Monday, October 28, 2013

to insanity and beyond

Even in these days of communication by telephone and radio, there is, for many purposes, no better means of communicating with people than a simple letter.

English for Australian Schools - Book 3 [1959]

Many of my once hilarious anecdotes are lost on younger people – the expression "you had to be there" takes on a whole new meaning when "there" means the 1960s.

Letters were delivered twice a day M-F, and once on Saturdays. Just as well the PMG provided such an excellent and efficient postal service back then – despite a proliferation of [unvandalised] phone boxes few of the people we needed to communicate with had phones themselves.

How well I remember the day Aunty Min returned from the phone box at the end of the street, fuming and foaming 'cos she couldn't work out how to make a call. Instead of lining up her pennies ready to drop them in when somebody answered, she had put them in the slot before dialling the number.

A google image search for old PMG phones failed to provide a picture of so much as an AB phone. Tried E Bay only to find these labelled "vintage" phones.

Now Smugg, one of the most evil gods of Karma, has well and truly got it in for me.

The teev crackles and sparkles when we turn it on so now we don't leave it on standby, we just leave it on on.
It's not that we can't afford to replace it – when we bought it a few years ago we had to pay someone to set it up. Now we don't even know what to buy, so complex are all the special features and, so absent, are all the recognisable plugholes what accommodate DVD/VHS player, special device for the hard of hearing, and the box what comes with pay tv.
[Personally, I could not care less. If it ain't on DVD I won't even watch it, but Aunty loves a good UK TV detective story – paint drying with dialogue added though they are.]

For the second time, my touch-screen mobile phone has gone on the blink and as soon as I press the doo-hickey to dial out a call-ended message appears.

Bought some software online and then realised I needed a more advanced version. Sent a message asking how much to move up to the super deluxe program and got a reply with a URL. Clicked on the "forgotten password" button and got a reply with a URL requiring me to enter my email address and password. Should I just give up and pay full price for the swisher version?

Windows 8? Excel 2010? Let's not even go there.

For the second time I have bought TO a decent computer. I use the first one I bought for her - it's fantabulosa.

After 3 months she has not so much as looked at the second one I bought her.

Hers takes fully 30 to 60 seconds to respond to each mouse click. She can't access work files/ emails without using Chrome, and bitches and moans the whole time we work on the problem "together". I made this second attempt to upgrade her because it was a run-out model with Windows 7 installed. While she has long resisted changing to Windows 7, Windows 8 would drive her to the knife block in the kitchen. Of course, I will get there first, because she seems to assume I can help her. No, I will use a self-service check-out before I attempt to use Windows 8 again. She would be on her own.

Managed to find an OEM disc of Office 2003 to upload to the above-mentioned new you-beaut beastie. Does TO want to try and use a "new" email screen? Have decided to set up a gmail account for her and forward an email from each of her 5 million, never-culled, contact list. When old beastie finally dies, at least she'll have access to people's email addresses.

I know there is a folder somewhere on the old system that contains all that address data but a) can't find it and b) doubt if it is readable by Office 2003 unless I link the two machines and ask the new one to import the data. As for her 20,000,002 internet bookmarks…

I have hundreds of vinyl records. I do believe some people pay ridiculous prices for them even if they have been partied on, wined, dined and danced on, used as drink coasters or frisbeed. Today's DJ's don't know nothing 'bout "scratching" vinyl.

Not wanting to sell these vinyls until I have actually recorded all the stuff not available on CD, several years ago I bought a turntable with USB connection.

About a month ago, for the third time, I went 'round and 'round in "logic" loops trying to record from the wretched thing. Admittedly this was only a 4 hour marathon attempt, this time.
Does my sound card work? Followed several suggestions; pc showed me a picture of one and said yes it's working.
Do I really have one, asked another thread? Followed another suggestion and was confronted with a list of hardware stuff gobbledygook but could not tell if any related to a sound card at all.
Went to bed.

It's not that I'm loathe to call for help, but who can I trust? My experiences with other "experts" – plumbers and electricians amongst them – have not inspired trust or confidence. One electrician installed our new downlights, then came back to fix them, then another had a go and a few weeks later one of the lights not only fell out of the ceiling but would not work at all. If cuz #25 had not visited Aunty  and fixed it, the light fitting would still be hanging down from the ceiling.
Which [finally] leads me to my point: - if someone unqualified like cuz # 25 can do what experts can't, why can't I cope with all this IT stuff?

All these things that make life easier just give me ulcers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

god bless 'em

This makes Whitlam's supply crisis of 1975 look like a storm in a teacup. The leader of the House of Reps has used his majority to say only he will decide when the house can vote on whether the US government should stay shut down or not.

There's something weird about how civilised these people are as they say they don't give a shit about any of the people affected.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

performance art

"Have you noticed that after a week in Italy we haven't seen one busker?" TO asked.

We were heading for the Piazza del Duomo, and about to catch our very first glimpse of Florence's famous cathedral.

A few seconds later we turned the corner and there she was… An old gypsy with one of those pathetic little plastic drinking cups that wouldn't hold a euro, on her knees in an attitude of prayer.

I cannot tell a lie… we both broke into fits of hysterical laughter.


The picture below does not seem to be from Florence, nor does it seem to show any bona fide Gypsies busking, but it did make me smile.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

true crime

Have just finished reading John Safran's Murder in Mississippi, a 'true crime' story. In a gumshoe kind of way Safran went here and there, spoke to this person and that but, unlike a novel, the 'crime' is not 'solved'.

As in a crime novel, place is a character, so in that sense it provides an interesting portrait of Mississippi today.
It has been suggested elsewhere that the "left" is full of groups with diverse ideas or obsessions: because those on the left struggle to present a united front they struggle, collectively, to match conservatism's "power".
The satisfying thing about Safran's portrait of Mississippi is reading about just how piddly and divided various white supremacist groups are.
What they seem to have in common is that their ideas are vague references to how things once were rather than how they might be.

It's very easy to idealise the past, and to forget that in many respects life improves when we are prepared to change. But change to what?

Howard was happy to rabbit on about the ANZAC spirit, or the achievements of Don Bradman. What had he to say about the future rather than that it should ensure there is no change in the future.?


Perhaps all of our politicians should be forced to wear corporate logos on their parliamentary clobber,
so we could identify the names of their real sponsors

The most significant trend we are seeing now in politics is a shift to corporatism. Corporatism is not 'justified' as a way of achieving some vision for the future but as something economically necessary that must be instantly effected without any thought to the future. All we have to measure its desirability is  some vague suggestion the consequences and benefits are self-evident.


Plans for building infrastructure are increasingly piecemeal and reactionary. We are given limited and often only undesirable choices, then told we can only have one or two. When we do choose from this restricted set of options, we are then told we made the wrong choice, and ignored.

The new freeway link in Melbourne is an example of something that advantages certain corporations. Now Victoria's government is talking up plans of building a new super suburb near Werribee – way across the other side of the universe from the new, "vital" freeway extension. Again, the need to plan for improvements of public transport are dismissed on the grounds we can only afford limited amounts of infrastructure. With the focus on creating a super suburb in the west without addressing the need for public transport, we are seeing plans that can only lead to the marginalisation of yet another suburb full of people.

There is a tragic similarity between this and the way Joe Bageant described the evolution of 'redneck' culture in the U.S. where once self-sufficient farming communities have been disenfranchised, and the way Safran describes exactly the same thing happening in the Mississipi Delta – an area occupied predominantly by African Americans.


It is often claimed that Australia's primary value is encapsulated by the phrase "a fair go". Perhaps this could be interpreted to mean any of a dozen ideas, but I am tempted to try and define it as a spirit of "inclusiveness".

If I rail against the values of a limited number of refugee groups, it is because their unwillingness to assimilate is characterised by a rejection of inclusiveness.

The English class system was once quite rigid and classes within that system were defined by their source of income – old money, new money, the professional classes etc – the less rigid system that evolved in Australia did not define people by their source of income but rather by a sense of inclusiveness.

There will always be people who choose to marginalise themselves or feel alienated from society, but the growth of class divides is exacerbated by the willingness of our governments to marginalise people through poor planning: through planning, for example, that alienates suburbs full of people by denying them transport or the means to move freely.
Someone recently posted a YouTube clip of Bill Maher – an American pundit I rather like – who explained the difference between USian Democrats and Republicans in terms of the difference between gridiron and baseball - both run on different economic models.
Those who support losing [poor, community style] baseball teams, he says, stop going to games early in the season if their team has no hope of winning.

"If you are not IN the game you become indifferent to the fate of the game, and maybe even get bitter".

Australia is fast becoming a country where people are excluded from the game by poor planning, and transparent rationalisations of corporatism. Our values seem to be shifting from a nation built on inclusiveness to a nation dependent on divisiveness.

Am I simply romanticizing a past which was largely unsatisfactory and is today unworkable? I don't know. Perhaps we never did value inclusiveness at all - but its share price is definitely plummeting.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

blue hills

Not really a radio play, the days of our lives, but the saga of Mr Bin Guardin' seems to have no end.

Two weeks ago yet another letter arrived from Council. No wonder our rates are so high.

Re: Placement of Waste & Recycling Receptacles – 11 K Court, Frankston

Due to the waste and recycling collection difficulties and the parking issues in K Court we have reviewed the current placement…
Recently Council requested that you place your waste & recycling bins on the nature strip of 12 K Court to assist with the collection. However, due to the parking issues in this area, we request that you now place… on the western boundary of the nature strip of number 12 closest to number 11 to avoid any future collection difficulties and complaints. Please see attached map.

Sorry I don't have a scanner and this is the best I can do with screen dumps and Microsoft paint, but I think you get the drift.

The letter continues overleaf with a schematic diagram of the minimum distance required between each receptacle in order to facilitate the free movement of the truck's lifting arms.

No one has reported seeing Mr Bin Guardin' out front with a theodolite to determine the maximum distance our bins may encroach on his nature strip, but it's a strong probability he has at least used a tape at some stage.


In our last episode, the Peelers came to discuss the situation with individual households.

Mr C on the other side was advised to try not to upset Mr Bin Guardin' as he was clearly a man on the edge. Bad enough he rings the cop shop every day without fail [sometimes more than once] but they would hate it if they had to deal with a shooting as well.
[Mrs C said they didn't mention whether or not he has a registered firearm.]

I have, in any case, taken to parking the blue broomstick on the other side of the court. This was primarily because parking it under a tree leads to unwelcome deposits on the roof that I cannot reach without carrying out a set of steps.


Each collection eve I carefully place bins in the appropriate space precisely along the western boundary of number 12 though, I must confess, I do not have a ruler with me to measure the regulation distance between each of the aforementioned receptacles. Clearly I would never get a job setting the table at the palace.

Each collection morn, TO leaps out of bed to check whether bin drivers have clear access to bins. This morning, tradesmen had taken up the entire length of Bin Guardin's nature strip and encroached onto some of ours.

TO asked the agreeable tradesmen would they please ensure driver had access to bins. While she spoke to one, another was on a mobile saying something like "but we cannot build a fence to that height without a council permit". A few minutes later he shrugged and said, "Oh well, let's just do what he says".

Tradesmen uncoupled their trailer leaving space for rubbish collector. As I said, most agreeable types, they were.

Given the very short height of the fence between our house and number 12, I find this latest evidence of paranoia extraordinary. If he wishes to increase the height of the boundary fence as well, this would mean actually talking to us. [Well, maybe not.] This would also defeat the purpose of deliberately drilling and poisoning the two trees in our garden that once blocked sunlight from reaching his back porch.

Sorry I'm too short to take a photo showing clearly how disproportionately high his new front fence will be.

Note how meticulous the man is, having arranged for his post box pillar to be elevated using carefully matched bricks.

Note, too, that not only can we see into his front yard from upstairs, but occupants across the road can probably see him taking a crap, simply by standing at the top of their driveways.

The fence might mean he will no longer notice whenever someone parks in "his" space at the front of number 12 – something he relies on to know when he should dash out and take a photo.

We await the installation of CCTV.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

a never ending story

In lieu of 60th birthday bashes, Bro 2 and Aunty's oldest daughter have organised a family day of sorts. Those last seeds of the great Ballyfin diaspora still in touch with each other are gathering to gasbag and chinwag.

Cuz number 4,444,445 [stepfather to JJ] and his wife [JJ's mum] are having a wedding anniversary the same day.

JJ is looking forward to meeting more family. Aunty is looking forward to catching up with some nieces and nephews. TO has never met a person she did not like. I have been praying for a dose of measles.

Our memories are fragile things. They are puzzles built of squares, each part interchangeable and too easily reassembled into a distorted picture each time we take them out to review and reinterpret them. Our dreams and nightmares, too, are stored the same way, their parts easily confused with the pieces of our memories. Thus do our personal truths shift and morph over time.

The night before my mother's funeral Aunty was with TO and me. Out of deference to Aunty, brothers and spouses congregated in our small room at the motel rather than invite us to one of theirs.

I hid in the tiny alcove where the kettle and ersatz coffee were supplied, while Bro 2 filled what I had wished would be silence with truths in search of confirmation.

Yesterday, upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there;
He wasn't there again today –
I wish that man would go away.

The older we get the more we are touched by each death that comes our way. Aunty was exhausted and, I suspect, trying not to relive the accumulating losses of parents, siblings, the man who had made her life so special for so long, the friends who had always been there for her.


I'm still thoroughly ticked off with Bro 1 over several things and had to move my warning sign, the mantra that helps me stay real, to a more prominent place at the top of my pc screen.

I am not my mother. I can forgive anything. It's not healthy to lock absolution in a box and throw away the key, because occasionally I need to take a little for myself.

They are all good and decent people in their own way, but that doesn't mean I have to socialise with them all, does it? Not if socialising means I have to deal with more of that confirm my truth crap?

I've revisited Crimes of the Heart, one of my desert island movies, and felt a sick moment when Jessica Lange said, in a tired of it all exasperated voice "Oh no! You're still going on about those stupid golden jingle bells?

If not the measles, perhaps a packet of Picolax?