Why today? Why tomorrow? Why is THIS new year for us?
It isn't for the Chinese, the Sinhalese, the Thai (except for business purposes), nor for dozens of other regions, countries, and religions who have their New Year all over the place (in a temporal sense as well as the physical one).
For example, for both the Tamil in India and many of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, Jan 14 is considered New Year. But for different reasons. The EOC of "Georgia, Jerusalem, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine still use the Julian Calendar", (Wiki, above link). Since 2008, the state of Tamil Nadu has adjusted the New Year to an allegedly more secular date. People don't like governments fiddling with their holidays (unless it is to add more) so, meanwhile, many objecting Tamils continue to celebrate New Year in... mid-April, the time of the advent of Spring!
I grew accustomed to thinking that the West's (the so-called christian world) New Year, Jan 1st, was arbitrary; a relatively random date, stolen from the Romans, close enough to the summer equinox and to the saturnalia festival to be like, hey, why not now? As it doesn't correspond directly to any celestial timing landmark, nothing lunar or solar - no equinox, solstice, full moon, new moon or alignment of the planets exactly on that day - I was a tad confused, but not overly concerned.
But I was brought up Catholic. I went to Church and pretended to listen, giggled uncontrollably when the priest said "virgin", etc... At school we had Religious Education every day at noon, twenty minutes of unanswerable questions fobbed of with answers that amounted to, essentially, "because!" Some of this must have sunk in for, despite evidence to the contrary such as this blog, I am quite moralistic in many ways. Fortunately for my sanity, most of the contradictory details and ridiculous assertions of the Bible and the attendant accumulation of mythology, the suspect explanations and circular arguments in the explications upon it, washed off my back and flew through my ears. But as I once had a terrific memory (when? I've forgotten) certain factoids must have become lodged in an otherwise inconsequential matrix of neural firings. So I knew deep down somewhere in the amygdala (the cerebellum? I've forgotten), that momentous knowledge, the significance of the great and holy feast we get pissed at tonight, but I had forgotten-slash(as it were)-suppressed it.
As Christmas allegedly celebrates the birthday of Jesus, and his being Jewish, he had to be circumcised* on the eight day of His precious and not-inconsequential life. Penis? Chop chop mistah.
Presuming the male infant (miraculously delivered from a virgin who obviously lost her hymen from the inside out) survived to that venerable age of course.
Why wait? Weeeeeeell... You know how it is with closed communities, when cousins marry sort of thing: birth defects like renal agenesis and inborn errors of metabolism like Gaucher's disease, glycogen storage disease, thalassaemia, etc... Many are fatal in about four to five days, some even sooner. Seen it only a few times thankfully, when I was (really) working. Sad.
So they waited, and we wait, eight (8, count 'em) days.
Yes, on that day, on THIS day (i.e. tomorrow), the prepuce** of the penis of Our Lord was stretched out, perhaps over an infibulator***, and snipped off. The bris, tossed to the cats. Foreskin for the pussens, mmrrrgniaow.
The 1st of January way back when. Ow.
Hurt? Hurt so much He couldn't walk on water for nearly a year!
This is why we (you) celebrate New Year today. I know that you too needed to be reminded of this.
It is the Day Of The Newly Exposed Glans Penis!
Jesus was therefore on target for the Covenant of Abraham. Remember how it goes? I'll give you a land of milk and honey, life eternal in heaven, etc... if your males remove some redundant skin from their genitalia. Simple as that. Snip your way to Jewish Nirvana.
Notice how religions have this obsession with all things genitalian and reproductive? (See above re: inbreeding.)
I wonder if, perhaps, the goal of many young men like myself back when, in our post-pubertal teens when the hormones were raging, was to be "in" (as in penis-in-vaginated) on the stroke (as it were) of midnight. I kid you not, it was a big goal in our town. Some instances of this carnal celebration even involved women.
New Year is Jan 1st and Jan 1st is New Year because of a circumcision.
Yes, you may not have realized it, but New Year is a religious holiday. Please tune your mind to that dubious and concerned (and damn ugly) baby Jesus above, about to lose part of its Godly schlong (a micro-penis, plus microcephaly and a touch of the Benjamin Button about the face, according to this pic - see above re: birth defects) so that the world could later be redeemed (redeemed? I'm not seeing that) from its sins by His cruci-fiction and death, as you pop the cork (not a metaphor) tonight.
* For those of you uncertain of the technique of this insane religious torture, there are some nice illustrations here. Yada yada, incidence of AIDS is lower, but Jesus was not a fag, allegedly, so why?
** The Holy Umbilical Cord is a first class Catholic relic (that which is composed of a body part) of Christ. Christian teaching generally states that Christ was assumed into heaven corporeally. Therefore the only parts of his body available for veneration are parts he had lost prior—hair, blood, fingernails, milk teeth, his prepuce and the umbilicus remaining from his birth.Wiki. Not his lymph, shit, piss, vomit, snot, tears, sweat, phlegm or ejaculate however.
*** Infibulation and Infibulators
Infubulation may refer to the tying up of the male foreskin to some device, like a cloth belt, to prevent masturbation. IKYN.
It is also a practice by those fucking butchers who perform radical female circumcision to stitch closed the labia to prevent normal intercourse and the enjoyment of sex by women.
Many African Muslims believe that female circumcision is required by Islam. In fact the practice is mentioned nowhere in the Quran, although the Sunnah contains several references to the custom. In particular, Mohammed instructed one infibulator, "Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face and it is more pleasant for the husband."via
An infibulator is person who performs the infibulation.
For the purposes of this blog post however the infibulator is a small metal conic device for protecting the glans penis. The foreskin is draped over it so that religious or medical excision can be performed without danger to the rest of the poor kid's tiny little dicky-bird.
Never heard of it? Me neither until I heard the following story --
It concerns the late Australian billionaire Kerry Packer. He was having one of his monthly heart attacks at a race track (or was it a cricket match? whatever) and someone called urgently for an infibulator! He lifted his head and hoarsely called out with what might have been his last breath (we should have been so lucky) that he was having a fuckin' heart attack, not a fuckin' circumcision! Get me a defibrillator! The emergency helicopter ambulance arrived and did not have either, but Packer survived. He later gave #insert large sum of money# to the ambulance service to place defibrillators in all medical evacuation helicopters. Allegedly true (ish).
The origin of the previously described mysterious noisome aromatic residue of a long dead tabby tom in the childhood bedroom of E@L has been sourced. Sleep easy one and all. It used to be that whenever (usually Christmas) E@L arrived from his sojourn in the Far Orient, he would be ensconced in this room and instantly his presence would stir the unmistakable stench of a crusty old cat intent on ensuring his domain was marked with a copious burst of pungent you-rine. Pee-you indeed! The fact that this tom had been long deceased - we are talking many, many years, like six, seven, eight - did little to diminish the olfactory memory of his attraction to E@L's den of repose.
E@L's maternal mother, frantic, embarrassed, had washed, aired, dry-cleaned and steam-cleaned every item in the room, failing one, the guilty party. A blue acrylic pseudo-lambswool blanket of which E@L would have considered obvious and of primary suspectivity. He had assumed that Mumsy would have attacked that item of his bedclothes first, or at least immediately after the doona (duvet) and its cover had proven innocent, but it was not so.
E@L's preferred option of sleeping in the third bedroom (that of his sole sibling) has become so entrenched that this was no longer a problem, and E@L leaves the room for his cousins when they come for Boxing Day - perhaps once they resented this usurping.
They have no cause any longer to complain. The long haunting of the piss of the ghost cat has finally ended. It has been exorcised.
Time is fast approaching for the solipsistic solstice soliloquy in which our hero, troubled soul, fatal flaw, bad luck / bad management, harangues the crowd around the Tannenbaum of ancient myth and metaphor on their dismal failings and on his exhuberant successings in the course of the previous solar cycle. The 10 Things I Did This Year But You Didn't Ha Ha speech.
Thankfully it is not here yet. Time, E@L means. It will be here soon though, he is semi-reliably informed by the voices inside his head (they obviously have nowhere more pleasant to spend their holidays).
However, E@L is using this absence of Time advantageously and is planning ahead (ahead? before? now? - what does this temporary absence of temporality mean? What, indeed, does 'temporary' mean in such a situation) for his New Year Resolutions (NYR).
They are thus: get fatter, become less fit and be more morose.
For, as one never keeps one's NYR, E@L is a shoo-in for being a Slimmer, Fitter, Happier blogger/facebooker/porn-downloader for 2012. (FUCK! 2000 and fucking twelve and he's still alive!) The psychological ploy being, um, employed, you will have indubitably inferred, is that of the Reverse Type.
Not that E@L hasn't had a lot to smile about in the preceding thirteen full moons (see below, re: medications) but, as mentioned above, the Time has not yet arrived to enumerate and discuss these... Hang-on, there's a (conveniently timed) knock at the door. Nope, still not Time, it's one of those otherwise unemployable telephone company salesman, wants to know if E@L would care to buy Telstra. E@L told him if he didn't leave he'd shoot a kitten.
Yep, gone, see? Reverse psychology!
Another tactic he has appropriated, more of a rethinking than a theft really, is one he heard first on some public radio interview on the way to Melbourne for dinner last night (not at Rockpool, will complain later when the meds wear off). There was this crazy Yank (Canuck? who can tell? who cares?) going on about denial. (E@L wished the man wasn't talking denial, seriously, he doesn't need to listen to people speaking about denial. He doesn't want to hear about it. It doesn't concern him. There is most emfatically, nothing to deny! Who, what, me? Another slice of Christmas pudding, more cream, custard, ice-cream, sure! Bring it on!)
Well, if you listened to the podcast linked to, or read the book you will know that Paul Barclay is more on about self-control than denial, but hey, yes, same thing, the tactic he suggested you see is to scare yourself straight, to anti-bribe yourself, in a way. Here is a foolproof technique to guarantee that you will keep (or not keep, if that is your cunning plan) your NYR.
How? you feebly entreat.
Answer. Set-up a truly negative incentive for yourself. Not a disincentive, that's different, that's how the Philip's Healthcare Cosmodemonic Healthcare Company's annual bonus system used to work. Not just just something of the hey, you don't want to do that sort of thing, not the "she wants to make love but the football is on" sort of don't-want-to-do, but something you really... REALLY... DON'T... WANT... TO... DO.
Such as live-donate BOTH kidneys to an ailing pedophile or a large amount of money to a cause you find completely untenable. Say Scientology, some Nazi skinhead thugs christmas booze and knuckle-duster the fags party, The National Rifle Association, or the poor.
And when he says set up, E@L doesn't mean the "Yeah, I promise I'll do that," sort of set up, but no, get serious, hand over complete control of the forfeit to a third party, such as your evil half-brother (your Nazi, Scots heritage, creepy pedophile, gun-toting Scientologist with no ready cash half-brother who is on dialysis.) Choose a person who is just dying [oops, bad unintentional joke] for you to fail so he can abscond to another state of mind with your cash or your urinary tract, that sort of set up. Your bank-manager would also fit the bill, a lawyer, your ex-wife, your current wife. E@L is prepared to hold large sums of cash on your behalf if you are in extremis.
Yep. Negative consequences for the world if you break your NYR. You fail your task(s) and bang, your money/kidneys are gone, your children are no longer safe, George W Bush is wearing a swastika (and no he hasn't gone Buddhist) and running for re-election and all stem-cell research grinds to a mushy halt.
Once it becomes apparent that you have blown it, there will be no changing your mind, no altering your plan, no rescinding of your Last Will and Testicle. It is done. You just made the world a worse place to live for several cuddly endangered species. Happy with yourself loser? We all should hope not. But we'd love to hear what The Authorities will says about your $10,000 donation to the Get Some Anthrax* And Put It In Richard Dawkins Tea Society... (Um... they'd probably facilitate it!)
E@L, on pain meds for neuropathy that stabilise his moods (as a side-effect only), really is in a happy(ish) state most of the time nowadays (not counting the explosive issue of $80 for an undercooked here, overcooked there tri-partite collection of gristle and tendon they called a steak at Neil Perry's Rockpool Grill at Crown Casino last Sunday - sorry couldn't wait for the next blog post), so he has to try hard to think of some crucial issue, some key cause, some misguided belief system that he will find sufficiently abhorrent, in-your-face wrong and cruelly harmful enough to fire up strong negative feelings in his serotonin re-uptake modified existence... There must be something other than bad steak or the usual pub conversations with his friends that will get him riled and angry.
There must be something he would just oh-so hate to happen that he is compelled to stop it, some idea so against his ingrained world-view that he would hate to see it advance, something so completely bad that he MUST complete his NYR and do good things (good things? E@L don't need no stinking good things!) instead. (Reversely or forwardly.)
E@L *thinks again: Why did she say 19? Do I look like a No 19 person?
E@L ambles back from the N****** shopping centre carrying two plastic bags of shopping (full grain bread, full cream milk, full of potassium bananas, full of pulp orange juice - his staples) with the handles wrapped over his hands so that weight falls on the back of his wrist, a new technique after fifty-four years that takes the pressure off his fingers (can't teach an old dogs new tricks? - Hah!), up a slght hill, puffing as he tries to whistle some Audioslave rocking beat, thinking of things he has done and said in the past, and occasionally sprouting a "fuck" out loud or "you fucking idiot" as he recalls the stupid and reckless and damaging words he has uttered to girls over the years while trying to make them understand his urgent desires, often ensuring that they would not come anywhere near him and that they now consider him a lech and a creep, thereby exploding whatever trusting and friendly relationship he might imagine they had established over the period (long or short) of their acquaintance. Expressions of interest [e.g. "let's fuck"] that work in OT at 2am ("you don't need to try hard, it's 2am," Bruce once told him) do not work on pretty girls he has the hots for at 10pm in pubs and wine-bars along Robertson Walk. Why does he not know how to woo girls? Why is he a fuckwit? Even with guys he has no skills at small talk, nothing except deeper conversations at his call and even they only come out after a few alcoholic drinks, when everyone starts feeling philosophical as well. He sits silent around the table listening to others chat about topics he has zero interest in, zero knowledge about, or probably has forgotten about (he blames the medications). Cars, football, cricket, blokie things. Why is it so hard?
He looks around to see if there is anyone walking near him who might have overheard his expletive ejaculation, and if there is (he doesn't notice them because he is listening to the music and day-dreaming about the stupidity that has plagued his existence and, not a bad thing, kept him single these last twenty years) and if there is anyone there, he awkwardly attempts to sing a few muted words of the song in his ears, or whistle them away, hey, these are the lyrics I am calling out, E@L is not a lunatic wandering the streets mumbling foul words for no reason whatsoever. He has reasons for mumbling rude words - he is a fuckwit, a stumbling tongue-tied failure with women.
He blames his mum for not marrying again, not giving him a male role-model. He blames not being much good at sports, or not interested in sports as he matured from a high skill level in primary school to not giving a fuck, and so not getting into the change-room banter and stories of what works and what doesn't in the picking up and making out with the horny Catholic girls from the convent school down the road (it's muscles mainly that seem to work). He blames the solitary pursuits of surfing and playing the guitar (never remembering the chords, even when he was young - maybe it's not the meds) and reading on his poor socialisation. Then getting married at nineteen. Nineteen. So young, fresh out of school, or one year out actually, not so much a gap year year as a pit year, a year spent fucking up an Arts course (poetry, what the fuck does Dylan Thomas mean to him, the wind is from the north-west, Southside - the left-hander behind Bell's Beach [remember point Break?] would be pumping, well it would it there was any swell) and there was the surfing trip to Queensland and New South Wales in a car with six bald tyres (lots of stories about that trip, if he had the time to tell them) and the job at Fords engine plant, fettling (yes it's a word) away some part of a lifter, or bashing camshafts out of their hot sand molds, face black and gritty at the end of a shift.
And so incompetent at the accurate and reliable deployment of condoms, so young, so fucking stupid. First ever girlfriend (No 1 son though, what a marvelous lad) too. Out came the moral shotgun and that was it for E@L. So E@L never went through those years of pick-up lines, never learnt the chat-up process, never played the game. He never learned what is nice too say, what is amusing, what is endearing, what shows understanding and interest, what opens a girls legs. No wonder he fucks up. He only became single, really independent when No 1 one son went to live in England. That's when E@L moved to his career in the Cosmo-Incompetent Medical Company, was stationed in Hong Kong and there, in Wanchai at 2am, there was no need to try so hard.
He checked out the numbers of the houses on the street. They seemed to jump enormously from house/condo to condo/house. 55, 47, 33. And he was almost at his front gate. Where was No 19 going to be? How is it going to fit in here, there were only two plots to go, semi-detached units. The first was 27, the second, even though it was on the same plot jumped down to 23. Then he was at his gate. 11. There was no 19. What the fuck was that taxi driver talking about?
His 19-ness was all in her head.
Nineteen, he thought again. Is he a nineteen person? Is there something of his nineteen history that she saw inside him as she glanced in the rear-view mirror??
As a medical worker (when I DO work) obviously I see a lot of people with a lot of health problems, not counting when I look in the mirror. Cancer is the Big C. I am not sure what the C stands for, perhaps it's what people scream when they get the diagnosis, but we'll move on.
As a WESTERN medical worker, a free-thinker (mild-mannered antichrist) and skeptic, I do not have a lot of time for alternative medicines. No time for most of the new-age ****-therapy things involving herbs, oils or rocks, nor for chiropractic, nor for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which is killing endangered species faster than deforestation and global warming and moon-sized meteorites put together. There is so much blatant quackery, snake-oils and pseudo-science here, so many un-testable therapies offered, and so many contestable therapies proven wrong when contested. (Check Ben Goldacre's blog and tweets. Read Simon Sigh's books and his blog.) I groan, sometimes I kick back.
I receive each week (or is it month?) a medical newsletter from a service called DocCheckNews. Last week one of their articles caught my attention - it was about cancer denial and Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs. Evil exponent of that worst sort of capitalism that is anti-competition and wants to monopolize its product type. Great acceptor of other people's great designs. Great acceptor of praise that should have been given to those others. Rich dude.
Alternative medical treatment FAIL.
Patients in state of shock
Things began for the Apple guru not that badly: Jobs' cancer was discovered more or less accidentally, but still in its early stages. As the CEO of Apple was being examined because of kidney stones, medical staff found indicators of a neuroendocrine tumor. Their good news: "This is one of those slow-growing pancreatic cancers that can actually be cured." Jobs nevertheless decided against surgery and chemo. Instead, he tried to treat the disease with diet, turned to spiritual healers and tested macrobiotic approaches. Nine months later, the tumor had spread considerably. "How could such a clever man then be merely so stupid", many journalists are now asking.
But the refusal of truth didn't end there: For months, the Apple-Star stated in several interviews that he had been healed – and gave other patients apparent hope. The people believed it – wanted to believe it, until Jobs' condition was no longer able to go by unnoticed. A charismatic marketing star on the one hand, unable to speak publicly about his illness on the other: such was the conclusion of the press. Then there was no turning back: A liver transplant – necessary due to numerous metastases – was considered the last chance. Steve Jobs stood at the top of the waiting list at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, such was the extent of his disease. In the medium term his surgeons were successful, yet he died on 5 October 2011.
The soul suffers, and the therapy suffers alongside in sympathy
Steve Jobs story, in general terms, is not an unusual one: after cancer diagnoses have been given, medical staff report existentiality-based fears – patients lose the ground under their feet, feel fear, helplessness, despair and rage. Others in turn suppress acknowledgement of their illness completely. The doctors have surely been wrong, data samples or data were switched: common lies pulled out as self-defending cover. And some flee into the hands of supposed healers with promises of alternative therapy. The social environment also often reacts completely wrongly: "Self-blame" is the dominant tone of terse declarations about patients with lung cancer ("That comes from smoking too much") or liver cancer ("Should've drunk less"). Those affected benefit precious little from this, they sink ever further into a black hole.
Dipl.-Chem. Michael van den Heuvel
Point being: If Steve Jobs had taken the course of conventional Western medicine straight away, he would, for better or worse, still be alive today. And most probably cured, most likely very healthy.
Rich or poor, under stress we are vulnerable to quackery. Be on your guard, for the clouds of ignorance and, worse, denial are gathering.
Wow! How bored (i.e. looking for way to avoid doing what he should be doing) is E@L! While cutting and pasting the pictures for the antecedent blog post, E@L noticed that with the new format of the behind-the-scenes pages of Blogger, you can list all your posts and it gives a view count for each of them! Kewl... E@L looks and ... Sad...
Aiyah, so few. Some posts have, like, 0 hits. Not even E@L read those ones.
Fuck, E@L hopes the three people reading his blog are getting royally entertained, because no-one else could be fucked with this circus... All his efforts are for you. #bows#
708 posts. 709 now. Since Oct 2008, that's about 19 posts a month. Average number of words... No lets not get into that futile and depressing stat. According to Sitemeter, about 40 hits per day over the last year. That's about what Izzy used to get per minute. Well, I guess I haven't been blogging about my sex life recently. In fact, not about anything at all... Not sure why not. Just can't muster up energy, free time, wakefulness, sobriety...
But hey, mr brightside! - 30 of those 709 posts have had 100 or more views, woo-hoo! (Over three years, remember.)
Here are the numbers. You can chase these links to see what people other than yourselves have been wrongly directed to by Google and Yahoo. You can get the gist of what visitors are reading, skimming, hunting for pictures in, getting shocked and scared when they realize that this wasn't what they wanted to find at all, no, not at all...
Note the completely statistically irrelevant clustering effect at 308, 307 & 305 and then again 179, 177, 176, 174 & 173. The universe is random and randomness creates clusters. If the universe were regular, it wouldn't be random, would it? As James Stephens said in The Crock Of Gold, "It has lumps in it."
One can only assume that the surprise number one hit ("Water Sign") is due to a bunch of lunatic New-Agers looking to match an Aries with a Capricorn or something... As expected Bruce figures highly at number two, while Andrew McGregor Marshall's story of his Reuters fiasco is number three, perhaps because it is linked-to on a Wikipedia page. I like that number four is "Shrine", in which I tried to follow as meticulously as I could a woman placing your typical Buddhist offerings on a weathered, lichen-covered stone shrine next to where I was lounging by the pool in Ubud, Bali. A better writer would have taken either 15 pages to do this, or 15 words.
It's probably best to start from here to get the background briefing or you could jump to his most recent trip - the one he regaled us with at lunch last week-end... There are few more posts to come.
The Bludger blogs of his trips to Vietnam in search of romance. He is most emphatically NOT a sex-tourist, you are thinking of E@L there, but just someone who met someone he liked and who seemed to like him and not surprisingly he wanted to follow up on that.
Here we have a beautiful country, fascinating culture, great food, welcoming people. What could possibly go wrong? Ah, that's right, she's just a poor girl from a poor family...
It's almost like The Bludger has been reading all the Expat misadventure books ever written (and E@L's blog) concerning the depths and dangers one's erect penis can drag one to in Asia, and then decided to follow the DON'T part of their advice, rather than the DO.
He's a good friend of E@L from the Sydney days, and he does not make things up. In this case he wouldn't have needed to.
E@L knows of several couples, friends of his, European and Asian, who have been in long and mutually loving relationships. He knows of dozens more who haven't, but hey.
My best Texan buddy, Mercermachine and his lovely friend Bell tied the knot today! Woohoo! Low-key ceremony at East coast Parkway, yours truly honoured to be one of the witnesses.
Please go over and wish them the best...
p.s. and please buy, read and enjoy his excellent stories. He needs that $0.99 to pay for the honeymoon! Oh, and tell a million of your closest friends to do likewise because he wants to have that honeymoon in the Bahamas over a period of a year or two.
The butter. It was superb: unsalted, unpasteurized, from contented cows basking in the sun and grazing on organic grass just south of Alsace (in France, you ignorant cochons!), and it was hand-churned. IKYN. E@L doesn't know which he was more impressed by, the butter itself or the twenty(ish) minutes of description that came with it - but you had to ask about it to get Stepan (we have his card), our Czech waiter, to start spouting forth. And he was thrilled to exposit; he'd been keeping this knowledge in his head and not sharing it until someone like E@L was inquisitive enough to ask.
Why/who would you ask about the butter? Someone like E@L? That would be no-one.
Because Andre is not the type of guy who would merely toss some freshly shaved truffle into a pan of warming (organic, etc...) butter and pour them both over some perfectly al dente spaghetti. No no no, he is the guy who would seep the butter in said shaved Tasmanian - off season in Europe - truffles for two weeks prior pouring that warmed, aromatic butter over the hot pasta. Then he'd come out himself and shave more truffle on top.
Butter. Lots of people, not just Andre, are genuinely pernickety about their emulsified triglycerides. In E@L's cholesterol-rich days of his head-strong youth, his family always used Western Star butter; giant impersonal machinery-churned from the giant machinery-sucked teats of grumpy, kick-you-if-they-could cows, huddled in the chilly breezes, grazing on the organic (50% cow shit) grass in the environs of Colac and the Western District of Victoria. E@L's flatmate eats New Zealand butter - he is an escapee from the East Isles of Australia. Some people like Danish butter, there's a lot of it in the supermarket.
The bread rolls were nice too. E@L won't start.
Stepan, by the way, used to work with Gordon fucking Ramsay.
Andre Chiang, Taiwanese, married to a stunning Singaporean(?) lady who officiated on our seat placements, is obviously food-obsessed to a degree well beyond sanity. His molecular-food (as opposed to atomic-food? elementary-particle food?) restaurant is in the Hotel Majestic, in fucked-if-the-taxidriver-can-find-it Bukit Pasoh (ah, pronounced PAY-so, not PAR-so), near to Maxwell Rd, Duxton Hill, that area...
He offered a ten-coursedegustation dinner last night for Amex card-holders who needed to max out their cards on the one evening.
Yes, dinner cost the equivalent of Greece's national debt and it was allegedly wine matched to various drops from a French vineyard that best remain nameless. (E@L has the marketing manager's card. He is called Stephane, no wonder E@L was confused). The buzz word here is biodynamic (antonym: biostatic?). Only a short time in oak, none of this micro-oxygenation bullsheeeet. Just the grape, the terroir and the wine-maker. Baumé? Why the fuck? We have winemakers with tongues, palates, with noses. Get them to blow them clear, thinks E@L.
Three different types of shiraz. One was called a Syrah, one a Hermitage and the last one an 'Ermitage thank you very much, and this last one decanted. Stephane informed us that to decant the other wines would make them - purses lips, raises eyebrows, rolls hand over hand, shrugs - change too quickly (into a more potent poison one assumes). A little bit of oenological engineering might have helped these ones, they were nice, they were OK, but... The viognier (that'd be white wine) was a more interesting drop, but the 100% Grenache could have done with some shiraz and mondeuse. Sweet red at the end, Hungarian style. Tattinger champagne at the start, that was nice. Somelier Ken-san was, E@L thinks, a tad stingy, but luckily, as we are all quite aware of having had some drink by the end, so he was a wise uncle to us unruly kids. Kids who had paid a shitload of money to get drunk...
Not a completely bad set of wines, but was there any one that stood out as stunning, exceptional, memorable? No way.
As is to be expected in the El Bulli, chemically-inspired restaurants, things were never quite as they seem: what looked like ice-cream was once tomato, the crisp-breads were previously mushroom, that clear gel was once a strawberry or two... That thing poking out what seems to be earth is a carrot-shaped carved fish, wrapped in its skin and quickly fried (E@L thinks) - it was called deconstructed fish and chips. That earthy stuff the fish and the "chips" were sitting in was made of garlic and grated chocolate - OMG, E@L could eat that all night. Already forgotten a lot of the other stuff, oh, yeah, is that popcorn asks E@L - Yes! was the surprised answer, good guess seeing as how you are not wearing your glasses, sir - vanilla mousse and coarsely chopped popcorn. But the truffle spaghetti was E@L's highlight. (btw, what is an octaphilosophy? - check the website.)
Small servings of course: like bikinis, the less material, the more they charge. The steak, about the size of a meat chunk you might get in a Four-And-Twenty pie, was paired to the decanted 'Ermitage. E@L didn't mention it last night, but Andre did managed to squeeze a small chewy bit of gristle into his thumbnail of meat. The fourteen grains of mustard were exquisitely placed however, IKYN. Meh. The single flat spot of the food menu was the unfortunate piece of gristle - E@L was expecting butter-soft wagyu meat, but, OK, move on...
Coffee or tea? Latte for E@L. Black sambucca, no only Pastis, ok, all around. Green tea and a hot chocolate, please, say the others. Hot chocolate? (What the hell is E@L doing with these people? Just accept what's on the menu, FGS.)
Hot chocolate? Stepan hesitated for a second. But when the cogs linked in, he smiled, sweet boy that he is. We shall find some hot chocolate for you sir, he says, certain that this can done. Somebody downstairs (Andre was chatting with Stephane and his guests on their table) grated some of that chocolate used in the earth mixture (not with the garlic hopefully), melted it in warming milk and brought it up in a wonky-shaped cup. You gotta try this guys, says our mate Wally. Bruce and E@L ordered our own wonky cups. Good move. It was sublime. We were, naturally enough, the last to leave.
Change the highlight - not the truffle spaghetti, it was the ex-tempore hot chocolate!
Would E@L go back? Not for a quick, greasy brunch as a Saturday morning hangover cure ($180 for lunch), but for a special occasion, sure. Really, really special.
Bruce had been on the verge of ringing in to ask if he might bring a bottle of his own plonk in (it was a )Relic), but E@L talked him out of making such a fool of himself. Now he wishes he had let Bruce bring it.
He didn't see a wine menu (obviously, this was a pairing) but E@L would be interested to see if anything better, biodynamic or not, was on offer.
Brilliantly interesting food; Andre is a complete wizard and it is not without good reason that this place always rates in the top restaurants in Asia. There is no Michelin ratings in Singapore (Miele Guide -#4 in Asia), but if there was...
Last night, sadly, Stephane's wines let it down - they were just too... pedestrian? Boring? What a pity.
Tonight E@L might whip up some vegemite on toast with a poached egg on top and crack a bottle of Hill of Grace.
Quickly becoming a foodie/wino, what?
We had some of the fancy dishes photographed here, but certainly not all as Andre cooks/deconstructs whatever he fancies each time.
Early next year The Croatia Backpacking Team (TCBT) (+1) are planning on a reunion tour of Cambodia and Laos. Izzy and The Tall Man will be crashing at E@LGHQ over New Years Eve.
I am concerned about the timing of this however, as it means I will be out town for close to 6 weeks, from the week before Xmas in Australia (at home with the FLOs), OK, NYE in Singapore (yawn), then there is the Indochine trip, and finally I am booked (and paid up) for a ski trip to Sapporo over Chinese New Year.
Yes, I hear you crying for me. Life's a bitch for Expats.
In order not to upset the people who pay me so outrageously, I have been thinking that I really should be available at least sometime in that period, so I was pushing lips close together, scrunching up my shoulders and 99% decided to be somewhere near the office in the first week of the year. This means that I would be forced (by my own decision) to skip the Cambodia section of the tour and only meet up with the TCBT in Luang Prabang in southern Laos on the 10th. Have never been to Laos, so...
Part of my reasoning for not being too concerned about missing Angkor Wat, etc... is that I had a holiday in Cambodia 11 years ago. We (my friend Homey and I) had a mildly happy pizza, stayed at the Sharaton[sic] hotel and I paid way to much for a worker in the AEI from the 'Disco Club' in the basement (immensely gross and amusing story about this), and we had a great time overall. Got a $5 shopping bag of dope, looked for AK-47s in the market but didn't see any, were stunned into silence by the horror, the horror of the Tuol Sleng museum.
At Siem Reap we were hijacked from the airport by a taxi-driver called No-one (his parents were killed in the Killing Fields, no reason to dispute this, and he was never named), and I say hijacked as I saw, as we drove away, three other cardboard greeting signs with my name on them. This was back in 2000, just as the new tourist hotels were under construction. We did the usual circuit of temples with No-name as a guide, stared the Bayon faces, stood next to the wall swallowing roots of the giant figs. In those days elephants were walking across the bricks of certain temples, you had to clamber up muddy slopes and grasp at exposed tree roots to get up to the Wat across the way from Angkor, the road across the river was only partly restored and Angeline Jolie hadn't yet raced through the non-existent water-market on a jet-ski (or whatever)...
But I'm having second thoughts about my conscientious inclinations, my loyal employee guilts. This is because I have been re-reading the notes from a friend of mine who did an extensive trip into Cambodia and Vietnam in August. Due to work commitments (new product cross-training, couldn't avoid it!) I missed his 50th birthday party in Sihanoukville. He had a great time, met his current girlfriend in Vietnam, and did some fascinating travel writing - he loves his food in case you don't notice - and this has whet my appetite for repeating the trip to Cambodia after all. (As has looking back at the astoundingly poor quality of my old photos - nts: bring the good camera this time!) And then there's something about the prospect of 50c beers and $1 massages...
So, sigh, thinking seriously of dropping the idea of the lone week at work after all and taking the entire month off for a trip with my dearly beloved TCBT.
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.
As E@L flatmate, P, said on FB - "This Phuket trip is looking like victory already."
Not really because E@L has had two fights with taxi and tuk-tuk drivers already and done bugger all writing.
He has been reading though. We have to admit that we enjoy the reading experience of the Kindle. For some reason or other E@L can keep reading without falling asleep and can read much faster, certainly more rapidly than he has been in the past few years (falling asleep doesn't assist the pace, either)...
It only took one day to finish the Booker winner, Julian Barnes' 'A Sense Of An Ending'. I presumed foolishly - the only way to presume things these days - that the ending in a novel so titled would therefore make sense. MMmm. 'Atonement' this ain't.
I can't say that the emotions driving the underlying story really made sense [*** slight spoiler alert***] and for the life of me I can't see how he (the author/protagonist) could be held responsible for the not quite as bad as that climax. So why her anger and why his guilt and angst? And seriously, how the fuck could he ever "get it", if it didn't really involve him (or only marginally) in the first place, he had not heard from or seen any of them (those still alive) for forty years? Is he supposed to be a psychic? OK, he turned to have been a prick, vindictive and nasty (well, she had just dumped him for his best friend), but he didn't really cause what happened to happen. Or was the fact that it didn't make sense, the true sense we are to make of this ending?
Admittedly the observations on growing up, making you so wonderfully comfortable inside the mind of a smart - but maybe not smart enough - late teenager, and growing old in the mind of a slightly snarky old man were astoundingly good. Barnes is very practiced at this confessional stuff, these meandering reminiscences, and he hits the nail on the head about the vagaries of memory and the resultant unreliability of history, and what this means for his author's story here. "If we were in a novel, this wouldn't happen..." someone, the author Anthony or the author Julian, keeps meta-fictionally observing.
Having been reading Tolstoy opinions on Shakespeare on the Kindle as well, (c'mon, it was $0.99 and I was just skimming) I see that the Great Novelist thinks that the Great Playwright is crap, and that his plays make zero sense and miss the point all the time (the source materials were always better, he says) and what he makes the characters do is simply not how people behave - therefore Shakespeare's famed intuition into human nature is a pile of crock and everyone is wrong except Tolstoy. And I have to admit he makes many good points.
So Barnes is claiming with this meta-fiction stuff, that what the people in his novel do is not what people in novels would do... So as Beckett said, "No symbols where none intended", it makes you wonder, if this is not meant to be a novel, why do we keep harping back to The Mother tipping out a "broken" fried egg... Symbol? Intended? I think so.
Oh never-mind, I am probably way off the loop here. I probably have missed the point due my infernal obtuseness, or I have overlooked some crucial adjectival phrase that would have gelled it together for me.
Please, don't listen to me, it is a GREAT read for the wonderfully funny and piercingly accurate evocations of those smart kids in school thinking themselves smarter than their teachers, the mating game back in those days (60's, about 10 years before E@L fucked it all up, as it were, for himself) and how not to handle re-unions with ex-girlfriends later in life.
The reason it only took me a day (talk about the compression of time - as Barnes does in this book) is that there are only 150 pages or so in the physical novel. Speaking of senses and endings, it is weird to end a novel and not be able turn the book face-down. Looking at the rear of a Kindle is not the same thing. Closure?
But one cool thing with this book on the Kindle is that it came with the best of Barne's observations on life already highlighted so I didn't have to think for myself.
Just quickly (which means he'll probably write for the next three hours), E@L has decided over a period of not very long, to drop tools and fly to Phuket. Internet, Wotif, Tripadvisor, Singaporeair, all dot com'd and here he is, packing (and what essential item/s will he forget?)
Work is quiet as a Bangkok trip has been postponed (duh) as has the replacement trip to Kuala Lumpur. And the rain here at breakfast time yesterday meant E@L couldn't get a taxi to frackin' Tampines, so he spat the dummy and sucked it up, emailed his intent (the boss is in Vietnam, so no-one really cares if he is in the office or not, plus he has 40 days of leave to shed) and did all those bookings.
Over the next few days he will be working on writing (it's that immensely disheartening period of NaNoWriMo again, and fuck E@L/Fyodor writes like shit when he tries hard and he comes way too close to the true stories of his buddies and himself, and are probably libelous as well) and reading in a comfortable hotel in a quiet part of Enchanted Isle (Surin Beach), as opposed to reading and writing in a comfortable apartment in the Disenchanted Isle (here).
OK, look, E@L has finished this post already! Like an effort for his NaNoWriMo efforts, it's shorter than expected and leads to nowhere interesting.
What is Singapore coming to? Yesterday, guess what E@L found on the sole of the left hand foot of his new walking shoes?
No, no that.
It was chewing gum!
USED chewing gum! Chewed up and spat out chewing gum! I felt like giving LKY a personal call to point out that the No1 son is falling down in his vigilance against the creeping tide of non-Asian Values!
The history, just cheeking it up on Stickypedia, of the chewing gum ban is mouth-wateringly interesting. It was the new MRT subway system that prompted the ban as vandals - aka cheeky kids - were plugging over the sensors which prevented the doors from closing properly. And so it was the Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and not Harry Lee who stuck to his gums [sorry] guns in implementing this crackdown on illicit mastication with Singapore Statute Chapter 57, the Control of Manufacture Act.
But ban chewing gum? IS THAT ALL! E@L is thinking, what! old chums, hardly much of a punishment, eh? Cane the rambunctious little rascals, trousers down, six of the best, never did us any harm. As we used do for your typical common or railroad urban artists, wherever they be from.
The ban is not complete, as sugarless chewing-gum has been available in Singapore since 2004 for it can't be denied, apparently, that calcium lactate can boost the strength of enamel. This medicated gum can only be sold by dentists or pharmacists now and the gum is RFID controlled and DNA tagged. Hand over that ID card you cheeky kid, we've got you sequenced. Any problems with the MRT doors and we'll know if it was you! ... No, stop crying, lad, I was only having a laugh, big boys don't cry, here have a lolly...
(aside 1) Bringing a large bag of chewing-gum packets purchased in the Hong Kong airport in through carry-on luggage is not something E@L would ever unless it was for a pretty lady, because it remains illegal to import.
(aside 2) One finds it a tad ironic to consider that what we are chewing is basically flavored latex (or artificial substitute), and it was on the back of the Malayan rubber plantations that the port city of Singapore rode to its pre-war prosperity.
There was some gnashing of teeth and chewing of the fat during the time when USA and Singapore were going through free-trade talks (remember that hilarious one about Free Trade and Democracy going hand in hand, so funny) at the turn of the century. [I'm looking for reports on the Dreyfus Case, or I go wool-gathering in Antiques Shoppes when I hear that phrase.] Staunch defenders of the Rights Of Man were there to assist our world leaders make the right decision...
Here we see GWB smiling, smirking, leering - what is that stupid look? - as PM Tong stabs himself in the back of the hand with a pointy-nib pen, surrounded by members of the Wrigley's Iraq task force (see below).
--- "In 1999, United States President Bill Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong agreed to initiate talks between the two countries for a bilateral free trade agreement (USS-FTA). The talks later continued under the new administration of President George W. Bush. Details of the closed-door negotiations are unknown, but it became apparent that by the final phase of the negotiation in early 2003, there remained two unrelated issues: the War in Iraq and chewing gum." (from the above linked Wiki) ---
Yes, that's why they were there, because if Wrigley's doesn't stand up for Truth, Justice and the (vaguely formulated - no-one has ever convincingly explained to E@L what exactly is meant by this) American Way*, then who will! And why were Wrigley's brought in, you ask? Was there no wriggle room in the negotiations, couldn't they stretch things more, was there no bounce in their step, were things stuck in the craw and wouldn't go down, would the fruit of the discussion not be juicy? Yes Wrigley's should, indeed, must be involved in the battles which threaten the good of humankind and its salivary secretions. And their long term philosophical profit.
Singapore, indeed everyone should heed the sage advice offered by Wrigley's who fought strongly enameled tooth and nail for the Iraq War Juicy Fruit Concession or JFC [requires disambiguation], when they had this to say, and not tongue in cheek either, about the efforts they put in to encourage Singapore to relax its ban.
--- "There's many examples in our history of things that may have not made short-term financial sense but was the right thing to do in a philosophical or long-term sense," said Christopher Perille, Wrigley's senior director of corporate communications. (ibid) ---
Believe it or not he was talking about Singapore Oral Latex Laws and not the Iraq War. Truer words were never choked upon.
* What about the Asian Values, what about the Singaporean Way? --- '... as a sovereign state, Singapore had the right to formulate its own policies based on its own unique political and cultural values.' ---
Saw this installation at the Singapore Writers Festival last weekend, not sure if was part of the deal or not, whether it was just there... Please turn your sound down, I haven't done anything other than transfer it from my phone to YouTube and all you get is the background white [not a racial slur] noise that is Singapore.
There ain't nothing fancy about the cinematography either, it's just me walking sideways. There is a slight bump near the end where I nearly trip down some steps as I am looking the screen not where I am going.
May have put this up before somewhere. Nevermind. Last few days the paint uncle has been in, taking apart my life and making me put it back together again...
(That's about half the books from the book-shelf in my bedroom. There are four other book-shelves in the living room.)
While cleaning out the guff that is not wanted on the voyage, I found a fair copy of this cartoon inside a large notebook that the prolific MercerMachine wanted me to write my novel in - he is a long-hand composer and wanted to push me this way but I have started mucking around for NaNoWriMo instead... (OK he gave me the notebook four years ago, but what's the rush?) [Typos have not been corrected in that NaNoWriMo entry so it may be even weirder than it's meant to be - rush, forward, keep typing, don't look back...]
E@L (aka Fyodor)
-- p.s. why the hell does Evernote on the Mac not show the fracking word-count?
- I always like to read the last sentence of a book before I buy it. I find that it tells me most about the book, says P.
- Yeah, me too. Most people grab a book and look at the first sentence, or a bit of the first few pages, agrees T.
- Mistake. First few sentences writer dude's trying hard to grab the publisher's attention, you know, like publish this book and give money, sorta thing. It's not actually what the reader would like he's thinking of, but what he thinks the publisher will think the reader will like. You know how many subsequent classics have been knocked back by wanker publishers? Lots, it's fucking criminal. The first sentence can be annoying, but the book still amazingly good. Or the sentence good but the book crap, like the stuff you read.
- Ha ha. But yeah, never thought of *why* I do it, but you're spot on there. The last sentence or two are about tidying up the plot, the characters. Dude's only trying hard to impress the reader, make the reader satisfied. Well not always of course, but you know what I mean.
They nod. Such perfect agreement between people is rare.
T, a genre fiction addict, recommends to P a couple of science-fantasy-speculative-horror-magic/realism cult books which he thought everyone should read, but P hasn't.
"He never saw Molly again." *
" 'Don't ask me why, old sport,' said Stoney, 'but somebody up there likes you.' "
"I know nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."
"He walked away and he kept on walking."
And a few others of varying merit.
P, a pretentious autodidact who uses words like "autodidact" in general conversation, recommends some slipstream books which don't quite fit the genres, as well as some modernist and post-modernist classics which everyone should read but, naturellement T hasn't.
"And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out."
"For a long time there is really nothing to be seen; but after Golgotha's been burning for an hour or two, it becomes possible to see that underneath the shallow water, spreading down the valley floor, right around the isolated boulder where Randy's perched, is a bright thick river of gold."
"And all that is left to me is the sound of snow underfoot."
"It was summoning all the barges on the river, every last one, and the whole city and sky and the countryside and ourselves, to carry us all away, the Seine tooand that would be the end of us."
And he picked up one more of the recommended books and held it open in his hands... And he started to read the last sentence.
P paid for his handful of books, had them demagnetized, placed in a biodegradable bag. He waited by the entrance.
Still waiting, he browsed some more new releases that tempted him. The Pale King. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet... He moved his biodegradable bag from one hand to the other, scratched at his groin as a pubic hair seemed to caught over the end of his cock. This irritated him. It was too long since he had last shaved his balls.
He wanted to call out to T to hurry the fuck up, but in a bookstore such as this one in Carlton, it is like a library but with allegedly cool people who have eyebrow studs and ponytails (males) and pierced lips and blue hair (females) behind the counter, and not little old ladies who always recommend Agatha Christie. It is not cool to yell here.
P gives up. Fuck, I'll go have a long macchiato, he thinks. I'll met T in the coffee shop he loves, the one next door..
His second long macchiato is down, some biscotti down. Despite his shaking hands, he is in a dream world, reading one of the books he has just bought. It is completely weird; moralistic, simplistic, and funny, and he was hooked by the expression "chrono-synclastic infundibula." T is still not back. P sighs, pays the black-clad, blue-haired waitress with the stud though her lip and heads back to the bookstore and find T, last seen reading over 30 minutes ago.
T is standing where he left him, still immersed in the book, turning a page.
- Come on mate, I thought you were only going to read the last sentence!
- I am.
- What the fuck book are you reading?
- You recommended it, man.
He turns to book over to show P the cover.
[Sorry about that folks - it was just meant to be a three line joke but as usual, I got carried a way. The real Tom, from whom this completely imaginary conversation originated when he joked about the title of this post being on a t-shirt somewhere (or something like that), has neither (all) the characteristics of the hyopthetical T nor (all) those of the hypothetical P, but he is a well-read bastard. Both characters, says E@L, c'est moi.
And there is purely the smug satisfaction of being a wanker dilettante like E@L for those who can tell me which books are quoted above: they are last lines, of course. OK, a candy bar or a Guinness, your choice, if you can get more than five. I'm presuming most people I know will get the book T is reading... If not, I'm getting some new friends.]
* The author added this sentence as an afterthought in order to prevent him from writing a sequel, as in hey, she's dead. It didn't work. (Thanks Paul.)
Fingertip pain! Xoom, MacAir, Galaxy, the unused touchpad for his iMac, the corrugated touchpad on his work Lenovo ThinkPad. Swipe, slide, stretch, swype. His fingertip is wearing through to the bone, E@L swears.
Obviously E@L is not the only person with this affliction and, pain being the mother of tools of relief, a heap of people have come with a solution. Well not a solution as in a liquid, but as in a solid thing that works.
You all know how touchpads and touchscreens work, ya? There is slight charge held on the screen by lots of tiny capacitors, a technology called mutual capacitance, at least that's what E@L gathers from this Wiki would work well in those wonderful smart-phones, computers and tablets and that require multi-touch gestures. When you touch the screen your large body gives a slight 'earthing' effect (electrons surge into you seeking safety and solace) which can be localised by the changing of the charge at the Cartesian coordinates of the capacitors co-affected (at the court of King Caractacus). Completely correct.
Or not. Expert opinion sought, if people can be bothered.
Point being (ha!), you can't use a normal pen (duh!) with a plastic case or a even wooden pencil as these don't carry charge and there is none of that earthing to your body. So you can get a capacitance pen, one with a metal body and little (doped) rubber doovey-whacker at the end, which replaces and therefore protects your finger! And when E@L says you, he means him.
E@L bought a cheap (S$14.95) one in Tampines Mall, called iTap (which is odd, because he wants to use it to slide, primarily, tapping not being a problem) because it has a normal pen at the other end.
(The top one,)
All E@L has to do now is not lose it. If he doesn't, no doubt it will fall apart.
For reasons of unadulterated vanity, E@L now owns the domain name expatatlarge.com. This should redirect to this blog, but as you see it goes to some Page Does Not Exist warning instead. The link at the bottom right, however does take you here, I believe.
Addendum: I tried again to change the redirect setting and now it takes me to my blogger login page. I'm not sure where it will take you.
"More than 10 per cent of Australian households - or 850,000 - spend so much on rent or mortgage payments they have little left over to cover other bills, a study shows."
"Mr Millard called for the removal of tax concessions that encouraged property speculation, for increased supply of public and social housing, and for rental assistance to be indexed to the cost of living."
E@L made an attempt to purchase two apartments in Queensland with the goal of "flipping" one of them. These were short-term serviced apartments, though, not family housing. Anyway thanks to the flat market in Queensland, they failed to materialise and E@L received his deposits back (plus interest).
Many of you are aware that in the Samsung v Apple tablet battle, Samsung pulled out all stops and reminded us that it had developed the concept of the tablet style device we now know as the Motorola XoomSamsung 10.1 iPad, (allegedly) in their previously un-mentioned collaboration with Stanley Kubrick for the award winning (Award for the Slowest Plot Development in a Adapted iDapted Screenplay) movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey:
And a bit more clear demonstration at the very start of this clip (cannot embed).
But did you know that Apple claim the natural voice controls of Siri also were developed, but by them, for that movie?
I am not a card carrying member of that dismal science, Economics, in fact I received a stunningly inflated mark of 49% for my Economics exam in HSC (Year 12). Inflation, I knew what it was, but I didn't know what it was, as in the current rate (it was about 15%). I was more the poetic type economist than the strictly scientific one. As No1 son pointed out a few years ago, almost every Nobel Prize winner for Economics has had his theory debunked not long after, so not sticking to the alleged science was probably the correct option, however it made me a failure in the eyes of the scientific examiners - sob, sob. Not.
But after reading an article by a bona fide Economic Scientist - here - damning "post modern" [sic], which is to say Keynesian, thinking, that is, the method of stimulating the economy by giving people money to spend that allegedly saved us from the Great Depression, I got to - look out everybody - thinking.
Perhaps it does take someone from outside the economics profession to state the obvious. The stimulus packages that were applied across the world, failures each and every one of them, were applied in the name of Keynes. Why, then, did these stimulus packages not work?
There is no-one further from the Economics profession than E@L, so here goes.
Is it true that people are saving and not spending? Or is that people have no money to spend? Except on the evil iPhone! (Not me, I'm off to buy a new Samsung phone, this one is three months old.) Many people are just frackin' poor. Money goes on food on rent and servicing their enormous personal debt (and staples like cigarettes and alcohol). It was the easy money offered by credit cards that fueled the personal crises of many and then up comes new, free, money for the banks from the exorbitant interest rates these people struggle to pay. This is where their money goes, not into saving. (I know people in this situation.) And they're not even reducing any of this debt as the interest rates keep slugging them back to max-out each month.
And so many have no jobs. Some can't work thanks to work-induced debilitation, or from psychological problems (I know people in these situations - we all can't be high-flying execs like E@L). Some just don't have the appropriate skill-set, inclination, intelligence (it's true), ability and personalities to work in offices, to wait tables, to flip burgers even (how many new McD's required to soak up the unemployed?) . Much of the physical work in factories and dark satanic mills have gone - well not gone, but moved overseas. Skilled labour is under threat too. In Geelong (my home town in Victoria) the other week, almost every one I saw on the street was wearing the fluoro-yellow vest of a tradie. A tradesman. Brickies, carpenters, electricians, roofies, etc.. They were the brash, loud (violent too) men of an economy that's not doing too bad despite having good unions that protect worker's rights and incomes.
But look here, in Singapore and throughout the Middle-East as well,: who are doing all these tradie jobs? The economies may be coming back after the hit of 2008/9, but It is South-Asians - Indians and Sri-Lankans - Cambodians, Vietnamese and Chinese mainlanders who are sitting on the backs of tray-trucks, or waiting for them, squatting by the road-sides next to sky-scrapers-in-progress. These exploited, these wretched-looking, desperate men who clamber up the concrete and steel without qualm, are paid much less than the previously doing-well thank you Singaporeans builders. And many of those Singaporeans, forced out by cheaper labour, are now driving taxis (which explains their skills and attitude!) And the price of the hundreds of these cheaply inexpensively built apartments hasn't dropped, but sky-rocketed.
Looking at the USA, it seems that low-skilled (nice pejorative term, I note - you know that show where supercilious managers struggle and fail to do the tasks of their "low-skilled" minions? Ha!) jobs went with the factories to Asia, South Asia, China and Africa. And those jobs that didn't and can't be automated go to low-paid immigrants, some illegal. And this is the corporations strategy to maximize their profits, it is not some scheme by Mexicans and others to overthrow that good ole white American frontier spirit.
Not to mention the chronic addiction to automation and robot-ization in many parts of what we used to call work. When flying QANTAS domestic, (when they are flying, and I won't go into the domestic disputes caused by that Irish Ryan-Air twit who is trying to take apart and out-source our national airline) you do your own check-in, get your own boarding pass, put the tags on your own baggage and load it onto the conveyor belt. There is no-one there. The player pianos have taken over.
And with the unemployment benefits scheme cutting out after, what is it six months (Bill Clinton if I am not mistaken), people who remain unemployed just drop off the list and don't get counted anymore.
They're shutting down the factory now,
Just when all the bills are due.
The fields are under lock and key
But the rain and sun shine through." Leonard Cohen: Coming Back To You
Small farmers are forced off the land by mega-farms who undercut the prices so they can't make a living. Monsanto makes the rest buy hybrid seeds that are sterile and seeds for next year must be purchased not taken form stored gain from last years crop.
To me it seems obvious. Corporations are squeezing for increased profit, as this means increased share prices and this is where the real money is to be had, in the financial world, in the stock exchanges. And as everyone in the #OccupyEverywhere campaigns is showing, the huge payouts to execs are just such a blatant rubbing of shit in of the faces the middle and lower classes, it is aggravating to the tipping point of the anger and frustration, such as they are now demonstrating. Demonstrations are not just for demonstrating against things, sometimes they are just demonstrating (showing) how people feel.
The way to may increase profits is to improve workers' productivity, or to reduce the cost of labour. There is the Wal-Mart Way - just pay shit money. Of course the Waltons girls are now amongst the richest humans (if you can call them that) on earth. Productivity. Love it.
Another way to increase productivity is create ways for fewer workers do the same amount of production - shedding jobs. Automation etc.
Yet another way is make the employees work harder, duh, and increase their output, but after 30 years of this squeeze effort, can much more be done? Health issues, stress and injury, workers have to leave, can't get new employment because of this history and because of my second comment and eventually slip off the employment radar... Pusjing the limits pushes people over the top.
Fourth way: go offshore, pay Asian workers a pittance - double the daily wages of the factory workers in Shenzen and your iPhones (and Samsungs) would cost $2 more (well, maybe $2 divided by the number of products they so productively produce per day). Plus there is the benefits of not paying corporate tax at home, not that the US corporate tax could go any lower (it is half what it was under Reagan, or close, I remember reading somewhere, The Economist?). And so now we hear stories of crippling injuries and horrendous hours of work and child labour coming out of Shenzen (not to mention that pollution that drifts over Hong Kong thanks to un-policed emission standards).
We choke, they die, you have Siri.
Of course all of this is off the top my head, which is why I failed my Economics exam. However, I was (am) passionate, if not poetic, about the people affected by the decisions made by governments under the advice of economists whose theories are about to be blown away. By economists who have a fundamentally flawed view of how the world works.
I always of think of Economics in the terms of people, not of markets, not of institutions.
People are not no spending because have no money. In debt, unemployed and with an about to be repossessed house, what money? It seems much simpler to me than stimulus packages that rescue those financial people and ensure their huge payouts continue by making more and more people un- and underemployed, un- and underpaid.
An nice semi-socialist proposal - put staff and workers on the other side of the economic equation:
Capital income + employee income = revenue - cost of materials
"We might note that while employees and the community are left to the protection of the invisible hand, wealth is protected by the visible hand of government and corporations."
At #OccupyMyerDepartmentStoreCBD in Melbourne Victoria. At least the cops didn't shoot, as they are wont...
Photo by one Jason South, ripped shamelessly from The Age.
This is not Singapore, this is not Syria, this is not Libya, this is not Egypt, this is frackin' Melbourne! As the crowd was chanting "the world is watching," four hundred (400, count 'em) police and riot squad moved in on ONE hundred (100, count 'em out) sit-in protesters to drag them away and demolish their tents.
Could mean the end of the current Liberal (as in conservative) party government - I hope.