Lazy Luddite Log

30.6.19

Seven Shops

Some of my most mundane subject matter on Facebook is also the most popular. The following post some months ago generated discussion exceeding two hundred comments:

Imagine you have moved to a different neighbourhood and are told there is a row of seven small shops close by. What do you hope those seven shops will include?

I got lots of wish-lists from friends and responded by number-crunching what kind of shops were the most wished for in these imaginary streets. These were my results...

I decided to try and convert all your comments into some kind of survey results. That took some judgement calls because some shops are very similar while others combine well into one mixed business. Also, nomenclature takes some translating. Still this is what I got...

1. In equal first place are cafes and bakeries (which nobody calls 'hot bread kitchens' anymore). Sometimes these were combined as bakery-cafes.

2. In second place were mini-marts (often named as IGAs). They were more popular than milk bars (possibly due to larger range or the additional services they tend to have like an ATM).

3. In third place were pharmacies.

4. In equal fourth place came fruit-and-vegetable stores, fish-and-chips (winner in the takeaway joint stakes), and milk bars (surprisingly popular given that they are smaller than a mini-mart but I think that might be in part a sentimental vote).

5. In equal fifth place were newsagents (who it was noted can be agents for services like Australia Post), book shops (or something that can exchange books), and noodles (that only just pipped pizza to the post in the takeaway joint stakes).

6. In equal sixth place were butchers and pizza.

7. In equal seventh place came Australia Post and op-shops (with some noting that an op-shop has all sorts of things and is like a small second-hand department store).

8. In equal eighth place came laudromats (including dry-cleaning), massages (more popular among us than hair cuts), curry, and arts-and-crafts.

9. In ninth place came delis. Some however noted that mini-marts or milk bars often include a deli selection. One of you wanted a cheese shop specifically.

10. In equal tenth place came clothes alterations fabric stores and pet-related services.

All other things were each named by three or fewer of you. These included hairdressers, plant nurseries and florists, machine supply and maintenance, toys and games, bars, gift shops, music stores and dance studios.

Following that I presented my own imaginary seven stores...

Some of you turned your lists into descriptions of the character of your shops so I am taking some inspiration from you in this, my imagined seven backstreet shops.

To begin with, I'll describe the fixtures outside the row of shops. Naturally, there's some parking space, but also bike racks, bins (including recycling), a post box, a payphone, some benches, and some hardy garden beds. An unknown local regularly places garden ornaments in among the shrubbery. The shops that need it have been allocated space on the footpath for alfresco dining. A street sign declaring the name of these shops does not include the phrase 'shopping centre' as that's an exaggeration, and instead just says 'The Shop Street Shops'. So, onto the shops, from one end to the other:

The Mortar & Pestle Compounding Pharmacy is also a licensed agent for Australia Post and the Commonwealth Bank and includes an external ATM.

Topknot To Toes is a combination masseur and barber (which does only basic cuts but charges women and men the same rate). One of their options is a combination hair cut and head-and-shoulder massage.

The Shop Street Laundromat includes vending machines, comfy couches, a book exchange cabinet, a chess set and a community notice board. A few of the locals regularly come here to clean their clothes and play chess. Nobody has ever seen the person who runs it.

The Shop Street Fish-And-Chippery is currently run by Kurdish Australians. Just as the former Greek Australian owners expanded the menu, so too are the current owners. There's an old Asteroids arcade game table in a corner, but on closer inspection one discovers that it's been turned into a terrarium.

There is an op-shop run by a philanthropic organization called the Worldwide Order of Oddballs (WOOB). The coordinator is a collector of pop-culture memorabilia and a costumer. Anything excess to her own current desires becomes part of the stock.

The Honey Pot Bakery-Café is renowned locally for its chilli scrambled, its fresh juices and its kibbled rye. Both the hot and cold coffees are good too.

The Shop Street Superette is a mini-mart run by Kiwis who think these shops are called 'superettes'. It includes a deli cabinet and a small selection of tacky gifts that nobody seems to buy. They make a better malted milkshake than the cafe does.

There is something timeless (within post-war era confines) in this description. Some of it resonates with recent trends but in other ways they are the kind of shops that many generations of Australians would feel are familiar. I guess that familiarity is what makes my mundane posts popular.

Labels:

30.5.19

Three Phase Power

For over a decade I have avidly followed the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This sequence of movies has been lauded as innovative for presenting a huge and coherent set of interconnected tales. I suspect it can be compared to the much older movie serials of the black-and-white era. But those movies were shorts connected by a linear plot. The MCU involves long movies (some so long that I wish they had intermissions) and the entwining of several parallel plots.

Of course I might only be saying this because these are effects-laden action flicks. Such stuff tends to be looked on as shallow pulp but the MCU has escaped this with its focus on character development and relationships. By the time the overarching story became dire, viewers felt invested in characters at risk, and it had a lot of impact.

And it look a while for things to become dire. The MCU mostly escaped the trend, prominent since the 90s, to be gritty or gloomy just for the sake of it. Action, drama and comedy were deftly blended in a way that felt realistic. And from a kernel of realism grew a sprawling universe in which spy flick conspiracy, science fiction technology and fantasy powers could co-exist and be accepted by the audience.

I'm impressed but can always wish for some things to have been different. In the rest of this post I will describe an alternative MCU in which the same overall story to date will have been presented with somewhat different flow and some shifting foci. The first three 'phases' of the MCU are now collectively known as the Infinity Saga - this then is a scrambling of that saga by just one fan.

Phase One

Iron Man: The first is still one of my favourite MCU movies. More than any other it demonstrates the ability of the film-maker to slowly draw the audience from a realistic basis into accepting some pretty outlandish stuff. Each of the three powered armours is better than the last and by the end we believe that Tony Stark (wonderfully depicted by Robert Downy Junior) can function as human, jet fighter and tank rolled into one. The only thing I would change is that only one actor would play James Rhodes from the outset.

The Incredible Hulk: This is the only MCU movie that succumbed to 'gritty and gloomy' pretensions. I feel that would have been different if Mark Ruffalo had played Bruce Banner from the start. It is interesting that the movie puts the Hulk origins in its own past - one can pretend it is linked to the non-MCU Hulk movie that preceded it. I would have liked to see a different epilogue drawing it into the wider MCU. In it some Shield agents prominent in future movies would secretly monitor the fugitive Bruce Banner but would then be called away to a more pressing assignment in Budapest.

An Agents Of Shield Movie: I feel it makes sense for characters that become core Avengers to have an adventure of their own. Such a spy flick would have starred Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, co-starred Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton and guest starred Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Other characters like agents Coulson and Hill could also have appeared. The vibe would have combined the fun of xXx with the cool of Atomic Blonde but lacked the harshness of Red Sparrow (for now the closest thing I imagine we have to a Nat and Clint movie). By the end an array of criminal organizations would be shown to have links with Hydra. An epilogue would give the agents a history lesson on the World War II origins of that secret society.

Captain America - The First Avenger: Chris Evans is well-cast as the virtuous Steve Rogers and I enjoyed this historically-set comic book movie. However it always seemed to lack something for me but since I cannot define that thing I cannot suggest improvement. However the scene set in the present would involve Tony Stark. Tony would use his surname to get some kind of recognition from Steve. And yet he cannot resist acting the showman and would utter the knowingly corny line 'welcome to the future Captain America'. Maria Hill could be standing in the background and receive a call from Phil Coulson saying he has discovered something odd in Oklahoma.

Thor: Chris Hemsworth is perfect as the bold and rash Asgardian. I enjoy this movie but find the contrast between Asgard and the desert of the south-west US jarring. Rushing from a fantastic 'realm' (yet to be characterized as just another planet) of godlike aliens to dusty New Mexico gives me culture shock. Shifting the setting of the hammer-fall to something a bit more temperate and verdant would address that. Also Hawkeye seems out-of-place here. Otherwise this Kenneth Branagh directed movie feels like Shakespeare in space and works surprisingly well. Its epilogue could show that Loki is still alive and now working with other sinister powers intent on finding primordial artifacts.

The Avengers: The first super-powered ensemble movie of the MCU is one of my favourites. Joss Whedon was right for the job of writer-director because of how he portrays characters. They are never paragons-of-virtue. Rather they are flawed humans who recognize mistakes and try to make amends. I'm tempted to say this movie be left as is but there is something that bugs me with it - a whole gang of heroes face just one villain (and a villain who ends his story-line much later as a hero). I wonder how this would have worked as a movie in which some villains collaborate (beyond anonymous minions and a behind-the-scenes puppet-master). What if a Hydra cell were involved? What if Red Skull also returned from seeming-death in the cosmic vastness? How would these villains interact? I imagine an ex-fascist who had abandoned cruder prejudices for a kind of perverse meritocracy (surely the doctrine of Hydra) would initially admire Loki but eventually see his shortcomings and turn on him. As for Thanos working in the background - I wonder at the wisdom of risking one infinity stone in order to collect another one. It could always be part of another story.

Phase Two

An Iron Man Sequel: In my re-arrangement I am merging some movies so that others can exist. A movie that combined the better aspects of both Iron Man sequels is what I'm imagining. The trauma Stark experienced as a result of his brush with death in outer-space is exhibited in his drunken and disorderly conduct. Various characters (including Hawkeye rather than Black Widow) either help or hinder him in his journey to become whole but in the process he never destroys all his suits. Possibly an infinity stone can become part of the Iron Man story too.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: This is pretty fine as it is and frankly it has a lot of work to do with introducing another whole ensemble to the existing setting. Of course it does this by taking to the stars (or as fans say it is in the more 'cosmic part of this universe' which is an interesting use of synonyms). This movie truly took the MCU to lurid and outlandish vistas but by then we were well-prepared for more-and-more.

Captain America & The Winter Soldier: I love this political thriller inserted into a comic book setting but the name always confused me. Replacing the dash with an ampersand clarifies that the Winter Soldier is a distinct character. This is the best Captain America movie and that is partly because it is also an excellent adventure for Black Widow. We also meet the wonderful Sam Wilson and the creepy magnetic-tape incarnation of Dr Zola. And finally the link between Shield and Hydra is exposed.

Ant-Man: I was surprised at how well this movie worked. I somehow expected it to be too silly but the level of comedy was just right and by this time it seemed that any kind of movie could be inserted into the MCU. I just wish that Hope van Dyne would tell Scott Lang that most ants (including his winged steed) are female.

A Vision And Scarlet Witch Movie: I feel that Age Of Ultron was a hot mess of an Avengers movie but maybe aspects of it would have worked well as a more modest origin story for my proposed titular characters. We needed more of a chance to see what these powerful figures can do. It could also be another movie focused on key Shield agents and associates (including the geneticist Helen Cho) as they finalize the destruction of Hydra.

Spiderman - Homecoming: This was a fantastic re-booting of the character. Tom Holland ties with Toby McGuire as my favourite incarnation of Peter Parker but this movie gives something more. Vulture as depicted by Michael Keaton is possibly my favourite of all MCU villains to date. He can be menacing and then charming and then just an ordinary person stuck in a difficult life.

Avengers - Civil War: I feel like Civil War is practically an Avengers movie anyway so may as well make it so. To make it more completely Avengers it could take a few scenes from Age Of Ultron. The party scene would be a must but with more tensions brewing. The personal flashbacks could be the product of conversations rather than mind-probing (or otherwise be in other origin movies). The ability of one person to manipulate such powerful figures into conflict would continue to be central to this story. Some characters (Thor and Hulk) would be otherwise occupied but could appear in sideshow cameos.

Captain Marvel: Bringing on this prequel sooner in the sequence would give the character more of a sense of belonging in the history of the Avengers. I also have an interest in a different incarnation of the character - Monica Rambeau. I randomly own just one Avengers comic and in this 80s issue her version of Captain Marvel is leader of the group and bursting with energy. Having her as the central character (rather than just a child) would have been cool. Still this was an interesting movie. I particularly like how two key characters essentially switch the roles of hero-mentor and villain - a nifty trick for any actors to portray.

Phase Three

Guardians Of The Galaxy 2: This is more fun and madness in the wider cosmos. Also more pathos for various characters such as Rocket and Nebula. It also offers many promises of future developments that I only hope will be delivered in coming movies beyond what is described here.

Doctor Strange: This takes us from the wider cosmos of Guardians to a hint at a multiverse that results in the rules-bending of magic. I would have enjoyed a bit more character development for some of the supporting cast - Wong as more than just a comedic character could be worth exploring.

Black Panther: Some movies present new sets of characters but this one goes further in presenting a whole culture. Its production of something new that is nonetheless inspired by age-old African cultures is an impressive work of craft and design. The economics is fanciful but this is the MCU and they can get away with it. The nation of Wakanda (both as a locale and a community) plays a key part in the final two movies of the Infinity Saga but with one noteworthy exception. The spy Nakia is central to the Wakanda story yet absent later on. I would have rather seen her in the final battle at Avengers headquarters than the brilliant yet barely-armed Shuri.

Planet Hulk: Here I imagine the more Hulk-centric aspects of Ragnarok as a stand-alone Hulk sequel. Such a story could start in a scene of urban destruction on Earth caused by a berserk Hulk who later repents as Bruce Banner and exiles himself from Earth. In coming to Sakaar he must defend himself in Hulk form but then find himself suited to the life of a gladiator. Fun could ensue in Guardians fashion and the character who finds and fights Hulk could be the travelling Captain Marvel.

The Wasp: Both Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne are the central characters of two movies to date. One is barely more important than the other. So if Ant-Man can be the focus of one movie then the Wasp can be the focus of the other. This would involve only small changes in emphasis. However the Wasp could end the movie as the one trapped in the Quantum Realm. The scene of others ceasing to exist takes me to a small peeve of mine - 'the snap' special effect of turning to dust seems tacky to me. I would prefer the older yet subtler visual of simply fading. I feel this better conveys a sense of getting edited from reality rather than just destroyed. It could also easily be confused by viewers as something akin to the phasing problem also seen in this movie.

A Thor Sequel: A long fantasy movie that combines the best aspects of both Thor sequels is what I propose here. It would be more grounded in the Norse vibe but fit the Nine Realms more fully into a cosmic framework. The Dark Elves could just be a minor challenge overcome only to then face the greater danger of Hela (my other contender for favourite MCU villain). More time could be focused on Heimdall as a resistance leader and a still-extant Lady Sif could become protector of Asgardian refugees. Connection to the wider MCU could still be provided by scenes involving Dr Strange and others.

Avengers - Infinity War (Part 1) & Endgame (Part 2): I regard these as one very long movie with a shock cliff-hanger and intermission of several months. There is so much in this to be impressed by and barely anything I can even start to re-configure (I choose to overlook the cascading death that would result from a halved population - I cannot help that Thanos is a fanatical idiot). All my changes to other movies would result in a very similar culmination and what a ride it was!

* * * * *

I only ever imagine changes to things I value and that is very much so here. My wishful thinking is far easier to do than the epic task undertaken by thousands of workers who have given us the amazing Infinity Saga. What I found interesting with this exercise was to notice how changes at the start of a story necessitate many more changes later on. That is why my descriptions of change are explicit in Phase 1 but then vague in Phases 2 and 3. There are simply too many things I would have to reference in order to justify my reconstituted story. And to be honest I am very happy just to re-watch the Infinity Saga movies as they exist in this reality.

Labels:

28.4.19

2019 Federal Clumps

I’m adapting my Clumps for the use of progressive voters in the 2019 Australian Federal Election for the Victorian Senate contest. Gone is my complex ideological model for something that better fits the spirit of the age. What punters ask is simply ‘are they on my side?’ I can answer by sorting all the parties into just three clumps named (1) Yes (2) Maybe (3) No.

Another way to look at these clumps is by reference to the two major parties: (1) Better Than Labor (2) Between Labor And Liberal / National (3) Worse Than Liberal / National.

You need to number six-or-more groups above the line or twelve-or-more candidates below the line on the Senate white ballot paper.

I provide short descriptions of parties to help in the task of arranging preferences within (or indeed across) my three clumps. In preparing for this I made a study of the candidates via Wikipedia, party websites and media reports. I will overlook the preference recommendations of parties because such decisions are often strategic rather than political.

Within each clump I present the parties in alphabetical order.

1. THE ‘YES’ CLUMP – BETTER THAN LABOR

Australian Democrats – This social-liberal party is a pale ghost of its former self but still has a progressive platform to warrant its inclusion on this list.

Australian Workers Party - This is a social-democratic party with a focus on getting governments back to supporting employees and local jobs. Are economic protectionists but, unlike others further down this list, reject cultural isolationism. Are basically like left-faction Labor if they were independent.

The Greens (Vic) – This is the most successful progressive party in Australia with a strong presence at all levels of representation. They have grown into an effective force for reform in the Senate.

Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party – These activists wish to integrate hemp products into our economy and society on environmental, harm-minimization and personal autonomy grounds.

Pirate Party - This party is populated by Internet geeks and presents policy in the form of a member-run wiki. They are particularly interested in online civil rights and privacy issues.

2. THE ‘MAYBE’ CLUMP – BETWEEN LABOR AND LIBERAL / NATIONAL

Animal Justice Party - This party focuses on animal liberation and veganism. I’m okay with much of what they say but some may find them too radical for their tastes.

Derryn Hinch's Justice Party - Normally one expects ‘law and order’ candidates to be conservative but this party is more difficult to box. Some would argue that they are moderates because ‘the pendulum has swung too far’ on issues of criminal justice. On a host of other issues it almost looks like Hinch just tosses a coin to make a decision.

Health Australia Party - This party focuses on health issues and on the surface look fine. But if you take a closer look you find a connection with alternative medicine and New Age beliefs. Take only as recommended and make sure you are inoculated.

Independents For Climate Action Now - They say that addressing climate change is so important that it needs politicians solely focused on it who can work with all everyone across the political spectrum to act while we still can.

Republican Party Of Australia - A party focused on political reforms such as us becoming a republic. Vague on other issues and so look okay but best to be wary.

Secular Party Of Australia - I suspect many in this party forget that a secular society is one that accommodates all religions rather than one that lacks them. However they may provide a useful counterpoint in an electoral contest that includes many fundamentalist religious parties.

The Small Business Party – These are classical liberals who say that the self-employed and small-time employers are undervalued for the economic contribution they make. Leader Angela Vithoulkas is into some innovative concepts such as a city ‘night mayor’.

Socialist Equality Party - This is a Marxist-Leninist group. On an issue-by-issue basis you may well agree with them on many things but personally I have a problem with anyone whose doctrine includes talk of violent revolution.

Sunny Chandra & Robert Whitehall - This group have a focus on regional development by prioritizing non-urban areas for immigration.

Sustainable Australia - This party seems to think that population within our borders is the only issue that defines environmental problems, rather than the consumption patterns of persons and industry worldwide.

Ungrouped - The problem with independents is that it is difficult to find information on many of them and they can represent any kind of politics. Err on the side of caution unless you have information on specific candidates. These candidates only appear below-the-line.

Voteflux | Upgrade Democracy! - This party has a gimmick rather than an ideology. They have an app rather than any kind of policy platform. If they have opinions nobody will know because they will do whatever they are told by whatever group of voters can be bothered getting online and directing them.

3. THE ‘NO’ CLUMP – WORSE THAN LIBERAL / NATIONAL

Australian Conservatives - The party started by Cory Bernardi who felt that the Coalition were lacking in religious conviction. Basically like Liberal / National but more morally conservative.

Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) - For these fundamentalist protestants everything is dictated by what they want to think God says. A wonderful excuse for prejudice towards anyone who is different from them in terms of sexuality or family values or religion.

Citizens Electoral Council - The CEC is an insular cult-like group with international connections to the LaRouche Movement. They think some of the strangest things and nobody trusts them. They deride rock-and-roll and for that alone I oppose them.

Climate Action! Immigration Action! Accountable Politicians! - Formerly named Senator Online and with a similar modus-operandi to VoteFlux but here’s the thing – plebiscitary politics tends towards mob rule. The shouty new name for this group presages that, hence me placing them here among the scary populists.

Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party - The former One Nation splinter group of our worst senator. This time you can cry ‘fascist’ and I will nod in agreement.

The Great Australian Party - The party of former One Nation senator-elect Rod Culleton who was ineligible due to bankruptcy. Fixated on particular legal and financial issues (fancy that).

Labour DLP - The Democratic Labour Party is morally conservative and economically protectionist. Its members tend to be drawn from the working class Roman Catholic community.

Liberal Democrats - These libertarians with a deceptive party name want to minimize public sector involvement in all aspects of life except legal defense of person and property. In advocating for such they enjoy dismissing the needs of everyone along the way.

Pauline Hanson's One Nation - This party of xenophobes and malcontents just keeps on coming back. They fragment and rupture but always seem to find fresh blood for one more shot at tarnishing our polity.

Rise Up Australia Party – A party of fundamentalist protestants founded by Pentecostal minister Danny Nalliah. Even more extreme than the Fred Nile Group. Are anti-environmentalists and all kinds of phobic.

Shooters, Fishers And Farmers - You might think Ricky Muir is alright but these hoons want to hunt and fish across the land. Overall are pretty conservative while wishing to limit further natural conservation.

United Australia Party - Clive Palmer is back for more and bags of dosh help him do that. If he had a normal ego I suspect he would just be another Liberal or National member. This is pretty much a party for maverick neo-conservatives.

Yellow Vest Australia - These jerks ran last year as the so-called Australian Liberty Alliance. Are seeking to associate themselves with that French protest movement but are nothing but angry home-grown xenophobes. I keep calling them ‘yellow jackets’ and they are rather WASPish.

I'm happy to discuss these and other parties in comments or private message if you prefer. I will also edit content as new information comes to hand..

Labels:

Dumber Clumps

Some month ago I presented a new and simpler form of my ‘Clumps’ analysis of political parties for the 2018 Victorian State Election on Facebook. However I forgot to also blog it so I'm adding it here now...

I’m adapting my Clumps for the use of progressive voters in the 2018 Victorian State Election Legislative Council region of Southern Metropolitan. I’m also abandoning my rather complex ideological model for something that better fits the spirit of the age.

What punters ask is simply ‘are they on my side?’ I can answer by sorting all the parties into just three clumps named (1) Yes (2) Maybe (3) No.

Another way to look at these clumps is by reference to the two major parties: (1) Better Than Labor (2) Between Labor And Liberal / National (3) Worse Than Liberal / National.

I will provide short descriptions of parties to help in the task of arranging preferences within (or indeed across) my three clumps.

In preparing for this I have made a study of the candidates via Wikipedia, party websites and media reports. I overlook the preference recommendations of parties because such decisions are often strategic rather than political.

If you live in one of the other seven Legislative Council regions you will need to do your own research (but will see many of these same names).

The Victorian Legislative Council election uses non-exhaustive preferential voting. If you choose to go below the line you only need to vote for five candidates by filling in the numbers 1 to 5. Just my ‘Yes’ clump will provide more than five candidates for anyone wishing to follow my advice.

Within each clump I present the candidates in alphabetical order.

1. THE ‘YES’ CLUMP – BETTER THAN LABOR

Australian Greens - The Greens are the most successful progressive party in Australia with a strong presence at all levels of representation. They have grown into an effective force for reform, with five members in the Legislative Council and another three in the Legislative Assembly.

Fiona Patten’s Reason Party - The Sex Party changed its name to Reason to more fully reflect its positions on civil rights, personal autonomy, harm-minimization, evidence-based debate, cosmopolitan values and a mixed economy, all from a secular liberal perspective.

Voluntary Euthanasia Party (Victoria) - This issue-specific group has the aim of improving palliative care and preserving death-with-dignity for the terminally ill in this state.

2. THE ‘MAYBE’ CLUMP – BETWEEN LABOR AND LIBERAL / NATIONAL

Animal Justice Party - This party focuses on animal liberation and veganism. I’m cool with much of what they say except for the banning of kangaroo consumption – skippy is too tasty.

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party - Normally one expects ‘law and order’ candidates to be conservative but this party is more difficult to box. Some would argue that they are moderates because ‘the pendulum has swung too far’ on issues of criminal justice. On a host of other issues it almost looks like Hinch just tosses a coin to make a decision.

Health Australia Party - This party focuses on, well, health issues and on the surface look fine. But if you take a closer look you find a connection with alternative medicine and New Age beliefs. Take only as recommended.

Hudson 4NV - Josh Hudson of Tatura is a rural independent who has decided he will improve his profile if he has a party name and fellow candidates across the state. His priority is for Northern Victoria and he name-drops respected independents (at both state and federal levels) from that region. His proposals seem fine for his electorate but I’m voting in Southern Metro you cheeky bastard!

Sustainable Australia – This party seems to think that population within our borders is the only issue that defines environmental problems, rather than the consumption patterns of persons and industry worldwide. Honestly, there are better environmentalists on this list.

Transport Matters – This ticket was started by taxi drivers challenged by the advent of ride-sharing schemes. They have quickly developed a platform for the expansion of both private and public transport infrastructure. Apparently taxi drivers are in a prime position to talk passengers into voting for this party, so be prepared if you take a taxi in the next few weeks.

Victorian Socialists – This electoral alliance has a large program intended to attract working class votes. On many isolated issues I agree with them but I cannot overlook the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of violent revolution that motivates key affiliates of this alliance. It’s also difficult to forget how annoyingly domineering they can be within activist and student movements.

3. THE ‘NO’ CLUMP – WORSE THAN LIBERAL / NATIONAL

Aussie Battler Party – What a dodgy name! I took a gander and saw the writings of an erratic thinker who is frustrated with contemporary mores, bureaucracy, corporations and the world beyond our shores. I reckon sometimes private citizens should just stay that way and let others take care of public life.

Australian Country Party - This party is for former Nationals who wish to be more economically protectionist and culturally isolationist than the Coalition will let them. Rural-identifying yet moderate voters would be better off finding another party to support.

Australian Liberty Alliance - These jerks talk the libertarian talk while walking a militant xenophobic path. Of my own free will I declare them the worst party in this election.

Labour DLP - The Democratic Labour Party is morally conservative and economically protectionist. Its members tend to be drawn from the working class Roman Catholic community.

Liberal Democrats - These libertarians with a deceptive party name want to minimize public sector involvement in all aspects of life except legal defense of person and property. In advocating for such they enjoy dismissing the needs of everyone along the way.

Shooters Fishers & Farmers Vic - These hoons want to hunt and fish across the state. Are pretty conservative while wishing to limit further natural conservation.

And this same week I have blogged a similar advice column for the 2019 Federal Election...

Labels:

26.3.19

Mosque Open Day

I visited the Westall Mosque last week. The occasion was the state-wide Mosque Open Day. This annual event has been happening for some years but my motivation in attending was the very recent mass murder of Muslims in Christchurch by a lone Islamophobic terrorist. I wished to express fellow-feeling with Muslims and so made for the closest mosque.

I almost never went inside. Entering a place of worship as a stranger and a non-believer is a thing I do with some trepidation. I walked passed the mosque on the other side of the road. I crossed to the neighbouring shops and stopped to respond to a text message. All the while I was wondering whether it was truly okay for me to attend. Would I be the only agnostic or indeed the only stranger there? Was my presence of any value at all?

Contrary impulses told me that I should be resolved in my intentions. I am a devotee of the face-to-face. I am a collector of (admittedly rather sedate) life experiences. It was an open day for goodness sake! As this internal dialogue progressed I got closer to my destination. I coyly read a poster by the gate offering respect to the traditional custodians of this land. It was then that a young man enticed me to go inside.

I’m an ‘ambivert’ and all it takes to tip me from introversion to extroversion is a warm welcome from an engaging person. From that moment on everything was simpler for me. I walked to the porch of the converted suburban house and put my shoes in the space allocated. Inside the doorway a young woman invited me to partake in the various activities on offer. These included a question-and-answer session, information stalls, and an Indonesian lunch. I looked into the carpeted open-plan space and saw mingling and chatting. From dress I could tell that the local congregation were there in force. However many visitors were also present.

Some Christian nuns had been departing as I arrived. A gothic geek had popped in to offer flowers. A immaculately presented ‘suit’ came to do exactly the same thing. And further inside I’m sure I saw the local state parliamentarian. There was definitely engagement happening with wider society locally.

I was persuaded to eat and then a young man asked me to sit and talk while I ate. He asked more questions than I did. Of some interest was what ‘community’ I belonged to. I was initially stumped by that – I’m one of those individuals in mass society whose only community is the kind forged from shared interests. I talked a bit of my ancestry but more of the groups I got involved in at uni. This was a common characteristic for us as he had also studied at Monash. We agreed that the open day was an excellent event and I hope I showed my gratitude at the hospitality so amply offered there.

A session of prayer began as I was preparing to go. I sat in the background and observed silently. It was a bit odd to me but only as odd as any other religious ceremony I've observed. Even its gender segregation is only different by degrees from the many casual instances of this I've known. I did get some inkling of the importance of prayer in providing a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself.

I left feeling more centred than I had expected. And I then wondered why I had never been to a mosque till then. I've set foot in many churches and a few synagogues for the purposes of religious life events or nominally religious concerts. Ours is a society of many creeds but its integration is far from even. Too many of us live in parallel rather than in more crisscrossing patterns. It had taken an inhuman atrocity to get me into a mosque I had walked passed many times.

I had wanted to do something more personal than political to support Muslims. The irony is that once there it was I who felt supported by an ethos of connection among strangers. The message they gave me that day was a universal one – we as humans are a part of each other.

Labels:

23.2.19

Episode Emporium

Another 'note' of mine on Facebook is called Episode Emporium. It describes itself as follows:

Watching old and sometimes obscure TV shows online has become a hobby of mine. Occasionally I manage to watch an entire series while at other times I select an isolated (and hopefully representative) episode. It can be something I barely remember from childhood or something entirely new to me. They are usually nerdy and fannish and sharing them with others can be fun.

I post links to this ‘note’ so that you too can marvel at the entertainment of decades past... Rarely if ever will content be longer than an hour. Here you may find shoddy effects, wooden acting, porous plots, dated fashions, daggy music and even dodgy mores. However depiction and endorsement are distinct things and as adults we can hone our own moral compasses to moderate these cultural influences.


The last sentence there rings a sober note in something otherwise intended for enjoyment. For much of my life I have defended products of popular culture from the criticisms of wowsers and killjoys. Advocates of traditional mores declared that our games, albums or movies were corrupting us despite evidence of our resilience and personal judgement. I have a somewhat more nuanced position now but still value the ability to share tales of different experiences and mindsets despite what my society or peers deem proper.

However media content can have an impact on some and I think we need to revive the practice of paying attention to ratings and advisory statements. What sort of audience do the censors say something is aimed at? What warnings are offered to those with a sensitivity to particular content? If we get better at metaphorically 'walking away' from content that vexes us then that allows others to keep enjoying it if they wish. I call that a win-win scenario.

Many different scenarios are explored in the old content I have so far shared. Over 12 months during 2016 I made twelve posts. In some cases I shared a long (say 45 minutes) episode of some adult or family oriented show. In other cases I offered two short (20ish minute) episodes of a show specifically for kids. These are the shows I shared (series name then episode names):

UFO (1970) - Exposed

Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971) telemovie

The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983) - Wizards And Warlocks

Land Of The Lost - The Stranger (1974) + The Musician (1975)

Space 1999 - Earthbound (1975)

Dungeons & Dragons (cartoon) - The Hall Of Bones (1983)
+ The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow (1984)

The Secrets Of Isis (1975) - Fool's Dare + Bigfoot

Department S - The Pied Piper Of Hambledown (1969)

In Search Of... Dracula (1977) + The Castle Of Secrets (1981)

The Littlest Hobo - The Genesis Tapes Parts 1 & 2 (1984)

Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas (1977) holiday special

Monkey (1978-1980) the 'lost' episode involving the
Fraction Demon...

My intention with that set of links was to represent the childhood TV viewing of this particular Gen-Xer. Most of it is US or UK speculative fiction but I did try to go beyond that with some success. Many of the links I posted have since 'broken' but the content can usually be found online regardless (for the work of copyright defenders on YouTube or Dailymotion is never done).

Following that twelve months I was a bit fatigued with this personal project of link sharing and so Episode Emporium went on hiatus. It interests me how even a small monthly task I enjoy (including the writing of an informative blurb) can become tiresome because of its regularity. However I eventually got in the mood once more and so in 2018 I did the same thing. Here is what I shared:

Honey West (1966) - Pop Goes The Easel
+ It's Earlier Than You Think

Buck Rogers In The Twenty Fifth Century (1979-1981) -
Cruise Ship To The Stars

Blakes-7 - Startrive (1981)

Take Hart (1977-83) pilot +
The Amazing Adventures Of Morph (1981-1982) compilation

Wizards & Warriors (1981) - The Unicorn Of Death

The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985-1992) - The Screaming Woman
+ The Toynbee Convector

The Famous Five (1978-1979) - Five Go To Kirren Island
Parts 1 & 2

Fantastic Journey (1977) - A Dream Of Consquest

Kolchak (1974-75) - Chopper

Giant Robo (1968) - The Doom Of Drakulon + The Evil Dr Eingali

Worsel Gummidge - A Cup Of Tea And A Slice Of Cake (1980)
Christmas special

Ark II (1976) - Omega +
Space Academy (1977) - The Phantom Planet

And then I was once more over it and declared another hiatus. Nonetheless this is a pretty cool assortment of what the past had to offer us on TV. It promoted some discussion and a few friends even got to reminiscing over shows they loved as kids. These included the German show Space Patrol Orion (1966), the UK serial The Tripods (1984-1985) and Canadian series Forever Knight (1992-1996).

As I look back over these I think some are still pretty awesome while others I now realize are awful. But they have all been part of our lives in one way or another. It is fascinating to see how things have changed and how they have stayed the same. It is also interesting to note how frequently the things we think of as progressive now were actively promoted (particularly to children) back in the 60s to 90s.

I'm in a hurry now but sometime I hope to add comments here to record those blurbs I posted for each TV show. However anyone can look into this stuff for themselves. Even our imagined pasts are a facet of our present.

Labels:

11.1.19

Ally Or Supporter

We face a Federal election in Australia in a few months and many are predicting that our current Liberal / National government will lose. I agree. One factor that I think is central to that likely loss is a fundamental misunderstanding by contemporary conservatives within the Coalition. They conflate the relationship of ‘ally to ally’ with that of 'member to supporter'.

A member is someone with a personal investment in a group who has the right to contribute to its decisions. A supporter is someone who wishes to help a group but lacks the personal investment that warrants a decision-making role. In contrast allies have overlapping yet distinct interests and must therefore respect the prerogative of each other to be political in a way that works best for them.

Thinking someone serves you is different from thinking they stand alongside you. I call this a ‘mistake’ but it is likely deliberate. The more fervent conservatives within the Coalition expect the rest to do and say only what they dictate. They harass classical liberals to curb a permissive society, agrarian socialists to cut economic support for rural areas, moderates to abandon the art of compromise and anyone sane to acknowledge climate change.

This is foolish behaviour in the long-term. It may win you power for a while but eventually it results in the loss of both colleagues and popular support. And this is a mindset we can now see in right-wing governments across the world.

Brexit exists to some extent as a strategy for ideologues within the Conservative Party to control it. If they succeed then what they rule over will be a damaged caricature of itself. And incidentally I have to say – the United Kingdom departing the European Union simply to assert a sovereignty it never lost is like getting a divorce just to prove you can. But I digress…

In the United States we see a populist President who loses advisors week-by-week. The recent mid-term election losses for the Republicans are a portent of things to come. Mind you in the case of Trump personal factors are paramount – his infantile misanthropy transcends ideology and challenges any kind of group cohesion. However I suspect that this kind of personality becomes more prominent in some political settings than in others.

In discussing my concept of 'redefining ally as mere supporter' a friend noted that this happens on the left. I concede that. However there is an important difference. Across the political spectrum we can find this fallacy among the more peripheral of groups and scenes. But it is on the right that this problem has gone all the way to the top to affect parliaments and governments in democratic states (it is always a problem in authoritarian ones).

This blinkered and distorted thinking is ultimately detrimental to anyone who employs it. However it can also hurt many others along the way and diminish our polity overall. I hope that the Coalition starts paying heed to this reality soon. I’m part of the left but it is embarrassing to face a right that is this stupid and self-destructive.

* * * * *

Some who know me well may be surprised by my use of ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ terminology here given my criticism of that dichotomy. I maintain this stance in reference to persons and even groups. But some alliances are so large that the left-right model serves as a useful short-hand in describing such aggregates. That some members of these movements believe they should be politically homogeneous is exactly the problem I describe in this post.

Labels:

11.12.18

Story Hall

I have been letting some aspects of life fall by the wayside lately. One of them is story writing. I’m wondering if looking over my old stuff will get me interested in making more in future. Here is an index of sorts to help me access them from this aging blog. It will focus only on prose formatted in paragraphs (so scripts for dialogue or descriptions of fictional concepts are omitted here).

Fantasy is a surprisingly small part of my selection. I suppose my now ended role-play game took a lot of such creativity from me. However I did two very short tales set in The Lands. They were the contemplative Deep Calm and the whimsical Old Regalia For A New Empress.

You could argue that Sindacollo is fantasy but I suspect it is more ‘Magical Realism’ which describes mundane event in a magical way. I feel a similar description fits the metaphorical Lyrebird.

The following three fictional anecdotes are set in the everyday world but are experienced by its rather imaginative characters as something more than that. They are The Den, Trespass and Worlds Upon Worlds.

Realistic fiction is something I have done more than I would have expected for a nerd. The best stuff I possibly did was the inter-connected Three Shoreside Tales: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I got rather satirical in this story-cum-commentary Bring A Plate. I suspect I have more of this sort of thing in me – I think of scenes that show the shortcomings of much contemporary thinking. However I also think it may be wise to let such snarky musings of mine be passing ones.

A few more contemporary-setting vignettes focus on the same solitary retiree - Visiting Logan and Scheduling Logan.

Historical fiction is something I have done just once to date and Free Fall starring the historical Aphra Behn is one of my favourite bits of writing. I do intend at some time to pen a sequel in which ‘Astrea’ is older, wiser, retired from spying yet drawn back into intrigue while on holiday in Venice.

Science Fiction numerically dominates this list and here we start with my longest story. Gumshoe Telepath is a near future detective story in seven parts with some nifty technological and political concepts.

A poignant song inspired the space-travel story Voyage Of The Volunteers set in two times separated by a century. This is the oldest story linked here and was originally drafted in the late 90s.

The Five Civilization Galaxy is the setting for two comedic adventures that poke fun at the imperfections of history as a subject. They are Field Trippers and History Project.

The most recent story on this list is Crash Of The Magi. It is set on a distant world and I never specify whether any of its characters are human. However some of them are definitely alien.

And finally here is a tale of the distant end of all things in Word Limit...

I have a bit of re-reading to do here.

Labels:

28.11.18

Odds And Ends

In the past I have blogged about collecting toys but with an emphasis on just a few key collections. Recently however I have visited a number of retro collecting events filled with stalls selling everything from stamps to Smurfs (thanks to Jen for getting me onto this activity). I enjoy simply seeing all these nostalgic things. Some I owned as a kid but have since lost. Others I never had but admired on shop shelves. And I still have odds-and-ends from many other brands. Here I will describe and embed images of some of them. The photos at FlickR provide more information on vintage.

Smurf Band (Schleich)

Everybody loves Smurfs. I had a bunch but in adulthood have reduced and altered that collection to be musicians specifically. This is a mix of old and new Smurfs. All are of classic design except for the keyboard, which comes from a much newer Smurf (absent from the image because it has too many clothes on for the classic look). Olav, a frequent visitor to Germany, has in the past helped me refine this set.

Collecting Smurfs Is Smurfy!

Collecting Smurfs is Smurfy! This poster came from BP petrol stations and helped kids to amass a collection. BP initially were the exclusive sellers of Smurfs and it was sold to them as a way of making extra cash at a time in which they still mostly just sold automotive products and services. If you look closely you can see pen marks showing which Smurfs my brother Lukas and I once had.

The Three Hunters from Lord Of The Rings (2001)

I never knew why but for a short time there were both Hungry Jacks and Burger King branded stores coexisting here in Melbourne. They all reverted to the preferred Australian name (Hungry Jacks) but while Burger King existed here they offered these one piece molded figurines of Lord Of The Rings movie characters as parts of kids meals. As an adult I visited a number of stores to get these, finding that they would sell them without food. These three and others stand guard over my fantasy book shelf.

Snoutspout

Snoutspout is a Masters Of The Unvierse toy (called Hosenose in the She-Ra cartoon). He is an 'heroic fire-fighting' cyborb and even today this decades-old toy can squirt water from its trunk. I gave him to Belinda because of her love of both elephants and kooky toys. See next image for more...

Fearsome Flush

The first batch of Real Ghostbusters toys were all based on movie characters - all the characters. This presented a problem for Kenner in populating subsequent waves of toys and they had to design new characters. They jumped on the 'gross' toy fad with things like Ectoplasm (just purple toy slime) and things like Fearsome Flush here. I'm much more charmed by such gimmicks now than I was as an somewhat serious child. I found this recently in the Just Collectibles store, described in here that has since closed.

Assorted Comics

I've never been a comic book collector. I find it easier to read flowing text. But I've come into possession of some over my life. I cannot now recall if they came from relatives or friends. The Transformers one however came packaged with the toy depicted as a character.

Some Very Different Comics

These two comics contrast nicely. Misty is a British comic from the 70s about a teenaged girl who finds herself investigating all kinds of supernatural and spooky events. Bug And Stump is a comic by some Monash Uni students of the 90s - it is set on campus and references many other comics and aspects of pop culture.

Takeaway Food And Robots

I see fantastic things in the most mundane of objects. Recently I collected some takeaway food containers and made a futuristic base with them. They work well with different toys and here are shown populated with some tiny crappy army robots.

Sonic Screwdrivers

I specifically got these Doctor Who toys for a costume party. My initial plan was to get just one sonic screwdriver at Minotaur but then I saw this set of three for a good price. They each separate into four parts and can be re-combined to 'customize your sonic'. There is just one light-and-sound unit to share between the three. Can you tell which it is currently in? Nope neither can I.

Assorted Toy Spaceships

This assortment of spaceships from different settings (or none at all in the case of the pencil sharpener) defend my science fiction book shelf. I got most of them as a teen or adult. The most recent addition is the Buck Rogers Thunderfighter, which I found this year at the Waverley Antique Bazaar, and replaces one I lost in childhood. I personally think this design is better than both the Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica and the X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars (which I refer to as all three were designed by Ralph Mcquarrie).

Ebony The Triceratops on Land Of The Lost lunchbox

I got Ebony in the 80s and, at the time, felt she was the best-looking toy dinosaur I'd ever seen. Things have changed since then, rendering my triceratops outdated and tacky, but I'm still fond of this toy. The Land Of The Lost lunch box I got recently from an op-shop off Spaghetti Junction in Springvale. I never had a cool lunch box as a kid but I do now!

Assorted Catalogues And Card Backs (1979-80)

I keep catalogues even if I have sometimes lost the toys they came with. As a kid you always wish for more and so just looking a these images and imagining having them was fun in itself. I still get a thrill looking at these bits of paper.

Random Things

This is a truly eclectic image. The card backing is from Kronos the Micronaut and if you look closely you can see the only part of that toy I still have - a phosphorescent horned brain! The trans-pink coin next to it is the only thing I have left from the Push Button Small Mall playset. Finally the Matchbox car there was presented to me for my birthday on a figure-eight racing track cake. I understand this design of cake is still made to this day.

* * * * *

It seems like I own a lot of random junk. I feel a bit indulgent in looking over these and wonder if it is wasteful. But then I think this feeling is more the product of some wowserish tendency rather than any concern for over-comsumption. The fact is, pretty much everything I own fits in one room, a tidy one at that, and most of these items are second-hand. They make me, and sometimes others, happy and so I think I'll be keeping them.

Labels: ,

28.10.18

Melburnian Seasons

I'm all for taking interest in things just around the corner or even at home. However the seemingly endless swathes of suburbia can get samey at times. For someone living in the south-eastern suburbs there are three major destinations one can choose from for an outing. I try to get to each of these every year and they are...

The City: Have lunch in a trendy laneway. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria, the Melbourne Museum or the State Library. Browse a fancy shopping arcade. All these together will make for a full and fun day. And the City offers huge variety with which to mix-and-match this basic format.

The Dandenong Ranges: Journey into the dappled sunlight or clinging mists of the Dandenongs (as distinct from Dandenong). Go for a walk on a well-maintained forest path. Have some Devonshire Tea. There are plenty of villages hosting assorted tourist attractions in these hills to make this an interesting area to visit many times. Consider the Mount Dandenong Lookout, William Rickett's Sanctuary or Emerald Lake.

The Mornington Peninsula: Travel to one of the many beachside towns on this peninsula flanked by both bay and ocean. Wander along a beach. Have some fish and chips. In the past I have stayed here for holidays but it works just as well for a day visit. Inland sites to consider include Peninsula Hot Springs, Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm or the Ashcombe Maze.


These destinations have been playgrounds for Melburnians for all my life and much longer. The City can be accessed easily by public transport but the others may warrant driving. This in turn may necessitate car-pooling and that brings me to the topic of company. As I grow older I am getting a better sense that many things can be fun as solitary activities. However the right friends are also wonderful to share these experiences with.

Expense is another consideration. A lot of the cost however can be adjusted to fit a budget. Bring your own food to share if you cannot afford a fancy lunch. Choose the free access attractions if you cannot afford ones with a cover charge. Fun is an attitude as much as anything.

Some time ago I ran monthly events under the banner of One Fun Thing A Month (OFTAM). Since then I have done a kind of OFTOQ or OFTOS by holding a largish invite-list event each quarter or season. However, that invitation list changes from event to event. I now feel fully free to consider who will enjoy what, who will get along with whom, and who will enhance an event. And my pool of potential invitees has shrunk over time. I think it worth giving friends a chance to come to things but it also feels like nagging to invite someone over-and-over to things they never attend. Sometimes we have to take the hint. But back to the events themselves...

In Winter I try to do something for my birthday. I enjoy hosting house parties but some share households are better suited than others to such events and so more recently I have defaulted to things like suburban restaurant lunches.

In Summer I organize something water-oriented like a visit to the Brighton Baths which combines the experience of both beach and swimming pool.

Deciding what to allocate to both Autumn and Spring involves a bit more thinking. These 'shoulder seasons' are very similar. I feel that one is for 'a night on the town' playing 8-ball or seeing a live band. The other is for a picnic or barbeque in parkland. But which is best for which?


With age it seems that group events become more difficult to make happen and so I find I do more things one-on-one with individual friends. And as I do so I find that such combinations of me and one other person (sometimes a few) can become friendships that specialize in particular past-times. Some friends are more likely than others to accompany me to public lectures, others to movies, and yet others to exhibitions for retro collectors (this last activity is something I've come to surprisingly late for someone so into old toys).

I like to get out-and-about regularly. These deliberate patterns of expectation (whether based on geography or season) help me to do that and also to maintain friendships over the course of changing life circumstances.

Labels:

30.9.18

Some Analysis Of Fascism

For several decades the term 'fascist' has been employed as an insult. Speakers use the word to condemn any government they oppose, particularly if that government is confident of its own political program and the power invested in it. As a student of party politics (as part of an honours degree in political history) I noticed that such 'fascists' were frequently anything but. As part of this tendency, the widely circulated Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism (based on an op-ed by Lawrence Britt and amended by others) panders to many of my own political biases. It pays to be wary of anything that tells you exactly what you want to be told and so, I recently decided to compose my own version of this much-modified Internet meme as a way of critiquing it.

Because of its overuse I now have a tendency to dismiss accusations of fascism. But what if I'm overcompensating and never allow for the possibility of fascism forming right in front of me? Since the time of its publication the work of Britt (et al) has been used in the US to attack past President Bush and even his successor President Obama. In both cases the application seems excessive but what of current US President Trump? Interestingly I think his politics is closer to fascism than that of any other US President (since the time in which fascism was articulated). This seems to be part of a wider trend among populist governments emerging across the world. However these populists move away from some of the characteristics described by Britt (et al) and so if one wants to make the meme relevant one has to edit its content. If such editing also results in a more accurate description of historical fascism then all the better.

Most would accept that fascism is fundamentally illiberal but there is a lot of self-serving argument over whether it is closer to socialism or conservatism. This is rarely more than an exercise in competitive name-calling and overlooks the way in which ideology overlaps. I personally think that fascism makes use of practices derived from socialism yet has more of a kinship with conservatism (while also noting that the affinity of conservatism for business interests is looser than we tend to think today). That description by itself is hardly the most terrifying thing one could imagine and fascism can be far worse. It takes on a distinct form which is intrinsically destructive to our very humanity.

Realistically classifying fascism can be challenging. How many and which past regimes does one study to formulate selection criteria? Britt refers to several disparate regimes but also admits that most of these are 'proto-fascist'. My own tendency is to focus on the more totalitarian of regimes and this I admit could result in overly strict criteria. I compensate for this however by phrasing my descriptions in terms that are universal. It would be a mistake for instance to look at the Nazi regime of Hitler and then say that fascists must necessarily follow a Nordic brand of racism. Any kind of prejudice will do as long as it is both intrinsic to the fascist ideology and severe in its application.

Texts which help readers to identify fascist trends deserve an even wider and more receptive audience and to do that it is important to clarify that ultimately everyone suffers under fascism. To suggest (for instance) that fascism is merely a more strident form of conservatism will only serve to make semi-educated conservatives think that fascism is okay (while allowing semi-educated progressives to feel heroically anti-fascist). It is better to demonstrate that fascism is anathema to values with which almost all of us identify.

Several of the changes I make to the content of Britt (et al) are worth discussing:

* Nationalism tends to have negative connotations these days and we forgot that it once had a positive connection to the development of liberal values. In many cases the liberation of whole nations resulted in the liberty of individuals too. And we can observe this even today in movements that are more 'regionalist' than 'nationalist'. Calls for provincial autonomy or the recognition of traditional custodians of a land reflect another form that nationalism can take. I therefore felt it was important to stress that what fascism does is to both magnify and distort nationalism for its own ends.

* Religion has widely different relations with fascism depending on circumstance. Many of the most targeted victims of fascism have been religious. Many of its greatest rivals have likewise been religious. It is galling then to suggest an intrinsic connection between fascism and religion. Hence I stress that the relation is a far more opportunist one on the part of fascists (whatever they themselves may believe).

* 'Corporatism' is a confusing term. One could think it refers to the power of profit-seeking business corporations. It is better to think of the familiar 'body corporate' comprising all the residents in a set of apartments. Corporatism is the representation of groups rather than individuals. It usually involves the delegates of distinct and even rival classes. It assumes ones only interests are economic. This differs from parliamentary democracy in which individuals decide how to identify. Some experts consider corporatism to be a key characteristic of fascist regimes but it is worth noting that non-fascist governments experiment with corporatist structures too.

* Enmity for fascists can come from any and all directions. As such they will behave as if they are the enemy of potentially anyone. I have stressed therefore that fascists can attack locals and foreigners, labour and capital, critics and cronies. This makes many of the past targets of the Britt (et al) meme less apt but makes many current populists far more fitting. Consider how Trump opposes both immigration and free trade and how quickly he will attack members of his own party.

* I pepper my text with more of the things that fascists destroy. We should remember what we stand for rather than just focus on everything we oppose. Hence I refer to hard-won values like separation-of-powers, respectful debate, privacy, presumption-of-innocence and compassion.

There are things I omitted from the final form of my text. Many academics refer to how the class most seduced by fascist ideology is the self-employed (as distinct from employers and employees). However, condemning any group as 'fascist' risks helping them identify as such, and part of my intent is to find a more receptive audience, cutting across various divides. One aspect of this topic that stayed in my text was reference to fascist attacks on banks. I recently read some of the works of Hannah Arendt (a Jewish philosopher and political historian) who clarified for me that banks have a similarly tense relationship with the self-employed that bosses have with workers. This is partly why they can be a popular target for theorists of international conspiracy.

It is worth saying that one can and should criticize banks for the detrimental impact they sometimes have on ordinary account holders. Likewise it may be okay to coincidentally advocate some of the things fascists happen to promise - things like capital works projects (I for instance am a big fan of the new Melbourne 'Sky Rail'). And finally one can oppose the actions of governments even if one acknowledges that they are non-fascist.

A problem with any list of potentially fascist characteristics is that some or even many of those can be exhibited by non-fascists. Most governments can look fascist at times of war. Likewise historic governments following the trends of past eras can look closer to fascism than we are accustomed to in the post-war era. Lawrence Britt himself says that his ‘basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others’ and that proviso can be extended to non-fascist governments.

However all the characteristics described should ring mental warning bells in those observing them. In preparing for this post I looked at a number of other online critiques of Britt (et al) and most made sense. However a few commentators made disturbed statements like 'but everyone has enemies that they should rally to oppose' and if you think that way then you will find it difficult to understand that others feel differently. Hate is a very small part of the emotional composition of well-adjusted humans but fascists keep the company of other fascists and it may well be that hate is the most defining characteristic of a fascist personality.

And just then I added another thing that could be part of a fascism check-list! I prefer the brevity of my description in the Political Objectives Test (and for further discussion click here and scroll down).

However Britt set the format that I decided to mirror and it has been frustrating to do so. The characteristics are repetitious and lacking in flow. I sorted some of that but could only go so far. It was tempting to re-arrange characteristics from most to least defining of fascism. Or possibly to order them from most to least concerning. Or possibly even to distinguish between characteristics of a fascist movement as distinct from those of a fascist regime.

It is important that behaviours associated with fascism are regarded with suspicion and caution even by governments that contemplate some of them to even a small degree. If leaders look on them as last resorts then those leaders can still be negotiated with. It is once they start to admire and celebrate such actions that accusations of fascism become most relevant.

But I think we are missing something in all this talk of potentially fascist regimes or movements. We need to also look at what characteristics of a political environment are conducive to fascist growth. I'm most familiar with the political landscape of the Weimar Republic and one thing that I feel was crucial then was a lack of unity among non-fascists. Parties with an allegiance to parliamentary democracy took it for granted and were overly focused on doctrinal variations and clannish interests.

If the dire circumstances of dictatorship force you to form a 'united front' with one-time political competitors then surely it would be wiser to form such links while you still live in a time of relative freedom. This post may have taken on an alarmist tone but what if depriving fascism of a platform involves all its potential victims recognizing a common ground? I venture that we need to become partisans for non-partisanship but this will be more challenging than simply yelling 'fascist' into the wind.

Labels:

18.9.18

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism… Redefined

Back in 2003 an online op-ed by one Laurence W Britt was published under the title of Fascism Anyone? Pretty soon one or more truncated versions were circulating the Internet. One popular anonymous edit entitled The Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism (which even promoted Mr Britt to the status of ‘Dr Britt’) has since been further shortened into a successful meme. Now I’m complicating matters further by throwing my own version into the ether. Here it is:

1. Extreme Nationalism - Nationalism is crafted to serve the fascist regime rather than the national interest. Popular customs are recast into a caricature of themselves. Both cultural isolationism and economic protectionism are promoted. Superficial patriotism abounds. National symbols are sometimes replaced with symbols of the ruling party.

2. Human Rights Violations - Human Rights are dismissed as an invention of global elites that hamper the aims of the fascist regime. The populace are conditioned to overlook or even approve of summary executions, assassinations, torture, indefinite imprisonment or the disappearing of dissidents.

3. Obsession With Enemies - Both internal and external enemies are focused on to help unite a popular movement. Anyone from local minority groups to global organizations can be cast in the role of a perceived enemy. Political rivals are vilified. Some vested interests might be tempted into allying with fascists but they too are at risk of eventual vilification.

4. Militarizing Society - Society as a whole becomes regimented, starting with paramilitary youth groups and party security forces. Political leaders often mimic the appearance of military officers. National security risks are exaggerated and governments adopt warlike rhetoric. The armed forces might think they can share power with fascists but often discover that it is the fascists that control them.

5. Demonizing Decadence - Anything deemed ‘decadent’ by fascists is condemned. This results in sexist and homophobic attacks on non-standard gender roles, forms of sexuality, or family structures. Selective accusations of ‘deviance’ become a convenient way to destroy reputations and lives.

6. Controlling Communications - A free press is restricted by fascist regimes and employed in producing propaganda that supports the ruling party. Correspondence can be monitored and contrary opinions censored. Standards of rational and respectful debate are eroded.

7. A Police State - Fascists are obsessed with order. Police and surveillance personnel are given excessive power to enforce the commands of the regime. Privacy is compromised. Rules are arbitrary and punishment is harsh. The presumption of innocence is abandoned and dissent is criminalized.

8. Subverting Religion - Religious organizations must serve the regime or stay out of politics. Those that resist this face consequences. Both world religions (which offer links to an international faith community) and ethno-religious groups (which are seen as distinct from the rest of society) are deemed threats to the regime. Values like compassion are undermined in any religious practice that survives under fascism.

9. Corporatism - A model of government favoured by many fascists involves incorporating representatives of both capital and labour into the structures of the state. Labour unions might be merged into one union that follows ruling party doctrine. Businesses might still be privately owned but are controlled by the regime via government regulation.

10. Mass Manipulation - Those who are poor or feel a loss of economic standing are promised jobs and prosperity by fascists. The regime might impose tariffs on imports, announce grand construction projects, and suppress accurate economic data. Foreign guest workers might be blamed for hardship but so might international banks.

11. Hampering Science And The Arts - Evidence-based scientific thinking is undermined. Technology must serve the aims of the regime. Fascists use pseudo-science and romanticism to help bolster their doctrine. Individual expression in art, literature and music is restricted. Creative sub-cultures are attacked as subversive.

12. Model Citizens - Fascists glorify personal characteristics of loyalty, beauty, health, fitness, aggression and will-power. This can manifest in idealization of sporting heroes and war veterans. It can also take the form of restricting the right to have children, sterilizing the disabled, and forcibly 'euthanizing' the chronically ill.

13. All-Pervasive Fear - Any sense of personal security is fragile and even fascist cronies are forever at risk of falling out of favour with their leaders. Informants operate in every workplace and neighbourhood. The regime might be corrupt or it might practice a twisted form of integrity in which government personnel must serve extreme political aims rather than personal desires.

14. Dismantling Democracy – Democratic mechanisms can be used by fascists but will ultimately be abandoned once they have secured power. Election campaigns are contested by means both legal and illegal. Once they take over, fascists erode democratic practices such as separation of powers, an independent civil service, rule of law, freedom of association, assembly and movement. Fascists try to turn society into a ‘family’ in which the leadership takes on a supposedly parental role. However the regime is harmful to its ‘children’ and even to its own long-term survival.

I decided to post this because I feel that other versions have significant flaws and that mine makes some marked improvements. I will go into why I think this in my next post.

Labels: