The Urban Variable

Flowers for Algernon

So I spent a pleasant lunchtime walk listening to (most of – that episode was long, y’know?) Escape Artists’ production of “Flowers for Algernon”, as a bit of light relief from Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower”.

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Those little slices of death

So, a few months worth of data suggests that ol’ Urban thrives best on a little more than seven hours sleep a night, rather than the traditional and customary eight.

Reassessing this data suggests I’m about thirty hours in credit in the past two or three months, rather than way short on sleep. Surprisingly, I feel better about things knowing this, despite the exceedingly dodgy concept of accumulating sleep credit or debit and the rather egocentric concept of having access to this data.

Further data will follow, particularly as we move into the glorious months of summer.

Update 28/08/2014
Back to 8:15 to see if that’s more restful. In many ways, life was simpler when there was less data around it. Perhaps I don’t care to know how many times I’ve cleaned up cat pee in the last 14 days (26 for the record)

So, Kevin….

No doubt the rest of the internet (or at least that small part dealing with Australian politics in a non partisan way) will provide a factual dissection of Mr Rudd’s political career.

Tonight, I’m more concerned with the perception. As such, with no research (and while watching women’s basketball on the other side of town), I present my memories of Kevin.

The Good:
Slaying John Howard, and making him the first Prime Minister to lose his seat since 1927.
Apologising to the Stolen Generations.
Breaking the Telstra wholesale monopoly, and dragging telecommunication infrastructure into the latter part of the 20th century at least.
Ending offshore detention.
His speech the night before the leadership challenge in 2010.
Evidenced based policy, including surviving the GFC better than any country on the planet.
Recognising the Great Moral Challenge of our time.
At least attempting to reform the gains in the ALP

The Bad
Walking away from the Great Moral Challenge of our time
Not being able to communicate … anything on the good list really.
Bring Howard-light, abd nit dragging the country back to proper Labor values.
Not having the passion to be a leader, rather than the Hindmost*
Timing his departure to give the Government one last free kick.

The Ugly
Whiteanting Julia Gillard, as she indulged in her advisor-led extended suicide.
Bringing us to the point of having Tony Abbott, of all people, as Prime Minister, a fact we will not live down in history.

On the whole, I guess it’s an overall positive report card. For bringing us the end of Howard he probably should go into the Labor pantheon, but for bringing us Abbott there’s perhaps a special hell. On balance, I think he’s destined for Limbo – I’ve seen the reverence Whitlam, Hawke, and even Keating have attracted since leaving office, and I think Julia Gillard will also get the same treatment in time. I don’t think Mr. Rudd will.

On a more personal note, my thumbnail is far too long for accurate Swyping – I’ll have to do something about that.

*Gratuitous Ringworld reference

August 10th, 2014

I had originally thought about writing an examination of the right-wing mindset, but fuck those guys – it’s too nice a day today.
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So, I went to Floriade today.

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On language

For my sins, I occasionally read online comments for various things (with the resulting sense of revulsion inevitably leaving me to scurry behind a paywall again, or at the very least seek refuge in alcohol and kicking small animals). On political articles, ine thing I’ve noticed is an incessant droning about ALP “stuff ups”, running out the usual discredited nonsense about pink batts or school halls or people daring to seek refuge or whatever.

“Stuff up” to mean failure is an interesting turn of phrase. The idiom is familiar, of course, but having lived in Australia for lo these many years it’s not one I encountered often – now, it seems to be common, but only in comments about what passes for left wing politics here. It’s as if the idiots who comment on such articles were working to a script.

That’s not what it really reminds me of, though. In my younger days, I was involved in marketing, and one of the things we used to do was use a particular phrase to test the penetration of a message – if we used a slightly unusual ordering of words in an advertisement, and the customer came in and also used that ordering, we could presume they’d been influenced by the ad (and conclusions were drawn, and reports written, and a jolly old time was had – occasionally, someone would even sell something).

A cursory Google suggests to me that the Liberals started using the phrase in 2010, ramped it up in 2011, and then eased off a bit through 2012 and 2013, which is a similar pattern to the one we used to run.

Paredolia, or is there a team in William St busily counting occurrences and writing reports?

Childhood stupidity

When I was a youth at university, I had unwavering faith in the competence of the free market- I was a Young Liberal personified, only with an even stupider haircut and less money. The market provided a way in which the value (and hence the merit) of anything could be measured – it was the ultimate system for someone fascinated with how things operate. I recall late night (and hopefully drunken) arguments that Kylie Minogue (back in her Locomotion days) was objectively superior to Nina Simone based on album sales, and that you could quantify artistic merit by measuring the profits of prints of it. I swear, had it been twenty years later I’d have been wearing a fedora.

Later, of course, I grew up, and realised how terrible that concept is. When I started my career, I joined the labour movement, and my politics have drifted further left if anything over time, but there is no self deception here – I’ve not done enough. I’ve marched in protests, but now my clothes are made in Bangladesh.  I’ve cut off part of my family because they were fundamentalist right-wing bigots (a judgement I stand by), but the closest I’ve come to the antifa movement is listening to Oi Polloi on my iPod as I drive a remarkably nice and expensive car. No wonder the lyric “I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac” resonates so strongly with me.

Is there a point to this strangely angsty rant I should properly be ashamed of, much less publish online? Am I a class traitor twice over?

I’m undecided on a quote here, so I’ll go with both: either “The saddest day of your life isn’t when you decide to sell out. The saddest day of your life is when you decide to sell out and nobody wants to buy”, or “I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me”

Musing on the bus today

Is Sony responsible for the collapse of society?

More research is required, I think.


Today, I went kite flying as promised. Being in a reflective mood I left the stunters at home, and took a simple single string kite.

Forgive me father, for I have sinnned…

… it has been 2115 days since my last blog post.

That was on a late, unlamented Blogger blog, and was on the occasion of Kevin07’s euphoric demolition of the Howard government, where Maxine McKew entered the Labor pantheon for taking Bennelong and hope walked the streets. Even at the time, there seemed a risk that a GFC-bound Labor would be unable to handle an electorate who had been taught the very simplistic “surpus good, deficit bad” mantra from Peter Costello, but surely there was nothing to be concerned at as the ineffectual Turnbull fell to Utegate, and the Liberals resorted to Tony Abbott of all people to try and restore credibiity – surely the Australian people couldn’t be *that* stupid, could they?

Today’s polling suggests that they can indeed.

And so, we’re faced with Labor moving to the right to compete with Prime Minister Abbott, who I’m sure will welcome the chance to move further right himself, and the country will not revolt but rather applaud (the reasons for this can probably be left to another day).

For the short term, though, we consider what an Abbott government might look like. Despite some of my more effusive drunken rhetoric, it’s not going to be the sort of scenery-chewing Hollywood evil, with metal structures rising from the desert as we might see in some of the more self-conscious heavy metal clips – Australia will continue to operate. The reality will be far more banal.

A child growing up in Campbelltown will become a bricklayer instead of the surgeon they might have been. Rail services will run down, with all that means, but those who can will still be able to freely drive on expensively-maintained roads, and those who can’t will … make do, as they always have. The odd pensioner will forgo dental work to eat, but they will eat

No doubt thousands will die, but they’ll be in Syria and Afghanistan and Sri Lanka rather than Redfern and Dubbo, so we’ll muddle on, and never reflect on what might have been. As a far better writer than I might say: and so it goes.

For myself, I think I’ll perhaps take in a football game, and watch a celebration of totalitarianism in the form of Dredd, or perhaps Aeon Flux. Tomorrow I might seek some joy in kite flying.