28 March, 2015

Mason Jars

The existence of a twitter account like We Want Plates tells us that we have reached saturation point with hipster cafés – and for the purposes of this piece, “hipster” can be taken as too trendy by half, even for the types of people who are usually impressed by cafés that are too trendy by half.

A recurring theme among these bizarre alternatives to cutlery is a kind of poverty chic. Personally, I think if you insist on serving my breakfast on something that looks like it saw better days in an earlier life as a fence paling, you could at least pass the savings on and not charge me 17.5 (That’s café-menu for seventeen dollars fifty). Nearly 20 years after Jarvis Cocker mercilessly mocked the cultural tourists who “think that poor is cool,” the most ubiquitous example of poverty chic today is the use of Mason jars as drinking vessels.

For a start, they’re not designed to be drunk out of. They were made for preserving but they were also used for drinking because for a time in the southern US, a lot of people were too bloody poor to have anything else. That was economical and, long before its time, sustainable.

This is not.
The fact that the embossing says Ice Cold Drink is a bit of a giveaway.
It’s great that your local hipstercaf has locally sourced free-range eggs (no, really, it is. Happier chooks lay better eggs. It’s a fact) and artisan breads, but let’s not pretend those retro looking Mason jars weren’t made in Chinese sweatshops where they have mastered the art of predicting what kinds of cheap tat westerners will pay for, and sourced by the crate-load from the $2 Shop.

If you’re ever wondered when you should consider using Mason jars, I made a handy chart for you:
No!
With straws? No!
Ooh, but they're coloured! NO!
BPA Free? Why would they be advertising that? Because they're plastic! Plastic Mason jars! I ask you!
Srsly?
STAHP!
I had just about completed this rant when my twitter friend Interrogativus sent me this:

My first reaction was “kill it with fire!” (yes, I know glass doesn’t burn, which goes to show how devious their users are!), but the more I looked at it, the more I came to like it for showing and revelling in how silly and pretentious Mason jars are.

Then, just a short while later, I saw this:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached Peak Mason Jar.
That means it’s over now. Move along.


PS: It's really good to have Things I Want to Punch in the Face back. It was tempting to write this post in her style but I resisted.
 

25 March, 2015

The standard you expect of others is the standard you will be held to


If you were writing a morality play where a party, or a faction of that party, claimed the US president was a heathen foreign communist, and then went and put up a candidate who is a Canadian born Cuban, it would be dismissed as being too obvious.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution states that:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
Ted Cruz, the “tea party” Republican who has just announced his candidacy for the Office of President (at exactly the same point in his freshman Senate term as the “inexperienced” Barack Obama did), was born in Canada.

Canada, mind you – where the socialists are!
Where’s Donald Trump when you need him?
Haha! Trick question! Nobody needs him. For anything. Ever.

And what a surprise it has been to see the so-called tea party suddenly discover nuance and reason. Of course Ted Cruz is eligible to run for president! Why would anyone think otherwise?

The argument goes that since Cruz’s mother was a US citizen at the time of his birth (and for all anyone knows, still is) he has automatic US citizenship by birth and therefore, is a natural born citizen of the United States. I have no disagreement with that interpretation.

What I have a disagreement with is anyone who didn’t make that argument during all the “birther” nonsense over Barack Obama’s citizenship. Obama was born in Hawaii and as such, is a natural born US citizen. However, even if he were born in Kenya as the lunatic fringe alleged, having an American mother would make him just as much a US citizen as Ted Cruz is. Now why do you think people like Herman Cain weren’t making that argument six years ago?

You don’t get to be an originalist only when it suits you. If you believe the Second Amendment entitles every man, woman and child to carry an assault rifle anywhere they want, then you don’t get to claim wiggle room on the definition of a natural born citizen.

Equally – and I want to make this quite clear – if you believe the US Constitution needs to be read in the context of the times and has room for interpretation based on circumstances, then you don’t get to be absolutist about Article II. Frankly, if your best argument against Ted Cruz being president is his heritage, then either he must be a pretty good candidate or you haven’t done your homework.

While Cruz’s supporters may not have been birthers, I’m pretty sure they were happy to sit back and watch the conspiracy theorists trying to destroy a president on a technicality, which makes them complicit if they knew better all along. So this is where they reap what they have sown. They have no right to complain. The standard you expect of others is the standard you will be held to.

Unless – and I am just asking the question here – unless the motives behind Obama birtherism were not constitutionality after all.
  
 


28 February, 2015

Reading between the lines

You tell us, mate! Most of the dishonest debate has come from people on your payroll
- which I'm sure is a complete coincidence.
In translation:
Would someone with some intellectual authority, however dubious, please validate my pre-existing assumptions? Pretty please? I’m scared.
   


22 February, 2015

Who loves ya, Rudy?

It seems it was Rudy Giuliani’s turn to be the comically failed candidate embarrassing the Republican party this week.

In case you haven’t heard, here’s what he said at a private event for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:
I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” 

Predictably enough, teh left responded with outrage and the hashtag #ObamaLovesAmerica, which completely missed the more important points.

Notwithstanding the McCarthyist tones of a “love test” for office; even notwithstanding the dog-whistle racism of “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up,” (and if you’re going to go down that path Rudy, I want to know exactly what you mean by the way you were brought up, because being a Catholic born in Brooklyn with an Italian name, it might mean something different if you know what I mean…)

No, what this really means is that the Republicans officially have nothing. They are not even pretending to have anything to say about policy. All they have left is to go personal and go the full stupid.

Rather than listing all the reasons he does too love America, what Obama supporters should be saying is: Is that all you’ve got?? Have you no policies? Have you nothing to offer beyond fetishising patriotism?

Unable or unwilling to argue policy and alternatives, Republicans are reduced to sneaking around like an ex-boyfriend saying, “Aw c’mon baby, I know me and my friends wrecked your house and spent all your money and took you for granted and humiliated you. And I know that new guy is trying to look after you and he talks to you like an adult and everything, but he don’t love you like I do.”

That should say it all. No rebuttal is necessary. You can’t make them look any worse than they do themselves.

The subject of the event, Scott Walker matched the stupid by saying he’s not sure of Obama is a Christian. Scott, get thee to Wikipedia! Or better still, Article VI, Clause 3 of that constitution thing you’re always banging on about.

Any questions, Scott?
 

12 February, 2015

The 2015 Grammy Awards - a (delayed) live ’blog

3:30 DACCAAAA! You've got to give credit where due: they transcend fashion. Audience look genuinely starstruck.

9:00 Um... "T-swizzle"??

16:00 Ariana Grande. Generic, over-earnest soulful ballad.

19:00 It's pretty sad that Jessie J can sell You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling better than Tom Jones. He may have the voice, but I get the feeling he's never had his heart broken.

22:00 Best pop vocal is Happy. I'm cool with that. It's a great pop song. Pharell is honoured to be grouped with the other nominees and was sure one of the others would win, so DRINK!

25:00 Miranda Lambert. I don't think you can call this a country song just because it's sung in a serthern accent. Nice to see a woman almost fully dressed though.

32:00 Kanye. Why is he performing to a backing track when it would have been so easy to have Paul play piano on this? Could lose the auto-tune.

40:00 Madonna. I really prefer her when she's singing rather that leading aerobic workouts.

43:20 Why does the get-off music sound like the speaker is about to be killed?

44:25 George Harrison is a recording academy lifetime achievement honouree? What was it Stella McCartney said? I'm sure George would be the first to ponder how long you have to be dead before having a lifetime achievement recognised.

45:30 None of the Best R&B nominees sound remotely like rhythm and blues to me. Is R&B like NPR where the letters don't stand for anything any more?

49:00 Ed Sheerin. Ironically, this is sounds like rhythm and blues.
51:15 You know, you don't expect to hear a tone like that coming out of a Jackson superstrat!

54:30 Jeff Lynne sounds great. Don't know why they had to cut The Evil Woman off though. Or add Ed Sheerin, who seems to have left his guitar out in the rain.
 
1:01:00 They said everyone would be talking about this duet between Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani. I'm not. 

1:05:00 Annie Lennox is selling Hozier's own song better than he is.
1:07:30 I Put a Spell on You seems apropos of bugger all but bloody awesome all the same.

1:14:30 Full points for being a very different version of Happy but why? To prove it could be done? Bold, but messy.
Carry your bags, mister?
1:16:00 Message from Barack Obama against domestic violence. Interesting. Obama has an clever way of telling you you're not doing enough and making it seem like a compliment. There's something through-the-looking-glass about the President of the United States telling musicians they could be doing more to make the world a safer and more peaceful place.  

1:24:00 Katy Perry. A little over-earnest for may tastes but can't argue with the sentiment.  

1:28:00 Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Not sure whose credibility is damaged more by this.  

1:33:30 Usher. Nice to have just the harp accompaniment and let the song stand by itself. Would it be too bad a pun to comment on this possibly being the first time there has been harp and harp used together.  

1:34:00 5 seconds each for Boulez and Buddy Guy's lifetime achievement recognitions? Pathetic! 

1:39:30 Eric Church. Sounds like there might have been more to this song but for me it got lost in the generic nature of a country song about someone's home town.

1:42:00  Brandy Clark and Dwight Yoakam. Also a big generic country but nice enough, and definitely live.

1:46:00 Four Five Seconds. This is the first time I've heard this song, mainly because I really prefer to avoid hearing music for the first time on YouTube if I can. Not bad. Paul and Kanye are basically surplus to requirements here though.

1:52:00 Sam Smith and Mary J Blige. Not terrible. Not great.

1:56:00 Juanes. Nice stuff. I quite like this. I've already forgotten how Four Five Seconds goes.

1:56:50 Prince: "Albums, remember those?" I do, but I'm old. Hey wait. He's announcing an award. What's going on?

1:58:05 THAT moment. Well, what a beat-up that was! All Kanye did was move towards the mic, then grin and walk away. Beck got it. He even invited him back. It was actually an amusing moment in a ridiculously scripted show.

What West said afterwards is not relevant to this review but I don't recall him giving any of his awards to more deserving artists.

1:59:15 30 seconds for the music educator of the year award. Better than nothing, but this is important.

2:01:00 Well, that was awkward.

2:05:00 Sia's performance was confusing but rewarding when they finally revealed it was actually on stage.

2:05:25 The producer of the year award is announced as having been awarded earlier. This is an insult.

2:09:00 Acknowledgement by Dave Grohl of David Letterman. Nice touch, and thoroughly deserved.

2:13:00 Beck was excellent, with more than a shade of Nick Drake. Chris Martin brought very little other than the collaboration which seems obligatory this year. I might have to get this album.

2:16:00 Sam Smith again? Nice enough guy, but come on! I almost thought he was going to thank Tom Petty.

2:28:00 Beyonce. Seemed a bit overdone to me. They stopped just short of saying "Please feel deeply moved by this."

2:31:00 John Legend and Common. Now THIS is moving!

2:35:00 Oh, and it's over. Not so much as a 'thank you and goodnight.'

Well, I might as well post this since I've written it but apart from a few moments, I have an overwhelming sense of meh. I might go back to not watching.
  
 






05 February, 2015

In (reluctant) defence of Tony Abbott


It’s been most amusing to see everyone pre-emptively writing Tony Abbott’s prime ministerial obituary this week. This morning, regular Liberal spinner Niki Savva joined the chorus in a piece that reads exactly like it was written by a left wing columnist about Abbott prior to the 2013 election, or a right wing columnist about Rudd prior to his 2010 replacement.

While just about every criticism of Abbott by both his colleagues and his (former) cheerleaders in the media has been completely valid, the simple fact is… I can’t believe I’m actually going to say this… It’s not Tony Abbott’s fault.

For sure, since becoming prime minister less than 18 months ago, Abbott has effectively trolled the country by attempting to introduce punitive policies that he never mentioned before, delegating most of the hard work, defying mathematics, dodging accountability, talking rubbish, indulging his fetish for royalty, and expecting others to defend him for it. In general, he has focussed more on enjoying the spoils of the job he demanded we give him on the sole grounds that he was neither Julia Gillard nor Kevin Rudd, than on actually doing the job. None of that is in question.

The real question is: Why the hell is anyone surprised about any of this?

To anyone who has paid the slightest attention to Tony Abbott’s behaviour over the last ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, everything he has done as prime minister should seem perfectly familiar – predictable even.

Tony Abbott hasn’t changed a bit – not in the last two years, not in the last twenty. The deferring to others for policy guidance, the inability to advocate for his policies in the face of the mildest questioning, the use of government to further damage already defeated political adversaries, the curiously generous career prospects for his family, the freezing out of any disagreeing voices, the whingeing to other leaders with bigger problems, the reintroduction of knighthoods and the awarding of one to Prince Philip? These are not brain snaps; this is Tony Abbott functioning normally. Anything else would indeed be a surprise, albeit a welcome one.

The government and the nation find themselves in this position because we, or enough of us at least, chose to expect just such a surprise. Egged on by the likes of Savva’s publication and its tabloid stable mates, the majority of us chose to suspend the disbelief that if we just gave Tony Abbott everything he demanded (well, except control of the Senate, you absent-minded meanies!), then he would stop throwing tantrums and behave like a grown-up. We knew what he was like, anyone who didn’t know should have, and we gave him the job anyway.

Now, instead of recognising our national mistake, we have miles of columns that can be summarised as:
Liberal Party in ‘dogged opposition does not automatically translate into competent government’ shock!

As enjoyable as the schadenfreude of the last two weeks has been, the truth is it’s not Tony Abbott or Peta Credlin who should be replaced. They’re doing what they believe they were put there to do. Those who really ought to be considering their positions (or having their positions considered for them) are all those in the media who chose not to apply this level of analysis two years ago. It’s everyone who poo-pooed, or simply ignored the warnings that Tony Abbott showed little evidence of being the steady pair of hands that many wanted to portray him as. It’s everyone who ever repeated the line that Abbott would “grow into the job,” and now blames Tony for being Tony instead of their own, ideologically driven lapse in judgement.

Don’t blame Tony for being Tony. Blame anyone who expected him not to be.
  
 

04 February, 2015

What happens next

A few days ago, a rejected former leader of the party in government gave a speech in the US on effective leadership while, by complete coincidence, the prime minister’s leadership was beginning to look very shaky.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Haven’t we seen this show before?

For those who haven’t, here’s what happens next:
  • Spill motion next week to clear the air.
  • Abbott re-elected unopposed.
  • Claims this settles the matter once and for all.
  • Those who argued for change in leadership are isolated in the party.
  • Leaks and speculation continue, especially on slow news days.
  • Prime Minister Turnbull by Christmas.

Enjoy your popcorn!