Friday, November 28, 2008


When I arrived home from work last night, the first thing I noticed was the The Flatmate’s Saab was gone. I surmised that the first of The Flatmate’s Scaly Mates (hereafter referred to as TFSM1) had taken it out for a spin. I parked my car, got out, and prepared to go inside.

Problem: TFSM1 had deadlocked the front door.

Which ordinarily is good, since it makes life difficult for burglars. But there was one slight hitch.

Problem: I’d given TFSM1 my house keys.

Not to worry, I thought. He must just be up at the shops or something. So I watered my pot plants and fruit trees… then got out the hedge clippers and trimmed the overgrown plumbago in the side yard… then pulled up some weeds...

Twenty minutes later there was still no sign of TFSM1. But I’d remembered that the catch on The Flatmate’s bedroom window is faulty, and, if I unclipped the flyscreen, I could probably slide the window open and climb in.

Problem: The Flatmate’s bedroom window faces into the back yard, which is only accessible via the house.

Undaunted, I worked out that the lowest point between the front yard and the back yard was the roof of the shed that fits snugly between the side fence and the side of the house. I took off my suit jacket, dropped it into the front seat of my car, then went around into the side yard and clambered up on a stack of old pavers to see if I could haul myself up onto the roof.

Problem: I’m not a tall lithe young person in athletic gear. I’m a short overweight old person in a suit.

What I really needed was a ladder.

Problem: My ladder was inside the house.

Okay, what I really needed was something like a ladder. I went back to the garage to scope around. Old oil containers – no. The wind baffle from The Flatmate’s Saab – no. Tiki Tooka – no. The trolley I use to move heavy objects – aha!

So I wheeled the trolley around to the shed, jammed its platform under the stack of pavers to hold it steady, then climbed up it. It wobbled a lot, but it held. It got me high enough that I could pull myself up onto the roof. I crouched on the rusty iron roof sheets for a moment, to see if they were going to collapse or not, then crabwalked gingerly across to the other end of the roof.

Problem: There’s no ladder or trolley on the ground at the other end of the roof.

Fortunately there was the compost tumbler, and it was just stable enough – barely – to take my weight as I lowered myself off the shed roof.

From there it was a simple matter to unclip the flyscreen, slide open the window and clamber into The Flatmate’s bedroom. Then I trotted through the house to the front door, so that I could unlock it and go get my suit jacket which contained my wallet, my phone and my other keys from the car.

Problem: TFSM1 had deadlocked the front door.

So I said, “To hell with this,” and just made myself a drink. Half an hour later when TFSM1 turned up, claiming to have been lost somewhere in the suburbs of Perth, I had sufficiently recovered from my ordeal to deal with him appropriately. I graciously allowed him to accompany me to the nearest pub and buy me large amounts of beer.

Beer makes everything better.


Just in time for Christmas comes this bewilderingly inappropriate news from Planned Parenthood.

"Looking for an unusual, yet practical gift this holiday season? Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) is now offering gift certificates for services or the recipient's choice of birth control method."

Yes, celebrate the birth of the world’s most iconic baby by preventing the birth of your own. Genius!

“Why not buy a loved one a gift this holiday season that they really need and one that will contribute to their health throughout the year?" asked PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum. “The gift certificates are also a wonderful idea for that person in your life who puts everyone else first…”

With one notable exception.

Then help your Muslim friends celebrate Ramadan with a gift membership to the Bacon of the Month club!

And finally, why not sit down with a nice glass of wine and your best Cogitating Hat, and contemplate why the title banner for a women’s health/birth control/abortion organisation features representatives of the one group least likely to need their services - gay men.

Seriously, help me out here. I've drunk half a bottle of merlot and burnt out my favourite Thinking Fez already.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The Flatmate has persuaded some of his scaly mates from England to come out and visit him. Unfortunately a couple of weeks ago his employers packed him off to a mine site and the aforementioned scaly mates all arrive before he gets back. The first of them got here yesterday, and while he sleeps off his jetlag I’m wracking my brains trying to work out what to do with him. Naturally my greatest priority is to prevent him from learning that I live a dull life punctuated only by Festivals of Bad Cinema, booze and going to church.

So I’m searching for things to do. There must be something interesting to do around here. If we were in Florence we could climb the Duomo. If we were in Geneva we could explore a thousand year old castle. If we were in Melbourne we could go to a cool jazz club.

But we’re not in any of those places. We’re in Perth.

It occurred to me that maybe I’m being unfair to Perth. In a city of 1.5 million people there must be more to do than shop for plasma televisions or get booked for speeding on the freeway. There must be things for tourists to do that we locals simply overlook.

So I consulted the internet, and according to the website, here are the top seven things to do in Perth:

1. Explore the lush gardens and parklands in KINGS PARK whilst enjoying the majestic city and river views

Translation: wander around a park. Gotcha.

2. Visit some of the cities top attractions, like the PERTH MINT, the SWAN BELLS BELLTOWER, the MUSEUM and ART GALLERY

A money factory, a bell tower, a museum and an art gallery. Oh, and a complete inability to tell the difference between the possessive and plural forms. Hooray.

3. Get some retail therapy and GO SHOPPING in the city malls, King Street or at the factory outlet centre HARBOUR TOWN

Translation: buy some crap at the same franchised stores you have in whatever city it is that you’ve come from.

4. Discover the secrets of the city on a GUIDED TOUR or explore in your own time on the free CAT buses

Translation: Go on a bus. Whee.

5. Spend time enjoying the beautiful SWAN RIVER – walk along the banks, hire a bike, join a cruise or for a thrilling ride go jet boating or parasailing!

Translation: Hang out next to, or on, a big featureless body of water. Or throw money at it until it becomes interesting.

6. Venture further afield and explore the trendy OUTER SUBURBS surrounding the City centre

That’s one of the seven top things to do in Perth – visit the suburbs? Sweet merciful crap!

7. Join some friends for a relaxing drink or a delicious meal in one of the many local BARS AND RESTAURANTS

Translation: Drink. Heavily. Hey, it works for the locals.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


If you're interested in my deranged right wing pomposity, go here. If you just want bad movie reviews and tales from my unexceptional life, stay here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The Intercollegiate Studies Institute is a body made up of representatives from over 900 tertiary institutions in the United States. Concerned that the standard of civic literacy in the US population was falling, they created a quiz and took it to two and a half thousand randomly selected people.

The average score for members of the general public was 49%.

The average score for people who self-identified as "elected officials" was 44%.

My score, as a life-long Australian who has never had a Civics class in his life, was 82%.

Hang your hollow, fluffernutter-filled heads in shame, America!

If you'd like to add insult to American injury, you can do the quiz here.

Monday, November 24, 2008


My friend JC is thinking about buying a house, and as he knows I have an interest in such things, he asked for my help. I dutifully went out and within a day or two had found him the perfect house. Which is sort of a problem, since he won’t have his finances together for at least another six months.

Unfortunately when I say “perfect”, I really mean it. It’s a cosy little house from the immediate post war era, within walking distance of his work and the sorts of cafes he likes. It’s charming and friendly and seems to have a sense of “home” soaked into its bricks.

It sits on an angle on a steeply sloping block, creating lots of delightfully odd little spaces in the garden – hidden courtyards and unexpected vistas. The steep slope also means that it has a cellar, which, in a city where most houses are built by slapping a concrete slab on a sand dune then covering it in bricks and roof tiles, is about as unusual as having a portal to Narnia in the spare bedroom.

Inside there are polished wooden floors and art deco plaster cornices, a fireplace and ceiling roses. There are also strange twists in the corridors, breaks in the lines of the floors, steps up and steps down, suggesting a lifetime of different owners adding bits on and taking bits off, each with differing tastes, budgets, home handyman skills and creativity. But rather than look like a mish mash, it looks like the happily ramshackle product of ongoing serendipity.

You have to understand why this is important. Most houses in Perth are specifically designed to have no personality whatsoever. Personality makes property values difficult to calculate, or worse, actually lowers them (pauses to cross self superstitiously – we don’t like to mention such things). If a house does have personality, it has to be the sort that can be quantifiable, by producing the receipts from the landscape designer, the garden lighting contractor, and whoever painted the aubergine feature wall in the master bedroom. We are neither brave nor adventurous people.

Perhaps this explains why this particular house seems a little on the cheap side for its location: its beauty comes from the nuances of its history, not from someone pointing at a page in ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ and saying to their contractor, “I’ll have one of them.”

The only problem with this lovely house is that it sits on a largish block of land in a rapidly gentrifying area, meaning that the open house was crammed with prospective buyers. As I walked around I fixed them with narrow glares. They were all late 20s/early 30s DINKs who, I was fairly certain, were going to molest the place. I tried to work out which ones were imagining how to fit their gargantuan home theatre in the cosy living room, which ones were planning to demolish the creaking verandah and replace it with whatever trendy architectural feature they’d seen on an infotainment show, and which ones were looking to demolish the whole house and build a quartet of tightly-packed townhouses on the land.

After looking around separately for a while, JC and I met up again on the front verandah, where the current owners have deposited some ratty old sofas and hung strings of lights off the rafters. It was such a perfect party space that you could almost hear the sounds of chatting and laughter and music.

“So what do you think?” I asked him.

“I love it,” he said glumly.

And so we left. I can only hope that whoever eventually buys it will show it the fondness and consideration that it deserves.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Anyone who has owned a convertible for a while will know that they are not like normal cars. There are issues you have to deal with which don’t affect other drivers. You become, for example, very attuned to the weather. The habitual convertible owner is a man who can get out of his car, glance quickly at a cloudy sky, and immediately tell whether or not it’s going to rain – bitter experience will have taught him many valuable lessons in meteorology.

There are other, less obvious aspects too. I went out to get into my car last week, and discovered the neighbour’s cat curled up in the driver’s seat. It glared at me, as if to say, “What? You want to drive this car? Can’t you see I’m sleeping?”

I don’t particularly mind the cat being in my car, but it obviously resented my temerity and hasn’t been back. It’s decided that it prefers The Flatmate’s Saab convertible.

Every few days, when I arrive home from work and raise the garage door, I’ll catch a glimpse of the cat leaping from the Saab’s roof and vanishing off into the garden. It seems to have determined that the Saab is some kind of expensive mobile designer cat hammock. It would certainly sit with a standard feline worldview that humans should buy large turbo-charged objects stuffed with electronics solely in order to give cats somewhere to sleep. Perhaps it sees the little Swedish emblem on the car and imagines that The Flatmate got it from IKEA.

The only real problem with the cat taking its daily nap on the roof of the Saab is the unfortunate combination of three factors – the Saab’s roof is made of black fabric, the cat is made of white fluff, and we’re heading into moulting season. Put all these together and its not surprising that the Saab is starting to look like Andy Warhol.

I’m looking forward to next weekend, when The Flatmate gets back from his current three weeks of site work. By that time, his car will have more customised white shagpile than a 70s bachelor pad. Hee hee hee.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My scooter is nearly out of oil, and since I desperately need the exercise I decided to walk down to the car accessories place tonight and pick some up.

It’s a little over half an hour each way. I got down there, bought a couple of bottles of Silkolene fully synthetic two stroke motor oil (the champagne of motor oil, for my Royal Crown Cola of a scooter), then started back. I’d only been walking for five minutes when the heavens abruptly decided that stars and moonlight are so last season, and a thick blanket of rain is what the really happening skies are doing right now.

Great, I thought, sourly. Just great. I’m half an hour away from home, I’m loaded down with shopping, and I’m stuck with a choice between getting soaked in the rain or getting bored standing under a shop awning. Fan-freakin’-tastic.

But then something odd happened. Without warning I felt my resentment suddenly fall away from me (perhaps it was water-soluble?). The rain notwithstanding, it was a pleasant Spring evening. The rain was steady but not pounding down, and there was no hint of a breeze. It was, in short, a lovely night for a walk in the rain.

Once I realised that, I felt more upbeat than I’ve felt in days. When it’s not cold or wind-driven, rain is really rather nice, and I haven’t had a good walk in the rain for at least ten years.

By the time it stopped, nearly half an hour later, I actually missed it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Forum (Day 2)

By the second day of the forum, Roger had given up on me and turned his attentions to a good-looking young mechanic I’ll call Charlie. I felt bad for Charlie, but I suspected that he was spry enough to escape if Roger got out of control.

This meant that I was free to get to know the other members of the forum. The majority of them were pretty normal, both in terms of intelligence and perceptiveness. However I discovered that there were two people who took the average way down, like a couple of krakens dragging a sailing ship to the bottom of the sea.

One woman, let’s call her Doris, frustrated me so much that I literally had to fight down the urge to run out of the room and hurl small items of furniture across the foyer. One of the rules of group discussions was that everyone had to have a say, which seemed fair enough, but when she was asked to respond to a statement she would simply latch onto the first word she understood and make a pronouncement about that, regardless of whether or not it made a blind bit of sense in relation to the original statement.

For example:

Me: I think that drug companies have both rights and responsibilities; they have responsibilities to the community, but they also need a legal framework that allows them to function without constant pestering.

Doris: Drug companies need to respect people’s rights.

Me: Well of course, but the drug company also has rights, just as the members of the community have rights.

Doris: The community need to have their rights protected!

Me: But what about the rights of the pharmaceutical companies?

Doris: Pharmaceutical companies need to be controlled by laws.

Me: (untranscribable sound of frustrated gibbering).

Actually I kept the frustrated gibbering to a minimum. When you’re at a table that’s 80% older ladies, any hint of adversarial behaviour automatically sides them with the weaker party and thus discounts anything you have to say. I had to smile weakly, agree with whatever asinine non sequitur Doris had spouted, and retreat to my happy place, there to imagine the rich, satisfying thud of a hurled office chair bouncing off the foyer wall.

The other woman, let’s call her Hilda, was even worse. If Doris was the dullest tool in the shed, Hilda was the tool that the dog stole from the shed and buried in the back yard, leaving it to become an unrecognizable bar of solid rust that you discover fifteen years later while lifting the dahlias. She could breathe, and eat, and smile at jokes, as long as she could see you smiling, because that’s how she determined that a joke had been made. She perpetually wore the expression that a normal woman might wear in the split second after someone unexpectedly bounces a tennis ball off her forehead: a sort of glazed-over blankness that hasn’t had time to work its way up to being surprise.

Poor Hilda – she seemed to be a nice, obliging, harmless person, but at the forum she was way out her depth. Asking her to share her thoughts on a statement like, say, “Ethics committees tasked with approving genetic research might be open to improper outside influence” was like asking someone else to summarise the owner’s manual for a 1973 Toyota Crown in sonnet form.

When it came time for her to talk, we were all thinking the same thing. Please, Hilda, just speak a sentence that makes sense. Any sentence. You can do it. Just put the words together to form a logical clause. Just a little one.

“I think…”

Everyone leans in.

“I think that genetic researchers need to be …”


… need to be honest…

Yes! Score!

… in the way that they use their ethics to make drugs…

Oh crap, we’re losing her!

… use their ethics to make drugs and not let pharmaceutical companies make drugs, and there need to be laws and rights.

“Er, yes, Hilda, genetic researchers need to be honest,” says the facilitator, grasping desperately at whatever she can get. “That’s an excellent point.”

It would be useful if the organizers could prepare for the next meeting by coming up with a metaphor that will put the complicated issues of biotechnology in terms that Doris and Hilda can understand. I figure that all they need to do is to take ethics committees, biotechnology companies and tissue databases and work out which one is Brad, which one is Angelina, and which one is Jennifer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Forum (Day 1)

A couple of months ago, while I was enjoying my lengthy vacation, I had a phone call from the Health Department asking me if I’d like to be involved in a community consultation forum on the subject of genetic research. It would be over two weekends, it would pay a small consideration, and it would help the Health Department formulate policy on a complicated emerging scientific field.

Lulled by being on holiday for two weeks, and interested in both the topic and the money, I said, “Sure, why not.”

Naturally after I went back to work and plunged into the busiest part of my year, suddenly the idea of spending two entire weekends locked in a conference room attending workshops and watching powerpoint presentations seemed a lot less attractive. But I figured since I’d agreed to do it I’d better keep my word, so I got up early this morning and scooted off to the anonymous modern building where the forum was being held.

There I was introduced to my fellow forum members. One of the first people I met was a septuagenarian whom I’ll call Roger. Roger was very softly spoken, and ballooned in the middle as if he’d swallowed a beach ball at some stage and it had become lodged in his colon. He seemed nice enough when I chatted with him, although I was just the tiniest bit disconcerted that he wouldn’t give me a straight answer about what he did. He said that he was retired, but he avoided saying precisely what he’d retired from.

I didn’t think much of it until a couple of hours later, when he approached me as I made myself a cup of coffee during the morning break.

“Has anyone ever told you,” he asked me, “that you have beautiful skin?”

I must admit that my first reaction, for almost a complete second, was bewilderment. What? No I bloody haven’t! I’ve seen myself in mirrors! I have big pores and my tan is uneven and… er… wait a second…

And then my beautiful skin tried to crawl off me and slither out the door.

Honestly, how do you live more than seven decades without learning that you don’t go around telling people that they have beautiful skin? Man or woman, gay or straight, young or old, single or married, you JUST DON’T SAY IT. Because on at least one level, and probably several more, it’s very, very creepy. We’re talking “sniffing a stranger’s hair on the train” creepy.

So there we were, barely two hours into a four day conference, and already I had to strenuously avoid one person. Maybe I should wear this T-shirt to the next meeting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


In a historic milestone, last night I finally became able to say that I have seen every film ever directed by Coleman Francis.

The fact that he only made three films in his career may make this achievement seem trivial, but only to somebody unfamiliar with Francis’ work. Anyone who knows the heights to which Colemanian cinematic incompetence soared will slump back in their chair, shake their head, stare at the words again to make sure they read it right, and mutter, “Better you than me,” in an awed tone.

Coleman is a revelation to anyone who thinks that bad movies reached their nadir with Roger Corman or Bert I. Gordon. It’s difficult to see how any film maker could be quite this inept. I’m developing a theory that Coleman Francis didn’t actually shoot any footage himself: he just broke into a studio every once in a while, raided the stock footage supply cupboard, then crept into the editing suite and collected up all the scraps of other movies left on the floor. A little sticky tape and some baffling voiceover work, and voila… a movie is created!

The stinkiest, dullest, least coherent movie ever to stalk its way across a cinema screen, true, but a movie nonetheless.

As if recycling the sort of footage that even Ed Wood would reject wasn’t enough, Coleman Francis also utilized the other secret of successful bad movie making: padding, and plenty of it. Last night’s movie, ‘The Beast of Yucca Flats’, is only around 54 minutes long, but even that meager run time was only achieved by dragging every scene out until it was more stretched than Tor Johnson’s underpants. Where another director might show a character arriving at a scene with a tight shot of his car pulling up, Coleman Francis would start filming the car while it was still a ways down the road, and kept filming it as it slowly drove into the scene, found a nice parking space and eventually ground to a halt.

This might be forgivable if he just did it once or twice – we are none of us perfect, after all. But Coleman Francis did it with every single car, in every single scene, again and again and again! Watching ‘The Beast of Yucca Flats’ is like sitting on a folding chair next to the freeway and idly looking around for 54 minutes.

Whether close up…

Or from a distance…

At night…

Or during the day…


Or in pairs…

Coleman never saw a shot of a car approaching that he didn’t like.

But even this gross affront to anyone with eyeballs has its uses. You can play the Coleman Francis Approaching Car Drinking Game.

The rules are very simple; you watch ‘The Beast of Yucca Flats’, and every time you see a shot of a car approaching, you take a drink. If the car is stationary or, on very rare occasions, heading away from the camera, it doesn’t count. Only shots of cars approaching count.

The game ends when you and your viewing buddies are all at the Emergency Department, being treated for alcohol poisoning, about half an hour later. The winner is the person who doesn’t die. Or more accurately, the winner is the person who forgot that the movie was on and spent his time at home instead, reading an improving book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Emawkc has put me onto a nifty little webgadget called the Genderanalyzer. Give it the URL of a blog and it will determine, with reasonable accuracy, the gender of the writer.

More interestingly, though, it will also give a percentage score on its certainty. This is all well and good when it decides that there's an 86% chance that the writer of Marin Guy is male, but its slightly more disconcerting when it ums and ahs and eventually offers 52% odds that the writer of Get on the Blandwagon! is one.

Yes, this is apparently a gender neutral blog. My ovaries and I are so proud.

Presumably with a little judicious posting I can shift those odds either way. It'd be interesting to see what it would say if the percentage were an even 50/50. All I'd need to do would be to game the analysis.

So, um, pink... is it a great colour or what. And feelings: wouldn't we all be so much better off if we talked about them more? I think Oprah said something very insightful about babies yesterday, and also empire line dresses are making a comeback. Let's all eat chocolate and watch Sarah Jessica Parker movies. Mascara. Etsy. Nissan Micra. Scrapbooking. Zac Ephron.

Well, let's see if that worked. I'll just type my URL into the Genderanalyzer...

Nope. Still 52%.

The other option is to try to push it the other way and butch this sucker up.

Ahem... who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Superman? As long as Jessica Alba takes her top off, who cares? I want the latest electronic gadget, and a ute. Beer makes life worth living. Let's have a long, hard-headed discussion about politics, then punch Charles Bronson in the face. I know the best way to reinforce concrete. Football steak computers farts bandsaw tavern porn, and I believe Chuck Norris breathes fire when he's pissed.

And back to the Genderanalyser we go...

Dammit! Still 52%!

Oh well. I can take consolation in the fact that the program is obviously faulty. After all, it determines that Phaedrus over at Digital Retrograde is 94% male, even though his latest posts are all about autumn colours, celebrating an engagement and redecorating the kitchen. Meanwhile Emawkc, who posts frequently on football, politics and being married to a woman, is back here with me in the Neutral Zone on 53%.

There's also the little matter of the Genderanalyzer determining that Zoe Brain is considerably manlier than me. Sweet. Merciful. Crap.

Still, at least I'm not James Lileks: apparently there's a 97% chance that he's a woman. Maybe I'll email him to suggest that we go shopping together and console ourselves with some new shoes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


On Friday night the crowd who attended the Get on the Blandwagon! Blogmeet Dinner reconvened for a second night of food and fun and a conspicuous absense of blogging talk*. Well, that was the plan, anyway. The Blandwagon Reciprocal Blogmeet Dinner was held at the home of An9ie's friend Kim, and although I had high hopes for the evening, I'm forced to tell you that they were cruelly dashed. Never have I attended a dinner party which took my needs and comfort and threw them out the window... without making sure that the window was open first.

For a start, An9ie asked me to bring wine and forbad me from bringing any hobos. Hello? Where do you think I get all my wine, woman? I'm not in the habit of paying outrageous bottle shop prices for something I can wrest out of the hands of a semi-comatose wino! Some of us are on a budget, you know.

Then once I actually got to the party, it just went further downhill. Kim created his menu with a callous disregard for my waistline. He served up individual prawn and mushroom pizzas for entree, then compounded his fiendishness with a tagliatelle with scallops in a cream and lemon sauce, served on a bed of fresh rocket with oven-roasted vegetables. Then for dessert, squid icecream.

Not really, although that would have been the right thing to do. Instead we had to settle for chocolate panna cotta with mixed berries. I for one was outraged - is it too much to ask for a host to choose a seafood theme and then stick with it?

Then I had to endure hour upon hour of hilarious conversation, which is terrible for the digestion. It's also the height of bad manners to require a person to keep up with gales of witty banter, instead of just allowing him to slump into a brain-dead stupor.

And finally, to cap off this total disaster, there was one hopeless lump of a dinner guest at the end of the evening who just wouldn't leave despite numerous hints, mumbling about having too much fun, and being too full of good wine and food, and enjoying too much the frequent lapses of conversational good taste.

Oh, wait a minute. Now I remember. That was me.

Disregard everything I've just said.

* all except TroyG, who was receiving the Nobel Prize for Attempted Chemistry that night and couldn't make it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


From our roving reporters with the PPNS (Picky Pedant News Service), a division of Blandwagon Self-Indulgence Enterprises:

United States elects 44th White Male President in a Row

Washington, DC: As the votes are being tallied across the US today, it has become clear that Senator Barack Obama has won the election, meaning that the Presidency of the United States of America will once again go to a white male. While there have been no reports of violence or unrest, women and minority groups have expressed anger and disappointment at the result.

"I would have thought that after having forty three white men as Commander in Chief, we'd be ready for a woman, or an African-American, or even both," said Shawna Blooth, a spokesperson for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "Instead we get another overprivileged white male. I am so disappointed right now."

While some have claimed that Obama is "black" because his father was a black Kenyan, there is a fractionally better argument that he is "white", as his mother was a white American and he was largely raised by his white grandmother.

"Those who claim that Obama is "black" do so because of racist assumptions," says ethnicity expert Professor Iago Schmaltz of Columbia University. "To categorically state that a man is black merely because one of his parents is black taps into the outdated notion of ethnic taint: any non-white blood prevents a person from being white. In reality it's just as valid to say that President Obama is white as it is to say he's black. If you want to stoop to ethnic labels, technically he'd be 'mixed-race'. Personally I don't like labels: I prefer to judge a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. But that's just me."

When confronted with the news that yet another white man had been elected President, Senator Hillary Clinton, Obama's rival in the Democratic Party nominations, was characteristically direct.

"If I'd won the Democratic nomination, I could have led the party to victory," she fumed. "Then instead of having our 44th white male President, we'd have our 1st female President! What a historic victory for minorities that would be!"

When it was pointed out to Senator Clinton that women slightly outnumber men in the general human population, thus making them a majority rather than a minority, she responded by sticking her fingers in her ears and chanting, "Na na na, I can't hear you!"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The Australian government is planning to implement a system of internet monitoring designed to filter the unsavoury elements from the World Wide Web*. This promises to dramatically slow internet traffic and screw up legitimate searches, while also completely failing to work. But the government is persisting with the program because they made an election promise to do so, in order to win the votes of the sort of people who simper, "Won't somebody please think of the children?" without the appropriate lashings of irony.

Unfortunately politicians have realised that the electorate can easily be distracted from difficult or unpopular issues with feel-good nonsense about children (and the welfare thereof), furry native animals (and the protection thereof), or chocolate thickshakes (and the overconsumption thereof). For a large precentage of the population, soft social issues are of paramount interest and therefore of paramount importance. Unfortunately once this technique has been used a few times people begin to think that the government has the responsibility for such issues, and thus we arrive at a situation in which the government is asked to deal with the very issues that it has the least power to influence. There are plenty of institutions well set up to tell you to stop stuffing your face with Happy Meals, but relatively few in a position to negotiate peace keeping duties with Indonesia. The government needs to be kept on the right jobs.

Cutting back government involvement in soft social issues requires a radical rethink of democracy. The good news is that I have applied myself to the problem for a good half hour and come up with a solution. Behold the simple effectiveness of the new Blandwagon Voting Eligibility Test:

Step 1. All voting rights are revoked, and every voter must reapply for the right.

Step 2. The applicant views a picture of an important public figure, say the Minister for Foreign Affairs, holding a basket of adorable fluffy kittens.

Step 3. The applicant is asked to provide a one sentence response to the picture.

Step 4. If the applicant's response is something along the lines of, "Why is the Minister for Foreign Affairs holding a basket of kittens?", or "Is there some sort of international row involving pet-smuggling?", or even "Who's the guy in the suit with the baby cats?", the applicant receives the right to vote.

If the applicant's response is something along the lines of, "OMG! They are soooo cuuuuuuuuuuuute!!!", or "Look at da cwute widdle fuzzle-pumpkins!", or merely a transcription of some indistinct cooing noise, the applicant is denied the right to vote. Then they are given a good slap upside the head and sent on their way. By way of compensation for their loss of democratic rights, they also receive a free "Don't drive faster than your guardian angel can fly!" bumpersticker.

The agents of democratic revolution in action.

The benefit of this system is that voting falls into the hands of people interested in pertinent issues of leadership and policy, regardless of gender, race, religion or creed, and falls out of the hands of people who gush over kittens. It's also a difficult system to game, since the sort of people who gush over kittens do so as an automatic response, no more under their control than the beating of their hearts or their compulsion to talk gibberish to babies.

No need to thank me, Australia. I live to serve the nation.

*Although once the unsavoury elements of the internet are removed, there's not a lot left except half a dozen things on eBay and