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A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.
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Monday 18 March 2002
The other day while earwigging a discussion of the complexities of the US taxation laws, it occurred to me that complicated didn't even begin to describe them. So I passed the innocuous (I thought) comment: "Sheesh, no wonder it's impossible to file a legally compliant tax return in the US!"
Needless to say, my comment brought down the wrath of one of those who believe that I epitomise all that's xenophobic. "Please - check your facts before you make unwarranted assertions re America." Um, well, I get my facts, such as they are, from reading American newspapers, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, New York Times... When Peter Klein complained that while he successfully avoided paying taxes in both the US and Australia some years ago, only the American IRS succeeded having him imprisoned. Naturally, his comments led me to investigate the matter further.
Leading economics commentator, Daniel J. Mitchell, has written many, to my mind at least, many interesting comments about the US taxation system:
"The internal revenue code is America's national nightmare. Its 17,000 pages of fine-print law and regulations have spawned 721 different forms. The paperwork mailed out each year by the IRS could circle the earth 28 times, and even the "simple" 1040EZ return requires 32 pages of instructions. Taxpayers squander more than 5.4 billion hours every year in a futile effort to comply with the law, an almost impossible task since it has been changed more than 6,000 times since 1986."
"And what is the result after 87 years of letting politicians and lobbyists run amok? We now have a tax code that nobody can understand. When Money magazine sent a hypothetical family's tax return to professional tax preparers, they got back 46 different responses, but no correct answers. The IRS does even worse. According the General Accounting Office, the tax collection agency gave out nearly 10 million incorrect answers to taxpayers who phoned the toll-free hotline."
"The IRS does even worse. According to a government audit, the tax collection agency gave out nearly 10 million incorrect answers in 1999 to taxpayers who phoned the toll-free hotline."
Note that I didn't write any of these things, they were written by Daniel J. Mitchell, a US resident who by all accounts makes a living from studying and writing about the US taxation system. I strongly suspect that what he writes bears some semblance to truth; there are many sources that say much the same things. It appears to me beyond doubt that nothing I have said or done could in any way have influenced Daniel J. Mitchell, or Money magazine, or The Washington Times. So whence the accusation of xenophobia? Is it because I read American newspapers. Is it because I form my opinions from what I have read in them?
If it were but one American making the accusation, I would pass it off as mere lunacy, but there exist several such accusers. It intrigues me. If I knew what rattles their cages so easily, I would of course have no recourse but to do so more often, just as I do for those sheep-shagging cousins of ours across the Tasman and upper-class British twits in UKLand, my place of birth. Pompous Gits have a purpose in life -- annoying people often makes them think. And provide Pompous Gits with more food for thought.
With considerable assistance from my son Thomas, we now have a BBS. Currently, the discussion remains limited to Christian Deism, but I will add other forums as time and necessity dictate.
With the imminent demise of DingoBlue expected, I need a new ISP. Thomas suggests XIS. If any of my Australian readers know anything about this provider they believe I should know, please let me know.
Thought for the day:
Intolerance is a form of egotism, and to condemn egotism intolerantly is to share it.
Incredible String Band -- I Looked Up
Tuesday 19 March 2002
To all the Americans offended by my "anti-American attitude", please accept my apologies for insulting you. Henceforth, I promise to:
1. Dig up the septic tank in my yard and replace it with one not called a "Yank".
2. Never watch "The Mouse That Roared" or "Being There" ever again. Or if circumstances dictate otherwise, I promise not to laugh.
3. Persuade my fellow Tasmanian Bob Clifford to move his shipyard to America -- clearly it's demeaning for the navy of such a great nation to have to purchase its wave-piercing catamarans from a technologically backward country.
4. Eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and MacDonald's Hamburgers instead of fresh meat and vegetables.
5. Drink Ripple Wine mixed with bourbon instead of vintage chardonnay and water.
6. Watch good, wholesome TV shows like Seinfeld, the Jerry Springer show, Baywatch and Celebrity Death Match instead of The Bill, Panorama, Ruby Wax and Four Corners.
7. Read Wilhelm Reich, Charles Reich, Norman Mailer, Jerry Rubin and Jaqueline Suzanne instead of Banjo Paterson, Thomas Keneally, Frank Hardy, Geoffrey Blainey and Alan Marshall.
8. Listen to Boyz II Men, Goo Goo Dolls, Savage Garden, Nine Inch Nails and Michael Jackson instead of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Wagner.
9. Listen with interest to the next evangelist who knocks on my door instead of rolling on the floor with laughter.
10. Wear red, white and blue underwear instead of... er... red, white and blue underwear.
That will have to suffice for now, I'm afraid. I suspect I'm in for a bit of culture shock ;-)
Thought for the day:
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Alanis Morrissette -- Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
Wednesday 20 March 2002
For those of you who refused to believe that I wear red, white and blue underpants! The words below JOCKEY SPORT are U.S. CONCEPT. If the idea of wearing underpants originated in the US, then I for one think that's a Jolly Good Thing!
Found in my Inbox:
As a fellow member of the Axis of Nations That Are Actually Quite Nice But Secretly Have Nasty Thoughts About America (http://www.satirewire.com/news/jan02/axis.shtml) I've quite enjoyed your reports of angry mericuns flaming you.
Although I don't recall your journal entry regarding the impossibility of filing a legal mericun tax return? Even searching google site:sturmsoft.com failed to help. Anyway, it seems like poor sport to pick on taxation when there's not a system anywhere that's fair and understandable.
I'm also shocked that on a day where you promise to immerse yourself in godly americanism you choose to listen to a Canadian, and then misspell her name (Morissette!)
I wrote: "The other day while earwigging a discussion of the complexities of the US taxation laws, it occurred to me that complicated didn't even begin to describe them. So I passed the innocuous (I thought) comment: 'Sheesh, no wonder it's impossible to file a legally compliant tax return in the US!'"
The conversation was on a listserv, but the remarks about my xenophobia were from a reader of my website who claims that my daily rants are persistently anti-American. While The Pompous Git has his blind spots (who doesn't?), he has found very few occasions during his 18 months of blogging where he has mentioned America specifically, in any context, negative or positive.
Perhaps my ignoring significant (to Americans) events in America is xenophobic. I'd certainly accept an accusation of parochial, most of my writing is about happenings in my life. I'm not paid to write Ephemerides, so I write what pleases me. That it pleases some of my readers enough to return regularly and send me the occasional gift means I must be doing something of value for them.
My profoundest apologies to Ms Morissette. You have my permission to send her round to my place and give me a piece of her mind :-)
That's it? Those are some pretty un-inflammatory remarks, or so I would have thought. I think some of your readers need to re-read your byline: "Watch Out for the Ideas!"
I'm one who visits daily and enjoys your diatribes, parochial or otherwise.
If I misspell Kylie's name would you arrange to have her drop in to give me a piece of her mind?
Which Kylie? Half the women in Australia are called Kylie and the other half are all called Fiona. Half the men are called Craig and the other half are all called Jason. That's why we call each other Sport. It's less confusing ;o)
And that will have to do for today. A series of phone calls commencing at 2:30 am local time leave me feeling a little haggard. No-one deigned to respond to our announcement of who lifted the telephone handset. The weather is windy and wet. Tonight we go to listen to Phil Manning, Matt Taylor, Big Goose and Little Goose play blues at The Republic. Yes, the original Chain.
Thought for the day:
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Chain -- Towards the Blues
Thursday 21 March 2002
A bad start to the day, yesterday. At 2:30 in the morning, the telephone rang. Bloody Americans have no idea about time zones! Don't they know that this period between 2:30 and and 4:00 in the morning is reserved for sleep, or being abducted by the Secret Police? Foolishly, SWMBO replaces the handset. My mother is unwell and a serious illness will likely remove her physical presence on this planet and I would like to be near her when she goes. The phone rang twice more before we gave up and left the handset off the cradle.
An attempted nap mid-morning was disturbed by a couple banging at my door, it's always a couple, Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber, wanting me to convert to some stupid American religion. Mine isn't good enough apparently. To make matters worse, the roof/stove flue commenced leaking in a mother of a downpour. Cooking food on a stove subjected to dripping water is no fun at all.
One of my faithful readers, who wishes to remain anonymous, produce quite a spike in the page reads count this week. Apparently, he/she/it cast his/her/its North American eye over all 541 days of my rants. It appears that I have written about American farm subsidies once, a response to an American claiming that Australia is a 3rd World country living off handouts from the US government, a response to an accusation of being persistently anti-American and once about Austin Nichols legal action against an Australian winery. On a further six occasions, I have posted the contents of letters from readers that contain jokes, other words and once a picture, of a nature casting Americans in a dubious light.
Perhaps, suggests my correspondent, I am not so much anti-American as ignoring America and Americans and that this has aroused the ire of a vocal dozen, or so of them. I make no apology for the parochial nature of much of my writing -- I write my daily Ephemerides and wrote my House of Steel log (not counted in the above) for my own satisfaction, not that of overly-sensitive Americans.
It should come as no surprise then that America, and certain Americans, currently have my attention. According to my correspondent, some 1.8% of the days I have written pages for this website contain mention of matters American. The count may not be entirely accurate and I have too much important stuff on my plate to bother checking. If it's too low, then that likely balances against the fact that on the days I wrote about matters American, I also wrote considerably more words about matters parochial. On that basis, I suspect that overall, considerably less than 1.8% of my words have been about American issues.
An American writer I used to have a huge amount of respect for says I am "obsessed". Does my writing about Americans on some 7 days out of 365 indicate obsession? Or does knocking on my door uninvited, phoning me in the small hours and emailing me with accusations of anti-American xenophobia indicate obsession?
Well, those American readers who so crave reading about themselves on these pages that you feel compelled to return here day after day on the off-chance that I might forget writing about what truly interests me, you have come on the appropriate day. I have never believed the assertion that China and the USSR were so obsessed with America that they contemplated nuking your cities. I do not believe that bombing the crap out of the stone age culture of Afghanistan will do anything meaningful to prevent Islamic terrorism.
Who in their right minds could believe that Afghanistan has the resources to assemble a nuclear weapon in one of America's great cities? Iraq does, but they are being left to do so with impunity. Could it be that America, or more accurately certain Americans want this to happen? Do these Americans secretly rejoice in the destruction of the WTC as an opportunity to introduce a rule of fear over their fellow citizens? Clearly, if the genuine threat of Iraq were removed, this opportunity for altering the political structure of America would probably cease to exist.
So there, I do think about America and its politics from time to time. If those thoughts I expressed today make me anti-American in certain American eyes, then so be it. I know that you are not all Morons, Jehovah's Witlesses, salesmen employed by idiots that have no understanding of time zones, or just plain senile, or crazy. For those of you who more enjoy my forays into philosophy, physics, food and fun, rest assured, things are back to normal from tomorrow. What I really wanted to write about today was the Chain concert last night. Despite my lack of sleep, it was one of the best! I will write that up tomorrow.
Those of you who so desperately want to read my anti-American slurs will have to wait for the usual average of 52 days to pass.
Thought for the day:
Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful.
Phil Manning -- The Back Shed
Friday 22 March 2002
Back in the late 60s, one of my high school teachers, a Jew as it happens, started a music club where at lunch-time we sat and listened to records from his music collection. Much of it was Race Music, later known as The Blues. While this was all so long ago I cannot recall very much, I do remember my friend John "Matt" Miglans and I being very much influenced by the music -- Bo Chatmon, Big Bill Broonzy, Sleepy John Estes and many more. It didn't take us very long to discover that enthusiasm for the musical form was inspiring musicians in London and we had a fascinating conversation with Phil May, singer for The Pretty Things who told us how we could import locally unavailable records from UKLand.
Unsurprisingly, we found our enthusiasm being mirrored by the local musicians we knew at the time, Billy Thorpe, Lobby Lloyd, Kevin Borich -- too many to mention. After we left school, around the time that Matt was playing bass with Lobby's Coloured Balls, Matt Taylor released a blues, the like of which we had never heard before: I Remember When I was Young. It was a new sound -- an Australian sound -- blues with a difference. Not long afterward, Matt Taylor teamed up with Tasmanian virtuoso guitar player, Phil Manning, Barry Harvey and Dirk duBois to form Chain. Some thirty years ago now, Chain released the legendary blues: Black and Blue that Matt and Phil co-wrote and it went to the number one spot on the Australian record charts. The first -- and last -- blues song to ever do so.
So Wednesday night it was with considerable excitement that I anticipated seeing and listening to those wonderful old friends. Sadly, SWMBO had a meeting to go to before the performance, so I didn't get to sit down with Matt and Phil for a chinwag. The music more than made up for it.
I really hate the modern penchant for huge outdoor concerts. The Republic Bar and Café is the exact opposite, small and intimate. The audience and performers interact -- important on this occasion -- many in the audience weren't born when Chain became a legend. Matt described their music as starting when he and Phil were embryos and when they finally met, writing their own stuff because they didn't want to be just pale imitations (pun intended) of the musicians that inspired and influenced them.
Words cannot convey music, that's what music is for. Suffice it to say that it was a great privilege to be able to listen to these virtuosos, be inspired by them, at times laugh at and with them. They are Australians and so more than willing to take the piss out of themselves and the society of which we are a part.
As I stood next to Matt, shortly after we arrived during Phil's acoustic solo warm-up bracket, I thought: "Where else in the world could I listen to music of such exceptional standard for $US5.00?"
Thought for the day:
Blues was never a clever concept devised purely to exploit a known market. It was born of the suffering and oppression of a people. It's about life, good and bad, yours and mine, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. That's what makes it so relevant.
Sleepy John Estes -- Volume One
Saturday 23 March 2002
Back by popular demand and for the first time ever, The Pompous Git's completely aboriginal Epic Masterpiece.
Read what the critics had to say about The Pompous Git:
"Put him in the oven." -- a Hitler
"Who?" -- Mrs Git
"Put him in the curry." -- a Dalek
"The Rolling Stones? Naaah... never heard of 'em." -- Keith Richard
"If he comes anywhere near me, I'll rip his stupid bloody arms off!" -- Auntie Jack
"Would you like a jelly baby?" -- Dr Who
"Who is that fat bastard?" -- Alexei Sayle
"He's the ugliest female impersonator I have ever seen!" -- The Git's Mother
"My arse!" -- Ricky Tomlinson
"D'you wanna bit? -- a tart on a street corner
Any resemblance to places and people living, or dead from the neck up is purely coincidental. This work is entirely frictional and only intended to cause a brief period of intermittent rictus.
Once upon a Disney there was an old drama-queen called JennyP. She rode everywhere on an ass called Rolly-poly who moaned continually: "My poor ass, my poor sore ass..."
JennyP was a notoriously cold, old warrior and rode around on Rolly-poly's poor, sore ass, looking for enemies to smite. When she was younger and just a beginner at cold warriorering, there were lots of enemies. There were white enemies that were Red, yellow enemies that were Red and even black Red enemies. But smiting some of them didn't seem like such a great idea back then -- they might smite back. JennyP's Uncle Sam has changed his mind about the more powerful of those old enemies and now they are Uncle Sam's best friends helping him to find new enemies. Turning enemies into friends tends to lead to a shortage of enemies and Giants need lots of enemies to make them Feel Important.
The new enemies are small enough to smite with impunity, but because they are so small, they find it easier to hide -- in places like Floriday, Californica, Hotlanta and FrogLand. That's why while Uncle Sam is bombing Alfgoonistan back into the Stone Age, JennyP goes looking for more enemies to smite. Uncle Sam hadn't noticed, but Alfgoonistan already was in the Stone Age and despite having a filthy-rich Arab, Bin Loony Bin, in their midst, and praying many prayers to Alalalalah, were completely unable to fabricate tactical nuclear weapons from stones.
Bombing the crap out of Alfgoonistan has had a surprisingly beneficial effect on its inhabitants. They foolishly started growing food instead of opium poppies, but now they are under Uncle Sam's control, the poppy growing and Heroin industry is back in full swing. Stone Agers are really much better off with a few dollars to buy a MacHamBugger or two than growing their own food. And the last thing the Presley of Uncle Samsland wants is an angry Mob going through Heroin withdrawal symptoms.
Meanwhile, Madman Insane was fabricating a nuclear weapon so that he could blow up one of Uncle Sam's coastal shitties by sailing it there completely unnoticed in a Viking longboat. A handful of fox-terrierists had pulled off the destruction of a Waste Treatment Centre on a wing and a prayer, pissing the wicked Madman right off by beating him to it. He'd show Uncle Sam and JennyP what's what!
Fortunately, the ever-vigilant JennyP had noticed that a Fat Bastard on the opposite side of the planet wasn't just losing weight, he wasn't even paying attention! All he was interested in was writing about building a tin hut, philosophy and how happy the arrival of beer o'clock makes him. This would never do. Here was someone worth smiting, so she put metaphorical pen to paper (actually keyboard and a mouse that roared) and she let fly a mighty smite. With all the might that only a lifetime of writing science affliction (and the best alien contact novel ever written) can produce, she deftly wrote:
"I do believe you have an obsession.
Whole months go by without my thinking. Sometimes you provincials just want to get on with wife. But we are rabidly lusting to become The Greatest Empire Television Has Ever Seen. We aren't too good at it yet, but you will learn."
Fearlessly, The Fat Bastard rolled a cigarette. Then he noticed his lighter was empty. Thinking quickly, he reached for his BatPhone and called... yes... Madman Insane! He spoke in his deepest Bollywood-defective voice: "Have you got a light, Mac?" and Madman replied: "No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat". "Sorry I got your name wrong before, Mad," I rejoined, "but it was necessary for the plot."
To be... continued.
In the next terrifying episode, The Fat Bastard declares: "Finger lickin's OK -- just don't stick the bloody stuff in your mouth!" Cunningly disguised as a chicken from Kenturkey, he departs Tasmaniacal in cardboard replica of Captain Kookaburra's ship, Bunty Pulls it Off, and confronts Madman Insane. Yes, The Fat Bastard saves The World from nuclear Armageddon with bows and arrows, ushering in a potential thousand year ban on laughter by Uncle Sam. But fear not, fearless readers -- thanks to The Pompous Git, The Fat Bastard will hold his own and triumph in the end!
Thought for the day:
You grow up on the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.
Tom Lehrer -- An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer
Sunday 24 March 2002
Today is my son Thomas's 17th birthday. It's also two friends' wedding anniversary. So, short shrift today.
Thank you readers for your encouraging emails. Since several of you asked that I not publish your words, I have extended that to all. There hasn't been a peep out of the hysterics who want to dictate to me what I should write. Poking fun at them remains The Pompous Git's task on these pages and we will return to The Fat Bastard's fight for 'Struth, the Jobless and the Right to Sell Amway tomorrow.
And likely I will return to writing about philosophical thoughts and building tin huts as the week progresses. In the meantime, if you haven't come across The Atlantic. there are several interesting articles in the current issue:
Stalking the American Lobster by Trevor Corson
"Government scientists say that lobsters are being dangerously overfished. Lobstermen insist that stocks are plentiful. It's a familiar kind of standoff -- except that now a new breed of ecologist has taken to the waters, using scuba gear, underwater robots, and even nuclear submarines, in order to figure out what's going on. It turns out that the lore and lessons of the lobsterman are worth paying attention to."
Seeing Around Corners by Jonathan Rauch
"The new science of artificial societies suggests that real ones are both more predictable and more surprising than we thought. Growing long-vanished civilizations and modern-day genocides on computers will probably never enable us to foresee the future in detail -- but we might learn to anticipate the kinds of events that lie ahead, and where to look for interventions that might work."
Thought for the day:
Present mirth hath present laughter. What's to come is still unsure.
Syd Barrett -- The Madcap Laughs
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