January 29, 2006

Comatose


What’s more disturbing:


Members of the public who look to soap operas for medial guidance?

OR

Medical researchers who look to soap operas as a comparative benchmark for real life medical outcomes?


Which brings us to our first prediction for 2006: more money than ever before will be wasted on more research even sillier than that which has come before.

Yes, a group of medical researchers actually felt the need to “prove” that medical outcomes on soap operas are absurd; not based on the real world; improbable; impossible; stupid; ridiculous. Call it what you will, apparently they felt compelled to establish and quantify the obvious within the boundaries of formal scientific methodology.

Why didn’t they just ask a dozen people who have watched soap operas? Cheap, quick, same result and they could have moved onto researching something of value – after a restful coffee break – by, ooooh, around 9.15 am.

The enquiring minds looked at the crème de le crème of soapies, the American day time soaps: General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Young and the Restless. Medical emergencies, twists and turns, frequent miracles, along with a startlingly common number of resurrections, are daily hallmarks of these shows.

That any person felt compelled to prove that the medical outcomes on these shows are not worth a can of beans is rather sillier than the shows themselves, and the researchers should be deeply ashamed.

Or, at the very least, they should be kidnapped by an obscenely rich Arabian Prince, declared dead for a period of a least 10 years, all the while being indulged and pampered and living in luxury, while being held against their will, before making a daring escape and returning to their loved ones with fewer wrinkles and bigger lips than previously thought imaginable. Then, after the initial shock of their return, and having sorted out the odd case of bigamy, everyone gets to carry on as if nothing ever happened. Amazingly, and this is quite odd, no-one ever seems to have inherited or spent anyone’s estate while they were busy being “dead” for years on end, and, we presume, even their drivers license and ATM card is still sitting just where they last left it, thus making their transition back into their old life both psychologically and financially glitch-free.

Alternatively, they could all be thrown down an abandoned mine shaft, where for three long and hungry years they live on nothing but several drops of muddy water, while slowly building a ladder woven from strands of their own hair, which eventually allows them to climb out and return to the world, and back to their car keys and families, etc, waiting almost exactly as they last left them.

Now, back to the studies findings: would you believe that in real life, coma patients almost never recover, but in soapies they almost always do? Gasp! Yes, it’s true!

Various comparative statistics are provided to establish this fact, for example, only 8% of soapie coma patients died, versus a 67% death rate in real life; and all of the soapie patients recover fully from their trauma – having first regained consciousness – compared to less than 10% of real patients who managed to fully recover their health. (Sorry, the link I had is now dead; feel free to find your own URLs.)

I know, I know, this research could be considered a public service announcement, of sorts, to correct false beliefs; to make people aware that being in a coma is quite a serious business; and to ensure that the public don’t expect their doctors and surgeons to perform daily miracles. But, that’s twaddle.

Let’s face it: if you end up in a coma – well, you’re not going to be in much of a position to start challenging your doctor about his diagnosis of the likely outcome are you? Similarly, your relatives and friends are unlikely to be demanding to know if the members of your medical team all saw that episode where Tammy’s little finger twitched, after her being in a coma for 18 months, and the very next day she was sitting up in bed drinking Diet Coke and flirting outrageously with her sister’s former husband who was now married to their step-mother; and on the third day she was walking in the sunshine, her lithe and lovely limbs more lithe and lovely than ever, with not an atrophied muscle within camera shot, and not a shiny hair out of place. (Just a quick recap for the confused - Tammy was in a coma for 18 mths, not down a well for 3 yrs, therefore, she did not need to make a ladder, and her hair was intact).

No, I don’t think many people would be doing a quick run through their encyclopedic knowledge of soap opera medical outcomes if a real person was in a coma. Quite frankly, I think they would have more important things on their mind. A crisis in the real world is like that: a real dampener on any inclination to be flibbertigibbety, or to be dwelling on the latest dramas in the lives of Ridge, or Rock, or Thorn, or Moss, or Brooke, or Sea Urchin, or Fern (yeah, The Bold & The Beautiful was always ahead of its time – they had a whole eco-system going on long before the environment became everyone’s bestest friend.)

January 26, 2006

In their own words


Ah bless ‘em, you can’t help but feel for the
Corby / Rose / Kisina clan.

Dear old Mum of Schapelle Corby, Rosleigh Rose, lifting her veil of persistent reticence, this week shared a rare moment, or two, of candor with the world at large.

Other Mum’s might be a touch miffed to find half their brood in jail, but not the stoic Rosleigh (The Age, 24 January 2006):

"What are you supposed to do? At least I know where my bloody kids are, even if they are in jail. There's people who don't even know where their kids are. I kind of liked Clinton being in jail because I knew where he was ... before I'd worry about him, always expecting the phone call - he'd pinched a car and rolled off a cliff. But when he'd ring from jail, I'd be thinking, 'all right, hope you get a couple of years there'."

Mind you, Mum Rosleigh doesn’t want her offspring hanging out in just any old jail. Well, you have to have standards, don’t you?

Now that we’ve all been convinced that any overseas prison is a nightmare of fifth-world proportions, it would seem that Aussie jails won’t let prisoners receive regular offerings from family & friends, but far worse, are over flowing with big butch sheilas, so Rosleigh isn’t too keen on her little girl – who is nearly 30 year old, definitely a sheila, but not especially butch – leaving the less rigorous confines of a Bali jail cell any time soon.

As the concerned Mum explains:

"I suppose, in Australia, there's a rigmarole that's involved in visiting someone in jail. You can only go once a week, you can't take anything to them, they can't have anything and for the girls, how many big butch sheilas are there?"

Yeah, that rigmarole thingy can be a real bugger when your kids are in jail, very inconvenient.

Meanwhile, Schapelle Corby’s lawyer, the improbably named Hotman Paris Huapea, has resigned from her case, because he wants to get back to profit-making cases and to enjoying his “glitzy lifestyle". (The Age, 25 January 2006)

"I have everything that every man dreams of, he said. I work from 6am to 6pm. Then I go to the best hotels and I find the best bottle of wine, of course, with a beautiful movie star. That's a pretty good life, isn't it? I am a playboy, but I am always a good husband and father when they need me."

What a charmer.

January 22, 2006

The books we'll never see


Robert Sessions, publishing director at Penguin Books is quoted as saying:

“This view that publishers won't take any risks, maybe what is meant is publishers are making better decisions, perhaps fewer bad books are being published. Perhaps fewer books are being published that people don't want to read…” (The Age, 21 January 2006)

Meanwhile:

“Just recently Britain's Sunday Times tried a little experiment. The paper sent out copies of the opening chapter of V. S. Naipaul's 1971 Booker (now Man Booker) prize-winning novel In a Free State to 20 agents and publishers, changing only the names of the author and main characters. All 20 rejected it.

So the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for literature is apparently not a demonstrably good enough writer to gain recognition from our movers and shakers in the publishing world. Talent, therefore, would not appear to be quite so obvious in the writing game.” (The Age, 17 January 2006)

So much for Sessions’ claim of “better decisions” being made by publishers, unless what he really means, and it is implicit in his statement, that publishers are getting better, aided by the sales & marketing teams no doubt, at making decisions about what crap will sell better than the other crap in the buffet of scripts in front of them.

The journalist in the second piece promptly moves on to the requirement for luck – pure chance – citing the Harry Potter books, as if they are in some manner comparable to a Noble prize winning author (no offence to J.K.Rowling and her squillions of fans).

The journalist also insists, in the modern way of things, or rather the post-modern way:

"Write something, however, and there are as many opinions as there are readers. Subjectivity rules. And it is a capricious master.”

Good writing and good literature, and importantly, the publishing of such, are reduced to dumb luck and personal taste, as if there is no benchmark, no objective standard in the world of writing and literature.

There is a galaxy of difference between personal taste and preferences for particular genres, and being able to recognize a difference in the standard of writing and content on offer. I would like to believe that someone who is a voracious reader of pulp fiction crime novels, for example, would be entirely capable of recognizing the value and enjoyment of well written and more literary works, even if it’s not their preferred choice for recreational reading.

It would have been nice if one or two of the 20 publishers and agents, whoever they were, had at least wanted to have a chat with the author of the Naipaul extract – not offered an immediate deal – just a coffee, a meet and greet, or a request to see a few more pages of the work, anything at all to signify that there are a few people in publishing who might be capable of unearthing a future Nobel Prize winning author, and want to publish and nurture that talent. That there were no takers is profoundly disappointing and troubling.

In a piece in The Australian, one of the rejections of Naipaul’s work is quoted (no link available; Blocked Writers, Sean Condon, The Forum, The Australian Review supplement, 21-22 January 2006):

“In order to take on a new author, several of us here would need to be extremely enthusiastic about both the content and the writing style. I’m sorry to say we don’t feel that strongly about your work.”

Among other brief comments, Sir Vidia Naipaul said, in response to this little experiment:

“With all the other forms of entertainment today, there are very few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is.”

Quite so. Even publishers and agents don’t understand or recognize a good paragraph, yet these "experts" are the only gatekeepers of all that will ever be available in the book shops for our edification and reading pleasure, and for our children and our grandchildren. The future is bleak.


January 18, 2006

Oh hell Hillary!

Over in America, Hillary Clinton held a press conference with two of her extreme right wing Christian colleagues to support their “call for $90 million in federal funds to investigate their contention that the Internet and other electronic media are “satanic”.” (The Age, 14 January 2006)

Among numerous other strategic moves, this would seem to be Hillary’s way of positioning herself to be the next President of the United States of America.

What an evil little path Hillary is laying for herself.

January 14, 2006

Investment Sex


January is the most disconcerting month of the year, for the speed at which it passes. It starts off all baby new, but before you know it, the New Year has lost its soft and promising chubby innocence. In no time at all, the shimmer and shine of the New Year more closely resembles some old has-been stumbling about aimlessly and in desperate need of a shave and a hot shower.

February isn’t much help either, being the permanently truncated month. Then along comes March, and the “new” is already looking rather entrenched in its grubby decrepitness.

So, here we are, half way through January in the blink of an eye, with no idea how the year will unfurl, yet still vaguely hopeful that it will be fresh and magnificent.

Having not had a blog for very long, I never knew the importance and difficulty of picking a topic for the very first post of a New Year. It contains a degree of difficulty and a level of decision making entirely unlike the circumstances surrounding the very first post ever, on a brand new blog, which, really, is akin to losing one’s virginity – quick, forgettable, necessary in order to move into the good stuff, and frequently more thoughtless and accidental than deliberate.

After much ado and procrastination, and out of deep consideration and thoughtfulness to my valued and darling readers, I have decided that lap dancers and investment wankers – oops, sorry, that should read investment bankers – is an appropriate topic with which to commence our 2006 together: a balance of suggestive titillation and serious mindedness. Besides, it bodes well if we start the year with a deliciously well crafted piece of journalism.

Over in New York, investment bank Morgan Stanley has fired four of its employees for visiting a lap dancing club in Arizona, while they were in that State attending a conference; presumably an investment banker's conference, rather than a lap dancing conference.

One of many questions that immediately springs to mind, but is not asked by journalist Matthew Lynn, is, for example: if an employee masturbates in a toilet cubicle during their tea break, and no one knows, have they committed a dismissible offence? Morgan Stanley has a rule that prohibits employees from visiting “exclusionary” events, and while the toilet cubicle visiting employee may eagerly welcome company of one, or both, genders, potential attendees may not be so keen, and it could thus, be considered “exclusionary”.

As with so much in the corporate world, these things are most often only offensive, or unethical, or corrupt if the people involved, or their auditors, are found out. In other words, four sacrificial lambs are fired, while 400 (or whatever) other men working for Morgan Stanley are no doubt doing the lap dancing, or some other sexually provocative circuit, on such a regular basis that the nuclear time clock could be set by their schedules.

But I digress and detract from Matthew Lynn’s piece, published in The Age, 13 January 2206.

In “What do lap dancers and bankers have in common?Lynn answers the question thus:

“In reality, they are in very similar businesses. Both sell an illusion on which they usually fail to deliver. They are both good at flattering their clients, and making them feel good about themselves. Neither cares much about what happens when the club or market closes.

Both are about appearances rather than substance. In the jargon of economists, they exploit human rather than physical capital. In both industries, youth is favoured over experience.

There is also the obsession with bonuses. The bankers are mindful of how much they are likely to be paid for each deal, the dancers with how much they get for each twirl around the pole. Both, without doubt, are overpaid given their talent or contribution to society.

Maybe that is why bankers like to wind up an evening out in a lap-dancing club. They see people like themselves, only better looking, and with fewer clothes on.”

Lynn goes on to argue (albeit, more elegantly), in essence, that the bankers who fired the employees are applying an old fashioned moral standard, and that, because nearly every living male in the universe visits lap dancing clubs, often taking their clients with them, it’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do, even though women are not, typically, invited to those particular business development bonding sessions.

Lynn ultimately concludes:

“The key difference between the two lines of work is that lap dancers do not make any pretence about what they are. In reality, it may make more sense for the owners of a lap-dancing club to ban their female employees from visiting Morgan Stanley than the other way around. Except they are not in the business of claiming moral superiority — unlike the investment bankers.”

While I lurve Lynn’s comparative analysis of the two professions, I can’t say that I agree with his central point that 'it’s all good', because this is what guys do these days, and this is what guys do with clients, and by implication (although he certainly doesn’t say directly), this is not something that could possibly effect a woman’s career prospects, or her professional relationships, or the way she is treated in the business environment. I also don’t think it has much of anything to do with anyone taking a moral high ground, or the worm of morality turning.

Women think about sex during the course of a normal business day too – well, not when the really unattractive guy from accounts is roaming the corridors; and not when the happily married man with three kids guy is lurking about with his permanently fixed sleazy grin and squinty look – but women don’t seem to feel the need to play out their sexuality by taking their manager and the girl from reception to visit a male strip club for lunch every Wednesday, for example. They manage – yes, remarkable as it may seem – to get through their 8 hours of work each day without acting on the urge to see a naked man.

Contrary to what Lynn so beautifully hints, it’s not natural or normal for business men to interrupt their working day by spending a couple of hours with the naked breasts of strangers in their face, while they fondly shove notes of various denominations into the crotches of those same nameless women. To suggest that men are so disciplined and moral in their thoughts and actions as to be capable of then skipping back to the office and treating their female colleagues and female managers with the same awe-filled respect, adoration and forgiveness that they extend to any fuck-witted male colleague who has ever crossed their path is to grant men a degree of latitude and moral righteousness that is, self-evidently, undeserved.

We know that the male mind and male actions are highly compartmentalized, and I’m 100% sure that none of them would unthinkingly tuck a $50 note into the waistband of their secretary’s gabardine skirt at the end of an exhausting day of meetings and lap dancing; and I’m 100% sure that none of them would unthinkingly start drooling into their manager’s heaving cleavage during a performance review meeting, but I do think that the compartmentalized male mind is, perhaps, not as rigid in its compartmental designs as the average male penis, for example.

In other words, while men might be quite capable of distinguishing between a lap dancer – who wouldn’t so much as spit on him if she wasn’t being paid a truck load of money, let alone let him ogle her naked form – and, say, for example, a clothed, intelligent, authoritative female business executive or board member – who, also, wouldn’t be likely to spit on him if she wasn’t being paid a truck load of money – I’m not convinced that there isn’t some leakage in both the mind and actions of men, and thus a significant influence on the real regard and real status they accord to women they work with, or women in general.

Model Elle Macpherson – who really shouldn’t be quoted on any topic for any reason – is quoted in today’s “Good Weekend” magazine (The Age, 14 January 2006) as saying:

“What I believe in is the empowerment of men in their femininity, their sensuality, and their sexuality."

Yeah, yeah, okay, that’s not what she said. She was talking about “the empowerment of women…blah, blah, blah”. But didn’t you stop, just for half a nanosecond and think to yourself “WTF”; or “err, gee, why the hell would anyone “believe” in that?”; or perhaps “bimbo; sheesh, I’m glad she’s not the leader of the free world”. But when we change the context to women, it’s not an odd statement, it’s an expected and natural thing to read, quite uninteresting, despite the absolute absurdity of anyone holding to this as part of their world view, or, worse still as a belief system of some earth-mothering kind.

See, even women get it so muddled and fuddled that it beggars belief that they actually say these things. Doesn’t it make you wonder how hard (no pun intended) men are making it for themselves by using lap dancing clubs as a so-called business venue, and then trying to claim they treat women at their workplace with total respect, and in a manner entirely equitable with the way they treat men?

Of course, they don’t, they won’t, and perhaps they can’t. If that’s so, then it’s time to stop the bullshit, admit the truth of the world, thus allowing men to go off to their lap dancing, while acknowledging that all is not equal in the ways of work, and provide women with an extravagant range of compensatory consolation prizes to choose from each week, for no other reason than to support their endeavors to be productive and happy at work, albeit, unequal, as well as to compensate for all of that dry-retching at the thought of their boss in the presence of any naked woman - icky, eeewwww.