[RML] Fw: Australia - the confusing country

Graeme Finsen/Be Sharp-Rentacomputer (finsen at powerup.com.au)
Wed, 25 Jul 2001 18:05:49 +1000

Watch out everybody :-)

> By Douglas Adams
> Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the
> bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many
> unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite
> taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep
> into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an
> accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it
> the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up
> a more frightening theory, but they can't spell either.
> The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the
> place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as
> either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three.
> Typically, it is unique in this.
> The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be
> divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true
> that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9
> of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most
> poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However, there are
> curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all.
> But even the spiders won't go near the sea. Any visitors should be
> careful to check inside boots (before putting them on) under toilet
> seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is
> very useful for this task.
> Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are
> more dangerous. The creature that kills the most people each year is the
> common Wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its
> life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it
> comes out to eat worms and grubs.
> The wombat kills people in two ways: First, the animal is
> indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds
> muscles that outclass Olympic weightlifters. At night, they often wander
> the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with
> all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They
> express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller
> cars, the wombat becomes an asymmetrical launching pad, with results
> that can be imagined, but not adequately described.
> The second way the wombat kills people relates to its burrowing
> behavior. If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the
> Wombat will feel the disturbance and think "Ho! My hole is collapsing!"
> at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of
> its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse. Any
> unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause
> the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed
> to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from
> seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known
> way to die, and Australians don't talk about it much.
> At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus, estranged relative
> of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays
> eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel, and
> has venemous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all
> 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.
> The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants. First, a
> short history: Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in
> boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and lot of them
> died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature,
> man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled
> in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.
> Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north.
> More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and
> stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn
> (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from
> the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot
> of them died. About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever
> since.
> It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider
> themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they
> can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilized culture they
> say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left
> in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.
> Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended
> Holiday and became Australians. The changes are subtle, but deep, caused
> by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a
> person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the
> core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of
> checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also
> picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the
> Aboriginal gift for making up stories. Be warned.
> There is also the matter of the beaches.
> Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world.
> Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend
> with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the
> bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock, and has venomous barbs
> sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain) and
> surfboarders. However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk.
> As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would
> expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly,
> cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger,
> unless they are an American. Faced with insurmountable odds and
> impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick. Major
> engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron,
> string, and mud.
> Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is
> Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim
> that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the
> land "Oz", "Godzone" (a verbal contraction of "God's Own Country") and
> "Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth." The irritating thing
> about this is they may be right.
> There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveller, though. Do not
> under any circumstances suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you
> are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a
> Hawaiian shirt. Religion and Politics are safe topics of conversation
> (Australians don't care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield.
> The only correct answer to "So, howdya' like our country, eh?" is "Best
> {insert your own regional swear word here} country in the world!".
> It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will
> 'adopt' you, and on your first night, and take you to a pub where
> Australian Beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It
> is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an
> astonishing hangover, a foul-taste in your mouth, and wearing strange
> clothes. Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off
> any legal difficulties with "It's his first time in Australia, so we
> took him to the pub.", to which the policeman will sagely nod and close
> his notebook. Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other
> Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage, and
> noting how strong the beer was. Thus you will be accepted into this
> unique culture.
> Most Australians are now urban dewllers, having discovered the primary
> use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.
> Typical Australian sayings
> "G'Day!"
> "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."
> "She'll be right."
> "And down from Kosiosco, where the pine clad ridges raise their torn and
> rugged battlements on high, where the air is clear as crystal, and the
> white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky. And
> where, around the overflow, the reed beds sweep and sway to the breezes,
> and the rolling plains are wide. The Man from Snowy River is a household
> word today, and the stockmen tell the story of his ride."
> Tips to Surviving Australia
> Don't ever put your hand down a hole for any reason whatsoever. We mean
> it.
> The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think
> it is.
> Always carry a stick.
> Air-conditioning.
> Do not attempt to use Australian slang, unless you are a trained
> linguist and good in a fistfight.
> Thick socks.
> Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are
> people nearby.
> If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at
> all times, or you will die.
> Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is
> always a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.
> See Also: "Deserts: How to die in them", "The Stick: Second most useful
> thing ever" and "Poisonous and Venomous arachnids, insects, animals,
> trees, shrubs, fish and sheep of Australia, volumes 1-42"