Thursday, September 29, 2005

The law

Do I respect the law? Well, I feel it is probably necessary to have laws to ensure that ethically challenged individuals have some compunction to stay within the lines and not endanger life and property but I'm wary of the definitive article when it comes to law.

It's not so much that I (would) pick and choose which laws I obey so much as I see them as secondary to the question at hand. I'm no more inclined to do something just because a bunch of politicians said I could - or avoid doing so because they said I couldn't - than I am to follow some Holy Law that does not sit well with my own evalation of what I feel is right and proper. In that I am exercising my rights as a free-thinking rational being, not as a citizen, a civilian, a subject, or a creation of God.

I may have other forms of existence, but this is the only time I get to be me in this epoch, on this plane of existence, and I'm not giving that up for anybody.

Now lovers of "the law" may find this irresponsible but consider these laws, from the last four centuries:

  • October 1705
    Chap. XLII.
    An act for establishing ports and towns.
    WHEREAS her most sacred majesty, Queen Anne, out of her princely care of this her colony and dominion of Virginia, by instructions to his excellency Edward Nott, Esq. her majestys lieutenant governor- generall here, has been pleased to take notice that the building of towns, warehouses, wharfs and keys, for the more expeditious lading and unlading of ships at proper places in this colony, exclusive of others, will be particularly usefull and serviceable to her majesty, in bringing our people to a more regular settlement and of great advantage to trade, and has therefore caused it to be recommended by her said governor to this generall assembly to pass an act for that purpose, suitable to the interests and conveniencys of this colony,

    Be it therefore enacted, by the Governor, Council, and Burgesses of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, That from and after the twenty-fifth day of December, which shall be in the year of our Lord 1708, all goods, wares and merchandises which shall be imported into this colony by water (servants, slaves and salt, excepted) shall be entered, allowed and landed at some one or other of the ports, wharfs, keys or places hereafter mentioned and appointed in this act, and at none other place whatsoever,


    Page 405
    until they shall have been first landed at one of the ports or wharfs aforesaid, and a certificate thereof obtained from the officer of the port, appointed or to be appointed by his excellency the governor or the governor and commander in chief of this colony for the time being, by advice of the councill of state here for collection of the Virginia dutys, upon pain of forfeiture and loss of all such goods, wares and merchandises.

    And be it also enacted, That from and after the said twenty-fifth day of December, 1708, all servants, slaves and salt, which shall be imported into this colony by water, shall be reported and entered at some one or other of the ports, wharfs, keys or places by this act appointed as aforesaid, and a certificate thereof obtained as aforesaid, before they shall be landed, bought or sold, upon pain of forfeiture and loss of every such servant and slave so landed, sold, or put to sale.
  • Louisiana Purchase timeline
  • One hundred years of French secularism
  • even in 2005

Do you obey the laws concerning the servants, slaves and salt? Do you envy a secular state proud of the fact? Do you respect a site that researches Islamic law as it applies in the Maldives? This is a small sample of the plurality of law. So much is a product of culture, of religious belief, of the era in which the legislation is framed. It must be possible to have understandings about the ban on killing and stealing, for example, that lie outside the legal priorities of one governing body. Or perhaps not. There's a reason we have a blanket law against jaywalking even if we observe to ourselves that we will only cross if it doesn't involve a motorist braking suddenly or swerving to avoid us.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

In the halter of ignorance the truants pace,

Although having no use for one myself, it was interesting to come across The Instant Muse Poetry Generator. It gives you a first line to conjure with if you're having trouble being inspired.

I can afford the luxury of avoiding exercises that don't come from a natural curiosity or exploration for either the subject or the language. Warming up exercises are surely for people who sit there twiddling their pencils; not those who have produced pages of ideas in the time alotted.

I tend to work from either titles or subjects that I turn into titles. I haven't built up from lines or couplets for some while, although I do cannibalise old works and construct new ones therefrom. There does seem to be some block on composing on the back of someone else's words as I've still come up empty handed with Dave Downey's 'Oscar the oscillating otter' and that was years ago.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ivor Biggun and the Red Nosed Burglars vs the Biggest Green Day

When Green Day rocked Australia in March this year, fans and critics alike agreed the concerts were nothing short of spectacular. But they ain't seen nuthin' yet. When Green Day return this December for a stadium show at the Sydney Cricket Ground, they'll be bringing 15 semis carrying over 300 tons of equipment and staging. That includes on 8.5 metre stage thrust stretching out int the audience while a collection of strategically-placed screens ensure those further back catch all the action, with two massive LED screens which will tower each side of the stage and a touring party of 200 staff will construct and stage the concert. Green Day hit the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday December 14.

The Drum Media 20/9/05

What's wrong with this picture? Apart from finishing the wretched desecration with an American date configuration, that is. Quite a few things actually.

  • Anything bigger than a touring van and you're starting to get out of true punk territory. And the 'can-do philosophy' that fuelled the drive of early practitioners is corroded by 200 super-roadies erecting the stage.
  • When I looked up and saw the Metallica trucks, it seemed natural enough. The sight of a convoy of semis just carrying your shit might impress the metal fan but what the fuck has it got to do with punk rock?
  • People forget that a large part of what defined punk was a reaction against prog rock, against massive spectacle, against separation between the musicians and the audience. In short, it's a checklist that raises a finger to the notion of spectacle, never mind it's ostentatious pursuit.
  • Green Day and Simple Plan have no more outrage than necessary. The punk I like is uncomfortable, abrasive, confrontational, loud, snotty. The Descendants not The Offspring of The Stooges and New York Dolls. Of the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux and The Damned. Of early Swans, Flipper, Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys. The list goes on. Maybe I like it more for the genuine tear-it-up rage than for the sentiment but it's better than soppy pop being labelled as punk.
  • What made a movement so determined to not be commercial to be co-opted in such a way? Jello Biafra, as one of the foremost paranoiacs that fuelled disgust and distrust, felt in the eighties that there were forces seeking to make profits instead of making prophets. As much as they hated hippies, the punks suffered the same fate.


On a lighter note - perhaps the best newspaper headline ever

Ogling Farmer Fractures Penis

A NEWLY married Romanian farmer fractured his penis after ogling his young wife while carrying a heavy sack of grain.
Farmer Gheorge Popa, 52, from Galati, had been moving the grain sacks to the barn when he stopped to watch his 25-year-old wife Loredana hang out the washing.
He got himself over excited and dropped the sack on his erect penis, snapping vital tendons and ligaments.

mX 22/9/05

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mums the word

Yesterday I got phone calls from both mothers! I'm not estranged or anything but, still, that was unusual as we often go months without writing or phoning.

In other news of not raining but pouring, Angie and I are in touch. She's "the one" and yet I can't tell Kat just yet. I don't know whether the same rules apply with online liaisons since, after all, the intimacy is mediated by a screen and that nebulous zone called cyberspace. I am sure there is a higher message being conveyed through recent events but I'm struggling to understand the ramifications. I am rolling with the flow more than ever but there's still a part of me that would like to know exactly what's going on.

And I realise in writing all this that I'm being candid and writing as I would in my diary (almost!) rather than attempting to put an entertaining or universal spin on things.


Speaking of which... it's good to see more female world leaders. Germany may have a female head of state and New Zealand may lose theirs. Ah these knife-edge elections! I admire Helen Clark from this distance and wonder how long before we also have a woman as head of one of our major political parties federally. IMO we should have already gone down that path with the Labor Party. We have had four female Labor premiers so perhaps it is just a matter of time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is this thing on?

Although my experience with the microphone has been uneven, I am pretty comfortable with public speaking and all related activity.
It wasn't always thus. When I was in Grade 7 primary school, I was the oldest boy and so it fell to me to present a small gift to the sports coach who had come close to delivering us victory against much larger schools. The problem was that the coach also happened to be my Dad and I was unable to get past the problem of whether to call him Dad as I always did or, since I was speaking on behalf of the school, Mr ________.

On hitting high school the conflict between my awful shyness and my propensity to front up to the mic flourished. I read scripture at the compulsory hostel church assembly, I recited (my own) poetry at school gatherings, I joined Speech AND Drama classes as options. It seemed that I could divorce the nebbish who never chatted up girls he liked or made friends outside his circle from the tyro who could invent soliliquays on the spot.
The penguin ladies, female counterpart to Rostrum, used to gather at our recreation hall for their meets and a small group of us boys scammed attendance and joined in the merriment. Years later, while working for Immigration, I joined Rostrum officially; although I never cared for the business meeting component.

And then my friends started picking up instruments and needed someone to front their band. Since I was willing - and couldn't play - this naturally fell to me. Though it must be added that I couldn't sing either! But it was an early fortuitous introduction since I later took singing lessons and learned to write my own lyrics. My singing still tends to be better in rehearsal (and in the shower) than in front of a crowd but I enjoy it and it is a good skill to have. I can certainly deliver guide vocals to illustrate how a song should go.

My last contract assignment before starting my current employ consisted heavily of presenting material to various areas of the University and, only recently in my current role, I delivered a presentation to a visiting Thai delegation.

I'm rather grateful for this as I've heard it said that some fear death less than public speaking (!). More ham than Hamlet, I nonetheless relish the opportunity.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The next generation

My daughter turned fifteen yesterday and I sat watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, whereon they had a 'next generation' special featuring ___________ fifteen year old girls (and a parent)

No I wasn't experiencing the visceral over the real and neglecting my child. I was over celebrating on Sunday and bought her a Nirvana bootleg. She's also getting half an iPod from me.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Trading traditions

I'm set up in my sell. My phonymalefacts number written down I'm on fire. Ideal, I deal. I set up the pitch, wind up the patrons, pestering pleasantly, I get my sail.

It's the only way I'll dig myself out of this ditch being a gargantuan gardnerian witch.

Out with the gnomes of Zurich Stones worn smooth

I'm in every aisle yule wheel
Do this thing together
I'm there at your convenience
In every kind of whether

Monday, September 05, 2005

I slam, you slam, we all slam for Islam

I've been cogitating over this one for a few days so appropriate to inflict it on you now that there's a big display of pro-Islam downstairs in the foyer.

I think where our whole sense of progression and the embracing of a politically-correct agenda comes unstuck is in the Problem of Religion. We quite rightly want to foster tolerance; when we invite migrants to settle in our country we don't want to persecute them for their beliefs the way China does the Falun Gong. Only our more rabid reactionaries even want to ban the headscarf from schools, the way they do in France.

Our politicians are careful at every turn to state that the Moslems cutting people's heads off, the ones blowing up crowds with car bombs, and the ones flying planes into buildings and playing havoc with the London Underground, have a (in John Howard's words) perverted sense of Islam and its teachings. You'd want to hope so or it's no better than all those old religions that practiced ritual sacrifice.

But if it's simply down to them getting things completely wrong - perhaps for their own bloodthirsty agenda - why aren't the religious leaders taking a proactive stance to curb this activity? Now something to this effect DID happen when they were trying to rescue the hostage Douglas Wood but, apart from a token "We condemn this activity" it has been noticeably absent at a broader level. And this is most lamentable when you consider the current world situation.

So why don't the ayatollahs and imams and suchlike join forces in quelling a movement that is causing Islam almost irreparable damage? There are a few possibilities. They may be only giving lip service to the opposition while secretly supporting the bombings. Community leaders seem to inhabit a sliding scale of more or less sanctioning these acts. Or, and here is the point I wish to make, there may be no avenue for them to say that the terrorists are working against what it says in the Koran because they are spiritually in line with the teachings - a true application and not a perverse interpretation.

One of the boards downstairs states 'Ways in which Islam respects women'. Hmmmm. Have to wear burkas while men can get around with head uncovered. Strike. Clitorectomy. Major, major strike. Women travel under men's passport. Strike. Cannot own property. Strike. Must allow the man to speak for them. Strike.
More strikes than a building site. Nice try.
Want a lesson in how women are respected in Islam? Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Religious tolerance? Those Buddha statues were thousands of years old, arsewipes.

The problem, as I see it, is in trying to apply harsh desert religions two thousand years old. It goes equally for Christianity, except for the fact that Christians seem to be better at papering over its more repressive and intolerant features (unless you're a minor who's had consensual sex with another minor and live in some bohick US state where you've got a record (unspecified) as a sex offender for the rest of your days. Now that's backwards.)

And the idea of a fatwah. My attitude is that a deity who cannot fight their own battles is in no wise worth your devotion.

I came across a Koran in a department bookstore. It was only cheap and I thought I would disavow myself of my prejudice. I picked it up, opened it at random, it was a long section on detailing how a woman who had committed adultery is to be taken to the public square and stoned to death; that all the people, children, the lot, should gather to watch. I don't know what happens to the man but, given that all the accounts I hear of fathers killing the daughter who has shamed them I suspect rank hypocrisy.
It didn't disavow a goddamn thing, needless to say. I was going to buy it but I decided I had enough medieaval morality with the Old Testament.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Medium Too Rare

Oh dear. The choice of metaphors in my last post are most unfortunate in light of recent events but all I can say is, I'm not the only one who has come off looking bad, and they are typical enough expressions for the fall itself, without needing a literal interpretation. And hey I'm not psychic.


I'm here with an interesting and controversial proposition. Christians often claim to being the arbiters for progress and civilisation and it becomes difficult to untangle what positive gains are a result of Christ's example of love and compassion and what is more correctly placed at the feet of brave rationalists. Well consider this:

The church militates against the use of magic and of all psychic exploration on the basis that there is a Biblical injunction against such practices. So in a theocratic state we would have no mediums or profilers to find missing children or solve crimes undetectable by scientific methods; we would have no means of divining or dowsing for minerals and water. A full embrace of the gospel would have left crimes unsolved, villains unpunished, and people perishing for want of basic sustenance. That's some legacy.

Give no thought for the morrow and have no means of predicting it.