THE FASHION NAZI

PEOPLE with too much time on their hands irritate me. Tourists, window shoppers and tyre kickers have the annoying knack of getting under the feet of the busy people around them, some of whom are unfairly judged as being prickly.

But when I’m on holiday and in a new city, the rules change. Sue me.

Waiting for a family member at a nearby hipster barber shop, I impatiently skulked outside a funky menswear store in what I assessed to be the heart of Auckland’s fashion district.

When the light rain which had been drizzling for much of the day began to fall more heavily, I entered the oddly named Strangely Normal store for a look. The store’s facade and colourful window display could easily have been the New Zealand bricks and mortar version of the J Peterman (of “Seinfeld” fame) fashion catalogue.

Strangely Normal

It was a cross between the result of someone getting over excited at a Peter Allen garage sale and the type of menswear store from my childhood where it was mandatory to display plastic male mannequin torsos encased in the iconic jockey brand of mens underwear. Thankfully I was not in the market for underwear that wet Wednesday in Auckland. My “boys” didn’t need “a house”.

Once inside this Aladin’s cave of haute couture (tho it may have just been funky fashion bazaar) my attention was immediately drawn to a large wall of hats. The impressive and comprehensive range of lids included straw, felt, woollen, high, low, square and peaked – suprisingly though, not a single Urban Sombrero in sight. Suprising because it was the type of men’s fashion store in which you’d half expect to spot the odd puffy shirt, and possibly the fabled Manssierre or Bro on proud display. Nor were there any velour tracksuits or belt-less trench coats for that matter. As I stood drinking in this colourful catalogue I spotted in my periphery a man of similar age to myself but vastly more flamboyantly attired. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I was ready with the universally accepted response, “No thanks, just looking” to the anticipated, “Can I help you sir?”.

Instead, he began a long, slow, judgemental scan down my person beginning at the faded black woollen beanie, featuring the East Berlin traffic light walk symbol Amplemann. He continued through my burnt-orange Kathmandu windbreak-with rain-hood and six generous pockets, my battleship-grey but extremely functional backpacked mid section, down my beige Vinnies sourced Country Road chinos. He finished with a scowl at the Vans Sports (black suede and again picked up at an Op shop) on my feet. I was speechless. I had no speech.

At this point he rolled his eyes superciliously and spat out something which may have been “bloody tourists” but was more likely “how could you possibly think we would stock anything the likes of you could afford or appreciate?”.

No service for you. He was a fashion nazi. A dictator of dapperness.

He then dramatically returned his focus to the chunky mahogany counter and the keyboard on which he was furiously tapping, one finger at a time, when I unwittingly entered his hallowed and tasteful turf, savagely assaulting his sartorial sensitivities.

It was a form of discrimination to which I had not been subjected before. I’ve weathered society’s cruel intolerance to short, Tasmanian, collapsed Catholic, recovered bed wetters, but to be judged on my fashion sense, in a menswear shop, was beyond the pale.

I “sarcastically” apologised and left the store. I could have gone harder but- given I was on holiday- my comeback locker was bereft of zingers apart from “the jerk store rang”.

I could have also pulled a “Vivian” from “Pretty Woman” and slipped around the corner, purchased an expensive hat and popped my head back into Mr Snooty’s den to show him he’d made “a big mistake”. 

On reflection, at the very least I should have flounced out the door with a dramatic “well, I never” swirling in my wake, but the truth is I don’t flounce. No flounce.

Clearly this fashion nazi is years behind the edgy, “almost homeless, semi-retired over 60s Op shop loiterer with precious few fucks left to give” wave. I’ll wager he will one day kick his own arse when he twigs his dismissive and uppity behaviour cost him a ground floor fashion advantage offered by an authentic and visionary vintage trendsetter. Big mistake. 

Later that day, my faith in the humans of Auckland was fully restored. Leaving a bar, heavy rain still falling, a man entering handed me the cheap black umbrella he was collapsing and shaking with a friendly: “You’ll need this”. The only caveat was: “If you’re still standing here when I finish my pint I’ll have it back”.

He may well have been taking pity on a homeless person loitering at the front of a bar for loose change, but I’d much rather believe he was a kind soul looking out for a fellow traveller.

And the day took a major upturn later with a high-grade celebrity spot. The Australian actress Rachel Griffiths was out doing a spot of shopping. I have no doubt if the stylish star of the Aussie classic “Muriel’s Wedding” and director of current hit “Rides Like a Girl” popped into crusty old mate’s gentleman’s emporium, he’d be gushing like the geysers at Rotorua for a month.

ALAN JONES LISTENER CALLS TIME ON OUR CRIPPLING DROUGHT

By Mike Welsh

Talking about the weather, as we all mostly seem to do, the drought has finally broken and it was an elderly (is there any other?) Alan Jones listener who predicted it. Not only did she comprehensively and succinctly “call it” she did so with nothing more than the aid of a simple and totally unscientific method. Ants. 

CLIMATE RALLY PARLIAMENT HOUSE FEB 4

Many people, myself included myself, believed Irish smart arse Oscar Wilde had uttered the durable and useful phrase “everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it”. While Wilde is responsible for the cynical and snobbish “conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”, American wise guy Mark Twain gets credit for a clever take on the topic about which everyone talks but does nothing.

It turns out Twain often “banged on” about the weather, including an unkind comment about spending a “cold winter San Francisco in the summer”. But even from when the dawning of the age of Aquarius in that cold “Summer in the City” first “let the Sunshine in”, motivating creative folk the world over to have “thunder in their hearts”, “walk on sunshine”, “chase” and “catch the wind”, stand, sing, cry, dance and even get naked in the rain which was sometimes “hard” and at least once, “purple”, no one has topped Twain’s astute observation of humanity’s apathy to all things meteorological. That is until Alan Jones’ listener, Thelma last week.

Not CSIRO boffins nor the raft (a pet Alan phrase) of climate experts and scientists who’ve conscientiously mulled over data the divisive debate has coughed up for decades had come within a bull’s roar of predicting the end of our crippling drought.

But there it was, live on my AM radio ( I know, it’s a dirty and unsociable habit like nose picking) at 6.52 on Tuesday morning. Alan shared the profound thoughts of listener Thelma who wrote.. “all this climate change guff” was just that. And if only someone had “bothered to ask me I’d have been able to tell them”,Thel offered and explained…..”ants have returned to my pantry and that means the drought is broken”. And right on cue it began to piss down biblical all the way down from Queensland to southern NSW and into Victoria and is still coming down five days later.

Yet just a few hours after Thel’s BOM beating bombshell, hoards of angry people began descending on the lawns of our Federal Parliament armed with placards saying nasty and hurtful things about good ole ScoMo who was leading his embattled LNP troops back into battle for a new year just a few hundred metres up the hill. If only the protesters had tuned into Alan Jones show that day they’d be much wiser and less confused and conflicted about the climate. And less ignorant when talking about the weather. 

ScoMo in happier times

And a tip for new Q & A man Hamish McDonald. If you desire the dizzyingly high rating numbers and frenzied Tuesday water cooler post mortems the other ‘Jones Boy (with the occasional assistance of the real ‘Jones boy) incited, put Thel up against palaeontologist and environmentalist Prof Tim Flannery and allow her to unleash her undoubtedly extensive list of tried and true methods of predicting weather patterns. Thel may even also have a few other gems up her gnarly old hand knitted beige cardigan sleeves. Such as a nifty but non surgical method of ridding oneself of warts ***. Champagne television guaranteed.

Prof Tim Flannery

I’ve attempted to remain faithful to my mother’s considered rebuke of my bagging of humans quoting Max Ehrmann of Desiderata fame …“and listen to others. Even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story”. But there is a limit.

Back in the day (before climate change) I once made the rookie mistake of sitting too close to a barfly in a city hotel one quiet afternoon. Though mercifully a man of few words the barfly was generous enough to share with me his breathtaking and dangerously sweeping conspiracy theory that “the pill has made women savage” .

A Q & A topic for another day. Bettina Arndt?

*** Take a dead cat to a cemetery at midnight and just like magic your warts are dust.

IS THE C WORD NOW COOL?

By mike welsh

At Friday’s hastily organised climate rally in Canberra’s traditional meeting place, Garema Place ,many of the protester’s signs had a clear message for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Several placards clearly featured the word FUCK but a couple went hard (depending on your point of view) featuring the contentious C word to express their obvious low opinion of the PM.

In 2015 three protesters at an Anti Homophobia rally in Sydney were charged by police for yelling “fuck off” and “fuck Fred Nile” aimed at Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile. But later a judge dismissed the charges deeming the “F” word was as no longer offensive. But is the “C” still contentious?

From under my rock I was (until recently) firm in the belief that use of the C word (widely used as an insult to express utter contempt for someone) was still taboo and restricted for a very small section of society.

A female millennial suggests the casual use of the word is “more about breaking down the double standard that it’s ok for men to use the word but not “lady like” for a woman to use it’.

If I walked through the heart of any Australian city holding aloft a sign suggesting the PM of the day-or anyone else for that matter- was a See You Next Tues would/should I be arrested?

Up to twenty police officers kept an eye on the large crowd

The most common argument for the casual use of the “c” word is that it’s about ownership.

One protester had a double sided banger message for ScoMo but as far as I’m aware she was not arrested.

One angry protester had a double sided insult for ScoMo

MURDOCH COPS A GLOBAL CLIMATE CANING

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES JAN 8

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate 

Damien Cave

By Damien Cave Jan 8 2020 New York Times

WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.” 

The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.

And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds. His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined. 

And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.

“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University. “It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”

Firefighters waiting at a police checkpoint in Cambewarra, New South Wales, on Saturday.
Firefighters waiting at a police checkpoint in Cambewarra, New South Wales, on Saturday.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

News Corp denied playing such a role. “Our coverage has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company said in an email. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”

Yet, for many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous. They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lackluster response to the fires. They argue that the company and the coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison are responsible — together, as a team — for the failure to protect a country that scientists say is more vulnerable to climate change than any other developed nation. 

Editors and columnists for News Corp were among the loudest defenders of Mr. Morrison after he faced blowback for vacationing in Hawaii as the worst of the fire season kicked off in December. 

In late December, the Oz, as the News Corp-owned paper is known here, heavily promoted an interview with the government’s energy minister, Angus Taylor, warning that “top-down” pressure from the United Nations to address climate change would fail — followed by an opinion piece from Mr. Taylor on New Year’s Eve.

Other News Corp outlets followed a similar playbook. Melbourne’s Herald Sun, for example, pushed news of the bushfires to Page 4 on New Year’s Eve, even as they threatened to devastate towns nearby and push thick smoke into the city.

Days later, residents in a town nearly flattened by the fires heckled and snubbed Mr. Morrison during a visit to assess the damage. A new hire for Mr. Murdoch’s Sky News channel, Chris Smith, branded them “ferals” — slang for unkempt country hobos. 

A man in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, sprayed water on New Year’s Eve as fire consumed the house next door.
A man in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, sprayed water on New Year’s Eve as fire consumed the house next door.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

As is often the case at Murdoch outlets around the world, there have been exceptions to the company line — an article about the Australian golfer Greg Norman’s declaration that “there is climate change taking place”; an interview with an international expert who explained why this year’s fires are unique. 

But a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen. 

The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so. 

Climate scientists do acknowledge that there is room for improvement when it comes to burning the branches and dead trees on the ground that can fuel fires. But they also say that no amount of preventive burning will offset the impact of rising temperatures that accelerate evaporation, dry out land and make already-arid Australia a tinderbox. 

Even fire officials report that most of the off-season burns they want to do are hindered not by land-use laws but by weather — including the lengthier fire season and more extreme precipitation in winter that scientists attribute to climate change. 

Still, the Murdoch outlets continue to resist. “On a dry continent prone to deadly bushfires for centuries, fuel reduction through controlled burning is vital,” said an editorial published Thursday in The Australian. It went on to add: “Changes to climate change policy, however, would have no immediate impact on bushfires” — a stance that fits hand in glove with government officials’ frequent dismissals of the “bogey man of climate change.”

A DC-10 dropping water on a fire front in Tapitallee, New South Wales, on Saturday.
A DC-10 dropping water on a fire front in Tapitallee, New South Wales, on Saturday.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

It’s that echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned. 

“Leaders should be held to account and they should be held to account by the media,” said Penny D. Sackett, a physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia.

Timothy Graham, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology who conducted the study of Twitter accounts exaggerating the role of arson in Australia’s fires, said media companies also needed to be cognizant of the disinformation ecosystem and stop contributing to the problem. That includes mainstream outlets, like ABC News, sharing inaccurate maps that exaggerate the reach of the fires. 

But in the case of the arson issue, he said, scores of bots and trolls — many of which previously posted support for President Trump — have joined conservative media like the Murdoch outlets in promoting the idea that Australia’s fires are not a “climate emergency” but an “arson emergency.”

“Maybe 3 to 5 percent of fires could be attributed to arson, that’s what scientists tell us — nevertheless, media outlets, especially those that tend to be partisan, jump on that,” Dr. Graham said. 

Of course, it is often hard to know just how much influence any media company has. Gerard Henderson, a columnist for The Australian, said he didn’t think there was much need to address climate change because it was already a focal point across the rest of the media.

“It’s hard to distract from climate change because it’s spoken about constantly,” he said.

But there are signs that the Murdoch message is making headway — at least in terms of what people make a priority. Many firefighters working the smoky hills south of Sydney hesitated to state their views on climate change this week (some said senior leaders had told them to avoid the issue). But they were quick to argue for more backburning. 

Similarly, in Bairnsdale, Tina Moon, whose farm was devastated by the fires, said she was mostly furious about the government’s failure to clear the land around her property.

“I don’t think it’s climate change,” she said.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.