The Haunting

Forget spirits. Forget vampires. Forget werewolves.

None of them are real. They’re just literary and cinematic devices to get money out of your pocket. But sit and quake with fear about the new haunting. For you will have brought it on yourself…as we all have.

You will have done it when you bought something from eBay. Or used Paypal. Or googled up an online store selling essential oils, crystals, and Krupp artillery fuses.You will have set in train a series of connections that will follow you forever – a ghost train, if you will. The advertisers who lurk in the fetid swamps of the internet will have risen in the miasma and infiltrated your life. They will now pop up everywhere.

You cannot exorcise them. You cannot buy them off. No sacrifice you make will banish them. They are going to pursue you long after the vengeful Furies have let you off the hook. They do not seek your brains, or your soul. They seek your money.

How can you get release? How can you find peace? What can save your sanity?

Just send $ 39.95 to this address in a plain, sealed envelope and the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia will send the envelope straight back to you. It will miraculously be empty, and you can fill it up again. And for a brief period, no-one will try to sell you fidget spinners or pictures of Justin Trudeau in costume. It will be like Heaven, except Heaven is harder to get into than the BGA.

You know it’s the right thing to do.

The Spam Queue

This column attracts spam. As do all the others I write. So, I would imagine, would a note left in a bottle for the milkman – given the ever-reaching greed of internet pests.

Fortunately there is a program that drives away most of this traffic, putting it into a bin for me to empty periodically. I have learned to give the contents only the most cursory glance before flushing it. Once, within a space of a decade, there may be a genuine message leaking into the cesspool. More often the seepage is the other way. I am prepared to lose one real comment amongst the dross.

Like the Indian scam phone callers, I am at a loss to think that anyone could ever be interested enough in these fraudulent pests to ever respond to them…and I imagine that it would only spark a greater onslaught. Yet, the fact remains that they keep coming. This suggests some profit from it for the criminals and therefore some engagement by the unwary. If there is a trail of anything, it will be a trail of money and stupidity.

It is tempting to go on the hike as well. If others can pick an occasional drachma from the pockets of the unwary, surely I can put my hand in there too. I have been able to persuade people to all sorts of folly in the past, and I hope my skills are still with me. It’s just thinking how to do it…

Will they fall for sending me money directly? That’s been tried by everyone from Nigeria to Nunawading, and unless you have  dewy-eyed kittens marching on Parliament House, you are unlikely to access the right level of gullibility. I can be dewy-eyed but kitten suits are hot and itchy.

I could threaten. If they are frightened of the Immigration Department there is a chance that they’ll pay to avoid deportation. If the Taxation Department is their nightmare I can put on my best Jobsworth manner and impose fines left, right, and center. But I have no need of iTunes cards or anything else that might be duped out of them. It’d have to be cash or nothing, and that leaves the operational problem of collecting it. I don’t mind the victims being dumb, but I don’t want to join them.

Perhaps cajoling would work. I could try to shame them for eating meat, or vegetables, or sugar, or really anything…with the absolute certainty that they will feel guilty about something. It’s just finding out that secret shame and whacking it with a mallet.

I wish I was better at begging in rags. I’ve got the rags, all right, courtesy of a lifetime of never cleaning the wardrobe out, but the thought of panhandling in shopping centres leaves me cold. I don’t like the places all that much when I’ve got money, so doing the urban poor act would be even worse.  I suppose I could send out invitations for people to visit me here at home and I could do it in the lounge room, but somehow it doesn’t sound all that promising.

 

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…