Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Uncut: Spam


They are starting to give me spasms again, the spams.

Not that they plug my inbox in the way they used to, in the beginning, when spam caught us all off guard, and we looked forward to it, because it fascinated us and we wondered where it all came from, who wrote it, who sent it and how did we get on their list, but now I have very efficient anti-spamming software that diverts all junk immediately and with precision.

Most days.

Not last week.

All of a sudden, without any warning, my anti-spamming spammer collapsed and my inbox jammed with news from across the world with my incredible luck and good fortune and the incredible bad luck and misfortune of others.

It stunned me, that I could be so lucky, at this late stage in my uneven life, while out there in the wide blue yonder, so many were copping it tough.

Were those stricken with the bad the victims of a pendulum swing towards me? Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

I knew what to do.

Getting through the mail took time, wading through the inevitable penis enlargement promises, the cheap Viagra, the pleas from the Russian mothers living in single rooms with 37 children, the Belgian chocolate sales and the strange English Lord who claimed he had a cure for earache which involved a long stick, a lump of butter and if only he had the funds to get it off the ground he could get people listening again.

By the time I got through, I was through, but I kept going because I knew there was a column in it.

I tried to categorise and systematise but a couple of mails helped by not requiring a response, like this one from Frankfurt: “I have not been long with the Children, but, I am certain my captain will give me leave to escort my sister home.”

Then there was the inevitable lady from Russia, Kazan this time, along with two photos and assurances that she was “Your new the girlfriend from Kazan Elena”. Then the “Mail Delivery Failed” message informing me an email I had sent about a drug store in Toronto did not make it. That was lucky, because I realised there was no way I would be able to fill any orders for “low-price meds”.

On top of my list were the persistent chaps from Nigeria, not those promising money, but those requesting money for the final preparations necessary before I would receive $US870,000,000 for doing nothing other than sending them money, believing in God and trusting that my cash was only a token contribution to assist with streamlining matters at their end.

And then, out of nowhere, a note from a US soldier in Iraq: “I am a Captain J. G. Douglas of the US Marine Corps on Monitoring and Peace – keeping mission in Baghdad-Iraq, as you may know every day, there are several cases of insurgents attacks and suicide bombs going on here. We managed to Move funds belonging to some demised persons who were attacked and killed through insurgent attacks. The total amount is $23.2M dollars in cash.”

This was great news. I implemented my plan immediately.

Without hesitation I forwarded his email on to David Emeka from Nigeria, who required some initial funding and informed Captain Douglas that the entire $23.2M should be deposited in David’s account, and told David to forward his bank details to Capt Douglas.

Then, ecstatic as I was about winning the UK National Lottery, I knew I could never accept the money while there were others in need.

I replied to Mr John Mark, the Lottery’s Foreign Services Manager, Payment and Release Order Department, stating that that my entire winnings, “£3 million British Pounds Sterling national currency, should be signed over to Dr Edward Campbell from VIAGRA & CIALIS, email and postal address attached”.

Dr Campbell had informed me that my dosage was too low and I “urgently required renewal”. I told Dr Campbell that I had no idea how he “kept it up and I am only too happy to pass my windfall onto you so you can retire and ease the pressure on my inbox”.

None of the ungrateful bastards responded and now my spammer is back to normal I will never know if they do.

Uncut: Politics


Politics has always fascinated me and led to many a feisty argument over a bottle of port, late into the night, with my father, a well known and highly respected political atheist.

One of his favourite quotes was straight from Cicero, the great Roman Senator: It is a true saying that "One falsehood leads easily to another".

Dad kept his distance from the action and although I was never a big player, there were a couple of times when I made myself stand up.

Let me relate my own political story. It’s sad. It’s all about failure.

My first election campaign was in 1993, the Federal election Paul Keating just had to have and the one John Hewson baked a cake for but forgot to share.

I threw my name in for the seat of Curtin, held by Allan Rocher, a man nobody seemed to know, had ever seen, or expected to see. You should have seen their faces when he showed his at the polling booth: Blank. They didn’t know who he was.

I didn’t go into the election lightly. I researched. I discovered that no-one in the history of the Australian electoral process had ever stood for a parliament without asking voters to put them first on the ballot paper.

Didn’t matter how crazy they were, how doomed, if there were 64 candidates and the seat was held by the most popular PM in the history of PMs, their cards still read: Vote Me 1.

Such egos. Such delusions.

My strategy: Vote Doust 6.

Why 6? It made sense, there were six candidates and I knew I wouldn’t, couldn’t didn’t want to, win.

What normal, sane, sensible human would be keen to spend year after year in a building packed with deluded narcissists with a plethora of other personality disorders playing pass-the-buck and some other games that rhyme with one of those previous words?

My election campaign was a farce.

A highlight for me campaigning in the Curtin Electorate was standing outside a house in Jutland Parade with a megaphone yelling: “Stay calm, don’t panic, you are completely surrounded, by air.”

Then there were the calls from the other candidates asking for my preferences. They were serious. I felt sorry for them.

“I don’t have any preferences.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m No 6 on my own card.”


Eventually I got a call from the Natural Law Party, a collection of transcendental meditators.

Their pollster asked me if I would fax my card to him.

“What? Why don’t I just think of it, then you can pluck it out of the ether.”

Another mob who surprised me was a group of independents who wanted to put me No 1 on their ticket. I was sure that aligning with them would deny me my independence and declined their offer.

The second time I stood was the 1998 Federal election for the seat of Forest, up against Geoff Prosser, a man people knew, could see and hear coming their way, but when he arrived, wondered why he had bothered.

My campaign for Forest was pathetic. I couldn’t be bothered working up a policy, a proper vote card, or visiting voters, but I did enjoy working a polling both outside the Bridgetown town hall on election day.

It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with mum, dad and other family members who would normally be too busy to see me

In both elections I finished exactly where I wanted, last.

The strangest aspect in both cases was that over 400 sad and disillusioned voters went against my specific instructions and placed me first on their voting slips.

I received 18 more first preferences in Forest than in Curtin, not surprising as Forest is home to at leat 18 more Dousts.

One of them was my father, whose favourite political quote came from a taxi driver he met in Mexico City: “We have the best political system in the world in Mexico. When we don’t like a politician, we shoot him.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Yarragadee is safe!

This is bloody good news.

Premier of the State of West Australia, Alan Carpenter, has announced that a second seawater desalination plant powered by renewable energy will be Western Australia’s next major water source.

In making the announcement, Mr Carpenter shelved Water Corporation plans to utilise the South West Yarragadee aquifer for the integrated water supply system.

“The internationally acclaimed wind-powered Kwinana seawater desalination plant has demonstrated that large quantities of water from an unlimited ocean supply can be provided using a clean and green process,” the Premier said.

“Unlike SW Yarragadee and traditional water sources, it is also climate independent.

The proposed site for a second desalination plant is at a Water Corporation wastewater treatment facility on Taranto Road north of Binningup - adjacent to a disused limestone quarry. It is expected to have minimal environmental and visual impact on the area, but will be subject to the usual approval processes.

The new plant will provide at least 45 gigalitres of water a year into the integrated water supply system by the end of 2011, with potential to increase to 100 gigalitres. Similar to the Kwinana plant, it will be powered by renewable energy.

“We can no longer rely on traditional, seasonal climate patterns and rainfall,” the Premier said.

“Seawater desalination is clearly the best long term feasible and practical option for our State, along with more water recycling initiatives.

The Premier said that while the SW Yarragadee aquifer had effectively received environmental approval, it remained a source that was still reliant on climate and rainfall.

“More work therefore needs to be done on assessing the full impact of climate change and declining rainfall on the south west and on the SW Yarragadee aquifer,” Mr Carpenter said.

He said the Government was also actively researching a major aquifer recharge recycling project north of Perth, which had the potential to yield an extra 25 gigalitres.

The West Uncut: garlic


Is yours in? Mine is. I put it in around dusk, just before the April full moon.

And this year I am growing double the amount of garlic I grew last year. Good crop that last one, but not enough.

Took me a week to prepare the ground, moulding it into the mother-of-all-plots and already you can see handsome green stems rising with pride towards the light.

Those determined individuals from Albany, Manjimup and Baldivis who already supply me with copious quantities of organically grown knobs need not fear, I will not be able to grow enough to satisfy my needs. Even with my harvest in, I will remain an active buyer in the marketplace.

Why then must I grow garlic? Good question and I have answers.

One reason is that I come from a long line of fruit and vegetable growers and when I was a boy during the last ice-age in Bridgetown, we grew everything we needed.

In the beginning there was mum, dad, my older brother and me. This was nowhere near enough folk to work the sprawling orchards, so we grew two more brothers.

Four boys, a man and a hard working country woman who could bake a cake, darn a sock and drive a tractor, now that was a team.

And another reason, an outstanding reason, is that it is our patriotic duty to grow fruit and vegetables on the land surrounding our house.

Those of us nearing the end of our allotted allotment will well remember growing up in a house with a yard heavily laden with grape vines, vegi-patches and fruit trees.

This was before television. This was when boredom was an imaginary world inhabited by rampant drill-crews who roamed the landscape making holes in the ground in an endless search for water, oil and China.

Everyone had plenty to do and even when we didn’t want to do it we still did and all year round we dug, planted, watered and harvested.

Yes, my fellow West Australians, it is our patriotic duty to plant garlic and tell me this, could there be a greater defence of one’s nation that the ability to produce our own food?

Oh yes, there’s been a lot of talk about patriotism in recent years and some seem to think it’s about flying a flag from your front yard, your roof, or your car and driving around like a lunatic with your head out the window yelling “Aussie Aussie Aussie”.

What a lot of cocky poo!

Did you know that over 90% of all garlic sold in Australia comes from overseas? We should be ashamed of ourselves.

You know how hard it is to grow garlic? You move a sod, you add some sheep or chicken poo, bit of blood and bone, rake it in, water it, wait a couple of days, stick cloves all over it, bingo, around November, garlic! It’s a bloody miracle.

All this talk from Federal and local pollies about getting used to importing fruit and vegetables and the boys in Canberra recently deciding to let in New Zealand apples makes me want to get stroppy and picket parliaments.

Do they get out? Do they use the phone, watch the evening news, read a paper, search the internet, or engage in casual conversation?

Haven’t they heard that over here in the West we have a surplus of apples? We can’t sell all our apples. Orchardists are dumping apples. Would it make sense to send apples to the east where the drought has not only left them short of water but also apples?

Is anyone listening?

And anyone who buys land that was once prime fruit and vegi growing country should be required to grow garlic and apples in their back yard and make sensible use of available water and soil.

It’s Saturday morning. This is the first morning of the rest of your life. Make a stand, put the paper down, get of your butt, go outside and choose the best place to plant garlic. It’ll need good soil, sandy will do for now and a sunny spot. Go to it.

You’re a good person, a credit to your country, a true patriot.

The West Uncut: Pemberton


I’m writing this in Pemberton. This is a town that looks like it gets good rain. I arrived two days ago and it hasn’t stopped.

Has that damped my enthusiasm? No.

Why am I here? Good question.

I am here to finish off the great Australian novel, not to read it, but to complete it. It was mine to write.

Ok, mine along with every other Australian who ever used a stick in sand, lifted a pen, a pencil, a typewriter, a keyboard, or even those old codgers like my grandfather who collected the words in their heads, stored them there and let them out every Christmas for the family.

Why Pemberton? Because it was here.

Back, way back, when my father was a young family man with great legs and he had two strapping boys who could lift things on instruction, he drove us most weekends to Pemberton to collect huge milk cans full of fingerlings, baby trout, and water, not milk, fingerlings can’t live in milk.

Once fully laden we drove all over this great south west tipping trout into creeks, brooks, rivers, dams and tanks. If you fish for trout in the Lower South West, we put them there. Well, not them, their great, great, great grandfathers and grandmothers.

Maybe not all of them because there might well have been others doing the same work in other towns and other streams but dad never mentioned them. It was our work.

Later, laden with the implements of fishing we would haunt those same streams and dad would fish until his fine legs buckled, or he had enough to eat and then we’d cook right there and then in a fire he made before he started, knowing he’d catch something because he put them there.

Years later, when dad was almost gone and many thought I had long gone, a few good friends and I helped Pemberton become the comedy capital of WA.

For a short three years it shone bright on the Australian comedy circuit. Everybody who was anybody, or who wanted to be somebody, came, performed, drank local wines, ate local trout and left.

Some, like the biggest stars, flew in and flew out the night they performed and wondered where the hell they had been.

Years later I worked alongside the long-thin Rod Quantok and reminded him of the night he did just that.

“I wondered about that town,” he said. “The thing that struck me most of all was the smell. It was dark when I arrived and dark when I left but I went with this sweet smell up my nose.”

I have it right now, as I sit in the grand hotel with same name as the town, eating the dish I ordered earlier. I couldn’t help myself.

“The trout,” I asked, “is it local?”

The answer was a natural “yes” and I placed my order and thought of my trout-fishing father and others like him.

Pemberton was the perfect location for a comedy festival, cold, friendly, nestled in a great and timeless forest, surrounded by water, vignerons, fresh produce and built by men and women who cut timber with their bare hands.

It is home to one of the two legendary mill-town football teams in the Lower South West Football League, the mighty Southerners

I once played for the other legendary team, Deanmill, and I once played against Southerners. Only once.

It was a day I expected to line up for the reserves but someone turned up lame and in I went to face eighteen hardened men with jarrah arms and karri legs and it wasn’t too long before a truck-load of lumber fell upon me.

Three days later they found me. I was a tiny splinter in the hand of Big Johnny Turner, man-mountain, Southerners captain coach, ruckman, full-back, full-forward, sweeper and a man who once pushed a wheelbarrow laden with railway sleepers from Pemberton to Bunbury in 45 minutes.

When I woke this morning and looked out over a misty lake backed by massive karris, I thought, just for a second: “All is well with the world.”

Then I went and spoilt it. I turned on the radio and listened to the news. All was not well in the world of radio.

In Pemberton, it’s still raining. I may stay awhile. You may never hear from me again.

Moving on

Betty's favourite family photo: that's me on the left, the one with the muscle.

I went to another funeral yesterday. This time to say goodbye to man called Normal Doust. He was my father's first cousin and a legendary nice bloke.
It is the allotted time for the Baby Boomer, the time to say goodbye to those of their parents who have lived the long life.
Norman was parent to three fine women and husband to one fine woman.
It has been a tough week for Dousts, because on the previous Friday four of us said goodbye to our mother, Betty Glorvina Doust.
Betty was my mother, mother to three others and wife of the deceased Stanley Roy Doust.
Betty's final day with her family was a classic: she was funny, chirpy, cheeky, alive. Most of us had been up all night at her bedside and if she saw someone nodding off she would clap her hands in front of him or her and say: "Come on. come on."
Betty loved the bible and so I read it to her, but made her fill in the gaps:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the ....
She would look up at me, pause, "earth".
And God said let there be ....
And so on.
The hospital staff opened up an empty ward for family to sleep in on Betty's final night. Some of us went home to a brother's farm.
The final hour was tough. It's not a pretty sight, watching some you love struggle with the finality, but it is, at the same time, an honourable thing to do, to sit with them, and help them through.
My partner had just been through it all with her mother in Holland and she was ready to do certain things that had to be done to ensure the body was ready for the laying out.
And what a laying out.
My mother was an attractive woman and the morticians did a magnificent job. She looked beautiful and peaceful.
Not everybody wants to take a final look, but it is important for me, because I want the last image to be something other than the pain of the going. Betty looked so lovely and peaceful my face exploded in a smile that I couldn't get rid of.
Luckily for me it was happy funeral, full of laughter and joy at having had such a woman in our lives.
It wasn't always rosy, Betty's life, but bringing all that up is no way to say goodbye.
Thanks, Betty.
You too, Norman.