Monday, December 22, 2014

Hello, Happy Christmas, Hanukah or even just Holidays

Thank you to my lovely blogging friends who wrote to me earlier this year when I stopped posting. And another thank you to Ann ODyne for the Christmas wishes.

It has been an ‘interesting’ year. When I say ‘interesting’ I mean it in much the same way a person might say “Tony Abbott is Interesting”.

A quick summary:
Aunty, after a million medical dramas, is in marvellous nick and living in a very low care facility on the other side of town, closer to her children. Because it’s low care, she is happy to have people she can actually talk to, even if they do repeat themselves a lot. I believe her when she says this, because she has told me so often.

The organisation she is now “in with” has several facilities and, as Aunty’s daughter puts it, as she comes to need more care she can just graduate to a higher care facility with no fuss. The one that provides the highest level of care is just near the Fawkner Cemetery.

JJ has finished her EN course, passed her occupational English test, has a driver’s licence, and has moved to live with friends at Cranbourne.

My right arm is slowly becoming more useful, and everything else seems to be chugging along fine.

TO has had a crap year healthwise including, but by no means limited to, weird stuff with her eyes – she is not a good passenger but has let me chauffeur her everywhere for 3 months while she recovered from various eye operations. Nothing would terrify me more than the possibility of going blind. However, the outcome has been a lot better than expected

God bless her, TO has let go of TONNES of ‘stuff’, the shed is chockas with packed ‘other stuff’, the For Sale sign is out the front and, if the person who shall remain nameless at the bank that shall remain nameless gets her act together, the deposit on our newer smaller home in Hastings will only be a week late. All being well the contract won’t be cancelled, which will be a relief cos we’ve been looking to buy since April.

D’Arcy and Maude are aging gracefully. Poor old Maude of Puppy farm fame has terrible problems with her back and hips, and is living on doggy doses of tramadol along with regular cortisone shots. She doesn’t bother yapping anxiously at the door any more, just holds court from her bed in the lounge room. However, as the house is near empty, the sound is still rather horrendous. Am thinking I might need to call a dog whisperer [for TO] before we move.

A Wattle bird is sitting on a clutch of eggs, having built a nest in the [red] tecoma that grows right next to the back steps. Very trusting, as are the maggies that walk up to me on the back porch as if to say “Oy – when is she going to feed us?” TO has a special call for when she feeds them – puts me in mind of turkeys gobbling, but if it works, why not? Seems maggies are not overly sensitive about matters of race.

The hoya is starting to flower again J

TO’s mum is hearty and hale. Very content and thinks it’s hilarious that she doesn’t remember anything for long. 

Aunty Elsie turned 102 last week – she is terribly, terribly frail. TO’s mum had no idea why the selection of cakes was so varied on the day, but enjoyed the birthday party in the hostel where she and Elsie both live.

Dear friends,

I wish wonderful things for you over the Christmas and New Year period, and a fantastic year to come.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

hizbull part 1

Yesterday I got into an internet conversation about the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” at the Sydney Opera House, and the decision to invite Hizb ut-Tahrir to give a talk justifying crimes of honour.

The Daily Telegraph gives an example of what crime of honour means:
…the murder of a woman by relatives who feel she has dishonoured the family by, say, being raped...

“Have you read what Wikipedia has to say about Hizb ut-Tahrir?” asked TO’s cousin. I dutifully read it, then threw up. 
For the sake of readability [not to mention spellability] I’m going to call this “branch of Islam” “hizbull”.

While the content of the Daily Telegraph article matters, the first thing I noticed was that Miranda Devine [the female Andrew Bolt] was the author... Sure enough, the first comments on the article reflected Miranda’s two favourite mantras:

1. why are the feminists silent?; and
2. why don't moderate muslims speak out ?

Maybe a clue to the feminist angle can be found in the headline "Trendy lefties giving a voice to barbaric crime". Is the expression “trendy lefty” meant to be a tautology? Subtext: ALL feminists and/or leftists are so stupid they support a mysoginistic ideology rather than be oppressive of others. 

As for moderate Muslims speaking out, to do so they would have to have a voice. Do media moguls make money out of asking for – or even passing on – what moderate Muslims think? 
Even journalists who care about representing the moderate Muslim viewpoint all seem to have Waleed Aly’s name and number at the top of their contacts list, and no others underneath it. Bolt says Aly was once a spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria, but the last time I went searching for other contacts I didn't have a lot of success. [Maybe I should be paranoid and wonder why they don't want me to find them?]

I have a lot of respect for Waleed Aly. Unfortunately, like every other human on the planet today, there is nothing he can say that can’t be turned against him. Quite simply, we live in a world of snippets and rarely get to hear what someone has said in its original context. Here, for example, is a Boltism:

Aly protects the media class from having to confront the difficult: is Islam a threat?

I wonder if Waleed ever gets sick of it. The quality of the following clip is not the greatest, but it speaks volumes in just 41 seconds:

Decent Muslims struggle to distance themselves from so-called “Islamic” terrorists just because the name of their faith has been co-opted, so I’m going to re-brand hizbull and the like: Forget fatwas, from now on I’m going to call these pseudo-Islamic terrorists pwefbas – piss weak excuse for being assholes.


Freedom of speech is one of those issues that leave me conflicted. It’s a right and a good, but something that lends itself to abuse. Yes, there are laws about libel and slander and inciting hatred, but nothing can stop people from saying naughty things in a whisper. In any case, technologically speaking the horse has bolted. We can’t silence these pwefbas completely, but I’m not sure we should be actively promoting or supporting hate-mongering sessions. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

the fkn franchise

Say hello to Geoff Shaw, the local Frankston Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Geoff has a government car and taxpayer petrol allowance, which is handy because he sells hardware and sometimes needs to move stuff from one place to another.

Geoff was an endorsed Liberal candidate when first elected, but has since decided to go it alone. The Liberal Party said yeah but, like, vote for our bills, won’t you, there’s a good chap.
Geoff is still my local member, but he’s sort of not. I could feel disenfranchised having an elected member not allowed into parliament, but no more disenfranchised than usual.

Geoff does not approve of abortion. He made a comment about “tummy eggs” and got everybody talking about abortion. In fact, he got the whole world talking about abortion. Geoff just sees this as proof he is a good rep who constantly raises the profile of Frankston.

Dear Geoff Shaw, if you really do know a lady with eggs in her tummy, that's not a baby. That's worms. #tummyeggs

Say hello to Victoria’s Liberal Premier, Dennis Napthine, aka napthaline aka naptime. 

Dennis is a vet by trade, but doesn’t want to pass Oscar’s Law because he thinks most puppy farms are well run.
He was very disappointed with Geoff Shaw’s performance, defection etc. In turn, I am very disappointed in Dennis because, in addition to his stand on puppy farms, he wants to build a bloody big hole under Royal Park rather than deal with transport issues.
I’m very attached to Royal Park, but perhaps that’s a story for another day.

Say Hello to Daniel Andrews, leader of the Labor opposition in Victoria. 

He was hoping he could trick the Liberal Party into calling an early election as a means of getting rid of Shaw altogether. Andrews doesn’t seem to understand that Naptime can’t be as stupid as he seems: No one could be that stupid… could they?
Say hello to Helen Constas, the Labor Party’s answer to Geoff Shaw. Daniel Andrews reckoned Helen should be a shoo in at the next election.

Helen had a faceache page, on which she made a vague statement about education, and on which I made a comment about her statement. About ten minutes after my comment was published it was deleted and comments for the faceache page were disabled altogether. This made me feel powerful, as it might mean someone actually read my comment.

Daniel Andrews is very lucky Premier Naptime was not stupid enough to call an early election, because Helen Constas has resigned as Labor candidate /shoo in for Frankston.

Constas was forced to settle a $500,000 bullying claim against her out of court. I’m sure the settlee signed a confidentiality agreement, which is usually a sure sign that the settler – who in this case would have the resources to price the settlee out of his/her legal rights – was really and truly scared the truth might out.

So, here is democracy at work:

1. the Labor Party does not want my input [unless I join up and pay for the privilege of being trampled by branch stackers]

2. I could vote according to the general philosophy of a party [as suggested by Peter Costello]. Victorian Liberal philosophy, apparently, includes not giving a damn about puppy farms or public transport.

3. I am currently unrepresented in State Parliament. Does this make an ounce of difference?

4. I don’t know of any candidates for the next state election other than Geoff Omelet. Hee Haw.

5. The federal government [courtesy the Curtin government’s monopoly on income tax and s 96 of the constitution] now tells states what to do – state’s blame feds and feds blame states and nobody takes responsibility for anything. We should abolish states and use the money saved to actually achieve something worthwhile.

An opinion published on the ABC website discusses the issue of political dissenters.
We might enjoy the odd politician crossing the floor, but the deep-seated need for stability leads voters ultimately to relegate political dissenters to nothing more than a romantic diversion, writes Paula Matthewson.

i.e. Hmm, it’s nice when people stand up for a principle we admire, but what if they stand up for something we don’t admire?

Geoff Shaw a romantic diversion? Or, from my side of the fence, Helen Constas?

I think Paula Matthewson gives our system of democracy more credit than it deserves.

Let’s say I don’t approve of breeding chickens in cages: I can withhold my money and let store keepers know that I want free range eggs/ poultry. If I don’t approve of my political options, all I can do is withhold my vote. 
The only real “spending” power I have in democratic terms is if someone from a motoring enthusiast party or a wizard offers alternative products. Gosh, as it is parties who are endorsed by a majority of voters don’t give a shit about what product[s] we want. Label it anything, then give us crap. Oh, but so long as it's stable... well, better than a poke in the eye with a polling booth pencil, I guess.

Of course, if I really believed we get the democracy we deserve, I could apply TO THE GOVERNMENT for a permit to express my view in a public space. Then if I was really, really lucky, I would find people who agree with me, vote for me, help without hijacking my party: I could rise to the ultimate position of power and end up flying around the world - only to lose it all for chucking a wobbly if someone tried to feed me a sardine sandwich on the flight home. I would heave my guts up but be mortified and apologetic afterwards - but my credibility as a person of honour and principle would be destroyed.

Eggs would be better than sardines – preferably free range rather than tummy eggs.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

one of our favourite expats

Clive James, now 74, may have emphysema, leukaemia, and not long to live, but it seems his irrepressible cheekiness is … well… still irrepressible.

Despite his illness, he spoke at the Australian and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts in London on Saturday. His aim, he said, was to impress Tony Abbott's daughters. 

James himself would probably appreciate The Australian’s report  – a report that tells us he appeared “wearing black trousers, a black skivvy and a brown jacket…an ensemble in pre-war Hitler colours”, The Australian accompanying their report with a photo of him clearly wearing a tie.

His TV show brought us things like this snippet from 1987, long before the internet could share them with the entire world in a matter of hours. 

One thing people will still be denied when they see things like a picture of Knackers Crackers is his unique commentary… no one is a better exponent of the art of alliteration, a better purveyor of puns, or has a better sense of the absurd.
Clive James on Television was reality TV at its best.

James is a multilingual lover of all things Japanese; amongst other things, he says, the Japanese are great lovers of puns. 
No episode of Clive James on Television was complete without snippets of the Japanese TV show Endurance.

Here, contestants found themselves in a hot hunk of desert near the Nile, leaning against sheets of metal that had been baking in the sun…

… encouraged to stay upright by the careful placement of cacti.

The idiotic challenges issued during Endurance were unbelievably over-the-top, sometimes to the point of cruelty that could have made one cringe – but didn’t because contestants were free to give up. Perhaps it was contestants’ willingness to “stick at it” just made the silliness funnier.

James is a prodigious author, and although his droll wit permeates his writings  I must confess I never managed to finish Unreliable Memoirs, nor did I ever bother to try any other books he has written. Perhaps it was because his mobile eyebrows and bemused smile were missing from the word picture.

Just as well Clive prefers Tony Abbott’s daughters to Tony himself, because I’m sure the humour would be wasted on our Minister for women’s affairs.

Friday, May 30, 2014

it’s not working

Tony Abbott keeps telling young people and other benefit recipients to get a job. If they have to, he says, they should move to where jobs are available.

Nowhere in the constitution does it say the government is responsible for creating jobs, but as parties and their campaigns are all about the economy, job creation, subsidising corporations and more, there is an implied contract for governments to act in a way that will create jobs.

Why creating jobs is a Federal responsibility:

Wikipedia describes the process by which the federal government, during WWII, took control of and centralised income tax collection [and, indirectly, the power to create jobs].

Prior to 1942, consistent with the concurrent power in s51(ii), the states collected income tax. The Commonwealth also levied tax. However, in 1942 the Commonwealth attempted to gain a monopoly on income taxes by passing the Income Tax Act 1942 and the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. The first act purported to impose Commonwealth income tax. The latter act said Commonwealth funding would be provided to the States only if they imposed no income tax. This latter act was premised on Section 96 of the Australian Constitution Act.

How taxes collected are shared amongst states is covered by Section 96 of the Australian Constitution :
… the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit…

Section 96 was originally designed [at federation] to explain how the Commonwealth should distribute surpluses from other money [NOT income tax] collected. Like many parts of the constitution, Section 96 became a loophole used to centralise power in a way that was never intended.
Designed to govern a world where camel, horse or ship were the main forms of transport, and communication was reliant on the postal and telegraph system, our constitution now gives the federal government enormous power over policy decisions, but still "says" states are responsible for primary and secondary education. Secondary education, of course, includes the TAFE system [which now offers some bachelor degrees.]

State governments are financially at the mercy of the federal government. I hold the federal government’s constant interference [thru section 96] in state affairs to blame for a great deal of this mess. While people - real humans - struggle, the federal and state governments both duck responsibility by blaming each other.

The federal government has the power and an obligation to help create jobs, but doesn't give a damn.

Why people are sometimes unemployed for extended periods:

Tony Abbott not only rabbits on about young people [and others] getting a job, but he insists if there are no jobs where people live, people should move.

- He ignores the fact that there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available - anywhere.

- He ignores the fact that de-regulation of the economy has increased the casualisation of labour, which does not provide any guarantee of a regular income on which one can base a household budget.

- He ignores the fact that full-time work has been replaced by part-time work – again, not necessarily a liveable amount. If someone hops from job to job trying to get better, more reliable work, it just makes them appear unstable or unreliable to potential employers.

What governments are really doing about creating jobs:

Unsurprisingly, most of the announcements governments make about how many jobs they have created are jobs relating to building and infrastructure. They are inherently temporary, and limited in the range of jobs and training opportunities they offer. Companies taking on these contracts are, in the main, simply moving current employees from a completed job to one that is about to commence. One might argue they do not actually create jobs.

Unsurprisingly, governments are as happy to move jobs offshore as private enterprise is, or to award contracts to overseas companies. They not only fail to create jobs, but actively reduce the number of Australian jobs through their policy decisions.

Job-seeking support is sub-contracted to organisations of the type that made Therese Rein a multi-millionaire – a brilliant example of the benefits of privatisation [not]. There is a $100 training cap in these organisations for short term unemployed – but how many food handling certificates does one person need? 

Why moving to find a job is a big ask:

Australia’s population density – even in densely populated areas – is so low we have dug ourselves into a black hole. This worsens every time decisions are made that ignore public transport requirements, making cars increasingly essential to people movement. Our culture and our governments increasingly limit the free movement of the business resource called “people”.

On $400 or $500 dollars a fortnight who can afford to fly interstate on the off chance they might succeed at a job interview? Who can afford thousands of dollars to get the qualifications required to change industries as technology or job requirements change? What should people live on while studying if they have a family and a mortgage to support?

In an economy almost totally reliant on people striving for home ownership it’s both absurd and obscene to suggest people should move in order to get a job.

A lot of people have mortgages and are rational enough to know the financial penalties of moving far exceed the financial rewards of working somewhere else [assuming jobs are available somewhere else].
Stamp duties payable on house purchases are enormously punitive.

For those who do not already have a mortgage, it is exceedingly difficult to find rental accommodation, which is exactly what youngsters must do if they leave home to follow work.  Rental accommodation is in short supply; [Negative gearing in the housing market / sales to overseas residents must go.] The costs of renting are prohibitive, and someone without a stable income and work history simply can’t compete with other applicants. Catch 22; if you already have a job it's easier to move, but if you don't have a job moving is almost impossible.

The days when it was easy to find a place to board, or to find short term accommodation in a hostel or boarding house are long gone. Over-regulation has destroyed many of these things we could once rely on if we needed to relocate. Caravan park cabins are incredibly expensive, even for long term tenants.

Interestingly, a best selling American "pursuit of happiness" book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, blurts on about going without now in order to have more later. Just one of the things the author Robert Kiyosaki did to get started on his way to riches was to live in his car for about a year. Try doing that in Australia without being punished.
[BTW Robert Kiyosaki filed for bankruptcy in 2012].

At this point it would be reasonable to ask if 457 workers are able to relocate to find work, why can't Australians?

In many cases, 457 workers [the ones who are not exploited]
- have family contacts and can thus find/ afford accommodation; or

- have reasonable accommodation arranged by desperate employers 

One dollar earned here is worth a lot more in a third world country than it is in Australia.
An Australian stuck with enormous mortgage or rent obligations,  has to support a family living here, paying Australian prices.


To paraphrase a cliché, one person’s problems might be cause for concern, but the plight of thousands becomes a mere statistic. Perhaps it should be mandatory for governments to refer to “people” as “human beings”.


457 visas

457 visas have become a rather big issue. In some cases it would be fair to say there are jobs Australians simply won’t [or would prefer not to] do. Our bad. Or, in many instances, they are jobs we simply can't do. 

A 457 worker often makes enormous emotional sacrifices in terms of leaving family to come here, and might also incur a huge debt getting started. Incurring this debt usually requires two conditions:
  • ·         the first is the certainty that the debt can be paid off by working here [not always the case],and
  • ·         the second is the availability of a loan [not always the case either in Australia or in another country].
On balance, are 457 workers doing Australians out of a job?

Anecdotes are not necessarily proof of anything but sometimes they are all I have to go on. 
A disproportionate number of people writing to The Hun complain 457 workers are replacing Australians who have incurred enormous debts to get a Nursing Degree.

This is actually true to some extent, which begs the question of why?

Qualifications and 457 workers

Australian Universities and TAFES are increasingly reliant on fees to survive. Some managers/ educators will give anyone a pass rather than lose the fees. Would we rather be treated  in a hospital by a non-resident who knows what they are doing or an Australian who is “qualified” but utterly clueless?
It's the employers, not the education system, who ultimately assess a student's knowledge and capabilities.

Not all employers are seeking to exploit cheap and compliant labour. Certainly, hospital managements have a duty of care to their patients.
It's not unknown for hospitals to short-list applicants and find that none of those they interview are up to scratch.

On the employment of locally qualified nurses in particular

Some time ago, TO was sent an end-of-second-year nursing student for a practical placement. The young lady was an Australian citizen, and devoutly Muslim.
Every assumption she had started with about nursing made the possibility of her becoming a nurse improbable.
Who, amongst her educators, should have recognised this, and how did she get so far into a degree before someone addressed the issue?
Either the quality of education [about sterile conditions etc] this lass had received thus far was lacking, or someone was very focused on fees and didn't give a damn about the student. [More anecdotes about this issue available on request.]

This lass assumed she could work on a female only ward. Wards in Australia are all mixed gender.
She assumed she could wear a hijab, complete with attractive tassels while nursing – after all, we have laws against discrimination. [TO adjusted her hours to accommodate prayer times, but had to insist the hijab and long sleeves disappear during work hours.]

TO was able to address the student’s problem by quietly discussing the expectations of  her parents and Imam. TO discussed precocious puberty and the fact that a children’s hospital would not necessarily be “safer” than a hospital which dealt with adults. She discussed the ways in which [good] nurses respect the rights of patients to maintain their dignity and modesty – and that this can be a two-way street.

Miraculously, TO was also able to place the student with a Muslim preceptor on a mixed ward, and the preceptor was able to discuss the student's religious concerns in an informed way.

Before she finished her placement, the young lady had actually relaxed her expectations enough to remove a catheter from an adult male.
Full marks to her, and her parents, for being adaptable. It was also a good thing she was actually intelligent enough to know and apply what she had been taught.

No, she wasn’t a 457 worker, but she might have been replaced by one had she not received help addressing her expectations.

Some suggestions for creating employment and reducing welfare payments:

1. give the states enough money /conditional grants to address the backlog of people waiting for "elective" surgery. Four years waiting for a hip replacement is four years on benefits.

2. demand the states / tertiary institutions lift their game

3. Look more closely at the flow-on effects of ignoring health care and poor education systems;

  • Those unemployed after incurring HELP debts are not putting money back into the system
  • Sick people do not pay taxes
  • Job support providers are wasting money, trying to funnel people into markets where no decent jobs exist - many people would improve their job prospects if bridging courses were available to upgrade their skills. Instead, many are enrolling in bachelor courses and incurring HELP debts they'll never be able to repay - because no support is offered for private training such as Microsoft upgrades, or using dedicated software packages commonly used by potential employers, [e.g. payroll, warehouse management]
  • Some courses are not keeping pace with change - IT people, for example, find their skills obsolete before they graduate
  • Temporary employer-subsidies create temporary jobs


An enormous number of parliamentarians have either lost touch with, or never been acquainted with, the reality of the human beings they claim to lead.

The demonisation of the unemployed is a cheap, vicious way to duck responsibility for creating jobs, and/or improving the education system.

P.S. : Tony Abbott is a winker.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

and now for toaday’s news

Let it be known that sometimes, just sometimes, fruitcake brings timely news on time. Yes, friends, here’s a news item dated 27th May 2014!
No less than seven cane toads managed to hitch a ride from Kununurra to Perth*. 

Photo: Perth Now News

Most of us know the cane toad as bufo marinus, but don’t say that if you Wants to be a Millionaire: the cane toad is now officially rhinella marina.
Briefly, these little – the largest recorded specimen weighed 2.65 kg (5.84 lb) and measured 38 cm (15 in) from snout to vent – buggers are taking over Australia. 

Australian distribution of the cane toad

We imported some in 1935 from Hawaii to fight a grub that was destroying our sugar grain crops. Naturally, they were useless because the beetle producing the grubs likes to sit high up on the cane where even cane toads could not reach them.

In 1988 Mark Lewis made a doco called Cane Toads: An Unnatural History which quickly developed a cult following. If you’ve nothing better to do with 50 minutes, you can watch it starting here.

I had missed the cult doco first time around but now realise the best thing about it, I’m embarrassed to admit, is the cast – oh, and there are a few amusing digs at Joh** as well. Then there’s the bit where… oh, you would probably have to see it yourself to really appreciate it.

The toad is native to areas shown in blue on the map above, while red marks show places they have been introduced; nowhere as “successfully” as Australia - if you were to ask a toad.
There had never been any reason for Australia’s native fauna to adapt to the toad and its toxin, so the beastie is wreaking enormous devastation on our wildlife and ecosystems.

If you can’t beat them, love them… right? Why not visit the cane toad races at Kununurra with Our favourite Australian travel reporter, the intrepid Red Nomad Oz?

Wikipedia tells us the toad can be useful for lots of things, including
… pregnancy testing, as pets, for laboratory research, and the production of leather goods.

*For visitors: To get some idea of the distance from Kununurra to Perth, when you look at the Australian distribution map above, just remember Mainland Australia is only a smidgin smaller than the lower 48 states of the U.S.

**Joh Bjelke Petersen was Premier of the state of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. To many people NOT living in the north-eastern Australian state of Queensland, he was an ultra-conservative, corrupt, racist weirdo – always good for a laugh [if you are white] . Because of his policies and style, Queensland was long known as “the deep north”.
His predictable answer to any difficult question was “Oh, well, by golly, don’t you worry about that!”

In his other life, Joh was also a peanut farmer. When a political storm raged about a poison known as 245T, some wit wrote that he didn’t know what all the fuss was about… “Joh’s been spraying his nuts with 245T for years, and there’s obviously nothing wrong with him…”

Monday, May 26, 2014

woe, woe and thrice woe

'Tis said if we wish to converse without tension, we must avoid three topics: sex, politics and religion. Sometimes I wonder if these topics are not, like the Holy Trinity itself, three in one.
Yesterday I got to chatting with friends about the God part, and the Catholic Church.

In the early years of my extremely Catholic education I was warned that God sees everything we do. It might explain the idea of nuns being extremely modest when they take a bath. My own early reaction was that if God is really watching when I go to the toilet, I should be nervously constipated for the rest of my life.

Another notion, perhaps originally designed to convince medieval believers that it doesn’t matter how crap life on earth might be, concerned the promise of heaven.

The more we suffer in this life the better our position in the afterlife. We might, the good sisters explained in age-appropriate simplistic terms, imagine our own personal guardian angel sitting on our right shoulder recording ticks and crosses in an exercise book every time we are good or bad.
Each tick for a good act is a brick that can be used to build a decent home in advance of our arrival at the Pearly Gates, while too many sins might mean you could end up in a heavenly dump like this:

In my early years I would have killed to live in a relatively [to me] luxurious prolestacker. Bugger waiting for the next life. 

The just-you-wait idea was not some British propaganda encouraging the Irish to accept being treated like shit in this life; 

it came from God himself [via some pope, of course. Probably some power hungry corrupt bastard but infallible pope, of course].

What British propaganda did suggest is that the Irish were a stupid race - a notion contradicted by this image:

Belief and therefore Prayer were a struggle for me. One of my favourite [if sacrilegious] turns at a party is to recite this [in a suitable dramatic and pleading tone, of course]:

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy towards us and, after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of they womb, Jesus.


It is a nonsense, really, to try and separate culture from religion. Some of the most popular and best selling Irish stories in recent times, like Angela’s Ashes, have been full of misery. They are not stories about god’s admonition to wait for the afterlife; they are stories reflecting the reality that Ireland was a third world country – full of desperately dysfunctional people, before the country was accepted into the EU.

Does this miserable level of poverty explain the drunkenness and domestic violence?
I have a theory that the whole of the country [religion and culture combined] is populated by people with a bipolar disorder.
I’m not sure I believe bipolar disorders are biologically genetic, but think they are the transgenerational result of the brain’s plasticity – the way individuals program themselves to cope with the shit that is/was almost invariably a part of any poor childhood in Ireland. It’s self-programming for survival that lends itself to alcoholism, rage, and a victim mentality.

Italy on the hand is a “Catholic” country, and one which still has pockets of extreme poverty. Yet it has produced beautiful, life affirming films like The Tree of Wooden Clogs, and Life is Beautiful. The Italian mix of culture and religion is a far cry from the Irish Catholicism passed on to me.


Having been indoctrinated enough with the miserable attitudes of Irish Catholicism, I’ve learned the last thing I need to read is another Angela’s Ashes, and the last thing I need to hear is more about the disgusting theft and abuse of children supported by what is now loosely termed the Magdalene Laundry system. [To which I might add Rome is welcome to Cardinal Pell because nobody here seems to want him at all.]

Nonetheless, one shares one’s life with others and sometimes watches films like Philomena. The book written by Martin Sixmith focuses primarily on the life of Philomena Lee’s stolen child, Anthony. The movie Philomena, on the other hand, focuses on Philomena’s search for her son, and what a pack of C-bombs the Irish nuns/ Church were. The key theme of the movie seems to be forgiven-ness.
It’s an ask.

For some reason that escapes me, pilgrimages are still a core component of the Irish tourist industry. Shrines are everywhere, but one of the greatest drawcards for locals and visitors alike is the challenge of dragging oneself 764 metres (2,507 ft) up the mountain that is Croagh Patrick.

Nearly 200 years ago this might have made sense:

Today, I fail to see the point at all.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

the sound of silence

Andrew Bolt
amongst other things, a Holocaust Denier

Waleed Aly

Currently, Andrew Bolt* is criticising Waleed Aly , not for defending Islam but for failing to hold Islam responsible for every crime ever carried out in the name of Allah. This is about as logical as blaming the Pope for the Snake Handling traditions of Appalachian Pentecostals.

No disrespect intended, but Ruby’s comment at 20-22 seconds in cracks me up every time I hear it:

Like Christians, Muslims are a diverse bunch. How can we turn to one single person/group in Australia for for a view that will be representative of the whole Muslim community? Why should we expect we can?

If an issue directly affects one branch of Christianity, e.g. the Catholic Church, the media traditionally go to a spokesperson for that Church for comments, thus providing consumers with balanced reporting. When George Pell, amongst others, said that talk of paedophiles in the Catholic church was nonsense, the theory is we had a better chance of assessing the truth because he had been asked to comment. [Rather than bore you with details, I’ll leave you to add to the list of ir-responsible denominations] – but I digress:

What I’m simply trying to say is that it is a very long time since I read/heard a line like “The Hun contacted a spokesperson for the Islamic community, but he/she declined to comment”.

In truth, most journalists do turn to Waleed Aly for a moderate Islamic viewpoint – but usually only when a story relates to terrorism.

Rita Panahi is a Hun columnist, slightly to the left of Andrew Bolt. Like Bolt, she happily resorts to the “silence is deafening” mantra when something arouses her indignation.

She opines:
“THE violent student protests around the country have highlighted not just the entitled mentality of those protesting but also the duplicitous hypocrisy of the feminist movement.”… […blah blah blah deafening…]

Excuse me, but did I miss something? Feminists are responsible for this?
Personally, I think a lot of protestors underestimate [or are ignorant of] the power of non-violent non-cooperation, and their behaviour simply proves they are downright rude arseholes. But their behaviour does not automatically make them feminists.

As for the sound of silence generally, the only way I’ve ever been able to get anything published in the Hun is to pay for a funeral notice – and this is way more consultation than I get from any other branches of the media. 

*For more juicy detail of the latest Bolt/Aly clash, see Raf Epstein’s reply

a topp idea

“Would you like to go and see the Topp Twins?” asked TO.
“Errrm…” sez I, “If you’d like to go…”
“Haven’t you ever seen them?!” TO was incredulous.

The Topp Twins – two identical lesbian twins from New Zealand - have been performing around the traps for more than 36 years. Their highly successful TV series ran in NZ for 3 series, and they’ve won a swag of awards.
I’d never seen them before because, to be honest, I was over the whole “lesbian” entertainment thing decades ago and found images like this even more off-putting than the lesbian tag:

If I had to nominate two types of music I struggle to tolerate, I would have to say “country”, and “western”. But, even matches made in heaven sometimes require compromise and the Topp Twins sounded more appealing than the alternative - a night of “Sing-a-long to the Sound of Music”.

The twins are polished comics and polished musicians. Yodelling is not easy but, by gum, Linda has got what it takes. Better yet, Linda played a mean harmonica which she demonstrated during a fantastic blues number.

They appeared as several different characters during the show, and worked the crowd brilliantly. For the first time in my life I didn’t cringe when it was audience participation time, but happily stood up and joined in. Funny is one thing – fun is quite another altogether and the twins do it well.

As “Camp Leader” and “Camp Mother” they set a few audience members busy making rum-balls which they then shared around.
“Where are you from?”. When people gave answers like Hong Kong or Southern California, they were expertly thrown a rum ball. When someone finally said Australia they “threw” them a rum-ball Trevor Chappell style.

For overseas guests:
The "great underarm bowling incident of 1981" was a shameful day for Australian Sport. Instead of bowling overarm as cricketers normally do, they resorted to this to defeat New Zealand:

Yep, the Topp Twins are political animals. Although they shared some lesbian jokes it wasn’t a lesbian show at all.

Tony Abbott
Australia's Prime Minister and Minister for Women

Another great Australian sport is hanging shit on the way Kiwis [i.e. New Zealanders] love to strangle vowels; their efforts to say our Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a speedo wearing winker were well received.

TO’s suggestion for our day out was indeed a Topp one.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

nausea inducing

Call me a bitch, please. Like, as if I would feel bad being bitchy about this creep - such fun!

Brynne has kept custody of the apartment. [shock horror]

Edelsten, last I heard,  was suing some bimbo who conned him out of money after he got together with her through a USian dating site. Now he is filing for bankruptcy in the US.

Doesn't the bald patch on the back of his head look suspiciously like "bed-head"?

The nuns used to warn me that men are only after one thing... In Geoffrey's case, surely that should be two things? He should just buy a couple of implants and keep them on his bedside table; it would have to be cheaper than legal fees for pre-nups, legal fees for website bimbos, divorce settlements etc.

WTF was Edelsten doing at Tom Hafey's funeral anyway? This 'man' would go to the opening of a fridge to get seen. I'd say Grecko would go to the opening of an envelope, but would she even know what an envelope is?

These two - people, I mean, not  implants - are just proof positive that celebrity for celebrity's sake is  a bizarre phenomenon. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

the book thief

In 1939 Nazi Germany, Liesel Meninger is sent to Molching to live with a foster family.

While there is something to be said for USian detective stories, what people usually think of as “novels” are not really my cappuccino. The Book Thief was a rare but wonderful exception; so exceptional, in fact, that I was surprised to learn it was written by an Australian.

When a film is made from a novel, I prefer to read the novel first. Seeing a movie before reading the novel can kill the imagination - when we read the novel later all we can picture from descriptions is what the movie maker imagined.
The Book Thief is a masterful piece of writing I devoured gluttonously, before re-reading it to fully appreciate the writing style.
Seeing the movie is stage three in the order of events, when for me the fun is looking at how the book has been adapted, what has been omitted, and whether or not what I thought the novel was saying has been faithfully represented.

Markus Zusak not only respects the principle of “show, don’t tell”, one interesting way he does this is by turning nouns and verbs on their head:
Every night, Liesel would nightmare.
A bathrobe answered the door.
Arms and elbows fought for room.
When he doesn’t “show” Markus often includes a little observation in the direct telling:
On the ration cards of Germany there was no listing for punishment, but everyone had to take their turn.

Someone suggested to me recently that what happened in the book was all covered in the movie. I doubted it and, dare I say it, I was right.
Cramming a decent novel into roughly 90 minutes of film is a challenge. Some sub-plots have to be dropped, which can reduce 3 dimensional characters into 2 or even 1 dimensional props. It was a bit sad that this happened to the Burgermeister’s Wife. It even happened, to some extent, to Max, one of the central characters in the story.

In the movie, much of the story is about one family rebelling against the insanity of Nazi Germany: It makes Hans and Rosa Hubermann, along with Liesel, appear heroic in a David and Goliath sort of way – something movies must often do to establish and maintain any kind of momentum. In real life, however, when a whole bunch of people are Davids together, no one person appears quite so heroic.
Zusak’s novel, with the luxury of as much space and time as needed, not only showed that there are more heroes in a community than we might otherwise believe, but that everyone has their own unique way of being a hero. It's this sense of balance, of not taking sides and of shifting away from stereotypes that doesn't quite come across in the movie.

Markus Zusak has said, about writing The Book Thief;
When I was growing up in suburban Sydney, I was told stories of cities on fire and Jews being marched to concentration camps. Both my parents grew up in Europe during World War II, and although they were extremely young at the time, in hindsight, they were able to understand many things.
Two stories my mother told me about growing up in Munich always stuck with me. One was about a burning sky when the city was bombed. The other was about a boy being whipped on the street for giving a starving Jewish man a piece of bread. The man sank to his knees and thanked the boy, but the bread was stripped away and both the taker of the bread and the giver were punished.
This showed me that there was another side to Nazi Germany, and it was a side I wanted to write about.

The direction of the movie was at times clever and imaginative. It was well cast, with Nico Liersch doing a brilliant job of playing Rudy. The ending was faithful to the novel but in a very schmaltzy, clunky way. 

The uniting theme of the novel is about the unique and different significance a book theft might have for any number of different people. There are one or two hints about this significance in the movie but, in the end, it is just a story about a girl who steals books. 

It's not the sort of movie I would enjoy watching over and over.

for every cloud...

“The” garage sale is over. Two weeks digging crap out of the shed, hours “setting up”, then hours unsetting up.

Mr Nice next door decided to make the most of the traffic, and put half a dozen items out for sale. Told us he was just nipping out to put on his quaddies, but Mrs Nice knew prices. “How much is the guitar?”, a prospect enquired over the fence. “Shop, Mrs Jackson” we screamed back across the fence. Mrs Nice sold No 1 daughter’s old bass guitar and amp for $50. Uh oh, it was supposed to be $100 for the bass plus $100 for the amp. No 1 will not be pleased when she returns from her holiday in Thailand.

The end result on our side of the fence was a reduction of 1% in the volume of crap but, as Mr Nice observed “at least you made enough to hire a skip – a better profit than I made…”

Oh, people are a strange mix. The ones what arrive with a big bag and proceed to lift as much crap as they can without paying. The ones who keep a firm grip on a 40 cent book while trying to beat the price down to 20c. The ones who say “Oh, a dollar is not enough, I’ll give you two!” The bulldozers, who tear the original packaging on every single item still in its original packing but never actually buy anything.

Then there is another type – the real hoarder… the crap they have collected after doing the rounds of sales would not make their car look out of place in an episode of Extreme Hoarders.

The ones that turn up at all hours, two or three days beforehand, trying to find the gold before anyone else does. [Someone did suggest, today, that the trick is to give the name of the street but not the house number in the ad. Duly noted.]

After stall fees, I once made a $2 profit selling "stuff" at the Preston Market. While living in Camberwell for a while, however, I was able to make a living for 6 months from the market there – my lounge room/ temporary warehouse looked like a tornado had ripped through it, but at least the venture paid for rent and food.
Franger seems to offer the people watcher in me something, but it brings out the “I hate mean, scabby people” side of me as well. I was not alone in this - at one point I thought Mr Nice was about to smash an acoustic guitar to pieces in front of someone who was determined not to leave until his offer of $2 was accepted.

Where might PC keyboards and mouses and power cords or old phone chargers go?
4 tonnes of reject stainless steel surgical instruments – once used by TO when teaching TAFE classes about sterilisation procedures?

Op shops are, quite reasonably, picky about what they will help us recycle. I refuse to give good junk to the Salvos or Vinnies because, in my experience, they refuse to give any stock to someone who obviously needs it. Paid staff and volunteers pick the eyes out of stuff before it is put out for sale, and are unafraid to brag about it.

I’m thinking we’ll separate stuff into 2 piles as we continue clearing out the shed… 1 pile of stuff the RSPCA could use, and a 2nd pile for a skip. Working for 2c an hour has flies on it [take note, Smokin’ Joe!].

Any other preferred charity suggestions? [Apart from my good self, that is...]

Most councils have annual hard-rubbish collections.
I like to see stuff recycled by fossickers, but hate it when they
throw stuff around and leave an untidy mess.
[Fossicking thru' hard rubbish is illegal.]

It's amazing how much one can fit into a skip.
I suspect there would be an extra volume charge for this lot.