One of the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the increase in surveillance of people generally. Agencies are using access to ppl’s phones and facial recognition via CCTV cameras in public for beneficent reasons – to alert ppl to danger. … But when the ‘crisis’ is over, the technology will remain in place.


I wrote that before the launch of the CovidSafe app.

John Barker on leadership

I thought this piece by John Barker on leadership (in Australia) was too good for Facebook. In fact, it should be widely republished.

We have been particularly poorly served by those who presume to be “leaders”. Which would lead one to wonder what we need, want or expect of this function.

Perhaps, two centuries ago, we needed somebody to help us muster courage and articulate a vision of possibilities in an unknown country. But then we just had profiteers and convicts.

Today, we have an educated and continuously informed society that doesn’t need a PM to be a proxy for their reasoning or emotions by offering his thoughts and prayers on their behalf. We don’t need a PM whose words are carefully crafted to “play to their base” in selected electorates in order to eke out a slender majority so that they can impose their idiosyncratic beliefs on us all.

The reality is that although a select few believe that they will be relieved of their mortal coil by the Rapture, the agnostic majority know that we are stuck here, with our children and grandchildren. There is no Planet B, there is no Country B and there is no longer an unexplored frontier in this wide brown and blackened land.

We scarcely need a “leader” – we probably never did. We just need a good “manager” of the “common-wealth” – to continuously review our position and direction with regard to our “sustainability”.

The notion of a “modern manager” would be useful, but alas! Our corporate leaders view themselves as “celebrities”, but are shown to have silver tongues and feet of clay- a self-serving “fourth sector”, distinct from customers, staff and shareholders, more focused on bonuses and golden handshakes after their brief tenure.

Similarly, our political leaders, many of whom become unaccountably wealthy while on relatively modest public salaries, using their tenure as a step towards “soft” corporate roles, undoubtedly trading the knowledge garnered from their privileged public positions.

No – we don’t need “leaders” like these. We just need good managers of the sustainability of the “common-wealth”, so that we aren’t an embarrassment to our grandchildren.

The Experience of Montaigne

Montaigne was the greatest essayist. Here’s the best bit from his best (and possibly last) essay, ‘On experience’. This is as good as it gets.

We are great fools. “He has passed his life in idleness,” say we: “I have done nothing to-day.” What? have you not lived? that is not only the fundamental, but the most illustrious, of your occupations. “Had I been put to the management of great affairs, I should have made it seen what I could do.” “Have you known how to meditate and manage your life? you have performed the greatest work of all.” In order to show and develop herself, nature needs only fortune; she equally manifests herself in all stages, and behind a curtain as well as without one. Have you known how to regulate your conduct, you have done a great deal more than he who has composed books. Have you known how to take repose, you have done more than he who has taken empires and cities.

Treat or Trick

1800, 31 October 2019

Treat or Trick—that’s American foreign policy: give us what we want (world domination) or we’ll fuck you over.

I’m an Australian. We do not have a cultural tradition of observing Halloween. It is being imposed on us (mainly by commercial organisations taking yet another opportunity to try to sell us stuff we don’t need).

Treat or trick, in our streets, is a local version of global American imperialism.


Girl Rides Horse

Cinema is an industry. Its income depends on the number of people paying for films, which logically depends on their popularity. Which in turn depends on the extent to which it conforms to the expectations (of a film) of a large number of people. Their mores include things they really care about (sport, money, life and death, nationalism—perhaps in that order) and things they think they should be seen to care about because of political correctness (indigenous issues, feminism, animal welfare).

This year’s top Aussie film has had an exemplary ride. It did very well at the box office, making far more millions than any other in 2019 … until the scandal hit the media. Never having thought about it, people were shocked to discover that horsemeat is being used for pet food. Not only that, people were actually killing the horses first.

The film will still finish first, but now rather ignominiously. I expect there will be demonstrations on AACTA awards night, and that people will say disparaging (or defensive) things about the racing industry in their speeches.

Footnote. What is done to racehorses during their working lives is far worse than what happens to them in the minutes before their deaths.

Freud and Me

I wrote the dissertation for my PhD in the first half of 1993 while on OSP leave (sabbatical).

This was immediately after I had coordinated (taught) a unit called Language Culture and the Unconscious in 1991 and 1992. As a result of this, I enrolled for a PhD under the supervision of Bob Hodge, who had conceived the unit. The dissertation was based on the structure and thought of said unit, and took a positive view of the continuing usefulness of some of Freud’s ideas – in fact that was its thesis.

During those same years I was in contact with a close friend who happened to  be a liberal feminist psychiatrist, Lois Achimovich, and she was continually making me aware of Freud’s feet of clay, as exposed by writers like Jeffrey Masson and Frederick Crews. As a result of her influence the dissertation came to be richer and more complex.

In two lectures I gave in 1994, I took the opportunity to say as succinctly as I could what I thought about the ‘seduction hypothesis’ in a lecture on Freud given to unsuspecting students in their first university course, the Foundation unit Structure, Thought and Reality, in April 1994. The next month, I gave a related but more complex lecture to the more sophisticated students of Literary Theory 1, which examined the way in which the ‘structure’ required by Freud for his pseudo-science of psychoanalysis meant that what he ‘thought’ came into conflict with the ‘reality’ of what he was hearing in his consulting-room. With the result that … he denied his patients’ reality.

In a 2000 publication, ‘Mind and culture: Freud and Slovakia‘, which also drew directly on my dissertation, my critique of  Freud suggested that he relied to a great extent on analogy as a rhetorical strategy, rather than, say, logic – or demonstration.

Tennis Girl

The photograph known as ‘Tennis Girl’ is one of the best known images in the world. It has been sold millions of times, and copied millions more for free.  It has its own Wikipedia page.

I used it this weekend for a bit of fun.

I donate a website to the Fremantle Workers Club. I’ve paid for and supported it for many years. (I OWN THE SITE.)

I was recently asked (not officially – only in an email from the president’s partner) to put up a daily photo of the progress of the construction of the club’s new building. I was happy to do so.

I happened to notice that a tennis club was copying the progress photo to their website.  They were doing this without asking or informing me.

Just for fun, I changed the name of the relevant image so that the ‘tennis girl’ photo would be the one seen — instead of a building — by anyone who was downloading the photo on their site. …

To their credit, it only took them a day to notice, and their president rang ‘my’ president … and I’ve put everything back.

Everyone will be pleased to know that I shall ‘cease and desist’ (their president’s phrase) from providing this free website at the end of the year.

Update. I’ve now been told that that it was agreed between the clubs that the daily progress photo would be shared. No-one thought to tell me this.

Local Invasion Day

Only 2100 – and on a Sunday night – the cop chopper is noise-polluting the night. It used to be after 2200 on a Saturday. Nyoongar kids would steal a car – usually a Commodore – and play a game of chasy with the cops. I used to listen to the commentary when the cops were still using analog on their two-ways. The cops usually caught them, and I suppose they went inside to spend some time with lots of family.
Tonight is a  ‘long weekend’ (for ‘Foundation Day’, when James Stirling nearly arrived here) so I suppose Sunday = Saturday, and the cops get to play with their favourite toy, PolAir1.

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

If it’s possible to do the best job, that’s a good thing, but it’s also true, as G.K Chesterton wrote (in What’s Wrong With the World, 1910 ) that ‘If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.’  Which I take to mean that even if you have to do something relatively badly, it may well still be worth doing anyway.

There’s a ramble about this on this Chestertonian  blog.


I watched almost all the live stream of the Sinny Mardi Gras from SBS tonight.  They shot everything that went past their broadcast station on the corner where the parade turned the corner from Oxford Street into Flinders Street (or maybe the other way around; I don’t live in Sinny).
I was struck by how many more fat people there were than a decade or two ago.  It occurred to me that we might have to add another letter to the long list of deviancies that we how have to accept as ‘politically correct’: LGBTQI … LGBTQIAGNC … LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA … … + F for Fat.