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The Good Old Days

Have you noticed how some people (particularly the elderly) love to begin their diatribes of opinion with platitudes about how things are getting worse, how people are losing their values, we are surrounded by moral decay, and so on and so forth. For some reason these expressions get replicated by every generation, they go unquestioned in our daily conversations. It is as if we have all accepted the cultural premise that somewhere in the past there was a utopia that has been slipping away from us ever since. This elevation of the past is present in most political ideologies. It is most obvious in conservatives who morn the ending of the clean and pure social perfection achieved in the 1950s. However, green and left wing people are just as likely to make utterances in support of ancient hunter gather societies and their apparent nurturing of mother earth and all her children.

Let’s get one thing straight people. The past is mostly a horrible, sickly, place full of amoral people doing whatever the hell the could to survive. What little morality existed, was mostly imposed on them by self-serving delusional religious tyrants, who did so for their own gains. The present day level of human conscious interest in taking care of other people and the world around us is a luxury we have only been able to afford since the vast majority of people in the developed world became rich and educated. The world is a better place to live now, for most people, than it ever has been.

A Poem

Ahh the good old days,
when racism was acceptable and women couldn’t vote,
and you could go out bashing poofters on the weekend,
everyone thought that was pretty funny.

Ahh the good old days

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Self Confidence

Overheard conversation on a train.

“I am just sayin mate, that you have to be careful showing to much confidence in yourself. You know, when someone knows how good the are it rubs of badly on some people.”

“I’m not like that mate.”

“Nahh look mate, you’re not listening. You are, ok. It’s just how you are. Look I don’t mind hanging out with ya. But not everyone likes how you know how good you are.”

“I’m just confident mate, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well, not everyone is like that, ok”

What Jesus Says

I was traveling on the train between Cronulla and Central today, and I had an experience that gave me reasons to rethink my attitude toward religion. The train carriage was empty except for a man and a woman sitting opposite each other. He was a large Greek guy with a weathered face and an ear that had been shredded in some long forgotten bar brawl. She was a delicate young girl with long black hair and a soft voice.

He was engaged in a monologue about his amateur theater group and his approaching audition for Underbelly. She was punctuating his rambling story by making positive noises of agreement.

He paused for a moment, then changed topic.

“Thanks for talking to me hey. This guy in the group was really pissing me off. I wanted to fucking hit im ay. Naah, I don’t do that anymore, he is not fucking worth it ay.”

His companion agreed. I suspect she had not met the individual in question, and was not really in a position to evaluate his value. Her talkative companion changed the topic.

“You should come and join our theater group. We could use a beautiful young girl like you. Where are your folks from?”

“Italy”

“Italian hey. That’s great. We would have heaps of roles for a beautiful young Italian girl. Have you heard of Knockabouts?”

“yeah maybe”

“Yeah, that’s us. It’s a great thing. I’m going to be an actor. Well, maybe just an extra, but I’ll give it a go. You gotta try ay?”

Their conversation continued on in a similar vein until she left the train. As she stepped out of the carriage one of his phones rang. He cycled through the three handsets that sat in his jewel encrusted fists until he found the ringing device.

He had a prolonged conversation with another of his colleagues, during which he revealed that he had just recruited a gorgeous young Italian girl for the theater group. When his phone call ended he turned his attention to me. “You a muso mate?” he asked, gesticulating toward my guitar. I replied that I just played for my own amusement. He nodded. “I’m an actor ay.” he shrugged his shoulders. “Well I’m gonna be one, when I get into underbelly.”

He proceeded to converse with me on a wide variety of topics, principally about his life as a gangster on the cross. Many of the details of this conversation I would rather not reveal for fear that I wind up sleeping at the bottom of the harbor. The gist of it was that he had spent a good deal of time in gaol, and before that a good deal of time hurting people.

At some point in the conversation he paused to breath. Then he thanked me for talking with him, as he had done with the young Italian girl. He detailed the way his acting colleague had been a constant annoyance for him the previous day.

“In the old days I would have just held him down a fuckin poaaaaaa.” He pushed one hand toward the ground while with his other he formed a pistol with his fingers. His fat stocky finger pistol recoiled as he put a bullet into his imaginary acting colleague.

“Not these days ay. Since I brought Jesus into my life I don’t do that.” He looked at me intensely.

“Jesus says you just can’t go around killin cunts ay?”

“No you can’t,” I agreed.

Show us ya Rock Face

The Demons in Buddha's Support Band Pull Great Rock Faces

Please Talk Slowly

Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows that one of the things you will say almost every conversation is ‘please talk slowly’. When it is combined with ‘can you repeat that’, ‘I do not understand’ and ‘what is this called’ you have the core arsenal for surviving discussions with native speakers. Having to say these things repeatedly is often a barrier for language learners, it is feels like you are a burden on your conversation partner. Many people just slink off and find someone who speaks their language, rather than suffer the frustrations of such a staccato dialogue.

I have just made a discovery that mitigates this entire problem and I think it will revolutionize language learning. It is this, people with mental disabilities make perfect conversation partners for improving your language skills. There are several reasons for this.

1) They often naturally talk slower than other people.

2) They often have a more limited vocabulary than other people.

3) Everything they say tends to be obvious, at worst simply mundane.

4) They do not mind repeating themselves, in fact they often love it.

5) They will talk with you tirelessly for hours regardless of how
boring the conversation is.

I made this discovery while sitting peacefully beside XiHu lake in HangZhou. I had just finished having my picture taken with some locals when a young man with a nervous disposition and facial ticks began talking to me about how much my clothes cost. The cost of things was a recurring theme in our conversation for the next hour. Aside from the occasional non-sequitur that undermined my precious grasp of the context, I was able to converse with him about animals that lived in Australia, how many Chinese people were in Australia and how much food costs in Europe.

Australia once had a sheltered workshop program in which people were gainfully employed in the demoralizing task of crushing aluminum cans. It was shut down in favor of having them placed in regular businesses, but in my experience this never resulted in reasonable levels of employment, hence we have a large uncapitalized labor force. These people should be recognized for the benefits bestowed by their natural limitations. They could be employed language schools all over the world, to hang around in the foyer and lunch room to chew the fat with nervous little foreign students who cower at the thought of trying to converse with a tradie or a barmaid.

Meet the Parents

My girlfriend’s parents arrived from the south of China today. I am being forced to use my malformed Chinese continuously, which is great for my memory. Her father speaks the most slow and clear Chinese I have ever heard, so I am going to learn a great deal from him. He is a very relaxed and happy guy, so much so that he is already walking around the apartment in his underwear.

We just got back from the supermarket, where we bought supplies for the week so they can show me the traditional dishes from their region. At the checkout, her father beat me to the punch in getting his money out. So I had to wait until we were home to thrust a handful of cash into his palm. He then preceded to chase me around the apartment trying to give it back to me, thankfully he still had his pants on at this time.

Her mother is busy rearranging things in the kitchen. She is talking most of the time, I think she is complaining about our dismal array of utensils. I may soon be sent out on another shopping trip.

Let me put my trousers on

This evening I had just plugged my phone and computer in for a recharge when there was a loud crackle and all the power went out. I lay on my bed listening for while and heard someone emerge from one of the other rooms in my corner of the building. ‘Vot haz happened?’, I heard him ask himself. I emerged from my room to find the young German man named Torsten standing in front of the fuse box in his boxer shorts. He stopped fiddling about and turned to apologize, ‘ I sink maybe dis vas de sauce of de problem’. He held up his power cable with a very fragile looking adapter hanging off its end. I fiddled about in the fuse box with him for a short while before he suggested he might have to go see someone at reception. I agreed. He paused and then said ‘Just let me put my trousers on’, and disappeared back into his room.