The Verge Collection

Do you have them in your country? In your suburb? The semi-annual opportunity to haul out all the old items that have given up the ghost, or the new ones that you are ashamed of, and let the council haul it all away. Ours is this week and I have created a large little pile.

They specify only good junk – no batteries, paint, or munitions. No old asbestos fences. You are not allowed to throw bodies on the pile. I grumble at this sort of prissiness on the part of the council – in the good old days garbage men would take anything.

But, if you want to lose the old computers, exercise bicycles, Tupperware lids, and floor lamps, you have to comply. You’re not allowed to crowd the verge until the week of the pickup, either.

Fortunately, in addition to the official trucks there is also a veritable army of private scavengers who tour the streets with vans and utes and sift through the piles before the council gets the good stuff. It’s probably illegal, but no-one cares. As long as they observe the unwritten rule of leaving the pile neat when they go, most householders are more than happy to see the stuff vanish as soon as possible. It makes more verge room for the next shift of trash.

I noted today that we lost the garden tubs and the cordless telephone but gained a broken scooter and several coathangers. I cannot for the life of me think why people would add to the pile in the night, but then they might have too much loot on their rickshaw and have to off-load the extra. I once had a prowler leave an untouched IKEA glass shelf that fit my IKEA bookcases – a definite win.

They only do hard goods twice a year, and green waste ditto to a different roster. It is in lieu of giving everyone a tip card and letting them dump their own junk. I think they could up the frequency and people might be tempted to wind back the consumerism a bit. Tough on the exercise machine market and the broken office chair trade, but good for the environment.

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Old Coot On The Road

Old Coot here. How ya going?

I’m the maddening character in the little car at the front of the traffic queue going very slightly less than the sign-posted speed limit. The one in the hat with both hands on the wheel. If you’re polite to me I’ll be in the left-hand lane for most of the journey.

Note: I write from Perth, in Western Australia, where the left-hand lane is the curb-side slow lane. The middle and right-hand lanes are for the people who wish to go faster and I wouldn’t dream of interfering with them as they do.

My little car is bright hi-vis green so that you can see it and dodge round it when you are racing toward your next amphetamine delivery. Don’t worry about me racing you for it…I hate to wear rubber off the tyres needlessly. And there is no need to flip fingers or scream obscenities out of the windows. I am perfectly willing to regard you as obscene under any circumstances.

No good looming up behind me to terrify me. I’ve worked retail for years – I can stand a looming that would crush a battlecruiser. I won’t speed up at all for tyrants, whether they are at a counter or a steering wheel. Being retired, I rarely need to get anywhere on my own time, let alone anyone else’s. And I like to use the exercise of driving to give me time to think. Time to think of my Super-Power…Old Coot Super Power.

Old Coots have been here before – sometimes here was better before, and sometimes it was worse – we have a comparison to go by. If it is worse now we are prepared to do something to make it better, and if it is better now we are prepared to take the time to be grateful.

We have seen better people than you do worse things, and as we are still here driving, we know how to cope with it. As conceited as you may want to be, you are not our worst nightmare. In fact a lot of us have taken up the nightmare business ourselves and we know how to do a lot with very small resources. And we are always looking for something to fill the day in between the morning radio serial and the cocktail hour.

Old Coots know that one day it is all going to end. And we’ve generally racked up enough time already to free us from regret if the one day turns out to be next Tuesday. Threatening us may seem all gangsta until you find out that we don’t care – and the man who doesn’t care is a floating sea mine with one bent horn. Steer clear.

Old Coots also can be very kind. We will change tyres for the helpless, guide the lost, and provide lunch for anyone. There is a price – we will talk while we do it. And the topic may not be apposite to the problem at hand. Don’t feel that you can ignore us – there will be a quiz later, and half your year’s marks will depend upon it.

Old Coots will rarely cuss you out, and if they do the terms they use will most likely sound quaint. They’re not. If an Old Coot calls you cowardly son of a bitch, he means it, and you are. Old Coots operate on simpler vocabularies.

If an Old Coot thanks you or praises you they also mean that sincerely.

 

Free the Political Prismers

Don’t I mean political prisoners? No, though it might be a nice gesture for them, too.  And in some cases it would give them a welcome opportunity to take their turn as the local tyrant and imprison others. A game of musical cells…

What I really want is freedom from the complimentary rainbow that WordPress stuck on my blog page some weeks ago. As pleasant as it might look, and as charming as the cause for which it advocates may be, it is a banner that has little to do with the rest of the writing. It is also a little cloying.

I hope that when the results of the same-sex-Simon-Says plebiscite are announced and the business goes off to the parliament for resolution that the WordPress operators will take it off again. They can bombard their members of parliament with as many rainbows as they like, but I’d appreciate a return to normal* round here. If people want bands of colour, I can make them in Photoshop and string them all over the place.

Here’s one advocating triple-expansion cylinders for French steam locomotives. I think it deserves your support.

 

*  Normal is not a good thing to define as it tends to make the neighbors nervous.

The Authentic Fake News Site Vs The False-Flag Rumour Forum List Meme

If we were asked to characterize the social media that we use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – in terms of food, what would we make it out to be?

a. Facebook: A crusty stew with appetizing aromas at the edges – aromas that never actually seem to be there when you search for them. The occasional bubble in the centre indicating heat. And a roiling mass of unsavoury ingredients just under the crust. Cat hair here and there. And unicorn glitter.

b. Twitter: A Pez dispenser. You poke the ornamental head at the top and a hard pellet of opinion is popped out of the screen. Some of the pellets taste like sugar and some of them taste like horse shit. None of them do you any good at all.

c. Instagram: Magnificently plated, superbly coloured, and unavailable to someone like you at this time. Just look and envy.

d. Pinterest: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so is the food. The reason is mould. Subscribe now.

e. The personal blog: Someone’s home cooking. Not necessarily bad, but nevertheless someone else’s pots and pans. Taste at your peril. They may not be a good cook. You may not be a good eater.

If we had been presented with today’s social media news in the 1950’s or 1960’s we would likely have recognised it for what it is – propaganda and commercial promotion. The flimsiest of the flam. Those of us who saw the lies when they came on newsprint and left ink stains on the fingers…or who waded through innumerable cigarette advertisements in magazines…react entirely differently to those who have only ever seen a screen. We may not know how to turn that screen on and make it dance, but we know when to turn it off and do our own thinking.

Of course we can be wrong when we do that – original thought can be as bad as the store-bought stuff – but as we use simpler ingredients and have less access to processors, it is likely to be fresher and tastier. It may lack the salt and scandal that is added by unknown hackers but it nourishes us just the same.

Bit riskier when we send it to our friends and neighbours, though. As our own thoughts are unlikely to be covered by the legal indemnities enjoyed by professional liars, we are in danger of being detected and having our opinions challenged. Most of us have no biased reports or dodgy scientific studies to back us up and common sense has long been discredited as a way of living. The best we can do when some other madman challenges our own mania is throw out a smokescreen of kitten and Hitler memes and close the account.

Anyone who either agrees or disagrees with this will be instantly defriended with the prickly end of an emoji.

Civility And How To Avoid It- Part 1

With the rise of civil behaviour and good manners in the last few years – prompted in large part by the election of Mr. Donald Trump to the American Presidency – there has been an increasing feeling of unease in the backstabbing community. The Guild hopes to be able to reassure members and the general public and to set us all back on the proper pathway. Because everything off the pathway is strewn with mines.

Let’s start by making sure that people know what civility actually is – it is no good starting at phantoms and then letting real dangers slip in the door.

Civility is adult behaviour of considerate men and women who take care to treat others with respect and who do not cause unnecessary suffering. It is related to politeness and kindness, as wens are related to furuncles and boils, and it is equally welcome. Civility is the cement of societies…a thought that may comfort some until they realise that cement is also used to weight bodies that will be dumped in the harbour.

Civility may also be defined as a social pavise that allows one to get within easy crossbow-shot of the unsuspecting. As such, it is not that bad. You can paint soothing mental pictures on the front of it to make people think that a work of art is creeping up on them. Then, when they have been lulled into an aesthetic sense of safety you pop up and let one loose at them. If you do it in a completely calm and unemotional voice they may not even believe it was you. Quietly crouch under the protection as you wind your windlass and prepare for a second shot.

It’s not likely that you’ll get a third one off undetected, so be prepared to creep away. In some cases it is wise to creep as fast as your feet will carry you.

It has often been said that it costs nothing to be civil. True, and in many cases the behaviour is worth every penny you pay… In the case of Backstabbers Guild members we would advise a more commercial approach – be as polite as you need to be for as long as you need to be. Once your object has been achieved you can stop the pretence and go back to normal.  If you do it unobtrusively the memory of your kindness will continue far after you have resumed being cruel.

Remember that Mary Poppins – a Backstabber if ever there was one – said that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. She was, of course, speaking before the current research into diabetes, obesity, and social virtue damned the sugar industry. And she was likely on the payroll of CSR. But she was right – you can sweeten vitriol, paraquat, and curare quite effectively if there are no hypodermic darts available. We advise that you never lick the spoon.

Part 2 will detail civility in different civilisations, though we have no data for Tasmania or Newfoundland as they are not civilisations

 

The Sniper Team

Recent events have made this a parlous sort of title for my weblog column but read on and you’ll see why I wrote it.

On my Facebook today a post prompted a series of exchanges – between people with whom I am familiar and people who are complete strangers. I hasten to add that I did not intrude into the exchange. The root cause of the fight, as it will be of many others, was the reports we received of the events of the recent hotel shootings in Las Vegas.

There was a great deal of anguish shown by the various people involved in the discussion and eventually it started to spill over into sexual politics, cross-accusation, and nastiness. The person who originated the thing then called an end to the discussion. One of the participants claimed a sort of victory. It’s an occurance that happens frequently on Facebook.

I could not help being drawn to compare it to some of the practices outlined in a book written by a Captain C. Shore about British army sniping in the world wars. Not the Las Vegas thing…that is yet to be seen for what it may well prove to be…but the use of the spotter, shooter, and decoy system in scoring victories on social media.

Why this should be seen as desirable, in what is supposed to be an on-line community, is sometimes not clear, but the thing that is evident is that there are frequent occasions where a person sets up a tempting post to invite comments and one of their friends sits waiting until a target reacts. Then there is a brief flurry of outraged and biased virtue-scoring posted to dominate the unwary target.

If the person caught in this barrage responds with a counterattack that seems to answer the question or puts the sniper in a bad light, the spotter – acting as originator of the whole sequence – shuts it down by declaring an end. In some cases they can weave back and edit out the target’s posts. The sniper team is left to publicly do the little dance of victory of whichever social army they fight for.

Happened on the computer today to someone else – happened to me some time ago with a different sniping team. The only remedy I could see at the time was to defriend the spotter – the sniper was not on my list.

I’m warier these days about what I say to whom. I rarely defriend anyone, but I do sometimes switch them to the unseen track. And when I meet them in person I am careful to restrict my speech to ” Yay Yay” and ” Nay Nay ” as per biblical instructions. Because all the rest is bound to be sin and sorrow.

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.