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The Magpie

Saturday, April 12th, 2014   |   22 comments

Tin snips for priests and paedophiles? The Magpie does a Jonathon Swift and makes a ‘modest proposal’.

The pitfalls of periodicals: some unfortunate timing for Herbert’s Dumbo Jumbo Jones … and we take another squizz at the comings, goings and general staff  reshuffle down at the Daily Astonisher. Also a look at a some new words floating around, that although rare or newly minted, have immediately found homes . Plus Bentley does it again, says what everyone is thinking with a single image.

So let’s begin with that.

The new(ish) word that is suddenly bobbing up all over the place is ‘arsehat’. It’s of pommy origin, and a brief search found it to mean ‘so far up yourself, you could wear your fundament as a hat’.

A crowded field here in Oz vying for top rights to this word (Bronwyn Bishop, Clive Palmer, Gina Reinhart, Anthony Templeton) all became also-rans this week as former Foreign Minister Bob Carr pranced and preened onto centre stage. He just released his book ‘Diary of a Foreign Minister’, in which he takes a self-appointed central role among world leaders, revealing derogatory and arrogant thumbnail word sketches of world leaders, thoughts he held at the time he was dealing with them on Australia’s behalf.

How the Daily Telegraph envisaged Blowhard Bob.

How the Daily Telegraph envisaged Blowhard Bob in his airline Jim Jams.

From airline pyjamas (lack of) to inedible food through to lack of sub-titles on a Wanger opera,(!?!) Blowhard Bob seems not so much as slipped a disc, more a cog. Here’s a summary of his tough life.


On sitting alongside Obama and Putin at the G20 leaders meeting:

“I cannot feel humble. Interested, curious, of course. Just not humble.”

On flying business class:

“Business class. No edible food. No airline pyjamas. I lie in my tailored suit.”

On flying business class again:

“Eating plastic — no ceramic — food, passengers lying in cribs, packed in business class, a design that owes a lot to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

On a first class upgrade with wife Helena:

“Pathetic that the public service rules reduce me to that, an upgrade for a middle-power foreign minister.”

 A Singapore Airlines executive responds to his complaint about first class entertainment:

“Please accept my sincere apology if any part of our first class in-flight offering fell below your expectations. Specifically, I have taken note of the lack of English subtitles for the Wagner opera Siegfried.”

 All this earned him the classic Courier Mail headline:

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher nailed him unmercifully  when he wrote:

Carr was plausible as a foreign affairs front man. In truth, he was only ever the acting minister for foreign affairs. And acting was as good as it got. His diary, fittingly, opens with a scene from the theatre, unwittingly setting the tone for Carr’s year-and-a-half of going through the motions, a baritone thespian with a void at his centre’.

One would be excused for thinking that on landing, pilots would radio the tower ‘The Ego has landed’. Bentley is underwhelmed.

humility copy

From the ridiculous, we go the sublime in the ranks of past NSW politicians. Former NSW politician Andrew Tink is a brave and clearly a humble man.

Former NSW pollie Andrew Tink

Former NSW pollie Andrew Tink

During the week, Mr. Tink used his personal medical experience to make a public call for serial sex offenders to be administered the cancer-fighting drug Zoladex. Mr. Tink is himself administered the drug to fight his prostate cancer, but he sees a social benefit in Zoladex’s major side effect, which he courageously described (and prescribed for sex offenders).

 “What it means [is] that the switch in my brain which provides my sex drive is turned off. It’s as good as castration,” Mr Tink said.  

A blunt and brave personal statement, made for a blunt reason.The call has created a strong public debate. It came in the same week in which the Pope apologized for the damage done by paedophile priests and promised to right the damage and correct the situation.

Obviously,  a Swiftian ‘Modest Proposal’ is in order.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

So, Popey, Frank, me ol’ darlin’. let The Magpie submit an obvious and sensible solution, based on the age-old truism, prevention is better than cure.

The ‘Pie suggests that the Catholic Church make it a requirement of entering the priesthood that the final act of commitment before being ordained is having their dangly bits surgically removed. It would surely be no loss to sincere applicants seeking the cloth, since they must take a vow of chastity, and are even supposed to keep their hands above the blankets and tied to the bedhead as well. So the tackle with which they were born would be surplus to requirements, with the added benefit of removing what coul,d only be a painful nuisance while climbing the narrow stairs to the bell tower.

Indeed, in the age-old manner of the church, these discarded bibs and bobs could become tasteful glass-fronted-reliquaries, a display of faith and sacrifice which could become a feature in one of the many unused nooks and crannies of each church. A small viewing charge, perhaps? Would beat the hell out of bingo, and might even attract the same crowd of nostalgic old dears.

Upside all the way, so this ‘modest proposal’ is clearly a sensible one, against which there can be little argument.

For a start, prevention. It – shall we say – nips in the bud any prospects down the track of criminal temptation with rosy-cheeked young innocents. And, although The Magpie is still a few years away from being able to speak authoritatively on the matter, surely the removal of naughty temporal urges would make one more placid, reflective and wise, a more circumspect leader, uncluttered by the distractions which afflict the cock of the general flock.

In addition, more careful thought would go into the individual decision to enter the priesthood – whether the motive be honorable or otherwise – because it also removes the option of changing your mind later on, when you set your heart on … ummm, let’s say … becoming the chest thumping Prime Minister of Australia and father of three.

And’s what’s good for the priest would also be good for the proven paedophile, with mandatory use of the surgical tin snips performing wonders in reducing repeat offending. Chemical castration in the US state of Oregon has dropped re-offending to single digits (so as to speak) but it is optional. In The Pie’s proposal, it would be mandatory, and reoffending would be zero.

It is a modest, money-saving and emotionally sensitive (to the victims) proposal, and certainly not as drastic as satirist Jonathon Swift’s original ‘modest proposal’ – essentially that the Irish end their famine by eating their babies at the age of one. His joking proposal was so brilliantly and persuasively argued that many were initially outraged and he came in for a lot of flak. The Magpie expects no such outcry for the proposal outlined here, not just because he is not in Jonathon Swift’s literary league – but because he isn’t joking.

Moving on.

There’s always been several unique problems facing periodical publications.


It is well remembered, when the Womens Weekly went monthly, there was much merriment in the question if the slogan ‘A week just isn’t a week without your Weekly’ would be changed to ‘A month just isn’t a month without your Monthly’. The jolly jape was that it would another reason for it to be called a periodical – chortle, wheeze boom boom.

But the main editorial problem is not slogans or even frequency, it is the passage of time, and that has been more so than in the fast paced modern times. As Herbert MP Ewen Jones has found out to his cost.

As The Magpie once mentioned to the Queen,  there is nothing more tedious than name dropping, but Dumbo Jumbo just can’t help himself.

Yikes - actually, Scotty prints much better than The 'Pie manages - sorry, mate.

Yikes – actually, Scotty prints much better than The ‘Pie manages – sorry, mate.

So he opened his regular column in this month’s excellent Duo magazine with this:

‘Recently, I had Senator Arthur Sinodinos, the Assistant Treasurer, in town.’

Ignoring any grubby innuendo in that clumsy use of English (I had?),  Dumbo went on to say that the good Senator would be going west to discuss, inter alia, the drought. Well, that seems like a good move, because as we now all know now – but didn’t at the time of publication – the good senator appears to know a fair bit about water, if the corruption inquiry into Australian Water Holdings and the greasy Eddie Obeid is anything to go by. Hmmm, perhaps The ‘Pie is off the mark, given that Sinodinos gave evidence that he couldn’t recall much at all about anything, including his whopping remuneration. In the witness stand, he went to water – oh, chortle, wheeze, errk.

All round, it’s been a rough ride for the Jones boy in the media of recent times, and occasionally, he hasn’t always been the ass in the piece.

Ewen Jones - not an Astonisher fan.

Ewen Jones – not an Astonisher fan.

Ironically, Dumbo is usually taken to task for something he did say, but it seems a certain reporter (ahem, guess who?) had other ideas.  Here’s something Mr Jones posted on Facebook after the Castle Hill lights cock-up hit the Astonisher’s pages.

‘One final rant on the subject of Castle Hill.

Townsville Bulletin journalist to Ewen Jones “will this cause a rift between the you and the council?”.

Ewen Jones “Absolutely not. What motivates me is what is good for the city. Putting social infrastructure like the lights on Castle Hill is good for Townsville and I don’t know why people would be against it. I come from a business background where you will have a blue one day and do the deal the next”.

Townsville Bulletin today “A significant rift has emerged between Ewen Jones and the Council”. I am now listening to some Muddy Waters to make the pain go away.’

It wasn’t not at all surprising he was directly misquoted when it is realized that the journalist was ‘Anthony ‘Simpo’ Templeton.

But what took The Pie’s eye was that the Jones’ Facebook post quoted above gathered a rapid 87 likes and no less than 40 scathing comments about the worth of our local newspaper. Suddenly, The ‘Pie doesn’t feel so alone.

But it seems we’re stuck with the subversive Simpleton for a while yet. The Magpie posted this comment during the week.

OK, wonderful what a thousand eighth-hand phone calls will get you – this is what The ‘Pie can ‘exclusively reveal’ – in best Simpo style – about the staff changes at the Astonisher mentioned in the current blog.

Lendl ‘Mickey Mouse’ Ryan and his long-time squeeze and intended Emily Emac Macdonald are heading off as a double act down at the Gold Coast Bulletin to join former Astonisher colleagues editor Cath ‘Wobbles’ Webber and chief reporter Kath ‘Figjam’ Skene. They replace some people that former GCB editor Typo Gleeson has poached to the sinking Sunday Mail.

Daniel ‘Master’ Bateman has resigned and is going to Cairns (presumably to the paper, but not sure) and old sports hand Josh Altson is returning from southern climes, but The Pie hears he’ll be on general news. The paper is also advertising for a night/news editor, Mickey Mouse’s old stamping ground.

An interesting internal move will be sports jock Antony Stewart’s shift across to general news and the role as deputy to Chief of Staff to Jess Johnston – seems solid enough and probably a good personal move for him – travelling away from home base for sports coverage isn’t a good fit for his young family.

All sounds positive so far, but of course Simpo Templeton is still at large in Townsville – surely Typo could use him on the Sunday Mail? Please?

And while we’re about it, here’s another tidbit from Flinders Street West.

The ‘Pie returns to his occasional ‘rating the reporters’ to solve a conundrum, the case of the missing journo. Turns out that columnist Anthony Galloway isn’t a reporter, not anymore.

Anthony Galloway

His reporting work was generally unremarkable, inoffensive ‘white bread’ of the genre. Some time ago, he returned to university to resume his studies – whatever they may be – but continues to write his column. Now it would be easy but weak sport to make merry with references to undergraduate humour and so on (especially in this paper) but the truth is that making allowances for his youth, young Mr Galloway is a very promising columnist and commentator. Still very rough around the edges, and his arguments are not always that coherent, flowingly expounded or fully fleshed out, but he manages to put his case well enough to spark lively discussion about his topics. He is developing a nice line in written humour (any tips for The ‘Pie, Anthony?) and he generally avoids the derision deservedly dished out to some of the other younger selfie aspirants to columndon.

He has his detractors but they mostly have the mistaken idea that a commentator is no good because they don’t hold the same views. God knows, The Magpie, both in the paper and now on the web, would’ve been dead in the water long ago if that were the case.

For his promise, The ‘Pie awards young Mr Galloway a B+.

Rolling along.

A couple of other startling words floated into the nest recently, both of which could become useful currency in this neck of the woods.

You’d never dream of it, but one guesses there is a word for every single thing, and this one is (true) ‘cholephobia’ the fear of –ta da – newspapers.

Although this word doesn’t appear in any dictionary yet, the dogged word warrior Michael Quinion who runs the excellent Wide World of Words site, concludes that it is now what The ‘Pie calls a ‘legitimate bastard’ of a word: one invented on the web but eventually taken up by the mainstream.  Mr Quinion’s research is as always, thorough and fascinating – and as you will see here, it has nothing to do with anyone called Chloe.

But how handy is that to describe the growing number of Townsville Bulletin readers. By linguistic coincidence, chloephobia is very similar to cholerphobia, the fear of anger, in yourself or others. Guess which phobia is prelavent in the office of the Daily Astonisher.

And not entirely unrelated to conditions at The Astonisher is an established but rare word for a rare condition, that of Trimethylaminuria (TMAU) … otherwise known as fish odour syndrome, which as the extra bonus, can make the sufferer smell of rotten eggs. Fortunately, very few people suffer it. The conditio n has nothing to do with personal hygiene, it’s more food intolerance, but it is a lifelong curse which can lead to complete social ostracism. Here’s the story of one such poor mutt.

But it is also a handy word to explain the distinct piscine odour that springs from the pages of the Astonisher every so often, pages which are mainly afflicted with the local version of TMAU which has been dubbed Templetonotosis (TMAU) in full. Templeton Mauls Another Unfortunate. At least they give you fair warning at the top of the story of the coming pong.

Moving on, here’s a nice little contribution on the state of the nation from a downhearted Leunig.


Anybody out there with other honours suggestions?

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs’ Bar, to sniff out a suitable companion to bebubble, with the probably vain hope that it doesn’t turn out this way in the morning.


Ah, life.




The Magpie's Nest is now more than five years old, and remains an independent alternative voice for Townsville. The weekly warble is a labour of love and takes a lot of time to put together. So if you like your weekly load of old cobblers, you can help keep it aloft with a donation, or even a regular voluntary subscription. Paypal is at the ready, it's as easy as ... well, easy as pie. Limited advertising space is also available.

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