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Another day, another holiday | Jan 26, 2004 18:00

It's Australia Day over here and the whole place has gone spastic with patriotism. We're reaching the sharp end of the Aussie Open, Australia is taking on Zimababwe in a one-day match, the ferries are racing each-other on the harbour and everyone has little stick-on Aussie flags on their shoulders or any other exposed flesh, of which there is much to choose from.

Australia Day weekend is a big deal and at the heart of it lies conspicuous displays of relaxation. How you relax is very important. It helps to define who you are; cracking a few beers with your mates at your local, hosting an Open barbecue, dining out on the waterfront. Whatever. In Australia you can spare no effort when it comes to doing nothing.

The day has not been without its upsets, though. The lead story in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning is that Aussie's free trade deal with the US is on the rocks. If one does get signed, according to a US trade magazine, it will redefine the word "minimum".

No doubt this sorry state of affairs is US payback for Australia's lack of support during the Iraq war, for John Howard's continuous "unhelpful comments", and in ongoing objection to Australia's ridiculous anti-nuclear policy.

Whoops, that's why New Zealand didn't get a free trade deal, isn't it? Sorry. I got confused there for a minute.

But you don't go to war to stitch up a free trade deal. Of course not. Australia went to war in response to the imminent threat posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And while Aussie did its duty, Helen Clark ignored the mountain of evidence, buried her head in the sand and New Zealand shirked its international responsibilities.

You kiwis should hang your heads in shame.

Even while the issues are totally unrelated, next time there's a war we should remember to get the US to sign a free trade deal before we decide whether to support them or not.

Anyway, I for one am really looking forward to George Bush's next speech on trade issues. It'll be a scream.

For me the barbecue was yesterday followed by a net session with a couple of mates. Boys in the park, the sound of leather on willow, a bag full of beer, womenfolk pretending to be interested on the sideline. One of these, just off the boat from the UK, commented how every second conversation is about cricket and the rest are about real estate prices.

Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the first fleet, a rag-tag convoy of 11 ships that carried 759 convicts to Botany Bay in 1788. They didn't like the look of it so they relocated to Port Jackson and founded what would become the City of Sydney. As columnist Ann McGrath points out today, where America commemorates the arrival of the austere puritans, the landing at port Jackson set a certain tone for Australia's future when Captain Arthur Phillip ordered extra rations of rum and everyone got slaughtered.

Not a bad founding story at all, really. Anyway, I've got patriotic duties to attend to - it's time for a coldie.

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Ironical, like rain | Jan 16, 2004 10:13

If you haven't yet tuned into the joy of reading Theodore Dalrymple, a regular at The Spectator, I recommend you check him out. His latest offering tells of plans to move to France. Britain is just too awful.

Curmudgeonly Dalrymple is a stylist, an elegant old-fashioned writer. So imagine my surprise on finding him being corrected online on a matter of usage by somebody going by the name of "Gaz". While tripping through NZPundit the other day, looking for a laugh, I noticed Gordon had linked to Dalrymple and this "Gaz" had left a note:

"Well, all joking aside.... 'Ironical' isn't a word," he wrote.

Here is the offending item:

"Try as I might, however, I can see little charm to life in Britain, even if its vaunted economic recovery were not, as it clearly is, a house of cards. The British strike me as frivolous without gaiety and earnest without seriousness, which is why Mr Blair is so apt a leader for them. They have all but lost their saving grace (and a very great saving grace it was), their ironical humour."

This may seem a minor thing, hardly even worth noting, but it made me think and wonder, either of which is no mean achievement. Also I've just bought Boswell's life of Samuel Johnston and fully intend to read it one day so, qualified or not, I've been feeling a bit grammarian recently.

Initially I was inclined to agree with "Gaz". My gut feel was "ironical" was some awful modern mutant. It is a damned ugly word and should not be allowed to exist. Certainly I would discourage the Girlie from using it, especially when plain "ironic" does the job so well. But then I had a creeping suspicion that if I bothered to look up the Oxford "ironical" could well be there.

I did. It was.

Ironical is an adjective with three listed meanings with a first citing dating from 1576: "He was (belike) some Pomilio or little dwarfe and that made him to use this eironical method."

So, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Dalrymple (and the editors at The Spectator) were correct. Not only that, in his sentence the word reads rather well. It's not ugly at all. And that in turn reminds me of the Girlie, a few years back. She was enquiring about some Girlish issue and asked if it would be "more better" if she did this rather than that.

"Just better, Girlie," I corrected. "You don't need the more."

A few months later, after seeing the surreal Peter Greenaway film of The Tempest called Prospero's Books, I was reading the play to find out what the story was about. And there in Act 1, Scene 2 you find Prospero saying this to his Girlie Miranda:

"I have done nothing but in care of thee,
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who
Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing
Of whence I am: nor that I am more better
Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father."

Like rain and a free ride, isn't that ironical?

And now a public safety warning...
Pauline writes in response to our dryer lint discussions to warn you all NOT to use this to stuff toys. Apparently it's highly flammable.

So maybe we should take Shyrel's advice, which I didn't post a few months back, and add it to your compost. If that's okay with you Greens...

She also says she's had an online journal for five years "and have written about any number of subjects and what gets the most hits, the most attention, the most links? Yep... this silly entry that I did as a gag!"

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Hey Ho, Let's Go! | Jan 05, 2004 17:16

Right. OK. The new year then. Let's get into it.

What's new about the new year? Well so far it's been full of flashbacks for me.

First off, the Girlie asked me the other day if I'd pay her university fees. It was a simple proposition. She wasn't trying to get out of her student loan, which is now everyone's birthright. She just wanted to save the interest and pay me back.

"Girlie," I said, "are you familiar with the concept of inter-generational theft?"

She wasn't.

"Okay, this is how it works," says I. "I never paid for my education, so why the hell should I pay for yours?"

That had her flummoxed.

"But, Dad, you didn't pay because your parents paid."

"No they didn't," I say.

And it's true. First, paying through tax is different. Why? Because by doing so you are, one way or another, funding public programmes that are considered of benefit of society and not just to the individual.

I still believe that in the case of education, and health just as I believe it in the case of spending on defence or police or roads or customs services.

Second, I believe the free education I received was a darn sight better than the very expensive vocation-driven education now being offered by many alleged universities. I can't prove that. I just thought I'd hang it out there and wait for the abusive emails to roll in.

Anyway, I've just given the Girlie her first good reason to hate baby boomers.

That was flashback number one.

Flashback number two was Colin Powell saying pre-emption was not a cornerstone of US foreign policy in the same week Richard Perle releases a new polemic aiming to take the US to even more extreme international stances. One aim of this policy is to split the European Union by forcing governments to choose between supporting Washington or Paris.

You'd have to say Perle won the last round. That's where I'd have to put my money.

Then, flashback number three, I was watching TV and saw an item on the World Bank or some-such (a rare international institution the unilateralists support. I wonder why?) lecturing Bolivia on how they should develop. Here's the formula: privatize everything, remove all barriers to trade, create an environment amenable to foreign investment, bend over and lube up.

Now correct me if I'm wrong but weren't such policies disastrous in the case of Argentina? Isn't that formula the exact opposite of the very successful policies used to develop that model socialist state, Singapore? Or Japan. Or China. Or Russia.

I can't see anybody lecturing Singapore about privatising Singtel or Singapore Airlines.

Yes I know the economies of some of those states aren't going well at the moment, but the most communist of all, China, is growing real quick. These societies have developed successfully and quickly from extremely low bases into modern industrial societies, and they didn't do it by bending over.

Flashback number four was weighing myself and seeing I am now 93kg, despite eating well, not drinking too much, and jogging and swimming over the holidays. I was very well behaved and I still weigh sodding 93kg!

There is no justice in this cruel world.

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