The Ballad Of the Etruscan Snot Pencil

They often say that practice makes perfect. I think rather that it makes for inchoate fury – if you are not careful. I propose to calm the situation and make it worse.

The term “practiced upon ” is one from the 19th century – used to describe someone who was being imposed upon – or worse – who was being mocked by a group of people for their amusement. It appears in the literature of O Henry, Mark Twain, and countless others. The stories feature some tenderfoot to the west or unfortunate country fellow brought into the salons of the East  who sis et upon as a figure of fun and told any number of tales. Initiation rites are imposed and the basic humour is always the native savaging the newcomer.

In some tales revenge is extracted and the tables turned. In others the whole thing is just a sneer in print. It can also include the humiliation of foreigners in Britain or France on a cultural basis. Most of the impositions of Italy or Middle Europe are financial fleecings. Hence the title of this piece – the business of selling antiquities to a New World rube on the basis of history and unfamiliarity therewith.

Consider: how many times have you been imposed on with drop bears and yowies and sniggering references to Australian things? And how many times have you done it to overseas visitors? And who has gotten all the amusement out of it? Is there any less pleasant feeling than realising that you have stumbled into a nest of native wits and are being practiced upon?

What do you do?

Good manners suggest that you do nothing except excuse yourself at the earliest opportunity and leave. Kindly religious feelings abjure you to forget and forgive. But you always feel that you have been got at. The Guild has a far better suggestion when you detect a sell going on; participate fully.

Most native wits do not know when to stop. If you give them the slightest encouragement they will enlarge upon their jokes until they go from puerile to puffy. They cannot stop themselves from extravagance and bluff – eventually they will arrive at the point where even they feel that it has gone too far.

You must compel them to go further – getting wilder and more obvious until someone in their own group is compelled to prick the bubble. Even then, rise to defend the prime jokester and keep asking pointed and intelligent questions – compelling them to eventually start to sweat and look for an escape.

Then, grasp them firmly in the iron embrace of friendship and steer them round to everyone in the room in turn, telling them to repeat the joke for the benefit of the newcomers. You will be hated as you have never been before, but will never, ever be preyed upon again.

It’s a small price to pay.

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Either Tell Me The Entire Story Or Keep Silent

This is an essay that will echo instantly with those of you who follow each other on Facebook or other social media sites. Personal, face-to-face, over the dinner table  communicators may also recognise the sentiments expressed.

When someone relates a story, they do so for one of three reasons:

  1. They wish to clearly describe a situation and to obtain a rational response from the listeners.
  2. They wish to instil a sense of sympathy amongst the audience.
  3. They are trying to con someone out of money.

All three of these are valid exercises and we applaud them. What we do not approve of is the vague half-announcement that tells only one DRAMATIC – OMIGOD – OMIGOD part of the story and then leaves the hearers to guess at or plead for the rest. This is known in the advertising and prostitution businesses as the come-on, and it is generally up to no good.

We’ve laughed at the term ” vaguebooking ” for this sort of thing on social media. It can also be done over a dinner table or an office desk. In all cases it is an unfair and unhelpful. But what is one to do about it?

Well, take a leaf from Mr. Literal – the Viz Comic character who takes every single statement at face value…even if it is spoken from the other end of the body.  When someone tells you half the story, accept it and act accordingly.

If they tell you that they are leaving for Peru…because…send them a hasta la vista card. And then wait until you get a postcard in return from Lima. Likely the next message will come from Lismore…

When they post that they just can’t…you quietly accept that they just can’t and move on to talk to someone who just can.

If they cry poor or sad or sick or jailed, do something to help. But let them say it clearly or not say it at all. Social interaction should not be a 19th century guessing game of emotion and sensibilities that’s broadcast to every hacker and hoon on the internet.

Ultracilious Beats Supercilious

Blockages are interesting. Whether it is in a Post office queue or a digestive system, slow-down speeds up the natural bad manners of people and their organs and then reveals it to all about the place.

Yesterday in the servo ( Australian for service station ) I put $ 20 of petrol in the Suzuki. I was at the front pump of the line and went in to pay. The person in front of me in the pay line was a pink-haired RBF who waved a card vaguely in the direction of the machine and dashed out again. I paid in cash with the correct change. Then I walked back out to the Suzuki and got flashed.

No, not that kind of a flash. Not at my age. Flashed with car lights from the large 4WD behind me. Guess who…Pink Hair. I was blocking her passage. And yes, I do know that joke…

You are required to wear seat belts in Western Australia and to have your mirrors adjusted correctly before you drive. Also you must use indicators to signal the other drivers of your intention on the roads. I made sure mine worked. Pink Hair’s car lights apparently worked, too. A lot.

As I pulled away – correctly – I noted that she turned into the path of another 4WD approaching from the other direction. I heard no crash, but then my ears are not what they were. I do hope she calmed down before she got to her next appointment at the morgue. No-one likes an angry corpse.

I Only Mentioned The Whore Once…*

But I think I got away with it.

You would be a brave person these days if you held anyone else** up to contumely and ridicule on a public stage. Far more so if it was the internet and the social media. The gaff that you inserted into your victim would be as nothing compared to the gaffe that you would put into your own career.

The lawyers would have a field day. They would look at you, at the social media site, and at the electronic servitors who had broadcast the slur to the world. Their gaze would fix upon two things; your guilt and who has the money. Were you just a beggar in the market place shouting imprecations they would be satisfied with whipping you and then moving on to the real sources of compensation. If you had money you would also stand the ire of injured reputation and moral outrage.

Perhaps they would be right to do this. After all, we should not defame others. Perhaps their efforts would only be to right a wrong and prevent a sin. When you think about it, Torquemada had only the spiritual interests of his victims at heart when he lit the fires under their stakes.

I am not brave. I quiver at the least danger. So I never publish scurrilous attacks upon people – even when they are patently deserving. I forebear. I forgive. I just keep watching them to see their next stunt. Eventually what I essayed to do will be done by the mainstream press and possibly the magistrate’s court – and then I can be virtuous and moral. And when they are finally cut down, I will ask for a piece of the rope as a remembrance.

*  Before you pop a vein and write to the editor, it’s a reference to ” Fawlty Towers “…If this show has not been seen in your section of the Ozarks look it up on Netflix.

**   You can do it to yourself and make a good deal of money from the networks…

You Can’t Say That!

But I did say it

” But you are not allowed to say that! That is not acceptable! You are not allowed to have those opinions! We forbid it! ”

We? Who is this ” we ” that you write about?

”  Me and all the other the moral people! The people who are caring and sensible and good and right and virtuous! The people who demand that you toe the line and conform to our moral standards and only print our opinion! ”

So no other opinion is permitted?

” No! We are a free country and you are free to think as we do or suffer our displeasure! ”

Do you always speak in exclamation marks?

” Yes! We are never wrong! “

Cleaning The Meme Off Your Shoe

Prior to subscribing to Facebook, I had never heard the word “meme”. After I leave it, I’m rather hoping that I never hear it again.

I am not resistant to ideas – nor to clever expressions. I look to the history of literature for wit and witticisms. However, I am afraid when I am dealing with this giant of the social media world, that I am getting only a portion of what I might. Half-witticisms, if you will, from the keyboards of half-wits. Vast concepts trimmed to the tastes of the half-vast.

Most items are reasonably harmless in themselves – cats, dogs, and otters and the occasional horse doing funny things. I like the Liz Climo cartoons -as well as a number of other small, harmless drawings. I can stand sunrises and pictures of the sea. I always like airplane pictures.

But some memes are not witty, nor are they pleasant, useful, or fair. If they are attached to politics or religion they are frequently picked up by the least thoughtful of the community and plastered about with abandon. Would that they could be abandoned long before they actually hit the screen.

In today’s political climate, I also wonder if the clever meme has been invented and inserted onto the platform by the disinformation teams from each party – thence to be repeated by the parrots of the net. I don’t value being preached to or railed at by friends on the behalf of strangers.

The answer? Well, that may be mild, or drastic. I’ll experiment with July’s crop of scolding and see which option seems most appealing. I would regret losing the connectivity of some parts of the social media scene, but I would regret losing my happiness and temper even more.

Atttention To Details

It’s attention to details that makes the difference between success and disaster.

a. Did you remember to put the pin back in the hand grenade before you put it in your handbag? We’ll see in four seconds.

b. Spelling. ” Public  Exposure ” is good advertising. Leave out one letter and you’re in the Magistrate’s Court in the morning.

c. Punctuation. Benny Hill used to get a laugh out of a sign that put a space between the “e” and the “r” in “therapist”. That was a long time and a lot of Benny ago. If a successor tried it now they would be crucified on social media and the networks.

d. You cannot leave film out of your camera anymore because you don’t use it. You can, however, leave a memory card out…and if you have been incautious enough to disable the warning klaxon and freeze mechanism, your digital camera will take an entire vacation on one internal frame.

The makers know what you’re like and have made the safety mechanism to prevent you from self-harm. If you are clever you circumvent it and harm yourself.

e. Tom Cruise once spoke a line in a movie that told us to ” Show me the money “. He might be an idiot, but thankfully just a small one…and the advice is still good. When the cryptocurrency crap hits your screen, have them show you the money – in government cash – in your hand, and then close your fist tight.

This will never happen, because it is crypto and if you try to see it, it is Schroedingers Cash…

f. Popular Culture is a good phrase – it can be made to cover everything, like tomato sauce. Unpopular Culture is harder to sell., involving work and thinking. Popular Un-culture is similar to the first category and may, indeed, be indistinguishable from it. Unpopular Un-culture is basically free-to-air reality television in monochrome.

Think of a closed-circuit monitor in the hallway of a Russian tower-block apartment and you’ll get the idea. You could watch it but no-one ever does.