February 28, 2003
Dreaming is free
I spent last Sunday at a brunch with my sister Giulia and her primary school teacher colleagues (and their assorted sprogs), so the subject of Australia's chronically undervalued teachers is on my mind again. I wonder if we'll ever see a society where teachers--and, for that matter, nurses and volunteer firefighters--earn even 1% of a Chris Cuffe bonus. Can you imagine?
Reading about employers' continuing obsession with psychometrics, I am curious as to whether politicans are made to jump through such hoops too. Did John Howard have to pass a psych test before assuming office (and boy, does the man assume office).
As I have a psych degree (even though I hated psychometrics; can we really 'measure' 'personality'?) I'm probably biased as to the importance of psychology in relation to the world's troubles. But it is my opinion that all world leaders should have an independent psychologist appointed to oversee their mental state. (In some cases, a psychiatrist may be more suitable.)
Not enough is made of the psychology of the current players on the world stage, even though any psychologist will tell you Saddam Hussein and George Bush clearly have "issues". Let's not even talk about Osama bin Laden,. I mean, young Osama was one of 58 children--the guy has some serious need for attention; don't you think?
And who else thinks Bush is still just seeking his father's approval? (See, this is what comes of coming from Venus: everything is just another relationship.)
People act as though when we are talking about "leaders" we are not also talking about humans. Bin Laden, who in spite of being "evil" also remains a human being, is nothing more than a large-scale cult leader who should be being dealt with by a war room full of psychologists, not generals.
On the razor's edge
As I took out my recycling yesterday my eye fell again on a story in the weekend paper about the suicide of Afghan asylum seeker 'Dr Habib'. A quote stood out: "His body was left there [on the razor wire] for 12 hours. People who saw it thought it was a dummy". Twelve hours! Why? And again, where were the psychologists? Even from the most cursory information about his symptoms (feelings of being followed, people spying on him, etc) surely the diagnosis of an acute paranoid schizophrenic episode should have been at least considered by his case workers. A very sad story indeed.
. . .
February 26, 2003
When the muse is over
I had a lovely night tonight. I caught up with my dear friend Jana--no relation--and we had Thai in the beergarden and talked about men, as is our wont. Then I met Cabbage just briefly, before he had to do his trivia gig at our local. I promised I'd catch the trivia next week but tonight I have work to do. Because you might have noticed I haven't managed to put any fiction up yet (argh!). It still feels too raw. But I don't want to go through life with a suitcase full of non-sequiturs. I need to synthesise something (read: finish something). At some point I have to complete these mythical stories of mine.
So I've put on Angelique Kidjo's Logozo and I think I'll have a little dance with the kittens first to get myself in the right mood. And clean the kitchen. And maybe catch the late news. It's hard work keeping up with the world lately, isn't it?
About the anonymous blog about Joe--well, I just don't have time. I know it's indulgent, but I'll probably still have to mention him on this blog. Well, it hardly seems fair to talk about other characters in my world and not him.
I won't be offended if you scroll past posts about Joe.
. . .
Bowling for weight watchers
Pills that can get rid of your double chin overnight? Hey, I'll have some of those! Has Shane Warne been buying his wonder drugs off Peter Foster? Well, drug cheat or not, he’s setting a bad example about methods of weight control for the kiddies. I don't get it. You'd think he gets enough exercise. So what is it, Shane--junk food? Beer?
Tim is not on my side
Apparently Tim Blair thinks the US Marines calling human shields “speed bumps” is cute. Hmm, doesn't the joke suggest they're kind of "collateral", Blair?
Protesters are trying to stop a cargo ship carrying 30,000 tonnes of woodchips from leaving Eden (NSW South Coast). The Greens remind us that Premier Bob Carr made a commitment in 2000 to end the export of woodchips but say "in 2001 Harris Daishowa took more than 760,000 tonnes of woodchips from the forests of the south-east along for export." (the paper trail is at News Ltd).
I might follow this one (the politics, I mean, not the ship--it's heading for the Sea of Japan...) The news item reminds me of the bizarre flyer a woman pushed into my hands as I entered the lift of my office building yesterday. "CONGRATULATIONS!" said the flyer. "Your office building has recycled 378.88 tonnes of paper and 30 tonnes of glass, aluminium and steel cans and plastic bottles. The environmental saving from recycling your paper is the equivalent to saving 4,925 trees and 947 barrels of oil. Congratulations on a Great Recycling Effort!" The irony. Well, I helped "make a greater impact on our environment" by stuffing their stupid leaflet into my recycling bin as soon I got to my office.
. . .
February 25, 2003
Coming soon to a couch near me
The War. In Dolby. It's the ultimate reality TV show, this arms-length race. Saddam--you are the weakest link! Goodbye!
When reality TV burst onto the radar a few years ago, Salman Rushdie argued passionately that it would only escalate from televised humiliation to televised murder, in order to satisfy the increasing bloodthirst of the viewing savages:
"How long will it be...before 'reality TV' demands real flesh to feed our jaded appetites? If we are willing to watch people stab one another in the back, might we not also be willing to actually watch them die?"
("Why Big Brother will soon be after your blood", Salman Rushdie, 12 June 2001; Sydney Morning Herald, no link available).
Of course, people who have lived for many years with a death sentence hanging over their heads can perhaps be forgiven for a little catastrophising. But Rushdie's argument never sat well with me. Television viewers get more than enough violence on the news. And if it were true that audiences have an insatiable and escalating desire for aggrotainment, then you'd think boxing matches would have become deadly by now. OK, so the odd ear may have been bitten off, but it's not exactly back to the Gladiators, as Rushdie foresees.
And in the years since his warning about prime-time snuff movies, what did we get? We got Marty & Jess: An Aussie Romance, and Big Brother III, a celebrity-charity fundraiser for sick kids. In other words, we didn't get blood, Salman, we got love. Rushdie's fears haven't been realised and we're still all watching inane reality shows about bachelors, brides, beefcake and B-listers. And Big Brother remains the same as it ever was: just a game show where contestants get to compete for sex partners and cash.
But now there's the theatre of war, again, and I'm more inclined to agree with Rushdie. What a shame the BBC production The Trench has not yet been screened. This boot-camp style reality show, which claimed it would throw contestants into the type of conditions faced by soldiers during the First World War, might have been a good wakeup call.
UPDATE 1: Paul Sheehan on reality TV.
UPDATE 2: Apparently reality TV can be harmful to women.
. . .
LIGHT SWEET CRUDE
Why is oil called that?? I guess one out of three ain’t bad. Here’s what’s making news at Casa Gianna this morning: Another wonderful reason to be alert, brought to you by North Korea. Meanwhile, America won’t be drawn into the Mother of all Debates, but will throw Australia a bone. Not to be outdone, Iraq throws us a bone too. Speaking of business, Australia has heralded a new era of corporate governance with the “landmark” finding that “chairmen have responsibilities beyond those of other directors". No kidding.
UPDATE: Apparently the Mother of all Debates has gone ahead after all, chaired by Tony Blair.
. . .
February 24, 2003
A lunchtime surf
Downer's brilliant Korea
Arrest that snowperson! (via Drudge).
As usual, Ruth Wajnryb is very deep, very meaningful.
...and I just can't get enough
...of Gary, Tim, Rob and Jozef.
. . .
February 23, 2003
And that's The Blair Factor
Tim Blair didn't find The Chaser's piece (which I linked to below) funny. It got at least one chuckle out of me. He didn't find CNNNNNNN funny either, whereas I thought it was champagne--sorry, sparkling white--comedy.
. . .
UP THE ANTI
While I'm on the topic of definitions, the Good Weekend had a witty look at the meanings of "unAustralian". David Oldfield's answer to "what would be an unAustralian act?" included "wearing a towel on your head at times not associated with bathing". Is he talking about Muslims, or am I imagining things?
It's slightly more honest than the response John Howard gave to Fred Nile's recent hysterical demand for a ban on veils (in case they are used as weapons of mass destruction). Howard said:
"I don't have a clear response to what Fred Nile has put. I like Fred. I don't always agree with him but he speaks for the views of a lot of people."
It may just be semantics, but notice how he doesn't state that he disagrees with Nile on this particular issue. He just vaguely states that he doesn't always agree with Nile. Never a great deal of clarity to be had from Our John, is there. Though at least we know who his mates are.
. . .
Karaoke weekend at the suicide shack
That’s Beck again, of course, who I regard as a bit of a postmodern poet. I’m thinking of poetry a lot this weekend. There was a story in Weekend Australian by Bryan Appleyard (“Poetry gets a better rap”; no free link available) in which Appleyard argues that postmodernism killed poetry but that lyricist Eminem is bringing it back to the kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bringing poetry back to the masses and what he says about the failures of marketing and education is quite true. But postmodernist-bashing, especially when you're going to use a postmodernist as your star witness, is odd.
. . .
Quote of the day
"Intimacy, n. A relation into which fools are providentially drawn for their mutual destruction."
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (via nerve.com)
. . .
February 21, 2003
Howard pledges troops for next shuttle mission.
. . .
THINK INSIDE THE BOX
The PM argues Australians will be able to vote on Iraq. There's just one catch: we have to wait til the next Federal Election, which could be a year away.
"In his interview on Channel Nine's Today program this week [John Howard] was trying to make a general statement about the democratic process. If people don't like where the Government is leading them with its Iraq policy, then they have the right on polling day to cast their vote in another direction."
(read the Herald story)
Tim Dunlop agrees:
"He will be accountable at the ballot box, and that's how it should be."
I disagree with Tim (for a change). If the ballot box is where we decide whether governments are right about a particular policy, then we should be voting before the policy is introduced, not afterwards. Otherwise, if "people don't like where the Government is leading them with its Iraq policy", what can they do about it after the war has already taken place? Turn back time?
And if the people do throw Howard out at the next election, how is anyone going to be able to able to tease out the specific reason? People elect and reject leaders for a range of reasons. If Howard intends to make the election about war, he should have the guts to face the consequences now, while there is little else being debated and a clear inference can be drawn about the people's intentions.
The Herald reports that "Howard has already confirmed that he intends to 'see through' the Iraq crisis." Frankly, we only have an "Iraq crisis" because of America's pre-emptive strike strategy and its bullying of Allies and the UN to participate in unprovoked aggression.
"[Howard] also suggested for the first time that the power and influence of the US was also at stake, saying: 'We're dealing with, you know, quite a moment in history. If the world walks away from this, the damage to the authority of the United Nations will be incalculable, the damage to the United States will be huge.'"
(read the Herald story)
Damage to the United States--whose fault is this? Which American president has been strutting the world stage threatening other nations and drawing the entire planet into a quagmire of pre-emption and dispute? Which American president has painted himself, and Australia and Britain, into a very small corner? America hasn't learnt much from the Waco siege, which is a microcosm for the present conflict: out-group suspected of having weapons, diplomacy abandoned, pre-emptive strike launched, out-group annihilated (including women and children), weapons liberated. Vene vidi vici.
As for damage to the UN, it will be equally damaging if one powerful member nation is able to coerce the UN into authorising pre-emptive strikes.
. . .
On the news the PM dismisses the peace rallies with "People don't protest against the status quo." What he means is, sure, the mob was out on Sunday, but there are plenty of Australians quietly marching for the war in the comfort of their living rooms. But tell me, when did war become the "status quo"?
What's your Inner European?
Brought to you by Quizilla
Quite an uncanny resemblance, don't you think?
I think it's good to be green. Even if this does mean I'm officially unAustralian.
. . .
February 20, 2003
Might as well face it, you're addicted to blog
Some things to distract me:
My life as a journalist
What wing is that?
The best thing since sliced Jung. More political archetypes than you can poke a stick at. (Muchas gracias mentalspace).
well may you ask what's so divine about her?
. . .
"PM: Warne ban would be shame"
John Howard's going in to bat for Warnie.
. . .
February 19, 2003
My life as a slog
You spend ten years writing your masterpiece and toiling in a dead-end McJob and you come out the other end with a six grand advance and a 16,000 copy print run. Welcome to A Writer's Life. I guess six grand's better than nothing but it doesn't exactly inspire hope of abandoning the day job.
But if column inches in the New York Times are anything to go by, writer Beth Ann Bauman chose the right publisher:
"MacAdam/Cage, a hip San Francisco publishing house that was started five years ago as a showcase for literary fiction...has made waves in the publishing world for its unusual business model: rather than handing out massive advances, the company spends up to $40,000 — an extraordinary sum for a typical first-time author — on marketing the book."
Spend money on marketing! What a novel idea. Well, Bauman will need the leg-up:
"Hundreds of short-story collections are published each year, and most sell, at best, only a few thousand copies. First efforts are especially risky. "I love short stories, but debut fiction tends to sell modestly in the first place, and debut collections tend to sell sub-modestly,’’ said Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little Brown & Company.
"Sub-modestly"--what a nice euphemism.
Bauman's book is called Beautiful Girls.
Lost the plot lately?
Neale can help.
. . .
February 17, 2003
Where's the love gone?
My sister is busting to tell me: "I've had another letter in the paper. That brings it to 15. How many have you had, again?"
"Nine," I say. We used to have a competition going. So I add, "You know, writing letters to papers is so last-millennium. These days, I have an entire blog to myself."
"What's a 'blog'?" my sister asks, fixing her letter to the fridge with the terror magnet.
"A web-log," I explain with infinite patience. "On-line journal. It's a new independent form of journalism," I add.
"I see," my sister says. "Well now. I had a quarter of a million readers this weekend. And how many readers did you have, exactly?"
"Seven and a half," I cough.
Well, blogging is the height of vanity and narcissism. As pixelkitty says of her site: "This isn't about you." Speaking of narcissism, you may have noticed I have filleted out all mention of my love life from this blog. I've moved it all over to a strangers-only blog de l'amour. (If anyone wants to keep up with the saga, email me for the link. Suffice to say, I broke up with him as soon as he hit the tarmac...or so I thought...)
. . .
Back up a little. Richard Alston and John Howard are both "testing" out $10,000 plasma digital television sets? Testing them for who? Hands up anyone who can conceive of spending ten thousand smackeroos on a TV? (Chris Cuffe, put your hand down. And the other one. And stop grinning, it's vulgar.) I felt the same way on reading about the Governor-General's $350,000 worth of 'vital' renovations. And the $20 million for a bunch of fridge magnets. They could've at least given us those fridge magnet word sets, so we could stop being alert for a second and make hilarious sentences (when mixed with our sexy fridge magnets set) such as: FOREIGN MINISTER IN OILY ROMP WITH TERRORIST CAMEL.
. . .
NO BLIX KRIEG, BUT THE DOVES CAN FLOCK OFF
Oh, they can ignore us, silly me:
Howard and Downer (something like): "We don't care the Battlers think, we're off to war."
Defence Minister Robert Hill (on Meet the Press): "[The costs of war, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, are covered. Of course,] when the figures firm up through the budget process, we'll need to be supplemented." Huh? Sounds a bit rubbery, doesn't it? (Who are these guys' accountants, I wonder...)
Hill: attacking Iraq is "self-defence". An example of the 'just war/pre-emptive strike' rationale.
Joe Hockey, Minister for Small Business, on the peace rallies (on Sunrise): "We are resolved to follow the path to disarming Saddam."
A subtle change in the rhetoric? An open admission of Australia's commitment to Bush? "We are resolved" is a dead giveaway.
. . .
February 16, 2003
The newest republic
The Herald reports that His Royal Highness Leonard Casley, 77, who "turned his farm into a principality...in protest against a government wheat quota" 33 years ago, is raising funds for medical research. Great idea. I hereby declare Casa Gianna a Republic.
. . .
February 15, 2003
The PM's stomping ground
This is from Margo Kingston and is worth repeating:
Sylvia Harmon says that on Sunday Feb 16th all trains on the Sydney north shore line (from Hornsby to Wynyard) will be cancelled due to track work. They will be replaced by buses. In case the number of buses is less than required, people might like to make other arrangements for getting into the City. Also people might like to let everyone on their email lists know, so that they can pass the info on even if they're not affected themselves.
. . .
ALL WE ARE SAYING
is give peace a chance.
I read that the Melbourne rally was the biggest since the Vietnam protests. In the spirit of the friendly rivalry between the two cities: Come on, Sydney--we can be bigger than Vietnam. I'm actually feeling optimistic all of a sudden. I mean, they can't ignore a million people.
So all you leftwing, centrist and centre-left rightwing bloggers (it sure gets complicated), see you tomorrow.
. . .
February 14, 2003
One last thing before I have to go out
Richard Neville has a new essay up: Why the War Horses Stomp & Snort..
. . .
WAR GAMES: Whose side are you on?
Well folks, this is how the competition is stacking up for the season. We've got some truly legendary teams getting ready for the big one: USA, Britain, seasoned military icons like France and Germany. North Korea and Japan are the league again, independent team Al Qaeda, a relative newcomer to the field, has signed up for games with just about all the other teams.
Belgium's drawn Israel, a tough one, but it looks like this upstart nation could just have a win with its war crimes case against right-wing Ariel Sharon, so that's one to watch. Speaking of upstart new teams, we've got Australia getting into the big league now, with games against Iraq and possibly even Indonesia. And if all of that weren't something to look forward to, of course we've still got Israel against Palestine and a number of other ongoing tournaments.
Folks, the first round looks like this:
USA v Iraq
Britain v Iraq
North Korea v USA
Japan v North Korea
USA v France
USA v Germany
USA v Russia
Turkey v France and Germany
Belgium v Israel
Australia v Iraq
Israel v Palestine
and, finally, the wild card,
I don't know about you, but I'm alert.
. . .
February 13, 2003
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
When I was 13 I was obsessed with Jack Kerouac and spent many a night locked away in my bedroom thumbing through On the Road and hatching plans to emulate Kerouac's excellent adventure, just as soon as I was old enough to get a licence and a convertible and a ticket to the New World. My love for all things American was only encouraged by the arrival in my class of an exchange student from Tennessee: cool, spunky and grungy, Drew played in a band and drawled like a movie star. I had a seven foot poster of James Dean on my wall. I had Jim Morrison on high rotation on the stereo. I kept a stash of forbidden Seventeen and Mademoiselle magazines under my bed (my mother, a feminist, was enraged by my surrender to the consumer/beauty ideal).
I loved America. America was about freedom, shopping, lust, music and movies. We all loved America. But even back then, my friends and I felt we could stage a protest in the playground at lunch-time on the day that America bombed Libya. There was no sense that we were suddenly being "anti-American". Educated to be pacifists, we merely objected to American aggression.
So you can holler all you like about the anti-war position being "anti-American". My feelings on America remain the same. America is about freedom. America is about great ideas like democracy, or the internet. I love America.
. . .
Thanks to Tim Blair for the pointer to the Leunig site. I would be sad if I had to go through life like Tim Blair and his cronies, simply not getting the zen of Leunig.
My intellectual opposition Tim Blair has increased dramatically following his recent smart-arse comments about German letter-writer Karl Walter. Like Professor Bunyip, another right-wing blogger, Blair has a snarl at Walter, who in his letter recalled the American bombing of German civilians and wrote of his hope that such evil can be avoided in Iraq. Blair has this clever rejoinder:
"Hey, Karl ... Dachau! Auschwitz! Belsen! Ever heard of these places? Ringing any bells, Karl? The number six million mean anything to you? Guy with a moustache? Kristal fucking nacht?"
Oh, the wit. Both Blair and Bunyip miss the point, which is that 'obliterate to liberate' is a morally dubious strategy. (Hey Blair: Hiroshima, Nagasaki! Ever heard of these places? Ringing any bells, Tim?)
Whatever happened to free speech?
Duh, the PM would say that, wouldn't he.
. . .
OFF, OFF, OFF BROADWAY!
Well done, New York City (NYT username:Gianna0, password venice). Next up, banning mobiles from buses and trains?
. . .
February 12, 2003
Bush takes the bait
Mentalspace asks, "Does anyone seriously believe that the latest Osama bin Laden tape proves that he's in cahoots with Saddam Hussein?"
Personally, I don't know who's the bigger opportunist here - Osama bin Laden (who is clearly feeling a bit left out and wants the spotlight back on his jihad) or George Bush for seizing upon bin Laden's opportunism as proof that Saddam Hussein needs to be bombed.
Such mangled logic will probably guarantee a terror strike by bin Laden, who must be gloating at the idea of so easily provoking America & Co. into war in the Middle East. And it will achieve bin Laden's ultimate goal: a major global conflict which can be artfully reframed and marketed as a religious war, and as a bonus, the destruction of his sworn secular enemy Saddam Hussein.
Flaky, dangerous and stupid.
. . .
New world disorder
Interesting angle on America's "Old Europe" jibe.
. . .
February 09, 2003
THE OLD MAN AND MY SCENE
I'm revamping my site. I'm going to bite the bullet and put up some short stories I've written, as well as some non-fiction work.
The impetus is a conversation I had recently with my mother.
"Oh, did I tell you?" she said. "Your father's going to critique some writing for one of your sister's friends who wants to be a journalist."
Here we have a man who is a journalist himself, whose own father was a journalist--press attache to post-war German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, in fact--and whose daughter has made no secret about her lifelong dream of writing.
"Gee, that's great." I said, sarcastically. "Considering he completely ignores anything I write."
"Darling, you never show us anything!" my mother trilled.
Not so. I have in fact asked my father to give me feedback on my blog. "Sure, no problem," he said. Then: polite silence on the subject ever since. I suspect I embarrass him when I dwell on my love life.
Well, he ain't seen nothing yet.
To tell you the truth, I am tired of the war and it hasn't even started yet. So just one last comment: Channel Nine, you should be ashamed (60 Minutes, tonight). Trotting out the survivors of Bali to make a case for a war in Iraq is in very bad taste. Of course these people want revenge. Of course they want justice. Of course we empathise with them. But nobody wants innocent Iraqi families going through the same pain. The promo says something like, "Before you make up your mind about The War, listen to these stories..." Blatant propaganda.
. . .
February 08, 2003
American intelligence officials have issued a "worldwide alert" for a "high level of terror", warning that Westerners are about to be attacked at soft targets like "national landmarks, hotels or shopping malls". Since we are being told to trust American intelligence on Iraq, I assume we should be deeply worried about this development. (I avoid shopping malls at the best of times, and I'm not about to start lingering in them now, but thank god for internet shopping.)
Tim at the Road to Surfdom comments on this too.
We're all Little Aussie Battlers now
John Howard's position makes one thing clear: If there is going to be a war, Australia will be part of it. Sure, he says Australia isn't fully signed up with Uncle Sam yet, but if there is no Second Resolution, what is Howard's endgame? Correct me if I'm wrong, but if the UN authorises force and there is a war, Australians will fight. And yet, if the UN doesn't authorise force, and America goes it 'alone' (with it's Coalition of the Willing), Australians will fight as well. Our PM scoffs at suggestions our troops can't be recalled, but he seems to mean that they can only be recalled in the event that Saddam surrenders and averts war. (Anyway, didn't the Foreign Minister just say--off the record--that he can't get his ships back if there's war?)
It's almost taken for granted that the US/N will quickly win a war against Iraq. Right now, Donald Rumsfeld is confidently asserting that war will be swift and successful. Has Rumsfeld his own private Delphic oracle to consult? I know Americans are fond of the sentiment "failure is not an option" but hubris is dangerous. Here's an earlier quote cited from a Washington Post story by Michael Dobbs: "Donald Rumsfeld, now Secretary of Defense, went to Baghdad in December '83 and met with Saddam Hussein, and this was at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons almost on a daily basis in defiance of international conventions." Rumsfeld is not someone I particularly trust. Geez, even his own relatives don't like him.
. . .
This whole Looming Bore is a game of chess and now we're into the endgame, we're told. Blind Freddy can see we're going to get a Second Resolution, because it's the only way for America to save face, for the UN to save face, for Australia to save face, for divided Europe to save face. Hell, even for Saddam to save face, because he can far better bow to the UN than he can to the US. If a Second Resolution is passed and it really all is just brinkmanship (as Rachel Thompson argued in Margo Kingston's Webdiary), then great. It's the alternative endgame that I'm worried about. We could be about to witness death and destruction and evil on a scale we've only ever dreamed--and made Hollywood movies--about.
Time for Saddam to pay up.
. . .
THE MAN WITH THE GOLD 'N' GUNS
I'd still like to know why Kerry Packer's allowed to have a Glock actually. Waiting...waiting....
Funnily enough I was friends in primary school with the Packer formerly known as Jodie; we used to play at Balmoral Beach together. My best friend Emily's family was mates with the Meares. I was always being invited to take school holidays with them, but I was never allowed, because my migrant parents were convinced I'd be led astray if I was out of their sight for more than five minutes. (In the end, I managed to get myself led astray from right under their very noses.) Jodie was beautiful even as a child, with her two long brown plaits and that sweet face. I remember noticing even back then how schoolbus drivers would get flustered by her. We went to different high schools and though I'd bump into her occasionally in the streets of Mosman or Cremorne, we didn't stay friends.
UPDATE: Sorted: "Pistol Packer hands in licence" (link courtesy Tim Dunlop.)
. . .
February 06, 2003
Don't be afraid of your freedom
I was getting more and more depressed the further I went into Margo's column today. Deeper and deeper into the page I fell, beginning to be seduced by the pro-war argument, recognising myself in Helen Darville's entry about Lefties on high horses, intimidated by Rachel Thompson's sharpness, flinching at Neil Watson's point, feeling sorry for John Steele, and so on, until I got to Damien Lataan, who reminded me of my basic insincts towards this whole nasty violent business.
UPDATE: I was all prepared to agree with Helen Darville since she is, after all, something of a postmodernist martyr, crucified for not telling the Truth, but actually I found on reflection that I disagree with her on this issue. Because you need Lefties on high horses to balance out the Righties on their little circus ponies. And there's plenty of those (see PP McGuinness, Jonesy, Lawsy, Piers Akerman and Angela Shanahan, for example).
. . .
By the way, I still haven't received my terrorism showbag.
UPDATE:Just saw the ad for it though. Apparently one of the useful hints contained in the booklet is that we will recognise terrorists by their "excessive videotaping". Of course, being alert to "excessive videotaping" will possibly also net us a large number of tourists, insurance fraud investigators and Tropfest hopefuls. But as long as they are not "of Middle Eastern appearance", they should be right, right?
In all seriousness, we live in a culture where, we're told, hundreds of cameras secretly film us all day as we go about our relatively harmless lives. You'd think we could rely on the footage obtained from said cameras to identify any possible terrorist-type activity.
. . .
THINGS THAT SCATTER*
Paul Sheehan (“In bed with Bush and it's hard to sleep”) says something's keeping the PM up at night (no more Viagra jokes, I promise) but it isn't prudence:
"The moral virgins in this debate who pronounce themselves "against war", and who rail against American arrogance, need to at least acknowledge the impact that inertia and appeasement have had on the continuing murders and torture in [Iraq] All thanks to prudent, peace-loving people who are against military interventions and American imperialism."
At least he admits it’s American imperialism. What's wrong with being prudent, anyway?
*Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is notorious for his witty description of spousal abuse as 'Things that batter'.
I BETTER BE CAREFUL.
The BBC doesn't seem to let me link, so this is the jist of it:
"A German man could be jailed for three years over a comment posted on the internet in which he is accused of approving of the events of 11 September...Mr Voss, who will appear in court in the western German town of Muenster on Wednesday, insists his comments were meant to be sarcastic. An anonymous complaint to the police led to the prosecution under a German law which forbids the glorification of a criminal act."
The court spokesman Juergen Wrobel (what a great Krautish name!) is quoted as saying:
"The court will decide whether he did indeed mean them ironically, and if so, whether or not that makes any difference"
One to follow.
. . .
February 05, 2003
Nah, it just doesn't stack up. After all, why was Downer's throwaway comment "not a point that could be made publicly"? How many other important points can't be made publicly? (Sorry, I keep forgetting the Australian public can't handle the truth.)
If Downer claims he was talking about two measly ships, what did he mean by "ships and other presence"?
And why can't those sanction-enforcing ships come home if war breaks out? (Doesn't look like they can come home if peace breaks out either, since nobody's talking about lifting sanctions anytime soon. Guess they're stuck there.)
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February 04, 2003
Well, Downer must have repeated the clunky "multinational interception force" at least a dozen times on the news tonight. His spin doctors have probably read some basic psychology and know he needs to repeat a key phrase at least seven times--seven's the magic number, apparently--for it to go into people's long-term memory. And believe me, right now, the phrase "multinational interception force" is the one the Government wants us to remember. Forget all that pesky "leaked memo" and "troops irrevocably committed" and "public not to know" business. No really, forget all that. It turns out Downer was just referring to ships that were already part of the UN's sanction-enforcing fleet parked in the Gulf.
I guess it's sort of plausible. So unless anything else comes out, I'll buy the multinational interception force spin.
It's a hoe down to the showdown
The British PM has announced that this is the "final phase of a twelve year showdown". As the UN picks its way through the garage sale that is Iraq's weapons program, I fear that a defiant, psychopathic dictator, if backed into a corner, may feel he has nothing to lose by taking a lot of people down with him however he can. Put it this way, I woudn't want to be Israel if the US does strike Iraq. It's a pretty big gamble that the Allies are taking.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda--remember Al Qaeda?--seems to be alive and recruiting healthily. Interviewed in tonight's SBS documentary In Search of Al Qaeda was a female journalist/activist who visits Al Qaeda suspects imprisoned in Pakistani jails. Brainwashed, she described her fervent hopes to raise her children to be little "Sheikh Osama"s.
Back in Oz, Kylie Russell, widow to Sergeant Andrew Russell who was killed in Afghanistan, is forced to go to the media in order to eke out a little child support out of the Government. So much for the people who bravely go where no man should be made to go.
Conflict--it's everywhere. Yesterday, a colleague dealt with a relatively harmless question by having a mini-tantrum and yelling at me, "Piss off, you stupid bitch!". I was shocked and almost burst out laughing. We didn't speak a word all day today, pretty impressive since she sits about two metres away. I was hoping for a public apology but it doesn't appear to be forthcoming.
But Cold Wars are difficult to maintain when you have to share a stapler. So tomorrow she's going to get the talk: "Look, we don't have to like each other, but we do have to work together..."
UPDATE: Actually, I've realised we don't have to work together either. A headhunter called me today (I hope she wants the rest of me). At lunchtime, she handed me an after-dinner mint with her firm's logo on it.
There have always been bizarre coincidences in my life, and here's another. The team she wants to sell me to includes the wife of one of my current bosses...which makes it a little bit difficult. Truth really is stranger than fiction. And more annoying.
Can't wait to get my hands on the new Nick Cave album, Nocturama. Ditto Beck. Beck's doing the Hordern on March 22, but at over A$80 for two hours of two turntables and a microphone, he's a little out of my league. I guess he's just being ironic when he sings, give the finger to the rock'n'roll singer / as he's dancing upon your paycheck. In the mean time am enjoying Cabbage Records's recent release of Late Mail by local outfit Post. Just amazing. (Full disclosure: a good mate's band. Hi Cabbage!).
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February 01, 2003
WORDS PRINTED ON TREES THIS WEEKEND
Today's papers say that the UN's Chief Nuclear Inspector in Iraq, Dr ElBaradei reckons he needs another four to five months to determine whether Iraq has nuclear facilities. Months? As if. Our own PM is quoted in The Weekend Australian as arguing that the only way to stop war is for the UN to authorise war. Dang, that sure makes sense!
Dr ElBaradei also said, "North Korea [is] a greater threat than Iraq in terms of nuclear capabilities...We need to deal with North Korea urgently."
So why aren't we marching on North Korea?
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"THE BUMPER CROP OF 1971" trumpets a house-ad in the Herald today, advertising a series it will run from Monday about my peers, we Genexers born in 1971.
"In 1971 more babies were born in Australia than in any year before or since. This so-called Echo Boom out-boomed the baby boom which following WWII, yet has received scant attention. The kids of 1971 are now turning 32. They are better educated, better travelled..but are less likely to own property and more likely to live alone. [How do they know these things!!]
They reject many of the 'norms' , yet their sheer numbers and building affluence mean their presence will be increasingly felt in every sphere of our lives..."
OK--so it's starting to sound a bit like a horoscope. But, finally, official recognition of our unique homogenous non-conformity!
"This special report will inform, surprise and occasionally alarm you," promises the Herald.
Well, I thought we were supposed to be alert, not alarmed, however I'll still read it with interest.
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I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER
Vogel season officially kicked off today. As usual, I intend to win it this year. Well, I did intend to until I read Gordon Campbell's column entitled "This (Scribbler's) Life" in the Oz today.
"I had good reason to suppose I was a genius. For example, the brilliance of my work went unrecognised. With hindsight, this might have been because I didn't actually produce anything, although I was, of course, working on something. It was to be a sort of prose-poem, stream-of-consciousness novel, manifesto, screenplay kind of thing. It was going to transform society as we know it."
This made my ears go pink as I read it, for I have been known to crap on about my nebulous, neverending, groundbreaking Great Australian Novel, coming soon to a bookstore near you. The Vogel is open only to unpublished Australian writers under 35. As each year passes and you are getting close to the ultimate deadline, you get a little bit more desperate. Kind of reminds me of the film Logan's Run.
Anyway, as I said, this year I'm going to win it.
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