Saturday, October 22, 2011

A crooning Katter and other equally unbelievable but less embarrassing stuff

OK,OK, The Magpie's makes his humble apologies, it was probably his fault. He takes the blame for the past week's public Katter-wauling. Explanation follows, along with a close look at a weird aspect of the American political scene, and the real historical signifigance behind place names, both here and abroad.

All here in the Magpie's Nest, which, as usual 'glitters with pilfered gems' to quote historian Tom Holland - he was talking about Plutarch, but close enough, at

A short while back you will recall The 'Pie greeted the news that Katter Jnr, as in Rob, was to join Dad's Cut Snake Party. At that time, The 'Pie foolishly suggested  - oh, the shame, blame and regret - that father and son could attract the younger vote if they formed a retro pop group called Bob, Rob and The Kattertonics. 
Well, it looks like the careless suggestion idea has become another manic glint in the eye of Katter Snr.

During the week, a bemused state - possibly nation - saw Bob addressing the very first get-together of candidates for his nascent Cut Snake Party. They looked an ordinary harmless bunch, so The 'Pie guesses you need those special spectacles to spot the aliens.

But, otherworldly or not,  when Bob started singing to them, you could see all of them first gape, then nervously grin before starting to glance around for the closest exit. It was on-the-spot mumbo jumbo, delivered in that trademark flat rasp which put you in mind of the humming villian in Silence of the Lambs. The whole bizarre episode was completely unencumbered by any forethought, real purpose - or much rhyme. Or tune. If you're game, look at it here.
What is it with politicians suddenly going into croon control? Cuddlepie Wallace decided to insult everyone  by refusing to answer a straight forward opposition question about the Bruce Highway by doing his version of the hokey pokey, telling very unmusical fibs about an alleged LNP plot to toll the Bruce Highway - but that itself was an idea pinched by the thought-disordered Liberal senator from South Australia, Mary Jo Fisher, who set the bar high earlier this year by including not just the hokey pokey but Time Warp as well when dissing the carbon tax. Mercifully, she was stopped before getting to the pelvic thrust bit.

Now The Mad Katter is at it, in the most excruciating way, serenading his chosen desperate with a toe-curling embarrassing attempt at impromptu scat singing.

The 'Pie actually felt a pang of sympathy for Katter Jnr, who appears to have missed any lunacy bullet and looks to be the repository of most of the Katter family marbles. At least Rob promised not to follow his Dad in terms of a musical campaign and was clearly red-faced after the performance.

Now, up in these parts, there is an almost universal affection for eccentricity, and we are used to what we fondly call Katterchatter, that breath-taking, surreal, gurgling torrent of half ideas, snatches of out-of-context jokes, a mesmerisingly inventive employment of English, all delivered in a soaring and dipping five octave, squeak to basso profundo range. And then, the biggest surprise of all, in the middle of all this mish mush, the sudden appearance of a clearly coherent sentence.

For instance, here's Bob on global warming idea of which he is far from convinced. These are his exact words when asked by Canberra  journalists why he didn't accept the science of climate change.

'If you could imagine 20 or 30 crocodiles up there in the roof, and that roof was illumination and saying that we wouldn't see anything in this room because of a few croc-o-roaches up there, are you seriously telling me that the world is going to warm because there are 400 parts permission of CO2 up there?'

The Magpie couldn't make that up, not even if he went off his medication.

Bob is a man looked on with the aforementioned affection and has a huge majority, but let's face it, 90% of the time he comes across as an A grade, rolled gold, dyed-in-the-blue dingbat. He appears to be deranged much of the time.

Even after listening to his views that resonate with so many voters, such as regulation of the supermarket giant, landholder rights in the face of the coal seam gas miners, practical riddance of flying fox infestations, you can't escape that Bob is short on any real idea of how to implement these things, he is tilting at both state and federal windmills at the same time, and frankly, comes across as barking mad. He probably isn't, but perception is everything in politics.

In the eventual wash-up, The Magpie reckons that if ever Bob, Rob and the Kattertonics ever make it as a pop group, after the next state election, that could have a chart-topper with a cover version of "It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To'.  
On the overseas political front, The Magpie was bemused to hear during the week several respected American commentators - that is, those not belonging to Fox News - doubting whether Republican front runner Mitt Romney would be elected to the White House because America wasn't ready for a Mormon president. 


Now all The Magpie knows about Mormons is that they are the intrusive pests that occasionally lob on your doorstep, asking highly inappropriate questions about your personal beliefs, all the while wearing funny undies designed to  discourage a quick tug on a slow day.

But these are just the annoying young buggers doing their required 'ministry' or witness or whatever to 'make their bones' with the Church of Latterday Saints. They then, in the main, go on to live useful, productive lives - not to mention reproductive lives ... once they get rid of the funny undies, they sure make up for lost time with the gals. 

America, to its credit, was ready to elect a black president, who, although a bit of a political wimp, is probably doing as good a job as anyone could in that poisoned chalice position. But not a Mormon?

But then, yeah, maybe the land of murder, mayhem, uncontrolled drugs, organised crime and corporate malfeasance on the grandest scale isn't ready for a Mormon president. Because the handily named Mitt, like all Mormons  doesn't smoke, doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't do drugs and has a strong family life centred on monogamy - decades ago, the mainstream Mormon church discouraged and does not sanction polygamy, which is practised only by a small fundamentalist splinter group. This lot are generally regarded as fruit loops - after all, there's always going to be deep reservations about any bloke who reckons more than one wife is a good thing. 

But Americans of other Christian faiths say it's not even a religion - which is understandable when you consider there's only so much to go around in terms of gullible donations to plunder - there's nothing like protecting your own bit of turf in the lucrative American religious side show alley. So yeah, I guess America generally isn't ready for that sort of thing, and are not willing to overlook some of the sillier aspects of fantasy dreamed up by the Church's founder Joseph Smith while wearing pink Elton-John spectacles. 

But then, there are those among us who reckon that dropping to your knees and having a pleading conversation with an imaginary friend is just as questionable, but each to his or her own. Maybe as some sort of divine retribution, the Yanks will end up with a real hardass Scientologist as President, that'll larn 'em. Of course, Scientology is definitely a real religion, dreamed up by science fiction writer Ron L Hubbard in the 1940s after he told friends  that if you wanted to make any real money, invent a religion. Which is exactly what he did and so now, Scientology regards itself as the Coke of religions, The Real Thing. (Don't they all?) It's real all right, or at least it is on the Planet Zog or somesuch, where we all apparently come from and are returning to - if we can raise the cash to give to the intergalactic travel agency called the Church of Scientology. 

But all that aside, they really are contradictory cattle, the Yanks.The Magpie was fascinated to discover that there is an argument raging over there at the moment as to whether there should be a change and sanitise long-standing, race-based names containing the offensive word nigger, or even the somewhat blander negro.

It is an argument, according to The Magpie's redneck lowlife mate, Mongrel the Barrister, that is simply about whether a spade should be called a spade. He's a shocker.
This all came to the fore when Republican wannabee presidential candidate, Texas govenor Rick Perry - America's answer to Bob Katter, which makes you wonder what the question is - got some frenzied publicity for having a hunting lodge at a place called Niggerhead. It's been called that for well over a century, but now, the push is on to change such names across the country. It would be an expensive, nigh on impossible task, because there are thousands of places that would have to go under the politically correct language surgeon's scalpel. And will there be strident demands for an  even-up, and the PC brigade insist that the offending names be replaced with things like Honky Hill, or White Racist C... Creek?

This issue certainly has some relevancy here in Oz, you may  remember the row about Yellow Gin Creek here in North Queensland a while back. 

But The 'Pie reckons this re-branding exercise is wrong.

Such signs really are living history of the path we have travelled, and a clear mark of how far societies have come. You could take the view that it is the oppressed minorities who should insist that nothing is changed, so that such names, rather than an enduring insult to them, can stand as permanent rebukes to past brutal attitudes, a permanent reminder of where we should never-ever go again. 

But taking race out of the naming equation, America, and well beyond her shores, has a vivid history deeply embedded in place names. 

The following are all real places, you can check the atlas - or if unlike The 'Pie, you're really advanced, Google them.

Texas gives us Dime Box, Ding Dong, and the unappetising Lick Skillet, there is a Why Not in Mississippi, which appears to be immediately answered by Why in Arizona. Life must've been tough in North Carolina which still boasts the communities of Coldass Creek, Stiffknee Knob (wouldn't want to get back-to-front) and the mysterious but sorta melodic Rabbit Shuffle. Alabama has Scratch Ankle, while those eternal optimists in Iowa have a What Cheer. Life in deliverance country in the backwoods of Tennessee must have been just one damn thing after another, what with places like Dull, Defeated, Nameless, Only and for a bit of excitment for the foodie gunsliger tired of licking skillets, Peeled Chestnut.

At least there was one obvious thing to do in three communities, those being Intercourse in Pennsylvania, Fertile in Minnesota before moving on to - oh,yes,yes,oh, god,yes - Climax in Michigan. 

And Wyoming must have been a lively place earlier on, what with possibly related incidents resulting in Dead Bastard Peak,  and  Crazy Woman Creek, while nearby, there are the graphic Maggie's Nipples in a local mountain range. In fact, there must have been a few horny, misty-eyed old pioneers in the Wild West who were tit men one and all; Colorado still boasts a Nipple Mountain, with one particular outcrop bearing the 'of thee I sing' tribute, Clara Bird's Nipple. What Ms Bird's other nipple looked like, if indeed she had another one, and her reaction to this honour, if she ever knew of it, is not recorded.

More modern appelations abound ... the best goes to the Kentucky town called Minnie Mousey - one might say that's a goofy name, or are they just taking the mickey? It's a fair bet there was a jug of moonshine involved when the good 'ol boys gathered round to choose that name.

Maryland boasts a Finksberg and a Dillsburg, both of which would look at home on a barrister's business card. Nearby, there is Accident, named for a surveying error in the 17th century, but just perfect for a injury litigation lawyers calling card.

But the Yanks don't have this field to themselves. Even our own Oz can make a couple of modest entries. Both NSW and WA have towns called Broke, while those sniffy snobs in Victoria and Tasmania have communities dubbed Plenty. And let's not forget where we live, and for those who do not know of the good Captain Towns, it must seem we are in a state of indecision in Townsville. And was Burpengary named by some Gary's attentive pioneer mum?

But let's face it, the proud past masters of this naming lurk are the Poms, who fiercely defend traditional names against the trepedations of the loonies of political correctness. When mapmakers and the local council sought to remove the h from the village name Shitterton, the ... well, the shitterton really hit the fan, and the locals were having none of it. Perhaps their cause was helped by the fact that the village is not far from the River Piddle, but the 'h' stayed.

If it's one thing the Poms have got down pat, it's their delightfully barmy way with names, whether it be for their towns and villages, their streets, their pubs and even their churches. So many of them take great pride in living in places like Lower Slaughter, or Great Snoring - which presumably is the original sleepy little hamlet. 

Some names seem like a coded language, with secret meanings lying just below the surface - Wendens Ambo, Saffron Walden, Gussage (this one sounds uncomfortably like something to with old ladies underwear) Farleigh Wallop, and Husbands Bosworth.  All elegant albeit bizarre rolling mouthfuls, although that is not the way The Magpie would describe his favourite eye-popping village name -  up in the fen country north of London there is a village which rejoices in the name Spital-In-The-Street. 

This way with names extends to streets, often named for their activities and/or products in a pre-map era. In the City of London, an area not much more than a couple of square kilometres, you will find Pope's Head Alley (named for the pub, not a Pope's purloined bonce), Mincing Lane (that may have been the equivalent of modern-day Oxford Street in Sydney) Garlick Hill and Bleeding Heart Yard, which sounds like the spot where Bob Brown would hold his press conferences. 

Then there is the eye-watering mystery of Crutched Friars which is near Seething Lane

This naming tradition apparently has layers of meaning. One of the better known throughfares is Threadneedle Street, which The Magpie assumed was orginally where seamstresses tried not to prick themselves, before the street became the financial hub of Europe. However, a Magpie mate reckons that's a furphy, although pricking was involved - he graphically used his fingers to indicate that 'threading the needle' was a sly joking name for where prositutes plyed their trade.Could be, because it was in this same area that, until the Victorians forced a rare name change, there was a throughfare frequented by prositutes called Grope Wotsit Lane ... only it was wotsit, it was a four letter word pertaining to part of the female anatomy which is still deemed to be the most offensive four letter word in the language. That is, if you discount the far more offensive four letter word RUDD.

The church names are a gigglers delight ... All Hallows Barking, St Giles Cripplegate, St Sepulchre Without Newgate and the undoubted champion, St Andrews By The Wardrobe. This was presumably to allow the clergy to come out of the closet in time choir practice.

But enough now, the time is here when The 'Pie's favourite name is a-callin', so it is off to Poseurs' Bar, perchance to bebubble and bemuse a recently encountered Russian lass. As a conversational lead, The 'Pie will suggest that names tell secrets about their owners. He will introduce himself as Ivor Biggun, in the hope that her name turns out to be Mya Nikazaroff.


  1. And don't forget Pakenham Upper just out of Melbourne. Changed a few
    years back to Upper Packenham - spoilsports.

  2. Among the rich treasure trove of iffy American place names, in Wyoming you'll find a mountain range named The Grand Tetons. It helps to know that those mountains were named by French explorers and that "Grand Tetons" means, literally, "Big Tits" in French. By the way, the resemblance is striking.

  3. How about the Victorian town of YEA !!