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Narrow Minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant From Footscray

The prompts from the blog platform suggest that I introduce myself.

In short, I am several things.

Firstly, I am a Narrow Minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant From Footscray. I have been describing myself as that for at least the past 15 years or so.

This description might not be totally accurate.

I am probably not as narrow minded as I boast I am.

Whilst I am of Italian ancestry and reasonably fluent in Italian, I probably think more the iconoclastic way that Australians do, having been born and lived in Australia my whole life.

Nor am I particularly observant religiously, although like most people, 1600 years of Christianity being the dominant religion (‘thank you’ Emperor Theodosius) in Western Civilisation does tend to hard wire us in a particular way. (I do like to amuse myself by claiming that the dinosaurs missed the ark and that the world is just over 6000 years old.).

Peasant? Well, my parents are from peasant stock, as probably most Italian migrants in the 1950s were, and I like growing my own tomatoes in the backyard. But I am a lower middle class office worker really, with the luxury of participating in a post industrial economy. I also have a university education, and not in agriculture.

Whilst I am very personally Conservative, both culturally and socially, I am more Liberal than Conservative, and believe in individual rights and liberties and freedom of choice and conscience etc to the point where I can get quite worked up when I hear of proposals to intervene in the lives of people or to curtail our freedoms.

I also don’t live in Footscray, although I was born there (and proud of it), and lived and went to school there during my childhood and adolescence, and the Western Bulldogs (formerly known as the Footscray Football Club) is my AFL team. I do not live too far from Footscray though. I am in Avondale Heights, which is like a north western outpost of Footscray, and previously lived in Maribyrnong. But just like people from Fremantle claim that they are from Fremantle rather than from Perth, real Footscray people claim that they are from Footscray rather than from Melbourne. I suppose, historically, that it has something to do with the fact that there is quite a distance between the eastern boundary of Footscray at the Maribyrnong River, and the centre of Melbourne, and most of that two mile distance was occupied firstly by a swamp and then by a wasteland involving docks, chemical depots (where were you during the Coode Island fire in 1991?) and quarantine grounds….

Secondly, I am a postgrad dropout. That does contradict a lot of what my first description suggests I am, but we all are complex and many layered people. The MA thesis I was planning to write was about Nietzsche, Hegel and the End of History or some such, which is the sort of topic which would have been pretty passe in 1994 when I was interested in doing it. However, life gets in the way – working full time and getting a promotion at work which resulted in me focusing my energies and attention on my job meant that I did not have much left in the tank for a 30,000 word thesis. And whilst I still enjoy reading Nietzsche for his manic and frenetic style, Hegel is really boring.

As for more? I much prefer the writings of Anthony Trollope over Charles Dickens. I still enjoy re-reading my favourite Nevil Shute novels, and I occasionally re-read my copy of JRR Tolkien. I did ditch Game of Thrones about 100 pages into the first book, and don’t regret it at all. I remain very curious as to whether some of the unpublished novels of JD Salinger from his period of seclusion (I have the general impression he wrote some) will see the light of day during my lifetime, although I loathed Catcher in the Rye whilst finding his short stories fascinating.

Eat The Rich? The Politics of Envy

We all are familiar with the stereotype of the angry leftist would-be revolutionary who wants to line the bourgeoisie and capitalists against the wall and shoot them. Or who, in a cuter and more harmless form, simply indulges their immature views by wearing t-shirts with slogans like ‘Eat The Rich’.

A lot of those are just angry or envious of others, whilst the rest probably just feel guilty about their own white privilege. Few actually have read Karl Marx to understand where these ideas actually come from. On the other hand, I have read Marx.

Whilst I am a regular supporter of worthy causes, I have tended to be a bit skeptical of Oxfam. They have tended away from helping the poor and into the realm of pursuing political agendas, including those with some serious ideologically driven themes.

That is clearly shown in their new report, Inequality Kills, which has just been released. It does rightly point out that the richest people in the world have doubled their wealth during the pandemic, and that they own far more than two thirds of humanity.

Where it becomes problematic is in the prescriptions Oxfam have for dealing with this situation.

I believe in ‘free market’ capitalism, which possibly is an ideal rather than an easily realisable reality. I fear that what we really see in much of the world is crony capitalism and kleptocracy. These are matters which do need to be addressed, by such policy measures perhaps as limiting the amount of benefit which private individuals and companies can derive from exclusive licenses (eg in relation to mining rights) or exploitation of public resources or government subsidies; or by measured and carefully considered structural changes to taxation laws so as to prevent the growth of further wealth inequality.

Oxfam however, believe in a more direct and ideological approach, similar perhaps to the Russian revolutionaries of 1917 or other similar zealots. They call for a 99 per cent one off windfall tax on recent wealth gains, which strikes me as both rather drastic and an oversimplification of the issues behind the acquisition of all this wealth.

Moreover, to justify this, they describe this inequality as a form of ‘economic violence’.

This is where Oxfam loses all credibility. No violence has occurred – there has simply been, through the legitimate marketplace as framed by governments around the world, a lawful flow of wealth to certain people. No force nor fraud has occurred. When lawful activities have occurred and get described as ‘economic violence’, it is an ideologically polemic attack on the existing system, and the first step in describing law abiding (albeit rich) people as criminals or worse.

This is where they, whether they have read Marx or not, start to show an abandonment of the values which underpin democratic capitalism and liberal democracy, the economic and political systems which have made our world more civilised, prosperous and law abiding than throughout most of history, and start to flirt with the radical ideological ideas of Marx, which have been for the most part quite discredited.

I think that people should donate to charity. I personally donate on a monthly basis to four different charities. Oxfam is not one of them. I suggest that you should do likewise, and that if you choose to donate to a foreign aid charity, choose some other one (eg Fred Hollows Foundation) rather than Oxfam.

Wouldn’t Star Peace be better than Star Wars? (Reflections on Space Opera and perhaps on Human Nature)

Luke, I will not pay child support!

On Thursday I was discussing over text with a colleague the latest episode of the new Book of Boba Fett series on Disney+, when he said he could not wait for the Obi Wan series and season 3 of the Mandalorian.

He then said: “So many Star Warses.”

I had a lightbulb moment of mischievousness and replied: “But would it not have been better if the Sith did not exist so we would just have Star Peace in that galaxy far far away.

The reply to that was a face palm emoticon. Haha.

But this does get me thinking. After all, we are not going to pay for movie tickets or Disney subscriptions to watch Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru happily petitioning the Emperor for child support payments from Darth Vader so that Luke can drive around in his land speeder and stay another couple of harvests whilst they talk him out of going to Space Academy off world. Star Wars sells tickets and Star Peace is, well, boring.

Ever since the mythically blind poet Homer composed The Illiad 2800 years ago, our culture has been hardwired to appreciate what we now call ‘Space Opera’.

That consists of what existentially is epic theatre, with spectacular grand scale battle scenes and an agonistic (to borrow from Nietzsche – you can tell from a lot that I am writing here that I have read a lot of him) struggle between two opposing sides.

Homer and the later Athenian tragedians did not really think of good versus evil in those struggles – it was a struggle between opposing heroes fighting in circumstances that had been decreed by the Gods. The Greeks could appreciate that just because someone was their enemy, that did not diminish their Arete (warrior excellence) and worthiness to be considered a hero.

Most early kingdoms and city states saw matters in terms of a primeval struggle for success against their neighbours and rivals – a struggle for land, slaves, resources. Their enemies in war were not particularly different from them, Greek city states being frequently fratricidal for example, but they were not evil.

I believe that the idea of good versus evil is one which comes to us from Judeo-Christianity, and which itself was significantly influenced by the moral dualism of Zoroastrianism, that Judaism was significantly exposed to when the Persians defeated the Babylonians and ended the Jewish captivity in Babylon.

When you read the Old Testament, much of it is interpreted through a Zoroastrian lens of good versus evil (ie the people chosen by God versus the enemies of God). When you take away that lens, such as when you read Josepheus’s Jewish Antiquities, it reverts back to a historical record of the struggle of a particular people with no special claim to righteousness successfully defeating their local rivals.

The destruction of Carthage by Rome at the end of the third Punic War was not seen by the Romans as a particularly just cause, and their general, Scipio Amelianus, wept as the city burned.

Compare that to the Biblical account of the destruction of Jericho. We get the same total annihilation (except for the city’s traitors who are rewarded for seeing the justness of the Israelite cause), but Joshua does not seem to have any moral reservations. He is, after all, when we see him through this Zoroastrian lens, on a mission from God.

So when the Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity and the later Emperor Theodosius made it mandatory throughout the Roman Empire, we all became Christians and our hard wiring changed somewhat. We not only wanted our stories to be epic and heroic, but we wanted them to feature great eschatological conflicts between good and evil.

We have had some great epic predecessors to Space Opera since then. Le Mort D’Arthur springs to mind, and The Song Of Roland. In more recent times, the masterpiece by Tolkien. Or even perhaps Tolstoy’s nationalistic interpretation of the Napoleonic Wars, War and Peace?

What they have in common is that there are epic grand scale battles, and there is a clash between good and evil, which mostly ends with good triumphant.

Living in this modern age of rocket ships and nuclear power, the sky is no longer the limit for our imaginations. We want our epic stories to involve space battles on a huger scale than those terrestrial ones our ancestors enjoyed. Hence Space Opera.

Star Wars is the best example of Space Opera. Another great example is Battlestar Galactica, which (particularly in its 1970s version) could be considered a retelling of Xenophon’s memoir Anabasis.

We enjoy these stories, because we are hard wired to try and make sense of conflict, which has been part of the human condition since we came down from the trees (or left Eden – you decide), in terms of good versus evil.

The gaping problem with this is that history, and warfare, is rarely in reality a case of good versus evil.

In early times it was a case of the struggle for dominance and control of resources between neighbouring peoples and political units.

In recent history, it is usually a case of ambitious and greedy men with the levers of power trying to either line their pockets at the expense of others, such as in the colonisation of large parts of the world, or to extend their own dominion for the sake of power. The whole idea of good versus evil is frequently used to justify such aggressiveness, whether it is to spread their religion to non-believers to ‘save’ them, or because of the more modern religion – political ideology.

[As a side note, remember poor Finland in WW2 – lumped in with the Axis Powers even though all it wanted to do was to mostly successfully defend itself against an aggressive totalitarian state led by a murderous tyrant who had used the cover of war to occupy and conquer several of its own near neighbours. Finland was not a country of evil aggressors, and Stalin was not one of the good guys, despite eventually being forced to oppose Hitler.]

I will enjoy all the various new Star Wars series that are about to be on offer. But the whole idea behind our enjoyment of Space Opera relates to a part of our human nature that is not exactly reassuring, that we are somehow morally better than some of our fellow humans for some reason, and that our aggression against them is justified.

The Djokovic Debacle and the Clapham (or is it Footscray?) Omnibus

Ready for a reasonable ride?

A strange thing happened to me this morning. I accompanied my elderly mother to Footscray so she could get her hair cut and buy a few things from the Greek Deli in the Footscray Market.

Afterwards, whilst we were waiting at Footscray station for the 406 bus, discussing when the next bus was due and whether it was better to walk to the tram stop, an elderly lady asked me if I was Italian (fairly easy to surmise given what language I was speaking in with my mother). Then she started asking me what I thought of Djokovic.

I said that I was not really interested in the matter. My mother, who had not really heard what she had said and who probably assumed this lady was a Jehovah’s Witness (my mother has often been accosted by elderly JWs when waiting for a bus) said something like ‘We have our own religion’ which is her default position for dealing with strangers accosting her like that.

The elderly lady then wandered off to accost someone else about the Djokovic business, reminding me somewhat of a cranky Italian man who used to grumble and swear a lot on my local bus (haven’t seen him for a while, so I presume either he is dead or his long suffering wife has committed him for a nursing home for the insane).

This got me thinking, when an eighty-something year old Serbian lady with limited English gets so worked up about something that she starts to approach strangers waiting for the same bus to try and engage them in conversation.

English common law has long held a principle of reasonability called ‘The Man on the Clapham omnibus’. This was first recorded in 1903 in McQuire vs Western Morning News, although the judge attributed it to a counsel in the infamous Tichburn claimant case of 1871, and it could be based on a phrase coined by the famous Victorian era journalist Walter Bagehot.

The test, which has been elaborated on many times (including in 1991 in Australia at the AAT as ‘the man on the Bourke Street tram’) is essentially that of what would a reasonably educated, intelligent but nondescript person think would be reasonable conduct.

I for one, am probably a tad too quirky and eccentric (which means I am definitely not ‘nondescript’) to fit the definition of the man on the Clapham (or more specifically in this case, Footscray) omnibus. Nor do I think that the elderly lady waiting for the same bus as myself would fit the definition – she probably has had more limited educational opportunities and would have less opportunity to become well informed on the issues.

Now that’s more like it! A Footscray Omnibus

But when looking at the Djokovic case (which I have intentionally avoided doing so in any great detail), I am fascinated by the unenviable conundrum faced by both the courts in hearing the new appeal and the Minister who has finally decided that it is appropriate to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

It is not a simple matter just of the facts, where there are apparent ambiguities between state and federal policies, and where it does appear that Tennis Australia has intentionally sought to get Djokovic into the country regardless of the rules. The matter is far too inflamed and high profile for that.

Commentators around the world, including politicians and journalists, have weighed in with many different opinions. It was one of the seven daily items in my roundup email from The Washington Post overnight. One analysis I read this morning suggested that this was the one matter which would, given its symbolism, cause the defeat of the federal government at the upcoming election.

On an existentialist level, I see the whole business as rather absurd. Someone with some highly eccentric views about medicine and who has a talent for hitting a green rubber ball over a net has been denied entry into Australia, and has exercised his rights to have that decision reviewed by the courts. That such a matter becomes a worldwide headline seems quite bizarre to me – after all, don’t we have other bigger matters to worry about (eg Putin’s Russia, ISIS, Communist China, the Taliban, North Korea’s ongoing nuclear armament program, and of course the Covid plague)? And since when is being a high profile anti-vaxxer grounds for messianic analogies?

However we are not existentialists. News cycles demand news, particularly stories which suggest that someone, or some people, have made some all too human mistakes.

The weary public does not always understand the nuances of our legal system and such important principles as due process. Often inflamed by populist politicians and journalists, parts of the public sometimes feel great outrage and want action.

Happily, in a system like ours, based on principles which were being built long before the codification offered in the Magna Carta, there is due process. We do have judges who are learned and fair minded and it is up to them, rather than the court of public opinion, to decide whether a decision is fair and reasonable and lawful.

And those judges will be asking themselves what would the man on the Clapham (or Footscray) omnibus think is reasonable in this case? It will be harder than usual to arrive at a just conclusion, given how inflamed and divided opinion is on the matter, including informed opinion.

Has Contemporary Cinema Lost It’s Creativity?

As I am at the tail end of a 3 month staycation, in which I have become rather bored with the remaining offerings on Amazon Prime and Netflix, I have started going to the cinema again.

Summer is a good time to go to the cinema. Many years ago, I chose to watch the 4 hour epic Titanic one 40 degree celsius scorcher of a day. Four hours of watching ice bergs in a dark air conditioned theatre was a good way to wait for the cool change that evening.

So what movies have I seen this summer? Off the top of my head:

Dune Part 1

No Time To Die

Kingsman

Aside from those, the following other films are currently showing at Hoyts Highpoint:

Spider-Man – No Way Home

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Sing 2

Matrix: Resurrections

West Side Story

Clifford The Big Red Dog

House Of Gucci

Aside from House of Gucci and possibly Clifford, all the other films I have listed are either remakes or sequels of some sort. [Clifford reminds me of other giant dog movies like Digby or Beethoven.]

So what is it with Hollywood now? Has it lost all originality, or is it just that it has grown so stale and risk averse that it wants to rely on some sort of tried and true formula to make movies? Steven Spielberg used to be known for his blockbusters like Jaws and ET, and later on for some more nuanced films like Munich. Why is he now remaking West Side Story, a classic film from 60 years ago which needed retelling about as much as one of his own blockbusters?

And don’t get me started on Ghostbusters. The first film, from 38 years ago, was a lot of very silly fun (although I object to the ripping off of Huey Lewis’ I want a new drug for the theme song). The sequel, from 1989, did not need to be made at all – it was totally lacking in any originality. Why, after a failed woke feminist reboot, do we need to get a Ghostbusters 3?

Australia Hits 1 Million Covid Cases

I was wrong, and not in a good way. Last week I estimated that at the then current rate of increase of covid cases, Australia was going to reach 1 million cases by Tuesday.

Well, it’s Monday and we are already at a million.

Happily, there is no need for any further lockdowns. Everyone is now so used to this mess that they are just staying home anyway to try and avoid catching it. When at Highpoint West this morning, the shopping centre was practically deserted, as was my bus.

Should Tennis Australia Get Defunded?

In a land where sport is sacred

Where the labourer is God

You must pander to the people

Make a hero of a clod

– Henry Lawson

I like to quote Sir Frank Lowy’s justification for his sponsoring of Australian soccer rather than just giving money to charity. He once dismissed his critics with the succinct comment that ‘Sport brings joy’ or something along those lines.

Much as I am not a very sporty type, I love my AFL team (Western Bulldogs, for those new to my blog) and I have been known to occasionally watch a rugby game on the TV or at the pub, or to stare at the Test Cricket on the TV whilst downing a few cans of cold beer on a warm day.

I am however, as I observed in great detail during the Olympics last year, very skeptical about federal government funding for sports in Australia. This is for several reasons.

One is that sport is mostly the preserve of civil society, and that when government funds something, they control it – he who pays the piper calls the tunes.

Another is that if sport is going to get government funding, then the construction of giant stadia is more the preserve of state governments (in partnership with the relevant sporting leagues and organisations), whilst community playing fields and sporting facilities really are the business of local government.

A more concerning one perhaps is that federal government funding for sport does push a nationalistic agenda, and often one where the main goal is winning at all costs rather than good sportsmanship. Other less benevolent regimes than our own, such as the Eastern Bloc, the PRC, and of course Germany in 1936, have frequently pursued sporting success as a propaganda tool.

The whole Djokovic debacle unfolding this past few days has had me wondering about the behaviour of one of our publicly funded sporting bodies, Tennis Australia.

From what I have been able to ascertain from the mainstream media, Tennis Australia made some discreet general enquiries in November about vaccination requirements for persons wishing to enter Australia. They then selectively interpreted the replies they received from the health minister and a senior official, and extrapolated a conclusion diametrically opposite to the established position, and then unilaterally announced to the world in general that Djokovic had a vaccine or travel exemption of some sort and was going to come to The Australian Open.

The sheer arrogance of the attitude of Tennis Australia is breathtaking in its scale. Australia, being a sporting nation, values its sporting heroes and major sporting events highly. The Australian Open is probably our premier ongoing international sporting tournament (sorry petrol heads – the Grand Prix is not even close).

Obviously Tennis Australia believes that it is too big to fail, and that a few rules that the rest of us mere mortals have to abide by can be disregarded or brushed aside.

It turns out that this is not the case, even through Djokovic’s father is currently comparing Djokovic to Jesus (does this make Djokovic pere God?).

The contempt that Tennis Australia has shown for the rules that the rest of us are forced to live by shows that it and it’s overpaid sporting administrators clearly indicates that they think that they are better than the Australian public.

Which does beg the urgent question: Why are Australian taxpayers funding Tennis Australia to the tune of about $5 million per year?

I want my twenty cents back!

How Seriously Should We Take The Xi Variant?

The Xi variant, more commonly known as Omicron (there being no such adverb as ‘cowardlyLY’ in the English language yet to describe the relevant verb in this context, ‘cowardly’ itself being an adjective, and I have already sought to make ‘Roxy’ my contribution to the English language this month) seems to be going forward at a rapid pace.

As I observed yesterday, it looks like reaching a million cases by next Tuesday and will probably infect everyone in Australia by the end of February. For the first time during this pandemic, people that I know personally are infected with this plague, both colleagues and family friends.

What does this mean for us going forward in the coming weeks?

Aside from restrictions starting to get reimposed in Victoria and NSW (and hopefully those stay minor), there are a few subtle and unwelcome changes to the society we had before the pandemic started.

Let us count the ways.

First, people seem a lot more apprehensive than they did even as recently as eight months ago. The recent infection numbers are definitely causing the numbers of people frequenting shopping centres and other public places to visibly drop, even though the main restriction currently in place to deter people is the constant QR code scanning (something which does turn me off from going into a shop to browse).

Second, interest in travelling interstate or overseas has dropped. Nor are people that keen on intrastate travel, given the current pandemic infection rates. After all the border closures, lockdowns and ‘rings of steel’, there is no trust that anyone will be able to take a holiday away from home and be able to either reach their destination safely or return according to plan.

Third, shortages, shortages, shortages. This time, infections and isolations amongst logistics staff (ie truck drivers) mean that goods are not getting delivered. On top of this, infections and isolations amongst supermarket staff mean that there is no one there to stock the shelves or to serve you at the check out. And staff shortages mean that restaurants and bars and cafes, even if they want to reopen, are going to find it hard. There were shortages of bread and meat in the supermarket this morning. I did not bother looking for toilet paper because I do not need to stock up – I have a 2 year supply.

For the first time, the number of people who are infected in Australia has reached significant numbers, despite the number of people fully vaccinated. This is going to bite, and we know too little about the Xi variant so far to trust that it is going to be mild.

Large numbers of people are going to isolate and stay away from their jobs and out of society in the coming weeks, and running the essential parts of the economy like grocery retail and health services is going to be very challenging without people at their places of business.

The Xi Variant Takes A Stranglehold

The COVID variant commonly known as Omicron was originally meant to be called the Xi variant, as that was the letter of the Greek alphabet next in line to be used to name it. However, the World Health Organisation showed its usual backbone and named it Omicron so as not to offend the communist dictator Xi Jinping, whose regime has been most instrumental in the inadvertent (?) spread of this plague.

Yesterday, total covid numbers in Australia rose by just under 65000 to about 612,000 cases since the plague began 2 years ago. That is a one day increase of 11%. At this rate, we will hit 1 million cases by next Tuesday and everyone in Australia could catch the plague by the end of February.

Globally, yesterday there were 2.3 million new cases – the most daily cases reported ever – during one of the earlier waves the daily case numbers approached 900,000 at their peak.

Maybe the Xi variant is just nuisance value, although just like it’s namesake, I am not prepared to take the risk on that.

And today we have the debacle of tennis superstar and famous anti-vaxxer Djokovic being refused entry to Australia, although several days ago Tennis Australia and the Victorian government had announced that he was going to be allowed to come and play in The Australian Open. I am not so interested in the details as to how and why he was originally told he could come (it all seems quite Byzantine to me), only to be stopped at the airport on arrival, as to what the hell was going through the minds of the people who announced his exemption in the first place?

It strikes me as something particularly tone deaf. Here, we have been going through two years of lockdowns and draconian suppression of rights such as those of expression and protest. People have been significantly economically disadvantaged by extended closures of their businesses. Some 2000 Australians have died, and many others seriously ill. Vaccinations, whilst not technically mandatory, are required to enter most shops, and indeed to work in most occupations. Queues for Covid tests take many hours, and now people have taken to queuing outside pharmacies to buy the home tests this week. We have a new wave of shortages of groceries due to the latest wave causing many supermarket and logistics staff to have to isolate. We have to wear masks and incessantly scan QR codes thanks to this plague.

And Tennis Australia thinks someone who is rich and famous can just waltz in despite not being vaccinated?

It does make me suspect, as many people already believe, that in Australia, we have one rule for the rich, and one rule for everyone else.

In the meantime, we have this Xi variant ripping its way through the population. Whilst I write, just the totals announced for Victoria, NSW and QLD are over 60,000 this morning. I really think we will get to a million cases by Tuesday. The damage that this plague is doing to small businesses, grassroots sporting and community groups, and civil society generally is going to take years to repair. Disruption to the The Australian Open, whilst this tournament is a source of prestige to Australians generally and to Melbourne, is minor collateral damage – although Tennis Australia appears to be headed by people who have the ear of politicians, people who are tone deaf.

Can You Get Drunk FROM Wearing A T-Shirt?

One of my minor problems (which I do not think even counts as a first world problem) is that I do not own enough beer branded clothing (except for baseball caps – I have a lot of those).

Perhaps I could fix it by visiting the Victoria Market on a Sunday. They sell all kinds of bogan clothing items there on Sundays.

Anywho, I was in Cotton On at Highpoint West this morning, looking to buy some cargo shorts, and noticed that amongst the various t-shirts featuring Mickey Mouse and various prestigious US Universities, there were two t-shirt designs with Fosters Lager as the main theme.

I took a closer look at the price tag, and decided that $34.99 is a bit too dear for me to become a walking advertisement for a hard to find beer. The flip side of the price tag did catch my attention however – it had something like 18+ on it.

I am not about to encourage underage drinking, and I will have some very minor reservations about the appropriateness of teenagers wearing beer logo t-shirts (although I think it is very cute when parents bring their toddlers into a pub), but I think it is silly to expressly prohibit the sale of t-shirts with beer logos on them to minors.

After all, you can’t get drunk from wearing a beer logo t-shirt. Or can you?

Vegemite and Hot Cross Buns….

This year, Good Friday does not happen til 15 April. However, given that the holiday calendar is geared around maximising retail sale volumes, Hot Cross Buns and other Easter related matters appeared in my local supermarket even before the New Year.

I am not sure whether they appeared on Boxing Day, but believe me, by New Year’s Eve, the Hot Cross Buns were already in store.

This does not really surprise me. Christmas decorations and carols started appearing in the local shopping mall (in my case, Highpoint West) just after Halloween, not too long into my 13 week staycation.

You might think, from the prolonged emphasis on Christian festivals, that we live in a society of heightened religious fervour.

The opposite however is the truth, and probably for the simple reason that we have mostly forgotten the significant of our religion, and whatever was our connection to it, but have retained the desire to celebrate it.

The cornucopia of plenty that we enjoy in our modern post-industrial civilisation means that we have, for the most part, the wealth and the leisure to celebrate for just about any occasion, and to prolong those celebrations. [I expect sociologist Max Weber, who wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, would have had much to say about our capacity and need to celebrate for prolonged periods, but as he has been dead for about a hundred years, I am just name dropping him to show how well read I am.]

A very salient illustration about the modern meaning of religious festivals

After all, Santa Claus is some sort of modern distortion, developed mostly by Coca Cola’s marketing department a century or more ago, of Germanic medieval Christmas traditions. South Park are totally right when they ridicule modern Christmas traditions by having Jesus and Santa either confront or help each other.

And now we have the ultimate in marketing travesties around Easter. That is, the creation of Hot Cross Buns with Vegemite in them. Which were in the supermarkets immediately after Christmas.

For those who might read my blog and are not Australian, Vegemite is a very typical Australian savoury spread people put on their toast. It is made from a yeast extract, normally left over from beer production (we Australians do love our beer, so there is plenty of left over yeast byproducts which can be recycled into Vegemite). It is very much an acquired taste.

When you look at how insanely the meaning of Easter has been twisted in the name of commercialism, this is not surprising. What does an Easter Bunny and all that chocolate have to do with the voluntary death (in a literally excruciating manner) and subsequent resurrection of our Saviour? And what does entitlement does a Bilby (an endangered Australian marsupial) have to replace the Easter Bunny here in such observances? And now we have Vegemite on Hot Cross Buns?!?

Anyway, my brother says that they taste great, so I might try one tomorrow when I head over to sponge breakfast at my mother’s home.