Are You Drunk, Sir?

God, I hope so.

I’m lookin’ at you, Jimmy,  and if that’s what you look like a’ the time I dinna want to sober up.

The business of being drunk is a curious one. At one time it seemed to be the most frightening and disreputable state of being that you could experience. It was not hard to get to the edge of it when I was 17 –  a small glass of 4.7% Swan Lager was enough to do it to a youth unused to alcohol. Fortunately my parents were smart enough to pour this for me before or during a family dinner and I could be induced to recognise the effects without being out in public or on the road.

Drunk is a relative word – as the police are not your relatives, they apply a more stringent definition of it than the family at a Christmas party, but the basics of it are an altered sense of balance, perception, and thought. When you have altered these enough to be herking on your shoes, you have gone too far, but it is possible to stop before then. And at the prices that they demand for rum these days, you will be straining to get anywhere near the footwear.

I value the afternoon tot of whatever is in the cabinet as a release from the cares of a morning spent not caring about anything in particular. That is the benefit of retirement – you can hand the need to worry to others and then wander off. But that little burst of ethanol opens the hatches and lets the air in and the fumes out. It must have been dreadful when the Royal Navy stopped the rum ration. I’ll bet the Russians issue vodka from a tub to this day.

There are a lot of posts written post-tot. They tend to be brilliantly funny at the time but are censorable the morning after – that is why I never send them while they are fresh. Some survive the editing process next morning and can be transmitted. Some are trashed.

Both you and I are better for that.

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The Family History As A Method Of Torture

I spotted it in a trice – on the shelf of the council library. It was a self-published history of a local family. Paper-bound, A4 size, but about a centimetre thick. I’m a bit hazy about the exact family name but I remember it referred to a country town where they lived and styled them as ” Pioneer Nobility “.

That’s a concept you don’t see all that often in an egalitarian society – but it lurks in the heart of every amateur genealogist. If they can assert that their family is noble, and get you to believe it, they can control the universe.

I come from a mother and a father. They, in their turn, came from mothers and fathers. Funnily enough, so does everyone else riding the N0.507 bus to the train station. And so do you. It is the common experience of mankind to be born because of the combination of a mother and father.

The lucky ones get to know who they were. Even better – they might have gotten to see them for some portion of their lives and can treasure this. But there is a catch to the treasure – a curse, if you will…if you try to grasp too much of it, it turns to fire and burns away your happiness. And that fire can consume all the social oxygen and leave everyone around you asphyxiated.

I met today with a relative of my wife – a pleasant man who is the amateur genealogist for her family. He is good at it and has facts and figures of all the extended family at his fingertips. You have only to sit still long enough and you will find out when in 1887 one cousin shifted addresses in Adelaide, and how we know this, and what it means for the Scottish branch of the family in 1934…

It is not polite to sneer or yawn. Neither is it to run and hide in the toilet or fall lifeless to the carpet. One must look bright and attentive. And not scream.

But, just as with the accounting of dreams, so the history of someone else’s distant family connection to even more distant relations who have done no more than breed and move is the saddest and most banal of communications. No-one wants to know.

None of us are remotely interested in the thing, and unless you can prove in court that you are a direct descendant of a liaison between Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra, we’re not likely to care. Publish all you like, prattle all you will, thrust forward parish records from the 19th century all you may – We. Don’t. Care.

But let me tell you about my uncle Agnes and the time she met the Kaiser in Woolies…

No More Free Speech

Nope. No more. I have declared that there will be no more free speech permitted by the Backstabbers Guild of Australia.

From here on in, anything we say will have to be paid for according to the price list. No more freebies. You want us to talk, you come out with your wallet. Have no fear – we’ll give receipts and an ABN number and we’ll make sure that you get good value for money. But this Guild is a commercial proposition and you cannot expect the business of destroying civilisation and blighting a generation to be done on a friendly basis.

Or, to put it another way – if you have no mates you need not give mate’s rates.

Of course people can say what they will – we have defamation lawyers on speed dial just hoping that you’ll overstep yourself. And we would not dream of restricting people in the practice of their various religions, political affiliations, or disturbing traditional dances. These are all legitimate activities and can serve as worthy targets of treachery. We also welcome serious-minded souls who are unlikely to laugh even if a bear is biting them.

But as far as denouncing them, betraying them, or otherwise making them the nonny-butt of the Guild humour, you’ll need to put down a deposit and pay regular installments before we let them have it.

Business is business, and we are in the business of giving you the business.

I Prayed For Guidance

And then that darned ‘ol God told me to do something different from what I wanted to do. Talk about annoyed. I mean, what’s the point of having a God if they’re going to boss you around…

So I switched gods. The second one I chose allowed the thing I wanted to do – indeed made it into a virtue instead of a vice. And then snuck up on me and hit me with dietary laws that meant I couldn’t cook my favourite recipes. Not only that, I had to not eat all day for a month. Not even a chocolate bar.

So I decided to ditch the Almighties and find a guru, sage, or wise man  ( or wise woman ) to tell me that I could do whatever I wanted to do without guilt. Took a bit of shopping but I got the combination I wanted. And then the bill hit me – it turned out the guru’s idea of tithes was my pocket open all the time to pay for his Rolls Royces.

So I’m back on my own again. My People have rejected me and they talked to Everyone Else and they’re not having a bar of me either. I’m either going to have to become an atheist or start my own religion. Neither idea seems really appealing as they would both require a good deal of thinking. And you never can tell where that might lead to – like as not I would be forbidding myself from things. And then where would I be when it came to being happy?

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.

 

I Become An Influencer*

The cry of the moment is the desirability of becoming an Instagram influencer. But I suspect this – as I suspect most aspects of modern computer life. The suspicion is that the whole circus has passed Instagram by and is way off down the road doing far cooler things to far hotter people. Or vice versa.

I was once accused of being an influencer by a representative of a wholesale camera firm who thought he was not getting enough coverage for his products in my commercial column. He insinuated that another firm had bought me with a free camera. In reality they alerted me to their products with the freebie and I went and spent a vast amount of money on their goods out of my own pocket. Any reports I made were genuine. And as far as pressuring people into following me, the customers have the minds of cats, not sheep. They rarely purr, are not herdable, and occasionally throw up in your shoe.

But back to Instagram. I was cozened into subscribing to it by someone who likes to show off on it and wanted another viewer. I’ve added a few other contacts and a couple of artists and cartoonists and find it a pleasant light browse while dinner is cooking…but not such a vital artistic service as to cause me to allow the soup to boil dry. I do like the colourful art, but I wouldn’t buy anything because of it. And I really don’t think others would either.

Oh, they’ll buy from paper flyers loaded into the post box. They’ll buy from shopping channels that endlessly bombard them with simple instructions. They’ll buy from door-to-door sales cons and Royal Show spruikers. They’ll buy from Harvey Norman. But I don’t think they’ll buy because I’ve posted toy airplane pictures on Instagram.

*  Or should that be an influenza-er. Come here and I’ll sneeze on you.

Author Trees

The author tree is not exactly a distinct botanic species. Author trees can be Elm, Maple, Oak, or any large deciduous variety. In tropic and hot climates Palms and Baobab trees have been very successful author trees. Pine and Fir are less common, though the Giant Redwood of California would be very suitable, if a little deadly.

You see an author tree is a tree which the author of a book that is not selling well will use as a marketing tool. He packs a bag with copies of his book, climbs up the tree, and shinnies out on a limb that hangs over the sidewalk.

When a suitable victim walks under the tree the author drops the book on their head and then pops back into the foliage. The person below suffers a surprising blow on the head and then looks around to see who threw a book at them. Very few ever look up. Then they pick it up and see what it is. In most cases they will start to read it…and if the author has been careful the start it put with a zinger like a murder or a girl taking her clothes off, chances are the sore head will wander off reading the book.

Another fan.

It was not a marketing strategy without risk. Pamphleteers and writers of short stories bombarded the populace with no qualms; their writings were lightweight and safe to drop. Others, like Tolstoy or Zola, caused fractured necks and worse. This explains many of the periods in their lives when they took rapid vacations into the provinces.

Of course you have to make some sacrifices for your art, but these days sacrificing strangers is not viewed well by the authorities. Philistines to a man.