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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Saturday, 26 July 2003
Burn your fingers
I have seen this list of discrepancies in the action and reaction of the Bush administration on September 11 but thought I would post the essence of it again as a reminder. I don't doubt that there's a cottage industry in alternative takes of the Bush goat story. It's just disturbing that it has not been roundly refuted, or in the case of the conservative media, rated so much as a mention.

Nor is Bush's behavour now any better. It's customary among detractors to nominate the incumbent as 'worst of his kind' but Dubya does have the dishonour of being "elected" through somewhat dubious means and it would be instructive to grasp how other Presidents would have handled the simultaneous hijacking of passenger jets to fly into key US sites and monuments.

Watching the latest enactment of the events surrounding Hitler's rise to power was particularly chilling as the Nazis stage an attack on the Parliament House and the next speech Der Fuehrer delivers is one severely curtailing citizens rights and freedom of speech. Essentially, to take away our rights, the government needs something "bigger than all of us". God or country for example.
I propose that every American at regular intervals insists on telling a complete stranger that they won't let Rumsfeld take away 'freedom x. If everyone does this then it will become harder to take away freedoms guaranteed under their Consitution and it will serve to remind one another that this is the potential goal of this administration - under the guise of protection from terrorism or weeding out of "dangerous elements" (i.e. anyone who doesn't think or act like they do).

You don't need to be a liberal, a Democrat, a Green, a freethinker, socialist or [insert label here] to feel the need to safeguard your own individuality and freedom.

There is something to be said for a 'leader of the free world' whose mocking of death row prisoners recalls Stalin, whose intolerance for dissent (among allies) recalls Mao, whose simple bloodymindedness recalls tinpot despots, whose election campaign has all the sophisticated transparency and fairness of third world 'democracies' everywhere. He's up to shit and his people aren't savvy in sufficient numbers to realise the fact.

And while I'm sticking the boot into this awful man - who even has the old Pope wishing he was a younger man so he could take him on!!! - here's a final thought:

There's something to be said for our ancestors: any warmongering leader would naturally have the courage to lead the battle (as General Eisenhower did), not hide in a bunker and only surface for photo ops like the showboat

Posted by berko_wills at 5:01 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 26 July 2003 10:17 PM NZT
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Thursday, 24 July 2003
Grounds
I dipped into most of the newspapers that came out: the Daily News when Perth still had two daily papers; Western Mail, bastion of halfbaked journalism; Sunday Times, which I only bought for the classifieds; the West Australian

Before I left WA I was buying the two Saturday papers - the West and the Weekend Australian and I kept up this pace by replacing the West with the Sydney Morning Herald after moving across.
It meant that, even if you didn't buy the daily paper, you'd end up reading sections of newspaper on the bus for most of the week.

In this little survey of local papers, I suppose I should mention Brisbane's Courier Mail (I lived in New Farm for a year) and the late National Times

Posted by berko_wills at 5:50 AM NZT
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Tuesday, 22 July 2003
Hangover cure
The daily newspaper is de rigeur for many of my fellow train commuters. My reading attentions are more sporadically focussed on newsprint as it does have to attend its brief; even if that is the third day's evidence of scandal against someone you hoped would just dry up and blow away the first you heard of them.

I see some people chuck their papers in the bin and I think they miss the point. The newsprint media is meant to be shared. No one wants your old juice container or chewing gum but they will find a usefulness for the TV guide, the gig guide, the IT liftout, the job classifieds. I suppose they've not been in a situation where finding the bit of the paper you want on the train is a real bonus.

Between RAM with their freebie sampler from Stiff Records, and the music section of the Sunday Independent by Ray Purvis I got a hand up on my music tastes. He gave lipservice to the likes of Peter Frampton and Boz Scaggs but he also chose Kid by the Pretenders and Teenage Kicks by the Undertones as best singles of the year. Purvis also had a show of "new wave" music on 6NR, Shake Some Action, that I used to struggle bravely to listen to every Wednesday night from over two hundred miles away.

Posted by berko_wills at 4:26 PM NZT
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Wednesday, 16 July 2003
Bit at the bottom
Well now I AM going to slow it down as I have only been doing this for a month and already I'm archived. What are the chances that people are going to go digging back for the gold?

Meanwhile.. Singapore is one of the few places I've been to overseas and what a strange repressed society it is. All city, fines for growing your hair long or spitting gum on the footpath. Yet hideous acts of torture and cruelty lovingly carved in their public park. Is there a correlation between a gruff nanny state and stone depictions of hapless victims being ground under a wheel?
The most boring team-up of all: Johnny Farnham and Little River B(l)and, even managed to produce a record of interest when talking about this island state.
Now there's the noise police!

Posted by berko_wills at 3:45 PM NZT
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Thursday, 10 July 2003
Star*ucks
America wants a bob each way; it wants to go interfering in the affairs of other nations - either through advisors/economic means or attack, depending on the stance of the nation it is dealing with, but doesn't want to be brought to brook in an international forum.

We may not like US gun laws or the use of the electric chair but have no right to interfere in the nation's inner workings. This is alright as far as it goes (trying David Hicks, an Australian citizen, is a far different story). Live and let live - or die as the case may be.

But, no, the US goes butting its nose in everywhere, telling other peoples what to do and how to do it. Then they refuse to be judged in return. This is rank hypocrisy. What is so special about the US that it can seek to impose its will without holding itself up to accountability? It's bigger and stronger. Bad reason. China is a mighty nation also. And North Korea is formidable. But their human rights record and international adventuring suck. And wouldn't it be nice if an international body could have just waved its finger and said 'you back those tanks right out of there and let the people be'? Or "Get the fuck out of Tibet. Now"

By being selective in deciding when international agreements should be adhered to, the US provides no reasonable guidance for arrant nations to follow. In fact, I would not recommend that any country follow their lead.

I mean, what can the US reasonably say?
Don't rig your elections like we did in Florida.
Don't overturn democratically elected governments like we did in Chile.
Don't attack or invade sovereign nation states unilaterally like we did in Iraq.
Don't oppress your minorities and native population like we did with the African Americans and Native Americans (to use the modern pc terms).
Don't discriminate in your immigration policy like we do with our Green Card.
Don't spend on military at the expense of social programs like we do in the extreme.
Don't pollute the environment as we do so ostentatiously (ah for the day when the US adminstration is run by solar energy and windpower barons!!)

Posted by berko_wills at 3:56 PM NZT
Updated: Monday, 14 July 2003 3:59 PM NZT
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Deep, well...
Probably the first entry where the title has a bearing on the content. I've been pondering my controversial last posting and wondering how many people recognize the somewhat spurious nature of the central argument:

Jesus wasn't executed because he preached gentility and brotherhood. Nor was he killed as a consequence of practicing same. The Romans did not say (not even once) "That Jesus is a really nice guy - let's kill him" No he was an insurrectionist, a rebel leader against the empire, and therefore a threat. That's pretty obvious - though apparently not to billions of followers since who prefer the retro version whereby the whole thing was preordained and Pilate washes his hands of it.


Posted by berko_wills at 3:53 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2003 3:35 PM NZT
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Wednesday, 9 July 2003
Swells and eddies
We'll leave the purple-suited gent at this point and his costumed colleagues. Except to say that he has the best prologue of all. Remember those hype boxes that appeared in Marvel comics in the seventies and eighties that would give a capsule introduction to the protagonist? Well none surpassed the intro that has appeared in every Phantom comic book since it started, culminating with him being washed ashore after a pirate attack and swearing on his father's skull to avenge him by devoting his life to fighting crime (I suspect this origin is what also makes Batman such a potent character)Now read on...

Hate has been given a bad name. The Chinese have always been at the forefront in philosophy (at least prior to Mao and his Little Red Book) and their idea of needing both the yin and yang is sound.

I was brought up on the fringe of Christianity, a creed of selective intolerance masquerading as love and forgiveness. No wonder it was confusing.

Consider how Jesus commanded us to 'turn the other cheek' and 'love thine enemy'. That kind of thinking can get you killed - as he proved himself.

And why is someone who gets themselves killed considered wise? I know it was covered by the grandaddy of deus ex machina, care of the Deus of all, but would you follow a guru who advocated eight grains of rice a day and died of malnutrition? Would you appreciate the advice of someone who told you to give no thought for the morrow and ended up penniless and in debt up to his eyeballs? Taking Warren Buffett's tips on the stockmarket makes sense. Listening to Bill Gates' advice on building a corporation is practical, even if you choose to then offer a counterpoint to his approach. But delivering yourself up to the enemy on the advice of someone who came unstuck doing so seems a little daft IMHO.

No, if I didn't hate boy bands how would I appreciate The Fall and Captain Beefheart. Perhaps on their own merit but so much sweeter when contrasting them with uninspired pap.

More seriously, there is a real need to have a real hatred for child abuse, for terrorism, for warmongering. Hate becomes destructive when it defines us in our actions and attitudes toward others. We should be able to turn it on and off I feel. It does no good to be wholly prescriptive. It is possible not to hate all Moslems but to have a major grudge against the Taliban, female 'circumcision', fatwahs and the like. It is credible to hate some things in our friends and admire some aspects of our enemies. It may be more difficult to apply our intelligence and discernment to each given situation without falling back on the written word or the spoken edict. But that is ultimately worthwhile.

Posted by berko_wills at 4:04 PM NZT
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Thursday, 3 July 2003
Bottomless schooner of Old
costumed adventurer: always in costume as "those who look upon Phantom's face must die". Even when the Phantom goes abroad as 'Mr Walker' (for 'the Ghost Who Walks') he just basically throws a hat and coat on. How this works for the passport photo is one of those great unanswered questions.

So, yes, while it has been said that Bruce Wayne is a guise that Batman employs, rather than vice versa, and Clark Kent is Superman with a pair of glasses and his hair combed differently (which doesn't work as a disguise, in case you were thinking of trying it), The Phantom has no other identity at all.

skull cave: the batcave and arrowcave are situated under their respective heroes' mansions to allow for easy access but the skull cave is deep within the jungle so good thing the 'Guardian of the Eastern Dark' has a horse. The Fortress of Solitude may be way off in the Arctic but that's not a problem when you've got superspeed.

secret command: the Jungle Patrol have a secret commander who sends and receives messages via a well. He also received messages by jungle drum. This may have worked in the nineteen thirties but now he'd communicate via fax or e-mail. Not half as romantic.

pets: for archetypal names you can't go past Hero and Devil. And the horse and wolf make sense as offsiders. Ace the Bathound always seemed ridiculous and Krypto, Comet and Streaky even moreso (what's the point of a flying horse when you can fly yourself?! - at least the wing-ed steed is useful to the Shining Knight and the Black Knight)

love interest: while supes occasionally fraternises with other LL-monikered members of the opposite sex, the majority of Marvel heroes have been serial monogamists, and Green Arrow sows his seed with wild abandon, this generation's Phantom has been a one-woman man.

realism: no supertype baddies, only pirates, corrupt sultans and common crooks. The Phantom is well developed, lightning fast etc but capable of being injured.

weapons: like all the early heroes, uses guns and his fists. Most of the lineup of the Seven Soldiers of Victory were characters who got dressed up in gaudy outfits and punched you in the head. That was it (so theoretically anyone with a propensity for violence and taking the law into their own hands could have become a superhero.)

successors: The Phantom has the most prevailing need to have an heir. For otherwise the legend ends. There are other heroes who pass the flame to their own progeny vizStarman and The Ray.
But most often they are wards or junior partners - Kid Flash becomes The Flash when Barry Allen dies (he, in turn, was inspired by Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash); Robin the Boy Wonder.
spectre of immortality: quite common in the pulp era heroes. Denny Colt survives death to assume the mantle of The Spirit. Another detective, Jim Corrigan, is shot to death and is given a chance to exact revenge in the all-powerful figure of The Spectre.

Posted by berko_wills at 3:51 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 July 2003 12:54 AM NZT
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Tuesday, 1 July 2003
Styrofoam cup
Hmm. You're probably thinking that I've already started to lose interest in this blogging business but the truth is that my home pc is playing up and won't let me post new entries so I'm writing this at work (during my lunch hour!).

Here, as promised, is that entry on The Phantom

Dad blamed my Nana for getting me onto superhero comics and he was right. She sent one of those big brown paper parcels for Christmas when I was eleven. The stuff inside was never labelled but we figured out who owned what. I had no trouble recognizing Thor "O Bitter Victory!" and Amazing Spider-Man "The Arms of Doctor Octopus!*" as mine. And I was hooked from that point on.

[*titles and dialogue always had exclamation marks:"Peter, dear, could you swing by the deli and get some milk!"]

So, strange then, that I was already well familiar with The Phantom. In fact, I'd already sold a large collection of Phantom comics at a district fete (something I'd never do now!) Well The Phantom is a bit like Joh; just as the Queensland dictator was 'not a politician' despite having a longer rein at the top than all other state premiers, so The Ghost Who Walks was 'not a superhero'. Phantom comics are available in dusty little shops in the outback that have never sold (or seen) an Avengers or X-Men. And they are read by truckies, farmers, shearers...

What marks him off as different? Clearly the Phantom is the seminal superhero, the epitome of his kind (...NOW READ ON)



Posted by berko_wills at 3:49 PM NZT
Updated: Friday, 4 July 2003 3:41 PM NZT
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Sunday, 22 June 2003
Black Russian Kahula
Today I saw sacks of coffee beans with titles enough to keep me in blog entries until about March of next year. Not that I want to infringe on the proprietor's coffee right. So, sorry folks, there won't BE any Rum Butter Spicy entries.

You know what I hated when I was a boy?

I hated getting a haircut. Short back and sides shit me.

I wouldn't like to try now, with a welterwaung of competing theories and ideas jockeying for position in my grey matter, to guess why this fairly painless procedure attracted such infantile opprobrium. Maybe I was nicked; my ears needed some circumnavigation.
And short back and sides do nicely profile one's ears. There's literally no way of hiding the fact that your ears stick out, short of wearing headgear.
Or maybe (if you accept Jung's notion of archetypes) I was just being a child of the sixties. Literally.

Now I probably feared the dentist more. But it was precisely this awareness of just how many sharp objects there were that kept me from making a fuss. True, the barber had scissors and razors but he wasn't supposed to use them on anyone.

The further disadvantage that barbers have is that their difficult customers stay upright and there's nothing stopping them from screaming and thrashing around. Of course this makes the actual haircut hard to execute. In my case,that was the plan.

My aversion to haircuts lead to two distinct bad hair phases, ironically enough:

High school. Nowadays children of the same age sport a gamut of hairstyles. Sometimes the same kid may go through a crazy spin cycle of haystacks and bobcuts. But then you had to have it long. And the hostel administration and parents decided that that meant shoulderlength. I compounded this noncommittal middleground wretchedness with a middle parting and hair brushed OVER MY EARS.
I must have thought that would solve both problems. My ears would vanish and I'd be cool. It didn't turn out that way, needless to say. Something that resembled a moptop split in half was going about the whole thing the wrong way.

Early twenties. I decided after the horror of high school was over (and the disappointment of unemployment about to descend) that I just wouldn't go to the hairdresser. Fuck it if it was that traumatic. But instead of growing long my hair grew outward tufted. When I did finally relent and abandon this barf-faunt hairdo, the person cutting my hair went above and beyond the call that day. And told me so.

Postscript: I did eventually grow my hair long and kept it in a ponytail for most of that time. When this started looking too grizzly, I cut it and have been happily going to a cheapo barber in George Street ever since.


Posted by berko_wills at 2:37 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 22 June 2003 4:07 AM NZT
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