13 February 2015


Because hurt feelings can't stop an epidemic.

Let's have a little look at how science works. 

1. Scientists observe something happening, and form a hypothesis about why. 

2. Scientists test the hypothesis by trying to make the same thing happen under controlled conditions.

3. If the same thing happens again and again and again while testing the hypothesis, scientists can make predictions about it happening in the future. 

4. If the predictions come true, the scientists are happy and the world has a tasty new morsel of knowledge. 

Now, let's apply this to something real, like, say.... a vaccine. 

1. Scientists observe that, when a high enough proportion of a population is vaccinated against measles, the disease virtually disappears from that population. Maybe the measles vaccine helps prevent measles?

2. Scientists test the hypothesis by measuring the incidence of measles in populations with a high percentage of vaccinated people compared to populations with a low percentage of vaccinated people.

3. Again and again, scientists find that, in highly vaccinated populations, measles outbreaks are small and rare, and in populations with low measles vaccination, lots of people get measles. They predict that in the future, when the percentage of vaccinated people drops below a certain amount, measles outbreaks will occur.

4. Late last year, a person infected with measles visited Disneyland in California - an area with a reasonably high proportion of vaccine refusers - and infected other people with measles. Quite soon after that, lots of people got the measles

Something else scientists could have predicted: The usual suspects of vaccine denialism began bending all the available information about the Disneyland outbreak to fit their pre-conceived idea that unvaccinated people have nothing to do with outbreaks of disease, and that relating an outbreak of disease to unvaccinated people is UNCOOL and HURTS PEOPLE'S FEELINGS. 

I totally understand that the feelings of people who go to great lengths to deny the effectiveness of vaccines might be hurting. And I totally don't give a rat's arse. If loads and loads and loads of studies have found that measles outbreaks occur more often in unvaccinated populations, and you continue to deny that the current US measles outbreak has anything to do with unvaccinated people, there's not much I can do to help you. If you're cranky because science disagrees with you, tough. If you're out of sorts because diseases don't comply to your special view of the world, too bad. If the well-supported theory of herd immunity gives you a frowny face, cry me a frikkin' river. 

But cheer up a little bit, because I wrote you a pome.

You can’t bring a cat to a dog fight
To watch it get mauled
And then act all appalled
At the dogs disobeying your rules.

You can’t throw a fridge down a staircase
And protest when it breaks
Because gravity makes
No exceptions for self-absorbed fools.

You can’t stick your hand in a blender
Then demand some redress
For the blood-spattered mess
‘Cause you liked how it was at the start.

You can’t help your kids catch the measles
By refusing a vax
In the face of all facts
But deny that you played any part.

When scientists make a prediction
Like the tides of the seas
Or the spread of disease
They’ve seen it again and again.

But your pox-ridden family is special!
And although their afflictions
Comply with predictions
YOU’RE RIGHT, and you’re going to complain.

02 February 2015


Because ow. And not in a James Brown way.

Sciatica’s stuffed up my dance moves;
I can’t do a twirl or the splits.
The pain of the Rhumba
(primarily lumbar)
Is starting to give me the shits.

There’s little love left in my Tango;
My Robot is rusty with risk;
I’m thinking of stopping
My locking and popping
Before I go slipping a disc.

I’m likely to slow down a hoe-down;
My boot-scootin’s way out of line.
I’m mostly forgoing
Large-scale do-si-do-ing
For lack of a flexible spine.

My Nutbush is nearing its limits;
The shake in my tail feather’s shrunk;
My Bird doesn’t fly
And my Sprinkler’s gone dry
And there’s bugger all funk in my trunk.

My verterbrae won’t be found Voguing;
I won’t do a dip or a spin;
No tap-step-ball-change
Will be part of my range
Until this Ibuprofen kicks in.

10 December 2014

What not to do.

Because people really do these things. 

I am constantly astounded by the things some people are prepared to do in their search for enhanced wellness. I understand that pain, frustration, desperation and fear of death are pretty solid motivators to try some out-of-the-ordinary treatments, but surely even the strongest emotions can be subdued for the few seconds it takes someone to ask themselves, "Should I really stick this enormous needle in my cock?"

So here's my advice:

Don’t smear flesh-dissolving ointment on your cervix.
Don’t squirt warm, organic coffee up your arse.
Don’t treat pain by drinking widdle.
Don’t tie magnets ‘round your middle.
Don’t let someone bleed your scalp into a glass.

Don’t push someone else’s turd through your intestines.
Don’t stick burning bits of fabric in your ear.
Don’t drink bleach to make your tumour disappear.

Don’t inflate a small balloon inside your face-hole.
Don’t drink crushed, diluted bees to cure the ‘flu
Don’t quit food and drink for breathing
‘Cause they’re really rather stupid things to do.

Don’t seek medical advice by browsing YouTube.
Don’t believe what chefs and wellness gurus say.
Don’t think maybe you should try it
‘Cause a movie star stands by it.
If it seems a little dodgy, run away.

25 November 2014


Because the good stuff is inside.

This birth-beaten body is mine.
These walk-weary bones and these stockingbag stones.
This inching, unflinching decline.
These blear-bordered eyes and this puckered disguise.
This creaking contortion of dust.
These pin-pestered nerves and these destitute curves.
This spot-stippled, care-furrowed crust.
These grease-battered clots and these gristle-bound knots.
This birth-beaten body is mine.

This animate archive is me.
Each pain-peppered leaf and each entry of grief,
Each morsel of mental debris,
Each flame-frosted cake and each paper-plate wake,
Each fizzing ignition of bliss,
Each love-lousy ode and each moral bestowed,
Each gamble, each gut punch, each kiss,
Each appetite stirred and each page-guzzled word,
This animate archive is me.

24 November 2014

For Jack

Because good blokes don't live forever.

He made time for you, Jack did. 
As if he had buckets of the stuff,
Balanced on his handlebars.

Such a small thing, really.
A wave, a nod, a wink.
It didn't have to be done. 

That fire, that warmth. 
You can't ration that.
But breath is different.

Jack was a bloke at my gym. That in itself is unremarkable. But everyone knew Jack. You'd know he was there,by his bicycle parked just outside the door. You'd hear his name bursting like popcorn from around the room. "Hello, Jack!" "G'day Jack!" You had to shout a bit. 

I only knew Jack for about five years - a long time after he played first-grade Rugby League, after he had a family and retired. He was about 88 when he first introduced himself with that tidy smile. I'd see him once or twice a week, just getting on with things. I don't remember ever hearing him complain.

Jack would always, always say hello, but never goodbye. It was always "good onya". 

He died last week. 

Good onya, Jack. You set the bar for human decency a bit high, mate

30 October 2014


Because it never hurts to ask.

Dear universe, excite me
with the secrets that you hold.

Dear humankind, invite me,
as I am, into your fold.

Dear planet Earth, outlive me;
feed the ones I leave behind.

Dear progeny, forgive me
for a future undermined.

Dear ancestors, instruct me;
let my errors be forestalled.

Dear history, induct me;
let my triumphs be recalled.

Dear circumstance, select me
for the fortune you dispense.

Dear fortitude, protect me;
persevere in my defence.

Dear prejudice, unbind me;
let my view be unobscured.

Dear privilege, remind me
of the comfort I’ve secured.

Dear intellect, escort me;
stay forever by my side.

Dear skin and bones, support me
‘til I take my final stride.

17 October 2014

Christopher Pyne's Lament

Because the Good Old Days were so nice.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne is upset. Our schools' curricula aren't doing their job. They're not currently teaching Australia's children The Things That Christopher Pyne Likes, which are (as he suggests in this interview) "history, literacy, numeracy, science", "Western civilisation" and "our Judeo-Christian heritage". Something MUST BE DONE.

Leaving aside the extreme wibbly-wobbliness of the not-quite-accurate "Judeo-Christian" claim (see the gaping holes in the term exposed by Tony Taylor here and by Chrys Stevenson here),  Mr Pyne wants to return to the Good Old Days, when children had phonics and times tables whacked into them with a cane, when nobody argued about what Australia Day means, and when multiculturalism was just a fancy way of saying "Look! There's spaghetti in the shops now!".

Maybe I'm not explaining what Christopher Pyne wants very well. Maybe Christopher Pyne needs to explain it himself, in rhyming couplets. Take it away, ChrisPy:

We must learn about Judeo-Christian conquerors and kings!
And Judeo-Christian history! And Judeo-Christian things!
And Judeo-Christian English! And Judeo-Christian science!
And Judeo-Christian punishment for wilful non-compliance!

Non-Judeo-Christian education simply shan’t be had.
It makes fine, upright, Judeo-Christian citizens look bad!
If a lesson fails to make Judeo-Christian people proud,
Then it’s simply (by Judeo-Christian standards) not allowed.

Any subjects that appease the God of Abraham are apt;
But the other, more barbaric ones should probably be scrapped.
Asian neighbours, the Indigenous and other foreign stuff
Are all well and good, but not Judeo-Christian-y enough.

Sure, for forty thousand years there’s been some people here, but look:
Nothing worthwhile really happened ‘til they met with Captain Cook.
Since that day, our nation’s greatness simply cannot be denied.
Our curriculum needs cleaning up, so here’s a simple guide:

If it’s nice and white and clean and mentions ANZAC Day, it’s IN.
If it dares to bad-mouth God or Jesus, CHUCK IT IN THE BIN!
If it’s yellow, brown or – worst of all – a shade of Green, NO WAY.
If it’s Western and it’s civilised and likes the Queen, then YAY!

Soon, Judeo-Christian schoolkids with Judeo-Christian knowledge,
Will bring shiny, Western thoughts to their Judeo-Christian college.
Their Judeo-Christian books will line Judeo-Christian shelves
While they frown upon those less Judeo-Christian than themselves.