Sunday, October 31, 2004

Coalition self-destruction watch, part II

In an earlier and highly perceptive post: Bad news for the Liberals: they control the House and the Senate... I offered the view that the Coalition would find control over the Senate less than fulfilling, mainly due to the fact that it would allow internal divisions to come to the fore.

And barely had the electrons dried on the AEC’s computerised election score card when this was reported:

While the Government will from July 1 next year no longer be forced to
negotiate with minor parties to pass legislation, newly elected Queensland Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce declared he wanted public funding for abortions stopped and restrictions on the market share of retail giants Woolworths and Coles Myer in return for his controlling vote.

The demands come on top of warnings from Mr Joyce and two of his four other Senate Nationals colleagues that Telstra service levels in the bush were not yet up to scratch and could stand in the way of the full sale of the telecommunications giant.

Mr Joyce, who with Liberal Russell Trood snared the last two Queensland spots in the declaration of the poll yesterday, insisted he was not obliged to toe the Coalition line.

’I will be a senator for the Queensland National Party first and foremost and it's the policies of the Queensland Nationals that I'll support,’ Mr Joyce said.

Jeez, the guy isn’t taking his seat for 8 months and is already laying down (politically very difficult) demands.

Nevermind the fact that Joyce is only part of a fourth-term governing coalition because of the Prime Minister’s amazing political acumen (love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit, he knows his stuff), he apparently believes that being the 39th confirmed Coalition Senator entitles him to behave like a bizarro world Bob Brown.

Can civil war and a breakdown of the rule of law be far away?

One blade of grass lies, the other tells the truth

This morning I went to get petrol for the lawn mower (which doesn’t run on love, alas). The cashier dude engaged me in cashier dude banter as we waited for the massive apparatus of financial exchange to let us know that my electrons were sufficient payment for his employer’s petroleum.

Cashier dude: doing some lawn mowing, are you?

Me: yes, gotta be done.

CD: It’s always the way. Lovely day for it.

Me: well, I started yesterday and then ran out of petrol.

CD: it’s always the way, isn’t it?

Me: yes.


CD: so what’s your tip for the Melbourne Cup?

Me: I don’t really know the names of the horses.

CD: not into gambling?

Me: well, I only really get into it on Tuesday.

CD: it’s always the way, isn’t it?

Me: yes.

I imagine that when cashier dude got to work that morning he was given a cash float for the till and an envelope containing the catch-phrase of the day. Sunday’s will be: ‘you wouldn’t read about it’ and on Monday: ‘as you do.’

Alternatively, he moonlights as a zen master. ‘It was always this way, grasshopper, and always shall be so.’

It wasn’t always this way, you know. It used to be different. But not anymore.


Later that day, I was actually mowing the lawn. As I vroomed along the side of my property, I was kicking up great clouds of red-brown dust which settled on the white 4WD Subaru station wagon belonging to my neighbour.

He came running out, objecting to my dust-related program activities. (That’s a deeply-buried and quite unnecessary Iraq War joke by the way).

I asked him if he could appreciate the irony of being bothered by dust landing on a car called the ‘Outback’.(Please don’t write in to tell me I’m misusing the word ‘irony’ because I might be and I don’t care. You irony police (and you know who you are) are getting out of control).

Actually I made this part of the anecdote up. It’s the first in a new series entitled ‘Imaginary retorts to imaginary complaints from real-life situations’. I’m in discussions with Fox about a late-night cable special.

I really did kick dust all over his car though. And -- and I guess you can tell this by the very fact of this blog post – I do feel a little bit sorry.

A little.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Choose life

I would have first seen Trainspotting when it was released back in 1997. Tonight was the first time I’ve seen it since then.

The heroin-taking begins early, with the added bonus of a young infant crawling amongst the junkies, something which quietly horrified me.

But then – and how the FUCK could I have forgotten this scene – the child dies, presumably of dehydration, in her cot.

Yes, I know, the horror, the horror of drug-taking, warts and all. (After the mother wails in grief she begs for another hit).

Just how could I have not remembered that this scene was coming?

Well, I won’t forget now, thank you very much, Irvine fucking Welsh.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Man versus nature in a fight to the porch

Two days ago it rained. (Hold the freakin’ front page!). I was walking home from the bus stop with about 150 metres to gone when it began to spot.

Pit-pat. The rain said.

Tap-tap. My feet said.

And from that moment, a contest sprang up between my feet and the cosmos as a whole. Would the rain fall fast enough to force me to break my gentle rhythmic stride and start running? Or would my shoes retain their honest working man’s dignity and casually snub any meagre increase in precipitation?

Would the pit-pat become a plop-plop forcing my tap-tap to become a thump-thump (to express the problem musically)?

It was a lot like duelling banjos (but with out the river rafting and the anal rape). I met the sky’s firm accelerando pit-pit-pat with a delightful allegro non troppo tap-tip-tap.

And gradually the rain quickened, forcing my feet to march in time with the new beat, but not yet quite forcing me to quit the race and begin the sprint.

So what happened? Who won? Me or God?

Actually I can’t remember. Who even gives a shit?

I got a bit wet though.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from the Wiggles

The process of children learning about the world fascinates me. They take so many amazing things at face value because these things are presented to kids as utterly ordinary and because children have no means to understand the underlying systems.

Take television, that object of love and hatred in every parents home: a screen on which things can be made to appear (using videos or DVDs) and on which some things simply appear of their own accord (broadcasts).

It is frustrating for children (and therefore for their parents) that some images cannot be brought back for a second (and 87th) viewing. A quick burst of the equestrian events at the Olympics (the first ‘sport’ to be ditched the very second they make me IOC President, along with syncronised swimming and competitve antique clock-fixing) has the Dude clamoring for more: horses! Horses!

How to explain to the Dude that his father, normally Lord of all he surveys, cannot bring back the horses but can show Bob the Builder stuck atop a scaffold again and again? And again.

When I was a child I remember having a conversation with a chum about what we had seen on our respective TV sets:

‘Wow, you watched The Flintstones? Hey, The Flintstones was on my TV too!’

I mean, why would a child assume that every TV set, each a different shape and size and in a different home, is capable of showing exactly the same thing? A TV is just an unquestioned source of sound and vision

On Saturday morning, we had a friend over for brunch. On Sunday morning, the Dude saw her again on the TV on one of those journalists-chewing-over-the-week shows. At what point will he realise that family friends do not ordinarily turn up on that screen in the corner? (I quickly rang another family member to see if our friend was on their TV as well. She was! Unlike children, I remain amazed by television and all its wondrous ways).

Saturday, October 23, 2004

One for the Gipper

I actually wrote this little piece of US election whimsy in a comment on Tim Dunlop's Road to Surfdom site as part of my on-going obsession with the US presidential election. And then I thought such a thing of quality deserves its own post! (Thereby freeing me from the tyranny of originality this evening. Did I mention I got home last night at 1:30 am drunk as drunk person after drinking too much, only to have to get up at 5:30 am to look after the Dude and his tonsillitis...)

In other news... U.S Conservatives objected to the way that Edwards visibly blanched as Vice-President Cheney ate his own off-spring on stage before a television audience of 20 million Americans.

'Edwards' inability to hide his disgust whenever Cheney opened his mouth was very much reminiscent of Gore's sighing and eye-rolling from 2000' said Chuck Storer, a retired bank manager from Branson, Missouri.

And Rudiger P. Stoat, an unemployed billionaire from Akron, Ohio, questioned the commitment of liberals to racial and cultural diversity: 'If you're black, yellow, red or brown, the Democrats can't sign you up fast enough but if you happen to draw nutrition from your own young then suddenly the much-vaunted tolerance disappears. What I want to know is: who will stand up for the Predator-American community?'

'You know what their problem is?' said Stephen D'Eth of Houston. 'Pussy democrats are all vegetarians. They can't take it when a red-blooded American chows down on a little red meat.'

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Breaking news: Howard plays down ‘early’ retirement talk

Prime Minister John Howard, speaking today at the Holsworthy Army base in Western Sudney, played down speculation that he might retire only a year into his fourth term.

‘All this talk of retirement is highly premature,’ the Prime Minister said, ‘I still have much to contribute to Australia’s future.’

Howard posed with members of the Seventh Royal Australian Regiment while joking that they should be renamed ‘the Green Howards’, a reference to a British Army unit of long standing. ‘Or maybe just the Howards,’ he said, laughing with the soldiers, ‘that would be my preference.’

Although Mr Howard gave national security and economic management as the focuses of his incoming Government, he denied that his administration was in danger of becoming stale.

‘I totally refute the suggestion that I am not open to new ideas,’ he said, ‘for example, I feel I am having a change of heart on the Republic issue.’

Mr Howard said that he could see ‘considerable merit in the notion that the Australian Head of State should be born in Canterbury-Bankstown or anywhere else in Australia for that matter.’

‘I hold the Queen in high esteem, very high esteem, as you all know, but she has a lot on her plate. I will therefore be pressing ahead with a referendum for a President so that I can again give the Australian people more of what they want.’

Mr Howard would not address speculation that he might run for the Presidency of an Australian Republic.

‘Look, I’ve won four elections now. I can’t see that a fifth victory would add anything. No one has a better idea of the wants and needs of the Australian people than me.’ He said.

‘I intend to serve up a cocktail of greater security, lower interest rates and more prisons, with much less of the kind of ugly parliamentary squabbles that people are so tired of seeing on television.’

Mr Howard finished his tour of the base with a visit to the officer’s mess, the child care centre and the quartermaster where he accepted the gift of a field-marshal’s uniform before leaving for Canberra at the head of a column of armored personnel carriers.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Two tales of stoopid, one of smart (Part III)

Having delivered on the tales of stoopid, I now make good on my promise of a chronicle of perspicasia-, perspecashewness, er, smarts.

Being the adorable, irepressible father that I am, living his life vicariously through an infant son too young to tell him to get a life, my tale of smarts belongs to the Dude.

His latest word is ‘different’ (or ‘diff’rent’). And he gets a lot of use out of it.

Wanna go to the park? [pointing to the park across the road].

Yes. Diff’rent park.

Wanna watch Bob, the world’s most unrealistic builder? [cueing up Bob DVD – in this episode, Bob turns up when he says he will. I guess a little fantasy doesn’t do kids any harm]

Yes. Diff’rent Bob.

It’s never to early to learn that variety is the freakin’ spice-a-life. Or the limitations of a father’s power to effect change: but they only ever made one Piglet movie! It’s called Piglet’s Big Movie and that’s the whole bloody Piglet ouvre!

Personally, I think diff’rent is a milestone in language development. The first important word kids learn (around the same time as ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘econometrics’) is ‘no’. ‘No’ allows a child to address the conveyor belt of stuff that is reality and say ‘stop!’ ‘I don’t want the next item heading my way’.

The next big word is ‘more’. ‘More’ makes the conveyor belt double back on itself at just the right moment.

‘Yeah, that last thing, that last thing was good. Bring it back, double it in size and dip it in chocolate.’

And now, ‘diff’rent’.

‘Yes, Pater, what you are offering me has merit,, certainly. But not in that colour, not with that sauce and not with your goddamn finger-prints all over it. Diff’rent!’

Once you’ve mastered those three big words, the conveyor belt of reality is your plaything and every word thereafter is just a bonus really.

Until you learn ‘sleep-in’ which is an almost magical word but one with sadly no practical application in this universe.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Latham's down. Let the kicking begin!

If he wants, John Howard can be Prime Minister for as long as he likes; the Liberal party is about to make him el President for life. The medal-covered military uniform and the gigantic statue in Martin Place can’t be far off.

Meanwhile, Labour is back to the drawing board. Hint: ditch Latham. He was always massively over-rated. With his constant self-mythologising allusions to Gough, the ALP couldn’t help but believe he was the Messiah to lead them from the Wildnerness. The immediate rise in approval ratings after the lead weight of Crean was kicked free seemed to confirm it. But he was just another ordinary leader. The ALP is always ready to believe that waiting in the wings is a leader with the magic touch. They need to be less attached to Whitlam and Keating and study Hawke more – who is after-all the most successful Labor leader ever.

Hawke governed on the strength of his commonsense and his charisma, neither of which Latham has in abundance.

Another model for the Labor party is Howard himself: A man who appeared to be really very ordinary and was kicked to the floor several times but has turned out to be the ‘greatest’ (I can’t bring myself to dispense with the inverted commas) Liberal leader since Menzies. (Actually this sounds like an argument to give Latham a second chance and maybe it is).

Really, what I’m saying is that the ALP believes in ‘magic’ in a way that the Liberals do not; that a leader will come along who will simply catch fire with the electorate. And it isn’t true (most of the time). Great leaders are built over time and are often products of their experience and their organisations; they don’t spring from Western Sydney perfectly formed.

So, ALP: kick back, relax, stop expecting miracles and quietly work towards rebuilding an effective front-bench.

(But what about Julia Gillard, huh? I reckon she could be the next Bob Hawke. What charisma! What a common touch! She just might sweep all before her… Julia Gillard, Australia’s next Prime Minister. Has a real ring to it, doesn’t it?)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Lobster in CD-swap sex romp! Pix!

I finally got off my toukas and mailed off my CD in the great Canberra blogger CD-swap of 2004 (Andy is the genius criminal mastermind behind the whole enterprise, cackling fiendishly in his secret mountain laboratory in, er, Holt).

The cover of the CD features the following photo of a random girl holding a huge lobster somewhat seductively. It's all very tasteful and in keeping with my general sea-going exoskeleton fetish.

Seafood extender

(The alternative title to his post would be: "Inside blogging: in-jokes of interest to only two or three people! At most!" Wait, doesn't that describe most blog posts? -- official obligatory blogging self-put-down.)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Bad news for the Liberals: they control the House and the Senate…

So Howard won Government for the fourth time and control of the Senate. It’s generally assumed that the Liberals having control of the Senate is a VERY GOOD THING for the Coalition but I’m not so sure. Here’s why:

1) They’ll only have themselves to blame if (when) things go wrong. The Coalition now utterly dominates the Federal political landscape. Everything that happens, happens because they want it to. No compromises with the Opposition; no deals with the Democrats; no legislation pinging back and forth between House and Senate until agreement is reached. (And of course they don’t have that other tried and true political excuse – this or that problem is a legacy of the previous Government). You break it, you own it.

2) Lots of canvas to paint on, not much inspiration to paint. The Howard Government is a fourth term Government and so has already done most things it wanted to do (apart from the big controversial stuff like the full sale of Telstra and unfair dismissal laws – which can be taken care of in the first half of 2005.) Everything they want to pass will slip through like a greased pig. What do they do for the other two and a half years? The Coalition must either churn out Bills they don’t really believe in to feed the gaping maw that is Parliament or they let the chambers grind to a halt, admitting they have no fresh ideas. Can you say ‘tired’?

3) Keep your enemies close and your backbenchers closer. Today, there is effectively no opposition. The ALP can ask snarky question in question time but apart from that it’s irrelevant. But rest assured a new enemy will be found – from within. Internal divisions that are normally kept in check in the face of a common foe – the Opposition – will run free. As the Coalition grows desperate for things to do, they will be supplied with ideas from within – from social conservatives and from the wets, from economic rationalists and from protectionists, from the urbanites and from the Nationals. Look in the mirror, here is your enemy.

In short, I believe that the Government will find total control of Parliament to be less desirable than it appears.Whether this will result in spectacular One-Nation-like self-destruction in only three years is another matter…

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Oh you bright and risen alpha-numerals!

You may have noticed the viking squirrel creature that now adorns my side-bar (I finally worked out how to have images in my blog -- in your face, Internet!).

As well as swearing to dispatch my enemies to Valhalla, he is also the spokes-rodent for NaNoWriMO. You may be forgiven for thinking NaNoWriMo is some kind of microscopic versifying machine (I said, you may be forgiven for thinking...microscopic etc....geddit?).

NaNoWrimo (which you maybe be forgiven for thinking is the last Japanese Prime Minister) stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is beautiful in its simplicity and its simple beauty. You sign up to write a 'novel' (being 50 000 words) in the month of November. And then you stop. And then you win the Booker prize.

50 000 in a month equates to an average of 1 700 which is possible but difficult. Oh so difficult. But the weight of the deadline should make something happen, or break me in the process.

The vague aim is to get a rough draft done so's I can work it into shape for next year's Vogel competition, which is restricted to those under 35.

I'm not getting any younger, you know!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Two tales of stoopid, one of smart (Part II)

I had just cooked the Dude’s dinner (lamb cutlets at $20 a kilo – he eats better than we do) when I got the bright idea of cleaning the fat out of the still hot fry pan before it could congeal into a tasty surprise for the washer-upperer.

I ran water from the tap straight into the pan whereupon it immediately vapourised. Seconds later, the smoke alarm was singing. I put the Dude into his chair and got him started on some corn while I struggled to stop the incessant beeping.

Now, we have a back-to-base system which means the little security gnomes back in the special alarm monitoring cave in the North Pole are supposed to ring various numbers when an alarm is activiated (so they call send the police or an ambulance or call in an air-strike on your home, as appropriate).

There was no phone call. There was hardly any smoke. I just thought the smoke alarm was a little tired and emotional and needed to get something of its chest. I pressed a few buttons on the alarm pad, hoping that I could thus placate the far away alarm gnomes.

The next few minutes were spent in a knock-down, drag-out brawl with the Dude. I alternated my ‘voice of authority’ with my usual begging, wheedling tone. Just one more piece of lamb, one more freakin’ little piece of lamb, and I’ll give you all the strawberries you want.


Just. One. Little. Piece.


You don’t even have to swallow it. Just put it in your mouth and chew once or twice.

It took him 15 full minutes to break my spirit. He’s slipping.

But then as I was bringing over the storbees, I heard a distinctive sound in the distance. The sound of a fire-engine. Oh please god don’t let it be coming here. Please God.

The fire-engine (they call them appliances, don’t they? I guess because you can buy them at Dick Smith’s) got closer and closer.

But, I thought, with my unshakeable logic, the phone never rang. I never took that call from the gnomes who know.

Sudden pertinent thought: the phone is on the hook isn’t it? (We often take it off so that Dude’s all important day sleep is not interrupted). Well, stoopid-fans, you already know the answer to this question. The phone receiver was dangling uselessly like an unpopular incumbent before a gruelling pre-selection battle (it’s the season for analogies like this one).

The Dude and I went to the door to see the fire engine go rushing past. I guess they were looking for, you kow, smoke. It quickly turned around and stopped in front of our house. I apologised profusely to the fire-dudes who were good natured macho young men. They didn’t seem to mind.

Less calm was my mother-in-law who turned up three minutes later. She had been called by the gnomes after our phone had registered its incessant busy signal.

I apologised profusely to her too.

What can I say? I said. I’m sorry. I’m a stupid person.

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