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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...everywhere I go...
Mrs Speech tells me, that growing up in America, it was their tradition to bake Christmas cookies in the lead up to the Big Day.

For the record, we call them biscuits. Over here biscuits are cookies. You don't soak them in gravy and if you put them with your roast beef it'd be a strange combination. Biscuits are cookies and cookies...are smaller, round things with little chips in 'em I guess.

But, Christmas cookies are what Mrs Speech likes. She usually makes them sugar-cookie-style (like Gangnam Style, only better) but this year she decided to chocolate them up and whack on some leftover chocolate icing mix.

Once police established a chalk outline, they determined that the dough was killed by a star-shaped object.
We never did anything like this when I was growing up. We never really had those kinds of traditions. Our tradition, growing up in Adelaide, was to get out of the 40°/110° heat. Later, when I was comin' up in Brisbane, the tradition was to get out of the 33°/100° heat and melt-you-where-you-stand humidity.

Christmas traditions in Australia are slowly disappearing, you know, like how you read twice a year on CNN that unless someone does something, fourteen languages will disappear in the next year? It's like that. I was walking back home through our unit complex the other day and I saw a wreath. A really nice wreath, too. But then I thought, I don't think there's another one in the walk down to our place. We have one up.

You'd pass sixteen units and not see another one. There was a time when you'd see tons of them. And lots of Christmas tree lights in windows.

Man this is turning into a depressing post. I don't wanna do that to you.

We LOVE Christmas in our household. So we do traditions. We're going through them in this How We Do Christmas series, but so far this is what we've traditioned for the holiday season:

  • Putting up the tree (everyone does this...)
  • Christmas present shopping (everyone does this, too, mainly)
  • Going to the lighting of the tree (not sure for how much longer)
  • Buying a bauble for our tree that same night
  • Going to the Twilight Markets/Christmas Parade (just started)
  • Watching It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve ("Merry Christmas y'old Building 'n Loan")
  • Reading the Christmas Story from Luke 2:1 to Luke 2:20 (we do this before opening presents)
  • Watching Ben Hur Christmas Day (after lunch...when I fall asleep fifteen minutes in...it's the best Christmas movie ever, though)
Kind of looks like the angels are surrendering, doesn't it? I like to bite the heads off first.
Traditions are important, in my humble opinion. They bind us to our past and guarantee that we don't forget what is important. And in our five minute culture I want to be bound to the notion that Christmas is not transient, is not of diminishing importance.

That it's a day that has been honoured by billions of people who've come and gone under the reign of the king, for two thousand and twelve years (and counting...regardless of what the Mayans say).

So we hold on to our little quaint practices, of wreaths and Christmas movies, because we love the season, we love the Saviour, and we love our Christmas cookies.
The masses upon masses heading into King George Square.
Next up for us in this Christmas season is the Twilight Markets. We first became aware of them a couple years ago but for varying reasons were not able to get to them.

Not so this year, I said!

I was dog tired, and not feeling particularly well, and had a blasting headache, but I shoved myself out the front door regardless. Mrs Speech really wanted to go - I think mainly, to scout out what other crafterteers were doing and maybe get a spot next year.

The tree. Alight. No wait, that's not right.
So, we plonked ourselves on the bus and got down the city in about forty minutes. We live a fair distance from town so it takes a little while (I used to waste spend an hour and a half every day on the bus going to and from work).

Things did not bode well when we got to the Myer Centre in the city, which also has a huge bus station underneath it - it's a catacombs of bus islands which sit amid the stream of heavy duty traffic.

Anyhow we got in around the start of peak hour last night and about fourteen buses were banked up to the side of us, cutting off our route in. You've not felt raw claustrophobic horror until you've sat in a metal crate hemmed in by a zillion buses, underground with fifty zillion tonnes of concrete and steel above your head.


The Square

We trotted off to King George Square, home of the Christmas Tree Lighting, and saw it seemed, about the same number of people as there were at the lighting. Except, with tents lined up all over the square and the plaza above.

There's a new trendy-looking restaurant at the rear of the square, called Groove Train, which looked...well, trendy. It was all open and inviting and very well patronised.

At the front there was a stage on which would soon be sung some Christmas songs - more on that later.

Mrs Speech got some new friends.
The place was utterly packed; it was hard to move, let alone get in to the stalls to see what was on offer.

It was all handmade stuff as you can imagine - lots of dolls and felt and magnets. The odd glassware/ceramics. A stall selling independent magazines which was conspicuously vacant of customers.

It was all bohemian and lefty/liberal. Lots of 'good for the earth' and Christmas being about peace and hope and love (but not Jesus. Let's not put Christ in Christmas!). The flavour of activism was not dispelled by the group of twenty or so rallying against apartheid in South Africa (I think):

Leader: "What do we want?"

Group: "Equal rights for all humanity and an end to oppression. And a means of reconciliation and the belief in a common and unique love."

(Maybe I made that last bit up. But that was the gist.) They were largely ignored as the kooks that they likely are. One of the women in the group had a large tattoo on each knee.

And now I will admit to being uncongenial

I recongised not long in that I was getting snotty because of my tiredness and my headache and the crowds upon teeming, sweaty crowds of endlessly pushy/shovey people who I wanted to push and shove into the nearest hessian bag which said 'made from 100% pre-smoked cannabis butts.'

So I had to check the attitude and try to enjoy myself. Incidentally, I'm a big dude. Didn't always used to be that way. If you're reading this and you're big, have you ever noticed how much more difficult it is to navigate sales and markets and such? It's a tough deal. I'm pretty agile and I still find it tough to keep out of peoples' way. Makes it difficult to enjoy yourself when you can't dodge and weave like you used to.

About halfway through our visit in the square, the music began. It was initially a twenty-something woman whose voice operated an octave too high and had that shrill effect. You know the effect. The one that makes you wince, squirm and clutch at your bleeding eardrums all at the same time.

She also liked her licks. A lot of 'all I want for Christmas...is yo-o-o-o-u-u-u-u-u-u-u ba-a-a-a-a-a-by-y-y-y-y-y' that made me want to run for the nearest thrash metal concert for relief.

I had to check my attitude.

Your money can't buy me love

Mrs Speech the next day in her Babushka shirt.
We wandered about for around thirty or forty minutes - for the reasons outlined above it was difficult to intensely and casually browse - and Mrs Speech bought a few things here and there. She is spookily, magnetically drawn to Babushka-related things and today was no exception. She noticed anything vaguely resembling an eighteenth-century Russian peasant woman.

She was thrown off by the occasional Geisha as they are iconically manufactured to look a little like Babushkas, but she came home with a green t-shirt which she almost walked away from but which I convinced her was an eighteenth-century Russian peasant woman steal at the price ($20).

The amount of paper stuff the vendors were asking for was...interesting. Mrs Speech commented that they maybe had to pay a lot in stall fees and needed to make it back. But most things were three to four times the price I would have thought. There was one collection of four pink dolls, the largest of which was perhaps ten inches tall, for seventy dollars. A mud bowl for thirty dollars (we recently got three for two bucks each from Coles).

You may handcraft your wares but you will not handcraft your way that deeply into my wallet.

Watch out for the logies

They walked to the beat of their own drum (I couldn't resist).
After Mrs Speech picked up her goodies we began our way back. There was a Christmas parade which oddly was to terminate at King George Square, which meant it had to cross a very busy Adelaide Street. A strange choice.

"The drummers have been obliterated by the 131 bus going to Moggill."

They started out with the drummers, followed by the dancers in tight court jestery-type costumes, followed by a bunch of other performers. We're not talking floats, don't get me wrong. The thing was sponsored by Myer but I don't think they cared to invest that much. It was more a collection of themed people.

Real camels!
The Mary and Joseph on a donkey thing was cool. And the real camels! And the big star.

We sauntered back to head home, making our way through the throng. Incidentally we ended up on the wrong side of a two way stream of traffic, making our way up the left when people were sticking to the right, and with people packed together like little sardine people, no way of crossing. Oddly people swerved to avoid us as they made their way down to King George Square, like water flowing around a rock, in a stream.

Mrs Speech had a difficult time coming home - we had a long stretchy bus, whose tail kind of flails about a bit and catches all the extra momentum as the bus goes round the corner etc - she promised me to not sit in the tail again.

A nice night and Christmas is now only ten days away!
Saturday, December 08, 2012
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The 2DayFM page isn't loading quickly at the moment. The link to the prank itself has been removed.

I suppose it's all fun and games until a person dies at Christmastime to satisfy the reprehensible whims of the prostitutes our western mass media culture has vomited upon us.
Actually, they don't say that at all. Something about driving, though I believe.

But I'm (Mr Speech) going to blog while angry so there's a 100% chance that I will make a fool of myself.

CNN and other news outlets are currently reporting that the nurse who was recently the victim of a prank call by two Australian DJs, has killed herself.

There has been initial confusion over whether the deceased was the receptionist who put the call through to the nurse, or the nurse who provided information on the Duchess of Cambridge's medical condition.

First, let's have a little chat about 2DayFM, the radio station who employ Mel Grieg and Michael Christian, the DJs in question.

The station is trash; it's a manure factory specialising in the outrageous, the obscene and the depraved. Its content is gutter waste designed to outdo the other guys in poking around the bottom of the barrel. Their shows are a travesty: a toilet of spoofs and pranks (see above) which stretch for the lowest common denominator because the 'talent' doesn't have the ability to entertain with any dignity whatsoever.

They're out of their depth when faced with something other than jokes about bodily functions.

They're lazy, obnoxious and devoid of personality. Cookie-cutter cutouts of every other selfish, tasteless jerk whose need to offend trumps integrity.

2DayFm employs the most notorious radio DJ in the country: Kyle Sandilands (whose biography, Scandalands is available from all good retailers this Christmas, priced at $34.99, in case you run out of toilet paper).

The zenith of Kyle's career, if you want to call it that, was a 2009 incident where a 14 year old girl and her mother were 'interviewed'. The girl was hooked up to a lie detector and asked questions about her sexual experiences while the mother was with her. The girl revealed she had been raped at the age of 12. Her revelation was quickly dismissed.

Kyle has a retinue of incidents like this one which easily point to his being the king of a castle full of idiotic miscreants appealing to the most base and the least intelligent. But even his pathetic exploits have never resulted in death (that we know of).

Mel and Michael are just the latest.

In May 2004, two Portland DJs and their producer were fired, after the pair played the audio portion of the video of Nick Berg being beheaded by Islamic militants. I have not listened to it. I understand it's graphic.

In 2007 a 28 year-old woman named Jennifer Strange was found dead after participating in a radio station contest to win a Nintendo Wii, which involved drinking bottles of water and not urinating. She was a victim of water intoxication.

You can look up other stuff if you like. There's a page on Wikipedia relating to shock jocks.

These people...they ball my fists up and make me want to lash out. I can't believe such hideous, emotionally-deformed, predatorial people are allowed on the air. I can't believe they're given places of respect and admiration in our society. Who are we, that we elevate such revolting souls?

I stopped listening in the mid-nineties when it became less about the music. But society at large has not only permitted shock jocks, it has encouraged them. Remember when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut? He's a flag-bearer of the Neocon Republican movement, whose Evangelical element should be ashamed to have him associated with the mission of Christ. He's a disgusting, perverted reprobate.

They are all cowards. They operate at a distance, beyond the immediate reach of their targets. Kyle was in New Zealand when the 14 year old girl's molestation was made public. Mel and Michael phoned a nurse in London.

No-one's responsible. Everyone's responsible.

The inner sanctum of my anger is that I want justice. I need it. Otherwise, aren't we all just animals? The Bible records us as being separate creations, but if we tolerate this devouring of other peoples' lives, if we casually listen to some man's head being cut off by eastern blades and laugh about it...how are we any different?

We are the most degenerate, dishonourable species on the planet. The Lord held back his wrath on account of his son. There should be hellfire.

At the very least, people like Mel and Michael should be fired, banned from the airwaves and named and shamed. There absolutely needs to be laws against this kind of vulturine bloodsport. The British won't do it, nor will the rest of the western world, which essentially means we're all unprotected against the most vicious among us.

Those who will kill for laughs.
A pine tree, next to palm trees. That's Brisbane for you.

So, anyway, as I said, we're doing a thing on how we do Christmas. By now, you've obviously read Part One - Present Security.

One of the traditions we have tried to begin over the past couple years is kicking off the Christmas season by attending the lighting of the monster Christmas tree (solar-powered!) in King George Square, in the city.

This year we totally made a day of it. We had to mail off some Jesse Tree Ornaments, and when we took care of that, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around looking for Christmas present ideas and soaking in the summer sun, waiting for dusk when the lighting of the tree ceremony would begin.

So herein is a blow-by-blow account from both my and Mrs Speech's perspectives of the day:

After the Post Office

Mr Speech: It was a beautifully warm day. You can sort of sense what Christmas is all about here in Brisbane, from the pics. Palm trees and shorts are the thing between September and May.

When we left the post office, Mrs Speech begged me to help her avoid the dude selling The Big Issue and the young pair trying to engage people to contribute to Medecins Sans Frontieres or Save the Whales or wherever they were from.

From there it was a short walk down to Queen Street Mall (an open-air foot traffic shopping plaza in the centre of the city).

Mrs Speech: We left the post office and hit Queen Street Mall. I liked the mall's Christmas decorations. Except for the creepy angel, which Mr Speech also thought was leftover from Halloween.

Mr Speech: I did not.

Mrs Speech. Yes you did. You said it looked like a fallen angel, because the paint was peeling off it and it looked ratty.

Mr Speech: Oh, okay then.

Mrs Speech: A little later on, we noticed that the Wintergarden - a newly-renovated multi-level shopping mall astride Queen Street Mall - was playfully lit up with a new facade with colourful dancing butterflies. Giant butterflies. Not normal size ones.

It was summer. It was a hot summer day and I was looking forward to the nice chocolate THICKshake that Mr Speech promised me.

Mr Speech: I did. Yes, I did.

The not-so-thick shake and the oh-so-chic stores

Mr Speech:Mrs Speech doesn't like Australian shakes - she thinks they're basically just chocolate milk. It's true that ours tend to be runnier. It's just a cultural thing I guess. I remember growing up in the Adelaide heat, sucking runny shakes from styrofoam cups and loving it.

I guess in this kind of climate its better for your shake to resemble something that might quench your thirst.

So, anyway I promised Mrs Speech a proper thickshake. We went into another little mall off Queen Street Mall, called Queens Plaza and found an ice creamery that also sold thickshakes. I bought her an outrageously-priced EXTRA thick shake, or so it said.

Mrs Speech: They left off the EXTRA! It wasn't extra thick and it wasn't thick. It was a cold chocolate milk; runny, nothing 'shake'-like about it. And it certainly wasn't Hershey's chocolate.

But it was cool and refreshing and I was thankful to have it. Incidentally the best shake I've ever had was a Wendy's Frosty in America.

Mr Speech: After the not-so-thickshake incident, Mrs Speech decided she wanted to visit some of the swanky stores around Queens Plaza.

We went into Louis Vuitton. It's worth noting that I was wearing old running shoes at the time, and if I had been wearing a Ronald McDonald wig and a nose which made a honking sound, I couldn't have felt more conspicuous. $120 Polo Ralph Lauren shirts are looked down upon in there...we didn't stay long.

Mrs Speech: We didn't stay long, much to the relief of the security guards in their Armani suits who may or may not have been members of the Mafia.

Mr Speech: Does LV really think their product is that swanky that they need a security guard with a buzz haircut and an earpiece to guard the entrance? I felt like we were being watched. Not a pleasant experience.

From there we walked around a little, browsing at all the shops - we hadn't been to the city for a long time so it was nice to reacquaint ourselves with the largest shopping district in the state.

And after a while Mrs Speech looked like she was going to eat me, so I suggested we look for a place to have dinner.

Peri-Peri= hot

Mr Speech: We walked through the Myer Centre, another mall attached to Queen Street Mall (there are a lot of them) and came across Nando's, which is a chicken place we like for sentimental reasons.

Mrs Speech: It was attached to the ground floor of the hotel we stayed at for our honeymoon.

Mr Speech: So we had the Supremo wraps, and some chips and Sprite. I didn't realise at the time that Nando's was a totally Peri-Peri themed restaurant or that Per-Peri was so hot.

Mrs Speech: I had never heard of Peri-Peri before I got here. I thought it was Australian but apparently it's Portuguese.

Mr Speech: Yeah...either way, my mouth was burning. I stole most of Mrs Speech's Sprite. But it was okay because Mrs Speech had Pepsi in her bag.

But man it was great chicken. So tender. I told Mrs Speech that they must have boiled it because it was soft and succulent. And the little plastic stands on the table told us the story of Peri-Peri (see pictures). Apparently it's also called 'Bird's Eye chilli'.

But what it should be called is 'get a firehose quick' chilli.

The case of the thirteen dollar Pop-Tarts

Mrs Speech: AMERICAN CANDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr Speech: After dinner we stopped at a lolly store.

Mrs Speech: It's a candy store.

Mr Speech: We call them lollies. Anyway, we stopped and had a look at some of the American 'candy'. All horrifically-priced. So we just took pictures and drooled.

Mrs Speech: I am still shocked that Pop-Tarts are so expensive. I know I can get them for under two dollars in America, and here it's ten dollars more. It's crazy.

Mr Speech: Yeah. Can of Cherry Coke. Get a mortgage.

Mrs Speech: Thanks Mom, for sending the pumpkin pie filling for Thanksgiving. We priced it here and it was nine dollars a can.

Mr Speech: Maybe they pump liquid gold to it on the plane ride over.

We bought a few presents at Myer

Mr Speech: Next up was a wander through Myer.

Myer is the largest Department store in Australia. They have a reasonably upmarket yet mainstream appeal, with fashion, homewares, electrical and accessories being their main markets.

Each December we go to Myer to buy a really nice Christmas bauble.

Mrs Speech showed me some stuff that would make nice Christmas presents for her, and we ambled about lazily, walking off our dinner.

Myer gets pretty heavily into the Christmas thing obviously to draw people in: they have a Christmas section --

Mrs Speech: with a train for the kids that our nephews would have loved.

Mr Speech: Yeah. And lots of Christmas decorations, as you can see to the left, not limited to a horrible Santa/Gandalf, a huge cute reindeer with an oversized face, and a cow with a tutu --

Mrs Speech: with incorrect anatomy --

Mrs Speech: -- which was available as a decoration, for reasons beyond mature understanding. It made 'garish' look good, and could only have been ironic.

Then there were the massively overdressed Christmas tables with decorations and plates piled so high you couldn't see the people seated opposite --

Mrs Speech: where does the food go?

Mr Speech: -- the lava sauce gift pack and the huge popcorn tin which Mrs Speech could have swum in.

And don't forget Let's Rock! Elmo. Christmas isn't complete without Let's Rock! Elmo.

Myer also featured a skinny dude in hipster formal attire who I thought was a mannequin at the top of the escalators. I did a double-take and I think he saw my surprise, because he asked if we needed help. Spooky moment.

Mrs Speech: And some pink-wigged girls at the bottom of the escalators. I have no idea what they were doing, promoting a new perfume or something.

Mr Speech: It was something to do with Nicki Minaj. Weird.

After we looked around for a bit, we split up for a half hour and bought a couple presents for each other. We don't get to the city much and thought we should take advantage while we were there.

Finally, the Christmas Tree Lighting

Mr Speech: After I loaded myself up with heavy Christmas presents - not a smart idea - we made our way to the Christmas Tree Lighting in King George Square.

King George Square is named after King George V (Colin Firth's father in The King's Speech and lays before the Brisbane City Hall complex. It's a sixty second walk from Queen Street Mall.

They lit City Hall in beautiful shades of pink and red and green which I suppose sort of resembled Christmas colours.

Mrs Speech wanted to get in much earlier than we did, but I convinced her that we should wait, lest we stand there for hours waiting.

We filed into KGS with thousands of others, not really able to get a direct look at the stage where the Christmas program was to be held.

Mrs Speech: Which was what I was hoping for but there were too many people ahead of us.

Mr Speech: It actually got really crowded where we were so we backed off about thirty feet so we had room to breathe. Unfortunately a huge dude stepped in front of us and then his amazon wife did the same with their daughter and that restricted our view of the stage somewhat.

When they started the program there were Aboriginal dancers, who after saying something about connecting to the earth (their traditional culture focuses very strongly on a bond with their land) proceeded to sing songs related to...you know, I'm not sure. They were sung in their traditional language.

Following, there was Damien Leith and his band who sung a few songs, a couple of which were from Roy Orbison's back catalogue for some reason, and one of which was a carol. He was good, we both like him.

Then it was time for the tumblers, the elves who tumble. They looked like they were on trampolines (we were too far away to see), and they were doing triple backflips and other stuff which made me cringe, just waiting for a horrible crack sound heralding the untimely and kiddie-traumatising death of one of Santa's elves.

Speaking of kids, there were heaps of 'em there predictably. Which was no problem except that a whole bunch of them were seated on the shoulders of their dads so they could see the stage. Which meant that no-one else behind could see through the forest of children.

I don't blame the parents. The stage was at ground level and should have been higher; also, there should have been chairs so people could sit. Maybe family seating for those with kids.

Anyway, we ended up with a gap between two boys on shoulders, through which I was able to take the picture above and video to the right.

They brought 'Santa' (ahem) out and the Lord Mayor. At one point the playful banter turned uncomfortably toward Santa as Channel Nine's Davina Smith asked if every kid would get an iPad for Christmas.

"Well, some kids will get an iPad, and some won't," he said, in the ultimate act of discouragement. Came off looking like someone who doesn't really know who's getting what. For a dude promoted as omniscient (he sees you when you're sleeping...) it was a less than efficient promotion. Oh well.

Then it was on to the tree, and we counted down from five (why not ten? I don't know)...and the largest solar-powered tree in Australia blinked a bright blue rainbow of colour. Everyone cheered and the crowd thinned out. We crossed the street, ironically taking a picture that seemed more complete (the last one, on the left) than the one we got up close.

We've done this twice in the last three years (Mrs Speech was injured last year), but the thing is, we're not sure about this whole Christmas Tree thing.

We're Evangelical Christians and the Christmas Tree is not in any way Biblical. It is however, possibly connected to the ancient pagan tradition of decorating one's home with evergreen boughs during the winter solstice (near to contemporary Christmas Day) to celebrate the continuity and victory, of life over death.

Legend has it that in 722, Boniface in Germany came across pagans attempting to cut down an oak tree, in order to fashion a stake, which was to be used to sacrifice a child.

He felled the tree with one blow and out of it, sprung a fir tree, which he told the Germans was holy and a symbol of Jesus' promise of eternal life.
There are apocryphal tales relating to Boniface felling a tree with a single blow, out of which sprung a fir tree; or Martin Luther putting up a tree and decorating it with candles.

Christmas Trees to me have the vague feel of paganism about them; wherein of course creation is venerated more than the Creator. What does a tree have to do with the birth of Jesus, even if you do top it with a star or angel?

I judge no-one for putting one up in their home, and I don't think it's a critical part of a person's salvation. But we're not sure about it. We're not Puritans (no singing or dancing or ANYTHING jovial! No!)

We kind of like the idea of a Jesse Tree, and not just because Mrs Speech sells Jesse Tree Ornaments. It'd be nice to put something up that genuinely relates to Christ's Birth.

If you're reading this, please feel free to leave any comment you may have on the issue.

We left King George Square that night, and walked back down to Queens Plaza where Mrs Speech believed we might find a nice Christmas Tree ornament. We bought a wonderful little silver-ish angel, blowing a trumpet.

Then we dragged our sore feet back up the top of the mall, and went home. It was a great day.