Don’t Smoke, Warn Kangaroos

kangaroo skiing

Oh, to be able to smoke a cigarette again. I used to love sitting down to work with a nice fag burning happily away in the astray on my desk. The swirling smoke centred the mind, revved the imagination and drove off the mozzies.

But those days are over. Smokers have become today’s witches destined for drowning in the village pond or a cheerful bonfire in a city square. Their public shaming and hounding from polite society has become a uniquely successful social experiment.

Even the wildlife has got in on the act.

In the old days when it was still okay to leave the office and go outside for a quick hit of nicotine public servants in Bush Capital Canberra were more than once attacked by kangaroos as they huddled in the open air.

In fairness to the roos – and their handlers over at Intelligence – they also attacked a healthy non-smoking jogger who was bouncing along a trail on a popular leafy path in his lunchtime. When he came to in hospital some time later with cuts, bruises and a black eye, he said ‘I turned around and before I knew it, it took a swipe at my face.’

He added that even if he’d had a chance to punch it back he wouldn’t have done so. He respected the national icon and held no grudge against kangaroos.

For those who braved attacks by outraged non-smokers and wild animals another threat to their future loomed large. Price hikes. Twenty cigarettes rose to the dizzying height of fifteen bucks a pack. Now that’s a hit of nicotine.

And in case you were still hanging in, going without food and walking to save on gas, another trick was on the way. Disgusting pictures on the pack. Great black gangrenous feet with missing toes. Green toothless bleeding mouths. Cancerous eyes propped open with stents. And for those who were a bit slow getting it huge letters spelling out SMOKING KILLS; CAUSES BIRTH DEFECTS; BLINDNESS.

It was enough to make you light up in terror.

It made me recall my old neighbour in London who had started smoking at fourteen and was still puffing away at ninety. She claimed – like Bill Clinton – that she had “never done the drawback.” I wondered why she bothered.

I guess that once you have put one between your lips it is hard to let go even if it has come out of packaging featuring a blind toothless amputee. As a pack rose to nearly $20 a new tactic was deployed.

The plain packet.

No longer would tobacco companies be able to promote their evil wares. ALL cigarettes would come henceforth in black nameless packets.

“How well are these selling?” I ask the lady in the discount shop, pointing to a pile of flashy-looking cigarette cases that belong in a Bette Davis movie.

“The kids are all buying them,” she tells me. “We can’t get enough.”

But the unassailable truth is that smoking rates are down, and the kangaroo – unlike the camel – isn’t doing the drawback. I suppose that is something to celebrate.

The Firing Squad

Unless something monumental happens to change this outcome two Australian men will face the firing squad on an Indonesian island tonight at midnight. They will be part of a mass execution. Last night, one of them, Andrew Chan, got married. I have been to some strange weddings, but this would have been surreal. Maybe their gift will be a stay of execution. Now we can only hope.

The Typo That Got Away

JT Twissel

Are you really, really ready to publish this book? Are you really, really ready to publish this book?

I missed Shakespeare’s birthday celebration because I was in the middle of final, final edits.  Those of you who are writers are keenly aware of the abject horror of final, final edits. Basically the publisher says to you: “Here is your last chance to catch embarrassing typos, missing words, misplaced commas, etc.  After you sign off, your work will be paraded naked through Amazon and, if you missed anything, you will be the laughing stock of the literary world. But what do we care.  You’re not making us any money.”

And you know, don’t you know, don’t you know, that despite the many, many, many times you and your editor and the proofreader go over the manuscript, as night follows day, something will be missed.

It was . . . The Typo That Got Away! It was . . . The Typo That Got Away!

Oh yes.  That nasty little bugger – the  Typo That…

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waterdog 1

This little Waterdog was tossed out of a car and pelted with rocks. It was rescued, shaved to remove hundreds of ticks – and found a home.

Nearly all the dogs I know are rescues. Some are mutts, others pedigree. Some deliberately ran away from unhappy homes, casting their furry selves upon the kindness of strangers. Others were walked out on, dumped on a lonely country road or slipped off their leash downtown to dodge traffic.

Some people just move and leave the family dog behind confused, hiding and miserable under the house unable to answer the cruelest question of all.

“What did I do wrong?”

For every unhappy ending there are many happy ones. The dog rescue societies of the world are up there with Medecins Sans Frontieres, UNICEF and Amnesty International – yet their achievements are so rarely sung.

Out into the rain these selfless souls go, following up a sighting of a cowering, terrified abandoned pooch.

Sitting at a hospital bedside reassuring a dying owner that their precious pet will continue to be loved.

Scouring the pounds for dogs who have reached their cut-off date, with only the needle awaiting them.

Instead of a cold friendless pound foster parents will often step in until a permanent home is found.  These people have a special corner of heaven reserved for them. It has fields full of wagging tails to greet them and soft nuzzling warm noses to kiss them goodnight.

Their job is to offer temporary refuge. Sometimes hundreds of animals will come through their door and out the other side.

Sometimes a special magic happens and they stay.

Brother and sister Marley and Chipper are two 13-year old dachshund corgi mixes who had never been apart. What was the chance that anyone would take them on as a pair when their owner died?

A saint called Francis, who had recently lost her own beloved dog, took them in and fostered them. They didn’t come with much baggage. Two small beds and a collar and leash. Marley had her special woolly oven mitt with the thumb chewed out. Chipper had a warthog.

Chipper couldn’t stop shaking. His anxiety levels were off the chart. He never took his eyes off Francis and became known as “the stalker.” His sister, bigger and fatter and smarter kept her eye on him, always checking him out.

They were only going to stay for a month. The month became six. Three years later they are still there.  The shaking has stopped and the barking started. The neighbours aren’t thrilled with this development, but the dogs have decided that now they are permanent residents they better taker up security detail.

It’s not just humans who go out of their way to welcome orphans into a family.  Some dogs can tell when a new arrival needs special care. They are there at the door to greet them and stay close for those first uncertain days. A beloved toy is shared and even room made in their own bed for the new scared pooch.

Who knows what they tell them. Probably that they are going to be just fine. And in the meantime, this is how we say “give me a cookie.”

Major Tom to Ground Control

panda deviant art

23 million people have watched retired astronaut Chris Hadfield float high above the world in the International Space Station performing Space Oddity. Due to copyright issues the site was taken down from You Tube, but now, with David Bowie’s blessing, it’s back up.

Once again the Canadian commander is circling the earth. The song, written 45 years ago about a doomed astronaut, still delivers a punch in the guts and a chill down the spines of viewers from Seoul to San Francisco.

Now Hadfield’s using his celebrity to push for an end to international space rivalry in the interest of world harmony.

“The United States and China need symbolic ways to cooperate beyond pandas and this is a really good way to do it,” he said.

After all, old foes America and Russia have already been down this road.

“It would have been very hard to predict in 1989, and yet I was on the Russian space station by 1995 and commander of an international crew by 2013. That’s amazingly quick. We have set an example that not only shows it is possible; it has been done.”

World peace …one song at a time.

Put Putin on You Tube in a Russian sub singing Yellow Submarine. We could all join in. …”And our friends are all aboard….’

Obama, time to shut up with Who Let the Dogs Out and dance to another tune.

Dance like there’s no one watching cause there isn’t. They’re all too busy dancing as fast as they can to stay alive.

And don’t forget to live like there’s no tomorrow because we’re right on track for that.

Rake through your old albums in the White House basement. There might be one in there by Woody Guthrie who knew a thing or two about right and wrong.

It’s called This Land is Your Land and nearly 70 years after it was released it’s still a heart-breaking anthem.

Somebody cover it. Re-release it. Now. Your country needs reminding that America once belonged to Americans before it was snatched away in a hat trick by con men.

Applications for a one-way ticket to Mars have closed. The lines were swamped. What’s happening when people would prefer to risk floating off into the cosmos than face the future on their own planet?

Ground control to Major Tom

Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong…..

(photo: Deviant Art)

Dear Rick Steves –

It’s the only way to travel ~ Mr. Toad

Jan Twissel recently took to the roads of England. Thanks for the laugh!

JT Twissel

StevesOn page 1019  of your travel guide Great Britain (the Twentieth Edition) you assert the following:

“Driving in Britain is basically wonderful – ”

No offense to all my British friends, but what were you smoking?

Of course, you amend this comment slightly by including the following admonition: “- once you remember to stay on the left and after you’ve mastered the roundabouts.”   Oh yeah.  No sweat. Those roundabouts are a piece of cake!

PSign The P sign which in Britain means that the driver has just passed his driver’s test and should be avoided like the plague. Can’t they have a T sign for tourist?  Please!

Bless you for pointing out that other readers found driving in Britain to be a “nerve-wracking” and “regrettable mistake.”  Otherwise I would have felt like a real wimp.

By the way, when you suggest that nervous readers, buy a green P sign to put in their…

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