18 February, 2024

Clancy of the Overflowing Inbox


 

I had written him an email

Which I had, for want of urgent action,

Sent to his personal account around 9 o’clock last night.

And an answer came delayed,

And the excuse that he had made,

Was “Sorry, didn’t see your message, had to catch an early flight.”

 

In my wild erratic fancy,

Visions come to me of Clancy,

On the red-eye back to Canberra with no wifi on the plane.

So I called him to a meeting,

And without extraneous greeting,

Told him, “You belong to me, my son, don't let it happen again!”

 

17 February, 2024

Nineteen Eighty Twenty Twenty Four

The following contains a massive spoiler for Nineteen Eighty Four, and I would much rather you read that than this post. 
 


If you haven't read the book, go read it. 
 
Like, now. 
 
Go ahead. 
 
This will still be here when you're done. 
 
 
   =   =   =   =
 
 
In fact, I believe there should be a law requiring people to read the entire book, and not just short extracts added to memes, before referencing it. It would do them well to read some of Orwell's essays on socialism, fascism, and democracy as well.

In the book, the world has been merged/absorbed into three superstates; Oceania, where the book is set, Eurasia and Eastasia.
 
We are regularly told that Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Eastasia is our ally.
 
But then, without any warning or explanation, it flips: Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia is our ally.
 
And I can't help but think of this when I see American so-called conservatives getting a massive despot-crush on Vladimir Putin, via Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson. 
 

Do you even remember when that guy was the enemy? Even Sarah Palin thought he was the bad guy as recently as 2008.
 

And look, I know you think the cold war is over but guess what: Putin doesn't!

And that's the whole ever-lovin' point!
 
Khrushchev must be kicking himself that an ambitious mid-level KGB drone used flattery and spambots to achieve what he couldn't with nuclear missiles.
 
I'm no body-language expert but which of these people looks like he got exactly what he wanted and which one looks like he's just been taken to the woodshed?

 
 

03 February, 2024

The trans children’s TV character nobody noticed

It’s one thing for television to be inclusive of all types of characters – people feel accepted when they see themselves in art – but there will only be true equality when their difference is no big deal.

One long-running animated series has done just that, and done it so well that nobody even noticed.

The Penguins of Madagascar is a spin-off of the film Madagascar, and made by Nickelodeon. It features characters from the film, anthropomorphised animals, living in New York’s Central Park Zoo.

One refreshing aspect of the show is many of the animals go against the stereotype often ascribed to them in fiction. The elephant is a bit dim. The squirrel is basically a stoner. The kangaroo is an arsehole. And it’s the kangaroo I’d like to talk about.

The kangaroo character is named Joey after the word for a juvenile marsupial, proving the creators did a bit of research. He has a masculine name, a masculine voice, and is referred to as “he” by all the characters, including himself as he regularly refers to himself in the third person. He is selfish, aggressive, and generally a bit of a dick.

He also has a pouch.

We all know that only marsupials born female have a pouch. Clearly, Joey is the first openly pre-op transgender character in a mainstream television program.

And while the other characters have plenty or reasons to dislike him, this is never one of them. In fact, it’s never even mentioned. The characters don’t mention it, the producers never called attention to it, the fans didn’t seem to even notice. It is universally accepted that Joey is a male who happened to be born with a pouch.

Bravo Nickelodeon for this inclusivity. And it didn’t even trigger a massive right-wing cancellation campaign. Well played!

  

 

27 December, 2023

“Israel does not target civilians”

I am heartily sick of hearing apologists say "Israel doesn't target civilians." 
 
So what? It's basically admitting, "Yes, they kill children but at least they didn't mean to." Even Hamas hasn't had the chutzpah to say, "It's their fault for living where we happened to be bombing." I am sure they would claim not to target civilians either, for all that would be worth.
 
And yes, Hamas is a terrorist organisation. You will not hear any rationalisation of them from me. But is being semantically better than terrorists the best we can do? Is that the standard we are willing to walk past now? 
 

Hamas is not Palestine any more than the Netanyahu government is Israel or Jewry as a whole.

 
Mossad is known to be extremely effective at counter-terrorism and surgical strikes. If the objective were to neutralise Hamas, it would be logical to deploy Mossad rather than the IDF. 
 
But that wouldn't look as strong to the domestic audience at a time when the prime minister, who has been in power on and off for over twenty five years, is mired in corruption scandals. 

It leads one to wonder whether the objective is to eliminate Hamas, or eliminate Palestine.




17 December, 2023

Top 5 foodstuffs which need to stop trying to improve on perfection

Tim Tams

Perhaps the ultimate example of getting it right the very first time.

First, you take a biscuit (or cookie, if you’re American) along the lines of a Malt or a Malt-O-Milk. On its own, one of the most boring biscuits this side of Milk Coffee. But glue two of them together with some chocolaty icing and dunk the whole shebang in chocolate (milk or dark – we’re ecumenical) and you’ve got one of the closest things to perfection on God’s brown Earth.

You can make it different for sure, by adding some mint oil or berry flavour, but you will never make it better. Don’t add gooey caramel. One of the many beauties of the Tim Tam is they are not gooey. Who in their right mind looked at this pinnacle of human achievement and said, “Needs to be gooier”? Evidently, many people are not in their right mind and said just this.

Double coated? Too much of a good thing. Now you’re in the realm of a slab of chocolate with a bit of biscuit hidden inside. Fair enough if you’re into that kind of thing but a Tim Tam it ain’t.

“But Bill!” you cry, “These varieties are all very popular. Explain that, smartarse!”

I can and I will with one little acronym: FOMO. You’re sure they can’t possibly be better than the original, but how can you be certain? You have to try them to prove it to yourself.

Just as the Amish build a deliberate mistake into each of their quilts because only God is perfect, the original Tim Tam remains just one step away from perfection: The regular package contains eleven pieces. Did you notice the deliberate mistake? Eleven is a prime number! The only way to evenly share a packet of Tim Tams is one each among eleven people, or eleven each among one person.

Wait a sec! Maybe they are perfect after all!

Oreos

America’s favourite sandwich cookie which has taken over the world makes the same mistake Tim Tams do.

Start with two chocolate (or at least very dark brown to give the impression of chocolate) biscuits (oh, alright then, cookies) and bind them together with creamy vanilla-ish substance so close to the edge of being describable as ‘food’ that even the manufacturers are content to simply call it “stuff.” That’s it. Job done. Meet you after 5 to count our profits.

Oh no, we have to introduce varieties. Like the double stuff, which is closer to 150% than 200%, which messes up the ratio. Or the inside-out, with vanilla cookies around brown stuff. Now let’s put the brown stuff inside the brown cookies. Or we’ll do half and half, brown and white. Maybe add fruit flavours. Hell, why not go the full double-down and stick one between a couple of chicken tenders?

If any of these had been a good idea, they would have done that first. But they didn’t and we all know why.

M&Ms

As a Gen-X Australian, I grew up with Smarties as the default when it comes to sugar-coated pellets of chocolate. M&Ms seemed like the knock-off when they invaded in the 80s. I am willing to concede the match now.

However, M&Ms need to concede the fact there’s only so much you can do with this model.

First, they added peanuts. I guess that’s okay if you need a protein hit with your sugar rush but I never got it.

Then there came crispy M&Ms. I have to grant them this. The idea that sugar-coated chocolate could be improved by hiding a rice bubble inside sounds ridiculous. In fact, it is ridiculous. But I have to admit, they are the best.

Beyond this though, they need to stop. Coconut or honeycomb M&Ms just mean the disappointment melts in your mouth, not in your hand. And candy corn M&Ms prove that just because two things might be great on their own, doesn’t mean they ever should be combined. I love chocolate, I love vegemite. I have never wanted to taste the two together. (see below)

Smarties have never tried this. They were named well. Plus, they come in purple!

Twisties

Stop this. Now!
There are many versions and shapes of cheese flavoured fried rice starch – Cheezles, Cheetos, et al. Twisties said, bugger the shape, just squeeze that shit straight into the oil and let it come out however. We’ll make the flaw the feature! And we’ll do a chicken flavour to start fights all over the country about which is better, proving we’re a national icon.

So far, so tasty. And every once in a while, they’ll do a barbecue or hot & spicy flavour which fits inside their brief.

But who said the only way to make Twisties better would be to make them taste like a strawberry doughnut? Nobody has ever been that stoned, to either think of it or consider eating them. You’re taking the piss, Twisties. Stop it!

Vegemite

Vegemite is another food which divides people. You either love it, or you’re wrong.

This section is not about trying to improve vegemite, but trying to improve things with vegemite.

Nobody over 5 eats vegemite directly from the jar. It is, by its nature, an additive. You can add it to toast, to sandwiches, to cheese, to crackers, to gravy, to anything you like. So, if you want to add it, you will.

We may have become so soft as a species that a 6-hour internet outage can ruin everyone’s week, but we are not yet so dependent that we can’t add our own vegemite thank you very much!

If anyone was ever high enough to want to add vegemite to chocolate, to Shapes, to a roast chicken (I am not making any of these up), then they would. And in the cold light of morning, they would then keep their shame and regret to themselves.




07 October, 2023

On The Voice

I never tell anyone how I vote. Anyone who has known me for more than a day can probably take an educated guess but I will not say if they are right or wrong because I respect the secret ballot.

Likewise, I will never tell anyone else how I think they should vote. I will share the information I have and offer my perspective on the issues but after that, I encourage you to vote whichever way you want. This is not a euphemism.

This brings us to The Voice Referendum.

It seems to me to be a simple case of

Nothing about us without us.

I think we can all agree it is fundamentally unfair to make laws affecting people without consultation and representation of the people it affects.

Our American friends had a major discussion on this topic around 250 years ago. And while the solution they came up with was a million miles from perfect, I don’t think anyone would deny they were on the right side of history. It was certainly a step in the right direction, which has since been improved upon, albeit not enough.

The question being put at this referendum is:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice [to parliament]

Do you approve of this proposed alteration?”

If passed, the new section of the Constitution will be this:

129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

   i        there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

   ii       the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

   iii      the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

That’s all.

It is not a third chamber of parliament.
It does not have veto power.
It cannot legislate.

It will not take your backyard away or close down your golf course. Some of us are old enough to remember when Native Title was going to take people’s back yards and kick farmers off their land. In the 30 years since then, the only groups who have succeeded in doing this have been mining and energy companies, and they didn’t use Native Title to do it.

 

There are some valid counter-arguments to the Voice:

One is that parliament is there to represent all Australians. By rights, the Voice should be redundant.

However, no matter how well we choose our representatives (and we never do), all they have to go on is their own experience and what they hear from their constituents.

We all laughed when Tony Abbott as prime minister appointed himself as both Minister for Women and Minister for Indigenous Affairs. His response was that there’s no reason why a man should not be able to represent women.

In the abstract, he was right. In a perfect world, any man should be able to understand women and women’s issues enough to represent them. However, we live in this world. I have always considered myself fairly right-on and understanding but it still took me until my mid-40s to realise the fact I will never have to wonder about whether the outfit I choose to wear to the pub might one day be introduced as evidence for the defence. If it took a woke bloke like me half a lifetime to work that out, what hope does a 1950s throwback like Tony Abbott have? Why not just ask a woman?

Likewise, despite my best efforts and intentions, I will never truly understand the Indigenous experience, the connection to the land, the spirituality, the intergenerational trauma. The best I can do is listen to those who know and learn from what they tell me. It’s not much, but it’s a start.


Another counterpoint is that everyone has the right to make representations to parliament through their MPs. Many do already. Multinational corporations do it through spending millions of dollars on lobbyists to get to the front of the queue and make their case directly to government.

So at most, the Voice would give Indigenous communities equal ability to influence government policy as Rio Tinto, News Corp, Price Waterhouse Coopers, or Google.

If that idea scares you, I would politely ask you to reflect on why.

 

It is worth looking again at part ii of the proposed Section 129:

ii   the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

That’s all. The Voice may make representations should it choose to. Nothing more. If it chooses to, the government has to listen. Having listened, it may adjust policy or do exactly what it was planning to before. This is the point made by those who argue the Voice doesn’t go far enough. Plus, part iii gives the Parliament (and therefore the government of the day) the right to choose the makeup of the Voice. To me, this is the most problematic aspect. Both problems can be solved by electing better people.

Then there is the argument that having a Voice divides people by race. If that concerns you, I would direct your attention to sections 25 and 51(xxvi) which have been in place since federation.

25. Provisions as to races disqualified from voting

For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.

51. Legislative powers of the Parliament

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

(xxvi) the people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State,
[underlined wording added in 1967] for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;

I have yet to see anyone who claims the Voice is racist have any disagreement with, or even awareness of, these two sections. If they want them repealed, fair enough. If not, why not?

 

These are the issues as I see them. If you still don’t know, find out. This screen you’re looking at right now is the greatest source of information since the printing press. Use it. Talk to the people it affects. Ask them questions and listen to their answers.

Then, vote your conscience.