Tuesday, January 31, 2006


That Morthos Stare writes:

It's so tragically true.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Musing on why the world won’t ever be alright...

Apathy Jack writes:

Like all bloggers, I’m a fat beardo with rubbish hair. While this doesn’t disqualify me from being in the top tenth percentile of physical attractiveness for people in the “blogosphere”, it does mean that if anyone wants to think of a faintly insulting nickname for me (and remember: my days consist primarily of making teenagers not like me) then “Peter Jackson”, or occasionally “Hagrid” are easy options.

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
I get both fairly regularly at school (which, in the name of taking the small victories where I can find them, isn’t as bad as it sounds – they have far worse epithets for most of the other teachers) and occasionally from passing drunks when I’m in town. I’m not overly worried about any of this – you know what Oscar Wilde said about being talked about, and putting up with it takes less effort than shaving regularly.

So anyway, I was in town a while back, when I came across my friend Kai busking. Now, while he was not dressed in his most elaborate frippery, he was wearing gear that would befit a guy wanting to attract attention to his show.

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
As we hung, the always immaculate Spiggy wandered up, bedecked in his finest summer trenchcoat/cowboy hat combination. With him was a young woman I don’t know, who wore her goth past on her arms: her light top didn’t so much show off, as not-hide the fact that her arms and the tops of her breasts were wallpapered with scars.

So the four of us were walking along the street – these freaks and me in my jeans and t-shirt. As we walked, a car hooned past, and someone screamed out of the window as us:

“Peter Jackson!”

Like I said, I understand the concept, but I had a carapace of goths around me, and they got nothing.

I don’t get people...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

There’s this kid who I’ve known for years as a staunch Muslim. There were no headscarves or any of the other anachronistic trappings – she lived in a western country in the twenty-first century, and was very much the model of young modern Islam. But still, it was nice to know that there was one kid out there who was acting in an even remotely moral way when she wasn’t being watched by her teachers or her parents.

So, chatting religion, and she tells me that she has, for all intents and purposes, lost hers. She lost it when I taught her about Roman religion last year. She saw that mankind had, through religion, been attempting to place order and meaning onto the universe since ancient times, and got to wondering if the system she had been raised to follow made any more sense in that arena than believing in gods of wine and of blacksmiths. She realised that it didn’t.

It’s good that I find this out now – it gives me time to pack the extra sunblock I’ll need for when I toboggan straight down into hell...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Wandering through town of a Friday night, I see four students, and make appointments for three of them to come and see me at school so we can play silly-buggers with their timetables - get them out of some of the, shall we say, less felicitous classes they’ve been shoehorned into.

Then I come home to a message from my student who has run away, reminding me about the meeting I need to have with her parents to work out the terms to get her back home.

Next week, school starts, and I can go back to doing this stuff dressed like a teacher.

Playmates of the Internet

That Morthos Stare writes:

So, Playboy has decided to plumb the internet for porn (clicky the here). What's the likelihood that the 'winners' are models who 'suddenly' have a MySpace account?

Still, it's good to see that Hugh Hefner and Co. have finally realised what men and paedophiles have known for years; all your porn needs can be satisfied online. Now, however, the print competition have finally found a way to lure men off the web and into their back-pockets: nude photos.

Look at it this way. A lot of men (some of you included) trawl the 'Friends' lists on both Livejournal and MySpace, ostensibly to find out more about the patrons, but, in reality, to find sexy photos (for those ever-essential sexy-parties-alone-in-your-room). However, seeing that most of the Livejournal/MySpace contingent have identity issues or write posts like"OMG! youll never realise the SUXOR that MADDIE is in' those elusive party photos you just wish would degenerate into all-girl porn are harder to find than WMDs in Iraq.

Enter Playboy. That girl with the alias 'candyfeatures' is suddenly baring all on a nice A4 glossy page. You'll snatch up the issue and retreat the Holy of Holies.

Because you're really hoping that the photo shoot is only the beginning of a burgeoning porn career.

One that can only be truly successful on the internet.

Which is where this obsession so happily started.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Arf! Arf!

Josh writes:

What's that, boy? Apathy Jack's flatmate actually knows how to use Photoshop?

Arf! Arf Arf Arf!

He's made us a new logo that provides a more radical departure from the previous one than merely a colour change?


Why, I'll update our blog template straight away -- good boy!

Little Timmy's bloated corpse was fished out of the old well two weeks later. Stupid fucking dog.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Apathy Jack writes:

Those of you who have been around since the November 9 days will (probably) remember the parent site: Map For The Blind. Well, my old MFTB cobber Hewligan has started writing again – some of you will remember Mutopia.

(And while I’m talking MFTB, after a bit of a holiday – read: holiday-inspired laziness – I’ve restarted Broken Planet News, which I’m using these days primarily to collect and centralise stories to tell my kids on ‘news day’, so if you find anything, send it to me using BPN’s ‘submit’ feature or my email. For the children.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

See, unlike a lot of bloggers, I have no desire to be a Real Writer™, or even a journalist – I’m happy doin’ what I do, so feel no particular inclination to improve or otherwise change anything about the writing I do.

But I have to say, when I read the following excerpt by Tom Robbins, it makes me wish I was a better writer...

And it will rain a screaming. And it will rain a rawness. And it will rain a disorder, and hair-raising hisses from the oldest snake in the world.

Rain will hiss on the freeways. It will hiss around the prows of fishing boats. It will hiss in electrical substations, on the tips of lit cigarettes, and in the trash fires of the dispossessed. Legends will wash from the desecrated burial grounds, graffiti will run down alley walls. Rain will eat the old warpaths, spill the huckleberries, cause toadstools to rise like loaves. It will make poets drunk and winos sober, and polish the horns of the slug.

And it will rain a miracle. And it will rain a comfort. And it will rain a sense of salvation from the philistinic graspings of the world.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ah, Science...

Josh writes:

What would we do without you? Never learn about "flesh-sucking sex fiend" flatworms, for one thing. (Nice headline, by the way.)

The new flatworms are all hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female parts. To reproduce they try to stab each other with their genitals. The first to penetrate inserts sperm and then goes on to spar with another flatworm, while the "loser" lays and broods the eggs.

To those who would stifle investigation into the wonders of the Earth, who would stultify the achievements of millennia of inquiry with their appeals to an unquestionable Creator, I say only this: Without biological research, no human being would have cause to proclaim with a straight face and in all seriousness "They squirt digestive juices into them and suck their flesh out." I can only hope that your consciences can fully reconcile the loss of such wonders if the world you campaign for ever came to be.
"They are very evil little animals, which is why they are so fascinating to work with," Dr Johnston said.

God bless you, madam.

Radio Free Apathy

Apathy Jack writes:

So, I decided I would compile a top five list: Albums To Have A Nervous Breakdown To. (Look, the government gives me long holidays, I have to do something to keep my mind occupied...)

In no particular order, here we go:

The Loneliest of Creatures – Dr Kevorkian and The Suicide Machine

Probably the bleakest record I’ve ever heard, this concept album tells the tale of a space probe billions of miles from Earth. It sees an Earth-like planet, and attempts to make contact with Houston to send back the information. There is no reply, maybe because the probe is too far out, maybe because Houston is no longer listening, or maybe because there’s no one left on Earth to receive the signal. Running out of power, the probe sends one last message back to Earth, then dies alone in space.

Of the six tracks on The Loneliest of Creatures, only two have vocals, and there is even a paucity of actual instruments at times, much of it being composed of ambient noise of various sorts. And it’s still the saddest goddamn thing I’ve ever heard.

Sometimes I listen to the Dr Kev album The Ironman as I go to sleep. I once substituted The Loneliest of Creatures.


I’m not in any hurry to have those dreams again...

Music To Crash Cars To – Deathboy

If your taste for the bleak needs more in the way of lyrics, this album may be what you’re looking for. With the relentlessly cheerful We Will Destroy to kick the album off, it isn’t long before Scott Deathboy is singing “I want to knife a pop star, I want to rape a girl band, I want to kill on TV, to make you understand”.


This album also contains the single most depressing song I’ve ever heard: The hideously upsetting Lost Again.

Sweet Heart Dealer – Scarling

I wracked my brain trying to describe this EP, but the best I could come up with was that if a small girl was brutally killed, then came back not quite right, and was very angry about a lot of things, and decided to form a band, it would probably be Scarling.

However, poking around their website, I found a quote from someone called Alternative Press that sums it up even better: “Scarling sounds like being French- kissed by the most beautiful beings in the world, and then being unable to stop the bleeding.” I still wince a little every time I listen to Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole – and I’ve listened to it a lot of times...

Come In And Burn – The Rollins Band

Here it is, on the news
Someone I know is now someone I knew.

Can’t believe it happened again.

Henry Rollins, as those familiar with his work will know, is not a happy man, and this, to my mind, is the album that most directly points this out.

Songs like Starve and Inhale Exhale are about bettering oneself, but there is never any pretense that improvement is not necessary: He must improve himself because he is not good enough. More directly than any of the others I’ve mentioned, this is an album about loneliness, self-loathing and desperation, presented in as angry a way as is humanly possible.


Now, of course, I come up against a wall. I only have four albums for this supposed top five. For a while, I was considering Rust: A Fiction, by The Mercy Cage, which is certainly a very dark record. But, really, in terms of sound-tracking a Nervous Breakdown, the only real contender is the horribly, horribly depressing Needle Marks (and Scars) – easily the second most depressing song I’ve ever heard (between Lost Again and Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole). The rest of the album reminds me of nothing so much as being alone in a small dark room when it’s raining outside, but the other tracks don’t jump out at me in as distinctive a way.

So, here’s where it gets interactive: School starts again shortly, and, as we all know, my poor coping mechanisms mean I fold like a bad hand of poker at the first sign of stress. So what should I be listening to as I do so? What should I be singing to myself over and over again while I hide under my desk and pull out clumps of my own hair and possibly the hair of others?

I’ll buy whichever CD gets the most compelling recommendation.

(Sundries: I’m interested primarily in whole albums. Sure, even the examples I mentioned have a few tracks each of dead air, but I’d prefer there to be a majority of tracks that fit the criteria, rather than “This one song...”. Also, it would help if this was something I could get at Borders or Real Groovy. Shinjuku Thief’s second album is probably terribly upsetting, but I can’t lay my hands on a copy without effort, and I don’t like effort...)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Bunch Of Things

Apathy Jack writes:

I do rather miss work...

At a course with a pack of teachers from around the country. Someone asks about the challenges we must face at Hoodrat High. Damnably, she’s done her research, and mentions several of the articles she’s read in the local rag. I go out of my way to explain that the stories were exaggerations. I catch the look on her face as I say “... the blade only went in an inch or two – it barely counts as a real stabbing” and I’m reminded of why I needed these holidays...

I’m Loving It

Sitting in the Food Court, a copy of Morgan Spurlock’s Don’t Eat This Book in one hand, Big Mac in the other, KFC Mashies sitting on the table in front of me, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation in my bag to read next.

I’m not sure if I’m being ironic, or if I’m just some kind of monster...

Best Thing Ever

Lindsay Lohan doesn’t change facial expression.

But her eye colour does occasionally change, which is creepy.

God to Creationists: Screw you up your stupid asses

Vatican disapproves of teaching Intelligent Design in schools.


Since I wrote about the census thing, I’ve seen a bunch of things on blogs (and in the Real Media™, which I’m sure none of you bother with) which point out that, while I (for example) am not from Europe, neither am I a small flightless bird that eats grubs. Now, of course this is true, and ‘Kiwi’ isn’t my preferred option: I agree with people who think it is silly to put ‘New Zealander’ – an indicator of nationality – on a form designed to ask about your ethnicity. I’ve always put ‘NZ Pakeha’. (And yes, there’s all of that “Pakeha is Maori for ‘white devil’” sophistry. Never seen conclusive proof, and even if there was some: ‘queer’ means strange and ‘nigger’ is a horrible racial slur that would be wholly inappropriate to use in a hip hop song. Live with it.)

To continue the analogy from my last post: before, my options were Phil or Trevor. Now, my options are “Phil”, “Trevor” or “Not Brian”. There’s still no “Jack” option, but I’m closer to “Not Brian” than I am to “Trevor”, so it’ll do for a start.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Mr Stupid “Did you meet me before or after I was married?”
Jack “By the time I met you, you were already married.”
Mr Stupid “Oh yeah, when Mike was fucking my wife.”
Jack “Yeah. Good times.”
Mr Stupid “Which was unfair really. I never got to sleep with Mike’s wife.”
Jack “Mike’s wife was a lesbian.”
Mr Stupid “So was mine! That didn’t stop Mike.”
Jack “You make a point.”
Mr Stupid “Do you ever wish our lives were still as interesting as they were at University?”
Jack “Not for a second.”

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Post Formerly Known as 'I don't do modesty...'

That Morthos Stare writes:

In London the term 'mojo' is bandied about a lot, as are several other choice terms you know (and use) well. 'Mojo' is, at least, a term with something close to a glorious history, unlike 'Deferred Success ("You haven't failed, Smallings, you simply have deferred success!")' and 'A Chocolate Elton ("I've eaten so much; I feel like I've eaten a Chocolate Elton!").' Whether it be you sex life (and I mean your's as mine isn't up to much) or job satisfaction, everything that makes you you can be ascribed to a mojo... Or lack thereof.

My mojo is teaching, it seems. I actually already knew that in my mind of minds but, what with a serious illness last year. I'd forgotten its power. For I am a man reborn; my mojo, previously gone to ground, has re-emerged. Such a pity, then, that my teaching job is half way around the world and not mine for at least another year.

My rebirth pretty much occurred four minutes after the Critical Thinking course I laboured to overhaul began to be taught without me. The old cliche goes that you only miss something when you haven't got it anymore; friends become more important the less you get to see of them and, it seems, courses become much more vibrant when your back is turned.

But my back is not entirely turned. Being in tune with nature, a certifiable idiot savant and 'on the ball' I've fixed a number of issues with several of the first lectures this semester by use of the electronic telephone and numerous etheric waves betwixt here and there. I had made sure that when I left the lecturing materials we had used were so pristine that you could submit them as part of a teaching portfolio (which won a prize, just not for me). Issues, however, get raised; files fail to work on new machines or ou find out that a character you played has had to change sex due to staffing issues.

Then, of course, are all those new ideas that you never had time to implement. Except that now I do. Not that I'm abusing my time in the office, it's just that some ideas need more time No, I fixed new and exciting issues that were mostly the creation of a new computer running my digital presentations.

The upshot of which is that I really need to be teaching at the moment.

London is a big city and big cities have numerous teaching institutions. I've applied for a number of adult education roles (I'm very fond of adult education, mostly because of the students but also because its educational first aid (due to the state of the secondary education sector)). The semesters here are different to ours; just as ours map summer (albeit badly, as I am sure Jack will attest to; why we suffer the children to sit through sweltering February in a classroom I do not know) so do those in the UK. We're in the middle of term here and new teaching positions don't come up until the middle of next month. A little known fact but I have teaching experience in all three educational sectors (with Primary being my least experienced) and I was delighted to find that Philosophy is a proper A Level subject here, with a curriculum and everything. If I had the time outside my current job to go out and teach Secondary School Philosophy I would; the course structure is most pleasing and secondary teaching is a very different (but no less nor more difficult) challenge from that of teaching students in the teritiary sector. However my new boss, lovely as she is, will let me out for evening classes but needs me in the office during the day. Pity really; brokering a phone call between my boss and Billy Zane in the middle of class would have given me much by the way of kudos.

Anyway, all of the above is really just me saying I'm already missing teaching and I've only been off the job for two months.

Teaching is by no means an ideal profession; survey results in the UK indicate that only 8% of teachers across all sectors get any form of enjoyment from their work (surveys; got to love them, especially when they don't give sample sizes or error margins). Now, whilst secondary school teachers get all the angst-ridden kudos of the pedagogical profession tertiary educators have their issues and worries too. We have the usual student-related woes (will they come to class, why id this promising student do so badly, why are certain groups underachieving so consistently...) Most of our 'unique' issues stem from the fact that the secondary sector is a wreck, educationally, and that we are forced to spend most of our time (in the undergrad portions of our jobs) teaching students vital pieces of information such as historical context of ideas and thinking skills. None of this is the secondary school teachers fault, per se; it's the system that doesn't really work. Seven years of secondary education and it's so compartmentalised that many of its years are repeats of the same material presented only somewhat differently.

(An obvious retort to this what I've just said is that the tertiary sector is, at least partially, to blame as well. I agree; we're hardly on the ball when it comes to changes in the other sectors and we move at pace that even glaciers would think tardy when it comes to our our updating processes. However (there's always a however, isn't there?) the tertiary sector has parity; our qualifications must remain interchangeable with institutions overseas. Anyone who has done a BA (or is in the process of doing a BA) can transfer to almost any other undergraduate teaching facility. It took the sector a while to get to this stage and any changes to it to fit into a nation's secondary education sector would be disasterous if the parity was lost. I'll take the obvious counterexamples to this comment at the end, thank you.)

Our other issue is the Government. Academics are usually regarded (rightly, I will admit) as being left-wing but the current New Zealand Government's teritiary policies have chronically underfund universities in the way that the previous National Government did not. This isn't a New Zealand-only problem; the UK is suffering educational cutbacks that even the Tories would never have imagined. We have a situation where the Right would be more likely to fund a course in Samoan than the Left would, and that shows that it's 'crazy time' for the traditionally left-leaning academics, who are beginning to wonder exactly who to vote for (easy answer; the Left, but voters tend to worry about their jobs and Labour is threatening the Ivory Pagoda and its population). Now, Labour is clever; they have linked funding increases to the CPI (correct me if I am using the wrong acronym) when this isn't even remotely a good indication of how University costs inflate. That and the PBRF, which was, admittedly, a disaster for everyone, and I'm talking as a former member of staff of the country's second-best department. Performance based reviews sound like a really good idea, but what exactly performance is and how it is quantified has turned out to be a real bugbear, going utterly against what the Government thought would be the common wisdom of the day.

Tertiary sector jingoism rant begins: Universities are research institutions that deign to teach; they are the ivory pagodas because it is their purpose to research. Not for commercial interests, not for practical reasons but simply because knowledge is important and knowledge begets new knowledge that may or may not be of interest to one and all. To be sure, commerical interests should be involved in the funding of universities; every telecommunciations giant wants to be the first company to deploy broadwave internet, and what better way to get their by helping to fund a Department working in related areas. In the same respect Governments need to be involved because some projects will never look viable; no one thought Protestantism was going to be as mildy successful as it was; private concerns only get in the act and help fund the associated workethic well after the fact.

In the same way, to maintain the delicate balance of teaching and research we need to ensure that the students we take in to teach know enough to be taught properly and will, given time, be whittled down to the precious few who will repeat the cycle... Rant somewhat ends. When I return (which, if my mojo keeps its spirits up, will be sooner than I expected) I shall be sure to get on the band wagon that is actually doing something concrete about getting Philosophy into schools. I turn thirty in a year and an half. I'd like to think that by then my choices will make just a little more sense to everyone involved.

Because, you know, learning is good, and discovering that helping people to learn makes you feel good is even better. Sometimes lessons like that have to be learnt the hard way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Quick Headline Update

Josh writes:

High Court says no free speech for penis -- that's more like it.

OK, you can go back to reading about strippers now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Post About Naked Girls (right, that ought to get the hitcounter revving...)

Apathy Jack writes:

I went to my first stag night recently. It was a fun night, and a very nice way to send off one of the still small number of my friends getting married. Of course, as is tradition, the night was composed mostly (well: entirely) of a couple of bars and the commensurate number of strip clubs. Now, I must say that the majority of my time in the clubs (for “majority” read: “anytime the dancers were not dressed in nurses outfits or cowboy hats” – because I’m only human) was spent up the back with my old cobbers Darmeus (who was on strict anti-stripper orders from his girlfriend) and Mr Stupid (who is gay or a eunuch or something) chatting about television, drug abuse, and whatever else you talk about with people, and politely turning down offers of everything from over priced drinks to overpriced lap dances. Now as a night out with friends went, I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more, but it got me thinking about the idea of strip clubs.

The first (and heretofore last) time I went “strip clubbing” was something like six years ago (with, now that I think about it, much the same people I went with this time). I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I must say I didn’t find it. Contrary to graffiti you may have read, I do quite like naked girls, but after the first few, my attention span kicked in, and it all got a bit samey. I don’t drink, so that wasn’t an option for distraction and the televisions in the club were playing cricket, my feelings on which are a matter of record. This meant that my only option for entertainment was talking to my friends – something I find distasteful enough at the best of times. Except now they were all uncommunicatively staring slack-jawed at the women on stage. A testament to the skill and beauty of the dancers to be sure, but it didn’t alleviate my boredom.

The whole experience was, well, I want to say hollow, but that would almost give it a gravity it didn’t warrant. It was a little sad and a lot pointless. Hell, if you want to read what I think only written better, go to this old post from Dog Biting Men and skim down to the heading 223 – it’s not talking about the same time, but sums up the feeling of it.

Since then, I’ve spent two years flatting with a stripper, over a year going out with a stripper, and one particularly harrowing afternoon talking a student out of becoming a stripper. Given that I was over the phenomenon something like twelve minutes after I was introduced to it, it’s not like the mystique has become more alluring over time.

(As an interesting aside – every time someone finds out I used to date an exotic dancer, they always ask the same question:
“Did you ever go and watch her dance? ’Cause that would have been cool!”
“Let’s see... Did I trudge all the way into town and pay a twenty dollar door charge to watch my girlfriend get naked for nine minutes, when she was coming home to my place at the end of her shift anyway?”
“Yeah! ’Cause that would have been cool!”)

So this time I’m at Showgirls, looking at what is meant to be sensual and provocative. It is neither. I mean, the dancers are all very attractive – hell, they have good enough bodies to make a living wage by simply displaying them. But over and above not being sensual, I don’t even find it particularly sexual. Not even effectively lascivious. It is just there. Talking with my friends at Showgirls is much like talking with my friends at the bar we had visited beforehand, except my coke costs almost exactly twice as much; I get my change in monopoly money that I can’t spend outside a garter belt; and at the old bar we weren’t interrupted by tip-dependant staff pretending that they found us just as funny and interesting as the last ten guys they had tried to entice into a private dance.

Mr Stupid says he is disappointed that it is not like in the movies – there are very few burned out detectives at the front of the stage. Actually, there may very well be, but they’re dressed in boat shoes, and staring dribblingly at the dancers rather than disconsolately into their drinks, so you’d never recognise them.

We move onto Mermaids, where I am immediately struck by the sight of a dancer rubbing up and down against an old man who reaching around to grasp her breasts. What hits me isn’t the act itself but the respective expressions they wear: The man is clearly enjoying himself more and more with each moment, grinning like a drunk Chesire cat; but the dancer (facing away from him) has the same look I see on the faces of my students when they’ve run out of things to write in an exam and there are still two hours to go. I’m reminded of an old acquaintance who used to take dancers trying to solicit a private dance as a sign that they were in love with him... There must be some level of delusion needed to enjoy this properly. The next day I’ll talk to my flatmate (also along for the trip) who will wonder aloud how demoralising it must be for the dancers to see the tired expressions of people at (for example) stag nights who have been looking at “boobies” for four straight hours – surely it is disheartening to see a look of apathy on the client’s face. It hadn’t occurred to him that the dancers were not emotionally invested in whether or not we had a good time, that their job began and ended with convincing us they stripped as a vocation rather than as a rent-earner, not actually believing it themselves.

The woman at the bar has her hair tied back in an efficient pony tail, and is wearing those thick NHS glasses that emo-kids like so much. She has a stripper’s body, but looks very much the geek from the neck up. As I hand over the four dollars it takes me to get a coke, she flashes me a smile that would give a condemned man the strength to tunnel through walls and break down bars. The sort of smile that Satan probably saw, because after seeing something like that, betraying the Lord your God wouldn’t seem like the biggest deal in the world.

Why did she flash me that smile? Well, shocking as it may seem, it wasn’t because I was special, nor, I imagine, because she was especially impressed at my ability to find correct change. The cynic would say it’s because she’s a stripper, and that’s what they do – make you believe you’re special so you part more easily with your money. Even the optimist would be forced to admit that the best case scenario involves her being one of those naturally warm people who exudes this sort of charisma.

But you know what – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that in the middle of this emotional wasteland of desperation and flesh and disappointment, I saw one brief moment of true beauty. So much gyrating flesh attempting to convince me what beauty is, but I saw it for just a second that night.

And that was enough.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Few More Things

Josh writes:

Regarding the "Kiwi"/"New Zealander" on census forms issue, like Jack, I'm all in favour of a change that will allow for what I feel is a more accurate categorization of my identity. In which spirit, I will still refuse to tick anything marked "Kiwi", as I am neither flightless bird nor hairy fruit. Seriously -- would the Australian census have a box marked "Ocker"? Does the English one have a "Pom" option?

That aside, my only real problem is that my ticking "New Zealander" on the grounds that it's the most literally correct option will be indistinguishable from other people ticking it to stick it to the PC feminazi multiculturalists with their socialist agendas and soy lattes and "Pakeha" is Maori for "stupid white pig", you know. Maybe that should tell me something, maybe not.

Moving on, it's a shame the Herald doesn't have its letters page online (copyright issues and whatnot); otherwise I could have linked to the letter in Saturday's edition from a man whose argument was basically "I am such a good driver that it's actually unsafe for me to drive at the speed limit -- doing 50 is so boring and pedestrian to my superior driving skills that I become tired and inattentive, thus making me a danger to those around me." Here's a lovely example of the denial and doublethink exemplified by those I complained about earlier. "I'm a Good Driver, and therefore not a danger, unlike those Bad Drivers out there" -- there's a lecture on Sartre and Bad Faith in there, but there's no need to subject innocent bloggers to that. And, no Mr. The Whig (can I call you The?), I don't believe that more speeding tickets will change his ways, but he's a cock so it's OK to laugh at him. A-haw!

Keeping with local events just a little bit longer, while people are alternately complaining at or nodding sagely in agreement with Deborah Coddington's comments on blogging and the facile bitchyness thereof, now seems like a good time to link to one of the better summaries of Internet "dialogue" I've seen recently...

Finally, in other news "evil" "satanist" runs for governor of Minnesota. Naturally, being dark and spoooky, he announced his candidacy last Friday... the 13th! Not even the word "gubernatorial" can soothe my contempt for this article.

Oh, for Christ's sake -- he even spells "vampire" with a "y". Every day alcoholism looks more like the realistic option...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So I read in the paper that for the next census it will be acceptable to put “Kiwi” as your nationality. I like this a lot. See, I have no problem giving this information – unlike most conspiracy theorists, who think that this is a tool to give our details to The Military Industrial Complex™, I figure that Big Brother already has all of this information on me, so why make waves? However, it has always grated that they’ve asked for my cultural identity and then never listed it among the options: The census forms have asked me whether I’m a New Zealand Maori or a New Zealand European; but I’m not Maori, and I’m not from Europe.

As Ben points out, I’m not really helping anyone by taking an exercise in demography and turning it into a race issue – I know I’m using semantics to build this into a bigger problem than it needs to be, but every four years it’s like having this conversation:

“Is your name Phil or Trevor?”
“Uh... My name’s Jack.”
“Phil or Trevor?”
“My name’s Jack.”
“Not on the form. Phil or Trevor?”
“Well... Trevor, I guess.”
“Right, for the next half-decade, the Government will have your identity listed as Trevor. See you round, Trev.”
“Bye Mike.”
“My name’s Phil.”

It’s just nice that they’ve fixed this one, is all...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Books you should be reading #7 of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

The Pirates! In an adventure with whaling, by Gideon Defoe

‘You have to remember that this is no ordinary whale,’ he said authoritatively. ‘It’s a white whale. And whales aren’t normally white, are they? So it makes sense to suppose that it turned white by eating albinos. We’ll start off by dangling the albino pirate over the side of the boat for a few days. ‘
The albino pirate seemed a little nonplussed by this idea. The other pirates cheered and slapped him on the back.
‘I don’t know what the rest of you are looking so smug about,’ said the Pirate Captain. ‘Just in case my albino theory is wrong – because believe it or not, I am wrong very occasionally – I want to see you lot swimming behind the boat, disguised as krill. Gigantic, fat, delicious krill. That’s sure to whet his appetite.’
The crew let out a collective groan that the Captain cut dead with his best withering look.
‘Pirate Captain?’ the pirate in red asked again. ‘Is it really necessary for your plans to always involve us dressing up as something? Because some might say it boarders on an unhealthy obsession.’
‘Last time I checked, krill are tiny bioluminescent shrimp-like organisms that don’t give backchat,’ said the Pirate Captain with a sniff and a glower.

(Also, Defoe is the author of the absolutely brilliant “How Animals Have Sex”, which I unreservedly recommend that you pick up on your next trip to your local book repository.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

By Way of an Explanation

Josh writes:

As I recall, the conversation went something like this:

Josh: It's a new year, and we're one year old now -- time for a change. New look to the blog, some new contributors -- perhaps even a new name.

Apathy Jack: Yes. These all are good ideas. Have a biscuit.

Josh: Thank you. So, any ideas for a new name, new look or new people?

Apathy Jack: No. You?

Josh: No. Arse. OK, how's this for an idea: We add a guest account -- call it "Guest Ranting Bastard" or something (I'll think of a better name later) -- and invite people we know who might want to contribute on an irregular basis to use it?

Apathy Jack: Could work. Of course, most of the people we know a very, very lazy. Lazier even than us -- at least we have a blog.

Josh: Worth a try, though.

*time passes*

Josh: Hey everyone, I've added a Guest Ranting Bastard account and changed the colour scheme while I was at it, as this provides a visual change while being significantly easier than coming up with an all-new design! In the spirit of democratic participation, I thought I'd give you a chance to offer your opinions on these things that I have already done.

Everyone else: We unanimously approve of everything.

Josh: It's agreed then -- the changes shall remain just as I have made them.

Everyone else: Thy will be done.

Morthos: Also, it could be neat if one of us set a theme from time to time, and we all wrote posts on the theme.

Josh: Sounds peachy. Now shush, dear -- grownups are talking.

Jellybean: Meh, the new pink style makes me think I'm writing in a vagina. It's inspirational. There's a theme right now -- "musings from an electronic pudenda".

And it pretty much degenerated from there.

Alright, that's not quite how it happened -- there was no biscuit.


Apathy Jack writes:

I’m running short of Dog Abuse this month, so here are some other things to tide you over:

This is an old medical manual on the fatal consequences of masturbation. I’d like to point out that any resemblance between me and the less healthy looking “after” pictures is a coincidence.

I’d also like a million dollars.

Dubya Bush t’other day signed legislation that makes me almost forgive him for the brutal murder of thousands of innocent Afghanis /Iraqis/Iranians (oops – getting ahead of myself slightly...) – a new law making it illegal to be a cock on the internet.


Also: the world’s hardest cow.

No, seriously: The world’s hardest cow. Probably even harder than this one.

And that one was hard.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This Weeks Terrible Idea...

That Morthos Stare writes:

Retractable Spanner-weilding Undergarments... for Monkeys!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Headliners" Was Shit, Though

Josh writes:

"Now, if you wanna work here at the New York Post, you must know that we insert the following words into every headline: 'headless', 'nude', 'sewage' and 'governor'. For instance, 'Subway Fares Raised' becomes 'Headless Governor Found Nude in Subway Sewage'."

"What about the fares?"

"You're fired."

The Critic episode #22 ("Dukerella")

I've long been an aficionado of the subtle art of headline writing. A good headline can make a person's day, but they're hard to come by, like a worthwhile blog comment or a monkey that isn't in some way evil. The best are unintentional, although with thought, patience and skill a state of Zen-like perfection can be achieved. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to get things wrong, or at least not-quite-right, which can be even worse.

For instance: 17ft snow penis shocks locals. While it gets bonus points straight away for getting the word "penis" in there, this one nevertheless feels a little redundant -- "17ft snow penis arouses locals" would be news, as would "...dances for amusement of locals", "...grants visions to locals" and so forth, but shock is pretty much a given in today's puritanical environment, where 17ft penises can't be erected in public places and escape comment.

And sometimes they just try too hard -- as, for example, when some poor sap tried to come up with a snappy headline about a recently evicted family of horrible drunken slobs who, among other things, repeatedly blast out Britney Spears remixes at inconsiderate volumes. The result? EVICT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME -- that just doesn't work. As a headline or a song lyric.

With the exception of the gem from which this site took its inspiration, mainstream headlines in New Zealand seem rather lacklustre, too. One day, though -- one day New Zealand will see its Pork-loving couple say 'pie do' and the rejoicing will be heard far and wide. By you. From me.

Addenda to Jack's post below:
  1. I too must emphasize that using other people's posts to comment on Jack's comment-free posts is teh sux0r and will be dealt with swiftly. Too swiftly in some cases -- I heartily regret instantly deleting an anonymous comment a while ago that was something along the lines of "Does anybody else not bother reading Jack's posts now that he's turned comments off?" If only I had waited until after I'd checked our hitlogs that morning, which clearly showed the poster of that comment going to the home page, going to Jack's post, then going to my post to make the comment...

  2. Random anonymous comments insisting that the Swedish monarchy is a force of Satanism are always welcome on any post.

Small Housekeeping Note

Apathy Jack writes:

To address something that has happened a few times now: I turned off commenting on my posts because it got a little bit too much like what Warren Ellis called retard farming. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from the proles as such, and there’s every chance I’ll stop bothering to hit the “ban” button at some point, but there is a certain etiquette, I feel. When I’ve opened comments for a specific reason, talking about something wildly off topic (especially, but not only, another post that I’ve made, for example) is silly. Worse is commenting on someone else’s post – that just strikes me as being faintly impolite. I don’t mean any offense to anyone, but Brain Stab has an email address on the side of this very page, and my address is in my profile, so if you want to tell me something that badly, it’s not like you don’t have any options.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Alright, I promised you bastards I’d answer any questions I got about NCEA. Here are the ones I got (paraphrased though some of them are). Feel free to skip down to the ones that interest you.

What is NCEA?

Oh for God’s sake... Here, go to this thing my old cobber Hewligan has written, which breaks it down pretty clearly.

What’s the difference between the new system and the old?

They really aren’t even remotely similar, but the short version is this:

At least half of everything is now internally assessed. Half (or thereabouts) of your average course is still done in exams, but now you can still pass the course if you get the flu on exam day.

Also, each part of the course is assessed separately. In the old days, you passed or failed. These days (to use an English example) you can pass the Research Project, but fail the Speech, and you haven’t passed or failed English over all.

My kid failed the exam.

That’s not a question.

Why did my kid fail the exam?

Well, there are a bunch of reasons – and you never want to discount the possibility that your kid’s just none too bright – but, discounting the normal problems (stupid kids and/ or teachers) we have encountered the following problem:

The Unfamiliar Text section (what we called ‘Comprehension’ in The Day) of this year’s Year 11 exam has had to be remarked, because everyone was failing. We’ve had some problems with this section in the past, in that we don’t know what the answers will be. I mean: even after my colleagues and I have looked at the questions, we don’t know what the answers will be.

To give you an example, a question might read “Find the language feature in the following sentence: He sat on the big black sofa like a sloth.” Now, the answer schedule will say that it’s a simile. However, there is also alliteration in there, but because that is not on the schedule, it will count as incorrect. (This only really affects English – as far as I’m aware, anyway – the other subjects deal a lot more with, y’know, quantifiable facts.)

Basically, there are a lot of these “teething” problems – fewer now than there were last year, though.

My kid passed the practice exams earlier in the year.

I see.

But they didn’t pass the end of year exam.



The practice exam was marked by your kid’s teacher, who was going easy on him. The external exams are marked more rigorously, by different people. This shouldn’t happen, but it has been happening since the days of the old system. Some teachers go easy on their kids during the year, only to have the kids marked at the end of the year by a harder marker. Hell, sometimes the exam is just harder than the internal practice stuff. And sometimes kids just mess up.

There have been a lot of teething problems. Why didn’t it work right the first time?

Because they didn’t think the system through properly before they introduced it. Every new system will have birth pains; NCEA has had more than some because, in my opinion, it was introduced about three years too early. It needed some more tweaking at the laboratory level before being released into the environment so that we didn’t have to learn some of the lessons the hard way.

How much disruption did implementing the new course cause?

Basically, the new system is very straightforward. Imagine that, instead of the very tiresome task of doing two or three really hard things, your load was eased so that you had to do no hard things, and only seventy-five hundred small things instead.

The paper work for NCEA boarders on the ridiculous, and is enormously time consuming by comparison to the old system. Of course, on the plus side, our records are immaculate. (“Our”, in this context, means: “Teachers at proper schools where the teachers don’t lose things or shred them because they’re being investigated for dodgy dealings”. Must be nice...)

Does the system deserve the flak it’s getting, or is it just a whipping boy for the Opposition du jour?

The latter.

I’m not the biggest fan of NCEA, but it does grate a little when I see National MPs going on and on about how it is an inefficient system that should be scrapped: NCEA was created under National. It was started under a Labour government because Labour won the election immediately prior to it’s already scheduled implementation date.

That having been said I do think that, if NCEA was as bad as Labour was saying it was going to be during their time in opposition, they could have done a bit more to fix it before it was put in place.

Is the new system better than the old one?

It’s better in some ways, worse in others, but you’re never going to find a system that makes everyone happy, and it ain’t going anywhere.

So, should people who don’t know anything about NCEA shut the hell up about it?

Yes. Oh yes.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hitlog Follies 2006: It Begins

Josh writes:

You know you're doing something right when Yahoo! ranks you number one for brain poison.

Ahead of www.brainpoison.com.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So, I was reading in the paper a day or so back about the outrage caused when they (in this context “they” being, near as I can tell, some manner of cricketing authority, or maybe the venue) stopped selling alcohol at a cricket match. One punter said that he would no longer attend matches, because they had taken the fun out of it.

Now, I don’t follow sports with any form of commitment, but if a sport is so boring to watch that you have to be three sheets to the wind to gain any enjoyment out of it, surely it’s not worth watching...?

See, here’s the thing about cricket: It’s not just boring, it’s offensively boring.

I’ll compare it to the other major national sickness: Rugby. I also consider rugby to be deathly uninteresting, but I’m willing to see how some people could like it: It is fast paced; there is a lot of back and forth; there is interaction between a number of players: and if it happens to be a boring game, it’s over in less than an hour.

Cricket on the other hand, is slow, the games are almost identical in every respect, and they go on for days at a time.


I mean, for fuck’s sake: Days. For one game.

I’d be upset too if they didn’t let me drink myself into a stupor during one of these torturously dull sessions: I’d hate to be awake for that amount of time with so little to occupy my brain.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Year's... Stuff

Josh writes:

In any properly-ordered world, the final search term of 2005 would have been the spectacularly baffling furniture felching incident. But the world is mundane, and this hit arrived at the insignificant time of 1:08AM on New Year's Eve. In fact, 2005 went out with the return of our friend pictures of men's penises. I suppose there's some poetry there.

The holiday period's pretty much over now -- bloggers return to their posts like migrating birds returning home to bitch about fucking trees on Queen Street or some pointless shit; workers return to their offices unable to believe that their holiday went by so fast; and road death statistics are as usual the talk of the town. Just over 400 for the year, apparently. Now, I don't have the numbers handy, but last I heard, the murder rate in New Zealand was somewhere in the seventies, which means that your chances of dying in a car crash are over five times greater than they are of being murdered.

And yet whenever the police crack down on speeding or other dangerous driving habits, the refrain is always the same: "why don't you leave us good, honest, hard-working people alone and go after the dirty criminal scum?" The obvious answer ("because you good, honest, hard-working people are considerably more likely to kill someone than the P-smoking, 'less-than-human' criminals")* is inevitably ignored.

With quite some mental effort at times -- as I recall, a little while ago the police actually ran full-page ads in the Herald making just this point. There was one with a big picture of a burglar, and another with a big picture of a snarling dog, and the text was basically "you get all worked up about these things, but you're more likely to die on the roads -- what's that about?" And what did people say? Why the exact thing that these ads were trying to convince people not to say: "why don't you leave us good, honest, hard-working people alone etc etc."

That takes some determination, which I guess I can respect.

No, no actually I can't.

* Best left for another rant is the discussion of why it's not OK to refer to criminals as "animals" and "less than human" and beat them with rubber hoses. Short version: because that's what the fuckers do.

Apathy Jack isn't the only one who has conversations you know.

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

"So, how long have you been a goth for?"
"What makes you think I'm a goth?"
"Didn't you go to the Motorhead concert?"
"Sure, but I don't think Motorhead is goth music. Goth music is more Sisters of Mercy or Nine Inch Nails or something"
"Sounds like they're pretty miserable"
"Oh not really, most of the goths I've met seem like really nice people, they just like wearing black, like the music, like religious insignia and stuff like that. It's sort of like being a hippy, there's no creed to it, just a group of people with similar tastes"
"Oh okay. I guess so. I still don't think I could buy into the Satan worship that they do though.".

A group of people, including my father and myself, talking about his trip to Europe with his mates when he was younger.
"We were in Spain for about three weeks with no money, we lived off oranges all the time and camped by the side of the road. When we started out I was 15 stone, and when we got back I was 9 stone. Mark was 22 stone when we started and he got down to 15 at the end. He could wear my trousers..."
"Really Dad! So after three months together Mark was able to get into your pants?"
"...after Spain we went to Germany, I'd done German at school. I remember the first thing I said in German, it was "ein pretzel bitte" in a bakery"
"..must be a good friendship you and Mark developed with you letting him get in your pants at the end of the trip?"
"...we had this little campervan, it broke down in Germany. That was where some woman tried to steal Mark's wallet and stuff that he always kept tied to his wrist..."
"...has Mark ever gotten into your pants since then...?"
"Oh shut up Eric. I know your silly little game and I'm not going to play it.".

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So, you’re all reading the marvelously titled Stupid Internet Name, right? I honestly think that it is the best read in blogs at the moment. I mean, I’m a bit creatively barren right now (alright; more creative barren. Shut up.) so I’ve been thinking about posting some things I wrote a while back about abortion, or a fiction project from long ago which nominally dwelt on the issue of mental health. And yet, tonight Mr Stupid puts up a rant that touches on both, more succinctly and better written than I managed in either attempt.

Bastard’s making me redundant, but you really should be reading it if you aren’t already.

For Jack

That Morthos Stare writes:

I had to substitute-teach a class yesterday, but I had no idea where the kids were on the lesson plan, so I thought I'd just make it easy and have a "discussion day." But it became really obvious right away that the kids hadn't done any of the reading, because none of them were talking. And I knew they hadn't done the reading, but I hadn't done it, either, so I couldn't make a big deal out of it ... so, long story short, I have 13 tons of smoked ham in my car and not a clue what to do with it.

-from McSweeneys

Monday, January 02, 2006

Books you should be reading number 6 of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

In the world of books I am a late bloomer, a johnny-come-lately, new kid on the block. My first book, Angela’s Ashes, was published in 1996 when I was sixty-six, the second, ‘Tis, in 1999 when I was sixty-nine. At that age it’s a wonder I was able to lift the pen at all. New friends of mine (recently acquired because of my ascension to the best-seller lists) had published books in their twenties. Striplings.

So what took you so long?

I was teaching, that’s what took me so long. Not in college or university, where you have all the time in the world for writing and other diversions, but in four different New York City public high schools. (I have read novels about the lives of university professors where they seemed to be so busy with adultery and academic in-fighting you wonder where they found time to squeeze in a little teaching.) When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you’re not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamour of the classroom.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Eve 2005

Josh writes:

"Turn those intoxicants into intoxicans!"

And that was the funniest thing I said all night.