Friendly Bulldozers

Friendly Bulldozers

Sometimes I dream of friendly bulldozers,
of wrecking balls and sticks of dynamite,
a web of fuse wire collapsing dullness,
ridding this town of its gleaming tombstones
provided with glee by the misguided
who left a legacy of sterile streets.

Sometimes I dream of winding back the clock,
of a welcome clean slate on which to build
calm new leafy streets, not more wind tunnels,
pleasant parks containing fresh happiness,
where shadows no longer envelope life,
a place to enjoy, not one to endure.

Sometimes I dream it was just a nightmare.
Perhaps I’ll wake and gaze upon beauty,
landscapes lovingly crafted out of joy
where the air doesn’t choke or smother thought
in desperate dark canyons full of lost hope.
And then I dream of friendly bulldozers.

I got grumpy when I tried to get a new resume written

Okay, so this is not a recent story, but I remember it well. And it made me grumpy at the time.

At the end of an unforgiving summer I found myself in Perth, Western Australia almost broke and in desperate need of gainful employment. It was 1993 – I was still young and relatively foolish. A couple of months of having too much fun and drinking too much beer was finally catching up with me.

With the summer easing its intensity, the prospect of getting out to see the bush was rapidly gaining appeal. As far as I could tell the best way to do this was by working in mineral exploration. Mining was, and still is, one of the largest industries in Western Australia, if not the largest, and Perth is the headquarters of many companies.

A quick glance at my CV showed it needed some work. I didn’t think my limited experience working in warehouses and sawmills was going to count for much. However, not being familiar with the conventions for writing such documents in Australia there was a strong chance that I would need some help. An advert in the West Australian newspaper suggested that such help was available. It directed me to a place called The Resume Graveyard, or Resume’s Rn’t Us, or something similarly uplifting.

Once there, a man who called himself Chaz. He had slicked back hair and dressed in a three-piece suit (I should have picked up on the signs as soon as I saw him), sat me down and together we went through my experiences. Chaz came up with a document that was about 10 pages long. It was, in my opinion, unwieldy and unreadable. Who was going to sit down and wade through all of that? I was very much convinced that the gold personal survival swimming award I gained at the age of fifteen was not going to hold much sway with prospective employers I in the mining industry, or that a comprehensive list of my interests outside work was going to persuade anybody to employ me. Chaz thought it was groovy. It was clear that Chaz was a fuckwit.

‘Isn’t this a bit lengthy?’ I asked, testing the water to see what response would be forthcoming. Chaz was now sweating, maybe due to wearing his unnecessary suit on such a hot day, but most likely because he thought I’d rumbled him as the charlatan that he was.
‘No, it’s just what companies want,’ he assured me, his eyes darting all over the room.

‘Bollocks is it. This was a total waste of my time and money.’
That is what I wanted to say, but I was too polite. Instead I put a smile on my face and thanked him profusely for taking the time to help me. I also agreed to spread the word about his services. However, I made no promises concerning what I would say about my experiences in his office. I think that not confirming that I would be positive showed a distinct lack of gumption on his part. Anyhow, after parting with about sixty dollars I could ill-afford to lose to gain the benefit of his incompetence, I headed down the stairs and dumped his work in the first available bin.

Once back at the youth hostel I put together a two-page summary of my experience and qualifications. I then ran it past a couple of travellers who were in publishing in the USA and who regularly employed people. They were not fuckwits.

After gaining some tips and fixing my early efforts, I decided my CV would do the job. I was only twenty-three so I was not going to have a lot of experience or a long CV. The only way I could stand out was use very light grey paper to make my slim excuse for experience become visible in a pile of white.

It sounds like a bit of a fairy tale I know, but having now worked on the other side of the employment game I will happily admit that a CV that is a subtly different colour (not garish pink or bright yellow or any other ridiculous colour – remember I said subtle), such as light grey or beige, does indeed stand out in a pile of 50 such documents.

Within two weeks I had a job and was working on a sheep station (I cannot remember the name, no matter how hard I have tried) cutting up drill cores. That job spawned a year’s worth of work. And when I wandered into a West Perth office the next April with a year’s experience as Field Assistant under my belt, Keith, the boss, didn’t even look at my CV. He just asked me a couple of questions, looked me up and down, and said something like, ‘You’ll do. We’ll be leaving for the Kimberley in June.’ We then had a short chat about the UK before I left and tried to work out what to do for the next couple of months. Working for Keith turned out to be the best job I have ever had.

The moral of this story? Watch our for dodgy guys called Chaz telling you they can help you write you resume!

iPhone 5

Yes – I’m grumpy again, and this time it’s Apple in my sights. Well, not Apple, but the people queuing outside for the new iPhone. But, rather than whinge on in prose, I put it in verse.

    iPhone 5

I saw them by the Apple store,
they queued for hours, and then some more,
those poor deluded mindless drones,
with vacant souls, outdated phones,
desperate for a brand new toy,
a moment of such fleeting joy.

All these people made me stew,
I wanted to just kick a few,
inject some sense into their veins
to stimulate their slave-like brains,
tell them that they should not fear
the phones will be on sale all year,

until the next one comes along,
and then they’ll be another throng,
another queue of shallow slaves,
they come each year in nauseous waves
that never reach the peaceful shore,
condemned to ‘want’ for ever more.

While I’m on the subject of politicians…how Parliament works

If you ever become Member of Parliament you should spend some time getting properly inducted into the basics of the system. This will allow you to slide smoothly into your new role with the minimum of fuss. It would be a mistake to think you know much just because you have read the papers, seen official reports, and watched Question Time on the television. All of these are just for the public, to provide assurance that the government is working and there is healthy debate both between parties and within parties. To help you out, this chapter will take you through some of the underlying principles and processes that occur on a daily basis – those that are not reported on in the media.

Mutually Assured Distraction

Most parties are reluctant to make actual decisions for fear of making a mistake and causing themselves angst; they prefer to rely on government departments to provide advice about what should happen. As most people know, government departments are also reluctant to make decisions. This leads to a vastly increased likelihood of embarrassing stalemates and inaction, together with a very short list of achievements for that particular sitting of parliament – usually consisting of the easy no-brainer decisions (although there is no guarantee there will be quick agreement on these) with difficult decisions postponed until the next sitting, or the next, or even the one after that. The theory of Mutually Assured Distraction (MAD) prevents such inaction becoming embarrassing. It is implemented by both major parties and protects them both from a conspicuous lack of progress that will look bad to the electorate…well alright then, worse than it currently does.

MAD ensures that when difficult decisions have to be made, and there is potential for both parties to look incompetent due to their complete lack of ability currently sitting on the front benches, one or other of them will suddenly bring a new issue to the fore. They will flood the media with quotes and headlines. This distraction will, ideally, be a very minor issue that has been blown out of all proportion and / or be an issue that is global and beyond the control of a single country. It may even be time for a skeleton to be let out of closet and to have a scandal. Whatever the distraction, it will bounce around in the media for months before there is finally a coordinated agreement on what to do. By the time this has happened everybody will have forgotten about the difficult problem that needed to be avoided.

The Party Whips

The Party Whips are not ladies dressed up in leather and thigh-high boots, as most of the public would think when this term is mentioned in the same sentence as politicians. No, they are senior politicians with a distinct and essential role. Because the party hierarchy knows that the general level of understanding of most issues is not that good among most of their parliamentarians, they employ the whips to run around and tell everybody how to vote. Now, you could be a little insulted by this and feel aggrieved that they do not trust you to make a good decisions, or, and I highly recommend this approach, you could be happy that someone else has decided to do your thinking for you and turn your brain to less onerous activities like what you might have for lunch that day. Who wants to have to wrestle with complex and divisive issues if someone else does it for you? Anyhow, if the whips start getting you down, you can always go and visit the leather-bound ladies with the real whips.

The House Bubble

Contrary to what you are probably hoping, I have not mis-spelt bubbly; I am talking about an imaginary force-field that surrounds Parliament. This bubble prevents politicians getting into too much trouble. It separates them from the outside world. This bubble is to protect you by preventing annoying journalists from pestering you for quotes on a matter of current policy, and to stop members of the great unwashed asking you difficult questions. It also helps keep you at least a decade behind the time, where social attitudes are concerned.

Speeches

Every now and then you may be required to make a speech in Parliament. This is not a cause for concern or embarrassment – every politician has to do this once in a while. Your speeches will be written for you by people who are skilled at keeping you out of trouble and making sure that what is on the paper in front of you is what your party whips believe is what should be said. On rare occasions you may be required to speak to the general public. In this case the same process applies, except that there is the additional aspect of looking like you are genuinely concerned about the subject matter. This can be quite challenging.

The Committee System

The committee system is how issues debated within the Parliament are resolved – at least far as possible given that we are talking about politicians. It has always been done this way and it will always be done this way, so don’t argue – unless you are the Prime Minister. If you are in the top job, then you will probably be so assured of your infallibility that you will make random statements without committee oversight – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The committee system is another way in which the political machine stops you from making an idiot of yourself in public; it hides your stupid comments in the minutes. It also hides you within a larger group of idiots, so you won’t be revealed as the class dunce and get voted out by your electorate at the next election.

Your Office and Appearance

As a member of parliament, you will get an office, along with money to employ an assistant. Your office is where you hide when you’ve had enough of life and don’t want anybody to find you. Your assistant is there to repel any attempts to enter your office. Furnish it with some comfortable chairs and a minibar and you’ll be on your way. Where your attire is concerned, you should always dress very smartly and use your allowances to get top-of-the-range suits. People want to see their elected representative cutting dashing figures on the camera. No matter what you do and say in the House, people will have more inclination to support you if you look the part.

The Science of Political Success

I posted this at the WARP website…but I thought I’d put here as well.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that politics is all about people and that science plays no part in it. These people are clearly wrong. I will tell you why – and I’m not talking about getting a degree in political science either.

I already discussed how dark matter influences parliament in my article Dark Matter and Bureaucracy (http://www.thepoliticus.com/content/link-between-dark-matter-and-government), so I will not repeat myself here. There are, however, a number of other identified scientific principles that rule the life and potential career of a politician. These theories have been tested and proven to be correct over many years; the evidence of their validity is compelling. Perhaps the following are most important theories that all aspiring politicians should learn about:

The Thermodynamic Theory of Political Promotion

We all know that the balloons full of hot air rise – the same is true of politicians. The more hot air they have the more successful they become. Once the hot air runs out they begin a long, and hopefully gentle, slide back down the ladder before they finally they get their head out of the clouds and can once again feel solid ground beneath their feet.

While they are up in the clouds, floating in the realm of the recently irrelevant, their grasp on reality lessens until they are free to speak without any reference to what members of the public would think of as ‘real life’. This realm is known as the crapposphere and it only has a limited capacity to absorb new politicians. It regularly ejects the less active ones to maintain its equilibrium. It has been shown that up in the crapposphere there is a clear negative correlation between amount of hot air released and the practicality of ideas suggested.

One of the more worrying aspects of this theory is that the increasing release of hot air by politicians in the last 10 years may be contributing significantly to global warming. Some brave politicians have suggested that such releases of hot air into the crapposphere are counterproductive, citing recent studies that suggest that despite its small size, the impact of the crapposphere on the climate is extremely significant, but these people have been shot down very quickly. If you want to remain a politician you should probably ignore this issue and hope that it will go away; you may even want to spout some ill-informed hot air yourself to ensure that your place in parliament is not endangered.

Viral Ignorance

This is a little known theory that describes how ideas are systematically spread throughout the political system. While it sounds like a medical illness, it is, in fact, a scientific theory. Many observers have likened it to a super virus with no known cure.

Where a politician makes a clear and definite statement on a matter that is at odds with all known information and relies on nothing other the equivalent of, ‘a bloke down the pub told that his mate told him that his third cousin’s workmate said that…etc,’ the theory of viral ignorance shows that this opinion will soon start to spread throughout the parliament. It will become a statement of fact if sufficiently senior politicians ‘catch’ the virus and believe it is a vote winner.

You should ensure that you make such statements on occasion to see how easy it is. Signs that viral ignorance is occurring include the politician making wild accusations of bias and hidden agendas when their view of the world is challenged, as well as a willingness to listen to anybody who supports their viewpoint no matter what such a person’s expertise is, if indeed they have any expertise at all. At this stage the politician will be able to convince themselves that their 13 year-old daughter is an expert on particle physics.

It has recently been found that, while not a real virus, most politicians are bound to be affected by this theory at some point in their career. You should also know that the psychological fraternity has yet to find a method by which to combat this phenomenon. This is, however, not a cause for concern as funding has been deliberately kept from such research as once this virus takes hold, it will assist you in losing any grip on reality that remains in your psyche, and so sets you up for fast-tracked promotion within your party.

Tule’s Law

Professor Charles Tule has spent his long and distinguished career studying the political system and how the collegiate party system impacts the ability of the government to make decisions. The pinnacle of his career was the aptly named Tule’s Law. This law goes some way to explaining how viral ignorance manages to prevail in many circumstances.

It states that:

The total common sense of a group of politicians is equal to slightly less than half the sum of the common sense of each individual.

This law provides an explanation as to why a group of seemingly intelligent people can get together in parliament and come to conclusions that the rest of the population can see as unwise and stupid in the extreme.

Exhaustive testing of current debates, and research into debates and policy decisions of the last 100 years, has conclusively proven that this law stands the test of time. While further testing is underway, it is generally believed that this law will not be able to be challenged. Professor Tule is now carrying out further research to see if he can refine his theory to find out whether there is a critical mass where very large groups of politicians have the capacity to lose all common sense whatsoever.

In addition to the proven theories there are also a number of way out and clearly insane ideas that deserve some attention if only to refute them. There was a theory that politician’s offices are a portal to parallel universes, and that this was the reason why so many of them, and their advisors, were so lacking in a grip on reality. Since then it has been proven that the lack of a grip on reality is merely a quirk in the political personality – it is a naturally occurring phenomenon. There was also a theory that politician’s minds were, much like those of birds, aligned with the earth’s magnetic field and that any small changes in this field led to them wandering around in a state of confused and directionless chaos. This has also been disproven as most politicians find direction difficult to find at the best of times and often go careering off at random angles if pushed for decisions, irrespective any outside influences.

 

This is a chapter from More Gravy Please! the Politician’s Handbook…

On the Snowman Trek

Picture this…you’re 20 days into a magnificent trek, you’re climbing up 1000 metres to the top of the plateau at 5000 metres, you’re resting with great gulps of the thin air, and your guide still looks fresh as a daisy. I would have been grumpy if I hadn’t been so tired…but let’s get poetic here…

On the Snowman Trek – heading out of Chozo

‘How far…………to the pass?’

I asked,

while pinned down……. by a Yak’s stare.

‘Three-hundred metres to climb, said Sonam,
jumping easily past said yak.

Pain dulled

by the

magnificence

surrounding;

five-thousand

metres up,

charred lungs,

legs like lead,

enough said.

Onwards.

I can’t wait to ride on a bus in …. Denmark!

The Red Pen of Doom

Epic slow-motion. Soaring music. Stunned reaction shots — this commercial from Denmark has it all, and they do it better than Michael Bay without even resorting to 593 explosions.

Think of what they could have done with an explosion or seven.

###

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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