31 May 2008
So I'm sipping at the puky instant coffee - pied a terre VVB is not an oasis of civilisation by my usual measure - and waiting the time to pass so I can go to collect Mrs VVB from the airport. And I run across the Guardian's regular (I think) contest for readers to send in song title around a theme.
This week the theme is optimistic songs, so for all of you reader who is interested in music, you'll find a treasure trove of suggestions, ranging from the obvious to the extremely obscure, especially as it's a pommy paper.
I guess Martin Seligman would approve: you can teach yourself happy, although we might park any conclusions until we see responses to next week's them.
So a wave of optimistic goodness washes over me while I gaze into the grey outside - it's gonna be a wonderful day.
30 May 2008
Gerard Baker posits a decline in the Britishness of being British...economic stagnation and a political system that isn't quite democracy.
India Knight looks at the same issue from the viewpoint of the recreational habits of a substantial underclass without hope, and what they make their society. The upright working class, the "conscience and backbone" of the nation, declines into an uneducated, hateful and bitter underclass.
Causes? Guesses, anybody?
The loose, lax and permissive 60s? The lingering effects of excessive union power through the 70s? The unintended consequences of hard line economics where there is no such thing as society? The legacy of ten years of the triumph of spin over substance?
Hmm, that's 3 against 1, the ideological orientation of this little blog is getting wobbly again. Any more of this and we'll be back to public corporal punishment as the panacea for all that ails us.
You can rest assured that the quick and easy answer will be wrong, but how the various policy environments have combined to get the current results is far too big to be bitten off here. 'Cos I'd like to believe that it was the single one in that list that did the damage, but common sense gets in the way.
I wouldn't like to see a return to that stultifying obeisance to authority that characterised the period when I was born. I look at Offsprings 1 and 2 and think, "well, for kids of characteristically 'wet, wishy-washy left' parents who grew up in a period when kids had a lot more freedom, they didn't end up too badly given their various educations."
But we can't go arguing from the particular to the general here, can we?
We don't need national service, but some grammar and speed and accuracy mental arithmetic tests, such as the late father used to put me through on the long drives from Sydney to Dubbo, wouldn't go astray.
This is the professional way for spoilt brats to celebrate.
I love the divergence in the comments - no wonder we have wars! Such as:
Question from Spain: where is the ''all these lazy, unprincipled foreigners are destroying the social fabric and the wonderful british way of life and should be kicked out'' brigade?
The party rocked!!!!
(Thanks Kev, are you Australian by any chance? Surname Kavanagh?
Theres gone be a lot of alcohol an amazing DJ.” “There’s so much damage and clothes stolen. A lot of broken doors. people caight
(SIC) having sex.” -- Well done. Nothing like a top-notch private education.
I lived in Southern Spain 2 years ago and the chavish loutishness is identical to
the uk , only with better weather and cheaper grog.
29 May 2008
I had to officiate at a 'do' tonight. We had a visiting delegation of 6 people: I introduced them all then did a bit of a spiel.
I then introduced one of the group who was to do a talk. Part way through I thought, "I forgot one of them when I did the intros." Then the one speaking mentioned this bloke by name and I thought, "ahh, he's made up for it, I must have forgotten him."
So when I came back to do the link between the speaker and next one, I mentioned the bloke I had forgotten.
Later, once it was all over, they said to me, "you didn't forget him, you mentioned him."
I made a comment about my memory to which one replied, "ah, you're like me, you've got CRAFT."
CRAFT = Can't Remember A Fucking Thing.
Exactly so, and now I have a new way to describe it.
28 May 2008
Four departments briefed against the national Fuel Watch scheme, so why is the Government going ahead with it?
Hmm...so where were the leaks during the Howard government's reign? At least we know that the current government is getting frank and fearless advice.
Looks like the ABC will definitely continue to be on "we are independent" watch.
Despite the "we're not racists, but..." comment made by a woman interviewed by the ABC after the meeting at Camden about the Islamic school, "Why is Channel 2 in favour of the school?"
Indeed. Channel 2 brings crime, I expect.
I particularly liked this bit:
Another resident said: "It's not for racist [reasons], just all the crime and stuff that other foreign people bring into the town."Ah yes: thanks for that. QE f*****g D, as they say.
Speaking of which, I ran across a whole host of stories and opinion pieces about the growing use of knives in youth crime in the UK and Australia. Haven't got time to write at the moment - got work to do - but it looks like other people have noticed the trend. Got a lot to do with drink, I imagine, but...any views?
24 May 2008
By "it" I mean blogging, what on earth were you thinking I meant?
Anyway it's therapeutic and unless I write this drivel I'll be certifiable. Actually I need to be certifiable to write the drivel, it's all cause and effect.
I mean, innit?
Even if correlation is not causation, well, nothing even correlates with what goes through my tiny mind while I write so what you get on the electronic page is probably more random than it appears.
And again from Political Theory, a link to a book that could have been written for us here in the Chateau - actually it sounds like a good common sense kind of book that the functionally innumerate such as yer 'umble correspondent could do with.
Well, not much else to think about. It's a shame the erstwhile brilliance of VVB must decline into its dotage so quickly, but what we need my friends is time, and time we don't have.
However we're here back in the Chateau, perched in the leafy western suburbs and a full Saturday of packing, lifting, toting and ripping up carpet awaits.
The roof cleaner has wrought his magic and the roof is a brilliant terra cota, because that's what the tiles were before 35 years of gum sap and bird poo rendered it a tasteless, slimy green. It looks fabulous, why did we not get it cleaned when we moved in so we could have enjoyed it fully this past ten years?
I can't wait to see it when the new carpet goes down - we probably won't want to sell.
But there will be no choice, I'll officially be King of RARAland come Monday. As Gene Pitney sang, Last Chance to Turn Around...hmm, that opportunity has passed. On Tuesday I'll be in Theodore, my territory is large and diverse. It was named after "Red Ted" Theodore and is, by all accounts, a very pretty little place so despite the fact that I'll be working I'm looking forward to seeing somewhere different.
Back to the decline of VVB, apparently despite its continuing lapse into irrelevance certain readers do take the time to peruse and discuss, including the now Mrs Possum. I'm bitterly disappointed that no anonymous comments result from this no doubt close parsing of the fragile text on display here. I'd welcome a bright, hermeneutics-based confab (why did that word spring to mind?).
After all, youse do it in real life, real time, eh?
Anyway, the call of manual labour grows too strong to resist. I've had a quick look at today's headlines, this is the only one of any interest whatsoever. Although 400 doctors or something have pronounced John McCain fit enough to be President of the US. I think that's more detail than anybody should ever reasonably want to know: what would we have learnt about John Gorton, for example?
I suppose just to put in something of substance, this is a pretty good article I think about corporate governance as she is practiced in Australia.
No having the slightest in depth knowledge of any of this stuff apart from if it smells off it probably is, VVB can't really do any discussion. However the public prominence of the proposed Westpac takeover of St George has certainly got a lot of people talking (well, those that talk to me anyway - a dwindling crowd).
Most focus on the role of Gail Kelly as previous CEO of St George, and that's certainly a factor. But I was in a workshop earlier this week where someone put up the stats on how many mergers, let alone takeovers, fail to produce the forecast benefits. Far more than half of these destroy shareholder value. Investment advisors, the merchant banks, do very well from the fees.
Whenever I get comments about the sort of thing I do and whether it does any good, I always compare it to these shining lights of human endeavour and I end up feeling a lot better about myself. If this corporate activity has published stats on previous success, or lack of it more to the point, but the smarties and small club of board directors in Australia still persist, surely you've got to ask why?
Next post will be written entirely in either first, second or third person but not all three.
No, bugger it, it'll be written how it comes out.
18 May 2008
But what is a suitable punishment? Here are two: one drawn from history, and one that's a bit more relevant and contemporary.
History? Bring back the stocks - surely a little public humiliation might lead some of these youngsters back to the straight and narrow?
Modern? A punishment that is enforceable and relevant? Blacklist them with service providers from ever having a mobile phone service (kind of like being banned from driving). Sure, the obsessive will find a way around it but, similar to being caught driving without a licence, the consequent actions would be demonstrably criminal and treated accordingly.
Waddaya reckon? We need to stamp this out before it gets worse - look what's happening in the UK. There's a breakdown in the very usual ways that people behave - sure we've always had the hoods, the idiot fringe, the downright criminal - but this seems a whole world removed from what has been accepted as fringe behaviour in recent decades. And this use of knives? Where did that come from?
But...in keeping with the general (we hope) Chateau VVB vibe of always looking on the bright side of life, here's an article from the Times of London about this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Mrs VVB and I always look forward to Eurovision - it marks the passing of the year almost equally with DanceSports on Christmas Night - but the Times is looking for a bit more substance in the usually outrageously naff show this year.
They posit the possibility (eerk, sorry about that) of taking E-vision seriously by having credentialled representatives from each country. All well and good, but they take it to the next level, incorporating an Australian innovation of which I am sure their pop culture correspondent is unaware, namely State of Origin. Read it now.
17 May 2008
The news from Burma gets ever more dire, not that anyone with any understanding of the bastards that run the place should be surprised.
Returning from a semi-work function last night we were listening to the radio with some unidentified UN official giving a series of increasingly bureaucratic (there are the reasons we can't do anything) responses to the question about intervention. Such as this letter:
The time has come for the world to call the Burma "regime", "junta", whatever you wish to call it, to account. The deliberate repression of your own people following a massive natural disaster may not be genocide, but it has the same results.
UN's lip service.
While governments and the United Nations posture and send messages "in the strongest possible terms", Burma's junta stockpiles aid and the people die in vast numbers. It is almost impossible to think of a more appropriate scenario for the use of the UN's "responsibility to protect" provision ("Criminal inaction a call to arms", May 16). As the refusal of Burma's generals to allow the entry of aid is directly causing unnecessary loss of life, a crime against humanity is being committed and thus the provision's criteria are fulfilled. As a regional power, the Australian Government must pressure the UN for immediate action in Burma in whatever form is necessary to ensure that assistance reaches those who need it now.
Dr Andrew Clift
Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Oh, look at this. Let's watch closely. The China factor is pivotal - what about those Olympics and international recognition (as well as their own earthquake disaster)? We can intervene for good purposes, yes?
Time to start splitting hairs.
Meanwhile, the media is full of the new scourge of cyber-bullying, particularly following the suicide of a young girl in the US after an (adult!!) neighbour set up a fake MySpace page to lure the girl into a virtual relationship with a boy, then ending it.
The colour magazine in today's Courier-Mail (can't find the article on-line, sorry) carries an extensive article with a similar story from NZ at its heart. In this case, the girls who allegedly perpetrated the bullying hung around the funeral, giggling and pointing.
I'm getting very wobbly on capital punishment after stories like these. I think a couple of public executions might get some results (apart from the inevitable TV series - "Teenage Executions Unlocked").
Interesting point, there.
In fact, we'd say that there's a pretty direct link between cyber-bullying, with attendant doctored videos, photos and "facts", and these types of TV series.
What is becoming of our society?
Sometime earlier in the week there must have been a comment about how awful Adelaide is, which provoked a response from one Alexander Downer, a currently irrelevant backbencher in the Parliament. Mr Downer's letter elicited a number of spot-on responses, such as :
Some of us have tried living in Adelaide, Alexander Downer, and the experience was far from pleasant. There are summers of dry, 40-degree-plus heat, and freezing winters, with little in between. Adelaide has the worst water problem of any state capital. A good percentage of the population are religious bigots, self-righteous and suspicious of outsiders. Are we to believe that if Mr Downer were offered an ambassadorial posting to Paris or New York he would turn it down because Adelaide is such a great place to live? I don't think so.
Allan Hondow Ballina
Yes, Alexander Downer, we could all move to Adelaide, but it would be moving the traffic jam from one city to another. And we would have to put up with the likes of you.
Carmel Woods Hurstville
Such a wonderful juxtaposition of opinion from two former foreign affairs ministers: Alexander Downer grappling with the sauvignon blanc delights of the verdant Adelaide Hills and Gareth Evans with the complexities of the humanitarian crisis in Burma. Says it all.
Anne Garvan Chatswood West
Oh yes. Mr Relevance Deprivation Syndrome himself shows he's over it and well back in harness. As for Mr Recently Deposed...
14 May 2008
Two days ago Offspring No 2 left her phone at a suburban shopping centre in the leafy western suburbs. Result: exit one phone, not the first time Offspring No 2 has lost a phone under such circumstances.
Then this afternoon I had a couple of beers with a mate at the pub, went back to work, packed up and went to buy something for dinner. I noticed that my phone wasn't in my pocket so I went back to work print out some stuff that I had forgotten for a meeting tomorrow and to get the phone.
Hmmm, no phone.
Oh yeah, I must have left it at the pub.
Went back, enquired at the counter noticing that there were a lot more people there than when I left and fearing the worst.
No, phone was held behind the bar.
Welcome to RARA land, where people look out for each other.
In other news, I very much liked this letter in today's SMH:
I am glad the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission can find no conflict of interest in the merger. It must have been tough for Westpac's new chief executive not to disclose any proprietary knowledge of St George's operations or structure to a competitor.
Caven Tootell Rydalmere
Couldn't have put it better myself. There should be a law against it. Maybe there already is?
11 May 2008
I suspect many of us in Australia don't 'get' the US. We certainly may not be convinced by Manifest Destiny and I'm certainly one of the many who rail against the continuing Americanisation of our language and culture.
Offspring No 2 'gets' the US: she's seen the best and certainly the worst it has to offer, but having spent lots of time there she's at least in tune with how Americans see themselves.
But while a lot of unnecessary column and air space has been devoted in Australia to the current US presidential election process, we can't ignore the role that America still plays - at least for the present.
It'd be comforting to put all that's wrong down to the current Administration and no doubt, as Iococca illustrates, the President and Congress have really stuffed a lot of things up. But common sense tells you that the rot must have set in earlier.
And that's where we come in. What are the similar mistakes we've made that now result in such an infrastructure shortfall in Australia? Why are our health services failing more frequently? Why are we always looking over our shoulders while out and about lest someone king hit us?
All good questions, thank me for asking them, a bit of a dog's breakfast because I was eating dinner at the same time and now it's time for the airport.
(*) A song by Cream, if you didn't know.
The bastardry of the generals' regime is beyond our understanding. We must do something.
But here we are back in the Chateau in the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane, gradually ridding ourselves of the detritus accumulated over the last 11 years - and longer - and getting the place in shape to leave.
As people with a light footprint on the earth, in that we really don't have deep roots anywhere, this is not as sad a task as it might have been. We've really loved this house and the family been through a few changes while we've been here, but the decision to move on has been just that little bit easier than if we were leaving great hordes of relatives and so on.
Mind you, I'm not sure that Mrs VVB would endorse all of that, as she's the one bearing the major part of the preparations to leave and she's the one who's got to find a new job. But the lure of something new, and diving into the next phase of our lives in Rural and Regional Australia, does have an appeal for both us.
Even a Blogi Weakly lacks for the regular catalysts for mirth or derision: the unceremonious exit of the former overlords known as the Howard Government has seen to that.
Last week I gave some props to Ross Gittins, this week it's Peter Martin. On reflection, I think we've long needed a Canberra-based economic writer who just doesn't toe the line. I don't know what sort of access to government Peter Martin has, and would suspect that if he keeps telling it like it is he may not get the sort of access which would really help inform his writing. But he's certainly a breath of fresh air.
Finally, before we head into another day of toting barges and lifting bales, a comment on the absolute bloody tragedy in Burma. Even Mrs VVB, normally a bastion in support of sovereign nations, living and letting live, etc, believes the west should invade. Surely there's more reason for doing so in the current circumstances than in Iraq.
As Mrs VVB and I have quite some experience of Burma, we know that the generals will not give up without a fight. The Burmese people tried several times to take that fight up in 1974, 1988 and again last year, and got brutally put down. With the current suffering illustrating to good effect how little the generals care for the people - ie a lot less than they care to preserve their own status - it's time to say 'enough'.
Until next week...probably.
08 May 2008
No screaming lefty (oohh bad, evil, etc) but just common sense expressed plainly. We have a multitude of economic problems (or issues or challenges if you prefer) but the orthodxy keeps saying we need more of the same 'reform'.
You know that saying about stupidity? You know, doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result?
Ring any bells?
06 May 2008
So, as the news showed an obviously repentant young man stick a single finger at the camera (*) after a court appearance for kicking a kitten to death, we were rent with conflicts. Because, essentially, this little waste of space deserves to get it all back.
As an aforesaid wishy washy etc etc, I am deeply opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. Except, perhaps, unrepentant kitten killers. Just possibly the human race would be improved if this type simply weren't around.
No, that's surely a step too far.
Maybe we could give the family the chance to exact some retribution. Wouldn't that would be just? A little family kicking?
No, as a confirmed wishy etc etc etc, that's too close to "an eye for an eye." Wishies are beyond the Old Testament, surely (the old man called it "a survival manual for a nomadic desert race."
Anyway, the judge has reserved his decision.
Maybe the young bloke could learn to feed the tigers at the zoo. Without training.
On a happier note, the human formerly known as Princess Anne gave some kind of brooch to one of the other royals, some kind of apprentice soldier. Now, the news got it wrong because this person is now known as Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal which got me thinking: what does she put on forms? What's her given name now? "The?"
"What's your middle name?" "Princess."
Bring on the republic, because with the inevitable breakdown in law and order, respect for authority etc, we'll soon be executing kitten kickers.
(*) When I was growing up - a process still being undertaken, according to some observers - a rude gesture was two fingers held up, the 'V for victory' reversed. When and how did the single finger come to replace it?
I blame the Americans, but then I would.
It's part of being wishy washy etc etc etc etc.
04 May 2008
Is this what Halfway referred to when they sang about the CQ Skyline?
Or is it more to the left, over the glittering railway lines and out towards the flatness of the central west?
Meanwhile, back in the newsprint...
The UN says that wrong headed IMF policies over 2 decades have exacerbated starvation because countries were pushed into growing export crops rather than aiming to feed their populations. Mind you, that's exactly what you'd expect from the UN.
Ah, self-sufficiency, the bane of free market economics. Here's your crust of bread, Mr Ricardo, but we've run out of water because it got privatised and sold for the "highest and best use" which, in this case, was not for drinking.
Probably unsurprisingly, there are two letters to the Ed on the same subject, with one correspondent reflecting the consumer-unfriendly outcomes of deregulation. Nobody saw that coming, did they? Wasn't in the model, yes?
The middle ground is where we should be aiming for, and a certain modicum of common sense applied before the theoreticians - who are almost always well fed and living in cities well away from the means of production - allowed to have their head.
The impending investigation of Pauline Hanson and whether she appropriated party funds is comprehensively misunderstood by nearly every letter written in her support. It's not whether she was entitled to the funds - under the law she was - but what she did with the money. This is a distinction quite lost on the support base.
One correspondent goes a step further: "It's just that some people don't like the truth: our country will be overrun, no jobs, high crime etc."
In far happier news, fans called out "We love you Diddy" as the ultamegarapastar was commemorated at Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Evidently the man was right when he dropped the 'P' from his name because it was getting between him and his fans. Although often a quick P is desirable and often inevitable.
So as the sun sets slowly over the rolling hills, we wonder how come one dominant stream of economic theory became so entrenched. The Uruguay Round never fulfilled its far-fetched claims (no thanks to the ideologically indoctrinated economic advisory agencies that cooked up the figures).
Seattle was a turning point so, even given the protracted nature of multilateral negotiations, any outcome on Doha is way, way off. I love seeing the occasional headline, "Still hope for talks" and so on and reports that some committee has decided to set up another committee to decide when everyone might meet again to discuss "modalities."
How the dedicated officials keep going year after year in such a soul-destroying job is beyond me. Oh, no it's not, see under "ideologically indoctrinated" above. That's in part how we came to leave Canberra. That was a machine I didn't want any more to do with and, gradually, I've left it behind. Except when I read the paper.
Although, on reflection, it did pop up in a dinner conversation with some coves a week or so back, in which I tried to explain how Australia has been so opposed to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, not least because tariffs on Australian exports to the EU go to funding it. The CAP aims to protect the 'heritage' of farming such as small, unbelievably picturesque but economically inefficient French family farms.
Except when, as happens reasonably frequently, a small Australian rural community wants to preserve its heritage. That's different, apparently.
No, it's not. And, moreover, heritage is valuable. Priceless, in fact.
Well, enough of that, my head hurts. I think tonight will be a bit of a blow-out, I'm going to cook a roast and watch the Logies. Two firsts in one day, can I stand the excitement?
03 May 2008
Put it down to work, teeth, travel, competing priorities, and maybe a dash of wtf?
No news apart from observing that finding a new house should, in principle, be exciting and joyful. And indeed it is, for the first 20 or 30. After that, it's an exercise in frustration.
Anyway, Mrs VVB and I edge towards commitment to a new Chateau VVB (with added sea views), although my earlier desire to live right on the edge of the continent - a seductive vision, I have to say - is probably not to be fulfilled. Salt spray, for starters.
(*) Couldn't think of a suitable post title, I take it that all readers are familiar with Emerson, Lake and Palmer?
I've barely had time to read or listen to the news, so the even opportunity for superficial snarking has been reduced. I'd kind of like to comment on the death of the Aussie soldier in Afghanistan, mainly from the perspective that I don;t really know what we're doing there. If we were genuinely eradicating the poppy crops and assisting the Afghans to replace that cash witrh something a little more socially acceptable, I'd be all in favour. Maybe we are, but I really don;t know. Why don't I know? Where's the message?
In any case, the death of any Australian soldier overseas is an occasion for sombre reflection on the value of our armed forces, certainly not for superficial snarking.
Of course the impending first Swan Budget had raised the stakes for our new-ish federal government - there's been a few leaks but mainly it's under wraps, yes?
Oh, it's Saturday night, 7.30 pm, Top Gear's on, the chicken's in the oven, got to go.
Talk amongst yourselves, smoke if you wish (as a now deceased - not from smoking - mate of mine used to say).
This is really disappointing, I'll have to find something of substance to write about.