Sunday, February 28, 2010

Caroline Overington, Barnaby Joyce, debt and a poetic paean of praise to the joys of debt and love ...

(Above: Caroline Overington).

It being a quiet day on the pond - a sex-free Sunday in Lent, Tony Abbott style - it seemed worthwhile taking a look back over the hits and meaningless memories of the past week.

How about Barnaby Joyce in The Australian offering up Labor has partied hard but now we face the debt hangover?

With his talk of net debt gross, public and private, and colourful apocalyptic warnings about grasping the nettle, stating the bleeding obvious, five beers at breakfast, a bottle of scotch with your wheaties, eclectic economic trinkets, cars doing hot laps on a Friday night in downtown Dubbo, the biggest flop since the Leyland P76, putting ceiling insulation under R for res ipsa loquitur, fiscal bouquets, sticking things to the wall with a piece of Blu-Tack, and other rural homilies and insights, the lad from Danglemah, out Tamworth way, was in fine fettle. Frisky as a foal in the top paddock, and after the canter, his coat flecked with honest rural sweat, snorting and making as much sense as a paid up member of the Lyndon LaRouche gang on the subject of debt.

And doesn't once again remind you of how much we've lost since they stopped teaching Latin! Discover more about Res ipsa loquitur here, and become a Latin legal egg head like Barnaby.

It was so incoherent that Michael Stutchbury, economics editor for The Australian, felt the need to offer a commentary in Chinese can fund our boom, in which Stutchbury dissed Barnabynomics, but then held it up as a shining example of how talking blather is a sure way to cut through in the regions. I guess talk of a day of reckoning is no more than we regularly get on a Sunday, with talk of the impending rapture, and it surely makes economics more fun than a dismal science.

Stutchbury does his best to shore up Barnabynomics, despite the Reserve Bank trying to pour oil on the troubled waters, even calling on Ross Garnaut to help out, but there's no way around it. If you've lost a few sheep in the back paddock, there's no way you're going to end up the sharpest knife in the drawer.

And then there's Tony Abbott talking of the worst administrative disaster in recent federal history, as if the amazing follies of the Australian Wheat Board shovelling money down the throat of Saddam Hussein's regime can now be quietly forgotten. What a hoot. Well I guess the $39.5 million settlement of the class action is a hell of a lot less than the alleged $290 million plus the AWB handed over to Saddam between 1999 and 2003 (here).

I'm sure we all fondly remember all the mortified, unhappy, apologetic Howard government ministers resigning, falling on their sword, accepting responsibility, and bending over backwards to apologise for a government instrumentality providing such haven and comfort to such a well known deviser of weapons of mass destruction and supporter of terrorists, so brazen and hideous it took a righteous war to stop him.

Indeed, it revives fond memories of Caroline Overington's Kickback: Inside the Australian Wheat Board Scandal.

Which sadly brings us to the real business of the day. Overington has already won a Crikey Wankley for her epic work, but it surely deserves to be celebrated and sung across the Pacific, as Homer's tales of Achilles and Agamemnon and Odysseus and Penelope and Telemachus once echoed around the Mediterranean.

Overington is Greg's poet laureate is the Crikey citation for honourable scribbling, but for the real juice of the goose, for the fully resplendent weirdness, you have to head off to On the hunt for a Liberal dose of love.

Using the excuse that Imre Salusinszky penned passionate words and a poem about Penny Wong - a Google search for the exact words by Salusinszky quoted by Overington draws a blank - Overington proceeds to deliver up a poem to Greg Hunt. Perhaps Salusinsky had a change of heart? Never mind, Overington's opus is freely available:

I've lost my heart to Greg Hunt
You know him, he's the Liberals' runt
I mean that in the nicest way
He's the little one (no, not him; he's gay)
You know Greg Hunt, he rides a bike
But will he let me feel his Newspoll spike?
Here he comes now, cycling free
(Let's speak not of his brother, Mike.)
Here he comes now, cycling free
Did you know he had a dicky knee?

Greg Hunt, won't you take a punt?
Don't foil-insulate yourself from me
Greg Hunt, won't you take a punt?
Forgive me, yes, I know I'm blunt
With your little hands and your pretty voice
Don't resist -- it's a cupid stunt.
With your little hands and your pretty voice
It makes me think of words like hoist
It's true, your leader won't
(But Tony never was pro-choice.)
It's true, your leader won't
(Those Catholic rules, they just won't move)
But it's his hair shirt, and his cilice
(Greg, best we avoid the Louvre.)

After basking in that of skittish clever word play, full of high conceits and clever rhymes, words utterly fail me.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night
... (here if you want to Howl).

You know, there are moments in life which we all dread. Getting pissed at the office Xmas party and doing silly things must surely score a mention in many lists. Sniffing seats would rate strongly for WA politicians.

Writing love letters to people who turn into ex-girl or boyfriends, who then hoist them on a petard for all to see, is also social death, though at least it's the ex being the prick, rather than the wide eyed innocent who penned the words of yearning and love.

But what prompted Overington to be such a right royal git and fool, doing the sort of thing you might do as a fifteen year old in a bid to attract the attention of a boy in class, only to blush bright red when he does actually pay attention?

Did she think no one would notice? It's true there are no comments - perhaps they had to moderate all the abusive ones out, leaving nil to go up, or perhaps they just disabled the comment button - but this wretched folly is now cached, and available in digital form forever on the full to overflowing intertubes.

Why am I reminded of C. J. Dennis's The Sentimental Bloke, available in full here?

The world 'as got me snouted jist a treat;
Crool Forchin's dirty left 'as smote me soul;
An' all them joys o' life I 'eld so sweet
Is up the pole.
Fer, as the poit sez, me 'eart 'as got
The pip wiv yearnin' fer -- I dunno wot.

I'm crook; me name is Mud; I've done me dash;
Me flamin' spirit's got the flamin' 'ump!
I'm longin' to let loose on somethin' rash....
Aw, I'm a chump!
I know it; but this blimed ole Springtime craze
Fair outs me, on these dilly, silly days.

The young green leaves is shootin' on the trees,
The air is like a long, cool swig o' beer,
The bonzer smell o' flow'rs is on the breeze
An 'ere's me, 'ere,
Jist mooching around like some pore, barmy coot,
Of 'ope, an' joy, an' forchin destichoot.

Of course, of course. I'm reminded just how much alike Overington's and Dennis's skills as poets are as one, the pore, barmy coots.

Poor Greg Hunt, and him married, and with a daughter and a son, and now a subject of Overington's poetical skills. As a result, poor Barnaby Joyce is left trailing in the dust, as we must agree that Overington can now be dubbed, Keith Olbermann style, the worst poet in the world, nee hall of shamer.

At least until tomorrow, and someone else seeks to establish The Australian as the home of a Homeric pantheon of poets ...

Or you Think. Again.

(Below: and let's not hope there's a ding dong row as the course of love hits troubled waters).

Piers Akerman, Stephen Conroy, a little lonely hearts de Brito and doing the hard yards in Lent ...

(Above: call that a fitting substitute for Piers Akerman. You won't find a hot link in that screen cap, and for a good reason!)

Dedicated bird watchers will be alarmed to discover that there seems to be no Piers Akerman column this Sunday.

It's a rough equivalent to Easter without hot cross buns or a chocolate egg or a pagan bunny. Or a Christmas pudding without threepenny bits and a dash of rum.

Sure, there might be an Akerman in the hard copy tree killer editions available in local news agencies, but for dedicated digital digerati, half the fun is in reading Akker Dakker's frenzied followers joining in the chorus, like Mahler's thousand voices, and seeing the fat owl of the remove deliver mighty blows at the odd dissidents who dare bob up their heads for a game of 'whack the mole', as he thrashes those deluded lefties and Labor party stooges.

All that's left on the front page online at the moment is a splash for Kate de Brito's advice column, which is splendidly silly, in the style of advice columns since time began, but which is simply not Akker Dakker. About the only good reading that kind of column can do is to remind readers of the existence of Nathanael West's splendid Miss Lonelyhearts, and send them off to read, or re-read its cheerful cynicism (and luckily the always handy Project Gutenberg has a digital copy of the work here). Here's how it opens:

The Miss Lonelyhearts of The New York Post-Dispatch (Are-you-in-trouble? --Do-you-need-advice?--Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. On it a prayer had been printed by Shrike, the feature editor.

"Soul of Miss L, glorify me.
Body of Miss L, nourish me
Blood of Miss L, intoxicate me.
Tears of Miss L, wash me.
Oh good Miss L, excuse my plea,
And hide me in your heart,
And defend me from mine enemies.
Help me, Miss L, help me, help me.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen."

Although the deadline was less than a quarter of an hour away, he was still working on his leader. He had gone as far as: "Life is worth while, for it is full of dreams and peace, gentleness and ecstasy, and faith that burns like a clear white flame on a grim dark altar." But he found it impossible to continue. The letters were no longer funny. He could not go on finding the same joke funny thirty times a day for months on end. And on most days he received more than thirty letters, all of them alike, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife.

On his desk were piled those he had received this morning. He started through them again, searching for some clue to a sincere answer.

Perhaps you could flick between West's excoriating vision, and Kate de Brito's columns for added excruciating pleasure. This day she dispenses wisdom to a woman who is just so over helping her sister, and her three kids and husband, an 18 year old attached to an idiot boy friend, a woman eight weeks into a man with an ambivalent attitude to commitment, a hapless geek who's struck out with five girls, and a monogamous soul who gets dangerous flirty fisher text messages, and wonders if it's a kind of adultery of the heart.

By the time you've finished this exercise, you should be ready for West's The Day of the Locust, also available on Project Gutenberg here. Even Harold Bloom puts it in his list of canonical works! Say no more.

But sob, truth to tell this is all a facade, a distraction, because who am I kidding, Nathanael West simply isn't Akker Dakker.

There's nothing for it. Dedicated bird watchers will simply have to ignore West, and make do with Akker Dakker's greatest hits and memories, and what better starting point than Malicious bullets fired by the global warmists' guns, in which he explains how mis-quoting someone can in fact be accurate in an evocative 'sort of the same' way. Perhaps followed by the prescient Why Conroy, not Garrett, is the Rudd government's problem, in which he manages to explain why Stephen Conroy is a serious problem for Chairman Rudd without once mentioning Conroy's great big new internet filter.

Perhaps Akker Dakker has been sent off to boot camp to re-learn the basics in the art of quotation-making (if someone sort of said something like it, then that's certainly sort of good enough), or perhaps the merchandisers of the Sunday Telegraph have deemed him only fit for the hard copy tree killer edition, so that dedicated followers must fork out hard cash to read him. But that won't fly, that would be like heading off to Madame Lash's dungeon to pay for a flogging when you should be able to get a flogging at home for free.

One only needs so much newspaper to line the cocky cage, and put under the lino on the floor (what's that you say, no one's used lino since 1970? Oh dear, how the world turns).

Well, there's nothing for it, but to shuffle quietly on, past Akker Dakker, in a pond now mournful and grey, and perhaps contemplate Stephen Conroy, especially as Peter Garrett has now been reduced to playing in a smaller sand box, now simply given the job of ruining his arts portfolio.

Jack Campbell, in New Matilda, also asks, in Akker Dakker style, Why Wasn't Conroy In The Hot Seat?

In what can only be considered a mean spirited rebuttal of Akker Dakker, while attempting to imitate him and steal his thunder, Campbell manages to be more comprehensive in his condemnation:

To those scandalous decisions (Mike Kaiser's appointment to the NBN, skiing with Kerry Stokes) add $30 million wasted on the tender process for Labor’s $4.7 billion national broadband network; rising discontent both in the Labor Party and in the broader community over Conroy’s mandatory internet filter; a register of member’s interests that showed Conroy accepted gifts and invitations from all and sundry (signed Chelsea shirt, anyone? Grand Final tickets?); and a $43 billion national broadband network that has not been subject to so much as a cost-benefit analysis (and as the draft NBN legislation released this week shows, is designed to cripple Telstra).

The minister should be skating on thin ice

Indeed. And instead it's Garrett who's had some of his toys taken away.

Never mind, Conroy remains an object of derision and scorn for some, and quite recently there was a tremendous flapping and flurry of excitement as the geeks discovered that even the cloud searching functionality of Senator Conroy's very own website was censored:

In the script that generates the cloud, there is a line that says basically if the seach term is "ISP Filtering" to skip and go onto the next.

In the time I was on the site, there were about 16 instances of "ISP Filtering" in the cloud, and only about 5 instances of E-Health, though ISP Filtering did not show in the cloud....

Anyway just a funny, and some food for thought! :)

If you're interested in arcana, you can trot off to whirlpool, here, where the irony of a minister dedicated to nation wide filtering is not above the job of filtering his own little part of the pond is relished, with links to The Age's Opposition grows to internet filter, while self-dscribed Gen-Y geek Ben Grubb felt the urge to spread the irony further in Conroy censors own site?

Sadly these barbs will do nothing to penetrate the armour-plated hide of Conroy, though Campbell does get to the heart of Conroy's head kicker modus operandi:

The Victorian senator is the embodiment of that Labor caricature, the factional warlord. He is not close to Rudd, but he brings votes to any caucus leadership shootout. This perhaps explains his ability to dodge a bullet inside the party.

Campbell then wonders why Conroy hasn't been targeted by the Liberals. Could it have something to do with Tony Abbott's own preferences on the matter of intertubes filtering?

Never mind, none of it has much meaning or relish or pleasure without the frisson of reading Akker Dakker. Who else would call Conroy Passionfingers in print, and hint that he might be shovelling something like shit, and yet not once mention the great big filter? It's that kind of penetrating obfuscation that makes Akker Dakker essential reading.

Ah well, I'm reminded by my Catholic calendar that today is the second Sunday of Lent, and just like Tony Abbott, we have to go without sex. Even if it is one of the world's greatest pleasures, though never if done with contraception, unless you think dodging the bullet rhythm method style counts as contraception.

But do we have to go without Akker Dakker? Oh the lord, or the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, have mercy on our pitiful souls. Still, let's end on a cheerful note:

The more we have denied ourselves during the day, the nearer we are each evening to the heart of our Lord.

-- St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

Amen, and to that we can only add West's apocalyptic vision:

Through the center, winding from left to right, was a long hill street and down it, spilling into the middle foreground, came the mob carrying baseball bats and torches. For the faces of its members, he was using the innumerable sketches he had made of the people who come to California to die; the cultists of all sorts, economic as well as religious, the wave, airplane, funeral and preview watchers--all those poor devils who can only be stirred by the promise of
miracles and then only to violence. A super "Dr. Know-All Pierce-All" had made the necessary promise and they were marching behind his banner in a great united front of screwballs and screw-boxes to purify the land. No longer bored, they sang and danced joyously in the red light of the flames.

And now perhaps it's time for savage women to display savage brutality to a man. Any man! Anywhere! Starve us of Akker Dakker, will they? Put us on a drip feed of hits and memories? Like hell ...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ruth Ostrow, vampires, dragons, Armageddon, and a sorbet of wog bashing from Miranda the Devine ...

(Above: the source of incalculable evil in the community?)

It's not often that we stray into the darker, more remote parts of the pond, but this thought was so compelling, so graphic, that we wanted to clap hands with joy at finding it:

We are foolish to overlook evil. Our myths are our truth, the devil is potentially in the nextdoor neighbour who might be raping his daughter and grandkids. Let vampires remain full of bastardry and let us continue to fear them and understand those darker forces within ourselves as a species, rather than castrate their power in naïveté and malignant optimism.

Indeed. Cardinal Pell? The Jensenist heresy at work? Or some wacky, zany fundamentalist Christian who sees evil all around, as the dark forces come on to them like Sauron in Lord of the Rings?

Actually it's Ruth Ostrow, and she's mad as hell, and has opened a window and shouted to the world that she's just not prepared to take it anymore, this softening up of vampires.

Yes, it's you Twilight, it's all your fault, but frankly the rot started as long ago as the deplorable Munsters, which started in the nineteen sixties, not to mention The Addams Family, though to be fair, surely Bewitched, which began in 1964, must shoulder a lot of the blame for the normalisation of witchcraft within women and society at large. Dear lord, each time I look at a woman, I can see them trying on a beguiling wiggle of the nose while patting a black cat, as if it's somehow cute and a normal way of suburban life!

As a result, such has been the decline in standards that poor old Nicole Kidman thought it okay to star in a remake and to marry Tom Cruise.

Ostrow isn't having any of that sitcom chuckle a minute at the silliness of the sixties nonsense. In Evil is all around us, she wants vampires, and the world, to harden the fuck up:

What the hell has happened to vampires lately?

I turned on the TV the other night to see yet another group of happy monsters sitting around a table in London, very hip 20-somethings, like the Brady Bunch of vampires from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series where the lead character, Edward, lives with his animal-eterian family: nice Mr and Mrs Vampire and their lovely (if blood-challenged) kids. They are do-gooders trying to fight against their base natures, and of course they're winning the war.

Oh right on. That's why I had to ban Sesame Street from the house in the old days, because that damn Count von Count kept on trying to soften the image of vampires by banging on about the concept of counting ... when really he was trying to peddle the notion that a cobweb-infested castle filled with bats named Grisha and Misha and the cat Fatatita is some kind of normal lifestyle. Not to mention the maniacal laughter, and the thunder and lightning and the hypnotic powers. But they stopped all that in the seventies, for fear that younger viewers might become frightened, and turned him into a friendlier Count. Case closed!

Now where else can we find fiendish examples of this kind of sanitisation at work?

The sanitisation of evil in society is not new. As Sydney's Mythic Creatures exhibition shows, there are many examples of the sweetening-up of the dark monsters of our psyche. Dragons were once evil and their slayers heroes; now Hollywood has made them downright cuddly, doing endless good to assist humans. The Kappa, a vile water creature who would devour Japanese children, has since adopted a rather benign and helpful persona to the point that little kids are now playing with Kappa furry toys. The succubus, a beautiful female demon who drained men in their sleep so they could not impregnate their wives, has morphed into a benign she-devil who may also assist in the deposit of sperm, thus helping the little buggers do their job.

Oh no, not even the succubus. Is nothing sacred? Damn you, damn you, Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, running until 23rd May 2010, damn you all to hell.

What possible excuse do you have for upsetting Ruth Ostrow in this way, and don't try to get out of it by saying the exhibition was organised by the American Museum of Natural History. We know that Americans also organise Halloween, surely the most outrageous softening of evil to be found anywhere in the civilised world, and a constant source of anxiety for true believers.

In fact, you're guilty as charged, and by the words right out of your own exhibition mouth:

Today these creatures, from the powerful dragon to the soaring phoenix, continue to thrill, terrify, entertain and inspire us. We seem to catch glimpses of these creatures all around us: hiding beneath the ocean waves, running silently through the forest and soaring among the clouds. Some symbolise danger. Others, we think, can bring us luck or joy. Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind's greatest hopes, fears and dreams.

Luck and joy? Hopes and fears and dreams? Oh come on, good dragons? What next? Nice kind blue creatures who love trees and go dragon riding? Outrageous. Sheesh, no way that deserves an Oscar up against a decent war movie.

Surely what we need in this situation is a complete mis-reading of Hannah Arendt's notion of the banality of evil, and thankfully Ostrow is on hand to provide it:

And all is good with the world. Even though some bad vampires exist, the good ones will fi x 'em up. Sound familiar? But there's a serious problem with negating the existence of evil, or rather - as German political theorist Hannah Arendt described it - the sheer "banality of evil" existing in normal life, being that everyday people have throughout history been conditioned by inhumane social norms.

Yep, somehow we can breach Godwin's Law, by conflating Nazis in suits going about the workaday business of organising the Holocaust with the taming of dragons and vampires. Is it any wonder that Ron Rosenbaum called the phrase 'the banality of evil':

the most overused, misused, abused pseudo-intellectual phrase in our language.

Arendt was of course arguing that great evils weren't done by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people doing what they thought was right and proper, solving technical problems involving the processing of bodies and such like.

Diddly squat to do with vampires or dragons, but curiously often involving the concept of Satan, who is curiously not mentioned by Ostrow by name. Never mind, if you want pan theistic fear, Ostrow is available to conflate myth and reality:

By sanitising our underbellies and the true capacity for cruelty in each of us - as underpinned by myths such as the werewolf and other half-man, half-beast creatures of the sky, earth and sea - we immunise ourselves from, for instance, the possibility that the smooth-looking president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may well be capable of launching a nuclear weapon that will begin Armageddon.

Oh god, does that mean that as a result of liking Wolverine and the other mutants in X-Men, we're all doomed to Armageddon? I mean, there's logic, and then there's the leap from the werewolf to Ahmadinejad, which made me begin to fear my sanity. Could the notion of evil and the true capacity for cruelty just be the result of the excessive outpouring of nuttiness from the likes of Ostrow?

As if to answer that question, Miranda the Devine turns up to remind us that evil is all around us in The warning that we ignored, wherein she manages to indulge in her most spiteful, malicious, vengeful, petty, inflammatory, redneck racist pastime, by explaining that all Sydney's problems are due to "the poorly managed immigration in the disproportionate number of problems that have emerged from some Lebanese families who arrived in 1977 and integrated poorly into south-west Sydney". And that Malcolm Fraser is to blame.

There's a lot more, and a couple of exculpatory pars at the end designed to soften the blow, wherein the Devine nauseatingly rabbits on about an inclusive multicultural society, and working together to reject ideologies that promote violence, and working to reduce disadvantage, real or perceived grievances, and encouraging full participation in Australia's economic and social life. And even a note that "home-grown terrorism is as much a threat to the vast majority of law-abiding Australian Muslims as anyone else".

But she's much more at home at wog bashing, with a verbal baseball bat, so that the pious cant about efforts to "suppress the facts" being counterproductive and ultimately leading to distrust and disharmony is just specious Hansonism at its worst. Since I can't imagine a column more designed to introduce distrust and disharmony, and from someone who regularly likes to bash all religions, from Muslim through Christian to Calathumpian, that takes some imagining ...

Why it's almost up there with Ruth Ostrow and the banality of the evil of nice vampires and cuddly dragons and cute dinosaurs ...

Who are these loons and how do they get a regular gig writing tosh for tree-killing newspapers?

(Below: fun flying dragons? You've got to be kidding. Stone them, stone them, or at least deny them best picture Oscar! Or else nuclear armageddon will be on us, and it'll all be James Cameron's fault. Or have you already forgotten Miranda the Devine's Hit by the leftie sledgehammer?)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Miranda Devine, Tony Abbott, Chairman Rudd, and the bogong moth reigns supreme ...

(Above: eek, more bogong moths here).

I'm getting worried.

Well I'm always worried, if not alert and alarmed, or perhaps profoundly disturbed. That's the way it is, when you keep reading commentariat columnists. The sky is always falling down, the world is always falling apart. It's a regular W. B. Yeats fest:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. (the rest

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The punch line for Yeats was of course a beast:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

For Miranda the Devine, it's bogong moths, which always slouch towards Canberra, and that's why I'm worried.

The Devine has been increasing her output this week - driven on by some demonic editor - and in the process she seems to have set aside her sense of rage and impending doom.

As a result, in It was a week for bodgie batts, busy bees and bogong moths, it's almost like she goes through the moves by rote, begging for Friday to finish and end the scribbling week.

Sure she slags off a surreal, hair-shirted, mea culpa delivering, busy bee Chairman Rudd, but she's traumatised by the notion that somehow the Chairman managed to end the week feeling rather happy with himself, for not scalping the hirsute Peter Garrett, for spending even more taxpayers' money on the dodgy batts scam, and for the manna from heaven of the matter of Mossad and three Australian passports.

She can't even bring herself to mention Abbott's inept attempt to make hay out of the passport matter, which gave the stolid Stephen Smith a free kick:

"The last time I looked, Leader of the Opposition, in 2003 you were a minister in a previous government, a member of the executive which oversaw the issuing of that passport," the Foreign Minister told parliament. (here).

This kind of feeble pub pong is strategically inept, and suggests Abbott is still following the Bob Ellis line - ask a thousand women for a fuck, and if one agrees, it's win win. Abbott's corollary is that if you fling a thousand pats of mud, and one sticks, it's a palpable hit.

Poor Miranda sounds at the end of her tether, as her warrior prince struggles:

By question time, Rudd had found his lost mojo, having made it to the end of the sitting week relatively unscathed, despite Abbott's valiant efforts.

Oh dear, can she sense the impending doom of another term of Chairman Rudd, with perhaps Julia Gillard her best hope to end the reign of the Mandarin monster?

Look how he smirks and chuckles in his infuriating geek way:

Rudd was pleased enough to laugh at Treasurer Wayne Swan's attempt at diversionary humour in question time. Swan declared that shadow treasurer Joe Hockey had been the ''champion bogong moth eater'' at St Aloysius College.

Oh dear, the humanity, the humanity. And the cruelty. And the fiends have recovered enough to make bogong jokes.

The ''erratic behaviour of the opposition'' was down to the fact that Hockey had ''been eating too many bogong moths,'' Swan said.

Boom boom.

Oh the suffering Devine. Worse still, there's evidence that the jokes about bogongs are a socialist conspiracy inspired by the loony leftists at the ABC:

The Speaker ordered the smirking Treasurer to sit down, on the grounds that bogong moths had no place in economic debate.

Hockey didn't see the humour either, explaining last night that the story was a ''complete fiction'', spread by his fellow St Aloysius alumnus, ABC radio host Adam Spencer, who might himself, be a secret moth muncher.

Eek! Adam Spencer. You can sometimes see him roaming around Marrickville Metro, scaring little old ladies and me, when he's not stripping down for an ice bath in Martin Place:

Dear lord? Is that man a radio announcer on ABC's 702? Long gone the days of wearing a tuxedo to read the news! No wonder society is falling apart, and the centre isn't holding.

As for secret bogong muncher? No, he's public, like a pagan druid in an orgy at Stonehenge. He was in the thick of it when the ABC that organised a public moth eating feast, with chef Jean-Paul Bruneteau whipping up some tasty crunchy popcorn moths and foisting them on an unsuspecting public (here).

Yes, an attempt at mass poisoning in the name of celebrating Australia's wildlife!

Remarkably, the Devine didn't make the connection to the ABC conspiracy, and to latte sipping chardonnay swilling inner west dwelling conspirators most recent plan to take over the world. A bogong moth led recovery.

Hockey declared, for the record, he had never eaten a single bogong moth.

Proving that jolly Joe is no gourmet, has no sense of humour, no sense of fun, and no desire to experiment. Except when it comes to dress ups. Proving that you can take the boy out of the chorus line, but you can't take the chorus line out of the boy.

As a bogong moth lover from way back, the least I can do is stand up for the culinary treat they present to the world.

* A generous handful of moths
* 1 cup plain flour
* 1 cup self-raising flour
* 1 cup powdered milk
* 1/4 teaspoon raising agent
* water

Using a mortar and pestle (or near equivalent) pound up the moths with the powdered milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Add sufficient water to make a stiff dough and shape into a ball. Flatten the ball to a height of 2.5 centimetres, lightly flour the surface and cook in ash, camp oven, or domestic oven until cooked through. Serve hot.

Oh yes, just one note of caution - watch out for the arsenic they carry these days. Meanwhile, back to the Devine:

It was a long week in Canberra.

Sigh. Oh the poor thing.

A long week, and the Devine forced to scribble on like a relentless writing machine, without any splenetic fury and rage, and Abbott sometimes aspiring to be Mark Latham, and the baleful Rudd still boring everyone to bits. Is this what it's like to be trapped huis clos with Jean-Paul Sartre?

It's almost possible to feel sorry for the Devine sometimes, but not to worry. Tomorrow is always another day, and surely once she's regained her strength, lycra clad lout cyclists and greenies and vile ABC lovers and Chairman Rudd will feel her lash, and there will be no mercy, no pity.

Onward ride the commentariat columnists to bring us news that the liberals are bringing about the end of the world as we know it. Remember, hell isn't other people, hell is liberal bogong moth munchers...

Sophie Mirabella, and an outpouring of grief at hollow immitations ...

Call me old-fashioned, but I have a horror of people exposing their attitude to spelling online. In this pale ethereal hollow unnerving and upsetting digital shadow world where we sit entranced like automatons in a cave, watching the shades dance, in this tragic immitation of life, disaster is just a keystroke, or a finger slip away.

And let they who are without a flaw or an error, a bug or a need for a fix, a frag in need of a defrag, cast the first stone.

Call me old fashioned, but I'm appalled at the thought of spell checkers, vile computer devices that attempt to save the world from error, but end up treating us as just another error-laden device.

Call me old fashioned, but I simply can't stand all these people who expose themselves and their deepest emotional thoughts on a blog. Why it's almost as bad as the insidious world of Facebook, an outrageous and perverted idea and business model which has stripped so much value from Chairman Rupert's MySpace world.

Which is why I'm so sympathetic to Sophie Mirabella, torn between technophobia and technophilia and a love of blackberries, and not just in jam, and a deep ambivalence and uneasiness about Facebook, as outlined in Online tributes a hollow immitation of genuine grief:

It’s just that I am not entirely convinced that the addition of a Facebook page will enhance either my work or personal lives. And the thing is, in this job, the two are often inextricably linked. MPs are public figures - albeit very minor ones. And - after sharing weekends, evenings and most waking hours with either my local constituents, my parliamentary colleagues, Industry groups and stakeholders within my shadow portfolio responsibilities - I’d kinda like to keep a little bit of me just for my nearest and dearest.

Ah the modesty. A very minor public figure, forced to scribble for The Punch for free, forced to blog in this pale immitation of life and to reveal way too much, and then to be torn apart in the virtual world by public exposure of deep feelings best saved for nearest and dearest.

Call me old fashioned (and I’m sure many of you will) but I prefer to share my personal trials, triumphs and trivia with those I am closest to, rather than the-acquaintance-of-an-acquaintance who I met once at a function and who has now requested to be my “friend”.

Yes, I know I can so “no”, but I can’t quite work out the etiquette in that regard. Besides, it goes very much against the conditioning of many years spent handshaking and networking real-time with real people, which comes with this job.

Call me old fashioned, but you know I just can't say "no" to needy online bludgers, flamers, and serial pests.

So it follows that my Facebook page is more work than personal. Please “become my friend” if you want to read the transcript of my latest interview!

Call me old fashioned, but I understand Sophie's logic here. I really do. You see, accustomed as she is to doing it all the time in real-time with real people, the addition of inverted commas around "become my friend" makes everything okay, because it's clear she's not inviting anyone to be a real friend, but just an online digital 1 and 0 "friend", like the rabbit in Donnie Darko. While at the same time advertising the transcript of her latest interview. Because she's a politician. In need of "friends".

Her natural shyness and modesty prevents her from providing a link to her page, but here it is, and lordy, she has Tony Abbott as a "friend". But the catch is, you have to be a Facebook member to get access to her deeper thoughts. Which is how the pyramid scheme works, the virus spreads, the Tupperware keeps getting sold.

So I had to pass on the opportunity. Sure I have a Facebook page, but I set it up so long ago I've forgotten the password and I don't have a single friend. Sob, not one single friend. Though it's great to see the real Dorothy Parker's Facebook page doing so well here, while the Dorothy Parker Society also has a page here.

All harmless fun, but I do worry about this fixation with dead people, and so does Sophie, who is filled, like a tree near a beaver colony, or an adjective near a set of inverted commas, with a gnawing "uneasiness":

And I guess it also follows that I’m experiencing a gnawing “uneasiness” at some of the things we’ve witnessed recently – sisters finding out about the death of their brother on Facebook, tribute pages to two slain children being subject to obscenities and pornography.

The people who would be so cruel and insensitive as to post obscenities on a tribute site are below contempt. They are sick and a sad reminder that there is a small element like that in the community. Clearly, those who operate Facebook have a responsibility to do whatever they can to crack down on this practice.

Well indeed or an Italian court might crack down on them (Fascism alive and well? Italian court rules against Google).

But I also wonder about the social impulse that results in these tribute pages instantly appearing (in some cases dozens and often established by strangers) - particularly when a tragic and untimely death is made public.

And I wonder what compels thousands of people (also strangers to the deceased) to post their own comments on the tragedy?

Indeed. Just as I've always wondered what compelled thousands of people (also strangers to the deceased) to send cards and letters and flowers to Buckingham palace following Lady Di's death.

Bizarre and completely incomprehensible, and even more incomprehensible why people in the real world might act the same way in the virtual world. I mean, come on people, isn't it sick enough that you like Michael Jackson in the real world, without heaping even more love and devotion on him in the ether, thereby filling full to overflowing the soon to be blocked intertubes:

Of course, we can’t help but be moved when we read stories like the horrendous deaths of the 12 year old boy in the schoolyard or the 8 year old girl abducted from her home. But what moves us to take to the computer?

When did grief become a public forum? Do the families of those involved really gain a great deal of comfort from the outpouring?

Indeed. In much the same way as I'm deeply troubled to read the outpouring of a politician outpouring about the way others might handle and deal with their grief, in whatever way they might choose.

But never mind, let's head back to the comfort of the picket fence and the small town, because it's a big, frightful scary world out there, and talk of one vast international community on the intertubes always makes me nervous. It sounds like communism, or even worse internationalism or even worse black helicopters and world government by the UN, especially after they did such a fine job at Copenhagen:

I am sure that advocates of Facebook will assert it’s no different to members of a local community gathering together to mourn someone who, while not well known to them all, is still considered part of the community.

Funerals in small towns are often attended by those who, while not personal friends, pay their respects for the person’s contribution and role in society.

And I’d suggest that most of us, if we found ourselves standing next to a stranger who was grieving the loss of a loved one, would offer a hug or a comforting pat on the back just because we are there and the act of reaching out is utterly instinctual.

Comfort from strangers can remind us of our inter-connectedness as human beings and be a powerful force for good.

Yet there’s still a disconcerting aspect to this “social grieving” trend.

Perhaps it’s because the online “community” is so vast, the numbers so great, and the connections so transient that the outpourings from strangers can begin to lack meaning.

Ah yes, whatever happened to letters, and cards, and visiting to drop them off to the butler? It's so much different on the intertubes than in real life, though it did lead to some delicious scenes in The Queen:

Tony Blair: Good morning, Majesty. Sorry to disturb, but I was just wondering whether you'd seen any of today's papers?
HM Queen Elizabeth II: We've managed to look at one or two, yes.
Tony Blair: In which case my... next question would be whether you felt some kind of response...
[Queen Elizabeth puts Blair on speakerphone]
Tony Blair: ...might be necessary?
HM Queen Elizabeth II: No. I believe a few over-eager editors are doing their best to sell newspapers. It would be a mistake to dance to their tune.
Tony Blair: Under normal circumstances I would agree. But... well, my advisors... have been taking the temperature among people on the streets... and, well, the information I'm getting is that the mood is quite delicate.
HM Queen Elizabeth II: So, what would you suggest, Prime Minister - some kind of a statement?
Tony Blair: No, ma'am. I believe the moment for statements has passed. I would suggest flying the flag at half-mast above Buckingham Palace... and... coming down to London at the earliest opportunity. It would be a great comfort to your people... and would help them with their grief.
HM Queen Elizabeth II: [Picks up the receiver] THEIR grief? If you imagine I'm going to drop everything and come down to London before I attend to my grandchildren who've just lost their mother... then you're mistaken. I doubt there is anyone who knows the British people more than I do, Mr. Blair, nor who has greater faith in their wisdom and judgement. And it is my belief that they will any moment reject this... this "mood", which is being stirred up by the press, in favor of a period of restrained grief, and sober, private mourning. That's the way we do things in this country, quietly, with dignity. That's what the rest of the world has always admired us for.
Tony Blair: If that's your decision, ma'am, of course the government will support it. Let's keep in touch.
HM Queen Elizabeth II: [Curtly] Yes. Let's.
[the Queen slams down the phone]

Sorry, don't quite know where that came from, but perhaps it's because I'm so deeply stricken by the way that people turn to a computer to blog about personal experiences, and it comes out like a Sophie Mirabella column, somehow a little clinical and disconnected, as if she's been using a computer to jot down her deepest thoughts:

Perhaps it’s because there’s something a little clinical and disconnected about turning to a computer to express what is the rawest of human emotions – grief. Perhaps it’s because mourning is such a deeply personal experience.

Well enough of that. Certainly we wouldn't want to speculate about others and their trials and tribulations, and send it all around the globe by the unrelenting intertubes. Or perhaps we would:

Perhaps it’s because it can have unintended consequences - like the sisters who learnt of the death of their brother when they logged on to find that a well-meaning friend had posted an RIP tribute to him just a few hours after he’d passed away in a horrific car accident in the early hours of the morning?

Instead of this person reaching out directly to the family involved, or even to someone they themselves loved, their first instinct was to reach out into cyberspace – and that seems more than a little sad.

Indeed. And just how sad it is that Sophie should feel the need to reach out into cyberspace, as if a first instinct, to talk about the grief of others.

More than a little sad. Terribly sad. Like the sadness of Comic Book Man or geeks around the world. Trapped in their lonely little worlds, with only the computer as their friend. And then when they have their first hard drive failure and lose all their data and bookmarks, what lives do they have left? When they realise how fickle their one friend is. So sad.

Still, we should always look on the bright side, put on a shiny face, and smile like a smilie. Emoticons rulez:

I am not suggesting that Facebook is not an innovative and interesting social tool.

Many people love it. And I get that. It keeps them up-to-date with what their friends and family are doing…they can share news, photos, ideas – when they want and how they want. And in this time-poor age, the beauty is it’s a broadcast message. It negates, to a degree, the need for that individual phone call or catch-up.

Oh that's all right then.

No it's not!

And maybe that’s what rankles. Simplistically, there’s a “quality vs quantity” aspect to this form of communication. It’s quick and relatively easy to type a message or upload a photo. It takes a bit more time and effort to physically connect with or have a conversation with someone.

But surely someone who’s grieving needs that physical connection most of all?

Or maybe be allowed to grieve in their own way, provided it's not offensive to others? Unless of course we intend to prevent people from dropping flowers outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, even if it disturbed the Queen and some found it offensive? As for Michael Jackson's fans ...

(You know, I hate smilies and never use them, but somehow, with the depths of emotion and analysis on view, the time seemed suddenly right. Not that we like to be more than a little ironic):

It also seems more than a little ironic that we have a plethora of laws to protect people’s privacy, yet more and more people appear willing to lay their lives bare on a social networking site. I wonder how many will regret having done so at some point in the future?

Who knows? Who knows if Sophie Mirabella will ever regret the tosh she writes for The Punch? Perhaps even. dare one say it, who cares, since people lay bare a lot more than you can find on a social networking site.

But I do know that by this point I was regretting having read Sophie Mirabella's simplistic musings, with her "on the one hand I have a Facebook page, but it's strictly for work", on the other "I find people who use computers and the intertubes for intimacy and grief disturbing". While using a computer and the intertubes to gush on about grief.

And thereby joining The Punch in its current war on Facebook, and what a relief that Paul Colgan's capeless crusader routine in Obscenity on tribute walls: Five questions to Facebook has at last fallen down the page.

Which reminds me of five questions to MySpace that I have. Why did Rupert Murdoch drop $327 million on a social networking site aimed at 13 year olds? Why was MySpace voted number one worst website by PCWorld? Why does MySpace let users personalise their pages in such a way that many end up being illegible or eyeball hurting? What is MySpace doing about its reputation as a one-stop shopping mall for online predators? What is MySpace doing about its reputation as a source of spyware?

Oh that's right, it doesn't matter, no one cares.

PC World was dissing it back in 2006, and the world has moved on. Now the twits are twittering about Facebook, and soon enough that will change, transmute and be left behind. So it goes, and so goes Rupert's money, and if you want some fun, there's always the wiki to read about MySpace's many troubles, here.

Next week: why blogging about grief is the reason bloggers and blogging should be banned.

(Below: a couple of xkcd cartoons. More here. Note in the map the relative size of MySpace and Facebook. How times change. Plus a bonus Star Trek joke. Goes with MySpace. And Chairman Rupert).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Arthur Sinodinos, Miranda Devine, and a summit to find new political metaphors ...

(Above: oh dear, is that a gesture worthy of Anne of Green Gables? Does wearing a shit-eating grin constitute a basis for true love? Could it just be a cleverly disguised lovers' spat? What to make of Abbott's grin jibe no laughing matter for Emerson? Yep, you've guessed it, true romance is just below the surface. Now read on ...)

It's hard being a commentariat columnist in search of a handy metaphor.

How's this for an opener?

Tony Abbott is a latter-day Muhammad Ali dancing around Kevin Rudd's Joe Frazier.

Yeah, that makes sense. Tony Abbott as a name-changing, military service-evading, trash-talking member of the Nation of Islam. Fits like a glove. All Abbott needs to do is change his name to Tony X and the makeover will be complete.

Oh wait a minute, I think all Arthur Sinodinos was trying to say in PM should box clever with GST is this:

He messes with Rudd's mind, taunting him on climate change, industrial relations and health.

Sheesh, it ain't half as much as Sinodinos has messed with my mind, as he clearly knows bugger all about Muhammad Ali and diddly squat about Joe Frazier. The Irish Dominican nun who used to worship Ali and belt nonsense into us would be appalled.

As a result, the rest of Arthur Sinodinos's column passed in an eye-glazing daze of anxiety, as I kept a look out for further silly metaphors, only to arrive at his notion that Chairman Rudd should front up to root and branch tax reform. Which somehow made me think Sinodinos was the Sonny Liston of commentariat columnists.

Oh and by that I mean no more than he can be knocked over in a couple of seconds by an invisible punch.

Over at the Herald, the metaphorical fun continued with Miranda the Devine, who clearly lives a rich fantasy life and isn't afraid to write about it. Overwhelmed and awed by the Tony Abbott juggernaut, despairing at Chairman Rudd's verbosity and pomposity, and lack of lucidity, she elevates Julia Gillard to the position of teasing heroine:

She (Gillard) and Nicola Roxon play the role of the pigtailed girls in school who gang up and taunt the naughty boy with the big ears who hasn't a hope of outwitting them. Roxon yesterday in question time, for instance, made raunchy ''balls'' jokes at Abbott's expense.

Yep, if you want a stereotype about a female politician - or just women in general - Miranda the Devine is your 'go to' commentariat columnist, and golly she's in good form in No romantic ending likely for the Julia and Tony show. But then she decides to go over the top and far away into the Canadian wilderness with Anne of Green Gables:

Gillard has described their relationship as the ''Punch and Judy show for Australian politics''. And when he became Opposition Leader last year, Abbott declared he would have to stop flirting with her.

She is Anne of Green Gables to Abbott's Gilbert Blythe. In the best-selling children's book, Anne and Gilbert meet at school and become instant enemies and rivals after he pulls her hair and calls her Carrots and she smashes a slate over his head.

Hmm, last time I looked, Gillard wasn't an orphan, though I suppose you could argue Barry in Wales, where Gillard was born, has a passing resemblance to Prince Edward Island.

Passing, like ships in the night, in much the same way as the Devine's outlook clearly reflects an unhealthy interest in bodice rippers:

From then on, a romantic frisson between the pair lasts through several novels until finally they acknowledge their love and marry.

No such happy ending awaits our pair.

Well not if the Devine keeps on writing about them in this way, brooding about romantic frissons and dreaming the dream of suburban housewives as they seek to resolve their unresolved sexual tensions through a romantic idyll.

I mean there's politics, and then there's abject metaphorical stupidity.

What's even more alarming is the romantic love affair between the Devine and Gillard:

The Deputy Prime Minister spoke so much sense in her speech, and answered questions with such verve and wit, that reporters leaving the Press Club could do little more than shake their heads in admiration.

Oh dear, talk about an unhealthy situation. Two women and a man, the kind of triangle which always ends in tears. Could we be heading for a long overdue re-make of D. W. Griffith's Two Women and a Man? With the Devine as the woman scorned?

Meanwhile, loon pond is clearing the decks of all metaphors, and making space for the commentariat columnists to go on a giant bush bash of Abbott - please get your axe handles ready - with the news that he's organising a conference for the brightest minds of a generation to produce the greatest ideas of the millennium.

Let's not worry about the unhealthy resemblance to Chairman Rudd's 2020 folly - after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and this is just a policy roundtable and a think tank, a mini-summit, although attended by some of the deepest and smartest thinkers in Australia.

Sure, it will shake the tree, and apples will fall to the ground, or on heads, and produce shouts of 'eureka', and Abbott can hear and learn from great minds, and test ideas and indulge in vigorous debate (Use your brains at policy roundtable, Abbott tells Coalition), but shouldn't the commentariat columnists also dust off a few of their favourite adjectives?

Like blowhard hot air fest, all talk, no action chooks in a barnyard hoe down, grand standing dribble, gab fest, convocation of chatterboxes, gaggle of grandees out of touch with the real people, air and bubble heads in search of a free lunch, a political stunt bigger than Evel Knievel, and so on and so forth.

Oh it'll be a grand time, as Abbott roles out the fresh ideas derived from his collection of the best and brightest minds, and the smartest and deepest thinkers, and the sharp edged cynical minds of the commentariat columnists tear apart and ravage them as the stuff of political show ponies.

Why even now in my mind's eye, I can see Miranda the Devine noting how the teased and tortured Abbott and his mini-summit attendees are just hapless puppets to be tortured by the conniving, cunning, carrot-topped Gillard. So like a woman! Slate smasher!

Second thoughts, as we've ended back up with Miranda the Devine, we offer up this song as a guide to future columns, politicians and male-female relationships.

Anyone with a deep aversion to Glen Campbell should leave now, and turn out the lights as they go. No sense here, only nonsense, as it is every day on loon pond ...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Benny Hinn, Suzanne Hinn, and the out clause that might come into play in the rough ...

(Above: the house of Hinn, as featured in Why Benny Hinn Became Our Wacky Neighbour on a site which seems a little slow at updating).

You know whenever Christ drops in - he does occasionally and we rap about the weather and the hopeless public transport in Sydney, which he agrees is the centre of the unknown universe, and we talk about how Paul Keating is a bloody huge visionary for plonking a giant hotel, Dubai style right there in the harbour, jutting out like a great big phallic symbol - I sometimes give him a gentle ribbing, and ask him what it was with the sandals and the donkey and the palm leaves and all that window dressing.

With a shy smile, he'll admit it was showbiz. He needed an angle, and the down at heel 'little tramp' routine was his long before Charlie Chaplin got in on the act. And it'll be a relief to Republicans to know he never had a thing for socialism or young women.

What's that you say? Talking to Christ means I'm as mad as a meat axe? You mean you pray to your lord and he doesn't respond to you? Sheesh, as the immortal Frank Zappa once sang, call any vegetable and the chances are good it'll respond to you.

But I was reminded of these conversations while reading about Benny Hinn, and the current troubling turmoil involving his divorce proceedings.

According to the Gospel Herald, a global Chinese Christian news service, Benny wasn't troubled by his lifestyle:

He (Hinn)... told ABC he has no misgivings about the comfortable lifestyle – a private jet, fancy hotel stays, and a multimillion-dollar home – he leads.

"Look, you know there's this idea supposedly that we preachers are supposed to walk about with sandals and ride bicycles. That's nonsense," he said. (here).

That's why I teased Christ. Sheesh, he couldn't even manage a bicycle, just a bloody donkey.

As for the miracles, he was a bit apologetic. I mean, doing the bread into flesh and the water into blood at each Catholic service around the globe is wearing him down, and he really envies the way Benny gets away with it:

For years, Hinn has been a subject of scrutiny by the media and recently the government for the miraculous healings he claims to perform and the lavish lifestyle he leads. He travels to cities across the globe conducting "miracle crusades" and services. Reports from each event indicate that dozens are miraculously healed from a physical ailment, though Hinn admitted to ABC News recently that he doesn't have medical verification of the healings.

Ah shucks, I just got carried away quoting the Chinese Christians paying such attention to Pastor Benny in his plight. Who cares about medical verification? Just show Benny the money.

Heck, why not just head off to ABC news direct, for Benny Hinn: 'I Would Not Do This for Money'. Then you can get the full story:

Jesus Christ may have lived in poverty, but Benny Hinn makes no apologies for living large.

"I mean look, every man of God that I know today has a nice house," Hinn said. "And they drive cars, and they have BlackBerrys or iPhones or whatever. It's what we need today to simply exist. ... Absolutely I need a private plane. For the ministry it's a necessity, not a luxury. ... It's a necessity for me to have my own private plane to fly so I can go and do what God called me to do around the world. If I should fly commercial I would wear out. With my schedule? It would be madness."

Sheesh, that's what I say to Christ all the time. Being all knowing and immortal and able to see the future, why didn't he bring in a few BlackBerrys or iPhones or even a handsome iPad (naturally he's on the side of Steve Jobs), and get his message out via Face Book and Twitter. It would have saved so much time. And trade that bloody donkey in for a Lear jet. How silly to think it might be in the words, as opposed to the time wasting and the dangers of flying commercial. And the humble carpenter routine? Forget it.

Christ did mutter something about Bill Gates trying to corral intellectual property rights in the old days, but he knew that excuse just wouldn't wash.

Truth to tell, it's easy to rib Christ. Just ask him what Matthew meant by:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Naturally he explained it meant that camels can go through the eye of a needle right quick and smooth if you dab 'em with a bit of KY jelly, and that when he was preaching he never settled for less than half a mill a year. Like Benny. Not that Christ would be too specific. Even now if the IRS caught up with him from ancient times, what with the interest and all, he could be owing half a trillion or so. Those money lenders in the temple have a long memory, and that's why Benny's take is so modest, but also why he also can't actually be too precise:

"I'm not gonna give you the exact amount, but it's, uh, over a half-million."

Hinn said he'd like to cut his salary to zero.

Zero? Lordy, as if performing miracles ain't enough, people want them done for free, even though it seems that some of Benny's miracles don't cut the mustard, or at least help the blind to see.

"Let me just tell you this, my aim in life is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, that's all I care about," said Hinn. "And if somebody comes along, or if there's a way where I can be completely taken care of financially, I won't let the ministry pay me a cent. I'll make you a deal. Right here on camera. Let 'em all see me do this with you. If somebody comes along and says, 'OK Benny Hinn, I'm gonna help you financially so you can pay your own bills,' or if I can do it on my own and get a job and do something on the side like I'm doing now, it would be a pleasure."

Oh golly, does that include the tab on the Lear jet? Even Christ took a minute to wonder whether he could afford that amount of upkeep.

"Nightline" asked Hinn whether he ever had moments, when people are writing out checks to him or filling out cards with their credit card information, that he thinks the people can't afford it, they're doing it because they're desperate and that he shouldn't take this money.

"If I was fake I would absolutely give them back their money," said Hinn, "but I believe that God called me to preach the gospel which is very important."

Yep, it's so bloody important, even the eye of a needle can pass through a camel before Benny gives up on the cash.

But the news of the divorce proceedings is a crushing blow to some of the faithful. You can read all about it, here at the CNM News Network, where the word is that Suzanne Hinn is possibly the problem:

The couple has been married since 1979, meaning that they have been together for some 30 years. Benny Hinn and his wife have 4 children together, and, according to reports, the divorce proceedings took the faith healer by surprise.

The reason for the divorce is irreconcilable differences, although Benny Hinn ministries claims that the televangelist tried to smooth out their marriage before letting it crumble.

Which does raise a question of logic, which is to say if it took him by surprise, why did he try to smooth out the marriage before letting it crumble?

Never mind, let's not judge, lest we be judged:

Some of Benny Hinn’s followers believe that the “devil made her do it” in order to try to separate his church. Others believe that Benny masqueraded some of his tumultuous private life, and that the “truth” would have to come out sooner or later.

Before we begin to judge Suzanne Hinn, Benny’s wife, it’s important to note that we likely don’t know the whole story.

But, but, but, the wife is always in the wrong. Surely St Paul established that! Not to worry, you can get all the CNM reader goss and reactions here, before we return to a message from CNM, with Linda Evans filing her story under Entertainment:

That’s not to say that Suzanne is right or wrong in her decision. We are wrong in our assumptions – either one way or another – about her decision to split.

Still yet, a divorce after 30 years of marriage is a big deal. Hopefully, the ordeal will go alright and will not affect Benny Hinn’s work.

Indeed. Many unverifiable miracles need to be performed, and much cash needs to be garnered, and a filthy rich lifestyle has to be lived, and iPhones need to be deployed. The work must go on, no matter how troubling and vexatious the woman in a man's life might become.

Meanwhile, it seems Christ is entirely sympathetic, and understanding, and perhaps a little envious, since he never really liked wearing sandals, and didn't even get a bicycle for Xmas. And he's never been able to live down the business with Mary Magdalene, and the rumours that he got hitched to her. That bloody Da Vinci code, he moans, as he contemplates all the nonsense you can read in the wiki here.

Truth to tell, he liked to hang out with the guys, sink a little fermented barley, play a little football - sorry guys, soccer's the game they play in heaven - while he left all the touchie feelie stuff to his vegetarian brother James (James the Just).

All the same, Christ was sanguine about the outcome of proceedings, and reminded me of what he'd once said to Matthew:

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery...

... The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

That always seemed to me to give an unfair edge to eunuchs and virgin types, but Christ remains optimistic that there's enough marital unfaithfulness going around to make divorce a reasonable, biblically certified solution. He always left an 'out clause' here and there, and this one is a zinger ...

Here's hoping it's not just Tiger Woods who can make use of the 'out' clause ...

(Below: a handy service from Pastor Benny. Loon pond offers no guarantees or warranties as to the usefulness of the stickers, except as illustration for a story on how there's a sucker born every minute).

Tory Maguire, Paul Colgan, and a couple more bricks in the digital wall ...

(Above: Mr. Leon Greenman showing his number 98288. Details here).

And another thing.

There's Tory Maguire in The Punch seemingly puzzled, befuddled and bemused, and compelled to ask the question Why do people get so worked up over ID numbers?

Gee, Tory, I've got no idea. Why on earth would people get worked up over ID numbers?Perhaps they have it as a psychological issue. A subconscious scar? Perhaps they have a sense of history? I know history's not fashionable in the antipodes, as we live in the lucky country, and can count our blessings and our numbers, but others haven't been so lucky.

From where I sit everybody loves to have numbers and be described by numbers and called up as numbers. Why, whenever I'm in a branch of the ANZ, it just warms the cockles of my heart, to hear C069 report to the counter for a transaction. Or whatever other number the machine spits out to tell me I'm in a queue.

And so it seems does Tory:

Off the top of my head this is a list of the numbers I’ve had during my life: HSC exam number, Tax File Number, university student number, driver license number, Medicare number, Private Health Insurance number, various patient numbers during treatment, many employee numbers, bank account numbers, booking numbers, frequent flyer numbers, car registration numbers, account numbers for facilities… oh I’m tired now.

None of these numbers have made me feel less than a person, under Tony Abbott’s definition. Nor have they made me feel like I was living in a nightmare out of the pages of a George Orwell novel.

Perhaps Tory might feel differently when someone calls her number out, to tell her that her number's up. You always need to make sure you've got the right number:

Meanwhile, Paul Colgan seems to have gone tabloid righteous batty in his old age as he wages war against Facebook, demanding answers to a series of impossibly stupid questions, which only the introduction of Stephen Conroy's 'great big new filter' could satisfy. Not solve, but satisfy.

It seems Colgan has embarked on a one person campaign to clean up the net, or at least Facebook, as he froths and foams, and perhaps wonders where the share value in Chairman Rupert's MySpace business went. Nobody cares about MySpace anymore, so nobody knows if it carries offensive content. I'm sure it does - you can only moderate real time millions so much - and it'll usually come out in the communal wash, but who cares. (Why MySpace and the Internet Could Kill Rupert Murdoch).

You can read it all here in Obscenity on tribute walls: Five questions to Facebook, but it's so impossibly tiresome and righteous, it's difficult to read. Perhaps this gives you the tone of the capeless crusader:

If this happened in a newspaper or on a major news website the editor would be at risk of going to jail.

If I happened to be moderating The Punch, Australia's most wretched free conversation, Colgan would be moderated off the air. Because that's what you're supposed to do when you put up a Facebook page - moderate it - and objectionable content like Colgan's can then be taken down as quickly possible. Or go private. A private Colgan would be a joy and a relief.

After reading these two contributions to the digital scribbles that are clogging up the already full to overflowing intertubes, I thought I should put up 'comfortably numb', but perhaps in the spirit of Tory, we should think about bricks in the wall. Numbered of course:

David Clarke, Jonathan O'Dea, and no guru, no method, no teacher in the NSW parliament ...

(Above: a grand poster for the movie Making A Killing, as presented within the blessed confines of the NSW parliament).

Ever since a psychiatrist deemed I was madder than a hawk is to a handsaw, which is to say madder than a cut snake, in a north by north west fashion, I've had a healthy disdain for psychiatry (and psychologist snake oil salesmen and women can also retreat to some Jungian mandala for all I care).

But when you weigh the mind shrinks up against some of the opposition, they look a lot more healthy. Especially Opus Dei, with its dedication to the ritual pleasures of mortification, including that handsome implement of BDSM love play, the cilice. Or scientology, with its strange tales of Xenu, aliens and volcanoes. Not to mention the strange weirdness of the Mark Super VII Quantum E-meter, which you can see here. In fact it's so weird, it's worth a few more adjectives like strange exotic peculiar bizarre surreal weirdness.

But even stranger is the notion that Opus Dei and scientology would consort together, perhaps on the basis that secular humanists are a mutual enemy and therefore the two religions can somehow manage to be friends.

Thanks to Jason Whittaker's story in Crikey - The Libs and the Scientologists - the film they're happy for you to see, we now learn that it was the recently pre-selected right wing Liberal member of the upper house in New South Wales, David Clarke, who was the generous sponsor of a documentary Making a Killing making its NSW premiere in the NSW parliament's viewing theastre, to be presented by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

According to the story, Clarke didn't know the CCHR is a front for scientology, which suggests he's either remarkably ignorant, delightfully vague, or incomprehensibly silly. How he managed to retain his pre-selection must be considered a triumph of the Catholic maaates.

Still, once Clarke heard about the connection, he withdrew the sponsorship, and another Liberal, Jonathan O'Dea, stepped up to the plate, and made the booking so that the screening could proceed. Who knows, it might still be happening tomorrow, and you can rush in to town - if you live in Sydney, centre of the unknown universe of hopeless public transport - and sit amongst the sweaty, fearful scientologists as they agonise over the ways psychiatrists are ruining western civilisation as we know it, with only perhaps a decade left before the final rapture all takes us off to Xenu and the volcanoes.

Well you can learn more than you need to know about Jonathan O'Dea by trotting off to his website, here - we always had a suspicion Lindfield people were divorced from reality - while you can discover more about the Citizens Commission on Human Rights by visiting its heroic website here. Where you can see the flurry of books that a generous tithing system can help fund.

You might struggle to actually find references to scientology on the site, as say opposed to ways that psychiatry creates racism, or ruins artists, or assaults women and children with psychiatric rape, or spreads chaos and terror, or commits unholy assault on religion, but if you look at the end of the "Citizens Commission" press releases you will often find the following:

For further information please contact CCHR, which was co-founded by the Church of Scientology & Professor of Psychiatry, Dr Thomas Szasz in 1969 to investigate and expose psychiatric violations against human rights.

As for Making A Killing, it's been been around for some time, and has its own Australian website here. It's not much of a website and the news that Sunrise mentioned the film as sending shock-waves across Australia's medical establishment, and that it was mentioned on Eddie Mcguire's 3mmm radio breakfast show, didn't send a chill down my spine. Not when it comes to Avatar showing how a planet can be reduced to rubble, in 3D!

But of course, next time the show could be promoted as 'having been screened in the NSW parliamentary theatre, thanks to the generous bi-partisan support of the NSW Liberal party", as a way of urging you to dust the redbacks out of wallet or purse and spring for the DVD at a cool twenty five smackeroos.

Of course all the usual arguments about the usual right to freedom of speech and to be as nutty as you like, in your own time, and on your own dime, have been trotted out, and you can understand why supporters of Opus Dei would be strong supporters of the right to be nutty.

But as one wise comment on Crikey noted, the chances of a film praising medical marijuana, or cat worship, or even simple old paganism, witchcraft and atheism getting a screening inside the sensitive walls of parliament house would likely be pretty slim. Come to think of it, it would be tremendous fun to think up all the many subjects that might not make the cut - perhaps a revival of the Mayan religion, requiring the ritual human sacrifice of NSW politicians would be an obvious starting point, but I dare say even a poker machine convention might be a little too close to the bone.

So what makes scientology so special? Or at least its front? Because if you look at the stuff they peddle, under the guise of religion, it's as demented as fundies peddling Satan.

And even though we don't have a clear division between state and religion, in the way of the United States, why does the NSW Parliament offer up its status when its supporters could run the film in a church hall somewhere?

Unless NSW Liberals think that acting as spruikers and facilitators for scientology is a handy way to garner a vote or two ...

Well I guess if the e-meter doesn't work for you, the next logical step is to don the cilice ...

(Below: one of any number of works explaining how psychiatry is ruining lives and bringing about the end of the world, while L Ron Hubbard's dreams of Xenu will surely save it. I was particularly moved by the suffering of artists, as Van Morrison, Beck and Tom Cruise have done so well, thanks to the church's invaluable help. What's that? Van Morrison gave it away? No guru, no method, no teacher. Amen to that brother. It helps explain why both the NSW Labor and the NSW Liberal parties in their current condition).