in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bouncers (don’t mess with ‘em, have mess without ‘em… or not?)

Judging from what I’ve heard, I’d always fancied that people would try to fight their way out of the Viper Room – then came the recent news of the dude who pulled a piece on the bouncers when he wasn’t allowed in. Didn’t somebody tell him that if they’d let him in… he’d be at the Viper Room? But then again, this is like trying to talk sense to a person… who wants to go to the Viper Room. You can’t reason with the unreasonable.

All across Melbourne you hear similar stories: enraged footballers, coked up to the eyeballs, going on rampages at Crown… trannies with knives in their garter belts (Dome R.I.P.) …or the rumours of ‘Mad Cunts’ barred from another famous Chapel St nightclub returning with plenty of cousins… and lots of baseball bats. Bouncers. Don’t mess with ‘em, have mess without ‘em… or not?

In their defence (as if they can’t defend themselves), bouncers, like cops, deal with the constant threat of grisly violence and the daily reality of one of the most boring jobs imaginable. But more than cops, bouncers have increasingly been written a blank cheque for the use of whatever brutality in their pursuit of social pest control – Parklife. At least cops have to write reports and ‘use phonebooks’. Without a doubt, bouncers do a thankless, boring, dangerous job that most of us would be unwilling and/or unable to do. But, on the other hand, a lot of them are sadistic fuckwits who enjoy nothing better than bullying people and abusing their authority. Basically, it’s a job that attracts a certain type of person, and I think we can safely say that it’s not the kind of person who you generally find working in kindergartens or caring for the elderly… oh, well, not working in kindergartens at least… sorry grandma.

But bouncers are nearly everywhere these days, representatives of the push for ‘private security’ that’s massively increasing in rich, paranoid countries like Australia (who live in the comfortable gap between the imagination of terror and the reality of peace and plenty). Even the cops have been turned into ‘event security’. Look at the joke that was APEC. Who was being protected… and from what? And don't let the ‘uniform’ fool you – a fair portion of private security goons are little better than the ‘ogres’ and ‘trolls’ they’re paid to protect ‘us’ from. ‘Goons,’ as the Simpsons quote goes, ‘Hired goons.’ Thing is, even goons are subject to economics – it’s the law of supply and demand. As the paranoia increases, the demand keeps increasing, in a kind of ‘Viper Room hoopsnake’ effect, and the security companies, who make their profits by providing ‘meat in uniform, on delivery’, are going to have to look harder and further to find enough boof. Just like all their competitors. Whoops, there goes the supply… Now, let’s say I run a private security firm. Am I gonna surrender market share and profits… or am I gonna lower my standards?

The net effect of this has been that a lot of firms are hiring people who are un(der)qualified, incompetent, or even dangerous psychopaths. Extreme examples like the recent Blackwater massacre in Baghdad demonstrate in an extreme and tragic way what this demand for private security is doing. These ‘professionals’, the chosen ‘private security providers’ (mercenaries) employed by the US government in no bid contracts to provide ‘security solutions’ in Iraq, murdered nineteen Iraqi civilians – and this is only the latest and best-documented case. We have our banal examples here, too, like the guy whose heart stopped after he got sat on outside Star City a few years back. Or that cricketer who got his lights punched (permanently) out in St Kilda not so long ago. The question that emerges is this: what is ‘feeling secure’ worth to us? Do you really think that the bouncers are there to ‘protect’ you? Their interests are their own and their company’s (first and second), and the venue’s (third).

At a recent party in this fine city, a tiny portion, a mere pebble of the emerging cost in having these gorillas in our midst was graphically played out, when the venue’s bouncers first kicked the headlining international off the decks mid-set, before proceeding to eject the gig’s promoters (if the rumours are true) and others from the venue. I’m sorry, but whose party is this? It used to be you had to call the cops to get a party shut down – now the people hired to ensure its smooth running are doing the same thing. Whose interests are served by this kind of malarky? And what happens when this becomes the ‘new normal’ at every venue in town? For the time being, this is exceptionally poor form by Melbourne standards, as well as being amusing, in a farcical way – but in Sydney, with its dearth of enlightened venues and small bars, treatment like this has become the norm. And unless you yourself are a ‘mad cunt’ with a pistol or a VL’s worth of bat-toting cousins only an SMS away, you are completely at their mercy…

Where does this end up? I’m always drawn to the example of the infamous Rolling Stones gig at Altamont, in which a man was stabbed to death by one of the Hells Angels, who were recommended as security… by the Grateful Dead. As Keith Richards famously described it in the article, in.... Rolling Stone:

‘"The violence," Keith Richard told the London Evening Standard, "just in front of the stage was incredible. Looking back I don't think it was a good idea to have Hell's Angels there. But we had them at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead. "The trouble is it's a problem for us either way. If you don't have them to work for you as stewards, they come anyway and cause trouble. "But to be fair, out of the whole 300 Angels working as stewards, the vast majority did what they were supposed to do, which was to regulate the crowds as much as possible without causing any trouble. But there were about ten or twenty who were completely out of their minds -- trying to drive their motorcycles through the middle of the crowds…
Really, the difference between the open air show we held here in Hyde Park and the one there is amazing. I think it illustrates the difference between the two countries. In Hyde Park everybody had a good time, and there was no trouble. You can put half a million young English people together and they won't start killing each other. That's the difference."

While Richard was satisfying the British press with his incredibly naive view of Western civilization, Meredith Hunter lay dead.’

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Such is Life and Horse (Kissing Cousins)

In most cultures, kissing Cousins is considered incest. But in Australia, over thirteen thousand ‘friends’ in a Facebook group want to do just that. Or just ‘party’ or ‘parlay’…. or ‘something’. But whatever they want to do, it better be done quickly, before it all goes horribly wrong. Get in for your chop, there ain’t gonna be any sloppy second Cousins – he’s one of a kind. Ah, Ben Cousins… The sporting establishment condemn him, because they have to. The media do, because apparently ‘you’ (or some viewer like you) enjoys knocking in others what you’d be incapable of yourself. It’s true, let’s face it. The only difference between Cousins and any of the 100,000-plus pissed yobbos at the racetrack last week is that they are pissed witless, sunburnt and broke by 3pm, while Cousins, on the other hand (and on the other side of the thickly-racked dateline), apparently just saw the fifth sunset of a rehab-breaking coke bender. Cousins? You wish. You haven’t got the ticker, you avvo yobbo. Go back to vomiting on your tux and growling some bird in a hat behind a bush. It’s all you’re capable of. Cousins is the überyobbo, as much a champion off field as he is on. I’m serious. If you subscribe to yobbo values, then he’s the best we’ve got, a true champ. We ought to love him while we’ve got him. People keep saying ‘When’s he gonna behave?!’ ‘What an idiot!’ ‘Can’t he see he’s depraved?!’ But you know what I think? I think we’ve got the wrong end of the horse on this one. I think we should look to two other Aussie heroes for inspiration or alternatives: Ned Kelly and Phar Lap.

Ned first got a taste for a nice bit of horse after stealing one. Well, he said he didn’t know it was stolen when he galloped into town on it – he’d just ‘borrowed it’ from a friend… a friend who had stolen it from a constable up the way. As legend would have it, the policeman who tried to arrest him ended up getting ridden like a horse by said bushranger. Not long after that, Ned officially became notorious: sticking up banks and shooting cops. Ned became a problem…. and the societal solution? Ned was hanged, thus ensuring no further hold-ups and eternal notoriety. This is obviously not the way to go – maybe Phar Lap offers some better ideas?

Horses are not hanged, they’re hung (like horses). Or shot (like cops, by Ned). But not this one – he was poisoned. Apparently. Phar Lap, after a racing career of little more than a few years, died a mysterious death. Some say it was arsenic, but then, according to another veterinarian, all horses were given arsenic in those days… as a tonic. Yes, arsenic, the ideal ‘pick-me-up’. We all know the phrase ‘they shoot horses, don’t they?’ And you know it’s a rhetorical question, don’t you? Were he not poisoned, Phar Lap might have sired some young stallions, after which he would have been put out to pasture, where he would have been able to enjoy the grass until such time as the little click of the rifle cocking was heard in between a fly-swatting tail switch and a quiver of the ageing rump. But, because of the poisoning, Phar Lap’s death became mired in controversy and ‘shrouded in mystery’ (as the cliché would have it), and this is the kind of thing that’ll get you necroscopied (autopsied), dissected, and donated trans-Tasman stylee. Phar Lap ended up a hanged horse: his mounted hide is displayed at the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton at New Zealand's National Museum, and his heart at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Now, we know that Cousins likes a bit of horse, not to mention ketamine, which is, notoriously, a drug for horses. And here’s the lowdown…they say it was the arsenic, but if you ask me, it was the pressure… Phar Lap, the hero with the big heart fell into a big daddy k-hole, as big as a racecourse and darker than the inside of Ned Kelly’s helmet. Who knows, maybe he’d been at it for years? Maybe they tried to make him go to rehab, but he wouldn’t go (neigh, neigh, neigh). If he had thumbs, maybe he’d have left a note. What would it have said? A lot of people have even been suggesting that this recent ‘Horse Flu’ epidemic is nothing other than a massive wave of ice addictions, introduced by Yakuza-owned Japanese horses who gave the locals a taste for the ‘shabu’. Perhaps the phrase should be: ‘Horses shoot up, don’t they?’

Given the circumstances, I think Cousins deserves the ‘Phar Lap’ treatment. Like the snuffed sniffer with the big ticker, he’s had his four years at the top. He’s won both the Brownlow and the Leigh Matthews trophy. As an athlete, he’s probably past his best. I say, let him go for it, Phar Lap style. Let him run, let him whinny, let him bray, let him snort. Let those nostrils flare in glory. Why not? Cousins has obviously found the one thing in life he enjoys even more than being a football hero. If he dies doing the thing that he loves (which probably won’t take that long, considering how much of it he’s rumoured to love), then so be it. ‘Such is life’, as Ned (or Cousins’ torso) might say – or as Phar Lap might have said, if he had thumbs. In fact (dare I say it), the sooner the better, before his torso begins to sag – while he can still say it with a sixpack. Then we can all come to pay homage by kissing the glass around his remains. I think he’d like that. He can be mounted, as Phar Lap was, as Kelly’s armour is. We can mount his hide at the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton at the National Museum in Canberra, and his heart at the Museum of Western Australia. As befits a champion and a hero.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

So you think you can flail?!

Controversy has erupted this week at the 53rd conference of the European Artform Committee (CAE), the body that rules on the classifications governing specific kinds of officially recognised European artforms. Every year, the body meets to re-define what is and is not an artform, and this year, it was the turn of flailing to be thrown into question.

‘Flailing’ may not be the first thing that springs to mind when we think of artforms, but in parts of Scandanvia and the Baltic states, flailing was traditionally considered a way to keep warm and has become a common pastime, with people competing in public displays, known as ‘flail-offs’.

The controversy apparently erupted on the judging panel when a faction emerged, intent on differentiating between the two recognised types of flailing, ‘uncontrolled’ and ‘controlled’.

Other panel members, protesting the distinction, asserted that there was ‘no such thing’ as controlled flailing. “It’s ridiculous,” said Sten Carlsen, the Danish representative. “Everybody knows that this so-called ‘controlled flailing’ is nothing other than dancing. Even my senile mother-in-law knows that.”

The faction’s counter-assertion held that all flailing involved some level of motor control, and that this was the necessary condition distinguishing it from involuntary or even autonomic motions such as ‘tics’, ‘spasms’, ‘shudders’ and ‘seizures’, none of which can be officially classified as artforms under the guidelines of the CAE.

“It takes years to learn to really flail, to do it with skill and flair,” the faction spokesman said, reading a statement prepared by members of the faction. “A person who attempts flailing without adequate knowledge of the appropriate techniques risks embarrassment, injury, even death.”

Carlsen’s argument against this classification rests in one simple idea. “It’s not rule-governed movement,” he explained. “To say that one can be taught how to flail, as if these are a set of known techniques that can be transferred from teacher to pupil or acquired through demonstration and practice, this is absurd.”

A faction member, speaking on condition of anonymity, asserts that Carlsen’s outspoken criticism of the move to distinguish between ‘uncontrolled’ and ‘controlled’ flailing was motivated by specific Danish interests which had remained undeclared. Anna Halvorsen, who was for three consecutive years the European champion, was recently stripped of her medals after the discovery that she, and others on the women’s team, all suffered disinhibition disorders – neurological conditions that allowed them to flail far more violently than other competitors. “There was a sense of total abandon. Their flailing gave you this impression of chaos and intensity that had won them favour with judges – and I was one of them,” our anonymous panel member confessed. “Discovering that Anna and two of the others suffered from disinhibitions disorders, this has had a devastating impact on the sport. It’s imperative to know who is really flailing, and who is just suffering from spasms.” Carlsen was quick to neutralise these allegations, however: “Anna is simply a naturally gifted flailer. There is no penalty for talent where I come from. The whipping violence of her body is sublime.”

There have also been allegations of ‘vote-buying’, with the other Scandanavian representatives (who are supporting the Danish protest) attempting to push key member states Spain and Britain (both of whom have powers of veto) to oppose the motion. Meanwhile, the Spanish delegate Pablo Borges – an unexpected ally of the Scandanavians – has weighed into the debate, controversially accusing American choreographer Mia Michaels of hit US TV show ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ of being what he calls ‘the world’s number one ‘controlled flailing’ expert. “If there is something called ‘controlled flailing’ then she’s the queen of them all,” he said. “This ridiculous assertion that you can somehow include ‘controlled’ movements in the definition of flailing – well, why don't we just get that woman to come here to Geneva and teach us all. We’ll be flailing like controlled professionals in no time. I’m sure that would make all the judges weep like young girls.”

Mia Michaels has so far refused to offer any comment on the remark.

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.