the walking dead

It’s tough out there for journalists. We try to shine the light of truth on the world and give the powerless a voice – and yet, in poll after poll, journos rate little higher in the trustworthiness stakes than politicians and used-car salesmen.
So anyone entering the profession had better get used to incoming four-letter fire.
As a public service announcement, I have compiled the Top 10 most interesting and prevalent insults hurled at members of the Fourth Estate.

Hack Typically used by the unenlightened as a form of abuse, this is a word journos use among ourselves to describe one another. It is a term of respect and affection – not unlike the soldier’s use of the word “grunt” – and is thus water off of a mallard’s back to us.
MSM liberal elitist We’re the people who didn’t see Trump becoming president. D’oh!
Chardonnay-sipping socialists Winners of the Best Headline of the Week at the Sydney Morning Herald during my time were given the choice of two wines as a prize: one white and one red.
Red was almost always chosen, thus rendering the jibe “chardonnay-sipping socialist” obsolete.
“Cabernet-sipping socialists” would be much more accurate.
Volvo Socialist A canard sadly showing its age, seeing how car trends have evolved. I would suggest “solar-panel socialist” in its stead.
Latte-sipping leftie Clearly the public thinks we spend all our time imbibing wine and drinking coffee rather than attending to daily rolling deadlines. This insult is as effective as calling the average journo a member of the “chatterati”.
Balmain basket weaver A phrase coined by Paul Keating to describe lefty, bleeding heart, out-of-touch types. Sadly Balmain is no long the hub of basket weaving – arts and crafts having both spiritually and geographically moved on since then.
And, of course, any true inner-city journalist knows that Balmain is not among the five postcodes that most hacks come from.
Inner-city cabalist There remains a stubborn belief that many of our left-leaning institutions such as the ABC and SBS are run by hooded groups of inner-city cabalists who meet once a month in secret to decide the editorial stance of their institutions.
They are of course incorrect.
I gather they meet once a week.
Paid shill Think climate change is real? Write a bad review of a social media star’s new album? Take a position for or against the government? Have any sort of opinion, really?
You will be seeing this in an email in your inbox some time soon.
In the popular imagination, the “paid shill” can often be seen sipping chardonnay with the dreaded “press release recycler” in some Balmain winery, laughing at the bogan public’s gullibility.
See also: “churnalist”.
Reptile The late Denis Thatcher is believed to be among the first to refer to the champions of the Fourth Estate as reptiles.
It holds pride of place among other zoological descriptions such as “parasite” or “vulture”.
Although personally I would prefer to be referred to as a “Powerful Owl”.
Goat’s cheese curtainer Aka, the curtain of expensive, gourmet and elite cheese that journos – particularly those from the ABC and SBS – live inside.
“Goat’s cheese curtain” was a phrase coined by demographer Bernard Salt, who recently outraged Gen Y by suggested that they could afford to buy houses if perhaps they stopped buying “smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop”.
I await to see how “smashed avocado” will be one day reworked to be used against hacks.
Until then I remain amused rather than offended by the idea of the “goat’s cheese curtain”.
And wonder if I can get some for lunch at my upmarket Balmain cheese shop.

While sadly lacking journo-related insults, my ebook military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.

There she was again: the well-heeled woman of a certain age from my neighbourhood, walking her toy poodle. There to let her beast “do its business”. And madam without a plastic bag on her person to pick up the mess. (Or is it madame? I was never sure if it was Madam Butterfly or Madame Butterfly … or even Madama Butterfly?)
Anyway, our Madama Butterfly and her dog had been befouling Mosman for years now and no one had ever called her up on it. Yet we had rules in society … one was that you cleaned up after your pet. If everyone did what she did, we’d have anarchy. The streets of Mosman would resemble Paris, the boulevards festooned with dog merde. Someone had to make a stand. Heroism was on the line, Mr Templar – would I accept the charges?
I popped on a shirt and jeans and raced down to the lawn just as her poodle stopped shaking its leg, a satisfied post-crap look on its tiny face. The haughty madam looked at me in alarm … perhaps almost guiltily. Because she was indeed guilty.
“Hi there,” I began. “I noticed that your dog just crapped on our front lawn. I was wondering if you were going to pick it up.”
She looked down her nose at me in disdain. “I beg your pardon?”
“I mean you’ve been letting your dog soil our grass for years without picking up his business. I was hoping that one day you’d do the neighbourly thing and bring along one of those black plastic bags and collect the crap. You know, like everyone else does.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“Both of you, actually. Not in a creepy Sting ‘I’ll be watching you’ way, but in a neighbourhood watch way. And I have to say, it hasn’t been a pretty sight, what with all the lawn defilements. But your poodle has an excuse. I can’t expect little Cujo there to pick up his own mess. That’s your job. So … ummm … next time you come by here, please make sure you’re ready to clean up after Mr Tiddles there.”
“How dare you talk to me like that!” she gasped, taking a step back.
“Hey, lady, how would you feel if I came and took a crap on your front lawn? I can’t imagine you’d be too pleased. I’m sure the rest of the people in my block don’t appreciate you treating our nature strip as a public toilet.”
Alarmed, the dog owner started walking away. I followed her slowly as she led the poodle up the street. “I hate bringing this up as much as you do having to hear it. I didn’t wake up this morning and decide to play the role of dog faeces enforcer.”
“Get away from me!” She walked away quicker, dragging little Cujo on his leash.
“Sure, I’ll give you and your pet your space. Just remember our little talk. Or who knows what might happen to your own lawn.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” But of course she really didn’t know me at all. If I’d posed nude in an art class, worked as a Santa at a shopping mall, tried to marry a sex doll and completed any number of daring and foolish tasks in the name of journalism, a bit of DIY lawn brownscaping wasn’t beyond me.
Let’s hope it wouldn’t come down to that.

Awkward neighbourhood encounter aside, the other big business of the day was a night-time story shadowing a young rogue who worked for one of the big music promoters, affixing posters around the Sydney CBD at night. He’d contacted me and said it might be an interesting story to see the promotional aspects of the music industry. No doubt his boss had put him up to it. Curious, I’d said yes. I’d always marvelled at those posters everywhere and wondered about the tireless souls who glued them up.
Anyway, after that had wrapped up, I’d enjoyed a few cleansing Strongbows with the lads.
Then I staggered out of the pub at 2am in search of a taxi … and maybe a kebab. My journey took me down a darkened cul-de-sac off George Street. A rather large, nattily dressed, fair-haired white dude hove into view. I went to move past as I listened to my iPod. He moved to block me.
“You’re in my way,” I said as I came to a halt, removing the headphones.
“Not really – this is my profession,” the stranger intoned.
“Getting in the way of slightly inebriated townsfolk?”
“Nah. Mugging people.” He flexed his fists, which resembled hammers. As Scoobie-Doo might say: “Ruh-oh.” I clutched my satchel possessively as I felt a frisson of fear. But also curiosity.
“You’re … mugging me? I thought they didn’t have inner-city muggings any more.”
“No one told me.” He didn’t appear drunk, so maybe he really was a mugger and not one of those binge-drinking steroidal assholes who cruised the city late at night looking for teenagers to king hit. He reached towards me with a meaty hand. “Now hand over the iPod.” I paused. Flight or fight, I asked myself. The mugger professionally eyed me over. “Don’t mess around. I can tell what you’re thinking. You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape, and this is my job.”
“A Get Carter reference. Well done, sir.” A significant part of me was alarmed by this encounter. Yet another part of my mind thought it might make a great story. That’s journalists for you: they’re ready to turn any personal calamity into a front-page story. I handed over the iPod. Rather than immediately pocket it, he scrolled through my song selection. I watched him scroll for a few seconds.
“What’s all this eighties crap you’ve got on it?”
I felt strangely offended. First he was mugging me, then he was criticising my taste in music. “I like the eighties. The New Romantic period was great.”
“The New Romantic period was balls,” he declared, continuing to scroll.
“I defy anyone not to be moved by Ultravox’s Vienna.”
“Never heard of it. I’m surprised you even have an iPod. You should have a Walkman. Or a collection of eight-track cassettes. Hmm, Nana Mouskouri, Flock of Seagulls … let me just check one final thing … yes, you have 99 Luftballons. I thought so.” The odd interloper stopped scrolling through my list of artists. “That’s it. I’m afraid I can’t take this. Your musical selection is too embarrassing.” He promptly handed the iPod back to me.
“What are you talking about?” I croaked.
“They call me the Discerning Mugger. That’s because I’m discerning about the tastes of the people I rob. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to mug you tonight. Good night. Sorry to bother you.” He turned around to leave.
“Wait! I’m a journalist from the Clarion. I’d be interested in interviewing you.”
The mugger stopped, then turned around. “You’ve got to be joking.”
“No, I’m not. Think about it. It would make a great story. The annals of the Discerning Mugger. Or The Guy Who Mugged Me.” The mugger laughed, joy twinkling around his eyes. He paused, thinking. He was intrigued.
“I don’t know about that. But you just might be weird enough to be worth having a drink with, as long as you don’t bear a grudge about what just almost happened.” He handed me a card. It read “The Discerning Mugger”.
“Nice card.”
“Like the colour? That’s bone.”
“Swanky.”
“Give me a call sometime and we’ll go to the pub and talk about your dubious musical choices.”
“I might just take you up on that.” I looked down at his card again.
“Don’t worry – people think I’m just being ironic and postmodern with that card. They never really believe that I’m a mugger. Anyway, must dash. Those discerning victims won’t mug themselves.”
“Happy hunting DM,” I said to his retreating back. “I’ll be in touch.”
What a strange man.

It had been a full day but not without its rewards. As the taxi drove past the house of the poodle faeces offender I had a sudden idea. Perhaps it was time for justice after all. And I did need to go to the bathroom somewhat urgently.
“Mate, let me off here,” I said to the driver. Once on the street I crept up to the middle of the lawn and eased down my trousers. Yes – it was time for revenge, for all the times Madam Mosman and her poodle had befouled the lawns of the neighbourhood. I grunted as the noble path of justice took its majestic course.

If you woke up early enough in the morning, had your window open and your ear cocked at the right location, you could just about hear it: “Nooooooooo!”

 

First, decide whether it is a voluntary or involuntary cake: for involuntary redundancy you need more sugar to disguise the bile.
Mix together flour and eggs in a large bowl. Add chocolate or vanilla essence according to the style and taste of cake required.
Add two cups of sugared words to hide the taste of the mandatory cup of HR bullshit.
Stir and then bake in the oven for however long the redundancy round is open.
Serve cold, like revenge – or when management has the numbers.
Add lots of garnish (i.e. cash) to make it go down sweeter.(In the case of mandatory redundancy, add gin.)
Serve in one cake or lump sum payment to the bank to be consumed as necessary.
And don’t forget to save the recipe … because you’ll be going back to it every two years.

From my unpublished book, The Last Newspaper On Earth.

“I feel so numb.”
“I had to call in sick today I’m so traumatised.”
“I’ll never love or trust anyone again.”
“NOOOOOOO!”
The Twittersphere is up in arms over the fate of a certain character in last night’s The Walking Dead.
Not even TWD producer Gregory Nicotero’s warning about how brutal the season 7 premiere was could prepare us for its shocking events.
It was that disturbing. And hundreds of thousands of tweets about it can’t be wrong.
Which raises the question: what do we do when someone whose adventures we have followed for years – devoting precious hours and binge-marathons to – is suddenly killed off?
There is a certain amount of trauma involved when heroes and heroines we’ve invited into our living rooms – and spent many a rainy day or long afternoon getting to know – disappear from our TV screens.
These characters become more than mere pixels on the screen: they become real in a way. At least, the emotions they evoke are real. And we, in turn, become invested in their fates.
We know from long experience not to get too close to any character from The Walking Dead or Game Of Thrones. Go to one Red or Purple Wedding and you know someone is going to cop a crossbow bolt/knife to the throat/poisoned chalice. Sometimes it’s King Joffrey (yay!). And other times it’s Robb and Catelyn Stark (why, George RR, why?).
Still, the heart wants what the heart wants. We can’t help but hope for the best and love them anyway.
So when they end up at the business end of Negan’s bat we still feel all the feels. (Am I being perverse by loving Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – even if I condemn his monstrous cruelty?)
And it’s not like there’s a club for Survivors Of Unexpected Major Character Deaths or anything.
The only therapy we have is venting with our fellow netizens online.
Yet perhaps such emotions are not such a bad thing. When a major character dies, it just goes to show the stakes involved … that this is serious, people. As serious as real life. To believe that fictional characters never die is perhaps to believe in the prolonging of adolescence: to put off the grim realities of adulthood, to believe that Lassie or Skippy or Flipper or the Lone Ranger always arrive in the nick of time to save the day.
If our appetite for the grittier series and boxsets has proved anything, it is that we as an audience are ready and hungry for more adult drama.
All of the top tier shows – The Sopranos, Game Of Thrones, True Blood – feature major character deaths. And we still love them anyway.
To be fair, the writers usually do their best to soften the emotional blow. After all, they’re emotionally invested in the characters, too.
As a fellow writer, I understand how writers can become attached to their creations. In a way, their lives become our lives. We imagine what they say and do, their words and actions coming to us at all hours of the day. They become our friends and confidantes. Fictional characters can sometimes occupy as much headspace as a treasured friend.
And no one wants to kill a treasured friend.
Personally I think the best way to end a TV show that potentially features the death of major characters is to be ambiguous. For example, I love the much-derided ending of The Sopranos. Now I can go back and watch the whole series again, believing that Tony lives at the end.
Then again, I also like to believe Thelma and Louise and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid survived at the end of their respective movies.
After all, you don’t actually see them die – there’s that little wiggle room in the imagination for other outcomes.
But back to last night’s shocker.
Perhaps George R.R. Martin was right when he wrote “valar morghulis”.
All men must die.
And occasionally major characters must die, too.
And perhaps that’s how it should be in the world of adult drama.

My ebook military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.

Jean-Paul Sartre once said: “Hell is other people.”
But of course what he meant to say was “hell is moving house” – because whether you’re moving into a new house, rental flat or hobbit shack by the beach, the act of sorting, packing, editing, binning, transporting and rearranging all your belongings is a devilish endeavour that should be rarely attempted in one lifetime.
And it doesn’t matter what gender you are: packing your gear and moving stumps is no less than a referendum on your past achievements, hopes and future ambitions, box-sized parcels of dreams held precariously in the hands of clumsy student removalists.
First of course comes the cleaning. It is amazing how much filth one house can contain (surely the claim that dust is actually human skin must be a myth?).
And just where do all those 5c pieces come from? They’re everywhere, breeding like tribbles from Star Trek, getting into the bottom of cabinets, drawers and even shoes.
The spiders in the house immediately arc up once your bring the vacuum cleaner up to their corners on the ceiling: “What are you doing? I come in peace, human. I mean you no harm. I … I … argh!”
Like counting tree rings or carbon dating peasants found in peat bogs, you can measure the time line of your own archaeological dig by the detritus you find on the ground.
If you find old K-Tel products (such as the classic album, Difficult To Strip To Hits), a slinky, a fondue pot, a Rubik’s cube or a shoulder pad, you truly are a long-term couple. Chocolate bars gone out of fashion (Texan Bar, Space Food Sticks or Scorched Peanut Bar) similarly mark your progress.
Perhaps you’ll find a Tang label affixed to the kitchen floor and crushed can of Tab behind the fridge. Maybe a tribble trapped in the washing machine. Old TV guides with Big Brother circled and later crossed out mark your evolving taste in entertainment. You could even find an old tape with Austen Tayshus performing Australiana and wonder how you ever found it amusing.
But the real test of the relationship is deciding what, to paraphrase Elaine from  Seinfeld, is “packworthy”. Here you might find your opinions differ wildly from your partner.
You might think that giant stone mortar and pestle is a waste of space, but your wife insists on keeping in just in case the in-laws visit and want some specially ground black pepper … perhaps followed by an after-dinner board game of Risk given to you as a Christmas present (and gathering dust untouched in the bottom of a cupboard for years).
But you can’t object too much, because you have to argue about the merits of keeping that giant pig club from your trip to Vanuatu, the Wii console you never opened but suddenly can’t bear to part with, the croquet set you never used or the leather pants from four sizes and two decades ago that you still dream of fitting into. (Menfolk, it is pointless arguing that you only need one set of dishes: every well-breed person knows that you need both your daily dishes and the good china, just in case the Queen decides to visit.)
Once most of the grunt work is done, the vacuuming is complete (destroying civilisations of bacteria mere generations away from becoming sentient), the packing boxes purchased and the essential items packed away, the nostalgia phase sets in.
One of you will inevitably find an old photo album. You’ll sit down and cast your mind back to your youth. Didn’t you look so glowing and optimistic back then, despite the hint of teenage acne, King Gee boots and bad ’80s hair? What would your younger self think of you now, your achievements, your progress in life?
Would they pat you on the back and say, “Well done, sir/madam”? Or would they regard you like one of those unhealthier doubles from those creepy health care ads and wonder, “What the fuck happened to you, man?”
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Here is your chance to edit your life according to your new beginning. You have a chance to keep the memories you want and the objects that reflect them. The bins will fill up and new life will spring up in the freed-up spaces. You will have room to conjure new memories together.
Just remember to keep enough tokens of your best youthful dreams. And choose your battles over space wisely. Because maybe keeping that lifesized Bruce Lee statue or pair of jousting sticks in the living room is a battle best lost.
And no relationship is worth jeopardising over those old K-Tel records.

My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.