Category Archives: Wyrd World

Observations, tips and general information

Halloween

It is approaching that time again; the shops are filling with witches hats, monster masks and plastic weapons of all sorts. We, the older members of the public wander around with bemused expressions, confirming in our heads which stores obviously have American head offices and thus think Halloween gear will sell well here. Granted there is a small contingent of my friends who flood the $2 shops at this time looking for the oddity that will finish off their LARP outfit, or to pick up some cheap fake-blood of face paint, but they’re few and far between. For most of us Halloween is chance to hold a dress-up dance party, because any excuse will do really, and get really drunk in our frilliest and/or blackest gear.

There may be a few small areas, particularly friendly cul-de-sacs, where the parents will band together to get their kids dressed up and out of their hair for 30-60 minutes, but there is no real trick or treat here. Any kid knocking on my door is likely to get a strange look followed by cursing as I struggle to find something, we just don’t go in for all that trick-or-treat stuff. (One American girlfriend from years past used to call it obesity-or-vandalism and it kind of stuck in my head). No, here Halloween is for adults, alcohol, and horror movie marathons.

For most of us the day passes unnoticed and unremarked, maybe there will be a few enthusiasts but this tradition hasn’t got that much of a following down under. I used to have a few Wiccan friends who would all bemoan the Christian hijacking of their sacred day, and before that I grew up with a Catholic family lamenting the pagan associations of their holy day. Yet let’s face it, the holiday belongs to the American candy companies and a handful of Chinese sweatshops that churn out rubber masks, faerie costumes, and witches hats.

I guess down here beneath the equator things are a little different, this isn’t the end of summer event it is on the other side, Samuin should really be six month earlier/later for it to make any sense. Your Samhain, is our Beltane, and vice versa. For us there isn’t the move into the dark months where the power of the sun fades and the primitive fear of the long dark can be exposed, acknowledge, and even mocked in a safe environment. Not that Aussie winters are really to be feared, we’re got such a mild winter that the fear of ice and starvation that so motivated the ancient Celts is completely alien to us. The Australian fears at this time aren’t of witches and warlocks, of night time predators and freezing death, but of drowning, snake bites, and shark attacks as the sunburnt land warms up and its population heads to the beach.

Yet for the whimsical and curious there is certain majesty to the whole concept of Halloween, from the Celtic tradition of opening up the barrows to the Latin day-of-the-dead celebrations, there is a wealth of tradition that makes a young nation like mine salivate intellectually. It is so easy to see why the early Americans appropriated all these mixed customs for themselves and hammered it into an eclectic mish-mash of concepts and legends. It’s less easy to understand how it got commercialized and decked out into consumerist kitsch, but that is the American way, the patriotic façade of gaudy baubles and shallow metaphors packaged for mass consumption and coated with extra sugar.

Athena – City of the Gods

Greece, better know to the Greeks themselves as Hellas or Ellada (Greek: Ελλάς, Ελλάδα). Here we start our journey in Athens, named for Athena the patron Goddess of this ancient city, with a history that dates back to a first settlement of  situated on the rock of the Acropolis in 3000 BC. The ancient ruins however largely date back only as far as the 4th century BC due to the ravages of time, earthquakes, military conquests, and the vandalism of early Christians.

Ilissos Hotel Lobby

So stepping off the plane into 48 degree heat (that’s X for those primitive Americans out there) was a bit of a shock as I’d been chipping ice off my windscreen the morning I left home. Thankfully the hotel was air-conditioned or the trip may have ended right there.

The streets of Athens are an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new, modern roads, internet cables overhead, and in the distance  the Acropolis or Hadrian’s Arch peaking out from behind some trees.

Of course one of the first things you’ve got to do when stepping into a new city is try the food. The very first of course, and as soon as possible after 42 hours in transit, is get in a shower. So two of our first stops were the Fruit Market where we would get the nicest fruit we would find all trip, and the Meat & Fish Market where a spruker almost ended the trip early by giving the mum-in-law a heart-attack. Sadly no photos of that moment.

So the first meal of the trip was, in fine Greek tradition, souvlaki. Now having grown up in Sydney in an area with a large Greek population souvlaki was no stranger to me, I was however travelling with the two fussiest eaters on the planet so after many suggestions and rejections I ordered them meat-on-a-stick and gave them its name later. Thankfully the waitress could speak English, as my brief childhood exposure to Greek had in no way prepared me to speak the lingo.

Euro-Trip 2012, a Wyrd Aussie in Europe

“Adventure? What sort of adventure?” I hear you mutter to yourself down the pipeline of the internet, and I mutter in turn “buggered if I know”. All two meters of me is going to be folded into a tiny airline seat like a human sardine, and then the distinctly un-aerodynamic looking metal tube will be flung violently from continent to continent with an underbelly full of highly explosive dinosaur extract.

Economy Class

Economy Class

From the moment I set foot on this winged technological death-trap, the ‘adventure’ starts, and it looks tragically bad. A tragedy worth of the bard himself, should he have lived to this modern age without creeping senility; and be so hard up for a quid that he’d need to churn out another truly trashy play. Surely if man was meant to fly we’d be able to mate with seagulls… hmm… somebody look into that. Romeo and Ethel the seagull, I feel a Pulitzer prize coming on.

In a few days I do the white-middle-class rite of passage, I get on to a plane and schlep around Europe for a few weeks. I will look down upon these quaint provincials and proclaim how modern and wonderful the world is where I come from, with our high tech communications, long working hours, lack of vacation time, stress induced breakdowns, and death due to obesity and sedentary lifestyle.  In turn, as they do with 10’s of thousands of school leavers taking their gap year, the locals will stare at me, wonder why this barbarian doesn’t speak a civilized language, and then bilk me for every penny they can. It is a long and honorable tradition.

The flip side is that I haven’t  been a teenager for almost 20 years, and I’ll have my wife and elderly mother in tow. This kind of precludes drug fueled orgies in Ibiza, and extreme skiing, so we’re doing the whole ‘cradle of western civilization’ thing, and sticking mainly to Greece and Italy. As this little pressure cooker may result in a vacation-triggered divorce from which I may need to slink back to the anonymity of Korea to work (and these days they test for both THC and transmittable diseases [1]), there is no point going to Amsterdam.

Still… drug fueled Ibiza orgies 😦

So hopefully I’ll be able to blog the saga… as long as nothing overly incriminatory comes to light, such as the last place my wife and mother-in-law were seen alive.

Last Stop

[1] It is obvious that demon, white-skinned, teachers are polluting South Korea with drugs and AIDS… even if all the dealers are natives, and sex ed is a joke. Of course as all the evidence shows that abstinence only sex ed only ever leads to increasing teen pregnancies, so maybe it is all a government plot to boost the chronically low birth rate.

A Woman’s Body

A short story from a possible future only a few years down the track

http://amandaching.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/67/

Read it and weep, or at least get a bit angry that this almost falls outside the realm of fiction.

PC-Mass

A Christmas Wish !

I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to my friends and
colleagues, but it is difficult in today’s world to know exactly what to
say without offending someone. So I met with my lawyer yesterday, and on
her advice I wish to say the following:………….

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for
an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non
addictive, gender neutral celebration of the summer solstice holiday
practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or
secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular
persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice
religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically
uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar
year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendar of choice of other
cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great
(not to imply that Australia is necessarily greater than any other
country) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical
ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee .

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely
transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no
promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/him
or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the
sole discretion of the wisher. The wish is warranted to perform as
expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one
year or until the issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the
wisher.

Best Regards ( without prejudice )

Name withheld ( Privacy Act ).

China vs US… who’s our sugar daddy?

How many soldiers left with nothing to do now that Iraq is being emptied, and let’s face it, not all of them will be willing to return to civilian life.

What’s the solution? Post them to Australia!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/us-troops-headed-to-australia-irking-china/2011/11/16/gIQAiGiuRN_story.html

If the US really is hoping to use us as an entry point into the asia-pacific (now that Europe can’t afford to play ball) it’s going to need another response point to protect shipping from the pirate activity in those crowded waters.

In the mean time let’s leave all those heavily armed folks, from a gun-crazy culture, in the hottest part of our nation with little but croc infested waters and posi0nous fauna to keep them occupied. They’ll either use up their surplus ammo, or get eaten/stung/bitten and generate more work for the medical corp.

It also helps explain why Kevin has been shuffled off into a corner… if we’re going to be friends with benefits with the US again the Beijing friendly former PM had to be hidden away like a dirty secret.

Morality vs Religion

Disclaimer: Everything I’m about to write is wrong, or flawed, or easily debunked……. probably. I’m writing it as it comes, while it is still fresh in my mind and without looking up outside sources that would no doubt send me of on in a tangent that would result in a very different post.
So Morality contrasted with Religion. Keeping in mind that Ethics is really something else again. Morality is, at it’s most basic level, comprised of three facets.
The first and most important is Empathy.
“I will not go up to that person I hate and shoot them in the head, because I would hate it if someone shot me in the head simply because they didn’t like me.” It’s the foundation concept, when children become able to understand this concept of self, and extrapolate that other humans must also have self, this is the point that they can become moral beings.
The second is Self Interest
“I will not rob that bank and take all that money, because if I do I will probably get caught, I will go to jail, and much of my life will be wasted.” It’s a less compelling facet, because it can be derailed by simple logic. If it couldn’t there wouldn’t be crime. To use an economics term, it is all about Risk versus Profit
The third and final is Group Identity.
“I will not cheat on the husband I no longer love with that handsome, younger, man with the cheeky smile and bedroom eyes. If did, and my community found out I would be embarrassed because that is not what my community does. Worse I might be cast out from the group, and let’s face it I hate being alone.”

Religion by contrast is comprised of the same three facets, but in the totally opposite order.

There isn’t a lot of empathy demonstrated by believers, despite the fact it is often one of the underpinning concepts. Kill the pagan and their family, isn’t often prefaced with consideration of how I’d feel if that other group came and killed me and my family for worshiping what they consider to be a false god. I don’t see many folk thinking about the homosexual, or non-believer in their community and wondering how they themselves would feel if reviled, mocked, avoided, or bullied by a majority with a different world-view.
Self Interest?
Well there is ample evidence of self-interest, but usually at the top of any given religious institutes food chain. Let’s face it, religion is big business. Church leaders can have multiple cars, mansions, power over thousands or millions, and all with an unquestionable stamp of authority. “Bow before the book, because the book tells you to. Do not question the book, because the book tells you not to. Do what I say, pay my tithe, for I am the holder of the book.” I’m not saying that all religious leaders are evil, or even that they are aware of this hypocrisy, but those attracted to roles of power are often the least suited to wield it.
Last, and in this case most importantly, is Group Identity.
“I am with the group of US, they are with the group of THEM. In my group we believe in idea X, we perform action Y, we don’t do Z. This is how I know I am a member of this group, and how I know that those who do not are THEM.” It is a perfect system, self sustaining logic that appeals to our primitive pack mentality. If you do not believe in X, you are one of THEM. If you do not perform Y, you are one of THEM. If I see you do Z you are one of THEM. THEM is bad, simply because you are not one of US, you do not belong, you are different, therefore you are to be feared. Religion is about identity rather than belief, which is why there are secular Jews and Catholics, identifying with the community, just not the spirituality. It’s all about belonging, no one wants be be on the outside, not really. Best of all, in the end, when we face the great darkness of our own mortality, we get to convince ourselves that we will not only still continue, but we’ll be carrying on with a group exclusively comprised of US. There will be no dissenters, no differences of opinion to scare us, no challenges to the concept of US that might shatter our fragile psyche and make us think. It will be… Heaven… as long as we don’t think about it too hard.

A few posts of interests over here.

Feel free to comment, mock, or flame, I’m a lot more interested in peoples ideas then I am in assuming everyone agrees with me.