Allan Takes Aim Blog

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Success = Stress= Psychology

I’ve come to the conclusion that all candidates for parliament should undergo a mandatory psychological examination to see if they can withstand the stress that being a politician often brings. And perhaps candidates for senior positions in the bureaucracy should undergo the same examination because when all is said and done they supply the information that politicians rely on to make their decisions.

It seems logical to me that such examinations should take place because it is now common for candidates applying for senior managerial positions in industry have to face such a test. Not all the tests are carried out face to face but judgment is made on what candidates said in their written application and answers given to question set by psychologists.

Theoretically this is supposed to weed out the wheat from the chaff so avoiding candidates being selected because they are part of the same old boy or old mate network. Unfortunately, it doesn’t avoid the ‘he’s a good bloke’ system. (Bloke, by the way is gender neutral.)

With nature becoming an important aspect of life today and just in case someone sneaks through the psychology test, it’s good to know that according to the experts ‘a return to nature will relieve stress.’ Comforting as the experts assurances are, I wish the experts would do their homework first, before opening their mouths.

But will this action relieve stress? Having now researched the subject intensively, I don’t think returning to nature is the answer. Indeed, as I watch some of the proselytizers, I think some of them need to be tested psychologically, but not necessarily for stress.

On the other hand during my research, so impressed was I with the research of Robert Evans, a Canadian and leading authority on baboons, I feel able to advise the experts that sending people suffering from stress to join the baboons of the Serengeti Plain, the distant cousins we left behind in the evolutionary race, could exacerbate their stress problem.

The fact is, that based on Evan’s research, politicians, senior bureaucrats and senior executives would be mistaken if they thought that joining the baboons would help them. Indeed, according to Evans and a study carried out in the early ‘90s by the Serengeti Consulting Group from Canada, human and baboon society have the same hierarchical structure and contrary to common belief, the people who suffer most from stress are those at the bottom of the heap, not those at the top.

Contrary also to popular belief, the principal cause of stress is not fear of being sacked, the boss bawling you out, or making you look foolish in front of your workmates, it’s the simple fear of being ignored.  And while my research didn’t throw up a definitive cure for stress, I might be able to help you avoid it using the experience of my friend Cedric as an example of what not to do.

Eighteen months ago, Cedric deciding the public service was an honourable occupation, thought he would try and climb to the top instead of just plodding along. To show he meant business, Cedric vowed that from that day on he would get to work on time. He vowed also that before setting off for work and conscious of the fact that, in the course of the day, it was likely he’d meet meet some of his employers (taxpayers) he would shower, shave, put on a clean and ironed shirt, polish his shoes and make sure his trousers were pressed.

Sadly for Cedric, instead of his actions being the first step on what he thought would be the path to success, it led to a nervous breakdown, brought on by stress. And so it was that during the morning on the first day of Cedric’s new, “I mean business,” program, the secretary of the department called in at the office where Cedric worked.

On previous occasions when the secretary had called he had noticed Cedric and nodded to him. On this day thought Cedric, the secretary seeing him dressed and looking as if he meant to work, not the usual public service garb of T-shirt, jeans and runners, would mark his card for promotion.

Cedric might as well have dressed in mini-skirt, low cut blouse, high heels, put on a blond wig and false eyelashes (in fact it might have been better for him if he had) because despite all his efforts he was still ignored. And the more he was ignored the more stressed he became to the extent that visiting his distant cousins would be ill advised.

Comment welcome.

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 Does ‘Flirting’ have a use by date?

Since reading a column about ‘flirting’ in the London Times many years ago, I have flirted with the idea of writing this column. That it has taken so long might indicate my real flirting days are over which is what I say Boadicea, light of my life and direct in line descendant of the warrior queen, who has held me in thrall for fifty four years, when she catches me looking at particularly attractive young females.

For whatever reason, the article treated ‘Flirting’ with frivolity perhaps because the lady who wrote it, sadly I cannot remember her name, was young and unaware of its seriousness.

In truth I was surprised to find this article in ‘The Times,’ long having laboured under the impression that as a newspaper it was as stuffy as the Conservative establishment it allegedly represented. Indeed, I had heard it referred to as a staid and stuffy.But was it staid and stuffy or was this just a rumour put about by its enemies?

Maybe it had been staid and stuffy and was the ‘Flirting’ article a sign of the times and a way of making the point that conservative British society was now in free-fall. On the other hand, was it something I could sympathise or was it that a staid and stuffy old lady old was hitching up her skirts and kicking up her heels in a final fling to prove she still had it?

Better late than never I must make clear that ‘Flirting’ is not a matter of frivolity but an art and a serious subject. It is not simply the preliminary eyeball jousting males and females engage in before moving to the more serious battles when the latter valiantly engage in protecting virgin territory.

As an art however, ‘Flirting’ not only seems endangered but so endangered that I’m thinking of asking the Government to fund a program for its protection. That it is an important art is clear also because so many people consider it a necessary pre-requisite to marriage. And though it might not be well known, ‘Flirting’ is also important in historical economic terms. For example how many young people today know  that, ‘Flirting’ played a major role in the economic recovery of Britain, Europe and the United States post World War II? I suspect it might have played a similar role in Australia and New Zealand.

You might think that last statement fanciful and flirting with the truth but it’s true because, as I read the article, my mind raced back to a time when ‘Flirting’ was one of my life’s major activities. In fact had I spent as much time on schoolwork as I did Flirting, perhaps I could have grown up and been appointed ‘Flirting’ Correspondent of ’ The Times.’ .

As to my ‘flirting.’ Most of it was done between ages 12 to 17 as I travelled to and from high school on the No 55 bus. And to show my ‘flirting’ was serious let me tell you my preparation started hours before I caught the bus. Not that I was the only one who did such preparation, millions of schoolboys and schoolgirls across Britain did the same.

I cannot speak for the girls of course, or even for most boys, but as I think back my preparation for ‘Flirting’ was a ritual of planning that the Generals in World War II would have been proud of.

Part I of the ritual was me making sure I smelled as fresh as I could, consistent with a boy’s natural inclination to avoid too much water knowing it was bad for the skin. Part twol was an application to the teeth of Gibbs dentifrice known for its capacity to make teeth bright enough to dazzle the eyes of flirtees. Part three was the removal of blackheads and squeezing of pimples after which cream would be applied to cover the bruises caused by their removal. Part four was to shine my shoes with Cherry Blossom boot polish while the final part of the ritual was to groom my hair in the style of swashbuckling International English footballer and Test cricketer Dennis Compton – flat and parted in the centre, an effect that in my case could only be achieved by applying generous dollops of Brylcreem. As for the flirtees, their hair- styles followed that of the day’s most popular female movie stars.

Once on the bus my ‘Flirting’ campaign would get under way. To give me an advantage over competitors, I would try and sit as close as possible to my flirting target because without such a seat even my careful preparation could have been in vain with the result that I would be cast into a pit of despair so deep as to make life seem not worth living – at least not until my next attempt the following morning. After all, faint heart never won fair lady.

However, more important than personal feelings, although I didn’t know it at the time, ‘Flirting’ made the economy boom because, week after week, in an effort to keep ahead of their competitors, millions of young male ‘flirters’ bought every jar of Brylcreem, pimple cream and tin of Cherry Blossom shoe polish to keep up with demand. Unfortunately even though these flirting aids made the economy successful they could not guarantee personal success as I can confirm personally.

However, I wouldn’t like to give people the impression that only boys contributed to the economy, so too did the girls as they snapped up the jars of pimple cream the boys didn’t buy and forced manufacturers to invest in new plant and equipment to meet their demand for hair ribbon, cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners.

Sadly however, Brylcreem, pimple cream, Cherry Blossom, hair ribbon and the simple pleasure of eyeball jousting, now seem to have given way to mobile phones, credit cards and cars. Or does that indicate my use by date for flirting is now past?

 Comment welcome.

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Politics and public art

Yesterday’s blog posed the question “What is Public Art?” It also said it was being claimed that the multi mammaried Skywhale balloon, launched in Canberra a week or so ago as part of Canberra’s Centenary, was being claimed as a piece of public art.

Unfortunately, calling something a piece of public art is a device commonly used by Government politicians as a means of covering up how they had been deluded into thinking the artwork they originally commissioned that would be part of their legacy that would to remind communities in the future about their time in office would, in the case of Skywhale something they might regret. Instead it might make the community perceive them as art philistines.

Contrary to any impression you might have gained yesterday that while Canberra has some public art, the arts lobby thinks it doesn’t have enough. Indeed the arts lobby constantly lobbies the ACT Government to provide more public art and because the government is always looking for of methods to capture votes it is susceptible to the pleas of the arts community. The result: Government Ministers see commissioning more public art as a means of garnering votes. A secondary result, the art community is kept in a state of permanent anticipation, the community in a permanent state of apprehension and tourists something new to look and laugh at.

But let me leave such whimsical thoughts behind and get down to brass tacks about public art. I think the ACT Government should ask the public at large what pieces of art they would like to see commissioned. And when I say the public at large I mean the public at large not just the views of a handful of members of the ACT’s political parties and art groups. In my opinion the Government might get a shock at some of the artworks the community at large might like to see commissioned.

The Government’s answer to the public’s suggestions would probably be that twenty years later the public might not like what was chosen while the public’s argument that the same could be said about the Government’s choices would be met with a blank stare, which brings me back to Skywhale.

I fact when I first heard about Skywhale I thought the Government had decided that in addition to being the Australia’s political Capital it should also be the country’s avant garde Capital. With that in mind and as a member of the public, let me put forward a suggestion for a piece of public art that will pay tribute to the Capital not only on this centenary but on centenaries ever after.

I’d like government to commission a work called “Parliament in Action” comprising a revolving metal base on which stands one male figure and one female figure representing the bureaucracy. The male figure would have its left arm outstretched and one finger pointing and the female figure would be posed with right arm outstretched and finger pointing. Surrounding the base, concrete Members of Parliament sit in static pose looking up at the two figures as if trying to give them directions.

As this is a free speech site don’t be afraid to voice your opinion about the blog but at the same time give your suggestions about what would be great public art in Canberra.

Comment welcome.

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What is Public Art?

Just as the saying goes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder the same thing could be said about art – public or private.

But first let me digress before talking about art. I know there are such things as flying fishes because I’ve seen them. However, if you believed every angler’s story about the one that got away you might be inclined to think the fish had given wing just to escape the fate of ending up first on a cold slab of stone before landing in a hot frying pan with hot chips for company.

They might also have wanted to avoid being transferred from the frying pan to a warm plate with hot chips still for company to be cut into smaller pieces before being consumed with the hot chips in a delicate but ritualistic orgy of eating.

Warm plate aside it might have wanted to avoid the ignominy of being wrapped in greaseproof paper along with hot chips to, be dusted with salt and doused with a liberal lashing of vinegar before suffering a less than delicate ritual mastication sans knife and fork.

Whales as everyone knows are not fish but mammals although they have something in common: they both live in water. But one thing they do not have in common, although perhaps my education in this regard has been defective, is that there are no flying whales. Yet last week, a many mammaried representation of a whale called Skywhale, in the shape of a balloon flew around the skies of Canberra, Australia’s National Capital. This now brings me to the question: what is public art?

As you can imagine, Skywhale immediately became the stuff of legend and in time, no doubt will become the subject of a suitably titled film eg: Terror Strikes Whale Capital. In truth the flying whale was a contribution to Canberra’s Centenary as a piece of Public Art which leads me to ask: which city other than Canberra could come up with such a brilliant idea.

Like every brilliant idea of course, the ferociously expensive Skywhale was hated or liked by many in the community with the former saying the money it cost could, and should, have been spent on something that would have brought lasting benefit to the community. And though Skywhale has gained some fame I suspect it will be fleeting because the only place that Canberrans are likely to see it is on the net which, in turn, raises the question: can it rightly be called Public Art?

The fact is, Canberra has a lot of Public Art even if some of it is not seen as things of beauty and a joy forever. Tourists often comment on it. Indeed it was hope that Skywhale would boost tourism numbers but if visitors will only be able to see it on the net they are unlikely to come to stand and peer patiently at the sky in hope of seeing the much mamarried cetacean balloon make an appearance.

That apart, tourists usually like to get up close and personal to attractions Of course, even if Skywhale does nothing for Canberra’s tourism industry it might well benefit the whale watching industry on the South Coast which gives substance to the old adage: it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.


But let me end on as positive note as I can for Canberra. I hope Skywhale’s fame is neither  fleeting nor made Canberra a laughing stock around the world and also created the situation that tourists will take a view that it is a city not worth visiting.

Comment welcome.

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Life’s four great professions

This particular blog did not come as the result of inspired thought but because an old envelope with a large and bright red capital P stamped on it that I had rescued from a collection of old envelopes, was sitting on my desk in front of the computer. For the life of me I can’t remember where the envelope came from but, no doubt when it came a letter was enclosed advising me of some wonder product that would make my life better, or a request for a donation from a charity I had never heard of.

However, while musing about what the P stood for it suddenly dawned on me that P was the first letter of four words that described four great professions: performer, priest, politician and prostitute professions which, in many ways, are associated with acting, a career I always wanted to take up. In fact my army discharge book shows acting as the choice of my future.

You might disagree and favour philosophy, psychology, policing and psychiatry. If you do, so be it. Perhaps you’re right, but nonetheless I’ll stick to my chosen four.

The reason for my choices:

First choice: Performer

Throughout my working life I have been described as many things, often uncomplimentary, as a performer as, indeed, as have many of you. Don’t believe me? Indeed, if you could look at reports about your working life almost certainly you will have been described as excellent performer; good performer; moderate performer; or poor performer. I am sure also that, like me, while you will be in complete agreement with the first description you will quarrel with the second and strongly refute three and four.

Second choice: Priest

A lot of people won’t agree with me that being a priest is a great profession but for millenniums the priesthood has attracted many people, even if for the wrong reasons. In my own case though it was only for a short period, I felt called to the priesthood, which, when I gave it up, left my mother distraught. And while my mother was distraught at my decision, the order I had entered was probably thankful.

But my brief association was illuminating. Indeed as I spoke to others who professed the same call it seemed to me that some wanted to be priests because subconsciously, they found the public rituals of priesthood satisfied their desire for recognition in the same way as actors.

Third choice: Politician

For many people being a politician is no longer a vocation but a profession because like the priesthood, it satisfies peoples’ need for recognition, something they achieve when playing in a parliament’s comedy of error. Unlike actors, many stay on the political stage until the audience decides they have had enough of their bad acting.

Unlike actors, however, most politicians are well paid with good conditions and very good perks. It is unfortunate, however, that some gain fame not because of their acting prowess in their parliamentary comedies of error but for exceeding the lawful use of their political power in the search for even better perks.

Fourth choice: Prostitute

Now you might find it strange to find me saying that being a prostitute is to be a member of a great profession. These days, of course, in civilised parts of the world (with some exceptions) prostitutes have been replaced by sex workers.

I can’t speak for male philosophers or psychologists but it is known that, over the years, priests and politicians have enjoyed the professional services of sex workers. But what makes it a great profession is that having members of two two such professions using their services they seem to have the best of all worlds: priests to save their soul; and politicians as patrons. I can only add that my research indicates low unemployment in this profession.

Comment welcome.

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Canberra on the Beach

As I lay in bed dreaming I could see the palm trees by the lakeside beach swaying in the light Canberra wind, while children on the beach built sandcastles and dozens of Canberra bureaucrats and other overstressed workers lay on their LiLos getting suntanned (lightly of course) as they soaked up their daily dose of vitamin D in the hope of reducing their stress levels and revitalising their aching bodies and minds.

Well what’s wrong with that dream? If Canberrans can get a daily dose of Vitamin D lying on a LiLo at Lakeside Beach tourists can too. Then, alas, I woke up. But I didn’t mind; some of my past dreams came true though more often than not they became nightmares.

But the more I read about the beach the more I realized that I didn’t see any of the things I remembered from my childhood days. I couldn’t see any donkeys for children to take a ride on or a hot dog stand or an ice cream stall or bronzed life savers that teenage girls and those who imagined they were still teenage girls swooned over.

And nor was there a postcard stall perhaps because by the time the idea of the beach comes to fruition instead of a stall with naughty postcards it’s likely a new app for mobiles or whatever piece of technology is the latest must have, will be available so that friends can be sent “naughty pictures” with the message “wish you were here.”

The Lakeside Beach will also have big advantages over those lookalike beaches shown in brochure after brochure. Presumably too, the water that will lap the Lakeside beach will be fresh and so make swallowing mouthfuls of it more pleasant than swallowing mouthfuls of brine in either Biarritz -Europe’s surfing capital, or Bali.

Then the thought struck me that in case you forgot to brush your teeth you could remedy your forgetfulness by carrying toothbrush and toothpaste in your beach bag as well as suntan lotion, budgie snugglers or bikini so that you could scrub the molars with lake water.

But what excited me most about the plans for an urban beach was the idea of having a boardwalk, multi -story hotels, a casino, a forum, a convention centre and a rectangular stadium where the Raiders and Brumbies could display the talent that keeps them atop the league tables. I’d like to suggest also that a tattoo parlour be built on the boardwalk where team members or their fans could get themselves adorned. To complete the ancillary services, I think a Police Station might also be necessary.

Mind you, perhaps it’s presumptuous talking about the Raiders and Brumbies playing in the stadium? Will the Raiders and Brumbies still be in existence when the new stadium is ready or will they have moved to area where support and money is more plentiful? Like other businesses sport now goes to where the money is.

What also came to mind is a particular advantage the Lakeside beach has over the Bali and Biarritz beaches: it is unlikely it will ever be subject to a tsunami. This will be of special interest to Canberrans living near the beach or tourists temporarily resident in nearby hotels as it means they will be spared ever having to evacuate because of a tidal wave.

On the other hand if the Raiders and Brumbies are still in existence during the football season perhaps residents might experience a human tsunami of Rugby League or Rugby Union supporters. Mind you, if only to disclose my personal preferences I wouldn’t mind the occasional tsunami of Soccer (Football) supporters.

No doubt you will have noticed I have made no mention of what in the future might also be considered important tourist facilities. While brothels are still likely to be operating in Fyshwick, Mitchell and elsewhere in Canberra, consideration should be given to making provision for a male and female brothel in the beach precinct.

No doubt the perspicacious among you will notice that I‘ve made no mention of transport services. I do so in this case because Canberra is a hotbed of “planning experts” and so, on the basis that discretion is the better part of valour I left it out.

All comments welcome.

If people say your New Year resolutions aren’t any good because you didn’t make them on 1 January, don’t believe them until you have carefully checked your family tree for any trace of Scottish ancestors, in particular, ancestors from the Highlands or Western Isles.

However, if you find you can lay claim to even the faintest trace of any such ancestry and for reasons I’ll explain later, you are one of the select band of people who, by right of tradition, can also make New Year resolutions on 13 January.

You’ll notice I said trace of Scottish ancestry, not trace of Scotch. If the latter was a qualification, thousands of people who celebrate New Year’s Day on 1 January would (regardless of their origins) claim the right, because on 13 January the probability is they would still have more than a trace of good – there’s no bad – Scottish whisky left in them.

But it is not only descendants of people from the Highlands and Western Isles who can make resolutions on 13 January, in other countries people of the right ancestry can do the same. Why is this? Although not widely known, in parts of the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles two New Year’s days are celebrated.

Just in case you think that two New Year days is only a clever marketing ploy by Scotland’s whisky industry, or an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest Hogmanay celebrations – 31 December to 12 January – it isn’t.

The fact is that the two New Year days came about because of Pope Gregory X111. In 1582 Gregory XIII approved a new style calendar in which he fixed 1 January as the first day of the year instead of 25 March. Despite the advantages Gregory’s new Calendar had over the Julian Calendar, religious divisions made it slow to be accepted.

France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and Portugal adopted the new calendar in 1582, Sweden in 1583, some German states along with Belgium and the Netherlands in 1584, Hungary in 1587, and Switzerland in 1812. In 1752, Britain, which had also adopted it, also found it necessary to make a further adjustment of 13 days and so 2 September became 14 September.

Efforts were made to tell people in the Highland and Islands about the change but, as happened when weights and measures went to tonnes, litres and metres some people took a long time to adapt. (Be honest, now, how many of you know what a quintal is?)

Also, because in 1752 communication was slower than it is today, many years passed before some Highland and Island communities became aware of the change – or so they said. When they became aware, but because their lives had not been affected, they carried on celebrating their Old New Year.

Like all good Scots to whom New Year’s day is the year’s most important day of celebration, my forebears thought it made sense to celebrate the new, New Year’s Day as well. Wisely, it seems to me, the tradition has continued to the present day.

This means, of course, that if, by heredity, you can celebrate two New Year Days, you can also have two lots of New Year resolutions, something that gives you a big advantage over the rest of society.

On the one hand if for some reason you break your 1 January resolutions, you can remake them on 13 January. On the other hand, if you forget to make your resolutions on 1 January, you can still make them on 13 January – sobriety permitting.

I am not going to testify as to either the state of my faculties, or the date on which I made my resolutions for 2013, but here they are:

1. I will not listen to people who accuse me of bias;
2. I will not argue against the IPCC’s warnings of climate
change doom;
3. I will not write critically of individual politicians or
4. I will not criticise the government;
5. I will not ask politicians who support legalisation of
Euthanasia to try it first;
6. I will not oppose same sex marriage; and
But wherever you come from and even if there’s no trace of Scottish blood in your veins, I wish you all a Happy New Year today and many more in the future.

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web:; mail:


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