Have You Seen The News?…And My Opinion Of The News…?

We get news all day, every day. There’s not a single minute in which another report of another event is not being slotted into our stream of consciousness. The older ways of doing this are becoming passé for many parts of the planet, but there will still be newspapers, broadsheets, and people crying the latest in the village square for the forseeable future. It may be an electric cry, but it’ll be there.

What a burden. Think back to an earlier time – for instance here in Australia during the first years of European settlement. Local news was what you found out personally or were told by a neighbour. A traveller from another port could bring a printed broadsheet or government gazette. Itinerant pack sellers and carters could pass messages – accurate or not – as they went through. But there must have been blessedly long intervals in which nothing more was thrust upon our minds, and they could get on with the business at hand without new anxieties.

I wish that were the case today. I am not pleading for complete ignorance, but I’d appreciate a bit of time to absorb one disaster before I need to wring my hands over the next one. I get sore hands.

I also get a sore head when I see how people on social media take each event, and the reaction to that event by others, as an opportunity to push their own barrow. Whether that barrow contains a political package, a religious suggestion, or a portable virtue flag on a stick, it is still a vehicle that has little to do with the actual occurrence. Fortunately the load is generally of such little value and such light construction that it can be abandoned by the side of the road when the next attractive disaster is reported.

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My Hobby, Sir, Is Below…

No, not that far down. That’s a different hobby. Stop staring.

My hobby is what you are reading right now. I write now.  I write four weblog columns each weekday and three on the weekends. I get paid money to pen one of them and the other three pay in joy.

I did not realise this was going to be the case when my friend Joanne suggested over a café breakfast that I look up WordPress. She, like many young people, is somewhat of an expert on the social media and connection side of things. But she doesn’t make the technical side of things sound as hard and confusing. Nor was it, once I had picked up a couple of simplistic books on the WordPress blog experience.

My first efforts were crude – like my first engagement with Facebook – but gradually the business of telling a story ( and that is all I am doing when I write ) started to flow and it has gushed ever since. I’m a photographer with my own studio so I can make pictures to enliven the print and as much as the graphic designers amongst my readers may quail, I can dot them with words. Generally the words I choose try to be funny. Sometimes they succeed, but only sometimes…

So I finally have to admit I like engaging you in this one-sided conversation – I look upon it as a Catskill monologue. Hence the title of this first weblog column. I’m here all week – try the pasta surprise.

The chef was absolutely surprised. He was aiming for bacon smoothies.

 

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.

The Terrible Yamina

If you were looking for an internet columnist who will write mean things about people, I’m your man. I’m available 24 hours a day to bang out copy telling the world how dreadful your enemies are – no target goes unscathed. I charge reasonable prices for scandalous writing, and I have an ABN number so you can get a tax deduction.

Except today – this is the one day of the year when I write nice things about people – and today it is about Yamina, the Samba dancer.

She was kind enough yesterday to buy me a ticket to the movies during the Festival Of French Cinema and accompany me to the show. As a French teacher, she could get a lot more from the film than I, but fortunately there were very good subtitles. And as it was a show about music and dance, the soundtrack and visuals spoke for themselves.

Totally not what I thought it was going to be. The title was Le Grand Bal, and I expected opera or theatre costuming, sweeping staircases, and Offenbach. As it turned out, it was a doco on one of the festivals of folk music and dance held in the central part of France in the summer. She had been to many of these in similar circumstances and this was the connection. Apparently it was a very accurate as well as charming film.

 

I found it fascinating seeing people dressed as ordinary tourists but doing extraordinary things – dancing for 7 days and 8 nights while taking workshop lessons and getting 2 hours of sleep in the interim. Performing intricate art for their own enjoyment. Acting as an impromptu corps du ballet – perfectly controlled, and all to folk instruments. Amazing.

After the show another member of the audience recognised her and rushed over to find out if this sort of dancing ball would ever be held here in Perth.

Note: it is very much of advantage to have an experienced French wine-drinker looking at the wine list in a restaurant when you want something good to drink.

But Terrible? Why have I written Terrible? Easy…

I teased her that I was going to write a column with this title, so I know she is now going to read the column assiduously. I am not ashamed to get my readers by subterfuge and sneaky tricks…Of course there is nothing at all terrible about her – quite the contrary – but now she’s reading.

Mwa Ha ha ha …

 

The Chain Of Command

Most armed services have a chain of command.

In the better countries it is connected at the top end to the executive branch of the government but stands free of the electors at the bottom. In less controlled regions it can be intermeshed with the legislative body and exercise considerable influence on them and the people. In the very worst areas it dominates all government and is a ruthless whip for the dictatorship. But we are not in the worst areas – we are in one of the best – so our chain of command is a good, strong, safe one.

The same cannot be said for many civilian organisations – while you might think they would not need to be as rigid as the military, no-one has told their management. They do not wear uniforms with medals, aiguillettes, and gold leaf, but they can sometimes direct their organisations as if they did. And they frequently have no idea of how to structure their command to get the best out of it.

I’m lucky – my working days are now turned into artistic days and I can respond to suggestions rather than orders. But I can still see the corrosive effect of too much or not enough control when it comes to business. It is a good thing to observe from a distance and if I take the advice of Confucius, I can benefit by searching myself to see where I might reform.

A hint: when there are two or more managers to satisfy before you satisfy two directors, it is likely that the only thing that the chain of command is going to do is rattle.

 

The Day Of Fools

April 1st.

My day. My birthday. April 1st, 1948. And laugh if you will, when I give the signal, but it has always been a pretty good day for me – fool or not.

As a small child the day was always a celebration that had no connection to anyone outside my family and friends. You’re centered in that as a kid. It was only in the latter part of grade school that the significance of the occasion as a national prank day came to my attention.

Of course, in the natural way that school children have, it was seized upon as an excuse to torment me. And I was a little ashamed of the connection – until one person said that they were jealous of me because I would be able to do anything I wanted to others on April 1st morning and get away with it. It was the dawning of, if not wisdom, at least a new career.

Most April Fool jokes are practical to some extent, but short of damage to property, there’s not much of a practical nature that one little kid can do. But if they are inventive, coats can be switched around in cloak rooms, water coolers can be blocked with wadded paper, and similar low-grade japes. If they talk fast and in a complex manner they can infuriate the slower minds without being actually culpable. But they must stop at noon so as not to overstep the immunity.

This year I simply told the staff members at work that their employment contracts were being rescinded in favour of the system of physical slavery. They were advised to practice the phrases ” Yowsah ” and ” Sho Nuff “. When, by accident, the Star Track man delivered three bales of cotton, I left them to it.

 

They Get To Complain And You Get To Not Care About It

And that is the most efficient way to resolve many problems.

If you’ve got a Facebook account for yourself or through some other group, you’ll have seen the posts that complain about something. They are sincere, sometimes…and self -serving, sometimes…and totally obscure, sometimes. Some people can actually write the trifecta, if they wish.

When they do,they may get a number of reactions:

a. Everyone will ask them if they are alright.

b. Everyone will suggest that they are all wrong.

c. No-one will react at all.

In each case they can derive some benefit from the exercise:

a. They’ll have gotten their pain/opinion/baited trap out to the world for all to see. The internal pressure will have been relieved. In some cases it takes time for the smell to dissipate.

b. They’ll find out whether they have any friends. And what their opinions are. And how they can be goaded in the future.

c. They’ll be able to receive targeted advertisements that touch in some way on every word written. You might not think that the social media engineers can make a credible marketing strategy out of the word ” and ” but you’ll be wrong. The writers should be prepared to be shilled with heavy-calibre ordnance.

The readers will also benefit:

a. They’ll know someone is alive. This may cause them joy or pain.

b. They’ll know all the deepest secrets. If people are dumb enough to write them.

c. Read (b.) again to yourself slowly…

c. They will have an opportunity to explode with rage and/or love. I cannot say which will be worse.

d. They will have been freed from the inclination to ever again have a thought on the subject. A great boon for some topics.