29 June 2008
Apart from ex-Senator Vanstone's predictably turgid neo-lackeyism ("loyal southern friend", I ask you) the comments got me thinking about suitable songs from the contemporary canon, the more common "we are one", "my island home" suggestions aside.
I was quite taken by the suggestion for the Aeroplane Jelly song, if only to keep alive the word 'aeroplane' (in an ad on TV I got a reference to "frosting" on a cake - presumably they meant "icing" but as it was Betty Crocker I assumed that some 'brand executive' had focused on the sales to the exclusion of safeguarding another minuscule speck of our language). But at least the Aeroplane Jelly person had some arguments up his sleeve.
So if we had to choose a pop or rock song for national usage, what would it be?
Rose Tattoo's "We can't be beaten" has some merit, it is about beating the other bloke and has strong themes of both individualism and collective action.
Kylie's "I should be so lucky" would neatly reflect Donald Horne's 1960 complaint about our love of taking the easy way out.
Anything by Redgum would get my vote but could prove divisive ("come and sing the middle-class Liberal, I've got a home in Beaumont rag with me"). You'd have to pair it with the "Country Coalition's" 1966 anthem "All we need is a little more time to get it together" (they got another 6 years but it didn't make a whole heap of difference).
Over to you, I have a roast to get on the table.
This is the last sentence in this week's AA Gill restaurant review but it's far from the best, so perhaps you might considering clicking through to read it. You'll get a long-ish essay on specific aspects of evolution and pick-up lines before you get to the restaurant review itself, which turns out to be quite perfunctory. But a worthwhile if not outstanding read this week.
Every couple of months I call an old mate to see how he's travelling. He's had a rough-ish life in some ways but has fought through. His desires are modest and at last he'd achieving them. Anyway it turns out he's on blood pressure pills and some fairly intensive moderation of his diet.
Which gives me pause for thought, as I scoff the second coldie for the evening, snork up half a (200gm) packet of chips (Woolies home brand, my favourite, no fancy-pants kettle or exotic brands for me) preparatory to several glasses of cheap red with dinner.
In Mr Rudd's world I am a binge drinker except of course I'm not - except for last Friday but as I pointed out in a recent post, I also drank water throughout the evening.
The point is I'm not out every Friday and Saturday tying one on like there's no tomorrow. But I probably drink a little more than the contemporary best practice commentary says I should.
That's not a problem, but the chips may well be. I used to be able to hoover an entire 200gm packet, I now find that a bit...excessive.
This is progress.
Meanwhile, the implications and unintended (hmm...maybe) consequences of a surveillance society elicit comment and comment upon comment in the UK. I object to profit being made from taxpayer funded 'safety' video surveillance - particularly when the footage gets treated in such a rubbishy way as is the case - and the point about cameras being a poor substitute for cops on the beat is pretty spot on in my view.
The predilection of bureaucracy to abuse any data it gets its hands on is well established - it's systemic in my view, no individual employee would consider such a policy but 'the system' as a whole does it easily. Of course in our market economy the most common abuse is to sell off the data. What happens after that is entirely predictable and quie tasteless.But I see a clear line emerging through Chateau VVB opinion, and that is that I'm getting older and more conservative.
As the theory says I should.
But it's still disturbing, yes?
28 June 2008
What I shouldn't have done, of course, was include a perfectly serviceable cummerbund in the old ties and stuff that went into the charity bin.
Anyway I got a new suit that I suspect will get enough use to justify buying rather than hiring.
Being a still relatively recent arrival it's nice that I know enough people to be able to join the throng unaccompanied - as Mrs VVB is yet to join me here - and find someone to talk to. It was a good night and because I've learnt to sip water while hoovering down the red I wasn't too unwell this morning.
I can even remember most of the commitments/agreements to do stuff that I made last night. I just need to note them now so I don't forget before Monday.
Drove past what will become VVB-by-the-sea this morning and can't wait until we move in. The new job is too demanding for this to be a proper sea-change but maybe in time that's what it will turn into.
That's the plan, anyway.
25 June 2008
22 June 2008
With some exceptions and a lot of extra complications, they were right.
Meanwhile, our broader notions of what constitutes a benign society is continually under siege. Forget about 'polite', I fear that very soon it'll be hard to walk down the street without someone spitting on you.
Oh look, that happens already.
And just to pile it on, here is this week's AA Gill which, apart from a nice treatise on cities, the country, how they relate (or not as the case may be) and what it means for us as a society, is worth it just for the last sentence.
No, read the whole thing first, don't skip straight to the end.I thought I told you not to.
Have a great week.
21 June 2008
Anyway mate, when it does happen we'll be there. When's the next Olympics?
It'd be kind of cool to do some analysis of the 'right-wing' blogosphere ever since we got a 'socialist' government in Canberra.
Socialist? As if. But even so I have the perception that there's more heat and noise from the right-ish end of the 'sphere than before. This is just going on the daily scan of Ozpolitics so it's a sample size of one and a not dispassionate sample at that.
But it wouldn't be surprising if it were so. Remember the lead up to the 2004 election? When Back Pages held sway amongst a slew of 'left and left-ish' blogs, Tampa and the Pacific Solution were still fresh and there was substantial reason to rail against Howard and his government?
Now the boot is supposedly on the other foot, in the most simplistic interpretation, so it's not hard to imagine the depth of feeling and need to rail by "those opposite".
Possum (well, it actually seems to be Graeme Langlands who was popularly known as Changa) has some good analysis of a couple of those leading the charge and the comments that follow are immensely good, with one exception, perhaps. It's not a need to rail according to Possum but something altogether more sinister.
This is definitely a 'watch this space' issue. In the US, the Obamaramarangadangadingdong show has embraced the power of Web 2.0001, so another independent variable is the ongoing maturation of the blog world.
What will we have in Australia when Kevin 0-0 goes to the polls next?
Here's an idea, let's have a party on Bribie. The house should be ready.
19 June 2008
- Setting up rules to manage your in-box? Tick.
- If you're a busy executive, paying someone to manage information flow using judgement and technology? If you don't have a dedicated PA or there are time differences because you are frequently overseas? OK then.
- Paying a team of MBAs to manage your FaceBook page? Aaaaargh make it stop.
15 June 2008
Don't tell me you don't want to click through to find out how.
Alright then, how about "...a mincemeat hernia in a bread roll..."
Off you go.
If you don't like Gill you can try Giles Coren, presumably son of Alan Coren, a former editor of the lamented Punch and author of Golfing for Cats, a copy of which still resides in my bookcase.
Here's a taster: "...their arses bulging against the dumpling walls like stolen babies stuffed in a pillow case." Guess what he's talking about.
Alert - it's awfully snobby, young Mr Coren demonstrates that, similar to political ability, being funny can't be inherited.
However it is also revealed that "an international magazine" has paid $10m for "exclusive access" to the wedding. The Economist, do you think? What's incredibly sad about this is that someone has made a business decision that investing $10m is likely to return them even more in sales and advertising. Advertising for what - brain removals?
Anyway, the princesses are getting their themed weddings: the paper also reports that one, who had likened herself to Cinderella, had a fairy story theme with tables each named after a storybook character and guests receiving a glass slipper bonbonierre, whatever a bonbonierre might be. I just hope that cleaning dirty nappies and mopping the kitchen floor also renders lots of satisfaction. I don't know what the groom's favourite story character was, but I hope that lawnmowers come into the equation somewhere.
Aaarrgh, cruel and unnecessary, yes?
Well, cop this, then. There's a desperate shortage of eligible blokes in Brisbane. They're all in Mackay and parts west, earning squillions in the mines. Well, that's part of it. The other part is evident in the 'social' pages, where mobs of young females with flashing eyes and bared fangs parade their 'it's all about me' pout. Danger, Will Robinson.
And the AAMI ad: "Give Ami a ring...you following me, Todd?"(Addresses Mrs VVB: "Geez, I'm turning into my old man, aren't I?")
In other news, the Irish people have rejected the latest incarnation of a super-EU state through voting down accession to the Lisbon Treaty. This doesn't seem to have attracted much comment around the Australian blogosphere, I guess everybody is fixated on Obamaramaworld.
This Times column is headed "Real people 1, Eurocrats 0 (after extra time) and no cleverer headline could you find. Yes, the backroom boys, the urgers, the faceless internationals - along with true believers, no doubt - have seen their dream fall apart yet again, but Mum and Dad, the salt of the earth, etc etc, have maintained some grip on their national culture and, by extension, their history .
Their only pro-EU comment that I can muster some sympathy for is that Ireland has been ungrateful, as its turbocharged economic growth since the 1960s has been on the back of lots and lots of EU loans and grants.
And that money, folks, was made available in turn on the back of outrageous tariffs on Australian agricultural goods.
However, regardless of its provenance, the Irish made good use of that money - they invested heavily in education and R&D. They also chucked a lot at attracting foreign investment and attracted more than few world leading firms in IT and so on. But I don't think they make Toyotas there.
Anyway, that's nothing compared to this. How come we don't get analysis like this in Australian newspapers (don't bother, no-one answered this last time I asked either). In lieu of a considered response, have some dot points (and count yourselves lucky that I didn't do it in Powerpoint):
- lucky we're in the commodities producing group, eh?
- what will happen to the oil-producing nations when the oil runs out and all they have is condominiums (condominia?) and villas?
- yes, inability to control oneself now results in people being stabbed in supermarket queues: good job in bringing up your children, people;
- governments, under the thrall of the Chicago school, liberalised international financial flows;
- financial whiz kids (read: snake oil salesmen, but highly numerate) invented ever more 'sophisticated' financial instruments to take advantage;
- it all went pear shaped;
- no one saw it coming;
- no one is taking responsibility;
- the OECD, yet another body utterly beholden to neo-liberal economic philosophy, thinks it can devise an answer;
- pull the other one, it has bells on;
- meanwhile the poorest will be starving even more quickly and in greater numbers;
- spell moral hazard, then put it into a sentence;
- maybe another sentence;
- no, a different one;
- what do you think are the chances of some genuinely different thinking. Can you get George Soros elected king of the world or something? He could have Ross Gittins in the boy sidekick role.
Anyway I can't leave you on such a negative note, so I must pass on a friend's advice to her daughter as said daughter left with boyfriend to see the Krusty Demons: "don't flash your t*ts unless you really want to!"
Ah yes, we children of the 60s and our approaches to child rearing. At least our own kids don't stab people.
14 June 2008
That was a joke, I don't think argon can be stapled to anything although next time I'm in Office works, I'll loiter around the staplers and ask one of the attendants whether the Acme 3000 staples argon.
Wtf am I on about? Is last night's meandering still under way?
No, it's all about weddings, the cost thereof, and all that's wrong about it. It seems that some footballer and his footballer's wife have spent the sum typical for a footballer and everyone's up in arms. From different perspectives.
Mrs VVB and I have a view about this issue and it concerns Offspring No 2, because she has been told on many, many occasions that, should the occasion arise, we are not stumping up for whatever the contemporary 'best practice' happens to be for nuptials including themes, wedding planners, expensive venues, fripperies and cakes 9 metres high. And especially 'favours' for guests, any of whom should feel themselves bloody fortunate to get a stubby of light or a glass of cheap fizzy and two glasses of vino collapso without some kind of gift that will end up in the bin by night's end. What the blokes want to drink is up to them.
In fact I believe Mrs VVB has consistently whispered the word 'elope' into Offspring No 2's sleeping ears.
Why anyone needs a wedding planner is entirely bemusing to me - that's what mothers and, in extreme cases, mothers in law do, isn't it? Whenever you read an article on this issue you get comments saying "well when I was married..." and it's no different at Chateau VVB. It was organised by the family, the reception was at a sister's place and it was no worse for having been so arranged as far as I can see.
If we have to underwrite any future union that Offspring No 2 might want to embark on, we'd rather help out with housing than an over-the-top celebration of 'princess' culture.
Offspring No 2 is of course free to provide her own comments on this issue, but caution would be in order, nicht war?On another topic entirely, Andrew Leigh makes a few comments on Craig Emerson's speech to the Sydney Institute last week. It seems to me that even the more thoughtful bloggers such as Leigh seem too eager to categorise pollies by what they should believe, based on party membership. That said, it probably holds true more often than not and has certainly become a simpler task since the victory of 'markets' over any other model in 1989.
There's no reason why Emerson shouldn't quote Adam Smith - why, I even once managed to get a reference to Hayek into a letter I once had to write to the State Treasury while arguing, no doubt, for some market intervention somewhere. I wish I still had it: while I felt awfully clever at the time, I rather suspect that the argument must have been pretty tenuous.
Anyway, I also believe that more pollies should refer to the Theory of Moral Sentiments rather than the Wealth of Nations, which usually gets selectively interpreted anyway. Abject disclosure: I haven't read either of 'em but I am much taken with the except from the former in Andrew Leigh's post. Certainly security of ownership of property provides the basis for commerce so don't think that I'm one of those who advocates the State grabbing it willy-nilly and distributing it around the polity.
But you do get an awful lot of regulation which tends to entrench a property-owning class, which is not a good thing.
(*) For Woody Herman fans.
13 June 2008
Very thoughtful of them, but I've been aware of women since...a long long time.
Oh, that's not what it was about? How silly of me.
One of the things that I see is the greater ability of the 'left' - as so defined from any eon to any random minute - to see flaws in their own team than the right/conservatives in theirs.
It's a rubbish argument of course, but:
- a) it's Friday night; and
- b) go to post number 1 and remind yourselves that I promised you neither robustly argued positions nor a rose garden.
After this entirely baseless assemblage of generalisations, I then ask you to try to remember an Alan Wood column that was critical of the previous Federal Government.
In the absence of any responses, even given that I haven't posted this piece yet, I rest my case and go "nnnyyah".
Particularly because, as a result of very slow typing, I'm another glass or so through the bottle.
This, as the saying goes, proves it.
In other news, it's been a long time since Mrs VVB have been reunited and I look forward to next time we see each other. And blow me down, that was her then on the phone. Must be mutual, or something.
Earlier on in the bottle, I was thinking that a nice first for VVB would be a reflective piece on...on...something that seemed important at the time. Why do we do the things we do? Why do other people do the things they do? Why don't we do the same things?
It's a miraculous relief that the moment of inspiration has passed, because it was truly a very small piece of inspiration.
It was probably related to the hope that the impending mutation of Chateau VVB into VVB-by-the-sea turns out to be a good move. Many of the portents were, and are, positive but there's some current stuff that makes you think "geez what have we done?"
So the trick is to focus on the positive: things will work out for the best, we will establish ourselves in VVB-by-the-sea and sip pina coladas while te]he sun goes down.
Although the sun will go down behind us - and the house - rather than as we gaze at it. This is only a minor inconvenience.
10 June 2008
And Rudd has been sending people to the UK to study the success of the Blair, now Brown, government just before it plummets into England's green and pleasant land in a shower of spin and soundbites. Of such ephemera is government now constructed.
To which you can add the fascination with plans, Key Performance Indicators, critical objectives and 100 day statements of "success" or "progress", both of which serve as frail euphemisms for "activity."
Anyway Kevin has thrown several bucketloads of your cash at Toyota to keep a bunch of Victorians in employment - and of course due to supply chains and just-in-time management, willing workers in other States and overseas too.
Does it make economic sense? Of course not, see a couple of posts ago. Should we be doing it?
Of course. We used to make aircraft, now we import them from Brazil of all places. Something else, like a predeliction for using knives as weapons, that happened while our backs were turned.
Are hybrid cars the answer? Probably not, but neither was the steam engine. You with me?
Anway, can the car fancier - the paid one - who reads this blog kindly impart some of his wisdom on the issue? Do we need a sophisticated engineering and design industry in this country and how much are we prepared to pay for it, or should we rest on our laurels as diggers of world class dirt and currency arbitragers?
Now for a good luck story. Because (temporary) pied a terre VVB doesn't have anywhere you can vacuum the car, I took the office chariot to the car wash to vacuum out a few weeks' worth of mud and crap.
Then, as I was there, I decided to wahs the car as well. I had $5, just enough for a wash, that stupid foaming brush that doesn't get the embedded bugs off, and a rinse.
I put $3 in, put the other $2 coin in my shirt pocket for easy acccess, and went to washing like a dervish.
Which resulted, almost inevitably, in the $2 coin jumping out at some stage and leaving me with a soapy car to drive home. Embarrassing.
But I drove the car forward and there was the $2, just on the edge of the grate. I nearly knocked it in when I bent down to pick it up, but good fortune smiled again.
We need all the good fortune we can get. Returning to the first theme, I recall the stumbles and sheer amateur ineptitude of the early Howard reign, but such was the disenchantment with Keating that he got a pretty easy run, Ministers' financial indiscretions aside (well, you sort of expect that with the Libs, eh?).
Now we have our Labor government back and they're proving a little embarrassing. They've got a year or so but they'd better get over it. And, at least our eyes are open, not an attribute I've noted in Howard-huggers.
That's enough rabid generalisations for one night.
09 June 2008
Anyway with today's Queen's Birthday honours there he was again and the networks obliged by showing him power walking and scowling, haranguing and snarling and generally looking quite dislikeable.
Whereas with PM Rudd you get plenty of the technocrat but you also get pictures of him genuinely relaxed, even in the company of the people noticeably different to him (and us).
It's all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?
Unless he gets the wheels back on pdq he's shaping up as a bit of a disappointment, but he's certainly better than the current or recently deposed alternatives. And it's nice to see a PM who is multidimensional, who can adapt to his environment and those around him and be himself. We never saw that in Howard except when he was putting the fear of god into the country about one thing or another.
He needs to get a rocket under his Cabinet, although I doubt they'll ever reach the capacity of the first Hawke ministry whom the old man dubbed "the best Liberal cabinet ever."
Those were the days.
08 June 2008
Hmm, I remember many years of half-yearly exams which carried out exactly the same function. I've been ruined for life although not as ruined as my parents thought after I once came 7th.
Anyway, anything we can do the Japanese can do better so sit back, pull up a comfy chair and enjoy this story. As one commenter pointed out, it is indeed a shame that there wasn't a picture, not least because it raises the spectre of a bit of a furphy or urban myth.
And here's something else that the Japanese - well apparently, according to Jeremy - do better. However I'm with Johan from Bruges (see the comments) which is why, although the new VVB-by-the-sea lacks sufficient garaging or even parking space, there will be a TR6 or something similar in the drive - or on the grass - as soon as I can arrange it.
07 June 2008
Going back to the days of Hawke and Keating, the Productivity Commission provided the intellectual muscle for economic deregulation and those governments generally followed its advice.
Yes, they did. So in subsequent years, the argument very simply became, "we need more deregulation." Only a little bit more here, a bit more there, and we'll be OK.
It's a seductive argument all right.
The trouble is, it's undermined by common sense because it rests on an assumption that there's a single correct answer to any question and that answer is always the same. Doesn't make sense, eh?
The argument goes that without protection, we stop doing things that don't add up economically and we will specialise in the things we do well.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the answer.
Now, this mob is extremely good at what they do, of that there is no doubt.
The question is: can we, as a nation, get by on this skill set?
(*) Kris Kristofferson, it seems.
06 June 2008
Interesting that of the small number of comments, two come from Australia. With our small, incestuous finance and business community, I wouldn't be surprised at a level of insider trading that should, in any fair and decent world, call for a full scale review and rejigging of our institutions for financial dealing.
In our current, unfair and indecent world, it's not going to happen. The vested interests, rather like the military rulers of Burma or Robert Mugabe, have too much at stake to quit.
I'm not talking about destruction either.
Maybe excepting wealth.
Difficult, isn't it?
First the serious: an opinion piece on the recent UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) talks, particularly in relation to biofuels. It's not a bad article but wow!, the comments. Surely we get some comments of insight and substance (and not just at the Guardian either, I should point out) that are really a level above.
Having, at one stage, been the 'desk officer' for the FAO within a bit of the Australian bureaucracy (later followed by similar roles for other UN organisations), I'm not in the least surprised by the outcome as well as the process of getting there. "Watered down language" is another way of saying 'compromise', with the added slant that it's not win-win, it's lose-lose. The conference has an end date and time and there has to be a communique, regardless of what it says.
One commenter talks about the increasing inability of the UN to produce outcomes, much as the League of Nations before it.
I'm torn on this - having seen the workings up close, you'd be demoralised to hear how bad it is. But what's the alternative? A commenter talks about delegates being beholden to their protectors who nominate them: in many cases yes, in others (such as Australia where the nomination process is reasonably transparent, within bureaucratic norms), no. Systems within systems, it's a complex world and you can't control all the consistent bits. But the big picture stuff - the objectives and arrangements between nations - should be reviewed. Should we just rebalance the power structure within the UN? Just a useful first step?
The second article is meant to cheer you up - what's happening with Big Brother's ninth season in the UK. There are a number of really classic comments in the article, you should just read it as I can't ad anything.
So, here we are in pied a terre VVB with a long weekend coming up when I won't be back in the bosom of the family back at the Chateau in the leafy western suburbs. We have signed the contract for the new Chateau and in a couple of months we'll be in it. However, it's not really a chateau - it's a bit more flat and funky - so it'll need a new name.
Suggestions, on the back of a large bank cheque, to "the new owners, VVB-by-the sea."
Hmmm, that's not bad, actually.
03 June 2008
Midweek-ish, plenty of work so too busy to spend much time here, I'll tell you what I'm sick and tired of:
- opinion polls of politicians' "approval ratings": it's only been 6 months since the bloody election for crying out loud, if Rudd's "approval rating" goes down x% and Nelson's comes up y%, what actual impact could this possibly have?
- similarly, "MSM analysis" - it's not analysis by any definition, it's a primary school-level book review stuff of at best superficial ephemera;
- the continuing infiltration of US slang: today I saw a genuine - well as much as any could be - story with the word "takeout" in the title. Puke.
- country shows with lots of bull, literally;
- real people;
- including farmers in RM Williams and all the gear, including very large hat, talking about phenotypes - Australian agriculture has come a long way in the last couple of decades;
- buying a new Chateau VVB.