Friday, December 09, 2011

He carried yellow flowers. Another option would have been actual policies

Well, well.  We will all miss Herman Cain, won't we?  Even though he has promised not to actually ever go away?  He really was the candidate who kept on giving, and by that I mean kept giving us reasons to panic every time we considered the remote chance that someone might vote for this guy.

As Herman Cain bows out of the race, Before Huntsman, Perry and Santorum, which has got to hurt, it's tempting to follow the crowds of political pundits who are lining up to blame the tragically early end to his campaign on his painful response to questions about Libya, his fear that China may develop nuclear weapons, his frighteningly dumb foreign policy map, his campaign manager, or, just possibly, the sex scandals which have now become too numerous to bother to link to. Okay, maybe just one.

I will not fall for that, for I know that anyone who was paying attention could have seen this coming months ago simply by examining his choice of theme song.

For those who don't know, this catchy tune from former American Idol contestant Krista Branch has been part of the campaign for a while, but it rocketed to prominence after it was featured in the endlessly infamous "smoke 'em if you got 'em" ad.

It is mildly surprising that, as far as I know, no-one commented on the excellent moment at 2:11 of the official video clip where they show a close up of a protester's sign which has the symbols of both major parties and the slogan "Two Parties Same Result".

An odd message from anyone who seriously intends to contest a general election as a Republican, but that's just the beginning.

Where the song really gets fun is at 1:26, where Krista sings:

Your god is power/you have no shame/
Your only interest is political gain.

At first I thought this only sounded slightly off because lyrics that clunky do not belong anywhere outside of an unlikely duet between Area 7 and Melanie Chisholm, probably produced by Ark Music Factory.

After a coupole of listens, I decided it was actually more to do with how much it reminded me of Felicia Day's invitation to "come on and share a potion with me"

What no-one picked up at the time, but immediately became obvious, was that Herman Cain had actually chosen a theme song that summed up his candidacy perfectly.

Either that or, and this is the theory I favour, the whole thing was a Kaufmanesque postmodern prank designed solely to show Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix how it should be done.

And if you're still not convinced, I invite you to click this, or better still, consider that his campaign ended like this.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wow. Close one

So, as I sit here still recovering from the exhaustion caused by just watching Friday night's preliminary final, we attempt to explain just how Collingwood managed to get themselves into that mess in the first place.
As few theories:
  • Daisy Thomas apparently misunderstood the concept of carry over points and thought that he wasn't allowed to play for the first three quarters of this game.
  • Also recently returned from suspension, Heath Shaw decided to demonstrate his fitness by randomly sprinting around the back line. Well, that worked.
  • It's hard to do well when your key ruckman and your All-Australian centre half back can't enter a three legged race because they do not have enough working limbs between them
  • Dayne Beams selflessly declared that he, not Didak, should have been wearing the substitute's vest and went on to play like he was. Mick Malthouse eventually agreed.For his part, Alan Didak took the instruction to replace Dayne Beams literally and spent the last quarter carefully avoiding the ball.
  • Nick Maxwell's awful smothered kick late in the game was the result of exhaustion, which was, in turn, the result of yelling at Heath Shaw all night. If they ever remake "Half Blood Prince", expect to see Nick Maxwell cast as Cormack McLaggen.
There were some more positive signs. Taz did a superb job on Buddy, Trav took an awesome pack mark and kicked a goal when it really mattered, Leon Davis fulfilled his contractual obligation to pop up out of nowhere and kick a crucial goal on the last Saturday in September, Swann and Ball created goals out of nothing, and, with 38 seconds to go, Daisy finally noticed that there was a football match going on and jumped in with the match saving tackle.
The real good news in all this is that there is surely no way that the Pies could possible play that badly too weeks in a row.
Also, well, it got me to write something on here, even if it was totally inconsequential.
In other news, since changing jobs 9 months ago, I seem to slowly be recovering from that bad case of being total screwed up and there is some chance that I may some day be happy again.
I had kind of hoped that it would not take this long, but I am getting there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The news you won't get anywhere else

On 18 April 2006, Gilmore Girls Episode 6.19 first went to air. In that episode, called "I Get a Sidekick Out of You", Lane Kim is infomed by an annoyed cousin that "You cannot dance to Joy Division".

It might be reasonable to assume that it went to air somewhat later in the UK, if they even show it there.

On 8 October 2007, The Wombats release the second single from their second album, "A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation".

That single is called "Let's Dance to Joy Division".

It is safe to conclude that The Wombats are obsessed with every TV show and movie that Alexis Bledel has ever been in, including "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2".

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Oooh Baby Do You Know What That's Worth?

My boys don't get to see my brother very often. He lives in a remote part of WA and he comes over for Christmas every now and then. I can.t complain too much, as we have never been to visit him, apart from this trip to Perth, which was just me and only because his daughter was spending her first birthday in hospital.

The result of this lack of contact, and the discovery that the man is crazy, is that my boys have a strange fascination with hearing stories about all the stupid stuff my brother and I did when we were much younger.

For some reason, one of their favourites (second only to the story of his wedding where half the guests ended up accidentally locked in a zoo) is the story of our backpacking trip around England and Scotland when I was 16.

The short version of this is that we were spending a couple of months in London, as my Dad was working there and we therefore had free accomodation within walking distance from Buckingham Palace and those opportunities don't come up much. We managed to find a deal where we could buy a bus ticket that allowed us to go anywhere in the UK for 5 days, all for around 40 pounds (which, back then, was $100).

We included the town of Carlisle in our itinerary solely because my brother, then 18 years old, was madly in love with Belinda "Heaven is a Place on Earth" Carlisle and he wanted to buy a postcard with her last name on it and send it to her with a message on the back pointing out that he flew halfway around the world just to buy her this postcard.

He never actually bought the postcard, or sent it, but Carlisle is a beautiful place and we met lots of nice Australians at the youth hostel so it worked out just fine.

The part of the story that amuses my children is that my eternally disorganised brother managed to then miss the bus we were planning to catch from Carlisle to Newcastle. My sister and I caught that bus, spent the day hanging around Newcastle and York, and then headed back to London. We stopped by the flat and asked my parents if they had heard from my brother, and my parents were not impressed.

The part of the story that I am a little proud of is that, well before GPS or mobile phones, and armed with the knowledge that my brother was somewhere in the UK, it took me less than 2 hours to find him.

The part of the story that astonishes me is that my parents let a 16 year old go walking around London at 11pm looking for someone who could have been anywhere.

The part of the story that actually inspired me to sit down and write this post is only vaguely related to any of that. While we were in Carlisle, we spent a few hours at the half ruined castle in the middle of town. Like most castles, it has arrow slits in the walls of the towers.

I've always thought that arrow slits were one of those simple but very intelligent ideas. If you look from the top, the arrow slit and area behind it are basically triangular, meaning that the person standing inside the tower could shoot an arrow in almost any direction, and, at least before cannons were invented, it was basically impossible to shoot back.

My point here is that, whatever else is wrong with living in Australia in 2011, many of us enjoy a standard of living that, a few centuries back, would have been available only to those who could afford to live in a castle, and we have cool stuff like the internet, and something more effective than brandy to numb the pain of having a tooth pulled out.

On top of those benefits, when designing a house, the architect does not need to consider the most effective way to kill people who may one day want to take it.

Even though I grew up wishing I could live in a castle, I have decided that I am much happy in a home without arrow slits.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oh Freedom (Freedom) Freedom (Freedom) Freedom, oh FREEDOOOOOOM

After six years of a job that can only be described as hellbad, I wondered if my last day would be as bizarre, stupid and offensive as all the others.

Well, not quite, but they gave it a fair crack.

The day started innocuously enough. As I was not the only one leaving that day (impressive, with a total staff of 15, yes?)* we had a farewell breakfast, which may have been designed solely to make me get up early one last time, but the food was good. After ordering the most expensive breakfast available, and lots of coffee, I chatted to my colleagues about ice skating and lychees and it was generally pleasant.

My soon to be former boss made a nice little speech about how much my colleague and I would be missed, which was so generic that, around a week later, I cannot recall a single word of it.

I made a nice speech in return, which mostly focused on how awesome my former colleagues are, as this is true, and included the very small number of positive things I could possibly say about my former boss.

They gave me a little farewell gift, which was two bottles of red wine and a decanter, showing that at least they know something about me, and also showing that considering the obscene amount of profits they had made off my hard work, they were still willing to be cheap.

In case you think I'm being unnecessarily critical, they also invited me to the Christmas party after I resigned, and they uninvited me a few weeks later, because apparently its a really small restaurant and fitting an extra person at the table would be impossible.


Then it was back to the office, where the computers did not work for the next three hours. Since I had not been allowed near a client for four weeks and I had spent that time writing policy documents that no-one will ever read, I had absolutely nothing to do until they were fixed.

My colleagues took the opportunity to give me their own going away present. Yep, another two bottles of red wine. I need to throw a dinner party or two soon.

As a further act of hilarity, my colleagues also gave me John Howard's autobiography, which made me laugh very loudly, and a very nice bookmark with a fetching picture of Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan on the front.

Yes, I read a Twilight book once, but I spent almost the entire book yelling "WE ALL KNOW HE'S A VAMPIRE, WHY DO I HAVE TO READ THREE HUNDRED PAGES OF CRYPTIC LITTLE HINTS, AND PLEASE COULD SOMETHING HAPPEN SOON" and so forth.

I like the people I worked with, I really do. They are funny, and I miss them.

My former employer, with his usual subtlety and balance, insisted tha I actually read Howard's biography, as it would convince me that I would have voted for him if I "had half a brain".

Usually, I let such idiotic statements go through to the keeper, but as it was my last day, I took the opportunity to wholeheartedly agree that anyone with half a brain would have voted for John Howard, before noting that, since I have a whole brain, I voted for someone else.

This would have been an excellent "Oh snap" moment, except that I'm pretty sure that my former employer did not understand it.

Oh well.

With the computers finally working, I finished off the largely pointless task that I had been performing for the past four weeks straight, and then it was time for the much anticipated 'exit interview'.

I should point out at this stage that my employer had never conducted an exit interview before. This was a lucky break for everyone who had quit in the past.

It also explained why the interview consisted mostly of my former employer arguing with every nearly every suggestion I made and also complaining that I had not raised these suggestions sooner.

Surely the whole point of an exit interview is to find out stuff that hadn;t been raised sooner. Also, making life hell for anyone who disagrees with you about anything is a management technique which is pretty well guaranteed to ensure that no-one ever suggests doing things differently except in an exit interview.

But the best was yet to come.

You see, if the purpose of an exit interview is to look at ways to improve the organisation, then it is difficult to understand why anyone would think that teh organisation can be improved by attacking the character and integrity of the person who is leaving.

Did this stop my former employer from doing that? No.

I really couldn't be bothered firing back. Really, if they can't understand why I would look for other work after they had threatened to fire me roughly once a fortnight for two months, then no amount of explaining it was going to change anything.

I think they actually expected an apology or something.


Rather unfortunately, mine was not the only exit interview of the day. Having failed to make me cry, they obviously felt the need to try harder with the next candidate, our receptionist/admin assistant who had been with the organisation for four years and had known my former employer for many years before that and had been recruited by my former employer personally.

So, of course, they yelled and swore at her until she left the office in tears, never to return.

A few days later, word got back to me that they had announced that they have decided that they will never conduct exit interviews ever again.

We met up at the pub half an hour later. I have only been punk in drublic* a couple of times in my life but I set out to ensure that this would be one of them. I had selected the pub on the basis that:

1. It was really quite close to the office

2. There was karaoke

3. $10 jugs, $5 basic spirits.

Sadly, many of my colleagues came up with thin excuses for failing to turn up, like a partner's Christmas party or a brother's wedding rehearsal, but enough people turned up to fill a table or two so that was fine.

My recently teary colleague, who is a devout Christian and drinks very little, cheered up rapidly after two vodkas, but had to leave relatively early because she had left her 15 year old son in charge at home and she wanted to get back before he set the place on fire. Most other people, including the friend who had picked me up from home that morning and agreed to drive me home, were gone by 7pm. I ended up hanging around for a while with a former colleague who left several years ago, and her husband who I had never met before.

After several more beers and a bourbon & coke for good measure, the karaoke started. It soon became clear that the three of us were the only ones in the whole pub who had not turned up solely for the purpose of singing.

At least, that's the only thing I can think of that could possibly explain why we were the only ones laughing. Highlights included a middle aged guy singing Pink's "There you go", and a dude who sang, to quote the lyrics on the screen precisely, "She ####### hates me".

I'm not sure that there is much point in typing ####### on the screen if the singer is clearly going to sing the actual lyrics, but good on them for giving it a go.

By 9pm, when we were done laughing until it hurt, my friends headed for home and I realised that I probably should have asked them for a lift. I also realised that I was too smashed to give a taxi driver directions and I was hungry.

After staggering to the nearest fast food outlet and eating a fast food burger for the first time in 10 years, I then came up with the lunatic idea that it wouldn't really take all that long to walk home.

Maybe I should have factored the five bottles of wine and stupidly heavy political autobiography in my bag into the equation.

Still, 95 minutes, a fairly seriously bruised shoulder from the bag, and a stop at 7 Eleven for a donut later, I staggered into my house and the start of a good long holiday.

I woke up the next morning with no hangover and a really, really big grin on my face.

A week or so later, it's still there.

* And another person resigned before she was pushed later the same day

** Best album title in history. Thanks to The Descendants for that one.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shocking to awesome in 3, 2, 1....

Well, at least I didn't promise to update frequently.

There has been little that has seemed worth blogging about since I last wrote. Really, almost the whole year, apart from Grand Final Days, has been the sort of year that should be forgotten as soon as possible.

Sure, my kids are awesome, and I will hopefully write some more about that on the other blog soon, but I have bene miserable all year, and anyone who has had the misfortune to spend any time with me has found that experience to be pretty miserable too. I have basically been avoiding nearly everyone I know, for their sake as well as for mine.

Thos eunable to avoid me, like my wife, have not been enjoying this at all.

I was going to say that I can't remember the last time I was so little fun to be around, but I can. It was early 1999. Basically, I reached the point where I figured that I owed the entire City of Geelong an apology for every having lived there and I promptly quit my job and left town. Amazingly, some of the people I knew back then are still willing to speak to me. I don't know why.

This year has been a combination of dramatically bad times, like the week we spent at the Childrens Hospital after Cherub's appendix burst, and the more mundane, but still damaging, grind of turning up five days a week to work for an employer who seems to have a bizarre need to make doing my job as difficult and unpleasant as possible.

It is therefore a very happy thing to be able to record that Cherub is fine and, apart from a scar that he will probably think is cool when he's a bit older, there have been no lasting effects from his crisis of health.

It s also very, very pleasing to be able to record that after five years and none months of intense misery, this week was the week when I finally, finally got to QUIT THE WORST JOB I HAVE EVER HAD.

It is going to take a while for the sense of relief to really sink in, but when I found out that I was going to get a job offer from a much better organisation, I sat down and literally sobbed with relief. Even writing about it a few days after the event is making me tear up, just a little bit.

I had to work pretty hard to keep the gigantic grin off my face while I was giving notice, and to resist the temptation to laugh hysterically when my boss said he was disappointed that we hadn't been able to work through our differences (those differences being that I think I'm good at my job and he had recently taken to trying a new motivational technique known as "frequent threats to terminate my employment").

I will miss everyone I work with, except my boss, but I will not miss the daily soul destroying grind. I will not miss spending every minute of every day wondering when I will next be told that I am stupid and incompetent, or just being yelled at for having an idea that my boss could not understand and which he therefore assumed must be stupid. And I really, really really will not miss having my compentence, loyalty and integrity questioned with depressing frequency.

I still have to survive what will surely be an interesting notice period, but I will be out of there before Christmas and I will have at least three weeks to simply enjoy my life before I start the next job. The sense of relief and joy will not truly kick in until I am out of there for good, but I have noticed the start of a change already.

Most of all, I have started to feel the first faint glimmers of a barely remembered emotion. I think it's called joy. And I seem to recall that I like it.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2 legit disorganised 2 quit

Okay, so, it's been a year or more and that final post is yet to get written. This is not it.

This probably proves that I am far too busy to blog regularly and yet mysteriously unwilling to quit altogether. So, I now plan to just write something whenever and accept that the few people who used to read this may or may not return but either way I'll at least get the occasional bit of writing done.

The same theory has been working out pretty well over at that other occasionally updated blog of mine so lets see how it goes here.

So, let's start with the family trip to Queensland last July, because I've been thinking of writing about that for a while.

The flight up was pretty good, lunch at some randomly selected steakhouse in Brisbane was odd but pleasant enough, and they had coffee, and the drive to Mount Tambourine would probably have gone better if we had either a map or a GPS, but we figured it out. The brief stop at a very pleasant park with a lake in Oxenbridge was just a bonus, really.

The whole reason for this trip was my grandmother's 90th birthday celebration, which saw almost all of the extended family gather at a dodgy but nice enough conference centre on Mount Tambourine.

It was a fun few days. I captained the winning team in the "Queensland v Rest of the World" cricket match, my cousin and I rocked the family concert night with our version of "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" and I generally spent a lot of time catching up with some pretty awesome people who I am related to but hardly ever see. Bundle and Cherub bonded almost instantly with my cousin's son, who is about the same age as them, and the three of them spend the few days merrily causing trouble.

Next, it was down to the Gold Coast to spend a few days in a truly dodgy alleged resort that proved once and for all that there is a reason why places found on never seem to be full, but which we forgave because it was walking distance to the beach and backed on to Currumbin Sanctuary. After that it was back to Brisbane to spend a couple more days catching up with relatives and discovering that Brisbane actually gets pretty cold in July. Also, for obvious reasons, hardly anyone in Brisbane seems to have central heating.

On our last day in Brisbane, we probably should have been keeping things low key and letting our exhausted children rest, but my grandparents really wanted to take us out for the day and since these opportunities come along almost never, we cheerfully said yes.

The plan was to take the CityCat to Southbank and do whatever. This would have worked better if my grandfather hadn't had some sort of massive allergic reaction to something he ate the night before, meaning he was far too unwell to go anywhere.

Since we had already told the kids where we were going, we went anyway. It was a sunny July day, and we felt warm for the first time since we arrived.

We found a playground shortly after we arrived at Southbank, which was okay but not nearly so exciting as the bungee trampolines set up nearby. After a small amount of very focussed begging, we agreed that the boys could give this a try. Bundle absolutely rocked its and was upside down in mid air in no time. Cherub, having only just turned three, took a little bit longer to get into it but he was soon somersaulting all over the place.

From there, we wandered around, played on the tiny beach, admired the water features, bought the boys an icecream each, spent quite some time trying to get it off their cheeks and noses, and eventually caught the ferry back to our car.

We finally come to the thing I really wanted to write about.

Since my grandfather had been too unwell to come out with us, we dropped in for afternoon tea. After we had eaten and shown the boys the banana trees and chickens, I found myself standing on the back verandah for a few minutes and I realised something.

The last time I had stood on that spot was about 17 years earlier.

This felt deeply strange, because this was the house where I used to spend three or four weeks every summer until I was 19. When I was a kid, my parents, my brother, my two sisters and I would get into my parents' Valiant stationwagon and drive for two days with no airconditioning, stopping at some tiny motel in Dubbo or Gilgandra, all so we could spend a few weeks in Brisbane. This continued through my teenage years. Even after most of my sibs had lost interest, I kept going because I absolutely loved it there.

Eventually, I got involved in some other stuff over summer and the visits dropped off. I went back once, in my mid 20s, because my grandfather (on the other side of the family) had had a heart attack and I knew it was time to say goodbye, but I didn't spend much time visiting anyone else. A few years later, I was back again, this time with my lovely girlfriend/almost fiancee/now wife, because two of her friends were getting married. This time I saw my grandparents, and even dropped in at their church, which is about two blocks from their house, but still didn't visit the house itself.

Then I got married, then there were kids, and suddenly nine years had passed without a single trip to Brisbane.

So, to be back at my grandparent's house after 17 years was a bit strange. It was nice that absolutely nothing had changed (I found a money box in the shape of a globe that I was fascinated by when I was about six still sitting in the room where I used to sleep during our family holidays) but it was also just plain bizarre.

If someone had asked me 17 years earlier whether it would be that long before I would be back, I would have thought that would have been unlikely. I would probably also have thought that my grandmother, who was then 73 years old, and my grandfather, then 71, might not still be living there in 17 years time. Happily I would have been wrong about that.

There is also no way that I would have imagined that when I was next there, I woudl have a wife, two beautiful sons, a mortgage, a steady job that I'd worked in for 5 years. Any prediction I might have made concerning my future would have been absolutely way off.

It's kind of nice to have these moments where we realise that life can be filled with good things that we never expected.

I'll be in Brisbane again next week, although only for 24 hours. I plan to spend at least one of those hours standing on my grandparents' verandah and just enjoying the moment.