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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Like, get out of my face, bitch (tram of thought)

So there I was, sitting on a tram into the city thinking about gay-mers when my tram of thought was suddenly interrupted by the following stream:

‘And she was like, like, I don’t like her, and like, I like said to her, like, listen bitch, she like, she doesn't like you either – like, you know… yeah, totally, like…’

A typical public transport infliction. The interruption was total – all thought of gay-mers (I’ll tell you about them in a ‘sec) went out the (unopenable) window, and now I was forced to sit there and endure the silly little troll’s endless tirade against whoeverthefuckitwas. Talking loudly on a mobile phone on public transport is one of those things. While you include people in the sordid affairs of your private life, you exclude them from the space of your public life. They’re free to talk, you’re forced to endure listening, but, all the same, you’re unable to join in. It’s the telephonic equivalent of the VPL: you’re trapped in the Audible Panty Line of their sordid business, unable to do anything but squirm.

It’s hard to be nostalgic for ‘the good old days’. Imagine a world where you had to say ‘the right thing’, marry ‘the right man’, wear ‘the right clothes’ and avoid every thing, place and person that was ‘wrong’ because of faith, occupation or skin colour. And this on pain of being ostracised and bringing shame on your family… and not just for ‘like, a week, or whatever’, but forever, for the rest of your life AND the rest of your family’s life. For as long as the beady-eyed elders remember. But most of us who live in Melbourne these days have gone from living in a world that emphasised ‘have to’ to one that emphasises ‘want to’. We’ve gone from duty (with its right and wrong), to a world of desire (with its likes and dislikes). That’s why the girl says ‘like’ so much – in her own inarticulate way she’s expressing being a fully paid-up member of her own private Empire of Like™, a world that’s all about excluding everything and everyone she isn’t and doesn’t like.

Which brings me back to my original tram of thought, and gay-mers. I recall a friend’s friend (a gamer, but not a gay-mer) telling me over a teary beer that ‘You’re better off telling people you’re gay than telling them you’re into role-playing these days.’ He may have a point… but never fear! Because even if you fall into both categories, these days, if you have broadband, a same-sex directed horn, a polyhedral dice and an armour class of -3, you can meet other people who like to dice with the same kinds of vice. We live in a world where every orc has her equal, where every simulator of battles among sentient sea beasts can find similarly inclined creatures to practice dictation, lactation, or any form of delectation with. A good thing, surely...

But the side-effect of such a meeting of minds and manatee empires becomes palpably, nakedly obvious when you get on public transport. Now, although PT is neither properly public nor effective transport, it’s still one of those few places where you’re likely to brush mandibles with creatures who exist outside the bubble of your own private Empire of Like™. You might be on the way to meet friends at a little bar where everyone else has exactly the same taste in tattoos and Jimmy Choos as you choose (hey, nice shhh…hoes), but before you bump pumps with your chums, being on the tram forces you to cross paths with conspicuous udders.

But what do you find when you get there? OMG, the social fabric is a crud-filled semi-colon made up of multi-cellular phone users, texting h8 mail to their XXX partner (who they’ve never met). Everybody’s standing (or sitting) in their very own real and imagined circle of friends, only displaying the body codes they wear (clothes) in order to be differentially decoded depending on level of initiation…

Of course, this means that a gay-mers can spot each other, but unfortunately, it also means ‘we’ (the people, remember?) have nothing in common except our indifference. We’re becoming less and less able to see and hear anything we don’t ‘like’ – everyone who’s not on our Facebook is faceless. I like you – come sit on my face. I don’t like you, so…
‘Get the fuck out of my face, bitch!…’
‘What was that?’
‘Oh, nothing, just…’
‘So, like, what were you saying?’
‘I’ve like, totally forgotten, ‘cos like, this rude bitch on the tram like just totally interrupted me, and shit.’

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

GSA A-OK? (the titillating taboo of the illicit)

When considering coupling with another person, most people would tell you that it’s important to like one another. More than that, it’s even important to be like one another. Meet your friend for girly chats about new beau and hear her coo that ‘we’re so alike’, ‘we have so much in common’, ‘we really see eye to eye on most things’. Two months later, and if they’re starting to fall in love, then they’re probably going through that phase where they almost become one another, losing themselves in a kind of symbiotic swallowing that can seem… well, pretty gross, if you’re not a part of it.

But there’s such a thing as too similar, just as there’s such a thing as too different. I can say this with the compact directness of two words: incest, bestiality. Easier said than done, you say. Too right – just ask the copywriter who came up with the GSA (Genetic Sexual Attraction) Association of Tasmania’s latest rip-roaring slogan: ‘You’ve had the ‘cest, now try the best!’

Australians might snigger at Tasmanians for enjoying the kind of map of Tassie that’s just too close to home. Likewise, we might cock a snoot at certain New Zealanders who believe that the grass looks greener on the other side of the species divide. But whether it’s ‘cest’ or ‘best’, the issue is no laughing matter, especially when it involves kids of either kind.

But what about GSA, you say? No way? A-OK? GSA, ‘Genetic Sexual Attraction’, is the ‘friendly uncle’ of incest – its victimless, unwitting sister act. GSA has a venerable history: Oedipus Rex and Jocasta, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia… in fact, it usually involves royalty or Gods (and their wrath). But it has its banal practitioners too, and no doubt some of you will have been hearing a lot about GSA recently because of the 60 Minutes story on John and Jennifer Deaves (of Mount Gambier).

John and Jennifer live together, fuck each other, and have even had a child together. So what makes this nice, scientifically sound GSA and not nasty ol’ motherfucking incest? Well, the decisive fact is that they didn’t ‘know’ each other (in either sense) while Jennifer was growing up. This, apparently, makes all the difference. They ‘met’ as adults, and when they did, they ‘saw’ each other as a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’, not a father and daughter. As Jennifer said, “I was looking at him and going, ‘oh, he’s not too bad – like someone across a bar at a nightclub.”

So far, so good… but hang on – when they (nearly) kissed, Skywalker and Leia didn’t know they were siblings. And when Oedipus finds out he’s been doing his mum, he doesn’t high-five her or spark up a stogie… he cuts out his own eyes. The cultural impact of both these stories might say something about acceptable resolutions to the vicissitudes of GSA in each case: the ancient Greeks would dash out their eyes; Americans would palm the girl off onto Hans (Solo). But it’s the reaction, the progression – what John and Jennifer did after meeting each other ‘like someone across a bar at a nightclub’ so unwise. Or wrong?

In Leviticus, God (or his note-taker) talks about the abominations of incest (no GSA in those days, so no excuse). The King James edition of the Bible says that you shouldn’t commit incest, “for theirs is thine own nakedness.” It’s not too different from what the Old Testament has to say about bestiality: “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.” It is. It really, really is – and if you’re a Jew or a Christian, the consequences are pretty bad: “And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.” But I’ll leave the right and wrong of it to believers and tut-tutters – what I’m interested in is the silliness, nay, the grand folly of their actions, in this order:

Folly #1: They boned, then they shacked up, then they kept boning (without wearing a rubber), and as a result

Folly #2: They had a child, after which

Folly #3: They took money from 60 Minutes (apparently) in order to tell the world about Follies One and Two.

Jennifer and John might think they’re involved in a normal relationship between consenting adults, one that’s harmless – an unoriginal sin, a victimless crime. But judging from the vandalism and abuse they’ve already suffered, a portion of the good people of Mount Gambier don’t share their views. And now their kids (who have to attend the local school) are the ones who are going end up with egg on their face. I’m sure the subtle fact that Jennifer’s school age children aren’t part of the union will probably be lost on the victimizers. And, indeed, the hate crimes have begun in earnest. But Jennifer’s still bubbly about it, even though the family are now contemplating moving after their car was vandalised. “People obviously know where we live and they could do this sort of thing again – hopefully not again, but you never know.” Well I dunno, Jennifer, I’ve got a pretty good idea you’re never gonna live this one down.

More than anything, what this whole shebang shows is a complete inability to think things through, to consider the consequences – but try telling this to someone who fucks their dad, then brags about it in primetime. Depending on your worldview, incest might be abominable. According to statistics, it might be more common than we’re comfortable admitting. But regardless of the facts of her figure, at the very least, if you discover that you shared a bit too much MDMA, GBH, S&M, and DNA with the hottie you scored at QBH – it might be wise to keep it on the QT, eh? For your own sake. GSA may well be the appealing new fragrance of the Olsen twins, but on national TV, the consequences for your family are abominable.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Of bingeing athletes (and binge aesthetes)

Somewhere between Wayne Carey’s PR-schooled (but actually quite ballsy) mea culpa and Matthew D’Arcy’s apparently unschooled but obviously very sharp left hook lurks something so big that no-one seems to be able to nail it. The people behind Australia’s Olympic team can easily apply the phrase “bringing the sport into disrepute” to censure the violent little D’Arcy, but this doesn’t get close to the real issue. Likewise, Carey can say he’s very sorry, sober up, and stop sniffing up, spewing up, screwing up, and slapping slappers around. But it still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. There are Olympic Games and there are football games. There are also drinking games, but drinking itself is not a game… or is it? Or is it a hobby? That usually presumes accumulating skills. If you include ‘holding your liquor’ then yeah, I ‘spose it could be a hobby. It might also be a pastime, an activity, or a pursuit. But actually, I’d say that it’s much, much deeper than that. In fact, I think it’s one of the only things that all Australians share.

Think about it. There is death. There are taxes. For some, there is even real estate. But no matter who they are or where they live, all Australians are affected by binge drinking. And this is why, along with the other things just mentioned, it’s one of the only things we all have in common. Tell me what else reflects the reality of the lived experience of the entire community. Everything else is just imaginary… ANZACs? Only for skips. AFL? Only in Victoria. The beach? Whiteys again, but this time only the ones who live on the coast. The bush? Come off it. We’re a bunch of overweight ex-boat people who live in the suburbs. We love real estate, cars and petrol – and we’re unsustainable and abusive in the way we use all three. During the week, we drive our cars to our jobs, where we work to pay off the real estate we return home to in the evenings (in order to drink and watch petrol and housing prices rise on TV). And when the weekend comes and we have a choice with how to spend our time, most of us binge. And the ones who don’t? Well, they get to hide from, put up with, or serve kebabs to those of us who do.

Young and free? Nonsense! We’re fat and pissed. Girt by sea? Nonsense on stilts! Sloshed by tea is more like it. Paul Kelly’s ‘Dumb Things’ is the only song that could be used as our national anthem without dishonesty, ‘cos no matter who you are or where you live in Australia, you could tell me without distortion that getting very, very drunk is the activity that at least one member of your family takes to with gusto, regardless of age, gender, income, profession, or ethnic background. Even my cabbie the other night, who said, “You Aussies have beer; we have beards” is not excluded, ‘cos after all, he has to drive pissed idiots like me home. So what about mateship? Well, what’s a mate really? A mate is just someone who’s seen you really, really wasted. The mark of intimate friendship in Australia is getting to the point where you’re so pissed neither of you is even able to talk, which is also another handy way of solving the discomfort of emotional intimacy.

My friend Murray – a quintessential binger and a good mate – used to have a little saying, one that’s far more honest than most Australians are these days. It’s quite poetic, so I’ll quote it in full:

If you drink, then drive, you’re a bloody idiot.
But if you drink, then drive, and make it home okay?
Then you’re a bloody champion.

D’Arcy and Carey didn’t “bring the sport into disrepute” – they brought bingeing into disrepute. In other cultures, the mere fact of being very, very drunk is itself socially unacceptable. In Australia, provided you’re not hurting somebody, it’s heroic. And this is why every condemnation of a remote Aboriginal community, as well as each tut-tutting of an out-of-control athlete, is also an act of hypocrisy. If you so much as snickered at Murray’s ditty, you are implicated. K-Rudd has decided to frame bingeing as a ‘problem’. Some people have even gone so far as to say that it’s ‘part of our culture’. This is closer, but it doesn’t go far enough. Everyone’s happy to talk bingeing athletes, but what very few people are willing to concede is that, fundamentally, Australians are binge aesthetes. Bingeing isn’t a part of our culture, mate, it is our bloody culture. Cheers… oi, what the fuck are you lookin’ at?!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

On hospitals, hostages and hospitality (the hostman always brings lice)

It’s quite clear to most owners why dogs are man’s best friend. But try finishing this sentence: cats are man’s best… well? What, exactly? Whatever pleasure they might bring, like male nipples and poetry, it’s not really clear what cats are for. It’s not even clear that cats are ‘for us’ at all. In fact, I’d say the weight of evidence suggests that they’re against us. It’s one thing to wonder why we live with cats; it’s another to realise that we don’t own them, that they’re not our friends. Cats are just small big cats, and big cats are highly evolved killers. You think I’m wrong? Ask yourself, if cats were as big as golden Labs, would you leave one with the kids? Charlie the Wonder Lion? Aslan aside, you’d have to say it’s a dangerous proposition. The point is not to piss off cat fanciers (too late I’m sure) or even to say that there’s nothing good about ‘em. I like cats, just like I like my nipples, and even poetry. Well, some. But what I want to get across is this: you’re not ‘friends with’ the cat. You don’t ‘own’ the cat. You ‘host’ the cat. Cats aren’t man’s best friend, they’re man’s best parasite.

My good lady and I are hosting a cat at the moment. It works out pretty well for all parties. He’s undemonstrative, aloof and on the take. And we feed him milk. It’s a pretty simple equation: we’ve lost our staffie, and are so desperate for animal affection that we’ll even settle for the flick and whiskers of Bitchcakes – that’s what we call him. How would you characterise our relationship? Well, he takes, we give. He takes some more, we give some more. I’ve you’ve ever had friends in socialist youth groups you’d know the score. It’s all about caring and sharing: they care, you share. But the cat is a welcome parasite, because he’s a good one. And a good parasite, as anyone knows, is one who doesn’t kill the host. And, I flatter myself, we’re good hosts.

What does it mean to be a good host? People who work in pubs, restaurants and hotels are often fond of telling you ‘I work in hospitality’, but this is misleading. You pay them money, they serve you food or drink. You pay a little more, and the same thing happens, with the notable addition that the people are nice to you and call you ‘sir’. Give ‘em a tip and they’ll be your best friend in the whole world, perhaps even lick your arsehole. But don’t be fooled, it’s not ‘cos they like you: it’s a business transaction, they’re professionals, and you’re paying them money. Not only that, but if things aren’t to ‘sirs’ liking, then ‘sir’ can complain. So it’s not like they’ve even got a choice. They’re paid to bring you your date putting with aplomb, or else it’s the sack, simple as that. So this isn’t real hospitality.

Real hospitality involves sacrifice, expenditure. You inconvenience yourself for others. If you have a dinner party, you don’t call the guests ‘sir’, but nor do you accept their money or let them do the dishes. In most cases, it would be insulting if you insisted on doing either. This tells you a lot about hospitality, and a more than a little about ‘sir’: a word that actually means ‘fuck you’. So that’s hospitality. It always involves a little bit of harm – people put themselves out for you, they sacrifice their time and expend a portion of their limited energy and resources to give you something, and to give it to you in their space. As a successful parasite, all the guest has to do is not kill the host, bring a token gift at the beginning and a say ‘thank you’ at the end. Really, a ‘guest’ is just a parasite that you know is coming, says ‘please and ‘thank you’, and leaves before you have to excrete or expel them. And so, Bitchcakes, who knows how to do all these things in his own bitchy way, is not only ‘man’s best parasite’, he’s also a model guest.

Now if it’s common for a household to host a cat or a dinner party, then it’s usual for cities to host festivals or major sporting events. Melbourne has played host in this way a number of times, successfully – the guests are welcomed at the beginning and farewelled at the end, and in the interim, no-one gets killed and the inconvenience borne by the host is recompensed by the entertainment-value of the guests. Hello, ha-ha, bye-bye, ta-da – well hosted!

There’s an old Chinese saying: ‘House guests are a bit like fish – after a while, they start to stink.’ I can’t help but think that it’s one of the few Chinese sayings that the Tibetans would be happy to say they’ve taken on board. The Chinese government appears to have been doing a little bit of cunning linguistics themselves. They’ve refreshed our shoddy memories. For example, did you know that ‘Tibet is not a country’? Or that ‘hostile’ and ‘host’ come from the same Latin root? Or that ‘host’ can also mean ‘army’? Or that hospital is 72.72% of hospitality? The Chinese government have done a pretty good job of reminding us, and the Tibetans, of all these things. Maybe when he arrives K.Rudd can lay down some Mandarin and add a bit of Aussie expertise: only among Australian surfers is ‘hostage’ considered an appropriate situation for a dinner party (along with beerage and sausage). Or that the word ‘corkage’ was coined by a surfer…

How can the Chinese be playing host when they don’t understand the meaning of hospitality themselves? Rule number one: you must be invited. Rule number two, if you are invited, don’t kill the host…. and is it possible to even be a host if you’re in the process of killing one? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – they weren’t even ‘invited’ in the first place. Hospitality? We only got as far as hospital, remember? But seriously, if you were Bitchcakes, or, I dunno, the Australian Olympic Team, would you go and stay in the house of an entity like that? And what would be your reasoning if you did? ‘Oh don’t worry, the cats (the size of golden Labs) they only attack monks, not athletes.’ That seems to be the Australian Olympic team’s explanation so far… that and gold medals… But I keep asking myself: how would man’s best parasite act? To wit: what would bitchcakes do? I’ll tell you. Bitchcakes would boycott.

The Author

[almost nothing] about me

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