Monday, December 31, 2007

Great philosophical debates presented in the form of food

1. An ontological proposition about the tastiest blancmange

- There is a blancmange that is defined as tastier than all the rest.

- Something that exists is tastier than something that does not exist.

- Therefore, the tastiest blancmange exists.

2. The meeting of Hume and Rousseau

HUME: Strawberries and cream! I put it to you, my dear fellow: you can choose to accept it or not!

ROUSSEAU: Whipped cream?

HUME: No, straight from the cow.

ROUSSEAU: Sacre bleu! I prefer mutton chops!

HUME: Sausages, perhaps?

ROUSSEAU: On these points, a compromise must be found. Potatoes with butter stuffing?

HUME: Pumpkin, I think.

ROUSSEAU: Pumpkin it is then.

3. Nietzsche's complex relationship to sponge cake

The sponge cake is gone. The sponge cake remains gone. And we have eaten it. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has disappeared under our knives: who will wipe this cream off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become sponge cakes simply to appear worthy of it?

However, Kierkegaard later modified Nietzsche's 'we must become as the sponge cake was' theorem to 'we all live in the eternal sponge cake. It is so much more sponge cake than we can ever be. Let us all eat it and rejoice.'

4. A recipe for Plato's Republic

- Take a liberal serving of philosophers.

- Sprinkle lightly with Socratic dialogue, marinate.

- Stew them in their own aphorisms.

- Serve, as philosopher kings, with cheese and a dash of salt.

5. Syllogisms

- Only fools eat snot.
- Heinrich is a fool.
Therefore: Heinrich eats snot.

- Some bananas are green.
- The supermarket frequently stocks yellow bananas.
- Marilyn buys only green bananas.

Therefore: Marilyn does not buy bananas from the supermarket frequently.

- Hedgehogs taste the best when made with Arrowroot biscuit.
- Esmerelda's hedgehogs are not made with Arrowroot biscuit.
Therefore: Esmerelda's hedgehogs do not taste the best.

6. Aphorism

- Those who can, eat; those who can't, nibble.
- Man cannot live his life on bread alone, but with jam things look pretty bright.
- How many creaming sodas must a man pour down before he can go to the toilet?

See also: Thus Ate Zarathustra, by Woody Allen

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pious in the skious

(The other day I managed to get a high-scoring word, 'Theogony', on the board while playing Scrabble-meister Lexicon. I promptly wrote this song, originally with that word 'featuring prominently. Though the meaning didn't quite fit, so I changed it to 'theology'. This is dedicated with gratitude to her.)

(As performed by the Bee Gees)

When omniscience just makes no sense -
When you can't sort out your testaments -
When you're not sure
If you're agnostic
Or just a gnostic...

When you can't relate free will with fate -
When you're parables are terrible -
And the psalms
No longer calm
Is there a first cause...

Book by book
There's a questing down inside of me:
Questioning -
With a doubt that won't let me be -
And I should have known -
I really should be knowing you
Knowing you knowing you
Proving you...

When you can't tell your losses from your prophets -
When you can't tell your angels from your hobbits -
I just can't see
I think I'll take up

When you really need a decent creed -
When you're going blind but you don't mind -
And Paul says, Well
You ain't en route to hell
But just to Damascus...


Saturday, December 29, 2007

By the terrifying power of blog comments, I condemn you to poverty

Check this out.

I made a comment the other day on Tim Worstall's blog about how it's probably not a good idea for five-year old children to be forced into slave labour. The comment is subject to a slight ambiguity, which is why I got challenged by another commenter. After making two short clarifications, I get subjected to a huge blast in which I'm accused of 'moral preening', 'trying to force third-word economies into your Procrustean mold'*, of 'condemning not merely legions of children, but legions of their children to misery and poverty' and making an attempt to 'keep poor people poorer for longer'.

I love the internet.

*Not sure what this means, but how do you do this by making a comment on a blog?

Friday, December 28, 2007

The sorrows of young Pacman

Facebook has an application that lets you play Pacman!

As you probably know, Pacman is a game from the 80s where a little yellow guy (Pacman) gets to go around and around a maze eating little dots and outrunning differently-coloured little goombahs (you lose a life if you touch them). Occasionally, Pacman eats a big dot and all the goombahs turn blue for a short time - whereupon he gets to eat them, too.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't give you the option of playing some of the more modern versions of Pacman. Let me explain...

In this version of Pacman, instead of going around a circle outracing differently-coloured little goombahs, Pacman sits down with the goombahs and attempts to enter negotiations with them. Pacman asks himself the question 'Am I really different from these goombahs?' Pacman tries to discover the root economic and social causes that have led these goombahs to turn to goombah-dom. If he discovers the right economic and social causes, the goombahs all turn blue and Pacman eats them.

In this game, the goombahs form a committee and divide the dots equitably amongst themselves and Pacman. Pacman becomes a citizen of the goombah state subsisting on a meagre diet of one dot per life. The goombahs set the large dots aside as part of their plan to 'redistribute wealth'. Then they eat Pacman.

Pacman blames Saddam Hussein for causing the goombahs and invades Iraq. Then the goombahs eat him.

In this version, the goombahs set up a committee to lobby the government about what they call 'Pacman's excessive consumption of dot resources'. Another committee of goombahs express concerns about the problem of childhood obesity in the Pacman community. Another commitee of goombahs prepares a petition asking for an inquiry into the environmental effects of Pacman's overuse of dot resources. Another group of goombahs bicker amongst themselves over how the natural effects of Pacman's use of dot resources can be minimised.

While they are all arguing amongst themselves Pacman eats a big dot, the goombahs turn blue, and he eats them all. He then becomes anxious about his own excessive over-consumption of goombahs, becomes goombah-bulimic, and checks himself into a public hospital run by a goombah committee, who eat him.

This is the latest version of Pacman. In this version, Pacman goes on a strike until he receives a greater pay ration of dots for the number of blue goombahs that he eats, and the goombahs hold a stop work meeting, arguing that they should be protected from being eaten by Pacman. When the game player replies that this is a stupid game, and that Pacman should just get back to eating dots, both Pacman and the blue goombahs eat the player. Then the game starts again.

NT notes...

On first arriving in Alice Springs

Went to a cafe. Then, at my brother's urging, went to see a film about a dude called 'Mr Magorium' whose principal dramatic function was to have a name that rhymed with 'Wonder Emporium'. Then went to have lunch at a Subway.

The natural sublimity and awesomeness nature of this place is almost overwhelming...

Attack of the Slightly Outdated Murals!

I remember when I was a kid, one year at Balranald Central School they made us all walk two blocks to the town oval and paint a mural on the big water tank there. Another time they made the entire Year 8 art class paint the wall outside the woodwork and technology building, perhaps to add a decorative effect to the gigantic square of concrete that it bordered.

Driving into Alice Springs I was reminded of this - the town was covered with these sort of murals. One random back-street wall had Astroboy and the Powerpuff Girls in prominent positions. Most garishly of all, the Todd River Mall was graced by a gigantic painted mural of an Aboriginal in a loincloth.


EUAN: I need a battery.

LACHLAN: You need a what?

EUAN: I need a watch battery.

LACHLAN: A watch badger? What is a watch badger?

TIM: A badger who watches. Just like a watch dog.

LACHLAN: Oh yeah, obviously. I dunno. Is there any place in Alice Springs that sells badgers? Tim, you have watch badgers in Melbourne, don't you?

TIM: Oh yes. I have given birth to badgers.

LACHLAN: We'll get some badgers after lunch. At the local badgery.

Random observation

If on Christmas Day you decide to go playing frisbee in the pool, don't be too surprised if the dogs join you. Also, they may just be better than you at catching the frisbee.

From henceforth, I shall be known as Tim 'Bested By A Dog' Train.

Holiday conversation

LACHLAN: Would you like another beer?

TIM: Errrrrr....

LACHLAN: I'll take that as a yes.

(For time of conversation, please insert the words 'Christmas Eve', 'Christmas Morning before breakfast', 'Christmas morning during breakfast', 'Anytime during Christmas day', 'Christmas evening', or any combination thereof.)

Local observations

- There seem to be a hell of a lot of places up north that are, quite literally, holes. Seriously. They all have names like 'Gap' and 'Gorge' and 'Chasm', and there's even, simply, 'Ellery's Big Hole'. My mother has a photograph of herself by 'Helen's Gap', and on Boxing Day, we all went on an excursion to 'Emily Gap' and 'Jessie Gap', basically a hole between two hills. My father at one point made the stunning observation about Emily Gap that 'these rocks are probably metamorphic'. Having performed the rather unimpressive feat of climbing one of the hills at this Gap, I can find nothing to contradict his observation.

- Large indigenous population in Alice Springs. Lots are sitting around on town corners and the like, but there's one place that I noticed about thirty or so indigenous people sitting around. The name? 'Aboriginal Employment Centre'.

- Ever the model of adaptability and thrift, the Alice Springs police station, on renovating their building, simply set up shop outside with a single police van and fold up card table. They work hard, those police force, all right!

- When I asked my brother a bit about the local alcohol laws since the much-touted Federal Government intervention, he explained that many of the indigenous population went outside the border of the town to drink (there's a law against drinking in public places). Alcohol was also banned in Aboriginal communities, for some reason. (I'm guessing because some are based around community housing, and hence designated as 'public place').

Favourite northern linguistic innovation

Wallaby = Wobbly

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seen on the noticeboard of the Alice Springs IGA



Me: Can I buy those in bulk? Do you get many orders at Christmas?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Craption contest two!

I'm going up to Alice Springs for a couple of days over Christmas. I'm telling here not just because misery loves company, but also to let you know I'll probably be offline for a couple of days.

In the meantime, maybe we'll have another craption contest. Here's a couple of pictures of a local yokel who lives around here. Can you think of an uninteresting and uninspiring caption to go with each of them? Cheers everyone, and merry Christmas!

Atheist Christmas carols

Away in according to certain popularly held myths a manger

Away in according to certain popularly held myths a manager
No crib for a bed,
The little according to a number of outdated superstitions regarding the existence of supernatural authorities Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The cattle are lowing,
The baby awakes -
The little according to a number of outdated superstitions regarding the existence of supernatural authorities Lord Jesus,
No sound does he make.

No joy to the world!

No joy to the world!
The Lord hasn't come!
Earth won't receive her king!
Let every heart not prepare him room!
And heaven and nature not sing!
And heaven and nature not sing!
And heaven, and heaven and nature not sing!

Silent night, normal night

Silent night, normal night
All is (relatively) calm, all is (as far as can humanly be expected), quiet:
Round yon non-virginal person, mother and child
Ordinary non-holy infant, so tender and mild:
Sleep in unheavenly pea-eace!
Sleep in unheavenly peace.

Hark the herald hallucinations sing

Hark the herald hallucinations sing
Glory to our newborn King non-democratically elected dictator.
Peace on earth and mercy mild:
God Heavenly entity who doesn't exist and human reconciled.

O come all ye faithless

O come all ye faithless
Joyless and triumphless:
Come all ye, o come to see
Christ (who isn't) the Lord!
Come all ye faithless,
Joyless and triumphless:
O come let us not adore him -
O come let us not adore him -
O come let us not adore him -
Christ (who isn't) the Lord!

We wish you a merry pagan festival

We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas,
We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas,
We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas,
And a happy new year!

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas
And a happy new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just ask the hat

A Pithy Helmet.

The Hencyclopaedia Britannica.

Mumble Pie.

Babbage's Indifference Engine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Addicted to quitting

"I tried to stop!" cries John H. "I really did! But how can I give up giving up? It's just too confusing!"

John H. has a problem: he is addicted. Addicted to quitting cigarettes!

Addiction to quitting is a problem of increasing concern in Australia today. Everyday, millions of people like John H. give up cigarettes, often not for the first time. Before they know it, they quit cigarettes again and again and again, sending themselves into a spiral of quitting. They find themselves unable to admit to their addiction to quitting their addiction, and as a result are unable to quit their addiction to quitting for good.
"I tried to quit on Tuesday" says Rebecca. "Then I took it up again on the weekend, and had to quit all over again on the Monday morning. The stress was really ruining me!"

"My fellow workers were all scowling at me when I went outside to light up," says Leanne. "So I decided to quit. It took me weeks of pain and repeated attempts to give up cigarettes before I realised the reason all my fellow workers hated me was - they were trying to quit as well! It was ridiculous!"
Now, help is at hand. The 'Don't Quit' line is open for business, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's there to help smokers not give up just because of 'peer group pressure' and 'social influences' which cause them to put so much strain on themselves and others. It reminds smokers of the feeling of calm satisfaction and pleasure they get when they light up, and of the simple benefits of camaraderie and sociability that smoking gives them. The 'Don't Quit' line currently has a 60 per cent success rate in getting quitters to quit their quitting and reaffirm their commitment to their addiction. But they can go even better! So why don't you call the 'Don't Quit' line today?



A seasonable song

O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!
They're green in summer, winter drear
Because they're made of polymer!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me!
Your bark is toxic styrofoam!
And marked 'keep out of reach of children in your home'!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A piece of the distraction

I was reading this post on Dot and Mars about how Mars almost had an epiphany. Which is to say, she had a series of random thoughts about unrelated matters that almost led up to a deep and profound discovery about the nature of life, but then got distracted and didn't make the discovery after all.

Now, I have to say, that out of all the things that don't happen in the world, an almost epiphany is one of the nicest. Why, there must have been times in all of our lives when we've thought a series of random thoughts that almost led up to a profound discovery but then we got distracted and didn't. Almost epiphanies come in all shapes and forms: there is the revelation that you didn't quite have about String Theory and quantum physics on the evening after dinner last week, and the sublime insight into the nature of God that you were distracted from having today at work. Sometimes you might be idly pondering cows, and your pondering might cause you to almost-but-not-quite solve Fermat's Last Theorem. At other times, you might be contendedly meditating on sausages, a meditation which will all of a sudden just fail to give you a stunning insight into Freud's theory of the subconscious.

Interestingly, there's no telling what sort of form your almost epiphany will take. Your random thoughts about Fermat's Last Theorem might just as well lead to an almost-but-not-quite epiphany about cows as the other way around, for instance. And a series of unrelated thoughts about an abstruse chess problem, frogs and puddings might suddenly lead you to almost make a curious discovery about a complicated origami design, or even stunning thoughts about grass. It all really depends on just how you choose to get distracted at the time. Which, paradoxically, you can't.*

The nicest thing of all about almost epiphanies is that it doesn't matter who you are - you'll have them anyway. Ethical philosophers may be paid to philosophise ethically, but that niggling almost epiphany about black cats is just one thought away. And theoretical particle physicists may fulfill a vital need by laying out the laws of the universe, but even they can't help stumbling on not-quite profound thoughts about lemonade.

I'll see you all later. I'm off to have a disconnected series of thoughts about orange shoes that may or may not reveal to me the secrets of existence.

*If you find yourself getting distracted by this distraction business, just remember what Douglas Adams said about flying: all you have to do is fall to the ground and miss it. Or, alternatively, don't.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Self-defeating ideas

Ku Klux Klan Diversity Sub-committee

Sending Braille messages by telegram

Surgical decapitation

Elevators on top floors

Having a dwarf president to look up to

The Individualists' Society*

Peace negotiations between dog-kind and cat-hood

Sunglasses for evening wear

Turning up early for a Prevaricators Party

God, the atheist

Vegetarian cannibals

*But not The Individualist's Society.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bark, the feral angels sing

So, Christmas carols, then. I like them as much as the next weirdo, but what do they actually mean? The bloody things are full of paradoxes: 'Hark the herald angels sing' is all well and good, but are we meant to hark to what the herald angels are singing, or are the herald angels just singing hark for the hell of it? And just what is all this harking business, anyway? It sounds like an onomatopeaic rendering of a common bodily function. Again, it's easy enough to understand what 'Fa la la la la la la la la' means (even if you don't agree with it), but how does one 'troll the ancient yuletide carol'?

Some carols are so full of 'Joy' and 'Merry' and what-not that you actually feel slightly ill after listening to the words. You'd think that only a chronic optimist could come up with the words of 'Merry Christmas':

We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year.

Enough with the merry! It's basically like the 'Happy happy joy joy song' gone bad, but it gets worse:

Good tidings we bring
To you and our king...

Those good tidings being -

We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year!

Clearly, we are dealing with a monomaniac of some intensity. This psychopathology, as disturbing as it is, pales in insignificance when it is compared to the mother-of-all stalker songs, 'The 12 days of Christmas', when the obsessive - tagged with the somewhat ironic soubriquet of 'My true love' - sends to his victim, in quick succession:

A partridge in a pear tree
Two turtle doves
Three French hens
Four calling birds
Five gold rings.

Not to be outdone with five gold rings, he follows this up with -

Six geese a-laying
Seven swans a-swimming

And then, hoisting caution to the wind, concludes with

Eight maids a-milking
(Presumably with complementary cows, as the maids have to be milking something)
Nine ladies dancing
Ten lords a-leaping
Eleven pipers piping
Twelve drummers drumming.

Though, from the words of the song, it's not entirely clear whether he is content with sending her one partridge, two turtle doves (etc) for the whole period of the twelve days of Christmas, or whether he sends her one partidge on the first day, one on the second day, two turtle doves on the second day, two on the third day (etc, and the same for all the other gifts - which would, in the end, number in the hundreds). Either way, he's clearly insane, and hopefully the police have got him now.

Personally, I like to steer clear of the later Christmas carols, where Santa Claus, that bearded old loon with a beard and a 'list' that he's 'checking twice' to see whether you've been 'naughty or nice'. What the hell is he, the hallway monitor? Anyway, he's not the only one with a list.

So, reader, what's your favourite Christmas carol - or, to put it another way, your least unfavourite? Mine is possibly 'I Saw Three Ships' or 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blood, sweat and tears - with bonus kid!

For no reason at all, a random kid just ran through my workplace shouting 'Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!' in a repetitive and flat tone of voice.

What an intelligent child. Some day, if I stick with this job and work very hard, I might become like that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An unemergency of some urgency

Headline seen yesterday:

No emergency declared on K_______ _____

(The story concerned bushfires in an area of Australia, and the decision by fire authorities not to declare a state of emergency.)

One's heart goes out to all those media agencies out there: this imminent lack of disaster would have been particularly disastrous for them. However, it's heartening that in the unfolding non-emergency they rallied together to write this headline. As this terrible uncrisis continues over the days and weeks to come, it will remain a test of their skill and stamina to deal with the situation. With a little luck and ingenuity, not to mention a few deftly-worded headlines, however, it could be that they will turn the complete absence of catastrophe into merely a moderate absence of catastrophe, thereby transforming a tragically happy state of events into a happily tragic state of events.

Even though the media community is undoubtedly reeling from this horrifyingly moderate lack of emergency, I have every confidence that they will be able to get back to wonderfully bad stories and gloriously gloomy outlooks in no time at all.

Bertie Wooster on human sacrifice

Bertie Wooster steps up to the podium and orates:

Hallo, old beans and sausages. My old pal Auberon 'Ruggles' Rafferty asked me to stand in his place here for the sake of old Balliol, and all that, while he settlesa few, ah, business transactions. He may be away for a while - and I don't mind saying, just between you and me, that he's in a spot of bother.

So now you've got me, Bertie Wooster. I'll be presenting the lecture today on - now let me see, where are those paper - AH! - no - no - here it is - "Hum-an Sacri... HUMAN SACRIFICE!" Gor blimey! Er, that is to say, in the words of the poet, YAWP! I never knew that Ruggles went into this sort of business!

Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying, human sacrifice is an old English tradition - so old that it goes back to at least the time of that blighter - what's his name? - yes, Nelson, that's right. If not before.

It's not an easy thing to do, as a chappie, go up to another chappie, shake their hands and look them in the eye, and say, "Look here, old bean. We're going to have to take you down to the sacrificial temple and take your life, for the sake of the Celtic Twilight or the Great Saxon Breed, or some such tommyrot." So why did our primitive Irish ancestors do it? Eh, don't ask me. I'm not an expert. Anyway, one imagines such laudable sentiments as Love of Country or Commitment to Progress would have had something to do with it. Also, that Irish poteen is something else, what? But the answer to the question is, fundamentally, lost in the histories of mystery. Er, that is to say, lost in the mysteries of hist. I mean, the hists of time... oh, dash it all!

And now, we come to one of my favourite parts of the lecture. Every time I give a lecture (and this is the first time) I look forward to this part: the practical! Now, do I have any volunteers from the audience to be a human sacrifice? How about you, young Blandish? No? Anyone else want to offer their blood upon this sacred podium as a meet sacrifice for the pagan Gods? So, see what I mean? Practically nobody wants to do it. Which I'd say is a pretty good demonstration of how much we've moved on since then.

You have to wonder how these chappies did it. Well, being ancients, they would have run one another through with lances or donged one another over the head with hauberks, or some such. Maces might have had something to do with it, or swords coming into contact with jugular veins. Maybe consult your local GP about it. There would have been a bit of blood and what-not, but the blighters that performed these sacrifical duties were hard, flint-eyed types who would later turn into the sorts of chaps that are bookies at the races, or those whey-faced semi-criminal types at the Internal Revenue Service. So the blood wouldn't have bothered them a bit.

Human sacrifice was inapplicably linked - eh? - inextricably linked, I should say, with the history of Celtic Britain. So once they had performed a sacrifice for the week and caught the blood in a golden cup or whatever, they'd go down to the Irish club and play a bagpipe and tell rousing tales about Cuchulain and read poems by Yeats until the cows came home. (Though some of them were already there.)

However, nowadays, human sacrifice is as rare as bagpipes at your local Vicarage Musical Evening, and a good deal less popular, though I prefer the cinema myself. And a jolly good thing, too. Except for, of course, the occasional throwbacks, such as my Aunt Agatha who eats broken glass and likes to sacrifice a servant each morn before tea.

And that is all about human sacrifice you bally-well ever need know.

NEXT WEEK: Bertie Wooster orates on the Tropic of Cancer, and the summer resort town of Ebola!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A belated report on hearing Germaine Greer lecture on the previous week

How pleasant to know Ms Greer!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think her ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think her pleasant enough!

Her mind is concrete and fastidious,
Her output admired, and prolific,
Some critics have called her 'invidious';
But to fans she is 'Simply t'riffic!'

She has written on Female Eunuchs,
And fusty old 18th-century tomes,
And pro-crocodilian polemics,
And a number of Enlightenment poems.

She has lectured on the novels of Austen
To all her Australian peers;
And her fans as one all declare
'How pleasant to know Ms Greer!'

Employment pages

Non-Sequitary (PT)

The Coburg Non-Sequitarial Agency is currently accepting applications for the position of Non-Sequitary for a leading media company. You must be strongly qualified in typing, filing, computers, banking, accounts, taking meeting minutes, shorthand, and isn't that a nice tie being worn by Mr Jones today? I don't think Mr Jones has worn a tie like that before, do you think Mrs Jones bought it for him?

Call Sidney at the Non-Sequitarial Agency to discuss the job, other opportunities available in the world of non-sequitarial employment, training options, and isn't it nice weather we're having today?

Deceptionist (FT)

Front desk position. Duties including lying to the boss about the staff; lying to the staff about the boss; lying to clients about what the company sells; lying to the company about what clients are interested in; lying to the management about the staff, the boss, what the clients are interested in, and what the company sells; lying to the staff, boss, clients, and company about the profits the management aren't making; lying about the weather, lying about the news, lying about elephants, and lying about lying.

Our motto is that dishonesty and hypocrisy are the foundation of all modern business, and we must all stand by this!

Call Ms Maud Jenkins at Deceptions International now! 1800 ORISIT?

Quantum Mechanical Engineer (FT)

To become the head of the Postmodern Construction Agency, specialising in buildings that suddenly appear out of nowhere, offices that vanish just as suddenly (perfect for businesses who suddenly find that the tax office is just a little too interested in them), trains that get to the destination instantly (so long as you don't worry about how fast they're going), and train stations that don't exist (perfect for the budget-conscious Department of Transport, though a little troublesome for the passengers).

Very Personal Assistant (PT)

To assist the manager in the regular, day to day process of filing, meetings, meeting minutes, corporate lunches, management of corporate affairs, management of extra-marital affairs, management of clothes, underwear, baths, medical appointments, family disappointments, and bedroom. Looking for the right job applicant, with a view of upgrading the position to...

Too Personal Assistant (FT)

Duties include assisting manager with divorce proceedings, calling incessantly several times a day, leaving spiteful messages on his phone, possessing intimate photographs of the manager, assisting manager in protracted and spiteful court case, typing, and photocopying.

God (PT)

Your duties will include existing in an omniscient manner, smiting, blighting, and supervising the company collection of Plagues and Locusts.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Not a winner of the ARIAs

Christmas is i-cumen in!
Lude sing 'O No!'
Big fat men in big fat suits
Wheeze and whine 'Ho ho!'
Sing 'O No!'
(Lude sing 'O No')
Sing 'O No!'
(Lude sing 'O No')

- Medieval Australian Carol

Monday, December 03, 2007

The ancient lost art of telephonics

Previously, I've been the recipient of letters to people no longer at this address, letters sent to my parents address, phone calls to wrong numbers, and phone calls to the right number from phone survey workers. But I don't know if I've ever, before, got a phone call to the wrong number, been the wrong person to speak to and become, by default, the right person.

Or, to put it another way...


TIM: Hello?

MAN: (In an official and business-like tone of voice) Hello, can I speak to Mr I. R. please?

TIM: No.

MAN: All right. I'm A_ from AAMI Car Insurance. How's it going?

TIM: Good.

MAN: Do you know when Mr I. R. will be back?

TIM: No.

MAN: Is there a good time to call Mr I. R. back?

TIM: No.

MAN: Is there another number I can call Mr I. R. on?

TIM: No.

MAN: Is Mr I. R. in the house?

TIM: No.

MAN: Are you Mr I. R.?

TIM: (Laughs) No.

MAN: Well, we have another number on which we can call him on.

TIM: Okay.

MAN: Thanks for all your help, Mr I. R.

TIM: Goodbye.

I suppose I could have really been a bit more helpful there, but Idon't think there's really any reason to beat myself up about. The guy just stuck to his script and I didn't see any reason to say anything else. As for Mr I. R., I wouldn't be surprise if he's very glad indeed not to be hearing from AAMI Car Insurance.

So I guess being negative can be a positive after all!

Suggested names for Satanist children















Sunday, December 02, 2007

A curmudgeonly film review

I went and saw the film The Jane Austen Book Club the other day. It's not a very good or a very interesting film, but it's different from all the other not very good or interesting films out, and that's the most you can hope for nowadays.

As the title suggests, the plot is about a group of people who get together to read Jane Austen. That's pretty much it, apart from the usual litany of couplings and uncouplings that you get in this sort of romantic comedy: Allegra who breaks up with one girlfriend and gets together with another; Prudi, who is thinking of having an affair with one of her students, but doesn't; Sylvia, whose husband breaks up with her, and then gets back together with her; and Jocelyn, whose deep moral insight by the end of the film consists in her learning that people are just as important as dogs.

The film has layers, but you could say the same thing about the styrofoam cake in the window of my local cake shop.

Occasionally, while all this sort-of plot is going on, ambient not-quite music wafts around in the background like a soundtrack that has escaped from a Woody Allen movie and doesn't know what to do with itself. The characters read tracts out of Jane Austen and exclaim in an enlightened fashion about how it relates to their life, and, zombie-like, develop an insatiable urge to bring in other friends into the club.

If sado-masochists enjoy non-spanking sex, then I enjoyed this film. Two non-committal stars out of five.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My entry for the 2008 Foot In Mouth award

A few days ago, Tim (the other Tim) was having a bit of a go at the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, noting that it was "ironic that the organisers of an ironic writing award can't seem to recognise ironic writing."

Well, yep. This sent me googling to find that other bad writing award site, the "Foot in Mouth" award by the Plain English Campaign. In previous years, they have presented awards to various daffy film stars, and Donald Rumsfeld, for his remarkably stupid "Known Unknowns" speech. Fair enough, then - but I was more than a bit baffled by their selection of this quote from Boris Johnson, on a news quiz program on the BBC:

I could not fail to disagree with you less.

That's bad, but is it really remarkably bad? It sounds like a Boris attempted a witticism but it went wrong: repeating yourself for rhetorical effect often works, but it's just a pity that in this case, the repetition became a triple (or is it quadruple?) negative.

"I could not fail to disagree with you less." The more I think about that statement, it really is something that I could not succeed to disagree with more. Or perhaps it is something that I
could not fail to disagree with more? It's certainly something that I could never be robustly and wholeheartedly non-supportive of, and I must say that I can not fail to sympathise with the argument less, although some of my ideological opponents may take issue with me there.

It barely even matters what Johnson is agreeing (or, to put it more accurately, failing to disagree less) with. As a matter of fact, in these times when there is so much division between left and right, I could only wish that people would fail to disagree with one another in a friendly fashion more often. At the very least, they could agree to disagree with one another less, or perhaps even agree more to not fail to disagree less (whichever comes first).

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is a failure to not fail to disagree with one another less that is the principle failure of modern times. In other words, it is not so much a failure to communicate as an unfailure to not communicate less with one another.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real failure.

PS - Please feel free to disagree with me less in comments. Or at least fail to do so.
Email: timhtrain - at -

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