I Hate You Just A Little

But give me time – I may be able to improve upon that.

The real topic of today’s column is not whether it is bad to hate or good to love. ( or vice versa ) but whether it is possible to exercise either emotion in a sensible and correct amount.

” I love/hate you forever, with all my might, and every fibre of my being! “…makes a pretty good political platform or set of lyrics for a nightclub singer. It invites excess – lust, stabbing, coy eye fluttering, and worse. It is the stuff of bad theatrical performance   – suited to the puerile rather than the pure. The raw emotion of it horrifies the sophisticated mind, in whatever quarter of the world it may reside. I propose a careful alternative; graduated emotion. I’ll love or hate you on a sliding scale of imperceptible increments.

Let’s take a set of people with whom I have never had contact – and who I never expect to visit – the Andaman Islanders. They are that savage little band on the East Indian island who attack and murder anyone who tries to come ashore. They are rather like the Japanese used to be before the 19th century, but probably without sushi.

Their nearest neighbours – the Indians – really want very little to do with them, and unless they strike oil in the islands, the savages will probably be able to keep on murdering unwary intruders. No-one else seems to want to deal with them.

Now, how much should I love the Andaman islanders? How much should I hate them? Can I just leave them in a limbo of indifference without incurring the wrath of the social media set? I think I can.

And if this extreme example can be so consigned – until the Andaman Islanders knock on the door and ask to come in – can I do the same to a lot of other people? I should be relieved if I thought that someone could take no harm nor good from me …nor I them. One less meme-storm to have to wade through on Facebook.

I’ll still have a soft spot in my heart for you, my readers. Just don’t expect it to spread to my head.

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Suspicious Stains

Impelled by a recent comment on Facebook, I am going to have to make a confession. I have left suspicious stains on the moral fabric. The dry cleaner says he doesn’t care to put it through the machine and the Anglican Op Shop has refused to resell it. So I am stuck with it.

It would not be so bad if I had thought at the time to soak my morality on water. Or bleach. Or nitric acid. But it is too late – the telltale marks of depravity are there for all to see. The best I can do is draw around them with a Texta and pretend it is batik.

Of course I am not alone in this. There are several other people in here. The run around at night and bump into the coffee table. I wouldn’t mind so much if they would pay for some of the utility bills or at least remember to turn off the dryer. The pointers on the electricity meter box dials spin around like propellers on a Wright Cyclone bomber engine. Some days it looks like a suburban house and some days like the ” Memphis Belle “.

I do turn to the sacred texts when it all becomes too much. ” Bradshaw ” and ” The Almanach de Gotha ” are a great comfort late at night. My copy of the trigonometric tables for 1923 sits on the night stand. So do I, when the weather is warm.

 

 

 

The Open Letter

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I have overcome my fear of spiders – I like the little ones and tolerate the big ones. The venomous ones get squashed if they are under my workbench but let alone if they are elsewhere.

I have also overcome my horror of skeletons. My Walt Disney-induced fear left me when I had to study skulls in university. Owning one cures you of the dread.

But I have never been able to contemplate an open letter without aversion. They are an open trapdoor to the pit of folly, envy, and dishonour. I have been brought to this reflection by a note on social media that features an ” open letter ” published by someone who wants other people to listen to, and possibly obey her.

Open letters in this context are no more than crude pamphlets that do not have the courage to show their vulgarity with multiple fonts and typefaces. They are generally couched in language that suggests an intimacy and concern on the part of the writer – intimacy that tries to get the reader to go further into the letter than they would otherwise do. The style of them varies, but the closest that they ever come to honesty is when a blackmailer sends a threat and a money demand and signs it  ‘ A Friend ‘.

Other open letters are those that may be left about to announce what the legitimate recipient of the note wishes known but is too afraid to announce. They are rarely about Lotto wins.

Of course, some closed letters are open letters as well – the blue frighteners sent by dunning agencies and the traffic infringement notices are both designed to be seen by all who handle them and pronounce guilt even before the envelope is opened.

Have you ever read an opened letter on the desk of someone else? Or read their note pad upside down? Or gone through their computer when it was unattended? Or every drawer in their house while they were on vacation? Or tied them up in the basement and beat them with chains while questioning them about the whereabouts of their relatives?

If so, you may be qualified to write open letters.

 

Selling The Truth Part Two: Pricing

Apple

We have a joke around the office. He’s a relative of the manager and we can’t fire him.

But he has got a merry quip: ” There’s more to price than Vincent…” This will give you an idea what noontime in the lunchroom with him is like and why I eat out.

But there is a kernel of truth there. Price is the thing that determines so much of what we see – from the colour of the French Army’s uniforms to the demise of the suburban garden, so much has come about because of money. Everyone wants a bigger share of the pie and has the crust to take it.

If you make truth expensive and hard to get – like the truths found in astronomical research or the truth of what happens to the maple syrup in waffle holes – you set it away from all but the richest corporations, universities, and military establishments. Oh, they’ll spend the money and they’ll get the truth but no-one else will be able to match it. People might save up to get small sets of truth but who could hope to be able to buy their own Hubble Telescope or Waffle House. In this  instance a truth seller must decide whether they will go for the impossibly big market or the improbably small one.

On the other hand, if truth is underpriced it will be undervalued. This is the fate of many philosophers and divines who have decided to feely give their knowledge to the world – they live in tubs or stone cells and no-one gives a damn about them. And no-one cares about the things they say either. They need to make the truth more expensive to make it stick. Horse dung mixed with it will also make it stick in some circumstances.

The fine point of pricing will be found when the buyer can afford a standard truth with a solid whitewash paint job but can be enticed to take the ever-so-slightly garish metallic-finished one at $ 400 more. If they can be persuaded to add on a coat of protective varnish, so much the better. You can varnish truths as well as you can varnish lies and frequently you use the same varnish.

Should you price secondhand or reconditioned truth at a much lower price? Surprisingly, no. Even commonplace blandishments that have had the advantage of being out there for a longer period mean more people since have heard them secondhand, and they have gained a hard shell of respectability. That in itself is a selling point. If they look a little worn you can just say it is the patina of approval and no-one will be bold enough to call out ” Road Apples! “.

Come to think of it, if you can include something to do with apples in your advertising you can generally find someone who is prepared to believe ANYTHING…

 

Do Not Vote For This Candidate

BGAI am firmly putting my foot down and ordering members of the Backstabbers Guild of Australia not to vote for the candidate. Far too much has been made of this up to now and it is time to nip it in the bud.

Disregard the newspaper reports and the television sound bites. Never mind the candidates debate and the polls. Your Guild will tell you who to vote for, and will be checking later that you did the right thing. Woe betide the member who puts their X in the wrong box.

Of course, due consideration will be given to the preferential voting system and the trading of votes after the polls are closed. This is a normal and natural part of democracy and the Australian Way – think of it as the parliamentary version of meat pies and kangaroos. One contains the other, in many cases…

If you are at all concerned that the candidate that the Guild selects is not going to win in your constituency, contact the Guildhall and let us know. We cannot send out gangs to break the legs of rival supporters in every constituency – we need to target the most urgent ones. Now is the time to put in your request. In areas where we cannot guarantee to deliver your fracture in time we will post you a do-it-yourself kit consisting of a pick handle and a roll of smiley stickers.

We have received requests from Guild members who have dual citizenship about voting in European or American elections. This is fine – vote for the European candidate in America and vice versa. It will do them all good and provide welcome relief at the polling stations.

Please note: No interference will be exerted in determining the results of voting in the Backstabbers Guild of Australia elections. This would be unfair, unconscionable, and un-hygienic. As we never hold elections it would also be unnecessary.

Struggling To Be A Gentleman

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I realise that if one needs to struggle to be a gentleman…one isn’t.

Well, that might apply to a number of states of being. If you struggle to be kind or brave or reliable – all attributes of a gentleman – you are acknowledging the fact that you may not be yet, but that you wish to be. A gentlemanly thought.

Confusing isn’t it?

I think that the status of being a gentleman is my highest ambition. I have passed though other desires in my life and achieved them – being a dentist, being a husband, being a father. I have conceived of other desires and failed miserably at them – being a military officer, for instance, or an airplane pilot, or a famous artist. Fortunately I realise that the former bits were better than the latter bits for me and my family.

Of course that still doesn’t answer the question of becoming a gentleman. When I dig into the classical English definition of the status I probably just squeak into the financial section as I do not need to work down t’ mines for daily lump of grey soggy bread. I have enough saved to afford grey soggy bread. Dripping is another thing – I would need to become a racetrack tout to afford dripping. It is doing all the other gentleman business that is hard:

1. Possessing a learned and noble mind is one thing. Latin, Greek, French…That dentistry career was certainly somewhat learned but it is hard to be noble with someone else’s spit on your fingers all day. Likewise my employment after that – dealing with people’s greed over a shop counter all week – tends to wear the armour of the gentleman very thin in spots. I have been an avid reader for years and I think that this has supplied a little of what formal study did not. Still no Latin or Greek, though.

2. Fine gentlemanly clothes. Well, I do have a basic wardrobe of these – three suits and a half dozen good shirts. They are snuggled next to the flannelette and khaki and denim old clothes in the closet. At least they will last – they get a run about twice a year. And they have the advantage that they have been chosen with classical care – the styles are undefinable and timeless.

3. Kindliness and noble nature. Well, I did not hit the cat with a hammer these last three weeks when it was confined yowling inside the house whilst recovering from an abscess. It survived to run free in the end. Does that count?

4. Bravery. Heaven only knows if I would ever be brave and I don’t want to find out. I prefer dramas to be kept on television rather than confront them in real life. And I don’t watch television…

5. Generosity and modesty. Well you can’t comment on one without destroying the other. Suffice it to say I never pass by a person who is begging for money to buy drugs without assaulting them. They wish to get their kicks and I merely cut out the middle man.

6. Reverence for religion. Ah, yes. Well at least I do score well here. I treat all religions with equal reverence. Indeed I treat many other things in the same way – fulminate of mercury, electricity, taipan snakes, political questions. I never ask and I never tell.

The scorecard is looking far from promising. I do not see myself qualifying for White’s or Bootle’s anytime soon, much less for a living in a comfortable parish. I doubt a commission from the sovereign will come my way, nor an honorary degree from any institution of worth. My old university promises fellowship at some sort of gathering but I think it is  ploy to get my bank details. I’ve half a mind to give them the information just to see their disappointment when they try to clean out the account…

 

 

Im Haus Nichtes Neues

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I am enjoying the cool and quiet in the house. The family are Elsewhere, doing Other Things. I wish them well and will welcome their return…but not for a while.

Please don’t get me wrong. They are not gone for 3-5 years with good behaviour. They are not interstate/overseas/on another planet. They will be back for tea, but until then peace can prevail – peace and literary endeavour.

It is surprising how external noise, smell, and bustle can interfere with the thought processes. I found it inexpressibly so in my old workplace as telephones, customers, bosses, and passing mountebanks constantly interrupted the workplace weblog column. In some cases a simple set of three paragraphs took three hours to write – a circumstance not helped by the fact that the internal internet connections of the building were faulty. Some days saw no social media communication due to ” interrupted service “. It was the commercial version of snow on the points at Didcot.

Of course there are also the internal interruptions. I need a water, I need a coffee, I need a pee…now I need another water…Some of these are my mind telling me I have no story to communicate and sending me off to get one. Quite what gems of philosophy I hope to bring back from the refrigerator or the toilet is a moot point. The interruptions for physical needs are one thing – stopping for mental refuelling is another. Sometimes you just need more thought inside the brain if you are going to pour it out on the keyboard. This is what reading breaks or a trip out in the car can provide. Sometimes all you need to do is see one new idea or sight and the business flows again.

No writer can bang away all day and hope to keep on target – unless they were Anthony Trollope and then he did not so much write as turn a handle on a word machine and cut the resulting prose up into chapters. Rather the literary equivalent of an efficient sausage machine. I admire Anthony and wish I had his celerity. And his salary. Hell, I’d settle for his celery, particularly if I could get the sticks with the cream cheese in the center.

The best I can do is what I’m doing now; taking a holiday day and racking up one weblog post after another in anticipation of a trip interstate in a few weeks. This column may be difficult to write from a little Ipad during the ten days I am away, but if I have a number of posts ready to go on the launcher I may be able to use that iPad to send them out each day. The trick in doing this is not to tie the posting to a particular day – to make it universal enough to cover a broad space of time.

I should be interested to read in other weblog columns how their authors operate. Are they all in garrets typing away in gloom and spiders or are they in gay cafés surrounded by noisy waiters and the clash of plates? Do any of them deliberately poison all the people in their apartment building just to get enough quiet to write? Is it very expensive, poison?