Get to my grave

cropped-img_0454.jpgEveryone I speak with through the Life Log Project has an interesting story to tell. People from all walks of life, some of them awarded or rewarded, some not so. They almost all have one thing in common too. To some extent, they all have imposter’s syndrome. I have found that no matter who they are, when it comes time to record their life stories and family stories pretty much everyone suffers imposter’s syndrome where they don’t feel they have done enough or their lives have not been interesting enough to bother recording.

The ones that don’t suffer this funnily enough, often run out of things to say pretty quickly. Often they have had a life defined by one single event and have spent most of their life retelling their own story as defined by that event.

When the time comes for me to go to my grave, I really hope I can get to the place or space where I am not suffering from this blight. I really want to be in the position to be at peace knowing I was honest and brave and loved. So how does someone do that? I reckon you get there by being deliberate and purposeful in your approach to life. Getting help when you need it, striding out on your own when you are ready and embracing people, ideas and adventures as they arrive.

Sharing the adventures, the fear and aspirations with good-hearted people is important too. Knowing that even when I didn’t get it right, I was at least having a red-hot crack at it, means that a life well lived will be a story worth telling. I hope your’s is too.

Political correctness


I even have difficulty in spelling it, let alone achieving it or even to truly understand it. I keep seeing it on Facebook and hearing people say that they are “over or tired of political correctness.” But the entire subject or heading just confuses me. I suspect people are being either deliberately or lazily mischievous in their use of the term. Some things I hear or see that are put under the heading of political correctness are just silly. I will take for instance that I have heard many schools have given away singing the National Anthem because it may offend someone. That is just silly. There are so many benefits to kids singing the National Anthem that far outweigh an individual’s set of morals. For instance by singing as a group you get a real sense of community and group well-being. You may even learn to hold a note. You learn to remember words of a song. You learn how melody works, that to start together is a good thing, that some things are not jokes.

These are things that are real and tangible. Now if schools are giving away singing the National Anthem because it is too difficult to find a suitable backing track or the right transmission equipment or teachers can’t be bothered. While I understand all of those things, that should not come under the heading of political correctness, that comes under the heading of “Lazy” or “I don’t give a shit”. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I do understand it. If it is because it is going to offend someone, that is probably political correctness and I don’t like it too much.

When people say that the SSM yes vote is political correctness, I don’t understand that. In many cases I feel It is easier for them to pop that into their personal mental filing cabinet under “uncomfortable internal dialogue”. That way they don’t have to deal with it on an emotional level. I understand also that many people don’t want to deal with emotionally sensitive issues unless it directly affects them personally. Unless it is their daughter or their son, or their aunt they would prefer to call it political correctness. But is that truly what this is?

I read yesterday a comment from a woman who said she was being bullied by advocates of the YES vote because they were strident in their belief for a universally held YES stance, and didn’t agree with her position. Now that seems to me to be another piece of intellectual laziness. There is nothing surer than her right to vote NO. However if she is going to go public with that stance, she cannot then say she is being bullied by the YES supporters because they don’t agree with her. It is petulant and immature to describe people on the other side of any debate as bullies. It is the sort of thing certain radio jocks say. It has a ring of authenticity to it because no-one likes to be bullied, but it isn’t necessarily correct.

It is not OK to go public with your support for one side of the debate or the other with an ill-considered, poorly articulated point of view. Just shut up and vote if you can’t articulate your reasons. If you haven’t really applied all of your intellect to the issue, just shut up and vote. Ideally though it would be better to have a robust conversation about truly why you think what it is you think. I have done things and behaved in certain ways because I am afraid of the dark. I jump higher than I need to when I hear a loud noise late at night. Sometimes the things we don’t know and cant see scare us more than the things we can see and understand.

Is the movement to more political correctness directly tied with our move away from societal thinking and toward individualism. Sadly it probably is. America and Australia are the two standout countries in the world when it comes to this shift in our thinking and motivation if the current band of social researchers have it correct. Where once the modus operandi would be “what is best for our community or society?” it is now “what is best for me?” Food for thought.

The Yes vote causes trouble


I attended the Yes Vote rally in Sydney on the weekend. Not because I had a clever sign to hold, nor was I part of a group that very cleverly dressed in Flintstones theme holding signs like “Yabba Dabba I do” or “Cmon NSW get out of the stone age”. Nor did I take my little fluffy dog painted the colour of the rainbow as in the picture above.

I attended because I wanted to add another person to the crowd in support of the Yes vote. I realise that just one person isn’t going to make much difference, particularly not in a crowd that large, but I felt it was important to add the voice of an ageing straight guy to the billowing cloud of gayness.

I was standing on the edge of the crowd and an older couple (yes there are people even older than me) festooned with shopping bags, walked past on their way somewhere and nodding to the crowd he said to her “I cant work out why they would want to get married!” she walked a few more steps and turned to him and angrily said “what do you mean by that? do you mean you only married me because you had to?”

Exit stage left. I could see that was not going to end well. While I wouldn’t want to be in that guy’s shoes trying to talk his way out of that, it is interesting that the SSM debate brings up issues for lots of people outside the core SSM interest group. Now we have people having to explain to each other why in fact they did get married. Was it for love? or perhaps as part of the procedure to slate their desire for each other’s body. That’s a tough debate to settle forty years down the track.

Some might say it is a debate long overdue.

Working for a psychopath

I have had the opportunity to work for two psychopaths in my life. Both externally charming though a little odd, both lied with chilling ease and both would behave in the strangest ways. One of them lied about his health to induce me to work for him, telling me he was dying and needed someone to come in and help run the business for his children. He was still around a decade later, fit as a mallee bull. The other was a CEO working for an all male board and had them convinced his touching up of a young female staff member was not really that bad after all.

In my experience working for psychopaths, the only strategy you should be considering is how to get away, how to get out. While they have emotions, they have no feelings. They genuinely don’t see their actions as something worth getting upset about, in fact others getting upset is just an opportunity for them to store information for later opportunities to push buttons.

“The toucher”, it turned out, had a history of this sort of behaviour. Previous staff and board members had either glossed over it or decided it was way too difficult to stand up to him. He felt very comfortable telling slight lies to discredit those that were silly enough to get in his way. By slight lies I mean the sort of lies that couldn’t really be tested but were none the less harmful to someone’s reputation. “I should have been more careful checking his resume, if I knew then, what I know now” that sort of lie.

Though pretty much all of the credible research into psychopathy would indicate it is a male domain, that is only because the research has been done in male prisons. There is no reason to believe that psychopathy is not gender equal. While it may seem the honourable thing to do, by standing up for what is right, when you discover your boss is a psychopath, history shows it is seriously career limiting. They hold all the cards. Just start to carefully plan your exit strategy.

Launching a Newsletter

I am about to launch an online Newsletter for fortnightly distribution. I have been wrangling with this idea for nearly two years. I love recording people’s stories as you know, and in the course of those recordings I hear amazing things, that due to privacy issues, I cannot share. Pretty obvious so far.

However I can share the ideas around those items. So no names and no pack drills I can tell the story in such a way that no-one can be identified and yet other people outside the direct family get the benefit of the tale.

Charles “tremendous” Jones the great American sales guru said “wisdom comes from the people you meet and the books you read” so this is a little of both. I am translating the stories for you by removing the identifiers, but you still get the benefit of the learning.

The Newsletter will also have bits and pieces from every part of my daily life. A little on the farm, a little about eating and manners and being nice. All the things, you will by now expect to see. I am also really hoping that you will share it with your friends. Im keeping the blog too because I enjoy writing it.

If you would like to get a copy of the newsletter just click the link here

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There is a lovely song by the Australian duet ‘Millers Tale’ called Wheelbarrow. The opening line of the song says, “I bought my friend a wheelbarrow to carry his troubles in”. It is such an evocative line I could not help but ponder on it. I’m sure we all know people who need a wheelbarrow, poor things. Not only do they feel the need to hold their troubles close, but a wheelbarrow means there are lots of them and ensures they are always close enough to share. Now I don’t want to sound insensitive, but, I’m going to be. They need to put the barrow down and step aside.

It’s not helping anyone, least of all themselves. In all likelihood they are scaring people away with their sadness. Sure there are people on the planet that deserve to be sad, No problem there, but those that carry that wheelbarrow around need to get over it. The best way to do that is to start doing something for others. Get involved in a charity or some good cause, there are plenty of people who need assistance of one kind or another. Hospitals, food pantries, the homeless or just nice local old people that could use some help with a lawn or some shopping or something.

By focussing on someone else for a while, perspective gently and quietly sneaks into your life providing all sorts of meaningful assistance. Give it a try and check out the song as well.

Over the back fence

The Life Log project is all about helping people collect their family stories. The hand-me-down bits of lives and loves and circumstance that are formative and significant. I am firmly of the belief that it is not just the dying that should be recording their story, nor should it be the exclusive domain of those that have a little glimpse of their own mortality, but we should all be doing this.

My parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparent all led lives that contained mysteries that in all likelihood will never be answered and certainly not answered to my satisfaction. My great-grandfather went to fight in a couple of World Wars and though he hated it all, it was the big event in his life. Fighting overseas defending his country defined him. I guess not surprisingly, having watched so many of his friends killed in action or returned as damaged humans.

He was such a delightful old stick. I clearly remember him playing war tunes on his harmonica as he came in from tending his extensive vegetable gardens. I also clearly remember his wife, my great-grandmother, as the head of the household, setting the rules, setting the table and setting the punishment scales too. She was legendary for chasing one of her children down the yard with a bucket of water to tip over him, for swearing in the house. She must have been in her nineties and her son must have been in his seventies and pretty sure he could get away with dropping the B bomb. He was proved wrong on that score and escaped by hopping the back fence which is a pretty fair effort for a bloke in his seventies.

These stories are the stories that make us understand families and the way in which people lived. Without them, much of what we think we know about our ancestors unravels pretty quickly. I would encourage you to put a microphone in front of all of your ageing relatives ASAP. You can do it once a year for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, if you know of anyone that needs the service, check out the website

It’s in the post

In the next few months Australians will be put to the sword over an issue that needn’t divide the country but may just do that. Marriage equality should not be an issue, but the media, print, TV, radio and online will all wade into the debate with vigour and with no thought for the damage they will be doing. I have enough gay friends to be able to say that for many of them, being gay has not always been easy. It is certainly not the path of least resistance. I have long-held the view that a persons sexuality is none of my business. Their choice of life partner is none of my business either just as their choice of religion is none of my business.

I can’t see how it can possibly work any other way. No doubt we will hear calls for people to boycott the postal vote which would be an absolute disaster. No doubt we will hear horrible ill-considered rhetoric from all the usual suspects. We will in all likelihood hear from organisations and associations purporting to know things or represent the feelings of their members, but I urge you to look closely at the motivation of these groups, even the makeup of these groups.

Sure there are going to be people and institutions that want to keep control of society just as they did in the sixties and seventies. The world has changed, thank goodness. I hope we have moved, but at the very least we are moving, toward a society that is much more caring and considerate. I hope we are becoming more generous with our words and emotions and much more aware of the personal hurt and damage we can cause to people who don’t deserve to be hurt.

Please consider carefully the postal vote. For older Australians, I urge you to think about your grandchildren, and the world you would like them to flourish in. Surely the churches and religious groups can not be arguing from any position of strength after the findings of the Royal commissions. This vote has nothing to do with political correctness as some people would have you believe either.

There will be people wanting to use this vote to send all kinds of weird and ill-conceived messages. Just ignore them, see them for what they are, an attempt at dividing the vote. Like just about everyone else, I would have liked to see our politicians take a stand and show some real leadership on the matter, but both parties are controlled by older conservatives with strong church links, people purporting to be leaders, that will go to any length and say anything to hold onto power. Many of them will be well spoken. Many of them will see this as an opportunity to stand in the spotlight and spruke their opinions.

I hope I live in an Australia that truly cares about the future and how we are going to flourish as a nation. I hope I live in an Australia that doesn’t feel the need to control or belittle anyone and has a real interest in building a generous and caring society for all of our grandchildren.

Making life more simple


In my heart of hearts I really thought it would be simple and pretty straight forward to buy some land and build a house in the country. Put in some gardens and grow some food, simplify our life and improve the day-to-day quality. We weren’t intending to build anything too grand, just big enough for our sons and partners to come back to for visits and not have to sleep in the bath.

If you can be wronger than wrong, that’s me. Bushfire controls which obviously are a good idea, make it tricky to build anywhere near trees, trees may house animals so everybody needs to know the exact genus of each tree on the 147 acres to ensure nothing rare is removed and no habitat is destroyed. You can’t build on a piece of land less than 150 acres in our area so that got tricky for a minute. If you build more than 200 metres from the road you need a second bushfire option. You can’t build within 74 metres of the boundary. Which further complicates the process. Particularly as this is an unusually shaped piece of land, much in the shape of a horses head.

So far we have had a Bushfire consultant to tell us where we could build, then an architect to design a home for that site, then a chat with council leading to a second bushfire consultant and an immediate relocation of the house site because it turns out we couldn’t build there at all. Then a redesign from the architect. Then a botanist to conduct a flora and fauna report including a thing called a SEPP44 which is a koala report, then a structural engineer and a geologist in cahoots to work out how best to build this modest house.

Then a new driveway so we can have safe access to the main road, which requires culverts and loads of asphalt and gravel. Of course that driveway needs to be robust enough to handle the cement trucks and friends that will eventually be delivering the building material.

All of this before council even considers the building application. It turns out it is not that simple to simplify ones life. If you would like to keep up to date with the progress, I am recording videos and they are up on YouTube Barjols Sth.

My secret life


Do you have a secret life? I do. I don’t mean I creep around at night with loose women or anything. It’s just that there are things I like, that those beautiful people I call family are not that keen on. The reverse is true too of course. But I can’t live without my secret life. I’ve tried. It just makes me sad and then I begin to get weird and to really crave the elements. The Music of Jelly Roll Morton is one of my guilty secrets. But I have others. Tom Waits is another. I have a list of about twenty singer songwriters that are also hiding in my cupboard. Then there’s the works of super guitarist Pat Metheny.

But there’s more. I also have a great love of sports movies. I have given up trying to talk anyone at home into watching them with me, they just roll their eyes and change the channel. I like to read biographies, which is all part of my secret life, at least I can do that without offending anyone. But the music and movies is another thing entirely.

When the coast is clear, I do a quick check of the front door, just to make sure no-one sneaks back in and catches me, and I let this music rip. I love songs that tell stories. In the same vein, I like short stories. The skill involved in painting a picture in twenty pages is something pretty special, equally telling a story in three minutes takes some doing. One of the best examples of this is the song “The man in the bright red car” by Kristina Olsen, it’s a cracker. I always liked the song on face value, but when I saw her live and she provided the back story, I got completely hooked on it. The song contains one of the all time great lines in any song, “Love is more a verb than a noun.”

The music of Jelly Roll Morton is significant for a range of reasons. Firstly because in Jazz, it is without peer. Secondly, to get a grasp of the extraordinary accomplishment his jazz compositions are, you have to understand the time in America’s history. The man was incredible, the music rolls with an ease seldom replicated and particularly in such complex signatures, keys and chord progressions. The man was amazing.

Tom Waits is one of my all time guilty secrets. My bride would have our house declared a “Tom Waits free zone” given half a chance, but I love the music. There have been hundreds of artists make attempts at covering his songs and they rarely work. In fact I can think of only person and one song of Toms, that has been covered successfully, where the new version successfully adds something to the original.

There you go, my secret is out, I hope you wont think less of me.