Someone I have never met told me they thought I was a woman. I’m not. They made this assumption based on my Instagram account.
The person is a friend of a friend and stumbled upon my Instagram account, as people do within the world of social media. They requested to follow, I accepted, and they perused my photos.
The person then messaged me in surprise and told me that she thought I was female.
Because of the content of my Instagram posts.
Essentially, all of my posts depict nature or books. Once I’ve read a book that I like, I take a photo of the cover and maybe and excerpt from the book and I post it on my account. Actually, I haven’t done this for a while, I think I just forgot.
Otherwise, my Instagram account contains images of nature. When I go hiking, cycling, camping or into nature, I like to take photos of sunsets, beaches, plants, trees, skylines and animals. I’d like to have more photos of animals but they’re hard to capture with a basic smartphone lacking a decent zoom. If I do capture an animal it’s always a bonus.
Almost every one of my posts depicts lakes, rivers, mountains, trees, rocks, sand, sun and surf, because I love nature and try to spend as much time in it as possible. My account contains almost no images of myself.
I don’t like appearing on camera and I’m not vain or beautiful enough to be an Instagram model, so I don’t take many selfies. I do appear in other people’s photos or have friends take photos of me, but I just have no interest in posting them online.
I explained to the woman that I am in fact a man, and we had a good laugh about it. It did make me think, however.
Why would someone think that I was female after seeing photos of books and nature?
Have we been conditioned to think that an interest in or respect for nature is feminine? Can only women appreciate and express an appreciation for nature, and is this linked to a woman’s role as a nurturer and care giver?
If this is the case, does it explain the current state of the world’s climate and the natural environment?
Mother Earth, as we often call it, is in trouble after years and years of human abuse, and this abuse is continuing even though we now know better. We now know that previous practices are harming the planet upon which we rely for our survival but we continue with these practices.
Is this cycle of destruction perpetuated because men still rule the world? Certain organisations, businesses and countries have a woman in the top job, but the system which was created by men is still controlled by men. If a man is not expected to love nature, even via an Instagram account, protecting the environment into the future will be very difficult, because men are still making most of the decisions which determine the state of the planet.
Is it time to give women a turn? Really give them a turn. Not just appoint a few women to the position of national or corporate president, not just vote women onto boards or executive positions, but replace men in large numbers at every level of government, business and other sectors of society. Men had their turn running the world, the planet is in very bad shape, so maybe it’s time they were replaced.
If the men running the world were the starting players on a sporting team, their results suggest it’s time they were taken off and replaced by those who have been waiting their turn on the reserves bench.
Can you love nature and still be a man?
Do we have to change paradigms of masculinity to include respect for nature and pride in publicly expressing a love for the natural world?
Do we need to reach a point at which assumptions cannot be made about someone’s gender because they display images of nature on a social media account?
“Their body languages don’t look good,” said the commentator, “I don’t think the Sharks can come back and win this game.”
What is he saying? Does he not speak English? I enjoyed a laugh at the expense of the Australian rugby league commentator before I realised two things:
One, he’s a former rugby league player so we should not expect a high standard of elocution.
Two, he has a point. People do speak body languages. Non-verbal communication is essential to conveying a message in any language, and this aspect of communication can differ between languages, cultures and even sub-cultures.
Eye contact is considered essential and important in many ‘western’ cultures. It shows respect to the other speaker plus confidence and trustworthiness. This is not the case everywhere in the world.
In some Indigenous Australian cultures, it is common for people not to make eye contact, especially when a young person is speaking to an elder. The young person is supposed to defer to the older person and to show their respect by avoiding eye contact. Many Indigenous Australian youth, especially those living in more remote communities, are often taught explicitly how to make eye contact when doing mock job interviews.
Pointing with the index finger is forbidden in some cultures. Muslims do not point with the index finger, but instead use the thumb on top of a closed fist to point something out. It makes you feel like a politician driving home a point at a press conference.
The Wrist Shake
Raise your arm about 90 degrees, bend your elbow, open your hand and shake your wrist vigorously. You can now demonstrate to people in Brunei and Malay cultures that you don’t know, can’t remember, don’t have…or don’t care. If you’re a student in an English class in Brunei, you can use this to tell your orangputih (white person) English teacher that you can’t be bothered to reply to him in English.
The hand shake
“Shake like a man”
Grip the other man’s hand firmly, look him straight in the eye and shake hands confidently. Do this in western cultures, but not in Malay cultures. Instead, slip your hand softly into the other person’s hand and rock it gently up and down. If you meet the Sultan, or another V I P, you might have to kiss that hand. Just hope your not the 998th person to do so.
If you don’t know something in the Yolngu lands of north-east Arnhem land in Australia, stick out your lower lip. Still in Arnhem Land, if someone asks you for directions, show them the way by pursing your lips and moving your head in the direction of travel. That’s right, you point with your lips.
In fact, if you grow up in the Yolgnu culture, you will learn how to conduct an entire conversation without words. Two female teachers demonstrated this during a teaching inservice.
An expert had flown in from Darwin to the community of Yirrkala to conduct a training session on how better to teach students with hearing problems, which are very common among Yolgnu children. To help teachers to empathise with students with hearing problems, the expert put headphones on the teachers and told them to communicate a simple message to their colleague – without using sound. The non-Aboriginal teachers stumbled, mimed and laughed their way through a miserably deficient dialogue, while two Yolngu women conducted an entire conversation with body language.
Don’t smile at me!
“Don’t you dare smile at me,” said the teacher sternly, “this is serious. Your behaviour was completely unacceptable. I said stop smiling, do you think this is a joke?”
The student didn’t think it was a joke. As a Chinese boy who had lived in China his whole life, he’d cultivated the habit of smiling or laughing to show shyness, embarrassment or humility. Unfortunately, the newly-arrived British teacher didn’t realise this and continued her reprimand with steam blowing out of her ears and veins popping out of her head.
The head wobble
Does that mean yes, no, maybe? Are you ignoring me, mocking me, agreeing with me. Is it a commitment, a promise that the task will be completed as requested?
I have no idea.
All I saw while working at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, was a head wobble. No matter how many times I saw it from Indian staff, I had no idea what it meant. Sometimes it was subtle, sometimes it was a very pronounced wobble.
In my experience, shaking the head means no. In India, however, this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the head shaker did complete the task. I was thoroughly confused most of the times I was greeted with a head shake. One thing I surmised, rightly or wrongly, was that the bigger the headshake, the less likely it was that the job would be done.
Count with your hands
Yi, Er, San…
The first five numbers are easy to display on one hand, but what about numbers 6 – 10? The Chinese have developed a handy system of communicating numbers with one hand when verbal communication is not an option. Be careful with number 8 though, it could look like you want to shoot someone. Also, don’t assume someone is trying to ward off the devil when they reach number 10.
Body languages don’t just differ between vastly different cultures. Non-verbal communication can also cause a faux pas between speakers of the same language. George Bush Sr provided a classic example. During an official visit to Australia, the then president drove through a city in his official motorcade and offered the crowd the two-fingered peace sign, or what he thought was the two-fingered peace sign. He put his fingers around the wrong way and showed the back of his hand to the crowd. In Australia, holding up two fingers in this way means ‘up yours’, ‘bugger off’, ‘go away’ or ‘piss off’. It’s just one step down from ‘giving the bird’.
Body languages do not exist on social media. Emoji’s have attempted to replace non-verbal communication across these platforms but they simply cannnot transmit the same level of meaning. Furthermore, even an emoji can have different meaning in different contexts – and I’m not just talking about fruit emojis and their attendant innuendo. I’m referring to seemingly innocent emojis such as the thumbs up symbol.
In my experience, the thumbs up symbol is a succinct way of saying ‘I agree’, ‘everything is ok’, ‘problem solved’…However, a Brazilian friend did not interpret my thumbs up in this manner. In her experience, the thumbs up means
‘I can’t be bothered answering your message’
‘I don’t care enough to write a response’
‘I’m politely ignoring your message’
As the world becomes consumed by mass media and people live more of their lives online, what happens to body language?
Body language is vital to communication. It can involve the use of the hands, the head, the eyes or even the lips. It can be enlightening or confusing, and it differs greatly between cultures and within cultures.
The Prime Minister of Australia has appointed former AFL player David Dench as Education Advisor in a move that has shocked the nation. Dench will advise the prime minister and the federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan in matters of education pertaining specifically to universities.
“My government is committed to education and to providing world-class facilities and services to the people of this great nation,” Morrison stated.
“Education will make this nation great again and it needs to be properly funded. For this reason, I have personally appointed Mr Dench as Education Advisor with special responsibility for funding.”
Political observers were left stunned by the shock announcement, and questioned the credentials of someone with no political or educational expertise, who made their fame playing Australian Rules Football.
Mr Morrison justified the appointment by referencing Dench’s unique and specific experience with university finances.
Dench spent four months in jail in 2008 as punishment for his role in a scheme to defraud Victoria University out of millions of dollars. The former North Melbourne fullback and captain was charged specifically with nine counts of obtaining property by deception and aiding and abetting the receipt of a secret commission.
“Mr Dench is exactly the person we need advising our government,” said Mr Tehan.
“His interaction with the university sector reflects the funding priorities of the LNP for tertiary education in this country, and his invaluable advice will inform our policies relating to this industry as long as we are in government.”
“Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted upon universities in Australia, particularly as many have lost their overseas students and are struggling financially. The manner in which universities and tertiary institutions are managed in the near future will go a long way towards determining the academic and economic prosperity of the nation, and that is why we are so excited to bring Mr Dench into our ministry in an advisory capacity.”
The prime minister and Mr Tehan refused to be drawn on the exact sum Dench will be paid in his advisory role, but explained that he will share an office with TV host Scott Cam.
The Great Public Schools athletic association is set to introduce the greatest revolution in Rugby Union since William Webb Ellis picked up the ball, after the organisation of Australia’s wealthiest schools granted itself permission to complete its sporting season during COVID-19 restrictions.
The GPS sporting association, which includes The Scots College, Sydney Grammar School and Sydney Boys High School, will play the first ever series of socially distanced rugby in the world. Spokesperson for the association, Richie Power, outlined some of the monumental changes to the sport and their likely impact.
No contact – Players may not pass within 1.5 metres of each other, even their teammates.
Rolling mauls will subsequently resemble an interpretive dance, and every line out will be won by the boy with the longest wing span. There’s no chance of hands in the ruck and scrums will become even more farcical than those in the NRL.
The game they play in heaven will revert to its roots and tries will be worth 0, but earn the scoring team the right to ‘try’ for a conversion.
“If we awarded points for tries, we’d end up with cricket scores every game, and we know Rugby players can’t count,” explained Power.
Essentially, players cannot touch the ball or any other player with their hands, and can only advance the ball up the field with their feet. The end result will be…soccer.
Parents and Old Boys can follow the Rugby Revolution from Bellevue Hill to Parramatta. While spectators are prohibited from standing on the side lines, they can chant war cries from the comfort of their Range Rover, Rolls Royce or Bentley, or from their private yacht moored in Lane Cove River, after it has been collected from the Seychelles or Turks and Caicos.
Old Boys of The King’s School are exempt from any COVID-19 restrictions as the school has declared its sizeable territory a sovereign nation not subjected to the laws of Australia.
Critics have slammed the decision to allow the GPS schools to continue their regular sporting fixtures while others schools must still abide by COVID-19 restrictions, but Power defended the move.
“We paid a fortune for our scholarship athletes, sorry students, and we demand a return on our investment. If not, we’ll have to send them back to the western suburbs or an island in the South Pacific, or simply let them study, learn and improve their academic and employment prospects”
“In addition, we need to be able to channel our considerable government funding into extravagant sporting facilities and specialised coaches. Otherwise we’d be forced to give our Teachers such an enormous pay rise that they could finally afford to live within an hour of their workplace.”
“Without Rugby, we would just be public schools, and that’s not great.”
First published in The Beast Magazine, October 2020.
Dale Kerrigan will promote Brand Australia because he once dug a hole. The popular character from the Australian movie The Castle was chosen by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to serve as international ambassador for a country obsessed with digging holes and taking stuff out of them.
In a classic scene from the movie, Dale’s father Darryl tells the family of his son’s achievement over dinner, boasting,
“Dale dug a hole.”
Throughout the movie, the likable but unremarkable character, portrayed by actor Stephen Curry, does little else to distinguish himself. While his older brother Steve is known as ‘an idea’s man’, and character Lawrence Hammill employs his law degree and intellect to save the family home, Dale digs a hole.
While Steve makes a motorcycle helmet with a built-in brake light, and a brush with a hose in it, mother Sal makes rissoles and Darryl puts reality TV renovators to shame – Dale digs a hole.
Morrison’s enlistment of Kerrigan is being hailed as a PR masterstroke which further entrenches the PMs title of Scotty from Marketing.
“Dale is the perfect person to represent Brand Australia,” announced Scotty.
“His greatest claim to fame is that he dug a hole, and modern-day Australia’s greatest claim to fame is that we dig holes. In fact,” continued Scotty beneath his trademark smirk, “we dig lots of holes and take stuff out of them.”
The holes Scotty referred to are mines, and the stuff taken out of them include natural resources such as coal and other minerals, upon which Australia’s economy is heavily reliant.
“We love digging holes,” Scotty explained, “so much so that we as a nation export almost nothing that requires a university degree to make, and we have one of the least complex economies in the world.”
“Our economy depends enormously on mining, agriculture and tourism and not on technology or innovation like other nations. Internationally we’re seen as environmental pariahs because we keep digging up and burning resources like coal.”
“We need to celebrate our love of digging holes, and that’s what Dale Kerrigan brings to Brand Australia.”
Scotty also explained that Dale epitomises modern-day Australians.
“You might also notice that Dale’s not the brightest spark, and his literacy skills are not the best. Australia is also falling behind in literacy and numeracy rankings worldwide, and my government’s funding cuts to education should ensure we fall even further behind international standards in the future.”
Scotty was asked what happens when we dumb down as a nation and lack the ability to diversify and strengthen our economy. He replied;
The clown is working. Earning his daily bread. Putting food on the table. He is a mobile busker of sorts. He is taking his product straight to his audience. Advertisers would call it direct marketing, and the passengers on the bus are a captive audience.
The clown performed his 3 piece set for the passengers before we set off for our intended destination, and asked for ‘propinas’, or tips, in return for the few moments of entertainment. He livened up a very boring and monotonous aspect of travel and distracted his audience from the chaotic, smelly, noisy and ugly bus terminal in which they sat.
The clown is just one of the many salespeople who ply their trade on inter-city buses throughout Latin America in an attempt to earn a living in a region in which employment is precarious.
Comida y bebidas
Salespeople will board buses at terminals and offer their products or services to passengers who can choose to make a small payment. Some people will sell staples such as food and drink at a standard price and will rush up and down the crowded aisles trying to entice every passenger in to making a purchase before scurrying on to the next bus and the next one.
Some vendors might stay on the bus. Their sales require more time. They might be said to invest more with their audience. Thus, they will remain on the bus as it pulls out of the terminal and continue their journey until the bus stops at the pick up point on the outskirts of town. At this point, they will thank the driver, alight, and connect with another bus heading back to the terminal and attempt to market their products directly to a new audience.
Other salespeople are not selling a specific product. They instead offer items to passengers. Many of them will place in the hands of each passenger a card with a blessing, a positive affirmation or a religious image imprinted upon it. Once they have given every passenger a blessing, they will walk back down the aisle and collect the cards from those who don’t wish to keep them, or accept money from those who wish to hold on to the blessing.
How much do they earn?
It depends. They usually earn a few coins per card. It might also depend on whether the food and beverage vendor is also prowling the aisle at the same time – it can get quite crowded.
Capitalists call this competition. The free market.
The Pen Salesman
The best sales pitch I ever encountered during my many bus journeys was the pen salesman in Guatemala. He gave the most impressive spiel about pens that I have ever heard. He awarded his pens a value more precious than gold and more vital than water.
What did he say?
I can’t repeat his pitch here. It would be a breach of copyright. At least, I hope he has copyright on his pitch. He should.
Did I need a pen?
Did I already have a pen?
Did I want a pen?
Did I buy a pen?
Advertising gurus will tell you that the best marketing convinces people that they need something that they don’t actually need. I didn’t need a pen, but I bought a handful because the salesman convinced me that I needed a pen.
A trip down Mina El Eden combines culture with a great night out. The retired mine in the city of Zacatecas is now a tourist attraction which runs educational tours and hosts one of the world’s most unique nightclubs.
Revellers arrive at El Malacate Discotheque via a small train which runs through the 600-metre La Esperanza Cavern inside the mine. La Esperanza translates as Hope in English and many who venture into these parts hope to find their own precious jewel. You might not meet the love of your life, but you’ll have a great story to tell.
History tells us that the original inhabitants of the region, the Zacateco people, knew of the mineral wealth beneath their feet but decided to keep it in the ground. The extraction of silver in the region of Zacatecas, in north central Mexico, began in the mid 16th century and transformed the city into one of the wealthiest and most important cities in the Spanish colonies.
El Eden produced millions of tonnes of silver ore but was closed in 1960 after flooding on various levels, and because the blasting from the mining operations were too dangerous for the inhabitants of the expanding city which was being built on top.
The current tourist attraction opened in 1975 and is one of the region’s most popular sites. It encompasses hanging rope bridges, stairs and models of workers.
A great amount of the silver mined in Zacatecas made its way to the Spanish royal family. Like all royal families, the Spanish crown grew wealthy and powerful off the work of others, especially indigenous people.
Special lighting areas highlight the methods used to extract the silver and the mine also hosts a demonstration of mining and a museum with a display of rocks and minerals.
Guests can hear stories of the adventures and misadventures of all of those who descended the seven levels of the mine, and a visit to this site provides tourists with the opportunity to wear a hard hat and a very fetching hair net.
The city itself is a World Heritage Site and rewards visitors with preserved colonial architecture and Baroque structures. Grabbing a seat on the balcony of a cafe or restaurant is a great way to admire the architecture and to watch the people go about their business.
The famous Mexican independence fighter, Pancho Villa, also marked his imprint upon the city. He captured the town in the Battle of Zacatecas during the Mexican Revolution in the 19th century.
Silver played a huge role in the development of Zacatecas and the state which bears the same name. The world’s largest silver mine, Penasquito, is in the state of Zacatecas and a Mexican slang word for money is ‘plata’, or silver.
Your journey does not end, however, once you finish exploring the underground mine. If you choose, you can continue on the funicular railway. This cable car will carry you high above the streets of Zacatecas from El Grillo Mountain to La Bufa, which is about 660 metres in total. The panoramic views are spectacular.
Alvin and Calvin Harrison and Carl Ernest and Carlos ErnestoMorgan have a lot in common. Both sets of twins are identical and both attended college in the United States. Both favour sprints and all four men represented their country in Athletics.
So, who would win a head to head competition between the families?
Firstly, we would have to decide on an event. We would have to choose neutral sporting territory.
While both sets of twins excelled in sprinting, Alvin and Calvin specialised in the 400m while Carl and Carlos enjoyed success over 100 and 200 metres, as well as long jump and triple jump.
Should we throw in a jumping contest? The Harrison boys only competed on the track, but I bet they are handy jumpers.
Perhaps a race over 300 metres?
What about the age difference?
The Harrison brothers were born on January 20, 1974, and the Morgan siblings on August 25, 1986, so some concessions may have to be made for the gap in ages.
We must then choose a venue.
The Harrisons hail from Orlando, Florida USA, while the Morgans were born and raised in Georgetown on the Cayman Islands. The Harrison siblings attended North Salinas High School in California and Hartnell College (Calvin), while the Morgan boys left home for Lindsey Wilson College, then Middle Tennessee State University, both in the USA.
The Cayman Islands seems to be the best site for an Athletic showdown. Why, because the Cayman Islands are much more beautiful than Orlando.
Having chosen the event and the venue, we can now examine historical records to compile a form guide for the competition.
Alvin and Calvin became the first twins to win a gold medal together in the same relay team when they combined with Michael Johnson and Antonio Pettigrew in the 4 x 400m relay at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Alvin ran the first leg and Calvin the third, both of them wearing state of the art bodysuits.
Alvin won individual silver in the 400m behind Johnson in Sydney, and also won gold in the relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. During his first relay gold medal victory, Alvin ran a strong second leg to ensure victory for a depleted US team.
Unfortunately, the brothers’ history making feat was annulled in 2008 when Pettigrew confessed to using performance enhancing drugs, and the quartet lost their medals. Calvin himself failed a drug test at the 2003 US Championship and was suspended from Athletics for two years.
Alvin also embroiled himself in drug-related controversy. He served a four year suspension due to circumstantial evidence of using a banned substance. He attempted a comeback in 2008, this time competing for the Dominican Republic, the birth country of his wife.
Under the new flag, he ran the 400m heats at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics and placed fourth with his new countrymen in the 4 x 400m relay at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Carl and Carlos combined in the 4 x 100m relay at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games where the Cayman Islands team was disqualified. In long jump qualifying heats, Carl jumped 7.46, and Carlos…7.47. They entered the same event in Glasgow four years later. Carl finished 10th in the long jump in the Pan American Games 2011.
Head to Head
Another method for measuring comparative excellence is to compare personal bests.
Since Alvin hung up his spikes, he has led high performance programs across various sports in the Dominican Republic and the United States.
Calvin, meanwhile, ended up homeless in 2009. He lost his life savings fighting his athletic suspension and insisting the substance he took was not on the banned substance list. He had secured work as a personal trainer after retiring from competition, but lost this work and struggled to support his wife and four kids. While his family sought shelter in a refuge, Calvin wandered the streets at night.
Alvin and Calvin co-authored a book called Go to Your Destiny, recounting their experience with homelessness before their Olympic victories.
Carl and Carlos both studied Health, Fitness and Wellness and continue to work in this field.
The biggest question which remains unanswered is, does Carlos Ernesto speak Spanish?