If we want to discourage something damaging, we not only tax it but manipulate the tax involved to get the amount of activity just so.

The super-profit mining tax was not just about revenue raising, or even envy or resentment of private investor success. If it’s damaging the rest of the economy, the level of mining activity should be manipulated and taxes are the way to do it.

One party watered down its proposed super profit mining tax, the other objected to the tax altogether.
The failure to control an industry so damaging to the rest of us is, in part, based on the notion that the industry is creating jobs.

Is it creating more jobs than it is destroying?

Every country needs a quota of relatively unskilled jobs, but how many of these mining jobs are unskilled?

How many mining jobs will disappear as the industry becomes increasingly automated? [Think of trains which already run hundreds of miles without so much as a driver.]

Why are we eagerly selling so much ore and other stuff we’ve dug up without even processing some of it first? 

No resources are infinite, and every other industry has to adapt to cheap labour in overseas countries. There seems little difference between selling raw unprocessed materials [and letting people overseas do the value-adding], and sending many other jobs [such as telephone room operations] offshore.


Jeff Kennett has this all wrong, and what is going wrong and causing the gap between rich and poor to grow is not socialism – it’s actually taking ownership and control and benefits from the people and giving preference to private enterprise and large corporations and even filthy rich individuals.

This has been done before. It was done not quite a hundred years ago by three blokes who thought private enterprise was everything. Their names were Hitler, Mussolini and Franco.

Way to go, Jeff.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

more exclamation marks than you can poke a stick at ! ! ! !

As a kid I loved going into Coles* and looking at all the “stuff” I could buy if I had sixpence. Many a Saturday morning was spent walking up and down the aisles, fondling the merchandise. The texture and smell of stationery is as good as that of a rich chocolate cake any day, but I think my favourite smell was California Poppy Hair Oil.

Now that Coles has changed beyond recognition, I look forward to the arrival of a quarterly seniors’ club magazine. Forget the mag – it’s the junk mail inserts that make compelling reading.
There is a mind boggling array of useful things one can buy for just a few dollars plus p&p, but that’s not all: The catalogues are printed on art paper that doesn’t smell half bad at all.

But wait, there’s more! These catalogues now come with wrap-around competitions, scratchies and other innovative marketing ideas.

One company assures me I am the ONLY PERSON IN AUSTRALIA to receive the WINNING CLAIM NUMBER 23530737 and if I order within 14 days I will definitely receive $25,000 cash OR a stunning sapphire ring OR $5,000 cash OR an elegant Seiko watch.
Just in case I’m sceptical, there are photos of real winners who said they didn’t believe real people really won these prizes.
[I hope this sense of deja vu is not a sign of something sinister.]

All I need to do to enter is order something. So much to choose from, I don't know where to start:

No garden looks complete without a set of 4 cute meerkats.

Ever had to soak your feet for a few hours before attacking your toenails with a chainsaw?

Have trouble reading those digital clock displays?

see time in the dark

If the glow in the dark doo-hickey don’t do it, you could project the time onto your wall so you won’t need to rummage for your specs in the wee small hours.

If you’ve bought or inherited a very attractive couch and want to protect it…these elegant protectors might do the trick:

buy the whole set and save
I'll never know if I can be creative if I don't try one of these:

turn fruit and vegies into unique candle holders

How do I know this snail mail sale stuff is targeting my own demographic?
Because the mere thought of shopping is exhausting, and I always need a rest halfway to the car:

shopping cart with seat

“No need for speed
if you’re caught short”
Safety Warning: Talking on a mobile phone and driving while using the Portable Urinal is against the law.

sturdy plastic with a spill proof cap
and feminine adapter
perfect for long trips - keep one in your car

*The first Coles discount store opened in Collingwood, Victoria, in 1914. The “3d, 6d, and 1/-”variety store was founded by George James Coles, who had studied U.S. and U.K. chainstore retailing methods.
In 1919 a much larger store was opened, again in Collingwood, with the slogan “Nothing over 2/6d.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

this week in spring street

With Ted at the helm, Victoria now has a single regulator for both the alcohol and gaming industries.
“There is no truth at all to the rumour”, the Premier said, “that we will be regulating for mandatory precommitments when people buy liquor.”
“Grog and gambling create jobs and contribute to the GDP,” he went on to say, “and if anyone is going to test changes, it should be the Federal Labor Party, using Canberra as a representative sample of the population at large.”
Pending the results of such a trial, the Minister for Transparent Government has announced the Night Rider buses used to ferry drunks home - thus minimising violence in the city – will be renamed Booze Buses. “After all,” said the Minister, “no-one wants to travel around in a bus which looks like an ad for condoms.”
Finally, Allen Fels, who heads up the Taxi Industry Inquiry, believes he has found a way to stop ongoing attacks on Indian taxi drivers: “Get someone else to drive the bloody things”, he said.
“The impact of a strong Australian dollar, is finally being felt everywhere but WA and Qld. As banks outsource jobs to third world countries and carmakers promise to take their bats and balls and go home, unemployment in Victoria will soon be through the roof. I’m fairly confident that in six months all sorts of people will consider driving taxis a viable way to make a living.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

what price the truth?

A week or two [perhaps 2 point 66 weeks ago] I received a survey from the Herald Sun about that fast approaching time when newspapers are offered online only.

It must have been a mighty powerful survey, cos it got me thinking.

Why do people buy newspapers? [Assuming people do still buy them.]

The sound of racecallers and racing experts and scratchings and tote odds and dividend announcements provided a constant soundtrack to my childhood. Even today there is little that sets my teeth on edge like horseracing radio - apart from cricket, of course.
But I did not set out to complain about how wrong it is to constantly silence children, or how antisocial to cut anyone off in the middle of a sentence because “the race is on”, or even to be told by some grumps to sit still while absolutely nothing is happening during a test match; what I really wonder is how many people buy the Herald Sun for the racing page?

Back in the day, some of my relos bought the Truth for the racing page. The Truth was a twice a week, diehard remnant of the “yellow press”. At the turn of the last century it had played its part in “keeping the bastards honest”, using sensationalism as a tool.
Wikipedia reminds me that in 1975 a Truth headline read “Snedden died on the job”. Billy Snedden had been in parliament for yonks and was at one time the leader of the Liberal party. Listening to parliament was a delight when he was Speaker in the House, because he had a very quick wit.
The Truth reported Snedden had died having intercourse in a hotel room– why else would he be found wearing a condom? – but most people I knew thought how wonderful that a politician be so practical. But I digress again…

If people in another country bought Playboy “for the articles”, it was a truth universally acknowledged that people bought the Truth for the racing pages.

I’m not sure the [near naked] “page 3 girl” had much to do with my adult preferences, as I can’t even remember if the girls wore a bikini top or simply had their modesty protected by a black strip of ink covering their nipples.

My grandmother always enjoyed reading aloud from the Heartbalm column, which featured cries for help from the Truth’s resident agony aunt. There were letters from homosexuals suffering silently in an inhospitable world, men who feared they would fall victim to young nymphomaniacs and young girls who feared the unsettling attentions of family “uncles”, making it obvious everyone read the Truth [after first removing the racing page for later reference].

Asides aside, the survey tested my awareness that hard copies of newspapers will soon disappear and people will have no choice but to go online for their “news”. The survey also tested which of a number of pricing options and packages would be acceptable to me when I took out an online subscription.

So, I told ‘em they were dreaming.

I’m paralysed by a lack of computer savvy, scared of buying the wrong tablet, don’t get the download app thing at all and nobody cares enough about my custom to provide practical advice. In short, they run the risk of meeting some price inelasticity amongst at least some baby boomers or their parent generation.

In any case, I don’t buy papers for the racing page or even for the paid product placements, the politics as sport reporting or the sell-air-brities as real people;  I buy newspapers in case I can’t sleep on the train. There must be something better I can do with my time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

no hopers

“What sort of government closes a railway station?” Frank addressed the crowd outside the old ticket office. “A pack of commies or a bunch of fascists?”
Mary didn’t say the answer. Someone might think she was cheating; might think Frank had told her the answer over breakfast. Which he had.
“It’s neither left not right!” Frank answered his own question, shouting through the cardboard megaphone he’d spent all night making. “It’s crooked! It’s out of bloody line!”
“Plenty o’line right here,” offered Henry, the soon to be redundant signal box keeper. “Railway line.”
Stumpy Ericson, who lived right next door to the station in an old railway cottage, felt he knew the answer. “I know,” he called from his kitchen window, “it’s a city government; government of the country, by the city, for the city.”
“And what colour is a government like that?” Frank wheeled around and looked up at him hopefully. “Is it red, or is it blue?”
Stumpy’s three legged blue heeler Red had a sudden attack of fleabite and fell over trying to stop the nipping. He rolled down the hill, narrowly missing the ANZAC memorial, and coming to a thumping halt against the CFA shed door.

“What colour is it, Frank?” Mary felt sorry for her husband. He was trying so hard to jolly the crowd along a bit, but it’s hard to generate mass hysteria amongst a mob of fifteen people. And she suspected old Ernie was asleep standing up.
“It’s puce”, Frank said.
“What’s puce?” Ernie asked earnestly, with his eyes still shut.
“It’s a government that shuts country railway stations.”
“No, I mean, what is it? What’s it look like?”
“Well Ernie, Puce is a colour: A sort of…”Mary tried to be helpful again.
“Oh!” Ernie nodded, absorbing this new information.

“If something’s not broke, don’t fix it!” Frank tried to bring the meeting back to order; to bring the subject back to governments and railway lines, and to the end of the No Hope Junction railway stop.
“But it is broke, isn’t it?” Stumpy called out, elbows leaning on his window sill. "It’s been losing money for years."
Frank thought Stumpy was rude to cut him off like that, though he should have been used to people being rude to him in this town; after all, he was the only supporter of the Mighty Dons for miles.
This was the only town for miles.
 Frank showed great strength of character by not throwing his megaphone down, marching over to that window, and giving Stump a thump. Instead, Frank closed his eyes, counted to three slowly, and regained his composure before replying.
“It’s not brok-en though, is it? It still works, doesn’t it? And it still slows down here to let the express through, so it wouldn’t cost them anything to let us on and off here, would it? It’s crazy making people drive 60 miles north to catch a train coming back thru here on the way to the city.”
“Dunno what you wanna go to Melbourne for anyway, old Ernie had had a thought. "I was there about forty years ago, and it was horrible crowded. In fact, if you didn’t go there in the first place, you wouldn’t have to come back again, would you?”

“It’s that stupid football team of his, isn’t it?” Ferrarro jumped in with his own two bob’s worth. Captain of the local team; the No Hope Junction No Hopers Ferrarro could see right through Frank; this wasn’t about the town being cut off, it was about Frank’s obsession with a city team.
“S’pose if we changed our colours to black and red he wouldn’t need to catch the train at all, Smithy was on to him, too. He could stay here and lend us a hand.”
“And”, Ferrarro was on a roll, “what about that stupid number 1 on his stupid old duffle coat, and the stupid old famous Jack Clarke?”
“Who’s Jack Clarke?” young Stevie asked.
“No one can remember”, Ferrarro said. Frank claimed it would be disloyal to take the name off his coat just cos Clarke doesn’t play anymore, but Ferrarro reckoned it’s cos that name was the only thing holdin’ that grotty old coat together.

“Generations to come will remember us as the Great Infrastructure Terminators”, Frank megaphoned some more. “As GITs!”
“Better than being remembered as Essendon supporters”, Smithy decided to join the fun. “That’s why the train stopped stopping at Essendon last year; no one else wanted to go there ‘cos no one else barracks for ‘em except you.”
“Well you must admit, Smithy, it’s stupid that I have to catch a train that passes through Essendon and go all the way to the city and have to catch a different train back to actually get off at Essendon.”
“I wasn’t saying you’re stupid, Frank”, Smithy said cheerfully. “I wouldn’t think there’d be any need for that.”
Smithy turned and walked away, taking most of the crowd with him.

“Don’t know what you’re so upset about”, Ernie scratched behind his ear. “Like you say, the train slows down comin’ through here, you should just get off anyway.”

Next Saturday arvo, Stumpy was weeding along the back fence of his old railway cottage, just as the train slowed down to let the express through.
“Oi”, Frank called out to him from the first carriage of the train.
His magnificent Dons scarf fluttering behind him, Frank was ready to leap off just as soon as his carriage reached the platform.
“Quick, mate, I don’t wanna break me thermos…”
Stumpy grabbed Frank’s kit bag as his friend came past, then watched as the determined Don leapt clear of the train where the platform began.
The train had been travelling at about 15 kliks as it approached the platform, so when he landed Frank was doing about 15 kliks as well.
Leaning backwards, Frank jogged alongside the train, using his arms and legs to try and slow himself down, while the train continued it’s crawl ever Northward.
Jogging, braking, slowing – he was a graceful sight. Stumpy’s blue heeler Red ran alongside him, three legs pumping away in their own peculiar rhythm.
Frank was fast approaching the end of the platform, while the end of the train was fast approaching Frank. He was just wondering if he would be able to stop before he ran out of platform, when he felt himself hoisted into the air by his britches, and dragged through the door of the guard’s van.
“Crikey, mate! the guard’s voice crowed with pride. "You nearly missed it – the train doesn’t stop here any more!”