The Virtue Signal Has Two Settings

Australia’s national civil holiday is called Australia Day. It is celebrated on January 26…recorded as the day that the First Fleet…of convict and settler ships… landed in what is now New South Wales. Like the 4th of July in the United States, the 1st of July in Canada, and the 14th of Juillet in France, it is generally a day of national pride and joy.

Some claim not so. There are some indigenous groups and political activists who refer to it as Invasion Day, and like similar minded activists in some cities in the USA who want to rename Columbus Day, they seek to press their sense of outrage upon modern citizens. Some local councils who have a high proportion of activists in their area have gone along with this in the past couple of years and refused a civic celebration of the day.

In most cases the residents of their communities have ignored the political opportunists and gone ahead and had a good time on the day, but it is interesting to see the occasional person try to join in on an individual basis…for whatever purpose they imagine will be served.

The federal government is having none of this nay-saying on a local council level. If local councils refuse to perform citizenship ceremonies on the day, they face the prospect of being dismissed and replaced. So far no state government controversy seems to have arisen.

Silly? Petty? Opportunistic? Well, the readers have to decide for themselves…but I must say I have taken a little amusement on my own social media page to see a chance acquaintance try for her moment of virtue with a posting. I’m sure she’ll get it. And it would be churlish to deny her…people in the entertainment business need all the publicity available.

As for me, I’m going to watch the Australia Day parade and cheer the dancing Japanese ladies and the Indian Seniors as they go by. They are happy to be part of the nation and so am I.


The Last Time I Saw Paris

I’ve never seen Paris.

But I am led to believe that it is a wonderful site to sight. Full of art, food, fashion, romance, wine, and wonderful shops. And that the citizens of the city are charming and welcoming.

The problem is that I am debarred from participating and enjoying this by my lack of facility with the French language. Many years of life have scrubbed most of the high school French from my mind – I would be at a loss to conduct the most rudimentary of conversations or deal with the tourist’s life. How to overcome this – and to overcome a similar language barrier in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, etc.?

Berlitz? Alliance Francaise? Goethe Society? Well, at 70 years old, I doubt my ability to absorb enough of any of these fine languages in time to actually enjoy a trip. I need another solution – I am going to look for it in the idea of a dedicated valet.

That sounds a little old-fashioned, but it’s just another word for a courier or translator or guide. But I need someone who can make a dedicated effort for my welfare that may go beyond just getting me a train ticket and pointing my in the vague direction of the turnstiles. I need someone who will plan out an itinerary that can be changed radically, that will research social and cultural items, that will find accommodation suitable and make sure that I am comfortable. Someone who will see me fed and watered, and not cheated in the bar or newsagency. In short, a companion with their eyes open.

The good news is they need not be this forever. A European vacation can be a long thing or a short thing, but the fact that each country visit may not be longer than 2 weeks means that whoever does the French portion need not be on duty for longer than a fortnight. Likewise the German, Ukranian, etc. And each day need not go for longer than a standard job – I poop out in 8 hours and if I’ve seen that day’s amusement and eaten that evening’s dinner, I can be hung back up on the rack in the early evening. All I need is assurance that the valet will be there just after breakfast to start again.

The valet will make all this simple if they plan ahead – they will house me in a friendly hotel, find me a friendly bar, and search out a friendly restaurant. Their real translation skills will come in the shops, galleries, and transportation, and as I would hire them for local knowledge they should be able to make these transactions as painless as possible. I do not require to go to bad neighbourhoods nor to deal with horrible people. I wish to be polite and pleasant.

Now – how to find such paragons? Is there a service just like this already extant? Is it affordable? I would be willing to pay premium prices for a good experience. I think it is time to start my research…

Formal Greetings

There are as many sorts of greeting as there are cultures  and subcultures. From the formal address of welcome delivered to a sovereign by the Lord Mayor of a city to the ” Wassup ” of the ghastly teenager…and that’s only in the Western world. The other parts of the globe add salt and bread ceremonies, sham cavalry attacks, and the beheading of criminals. Very few of them just settle for a simple handshake.

This is making a comeback, by the way, amongst older people here in Australia. We do not do high fives and the air kissing ceremony is somewhat repugnant at the best of times. Oh, we see it with ladies of a certain sort and French people, but it is the sort of thing that gives blokes the jitters. The formal European handshake is much better – as long as it does not turn into a finger-crushing contest. Note to most Australians: do not expect much when shaking hands with an Asian person. They are used to different customs and the handshake may be a bit anaemic. It’s enough that they try.

Mind you, some cultures do a very nice formal greeting – rather like a combination of being announced at a debut and sentenced in a magistrate’s court. I am amazed at the detail of titles and qualifications that some people can remember and at their ability to do the formal lists of precedence. But it tells me that I am expected to do the same and I quite frankly can’t remember if a Viscount precedes an OBE or the other way around. I do know that anyone being introduced as the King of France is likely to be an imposter.

It’s always nice to be acknowledged as you enter a group…even if that just means everyone leaves immediately. At least it lets you know that you make a difference in someone’s life. Irking people to distraction is a difference. It is even better if they smile and cheer and pat you on the back. Beware if this proceeds to a full sales pitch for time-share apartments or group shopping…

There can be awkward moments, mind. Like when you enter a group of strangers and are formally introduced by someone who gets your name wrong. You have to either correct them in a kindly fashion or accept whatever new name you have been given. I tend to do the latter, as it means that for that group I have a secure disguise – I can be as shocking as I want to be and the blame will trail off to someone else. If I find anything good or profitable, I can always correct the false impression that was made – otherwise I just continue to sail under a false flag.

And finally, the formal leave-taking. It is always polite to thank the host and hostess for their hospitality – particularly if there has been none, and they know it. Slinking off with the teaspoons in your pocket is considered rather low, but then again the price of silver is better than you might think. Whichever decision you come to, try not to clink.

Vladimir? We Have Problem.

Is leaking again. Someone lift lid and gas escape. Germans and French find out.

Ministry of Denial is deny it but damned western press still report. Not sure if the story about it being from Romania worked.

Quick – time to distract. Get Australian branch of Ministry to make film about Amerikanski waste dump in Pacific island. That keep them busy for a while.

Meantime we glue lid on Chelyabinsk once more. Old stuff dissolve in rain. Soviet-era glue to blame – those responsible will be liquidate.

Holding Facebook’s Beer

I was mildly amused when a Facebook game came by asking me to score points for admitting to foolish/sad/criminal behaviour in my past. And making it public to the entire planet. I mean, how could one resist the temptation to fill in the little chinks in the information brick wall. I’m just a little surprised they didn’t include a section that asked for sexual fantasies and credit card numbers…

Well, here at the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we feel that this sort of blatant attempt at coercion is all very well, but should not be done on an amateur basis. If you are going to ask people to condemn themselves publicly, you need to give them more tempting chances. If they’re going down the sewer, make it a big one.

To this end, we have devised the following quiz for social media. There are no points scored, unless you count the knowing looks that people will give you at your next party.

Have you ever…

a. Shot a police cruiser in the grill work with a 17 pounder anti-tank gun from a camouflaged position?

b. Flayed an Albigensian heretic?

c. Written a song about your feelings and then played it to people at a party, accompanying yourself on guitar? All 15 verses?

d. Served week-old warm runny egg salad sandwiches from a service station cabinet to people at a church social?

e. Counterfeited a draft card to allow your underage classmates to buy beer at the local liquor store? Then phoned ahead to alert the local police?

f. Removed a ladder from an attic access hatch while someone was up there and then gone quietly home and had a good dinner?

g. Switched tops on the spray-paint cans in the local Bunnings store cabinet?

h. Put salt in the plaster mix of someone who is trying to invest a casting?

i. Invited a religious caller in to tell you their entire story by using an accent rich in unidentifiably foreign sounds, mixed with blatant grammatical error –  and then insisted that they sit down and drink toasts to your country? Used water tumblers full of hard liquor and cooking oil?

j. If they lasted the course, showed them the Albigensian skin…?


May Contain…

The following post may contain sex scenes, nudity, violence, drug use, coarse language and reference to people who are dead.

Or not.

I live a life that does not contain much of the above, because I am careful to avoid it. Just as I am careful to avoid soggy egg sandwiches in a service station cabinet, or people with tinfoil helmets on their heads, or families who have the Protocols of Zion embroidered on a sampler in the hallway. I am not stupid. I can recognise trouble before it recognises me, and I am not at all hesitant to light out for the hills.

So why would I watch a television drama that warns me beforehand that just such hazards await me? Why would I consider the lives portrayed on the television screen to be valid models for me? What goodness can they possibly offer that will offset the vile stuff? I am starting to think that it is time to pull the plug and put the telly out on the verge for the council to collect.

T’was not always thus. I loved telly in the 1950’s and 1960’s when our family landed up somewhere that had regular reception. I knew all the game shows, comedians, and serials. As none of them swore, flashed their minges at me, or showed me how to beat up my grandmother efficiently, I was perfectly happy. I even sat through the advertisements in a golden glow. I will admit to a little screen-driven consumerism but it generally peaked at breakfast cereal with plastic frogmen inside.

Australian television was always cruder, weirder, and more touching than the US or Canadian stuff. It had none of the sophistication of British telly. But it did have the local scenery sometimes and it also had access to unknown video fodder from Japan at a time when nothing foreign was seen elsewhere. I am glad I saw it before it changed to colour, and I am also glad that I have seen enough of it now that it has.

The simple act of passing swiftly by it without a second glance is guaranteed to give you at least 4 hours more of hobby, reading, drinking, or sex time in the day. If you are really efficient you can combine all the activities at the same time. Oh, you may have to clean up stray paint spills or untangle your partner from the ceiling fan, but this is small beans compared to the extra time you gain. And the wonderful thing is that you never have to worry who gets killed off in a series – they can all go take their unemployment cheques for all you need care. There are no spoilers.

How about the art telly, I hear you say? The European films? Well, I have seen Spaniards having existential angst and Frenchmen sitting around a dinner table smoking a number of times and that pretty much does it for me. Any further repeats would just spoil the initial low impression. Likewise Chinese dating shows, international football, and Canadian films that have a soundtrack done by Larry Adler.

” Ah, We Nevair Do Zat…”

I was once told by a European that they would never consider eating maize – sweet corn – because ” In Europe we give maize to the pigs! ”

Okay, I realise that part of the intention of this declaration was to insult people from the United States and Canada – and Australia and New Zealand. Continentals are better,  cooler, etc. etc. This sort of thing is not new – it has been a constant theme for years.

But what a foolish statement. And from a person whose nationality prizes food. Europeans may be godly nations in church, but they certainly make food into a god for the rest of the time. And they are expert worshippers – no-one who has eaten in a good French restaurant has ever gone away unhappy, apart from that niggling doubt about being insulted by the waiter in some way. The food has been very, very good. It is amazing that a nation that is so cultured, so intelligent, and that has such a high cuisine, cannot admit that fresh, buttered corn on the cob is heavenly.

Do they have scruples about picking food up in their hands? Are they delicate? I’ve seen them eat…

Do they worry about the butter? ( I am playing with you. French food is 159% butter, even if it is dried apricots… )

Or is it that they lost control of North America – the land of corn on the cob  – in 1760 and never got it back again ( despite the efforts of Charles De Gaulle ). Perhaps the fact that the people there enjoy this wonderful and simple dish and need no permission from Escoffier, The Deutsche Bank or Fa ministry in Brussels is the bit that rankles.

I do not know. I am just looking for the butter, salt, and boiling water. I shall be busy for the next hour. By all means send your pig …there is plenty of corn for both of us – we will discuss you in your absence, Monsieur…