Friday, March 16, 2007

BOGAN – In which the AUTHOR doth write divers unkindly things about STEVE IRWIN, a dead chap.

The good news, Gentle Reader, is that Steve Bloody Irwin is still dead. The bad news is that his gimlet-eyed, troll-headed and puppet-like daughter Bindi is not, and shows no sign of dying in the near future. The equally bad news is that the pseudo-canonisation of this gibbering buffoon gives no indication of ever intersecting with reality.

Irwin died in a slow news week, so the Australian media was not distracted from its insane, inane and seemingly endless “memorials” to this clueless animal-bothering
bogan by any actual events of genuine significance. Sure, several hundred people died in car bombings and assassinations in Iraq, but no-one was very interested in that and only SBS bothered to show the usual footage of wailing women and dazed and bloodied survivors sitting in streets strewn with car wreckage and gobbets of human flesh. Australian author Colin Thiele – someone with actual talent and brains - died the same day, but that news was swamped in the same way the idiotic tsunami of grief that followed the death of Princess Diana swept away the death of Mother Teresa.

The Aussie media was also not distracted by the fact that, in the past, its main coverage of Steve Irwin consisted of talking about what a complete clown he was. Because let’s face facts – Irwin was a goggle-eyed, gibbering
galah whose main talent was his ability to market himself as a “genuine Aussie adventurer” to the more clueless end of the American consumer demographic.

This isn’t exactly a great achievement, since this is the same demographic to which you can market things as stupid as a “
Decorate and Eat Marshmallow Egg Kit”, which includes pens with edible ink so you can write messages to yourself on marshmallow eggs before eating them. This is also the demographic that was the only population on Earth that actually really bought that story about Saddam Hussein and WMDs. So getting them to believe that a suburban guy running his parents’ two bit reptile park was a cross between Crocodile Dundee (minus the wry humour) and David Attenborough (minus the intelligence and beautiful voice) wasn’t really that hard.

Irwin’s first notices in the Australian news media consisted of stories saying “Look at this goose – the Yanks are actually taking him seriously and watching his show” and then moved to “Well bugger me, that annoying
drongo Steve Irwin is actually getting rich from his goofy ‘Oim an Aussie!” schtick”. Then came the moment he almost fed his baby son to a croc, his molestation of innocent animals in Antarctica and his merry acceptance of $175,000 worth of taxpayers cash for some Federal Government-sponsored TV commercials, after which he glowing described our loathsome rodent of a Prime Minister as "greatest leader in the world" – possibly his only funny line.

The brief flurry of controversy over that cosy deal (followed as it was by an audience with Emperor George Bush at the PM’s residence when the Chimp-in-Chief scourged us with his Imperial presence) led to Irwin blinking and gibbering on Channel Nine’s Today Show, assuring us that he was supremely apolitical and just a humble “environmentalist”. But when the interviewer suggested that this might mean he could be inclined toward a real environmentalist – Greens senator
Dr Bob Brown – the bogan made scoffing noises as though this was a ridiculous notion and said “Well, I don’t think much of Bob Brown.”

Which kind of makes his elevation to the status of “environmentalist” post mortem rather bizarre. Here is a guy who declares that an environmental vandal like John Howard is "greatest leader in the world", but who “doesn’t think much” of the guy who led the
successful campaign to save the Franklin River and preserve the pristine wilderness of South-West Tasmania. How does this kind of clueless dickhead get dubbed an “environmentalist”?

But perhaps I’m being too harsh – after all, Irwin did manage to teach the kiddies a very valuable lesson about evolution. His death was a pure demonstration of “natural selection” in action: an idiot who consistently bothers dangerous animals is going to be removed from the gene pool eventually. Unfortunately this happened after the stupid prawn had spawned progeny. And now the media keep wheeling out the loathesome Bindi-muppet to afflict us. God help us all …

PS Why bother writing a post slagging this goofball seven months after he died? Well, I may be a bastard and I may not hold with any superstitious nonsense about not speaking ill of the dead, but I'm enough of a good bloke to let the dirt settle on his grave a bit before sinking the boot. And besides, Irwin shat me to tears.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

GENESIS - Wherein the AUTHOR doth explain himself (somewhat) ...

This is the ubiquitous first post on a new blog that seeks to justify why on Earth anyone would want to add yet another self-indulgent weblog to the net and says something about themselves and their plans for their blog. They do this acutely aware that (i) there's a very good chance that this blog will go the way of most and splutter to an awkward, stumbling and unlamented halt after a few feeble posts that no-one on the planet bothered to read and that (ii) even if that doesn't happen and the blog in question gets an audience, no-one bothers to go back and read the first post on a blog anyway.

So, reveling gloriously in the knowledge that no-one is ever going to read this, I can reveal that I have absolutely no justification for inflicting another pointless blog on the world and I have very little idea what kind of purpose it will have. I do suspect it might develop a focus, but essentially I intend to keep it to vaguely topical rambles and rants and see if some kind of theme then shambles out of the mire.

Largely, it will probably be an excuse to write sentences that end in absurd phrases like "shambles out of the mire".

Firstly why "Van Demonian"? Largely because I grew up in Tasmania (formerly called
Van Dieman's Land) and thus Tasmanians can be called either "Taswegians" or "Van Demonians"; though they are usually called "inbred", which is unfair when you look at Crown Princess Mary of Denmark/Mary Donaldson of Tasmania. And partly because it's a cool word, in a very stupid heavy-metal-album-cover kind of way. I've lived in Sydney for 12 years now and was born in New South Wales, so I'm not really a Tasmanian at all, but Tasmania has a way of getting into your head and your blood, especially if you spend your formative years there (eg first crush, first beer, first fuck there etc). It becomes an idealised, half-real place much the way Ireland does for expatriate Irish who'd never go back there to live, but sing heart-aching songs about the place nonetheless.

The "Demonian" part also evokes an oblique semi-reference to
Tasmanian Devils - who are among the weirder and more interesting animals unique to my native island state. You have to love a carnivorous marsupial that has the highest jaw pressure, relative to size, of any animal on Earth and which communicates with its fellows by depositing evocatively fragrant turds in communal latrines (no, really).

Many years ago - when the internet was a very, very small place inhabited only by academics, people from NASA and the US military and the web had yet to be invented - I cut my teeth in the gentle art of internet debate via USENET discussion groups. This was way back in 1991, so I'll avoid talking about 14,400 BPS baud rates and
ASCII art and other relics of those antediluvian days of the net, because that makes me feel like someone's grandfather reminiscing about wax cylinder gramophones, daguerrotype photography or experimental steam-powered flying machines.

Anyway, I spent several weeks that should have been spent proofreading my Masters thesis in wordy, heavily referenced and flamboyantly rhetorical debate with a bloke who was, in fact, a rocket scientist about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. He was an evangelical Protestant fundamentalist and a
Creationist (despite his large brain - always a disturbing combination) who had - oddly - become convinced of the authenticity of what was, after all, a fake medieval Catholic relic. And I was an ex-Catholic atheist medievalist who knew a fake medieval relic when I saw one, by St. James' bones.

So battle was joined and the good folk of USENET's "sci.skeptic" stood back while we hurled headlong at each other like frisky young mountain goats. He cited semi-scientific analyses of the Shroud made in the 1970s while I waved the 1988 carbon dating results in his face and quoted the Fourteenth Century Bishop of Troyes,
Henri de Poitiers, writing to the Pope saying that not only was it a fake but he'd actually caught the guy who painted it. This went back and forth for days and eventually my opponent had to call a semi-truce, writing:

> You are certainly no idiot, which is why I'm willing to continue this dialog with you (and
> why I interact with this newsgroup at all - I can disagree with, and thereby learn from,
> some highly educated and highly intelligent people).

And then added:

>If the Tasmanian-Devil
-of-the-net wants more for dinner, so be it.

I can't deny that being called "the Tasmanian-Devil-of-the-net" tickled me somewhat and for years afterwards I signed off my USENET posts with "Tasmanian Devil". I grew out of that.

So "Van Demonian" it is and hopefully anyone who stumbles across this blog will find it amusing, or something. But please - and this is important - please, whatever you do, don't read this first post.

Now, go away.