I’d Have Joined The Amish, But I Couldn’t Get The Batteries

The business of being a super-hero is a popular thing these days – from the mainstream Superman, Batman, and Spiderman to the more esoteric Tick, Dog Welder, or Squirrel Girl – everyone has a secret desire to don a suit and fight crime. Actually, some of the suits are a crime, but that is something I’ll leave to Edna Mode to sort out.

In my case I have to adapt my ambitions to my resources. I have not got big muscles or eyes that send out laser rays  – not even the ability to cloud men’s minds with a hypnotic gesture. The best I can do is grin and bear it and get revenge later. ( Revengeman? The Nemesis?  Schadenfreuder? All possibilities…) I need to reduce the idea of super to a manageable commodity.

I can write. That I’ll admit to. It was not always thus, and I daresay it will go again one day, but right now I can spit out copy like a teenager regurgitating pizza. I can fight crime and injustice by writing biting little articles and slipping them under the doors of the guilty. Or I can slip them onto WordPress and hope that the veiled references are going to work.  I regret that no-one will let me near the keyboard controls of the scoreboard at the sports stadium…

Or I could promote myself as The Backstabber. I’ve been the head of the Backstabber’s Guild of Australia for decades and there is no-one more qualified than I to tell your friends exactly what I found out about you with one simple credit check. I wonder if I could have a super-hero costume with a cape?

No, Edna? Well, you’re  the boss. Not too tight around the shorts, please – I have no ambitions.

CatskillMan? Only if I can work with a snare drummer at the supper show. Tish-boom…Try the veal.

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Bag it And Drag It

We are just in the throes in Western Australia of a politically-correct scheme to remove plastic bags from supermarkets. All hail the dawn of the eco-revolution.

Well, as with any good revolution, you have mensheviks and bolsheviks and cossacks and armoured trains, and this one is no different. The two regiments that have taken the field first off are the Queens Own Hypocrites and the Bullshit Hussars.

a. The two major competing supermarket chains – divisions  of mega corporations – will institute the bans within two weeks of each other. There will be trumpeting and photo opportunities, no doubt.

b. The independent grocers are still handing out the purchases in bags for now.

c. The Big Two – Tweedledum and Tweedledee are offering to sell reusable bags for several dollars or—wait for it—plastic bags as before, but for a price. You still get to apparently ruin the planet, but they make an additional profit on it.

d. As yet there is no charge for the use of the steel cage trolley in the Big Two…but wait for it to occur to their accountants. Another independent grocer does charge a coin fee for use of the trolley but refunds the coin once the trolley is racked back in the store.

e. Confusion will reign supreme tonight as people encounter the one chain’s policy and this will extend to the other chain in two weeks. There will be words, and many of them will be Anglo-Saxon.

f. The independent grocery chain who introduces paper bags or continues plastic ones at no additional charge – and advertises the fact unashamedly will experience a surge of people switching over to their stores. They are smaller spaces than the big two but they can make a motzah in the next few months if they play their cards right.

I shall cope by experimentation. I’ll take some cloth bags with me to the store and place them at the front of the conveyor belt as I lay the groceries out. I shall be curious to see whether the checkout clerk then fills those cloth bags and hands them over to me to put back in the trolley for the journey to the car. If they don’t, I don’t pay till they do.

Note: I do not use self-serve checkout ever.

Or I’ll try the experiment of putting several plastic tubs in the car boot. I’ll just re-trolley the goods as they are checked through the till and then transfer them to the tubs in the car.

Or I’ll shift my business to the smaller supermarket and leave the big two to stew in it.

Good Morning, Sir. How May I Hell You?

Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives.

Indeed, I’ll go further than that – they should also, at some point:

a. Work personal service – wait tables, attend a public desk, man the complaints counter.

b. Work publicity. Write copy, draw illustration, serve at a promo show. Think up the bullshit and then have to spread it…

c. Work in dirt. Even if it is just a personal garden, everyone should work in dirt until they get a good result.

d. Work in a position that is monitored by a jealous and vindictive overseer. This may be a person or a professional board.

e. Work in a workshop. Whatever they produce makes no difference – it will cement their character if they can eventually do it well.

f. Work to a deadline. And fail once, and then succeed once, to know the difference in the way it feels.

g. Work to a financial bottom line. Unless they have had to watch the pennies, they’ll never know how to accumulate the pounds.

h. Work in a job where they were in command. Command of the job and command of other people.

If they have done all or most of these things, they are well-rounded individuals. But they mustn’t get cocky – so is the Michelin Man. And he gets tyred sometimes…

No… back to the topic. People who vault to command without ever experiencing the reality of work live in an unreal world and make false decisions. People who never rise also never see what command should be – there is always a battle between them and others that is detrimental to business. There needs to be a shared experience to share in effective management and effective employment.

 

 

I Plan To Protest Outside A Vegan Restaurant

Not that I have anything against eating vegetables – I like potatoes and green beans and corn on the cob. I even like okra in gumbo. But I’m curious to see if I can get a crowd of people worked up for no good reason. It’s not an election year so this is the next best choice.

The people who really do eat only vegetables are not the target – they’ll probably be inside lifting the lids on the pots and seeing what’s cooking. And the people who eat meat are also not the main issue – I do love a good elk roast or moose stew. The ones I want are the knee-jerk followers who can be hoodwinked into anything with the correct pitch.

Part of me wants to make it funny and complain about how rutabagas are sentient beings with feelings and aspirations and really should be eligible for Parliament. And part of me wants to think up a disasterous-sounding health scare that involves some obscure chemical that you find in the leaves of any normal plant. Either approach should work if enough emotion and sleazy reasoning is applied. I plan to use the word ” toxic ” a lot.

There’ll have to be banners, of course, and I need to sit and think of a simple slogan with a good rhythm that can be chanted by people in woolen beanies and parkas. The sound of the howl is actually quite important – too simple and the protestors lose interest and too complex and it gets confused with the counter-melody. And you have to avoid getting close to commercial jingles because a lot of the advertising agencies have real lawyers.

I am also going to have to be careful about the use of the term ” root vegetables “. These days you cannot skirt too close to the semantic edge for fear of a backlash. Likewise I am going to have to carefully remove any reference to food that has any sort of ethnic or sexual connection. Zucchinis and black eyed peas are on the banned list for different reasons. Even collard greens are under the protection of federal agencies.

Still, with careful preparation and some cash in the right pocket, I think I can get my 15 minutes of fame in front of the restaurant. Don’t want to take much longer as I get hungry out on the footpath and they do a rather nice cauliflower curry that goes quickly.

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?

 

Australian Cynicism

We have often been accused of being cynics in Australia. This underestimates the citizens of this wonderful nation. We are greater than this – we are perfectly capable of being cynical in every country on Earth…with the possible exception of New Zealand. No-one is cynical in New Zealand, though they have been trying to establish a program to breed it for years.

Some have looked to climate, ancestry, ethnicity, history, and any number of other reasons for the national characteristic. It is all very well to score a PhD or a publisher’s advance upon this sort of speculation but the truth is that it is none of these things. The reason Australians are cynical is geography – we are far enough away from the rest of the world that we figure we can get away with it. We cock a snook at the various Kims, Vlads, Donalds, and Angelas…as well as the unpronounceable leaders of Africa, South America, and Canada and it is rarely sheeted home to us.

Oh, mind you, if we are of certain ethnicities that maintain spy networks here and dungeons back home into which our relatives can be thrust, we tend to be a bit quieter…but there are still pictures of Winnie the Pooh and copies of Charley Hebdo magneted onto the refrigerator in spite of official disapproval. They probably get whisked away when a national festival dinner party is held, but they come back afterwards.

Be fair to us – we are cynical about ourselves as much as we are about people overseas. Indeed, there is no topic more dear to the hearts or the sphincters of the Australians than our own national and state governments. Oh, and the local government, too. We’ll cheerfully discuss how much we despise our fearless leaders at the drop of a beer bottle cap. Our leaders hold us in similar affection.

It is known technically as a Mudgee Standoff – we don’t get to keep machine guns in our houses but Bunnings sells rope and there are trees aplenty  with stout limbs, so the checks and balances of the Westminster government are still in force. We were once told by one politician that ” We’ll keep the bastards honest. ” Actually I think that was just a case of someone making a mistake with the punctuation when they reported it. What he really  said was:

” We’ll keep the bastards. Honest… ”

But that’s just me being cynical.

 

 

The Two-Star Rating…

I’m sorry to have to tell you that my dinner one night last week only got a two-star rating. That low number was a worry but the most concerning thing about it was the fact that I wasn’t involved in the measuring process  – someone else who packaged it got to do the  pre-dinner criticism.

I actually thought it was a pretty good meal – I put a frozen Herbert Adams beef and mushroom pie into the oven for 60 minutes and was rewarded with a beef and mushroom pie. It had beef and mushrooms – to which I added gravy, peas, and spinach. Meat, pastry, gravy, and two kinds of greens seems to meet some of the goals of the world – it certainly met mine. But the fact that there was a star rating on the side of the packet raises a few questions:

a. Who does the rating? Nowhere on the package does it say.

b. What actually do they rate? Taste? Texture? Amount of gluten? Amount of Lewisite?

c. What is the scale of the rating? 1 is poisonous and 5 confers immortality?

d. Is this a load of bullshit? If it is, is it mandated bullshit or just some advertising executive’s way to fill up a blank space on the cardboard package?

I note that the next package in the freezer – a Herbert Adams chicken and leek pie has gotten three stars…and a logo that says RSPCA Approved Farming. Begging the question whether the beef pie was frowned upon severely.

Being a chicken pie, I guess it would not contain bullshit. But the sauce is white and I’ve seen what chickens do in the chicken run…