Pith & Wind - Bumcrack
We were driving home last Saturday after a marathon
visit to the Musk Cottage gardens near Flinders on the Mornington
Peninsula. We were nearly home and had stopped at the lights on the
corner of Mountain Hwy and Bayswater Rd where Maria informed me that
there’d been a drug and alcohol breathalyser parked just around
the corner the previous evening as part of a concerted crackdown on
something by police in the area recently. I thought it might be due
to the prevalence of hippies in the foothills, but M thought it more
likely to be aimed at the local contingent of bogans.
Anyway, there we were, patiently biding our time, when my attention
was taken by a male cyclist wobbling off down the footpath along Bayswater
Rd. He had a shock of curly hair and wearing optimistic shorts with
a shirt overlaid with a sweatshirt as a concession to the wet, chilly
weather. At the juncture of his flapping shirt tails and his shorts
an unnecessarily generous slab of bumcrack was visible.
‘There he goes’ I thought in parentheses, ‘Captain
Bumcrack’s heading home.’ At that precise moment something
unexpected happened - the bike-riding gent’s right hand snaked
back and adjusted the back of his shirt so it covered the offending
‘What just happened then?’ I wondered. Had a raindrop
fallen hundreds of metres from the heavens and like some meteorological
guided missile landed plumb in his bumcrack? Had my observation of
his marginal wardrobe status somehow prompted the adjustment?
Which raises the philosophical question: is the flaunting of the bumcrack
an aesthetic misdemeanour if it’s unobserved? Is it, like the
tired tree-falling-in-the-forest trope, actually happening at all?
Unless he was receiving my telepathic input this gentleman clearly
thought his bumcrack an offence before God if nobody else, and more
power to his righteous thoughtfulness if that was the case.
The serious consequences of of hearing
without listening.. M and I watched a movie in the Red Room last night.
There’s nothing wrong with that you might think, but we’ve
recently acquired Netflix and were expecting a bonanza of sizzling
series on which to feast, but we‘ve both been a little disappointed
to discover that while the quantity is indisputable, the quality is
infinitely harder to find. We’d abandoned yet another Scandie
Noir with our eyes rolling in unison when Maria suggested we should
watch a movie called 45 Years she’d tagged starring Charlotte
Rampling and Tom Courtenay.
The film is quite recent (2015) so both the stars mentioned are pretty
close in age to the characters they’re playing, that is around
their early seventies. Even before we started watching 45 Years
I knew we were precisely the age-group that the film was aimed at,
and having now seen it I would recommend that persons under the age
of fifty-five not embark on viewing the movie at all.
M and I both enjoyed 45 Years however and both Tom and Charlotte
played their roles with such an informed and light touch that we felt
as if we were intruding on their private lives.
As a person and musician who lived through the ‘60s (I’m
talking about the decade now) the interesting plot conceit for me
was the selection of songs to be played at the Kate and Geoff Mercer’s
45th wedding anniversary. One song in particular in an otherwise interesting
list of songs was absolutely pivotal to the story and its denouement.
The song was The Platters’ version of Smoke Gets in Your
Eyes, a song that was a hit in the late ‘50s whereas most
of the rest of the Mercers’ faves were ‘60s’ tunes.
While I was vaguely aware there was some poignancy expressed in the
lyrics I’d never quite cottoned on.
This attention deficit has been a lifetime failing, which is odd for
a bloke who takes so much care with his own lyrics. (Curiously, since
my hearing has deteriorated and I’ve resorted to having subtitles
on the telly, I’ve caught up with a lot of lyrical content that
I’ve managed to miss or misinterpret all my life).
There are some lyrics in SGIYE that are very old fashioned and betray
the song’s early beginnings – as a Jerome Kern / Otto
Harbach collaboration for the 1933 (!!!) musical Roberta.
So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
To think they could doubt my love
Yet today my love has flown away
I am without my love
(Without my love)
Chaffed them? Gaily laughed? Old fashioned for sure, but it’s
still obviously a song about loss. Anyway, Charlotte Rampling’s
Kate hadn’t really appreciated the lyrics either, that is until
the song is finally played when she and Geoff are dancing the ‘first
dance’ in the spotlight in front of all their friends at the
party held in their honour. Maybe if she’d really listened to
the lyrics in the first place she mightn’t have been suddenly
feeling as if she’d wasted 45 years of her life.
I like the way this played out, because the choice of this one song
was so significant in the Mercers’ lives. Songs have always
been significant to me as I'm sure they are to a lot of people, but
it’s not often that this is endorsed in movies or plays. The
separation between the various forms of artistic expression is so
arbitrary that parts of the picture occasionally disappear down the
I liked the fact there was no score as such, even though this means
no work for a screen composer - most of the music in this film was
incidental, as it is in real life. On the other hand, I love musicals,
but in their case the pendulum has clearly swung into some technicolor
The National Sport. That you’re reading
this column is a miracle of sorts for so many reasons, but it may
simply mean that you don’t follow sport, the rationale being
that it’s not possible do both – i.e. be well read and
(OK - this is clearly a generalisation and an unworthy presumption
to which I cannot possibly be the only exception).
Anyway, there’s a point I’m going to make that will resonate
if you’re a sports buff and particularly if you follow either
Rugby Union or AFL – both is probably asking too much.
Currently there is some soul-searching in the AFL about the bewildering
number of player interchanges during the game. These interchanges
are governed by some restrictions but generally coaches can substitute
any player at any time throughout the game, thereby ensuring both
that no player gets tired and that the coach’s tactical role
is overwhelmingly crucial.
Rugby Union is doing much the same kind of thing, as it has been by
degrees since the game became a professional sport and thus a rival
competition to its bastard child, Rugby League.
Bear in mind that in the glory days of Rugby Union as a strictly amateur
competition, a player could not be replaced on the field of play for
the entire game without a doctor certifying that he was unfit to continue
playing e.g. suffering from a broken back or a severed limb. (Mind
you, tales abounded of players heroically continuing to play with
such injuries against the doctor’s advice).
The result is that one of the principal attractions of Test Rugby
in particular has now been eliminated in favour of artificially maintaining
‘pace’ of the game, with fresh players strategically arriving
on the field to replace players that may be injured, or exhausted,
or homesick – but mostly none of the above.
These days nearly half the team can be replaced before the game’s
end and, while the precious pace of the game remains unchanged, it’s
predictable and as a consequence unthrilling, no matter how much the
skill levels have improved over the decades.
American footy, or NFL (or even Gridiron as it’s still known
outside the US) was created in response to that very Rugby-ish concept
of the starting and finishing a game with the same fifteen players,
so during every one of the umpteen commercial breaks in an American
Football game the entire starting eleven players for both teams can
and are regularly exchanged in favour of another eleven players from
the specialist defensive or attacking team before embarking on the
next few seconds of play.
Anyway, it’s interesting that both Aussie Rules and Rugby are
experiencing a similar interchange dilemma, even if Rugby Union typically
hasn’t even identified it as a problem.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, you could think of it as a metaphor
for the current state of Australian politics and you wouldn't be too
far from the truth.
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Toolbox - Da-da-da, da-da-da dum.
If you judged by American movies and television there
is no problem that cannot be solved with a gun, if you can excuse
the double negative. It would be easier to say that, to Americans,
all problems can be solved with a gun but that wouldn’t help
my intended 1100 word count. Which I have now reduced by sixty words.
What brought this thought to mind was that I stumbled across a television
show called Hawaii Five-0 as I was flicking channels to see if there
was anything worthy of wasting my life watching. I remembered the
original which starred Jack Lord as Detective Stephen McGarret, sporting
an improbable quiff and wearing an inappropriately dark suit in Hawaii’s
sultry heat. He was accompanied by his faithful sidekick, Danny Williams,
played by James MacArthur probably for eleven of the twelve seasons
- or 257 of 281 episodes.* The highlight of nearly every episode was
Steve McGarret grunting "Book 'em, Danno !" at the end as
the felon or miscreant was handcuffed or beaten with care.
Nothing has changed ……. or everything has changed except
the memorable theme music. The actors and the plots are different
- though that may not be true given that there are only so many plots
available. Bad person does something bad, good people catch them within
an hour with highlights and excitement based around advertising breaks.
Apparently the men of Hawaii Five-0 remain members of the Hawaii State
Police (even though Hawaii is the only state that has never had a
state police agency), and are accountable to the Governor of Hawaii.
Of course this is just like real life where Hawaii has interstate
highways and seems non-contiguous to anything except the Pacific Ocean.
Unless there is an enormous undersea highway that they are keeping
secret and is probably used by Hawaiians to go straight to Las Vegas,
their favourite place on the mainland.
I think that the new McGarret, played by Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin,
might have said "Book 'em, Dann’l !" a change of enunciation
which might be worthy of a Doctoral Dissertation. His sidekick is
now played by Scott Caan, the son of James Caan best remembered for
his signature role in ‘The Godfather’, that of hot-tempered
Sonny Corleone, who meets and unfortunate end at a highway tolling
booth. This should be a lesson to all of us thinking of driving in
the United States. Pay your tolls or else you will be machine-gunned
into submission and quickly clotting blood
Scott Caan seems shorter than his father but pretty athletic, trim
and well-groomed as are all the ethnically diverse lead stars of the
new show. Hawaii’s population is more than half Asian, native
Hawaiian or Pacific Islander so naturally the minor roles are played
by two Korean actors representing just two percent of the island’s
population. But let’s face it these people are actors and probably
prepared to act as anything. Sir Ralph Richardson played the part
of a wardrobe in the movie ‘The Bed Sitting Room’. Nice
drawers as I recall.
The minor roles seem to feature parts for people a few of whom I would
have to say are morbidly obese. But you have to morbidly inclusive
these days but a couple of supporting stars are so large as to tilt
the islands on their axis. One worries for them.
The current series is apparently in its ninth season. This would seem
to indicate that Alex O’Loughlin broke his promise to leave
at the end of the eighth season. The show looked nicely produced,
has great scenery but the armament count has gone up a lot since the
first series. I vaguely recall that Jack Lord would occasionally,
and reluctantly, whip out a small barrelled pistol of marginal accuracy
but I think that he would seldom fire it at anybody. More of a threat
was that he wouldn’t comb his hair or that the villain would
slip on the Brylcreem, that wonderful emulsion of water and mineral
oil stabilised with beeswax that gave Ronald Reagan that glossy look.
Why it didn’t melt in the tropical heat and fall down Jack Lord’s
face like a small waterfall is an unexplained mystery of science.
These new lads go around with armament and armour worthy of elite
special force’s units which now seems typical of American police
forces; they would put the armies of several small countries to shame.
The reason for this is that they get all the hand-me-downs from the
American army and Marines. In my personal opinion turning up to a
minor traffic infringement in an Armoured Personnel Carrier or Huey
Air Cobra may be regarded as a disproportionate show of force but
the fact that 987 people were shot by the United States law enforcement
agencies last year may indicate that the weaponry is not going unused.
Three were shot by police in Hawaii which is a lot given the islands
have a population of 1,375,000 and a worry given that Australia with
eighteen times the population averages about four per year.
So is there any relationship to reality? Violent crime rate is lower
in Honolulu than the American national rate. While the inhabitants
of Hawaii think that crime rates are at an all-time high they are
in fact pretty much as low as they have ever been. Those pesky news
As a matter of comparison the State of Victoria where I reside has
5,876 incidents per 100,000 population whereas Hawaii has 3,206 so
the image created by Hawaii-Five-0 is totally misleading. It’s
almost twice as safe as here so theoretically these guys do not need
the armaments of a Green Beret or SEAL team. Now America has a much
higher number of guns per head of population than Australia - though
a lot of this is because a many people own a lot of guns rather than
everybody having a gun. More than a third of US households have guns
whilst in Australia the rate is around 6% and declining
This has been highlighted by an American friend saying about her son
in law “I mean, who takes a Glock on a family beach vacation?”
Apparently Kevin. About whom we need not talk.
In Australia, police simply do not expect members of the community
to be armed threats. If you expect someone to be armed there is a
good chance that you will act precipitately rather that rationally.
So the obvious question about America is whether the police actually
make you feel safer. There is a wide gap between reality and perceived
reality and Hawaii Five-0 demonstrates this rather well.
* This is an odd number. If they were shooting
24 episodes a year there would have been 288 episodes. It’s
a big work load so maybe there were times when they said, ”Bugger
it, we’re having a week off.”
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Trans-Tasman Tales - Is the answer $@?
I’ve just read the following in The Guardian:
“Her greatest failing might not be in the concepts she’s
presenting but in her inability to explain herself to a generation
which understands the power of words to cause harm and is fearless
in its rejection of careless language. The obligation is always on
the writer to convey meaning, not the reader to interpret ill-expressed
ideas.” The excerpt, from an article about Germaine Greer’s
essay On Rape published by MUP, struck me as a pretty bald/bold assertion
so I raised my reaction with Marg. I explained that I was initially
somewhat confounded that the statement so boldly laid claim to the
high ground over Greer by dissing her explanatory capacities and extolling
the critic’s generational cohort’s capabilities for its
‘understanding’ and ‘fearless rejection’ in
parsing language – especially given this is a generation that
communicates primarily via 280 character ‘tweets’. Marg
observed that they (the generation) do understand the power of words
and particularly the power to harm – cyber bullying for example,
which casts serious doubt for me on their claim for fearless rejection
of careless language. As for the second sentence, it only serves to
compound the bold conceit of the first. Unpacking both sentences produces
a reading along the lines of: I am offended by what you’ve written
because I understand it to harm my position on power, therefore I
reject it as careless. Furthermore, your inability to convince me
to change my position is all your own fault so STFU.
What this generated for me and Marg was a conversation about moving
on from binary cognition that produces this sort of bitter confrontational
rhetoric and the disgusting displays of battering and bullying that
politicians all over the World are now specializing in. We wondered
whether something analogous to the idea of Rhizome regarding knowledge
organisation that we have both embraced might be possible. In this
sense, Rhizome is offered as an alternative to Tree as an organising
idea: A book is like a tree, a closed system – roots, trunk,
branches, hierarchically arranged like the book’s contents,
introduction, chapters, conclusion; whereas the internet is like a
rhizome, an open system – a maze-like botanical root system,
nodes, stems, shoots, non-hierarchically interconnected like the WWWs
network of users, IPs, nodes, hubs, links to re/sources. It’s
not that Rhizome trumps Tree, rather, Rhizome is more a means towards
interpreting increasing environmental complexity and encountering
greater existential diversity: something the ‘understanding
and fearlessly rejecting’ generation seems to be blissfully
by-passing as they thumb their Twittering and Insta their selfies
to one another.
Thinking about all this reminded me of a recent article in New Scientist
on self-awareness titled “The ‘me’ illusion: How
your brain conjures up your sense of self”, which suggests our
conceit about our ‘self’ isn’t all that we think
it is. The author posits that rather than self-awareness being an
innate ‘elite’ facility of higher-order consciousness,
it’s more likely an emergent phenomenon conditioned by contextual
collective behaviours. In other words, the more we all see each other
acting like barbarians the more barbarian we become, even though we
think we’re not and are actually opposing the barbarians, it’s
all just an illusion our brains generate in our minds to keep us –
the organism – running. This view is affirmed in brain connectivity
research that shows humans spend inordinate amounts of time inspecting,
analysing and exchanging thoughts about our own and influential others’
social relationships and positions. Outputs of this activity manifest
as affects on emotion, empathy, morality, often giving rise to instantaneous
social media (socmed) posts followed by reactionary consequences going
Where this is leading me is towards an argument for reconceptualising
‘me’! In the New Scientist article the author notes that
“some of nature’s most sophisticated minds probably lack
a sense of self as we know it” and goes on to say “some
other animals seem to have evolved to be highly intelligent without
having had to understand the minds of others.” Marg and I often
remark on the spectacular performance of some AFL players who are
able to interact with each other and accomplish amazing feats of navigation
and directional activity without evidently ‘thinking’
about what they’re doing. Similarly, musicians and artists often
‘blindly’ produce astonishingly complex yet coordinated
performances. We sometimes find these instances referred to as conveying
the performers sense of ‘selflessness’ and often the performer
will articulate that their sole focus is on the ‘game’,
‘music’, ‘art’. So, could we reimagine our
‘self’ in this ‘selfless’ way? I’m pleased
to report it appears to be just around the corner. According to Management
Today it’s about MSC – Mindfulness Selflessness Compassion
that, properly administered by great ‘leaders’, will “facilitate
meaning, connectedness, and true happiness for the people you lead”…(sorry,
the article’s behind a paywall so unless you shell out you’ll
never know how! But I have included their snazzy diagram so you can
see the attributes). Thus we’ve just looped back to an old beef
I have about ‘management’ misappropriating alternative
thinking to subvert it for ulterior profitable motives and we’re
back to binary conflicts again. And, if evidence of the deleterious
effect of absence of MSC is needed, look no further than the 2018
AFL Elimination Final between Melbourne and Geelong!
Maybe the answer really is just $@ (42).
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