Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bits and pieces #5
I wonder if each age has diseases which reflect its excesses? I know it sounds apocalyptic and God-Ordained, but I'd rather plump for irony. If syphilis highlighted the fraudulent piety and repressed sexuality of Victorian times - and doubled as slight payback for the illness inflicted on the colonised, travelling back from South America as a visible sign of carnal sin, then perhaps cancer and depression are the diseases fit for our times. Cancer is disorder, a deliberate betrayal of progress and civilisation, often brought about by technological progress itself. Depression highlights the selfishness of Westerners - the heightened individualism and sense of freedom which my generation inherited from the free love and libertarianism of the post-war period has a flipside of social alienation, depression brought on by society tearing itself into smaller individual size pieces. And also, I've noticed that people in a depressive episode find it very much harder than normal to care about other people, in a bitter irony.


I might have written about this before, so forgive me if that's the case. But if I was going to wish for a progressive future, I'd wish for science to advance enough to remove the human condition. What fascism and communism taught us - the twin extremisms coming directly from the theory of progress - was that the flaw in conceiving of a perfect world and pushing towards it was that humans are the same throughout the ages. Transhumanists have dreamt of moving beyond the constraints of flesh for fifty years, and I often feel like one of them. Wars and inequalities are part of human history for millenia. More importantly, they are part of ape history and it's hard not to conclude that war and inequality are essential to being the naked ape. I wonder if a hive mind could be created, if society could be truly recreated in a seething togetherness. Insect colonies show it is possible in a rudimentary sense, but I wonder whether information technology and storage could make us more than human.

Monday, May 29, 2006

About me

I learnt an interesting thing the other night. Apparently, I had significantly changed for the worse when I first got back from Japan, according to an expert on my character (Mum). This came as news to me - I just thought I was hideously depressed. Which I was. But to the world-outside-Doug, it was more than that - I was a harder person, less forgiving, less pleasant. When I remember back then, it was probably accurate. I didn't like being trapped with Kiyono; I didn't like becoming temporarily dependent on alcohol, and I didn't like life. I remember my thinking changing to become more and more despairingly scientific, evolutionary-deterministic; reading John Gray's Straw Dogs and wondering at how we ever convinced ourselves we were more than flesh constructed from a billion billion generations of bacteria. How centuries of progress wound up confronting Auschwitz and the fact that the problem and the wonder of humans is that we are human, built of thoughts papering over emotions papering over urges and that until science enables us to modify the deep animal, all we'll be is this flow of genes saying the same thing in slightly different ways.

Thinking back, I realised again how relative and temporary our personalities are. We think fixed and unchanging, but the person I'll be at 80 will undoubtedly be much different to the way I am now. I like to think my personality is quite strong, but Japan and all that came with it exerted different pressures on me than Australia. A lot of cultural force and personal issues were exerted on a small indeterminate blob: me. Needless to say, the something that gave was me.

It's interesting to look back now that my Australian personality has reasserted itself (slowly, like a mushroom shifting back into place) and think about things like learned helplessness, the victim mentality and cultural difference.

I was watching a family of bogans last Friday night, coming home from work on the train. They got on at Heidelberg and sat down across from me, to my slight shock. The trio were tattooed, drunk and loving. Mother bogan was swearing and swaying until her son calmed her down. She became merry and insisted he bounce on her knee. "He hasn't done this since he wuz four," she confided in a beerily loud whisper to her son's pregnant fiance. It was a really cute episode, despite my middle-class hackles rising at the possibility of A Scene. I thought afterwards about how much of a blank slate humans are and how much can be written that is different. Apply a veneer of tough upbringing, little education, low aspirations and low income and that would be me. Apply a middle class background, reasonable parental expectations of return on their private schooling investment, and a comfortable life and you might approach me.

It seems like even though I've bounced back, the hatred of self and other I built up for the first time in Japan has still left a residue. I suppose this is how personalities secrete and warp and change.

If I was an idiot when I first got back, forgive me. I'm better now.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shaking the salt

Hear ye! Hear ye! The Saltshakers have unleashed a manifesto on how to conquer the human condition (at least, the lust-from-porn part of it). How? With the aid of a rubber band, telling a friend when you feel the urge in your loins (but not that sort of friend, sadly), or meeting up at a lust accountability group, which sounds about as well thought out as a Sex Addicts support/hook-up group. Check out the excerpts:
Lust Busters: Practical Assistance
How can we secure ourselves from being swept away by a tidal wave of lust?
3. Call a friend. Be honest and accountable. If we keep our secrets we may stay sick (James 5:16).
4. Meet in an accountability group of those who want to stay free.
5. Restrain the brain which becomes addicted to endorphins and encephalins, heroin-like chemicals released with sexual activity. By snapping a rubber band on your wrist whenever inappropriate thoughts occur, (or some such technique), addiction can be reduced by 80% in 30 days.
6. Get off-line. The internet is now the number one lust promoter in the world. Buy software which blocks ‘adult’ material or use a Christian ISP that filters sites - has a filtered service that is only available in the USA.
Does the rubber band make you think of a watered down Opus Dei? And can you tell someone who is losing their fight against lust by their rubber-tattered wrists.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Oh my

First, check out this pic:

(That should show the oil companies)

Then go to the website from whence it came and wonder at these words:

Reverend Bray was incarcerated for four years in the 1980s after being convicted of burning a number of abortion clinics around Washington, D.C. After his release from prison, Rev. Bray became a national spokesperson for the idea that children in the womb were due the same protection as children outside the womb. Primarily through the publication of his book A Time To Kill but also through interviews on many national television and radio venues, Rev. Bray spent much time explaining to the American people that Christians had the right to exercise lethal force if necessary to protect unborn children.

Rev. Bray wrote an essay titled: "A FATHER'S RIGHT: THE EXECUTION OF ABORTIONISTS" in which he writes that: "When justice for womb children is re-established and abortion is re-criminalized, the penalty thereafter for those who murder womb children will be the punishment of death. In the meantime, we have argued in defense of the use of lethal force to protect a womb child from death at the hands of an abortionist"

He refers to his own publication, 'A Time to Kill' published by the Life Advocate Ministries, a ministry obviously named with a sense of gallows humour and a taste for hypocrisy.

Bray performs remarkable moral leaps in justifying murder to prevent murder, in a manner only an American well-versed in the intricacies of using Thou Shalt Not Kill to defend the death penalty could get away with.

Look: "In a society so morally debased as ours has become, severed from its ties to Christian/common law, defenders of womb children have found themselves ostracized, criminalized and persecuted when they exercise the protective actions one would normally afford any innocent victim" (Protective actions? Pre-emptive strikes?Collateral damage? Is the man ex-military, perhaps?)

More: "Now, in 2006, I want to address the use of lethal force not in defense of the innocent but for the punishment of the murderer. What role, if any, does the private citizen have in the execution of vengeance upon the murderer? JUSTICE AND RETRIBUTION"

He presses on with illogic:
"In the particular capital crime of murder, God has required the death of the murderer. The very principle, the 'image of God' in man, both prohibits murder and commands that the murderer be executed. Just as men are required to refrain from murder,they are required to execute those who commit murder."

Hang on, let me read that again. Refraining from murder but permitted execution. On the split-hair distinction between execution and murder lies the way to salvage Christian pride and some vague sense of consistency between God's express New Testament wishes to preserve life and a deeply American sense of righteousness and a god-given right to kill (aided of course, by Messrs Glock, Beretta and Browning).

Of course, the Bible rewards detailed reading and a lawyer's love of loopholes:
"As with all forms of injustice in the world, God, who loves justice, will bring judgment in due time and right all wrongs.Those wrongs of which we have knowledge but are unable to prove in court will not go unnoticed or un-addressed by God. Vengeance is His and He will repay and He delegates to human authorities the task of executing vengeance (Romans 13:4). That which escapes His earthly courts will not escape His Final Judgment day. In this we can find some comfort and hope whenever we see wicked deeds go unpunished before our eyes. But this sad delay in justice does not leave us indifferent to it. We are to love and to seek justice. Temperance of justice may be afforded the offender by the injured party in the case of civil wrongs; e.g., one may forgive a personal debt and thus extend godly grace. But the case of first degree murder is another matter. There is to be no mercy shown. No judge has the right to reduce the sentence to prison time or flogging or fine. Because human beings are created in the image of God, those who murder them must forfeit their lives(Gen. 9:6). There is no alternative for execution; no substitute for the blood of the murderer (Ex. 21:12,14; Deut.19:4-13; Josh. 20; Num. 35:27-30). 'You shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death' (Num. 35:31).

Never mind that to follow the Old Testament would make you Jewish, and modern Israel has only ever killed one person via the justice system: Adolf Eichmann (I'll leave the depredations of Mossad alone). Never mind a very specific call from Rev. Bray's supposed revolutionary deity, Jesus H. Christ, not to kill anyone. Anyone. As in, abortionists and terrorists.

"On the assumption that the duty of executing murderers resides with civil authorities whenever they are functioning legitimately as just authorities, what happens when such authorities flagrantly fail to carry out justice? When is vigilante justice' tolerable? It's tolerable when you're a fiery zealot, or if you're the Unabomber, but apart from that, I don't think it holds widespread support. Might be just me though.

Thankfully, while Rev. Bray has done his Biblical duty and bred nine daughters upon his long suffering wife, he has yet to walk the walk and slaughter an abortionist in the name of protecting life. He prefers to sit on the sidelines and offer incitements to potential killers, like radio shock jocks in Rwanda. But one day, if he loses enough moral fibre, perhaps his daughters can look forward to some fireside conversation like this:
So Daddy, how many abortionists did you execute today? I hope they screamed, Daddy, I surely do. Daddy: Oh, one or two rodents, darling, no more. Now how was school? Get me a towel for the scum's blood, will you?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I've never had too many pretensions about my writing - it's hasty, impression-laden stuff without overlong thought - but what I do best is write faction - heavily altered fact. Sadly, life as a local journo seemed to preclude editorialising past being the now-sole journo on the paper, and hence having almost complete control over what goes in my little baby. But then the plot thickened. About three weeks ago, my colleague took off to warmer news climes with more violence and car crashes, having brought me up to speed on my sedate area. He bequeathed me the dubious legacy of having to write sport. Put simply, I hate sport unless I'm playing it. I think sportspeople get far too much attention. They should be regarded as entertainers and treated as such. And sport bores me to tears. Win, lose or draw - without a personal investment in a team, how can you take pleasure in a paltry three possible outcomes, or even with a team to call your own, how can the three primary-coloured emotions of elation, sadness or boredom substitute for the richness of life outside sport.

The above is a brief synopsis of my thoughts as I faced up, heavy hearted and dragging my feet to my first Monday Weekend Sports Wrap Up day. I plodded through a couple of stories before having an epiphany. Sports writing was fun! You can use adjectives like guns, shooting them off all over the place with no regard. I can wank on at high velocity about - and this is the crucial bit - games that I never attended. Yep, shocking but true. Sure, the photographers go along to a footy match or two, but me, I simply scour the well-set up results websites from the comfort of my desk, zeroing in on any interesting-sounding matches with thrills, spills, third-quarter comebacks and misery and write it in faction-style: based on a real event but heavily laden in utter bilge which proves really rather fun to write. Supplemented by a brief conversation with an inarticulate coach, the story writes itself.

Sample wank:
In a devastating display of power and grace, the Eagles swooped upon their hapless victims and bore them off screaming for a rematch.
The blitz started early and the Eagles kept up the pressure throughout, with a startling 189 goals from Bogan McFuckface, noted rapist and all round good bloke.
Coach Joey Joeboy said "At the end of the day, the game is four quarters and it's a team game. We're taking it one game at a time. They gave 110%.

See how easy and fun sport is to write? It's like fiction with a limited repertoire, as if a Booker prize winner was told to write exclusively about the outcome of small wars using only hyperbole and excessive adjectives to give the impression he was actually there. Joy is a blank sports page and a thesaurus. Please, envy me.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bareback Mountain

I knew the porn takeover of Brokeback Mountain couldn't be far away. But Lee made it much funnier than I could have. Sample lines:

Brokeback: The short story by Annie Proulx, which first appeared in The New Yorker.

Bareback: A couple of cowboy hats left behind after a hen party in The Yard.

Brokeback: This one did, inspiring a raft of parodies.

Bareback: The minging one in the white cowboy hat.

Brokeback: Good lord! Spit-on-hand action in a tent somewhere, where Ennis manages to get it in with a wince-inducing lube-less shunt meaning either a) Jack's as slacker than Paris Hilton's fish mitten, or b) Ennis doesn't live up to what his name sounds like.

Go and read the rest here.

I WONDER what all the rabid feminists thought when those great warriors, the miners, trapped in hell for 14 days, arose and cradled and kissed their womenfolk? All the magnificent miners and engineers who risked their lives to rescue these men; the scenes of these great men emerging from such danger, clutching their womenfolk to them, epitomised what man and woman is all about. It is God's and Mother Nature's way for men and women to mate to perpetuate the human race. How any woman, capable of conceiving naturally, would want to be impregnated with sperm other than by being touched by a gentle warrior of a man is beyond me. She is not carrying out God's and/or Mother Nature's plan.

- A letter from this week.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Musical impairs

Frankston station was one of the early adopters of classical music generational warfare in Melbourne. Once a place for right-thinking citizens to scurry between transport modes without looking at the loitering young hoodlums, Frankston station has largely emptied of the young restless. By piping classical music into potential teen-gathering spots, the powers that be make the station subtly unpleasant for potential malingerers and boredom-induced ill-doers. The technique - proven overseas - has been used at more youth-afflicted stations around Melbourne and seems to be a painless way to fend off troublesome youngsters.

But why classical? Is it the pitch? The Mosquito gadget works by emitting a pitch irritating to teenagers but not adults, but classical hardly falls into that category.

On the other hand, top 40 music attracts a particular subculture of teenage girls to slut-wear stores, while punk or alt-rock lures lumbering teenage boys to surfwear shops. According to a very reputable source (my mum), this youth music is utterly intolerable for her and people of her generation. She simply can't stand the volume or the music and avoids the stores. This looks an awful lot like subtle generation warfare, using music - a defining feature of generationalism - as a means of sorting through potential customers and discarding the unwanted. Bogan teens are sifted and found wanting by refined classical music, while baby boomers are kept at bay by youth music and prevented from their offspring through their shops.

Perhaps the future of the generation gap is the cunning aged understanding this technique and deploying honeypots traps to lure teens to grotty skateparks, simultaneously blasting out classical around their property investments and quality lifestyle neighbourhoods. Precocious teens would use the technique in reverse, protecting marijuana crops and bong houses with an impenetrable wall of sound large enough to make Phil Spector proud. Family houses would be split between classical and teen sections, with musical warfare at the frontline.

A bit of background on the future. You know it's coming:
This technique has been used lately all over the English-speaking world -- only not as a civilizing strategy but as a way of banishing ruffians, drug pushers and ne'er-do-wells. To clear out undesirables, opera and classical music have been piped into Canadian parks, Australian railway stations, 7-Eleven parking lots and, most recently, London Underground stops.

According to most reports, it works. Figures from the British capital released in January showed robberies in the subway down by 33 percent, assaults on staff by 25 percent and vandalism of trains and stations by 37 percent. Sources in other locales have reported fewer muggings and drug deals. London authorities now plan to expand the playing of Mozart, Vivaldi, Handel and opera (sung by Pavarotti) from three tube stations to an additional 35.
- From the LA Times.
Bits and bobs #4

I was just inspecting the words people use to find my blog, as every good self-obsessed blogger does and uncovered a stash of people searching for "fresh lolita" as if Lolita were a vegetable of some kind. More interestingly, several used Ask Jeeves to search for the elusive fresh Lolitas. This is where the whole concept of asking a Jeeves - a starchy butler with a penchant for ironing newspapers, judging by the picture - runs into trouble.

Would any blue blood ask their butler for "fresh lolita", even if they were so inclined? Would a self-respecting butler put up with being asked to procure sordid pictures? And if so, what business does a butler have on the web? The internet is for pornographers, after all.
Pornographers are at the leading edge of technological innovation, power, and sophistication. For example, banner advertising and other promotional efforts, such as referral fees for sales from click-throughs and partnership programs, are used extensively in porn sites. Site owners quickly adapted e-commerce innovations such as customer billing and encryption technology as well.

Innovative web design and applications for doing business on the Internet led one Sun Microsystems spokeswoman to comment that the way companies know their new applications are effective is to look at how they're used in the porn world.

- From here.

"God, John Howard can't even bring our dead soldiers home from Iraq"
- South Melbourne, earlier this week.

Ouch. RIP, Private Kovko.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bits and bobs #3

I was riding my bike down the road from my family's house and a car stopped and gave way to me. It was a guy I vaguely knew as a neighbour and we gave each other slight nodds and continued on with our days. I thought about this tiny interaction and wondered if that one of the reasons community has died in cities and been reconstituted as the commonalities of television celebrities and sports star is because of cars. Sure, cars have made suburbia possible, but a car is by nature an exclusionary device which creates the illusion of privacy - hello important businessman I saw picking his nose at the lights - and also generates hoons. Hoons seem to be like the non-internet version of trolls - people who delight in the actions anonymity and group-thrill lets them get away with.

Beyond privacy and dickheads lies a bigger problem with cars: they kill community. If you are a capsule moving alongside other capsule and the outside world is just dots along a moving chain from home back to home, you don't just fend off the weather, you fend off stray interactions; fend off the possibility of meeting someone new; fend off the built-up feeling of community which grows silently through the sense of sharing the same air, the same space as another human. Cars wipe that away and replace it with mediated humanity, with radio personalities and portable musicians so that with car and home accounted for, the chances of interacting with someone outside your designated micro-community of friends and colleagues drop off a cliff.

I wonder if this goes some way to explain road-rage - the imposition of someone else into your tiny capsule-space.


I wonder also how much parental homophobia comes out of a fear of losing grandkids, out of a vestigal fear of family lines ending? People talk of the tragedy of infertility but homophobia is always attributed to fear of the unusual, religious antagonism and retrograde 'protection' of masculinity. Are there perhaps more prosaic elements?
No mystery

Dolphins create a signature whistle for themselves that researchers believe is comparable to a human name, suggests a new study...
Dolphins in Australia do seem to produce more simple whistles, while Florida dolphin whistles appear to be more modulated," she said. "Right now, we don’t know why that happens."
- From the Discovery Channel.

No idea? I've got a pretty good idea, mayyyte. It's because Australian dolphins are simple blokes and blokesses who minimise the number of syllables so as to stop unruly sea-flies can't get into their mouths. Yepo. That's it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

English mark II

As English consolidates its position as the language most commonly learnt around the globe, a number of global dialects have arisen - Engrish, in Japan; Singaporean Singlish (a Hindi/Chinese/English hybrid), and Indian Hinglish, to name the most well known. The dialects shows up the flaws in the arguments of academics decrying the dominance of this linguistic monolith - as one language becomes more prominent, it interacts with the underlying languages to produce hybrid languages, like English itself - a polyglot vestige of the invaders of a small island off France.

I have devised a number of dubious methods to find possible news for my local paper. I have Google's web and alerts set up so that if anything happens in my suburbs worthy of being mentioned on the web, I get to know. So far this has produced stories on medal-winning dogs, policemen shooting magpies and so on, and it also makes me look good, as if I'm in touch with the common man on the street and have real live contacts and the like. I've also signed up to all the local school newsletters, from which I find essential picture-story fodder: kid does good.

Now, I will link my two paragraphs and hopefully make some sense. One of the newsletters I got recently is from a state school that uses international student fees to help keep it afloat. The international students went traipsing around being touristy and wrote a report in the newsletter. Tell me a native English speaker would ever have the imagination to use English like this:
When we got off the bus, the sky began to cry but no one cared about that. - Alex

On the way to the Ashcombe Maze, I was attracted by the beautiful scenery: the green
trees, grass, the white sheep and the azure sky. As I was being intoxicated by the scenery outside the window, the bus stopped at the Ashcombe Maze ...
The wild wind blew from the sea and waves came one after another. We picked shells among rocks ...
The waves were hitting on the stones gently. This is the most impressive grand
sight that I’ve ever seen ...
To look into the distance, I couldn’t find the end of the sea. The blue sky and the sea merged together. That feeling I will never forget. In my heart, the scenery sighed with my emotion and I was surprised by the amazing power of nature; the cave that stood in the sea just like a small castle. A light tower stood on the hill, lonely under the sky. - Sherry

How pretty. A trifle starchy and formal, perhaps a little uncertainty on this foreign linguistic terrain, but with such inventive twists.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Closeness = action

Contrast these two snippets of news:

Demand for water in Melbourne and elsewhere is expected to outstrip supply within 15 years. To counteract the shortage, Melburnians will be asked to conserve more water.

Melburnians already beat a target for reducing water use by 15 per cent before 2010 — the average household now uses 22 per cent less than during the 1990s. Under the proposed strategy, that voluntary target would rise to 30 per cent by 2020.

- From The Age.

The Federal Government is being warned Australia can no longer remain outside the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The United Nations conference on climate change that ended in Montreal yesterday decided to extend the protocol's life beyond 2012 and commit to further talks.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell says the agreement to develop something further is recognition that Kyoto is inadequate.

- From the ABC.

Why is it that water conservation is occuring but action on greenhouse gas emissions is minimal? It's not simply the entrenched economic interests of energy producers - most businesses would be well served by using green energy and less of it. The real problem is that the fear event - global warming - is too far away. While many scientists claim warming is already occuring, I'd argue there isn't the level of immediate fear that existed during, say, the now almost forgotten ozone hole crisis. Of course, the ozone problem had a comparatively simple solution (banning ozone-depleters) when contrasted with rethinking tried-and-true energy infrastructure.

I wonder if a major reason behind the inability of environmentalists to gain much traction on climate change - despite becoming amongst the most adept users of fear in the public sphere - is that people need to see physical proof. We're all doubting Thomases - if you claim that extinctions are becoming widespread, show me a endangered animal, preferably furry and cute. But climate change is so big, so slow and so diffuse that the galvanizing immediacy of fear has little to no impact. All environmentalists can do is draw links between an unusually wild storm and exhaust gases coming out of a car, which is a tenuous link for the man on the street.