Men only

Men are obstinate bastards. I know because I am one of them. We dig our heels in over stupid things, take positions on things we know little or nothing about and then defend the stance like we were the first to put words to it. We say “I know” when the truth is we are guessing. We run hard with stuff we “think” rather than finding some evidence, and sometimes we get a scrap of evidence without checking its real or sufficient.

I think it’s great to have opinions, anyone who knows me will tell you I have one on just about everything. My bride once threatened to buy me a T-shirt that said “Often wrong- never in doubt”. Having put up with me for thirty years, I guess it was the accumulated weight of 10,000 days of my obstinance that caused her to squeal with delight when she chanced upon the printed shirt in an online catalogue.

I do not have many male friends. I work in a male dominated environment and that may play a part. I prefer the company of women, they just behave better than most men. I know it’s a generalisation but there you go, see, Ive done it again.

If a woman is driving lost she has no qualms about stopping to ask for directions, but blokes would prefer not to ask and keep driving perhaps compounding the situation. They get themselves out of trouble with this technique just often enough to convince themselves that the petrol wasn’t wasted at all, it was an activity closely related to sightseeing really.

I have no idea where the obstinance stems from either. I belong to a generation that very much believes in the equality of women, but it seems they are not sharing the obstinance load. Sure you see it from time to time, but it’s not at plague proportions like is for us. I am waiting to see if the obstinance factor is handed down to the next generation at the same level of intensity. Certainly the generation before mine has it in spades, and my generation is all over it, so it will be interesting to see if it starts to fade away.

In the archive at work we have a store of magazine dating back to the 60’s and the “letters to the editor” section has revealed to me that the old guys in the 60’s mainlined the trait. Some of their letters were so outrageous, it had me wondering if the editor published them just to make fun of them.

It is not an attractive trait either. I have decided to make a concerted effort to be more flexible in my thinking and approach to the world, to ask for help before I think I need it and to not spend as much time being lost. It was Tolkien who said, “Not all who wander are lost”, he wasn’t talking about me.

Wild dreams and imaginings

I was lucky enough to grow up with Meccano. My parents gave me a small set for Christmas one year and I think I may have stolen the rest. Perhaps I was given it as hand me downs, or borrowed it, but I did seem to gather quite a bit of it, in used condition (which was better than the new stuff I always thought) so I well may have stolen it from friends and relatives.

I spent so many hours building useless things with it I can’t even begin to add them up. I do not recall building anything of note, not a single useful thing, not a can opener or an opening bridge or a beach buggy, not even a crane which seemed to be all the rage in those days. I do however remember the social impact my playing with Meccano had.

Mostly because I was lazy, I did not put things away. Meccano is one of those toys made up of hundreds if not thousands of tiny pieces that can play havoc with a vacuum cleaner and even worse, rip holes in socks or even worse just stick into you like a splinter. Tiny bolts and nuts and cogs all of which could have been designed in some sort of bizarre housework torture chamber.

My mother was driven mad with me getting half way through building something monumental then walking away, with thousands of tiny odd-shaped pieces of steel strewn through the room. Or better yet, if I felt it was something really important I had to build I may have taken over the kitchen table or the surrounding floor, inconveniencing the maximum number of people.

So I have a vivid memory of people either asking me to remove it, or tidy it up or screaming at me because they had a piece imbedded in their foot because I had left it lying on the floor. It was difficult to know who was to blame really, clearly I blamed the Meccano, but I was flying solo there.

I remember swapping Meccano pieces with friends, all of whom were much more accomplished builders and engineers than I. Which is also perhaps where I get the idea that I may have pocketed more than the pieces that were offered in the exchange process. My negotiation and procurement skills were pretty strong even if my building skills let me down.

Meccano was probably the electronic game equivalent of today, it was time-consuming, absorbing and at best provided real skills while at worst was just a way of removing oneself from reality. I still find myself from time to time imagining feats of engineering that need to be built and then grinding them out in my head using imaginary Meccano pieces, usually arriving at the point of understanding or the aha moment with the realisation “so thats why that is impossible and has never been built.”

The other thing Meccano provided me with was a bookmark or marker. My life after Meccano and my life with it. My life with Meccano was full of envy and longing for other sets and pieces. Full of unsettling moments when my dreams didn’t quite match my capabilities. Full of moments where I unveiled my latest and greatest build to indifference and familial contempt. With my limited view of the world it was entirely possible to build anything I could imagine, which most of the time was not much.

Post the toy engineering set, life was full of impossibilities and restrictions and hoops one had to jump through before being allowed to participate in the next stage. Dreams and imaginings had to be based in some sort of reality. At least I don’t have people yelling at me anymore, oh wait…

Note: Michael is the curator of the The Life Log Project in Sydney Australia. Helping people tell their life story.
Note: Michael is the curator of the The Life Log Project in Sydney Australia. helping people to tell their life story.

Who should pay for my children?

It is apparent that several politicians here in Australia believe that we should be paying for their children. With recent stories about pollies claiming for rock concert tickets for their children as legitimate expenses and business class air travel for holidays and special events. I have had a quick look at the makeup of the “independent” tribunal set up to have a look at politicians entitlements, and frankly I think there are too many politicians on the tribunal to give me any confidence that this will change substantially.

Ultimately we are responsible of course because we keep voting for them. It has often been said that we get the politicians we deserve. Uh oh.

I don’t know how many of you would have travelled in ‘business class’ when you were children, certainly not me. I have only done it once as an adult (and loved it). The idea that it is ok to have your children travel business class and have someone else pick up the tab, someone you do not know, is outrageous. I don’t care if it is within the rules, it is not OK, ok?

It is clear that several of our politicians need help in the “what is OK?” category, so I thought it might be useful if we came up with a test that they could use. Some might say that a test should be completely unnecessary and that pollies should just have a moral compass and exercise it. I may agree with that in principle, but it is quite clear that many don’t have one, and the ownership of one is rooted in the idea that pollies are like the rest of us. Clearly that is a leap in logic, a jump too far.

So what sort of test is reasonable? What about something like, “if I run it by the bloke at the local servo, and he says “you are kidding, right?” then that may work. Maybe it needs to be a little more ‘third person’ along the lines of “I know this guy, and he was thinking of taking a holiday with his kids and going to a live concert, and we were all going to travel business class, and then we were going to send the bill to someone else, but not tell them, what do you think? Would that be Ok?”

Then the politician could wait a while as the bloke at the servo loads his gun, or grabs a filleting knife, or whatever self-protection mechanism he has at his disposal behind the counter and brandishes it with menace.

Yeah I think that works better. Not even our thick-skinned, rudderless politicians could be in doubt about that.

Ultimately though, we are responsible. we keep turning up, we keep relying on the absurd party system in this country to select the best candidates and then we keep voting for these people. The very notion of putting my faith in either party is worrying me, a lot. As utterly annoying as this is though, it could be worse, we could be preparing to vote in the USA I guess.

Note. Michael is the curator of the Life Log Project in Sydney Australia. To learn more go to

Ah the critics.

I shied away from writing for about thirty years following my formal education. Every time I put pen to paper, or fingertips to the keyboard, every bad memory of my horrible schooling came rushing back to me.

As part of my new job (a decade ago), I was required to write a regular monthly article for the trade magazine, which I approached with great trepidation initially. Having come from radio and before that my life as an auctioneer, I had no problem talking, but writing, wow, that was a whole new adventure. I realise now that this is a classic chicken and egg thing, because i didn’t want to write I had to hone my speaking skills, so no shock that I finished up in gigs that didn’t require writing right?

Having served my writing apprenticeship after three or four years I found the constraints of writing a monthly trade article (effectively toeing the company line) just too restricting and I found myself looking for other opportunities to express myself.(I know, get me!)

I then began writing a newsletter, sent electronically as a subscription service to the very same people who were readers of the magazine. It started from just my email list of about 60 people, soon I had 1200 subscribers. So far so good. I was able to be cheekier than the monthly corporate article and have a little fun along the way. Then I got an email out of the blue, from someone who was not a subscriber, giving me advice that I had not requested, none of which was complimentary.

It went something like this “who do you think you are? what arrogance, opinionated, childish dribble etc” My immediate reaction was one of shame and disappointment. My gut reaction was exactly that, physical and forceful, it felt like I had got all of this wrong, and let people down by publishing my thoughts and ideas. I went straight back to that time in school when the teacher was handing out yesterday’s test results.

Then, as my gut reaction calmed, I had another look at it. He wasn’t a subscriber, no-one was forcing him to read the newsletter. In fact he had to go out of his way to read it. Why then would someone go to that extra effort, and then be critical of the author? And even more than that, why would you bother to get personal and send it to the author? Are people really that mean and keen to hurt?

After some consideration, I concluded that, yes indeed some people are that mean. In this world in which we live there are mean, cruel people hell-bent on destruction. People without a moments care for the ramifications of their appalling behaviour. They feel it is their divine right to be critical and no fear for the collateral damage. The real issue then is, for me, should I listen to them?

Should I have sleepless nights worrying that I am not doing the right thing by writing? Do I really write childish drivel? Should I just hit the delete button on his email? Should I write back to him giving him both barrels or perhaps apologising for wasting his oh-so-valuable time? Should I give it another thought? Well that last question is an easy one, of course I was going to think about it some more.

I have in the past been guilty of catastrophising and then relying heavily on my bride to supply perspective in matters of these kinds or whenever I feel that I may have lost objectivity. So, back to the well I went and asked for her honest opinion. She told me that my writing had improved out of sight and was now fun to read. As a fully paid up member of the “Harsh but fair” party, she wouldn’t lie to me about stuff like that. So I decided to take on board the input that my writing style was not for everyone, but was sufficiently popular to keep going.

I tell this tale because most people who know me, may be surprised that the foul words of someone I have never met would upset me or indeed have any effect on me at all. But they did. So I would ask you to be considerate when complaining. Which means have a little think about it before you do it. That’s all.

Footnote: Michael is the Curator of The Life Log Project. A commercial operation based in Sydney Australia that helps people tell their story, captured on digital media for the benefit of future generations. For more information on the service check out