Friday humour - March 29, 2002

     From Tony at Bluehaze:

    This'll actually be Tuesday or Wednesday humour for many of you on the
    FH list, but some will doubtless log in over the break (or even go into
    work - shock, horror) so hopefully you can relax long enough to read
    this lot over a cuppa.

    Davo's had a well-earned rest tonight (Thursday) after posting the last 2
    weeks worth of FH.  He went in to see the first footy game of the season
    here at the MCG.  Collingwood (his team) are playing the mighty Tigers!
    Hope he enjoyed the tussle anyway.

    First up for this special Easter Friday, a little tale passed on for your
    chortling pleasure by Cr Madus Mickus of East Cheam in the jolly old UK
    (who adds: "Hope all is well with you Aussies"):

A New York woman was at her hairdresser's on Park Avenue getting her hair
styled prior to a trip to Rome with her boyfriend.

She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who responded, "Rome?"  Why would
anyone want to go there?  It's crowded & dirty and full of Italians.  You're
crazy to go to Rome.  So, how are you getting there?"

"We're taking Continental," was the reply. "We got a great rate!"

"Continental?" exclaimed the hairdresser. "That's a terrible airline.  Their
planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly, and they're always late.
So, where are you staying in Rome?"

"We'll be at this exclusive little place on Rome's left bank called Teste..."

"Don't go any further.  I know that place.  Everybody thinks its gonna be
something special and exclusive, but it's really a dump, the worst hotel in
the city!  The rooms are small, the service is surly and they're overpriced.
So, whatcha doing when you get there?"

"We're going to go to see the Vatican and we hope to see the Pope."

"That's rich," laughed the hairdresser. "You and a million other people trying
to see him.  He'll look the size of an ant.  Boy, good luck on this lousy trip
of yours.  You're going to need it."

A month later, the woman again came in for a hairdo.  The hairdresser asked her
about her trip to Rome.

"It was wonderful," explained the woman, "not only were we on time in one of
Continental's brand new planes, but it was overbooked and they bumped us up
to first class.  The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a handsome
28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot.

And the hotel - it was great!  They'd just finished a $5 million remodelling job
and now it's a jewel, the finest hotel in the city.  They, too, were overbooked,
so they apologised and gave us their owner's suite at no extra charge!"

"Well," muttered the hairdresser, "that's all well and good, but I know you
didn't get to see the Pope."

"Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a Swiss
Guard tapped me on the shoulder and explained that the Pope likes to meet some
of the visitors and if I'd be so kind as to step into his private room and
wait, the Pope would personally greet me."

Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my
hand!   I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me."

"Oh, really...What'd he say?"

He said, "Where'd you get the shitty hairdo?"

      Bit more Wayne Carey (sick) humour now - and sorry, but they're good.
      This first little collection's via Russell MacKinnon:

Q: What's the difference between Skippy and Wayne Carey?
A: Skippy can root who he likes and still be a kangaroo!

      But wait, there's more ...

Q: What's the difference between Wayne Carey and the Titanic?
A: Only 1600 people went down on the Titanic.

Q: Why does Wayne Carey wear boxer shorts?
A: To keep his ankles warm

Q: What is the first thing Wayne Carey does when he gets out of bed?
A: Goes home.

   A new poll asked 1,000 women if they would have sex with Wayne Carey.
   70% said, "Never again."

              And this (re-modelled) one is from Maria the Harding:

A man, on his way home from work was stuck in traffic which was much worse
than usual.  Noticing a policeman walking among the stalled cars, he asked,
"Officer, what's the hold-up?"

The policeman says: "Wayne Carey is so depressed about being caught cheating
that he's stopped his car and is threatening to douse himself in petrol and
set himself on fire.  He says his family hates him, fans hate him, his team
mates hate him and he now won't have the $1 million from his footy contract.
I'm walking around taking up a collection for him."

"Oh, really?" the man says. "How much have you collected so far?"

"So far only 18 litres, but a lot of people are still siphoning."

        Ah well, enough Wayne Carey.  One does initially feel a little sorry
        for his wife Sally, too, although the odds of it happening are pretty
        high if you marry or shack-up with any celebrity, I guess?

        This next little one drifted down from QCAT near the equator:

This rabbit goes into a milk bar.  Proprietor says, "What'll it be, mate?"

Rabbit says, "I'll have a lemon and salami toasty".

He scoffs that down quick smart and then orders again. "I'll have a
chutney and chocolate toasty please".  Scoffs that down too.

Then he says, "This time gimme a meringue and ham toasty, mate".

After downing that one, the rabbit suddenly turns very pale, clutches his
chest, staggers outside and collapses on the sidewalk.

Passer-by looks down at the rabbit, now clearly dying, and says, "What's wrong,

Rabbit looks up and says, "Aaaarrggh ... mixedmetoasties ..."

    Just before we get onto the pics, here's another one from Maria Harding:


Once there were 3 little pigs who lived together in mutual respect and in
harmony with their environment.  Using materials that were indigenous to the
area they each built a beautiful house.  One pig built a house of straw, one
a house of sticks, and one a house of dung, clay and creeper vines shaped
into bricks and baked in a small kiln.  When they were finished, the pigs
were satisfied with their work and settled back to live in peace and

But their idyll was soon shattered.  One day, along came a big, bad wolf with
expansionist ideas.  He saw the pigs and grew very hungry in both a physical
and ideological sense.  When the pigs saw the wolf, they ran into the house
of straw.  The wolf ran up to the house and banged on the door, shouting,
"Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!"

The pigs shouted back, "Your gunboat tactics hold no fear for pigs defending
their homes and culture."

But the wolf wasn't to be denied what he thought was his manifest destiny.
So he huffed and puffed and blew down the house of straw.  The frightened pigs
ran to the house of sticks, with the wolf in hot pursuit.  Where the house
had stood, other wolves bought up the land and started a banana plantation.

At the house of sticks, the wolf again banged on the door and shouted,
"Little, pigs, little pigs, let me in!"

The pigs shouted back, "Go to hell, you carnivorous, imperialistic oppressor!"

At this the wolf huffed and puffed and blew down the house of sticks.  The pigs
ran to the house of bricks, with the wolf close at their heels.  Where the house
of sticks had stood, other wolves built a time-share condo resort complex for
vacationing wolves, with each unit a Fiberglas reconstruction of the house
of sticks, as well as native curio shops, snorkelling and dolphin shows.

At the house of bricks, the wolf again banged on the door and shouted,
"Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!"

This time in response, the pigs sang songs of solidarity and wrote letters
of protest to the United Nations.

By now the wolf was getting angry at the pigs' refusal to see the situation
from the carnivore's point of view.  So he huffed and puffed, and huffed and
puffed, then grabbed his chest and fell over dead from a massive heart attack
brought on from eating too many fatty foods.

The three little pigs rejoiced that justice had triumphed and did a little
dance around the corpse of the wolf.  Their next step was to liberate their
homeland.  They gathered together a band of other pigs who had been forced off
their lands.  This new brigade of porcinistas attacked the resort complex with
machine-guns and rocket launchers and slaughtered the cruel wolf oppressors,
sending a clear signal to the rest of the hemisphere not to meddle in their
internal affairs.  Then the pigs set up a model socialist democracy with free
education, universal health care and affordable housing for everyone. {Well,
it is a fairy tale after all.)

   NOTE: The wolf in this story was a metaphorical construct.  No actual
   wolves were harmed in the writing of the story.

     Okay, time to relax those eyeballs (and the brain that they're hopefully
     connected to) with a few pics.  First lot arrived via our sister list up
     at QCAT:

The last word: Click here
A use for useless men, #1: Click here
A use for useless men, #2: Click here
A use for useless men, #3: Click here
A use for useless men, #4: Click here

     This one was passed on by none other than Maria the Harding:

Cute one for Easter: Click here

     And this one by Maria's husband, none other than Digitronics/LMS Steve:

Mr and Mrs Carrot: Click here

     Here's another little Easter one (maybe don't show to your kids though)
     from the Nutt at Highett:

Easter show: Click here

     I'm sure we've already had this next one, but I can't see it for looking.
     It was passed on by Bruce Williamson (who's not on the FH list).  He was
     browsing through the Bluehaze FH archives and just thought you guys may
     enjoy it ...

Ready-Mix revenge: Click here

     And lastly of awley, another classic from our apprentice storeman at
     a certain research (not mental) institute, Brett the Valentine:

Owww and arrgghh ... Click here

       Now, as most of his friends and colleagues know, Michael Lim's over in
       London at the moment.  This one alludes to something interesting that
       we'll hopefully see in the not-too-distant-future.  I'll let Michael
       do the intro:

       I found this article so interesting, I typed the whole thing out.  It
       was found on the London Sunday Times.  May be a special edition for
       the Easter Humour Group?"

                            THEN THERE WAS ME

In the early 20th century, Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephews, invented
public relations.  He went to America and taught his uncle's theories to
leaders in business and politics.  He said they should no longer appeal to
reason but rather to unconscious desires.  People should be sold things -
products, politicians - not because they needed them but because, irrationally,
they wanted them.  Consumerism and spin had been born.  Designer jeans and
running shoes, Jo Moore and Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton
were all created by Edward Bernays.

This is the story told in a new four-part BBC2 documentary series called The
Century of the Self.  There are two extraordinary things about this series:
the story itself and the fact that it has been made it all.

The series is written, produced and narrated by Adam Curtis, who is the only
documentary maker of his type in Britain and possibly the world.  Of course,
there are other "authored" documentaries, but they all depend on reportage or
on the use of experts to make their points.  Curtis alone creates television
essays.  Like a writer rather than a filmmaker, he makes his own argument and
uses images not to report but to illustrate - poetically as well as logically -
his thesis.

He has done this before in three other BBC2 series.  He exposed the delusions
of the scientific mind-set in Pandora's Box; he questioned the way we construct
history in The Living Dead; and, in The Mayfair Set, he revealed the way
dissident right-wing ideas drove a rich and, as they thought, powerful group
of men.

Curtis's cool style can be devastating.  The shot that ended The Mayfair Set
simply showed the financier Jim Slater explaining how to win at Monopoly -
it always involves buying Vine Street.  Curtis said nothing, he just let the
camera roll.  In a few moments of film, Slater exposed the triviality of his
delusions and vanity to the world.  It was, for me, one of the high points
of British factual television.

"I'm taking a thing that is there in front of us and looking at its roots,
"Curtis explains, "its roots as an idea.  I'm saying, let's examine why they
happened ....  What I'm fascinated by is that ideas we think are absolute
truth are often born out of particular circumstances, and they suit particular
groups who are emerging in power - ideas like the belief that the free market
is an inevitable thing.  These are ideas born out of a specific historical
demand placed upon a specific group of people."

Curtis is a maverick and a loner.  Contracted to the BBC2 he simply explains his
idea and then goes off and makes his programmes, alone but for a good executive
producer "to look after me".  Like the great radio and television documentary
makers of the past, he is free to pursue his own vision.  But unlike them,
he is cheap.  The shows are spare assemblies of interviews and film clips.
There are no fancy set-ups and camerawork.  He is concerned only to tell the
story and make his argument.

In television this is extraordinary, because the medium has always been
frightened of ideas.  I know this to my cost.  I once made a television
programme involving a very intense discussion between myself and the science
writer Matt Ridley about the implications of genetics.  We both put everything
we had into the debate and ended up sweating and shaking.  The programme was
shelved because, we were told, it was "too complicated".

So ideas on television are almost always presented through unchallengeable
voices of authority.  Either various heavyweights discuss things in a studio,
or (as in science programmes like Horizon) experts are set on pedestals from
which they deliver their "truths" to the people from on high.  The result
is that the viewer learns only what he is allowed to learn and is denied the
possibility of engagement.  There is no intermediate author to invite him in.

"Television does take on complexity," says Curtis, "when it covers something
like art.  But art is spectacle and experience.  The theory is that TV is only
about experience.  But, in fact, you listen to it as much as you watch it.
The thing I've always disliked about television is that, when it does ideas,
it doesn't tell stories - it gets people on to opinionate."

As a result, we are told that ideas are absolutes rather than located in a
particular moment in history.  And, worse still - only experts are allowed
to challenge experts.  The true depths of what we are and believe are paraded
before us as unexamined spectacle.  It doesn't have to be this way.

"You can do it - present difficult ideas.  But you've got to be clever and
funny and silly and use images in a clever way.  People like it.  They love
the cleverness of The Simpsons, and that's full of ideas.  The problem is that
television tends to see its real function as a reinforcing medium, it tells you
what you are supposed to think.  To challenge that, you have to tell a story."

The story of the Freud dynasty is classic Curtis territory.  A London public
relations executive, Julia Hobsbawm, first told him about the fact that
Bernays had invented the term "public relations", and the combination of
psychoanalytic theory and marketing made a crucial connection in his mind.
For a start, Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmundm has been, since
the 1980's, one of the leading PR entrepreneurs in London and the world.
Curtis wanted him to take part.

"Matthew represents one of the big hinges in the shift from patrician culture
- giving people what's good for them - to giving people what they want.
That happened in the 1980's.  But he said he didn't like to be seen to be
living under the name of Freud.  I suggested he changed it ..."

In scientific circles, Sigmund Freud is, of course, no longer the figure
he once was.  His specific theories about how the mind works are now seen
as metaphors rather than hard science.  But his central conviction - that
human beings are driven by unconscious, irrational, instinctive forces -
is as potent as ever.  Indeed, it is one of the defining ideas of our age,
and it was this idea that Bernays took to America.

He was welcomed with open arms.  Politicians had grown fearful that the
newly powerful, enfranchised masses were a threat to stability.  Businessmen,
meanwhile, were alarmed that the sheer volume of goods that could be made by
mass production could not be sold.  Once people had everything they needed,
they would stop buying.

Bernays told the politicians that by appealing to people's irrational impulses
rather then their reason, their chaotic drives could be controlled.  And he
told the businessmen that, by associating their products with deeper urges
rather than mere need, they could sell them anything they wanted.  He offered,
in short, total social control.  And it worked.

The backlash against this came in the 1960s when people rebelled against the
power of governments and companies.  But the odd thing about this backlash was
that it did not actually question the underlying idea.  The psychotherapist
Willhelm Reich, for example, rejected Freud's belief in the need to contain
the instincts and propagated exotic forms of, primarily, sexual release.
But he did not question the power and centrality of the instinctual drives;
he did not, above all, question the sovereignty of the self.  As as result,
as Curtis shows, he actually played into the hands of the entrenched powers
by helping create a new consumer democracy entirely focused on the needs of
the self.

In the 1980s, the implications of this cult of selfishness began to be
fully realized.  Advertisers focused on the needs of the "authentic" self by
selling everything from shoes and jeans to cars as tools of self-expression
rather than useful objects.  Public relations came into its own by creating
the ideas of lifestyle and celebrity as extensions of the self.  The focus
group became the research medium that provided evidence of the deep desires
of the masses.  And politicians began to emerge who understood the changes
that had taken place.  Finding out what people "really" wanted, they believed,
opened a door on a new type of democracy.

"There was a foolishness at the heart of this," says Curtis, "that it is
a better form of democracy to read people's desire and then give them what
they want".

In America, Bill Clinton came to power by using imagery that appealed to
the selfish desires expressed by focus groups.  The Labour party learnt the
lesson and, through their great impresario of the focus group, Philip Gould,
they carefully tailored their electoral appeal to what appeared to be the
deepest desires of the people.  Gould genuinely thought this was a better, more
direct form of democracy than appealing to their rational, unselfish selves.
But in reality, it was cynicism.  And, as we now know, it worked all too well.
Spin and the chaos at the Department of Transport are direct results of the
quasi-Freudian belief that people could be controlled by appealing directly
and solely to their irrational selves.

"It's a very low form of democracy," says Curtis. "It is fundamentally a
very pessimistic view of human nature that we are just driven by emotions.
We are irrational and all you have to do is read our desires, give us what
we want, and we will be happy.

"The real question is: could it have been done in any other way?  Freud gave
us a language about our emotions - that was a very sensible thing to do.
But, through people like Bernays, that side of our nature has been inflated,
puffed up and exaggerated.  The consuming self has become dominant.  That traps
politicians because they have to deliver contradictory things - social and
selfish goods."

Like Curtis's other series, The Century of the Self is a startling revelation
of the way things that we take for granted are, in fact, the result of specific
ideas and historical forces of which, most of the time, we know nothing.  We
know nothing because we are very bad at thinking outside of confines of our
own time and perspective.  PR, spin, celebrities and the deluded belief in
our own helplessness before our instinctive drives are not absolute truths
of the human condition, they are just the way we live now.

And the way life turns out to be founded upon a depraved and reduced view of
human potentiality.  Dignity and nobility, for example, are two human qualities
not to be derived from focus groups.  But if mavericks like Curtis can still
get good, big ideas on television, then we are not yet entirely lost.

      Now that's really the finish for this week - we're already over 400
      lines.  But for some, the following extract from Hansard (the written
      record for the Oz Senate and its committees) may also prove amusing.

      Just to give you some brief background - CSIRO has been forced to
      start selling off many of its properties over the last couple of
      years.  This particular senate committee was quizzing Dr Garrett
      (the new-ish CSIRO CEO) and CSIRO's GM Corporate Property, George
      Harley, on Feb 21, 2002.  Here's an extract:

Senator CARR: I will go through these things with you, though.  Can you tell
me what is happening to the following properties: North Ryde, Gungahlin,
Yarralumla, Limestone Avenue ...

Senator SCHACHT: Yarralumla: are we selling Government House?  We're not
getting rid of the Governor-General, we are getting rid of his house.

Senator CARR: This mob own half the suburb:or they used to.  And what is
happening with the properties at Marmion in Western Australia and Cleveland
in Queensland?

Mr Harley: Under the agreement between the CSIRO board and government,
we took action to dispose of all those properties over a period of three
years.  Riverside, which is North Ryde, has been sold and leased back on a
20-year term plus options and the money returned to government.

Senator SCHACHT: How much?

Mr Harley: Sixty million dollars.

Senator SCHACHT: It is to go straight back to the government?

Mr Harley: Yes.

Senator CARR: What did it cost you to lease it back?

Mr Harley: I think it is about $4.5 million a year, which is underwritten by
the government.

Senator CARR: So it will not take long for you to actually expend $60 million?

Senator SCHACHT: Fifteen years.

Senator CARR: After 15 years you will be paying for property you used to own,
is that right?

Mr Harley: The government will be paying the rent, we will not.

Senator CARR: But is that the effect?

Mr Harley: That is a mathematical ...

Senator CARR: I want to come back to that.  Where did the proposal for the
property review come from?

Mr Harley: It is part of the government's policy that, broadly speaking, that
the government should not be in the business of owning real estate.

Senator SCHACHT: It came from DOFA; did they drive it?

Mr Harley: As the government department responsible, yes.

Senator CARR: When that proposition was put to you as a statutory corporation,
did you express the view that it was in the public interest for the CSIRO to
retain ownership of its property, particularly its specialist sites?

Mr Harley: That was CSIRO's view:that all our properties, except for the one
on Limestone Avenue, were special purpose and it was in the public interest
that they be retained.

Senator CARR: Is that still the view of the CSIRO?

Mr Harley: We have not been back to our board, but I would assume that it
would be.

Senator CARR: To what extent do the recommendations of the final report
compromise the future CSIRO strategies and research programs?

Mr Harley: Insofar as the agreement reached between the board and the government
and negotiations over the leases that we are putting in place or have put in
place are concerned, the operations of CSIRO will not be compromised as such.

Senator CARR: In terms of its future strategies and research programs, though,
if you are having to expend this money that you otherwise would not have had
to expend, will there not be an effect on the capacity to undertake research

Mr Harley: The principle of the agreement between the government and CSIRO
is that the government will pick up all rentals and all outgoings that we
would normally not have had to pay had we owned the properties.

Senator SCHACHT: So that is $8 million per year or thereabouts:nearly $9
million:for those two lots?

Mr Harley: Yes, plus other outgoings.

Senator SCHACHT: And they will give you supplementary budget support to pay
for that for the next 15 years?

Mr Harley: For the next 20 years; in principle, forever.

Senator SCHACHT: So after about 13 or 14 years, the federal budget will be
helping you to pay for something that once cost them nothing.  There must
be some economic wiz over in Treasury who thought this up.  No wonder they
always get the projections wrong.

Senator CARR: Mr Harley, 15 years is a helluva long time in government.  What
are we looking at in that period?

Senator SCHACHT: Five elections.

Senator CARR: What government can commit five governments to this proposition?

Dr Garrett: That is a policy question, Senator.

Senator CARR: What is not a policy question?  The obvious point I make is that
I am only too well aware of it.  But what contractual arrangements do you have
with the Australian government that protect the interests of the CSIRO over
that 15-year period: over the life of five parliaments?

Dr Garrett: We have a contract, do we?

Mr Harley: We have a cabinet decision.

Senator CARR: A cabinet decision?  Gee, that is secure!

Senator SCHACHT: Hold your breath: that is not a contract.

Senator FERRIS: We inherited decisions from your government which were binding.

Senator CARR: The point is that there were many decisions that Labor cabinets
made which were overturned in 1996.  The Public Service was decimated by
cabinet decisions made by subsequent governments.  That is the point.

Senator FERRIS: I think there was a $10 billion debt to be repaid.  That is why.

Senator CARR: Whatever the excuse was.

Senator FERRIS: That is not an excuse; that is a reason.

Senator CARR: Mr Harley, other than a cabinet decision, do you have any other
form of security?

Dr Garrett: That is what we have, Senator, and I believe that we are getting
into territory outside our ...

Senator CARR: Yes, I do not want to press you any further than that.

Senator SCHACHT: Apart from the cabinet decision, is there no other contract,
compact or agreement signed separately between CSIRO and the Department of
Finance and Administration?

Dr Garrett: No.

Senator SCHACHT: Good luck.

   [ Original at Click here ]

[ End Friday humour ]

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