You really only need two friends in life. The first friend is honest and loyal. They’ll be there when you need them, offer great advice and steer you away from danger when you ask them to.
It’s a reciprocal arrangement, based on balance, respect and shared values of some kind.
The other friendship is less complicated. You don’t see them much and the times that you do are guaranteed to be fun and frivolous.
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If I know you, I’ve probably lied to you - or at the very least misled you. And it’s time for me to own up. The second time we met, I probably didn’t recognise you, but pretended I did. You see, I’m bad with faces. Really bad with faces. It’s also called prosopagnosia.
Which isn’t a good trait for a journalist. So I bluff. All the time.
As well as the practical problems - and opportunities missed - failure to recognise somebody invariably causes offence. A few examples:
• The time I had lunch with somebody, then introduced myself to him again the next day.
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Every government has its own tone and character. It is a product of the party in government, its values, philosophy, and directions. But it is also a product of the character and values of the person who leads it.
Compare the Fraser and Howard governments, or the Whitlam, Hawke, Keating or Rudd/Gillard governments. Governments of the same political persuasion can vary greatly.
What would be the tone and character of an Abbott government? Much attention has been given to the direct, cut-through approach of the Leader of the Opposition in media interviews, parliamentary debates and in question time. But little attention has been given to more significant matters. One is the manner in which he interacts with colleagues, and the other his instinctive values.
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Australia stands at a turning point in its demographic development and it is crucial to develop a vision of our future population, taking full account of the best scientific and policy thinking and knowledge but also taking into account the wishes and opinions of all Australians.
The population and immigration debates in Australia have too often been dominated by interest groups and have focused on extreme positions. On the one hand are those who believe Australia should increase its population as rapidly as possible and strive to attain a population of more than double the current size.
On the other hand some environmentalists argue for an immediate end to population growth. However, both of these extreme positions would have negative consequences for Australia and most Australians. We need a midway position which involves growth with sustainability.
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That meddling loon we call “science” has struck again. Not content with smashing particles into each other and allowing Michael Bay to discover CGI, it has confirmed that other people do, in fact, feel things and are not imaginary characters in the movies in our heads (except Tom Hanks’ idiot spawn Chet Haze, who we can only hope is not a real thing).
Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana have concluded - through a study of 239 students - that even a quick smile or a flash of eye contact can make strangers feel more connected. Some students even reported feeling unsettled when others failed to acknowledge them.
It would appear - contrary to the belief of the scowling, shoe-examining hordes that seemingly populate our transportation networks and supermarkets - that people actually enjoy being smiled at. They neither contort in agony nor screech in rage when a person they have never met elects to nod in their direction instead of scrambling past them.
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Shit! Who knew you could catch Tourette’s Syndrome online?
Well you, can’t, not really. But you may be able to ‘catch’ similar symptoms from friends in the real world, or through social media.
A group of young cheerleaders who started twitching and spasming uncontrollably are at the centre of a recent high-profile case of ‘mass hysteria’. And an expert in mass hysteria and moral panics says such outbreaks will become more common in Australia as we connect more with people through the interwebs.
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Right now, somewhere in the world, some clever person is furiously scribbling away. Their eyes are probably darting around for thieving glances as they hurriedly sketch a crude blueprint of the invention that will grant them an early retirement. They’re a visionary, an intellectual titan - a solver of citrus-related problems.
To that person, I say simply: Stop it, you monster. Seriously, friend, just put the biro down and stop ruining things for the rest of us. Every time some show-off designs an easy-wind chapstick or a plastic thing that shapes pancakes into Paul Giamatti characters, they make it harder for the rest of us to effortlessly strike it rich.
There are precious few things left to invent and whenever one of you yahoos decides to cross one off the list, my friends and I have less chance of being able to rent out entire hotels and run enormous waterslides down all 35 flights of stairs.
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