Scratched

Thanksgiving 2014

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. It’s a holiday with dubious origins but still celebrated by enough people in New York that a lot of shops are closed and people who work in offices usually take at least two days off work.

My friends Chris and Cathy invited me to their house for Thanksgiving meal. This is the fourth time I’ve spent the holiday in New York and the second time I’ve been over to their house to celebrate. Chris makes a turducken, amazing mac & cheese, sweet potato that he infuses with LSD or something (coconut milk and Sriracha) to make it taste extraordinary, a dirty rice and, this year, potatoes cooked in goose fat. We drink wine and tell stories and plead with the children to play nicely.

I like the idea of the holiday. Taking a moment to think about what is good in one’s life might help put the complaints that hound us daily aside for a while.

I caught a taxi to their house in Brooklyn. Sometimes I enjoy talking to taxi drivers and I’ll usually let them make the first mood. I hate when people talk to me when I’m working but I’ll give them a couple of hints that I’m friendly to let them know the opportunity for a chat is there.

My guy today was originally from Rwanda. He’s been in New York for five years and he loves it here. He said that as long as someone isn’t lazy they can make a living here. He told me this story.

In Rwanda someone might make three dollars a day. Nobody owns a car unless they are super wealthy or in politics. The two often coincide. Most transport is by foot. A few people are lucky enough to have a bicycle. When he arrived in the USA he had never driven a car before.

He worked as a cleaner for a while and then got a job as a bicycle delivery guy. That’s how he learnt all the streets. He couldn’t believe his fortune when he was earning $200 a week.

He shares a place in the Bronx with several other people. So many of them share the house that he only has to pay about $150 per month in rent. They eat together and look at the most economical way to do so. Large sacks of rice and whole chickens bought in "three-fer" specials keep them sustained for a long time. They waste nothing. Everything is used.

When Rwanda was in civil war, he applied for refugee status. This, he told me, with no emotion. It was a matter of fact that Rwanda was a bad place and a terrible place for the poor, which included him.

The emotion came when he started telling me about the refugee camp in Nairobi where he spent 18 months. The conditions were appalling. He said something about going to the toilet and getting then people getting sick and dying. I chose to connect my own dots rather than ask details. The dots weren’t pretty.

In the refugee camp he was forced to wear the same clothes every day. The only time he was provided a change of clothes was when a UN official was due to arrive. Someone taught the refugees songs with synchronised clapping to entertain the UN officials and the camp was cleaned up.

Clean clothes, clean camp and singing refugees: The UN officials never saw the true nature of the camp.

My taxi driver thinks very little of the UN. He yelled and flicked his hand towards the passenger-side window, telling me that Kofi Annan is not a great man and that the Africans who go to the UN do so with little concern for their home but great concern for the guaranteed several years of money and entitlements.

After 18 months he arrived in the USA and was, along with fellow refugees, put into a hotel in Connecticut. There, in the hotel room, were food and beverages for them to enjoy at their will. They didn’t touch them until one of the people in charge asked if they were sick and maybe that’s why they weren’t eating.

The assumption was the food wasn’t for them. Even when told they could eat what they wanted, they disbelieved. When it was made absolutely clear that there would be no retribution for eating the food, joy came into their lives. He said the word "meat" with such delight that it made me slightly embarrassed for how much I take for granted.

When he was working in bicycle delivery, a friend told him that driving a taxi was a much better job. They taught him to drive. He said he couldn’t believe how easy it was. "This was the gas and this was the brake, and you go."

Through that series of events I arrived at Chris and Cathy’s house, aware that it’s important to remember how I got to wherever I am, to make me thankful for what is available to me now.

Piracy and self-delusion

The problem is immense and it’s killing our culture: We take pride in being the highest, per capita, pirates of television in the world; we cringe away from the idea of having to pay for any kind of entertainment; we allow a select few to dictate what we can legally enjoy for free; and we spend almost nothing in finances or effort to improve the quality of the entertainment product we’re producing.

When I say “we” I’m talking, of course, about Australians as a whole.

We are disgusting creatures cheating ourselves out of an identity because we can’t bear the idea of encouraging fellow Australians to do their best—unless it has to do with sport, in which case we better bloody win or we can forget about coming home.

What a bunch of hypocritical fuckwits we are. We’re more willing to shout something down and dismiss it out of hand than encourage it.

We are, in many respects, still a lucky country. Our arts talent quotient is as out of proportion with our population as our sports talent. Film-making and acting are two of our most recognised exports. We look at local talent who have done well overseas and we claim their accolades as our own. But what did we do? All we did to earn that award was create an arts environment in which it was almost impossible to make a living.

Instead of feeling the shame that accompanies having other people point out the value in the treasure we let slip from our hands, we pretend to still own it. That’s just basic fucktardery (look it up).

The problem was created by decades of self-neglect and low self-esteem and it seems insurmountable, but it’s not. It’s just going to take a lot of work and self-awareness.

As long as Australian commercial TV shows are produced to sedate and Australian films are created to tick boxes built by bureaucrats and Australian commercial radio is designed to silence independent thought, we will not be able to rely on those forms to pull us out of this rut.

Those “traditional” media channels are choking on their own monopolies and will quite happily have our culture suffocate beneath their corpses. They don’t care about us.

It was ridiculous to think that we could force them to give us what we needed through piracy. Piracy is a selfish act and we lied to ourselves, saying we were freeing the content and thinking we were getting one up on the media hogs. But we just became arseholes.

Money talks. We always knew it was true. So here’s what I’m going to do with mine: Every week that the Powerball jackpot is high enough that it makes me seriously consider buying a ticket (which is usually $10M or over) I’ll spend that money, instead, on supporting an Australian crowd-funding project or donating it to a local podcast producer or buying tickets for me and a friend to see some independent theatre, or buying locally produced comics. The potential dividends are tiny by comparison but the likelihood of any positive dividend is so much greater.

This is the start. I’m sick of giving rich idiots my money and I’m sick of looking overseas for validation. We have the amazing talent here and we need to support it. We need to be passionate about it. We need to give it valid criticism so that it can improve and we need to give it the resources it needs to try again.

Those resources are things we have: time, money and attention. We just have to change the way we’ve been spending them.

Remembering when U2 sued Negativeland because they hated criticism

It’s supposed to be a tribute to The Clash but just like the tribute to Joey Ramone, it sounds like a tribute to U2.

via The Nightwatchman: I Thought I'd Give That New U2 Album In My itunes Library A Listen..

I used to really like U2 and then I saw a concert that showed they had no sense of humour. I thought the lack of sense of humour might have been something Phil Janou shot and edited for in Rattle and Hum, but no. It turns out they were just a bunch of people believed their own hype.

I still really like BB King.

Also, how funny is Glenn Peters?

Being first

Police found a container of accelerant near the body, as well as a liquid container inside a plastic container.

The accelerant was not believed to be spray paint…

…A cyclist, who would not give his name, said the area was popular for “train surfing” and there had been two other deaths from the practice at the same location. Police would not comment on the possibility of the man being a train surfer or vandal.

via Man's body found in Alma Park, St Kilda near Sandringham line gantry.

The problem with being first with the news is that so often reporting these days is just about being first with no solid information.

When in doubt, always print conjecture from a passing anonymous cyclist.

Understanding one’s mistake

I would have thought in this country of ours that telling a few people where to get off occasionally was not a crime, but the sad thing is to see a once-great newspaper like the Herald buckle to the bullies.

Mike Carlton quoted in ‘Mike Carlton resigns from The Sydney Morning Herald‘.

Here’s the problem, Mike Carlton. Your responsibility is to improve the discourse in the country via the paper you write for. You chose to respond to emails in the way that you did, just like you chose to resign when you were only looking at a suspension (and possibly with pay).

For a journalist and commentator as practised as you to so misunderstand the potential consequences of one’s own actions should be shameful. Of course, that’s assuming you really don’t know what you were doing.

There’s an alternative possibility here. There’s the possibility that you know exactly what you were doing. That you published a purposefully antisemitic piece because you knew it would get coverage. There’s the possibility that you responded in a way that your employer deemed inappropriate because you were looking for an opportunity to become a martyr for some bigoted cause.

The language you used in your comments above imply a conspiracy: an outside force controlling the management and editorial decisions of the paper. That’s what you mean by “bullies”, isn’t it?

Either way you don’t look good. In one scenario you are weak and reactive and in the other you are dedicating yourself as an instrument of evil.

Also, in ‘this country of ours’ we used to tell people where to get off in imaginative plays on the English language. As a man of letters you should relish in that rather than resort to vulgarity. Go and read some of Paul Keating’s hansard entries and get back to me.

Quacks against the Machine

There is so much I love about the following quote. It’s a comment by someone who calls themselves “oztronix”. They posted it on a video of a news article from NTDTV, a New York-based broadcaster trying to get non-censored material into China. The video is about Paul Hogan being held on tax evasion. The comment ends with some misguided call to nocturnal revolution. The person’s own youtube channel is filled with videos of ducklings.

And, the actor who promoted Australia overseas so well get prisoned, AS A THANKS FOR IT ? HAVE YOU NO SHAME ? ATO: SHAME ON YOU, AND YOU ARE THE REAL CRIMINALS ! YOU SHOULD PAY THIS MAN FOR HAVING YOU IN YOUR CHAIRS, AND KEEPING YOUR STUPID JOBS ! (ALL THAT MONEY HE BROUGHT TO AUSTRALIA, IN TOURISM ONLY !!!) HOW CAN YOU ? CRIMINALS ! PAYING TAXES IS VOLUNTARY, by the WAY !!! Trying to make an example of him ? BETTER DON’T TRY ! You own the day – WE OWN THE NIGHT !

The value of human life and words

It doesn’t matter who dies. It doesn’t matter how many. What matters is that their lives – and especially their deaths – can be used in the service of the story they are so desperate to tell.

via MH17, Gaza and the value of human life by Waleed Aly.

Waleed Aly put into words here a more beautiful summary of the major problem of this week. Criticism of others is less about the subject than it is in service of the critic.

Nice feelings

Unlike other podcasts I’ve listened to, Hookturn shows or maybe properties is a better word? seem designed in the sense that they are focussed with any extraneous parts removed. The first Hookturn show, The Nudge isn’t just about design, it’s about "being better designers". That’s a pretty important, and interesting, difference.

from “You should be listening to Hookturn.” in A Blog by Ben Kraal.

Sometimes people just get it, and when they do, it’s a really nice feeling.

Legitimate outrage

In 2012, when Sri Lanka’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN, the Australian government told the Sri Lankan government to eliminate all cases of abuse, torture and mistreatment by police and security forces. Two years later, we are directly returning asylum seekers to those forces.

via “Sri Lanka is a refugee producing country. Here's why” by Emily Howie in theguardian.com.

At the very least, as a country we should not be handing people back to their oppressors. Either as a nation we value human life or we don’t. Either we are willing to help or we are not.

Of course there are nuances. There are ways to help and there are ways to not help.

What the government has done in this situation is the opposite of helping and so much worse than the absence of helping. We know that these people are likely to be harmed and we handed them over into that situation.

Our government has lost site of what it means to be human and to have humanity.

Humanity shouldn’t end at one’s borders (no matter how obscurely you define them, or migration zones or whatever boundaries you put on your country).

You can hear Emily Howie discuss this topic in greater detail on the first episode of Devil’s Avocado: ‘Regugees, Asylum Seekers and Boat People’

It may as well be a picture of me.

He is a fun loving guy really funny and can make anyone laugh.He is very quiet at first and seems shy but when you get to know him you will fall in love.He has very good style and always looks handsome.He also always smells really good :

via Urban Dictionary: josh.

I have nothing else to say.