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Did you have a happy hip hop Halloween, home brewers?

Somewhere along the line, while we weren’t looking, Halloween became popular in Australia.

I am not sure how this happened, although I suspect it is no coincidence that it happened around the same time as young people began listening to hip hop.

For those readers unfamiliar with the hip hop genre, it is a type of music1 that has become popular by virtue of the fact that hip hop artists2 require the same overall musical ability as your average goldfish in order to perform it, plus it allows those singing along to yell a lot of seriously bad words.

I have no doubt that listening to it for any length of time would damage a person’s brain sufficiently that they would find dressing up as a zombie and asking strangers for lollies3 quite appealing.

We did not have Halloween when I was a kid, no doubt in part because, compared to Queensland wildlife at the time – brown snakes, sharks, crocodiles, stonefish and Russ Hinze – vampires, ghosts and skeletons seemed pretty lame. Taking sweets from strangers was not considered the height of wisdom in those days either.

Also, back then, many more Australians had guns, recent combat experience and access to home-brewed beer. This meant that walking up someone’s driveway wearing a hockey mask and clothes smeared in fake blood would probably have resulted in a fairly depressing situation involving police, ambulances and television helicopters.

It was no doubt better for all concerned that Halloween didn’t become big over here until after home brewing became less popular, possibly because the people who drink it lost the power of sight and could no longer successfully drive to the shops to get more ingredients.4

Ha ha! I am, of course, joking, and am in no way suggesting anything that would cause the makers of home brew to become upset enough to sue me. I am also not suggesting that the home brew that people make these days is bad, or dangerous, because I do not wish to become involved in an endless conversation with home-brew enthusiasts about the merits of their product, or God forbid craft beer.

For those of you who do not sport Chris Hemsworth beards and wear jackets with leather patches on the elbows, craft beer is a bit of a fad sweeping the nation, or at least the part of it with more money than they need.

It is based on the premise that normal beer tastes good, and that this is for some reason a bad thing; so they made craft beer, which generally turns out so bitter it makes Malcom Turnbull seem like Ned Flanders.

The fact that sailors shipwrecked on a desert isle and slowly dying of thirst would, if a palette of craft beer washed up on the shore, probably stick to sucking the moisture out of earthworms for survival, does not stop aficionados banging on about the stuff. It is very similar to the way people these days go on and on about gin, as if it were a wondrous mosaic of divine flavours, rather than something on which the mower can run in a pinch.

So we won’t annoy them and will instead return to the topic, which is home brew (or Halloween, it is hard to tell at this point).

Home brew was very popular in the ’70s; home brewing was based on the ludicrous presumption that the average person – the same people that couldn’t program their VCRs – could make drinkable beer. All that you did was mix a can of ingredients with water in the plastic barrel that came with the kit, and then just leave it alone for a while.

Unfortunately, regardless of whatever flavour was written on the side of the can, what eventually came out of the barrel was a liquid that you would say tasted like turpentine mixed with pigswill,5 or at least you would if you had been stupid enough to try turpentine mixed with pigswill. Or, in other words, it tasted like Fosters.6

This in turn created sub-optimal situations at weekend BBQs, because home brewers – having spent about $300 to make almost $23 worth of beer – were hardly going to let that sit at home and explode where it could do no damage. No, they were going to drag an Esky7 full to the BBQ, and hand you what is – and I speak from personal experience here – effectively a beer-filled grenade, and ask you to agree with them on just how wonderful it was.

The experience was similar to when you are taken – by one of the deranged people who feel that Woody Allen is a witty storyteller, as opposed to someone who bores at an Olympic level – to see a Woody Allen film, and asked to comment upon it.

You want to respond by noting that the world would be a much better place if Woody Allen had skipped film-making and opted instead for a life in a monastery that involved a vow of silence, preferably discharged in Siberia, or perhaps on the Moon.

Instinctively, however, you know that this will not be well-received, and so instead you mumble something about credibility, the diverse universe and genius being unappreciated in its own time, as if you were writing horoscopes for a living.

Thus, you would take the bottle of home brew and oh-so-carefully open it, trying not to set it off. If you are wondering why I keep using terms involving explosion, it is because home brew in those days was somewhat unstable, in the Meghan Markle sense. That is, it often exploded when provoked, such as when you looked sideways at it, walked past it or even though about it too hard.

The proud brewer would then ask you what you thought (after tasting the beer, not after it blew up). Although it wasn’t really a question, they wanted you to acknowledge their cleverness in having brewed such a complex bitter draught pale lager ale (or something like that – feel free to rearrange these words to suit your own taste).

In such circumstances, your only option was to engage in equivocal and indirect commentary, which some unkind people refer to as ‘lying’.

“Oh, yes, this shows great promise,” you might say, “It will clearly get better with age – cannot wait to see what it is like after two years in the bottle!” This allowed you to credibly avoid drinking any more of it, and gave you a good two years to find new friends who were not into home brewing.

Anyway, Halloween. This has clearly become a huge thing now, as I noticed this year when the small groups of adorable kids in superhero costumes roaming our neighbourhood were replaced by teenagers who appeared to have been drawn straight from the extras in the Mad Max movie franchise.

I would not have been surprised if they knocked on the door and demanded Guzzoline (and with today’s petrol prices, they might be on to something).

I am not sure this is a good thing, partly because it seems crass commercialism is ruining another memory from childhood (albeit the childhood of Americans, not us) but mostly because I do not wish to take out a mortgage over the house to buy enough lollies to feed the ravening hoards of the wasteland.

Thankfully, my wife came to the rescue this year, by handing out fruit; there is very little that says ‘avoid that house’ like the look on the face of a child who expected chocolate and got an apple.

Speaking of childhood memories and crass commercialism, it is Christmas, and so I would like to thank all of you who risk unemployment by reading this column, and wish you all a safe and enjoyable holiday season; it can get pretty crazy around this time of year, so please look out for yourselves and each other. Here’s hoping 2022 is a great year – we are certainly due one!

© Shane Budden 2021


Footnotes
1 I use the term ‘music’ here in the same way that the term ‘FACT!’ is used on social media.
2 Ibid.
3 No, not ‘candy’, lollies.
4 Not that they wouldn’t have tried.
5 I don’t know what it is either, but it stands to reason it isn’t good.
6 This is not a good thing, ask any beer drinker.
7 If you don’t know what this is, you are in the wrong country.

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