” Contents May Have Settled “

How often do you see this on the outside of a packet of food; ” Contents may have settled in shipment. “. Whenever I encounter it I am beset by a number of questions:

a. Was the box or packet ever full at the start of the process? Or did you throw the cornflakes in from across the room in the hopes that they would form a magical geodesic structure and support the inside of the box?

b. Was the box designed for the contents or was it designed just to be as big – as well as brightly coloured  – as possible…to attract the eye of the unsophisticated shopper? We’ve all seen the laundry detergent packets.

c. Is ” content settling ” the same as crumbling to powder at the bottom of the box? Did we buy the breakfast equivalent of a spoonful of sugar spun into cotton candy – only to have it resolve itself back to the spoonful as soon as heat or moisture hit it? Do we, in fact, have any right to corn flakes or just to corn powder? Is powder considered to be just tiny little flakes?

d. Why does raw liver never settle in the packet? Why is it always bulging out there?

e. What do you expect us to do with the packet that has settled? Are we to turn it upside down, shake it, and magically it will become filled again? Tried that once with dynamite that had sweated out of the sticks and you can swim in the crater after rain fills it.

f. How far do you have to ship stuff anyway? Can we not make food closer to home so that it doesn’t have to travel three seas and five roads to get to us? Is it time to go back to eating what is local? ( The answer to that is yes, and for a number of reasons…)

g. Why doesn’t liquor settle in bottles – so you could skim off the water on the top and pour out the good stuff from the bottom.




Dancing Need Not Be A Worldly Thing


Good to see you back. You managed to get through the gloom and cynicism of yesterday’s column and decided to try one more time. Hope the hangover’s not too uncomfortable…because the good news is, there is hope.

Not for everyone, mind. Not for the people who are determined to stay on the treadmill. Not for the people who want to trade their life for baubles and bangles ( unless they are belly dancers, in which case it becomes quite a sensible choice…). Not for cowards.

Because this column is going to challenge you to change your choreography – to dance in spite of the world. If you are a spiteful individual, come sit right down beside me here and we’ll begin.

If you’d like to do a certain dance in a certain way, and no-one else will reward, criticize, approve, or profit by  your performance…you are in a fair way to becoming a personality. If you go right ahead and do that dance, you’ll be a professional. If you do not care or notice anything that occurs after your performance, you’ll be an artist.

If your dance is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or just sliced bread, or not quite as good as sliced bread…and you are still determined to do it…good on you. Even if it is mouldy bread you are on the side of the angels… you can make penicillin out of it.

Dance for you. Dance where only you see the performance. Dance until you are satisfied with the steps, the metre, the music. Dance for God, and not His creatures. He’s a better audience…

” It Was Just A Prank, Officer…”

‘ Prank ‘ seems to be defined as a practical joke or mischievous act – both suggesting some form of lightheartedness. ‘ jape ‘, ‘ trick ‘, ‘ antic ‘, ‘stunt ‘, ‘ caper ‘, all are mentioned  – merry times, eh?

Gets a little darker when you get to the next line; ‘ fraud ‘, ‘ hoax ‘, ‘ escapade ‘…Go just that little further and you can get into ‘ assault ‘ and ‘ attack ‘ , and the magistrate starts to become involved…

With the rise of the smart-aleck radio and television teams who make program copy out of embarrassing and harassing people and the easy anonymity of the internet social forums, active meanness like this becomes all too possible. The commercial networks may be a little less inclined to indulge their sophomore announcers and actors as they are answerable to sponsors with lawyers. Governmental stations can do it more – they pretend such a respect for free speech ( as long as it supports their politics ) that they get away with sadder and meaner productions.

The saddest and meanest thing about it is the fact that they please an audience – who are always ready to excuse them. The actors have to fire extremely low – the viewers are not only riding Shetlands, they are riding them in trenches…

I don’t mind a good practical joke if it is actually funny. No-one must be hurt, and embarrassment caused should be private. Above all, the joke must be gentle enough that the victim can see the fun of it as well – otherwise it is just a bullying assault.

None of the above applies to that thing we did with the vat of glue and the lawnmower. The guy had it coming.

Profession, Trade, Or Business?

That used to be the big question for people setting out on a career. Then it became a question of semantics as each category tried to define themselves – in most cases they tried to make out that they were better than the other two.

Now the field of definition has widened. Australia’s got more people idle for more reasons and there are new classes of occupation to examine. Consider these views, but remember that the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia is not an equal-opportunity employer…

a. Job – something you do to get eating money.

b. Work – something that you might have to do on the job.

c. Business – a job that involves other people giving you money. Unfortunately they expect something in return.

d. Trade – a business in which you are expected to be skilled at doing something that other people can’t do. You get to wear a uniform, drive a tray-top ute badly, and fail to keep appointments.

e. Profession – a trade that you only get if you put up with the annoyance of education after the age of 18. You’ll get a chance to make lots of money but there will always be some statutory body to take it away from you if you annoy their hierarchy.

f. Occupation – a catch-all phrase for anything from chicken-sexing to being a politician in South Australia.

g. Calling – something you want to do but feel the need to pretend that God wants you to do it as well to make it sound better.

h. Hobby – something you want to do that you don’t get paid for.

i. Avocation -a posh name for a hobby.

j. Pursuit – a hobby that starts to veer onto vaguely criminal lines.

k. Racket  -a fully developed pursuit.

If you are perfectly honest with yourself, you can find exactly where upon this scale of activity your daily routine takes you. If you are prepared to use the adjective ” perfectly ” to qualify the word ” honest “, you may care to start at the bottom and work up…



Every Day In Every Way…

I’m getting bitter and bitter.

You gotta be careful when you get past certain ages. The danger points are 14, 19, 35, and 65. They all expose you and others to the possibility that you will become a menace.

14: Hello, puberty – goodbye manners. You’ll find that you can eat more, scratch more, belch more, crave more, and obey less when you hit 14. Everyone around you who is older will recognise the signs. They will put up with it for a surprisingly long period of time, but beware when they come to end of their patience.

Your mother will take the longest to crack – she’ll make all the internal excuses for you that she possibly can to save her sanity and save you from Juvenile Court. She will feed you, clean you, and tolerate you in a way that would not seem possible. She’s had training – you were once 2 years old and she knows the sort of thing to expect. But beware when she has finally had enough of your bullshit and turns on you. There will be nowhere to hide from the Wrath Of The Mum.

Your father will not put up with the BS anywhere near as long. He’ll grasp you lovingly by the neck, hold you against the stove, and use his fist to explain how you need to behave in future.

19. Well, ain’t we just the biggest thing since the TITANIC?

We’re all grown up. We have opinions. We have a little bit of money. We have a girlfriend or several. We have a car. What more could we possibly want?

Sense and manners for a start. Kewl thuggery is a great temptation. We think that nothing is going to resist us and nothing will be ever sheeted home to us.

The luckiest 19-year-olds are drafted into the military and discover the horrifying truth within two days. Then they can be stripped down, carefully reset, and turned into proper men by their sergeants and petty officers.

Failing that, the ones who enter workplaces or universities where instructors and charge hands do the same thing stand a chance of being successful.

35. I can get away with it. I’ve been getting away with it for years now. I’ll never get caught.

Whether the ‘ it ‘ is adultery, tax evasion, professional incompetence, complacency, plagiarism, arrogance, pride, sloth, gluttony, anger, or any of the other sins, you always think that no-one knows and no-one cares.

You’re always wrong.

65. Well – now that you are 65 you are put out onto society’s windowsill to cool like a pie. But no-one comes along to steal you…

You are in danger of finding this out and becoming angry about it. You’ll cool, harden, develop an impenetrable crust, and a bitter filling. If you are the sort of pie that has that criss-cross pastry top, no-one even wants to look at you.

The secret to overcoming this is to be come self-sufficient. I’m not suggesting that you get a garden allotment and grow your own sparkplugs – though you can if you like. What you really need to do is find out what pleases you, and make arrangements to do it. It may be a case of not buying or owning pleasure, but of finding or developing it.

A caution: if your greatest pleasure is sitting at the bus stop with a catapult and firing ball bearings at cyclists passing by, you will have trouble. Substitute hard round chocolates instead. You’ll still knock them off their bikes, but it’ll be easier to make it sound like a sweet and lovable eccentricity in court.


How To Increase Your Blog’s Traffic/Likes/Money/Power/Bloodlust

I have been receiving likes recently from a number of different sources:

a. People who wish to read what I write.

b. People who wish that I would like what they write.

c. People who wish I would send them money to read about how to get money from other people.

d. People who have impossible names but dwell in a place called outlook.com.

I am pleased and flattered to receive communications from the first group. Their praise, even if it is only a click on the computer keyboard, is a kindly act and I thank them for it. Their joy is one of the reasons I write these columns daily.

The second group is also welcome – because many of them write about interesting things and some of them write well. The ones who combine those two features are on my little reading list. I’m afraid I do not do all that well with poetry and certainly don’t pursue political blogs very far, but I do give everyone a read at least once to see if I will enjoy going back.

The third group really flag themselves as soon as you see their summaries on the ‘ like ‘ email. If the answer to getting more money was to ask people to send you more money…well I could do that unbidden. I don’t do so for a number of reasons – some of them practical and some of them moral.

It may help this group to know that I write for the pleasure of exercising memory and developing thought. A well-crafted essay launched is instant reward, whether or not it is subsequently praised by others.

The fourth set of people are not people as such – they are probably a robotic scam program that is manipulating statistics for some purpose. I delete them from the emails and dismiss them from my mind. Presumably the WordPress people will get on top of this flood of nonsense eventually and it will dry up.

I should welcome more people reading my essays. I refuse to do circus tricks to try to produce this result. Though I wouldn’t mind a pair of clown shoes or a some spangled tights…

When The Hand Stops Listening…

That 80’s and 90’s thing:  ” Talk to the hand… “. Was it clever or rude? Was it just a catch-phrase used by a comedienne to make herself sound clever? Was there a need for it and is there a need for it now?

Well, let’s dispose of the question of an act like this in regard to manners and etiquette straight away. It is rude. It’s unpleasant and not the sort of behaviour in which a lady or gentleman within society would participate. But then society makes up only a portion of the population – outside of the polite enclosure, behaviour has more room to move, so to speak.

How do you stop intrusion? How do you stop nagging? How do you stop impertinent enquiry? Assuming that you haven’t been wise enough to avoid putting yourself into a position to be subjected to these annoyances…and that is an entirely different essay…you still want some way of escaping. You’ll also want to be able to avoid even more unpleasant behaviour in the social setting, but may be at a loss as to how to go about it. Here are a few suggestions:

a. In the wider world, keep your ears open. You’ll frequently be able to hear low troublemakers on the street long before you see them – they cannot stop themselves from shouting and making animal noises. Steer yourself away from the sound.

b. In a closed venue, watch to see who is making a disturbance or taking up far more space than normal. They’re trouble and it is best to let the staff deal with them. You’ll be far better away than just hoping for the best.

c. If someone singles you out for unwanted attention and will not accept a polite rebuff, walk to the nearest authority, quite openly, and ask for protection. If caught away from any help, yell or scream continuously for assistance. If you need to do this in a drawing-room or a shop, do so. The nature of the event will excuse any disturbance.

d. If someone persists in unwanted behaviour on social media drop their acquaintance. On Facebook you can do so by ” snoozing ” them for 30 days, unfollowing them, or unfriending them. The Facebook organisation will accept your decision and support you in it. Beware that if you then meet in person, the other individual may ask why you have not contacted them…have an answer ready.

e. If someone rebuffs you or drops your acquaintance, accept it with good grace. You need not pursue further contact. The inevitable chance meeting later on the street, or at a relative or mutual friend’s house alluded to in (d.) will be all the more interesting. Be gracious.

f. If all you need is time to think, recover, or relax in the face of distress or importunity, request it. Good manners and good sense demand that it be rendered. If it is not, then you are perfectly free to drop the acquaintance and walk away from further contact.

No-one wants to be isolated, and no-one should try to isolate others. Equally, no-one need endure unpleasant conduct or be associated with foolish or criminal activity. When in any doubt err on the side of caution and kindness, but remember that you have a right to be left alone.