The Portrait Portrays

Or betrays. Then it is known as a betrait…

We are all accustomed to internet posts that have an image of the author at the introduction. The facility with which an actual photo can be added to a social site is marvellous – but few people realise what they are either showing or seeing. Frequently the picture trips up both poster and viewer.

I use a construct – a picture taken of myself in the studio wearing my dad’s old khaki shirt ( 60+ years old and still going strong ) a freebie hat I got from Nikon – with their trademark struck out – a pair of binoculars, and a 1:18 scale plastic fighter plane. You are encouraged to think I am an admiral on an aircraft carrier. I particularly admire the resolute look on my face. I think it is most probably wind…

Other people use pictures that have been sliced from phone cameras or worse. They are lucky to be recognisable. A phone selfie in a bathroom making a duck face is a poor advertisement for a duck, let alone a person.

One person I’ve noticed, an internet troll, uses a quasi-mysterious selfie with roiling edges and the expression of a dyspeptic llama. It’s ugly, but damned accurate. He cannot be accused of deceptive trading.

As opposed to these travesties, some people use genuinely beautiful images as their trademarks. It’s a wise move, and even if they do not match up to the image in real life, the picture is so much more with us that we remember it instead of them. It’s a mistake to steal someone else’s beauty, but if you can pay for at least one good shot of yourself, it’s money well spent.

The no-image introduction, or the cartoon character presented in lieu, are as telling as any real image. The person does not wish to give anything away – either of themselves or of their time. Whatever they write is not backed up with any veracity of personal presence – and can generally be flicked over instantly. You can brand yourself well or badly and get the attention of the populace, but when you are a faceless opinion you lose most of your credibility. Even if all you post is a picture of the either end of your alimentary canal, you are making a genuine contact.

I must show you my collection of orifices some time.





I Used To Wonder But The Internet Cured Me Of Asking Questions

I have heard the internet described as a series of interconnected rabbit holes – you go down one in search of something and are decoyed into a side tunnel that delivers you somewhere else. That is, if you are not distracted in this second tunnel and head down a third one…

If this were the case it would be no worse than a set of encyclopedias. We possessed a set of World Book Encyclopedias when I was a child – probably provided by my maternal grandfather – and they were the greatest source of indoor entertainment I had. They even surpassed toys and other books, as they had actual facts in them, rather than bunny rabbits and fairy stories.

Of course, as a particular set of encyclopedias, they were as biased as their American publishers could make them. Had they been Encyclopedia Britannica or some Russian version translated into English, they would have been equally skewed to their countries of origin, but the young readers who resorted to them on rainy days would not have recognised that. An encyclopedia , like a dictionary, has that air of divine authority that makes heresy of any other thought.

Well that’s gone. I still have a set of World Book, got in the 1980’s, and it is very much the same product that it was in the 50’s. I do love it for the country and state facts it presents and you cannot do too much with basic chemistry or physics, but Oh Dear, the politics. And the dated views of major cities.

Is there ever going to be an authoritative encyclopedia of knowledge any more within cardboard covers? Or is it all to be updated-by-the second internet references that are supposedly reviewed for accuracy by…by…wait a minute…

The guy who was reviewing them. Isn’t he banged up in an embassy somewhere? I wonder if he would like some reading material while he is in stir? I’ve got a complete set of the World Book he can have.


Please Verify Your Password

I used to be terrified of Soviet bombers appearing over the northern horizon. They would be  bringing death and destruction to all I knew. Then times changed and they wouldn’t. It was a relief but by then I had built up a good reserve of anxiety and needed a release for it.

I’ve found it. Now I can be terrified of someone asking me for my password.

And everyone does. From the bank to the computer shop to the makers of everything that I own and everything I do – they all want a password. I’ve been tempted to give them all the same one, but this is apparently a bad thing. If I did they could all get access to my data and…wait a minute…they all have access to my data right now…for all I know they could be sitting in the cyber equivalent of a dark tavern and plotting to over throw my regime. Just as well I don’t have one…

An older person forgets. It is a fact of life. An older person forgets. Frequently they repeat themselves. An older person forgets. I gotta pee…

No, seriously, the profusion of personal passwords is a curse. I can see the utility of it with a bank account – and I DO remember mine. But I also see the folly of having one password for the on-line enquiries and a separate one for the over-the-counter dealings. When you combine this with words for computer programs that you may need to reset, it makes for a nightmare. Many of us oldies actually delete the apps and avoid the sort of contact that requires a password. Things are missed out altogether as just too much flaming trouble to do.

Answer? One password. The bad idea mentioned before. I have one in mind that can stay in my mind and be unique to me in all the minds of the world. I plan to change the rag-tag of all the other passwords to it, and then use it exclusively. The only other word I’ll keep is the one that locks my bank account – it too is unique in all the world.

Creative Heckling In The Digital Age

Once upon a time a heckler had only two weapons – their voice and a basket full of over-ripe tomatoes. Both might come arching out of the darkness to disrupt a speech, play, poetry reading, or political speech, and it was as well to have a washable costume as a resilient mind. Both of these forms of heckling were possible only if the person being bothered had no way of retaliation.

But time and again, the heckler may have found out they bit off more than they could chew. Ragging a first-time open mike comic at a pub might send them off in tears, but trying the same thing on a first-line comic in a closed venue – particularly if it was in a crowd of fans – could prove costly. In some cases the comic was well enough in with the staff – or owned the club themselves – and could have a portable spot turned on the loudmouth. And then let fly with whatever would best shut them up.

Heckling at a political rally might even do more good than harm for the candidate. Several presidential candidates and many parliamentary ones have benefitted from being quicker-witted than their detractors and with the benefit of national press coverage have spurted ahead in popularity on the basis of a put-down.

Note: Heckling in a courtroom is technically known as contempt of court and is generally rewarded with time in the Coldwater Hotel. Shout if you must, but you will get thrown into the street or a cell…

Well, that’s the old days – now we have the internet, the social media site, and the fake news phenomenon to play with. Heckling can be referred to as trolling, pranking, and any number of other fashionable words – and can be indulged in from the comfort of Mom’s basement. No need to go out in the cold and be unpleasant when you can do so from home. You can also do so from someone else’s home or home-site if you are clever enough. It almost seems that the possibilities are endless. Who can stop you?

a. The police: You leave a finger, foot, or other part of the body print every time you hit a keyboard. If you are illegally obnoxious, they are sometimes forced to become legally so.

b. The FBI/KGB/ ASIO/ Mossad/Deuxieme Bureau/MI5,6,7,and 8: They have minds even more devious than the local cops and a bigger budget. Piss on them and they have the resources to wring you out like a dishcloth.

c. The faceless Facebook: If you cost them money, they will stop you from costing them money. They can do it by pressing a switch.

d. Mrs. Mulcahey: Donny’s mother. If you give Donny a bad time she also has a switch. It is about a half-inch thick and made of hickory and she’ll apply it to your ass until she gets tired of hitting you…and Mrs. Mulcahey is a woman of stamina…

” Do Tell Me You Loathe it “

The cartoon is pinched off the internet…in turn pinched from a copy of Punch magazine of the 1930’s. The fun it pokes at Moderne architecture and the pretensions of the owners is dated, but priceless. However, it would appear that with the advent of the social media campaign, satire might now be spread into our era.

We’re currently seeing several campaigns in our social media to do with changes to marriage law in Australia. A questionnaire has been sent to us all asking if we would like to see same-sex marriage introduced. We get to answer yes or no, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be making the result known to the parliament. What they do with the opinion count is anyone’s guess.

The form is simple – yes or no – but from the way people are behaving on the social media section of the internet, I think it should have included a number of additional questions and options:

a. Yes, and I want the ABS to tell everyone on my Facebook list. And I want to get a signed receipt from each one of them to show that they know what I voted for.

b. Yes, but not when I’m looking.

c. Yes, But can we have something in it about the participants not writing their own vows and reading them out to the assembled guests before the bar opens? Please?

d. Yes, but not for certain people on the list I’ve enclosed with this form. Especially not No. 4 and No. 17 on the list. Not after what they said.

e. No, but not because I am a bad person. Because you asked…

f. No, but you can change the inheritance laws if you like.

g. Yes and No. Well, you asked. If you wanted a definite answer you should have made it a lot more vague. Hint first, then qualify that hint. Like a legislative game of ” Clue “.

h. No, but then yes, and then no again. And then yes. That should use up a couple of parliaments, if I know Canberra.

I’ve been watching the informed debate, the uninformed debate, the emotional outbursts, and the cynical jockeying for validation that is Facebook. I know that if I entered into any form of discussion I would be instantly shunned by half the people I know. If I espoused the opposite view I would suffer the same fate from the other half. I would become a social pariah…wandering the cold halls of the internet knocking vainly upon closed doors.

It is the one cheerful image that keeps me going…

Two Dumb And Dangerous Things I’ve Done

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Helluva topic, this. It is one that we can all approach, but I’ll bet many won’t – it would come too close to the bone for some, and raise too many internal questions for others.

It is a question that invites comparison. People who might shiver in recollection of a time they walked out along a rickety old railroad bridge probably don’t care to boast about it to Audey Murphy. It is also a question that invites braggadocio or shameful tears in some…the kind of a thing that makes for a difficult cocktail party. Like the topics of religion, politics, and sex, it is best left to the bedroom, temple, and parliament building.

It also is a bit of a frightener for someone who is just sitting there quietly thinking for themselves, because it sometimes reminds them how close they came to not sitting there at all…

You won’t be interested, but here’s my two. Modest enough, but I still sweat in remembrance.

a. Belgium – Waterloo 1995. First pucker moment was watching the British portion of the 42nd Highlanders load their blank cartridges. They poured about 10 pounds weight of Spanish black powder into a metal wheelbarrow and then stood around it dipping it out of the barrow with tablespoons and other metal implements. Some smoked. The Australian members of the group smiled blandly and ran for the exit. I prepared my statement for the coroner, in case it was needed.

Next day I marched with the troops in my kilt, formed up on the field with the square, watched the Dutchmen next door try to enter Heaven by foolish operation of muzzle-loading cannon. I was on the side of the square nearest to them and acutely aware of the fact. Heaven was full at the time and was not accepting Dutchmen.

Then we all played soldier. We were attacked by cavalry, and had French re-enactors march on us, and then repulsed them ( to be fair, I found them repulsive too…) and eventually marched in victory towards them as they fired at us…we trusted that they were going to fire blanks. The day ended with none of us dying or getting our arms or ankles broken, and then we retired to the town to seek food and beer. As we were eating Belgian hot dogs in the street in front of the town hall we watched the French artillery try to break the windows of the town hall with overcharges of their field pieces.

We realised that they were, in legal and clinical terms, insane…and that the assumption that we had made of safety from actual cannon balls or bullets on the theatrical field was complete folly. We had been in danger of death for hours.

And all for no purpose – it was merely a sham….

b. Every time I sit down to the computer keyboard with the determination to entertain I run the risk of telling more than I should. Worse – I have used it in the past to exact revenge upon people who I feel have done me wrong. In one case a blind barrage hit a magazine and everyone heard it go up.

It is not fair on the bulk of the readers to have to sit through this, and I must resolve not to do it. I guess for many authors there is a fine line between using personal experience as grist for the literary mill and using it for poison. I still need to define that line. Or find a good recipe for poison grist…

Mock, And The World Mocks With You…

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Praise, and you praise alone…

I’ve just been directed by a friend to read a little internet write-up of a medieval festival. It’s held here in the southwest of Western Australia in an area that had almost no European medieval history…until 20 years ago saw the inauguration of a two-day festival. Overseas readers will know them as Renaissance Fayres or other commercial names. For the club of enthusiasts I belong to it has always been a high-point of enjoyment.

The writer of the piece is likely to be a young man – but old enough to feel himself superior to the people at the fair enjoying themselves. He freely confesses to committing 3 hours on the road for the chance to drink too much mead, and is equally candid about planning to mock the whole affair. He has succeeded.

Oh, there are aspects that deserve ribaldry – any public event that mixes enthusiasm with costume and freedom is going to produce humour. The very silly and the very serious are always going to be the butts, and a writer has as many arrows as he has pens. He scores without having to be a good shot – but it is an incautious wit that dances around afterwards and brays about it. It is a particularly incautious wit that takes photographs of identifiable people, makes mocking cations, and then posts these on the internet in a widely – read forum. Wit and writ are words separated by one letter and in some societies this is a very slim barrier. He’s exposed them to ridicule, and exposed himself to retribution.

I am a little heartened to read that he is impressed by the stamina and toughness of the metal-clad fighters. At least he has realised that there are some things that are real. If he opens his eyes a little further he will see that fantasy and commerce do not rule all costumed societies – there is a level of scholarship and achievement that a young person might well emulate.

In short, there is no room for a wastrel in a fighting company. It’s a mans…and woman’s…life in the Grey Company, and I’m happy to say that the young people who are members do grow up to that status. It is also a group that encourages and invigorates the older people – I’m one of them – and is a blessing for that.

I wonder if the young person has the courage to identify himself with either scholarship, art, or healthy vigour. Or identify himself at all. Or if he is just a mocking bird…