Archive for the 'too strange for fiction' Category

One for Don Watson

And I quote (from the back label of a bottle of freaking spring water for crap’s sake):

“It is the co-operation and strength of human character that has inspired us to develop KOKODA KANTEEN Legendary Water.”

So legendary indeed that “Legendary Water” mysteriously became a proper noun, never mind the fact that I’ve been misspelling “kanteen” my entire life.

Is this what the Aussie genuflection to the Kokoda myth has been dragged down to? We have arrived at the logical nadir of it all: just shy of seventy years after the desperate blood-and-muck drenched events of the Kokoda Track campaign we have, finally, the mass-produced bottle of water we all desperately needed to truly and spiritually round out our reverie.

I feel like yelling a pretty harsh expletive at whoever came up with that crap on the bottle – you know the word, four letters, definitely NOT starting with “k”…

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Sorcery Act 1971

It’s hard not to sound a bit culturally insensitive from time to time, and to be fair the legislation isn’t exactly new (indeed I think I read in the news that some politician or other has made public calls for the Act to be reviewed… although that could mean anything!).

So I won’t make any extensive commentary on this. I’ll just leave it for you all to judge.

Have yet to determine if the legislation encompasses other nefarious mystical acts such as playing a wizard character in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, mucking about with the the Dark Side, or asking divine favours of Haile Selassie the First. Hmmmmm.

The GeeGee, the Gee and me.

I shook hands with the Governor General and instantly began thinking of corny ‘I’ll never wash my hands again’ jokes. He had approached me on his final round of greetings as the various guests scoffed themselves on celebratory cake. “I haven’t said hello to you yet” he said. We pressed palms, and he was gone: back behind the curtain that had been parted with great ceremony and reverence about half an hour before to reveal the kindly-looking old critter who happened to be 2IC to the Queen herself.

The event of his arrival is worth recounting. All had been assembled, empty seats had been occupied at the direction of the people who are paid to make sure the GeeGee doesn’t have to look at empty seats, the media entourage were ready, everyone had shut their chattering holes and there was bugger all else I could do about anything. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding”: and to my amusement we all upstood. An invisible hand parted a curtain and lo! He was there. The wizard! The wise leprechaun of the Pacific! The little man (or should that be big little man?)! The GeeGee of PeeEnGee!

A couple of speeches and a cake-cutting photo-op later and I was admiring the scene: the residence PNG’s vice-regent overlooking the hubbub of PNG’s harbour from the vantage of a broad old colonial verandah, a tacky outdoor-friendly red carpet running up the wide stairs (I suspect the same stuff that old fake pool grass was made of), solemn dignitaries and chairmen and VIP’s and a scrawny old dog snooping around for crumbs. We saw the dog later as we drove off near the guardhouse at the gate. ‘The GeeGee’s dog!’ people joked. We drove off pleased with the way things had gone, and to celebrate my colleagues held up some traffic as they stopped to buy some buai through the window of the van.

One week later it so happened that I was seated between A Chairman and a Gee, not the GeeGee – just a Gee. By virtue as being the helper-boy for said Chairman (and probably by virtue of being a little, um, white) my presence at the VIP table was not questioned. I ate the Chinese food, trying desperately not to be flatulent or to drop oily pork over my shirt. Some barely-clad Motuan dancers screeched and beat their kundus as they swayed in a circle around our table. Their cultural display made the luncheon more challenging than it needed to be – their proximity, although intended to be an honour, was unnerving, and their singing was shrill and harpy-like.

The Gee had not warmed to me initially but I dropped a guy’s name and it brought a smile to his face. The Gee had a jolly smile, and he reminded me of Santa – that is if Santa ever took to the habit if remonstrating citizens for their filthy habits via posters depicting his finger-wagging visage on major intersections thoughout the city. I had to admit I didn’t know the guy whose name was dropped, but the missus did. Near enough. The Gee was happy to receive an invitation to our event, and my work was done.

Dok bilong Moresby.

I saw on the SMH site the other day that a dead dog was found hanging from a tree somewhere in Sydney. I didn’t get to read the article as it tried to send me to a porn site instead, but I got the gist – Dog. Dead. Tree. Suspended. If that’s the kind of tale that brings on the waterworks then for the love of God (Dog?) stay away from Port Moresby. Here in Waigani Heights there are a few (honestly one or two, maybe three) well-cared for dogs, but mostly the canines in Moresby belong to one of three broad categories – street mongrels, guard dogs, and dead.

The street dogs are pitiful but you don’t touch them. Mange, ribs and weeping sores are the only common trait, otherwise they don’t look much like any canine genus I know of. They’re everywhere, even here in sleepy Waigani Heights. We hear them fighting every evening, and the same dog yelps pitifully after each bout. I would advise a change in career for that particular dog but I guess there aren’t too many options for the ignoble hounds of Waigani Heights besides scavenging and fighting (and preying on newcomers… read on).

The guard dogs tend to be better catered for however they’re often gaunt – keep ’em lean, keep ’em mean. They’re mostly German Shephards but there’s a stocky mongrel outside a chemist in Boroko that I can’t pick the breed of. Yes, guard dogs outside chemists – once I thought Marrickville was a bit rough with a bouncer outside the pharmacy, but here in Moresby you always have them, and they often have dogs. Mostly the animals seem thoroughly disinterested in chewing on raskols, sleep being the preferred pastime during scorching business hours. I’ll leave it to someone else to see what they’re like when roused – although from what I saw on Independence Day they can get excitable. One weekend outside the big supermarket in Gordons a security truck drove by with about twenty dogs in the back. The brutes gnashed and barked at the Sunday shoppers, making their presence well known as the truck did a lap through the carpark. I couldn’t figure out why there was a need to take the dogs on a tour of Gordon’s Foodworld. Maybe the security personnel were out trying to impress the locals: Hey everyone – look at these fucking DOGS!

As for the dead type – do I need to explain? Common trait is bloatage, common habitat is beside the road. I’ve actually only seen two. The first was decapitated. The second was being closely examined by some people for reasons I don’t need to know.

I really haven’t had personal problems with the latter varieties – guard and dead. The same can’t be said for the street mongrels. Yesterday just outside our compound I saw one of the usual dogs uphill from me, which is nothing out of the ordinary as they tend to sniff around and shit wherever they want – as dogs do. A few moments later I turned around to find the same dog coming at me. Friendly fellow, I thought. Wrong! For some reason this fella didn’t like me and wasn’t shy about getting close and personal to make the point. Of course as soon as one starts something the others join in – so within moments I was keeping four of the filthy beasts at bay with my cumbersome sandals and a few (panicky) yells. Someone inside one of the houses on the road was shouting at the dogs but it’s safe to say they aren’t the most obedient or disciplined creatures. They kept a distance of a metre or so when I faced them but as soon as I stopped looking at them one or two would dart in and snap at my legs, and because of my clumsy footwear walking backwards wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Thus the hounds and I had reached an impasse, broken only when a fifth dog bolted out of a yard – a black one who wasn’t as reluctant to get stuck in as the rest. He got a bit too close and I really definitely was worried. Then inexplicably one or two paid attention to the unseen person yelling out and within moments they had dispersed. I was left alone on the dusty road muttering ‘dogs! fucking dogs!” to myself incredulously.

I went about my business and on my way back called in on the Anglicare workshop down the hill, where beardy Dave from Cape York supplied me with some dog repellent – ie a spare bit of thick poly pipe that made a nice whoosh sound as I swung it a few times. I was on guard on my way home but nonetheless the only warning I had was the scratch of claws on the bitumen – and behind me were another three or four of them about to snap at me! Thankfully the dog repellent worked. It worked again this morning – on the same pack that had a go at me the first time! The boys who mind the gate at the compound weren’t far away and with a few of us around the pack scarpered behind a fence. TheĀ  boys seemed more amused than concerned when I explained that asde dispela dok olgeta laik paitim mi, not maliciously I am sure but I’m certain I look pretty foolish with my dog repellant. I was told that they didn’t like my stick. “They didn’t like me yesterday without the fucking stick!” was all I could reply.

I’m not sure how this is going to work out in the long term but the situation is already a bit tiresome. I’ve been told that payback compensation will be offered if I get bitten – if an owner steps forward to claim responsibility that is. Just because you see them in someone’s yard doesn’t mean the residents own the dog! Someone mentioned that a while ago the dogs were out of control, prompting some Highlanders to take matters into their own hands. As a result I’m having fantasies about upgrading my dog repellent to a bush knife or a slingshot of some kind but I’m not sure how much I’m up for an all-out bloodbath on my own street. I doubt I’d impress my new neighbours when they see me holding a dog’s head in one hand and a bloody bush knife in the other screaming dispela longlong dok bilong husait motherfuckers!!!!???

Nah. Probably not a good look.

Bad career path.

An excerpt from the PNG English-language daily The National from 21 July 2008:

THE National Court in Lae last Friday sentenced a man to 23 years in jail with hard labour for the murder of a suspected sorcerer. Justice George Manuhu sentenced Gideon Neo, in his 20s, from Simbuluk village, Bulolo, Morobe province, in a courtroom filled with his relatives. Court documents said that Neo and two others, armed with a bush knife and axe, went to the house of one Kiputong Waiag on the night of April 18, 2006, and killed him while he was asleep in the kitchen. They had accused him of causing the death of a relative through sorcery.

And more a couple of paragraphs later:

Justice Manuhu said many people, accused of murder, used sorcery as an excuse for their crimes. He said that people should exercise restraint in dealing with sorcery and find alternatives to resolve deaths through such alleged acts.

Exercise restraint indeed! When people start dropping inexplicably, think twice before heading out and sticking the local sorcerer with your trusty bush knife. It’s against the law after all. However it’s worth noting that Justice Manuhu did take into account that the victim had been “convicted of sorcery earlier”. Maybe poor old Kiputong Waiag could have chosen a safer profession. Gun-running perhaps. What’s stupefying about this scenario is not merely the fact that people get chopped up for being ‘sorcerers’ but also somewhere, somehow in PNG law being a sorcerer is a codified offence. What. The. Fark.

The fate of Kiputong Waiag reminds of an excerpt from the excellent book Making ‘Black Harvest’ by the Sydney filmmaker Bob Connolly. He introduces Tumul, a bigman from the Highland Ganiga tribe:

When he was young, Ganiga Paia’s brother died for no reason and a man from a neighbouring tribe was suspected of sorcery. While various Ganiga talked about what to do, Tumul took his fighting axe, chose an opportune moment and with one tremendous, legendary blow split the sorcerer’s skull right down to his shoulders (p.25).

There you have it. Sorcery. A very, very bad career choice.