The day I gave over...
Digging through the old archive boxes in preparation for our escape to Holland and I came across this gem from a couple of years ago...
A new way of looking at the world
These DIY 'first-person shooter' specs are designed to let you see the world as if it were a game of 'Counter Strike'. I can imagine they could also provide some much need angst-relief at work or on the street. Surrounded by fuckwits that you'd like to gun down but don't like the idea of life in prison? Simply download the pattern for these specs here, make yourself a pair and wander the streets gunning down gormless losers, pommy backpackers and corrupt enforcers of state-run rackets at will. Not only do you get the satisfaction of imagining how good it would be to squeeze the trigger, but it won't take people too long to figure out what you're thinking either. Especially if they're your work mates/boss.
Via Boing Boing.
And the world keeps turning
Well, I've managed to slip out of Pakistan, greased through Oxford and hoovered around in Barcelona before winding up here in Marrakesh. Not much to report in a coherent fashion yet, but the Medina here in the 'kesh is one of the most amazing sights this jaded lowbagger has seen for a long time. It's easy to get lost in the twisted maze of streets and asking for directions is an invitation to be hassled by a 'guide' who usually leads you to the markets rather than where you actually want to go. It's a tourist trap, make no mistake and even the most adept haggler who soon become exasperated with the astronomical prices. With the swarms of fat tourists with their even fatter euros, the sellers are no longer interested in haggling, why should they when the german behind you will pay the asking price anyway...
Still, it's something to see, hear and smell, well worth the price of admission, although your mileage may vary.
Meanwhile, the world keeps turning. In the US of A, the repugnicans take a body blow in the mid-term elections. This is unlikely to be anything but good news to our own dear leader (despite the obvious) as he has long been aware that Australians translate their angst and fears over the Iraq war into a loathing of W. Bush and let him off the hook. He could molest a 12 year old girl in public and still get re-elected, so retarded is the Australian voting public. The slash and burn tactics at the ABC aimed at correcting reality's well known leftist bias is but an ominous sign of things to come.
Finally just in case you had any doubts as to who the real enemies of freedom and democracy where, you needn't look further than the recent alliance between jews and moslems to oppose (violently) a gay rights march in Jerusalem. Funny how these turkeys can only find common ground when it comes to oppressing someone else.
My dream job
Given that my current job search is bearing little fruit, I have decided to draft my own dream job ad.
WANTED - INTERNATIONAL SHIT-STIRRER
Hedonists sans Frontieres is looking for an international shit-stirrer to run its world-wide hedonism campaign.
The successful applicant will head up a team of anarchists (non-violent), hedonists and other general misfits to bring about social change in a variety of countries with the aim of giving birth to a new golden age of humanity.
- University qualifications are a petite-bourgeoisie attempt to quantify knowledge and are not required. University experience is, however, an excellent introduction to the hedonist lifestyle and evidence of frequent attendance/organisation of parties (including but not limited to Toga parties) and beer-bong construction will be highly regarded.
- Tolerance for excessive drug consumption. No hedonist lifestyle is complete without excessive drug consumption. At Hedonists sans Frontieres, we believe in practising what we preach, so the successful applicant will need to demonstrate a Hunter S. Thompson capacity for substance abuse. No smack addicts please.
- Knowledge of social change techniques. Words are cheap and usually worthless, HSF is looking for a committed and inspired activist who can plan and execute non-violent direct actions of breath taking scope and daring.
- Ability to work without supervision. HSF is organised along anarchic lines - there is not centralised management and the successful applicant will be required to work without any form of supervision. In turn, it is expected that they will not impose the same constraints on those with whom they will be required to work.
- Atheist preferred (agnostic acceptable). HSF is not just an areligious organisation, we actively campaign against religion as a matter of principle. The successful applicant will need to display a well-reasoned and articulated disdain for all religions.
The successful applicant will be required to work from the HSF luxury yacht, operating in international waters. They will also be required to participate in ongoing efforts to establish the world's first hedonist free-state in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay.
About Hedonists sans Frontieres
HSF has been working around the world in to bring down conventional power structures and to empower individuals and communities by removing conventional barriers to understanding and self-determination. HSF believes that to do this, we must irrevocably alter the social fabric of humanity by undermining and displacing conservative values that hold back our self-realisation. fnord. HSF believes that all religion is irrelevant and must be completely sidelined. HSF is committed to sexual liberation (amongst consenting adults), freedom of choice in all aspects of our lives and the destruction of oppressive governments.
It seemed the right thing to do...
It says it all really... thanks Ant!
Miranda Devine should just shut the fuck up
I thought about writing a long rebuttal of Miranda Devine's piece in the SMH today about Generation Y but in the end couldn't be bothered because she's such a shrieking harpie that saying she should just shut the fuck up seemed sufficient.
The one thing I will say though, is that aside from those few Generation Y's that I know do give a shit about the world, are idealistic and don't have Hillsong denim clad fantasies of 2.5 children in the 'burbs, your average Gen Y is a vacuous twat whose world view is shaped by the high rotation ads in between Big Brother and American Idol. Gen Y is a dead loss, I've been sure of that for a while now, and Miranda Devine's recent blatherings have only confirmed it for me. And we've only got Gen X to blame for thinking that their spawn would somehow magically be like them. Bastards.
Get a job!
As well paid as this little jaunt might be, the loot's not going to last long once I get back to the emerald city. In fact, I've already blown a wad of it on the rent of our lush little love-pad by the sea, without getting to enjoy it much, I might add.
So now I've got to start thinking about what next. An Ozzie mate of mine from my Afghanistan days is off to Kenya with the UN and has been gloating about the fat bucks he'll be earning there. $3000 US a month security allowance alone, the base salary being 2 or 3 times this and probably a weekly per diem equal to the annual wages of most Kenyans. On the other end of the spectrum, my old employers dropped me a line today wanting to know when I would be available to work for them again. The message went something along the lines of:
"We desperately need someone for Darfur, the situation is hot and we can't find a Field Coordinator"
I've been thinking about getting my darfur 'merit badge', 'cos most of the other kids in the tree house (the board of said iNGO that I sit on) have got one. Probably not the best reason to accept the gig and there sure as shit won't be no $3000 US security allowance. Crap, I'd be lucky to scrape half of that as a salary. I doubt BSharp would be thrilled either...
So what's a lowbagger to do when he's a bit over the whole NGO world. A scan through the online job sites has been as fruitless as always, the majority of jobs on offer holding zero, or less, appeal. Aside from that, I'm not exactly overawed with the prospect of rejoining the australian workforce under our beloved leader's draconian new labour laws. My lungs are black enough from years of drug abuse without having to spend the rest of my days slaving away in the coal mines of 'workchoices'.
And then the following caught my eye:
Paid Volunteers required for Sunscreen Product testing. You need to be 18 yrs and over and not tanned. Dermatest Pty Ltd. Ph: 9556 XXXX
Now, why didn't I think of this before?!? I can always volunteer for medical experiments! If it was good enough for Ken Kesey, well, it's good enough for me.
How much do I get per injection again?
I couldn't give a tin of beans...
As the days grow shorter, so too does my time here. In a few weeks, I'll be boarding one of those magic silver tubes that improbably speed through the air with ease, will carry me back to the UK, then onto Spain and Morocco before returning to the country of my birth and the arms of my long-suffering lover.
It's now the second week of Ramazan and I've been fasting in solidarity with my comrades for the most part, with the exception of some days where I've nipped out to scarf a can of red bull when I was sure Allah wasn't watching. It's been an interesting experience, although it isn't my first Ramazan in a moslem country, far from it in fact, it's the first time that it has been so central to my daily routine. This is due in part to my proximity to the Pakistani staff with whom I live and break bread with and my deadly feline curiousity. It has been a very well received gesture to say the least, and I feel a lot closer to them now then I could have been had I chosen to ignore what is such a significant rite of passage for so much of the world. Of course, it gave B-Sharp the chuckles, she commented about my contradictory nature, a raving, militant atheist partaking in such a solemn moslem ritual. I can't answer that one yet myself, but it is teaching me a lot about myself and others, observations that I will share some other time...
So in my tent, now empty apart from myself, I have begun to catalogue my meagre belongings and think about what to do with the items I have accrued and am yet to buy and receive. I'm travelling light this time, lighter than ever before but I still fear the check-in saga yet to come. Books, turbans, ratty yet well-loved t-shirts, pirate DVDs and my trusty yet ageing Powerbook. And a tin of beans.
I'm not sure of the symbolism of this tin, if indeed it has one. It was thrust into my hands several weeks ago by the cook of our guesthouse where I pass my weekends. A winter assessment team had just arrived, full or rowdy young go-getters on their first assignment. Wide eyed and earnest, they were swarming through the guesthouse like a plague of locusts, devouring everything in sight. The ancient cook, looking like some Pakistani Mr Myagi, was overwhelmed and he looked even more tired and weary than the deep creases of his face normally suggested. As I bid him farewell the next morning, as I prepared to return to the Jonestown camp, he struggled to express something in his virtually non-existent English. I didn't understand a word. He beckoned me to follow him into the Kitchen where he opened the expat food cupboard and handed me a tin of chocolate powder, a jar of Nutella and a tin of beans. He was particularly emphatic that I should take the beans. I could understand the evil but tasty chocolate spread and powder, being items of temptation for even the most iron-willed, but I assured him I was getting my fair share of pulses in the mess hall. He wouldn't budge, so I took my swag of precious booty and left him to the mercy of the locusts.
And there, on the top shelf of my cupboard, the beans have sat. The Nutella and chocolate powder have since gone the way of all tasty treats, but the tin of beans still sits there, poking out amongst the clutter like an unexploded cluster bomb in the ruins of a Beirut house. Unwanted, unloved, extraneous to requirements, the fitters and turners of our rowdy mess hall are doing a perfectly good job of keeping me flatulent without me having to take matters into my own hands. It's not as if they're gourmet beans or anything, not even any scandalous strips of bacon or a hint of onion or garlic. Plain, ordinary beans. I still can't fathom why he was so insistent that I take them, why they should be so precious as to be rescued from the devouring hoard. Why? Oh why god did he give me the beans?!?
Not everything in life has a meaning. If we try hard enough, we may be able to glean or pry one out like a splinter, but perhaps, like this tin of beans, there simply isn't one.
Can you people please stop butchering my language?
This isn't another Engrish rant, this one is directed at the native speakers who wrote one of the many documents I've been perusing the last few days.
The time has come for me to agree on my 'performance objectives' even though I now have slightly less than 3 weeks left, I guess it's better late than never. Going through the standard template, I kept coming across the following, in one convoluted form or another:
Cascade the key programme logistics objectives to the location (region / country / state) through effective communication and reporting.
What a load a meaningless crap! Whoever wrote this drivel was obviously not a good communicator themselves. I've been through the document and deleted every reference to 'cascade' and the dreaded 'proactive'. It might not ring the management's bells, but at least it means something now.
Another classic example:
In order to effectively upwardly communicate logistics status to line and matrix managers, the Logistics Manager is responsible for first consolidating the status updated from their own line and matrix managed staff members and then preparing a concise monthly status report with the key logistics issues, risks and practical solutions. Proactively provide feedback and programme updates to line and matrix managed staff, as well as ensuring that mechanisms for upward logistics communication are in place and are maintained.
WTF?!? What a load of shite! So I replaced it with:
The Logistics Manager is responsible for compiling a concise monthly report on the status of logistics activities.
I'm compiling a list of Bullshit Bingo words that this organisation is excessively fond of, which I'll post before I leave. There should be laws against this sort of thing. Real laws, not proactive ones, but the sort that allow for offenders to be flogged.
Cascade that mofo...
Yet another (soon to be) dead hero
Robert Anton Wilson, who along with Hunter S. Thompson, changed my world view at a young age, is dying. Given that his works where amongst the most stolen/begged/borrowed/copied of our time, he's barely made a cent from his seminal works that have pried open the minds of many, including mine, with a crowbar. Via the Null Device and Boing Boing:
Note from Robert's friend, Denis Berry: Robert's writing has enlightened-educated many and if you can please commit to help pay a portion of his expenses until his passing which sadly won't be that long. Monthly contributions of $50.00 or more will be greatly appreciated. All monies will go directly to Robert and can be sent to his PayPal address firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send a check to RAW c/o Futique Trust, P.O. Box 3561, Santa Cruz, Ca 95063.
I've already stumped up $23. If you're someone who has has your mind altered, willingly or not by his works, you could do a lot worse than drop a few bucks in the hat as it goes around.
It's called 'civil disobedience' dickhead
Whining little maggot Oliver Raymond, vice-president of the 'A-Team' (Amcor's greenie-spy gang) blubbed out the following in an attempt to excuse their dirty-tricks campaigns against various green groups in Victoria.
"Did any of the environmental groups think that chaining themselves to logging equipment in the forest was a dirty trick? Stopping people's livelihoods by stopping their contract operations in the forest was a dirty trick?" he said.
"I don't think it was anywhere near as dirty a trick as the sort of stunts that they were pulling."
Yes, well, except what the Greenies were doing is called civil disobedience, as in Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and which with the notable exception of redneck halfwits like Mr. Raymond, is recognised by most people as a legitimate expression of dissent in the free world. What Amcor was doing however was repugnant, leveraging their ill-gotten gains to subvert what is essentially a democratic process. Maggot, shut the fuck up.
Will someone shut this arsehole up?!?
Pakistani tinpot dictator, Pervez Musharraf, seems to have been enjoying an unprecedented amount of indulgence on the behalf of his western allies. He must have some ace up his sleeve for the likes of Blair and Bush to be running around kissing his arse so much. God only knows what that might be, I would have thought that over the decades the great powers would have finally learnt that supporting Pakistan was more trouble than it's worth, but they keep buying this line of its strategic importance.
Which is, as far as I can tell, is its nuclear weapons. Aside from its nice little collection of WMDs, Pakistan seems to be putting more effort into aiding and abetting moslem militant fundamentalism rather than doing anything to curb it.
But Musharraf has long been George and Tony's man in Islamabad, although he doesn't seem to spend much time there lately, preferring to bask in the light of his inflated self-importance in the US and the UK. And he's getting cockier by the day, making lots of half-arsed statements to appear tough and potent at home while his western handlers drum their fingers and indulge him. His ego and self-agrandising has reached new levels with the publication of his own little attempt to have histroy ghost-rewritten for him. Look for it in the $2 at your local Dymocks, right next to the Graham Richardson auto-biography.
The worst crock of bullshit that I've ever heard, not only mindlessly regurgitated by many but actually believed is that he had to seize power. That he had no choice, that the then equally corrupt and incompetent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was about to sack him as head of the military. Can't you see, he had to do it.
Er, no, I can't actually. Civillian control of the military is one of the cornerstones of democracy. Elected (even dubiously as they are in Pakistan) representatives should have the right to dismiss military leaders. It galls me that anyone could suggest otherwise, or justify Musharraf's actions in this way, but then again this is Pakistan, a homeland for Moslems founded by a whisky-swilling british-educated lawyer, more interested in power than religion. This is a country so paranoid about the threat of being overwhlemed by its neighbour India that what little money hasn't been drained from the state coffers by the kleptocracy is spent on armaments. A country that is unwilling to spend the billions of dollars in education aid available to it as its Zarmands, or Feudal Lords, are scared shitless about what an educated peseantry might get up to.
This is the country that has become such a vital ally in the war of terror that it cannot be held accountable for its illegal nuclear stockpile and instead must be plied with military aid similar to that of Israel. A country where an ammendment to puritanical rape laws that not only blame but condemn the victim is blocked by religious fundamentlist parties with more power than popular support. A country that is sliding headlong into the 13th century, at the same speed as its exploding population.
A country destined to disintegrate into a catastrophic mess, allowing its nuclear arms to slip easily into the hands of the brutal fundamentalists it has supported for all of its life.
So if these are our friends, who needs enemies?
Stranger in a strange land
I'm no stranger to Central Asia or Pakistan for that matter. I did spend the better part of a year on the other side of the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan and I loved it. But for some reason I've been finding Pakistan jarring this time round and in the case of it's irrational blend of western consumerism with Islamic fundamentalism, downright repugnant. I did have a funny experience on Thursday night though, an unintended insight into human nature, my own reflection in the mirror of the other.
After a pleasant walk in Daman e Koh, the spectacular garden perched above Islamabad, we went to the Jinnah Markets for dinner. I was looking forward to some good Pakistani food, which I must admit I have taken a particular liking to. I still pull out the Jalapeños (which some would consider sacrilegious) but my palette has been soundly tuned to spicy. But it was not to be. For some reason, and I hope it wasn't for my benefit, we wound up at Pizza Hut.
It was, as is to be expected, like any Pizza Hut, anywhere in the world, with the exception of the Tandoori and Tikka Chicken Pizzas and pepperoni made from beef. Then things started to get weird. Well, I mean weird by Pakistani standards, not by, say, Australian standards. One of the guys placed the order. In English. I looked around and noticed all the other people eating there were dressed as if they'd just walked in off Broadway, backwards baseball caps, leather jackets, Nike sneakers and all. The Pizzas came out and to my surprise all of my Pakistani colleagues began eating with knives and forks. I laughed out loud, as Pizza is one of the few dishes in western culture that it is acceptable to eat with your hands, which is otherwise the norm in Pakistan (and many other parts of the world).
Then it struck me. The awkward way that my colleagues were using the cutlery reminded me of watching westerners struggle with chopsticks in Asian restaurants. The prices of the pizzas were double what they would be in Australia, far more expensive than the fine Pakistani fair on offer. My ears where picking up more and more English phrases in the hubble of Urdu and Pashto. The way the punters were nonchalantly placing their orders in English with the Pakistani waiters reminded me of something. Yes, it was just like any upmarket Thai or Japanese restaurant in Newtown on a Saturday night.
I realised that the knives, the forks, the English, were all to show how terribly cosmopolitan they all were. I chuckled heartily at the realisation, yet again, that we human beings have so very little that divides us and so much in common that it hurts. It was just a little disappointing that it is Pizza Hut that has come to epitomise the height of western chic to these people.
Let's workshop it baby!
Anybody who has run a workshop or a training session knows what an interesting insight into human nature they can be. I'm presently in Islamabad helping to facilitate a logistics workshop and it's proving to be no exception.
Yesterday I gave a session on Fleet Management and at the request of my boss, the Logistics Coordinator, I devised a group-work session or role-play to make it more 'interactive'. I came up with a scenario that required the participants to work both in smaller groups and as part of a larger group, in much the same way that the organisation functions and the results were, shall we say, enlightening.
The scenario revolved around a fictional disaster in Bolivia and required the participants to come up with a transport plan to move staff and material to several camps in a short period of time. In addition to this, they would have to deal with other actors to source transport and respond to unplanned events. I also threw in a couple of curlies like language difficulties and budget management, but I had to curtail them somewhat due to time constraints.
I was a little unsure how the whole thing was going to go down. My boss seemed quite indifferent to my plans but then the vagueness of her request to 'make it interactive' suggested to me that she didn't really have much of an idea of what she wanted, she just didn't want YAPPP (yet another Powerpoint Presentation). Which was fair enough, as I often say, you don't have to have the answers to know that something is wrong.
I took a 2-stage approach to the workshop. I started off with a fairly straight-forward presentation on fleet management, loaded with the nuggets of knowledge that they would need to call on in the group-work.
I have to say that unlike David Byrne, I hate Powerpoint. With a passion. Not only is it like using a hammer to skin fish, but it has a profound effect on the way people conceptualise presentations. I'm not just talking about the hideous and overused templates and animation effects, but the way it forces you into fitting your ideas and concepts into it's rather rigid box. I realised this when I was preparing my presentation when I found myself staring at a slide that had only 2 points on it. I started ferreting about for more points to add when I realised that there were none, that the topic had been covered and it is was the rote following of the Powerpoint template that made it seem incomplete. It dawned on me how many empty or redundant bullet points I must have witnessed in other people's presentations, put there simply to satisfy the template's yawning maw.
But I digress. Following the presentation, the participants broke up into their pre-assigned groups and began the tasks allotted to them. I was a little nervous, it was clearly the first time that most of the group had experienced this type of workshop, obviously used to a more didactic approach. On top of this, there was a substantial language barrier, not all of my instructions, despite my best efforts, were understood (although better than I expected) and all of the group work was done in Urdu, which may as well be classical Greek to me. So I was unable to get a good sense of how it was developing and my co-facilitators were of little help, being as mystified by my strange 'western ways' as the rest.
I got to have some fun, playing the parts of a demagogic Venezuelan colonel and a hysterical official from another NGO. Even though the participants were clearly stressed, they also enjoyed themselves. I also took quiet satisfaction in the various ways that they mispronounced the Spanish place names after having gotten so much stick for this over the years. Although I don't agree with much that Winston Churchill said, I concur with his statement that "Anyone has the right to pronounce foreign place names as they see fit". Quite. Just don't be surprised when you get lost... as my participants would have when looking for "Cucumber" (Cochabamba).
In the end, it turned out a lot better than I expected and the results, although disappointing in themselves (no transport plan was actually developed) were very much in-line with the overall dysfunctional nature of the organisation. The individual teams struck off on their own, made their own plans and shared very little with the others or the coordinator. Which is exactly how the organisation works in real life. On a micro level, resources were hoarded, conflicting plans made, empires built and blame apportioned ahead of seeking solutions. The various cats I had thrown amongst the pigeons had little effect, that is, it was the way the organisation was structured internally that defeated them, not the external factors.
The only problem with this is that the objective of the exercise was neither team-building or dealing with organisational problems. In this sense it was a failure but it was certainly an eye-opener for me. The problems this particular fat and bloated NGO face are systemic and far too deeply rooted for a single workshop to possibly hope to change. I wasn't the only person who noted this, but unfortunately most people just shrugged their shoulders as if it were some immutable law of physics. And it is, it's called inertia, an object this size cannot possibly hope to change its direction. Because of this, another law of physics, atrophy, will take care of it in the end.
But not before they form a committee to workshop it...
Well, yes, they lied
So in Hungary, if your government admits that it lied, you hold massive demonstrations and call for it to stand down. In Australia, we keep re-electing it time after time. I guess that's Australian mateship for you.
Those who know my politics intimately (i.e. have been stuck in a confined space with me for more than 10 minutes) know that I am more or less an anarchist and that I think that all governments are ultimately a bad idea. But what I want to know is why it is only the left-wing or progressive governments that are subject to regime change. Like Whitlam, the republicans/libetarians prior to the Spanish Civil War, Allende in Chile and dozens of others across the Americas, Asia and Africa too numerous to mention. Why is it that psychopaths like Bush, Blair, Howard etc can repeatedly lie through their teeth and get away with it, sometimes with barely any media coverage at all. Why is it that progressive governments are so dangerous that they have to be called to heel over even the feeblest of reasons while conservative or neo-con governments can pretty much do as they please.
Without wanting to sound too conspiratorial, I wonder if a compliant media owned by the same interests that support these governments and a police system designed to enfore the status quo has anything to do with it. Or it could just be that the common man is a self deceiving schmuck who believes whatever matches his narrow world view.
Personally, I'm with Scott Adams. I'd like to believe there is some gigantic Illuminati-style conspiracy controlling our destinies because the alternative, that it is actually the dull-minded halfwits in government and their respective lackies in the media, is just too terrifying a thought to contemplate.