Tag: australia

Day 974: Punishing The Politicos – Worst Politicians Part 2

Header

Every few years – or sometimes sooner than that – those of us in democratic countries who feel compelled to do so will cast our vote in hopes that it might help to steer our nation from the cesspool in which it is presently mired toward a newer, less feces-laden cesspool. Sometimes we succeed. Also, there are times when we watch the news and wonder how anyone with an IQ greater than a puddle of artificial creamer might have voted for the current putz.

A few months ago I compiled a list of what experts have deemed to be the most egregious smudges upon the office of the Presidency of the United States. I met with no dissent in the comments section, perhaps because everyone agreed with the options presented, or maybe because those crappy presidents have also often evolved to become the most obscure and forgotten presidents.

Despite the fact that much of my reading audience is in America, I’m nevertheless going to present a deeper exploration of the obscure today. There have been garbage leaders all over the western world. Just for fun, let’s see who splatters the bottom of the list in some of the Commonwealth nations.

WilliamMcMahon-1

Sir William “Squinty” McMahon took over the top seat in Australia in 1971, an ugly win which oozed from a period of party infighting and disgruntled squabbling. Right away, McMahon’s opponent on the Labor Side was a well-spoken war hero named Gough Whitlam. Every time the two of them traded barbs it was McMahon who skulked away, shamefully coming up short on wit and rhetoric. Read more…

Day 940: The Fists That Punched The Olympics

Header

The morning of October 15, 1968, just four days of sun-bathed pomp and cheer into Mexico City’s Olympic games, was perfect for a foot race. Australian speedster Peter Norman blasted through his 200-meter quarterfinal race like a sugar addict in the opening throes of a pixie stick; he finished in 20.17 seconds, a new Olympic record. After coming in second in his semifinal, his motor was cackling in high gear for that final sprint, due to take place the following day.

Alas, the wind parted not for Peter in that final round. While he finished with a boast-worthy 20.06 – an Australian record that still stands some forty-six years later – the gold went to American Tommie Smith. Another American, John Carlos, poked his nose past the finish line just 0.04 seconds after Peter, meaning Peter was to find himself sandwiched between a pair of Yanks on the podium. No matter, it was still a day for the books.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos approached Peter after the race, and asked him if he believed in human rights. He did. Then they asked if he believed in God. No doubt feeling a smidge uneasy about this bizarre line of questioning, Peter replied that yes, he did. He’d been raised in a Salvation Army household – a military brat for Jesus, if you will – and his belief in God was as sturdy as any Stenocereus cactus popping out of the Mexican sand. Then the Americans confessed what they planned to do on the podium.

Salute-1

The raised fist was a symbol of Black Power, an emblem of a cultural struggle for basic human equality that at the time was pummeling America from a racist nation into a… a slightly less racist nation. Yes, the Black Power clenched-fist was also thrust in the air by those militant few who exercised their violent tendencies for that cause, but six months had passed since Martin Luther King’s assassination; more than anything, Tommie and John were making a solemn statement for equality. Read more…

Day 935: Ah Yes, But Is There Any Evidence Of Semen?

Header

You can have your John McClanes, your Alex Murphys, your Jimmy McNultys. When it comes to picking out the Hollywood super-cops, we shouldn’t look any further than network television’s procedural potentate: the CSI family of formulaic programming. On the CSI shows, the stars are scientific swamis, investigative prodigies, precocious and apt interrogators, and almost inevitably the gun-bearing heroes who take down the guilty party, usually within 44 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, in the 14 years since Gil Grissom first suited up and embedded CBS’s flag atop the summit of Mount Nielsen Demographic Age 34-55, enrollment in college forensic courses has exploded, while the public’s perceived understanding of crime scene minutiae has ballooned. That’s perceived understanding – if one bases one’s knowledge on what Horatio Caine says or does right before he takes off his sunglasses and elicits Roger Daltrey’s unrestrained shriek, then one is most assuredly not a forensic specialist.

Experts in the fields of law, law enforcement and science call this the CSI Effect, and the reverberations of its repercussions can tingle the spines of professionals all across the justice spectrum. We know more, we expect more, and we understand more, but all stemming from the basis of fiction. If that doesn’t scare you just a little, then you simply aren’t trying hard enough.

PerryMason-1

CSI was not the first dramatization of the justice system to throttle public perception into a bewildered shimmy. Jurors who regularly feasted upon the antics of Perry Mason between 1957 and 1966 often awaited the dramatic confession on the stand; one juror actually admitted to a defense attorney that his jury had voted ‘guilty’ because the prosecution’s key witness hadn’t erupted in a tearful admission of wrong-doing. Read more…

Day 933: The Thin Red Line Of Being An Offensive Jerk

Header

As a writer whose surrounding landscape is the unfiltered cessbucket frontier of the internet, I don’t spend much time worrying about offending my audience. Conversely, as a Canadian awash in synaptic decorum and apologetic genetics (or, apologenetics as we call them here), I feel compelled from the meaty core of my innards to fight the potentially offensive word choices that might trickle untowardly from my fingertips. This is why I don’t refer to my friends as my ‘niggaz’, why I reserve the word ‘Oriental’ to describe an avenue in the game Monopoly and not a collective of people, and why I won’t likely pen a kilograph on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The issue has arisen – both here in this compositional marathon as well as in “real” life – regarding the appropriate label for that group of peoples whose presence in this part of the world predates that of us whiteys. We grew up calling them Indians – a game of Cowboys ‘n Indigenous Peoples doesn’t sound nearly as fun.

It seems as though every few years I am told that the politically appropriate appellation I’ve been using is incorrect. With only 68 remaining opportunities to explore the weird wide world in this project, I think it’s time I put this issue to rest.

OldTimeyMap-1

We all know Chris Columbus plopped his feet down on Antilles soil believing he had found the fast-track to India. His bewildered hosts were dubbed ‘Indians’ as a logical consequence, though it didn’t take long for Chris to figure out his mistake. The misnomer stuck, however. The Caribbean islands were dubbed the West Indies, and every explorer who nudged their hull against the east coast called the locals ‘Indians’. It was easier to adopt and embrace the mistake than come up with a new word, I guess. Read more…

Day 921: The Luddites Rage Against The Machines

Header

You don’t often hear the term ‘Luddite’ in conversation anymore. The word has come to represent one who is resistant to new technologies or despises them altogether. There simply aren’t as many of those people around anymore. While I was spending my youth hunched in front of a luminously green screen, fighting off orcs in Ultima IV or inputting some three-page BASIC program from a magazine, it made sense for my parents’ generation to scoff at such frivolity. Now we’re all getting soaked on the technological flume ride.

Being a Luddite today takes a lot of work. One would have to give up most modern means of communication, sacrifice access to history’s greatest research tool (this website, of course) and deny oneself the most extensive collection of free pornography ever known to humankind. Also, one may need to look up what the hell a Luddite actually is.

Fortunately, due to my commitment to making this site the nexus of all human knowledge (at least on 1000 various topics… well, 999 if you don’t count my final column, in which I’ll be ranting at length about all the people I know who piss me off), I’m here to help. The story of the Luddites combines my two favorite morsels of history: angry, violent people and a grotesque over-reaction by the government.

NedLudd

The Luddites showed up in England in the early 19th century, right around the time Napoleon was collecting the chunks of Europe that his army hadn’t yet destroyed. But their origin story (which may or may not be a piece of fiction) dates back to 1779 when a weaver from Anstey (near Leicester) named Ned Ludd unleashed his rage on a pair of stocking frames, used for industrial knitting. The story goes that he was either being whipped for idleness – a common motivational technique prior to the advent of posters involving group parachuting formations – or else he was being taunted by local youths. Read more…

Day 903: O Transatlantica, Our Home And Native Land

Header

What’s in a name? That which we call a prairie

By any other name would smell as grainy;

So Saskatchewan would, were it not Saskatchewan call’d,

Retain that weird insect surplus which it owes

Without that title.

 

So begins an unimpressively cutesy introduction to today’s discussion about the hallowed names that reach across my nation’s map. I’m aware, of course, that my American readers far outnumber my Canadian loyal, but in all fairness, covering the name origins to fifty states, a district, a country, and untold outlying territories would occupy much more real estate than my thousand words could afford.

And so I patriotically shmush my fingerprints against my keys and delve into the origin stories of my own origin story: Canada. Not her history itself – again, a thousand words only stretches so far across the table – but merely the names of the ten provinces and two territories I had to learn as a kid. There are three territories now, but I’ll happily include my Nunavutian brethren and sistren in today’s little missive.

That said, adhering to the proper essay format I spent the last eight years of my schooling attempting to shatter, we’ll open up big-picture-style: Why the fuck are we called Canada?

Kanata-1

We have been known as ‘Canada’ since right around when the first European boot-heels clomped into the east coast mud in the 16th century and began to establish communities. It originates from Kanata, the Saint-Lawrence Iroquois’ word for ‘village’. Or possibly ‘settlement’. Or maybe it was ‘land’. I’m guessing some Iroquois folks made a sweeping gesture as they said the word and the settlers made their own call regarding the translation. That’s the official legend – however there are other theories out there. Read more…

Day 878: A Dingo Took Your Baby?

EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE WAS CLEANED AT SOURC

I generally avoid topics that have been made into major motion pictures starring Sam Neill and Meryl Streep, since I figure the story is already out there, and told in a much more thorough and entertaining way than I could tell it here. But some stories are too strange to ignore. And in this case, the 1988 film A Cry In The Dark was something of a box office bust, so I’ll assume there’s a ripe audience for this twisted tale.

The story takes place in Australia, a land where every living creature wants to kill you, and most have the ability to do so with ease. Nevertheless, Aussies are a resilient people, and they are often willing to go camping in the frothing throes of this ludicrously blood-lusty ecosystem. Michael and Lindy Chamberlain were two such Aussies.

They took a trip to Uluru, which was then known as Ayers Rock. Along with them were their two sons, Aidan and Reagan, and their 9-week-old daughter, Azaria. It was on the second night of their trip, August 17, 1980, when things went horribly wrong.

Uluru: The great nipple of the Australian Outback.

Uluru: The great nipple of the Australian Outback.

According to Lindy Chamberlain, her young daughter Azaria was taken from the family tent by a dingo. Though their name might suggest a fun-loving, cuddly cartoon creature, the dingo is actually a vicious predator and a major pain in the collective ass for Australian livestock farmers. They’re like wolves, but without the charm. There had been no reported incidents of a dingo scooping a small child from a tent, but it was possible – in fact, Derek Roff, the chief ranger at Ayers Rock, had been warning the government about the increasingly aggressive dingoes in his neighborhood for two years. Read more…

Day 800: 100 Movies, 100 Improvements

Header

Some days it’s not easy to drag my sinewy carcass in front of this computer to punch a thousand words in the throat. Some days it’s easier to drown my brain cells in daytime TV, in mindless games or between the sprocket holes of a good movie.

I’m having one of those days.

As such, rather than invent a kilograph of crisp and colorful original content, I’m instead going to do what all noble half-ass inventors do: I’ll take someone else’s hard work and put a clock in it or something to make it my own.

I thought I might review the top 100 films of all time, according to the IMDb top 250 list (which changes periodically, so it might not match up with my list anymore). But while 100 ten-word reviews would propel me to my daily requirement, it would end up with me writing a bunch of variations on “it rocks!”. No fun.

Instead, I’ll be more productive with my time. Here are my ten-word suggestions on how each of these films could be improved for modern audiences. We all know modern crowds are clearly more discriminating and sophisticated, as evidenced by both of Tyler Perry’s 2013 releases generating more box office revenue than 12 Years A Slave. Clearly we know quality.

100-ASeparation

100. A Separation – More forehead cleavage. Iranian films really chintz out on this.

99. For A Few Dollars More – Mouth CGI so it doesn’t look like rotten dub job.

98. The Third Man – More Orson Welles in the sewer; people love that shit.

97. Some Like It Hot – Tony Curtis had a great rack. What, no full frontal?

96. The Apartment – C.C. Baxter sets up webcam; Mr. Sheldrake becomes online sensation.

95. L.A. Confidential – Explicit DeVito-Bassinger sex scene; people would pay for that.

94. Snatch – More of Dennis Farina calling people “you big, bald fuck.”

93. Rashomon – So damn violent. Make it a comedy. With CGI puppets.

92. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre – No more teasing; let’s see those stinkin’ badges already, dammit.

91. All About Eve – Seatbelts fastened. Let’s see entire bumpy night in a montage. Read more…

Day 798: Macbeth — Umm, Sorry – The Scottish Article

Header

I live in a house with two theatre people. And just as they have learned to live with the eccentricities of a writer (it’s normal to scream obscenities at one’s fingertips, right?), I have come to adapt to the weirdness of their world. For example, during an exhibition of my daughter’s upcoming musical this week, a boy tripped over an expensive prop, hurling it to the ground, while another kid thwacked his head on a metal bar. Yet another accidentally face-butted a piece of scaffolding. Why did all this happen?

The Scottish Play.

We later learned that the director had to furiously scold one of the kids prior to the performance because he’d had the audacity to speak the title of Shakespeare’s Macbeth within the walls of the theatre. Just minutes later, things began to go wrong.

I’m not one to buy into superstitions, any more than I’ll plan my day according to my horoscope or buy a new car only when my tea-leaf reader tells me it’s a good time. But the Macbeth phenomenon is too juicy not to dig into, if only out of ravenous curiosity.

ScottishPlay

Some believe the curse’s origins lie in a stolen cauldron used in the play’s first performance. Another thought is that the dialogue  William Shakespeare concocted for his witches, that the spells they utter are real, and that actual witches were ticked off at this accuracy. In order to believe that you’d first have to believe that the witches of Olde Englande spoke in iambic pentameter, and also that witch curses are a real thing outside of Hogwarts School. It’s said that during the premiere of the play, an actor died when a real dagger was used instead of the prop dagger – the curse’s first victim. Read more…

Day 777: 7

Header

What is your favorite number?

It’s an odd question, if you really stop to think about it. Why have a favorite number? Okay, maybe it’s the number that was splashed across your jersey when you played high school basketball. Perhaps you hit it big with a fortuitous spin of the roulette wheel once. Maybe you met the love of your life on a bus with that number, on the street with that number, at precisely that number o’clock, on that number’s day of the month. If so, please tell me about it; that’s a great story.

Mathematician Alex Bellos is conducting a survey to figure out what’s the most common favorite (or, I suppose, lucky) number. I entered my pick, but found myself torn. While I am a firm believer in the notion of luck, inasmuch as the universe seems to unfold in a fortuitous manner some days, I don’t cling to a specific digit. What would I pick? My daughter was born on the 26th, I met my wife in ’95, my favorite childhood football player wore 33… it all seems so arbitrary and unnecessary.

The current front-runner in Bellos’s survey is seven. This comes as no surprise; with its omnipresent visage in all forms of gambling, from seven-digit lotto games to the most dreaded and praised roll in a game of craps, seven is the smoke-choked caterpillar on life’s giant toadstool. Seven sees all, man.

Religious

Any integer housed in that exclusive neighborhood of Single-Digitsville is going to find itself wrought with significance throughout religious and secular history. But there’s a special pedestal reserved for seven. Not only has this digit turned more fortunes than any other in the hallowed halls of Vegas casinos, but it has found itself firmly entrenched within the spirit of humanity. Why do we love seven so? Maybe because it’s a prime number, mighty and indivisible. Yet seven fits into logic’s keyhole with a crooked and devilish squeak. Read more…