Monday, October 25, 2010

In a vegetative state

Every Saturday I buy The Weekend Australian newspaper. It's bilge but it's the best on offer. It has the whole week's TV in it. I don't watch the TV but it's nice to know I'm not missing anything.

It has two Sudoku puzzles which can take me several days to solve. Usually I get the 'advanced' one out before I conquer the 'easy'. Make of that what you will. Mostly I read the newspapers on-line, but the weekend seems to demand some unwieldy broadsheeting, at least in my world.

So I open up The Weekend Australian with well-honed low expectations and I find this gem,

New investigations team

The Australian's editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and editor Paul Whittaker today announce the formation of a national investigations team to leverage the newspaper's story-breaking credentials.

'To leverage the newspaper's story-breaking credentials.' Let us stop for a minute and try to imagine the intellectual environment that might have produced such erudition. Barney is fairly sure Polish vodka was involved.

Intrigued, I read on expecting to discover that the esteemed editors have assembled a team comprising Woodward and Bernstein, Erin Brockovich and Julian Assange but were just being extremely modest about it, as is the Australian way.

But no, what Mssrs Mitchell and Whittaker are attempting to articulate is the fine detail of an office reorganisation. What they appear to be saying is that four people who already work at The Australian will be sitting together in the future.

Leading by example, Mitchell and Whittaker subject themselves to exacting self-scrutiny when defining the role of this new team,

'The Australian has a proud record of investigative journalism and we are now building on that with a dedicated team of first-rate reporters who will have a wide remit.'

Well, how reassuring is that? It's excellent to know that people who have undergone the terrible disruption of having to move desks will pretty much be able to do as they please by way of recompense.

You are wondering how I'm going to tie in the vegetables? Does the word Rupert mean anything to you?

We low-income earners for whom pension eligibility is increasingly reliant on Leprechaun connections, pan for quality bargains like movie people scout for coordinated infants to complete their rainbow families. Our local 'supermarket' (I don't know when the word supermarket came into use for a shop that's really quite small, but I don't have any other word to describe what, in Larrikin's End, passes for a shop that will stand between you and starvation provided there is not a major sporting event on).

Sorry, that diversion was so long, I think I might have to abandon it. It reminded me that in the film Up in the Air, Alex (Vera Farmiga) calls Ryan (George Clooney), 'a parenthesis' and all I can think of is this is George fuckin' Clooney. So what is her idea of concrete sentence? That man I would like to meet.

Sad to say that George was not included in the vegetable selection above, and it was no worse for it, given that I'm not eating meat these days. Sorry George.

Larrikin's End Shopahoy, (well, it is a fishing town), randomly offers shoppers the chance to grab as many fresh fruit and vegetables as they can cram into a bag for one Aussie dollar. They never advertise when they're going to do this for obvious reasons. Today I was lucky enough to be right there before all the good stuff had gone. That's two bags full above. Two dollars. The mango alone is worth that. As you're reading this, it's almost all been cooked up in sauces and soups and quiches.

Shopahoy is not my only source of glee bargaining. Larrikin's End Library regularly de-accessions books and sells on donations that don't fit their strict selection criteria (westerns, romance, fishing, golf). Today I got a book on Turner for $1 and Plum Sykes's Bergdorf Blondes for 50c.

The Weekend Australian costs $2.60. I can't eat it but I can burn it. Most of it will get pulped to keep me warm next winter.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hail Mary full of pants

Mary MacKillop by Pants

We Australians simply love to be the centre of world attention, and we don't scrutinise too closely the credibility of its premise. I submit in evidence the sisters Minogue.

Speaking of sisters, the cause célèbre this sabbath is the canonisation of Mother Mary MacKillop, founder of the order of The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart or, as we compulsive diminutisers like to call them, The Brown Joeys. To this end, throngs of salivating believers and non-believers alike have gathered in Rome and all related orbits.

Interestingly, when it comes to sainthood, which is right up there with virgin birth at the leg-pulling end of the belief spectrum, one does not have to be an adherent to join in the celebration, apparently. The Catholic Church has shown a great generosity of spirit in offering Mother Mary as a saint for all Australians.

Speaking at a mass in Sydney, Father Graeme Malone gushed,

"One of the important things about a canonisation is that ordinary events and ordinary connections in life take on a grace dimension. Our history becomes holy while our present remains messy."

"Today we reflect on many things but especially on Mary's constant pursuit of justice even beyond personal persecution and a misunderstanding which in part evoked her excommunication from a church she deeply loved."

Well yes, that's all well and good. Mary MacKillop did open schools and hospitals and orphanages and shelters for the homeless and vulnerable women. And she did achieve independence for her order from the Pope to keep it from being corrupted by a spiteful priesthood. And she was ex-communicated for daring to challenge a paedophile priest. And she did this all over a hundred years ago before even the first wave of feminism. And she did it from within a stultifying organisation and in defiance of a Goliathan power base.

But this is not why she's being made a saint. No, she is being canonised because a couple of people got sick and then got well and they also happened to have prayed to Mary MacKillop. In the absence of any medical explanation, Mary is the default penicillin. Just so we're clear, the entire world, (so we are led to believe), is preparing garlands not for provable and proven acts of courage, compassion and all round jolly goodness, but for events with which a causal link to Mary MacKillop never has and never can be evidenced. She was, after all, dead when these events known as miracles occurred, which in my admittedly secular view, is a fairly big minus when it comes to demonstrating agency.

To be fair, it does take a long time to ascend to the canon of saintliness - well over a hundred years in MacKillop's case. It is quite unlike a Nobel Peace Prize, for example, where you can have one foistered upon you before you've actually done anything. I'm sure Barack Obama would have preferred to slate up a few more achievements in addition to being a pale enough black man to get elected President of the United States.

And you have to be dead to be a saint as opposed to being barely born to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Henry Kissinger won one and there is no evidence that he was ever actually born. It's interesting to note that very few women have won a Nobel Peace Prize, given that we start so few wars. Just sayin'.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year and sometimes it's quite hard to find a man who can stay out of mischief for that long. Sainthood isn't hampered by deadlines and, by Jehovah, doesn't that show. Some popes have a taste for it and it seems a fast track has been installed at the Vatican since the last white smoke event. Perhaps it's a case of new graces, new faces and god only knows (sorry Brian), the church has sustainability issues. There was a backlog to be churned through, but the current pontiff's appetite for ceremony has clearly benefited our Mother Mary.

It is a long and winding road. First comes death, obviously. You can do nothing to further your ambitions in Simon Templardom until you've firmly carked it. After a decent interval, say seventy years, comes the beatification or, as we Aussies prefer, being 'rendered beaut'. Mary reached that milestone in 1995, after several arch plots by evil scheming clergy to besmirch her memory. How she must have fumed up there in her new home of Hevnabuv and determined to get her own back by randomly selecting terminally ill cancer patients to ...

Enough. So why are we still playing this silly game? It's like saying it's only possible to have sex if you have completed a few rounds of Twister as a preamble. It's as if the children are keeping the Santa myth alive for fear of breaking the parents' dear little hearts. Can we not just grow up and honour Mary MacKillop for being a real woman who dedicated her life to the genuine care of humans with whom she actually came into physical contact? And what's with the Catholic Church and its sheepish obfuscation - who does it think it is, JM flippin' Barrie?