” If You Don’t Know…”

” I’m not going to tell you.”

How often have we heard that one? It was the constant litany of the Kool Kids at school when the rest of us asked a question. It was used to make us feel left-out…even more so than to begin with. And it worked very well for the first few times that it was employed. We would go off sad and insulted, and there seemed to be no answer to make.

I bring this up because of a Facebook posting recently that floated past my feed line. It was a topic I would normally have taken no interest in, but it appeared because a friend had entered the general discussion. She was interested in one person’s assertions regarding nutrition, and asked very politely for some references that she could pursue in her studies.

Well, she got a sneering version of the standard reply. And then some equally rude passing commentary from other anonymous sources. It was the schoolyard all over on the internet.

I mentioned earlier that this sort of thing worked well for the first few times. My school days were a long while ago, and it has stopped working – indeed it stopped working long ago. But the interesting thing was that it was a standard ploy used in many situations for a very long period of time.

When I encountered this sort of rudeness from people of my own age I was able to dismiss them as fools or braggarts that had no information or knowledge to back up their assertions. When I encountered it from a lecturer in the University of Western Australia’s Dental School I was taken somewhat aback. But it took a further 10 years of solo practice to harden me enough to respond to it when it happened again.

The chap had moved on to be a specialist consultant in a mechanical branch of dentistry. I had a patient who needed the sort of thing he did – and referred the patient by letter to the specialist. Apparently they did not get on well – and I eventually received a high and mighty letter sneering at me for sending that referral and telling me not to do it again. And I never did – I sent the people who needed a prosthedontic specialist’s attention to other practitioners and everyone was happy. I did have the satisfaction of writing a polite note acknowledging the order*.

I suspect that whenever this sort of thing happens it is because of a number of factors:

a. The person being rude does not know what they are talking or writing about .

b. They have no material to which they can refer.

c. They are naturally ill-mannered. Or they have developed ill manners as a cover for worse characteristics.

d. They are writing from Mom’s Basement, with no other connection to social interaction than the reactions to their trolling posts.

I suppose we can be grateful that at least they are not in specialist practice…

* Good manners in the face of bad is always the best answer. Public good manners is even better…

” I’m Disillusioned…”

Bloody Goodoh!

Now you get to see things as they really are, instead of through the veil of prejudice and pre-training that someone draped around you when you were a kid. You can cast aside the sage advice that Dear Old Dad or Dear Old Mum gave you and make your own Dear Old Decisions. Even if they are Dear Old Mistakes, they will at least be your own product. All the programming that your teachers and your playfellows did on you when you were in school can be thrown into the bin.

Watch out for the current crop of fake news and meme sites. Keep a weather eye out for actual propaganda and steer clear of it. Don’t allow people on your Facebook list or in your social circle to bamboozle you either. They can be as wrong as they can be right…and if they have resorted to FB to tell you how to live your life, they are more likely to be the former than the latter.

Always look to see where the money trail leads. If it leads from your wallet to someone else’s, you can be certain that they approve of this and that you have been set up for harvest. Pay if you wish, but remember that you can also tell whoever it is demanding your money that they can go to hell in a handbasket. If they seem hesitant to start, help them into the basket. With your boot.

Cherish as many falsities as you like…just don’t impose them on others. If you like the sound of a certain idea because it makes you feel good, indulge yourself all you wish behind closed doors. Close the computer program before you start – no-one needs to see you lost in whatever rapture you enjoy. We’ll wait out in the hall until you recover yourself.


Careers Day At The Charnel House

I am always fascinated to see career days, orientation days, and recruiting days at various institutions in Perth. They have always had them at hospitals, universities, technical schools, and government departments and lately they are being taken to major exhibition halls to draw in even more industries. But I think the most important ones are still missing out:

a. The Shenton Park Sewage Ponds are vital to the health of the city. They are a long-term governmental establishment that needs a steady supply of trained staff to operate – especially if they have lost a few to tsunamis in the settling ponds.

But they never advertise. There are no ” It’s A Man’s Life In the Regular Brown Dredgers ” posters at railway stations and even when the schools run career week there are no offers to come on down and paddle a poo canoe. I cannot imagine where they recruit their staff, other than amongst retired politicians and people who have had nasal surgery.

b. There are apparently a number of ” havens “, ” retreats “, ” resorts “, and ” parlours ” where young ladies entertain gentlemen upon an agreed commercial basis. I have no idea what they do there, though I did see a workman outside one of the establishments in East Perth diligently breaking up old wardrobes on the foot path and throwing them over the fence into the premises, so it may involve woodwork…Well, getting wood somehow…

But again, there are no placards on trains or buses advertising for young ladies to work at these places. And many of the buses and trains have young women passengers who are unemployed and would be able to break wood all day, by the looks of them.

c. There are recruiting posters and motion picture advertisements for the Army, Navy and Air Force, and they are exciting to watch. There are equally urgent advertisements for people to train in animation, games development, and media. But no-one asks for a candidate to step up and become a political stand over merchant or bagman. Yet these are just the people we need to facilitate local government. City councils won’t corrupt themselves, you know.

Collecting Things For Gumtree

I have started to collect things for Gumtree sales – or I might opt for eBay.com.au. I’ll get the daughter to show me how to do the registration and presentation and then I’ll get rid of a few things that are surplus around here.

First off I’ll find the box that my Giveashit button came in and repack it. I don’t think I have used it for about 5 years and I might as well get some money back on it before it becomes obsolete. It was in constant use until about 1985 when I shut down some of the North American links. Every year since then I’ve disconnected some of the wires to former professions, businesses, or acquaintances and now it works less than 10% of the time. Oh I try – I do press it whenever someone puts up some anguished meme on Facebook in an effort to make myself explode with either rage or delight. But most times all I get is a clicking sound. Maybe someone younger and with more passion will get some fun out of it.

Then I am going to try to get some return from the anxiety collection. I got some of them as a child – presents from relatives – and then was able to add something new each year as I grew up. My Fear Of Russians cards are still in mint condition – some of them have never been removed from the cellophane packets. With the way the Russians are behaving these days I should be able to get the entire purchase price plus a bonus back. I didn’t save my Moko Lesney Matchbox cars, but these cards should more than make up for it.

I do feel a little bad about the old shoebox full of religious feelings. I kind of hate to let them go. They were like a coin collection – you could take them out on a rainy day and play with them – looking at all the arcane writings engraved upon them and wondering where they came from. In my case I suspect from the Bronze Age. I intend to sell them outright – I don’t want to trade them for someone else’s shoebox.

I’m in two minds about the clothing. The Suit Of Ambition doesn’t fit all that well any more – I have outgrown the waistline on the trousers – and the Cloak Of Humility smells a little – but I still have a feeling that there will be some place I can wear them. But as I really don’t fancy intensive night life, I can’t really think where.

No More Mr. Nice Guy


There’s no point beating about the bushy bits – Facebook censors pictures anyway. And two wrongs don’t make a right, but three can actually do it. Or to put it another way…

The rise of social media parallels the rise of social disease, but without the initial squelchy fun bit. It just leaps straight to the bit with the swelling and discharge. And I should not be surprised if it drops off in the end…the interest in social media, I mean. What did you think I meant? I put it down to an unhealthy diet made up chiefly of quizzes designed to see if I am gullible enough to buy time-share apartments in Caiguna or porcelain copies of Lassie. It is a waste of time on the part of the Facebook to ask – of course I will.

The strongest shock one gets from social media, apart from a leakage in the electrical power supply, is the crass folly that is presented on it and the ready acceptance with which one’s companions of the screen embrace it. We have been presented with virtual versions of cesspools, and asked to swim backstroke. Better, asked to swim for Australia. One can only wonder what the medals will be made of…

Had we been presented with this stuff in 1960 we would have laughed and thrown it away. The 70’s would have had no place for it. But now – 50 years onwards – we eagerly send sums of money to unknown destinations for the chance to move phosphor dots around a screen. The sums are not large. but they are not virtual – someone is getting real money for the privilege of playing with cartoons on a telephone screen. To a person who paid 10¢ max for comic books in 1957 and traded them for years for nothing, the idea of paying today’s prices is absurd.

We are told that this is the information age and there is an information economy in which games and social media form a large part of the earning power. The only information that seems to be new is that the pressure of population has increased the number of suckers born every minute and also the number born to take them. Mr. Barnum would enjoy the sight, but I fear the pace might leave him frantic.

Still, there is no wind so ill that it does not blow comfort somewhere. My own chosen medium is printed words and illustrations. As this has fallen by the wayside in favour of phosphor dots there is less competition for reading matter. I can sometimes find and afford books that would have been beyond me – when they were desired by more people, they commanded a higher price. I do not think I can ever read out the library, let alone the world, and so I can leave hoi polloi to the screen and the app. Do not be offended if I speak of hoi polloi – no-one can be commoner than I when I choose.

Heading Image: The cultural spirit of the New York Banner made manifest upon a Facebook page. Ellsworth Toohey would have been proud.

The Retirement Scoreboard – Part Nine – Being Father Christmas In July

Being loved and revered by your family, friends, and neighbours is a wonderful ambition, and one that many retired people aspire to. You can see them every day smiling and nodding to the passers-by as they prune the white gardenias round their little cottages. There is an air of sanctity, home-made lemonade, and Tollhouse cookies about them.

Well, they could save a lot of time, not to mention flour, sugar, and pruning shears, by realising that they need not be lovable to be loved, nor respectable to be respected. All they need to do is be honest – and honesty is extremely cheap when you are retired.

Remember in my previous post where I said that retired people are of little interest or use to business? Well that is true – if they were to be so, they would still be sought by business. But when in business, people may think that they have to lie like hounds, while in retirement they know that they can speak the truth. If they speak it to those closest to them they can reap rewards:

a. Tell the wife, husband, or partner that you love them. If that seems a little far to go, tell them you like them. Or at least stop hitting them with a stilson wrench when they enter the house. Also stop hitting them with a list of things to do.

If you’re retired you can honestly tell someone your feelings for them. Of course if these are bad feelings, you may get a different reaction, but at least the whole thing is out in the open.

For myself and my wife, we quietly confessed to each other over dinner one night that we would both not have had happy lives if we had not been married to each other. It was not a Hollywood declaration, and was spoken around a potao bake with sausages and sweet corn, but it was absolutely true. We won’t be having some ceremony renewing marriage vows because the original ones have not gotten frayed at all. If people want free booze and cheese on sticks they are going to have to come along to a golden wedding party in 5 years time.

b. Tell the children you are happy with them. If this is a sort of spotty emotion ( Happy that they have not crashed the car. Again. This week… ) do your best. It can be quiet too, I remember my late father in the 1980’s saying the simple phrase ” Proud of you, boy ” over something I had done and it has stick with me since – I can picture the occasion and hear the voice after all these years. He didn’t have anything to gain from the statement as he had my unconditional love all the time, but it was a gem of a moment.

c. Tell people who have taught you a lesson in life that they have done so, and that you paid attention. This can be negative lessons, as well as positive. I learned from someone in the 1970’s not to put my money into other’s business ventures. It proved costly then, and it would prove costly now – other people’s business is conducted for their benefit and if they think that benefit is served by them keeping your money, that will happen.

On the other hand, if the lesson has been profitable to you, also tell them so, and in this case thank them. A lot of people go through life not knowing that they have done good, and it is a pleasant surprise for them to discover it.

d. You might have wondered about the Father Christmas in July title. Well, aside from the commercial ploy of Christmas in July that all the restauranteurs and hotels in Perth try each year when it gets cold and wet, there is the wonderful idea of providing gifts where none are expected. They need not be bought, or made – they can be spoken or written, and have just as much effect.

Remember that you have to be honest, but the thing is to find something about someone that is admirable or memorable, and remember it and admire it. You can get away with it – you’re retired. People can regard you as an old geezer or an old crone or an old fool all they want – and they will anyway – but when you have publicly complemented them they needs must treat you well or be seen by others as boors. You may not be able to buy love or respect, but you can compel politeness.

The Free Ride

I am not sure how much of my life has been a free ride. It is not a subject that I go much into, though I am sure that there are people who would wish me to do so, and to feel guilty for it. Not going to happen – I have real things to feel guilty for and I reserve my remorse for them.

But back to the freebie. Was my childhood a free existence? Well, I got fed, clothed, housed, and educated for free. And well, I might add. Part of it was my parents’ doing, part of it was state or provincial government. I guess you could say it was ultimately all upon my parents and their tax dollars. And I started to paid it back 30 years later with the birth of my daughter.

I got to live in a free democracy, and that was likely the parents and grandparents again – through their selection of a good place to live and vigorous defence of it. And now we live in Australia and it is also a good and free place.

I got a free car when I was 18, but this was also a free car I paid for with high school work and abstinence from guns, drugs, girls, alcohol, and all other cars until that point. Then I was adjudged sufficiently stable to be trusted with a four-cylinder Renault. The car lasted me 7 years and was sold away when I got married. It did not survive the second owner’s poor driving skills, but my marriage is still going strong 45 years later. I regret selling the car but would not exchange it for the wife…

Note: the wife sold her new MGB at the same time to go overseas with me. We BOTH regret not putting it up on blocks and waiting until we came back from England in less than a year…

My daughter also got a free car from me when she was 18, and it served her well for 20 years. It is parked as a blockship in the car port of my studio.

Free employment? Not a bit of it. I bought every bit of equipment for my surgery – and had to pay cash for it as I was a new practitioner. I used it for over 30 years and got value  – some of my old student gear is in my hobby workshop organising tools and making scale models. I’m STILL getting value from a clinical cabinet bought in 1968!

Free house? well, actually yes – two of them. Our family had enough money for my parents to build their own little dream home and hand the old one they owned to me and the wife. Then that little dream home passed to me with their passing and became The Little Studio. It will go to my daughter, along with the family home we built in the 80’s. I think this is only right – I’m certainly getting my fun out of it all.

Free car now? Hah. Nothing about a car is free anymore. The best that can be done is to choose something that is the least size and cost that will actually accomplish what you need to do and then keep the running costs down. Driving at or under the speed limit is a good start.

Free food? Well, we could grow our own, except we don’t want to. But we have certainly discovered that you can eat cheaper at home than out at the restaurants. By a factor of 5x to 10x.

Free electricity? The roof is covered in panels and I daresay they do throw back electricity to the grid that is taken off our consumption, but it seems to have been an encouragement to leave lights and fans on and I think it all works out even in the end.

Free water? Free sewage removal? Free rates? You might as well ask for Free Willy.