Thursday, January 28, 2010

#142: Evil Little Goat

The shocking news on the idiot box this morning centred on a single mother who was forced to spend a few nights sleeping in her car with her young family. Koch’nDoyle were duly (and rightly, for once) outraged at how something like this could happen in a land so rich with wealth and opportunity, but what shocks me, even more so than the original story, is that there’s still people who exist in the media who get so outraged by such an event.

Here’s a wake up call for you Koch’nDoyle, this happens every night, in every major city across this fine land. Throw a dart out into the road and you’ll find a vehicle with a family sleeping inside of it. In fact all over the world. And, to use a phrase, it’s fucked. Proper fucked.

Why is it that, in the 21st century, Governments across the globe can spend billions, if not trillions on useless conflicts designed to control the wealth that the ground can offer, dressed up in the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’ (hey, invade another country and you’re a terrorist…hmmmm), film-makers can spend millions, hundreds of millions in fact, foisting the latest crap from Kevin Costner upon us, Tiger ‘Root’ Woods is a multi-millionaire from hitting a little white ball around and chasing it, Celine Dion makes millions by impersonating a drowning cat yet no-one, and I mean no-one, has yet solved the problem of homelessness. That’s right, no-one.

Send a person off to war, send people to their deaths. That’s all fine, but people die in the streets, nightly, due to the lack of shelter and the elements, but you’ll never hear about it unless someone semi-famous finds the body and kicks up a stink, that is if the semi-famous person isn’t already complaining about the view from their million dollar apartment being ruined by homeless people*. Spend and waste money, willy nilly, but don’t help those who need the help.

I’d go out on a limb and say that the amount the Government spend in one year on the false war in Iraq could easily house every homeless person in the country. Easily. And let’s leave out the fact that in England, America and here the previous governmental leaders lied to the people, feathered their own nests and proceeded to waste trillions and managed to plunge the world economy into despair and punished the people left behind. What a glorious planet.

We are not a poor country, nor are we poor people? So who’s to blame? Plenty of people. You’re the blame, as am I. Why? Because we sit idly by and watch Koch’nDoyle and say ‘Tut tut’ like self-serving morons. We are the people are to blame for the sins of the governments because we allow it all to happen. We do nothing about it, other than waste a vote every so often and thrust out our chests and brag about a protest vote. “I’m gonna show ‘em,” said a friend at the last election, “I’m gonna vote Democrat in a protest vote.” I looked at him and said, “If you want to protest it then why not wipe your arse on the ballot paper? It’d have more effect.” He didn’t understand that. Voting for the 3rd party isn’t a protest, it's a wasted vote.

Peter Cook, far wiser than you or I will ever be, and far wittier than anyone you’ll ever meet, and probably still funnier than anyone you know, despite being dead for over a decade, once said, “Why vote? It only encourages them.” Cook was dead bang there. I’d walk past people to hear someone say, “Get a job, ya bum.” I’d think, “Fuck, one day I hope the roles are reversed.” And therein lies the biggest problem of them all. The people, you, the reader not so much, but the people you elect, have absolutely no fucking idea as to what the homeless and disadvantaged go through.

None.

Not a brass razoo.

No fucking idea.

Seriously, they have not the slightest clue what it means to be homeless. They might grab a blanket and do a few hours in one of those patronising sleep outs (that are usually only held in warm weather), but the bulk of them are born into upper class, or upper middle class families and have never had to struggle for anything in their lives. Koch’nDoyle are amongst these, which is why they appear so horrified at the thought of someone having to sleep in a car, because the thought of it is so alien to them it’s unimaginable. You could have said, “Hey, guys, I have two penises (peni?)” and you’d not have gotten the same reaction. Politicians, like most ‘movers and shakers’ can’t relate the poor and underprivileged because they don’t understand them. Same as people who avoid work colleagues who have a breakdown. We, as a society, shun what we don’t understand or fail to comprehend.

One of the reasons why I was as good at my job as I was was because I came close to be homeless more than once. I went a few weeks eating cans of beans. I’d hang around the local deli at 9pm because the guy who ran it would hand me all the unsold pies. That was a delight for me, a definite treat. I never hit the homeless stage because I was clever enough to manipulate the system and find a place to stay, and also because I had friends who cared enough to offer me a bed, or lounge. Sure, I’d have to Deuce Bigelow myself sometimes, but that’s a small price to pay for the security of a roof overhead. So when people would come into the office they’d be faced with someone who’d left school and landed their current job and knew all about homelessness because they’d spoken to people about, read about and heard about it. Or they’d get me, who, when I’d say, “Trust me pal, I know how hard it is out there,” meant every word. I’d go out of my way to assist those who needed a leg up, which was more than a few of the privileged people, who owned two or more houses, and had all the sincerity of a hooker commenting on how large the appendage is.

Still, my approach, that of a person who’s been where the people have, isn’t what’s required. Anywhere. No-one wants a reminder in power.

So who is to blame for poverty and homelessness? Again, it’s you, the ordinary person. Not because you don’t donate money and not because you ignore the human debris that shuffles past you. It’s because you stand idly by and allow the decision makers to gain power and run the globe, and those decision makers haven’t the first idea as to what the poorer folk go through.

So when someone homeless scuttles past you on the way home from work asking for money, just remember what Midge Ure and Bob Geldof wrote, and Bono sang, as you walk past mumbling some inane excuse about having no spare change, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them and not you!” Yes, do that, as you go home, feed your pets, make your dinner and go to sleep in a nice, warm soft bed. There’s plenty out there who’s stomachs are rumbling and will sleep with a brick for a pillow. And they might not wake up tomorrow. And they're not all drug addicts and/or unemployed males.

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*No, seriously, that happened here not that long ago. I kid you not. A D-Lister decided that they'd had enough of those pesky homeless people and asked the city council to move them out of his line of sight as they ruined his view, and Lord knows, he'd paid enough for that view...and it's not like he doesn't wear jeans and a t-shirt and claim that he's 'in touch with the common people', whoever the 'common people' are, other than a halfway decent Pulp song.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

#141: Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter

“Rumbled, mate!” Those were the last words I ever expected to hear in the mens room, but hear them I did. So what was I doing? Nothing remotely sinister, or filthy, merely checking my phone. Certainly not the worst crime imaginable, but bad enough that this person needed to remind me, two hours later, and tell at least one co-worker that the belief was that I was taking photos of a certain part of my anatomy.

God, nothing could be further from the truth. And if my co-worker thinks that’s bad, then he best start piddling in the stairwell lest he hear some of the activities that people get up to in the Gents.

Often I take the phone in and either play a game or check a social networking site. Nothing wrong with that, surely. Having said that there’s been a time when I’ve been ruminating the meaning of life and have thought that a school of cockroaches are dancing the Charleston on the tiled floor, such is the level of clicking coming from other cubicles. Text messages seem to be the order of the day, but I can’t help but wonder, am I the only one who actually turns the phone onto stealth mode so that people won’t think I’m in there wasting valuable company time? Clearly so.

I’m also not clear on the correct protocol when it comes to a ringing phone whilst dropping the kids off at the pool, but I’m sure it’s not what one person recently did. The phone rang and it was answered. Normal conversation up until the point when the person was clearly asked the obvious, “Where are you?” The answer went like this, “Mate, I’m having a shit,” followed by some grunting, an enormous fart and a splash, “What? Can’t you tell?” I’m sure there’s people in the Arctic circle that heard that one.

I’ve been on the end of such a call. I once phoned someone and asked what the noise was in the background. “Oh, I’m just taking a piss,” was the reply. “You dirty bastard. Call me when you get out then.” My colleague was genuinely puzzled when he phoned back. I asked what he was thinking, answering the phone while urinating, and got a reply along the lines of ‘Business doesn’t wait for anyone and anything”. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s one of these people you see on Funny Home Videos who answers the phone during speeches, weddings, funerals or Bar Mitzvahs.

Now I have no idea if there’s an official set of guidelines in regards to telecommunications and the toilet, but if there is I’d love to see it. As it stands there’s an official stance on almost anything and everything a person can possibly do at the workplace, from the correct way to butter bread, dip the tea bag, photocopy one’s anus through to repairing electronic equipment (the short answer is you don’t. You call someone else and let them do it, and expect a two week turn around), how to develop high level mapping and, memorably last year, the correct protocol in regards to drinking at office parties and possible sexual encounters (the short answer: don’t drink too much, make sure it’s consensual, get a witness to the latter and don’t do anything in the office. I’m still not sure if the witness has to come home and make sure consent is given for the entire process though, not that it matters; a colleague once followed the rules religiously, was pursued by a co-worker, and was accused of rape once the co-workers husband discovered the indiscretion. Luckily for my colleague, he kept all the emails and text messages, along with the recorded messages – it never went to trial, but as he was sacked before anything went anywhere, he was then able to sue, get reinstated with back pay, and then promptly resigned) that might eventuate. Surely then I can expect to see a focus group established the an emphasis on how one should comport themselves when making use of the amenities, with an emphasis on what is acceptable behaviour when entering and leaving the cubicle, noise levels, odour and dress sense. Gone are the days when a man went to the can with a folded up copy of ‘Jugs’ in his back pocket for a bit of fasturbation, but in this day and age it would seem that the kind of worker that does that has a job description of winnettpicker or lower. The more sedate, and executive gentleman now keeps his grumble on the phone and clicks away until his little heart is content.

And then answers it, hopefully at the point of not.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

#140: Bicycle Race

Gawd, cyclists. I can’t be the only one who’s sick of the bastards. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Tour Down Under, and I’m also one of those people who think that no matter what the Government are paying the likes of Lance Armstrong to race here it’s just not nearly enough. His worth to this state, in publicity value alone, can’t be underestimated, especially last year. I said, at the time, it’d be like Michael Schumacher coming over to race the Clipsal 500, oh, and bringing Lewis Hamilton and a few others with him. Funnily enough the people who critise the event all seem to be the same kind of folk – they hate anything sporting that might actually draw attention to the state, and most do nothing to promote South Australia anyway. Sorry guys, but sporting events, with some impact on both the environment and infrastructure, do more to expose the state to the all-mighty tourist dollar than a bi-annual Festival of Arts. Hotels at the moment are running on around 80%+ occupancy rate, I can’t remember the last time the Writers Week reached those numbers. Not that I have anything against Writers Week or the Festival, or the fringe, or WOMAD, or any such event that brings people here and brings cash into the state. Bring on the Clipsal and hang the wowsers I say.

Now, back to the bloody cyclists. I can’t think of what annoys me more, the attitude of the bastards, or the insane practice of wearing lycra whilst riding. Frankly, like Superman shirts on fat men, the only ones who should be wearing lycra are either men with builds like Arnold Schwarzenegger, circa 1983, or Matt Shirvington, who remains the only white man who wore lycra that made black men envious and all men say, “Jesus Bloody Christ!! He’ll knock someone out with that!!” Wearing the lycra for a recreational ride would be like me heading out for a quick hit with a few pals and wearing full cricket get up, including pads, helmet, padding under the clothes, arm guards and the like. I’d look like a twit, feel like a twit and, frankly, I would be a twit. Take note, lycra wearers.

Cyclists drag on the cleats and lycra and head out to terrorise motorists every weekend. They’ll ride around for about an hour, pretend that they’re Alberto Contador or Stuart O’Grady and then find the nearest coffee shop where they’ll promptly clog up the footpath with their discarded bikes, spread out, drink latté and wait for someone to come and pick them up and drive them home. All the time they’ll flout the road rules by riding four abreast, riding in the middle lanes slowly, cutting corners, disobeying traffic signals and then blaming motorists who invariably hit them. Sorry guys, if someone shoots through a red light and gets clocked by someone going on the green, then it’s the one going through the red who’s to blame. And trust me; if you come off your pushbike in such an accident, all the lycra in the world won’t help you. In fact you’ll be no better off if you wore shorts and no shirt – lycra isn’t designed for safety, it’s designed to lighten a rider and help them go faster. But hey, don’t believe me; remove a few layers of skin. It’s not like it won’t grow back, eventually, and, as the saying goes, chicks dig scars.

God forbid you actually ask one of them to, well, get out of the way or beep the horn when they do cut in front with no hand signals (or even a mere look behind) or run the stop sign. You’re opening yourself up for a world of abuse, obscene gestures and, if they can get close enough, the old ‘running of the cleats’*, a practice that results in more cyclists being knocked down, either on or off their bikes.

The bulk of these idiots aren’t professionals, nowhere near it. They’re middle level managers who, frustrated with their lives, see riding as an escape. Good for them. I walk a lot, to escape and unwind, but I don’t wear pants that reveal either my shortcomings or my religion to passers by, nor do I run through red lights for fun and excitement. And don’t me started on the fat people. Sorry, I’m all for people wanting to get fit, but if you’re riding your bike then stopping after twenty minutes and tucking into a large plate of pasta followed with cake, well you’re only kidding yourself chubby. Go home; take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Yep, those rolls of lard are what everyone else sees, and guess what? It only expands after the third round of chocolate cake.

What’s the solution? Beats me. Better education perhaps? The Amy Gillette Foundation might be better served by addressing the needs of all road users and helping to identify and educate the new breed of weekend warriors who have invaded our streets. I’m all for confiscating the cars of those fools who hoon drive, perhaps the police need to confiscate the pushbikes of those cretins who think that the roads belong to them, because they’re ‘doing the right thing by the enviroment’. Trust me, wankers, you’re not. You ride once a week. It’s a drop in the ocean. But get that anger out, because, come Monday, your arse is mine, and I will make you suffer.

And yes, I not only own a bike, but I ride one as well. But I obey the traffic rules when I ride it on the road and I don’t own any lycra, and frankly I’d not wear any unless I’d had a few drugs, was very drunk and dressing as David Lee Roth with the view of going to a costume party.

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*wherein the cyclist will take his/her cleats and scratch the side of a car and then turn suddenly and flee up an alley or run a red light.

Monday, January 11, 2010

#139: Cold As Ice

I can’t say that I’m a big fan of the heat by any stretch of the imagination, and that might come as a surprise to some people. Growing up in Adelaide I’ve been exposed to some ridiculous heat waves in my time – and we’re talking serious heat waves, not two days above 40degreesC, but entire weeks, and in one memorable run, nearly twenty days above the 35degree mark (the accepted benchmark for a heatwave). In Melbourne they make a fuss when the mercury reaches the top level for a day, for example the news stations this morning are fixated on Melbourne’s 43degree and make virtually no mention that we’ve had that, with change, for the last four days. It’s hot. Tarzan couldn’t handle this kind of hot. The Predator would touch down and say, “Jesus, I think I might skip out to the Congo where it’s a bit cooler.” No sir, this heat? I do not like it.

Amazingly enough this isn’t the hottest I’ve seen. “Back in 1946 sonny,” – no, I won’t do that. Suffice to say I’ve seen some heat. Working at the Nullarbor we had a few days that were so taxing and hot that you physically could not sweat – it’d evaporate from your body before it could fully form. This might sound like a blessing, but I’m sure that there’s more than one medical type person out there thinking, “That’s not good.” What was worse, I guess, was that I was then expected to do physical work from 8am to 6pm – no time off and you only ever drank water if you passed out, or were about to. I’m not ashamed to admit this, but I actually electrocuted myself* solely so I could then spend a few days in hospital, after which I promptly checked myself out, gathered a few of my belongings and fled. I left a bit of stuff behind that week, but what you leave behind you don’t miss anyway. Or so Bono says. I miss some of the notebooks and I doubt Bono has ever had to resort to such desperate measures in order to avoid pounding fence posts into the ground by the side of a road with the stench of dead wildlife invading his nostrils.

I soon got tired of people who’d sit there and say, “Oh, I love summer. I love the warm weather. I hate the cold.” To those people I say, “Does your doctor know about these delusions? Is your current medication working?” How any sane person can sit there and say such a thing is beyond me. Give me a day where I’m thinking about pulling a jacket on and I’m happy. You hear people talking about the cool of the night, warmth of a breeze, cold winds – those are the phrases of romance. Not furnace like heat with northerly winds that burn layers of skin from a body and force obese men to walk about in striped boxer shorts**. Oh, and by the way, do note the word, ‘warmth’, not ‘scorching’. No-one ever writes, nor sings, about the gentle scorching breeze that singes hair off the head. You snuggle up with your baby in the cool weather, in the heat you beat them away with a rather large stick.

Living in Melbourne heat would affect me even more, but that’s because there was generally so little of it and the beaches are crap. Overall I preferred Melbourne’s schizophrenic weather patterns – the sun would be out and it’d be 6degreesC. I loved that. It’d be overcast and raining yet the temperature would be around 29degrees. Melbourne’s weather is a joke, created by a person too insane to perform in any DeSade play.

Brisbane’s weather is akin to the movie Salo. You hear a lot about it but you don’t really want, nor need, to see it, nor are you missing anything by not witnessing it first hand. I’m now firmly convinced that the humidity there drives the locals insane by penetrating their brains in such a way that it's not easily explained. After all, I can’t explain their driving behaviours any other way.

Heat does odd things to a person, but you never hear of anyone becoming super creative during a heat wave. Most people become so irrational they border on mental instability. They’ll slough their clothing and happily walk around naked*+ until they’re taken away for their own good. Some will merely run down the streets screaming, sans clothing, some will go to the extreme levels and do things so heinous that no writer of fiction could invent them+. Murder happens in the heat – I can’t think of anyone who’s killed people and claimed a defence of murder due to insanity after being affected by the cold. Cold snap, heat wave, take your pick.

I’m not a fan of the heat. I’d sit on the beach but I can’t stand the morons who populate the place. I’d go to the pool, but ditto. I’d like to sit at home, with the fans on and not much clothing, and just relax, but that’s not going to happen in a hurry. All I can do is be aware of it and not fall asleep, as I did last heat wave where I dropped off only to wake in agony and cramped as the air-conditioners had failed and I’d been sleeping for the past hour in 50degreeC heat. If not for my cat waking me (yes, my cat) God only knows how bad it’d have gotten. As it was I’d suffered heatstroke and found myself quite ill for the next few days. Only the application of constant showers, baths and fluid intakes brought me back to life, gradually, but it was no laughing matter. Still, I did better than another 50+ people who took the easy way out and simply died when it got too hot back in that memorable February.

So, to the those people who say, “I love this weather, “ I reply, “You, sir or madam, are anything but normal. You need help.” And the next person whom plays that bloody Billy Idol song will feel the full force of my venom.

Bring on the rain and cool I say.

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*George Costanza never thought of that one, did he?
**Believe it or not, saw such a man wandering the streets yesterday, in the height of the heat.
*+Also not a joke. Last week I saw one man standing completely nude out the front of the hospital here discussing the day with the two police who were about to take him back for what’s affectionately known as ‘sectioning’.
+As evidenced by the guy who was also sectioned last week for masturbating on graves during the hottest part of the day. True story!