It’s amazing stuff, really.

Should be more



Life too is amazing

Should be more



More paint
More life

And bicycles.


4am a postscript

So after dozing for an hour I decided to get on with it. Get up, do stuff, you know the drill. It was Sunday for fuck’s sake.

I’ve done stuff, eaten and about to do coffee which is questionable given how my body has been reacting to the black god recently. And I’ve caught up on some net. The one about how to live a moderately successful life on The Guardian motivated me to drag out the quill and ink.

So we all know the secrets of highly successful people since there are about 12 zillion web pages devoted to emulating Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Well maybe not.

And now we also know that having a good job, with a few highlights on the side like loving companions and respectable artistic achievements is only moderately successful. Only. Word to Emer, a lot of people would die for even some of that. I suspect an awful lot.

What a load of middle class indulgent bollicking effluence. Eat three meals a day; go tell it to someone in Eritrea or Ethiopa or any of the other 320 countries in the world where the average national GDP per capita is below the worldwide average of about $14,000 US per annun.

As for the rest, well that’s a long way down the list of life’s essentials.

Now I know Emer is writing to a largely well healed middle class living in a first world economy and within those parameters I should extend a grain or two of salt.

So I’ve given the matter about 20 seconds of reflection and decided these are the secrets to living a shitty unsuccessful life spectacularly punctuated by wild ambition and flights of fantasty but ultimately weighed down by certain facts of life.

Be born well off. Most important. Avoid being born in any of the previously mention 320 countries in the world where life is already a struggle. You aren’t helping them or yourself.

Better still be born rich. End of story. Wait for your life to be delivered.

Get educated about how the world is supposed to work but remain ignorant about how the world really works. This is also crucial for those who want to live a bitterly unsuccessful life plagued by unanswerable moral questions and situational paradoxes. Like why if capitalism is so good are there so few really lucky people and a shitload of very unlucky people? And can’t we do better?

Be marginalised. That’s easy for half the population who are born into it. But for bonus points you could also have some distinctive racial characteristics. Skin colour is another easy pathway to a less than stellar life experience.

Listen to people who tell you to work hard and always say please and thankyou. Manners may be considered old fashioned but they certainly let the ruling class know when they are dealing with a suitable polite member of the serving class. And like they always said, the devil finds work for idle hands. So keep yourself busy. Opening doors and putting out the trash. maybe in your spare time you can knit a sweater or fix a door.

Make bad decisions. I can’t stress how important this is. If you really want to die full of regret, anguish and self pity it is important that you get into the habit early and stick with it. A word of warning however. While it’s good practice to get used to making dumb decisions early, like at school when you decide to hang out with the groovy kids instead of doing actual school work what is crucial is the ability to make certain really dumb decisions at crucial point in your life. Like deciding the dropkick dickhead who got you pregnant at 16 really is the only one for you and yes you will devote the best years of your life to bringing up his child. Or maybe you’ve reached the middle years and decide that the last 15 to 20 years was so easy you can smash it all and start again.

And this readers, is the crux. Sometimes shitty things happen because we let them happen, sometimes they happen because other people make them happen and sometimes they just happen. And they happen again. Dodging them is easier for some people who can spot them coming and have the luxury of ability and the resources to avoid them hitting them dead centre but the rest of us just have to clean up as best we can and keep going. To have a really unsuccessful and shitty life, just be in the wrong places at the wrong times for the wrong reasons.

Because if life was fair, we would all be eating cake.



I wish it wasn’t 4am and I was writing another post to the universe, I wish.

I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink? That was written 50 years ago, how awesome is that? One, because it sums up how little has really changed and two because it just is.

Some of my friends are a bit fussy about their music. The regular rhythmic of four to the barre is mostly passe, something that motivates lesser mortals to move their feet or clap their hands. Granted there is more to music, but sometimes simplicity is the best carrier of complexity. But it is still hard not to see such posturing as a form of elitist snobbery.

I digress. It’s a strange trip at 4am. You sleep for a few hours and suddenly something clicks and bam sleep flies out the window. Half the world probably suffers it, I don’t know. I’m sure it’s common enough. Except for kids. Bless them.

It’s not like I woke up with a burning desire to do something, like write on my blog. I mean that would be ok but only because of the burning desire bit. And now the freaking kookaburras are laughing at me. Or maybe just laughing, and me listening, wishing I was somewhere else.

Like asleep.


We can do it, if we try

Old advice, write something everyday. If you want to be a writer.

Now I don’t, obviously. Except I do, but mostly it’s impulse stuff like emails or facebook commentary. I started writing about life as a sound engineer but after one entry about the rather confusing suggestions from the players in that game, I feel the story is pretty much told.

There are other stories.

The one that consistently unravels at my feet involves the people you work with. I mean work in a general sense, in the way that you might work with others to achieve something, perhaps for pay or for glory or just because it is worth doing.

One thing is how language obscures the facts. I mean, people often say they are doing something for this reason but sometimes it seems like they are actually doing it for another reason but the reason they advance for acting or doing something is something that seems acceptable. For example, someone might claim to be doing a social service when in fact they are really building up a bank of social capital which they can later exploit to advance some other objective.

Or perhaps someone is ambitious but feels naked personal ambition is counter productive in a multidisciplinary team so they seek to control or own as much as they can so they can claim their success.

So the problem here is that these perceptions are easily countered with language. Someone continuously asserts that black is in fact white and eventually everyone agrees that at least in some cases black is in fact white. The dispute in language becomes elevated demanding more energy than some are prepared to put in and the argument is decided by attrition.

It’s not unlike what we know of history. Mostly it is written by the winners, most likely it is only by accident that alternative narratives survive. Possibly other languages help to maintain some diversity about historical facts, sometimes the author is able to encode a subversive message inside a seemingly conventional narrative but I’m inclined to suspect that language, so useful for short-term deceptions is incapable of revealing truths unless it is delivered with some non-linguistic component. Words by themselves lack certain clues which we need to verify the authors intent.

And so it seems odd that in a world of determinism where much is know and measurable our capacity for deception and delusion is matched only by our hubris and greed. Much is made about how everything is relative and how there are no right or wrong answers yet it seems that we are bound by certain limitations which we unwisely ignore. Because our language enables it.


Canberra’s nanny boom

If only Labor was in power! The Fairfax headline would surely read “Canberra – Capital of the Nanny State”.

Alas, we have the neofascists in charge who are deeply wedded to the idea of rewarding the rich and powerful while also engaging in some ritualistic economic cleansing of the public sector.

Still, however loudly the public sector complains about the latest round of redundancies or forced relocations, it seems Canberra continues to do ok. House prices are keeping the well heeled in a manner that they deserve while simultaneously rewarding the compliant aspirant class with a steady improvement in their balance sheet. The lure of ever increasing house prices has the local government licking it lips and bending over backwards to accommodate the real estate developers, simultaneously allowing Canberra’s urban sprawl to consume unabated while facilitating the forced relocation of the undesirable public housing riff-raff away from the highly desirable parts of town, to be replaced by more desirable private property owning types.

So are we surprised that Canberra is in the middle of a nanny boom?

Hardly, given this statement by top nanny Georgia Lily King who said “We have a lot of public service workers, defence workers and a lot of families in diplomatic corps, so there is a unique need for nannies in that environment.”

Oh pity the poor people of Canberra.


Moments are all we have

I think I owe this weird train of thought to Derrida. It’s about consciousness, self-awareness if you like. We talk about streams of consciousness and moments of clarity while we seem to think our rationality somehow defines us as humans, not animals, but thinking self aware creatures who can call ourselves something. I am.

But merely asserting identity seems like a hollow gesture in the modern world. I am here but so what? The 21st century seems to be demanding more than just humanity or so it seems. Yet, how greedily the west absorbs the modern cellulite and electronic myths. How easy is it to escape the grinding urbanity of modern city life with drugs or lifestyle choices or electronic fantasylands. Are we hoping for superheroes to save the day or is there a grim realisation that most of the time life, so full of promise in the beginning, has a inexplicable void that we seek to fill with our streams of consciousness or perpetual activity. The void never leaves us though, it waits for the moments between moments to catch us unawares. Then we ask the stupid philosophical questions.

Does anything matter? What is the meaning of life? Is there a god? Do I matter, in the grand scheme of things? And so on.

I miss Jacques. He made no sense to me at uni but still I think more about his nonsense than some of the other more analytical philosophical authority figures. Except maybe Kant.

The thing is, we are pretty clever these days. Our science is in some ways close to magic, although sufficiently distinct from not to be confused with but try telling that to some time machine refugee from say the 1st century. Still it seems most likely no matter what we end up knowing, it will never be everything since that would make us gods, omniscient. Nor will we be able to do everything for the obvious reason we are not gods. Still, if gods are just a human fiction, does it mean there isn’t anything else in the universe?

Those moments between moments might just be our access to what we don’t know. Maybe we should give them some elbow room.


Ultron as propaganda

When I was much younger I used to obsess about certain Marvel comics. In particular I was a big fan of Spidey and Dr Strange but I read and collected quite a variety. They were relatively cheap, certainly I could afford one every now and then on my pocket money and the drawing style had a certain edge. I wasn’t a diehard fan but they have a place in my pre-adolescent youth.

In those days the Marvel Universe was much smaller. Now it seems Marvel is larger than life but its transformation to the big screen is tinged with some nostalgia. The ideas so laboriously penned in four colours and speech bubbles left the readers with quite a bit of room to imagine. The latest Ultron from Marvel sort of blasts you away before overloading your intellect with soft american-industrial-military propaganda.

So there are bad guys and then there are the bad things within us. The good guys beat the bad guys because they are, well, the avengers. But beating the bad guys in a orgasm of exploding cgi is easy, just run punch shoot kill etc and bingo, you win. But the plot thickens when the dark side of Stark gets carried away with his own narcissistic messiah complex and creates the BAD robot. Oops

Anyway, the plot might be a statement about artificial intelligence or robots and the future of humanity but if it is then it fails to leave you much room to draw an opinion or imagine an alternative. Basically the film retreats into a good vs bad binary, divided over whether humanity should live or die. Again you probably shouldn’t expect anything else from Marvel/Hollywood but the plot fails to deliver any real surprises, except expect more of the same in the future.

If Stark Industries is a metaphor for the US idustrial/military complex and the Avengers are an idealised crack US military machine then what of Ultron? Is it a bad thing, unleashed by good people accidentally (ie a genie in the bottle) or, and more likely, is it the logical consequence of the industrial military machine. It’s easy to portray Ultron as some anti-Ironman on any number of levels but if so what does that really say about the ground from which such things spring? Maybe we shouldn’t be going there?

But wait, this is all done for our protection! The forces of good will prevail, humanity will be saved by teamwork (led by Captain America for fucks sake), sacrifice, determination and courage, not to mention lashings of supernatural powers, bucketloads of tame artificial intelligence and divine intervention. In other words, all the basically human characteristics need a little help to save humanity from the devil of its own creation. Another pointer that we might be in trouble.

That the industrial/military machine as a good thing is supposed to be demonstrated by the concern expressed for innocent bystanders, the collateral damage stuff of war zones. The jolly green giant does his bit to remind us of the danger posed by unrestrained anger which is neatly contrasted by the efforts of Avengers Inc to save civilian lives. And just in case you missed that bit of propaganda, good old SHIELD pops up to help save the day.

Then there’s biotech angle where new biotech helps to save Hawkeye (who has a secret and very rustic safe home) while also giving birth to a new bad guy turned good guy by the magic of the gods. You could write pages about what that says about biotech and the idea that some sort of magic is needed to create “good” life or even to sustain our existing ideal good life. But since this is hollywood we will just put it a box and call it done.

My daughter who is a big Marvel fan (the new variety) is thrilled by the story lines of this fantasy world and I guess one should just treat any Marvel offering as escapist entertainment. On one level it’s myth making in the 21st century and those myths work as they always have to create frameworks by which humans can make sense of an incoherent world. But myths also serve to hide truths that might might give us reasons to think or do things that run contrary to prevailing orthodoxy, they are simply a form of thought control.

The problem with Marvel blockbusters is not that they don’t entertain, rather it is the fact that they can only entertain by maintaining a good vs evil dichotomy. Granted it is fundamental to the genre, nonetheless it misses many opportunities to explore the territory beyond.


Abbott’s Right Wing Agenda

Fairfax is doing a fair job on the subject of taxation. Today it revealed the extent of Rupert Murdoch’s tax evasion while simultaneously reporting further job cuts to the Australian Taxation Office. The two bits of news are clearly connected in the broad sense, both are about taxes, but there is something else.

The current fascist government of Tony Abbott is perhaps one of the most ideologically driven governments we’ve suffered in recent times. They have attacked almost any person or organisation with an agenda not sympathetic to their own bigoted world view, denying funding to a range of socially useful organisations and publicly denigrating public officials who question the government’s actions. On the other side of the coin, they have offered funding support for mainstream religion in the public education system. But it is on the subject of taxation that their class warfare is truly revealed.

Taxes pay for government services, such as education, health, defence and so on. A general idea is that taxation is also a form of wealth redistribution, that is, rich people pay proportional more tax than poor people and the benefits of government services, while distributed uniformly, tend to improve the living standards of poorer folk, since proportionally, they have less to spend on the sort of things government services help to provide. Such as universal health care or public infrastructure. Less taxes or less government revenue means less is available to spend on theses sorts of things, something that is currently framed in terms of government budget deficits.

The current government has a budget deficit problem. They tried to fix it by slashing expenditure on a range of government services, the sort that benefit the poor and middle class, only to find that a whole lot of people didn’t agree. Now, while busy carving up the one organisation responsible for collecting taxes, they are simultaneously proposing to reduce corporate tax rates and raise the ubiquitous goods and services tax which, as many have observed, tends to place an unfair tax burden on low income earners.

But if the Murdoch exercise in tax minimisation is indicative of what happens when corporations are responsible for their own reporting regimes (something else this government wants to do), then the future for government taxation on large corporations is pretty dim. It was the late great Kerry Packer who once declared it was his personal responsibility to avoid paying any taxes and John Howard rewarded Sir Kerry with a state funeral. It appears this government is keen to surpass Howard by not only moving the tax burden off large corporations and high income earners but also reducing the services governments provide to the less wealthy.

Actually it’s not a matter of appearances, that’s exactly what Tony Abbott is about. His government’s agenda is the most destructive in terms of undermining the social fabric of democratic government we have experienced in recent times. They are the advance guard of the new neocons who seek to destroy the capacity of governments to provide socially useful outcomes. With these people there is no hope.

From the SMH

From the SMH


Afraid of dying

Don’t worry Jack, it’s a very human condition. The day comes when we can no longer say “I am” but that’s one of the things that makes us human.

Plenty of speculative literature has explored the idea of living forever or for a very long time, I’m reading something right now which uses that premise. I guess it’s a property of being, when we develop the capacity to say “I” it seems to contain something like what is commonly termed the will to live, or the desire to keep on saying “I am”. But not long after we become self aware we also become conscious of the fact we all die, someday. That seems to be a fairly fundamental condition that defines us, that is we want to live forever subjectively but objectively we realise we don’t. Perhaps children help and maybe some build things hoping that too will last but perhaps the best we can hope is that life in general goes on.

Anyway Jack’s concerns about mortality reminds me of another faded star, one Rolf Harris and it underlines the supeficiality of human stardom. The world may not have real super heroes like Superman or Wonder Woman but it seems necessary to have lesser gods that we create. Often we bestow on these mere mortals some special ability or insight that can elevate them above the teeming masses. Make them famous and rich and somehow that serves a purpose, perhaps the purpose is merely to distract us from things we would rather not think about, like dying. It seems trivial to add “alone” since that particular plaintive expression seems rather peculiar. I mean no one says “born alone” possibly because birth involves at least two people but it’s possible that baby factories will exist someday. Maybe then the truth will be that we not only die alone but are truly born alone as well. However my problem with Jack’s “dying alone” is as opposed to what? A group die-in? Dying in company? Maybe he could have a big dinner party and arrange to die as everyone eats desert.

No, I get it. I’m old enough to get Jack’s drift. When we say goodbye and go raging into the dying light we would like someone to witness it, perhaps somehow that idea might be the ultimate comfort, the idea that someone knew we once existed, they were present. Perhaps like our mothers were present when we were born. And if we were lucky, maybe others as well.

Anyway, it’s only Monday FFS and the sun is shining!


Let’s hope it gets better

There is something about the “new year” that I am constantly at odds with.

You see we get the media message, like “what are your new year’s resolutions” or whatever and how these hopes somehow conveniently wash away any doubts that last year we didn’t actually manage to tick off one of the previous resolutions but what the hell we might do it this year…

Actually there isn’t anything wrong with that idea since our eyes are always looking forward, if we want to see where we’ve been we need to stop and turn around and boom, there goes our forward momentum. Onward, upward hip hip hooray.

So I’m not surprised that my fifteen year old doesn’t want to watch this historical documentary but what can we do? I mean getting fooled once is bad enough but getting fooled repeatedly, that seems to be a recipe for something else. Maybe it’s cynical but really it seems that we don’t really want the right thing or the best, we just don’t want to have to think about it.

That’s why hope is so important in managing the human condition. Hope is the close sibling of anything’s possible, you too can be one of the 1% if you work hard and get lucky. Maybe, after all it is not IMpossible.

But why then do the really rich corporations in the world spend so much time measuring and counting and calculating? They are protecting their profits and they don’t do that by “hoping” things will get better or maybe some vague new year’s resolutions. They do it by focussing on facts, like how much does it cost to fight a war and how can they make a profit from it?

We used to think the cigarette companies were the bad guys, but really they are just the apprentices. I saw a figure of $4 trillion mentioned for the Iraq war which seems ludicrous but let’s just ask what did we get for that tidy little sum.

Oh look just yesterday January 1, New Years Day. 66 killed adding to 206,000 civilian deaths.

Or perhaps, there’s the Lancet study which puts the figure at over 500,000 or another estimate at over a million. We will never know.

What we do know is Iraq has a lot of oil and Haliburton is perhaps the biggest oil company in the world. And the connections between the Bush family and Haliburton are too much to even think about. It seems astonishing that Obama didn’t string the lot of them up, but I guess he wasn’t really change, just more of the same hope.

I think we seriously need to stop mainlining the hope junk and start using the intelligence we have been gifted with to count and to calculate, to measure and decide based on the facts. Companies do it to make money, we could give it a try too. But we will probably stick our heads in the sand and hope the tide doesn’t come in.

iraq war