Outlook for 2015

1970sI maintain that I don’t have a drinking problem as much as I like to sit and think about the mistakes I have made in life. And so if you should see me divert to the pub after work every night, that is not alcoholism, that is Soul. If you should spy me at the pub at 11.30 am before my hairdresser’s appointment, that is not a liquor dependency, it is Decadence. If I just happen to know the names, faces and regular shift hours of the liquor store guys and girls, being so used to pop in of a weeknight for a lark, if some of them give me their discounts, and others call me honey, and I have designs on one of them, that is not dipsomania, it is Community. In any case this is the time of the year when people become prone to reflecting. Let us just say I have been Reflecting quite a bit — almost ceaselessly since the first of December, over New Years and up til now, when my doctor informs me I ought to give up the deep thoughts for a while.

That isn’t a set back. I think I’ve finally figured it out. My stated aim for the Year of Our Lord 2015 is to marry a ton of money. I have lived a rather free and feminist life up to this point and that has got me Nowhere and nothing but twenty-gallon barrels of shit thrown in my face. Just lately I have grown rather tired of getting blown hither and thither by unjust winds. You left me last post last year basically hounded out of house and home by a fat sobbing sod.  I had been cast out from Casa Sinatra into an incomprehensible and uncaring world full of swine. I had nothing left but my name and a sugar-pink Cadillac. Where was a girl of such immense beauty and prodigious talent supposed to go after that?

Skipping a bit — I found myself at last at a coffee shop inhabited by chancers, cretins, charlatans, tax cheats and people with names largely composed of discordant vowel sounds, contemplating some watery slop vaguely reminiscent of coffee, while the dough-nuts seemed to be queuing to commit suicide by dropping onto the sticky floor.

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The road to Casa Sinatra

Nancy SinatraI had to see Nancy, no matter what. I did try persuasive and reasoned, impassioned arguments for a while but to no avail. Then, as I nudged some shingles between my boots and smoked my fiftieth cigarette, it occurred to me that Security guards like to speak in riddles. To get the answer you want, you firstly have to ask the right question.

‘No pink Cadillacs,’ said Steve. ‘Yep,’ said Ernie. Then I said, ‘How about I leave the Cadillac here? Can I go in without it?’

And the gate opened, shrieking on its massive hinges.

Before me rose a long drive of blazing white shingles, which shimmered with dust catching the last of the light and heat. The entrance was bordered with olive trees and cherry tomatoes in giant terracotta pots. It was easy to imagine Frank Snr here, pottering around pleasantly like an old Italian man. But the scent of citrus and the shade soon gave way to the famous Sinatra talent for cunt acts.

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Now, most people do not approach Casa Sinatra on foot; the drive went on for some time, winding up the hillside, through a rocky, desert garden. It was rough going, with the pebbles reflecting heat and shifting under my Beatle boots.

On and on and on and on. The road took several scenic detours past various points of interest in the desert mountainside garden. There was a natural rock formation, a rock feature, a tumbled dyke, a pile of smoothed heaped stones; a wilderness area for small desert beasts, ornamental cacti and aposematic lizards which crawled idly over the crumbling walls, occasionally poking out their muscular purple tongues to spit out a shell or a bird’s leg.

Next the drive took me to a view facing west; a view facing north, a modernist pagoda, an outcrop of rock hanging over a quarry.

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I passed several Frank Snr memorial statues which showed him at various stages of his career, cast in bronze or carved in malachite or rising out of the living mountain. (The statues buzzed with the sound of security cameras, concealed in Frank’s suit buttons or prismatic blue eyes).

item0.rendition.slideshowVertical.frank-sinatra-01-portraitAbout two hours later, thirsty and fagged and sunburned and grey with quarry dust, I finally reached the second gate.

Continued next post: The Second Gate At Casa Sinatra 

You Ought to Drink Less Coke QED

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The incredible influence exerted by Coke and multi-nationals of the same ilk is not restricted to “advertising”, and unfortunately the impact that the company has is never as positive or democratic as they’d have us believe, as the Coke vs. the NT government case now makes clear. When the NT government wanted to introduce a “cash for containers” recycling scheme, Coca-Cola Amatil took them to the High Court and won. So what exactly was the issue here? A green community scheme that aimed to keep Australia clean, prevent viable recycling going in to landfill and reduce the number of deaths to seabirds and other wildlife? The corpses are found with stomachs full of plastic bottle-tops which they have mistakenly swallowed and are unable to digest. The parents will even ‘feed’ the bottle-tops to their chicks in that sweet regurgitating way they do. This is the point of the Greenpeace ad which no commercial station will show: Channel 7, 9, 10 & SBS all rejected the Greenpeace ad; one channel gave the rather lame excuse that it was too offensive (to whom? The type of people who leave their rubbish lying around?) Watch it here. But lest you should wonder why I, missshitsville, have so concerned myself with the topic (aside from having worked at the zoo and being really quite fond of birds and even peacocks, despite appearances) I think it’s simply rude — selfish — pure unadulterated fuckedheadedness for any human being to trash public spaces and to make your rubbish someone else’s problem. When I go walking, high up in the hills that surround Shitsville Ranch, I see plastic bottles about the place, steamed up with condensation; they drift out of the river when it floods and end upside down in Veronica bushes, and the monkeys throw them at each other — which makes it very hard for me to go on pretending that stupid people don’t exist, the similarities are striking.

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Coca-Cola objected to the scheme in NT on the grounds that it would make the cost of a can of Coke too prohibitive… It’s the old ‘make sure every good American Joe can get a 5 cent bottle of Coke everywhere he goes’ thing; incredibly endearing concern for the happiness and home-like comforts of the average Joe.

Articles in the Fuckwit ‘news’ pictorial rarely mention the issue without palpable anti-green bias (funnily enough they never mention the part that Coke plays in the issue); as expected they are on the side of ‘Victorians’, families of three to six children no doubt begotten while Joe and Sue screwed frantically to the sound of Cold Chisel, that’s how average and Aussie they are. The Fuckwit Newscorp called the deposit scheme a “green tax”, which is deliberately misleading and aimed to plug-in to some of the misogynist hatred surrounding the figure of Prime Minister Gillard who (apparently personally) dared to introduce a carbon tax which Joe and Sue are in strong agreement (bordering on insanity) about:  they dislike the carbon tax because it offers incentives to major polluters to reduce their emissions and average Aussies don’t give a fuck about that kind of shit; they’d rather spend those (all of ten) carbon tax bucks a week on… I don’t know. Umpteen bottles of Coke for the continued happiness of their entitled, dullard children I guess; those charming teenage boys who drink directly from “family-size” 2 litre bottles.

No doubt a lot of people are willing to argue that Joe and Sue have every right to spend their hard earned on whatever it is they want, however “inessential” hippies think that those things are; no doubt also that in other ways the same people standing up for the rights of Joe and Sue to Enjoy CokeTM are in the pay of the people who gave Joe and Sue the idea that buying Coke makes them happy in the first place. Let us just take a moment to think about how democratic it is to have our choice of government and their economic & environmental policies dictated to us by big business and a biased, censored media.

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If Joe and Sue McAverageaussie are genuinely concerned that the totally refundable $4.80 a container deposit scheme will add to the price of a slab of beer or soft drink (I’m assuming that’s 24 cans a slab calculated at the exaggerated “up to 20 cents” a bottle rate, and not 48 cans calculated at the correct 10 cent rate) will find them having to pay in excess of a totally refundable $300 a year (that’s 1500 cans/bottles a year averaging four bottles/cans a day, every single day of the year) all I can say is that I truly find the amount of soft drink and / or alcohol you consume to be not only appalling but concerning as well.  One bottle for every member of the family every day? As opposed to one bottle you could share as a family, occasionally? But hush, Joe and Sue, do not fret. You could get the ‘excess of $300-a-year’ back simply by recycling that absurdly large, teetering pile of bottles, or you could save even more money by drinking less coke.

You ought to drink less Coke (Part 3)

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Let us just take a refreshing pause as we consider this Valkyrie on her modern-day horse; she is gorgeously pink and pleasantly dimpled and in so many ways a Titian vision of blonde loveliness ‘that could make a bishop kick in a stained-glass window’. Coke has crow-barred itself into this picture of joy and with its official stamp positioned itself as the preeminent consideration in the entirely spurious “Coke + beautiful woman = happiness” equation. Unfortunately adorning a product with a woman is no new trick and a marketing technique unlikely to lose its attraction any time soon; sidebar this lowest-common-denominator approach to advertising has also inflamed various kinds of terrible social problems by unintentionally reinforcing the equally spurious “woman = product” idea. While we take another refreshing pause in order to allow time for the blood to return to your brain I would like to casually suggest that advertising works by coupling the product it is trying to sell with something (abstract) that you actually want; and that the repetition of the same message over time establishes what seems like a ‘natural’ link between the two. Eventually we start thinking in shorthand; from “Coke + fantastically beautiful woman + fairground + holiday = happiness”, we collapse the equation:

“Coke […] = happiness.”

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Sex, love, youth, happiness, friendship, freedom, Victory, (“one people, one nation,” if you live in Nazi Germany) and the “Carry On” motto of the British in WW2; Coke has corralled all of these magnificent, abstract things in order to peddle its sombre draught.  Of all of these evidently desirable things, a bottle of Coke is the only one that you can actually buy; and so we do. This is exactly the public relations technique that Edward Bernays (a nephew of Freud) theorised and was an expert of: appealing to irrational, unconscious desires in order to direct and control the behaviour of the masses.

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The point I am eventually going to make if I ever stop getting distracted by the pictures (notice pretty fraulein with proffered face, breasts and tray in order of consideration) is that while companies like Coke are in the end only trying to sell us 5 cent bottles of syrupy carbonated water, with over a century’s worth of relentless propaganda it’s fair to say that we have not only been irretrievably charmed by their witch’s brew but also allowed them to define for us incredibly important concepts such as: “happiness”; “friendship” (Share a Coke with…) ; “the good things in life”; “quality family time” and indeed all “sunny and pleasant things”; that which is “home-like”; “purity and quality”; “leisure” and “refreshment” — even “health” (Coca-Cola revives and sustains, apparently; it has some undeniable yet indefinable connection to sports in any case) — in the same way that we allowed Coke to determine the way that we picture Saint Nicholas.

Coke has even bought shares in “democracy”. In the twenties and thirties Coke and all kinds of mass-manufactured products came to be thought of as a truly democratic thing: the standardisation and modern, effective methods of distribution meant any one and everyone, born high and low, from movie stars and fashionable sophisticates to okies in their old jalopy and young drifters like Bonnie and Clyde, from Fatty Arbuckle and his unfortunate paramour to the King of England — anyone could enjoy a bottle of delicious, refreshing Coca-Cola for 5 cents and know it was the same purity and quality as the one the other fellow was drinking. It was even possible for the refreshment of 5 cent Cokes to follow American soldiers around the globe during WWII — same as the Betty Grable pin-up. It is precisely this popular, ‘democratic’ appeal (and one-size-fits-all approach to international relations) which made the Coca-Cola Company extraordinarily successful and awesomely rich, and terrifyingly powerful, a lot like omniscient Santa with his ever-watchful twinkling eyes and comprehensive list of children who have been naughty or nice; those good children he leaves Coke-bottle-shaped presents for and those bad ones he brings litigation against.

Read Next: You Ought To Drink Less Coke, QED (Part Four)

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You ought to drink less Coke (Part 2)

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“I’m saying this for Uncle Sam… I speak for the pleasant, happy things in life… All the things we necessarily now have less of. You know… tires, radios, gas, fuel, food, fun, leisure and all the like. In its own way, your bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola is almost a casual symbol of such pleasant things.”

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Thus spake the Coca Cola sprite in 1943, in a truly delicious and refreshing print ad linking patriotism, the fruits of industrial capitalism (fun, leisure),  your pleasure (and indeed all pleasant, happy things), the buying of war bonds and, of course, ice-cold Coca-Cola. That’s not to doubt that good folks everywhere suffered privations during the war; the rubber for tires, gas, fuel etc. were all being diverted into the war effort; but rest assured that where there were privations / mild inconveniences (we’re talking about mainland America, remember, not Europe) the Coca-Cola company was there to step in with a 5 cent bottle of soda pop that would be a ‘refreshing pause’ from blasting Messerschmitts out of the sky and being generally muscular and heroic Yankee Joes, or whatever it was. They were there to make you feel good, to bring your family together, to lighten up Christmas, to remind you of old times, as “a casual symbol” of decent American things etc etc etc etc etc etc. While disingenuously spinning some shit about buying war bonds, Coca-Cola have positioned themselves as some kind of bulwark against the realities of war, or the epitome of what is meant when people talk about ‘the good American way of life’; so enjoying a Coke becomes a patriotic duty on par with buying war bonds; in a movie-ready moment Coke is assuming good Joes everywhere shouted, “You can take our tires, but never take our Coke!” as their planes went down in flames leaving nought but an elegiac trail of smoke above alien lands. Call me a cynic, but if they cared so much about getting people to buy war bonds, if taking out this ad was a purely patriotic or altruistic gesture, there’d be no need to throw in a reference to an ice-cold Coke, would there? Unless, of course, they’re actually being generous with their riches and are willing to share around some of the goodwill that Coke advertising had generated over the many years, for a cause greater than their own…

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Well, of course, that’s advertising, we all know, like an ancient painted tart claiming to be just 18 we’re wise to their tricks (it’s all done with lighting and mirrors) but still we succumb and let them work their professional ‘magic’ upon our weary souls. Enjoying a Coke is on par with a lot of equally saccharine and ultimately unimportant diversions, but a lot of people would tell you that the having and enjoying of such sweet, inessential, transient things is one of the aims (benefits? by products?) of capitalism and democracy.

(Like Nabokov wrote in Lolita, “Mentally I found her to be a disgustingly conventional little girl. Sweet hot jazz, square dancing, gooey fudge sundaes, musicals, movie magazines and so forth — these were the obvious items in her list of beloved things… If some cafe sign proclaimed Icecold Drinks, she was automatically stirred, although all drinks everywhere were ice-cold. She it was to whom ads were dedicated: the ideal consumer, the subject and object of every foul poster.”)

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The same logical fallacy has been used in much the same way again and again ad infinitum over the years: criticise anything as being inessential, wasteful, and fundamentally meaningless and you’ll get some towering intellect accusing you of Communism (and / or pretentiousness), and asserting the apparently boundless rights of “average Aussie families” to have everything they could ever possibly want for the very lowest price  (or preferably for free). For some reason many Australians, living in one of the only Western economies that survived the GFC, have a terminal problem with the “hip pocket nerve”. Add to this the knowledge that gradually over the course of the last century, public relations men such as Edward Bernays, in cahoots with the media, individual businesses and entire industries, governments and politicians, went out of their way to inextricably link Democracy and Capitalism in the mind of the public. (See the 2002 BBC documentary “The Century of The Self” by Adam Curtis.) The result of this anti-Communist propaganda work was so effective that even today when it could just seem like an interesting but failed social experiment, or an absurd bogey of the Cold War era, Communism is a dirty word (like ‘feminism’ it is too often wilfully misunderstood) and public commentators (the more moronic of a lot known for their many and various moronic ways) will shut down legitimate arguments and criticism of governments and irresponsible multi-national companies by portraying the critics as hippies or communists, intent on removing  civilised comforts from the average family — their relentless, uninformed or deliberately distorted sneering taints the word “environmentalist” with the same brush.  For all of the dirty nut-whack hippies out there, isn’t it just possible that some of them — some of them — have something valuable, reasonable and important to say?

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Edward Bernays (‘the father of Public Relations’ and an expert in propaganda) believed that the ‘herd instinct’ we see in society was irrational and dangerous, and that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy. In Propaganda (1928) Bernays wrote:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. […] We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. 
[…] In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

However, elsewhere Bernays added a caveat: a public relations counsel “must never accept a retainer or assume a position which puts his duty to the groups he represents above his duty to society.”

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to Coke, in part three of this no doubt thrilling and perfectly argued albeit imperfectly referenced rant. Read Part Three

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