Saturday, December 28, 2002

Coiffeuses sans Frontieres

Saturday, 28 December 2002

In a provocative post, Bernard Slattery asks who really makes a difference: idiots who write letters to editors, idiots who dress up as Santa Claus to rob toll booths, idiotarians who create inflated conspiracy theories, or wonderful people who take stock of what they have, no matter how humble, and use it to improve people's lives. People like Debbie Rodriguez a hairdresser from Holland Michigan, who is raising money for a non-profit beauty salon in Afghanistan. The salon is to be called the Hope Salon, and it is being set up as a training venture to assist Afghani women to reclaim their right to look beautiful, a right that was cruelly denied under the Taliban regime. Ms Rodriguez needs a total of $200,000 in goods and cash for her venture and has so far raised about $40,000, mainly in the form of beauty products.

It's the sort of story that really ought to warm the cockles of your heart, especially after they've been chilled by the examples of human idiocy Bernard cites. I've been struggling valiantly for two hours now but I still can't get my cockles much above the temperature of liquid nitrogen. This is despite the fact that the story of Ms Rodriguez quest to bring beauty back to Afghanistan is only superficially silly and underneath is the story of a good, honest woman bringing some brightness back into the lives of previously oppressed women, not to mention a little colour back onto their cheeks. Ms Rodriguez work is as important in its own way as the continuing effort to clear the countryside of Afghanistan of the large quantities of undetonated mines and other munitions, any one of which could give you a terminal bad hair day.

This report from the UN Agency IRIN gives a pretty good summary of progress so far. Here's an excerpt:

Mine clearance was in progress in the central regions of Afghanistan, where more than 920 de-miners from various implementing agencies were also carrying out awareness and survey work, he [Richard Kelly, of the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan] said. In the western regions, including the historic city of Herat, more than 200 de-miners were busy with mine clearance, awareness and surveys, while 150 de-miners were waiting to go in after they obtained security clearance for road travel.

By my addition that's 1270 de-miners, quietly getting on with the job of clearing the country's soil of undetonated high explosive. If I knew who they were I'd finish this post by naming them all. I think the cockles have warmed up to the melting point of dry ice.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Broken News

Friday, 27 December 2002 (7:44 pm)

From The Age Breaking News page.

Raelians claim the birth of the first cloned human being: a girl, who was delivered on Thursday (presumably December 26th) by Caesarian section. As the cloning program was carried out in more or less complete secrecy there's no independent scientific confirmation that this is the immaculate conception claimed. Am I the only one who detects an indecent air of haste about the scheduling of the delivery?

Cntrlnx 2 tx l33t bljrz: after a successful trial in Adelaide, Canberra and Bathurst, Centrelink is extending a trial scheme where jobseekers are reminded of appointments by SMS messages on their mobile phones. The trial has been extended to Southport, Queensland and will be evaluated to see if the scheme should be introduced nationally. 

More Bilge

Friday, 27 December 2002

Apart from a brewing internal brawl at Australia's National Museum, there's little to pick up on in today's news, so I'm taking this opportunity to post the second draft of The Pro-Bilge Manifesto. I'm hopeful that this draft will take the manifesto a lot of the way towards a final version because, frankly, the joke is already wearing thin and won't bear another repetition. In a blatant attempt to pitch the manifesto at an international market, I've eliminated specific references to Australia and Australians.

The Pro-Bilge Manifesto

(Alternative Titles: The Bilge Manifesto, The Bilgist Manifesto)

We, the undersigned, as free citizens of a nation with a nominal tradition of free speech, declare that:

1. It is the right of every author to write bilge.

2. It is the right of any newspaper or magazine to publish a wide variety of bilge in order to attract as wide a readership as possible.

3. Similarly it is the right of every television channel and radio station to broadcast bilge for identical commercial reasons.

4. It is the right of every book publisher to publish bilge for exactly the same reasons.

5. In relation to the right to publish bilge we accept that this is a commercial imperative and a legitimate way of doing business in a free market economy.

6. It is the right of every citizen to read, listen to, or watch the bilge of their choice, without interference or hindrance from others.

7. We recognise that the practice of pissing in the bilge to lend weight to our complaints about the stink is an egregious self-indulgence.

8. We accept that the production of a large quantity of bilge is an unavoidable consequence of the exercise of free speech and that the preservation of public morals through the prevention of writing is properly the business of government appointed professional censors, not amateurs like us.

Mindful of these principles we hereby renounce amateur attempts to suppress bilge and swear to defend to a point which is as close to death as we find personally congenial our right to continue the production of bilge. This we swear by the dirt on our keyboards and the hairy grunge that gets stuck to those rollers inside our mouses. It shall not have gathered in vain.

Monday, December 23, 2002

An Evening at the Bolshoi

Monday, 23 December 2002

Bargarz wonders what I will have to say of this report that Harpo Marx was a communist for the FBI. Well, not quite: in 1933, Harpo was asked by the US Ambassador to Moscow to carry some "diplomatic mail" home in his socks and evidently J Edgar Hoover (well known for his satiric cross-dressing party turns as "Mrs Beatrice Banal", doyen of Washington society) learned of Harpo's service to his country:

One letter from the FBI archives, signed by Hoover in 1949, congratulates Harpo on his "loyal past services" to his country.

Hoover hoped they might meet in the near future, saying: "There may be ways that you can help your country again."

Loyal as Harpo's service may have been in ferrying his country's official correspondence around in his socks, I suspect it pales into insignificance beside that of the unsung hero who had the thankless task of dealing with the correspondence when it arrived at its destination (assuming that the state of Harpo's socks after his travels was anything like the state of the Trotsky socks after a long day in the wheelhouse). I hope that the "diplomatic mail" didn't take the form of one of those "microdot" things that are usually concealed in a book as the fifth full stop on page 135, because the thought of some hapless State Department employee having to subject Harpo's dirty laundry to a thorough microscopic examination before clearing it to go to the laundry is not a pleasant one.

Until we see the actual documents we can only speculate on what future services Hoover thought Harpo could provide for his country: perhaps he was just looking for a few pointers on physical comedy to sharpen up his Beatrice Banal act.

To close this post, thanks to Bargarz for his seasonal gift of the opportunity for a little comic invention. I hope that you consider the gift adequately repaid. And a Merry Christmas to you too mate.

Update: Much as I would like to remove the struck through passage, I'm stuck with it now and it's probably too late for this feeble protestation that no sarcasm was intended. D'Oh!

Bah Humbug Blog

Monday, 23 December 2002

I'm going to make one last try at getting this Christmas blog thing more or less right, before heading off for the family homestead where Christmas will be celebrated with a pork roast cooked in the Weber barbecue out in the back yard. On the way I might squeeze in a personal commemoration of childhood's Boxing Day lunches by slipping a Plumrose tinned ham into the Salvation Army collection box at Safeway (Plumrose seem to be the only company left producing those oval tins of the better quality stuff). The pork roast, by the way, isn't an annual fixture: some years when the hunting's been good we tuck in to good piece of her Majesty's venison, provided by my brother-in-law who is both a responsible gun owner and a responsible fishing-rod owner, among other things.

On a purely administrative note, I've decided to make a few additions to the blog roll, before I retire it in its present form. I'm not sure what the new form will be: I'll deal with that after Christmas. In the meantime, to stop John Howard getting lonely as the only intentional humourist I've added James Russell's Hot Buttered Death to this category. Simon Crean has been relegated to the Accidental Humour category for the foreseeeable future and I've made a few additions to the serious category. The whole classification system is eccentric to the point of self-indulgence, which is why it's up for revision in the new year, but I thought I'd try to wring a last bit of value out of it before I replace it with something more wildly eccentric and self-indulgent.

One corrigendum is slightly overdue, for anyone who decides to browse the archives: in the post Just Don't Fire the Thing please read "Andorra" for "Liechtenstein", "France" for "Austria", "Spain" for "Switzerland" and "Krupps" for "Krupps" throughout. I finally tracked down the book (George Thayer's The War Business) where the story originally appeared as a short footnote. I have tried to correct the original post accordingly, but this is Blogger after all.

So with one final, token "Bah Humbug!", it's time to go off and enjoy the keeping of Christmas as it is done in the Trotsky clan. One thing I won't be worrying about, and that's self-indulgent Canucks who think it's a good idea to put up billboards decrying the whole tradition. They don't contribute anything to a reasoned consideration of how Christmas should be kept but that debate is pretty well over for this year. It's time to get on with the serious business of enjoying ourselves for a few days.