M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D
The Bloody Newsletter
Issue #175 September 2018
Dick's Toolbox mmmWazzer's Trans-Tasman TalesmmmmMeet the TBN crew
Mike's Pith & Wind - Bumcrack
We were driving home last Saturday after a marathon visit to the Musk Cottage gardens near Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula. We were nearly home and had stopped at the lights on the corner of Mountain Hwy and Bayswater Rd where Maria informed me that there’d been a drug and alcohol breathalyser parked just around the corner the previous evening as part of a concerted crackdown on something by police in the area recently. I thought it might be due to the prevalence of hippies in the foothills, but M thought it more likely to be aimed at the local contingent of bogans.
Anyway, there we were, patiently biding our time, when my attention was taken by a male cyclist wobbling off down the footpath along Bayswater Rd. He had a shock of curly hair and wearing optimistic shorts with a shirt overlaid with a sweatshirt as a concession to the wet, chilly weather. At the juncture of his flapping shirt tails and his shorts an unnecessarily generous slab of bumcrack was visible.
‘There he goes’ I thought in parentheses, ‘Captain Bumcrack’s heading home.’ At that precise moment something unexpected happened - the bike-riding gent’s right hand snaked back and adjusted the back of his shirt so it covered the offending bumcrack!
‘What just happened then?’ I wondered. Had a raindrop fallen hundreds of metres from the heavens and like some meteorological guided missile landed plumb in his bumcrack? Had my observation of his marginal wardrobe status somehow prompted the adjustment?
Which raises the philosophical question: is the flaunting of the bumcrack an aesthetic misdemeanour if it’s unobserved? Is it, like the tired tree-falling-in-the-forest trope, actually happening at all? Unless he was receiving my telepathic input this gentleman clearly thought his bumcrack an offence before God if nobody else, and more power to his righteous thoughtfulness if that was the case.

The serious consequences of of hearing without listening..
  M and I watched a movie in the Red Room last night. There’s nothing wrong with that you might think, but we’ve recently acquired Netflix and were expecting a bonanza of sizzling series on which to feast, but we‘ve both been a little disappointed to discover that while the quantity is indisputable, the quality is infinitely harder to find. We’d abandoned yet another Scandie Noir with our eyes rolling in unison when Maria suggested we should watch a movie called 45 Years she’d tagged starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.
The film is quite recent (2015) so both the stars mentioned are pretty close in age to the characters they’re playing, that is around their early seventies. Even before we started watching 45 Years I knew we were precisely the age-group that the film was aimed at, and having now seen it I would recommend that persons under the age of fifty-five not embark on viewing the movie at all.
M and I both enjoyed 45 Years however and both Tom and Charlotte played their roles with such an informed and light touch that we felt as if we were intruding on their private lives.
As a person and musician who lived through the ‘60s (I’m talking about the decade now) the interesting plot conceit for me was the selection of songs to be played at the Kate and Geoff Mercer’s 45th wedding anniversary. One song in particular in an otherwise interesting list of songs was absolutely pivotal to the story and its denouement.
The song was The Platters’ version of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a song that was a hit in the late ‘50s whereas most of the rest of the Mercers’ faves were ‘60s’ tunes. While I was vaguely aware there was some poignancy expressed in the lyrics I’d never quite cottoned on.
This attention deficit has been a lifetime failing, which is odd for a bloke who takes so much care with his own lyrics. (Curiously, since my hearing has deteriorated and I’ve resorted to having subtitles on the telly, I’ve caught up with a lot of lyrical content that I’ve managed to miss or misinterpret all my life).
There are some lyrics in SGIYE that are very old fashioned and betray the song’s early beginnings – as a Jerome Kern / Otto Harbach collaboration for the 1933 (!!!) musical Roberta.
For example:
So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
To think they could doubt my love
Yet today my love has flown away
I am without my love
(Without my love)

Chaffed them? Gaily laughed? Old fashioned for sure, but it’s still obviously a song about loss. Anyway, Charlotte Rampling’s Kate hadn’t really appreciated the lyrics either, that is until the song is finally played when she and Geoff are dancing the ‘first dance’ in the spotlight in front of all their friends at the party held in their honour. Maybe if she’d really listened to the lyrics in the first place she mightn’t have been suddenly feeling as if she’d wasted 45 years of her life.
I like the way this played out, because the choice of this one song was so significant in the Mercers’ lives. Songs have always been significant to me as I'm sure they are to a lot of people, but it’s not often that this is endorsed in movies or plays. The separation between the various forms of artistic expression is so arbitrary that parts of the picture occasionally disappear down the cracks.
I liked the fact there was no score as such, even though this means no work for a screen composer - most of the music in this film was incidental, as it is in real life. On the other hand, I love musicals, but in their case the pendulum has clearly swung into some technicolor parallel universe.

The National Sport.
That you’re reading this column is a miracle of sorts for so many reasons, but it may simply mean that you don’t follow sport, the rationale being that it’s not possible do both – i.e. be well read and follow sport.
(OK - this is clearly a generalisation and an unworthy presumption to which I cannot possibly be the only exception).
Anyway, there’s a point I’m going to make that will resonate if you’re a sports buff and particularly if you follow either Rugby Union or AFL – both is probably asking too much.
Currently there is some soul-searching in the AFL about the bewildering number of player interchanges during the game. These interchanges are governed by some restrictions but generally coaches can substitute any player at any time throughout the game, thereby ensuring both that no player gets tired and that the coach’s tactical role is overwhelmingly crucial.
Rugby Union is doing much the same kind of thing, as it has been by degrees since the game became a professional sport and thus a rival competition to its bastard child, Rugby League.
Bear in mind that in the glory days of Rugby Union as a strictly amateur competition, a player could not be replaced on the field of play for the entire game without a doctor certifying that he was unfit to continue playing e.g. suffering from a broken back or a severed limb. (Mind you, tales abounded of players heroically continuing to play with such injuries against the doctor’s advice).
The result is that one of the principal attractions of Test Rugby in particular has now been eliminated in favour of artificially maintaining ‘pace’ of the game, with fresh players strategically arriving on the field to replace players that may be injured, or exhausted, or homesick – but mostly none of the above.
These days nearly half the team can be replaced before the game’s end and, while the precious pace of the game remains unchanged, it’s predictable and as a consequence unthrilling, no matter how much the skill levels have improved over the decades.
American footy, or NFL (or even Gridiron as it’s still known outside the US) was created in response to that very Rugby-ish concept of the starting and finishing a game with the same fifteen players, so during every one of the umpteen commercial breaks in an American Football game the entire starting eleven players for both teams can and are regularly exchanged in favour of another eleven players from the specialist defensive or attacking team before embarking on the next few seconds of play.
Anyway, it’s interesting that both Aussie Rules and Rugby are experiencing a similar interchange dilemma, even if Rugby Union typically hasn’t even identified it as a problem.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, you could think of it as a metaphor for the current state of Australian politics and you wouldn't be too far from the truth.
back to the top
Dick's Toolbox - Da-da-da, da-da-da dum.
If you judged by American movies and television there is no problem that cannot be solved with a gun, if you can excuse the double negative. It would be easier to say that, to Americans, all problems can be solved with a gun but that wouldn’t help my intended 1100 word count. Which I have now reduced by sixty words.
What brought this thought to mind was that I stumbled across a television show called Hawaii Five-0 as I was flicking channels to see if there was anything worthy of wasting my life watching. I remembered the original which starred Jack Lord as Detective Stephen McGarret, sporting an improbable quiff and wearing an inappropriately dark suit in Hawaii’s sultry heat. He was accompanied by his faithful sidekick, Danny Williams, played by James MacArthur probably for eleven of the twelve seasons - or 257 of 281 episodes.* The highlight of nearly every episode was Steve McGarret grunting "Book 'em, Danno !" at the end as the felon or miscreant was handcuffed or beaten with care.
Nothing has changed ……. or everything has changed except the memorable theme music. The actors and the plots are different - though that may not be true given that there are only so many plots available. Bad person does something bad, good people catch them within an hour with highlights and excitement based around advertising breaks. Apparently the men of Hawaii Five-0 remain members of the Hawaii State Police (even though Hawaii is the only state that has never had a state police agency), and are accountable to the Governor of Hawaii. Of course this is just like real life where Hawaii has interstate highways and seems non-contiguous to anything except the Pacific Ocean. Unless there is an enormous undersea highway that they are keeping secret and is probably used by Hawaiians to go straight to Las Vegas, their favourite place on the mainland.
I think that the new McGarret, played by Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin, might have said "Book 'em, Dann’l !" a change of enunciation which might be worthy of a Doctoral Dissertation. His sidekick is now played by Scott Caan, the son of James Caan best remembered for his signature role in ‘The Godfather’, that of hot-tempered Sonny Corleone, who meets and unfortunate end at a highway tolling booth. This should be a lesson to all of us thinking of driving in the United States. Pay your tolls or else you will be machine-gunned into submission and quickly clotting blood
Scott Caan seems shorter than his father but pretty athletic, trim and well-groomed as are all the ethnically diverse lead stars of the new show. Hawaii’s population is more than half Asian, native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander so naturally the minor roles are played by two Korean actors representing just two percent of the island’s population. But let’s face it these people are actors and probably prepared to act as anything. Sir Ralph Richardson played the part of a wardrobe in the movie ‘The Bed Sitting Room’. Nice drawers as I recall.
The minor roles seem to feature parts for people a few of whom I would have to say are morbidly obese. But you have to morbidly inclusive these days but a couple of supporting stars are so large as to tilt the islands on their axis. One worries for them.
The current series is apparently in its ninth season. This would seem to indicate that Alex O’Loughlin broke his promise to leave at the end of the eighth season. The show looked nicely produced, has great scenery but the armament count has gone up a lot since the first series. I vaguely recall that Jack Lord would occasionally, and reluctantly, whip out a small barrelled pistol of marginal accuracy but I think that he would seldom fire it at anybody. More of a threat was that he wouldn’t comb his hair or that the villain would slip on the Brylcreem, that wonderful emulsion of water and mineral oil stabilised with beeswax that gave Ronald Reagan that glossy look. Why it didn’t melt in the tropical heat and fall down Jack Lord’s face like a small waterfall is an unexplained mystery of science.
These new lads go around with armament and armour worthy of elite special force’s units which now seems typical of American police forces; they would put the armies of several small countries to shame. The reason for this is that they get all the hand-me-downs from the American army and Marines. In my personal opinion turning up to a minor traffic infringement in an Armoured Personnel Carrier or Huey Air Cobra may be regarded as a disproportionate show of force but the fact that 987 people were shot by the United States law enforcement agencies last year may indicate that the weaponry is not going unused. Three were shot by police in Hawaii which is a lot given the islands have a population of 1,375,000 and a worry given that Australia with eighteen times the population averages about four per year.
So is there any relationship to reality? Violent crime rate is lower in Honolulu than the American national rate. While the inhabitants of Hawaii think that crime rates are at an all-time high they are in fact pretty much as low as they have ever been. Those pesky news media again.
As a matter of comparison the State of Victoria where I reside has 5,876 incidents per 100,000 population whereas Hawaii has 3,206 so the image created by Hawaii-Five-0 is totally misleading. It’s almost twice as safe as here so theoretically these guys do not need the armaments of a Green Beret or SEAL team. Now America has a much higher number of guns per head of population than Australia - though a lot of this is because a many people own a lot of guns rather than everybody having a gun. More than a third of US households have guns whilst in Australia the rate is around 6% and declining
This has been highlighted by an American friend saying about her son in law “I mean, who takes a Glock on a family beach vacation?” Apparently Kevin. About whom we need not talk.
In Australia, police simply do not expect members of the community to be armed threats. If you expect someone to be armed there is a good chance that you will act precipitately rather that rationally. So the obvious question about America is whether the police actually make you
feel safer. There is a wide gap between reality and perceived reality and Hawaii Five-0 demonstrates this rather well.

* This is an odd number. If they were shooting 24 episodes a year there would have been 288 episodes. It’s a big work load so maybe there were times when they said, ”Bugger it, we’re having a week off.”
back to the top
Wazzer's Trans-Tasman Tales - Is the answer $@?
I’ve just read the following in The Guardian: “Her greatest failing might not be in the concepts she’s presenting but in her inability to explain herself to a generation which understands the power of words to cause harm and is fearless in its rejection of careless language. The obligation is always on the writer to convey meaning, not the reader to interpret ill-expressed ideas.” The excerpt, from an article about Germaine Greer’s essay On Rape published by MUP, struck me as a pretty bald/bold assertion so I raised my reaction with Marg. I explained that I was initially somewhat confounded that the statement so boldly laid claim to the high ground over Greer by dissing her explanatory capacities and extolling the critic’s generational cohort’s capabilities for its ‘understanding’ and ‘fearless rejection’ in parsing language – especially given this is a generation that communicates primarily via 280 character ‘tweets’. Marg observed that they (the generation) do understand the power of words and particularly the power to harm – cyber bullying for example, which casts serious doubt for me on their claim for fearless rejection of careless language. As for the second sentence, it only serves to compound the bold conceit of the first. Unpacking both sentences produces a reading along the lines of: I am offended by what you’ve written because I understand it to harm my position on power, therefore I reject it as careless. Furthermore, your inability to convince me to change my position is all your own fault so STFU.
What this generated for me and Marg was a conversation about moving on from binary cognition that produces this sort of bitter confrontational rhetoric and the disgusting displays of battering and bullying that politicians all over the World are now specializing in. We wondered whether something analogous to the idea of Rhizome regarding knowledge organisation that we have both embraced might be possible. In this sense, Rhizome is offered as an alternative to Tree as an organising idea: A book is like a tree, a closed system – roots, trunk, branches, hierarchically arranged like the book’s contents, introduction, chapters, conclusion; whereas the internet is like a rhizome, an open system – a maze-like botanical root system, nodes, stems, shoots, non-hierarchically interconnected like the WWWs network of users, IPs, nodes, hubs, links to re/sources. It’s not that Rhizome trumps Tree, rather, Rhizome is more a means towards interpreting increasing environmental complexity and encountering greater existential diversity: something the ‘understanding and fearlessly rejecting’ generation seems to be blissfully by-passing as they thumb their Twittering and Insta their selfies to one another.
Thinking about all this reminded me of a recent article in New Scientist on self-awareness titled “The ‘me’ illusion: How your brain conjures up your sense of self”, which suggests our conceit about our ‘self’ isn’t all that we think it is. The author posits that rather than self-awareness being an innate ‘elite’ facility of higher-order consciousness, it’s more likely an emergent phenomenon conditioned by contextual collective behaviours. In other words, the more we all see each other acting like barbarians the more barbarian we become, even though we think we’re not and are actually opposing the barbarians, it’s all just an illusion our brains generate in our minds to keep us – the organism – running. This view is affirmed in brain connectivity research that shows humans spend inordinate amounts of time inspecting, analysing and exchanging thoughts about our own and influential others’ social relationships and positions. Outputs of this activity manifest as affects on emotion, empathy, morality, often giving rise to instantaneous social media (socmed) posts followed by reactionary consequences going forward.
Where this is leading me is towards an argument for reconceptualising ‘me’! In the New Scientist article the author notes that “some of nature’s most sophisticated minds probably lack a sense of self as we know it” and goes on to say “some other animals seem to have evolved to be highly intelligent without having had to understand the minds of others.” Marg and I often remark on the spectacular performance of some AFL players who are able to interact with each other and accomplish amazing feats of navigation and directional activity without evidently ‘thinking’ about what they’re doing. Similarly, musicians and artists often ‘blindly’ produce astonishingly complex yet coordinated performances. We sometimes find these instances referred to as conveying the performers sense of ‘selflessness’ and often the performer will articulate that their sole focus is on the ‘game’, ‘music’, ‘art’. So, could we reimagine our ‘self’ in this ‘selfless’ way? I’m pleased to report it appears to be just around the corner. According to Management Today it’s about MSC – Mindfulness Selflessness Compassion that, properly administered by great ‘leaders’, will “facilitate meaning, connectedness, and true happiness for the people you lead”…(sorry, the article’s behind a paywall so unless you shell out you’ll never know how! But I have included their snazzy diagram so you can see the attributes). Thus we’ve just looped back to an old beef I have about ‘management’ misappropriating alternative thinking to subvert it for ulterior profitable motives and we’re back to binary conflicts again. And, if evidence of the deleterious effect of absence of MSC is needed, look no further than the 2018 AFL Elimination Final between Melbourne and Geelong!
Maybe the answer really is just $@ (42).
back to the top
M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D