Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Great Shark Hunt

Latest column in The Australian, in which I recall the heady days when Hong Kong was terrorised by a tiger shark and great shark hunter Vic Hislop was summoned to save the day

Shortly after taking up residence in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, I woke one morning to find Vic Hislop, notorious Australian shark hunter, in my bed. Fortunately, I was on the sofa.

He staggered out into the living room; short, stocky, smelling vaguely of stingray. Vic had just flown in from Queensland, and we had put him up for the night in the house my friends and I had rented in Sai Kung, a fishing village and expat hangout in the New Territories.

Nearby Clearwater Bay had been terrorised by a spate of shark attacks and my employer, The Hong Kong Standard newspaper, on a brilliant wheeze from my flatmate, colleague and this paper’s national chief correspondent, Hedley Thomas, hired Hislop to catch the suspected tiger shark.

Five steps to make Australia great again

Latest column in The Australian, in which I burn the midnight renewables to come up with five simple ways to make Australia great again. 

Recently I was on holidays and ventured north to my banana-bending, daylight-non-saving, cyclone-prone state of origin, the one-time hillbilly dictatorship known as Queensland. As a hard rain fell and biblical floods gathered, I spent most of my time watching television with my dad. This meant a non-stop diet of Andrew Bolt, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Latham’s Outsiders (before his latest self-immolating spontaneous combustion) and hour upon hour of question time.

And people, it got me questioning, where is the love? Where are the leaders? Between Malcolm Turnbull’s search for his inner mongrel and Bill Shorten blowing, sucking and turning his back, it was depressing stuff. We live in an age of political pygmies, paralysed in the eye of a sharknado of stupidity, self-interest and hypocrisy. My holiday passed in a blur of North Korean nukes, Trump tweets, radicalised ratbags, flash floods and gender fluids. The main climate change has been to one of fear and loathing. We the people must rise up and reclaim our nation. So I’ve been burning the midnight renewables to come up with a list of simple measures to make us great again.

What ever happened to the heroes?

Latest column in The Australian ... No more heroes anymore

It is said that a prophet is not without honour except in his own town. And in every age, heroes are beset by the slings and arrows of cowards, snipers and trolls.

It was a bad week for prophets and heroes recently. It began with the fall of a titan of free speech, the late great Bill Leak, and there is nothing I can add to the avalanche of accolades and praise and laments that followed the death of The Australian’s artist, cartoonist and satirist non pareil, save to register my disgust with the legion of online trolls, perpetually offended political correctness sticklers and armchair culture warriors who exulted in his death and danced on his grave from behind their firewalls of anonymity.

A few days later, the father of this paper’s national chief correspondent and a long-time friend, Hedley Thomas, died. Hedley Sr had been a helicopter pilot flying dangerous missions over the jungle during the Vietnam War. Before the war he had flown Sabres and Vampires. He changed to choppers after breaking his back from the infamous configuration and G-forces exerted by the ungainly fused-tail Vampires.

Hell is other passwords

Latest column in The Australian, in which I go slowly mad trying to remember lost passwords. 

To continue reading this column, please type in your password. Did that sentence just give you the heebie jeebies, the screaming meemies, the abject abdabs or provoke an incipient conniption fit?

Passwords have become the bane and precondition of modern existence, a daily exercise in memory dredging and hair-tearing, desk-pounding, expletive-laden frustration that at times can send one to the brink of an existential crisis.

Passwords, can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Without them, you can’t pass “Go” and you might go to jail. Lose them, and you could lose everything. Your finances, your secrets, your online personas, your very life and soul.

I lost all my passwords recently. Oh, I’d listened to all the experts, read the articles, was smugly self-assured that I was ahead of the password curve and doing everything humanly and digitally possible to protect myself and my treasured little snippets of gatekeeping gobbledygook. I’d recently updated all my key social media passwords. My staple had been a dead dog’s name and a series of digits (I had seven dogs and they’re all dead, hackers, and no, it wasn’t my birthday, and I’m broke anyway, so don’t waste your time).

Not particularly secure, but easy to remember. I changed them to things I thought I would remember, with digits and the requisite non-alphanumeric characters. Then I encased the lot in the digital steel of one of those safe apps, which cost me $10 or so, a hefty spend in the app world.