The Haircut

I’ve just been for another Mickey Spillane haircut – the first venture into a barber’s for several months.

There was no sitting down in waiting room chairs – they taped them off. I picked a time when I could walk straight in and be seated in the cutting chair. The prescription was easy, now that I know it; N0.1 comb at the side, N0.2 on top, and chase the eyebrows and ears until they are run to ground.

It will be a further 2 months before I need shearing again. I have not got the courage to do it myself, but if I ever do work that up…

The BGA Guide To NewSpeak

Over the last few years we have observed the increasing pressure upon people to modify their modes of speech. – at least within the English-speaking world’s middle classes. The lower and upper classes go about their linguistic business without bothering to be bothered – but those of us in the middle are being herded assiduously each day.

Some of us think it a con. Conjoined, confused, contradicted, and contrailed ( Actually that should be chemtrailed…), we are told that our words must be gender-neutral, non-sexist, non-racial, and inoffensive. The groups who are said to be offended by our utterances grow daily, and we risk social calumny if we do not say the right words. We are being led or goaded to NewSpeak. If we do not comply, and do not comply fast enough, we may find that we are sent for re-education…

To avoid this the BGA would like to offer a small guide to the perplexed – your NewSpeak 101, if you will. Remember that if you are not part of the problem, we can change the problem. And if you are not part of the solution, we can have you dissolved…

A. Gender-neutral words.

This only works in English. The French and Germans laugh at you. The Italians make secret signs at you after you turn your back.

Never refer to anything as a he or a she. Or an it, for that matter. Try to avoid referring to anything at all. Interpretive dance works best for most occasions.

If a job can be done by a man or a woman, you must never acknowledge the fact that one or the other of the workers is one or the other of the sexes whilst doing it. Some jobs stop this by their very nature; Pole Danceress never appears in the Job Wanted columns. Others can be made neutral and awkward by using the suffix “person”. Tank Gunnerperson or Plumbperson. You’ll get the hang of it.

Hangperson? Brrrrrrrrr.

B. Racially charged words

Every word – every single word – is racially charged and unacceptable. You just need to fix someone in your sights and listen for them to say anything and there you have ’em.

Again, interpretive dance is the best way to avoid the accusation of racism. But be careful which soundtrack you use. Avoid anything from Michael Jackson.

C. The passionate words

You must not mock people who are passionate, for that is cruel. You’ll be amazed at how many there are and how thin your conversation can become as new divisions of victims and warriors appear on the battlefield.

An example: You may have been careful and kindly in the old days about physical or mental distress, and could navigate a simple request for a pie with sauce at the local deli without getting a glare of outrage and a good half-hour scolding. Now, the ingredients of the pie and sauce will offend one person, and the company that baked it will offend another. The fact that it is sold in a shop will make a third person angry and the fact that you have enough money to pay for it will cause a howl from a fourth quarter.

And don’t think you’ll escape condemnation by staying outside on the footpath and eating a carrot stick, either, you racist you…

Well, what to do, what to do…The BGA has two recommendations – both of them equally invalid.

Either say what you will in words of your own choosing or say nothing at all. You’ll be thought a fool if you adopt the second course of action and prove it if you adopt the first, but in this first case you will at least have the satisfaction of being damned that you did instead of being damned that you didn’t.

Remember: Careful Talk Costs Lives

Never Be Ashamed To Say You’re Sorry

Particularly if, by doing so, you’ll be able to make someone think you are. It disarms them and lays them open to disapointment. The eventual look of horror on their face is well worth the momentary embarrassment – particularly if you can fix it on there forever. Rictus sardonicus is all very well but nubis horribilis is even better.

We are often asked  present a formulary apology by saying that we are sorry for the sins of our ancestors. This is a social given in events with social groups. The thing gets a little ludicrous, however, when we are asked to apologise for the sins of someone else’s ancestors. The connection that is sought is often tenuous – if we are the same light skin colour as Captain Cook, we need to endorse a day of public sorrow. The thing seems a race-based rule…and as we are told elsewhere that racial rules are racist and abhorrent, it would be hypocritical to support it.

I am not related the the Captain. I am not related to any English explorers, discoverers, invaders, or exploiters. My time on this continent started in November of 1964 and I have been careful not to oppress anyone in the interim. De-press them, possibly, but then I depress a lot of people.

If I decline to apologise to, or trumpet the fame of any population…past, present, future, or sitting in the lawyer’s waiting room…it is because I have a keen sense of actuality and humour. I extend the hand of friendship to all, but decline to have it twisted up my back to suit someone’s political ambitions.

I am not going to bow to Gessler’s hat.


Hide Your Tattoo

I have a tattoo. Which is a no-no for people of my ethnicity. If we follow the bronze-age rulings ( or is it just one of those things that came up in the commentaries…? ) we are not allowed them.

Of course, some have had them forced upon them…a sad and terrible time, and one upon which I will not comment.

I hope to escape criticism; my tattoo was inadvertent. I stuck my hand into a cupboard in the art room at school and connected with a steel-nib pen that was charged with india ink. After howling and picking it out of my hand, I found I was left with a permanent reminder of the incident. No picture, just a 3mm dot on one finger. As well, for years I had some black powder fragments driven under the skin when a loaded frizzen went off close to my elbow – but these have been gradually rejected by the body and do not show any more.

I’m drawn to these thoughts upon reading an article by someone who has deliberate patterns of tattoo on their various portions – and who seems to draw the ire of the righteous over it. Whether the critics are offended by the patterns or the parts where they are imprinted is uncertain – but the tattoo wearer has been ordered to cover them up. I think this is a load of hooey.

You don’t draw any picture – in any medium – to hide it. You draw it to be seen. However it comes out, if you have been diligent and artistic enough to do it, you should be given the respect to let it be seen. The viewer may like it or not, but it is ultimately no more of their concern than if it were on a canvas stretched on a frame and hung in a gallery. You don’t like it? Walk on in silence. Go see a picture you do like.

If you are angry and offended that pictures exist for others to like, then there is something  very wrong with you.

Perhaps you should be covered up…?


Repeat After Me



Soda water.

Any movie that has made money in the last 50 years.

Because they all do, and there is nothing short of Gaviscon or a sordid sex scandal that will stop the cycle. If you survey the number of James Bond film, the Rocky films, the Batman or other superhero films…you become quite despondent for the species. The fact that they succeeded the first time and have succeeded for so many times afterwards indicates the basic intelligence of the audience – the fact that the price has risen each time lets you know that P.T. Barnum was right.

I am personally stunned at the amount of money that changes hands in after-market spinoffs and merchandising for these things. I walk through stores dedicated to movie goods and look at price tags in amazement. The fact that there are actual stores full of the stuff is frightening. Of course the religious supply stores are also nerve-wracking, and sometimes for the same reasons.

For myself, I treasure entertainments that are self-contained. If they are not perfect, that is just the luck of the game. The fact that they play out in 60 to 90 minutes and need never be seen again is part of the appeal. I never seek a sequel or prequel. I am content now with Sleeping Beauty or The Sting just as it was.


What Exactly IS Fashion?

I ask myself this a couple of hours before attending a fashion parade – this one organised as part of the publicity and foo faw associated with a commercial trade expo. The basic event is promulgated by the local camera shop I used to work for, and I am going along to get material for the weblog column I write for them.

I think it will be a theatrical event designed to give the wannabees the thrill of seeing themselves as pro photographers. In the real thing there are pro photographers looking to give themselves the trill of getting paid. I have no idea from whence the thrill is meant to come for the models who stride the catwalk.

I have been mean to these model ladies and gentlemen before by referring to them as the slim, grim, and dim…but maybe I should be prepared to turn round and look at the audience as well. Why are they there? I can’t believe that they have any intention of buying the clothes on parade – either for themselves or for other people. They are forbidden by law from buying the girls and boys who walk the catwalk…though they may be rented occasionally. The only people there who have some hope of getting a benefit are the photographers and the owner of the venue.

Well, wish me luck. I’ll be the chap in the back with the reporter camera and the notebook hoping that there will be a fight or animal attack. And snacks. At least I know what I want…

Addendum: It was great. There was beer and snacks and rescue greyhounds in pyjamas. Also a crowd of camera people snapping away like mad. When I left early to write for my deadline they were still going great guns. But the business of snapping fashion sounds like a hard grind for a meal ticket.

Lumpy Thighs

What odd creatures we are. We insist on seeing lumpy thighs on actors like Arnold Swartzenegger but reject them on Nicole Kidman. They are not dangerous to us, nor to their owners, but we insist on making a fuss.

Likewise many of the other bits of the body – and there are people who devote their entire lives to building up and breaking down the various muscles that puff up the external appearance of man or woman. If they succeed we laud them – if they do not we slate them. And yet none of their muscles are ever likely to affect us one way or the other.

The same doesn’t apply to actors’ or tycoons’ political opinions or endorsements. They can, indeed, make us unhappy when translated into election results or legislative efforts. We may be subject to them because of their notoriety. Even if we do not respect the famous, others do, and woe betide us if we are not with the program.

I am also starting to suspect actors’ role in sales promotions. World-wide fame is used to sell exercise machines that will soon be discarded on the verge for council collection. Likewise dietary supplements ( read by-products that cannot be sold by any other means…), golf balls, and religious affiliation. It may be just my skeptical nature, but has anyone stopped to consider that an actor’s stock in trade is simulation…and that is a very short distance from dissimulation.

The Social Register

A social register is a grille set into the floor or wall that emits hot air in winter.

No, wait, that’s a central heating system. The social register is a small book that is available at a public library that emits hot air all year round. It tells you who is considered to be important enough to be noticed by the people who are not important. It’s the handbook of snobbery.

My experience with these books is small. I was never asked for an entry in Who’s Who or DeBretts. The Amanach de Gotha is so much German to me. I did briefly feature in ” What The Hell Was That? ” but it has a limited readership. Most of the information in it was hearsay and I am glad I neither heard it nor said it.

The whole idea of public record of social standing is a little like zinc chromate paint – a necessary treatment but a sickly colour. You may read as many potted biographies in the book as you like, but the real question will be why you are reading – for moral gain or financial advantage? Worship or targeting information? And are you required to believe anything you read?

Remember that many of the people in there wrote their own guff – or were rich enough to hire someone to write it for them. Are they likely to be telling you dirty little secrets? Not on your nelly. What you’ll read is the image they wish to project – even if they are dim, cracked, and dirty to begin with the result is likely to be shiny and bright.

But do not be too discouraged or cynical. Social registries do have a benefit for the community. Once they are published the lies are out in the open – and recorded clearly for all to see. As time goes on the truth about most people surfaces, and then you can compare it to the advertisement for an even more piquant experience. The lawyers of the powerful will prevent you from scolding or scalding them, but they cannot stop you from laughing.


The Hatter – Retail Clothing Part Three

I like hatter’s shops. They seem such an old-fashioned place to be that I can relax and slow down as I browse. And hatter’s shops are not for the shallow or insensitive – they have surprisingly little to do with the modern youth – or that may be the other way round.

The feed-cap-with-a-baseball-team-on-it shop is another matter. That may be staffed and crowded with all forms of youth – golden, brassy, or plastic as the case may be. I would not know, not being the sort of man who wears a feed cap backwards.

But back to the proper hatters. There is a good one in the basement of the Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne and also one in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. They are small shops with a great deal of stock, but be aware that the stock may be seasonal – hot or cold weather – and priced accordingly. Treat yourself to a coffee at a stall before you call in, and take your time to review all the choices and fit before you decide to purchase. The Sydney shop has a good range of braces too.

Advice for someone buying a hat?

a. Do you need a hat for a protective purpose or is it to be fashion? You can get ones that will do a single or double duty.

b. Can you be a hat wearer? Some cannot. They are so self-conscious that they never seem to be able to actually put the hat on and wear it. They think everyone is looking at them and that this is a bad thing.

c. Do you know hat etiquette? When to cover and when to uncover?  How to do it – how to wear and how to carry – is an important social skill. One that can set you apart from hoi polloi in a very favourable way. There are numerous books that will help you to learn what to do.

d. Do you realise that hats are seasonal, and that you can own more than one? Try a straw for summer, a felt fedora for winter, and a good tweed cap for in between. Then, if you find you are comfortable with them, you can get many more to match your wardrobe choices.

e. If you wish to wear a ten-gallon Stetson hat, there are places where you may do so without incurring laughter. Texas, Calgary, and the outback stations of Australia come to mind. The ten-gallon is not a hat to wear in places where there are dudes.

f. If the hat you fancy makes you look younger, reject it. Likewise, if it makes you look like an English used-car salesman, an Amish elder, or Popov. Hats lend dignity, but withhold it if you make the wrong selection.

g. Do not wear a peaked cap unless you are commanding a regiment, ship, or air station. German railway drivers can get away with one, but then they are that sort of person. Führers to a man.

Note: if you are a service peaked cap wearer and they issue you with a side-cap or fatigue cap it is because they are going to make sure you are sidelined and fatigued. It is not a good cap and not a good sign.

h. Treat your hat well, but do not expect it to last more than a few seasons. Your sweaty head will see to that. If continuity of style is important, select a standard Akubra that has not changed since the days of Menzies and just buy another one when yours gets greasy and spotty.


The Outlet Store – Retail Clothing Part One

Our city has a fairly new set of clothing stores located on industrial land adjacent to the domestic and international airport. Heck, it might be Commonwealth airport land that has been sold off or leased to the new occupiers.

In any case, they are a set of shops that bill themselves as direct outlets for fashion goods – clothing shoes, accessories, and probably a lot more. Their opening day was apparently grand – in the sense that the crowds going to visit blocked the highways around the airports and prevented people from getting to their planes on time. This also happened when a big Ukrainian cargo airplane came to visit Perth a couple of years ago. We’re sometimes starved for amusement of a weekend…

I am not one to decry initiative and hard work – nor to put a brake on trade. And I recognise that new clothing is a good thing. But looking into my clothes closet and set of drawers that hold more cloth than I could ever wear, were I to live to 100, tells me that shopping for more would be folly. And I wonder how many people are in the same boat? Not just old coots like me…young coots  as well. How many new shirts is enough?

If you are a profligate, the answer is ” too many “. If you are not given to washing and mending what you do own, you are going to be the natural prey of the retailer. Likewise if you have a mind that can be swayed and swooshed by every new fashion that the makers would like to be paid for…well, your wallet is open to their fingers.

And it doesn’t matter whether the clothes you buy are at a discount factory outlet or the twee-est boutique in town. You will still pay as much as you can for as long as you can whenever they apply the electrodes or air their advertisements.