Sunbaking to Debut at Brisbane 2032

Sunbaking will make its Olympic debut at Brisbane 2032 and residents of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are expected to scoop the medals. Sunbaking is the first new sport to be added to the program after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared it an official sport.

“We are enormously excited to add this popular Australian tradition to the program for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games,” began a statement from the IOC. “The decision to classify sunbaking as a sport was made after reviewing images of thousands of people sunbaking without masks at Bondi, Coogee and Bronte during Sydney’s recent COVID-19 lockdown.”

Residents throughout Greater Sydney were required to wear a face mask every time they left the house during the extended lockdown, except when exercising or for religious reasons,

“…confirming that Australians are sun worshippers, which provides further reason to include the sport.”

The IOC sought advice from former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard, as well as Waverley and Randwick councils, all of whom allowed people to sunbake without masks, congregate in groups and flaunt the rules that applied to other areas of Greater Sydney. This helped greatly to sway the IOC.

Eastern Suburbs residents are already favoured to sweep the medals, even though the games are 11 years away.

“The eastern suburbs region is blessed with wonderful beaches which are the perfect training ground for elite international sunbakers,” explained Itan Allova, the newly-appointed high-performance director at Sunbaking Australia, which will be based at Bondi Beach.

“Local sunbakers also enjoy the support of regional authorities who allow them to train every time the mercury rises, even when residents of other parts of Greater Sydney are locked out of these specialised training facilities.”

The announcement is expected to attract even more people to local beaches in the coming months as Sydneysiders seize the opportunity to represent their nation at a home Olympics. Sunbaking is open to all ages, shapes and sizes, including children, meaning some sunbakers in Brisbane could be even younger than the skateboarders.

Sunbaking will take place alongside Surfing and Beach Volleyball, creating the historic opportunity for an athlete to win gold medals in separate sports at exactly the same time.

Competitors will be judged according to criteria such as consistency of tan, depth of tan and avoidance of tan lines. Sunbakers exhibiting signs of sunburn, or the British Tan, will be eliminated, and use of performance enhancing substances such as tanning oils is prohibited.

Critics argue the inclusion of Sunbaking discriminates against people from landlocked nations, and even residents of western Sydney or the Blue Mountains who live miles from the beach, to which the IOC replied:

“Well, we included Surfing.”

Image: Apostolos Vamvouras

First published in The Beast magazine, November 2021

A Life Lived in Headphones.

There are two people in the cafe. Both are sniffling, and I am defenceless. My headphones are at home and the only armoury I can access is a serviette. I roll it into two little balls and push them into my ears. It’s a method I first used while driving from Arnhem Land to Sydney in a beat up old 4wd with no volume control.

The two people with whom I share the cafe look at me strangely. They appear concerned for my state of mind. I’m more concerned that one of the snifflers is about to serve me my food.

I wasn’t planning to lunch at this cafe, but I missed the train home and had no desire to sit on a windy platform for an hour. I also ventured out of the house armour free because it is only a short ride on a seldom crowded train. Normally, my armoury comprises headphones and second phone with downloaded music and white noise, and this helps to drown out other people’s banal one-sided phone conversations, other people’s music, other people’s eating and other people’s sniffling.

We are huddled in the cafe for sustenance and protection from the biting wind which warns us of the impending winter. The weather provokes sniffling, but it is too hard to carry a tissue, and to use it? Or to clear one’s nose with a serviette, so I don’t have to shove them in my ears.

The train ride home passes without incident. No snifflers, no talkers, and no second-hand music, and I make it back to the trenches unharmed, even without protection. I relax with the promise of a heater and relief from the wind, then I see it. The silver Volvo. Derrick is here.

DIY Derrick has arrived at his humble weekender from the city He will begin his stay by mowing his substantial lawn, clipping his lengthy edges; greeting the neighbours with the piercing whirr of his ageing lawn mower and angry line trimmer. He will stop for tea, then spend the remainder of his stay engrossed in DIY projects around the house and in his shed, determined to play with every power tool he owns. I find my headphones and plug them into my laptop, then turn on the 40 minutes of thunderstorm and rain sounds.

DIY Derrick’s projects and lawn care take longer than 40 minutes. Much longer. I press play again. This is how I defend myself against DIY Derrick. Derrick may or may not be his name, that’s just what I call him.

I pray for rain. Rain defeats my enemies. They can’t attack their lawns in the rain. They don’t blow their leaves away in the rain. Their edges grow unkempt in the rain, and chainsaws remain sheathed in the rain.

I pray for rain, but I’m a lapsed Catholic.

Nigel is another nemesis. He is quiet and mild-mannered, until he goes to war with his lawns. Nextdoor Nigel can strike at any time, and his attacks are brutal. He waits until 6pm in summer, or 4pm in winter, before he storms out of his trenches to cut down his enemies. Nigel is a seasoned campaigner with a trusty old weapon, and waits until his opponent is relaxed, complacent and not expecting an attack. He waits until his enemy has returned to the trenches after a day of toil, and is relaxing. That’s when he strikes. Nigel is relentless, and does not cease the bombardment for three hours. It is only when the heavy latch falls into place on his storage container that it is safe to remove the headphones. Safe to unplug. Safe to strip off the armoury.

Bored Baby Boomers and their power tools force me to live a life in headphones.

The wind which drove us into the cafe at lunchtime is sometimes a saviour. It comes from the west. It carries the cold, but it carries the noise from the highway towards the waves on the coast, and away from me. The braking trucks, the farting Harleys, the unmuffled V8s; all bombarding me with noise. Truck after truck braking and accelerating through the centre of town under the command of their rotund controllers. Similarly proportioned Harley riders crackling through town on unnecessarily loud machines which garner their owners fleeting attention from those within earshot. Attention they cannot earn in any other way. I long for the days of electric vehicles, quiet vehicles, cleaner vehicles, but in this country?

When will it be safe to take off my headphones?

Image: Brett Jordan

This Land…

Darkness enveloped the land.

A depressing grey pall hung heavily over the land and fomented despicable violence which entrenched anger, frustration, despair and fear in those victimised by birth. Toxic masculinity leeched from the pores of rabid salivating animals and sullied the pristine waterways, the same waterways which had offered solace and retreat in an imagined past; the white-capped waves and golden sands since converted into a haven for leering eyes and lecherous ghouls.

Fear racked the fairer sex. Survival strategies were devised and disseminated, carried in nervous whispers through the darkened streets and the darker web. Clothes, make-up and sobriety were scrutinised before safety was promised in the world outside – the land outside which they called home. Home, where violence had been domesticated, by those who had not.

Keys to unlock inherited power were now held between forefingers. Capsicum spray sat beside scented spray and self-care acquiesced to self-defence. Avoid the darkness, they were told, but darkness was everywhere. Darkness had swallowed the land and voraciously consumed all that was good.

Emboldened by self-appointed truth tellers and by the weakness of their rulers, they threatened and struck, abused and demeaned, dismissed and suppressed. Emboldened by the apathy, silence and spin of the law makers. Law makers or law breakers? The lines had blurred, the distinction lost.

Depravity extended its greedy tentacles from the distant corridors of power to the hallowed grounds of prestige, where the elite schooled their offspring in the perpetuation of power.

How good! they cheer,

How good! to leer.

Retain your grace, remain the same,

Make-up your face, your words be tame.

Enough is enough, the victims declared, but it was never enough. Never enough for the rapacious scourge which infested their world and controlled their bodies, and the bodies within bodies.

The fair were few and far between, ignored in print, ignored on screen. They and their allies drowned under a deluge of ignorance and noise as the heavens unleashed a torrent of hate and lies, and cowardly cries.  It comes from the sky, it comes from up high, the news we use to justify.

Dystopia was not an imagined future, dystopia was a lived present, dictated for eternity by one bite of a forbidden fruit.

Then he emerged.

Short in stature, but bold of heart.

Follow me, he declared, in messianic tones, and I will deliver you from darkness and into light. I will protect you, he promised. So, follow him they did and the light returned. Joy, gaiety and unimagined bliss filled their souls.

Pink roses blossomed. Pink roses bloomed with hope and the promise of a new future.

All was well in the land of pink roses.

Image: Carlos Quintero

First published in The Beast magazine, May 2021

Free show bags at the Easter Show.

How much have you spent on show bags at the Sydney Royal Easter Show? How much are you planning to spend, or how much do your kids expect you to spend?

What if those show bags were free?

In the early days of the Easter Show, show bags were all free.

In the good old days the show was held at the Royal Agricultural Society grounds at Moore Park, in what is now Fox Studios and the EQ complex beside the SCG, and show bags were sample bags. The bags were distributed by various companies and were originally quite useful. They included products like food staples, soap and laundry liquid, and allowed families to stock up on essential items for free.

Realising the popularity and the potential of the bags, confectionary companies began to offer a sample of their existing products, or a new product, in the hope that crowds would enjoy their products then rush to stores to buy more in the weeks that followed. It was also effective PR for the companies.

The bags themselves were much smaller, and were paper bags which carried the logo of the company. They contained a limited number of products which guests normally snacked on as they wandered the agricultural displays or admired the prize winning cows. They did not hang heavily off the handles of prams while burdened parents lumbered from ride to ride behind children high on sugar.

At one point, the samples were given out for free in the mornings, then sold at a small cost in the afternoon.

It is a stark contrast to the show bags of today. Companies from a diverse array of industries compete with each other to outsell their rivals, in a massive hall that could house an entire airline fleet. Bags are now predominantly plastic, as are many of the contents. Food and confectionary companies still dominate the selection, but pressured parents can now splash out on bags from football clubs, Hollywood movies, toy companies, lifestyle programs, cartoon characters and even Aussie rock legends. In the high-tech present, bags are listed online with a description of their contents, and sell for as much as $30.00.

Show bags can even be ordered online and delivered to your door. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Isn’t the show bag part of the grand experience of attending the show, negotiating the crowds, seeing the livestock and fruit stands, watching the woodchopping, eating dodgy takeaway and vomiting on the pirate ship?

The sample bags belong to an era when the Easter Show was more focussed on the agricultural aspect. It was dedicated to bringing together farmers from across the state to socialise, network and compete for best in show, and to educate and entertain city-slickers about life on the land.

It’s Over.

It’s over. Just like that. Anthony was in no way prepared for this. Something was certainly different when she first appeared that night, but it gave him no indication of the revelation that was to come.

He stared in silence for a moment and his mood sunk. He felt undeniably alone. He felt tears well up but he was too despondent to cry. He wasn’t sure how to react so he just went to bed. It was probably late enough.

“I sleep better when I’m depressed,” he’d often told himself. It’s not scientifically proven, but it made sense to him. When he was depressed a numbness replaced the agitation that otherwise kept him awake. The realisation that it was over drove him to seek solace in the covers and escape the cold winter evening.

At about 2pm the next day it hit him again. His one day a week in the office had so far distracted him from the heart-breaking news, but now it returned to haunt him. Normally the promise of an evening in would carry him through the final monotonous and arduous hours at work better than an afternoon caffeine hit, but not today.

It was at this hour that he would customarily gift himself a mental power nap, a brief daydream, as he pictured the scrumptious evening meal, the choice of dessert and the pure pleasure of “slipping into my trackies and ugg boots for a few blissful hours in your company.” Rain pouring on his roof enhanced the comfort that was always better shared.

“You don’t share my comfort, you are my comfort,” he’d always said.

Colleagues had labelled him mildly and harmlessly eccentric as he broke into random grins and light chuckles provoked by the memories of the previous night’s adventures. He hadn’t smiled today. The pleasant memories stored themselves in the recesses of his mind but would remain suppressed for quite some time.

He trudged to the break room and shoved some instant into a mug with too much sugar and some ‘girlie milk’ – no full cream left.

Today, pouring rain reminded him that he’d forgotten his umbrella.

Working from home would be even harder now. At first the idea had excited him. No more commute. Snacks and meals at arm’s length. No need to shave, no need to dress up. He’d reached a top score of 3390 in Solitaire; surely that was something to celebrate. But now the emptiness was omnipresent, taunting him in his open-plan living area with impromptu workspace. The single lounge chair looked lonelier than ever.

“I’m supposed to leave it all behind and move on,” he chided himself. “I have to accept that it’s over. It’s life. Nothing lasts forever, as myriad soppy love songs remind us. I should start dating again,”

But how does one date during a pandemic?

Social distancing is not conducive to romance. Flirtatious conversations in dimly lit restaurant corners are just a memory, and dancing is discouraged or banned – although maybe the latter is a bonus for Anthony.

What of the post-date?

Various scenarios run through Anthony’s mind.

He enters his unit with the lovely young woman. He offers her a seat and a drink. She relaxes in the lounge chair while he sits on the kitchen chair and the table renders them more socially distanced than in a restaurant or on public transport.

“Maybe I should paste on the lounge chair a green circle with “Sit Here” and a tick on it,” he suggests to himself.

The single lounge chair could, on the other hand, be a pretext for intimacy.

“We’ll just have to share,” he flirts.

“Or there is space for both of us on the bed.” In his wild imagination this sounds cheeky and charming. In real life it’s probably sleazy.

Self-isolation and

a wild imagination,

a dreadful situation and

a lethal combination.

“Loneliness is as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” claims the psychologist on the radio.

Anthony thought sitting was the new smoking and he reminds himself to stop sitting alone in cafes lest he be fined or kicked out. On that reasoning, his daily exercise routine is therefore redundant. Maybe there’s no point dragging himself out of bed on winter mornings to slosh through the mud and rain. It always boosts his mood and offers a great sense of accomplishment, but if he’s virtually smoking 15 ciggies a day, what’s the point?

The clock grinds towards 5pm and he prepares to walk home. Then he stops.

Why go home? What have I got to go home to? You’re not there, and his mind races back to the previous evening…

He’d sat in numbed silence. It had finally come to an end. You’re gone.

What do I do now?

He started at the screen

Play Season 1 Episode 1.

Read what you like.

Potentially dire consequences await those who ‘like’ social media posts before or without reading the text. The true message of the post is often not evident in the headline and can be contradictory to the reader’s world view or online image. Liking a post without reviewing its contents could even damage someone’s online reputation.

Be particularly wary of satire. This very website contains an entire category full of satirical articles. Satire uses humour to criticise or ridicule particular situations, organisations or people, and the meaning of the text is very rarely evident in the headline.

Beware of hashtags.

Just because a post is accompanied with hashtags such as pets, dogs, dogowners, furryfriends or fourleggedfriends doesn’t mean that the article is supportive of dog owners or pet ownership. In fact, numerous articles on this website, especially in the Satire category, are highly critical of dog owners and their flagrant disregard for dog walking laws. The articles portray the dog owners as selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate. Hardly complimentary. Despite this fact, many pet supply companies ‘liked’ the posts.

The pet companies were responding to the hashtags. They have most likely established their social media marketing strategy to identify and respond to any hashtag relating to dogs, pets and dog owners. The companies believe this increases exposure for their brand.

…but what kind of exposure?

If a pet supply company is seen to be endorsing a text which implies that dog owners are selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate, this could backfire severely on the company. The company is essentially insulting its customers and insulting the very people which sustain the business and all of its employees.

Has a business ever prospered by insulting its customers?

Think about what you ‘like’.

Liking an image of a person you admire can also lead to misinterpretation or support of an opinion contradictory to your own.

The Frownlow Medal is a satirical award given to the Australia-based professional footballer who commits the worst off-field scandal in any given year. The award exists to criticise the footballers and society’s adoration of them, and uses irony to do so.

An Instagram account holds images of all of the footballers who have so far been nominated for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. Many people ‘like’ the posts containing images of their sporting heroes, without knowing that the player is being criticised for their off-field behaviour. The fans are thus supporting or endorsing a satirical award which is heavily criticising their heroes.

Of course, some fans agree with the award’s premise, and can separate the player’s sporting brilliance from their off-field flaws, but many fans ‘like’ unknowingly.

Another article related to football demonstrates this point. The article relates to the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and attacks his support for the Cronulla Rugby League club and exposes it as a shallow publicity stunt. The article is heavily critical of Morrison, and implies that supporters of the prime minister, and the Cronulla team, have been fooled into supporting and voting for their local representative. Nevertheless, fans of the club ‘liked’ the article when it was posted on this website.

They are essentially liking a post which calls them gullible, uneducated, easily fooled and impressionable.

A food catering service also fell victim to their automated hashtag marketing system. I wrote a travel article about a particularly unsavoury pizza I ate at a local restaurant in China, where I saw customers being given blood pressure checks – after they had eaten. The food catering company had inadvertently associated themselves with poor quality and horrible tasting food – food so bad it could give someone a heart attack.

Be sure to read what you like.

Image: 2PhotoPots

A birthday in Teotihuacan.

If you or a member of your travelling party celebrates a birthday on the day you visit San Juan Teotihuacan, be sure to remember a cake. It need not be a big cake. In fact it is advisable to pack a small cake, as you will be lugging it up and down ancient steps for hours, and said steps sit at over 2000m altitude.

Don’t forget candles and a lighter. And don’t forget the words to ‘Las Mananitas’, because if the birthday girl is Mexican, ‘Cumpleanos Feliz’ will not suffice.

Of course, ‘Las Mananitas’ should, according to tradition, be sung on the stroke of midnight, but making your way into the UNESCO World Heritage Site, scaling the temple and lighting birthday candles is difficult – and illegal. Thus, you shall have to content yourselves with a daylight ceremony, perhaps at 12 midday.

Ascend the ancient and well-trodden steps to the summit of the pyramid of the birthday girl’s choosing – the Pyramid of the Sun or the Pyramid of the Moon, and perform a ritual that has been performed on this sacred ground for centuries and centuries.

For optimal results, choose a day without strong winds, or the candles will struggle to stay alight for the duration of the birthday tribute, especially at such lofty heights. If wind persists, invoke the spirit of the gods who inhabit this super structure, or the spirits of its ancient inhabitants who were both exalted and sacrificed on these very steps.

Bestow your best wishes upon the birthday girl and call upon the ancestors to grant her a long and propsperous life – before or after you traverse the Avenue of the Dead.

Main Image: Abimelec C

AFL players vie for The Homoerotic Footballer Award.

AFL players have staked their claim for The Homoerotic Footballer Award after a series of incidents involving intimate touching of teammates during and after games.

Players from various clubs have been caught on camera fondling each other’s private parts during breaks in play or post-match celebrations, and have just revealed their motivations for doing so.

The players are fighting to ensure that AFL wins the highly prestigious award which acknowledges the promotion of homoeroticism in men’s professional football.

The most recent nominees for the 2020 edition of the award are Christian Petracca and Jayden Hunt from the Melbourne Demons, Dan Butler from St Kilda Saints, and Richmond Tigers trio Jayden Short, Jack Riewoldt and Nick Vlastuin.

“We want to win this for the AFL,” stated Butler.

“That’s why we gave our teammates a good fondle and made sure it was caught on camera.”

“Contact sports like AFL, Rugby League and Rugby Union have always been excuses for men to play out their homoerotic fantasies,” explained Petracca, who was caught fondling teammate Jayden Hunt.

“We’re just continuing this tradition,” explained Hunt “…and touching up your mate in a team huddle is just a healthy part of the game – always has been.”

The players then outlined their desire to see one of their own take out a major cross-code sporting award for once.

“NRL players have a stranglehold on these types of awards, and we’re sick of it,” stated Riewoldt.

“They’re masters of off-field scandals like public drunkenness and urination, sexual harassment and even rape, and even though AFL players have been pretty good at this stuff, we’ve never won a prize like The Frownlow Medal. The closest we got was Karmichael Hunt but he was a league and union player too so that doesn’t really count.”

NRL players have not supplied a contender for The Homoerotic Footballer Award this year and have been inactive since John Hopoate stuck his finger where the sun don’t shine during a game in 2001. Hopoate made a TikTok video joking about the incident earlier this year but the lame video was not enough to challenge the AFL player’s for the award.

Petracca and friends also provided more context for the sudden rise in touch ups being caught on camera.

“Lockdown,” they claimed.

“We’ve been locked up for so long, especially in Victoria/ Melbourne, the home of AFL. We just couldn’t keep our hands off each other once we got back to playing again. I mean, I love this bunch of boys so much that I just had to show my love for them,” said Vlastuin.

“That’s right, I mean, you can have a fun time with your partner or your flatmate during lockdown,” continued Short “but that gets a bit boring after a while so you need to add some variety – and there’s nothing like the bond you develop with a bunch of legends like the boys in a footy team, I mean, you just can’t replace it.”

The players also explained that the lockdown denied them the opportunity to invite their teammates to watch or join in every time they had a sexual encounter with a woman, and that this violates the code of professional footballers.

The remaining rounds of the regular season and the approaching finals in both the NRL and AFL will determine who wins The Homoerotic Footballer Award in 2020.

Image:www.afl.com.au

The disappearing sound of silence.

Is it just me or is the world getting louder?

It seems impossible to escape noise these days. Everywhere I live and everywhere I travel I seem to be surrounded by noise. I seem to live my life in headphones. How far does one have to go to avoid noise?

I though I’d escaped noise last year when I chose to live on and manage a cattle farm for six months. The farm encompassed 110 acres of paddocks as well as the home, and I assumed that such a large property would afford me some peace and quiet, both for my work and my general sanity.

I was wrong.

The farm ended up sitting just 200 metres away from a massive housing development to the west. An entire new suburb of characterless McMansions was being built near the farm, and the noise from the construction machines was incessant. Six days a week, from about 6.30 – 5.30, I was surrounded by the noise of trucks, diggers and other construction machinery, including the annoying ‘beep, beep, beep’ of the vehicles.

Even out at the far ends of the farm, I could still hear the machines, either from the housing development to the west, or the construction of a new retirement village to the east. I also discovered that a new house was also going to be built to the north of the house, on the neighbour’s property. I’m glad I left the house when I did.

Of course, it wasn’t just the construction machinery which created so much noise. The obligatory barking dog on the neighbour’s property kept me up at night. The neighbour’s lawn mowers, leaf blowers and whipper snippers destroyed the serenity, and weekends usually brought the sound of tourists and weekend warriors hooning around on their Harley Davidson’s or their V8 cars.

I’ve never been able to escape the sounds of gardening machines in suburbia, and I feel like the noise is getting worse. Again, is it just me? Also, when will an engineer invent silent gardening tools, such as lawn mowers or leaf blowers? It can’t be that hard.

Suburbia is awash with renovations these days as well. Barely a street escapes the presence of tradies and the banging and bashing of a new kitchen or updated bathroom.

I also thought I’d escaped noise when I went to live on the outskirts of a small coastal town in NSW, Australia. The house sat on about 5 acres and was surrounded by other large blocks and hobby farms. I thought I was right to assume a modicum of tranquillity, but alas, I was wrong again. Every large property had a large lawn which was normally cut by a ride on lawn mower. For a few hours almost every single day, I heard the whirr of the ride on mowers, and other gardening tools.

Libraries

Libraries used to be havens of serenity. Not anymore. Most libraries are regarded as ‘Interactive Community Spaces’ which is fine for people who want to interact, but what about people who want to read in silence, or study?

I’ve been disturbed by librarians themselves having social chats, a young guy doing a job interview via skype, loud phone conversations and teenagers using the free WiFi to play on their social media platforms, or teenagers pretending to study in groups.

I’ve also witnessed parents who seem to have confused libraries with playgrounds and let their kids run wild through the library – and not just through the kids section.

I’m referring here to libraries in Australia. In contrast, I visited one or two ‘reading rooms’ in South East Asia, including some in Hong Kong. The reading rooms weren’t in public libraries, nor in universities or colleges, they were actually in the apartment building. On the ground floor of the complex was a room set aside specifically for reading and studying – and it was quiet. The day’s newspapers were provided, or residents could bring their own reading material. Older people were reading, school kids were studying and everyone was quiet. No screaming toddlers, no teenagers playing on their phones or gossiping. One might suggest that this reflects the difference in academic achievement between Australia and Hong Kong.

Australia’s literacy and numeracy rates, as well as overall academic achievement, are falling. Hong Kong, and many other South East Asian nations, always perform well academically.

Are Australian students falling behind because they simply cannot concentrate? True concentration can only occur in a calm and peaceful environment. True concentration is required to solve complex intellectual problems or to grasp an unfamiliar concept. Learning new and complex intellectual concepts is the purpose of school, but few schools, or libraries, enjoy the necessary peace and quiet which allow students to delve into a problem and apply their intelligence to a task.

Students in Australia may or may not find the required serenity at home, just as many students in Asian countries struggle to find tranquillity in small, crowded urban apartments. For this reason, ‘reading rooms’ exist. Could we establish ‘reading rooms’ in Australia?

Interestingly, the reading rooms I visited were located above a train station and a small shopping mall, on top of which the apartments were built. And they were still quiet.

Quiet carriages

Designated quiet train carriages were established on trains in various parts of Australia, and they’re a great idea; if everyone obeys the rules. I’ve been on many quiet carriages which were far from quiet. People blatantly ignored the advice to refrain from noise, or to go to another carriage. On one occasion, I overheard a young woman have a 40-minute phone conversation in which she revealed that she was about to go on a threesome date with a couple she met online, that she never wanted kids, she was struggling through a long-distance relationship with a guy in France and she might be pregnant to another guy, who is definitely not in France. Way too much information, which she had shared with everyone in the carriage.

Obviously selfish and inconsiderate people exist everywhere and in any context. That said, are people now so accustomed to noise that they don’t seek peace and quiet, and are they oblivious to the fact that they’ve destroyed someone else’s peace and quiet?

In the outdoors

One has to wonder whether people have forgotten what peace and quiet feels like. Especially when one ventures outdoors. Hiking and exploring the outdoors should bring respite from noise. But some people bring the noise with them.

On many occasions I’ve been enjoying a nice hike through a beautiful landscape only to hear someone approach with a stereo or speaker blasting out some music. Don’t they get it? The idea of spending time in nature is to get away from the noise of the city and suburbia, not to bring it with you.

Is this what attracts people to extreme adventures? To hikes or bike rides or back country skiing trips miles from anywhere? Is this perhaps the only way to escape noise when every inch of the world has been discovered.

Personally, it is motivation for me to try to stay fit and healthy, so that I can take on more arduous hikes or bike rides which separate me from the hordes of noise makers who always seem to converge on more accessible hiking trails. It’s also why I take for ever to find camping spots these days, because I always live in fear that a car full of people will turn up, crank on the stereo and settle in for a party, when all I wanted was peace and quiet.

In the modern world, many people create the exact thing they were trying to get away from – noise.

Technology

Perhaps our noisy world is the result of technology. Technology exists in every facet of our lives and machines and devices follow us everywhere. Machines make noise.

The consequences

What are the consequences of a world full of noise?

A world full of noise is one in which it is harder to concentrate. It is harder to study and it is harder to truly think. This could be contributing to the dumbing down of society. People can’t find the space to read in depth or to contemplate, so they are less knowledgeable, less discerning and more gullible.

If school students can’t find serenity, will they ever understand complex theories, and will they ever make it to the end of a literary classic?

Stress

Excessive noise leads to stress. A small amount of loud noise is not harmful. A New Year’s Eve party, a concert, a sporting grand final or a festival are chances to scream and shout and let loose and have fun, and should be celebrated. But endless, annoying, loud, obtrusive noise causes stress, and enduring this noise day after day, year after year, as most of us do in city and urban environments, must be affecting people’s mental health. It is seldom mentioned in discussions of causes of mental health problems, but surely it must be a contributor. Perhaps it is not considered a factor because people are so used to noise in their daily lives.

Noise begets noise

What do you do when you hear an annoying noise? You probably try to block it out. You hear the neighbour’s leaf blower blasting away while you try to work, so you put on your head phones with some white noise. You overhear a banal phone conversation on the train so you plug in your headphones and your favourite play list.

We create our own noise to try to drown out someone else’s.

Where does one go these days to find peace and quiet?

Why would you want royal blood?

 

Many people boast about their royal blood. Everyday people point to their ancestry as evidence that they have some familial link to a royal family somewhere in the world, and many people do so with pride. The question is, why would anyone want royal blood?

Royal families are inbred.

Their blood is tainted through generation after generation of inbreeding. Do you really want to be blood-related to a family of inbreds?

Royal brothers marry sisters or cousins and reproduce with them in order to ensure that their offspring is one of them, and to keep power within the family. Interestingly, royal families and the aristocracy exalt the term ‘pure blood’ or speak in praise of people who are of ‘good breeding’. How pure is the blood of someone whose parents were brother and sister?

Deformity

Inbreeding is dangerous. Societies large and small have for centuries established laws, customs and practices designed to prevent blood relatives from producing offspring, for one main reason. Inbreeding produces deformities, both physical and mental.

Even animals do all they can to avoid inbreeding.

So prevalent are the deformities of European royalty that it is possible to follow a royal family tree by examining common deformities among the family members. Through the identification of a particular deformity, one can determine who married whom, and who begat whom.

A wasted opportunity

The British royal family seem to have missed an opportunity to expand their gene pool. Meghan Markle has no blood connection (as far as I know) to anyone in the British royal family, or the extended European royal family, and she won over Prince Harry with her charm and personality. Harry and Meghan are apparently estranged from the royal family (I’m not entirely sure, I avoid royal gossip). Subsequently, they and their (future) offspring may not have any claim to the throne or official royal titles.

Had they remained firmly within the royal family, the House of Windsor could have expanded its gene pool through children whose parents have no blood connection. The British royals may have just missed an opportunity to expand the gene pool.

Royal adoption

The Sultan of Brunei is known to adopt children, mostly from Malaysia. The Sultan promotes the adoption program as a gesture of charity and goodwill which saves poor Malaysian children and provides them with a better life.

Acute observers claim that the adoption program protects his own family. The children are all granted a social title, and a privileged position within Bruneian society as relations of the royal family. They may or may not be granted the full social status worn by his immediate family, but they are given a title which places them in the upper echelons of Bruneian society. 

The adopted children can then marry an immediate royal family member because they possess the necessary social title. Brunei has a population of less than 500, 000 people, including expats and other non-Malay residents, and only a tiny section of that small population is eligible to marry royalty – namely those with a high-ranking social title awarded by the royal family.

Thus, if royalty marries an adopted child, the power stays within the family, but the married couple is not blood related and the gene pool is protected.

Non-royal inbreds

How many people would boast about familial connection to other people who are known to marry their relatives?

Residents of remote, obscure country towns have a reputation for inbreeding. They often have limited opportunity to meet other people when they’re stuck out on a remote farm or tiny village, so they find other ways to continue their family. Few people celebrate their connection to ‘inbred country bumpkins’, but these people are no more inbred than royal families.

Dole bludgers

Furthermore, no one is likely to announce their connection to a family of dole bludgers. And yet, that’s exactly what royal families are. They don’t work for a living, and taxpayers pay for them to live. Most of them live in absolute luxury at the expense of the ordinary person. Are you proud to be related to the world’s richest dole bludgers?

Money and power

Establishing a blood connection to a royal family has its benefits. It can increase someone’s wealth and power, and certainly improve someone’s job prospects. Boasting of a blood connection to a royal family in order to increase wealth and power is understandable, but many people promote their lineage as an inherent sign of personal prestige, as if somehow their connection to royalty, as faint as it may be, makes them a better person.

The next time you hear someone boasting about their royal blood, consider the composition of that blood.

Image: http://www.ft.com