March 2004

Aussie Gods

Back in May last year I spoke of the Australian gods Bruces (god of culture-free entertainment), and Steves (god of mindless outdoor activities). They're not very old gods when you measure their lives in biblical time scales, and some would describe them as immature. They've left me alone of late, so I'm going to take a chance and talk a bit more about Aussie gods.

A god you've probably not heard of yet is Rex (pronounced "wrecks"). Rex is the god of segregation of the sexes. You sometimes see his handiwork at parties where all the guys end up at one end of the house, drinking freely and hammering on about blokey stuff. All the girls find themselves clustered elsewhere, talking about whatever girls talk about when they get together. The subject matter discussed is officially beyond my ken.

Now that you've recognised him, a little verse may serve to show more of his supernatural influence.

In sit-com writer's spiteful style the gods
could not permit pure happiness to last,
so when two perfect lovers' lots were cast
the gods conspired to bugger with the odds.
"They're never gonna notice if we cheat--
just 'ave 'im born a thousand miles from 'er."
"Yeah, right," said Bruces, "It's much easier
to stop their dreamboat if they never meet."
Then Rex, who was an expert in his art,
said "Hold on mates; youse leave too much to chance.
Big distance never broke a grand romance;
We need 'em born two 'undred years apart."
    A bloke wrote sonnets to an unknown bride.
    A sheila read old poetry and sighed.

Bad Mistake

I made a bad mistake about 3 days ago. As soon as I saw the signs I should have sealed WifeOfVirge in the high security bio-hazard containment facility. I'm just too full o' the milk of human kindness. I gave her liberty and allowed the disease to spread. Now I have a sore throat and sneezes.

Since the disease is already about, there's no point in me locking myself away, is there?

Caricatured Again

Socar, the bad rat, has caricatured me again.  Not in ink this time, but in verse as Vurge the Burdman.  (It's probably because of some things I wrote in Heidi's entry on Cheney's duck hunting.)

I am filled with overwhelming gratitude that some power, some unseen force stayed her scornful ratty paw. Her lust to lampoon me was lost somewhere between evil intent and produced poem.

While we're on the subject of packbawkies, it was brought to my attention that a Google search for "packbawky" now gives pride of place to a news article about a parrot killed for dirty words. The article doesn't even mention the P-word. As far as I can see, Google has drawn a link between "packbawky" and that article based purely on a wall spattering link that I posted in early February. If any of my readers copied that link and published it somewhere, please let me know. I didn't think it was possible to create a single-handed google-bomb.


"And some have greatness thrust upon them."

I've been appointed to a position of power. I've been promoted to the status of moderator at Ebony Keep. Now I get to sample the subtle intoxicating aroma of sycophancy, the financial security of extortion and the dizzying rush of wielding god-like super powers. Of course I'm still a noisy packbawky, nobody has any money for bribes, and my puissance extends all the way to locking message threads that have unraveled in flames, but it's a sign of trust.

How should I view an increase in my sphere of influence? I could model myself as Sir Virgil the knight-errant, seeking opportunity to do deeds of valour. Have you a just cause that needs championing? Is there injustice, oppression,  corruption? Show me evil that I might smite it. That's a pose I don't think I could hold for long. The selfless altruistic hero only exists in the minds of those who write stories. Pretense of the role in real life is sufficient to guarantee failure.

I'd be pretty good at playing Virgilanti the truly errant knight if it didn't mean having to hurt people. I can be callous when I see people suffering as a result of their own stupidity. I can distance myself from a human population that allows itself to be led by deceived and deluded alpha-males (while at the same time knowing I'm dependent on the band for my quality of life). I just can't distance myself enough to wish them ill. A Blackadder I am not.

Virge the court jester will have to do. I present no threat, no insult that can't be laughed off, entertainment that occasionally helps put life into perspective, and a source of welcome, trustworthy deceit. This is a role I can keep on playing, with or without power.


The vexing question, "What is art?" has been raised several times in the last few days from apparently independent sources. While I was reading Learning to Write with Uncle Jim  I was directed to an online course called Reception of the Arts. This site has a wealth of notes on the subject from the viewpoint of the receiver.

Nathalia Edenmont creates art by killing animals. Wetterling Gallery defend her art as beautiful and thought provoking. Is art defined by the intent of the creator or is it defined by the recipient? Must both creator and recipient agree that it is art?

In Sweden, a law has been proposed that will require photographers to pay royalties to an artist if they publish a photo that includes any significant part of a work of art. This law includes a legal definition of art that covers paintings and sculpture. What if an artist creates works of art on skin? Can a makeup artist expect royalty payments from a photographer if a made-up face is included within a photograph of some other subject? If the law is passed, I can see a lucrative market for legal "artists".

I fear that the English word "art" has been so overloaded with different meanings that it is impossible to define. Perhaps the word has become virtually useless. Looking at dictionary definitions supports this view. However, since we continue to use the word to communicate a concept, I'd like to have a stab at finding some boundaries to its meaning, however fuzzy.

These musings led me to construct a little thought experiment (which I'm pretty sure is not itself art):

Imagine you are the reigning monarch of the small island state of Artopiana. You have 144000 subjects and a thriving, self-sufficient economy.

You decide that you have enough treasury surplus to be able to provide some modest financial assistance for artists. Being a wise monarch, you realise there may be some opportunists in your kingdom who try to take advantage of your generosity. Since you don't have the time to administer the art assistance scheme personally, you need to set out some guidelines as to what pursuits qualify as art.

What are your guidelines? What are the essential elements of art that your kind, intelligent social security officer should look for when someone applies for support?

Beyond Expectations (Reclaiming Art Part 3)

The buzz surrounding the Reclaiming Art hoax wasn't limited to the EK forums. I went to bed around 2:30am after watching the fun on EK. On Saturday morning when I logged in, all hell had broken loose. Since ConceptArt and EatPoo had been disparaged by our pseudo-evangelicals an enraged EKer had felt obliged to direct their attention to the slight.

Beyond Expectations (Reclaiming Art Part 2)

It's time for the next episode on the Reclaiming Art hoax.

After the initial outrage at the god-spam aimed at Linda we let the mood cool for a couple of weeks. Socar made her carefully planned "mistake" post in the EK Study forum to leave a trail for the sleuths to follow. Linda posted the second letter from Andrew T Foster. The EK community boiled.

Beyond Expectations (Reclaiming Art Part 1)

My previous entry gave a behind-the-scenes view of creating Reclaiming Art. Now I'll try to draw together some of the responses from the lives that it touched. The Reclaiming Art hoax reached a far wider audience than any of us imagined. It was the huge crowd of unintended victims that led us to blow the cover early rather than hold on until April 1st.

The Making Of "Reclaiming Art"

In early December last year I started thinking about an April Fool's Day hoax to play on the members of Ebony Keep. Each year's joke has to be better than the previous. The members have had all manner of upsetting stunts played on them, so they are getting much smarter at detecting fraud. I figured that if a joke was going to fool them, we had to have something that looked well established before March. It had to be well prepared.

There had been some recent bickering in another online forum directed against prominent EK members. This got right up the noses of a number of people in EK; our community has strong internal bonds. The past few April Japes have generated friction within the community. It was time for EK to rise up in anger against an external foe and I knew how to manufacture one.

Sigga and Socar refined the idea with me, then Socar enlisted the support of EK's aristocracy. It was met with enthusiasm. We created an ezboard community called Reclaiming Art. and I played my role as Andrew T Foster. In the rest of this journal entry I've included some discussions from the hoax planning room so you can get a behind-the-scenes view.

[edit: If you just want to see the responses, check here (part 1), here (part 2), and here (part 3).]

Packbawkies Can Sing

Picture a solid black block in a rocky landscape silhouetted against the dawn sky.

The block is perfectly smooth -- a precise rectangular prism.

It is not completely black.

Streaks of white birdshit have hardened on the sides of the block.

Virgilanti Presents:

2001<!--EZCODE FONT END--> an avian odyssey

Download theme music (1.7Mb) "Also Squawk Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss, performed by the Melbourne Fowlharmonic Bawkestra