Occasionally I get a night time Skype phone call from Dan Byrnes, historian, poet, raconteur, keen Armidale FM radio listener and software agony web denizen. These chats can range over a number of topics.
A week ago, for instance, he rang me to rant about software and programmers, possibly because I'm the only person in the world who listens to his monologues about software.
I didn't actually listen to his software rant. I just opened an online copy of The New York Times and browsed slowly through it, while making placatory responses every twenty seconds or so. Things like "Oh Really!", "You don't say!", "There, there!", "Never Mind!", "Diddums", etc. I believe this could have significant therapeutic value for Dan. It does help a complainant if he believes there is a sympathetic ear on the other end of the line. So I pretended to listen to yet another one of his nugatory diatribes on "software agony", for his own good. It might even help him avoid the onset of a future "apoplectic fit".
So late on Wednesday night the phone rang, and a familiar voice addressed me as:
"Your Supreme High Blogness!".
Dan often calls me that these days. Not out of genuine deference, mind you, but in order to bring me down a peg or two and in the vain hope that it might persuade me to consider injecting a little humility into my blog.
"Dan", I replied, "How's it going?".
"You'll have to speak up!", said Dan, "I'm Skyping you and I can't hear you on my headset."
"I CAN HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR!", I shouted.
"Sorry I still can't hear you", he said, "Hang on, I'll turn off the TV and turn up the volume on my headset".
I headed over to my terminal. If Dan was going to start raving about software and programming again, it would be an opportunity to browse an online copy of The New York Times, while I pretended to listen to him.
"That's better", he continued, "Actually, I'm feeling quite good about humanity in general. I was riding my bike on the footpath tonight, because I don't have any lights for it. And I stopped to adjust my bike clips, and a young kid came running up to me to ask me if I was ok! ... I was touched! Such charity! Such consideration for the elderly, it is very impressive!".
Dan does that quite a bit, ride his bicycle around Armidale at odd hours without lights, that is. Not out of concern about his greenhouse contribution, but because he spends all his money on cigarettes and hence cannot afford petrol-driven transport.
A loud trumpeting sound echoed through the house and down the telephone lines.
"Actually Your Supreme High Blogness", he continued, "I was ringing about that ... the elephant in the lounge room."
From where I was sitting I could see a large bull elephant in the centre of my lounge room. It flapped its ears angrily, thus displaying the words Peak Oil written in large red letters, trumpeted again and crushed my coffee table to smithereens with a casual elephantine stomp of its right foot.
"How did you know about the elephant in my lounge room?", I said, sotto voce, glancing around for hidden cameras.
"You really should start reading some other newspaper apart from The Age", he replied.
"Oh sometimes, I browse an online copy of The New York Times", I said, hastily minimising the window on my Kubuntu terminal now that it was obvious that Dan actually wanted to converse, rather then ramble on about software.
"The New York Times", he said with a snort of derision, "The Americans don't just have elephants in their lounge rooms they've got one in every bloody room of the house!".
"What? Even the smallest room in the house?", I inquired. This occurred to me now because the elephant in my lounge room had just dumped a load of dung on my Persian carpet.
++ "Oh, the size of the room is not significant, You should be aware that whenever you hear about topics like project, interest rate, manager, CEO, politician, and so on, nearby there's always a room with several large elephants rampaging in it, rendered insane from such unreasonably close confinement for so long in merely human-derived concepts. And the official response from our government ..."
"The government knows about this!", I interrupted, with a note of alarm in my voice. It always worries me when governments know things ... God knows what could happen next!
"Well, yes and no", he continued. "The official word from Canberra is that we should carry on as usual and pretend that we don't have elephants in our lounge rooms ..."
"Hang on a moment!", I said accusingly, "You've got one in your lounge room?". "Your tiny little writer's garret lounge room, where you don't even have enough room to swing a bloody cat! Do you mean to tell me your minuscule lounge room is now completely filled to the rafters with a large angry African Bull elephant with the words Peak Oil written on its flaming great flapping ears? And you just overlooked it!".
"Well, I was going to get around to mentioning it!", he replied defensively. I heard a familiar trumpeting sound over the phone line. "Actually, my elephant has the words Climate Change emblazoned on his forehead.", he continued. "And I don't think it's African, I think it might be Indian, or Burmese ... his feet are a bit damp ... Marvellous things those Burmese elephants. I just love the way they so competently handle large logs So, you have an African elephant?". he asked.
I looked at the beast and tried to estimate its size. "It's so bloody big, I think it might be a mammoth." I said.
"Well, whatever.", he said. "I am ringing Your Supreme High Blogness to point out that you blogged about fossil fuels last night, and failed altogether to mention the elephant in the lounge room. The purpose of this call is to take you to tusk over the omission".
I groaned aloud as he chuckled merrily at his own awful pun.
++ He continued: "I'm very fond of elephants, and if ever reincarnated, would like to come back as one. Just to, you know, try it on. The long memory thing, as long as it's for no longer than an elephant lifetime. An eternity of long memory would be unbearable, and probably too literary with it. After being an elephant, what do I come back as after that? An angel, is the plan so far. Preferably, an Archangel. No reason for an entity still suffering rebirth to lack ambition, is there? Or, deep down, is ambition my basic karmic problem? I dunno.".
Dan was starting to improvise. He does that sometimes. Just so long as he didn't mention Hannibal, I'd cope.
"You can admire them at your leisure", I interrupted as my uninvited guest deposited an enormous mound of elephant dung on the sofa. "Right now there's a truckload of elephant shit in my lounge room, and I'm going to need one bloody big shovel to shift it!".
"Yes", Dan sighed less philosophically, now that I had brought him back to earth. "It's difficult to pretend that there isn't any excrement on the lounge room floor. Those mounds of elephant shit are so ... so ..." he paused, grasping for an adjective. "Elephantine!", he concluded tautologically.
"So what are they (the government) proposing we do for entertainment while we pretend all this stuff doesn't exist?" I inquired.
"Oh, the prime minister and the treasurer are learning to play the fiddle.", Dan replied whimsically. "The opposition leader is already an experienced fiddler. So they are all going to play a little medley while Parliament sits. It will be a jig, I think .. or maybe a reel. The press gallery will dance along to the music, I think we are supposed to amuse ourselves by watching it all on TV.".
I jumped involuntarily at the loud thump of the picture tube in my TV set imploding as it crashed against the wall. The crunch of the concussion was almost drowned out by the consequent Krystal Nacht tinkle of cascading glass fragments and another fearsome bellow of pachyderm rage.
"Umm, I don't think I'll be watching much television", I mused. "Or at least not in the lounge room. Though this might be an opportunity to buy one of those cheap Chinese made LCD TVs from K-Mart - By the way when are going to give Google Chat a try?".
"You know", he replied niggardly, obviously tiring of my constant carping on the superiority of open source solutions, "I think I might start referring to you as Your Supreme Elephantine Blogness!".
"Careful old son", I admonished. "You are treading perilously on the brink of the dangerous chasm of sarcasm. I can detect it in your tone of voice".
"Oh well", Dan riposted sarcastically, "we wouldn't want to resort to the lowest form of wit, would we?".
"No not all", I agreed. "That would be just dreadful. Before you know it we could descend into satire".
And we wouldn't want that dear reader. Would we?
++ In case you hadn't guessed, this entry is Fiction, an attempt at satire. It is mostly my own work. However, two paragraphs were copied from an email from Dan Byrnes, in which he took me to task (tusk?), These were copied with the author's permission.