23 May, 2018

How to be a larrikin

G’day me ol’ chinas! It’s time for another lesson in How to be a Larrikin, or as we like to call it here at The Larrikin Institute:

Lift yer game, son!


Today we’re gunna talk about how to whinge about dealing with the government.

Now every bugger and his dog hates dealing with the government so ya might reckon this’ll be a lay down misere, but you’d be barkin’ up the wrong trouser leg.

Y’see, there’s this drongo in Queensland (which is where they breed all the best drongos) who had ta deal with a mob called MyGov, an’ they asked him if it was okay to identify him as male. Bit of a queer question fer sure, but there’s a right way and a wrong to go about sayin’ so if you’re gunna be a proper bloody Aussie larrikin about it.

Wrong:

Right:


Now a few proper larrikins got into him on the innernet, so he goes and makes a video reading out some of the sledging he got an’ tries to explain how he doesn’t want the Aussie larrikin nature hijacked by the left wing politically correct brigade, whatever the bloody hell that is when it’s at home.


Now look mate, no proper larrikin gives a piece of cold cocky poop about political correctness gone mad. A larrikin shrugs an’ says, “Well, that’s a bit a’ bullshit isn’t it?” and goes back to fishin’ or drinkin’ or rootin’ or whatever make him happy. That’s ’cos a proper larrikin doesn’t take himself too bloody seriously, ya mug!

While we’re here, larrikins don’t make sure their picture of the queen is visible in their picture. We know that game. That lark’s for toffs. Captain Cook means having a squiz but we’ll get to that later.

Finally, you’ll look a prize dill if you have a whinge about some stick you got when they’re all beating your arse at being a larrikin. So next time, get your hand off it. Nobody likes a sook.

That’ll do for now. Next week, I’ll show youse the difference between bein’ a knockabout larrikin and whingeing about some poor buggers dealt a tougher hand. ’Til then, last one out shouts! Seeyalater.
 
  

09 May, 2018

Struggling


This post is inspired by the most excellent Instagram profile selfloveclubb. Her posts along these lines really resonate with me. When you live with anxiety and/or depression (because sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other, sometimes it’s both, and sometimes you don’t even know), you get used to wearing a mask. Not out of any shame or stigma, just out of expedience.

To quote the classics, if there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public. And when you deal with the public as I do, they don’t want to talk to a misery-guts and nor should they be expected to. I may have a depression/anxiety condition, but I’m still a professional. A client once told me how nice it was to see my happy, smiling face and it actually took me a minute to realise he wasn’t taking the piss. It was then that I realised I must be a good actor.

There’s probably something to be said for trying to act normal – whatever that means. In fact, I can measure the level of my struggle by how many people I can or can’t hide it from. Being highly distractible helps. I can forget about it while I deal with other things. Then when there’s a lull, I remember I’m me and go back to struggling with that.

If someone looks sad, anxious or depressed, they probably are. If they look happy, they still could be sad, anxious or depressed. This is not so much to talk about my struggle as it is to express solidarity with others who are struggling, in whatever way for whatever reason.

After I posted this on Instagram the other day, a friend sent me a private message saying that they were experiencing something similar and what a help it was just to hear someone else express it. That has been my experience too. I don’t care what anyone else says about social media, it was the first thing that made me feel normal. I discovered I wasn’t a minority of one by seeing other people’s stories. In fact, I’ve been astounded at how many friends I have made who I later learned had similar experiences. We all wear masks. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s sometimes necessary, but it’s bloody exhausting.

20 April, 2018

Morrissey: I know it’s over

Many have pondered this week how Morrissey fans can possibly process some of the comments he has made in his latest interview. (You can read it here, if you must). Allow me to offer one fan’s thoughts.

First, I’ll establish my credentials. I first discovered The Smiths in 1988, just after their breakup. I became an instant fan and, by extension, a fan of Morrissey’s solo work which was essentially a continuation of The Smiths at first. I’ve also been a massive fan of Johnny Marr ever since and I’ve loved everything he’s done, including Electronic and Stex.

It took me 25 years to finally see Morrissey. When he first toured Australia in 1991, he cancelled the show due to ill health (which became something of a trademark of his tours). He didn’t tour again for 11 years and when he did in 2002, my date cancelled on me and I missed out again. He stayed away another decade and when his 2012 tour dates were announced, I was already booked to be out of the country. I had the option to change my travel plans but given his habit of cancelling shows, it wasn’t worth the risk. He came back less than three years later but only played the Vivid Festival in Sydney. Was it worth going in the ticket ballot and booking flights and accommodation for Sydney? It was not. Dates for the rest of the country were announced for October 2016 and finally, after a quarter of a century of delays and disappointment, I actually got to see Morrissey. Can you think of a more Morrissey story?

He was in fine form too. Although it was a pity he did World Peace is None of Your Business. More on that later.

So how do I rationalise his behaviour, if at all?

Well frankly, I have no problem with him advocating for animal rights as loudly and as confrontingly as he likes. I know there are those who prefer their animal activism in the form of starlets posing semi-nude for PETA, but as the latest reports of atrocities in the live export industry have shown, you have to get in people’s faces for them to take notice and do something.

If people are offended by the comparing of slaughterhouses to atrocities committed against humans, then that justifies him doing so because both have been done to living, sentient beings and it forces us to wonder how we would like that to happen to us.

You may find the tactic confronting but artists should be provocative and art should stand for something. It’s preferable though if their statements are factually accurate and intellectually consistent.

Then there’s the racism. Honestly, until now I had always found the accusations rather spurious. They were certainly plausible but not entirely convincing. The second track on Kill Uncle (the original version) was actually quite anti-racist as it portrays an English gang attacking a young Asian boy and concludes with the line, “I’m just passing through here, on my way to somewhere civilised.” The effect is ruined from the start though by the fact the song has the stupidly insensitive title Asian Rut.

The song that many took as proof of racism is The National Front Disco. The problem is he never makes it clear whether the song is intended as satire or not. And that is the artist’s prerogative. Roger Waters never makes it obvious that all the fascist imagery in The Wall is ironic. It’s left to the listener to work it out, but it does create an easy target.

But then, around the same time, he unveiled the Union Jack during his appearance at Madstock. Aha, right? Well hang on. To this day I have never understood why it was racist for Morrissey to display the Union Jack in 1992 but not for Noel Gallagher to paint it on his guitar in 1996. I’m happy to be educated on this. However, as an Australian, I’m for reclaiming the Southern Cross from the bogans, meatheads and racists who have co-opted it and I wouldn’t blame Britons for wanting to do the same for their national symbol. I’m not saying that’s what Morrissey was trying to do but honestly, I don’t get it.

Not racist                        Racist                          Not racist

His most overtly racist lyric was in Bengali in Platforms: “Oh shelve your western plans and understand, that life is hard enough when you belong here.” Even here, in the context of the whole song, I am (somewhat generously) willing to give Moz the benefit of the doubt that it was intended as a clumsy expression of empathy rather than an explicit declaration that foreigners don’t belong.

It is evident that Morrissey suffers some kind of depressive disorder and is quite possibly on the autism spectrum. This is not intended as any kind of criticism but seeking to possibly understand his behaviour. All criticism of his poor expression naturally feeds his feelings of paranoia and that the media is against him.

I believe a lot of the previous accusations against Morrissey have been beat-ups but one thing this latest interview shows is that whenever he grants an interview, the interviewer merely glances at a length of rope which Morrissey then picks up, fashions a perfectly formed noose, puts it around his neck, wraps the other end around a beam, and proceeds to stand precariously on a chair.


The US television personality Dick Clark used to be referred to as the world’s oldest teenager. When he died, I believe Morrissey took over the mantle, albeit for completely different reasons. The attraction of Morrissey’s songwriting was always that he understands the lonely and rejected. If you’re one of the people who always hated Morrissey from the outset (and there are millions), then you probably had friends at high school and knew how to form relationships. Good for you! Some of us didn’t, and Morrissey was the first one who made us feel like we might not be a minority of one.

Having said that, there’s something ever-so-slightly undignified about a man in his late fifties singing about not getting out of bed. If you write a song called Life is a Pigsty and you’re not an unemployed teenager, you probably need to take stock. It’s as if Moz leapt straight from tragic poetic teen to miserable old curmudgeon without any of the growth you might expect in between.

Morrissey began to wear out his welcome with me with World Peace is None of Your Business. Elvis Costello once said, “Morrissey writes wonderful song titles, but sadly he often forgets to write the song.” It was a rather harsh comment at the time but it’s never been truer than of World Peace… because he takes an excellent premise and wastes it. What’s unforgivable for me is the line, “Each time you vote, you support the process.” Oh RIGHT! It’s MY fault the way we’re governed is in such a parlous state because I exercise what tiny influence I actually have on it, and nothing to do with idiots like Morrissey who know what’s wrong with the world but refuse to take a bit of responsibility and VOTE.

Morrissey is not just the only artist, but the only person I know of whose understanding of the world and expression of it has actually become less sophisticated since his 20s.

It’s an unfair criticism that Morrissey has been repeating himself ever since The Smiths. It is fair to say he’s been doing it for the last 20 years though. In all that time, he’s just been rewriting the same three songs only gradually worse:
Everyone Hates Me
’E’s a Likely Lad Inn’e?
Politics? Bollocks, more like!

Evidently, the same goes for his interviews. Even though it was with a sympathetic interviewer on an officially sanctioned website, Moz chose to leap off the aforementioned chair, into a bath with a plugged-in toaster floating in it. They say you shouldn’t attribute to malice what can adequately be explained as stupidity. If so, Morrissey has been incredibly stupid. And I’m sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Johnny Marr – who writes far better lyrics than Morrissey does these days – has a new album coming out next month!

His description of halal slaughter as evil is acceptable because he considers all slaughter evil, but to link it to ISIS is calculated bigotry. To appeal to Islamophobia in his campaign for animal rights is as low as those who claim to care about animal welfare when the truth is they just hate Muslims. There is no plausible deniability for his race-baiting any more. (And if anyone wants to ask “What race is Islam?” then bring it on! I shall sup lustily on your triggered racist tears.) It causes me to question my previous forgiveness.

Sadiq Khan should not be above criticism but anyone who can’t spell Cemetery, thinks ‘destructors’ means the same thing as ‘destroyers,’ or writes the 120 pages of utter drivel that is List of the Lost, has no place judging anyone else for how they use the English language.
Knuckle to knuckle with the machete of justice?
Seriously, Morrissey? What the hell is this?

And apparently Hitler was left wing. I’m not even going to bother going into what an ignorant statement this is. Morrissey’s political naivety has always been evident but this is indefensibly stupid. What was his point anyway? Ah, who cares?

Will I keep listening to his music? Of course I will. There are certain artists like Ted Nugent and the Norwegian Black Metal scene in general who can go to hell. For all the others, it’s more nuanced than that. Enjoying art should never be considered an endorsement of the artist’s views or actions – although it certainly may be. Just ask anyone who has ever enjoyed Wagner, Lead Belly, Ike Turner or Phil Collins. And there are certainly plenty of gun-toting rednecks who love some John Lennon or Woody Guthrie. Should I burn my copies of Imagine and All Things Must Pass because Phil Spector produced them?

For the future though, the dear departed Sean Hughes once said, “Everybody gets over their Morrissey phase, except Morrissey.” (The singer replied, “Too true!”) Well, it’s taken 30 years, but I Know It’s Over.



26 February, 2018

What not to do when you’re in parliament

It’s becoming clear that working in Parliament House causes some kind of condition in people that causes them to forget certain rules of behaviour in polite and civil society that most of us knew when we left high school.

It’s one thing that there was the need for the bonk ban, but then today in Senate Estimate, there was this:

I’m less worried about Anthrax being tasteless and odourless that I am about it being FATAL.

After I asked this on twitter, Miranda_Maybe asked if we might need add this to the list of obviously stupid things that people still need to be told not to do.


So in the interests of saving further embarrassment, discomfort, resignation and spills, here’s an incomplete list of things you shouldn’t do when you’re in parliament. Or in life in general.

Don’t…
  1. Eat the yellow snow
  2. Taste random white powder
  3. Cross the road against the traffic lights
  4. Bonk your staff
  5. Take lollies from strangers
  6. Move your staff to another department so you can keep bonking them
  7. Drink and drive
  8. Take a helicopter when you could drive
  9. Leave your luggage unattended
  10. Forget to check your citizenship status
  11. Lick frozen light poles
  12. Bite into a whole raw onion* (thanks to Michael Byrnes)
  13. Run with scissors
  14. Summarily bring back knighthoods
  15. Play with your food
  16. Play with guns
Any others?



03 December, 2017

I read Atlas Shrugged (and now you don’t have to)

I read Atlas Shrugged because it has had a significant influence on political thought in the 60 years since its publication, and I wanted to have an informed opinion on it. I’ll declare that I have little time or respect for the politics of those who cite Ayn Rand as an influence but for all I knew, it might just have been a good story that was hijacked or misinterpreted.

It’s not.

First, the good parts:
In its own way, Atlas Shrugged is an early feminist novel. The lead character is a woman who runs a highly successful national company, yet the fact she is a woman in such a position is hardly ever mentioned. Furthermore, she’s not ashamed of her sexuality or of using it to get what she wants. This was challenging stuff in the 1950s.

Also, the fact that Rand exalts the creators and producers above the mere paper-pushers is refreshing. It’s unfortunate that it quickly crosses the line between admiration and fetish.

The important thing to know about Atlas Shrugged is that it is not fiction, it’s fantasy. There is an important distinction. Regular fiction still takes place in the world as we know it, where the laws of physics, economics and human nature still apply. Atlas Shrugged does not take place in this world.

In order for her premise to make sense, Rand has created a world populated only by geniuses and idiots. Yet somehow, the idiots have managed to enslave the geniuses. Meanwhile, the geniuses all magically turn out to be of the same worldview and can easily find each other to have sex together. Importantly though, they can only enjoy the sex if they know for certain that their partner is doing it only for their own pleasure. Rand had a weird sub/dom thing going on.

And it is boring as batshit.

The book could be one third as long and still say everything it wants to say. The other 600 pages are padded out with interminable soliloquies that bash the reader over the head with Rand’s philosophy, and that’s not even counting the notorious Galt speech. It’s been suggested that this is how Rand chose to tell the story. I can only believe this if people are saying she made a conscious decision to write badly.

It could be considered innovative to present a socio-economic manifesto in the form of a novel – for that is essentially what Atlas Shrugged is – but the problem is that the author gets to write the counter argument as well. Rand is either in love with her characters or despises them, and it shows in the dialogue she gives them. She stops just barely short of labelling them “good guy” and “bad guy.” While some of the lead characters make it to a second dimension, the antagonists’ dialogue makes even a 60s-era Batman villain sound deep by comparison.

Take this line for example:
Scientists know better than to believe in reason.
To put such a statement in the mouth of a character who is supposed to be one of the nation’s top scientists, without any hint of irony or satire proves either,
a)    this novel takes place in some Bizarro World where ‘science’ and ‘reason’ mean whatever the author wants them to mean, or
b)    Rand doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Take your pick.

I have tried not to psychoanalyse the author, partly because many others already have, and partly because it’s tangential to the quality of the book. Still, it’s unavoidable in discussing the book as a whole. It’s clear that Rand does not believe her version of social Darwinism to be amoral. The piece of good left in her, Darth Vader-like, is that she recognises morality as a real thing which is to be aspired to and admired. So she attempts to flip the definition of morality – charity is evil; selfishness is a virtue; wealth is a measure of virtue.

She also addresses the problem mentioned earlier about fantasy versus fiction, stating on the about-the-author page:
I trust that no one will tell me that men such as I write about don’t exist. That this book has been written – and published – is my proof that they do.
Seriously? Tolkien could have used to same logic to argue that hobbits are real.
If this is the standard of proof considered acceptable by her acolytes, it explains a lot.

At best, Atlas Shrugged is simply the longest and most boring straw man argument in history. At worst, it may have caused the global financial crisis of the late 00s.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: Alan Greenspan was chairman of the US Federal Reserve for nearly 20 years and he exerted a huge influence on financial systems in the late 20th century. He was also a Rand groupie who read the first drafts of Atlas Shrugged, and a champion of the laissez faire capitalism the book promotes. When asked what went wrong, he had to admit that he had never considered that people would behave so irrationally – which brings us back to the laws of human nature. I would like to ask if he has ever met people. Better still, I would like to put to him the question that John Galt puts to the country in his radio speech:
“You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why then do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you?” 


While fetishising industry and commerce, the speech also contains a passage that inadvertently contradicts Rand and her fans’ love affair with the rugged individual:
“When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product…”
In other words, you didn’t build that.

I am not going to give Atlas Shrugged a one-star review, not because it deserves better but because every 1-star and 5-star review will understandably be assumed to have a political motive. The only way anyone could possibly regard this book as good writing is to be predisposed to Rand’s philosophy. Even if I were sympathetic to her worldview, I would be embarrassed that this is the best argument ever put for it. Having approached the book with an open mind, I can objectively advise that whatever commentaries you may have read tell you as much as you need to know.

Whatever damage has been done by those whose confirmation bias led them to believe that Atlas Shrugged has any basis in reality, Rand is correct in this one exchange on page 327:
“But, good God! The feeblest imbecile should be able to see the glaring contradictions in every one of your statements.”  “Let us put it this way, Dr. Stadler: the man who doesn’t see that, deserves to believe all my statements.”
Indeed they do!


30 November, 2017

30 unpopular opinions

Last month, I hopped on board a Twitter bandwagon. For every ‘like’ the first post gets, you’re supposed to post an unpopular opinion you hold. My tweet got 29 likes, and here’s what I said:


  1. Milk in tea is a crime against humanity.
  2. Kevin Rudd was a good prime minister while he lasted.
  3. Liam Gallagher's only talent is his ego.
  4. India pale ale has become really overrated.
  5. I don't get reddit.
  6. Brioche buns can get in the bin.
  7. I will never understand why intelligent people are interested in football.
  8. Hillary Clinton was a mediocre candidate who ran a bad campaign. Not saying she wasn't treated unfairly.
  9. Fosters > VB.
  10. Hiwatt > Marshall.
  11. People should probably consider adoption before IVF.
  12. I like grey, drippy days more than hot sunny days.
  13. I don't get Dan Nolan.
  14. I liked Ricky Gervais better when he was funny.
  15. I adore Douglas Adams, but he certainly did make a little go a long way.
  16. Next Generation > Original series.
  17. People should be able to take their teddy bears anywhere they like without being judged.
  18. The Final Cut is a bloody good album.
  19. There's really nothing wrong with picking your nose.
  20. I don't like the brash sound of brand new acoustic guitar strings. Silk wound sound the sweetest.
  21. Beetroot is not a food.
  22. Seinfeld is not and was never funny.
  23. Punk was crap. And that was the point.
  24. I have no problem with the southern cross as a national symbol. It needs to be reclaimed from racists and bogans.
  25. Spike is Elvis Costello's best album.
  26. Covers bands suck. In what other pursuit can you steal someone's act and be applauded for it?
  27. Attack of the Clones is pretty good.
  28. Spotify sucks.
  29. A lot of people who fancy themselves well-informed and broad minded have no idea of or interest in life beyond the tram lines.

  30. And one bonus opinion:
  31. If you want to support quality media, turn your ad-blockers off and click the ads on articles you like. It costs nothing and might just save your favourite paper.

13 August, 2017

On uniting the right

Something that needs to be remembered about the nazi rally in Charlottesville this weekend is that it was promoted under the banner of “unite the right.”

We have spent the whole of the 21st century being told, mostly by those on the right, that Muslims are expected to renounce terrorism (as if they don’t) if they are to be considered members of society, and that leftists (whatever the hell that even means) must reject Stalinism if they are to be heard.

I only hold people to the standards they expect of others.

If you identify as conservative, or right wing, or a Trump supporter – and I know there are good people who do – I get that you’re not on the side of the Charlottesville fascists.

BUT THEY ARE ON YOUR SIDE. And I humbly and respectfully suggest you seriously need to reflect on that.

Embed from Getty Images
If these are not your people, you need to say so.

I am not going to play a game of defining those I disagree with by the worst possible examples. No good can come from that. But for the whole of this century, the right has justified illegal and unnecessary wars by reminding us that all evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

So what are you going to do?

You can no longer say that these are just a rowdy, unrepresentative minority who don’t reflect your views. They’re out there saying they do. You thought Trump would go away if you ignored him. Now he’s president and these crowds are angry because they don’t think he’s being crazy and dictatorial enough.

I call upon conservatives and the right to make this the moment that really does unite the right - AGAINST fascism.

I know you shouldn’t have to. Muslims shouldn’t have to say they’re not terrorists either, but that’s the world you have created, so how about it?

I know there’s good in you. At least, I hope there is.