Category Archives: misanthropy

Navigating Centrelink: A Modern Tragedy in Endless Parts

 

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I make the call with the rejection letter in my hand. The phone rings for a moment, then the line goes dead. I really never thought I’d long for the days when being on hold to Centrelink for hours was the best possible option. Now the phones don’t work at all.

I drive to the office, there’s no parking. I park in a nearby shopping centre and walk out of the carpark. I’m aware that this is technically illegal, but it’s fairly hard to care about such trivialities when you have a family member – let’s call him Sam – who is homeless, physically and psychologically deteriorating, and being incessantly hounded by debt collectors. How odd that Centrelink staff are so implausibly difficult to reach and yet for some reason the debt collectors they employ appear to have infinite time and resources.

The Centrelink office is predictably packed. I join the queue of people staring at their phones and muttering irascibly. A young family lines up behind me, they are utterly incredulous about the length of the queue. Obviously, they haven’t had to do this for a while.

I reach the front after about fifteen minutes, and manage to make my request without breaking into tears, so that surely counts as a win.

“I’m trying to help a family member. We’ve been coming in here for four months I think.  Maybe it’s five? They still haven’t received anything. No money. No healthcare card. He can’t afford medication, he’s running up debts, he doesn’t have stable accommodation.” I pause, the attendant is still looking at me expectantly. I’m not sure what else to say. “Is there a way to get the application fast-tracked?” He nods and says,

“Take a seat, we’ll see what we can do.”

I feel weary and ruined, but I decide to try and make the best of the long wait time. I’m lucky enough to have a flexible schedule as a freelancer, although it does mean that the hours I’m spending here will take away from my earnings this week. It’s strangely ironic to note that visiting Centrelink is going to reduce your weekly income. Still, if I had a conventional office job I wouldn’t be able to contact them at all, so there’s that. I make a few work calls, answer a couple of emails and then crack open my book.

The young family comes and sits next to me. Their son, he looks to be about four, studies my face with the unabashed curiosity that only kids get away with.

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“You’re bald!” He pronounces, as though he’s telling me I have wings or a tail. I look up at him and laugh.

“Yes, that’s a true story.”

“But you’ve got lots of hair on your face?”

“Sort of the wrong way round isn’t it?” He nods.

“You’ve got a mixed-up head.”

“You know, you’re not the first person to tell me that.”

I try and focus on my book, but the kid persists. “I have a magic watch!” he announces. As far as non-sequiturs go, it’s not bad.

“Yeah, it’s really magic? That’s cool.” He looks down, thinks it over and says,

“Nah, just pretend.”

“Ah, that’s a shame.” He changes his mind, perks up and says,

“Kidding, it IS magic! It can fast-forward time!”

“Well, I could sure use that power right now.” His mum takes him by the hand and says,

“Come on, let the man read his book,” she smiles at me and they disappear outside, leaving dad to wait for his turn.

I wait for an hour. I know most of the faces here now, the people at the check-in, the gigantic security guard with the dissonantly friendly smile. I try and not think about the severity of the situation. How the dozens of back and forth discussions I have with these people that seem so promising but then go nowhere are the last lifeline that is available to Sam.

We’d spent months compiling masses of medical documentation from Sam’s psychologist and GP, submitted it to Centrelink, and after a two month wait we received…a five-figure debt notice. Once I’d managed to yelp a panicked request down the phoneline I was told to ‘just ignore it.’ This was back when the phones still worked, of course. Then, finally Sam had a phone interview a few days before Christmas. We chatted to a friendly older lady for about twenty minutes and two weeks later the letter arrived: CLAIM REJECTED.

Apparently the opinion of a genial Centrelink employee who has never met him holds more validity than the shared medical opinions of his doctor and psychologist. I felt as though I’d doubled in mass, it became harder to transport the weight of my own body from one place to the next. For a few weeks, I felt anger and depression bubbling away beneath my skin. The slightest irritation would set me to screaming. I was embarrassed at my anger, and angry about my embarrassment. The thing I feared most- ending up in the same state as Sam – seemed like it was coming closer to reality by the very act of trying to help him.

I saw a counsellor of my own, vomited the whole story in a rapid stream as soon as she shut the door. I sobbed breathlessly for a couple of minutes, the first time I’d cried in front of a stranger in decades. She told me “You should have started seeing someone sooner, this is too much for one person to deal with on their own.”

Finally, my name is called. I push the memories of the past few months away and approach the desk. The lady there greets me with a warm smile, and asks me for the password for Sam’s file. I panic. He stopped checking mail and email years ago, as a result I’d had to reset all of his accounts; email, Medicare, Centrelink, phone. I have dozens of passwords stored in a folder at home. She looks at me expectantly.

“I don’t know, I can’t remember it.” She frowns.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you if you don’t know what it is.” I feel like setting things on fire, smashing chairs through windows, jumping from the nearest rooftop. I look at her in utter disbelief, close to crying for the second time today. Then I say,

“I have ID?”

“Oh yes! That’s fine too.”

I deflate with relief and hand her my driver’s license. She tells me that the claim is taking so long because it’s with the complex assessors. I tell her that we were informed that even though the disability claim had been rejected, we could reapply and in the meantime, Sam would be able to access Newstart. Until the claim is approved he can’t get a healthcare card and therefore can’t get medication. Apparently, one of the reasons his claim was rejected was because ‘he hasn’t consistently stayed on medication long enough.’ He can’t get medication until his claim is approved. But he can’t get his claim approved until he’s been on medication.

kafka

While I confess a great fondness for Kafka’s novels, I honestly never thought I’d end up inside one of them. She tells me she’ll attend to it personally, I’ll hear from her in a few days. I say thanks, exit into the blazing heat of the afternoon and walk the several blocks back to where my car is semi-illegally parked.

Everything on the radio annoys me, even the songs I usually love. The question that keeps buzzing furiously in my brain is this; I’m a well-educated, well-resourced Australian citizen who speaks English as a first language, if navigating Centrelink’s diabolical labyrinth is this harrowing for someone like me, how the hell does someone with limited English and/or education manage to make it out alive?

turnbull

I compose this little reflection in my head as I drive, feeling guilty for not having made a follow-up appointment with my therapist. The problem is; writing is much cheaper and more convenient than therapy. The news comes on. People are talking about how the Prime Minister has been yelling at his opponent, calling him a sycophant. The newscaster talks about the head of Australia Post earning over five million dollars last year. Much like the haggard, frustrated occupants of the office I’ve just left, these two receive their income from tax dollars. If men like this had to go through the same Kafkaesque nightmare as Centrelink clients to get paid, I wonder how quickly the systemic infrastructure problems would get fixed?

Let’s talk freely about free speech (for free).

Hello, I’m very angry! Are you angry? Fair enough, there’s plenty to be angry about. Sometimes when people are angry they say things which they shouldn’t. Not shouldn’t as in ‘you are not permitted to do that particular thing’ but shouldn’t as in ‘it would really be in everyone’s best interest if you didn’t do that particular thing.’ Often – especially when they’re afraid – people say hurtful, hateful and racist things. Typically, immediately after that parcel of word-vomit has finished emancipating itself from their mouths they yelp ‘But I’m not a racist and anyway I have a right to free speech!’

There seems to be a lot of confusion about free speech. This is understandable, given that there are in fact many different types of free. Facebook claims to be ‘free’ because it doesn’t charge you money, but it does take all of your information and all of your friends’ information and sells that data thus profiting from the intrusion of your privacy- something that you should be a lot angrier about but aren’t because you’re busy being furious with people because who have varying levels of skin pigmentation. Stores often advertise ‘buy our overpriced plastic consumer goods to fill that empty chasm in your life and receive a FREE GIFT!!!!’ but this makes no sense because gifts are by definition free and if a purchase is required than the object in question is not actually a gift, it’s just another thing.

free gift

*requires blood sample, bank details, your firstborn child and a collection of three years’ worth of belly lint.

Given that the idea of ‘free’ is so poorly understood it’s no surprise that some people seem to have a grasp of the concept of ‘free speech’ that is as shaky as a shake weight in an earthquake in Kelis’ yard. Let’s have a quick refresher on how free speech works:

1 You ejaculate a garbled string of wordsounds from your mouth-hole.

2 People respond with their own wordsound ejaculations.

They may agree, disagree, disrespect, expand, expound, expectorate, proselytise, prattle, protest or drop a sick beatbox beat. It’s up to them! This part is actually as important as the first part because if only one opinion was permitted then this would not be free speech.

If you like you can say something hurtful to someone. Or, if you’re particularly adventurous, to an entire group of people, an entire race even! It’s not against the law. HOWEVER, that’s not to say it isn’t wrong. I could cheat on my girlfriend and it wouldn’t be against the law but it would be a pretty horrible thing to do and also quite difficult because very few people are sexually attracted to me and besides who even has the time for an affair? I barely have time to do laundry. So if you want to say something horrible and racist and your excuse is ‘IT’S NOT AGAINST THE LAW!’ you might want to try a fun game called shutting up and/or jumping in a  cobra pit.

cobra pit

Hey guys, I didn’t mean it like that! Some of my best friends belong to class reptilia suborder serpentes family elapidae!

For argument’s sake let’s say you’re really super keen on forging ahead with wanting to say awful things to people, quite possibly because your world view is as sophisticated as that of an an encephalitic mountain weasel. It’s important that you remember the thing that comes after speech, which is almost always ‘more speech.’ If you say a thing, let’s say for example a racist thing, there is an astronomically high chance that someone will call you a racist. This is because you have said a racist thing. Often this is called ’cause and effect’ or ‘calling a spade a spade’ or sometimes ‘uncle Larry’s had too many tinnies and is going on about the Japanese again…’

People will respond thusly because:

free speech = the right to share your opinions and ideas

free speech ≠ the right to share your opinions and ideas without recrimination or response

If you say something which is empirically false and someone replies ‘You are wrong,’ this is not an ‘attack on free speech,’ it is an act of free speech. If you vomit wordsounds that stereotype, persecute or vilify an entire race then people will call you racist because you have said a racist thing, this is also an act of free speech. You might defend yourself by claiming to be a ‘patriot’ or ‘free thinker’ (there’s that word again!) but neither of those terms are applicable in this scenario. Similarly, if you frequently set fire to things because watching objects consumed by flame fills you with malicious, destructive glee, it is likely that someone might comment: ‘You sir/madam, are an arsonist!’ You may object and say ‘That is inaccurate! I am merely a person who places fire on things and if those things burn it is not my fault the blame lies with said things for possessing flammable properties!’ However, you will be not only incorrect but also the textbook definition of an arsonist because you have repeatedly committed arson.

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I’m not an arsonist, I’m just a combustion enthusiast!’

Thus if you would like to not be called a racist the easiest way is not to do or say racist things. That way, we can all have the right to free speech without necessarily invoking it in order to spread hate. I’m a big fan of free speech,  a hardcore fan, a superfan. I want to bribe security to get into its greenrom and have it sign my nipples. In this country I’ve been able to say things in books, magazines, blog posts, poems, songs and on stages that in plenty of other places would have seen me arrested or possibly killed. That’s not something I take lightly, which is exactly why we should use free speech as an important tool in the continuing evolution of our shared knowledge and understanding, rather than as a crutch for justifying linguistic vitriol.

Agree, disagree? Great! I look forward to hearing your affirmations, remonstrations and sick beatbox beats.

 

Click here to purchase  J.M. Donellan’s Book of Things Which Should Be Completely Obvious But You Clearly Still Don’t Understand for just twelve easy payments of $3.1415 with a FREE GIFT!!!

How to become a New York Limes Bestsmelling Author.

Over the last few years I’ve had many aspiring writers come to me for advice as they seek to make their way through the confusing labyrinth that is the publishing industry. Sometimes it’s simple queries like ‘should I get an agent?’, sometimes more bizarre requests like ‘for the love of God could you please stop talking about royalty payments and call an ambulance I think this man is having a heart attack!’

whiteboard list

Many of these young, hopeful writers have subsequently released novels which have not only outsold mine but also been far more critically acclaimed. This means that they end up being given headline slots at literary festivals while I’m shuffling around in one of the weird rooms on the top floor of a secondary venue for a panel that is attended by half a dozen octogenarians who were expecting a workshop on efficient calendar management (it was actually scheduled for the following evening).

I thought for this reason that it would be a good idea to give some advice to my future rivals peers. Follow these wise words and you too could become a New York Limes Bestsmelling Author!

 

STEP ONE

Make sure all of your submissions are written in size eight and covered in glitter.

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Here’s a little industry secret: submission editors actually want to read everything in size eight font. I know, I know, all the style guides say never hand in anything outside of 11-13, but this is actually an elaborate ruse to throw off the easily misled. There’s a saying in publishing: “If it ain’t size eight, it ain’t that great.” Remember to cover your submission in as much glitter as you can get your hands on, and spray it with the scent of old feet and mildew (submission editors have unusual olfactory senses owing to the fact that they spend a lot of time in tiny rooms reading size eight font manuscripts). This will give your submission the edge it needs to make it all the way to the publishing queue. 

STEP TWO

Industry etiquette and relevant blood-oaths and battlecries

When engaging important figureheads of the publishing industry in conversation remember that they are a bit like rare birds; they are easily scared off and they feed their children by regurgitating into their mouths. The key to making a good impression is to use the secret handshake: firm grip and two bone-crushing pumps as you conspiratorially whisper “The blood moon approaches!” while slowly pouring your drink on their shoes. Once this secret greeting is uttered, you will be invited into the hallowed halls of the Literary Industry’s Elite Sanctuary.

 

STEP THREE

Dress to depress!

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So you’ve managed to arrange a meeting with your dream publisher. Wow, things are really looking upwardstyles!!!! Pay close attention to these dress tips and you could soon be a best-selling author like Stieg Larsson, Margaret Atwood or that girl who was on the Jersey Shore. Men: make sure you are showing as much chest hair as possible, preferably arranged in braids. If you are lacking in chest hair, you’ll want to shave a large jungle cat or Sumatran orangutang and glue its hair to your chest. Ladies: it’s a sad truth that women are always judged more on their appearance than men, but for job interviews you want to look serious, professional and intelligent. This is why you should wear whatever the hell you want AS LONG AS it is accompanied by a sign hung around your neck that says in large red letters I AM VERY SERIOUS, PROFESSIONAL AND INTELLIGENT.

STEP FOUR

Contract non-negotiables: Attack helicopters et al

If you’ve followed all these steps, then it must be time to sign that contract. Hot diggity Dogstoveksy, the dream is real! Your mum was right, you really are special! Maybe that weird old martial arts expert you met in the cave was also right about you being the Chosen One! Now, I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve signed some less than perfect contracts in the past, so let me help you avoid the same mistake by looking out for what pitfalls to avoid. Aside from minor details like royalties and film rights, you’ll want to focus on making sure that your contract includes both an attack helicopter with twin laser canons as well as one of the rings of power.

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“If you want it, PUT A RING UPON IT!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to ask for the ONE RING, because that is just a dick move. However, there are many rings of power and it is standard that each new author receive one as part of their contract with any respectable publisher. They may try and throw you off by saying ‘The rings of power aren’t actually real?’ or ‘Are you completely insane?’ or possibly even ‘Have you been listening to that idiot J. M. Donellan?!?’ But stand your ground and tell them: ‘Gimmie that ring, or this contract ain’t a thing.’ If your potential publisher is not willing to give into these perfectly reasonable demands then the only honourable thing to do is set that contract, and possibly their building, on fire and walk off into the sunset.

Next week: J. M. Donellan’s guide to INSTANT weight reduction!!!!! (STEP ONE: cut off your legs.)

 

 

 

Love letters to corporations: Vodafone

My dearest Vodafone,

You have wounded me, right in the very centre of my coal-black heart. We’ve been together for six years now, ever since way back when Rudd was PM (the first time round). Back in those youthful halcyon days I always swore I’d never go on a contract. All my friends were settling down, signing their lives away while I was living free and easy. I casually switched month to month from Optus to Virgin to Telstra. It was a beautiful, debt-free era and a part of me thought it would be like that forever.

sad face      Broken-heart-icon   Vodafone

But then you came along, and I committed to two years. And another two. And another. Before I knew it we’d changed PMs four times and you and I were looking at our 6 year anniversary. I’ve never even rented the same house longer than 3 years, so you should know this is a pretty serious commitment for me.

I thought that meant something. You always there for me when I called, unless I wanted to call anywhere outside the CBD and then your coverage would be as absent as dignity at a frat party, but I accepted that you just weren’t the outdoors type. I also accepted that you didn’t even know how to spell ‘phone’, despite the fact that the primary purpose of your existence is to provide telephonic services. I forgave these faults and plenty more besides, because I thought you cared.

Lately, however, things have taken an ugly turn. First, I find out that despite earning 3.6 billion dollars in13/14 you paid no tax whatsoever. Sure, the tax evasion hurts, but you know what really twists the knife? The fact that you kept it from me. 

Finally, you decided to check in with me, to see how I’m feeling about you. I respect that you care about my feelings, but I wanted clarification on the nature of our relationship. Here’s what happened:

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I’m hurt Vodafone, I’d call one of my friends and cry into the phone at them if not for the fact that I just KNOW you’d listen in. We’ve had some good times, but I’ll be keeping our relationship strictly business from now on. You can assume my reply to all future surveys is ZERO, unless of course the question is ‘how much tax should Vodafone pay after earning 3.6 billion in profits?’

Swarm Re:guards

JM Donellan

Boycott everything for no reason!

Working in the arts, you have to expect the odd negative review and the conventional wisdom is to just ignore them. However, I honestly never expected that anyone would ever care enough about my work to call for a boycott, and I DEFINITELY did not think that anyone would ever be demented enough to call for a boycott and write a 1300+ word essay based purely on the TITLE! Oh, what a world of wonders we live in! Here’s my review of Gerald Keaney’s utterly sincere and yet unintentionally hilarious boycott call to arms.

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1 ““Poetry is dead!” It’s an edgy and intriguing title for a poetry event on 9th December 2015, part of the Brisbane Powerhouse’s end of year Wonderland Festival.

Your essay begins with getting the date wrong. GREAT START!

2 While the pair’s subject matter is up to them…

Implies that the subject matter of an independently produced performance would, for some insane reason, be up to someone else (you, presumably?) This is deranged enough to be hilarious. Please continue!

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Gerald Keaney, ladies and gentlemen…

3 If everyone is a poet, there are no more poets. 

In our incredibly brief online interaction I saw you use this line three times, so you’re obviously very proud of it. Poetry is currently a niche art form, so this is hardly a concern. Furthermore, one of the reasons why it is so sparsely practised is because people are put off by the kind of elitist gatekeeping you’re espousing here. Imagine if you told every ten year old who picked up a guitar: “You’d BETTER have a comprehensive understanding of 19th century flamenco music!”

4 Donellan also claimed his “poetry is dead” byline referred to old fashioned poetry. “In with the new, out with the old!” he declares…

You’ve taken a (wildly exaggerated and inaccurate) paraphrasing and presented it as a quote. I seem to recall Jonah Lehrer doing something similar. Things didn’t work out too well for him, did they?

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5 Nevertheless Donellan’s endeavour could have easily been saved. He could have been a little more enthusiastic about discussion afterwards… Along with poetry, he obviously thinks public discussion has died, and it is time for the public to sit back like good passive little consumers of art.

I said I was happy to talk after the show – repeatedly – but that we could not host a Q & A afterwards because we had to pack down the stage for the show which began 15 minutes after ours finished. You really don’t seem to have a very firm grasp of either time or basic social protocol. You aren’t an only child who was raised by some sort of humourless disgraced Slavic royalty in a barn with only your rancorous patriarch and pet woodlouse for company by any chance?

6 Even without seeing their show I can only conclude that it is a mistake for Donellan and Wilmett to use the title “Poetry is dead.”

Easily my favourite part. Basically the equivalent of picking up a copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and saying: “I fucking HATE rye, I’m not reading this shit!”

the-catcher-in-the-rye-cover-6c8dab7d64192277315d6bf528d6f7b2

If you don’t like rye, stay away from this book! It’s just hundreds of pages about rye. I assume. I haven’t read it.

7 They are left displaying only a faux cleverness, and the way the pair has used the slogan Poetry is dead gives entirely the wrong message about poetry itself. For that reason my advice is boycott.

First of all, are you familiar with the concept of irony? Seeing as the only thing you seem to be interested in is your own opinions, would you prefer that we called our act Gerald Keaney and the Gerald Keaneys? Because unfortunately that name is already taken by some deranged narcissist. In any case, even if you think it’s a terrible title, calling for a boycott is definitely overkill. What next, call for a ban on poetry readings in a library ? Oh wait, I see you already did that.

8 YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW. I realise I mentioned this already, but I felt it was such an important point that it was worth repeating.

In conclusion: if this is a mislabeled piece of fiction written from the perspective of a character who is a petty, ageing punk who indulges in writing petulant rants and dressing them up as rambling, incoherent academic critique then congratulations, you’ve nailed it!

However, if this is actually a sincere essay, it gets a solid F+. The ‘+’ is awarded on the off-chance that you really are an only child who was raised in a barn with only your rancorous patriarch and pet woodlouse for company. Perhaps next time you could try typing with both hands?

PS

sold out

 

HBO: why don’t you want my money?

Dearest HBO,

Why don’t you want my money? Is it a moral thing, are you worried that my income is derived from heinously unethical sources like contract killing, drug dealing or writing for Newscorp? Because I can assure you, all of my income is legitimately earned (well, assuming you can call art ‘legitimate’…)

Would you like me to pay you in bitcoin? Dogecoin? Maybe fucking DRACHMAS? And yes, I do know that Greece hasn’t used Drachmas in many years it’s just that 1) ‘drachmas’ is a funny word that sounds as though it might describe a Grandma Dracula and 2) Paying with an obsolete currency makes infinitely more sense than going to great lengths to prevent people from paying you.

“But silly Australian consumer!” you might say. “It’s easy to watch HBO in your weird, kangaroo filled country! Why don’t you just pay for Foxtel?” Let me answer your question in the form of opening a second window in my browser and searching ‘mercenaries located within walking distance of HBO headquarters.’ Screenshot 2015-10-13 20.33.42

To sign up for the Foxtel package that includes ‘high quality’ content (why is there any other type being offered on a premium paid service?) including installation fees is $665 – a number so tantalisingly almost satanic that it suggests a bunch of board members sat around and said “Can we make it less than $666 because we don’t want to give away the fact that Satan is our lord and master but only very SLIGHTLY less because, I mean, you know…we love money.” This pricing is bullshit on a cosmic scale. For that kind of money, according to Ebay, I could buy the skull of an extinct Merycoidodon. I don’t even know what that is, but I know I’d rather pay for that than a bunch of crappy reality shows where they put models fresh out of rehab in charge of the economy of a small island nation or whatever dross comes packaged with the handful of decent shows on offer.

Have you ever walked into a coffee shop and had a conversation like this:

barista

“Hi there, what can I get for you today?”

businessman

“Cappuccino to go thanks, I’ve got a busy day of not letting people buy my company’s services ahead of me!

barista

“Sure thing! That’ll be $3.00 for the coffee and $662 for the piles of bagels, donuts, muffins, ylang ylang smoothies, vegan cheese souffle, kale flavoured paleo cronut and gluten free cheese puffs.”

businessman

“But I don’t want any of those other things, just coffee!”

barista

“Well you don’t have to eat them, but you DO have to pay for them and take them with you.”

Do you know WHY you’ve probably never had this interaction? Because it is a batshit crazy business model that would only be cooked up by an obscenely wealthy oligarch at the nasty end of a six day coke binge. Last year, some of us were hopeful that the streaming service HBO GO would offer up some assistance, but instead you had served up a big old digital middle finger to the world and had everyone outside of the US screaming HBO GO FUCK YOURSELVES when they read this:

Screenshot 2015-10-13 20.38.25

It’s well documented that piracy rates are extremely high in Australia. And look, I understand why you might be annoyed about that. I currently lose money to piracy even though you can literally get my books for free from the goddamn library, and that stings. Especially because my landlord refuses to let me pay in dramatic monologues or haiku for some stupid reason. It would probably break my heart, if not for the fact that I just have a fat black lump of coal where it used to be. But one of the reasons the piracy is so prevalent in this country is because Australians are sick of being constantly and consistently screwed on both the pricing and the availability of digital media. You might as well let Pirate Bay put up banner advertising on your homepage, given how much traffic you drive their way.

I want to like you HBO, really, I do. I even want to give you money. But you just make it SO. DAMN. HARD. I shouldn’t need to use a quasi-illegal ‘greymarket’ workaround to achieve this. Netflix finally figured this out last year, surely you can do the same. Or you can keep rolling along using your heinously outdated business model and people will keep stealing your stuff forever. Why don’t you ask your buddies in the record industry how that’s working out for them?

In conclusion:

arya-stark

Sydney Airport: Please Tell Your Robots To Stop Sexually Harassing Me In The Bathroom

Dearest Sydney Airport,

I like to think we know each other pretty well. You’ve made me remove various items of clothing and screened me for explosives many times. I’ve slept in your chairs, consumed your Krispy Kreme products with jet-lagged jaws and recently you’ve even been kind enough to stock my latest novel in your bookshops. Now, I’ll grant that over a breadth of time and experience a certain intimacy develops, but there are boundaries to such a relationship and one of those boundaries should very clearly be the bathroom. The shitter, the lavatory, the outhouse, the thunderbox, the bog, the porcelain wonderland. Whatever euphemism/dysphemism you want to employ for that tiled little collection of cubicles and piping where humans go to accomplish the natural – and completely disgusting – process of expunging waste. Our relationship is important to me, Sydney Airport, so let me state this clearly: When I am in the bathroom, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.

vivid

Recently I visited your fair city in order to attend the Sydney Writers’ Festival. How was it you say? Why, it was wonderful, thank you for asking! I spoke on some panels, signed some books, performed some poetry and got to meet many of my favourite writers. I did accidentally smack someone’s microphone out of their hand as I exited one performance but I’m going to pretend that the audience thought it was just a sort of hip-hop ‘dis’ move rather than the clumsy flailing of a terminally uncoordinated man. Plus, I got to see the Vivid festival and the luminary Sufjan Stevens. What a magical couple of days, what a grand, kaleidoscopic adventure, what a shame it had to end with a robot asking me “Wanna get naked?” in the airport bathroom.

I applied Occam’s razor to the situation and logically concluded that someone had slipped me a drug from a Phillip K. Dick novel. It turns out, however, that a video vending machine was attempting to sell me Four Seasons Naked condoms. You’ve crossed a line Sydney Airport, the bathroom line. You see, the problem is, I’m unable to boycott the use of these repugnantly invasive machines. Sometimes, I have to use airports, and during my time in said airports I have to use the bathroom. There’s no ‘ad-free’ option. There is no opt out.

Also, Four Seasons, what the hell is wrong you with you? You have a product that prevents diseases AND is directly related to sex, surely that’s got to be a marketing agency’s wet dream? Whatever agency landed your account must have wept into their champagne and sacrificed a few goats in celebration when that deal got inked. How hard can it be to write some ads that move product without invading bathroom privacy? Look, I’ll write some ad copy for you right now:

crying-baby-1

“The cost of raising a child in Australia is $300 000+. This costs $2. Enjoy your flight.”

“Hi. Buy one of these for $2 and it could stop you from dying of AIDS. I like your outfit, have a nice day.”

“If you don’t have one of these s/he won’t have sex with you. Thank you.”

Seriously Four Seasons, most ad agencies fall over themselves trying to tenuously connect sex to their products. Just look at this:

hearing aids

You can just imagine the conversation that preceded it can’t you?

“Morning Terry, what’s the new account?”

“Hearing aids! Dumb, stupid, bloody useless hearing aids! I mean, how are you supposed to sell a technological marvel that does nothing but restore one of your vital senses?”

“Sex?”

“Yeah, I reckon I’ll go with sex.”

It’s worth noting that condoms can also be purchased from pharmacies, at a better rate and with a superior selection. I wouldn’t dream of discouraging anyone from using such a vital and important product, so I’ll just politely remind people that you’d have to be a complete moron to buy a single condom for $2 from a robot with no sense of bathroom decorum when you can buy a whole pack for just a couple of dollars more from an actual person.

Whilst shopping for reasonably priced prophylactics sold by humans who haven’t harassed you in the bathroom, you might also want to pick up some chewing gum. It’s an inexpensive and delicious treat that if chewed during takeoff helps reduce that irritating popping in one’s ears. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but once chewing gum is jammed into a small space – the coin slot of an outrageously invasive video vending machine for example – it serves as a surprisingly effective adhesive that would likely be very difficult and expensive to remove.

fake-chewed-gum-1

Now, I know what you might be thinking, if it was so bloody awful and invasive why didn’t I just take a video of the damned thing to prove it? And the answer is BECAUSE RECORDING ANYTHING IN BATHROOMS IS A DISGUSTING THING TO DO (much like using sexualised robots to solicit you to buy products.)

We’ve had a long history together Sydney Airport, so I have every confidence that you’ll rectify this error soon. I look forward to shitting in peace next time I visit your otherwise fine facility.

Kind regards,

J. M. Donellan

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PS I’m very curious to know if the vending machines in the female toilets have been displaying equally aggressive behaviours. Visitors to Sydney Airport drop me a line if you have a similar story to tell. 

Love and Psychopaths

Oh hey there everyone! In super magic big plus exciting times news: I recently handed in the manuscript for my new novel to Pantera Press! Hopefully they like it, otherwise I’ll just print it out and drive around throwing it onto people’s lawns which will be very expensive and time consuming and also possibly injure their pets.

This has meant I’ve had some time to finish up and release a couple of short stories for your digital media bookreading simulator device. One is (sort of) a  love story about a man who is enraptured by someone who isn’t really there and the other is a (sort of) horror story about a bromance between psychopaths. They are only $1 each, so it’s either get one of these stories or some used underwear from your local charity store, your call.

erica final cover THIS             House. Hunting. JM Donellan

 

PS a quick thank you to the folks on Twitter and Facebook who helped me put together some ideas for House. Hunting. by sharing their stories about the strange/psychopathic behaviour of their housemates. You guys have shared roofs, bathrooms and bodily odours with some seriously fucked up individuals.

PPS I’lll be at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in a couple of weeks and it will be crazy and amazing! There will be heaps of other great authors like David Mitchell, Emily St John Mandel, Annabel Crabb etc. Come and say hi if you’re in that corner of this particular universe.