The Childhood Friend

Are you a child? Do you have friends? Are you aware that one of them will become a famous scientist, one a renowned entertainer, and one a serial killer? That’ll dispose of three, and all the rest will be insurance salesmen, cocktail waitresses, and dry-goods clerks. In your case you’ll be lucky to get out of the neighbourhood ahead of the mob armed with the torches and pitchforks.

Childhood friends are a little like childhood cousins. You get to interact with them and have a sort of a family connection for awhile without being required to save them when they fall down the old well. That’s Lassie’s job. You can watch with interest their future progress and you never have to claim any debit for it – only credit. If they make good, you knew ’em when…if not, you didn’t. And you need not worry about what they think of you because chances are they don’t.

Childhood enemies are similar – but you are not required to be pleased for them when they make good nor grieve for them when they finally end up just like you said they would. Being from the long past, anything they do wrong cannot be sheeted home to you – unlike present work colleagues or acquaintances. There is a bigger circle of blast around people you have interacted with as an adult compared to the ones of childhood.

If you meet an old childhood friend on the road take the Buddha advice. If they claim friendship, run away from them. Remember that when you were young it was no great honour to know you and it hasn’t gotten any better.

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The Morality Machine – Part One – A Self-Help Book For The Vicious

In case that sounds like I am advocating a Necronomicon that you get at Dymocks for $ 39.95, I must reassure you. The self help advocated is not to make the user worse, but better. Vice is to be abhorred and virtue upheld – if only on the point of a pike.

The self-help books that are commonly found in bookshops and libraries come in many forms – but they all have a common theme; the reader must absorb what they have to say and then practice it to become a better person. The betterment can be of many types – richer, calmer, wiser, thinner, happier, or more virtuous are some of the popular ones. Less common, but still useful are the books that will make you a better golfer, fisherman, skier, etc. There are even a few slim volumes that will make you a better stamp collector or photographer of fungi.

Still- they are all ex auctoritate sententia – you read and obey the authority of the author. They point and you follow.

I propose that the best self-help article or book is one that proceeds from the person themselves – they do the work and reap the benefit. Thus even if the reader desiring advancement can only write or say one thing to assist themselves, that one thing comes from a better source than any $ 39.95 paperback.

Of course you often can’t really say anything new to yourself – it has all been said before by someone else – but you can repeat it in your own voice, and that is frequently the only one you hear anyway. In this case you are doing nothing more than you might normally do – talking to yourself – but you can add something fresh; you can listen to yourself.

I’m trying it these next few months. First one I’m doing is Will Rogers’ line about never passing up a chance to shut up. The good effect of this might be negative, as I won’t know what trouble I’ve avoided if I’ve been successful…but maybe that’s the best form of self-help.

The Lease Is Up

I note that there are a number of premises for lease in…

Everywhere.

Just back from a trip to Melbourne and Sydney and the number of ” for lease ” signs that line the streets are staggering. Not so much on the main city streets – though there are plenty of empty premises in the arcades and back ways. It’s the secondary suburbs that are really quite surprising…even Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – my favourite crap shop and dodgy restaurant district – is thinning out and looking for tenants.

Our own city suburbs have long stretches of highway that are all going begging. But the interesting thing is I bet they are not willing to beg. I suspect the landlords are still trying for every price increase and every winning extra charge that they can get. The fact that they cannot get them hasn’t quite registered.

I even see the foolishness of our local large shopping centre -a place that has a lack of parking space most of the time – ripping up the carpark for more stand-alone businesses at a time when other shops and spaces in their main building are hoarded over.

I am not sure whether it is the lease or the jig that is up…

What Do You Do When The Hero Is A Zero?

We are in an age that presses awkward revelation upon us every day – secrets are laid bare for all to see about our favourite political and cultural figures.

Not a month passes when another icon is not clasted good and proper. And once this is done, they are blasted forevermore – or until someone else wants to sell books praising them at $ 39.95. That’s about the only chance of rehabilitation possible. Forgiveness is only offered when it makes for good press.

I don’t mind the blasting and clasting, as long as there is a shred of truth in it. I do get annoyed when the Russian, Iranian, Korean, or Nazi propaganda machines start to work and grind out endless reams of lies in an effort to swamp our consciousness. And I am rather puzzled as to what to do with the opposite to the blast and clast – if a noted figure is presented to us as a saint, martyr, or popular god – when normal observation would show us that they are not.

No names, no pack drill…but I would include nearly all the rock music, motion picture, and popular culture idols who overdosed on drugs and alcohol, committed suicide in bizarre fashion, or otherwise behaved like fools and morons. They may have been entertaining, if you are entertained by that sort of thing, but their demise seems to rather cancel out all the respect you once showed them. You need not hate them, but equally you need not worship them.

I would also include political idols who prove to be foul beyond recall. Of course you need to be able to judge whether they are so and you’ll need to do so from public record and private revelation, but do make such judgement on real court evidence – not tweets or scandal sheet bleats. A reliance upon hard court decisions and legally-verifiable published record is essential if we are not to be just a baying mob driven by other people’s agendas.

Can you make a moral judgement? You can if you know the difference between good and bad…and I credit most of my readers with being able to do that. If you do know and do judge, have the courage to stand by your convictions – at least while you have evidence that support them. If new evidence is presented and proved to be true, then you may freely change your mind. Just have the honesty to state your new opinion.

Note: I have made bad judgements in the past and need to revise them. I have also made good ones, and need to affirm them.

” What, Actually, IS Your Hobby…? “

Darned good question.

I’ve asked it of myself for about 6 decades – ever since I discovered that things you like to do are a hobby and things you don’t like to do are a chore. I’ve tabulated the former and latter and I’m happy to say that the first outnumbers the last – so I have a credit in my fun account.

How do you know when a mere experience or activity becomes a hobby? When you devote more than a half hour a day to it – this can be accumulated over a week to 3.5 hours or more and spent all in one go – attendance at a hobby club or social circle, for instance. The most it can be accumulated is a month –  14 hours  – and then it must be discharged.

Can a chore be a hobby? Only if you are very lucky or very unfortunate. That old saw about doing what you love so that you never work a day is somewhat true, but like all old saws gets rusty and loses teeth eventually. I know people whom I suspect have never worked a day in their lives because the thing the dearly love to do is sponge off others. That’s not a hobby – it’s a crime.

Can hobbies be fluid? Yes, and if the fluid you choose is brandy, don’t expect to get much done in the evening. But you can change from one hobby to another quite legally. It is not so easy in practical terms, however.

Hobbies cost money, time, and social effort. If you design to change, you are going to have to do something about the past expenditure you will be foregoing and the remnants of the thing. You may have left over equipment, projects, and people who are still valuable… And you’ll find it hard to give up valuables.

The thing to do is to meld – make one hobby flow into another. Take some of the gear and investment in whatever you did before and make it do now. Carry people over from one social group to another – the ones you value – and you’ll find that they are still a delight.

And occasionally you can return to an abandoned hobby and take it up again – it will be all the sweeter for the rediscovery.

 

You Want To Save The World? Part One

You want to save the world, or the planet, or the country, or humanity? Good  for you. Here’s a not-altogether-cynical guide to how to go about it. Today, how to save your neighbourhood.

a. Look left. Look right. Look back. Look in front.

Look at the buildings that form your neighbourhood. The ones that are already there before you decide to build your own structure.

Are they clean, sanitary, and wholesome? Are they proportioned to the space that is available? Are they safe? Are they attractive? Do they work, as housing or workspace? Do they help the people who occupy them…indeed do enough people occupy them? Are there trees and bushes, drains, gutters, electricity and gas? Are there public open spaces? Is there privacy without exclusion?

If so…emulate these designs when you add yourself to the milieu. Blend in, fit in, harmonise, and live happily with the neighbours. Do not press a Finnish reindeer shed into an English council estate.

b. Look at yourself. If you are a complete stranger to a neighbourhood, consider whether this is likely to continue forever..or can you introduce yourself gradually to those around you and come to terms with them and their lives. Or would you like to be a hermit, sore thumb, or pariah all the time and by doing so compel those about you to stand clear of you.

You can be a stranger in a strange land if you wish, but you cannot be one who demands that the land change for you at your whim. Even if your religious adviser tells you that you are entitled to it. You may find yourself getting with the pogrom…

c. You need not dress to impress the neighbours. You also need not dress to intimidate or offend the neighbours. If you dress in such a way that they are visibly amused, you’d better decide to change or enjoy the laughter.

Note that they need not dress to please you, or your religious advisers. If they comply with the civil law of the land, that is all that is needed.

d. If you have a structure that is new…ie. under 200 years old…do not pull it down to erect a set of jerry-built flats to resell the land at a higher price. You will waste all the energy, materials, effort, thought, and design that went into the original structure. You will further stack more into the waste-fill dumps and cost an entirely new cycle of rebuilding. If this is just chasing money, you completely negate any other environmental savings that you will ever make in your lifetime. You might as well smoke asbestos cigars and grind the butts into the faces of your grand children.

Think of that perfectly good house on a perfectly good suburban lot as a healthy tooth in your mouth. You would be a fool to have it pulled out and substituted with some artificial thing, no matter how sophisticated the operation.

 

Standing For Parliament

Standing for Parliament costs money – a fact that all people understand. The corollary is simple; not standing for parliament saves money. Particularly if that includes not standing for the policies and imposts of the parliament.

I do not suggest that people should revolt – there are far too many people on my Facebook feed who are revolting enough as it is. But I do think we should refuse to pay.

Refuse to pay the enormous salaries that parliamentarians get…and then refuse to pay the pensions, perks, and golden handshakes that usher them out the door. At very least, expose the entirety of their financial dipping and slurping while they are in office.

The two and a bit party system provides a certain amount of jealous spite to do this – but it is always tempered by the knowledge that once one lot succeeds in driving the other from the public teat, they can fasten upon it and suck  as hard as possible. It ain’t morals that drives the moralists – it’s the desire to get to that teat.

Note: This week there is a petition to the Australian parliament to get rid of an Australian parliamentarian because of his crass statements after a terrorist attack in New Zealand. So far it apparently has some 850,000 signatories. For a land of some 20 million people – most of them pretty conservative and politically apathetic – that’s actually pretty big beans. As both major parties are going to make a censure motion on the individual in the Senate, it is a very big beans indeed.