Disclaimer: All writings contained herein are of a largely satirical nature and are not representative of the truth unless otherwise specified.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Strippers have feelings too...and human rights.

An issue pertaining to the sexual assault of a stripper by members of a provincial rugby team has recently been making the rounds of the various media outlets in New Zealand, including on their Facebook pages.

And likewise, there has been a volley of responses on the Facebook page to the story. Mostly negative of course, but in this instance many of these comments are essentially shifting the burden of guilt from the actual perpetrators themselves onto the victim herself. And it is this victim blaming mentality that irks me just as much as the offending acts do. It is adding insult to injury when a stripper, whose occupation was traditionally centered around pure spectacle without groping, is accused of being irresponsible and subsequently culpable, at least in part, for her actions. And during my academic tenure, particularly with regards to those papers which focused on gender politics, I was instructed in various theories such as patriarchy, hegemonic masculinity and sexual objectification. Of course, in mainstream popular discourse, such theories are often dismissed as being politically correct, predicated on alleged feminist bigotries, without any real world substance whatsoever. I do however, find much sympathy with theories of objectification, the treating of people as objects or things.

In light of this revelation, it seems rather obvious that much of what was discussed during the course of my studies was not “loony leftist” drivel at all. Indeed, we see it through the media, on television, in movies and even in video games. People, in particular (but of course, not exclusively) women, are rendered as objects of lust and sexual desire, fetishized for the purpose of points scoring, be it audience numbers or customers. Take for example the recently released film Suicide Squad, featuring actress Margot Robbie as a Harlequin-like character sporting skimpy shorts and an exposed midsection. When this is analyzed using the appropriate intellectual lenses, it doesn’t take an academic to deduce that sex sells. In such contexts, individuals are rendered as commodities, or property, if you will.

And it is this very commodification of individuals, particularly in the form of a sexualized fetish (when I use the word fetish in this context, I use it within the traditional anthropological context of the word, which refers to an object of worship that is imbued with specific powers) that we see people reduced to the status of property. The incident of the groped stripper is a classic example of people being reduced to the status of sexual property. On one hand one may argue that she is merely being entrepreneurial in providing a service to a market full of perverts. That assumption is quite likely correct. On the other hand she is a product of our society, where this innocent assumption of entrepreneurial endeavor is confused with what is essentially sexual slavery, the selling of oneself for the gratification and usage of others. The perpetrators in this instance see her as property – they’ve paid her the money for a set amount of time, and for that amount of time they own her. It is thus rather predictable that the perpetrators would try and grope her – at the moment of financial transaction she ceases to be an individual and instead becomes property, a commodity. It is little wonder that these people tend to believe that they can do whatever they like!

And because of this socially institutionalized commodification of individuals, people are quick to lay the blame at her feet. Again they reduce the likes of her to the status of an object. In truth, it is the perpetrators who in part ought to take the rap – the rest of the blame lies with society. People are not objects, never have been and never will be, irrespective of color or genital configuration. Strippers are people too – one may disagree with their choice of occupation, but nobody can use this to deny them basic civil rights.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dave On The Academic After-Life

So you've done it. You've put out enough sweat to bring Kiribati's submersion threat to a tipping point. You've driven yourself to a point of madness that you're borderline comatose. And you've written enough essays to make the sum of every Wikipedia page resemble a brief scribbling on a Post It note. You've completed university. And somehow, you are still alive. Somehow.

And yet, despite all the blood, sweat, tears and what have you, you've managed to do the unthinkable and complete your studies. In the time it took you to complete them, you've borne witness to the election of 24 US presidents, the reign of seven British monarchs, the coming and going of 50 popes, six viral epidemics, the Second Coming, the death of Keith Richards, the series finale of The Simpsons, the discovery of extraterrestrial life, interstellar travel, a Charles in Charge reboot, the discovery of intelligent life, solved the Rubik's cube by yourself, and of course, the discovery of a new species of flying pig.

And yet, one finds oneself so accustomed to studying, it is easy to concede that one misses studying once they've completed it. Well, certain parts of it anyway. It is easy to become routinized after a prolonged period of study. For you, it seems, your destiny lies sitting in lecture theaters for all eternity, rocking up to Orientation Week for free food, music, and to be pestered by representatives of major banks about the merits of a tertiary bank account and low interest credit cards. And in some cases, the hoarding of student diaries. Such experiences may vary according to your age group and other related demographics. If you're young and just starting off in life, you may not turn up to lectures and tutorials at all and instead choose to study the effects of generous ethanol consumption on the human body between Wednesday and Saturday. In which case, your ability to reminisce on such things may be somewhat impeded by the fact that your memories of your academic tenure collectively resemble that of a QR bar code.

But of course, university or college study is not all fun and games. There are always things that, once you've finished everything and have entered the working world, you will never want to revisit or even think about ever again. Exams and assignments are perhaps the best examples of these. Both tend to send you mad with stress and anxiety. Reminiscing about the last time you had to do assignments or exams is a bit like reminiscing about that time you had venereal disease. You don't want to think about them at all. You want to leave them buried in the past where they belong. Bringing them back into recollection will only make you shudder with dread.

It is perhaps a bit of a culture shock of sorts to find yourself out of study and briefly unemployed, or looking for a job with nothing but a flashy piece of paper that suggests that you are a clever dick and that you have the appropriate license to prove it. But, because life goes on, change is inevitable and that college education is terribly expensive, you have little choice but to move onward and upward. Money doesn't grow on trees (although technically it once did) and it can buy all sorts of flashy, fancy things, such as the latest smartphone, which you, if you have an unfortunate predilection for being butter-fingered, can expect to replace on a cyclical basis of every two weeks or so. Having said that, a bottom-rung job at Maccas it seems, is well and truly out of the question. In the end, you may miss amongst many other things that routine weekly structure that comes with being a student, but at least you won't have to experience the sensation of impending doom that arises from anticipating the latest exam results or assignment marks.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dave on Wasted Food

Every time I pay a visit to the food court of my local shopping mall, I inevitably find myself staring at a plate that is neither full nor empty, but somewhere in between. Sometimes there is but a fraction of the original serving left – a scattering of a few assorted vegetables, bones, that sort of thing. But often I will find large swathes of food left over from the original meal. Abandoned by their owners, whose digestive systems, it seems, have suddenly and drastically shrunk in size, they are left at the mercy of those flying scavengers of the passerine variety. Most people would call them house sparrows. But whenever I'm there trying to have a feed, my preference is to refer to them as “little illegitimate children.” Or something along those lines, and of course using less family-friendly terminology. And these “feathered variants of kids born outside of wedlock” are very quick to partake in the opportunistic feeding frenzy that soon follows. And with that much food left over, there is an equally proportional amount of sparrows flying about to match, much to my annoyance. But for once, they aren't my primary grievance.

In this particular instance, the threat of a sparrow shedding its feathers or showering patrons with “presents from heaven” isn't the problem. It is the fact that people will buy a meal from one of the food outlets at the food court, sit down to eat it, and then walk away soon after with the bulk of the meal completely intact. To add insult to injury, partially full Coca-Cola and Sprite bottles often accompany them. A great day for the sparrows of course, not so much for those like me who believe that, barring sudden illness or an unexpected termination of essential life processes, everything that is put on your plate should be eaten, not discarded. The idea of food going to waste really grinds my gears.

And I suppose it should. Millions, if not billions of the world's population either subside on very little or are starving to death. For them, food is a scarce and precious commodity. To them, KFC or Carl's Jr. would be like dying and going to heaven. We in the western world, however, take it for granted. We sit down and consume bountiful quantities of food, somewhat oblivious to the conditions prevalent in countries ravaged by war, famine and extreme poverty. The obesity epidemic is an extreme example of this disparity between the haves and have-nots of the developed and developing worlds. In the developed world, people are dying because they have too much to eat. In the third world it's the reverse.

Not only that, but in many circumstances, particularly within a domestic setting, others will go to great lengths to prepare meals for others and invest a great amount of time and resources in doing so. And yet this culture of wastefulness sadly finds itself prevailing even within the confines of the household. This is not particularly respectful toward those that, for them at least, preparing food for others is a labor of love, and not just a mere obligation on their part.

So what should be done about this propensity for people to treat food as something other than the valuable and finite commodity that it really is? The solutions are really quite simple and are more or less common sense. Getting people to think things through before they take action on something is perhaps a strong starting point. Learning about how much you can eat and how to adjust proportion sizes accordingly is one good example. Being grateful for what you have and thinking about the starving kiddies in Africa is another capital idea. In any case, the rule of thumb is simply this – take only what you need and what you can consume. To do otherwise is to flip the proverbial bird at those who are less fortunate.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dave on Easy Listening Music

Listening to some kinds of Easy Listening music is a bit like being at the pinnacle of the vinegar stroke – you might be at the height of your enjoyment, but you may not want to tell your mates about it. I remember back in the 1990s a station known as i98 FM, which specialized in this particular kind of music. Now, when I talk about “Easy Listening” I'm talking about soft, dulcet popular music songs that your dad might put when serenading your mum on their centennial wedding anniversary, accompanied by some fine wine, candles and a bottle of blue pills. OK, I'm sorry I felt compelled to add that last bit in, especially for those who know what I'm on about. I just had to do it. The elves in my head told me it was either that, or a mild stroke. My call. My bad too. Anyway, the DJs employed by the station had an irritating predilection for speaking in a soft and friendly tone of voice that was meant to create a romantic atmosphere, but in truth forged an extraordinarily effective method of torture that could awaken the dead. Of course, I never listened to this station on my own free will.

As I was writing this I had just listened to a song called “Hands to Heaven” by Breathe. Softer than a baby's turd, it has pretentious, soft-cock and lovey-dovey written all over it. It makes Cliff Richard's “Suddenly” sound like “Born in a Casket” by Cannibal Corpse. Musically, it is well put together – however, the lyrics and vocals come across as nothing short of a pitiful, politically correct and somewhat asinine attempt at being a Casanova-like figure. The difference is, though, Casanova pulled more roots than a bored toddler in a strawberry patch. He certainly pulled more than the lead singer of Breathe ever did anyhow. Especially if the rest of the album was anything to go by. But, I digress.

Of course, I like music of many different styles and genres, and some of these will include the odd prominent power ballad or ten. I harbor a great deal of respect for Bryan Ferry, because Bryan Ferry had the cool factor. “Slave to Love” is probably the benchmark for what a love song should sound like. Just add Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and you're away. Avalon by Roxy Music, the group for which he fronted, is arguably one of the best albums I've ever heard. And let's not forget Peter Cetera. Chicago punched out a few good numbers in the 80s with him behind the mic, but everything else they produced is only fit for getting hardened criminals to talk. His solo stuff produced a few gems as well. I particularly like his voice – he apparently achieved it by trying to sing with his jaw wired shut. I could easily name a few singers who could do with such a restraint.

And then there is the issue of the crossover singer Michael Bolton. Bolton initially started out as a hard rock singer. And then he decided to shift away toward a sound more reminiscent of the typical Easy Listening song, albeit somewhat heavier. It was more or less watered down hard rock for your mum. To be quite honest, it is a real shame that he effectively betrayed his roots in the way that he did. I mean, come on Michael, there's more to life than trying to woo women by telling porkies. The love songs musically were great. They exerted power, energy and emotion. But to be honest, you're not going to get laid by telling fibs.

But in the end, you can have great Easy Listening music. It doesn't have to be so pretentious and lyrically synthetic and emotionally fake. But it must center the role of the music as an art form and not just some vehicle for telling the world about what a complete cock you are in the courting department.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dave on Hamilton, NZ

Recently I read an article on the interwebs, which is dated just over a year old now, regarding a scathing criticism of Auckland Labour MP Jacinda Ardern's observation of Hamilton's propensity for having houses that all look alike. Evidently, the Hamilton City Council got their undies in a knot in a right royal way and several councilors took to the media to express their outrage and, somewhat predictably, put forward their tiresome and rather indefensible arguments as to why Hamilton was great. And the mayoress at the time even had the cheek to say that everybody who has been to Hamilton would say that it was a “great place.”

And here is where she was utterly wrong. It is not a great place at all—unless, your sole ambition in life is to experience painful urination where it feels like you're passing a razor blade, in which case then, it is absolutely brilliant. And who is she to suggest that everybody who has been there says it is a great place? Most people I know tend to say otherwise. And I certainly didn't agree that the place was great—the fact that I don't live there anymore is a testament to that. And to prove my point, here are few reasons why Hamilton is not great. The place is cold and damp to the point where Eskimos would complain and the only things to do down there aside from getting drunk is pinch things from The Warehouse and rob liquor stores. As for the retail experience, the term “Hamilton CBD” is amusingly inaccurate as it doesn't actually have one.

So what could possibly be considered a “redeeming” feature of Hamilton? Well, for starters, the city is known for its night life, the night clubs, the binge drinking, the fights, and hooking up in the disabled toilets in the Outback and then getting kicked out. Drinking is a core part of Hamiltonian life – you need to drink in order to forget that you are in Hamilton.

I find it rather difficult to believe that anybody could call Hamilton a lovely city. That's like calling the elephant man handsome. The place needs a lot of work to make it worthy of even a tidbit of praise. If you were to ask me what is the best thing to come out of Hamilton, I would give you several answers, and they would all be roads.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dave on Nationalism

Anti-war rent-a-crowd mobs, naturists, anarchists and Ayn Rand's beotches all have one thing in common – a dislike for nationalism, particularly of the cultural variety. They believe all borders should be abolished, that a world government should be established (with the obvious exception of the latter two) and that competition is intrinsically evil (definitely the first one, maybe the second, and perhaps some of the third). Internationalism, they believe, is the way to go, and that it is ultimately inevitable. No it is not. Internationalism is stupid and unworkable. Like those extreme vegan types who feed their carnivorous pets tofu substitutes.

In general, there is nothing wrong with nationalism as a philosophy, both cultural and economic. There is nothing wrong at all with displaying one's patriotic fervor by shouting, “Wooo! Go New Zealand!” at a sporting event. Unless, of course, you are shouting at an American football match, because you'll be the only one there and you'll look like a twit. And national pride is only ever wrong when you decide that your race or country is better than the others because statistically speaking, a smaller proportion of your country's population has genital warts and that alone is the prerequisite for being considered the master race. And you maybe pushing things a little too far when you suggest the government establishes a ministry of propaganda, burns down a local school tuck shop to speed up the introduction of an 'enabling act', and then blame it on the EPMU.

The reason why I chose to write on this matter is because I recently read an article about changing New Zealand's flag, and, being a staunch republican and nationalist at heart, I personally thought it was a capital idea. Having a Union Jack on our flag is pointless. The British Empire is in the same league as a Norwegian Blue's metabolic processes—dead and gone and only relevant to historians (John Cleese). And besides, the novelty of wiping your bum on a flag and offending two countries at the same time will be lost on disgruntled radicals with a predilection for indulging in blatant unpatriotic behavior. And black and white is so much more original in terms of a color scheme. I mean, who else has a red white and blue flag? And where do I start the list?

And as much as I like the Royal Family, I would still do away with the monarchy. The Queen is a lovely lady, and I think Prince Phillip should get a Nobel prize of sorts for his cutting, un-P.C. wit. But still, they should go. This is the 21st Century, and I would much rather have a New Zealander as our head-of-state. And preferably elected as well.

So yes, it is logical to assume that I intensely dislike Monarchy New Zealand and consider them cultural traitors. And such an assumption would be quite correct. But unlike that preconceived stereotypical image of nationalists that many internationalists might conjure up, I wouldn't have them shot. I would, however, have them lined up outside parliament dressed in tutus, helicopter hats and publicly ridiculed by having them all mercilessly pelted with moldy scones.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dave On Cloud Music

For most of my life I’ve been somewhat reactionary to change.  Unless of course, it was in my pocket.  Yet, when it did come around I was oddly quick to accept it once it had taken place, and in some instances, even embrace it.  But still, I have to be convinced that whatever this change brought about would be a substantial improvement on whatever it was replacing.  Questions like, “would I benefit from this?”  “Would I be worse off under this?”  “Is this going to suck?” all get tossed around hastily between the elves in my head like a game of pass the parcel at a nuclear materials handling facility.

One form of change I found myself most ready to accept pertained to media storage formats like VHS and DVD, Cassette and CD, et cetera, et cetera.  I loved the superior fidelity of the CD over the cassette, and I especially loved how a well-maintained DVD would never degrade like the awful VHS video tape inevitably did. I also loved how the skip functions on a CD player saved you from fast forwarding or rewinding in order to skip the rubbish songs.  And of course, there was MP3 – no more carting around discs to play whenever you were out and about – and the fact that I could cart around thousands of songs in my pocket to listen to whenever I pleased made me more excited than a bonobo on speed.  And the zero spin up time associated with digital files also made me as excited as the aforementioned bonobo if it had ADHD to boot.

In recent years, there has been a trend within the technology sector of shifting toward an internet-based technology known as cloud computing, where data is stored remotely on hard drives in ‘server farms’ around the world, rather than being stored on a local device such as a PC or smartphone.  The ultimate aim, as seen by many, was to replace local storage entirely.  Everything you did would be stored in the ‘cloud’, from word documents to photos, to music and movies purchased online, which meant such files could be readily shared and distributed between all devices you had registered with the service provider.

Now, I was initially rather hostile to such a proposition.  I much preferred my data to be stored on my own devices, backed up on my own discs and storage mediums, with me in complete control.  In fact, I still do.  And I have a few good reasons why.  Firstly, the reliability of internet services is still not as consistent and reliable as the electricity supply.  Secondly, the internet is not particularly well known for its security.  Hackers are constantly hacking into computer systems somewhere in the world and there is an ever increasing list of malware programs ready to infect your computer or computing device and turn it into one of the world’s most expensive bricks, rendering it about as useful and practical as a pedal-powered wheelchair.  And thirdly, how long your data remains stored in the cloud all depended on things such as the long-term operational viability of the cloud service provider, and whether the CEO has a penchant for ‘taking the company in a radical new direction’ every few days or so.

One particular cloud concept that initially had me worried was the idea of online music streaming services such as Spotify.  Many tech writers speculated that this would indeed be the future of music – no more CDs or locally stored MP3s; everything was in the cloud and streamed directly to the user’s devices.  And there were plenty of things to worry about as well, such as the finite data limit on my broadband internet connection, the reliability of this internet connection and the fact that I would never be able to buy a recording with any tangible, physical value.  To music buffs like me, an album is not just a recording, it is a physical product with material meaning.  The packaging completed the recording that was on it.  And anybody who did not concur with this position would be flogged with a gunny sack full of hot scones and ostracized to a faraway land to be bullied by spider monkeys.

And whilst I still live in hope that physical albums will continue to be sold in stores until I drop dead, I wouldn’t entirely pooh-pooh the idea of online music streaming either, because it enables me to listen to albums in their entirety before I buy them.  And it also provides me with an almost endless supply of material to review for my music blog (which, for those who are curious, can be found at davebilling.blogspot.com).  So, as long as online music streaming services remain more supplemental and less substitutional, I shall remain relatively content to make use of such services in addition to the ‘old-fashioned’ local storage method that I have treasured dearly since 2005, as well as the even older fashioned direct CD playback method that I’ve indulged in since 1995.  But I’m buggered if I’ll ever go back to those lousy cassette tapes, with their tendencies to commit suicide by being eaten by poorly made tape decks, and their Edison era sound quality.  Stuff that.