alice cannon



Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason. —José Maria de Eça de Queiroz

Under our current system, politicians do not really change that frequently. The same ones hang around for decades. Hence, our political parties and their policies have stagnated, and they’re starting to smell pretty bad. It’s harder to find a party that is a good match for your values. Want small government but also gay marriage and a visionary communications system? Tough. Want workers’ rights AND a compassionate (not to mention cost-effective) approach to asylum seekers? Sorry, you’re out of luck. Even if there is internal dissent, in general party members must stick to party lines.

The burgeoning number of small, single-issue parties could be seen as a direct result of this dissatisfaction. But what good is a party with only one concern? They might get fishing rights or bullet trains back on the agenda (if elected), but what about all that other important governance biz? Also, our ballot papers surely can’t get much longer. No offence to the ancient Greeks and so forth, but there must be a better way of doing things.

What if we got rid of this stale, tired system and replaced it with something new and exciting? A system composed entirely of wild cards who have not been groomed and shaped by university politics, old boys’ networks and private schools? What if this system could also double as the opiate for the masses and replace all those stale, tired reality TV shows?

So here’s an idea.

  1. Overthrow the government (details TBA).
  2. Install a bunch of new cameras and microphones in Parliament House.
  3. Select a citizen at random from every electorate to be the MP for that region for the next three years. Pay their home expenses (school fees, pet insurance etc) so they and their family are not unduly inconvenienced for the duration. Sort of like jury duty, but longer.
  4. Chuck them all into Parliament House together. While there will be many public servants already in place to help see to things, each candidate may select a certain number of advisors of their own choosing (previous MPs are not eligible).
  5. Each day they are told what they have to debate and work towards, via the public announcement system and also email and text alerts. There may be presentations from experts (again, like jury duty). Votes are cast—and cast again, if necessary, until a majority consensus in reached. MPs may retreat at break time to the various gardens of Parliament House (miked up, of course), to bitch about other MPs, form unstable alliances, smoke cigars, or sob quietly into their handkerchiefs. Some may choose to go to the diary room to address the public at large.
  6. Lucky/unlucky dip draws, physical challenges, logic puzzles, timed croquembouche-bakings and perhaps even the occasional karaoke-based voter poll would be employed to choose Australia’s representatives at various international sporting events, the G20, or when someone needs to call Obama.
  7. MPs will receive regular poll reports from their electorate, on various issues, to help guide their decisions if needs be. Lobbyists (businesses, interest groups or individuals) may apply for afternoon tea with an MP and are selected by random ballot.
  8. The public can send messages of support or condemnation, bags of jellybeans, and small tokens the MP may have wistfully desired on camera (e.g. the latest season of Game of Thrones, or a bottle of nail polish, a jar of Seville orange marmalade, a visit from their dog etc).
  9. The media can go nuts with profiles and exposes and predictions and maybe even some journalism once in a while. It will be ACE.

All the old power and influence channels would be broken. The energy currently spent on proving the other side unfit to rule, undinkum, criminal etc would be more constructively (and entertainingly) directed. All our MPs would have to work together to get anything done. I can’t think of anything that could possibly go wrong.


The Hunger Government would in no way resemble this amusing Punch illustration (fewer beards and top hats).   Union is strength; the "new movement requisitionists," forming a party and arranging a policy   . Printed and published by Edgar Ray and Frederick Sinnett, Melbourne, 1856. Wood engraving. State Library of Victoria, MP03/07/56/173.

The Hunger Government would in no way resemble this amusing Punch illustration (fewer beards and top hats). Union is strength; the "new movement requisitionists," forming a party and arranging a policy. Printed and published by Edgar Ray and Frederick Sinnett, Melbourne, 1856. Wood engraving. State Library of Victoria, MP03/07/56/173.



There’s not been much dinkum about lately. Poor dinkum, only wheeled out during election campaigns, when one candidate wants to seem more sincere, more fair, and moreover more Australian than their competitors. 

In fact you never hear the word ‘dinkum’ without ‘fair’. Dinkum is apparently always fair.

But what does ‘fair dinkum’ actually mean? ‘Fair’ means ‘fair’, obviously, in that those who are deserving get what they deserve, and ‘dinkum’ apparently means ‘fair’ or ‘true’, making ‘fair dinkum’ either somewhat of a tautology or something along the lines of ‘really fair’ or ‘truly fair’ or perhaps even ‘the true truth’. [1] In other words, it is just a rhetorical flourish to indicate the speaker really really means what they are saying and is hoping you’ll be fooled into believing them by using a phrase that was probably never actually spoken aloud by diggers, battlers or even nineteenth-century shearers, even though it sounds like the sort of thing that could have. Those that use it should really be mocked as soundly as those who use ridiculous expressions like “a fair shake of the sauce bottle”.

Well, it is time to free dinkum from its shackles. Dinkum—the fairest and truest word for all that is fair and truthful in the land—is being tarnished by people who later are found to have been making ‘non-core promises’, and it makes me sad.

Further, I hope to expand dinkum into a true Australianism, one whose precise meaning in any one situation can never truly be defined except by reference to very specific contexts, complex relationship structures and subtle body language, like our use of the word ‘bastard’.

Think of the possibilities! As an exclamation, an expression of bliss, or as a reference to a particularly fine ale—“sweet dinkum!” As an indication of troubled times, witchcraft, or attempts to betray, deceive or sabotage—“what dark dinkum is this?” As an indicator of all that is pure and unaltered, or a harsh truth—“this is the raw dinkum”. (The latter meaning could also be conveyed by the expression “cold, hard dinkum”). A wonderful cacophony or a clever and complex mischief might be referred to as “glorious dinkum”.

The possibilities are endless. Once you have started, you will not be able to stop. Save dinkum from shabby nationalism and embrace it as part of the true language of the people.


[1] There are other theories as the etymology of dinkum. Apparently fair dinkum was what ‘fair drinking’ sounded like when said by a somewhat inebriated person, but what does that even mean, really? Various internet commenters who may or may not be fair dinkum have suggested it comes from the Latin ‘Veras de cum’, shortened to ‘ver de cum’, meaning ‘with the truth’. Another theory is that the word came from Chinese gold miners, who said ‘din-gum’ or something similar when they found gold nuggets. But that internet commenter wrote in all-caps, so I doubt their veracity. Slightly more reputable sources (Melvyn Bragg) suggest it came from the English Midlands and meant work, ‘fair dinkum’ meaning a fair day’s work, and subsequently fair play.

Dinkum goes with everything, except perhaps turkey. Tomato sauce wins that round.  [Photograph of advertisement for F. Humphris & Sons tomato sauce, Adelaide and Jamestown], ca. 1910-1930. Glass plate negative. State Library of Victoria, H2009.61/59.

Dinkum goes with everything, except perhaps turkey. Tomato sauce wins that round. [Photograph of advertisement for F. Humphris & Sons tomato sauce, Adelaide and Jamestown], ca. 1910-1930. Glass plate negative. State Library of Victoria, H2009.61/59.




Think of the word “dragon”. What other words spring to mind? Scaly, perhaps, or sinewy. Powerful. Terrible and awesome. Cunning. Sleek, stocky, supple, gnarled. A dragon is an ancient thing of cunning and strength. Like a cat, its movements embody both poetry and danger. 

Now think of the words “soccer player”. (Or “football player” for anyone anywhere other than Australia and the US). What other words spring to mind? Possibly some very similar ones—sleek, supple, sinewy, powerful. Maybe not scaly or gnarled (they use too much product for that), but there is definitely some overlap. Like a cat, a soccer player’s movements embody both poetry and danger.

There exists in this world a game called Dragon City. You may have received pleading emails from Facebook friends, “inviting” you to join. Do not succumb! It is highly addictive, particularly for those of us who feel strong compulsions to complete sets, or to collect one of every kind of thing. Even I, a cheapskate, have spent $4 on in-game purchases. Those who tend to fail the Delayed Gratification Marshmallow Test would spend much, much more. Wannabe app-billionaires would do well to study the structure of Dragon City and how it feeds addiction.

In this game, you breed and hatch and collect dragons—all sorts of dragons. There’s the Flame dragon, the Jade dragon, the Burning dragon and the Star dragon. There are also some frankly ridiculous dragons—the Mojito dragon, the Gummy dragon, the Icecube dragon (I mean COME ON) and so forth. But one dragon offends above the rest.

The Soccer dragon.

Now, I like dragons. I also quite like soccer. But the Soccer dragon is an offense to both. If I was a real dragon, I would swoop down on the creator(s) of the Soccer dragon and tear out their guts. Then I would steal their huge piles of Dragon City gold and burrow into it to sleep, or swim about in it like a dragony Scrooge McDuck. If I was a real soccer player I would be more constrained by legalities but I would want to do the same.

Let us look at a picture of the Soccer dragon. What words spring to mind? Does it conform in any way to your mental image of either dragons or soccer players?

The "soccer" "dragon" in Dragon City.

The "soccer" "dragon" in Dragon City.

Of course it doesn’t. This dragon is clearly a buffoon, a hooligan. It’s wearing CLOTHES. (Dragons shouldn’t wear clothes). He has HAIR—and terrible hair, at that. (Maybe Neymar could get away with it). There is no way this dragon could lay waste to a city or devour an entire hillside of sheep. When it attacks, it kicks a stupid football at you! Ooh, scary. Far from inspiring awe and terror, this dragon inspires contempt. I take great pleasure in crushing every Soccer dragon that comes my way with my Elements dragon, Bunny, who I have trained in the Magma Attack, to which Soccer dragons are fortunately susceptible. 

The Soccer dragon is clearly popular with other Dragon City players, given the frequency with which I encounter it in battles. Each time I see it I am confounded—as to the tastes of my opponents, and the nature of people who purport to like dragons and/or soccer and yet do not see this concept as a blot upon both dragonkind and the beautiful game. Even worse, the makers of Dragon City have recently brought out MORE soccer-themed dragons for the World Cup. Being eaten is too good for them.

But here’s the rub - because I am a collector, I must possess the Soccer dragon to complete my collection. I am complicit. I hate myself as much as I hate them.




We are a nation of excess. Though our portion sizes have yet to catch up to those of North America, it is generally held that we eat too much, own too many things and consume more energy and water than most other nations. We feel that televisions large enough to make the newsreader’s head bigger than our own and four-wheel drives for inner-city living are “necessities”.

However, there are more subtle indicators of our lack of restraint. Imagine a bakery. You are peckish. You enter and examine the goods on display. A lemon tart, perhaps, or a chocolate brownie? A donut—a cronut! A slice of cherry pie, or some other unspecified concoction of pastry, fruit and sugar syrup? Finally you choose and exchange your spondooleys for the delectable item. You raise this sweet delight to your face, to breath in the divine aroma of freshly baked carbohydrate and to take your first, delicious bite.

This is when your lungs suddenly seize up and you are enveloped in a paroxysm of coughing. Death by tempting treat! What an ignoble end, you think—choked by a cannoli, before you even ate any of it. What just happened?

What just happened was that your baked good was encrusted with a highly dangerous substance: icing sugar.

Icing sugar is regular sugar that has been crushed, stomped, pulverized, smashed, ground and generally annihilated to form one of the finest particulates this side of a mould spore. It is used to dust pastries and pies and tarts and cakes to give an extra sweetness or just for looks. So pretty—it is like it has just snowed on your Streuselkuchen! In restrained quantities, this powdered sugar can bind with the fats and oils on the surface of the baked good and poses no real threat to your life, other than the long-term effects of additional calories and eroded tooth enamel.

Yet we so often insist on caking our cakes with a thick layer of this fatal sweetener.  As you bite, you also swallow air. As the goodie is so scrumptious, you inevitably try to improve the overall experience by inhaling the scent at the same time. Combined, these factors are your undoing.

Particulates are a highly regulated substance in most workplaces. It doesn’t even necessarily matter what the particulates are; anything small enough to enter your lungs is generally a bad thing. Carpenters and welders and plasterers wear particulate respirators or disposable masks to prevent the inhalation of fine substances. Conservators work in fume cupboards to avoid inhaling mould spores on afflicted objects. Paint and varnish aerosols must be applied in spray booths.

A micron is a millionth of a metre—one thousandth of a millimeter.  It is the common unit of measurement for wavelengths of infrared radiation and the size of cells and bacteria. Mould spores range from 10-30 microns, pollens from 10-1,000, and dust mites from 100-300. Cement dust ranges from 3-100 microns, sawdust from 30-600. Asbestos ranges from 0.7-90 microns, coal dust 1-100, automobile emissions 1-150. Icing sugar has an average particle size of about 60 microns, though they may range from 10-250 microns. Hence, icing sugar falls well within the range of Things You Should Not Breathe In. At least it is not generally as fine as anthrax (1-5 microns) or radioactive fallout (0.1-10 microns), which have other complications besides.

And yet we blithely subject ourselves—our children!—to the terrible hazard of icing sugar: sweet death served up on a delicious sticky bun.

Be safe—be sparing with your icing sugar.


n case you needed further proof of how dangerous sugar can be, behold Fire at the Victoria Sugar Company’s works, Sandridge, on 8th June. Published by Ebenezer and David Syme, Melbourne, 12 July 1875. Wood engraving, State Library of Victoria, IAN12/07/75/100.

n case you needed further proof of how dangerous sugar can be, behold Fire at the Victoria Sugar Company’s works, Sandridge, on 8th June. Published by Ebenezer and David Syme, Melbourne, 12 July 1875. Wood engraving, State Library of Victoria, IAN12/07/75/100.




In this debased and profligate age, it appears that more and more artists create their works on a gigantic scale. The bigger the better! Why? I cannot tell. Many of these works appear to have no particularly interesting features except their size. A picture of urban decay, postcard-sized? Well, that’s just urban decay—so boring. But enlarge that photograph to the size of your front window? Suddenly it is a searing comment on the modern experience! A 35 x 35cm canvas painted black? Gauche and ephemeral. A canvas painted black, the size of a king-sized bed? Expressive and meaningful! A photograph of a nude, at A4 size? Smut! A photograph of a nude, printed to the size of a small truck? Art! Or, an advertising billboard. But you get my drift.

Artists generally like to think they work outside of the system, that they are non-conformists. However, I would argue that artists who persist in this trend to the tremendous embody the worst of capitalism. They are not bohemians or radicals, no! They encourage and glorify consumerism. They consume a larger quantity of materials to make their works, all of which require energy to source, produce and transport. They hog wall space and storage space alike, pushing meeker works aside, requiring the construction of new frames and boxes and crates—even buildings—in which to house them. They demand more attention, as a large artwork can never be handled by a single person alone. And every time the work is moved, borrowed and exhibited, trucks of an ever-increasing size are required to transport their bloated bodies around our great continent and, indeed, the world.

I call upon the artists of today to reconsider their priorities and values. What happened to the virtues of restraint, of humility? What of self-control, modesty, altruism? An art work that is large purely for the sake of being large indicates a greedy and prideful nature. These are not qualities we should be rewarding. In this age of global warming, when the best we can look forward to as a species is a future skulking in air-conditioned bunkers deep underground to avoid the searing sunlight and eating a diet of nutritious but unpalatable seaweed grown in vats because all other forms of life will have perished due of our selfishness, how can artists continue to justify these choices? We must all do our bit to try and stem the tide of the coming apocalypse. Make sure the size of your creation is justified, and carbon-offset.


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