Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grand Theft Auto Wall Street

I read in the paper today that playing Grand Theft Auto is good training for the business world. Personally I rather doubt that stealing cars and shooting people is good training for anything other than, perhaps, car theft and homicide. Certainly the corporate world tends to try and conduct its operations a little more discreetly. In certain more, shall we say, relaxed jurisdictions they may indulge in a certain amount of judicious homicide and who knows possibly the odd car theft as well but I very much doubt if the people actually doing the deed are earmarked for board positions.

Of course, as I can almost hear the author wearily explaining, the article referred to the mindset and ethical standards that appear to be promoted by such games as GTA. Thank you sir, I would never have figured that out by myself. Too busy stealing cars and killing people I guess. I suppose it is possible that such games might promote a mindset not out of place in the corporate world. Certainly a healthy lack of ruth is not exactly a handicap in most large businesses. On the other hand very few of the murderous, car stealing drug dealers of my acquaintance expect government assistance when they make a pigs breakfast out of their business dealings.

Seeing games like Grand Theft Auto as a parable for the ethics of the business community may be appealing but it does make one wonder what our corporate overlords used as inspiration before about ten years ago. The corporate vermin of the nineteenth century by and large had a dull and religion laced upbringing yet they managed to get up to tricks that would make the inhabitants of Liberty City go pale and say "Oh what nasty people". Naturally there will be a handful of maladjusted losers who will go on murderous (and vehicle intensive) sprees as a result of playing Grand Theft Auto. However one thing ten thousand odd (and some of them have been very odd) years of human history has taught us is that people rarely need an excuse as good as "the video game made me do it" before indulging in crazy, blood spattered anarchy.

One of the principal mistakes that many people seem to make is to regard every obnoxious, irritating or pointlessly violent and depraved innovation as if it were the first time the previously innocent, Eden dwelling human race has been exposed to such corruption. I am not necessarily advocating that we should feed hallucinogens to our children (unless they just won't shut up) or organise cage fighting in high schools. But when I hear of all the actual violence, car theft, murder, drug dealing and generalised mayhem that the human race puts up with (and commits) on a daily basis I'm not sure that a video game is our major priority. At worst it might be a symptom but certainly not a cause. I've played Grand Theft Auto, not often because I'm not very good at that sort of game. Nevertheless I gained a moderate amount of amusement from it and I haven't felt the slightest desire to steal a car (or bike, fire engine, boat, helicopter or tank) and kill a bunch of people. Sadly it doesn't seem to have been particularly useful in my increasingly pathetic attempts to climb the corporate ladder either. Possibly I'm missing something, or possibly I'm just a normal(ish) person who is unlikely to base my life on a freaking video game.

Satanism for Fun and Prophet

I wandered across the wikipedia entry for the Church of Satan the other day (as you do). Not the traditional pack of beast worshippers but rather the cult set up by Anton LaVey in the 1960s. Apparently LaVey rejected the notion of worshipping any sort of dark angel in favour of worshipping oneself. Rather than rejecting the physical and focusing on the spiritual these Satanists do it the other way round. The hungers, impulses, desires and lusts which make us human are the things which are to be embraced and indulged. Or something like that. Possibly.

Leaving everything else aside I must admit there are definite advantages to being your own god. You wouldn't have to worry about being late for church for a start. You could pass a collection plate around every time someone visited and with the assistance of the right type of accountant you could probably claim tax exempt status for pretty much everything you do. Every time someone prepared a meal for you it would count as a sacrifice. Wouldn't it be cool to have somebody sacrificing to you?

For those of you you who might be contemplating a change of religion please find below the Nine Satanic Statements and the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth. These were pinched straight from wikipedia and are no doubt as accurate as everything else on wikipedia. Of course I could have done some research but in keeping with my subject material I followed my desires and decided not to bother.

Statements (9)

  1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence
  2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams
  3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit
  4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates
  5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek
  6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires
  7. Satan represents man as just another animal (sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all fours), who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all.
  8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification
  9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years
Rules (11)

  1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
  2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
  3. When in another’s home, show them respect or else do not go there.
  4. If a guest in your home annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy
  5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
  6. Do not take that which does not belong to you, unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
  7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
  8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
  9. Do not harm young children.
  10. Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food
  11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they do not stop, destroy them.
In summary; give charity to the rich, help only those who don't need it, beat up those who oppose you and be nice to animals. I can't help thinking that LaVey missed a major opportunity here. If he had taken these, for want of a better word, principles, woven a neat parable around each one, added an introduction and a conclusion the resultant book would be on every business leaders desk and LaVey himself could have made a fortune on the corporate speaking circuit.

It came as no real surprise to me to learn that Ayn Rand was one of LaVey's major influences. Rand, you may recall, is the woman who changed psychotic narcissism from a mental illness into a philosophy. Personally while having a fair amount of sympathy for several of the points mentioned I find it difficult to believe that I am the most important person in the room. And I live alone. I agree that helping the weak and undeserving is tedious but they are the ones who need help. The high functioning and well adjusted would probably prefer it if you just minded your own business. Despite the best efforts of Rand and LaVey egotism is not a philosophy or a religion, it is a character flaw.

Still let's not get too judgemental; last night on the train I saw a woman reading a copy of The Celestine Prophecies. There are worse things to be than a Satanist. Like stupid for a start.

When I Go Senile Will Anybody Notice?

I was sitting in the cafe trying to think of something clever and funny to write but I just couldn't. At first I thought I might have to give up on writing a blog entry today but then I just decided to do what I normally do and write down any old crap and hope for the best. I can get away with this because I don't have an editor and I don't get paid. It's amazing how simple things are to do if you have no quality control and expect no recompense.

From time to time I do attempt to write things that make sense. I try to craft entries where one sentence has a direct relationship to those on either side of it. Peeling potatoes can be very therapeutic but I would still recommend seeing a therapist. The child at the next table is crying, I guess she didn't like her junior soy latte. The place is awash with small, well groomed dogs. How old do you have to be before you stop wanting to do the things you are now too old to do? Thank god that woman has a land rover to help her navigate the treacherous landscape of Newtown.

On close examination I find that much of the previous paragraph didn't make a lot of sense which is funny because it actually represents a complete and thoroughly coherent train of thought just with a couple of linkages missing. To be honest (and I always try to be honest except when I'm lying)...where was I? Oh yes, to be honest many people would doubt if I am capable of having a coherent train of thought but pickle Ferdinand walrus. In these days of declining literacy simply writing things down is getting increasingly rare. I think I am about two generations away from being a serious literary figure. Of course in two generations time there won't be anyone who can read so my enhanced status will be meaningless.

I have completely lost track of what I was trying to say assuming I was trying to say anything which a swift review of this blog gives me serious cause to doubt. One of the things I find most annoying is when people who have nothing to say won't shut the fuck up. However reading a blog is a purely voluntary act on the readers part so I feel no guilt. If, like me, you think this entire blog entry was an act of pointless self indulgence may I suggest that you wait two generations and then read it again. At that point it will still be semi literate gibberish but there will be less competition. And lets face it, by that time you probably won't be getting out much anyway.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Soup

There is a program on television just now called Iron Chef Australia. The title, I presume, is to ensure that people don't watch Iron Chef Anywhere Else by mistake. I like Iron Chef, its so much better than the crappy Plastic Chef that we get nowadays. According to someone who actually watched it the Iron Chef wannabes must create a dish using a particular ingredient of the day. Last night the ingredient was, apparently, turtle. At least I hope it was because otherwise the set must now be littered with surplus to requirements cooked turtles. I know from personal experience how annoying that can be. There are no fewer than one hundred and eighty seven cooked turtles cluttering up my apartment. Some of you may be wondering what I'm doing with so many cooked turtles and to those people I say, mind your own business. Still they are rather annoying. Oh some of them are rendering sterling service as bookends and I plan to hollow out a few and put candles in them (Halloween is coming) but for the most part they just sit there making the place look untidy. There are so many I've had to keep some of them in the oven thus imparting a cooked turtle flavour to everything I eat. Which is good for soup but not so great for cinnamon cake. I've started using them in arguments with the neighbours and have actually set up a miniature trebuchet on the balcony. This also helps to explain why casual visitors to my apartment block think it has turtle shell cladding. Actually its turtle everything cladding.

Leaving aside my attempts at chelonian based warfare for a moment there are definite advantages to cooking turtles. You don't need bowls for one thing. Also they're not exactly difficult to catch. Turtle farming must be a pretty relaxed business.
"Harry! The turtles are escaping!"
"Mmm, I'll get onto it after dinner"
Of course we will have to revise advice like "stick a fork in it to see if its done". A hammer and chisel might do better and lets face it the last person to the table will be stuck with the crunchy bits.

Incidentally, has anybody else noticed a serious chink in the turtles armour? Adult turtles have impressively solid shells but turtle eggs are soft and leathery. In fact they're barely eggs at all, they're more like turtle jelly (delicious with icecream) or possibly turtle sludge. Frankly I suspect that the hefty shell the turtle develops as it matures has nothing to do with protection and everything to do with an overreaction to an insecure childhood. I suspect that most turtles could do with a fair bit of time in therapy, sort of help them out of their shell so to speak. I also notice that if you rolled a turtle egg down a hill that particular turtle will be moving faster than it ever will again. At least until I load it into my trebuchet.

I thought turtles were an endangered species but if they're not they soon will be. Knowing the "monkey see, monkey do" attitude of most people who watch programs like Iron Chef it won't be long before the entire turtle population of the planet is harvested by eager viewers. My advice to turtles; start running now. That way on Sunday when Iron Chef fans decide to cook their "special" meal the turtles will have a fifteen metre head start. I wish them well.

Some people might claim that this entire blog entry was written so I could do a bunch of lame (or at least very very slow) turtle jokes (and there's another one). Not so, I have actually written this blog to publicise my signature range of turtle shell soap holders and door jambs. Get some in time for Christmas.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Catch a Train and See...Something

I was sitting in a train at Blacktown when a group of three German tourists arrived and occupied ten seats on my carriage. At least I'm assuming they were tourists. From the amount of gear they carried they might be immigrants or possibly slightly desperate removalists. They were, of course, backpackers. Backpacks somewhat larger than my apartment sprawled expansively over the seats while their owners (or possibly handlers) huddled together and read pocket guide books on Australia. Since they got on at Blacktown I'm going to assume the guidebooks aren't particularly good.

After sitting at Blacktown for long enough to make the hardiest soul want to leave the train finally consented to taking me, the Germans and a couple of young girls discussing their boyfriends bail possibilities on a sweeping tour of Sydney's western suburbs as seen from the upstairs level of a not particularly fast train. Seven Hills came and went before I could ask it what it thought it was doing. Pendle Hill slid by, I didn't see a hill and I'm not entirely sure what a pendle is and it was gone before I could ask. I don't think its fair to record my impressions of Toongabbie. Despite a certain amount of rain the place wasn't flooded so I wasn't seeing it at its best.

Our noble metal steed thundered onwards towards Parramatta which pleased me greatly and then left Parramatta which pleased me even more. The increasing number of signs in Arabic made me think I was close to home but sadly it was only Auburn so I sat back down again. Strathfield has a very impressive station which only makes the rest of the suburb that much more of a disappointment. Sliding through the inner west the quality of the graffiti increased along with the rental values. In places like Newtown and Petersham they convert old factories into pretentious apartment blocks. Out in Blacktown they square the circle by building apartment blocks that look like factories. Finally, panting gently, the train arrived at Redfern and I hopped off. Like many places in Sydney Redfern has more platforms than it has trains but at Redfern the ratio is closer to parity than most.

I love catching trains, not only are they the best way to travel but in New South Wales there is always that small feeling of achievement you get when you see one at all. Cars and buses have to wrestle with other traffic and the view from an aeroplane gets boring after a few minutes (Oh look! Another cloud). Also if a train crashes it happens immediately. One second you're fine and the next, bang, twisted metal and howling sirens. In a plane crash there is usually a few minutes between the realisation that you're going to die and the actual moment of death. I suppose this could be useful for the religious who want to take a stab at last second redemption but for me it would just mean several minutes of cursing that I paid my electricity bill.

Obviously there a places trains can't go, the sea for example and most places in New South Wales. Unfortunately one of the places trains can't go at the moment is where my parents live despite the presence of tracks and even a station. Trackwork necessitated the changing of trains twice and then catching a bus for the final part of the trip. All of which is a very long winded explanation of what I was doing catching a train at Blacktown.

Incidentally, for those who think I've been rather cruel to the western suburbs I freely admit that there are worse places but you can't catch a train to Manly.

Deathtrap Sweet Deathtrap

So far today I have shaved, trimmed my nails and cut up vegetables (well, a vegetable) for dinner. All of which means that on no fewer than three occasions today I have held very sharp things close to my soft and vulnerable flesh. I never realised it before but my apartment is a deathtrap and my life frequently rests in my own palsied hands. Since I'm the sort of person who could impale himself on a chopstick this wasn't a happy revelation. My apartment is supposed to be a haven, my own personal panic room against the world. Instead when I come home I find the grim reaper sitting in my favourite armchair watching TV and eating my crisps. Which also explains why I never have any crisps.

Rugs to trip on, hard edges to bang, electrical appliances to fry me and over twenty different very sharp things. I tried to get rid of some of them on the theory that surely one bloody potential accident was enough. Then I contemplated shaving with a carving knife and reluctantly reprieved all of them. I suppose I could become like Howard Hughes (ask your parents) and live in a sterilized room while growing my hair and nails to ridiculous lengths. This would have the added advantage that people might think I'm an eccentric billionaire. Sadly though I must accept the fact that most people would see me as a poverty stricken nut case which is nowhere near as much fun although it's open to doubt how much fun Howard was having towards the end.

I honestly think my apartment is trying to kill me. Surely it cannot be simple clumsiness and incompetence on my part that brings me close to death (my parents can keep their opinions to themselves at this point). The crumbling bricks, and even more crumbling ceiling, obviously hide some malevolent spirit that plots against me. Alternatively they could just be hiding shoddy wiring. The method my apartment uses to bring about my demise is quite clever. It does nothing, it just sits back and waits for me to do something particularly stupid. Frankly I think it's onto a winner. Other people leap out of aeroplanes, race very fast cars or join the army to bring themselves close to death. All I have to do is get up in the morning. No doubt a more functional human being wouldn't see navigating from the bedroom to the shower as a death run but then a more functional human being wouldn't spend half his time talking to a blog.

So, what to do about the murderous proclivities of my apartment? I could move I suppose but since I would enter any new home carrying a kaleidoscopic assortment of sharp things, heavy things, pointy things and hard things I fail to see the point. I have considered coating every surface in bubble wrap but I think I would get so caught up popping all the bubbles that I might forget to leave for work. So I will continue as before and laugh in the face of (not really very much) danger. Hear me Reaper! I defy you! You can jog my hand as I shave and cough loudly while I chop vegetables but I will not yield. I laugh in your face Reaper, I fear you not. And keep your damn hands out of my crisps.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Birthday Greetings #16

Happy birthday to Prince Eugene of Savoy, perhaps the greatest general to ever serve the Habsburg empire. Eugene was born in Paris the son of aristocrats from Savoy in north western Italy. Italy then was no more than a geographical term, the Duchy of Savoy was an independent nation and like many such nations of similar size survived somewhat precariously by alternately playing off and currying up to more powerful nations. At the time Savoy grovel target of choice was France then ruled by Louis XIV. Eugene's father was close to Louis and according to salacious rumour his mother was closer. Unfortunately she fell from favour and turned to black magic and various other socially unacceptable activities. Implicated in the poisoning death of her husband she fled Paris leaving Eugene and his siblings to be raised by their paternal grandmother.

Eugene was earmarked for the church from an early age due to his physical infirmity and general sloppiness (with a resume like that its amazing he didn't become pope) but Eugene wanted to go for a soldier and asked Louis for a command. Unfortunately Louis hadn't forgotten that Eugene's mother was a devil worshiping nutbag and turned the young man down flat. In high dudgeon Eugene stomped out of Versailles and promptly offered his services to Louis' greatest continental rival the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. He came at a good time; Vienna was under siege by the Ottoman Turks and Leopold was prepared to take help from anyone who offered it (see a previous brilliantly written blog entry for the details). Eugene served in the force that relieved Vienna (and Leopold) and distinguished himself in the battle. This lead to command of a regiment of dragoons and a glorious part in the battles that followed as the imperial forces pursued the retreating Turks.

After recovering from a serious wound to the knee Eugene served in Italy during the Nine Years War against France alongside his cousin Duke Victor-Amadeus of Savoy who had decided to hitch his wagon to the Habsburg star. This proved rather stupid as the Habsburg operations in Italy were marked by sloth and incompetence (with Eugene fuming at the idiocy of his superiors) and eventually Victor-Amadeus decided to go crawling back to Louis which undermined the Habsburg position completely. Eugene having bitched (accurately enough) about most of the Habsburg commanders in Italy wasn't in good odour at court until Leopold surprised everybody by making him a field marshal. At that point everybody in court started talking about how they had always known that he was a military genius.

Peace with the French allowed Leopold to continue his war against the Ottomans and now Eugene was in charge. He won a staggering victory at the Battle of Zenta and went on to sack Sarajevo. Thereafter peace was made with the Turks so that Leopold could turn his attention back to France. Charles (Karl, Carlos etc) II the Habsburg king of Spain was on the point of dying (to be fair he had been on the point of dying for most of his life) and all of Europe was sharpening swords in anticipation of a succession struggle. Louis had married one of his sons to Charles' half sister and with Charles childless their son Philip was named as Charles' heir. Unfortunately pretty much the entire remainder of Europe was having kittens at the thought of the unification of the French and Spanish thrones under the rule of the House of Bourbon. Leopold as head of the House of Habsburg was one of the chief kitten havers but joining him in feline birth were Holland, England, bits (but not all) of Spain, Savoy (breaking away from France again), Portugal and Prussia.

Originally commanding in Italy, Eugene won a victory over French forces but reinforcements (under a more capable general) allowed the French to keep the initiative and Eugene settled for keeping a force in being to assert Habsburg claims. Eugene himself was then transferred to the Rhine (the war was over the succession to the Spanish throne so naturally a lot of the fighting was done in Belgium and Germany) where he formed a highly successful partnership with John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough who commanded the Anglo-Dutch army. During their time together Eugene and Marlborough defeated the French on several occasions (and spanked the Bavarians who had rather foolishly pulled a Savoy in reverse) and were instrumental in bringing the war to a successful conclusion.

Unfortunately the new emperor, Charles VI (Leopold and his immediate successor Joseph both having died) proved to be an idiot and carried on the war with France by himself in the hopes of claiming the Spanish throne. Outnumbered and (as usual) bankrupt the Habsburgs suffered a pair of defeats despite Eugene's leadership. Charles then reluctantly made peace and Eugene proved to be as skillful a negotiator as he was a soldier because the peace terms were far more favourable than the circumstances deserved. Less than two years later Eugene was back in the Balkans fighting the Turks (again). This time his victory was decisive, the Ottoman army was crushed and Belgrade was captured. Never again would the Turks threaten the existence of the Habsburg empire. Eugene was riding high.

With the wars over for the time being Eugene used his wealth to develop a reputation as a patron of the arts and architecture or, if you prefer it, now that he had wealth he was able to indulge in a long held and genuine passion for the arts and architecture; whatever. He also had considerable influence with the emperor. Since 1703 he had been head of the Imperial War Council (as well as commander in the field) and he and a close friend Count Wratislaw von Mitrowitz had been pretty much running the government since 1709. When Wratislaw died Eugene more or less was the government. Unfortunately his opposition to Charles' halfwit Spanish ambitions lost him a certain amount of favour.

There was one last war for Eugene, however. In 1733 the King of Poland died kicking off the War of the Polish Succession. Naturally this wound up as a contest between Habsburg Empire and Bourbon France (pretty much everything in Europe did in those days) and Eugene was back campaigning on the Rhine. Not for long though, Eugene was past seventy and almost visibly disintegrating in body and mind. The campaign was uninspired and notable only for the fact that it included a young German prince who would become Frederick the Great of Prussia. Only a French desire not to extend the war saved the Empire from defeat and Eugene from humiliation in his final days. As it was he died peacefully in his sleep not long afterwards.

Eugene of Savoy was possibly the greatest soldier who ever served the Habsburg monarchy. He served it faithfully and well and it seems a little churlish to point out that he did it largely to piss off Louis XIV of France.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We Should Give Lady Gaga the Nobel Peace Prize

I've just come home from a trip to the bookshop unsuccessfully looking for a present for my brother. Sorry Geoffrey, its going to be another pair of socks this year. I almost bought him a biography of Lady Gaga. He requested something strange and useless and that seemed to fill both categories rather nicely. In the end sanity (and a desire not to be hit by flying cutlery) prevailed and I left the shop empty handed.

Why in the name of all the dark and malevolent gods is there a biography of Lady Gaga? The woman only turned up a fortnight ago it seems and now there's a biography of her. Can't we wait until she does something even remotely worth chronicling before trotting out some tedious account of how she got to where she is? Don't think that this is really a diatribe against Lady Gaga. I quite like her in the same way as I like most women who appear bat crazy enough to sleep with me (sad I know but its a small circle). I am even aware that she has a singing career or at least that she uses the excuse of a singing career to look like a lunatic in public.

The first time I saw Lady Gaga I thought she was a Madonna impersonator. Then I had the horrible suspicion that it might actually be Madonna. Finally I settled with a good deal of relief into the realisation that she is a Madonna imitator. Unfortunately since Madonna did all the good crazy stuff (and a fair bit of the bad) all poor Gaga is left with is to resemble Madonna on a bad personality day. And yet she gets a biography. It is entitled The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga which makes her sound like a helium balloon. Actually she does sound like a helium balloon but I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Once upon a time you had to do something to get a biography. You had to lead a nation, discover an element or plunge the world into a horrifying war. Now all you have to do is drape meat over yourself and make tasteless music videos. I wonder if its too late to launch my singing career. Of course its not really Gaga's fault if somebody decides to breathlessly dialogue events of the slightly less than twenty five years that she's been alive and perhaps she does have a genuinely uplifting personal tale to tell. But who cares, biographies should be written at the end of a person's life and preferably after they're dead. That way there is less danger that they will be able to influence it themselves. Nobody will ever write a biography of me but if they did and I was still alive there would be entire decades that I would excise.

Still a biography of Lady Gaga we have. So, what to do now. I think the only thing we can do is create a genuine reason for her to have one. Georges Clemenceau who was Prime Minister of France for a while once awarded the Legion of Honour to a businessman whose sole claim to fame was the size of his election donation. As he pinned it on Clemenceau is said to have commented "You have the Legion of Honour sir, now all you have to do is earn it." I suggest we give a significant award to Lady Gaga so that we have something to put in her biography.

My suggestion, and I think its a good one, is that we give her the Nobel Peace Prize. Let's face it an award as nebulous and open to interpretation as this allows a broad scope of discussion. The ensuing controversy would take up at least two chapters in a new Gaga biography and would give a reason for the damn thing being written in the first place. Lest anybody think that Gaga is a poor candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize permit me to remind you that Al Gore was awarded one for doing little more than putting on weight and delivering a powerpoint presentation. Barack Obama can't even claim that much justification for his prize.

Over the years the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin amongst others. At least Lady Gaga hasn't actually been responsible for anybody being killed as far as I know. That really should be part of the selection process.
"Kill anybody?"
"OK, you're on the short list"

One could also make an argument that she promotes understanding. At least anybody who understands her should be promoted. She brings people together, sometimes of course to say things like "Get rid of this person" but fostering unity should always be rewarded. She has given the world music (or something vaguely analogous to music) whereas all the current holder has done is sign a couple of petitions and spend much of his time living at taxpayers expense.

Finally of course there is the possibility that such an award would be an inspiration. Perhaps Lady Gaga will follow in the footsteps of a previous winner like Mother Teresa and minister to Calcutta's poor (sorry Calcutta, you may have to take one for the team). Or perhaps we could see if the government of Myanmar are prepared to trade her for Aung San Suu Kyi. She could give the leaders fashion tips. Finally of course there would be the chat shows, the syndicated column and the possibility that on her next tour of China the government will lock her up in Jinzhou Prison just to be on the safe side.

Now that would make a great chapter in her biography.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

May Contain Traces of Locusts

Farming in Australia goes in cycles. There is the common "its a horrible drought and farmers will need government assistance just to survive" cycle. Then there is the rarer but still frequent "its a terrible flood and farmers will need government assistance just to survive" cycle and finally there is the cycle we're going into now; the "we're expecting a bumper crop but the locusts are going to eat it all and farmers are going to need government assistance just to survive" cycle.

A combination of drought followed by flood has actually produced good growing conditions and farmers are eagerly awaiting the wheat crop which should be superb this year. Also eagerly awaiting the wheat crop are the locusts who are apparently massing in great numbers and preparing to sweep down on our agricultural produce like a plague of, well, locusts. Sorry, similies failed me for a moment. Perhaps not coincidentally there was an article in the paper today which pointed out that in many parts of the world, people eat insects. Not in any restaurant I've been to they don't.

Apparently the cricket (a near relation of the locust) is high in protein, low in fat, with a delicious nutty flavour and you can floss with an antenna afterwards. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Our farmers are sitting on top of a chirruping gold mine. Rather than bewail the fact that locusts have eaten all their crop they could simply rebadge themselves as locust farmers and be wildly successful.

Think how easy it would be; farmers don't actually have to do anything different to what they're doing now. They plant the bait, sorry I mean crops, and up the locusts come. If there is anything of the crop left after the locust harvest they can sell that as an extra. There would be bragging rights as well. Farmer A would boast about having twenty thousand head of cattle, farmer B would boast about his fifty thousand head but both would be knocked into silence when the locust farmer proudly announces that he had ninety billion head of livestock before he stopped counting.

Australia could be on the verge of an insect lead economic recovery. Besides, its about time insects started to pull their weight. For too long plants, mammals, fish and the occasional reptile have shouldered the burden of feeding humanity pretty much on their own. It is time that insects stepped up to be counted, and then killed, packaged and exported to those countries that are prepared to eat insects. Some people might not think this is a great idea but I'll bet every cow and sheep in the country will stand up and cheer.

There are other benefits, our balance of trade will be helped for a start. It used to be said that Australia rode on the sheep's back and nowadays our wealth is largely based on digging up the country and shipping it to China. Selling crunchy bug snacks to the world will be a much needed third string to our bow.

Of course once the locust industry is established we can specialise. We can export live locusts to Saudi Arabia to be killed in an appropriately Muslim fashion. We can breed special wagyu locusts for the Japanese (and general wanker) market and for those pathetic clowns who insist on being vegetarian we can have soy locusts with just as much crunch but fewer insect carapaces. There would be sugar dusted locusts and caramelised locusts for the kiddies and any left over could be ground down into a nutritious paste and sold to retirement homes. We could have luxury locusts (fed only the choicest grain and raised by hand) that could go to high end restaurants and the sort of food shops that will sell anything that can't creep out the door.

And this is only the beginning. Australia didn't get much in the way of magnificent predators or stately herbivores but we sure as hell have a lot of insects. We could supply the world and once we have the planet on an insect only diet we unveil our secret weapon; spiders. Think about it, eight drumsticks per carcass. Australia's wealth can't just be measured in its deep mines and beautiful beaches. Soon everything that crawls, slithers or flies into the insect zapper is going to be a tiny little gold mine. Those bug catchers we used to have as kids would make a comeback as children looked to make a little pocket money in the summer holidays. Gourmet insects could become quite a cottage industry, if the cottage was leaky and didn't have fly screen.

There will be difficulties of course, locusts are notoriously difficult to herd and killing them with pesticide might leave an unpleasant aftertaste but this is nothing we can't handle. We can expect the big agricompanies to get in on the act as well. I understand that some of them have been working on giant, genetically modified locusts for years now however instead of unleashing them on their opposition they can sell them at a profit. The only real problem with locusts is that their prevalence is largely determined by food supply. That is if the weather doesn't produce a good crop then there won't be that many locusts either. Thus we will have another farmers cycle, the "the locusts didn't hatch and farmers are going to need government assistance just to survive" cycle. But as those who work on the land know, the only guaranteed crop is the one that comes from the welfare office.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

News From South America

They do things a little differently in South America. I'm not saying badly, just differently. My local media site has a delightful little clip from a football match in Bolivia. The president's team was playing a team sponsored by the mayor of La Paz. It would appear that el presidente wasn't impressed with one of the opposing players which is why there is now footage of the country's president kneeing a footballer in the groin. He didn't even get a yellow card. Mind you the opposing footballer wasn't blameless, sure he doubled over in pain when the knee went in but if he had been Italian he would have collapsed screaming to the ground and demanding a blood transfusion if the president had driven by in a car. That's how you get the referees attention these days.

Meanwhile a little further south in Ecuador they are currently experiencing a strike by the Ecuadorean police. Much to my surprise this has led to an increase in crime rather than a reduction. Banks have apparently closed because they are being robbed all over the place and a group of police briefly kidnapped the president before he was rescued by the army. The military were incensed because in attempting to seize the political leader of the country for their own nefarious purposes the police were treading on ground traditionally allocated to the military. Three police colonels are reported to be under arrest. Just a tip, if your police have military ranks then there is usually something wrong.

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has recently had what observers considered a setback and what he called a victory. Strangely both are correct. In recent elections his party maintained their majority in the government but didn't get the two thirds necessary to rubber stamp constitutional amendments such as appointing Hugo Chavez god. Sorry Hugo, you're just going to have to die and rise on the third day like anyone else.

In Chile those miners are still underground but that story has been going for ages and everybody is bored with it.

Brazil looks set to elect an illiterate clown to congress or to be more accurate; Brazil looks set to elect another illiterate clown to congress. His campaign slogan, "Things Can't Get Any Worse". This is the only part of the elections in one of the worlds largest democracies that actually made the papers in Australia.

Colombian police have seized (well found) 29 million dollars which they suspect belongs to a drug lord having ruled out their first theory that it was some grandmothers life savings. Colombia now officially has the highest paid police force in the world.

In Uruguay a former member of a rebel group has become arch bishop of Montevideo. Apparently his first act was to assure his flock that the two children his mistress has were actually fathered by somebody else. He is one of the most popular archbishops the city has ever had.

There is no news at all from Argentina, Guyana or Suriname which indicates either that those countries are going well or that nobody cares. I personally suspect the latter.

I must visit South America, there always seems to be something going on and it always has a unique twist. Any of the above stories could have happened anywhere in the world but South America is the only one where all of them could have happened and nobody would raise an eyebrow. Incidentally one of the stories above is a complete lie. Guess which one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ring Ring. Nobody Home but us Valkyries

I must admit that I don't really get opera. It has always struck me as little more than a group of overdressed, morbidly obese people wailing to the heavens in Italian. Last night though I saw Ring of the Nibelungen on television and my opinion has changed somewhat. Apparently opera can consist of overdressed, morbidly obese people shrieking to the heavens in German.

I didn't see the whole opera, the damn thing went on for hours. The Ring of the Nebelwerfer had been going for two hours when I channel surfed past it and wondered why an incredibly fat woman appeared to be wrapped in tinfoil. Furthermore I left well before the finish, I watched for an hour or so before I went to bed. The opera still had a couple of hours to go. From what I could determine there was this guy named Siegfried who helped a worthless tool named Gunther seduce a Valkyrie or some such. Unfortunately the Valkyrie, whose name improbably is Brunnhilde, recognised Siegfried as her seducer and accused him. Siegfried who seemed to be a bit cocky, or a bit of a cock, swore black and blue that it wasn't him and then cheerfully admitted that it was thus earning the enmity of Brunnhilde, the hapless Gunther and Guther's psycho brother Hagen.

Siegfried, Gunther and Hagen wore business suits, face paint and sleeves decorated with euro and yen symbols while Brunnhilde descended from the ceiling in what looked like a metal bathtub that was only just capable of bearing her weight. All of this was, no doubt, deeply significant. I suspect that what it largely signified was that the director was a wanker.

Anyhow, Siegfried has this ring, plus a helmet and a wacking great sword (all of which went well with his business suit). It turns out that he is also invincible in battle thanks to certain charms that Brunnhilde had laid on him. Collectively this makes him pretty formidable (although no less of a tosser) however the vengeful Brunnhilde informs the equally vengeful Hagen of Siegfried's achilles heel. There always has to be one because otherwise Siegfried could simply slaughter everyone and the opera could be over in five minutes (personally I think Wagner should have investigated that option more thoroughly). When casting her spells Brunnhilde didn't bother to protect Siegfried's back since such a fearless warrior would always face his foes. Thus the key to killing Siegfried is to stab him in the back. As I said, a shameless plot contrivance but what the hell.

Meanwhile for no apparent reason Siegfried goes hunting. While out he meets three damp women suspended from the ceiling in oversized fish tanks. From their dress and general appearance I deduced that they were either Rhine Maidens or members of the All German Fetish Hookers Swim Team (they picked up a bronze in the 2008 BDSM games). In between splashes and gurgles they inform Siegfried that his ring is the famous ring of the nurburger and that it carries a powerful curse. Don't they all? The maidens soggily announce that Siegfried will die unless he gives the ring to them for safe keeping. Siegfried reacts as you would expect a fearless warrior to react when informed by a deliquescent stranger that he has to give up his most cherished possession.

I don't actually know what happened to Siegfried because at that point I threw the remote at the television and went to bed. The opera however went on for another two hours which seems to imply that Wagner had difficulty getting to the point. Mind you I'm a great one to talk. I've just used an entire blog entry to write an incomplete commentary on an opera without coming anywhere near a point. I acknowledge my error and shall attempt to make amends forthwith.

So my point is this; if while bear hunting you happen across a group of women who look like they escaped a dungeon by swimming a canal just give them the damn ring. It could save you a lot of trouble in the future. At the very least it would save you another two hours of Wagner.