(C4H9)3Snta Claus and Other Dickheads (Disambiguation)
In the 1950s, (C4H9)3Sn or Tribytyltin compounds (TBT) became a central component of paints used by boat manufacturers around the world.
In 1998 a small Yorkshire pig ran the length of one of Sydney’s busiest arterial motorways. The pig was fulfilling its role as actor; a thespian swine, a worker and an earthling, a distillation of the human mode, a small possible hero.
Santa Claus was pronounced dead on Thursday 4 August, 2005. The death notice was published in the US Postal Service’s publication, Postal Bulletin. Santa’s death certificate read:
Effective August 4, 2005, the Administrative Support Manual (ASM) is revised to allow the Postal Service or an authorized party to open, read, and respond to or contact the sender of mail addressed to Santa Claus or the North Pole, or similar seasonal characters or destinations, and which would otherwise be undeliverable as addressed. This provision is consistent with prior orders and regulations, such as Postmaster General Order no. 6690 from 1912, which authorized postmasters to deliver letters addressed to Santa Claus to responsible institutions to use for philanthropic purposes.
This stipulation has seen many of the letters previously addressed to Santa Claus, Arizona, forwarded to a charity of ‘elves’ located in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Throughout the ages, cultures have evolved language and storytelling to demarcate the separable states of being human and being divine. Never shall the two entangle. Except when they do. Thanks in part to Aristotle, the term ‘earthling’ infiltrated common English vernacular in the Middle Ages. Like a lot of English words, the old English version of ‘earthling’ had multiple applications. It could be used to describe a farmer as much as it could be used to denote a pagan experiencer of the sublunary sphere; that is, a person born of the land below the moon whomst is familiar with the land’s(/planet’s) water, air, fire and is an active tracker of the frontier at the edge of the sky, nature and the ‘aether’ (i.e. ‘ether’ or space).
The pot-bellied pretender was of course portraying the character known as ‘Babe’. As for the motorway, it used to be called the Glebe Point Island Bridge.
The Aral Sea was once the fourth-largest sea on the planet. Its waters provided Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with a flourishing fishing industry, which enabled the communities on its shores to thrive. Today, the Aral Sea is a landscape defined by deprivation. Desolation slashed with incongruous fishing trawlers and cargo boats shipwrecked in sand dunes. Piers were extended every year as the Aral Sea receded; the immense body of water shrinking into the distance until the wharves reached nothing but cracked mud, pelican skeletons, and toxic dust. Decades of pesticides and fertilisers, chemicals from pathogenic weapons tests, and displaced salt infected the seabed long before it dried out. Toxic dust storms in the area are common and have contributed significantly to the decimation of the human population. Strains of treatment-resistant tuberculosis, various cancers and respiratory diseases, and myriad health complications have informed an infant mortality rate of 75 deaths for every 1000 babies born in Muynak, Uzebekistan. The fallout contributes to the death of 12 mothers during childbirth for every 1000 babies born. Liver, eye, and kidney problems have also been attributed to poisonous winds that have skimmed old weaponised toxins from the decaying earth. The immense displacement of salt by wind and air currents has not only created water shortages but made growing crops in the once thriving municipality of Muynak extremely difficult, close to impossible.
Nina Talbot declared herself ‘the biggest real estate agent in California’ before founding the town of Santa Claus in 1937. Situated in the desert of Arizona in the US, Talbot had ambitious plans for Santa Claus. After buying the land, she raised plots for sale, hoping to attract developers to the potential of a Santa-themed resort town.
The more modern usage of ‘earthling’ was evolved by 1950s science fiction when it was put in the mouth of martians. Aliens as space invaders offered the term as a patronising insult to humans. This extraterrestrial exonym presents an interesting animalistic duality; earthlings are creatures defined by their habitation of the earth. By this definition, human, sea snail, pig, fish, and pelican are all earthling.
Tribytyltin compounds are a biocide. Van der Kerk and his team discovered that mixing the chemical with boat paint created a super-effective antifouling agent. Microorganisms were deterred from attaching themselves to a vessel’s hull by the chemical. TBT prolonged the service period of ships, was relatively inexpensive to produce, and eliminated the costly repairs incurred by sea creatures and marine encrusters who adored to cement their glands or muscular stalks to the undersides of boats, growing their shells onto the hard surface of hulls.
In 2002, a US-Uzbekistan team removed 200 tonnes of anthrax from contaminated land on Vozrozhdeniya Island.
Half-goat, half-demon, for centuries Krampus appeared in European Christmas lore as Santa’s putrid polarity. The pair got around Christmas night delivering gifts to good children and kidnapping bad children. Krampus would take the bad children to Spain in a basket where they would work for a year before being returned home. This, of course, all happened on 5 December before the tradition was fused with the Christian messiah birth narrative of 25 December. The mutation was flawless. By killing off Krampus and superimposing Santa—the bringer of gifts and harbinger of (patriarchal) morality—over the narrative of the birth of baby Jesus, the Church released two mutants from its laboratory: the financial year and Christmas.
Barnacles have no heart. They thrive in an erosive environment. However, they do have a sinus, which performs a function not dissimilar to that of a heart.
Deprived of its sea and combined with the totalising effect of human-induced climate change, the region of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan formerly occupied by the world’s fourth-largest saline sea, now experiences colder winters and hotter summers.
Talbot quickly opened Santa Land—a would-be tourist attraction in the middle of the desert for families to visit Santa all year round.
In 2015, the Western Australian Department of Fisheries released a comprehensive report on the implications of climate change in relation to Shark Bay and other areas in the region. The report described the extreme marine heatwave of 2011 and the high rate of species mortality inflicted by the event. Specifically, the document reported a 100% kill rate of abalone near Kalbarri and the closure of scallop fisheries in Shark Bay as a result of the heatwave. Researchers also reported an acceleration in rising sea levels in the past two decades off the WA coast: an acceleration that exceeds the already high-and-rising global sea level trend.
In April 2010, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, visited the southern Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. During his visit, Ki-moon walked to the end of a pier. He dangled his legs over the edge, and leaned back on his hands, tracking the boggled shape of a solitary cow as it emerged from a haze of toxic dust. ‘On the pier, I wasn’t seeing anything. I could see only a graveyard of ships,’ Ban Ki-moon told reporters.
Colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism are the unholy trinity which have eroded and aberrated the cultural strata of ‘family’ and ‘community’ over time. These most intimate tenets have historically been infiltrated and weaponised by Western churches before the function was absorbed and enacted by successive Western colonial governments. The aims of which have always orbited the same hostilities: empire building, creating an exploited labour class, incarceration, the erasure of First Nations people, white supremacy, biological essentialism, and treasure for a few men. Santa is a vessel; an immortal entity whose existing image is a reflection of upholding gift-wrapped patriarchal and capitalist power structures. It was only natural that Santa possess the form of a cis het ham-faced old white man exploiting an unseen, submissive, and unsung working class of people ‘smaller’ than him in order to win capital for shareholders. The elfin uprising is imminent.
The town of Santa Claus enjoyed the attention of celebrities for a short period before its popularity disappeared into the quicksand of obscurity in the 1960s.
The passage of time has seen Sydney accrue a reputation for being user-unfriendly. Historically, sense has never informed public planning in Sydney. This tradition of bad decisions came with the British invasion of the late-18th century and has continued in tandem with the capitalist-colonial project titled ‘Australia’. In recent years, the tradition has seen the formation of ‘wormholes’—areas within pubs and establishments in which it is illegal to eat food while smoking cigarettes or eat food in the presence of someone who is smoking. You can drink in a wormhole, but strictly no smoking or eating.
History has known few places that include a number in their namesake. Aralsk-7 is one such place. Formerly Kantubek and renamed Aralsk-7 in 1954, the town accommodated 1500 workers, most of them Soviet scientists and their children, on the shores of the Aral Sea. Leisure time for Aralsk-7 locals was enjoyed by swimming, fishing, boating, and seafood. You could bury your feet in the hot sand of one of Aralsk-7’s stunning beaches and, on a clear day, see all the way to Vozrozhdeniya Island—a small land mass in a disputed territory on the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
The -ling suffix of ‘earthling’ infantalises colonialism’s modus operandi (world domination) and capitalism’s inherent human exceptionalism (world dominion). The word invokes images of baby animals. Duckling, gosling, hatchling, nestling, fingerling, codling, spiderling, fledgling, earthling—this cute provocation suggests earthlings require nurturing and guidance, parents. UFOs and ETs acting in loco parentis is canon. Nuclear disarmament is a popular and recurring theme in UFO lore. We see ETs time and time again adopt interplanetary parental duties to include warnings regarding weapons of mass destruction. This enlargement of death, displacement, and the intergenerational trauma inflicted by earthlings’ multiple excursions in colonialism and capitalism gains an extra layer of gruesomeness when you consider the cutefying effect of the -ling suffix, a typically adorable noun-maker.
By 1947, Santa Claus was a busy tourist destination. Parents could drop by the local post office any time of the year to have their kids’ Christmas letters postmarked from Santa. Celebrity food writers of the time heaped praise on a menu item at The Santa Claus Inn called Rum Pie à la Kris Kringle.
TBT was banned in 1991 but its effects rippled through the decades following. The biocide’s half-life is increased when it is inadvertently preserved by seabed sediments. Combined with warming waters, the risk to marine ecosystems is potent and felt. In Western Australia’s World Heritage-listed Shark Bay, the Thais orbita (an endemic sea snail) has suffered immensely at the hands of climate change and TBT poisoning. In a matter of decades, the species has evolved a new body part: a penis on their heads. This dick-headed mutation has disrupted the reproduction of the species, as the appendage often blocks the release of eggs.
As of 2006, the town in Arizona is no longer occupied.
On Saturday 25 April 2015, Anzac Day, I stepped into a Sydney ‘wormhole’, hungry and smokeless, clutching a schooner. When I exited the wormhole, it was hailing. I gunned it home to find my housemate building a ‘snowperson’ from the shin-deep ice caking the sidewalk. We finished the hail effigy, marking a face with bottlecap eyes. We named them Alex. At the time of publication, ‘Alex the Sydney snow person’ has 118 likes on Facebook.
Adverse weather events including heatwaves and frequent flooding have strained Shark Bay’s ecosystem. The increased frequency and severity of weather events has damaged Amphibolis antarctica meadows; a seagrass that is not only foundational to aquatic life in Shark Bay, but the seagrass’ belowground root system provides vital support to the ecosystem in bouncing back from destructive climate change events.
Recreational boaters and citizens were forbidden from going within 40 kilometres of Vozrozhdeniya Island. The island hosted the site of a clandestine Soviet bioweapons laboratory named Aralsk-7. The lab’s central purpose was the testing and manufacturing of pathogenic weapons, including the weaponisation of small pox, bubonic plague, and anthrax.
A 2014 study by child psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, found that a child’s belief in Santa peaks at the age of five or six and sharply declines thereafter.
A quick interrogation of the belittling or ‘coddling’ effect of earthling’s -ling suffix reveals that it is a term loaded with cautionary nihilism. It functions as an insult aimed at convincing human exceptionalism to beach itself like some kind of cosmic whale of ego-death.
As the Aral Sea ecosystem collapsed so did the Soviet Union. Desertions by staff at the Aralsk-7 island lab were rampant in 1990 until the facility was officially shutdown in November 1991.
Santa Claus’ final census in 2004 reported a population of ten residents, one of whom was a buffalo.
The Glebe Point Island Bridge enjoyed a sudden rise to fame thanks to George Miller’s critically acclaimed, commercially neutral film, Babe II: Pig in the City. In light of this international attention, the City of Sydney pumped millions of taxpayer dollars into rebranding the bridge.
On 30 July 1971, a research ship floated within 15 kilometres of Vozrozhdeniya Island, collecting plankton. While bagging up the samples, little did the ship’s chief scientist know she was contracting a strand of weaponised small pox. She returned to shore, ill. The identity of the scientist is unknown, but it is known she fully recovered from the virus as the result of a previous vaccination. However, her recovery wasn’t without the death of three Aralsk-7 locals: one woman and two children. The outbreak caused the emergency vaccination of over 50,000 Uzbek citizens and effectively revealed the Soviet Government’s dumping of weaponised small pox into the Aral Sea as part of a test.
On 5 August 1954, Hollywood actor Jane Russell threw a dinner party at the Santa Claus Inn in Santa Claus, Arizona.
The bridge’s rebrand was in line with Sydney’s morose habit of building things and calling them ‘a landmark of historical significance’. Obviously, the best name for the bridge would’ve been Commercially Neutral Talking Pig Bridge but, alas, the City of Sydney chose to Gallipolise the bridge’s namesake. The Glebe Point Island Bridge was mutated into The Anzac Bridge. On Anzac Day 2000, the City decorated the Balmain-side entrance to the bridge with a four-metre-tall bronze statue of a WWI soldier. The statue remains in place today despite Babe’s legacy being marked by numerous Oscar nominations and wins.
Nina Talbot sold Santa Claus in 1949 and, at some point, Tim Wilcox became the owner. Wilcox attempted to sell the town a number of times in the 1980s but nobody would take it for the price he was asking.
The politics of talking pigs and big bridges aside, it is an anecdote I hold dear to my heart. Recalling the bridge’s name change invokes childhood memories of curling my toes around the tickly tendrils of the shag pile carpet at my grandparents’ house while my nan took immense glee in announcing to the room that the Glebe Point Island Bridge would be closed for a pig. I remember her holding up a newspaper article detailing the closure and it featuring a picture of Babe. Nan draped the newspaper over the back of a chair; newspapers were almost as big as blankets back then. Lemonade was colder back then, too, and we drank it out of metal tumblers.
Throughout the 1960s, the Soviet Government ‘irrigated’ the Aral Sea in what is considered to be one of the largest incidences of human-induced ecosystem collapse in history. Irrigation canals were built to flood the desert and establish vast cotton farms. The result of which was a booming industry of cotton exports built on the back of capitalists stealing water from the Aral Sea, in both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved and Uzbekistan gained independence. The government of the new republic continued to feed the remains of the Aral Sea to the desert until both the cotton economy and the world’s fourth-largest sea dried up.
Kazakhstan is represented in white Western culture by the minstrel film Borat, providing a flourishing base for whites to indulge their racism in the form of ‘impressions’ of the misogynistic title caricature.
No sooner than 2019 did Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, bless the parliament’s favourite colonialist scripture known as hansard by writing into it his very own Borat impression. In response to a question about environmental collapse, Morrison gave a Borat-style thumbs-ups before killing the oxygen in the room with ‘I know what Borat would think of the Labor Party’s thoughts on carbon trading policies. Very nice, very niiiiiiice!’
According to Soviet documents, on Monday 25 December, 1989, Santa Claus crashed into a desert region formerly occupied by the Aral Sea. The cause of the crash was believed to be a severe weather event. All bar one reindeer was incinerated on impact, leaving only skeletons for Soviet officials to recover. According to the documents, and despite common lore, the reindeer skeletons recovered at the scene were described as ‘winged’. Although undocumented, two Soviet defectors from the time, described Santa seeking shelter amongst a wrecked armada of forgotten Russian warships rusted to the salt plain near the near town of Muynak. In 2002, a defector told Reuters that he lived with Father Christmas in the desert for three months, before Christmas himself died from complications related to an injured toe. The anonymous source told Reuters he buried Santa in an unmarked grave on the salt plain. The sole surviving reindeer was allegedly never located and Santa’s wife (whose first name is redacted from history) is believed to have delivered gifts for not only 1989’s Christmas event but also for the following ten events as Santa took time to regenerate from a globule of DNA recovered from the crash site by Mrs. Claus. The anonymous defector gave GPS coordinates of the 1989 crash site as being 43.853665, 58.987284. Google satellite images of the region are largely unclear and there is no public record of any expeditions being made to the site since 1990.
It was clear from the Prime Minister’s whole-body Borat impression that he had been practising in front of the mirror for weeks; staying up late drinking shandies, watching and re-watching snippets of people attempting to replicate impressions of the fictional Kazakh reporter on YouTube while the entirety of the Murray-Darling basin in eastern Australia dried-up, resulting in massive species extinction and depriving Indigenous communities. The catastrophic ecosystem collapse is due to decades-upon-decades of cotton capitalists stealing water—the same method of legalised water theft employed by the Soviet cotton industry in Kazakhstan years earlier, which ultimately led to the death of the Aral Sea. Very nice, indeed.
Mention Babe II: Pig in the City and I can still hear dad muttering about the Glebe Point Island Bridge’s name change. He had no personal connection to the city or the bridge. He grew up in outback Queensland and has spent his life working labouring jobs and part-timing in the Army Reserve. He perceived the name change as a waste of money and as part of an emerging trend to ‘Anzac-everything’. Or, ‘as good as a dead dog in spring’.
The town of Santa Claus, Arizona, has long been removed from official maps, its buildings left to ruin; windows caked with spray-on snow have either exploded in the heat or cracked in the freezing cold; weathered styrofoam reindeer and giant bells stripped of their colour are strewn about the town in such a way that they resemble clumps of unmeltable icebergs protesting the desert; clots of tinsel interact with local vine species and can be seen leaving town with the wind and tumbleweed; Santa detritus is slowly pulverised into dust by the crucible of time. The location of Santa Claus’ one buffalo is presently unknown.
In the early hours of 25 December 2019, Santa Claus crashed into a desert region formerly occupied by the Murray-Darling basin, just outside of Come By Chance in north-western NSW, Australia. It is said Santa’s ghost haunts the area. Others say that Santa’s sleigh and its deceased occupants were swiftly collected and taken to a secret US military base at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. The only verified fact is that nothing and nobody survived.
The truth flies when you’re having fun. All this visceral cargo floating down the synapses of memory and yet reality is stranger than a bridge being like a dead dog in spring. Time is flies. When I got to researching the closure of the Anzac Bridge in the 1990s for Babe II, I uncovered nothing. No matter where I looked, I could not locate a single shred of evidence that it ever happened. No archived newspaper articles. I trawled through as much literature about the making of the film as I could summon but, still, not a thing. I had written 500 words based on the memory of something that in actuality did not occur. Babe never set hoof on that bridge. No such bridge even existed in tangible reality. All roads and bridges that appear in the film were assembled as a composite of familiar motorways found in Sydney and San Francisco. These competing aesthetics were collapsed into one single vision of Babe’s dark world. A projection. It is true that Dad would boil the air around him with complaints of the bridge’s renaming. The shag pile carpet? The cold, cold lemonade? Those are true.
But not the pig.
In 1998 a small Yorkshire pig did not run the length of one of Sydney’s busiest arterial motorways. It is a verified fact, however, that the pig still walks the bridge between memories as it fulfils its role as actor; a thespian swine, a worker and an earthling, a distillation of the human mode, a small possible hero.