Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Miranda Devine, Peter Garrett, Mayan virgins and a delicious soupcon of Blanchett ...

You have to hand it to the online graphic artists at the Herald. They have a wicked, weird surreal sensa huma, and you couldn't do better than this little juxtaposition of Miranda the Devine up against the shiny headed one.

It's intended as front page enticement so that readers will feel compelled to click through to the Devine's Like a pink batt out of hell, Garrett absorbs the heat. But you also have to admire the subbie - assuming it wasn't the Devine herself - who devised the arcane reference to Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell in the header. The Devine seems content merely to make a joke about human pink batts.

Perhaps it explains why the Devine whips herself up, lathers herself with a fine flurry of foam, as she contemplates Garrett. Why just as the wind whispers Maria, so it seems Parliament House calls out Garrett's name, and the Devine is determined to lift herself to an elevated literary artistic level.

And before you can say boo to a goose, or contemplate those eerie metaphysical references to an old song by the Kingston Trio, next thing you know arcane cults are involved:

... when he has become the ritual sacrifice, no less than a Mayan virgin, on the altar of high stakes politics.

Peter Garrett as a Mayan virgin? Oh stop it, you're killing me.

Sadly that was the highlight. Thereafter the Devine is curiously restrained as she tracks back over the Garrett wars, content to quote the opposition, happy to note that Chairman Rudd was fussing with a pink highlighter, ring binder and plastic sleeves in parliament - as if they were a ritualised form of solitaire - and pondering Garrett's future.

In the end the Devine sounds curiously detached, as if watching an embalming operation in progress:

His long supple legs and elegant fingers might be those of an artist, but his voice, as it droned impassively throughout question time, making procedural point after procedural point, showed the heart of a bureaucrat. ''I acted on the basis of that advice and on the basis of that advice I put the measures in place which we rolled out in terms of delivering the home insulation program.'' He has learnt well from his boss.

Ah, at last I know why I can't be an artist. No long supple legs, and rather than elegant fingers, stubby little things that could never manage a piano. Never mind, on we go:

The opposition wants his scalp. But Garrett is the government's human pink batt, insulating Rudd and his cabinet from the heat. For no other reason he's hanging on.

Oh dear. It has to be asked. Did the Devine intend to make a joke about Garrett being scalped? Or the opposition wanting his scalp? Frankly, if you're going to play the dome, you should at least indicate you understand that bad humour was the point of the joke. It's a bit like bowling a ball under arm. The laws of the game might allow it, but does that make it entirely right? or artistic?

Really it's like calling someone the Devine all the time. It puts you in the lowest class of bloggers.

Oh well, in a day spent scalping artists, it's just another hatchet to the brow, as poor old Cate Blanchett copes more than a few slings and arrows for The arts are far more than just another industry.

I see that it's an edited extract of a keynote speech, so perhaps all the meaningful and useful bits were left on the cutting room floor, and all the stereotypical bits of cliched thinking were rushed to print.

Apart from the nepotic reference to growth in her husband's work, Blanchett seems to think that people are incapable of making sense of their lives without the assistance of artists:

What I'm saying I don't think anyone would deny, and yet no one seems prepared to constantly value that we give people the chance to make sense of the experience of their lives, their brief lives, and the tool to communicate that unique sense in another person or people.

Oh dear, thank the lord the Sydney Theatre Company is around to help me make sense of my altogether too brief life, while the poor artists up on the stage feel constantly undervalued and demeaned by my failure to understand just how much sense they've given me.

This insistence on the importance of experience itself is a feature of these witnessing books and these witnessing lives, an insistence that history is not a concept or a force, but the brief, limited, unimportant lives of ordinary men and women involved in the business of just getting from one day to the next, just this, repeated a million times over.

Oh dear, the brief, limited, unimportant lives of ordinary men and women, just struggling and getting by, from one day to the next, and only artists, and especially actors there to make sense of it all.

Well as a justification for art, and for taxpayers' subsidy of the arts - a subsidy I usually support wholeheartedly - can I just ring that up as no sale?

Because it just sounds silly, like this sounds silly:

We must remember the arts do more than just that. We process experience and make experience available and understandable. We change people's lives, at the risk of our own. We change countries, governments, history, gravity. After gravity, culture is the thing that holds humanity in place, in an otherwise constantly shifting and, let's face it, tiny outcrop in the middle of an infinity of nowhere.

Contemplate that. We change people's lives, at the risk of our own? Bah goom, were trouble at mill, and canary down mineshaft carked it, but twaint nothing to compare to risk of artist from careless rigger in fly system.

But it's good news that artists have now finally solved the problem of gravity, so that travel to the moon is now feasible, and we can at last all see that we're a tiny outcrop in the middle of an infinity of nowhere.

Remind me not to see Blanchett in Death of a Salesman.

"I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person."

If somebody says it better, stick to quotes. Will someone hand that actor a decent script!

And now as we say farewell to the Devine, Blanchett and Garrett, time for a song, in the hope that defeating gravity might help us discover intelligent life elsewhere, because there's bugger all down here on earth in the opinion section of the Herald:

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