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…?

 

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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…

 

 

Let Me EnterPain You

And I’ll have a real good time, Yessir…

I think that was a line from the hit song ” Hey Big Miser ” but I could be wrong. It had a Shirley in it but I cannot tell you whether it was a Temple or a Bassey. Memory isn’t what it used to be…*

I have been watching the television in the corner of the lounge room for the last few days – in company with the rest of the family. They seem highly amused by it and from the sounds that come crashing out of the speakers set into the rear of the cabinet, there must be a great deal going on. Apparently murder and aliens accounts for about 60% of the culture of the nation, with the rest being made up equally of football, people cooking things while being yelled at, and snide comedians.

In a few weeks I will have worked my courage up to the point of being able to go round the front of the cabinet and see what is on the screen. Up until now the reflected light has been quite enough. I am encouraged in this by my wife who has promised that there are some shows that do not involve gasoline explosions or people break-dancing. I hope to be able to trust her…

In the meantime I shall catch up on my reading. I have just finished a pot-boiler by Emil Zola and had to down a quick book of scientific quotations to quell the nerves. English novelists of the Victorian era are fine workers and I am never so comforted as when I curl up in a warm bed with a fat Trollope, but the French are altogether more dramatic in print than anything on the Dover side of the channel. I guess it is all the red wine they drink.

French or English, the thing I do like about a book as opposed to a moving screen, is the way a book will pause and wait for you to catch up. It may still take you on desperate adventures, but can do it in stages like a county bus. Televisions just whirl you away like a Greyhound in the night and if you cannot see fast, you do not see it all. Plus, I find that most screenplays are aimed at Shetlands while I am riding a higher horse.

*  It never was what it was, even when it was.

How To Be Correct Without Being Political

As a person who has done his fair share of offending people in his time, I think I am in a good position to advise others on how to avoid doing the same thing. I would hesitate to address friends about this but strangers may benefit from these handy hints:

A. Do not lie to people or about people. Do not lie on people. Do not lie to yourself.

B. Do not tell other people the truth about themselves. This may seem to be in direct conflict with rule A. above, but there is a delicate difference between telling the truth about where the nearest post box is located as compared to how flabby someone’s arguments are becoming. One’ll get you thanked and one’ll get you punched.

C. Do not present ‘ sights unbecoming ‘ to others on social media. These sights may include pictures of you, friends, or family doing things of a marginal nature. The images may amuse you but won’t have the same effect on others. Keep your peccadilloes hidden. Peccadillo sheaths are sold in all good ironmongers.

D. Do not repeatedly press political, religious, financial, sexual, theatrical, mechanical, or moral opinions on others. By all means state your support for triple-expansion steam valves, the Social-Endymionist Collective, or bi-metallism in a clear and honest manner, if you feel that the times have called upon you to do so. Once. Do it once, and all who know you, will know your thoughts. If you have any entrée to their minds, you will accomplish as much with one quiet message, as you could with the loudest and most repetitive tub thumping. And you will not risk driving them away.

E. Do not tell Irish jokes unless your name is Kelly and you come from County Mayo. Likewise any other joke that involves ethnicity or religion unless you are clearly speaking of yourself. Even then, be careful. Your fellow ethicists, co-religionists, or compatriots may be unwilling to laugh with you about your shared heritage – at least where others can hear. Some groups have no sense of humour about themselves.

F. Do not ape another culture. Even if you admire it and think it is cool and good-looking and wise and sexy. People who you might regard as exotically interesting may regard themselves as just home folks. In particular, do not use accents that are not your own. No-one from Scotland ever wants to hear you speaking in a Scottish accent and no-one from Mississippi ever wants to hear you speak in a fake Southern drawl.

If you would like to test this out without getting punched, try the experiment of going to someone in your own ethnic or national group and speaking to them in a parody of your own shared native accent. Their reaction will be real, and that’s what other people will really think of you ” doing ” their accent.

This is entirely separate from trying to learn a foreign language, and attempting to speak to someone in their own tongue, and getting it horribly wrong. No-one is offended with this…with the possible exception of the French…and even they will patiently try to correct your pronunciation. If you are trying to meet others half-way they all recognise it.

G. Do not ‘ share ‘ internet memes that say the nasty things that you really want to say but cannot bring yourself to utter. It is recognisable cowardice as well as offensive. And it leagues you with some of the vilest minds in society.

Well, that should help a little. It is not the complete Emily Post, but in trying times it may smooth out your social picture and hide a few of the creases. Remember that nothing ever truly goes away on the internet, so if you plan you run for office either here or in your other country, be sure that your Facebook and Twitter will find you out. Mind you, you might get away with it for years and at a Senate or White House salary, that makes a pretty good nest-egg.

Citizenship…Getcha Red Hot Dual Citizenship Right Here…!

Australia has laws against duelling. You’re not allowed to face opponents at dawn with a pistol or sabre. Many of us think this is a case of the courts being awfully small-minded and trying to reserve all the business of solving disputes to itself.

The federal government as well, is being mean about people who are also citizens of other nations. They are debarred from holding public office and recently we have seen the start of a widespread campaign to investigate state and federal members of parliament and to call them out about it. Two have picked their hats out of the ring and slunk off.

It has even got to the point where people are worried that the nationality of their parents or grandparents will be invoked to make them dual citizens unbeknownst and thus foul up their political careers. ” Citizenship by ancestry ” may sound charming if you fancy a holiday somewhere and don’t want to stand in the foreigner’s queue at the airport, but it can also be turned rather quickly into a tar brush rather than a rubber stamp if it suits someone’s purpose.

When you start to divide up ancestries and parcel them out you can do all sorts of things.  “Half-Greek ” might still make you liable for the army. ” Half-American ” might make you liable for the IRS. ” Half-French ” might make you liable to be insulted by waiters.

Let’s not even get into ” Half-Muslim ” or ” Half-Jew “, or half of any other religion. No-one who uses this sort of terminology will be doing it for any good purpose.

” Half-Breed ” is just foul.

If we must split people’s lives and families and re-combine them to suit our own purposes, let us divide them along the lines of personality. I have always considered that I had a wide view of life but was unable to fully realise my plans. So I might be said – instead of being vast – to be half-vast.

I am content with this. At least half-way…

Note: This writer is a nationalised Australian as of 1970, has definitely given up any other citizenship, and has stamped papers from two governments to prove it. None of the countries that played host to his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have ever been asked to grant him a dual, treble, or quadruple citizenship. Indeed, when I visit their embassies they turn off the lights and hide behind the sofa until I stop ringing the doorbell.

 

Happy Holiday – Did You Want A Receipt With That?

I used to like holidays when I was on the receiving end of the present machine. Something popped through at Christmas, Easter, and my birthday every year, and if August and September were a little lean, at least there was new stuff for school.

I sort of liked Dominion Day and the Calgary Stampede as well for the fireworks and the midway at the Showgrounds, and Thanksgiving meant good food. If it also meant boring relatives and visitors, that was the price you had to pay.

Nowadays there are other prices. I am on the giving end of the present-o-matic and get to set it in motion with a credit card. This also applies to the commercial holidays celebrating motherhood, fatherhood, and nationhood. The Melville City Council tries valiantly to gin up celebrations of neighbourhood, but until they use real gin I am not having any of it.

I see from the net that you can also qualify for the admiration of managements if you participate in national days for Canada, the United States, and France at various bars around town. July could be a busy time, though not if you have ascribed to the ever-so-slighty righteous charity that wants you to abstain from alcohol this month. You are to place the money you would have otherwise spent for booze on the table in front of their representative and raise your eyes to heaven. When you lower your eyes the money will have vanished. Can’t get much more miraculous than that…

I think I like the bar holidays better. They do not pretend to religion or miracles. Or even to good nutrition. And you don’t have to sing carols or hymns or decorate the house. You can celebrate them in old clothes and without having to be nice to the in-laws.

And no dishes to wash.