Dear Spam

DEAR SPAMMER,

Good day. This is to inform you that your sentences make no Sense in this office Files records over here. I’ve also checked in the office Files records Over There as well, but they still made no sense, Here, There, or Anywhere.

We founds your email in our  Junk mail folder/Federal Ministry of Finance, (as we like to call our Junk Mail folder from time to time), but it was clear that your email is Genuine and is most Definitely Not a scam.

Despite your awkward sentence structure and Strangely random Use of Capitalisation, which we put down to a probable culturally and Linguistically Diverse background where English is your second, or possibly Fifth, language – and/or that the letter was generated by a Computer Program, designed to generate letters that could only be described as Vaguely coherent at best, and send them out to confuse Approximately a million people, of whom perhaps one will respond – we are Pleased to be doing Business With you.

We are Excited to hear about the Victim unpaid Compensation Funds program, and happy to Update your information by contacting you Through this email (obvs). The amount of $3,800, 000.00 USD (surely about $4,500 000 AUD!) sounds entirely believable – please write out a Cheque for immediate payment without further delay. Although somewhat confused by the content of your Letter, I surmise that as long as I am Alive, I will receive this amount from the Victim Compensation Fund, for being the victim of a Scam. This comes as a pleasant Surprise as I was not even Aware that I had been scammed, but I’m sure that I am alive.  

Please accept this email as signification (as requested) that I am alive and Willingly to Receive my funds payment. I make a practice of never making Guarantees about things over which I have no Control, Particularly if they are a Condition of Payment, so I must Emphasise that while I am alive at Time of Writing, I am unable to confirm the Exact Timeframe on how much longer this State will continue. Unfortunately, I will be unable to Inform you via Email, Fax or Phone if this condition should alter.

For this Reason, I urge you to Make payment of the $3800 000 USD as soon as possible. Finally please e aware that Mr Willams Cooksey is attempting to scam you. I’ve never heard of him, he is no relation, and not entitled to inherit my windfall, Regardless of whether I am alive or dead.

As requested, I have filled out the form you sent, below.

FORM FILLING SIGNIFICATION CONFIRMING YOU ARE ALIVE;

PERSONAL DETAILS

Your Full Name: Blathering*
Full Residential Address  (P.O.BOX NOT ALLOWED). This is problematic as I live in a PO Box, please advise what I can do about this?
Direct and Current Phone:  I have both, in fact they are one and the same.
Nationality: Australian
Occupation: Wool-gatherer
age/sex: any age is ok amongst consenting adults
Present Country: No – I am presently in the city
passport identification: Photo
*I go by just one name, like Cher

Virtual Transport System

Note to readers: I spent time today going through some old folders saved on a usb stick,  and stumbled across this piece I wrote 10 years ago,  for a writing course I did back in 2005.  As not too much has changed I thought it was worth publishing for a laugh! 

*

Virtual Transport?

Apparently I’m not the only one who loves op shopping. I was surprised to read in The Age last week that State government employees are doing the rounds of the second hand shops too – to source parts for the antiquated  computer system running Melbourne’s metropolitan trains!

According to the article, the computer network currently in use was installed in 1981 when the City Loop was opened! Back in 1981, when I had just started Year 7,  computers were still a fairly new phenomenon. I got right through school and only used computers for one semester, in a subject called, aptly, “Computers”, where I learned how to start one up in DOS, by typing “run” at the white cursor that flashed on and off on a black screen.

Imagine any school or business still using the same computers now as they were using back then!  It is not surprising that the only way for the Metrol computer system to be maintained is with  “parts sourced from garage sales and op shops”. (The Age, 2/7/05)

I must look out for computer boffins from the Department of Transport sifting through the goodies at the Salvation Army. In fact – here’s an idea – perhaps I could keep an eye out for them, if they care to pass on a general description of what they are after! Surely it would only cost about 50 cents for a keyboard from 1981, so if it doesn’t work perfectly, it’s not a big loss for the government’s transport budget, is it? The Lilydale  train might get stuck at Ringwood station for a while when the Shift key jams, but currently it goes backwards whenever the Caps Lock is on, so anything is an improvement….

Do government employees sent to browse through op shops and garage sales enjoy it the way that seasoned op shoppers like myself do? Do they get a thrill out of finding a real bargain in vaguely working order – “Wow, a mouse from 1982, only 20 cents! The right click won’t work, but hey – that will only affect the Northern Suburbs lines at peak hour.” There is also the satisfaction of discovering a new use for an item that no-one else has thought of – “Oooh, look at this great Dot Matrix printer I picked up for a song, perfect for updating train schedules!”  I imagine the excitement of being given a budget – say of $5 – probably goes to their heads, they  get carried away, and come out with things that they – and even our dusty old computerised train network – don’t need. “Huh…I guess this old Beta video player is not really going to improve services on the Epping Line.”

er....."RUN"? Oh ok, I see, it's not on.

What do you mean the train hasn’t left the station yet?…Oh, I see, it’s not turned on.  Oops.

Eager employees may become addicted to the search, and become collectors of historical computer parts, attending garage sales and op shops in their own time for another fix. They may start gravitating eagerly towards the book section of the charity shops, where all sorts of treats would be in store for anyone needing technical computer book written in the 80’s.

Of course, for the private company now running our trains, that’s just another benefit of this thrifty approach to technology – purchasing the ‘how-to’ manuals is another whole area of budget savings. If you go to your local Op Shop on the right day, you could get a whole bag of technical manuals from 1981, enough for your entire metropolitan train system, for $2!

According to The Age, the government is finally looking to upgrade, and is calling for tenders to replace the system. I think I can help here. I have a ten year old computer, a spare monitor, a laptop bought second hand four years ago, on which the screen no longer works, an old walkman from the early nineties, a few old computer leads and a mouse. If  you plug them all into a power board, they could probably replace the entire computer system from 1981 currently running our trains.

Industry sources allegedly  told The Age that “a new system is a virtual certainty.” I hope the sources didn’t mean a virtual reality.

*

Pic of old computer: old-computers.com 

Lovely spam

Lovely, lovely spam

Lovely, lovely spam

Welcome back to that extremely irregular* segment of our program where we take a look at the spam we’ve been receiving here at It Keeps Me Wondering Laboratories. 

 

This week we received an unusual correspondence from Mr Joseph Orongo, which we have published below in full. (omitting the sender’s email address).

 

Now, we’ve been receiving spam for many years here at IKMW Labs, as I’m sure you have too, dear reader. A decade or more ago, I admit that it was vaguely amusing to open an email, purportedly from a total stranger writing from the other side of the world, addressing you as “Dear Beloved,” explaining that they had inherited an enormous amount of wealth, so much that they are keen to give some of it away to you, since they had come across your details randomly, and felt that you sounded like a deserving soul who could do with a break. All you have to do is provide your date of birth and your bank account number and they will hastily deposit the sum of $300,275 473.24 into your bank account.

 

Haha, yeah no worries, I will get back to you, random stranger, with my bank account details for the deposit, just as soon as I’ve seen a pig fly past the window. That’s what I replied in 1999, anyway, and I’m still waiting to see that pig go by – damn that pig, it’s holding me up from becoming a wealthy billionaire!

 

More than a decade has gone by since I received my first spam, and while organic life continues to evolve, and technology continues to develop at an ever-increasing pace, it seems that spam has not changed much in that time. Spam bots, human scammers, or whoever/whatever is at the other end, send out the same old tired missals, claiming that you’ve inherited money from a long-lost ancestor, or that a random stranger desperately wants to give you money they’ve inherited or won – such is the generosity of the human spirit, apparently.

 

Variations are: a random stranger has selected you as someone who they’d like to invest millions in business with, or, a random stranger, (allegedly a nubile 24 year old Russian girl, but more likely a piece of coding in a computer server somewhere), would like to marry you, and promises to make a good wife.

 

Back in 1999, all of these provided the occasional moment of amusement when the office was quiet, but these days, their tired, cliched devices, combined with awful grammar, spelling mistakes, cut-and-pasted nonsensical sentences and terrible imitations of a non-English-speaking person writing in English mean that you can find more amusing writing to read on your coffee break, even right here on this blog. I may resort to tired, cliched devices, have awful grammar, and write nonsensical sentences but at least I usually check my spelling before I publish. That’s a tip to spammers everywhere.

 

So I applaud the new, creative approach which I encountered this week. Please read below and enjoy. There will be questions* to follow.

 

* intermittent meaning that in 4 years of blogging I think I’ve written one other post on spam, which I’m not linking to here because I’m too lazy to go and look for it.
*Questions to follow may mean, another post, in response to this spam, to follow. It may mean that, but it’s not yet certain.

*************************************************************************

Reply-To: (address deleted)
From: “MR JOSEPH ORONGO”
Subject: DEAR BENEFICIARY
Date: 1 May 2015 10:23:15 am AEST

 

DEAR BENEFICIARY,

Good day, this is to inform you of your long overdue Compensation Payment In this office Files records over here. This department founds your name and email address in the Central Computer / Federal Ministry of Finance among list of Scam Victim unpaid Compensation Funds and have to update your information by contacting you Through this email for your immediate confirmation response back to my Office without delay. The value capital Compensation fund amount of $3.800, 000.00 USD (Three Million Eight Hundred Thousand dollars only) is to your favor listed name for immediate payment.

However we received an email from one Mr.Williams Cooksey, who told us that he is your NEXT OF KIN and that you died in a car accident last four Months back. He has also submitted his account information’s to the office Department for transfer of the fund payment credit to him as your Inheritor of the fund stated herein.

Below are the Account Details:

CHASE Bank
2075 S. Victoria Ave
Ventura, CA 93003
800 788-7000 FREE
Acct. name: Mr.Williams Cooksey
Type: Checking
ABA # 322271627
Acct # 1951204345


We are now verifying by contacting you through your email address as we have in our Bank records before we can make the transfer into his account and for us to conclude confirmation if you are still alive.You’re the last person on the List to receive this Compensation Fund as per the Federal Ministry of Finance Directives on Inheritance Funds Outstanding Payment.


Please, if still alive, do urgently send email confirmation by Filling the form details below as signification you are alive and willingly to receive your funds payment.


FORM FILLING SIGNIFICATION CONFIRMING YOU ARE ALIVE;

PERSONAL DETAILS

Your Full Name:
Full Residential Address  (P.O.BOX NOT ALLOWED).
Direct and Current Phone
Nationality:
Occupation:
age/sex:
Present Country:
passport identification:


PLEASE, CONTACT OUR CUSTOMER CARE MANAGER (MR JOSEPH ORONGO) ON HIS EMAIL ADDRESS FOR SECURITY REASONS: (email address deleted)

Thanks,

BARCLAYS BANK PLC

+254706463854

You’re as cold as ice

Astronomers have discovered the biggest known structure in the universe, and it turns out it’s a hole.

This is surprising information to many of us who thought that a hole usually constituted a gap, with a distinct lack of any structure. But there you go.

In any case, it’s an incredibly big hole (as you might expect of the biggest known structure in the universe), even bigger than the hole in the wall between our lounge room and bedroom in our previous house, and you could put your fist right through that one.

This newly discovered hole is 1.8 billion light years across, and is “distinguished by its unusual emptiness.”

Our reporter is on the scene now, talking with the hole.

R: Wow, man, you really are LARGE. I’d even say gargantuan. I can’t see the other side of you from here. If I tried to, I’d die about a gazillion years before I got there. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get to be so big? 

H: Hey, dude, that is a bit hurtful. You know, I don’t get to talk to many people, and I start thinking it’s because I’m lonely that I feel this unusual emptiness. Then someone like you comes along with your judgemental comments and I remember why I prefer to be alone in the first place. It’s a real bummer always being talked about in terms of your size. Lay off. I have plenty of other good qualities.

The Hole, yesterday afternoon.

The Hole, yesterday afternoon.

Pic: The Guardian/ESA and the Planck Collaboration

The existence of the large hole was discovered as a result of a targeted astronomical survey, which confirmed that around 10,000 galaxies were missing from the part of the sky where the hole is.

(I’m not a scientist, but I think it’s stating the obvious when I say that if 10,000 galaxies are missing from exactly the spot where there is a gaping big hole, clearly they’ve all fallen out and you’ve lost them all, and it’s your own fault for not sewing up the hole before it got any bigger and you lost all your galaxies.)

Questionnaires sent out to the millions of galaxies in that neighborhood had a surprisingly good response rate, but it became noticeable that none of the 10,000 galaxies within a particular radius had sent back a response. Extra time was allowed, in case they had used Australia Post.

Finally, however, the deadline was reached, and still not a single response was received from the area in question. When surveys from the other galaxies were collated and the data was analysed, scientists’ fears were confirmed: a recurring response from dwellers on nearby galaxies was, “where have the 10,000 galaxies just past the next solar system disappeared to? We just had them over for a barbecue a fortnight ago – now all I can see is a dark patch of nothing where they lived.”

Now as it happens, the scientists who sent out the survey had been hoping to come across a large void, because previous research had revealed that the sky was unusually cool in that region.

The so-called Cold Spot was discovered in the last decade. It was named when an astronaut on a passing space shuttle felt a chill run down her spine, and remarked “Wow, that is a really cold spot!” Ever since then, scientists working on modelling of the expansion of the universe have shaken their fists at that pesky Cold Spot, because it disproves current theories about how the universe has evolved following the Big Bang. The Big Bang was named when….oh, never mind.

The Cold Spot has created controversy within scientific circles. As Prof ____, a cosmologist at the University of Durham, said: “The Cold Spot raised a lot of eyebrows.”

(A note to our readers: in some parts of society, if you are upset you throw a hissy fit, trashing your dressing room and refuse to go on stage even though your promoter is begging you to. In the scientific world, they raise their eyebrows.)

Of course, the main reason so many eyebrows were being raised was because scientists had previously determined that the coldest spot in the universe was in the refrigerator section at an IGA supermarket. This has been taught in the science curriculum at secondary schools for years, which is why everyone knows to take a coat when shopping at IGA. So it was a shock to the scientific community, the wider public, and the skinnier members of the public, to discover that there was a larger, colder, (and unusually empty) cold spot somewhere else in the universe.

H: Hey, I have to admit I kinda like being called The Cold Spot. It’s better than being referred to as a Hole. From now on I’ll be know as The Cold Spot, or Mr Cold Spot.

R: OK….um…look, I’m sorry Mr Cold Spot, man. Forget I said anything about your size. What I’m more interested in is how it feels to be the coldest spot in the universe. I mean, I’ve shopped at IGA in winter time, and brrrr, that place is cold. While we’re on that topic…..I’m kinda curious as to where those other 10,000 galaxies have gone. It’s kinda fishy that they’ve all gone and disappeared, and meanwhile, you are so large…..did you eat them to keep warm?

CS: Wow, that’s really heavy, dude. You are really starting to freak me out. First I’m unusually empty, then I’m incredibly large, then I’m unusually cool, now I’m almost a cannibal. I had no idea this was what people were saying about me. If it’s cold around here, it’s probably because the Sun is a vindictive bugger and we had an argument a while back – I guess it’s payback. And to answer your other question, no, I don’t know where the galaxies have gone, and no, I didn’t eat them!  As if. I’m on the paleolithic diet.

The supervoid is not an actual vacuum, but has about 20% less stuff in it than any typical region of the universe. “Supervoids are not entirely empty, they’re under-dense,” said Prof ____, a co-author at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

CS: Is he talking about me – a Supervoid?  That sounds pretty cool, like I’m the void that saves all the other voids in the universe. From now on I think Ill be known as Supervoid.

R: Ok…..Mr….er…Supervoid…..so anyway, Hoover asked me to see if you’d be interested in some kind of advertising deal. Look, of course they know you’re not an actual vacuum because obvs you’re way too large to fit inside anyone’s broom cupboard….but they think there’s potential for some kinda cool advertising gimmick given how you suck energy out of light as it passes through you. 

S: What? Yeah, whatever…..just wait a minute…….I’m still trying to process that last information. So I’m not completely empty after all? That seems like a good thing, right? But then that dude said that I’m under-dense. What does that even mean? I must be too dense to know. Wow… I don’t know if it’s because I’m under-dense, but I can’t tell if you people are trying to bring me down, or if you’re on my side. 

Poor Mr Cold Spot. He now knows how it feels to be a victim of the paparazzi. In a matter of days, (*Earth time) he has been described in the media as everything from “The greatest supervoid ever discovered,” and “the Everest of voids” to “an empty spherical blob.” It seems that even an incredibly big hole struggles to maintain its credibility in the fickle world of scientific journalism.

We hope that this article will help to provide some balance, by giving a voice to the supervoids.

*

*We contacted IGA Supermarkets for comment. A spokesperson said that they had never set out deliberately to be the coldest spot in the universe but they just couldn’t get the hang of how to work the store thermostat. He said it was a relief to hear that a colder spot had been discovered and he wished The Cold Spot all the best.

*

This post was inspired by the words and phrases used in an article in the Guardian about the discovery of the incredibly large hole. You may be excused for thinking that the post was just me taking a flight of fantasy – ok it is, but it’s peppered with entire words/phrases/descriptions lifted from the Guardian article, possibly some that you will think I invented.

Acid Tracks

I’m currently reading an American classic.

Well, that’s according to the quote from Newsweek prominently displayed on the cover. (“An American classic – Newsweek.” )

If I asked you to name an American Classic, however, my guess is that this book is probably not the first one you’d think of, dear Reader, and probably not the second or third, either. Its not The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick or  To Kill A Mockingbird.

For those who only like fiction, this book may not be of interest, but if you love reading first person accounts of the era in America when the Beat generation of the 1950s morphed into the hippy generation of the 60s, and/or if you are interested in the particular style of non-fiction writing that developed in the 60s and 70s, known then as New Journalism, then this book would be as good a place as any to start your studies. It’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe.

KoolAid_1stUSEd_front

In any discussion of the “new”, subjective, or first-person-perspective style of journalism pioneered by writers in the 60s and 70s, three American writers are usually mentioned. These are Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote. I’ve read a few of Didion’s books but, to my shame, thus far I have not read any  Truman Capote or Tom Wolfe, and keep on meaning to do so. A few weeks ago I heard someone on the radio talking about In Cold Blood, by Capote, a book that I know quite well is sitting somewhere on my bookshelves, and I thought, as I’ve done before, I really should read that.

Coincidentally, I was between books at the time, so I attempted to look for it, but while clambering around amongst the 2000 – 4000 books in our house (exact numbers are a hotly contested topic), I accidentally stumbled across The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Given the difficulty of locating a specific book amongst the many books in our abode, there is usually a partially-planned, yet partially-random element to any book selection I make, so when I found The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, I hesitated for only about 0.6 of a second to wonder if I should just read it instead. Since my main purpose was to read one of the renowned New Journalism authors that I had not yet read, that’s how long it took to decide that it would serve the purpose beautifully. I could always look for In Cold Blood again next time, and probably end up reading Breakfast At Tiffany’s instead.

Now, this post is not a review of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I’m only up to page 92 of 366, so to attempt a review at this point would be ridiculously premature.For those who are totally unfamiliar with the book, as I was until a week ago – suffice to say it is a non-fiction account of the real-life shenanigans of author Ken Kesey and a group of friends/followers from San Fransisco, who live communally, experiment with psychedelic drugs, and drive across the U.S. together in an old school bus.

I began this post with the intention of taking off on a tangent from an idea casually suggested by one of the “characters” in the book. Now, however, through writing those introductory paragraphs above, I have become a victim of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test myself. That is, it has distracted me completely. My other ideas have slipped away, and all I can focus on is the name of the book.

So let’s just all pause here, dear Readers, to unanimously agree on the spot that this book title goes straight into the Top Ten Book Titles ever.* Or maybe it should be in the Top Ten Book Titles That Capture The Place And Time In Which The Book Is Set. (Although whoever thought up that particular competition title clearly has no ability to judge a good title – that is terrible!)

That title is appalling! Off with her head.

That title is appalling! Off with her head.

The title of the book, on the other hand, is unquestionably groovy. It captures the time – the beginning of the 1960s, and the place – America, or even more specifically, San Fransicso in the 1960s. All through those few key words, Electric, Kool-Aid and Acid, words that were either new, or had obtained new meanings, or conveyed a new significance, in the early 60s.

Electricity was certainly not new in the 1960s, but it was still a relatively new thing that most homes in America (as in Australia, where I am writing from) had access to electricity. Even newer were the electric appliances flooding the  market, designed to make household chores quicker and easier, and give people access to communication and entertainment right in their own living rooms. Telephones, televisions and radios became more affordable – now every home could aspire to own one! Women’s magazines were full of breathlessly excited advertisements for these electrical products and gadgets, and the humble appliances themselves seemed to signify a new, modern lifestyle. It’s no coincidence that”electric” came to also be used as an adjective meaning “thrilling.”

Apparently Kool-Aid was not new in the 1960s either (I had to google to find out what exactly Kool-Aid is, since it has not broken into the market in Australia) but I somehow suspect that once again, the massive increase in exposure to advertising on TV, radio and magazines in the 1960s meant that Kool-Aid probably also seemed to symbolise newness and modernity. And speaking as someone who doesn’t live in America, it certainly seems to signify America. I’ve only just discovered via the interwebs that Kool-Aid is a powder that is added to water to make a flavoured drink.  It sounds like a dehydrated version of a drink in Australia that we call cordial – a concentrated flavoured liquid that is added to water to get, I’m guessing, a very similar result: flavoured water.

The fact that we don’t have Kool-Aid here in the land of Oz highlights how the title of the book captures the time and location it is set in – if it had been written in Australia, or Britain, The Electric Cordial Acid Test just would not have quite the same ring to it, would it?

As for acid, any year 8 student could tell you that acid, a generic term for a chemical compound, was not a new word or concept in the early 60s. That same year 8 student could probably also fill you in on the development of the psychedelic drug LSD, which was very new in the 1960s, and was referred to by users as acid. It was so new, in fact, that Wolfe records how Kesey, the main subject in the book, was given LSD under observation in hospital, for purposes of scientific research – to find out what the side effects might be.

So I’m 92 pages in and so far I’ve learned that acid and Kool-aid mix together very nicely, particularly when kept in the refrigerator of a large converted school bus as it drives across the USA. And that the Acid Test in the title refers to the practice of using acid together as a group to try and achieve a communal trip. And I don’t mean the kind of trip that the bus alone could provide.

Stay tuned for further updates as they come to hand.

*

*Another great book title is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – or is this just a sign that my inner hippy gets really excited at titles with the word electric in them? I was never a big fan of the Electric Light Orchestra so I like to think it’s not that.

A Kiss With a Fist

Contrary to what some of my posts may make you think, I don’t live in a bubble.

Although most of the posts on this blog may paint a picture of me as an air-headed creature who floats around thinking about nothing more compelling than Air Supply, moustaches, and how much I hate milk, long-time readers would be aware that there is a thinking, feeling person behind the posts, who gets stressed out at work, suffers from insomnia at regular intervals, and experienced grief at the loss of her brother a few years ago, a topic that filled up this blog for some months. Sometimes, that person feels angry and depressed when reading or watching media coverage of certain local social and political issues, and occasionally she will exercise her perogative to vent her thoughts and feelings on those issues on this here blog.

So I’ll let you decide whether you care to read further, because this particular post is not a fun post. This weekend I feel as if something has to be said, by anyone who has the ability to draw attention to this issue, on any public platform, about a crisis in Australia at the moment. It’s a crisis in violence against women.

The reason I’m motivated to write about this topic is because of a family in country New South Wales who should have been celebrating their daughter’s wedding yesterday. Instead they held a memorial picnic commemorating her life and mourning her death one week prior.

The young woman in question went into her workplace on Easter Sunday, to finalise handover notes in preparation for taking leave for her honeymoon. A normal-enough activity that any of us might do. She was never seen again. Since then a male person, known to her through her work, has been arrested and charged with her murder.

There is a lot of media coverage of this case at the moment and, just as when I was moved to write about another horrible case of violence against a woman that caught the public’s attention in Melbourne and beyond 2 years ago, I’m not interested in trying to capitalise on all the attention currently focussed on this case, so I won’t name this latest victim or say too much about her case here. If you want to find more information online I’m sure it won’t be hard.

Since the tragic death of Jill Meagher, the woman I did not name when writing that other post 2 years ago, there has been increased media attention, and, I think, increased realisation by the general public in Australia, myself included, of the unacceptable level of injuries and death of women from violence in this country. (It’s perhaps important to note that in both of the cases that have motivated me to write a post, the woman was killed by someone other than a partner or former partner. These are in fact the more unusual cases – a higher proportion of deaths by violence are at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.)

A few years ago, a feminist group in Australia, Destroy The Joint* began to address the silence around violence against women as an issue, by keeping an annual count of women killed by violence. When they started this count, I think DTJ may have been responding to the fact that a widely-discussed topic in the Australian media at that time was the issue of random drunken violence against young men – specifically, a spate of tragic, senseless deaths caused by drunken “king-hits” at parties, hotels or nightclubs. A report in 2013 stated that 90 young men had died in the past 13 years from “one-punch” hits fuelled by alcohol. There was talk of toughening up the laws around hotel closing times and introducing tougher penalties to those supplying alcohol, and some changes to those laws have been passed since then.

Without lessening the tragedy of those lives senselessly lost, I think DTJ wanted to address the imbalance in the lack of attention given to a similar issue. Women were being killed by violent attacks but there was no count being reported, no overarching “issue” of violence against women being discussed in the media. So they started the grim task of keeping an annual count of women killed by violence. Their count so far is 31 women killed by violence in Australia in 2015 thus far. As we enter week 15, that makes an average of over 2 women per week, or potentially 104 by the end of the year if the rate does not decline. I have no intention of belittling the aforementioned issue of deaths by king-hits, but have included that article to illustrate that if 90 deaths over 13 years constitutes an issue that requires changes to legislation, then violence against women is an epidemic.

As someone noted in the past week on social media, when a woman is killed by her violent partner, a common, and misinformed response is, “well why didn’t she leave him?” When a woman is killed walking home alone from the pub at night a common question is “why was she out walking alone at 3am – particularly after she’d been drinking?” Even recently, when a young Melbourne girl was randomly stabbed to death while walking in a park near her home at 7pm, while it was still light, the response from the Victorian Police and others was that women should not walk in parks alone.

Well, if we follow the line of thought that says that in order to be safe, women must narrow down what they do, what does this latest incident tell us? That women should not go into their workplace on the weekend unaccompanied? Or basically, that women are not safe anywhere they go, unless they have a chaperone? That being a woman is not safe. That women should live in a state of fear when they are out in public, and also, in way too many cases, in their own homes.

I’m motivated to write about this today, through empathy for the shock and grief felt by the family of this latest victim, and her grieving fiance, and her whole small-town community. I’m also motivated because I am a woman myself, and mother of a daughter. I am angry that so many of these incidents occur that it causes me to worry, particularly about my daughter, who has a whole life ahead of her. If my own life is anything to go by, it seems likely that hers will involve walking in a park on her own, walking up a street late at night in the dark on more than one occasion, probably after having a few drinks, and even, going into her workplace on the weekend when no-one else is in, to finish up some work.

According to Vic Health, Australia has reached a point where the largest single contributor to the ill-health and death of women between the age of 15 – 44 is violence.

People have different ideas about the way to tackle this problem. I think that it goes back to deeply-rooted sexism and misogynistic attitudes – which can be held by women as well as by men. I don’t think there is any quick fix to that – I think it would take generations to change sexist and misogynistic attitudes, the same as it would to change racist attitudes, because we learn these things most profoundly at home, from parents and other elders. Kids learn most profoundly by example, and that’s where little, insidious, allegedly “harmless” sexist jokes and misogynistic attitudes will undermine any attempts to “teach” the “right” attitudes. I think more support services are needed for families having difficulties, and desperately needed for men who are separated/divorced and feeling as though they have no rights. Otherwise lots of young boys will continue to observe angry, bitter, disempowered fathers, and learn from them how to think about, and treat, women.

In  the past few weeks, we’ve seen the beginnings of some action around this problem. One State government has announced a Royal Commission into Domestic Violence and another has introduced a Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. It’s too late for all the women who’ve already died but I hope this is the beginning of some significant changes.

When my brother died (not violently) I recall thinking to myself how horrible it was, to feel so shocked, grief-stricken and numb. It occurred to me to wonder then, how much more could a loved-one bear? It struck me that some people have to deal with a loved one dying suddenly, but also violently. And for some, there is more to deal with than merely violence – how do families of women who are sexually assaulted and killed, or murdered by a partner, deal with the knowledge that in their last moments, their loved-one was being brutalised and terrorised? I thought to myself, back then, that there must be someone dealing with this knowledge for the first time, somewhere, every day. I had a brief insight, at that time when I was in shock and grieving myself, that the world must be overflowing with people who will be forever damaged by the violent death of someone they loved. And I wondered how on earth they go on.

So I guess this post is my little attempt to help to raise awareness – as there is nothing else I can dedicate to the woman who died in NSW last week.

 *

 

Destroy The Joint: formed some time in 2012, in response to a growing weariness with the sexist attitudes that were coming to the forefront in Australia back when Julia Gillard was our first female Prime Minister. The name of the group was supplied by an obnoxious shock-jock radio personality who publicly (and rather hysterically) stated, in relation to the Prime Minister and other females in leadership roles in Australia at that time – that women were “destroying the joint!”

For non-native speakers of Oztraylian, a “joint” is, in this context, a “place” – ie, Australia. In other words, women in leadership roles were destroying Australia.

 

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

I’m going to have to update my CV, specifically where it lists my hobbies.

I’ve realised lately that a hobby of mine seems to be discovering an old song, or album, years or sometimes decades after it was released, or sometimes years after I actually first bought the album, and then becoming rather obsessed with it. Obsession lasts to the point where it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain: I catch the song, or a song from the album playing in my head while I’m at work, for example, and feel sick to death of it, and yet as soon as I get the opportunity, I’m listening to the album one more time.

At the moment, that album is Hail To The Thief, by Radiohead.

Now of course, it’s cool to discover albums by revered musicians, decades after they were released, and I’ve done a bit of that, although not as much as some people do. I admit that my music collection is dominated mostly by music from the 1980s and onwards.

There’s a great tradition of bands who honor musical heroes by covering their songs, and when I was in my twenties and seeing live bands multiple times a week, I was inspired by a number of local bands to discover some legendary musicians.  Thanks to My Friend The Chocolate Cake and their beautiful covers of songs by John Cale and instrumental pieces by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, I’m familiar with the work of those artists. Kim Salmon’s cover of Suzanne, (a compulsory inclusion in any of his solo sets at that time), and the Black Eyed Susans’ cover of Memories similarly compelled me to seek out the music that Leonard Cohen was releasing in the 60s and 70s. Elvis Costello’s lovely cover of Days, included in the soundtrack to the 1991 Wim Wenders film, Until The End Of The World, inspired me to pick up an album by The Kinks.

It’s kind of the opposite of cool, though, to get into an album about 3, 4, 5 or 10 years after it was released. After all, cool, as we know, means, fashionable, hip – that you lead the pack in your thoughts, tastes, ideas and influences.

Getting into an album about 5 years after its released suggests the opposite. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that you waited until you were convinced by everyone around you that the album was good before you dared to form an opinion yourself, and even then you waited another 4.5 years before taking that final, decisive step and buying/downloading/illegally burning it.

When it comes to Radiohead I admit quite freely that I missed the boat. I bought a second-hand copy of OK Computer in about 2000, approx 3 years after it was released and was a commerical and critical success worldwide. It was not their first album, either, but according to Wikipedia,

OK Computer is often acclaimed as one of the landmark records of the 1990s[1] and one of the best albums of all time.[2][3

I guess that seemed a good enough recommendation to take a punt on.

Seriously, the only excuse I can think of for why they escaped my attention until 3 years after the release of an album that was a landmark of the 1990s, is that maybe the album was too commerically successful to get airplay on the independent radio station I listened to. But I could be totally making that up. Anyway, I liked OK Computer a lot, but not enough, apparently, to rush out and purchase any more Radiohead albums straight away.

Some time later –  let’s say about 5 years after its release – I picked up a copy of Kid A, thus keeping with the pattern of being very un-coolly behind the 8 ball when it came to Radiohead albums. I now have Pablo Honey, Hail To The Thief, and In Rainbows as well, although I have no idea when I got them. Most of these albums were picked up at second hand stores, (except In Rainbows which exists only on iTunes) so it seems I’ve never actually felt compelled to run out specifically to purchase a Radiohead album.

From this I think we can safely summarise the relationship between myself and and Radiohead thus: we have a very casual relationship, where I just pick up their albums if/when I see them going second hand for $5 at the local charity store, and they choose to take no notice of me at all. I’m ok with that, really I am.

So Hail To The Thief has been in my CD collection for I-don’t-know how long – maybe 6 months, maybe 6 years. Maybe more. (it was released in 2003). What we can deduce, however, is that I have barely, if ever, listened to it. Until now.

What has changed now? I hear you ask. Good question, dear reader. Well, in a related incident, about 4 years ago one of my brothers gave me a book about Radiohead, called Radiohead – Hysterical and Useless, by Martin Clarke.

Radiohead bookAs is obviously my usual pattern, I put the book in my shelves, where it sat with approximately 2000* other books  I am slowly working my way through at the average rate of about 1 book per month. (At that rate I estimate that in just 150 more years I will have read them all.)

Recently I had a sudden hankering to read that book, and located it amongst the piles. (of books). I read about the formation of the band, and the release of their early albums, which the author takes the time to describe track by track.

Of course, reading descriptions of each track on Pablo Honey made me want to listen to the songs being examined. I searched unsuccessfully for the album around the house – I couldn’t find the CD (perhaps it has disappeared amongst all the books) and it seemed that I had neglected to copy it onto a computer or device, so that attempt to synch my music listening with my reading was a failure, but in the course of that search I discovered an album I’d completely forgotten about – Hail To The Thief! What do you know? Accepting that Pablo Honey wasn’t going to suddenly emerge, listening to a Radiohead album I wasn’t familiar with seemed like the next best option, so I popped it on to accompany my reading about the band. (After all, I’d get up to the release of Hail To The Thief sooner or later.) The next thing I knew, I was addicted.

Pic: Wikipedia

Hail To The Thief – album cover. Pic: Wikipedia

So now my problem is trying to stop listening to that album. I’ve finished the book (in fact I’ve read a whole other book since then) but I can’t stop listening to the album. I catch myself out at home and work, with a track from the album playing in my head and when I do, I feel tired of hearing it, but as soon as I have my iphone nearby I go straight to it for another listen.

And all I’ve told you about within this rapidly escalating word count is the facts as they occurred. I haven’t even delved into what it is about the music, and the lyrics, on these albums that I find becomes quite compelling after a few listens. It’s the combination of melancholy, sometimes quite heart-breaking melodies, with scratchy, industrial sounding noise, beats, and lyrics that seem to be a mixture of nonsense and dark hints at bleak, futuristic worlds – suggestive of an apocalypse, or nuclear war, or a world taken over by computers.

What’s not to like?

As I round this off, I’ve noted a weird connection. This obsession has happened before with songs that I’ve had to listen to over and over again, and specific songs that I recall this happening on are This Mess We’re In, by PJ Harvey, and….How To Disappear Completely, by Radiohead.

In case you missed the connection, Thom Yorke (lead singer, and song writer for Radiohead) duets on This Mess We’re In with PJ Harvey.

In short – please help! I seem to have a propensity to become addicted to Thom Yorke’s songs.

*

 * regarding the number of books in our house, I was going to estimate 800 but when I asked my partner, who buys a lot of our books, and seems to always know where they all are, he thought about it for a while and said “probably about 4000.” I think that could not be right. So I went with 2000. We live in a small house!

(Update): The working title of this post was Don’t Stop till You Get Enough, which seemed to vaguely suit the topic. Of course, in my rush to finish this and publish it, I hit “publish” before recalling that I meant to search for some lyrics from a Radiohead song that somehow related, however loosely, to the premise of this post. So now, although the juxtaposition of a Michael Jackson song in the title of a post about Radiohead seems like a terrible travesty, I’m just going to leave it. Please direct any complaints to It Keeps Me Wondering Laboratories, in your capital city.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,494 other followers

%d bloggers like this: