Saturday, November 18, 2006

You My Good Frien’ Are A Pig

I overheard that remark on the bus home, Thursday evening. It was made – twice – by a young bloke sitting up the back of the bus with his mates. Guessing wildly, I figured that they were on their way home from seeing the new Borat film at the Northland Cinema multiplex.

If my guess was right, I can expect to hear that line a lot when I’m out on the public transport system – and perhaps a few others, depending on how well the film does and how many memorable lines and catch-phrases Sacha Baron-Cohen has managed to cram into it.

That will save me a few bucks on seeing film. Even better, it will save me the sort of earnest critical effort Christopher Scanlon wasted on the film in Thursday’s Age. It’s just another film about ignorant foreigners with no grasp of English idiom. Like Carry On Up the Khyber.

When Genres Collide

Rodney sat at the small table by the parlour window. The small, leather bound book Old Warbeck had lent him lay open on the desk. Spellbound, the boy read eagerly, his eyes straining in the failing evening light. Outside the window, ignored, grey clouds lowered over Murklington, the sun sank lower in the west, casting the shadows of the long rows of terraced manors, across its narrow streets. From the dark eminence of Pit Head Hill, the horn sounded, signalling the change of shift at The Pit – the town’s one enterprise, where Rodney’s dad, and all the other men of Murklington went each day to wrest a living from the unforgiving earth.

Rodney’s mother, Guin, came through from the kitchen, where she was cooking her husband’s tea and boiling the water for his nightly bath. “Come on, Rodney,” she said, “Tha’ Dad’ll be home soon. Gi’ us a hand wi’ ‘is bath love.” She noticed the book on the table.

“What’s that you got, pet?” she asked.

“Just a book, Mam.”

“I can see it’s a book, Rodney, I’ve still got eyes in me ‘ead. What’s it a book about then?”

“Just stuff, Mam.”

With an exasperated sigh, she took the few steps needed to cross the small parlour and grabbed the book from the table. Slamming it shut, she read the front cover. Embossed in the leather there was a goat’s head, in the centre of a pentacle. The title was printed above this device, in faded gold leaf lettering: Gridley’s First Grimoire for Boys.

“Oh bloody hell,” said Rodney’s Mam, in resigned tones, “What you doing fetchin’ a thing like that into t’ manor? Best not let your Dad see it, you know what he’s like about magic. Go on, take it up to your room, then come help us out wi’ this bath.”

She left the room again. Instead of taking the book up to his room, Rodney read on, until their was too little light for even his eager eyes. Then he hid the book under one of the cushions of the settee and went to the kitchen.

“About bloody time,” said Guin, “Look sharp now, your dad’ll be here any minute. Finish fillin’ t’ bath, while I take care o’ tea.”

As Rodney and Guin worked, the street outside filled with the sounds of the day shift coming home – the muttering of tired voices, the weary tramp of tired feet. They heard the front door open in its usual way, slamming hard back against the floral wallpaper of their small vestibule.

“Ah’m ‘ome,” boomed the voice of Rodney’s dad. “Gi’s a hand getting’ out of this kit then, will you.”

“Go help your dad off with his gear, love,” said Rodney’s Mam, “While I finish up in here.”

Rodney rushed from the kitchen back to the parlour. He still wasn’t quick enough to stop his father snapping a peremptory “Get a bloody move on, then” at him.

“Start wi’ boots,” his father ordered. “Bloody things are killing me. Then t’ cuirasse and hauberk.”

Rodney knelt and began to unfasten the buckled straps of his father’s iron boots and greaves. From the kitchen, Guin shouted “You’re not sitting on ‘t good furniture in your mucky armour, I hope, Roland!”

“Course I’m not set on t’ good chair in me mucky armour woman. Bloody hell! I might o’ been daft enow to marry thee, but I’m not a complete bloody idiot.”

This was the way it always was between Rodney’s parents. In the early days of their marriage it had been a joke between them, but over the years the bantering edge had worn down and their good-humoured teasing had turned into something else.

“Still daft enough to tread orc’s blood into carpets!” she retorted from the kitchen.

“Orc’s blood! Get on with you, woman. Haven’t seen an orc down than pit in months. It’s all been soddin’ mummies and zombies since Middlemass. Wouldn’t mind findin’ a decent orc’s lair right now – they might be mucky buggers, but there’s more gold for the takin’ in an orc’s lair than we’ve been collectin’ in all these bloody tombs.”

Rodney finally had his father’s boots off. He stood, and began working on the buckled straps of the cuirass. Guin came into the room from the kitchen.

“Bloody hell, Rodney!” she said, this time with genuine exasperation, “How many times do I have to tell you to put down some newspaper when you’re taking your father’s kit off. Look at my carpet!”

“Leave the lad alone, lass. It’s nobbut a bit of zombie bone and mummy dust. A bit o’ sweepin’ and beatin’ ‘ll soon clean that up.”

“Aye, well it won’t be me doing the sweepin’ a beatin’. Get on wi’ it Rodney, your Dad’s bath’s waitin’. So’s our tea. No, not not yet!” she cried, when she say Roland lifting the unbuckled cuirass over his head, “Wait till I get that newspaper!”

Once Roland’s armour was off and placed with proper tidiness on sheets of old newspaper, he went to the kitchen for his bath. Between them, Rodney and Guin took the armour out to the backyard. By the light of an oil lantern, Rodney examined the armour for bloodstains and rust spots but he found little more than a light coating of mummy dust and a few bone fragments stuck in the rings of the hauberk. It was light work to clean the armour with badger brush and an old rag. Once it was clean, he went inside, laid some newspaper on the floor beside the front door that let in from the street into the vestibule. Then he stacked the armour on the papers, ready for the morning.

By the time he finished, his father had finished his bath. With tin buckets they bailed out the bath – emptying the buckets into the drain outside the kitchen door – until the bath was light enough to be carried outside. Roland carried one end, Rodney and Guin the other. The empty bath was returned to its corner of the kitchen and at last they sit down to tea.

As he sat at the table, Roland laid down his pickings for the day, beside Guin’s plate.

“Sorry lass,” he mumbled, “That’s all there was. Might be a bit o’ a spell on that ring though, and the necklace is a nice bit of craftsmanship.”

“Magic and craftsmanship won’t count for ought wi’ butcher and grocer. Tha knows that.” Guin answered with impatience, “It’s nought but good troy weight wi’ them.”

Roland snapped.

“It’s not my bloody fault all o’ th’orcs lairs is worked out and we’ve found nought below but bloody ancient tombs!” he cried, “Were best bloody Hell Pit in’t Kingdom when me dad moved ‘ere, and weren’t too bad when me and thee were courtin’.”

Rodney began eating faster – a lot faster. Whenever his father mentioned “when me and thee were courtin’” it was best to get away from his parents as quickly as possible. Away to the safety of his own room, where he could dream his dreams of leaving this dreary town where soul-deadened men spent their days fighting downward, ever downward, through the subterranean levels of a worked-out Hell-Pit, ever hoping that the next stairway or shaft downward would lead to mightier hell-spawn and the rich pickings that came with them. “Where there’s brimstone, there’s brass” went the local saying.

That life – the closed, narrow life of the knights, warriors and paladins of Murklington, in their huddled rows of terraced manors – wasn’t for him. With Old Warbeck’s help he’d find his way out into a wider world – a better world…

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ain’t Never Gonna Be Assimilated Blues

Here’s a little item I missed last week thanks to the Melbourne Cup (did my dough) and getting carried away with the US mid-term elections. At least I wasn’t alone on that second one – there wasn’t anyone in the entire Legion of Brain-Sucking Leftist Zombie Sheep who didn’t get carried away with the happy thought that with the Republicans rooted routed in the polls over there, the political climate might start to look a little brighter over here.

But while we were all distracted with that, it was business as usual when it came to this Government’s increasingly weird program of social re-engineering. Sorry, that’s not a program of social re-engineering, it’s a perfectly proper political agenda, all about restoring basic Australian values.

I really will have to reign in this tendency to slip into BrainSuckingLeftistZombieSheepSpeak if I’m ever going to stand any chance of being re-assimilated into the Collective – oops, I mean of course, Mainstream Australian Society.

Last week the High Court of Australia delivered its judgement on whether it’s alright for Amanda Vanstone to deport one Stefan Nystrom, a Swedish born career criminal.

According to The World Today, he’s actually a reformed criminal, but their report relies way too heavily on interviews with his mum and his lawyer – neither of them the sort of objective sources that ABC reporters would be talking to if they were doing their jobs properly.

The Nystrom story – for those who came in late – is that Stefan was born in Sweden, in 1974, while his mother was over there on a family visit. A month after the birth, Ms Nystrom returned to Australia, bringing young Stefan with her. Stefan has lived here ever since, and it’s here, not in Sweden, that he went to the bad and took to a life of crime. All the same, as far as this Government is concerned, he’s forfeited any right to remain in the country:

KATHRYN ROBERTS: Yesterday's High Court decision will affect at least nine other people in similar situations. They were released from immigration detention pending the outcome of Mr Nystrom's case. Now the Immigration Department is likely to review their cases.

The Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone was unavailable for an interview, but in a statement she welcomed the decision and said Mr Nystrom would be removed from Australia.

That’s if they can find him of course – at the time of the World Today report (last Thursday), Nystrom was “fruit picking somewhere in New South Wales and yet to be told about the decision.” It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he’s done a bunk over the weekend, to avoid being "removed" from Australia.

At the end of the World Today report, Kathryn Roberts inadvertently provides a demonstration of how much work remains to be done if the ABC is to be redeemed as a source of objective reporting, and not a government subsidised propaganda channel for BrainSuckingLeftistZombieSheepSpeak, giving the last soundbite to Nystrom’s mother:

BRITT NYSTROM: I would say to her, just think about it. I don't even know if she has got kids or whatever. But, for God's sake, he's been living here all his life, apart from 25 days. He was a bit of a larrikin when he was younger, a teenager, but he's stopped it all and just give us a break. He's proved it now. He's not going to do any more crimes.
I admit, I’m only just getting the hang of this myself, but I think the general idea is that once the proper authorities – in this case Amanda Vanstone – have had their say, debate stops. You don’t give the last word to people who disagree with the government for crying out loud.

Ah, who am I trying to fool anyway? This story disgusts me. The fact that this post is going to attract a lot of comments saying “Nystrom must go” or “For crying out loud, he’s a bloody criminal who’s currently resting between engagements as an itinerant labour – this guy just doesn’t matter” disgusts me. So …

It’s time to take a break from this topic until I’ve read through the High Court judgement. But first, I might dig out some of those candles made from the fat of dead, barely legal, teen virgin mud-wrestlers so I can perform obeisance to Ovis Magnus, Dark High Lord Commander of the Legion of Brain-Sucking Leftist Zombie Sheep.

Muahaahaahaahaahaa! His dark reign cometh!

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Furphy Watch

Remember how, thanks to the long march of Maoist educators through the institutions, our education system is so debased that here in Victoria, schools have dropped teaching kids real English in favour of pop-culture and SMS messaging?

In case you’d forgotten, Saturday's Hun published a timely reminder from Neil Mitchell, under the headline “Dumb and Dumber”.

Mitchell is the nearest equivalent to Alan Jones we have here in Melbourne. So you might expect Melburnians to regard Mitchell as the thinking man’s Alan Jones. We don't, for two reasons: firstly, the phrase “thinking man’s Alan Jones” is an obvious oxymoron and secondly, on the evidence of today’s article, Mitchell doesn’t put enough thought of his own into his work to qualify as the thinking man’s anything. He begins:

IF it is horror stories you want from Australia's education system, it is horror stories you will get.

Teachers and bureaucrats are creating them faster than you can throw a duster across a classroom.

Such as the course we are running here in Victoria to study text messages.

Why waste time learning SMS shorthand when there is a perfectly acceptable language called English.

If the teacher must teach gibberish, is it unreasonable to suggest they teach the real language first?

Perhaps they don't know how. The written advice to teachers from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority seems to use words that have not been invented.

The one fact that Mitchell’s article – one of only two or three in the whole piece, the rest comprising a lot of supposition and speculation (like the last two quoted paragraphs above) – is that there is indeed, an English unit available for use in schools that want to teach students a short, 4 activity course on SMS messaging.

Most of the other facts about the unit – such as that at most, it would involve 4 to 8 class sessions over one or two weeks of English for students in Years 8 to 10 – Mitchell happily ignores in favour of innuendo about the general stupidity and ignorance of teachers and education bureaucrats. It’s not until halfway through his piece that he gets over the his fit of brain-farting for long enough to try his hand at examining the question in a balanced way. By then the damage is already done.

In that later, balanced section, Mitchell takes up the problem of conflict between schools and parents, caused by their mutually antagonistic perceptions:

Many schools still believe a good parent is an ignorant parent, tolerated rather than encouraged.

Many parents still see teachers as lazy, with long holidays, short hours and the singular ambition of turning their children into clones of Martin Kingham.

I wonder where those parents are getting that idea about teachers – it couldn’t be articles like this one, could it?

Mitchell’s article reminds me of those famous words at the end of John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the facts don’t fit the legend print the legend.”

Even if the legend is just a grubby, politically inspired urban legend.