Thursday, February 28, 2013

We Should Get Simon Cowell to Help Choose a New Pope

Well the pope has resigned.  An occurence not without precedent but sufficiently rare to make most interested people say "what the fuck"?  Apparently he feels he's getting a little too old for the job or something like that.  Come on Benedict, you're only eighty five.  Your best minutes are ahead of you.  Seriously he should review the age and physical well being of some of his predecessors, I hope I'm doing that well at his age.

I suppose one can't really blame an eighty five year old for wanting to cut down on his workload (although I can just imagine the Queen and Prince Phillip sniffing and muttering "lightweight" under their breath) but it really is a little unfair on the rest of us.  Watching the pope disintegrate into physical and mental jelly used to be one of the fun parts of Vatican watching.  By stepping down while still robust and in possession of most of his marbles Benedict (or Joseph as I suppose we must get used to calling him) really has let us all down a little.  It must be even worse for Catholics, or even Christians generally.

I think Benedict's major problem was that he could never get out of his predecessors shadow.  Let's face it John Paul II had a great papacy.  He bestrode the world like a colossus for a while and when his collapse came it was spectacular.  To have even a hope of matching that decline Benedict would have had to physically disintegrate in public leaving a trail of body parts behind him on his way to the grave.  Perhaps wisely he decided not to run a race he couldn't win.

Benedict said in his statement that he sometimes felt God was asleep during his papacy and therein perhaps lies another problem.  God helps those who help themselves and he is entitled to expect a bit of help keeping the Catholic church in order from the guy who is the head of it.  God wasn't asleep Benedict, he was delegating and guess who he was delegating to?

However there is still a way for Benedict to redeem himself and make his mark on both the church and the world and in actual fact he has laid the groundwork nicely.  I'm talking of course about a schism.  We haven't had a good papal schism for a few centuries now and I think we're well overdue.  Four or five months into his retirement Benedict can declare his dissatisfaction with the way the new pope is running things and announce that he is reluctantly reassuming the burdens of the papacy.

Think of the advantages that would accrue from having two contenders for the papal throne!  There would be anathemas, denunciations and excommunications flying in all directions.  The college of cardinals would take sides and papal politics would descend to a level of treachery and intrigue it hasn't seen since last Tuesday.  Before you know it religion would be interesting again.  There would be t-shirts you could wear supporting your favourite pontifical candidate and of course the next logical step would be a reality tv show.  Something like a cross between The Apprentice and Vatican Idol.

A schism would provide all sorts of benefits.  Islamic fundamentalism would fade into obscurity once we proved we could have a holy war without outside assistance.  A serious split in the church may even lead to the rejuvenation of Christianity like the Reformation before it.  If nothing else it will get those child sex allegations off the front pages for a few weeks.

I May Need to Take Out a Restraining Order on Jesse's Girl

I think I'm being stalked by Jesse's Girl.  That damned song seems to follow me everywhere.  I can't turn on a radio or a music video channel without Jesse's Girl leaping out and assaulting me.  I swear even if I turned on Hundred Greatest Hip Hop Songs the very first thing I'd hear is Jesse's Girl.  It's even found its way onto my iPod which is strange because I don't recall adding it.

If I were to undertake a journey of thousands of miles, cross some of the most hostile terrain in the world and finally after months of suffering and tribulation drag myself to the summit of a snow capped mountain at the end of the world so I could hear words of wisdom from the guru dwelling there I swear I would hear Jesse's Girl blaring at me from the old bastard's cave.

It's not as though I even particularly like the song.  It's a pathetic, snivelling moan about the fact that the singer's best friend has actually got himself a life while all the singer can do is apparently leech on someone elses.  It would appear that finding a girlfriend of his own is just a little bit beyond him.  Frankly one wonders if he even wants to.  Personally I think this obsession with things of and pertaining to Jesse has more than slight homoerotic overtones.  It isn't Jesse's girl the singer is in love with, its Jesse himself.  Should the girl ever dump Jesse I'm sure the singer won't give her a second thought.  As a matter of fact dumping Jesse might be a good idea because if she doesn't pretty soon she's going to be confronted by an hysterical song writer screaming "Stay away from my man".

None of which explains why the song is following me around.  All I can say is it better back off right now because if it doesn't Jesse is going to get a very informative email from me.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Have A Root Canal

So, I'm sitting here waiting for the nerve in my tooth to either recover or die.  Apparently the reckless little thrillseeker wandered a tad too close to the dentists drill and is now paying the price.  While it hovers between recovery and death it is making its displeasure felt by setting my mouth on fire.  This annoyed me at first but I must admit I'm a little more sanguine about it now.

You see while the pain continues it is a sign that my gallant little nerve hasn't given up the struggle and is clinging gamely to life.  A cessation of pain might mean that the nerve has recovered which of course would be a good thing but it could also mean the nerve has died.  This would be bad because if it does move on to the tooth nerve equivalent of the happy hunting ground the inescapable consequence would be abscess and root canal therapy.

Now every twinge in my mouth is greeted with a certain amount of relief on my part as a sign that the nerve is still in there fighting.  If it were possible I would buy a tshirt to symbolise my support of my nerve in its heroic struggle.  Take as long as you need my friend, my thoughts are with you.

On an apparently unrelated note my parents have asked me what I would like for my birthday.  I wonder how they would react if I asked for root canal therapy?  How would they wrap it?  It isn't exactly the most cheery of gifts but a bow and a cheesy card (probably with cats on it) would make all the difference.

Still with luck my gallant little nerve will triumph in its struggle against adversity, although if it does I really will have to think of something else my parents can give me for my birthday.

Heroin and Polar Bears

According to a news report I saw recently cannabis can cause you to have a stroke.  This is terrible news, next they'll discover that heroin gives you cancer.  As a matter of fact I'm surprised that nobody has suggested this already.  If heroin doesn't give you cancer it is on a small and rapidly decreasing list of things that don't.  In fact when you take into consideration the fact that heroin doesn't give you cancer (so far) and is sourced from all natural ingredients we can probably get it up to the line as a health food.

Nowadays pretty much everything gives you cancer with the possible exception of heroin and polar bears.  I suspect this has something to do with our life expectancy.  Back in the days when forty years was a pretty good innings most things simply didn't have time to give us cancer.  If you wanted to kill us you had to be pretty fast acting to get in before we died anyway.  Now as we expand our years on earth beyond the traditional three score and ten (which struck me as wildly optimistic considering when it was written) we have discovered that the entire planet causes cancer.

So I guess that leaves us with heroin and polar bears as our only refuge.  Unfortunately there aren't too many places on earth with easy access to both.  The journey between the two will expose us to all sorts of carcinogens and the stress and worry of attempting to lead a cancer free life will probably give us, you guessed it, cancer.  There are other problems as well.  Heroin is expensive and accessing it will put you into contact with the kind of people you would do well to avoid like policemen and drug counsellors.  Also it is very difficult to access polar bears when you're in prison serving a sentence for drug possession.  There is a limit to what can be smuggled in on a conjugal visit.

Actually polar bears are pretty difficult to access anyway.  Since all the icecaps melted (that did happen right?) the entire polar bear population of the world has been living on a single cube in my drambuie and ice while the world's seal population laughs from a safe distance.  If anybody wants one I'll need three good references and I don't deliver to prisons.

So as you can see living a cancer free life is pretty difficult.  I would write more on this subject but I'm currently in hospital after trying to steal heroin from a strung out polar bear.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Birthday Greetings #29

Happy birthday to Franz II & I of the Holy Roman Emperor and Austria respectively.  Yes, its another birthday shout out to another second rate Habsburg emperor.  Considering the average quality of the emperors they produced no sane person would believe their dynasty would last fifty years, much less four hundred.  Still utterly implacable mediocrity will frequently beat hesitant genius.  It also has to be admitted that on those occasions when the Habsburgs did throw up a ruler of something near genius the consequences were almost invariably disastrous.  Still Franz would be a good candidate for lousiest Habsburg emperor ever if he didn't have so much competition.  In fairness one must acknowledge that Napoleon made rulers much smarter than Franz look pretty stupid too.

Franz was born in Tuscany, the son of the then archduke of that place (Tuscany being one of those territories handed out to younger sons of Habsburg emperors to stop them getting clever ideas).  Since his uncle the Emperor Joseph (one of the brilliant, disastrous ones) had no surviving children (the fact that his wife was a lesbian probably didn't help) it was understood that in the fullness of time Franz would inherit (sorry, be unanimously elected to) the title of Holy Roman Emperor.  After an indulgent childhood in Tuscany he was sent to uncle Joseph in Vienna who treated him like crap.

Possibly as a result Franz became suspicious secretive and distrusting of innovation.  Something else that made him distrusting of innovation was France where they had innovated an entirely new system of government which appeared to make monarchy completely redundant (and executed).  As the monarchical powers of Europe gathered to crush newly republican France they found in Franz their most determined champion.  It didn't help that the French had executed his aunt (Marie Antoinnette) although we shouldn't read too much into this as apparently Franz wasn't that fond of her.

In a series of wars Franz suffered defeat after defeat and humiliation after humiliation.  After one particularly bad defeat Napoleon redesigned the Holy Roman Empire so that it had even less relevance and meaning than hitherto.  Franz took the hint and dissolved the empire completely after first proclaiming himself emperor of Austria.  Thus although the second Holy Roman Emperor to be called Franz he was the first Austrian emperor to bear the same name hence his nomenclature.

As his empire lurched from defeat to defeat Franz finally found himself forced into an alliance with the French and had to hand over his daughter Marie Louise as a wife for Napoleon.  Napoleon would find that if the Austrians made poor enemies they made even worse friends.  It is safe to say that Franz never wavered from his determination to crush the upstart Corsican and was only waiting for his opportunity.  He had some advantages.  His brother, Karl, was an intelligent, capable general (not as capable as Napoleon but, hey) who reformed the Habsburg military machine.  Karl couldn't make the empires armies as good as Napoleons but he did succeed in closing the gap significantly.  Franz was also lucky in having the ruthlessly talented Clemens von Metternich as first foreign minister and then chancellor.  Metternich was as reactionary as his master and considerably more capable.  Finally in 1813 when it became obvious that Napoleon had bitten off more than he could chew Franz declared war against him (for the fourth time) and the Austrian empire provided the majority of the troops which finally defeated Napoleon and drove him ino exile.

After Napoleon was done with Metternich sat down and redesigned Europe to his own and his master's liking and Franz settled down to a long, peaceful and stultifying reign.  Austria was a police state from top to bottom ruled by a congenitally suspicious emperor whom multiple defeats had taught caution and distrust in equal measure.  Despite this Franz tried to be a man of the people and devoted quite a bit of time to face to face meetings with his subjects (seriously, anybody could make an appointment and get an interview, show me a head of state who does that nowadays).  It is a measure of the way Franz ran his empire that when a peasant revolt broke out the leader of the revolt sent continuous letters to Franz complaining about the way the empire was run and Franz paid enough attention to them to have some of the major abuses investigated while at the same time demanding his army catch and execute the rebels.

After a long reign Franz finally died in 1835 leaving the empire to his idiot son Ferdinand.  He can't really claim to be either a good emperor or a particularly good man but after the revolutionary ferment of his early years on the throne a lot of people were probably quite prepared to accept a reliable and predictable tyranny.  Things would go seriously to hell shortly after he died and while insisting that poor Ferdinand take a throne he was utterly unfit to occupy certainly didn't help matters the real reason is that after twenty years of peace and order enforced with an iron fist people were probably prepared to take their chance with chaos again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Good Neighbour Policy for Criminals

The junkies who live in my apartment block have finally been evicted.  This is good news for their immediate neighbours who have had to tolerate endless screaming, fights, property damage and late night police visits.  Its not such good news for the junkies of course who now have to find somewhere else to scream, fight, damage stuff and entertain the police but I suppose there are losers in every transaction.  Another interesting fact is that the drug dealer who lives in a nearby flat isn't being evicted, presumably because she's quiet and doesn't bother the neighbours.

If anyone ever asks why good manners are important the above paragraph is a perfect example.  The junkies were wrecks; pathetic, shattered human beings who were probably incapable of harming anyone seriously except themselves.  But they got evicted because they irritated the neighbours.  The person selling the stuff that ruined them is still living here because she didn't irritate the neighbours.

I was reading the other day about a Sicilian mafia boss.  Even by the standards of his profession he seems to have been a particularly appalling character.  Having murdered his way to the head of his family he maintained that position and became the boss of bosses by even nastier methods.  He also cheerfully killed any government employees who even looked like they might take law and order seriously and wasn't too concerned about how many innocent (ie not government employees) were killed in the process.  This lack of discrimination led to civilian deaths, serious property damage and a climate of fear.  Remember we're talking about Palermo here, it takes a lot to cut through the normal climate of fear to produce a special one.  The result was that the population of Italy (and even more surprisingly a goodly proportion of the population of Sicily) started demanding that the government do something about this man.  This man is now serving six billion years to life in an Italian maximum security prison.  It is fair to say that the other mafia bosses who adhered a little more closely to the good neighbour policy heaved a sigh of relief and Sicily has settled down happily under the thumb of more traditional mafia overlords.

As an interesting aside when the carabinieri went to arrest this man who had been "on the run" and "in hiding" for over twenty years all they did was knock on his front door.  Everybody knew where he was and if he had behaved just a little more decently towards his neighbours he would probably still be there.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that people prefer good neighbours to law abiding citizens.  So if you're a young criminal out there, here's some free advice.  Be quiet, keep decent hours, dress soberly and be polite but friendly to your neighbours when you meet them.  Do this and they probably won't care if your apartment is stacked floor to ceiling with eviscerated corpses.  Although in that case it might be adviseable to invest in some air freshener as well.

From Lychees to Cannibalism Isn't Really a Big Step

Lychees seem to be a popular fruit at the moment.  I'm not entirely sure why unless people enjoy eating something the size and texture of eyeballs.  Whenever I see a lychee I can't help pausing for a moment to see if it blinks.  Strange to say they are not my favourite fruit.  I'm not crazy about the taste but honestly I think its their resemblance to eyeballs that puts me off.

I suppose its a cultural thing really.  If I were a Bedouin I'd probably be eating lychees by the wagon load waxing lyrical about how eyeball like they are.  Sadly for Bedouins everywhere lychees aren't exactly common in desert areas.  Culture or not I shall stick to my guns.  I refuse to believe that there can be any good ending to a conversation that begins with "Join me in an eyeball."

Before my Bedouin readership rises in outrage let me remind them that I live in Australia.  Any invitation to eat eyeballs in this country probably indicates a widespread outbreak of cannibalism.  While cannibalism in and of itself doesn't particularly disturb me (it's probably healthier than most of the stuff I eat) the prevalence of it in the modern day would tend to indicate a serious collapse of civilisation or what passes for civilisation in the modern day.

This would disturb me a little.  I'm not really equipped to survive a ghastly post civilisation hellscape.  Actually I'm not really equipped to survive a picnic by the river.  The thought that my fellow picnickers might be eyeing me up checking out the choice cuts as I make a mess of spreading my blanket is enough to ruin any enjoyment I might get from the occasion.  Cannibalism puts me in mind of people fortifying homes, breaking out guns (and of course, condiments), wearing animal skins and getting into road races with a much younger Mel Gibson (you know, the one who wasn't insane).

At the present moment my coping skills have been stretched to the limit attempting to assist a five legged spider to get down from a very awkward position over my kitchen sink.  I would like to claim altruism but in fact I could just see the thing falling on me while I did the dishes.  I nudged it with a broom handle and damn near knocked it down on top of me.  It is currently curled up on my lounge room floor doing its best to look dead.  It does this so effectively that twice now I've thought it was dead but as at fifteen minutes ago it was alive if somewhat battered.  I'm thinking of giving it a name but I'm still not certain what the life expectancy is for a five legged spider and I don't want to get too attached.

So if you want to know why I don't like lychees its because looking at them reminds me of the inherent frailty of civilisation and opens up the possibility of a world with problems more difficult to solve than acting as a carer for a disabled arachnid.