Update: Period Ending February 8, 2016

And then it was a month later…

There are many culprits for the lack of work I’ve been doing here – illness, weather conditions, my grief over the death of David Bowie, time spent working for other people, laziness – but I think lack of organisation is one of the bigger problems. Fortunately, I’ve spent a lot of the last week working out what I wanted to get done and how I was going to do it. Progress has, I think, been made, but of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

This time next week, there’ll pudding on your plate… or pudding on my face.

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Tranquilax

Tranquilax is a stimulant, a sedative and a laxative. Produced by the Tranquilax company of Orbiston Parva, England, it is colloquially known as “the three in one.” It is sold in tablet form, and advertised as the drug to take “when life’s not worth living.”

However, after attracting criticism from the Reverend John Smallwood, vicar of Orbiston Parva, the stock value of Tranquilax plummeted. But once Smallwood was removed, and his criticism silenced, Tranquilax was renamed Triple Crown Unction, and with a new slogan(“Builds you up; Cleans you out”) it returned to its normal sales position.

“Dumb Things” by Paul Kelly

It’s InvasionAustralia Day again, and I’ve decided that I’m going to make an annual practice of adding to my list of Australian Anthems. For 2016, I’ve gone with one of Paul Kelly’s early classics.

Something that everyone seems to notice about Australians is our sense of humour. We’re laconic and wry and self-deprecating. Self-deprecation is very much at the heart of Australian humour, the flipside of our national fear of being seen to big note yourself, our love of cutting down tall poppies. It’s rarely been done better than here:

Not only does this song rock your arse off, but it take self-deprecation so far that it becomes almost a boast. The phrase ‘humble-brag’ hadn’t been invented when this song came out, but it is absolutely the best way to describe it. “Dumb Things” includes a lengthy list of stupid to the point of self-destructive actions, but also an allusion to Greek myth, the claim that Kelly always had a go, and finally, the wry acceptance of it all.

I plan to have this song played at my funeral. And I doubt that I’m the only Australian with that plan…

Xperience

Xperience is a tailored gene-therapy, consumed as a drug in aerosolised form via an inhaler. It is a product of the Sublime Corporation, created from the genetic material of assorted mutants, mostly members of the X-Men (since they have the highest media profile and Sublime intends to market the drug). A brief snort of it will power up the user with the powers of the X-Man in question for several hours. It appears to be mildly addictive.

Known members of the X-Men whose genetic material was used to create varieties of Xperience include Wolverine, Deadpool, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, Emma Frost, Professor X and Jean Grey in both her Marvel Girl and Phoenix incarnations. (But not Adam X. Never Adam X.) However, due to the efforts of the X-Men, Xperience is no longer being created, and only a few stolen samples of it still exist.

Liberation

Five years after the rampage of Edward Hyde, a new, refined version of the serum that created him became available in London. Dr. John Utterson, a friend of Dr. Henry Jekyll, took up the study of his fallen comrade, eventually creating the high society sensation that was the drug, Liberation.

Liberation was an immediate hit among the repressed upper classes of Victorian London, an intoxicant (and a mild steroid) that freed one from the shackles of social expectation – and lead its users into debaucheries of all kinds. But there were a few complications. Edward Hyde was not dead, but rather imprisoned by the police, with Utterson as his jailer. And the serum, like its predecessor, had a vital ingredient that was hard to come by legally: human adrenal glands. In fact, it was the need for these that drove Utterson to commit the series of murders and mutilations that became known as the crimes of Jack the Ripper.

Edward Hyde and Inspector Thomas Adye tracked Utterson to his lair and killed him in the ensuing confrontation. Also destroyed were all remaining supplies of Liberation, Utterson’s notes for making more and Mr. Hyde – although it later turned out that he had faked his death, after he spent the next few weeks murdering Utterson’s pushers.

Donald Trump: Performance Artist

Dear Fellow humans:

Over the last few months, I have been watching the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican Primaries with some alarm. I mean, seriously, most of the Republican front-runners are disturbing in one way or another (Carly Fiorina’s insistence that what can most charitably be termed her hallucinations while watching a video are more valid than what the people who actually made the video say is in there; Ben Carson’s attempt to brand himself as in some way dangerous; Jeb Bush’s increasingly obvious desire to be somewhere, anywhere, else; Rand Paul’s existence; etc.) but the Donald is head and shoulders above the pack. He’s not just the clear front-runner in the polls, but also the clear front-runner in sheer offensiveness. He’s the kind of politician who makes satirists take to (more) drink, because there’s no way to exaggerate the reality of what Trump says. As Hunter Thompson said in similar circumstances, “the reality itself is too intense.”

Trump at CPAC 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Trump at CPAC 2011.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

It’s at times like this I miss Stewart and Colbert. And understand, I mean no insult to Trevor Noah or Larry Wilmore – it’s nothing more than the difference a decade plus of hosting makes. In 2026, those two will be honed by experience to an edge of satire even sharper than we now remember Jon and Stephen being. In 2016, even they are stumbling to keep up with Trump. How does he do it? How does he confound some of the best satirists in the world? How is he always one step ahead?

And then it came to me.

How Trump does it.

The candidacy of Donald Trump is nothing more than the next logical step from the persona Stephen Colbert played for all those years on The Colbert Report.

He can’t be satirised precisely because his entire candidacy is nothing more than a giant satire of the entire system it purports to be a part of. Donald Trump the Candidate is merely a character played by Donald Trump the man.

And Donald Trump the man is very, very good at his art.

Now, I realise that there is no evidence at all to suggest that my theory is correct, but of course, there wouldn’t be. Trump isn’t about to leave that to chance, after all. Of course he’s going to be all “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” at this point in the proceedings. A year from now, maybe, he’ll come clean (although frankly, I think a posthumously released home video memoir is the most likely way he’ll tell the truth: free of consequence and at a profit).

Nor should anyone think that I mean to insult Trump with this theory. Quite the reverse – if I am correct, Trump is an absolute genius of political satire. Indeed, listening to the hateful, moronic bile that spews from the word-hole beneath that horrid toupee, I think that this theory is the only viable one for anyone who wants to respect Trump’s intelligence and media savvy.

Trump's star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo by Adam Fagen.

Trump’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo by Adam Fagen.

“Girls Can Get It” by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show

Girls can get it, anytime they like
Girls can get it, a fact of life
If she calls you for some loving in the middle of the night
She can get a man running at the speed of light

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Where are They Now? — The Breakfast Club

It’s been more than thirty years since that fateful day in 1984, and the original members of the club are now pushing 50. These are the long, strange trips they’ve had.

Brian Johnson is the most prominently successful of the group. The kid who took such pleasure in writing an essay in detention, and whose fierce insistence on treating people with the respect they deserved surprised the others with its intensity realised, in the end, that he wanted to tell the truth. He’s now a journalist specialising in long-form pieces and the occasional book on popular science and the like – a rival to the Malcolm Gladwells and Douglas Rushkoffs of the world. More than any other member of the club, he’s succeeded in staying friends with all the others. Brian finds, even now, that his mental pursuits are more satisfying than romantic entanglements, although he has a long-standing friendship with benefits with his agent.

Andrew Clark eventually realised that wrestling was not for him. At a high school or college level, where it was a sport, it was fine. But growing up in the era of Hulkamania soured him on the sport (especially once Brian explained the meaning of the word “kayfabe” to him), and in his senior year, he switched to football, where he was successful enough as an offensive tackle (usually a left tackle) to get a college scholarship. He and Alison broke up at that point with no real hard feelings on either side – she understoof better than him that they couldn’t maintain a long distance relationship; after some initial bitterness at being dumped, Andy was quick to discover the many romantic and sexual possibilities being a college freshman offered. Partying and injuries took their toll on his athletic performance, and he washed out of college in the end. His father never let him hear the end of it, and Andy eventually moved out to the west coast to get away from him. After accompanying a nervous friend to an audition one day and getting the part himself, he found a new career as a voice actor. He makes enough to support his wife and kids, and is very careful not to pressure the little ones about their futures.

Claire Standish found her world turned upside down when her parents finally did divorce – the week after she went away to college. With no clear idea of what she wanted to do in life, other than not be like her parents, Claire drifted into political activism and studied the humanities. After her degree, she transferred colleges to pursue postgraduate study. When she completed a PhD in History, she went on to work as a volunteer anywhere she felt she could be useful, and finally learned how important money can be when you don’t have any of it. Today, she is the chief financial officer of Human Aid International, a global charity dedicated to improving health and education in third world nations. She doesn’t see her partner very often, but when they do get together, it’s as passionate as ever.

Alison Reynolds, perhaps more than any of the others, found her life changed by the events of March 24, 1984. She’d never really had friends before, and although her first few months trying to were rocky at times, she learned quickly. Being more connected to her cohort also helped her grades along – in geography, she discovered what would become her abiding passion in life: the study of tectonics. At college, she would likely have sunk back into her old ways had not her roommate dragged her along to social events until she made friends. Alison studied hard and good grades, but didn’t see a need for more than the occasional one night stand. But that all changed when she and Claire were reunited. Without either of them really planning it, the pair fell into a relationship with each other, and as of 2015, are married. Alison’s parents used this as an excuse to refuse to speak to her at all.

John Bender, to his own surprise, ended up becoming good friends with Brian after the two partnered on a group assignment in Shop class. They became study buddies, and even hung out occasionally. In 1987, they attended a screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Claire refused to come along, and the argument about the film eventually led to their break-up), and a joking observation by Brian that if Bender had been a member of that group, Freddie would have been annihilated by their scornful laughter got him thinking. Bender realised that not only would he not wish his shitty life on anyone else, he’d also like to help other people get by that. With the support of the rest of the gang, he studied hard and scraped into a local college. Here, he studied psychology, intending to become an encounter group therapist. He is credited with having helped several members of the so-called “fight clubs”, a domestic terrorist organisation, return to normal, happy lives.

Carl Reid took a long look at how twisted Principal Vernon had become, and decided that he wanted more out of life. He went back to school, doing night classes to qualify as a real estate agent. He now works at the same firm as Katie Bueller.

Dick Vernon was found dead in his office in 1993. He had slashed his wrists. His suicide note blamed the ingratitude of his students.