Another Year Over

Well, the hell-year of 2021 is over and done with and we can celebrate the start of hell-year 2022. Boo! Hooray! Boo! Hooray! Call me when you’re finished.

I did have big plans to get up super early this morning, get an Uber to the Camfield and enjoy the year’s first sunrise while walking along the river to Mends Street Jetty. But when it got to 1:00am and I still hadn’t fallen asleep I decided “screw it” and turned off my alarm. I’d rather start the year at least somewhat rested rather than try to get by on only three hours, no matter how good it might be get some healthy exercise and set an example to live up to for the next twelve months.

One thing I have done today is get my votes in for the Hottest 100. Rather embarrassingly it turns out that one of my favorite tracks of the year, MØ’s Nights With You, wasn’t in fact a track of the year at all. being released all the way back in 2017, so Cloudy Day by Tones and I got promoted up to my number 10 instead of 11. I also voted for Montaigne’s MBMBaM theme song My Life is Better With You which isn’t on the official list, BUT I DON’T CARE! My track of the year is Ziggy Ramo’s Little Things, and if that makes anyone uncomfortable then (to quote Phil Jupitus) Well fucking good!

Anyway, here’s the full list, alphabetically by artist…

Ashe – I’m Fine
Carla Wehbe – Hurts to Love You
King Princess – House Burn Down
Montaigne – My Life is Better With You
Peach PRC – Josh
Ruby Fields – Bruises
Telenova – Bones
Tones and I – Cloudy Day
Wolf Alice – Smile
Ziggy Ramo – Little Things (ft. Paul Kelly)

So, on to calendar reform.

(What? You don’t consider how stupid our calendar is on January 1st each year? What’s wrong with you?)

It is a truth universally acknowledged by all right thinking people that the Gregorian Calendar is a hodge-podge of terrible ideas smothered in a layer of well meaning but equally as bad hacks intended to force it into some semblance of functionality. The majority of the problems stem from the irrational belief of the Ancients that the universe is (or should be) some kind of clockwork mechanism where the movements of the celestial bodies all mesh together into a grand yet simple pattern – as opposed to the reality that they’re big lumps of rock and gas that whiz around doing their own thing with no obligation to match the neat mathematical models we humans prefer.

I make everything worse!

As such, the period of rotation of our planet (a day) does not fit evenly into the rotation of our moon around our planet (a month) and neither the day nor month fit evenly into the rotation of our planet around the sun (a year). Building a calendar on the assumption that they do causes horrible problems and results in said calendar drifting away from reality until people are planting their crops in the middle of winter and starving to death.

(We correct for this kind of thing with tricks like leap days, which is where we save up all the left over bits of days at the end of a solar orbit and then shove them back into the calendar once they add up to a full day. This is actually a pretty good solution, although sticking them at the end of the second month is the kind of thing only a lunatic would consider sensible.)

The mismatch between the solar year (365.2425 days) and lunar month (29.53 days) is responsible for the horrible mess of our calendar months. Four of them are 30 days long, seven of them are 31 days and one is 28 days (or 29 when we need to shove in one of those leap days). This is stupid.

And to add to these problems we went and invented the week – a period of seven days that doesn’t match up with the month or the year. The result is sheer insanity, requiring complex calculations to figure out what day of the week a given date falls on, and making vast sums of money for the calendar printing industry.

Enough! I cry! A new calendar is desperately needed, and I – in my supreme intelligence (not to say arrogance) – am the one to create it!

As such I am pleased to here present the Wyrmworld Calendar!

The Wyrmworld Calendar (WYC) consists of 13 months – the twelve we currently use plus Hektober – each of exactly four weeks long (28 days). The first day of each month – and the first day of each year is a Monday, so you never need to buy a new calendar.

This comes to 364 days, which leaves 1.2425 days over a year. The one full day is Yearsend – a special day inserted between Sunday Hektober 28th and Monday January 1st that isn’t part of any month and doesn’t have a day of the week. The remaining 0.2425 days are saved up as per the current leap year system, and when a leap day is required it’s added as Leapday between Yearsend and January 1st.

So, that takes care of the years, days and weeks, but how do the 13 months of the Wyrmworld Calendar line up with the moon? Well, they don’t. The moon makes everything way too complicated and can go frunk itself. We are human beings, not fish!

The Battle of Thermopylae was (2022+480)-1 years ago!

With the cycle of days figured out we now need to set an epoch. The Gregorian Calendar Epoch – BC/AD or BCE/CE – is just terrible, You have to count backwards for anything interesting in ancient history and then you have to account for there being no year 0. How old would Cato the Elder be if he were still alive today? He was born in 234 BCE so we need to take the current year of 2022 and add 234 and then take away 1, so he’d be 2,255. What year would he have had his 724th birthday? So we take 234 away from 724, but then we need to add 1, so 491 CE? THIS IS CONFUSING!

The sensible answer is to push the epoch back beyond recorded history so all the numbers that matter are in the positive. Cesare Emiliani’s Holocene Calendar does this with the neat trick of setting the epoch to 10,001 BCE, meaning we just add 10,000 to the current CE/AD year. The Wyrmworld Calendar is not afraid to steal good ideas, so we will do the same! So the current year is 12,022 WYC and Cato the Elder was born in 9,767 WYC. Easy!

(The battle of Thermopylae was 9,521 WYC in case you were wondering…)

Finally, exactly when is the new year? We currently celebrate new year at an arbitrary point in the Earth’s orbit and this offends me. The new year should be tied to something meaningful. The logical choice is a solstice or equinox. To minimise confusion we’ll use the (Gregorian) December solstice, and for reasons of convenience reference the Gregorian 2021 solstice of December 21st. The solstice shall mark the last day of the year, with the next day January (WYC) 1st.

So, adding it all together today is Thursday January 11th 12,022 WYC. I expect the world to start using this far superior calendar immediately!

(Happy new year!)

Music Music Music Music Music (The last ‘Music’ is a Misprint)

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to vote for in the Hottest 100 this year, but I have a list of candidate tracks and have thus decided to force them upon everyone while I make up my mind. So here, in no particular order, I present the UNQUESTIONABLY (by which I mean ‘extremely questionably’) best songs of 2021!

Let’s go dreaming of blue skies in California with BONES – TELENOVA

A bit of 90s post-grunge indie feel with SMILE – WOLF ALICE

The new theme for MBMBaM by one of Australia’s own. MY LIFE IS BETTER WITH YOU – MONTAIGNE

Some laid back, Beatlesque vibes with I’M FINE – ASHE

This is just straight-up good music. HOUSE BURN DOWN – KING PRINCESS

Always was, always will be. Sovereignty was never ceded. LITTLE THINGS – ZIGGY RAMO (feat. PAUL KELLY)

The kind of party track we could all use a bit of after this year. CLOUDY DAY – TONES AND I

We went to California earlier, now let’s hop across to COLORADO – MILKY CHANCE

When that base kicks in… LIVE TO SURVIVE – MØ

One of our best musical story tellers. BRUISES – RUBY FIELDS

The man deserves a good amount of the criticism he gets, but remember that he’s mentally ill, AND that he can still put out an amazing bit of music now and then. JAIL – KANYE WEST

So rude!! But it’s catchy as hell and that’s what matters. WET DREAM – WET LEG

Well it sure sucks to be you JOSH – PEACH PRC

A real soulful one here. NIGHTS WITH YOU – MØ

Another very catchy track. HURTS TO LOVE YOU – CARLA WEHBE

OK, now I’m off to buy some last minute supplies, fully masked as the virus has got into the state just in time for Christmas. Watch out! COVID’s about! But before that – given what day it is – I must follow my yearly tradition, even though it has nothing to do with the Hottest 100.

Happy Christmas Eve ya filthy animals!

Is this why the normal people drink?

For probably the last 25 years a fragment of music and a snatch of lyrics have been haunting the back of my brain.

It’s an energetic piece. The vocalist sings words along the lines of You can roo-ooo-ooo-oam in your own way with a four note descending scale on “roam”. Then there’s a rather 80s style guitar riff, and the lyrics repeat – You can roo-ooo-ooo-oam in your own way

Emperor Charles V of Spain in case you were wondering

Now in those long ago days before YouTube and Google it was actually really hard to identify a song. If you wanted to look anything up you needed to go down to the local library and search through books, and while it was trivial to find information on, let’s say, Emperor Charles V of Spain, there were very few, if any, books cataloguing song lyrics. And if you did manage to find a book of song lyrics, how could you search it for a random snatch of words from the middle of a song? There simply wasn’t a way to do it.

So my only option was to rack my brain, hoping that some random neurons would connect in the right pattern to throw up some more details. And occasionally, over the years, they did. For instance, I was quite certain for a while that the song had to be “Roam” by the B-52s. I mean, the word ‘roam’ is right there! Careful listening to the radio and the eventual coming of digital music meaning the radio no longer had to be relied on however eventually showed that my random neurons were wrong, with the mysterious phrase appearing nowhere in the work – for all that I could hear Kate Pierson belting it out in my head.

With that possibility eliminated my brain went back to brooding and eventually suggested Transvision Vamp, who I had – frankly – completely forgotten even existed. Checking out their their discography led me to Baby, I Don’t Care.

Which was a slightly better fit – the backing vocals in the chorus actually sounded kind of right – but the bit I remembered still wasn’t there!

So I abandoned the quest. I decided that my brain had smashed together elements from the B-52s, Transvision Vamp and lord knows what else to create an entirely fictional fragment of music that never existed in the first place.

Oddly enough I’d been in this situation before with another fragment of music hiding out in the back of my brain. For years I was haunted by a small piece of violin that I was certain came at the start of a song, and spent just as many futile hours trying to figure out where it originated. I eventually concluded that it was a distorted memory of the start of David Bowie’s Sorrow and remained convinced of this until one wonderful morning when I heard it playing over the radio in the bakery opposite Bayswater railway station like some glorious beam of sunshine bursting into the greyness of the day.

I could only make out fragments of it – not enough to identify the song. But I heard enough fragments to know that there was only one band in history who could pull off such a combination of orchestra, synths, electric guitar and overlayed vocal harmonies, and later that day a search through the works of ELO revealed that the song that had been haunting me for decades was Sweet Talkin’ Woman.

So, imagine my shock and delight when on Sunday, doing my weekly grocery shopping in the Morley branch of a major supermarket chain, I heard the snatch of music that had eluded me for so long!

Yes they ri-ii-ii-ise in their own way! Yes they ri-ii-ii-ise in their own way!

It was history repeating! Another musical memory I’d decided was false unexpectedly revealed as genuine in a place of business! I found my way to one of the ceiling speakers and stood beneath it, memorising as much of the lyrics as I could make out over the hustle and bustle of the supermarket.

As soon as I got home I leapt onto the internet and started frantically typing in lyrics. In no time at all I had it pinned down and discovered that the song that had been haunting me for a quarter of a century was…

…by Daryl f’ing Braithwaite.

It’s Rise – the title track from Braithwaite’s 1990 album.

I was, and remain, not happy. And what’s even more embarrassing than being haunted for decades by the lead singer of Sherbet is that on hearing it I instantly remembered about 90% of the lyrics.

I’m honestly starting to suspect that the reason the normal people fry the memory centres of their brains with alcohol is specifically to avoid this sort of thing.

A Meal with God

A dozen turkeys,
Fresh orange peel and some veal,
Well kneaded dough and a dozen turkeys,
Do you want to hear about the meal I’m making?

You,
It’s you and me,

And if I only could,
I’d make a meal with God,
And I’d get him to set our places,
Be chopping up that cod,
Be chopping up that dill,
With no problems,

Come on, baby, come on, darling,
Let me seal this doughnut with you now,

Come on, angel, come on, come on, darling,
Let’s exchange the ingredients…

2 Unlimited are Scared of Me

It is the nature of my defective brain that rather than preparing me for real world challenges such as paying bills on time, planning meals or having clean clothes to wear it prefers to plot out detailed plans for unlikely scenarios such as how to survive if every other human being vanished from the Earth for a year, what kind of palace to construct should I suddenly have the opportunity to construct a palace, or what I’d podcast about on finding myself stranded on a space station located at Lagrange Point 4 that nonetheless has excellent wi-fi.

As such I have spent much of the last week considering what tracks I would put on a CD to send back in time to the year 1990 to astonish, shock and confuse the inhabitants of that far off epoch. Having finalised said playlist, I happily present it here to assist in diagnosing whatever the hell is wrong with me (I’d put my money on maladaptive daydreaming, no matter what the DSM-5 may think!).

  1. What you Waiting For – Gwen Steffani
  2. Superfast Jellyfish – Gorillaz feat. Gruff Rhys & De La Soul
  3. Kill vs Maim – Grimes
  4. Lifetime Achievement Award – Lemon Demon
  5. We Appreciate Power – Grimes feat. HANNA
  6. Hey Ya! – OutKast
  7. Hung Up – Madonna
  8. Up All Night – Alex Clare
  9. Alligator – Of Monsters and Men
  10. Moskau – Rammstein
  11. nostalgic (luvsik) – renforshort
  12. Bangarang – Skrillex feat. Sirah
  13. Flesh Without Blood – Grimes
  14. Deutschland – Rammstein
  15. Super Hey Ya – Lemon Demon

So there we have it. A bit heavy on the Grimes perhaps, but who am I to deny the 90s her talent? Also I think it’s important that the 90s be warned about Skrillex – only YOU can stop dubstep!

(Actually I quite like a bit of dubstep)

Enjoy, or not, as the mood takes you.

With Apologies to Leon Payne…

Can you fry me up some slab, Mamma?
‘Cause I’m as hungry as can be
Life in this hive is just so drab, Mamma
You know that everyone hates me

Like the Gangers with their hair, Mamma
Down by the manufactory arch
There was some lightning from the air, Mamma
And now they’re turning them to starch

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
The warp into my mind it drips
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
They’re gonna take me to the ships

You won’t believe the things I’ve seen, Mamma
When I lay me down to rest
I’ve been having crazy dreams, Mamma
About this lady named ‘Slaanesh’

She has all these wild plans, Mamma
And they all seem really great
But I just don’t understand, Mama
Why she keeps calling me ‘The Gate’?

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
You think I’m gonna lose control
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
They’ll put those bindings on my soul

You know the Temple by the shore, Mamma?
Well I was feeling kind of lost
So I walked in through the door, Mamma
But everything got rimed with frost

An Ecclesiarchy Clerk, Mamma
Offered me the Emperor’s Grace
Well I kind of went berserk, Mamma
And somehow melted off his face

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
Please Mamma hide me here at home
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
Don’t let them feed me to the Throne

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
The Inquisition’s drawing near
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
But Mamma…
Didn’t you die last year?

(And some versions of the original, in case you’re not familiar…)

Anthemic

Well, we made it. The horror year of 2020 is behind us, and we can now look forward to fresh, new horrors in this year of our lord 2021 (I suspect they will involve bees).

I broke my usual habit of going to bed early to express my contempt for a calendar that assigns the turn of the year to a completely arbitrary point, and stayed up ’til midnight – partially to make sure that 2020 actually ended, and partially because they were playing a repeat of the latest Red Dwarf special which I missed when it was on the other week. It was actually not bad, not as good as the original series of course, but a lot better than their last effort. Watching this one was fun, whereas Back to Earth was just painful.

Hang on, there’ve been three entire series between Back to Earth and The Promised Land?! And I was not informed!?

Anyway, not here to talk about that. Here to talk about the national anthem.

It was announced today that the line of Advance Australia Fair reading “For we are young and free” is being changed to “For we are one and free”. Doing something about this line has been on the left wing agenda (an agenda that – lest anyone get the wrong idea – I am fully in favour of) for the last few years, after it was pointed out that our nation is home to the oldest living culture on Earth, and hence any description of our country as ‘young’ is appallingly exclusionary to indigenous Australians. The replacement of ‘young’ with ‘one’ was suggested – or at least bought to the attention of the mainstream – by Gladys Berejiklian last year, and here we suddenly are.

(The fact that the change was publicised by an embattled Liberal – which is to say conservative, Australian politics can be very confusing – state Premier probably has a lot to do with Scumo’s mob of reactionary neocons actually doing something for Indigenous Australians. Can you imagine them changing the national anthem at the behest of Dan Andrews?)

My feelings on this change are mildly mixed. I fully support changing the word, but I’m not super keen on the way the new line scans. That said however I have for many years been firmly of the opinion that Advance Australia Fair is a terrible song anyway, so screwing up a single line is a small price to pay to address – no matter how minutely – some historical injustices.

So, why is Advance Australia Fair such an awful song? Well, to start with the tune is a goddamn dirge. Get a military band with trumpets and things to play it and it can sound somewhat regal, but it hardly lends itself to spontaneous outbreaks of national pride. As a song for the common citizen to whip out at, say, a sporting event, it’s a complete non-starter. It’s slow, it’s dull, and attempting to speed it up to give it a bit of kick just makes it sound like the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies.

Then we come to the lyrics. They were written in 1878 by Peter Dodds McCormick who wrote under the pen name “Amicus”, which probably tells you 90% of what you need to know about him. The original words as written by this faithful son of the Empire are notable for being composed in the second-rate faux-classical mode so beloved by Victorians with literary pretensions, and are very, very, very pro-British, pro-Empire and anti-anyone or anything else…

Australia’s sons, let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains let us sing,
Advance, Australia fair.

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Til he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
“With all her faults we love her still”
“Britannia rules the wave.”
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance, Australia fair.

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England soil and Fatherland,
Scotia and Erin fair,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance, Australia fair.

Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore,
To guard our native strand;
Britannia then shall surely know,
Though oceans roll between,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep their courage green.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.

Out of four verses, three of them are all about how great Britain is, which is kind of weird for a song that claims to be about Australia. It’s riddled with pretentious ’tils and o’ers and e’ers and even with those it can’t manage to properly fit the words to the tune. There are half rhymes, far too many uses of “fair” – including an instance of rhyming “fair” with “fair” – and the inclusion of the word “girt”, which – while a fine word of noble pedigree – in a song sounds like the vocalist swallowed their tongue halfway through the line. The words are repetitive, lugubrious, and let’s not even get started on the overwrought syntax of the phrase “Advance Australia Fair” itself.

In 1901 the third verse was replaced with the following…

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make our youthful Commonwealth,
Renowned of all the lands;
For loyal sons beyond the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair!

Now this contains the one decent line in the entire song – Beneath our radiant Southern Cross. This line is so good in fact that it could lead one to presume that McCormick had nothing to do with the new verse, but he soon regains his stride by invoking “loyal sons” and jamming 15 syllables into 14 notes forcing the singer to break rhythm and gabble out “combine-to” in a desperate attempt to keep pace.

The song replaced God Save the Queen as our official national anthem in 1984 with the following revised set of two verses…

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Which, with the change from “young” to “one” in the second line, is the version sung today. McCormick’s “Australia’s sons” has been replaced with “Australians all” which is a bit awkward but fully justified (providing a precedent for trading scansion for inclusivity) and the pro-Empire “loyal sons beyond the seas” has been cleaned up. They still left “girt” in their though.

So, this is the anthem we are stuck with. Personally I’d prefer to salvage the line about the Southern Cross, throw the rest in the bin and then come up with some suitable versus fitted to the jaunty march bit of the Space Battleship Yamato theme, but that’s probably just me.

Happy new year!

Hottest 100 2020

It’s that time of year again! Well, to be truly accurate it was that time of year again some weeks back when I put my votes in, but it’s that time of year when I get around to posting them on the Wyrmlog, so there!

Anyway, what I mean is that I’m posting my votes in the Triple J hottest 100 – the objectively (by which I mean subjectively) best 10 songs of the year, plus a few extras that didn’t quite make the cut. Here we go!

Alex the Astronaut – Lost: Alex has been kicking it out of the park this year, I probably could have filled up half my list with her songs. But I try to limit myself to one track per artist, so went with my fave. It covers the same ground as Ben Fold’s classic Brick but more thoughtfully and with a hopeful ending.

Come & Go [with Marshmello] – Juice WRLD: As a grumpy old contrarian I really didn’t rate Juice WRLD, and I have a deep seated puritan streak that limits my sympathy for anyone who kills themselves with recreational drug abuse. But this track really has something. Those guitar and drum loops are outstanding!

Walk my Way – Harper Bloom: A sweet little love song with a dorky but cute made-in-lockdown video.

Word of the Day – RAT!hammock: “Lately it seems everyone’s dreams are in half-time” is one of the best descriptions of the pandemic I’ve heard to date. There’s plenty of other good lyrics and an equally good tune, but it’s the trumpets cutting in towards the end that make this one really work for me. Another great lockdown video, this time tapping green screen technology for everything it’s got.

Flying – Last Dinosaurs: A upbeat yet mellow club track with a great baseline. Not a lot else to be said!

nostalgic (luvsick) – renforshort: renforshort has no truck with capital letters! That build to the chorus and the drop with the guitars make this one simply irresistible.

Bagi-la-m Bargan [Ft. Fred Leone] – Birdz: As with most white Australians I was bought up to idolize James Cook. This song is a much needed kick up the arse to remind us that his ‘voyage of discovery’ was the harbinger of genocide and dispossession that we’ve only barely started acknowledging and taking responsibility for.

Breathe Me – Stace Cadet & KLP: This cover of Sia’s original is simply incandescent. I don’t have words to describe it. Song of the year!

Fresh out of Love – E^ST: Lush and romantic but with modern hip-hop sensibilities. Or something like that. Damn good, anyway! A fine follow up to Talk Deep which I definitely would have voted for last year had it come to my attention in time.

WAXIT – Dennis Cometti: If you’re West Australian and you’re not voting for this call for succession then what the hell is wrong with you? A tongue in cheek celebration of everything great about WA and how the eastern states can take their NRL and Daylight Saving and plundering of our GST revenue and shove it!

The song that feels particularly appropriate this year, what with Clive Palmer trying to force open our hard border and the federal government backing him right up until the moment they realised they were courting statewide electoral annihilation for a generation in doing so, and ran for the hills. Also I could hardly not vote for a song whose clip features the beloved Bayswater subway – just down my street – in its natural state of having a truck stuck under it.

So there we have my ten picks. Songs that almost made it include Dance by Julia Stone, and Caught in the Middle by Alex the Astronaut.

Stay tuned for an update on how many of these even make it in to the countdown!

EDIT: And only about an hour after I posted this the Bayswater subway claimed another victim!

Don’t Say Suicide

NOTE: This post discusses issues of suicide and self harm. If this may be triggering or upsetting for you, please feel free not to read any further. If you feel like you need help in this area then please contact a crisis line for assistance

OTHER NOTE: I AM FINE! This post is about stuff that happened at high school many (far too many!) years ago. While I am certainly no paragon of mental health, I am not in any kind of distress and am not contemplating any kind of self harm. I just feel like discussing some high school memories in my usual irreverent manner. Thank you for any concern, it is appreciated but I assure you quite unwarranted!


One particular year back in high school everyone suddenly seemed very concerned about suicide. I don’t know if there was a particular event that triggered this concern, I certainly can’t recall any of my fellow students attempting self harm, although to be fair it was not the kind of thing that would be openly discussed in the early 90s and I was not sufficiently connected to the school’s gossip network to pick up any rumours. Possibly it came down as a dictate from the Catholic Education Department, perhaps triggered by an incident at another school or as some kind of reaction to the rising popularity of Grunge music. In any case, without warning all our Religious Education classes suddenly switched to telling us why trying to kill ourselves would be considered a very bad move, both personally and spiritually.

Now, this in itself was no bad thing. No one could seriously suggest that trying to prevent teenagers from harming themselves is problematic. What puzzled my friends and I at the time however – and continues to puzzle me to this day – was the very strange way the anti-suicide message was presented. Whether this was due to the powers that be having to quickly come up with materials, some odd strictures of the Catholic church, or simply someone in an important position suffering from a chronic case of Dunning–Kruger is a mystery that will probably never be solved.

According to the information presented to us, teenagers attempted suicide for one of two reasons…

1: As an attention seeking strategy

2: As a means of revenge against people who (they feel) are mean to them

…and as such all the anti-suicide material we received was aimed at showing us how self-harm was an ineffective method for dealing with either problem.

For instance, in the first case, we could end up dead! Think about that! Our attempts at drawing attention to ourselves by taking a bottle full of pills, or cutting our wrists, or jumping in front of a train ran a very real risk of killing us! We didn’t want to end up DEAD did we? Of course not!

The second case was best illustrated by an anti-suicide video apparently obtained from the United States. It started with an angsty looking teen standing in a black void angrily making statements like “That’ll show them! They never appreciated me! Well now I’ve got the last laugh! Hah! They’re going to feel so bad now!” And then a deep voice, trying to sound – I seem to remember – like James Earl Jones but not quite succeeding, came out of the void and asked “Well what now?”. The teen, still seething with self-righteous anger, asked “What?”. The voice asked again “What will you do now?”. The teen looked shocked and stuttered “I… I don’t know…”.

While we considered the metaphysics of this, the video continued into a documentary about a second rank hair-metal-band who felt they had to do something about the ‘suicide problem’ among teens, so recorded a song called Don’t Say Suicide. They talked at length about how important the song was and how it would help prevent kids from self-harm – they even went into detail about how a teenager rang up a radio station and asked them to play his favourite song because he wanted to hear it before he killed himself, and the DJ played Don’t Say Suicide instead and the teen called up afterwards to say the song had changed his mind, and the band felt really great about that!

The tone of the piece was very strange. It seemed to veer between suicide prevention, a band-promo and a whole bunch of humble-bragging. At the end it cut back to the teenager in the black void, realising that he’d made a mistake and was now stuck in the black void forever. Whoops!

All of this education about why killing yourself was not a good way to get either attention or revenge was capped off with a reminder that suicide was a mortal sin, so if you did it you’d go to hell for all eternity – which is presumably that black void where not-James-Earl-Jones would question your choices until the end of time. So don’t do it kids!

The inanity of all this was best summed up by a friend of mine who sitting in art class after one of these R.E. sessions posed the question “What if you want to die just because you’re really tired?”. Our carefully administered regime of suicide-proofing provided no answer to this at all.

I guess out teachers did their best to address a difficult subject with the materials presented to them, but even at the time we students could see the inadequacies of the program. I sincerely hope that no student across the education system suffered because of them – although it’s almost certain that they did. And I presume that today’s schools recognise that self-harm and suicide are complex issues requiring more than sitting students down in front of a video of a hair metal band and threatening them with eternal damnation to solve.

(The friend who posed the question in art class is still with us, and turned out fine, just in case you were worried.)


When writing these kinds of posts I generally make it a practice to write down what I remember first, then check the actual historical details. As such I have now determined that contrary to my recollections, it was not an obscure hair-metal band that recorded Don’t Say Suicide but (apparently) well known Christian rock musician Rick Cua.

The song is simultaneously catchier and more religious that I remember, neither of which is surprising considering I only heard it once almost 30 years ago.