Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

April 25, 2016

Prince and the Canberra Heater Rule

Filed under: news of the day — Tags: , , , , , — lexifab @ 9:58 am

Canberra has a bizarre cultural tradition you might have heard about. This is it: you invite social censure if you switch on your household heating before Anzac Day. Ask anyone who lives here for more than a year or two – if they don’t say it themselves, they will still be well aware of having heard it.

The specific consequences of infringing this oft-recounted social directive are never made clear. After a bit over seventeen years living here, I’m not yet sufficiently local to speak with any authority. But I infer that breakers of the Anzac Day rule are considered to be a bit on the soft side. They lack, I understand, the intestinal fire that will see them through the bitter winter.

Me, I’m just cheap. The longer we can put off cranking up the ducted heating the better. Our September gas bill is a shocker.

Still the “rule” has undeniable power. No matter how cold it gets in early April, you can’t help but hesitate before throwing the switch. Eleven on days when there’s frost outside and the car windscreens are all iced over.

You question yourself. “Do I really need to warm up?”

You ask yourself, “Couldn’t I just put on a jumper?”

You find yourself actively considering whether to just tough out the cold when the switch for the heater is right in front of you.

It’s astonishing how small, seemingly insignificant social pressures can influence our behaviour.

A few days ago as I write this, Prince died in what are still mysterious circumstances. Despite being in the right age group – my teen years were in the eighties – I never really got into Prince. I liked all the same songs that everyone else liked, but I never dug any deeper than listening to ‘Purple Rain’ a few times and digging about half of the Batman ‘89 soundtrack.

But this week’s massive outpouring of shock and grief at the untimely death of a celebrity – a state that 2016 appears to be conditioning us to never leave – has got me reconsidering my mildly indifferent stance. For one thing, it’s pretty obvious when you actually pay attention that Prince was a prodigious talent – singing, dancing, playing All the Instruments and etc.

More to the point, the sheer abundance of opinion on social media (and in traditional media, for that matter) exerts a quiet strength. I don’t think I even registered the moment this week where I went from being somewhat indifferent to strongly pro-Prince. It definitely happened. Unless something terrible comes out in the wake of investigations into his passing, that’s probably going to be my opinion for good.

It was a seismic shift affecting one small corner of my mind, but it happened without my even noticing it until after the fact.

(There’s probably some kind of book marketing lesson to be learned in that, but who cares?)

Instead I’m going to link to my favourite Prince moment from a few years ago, at a memorial concert for George Harrison. He’s not playing one of his own songs, but he plays with such effortless virtuosity that it might as well be his.

Listen to the whole thing (or start at 3:25 to skip listening to Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty singing, if you must). If you didn’t have an opinion about Prince before, this might change your mind.

 

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