Bitten by an eclectic eel…

Over the last couple of days there has been no way to avoid hearing about Click Frenzy. Here we go, yet another example of Australia’s desperate need to ape US culture. This time, it’s a sad mirror of the Black Friday consumer orgy. The marketing and hype was overwhelming and shrouded in artificial mystery. Who will be on the site? What will be for sale? How do I get hold of these bargains before they run out?! ! Whatever the bargains, there’s one question that the million people forgot to ask in their manufactured frenzy of greed: Do I actually need any of this shit?

The hype gets in your head though. Psychologists have been studying marketing for more than 100 years and they are getting very good at making you think you want things. The early approach to marketing psychology was eliciting three simple emotions: love, fear and rage. Over time they’ve sharpened their tools, leading to today when marketing psychology has taught you that your entire self-concept is defined by your possessions.

Mac users, Holden drivers, Liberal voters, Samsung owners – we identify ourselves by the brands we attach ourselves to. If a computer is four years old or a phone is two years old, it gets upgraded not because it suddenly doesn’t do the things it did perfectly three months ago, just because there is something newer. Your 5-year-old TV has to go to make way for hi-def, and then your friend gets 3D and a little voice in the back of your head tells you that you aren’t good enough because you don’t have the best.

Famous street artist Banksy describes it thus:

They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate (Wikiquote)

You know it’s happening to you. You are in some way aware that faceless marketroids are controlling your thoughts and making you waste your time and money on shit you don’t need. You know it’s eroding your self- esteem, distracting you from things of real meaning, but you can’t help poring over the JB catalogue or browsing the phones at the Telstra shop. It’s a societal Stockholm Syndrome you’re part of a system that you know is harming you, but you don’t want to escape.

January 1st, 2013 at 10:51 am | Comment on this | Permalink | 

 

Jackson sniffs the air curiously. “Man, what have you been doing? Smells all dusty, you been crawling in the ceiling or something?”

Rhys sniffs himself theatrically. “Not me. Is it your thing again?”

“Maybe. What the Hell smells like roof?”

 

Jackson’s parents thought it was funny. When he was three, he always used to wander into the front room a minute or two before Great Aunt Jean rang the doorbell, asking where she was. They believed she was his favourite relative, that he had some special Great Aunt Jean detector that notified him of her approach. But it wasn’t Great Aunt Jean herself. It was her perfume.

 

The boys grin at each other as the shaking settles. They’ve never felt a real earthquake before. “That was cool! Oh man, everything was falling over.”

“Yeah look, knocked the kitchen vent out and all. No wonder I could smell roof dust.”

“We should sweep up this glass. I’ll get some newspaper to roll it up.”

 

His parents never worked it out, but Jackson could smell the future. He never really worked it out himself, it always seemed as natural to him as tasting ice cream or hearing the doorbell. His brother Rhys was two years younger than him. Jackson always knew a minute before Rhys filled a nappy, and made himself scarce.

Rhys was always the smartest. He worked it out when he was seven. He hated Aunt Jean’s perfume.

He said Jackson had a superpower.

 

“Grab me a chair Rhys, we’ll try and fix this vent before Mum and Dad get home.”

“Watch out for that light fitting, it looks like it’s falling out too.”

 

When Jackson was 12 they thought it would be funny to try it out on someone, so they bet people in the playground that Jackson could tell what was on their sandwich before they unwrapped the plastic. They made eighteen dollars this way, until they tried it on the Brick. Matthew Brixton was the biggest, dumbest bully in the school, and they thought it would be funny to get back at him for a change.

The Brick was not renowned for his sense of humour. He had three sandwiches, and after the third one he punched Jackson in the nose so hard he couldn’t smell anything at all for two weeks. Rhys guessed that was why Jackson didn’t smell the bloody nose in advance.

 

Jackson is standing on the chair when the first aftershock hits. He reaches to Rhys to steady himself as the chair tips, and lands on him instead.

“Ow fat arse, get off me,” Rhys grins.

“I’m fat? It was a pretty soft landing.”

Rhys punches him good-naturedly. “Dick.”

 

After the bloody nose incident they tested it. Rhys said superheroes had to keep their powers secret, so for a few days he collected various smelly items in Ziplocs and old jars and hid them in his room. On the weekend they collected them in a bag and told Mum they were going down to the bike track.

Jackson put on a blindfold, and Rhys started lining up his smell samples in the order he wanted to test them.

“Is that Cinnamon?” Jackson asked just as Rhys picked up the first bag. Rhys looked back to the front of the line.

“I hadn’t even picked it up yet!” He opened the cinnamon and smelled the comforting spice. Rhys reached for another bag.

“Onions.”

“Mum’s Shampoo.”

“Ah! Yuck! Is that cat poo?!.” Jackson yelled at him. Rhys snickered evilly.

 

“Is that gas?”

 

They worked out that different smells seemed to have different time frames. Laundry powder, Jackson smelled almost two minutes before it was opened, whereas curry sauce was closer to five seconds. Jackson didn’t know but Rhys had also decided to test a small amount of danger and pain. He figured that was core to the superhero experience, so as Jackson removed the blindfold Rhys prepared the lemon peel he had brought.

“Hey, lemons! That’s the strongest I’ve ever…Owww!” Jackson yelled as Rhys squeezed the peel in his eye. Over the next week or two Rhys tested danger regularly, leaping out at Jackson with water pistol full of soapy water or a balloon full of chilli sauce. Mum busted him for that one. When Jackson avoided an attack, he smelt it well in advance, but the ones that got him, while super strong, were only ever a few seconds in advance.

“You probably just don’t get enough warning to dodge it,” Rhys suggested, but Jackson thought it was something to do with destiny, that the short strong notice meant a future he couldn’t change.

 

“I can smell it too now. We should open the windows and ring Dad, he’ll know what to do.” Rhys starts opening windows when Jackson’s face goes grey.

“Forget the windows, you have to get out” Jackson shouts. Rhys stares at him, fear in his eyes at the look on Jackson’s face.

“Come on then!” Rhys shouts, realising Jackson has smelled something strong.

“You know that doesn’t work. You can be safe, go next door, ring triple 0. Run!”

Rhys grabs at his hand, but Jackson pulls away.

“RUN!”

Rhys is crying as he runs from the house. The burning hair smell in Jackson’s nostrils is replaced by the smell of pain and burning meat, as he hears the first sparks from the broken light fitting.

 

Nobody believed Rhys when he told them at the funeral, but they let him do his eulogy anyway.

“My brother had a super power that saved my life. He was a hero.”

October 28th, 2012 at 8:02 am | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Saw an episode of a TV show on the weekend, where the Spaceship lands on a Wild West style planet, seeking some trade. They find that the backward agricultural settlement is under attack from marauders; the townsfolk trick one of their members into becoming the local constable, but the spaceship crew forgive them and help the townsfolk drive off the marauders, putting together a clever plan to ensure that the town is no longer under threat.

Sound like a long lost Firefly episode? It was the episode The Magnificent Warriors on original Battlestar Galactica. The real conspiracy theory bait though? The town was named Serenity.  For extra credit, one of the guest stars of this episode had the first name Rance.

September 26th, 2012 at 7:53 am | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Went to State of Origin 1 this year when it was in Melbourne.  At the game, I noticed the difference in the Queensland fans from supporters of AFL teams – there was so much more passion and effort to lift the team, compared to Victorians who often seem to only be excited when they are winning.

In an act of treachery to my NSW family, I have gone for QLD in Origin since I don’t remember when.  I do know it was from living in or going for Canberra in the late 80′s,  when it seemed half the team played for QLD, so by the time we moved to NSW the damage was partly done.

Fast forward to 1998 and I moved to Melbourne after some years of not paying attention to league.  That was the first year of the Storm, and while the team was well populated with cockroaches for the first few years, it seemed weird to change and for a time Storm were second only to Brisbane themselves for having QLD reps in the squad.

State of Origin matches are always turned up to 11, it’s not just a matter of having 26 of the country’s finest on the field, there’s a psychology to the rivalry that pushes those players beyond the level of a regular club match or even a grand final.  There have been plenty of dud grand finals but the overwhelming majority of  Origin matches are decided by two converted tries or less, and plenty have been within four points.  Queensland have a reputation for coming back from certain defeat in Origin, but NSW have been just as passionate about holding off that final recovery till the siren goes, so many matches have been that exciting.

And I think a contribution to that is the actually supportive attitude of the supporters, particularly Queensland.  You go to an AFL match, and as soon as your team is four goals down, the cheer squad goes quiet, the fans start getting frustrated with the team for every error, the facebook page starts filling up with “here we go again” and “another woeful effort”, “fire the coach” and so on.  You lose two games in a row and the doom and gloom sets in for the rest of the year.  Maybe this is particularly bad for Carlton as we are still so arrogant in spite of the evidence of the last ten years, but I have noticed it with other teams, as much as you can tell the crowd noise on TV or on the few occasions I’ve been to a game we won :(  It almost seems like the team has to lift the crowd – they get some momentum, flow of the game switches back to their way, they start to claw back a few goals, and that’s where the crowd warms up again.

I found myself falling into that habit at Origin 1.  NSW came out and played the first half hour with a new intensity, I prepared myself for “oh well at least I got to go to origin”, I yelled at Inglis in frustration when he overdid a pass and it went out instead of to the target. Then I noticed something – the Queensland crowd was getting louder.  They continued to cheer heroically for their team, they ignored the mistakes and shouted positively, lifting the team instead of sitting quietly while NSW smacked them about.  That has to be part of why the cane toads have been so dominant, in spite of coming from the smaller population base.  A passionate crowd, that supports and chants and roars just as loudly when you need it as they do when they are winning.

Wouldn’t it be great in AFL to be able to lift your team like that, instead of sulking in the stands hoping the coach does something to fix things?

June 16th, 2012 at 8:10 am | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Connor and I are doing karate through GKR. This is a pretty good setup, they have a variety of locations at a variety of times through the week, so it’s allowed me to ‘shop around’ through the different dojos to find the senseis I work best with.  One of the things I’m enjoying most about karate is the discipline of body, the full focus on precision and efficiency of movement.  It takes all your concentration to be watching your breathing, stance or gross motor movement, as well as angle of hips, the technique of the actual strike or block or kick, the guard or retraction of the other hand, etc etc. It’s almost meditative concentration, and a great change to be able to focus on a single thing for an hour or more, instead of the constant multitasking and distractive attention switching of home or work.

Sparring is fun, and very challenging in its own way – all of a sudden the techniques you think you are so good at become very rushed and malformed, as your opponent is blocking you and trying to hit you at the same time you are trying to execute your seemingly practiced strikes and you feel like you are now just flailing madly.  The perfection and efficiency of action pays off here too, the better your basic techniques the quicker you can turn a block to a strike or avoid an attack and counter attack.

The senseis that focus on these things are the ones I have the most respect for.  There are different reasons that people take up sports and karate is no different – confidence, fitness, socialising, self defence, competition and so on – and different dojos have different strengths.  There are a few students (and senseis for that matter) that like to brag about the amount of damage they’ve done (and taken) either on sparring opponents or walls or other unsuspecting inanimate objects. I find that I lose respect when people do this, it seems like an ego thing, and also implicitly threatening – it’s not a case of “and I could do it to you”, more that they feel the need to gain respect by intimidation, telling everyone how tough they are.

The reality is that any black belt (or red or blue or…) could beat me to a twitching pulp, so there’s nothing to be gained by this bragging. The senseis I most respect, and am then drawn to their classes, are the ones who show their prowess through the quality of their teaching and their knowledge of karate.

May 18th, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Did a Photoshop Digital Imaging unit for Uni over summer, that may or may not be responsible for the radio silence here at Neuromesh.  Anyway, here’s the final assignment! As always, click for bigness

The freedom available in photomontage, especially in Dada, led me to think about the conflict between our free childlike nature and the necessities of adulthood, and the exhausted banality that can result.  Responsibilities to family and community draw us away from our dreaming and adventurous selves.

For some the rejection of maturity and deferred adulthood are the answer, living at home until their 30ʼs, and for others the inner child is locked away forever and they embrace the grown up world eagerly.  But for the many, we are pulled both by the desire to do right by those who need us, and the need to let go and run free.  This creates a constant friction in life, trying to give sufficient time and space to both sides of our fractured identity, and in the world it is the adult who usually wins.

The person who does the ʻright thingʼ, waiting until all the jobs are done before going out to play, will grow old and die before they get to run in the sunshine. The core of what I want to achieve then, is letting the child run and play in the adult world.

March 7th, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Humans want more.  All the time more. It’s our nature.  In times long past, when your family/tribe killed a mammoth, you ate and ate for days until all the mammoth was gone and stored the excess energy as fat cos it would be another month before you saw anything more than nuts and berries again.  Good strategy in a world of scarcity and uncertain supply. A strong theory for the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in modern society suggests that an environment of plentiful energy supply does not divert our instinct to overconsume and store energy, so we will eat beyond our needs. We love starch and sugar as cheap carbs that our ancestors would have quickly used running away from bears and tigers, but which we take more than we can actually use, failing  to burn the kilojoules as we sit on our ever enlarging arses watching TV.

This instinct feeds the whole structure of commerce and capitalism.  In the same way that we don’t need another 1000kj today but still eat an evening snack, we have a hunger for new things that is obscene.  Many people will have retired a perfectly good iPhone 3 or 4 to get the iPhone 4S when it came out, which is a little faster, has better camera resolution (upgraded from more than you probably need for your limited photography skills, to even more than…) and umm yeah that’s about it.  But it’s new and more.  Walk past hard rubbish and you will virtually always see a CRT TV, which probably works, but isn’t flat panel HD so it’s no longer good enough for the kids’ bedrooms.  The sooner we want more, the faster the economy grows, and becomes dangerously fat and diabetic.

It’s reasonable to say that in my lifetime I will not spend more than two million dollars, yet Alan Joyce of Qantas strike breaking fame earns 5 million EVERY YEAR.  Perhaps his house is worth ten million dollars.  He could still pay it off in two years.  Where the hell is that money going?  It’s probably just piling up in his in tray at home like all the stuff you and I never get around to dealing with.  And he’s a low paid CEO. 5 mill a year is obscene, greedily taking far more than we could use, but not one of us would say no to it would we?

Which brings us to the internet and TV.  There is far more information than you could possibly absorb in an entire lifetime.  Wikipedia probably grows faster than you can read.  There are docos, news and current affairs to fill numerous 24 hour TV stations. And certainly reading and learning are good and useful things.  Just like you can’t get by without kilojoules and in a modern western world at least, gadgets, if you try to live without some reading and learning you will quickly become socially and functionally inept, not to mention turning into a redneck idiot. You need a certain amount of info to exist normally and healthily in society.

However there’s a point at which we are gluttonous with our information intake.   Watching said news when you can’t vote, influence, change, learn from the things you see is just consuming info you don’t need. I find myself refreshing websites to see if there is new stuff, reloading feeds and checking Facebook one more time.  When they run dry, I could write some lyrics/a song inspired by what I read; blog some thoughts about what I learned;  find friends to chat with online about things I’ve discovered; go to bed…  Instead, I’m thinking hmm, what can I search for that will provide another half hour or so of random reading.  Or at work Ooh there’s five minutes while this job runs, I’ll just read some feeds.  Or ahh it’s a bit late to play my guitar, I’ll just go and noodle on the internet for a bit…hey where did another evening go??  I  consumed a whole bunch of data that may have been interesting or even significant, but I ate so much of it that my brain got diabetic and didn’t process it properly, and it was far more than I needed to get through my day and I probably didn’t grow or learn and I likely won’t even remember half of it.  I should’ve eaten less and done more with it.

Tonight I obviously decided to create instead of consume – I took my recent experiences, a variety of things I had learned (consumed) before, processed them and compiled them into a new creation – this blog post. For a change I actually burned the mental energy from some things I had absorbed.  This post is the product of that mental energy I had consumed.  And now, assuming you got this far, you are the consumer of same.  And that’s great, your brain has had some healthy nutrition.  The question is…does it go into the pool of excess consumption and just make your head fat?  Or will you take what you ate here and burn it – doing, or making, or helping, or growing, or being?

November 5th, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Warning to the faint of heart. There’s a couple of rude words near the bottom of this, but they are artistically justified I swear.  Hehe, swear.

A few years ago a friend told me he was doing Febfast. Good idea I thought – most years I give up alcohol for Lent, which is a great Lenten observance – as well as the old fashioned ‘giving something up’, it’s a good head clearing exercise. Febfast has the advantage of being a lot shorter – for the secular giving up for a calendar month, you choose the shortest month. Another great idea! Also it is a fundraiser to support organisations that help young people with alcohol and other drug problems.

Then I heard of Dry July, and I thought yeah well, you have a good idea and someone else will hijack it, at least it rhymes that’s kind of neat.  They support adults living with cancer, which is a useful thing – you can’t help but think most cancer related fundraising will result in patented medications and big profits for someone, so a charity that fundraises for hospitals providing day to day support isn’t too bad.

A local junior footy club did ‘Give it a Flick for Auskick’ which raised discussion about the appropriateness of alcohol related fundraising for junior sports.  I can see both sides of that argument, can’t make a judgement there.

And then on Facebook the other day, someone mentioned Ocsober.  And I thought, ‘great, another one.’  And then I thought, ‘hehe Ocsober, funny.’  And THEN, I thought, ‘no! Enough is enough!’  February, July ,October…that’s a quarter of the year already…it’s the thin end of the wedge I tell you. It will be all year before you know it.  I’m starting to think it’s a conspiracy of the old fashioned Christian right, to slowly squeeze out of our society the last relief we have from the gaping hole left by all the colour they squeezed out of the rest of life.  If the Puritans have their way, next will be ‘March’ on the Bottle-O, ‘May’ ye all be Temperate or worst of all, Nobeervember.

Luckily for you, dear readers, Neuromesh has your calendar covered.  It’s time to strike a blow against those who would repress this wondrous molecule.  Intoxication wants to be free!  Sure we could aim against the incursions that have already been made on our God given tipple,  and claim our rights in February, June and October, but I believe we should always get the first shout in be proactive, not just countering those months but claiming the whole year for freedom and inebriation.  With this in mind, allow me to present to you….the Alcohalander!

Wineuary

Your liver is well conditioned by the Christmas festivities, so why not put all that work to good use!  It’s important to make the most of the Australian summer, it’s hot and thirsty and you’ve had a good leadup from Christmas.  But maybe you are a bit fat from all the Christmas beer, so get your friends to sponsor you for each bottle of wine you get through in January.  Chardy, Cab Sav or Bubbly, every glass you have can help someone in need.

Fundraising for: families who spent too much on X-Boxes for their kids at Christmas and have an unmanageable credit card debt.

Febrewary

It’s home brew month. Reaching the end of Summer spending, with a big year still ahead of you, it’s an ideal time to stash away a few bucks by drinking on the cheap.  Also the warm Australian weather makes for fast fermenting temperatures, so you should be able to get four ‘home projects’ completed in February.  While you wait for your brew to settle, drink whatever you like.

Fundraising for: Community garden projects, especially if they grow hops and barley

March to the Pub

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy London,  Occupy Melbourne…Occupy the local we say!  Take your liver and your stomach out for a treat – get your friends, family and workmates to sponsor you for every Pot/Schooner + Chicken Parma meal you consume at the pub during March!

Fundraising for: Chicken Welfare 

Graperil

Spent too much at the pub in March?  Time to resort to Chateau Cardboard.  The humble goony is the drink of fundraising choice for April.  Strike back at your year ten English teacher and say No!  Quantity is a great substitute for quality!  Remember to tell your sponsors whether you will be drinking the two, four or the mighty five litre cask!

Fundraising For: Recycling awareness, but if you can’t find any sponsors, put your empty goony box in the recycling instead of throwing it in the garden of the local primary school, and we’ll call it even.

May Part-ayyy

What comes before Part B?  Part Ayyyy!!! It’s the end of autumn and of sunshine.  The sun is down earlier and the night is longer, and the longer the night, the longer the party.  This month, your sponsors will be raising funds based on every nighttime hour you can spend drunk, so party for a cause!

Fundraising For: Insomnia research

Brewn

Chances are you completely forgot about the home brew you made in Febrewary, so it’s time to tidy up the garage and drink that.  Of course, unless your friends drink as much as you they’ll probably remember that they already sponsored you for these home brewed charitable efforts, so it’s a good time to enlist some new sponsors for your community service work in Brewn.  Plus you’ll have twice as many potential sponsors to hit up next month!

Fundraising for: Alzheimers research

Try July

It’s cold, it’s wet….stick to the warmth of your home and experiment. Try July is all about new things.  Go to the grog shop  and say “One of each thanks”, mix and match and see what works.  You’ll be making money for charity each time you try a new cocktail, plus you can win prizes for the most suggestive new cocktail names! Imagine the fun when you offer your friends an  ’Energetic Eel Enema’?

Fundraising for: Diversity thing

Auguzzle

Crank it up, it’s all about the numbers in Auguzzle. It’s cold and dark, but hey have a few and a few more and you don’t mind. What’s the drunkest you’ve ever been mate, haha, you have 31 days to acheive it.

Fundraising for: I dunno, probably stomach ulcers or something.

Pisstember

Yeah what’s more Australian than gettin’ on the piss yeah?  Get a few friends, and it’s your shout, and his shout and the other guys shout, as long as you don’t leave just when it’s your shout yeah!

Fundraising for:  more beers!!!

Octoberfest

Maulticutural and stuff it;s German so its’qw good they invented beer right?  Also, girls in them oktoberfest outfits and big beers and like lids on and that.

Fundraising for: scheiße hehe I swore in German

Noremember

I was gonna type something or…something, it was a, like, it was fu, it was fu…fuckin…hey, it’s been….mate…I love you mate, your fuckin….you know….

Fundraising for : Kebabs

Bleghcember

Yeah I used to, you know…and it’s fugn…I gotta….wait…be right back….

Fundraising for: Taxi fare

October 28th, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Comments(1) | Permalink | 

This is wonderful – a ‘film’ from when the first automated talking clock was installed in Australia in 1954, by the Post Office because Telecom didn’t even exist then. Prior to that, a human sat at the desk and literally read the time, over and over and over. And you think you hate your job. It goes for four minutes, well worth it to see the classic video, and also shows how the system was a literal clockwork mechanism that played off three discs.

I was inspired to look for this by wondering how the talking clock system managed daylight savings. Is there someone whose sole job is to manage the talking clock? What does s/he do, just come in twice a year to shift it back and forth at daylight savings?

The above system managed it because two systems were actually installed, one live and the second ran constantly as a hot spare. When it came to daylight savings, the secondary was manually advanced, and a technician would cut over to that at the crucial moment. The first machine would then be advanced and it would become the hot spare, and the process was reversed at the end of daylight savings. It was some quality engineering, designed to run constantly, which it did for 36 years.

The glass disc mechanical system with the BBC style Received Pronunciation accent was replaced in 1990 by a digital one recorded by Adelaide ABC broadcaster Richard Peach. He passed away in 2008 so possibly the talking clock should contain a warning to indigenous cultures that it contains the voice of someone who has died. This system probably just cuts over automatically. Whenever you replace something wonderfully clever with something merely computerised, a little bit of the magic goes out of the world. Telecom commemorated this fact by making a video twice as long and far less interesting.

October 1st, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Comment on this | Permalink | 

Did you think I was dead?  No I’ve just been busy playing my guitar.  I have several songs on the boil at the moment, but this one is complete.  It has random 5/4 timings and a four part guitar harmony bit.  Also, it’s strong and grrr yeah!  Listen to I Defy

September 9th, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Comment on this | Permalink |