The Silly Season

14 December 2007

If you've ever thought The Silly Season was an inappropriate name for this time of year, I'd ask you to reconsider. Sure, there's an increased incidence of depression, alcoholism and suicide, but there's something about this time of year which is causing everyone to go a little nuts. Look at the evidence...

  • Yesterday, a truck with a crane on board hit a pedestrian overpass in the Sydney CBD. Not so much an unusual event you may think, but it takes a special kind of stupid to hit smack in the middle of the "low clearance" sign (if you click on the link - go on, no one's that busy at this time of year - you can see it in the photo).

  • I book a lot of classified ads in newspapers for my job. Yesterday the rep at a particular paper sent me the proof of an ad I requested, and I emailed back saying that it was approved for publication. Her reply? "I'm so glad you like it." Did she think this somehow mattered to me? Maybe her whole self-esteem was pinned on me approving this Tender ad, and if I'd had to make any changes, she'd have sobbed herself to sleep that night.

  • There's a pub in Glebe with a sign out the front saying "We wish to thank our customers for their patients and understanding during our renovations". Either the place is being refitted as a medical centre, or someone is functionally illiterate.

  • This isn't specifically related to Christmas time, but as an example of ridiculous behaviour, it's hard to go past Marcus Einfeld. If he'd just admitted he was speeding and paid the fines, that would have been the end of the matter. But he lied (including claiming that it wasn't him driving his car, but someone else - specifically, a woman who was dead at the time, and I imagine still is now), lied to cover up his lies, and is now facing a trial for perjury. Remember when you were a kid and told a lie to get out of trouble, that ended up snowballing and making things a hell of a lot worse? But Einfeld was a Federal Court judge, presumably a smart guy, and should have known better. As well as his reputation, he'll also lost what's most valuable to Australian government officials - his pension!

    And on that note, thank you for your patients in reading this post.
  • Random Observations of A Semi-Sober Blogger

    10 December 2007

  • I can't tell you how often I print an email, and have it run onto another page because of the disclaimer, Please consider the environment before you print this email.

  • Has anyone noticed that McDonalds has suddenly gotten much worse? I know McDonalds was never the place for a culinary experience par excellence. But recently (in Australia at least), instead of having burgers made and ready to go, they've switched to a system of preparing all food "fresh when you order". It sounds nice. What it actually means is that you order your food, then stand around with a lot of hungry, cross people waiting for burgers of haphazard contruction which, a lot of the time, aren't even what you ordered but you'll be goddamed if you're going to wait again. Listen, Maccas, no one visits you for quality food. People go to you because they're in a hurry, and because they want the same thing everytime. (Not - as happened to me yesterday - a Crispy Chicken Deluxe With Bacon that was without bacon, and with the salad falling outside the burger altogether). We can only hope that this experiment proves so unpopular - and juding by the looks on people's faces yesterday, it is - that it's soon abandoned entirely.

  • According to a recent study, today's teenagers are more "moral" than previous generations, having sex later and taking fewer drugs. Well of course they are! There are so many distractions for kids these days; they're all too busy Facebooking each other and buying tweenie-oriented products to have sex. Back in my day, we were all popping Es and f**king like bunnies because there was nothing else to do.
  • Friday Follies

    30 November 2007

    Whilst there are many, many good things about the election being over, there's one drawback for me: I'm going to have to start thinking of post titles again. I'm not quite ready yet though, so I'll take the easy way out today.

    Finally, The Australian confesses the truth.

    The Chaser's suprisingly moving final tribute to John Howard.

    Crikey presents it's Election Award Winners

    A friend of mine was terrified upon seeing Therese Rein on TV, but couldn't really say why. Now we know (scroll down to the second picture...)

    This is what I pretty much expect every time I post (surely the Cheesecake Incident was of international signifcance?)

    Election '07 - Disjointed Afterthoughts

    26 November 2007
    It still hasn't fully sunk in yet - John Howard isn't the Prime Minister anymore, and Peter Costello never will be. When you've hoped for, wished for, and in your own small way worked for something this long, there's bound to be a sense of disbelief and perhaps even mild letdown when it actually happens.

  • Being an hopeless (and infuriating) channel surfer, I actually watched the Election coverage on all three channels. Each went for their own little angle, from Channel Nine's shredder to the Footy Show style panel on Seven, and the earnest tone of the ABC. Of all the guests across the networks, I thought Tanya Pilbersek was the most eloquent and inspiring in how she described Labor's readiness for this moment. (And calling Alexander Downer a sook was the soundbite of the night). Contrast her manner with the not-quite-tears of Joe Hockey, sitting right next to her. 

  • Was I the only one who didn't realise that the woman holding hands with Tim Howard during his father's concession speech was in fact his girlfriend and not Melanie Howard? I mean, I knew the Howard kids were creepy, but not that bad.

  • A big surprise was the decrease in the Greens primary vote in nearly every seat I looked up. I guess people didn't want to take any chance that the Howard government might be returned if they voted Green instead of Labor. Me, I thought it was the chance to send Labor a message whilst knowing they'd get my preference, but what do I know?

  • It's always amusing to see the opinions of the "ordinary voters" at the polling booths, such as the elderly lady casting her vote in Bennelong who declared if anyone in her family didn't vote for the Coalition, they were out of the will. Contrast that with a little "news" story I saw yesterday, proclaiming that Nicole Kidman had voted despite doing something overseas - I didn't pay attention to that part, just the quote from her mother, saying that Nicole's father would disown her if she did vote Liberal.

    Well, there's still no official word on the Bennelong result, but lots of other stuff going on, apparently. I'm feeling a little worn out right now, so unlike the people who get paid to write this stuff, I'm going to take a break and see how things go. I must express my gratitude to those who have put up with six weeks of fevered political ranting from me - even Xander now knows everything about the preferential voting system.
  • Election '07 - The Wrap Up

    25 November 2007
    Can there be a sweeter moment than this?

    How long have we had to wait? How endless did it seem? How we dreamed of the moment when it was all over - the nation was no longer under the Howard regime. And yet how far off it seemed sometimes.

    To be honest, tonight did come as something of an anti-climax, simply because once the result was known, round about the 8:30pm mark, it was an eternity to wait for the official concession and victory speeches. Also...because I am of a slightly doubtful frame of mind, I couldn't trust in this till the very end.

    So, I thought Howard sounded like a sore loser, and Rudd less inspiring than he should have been.

    But I'm too tired for any rational analysis now. It's been an awesome night. And apparently I've been linked to by the Wall Street Journal. Tomorrow, I'll attempt some sensible analysis.

    Election '07 - Election Day

    24 November 2007


    Well, we wanted to see him lose, and he has, and watching Howard concede defeat has been a great, great moment.

    I'll leave it to the Labor MPs to not be sore winners. Because, the hell with it, we've sufferred many defeats and much pain. This vindication could not be any sweeter. Was this better than Rudd's victory speech? Well, I've hated Howard so much longer. As a blogger, I've no duty to toe the morall ine whatsoever.

    It's been a long night...hopefully we'll hear from Rudd soon.

    Incidentally...the highest ranking Liberal poltician in the nation is now the Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

    Almost there. The Government's not conceding, but they can't put it off much longer. Nor can Howard reasonably do so in Bennelong...

    I wasn't expecting this to happen so soon. No words can explain how I feel right now.

    Well, the polls have closed and we're all waiting for the first results to come in. I can relate to how Helen Razer feels - but there's nothing to do now but wait.

    Voting was pretty uneventful for me; there were no candidates or Chaser team members at the polling place. As I was voting outside of my electorate, I wasn't even given any how-to-vote cards. I have a small confession to make, though...

    Whilst I intended to vote Greens for the Senate, I wasn't entirely happy with their preferences, so I decided to number every box below the line. It took ages, but as I put an 80 in the box next to the last candidate (Christian Democrats), I felt a small sense of triumph - "There, take that!"

    Then I saw on the ballot paper the instructions to number the boxes from 1 to 79. Somewhere along the line, I'd lost count.

    I started counting through the boxes, trying to figure out where I'd lost my way. But when I got to around preference 25, I gave up, remembered people were waiting for me, and just shoved the ballot in the box.

    It was only later that it occurred to me I should have asked for a new paper and just voted 1 above the line, accepting the Greens' prefences. If the Greens miss out on an NSW Senate seat by a small margin, I'll never forgive myself.

    But that's for later. In case you place any stock in these exit poll things, here's the final results from the Election Poll we ran here:

    (Just as I've always thought - the readers of this blog are mostly lefties, with a few lunatics thrown in).

    Apparently some results are coming in now, so I'll be back later. Looks like being a long night.

    EDIT (much later) - I wish I'd read Anthony Green's How To Vote guide before Saturday. My Senate vote ended up being informal...but if I'd just numbered 1 above the line, it would have counted (I wouldn't even have had to get a fresh ballot paper!)

    Election '07 - Two Days To Go

    22 November 2007

    In all the discussion of Work Choices, interest rates, working families and the economy, no one seems to have talked about the real issues of the campaign. Not the things which will define the nature of the nation long after any current economic conditions have changed.

    There's something deeper here - what sort of tone, even morality, we want for the nation. I'm not speaking of hypocritical "Christian" morality used by politicians whenever it suits their purposes, but just the ideas of helping out those worse off than ourselves, tolerance, and a fair go for everyone, including giving extra assistance to those who started from behind. Those finer ideals that Howard has done so much to destroy in the past eleven years.

    No one seems to be mentioning the things that the Coalition has done over their years in office - from mandatory detention to work for the dole - that have created a national attitude which disdains help for those less fortunate (unless they happen to be truly tragic, and pretty).

    Tuesday's post (below) lamented the unlikelihood of a new, "caring and sharing" Australia arising from a change in government. But it can't possibly be worse than what we've had during Howard's reign, as outlined by Paul Keating in today's SMH - one of the few voices of conscience in this election (and you think you know someone...)

    Anyway, it really wouldn't suprise me if senior Liberal party figures really are responsible for, or at least were aware of, the fake flier. That's how desperate they are. That's how little any of us can trust them.

    It's taken me this long, but I feel safe enough to call the election now. Sorry Libs, it's all over. You shan't be missed.

    Election '07 - Four Days To Go

    20 November 2007

    We've published far fewer election posts here than I would have expected in the giddy moments of excitement as the campaign kicked off. Some of it has admittedly been due to my heavy work schedule and even a little laziness, but the main reason is that it's just so hard to get excited. Although I do very much want to see the back of Howard, it's hard to see what practical difference it will make, come next Monday morning.

    It's not that there's anything wrong with Kevin Rudd precisely. But - screaming schoolkids aside - there's nothing to get excited about either.

    It was all so different three years ago. Mark Latham was different, all right. At the time I had the feeling that, come the Sunday after the Latham victory, a different Australia would form. So when that didn't happen, it was incredibly disappointing (and to more than myself, although how many would admit that now?).

    This time around, there's no such hope. I had trouble articulating precisely what was wrong with Rudd, until I read this article from Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald's News Review:

    "In some circles, Labor Party people and Labor fellow travellers, Rudd, if not exactly hated, is deeply distrusted. It's not just Latham who thinks Rudd will lead a conservative government even more conservative than the Howard Government. It's not just Latham who reckons this is a Seinfeld election - he always had the knack of producing the memorable and resonant phrase - an election about nothing at all.

    Some of these people, most of whom believe Howard has been a mendacious and politically soul-destroying prime minister, are hoping that Peter Garrett was not joking when he told the radio shouter Steve Price that once elected, a Rudd government would change everything.

    For Rudd is Australian Labor's Tony Blair without Blair's easy charisma. Like Blair, he may know Labor's history, but he is unsteeped in it and he is untouched by Labor's ethos and its union roots. He is a man of faith, a Christian, a social conservative. He accepts and embraces the inevitability of globalisation, which sections of his party believe is a plot by multinational American companies to keep the developing world poverty-stricken.

    Blair was always despised by the true believers in his party. And perhaps like Blair, Rudd will never be loved by the true believers in the Australian Labor Party, by those who fervently want nothing less than the remaking of Australia when Howard is gone. Rudd will, almost inevitably, disappoint them."

    For years, I've longed to see the end of the Howard government, as I felt that it would usher in a new era for Australia. This Saturday may well bring about the end of Howard, but I feel like a person who wishes for a million dollars, and receives them in compensation for the death of a loved one: "It wasn't supposed to be this way!"

    Be careful what you wish for...I asked that Rudd and Gillard not f**k this up. I just didn't know they'd be so spineless and derivative in their attempts to do so. Did it have to be this way? Was this the only path Labor could have taken to get rid of Howard? Maybe the damage the Howard Government has done to Australia has been so great that the answer is yes. The remaking of Australia is just not possible. I guess we'll never know. come Saturday night, we'll know if the softly-copy approach has worked. And I'll be happy if Labor wins, I'll just turn my mind to wondering what else might have been.

    EDIT: There's more on this in an interesting article today from Crikey.

    Election '07 - Five Days To Go

    19 November 2007

    Overheard on the Election hustings:

    Two Kevin07 shirt-clad Labor campaign workers were leafleting outside the local supermarket when they were approached by a third person who apparently knew them both. His greeting of, "How's it going?" was met with the response, "We were just discussing whether the term Comrade is gender-specific".

    I guess Rudd's Labor isn't as New as it would first seem.


    I've really got to get better at speaking my mind.

    Having noticed posters for the local Liberal candidate around the place, I've wondered, Why is this man bothering? This morning, I had my chance to ask. He was standing outside the train station, handing out leaflets of his own. Given the opportunity to ask why he's wasting his time, when he tried to hand me a leaflet, I replied..."Sorry, no thanks."

    This was the best I could do? What's likely to be my only chance to express my disatisfaction with what the Liberals have done to this country, all I could come up with was a polite dismissal. I guess I should rule out ever standing for parliament myself.

    Election '07 - 12 Days To Go

    12 November 2007

    An argument against the federal Labor party that's being bandied about lately is, "Look at what a terrible job state Labor are doing in NSW - can they be trusted to do any better federally?"

    The only possible comeback to this is to acknowledge the failings of the NSW state government, but to point out that the only reason that they were re-elected last March is because the NSW state Liberals are even worse.

    It's hard to believe that such a thing is possible, but there it is.

    Last week the Government gave up on the proposed T-Card system, cancelling the contract with the company hired to develop the thing, after spending ten years and $60 million dollars. An integrated ticketing system for buses, trains and ferries; how hard could that be? It certainly sounded easy enough that when the project was first proposed, it was anticipated it would be in use by the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Instead, seven years later, a passenger can go to Circular Quay, which could be a great transport interchange, and travel via bus, train, or ferry; but they'd need a seperate ticket for all of them.

    So we're stuck with the old ticketing system. The government does at least ensure that the decreases in service are equated with fare rises, as happened today. Apparently, one of the justifications for the ticket price rise is that the average income of rail commuter households is over $100,000 a year. It sounds pretty unlikely to me, but nevertheless ever since I read this article I've been wearing low-cut tops and plenty of make-up to work, in the hope that I'll meet me a sugar daddy on the train. So far though, no dice.

    Oh yes, and the hospital system is in crisis, drunken crime is out of control in the Sydney CBD (which is a mess anyway), the Dpeartment of Community Services keeps ignoring children at risk, many of whom end up dead...that's what you get from a leftist government, apparently.

    And the NSW Liberals can't be trusted to do any better? What would they be like with the whole nation?

    The Race Australia Should Stop

    06 November 2007

    I've never been a big fan of Melbourne Cup day.

    This is kind of hard when one works in an office - I refuse to take part in any way, including watching the thing.

    For this, I'm often chastised for being anti-social - and frequently told, "it's just a bit of fun". I don't get it. I really don't see the fun in watching a defenceless animal being whipped.

    Even if all the horses happen to be masochists, there's always the risk of horrific injuries, like this. In the story they mention how some observers were in tears; but I wonder how many of these left the track and refused to participate any more in such barbarism.

    (I'd planned a milder post expressing my general disdain, but the thought of that poor animal staggering towards the finishing line before being put down - well, I'm too upset and angry to be moderate).

    Thank You for Smoking

    02 November 2007

    We're endlessly being told that we live in an angry society these days - and it's true. It seems there's no human activity these days that doesn't have its own form of "rage" attached to it. This blog post from Gary Linnell details some of the many incidents of fill-in-the-blank rage that have occurred recently - including, most tragically, a retiree beaten to death on his front lawn in an argument over water restrictions (as it turns out, it was legal for lawns to be watered at the time the man was killed).

    Why is this happening? Oh sure, we live in a more stressful society these days, and we're all short on time...but I think those excuses rather miss the point. At times of extreme stress, such as during war, communities often pull together with deep solidarity. Of course, people also have developed short tempers and limited patience due to our instant gratification society. But I have another theory - which you sure as hell won't hear from the mainstream media.

    We're all angry because no one smokes anymore.

    I'm not just referring to what may be the angriest creature on Earth - the just-quit smoker - but to everyone. The act of smoking a cigarette makes you take at least a couple of minutes time out, and the nicotine of course acts as a relaxant. In the days when everyone smoked, we were all getting those relaxing little breaks through the day, and a dose of stuff that made us relax even more; now we don't have that, and people often step outside their offices from the moment they arrive in the morning till when they leave (late) at night. No wonder we're all angry.

    So everyone should start smoking again. Of course, average life expectancy would plummet as Medicare costs soared - but we'd all be a lot happier in the meantime.

    Election '07 - 25 Days To Go

    30 October 2007

    And the topic of the week will be...climate change! (I'll resist the enormous temptation to make a joke about politicians and hot air).

    We've got a clear pattern for the campaign. One party launches a theme, the other attempts to trump them, and they slug it out until everyone gets bored and they move on to the next excuse for blather. After tax cuts and interest rates, this week we've arrived at climate change.

    Labor got the upper hand early on when it was reported that Malcolm Turnbull asked John Howard to ratify the Kyoto Protocol six weeks ago, but Howard refused. I think the real point here isn't that Howard doesn't really understand or care about climate change - we knew that already - but the amusing lack of cabinet solidarity the Liberals are displaying.

    Still, the reason Howard gives for refusing to sign Kyoto is that the agreement doesn't include the world's major emmitters, China and the U.S. But hang on, the reason that the U.S. isn't included is that the Americans refused to sign the thing, just like Australia! And even if countries such as China aren't included, why should that stop us? Our involvement is symbolic. I wish the same logic had been applied when it came time for Australia to decide whether to join the Iraq invasion.

    Being the wily political operators they are, the Liberals - or at least their henchmen at News Ltd - have come back swinging. According to The Australian, Peter Garrett's "political credentials were in tatters", after he was "forced" to make a "humilliating" backdown over his "blunder", following a "crisis meeting", where Kevin Rudd insisted he "clarify" Labor's position on climate change - after "Mr Howard and other Coalition ministers began to publicly question the policy".

    I think I'm beginning to understand why most people don't read newspapers. Trying to make sense of who's saying what, and what they actually mean, has been like snorkelling in porridge. There's still over three weeks in the campaign, and we haven't even gotten to national security, Work Choices, politicians superannuation, States' powers... what will the next issue of the week be? And when will all this be over?

    Elecion '07 - 29 Days To Go

    26 October 2007

    As much as those of us who live and/or work in the inner city may like to think we're at the centre of the universe, we actually have little or nothing to do with the practicalities of the election. The seats of the inner cities and suburbs are almost exclusively safe Labor, and the leaders don't come here. It's the outer suburban shopping centres and country towns that become their stomping grounds in the elction campaign; for once, what's happening in the inner cities has no influence over things. For the pollies, campaigning here would be a waste of time, and they know it.


    Follies to come later today, all going well.

    The Time Has Come To Talk Of Other Things...Food.

    22 October 2007

    Can I just take a break from Election Blogging today? I meant to post about the Debate this morning, but ran out of time, and all the good bloggers beat me to it.

    Anyway, recently I've been dining out a lot (thank you...) and have had, frankly, some mixed experiences with the service. These have ranged from the mildly annoying, such as the (ordered) bread arriving with the main courses, to the very annoying, such as being seated for at least twenty minutes before anyone even took our drinks order, through to the debacle on the weekend...

    In an almost empty restaurant, we were given a table near the entrance to the kitchen; our entree order was completely forgotten, until the main courses were brought out; and when I tried to order dessert, I was informed that, not merely were they were out of what I wanted, but they hadn't actually served it for months, although it was still on the menu. Home made menus, I might add. Also, not specifically poor service, but amusing: the CD playing in the background began to skip, and wasn't rectified for many minutes.

    Although great progress has been made in recent times, Australia still has a way to go to offer levels of American-style customer service. However, it's not like Sydney doesn't have so many restaurants that any can afford to be slack. Because it's always fun to have a whinge, does anyone have other tales of woeful restaurant experiences you'd care to share in the comments? They don't have to be tales from Sydney, as this post proves that when it comes to mediocrity, pub food knows no geographical divide.

    Election '07 - 35 Days To Go

    19 October 2007

    Oh, dear Lord, the Coalition have had a poll bounce.

    Sure Labor have been a steady 10 points (at least) ahead all year, but there's nothing like dangling a juicy tax cut in front of people to make them roll over and play dead.

    Friends have been telling me this would happen, but I wouldn't listen. I couldn't bear the thought of going through all this again. Anyway, I really should have known better - if there's one reason why John Howard would never be turfed out of office, it's because the man never, ever underestimates the stupidity of the general public.

    Who are these people, returning their wobbly minds to the Coalition? Don't any of them pause to think about where $34 billion of tax cuts are coming from? Heck, does no one watch Clarke and Dawe? I just hope they are in love, because they're getting screwed.

    Well, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: compulsory voting must be abolished!

    Election '07: 38 Days To Go

    16 October 2007

    As part of the inevitable scare campaign, a figure that the Liberal Party are adoring throwing out there at the moment is that 70% of the Labor front bench are former Trade Union officials. For all I know it's true but does it really matter? After all, think of the generally-held perceptions of the most despised occupation groups. Journalists, used car sales people...and lawyers.

    What percentage of the Coalition front bench are former lawyers?!?

    (This isn't a rhetorical question. Does anyone know?)

    EDIT: The answers are here. So why aren't Labor asking these questions?!?

    Anyway, also high up on the list of most-despised occupations are politicians. And no matter who we vote for, 100% of the front bench are going to be politicians.


    Last night, watching Rudd's response to the newly announced Coalition tax policy, I thought, "I may be naive, but I’ll admit I was astonished to hear Kevin Rudd say that he will not reveal Labor’s tax policy until he’s has time to study the Coalition plan. So, he freely admits that Labor has no new policies, just reactions to Coalition policies? Reason number #598 why, for the first time ever (and it’s my fourth election where I’ve been eligible to vote) I’ll be voting Green this time around."

    And I've since been told, "It’s a perfectly sensible response, Nico. The tax cut announcement was accompanied by new mid year fiscal numbers which means that any work Labor has done so far has to be done again on the basis of new assumptions about growth, the size of the surplus, etc."

    In case you're wondering why I just make snarky comments instead of exploring the issues, this is why - I'm much better off leaving that to the smart bloggers.

    Election '07: 39 Days To Go

    15 October 2007

    Everyone keeps speaking of how this will be the first Australian election where the internet will have a big imapct on the way people vote. It could be a bigger imapct than anyone even realises. Of course there's You Tube, campaign websites, political blogs, leader's Facebooks, and Lord knows what else out there to inform one on the issues and help decide how to vote. But if that's all too much trouble, just go to one of the helpful tools that will, straight out, tell you how to vote.

    If you'd like to take this at least semi-seriously, then at OzPolitics they have a fifty question test that will take you through pretty much all the issues, and give you a matrix on how closely your beliefs are aligned to those of all the major parties.

    But if that's slightly too heavy going (and let's face it, if you're deciding your vote as a result of a quiz, then it probably is) then News Limited has the answer for you, literally, with their election decider. It's got a helpful little video of a guy who looks like a reject from a Fat Pizza audition to explain all the issues, and questions with amusingly leading answers. Anyway, it recommended that I vote for the Australian Democrats, and also that I buy a VCR and learn the Macarena. (I know, this is pretty unfair - Lyn Allison seems nice).

    Bring It On!

    14 October 2007

    Woo-hoo! The Election is called! Yippee!

    (Sorry, I've just been breathing into a paper bag).

    Anyway, the weeks of uncertainty are over. John Howard has finally succumbed to the inevitable, and called the Federal Election. And if you've been waiting for this, you have me to thank. No, seriously, for weeks I've been planning a trip on the Manly ferry, which goes past Kirribilli; so of course I intended to yell "Call the election!" as we passed. However, various irritating circumstances meant the trip had to be put off until yesterday. As I felt enough time had been wasted, as we passed Kirribilli I hollered my demand with gusto; it caused enormous embarrassment to my company, but I was not to be deterred. I promised them that the election would be called today, and sure enough...(if there's anything else you'd like me to make Howard do, let me know and I'll call it out next time I'm on the Manly ferry).

    As excited as I am about this, I'm a procrastinator, and there's over 40 days till the polls open (how Biblical). So I'll let those more dedicated than myself explore the issues for today, and I'm going to lunch.

    Hard To Say He's Sorry

    12 October 2007

    Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks. Last night, after admitting he's struggled with Aboriginal reconciliation throughout his Prime Ministership, John Howard announced a plan to hold a referendum on including a statement of reconciliation in the preamble to the Constitution.

    Considering his record on reconciliation issues over the last eleven years, for Howard to announce a move like this with the genuine intention of healing relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, seems about as likely as my announcing I'm going to be a grid girl at the Melbourne Grand Prix next March.

    So has Howard undergone a volte-face in his attitude? Perhaps we can believe this...until we remember there's an election coming up. The chorus from the left is singing, "Of course it's the right thing to do, but why now?". Meanwhile the general response from Aboriginal leaders has ranged from mixed, to poor. Olga Havnen has said, "Given the period of his term of office, where there has been very little improvement for the well being of Aboriginal people, I think this is too little too late." And, as Warren Mundine has pointed out, "Here we are probably 48 hours from a federal election being called. This should have been done years ago."

    We've become a deeply cynical nation. Of course, if you really want the voice of The People, you can't go past reading the comments from the Daily Telegraph website. Ranging from misinformed diatribes through to racism, heartlessness and the whole shebang, there's no better argument in favour of abolishing compulsory voting. The general feeling on this idea according to Terror readers is, We ain't liking it. Some though are more positive, such as one commenter who wrote:"I hate it when people say "he's just trying to get extra votes". Isn't that what politics is about?!?!?! Getting people to vote for you. The only extra votes Mr Howard is going to get from this are from people who believe its a good thing." (He probably believes in the tooth fairy as well).

    But the fact is that the only people more likely to vote Liberal as a result of this were never going to vote Liberal in the first place. Yes, that statement doesn't make sense, but neither does John Howard on this. Not the idea itself - who could possibly oppose it? Labor has of course promised to also hold the referendum if elected, but these days Labor's me-too-ism is so entrenched that if Costello announced a plan to replace the 50c coin with a 47c coin, Kevin Rudd would claim that this was Labor policy all along.

    By not making sense, why is Howard doing this now? It is, as I said above, not going to win him any votes (not least because Labor has immediately matched the policy). The old Howard would have known this. No one really believes he's undergone a Damascene conversion. So we're left with two pretty unsavoury alternatives:
    1. Howard is completely losing it; or
    2. There's Something Big about to emerge, and he wants to distract us with this (he could have just waited till Melbourne Cup day).
    Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

    Tragedy Always Creates Confusion

    09 October 2007

    "Afghanistan? Is that thing still going on?"
    - Co-worker on the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan

    Well, John Howard was looking to pull something out of the bag in the lead-up to the Federal election. Who knows if the death of an Australian soldier as a result of a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan yesterday will be the suprise twist he was after? It's hard to tell at this stage - the news was only confirmed early this morning, and the details are still filtering through. It has the potential though to get the people who think about these things enormously worked up - a reminder that The War On Terror is still a threat, and that we need Howard's safe pair of hands!

    ...and the whole thing is likely to slide right past the conciousness of the average voter. As the comment from my co-worker shows, Afghanistan is truly the forgotten front in the War On Terror - but for most, it barely registered awareness in the first place.

    Anyway, I tried to formulate a suitable response to my colleague's query. "By Afghanistan," I replied, "Do you mean that thing, as in the landlocked Central Asian nation of nearly 32 million people, or that thing in the sense of the original front in the War On Terror, which is still being fought there?"

    I was just met with a blank look, so simply said, "In either case, the answer is yes, that thing is still going on."

    Anyway, it might be at least a mildly interesting distraction if the soldier's death does become an election issue. But you know, even if it does, I really don't think it's going to matter.

    Friday Follies - It's All Real!

    05 October 2007

    Congratulations to this year's Ig Nobel Prize Winners (am I the only one who thinks the Gay Bomb is an awesome idea, with hundreds of non-military applications?)

    Now that is one ecstatic potato

    A chance to cash in on Sydney's current plague of moths.

    Crikey's week in one liners (scroll past the ad...)

    The Eight Most Awful Minorities (It's not who you might think!)

    When the no-carbs fad is a good idea

    Thank Follies for The Onion...I'm not sure if this is a joke though...

    Well, till I post again, Adultswim your LANs down a sewer in hell.

    My Keyboard Is Sticky: One Blogger's Guide To The Confessional Memoir

    25 September 2007
    The thought has crossed my mind lately that I should write a confessional memoir. Confessional memoirs are taking over the world. Visit the Biography section of any generalist bookstore, and as many as half of the titles on the shelves will be confessional memoirs. Never having been one to blindly follow trends, I realise that in order to get ahead of things, I should have published my memoir ten years ago; the problem with this being that ten years ago, most of the juicy stuff I'd want to reveal to the public to boost sales reveal my inspiring journey to readers, hadn't happened yet.

    Nonetheless, if I do decide to bare my venal soul to the reading public, I know exactly how I need to do it. These are the four elements you need to turn your confessional memoir into this year's Must Read Book:

    1. An Intriguing Title

    You need to grab the audience's attention as they stroll through the bookstore, so that they feel a warm inner glow that if they choose your volume, it is a Very Important Book. Best if this mentions a colour, an element or something meteorogical. (However, I think we can all agree that for a title, The Vermillion Tsunami is just too, too much). There's some more inspiration here.

    2. A Subheading

    This is much easier than the title. All you need to do is pick from the following options: One Man's/Woman's Journey Through/Tale Of Survival of (fill in the blank as it applies to your own personal circumstances).

    3. The Cover Photo

    Again, this is easy. It should be a sepia-toned picture of the writer as a toddler. If this isn't possible, then a stock photo of clouds, a single flower, or empty child-sized shoes (symbolising lost innocence, of course) will do.

    4. A Quote From A Celebrity Reviewer

    This needs to feature prominently on the cover. Find an actress who won Best Supporting Actress in the late 1980s and hasn't been heard of since, or an author whose sole writing career seems to be comprised of doing celebrity reviews, and get them to throw in a pithy quote about how your book changed their life. Make sure they don't spare the adjectives, whilst at the same time not actually saying anything. ("Stunningly evocative symbolism, this book is deeply, powerfully transcendent". Translation: "It faffs on a lot and I didn't really understand.")

    Okay, now that you've got these four tickets to success, what do you actually write about? Whatever the hell you want. Just because you've written this year's "Must Read Book", doesn't mean anyone actually will. Sure, your tome will be discussed at dinner parties, but that will just be everyone praising you whilst hoping no one catches on that they haven't read your book either. Still, it can't help to insert a few titillating anecdotes for book reviewers to pick up on. This is where you get to have some fun. Myself, I'd write about my struggles with addiction (to cheese), my enormous emotional problems, and my steamy affairs with various celebrities.*

    The last thing you'll need is to choose what pictures to go in your mid-book photo section. Get a good progression of photos of yourself as a cute little kid; an "awkward teenager" shot; pictures of yourself looking wretched during the "difficult times" that will form the bulk of your prose; and finish with an airbrushed photo of yourself looking vaugely tranquilised to show how you've finally arrived at a good place in your life.

    No, Goddammit, I'm inspired now; I am going to write my memoir. Sure, I've shared all my best tips, but being nice, all I ask is that you give me a few day's headstart in the marketplace once I publish - a few days being all the time that any of these memoirs are actually remembered for.

    *Dramatisation. May not have happened.

    Can Anyone Spell Beat Up?

    18 September 2007

    A woman in the ACT is suing her doctor after she gave birth to twins, following him incorrectly impanting her with two embryos during IVF treatment when she specifically said she only wanted to have one child.

    Oh yes, and the woman in question happens to have a female partner.

    Here's the headline from ABC News:
    Mother Sues Doctor Over Twin Birth

    And from NewsCorp's Finest, Sydney's Daily Terrorgraph:
    Landmark Lesbian Twin Suit
    (Be sure to check out the enlightened "reader" comments!)

    I don't know why the Tele doesn't just change it's name to FoxNews Sydney and be done with it.

    As If Monday Mornings Weren't Bad Enough

    17 September 2007

  • Watching the Liberals crash and burn is not bringing me the malicious glee you may imagine. I need to somehow become less compassionate - right now, I can't help feeling sorry for them. John Howard is counting on this kind of sympathy, hoping people will be kind enough to re-elect his government. Well, Australians may well feel sorry for them, but from here it seems they'll act on this by putting the Liberals out of their misery.

  • Apparently, the Australian Navy is using Our Tax Dollars - these things must always be presented in such terms - to pay for breast implants for female sailors. What is going on here? When I was in the Army, I was never offered plastic surgery (although my commanding officer did once say he wanted to rearrange my face).

  • O.J., O.J., O.J. What could I possibly add to this?

  • I admit to having judged Britney harshly in the past. So, I must thank this guy for completely turning me around on her. I promise to count my blessings to be living in the same Universe as Britney more often from now on.

  • Also in the "what exactly is this person famous for?" category, I saw a newspaper headline yesterday saying Lara Bingle - Happy At Last! Well, that's a relief. I can't tell you how many times I've lain awake at night, worrying about the poor girl.
  • "Life" Under APEC

    04 September 2007

  • It's amazing how quickly you get used to all this nonsense - helicopters buzzing around the office blocks, for instance. Apparently there's some new terrorist threat from middle management. I mean, what the hell do the security services think we're doing up there - preparing pipe bombs along with status reports? (How many of the "security experts" who plan these things have ever had real jobs?)

  • Apart from "The Wall" though, the most obvious sign that there's something going on is that there are police everywhere. There's 1500 police on patrol for APEC, and most of them seem to be around the couple of blocks near my office. Right now, they're just standing around in groups of four and five, looking pretty bored. I can't help but wonder if any of them secretly want something to go wrong, just so they'll have something to do - as well as the possibility of appearing as a hero on international television. I guess we'll have to wait to see if there's a loud bang followed by 50 police yelling in unison, "Stand back everyone, I got it!"

  • Proving, however, that the NSW Police let none of the latest counter-terrorist technologies past them, all the rubbish bins in the CBD have been covered in black plastic garbage bags and sealed with police tape; the idea being that no one can then place a bomb in a bin. Even the most hard-core of terrorists or violent protestors will be defeated by thin black plastic garbage bags - I don't know why they don't use more of them in Iraq.

  • For those of you who aren't happy about Bush being in Sydney, but aren't of a temperment to incite violence, this cold snap is good news. I can just imagine Bush calling Howard last week, during Sydney's warm spell, and asking what he should pack for his visit. Howard would have told him, "The weather here lately is beautiful! You probably won't even need a sweater".

    And so Bush will arrive tonight, Sydney is back to coat-required weather, and he'll be woefully underprepared. He could send his Secret Service guys out to get him more clothes, but with so many shops shutting for the week, all they'll be able to find is I ♥ SYDNEY! t-shirts. So he'll freeze, and look like an idiot.

    There's always a silver lining...
  • Bricks In Their Heads

    27 August 2007

    Watching a particular story on 60 Minutes last night made me pretty furious. No, not the one you might think - that made me unspeakably angry too, but I'm not posting about that today.

    What concerns me was the story about what's shaping up to be a major election issue - mortgages and interest rates.
    It's terribly sad of course when a family is kicked out of their home for failure to pay the mortgage, but do people often have themselves to blame?
    Last night we met Frank and Tess, who have a monthly income of $3000 - and mortgage payments of $1600. They also owe thousands of dollars in other debts, and the couple admit they have nothing left to pay the bills and live on credit with no plan for the future. Oh, and they have three primary school age children. So why on Earth are they hanging on? Frank said, "It is an absolute struggle but, I tell you, it is worth it. You know why it's worth it? Because when you come home and you see those kids, you see the smiles on their faces, mate, that's what makes it worth it."

    Frank (and all the other Franks out there), let me tell you - kids really don't care if their house is rented or owned. What they do care about - and I'm speaking from personal experience here - is if they never get to go to the movies, or on school excursions, or have a birthday party, because there's no money. And I'm sure they'll care, a lot, when the spinning monetary plates you've got going finally smash to the ground, and you have to declare bankruptcy and go stay with the in-laws for months. I'm sure you can't really believe this is what's best for your kids?

    Sure, Frank and Tess are only an extreme example of what's happening all over Australia - people blaming the Government for high interest rates when it is they themselves who have overextended until there's no room to give. Funnily enough though, while the Liberals are the party of "personal responsibility", you'll never hear them say if you have a mortgage you can't pay off, it's your own damn fault. (Responsibility is never extended to nice, middle class families). Defeaning silence from Labor too. Sure, it'd be electoral suicide, but wouldn't it be nice to hear the truth for once?

    A Sorry State

    15 August 2007

    If you really want to see how Australia has failed in it's foreign policy in recent years, then just read the interview with Xanana Gusmão and José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, in the August issue of The Monthly.

    Timor-Leste is obviously a nation facing many problems. Australia finally took action in 1999, after 24 years of shameful ignorance, to aid in Timor Leste's fight for independence from Indonesia. Since then, however, we've contributed little to the economic developement of East Timor.

    They're not looking for wads of unsupervised, unallocated money. As José Ramos-Horta has said, "one of the most disgraceful things about Australia's co-operation with East Timor is that only a handful of positions in Australia are open to East Timorese students." Ramos-Horta says that East Timor would benefit greatly from having large numbers of their young people go to Australia to work or study, then bring what they've learnt back home. But at the moment this is almost impossible; the visas aren't available, the scholarships aren't issued, the Howard government doesn't care...and I, like most people, had no idea.

    As I've written previously, and to the detriment of the country and their own eternal shame, the Howard government have actively discouraged people from being concerned about the welfare of those less off than themselves, as it doesn't suit their policies or aid their re-election chances.

    Would Labor do any better? In this statement, Shadow minister for Foregin Affars Robert McLelland commits Labor to a formal strategy for East Timor - though fails to say what that strategy would be.

    It's an urgent issue, but a Government on either side will only take action if they think it will be politically popular. How can we get people to care? Telling them it's our duty as a rich neighbour won't help after 11 years of the Coalition, for the same reason that neither will telling people it's a security issue (that's what they told us about Iraq, after all).

    If God's In The House, Is All Right In The World?

    12 August 2007

    It's Sunday, the Lord's Day, and do you know where our Parilamentary leaders are right now? Sleeping off last night's excesses, did I hear you say? That might be fun, but more likely, they're in church.

    As Senator Lyn Allison, leader oF the Australian Democrats, recently pointed out, Christians are dramatically over-represented in Federal Parliament. But Federal Parilament isn't exactly representative of Australian society anyway - too old, too male, too white. The Christians though, are a bit of a worry. Back in the days when Australia was a far more religious country, people generally kept their faith private. Now though, they seem compelled to let everyone know all about it. American influence on Australian culture can be a good or a bad thing, but this seems like a decidedly negative development - the pandering by politicians to the evangelical Christian movement.

    A person's faith or the lack of it is their own business. But it's different for politicians. When they start letting their religious beliefs guide the decisions they make that affect us all, then that's no more acceptable in a secular society than for them to be swayed by any other prejudices.

    Unlike in America, the Christian influence is not the exclusive domain of the Right. Bob Brown states he believes many Christians will vote Green because of their humanitarian principles. He's probably right - Jesus sure looked like a Greens voter.

    I suppose it's not all bad. At least church keeps politicians busy, and out of our hair. If they're in church, it means they're not getting up to anything worse - and we all know politicians have lots of worse tricks.

    A Voter's Perogative

    07 August 2007

    Things are getting better for those of us counting the days till the Federal election. Not only is Labor still ahead in the polls (actually posting about that this year seems as useful as posting about the weather - it's just happening and what else can one say?) but it's now getting personal.

    According to a leaked document from the Coalition's own polling firm, showing many voters now
    believe Howard is too old and not to be trusted. They see Rudd as "compassionate, human, genuine and likeable", whilst the Coalition is seen as stading for "broken promises and dishonesty".

    What's suprising is, this is news? It's been what myself and a lot of other people have been saying for years. Howard isn't doing anything radically different now from what he's done before - he's always been a **** (insert whatever word you like at this stage, adding more letters if necessary). So what has happened to change the average voter's mind?

    The tagline for elections is "Australia decides", but in truth, it's the swinging voters who decide. With compulsory voting, the apathetic and the misunderstanding have their say, same as the rest of us; and whilst those of us who spend a lot of mental time* on politics tend to have pretty fixed views on the issues, it's the "(usually) don't know, don't care" brigade who are open to change, and therefore have the future of the country in their hands.

    The cliche that's been rolled out is that these people are not so much against Howard, but for Rudd. It's almost certainly true. Something has caused the voters to see Howard lately as a sneaky, lying weasel, and it can't be the contrast between now and his principled, forthright behaviour before (lest we forget, the nickname "honest John" was originally bestowed in irony). Any novelty act can draw a crowd for a while - after all, Mark Latham enjoyed some impressive poll numbers prior to the 2004 election. But with Rudd, it looks like there might be a little more substance to all this. We'll have to see how the fickle minds of the swinging voters tend in the months ahead.

    Anyway, John Howard isn't going to take this lying down, though at his age, he probably should. But no, the tactic he's going for is to blame the states (run by the scary Labor governemnts) for all the woes facing Australia. Morris Iemma
    says this proves that Howard is losing it (thanks Mr Iemma, it's nice to know you're reading).

    You might be wondering about the addition of a Kevin 07 button in the sidebar. Well, go have a look at the site. The whole thing is just so Cute, so cheerful and Generation Y (all the things that I, and Australian politics, are not) I simply had to add it. It's not that I don't applaud them for trying, and Lord knows Kevin 07 is better than the alternative. But let's face it, anything this embarrassing has to have kitsch value.

    *And I use this term advisedly.

    Casual Post Day

    03 August 2007

  • Casual day is a problem for myself and, I've noticed, a lot of other workers. Sure, you're allowed to wear casual clothes, but they have to be work-appropriate casual clothes. My t-shirts with vaguely obscene slogans won't cut it, so on Fridays I end up dressing in a manner that is not only unbusinesslike, but completely different from how I dress at any other time. I'll be damned if I'm buying special outfits just for Casual Day, so on Friday I end up wearing the few things I do have in my wardrobe that are "appropriate". Still, I'm not the only one who shows up every Friday wearing the same thing. It wouldn't be Friday if the office didn't see me in my blue not-quite-jeans.

  • You sure do see some weird things walking around the City every day. Just the other morning I spotted a guy of at least my age, dressed in a coat and business suit, skateboarding down the middle of a moderately busy street (he was in the street, not on the footpath) in the eight-degree chill. I bet he'd have an interesting story to tell, if he could stop hooting whilst he was telling it.

  • Speaking of weird things...there's a male grooming establishment in a building near where I work. Actually, it's official title is a "body workshop". It offers the full range of treatments, although with gender-appropriate names (manicures and pedicures are referred to as hand and foot detail), along with a sleek black-and-chrome interior, manly films such as Gladiator and the kinds of movies which involve a pair of guys together in a car for hours on end playing on the big screen TVs, and the three-year-old copies of New Weekly one would expect to see in the waiting area are instead three-year-old copies of Maxim. But how can I put this nicely? Guys, if you're sitting in a padded chair having goop smeared over your face, it doesn't matter if they're playing Foo Fighters in the background instead of pan pipes; you're at the beauty parlour.

  • After too many mornings of having to choose between being late for work, or going into the office with wet hair, I'm considering converting to Islam. I can see why many Muslim women choose to wear the headscarf. If you're a little overdue with washing your hair, no one has to know.

  • I've been hearing a few stories lately about acquaintances who's relationships have ended due to infidelity. The excuse given most often? "I didn't mean for it to happen/it was an accident". How the hell do you end up having sex by accident? I don't watch porn, but for accidental sex I'll make an exception.

  • Christmas In July is over. Sorry kids.
  • And Now For Something Pretty Darn Similar

    31 July 2007

  • Today I passed a venue purporting to be "Sydney's Oldest Sports Bar - Established 1896". What the hell, I wondered, constituted a sports bar in 1896? I can imagine the advertising signs: "Listen to all the Men's Sculling Action on our wide-speaker wireless! Tuppence drafts of ale before 10p.m.! Minimum dress standard of morning suit applies".

  • I've also noticed that along with security cameras, there are also loudspeakers being mounted on traffic lights around the City. Something to do with APEC I assume - all the world leaders will be safer from attack if potential terrorists can not only be watched, but shouted at as well. (Isn't it odd that the massive security measures are put into place whenever "world leaders" are involved, yet whenever a terroritst plot is uncovered, it's almost always aimed at civillian targets? These world leader types are interestingly paranoid). Anyway, if I was a bored security officer, staring at a surveillance monitor for hours on end, I doubt I'd be able to resist the temptation to wait for some sheepish looking sap to walk past and yell through the speakers, "Hey you there, yeah you in the jacket, man are you ugly! Who cuts your hair, Edward Scissorhands?" But then, I'm just a bit sad.

  • Why is it that, whenever anybody dies in reasonably peaceful circumstances, they're described as being "surrounded by loved ones"? If I'm ever dying in bed, I certainly don't want my nearest and dearest sitting around watching me do so. Go out, see a movie, go to the pub - just put The Simpsons on for me. I've always enjoyed TV more when there's not someone else there, jabbering away. The outcome won't be affected much, and we'll all be happier.

  • The less drunk of you might have noticed...yep, I've finally re-done my template. I've pretty much abandoned my blog in recent months; a combiation of lack of time, lack of net access and lack of interest. I thought if I renovated this place, I might be a little more inclined to spend time here. Also, the old template looked too much like a personal page; this started as a personal blog, but hasn't been for a long time, and I didn't want a political/social blog masquerading as a MySpace anymore. I'll be tooling around with the HTML for a little while yet, but honest feedback is welcome (as long as you don't hurt my feelings, say anything negative, or insult me in any way).
  • Happy Birthday, Mr Prime Minister

    26 July 2007

    So, John Howard turns 68 today. He still looks amazing, like he's in his fifties...the Nineteen Fifties, in fact. There won't be many merry returns for him today though. The Government is facing a landslide defeat, and Howard himself is increasingly desperate, this morning blaming interest rate rises on "Labor government - state Labor governments" (a comment more likely to make your average voter think of clutching at straws than making good points) even as he falls over, forgets names, and is pilloried in the media for being past it.

    One could almost feel sorry for John Howard. He could have retired at a favourable time in favour of Peter Costello - the tenth anniversary of his government, in March last year, would have been a nice, cute, noteworthy option - and be remembered by history (though not by me) as one of Australia's greatest Prime Ministers. Instead, it seems like he'll be remembered as the man who hung on too long, dragging his party down with him, and possibly losing his own seat.

    Yes, I almost feel sorry for Howard. Then I remember...he gutted Medicare, the ABC and universities. He wouldn't issue a symbolic apology to Indigenous Australians. He claimed asylum seekers were trying to throw their children overboard and used this as an excuse to lock them up in offshore detention centres hosted by tiny nations with no choice but to take Australian money. He dragged us into a war with Iraq we didn't want (referring to the half-million people who marched against it, as a "mob"), and now he won't get us out. He forced the unemployed to perform jobs considered too menial for prisoners in return for their subsistence handouts. He thought he was the president and diminshed the role of the Governor General every time there was a photo opportunity. He wouldn't go when he had the chance and now he's trying to hang on like a spoilt child.

    And in all this, after eleven years of his rule he's left Australia, though it pains me to say it, a diminished place; more selfish, more self-centred, meaner. The sense of a fair go, of helping a mate, has been replaced by the sense of "my interest rates, my petrol prices, me, me, me and nothing else matters!" It's a terrible thing and I don't know if we can ever recover, but I know who to blame.

    So, John. Today I say not happy birthday, but fuck you.

    Friday Follies Of The Linkless Kind

    28 June 2007

  • Everyone's always saying how tough it is for professional sports people to reach "the top". I reckon they have it easy. In her recent Wimbeldon loss to Serena Williams, Alicia Molik scored 48% on first serves (or 48% of something, anyway, I don't understand tennis). imagine if in the course of your work day, you only got it right 48% of the time. You wouldn't get an Uncle Toby's ad contract, you'd be sacked. One thing's for sure, I'm never going to any doctor who used to be a professional sports person. I rather fear what they'd consider to be an acceptable rate of medical negligence.

  • I read somewhere that if the current growth in the number of Elvis impersonators continues, by 2019 a third of the Earth's population will be Elvis impersonators. Just think about that for a minute. Imagine going to the supermarket, and every third person you pass being an Elvis impersonator. Think of attending a meeting with 100 colleagues, 33 of whom respond to everything the manager says with "Uh-huh-huh". I can see a future where a third of humanity are Elvis impersonators, and the normal two-thirds of us are too creeped out to leave the house.

  • You might have heard or seen that when the homophobic brigade pickets churches and so on, a favourite chant of theirs is "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!", referring you the "fact" that God created a man and a woman, not two men, to be each others' life partner, and therefore homosexuality is an affront to God. Well, maybe they have a point...if you also consider that it's "Adam and Eve", not "Adam, Eve, Adam Jnr and Little Evie". God didn't create any children! Where are the protestors saying children are an affront to God?

  • Now that Paris Hilton has been released from jail, apparently her people are in negotiations to produce a biopic...starring Lindsay Lohan as Paris.

    The world gets the celebrities it deserves, that's all I'll say.
  • The Election X Factor

    06 June 2007

    Watching the news this week, I came across the story reporting that Australia's labour regime is one of the worst in the world. Hearing this, I thought oh come on. Okay, the Howard government IR changes have caused a lot of suffering, but surely there have to be at least 25 countries worse than us? (I can't imagine being a 10 year old working in an Indian rug factory is much fun, and even my experiences in retail can't be as bad as earning 14c an hour making Nike apparel in Indonesia). However, there was a viewer poll asking whether people agreed that Australia was one of the 25 worst Labour regimes, and a significant minority voted yes.

    Sadly, I had to wonder, did everyone who voted know precisely what they were voting for? Perhaps some thought they were voting not on our labour regime, but on the Labor regime, i.e. whether we have one of the worst Labor parties. (Even thinking being in Opposition is, somehow, a regime).

    You may not think this is possible, and neither did I, until I heard a story which, had it not come from an unimpeachable source, I would scarcely have believed. Apparently an acquaintance of mine went to the polls at the recent NSW State Election believing it was the Federal Election, and believing that Morris Iemma was the man who brought in the new IR laws, so she voted against him.

    Multiply this by all the not-quite-with-it people you know, and the scary possiblity emerges that the entire future of our country rests in the hands of tens of thousands of confused people, who don't quite know who or what they are voting for. And what can the leading political parties do to win the Confused vote? Not much, considering it will no doubt be completely scrambled in their addled little brains between hearing the policy announcements and the time they get to the voting booth (provided, that is, they've worked out what the date is).

    Abolish compulsory voting now, that's all I ask.

    Don't Just Stand There, Do Something!

    16 May 2007

    We're approximately at the half-way point between Rudd taking over the Labor leadership last December, and a likely November election, and it seems like a good time to take stock of how things are going.

    On the face of it, pretty darn well. Even after Costello's "big spending...on everyone we in the Coalition like" budget last week, Labor has "surged ahead" (I love the language of the pundits) in the polls, leading the Coalition 18 points on a two-party preferred basis. Things seem pretty rosy for Rudd and Labor right now, as even Howard admits (though he could just be trying to claim the valuable "underdog status", so beloved of Australian pollies in the lead up to an election).

    Having been burned so badly by the 2004 Federal election, I can't help but remember that the poll results were looking good for Labor back then too, but as
    this graph (scroll down) shows, Labor's poll performance now is far ahead of where it was three years ago.

    Leaving that aside, it's fair to ask what, exactly, Rudd/Gillard and Labor have done to attract these positive figures. I was concerned enough when they assumed the leadership to
    beg of them, "Please, for the love of God, don't f**k this up". They haven't. But they haven't done much of anything else either.

    Getting the smug, slack, arrogant Coalition government out of office after the eleven years they've had to make Australia a country fundamentally diminished in so many ways must be the top priority. And whilst any alternative would be welcome, it would be great if the alternative really was an alternative. Labor have announced no radical new policies, no dramatic shifts in thinking, taken almost no risk at all. They merely take cues from the Coalition; if the Government is doing something that Australians seem to like, Labor vows that they will do the same and lots more of it. If the Coalition's position something unpopular (Iraq, the IR laws), Labor takes the path of least resistance in deciding where to stand.

    But in terms of taking a brave stand of their own - silence. The Labor party cannot really call itself left-wing, or even Third Way. It's seems to be more a case of looking at the sentiments of the Not Happy John brigade and saying "Not John. Happy?". It's not enough, and could well send those of us looking for a real alternative into the arms of the minor parties. I'll be voting Labor at the Federal election, because as I've said removing the Howard government is the most important thing Australia has to do right now. But I don't like this pact with the devil I feel I've been forced into. As much as I wish Rudd would take a stand - on gay marriage, phasing out Australia's use of fossil fuels, re-evaluation the U.S. alliance - I know it won't happen, as he'd rather be standing on the winner's podium come election night. Understandable, but the frustration at this lack of real courage is enough to make you scream.

    It's Not Just You; However...

    08 May 2007

    I've recently been enjoying the book Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit: The Encyclopedia Of Modern Life. It's an amusing look at all that is wrong in the world today, from cafes that charge an extra $5 for a slice of tomato with your cooked breakfast, to grown-ups who read childrens' books with "adult" covers,in order to escape public scorn.

    It's a familliar theme though. There's just so much that is whinge-worthy in modern society, and my goodness, do people enjoy whingeing. Just read through the weekend supplements in any major newspaper, and witness the orgy of complaining-about-the-small-stuff being engaged in by columnists. Too worn out by the woes of modern life to read? Not to worry, you can receive your gripes in television form, thanks to the
    Grumpy Old Women and Men series.

    And I must admit, I like all this enough to engage in it endlessly myself, as any read through this blog's archives will show you; posting diatribes about manners, music, supermarkets, advertising, and (over and over) public transport. Why do we all love it so? Speaking only for myself, I think we all have a certain amount of anger in us, and it needs to come out; focusing on the big issues, such as global warming; the humanitarian crisis in Darfur; the rise of the Neo-Cons in Western Politics, whatever the hell you call whatever the hell is going on in Iraq, is all too confusing and complicated. Who, though, can't relate to the feeling of utter dismay at discovering there's 43 different kinds of milk in the supermarket chill cabinet, or seeing a 16 year old with an
    emo haircut sending text messages in the cinema?

    Whatever the case, it looks like whiny is the new gay/carbon neutral/plaid/urban boho/low carb/parrot love, or whatever the "new black" is this year (you know what I don't understand? Trends!)

    They're Kidding...Right?

    02 May 2007

    Sitting on my desk at work is a desk calendar with an "inspirational" quote for each day. They're not funny quotes; it's a company-supplied calendar and it's boring, to match the job. Today's quote however gave me pause for thought, though probably not in the way the manufacturers intended:

    "The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that's the day you start to the top."
    - O.J. Simpson

    O.J. Simpson on the topic of taking responsibility. I can't help but wonder if it's the work of some menial underling at the calendar company, resentful at being given the task of hunting down 365 meaningful quotations, who slipped it in as a joke and wondered if anyone would notice.

    Or maybe the whole thing's for real. Are there any other absurd-but-true quotations floating around out there?

    "I, Errr...Ahhh...Had A Dream"

    24 April 2007

    Feeling a bit directionless lately? Never fear, our inestimable leader, John W. Howard, has presented his vision for the future of Australia in a speech to the Queensland Press Club. Titled "Australia Rising" (faster than the levels of the seas our land is girt by, we hope) , it's Howard's "sketch" of the world in 2020 - but only, of course, if Australia keeps on voting Liberal. You could read the full transcript, but let me save you some time with the general gist of the thing:

  • As with just about everything for Howard, putting the economy first is a "moral argument". Those morals including a promise to dismantle the welfare state as we know it. According to Howard, "One side – we in the Coalition – aims to build on what’s been achieved over the last decade... The other side wants to tear down this achievement...[which] will see Australia fall behind in the global economy, reducing our capacity to create jobs, to innovate, to care for the sick and the aged and to help those who need a leg up in today’s competitive world".
    So if Labor wins this year's election and Australia goes to hell in an esky, don't say you weren't warned.

  • "Climate change is a serious policy challenge and a major priority of the Government. At the same time, we know independent action by Australia will not materially affect our climate". Unlike the situation in Iraq, where a withdrawal of Australian troops would embolden the terrorists. I guess we should be flattered that they think so highly of us. Howard also says, "to say that climate change is the overwhelming moral challenge for this generation of Australians is misguided at best; misleading at worst." Well, I thought the overwhelming moral challenge for our generation was the threat of terrorism. But apparently now it's the Australian economy. Evidently a new generation has sprung up in the past few years, which is terrible news; I'm getting old even faster than I thought!

  • "I worry about the consequences for Australian families of Mr Rudd’s policy of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels. I worry about the impact on jobs in places like Moranbah, Mackay and Gladstone." It's very sweet of Howard to put the jobs of miners ahead of the future of the planet. If only we'd had a Prime Minister of such compassion in the early Twentieth Century, then all those jobs in the Australian whaling industry could have been saved.

  • And as befits a politician facing terrible numbers in the polls, Howard has managed to throw in plenty of swipes at the Opposition: "the industrial relations system that Mr Rudd has promised to give us will bring back the worst excesses of centralised wage fixation"; "Mr Rudd has made his work choice. He has put union power ahead of workers’ jobs"; "Mr Rudd made much of discovering the link between education and the economy earlier this year...Yet he fails the basic test of economic literacy"; "Mr Rudd panders to the gesture politics of anti-capitalism..."

    If you follow Australian politics at all closely - and you probably haven't read this far if you don't, I know I'm starting to drift off - you've probably noticed that Kevin Rudd has largely refused to return John Howard's attacks. This is, I feel, a mistake, not to mention pretty disappointing. I can only imagine Rudd is afraid of offending the Howard battlers, not to mention the so-called "South Park Conservatives", the supposedly Howard-loving young adults who were the subject of a chapter in the book
    The Howard Factor. But in reality, neither group exists. The "battlers" have little personal affection for Howard; they are simply concerned with their own mortgages. (And HahHah! to them I say).

    As for the South Park Conservatives, I don't know who these people are. According to The Howard Factor, more than 50% of males aged 25-29 voted for the Coalition in the 2004 federal election. But I'm aged 25-29, and discuss politics with just about everyone, and the only male I know who voted Liberal in the 2004 election is a somewhat naive individual who believes every word Alan Jones says. Anyway, Rudd could safely start to call Howard a long-handled, flat-surfaced digging implement without losing any votes - he may even win some - and it would certainly make the lead up to the election a lot more interesting.

    For now though, I'll leave the last word to Howard:
    "As a Government, we’ve made decisions in the last 11 years that impact directly on the lives of Australians. No doubt we’ve made our mistakes. All governments do."

    But only a weak government says they're sorry.
  • It's My Special Day

    16 April 2007

    The big news of, well, last week (hey, I've been busy) was Libby Lenton getting married, wearing a lovely white...tent. This she did because she'd signed a deal with a women's magazine to sell the wedding photos for more money than I'll earn in the next two years, and she has to protect the magazine's exclusive, or the deal's off. More and more celebrites are doing this lately, requesting that guests sign confidentiality clauses and not take photos, sometimes even not informing them of the location for the vows until immediatley before the ceremony, all so they can flog the photos of their day of days to Women's Doh or No Idea for perusal in doctor's waiting rooms three years after the fact.

    And good luck to them say I. In fact, I think they don't go far enough. If I ever get married (and hey, in a world where Condileeza Rice thinks George W. Bush is a genius, anything is at least theoretically possible), I'm going to out do them all. I shall exchange wedding vows under a false name, or possibly even hire an actress to stand in for me. I'llave my face pixellated in all the wedding photos, be "beamed up, Scotty" to travel to my honeymoon, and deny ever after that any wedding ever took place.

    In fact, how do you know that's not what I'm doing already?

    Thanks For The Memories

    11 April 2007

    Well, the NSW state election has been run and won since I last posted. I've listened to a wide range of opinions on this - 'round where I live, politics is always a popular topic. Although considering I live in the inner west of Sydney, getting any non-left points of view was a bit diffcult (I managed, though!). Nonetheless, the general consensus seemed to be that the election didn't really matter, as the result was never in doubt; however sorry things are in NSW, the Iemma government is better than the possible alternatives.

    So I pass on the following story to you without further comment...

    Last Monday, feeling slightly bored at the end of a four-day weekend, I went to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Darling Harbour. The pier was already pretty crowded, and got more and more so as 1:20pm passed, then 1:25pm, with no sign of the 1:15pm ferry. Finally at 1:35pm, a voice announced that the 1:15pm ferry was cancelled, and we'd all have to wait till 1:45pm.

    Of course, a cancelled ferry can happen to the best of systems occasionally (although Sydney ferries should really be trying harder right now - it's not like they've earned the most sterling of reputations lately). What is alarming is the tone of the announcements over the P.A. system - no apologies, no grace, barking orders at passengers to line up in an orderly fashion, stand back from barricades, etc.

    Those of us who've lived in NSW our whole lives are perfectly used to this, but what the hell must visitors from overseas think?!? A little courtesy wouldn't go astray.

    The Goodbye Girl (And Boy)

    15 March 2007

    You may have noticed our location recently listed as "the last days of chez nous". And they have been. On Saturday, Xander and Nico are (finally) moving to Sydney.

    I've only recently told people about this, and the response is often "that seems awfully quick". It isn't; I've just kept it quiet until everything was certain, as I couldn't bear the humiliation of having it fall through (especially after the Great Debacle of '05). In reality, the whole thing has been a nightmare odyssey ever since the day, nearly two months ago, when I discovered that the Xander and Nico house was due to be demolished, and before I knew it I'd agreed to move to Sydney with friends.

    If I'd had any idea just how difficult it was going to be to find a house, I would never have agreed to this. You might have heard in the media about a "rental crisis" in the market these days. It's no exaggeration. Most Saturdays for the past months, I've been in Sydney, trying to navigate my way through unfamiliar suburbs whilst dashing from one open for inspection rental property to another, and returning home to fill in and send off mountains of application forms. This went on and on, becoming more desperate as homelessness looked like an increasingly likely possibility, until we finally recieved that call last week, telling us we were successful. Now I keep hearing, "You're so lucky to have found a house!" Lucky? It wasn't was an awful lot of hard work to find a place. (Which I haven't even seen yet; it was a house inspected by my flatmate-to-be whilst she was also doing the inspection-application rounds).

    (And as this has been going on, I've also been attending job interviews. I thought the best course of action was to find a job first, then get the house sorted, but as the housing crisis dragged on I decided to focus my energies on that. I'm back on the interview merry-go-round now though. Another of the many comments I keep hearing lately is "You should have moved to Sydney years ago." But there was no way I was physically or emotionally able to deal with all this back then.)

    Anyway, it's hardly a novel observation, but I'm being painfully reminded: moving is hell. When I first moved into my house, out of a share house, nearly seven years ago, the place looked rather empty, and I knew I needed to...fill it. Fast forward to now, and I've got seven years worth of stuff to sort through and pack. Obviously I was keen to avoid this if at all possible, but as I listened in slack-jawed horror to several quotes from removalists I realised I'd have to do it all myself, and set to work. Every spare minute at home recently (and there haven't been many) I've been cleaning out cupboards and shelves and drawers, unable to understand why my house was such a mess when I'd gotten rid of what seemed like almost everything I owned.

    But when that was done, we moved on to the next, even worse stage: the actual packing. Thankfully, when the inevitable breakdown on my end came on Monday night (a brief but intense crying fit) my mother offered to step in, which she did yesterday with admirable, if slightly overzealous, efficiency (packing some things I still need for the next couple of days). Still, it's great that the end is in sight, and everything major is just about done.

    So how's Xander, you ask? He's been pretty unsettled lately. For a start I haven't been home much, and he's seen all the unusual clean-out activity, and he can sense my moods, and he can just tell something is up. Like his Mum, he doesn't much care for change. I'd expected major problems last night, as the house is completely turned upside down, and there are boxes stacked where furniture used to be, but he didn't make a fuss; perhaps sensing I'm on an emotional knife-edge, he merely had a snooze in the one largely undisturbed place, the bathroom; then wandered through the house, looking around with an expression that said "What the heck happened in here?!?" And I have no answer. The big test comes on Saturday, when he leaves the only home he's ever known on his first long car journey to live with the first non-me people ever. I'm sure there will be a long, difficult period of adjustment, and possibly some tantrums. And that's just me. Goodness knows how he will react.

    Surprisingly though, I am not sorry to be leaving Newcastle. I always imagined that I'd find leaving here nearly impossible, but things have changed; partly because I've been spending so much time in Sydney lately I'm starting to feel more at home when I'm there. Far more disappointingly though, there have been some awful things going on in Newcastle lately. Nothing that's affected me personally, but basically I no longer feel safe here, and it's soured me on the place, and I'm more than ready to go.

    A new life awaits. And in a roundabout way, this brings me to the main point of my post; it's possible that I might not be updating here for awhile. Not because I'll be busy living the life of the inner-city single woman (not least, because although I'm discussing restaurants and clubs and galleries as things I'm looking forward to, my secret most anticipated activity is going to the airport to watch the planes take off - please don't tell anyone!) but because based on past experiences, apparently it's going to take us some time to get the internet connection running.

    It's a two-hour drive from Newcastle to Sydney, but for me the journey has taken years and years. I'm nearly there now though.

    In The Interest Of Public Courtesy: On The Bus

    09 March 2007

    In today's busy world, there are many things we could all do to make each other's lives more pleasant. Sadly, these things are often not being done. Through her witty and informative public courtesy rules, blogger Tracey is attempting to redress this problem. There is one aspect of life where a little courtesy for one's fellow citizens goes a long way: when travelling on the bus.

  • Have your ticket and/or money ready when the bus arrives. Don't sit reading or chatting at the bus stop, then hold everyone up by fumbling through your wallet whilst buying a ticket.

  • If the bus driver waits for you because you are late, then walk or run towards the bus as fast as you can, and a "thank you" is in order when you board.

  • I can't believe I have to say this - but school children, give up your seats on the bus for adults, especially the elderly. They are paying. You are not. What do you need to sit down for anyway? You're not tired yet.

  • Unless the bus is empty or near-empty, your bag doesn't need a seat. Put it on the floor so someone can sit next to you.

  • (I'll try to be delicate here) If you are male, keep your legs as close together as possible. I'm sorry, but unless you have a severe case of the mumps, your manhood is not two feet wide, and doesn't require you to have your legs sprawled that far apart.

  • Keep it quiet. There is no need to shout when talking to someone next to you. When talking on a mobile phone, if the reception is so bad you need to shout, call the person you're speaking to back later. And the bus is not the place to try out all your ring tones.

  • The bus is also not the place to: floss your teeth; file your nails; spray yourself with hairspray and/or deodorant; or do anything, except breathing, involving the interior of your nose. (I have seen people do all these things on the bus).

  • Keep your feet on the floor, not on the seats. Someone else has to sit there, sooner or later.

  • When the bus reaches your stop, exit as quickly as possible. We all understand that more infirm passengers take a little longer to get off the bus, but holding everyone up whilst you spend several minutes saying goodbye to other passengers is making people frustrated, and late. Also, exit by the back door, so that intending passengers can board straight away without waiting for people to alight.

    By following these common-sense rules, I'm sure we can all enjoy a faster and more pleasant journey.

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