Dogwood

May 7, 2017 at 8:45 am | Posted in Article | 2 Comments
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Dogwood

Depending on interpretation, dogwoods are classed in up to ten subgenera.

The Australian Dogwood (Cornus canae) is a particularly resilient member of the genus.

It can generally be distinguished by its inconspicuous flowers and distinctive

bark.

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Like Sh*t to a Blanket

November 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Article | 4 Comments
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FauxBaby

I staged this faux memory to appease my parents. Though the baby wasn’t ours, they hung the photo over their mantlepiece anyway.

Assuming you have a choice, how do you decide whether to have a child? Though lacking experience, I have some observations which may be useful.

Population

Thomas Malthus was on the money when he wrote: ‘the betterment of mankind is impossible without stern limits on reproduction’.

The earth is a finite resource which is rapidly being exhausted. More people means more damage, especially when only one in ten thousand births produces someone who gives a sh*t.

The economic goal of sustained annual growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. Since there are already way too many consumers on the planet, we arguably have a duty not to replace ourselves.

The Chinese ‘One Child Policy’ has prevented countless births, though not always through contraception. Achievement of the common good by personal trauma is no substitute for education and choice. The West would truly be won if we could only manage to put equal emphasis on both.

Fear

Those who maintain the world is too dangerous to bring a child into are correct. Not because it is, but because parental phobias transfer to their offspring – rendering them unfit for any environment requiring tolerance and flexibility.

Selfishness

People who say they’re too selfish to raise a child are also correct. And honest.

Innate Drive

I have no right to address those who feel a biological urge to reproduce. It exists. My only advice is that you examine your motive to ensure it is truly innate, since social factors play a major role in this area.

Parents and grandparents can bring enormous pressure to bear, especially if they’re bored, lonely, mired in tradition, dissatisfied with their achievements or obsessed with immortality (see below).

Religious dictates similarly skew the stats and should be ignored at all costs.

Stress

Next door’s baby is possessed. It projectile vomits, manifests nine personalities, howls through the night and makes its father query his sanity. I see him sometimes when I’m giving the hydrangeas a sprinkle before the sun gets on them. Nerves so shot he begs one of my Styvies rather than attempt a rollie.

While I grant that human resilience may partly be due to the drop-forge nature of child rearing, the conjugal screaming matches that rattle my porcelain ducks cannot be uncommon. One in two Australian marriages fails (and that’s just by legal definition). How many breakups are due to the corrosive demands of progeny?

Couples who imagine a baby will enhance their relationship should be required by law to watch five episodes (any five) of The Bold and The Beautiful before proceeding.

Sh*t

This is a cliched but, by golly, powerful argument for the negative. I did mobile discos for ten years, drove taxis for two, worked factories for seven and have clubbed for three. Not in any of these arenas have I encountered anything so hideous as baby sh*t. It sticks like Napalm, permeates like creosote and regenerates like a hydra.

How anyone could commit to a world featuring this element is beyond me. Surely the priceless idiom: ‘it stuck like sh*t to a blanket’ must stem from infant excrement? Unless I’m moving in the wrong circles…

Speech

Some say hearing a baby’s first words is one of life’s finest moments. Indeed, the rhythm guitarist from ‘Fluffy’s Chain’ rates this over the high of our first gig. Of course, if the first words are: ‘f*ck off’, this takes the shine off things. You should therefore consider the environment in which you will raise your child.

Play

This is where kids clean up. First, because they make you feel inventive. Second, because they then leave you for dead in terms of inventiveness.

When a friend brought over her seven-year-old daughter, it was with some satisfaction that I produced a vial of ‘Slime with Maggots’ (oh, to be at the pitching meeting for that one…). The child watched me exhaust my permutations for the toy, then swiftly tripled them. Several I have been too afraid to attempt since.

When the nine-year-old son of my Age of Empires rival visits, it’s open slather in the alternate universe of Lego. How I wish I had the courage to tip my bricks nightly in front of ‘Wheel of Fortune’. It’s such fun! But you can’t unless there’s a kid around, or you’ve dropped acid. And then those little people with their crazy hook hands and superior smiles can really freak you out. The same goes for the Fuzzy Felt ‘Carnival Fun’ Edition. What a bugger those demonic merry-go-round horses are so pivotal to every tableau. Only children have the imagination to work around them.

At Christmas, the potency of the play phenomenon is increased ten fold and even my flinty heart softens at tykes going bananas in pyjamas.

Immortality

All our cells die except those which go on to create new people. By having a child we cheat death – literally ‘living through our kids’. Whether you have your mother’s lips, your father’s palms or your nanna’s sense of adventure, you are a part of them that has not expired. And on rare, unsettling occasions, you can feel their blood coursing through you as they view life through your eyes.

That’s got to be some trip.


If you’re having fun yet, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll be jolly grateful.


 

Death & The Afterlife – Frequently Asked Questions

October 5, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Article | 3 Comments
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Which side are YOU on?

Mine is not a Catholic heaven. Mine is a composite of the finest elements of many creeds, combined with desire and imagination. It took three years to create. I carry it with me always. It calms me like no other theoretical construct, reducing my fear of death and giving me a heightened appreciation of life. I figure it’s worth describing before I die.

Q. 1     How does one gain access to heaven?

The route to heaven is reasonableness. Those who live reasonably are treated reasonably when they die. This is fair, since reasonableness is seldom rewarded in life.

Reasonableness does not equate to mediocrity. It is a virtue as accessible to the anarchic bohemian as to the corporate executive. It means giving things a fair go. It means travelling through life without shafting other people or the environment. It means being gracious, hard-working, honest, generous, positive and grateful – not all the time, but wherever possible and according to ability.

Few can identify with martyrs and saints. Better a world of reasonable folk than one perfect person to every thousand arseholes.

Reasonableness permits redemption, since it is reasonable to suggest that destructive behaviour can be reconciled over time by constructive behaviour. The rule of thumb is to over-compensate. And given the uncertainty of life, it’s best to atone as quickly as possible.

Cooking with gas are the reasonable, for they shall get a fair go.

Q. 2     How does one deal with bereavement in heaven?

When the dead arrive in heaven, most nurse crushing feelings of loss – for their own lives and for the people and things they have left behind. The Time Elasticity Rule offers relief. In heaven, time is malleable; decades can be compressed into moments.

Most newly dead elect to fast forward eighty years or so. As a result, they are reunited with loved ones moments after their own arrival. Surrounded again by friends and family, they can better come to terms with what has happened.

For others, the grieving process is too important to gloss over. They quietly sit out their time at normal speed, waiting for those dear to them to arrive, one by one.

Yet even for the purists, grief fades faster in heaven than on Earth. This is largely due to the staggering variety of exciting activities on offer.

Q. 3     How does one avoid boredom when one is immortal?

Entry to heaven necessitates deification. But immortality is no fun if there’s nothing to do. Heaven’s Edutainment System is the last word in sophistication and flexibility. Because information and novelty excite humans, few are immune to its attraction.

The System makes virtual reality look like Snakes and Ladders. It employs the universe as a setting and time as just one of an infinite number of parameters. It is the mother of all role-playing games.

Yet this description is flawed, for what occurs in the System is real. In short, it allows an immortal to assume any form, in any time, in any place, for any period of time, with any degree of self-awareness and extraneous power.

The awesome power of the System is best illustrated by example: An immortal is chatting with friends over coffee. An argument ensues over the navigational prowess of the Laysan Albatross. Rather than check the facts manually, the woman decides she’d rather experience life as a seabird first hand.

She elects to return to Earth in the 16th Century as a day-old chick on Cape Verde Island. She sets self-awareness to cut in immediately prior to her first flight, but grants herself no extraneous powers. The weeks pass. The woman is the albatross. Only when she flings herself from the nest does she realise she is a returned spirit. Now she can really enjoy learning to fly.

She wheels and dives, revelling in her power. She discovers how to make incredible journeys, drinking sea water, sleeping on the waves, and chasing the ships of Magellan. After thirty years, she is drowned in a storm. At once she is back at her coffee. She relates her marvellous adventure to her friends and wins the argument hands down.

One man is so impressed, he decides to play the role she has just vacated, with a different choice of parameters. He is gone from heaven for an instant. Later, the albatross couple adjourn and compare experiences long into the night, replaying and reliving their favourite parts on the System.

From a tsetse fly on a rhinoceros, to a child at Joan of Arc’s execution, to a crater on the third moon of Jupiter. Nothing is impossible. There is enough to do and learn to fill eternity. Which is handy.

Heaven has everything for everyone.

Q. 4     How can somewhere so crowded be any good?

Some imagine that heaven is bursting at the seams, since everyone who has ever lived a reasonable life must be there. This is a fallacy. Heaven is not crowded, because only a fraction of those who have walked the Earth were on their first time around. The rest were immortals on safari, seeing what it felt like to live as a mother, or a farmer, or a refugee, or… whatever.

The beauty of the System is that when an immortal elects to experience a whole-of-life adventure with full realism, there is no need to create a new mortal on Earth. Imbued with the essence of his or her chosen vehicle, a ‘tourist’ is indistinguishable from the real thing.

People who feel they have met each other before may well be highly sensitive yet non-self-aware immortals on separate real-time adventures. It makes more sense for an immortal to experience many lives than for a mortal to struggle through just one. It keeps the numbers down in paradise.

No one likes a crowd.

Q. 5     How does one know if one is already immortal?

One of the most attractive aspects of heaven is that any of us could already be immortal. When adventure parameters are set to full realism, there is no awareness of immortality until death. You yourself could be an immortal, touring your life.

Those questioning the attractiveness of an adventure with full mortality need only consider the futility of playing cards for matches. Playing for keeps is infinitely more exciting.

The possibility that we are here voluntarily, free to return in any form once we die, makes the prospect of death less frightening. If everything we love is already in heaven, what have we to lose? We are able to enjoy every second and fibre of our existence free from concern about the hereafter, since we may well already be there.

Even if we are not yet immortal, we become so at death, provided of course that we have lived reasonable lives. The pain and suffering of our existence become as important as the joy and ecstasy, since they make for a more holistic life experience. And any unpleasantness becomes more bearable when it is known to be of finite duration.

However you look at it, you can’t lose.

Q. 6     What if one does not value immortality?

For heaven to claim universal appeal, it needs to offer something for the nihilists.

Some people maintain that on dying, they will simply want to stay dead. Since the success of heaven does not rely on everyone ‘getting with the program’, oblivion is a viable option. If, after a cooling-off period and comprehensive System demonstrations, the dead are not impressed by deification, they can forfeit their afterlives and disappear utterly and for ever. Few do.

Would you?

Honey, I Zapped the Kids – A Lively Tale of Murder by Electricity

September 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Article | 4 Comments
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Electricity is useful and dangerous. The fact it’s useful means it’s all around us. Yet the fact it’s dangerous doesn’t mean we all know how to use it properly. Despite WorkCover’s best efforts, safety is still not a sexy subject.

So how do I make you read a safety article? By using Barry Butcher. Barry is a happily married father of two who is about to kill himself and his family – including the pets. You’re going to see how he does it.

Barry has a nice home which he plans to renovate. As we enter the hall, we see an old fuse box with quaint ceramic fuses. Because these used to burn out often, Barry has replaced the fine fuse wire with a much heavier gauge. Next time there’s a fault in the home’s antique, cloth-covered wiring, the fuses will hold their own until the wiring ignites the granny flat out the back.

The resultant fire will account for Barry’s mother, Beryl. A sleek modern switchboard with automatic cut-off switches only costs around $350 installed, but Barry is saving for a new kitchen.

On our left is Betty’s nursery. Like most toddlers, she is endlessly inquisitive. Barry hasn’t put safety plugs in the unused power point sockets and to Betty, they look like portals to another world. In a way, they are. All she needs is a safety pin or paper clip key.

Compounding the risk is Betty’s mother Brenda, who is understandably concerned about germs. She regularly drowns the live power boards with surface cleaner. All except the one under the crib which has been gathering dust, cobwebs and cat fur ever since Betty arrived. It’s hard to tell which way she’s going to go.

Down the hall is the master bedroom. With the nights turning cold, the trusty old electric blanket has come out of storage, still bearing its fold marks. While Barry can’t see that the wiring’s had it, he has lately noticed (and ignored) a hot spot in the bed.

Before winter is over, dinner guests will put their firstborn down in the Butcher’s marital chamber and Barry will neglect to turn the blanket off at the power point.

It will be the last time Horace Henderson ever wets the bed.

Revenge will be swift. As Barry attends the disaster, he will fail to disconnect the faulty blanket. Through cracks in the old plastic cord he will receive a severe (though, unfortunately for the rest of the household, not fatal) shock.

The lounge room is Barry’s pride and joy. His surround sound theatre is far beyond what the home’s designers could ever have imagined – which is why there aren’t enough power points. In the Australian tradition of innovation, however, Barry has devised ingenious workarounds. The power board bristles with double adaptors and piggyback plugs, such that its load capacity is exceeded (though not increased) threefold.

Barry chose a cheap board without an overload cut-off switch and defeated the loose slots by bending the pins of each plug. The unsightly composite is hidden behind curtains that will burn with such ferocity that Blubber the goldfish will boil in his bowl.

Several slender, two-pin extension cords form a daisy chain around the current-hungry audiovisual gear. Because each unearthed connection represents an opportunity for Boof the cat to enter pet heaven, Barry has covered them with rugs, where they will overheat during an impressive demonstration of his ‘Apocalypse Now’ DVD.

Even Barry knows the kitchen poses many risks. But in avoiding the obvious ones, he misses those that are more subtle. While not foolish enough to pry toast out with a fork, he ignores crumb build up in the toaster. The filthy range hood filter is an even more potent fire hazard. He unplugs the jug when it’s not in use, but does so by yanking (and thus weakening) the cord. He keeps the deep fryer clean, but didn’t have it safety checked after buying it at the garage sale.

Barry could have everything in the house electrically certified for less than a night out with Brenda. She will survive all these perils, only to fall victim to a 40 watt reading lamp as it detonates the 20 watt globe installed by her husband. Blinded, she will stumble into a string of indoor fairy lights, rigged out of doors by Barry for a party three years ago. Rain-soaked sockets and sun-cracked wires will finish the job.

Barry’s teenage daughter Briony will also succumb to his negligence. Lazing in the back yard one sunny afternoon, she will reminisce on all the safety lessons her daddy taught her: how not to fly a kite under power lines; how never to leave cooking unattended and how not to use shavers or hair dryers near baths or sinks. At that moment, Barry will accidentally kick her portable stereo into the spa, with predictable results.

Barry is something (but not very much) of a handyman. When working around the house, he uses an extension cord reel. Each time he fails to unwind the cord fully before using his powerful tools, he risks melting it.

Of greater danger is his propensity to attack garden projects without sufficient forethought. Barry will make two mistakes while rejuvenating his front nature strip. The first will be to dig without dialling 1100 for the location of phone, water, gas, cable TV and electricity networks. The second will be to plant a tall, fast growing eucalypt directly under the street powerlines.

Seven years later, while still grieving the loss of Beryl, Blubber, Boof, Brenda, Briony (and, to a lesser extent, Horace), Barry will decide to prune the eucalypt. His lofty aluminium ladder will eventually connect with the powerlines and the shock will hurl him against the trunk. With its root bole stunted by underground services, the tree will collapse under Barry’s weight, rupturing the gas main beneath it.

The ladder/line combo will then spark the gas, setting fire to Barry’s home for the last time. Having miraculously survived her nursery, school-age Betty will die of smoke inhalation in the study.

Barry’s legacy will endure after his house is reduced to cinders. His sister Beverley’s inheritance will vanish as an assessor discovers that Barry lied on his insurance application about the house being rewired. The job would have cost less than $2,000.

The real tragedy of the Butchers is that their demise will be due neither to bad luck nor stupidity. As with most dangerous things, carelessness, laziness and a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude cause far more deaths than the more sensational factors employed by storywriters.

Safety may not be exciting, but it sure beats harming yourself and your family. Electricity is all around you. So learn about it, treat it with respect and don’t pretend you’re a sparkie. Life is tricky enough already.

Hurt Couture

August 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Article | 1 Comment
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Look bad, feel worse.

In a little while, an extremely avant-garde fashion house will be formed. Rejected by all established organisations in their respective fields, two bright graduates will form a partnership. Their names will probably be Oskar and Vivienne and their company will almost certainly be called ‘Hurt Couture’.

Oskar will be a breathtakingly innovative designer. Vivienne will specialise in artificial intelligence and have a good grasp of nanotechnology. They will make catastrophic love once, swear never again to touch banana advocaat and then settle into to a close and productive friendship.

Hurt Couture’s mission will be ‘To make it impossible for people to look bad in our clothes’. Its slogan will be ‘No More Sneers’, ‘Look Bad, Feel Worse’, or something of that order. The logo will be a pair of stylised scissors suspended, like the sword of Damocles, by a thread.

Hurt Couture will not use fur, leather or feathers in any creation. Vivienne will argue in interviews and documentaries that since vanity is a purely human trait, its impact should fall accordingly.

The unique selling proposition of Hurt Couture will be revolutionary. Their garments will be engineered to punish people who don’t look good in them. ‘Countermeasures’ will range from gentle warnings to execution, depending on the severity of the offence.

Successful use of a Hurt Couture outfit will mean, by definition, that the wearer looks good. Rapid public adoption of company standards will flow from their intrinsic logic. Base directives will prevent shirt sleeves being rolled above the elbows, blue and green being seen without a colour in between and single breasted suits having all their buttons done up. Forbidden accessories will definitely include braces, bow ties and berets.

Countermeasures will be categorised, allowing clients to nominate their level of risk. Elegant contracts will set precedents for signing away common law rights. To the dismay of Hurt Couture’s left wing founders, this will quickly spill into the industrial relations arena.

Countermeasure severity will be expressed in ‘hurts’ (microhurts, millihurts, megahurts, gigahurts and terahurts). In a confusing nomenclature, ‘killerhurts’ will be reserved for terminal countermeasures. Mired in a non-metric system, US consumers will drop like flies until instructions are translated into their archaic terminology.

Spectacular garments like gowns and dance costumes will carry the gravest countermeasures – particularly if designed for high profile events. Television industry awards will consequently suffer numerous embarrassments.

Garments will be both solar powered and able to harness static electricity. State-of-the-art sensors, microprocessors and nanobots will put the price of even a tie beyond the reach of average wage earners.

All countermeasure sequences will begin with a warning, allowing reasonable time to either cease committing the fashion crime or leave the scene.

Electrical countermeasures will comprise audio and visual messages, lights, alarms and shocks. The common mistake of putting on odd socks will be countered by a friendly warning (‘microhurt’).

Chemical countermeasures will involve garment discolouration and self-destruction as well as acid irritation and injury. A white suit worn in sufficiently poor taste will generally dye itself piebald or corrode its owner’s wrists (‘megahurt’).

Mechanical countermeasures will include garment tightening and self destruction, cutting and pricking and emetic or poison injection. Any lapse of concentration at a fashion event will swiftly lead to incapacitating illness and/or the rending of every stitch (‘terahurt’).

Hurt Couture’s logo will be prominent and actively lit on every creation. Inside, fibre optics will feed a powerful central processing unit. Depletion or compromise of any countermeasure mechanism will disable the glowing scissors, defeating the purpose of wearing the item.

For safety reasons, pregnant women will be prevented from wearing Hurt Couture by hormone sensors. At least one dancing queen will watch her logos short circuit as she conceives atop the boom boxes at a three-day rave after a heated encounter behind the vegieburger tent.

Hurt Couture will capture public imagination and become a killer brand. Though industry bodies like The Cotton Board will strive to influence directives, consumers will reject their obvious self-interest and cling more firmly to ‘source’ dictates.

Vain people will become addicted to the brand and wear nothing else. By refusing to cover the risk, insurers will trigger mass policy cancellations – negating the effect of government rebates and dealing the industry a well-deserved kick in the teeth.

There will be no website; word of mouth and reportage will do everything. Production will be subcontracted under strict licence to accredited manufacturers. International standards like ISO 9001 will be rewritten to incorporate Oskar and Vivienne’s visionary ideas as to what really constitutes a quality organisation.

Ruined clothes will be refitted as clients try again and again to wear them correctly. This repeat business will create exponential growth of such magnitude that Hurt Couture will single-handedly revitalise the Australian dollar.

A leading footwear juggernaut will try to knock off company designs. Hundreds of Vietnamese children will die in a factory explosion as unscrupulous directors seek to minimise countermeasure substrate costs.

In a desperate bid to reclaim market share, a Swedish homewares firm will purchase the right to produce a complementary range of ‘Hurt Furniture’. Its first product will be a banana lounge that delivers high-tension piano wire wounds to incautious recumbents. Insufficient field-testing, however, will result in a string of gruesome self-assembly accidents.

Death by deliberately induced fashion crisis will account for a statistically relevant proportion of suicides.

Charities will forbid donation of Hurt Couture garments, owing to the high risk of injury to recipients.

Representatives from the bondage and discipline community will lobby Hurt Couture to create garments that punish wearers who look GOOD. Vivienne will decline to produce a range, but concede to re-engineer bespoke items.

One day a crowd will accost Oskar in the street, demanding to know what right he has to decide who wears his designs. Oskar will be deeply troubled by this and will rationalise that while he has no moral mandate he is, like a lawyer or accountant, entitled to choose his clients.

This will not sit well and he will continue to be agitated until he discusses the issue with Vivienne over an impertinent Verdelho. She will suggest they expand their range to include styles suitable for all body types, with the aim of making everyone on the planet look their best.

As the sun sets over their cliff-top studio, the partners will agree that if, despite this accommodation, some paedophilic scoutmaster still insists on cramming his fat arse into their beloved Lurex ‘Marching Boy’ hotpants, he deserves everything they can dish out.

🙂

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