The Deist’s Thanksgiving Holiday

still-life036-2Deists have it grim in the list of religions.

They are not really given any religious holiday breaks during the year. No particular day is set aside for overeating and gift giving – the only ones gazetted areglued to some form of organised belief. If they want a day off they are expected to give heed to the Christian church or the Jewish Church. In this respect they share the same position as followers of the Turk church, the Indian church, the Chinese church, or the Japanese church…these worshippers have the undoubted moral benefit of strict separation of church and state but they lose pay doing their own festivals.

Okay, everyone likes a good holiday – particularly if there is going to be special food and drink and a chance to meet up. Business likes a good holiday that encourages gifts. Deists need a special one of their own.

Someone has suggested that Deists use the 4th of July or the 24th of November as their especial day – given that there are links to famous Deists or religious people on these days. A kindly thought, but it does rather piggyback on the US’s national civil day and upon the US date for Thanksgiving. People are busy enough with those and they can eat and drink themselves into a stupor anyway.

We need a different day – one that has no miracles or supernatural goings-on to rivet the masses, while offering some cheer and a chance to feel grateful for the lives we lead. One could give consideration to having a party on:


a. January 17th – Benjamin Franklin’s birthday

b. February 9th – Thomas Paine’s birthday


If you go for the first one it can be subtitled ” Poor Richard’s Day ” in honour of his famous almanac. If Tom Paine gets the nod you can have the ” Day Of Reason “. This is a little more confronting than Ben’s birthday but the revelers can still eat and drink to the memory of a great man – and give thanks in their hearts for the goodness of the world.

Of course, we could also apply the old Quaker idea that specific religious holidays are not observed because every day is a holy day. Presumably this would then suggest the thought that there are no holy cities or holy lands because all municipalities and locations are holy. I wish I had this breadth of vision – I’ve seen part of our outer suburbs in Perth that would need several coats of sealer and a rub-down before anybody would think of applying a layer of holiness to them. Even then I reckon it would bubble and peel.

As it is, I think in Western Australia we shall declare the third Saturday in August, the 20th in 2017, as our ” Poor Richard’s Day “. It falls in a cold and wet part of the year and needs a bit of cheerfulness. This will be engendered with a dinner at The Little Studio and invited guests may bring presents for themselves or others. Drinks will be served.

No one will be expected to pray – or prey, for that matter – and a feast of reason with a little foolishness will be as good a way to remember two fine philosophers as any. No pilgrimage, miracle, religious relic or symbol, or sacrifice will be required.

I am looking forward to it.


Personal Goals…And Most of them Are Offside…


I have decided to bear my sole. A couple of hours stitching claws onto the shoes and it should be complete. The footprints in the sand at the local park should make for some memorable police reports…

On another note, I am commenced upon a process of reform. Once I have arranged my life in perfect order I shall be doing the same for others. As with all revolutions, it will be necessary to have secret meetings, cells of conspirators, and passwords. No, actually, scrub that last idea – I cannot even order apps because I cannot remember my Apple password. Adding more will just lead to further chaos. When I want the door to the plotter’s secret lair opened I will just shout out ” Open the @@#*!! door. “.

Okay, to start with, I need to list my life goals:

a. Become a hazard to shipping in the Channel.

b. Go deer hunting with the Dalai Lama.

c. Eat my weight in chili.

d. Invent a word that eventually gets banned from the New Oxford Dictionary after a personal protest from Gordon Ramsay.

e. Bring back steam trains. Between continents.

f. Introduce a new invisible component to food – one that is so exclusive that only rich people can afford to become intolerant to it.

g. Live in the 18th century for a year.

As you can tell, I am ambitious, but not impossibly so. I realise that revitalising steam trains will be a big-money quest and I am not nearly scientific enough to actually invent a new food chemical. But I am resourceful enough to invent the fear of it, and that may be all that is needed to create a culinary reign of terror. What I have to do is pick a mild disease and attach the food to it and let the publicity machine do the rest.

Now with the Dalai Lama, as soon as I get him to admit that there is a better cartridge than a 45-70-500 we will start to make some progress. He’s a cheerful sort, but set in his ways. Not everyone wants to shoot buffalo rifles.

As  far as the 18th century goes, this would be perfectly fine in many northern countries that had architecture, science, literature, arts, and conversation in the 1700’s. Australia had only the convict settlements and the brutality of  a frightened colonial rule. Not a great deal of fun re-living it. I should remove myself to rural England, France, or North America and take a small cottage in an area that had no electricity  – the Amish country would probably be suitable. A housekeeper and day servants would be all the  help needed and the diet, habits, and daily routine could be adjusted to the period. I should have no books or prints newer than 1799, and no music but what might be made by live musicians. Ah, but what might be written in pen on paper…and painted on canvas…

Note – I should choose a country cottage with scheme water and an WC. I am not a fan of 18th century disease.

My Book Week Costume


I am going to have to tread a little warily in the future – it looks like the wearing of costumes in public is going to be a touchy subject.

So far we have seen two instances of public outrage over students turning up at their schools for Book Week in outfits that caused major grade explosions on the social media – one dressed like his favourite football hero and one dressed as Adolf Hitler. Different schools, different states, but similar screeching from the computer screen. Note: the football hero is a black person and the kid who dressed up like him is not, but wore brown makeup anyway. I have no idea what the complexion of the Hitler kid is.

The blackface incident might have gone unnoticed had not the mother of the child posted a taunt about it on social media. Kerboom. The Hitler costume garnered a report from the ABC news site on Facebook. Kerboom. Even if it had not hit the fan there, it would have eventually surfaced as the Alice Springs school where the incident occurred was being visited at the time by a delegation of Jewish students from Melbourne…

I’m sorry to see the problems that have occurred, as dress-ups for kids and adults can be an innocent pleasure. My friends in the Grey Company  do it every single weekend in some guise or other; medieval, renaissance, 18th century, etc. We have even seen one of them dressed as Vlad The Impaler ( heading image ). As he has done this on many occasions for public display, and been applauded for it, it really does call into question the whole business of public outrage.

For my part, as I have long put aside the Union Army uniforms and Scottish kilts that were seen twenty years ago, and have nothing more inflammatory in the wardrobe than Russian sailor’s outfit or 18th century gentleman’s dress, I should be safe. I can justify the former with a copy of Bulgakov and the latter with Voltaire or Poor Richard’s Almanack. I would read Lady Chatterley’s Lover but I haven’t the figure for it.

The Clothes Dryer

DryThe invention of the clothes dryer may very well be the basic point at which we turned from savages to civilised people. Prior to this were were at the mercy of providence and the Meteorological Bureau for enough clean clothes to wear for a week – after this we could structure our lives around art, science, and literature.

Why it took so long is a mystery. The resourceful colonists in Massachusetts and Vermont and such invented cider presses, iron stoves, and gasoline buggies long before they had the good sense to supplement the clothes line. Even before the age of steam there must have been someone who was bright enough to realise that fire makes heat and hot air could dry clothes. It isn’t rocket science.

And what a boon it would have been to the pioneer women, They might have been resigned to  spending their days in childbirth and Indian fighting, but they would all have welcomed dry towels to do it with.

If a primitive society could devise a way to distill bourbon they could dry clothes in the winter. I think there must have been a conspiracy way back then. It would make for a good PhD…




The Designed Life – Part One

CanDoRemember those advertising layout of the late 1990’s and early 2000 era – the ones that had blue backgrounds and white squares on them? And graphics of what almost looked like technical drawings with crosses in the centres of circles and fake lines? And someone with a stubble, expensive haircut and aviator glasses? And were trying to sell soap or toothpaste?

Well that ain’t what this series of posts is going to be about.

That’s about selling toothpaste. It’s the theatre of technology that fools you into thinking someone is drawing up plans for toothpaste, and that they know far better than you how to do it. If you buy their product they may come to approve of you. Like any theatre, the techno-toothpaste show looks better when you dim your mental lights and naked dancing girls come out.

Okay – what this series of posts will be about is the idea that we can design our lives. Not in an airy-fairy new age way – and not in a financial way. Not even designing relationships or careers or anything like that -but designing the items that make up our own – our very own – environment. Every man Or woman his own Dreyfuss, Gropius, or Bel Geddes.

Big thought? Big idea? Big nonsense? Judge for yourselves when you get further along.

Like most really good addictions, design can be introduced in small amounts until the victim is hooked. The nickel bag of design is a sharp HP pencil and a yellow legal pad with lines on it. It can be taken everywhere and disguised as a pencil and a pad of yellow paper. No-one need to know that the possessor of the pad is making a fulcrum upon which to move the world.

Note: you could do it on a computer with a graphic program and a Wacom tablet, but you would be spending so much time trying to get the thing to be a computer that you would lose out on the ability to make it into a pencil and pad. Go to that later when you have mastered the business of completing a drawing before you erase your way through the sheet. And do practise putting your tongue out of the side of your mouth – it is unattractive to be sure, but a traditional gesture of our people.

Every Man His Own Voltaire


I speculated about the communication possibilities of the weblog journal or column in a previous post – looking for on-going two-way communication in some real sense. It was a good idea as far as it went, but it is also possible to send another idea in a different direction to just as good an effect.

Imagine I am Voltaire. I toy with the thought. I may be a little put off by the haircut and the dental work but can take some comfort from the fact that if I am going to be M. Arouet, I am going to be listened to. Listened to and read extensively. And not just in my own time – for the next 200 years or more. That’s a terrifying, dizzying, delightful prospect. For those of us who are dismayed at not being listened to in the house, the thought of being heard and heeded in the rest of the world is wonderful – it is what fuels writers and You Tubers. It also makes money for the vanity publishers as well, but that is another story.

Okay, I have decided that I am going to voltaire it. He wrote essays, books, plays, 20,000 letters, and presumably any number of notes to the local shops and tradespeople. Leaving aside the ” two milk and a loaf of bread ” lists, that volume of communication would be nearly impossible to sustain under modern conditions if it had to be hand written on paper and then posted or delivered throughout the world. Money, bulk, time, and the vagaries of the current postal system would reduce it to absurdity.

Here is where the internet, and specifically the weblog journal portion of the net, comes in. The cost in paper of doing this is zero. Likewise the cost of ink, quills, envelopes, and postage. The letter I dispatch can go for free – or at least as part of the monthly cost paid for cat videos and Facebook. I need not wait for post riders to take a parcel of wit to the King of Prussia nor a sailing barque to slowly float a scientific thought to Franklin in Philadelphia. Once I am ready to publish, a button on the screen does it in about 11 seconds, and sends it everywhere in the world and somewhere into posterity.

That’s the bit I love. Judging from some of the material I see in a quick sweep through Google, I suspect that nothing ever vanishes from the web. It may be stored deeper and deeper in the electric vaults, but it’s all still there. I can achieve or be guilty of all sorts of things that someone in the future can see. I have the ambition to do what was done to me by an author in the 1740’s – an English essayist wrote a series of articles on London life and published them in the earliest magazines. I bought a cheap Heron book a few years ago, with a compilation of these, and read them through. In one, our Augustan made a joke – complete with setup, timing, and punch line. It caught me unawares, quite unlike the more measured passages of other authors. I burst out in genuine laughter – hard laughter – and then sat in awe when I realised that someone could entertain this well when they had been dead for two centuries. I could see philosophy and poetry and early science continuing on that length of time but this was the first time I had ever seen a joke do it.

Well, It is back to the inkpot and quill. The King of Prussia needs a little trimming back and I have just the sort of essay for him that will do it. Provided I never cross the German border, I should be safe…


The Thunderstorm


This posting is currently being tapped out in the midst of a thunderstorm – with, I hasten to add, the laptop unplugged from the adapter and running on battery power. I have carefully unplugged the desktop and the Drobo hard drive as well. I am not certain if this is a good idea but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

I was thinking of taking the live artillery shells off the tin roof and collapsing the 50 metre antenna as well but this might be a little paranoid. After all, a little electricity never did Ben Franklin any harm. Probably melted the keys to his house a couple of times, but you get that with science.

I refuse to sit in the middle of the room with my feet up on wooden kegs and all the mirrors in the house covered. This is just superstition and silly, besides the wooden kegs are filled with gunpowder anyway. And those old tales about attracting electricity with bowls of water or milk are never going to work – if they did Bill Gates would have been putting out saucers years ago.

I’m sorry for domestic animals who are afraid of thunderstorms. I don’t know if it is the noise on their sensitive ears ( though how sensitive could ears be when they don’t hear you yell at them to get off the couch and you are in the same room…) or the tendency for their hair to become all unmanageable and messy. Never bothered Patsy and Adina on Ab Fab. Perhaps the dog and the cat should be drinking vodka? Any rate as they are wearing permanent fur coats it seems rather a mistake to dive under the bed or couch as soon as the thunder starts because that’s where we store the dust and dead insects. And generally they don’t use washrags to clean up – they use tongues. Ptui, ptui.

If the storm could drop some rain on the big bushfires without engendering more with lightning strikes it would be a help. This time of year is a major strain for the state and there never seems to be much that you can do to the atmosphere to ward off the troubles. Just wait and hope.