Argenta and Gold.

It’s time to act, decided Bethany, as she reflected on the preponderance of silver which cast a gloomy pall over her bursting trophy cabinet.

She summoned the detective.

“It’s impossible,” declared detective inspector Gordon G. Wilson, before offering an explanation.

“The problem is Sapphire’s collar. It has heat, fingerprint, voice and retina activation. What’s more, the replacement collar would have to avoid detection from Sapphire’s first groomer, psychologist, stylist, brand manager, second groomer, nutritionist, physical trainer, photographer, massage therapist and third groomer before the dogs even enter the arena.”

Bethany was unmoved.

“You fail to understand detective, that this is my last chance to beat Lady Hamilton. There are strong rumours of ill health at Hamilton Manor.”

“It simply can’t be done,” Wilson reiterated.

The hand that had been lovingly stroking Argenta now reached for a photograph. Bethany slid the single polaroid across the lavish suite’s ornately finished table.

“I’m sure you’ll find a way detective,” she stated, fixing him with a cold unflinching stare.

Wilson sunk in the chair. The colour could be seen draining from his face even in the faint light of the flickering fire. He excused himself and set to work. He would need 12 months and all of his police smarts to accomplish this task.

Bethany was bursting with nerves and excitement. She clasped her clammy hands as she positioned herself behind the judges in the hotel’s elaborate auditorium. Her heart pounded as the parade of pampered Bichon Frises elicited gasps of adoration from the audience.

“Sapphire!” beamed the announcer, and the audience burst into rapturous applause. Bethany’s stomach churned with familiar disgust until she remembered her clever ruse. Her beloved pet was wowing the audience and the judges.

“Argenta!” strutted in to the arena and Bethany’s conflicting emotions resurfaced. Her breath shortened and her mouth dried.

‘Argenta’ paraded brilliantly and camera flashes lit up the auditorium.

Then something happened. Something almost imperceptible. Sapphire lacked her customary rhythm, her famous je ne sais quoi.

Had the judges felt it?

Had Bethany felt it, or was she simply intoxicated with the overwhelming emotions of this daring subterfuge?

The wait for the judge’s decision was torturous.

“The winner of the gold medal, category Bichon Frise, 2020, is…”

Bethany couldn’t breathe.

“Sapphire!”

Wilson now found himself in the same chair, in front of the same fire. The detective’s eyes settled on the photograph sitting next to another silver medal on the ornate oak table.

The detective pleaded his case.

“The switch was made. The task was completed, as per your orders.”

“Then where is my gold medal?” demanded Bethany, who had banished Argenta to the pound.

“It confounded us too,” testified Wilson, “until we swapped the collars back after the competition and discovered that the rumours of ill health were well founded,” outlined Wilson.

“But how? Lady Hamilton was alive and well and gloating pompously on the dais yet again,” protested Bethany.

“The Lady was always healthy,” Wilson paused,

“but Sapphire wasn’t.”

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Australians care more about their dogs than their prime minister.

Sorry Scotty, but it seems Australians care more about their dogs than they do about you.

Feedback on recent articles centred on Scott Morrison and dog owners demonstrates a much greater passion for people’s four legged friends than for their prime minister.

The articles in question are numerous satirical texts published in a monthly magazine called The Beast, which is distributed in Bondi and the eastern beaches of Sydney.

The first article concerning the prime minister was titled:

“Scott Morrison Imprisoned for UnAustralian Activities”

It suggested that the current elected leader of the democratic nation of Australia should spend the rest of his life in bars – effective immediately. It listed many real shortcomings of the prime minister and his colleagues, and focussed on one particular action which is UnAustralian (you’ll have to read the article to find out).

Other articles were titled:

“The Shire Sends ScoMo Back to Where He Came From”

“Waverley’s Nightwatchman Scores a Century”

The articles provoked no response. No letters were sent directly to the author. No letters to the editor were published in the following issues, despite the fact that Morrison grew up in the eastern suburbs, went to school in the area and still has family and friends in the area. The region is also a safe seat for the Liberal Party, Morrison’s party.

Not one reader leapt to his defence.

Why?

The nickname “Scotty” may explain their reluctance. Educated and informed Australians call Morrison ‘Scotty from Marketing’ because they know he is nothing more than a Liberal National Party re-branding exercise. The previous leader, Malcolm Turnbull was seen as aloof and unapproachable. Thus, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Liberal powerbrokers removed Turnbull and installed Morrison, and sent him forth to drink beer, watch football and spout meaningless slogans.

‘Liar from the Shire’ is another popular nickname. The Shire is the region of southern Sydney which Morrison represents, and Morrison is famous for lying about many of his own policy failures. It is also commonly known that Morrison only won preselection for the safe Liberal seat after moving out of the eastern suburbs and running a dirty tricks campaign against the other Liberal candidate.

Australians also know that Morrison is merely a puppet of Rupert Murdoch and the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps readers of The Beast did not rush to defend the prime minister because they are starting to see through the spin.

Maybe the satirical articles have no impact.

Perhaps, but the reponse to the dog articles would suggest otherwise.

Recent articles about dog owners in the eastern suburbs have carried the following titles:

“Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay”

“Free Literacy Classes for Eastern Suburbs Dog Parents”

“Dog Owners Kicked off Clovelly Dog Park”

All of these articles criticise eastern suburbs dog owners, primarily because they walk their dogs in off-leash areas and ignore the local rules.

Every single article about dogs and dog owners provokes a flood of responses. Readers launch into an attack on the author and the content of the articles. Feedback is impassioned, emotional, personal and usually filled with profanity.

Mistake-ridden responses include phrases such as

“Fuck you and your shit article…”

“Up you’res kieran im gonna take 10 Dogs n do drugzzzz”

Other responses are not suitable for public viewing.

Dog owners react strongly to every single article written about the topic of dogs and the actions of their owners, but ignore articles about the person who runs their country, who was born and bred in the eastern suburbs.

Australians clearly care more about their dogs than their prime minister.

Images: Gabriel Crismariu, Craig Greenhill

Read what you like.

Potentially dire consequences await those who ‘like’ social media posts before or without reading the text. The true message of the post is often not evident in the headline and can be contradictory to the reader’s world view or online image. Liking a post without reviewing its contents could even damage someone’s online reputation.

Be particularly wary of satire. This very website contains an entire category full of satirical articles. Satire uses humour to criticise or ridicule particular situations, organisations or people, and the meaning of the text is very rarely evident in the headline.

Beware of hashtags.

Just because a post is accompanied with hashtags such as pets, dogs, dogowners, furryfriends or fourleggedfriends doesn’t mean that the article is supportive of dog owners or pet ownership. In fact, numerous articles on this website, especially in the Satire category, are highly critical of dog owners and their flagrant disregard for dog walking laws. The articles portray the dog owners as selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate. Hardly complimentary. Despite this fact, many pet supply companies ‘liked’ the posts.

The pet companies were responding to the hashtags. They have most likely established their social media marketing strategy to identify and respond to any hashtag relating to dogs, pets and dog owners. The companies believe this increases exposure for their brand.

…but what kind of exposure?

If a pet supply company is seen to be endorsing a text which implies that dog owners are selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate, this could backfire severely on the company. The company is essentially insulting its customers and insulting the very people which sustain the business and all of its employees.

Has a business ever prospered by insulting its customers?

Think about what you ‘like’.

Liking an image of a person you admire can also lead to misinterpretation or support of an opinion contradictory to your own.

The Frownlow Medal is a satirical award given to the Australia-based professional footballer who commits the worst off-field scandal in any given year. The award exists to criticise the footballers and society’s adoration of them, and uses irony to do so.

An Instagram account holds images of all of the footballers who have so far been nominated for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. Many people ‘like’ the posts containing images of their sporting heroes, without knowing that the player is being criticised for their off-field behaviour. The fans are thus supporting or endorsing a satirical award which is heavily criticising their heroes.

Of course, some fans agree with the award’s premise, and can separate the player’s sporting brilliance from their off-field flaws, but many fans ‘like’ unknowingly.

Another article related to football demonstrates this point. The article relates to the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and attacks his support for the Cronulla Rugby League club and exposes it as a shallow publicity stunt. The article is heavily critical of Morrison, and implies that supporters of the prime minister, and the Cronulla team, have been fooled into supporting and voting for their local representative. Nevertheless, fans of the club ‘liked’ the article when it was posted on this website.

They are essentially liking a post which calls them gullible, uneducated, easily fooled and impressionable.

A food catering service also fell victim to their automated hashtag marketing system. I wrote a travel article about a particularly unsavoury pizza I ate at a local restaurant in China, where I saw customers being given blood pressure checks – after they had eaten. The food catering company had inadvertently associated themselves with poor quality and horrible tasting food – food so bad it could give someone a heart attack.

Be sure to read what you like.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Dog ownership linked to poor literacy.

Mounting scientific evidence has established a direct link between dog ownership and poor literacy among a large proportion of the Australian population.

In a worrying trend for the nation, experts have traced an increase in dog ownership and a decline in literacy standards among the populace, and they fear the problem will only get worse.

The inability to read even the most basic texts is being blamed for the behaviour of many Aussie dog owners. Countless dogs are taken to off limit areas such as beaches, rock pools, parks, children’s playgrounds, barbecue areas and sports grounds throughout the country. The only explanation for such flagrant disobedience is the inability of dog owners to read the multitude of signs informing people of the rules.

Standards of writing have also declined, as the following examples illustrate. In response to an article about dog owners breaking the rules at Sydney’s Mackenzies Bay *, Michael wrote,

“Up you’res kieran im gonna take 10 dogs n do drugzzzz”

This was sent directly to this very website. It is not a text message. Let’s unpack the utterance.

  • It starts with a capital letter, well done Michael.
  • ‘you’res’ is not a word. Michael was trying to say ‘up yours’ which is a crude insult in colloquial English. This dog owner can’t even swear properly.
  • kieran is a proper noun, so the k should be capital.
  • ‘im’ should be written with a capital I and an apostrophe.
  • ‘n’ should be ‘and’ – again, this is not a text message.
  • ‘drugzzzz’ should be spelt ‘drugs’. Michael must have already taken some before he wrote this message.

The second example of the death of the written word in Australia comes from Adam Smith, in response to the same article.

“Hi Kieran. Fuck you and your shit article in the beast. I will make sure and take my Dog to Mackenzies Bay more frequently from now on…”

Adam can swear properly, which is refreshing.

  • the beast is the name of the magazine (which is well worth reading) so it should be written The Beast.
  • “I will make sure and…” should be written ‘I will make sure to…’ so the reader knows exactly what Adam is making sure to do.
  • Dog does not need a capital d, unless Adam is a Christian and thinks his dog is God.

Authorities and educational experts have tracked declining literacy in the country for many years. The national literacy and numeracy test, called NAPLAN, has demonstrated a steady decline among students as they progress from primary school to high school.

University lecturers and tutors complain of undergraduate students who are unable to construct basic sentences or understand basic course material – and they are the best and brightest of the country’s youth. Conversely, Australia continues to fall behind many other countries in international literacy and numeracy standards according to results of standardised exams.

In a country with an undeniable literacy and numeracy crisis, more than one in every three households owns at least one dog, or about 40% of the population.

The irrefutable link between dog ownership and poor literacy is a problem that looks set to plague Australia for many years to come.

*The article referred to is “Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay” which appears under the category Satire on this website, and at http://www.thebeast.com.au

Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzie’s Bay.

Drug addicts will be able to legally consume any form of illicit drug at Mackenzie’s Bay after Waverley Council declared the beach an open-air safe injecting space.

Hard core junkies, professional footballers and recreational users will be free to inject, sniff, snort, smoke or imbibe any illicit substance they chose with complete impunity, and police and Rangers will take no action against any person within the signposted designated area of Mackenzie’s Bay and Gaerloch Reserve.

Council alluded to dog owners in explaining the rationale behind the shock decision.

“Dog owners claim that they should be allowed to take their dogs to Mackenzie’s Bay because they have been breaking the rules for years anyway,” stated a spokesperson for Waverley Council.

“Drug users have also been illegally consuming drugs for years, so they should be allowed to use the bay as well. We really owe a great deal of gratitude to dog owners for opening our eyes to the possibility of creating a safe and non-judgemental space for people to enjoy their drug taking,” continued the spokesperson.

Council recounted how owners have given their dogs free rein over the space and enjoyed the lack of regulation that is applied to other beaches within the municipality, and that local residents will be elated to learn that drug users will be extended the same privilege.

“We are also confident that tourists flocking to the coastal walk will be delighted to see a beach full of drug addicts enjoying the lovely bay. It makes a great backdrop for a selfie.”

Council has subsequently been forced to reverse the current alcohol ban on all of its beaches, because alcohol is also a drug. As a result, residents are advised to leave footwear on at all times to protect their feet from shards of glass, and to take gloves and rubbish bags to pick up other people’s waste after alcohol-fuelled celebrations.

Bemused residents oppose the move, and argue that the presence of drug users will detract from the experience of the public who want to use the beach. They also pointed out that used needles, bongs and other drug paraphernalia will be left on the beach.

Council reminded residents that dog droppings and plastic bags have been left on the beach for years, but this hasn’t forced Rangers to enforce the rules which prohibit dogs from the beach.

“Furthermore, as one owner told us, anything left behind at the beach will eventually be washed into the ocean by the tides. Dog faeces is already harming marine life and fish, as well as posing a health risk to swimmers at Mackenzie’s and Tamarama, so a few needles and traces of meth won’t make too much difference.”

Image: http://www.frugalfrolicker.com

This article was first published in The Beast magazine, November 2020.

“Fuck you and your shit article”

Someone thoroughly enjoyed an article I wrote recently. So much so that my adoring fan took the time to write a grammatically flawed comment extolling the virtues of the article.

A man called Adam Smith was kind enough to provide some highly constructive analysis and feedback to an article I wrote for a monthly magazine in Sydney, Australia, called The Beast.

The article was a satirical piece about a proposal to let local dog owners take their pets to a beach near Bondi called Mackenzies Bay. Dogs are currently prohibited from the beach according to the laws of Waverley Council, but dogs can be seen on the small beach every day of the year.

Adam’s comment is as follows:

“Hi Kieran. Fuck you, and your shit article in the beast. I will make sure and take my Dog to Mackenzies Bay more frequently from now on”

Before we go any further, let’s just fix up the grammar in this response. It should read:

Hi Kieran. Fuck you and your shit article in The Beast. I will make sure to take my dog to Mackenzies Bay more frequently from now on.

By the way Adam, you should be grateful. As a professional proofreader and editor, I normally charge people to fix their linguistic shortcomings. You get this one for free.

Who is Adam Smith?

This Adam Smith is certainly not The Father of Economics or The Father of Capitalism.

He has however publicly admitted to breaking the rues, for which there is theoretically a fine issued by Waverley Council. He also says he is going to break the rules more often by taking his dog to a prohibited area.

Should I inform Waverley Council?

Would he be fined?

Surely the Council could search through their database for Adam Smith and track down the impassioned letter writer. More than one Adam Smith is likely to reside in the region, but we know this one owns a dog, and lives near the beach in question. His pet dog should also be registered, as per the law in Australia. He shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Maybe Adam didn’t think of this when he pressed send on his fan mail.

If you’d like to read the source of this commotion, go to http://www.thebeast.com.au and search for “Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay” Enjoy the rest of the mag while you’re there.

Thanks for the feedback Adam.

Image: Christian Buehner

Who’s Protecting Our National Parks?

20200426_082017

Australia’s National Parks are under threat, and the culprits are not those you might imagine.

I enjoyed a morning walk on the Grand Canyon trail near Blackheath, NSW, recently and finished the hike at Evans Lookout. As I gazed upon the spectacular view and weaved my way between tourists taking photos, I noticed something very out of place. A woman was walking her pet dog at the lookout point.

Evans Lookout lies within the boundary of the Blue Mountains National Park and is therefore strictly off limits to pet dogs. Lookout points, picnic areas, trails and any other spaces within National Parks are all off limits to pet dogs, because pet dogs damage the ecology and threaten the wildlife that is protected within these parks. Despite this, the woman was happily walking the dog, on a lead, as she admired the view from the lookout.

20200720_085348

I then looked for a ranger or a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)  employee, someone who would remind the woman to take her dog out of the park. I didn’t see one. Despite being a busy, sunny Sunday just weeks after Sydney HAD lifted its coronavirus restrictions, there was not a single park ranger patrolling the lookout or the trails.

I wanted to know why.

I therefore emailed NPWS to ask how a woman could freely walk her dog inside park boundaries.

20200720_083706

I was informed, via an official response from the NPWS service, that:

“We are aware that some people use various tracks in the National park to walk their animals.”

On the one hand, it was encouraging to learn that the regulating authority knows what is happening within its parks, but it was also distressing to realise that they were not able to prevent it from happening. Then I was told why:

“We do not have enough resources to patrol and regulate all these areas.”

“If you report it at the time, it would likely take our Area Ranger at least 30 minutes but likely 2 – 3 hours to investigate, depending on where he needs to travel from.”

In government speak, ‘resources’ means money. Thus, there is not enough money to protect the plants and animals in our National Parks, even though National Parks were established to protect plants and animals.

I was then advised to record a rego number, car make and model and the time and date of the incident and make a formal statement which could then be followed up by the relevant authorities.

Should I?

The email from NPWS advised me that:

“Community pressure directly at the time can be an effective deterrent. You can advise them that the scent of a dog drives native animals away…”

Should I go to the trouble of reporting the person? Would anything actually happen? Would the person actually be punished? If I chose to report the person and make a statement, would I need to provide photographic or irrefutable evidence that the person took a pet dog into a National Park? If I took a photo of a person without their permission then passed on that photo to the authorities would I be charged with illegally disseminating an image? If that were the case, I would be punished far more severely than the person who was actually in the wrong.

Should I?

Would it make any difference? Dog owners throughout Australia flaunt rules on a daily basis to ensure that their dogs are happy and content. They take their dogs into off limit areas and are never punished.

Should I?

Should I ruin my Sunday bush walk, through a beautiful patch of bushland to engage in an argument with a dog owner. The owner has no compulsion to listen to me. I have no authority, I’m not a ranger, I’m just another visitor. Plus, do I want to invite this stress into my morning hike? Anyone who takes their pet dog into a National Park is selfish, arrogant, ignorant or illiterate, or all of the above. Do I want to engage in a futile conversation with someone like this when I am undertaking an activity for fun and relaxation?

Why does it matter if a person takes a dog into a National Park?

Pet dogs harm native wildlife.

“Some ground birds and mammals will leave their young (children) to die at just the smell of the dog. Lots of people just do not know.”

A more detailed explanation is provided on the parks website and even on tourism and council websites. It’s true that some people don’t know why they can’t take their pet dogs into National Parks. It’s clear that many just don’t care. For that reason, relying on the good sense of dog owners will not protect native wildlife. National Parks need extra resources, as is evidenced by the response to my email.

When will National Parks be adequately funded?

20200720_090238

 

Cat-eating dogs in a forest in the clouds.

punta mona, puerto viejo 368

The low growl seeped through the mist. A shriek of terror emanated from a living being somewhere in the vicinity, but also shrouded in mist.

Then a chase.

The growl hastened and sharpened.

A bark.

A violent, frenzied bark and a shriek of pure terror as two sets of paws splashed through the mud and the undergrowth.

Then they emerged.

Two forms, surging with adrenaline; one in pursuit, one in danger.

A terrified cat broke through the mist of the cloud forest at Monteverde and continued its shrill cry as a feral dog came bounding through the clouds, eyes set on its target and its salivating mouth agape.

The animals ran and swerved and barked and shrieked through the forest, bounding over logs and slipping through fences, disappearing into the mist and emerging seconds later in this chase to the death.

Yes, to the death.

The dog won.

The prey succumbed to the predator. The dog pounced on the cat and proceeded to tear it apart.

All of this happened in close proximity to the cafe where we were enjoying lunch, where we were tearing into our own sustenance.

It was a horrifying sight. It certainly put us off our food.

It was also the only exciting moment of our visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. We saw virtually nothing for the remainder of the morning. Everything was shrouded in mist.

Who’d have thought a cloud forest would be blanketed in a thick layer of…clouds.

Perhaps we should have set the alarm clocks earlier. After all, the early bird catches the worm, just as the angry dog catches the cat.

Image: Rachelle Blake