The Conference At The Winery

Or the brewery. Or the restaurant. Or the resort/theme park/house of ill repute.

Or anywhere these days, really – the gathering of solemn delegates for professional development and networking. The serious exchange of considered views and the presentation of enlightening technical papers. The art and science of the drunken tax boondoggle.

I may be a little jealous about this – I am retired and no longer have someone to send me  to a pub in some other city at their expense. I’m considered a big boy now and have to buy my own. There is also the sobering realisation that I have nothing to say and no-one wants to hear it anyway. So the conference/seminar/junket/fact-finding mission/holiday/tax dodge/perk/swizzle/fraud door is largely closed to me.

On the other hand, I am not required to attend power breakfasts, staff meetings, team-building exercises, Powerpoint presentations, or hot wash-ups. I can regard the marketing consultant, art director, and HR manager with the same interest that I would give to a sea slug. I may have to buy my own beer but I can leave after I drink it, while others have to stay…

I first discovered the pleasure of opening the door and vanishing when I was a member of the Australian Dental Association. I attended a couple of their meetings in the West Perth headquarters and decided that they were appallingly boring. Then when an ADA dinner was advertised at a golf club, I went along – thinking that things would be looking up.

Looking up, all right – looking up the noses of the ADA executive at the head table as they praised themselves and advertised their professional successes. Long about dessert time they introduced a new Dean of the local Dental School as speaker. Most of us knew him from contact as undergraduates years before. Many were amazed that he should have risen to such an academic position. I was appalled to realise as he spoke that his personality had never changed.

It was such a pleasure to excuse myself, head for the washroom, and glide out the front door of the club.

Since then I have stood up and left any number of speakers in trade and social circumstances, and have never felt bad about it. I regard it as a much more civilised response to bad lecturing than my other impulse – to throw a half a brick at the podium.

Besides, how can you get half-bricks into the venue unseen?

 

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Fast And Furious

The Fast And Furious  title seems to appear on a number of things – motion pictures, toys, models, appearances, etc. It heralds motor car chases, firearms, and gasoline explosions. I should imagine that a number of the participants will wear revealing clothing – which may be offered for sale at licensed establishments. I don’t know whether it is associated with a snack food or chain of restaurants, but it is still early days.

I do encounter F&F enthusiasts on the streets and freeways of Perth, however. They are distinctive in their grey and black cars that look all alike and their driving style: Zoom up behind someone, flash the high beams, honk, and dive around them…to then slow down to the same speed as the rest of the slow lane.

I don’t think that they have road rage. I think they just have rage, and it is probably evident everywhere they go and in everything they do. They are probably fast and furious in the grocery store, at the post office, and in the toilet. That would explain the sounds of the explosions in there…

What I’m really hoping for is a series of popular movies and commercial spin-offs entitled The Slow And Considerate. It could still have very small explosions but the motor cars need not tumble end over end. No-one need be covered in oil. They get to wear comfortable garments and use thee air conditioner. And the behaviour of the S&C fans on the freeway would take place mostly in the left lane, but not during rush hour. There would be courteous merging.

 

The Obligations Of A Host…

And the obligations of a guest…

This topic has been the subject of social discussion for centuries. Sometimes it has been theoretical, and sometimes practical.

Societies vary, but most have set the rules of hospitality in a similar way.

a. The guest must not attack the host – the host must not attack the guest. Prior to relationship becoming established, this rule may not be in force. ie. wartime or family birthday parties. If the combatants have not yet surrendered, all legal force my be exerted against them. Once surrendered, restrictions apply.

b. The guest must fed, watered, and bedded in an honourable manner. This means that the host must exert some effort to achieve comfort for the guest. The guest must accept what is offered with gratitude.

c. The guest must be protected from attack by third parties.  The host becomes responsible for the health and safety of the guest. The guest must not overstrain the resources or attract contumely upon the host in this process.

d. The host must provide hospitality for as long as necessary. The guest must make this as short as possible.

e. The guest and host must not plague each other with unpleasant wrangling – even if this is contrary to their normal nature. They must both assume the appearance of polite persons.

And this has been brought to you by the Backstabbers Guild of Australia – who encourage everyone to behave well and to extend charity and graciousness whenever they can. And to mark the positions of their host’s magazines and troop concentrations on an ordnance survey map as soon as they learn of them.

 

The N Word

Students of modern society and manners know that one never uses the N word.

Likewise, one apparently never uses the K word in South Africa without risking a jail sentence. There may be other things that are also risky there, but you would need to depend upon other people’s first-hand knowledge to list them. Best ask a South African.

Are there other restrictions upon the alphabet? Well, a different K word would probably draw ire in New York and fire in Tel Aviv. The B word in Prague and the G word in Pyongyang as well. And there is probably a list of other letters banned from the lexicon all over the place. Languages that depend upon letters other than the standard Roman ones may have banned their own symbols as well.

Yet…you can seemingly get away with it when you are associated with the motion picture industry. I walked down the hallway of our local picture palace and noted a poster advertising a new movie coming  – the title consisting solely of a G word. This might sell it to a less sophisticated audience and, of course, here in Australia this G word does not trigger off the interest that it would in the USA. But it is a dangerous thing to do, if you want to promote something…there are other G words that can be brought into play in the American border states that work quite in reverse.

Probably too late for this movie, but future Hollywood executives might want to consider not using pejoratives as their main calling card.

” You’ll End Up Eating Beans “

” You’ll end up eating beans ” was always the go-to threat when I was at school – generally uttered by a teacher predicting a sad life of utter failure if I did not take an interest in whatever they were saying. It had the immediate effect of making me lose both  interest in what they were saying, and respect for them.

You see…I knew the Secret Of The Beans.

I had been initiated into the society of bean eaters early in life. Unlike some children, I was not raised on Heinz Baked Beans as a quick sop to just fill a gap. I did get Heinz, but when I got Heinz they had been supercharged, spiced, and done to perfection. My Heinz were superior beans, and they were just the start. You see, my mother was raised in New Mexico in hard times and beans were an art form.

Mexican beans, Texican beans, Boston Baked Beans, green beans, yellow beans, pinto beans, chickpeas…and there were as many variations of sauces and sides as there were beans. Fresh, canned, dried..we had ’em all and we loved ’em all.

The south of the bean border ones were so potent that the Army used them to clean out the receivers on machine guns. The Boston beans were proper. The green beans were always accompanied by bacon and onions. Beans and rice with cornbread filled all the requirements.

Mexican beans were always a meal that drew us home – the other favourites being sauerkraut or fried smelt. We rarely ate out and never missed it.*

And the Secret Of The Beans? The secret was we loved ’em! They nourished us and comforted us and gave us terrible gas. A long drive in a closed car with the Stein family was a risky proposition for the stranger. You could have a lot of fun guessing who dealt it.

But seriously – beans are a family food that scores high on most dietitian charts. Protein, fibre, taste, energy…you never feel like you have to snack halfway through the evening if dinner was a good bowl of beans.

But back to my teacher’s dire prediction. I have arrived at retirement age and am now rich enough to do as he says – I can afford to eat beans every week. I’m grateful to him for his insight.

*  Even now I eat out less often than my friends do. I like home cooking. Invite me to your house.

I Think Of You As A Good Person

But I’ve been wrong about these things before…

I try. I really do try. Every day I attempt to have a good opinion of the people I meet. Some days are successful days and some days are just…well…days. But the good news is I am prepared to reset the mechanism at midnight and re-consider your character in the morning.

This means that in many cases you will have a chance to do better – to appear kinder and more intelligent and more honest than on previous occasions. And each time you do, it will raise you in my estimation. You may reach a plateau – like a level in a video game – that means each thing you do is going to earn you extra psychic points. This is wonderful, and eventually you may get to the point where you turn into a princess or a prince and the golden moneybags start to appear on the screen.

Conversely, every time you foist something on me via Facebook that has been supplied by the latest fake news source, you drop down a notch. Please be aware: there are only so many notches before we reach rock bottom.

In case this sounds really arrogant…well it is. It’s part of the mechanism that I employ to navigate through the world. So far I have hit remarkably few rocks and shoals and I’m willing to attribute this to the personal cynicism about which you are reading. As long as I keep it inside, it is not going to do you any more harm than you deserve. If you behave as a lady or a gentleman should, you will be treated as such.

And we will have a successful day.

Note: Unfortunately this sort of philosophy requires me to be a good person as well. It is annoying, but there you are. You can’t make omelettes without breaking expensive kitchen utensils.

 

Secede From Success

I suppose I should be grateful to the people of Quebec. I might not have felt so in 1957 when I lived in Montreal and had to endure the indignities of Grade 5. The school system was split between English-speaking teachers and French-speaking ones and there were times when the kids were the football between the teams. Thankfully they had to teach English literature in English and mathematics in numbers and the odd intrusion en Francais could be endured.

Later, the pressure to teach every school child in Canada some French extended out as far as Alberta and British Columbia and I got at least two years of basic grammar in the early 60’s. I can fumble my way through a French magazine if there are pictures with short captions. If there are girlie pictures I fumble slower.

But they did contribute enough political whining and pressure to raise a great debate about ” Bi-culturalism ” and we school kids got onto the gravy train. We wrote essays, made speeches, and in some cases collected free trips to Ottawa to pretend that we were the future of the country. We were overwhelmingly snot-nosed, mealy-mouthed, and cynical, and I guess that if we had pursued that course over the time one of us could be Prime Minister of Canada right now. Come to think of it…

I didn’t win the Ottawa trip on the strength of my speech, but I won a job at the local newspaper doing anything that no-one else wanted to do. I loved it, and it has given me a taste for writing, photography, and cynicism ever since.

Secede? Oh the political pundits sometimes come out with the business of Quebec seceding from Canada and becoming an independent nation. They toy with it every few years…just long enough to get more federal money. The awkward thing is that the rest of Canada may see it as a good idea one day and take them up on it.

On one condition. Quebec gets Trudeau. All the Trudeaus…