Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stella Young 1982-2014

How feeble words seem today. How impossible it is to find a way to describe what we've lost.

Stella was ferocious. She was hilarious. She was irresistible. She hated to be called an "inspiration", but she inspired me, because nobody I've ever met fought so hard, so uncompromisingly, for what she believed in. And she did it with a wicked smile and made you laugh your guts out the whole time.

Stella was a warrior who took on the injustice she saw in the world and refused to ever be defeated.

Stella was an artist who won your heart and changed your mind, forced you to think as easily as she forced you to laugh - or cry.

Stella was a teacher who opened my eyes to so much that I needed to know.

Stella was my friend. And I'm so incredibly proud, and so incredibly lucky, to be able to say that.

My words are so feeble today. If you don't know how extraordinary Stella was, read hers instead.

Stella Young: The assumption is that people like us die young.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cheese

Cheese!

Even the sound of the word excited him. Cheese. Cheeeeeese. Like the whirring of some marvellous contraption, a futuristic machine designed for pure human delight. He could see it in mind's eye: gears spinning, pistons pumping, steam bursting joyfully from the chimney atop the device, whistling to let all know that the cheese was ready; the Delight-O-Tron spitting forth divine hunks of yellow and white, and even blue and green, magical slabs of pungent paradise for all to consume and sate themselves with ecstasy.

This is what he saw. Reality was sadly different, and as the wrappers piled high in the corners of his flat, he knew he must be content with daydreams. In this harsh capitalistic world, nobody else saw cheese the way he did. The other invention he fantasised about was a new kind of nuclear-powered spectacles, attuned to a specific cheese-friendly frequency. When you put them on, your appreciation of cheese would intensify beyond belief. Looking at cheese with these glasses, one would experience such dizzy heights of joy...everyone would know what it was like for him. He had been born with Cheese Specs. He yearned to bring them to the world. Alas, he lacked the technology. The fact was that all the time he could have spent learning of physics and electronics and mechanical engineering had been entirely taken up with the consumption and appreciation of cheese. And so, his love of cheese had robbed him of the ability to fulfil it. This thought could at times reduce him to such despair that he would collapse in a puddle of paradox and lie weeping for hours, nibbling melancholically at a wedge of Jarlsberg.

He knew there must be, somewhere, the answer to that question that had burned inside him as long as he could remember, like a dairy-based blowtorch. It was hard to bear, and even harder to understand: cheese satisfied him, more than man has ever been satisfied by anything, at least as far as he knew. Casanova looking back on his legions of female conquests, Michaelangelo recalling his incomparable catalogue of artistic supernovas, Caesar himself surveying all the lands he had brought to heel before his standard, none could possibly have felt such surges of euphoric content, such electric bolts of all-consuming happiness, as were his at the end of a day getting to grips with a consignment of Gorgonzola. And yet... 

And yet it seemed that satisfaction, so far from being dissatisfaction's mortal foe, was in fact its meek and humble handmaiden. For no matter how satisfied he became, it was not satisfied enough. Always, the gnawing began again...

Cheese was his, and it was glorious. But the glory of his personal affair with the sublime curd was nothing, a speck of plankton in a wall of baleen, when compared to the glory he imagined, saw in the distance, felt tingling at his extremities, heard echoing within his skull, tasted, dancing, on the tip of his tongue...the glory of spreading cheese to all the world and bringing that indescribable joy to the masses, disseminating his love infinitely and watching the whole world rejoice in cheese's benevolent embrace. The glory imagined dwarfed the glory realised by so far that every day he woke up with a hollowness in the pit of his stomach, a metaphysical famine that a quickly scoffed Camembert wheel could dissipate only temporarily.

And so, finally, after years of enduring the burning ache, he made a decision. A decision that would change not only his own life, but the very world itself. A decision that in the pursuit of the ultimate goal, he would make the ultimate sacrifice.

He would give up cheese.

He could see, all too clearly, that cheese was standing in its own way. Eating cheese took up too much time; the buying, the unwrapping, the setting out, the savouring of aromas and tender prodding of textures. The long, lingered-over consumption, the reverent afterglow. The recording of details in his dark blue Cheese Log. The agonised composition of words to do justice to the delicacy, lest he someday forget a single bite. It devoured his time, and left not a second for planning and plotting, for devising of schemes to encircle the globe with cheese.

He must, therefore, set cheese aside, and bend every sinew towards his greater goal. Though it would be torture, his reunion with cheese at the completion of his task would be all the sweeter for the knowledge that it was earned.

Torture, in fact, was far too mild a word for what the coming weeks brought him. Every day, as he sketched blueprints, constructed scale models, sat in the library behind piles upon piles of weighty, sombre volumes, he felt the siren song of Lady Mold calling him. Every night, as he sat by the light of an inadequate lamp, scribbling madly in exercise book after exercise book, ruling lines, measuring angles, feverishly tearing pages out of phone books and pasting them in esoteric configurations on huge slabs of cardboard, he felt the knives of cheese-lust hacking away at his flesh.

Oh, he ate, but poor fare. Bread. Butter. Meat. Vegetables. He drank waters and juices, and even milk - O sweet tantalisation, so near yet so far - but cheese passed not his lips. Passed not even his doorway; he knew the limits of his willpower.

And so he worked. He became gaunt and ragged. His clothes grew filthy and began falling to pieces. His eyes assumed a staring, haunted look. His face was pale and pinched. The marks of obsession were stamped upon him like the imprint of Surchoix upon an Appenzeller. Soon, soon, he would waste away to nothing. Soon, the cheese would claim him, as it had his forebears.

Oh, nobody knew of them, of course. It was not widely reported when a lone lunatic fell victim to the ravages of cheese. Felled before their plans could reach fruition, they were anonymous, unloved and unmourned. But he, yes, he knew them. He had read, he had learnt, he had come to know just what a lethal endeavour he had embarked upon. The names floated like ghosts before his weary, bulging eyes. Lippinziger, Rothwell, Gerdell de la Bosconi. Noble men, men who had believed in cheese, who had looked cheese in the face and smiled as it took their lives.

He knew he was destined to join their ranks. Perhaps, then, he would know peace, he would know bliss. He would be transported to Cheese Heaven, where even Brocciu is endlessly available, and the only company would be those other brave men who understood his passion. But one way or another, he was heading down that road. The cheese was coming for him. Fate had drained the whey. The desire for just one wedge, just one slice, just one smear across a cracker...it would overwhelm him. To go without cheese for a day was agony. This...this was the Inferno.

And that's when it happened.

This emaciated shell of a man, this ghoul, this half-crazed banshee, sitting one night, eight weeks past the start of his project, staring at his notes, his blueprints, his maps, his scrapbooks, his models, his painstaking graphs...found the answer.

And when it came it struck him with the force of an Emmental fired from a Howitzer. It had been there all along. He was a genius without knowing it. The Cheese Conundrum had been solved.

And suddenly, that cold night, flickering candle dimly lighting his laughing, dirty, whiskered, madman's face, he knew that the world was his for the taking.

The rest of the night, he sat happily in the doorway of the shop across the street, rocking, a contented smile upon his face, and when they opened, he bought every last scrap of Gruyere in the place, and ate it right there, grinning from ear to ear.

Not that it was that simple, of course. Yes, he had the answer, but the practical work had still to be done. Construction was undertaken. A score of strong men were hired and told of a hefty share of the profits if they bent their arms to the task with all possible vigour. Day and night they laboured in his new makeshift factory, hammering, riveting, bolting, welding, scraping and oiling, but still their hours were as nothing compared to the work he himself put in.

The word went out. Clever men in suits were employed to spread the message, to bring habringers of the coming of the new age. Rumours of the miracle of this fresh invention were carefully and scientifically placed and propagated in all corners of the green earth.

And after months of preparation, it was ready. He rented a suit. He stood nervously on the steps of the Town Hall, dignitaries surrounding him, press confronting him, a crowd hanging on his every word as he stammeringly, haltingly, did the best he could to put into words what he knew words could never describe. His vision, his dream, come to life. The device that would change all of their lives, and so much for the better.

He knew as he spoke that they were there, not to celebrate cheese, or to experience the possibility of altering their lives forever. They were there to capture failure in its first blush. They were there to see him fall. And he prayed, as he prepared to pull aside the drapery, that it was not all for naught. It had been tested...it would work now, wouldn't it? His dream...it was not a foolish fantasy? It really was real, yes?

It was time.

He unveiled.

And...the gasp.

The gasp that was heard around the world. Such a thing of beauty. Of impossible elegance and perfection, yet of such undeniable, irresistible substance and functionality. The first sight of it sent a shockwave of excitement through the crowd. When it was turned on...the thrill went to the core of every human present and struck outwards, like ripples on a stone-addled pond, like an exploding wheel of Brie.

Within a day the world was abuzz. Within a week seven hundred more devices were in production.

Within six months cheese consumption had multiplied tenfold. Within a year, a thousandfold.

Cheese had conquered the world. The plan had worked. Good had triumphed. Now, he could rest. And rest he did. Fabulously wealthy, wanting for nothing, he spent his days reclining in luxury, bringing forth from his vast refrigerated cheese vaults such a cornucopia of wonders as he would never have considered possible for such a poor, unremarkable specimen as himself. Now and then he spoke, he lectured on cheese, its significance, its history, its inimitable beauty and unparalleled mystique. He gained more honorary doctorates than he knew what to do with. He was in demand from social sets the world over. And always, the cheese. Whatever cheese he wanted. Soft, hard, pressed, unpressed, cow's milk, goat's milk. He discovered the exquisite taste of cheeses he had hitherto only dreamed about. Rare cheeses, exotic cheeses. Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Geitost, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Mascotta, Cheshire, Gloucester, Romano, Edam, Gouda, Colby, Pecorino, Munster, Stilton, Urda, Cas, Neufchatel, Paneer, Queso Fresco, Brousse, Chevre...these were a mere appetiser for the universe he was now wandering through. He had all he wanted, but far more importantly, to him, he had made a difference. He had opened the eyes of the world to cheese and all its possibilities. His goal was achieved, his purpose fulfilled. The world was a better, more fragrant, more joyous and lovely place because of him. People everywhere were happy, and cheese-filled. With this in mind, he could have remained a stick-thin pauper and been happy.

And then one day...not long after the unveiling...

He awoke and strode to the kitchen. Days of emaciation and filth long behind him, now sleek and filled with joie de vivre, he felt he would start another wonderful day with a hearty breakfast. His mood was mellow and old-fashioned. He decided on staunch traditionalism, withdrawing a mighty hunk of blazing yellow Swiss magic from its shelf. Seated at his broad breakfast table, he plunged in his knife, and took a weighy slice from the body, biting into it with the enthusiasm of the perfectly balanced. And as he bit, he felt something he had never before felt while eating cheese.

Nothing.

He blinked, confused. He bit again. Still nothing. No thrill, no tingling, no explosion of flavour, no electricity, not even the smallest frisson shooting through his body.

Perhaps, he thought, he had been overdoing the Swiss lately. Returning to the fridge, he withdrew a pungent slab of Limburger, and devoured the whole thing on the spot.

Nothing.

His tastebuds remained stoically indifferent. A sense of unease rising within him, he pulled out a ball of mozzarella, and gulped it down, with no more reaction from his physiology than if he had gorged himself on week-old rice cakes. No pleasure, no fizzing fireworks in the brain.

A wheel of Camembert, a scrap of Edam, a desperate scraping of Monterey Jack, all shovelled down, all with no result but a slightly heavier sensation in the stomach. Unease had turned to panic. Tears pricked his eyes and he fought them. This was cheese, he couldn't be feeling nothing. He simply had to find the right one to spark his old self to life again. Perhaps he had overslept and his system was not yet fully awake. He would perk himself up, and in the blink of an eye, his love affair with the curd and the mold would resume as passionately as ever.

And so, as he frantically boiled and downed a jug of coffee, he hurled as much cheese as he could into a saucepan and turned up the heat. Within minutes, he tipped the pan up and poured the cheese like boiling wine down his throat. The stream of boiling yellow fire scorched his oesophagus, but no more. Gasping, he fell to his knees and rummaged through his stocks some more.

Pulling cheese after cheese out, he tried each one. Yellow, white, blue, red, green...the most exotic cheeses from the most far-flung lands, the most unexpected animals, the most bizarre of homespun and high-tech techniques...and none of it changed a thing. Tears streamed down his face, his burning throat screamed at him, and his heart felt near to melting and running out his pores.

Finally he got to the back of the cabinet and brought forth the last. With wrappers and discarded pieces of cheese littering the floor around him, he sat miserably in the centre of his dairy graveyard and held the chunk of ordinary everyday cheddar in his lap. Cheddar was the beginning of his journey, and now...the end? Of late he had forgotten about good old cheddar, intoxicated by the enormity of his gift to humanity and the seemingly endless variety of impossible rarities hurled at him by the world's grateful cheesemakers. And yet...cheddar was the heart and soul of cheese, was it not? Cheddar. His old friend cheddar. He nursed it against his cheek, enjoying the coolness on his skin and whispering to it as to a secret lover. Cheddar would save him. he angled it wearily towards his aching, exhausted lips, and took a bite.

He chewed.

He swallowed.

And he knew, as the fragment travelled to its final destination, that he might just as well have bitten into the polystyrene packing the fridge arrived in. The truth fell on him like a ton of Parmesan.

He was dead. Dead to cheese.

He threw back his head and howled. All his work, all his striving and passion, returned in the shimmering air before his eyes, taunting and cackling at him.

And he fell face down on the kitchen floor, as the gutted Camembert mingled with his tears.



Monday, November 10, 2014

TUESDAY HOROSCOPES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SAGITTARIUS: Happiness comes to few people in this life, and certainly not to you. Heavy drinking will numb the pain.

AQUARIUS: A secret you'd thought long-forgotten rears its ugly head at a most inopportune moment. Distracted, you stumble and are trampled by a runaway goat. Years of painful therapy later you learn to use your left hand again, but find this doesn't satisfy you because you lost the only woman you ever loved. You look her up on Facebook but at that moment the secret rears its ugly head again and you accidentally send her a photograph of your penis. You cry for hours.

ARIES: Weather plays a big part in your week. There'll be some, for sure.

LEO: Try not to overeat this week, unlike other weeks when you should definitely overeat. Family matters consume most of your attention, after you discover that your mother has for many years been a wanted bank robber.

CANCER: A routine trip to the doctor's ends in tragedy, but fortunately not for you, as you at no point will go to the doctor this week. However you will have some minor trouble attempting to poach an egg, triggering your Vietnam flashbacks.

SCORPIO: Your theories on racial superiority get you in hot water with the diocese, but you must remember to be true to your beliefs. At some point on the weekend a duck will bite you. You will never quite get over this.

TAURUS: An impulsive trip to Nigeria has far-reaching consequences which I can't divulge at this stage. That uncomfortable feeling in your pants, you will find, is indeed a tube of liquid cement.

GEMINI: The vague foreboding that has been plaguing you is explained this week when a letter arrives informing you that you have been dead for eight years. Don't let it get you down, as you will be getting much worse news on the following day. Your shoes will cause trouble for a schoolteacher. 'Nuff said.

LIBRA: Romance intrudes upon your peaceful life this week when a pair of young lovers falls out of a hot-air balloon and through your skylight. Your efforts to dispose of the bodies will be just the thing to reinvigorate your lust for life.

CAPRICORN: You will meet a small, pale Taurus who will tell you she is your birth mother, but she is lying. Early Friday morning a bear will severely maim you.

VIRGO: You will finally give in to the temptation to eat the loose skin you peel from your sunburnt legs. It's actually really tasty, isn't it? Don't be ashamed, it's totally natural, I promise.

PISCES: Don't let other people tell you what you can or can't do: find out for yourself what you can or can't do by trying and failing at many different things. This will be a good week for gardening, taking up a sport, or inserting something into yourself. While baking a pie you inadvertently discover the identity of your grandfather's murderer.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How YOU Doin'?

Brace yourselves: I want to talk about women.

Now, I love women. My wife is a woman. My mother is a woman. I have three sisters. I have two daughters. Some of my best friends -

Oh, sorry, I was accidentally reading from Being A Patronising Knobend For Dummies. I'll start again.

I want to talk about women. But maybe even more I want to talk about men. The reason is the discussion that I've seen swirling about due to this video:




Now I've seen a bit of debate about the value of the video itself, issues around the making of it and the purpose of it - I'm not going into that right here, right now. I mainly just want to talk about the subject that it raises, which is not a new subject or unique to the video.

I've written about the subject before, but it remains as relevant a subject as ever, and it remains as baffling to me as ever.

What I want to talk about is these dudes harassing women on the street. And by that I mean overt, aggressive harassment, catcalling, whistling, yelling of "compliments", insistently demanding attention from women who are just trying to go about their business...basically I'm talking about men who won't leave women the hell alone.

Now, my experience of this phenomenon is limited to things like that video, and stories told to me by lady friends. Because I don't see it happen. It certainly doesn't happen to me when I'm walking on the street - occasionally someone asks me for directions, and once an old man sat next to me at a bus stop and told me a story about the day he found his mother's corpse - but because I am a dude, and in particular I'm a real big scary-looking dude, I'm lucky enough that I just don't get exposed to it.

So I hear about it secondhand, and I find it unbelievable.

I don't mean that literally - of course it's believable. Just about every woman I know has direct experience of it - it happens a lot. But it's unbelievable because this behaviour is so absurd you'd really like to believe grown adult human beings would not have it in their repertoire.

I'm not saying it's the worst thing a man can do: obviously there are atrocities men are capable of far beyond what you see in the video above. But there aren't many actions a man can take that are more inexplicable than catcalling and street harassment. And if it's not the biggest issue facing us in the world today, it surely should be one of the easiest to fix.

So what I want to do is reach out to the men who do this and say: Why?

Why on earth would you do this? What the hell are you getting out of it? What does it profit you? Wherein lieth the enjoyment of this bizarre practice?

Imagine a drop-down menu of options. In each situation we encounter in life, we see such a menu, from which we may select what we want to do. When we're driving and we see a red light, our options are "Stop" and "Run the red". When we wake up in the morning, we a menu containing such items as "Get up and go to work", "Go back to sleep", "Call in sick and go play laser tag".

We'll get just such a menu when we see a woman on the street. But I am not asking here, "Why would a man choose 'Yell at her' or 'Tell her to smile' from the menu?"

I am asking, "How can these things even appear on the menu at all?"

How does it happen that acting this way is even an option for a man? Perhaps it is my crippling shyness and hatred of human interaction in general talking, but catcalling at a woman is as like to appear on my drop-down menu as "ram-raid the pet shop" is when I see a red light.

So how does it occur? How does a man reach a stage in life where harassing total strangers is one of the actions he's taken under consideration? I often see woman on the street. Often they are women who I find quite attractive. Quietly appreciating their aesthetic qualities is always an option. Attempting to inform them of my appreciation, demanding they engage me in conversation, or passing judgment on their facial expressions never is. Never has been. I would be mortified to even think of doing any of these.

So am I the weirdo, or are they?

A lot of men will say they're just giving women compliments, just saying hi, just trying to be friendly. Furthermore, they will say, it's no big deal anyway, is it? It's harmless. And if women don't like it, they can tell the men involved to faff off.

OK, cool. Indeed it is likely that in most cases these men are not violent psychopaths. It is likely that in most cases there will be no harm done. And if a woman does feel moved to tell a man to faff off, I'll be the first to applaud that lady's actions.

But when a total stranger is accosting you in the street, how the hell are you to know what their intentions are? How are you to know what their reasons for "just saying hi" or telling you you're beautiful are?

Say you're at a party. You walk up to a woman by the punch bowl and strike up a conversation. Unlikely to cause too much consternation. Because it's a party, Striking up conversations is what people do at parties.

It's not what people do on the street. A person trying to strike up a conversation with you while you're just walking along minding your own business is, and I can't stress this enough, WEIRD. There's no context here to make this approach understandable. There's no party, no workplace, no speed-dating night. When a stranger comes up to you on the street and demands your attention, no matter how "friendly" they seem, the question that must come to mind is why are they doing this? And having to ask that question is likely to creep you out. And when you're creeped out you are more likely to want to double your speed and get to safety than you are to want to make small talk with the oddball.

And that's not even getting into the question of the times when it's pure, blatant, unashamed aggression from the man. Which it clearly often is. What I'm saying is, a man interrupting the day of a woman he has never met for no apparent reason is liable to look pretty aggressive no matter what he thinks he's saying.

So why would you do it? Are you just plumb out of ideas about how to meet women? Has your eHarmony membership lapsed? Do you have the world's lowest threshold for entertainment? Did your mum tell you as a child that you were so special that every woman in the world owed you a chat? Do you have an oddly situation-specific strain of Tourette's Syndrome?

Please note what I am asking. I am asking WHY? This is important, because a lot of men are defending this behaviour by saying it doesn't hurt anybody, and so on and so forth. No big deal, no harm done, no need to smear decent men by suggesting nefarious motives behind it, etc etc.

But let's say that's all true: it still doesn't explain why you'd do it. I can see no rational explanation for calling out to strangers in public at all, be it compliments, obscene suggestions, or weather reports. I simply do not know why anyone would want to.

But my confusion grows exponentially when you take into account the fact that women all over the place have clearly stated they don't like it. Women subjected to it react in a way clearly indicative of the fact they don't like it. Whether it is causing serious harm, whether every woman thinks the same way, it's inarguable that many, many women are made at the very least uncomfortable by men doing this.

When you add this to the fact that there is no rational reason for doing it, it surely adds up to behaviour that is perverse to the point of derangement.

So I just ask men, what are you getting out of it? Please tell me. I need to know, what's the pay-off here? Because right now, it seems as if you are bothering people, interfering with their lives, annoying, harassing and intimidating them, in defiance of the obvious fact that they want you not to, for no reason at all. Right now it seems as if there is no pay-off at all, beyond the opportunity to upset a fellow human being.

And if that's the case...

I can only assume that you are doing it because you don't consider these people fellow human beings.

I can only assume that the urge to harass women on the street - an urge which strangely deserts you when it's a man you see walking by - is the same urge that causes people to tease animals.

I can only assume the pleasure you're deriving from your catcalls and your "hey beautiful" and your "give us a smile love" is the vicious pleasure of laughing at the discomfort of a lesser life-form.

I can only assume that you've divided the world into "people" and "women", and one of those groups is here to share the world with and one of those groups is here for your amusement.

In the end, I can only assume that you need to grow the fuck up.

WEDNESDAY HOROSCOPES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CANCER: Music will play a big part in your life this week, as a terrible accident will render you deaf. As your will to live slowly drains away, the comfort you once gained from music will be utterly absent. Later you may win a small scratchie prize.

SCORPIO: For many years you have worried that your past sins will catch up to you and shatter your peaceful existence. This week it finally happens and is surprisingly uneventful.

AQUARIUS: The birth of your first child brings much joy to your life this week especially as you've yet to find out your actual child was swapped with the child of a demon.

ARIES: You'll fall off a horse a LOT. I'm not going to lie to you: you won't enjoy it.

SAGITTARIUS: Spiritual matters dominate for you, a major frustration given everyone around you is obsessed by marbles. Some days it seems as if things are never going to get any better, while other days it seems as if things are never going to get any better. It's that kind of repetition that makes your life unbearable. Early on Monday morning you will think you've seen Jesus, but actually it's a chicken. Life is full of disappointments. Ask your mum.

TAURUS: Nobody likes you, which you've learnt to come to terms with, but it really seems like you're cursed this week, when a sheep falls off a truck and crushes your spine.

CAPRICORN: Everything tastes sort of crunchy this week. You don't realise until pretty late that it's that one of your teeth has fallen out and has been rolling loose in your mouth for days. I knew you were dumb but this is something else.

GEMINI: A serious boating accident leaves you questioning everything you thought you knew. You find solace in the arms of another Gemini who also suffered a serious boating accident. Later your dog dies but you won't find its body until next year in particularly gruesome circumstances.

LIBRA: Why not settle in with a good book? There is nothing for you out there anymore. Trust me.

VIRGO: A biography of Oliver Cromwell assumes peculiar significance this week, thanks to a chance encounter with a woman who claims to be the grandmother of former AFL umpire Peter Carey. A nasty rash brings new career opportunities, which you squander due to your alcoholism. Later in the week you finally admit to yourself that you are an alcoholic. This is why you imagined all the stuff in this paragraph.

PISCES: A headbutt from a Senator makes your wedding anniversary special, but not in the way you'd hoped. Your impotence continues.

LEO: A lot of people say they don't care what other people think, but you genuinely mean it. Hence your lonely death, unmourned by even your immediate family. A terrible waste of a life. Yet all self-inflicted. It's sad, but also disgusting. Also you'll have a bit of luck at bingo.




Sunday, November 2, 2014

WHO SAID IT?

Our prime minister, Tony Abbott, sure is a piece of work. Sometimes the things he says are so outrageous it's hard to tell whether they're really quotes from the elected leader of our nation, or from a far-fetched fictional movie character.

That's how we came up with the idea for this quiz. How many of these quotes you can correctly attribute to their source: Prime Minister Tony Abbott, or feisty proto-feminist icon and heroine of Canadian literature Anne "Of Green Gables" Shirley? The results may surprise you!

WHO SAID IT: TONY ABBOTT OR ANNE SHIRLEY?

 


1. "Most of the people who are coming to Australia by boat have pass through several countries on the way, and if they simply wanted asylum they could have claimed that in any of the countries through which they'd passed."

2. "We just can't stop people being homeless if that's their choice."

3. "Would you please call me Cordelia?"

4. "Climate change is crap."

5. "You know something, Diana? We are rich. We have sixteen years to our credit, and we both have wonderful imaginations. We should be happy as queens."

6. "I think your Gilbert is awfully bold to wink at a strange girl."

7. "I would not want to see any relaxation of the law prohibiting human cloning."

8. "Once people come to Australia, they join the team."

9. "The smart way to improve broadband is not to junk the existing network but to make the most of it. It's to let a competitive market deliver the speeds that people need at an affordable price with government improving infrastructure in the areas where market competition won't deliver it."

10. "He called me Carrots!"

11. Faith is important to me. It's important to millions of Australians. It helps to shape who I am."

12. "Go away Marilla. I'm in the depths of despair."

13. "I think that marriage is, dare I say it, between a man and a woman, hopefully for life and there are all sorts of other relationships which should be acknowledged and recognised, but I don't know that they can be recognised as marriage."

14. "Mrs Hammond told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I've never cared for Him since."

15. "Whyalla will be wiped off the map by Julia Gillard's carbon tax."

16. "I don't see any need in being civil to someone who chooses to associate with the likes of Josie Pye."

17. "I also think that if you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax?"

18. "Why isn't the fact that 100,000 women choose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy approaching the scale, say, of Aboriginal life expectancy being 20 years less than that of the general community?"

19. Well, again Kerry, I know politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say, but sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks."

20. "Please, Matthew. You need help. We've got to get a doctor."

Haha! Almost unbelievable how similar they are, isn't it? How did YOU do sorting fact from fiction?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just a Disease

Hey, did you know depression is just a disease? Why don't we treat it like any other disease? Wouldn't that be great? Then we could really help folks could we not?

Except it's not. You know it's not. No matter how many times you claim depression is a disease like any other, and no matter how many times you link to really super articles about how depression is a disease like any other, and no matter how many times you applaud righteously for anyone who says depression is a disease like any other, you don't believe it.

I know. I don't believe it either. We know depression isn't just another disease, you and I: that's why we will never ever treat it like one.

Flu is a disease. We treat it like one. And I never met anyone, no matter how loudly they protested their caring credentials, who treated depression like flu. Because depression is nothing like flu.

You can't come down with the flu because one of your friends ditched you. You can't have a flu relapse because of a Facebook post mentioning that ex-friend. You don't suddenly develop flu symptoms due to something you read in the paper or saw on TV. You don't go through every day fearing that the next thing anyone says to you will bring your flu back with a vengeance.

Nobody ever tells you that you're brave for telling everyone you've got the flu, and then tells you to stop whining every time you sneeze. Nobody swears they understand what it's like having the flu before washing their hands of you once you get it.

When you've got the flu, you can call work and say you're sick. And when you show symptoms of the flu when you're at work, your workmates will show sympathy for your illness. Nobody makes complaints to the boss about your flu. Nobody says you're scary because you've got the flu. Nobody disciplines you for having the flu at work.

Nobody calls the police on you because you have the flu. Nobody has the law come into your house, threaten you with pepper spray, slap cuffs on you and throw you in the back of a van because it's easier to do that than try to talk to you about your flu.

When the flu kills you, nobody says you were a coward for letting it.

Depression isn't just another disease. You know it's not. I know it's not. If it were, we'd act like it. We don't because we know the truth.

And I don't want it to be just another disease. The whole fiction of "just another disease" is presented in a cloak of compassion and strips off to reveal the dismissal beneath. As long as you pretend it's just another disease, you will check that I've taken my meds, pat me on the head and be on your way.

As long as it's just another disease, it can't be anyone's fault that I'm depressed. The strangling mood that is sucking me below the earth can't be sheeted home to anyone, as long it's just another disease. As long it's purely a medical phenomenon that can be blamed on nothing more than chemical fortune, you're not responsible for my depression. The fact I'm depressed will have nothing to do with the people who've hurt me, the cruelty of those I trusted, the contempt of the human race or the foulness of the world around me. Nobody is to blame, because it's simply a disease.

More than anything, won't be to blame as long as it's a disease and nothing else. The fact I'm mentally useless three days out of every five can't possibly be down to any failures of my own. My conviction of my own worthlessness can't be connected to any reality, my self-loathing can't be down to any genuine loathsomeness. It just can't be, because everyone knows it's just a disease.

No I do not want this. I do not want this myth, asserted by all and believed by none, to stand in the way of any slivers of self-awareness that manage to penetrate my shell. I will not accept a promise that my depression is no fault of mine, from strangers and casual acquaintances. If my depression is fooling me about my own self-worth, so be it: it's no less than what everyone who hears about it does.

If those who assure me it's just a disease behaved to match their words, maybe I'd take their assurances more seriously. But they do not. And neither do I. And I don't think we ever will.

This is not because "we don't talk about depression enough". We talk about it too goddamn much. This post itself is just another little puddle of self-pitying vomit to join the ocean of regurgitation washing over us every day of people wearing their depression proudly on their sleeve, begging us to talk more, to understand more, to congratulate us all more on our illness. If there were any chance of public discussion assisting us all to treat it as just another disease, that would've happened long ago.

It hasn't and it won't, because we don't believe it. We'll claim it as a disease as long as it's convenient, and as soon as depression becomes awkward, it becomes a personality flaw, an insanity streak, self-indulgence, or the darkest of all, "mental illness".

Mental illness is not really illness, it's something we pity people for until they do something under its influence that upsets us, and then it becomes "no excuse". If we treated depression like any other medical problem, a person who acts irrationally when in its grip would be condemned no more than a man with a broken leg is condemned for his failure to walk; but that would never do. As long as the illness is mental, we are responsible for resisting it through sheer willpower - we are to use the very minds that the disease is in the process of ripping to pieces to overcome the process itself.

Still, afterwards we'll nobly assert that it's "just another disease", and we will go home happy with ourselves because we understand.

And every day a thousand voices will proclaim that understanding, and every day a thousand chins will nod wisely, and a thousand clever folk will find themselves satisfied in every way by the compassion they've shown.

And every day, ever so quietly, another few sorry souls will stumble and fall and cease to exist and all who knew them will take solace simultaneously from the fact that it's just a disease and there was nothing anyone can do, and that it was really all their own fault for failing to take responsibility. And not one of those poor souls will cause a pause in the thousand voices' clamour, or a halt to the thousand sage chins.

And we will all fight furiously against admitting to ourselves and each other that this thing devouring minds in our midst is not a disease like any other, that it's too strange and elusive and horrible to ever be.

Depression is the best disease in the world to have, because it's so easy to hide you can go about your day and never have anyone know the pain you're in. It's the worst disease in the world to have, because when you hide it, you make it worse, and when finally you break down and stop hiding, you think that'll make it better, and it doesn't.

I've never had any disease like that. I'm not going to pretend I have, or pretend that by pretending I can help myself.

You will tell me I'm wrong about myself, about my illness, about the way I'm seen. You might even tell yourself that.

And after hearing it from you, I'll probably tell myself that too, because wouldn't it be nice to believe that I'm wrong about the one crucial fact of my depression: that when I am huddling, shivering, sobbing, at the bottom of this endless well, feeling the black water rise against my skin and waiting for the moment when I stop caring, waiting for the moment when the dot of sunlight beaming weakly on my face winks out...that when I am down there feeling myself being torn apart by my own vindictive intellect, I am, in the final analysis, completely and irrevocably alone. That the further I fall, the easier it becomes for the illusion of companionship to melt into the smoke around my head.

You will tell me I'm wrong.

But when it kills me, some of you will still call me a coward.

When it kills me, some of you will still call me selfish.

When it kills me, some of you will still shrug and tell each other there was nothing that could have been done.

All of you will most likely be right.

Monday, October 27, 2014

TUESDAY HOROSCOPES

AQUARIUS: You need to lose weight. A chance encounter with a childhood friend will reveal that he thinks you should lose weight too.

TAURUS: An unexpected development in your finances could cause a nasty rash, but probably won't. Beware Greeks bearing gifts, especially your mother-in-law. Remember that it is the simple things in life which frequently bring the most happiness. Late Friday afternoon you will be mauled to death by a mastiff.

CANCER: A lot of people question your life choices, but you have to remember that the only person you need to please is yourself, and this is particularly true since you have no friends or loved ones. Your loneliness will really hit home this week as you burst into tears when you realise this is the last time you will ever see the chicken breast you cooked for dinner. You will consider seeking psychiatric help but instead you will keep drinking.

SAGITTARIUS: You will need to brace yourself for some heavy criticism this week after committing a series of brutal murders. Haters gon' hate.

GEMINI: A religious experience will cause you to sing Daft Punk's "One More Time" incessantly until you lose your job. A second religious experience will cause you to remove your pants. A third will cause you to explode. It'll be a weird week, I'm not going to lie to you.

CAPRICORN: You often feel like everyone hates you, but this week is the week you discover that I hate you too.

PISCES: The phrase "too many cooks spoil the broth" has always seemed trivial to you, but this week it gains a whole new meaning after a gang of angry cooks beat you up and steal all your money. It's also a good week to plant some new flowers or take up kite-making.

SCORPIO: The moon is in Jupiter this week, which means its kids are staying with their grandma. This information will prove of no use to you after you wake up in a lifeboat with a hungry tiger. It is a good week for meeting new people and a surprise at work leaves you mysteriously able to speak French.

LEO:  Your father will call you and tell you a long boring story about his new shoes. Don't take this too lightly, as contained within his story will be a secret code revealing the location of a solid gold statue of a jackrabbit. Follow the clues and you will become rich beyond your wildest dreams, assuming all the other Leos don't get there first. Your father will call again later in the week and tearfully say he's finally ready to talk about his wartime experiences, but you don't have to pay attention to that.

ARIES: You are pregnant and don't even know it. On Thursday you will give birth. That's Life magazine will pay you $750 for your amazing story. Later your child will grow up to be the weird kid who eats grass.

LIBRA: It's a good week for reading. As you are completely illiterate, this fact sends you into a deep depression. At some point on the weekend it is very likely you will trip over a puppy of some kind.

VIRGO: Your brown socks are stuffed down a crack in the lounge. Also your wife has been cheating on you. These two facts are not unrelated, but I've said too much already.