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Gimme a B! Gimme an S!

being a parent of school aged children means i get to have conversations with people i don't especially care for but about whom i seem to have an undesired amount of information.

the conversations arise from school functions and those unsolicited approaches when waiting to collect kids from the classroom. the information sometimes comes from my kids. sometimes these parents just tell me stuff.

this bugs me because i am not fond of listening to nonsense. but courtesy, tolerance, and a keen regard to protect my kids from the vindictiveness of other families means i endure it with a rictus grin and an affable nod. those who are not currently parents might not know that getting on the wrong side of other parents will result in your kid being blacklisted from birthday parties and playdates. oh yes, there are consequences.

i am not referring to mindless prattle but to boasting, which naturally involves the other party telling me things about themselves i simply don't want to know. and so i am able to tell you that tommy's parent's have 6 investment properties, that sam's family will be spending 6 months abroad this year. and so on.

it used to be that talking about money and such was considered gauche. it was the stuff only of intimates, and then only contained as much information as was reasonable for the other person to know. no such boundaries today. few people will miss an opportunity to enhance their status by telling you exactly where they stand on the financial ladder. and this disclosure often enough will occur within minutes of first acquaintance.

there are several parts to this that disturb me. the first is the the breakdown of a sense of privacy. when people initiate this sort of disclosure they are not only surrendering their own privacy, but intruding on mine. it is as much an invasion of my private peace as being flashed at by a dirty old man at a bus stop.

the second is the loss of modesty. this used to be a virtue. in the 60s and 70s people would actually deny being wealthy.

the third is the amount of outright lying this leads to. i have reasonable powers of deduction and sufficient arithmetical skills to be able to work out that andrew's mum and dad cannot possibly have just paid off their $500,000 home after 10 years without being given money by someone. not unless carpenters have had some massive pay increases in the last decade. it is one thing to present yourself as successful. quite another to have grandpa pay for your home and for you to conveniently omit this information when accosting other folks regarding your possessions. there is a word for this sort of stuff that i can't post on this site.

it needs to be said that this is not an occasional occurrence. people are lying to me en masse. in the media, at the school gates, in supermarkets. i don't begrudge anyone financial success. in an ideal world there would be more of it.

but i am really close to the end of my patience with the vanity, greed and dishonesty of so many of my fellow citizens.

it is said that these social behaviours happen in cycles. i think we might be overdue for the time when modesty and quiet achievement is once again fashionable.

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Latest reply: Jan 7, 2008

unchaste charity

i had a dog of a time getting a dog recently.

cutting thru the tedious detail, we were unable to find one thru either of the two large animal welfare groups in our town.

historically, all of our family pets have come from these sorts of groups. i detest the whole vanity breed thing. give me a mongrel anyday. and if i can spare a dog from destruction in the process, well that's double happiness, to latch onto an occidental cliche.

this dearth of dogs makes sense when one considers that all stray animals are routinely desexed. as indeed are the fruits of most unintended unions of pedigreed animals. it doesn't take a degree in higher mathematics to realise that over several decades, the heinz variety mongrel simply doesn't exist anymore. so any dog today will either be a pure bred or a single generation cross breed.

further, since all dogs are now microchipped when vaccinated, the chances of a dog being dumped or genuinely lost are increasingly remote.

this is all good. except for the part about us not getting a dog.

until i read in the local paper that one of the charities i went to took in over 500 stray dogs in december. now, since i had been into the shelter twice that month and regularly checked their website for available canines and knew perfectly well that only 6 or so dogs were available at any one time this had me wondering. another check of their website gleaned the information that the charity took care of 18000 animals a year. they can't all be cats i thought, and indeed, checking back to the news story, i did not read incorrectly: 500 plus dogs.

puzzled by this discrepancy between input and output of beasties i discover on the website that the charity concerned derives a source of income from local councils by housing animals that have been caught on the streets. councils no longer maintain their own pounds.

so the 500 or so dogs are not strays as such at all. they are dogs with owners who are housed overnight, (the dogs, not the owners) or however long it takes to locate their owners. the owners presumably pay a fine to recover their animals thereby making this a nice proposition for both council and charity.

so far so good.

no.

the charity concerned has a balance sheet that must be weighed in the millions. they employ staff. some of who have elaborate titles that probably also attach to significant salaries.

so what we have is a million dollar enterprise that has subsumed governmental functions and turns over significant charitable dollars for the effective short term care of a few dozen genuinely homeless dogs per annum.

the deceit involved in the presentation of some non existing problem of widespread animal dumping, purely for the purposes of generating (un needed) donations really had me steaming. i wrote to them asking whether my understanding of the situation was correct or not. i haven't, a week later, received a reply. sometimes silence says more than words.

i have always considered myself a charitable person. i don't flinch at putting money into tin cans thrust my way. nor do i fumble thru my pockets looking for the smallest denomination coin. at least a few times a year i will say yes to the person calling me asking me to sell raffle tickets at work. mostly i forget to do this and buy the entire book myself. one charity is allowed to whack money out of my bank account every month.

but the animal charity, which doubtless once had a venerable mission, but which no longer even needs to exist, has me shaken.

how many charities are simply not needed in the modern world? for example, is it really the case that blind people are not properly cared for by the state that they need my money to train guide dogs?

there are web sites that track the percentage of donated money spent by charities on their stated mission. it is not enjoyable reading. hitherto i thought these sorts of problems, while endemic to international and religious charities were largely absent in the smaller scale local charities.

sadly, i no longer believe this.

Discuss this Journal entry [24]

Latest reply: Jan 6, 2008

unchaste charity

i had a dog of a time getting a dog recently.

cutting thru the tedious detail, we were unable to find one thru either of the two large animal welfare groups in our town.

historically, all of our family pets have come from these sorts of groups. i detest the whole vanity breed thing. give me a mongrel anyday. and if i can spare a dog from destruction in the process, well that's double happiness, to latch onto an occidental cliche.

this dearth of dogs makes sense when one considers that all stray animals are routinely desexed. as indeed are the fruits of most unintended unions of pedigreed animals. it doesn't take a degree in higher mathematics to realise that over several decades, the heinz variety mongrel simply doesn't exist anymore. so any dog today will either be a pure bred or a single generation cross breed.

further, since all dogs are now microchipped when vaccinated, the chances of a dog being dumped or genuinely lost are increasingly remote.

this is all good. except for the part about us not getting a dog.

until i read in the local paper that one of the charities i went to took in over 500 stray dogs in december. now, since i had been into the shelter twice that month and regularly checked their website for available canines and knew perfectly well that only 6 or so dogs were available at any one time this had me wondering. another check of their website gleaned the information that the charity took care of 18000 animals a year. they can't all be cats i thought, and indeed, checking back to the news story, i did not read incorrectly: 500 plus dogs.

puzzled by this discrepancy between input and output of beasties i discover on the website that the charity concerned derives a source of income from local councils by housing animals that have been caught on the streets. councils no longer maintain their own pounds.

so the 500 or so dogs are not strays as such at all. they are dogs with owners who are housed overnight, (the dogs, not the owners) or however long it takes to locate their owners. the owners presumably pay a fine to recover their animals thereby making this a nice proposition for both council and charity.

so far so good.

no.

the charity concerned has a balance sheet that must be weighed in the millions. they employ staff. some of who have elaborate titles that probably also attach to significant salaries.

so what we have is a million dollar enterprise that has subsumed governmental functions and turns over significant charitable dollars for the effective short term care of a few dozen genuinely homeless dogs per annum.

the deceit involved in the presentation of some non existing problem of widespread animal dumping, purely for the purposes of generating (un needed) donations really had me steaming. i wrote to them asking whether my understanding of the situation was correct or not. i haven't, a week later, received a reply. sometimes silence says more than words.

i have always considered myself a charitable person. i don't flinch at putting money into tin cans thrust my way. nor do i fumble thru my pockets looking for the smallest denomination coin. at least a few times a year i will say yes to the person calling me asking me to sell raffle tickets at work. mostly i forget to do this and buy the entire book myself. one charity is allowed to whack money out of my bank account every month.

but the animal charity, which doubtless once had a venerable mission, but which no longer even needs to exist, has me shaken.

how many charities are simply not needed in the modern world? for example, is it really the case that blind people are not properly cared for by the state that they need my money to train guide dogs?

there are web sites that track the percentage of donated money spent by charities on their stated mission. it is are not enjoyable reading. hitherto i thought these sorts of problems, while endemic to international and religious charities were largely absent in the smaller scale local charities.

sadly, i no longer believe this.

Discuss this Journal entry [1]

Latest reply: Jan 6, 2008

When I Realised Santa Didn't Exist (contains spoiler)

i think it was 1969. maybe 1970. our teacher had organised the class to each write a letter to Santa, or as he was then known, Father Christmas.

we poured out our hearts, or more accurately, our desires, to the charitable old fellow and in due course we each were presented with a reply from the north pole.

unfortunately all our replies seemed to be the same. a postcard with a picture of the great jolly man in an armchair in front of a blazing fire. his great grin doubtless because he was waving a bottle of coke at us.

up to that point in my life i had yet to do any of the great enwisening things yet; like playing pool with maoris, waking up in a different city to the one you thought you went to bed in, or having a fistfight with the boss. but i was still cluey enough to realise something was seriously wrong here.

yes. strange as it seems...norman rockwell killed christmas for me.

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Latest reply: Jan 2, 2008

Friction by Large Fractions

a large part of my daily thoughts are taken up by notions of change: specifically, unwanted change.

this is not to say i don't like change. since i am naturally belligerent i am quite happy to argue that a lot of things ought to change. so let's not be having any of this 'you are a grumpy old bastard who wants everything to stay the same'.

not so.

i am now in my 40s and much of the world is, quite properly, being reshaped in the fashion of the emergent generations. it is perfectly natural for me, and everyone else belonging to a generation sliding towards retirement, to fail to understand what younger people see in their fashions, music, movies and such. this is the generation gap that i don't need to argue has been commented on since older men first noticed that young women no longer returned their attentive glances, but were instead more interested in the younger fellow who indeed had the appropriate understandings of matters youthful and who probably didn't have a michelin hanging over his belt buckle either.

but i digress.

it is stupid change that bugs me.

i am genuinely irritated that the 1940s bungalow around the corner has been bulldozed. i know that a pre fab concrete rat box in the 'tuscan style' will be built because that is always what is now built, unless it is a mock federation villa complete with fretwork made from pressed aluminium. i also know that whatever is built, it too will be demolished in much shorter time than the lovely home that up until last week once stood there. i give it 25 years tops.

this of course is not progress of any type. it is change predicated by a perverse financial system that rewards such change through both market dictates and tax breaks. it is irrational in the way that only lemming markets and government tax policy can be.

but this is mere observational change. more directly i am caught up in change that i don't necessarily want across huge chunks of my life. i didn't particularly want, for example, to upgrade my cassettes to CDs. i don't necessarily want to upgrade from CDs to mp3s. but here i am, reasserting my ownership rights of music which in some cases i first bought in the early 70s, by downloading music by the gigabyte from this very internet. a part of me is deeply resentful of yoko ono (amongst others) receiving yet more financial support from me for material i have already purchased in different media several times before. i think we know who the real pirates in this whole business are. i'd be having a crack at everyones favourite pillock, bono, at this point, but my anger at this man is so extreme that not only will i not buy his music i will not even steal it. and i actually like some of his stuff. i even like the stuff his stuff is lifted from. but when after finding myself singing the supremes 'you keep me hangin' on' in the middle of 'vertigo', i then read that the irish band sued some poor sob garage band for a lift of their stuff....well enough i say, enough.

the point being in all this ramble...at what point do we own our culture? at what point do we lose ownership of it? how much change can we take? and why are we paying so much for it?

and should we have to tolerate the bulldozing of venerable houses or the constant recycling of culture to enable millionaires to further fatten their bank accounts?

all of which is to say it isn't just about generational change any more. it is about constant upgrading and being resold what you thought you already had but in a new, less recognizable packaging. resistance might not in fact be futile, but it isn't much fun either.

Discuss this Journal entry [1]

Latest reply: Jan 2, 2008


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