by Andrew Last
ab-: See origine.
australia: On the list of “196 Countries You Must Visit Before You Die” (www.lonelyplanet.com), Australia is ranked both ﬁrst and last. First, for obvious reasons (see great barrier reef, kakadu, uluru). Last, for obvious reasons (see crocodiles, sharks, snakes). To say nothing of the people who live there. Twenty-odd million of you. The new millennium has seen Australia’s cities swell in a kind of reverse gold rush. (Reverse in the sense that you don’t keep the gold for yourself. Also, reverse in the sense that it’s carbon.) But to every system there is a limit. HeLa cells press against the Petri dish. A culture responds to the density of its environment. The agar runs out.
Yahoo!7 asks: Why is Australia the best country in the world?
rabbie93 has the answers.
1. We work hard, we play hard.
2. We have the most unique plants and animals on the planet.
3. Our cities have been declared the most liveable in the world.
4. We live far away from terrorism.
5. We are the most multicultural country on earth.
6. Our economy is immune to GFCs (see mining).
7. Plenty of good places to bury a body!
Your father says that Australia is one of the driest countries on earth, second only to Antarctica, which isn’t really a country. He says it when you move to Ingham, where it never rains but man it cyclones, and again when you move to Gympie, where it never rains but man it ﬂoods.
But Australia hides a far deeper secret: not only is it the driest country on earth, it is the wettest country under the earth. The land is underscored by a vast network of rivers and lakes (see: great artesian basin). The basin shades the eastern face of the continent. Below is a world of darkness. When you press you ear to the earth, you can hear the pitter-patter of a land down under.
boom: The sound dynamite makes when it is laid in the coal seam.
bust: A word to follow boom.
capita: When you were a child, you dreamt that you were climbing a mountain. The rocks give way under your feet. For every step forward you slide back two. You had to rein in the branches for support. At last you reached the summit, where you saluted the horizon. The view was superlative. You felt like your achievements mattered, like they were what made you you. It didn’t matter that you were asleep, dreaming. You still felt it.
When you woke up the next morning, you sat with your father at the kitchen table. He was hidden behind his newspaper (see: The Courier Mail). You read the headline: by the numbers, emissions per capita. You asked him what a capita was. “A capita?” he said. “Well, I guess it’s like a person.” He paused. “But sometimes it’s not like a person. Sometimes it’s like a thing.” “Am I a capita?” “I suppose you are, yes.” You didn’t get it. Your father folded the newspaper. “It’s like this,” he said, lighting a cigarette. “Let’s say that you have four cigarettes, and I have four cigarettes, but your mother has only one cigarette.” “Why only one?” “I don’t know, she’s trying to quit or something.” “She smokes?” you asked. “She smokes?” he asked. You did the maths. “Four and four and one is nine.” “Nine cigarettes. Good. Now, if we put the cigarettes together like this…” He emptied the packet on the table. “And if I pick one up, and you pick one up, and your mother picks one up, and so on, around and around…” “We’ll each have three!” “We’ll each have three.” He paused again. “I guess the point of a capita is that it makes everything even.” He levelled his forearm. “A capita makes everything even,” you repeated. You thought about the mountain you had climbed in your dream. Your father continued: “Some of us have to give, some of us have to take…” “Until we’re all the same.” “Until we’re all the same.”
capitulation: The process by which an individual becomes a capita.
china: If you eat meat and two veg Monday to Thursday but crave sweet and sour on Friday it’s because you are one ﬁfth Chinese per capita.
Yahoo!7 also asks: Is China the best country ever?
lawrenceXD has the answer: I would say no. My parents were born there. I went there once and it was a nightmare. The streets were full of homeless people in dirty clothes. Also, the air is polluted. I had to have three injections! The only good thing about China it’s cheap. Don’t go to China. Hong Kong is much better.
climate change: See science, schmience.
coal: Scientists used to think that coal was the only substance strong enough to power a city. Then two hundred years passed. Scientists don’t think it any more, but still it happens.
coal seam gas: Methane gas trapped within the coal seam. The layer of rock is a prison. It takes intense water pressure to split the seam, part the bars, free the gas. The CSG industry is all about liberation.
coal steam gas: For the ﬁrst sixth months, you will hear something else. Your friend will say, “Coal seam gas is fucked.” You will say, “What?” Your friend will say, again, “Coal seam gas is fucked.” You will say, “Oh, I thought it was coal steam gas.”
consult: CSG companies are legally required to consult with you before they start drilling. (You own the topsoil. Everything below is Crown Land.) A CSG representative will enter into your community. He will donate anonymously to the local football club, buy tickets in the bowling club’s rafﬂe, kneel in church every Sunday morning. Soon you will forget that he was ever not there. Then, and only then, will he knock on your door. He has come for the land below your land.
This is a consult, somewhere between a con and an insult.
fact: A thing that is known to exist or to be true; an item of veriﬁed information; truth, reality.
fract: A fact that does not hold up under pressure. “CSG is up to 70% cleaner than coal.” This is a matter of fract.
gympie-gympie: Named after the Town that Saved Queensland, the Gympie-Gympie is a shrub native to Australian rainforests. If you thought that it was the other way around, that the town was named after the tree, you are mistaken. The Gympie-Gympie’s reputation precedes it. The Nobel Prize precedes Alfred Nobel. Madonna (the one who feels like a virgin) precedes Madonna (the one who is a virgin). Australians precede Aborigines. History has no regard for chronology.
There are no Gympie-Gympie trees in Gympie.
hydrologic fracture: As it sounds: broken water.
origine: You learnt about Australians before you learnt about Aborigines. 2000. 1956. 1938-1945. 1914-1918. 1901. 1854. 1824. 1788. 1770. Australian culture dates back 250 years. Aboriginal culture dates back 50,000 years. The ratio is 1:200.
The preﬁx “ab-” means “away from”. When your ancestors came to Australia, this is exactly what the Aborigines did. They went away. They reinvented themselves. They had lost their land. The tide of history had pulled them out to sea. They abandoned ship.
In the water they became Origines. They became Original.
Original culture is passed down from generation to generation through oral history. The basic unit of storytelling is the Dream. The most famous Dream is about Tiddalik the Frog. It explains where water comes from. One hot day, Tiddalik decides to drink every last drop of water on the face of the earth. Soon the other animals are dying of thirst. Wombat is not impressed. “This is fucking bullshit!” he says. The other animals agree. Nabunum, the eel, is calm under ﬁre. “Don’t get your knickers in a knot,” he says. He knows that he can drink the moisture in his scales. But when he tries to strain it from his body he becomes as tangled as a ﬁshing line. He looks 100% stoopid. When Tiddalik sees Nabunum, his lips split into a smile, his body into a laugh. He cracks up. Water ﬂoods the land. Rivers, lakes, oceans form. Tiddalik has painted a new landscape in watercolour.
The story of Tiddalik the Frog raises more questions than it answers: Where did the water come from in the ﬁrst place? Why is Tiddalik such a fucking greedy-guts? What’s an eel doing in the middle of desert, anyway?
If Dreaming seems primitive to you, it is only because you do not understand the magic of the creation.
politics: Classical physics reduces the world to atoms, the indivisible building blocks of life. In the same way, politics reduces the world to economics. Unlike physicists, however, politicians lack the imagination to see past the atom to a quantum universe.
renewable: See newable, able, ab-
sheep’s back, the: The same thing as Tiddalik, except a sheep, not a frog. And wool, not water.
sheep’s back, the new: Same as the sheep’s back, except not a sheep, and not wool, but a hole in the ground (see mining) and the old, dead trees (see fossil fuels, coal). Note that the frog laughed and the sheep bleated. If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around, does it make a sound 500 million years later?
system: You visit your mother and father in Gympie. The landscape is as curly as a sheep’s back. Your mother goes running every day, up and down the hills. When she gets home she pats her belly, her tight stomach. The ripples let her know how hard she’s worked. The less she runs, the worse she feels.
The thing is, every morning she treats herself to a slice of cheesecake, maybe a block of chocolate, a cup of coffee perhaps. She undoes all her hard work before she even starts. It doesn’t seems like a very efﬁcient way of staying in shape. You say something to your father. “But if she didn’t eat the cheesecake, she wouldn’t have to go running.” Your father doesn’t hide behind his newspaper any more: he reads a tablet now. “Don’t say anything,” he says, swiping a piece of fruit. “Don’t you dare.”
You are not allowed to question the cheesecake
town that saved queensland, the: Can there be more than one? Yes. Ingham did it with bananas. Gympie did it with gold. Who else has saved your state? Who is doing it right now?
trycoon: Someone whose colossal ﬁnancial success is proportional to how hard he or she works. Consider the Australian National Anthem: “We’ve … wealth for toil.” (The ellipsis is a telling one.) Trycoons deserve their slice of the pie because they work hard for it, and hard work is Australian as pie. (Note: The world’s ﬁrst meat pie was cooked in an oven in Bendigo, 1947. Pie output has since grown 1000-fold from 50 per day to 50,000 per hour. By the numbers, pie has become more Australian.) (Another note: This explains why, all things being equal, trycoons are morbidly obese.)
But trycoons like to give back to the community. They do useful things like build replica ocean liners and sponsor commercial television programs. You cannot blame them for not trying.
water: That which gurts. That which shades a quarter of the continent. That which paints and repaints. That which is swallowed. That which is laughed out. That which rises to unprecedented levels. That which falls from the sky. That which fractures. That which is in your skin. That which disappears down your shower drain at too many litres per minute, for too many minutes, per capita.