Festival Of Obvious Ideas
One of the interesting features of modern public debate is the emergence of a small army of thin-skinned souls on permanent stand-by to be offended by pretty much everything.
The way we talk, the jokes we crack, the way we describe each other, all these things are subject to such an increasingly prohibitive set of strictures that it is easier to keep your mouth shut for fear of upsetting someone.
While the scourge of mental illness is not to be taken lightly, and is something which has touched us all, it still puzzles me that one of Australia’s leading mental health organisations is spending its time vetting newspaper articles and sending letters to journalists asking that they excise certain figurative expressions from their writing.
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The present isn’t perfect. It’s flawed, strange and inconsistent. Twitter scandals happen, 14-year-olds spend time in Bali prisons and idiots occasionally moon the Queen. For the most part, however, it’s far from terrible.
Most of us have no trouble appreciating the present and understanding that it is probably no better or worse than anything that has come before it.
Yet there is a small, but vocal, percentage of the population who endlessly whinge about it and seem unable to accept the fact that the past is just that.
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When I was growing up, my family had a tattered, handwritten book of friends’ phone numbers sitting next to the landline in the kitchen. If we wanted to call someone who was more of an acquaintance though, we’d have to look them up in the phonebook to give them a bell.
Times have changed. Today, if you want to get a stranger down the end of the line you probably won’t hunt for their number in a phonebook. You might look them up on the White Pages website and find their landline number, but who needs Ye Olde Home Phone in this day and age?
More than 10 per cent of Australians don’t even have them anymore. It’s a number that’s sure to climb. Landlines are both irrelevant and surprisingly moneysucking. You aren’t likely to find many from this mobile-only demographic in the White Pages either, because there’s not a whole lot of numbers starting in 04 in there. So this brings me to today’s obvious idea: make a White Pages for mobile phones.
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There’s an awful lot of hand-wringing these days over the binge drinking epidemic. Well, here’s a really obvious thought. Maybe all those teenagers and 20-somethings are only living up to the example we’ve set them on all kinds of fronts.
Think about it. Society today is full of bingers. We’re all bingers. We consume anything and everything in ever-increasing proportions, usually to the point of excess and often to the point of vulgarity.
Forget the obvious cases of food and booze for a minute. Take entertainment. Remember the days when you’d passively sit back and wait for your weekly instalment of TV drama? That is sooo 2005.
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Its time to abolish the apostrophe. This poor little punctuation mark has been abused, neglected, contorted into unnatural positions. It is a tattered remnant of its former self, and deserves to be put peacefully to sleep.
So let’s give it a dignified end, and save it from further pain.
Where it was once the greengrocers’ prerogative to enslave apostrophes and bend them to their evil will (tomato’s, anyone?) the cancer has spread, and the apostrophe is beyond saving.
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I remember vividly a very long (and unbelievably frustrating) conversation I once had with someone who was genuinely convinced that he was “playing it safe” by not wearing a seatbelt whilst driving.
I told this man that seatbelts are one of the most simple-yet-effective life-saving devices ever invented in modern societies, and, backed-up by mountains of independent research, any road safety expert will tell you that you’re crazy not to wear one every time you get in a car.
But, this clown thought that the experts were “idiots”, and that he knew better.
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So the world’s going to end again today. Panic! Or maybe wait a day. It’s never clear how the International Date Line comes into play with these things.
According to fruity American doomsday prophet Harold Camping, God forgot to carry the two, or screwed the equation some other which way, and the apocalypse predicted for May 21 is in fact now due today.
While it’s tempting to bang on in gloriously pisstaking tones about Camping and other prophets of doom – and don’t worry, I will – the serious side to all this is the gross distortion of the message of Jesus Christ, a man who had plenty of sensible advice for the world.
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I am becoming increasingly tired of seeing, hearing or reading in the media, former Prime Ministers or politicians struggling to retire from political power and influence with dignity.
Anyone with even a modest interest in politics could compile a substantial list in just a few minutes. Think Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Pauline Hanson, Peter Beattie, Bob Carr, Cheryl Kernot, Jeff Kennett, Mark Latham, John Hewson, Peter Costello, Graham Richardson and Peter Reith and you will have just started. Why don’t these ex-pollies just put the kettle on and relax?
Then of course there is deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who is suffering the “Kath and Kim “ syndrome: “Look at me, look at me, look at me!”
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Guillaume Brahimi makes the World’s Best Mashed Potato in his posh restaurant, Guillaume at Bennelong, at the Sydney Opera House. It costs $14. I could go there for dinner and happily eat nothing but the Paris mash.
Why’s it so good? Well, you try tossing an entire packet of butter in with four potatoes next time you’re making mash to serve with snags. You’ll win Masterchef in no time too.
Quay at Sydney’s Circular Quay is regarded as one of the world’s best restaurants (ranked No. 26). Yes, chef Peter Gilmore is clever, but I reckon brushing almost everything with butter before it leaves the kitchen is part of that genius. You show me a delicious meal and I’ll show you a restaurant with a big block of churned milk.
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If a meteor were spotted tomorrow hurtling towards the Earth, you could bet that some shirtless Mike Sorrentino clone would spend his final minutes lip-syncing Rihanna in an attempt to rake up hits before impact.
As astronauts snapped the glowing explosion with their mobiles, old people made out on the beach and random 17-year-olds concluded their wedding vows, he would grin triumphantly. “At least I’m famous,” he would say as the television turned to static and the chanting began.
At any given moment, millions of people are sprinting toward fame, with no clue as to what they’ll do if and when they finally grasp it. Encouraged by the handful of well-publicised success stories, they cheerfully upload their auto-tuned vocals, tear-streaked rants and subway dance routines.
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Hear us. Trust us. Reward us.
That’s the simple plea from white collar Australia in response to a simple question: How would you get your workplace working better?
Over at news.com.au we’ve been running what we somewhat exuberantly called the New Work Project survey. In the few weeks it’s been running, we’ve received 25,000 submissions from all corners of the country and in all walks of life.
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There’s only one thing worse than a person who spends all their time on Facebook. The person who spends all their time on Facebook bagging it out.
You know the ones. Well, how could you not. They’re always on the damn thing. Posting riveting status updates such as: “I hate you Facebook” and “Grrr, what’s with all the changes?”
Fact is, nobody forced you to join up in the first place. Second fact - it’s actually really easy to quit Facebook. You just delete your account, end of story. But still they stay. Moaning, posting and updating.
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Welcome to the second day of the Punch Festival of Obvious Ideas, our salute to stuff that should be said. Here, we have a look at why we need to force some politicians to earlier elections - and no, it’s not about who you think.
Babies torn apart then pieced back together, or left on a shelf to die. A cover up of mass medication in the water, poisoning us all. Random drug tests for kids.
Welcome to the weird world of Upper House MLC Ann Bressington.
Ms Bressington, who only got 32 primary votes but surfed into the SA Parliament on the ever-popular Nick Xenophon’s coattails. Ms Bressington, who set out on an anti-drugs platform but quickly became a one-woman lightning rod for paranoid conspiracy theorists.
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There is too much fake stuff in today’s world. You have to look twice to tell if a woman’s breasts or lips are really her own. And show me a packet of BBQ chips that’s been anywhere near a BBQ.
Yet somehow, we are still suckers for companies who pitch old-fashioned concepts like “home made”, “authentic” and “loyalty”.
So-called loyalty cards are meant to make us feel special. If we fly with Virgin Blue all the time, or shop at DJs by habit, we feel entitled to feel special, and to be rewarded. Companies know this, hence the proliferation of loyalty programs. Yet as we all know deep down, that’s a load of crap.
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Welcome to this, the first piece in The Punch’s Festival of Obvious Ideas, which will be running all week. The festival is our salute to those ideas which are so bleedingly obvious, you’ll wonder why someone didn’t write these pieces ages ago. First up this week, why we should all avoid Bali.
Australia has an ongoing romance with the small Indonesian island of Bali dating back to at least the 1970s. But all romances turn mundane and predictable over time. Or worse, they turn spiteful and malicious. When that happens, it’s time to end things.
In recent years, Australians have been detained, poisoned by dodgy drinks, rocked by earthquakes and killed by militant Islamists in Bali. In some cases, we’ve arguably put ourselves in harm’s way, but in the vast majority of cases, we have been innocent victims. Yet like the woman who stays with her abusive partner, we somehow can’t stay away from Bali.
There is a perfectly good argument that Bali is a tropical paradise. You can go there and have a wonderful escape without stupidly buying drugs or going to bars where ugly Australians carry on like sambal pork chops. You can also do that in, oh, about a million other places in south east Asia.
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If people didn’t donate their tissue and organs to others, the following people wouldn’t have contributed nearly as much to the Australia we know: Kevin Rudd, Derryn Hinch, Kerry Packer, Jimmy Little, Fiona Coote…
We’d be a lot poorer for it. But Australia is already a poorer country than it could be. There are plenty of sick people who need organ transplants but can’t get them. Australia has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in the developed world. There are some 1,566 Australians on the waiting list for a transplant right now and every week an Aussie dies waiting for a kidney transplant.
The way to ease this crippling shortage is breathtakingly obvious. When you die, your organs should automatically go to someone who needs them. End of story.
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It’s a special week here at The Punch. In the past month we’ve seen Sydney host the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and Adelaide host its own Festival of Ideas. But what about the really bloody obvious ideas? There doesn’t seem to be much of a market for them lately.
So this week The Punch presents a bunch of what we think are common-sense solutions to the ills of the world with our Festival of Obvious Ideas. There are loads of ideas out there, and we’ll be presenting a range of them, from Punch contributors and The Punch team.
It’s Monday and it’s sure to be an interesting week. So what’s on your mind? Got any really obvious ideas the world needs to hear?
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