Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best. Christmas. Ever

A Short Story By Darryl Mason

"Is he okay?"

He waited for her to answer.

He couldn't tell her what happened while she was away...

"He's not getting better, if that's what you mean."

How could he tell her, right now? She had more than enough on her mind already.

"I know your dad's not getting better. I meant...does he understand what you say to him? Can you talk to him?"

Down the hall, he could hear his son's sobbing quickly winding down as something in his bedroom grabbed his attention. When his mother had told their son she had to stay in Brisbane tonight, Christmas eve, he'd let out a little shriek, then a plume of tears. He didn't blame his son for crying, he knew he'd have burst into tears as well if he'd been told, at six years of age, that his mother wasn't going to be there when he woke up on Christmas Day.

"I talk to dad," she said, "but...he's off somewhere else. Most of the time, his face is just blank."

He struggled to catch all of what his wife was saying. It was like he was trying to talk to her across a room, while a titanic hailstorm attacking the tin roof above. The static on the line made it seem like wife was even further away than she actually was, sitting next to her father, drifting out his last days in a nursing home that hummed steady silence, punctuated by screams and crying. He knew his wife hated that place, and that she wanted to be home with him and her son on Christmas eve, wrapping presents.

But there were no presents to wrap.

"Are you still there?" she said, her voice grating with frustration. "Hello?"

"I'm here, the...line is terrible," he went to swallow, and couldn't it. His tongue, his mouth, throat, were dry, he needed water. Or bourbon. A decade ago, when he was 24, he would have dealt with the misery of the ruined day he had just endured, and what was still to come tonight, with three double Wild Turkeys and Coke, and then a few more straight from the bottle.

But he didn't Do That Anymore.

Even if he wanted to obliterate himself with bourbon tonight, he couldn't afford it, and he couldn't drive to get it. The car went two weeks ago.

"I know where I'd rather be tonight..." she said, and he could feel her smile.

"I wish you were here, too."

"We've never been apart at Christmas, have we?"

"No. First time..."

He could delay the inevitable confrontation with his wife until tomorrow afternoon, maybe even early evening, it would take her most of the day to drive back down the coast.

Or he could tell her now. Be honest, and tell her that he left everything to the last moment and that he had well and truly fucked up, that he'd been so absolutely sure there was another couple of hundred left on their final active credit card, but he'd been wrong.

He could tell her how it felt to stand there at the cashier's with a video game for his son in his hand and have his credit card rejected, twice, and to have someone there in the line behind him whisper, with disgust, "fucking loser," and to know that it was ultimately nobody's fault but his own.

He could tell her all that, but it would make her night even more miserable, worrying then not only about her father, and whether he would live to the New Year, but also about her son, who was now going to wake up in less than seven or eight hours to discover that Santa had left him no presents.

The splatter of static faded from their phones.

"No, we've never spent Christmas apart," she said, and he could see the memory movies he knew she was thinking about. "We even saw each other on a few Christmas days before we started going out. When you were still seeing...Sonja."

"You know I only went to all those parties with Sonja because I knew you were going to be there, looking wicked," he said. These were old lines, they both knew the routine and enjoyed it.

His wife laughed, a real laugh, deep and loud. "How do you come up with such bullshit?"

"That's why you love me," he said. She'd needed to laugh, to get that release, and he'd done it. He'd made her feel better.

"It's not the only reason I love you, but it's in the top three."

How could he tell his wife that when their son woke up he'll think Santa is a liar? And that their son would probably be waving the letter she'd written a month before, on Santa's Workshop letterhead, from the desk of Santa Claus himself, that promised the boy, if he behaved himself, the one present he most absolutely desired, as he'd told his father, "in this whole wide, world wide world."

It was a video game, for PC (a new Xbox system was one third of a monthly mortgage payment they could never afford to miss), a game that put the player in command of the stars and moons of our galaxy.

Before work finished for the year eight weeks ago, he'd watched a couple of previews of the game his son wanted from Santa on YouTube. The game had caught his imagination as well. One of the key missions of the game was to move moons into the orbits of watery worlds to pull life out of the oceans, or to position a star into a rumble of asteroids and dead planets to make a new solar system, where life would eventually flourish if you could protect the planets from massive asteroid and comet strikes. He wanted to play the game, too, with his son. And earlier today, when he'd been walking to the cashier's at the W, he'd imagined an afternoon of connection and absolute joy with his son as they played the game together on Christmas Day.


"Are you still there?" she asked.

"Yeah. Are you staying at the nursing home tonight?"

"I have to. The storm's gone crazy. I'm going to drag in a more comfortable chair from the day room when everyone's gone to bed. I think it's only me and the nurses, here, who actually know it's Christmas Eve..."

"That's really sad. They don't even know it's Christmas.."

"I know. Anyway, I'm going to go."

"Okay. Do you want to talk him again? He's still awake, I can hear him ripping up paper in his room."

"Why's he still doing that? No, I'll call him in the morning. Make sure he's up by seven."

"He'll be up by five, waking me up."

"That's true...."

A long pause. He knew that she knew, in the way she always knew.

"So," she said, with a sigh. "Did you get everything?"

He had to end this conversation now. It was time to bail.

"It's all taken care of," he said, quickly. "Everything's cool. I love you. Kiss your dad for me. Merry Christmas. I'll talk to you in the morning."

He hung up, snapping the phone shut. He tossed it on the bed like it had scorched his hand.

He stood there for a moment, waiting to see if it would ring again, then headed for the bathroom and drank water from the tap. Being a deceptive bastard was thirsty work.

"Jamie? What are you doing?" he shouted through the house, from the bathroom.

"Nothing dad!" his son shouted back, from his bedroom. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going downstairs to see what's on TV! You hungry?"


"Okay! I'll be back up to tuck you in!"

"Yeah, okay."

He had to get this done, before his son went to sleep. He had to go and tell him the bad news about Santa. And he'd do it, he told himself, in a few minutes, fully aware food and TV were just ways to delay the inevitable.

He walked down the stairs, the rest of the house below, dark, quiet, still. The only noise in the whole house was the steady sound of his son slowly tearing long strips of paper.

As his eyes adjusted, he saw it wasn't completely dark in the lounge room. Pink, yellow, blue and green lights glowed across the street, spilling through the curtains. It was the neon-drenched Christmas display that covered most of his neighbour's house. A remarkably detailed Christmas display that had drawn a steady stream of family-packed cars every night for two weeks. Most had stopped to admire his handiwork for a few minutes, but there were many who'd parked their cars and walked into his yard to explore his Christmas creation, to wander amongst those lights, to see what all the little mechanized figures of snowmen and elves and reindeer were going to do.

He knew his neighbour wouldn't be able to pay the astonishing electricity bill for this year's festival of Christmas lights, when it thudded into his mailbox in February, because he knew his neighbour wouldn't be there to get it. His neighbour had already packed up the larger pieces of furniture and valuables and moved them elsewhere, so when the bailiffs turned up and let themselves in some time after New Year's to tally up the assets, they'd find nothing of any real value, all of it long gone.

There'd be no Christmas miracles for his neighbour, and his family, he knew that. There was no government bailout for them. They only owed hundreds of thousands, instead of billions.

And so another family will leave this street, he thought, another set of familiar faces, some friends, who'd lived and shopped and taken their kids to the park and daycare centre in this neighbourhood for six or seven years, would be gone. Another abandoned house would join the twenty or more he'd already found within a few minutes walk. Some were occupied by squatting students who couldn't afford to live in the city anymore, others housed the suddenly homeless who had fled other suburbs, in other states.

His son didn't seem much bothered by the disappearance of his friends from up or down the street.

He didn't understand this at all. When he was five, his best friend's family had packed up and left the street where he'd spent his childhood, and the experience had traumatized him for months.

But his son just shrugged when he asked him if he missed the kids he used to play with. By his fifth birthday, his son had said goodbye to nine of the kids who were born to families in the street the same year their family had moved in, their son only a newborn. All his original friends were gone, moved on, leaving behind abandoned mortgages and abandoned homes that few wanted to buy.

For the past three years, the street had seemed like the perfect place to raise a child, surrounded as they were by other young families, people like him and his wife, working families. Everything here had felt familiar, everything had felt right. It had been a safe place, safe enough for the kids to get together in the park after school to kick around a ball, without a fleet of parents watching over them.

But the kids hadn't gone to the park much at all, at least, not as much as he and his friends would have, and did, when they were the same age.

His son, and his friends, were more interested in video games, and teaching their grandparents how to use a computer and get socially networked, than slamming each other into pebble-studded fields of mud in mad pursuit of a ball.

He stood at the bay window, and noticed for the first time, of the many nights he'd stood there, beyond midnight, staring at the lights, just how much the softly-blinding illumination lit up the surrounding houses, his own house, his front lawn. It was something of rare beauty, and he wished he'd spent more time enjoying it, rather than resenting it, because his own home Christmas decoration attempts seemed so futile in comparison.

The thousands of dollars of lights and waving, smiling dioramas and glowing reindeer had cleaned out his neighbour's credit cards over three afternoons of madness in late October. Making something beautiful, if only for a few weeks, had become an obsession for him, as his family came to grips with their financial ruin, as they poised on the brink of fleeing the neighbourhood.

It was only now, tonight, that he realized his neighbour hadn't gone mad. He'd lost everything anyway, but in a final tribute to the neighbourhood, or Christmas, or both, he'd given the people of this devastated street something beautiful, a flood of light, a place to stand and be awed in the night by the dazzling colours. This was his gift to the friends and neighbours that remained, and something free and wonderful for families no better off than them to come and see, experience, share.

When other fathers who visited asked how much it cost to bring their families into the yard, his neighbour grinned and declared, "Nothing!"

His neighbour had nothing left, so he had nothing left to lose.

He wondered, briefly, how long it would be before his family joined the exodus from the neighbourhood. Another month or two, maybe less. He'd lived with this coming reality for so many months already, it no longer made him feel like he vomiting.

From upstairs, the sound of ripping paper ceased. His son would soon be asleep.

From down the street, from one of the abandoned houses now occupied by homeless youth, drifted familiar singing. "And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?" A John Lennon song, he remembered most of the words, a choir singing 'War is over, if you want it." The stereo the kids were blasting it from was up loud enough for him to sing along, but he got stuck on the words, "and what have you done?" The words repeated, a broken, taunting record in his mind.

What have you done?

He wasn't hungry anymore. He didn't care what was on TV. He had to get this over with. He walked to the stairs, and started climbing. He had to tell his son the truth.

"Are you awake?'

"Yes. I can't sleep."

"I know. When I was your age, I couldn't sleep either. I kept thinking I could hear Santa coming."

You idiot, why did you say that?

His son nodded slowly, then looked at his father.

"I don't think Santa's coming...."

"How did you know?" The words jumped out of his mouth before he could stop them. His son sat bolt upright in bed, and even in the low illumination thrown off by the Snoopy nightlight, the same Snoopy nightlight that had kept the monsters of the dark at bay when he was a child, he could see his son was already close to exploding into tears again.

"Santa's not coming? Why isn't Santa coming?"

His son had almost shrieked those last words. It was too much for him, he could see that, havin his mother away for Christmas and now, no Santa.

"Santa's not coming because...." he paused. His son was already dealing with the fact that there would be no visit from Santa. Now he had to explain to his son why.

Was it too early to beat his son's friends at school to the belief-rattling truth that Santa doesn't really exist? That the Santa his son already knew so much about, and dearly loved, was mostly dreamed up by Coca-Cola and cigarette advertising executives back in the first few decades of the last century?

It would blow his child's mind. He had to do this delicately.

I need to keep lying, he told himself, just for tonight, I can destroy the reality of Santa Claus for the boy in the New Year.

"Santa's not coming because...." he took a long, deep breath. There was nothing, his mind was blank. But then it wasn't. He had the story.

"Well, all over the world, in really poor places, poor families, you see, they can't afford any presents at all this year, none, and so Santa has to do a lot of extra...running around...flying around, in his sleigh, he has to fly a lot more trips to make sure the really poor kids get at least something this Christmas....outside of what he was going to give them anyway...before he found out their parents had...couldn't afford to get other well."

That was a terrible explanation. He knew it. This was going to be a long night. The kid wasn't going to go to sleep again, for hours. He could almost hear that sharp little brain churning through The Explanation for why Santa would not be visiting this year, dissecting it, comparing it to reality as he'd already come to know it.

He sat down on his son's bed, and waited for the boy to speak. His son's expression already revealed that heavy doubt was tearing The Explanation apart. Some more foundation work for the lie was needed, but he had nothing else.

"That's why...Santa can't come here this year, you see? He's extra busy with the really poor kids."

His son nodded slowly.

"Are we really poor, dad?"

"No...I mean....we're not, really poor."

"Are we just poor?"

"No...well, maybe a little."

"If Santa doesn't give me presents, will poor kids in other places get my presents?"

"I don't know how it all works," he said. "Ease up on the questions for a minute."

So his son did, but he had nothing to say. They sat in silence, the night sky above the back yard glowing and filling the window, alive with stars and flashing satellites and the faint dust of the Milky Way galaxy.

He had an idea. He knew from his own childhood that on a clear night, you can see a couple or more shooting stars every half hour, if you stood outside with your head craned back you paid attention. When he'd had a minor obsession with basic astronomy, before high school and girls and rock music pulled his eyes away from the heavens, he'd spent plenty of clear summer nights out in the yard with his telescope sweeping across the sky, and he'd seen plenty of shooting stars.

Had he told his boy much at all about the night sky yet? Not really. Not outside of basic explanations for what The Moon was, and why some stars seemed to twinkle, and others pulsed red, or blue.

His son, like himself at six years old, was showing a keen interest in science fiction TV shows, and, in particular, science fiction video games, but while he loved to blast through deep space on his father's laptop annihilating enemy transports and their escorts to micro-dust, the boy had never spent an evening in the back yard examining the endless light show in the sky.

The idea, the new lie, that popped into his head to further delay the day when his son learned that Santa Claus was only myth, a triumph of marketing, surprised him in its cunning, and potential for drama.

"Listen," he said to the boy, "there won't be any presents, but Santa has promised that every kid who misses out this year will get something extra special, instead of toys"

That perked up his son's ears, widened his eyes.

"Something special? What is it?"

"We have to go downstairs, and out into the yard," he said and stood up. "So grab your shoes and put them on."

"Why do we have to go outside?"

He pointed out the window, to the sprawl of stars, fighting to shine their light against the orange glow of the city in the distance, bleeding neon up from the horizon, diluting their brilliance.

"You won't be able to see it properly from inside," he said, and held out his hand. His son was out of and then off the bed, rustling underneath it for a pair of shoes. He found them, quickly slipped them on.

"Is the something special from Santa something that flies?"

"No more questions," he said.

"But I want to know now," the boy tried to cry, but he had forgotten he was supposed to be upset and couldn't find the immediate tears.

He picked up his son and carried him from the bedroom.

"Don't cry, okay? Okay, what Santa did was...Santa made a promise to every kid that misses out on presents that he will send them their own special shooting star. That's why we have to get downstairs now. The shooting star Santa sent for you should be flying overhead any minute."

The boy liked this news. His legs started moving like he was running. "Hurry up! We have to go and see it!"

He felt a little guilty at how easy such an absolute lie, and the story he conjured up around it, was to create and explain. Now his son wasn't expecting a video game he couldn't afford. He was waiting for a shooting star, which he didn't know would be a meteorite or maybe even a chunk of old satellite, hitting the atmosphere, breaking up, burning up, flaring out.

I promised my son a shooting star, he thought as he carried the happily struggling boy down the stairs. What happens if we don't see one?

What then?

This seems so familiar....

It was a beautiful night. He'd kept his son busy counting stars for a minute or so, but he was already getting bored. The counting was punctuated by sighs that grew louder, as the promised shooting star from Santa failed to appear.

"Thirty two, thirty three, thirty four....when's it coming?"

"Soon. Very soon."


"Thirty five."

"Thirty five, thirty six, thirty seven..."

He listened to his son counting stars. and remembered how he'd learned in his late teens to delay the moment when the emotional impact of something terrible actually hit him, and consumed him. Delay The Inevitable had been his life matra for most of his 20s. When his father had died, he hadn't shed a single tear for four months, then everything had come at once, a wave of sadness, grief and regret that all but crippled him. Booze had helped, but then the booze had become the problem, instead of the fact that his father had died and he hadn't said goodbye, or even seen him in those last painful months of his life. He hadn't let himself learn to deal with it.

"Thirty seven, thirty eight, forty..." his son continued.

"Thirty nine," he croaked, convinced that he was about to burst into a wracking sob louder than anything his son had unleashed during what had been an altogether utterly shitty Christmas Eve.

"Thirty nine, forty, forty one..."

He remembered then, a Christmas from his own childhood, the memories came rushing back, a wave of images soaked with emotion. He had to fight to stop himself from crying. He remembered now why this moment in the backyard with his son seemed so familiar. His father had done the same thing with him, on a Christmas eve when he was five years old, taken him into the backyard, promising shooting stars instead of presents, there were no presents, his father had drunk the money his mother was going to use to buy them. It had been his father's Christmas ritual.

His father had kept drinking as they stood in the back yard that night, the crumbling, neglected old house a tilting heap behind them. He'd waited and waited for his shooting stars, and as he waited, he'd felt himself pulled into the deep, black curtain of the night sky. He could leave this place behind by going up there, one day. His five year old self had promised his future would be up there, amongst the stars. That night, his father had eventually sat down on the grass, then flopped back into a snoring pile. But he'd stayed right there, rooted to the spot, his eyes sweeping across the great, immortal dome of stars.

He didn't see a shooting star that night, and the disappointment had been devastating. But he went back out there the next night, and the night after that, and every night for weeks, staring into the sky, and he'd watched hundreds of shooting stars blaze their fiery arcs, or simply flare out in a second or two. An elderly neighbour finally asked him what the hell he was doing in the back yard every night, and when he explained, the old man had given him a small telescope, on a tripod, from the ruin of junk and detritus piled high in his garage.

His love of astronomy, of knowing everything he could about the stars, the planets, the universe, then began, and consumed him. Until girls distracted him, and then rock music, and drinking. And then his knowledge of the night skies had faded, more once important information relegated to the rarely visited memory archives of his childhood.

"Dad? I'm bored. Can we go inside?"

He faked a sneeze so he could wipe the tears from his eyes, without his son seeing how upset he was.

"Two more minutes," he said. "Santa promised you a shooting star and he will deliver. Two more minutes, just count the seconds..."

A loud, long sigh preceded his son's new count. "One, two, three, four, five, six..."

He hated himself and hated his life. What a fuckup he'd become. Christmas Eve and not enough money in his pocket to buy his kid a video game, or even the cheapest piece of shit toy.

In four weeks, no longer than eight weeks, his family would lose their home. He still didn't know if his boss was even going to reopen the doors of his offices in the New Year, let alone ask him to come back to work. Not that it mattered, he wouldn't earn enough to get his family out of their debt problems.

What's going to happen to us now?

"Twenty eight, twenty nine, thirty," his son sighed again. He knew his boy was only out here now in the yard to make his father happy. He was doing this for his dad, no other reason.

"Thirty one, thirty two, thirty four...."

"Thirty three," he whispered.

"Thirty three, thirty four, thirty's not coming."

"It's coming," he said through gritted teeth, his sadness had departed, anger had arrived.

I need bourbon...

"Thirty six, thirty seven, thirty eight...."

Come on God, you bastard, just give me this one thing. Please. I'm not asking for a miracle, I'm not praying for you to let us win the lottery. I'm not praying for you to save this house, or protect my family, I'll do both, I'll find a way to get through this, but you have to give me this one thing, tonight. Just one little shooting fucking star. You've got billions of them. Just give me one, right now, so my son can see it. Is that too much to ask for?

"Fifty one, fifty two, fifty three....can we go inside, please?"


"Fifty four, fifty five, fifty six...."

I did everything I was supposed to do to be a good man, a good father, didn't I? I stopped drinking, I worked every day in a job I hated because the money was good and it was close enough to work so I could pick my son up from day care, every day, so my wife didn't have to leave her work early. I cleaned up my life, I got the job, we made a family, we brought a house, we paid my bills on time, I didn't sleep around on my wife, and I never hit her, or my son. What else do you want from me? What the fuck else do I have to do to get just this one single fucking break here?

"Dad? Is Santa really real?"

Great. Now this.


"Santa's not really real is he? He's made up, like cartoons..."

Just one tiny shooting star. Let the kid believe in this, this little bit of fantasy, for a little bit longer.

"Santa can't make shooting stars, dad. He just makes toys and stuff."

He searched the skies, but the stars were all still. There wasn't even a blinking satellite to distract his son with.

So that's it, then. I prayed to you for help when I was a kid, and you did nothing. I prayed to you for help during all those years of violence at home and at school, and you did nothing. I've never asked you for riches, I've never asked you to kill somebody I hated, I've never asked you to do anything but make bad things into good. Make this bad night into a good one. Please.

"He just gives toys...he can't make shooting stars...."

His son turned and walked back to the house.

"Wait a second..." he said, searching the skies as frantically as he had that night so many years ago with his own father. "Wait..."

"I want to talk to mummy," his son said, almost at the back door. His voice quavered, quivered, the tears were not far away.


If you won't do this for me, if you won't give me this one thing, one little shooting star, then I'll do it, I'll make it happen.


His son stopped at the door, the big sigh came again.

"It's coming...."

"Dad. I want to talk to mummy!"

"It's coming!"

One tiny dot of light blinked, and then grew brighter, and began to streak across the sky.

"Look! Look!" His voice shrieked, and his son stopped pushing open the back door and looked into the sky, following his dad's pointing, trembling finger.

"Wow!" His son ran the few steps to get back to his side. He grabbed his hand, and squeezed it. "Wow! Dad! Wow!"

The shooting star burned brightl as it churned through the black, becoming the brightest object in the near moonless sky.

"Count it!" he shouted to his son. "Count it!"

"One! Two! Three! Four!"

The shooting star shuddered in its path, and then burst into even brighter light, dazzling, almost blinding in its intensity. Chunks of it peeled away, dozens more tiny shooting stars.

"Five! Six! Seven!"

His son's voice grew louder, more excited, with every number he shouted. He squeezed his father's hand tight. "Eight! Nine!"

The shooting star had arced across half the sky in its frenzied flight. In all his childhood years of staring into the sky through the telescope, he'd never seen a shooting star burn so bright for so long. He had no idea what it was. But his son was screaming with excitement.

As instantly as it had appeared, the shooting star finally burned away. For another couple of seconds, they watched as the light trail left behind faded, a glittering path through the heavens, already lost amongst those millions of stars, and the blinking red and blue of local planets.

"Wow!" his son said, trembling with excitement, "Wow! Wow!"

"Yeah," he said, "Wow."

It was an incredible coincidence, he knew that, it was nothing but coincidence. A massive and incredibly rare extra big chunk of old planet or asteroid had hit the atmosphere and burned up and they'd been fortunate enough to witness it. The kind of shooting star that appeared once or twice a year, maybe less, a spectacle that was impossible to make plans to witness.

It's just a coincidence, he told himself, again, nothing more. Nothing more than that.

Well, he thought, maybe something more.

"Wow!" his son was still yelling. "Wow! Was that shooting star for me, dad?"

"Yes. It was."

"Can I tell everyone that was my shooting star, dad?"

He laughed. "Yes, of course you can."

"THAT WAS MY SHOOTING STAR!" his son suddenly yelled to the neighbourhood.

He thought his son meant he wanted to tell 'everyone', meaning the last few kids who lived in the street, his teacher, and his mother, when she returned home, but no, his son meant everyone. Everyone still left in the town, within hearing distance of his magnificent yell

"That Was My Shooting Star! Santa Sent That Shooting Star For Me!"

"Yes," he lied, agreeing with his son. "He did. That one was for you."



"Best Christmas ever."

"It's not Christmas yet."

"I know..."But dad?"


"It's still the best Christmas ever."

"Yeah," he said. "It is."

The End

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Old News Is Today's News

Occasionally, a digital glitch means old stories reappear on the front pages of news sites. Sometimes this can be funny, most times just plain confusing.

But today's fuckup of multiple republished stories on the Sydney Morning Herald website is shocking, jarring, particularly if you hadn't seen or heard the news for a day or so, and was the first website you visited. No-one would blame you if you thought for a few sickening moments you'd missed another horrifying bushfire holocaust :


But when the mistake was corrected, this graphic on the alleged nuclear weapons threat from Iran appeared instead :

It, too, is old news. In this case, long discredited news, but the casual reader would assume that Iran already has nuclear weapons (it doesn't) and that it has threatened other countries with nuclear annihilation (it hasn't).

Just remember when Fairfax columnists start complaining about Murdoch journos campaigning for War On Iran that the Sydney Morning Herald was there creating a reality for war from Day One.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Music Of Occupy Sydney

I've been lucky enough to catch live performances of beautiful music on both my visits to #OccupySydney in Martin Place. Worth stopping by, but I wish they could make some funnier signs. A line of interesting, fact-dashed but funny, signs can ground a passing crowd to a halt. Make them laugh, then they might stop, then they might look around.

Day One :

Day Four :

I donated two rare copies of my 1996 novel Max & Murray to the Ocuppy Sydney library.

A friend saw the M&Ms there later and said someone had helpfully noted inside the cover on what page the rants against pokies, affordable housing shortages and political corruption can be found.

I always knew I should have included an Index Of Rants in that book.

Then again, it is mostly rants.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

“This Isn't A Political Thing, It's An Equality Thing. I Just Want People To Be Happy. If People Were Happy That Would Be Sick!"

#Occupy Australia Vows Solidarity With #Occupy Movements Worldwide

How exactly did they manage to pull this off?
In just the four years to 2009-10, the number of households in the top 1 per cent bracket of wealth (i.e. $5 million-plus) rocketed 60 per cent from 55,000 to 88,000. And that was in the post-global financial crisis period when wealth was supposed to be flattened among the executive class."

Alan Kohler explains the basics of the #OccupyWallStreet movement :

My 80 second report on #OccupySydney Day One :

Below, #OccupyBrisbane begins with just a few dozen people, but they've voted to stay and, like #OccupySydney and #OccupyMelbourne, continue the protest in solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet :

This is an image of a board drawn up during the 1st #OccupySydney general assembly. Nothing too radical here, and plenty that progressives and conservatives can find equal ground on :

Glenda Kwek visits #OccupySydney :
"We are getting by. When it starts raining, it gets less comfortable," said Ben Peterson, 22, a protester at Sydney's Martin Place camp, which has been in place since Saturday afternoon.

Mr Peterson and his fellow organisers have been busy putting together workshops to educate campers, including talks on public speaking, logistics, consumerism, alternative media and the political and economic issues of the day, such as coal seam gas.

Sydney protest organisers say they have been inundated with food since putting out an appeal for donations on Saturday.

"We've had overwhelming donations of food," Mr Peterson said, adding that someone brought "delicious cupcakes" for the 50 or so protesters this morning.

Some campers came with portable stoves so they could heat up their meals, while other bought pizzas and other takeaway foods from nearby restaurants.

A yoga school has donated bottles of water, while members of two unions - the CFMEU and the Maritime Union of Australia - raised $2000 for the Sydney protesters so they could buy basic supplies.

Mr Lees said protesters slept under tarpaulins and in sleeping bags and on cardboard sheets after police removed their tents.

The yoga group that donated water also chipped in with a stack of yoga mats.

As the Sydney protesters are being watched at all times by the police, Mr Peterson said safety was last thing participants worried about.

"With the police here, it's the safest place to the city," he said.

"But it's also because we are just interested in looking after each other [and not be violent]. We want this space to continue and be inspiring for people."

Full Story And Photos From Glenda Kwek Here

The #OccupyBrisbane movement finds a star, and GroupThink celebrates :

“The vibes are so good here that I havent smoked drugs for three days”

“People are not sleeping in Africa”

“We went to like round up some homeless people to give them food, it was rad”

“I don’t think this is a political thing, it’s an equality thing, i just want people to be happy. If people were happy that would be sick!”

Phil Staley has the full image of beautiful rock art at Croc Station, but here are two details from his photo :

Monday, October 03, 2011

Seriously, What A Fuckwit

By Darryl Mason

A headline on the front page of the Herald Sun online invites you to read Andrew Bolt's latest column :

Except the link doesn't take you to Andrew Bolt's latest column, it takes you to this Herald Sun news story :
Minister rejects call to alter race laws

by Staff Writer
Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor has rejected Coalition calls to alter racial discrimination laws after the Andrew Bolt case.

Last week shadow attorney-general George Brandis said the laws were flawed and should be altered because they could impinge on freedom of expression.

He made the comments after Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in two columns about light-skinned Aborigines.

Mr O'Connor told the ABC's Insiders program he had a different interpretation to Mr Brandis.

"I think the conclusion that one would draw from reading the judgment is that this was an issue about ... omitting quite relevant facts," Mr O'Connor said.

Maybe Herald Sun editors have finally had enough of Bolt's bullshit as well.

Or perhaps not.

The full O'Conner quote the last paragraph of the story was drawn from :
But I think the judgment should be read by people and read properly, because I think we don't want to see people racially vilified and I think the conclusion that one would draw from reading the judgment is that this was an issue about not sticking to some facts, or in fact omitting quite relevant facts, which I think led the respondent to be in some difficulty with the articles that he wrote.
More from O'Connor :
There's no doubt that if you're going to attribute improper motives about someone, you should get your facts right. And in terms of any chilling effect that's supposed to have happened as a result of the decision, I've seen more of Andrew Bolt since the decision on the front pages of the largest circulated papers, even during footy week.
That's no exaggeration. Via Pure Poison :

Imagine being a Herald Sun journalist and having your front page story bumped to make way for that heaping pile of absolute absurdity? This is why there is much grumbling amongst Murdoch journalists and editors at their city papers right now. They find Andrew Bolt to be an embarrassment and a growing stain on their craft and their credibility.

It's very simple. Andrew Bolt knew claiming people raised as Aboriginals were pretending to be Aborigines for profit and personal gain would probably lead to legal action. He wanted this lawsuit. He wanted to be a martyr. And, apparently, Herald Sun lawyers didn't mind either. How else to explain why they let him publish two columns filled with flat-out lies, not merely deceptive language, nearly all of it unreliably sourced?

The Age explains the facts under this headline :

The question mark is superfluous :
Andrew Bolt conceded he made errors in two columns found to be unlawful under the Racial Discrimination Act last week but claimed that ''none seemed to me to be of consequence''. Justice Mordecai Bromberg disagreed, finding Bolt's writings were ''grossly incorrect'', and contained ''significant distortion of the facts''. This was critical to why his defence failed. Here is a sample:

BOLT: ''For many of these fair Aborigines, the choice to be Aboriginal can be considered almost arbitrary and intensely political, given how many of their ancestors are in fact Caucasian.''

BROMBERG: ''In relation to most of the individuals concerned, the assertion in the newspaper articles that the people dealt with chose to identify as Aboriginal have been substantially proven to be untrue. Nine of the 18 named … gave evidence. Each of them had been raised to identify as Aboriginal and had identified as such since childhood. None of them made a conscious or deliberate choice to identify as Aboriginal.''

BOLT: ''[Associate Professor Anita] Heiss … won plum jobs reserved for Aborigines at Koori Radio, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board and Macquarie University's Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies.''

BROMBERG: ''Each of those assertions was erroneous. Mr Bolt accepted that they were wrong because they were exaggerated. One of the positions that Mr Bolt claimed Ms Heiss had won as a 'plum job' was a voluntary unpaid position. The other two positions were not reserved for Aboriginal people but were positions for which Aboriginal people were encouraged to apply.''

''[Ms] Eatock only started to identify as Aboriginal when she was 19, after attending a political rally.''

BROMBERG: ''This statement is untrue. Ms Eatock recognised herself to be an Aboriginal person from when she was eight years old whilst still at school and did not do so for political reasons.''

BOLT: ''Acclaimed St Kilda artist Bindi Cole… was raised by her English-Jewish mother yet calls herself 'Aboriginal but white'.''

BROMBERG: ''That statement is factually inaccurate because Ms Cole's Aboriginal grandmother also raised Ms Cole and was highly influential in Ms Cole's identification as an Aboriginal.''

BOLT: ''The very pale Professor Larissa Behrendt, who may have been raised by her white mother but today, as a professional Aborigine, is chairman of our biggest taxpayer-funded Aboriginal television service.''

BROMBERG: ''The factual assertions made were erroneous. Professor Behrendt's Aboriginal father did not separate from her mother until Professor Behrendt was about 15 years old. Her father was always part of the family during her upbringing, even after that separation.''

BOLT: ''Larissa Behrendt has also worked as a professional Aborigine ever since leaving Harvard Law School, despite looking almost as German as her father … But which people are 'yours', exactly, mein liebchen? And isn't it bizarre to demand laws to give you more rights as a white Aborigine than your own white dad?''

BROMBERG: ''To her knowledge, there is no German descent on either her father or mother's side of the family although she assumes that because of her father's Germanic surname, there may have been some German descent.

Her paternal grandfather came to Australia from England. Mr Bolt also referred to her father as being white. Her father had dark skin.''

BOLT: ''Take the most prominent Yorta Yorta leaders - Melbourne University academic Wayne Atkinson and Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group co-chair Graham Atkinson. Both are Aboriginal because their Indian great-grandfather married a part-Aboriginal woman.

''How can Graham Atkinson be co-chair of the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group when his right to call himself Aboriginal rests on little more than the fact that his Indian great-grandfather married a part-Aboriginal woman?''

BROMBERG: ''The facts given by Mr Bolt and the comment made upon them are grossly incorrect. The Atkinsons' parents are both Aboriginal as are all four of their grandparents and all of their great grandparents other than one who is the Indian great-grandfather that Mr Bolt referred to in the article.''

I used to call Andrew Bolt The Professional Idiot. But he isn't. His almost 100% negative columns and blog posts about Aborigines and his obsession with demanding people embrace 'white culture' and for them to give thanks for what he believes is a European improvement on 60,000 plus years of successful survival is much worse than mere idiocy. What he did was calculated and conniving.

And just plain sick.

It's a stain on Australian journalism, and an unfortunate fallout for all journalists and editors at News Limited, many of whom now find themselves shuddering whenever their friends say the name "Andrew Bolt" in their company.

You'd be surprised at just how many Murdoch journalists and editors there are that feel that way.

Andrew Bolt's Reality Meltdown Over Fukushima

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Long, Long Way From Home

A Spotted Cuscus, occasionally found in Northern Queensland but most common in Papua New Guinea, has turned up at a zoo in Eastern China, sparking a Daily Mail 'Mystery Creature No-One Can Identify!' story, claiming zookeepers are absolutely mystified as to what kind of freakish rodent it is.

It took only a few minutes for DM readers to identify the "Mystery Creature!" in comments. It would have taken even less to get an ID on Twitter. But that's not a story, or a clickbait headline.

Someone needs to send this cuscus back to a PNG jungle.

Great photo here of a Spotted Cuscus ripping into a star fruit.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How Murdoch's defined Abbott's People in 2009 :
Global Warming conspiracy theory

This theory claims the science behind current environmental changes - as popularised by Al Gore in the film An Inconvenient Truth - was created for financial gain.

Some believe that governments are using the global warming "myth" to raise taxes and restrict competitive US businesses in Europe - or that it is a United Nations ploy to create a one-world government.
It's like reading the How To opinion manual for The Australian
To the slightly vague memories of 1995 :

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Numerous Australians have shared their 9/11 Stories with ABC News Online, but Penny's stood out, for its vivid detail and images of the unimaginable horrors witnessed by so many survivors that day, from all over the world. One of Penny's photos, taken from her hotel room, close to the World Trade Centre complex on the morning of September 11, 2001, shows the aftermath of a man who jumped from the burning skyscrapers :

"There is a dead man about the middle of (this shot of the courtyard below my hotel).

"He's wearing a pink shirt and white pants. I've often wondered if I could somehow track down his family, who would likely know what their husband/father was wearing and whether it would give them any comfort to know exactly what happened to him and that he didn't die alone because I watched and prayed and cried as he died."
The reflections falling across the WTC plaza, in Penny's photo, are from the windows of the World Trade Centre 1 and 2 towers. Within 40 minutes of the photo being taken, both towers will have collapsed, consuming, swallowing up the remains of this unknown man and some 200 more people believed to have leapt or fallen to their deaths.

The fall from the upper floors of the WTC towers would have lasted 9 to 10 seconds.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Department Of Defence Only Public Statement On UFOs, 1977 : 10% Of Australian Sightings Can't Be Explained

The 1977 documentary UFOs Are Here screened on Channel 9, in prime time from memory, and had a monumental impact amongst Australian kids who'd been fed a steady diet of UFOmania by popular culture for most of their childhoods. The doco wasn't only discussed amongst kids in the playground the next day, teachers were bombarded with questions from students about it, t00.

As a doco, looking back at it now, UFOs Are Here! is a strange, scattershot 'They're Lying To Us! treatise, with some curious claims that the American Pine Gap base near Alice Springs isn't just a surveillance station but an advanced flight technology workshop, and the existence of a scientific 'Cosmic Conspiracy'.

However, the doco also covered some interesting Australian history, and has a bunch of great interviews with computer geeks, eccentrics, director Steven Spielberg, flogging the film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, and everyday people who saw something strange in the sky and can't find explanations for what they witnessed.

A rare public statement on UFOs by the Australian Department of Defence :

The most likely explanation for nearly all "officially unexplained" UFO sightings, at least in Australia, was and still is test flights by classified military aircraft, which makes the official statement, above, by the DoD a wry invitation for witnesses to keep speculating about extraterrestrial, instead of local war industry, origins for the strange things they'd seen in the skies.

Friday, September 02, 2011

I never thought I'd be posting a clip from X-Factor here, but what a voice, and what an attitude to life after being born and abandoned in the chemical weapons soaked aftermath of the 199o-91 War On Iraq :

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

(oh, and thanks Wikileaks)

From the Daily Telegraph, where it's all but company policy to refer to the Wikileaks US Embassies' Cable Collection as mere "low grade documents", comes this headling blasting story :

US terrorist agencies were told to place 23 Australians on a "no-fly" or "selectee" security list requiring them to be detained at US airports because of suspected links to a Yemeni terrorist group.

Acting on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the names were forwarded from the US Embassy in Canberra in January 2010 to the US State Department in Washington.

That's quite a story. And it's running across the Murdoch media empire. How could it not? Dozens of Muslims living in suburban Australia deemed dangerous enough to go on the US War On Terror's no-fly list....there must have been fucking balloons falling from the ceiling of News Limited's HQ when those cables were publicly leaked by....

Oh, here it is. Wikileaks. They get credited in paragraph six. But only once in the whole story. And the embedded link on the word 'Wikileaks' doesn't lead you to the Wikileaks website, or a place where the cited cables are published in full, which is part of the deal of using Wiileaks released cables for stories like this one, you link to where the cables are published in full so that the reader can check for themselves that the information used in the story is accurate.

It's about the only Wikileaks rule there is, and it costs the publisher nothing.

Even when people like Julian Assange provide free and easy opportunities for the mainstream news media to undergo such basic reforms as linking to source documents, they refuse to do it.

It's their way of saying, "Oh, Julian? Thanks for that great story, but Fuck You."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dog Escapes Fire : The Headline Is In The Photo

This is the news photo of the year. Why? Because photographer Phil Hillyard managed to capture fire in the shape of an escaping dog for a story about two men and a dog escaping from a fire. True.

Well, that's what it looks like to me.

Phil Hillyard is also one hell of a sports photographer :

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wearable solar panels, producing up to 140 watts, that weigh almost nothing and can be rolled up when not needed, for the Australian soldier of tomorrow :

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Australia was a world leader in solar technology. In 2011, the Australian Defence Force has to get these trial sheets made in Idaho.

Has The Oldest Trace Of Life On Earth Been Found In Australia?

The findings and claims are under dispute, but it's an intruiging idea that the oldest fossil evidence of Earth's earliest life forms, 3.4 billion years old, have been found on the land mass now known as Australia :
The ancient remains are remarkably well preserved and provide clues about the kind of primitive life that could be found on Mars.

The Earth was a very hot, violent place with very little oxygen when the microbes - thought to have been sulphur-eating bacteria - lived.

Volcanoes dominated the planet, the skies were cloudy and grey, and the oceans were the temperature of a hot bath.

An Australian and British team unearthed the fossils, which look like tiny cells and tubes, in 3.4 billion-year-old rocks at Strelley Pool, in a remote region of the Pilbara, about 60 kilometres west of Marble Bar

More Here

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Angels Announce Australian Tour

After a raptuously recieved, sold-out, live show at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney on June 30 and the Norwood Hotel in Adelaide on July 1, and the recording of a new EP, The Angels, with Screaming Jets lead singer Dave Gleeson out front, are hitting the road in November and December.

This is going to be something special. The show will no doubt deliver Angels classics like Marseilles, Mr Damage, I Ain't The One and Long Line, but will also include a couple of the new songs they recorded at Alberts Studios - Waiting For The Sun and Wounded Healer - along with some Angels live rarities they haven't played in decades.

You won't see a better live rock show this year, and that's no bullshit line. Anyone who saw the gigs at the Annandale or the Norwood Hotel already know The Angels haven't sounded this good, or blasted this much power, in years. If there's an Australian rock band around right now who can blow these guys offstage, I'd like to see them try.

I've got some video interviews I recorded with rhythm guitarist John Brewster and Dave Gleeson coming soon, but in the meantime here are the dates. Grab your tickets from the venues.


9 - Fly By Night, Fremantle WA
10 - Charles Hotel, Perth WA
11 - Endeavour Tavern WA
12 - Ravenswood Hotel, Ravenswood WA
19 - Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide SA
23 - The Juniors, Kingsford NSW
24 - Davistown RSL NSW
25 - Canberra Sthn Cross Club, Canberra ACT
26 - Belmont 16Ft Sailing Club, Newcastle NSW


1 - Commercial Hotel, South Morang VIC
2 - Ferntree Gully Hotel, Ferntree Gully VIC
3 - Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights VIC
4 - Macs Hotel, Melton VIC
8 - Marlin Hotel, Ulladulla NSW
9 - Penrith Panthers, Penrith NSW
10 - Dee Why RSL, Dee Why NSW
15 - Redland Nulti Sports Club, Brisbane QLD
16 - Norths Leagues Club, Brisbane QLD
17 - Twin Towers Services Club, Gold Coast QLD

Below is a video I cut together from mostly cell phone footage I shot of The Angels recording their new single Waiting For The Sun at Alberts Studios. It's not the official clip, just something I did for fun. There's a proper clip for the song coming soon, and it's a ripper.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Murdoch trollumist Miranda Devine enters her second week of blaming the UK riots on children being raised without fathers, like the headline below says. To reinforce her point, a nice big photo of Penny Wong and her pregnant partner is included in her latest blurge :


Monday, August 15, 2011

More than eight years after then prime minister John Howard and foreign minister Alexander Downer promised Australians our involvement in the War On Iraq would be short and sweet, the last of our troops on the ground there are finally heading home :

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tom Switzer, whoever he is, on the good old days :
[JOHN Howard] was called a “fool” (Michael Leunig), an “unflushable turd” (Mungo MacCallum), a “scheming, mendacious little man” (Alan Ramsey), who silenced dissent (Clive Hamilton), corrupted the public debate (David Marr) and used right-wing religious activists to indoctrinate the nation (Marion Maddox). He was also “far and away the worst prime minister in living memory” (Phillip Adams) who had a “pre-fascist fetish to attack minorities” (Margo Kingston). Under his government, Australia headed towards an “increasingly authoritarian trajectory of the political culture” (Robert Manne), became “a backwater, a racist and inward-looking country” (Greg Barns) and was “condemned at the court of world opinion as callous and inhumane” (Sun-Herald, Sydney).
Nearly all true.

Switzer somehow forgets John Howard was called a "rodent" and even a "lying rodent" by senior members of his own government, though presumably never to his face.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Weird Scenes Inside The Murdoch News Mines

By Darryl Mason

News Limited executive editor (does that mean he just gets a nicer chair?) Alan Howes explains how the Murdoch tabloids act as "the watchdog" of modern politics (Headline : Taking A Rude Joy In Kicking The Watchdog) in this lovely piece of corporate propaganda, distributed widely, of course, across the Digital Rupert media landscape :
NEWSPAPERS easily make friends and enemies.

The friends are mostly readers, and mostly voiceless, but for the role a newspaper can play in representing their interests. The enemies are almost always powerful.

A key function of a thinking newspaper, like ours, is to snap at the heels of our elected governments and their appointed officials.

Yeah, woof woof, we get it.

That puts you onside with readers - whose only chance of directly expressing an opinion might come every election.

Unless they can write letters, protest, stage boycotts, type in comments on a multitude of news blogs and 'comment now' news stories, make phone calls to radio stations begging for talkbackers to call in, attend local political events where politicians are present, or use Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. Just how many housebound, illiterate readers with no access to modern communications or electricity do Murdoch tabloids have?

Alan Howe is one of those believers in The Right To Know. Except when it comes to knowing too much about the Murdoch media.

More than a few of them have been calling for an inquiry into Australia's media. If that threat sounds familiar, it should: We had the Norris Inquiry in 1981, a Working Party into Print Media Ownership in 1990 and, later, the Print Media Inquiry that spanned two years.

There's only been three inquiries into the Australian media in three decades? Only three? Is that all?

Perhaps Alan Howe is quietly terrified that many of his newspapers' readers would like to see the 2012 media inquiry televised, like the WaterGate hearings, particularly if a string of Australian celebrities and former politicians are willing to speak out on how their privacy was violated.

And to prove that the biggest bitches in the media have, in fact, always been male tabloid newspaper editors, Alan Howe takes on his critics :

Victorian Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons (who is he?)...

...dangerously thoughtless Greens Senator Christine Milne...

We should all be concerned about thoughtless dangerousness, too.

... NSW Labor MP John Murphy (doesn't ring a bell)

Oh, snap Alan. You nasty.

And of former Murdoch-league media mogul and competitor Conrad Black, News Limited executive editor Alan Howe has this to say :

Ironically, sodomy is no doubt often on the menu at Florida's Coleman Correctional Complex, where (Conrad Black) returns next month to serve out the rest of his sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice.

Prison rape is what Murdoch critics deserve, apparently.

Anyway, watchdogs.

Two of Australia's keenest Murdoch tabloid watchdogs gleefully discuss the new hairstyle of the former NSW premier :

Andrew Bolt :
Letting her hair down in Opposition. Well, letting someone’s hair down.
As they say, me-ow.

Just form a knitting circle or something.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dave Gleeson, singer with The Screaming Jets and Rick Brewster's Angels, author of upcoming poetry collection 'Maintain The Rage', amateur pole dancer, May 2011 :

Friday, July 29, 2011

A crocodile emerges from a drain in the city of Cairns, much to the delight of locals and tourists, and the unease of those missioned to capture it :

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Rupert Murdoch Conned British MPs By Playing The Sad, Pathetic Old Man Card

By Darryl Mason

Rupert Murdoch, at first, refused to appear before British MPs to answer questions about News International's involvement in phone hacking, spying, blackmail and police corruption. But so furious was the reaction of the British public he quickly caved and announced he would appear.

And so he did.

MPs, like Tom Watson, who had been pursuing Murdoch to come clean for years about the cruel criminality of his News Of The World, were wired as the clock ticked down to Rupert Murdoch's appearance, alongside his son James. Tens of millions tuned in around the world, this was it, the Sun King was on the ropes, he was going to get it in the face with both barrels.

But then Rupert pulled off an extraordinary piece of acting. He shambled into the room, head down, slouched gingerly into his chair and struggled to answer questions, or even hear them

His first words to MPs :

Within seconds, the mood of the entire room changed. This wasn't a monster, this was a very old man, sad and sorry, apparently perhaps even a sick old man, as harmless and innocent as their own granpas. How could these MPs beat up on someone so old, so sad, so "humble", so helpless?

They couldn't, and they didn't.

But once Rupert knew he'd conned the room, he was somehow able to to recover all his faculties and defiant verve, and finished the appearance by reading out a statement written by one of the world's leading public relations companies. He might as well have simply said, "Fuck You Very Much."

So how do we know Rupert Murdoch was faking the I'm A Sad Old Man, Don't Be Mean To Me persona?

Because barely a few weeks earlier, he'd given a lively interview with his wife Wendi on how they'd met and fallen in love :

It's like a decade had passed between the above interview and his Struggling To Answer Questions performance in London. It wasn't even 3 weeks.

Within two days of his 'answers' to British MPs, Rupert Murdoch was private-jetting back to New York City, while thousands of British victims of crime waited for phone calls from police to learn if they, too, had had their grief and privacy, their most intimate moments, violated by Murdoch's goons.

Well played, you old bastard. Well played.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"It's Only Fear Under Another Name"

Great song, 22 years old now, that seems to be picking up radio play again for some reason :

Lyrics :
You are born into this world
Looking down the barrel of a gun
And those who hold the gun
Want you to work fast and die young
And if you don't work
If you don't obey
They'll make you live in fear till your dying day
Those who govern hold the gun to your head
With religions, corporations, proud of blood
They've shed

Whether it's God or the bomb
It's just the same
It's only fear under another name

And the corporate snakes coming in to feed
On that pathetic fact known as human greed
Skin and bone being raked over those hot coals
This dump never seems to give time for human soul
And all those things that we have learnt
No time for questions, you'll just get burnt
You'll just get burnt

And those words crush you flat
Like your skull's under a brick
And the fear's so damnned strong
That it makes you sick
And you can see right through those eyes
That make you fear, that make you lie
And you're taught to hold high
Yet you wonder why
Dumb values forced upon you by the
Living lie

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Murdoch's Criminal Spying Scandal Will Soon Break Here

How Many Australian Celebrities And Crime Victims Did Murdoch Journos Or Their Private Investigators Hack?

By Darryl Mason

The Murdoch Spying Scandal is now so massive, so obscene the near total Australian Murdoch media blackout can no longer be maintained. From today's The Australian :

The AFP story :
A key US senator called for a probe into whether alleged hacking by Rupert Murdoch's media empire had extended to US citizens and warned of "severe" consequences if that proved the case.

"I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated," senate commerce committee chairman Jay Rockefeller said.

"I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans. If they did, the consequences will be severe," said Rockefeller, a Democrat.

His comments came as Murdoch faced an onslaught from British MPs as the government backed calls for him to drop his bid for pay TV giant BSkyB and a committee summoned him to answer questions on phone hacking.

It may be only a matter of weeks before one of Australia's most famous actors decides it's time to go public with their own stories and evidence of having been hacked and spied on, either by journalists employed by News Limited, or private investigators hired by them.

At a guess, I think the actor will come forward shortly before a parliamentary investigation into Murdoch's business practices in Australia is announced.

We won't have to wait long.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

DIY Accidents Fill Hospitals With More Victims Than Illegal Drugs

In 2010, more than 3400 Australians fell from ladders while cleaning gutters, fixing roofs and attempting to complete other DIY tasks, injuring themselves so severely they needed hospitalisation.

But they were not alone. Adults trying to imitate what they see professionals doing on home renovation TV shows are a bigger drain on Australia's health budget than overdosing junkies or Kronic-afflicted miners.

The rest of the stats from story are mind-boggling :
- 25,000 hospitalised last year from ladder falls, nailgun mishaps, lawnmower accidents and power tool problems
- Sydney Hospital's hand unit sees at least one "serious injury" a week from angle grinders and circular saws

- 1711 were hospitalised with injuries from attempting to use non-powered hand tools - hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, hand saws etc..

- 2803 were hospitalised after injuring themselves with power tools

- More than 5000 Australia were sent to hospital after "contact with machinery."

- 11,000 Australians visited hospital after absorbing "foreign bodies" through their skins or getting them in their eyes.
Are Australians really this accident prone or are ladders and hand tools deliberately attacking and trying to disable humans as part of the first, revolutionary wave of the War On Humans By Robots?

After having been attacked by various drills, grinders and hammers during recent renovation work, I'm going with the second of the above.

There's no way, ahem, I could be so clumsy and accident prone. The contents of my toolbox are clearly plotting against me.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Rick Brewster's Angels, with Dave Gleeson, Annandale Hotel, June 30 :

Great gig. It's been a long time since I've seen so many smiles on so many faces of people leaving a rock show.

More shows to come, I'm told, and probably an album as well.
When The Sydney Morning Herald Says 'Sydney', They Mean The Snowy Mountains

It's almost 1pm, I'm sitting about 10km from the centre of Sydney, the sun is shining, clothes are drying on the line, it's warm enough for some to get about in t-shirts. Then I see this on the Sydney Morning Herald website :

What in all fuck?

The actual warning from the Bureau of Meteorology :
Damaging winds averaging 65 km/h with peak gusts around 100 km/h are forecast for the Metropolitan, Illawarra, Southern Tablelands, Australian Capital Territory, South Coast, Snowy Mountains, Central Tablelands and Hunter forecast districts on Tuesday.

Blizzard conditions are forecast for parts of the Australian Capital Territory and Snowy Mountains forecast districts.

Yeah, that's not really a warning, or an alert, for a blizzard hitting Sydney, is it?

Still, for hundreds of thousands New South Wales residents it sounds like the next few days has the potential to be pretty damn nasty.