Archive | philanthropy RSS feed for this section

DAY 348: Going to the Ban Live Export rally

14 Aug

“DID you hear about the bear that killed itself?” sounded like it should be an awesome joke, but asked in the context of the Ban Live Export rally, I should have realised I didn’t want to hear the punchline.

The exporting of livestock to South East Asia and the Middle East has been going on for 30 years now, but it’s taken Lyn White – former police constable and now Communications Director of Animals Australia – and a gruelling Four Corners documentary to bring the appalling conditions to the public’s attention. As opposed to the attention of Meat & Livestock Australia, by whose standards transporting animals by sea and road for three weeks, slashing their tendons, gouging their eyes, breaking their tails and stuffing them into car boots has been a-ok for decades.

Lyn quotes social reformer William Wilberforce in his 1807 campaign to abolish slavery: “We may choose to ignore it, but we can never again say, I did not know.”

Other times, the language here in Sydney’s Martin Place (rallies are being held all across the country today) is over-emotional (yep, if a sheep could talk it possibly would say “don’t abandon me”, but anyway, you digress), when the facts are powerful enough.

On Thursday, August 18, federal politicans will have the chance to vote on legislation that will end this trade. Today I’ll be adding to the masses of protesters emailing Julia Gillard at to request that she allows a ‘conscience vote’. This way MPs can vote in line with their own beliefs and the wishes of their constituents, without fear of reprisal for ‘crossing the floor’.

Here’s the view of an Aussie beef producer.

And here’s a story on Lyn White.

Keeper? Soapboxing over for today, but I’ll keep putting my beliefs into action from now on.

DAY 338: Hanging out with marines

4 Aug

It's not like this.

WHEN a bespectacled marine politely shuffles over and asks if he and his friends can sit at my table “as we’re great at conversation”, I say no.

This “no” is completely not in the spirit of Hey Man, but sometimes my concentration slips. And fuck dude, I’m at the only taken table in the joint.

Then my friend Geoff joins me, so a different marine comes back to ask again, and Geoff jovially bids them pull up a bunch of chairs.

I’ve never talked to a marine before, and these four don’t fit my expectations. Goofy, good-natured and corny as all get-out, they’re not screaming ‘killing machine’. They’ve been drinking since midday, they keep telling us, and they really want to cut loose, but they can’t. They’re constrained by fear of an unknown territory, fear of reprisal, god-fearing upbringings and fearfully good manners. Testosterone is buzzing around inside them like flies in a jar.

While they’re all in plain tees and jeans, other marines in uniform roam the streets of Brisbane acting as their chaperones. It’s not so much that our new friends won’t stick to their midnight curfew, it’s that come nine o’clock, every bozo in town is going to want to fight them.

More accustomed to amphibious warfare, with the easy lube of a few beers, these marines tell us they weren’t shown the small print by their recruiters. “We thought we’d get to see the world, get all our expenses paid,” says one. Turns out they earn $22,000 a year – much less than those in the US Army – and the food’s shithouse. They expected to be considered the elite; instead they’re tooling around Brisbane, trying to make some pals, offering around “American cigarettes”, which are revealed to be Marlboros. One expresses astonishment at how retarded he finds his fellow marines.

“Why did you reenlist?” I ask another. He’s 24 years old and into his second term. “I have a wife,” he says lamely. “She gets looked after.” Like his crewmates, he bears the hangdog grimace of the epically shafted. They’re all, Geoff points out later, from cities of high unemployment. Once they’ve served their four years, if they do find another job, they spend another four years of civilian life under the threat of being called up again at any time.

Most vexingly to them right now, the marines have been told they can no longer get tattooed in Australia. Luckily one already has an Australian emblem stamped upon him from a previous visit, but the others will have to miss out or wait till they get to Japan, where, mystifyingly, tattooing IS allowed. “They just make rules up and don’t tell us why,” one shrugs.

For now, they’re kicking back as best they can. Enthused by the topic of tattoos from every port, each marine starts pulling bits and pieces out of his pants for inspection. One fishes out a business card and rings a woman from my phone, but she doesn’t answer. Others discuss the merits of Stephen King and Tom Clancy. Our mate Tal turns up and he gets quizzed hungrily on what he does for a living, and whether he’s aware System of a Down have reformed. Then there’s the passing around of driver’s licences so that we can be shocked and amazed at how young they are. Yep: 1989. Could explain why one of them three times offers us an inventory of every drug he’s ever taken, in a punt for paternal approval (Geoff’s got that sort of look about him).

These guys… don’t let anyone fire anything at them, okay? They’re just pups.

Keeper? I wouldn’t want to start handing out my business cards, but I’m really glad I talked to these fellas. I liked them, and I felt for them. Well, whaddaya know.

DAY 318: Leading by example in public toilets

16 Jul

This was in Bendigo station toilet.

I CAN never pick who writes the filth in girls’ toilets. You could be in the most mild-mannered of indie establishments and there’ll be references to orifices and base sexual activities all over the walls, complete with diagrams. Who writes it? There never seem to be any immediately obvious trolls sitting in the pub.

I’m feeling sentimental after being mean in yesterday’s blog, so I write an inspiring message in a toilet cubicle.

This differs from Day 141 – Baring My Soul on a Dunny Wall – in that Day 141’s missive went on for far too long and probably made everyone vomit, whereas this’ll serve as inspiration to make future visitors to this stall think long and hard about their lives.

Other inspirational messages, if you get the urge to do the same, might be:

Call home today and don’t just let Dad hand over the phone.

Go back out there and give your boyfriend some attention; you’ve been taking him for granted for ages.

Try and find something nice about everybody sat in the waiting-room.

Manners cost nothing.

Why don’t you wear your hair another way today?

If you answer that text you can’t be arsed answering, maybe you will get an answer to that other text you sent. Even if you don’t, you’ll have done the right thing.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 312: Replying to sex spam

10 Jul

I’VE always been tempted to respond to email spam, but common sense prevails. Then I get this one, and common sense concedes now would be a great time to hit reply.

Subject: re:
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2011 09:26:44 +0000

OMG how have u been? I know we havent chatted in a while! totally my fault.. this computer im using freezes all the time. i have tired ot email you a few times with no luck.. ach! sooo sorry.. so whats been up? i am finally moving near you in a couple days.. i hope u didnt forget me? its me amdison lol.. in case u DID forget, we met on ms or cl not long ago.. so im gonna be living right near you and i dont know ANYBODY OMG SHOOT ME! i have my uncle and aunt there but thats not the same.. so can u show me around? help me find a job lol.. i get there next friday late afternoon.. im gonna nee dyour cell number – im recently single too so u can take me out and show me some real fun * wink wink * hahahha! so anyways im soo nervous about moving. its a load off my back that im gonna know someone there though. so i am happy we met online hehe 🙂 I am hoping u dont have a girlfriend.. i am not a big fan of drama and stuff like that so just tell me if u do..SO I kinda think we should chat a little bit more before we meet. just to make sure we are not awkward and stuff. although i can talk forever about anything with anyone lol. u will notice that right away when we meet. so are u free friday to help me move some boxes and stuff? i hope so 🙂 since i wont know anyone maybe u could also introduce me to some of you friends? are they nice? i am cool with gurls and guys lol.. guess u could say i am bisexual but whatever what girl isnt these back to YOU mister… remind me what u do for work? for fun? what are your hobbies and what do you like sexually ? we have so mucht o get ot know about each other in such little time lol! as i mentioned i recently broke up with my ex. we were together for about 6 months but there was too much drama and my friends and fmaily hate dhim. he had no job and was quite disrespectful.. was also pretty lousy in bed.. i like foreplay and he always just wanted to go right to sex.. at least get me wet first ya know? selfish idiot. anyways so i feel free again now that i am single but i do kinda miss having that special someone to cuddle with ya know? so ur probably wondering how come i am moving right? well its a long story.. basicly i am broke for starters.. add to that the fact that i need to go back to school AND the fact that i ned a fresh start and there u go.. so i am gonna move and hopefully solve all 3 of those problems, the most stressfull one is my debt. 4 August.–Still fog, which the sunrise cannot pierce, I know i owe 8k on my visa ewwww. also i am trying to help my sister pay off her tuition fees also so shes counting on me. Speaking of which, do you have any good hookups to help me find a job? i would LOVE to be a bartender or somehting like that where I can make tips. I think i have a good look for it plus I am SUPER friendly. so here is some random stuff about me. i love star gazing, the outdoors, porn, foreplay, massages, the internet, shopping, doing my nails, sex, cooking, and watching movies. when it comes ot guys i just want someone who treats me the way i deserve to be treated. i can be such a good girlfriend and a total freak in bed. i am up for just about ANYTHING sexually.. serioulsy 🙂 As for my current job doesnt pay that well but coming from where I lived it was my only real option. I am sure I told u about it but if i didnt i really hope u dont look down on me for it and can accept me for who i am. See I do this webcam thing where I basicly get paid to chat to people on cam and tease around a bit. I know its not the most MORAL job out there but i am desperate for money and its pretty easy money. i wanna get a real job though and thats another reason why i am moving. The job suits me cause i like tlaking to people and i am quite dirty minded so its the best of both worlds and i get paid for it hehe.. Anyways here is what i was thinking.. since my computer SUCKS and its hard for me to chat by email or instant messenger.. why dont u come chat me at my work site? i can totally get u in for free.. i have 2 free passes a month to share with whoever i like.. i havent ever given any out but i dont mind giving u one as we totally need to chat before i move. see you can login as a customer but ill give u a special link where u dont pay or get billed anything. its a special vip backdooor link… this woudl be the best palce for us to chat cause i am online all the time now trying to save as much money as possible for the move..also i will kick any other chatters out when i see u sign in. does this work for u? i understand if ur not cool with it.. i kno theres a lot of scammers out there so if u dont wanna chat there then i guess ill email u in a few weeks when i get my internet all set up in the new place. although i woudl really feel more comfortable chating wiht u before i move.if u do decide to come chat me online then u have to PROMISE me that u will not share the vip link with anyone.. for any reason.. its for YOU only baby i am trusting u.. once u sign in we can chat and u can see me on webcam also 🙂 if u have one u can go on too.. oh la la hot.. and of ocurse u wudnt pay me for it ur my friend DUH! I am trusting u not to abuse it though cause once u sign in u can watch ohter girls naked for free too and i wudnnt want that.. YOUR EyeS BETTER ONLY BE ON ME hahahahha!! unless of course we watch them together 🙂 week is quite enough to dine with one’s own relations. In the second place, whenever I do dine there I am always So i am trusting u.. so u can trust me.. the link is at the bottom of the email. remember not to give it to anyone under any circumstances! i am online right now if u wanna come chat now.. its dead in here.. please come 😦 also.. u obvioulsy need a cc to sign into the site but thats just to prove u are not a minor…it says right on the vip link that its free since u are vip and u wont get billed anything.. ok im getting off here now.. im waiting for u baby. cant wait to see u and meet u and hug u and kiss u.. ciao for now.. xoxox —-> localchatcamconnect . com/free (take out the spaces obvioulsy heheh)

Such effort! It borders on poetic. It is to go rewarded.

Using one of my more suss email accounts that I started up for suss usage only, I email Madison back. (I discover her name is Madison and that she is an ‘acquarious’ when I visit her website – just for curiosity’s sake, you understand.)

Hi there

It’s so good to hear from you! Tell me, did we meet on Christians for Bible Equality? Your name seems familiar, but my head’s like swiss cheese since the accident!

I know what you mean by your ex. Mine always wanted me to pretend I was asleep whenever we made love, and if I complained he’d put a pillow over my face. You’re better off without him, girlfriend.

Absolutely I will be happy to help you move your boxes  –  any friend of Jesus is a friend of mine.


Keeper? Possibly this is not the end of it – I’ll let you know.

DAY 311: Throwing myself a pity party

9 Jul

I’VE a tendency to keep a Things You Should Know (But Will Probably Pretend Not to Hear) script in my back pocket, to pre-warn new suitors of the calamities to come. Or maybe it’s so that they can enjoy a full appreciation of calamities that’ve been.

Anyway, I might only drop the odd clanger here and there, perhaps in a quiet moment on a Sunday afternoon drive, but that script’s always close to hand, and is accountable for any sudden black moods.

So I decide to get it out of my system once and for all and throw myself a full-blown Pity Party, complete with balloons and fancy drinks.

Being an impromptu event, only my friend and neighbour Helen can attend, which is good, as I need to utilise her fire-pit. Helen adds an extra dimension to my Pity Party by being so piteously hungover that she can’t get out of bed and has to moan encouragement from under the doona.

Outside, I get a cracking fire going and put up the balloons. I’ve made a list of ‘bad stuff that’s happened in my life that’s worse than stuff that’s happened in yours, surely’ and put each whingement into a red envelope.

Thar she blows.

Each one gets read, sealed and tossed on the fire, never to be mentioned for effect again. The envelope with the biggest burden bloats up in the flames, turning from red to silver, then crumbling into ashes.

The rain, which has been gently spitting, steps up its game when the last envelope has flared up, and puts out the fire.


DAY 291: Going to a rally

19 Jun

WHILE I’m a-brim with non-specific empathy, I don’t have much of a social conscience.

This year’s mission is to lasso my sphere of consciousness into ever-wider circles – with the paradox that writing about the experience brings it all, remorselessly, back to me. Sorry about that.

One matter in the news that never fails to move me is the plight of asylum seekers. Maybe it’s because all that was required of me to move to Australia was mountains of paperwork – yet all I was escaping was stagnancy. Maybe it’s the unfairness of it all.

The World Refugee Day Rally, which gathers in Melbourne’s Carlton Gardens, wants to see  an end to mandatory detention. It argues that refugees should be settled in their Australian communities while their cases are being heard, rather than incarcerated in camps for years at a time, or shipped off to Malaysia.

“No one’s ever accused me of being an economic rationalist before,” Refugee Advocacy Network organiser Mark Riley points out to giggles, “but it saves money having asylum seekers live in the community.”

Human Rights lawyer Julian Burnside points out that locking up traumatised people and dividing families for five years at a time causes great psychiatric harm, that eventually either gets turned against the system, or inwards, in the form of self-harm or suicide.

Leading the march of thousands to Fitzroy Town Hall is the Red Brigade, who I last saw when I led their zombie parade through Falls Festival on Day 122. They oompah us through some free the refugees-style chants as we proceed through the suburb to awaiting Emerge Festival.

Keeper? I think this is the start of a new enlightenment.

DAY 290: Thanking a Gloria Jean’s franchise profusely

18 Jun

EXPRESSING gratitude, it’s said, is one of the most positive things you can do for your well-being.

Stopping in at Gloria Jean’s this morning, for the sort of white mocha atrocity most Melbourne coffee joints point-blank refuse to deliver, I notice the board plastered with good tidings from happy customers.

Sometimes it’s a customer who is heartbroken to be moving to a different town from their favourite barista. Sometimes it’s a customer sending a postcard from overseas. Customers express sorrow that they will never again see the kind faces of this franchise, or joy that they have finally found the soy latte of their dreams.

I’m moved to add my own missive in similarly bouncy writing. The most honest, positive thing I can say is that I’m very pleased there’s a coffee joint the moment I step off my train. This, still, is passing on the love.

Keeper? Yes. And I think I’ll do a whole day of thanking people later this week. Watch out!

DAY 279: NOT exploding with rage at my disconnected upload

7 Jun

IT’S either a sign of the times, or just because it can’t fight back, but my most apoplectic explosions of rage are reserved for technological equipment. I’ve taught countless printers a lesson they’ll never forget, while my violent rebuttal at the TV playing up is likely to surprise us both.

I decide to set up an impromptu experiment, to see if it is actually possible to avoid an episode if I really put my mind to it. I want to upload a very large file, and I want to do it right now – on this country train – and I am not allowed to curse, tut, slap my forehead or even bunch my fist if it fails.

Common sense dictates this is a stupid idea – I’ve tried it many mornings before and only achieved a dozen disconnects and accompanying oaths. It’s bloody asking for trouble. What’s more, a woman has sat next to me and is clearing her throat softly every few minutes, despite there being free seats elsewhere; I know full well that if I were to mete out a savage little “FUCK” upon disconnection, I would be able to glean some enjoyment from her discomfort, which makes this experiment all the more challenging.

Having established the controlled variables, I hit ‘send’ and keenly watch the progress report at the bottom of the web page. We’re passing through North Melbourne and out into the internet wasteland that is Sunshine, always a trouble spot for my disposition. Meanwhile, I’m egging myself on by watching the connectivity box; watching the green squares flicker in a desultory fashion around point zero. I can feel my blood pressure rising.

I dare myself further by thinking of the money; how much of my data allowance this is using up with every passing minute.

You can’t do it, can you?” I taunt silently, as I struggle not to shake my head slowly and condescendingly at the screen.

After 25 minutes, 90 per cent of the file has been uploaded. I’ve got my hand over my mouth, Hillary Clinton-style. We stay on 90 per cent for a further 14 tantalising minutes… and then finally, finally, that punchable little pop-up reports: “You were disconnected by the PPP server”.

Woohoo! I feel a strange kind of elation; something like triumph. The computer may have totally failed in its simple task, but I have succeeded in mine.

Keeper? I can do this.

DAY 250: Wondering why people look like they do

8 May

I’VE been trying to feel more empathy for strangers by looking at what they’re wearing and wondering what went through their heads when they picked it out — and not in a horrible way.

Like, what thought old men put into their hats, and whether teenage girls are trying to emphasise helplessness when they have sleeves too long for their arms, and if snug jumpers are chosen to feel warm or to feel safe.

Of course, I could completely be wrong about their motives, hopes and desires, but the point is it’s making me put myself in other people’s shoes, even when I wouldn’t necessarily wear those shoes myself.

(NB: this is a completely different reasoning to Drawing Naked Commuters, which served no philanthropic purpose.)

On the same tack, I decide to get a portrait artist on Swanston Street to draw my picture, to see what a stranger thinks when he looks at me.

I think this looks more like me than photos do. Apart from the massive chin.

John doesn’t approve of caricaturists as, unlike him, they don’t “see the soul”. Twenty minutes and a small crowd later, he’s done. I think he’s summed up my demeanour – detached ambivalence with a small attempt at appearing polite – very well, which means I am succeeding with my facial expressions.

Keeper? Yes, will carry on questioning people’s fashion decisions.

DAY 249: Buying some art in the street

7 May

A MAN sitting on Swanston Street has ‘4SALE’ chalked on the pavement in front of some meticulously penned drawings of buildings.

I ask him how much he is selling them for and he says you can’t put a price on art — which might mean a million bucks in his head, or it might mean nothing; so I split the difference and give him a tenner.

The story behind my picture is it’s a combination of houses that exist in his imagination.

Keeper? Might buy more things in the street.