Oh, for the love of…

I shouldn’t be writing about this.

I should be writing for you, imaginary readers. I should have something light and whimsical and charming, like more Changeling or another lentil recipe. Or working on the super secret project I haven’t told you about yet. But no.

Cause once again I’ve gotta watch my government run a perfectly serviceable country genitals first into a fusking disk sander.

Now, you might be wondering “Quorganism, what can you be talking about? Your government have been a bunch of apparently lobotomised and strategically shaved chimps for years now. What’s special about today?”

Well, today I read this article.

So our incompetent, human rights abusing government has decided that the best way to deal with domestic terrorists is to remove their Australian Citizenship.

That’s right. In a move oddly reminiscent of the British policy that gave this country its very first genocide, the Federal Government of the Commonwealth of Australia has decided that the best response to crime is to throw up their hands and say “Hey! Its somebody else’s problem!”

As if we weren’t an international joke already. As if our leaders hadn’t already spat in the eye of international law.

I’m not even considering the human rights implications. An Australian arrested on terrorism charges should go to prison, with a chance of rehabilitation. I don’t want to think about what would happen if we let the Americans get hold of them, let alone if we just dumped them on whatever Middle Eastern country caught them. A firing squad would be a mercy.

But its the sense of casual irresponsibility that really makes me mad. Not only does the government not care that helpless refugees are being tortured and abused on its payroll, it also wants to simply disavow any responsibility for people who were born within its borders, raised in its schools, and ruled by their policies. I’m not making any moves to support the ideas of extremists, hell, the very notion of theocracy for me stinks of a collaboration of the weak and cowardly screaming in futility against their own cosmic impotence, but that does not mean we should abandon our citizens. They remain our problem, whether we want them or not.

Naturally, the Labor party, their role of Opposition apparently an ironic one, has naturally rolled over and agreed with the idea.

And another thing that sticks in my gnashing craw is that the imbeciles call this approach “modern”. Naturally, with the moral compasses of the current administration being set to some LSD addled version of Disney’s Camelot, they seem to believe that the idea of simply declaring someone outside the law was enough. Of course medieval kings didn’t have a police force, standing army or pervasive surveillance state to “keep us safe”.

But the fact that these laws are absurd won’t stop this absurd Kafka parody. Only we can.

And I’m beginning to think that, given current trends, we probably won’t.

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Photo “FKD”, courtesy of Newtown Graffiti on Flickr
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Five Days, Four Beds and Two Thousand Klicks

Well, in the last week I’ve spent about five days driving.

There’s not a whole lot that can be said for that much highway.

But we’ve made it from Melbourne to Canberra to our childhood home in the Blue Mountains, and then back in the same direction.

Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria
Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria

The long haul through country New South Wales and Victoria is like a churn through Australian colonial folklore. We lunched in Chiltern, a town all too willing to cash in on its proximity to Ironbark, and we found no trace of any barber around. Chiltern is also incidentally one of the few words that has managed to stump me in Articulate.

We took the Road to Gundagai, and found a very quiet small town winding down on a Sunday afternoon, with hills surrounding that reminded me of the monstrous Sentinel Hill in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. It wasn’t so worrying, in truth, as Tarcutta, which touts itself as the true centre point between Sydney and Melbourne despite the popular myth being that Canberra was built in such a place, and I have to say the real median has a slow buildup of dereliction that evokes an inland Innsmouth. The place feels haunted for all the traffic it sees, though it stands on the false grounds of a mythic capital that never was.

Hilltops of Gundagai
Hilltops of Gundagai

There’s also about five turnoffs for Wagga Wagga, spread over maybe a hundred kilometers, which is a bit strange. Gives the feeling your going in a big circle.

My insomnia got worse across these myriad towns, though we stayed in familiar places with friends and family. Part of that must have been the strange exhaustion of driving that leaves your mind burned out but your body unable to rest.

There’s Glenrowan too. They have a monochrome image of Ned Kelly in his famous armour on the road sign. We didn’t stop.

Imaginary readers, I wouldn’t usually post something as aggressively referential as this, though I don’t imagine my analysis is anything particularly special.

The point is that this road is a terrifying object, to my mind. You move along it, and you and hammered with the scale of this place when you see just how much colonist culture is crammed into a thin stretch not far off the Eastern seaboard, what a tiny part of this country has provided so many of our stories and how much of our discourse.

There was more than once that I pondered just how much trouble we’d be in, how far we were from help, if the car were to break down along that road. I can cover ten kilometers in an hour at a run. For how many hours, I do not know. You ask yourself if that would be enough. You find yourself asking these questions, or maybe you don’t. Maybe that’s just me.

The land is huge and it is hungry and so many of its stories fail to reach our ears.

Strange how much can be said of a stretch of highway.

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Street Art I Have Wandered Past

Alright, this is something I’ve really enjoyed about Melbourne. A lot of the graffiti is really high quality.

I sort of made a habit of photographing street art during my long sojourn in Canberra, and followed Abyss‘ harlequin tinted, occultish murals wherever I could find them. I think part of the appeal for me has always been the temporary, transient nature of the art itself. Being illegal most of the time, its only a matter of waiting until its either torn down or usurped by something else.

I don’t think the lens captures what the eye sees, but I’ve made a go of it. Without further ado…

A lot of folks have taken to decorating council breaker boxes.

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But, as ever, the wall remains the favoured medium of operation.

wpid-20150515_111827.jpgwpid-20150509_160806.jpgwpid-20150515_113809.jpgwpid-20150515_113446.jpgGot some audacious stuff in there. It should probably go without saying that this isn’t my art, and I don’t actually know who did it. Just thought I’d share it with y’all before it disappears.

Kind of reminds me of a story in Prague, an example of street artists kind of winning out over local council. It may be apocryphal, but hey, most good stories are. There’s a statue – right outside the James Dean American Diner for those who want to find it – probably ten feet tall, a kneeling cubist fertility goddess, all chrome finish. Story I heard says it appeared overnight, and when the council found it they realised they couldn’t afford a rig big enough to move it. So they declared it city property, gave it a plaque, and as far as I know she’s still there.

Interesting thing is that it keeps happening. There’s more than one Kafka themed statue in the city erected without planning permission, which was kept on account of frankly impeccable craftsmanship. Probably a better approach than paying millions for public art of questionable quality, but hey, local councils here tend towards the bureaucratic and stupid, so I’m not surprised. Doesn’t really dull the disappointment, but that’s just the way some of this goes.

Hope y’all like the pictures, dear imaginary readers.

Gehenna, Upon Which Our Children Are Given Unto Mammon

Anzac Day came and went some time ago, and yet my brain does not cease to turn.

Late article, I know. The furore has passed.

For those among my imaginary readership who did not grow up in Australia, Anzac Day sort of sits as a second Remembrance Day marking the catastrophic failure that was the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War, the first large scale engagement of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and despite attempts at appropriation by nationalist elements is usually a reflection on the futility of war and the suffering it causes.

And suffering is the right word. Lacking a glorious, mythic history to look back on, Australia’s military campaigns have in general been brutal, unforgiving attrition, all the more thankless for, with the exception of the jungle war in Papua against the Japanese in WW2, being unwanted deployments in the face of a local population that did not want them.

The film Gallipoli, starring a very young Mel Gibson, really jabs that home, and is a decent primer for those unfamiliar with this little bit of history.

So I begin to ponder the why of it. In the case of the Australian military the objective for the most part is appeasement; an ironic idea for those who remember the demagoguery of the Cold War. Once again excepting the Papua deployment, which is arguably symptomatic of the greater system, all of Australia’s military actions have ultimately been blood sacrifice in an attempt to secure the protection of the most powerful empire of the time; first Britain then, after the fall of Singapore, the United States. In a strategic sense, the far off battlefields of Europe, North Africa, Korea and Vietnam mean very little to Australia, and few of them at any point have been capable of generating any real threat with reach enough to reach the South Pacific. But the Empire of the day deemed them worth dying for, and so the Australian government jumped at the chance to feed its paltry forces into the meat grinder, despite the abandonment by one empire and statements from the latter suggesting that they would do the same if it was in their interests.

This train of thought followed to another. The idea of sacrifice is often brought up at national memorial days, but I don’t think that it is fully understood, especially within this particular context. The Anzacs sure as hell didn’t die for our freedom or prosperity; powerful though the Ottoman Empire may have once been they were never going to invade Australia, and had plenty on their plates to deal with at that point already. Instead, it was blood spilled to placate another dying empire, Australia’s erstwhile guardian. It was an offering of human lives, like the Aztecs used to give to the sun, hoping that it would ensure the British Empire’s protection.

That it did not only makes it all the more tragic.

Upon further consideration, I realised that this idea can be applied to warfare more generally, especially within the context of the Western Hemisphere. Feeding the earth blood to ensure future fortune is no new idea, and has an added layer of economic rationale; the idea of waging war over resources is familiar and common practice for everyone between the Vikings and the US Army and many more besides, but the newly controlled resources are not the only gain for those controlling the war. The ensuing bloodbath means there are fewer left to share those resources.

It took me a little while to get over just how messed up that was.

But on a purely rational level – the kind commonly deployed by psychopaths, for instance – it makes sense. Those who arrange for wars to occur, and usually benefit most from their occurrence, certainly aren’t those on the front line, and thus are probably going to make it to the end of the conflict to enjoy the spoils. They will face less local competition for those resources, allowing them to capitalise even more aggressively. This is a pattern very much in line with Western European conflict throughout history; seize lands to increase agricultural capacity, and there will be more resources available to those that survive. This can be contrasted with the South Asian Mandala system, which had comparatively rich resources with fewer people to work them, whose wars tended to focus on slaving to better extract those resources, and though I won’t go into too much detail I felt it bore inclusion. This is a psychology that appears to have persisted into modern warfare; a means for power groups to raid for resources while shedding surplus bodies.

It might appear that this does not hold for the example of Australia; after all, the country was crippled by the two World Wars, with the workforce significantly drained. I would argue that those undertaking the sacrifice do not always have any benefit from doing so, just like the Aztecs of old. The Australian sacrifice contributed to a reshaping of world politics, that led to their allies becoming the only viable imperial forces in the world. By assisting the United States, both militarily and perhaps more importantly on a political level, the mountain of Australian corpses has assisted the USA in maintaining its current primacy. The sacrifice has aided the country’s guardian, certainly.

And so we come back to Anzac Day, and can ask again what the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces throughout history really died for. What the sacrifice they made, that is extolled each year, really gained. What we have today is a world of American primacy, bull headed patriarchy and free-wheeling capitalism, in which the wealthy can control lobby groups that arrange for governments to send their young citizens to die for resources valuable to unregulated heavy industry, who in turn lobby for more. It leaves rich, old, white men, the traditional brokers of capital in our society, with an even greater stranglehold of its resources.

Where a side of horse meat may make the difference between a poor man and a rich one.

Remember your Trumbo children; you have no duty to die for the rich man. It is your duty to live; for yourself, for your family, and for the fact that you are a thinking, talking human being and for that reason alone your life has importance.

Don’t let the rich man make a sacrifice of you.

6248476086_4c6cc5a066_oPhoto “Occupy D.C.” courtesy of Devin Smith, aka Devinish on Flickr. Hope my ramblings didn’t hurt your ears, dear imaginary readers, but this little economist does get very excited on finding new supply and demand forces.

Everybody keep safe, and have a great weekend.

So… I Live In Melbourne Now

Hey again imaginary readers.

I probably should have warned you all before this happened, but I moved to Melbourne about a week ago today, and thusly lacking an internet connection my capacity to send my charming diatribes to you was reduced to naught. So, for I think the second time in the history of the Next Best Plan, I will say this.

I’m sorry.

Now, to mark my triumphant return to internet land, here’s a spooky black and white photo of Elizabeth Street! I’ve got some more Changelings of the Outer West coming up, as well as the return of the Young Thief to Scenes from the City, so thanks for sticking around!

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Kookaburra

I saw a Kookaburra mere minutes ago.

Given I’m in the Blue Mountains this should not be a strange thing. But it felt like it had been a long time since I had seen one, and then I realised that was because it was.

So the bird was, happily perched up on a power line, before flitting away into the foggy trees, and this returnee is watching something perfectly normal.

There was no time for me to take a photograph, and I find that the lens usually fails to capture what the eye sees in moments like these.

So instead, here is a much better picture from a much sunnier day, courtesy of Tatters (or tgerus) over on Flickr, and I hope you all have a good weekend.

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Also, I’ve realised that I’ve been slacking off, relying on a bit of a backlog of work I’d built up. You shall receive said work soon, as if I’m just resting on my laurels then the motivational element of this isn’t working.

Once again, having used Tatter’s photograph from Flickr, you are free to use any part of this article in your own work as long as the relevant folks are credited (and in the picture’s case if is isn’t for commercial use), so take that and run as far as you like with it.

Home Again, Home Again

Well, we did make it back to Australia alive. The heat is refreshing after the relentless cold of the Scottish winter and the plague pit that is 22 hours in economy class. So we’ve come to the end of our big adventure, for now at least. Back to what passes for reality here.

Anyway, we had some friends come in from out of town, so we took them around the cliffs of the Jamison Valley to see the Three Sisters. Figured I’d share the piccies with you.

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And finally… well, I told my buddies in the UK that this stuff didn’t exist in Australia. Guess fate showed me…

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What I Did on Australia Day

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Traditional bush recipes. We used none of these.

Well, this is a bit of a misnomer. There are a few distinct problems at play here.

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Why Quorn? Because Quorn!!!

Given I was undertaking these activities on the evening of the 26th January in London, which basically means that Australia Day was already over in Australia. I don’t know if this affects the veracity of the title.

The other thing is whether I should even be celebrating Australia Day at all. There’s some pretty dark historical shenanigans tied to this day, committed by a country of long dead bastards that nobody really wants to think about the actions of.  But I think I’ll save my ramblings regarding Australian identity and nationalist myth making for another post.

Because this isn’t a post about politics (we didn’t play my game, Australia Day, for that matter either.  But that’s beside the point.), but about the much less divisive topic of dinner.

I made curry pies.

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Frying!

Now, this may not seem to be a unique or unusual thing for any of my probably non-existent Australian readership, but it is a little something that has been niggling at the expat friend with whom we’ve been staying. The British do not seem to produce curry pies, or at least not as far as we’ve been able to discern. Or cinnamon donuts for that matter, which is both disheartening and a bit beyond my ability to correct. And the British idea of a pie, as presented to us, has been rather different to what we’re used to. Rather than the self contained meal packages I’d grown up with, the are usually just a bowl of stew with a piece of pastry perched, often precariously, on top.

A Pot Pie, perhaps. And usually meat and ale flavored, so not what we we’re after. So I made the remedy.

And for those of you who are worried, don’t fret. My cyberpunk diet remains in effect. My pies were full of Quorn, a mysterious substance that I had encountered in the past but had yet to experiment with. My partner and our friend went with beef, a kind of Quorn but made out of cow.

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The drop of the night.

Anyway, the ritual begins. The constituent parts (quorn or cow quorn) are fried with onion. The heavy filing is then bulked with red wine, my go to blood substitute when making soy based dishes. Yellowtail in this case, because PATRIOTISM! and a special at Sainsburys. So cheap!

Bit of salt and pepper, some stock to thicken up the beef mince.

Then some medium curry powder until the filling achieves is traditional yellow colouration.

Now here’s where things get a little funny. Our host and I both like our pies very spicy, so chilli on hand, but my partner prefers a milder blend. And the other two are having the meat filling, which… I am not, so there was a bit of musical pans while I sorted that out.

Anyway, line some little pans with puff pastry. Would have preferred round ones, but what the hey, we make do. You could use a pie dish if you actually owned one, which as drifters we do not.

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The other drop of the night. Might have been coffee and Canadian Fireball whiskey in the mug. I don’t have a problem…

Add filling! Add a puff pastry lid to complete the baked structural integrity, a smattering of milk or soya to proof the lid against burning, then into the oven at 180°C!

Remove when their ready. What? You want a time limit? Well, that really depends on your oven, and in my travels between ovens I have come to the conclusion that the temperature setting is inevitably made of lies, so I’ve never much bothered with specific times. I suppose I could solve this with use if the temporal Australianism, “-ish”, used as a suffix and meaning “approximately”. So, give it fifteen minutes-ish, stick a fork into the centre for five-ish seconds, then touch it to your lip. If it’s hot, and the pastry is nice and flaky, your pie is done.

Eat it. I probably shouldn’t have to instruct you on how to do that.

The Verdict

Well, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, the bit where my guinea pigs- I mean friends and loved ones inevitably tear me apart for my terrible cooking. Well not this week readers! The pies were well received, to quote “even better than the last batch”. The Quorn, too, tasted exactly like an Australian meat pie, bringing to mind the scandals of my youth, where it turned out the damn things were something like 70% soy protein anyway. So the Cyberfood project is tested and successful again.

And we drank Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer. Because the only “Australian” beer I could find was Fosters, which is brewed in Edinburgh and crapulescent beyond what it’s fictional status should allow.

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The final product. Partially eaten, as I am sure you’ve come to expect.

So there you go. Hope you all enjoyed your culturally problematic day off work, or Monday as it was for the rest of the world. Cheers for your continued imaginary readership.

My Australia Day Special

This is something I made for Australia Day.

You know those times when you promise somebody something, and the next morning you wake up with a smoking gun and no alibi?

Well, this experience was not particularly like that. Not at all, in the literal details. This half arsed roleplaying game grew out of a joke that led to my promising a friend that I’d have it ready for the upcoming Australia Day. Don’t know if he even remembers.  Anyway, here’s the finished product, and I use both terms loosely. I have learned that I’m an alright writer, poor artist, and lack in both skill and software when it comes to pdf editing. Nonetheless, I made something.

Now, an Australia Day comedy roleplaying game written by an anarchist historiography enthusiast about a country that keeps telling him to “love it or leave it” is naturally going to be a pretty strange beast. I have endeavoured to push no agenda, and present a wacky of view of what my country of birth might be, could be, or maybe was once before anyone alive today remembers. I can’t speak as to the Kahlua’s agenda.

ALSO: Serious course language warning on this one guys. Just so you know.

Australia Day

Best wishes everybody. I might have a little “sample adventure” up in a couple of days. You might even find me filling this blog with a play report. We shall see.

Happy Day Off.