Category Archives: Editorial

Ghosts of Christmases Future

As it is approaching Christmas, and with President-elect Donald Trump about to take office
(I still can’t quite comprehend that), I thought it would be timely to repost my words on the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012…

I was going to write about the unbridled joy of being a kid at Christmas, the simple pleasure of waking up on Christmas morning, running out in your pajamas — after being too excited to sleep the night before — to see that new pile of presents under the tree. Yes! Santa has been!

“Yes! Santa has been!” (The writer, 1970)

The events of Friday morning at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut changed everything. The level of violence is difficult to comprehend, the fear those children would have experienced unthinkable, the stories of sacrifice by the staff unimaginable, the grief of the families immeasurable. It simply needs to stop. The system requires a reboot, this “right to bear arms” rethought. Who needs to have a military assault rifle in their home? Anyone?

Obviously, it will not be easy. As President Barack Obama said in an emotionally charged speech in Newtown, “No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”

“Better than this” will involve standing up to the lobbyists, the usual suspects who roll out the usual hoary old justifications, pathetic excuses and “helpful” suggestions including “what we need is more guns, not less guns.” I can’t even get my head around that statement. Then there’s the tip-toeing through the minefield of political machinations. Then there’s the NRA. Someone has to take that first step.

No doubt there are countless toy guns sitting under Christmas trees around the planet right now — the paper to be torn off them by excited little hands, so they can play cops and robbers or soldiers. One can only hope that in years to come, it will be much more difficult for these children to get their hands on the real thing and wreak the havoc we saw on Friday.

The time has come for the rhetoric to be followed through. We owe it to Friday’s children — Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin and Allison. As well as the adult victims, these names should have appeared on Christmas gift tags — not as statistics of another horrific mass shooting. They have now become ghosts of Christmases future.

©Steve Williams 2012

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Psychologists: Just Like Mariah, Santa Is Real

This article contains spoiler alerts and / or trigger warnings about Santa. I’m not sure what a trigger warning is, but there seems to be a lot of them about. So if you’re thinking of shooting Santa,
or anyone for that matter, please don’t.

It has taken me a few days to masticate and digest reports about an article published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal that parents who lie to their children about Santa Claus could wreak havoc with their offspring’s moral compass. This could apparently lead to a Bermuda Triangle of floundering lies, tinsel, and disgruntled kiddies.

With all due respect to the learned psychologists who penned the report, I call bullshit.

You’re secret is safe with me, Santa

The report suggested that by lying about the existence or otherwise of the big bloke in red, parents can irrevocably damage the trust their kids have in them, resulting in “abject disappointment” when said kids discover the “truth” about the Christmas Eve nocturnal visitor. “There is potential for children to be harmed in these lies,” said clinical psychologist Kathy McKay, one of the report’s authors. Calm down Kathy, I know you’re looking out for the kids, but it’s ok.

Christmas is a time of innocence, magic and wonder, and sure, a few creative porkies. Don’t overanalyse or destroy this charming story for kids. They’re fine. Parents lie to their kids all the time in varying degrees. We all survived the great reveal of Santa. I can’t recall a mass shooting occurring with young Trevor, tears streaming down his face, screaming “WHADDAYAMEANTHEREISNOSANTA!!??” while at the business end of an AK-47.

The Lancet report’s authors did raise an interesting point, “If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?” The God bit caught my eye, I know Christmas “should” be about a certain baby blowing out his birthday candles, but not being the most religious chap, I’ll stick with the Santa narrative, it’s more believable.

I love the whole Santa story, it’s wonderful. Suspending disbelief of the North Pole workshop, the elves, the reindeers, the transport logistical issues, the leaving out of Santa’s beverage and food of choice, so excited and not being able to sleep, but forcing yourself in case he didn’t come, then waking up on Christmas morning, racing out to the tree, and the unbridled joy of “SANTA’S BEEN!! SANTA’S BEEN!!”

Parents, let kids enjoy the Santa experience for as long as they can. Sure, if they’re 41 years old and still a believer, you may have a slight issue. Just chill out, have a quiet drink or a nice cup of tea, and depending on what hemisphere you’re in, spray some fake snow on the windows, and listen to Mariah Carey warbling about making her wish come true for the three millionth time.

PS Santa, I’ve been a good boy this year.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post AustraliaLying To Kids About Santa Is A Gift

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Thanks Donald Trump, Keep Your Snake Oil

Over the years I’ve worked with a hell of a lot of sales people.

I don’t want one of your f*****g steaks, either

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some good, some psychotic, which of course you could say for any “profession”,
but a psychotic salesperson is something to behold, and not in a good way.

Sales people are a certain breed.

President-elect Donald Trump… I can’t believe I just wrote that… this is a very f****d up Twilight Zone / Black Mirror episode… but I digress. Donald J. Trump is a sales person. The ultimate.
Reported guestimates of his bank balance range between $150, $3 billion or $10 billion, give or take.

With Trump, it’s all about closing the deal, he wrote THAT book which thankfully I have avoided. Trump closed the deal early Wednesday morning – the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.

So where to now? During the campaign Trump made a litany of very well documented promises to his faithful (we all saw them as outrageous threats), but will he follow through? Or in true snake oil salesman mode, was all that ranting simply BS, means to an end of winning the Presidency?
Who knows? With Trump, you get the impression that he is constantly making it up as he goes along, to borrow that line from Monty Python. We’re all in very murky unchartered waters,
heading straight for the Bermuda Triangle.

No doubt many of his hard core supporters would have been simultaneously disappointed and disillusioned with his victory speech. It was extremely un-Trumplike, none of the vitriol, no locking up of “Crooked Hillary”, no wall-building threats, no pussies were grabbed, nobody was threatened with deportation. I laughed when it was reported as “being Presidential”, I put it down to the fact he’s an old man and it was waaaay past his bedtime.

Is Trump serious about making America great again? What does that very shallow four-word slogan even mean? Define “great”. Trump was following the old adage of tell ‘em what they want to hear and closed the deal.

Let’s pick one of his campaign “policies”. Did he / does he have any intention of building that wall? Again, who knows how any of this will play out. He’ll no doubt wheel out that hoary old chestnut (which is itself a hoary old chestnut),“Well you know I wanted to <insert bizarre promise> I really did. I promised you I would. But I was blocked. They’re weak. Cowards… etc etc”. The faithful will chug down some more Kool-Aid.

Trump’s meeting with President Obama in the White House on Thursday was surreal to say the least. Trump used the words “great respect” which is laughable, considering the whole birther thing, and the blowtorch he continually took to Obama during the election campaign. But did he really mean any of that? Neither of them looked like they wanted to be there. The body language experts had a field day.

So I suppose it is a matter of watching this space, to see what President steak salesman and beauty pageant owner does. I find it highly amusing / terrifying that his campaign team barred him from Twitter during the final days of the campaign, and now he has the nuclear codes. You seriously couldn’t make this stuff up.

Millions across the planet are proclaiming that the Trump presidency will be the end of the world… and to quote the classic R.E.M. song, Trump will respond with “and I feel fine.”

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia:
No Thanks, Donald Trump, Keep Your Snake Oil

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Emoji all the people*

It seems like we have gone full circle.

 

Man (and woman) first started communicating in a written form over 30,000 ago with cave paintings, depicting animals and rudimentary images of humans. Graffiti was born.

Fast-forward to around 5000 BC and Egyptian and Chinese cultures communicated (amongst themselves) with pictograms and ideograms that represented an object, activity or concept.
These led to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters. So far, so good. Then around 3200 BC, the good burghers of Mesopotamia thought it wouldn’t be a stupid idea to start writing words, and the rest as they say, is history.

So how do we communicate in 2016? Emojis, that’s how. I read an article the other day that “emoji” is the world’s fastest growing language. <face screaming in fear emoji>

Blame one Shigetaka Kurita. The unassuming Japanese chap produced 176 designs for Japanese mobile phones in 1999. There are now over 1,800 emojis. Possibly 1,790 too many.

From cave paintings to hieroglyphics to emoji — maybe we should have just left out the middle bit, making the world’s greatest writers redundant. In the annals of literary history, we could have just leafed past the work of Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Wilde, Austen, Orwell, Hemmingway, Jackie Collins… ok, maybe not her.

Speaking of classic novels, The United States Library of Congress has accepted its first emoji novel — a reworking of Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick. It has been 2016-ised into Emoji Dick with the 212,000+ words converted to emoji. I don’t know whether to be horrified or impressed.

The recent breathless launch of the iPhone 7 included new emojis, “women playing sport”, “woman in a turban”, the gun emoji has apparently become a water pistol, there’s now a “man getting a haircut”, and a “man wearing bunny ears”. As one does, though not simultaneously. There is now basically every type of parent / child / gender / family emoji you can poke a stick at. I assume there is still a stick emoji for the iPhone 7. I’d personally prefer a headphone jack emoji.

Being an iPhone person, I assume other smartphones have their own emoji, including an explosion emoji for a certain Samsung smartphone. <smiley, winking face, poking out tongue emoji>

We survived the rise of mobile phone text-speak, which wasn’t all that GR8, you often had no idea what the hell other person meant. I’d normally just ring them up and get them to explain it. Which kind of defeated the purpose.

It will be interesting to see where all this emoji business ends up. I suppose one day we will be reading online newspapers and magazines written in emoji form, though I suggest that will be when we are in our autonomous flying cars eating our food tablets.

*Apologies to John Lennon for that atrocious headline.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post AustraliaEmoji All The People

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bullfighting and the running of the morons

“Good.” That is my first reaction when I hear of the latest horrific injuries suffered during the “Running of the Bulls” in Spain.

Numerous deaths, a crushed thorax, gored armpits, heart, groins, knees and thighs, even a rectal perforation.
Just part of the injury roll call from previous versions held in Pamplona. Arseholes.

However, that is small change compared to the 250,000 bulls maimed and killed each year in bullfights across the planet.

Seriously, how much of a moron would you need to be, what copious amount of sangria or drugs would you need to have consumed to think that running 850 metres through narrow, cobbled streets in front of very big, very pissed off (and very terrified) bulls, before they are corralled into the bullfighting arena is even remotely a good idea?

Bullfighting is cruel and barbaric and needs to be stopped, as does the running of the bulls. Thankfully there is an ever-increasing groundswell of support to do just that. ¡Felicitaciones!

If you want to get badly injured without inflicting cruelty on an animal who has no choice in the matter, may I suggest the time-honoured “sticking your hand in a blender”.

You can hear the purists cry “the running of the bulls is an intrinsic part of Pamplona’s San Fermín festival dating back to medieval times.” Bullshit. Don’t care.

Hopefully the running of the bulls and bullfighting will one day die a death — and you can add other barbaric practices to that list — such as fox hunting by people with double-barrelled surnames wearing stupid hats, animals in circuses, restaurants serving sharkfin soup and exponents of Traditional Chinese Medicine using basically every body part of endangered tigers in the vein attempt of getting a bigger dick.

One can only hope.

For more information on the (blood) sport of bullfighting, visit the World Society for the Protection of Animals, www.stopbullfighting.org.uk and PETA, (warning: the websites contain disturbing, but necessary facts and images).

©Steve Williams 2016

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You’re un-Australian if…

To celebrate Australia Day, one gazillion rainforests have been slaughtered creating weighty tomes of “what it means to be Australian”. Bugger that.

As a Wattle-waving Aussie, I reckon you’re un-Australian if…

If you don’t know who this bloke is, you’re un-Australian

*You don’t use “yeah, nah” regularly in a sentence.

*You know the mysterious second verse of the Australian national anthem.

*You don’t return from a Bali holiday wearing a Bintang beer singlet and / or braided hair.

*You use the word “sheila”.

*You don’t know what Wattle is.

*You don’t know what “wanker” means.

*You don’t drown your meat pie in tomato sauce.

*You don’t eat meat pies.

*You prefer a Sauvignon Blanc with a melon and ripe gooseberry nose to a stubbie you’ve opened with your eye socket.

*You don’t know what a stubbie is.

*You don’t think Kylie is bunging on that pommie accent.

*You don’t know what “bunging on” means.

*You drink Foster’s beer.

*You call a “prawn” anything other than a “prawn”.

*You’ve never had a bindi stuck in your foot (not the Indian forehead decoration or Steve Irwin’s daughter).

*You like the song I Still Call Australia Home even with Peter Allen bunging on that crap American accent.

*You prefer to sit on the grass at the beach rather than the sand.

*You take a soccer ball to the beach.

*You call a soccer ball a “football”.

*You don’t think the lead singer of AC/DC is still “the new bloke”.

*You don’t return from overseas bitching about how everything is better / cheaper / tastier / bigger / less crowded / less smelly / less foreign than here at home.

*You don’t think Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh should be the national anthem.

*You respond when some bogan chants “Aussie!, Aussie!, Aussie!…”.

*You don’t know what a “bogan” is.

*You think it’s ok that our head of state is a member of an English family.

Words and image ©Steve Williams 2016

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FFS World, It’s Zoolander, Lighten Up

Sadly, I have suspected for quite a few years that the world has entirely lost its sense of humour, and it was confirmed this week.

An apparent non-non-binary Benedict Cumberbatch

I was reading one of the furious flood of online news articles screaming in outrage about a scene in the new Zoolander 2 movie.

No, correct that, a scene in the trailer of the new Zoolander 2 movie. So people are taking umbrage at a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

FFS world, lighten up.

Apparently some (and our emphasise some) of our LGBT friends and outraged kindred spirits supposedly acting on their behalf are frothing at the mouth that the new film is sexist and transphobic. Really? The pitchforks and flaming torches are being aimed at a ten second scene involving Benedict Cumberbatch playing an apparent androgynous-looking model being asked if he has a hot dog or a bun.

That’s it. You’re losing your mind and clambering to the moral high ground over that? Seriously?

In another article, some earnest and no doubt well-meaning type was rabbiting on that a non-binary model should have been cast to play the Cumberbatch role. I have no idea what “non-binary” means. Is it algebra? (I was probably in the sick bay feigning death when they taught that bit at school)

As I said, all this is over a ten second scene in a movie nobody has seen. The Champagne corks would be popping in the Paramount Pictures marketing towers thanks to the gazillion dollars in free publicity. There are even petitions to ban the film. Now that’s hilarious.

It’s been a fairly shit year. The heartbreaking plight of refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa resulting in dead children washing up on beaches, commercial planes being blown out of the sky, ISIS goons throwing people off buildings because of their sexual preference, a Sydney police accountant being shot in the back of the head by a fifteen year old as he left work, not to mention the recent events in Paris that killed 130 people whose only crime was going out on a Friday night.

We could do with a laugh. If Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Benedict Cumberbatch can provide a few in a light comedy, offending a few easily-offended in the process, then so be it.

As a kid, I was brought up on a healthy diet of comedy — English imports like Monty Python, Dave Allen, The Goon Show, Fawlty Towers, Derek and Clive, and brilliant Australian productions including The Naked Vicar Show, Paul Hogan, Blankety Blanks, The D-Generation, Doug Mulray, Andrew Denton etc, etc. Yes a lot of it was crass, immature, challenging, totally politically incorrect and simultaneously f*cking hilarious. Maybe they have all affected my moral compass Bermuda Triangle style, but I doubt it.

What happened? When did we lose our sense of humour? When was a jihad waged on satire and comedy?

Today people want to be outraged. They want to be angry and vent on Twitter and Facebook and violently hammer the keyboard creating cranky online petitions.

All of this is totally fine. You just need to make sure you’re angry and outraged over the important stuff, not a ten second bit in a movie trailer.

©Steve Williams 2015

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Richie Benaud – the Voice of Summer

He is being lauded as the “voice of cricket”.

I would go further — to me, Richie Benaud will always be the voice of summer.

I was too young to witness his considerable feats on the pitch, though I remember my first game of club cricket for the formidable under 11/3 side in 1975 was played at Richie Benaud Oval in North Parramatta.

Snapshots of those summers in Australia include the aroma of zinc cream and coconut oil, trying to eat your Splice ice cream before it melted, the backs of your legs sticking to the bench seats in the HR Holden, and the deafening cacophony of cicadas.

But above and beyond all that was the cricket. Playing in the backyard after school (I was always Viv Richards – yes, unAustralian I know), playing Saturday morning, then “Saturday arvo” club cricket — my SS bat was a prized possession, and of course watching the cricket on the telly and listening to Richie.

When Richie raised the microphone there were none of today’s seemingly endless blokey in-jokes and “banter”. Commentary teams of today could definitely do with his eloquence and grace.

I believe it was what Richie didn’t say in his commentary that had the most impact, those dramatic pauses that landed, followed by an insightful, sometimes gently cutting remark, spinning away with that droll and very dry sense of humour.

Richie Benaud was the absolute master of word economy and unlike most commentators, he knew we were seeing in our lounge rooms what he was seeing down the ground, he didn’t need to be constantly speaking, those periods of silence were not “dead air”.

His knowledge of the game and its spirit was incomparable, effortlessly moving from test matches to day / night games, from the SCG to Lord’s and every ground in-between.

I’m loathe to use the cliché “doyen” but…

Vale Richie Benaud. Thanks for those summers.

Words: ©Steve Williams 2015
image: www.joe-digital.com

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

MH17 — Collateral Damage?

I’m lucky enough to travel quite a lot.
As a matter of fact, I’m writing this on an overnight international flight.

As I clicked my seatbelt in, my thoughts turned to the passengers and crew of MH17.

Like me, they would have settled in to their seats, had a drink or a coffee, watched a movie,
or caught up on some sleep. The crew going about their well-practiced routine of feeding and watering.

Some passengers would have been reliving memories of their holiday or business trip, thinking about what needed to be done once they got home. Those mundane things like the washing,
or back-to-back meetings. The kids looking forward to telling their friends all about their adventures, showing them the selfies they hadn’t posted on Facebook.

Then they were blown out of the sky by some lunatic bastards.

There but the grace of whichever mystical sky person of choice go I.

Was it the sick work of some random rebel nutjobs playing with a deadly new toy (“what does this button do?”) Hardly. The lives of 293 people obliterated in a war that had nothing to do with them and in a split second ripping apart those of friends and families on the ground, scattered around the globe.

The stories emerged of MH17, as they do, of the passengers, the chaos of the scene and reports of looting and bodies shown no respect, left for days in the sun.

Will the murder of all those on board make one iota of difference in Ukraine? Of course not.
It will be murder as usual. The victims of MH17 will merely be collateral damage.

To the passengers and crew of MH17, a Monty Python quote:
“What a senseless waste of human life.”

©Steve Williams 2014

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
""