Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who was that masked bandito?

In the three months (eek!) that I've been blogging I've been so concerned about overcoming core reluctance, feigned indifference, blinding vacuity and performance anxiety that I haven't really thought about anyone else. (Which just proves my point about the essential narcissistic nature of blogs but let me get off my soapbox for a moment...)

Last night, as I was dropping off to sleep, I thought about Robert. Which would be fine if someone knew who Robert was but I don't. And the only reason I was thinking about him(s) is that I came across him(s) twice in the one day.

The first was "robert" who quite reasonably replied "Yarr!" to my post on Talk Like a Pirate Day. The second occurred when I was reading Tim's blog and found a comment by "ROBERT" (who wrote "This article clearly states the mindset of the author. It is intelligently drafted to create intrest of the reader. It brings out the worth of the subject" - ha! How cute is that?).

Now really I couldn't give a rats arse about the real Robert(s) (see soapbox...) but it did get me thinking about whether there was a potential new market out there for people who don't want to get their pens dirty on a blog, but might want become the new handmaidens and hooligans of the Internet by surfing blogs the way some people surf the corners of other people's towels on a hot crowded beach as they make their way from A to B.

That's how I imagined our Robert(s), descending on each blog like a bumble bee, leaving random notes, floating over to the next port of call and so on. And yes it was late and yes I was tired.

For several decades there was a man called Arthur Stace in Sydney who would write the word "eternity" on sidewalks all over the city. Pommies had Robin Hood. In Spain they had Zorro. Which got me thinking - what masked banditos have we got on the internet? Hackers? Phishers? Dickheads who design those annoying popups? Nup. Robin Hood gave to the poor. Zorro couldn't help but exude devillish charm - leave him alone. And Arthur Stace would never have scribbled "F**K U" in chalk. Even if he had lived long enough to encounter SMS. It was "eternity" or nuthin'.

So I'm proposing that we develop a new social art form that fills the gap. Something that's fun but not cruel. Challenging but not dangerous. Where people can play ping-back-pong because it's there. Until they can think of something better to do with their time.

Handmaidens (male and female of course - no need to discriminate here just because we're using historically gendered terms) could waft about in a cloud of lavender and whimsy, leaving ambiguous haiku, new age blessings and zen koans, thus interrupting the thread of the heated discourse and pouring balm on troubled souls (assuming bloggers have souls, that is...). Hell, they could even wander the Net correcting people's spelling. Now that'd be really vexatious - er, I mean venturesome - wouldn't it?

Hooligans could snub their snub noses at episodes of hubris, poor attempts at humour or any blogger who puts an "e-" in front of an ordinary word when the ordinary word would have done quite nicely without the pretentious embellishment. Or perhaps they could work in teams and think up modern day versions of the Jack Handy Deep Thought: "If you want to be the most popular person in your class, whenever the professor pauses in his lecture, just let out a big snort and say "How do you figger that!" real loud. Then lean back and sort of smirk." and make some kid's day.

Bandito flash gangs could play hide and seek, leaving clues as to the next blogstop and then converge there to play Scrabble with the letters of the first paragraph. Hell, the possibilities are endless!

I think it'd be fun. More fun than having to think of more dumb things to write in a blog I don't even really feel has a purpose for readers who don't exist in a place that isn't real except as an abstraction of Tim Berners-Lee's mind that caught on...

And it'd help me take my mind off this.

(Ola! to phatfred for the picture of the cute banditos!)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Boys Town

You've gotta feel sorry for the boys at Blokesworld. It's like they're at the wheel of a V8 for the first time with half a case of beer in the back, no food, the quiet girls have gone home and the louder ones just scare them silly so they have no alternative but to act like boofheads. Which is pretty fortuitous because they are and they can.

Screened on Channel 10 this show (which emerged, crapzilla-like, out of the bowels of community television) has apparently become a bit of a hit with lads who find themselves alone at home on a Friday night after a night on the turps. No surprises there.

What's most perplexing about the show (in a show that doesn't exactly tax the brain) is the number of women who seem thrilled to be part of it, from the playbunny who hosts the "Show Me Your Tool" segment to the witless "exotic dancers" in the Pole (dancing) Position competition who vie for their moment of glory in the land of pastel porn. I can't help but be reminded of the Big Brother contestant who gave another contestant her teeny weeny gym panties as a fetish and then was horrified to learn that the boys were sniffing them for clues. I mean - what did she think they were going to do; frame them?

Scanning the Net for some kind of insight into this depressingly familiar genre I came across this:
The main sexual stereotype is the whore/tease. The woman is viewed largely as a sex object who is there for the mens' sexual fantasy...

... Another sexual stereotype is the Lesbian/man hater. This may be triggered by the woman's appearance, particularly if she wears androgynous clothing or has short hair...

... The more wholesome images are those of "good" women... [such as]

Mother - older women or more homely women can elicit a mothering stereotype they are supposed to be kind and caring, but not intelligent and assertive.

Daughter - [men] may attempt to offer guidance or protection and assume the woman is gullible and naïve....

and finally this:

... A stereotype that is neither wholesome or sexual, but is often used to describe powerful women in managerial positions is the "ballbreaker". Such women have authority and are too threatening to openly sexualise, but are also too strong to fit the nurturing stereotypes.
Wow, I thought. That's so illuminating. Pity it's about a prison population. You'd almost think they were talking about the boys from Blokesworld.

(Picture by Brite Lights Photos)
Maybe there was another way of looking at it. Perhaps a look at the socialisation of children would provide a clue.
Everyday notions of gender are generally expressed in terms of differences - differences that are not equally valued. They are also not symmetrical in that masculinity tends to be defined as that which is not feminine, but femininity is not defined as that which is not masculine.
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but are they suggesting that "blokeyness" might be defined not by what it is, but by what it is not? A fancy way of describing the more familiar "girl germs" theme of early boyhood? Hmmm.

Further in the document the researchers suggest that girls experience strong gender conformity pressures in relation to body image, which is no surprise and may explain the craze for saline breast implants as well as the apparent need to be physically desired at all costs, even if the gazer includes a large contingent of the slobberati class. On the other hand,
Boys create and preserve ...masculinity through fear of whatever might be constructed as female, since whatever masculinity is constructed is better than femininity.
Unsurprisingly, "[t]his creates problems for both boys and girls."

However it could start to explain why there are so many people who seem to be propping themselves and each other up with a hyper-masculinity (and hyper-femininity in the case of the bunnies) that's as marked in its essential fictitiousness as that of any drag queen or pantomime artist. And anyone who doubts whether it is a symbolic enactment of some inner conflict should just watch any episode of The Footy Show.

Now I'm not against entertainments that lampoon the sexes nor averse to "politically incorrect" representations per se (like this picture of a duck that I found on Flickr) if there's at least some humour or irony or something in there other than a 'same shit/different day' kind of banality. Even Benny Hill, one of the fathers of the slap and tickle genre (which I suppose is what Blokesworld and The Footy Show are at root - so to speak) was at least genuinely humourous and inventive. The Carry On contingent were not, relying instead on a repetitive and tiresome theme of infantile transgression/naughtiness that explains alot about British politics and education systems but not much else.

Anyway, my theory is simpler than that. I reckon the boys from Blokesworld were bottle fed and just haven't gotten over their exclusion from a very mammalian and reassuring form of human bonding in their early years. So I reckon we need to institute a Boobs for Bottlefed Boofheads Day where every woman in Australia displays her breasts for a day so that these poor suckers can finally overcome their emotional anorexia and get on with the business of graduating from infancy.

PS: Mock-apologies to anyone I've offended with the image of the baby and the breast - I don't think it's just coincidence that images of breastfeeding are the most unlikely representations of the human body that you'll ever see in our society. And if that's not an indication of the confused perversity of our times, I don't know what is.

Thanks to Christy Scherer for beautiful baby and mum photo.
Top marks also to Debbie C. B. for the Ken and Barbie orgy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Avast, ye scum ridden weevil shaggers

Ahoy, me hearties! Given dis be Talk Loik a Poirate Day, oi'll be deliverin' me prattle from a perspective wot may trouble dem among yers dat fink talkin' proper is evidence o' gentility and good breedin'. But if ye be concern'd about learnedness and talkin' proper then ye'd best be heedin' me warning to yers on dis fine September day.

Oi'v heard some talk among de heathens 'bout the nefarious villains dat be plannin' ter pollute de hearts'n'minds of th'littlies in dem thar schoolrooms of de northern colonies. And blow me down, but dey be finkin' o' startin' de same codswallop in deese parts too!

Oi mean - just listen ter dis quote from de Washington Post fer a start:
"With the president endorsing it, at the very least it makes Americans who have that position more respectable, for lack of a better phrase," said Gary L. Bauer, a Christian conservative leader.
(Oi can fink ov lots ov "better phrases" but bein' a lady, oi'm gonna avoid sayin' fings here dat'd make a sailor blush).

Anyone wiv 'arf a brain who's travel'd a bit could tell yers wot aur mate Charlie woz goin' on about back in 1859. And anyone who cain't see the resemblance between monkeys and man ain't lookin' hard enuf. We also knows de world ain't flat even tho' some thought it so for 'undreds 'n 'undreds ov years and probly still do in some parts. Even Marco Polo knew better'n'dat when 'e did de spaghetti run to China an' first encountr'd aour Lord FSM in 'is noodly glory.

Normally oi'm a big believer in "live and let be" but bein' a mudder o' seven luvly sprogs, oi fink de time has come to stand up to de vile dogs who be wantin' us to go back to de days o' dem primitives, who as yer know couldn'a see lightenin' wivout finking it be de anger ov de gods. Mebbe dat suited me in my poiret days, cuz t'was loik takin' candy from veritib'l babes but oi'm fearin' for me culture now - me scallywaggery and me freedom in a world dat is increasin'ly in de hands of an international legion o' darstardly louts wiv nuffin between their buccaneers 'xcept sawdust 'n villainry. Fings are serious!

In fact, oi'm so flabbergasted 'bout dis issue dat oi've written a pome ter express me feelin's (wiv apologies'n'fanks t' young Willy Yeats):
Turnin' an' turnin' in the widenin' current
De parrot cannot 'ear the poirate
Fings fall apart; de keel cannot hold;
Sheer mutiny is loosed upon the seas
De ceremony of innocence be drowned;
De best are lily liver'd varmints, while the worst
Are full of wrathful scoundrelness, comandeering the deck
And shivering me timbers.
Naow oi ain't 'ad much book learnin' but it's bloomin' obvious dat dere ain't no designer up dere in heaven - any mug who's been at a live birth'll tell ya dat. Oi mean, take a look at the geezer who's running fings in de world! If anyfing, it's a case of unintelligent design, an' ter be frank, oi dunno why de so-called intelligent design network don't embrace dis more fully given dere fondness fer imaginin' skullduggery and evil everywhere dey look.

De universe ain't evil - it be absurd and de sooner we just accept dat, de sooner we'll all get our sea legs fer livin'.

Now call me a salty old hussy but oi misses de olde days wen de lubberly Johnny Scopes was almost drawn and quartered in de great Monkey Trial. T'was alot harder in dem days ter speak yer mind on dat sort of fing and oi'm hopin' dat Scopes' story'll give you young'uns a bit o' conviction in the comin' dark days when ye may need ter fight fer yer intellect'l freedom.

Before oi go oi'd loik to warn ye 'bout dese clowns who be makin' a mockery ov de whole fing. Intelligent fallin'? As an intelligent fallen woman, oi'd loik ter respecfully demur. And praise be ter de great god FSM dat oi can still have me own views in dese nouveau dark ages before de dawn (of Aquarius oi'm told - gawd 'elp us!).

Anyway - oi'd loik ter fank yers for listenin' to me warblin' on dis blessed day - yers really are a rum pack'o'coves, y'know. Happy Talk Like A Poirate Day ter one'n'all. Even 'im.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Choose yer poison

Well here's a turnup for the books. You may have woken this morning worrying about the preponderance of narcissism in the world (or malignant self-love if you prefer a more salacious sounding ailment) but here's a story that will warm the cockles of your black heart.

As it turns out, it's entirely possible that all the lunatics we increasingly encounter in modern society could just be misunderstood genii according to an article in Live Science called Fine Line Revealed Between Creativity and Insanity.

Whereas in the olden days you'd be either called an unemployable good-for-nothing (if you were poor), a witch (if you were female), gifted (if you were rich) and sensitive (if you were gay and rich) you can now define yourself as a "schizotype*" without having to be anything unusual at all. (*NB: Not to be confused with schizoid, schizophrenic or weiner schnitzel – though I really don't understand what's wrong with "having a personality disorder marked by extreme shyness, flat affect, reclusiveness, discomfort with others, and an inability to form close relationships." Doesn't everyone?)

Schizotypes, we are told, are "somewhere in the spectrum between normal and insane." Who'd have thought, eh?

The article reports on how they developed the theory:
In the first experiment, subjects were shown a variety of household objects and asked to come up with new functions for them.
For example, all three groups would be asked to come up with possible uses for a needle and thread. While the normal and schizophrenic controls came up with pretty typical responses like sewing or stitching, one schizotype said that if a person was poor but wanted to get engaged, he could use the thread to make a ring and use the needle to write "I Love You," in the sand.
Well yeah, there’s that. But why didn't they ask me? I'd have told them that you can also use the needle as a skewer for finger food (no germs, you see) and then double up as a baton to conduct the music when that satanic orchestra in your head starts playing those dreadful Strauss waltzes. See? It's easy when you try.

Mind you, having read all 472 words of this very important research very carefully, it has dawned on me that our politicians perhaps aren't quite the mad bastards I've been thinking they are for all this time. As it turns it, they may just be schizotypes straddling the creative:insane dichotomy. You just never know.

Consider this. Schizotypes typically
And if that hasn’t convinced you, how about: “Certain things may have special meaning for them” such as our self-declared 'cricket tragic' Prime Ministerwho mysteriously exhorts employers to show flexibility and encourage employees to watch the full test series of cricket by allowing Australians to start work later than usual.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m pretty damn impressed. This, from the same man who is attempting to provide us with the additional freedom to “negotiate” and collectively (or individually, at a pinch) bargain workplace fripperies like toilet breaks, meal breaks, sick leave, long service leave, holidays and so on! At this rate, we’ll be so emancipated we’ll need Bob Hawke to come back and tell us the one about child poverty again.

Still, science is science, and towards the end of the article I was starting to get quite worried about the validity of the claims. I mean, you really do need to be careful about what you read on the internet. So much of it is shallow puffery. Regurgitated swill. Unrepresentative hype. Perhaps I didn't quite qualify as a schizotype. Perhaps no-one did, and we were being taken for a ride.

But then I came upon a related article based on a study which found that our brain is “just like the internet” and "very few jumps are necessary to connect any two nodes". Mmm, donuts - now we’re talking!

I started to check off the list; shuts down unexpectedly... internal 404 screens... pornographic content... schoolyard humour... occasional course language... data disappears... slow download speeds... relentless spam... problems with memory... soundworms and wormholes... trivia...

Yep. Works for me. How about you?

(Thanks to Thomas Hawk for his beautiful picture of Alice).

Saturday, September 3, 2005

I love Paris in the Springtime

I miss Paris Hilton. Not that I ever specifically sought her out in mags or the Net but in recent years she has been so ubiquitous that I really notice her absence now that she's (temporarily, I hope!) out of range. The last I heard she was engaged to another Paris, which was quite amusing in itself; Paris finding his Helen and what not. But I didn't count on her disappearing in the process.

I looked on Flickr tonight for a picture to use in this post and found one courtesy of Excaliburrom who has added some text to her t-shirt "If I only had a brain".

Indeed. Poor silly Paris. The girl who gets $200,000 to turn up to parties for 20 minutes. Who gets given a special section of Amazon to trade her (overpriced, unimaginative) jewellery from which she makes a fortune. Who has appeared in lots of movies and television programs, a sex video, published books, starred in a controversial hamburger commercial, launched a new perfume range... Who I personally blame for single-handedly creating the huge market in dumb designer dog accessories. And now even an album of music.

Not bad for an celebutante. Especially when she also remembered to trademark the term "That's hot!". She's so goddamn dumb you'd almost think her clever!

What I like most about Paris is her failure to feel the shame we would impose on her, her wanton disregard for our "good taste", her canny ability to make shitloads of money even though she doesn't need it. She's my po-mo queen, my tipping point moment in popular culture where fiction - meets - art - meets - truth - meets - plastic. And I feel mighty sorry for those sad morons out there who write this sort of drivel:
"... Stupid whores mascarading [sic*] as women, who were all once nice, like they should be. That's why men degrade and rape women. The women show all their skin except their n***les and v*****s, so if they basically ask for sex, men are gonna degrade them and treat them as worthless as they are. This f***ing ho is a good example - no, the ultimate example of that very topic. I think all men need to stand up and fight against women that act like this. Don't mean to sound sexist, but I'm serious. Look at the cover of this book .... "

From the Amazon review of "Confessions of an heiress"
(And I do recommend you do look at the cover. Simply scandalous. Someone call a policeman immediately!).

Yet have we ever heard a bitchy word from her familiar pout? Has she ever encouraged hate or sent us to war? Told us how we should live? Harmed anyone you know personally? No. The most we ever know about young Paris comes from either the exquisite dreck like the Amazon review quoted above or more journalistic reports of her shenanigans, such as this clip taken from her wikipedia entry:
Paris is often photographed with her teacup Chihuahua named Tinkerbell. According to Tinkerbell's memoirs The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries, she has been owned by Paris since October 31, 2002. However, in the summer of 2005 Hilton reportedly gave Tinkerbell to her mother, in favor of a smaller dog named Bambi after Tinkerbell had become too heavy.
Can you honestly read that without laughing? I can't. Paris Hilton has brought me more amusement than just about any other public figure in recent years and it's time I acknowledged it.

So I salute you, sweet Paris, at the dawn of this southern hempispheric Spring. May Aphrodite herself persuade you to resume your merry games very soon.

(*and if you're in any doubt about the life imitating art thing, consider the clever and unwitting pun made by the moron reviewer when he uses the term "mascarading" - hah! You couldn't script this stuff!)