Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smarter than your average jar

The article which WAS here, on the subject of Gary Ablett's Herald Sun think-piece about evolution, peanut butter, and why it's science's fault he supplies massive amounts of drugs to women young enough to be his daughter, has been taken off the blog due to the piece being promoted to the ABC. Enjoy it there.

But while you're here, why not admire the great man's unique grace and athleticism. And, um, brains and stuff.

Friday, March 19, 2010

No, REALLY Hitting the Big Time

There are many kinds of success in this world.

There's financial success. There's career success. There's the success of raising a healthy, loving family.

But all of these are as scraps of pig slops to a strawberry cheesecake when compared to being publicly thanked by Andrew Bolt.

The fact that he later found out who I actually was, and is no longer even slightly positively-dispositioned towards me, does not diminish the honour. Neither does the fact he never really regarded me with any gratitude in the first place. Unfortunately the details are private. I'll tell you at the bar.

Incidentally, Bolt eventually did acknowledge the rather obvious error that in that post he had refused to acknowledge. I mean, he sort of acknowledged it. I mean, "I was wrong" is an acknowledgment, even if the post itself ends up being "I was wrong but still much more right than anyone else".

By the way, "reader TQS", Bolt may have thanked you, but you will never have what he and I have. It is special.

And then, of course, he has his "final last thought" (ooh, promise?) on the subject. Not quite sure what he's doing here. A few different options?

1. Bolt is suggesting that Pope Pius XII would have had his head cut off if he'd spoken out against the Holocaust.

2. Bolt is suggesting that because Dawkins won't speak out against Islamofascists, he is morally equivalent to someone who won't speak out against the Holocaust. He does this by referencing a quote wherein Dawkins speaks out against Islamofascists. He could have picked any quote of many, really. Dawkins slams Islamic extremists all the time.

3. By referring to Richard Dawkins as "the atheist al-Qaeda", Bolt is suggesting that promoting a petition asking for someone not be made a saint is morally equivalent to threatening to cut someone's head off.

You decide. I guess.

Today's homework: In 1000 words or less, compare and contrast the labelling of a Nazi-supporting Pope "Pope Nazi" with the labelling of an atheist scientist "atheist al-Qaeda". Extra points for those students who accurately ascertain the relative levels of barbarism present in each.

Incidentally, a round of applause for Bolt's work ethic: he started blogging at 7:01 am and didn't stop till 12:09 pm. You can't deny he's prolific. And if you did he'd call you a terrorist.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Have Some Problems With This...

Now, the front page story in the Herald Sun today was the story of how Melbourne City Council grants have been given to two artists whose art consists of building and then dismantling brick walls. OK. That's a pretty crucial news story. Bravo, investigative journalism etc, well done on avoiding sensationalism and triviality.

I'm not here to quarrel with the front page story. I am here to quarrel with this editorial on the same subject:

No art to this waste of cash

This story starts like this:

"A MELBOURNE City Council grant to pay artists to build a brick wall, only to knock it down again, gives new meaning to 'thick as a brick.'"

Now here's the thing, "staff writer"...

No it doesn't. I concede that you're just following a trend here, the trend of finding a commonly used phrase with some oblique connection to a story, and then saying "gives new meaning to" in a sad and almost-touching attempt to be witty. I concede that 95 percent of these usages do not in any way demonstrate a new meaning being given to said phrase.

BUT that is no excuse! Can't you think for three seconds before you write?

I mean, how the hell does that give new meaning to "thick as a brick"? If the artists were dressing up as bricks, perhaps, but they're not, are they? They're just building and dismantling walls. And you see, "thick as a brick" means the same thing as it always did, doesn't it? If you said these artists were "thick as a brick", it wouldn't actually develop some devilishly clever double meaning. Dickhead.

And you probably think, OK, "staff writer" has pulled the wrong rein there, but everyone's allowed one wrong rein-pulling in an article, as long as it is an isolated case.


This is the HERALD SUN, where sensationalism walks hand in hand with semi-literacy, and scaremongering rides tall in the saddle occasionally sipping from a canteen full of cool fresh not-as-funny-as-they-think.

Because it ONLY GETS WORSE. Later in the editorial:

"Another brick in the wall, as we are reminded by the Pink Floyd song, is to cost ratepayers $5500."

Now I was stunned by this assertion, and immediately ran to my turntable to give "The Wall" a spin. And here's an interesting fact:

At NO point during the song "Another Brick in the Wall" does Pink Floyd either say, or paraphrase, the sentence, "Another brick in the wall is to cost ratepayers $5500".

Check it out, Herald Sun! The album is readily available! There is, in fact, no reference to ratepayers at all!

In other words, if you were to listen to any of the three parts of the song "Another Brick in the Wall", you would not be reminded in any way of the cost to ratepayers of another brick in the wall. What is more, I doubt that this was ever Roger Waters's intention! It seems, to say the least, far-fetched to suppose that as he sat down to compose his masterpiece, he thought, "Now we need a real epic protest song so that people will never forget how much it cost City of Melbourne ratepayers to hire two women to build and tear down small brick walls. It was $5500, and after this hits the charts, EVERYBODY WILL REMEMBER THAT!"

I do not think this happened.

And to pile outrage upon outrage, it's not even true that another brick in the wall will cost ratepayers $5500. That is the cost of the entire installation - so one brick would be just a fraction of that. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT HERALD SUN!

And even if you don't, please note that a newspaper editorial is, ideally, a considered commentary on current events. The purpose of editorialising becomes, at the least, blurred, when the editorial morphs into some kind of bizarre comedy routine/1970s prog-rock medley.

THINK about it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hitting the Big Time

Readers with long memories and dogged senses of commitment may remember a little article I wrote a while back called "Just Done It".

This was an article about Bettina Arndt and her book "The Sex Diaries". It was, to be perfectly honest (sorry to shatter any illusions here), an article that, to a certain extent, made fun of her. That is, it sort of mocked her, her book, her theories, her genitalia. Well, not her genitalia. The editors cut those fifteen paragraphs out. But anyway, it was a somewhat mocking article with a bit of a "hahahaha Bettina you brainless twat" tone to it.

And I had thought that was the end of that.

But if life has taught me anything it is this: that is NEVER the end of that, particularly in Wagga Wagga.

For that august town's Daily Advertiser on the 10th March published an interesting piece about Mrs Arndt and her recent trip to Boorowa (not far from Young, fortunately!) to celebrate International Women's Day and tell women to get jiggy with it more often.

And you will NOT BELIEVE THIS, readers, but the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser actually MENTIONED ME!

Little me!

And this is what it said:

"Bettina Arndt has been dubbed `man's
best friend'," Ben Pobjie author of Just Done
It comments. "Every writer knows that sex
sells. In deed when my own articles are
erotically charged each week the better they
are received and when the average person
hears the word sex they think of Bettina
Arndt. She helps people who are having
problems in their sex lives but never before
has she made such a contribution to mass
sexual satisfaction as in her latest book in
which she argues that the greatest cause of
unhappy relationships is the discrepancy
between the male and female libido.

I was very chuffed to see I was big in Wagga Wagga, but I couldn't help noticing...well...I mean...tell me if somehow that excerpt there sort of suggests somehow that I am...kind of...

a big fan of Bettina Arndt? I mean, I can't help feeling that the Daily Advertiser has actually quoted me as a sort of pro-Arndt blurb-writer, taking the quote slightly out of context and ignoring other parts of my article, such as this:

Believe me, I know whereof I speak. Like most men, I have for many years been enjoying sex that I didn’t actually want to have. On several occasions I have enjoyed sex that I didn’t even realise I was having until about halfway through. Because men are troopers. Even when they really don’t want to have sex, they are willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the greater good.

Or this?

There’s no point in keeping your sex-canoe in dry dock your whole life. If you ever want to experience the joys of the river of intercourse, you have to get your canoe off the shores of abstinence, negotiate the rapids of foreplay, and tip yourself over the penetration waterfall. The American Indians knew this, but somewhere along the line we have lost the eternal truth of canoes.

Of course, it is possible that once the canoe is out, the woman might discover that she’s not actually enjoying it. Well, that’s canoes for you. Watersports are not for everyone. But would she rather not have a canoe? Would she rather her husband left her for a woman with bigger oars? In summary, the message is this: boating metaphors are less sexy than you might think.

I just feel slightly misrepresented here. Am I wrong?

Mind you, my feeling of misrepresentation is less profound than my feeling of confusion when I read these words penned by Narelle Ross of the Advertiser:

The story of the sex-starved husband has
struck a chord. For many men - not all by
any means - sexual performance is an issue
of deep insecurity. It starts in the
playground when they overhear older kids
recounting their `so-called sexual exploits'
most of which turn out to be `flights of the
"We know in our hearts that any woman
lucky enough to experience the awesome
pleasure of our attention should just thank
her lucky stars as she swoons and hopes that
one day she might be allowed some more."
But it doesn't happen like this - very often
most men agree.

Dear Narelle Morse:


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Unusual Beyond Normal Bounds Of Politeness?

A Curious Story

Now, through a rather unlikely and complex series of events, it so happens that I found myself with a mix CD in my car which contains the rather catchy song "One Night in Bangkok" as sung by Murray Head and, apparently, Anders Glenmark - so there you go.

It also so happens that by nature I am a curious fellow, and when I find something I enjoy, I like to do a bit of research and find out more about the object of my affection. I already knew a bit about "One Night in Bangkok" - that it was composed by Benny and Bjorn from ABBA for example (although Tim Rice's involvement had been forgotten), and that it was on a vinyl LP that used to live in my family home featuring all the hits of 1984, including but not limited to:

- Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
- The Eurhythmics' "Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
- Black Lace's "Agadoo"
- Icehouse's "Electric Dreams"

All fine songs which I can expound on later. This is about "One Night in Bangkok". One thing I also recalled was that it was a song taken from the musical Chess, by the aforementioned Benny, Bjorn and Tim. I vaguely remember commercials for the show on TV when I was a lad, but knew little about it. So I looked it up on trusty resource Wikipedia.

Here I found out many useful facts about the musical's genesis, development, success and critical reaction. But I also found out something that may well haunt me till the day I die, or till the day there is a revival of the show that I attend.

In the plot synopsis of the Broadway version of the show Chess, we are reliably informed by Wikipedia that this happens:

The world chess championship is being held in Bangkok. At a press conference, the brash American challenger, Freddie Trumper, relishes the crowd's affection, while the current Russian champion, Anatoly Sergievsky, and Molokov, his second, watch with curiosity and disdain. During the match, Freddie accuses Anatoly of receiving outside help via the flavor of yogurt he is eating, and Freddie storms out, leaving his second, Florence, in an argument with the Arbiter and the Russians.

Let me isolate the pertinent part of that, in case you missed it:

Freddie accuses Anatoly of receiving outside help via the flavor of yogurt he is eating

Let us be quite clear here. In Chess, a musical which looks at the Cold War through the medium of the tension and strategy of international chess, the opening scenes pivot on one character accusing another of cheating...with yoghurt.


He accuses him of cheating with yoghurt.

Now, I know the accusation is a trumped-up charge, but nevertheless you would think a false accuser would want something a bit more plausible, wouldn't you? A bit more plausible than "This is intolerable! He is using his yoghurt to defeat me!"


This will gnaw at me for the rest of my life, and yet I am not sure I even want to know.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spencer Tunick: A Life

Spencer Tunick is a photographer. Through his photography he seeks to reveal truths about the universe and the human condition. His camera is his means of making sense of the world, and communicating this sense to his audience, who are made wiser and more insightful as a result.

Tunick began taking photographs of nude people in 1986. Through his photographs of nude people, he made a profound statement about modernity and culture. However, he soon saw that simply taking photographs of nude people would not be enough to truly impact the world's consciousness in a way that would bring about lasting change in modes of thinking. He realised that only photographs of large numbers of nude people all in one place could do so. This insight has allowed him to explore themes of society, politics, and inner psychological states that heretofore were considered impossible for a single artist to successfully grapple with.

For example, Tunick has managed to encapsulate modern man's struggle with aspiration of status while simultaneously looking for a sense of the spiritual. He has done this by taking a photograph of a bunch of nude people:

Alternately, he has also examined human history, showing how the mistakes of the past are seemingly constantly repeated, but that progress can be and is made, however incrementally and painfully it is done. He skilfully portrays this via the means of a photograph of a bunch of nude people:

Feeling the need to explore new horizons, Tunick turned his attention to the future, and made a non-judgmental, achingly poetic exploration of how technology both shapes and is shaped by its users, and whether increased connectivity is worth the concomitant loss of deeper human feeling. This exploration was cunningly ande evocatively couched in terms of a photograph of a bunch of nude people:

The insights of Tunick on what it means to be human are almost endless. There is his comment on religious intolerance:

His summation of the immigration debate:

His opinion on the politicisation of climate change:

His thesis on tax reform:

And of course his scathing critique of the current system of banking regulation, with almost pithy comment on the urgent need for structural change to the International Monetary Fund's mechanism for providing aid to debt-stricken developing nations:

So, to sum up, Spencer Tunick is what might be called a true artist, a visionary who sees far so that we not have to, and he is no way a creepy middle-aged man obsessed with looking at nude people, or deserving of mocking phrases like "Spencer...for Christ's sake, get over it, man."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Burning Bright

I have had time to ruminate on Tiger Woods's apology, and more specifically, the reaction to it.

Now, how sincere he was, who knows? As much as everyone seems to think they know...well, they don't. But the general consensus seems to be it was cynical, rehearsed, all for appearances' sake, insincere, fake, phoney, and so on, and so on.

OK, so for everyone who has offered their opinion along the lines of "oh he was so fake, I don't buy it for a second, what a farce, what a disgrace, he's not sorry at all, how dare he..." I have a piece of advice for YOU. Which is this:

Shut the fuck up and count your goddamn blessings.

Because here is the thing: generally, people don't receive apologies from complete strangers who have not actually done anything to them. So here is what has happened.

A man has offered an apology to a group of people who he does not know, who do not know him, against whom he has committed no sin, whom he has never done anything to hurt in his entire life, and who have never ever received any sort of injury or harm as a direct or indirect result of his actions or words, ever.

And these people have immediately commenced bitching about how this completely unwarranted apology did not live up to their lofty expectations.

Seriously, stop being such a bunch of dicks. Show some frigging gratitude you got anything from Tiger, who actually didn't owe you anything, doesn't owe you anything, and won't owe you anything in the future.

"Oh, he's provided such marvellous entertainment for me over the years, I take it as a personal affront that his private life in which I have no part was less than satisfactory to me".


Shut up.