Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A mixed bag of mid-week lollies ...

No doubt there were serious and problematic elements involved in the saga of Jetstar passengers taking the airplane's crew hostage after the flight was diverted from Beijing to Shanghai because of bad weather (Jetstar Passengers Take Crew Hostage).

But the takeaway, take home point for the pond was the importance and handiness of knowing an Asian language in order to deal with and optimise the benefits of an Asian century:

The cabin manager on the Jetstar flight spoke fluent Mandarin and was able to communicate with the Chinese passengers. The ground staff for Jetstar at Shanghai were also fluent in Mandarin. 
But it is understood the passengers did not trust the promises of the crew and refused to let the captain and crew leave. 

Oh dear. It sounds just like former Chairman Rudd setting the Chinese straight on their foreign and domestic policies ... in Mandarin. Those were the days ...

This being a headlines sort of day, the pond was naturally intrigued to see how the Bolter would deal with the fallout from the current mega superstorm. Yesterday we were offered this:

Yes, more chatter about "warmists", a term as clever as calling people communists, socialists or fascists.  It's as childish as running a blog dedicated to loons, but without the reflexivity. 

Then this morning the world was offered this:

Two great scientific minds - the Bolter and shock jock Steve Price - getting together to sort out the science? Now there's an invitation the pond can refuse.

But since it seems all you need to do is link to yourself and your navel yabbering on about things, the pond choses to link to Watching Sandy, ignoring Climate Change, in The New Yorker. 

No doubt the Bolter knows much more than the very practical assessors at Munich Re, but the pond will stick with the assessors and their statistics.

Meanwhile, the pond is always on the look out for outrageous caricatures and splendid stereotypes - this is after all an unashamedly elitist site as any peanut with class knows - and Tony Maher of the CFMEU offers some splendid nostrums as part of his thoughts on re-building the Labor party, in Unlikely bedfellows are lovers no more

Is there anything the Labor party might learn from "progressive" - how the pond hates that word - environmentally aware policies? Probably not, if you live:

... in Leichhardt, and less than a handful of other inner-city suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne that feature large populations of cyclists on retro bikes and vegetarian butchers.

Yep, Maher has deadset the same prejudices and mindset as good old Gerard Henderson, or Miranda the Devine when it comes to bikes, and exactly the same worshipful outlook about the outer suburbs:

In Australia’s outer-suburban and regional heartlands, the Greens are electoral poison. Labor’s plunge in the polls over the carbon pricing scheme is largely due to its birth in a deal between Labor and the Greens.

The heartlands! Anywhere but the city thank you!

Naturally the CFMEU has its offices in the west in Lidcombe (there's a sub-office in Pitt Street too), which is a stone's throw away from Strathfield, which is a stone's throw away from Five Dock, which is a stone's throw away from Leichhardt and vegetarian butchers, but at least it explains why the pond would rather cheerfully stuff a vegetarian sausage up Maher's nostril than join the Labor party. 

There's slumming with boofheads who want to sound like Gerard Henderson, and then there's dealing with policies without stereotypes, and then there's this conclusion:

Labor’s future relies on rebuilding a dynamic engagement with working Australians as the driver for policy reform. 
That’s not just Labor’s future, it’s the future of mainstream progressive politics. After all, what’s the value in a progressive vision that ignores everyone outside a 10 kilometre radius of our capital cities. There are no shortcuts to rebuilding Labor, it’s a difficult process and it’s fair enough that ideas are raised and tossed around.

Uh huh. Well you could always relocate your city office Mr. Maher, perhaps to Tamworth, where bulldust is appreciated as fertiliser, and where sounding just like Gerard Henderson and the notion that anyone within a 10k zone (how handy that Lidcombe is 14ks) from the city centre is somehow up themselves.

Fair enough that ideas are raised and tossed around? Can you say that in Mandarin please?

Yep, it's a bits and pieces sort of day, so can we have another bit, perhaps Miranda the Devine leading off Gillard sexism card has failed to trump Abbott with a truly astonishing and special feminist insight:

There are two types of females in this world: the "woman's woman" and the "man's woman". 

Actually it's the pond's belief that there are two types of women in the world: the dumb ones like Miranda Devine, and intelligent ones like the real Dorothy Parker, but do go on, let the abundant stereotypes flow, show Tony Maher how it's done:

The latter adores men and is an incorrigible flirt. At a party she will prefer their company. She will never observe the "BBQ rules" that frequently divide Australian social gatherings down gender lines. She regards attention from men as more important than the regard of women. 
A woman's woman loves men just as much but for the most part she abides by a loyalty code to her own sex, which holds that the best way to ruin a good friendship is to compete for the attention of men. Most women are somewhere along the continuum between the two extremes, and women can move in and out of each camp as they grow older, and depending on circumstances.

And so on and on, simply so in the end the Devine can pronounce Tony Abbott a woman's man. It's as nauseating a spectacle and read as the pond could imagine outside the pages of Woman's Day, and naturally the Devine couldn't have done it by herself. She needed a man:

That is what a forensic examination of Newspoll tells us, and I am indebted to Dennis Shanahan of The Australian for his analysis.

Dennis Shanahan! Just what a bubble headed booby needs to make sense of the world.

When you next hear chit chat about echo chambers and the hive mind, just remember the Devine up Shanahan, amd a woman's man, one who adores women, no matter if they're madonnas or whores.

One thing's certain. The Gillard speech has really put the commentariat in a flap, along with the recent slide in the polls, and never has there been such a diligent, energetic burst of plaster-work, and mud brick building, and straw man assertions, and image make-overs, and did poor sweet hapless Margie Abbott fail so badly that now Mr. Abbott must now rely on the man love Miranda the Devine exudes for him ... (not that there's anything wrong with a fling, but must it be put into a public column?)

Never mind, in another bit of plaster-work, perhaps even a total makeover, Greg Craven settles for the most befuddled, confusing logic known to humanity in Parliamentary morality play is no substitute for politics - inside the paywall to save your mind.

Craven runs a pox on both their houses routine, which slags off Maxine McKew, as well as slagging off people for slagging off Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

One of the interesting things about the moral show trials of Gillard and Abbott is that they are based on evidence so thin, it would not put a sewer rat in the dock. Gillard's alleged legal travails are so trivial, so old, so confused and so pedestrian that God himself has forgotten exactly what happened. As for her supposed lies, if every politician who backflips is a liar, then every coffee-drinking athlete is a drug cheat. 
The moral case against Abbott is even sillier. There is no evidence that Abbott dislikes, despises or has a morbid fear of women, girls or female guinea pigs.

Yep, it's an epic, resounding outburst of moral equivalence, and to hell with everyone, and it concludes thusly:

Both sides clearly are quietly pleased with their progress to date. "Juliar" is now established as one of Australia's less plausible public outlaws, alongside the Carlton Football Club and fluoridisation. Doubtless, other equally gullible voters think Abbott eats uppity women for breakfast. 
But most Australians have a better nose for feigned outrage than for sin, and an electoral memory to match.

An electoral memory to match? What the fuck? What on earth is he saying?

Does that mean we should vote for fluoridisation? Or a tasty breakfast? Or can we vote for both, on the basis we should vote early and often?

Do we vote for the Carlton Football club, or female guinea pigs?

Does Abbott get the vote because the moral case against him is even sillier? Or because his taste in swimwear is defiantly dubious?

To misquote Women are deserting the Abbott they know:

Where was Craven when Abbott tried to control women's access to abortions, or attempted to take IVF off the list of Medicare-funded services? Where was he when Abbott was publicly undermining the anti-cervical cancer drug Gardasil?

What's truly amazing is that Craven is the Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, but the pond would have failed his piece if offered it as first year paper (oh the joys of being a tutor).

It would have been held up and ridiculed in class - ridicule is such an effective teaching technique - as an example of fuzzy logic and juvenilia, and as an example of an emotional outburst deeply in need of intellectual fibre and a consideration of actual track records and policies, and as a way of explaining that you can't have an each way bet with your electoral memory ...

Ah well time to eat that vegetarian sausage.

No bugger it, waiter, set the pond up with a nice beef sausage, perhaps with garlic, you know, gourmet style, apologies to any stray Hindi-speaking reader, and heck throw in some handsome middle rashers of bacon, may as well offend any stray Jews and the Muslims in the audience while we're at it ...

If only the pond could speak Mandarin, to help explain the regular stupefaction the world can deliver to the delighted observer safely away from storms ...

Now what's a suitable symbol for sausages that deserve a forking?

Hang on, hang on, that mob are out Hornsby and Brookvale way, here. And they do gluten free gourmet sausages!

Why that's 25 and 16 kilometres away from the CBD respectively!

Way beyond the 10k zone!

Is there no truth or justice left in the world? Only people in the outer suburbs heartland going gourmet and perhaps even riding bikes ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Tis the season to be silly ...

(Above: the pond goes wild for a 365/12/7/24 Xmas).

The pond's always been a big fan of the notion of plausible deniability, at least the version that proposes a lack of incontrovertible proof handily allows a plausible denial.

That allows Gerard Henderson to plausibly deny any leadership speculation in relation to Tony Abbott in Don't believe the hype: no Christmas leadership gift for media.

Yep, it's not just retailing that wants Christmas to come earlier each year, it seems that the media is in some kind of deluded spin because Santa's bumbling elves are out and about.

It doesn't have anything to do with poor form, mis-steps and polling, of the kind which sees cricket players of a certain age unceremoniously dumped (oh the pond is maintaining its cricket-awareness program as best it can).

No, it's what known in the movies as The Christmas Identity, The Christmas Supremacy, The Christmas Ultimatum,  or The Christmas Legacy, generally known as The Christmas Tetralogy (or Quadrilogy if you will).

Now as the storm bearing down on the United States reminds the world, there are more immediate and pressing needs and threats than the suffering induced by reading Gerard Henderson, ferreting through the entrails and advising it's all to do with the season, or perhaps the stars, maybe even the tea leaves, but here's the spectacular opener:

Thank God, Christmas comes but once a year. 

It reminded the pond of a favourite maiden aunt of a rustic bent who considered Christmas the worst of times and the best of times, but endurable provided it came once a year, fruit cake was made, threepences and sixpences were inserted into the boiled pudding, and the entirety of January could be taken off.

Somehow Christmas exerted a dire baleful magnetic influence for months before it happened, and months after it, and so it seems it also affects politics:

The problem with Australian politics is that the leadership speculation, which invariably increases towards the end of the calendar year, often extends into the following year. 

Shocking, and worse still, there's all this talk of productivity and the Asian century and the need to work, even in January. Can't we just have some down time?

It seems the impact of Christmas starts around July:

The second half of 2012 has been replete with speculation about challenges to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. 

Say what? What about the endless stream of speculation about Julia Gillard's leadership in the first half of 2012?

The point of all this of course is that our prattling Polonius is indulging in spin, which is why he's included Gillard, to appear even-handed, and to dissemble, and plausibly deny there's something in the water now revolving around Tony Abbott's leadership and strategies, and that's come about because of poor form, mis-steps, an inability to tweak his googly, and polling.

It's so naked it would be tragic if it were anyone other than Henderson, but it shows how you can waste a lot of words deconstructing his verbiage and snow jobs (another problem that  Christmas can bring, at least if you have Christmas in July down under).

Anyhoo, the pond hadn't paid much attention to the blather about Abbott's position being re-examined and placed under stress and threat.

Suddenly Hendo's attempt to plausibly deny it suggests all bets are off because Hendo might deny but he's rarely plausible. So where there's chattering smoke there must be fire and blame it all on Christmas, the season, and vibes in the ether if you will, but Hendo running cover suggests that Abbott needs to watch his step.

A few more bad polls, and a tight race, and endlessly nattering in a negative way about climate science and the carbon tax (did anyone mention a storm set running by warm water?) and the nervous nellies munching on their Christmas pud might be so smitten by the season they might just smite him. Under the influence of one season or another ...

I know, I know, it's still only October and there's a day to go before we hit November and here we are nattering about Christmas and stockings and Xmas crackers and trees - plastic or aluminium foil or real? - and it's all Hendo's fault.

Anyhoo, all this is just a preamble for Hendo to diss and dismiss that rogue bull Malcolm Turnbull, who has taken a shocking stand in relation to climate science (and never mind record storms distracting from the profound insights in Hendo's scribbling), and Alan Jones and moderation and being polite and ...

Big Mal has also disgraced himself on the question of gay marriage, suggesting opponents are dripping with the worst sort of hypocrisy, which is simply too much for Hendo to bear, seeing as how he sees nothing wrong with dripping with the worst sort of hypocrisy.

Not to worry, it leads to a repetition for the umpteenth time of an old saw delivered by Hendo as if it were gospel:

The 2013 election will be decided in western Sydney, northern NSW and Queensland, where attitudes on social policy are different from those in Bondi Junction, where Turnbull's office is.

Which is more than passing strange when you think about it. Do the majority who favour marriage reform, all two thirds of them, all live in Bondi Junction? (Poll shows support of gay marriage at high - paywall affected). No wonder there's so many apartment blocks sprouting like mushrooms around the mall ...

Even stranger, there's that hick from the sticks hailing Malcolm Turnbull (Windsor says Turnbull would be better leader), and the cardigan wearers welcoming the lad (Abbott invisible, Turnbull welcomed in ATC election campaign), and polling showing an Australia-wide preference for big Mal, and Turnbull firms as preferred leader - forced video at end of link - 63% to 30% over Abbott.

But don't worry, they all live in Bondi Junction, at least in their minds, or they're suffering from the early onset of Christmas syndrome.

Still, it's so serious that our prattling Polonius has to roll out a heavy hitter from the other side to show how normal Tony Abbott is:

In July, The Australian reported that the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, the member for McMahon in western Sydney, had declared that he would vote against gay marriage. Bowen, who is not religious, said that many in his community have explained to him ''the great importance they place on the traditional definition of marriage''. There are many Christians and Muslims in McMahon.

Suddenly Muslims are decent, traditional conservative folk in Hendo's world?

Whatever the likes of Gilmore and Seccombe think of Abbott, he has successfully led the opposition for three years because he has a certain appeal in the outer suburbs and regional centres, where most of the marginal seats are.

Yes, and it seems his policies appeal to Muslims. Which leads the pond to propose a new set of policies and perhaps a slogan for Tony Abbott.

First he must propose abolishing Christmas, so we can all avoid Christmas syndrome and speculation about leadership - and Hendo writing about Christmas and leadership and the outer suburbs for the squillionth time, in a way suggesting he never actually goes out into that world and meets its diversity of people and ideas, perhaps because the dragons are too frightening ...

And then how about this as a slogan:

Tony Abbott, the grinch who said no to Christmas, friend to Islamic fundamentalist thinking.
Tony Abbott, preferred by Muslims
Tony Abbott, at heart a traditional Muslim
Tony Abbott, at one with Chris Bowen, and fundamentalist Christians and Muslims ...

Oh they're winners, winners I tells ya ...

Meanwhile, the pond looks forward to the coming months, because since he's decided to stay, big Mal isn't going away.

And now Tony Abbott and Hendo are looking over their shoulders at the elephant in the room.

The pond has no cat in this fight (or dog or Australian cricketer), but what fun it is to watch.

Especially when it leads Hendo to explain how it's all the fault of Christmas, while joining with Muslims to celebrate their traditional beliefs

Pass the pond another Xmas cracker and a glass of that deviant bubbly ...

(Below: an old cartoon by John Shakespeare from April 2011, surprisingly still relevant. Oh wait a second, it's about The Easter Identity, The Easter Supremacy, The Easter Ultimatum,  or The Easter Legacy, generally known as The Easter Tetralogy (or Quadrilogy if you will). The source of endless leadership speculation, something in the ether or the tea leaves or the chocolate the Easter Bunny supplies, stronger than crack. Damn these Xian seasons, is there end to their baleful impact on the psyche?)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Away with the wild things and Asia ...

(Above: from China Digital News, a website blocked in China, explanation here)

Ni hao ma, the pond asks any stray passerby, steadfast in the knowledge that this century is Asian, the future is Asian, and as a result Australians will experience a wondrous boost in the pay packets, and score an endless supply of apple pie to keep things ticking over in the sweet bye and bye.

Was it only a couple of days ago that the pond was reading the New York Times' story Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader, and the follow-up story China Blocks Web Access To Times After Article?

No wonder Senator Stephen Conroy loves the Chinese leadership style, and their great big filter on everything.

And in a less spectacular way, breakfast table reading has been devoted to Evan Osnos's excellent piece for The New Yorker, Boss Rail, happily outside the paywall at the moment, with a sub-title that explains everything, The disaster that exposed the underside of the boom.

Just one quote is all that's needed to add a sweet and sour tang:

The other view holds that the compact between the people and their leaders is fraying, that the ruling class is scrambling to get what it can in the final years of frenzied growth, and that the Party will be no more capable of reforming itself from within than the Soviets were. Last year, the central bank accidentally posted an internal report estimating that, since 1990, eighteen thousand corrupt officials have fled the country, having stolen a hundred and twenty billion dollars—a sum large enough to buy Disney or Amazon. The government has vowed that officials will forgo luxury cigarettes and shark’s-fin soup, but vigilant Chinese bloggers continue to post photographs of cadres wearing luxury watches and police departments with Maseratis and Porsches painted blue and white. Even Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister, who will leave the Politburo next month, declared that corruption was “the biggest danger facing the ruling party”—a threat that, left unchecked, could “terminate the political regime.” 

Indeed. And don't get the pond started on the corruption in India, or the byzantine understanding required to do business in Indonesia, or the precarious situation of Japan, or the way that Malaysia is run in a way that would make a Mafia don weep with envy.

Just another quote:

China’s recent scandals seem to have hastened a moment of truth: the new Politburo will take office next month knowing that the people are not as content as before with what they have gained from the country’s rise. Over a generation, the Party has raised five hundred million citizens from poverty, and constructed a physical and economic world previously inconceivable. Yet people see no shortage of reasons to demand better: Beijing spends more today on domestic security, protecting the state from a daily parade of public grievances and unrest, than it does on foreign defense. Despite the efforts of the censors, Chinese people can go online and read that their leaders eat uncontaminated vegetables grown at remote, guarded farms, and breathe air that has been scrubbed by filters. The fall of Bo Xilai and Great Leap Liu dramatized the culture of entitlement run amok. For years, Liu and Bo dedicated themselves to enhancing their own prospects along with those of the nation. They lost their sense of proportion, and the question is whether their government has, too.

Not that the Americans can talk, not with the Republicans rampant, but let no one accuse the pond of not being Asian-centric, because apparently that's a thought crime and we should get on board and take the money and run.

In which case, just leave the Porsche out the front with a nicely stuffed sum - better make it big if you want that fast rail connection to Bazza O'Farrell's second Sydney airport in Canberra - and a good Swiss watch.

(Speaking of Bazza, didn't he cop an independent pounding on the weekend. Watch out Bazza, the inner city elites are after you).

The pond has always had a taste for the more restrained Patek Philippe models - a snip at 10k or so - and make sure it's none of that damned shanzhai stuff, we have enough innovation with a peasant-mind set at work in the Australian Labor Party.

Do they really think the offer of a growth spurt in wages is enough to blind both eyes?

Moving along, you have to think Maxine McKew might have a few image problems, if even The Australian turns up its nose, sniffs, and runs Troy Bramston's McKew wins a Maxine for sycophancy but doesn't do Rudd a favour (inside the paywall, but you know all about googling that). Wow, did he get fed the right attitude.

The opening gambit is a ripper:

After Labor caucus meetings during the Rudd government, a group of wry MPs and senators would bestow the "Maxine" award on the person who most blatantly sucked up to Kevin Rudd with the most vacuous and sycophantic question. 
 It was named after then Labor MP Maxine McKew -- who, ironically, won the award almost every time... 

Troy doesn't spare the whip, and his final check and mate is just as withering:

McKew regularly quotes Keating's comment to her that politics is "a contest of ideas". But there are no new ideas in this book. She makes no attempt to provide any kind of reform manifesto, new policy platform or answers to Labor's cultural and political challenges. McKew is interested only in tearing down Labor's house rather than helping to rebuild it. 
 This makes her analysis of modern Labor particularly self-serving. McKew has no commitment to the party's future, the seat she lost or to serious public debate about how to reform and rebuild the Labor Party. It is not deserving of a Walkley award, but it is a shoo-in for a Maxine award.

Lordy, lordy and all that in The Australian, home of Labor splitters, renegades, deviants, perverts and Gary Johns ...

Okay, okay, it's 'fess up time. Almost anything is better than reading the braying drone of generally grumpy Paul Sheehan, especially today's piece, in which he mourns the loss of sundry scribblers from the Fairfax ranks, courtesy redundancy and resignation, without mentioning once the most hoped for outcome, his own departure.

Instead, in Faster news, but mind the quality, he poses two completely contradictory notions without giving the faintest indication he's done so.

First he celebrates the eccentrics - and since Doug Anderson is one of the departures, who can argue with that, or that he's a loss for Fairfax - but then somehow Sheehan equates eccentricity with the ability to deliver quality news.

And then he proves conclusively why, despite his professional curmudgeon-ish ways, he can't deliver a quality column anymore. For starters, who would farewell Helen Anderson, travel editor, this way?

And there was Helen Anderson, the doyenne of travel journalism in Australia, our travel editor, whose limpid brown eyes were, in recent months, sometimes reduced to yellow lizard slits caused by overwork. 

Eccentric? Yep. Quality?

There's simply no way the lizard-slitted pond could bring itself to that line, no matter how eccentric it might sound:

Readers respond to informed eccentrics and eccentricity. People like relationships with writers and they like surprises. 

But there's never a surprise reading Sheehan. His views are as pre-packaged and pre-shaped as a bi-weekly slice of devon (South Australians will understand the word).

Today the commodity called news comes faster than ever before, from more sources, with fewer lulls and mostly it comes at no cost. There is always a cost, at the root, it is just a question of who pays. What are readers willing to pay for? This is the great question of the digital age. 

Actually it's not so hard. The pond pays handsomely for all sorts of opinion, from The New Yorker through to The New York Review of Books but damned if it will pay for Paul Sheehan's opinions. Or this little flurry of defiant paranoia and floozies:

It will not matter in what format the journalism is delivered. It doesn't matter if newspapers survive without paper - or even without news. It matters a great deal, however, if the ozone layer in the public debate formed by quality journalism is degraded into irrelevance. Because the public relations industry dwarfs the news media. Governments have enormous resources of message delivery and spin. So do corporations. So do advocacy groups.

Which is rich, coming from a man who routinely spins everything to the right, seemingly incapable of tweaking anything to the left (the pond is proud of its ongoing progress in understanding cricketing metaphors, just don't propose watching actual cricket this summer).

In the end Sheehan takes comfort from the rise in share prices of a minor media mob, A. H. Belo, as if that's some model for the phoenix-like re-birth of Fairfax, and ends with a nice quote from Anderson quoting D. H. Lawrence.

Which is a double shame, because it shows what a muddle-headed wombat Fairfax is, having let go Anderson, who really did engage his readers, while keeping the generally grumpy Sheehan, who infuriates his ... which is why the pond might have been better off reading Toodle-ooh, dear readers, because fury is no basis for sales.

Oh it's a funny old world, and reading D. H. Lawrence is always a dangerous thing. As for the bit before the quoted quote?

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.

Lawrence never did get out and about much, and perhaps never killed anything or went rabbiting in the wilds around Tamworth ... he couldn't even manage to hit a snake with a clumsy log ... because the pond has often seen wild things look sorry for themselves in the moments before death ... moments the pond remembers and regrets ...

Perhaps it was all just projection and they wanted to turn into hats and food? And make a quick buck out of Asia, and never mind the reality on the ground?

Never mind. The sight of Sheehan scribbling at least suggests that domestic things might sometimes look sorry for themselves, but for once the pond finds it hard to summon regret.

Perhaps it has something to do with climate science and the giant storm bearing down on the United States at this very moment, as the pond contemplates a trip to New York ...

Summer grass
all that remains
of warriors' dreams

Oh yes, the pond goes Asian ...

(Below: some poor translations of Basho but more evocative calligraphy here)

(Deep autumn-
my neighbour,
how does he live, I wonder?)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A pot pourri of Pauline pleasures, and by the way, you're all guilty sinners, guilty as hell ...

(Above: a little mood setting, maestro Crumb, please).

Was it an accident, a coincidence or the sinister tricks of the long absent lord that saw the pond reading Michael Jensen's latest work for the Sydney Anglican website, at the same time as author Thomas Keneally was advising the BBC that the Catholic church attracted neurotics to work for it by peddling guilt and original sin?

Keneally confessed - oh the joy of confessions and indulgences and forgiveness for the perpetually guilty - that original sin remained the last tenet of the church that lingered in him, proving what a powerful racket it is.

But he was being a tad hard on the Catholics, because other churches know the same racket. Which brings us back to Michael Jensen and his very last par in 21: The Human Mutiny:

Since the fall, the human will has become twisted against itself. It is not just the outer world of our actions that has been affected but the inner world of our desires and longings.

The fall? No, we're not talking Camus here, we're talking the fall of man, beloved of fundamentalists, which if it's to be believed, requires a literalist interpretation of Genesis, since the only real way for the entirety of humanity to acquire guilt and original sin - as opposed to say crossed wiring, glitches in the DNA, and chemical imbalances - is to get kicked out of the Garden of Eden, because the wilful, wicked Eve (so naughty) was beguiled by the serpent and munched on the apple.

This routine, as the wiki points out, was also known to the pagan Babylonians, who c. 23-22 century BCE possessed a seal featuring male, female, fruit and serpent.

Like other great myths - Batman, Superman, Santa Claus - it's hard to kill off a goer with a great narrative that suits the masculine view of the world (but what fun it is to take a look at the walls of Babylon in the Pergamon in Berlin. Hang on, next thing, after looking at the gate of Ishtar, you might do an Elaine May and call your movie Ishtar).

(Below: Ishtar gate for your pleasure and distraction. Got any other middle eastern site you'd like to plunder?)

Anyhoo, what a tragedy gnosticism lost out. As the wiki reminds us, in that yarn, Adam and Eve thank the snake for bringing them knowledge (and movies and plasma TVs), freeing them from the Demiurge's control, and the petty, short-sighted Demiurge kicks them out, seeing that humans might be a threat (was this the first SWOT analysis?)

You won't read about any of this in Jensen, who spends most of his piece celebrating the thoughts of Paul.

That particularly unhappy and tortured individual - who thought marriage was a sensible option only when put up against hellfire and damnation - seems to suit evangelicals, given how he told women
to shut up and submit, and rabbited on endlessly about ungodliness and damnation, views that now require a little finessing.

The Jews and the Greeks cop a pounding, along with everyone else, as Jensen notes with glee:

The surprise Paul has in store is not his condemnation of the Gentile mass, but that knowledge of God’s law (nomos) has not had a positive effect on Israel. It is an honour and an advantage to be a Jew (3:1f), but in terms of his judgement on sin God shows no favourites. There is no room for proud boasting on the basis of national superiority (3:27). Thus Paul introduces his catena of condemnation (3:9-20): ‘…we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin. The universality of the human rebellion against God does not allow for (ethnic) exceptions.

Now you might think this a tad Halloween - evil everywhere, saturating the landscape - but Jensen sees this as jolly spiffing, if a tad bleak:

Furthermore, the powerless of human beings to self-improve is emphatically stated as the ground for Paul’s vindication of God’s righteousness in 3:21-31.

Yep, forget those fitness and weight loss classes, and being kind to cats and sending money off to charity, there's no way you're going to self-improve.

Why not just fling yourself under a Sydney bus and head off to meet your maker? Oh wait, the way they drive Sydney rail buses (for City Bus, and occasional Train), there's one coming right at you, and you won't have to apologise to the maker for topping yourself ...

Anyhoo, it's all exceptionally tedious, and right down the party line. Even the graphic artist didn't know what to make of it:

Ye ancient vessel in murky fog? In future when writing in praise of Paul, can the pond recommend the tried and true?

Since we're all guilty and sinners, oh repent ye wicked, it seems only fair to note that Jensen himself has been judged a heretical sinner on the very strange Sydney Anglicans Heretics site.

The question here - as posed in "What is Truth?" - is how much Jensen actually believes in the reality of Genesis, and an actual fall, and the historical reality of Adam and Eve, which led to much fancy footwork and tap dancing at the tail of Jensen's Christ and Creation.

You can read the entire thread there - give the Sydney Anglicans those hits they desperately need -  but let's just note a couple of the moves:

Symbolic vs literal. Mythical vs historical. There might be more than two options on the table...

Nicely danced. How clever of the long absent lord to invent circumlocution, evasion, ambivalence, prevarication and equivocation:

Adam may be poetically described, but actually historical. One suggestion, by Reformed evangelical scholar Henri Blocher, is that the name 'Adam' could be a way of representing the whole race at the time of the fall. Myth is not the opposite of historical. Myth is a literary genre which may describe actual historical events.

The discussion threatened to hive off into a discussion of a young earth, creationism and evolution, which is where it naturally must go if you want to make Jensen clarify his evasive gobbledegook.

If there are more than two options on the table, why not take the Gnostics (or at least the bits that suit, in the Anglican way)?

As for the evasion that myth is a literary genre that may describe actual historical events, does that mean Genesis is describing real historical events?

It's actually a simple yes/no proposition. Evolution and Adam and Eve a myth, and in a storm any myth will do (like god using thunder as a way of speaking to humans, matching Zeus).

In his heart, Jensen sounds like he knows it for what it is - a myth - but it's handy to Paul, and Paul is essential to Jensen and to the Sydney Anglicans, their whole repressive theology is based around Pauline doctrines, and so we get routine party line blather, with fancy trim - like the name "Adam" being a way of representing the whole human race at the time of the fall.

And what time was that, and what whole human race was it, and does it come through in the sampling of the DNA of the ancients? Are we talking Africa, or are we talking Noah?

It's desperate stuff, and yet the Sydney Anglicans don't dare say boo to this goose, because over in the corner are the fundies ready to out them as sinful heretics. And that's always worked amongst Catholics and Protestants, because dammit they all know they're guilty as hell sinners deserving punishment (perhaps a good whipping, if only they had the sense to settle for good sex and good food and a nice steady job).

Anyhoo, about the only joy to be had was seeing one of the few who contribute theological discussions to the site get tangled up in another bit of ethereal Pauline special pleading.

Why does it matter? Well only a month or so ago, the Anglicans were apologising for the part they played in forced adoptions in the 1960s, involving "clean breaks" with mainly hapless, young and single mothers (here), thereby reminding the world that it's not just weirdo Republicans demanding women carry a rapist's baby and assume responsibility for life.

There are other original sinners, and that unholy punishment for young women and the children born to them sprang from the notion of original sin and guilt and sex out of wedlock, and the ease of whipping away babies born because abortion was a crime ...

The theology of original sin ends up with practical consequences, judgements and punishments, all too often without justification.

Meanwhile, over at that other factory of guilt and original sin, Cardinal George Pell scribbles on for the Sunday Terror and the pond is too stingy to splash the cash when the Cardinal's thoughts on Marriage can be had a week late ... for free. They could take a year to land for all that it mattered ... it's the "for free" bit that counts.

In the usual way, Pell is shocked and horrified, or at least startled by the way young 'uns shy away from marriage:

It is not surprising that children of broken marriages can be hesitant about marrying, helped to evade deciding by the encouragement to keep their options open. 

On the other hand, they could just join the Church, indulging in a most peculiar marriage, encouraged to keep their options open for a life of chastity, or perhaps a lifetime fiddling with their charges.

This hinders the decision to commit among those who enjoy adult freedoms without all the adult responsibilities. University students can fit this stereotype. Especially among the prosperous, adolescence can continue into the thirties. 

And pompous prattling can continue until senility sets in, since a clergy which refuses to marry can hardly berate others for refusing to marry.

As Thomas Keneally once wisely noted this sort of chatter about adult responsibilities, and stereotypical university students is the domain of the institutional capitalistic church. He contrasted Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum in 1891 with the narrow legal proscriptions of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae in 1968:

"The first is nearly Marxist with faith sown in. It's socialist, socially progressive and says things about capital which would be considered extremely left wing in today's Australia," he says. "On the other hand, Humanae Vitae has become a sort of keystone of extreme Catholicism as it wants to proscribe and censure, as if legalistically, human sexuality and reproduction." (here)

Uh huh. And this from a man who loves to dress in expensive frocks! Surely we've got time for just one example of prosperous cross-dressing? (not that there's anything wrong with that):

No? Okay, let's get on with the proscripion and censuring:

We now acknowledge that almost 79% of couples live together before marriage. I can remember when they were a bit embarrassed to tell this to the priest celebrant, or avoided the issue by listing their parents' address. 

Sinners! Guilty, and dammit, they're so casual about it:

Today the majority, even of those coming for a church wedding, are matter of fact about cohabitation, because a marriage ceremony is now the celebration of what a relationship has become. For only a minority does the wedding ceremony celebrate the beginning of an intimate deeper love between the spouses, which is now expressed physically. 

Yep, that'll do for a sweeping generalisation about sex and love in the younger generation. They're only in it for the fucking, the dirty young things. So what to do?

The percentage of those who marry rather than simply living together has slumped drastically in parallel with the decline in church weddings. Some like to be married in a park or on the beach, hoping that it won't rain, when a church marriage has considerable practical advantages!

Get married in church, no need for wet weather cover!

Oh it was probably meant as a droll, dry witticism - though the exclamation mark seems the only clue, because it's not very funny, nor comical, merely verging on the pathetic. Is that all there is?

Seems like it, unless you include the usual panics and alarums about women failing to understand their role in life is to breed for Rome:

The contraceptive revolution has made cohabitation possible. One of the ironies of today's situation is that natural family planning clinics are more used to enable pregnancy to occur, rather than limiting the number of births. 

Women are marrying later, when they are past peak fertility and their inability to conceive is enhanced. This is especially so for those who have been using the pill for many years, which can sometimes mask an underlying fertility problem.

Yes women of Australia have a couple for yourself, one for Peter Costello and one for Cardinal Pell and while you're at it one for the Pope because the way enrolments are going in the Catholic church, the attractions of incense and altar wine seems to mask an underlying ability to attract recruits.

Or some such thing. So how do we and Pell end?

The state of marriage merits discussion and debate outside and inside Church circles...

The end of the world and shifty young people locked in filthy, grappling, sweaty sin on a hot Sydney night, and it only merits discussion and debate?

Excluding affluent university students of course, who have nothing to offer as they work the night shift at the local pub.

Why anyone would listen to this sort of nattering abuse and chit chat about sinners sinning from Sydney Anglicans or Sydney Catholics is a profound mystery to the pond - perhaps deeper than transubstantiation, which at least can be explained as a yearning for cannibalism.

Maybe Keneally's explanation is obvious and simple but on the money.  He's often said he found it hard to resolve the conflict between totalitarian tendencies within the institutional church and democratic liberalism. And he's right on the money about original sin and guilt attracts neurotics like honey attracts flies ...

He should know of course. Not because he was once a seminarian but because as a supporter of Manly rugby league club he's guilty of original sin. Is there any greater original sin?

And if you'd like to hear Keneally on guilt, here he is on the BBC. He's recently been out and about in Britain spruiking his latest book, but he gets on to neurosis and guilt and Catholics and shame about the seven minute mark. No mention of Manly Tom? (There's also an except with Keneally speaking on why guilt can easily turn into narcissism, or why supporting Manly will inevitably lead to narcissism ...)

(Below: looking for an origin myth, as opposed to a scientific theory? Well you could go a bad movie like Prometheus or indulge in a weak xkcd joke, or just do the usual aliens control me via the implants in my teeth routine. Whatever you do, don't mention an earth billions of years old or life evolving over millions of years or your favourite monkey's uncle. Stick with the Pharisee Saul sharing insights with the Babylonians ...)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Speaking of alien cultures in News Limited ...

There's been a lot of idle chatter recently about the bold Italian experiment of jailing scientists for failing to predict earthquakes.

You can read the standard line in the likes of Tom Chivers' Jailing the scientists over the L'Aquila quake is stupid and counterproductive, but think of the benefits if this Italian thinking was extended more generally.

First up we'd be jailing the politicians who failed to predict that the funding they were providing to scientists would go to wretches incapable of predicting anything, most notably the weather. Then you'd have to jail the general population for failing to predict they were electing politicians who'd failed to predict they were funding scientists who failed to predict anything with a hundred per cent accuracy.

In a few swift steps we could achieve the American dream of having the entire population locked up in a private prison, and not just Hispanics and blacks, and entirely without arbitrary excuses like a never-ending war on drugs.

Would the commentariat be captured by this logic? Well certainly scribblers like Christopher Pearson, who when not publishing embarrassing sycophantic suck-ups to Tony Abbott can always be relied upon to produce errant predictions and insights into Labor politics, when even Labor politicians don't have a reliable clue as to what's going on.

He's at it again today in Gillard's alien culture failing, which The Australian, for your mental health and productivity has thoughtfully locked behind its paywall.

The notion is that the Labor party is full of dirty players conducting the black arts of dirt and smear, while heroic Liberals are dressed in white, especially John Howard and Tony Abbott, and generally rescue fair maidens from evil scientists who fail to predict earthquakes.

And never mind the copious buckets of mud assorted Liberals have been throwing at Gillard's past, or union finances, or Peter Slipper, some deserved, and some with the rich ripe muddy stench of hypocrisy.

Under Rudd, according to the Pearson line, some of the dark art activities were outsourced, but what then are we to make of the Liberal party outsourcing its dark arts to the Murdoch press in general, and The Australian in particular?

The chief villain (this might well be a role for Javier Bardem or Carl Showalter) in the Pearson piece is one John McTernan, who worked for Tony Blair, whom John Howard loved so well, he trooped off to Iraq with to battle the axis of weevils.

Here's how to slur someone without leading with a shred of evidence:

It is widely believed McTernan was ultimately responsible for the Australia Day race riot in Canberra and that the staff member who lost his job over the incident, Tony Hodges, was too junior to have acted as he did without permission or encouragement from above. We may never know precisely what happened and how the blame should be allocated, but in any event it's a most unwelcome development in a governmental culture when someone in the PM's own office imagines he can get away with deliberately provoking an affray.

Indeed. It's widely believed that Christopher Pearson is ultimately responsible for writing drivel, because others on The Australian are too junior to have allowed Pearson to do so without permission or encouragement from above.

We may never know precisely why Pearson is allowed to write drivel, and how the blame for it should be allocated - some claim it's because he's a goose and the The Australian has failed to employ a certified, qualified goose-keeper - but in any event it's a most unwelcome development in a newspaper culture when someone in the chief editor's office imagines he can get away with deliberately provoking the scribbling and distribution of drivel.

Surely this sort of writing is as deserving as the Italian scientists. It is widely believed ... we may never now precisely ... but even though we're relying on a tawdry rumour mill, hang 'em and hang 'em high.

It turns out of course that this lashing out is just part of Pearson brooding about the unfairness of it all because sordid people have besmirched the Fab-like whiteness of Tony Abbott with idle chatter about sexism. There has to be a reason, an explanation, perhaps a foreign agent or a foreign power or a foreign alien culture.

Now you might think sexist chatter is a domestic matter.

Talk of sexism has recently been all the go, what with Tracey Spicer's speech turning up in The Hoopla here, and the moment it jumped the shark, and turned up in the Fairfax press, here, the next thing you know, it was drawing over nine hundred comments.

There wasn't much nuance or subtlety to Spicer's speech but it did have a few juicy lines which occasionally cross the pond's mind when reading Pearson:

This is difficult for me to put into words but if I had to, it would sound a bit like this: Fuck you. 
Fuck you, you misogynist bully with your archaic beliefs, intellect of a pygmy, and tiny dick. (Yes dear reader on Hoopla they know how to spell fuck, while on Fairfax you get f-ck and a forced video for your pleasure)

Naturally the pond disclaims any knowledge of the size of Pearson's dick and is astonished that somehow this seems to have made its way into the public discourse. It's a most unwelcome development in a dominant culture which somehow imagines it can deliberately provoke an affray by remarking on the Prime Minister's childlessness. After all, where would that leave Pearson?

It's so cruel and unfair that casual remarks addressed to a barren woman are taken out of context, misused and abused, when after all it was Wayne Swan that started Pramgate, and Mr. Abbott was merely responding to Swan.

I wonder how long distractions of this sort are going to work with anyone except the true believers. Will implausible accusations against a man with a much-loved wife and three daughters succeed in diverting public attention from the absence of a plan from the government to manage the national economy? 

Manage the national economy? You mean socialism? And with Tony Abbott we'll get even better socialism and central planning? That's the trouble with Pearson, he can't think beyond that white knight taking him to glory and kingdom come.

But here's a problem. You might think of all this as domestic bickering, but how to explain it's actually an evil, alien import and implant?

How to link the sexist smearing of Abbott with the British culture of smear led by McTernan? Since it almost goes without saying that Australian women are too dumb to work it out for themselves and must be beguiled and misled by foreign devils ...

We're told that in Britain a similar smear of sexism worked for a while, but Australians don't strike me as being as ideologically driven. 

Of course not. That smearing of Tonietta Blair and Davida Cameron worked for a while, but there's no way Australians are ideologically driven.

Though it has to be said that Nicola Clegg's strategy of speaking Dutch to outfox Davida Cameron is surely part of a deeply sexist attitude (Nicola Clegg insists on speaking Dutch at Cabinet Office meeting).

And it was astonishing that Davida Laws thought blaming teachers for students failing to aspire to university would help save the Lib Dems who'd conspired to make university terribly expensive (Davida Laws: teachers are failing pupils).

Never mind, let's wrap things up by drawing the strands together: may be that the misogyny front has maximised Gillard's share of the female vote and lost her a lot of working-class men who've seen that kind of baneful carry-on passing itself off as righteous indignation before. 
 One thing is clear. In taking advice from McTernan, Gillard is deliberately embracing an alien political culture, one that thrives on division and class hatred and that most Australians will deplore.

Yep, idle sexist chatter by the likes of Tracey Spicer is the product of an alien political culture, which is to say Britain. So much for the Queen of Australia, so much for monarchists, so much for Prince Charlie and his darling, so much for Ming the Merciless being British to his bootstraps, and loving her until he died, so much for that wretched, filthy divisive alien v predator island full of class hatred, so utterly deplorable ... until we next vote on a republic, and young Christopher and Tony discover once again how the love the benign rule of the motherland. It might be alien, but it's our alien ...

And so we learn to our astonishment this Saturday morning that Australians can't whip up a debate about sexism by themselves ... hapless colonialists, they need to be led by the nose by British practitioners of the dark arts.

Now who was saying jailing scientists and the commentariat was palpably unfair?

For a little light relief, you have to turn Mike Carlton, who runs an old routine but a good one in Just another slip of the Abbott.

He makes the simple, elegant proposition that there should be a new verb, adjective, adverb in the land: to abbott, abbotted, abbotting, and so on.

It's a routine much loved in the film world. Take any editor's name and apply it to the film that's just been cut, and you can end up with "by golly, that film was well Pearsoned" (apologies to any actual film editor named Pearson).

In which case this morning the pond feels both Abbotted and Pearsoned.

Tracey Spicer might have another word for it, but in Fairfax land you might read it as f-cked in the head ...

(Below: a trial run, Tony abbotts sexism).

(Below: found at Eureka Street, here).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trapped in a world where George Lucas is the greatest artist of our time ...

(Above: more on this moth-eaten tribe below).

Sometimes when the pond wakes up of a morning to the fast moving world, it's impossible to know what will provoke a response.

But the long absent lord always provides, and not just at the bizarre sight of Republicans and Richard Mourdock doubling down, and claiming voters are flocking to the man after his jibber jabber about rape babies being a gift of god (here).

Some times it's the little things.

Take for example Fairfax and its opinion pages. What's Maureen Dowd doing in them with It's difficult to tell who's the real Mitt?

Didn't this turn up the day before in the New York Times under the header My Mitt Fantasy, attracting some 658 comments?

Is Fairfax so convinced Sydney-siders are so parochial that they think they can serve up seconds from New York and no one will notice or care? Shouldn't they be developing their own Maureen Dowds for the future? Second thoughts, be careful what you wish for ...

But what is that fine flurry of social media at the top of the Fairfax re-print? Tweet, recommend, share pin it? When you've already had a chance the day before on the originating site to facebook, twitter, google+, email and otherwise share it?

And what's Dowd got to offer? Aimless meandering speculation about the prospect Mittster and Obama scoring a historic tie.

The pond should get out of bed for this?

Sheesh, punters would be better off watching the intellectual decline and fall of Camille Paglia, who amazingly concluded in The Chronicle of Higher Education under the header George Lucas's Force that George Lucas is the greatest artist of our time ...

Paglia reaches some kind of apocalyptic gibbering when she reaches the point of saying about the utterly tedious, running out of steam end of Lucas's vision:

Lucas's stature as an artist, as well as his relentlessness as an admitted "micromanager," is demonstrated by the tremendous climax of Revenge of the Sith, which he directed.

Oh wait, it actually gets worse:

... all these horrors are transcended in the serene ending of Revenge of the Sith. The violent red river of primitive emotion is forgotten as the separated twins are delivered to their adoptive parents, at peace against idyllic open landscapes of mountains and desert across the galaxy. The exquisite tenderness with which strong men handle babies here surely reflects Lucas's own experience as a single parent who retired for two years to raise the first of his three adopted children. "Expand our universe!" Lucas commands his artists and technicians. He is a man of machines yet a lover of nature, his wily persona of genial blandness masking one of the most powerful and tenacious minds in contemporary culture.

Make it so George! Expand our universe.

To which, if we may borrow and paraphrase an internet meme by Harrison Ford, George, you can type this shit, but you sure as hell can't say it, (or words to that effectshould surely now become Camille, you can type this shit, but you sure as hell can't expect anyone to believe it.

Hang on, how did we jump from the Dowdy Fairfax corner of the galaxy to the Paglia Lucas sector, when loon hunting is the order of the day?

How about listening the mining industry whinge and moan about the onerous burden of conforming to a fiendish tax which has to date delivered ... sweet bugger all ...

How about a tour of the rabid right wing pundits peddling their usual miasma of Paglia-like nonsense?

Why there's Miranda the Devine concluding with infinite wisdom that women are people too, conclusively disproving the popular misconception that women are pandas, or perhaps when driven mad, crocodiles. Yes, you can plough through the entirety of Lesson for Gillard: Women are just people, and reach this epic conclusion:

In the end, women are just people.

Lesson for the Devine? In the end, some columnists are just stupid.

Or what about Piers "Akker Dakker" Akerman, still banding on endlessly about ancient history in Slush funds silence may prove PM's Watergate?

Not that Akerman has any fresh information, but you have to marvel at his willingness to till the soil, a willingness he displays each week, and today arrives at this stunning insight as his capper:

... is it that in this world of Macquarie Dictionary's convenient sexist redefinition, there are different lines men and women cross?

Will Akker Dakker ever catch up with the news that the Oxford and other dictionaries expanded their definition a decade ago? Of course not, not when we're living in a parallel universe where George Lucas is the greatest artist of our time ...

What about the Bolter? Well it seems in this funny old topsy turvy world, when you read the Bolter, it's merely a way of reading Rich Lowry, scribbling  Obama's pathetic picture book.

There's a lavish quoting of text by the Bolter - so much easier than actually writing stuff yourself, along with a link to get you out of a charge of plagiarism - but the trouble is, in the small introductory screed, the two lines the Bolter actually has to compose, the Bolter blames Frank Lowry:

Even the pond knows that Richard A. and Frank are two different people, but in a world where George Lucas is the greatest artist of our time, is it surprising that the Bolter is the greatest living twit?

It's always in the details, and the Bolter is so prolific in his bile, he never gets the details right ...

What's interesting to see is how the moderation of comments - or the absence - continues to play a role in the presentation of the Bolter's thoughts, with the numbers way down. Oh for the good old days when the Empire could despatch its storm troopers to all corners of the universe, and use a death star to destroy a planet ...

Jason Wilson, a lecturer in digital communications at the University of Wollongong, described being “Bolted” in early August 2009 after he criticised Bolt’s performance on Insiders. Bolt’s post the next day featured a photograph of Wilson and an inaccurate description of him as working for GetUp!, and it accused him of using the Pravda model of journalism. For the next week Wilson was subject to abusive emails, many of which contained Bolt’s post cut-and-pasted into the message. One was even c.c.’d to Bolt, like a dog bringing a stick back to its master. Some of the emails threatened violence although most simply offered abuse, calling Wilson “a prick”, “an insignificant, parasitic socialist wally”, “a smug little shit” and a “leftoid, as in haemorrhoid, as in a continual pain in the arse …” (Anne Summers here)

There you go Frank, good to see you're helping the Bolter elevate the tone of the discourse. Not that we blame you for you having your name taken in vain.

So is there any good news this frantic Friday?

Well it seems under the care and tuition Lachlan Murdoch and Georgina Rinehart (and let's give credit to Brian Long, Siobhan McKenna and the rest of the pack here) network Ten is going to take the moth-eaten, bedraggled, so run down it should be put down show The Simpsons from its multi-channel Eleven, and run it at six on weekdays on the main channel. (Ten turns to The Simpsons as saviour, paywall affected)

Why that's even more tragic than turning to Maureen Dowd for your columns.

And how it must gall Georgina. The pond's favourite anecdote happens to be James Chessell's favourite Gina Rinehart story:

My favourite Gina Rinehart story is the one about Lachlan Murdoch and The Simpsons. 
 It was in early 2011 and Australia’s richest person had only been a director of Ten Network Holdings for a month or so. After one board meeting she took it upon herself to explain to Murdoch that the long-running series was not suitable viewing for families. It soon became clear Rinehart did not know (or did not care) that The Simpsons is one of the most significant shows News Corp has ever produced. The cartoon also happens to be loved by Murdoch’s father, Rupert, who has played himself a couple of times, once delivering the memorable line: “I’m Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire tyrant, and this is my skybox”. 
 Whether or not Rinehart knows about the economic and cultural importance of The Simpsons to News Corp is not important. But the ridiculousness of her suggestion that Ten drop one of its most important programs is a reminder that the mining magnate can get a little blinkered when standing on her own particular skybox. (here)

And now like a dog returning to the programming vomit it relied on in the 1990s, Ten is returning to a show that's not suitable for viewing by families, or so Georgina once allegedly told Lachy, failing to understand that the show actually jumped the fridge and nuked the fridge around the tenth season.

Blinkered?! What an astute person to have at the helm of a media company. Watch out Fairfax, Georgina is sure to know that Maureen Dowd isn't suitable reading for families.

Moral? The weekend's upon us, and you've got to laugh along with Georgina, The Simpsons, Camille, the Bolter, the Devine, Akker Dakker and the whole crazy bunch of eccentrics who offer such entertaining nonsense, just so we could get through the week ...

(Below: cultural knowledge quiz. Who helped to bring this movie in to the world, and remind us we're all trapped in a world we never made? Such a man would surely be the greatest artist of our time. Answer here).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jesus makes them do it ...

(Above: just one of the memes that's doing the rounds).

Whenever there's a lull on the local sexist scene, it's easy to look to the United States, where, it seems, god will provide.

At the moment there's a gigantic ruckus going down around one Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate candidate, who is quoted as saying:

"The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother," said Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed state treasurer. "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." (here).

It's dumb on every level imaginable. For starters it's right out there with the Taliban, and it puts the Mittster in a bad situation, if only because he'd just made an ad in support of Mourdock.

And it's bad theology. If god intended it to happen, and if a rapist's sperm results in a gift from god, then god's got a lot to answer for.

In that horrible situation of murder, is that what god intended to happen? In that horrible situation of the Holocaust, is that something god intended to happen?

The trouble with so many evangelical Americans is that they are so deeply theologically, biblically dumb.

Naturally Mourdock has said that the meaning of his comment has been twisted - though how you can twist the clear-cut meaning is hard to explain - and he apologised for people failing to understand his deeper interpretation and understanding, because deep down he's actually unapologetic and recalcitrant:

 "If they came away with any impression other than that I truly regret it. I apologise if they came away. I've certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation," Mr Mourdock said. 

Uh huh. He's been humbled at so many people getting it wrong.

 "I spoke from my heart. And speaking from my heart, speaking from the deepest level of my faith, I would not apologise. I would be less than faithful if I said anything other than life is precious, I believe it's a gift from god." (here)

So god works her magic through rapists, and hands out gifts here and there to show She's really a giving god. What a strange world it is, and Indiana stranger than most places.

Confronted by this level of dumbness, it's easy to overlook little flights of dumbness.

Take it away Paul Ryan:

Appearing on "CBS This Morning," Ryan suggested the president was being petty: "To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets - I just don't understand that comparison." (here)

He doesn't understand, he's confused? A simple zinger, a tidy gotcha? When even Joe Biden could explain it pretty succinctly? Ryan did try to claw back ground:

 "Look. We have to have a strong Navy to keep peace and prosperity and sea lanes open," he continued. "The president's, all these defense cuts, if all these defense cuts go through, our Navy will be smaller than it was before World War I. That's not acceptable. And, yes, the ... the ocean hasn't shrunk. You still have to have enough ships to have a footprint that you need to keep sea lanes open, to keep our strength abroad where it needs to be."

But clearly he just didn't get it, or the notion that a single aircraft carrier would whomp the heck out of the large pre-war navy (in much the same way as the American navy gave the much larger British navy a hard time in the 1812 war - look it up Mr. Ryan).

It took a while for Fox News to work out a come back, and that was to decide Obama had "gone native" with the zinger (that's what blacks do, you know, they go native). He'd been very condescending.

But first of all if you're going to condescend, you need a goose deserving of condescension. Well played candidate Ryan, prime goose.

And well played Megyn Kelly, for showing how the race card can be played (Fox News Host: 'Bayonets' Zinger Means Obama Has 'Gone Native'). Is it any wonder that social media has taken to mocking the Mittster and Ryan? You couldn't make this stuff up ...

Meanwhile, speaking of geese, or in this case ducks, is there a straw being floated in the wind, is there a deeper significance to Niki Savva scribbling furiously for The Australian That quacking is Abbott, sitting duck? (behind the paywall, think yourself lucky).

Savva is agitated about Abbott and his wayward way with words:

That quacking sound you can hear in the distance is Tony Abbott. The Opposition Leader is slowly but surely turning into a sitting duck, a stationary target for government and media pot shots. 
 The other bird sound you can make out, whenever Abbott says or does something silly, is the crow's cry that Graham Kennedy mimicked years ago on television and that got him into so much trouble. Textspeak boils it down to three letters, WTF. 
 Pretty soon, if he doesn't rewire the pathway from his brain to his mouth and change his strategy, the cocks will start crowing loudly too, as they always do when a leader is in trouble, and especially when the polls begin to narrow as they are doing.

That's as close to heresy as it gets at the lizard Oz, with Savva even going as far as floating that anti-Christ Malcolm Turnbull as an alternative.

This is outrageous behaviour. To deny the pond the pleasure of watching an Abbott premiership unfold, and quite likely self-destruct within a year, is incredibly selfish and petty. Sharpen up Savva, or ship out ...

Meanwhile, it seems that the woman involved in an alleged wall-punching incident has decided to take legal action against Michael Kroger and The Australian.

The pond is too canny to repeat the alleged defamations but Fairfax has the jolly story here. Naturally it also involves the Bolter and his show. At last a way to get some attention paid, since no one pays any attention by actually watching (could this be a handy defence? M'lud, look at the ratings, this was a private conversation unseen and unnoticed by anyone).

Meanwhile, gloomy generally grumpy Paul Sheehan gets stuck into the Arab spring and Islamic fundamentalists and the lot of women in a way that's worthy of the pond, in Despite the Arab revolt, women remain shackled to past.

It seems Sheehan needs to go to Republican camp for a little re-education. Then he could have opened his piece thusly:

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that the right to persecute and control women is a gift from God. I think that even when controlling and persecuting women might lead to some horrible situations, that it is something that God intended to happen."

And so the circle is closed, and Sheehan doesn't have the first clue, and if he can pretend to be an alarmed feminist anxious about the fate of women, why then the concept of feminism has been seriously degraded.

That just leaves time to note that the Hamster lads last night plunged to new levels of vomitous anal humour, but they did have a couple of okay skits, and they did include this joke:

At last! Recognition for Gerard Henderson, too often discriminated against by the Hamster lads, and leading into a set of in-house jokes which sent up Q&A and its twittering twits, and who can argue with that?

You can catch the latest show here while it's iViewable but be warned, in places it really is anally vomitous ...

And speaking of twittering twits, who can outdo Chairman Rupert?

Here he is climbing down in relation to Hugh Grant (Rupert Murdoch apologises to Hugh Grant over 'love child' tweet) and there he was abusing his own paper, as if he's got nothing to do with it (Rupert Murdoch Offers Twitter Support To WSJ Customer Who Didn't Get Paper Delivered), but he really is a recalcitrant, with his latest effort taking away from what he offered Grant in the first place:

What right do public figures
Have for privacy
After parading their families everywhere
To get votes?
Public has rights too ...

Yes Mr. Grant:

What right do public figures
Have for privacy
After parading their families everywhere
To sell newspapers
Which aren't delivered
And go native running cable news in America?
Public has rights too ... (and more twittering twits here which might make you wonder when chairman Rupert will think about retiring so he can take up full time twittering)

Truly each day brings joy and delight, whether from Tea Partiers or Tony Abbott or Chairman Rupert ...

(Below: and so to an aging meme which still has legs).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Double prams, the musical ...

(Above: sheesh, how out of touch, how out of date. Stand by for the brand new musical down under, The Age of the Double Pram).

Some readers might like to sing along with this song (oh okay oldies, if you don't know another tune, use the music for the Age of Aquarius):

... with an ageing population 
and an entitlement system that has seen 
extraordinary largesse 
built up over the last 50 years, 
Western communities
(the need for double prams excluded)
Western societies are going to have to make 
some very hard and unpopular decisions to wind back 
the involvement of the state in people's lives ...
the age of entitlement is coming to an end 
(this is the dawning of the age of negativity)
because governments are running out of money 
and the debt is now crippling governments. 
 TONY JONES: If - let's bring this to Australia 
If the age of entitlement is over, 
which entitlements 
would you like to see reduced 
or gotten rid of? 
 JOE HOCKEY: Well, we need to be ever-vigilant. 
(this is the dawning of the age of negativity)
We need to compare ourselves 
with our Asian neighbours 
where the entitlements programs 
of the state 
are far less 
than they are in Australia. (Joe Hockey singing his song on Lateline here - a rich baritone is preferred for this role).

The age of entitlement is over.
Eternal vigilance is required.
Let them live like Asian peasants,
and be over-joyed
with rice cake once a month.
Any questions?

"[often] one child is still in the cot 
when the other one comes along, 
one child is still in the pram 
when the second one comes along, 
so you actually need to get an extra cot 
or a double-sized pram".  (Perspective the first casualty of budget backlash, forced video at end of link)

Golly jolly Joe who let that singer into the show? Sing us some more:

...the opposition does not support "blanket cuts", 
(especially not baby blankets)
hinting it may not back cuts to the baby bonus 
and private health insurance rebates 
when legislation comes before parliament. 
 "The changes to the baby bonus 
are not means-tested changes, 
they're blanket changes, 
(and we love baby blankets)
so no matter how poor your household is 
there's going to be a reduction," he said. 
 "Frankly the suggestion this is about 
middle-class welfare is completely inaccurate." (here, paywall affected)

Sounding better Joe. More on song, more in tune.

Eternal vigilance
matched by
eternal concessions!

Who  is that discordant chappie singing against the melody line?

"I thought it was more of a pokies tax
and a Harvey Norman tax 
for a lot of young people 
and actually created an incentive 
for a lot of young people" 

Um are you being vigilant, eternally vigilant Tony Windsor? Are you trying to shame sleepy head Joe? Wake up Joe! Someone sing a Wiggles song.

Still every show needs a villain and who better than a gruff rural man from Tamworth region casting doubts on two prams for everyone?

Now how about a plaintive weeping widder woman? Oh okay if you insist Bob Katter, but you're only allowed one song in a rich northern country music whine:

"Those poor struggling little mothers, 
they can't get men to 
shoulder their responsibilities" 
"The struggle for them to 
try and survive, 
and they're bringing up 
the nation's future, 
is appalling."

Um Bob, that's the single mother's musical.

Now that's a song worth singing even if everyone in Labor can't hear it, but it's a different show.

We're working on Are You Experienced? Two prams says you are ....

You need a dog whistle
Or maybe a bugle
Or perhaps a foghorn (Abbott baby remark hits barren political ground).

So are you experienced.
Have you watched the sun rise
From the bottom of the sea?
Well I am ...

Let's see if it sounds like a convincing set of lyrics, sung from the gut of life, from the deepest wells of personal experience. Perhaps a tad Wagnerian:

Abbott sounded mildly surprised 

when he told Fairfax Radio 
he was most certainly not talking 
about Gillard. 
Or barrenness. 
'I was alluding to 
my own experience,'' 
he protested. 
He then went back through his family history
to explain that two of his daughters 
had been born 15 months apart 
and required a double pram. 
 ''If she [Gillard] wants to take offence, 
of course I'm sorry about that. 
And if she would like me to say sorry, 
I'm sorry," he said 

(chorus, repeat)
I'm sorry
So sorry
Oh I'm so sorry

with some decidedly child-like huff. 
Indeed Abbott the dad 
didn't sound particularly sorry. 
But when it comes to glib lines, 
perhaps Abbott the politician will listen 
to his own advice. 

(chorus variant)
I'm not so sorry
Not so sorry
Except that I'm sorry
I have to sound sorry

(Link as above with thanks to breaking news reporter Judith Ireland for such an excellent song. You'll get a head credit Judith)

The good news?

The pond sees a climactic set piece, a bit like that routine in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life which sees an abundance of children crawling everywhere while the hero sings a song that sums up everything:

The plain fact
Is that perverts, socialists, commies,
lefties, inner city elites, coffee drinkers
chardonnay sippers
unionists and Labor politicians
Know nothing of double prams
They lack experience
They don't know how to breed
And in a few generations
They will be bred out
Exterminated by natural selection
And their own indolent
inexperienced ineptness
And the future
At least for a thousand years
Will be populated by
Staunchly Catholic healthy Australian men
Experienced with double prams
At least for a thousand years
Or until the rapture strikes
And if the Chinese and the Indians
just stop breeding ...
How did they manage it
Without the help of the Pope ...
A thousand years
And a double pram for everyone.
Let's have no more talk of
Vote-buying or middle class welfare
For a thousand years
The double prammers will rule this fair earth
And have dominion over it ...

Now you won't find this musical playing in The Australian - there's not much coverage there - but happily if you listened to AM this morning, it's playing well in the domestic market, (Abbott gives birth to another faux pas), and it might well spread around the world.

We're on a winner Joe. Give us a coda:

Mr Hockey said 
the whole rhetoric was 
just pathetic: 
'If we're at the point now 
where we can't refer to the government 
and families in the same breath, 
surely the debate has got to an absurd point.'' 
He had had three children under five. 
''Anyone who had been through that experience 
would know that you have to have two cots, 
there are cost pressures associated 
with having children born close together.'' 

Western societies are going to have to make 
some very soft and popular decisions to maintain
the involvement of the state in people's lives ...
 the age of entitlement should never come to an end 
because governments can find the money somewhere
and never mind if debt cripples governments. 
There are cost pressures
For two prams
Two prams and two cots and two high chairs
For a thousand years
For a golden thousand years

What a ripper song Joe, and it means you've travelled a journey, so by the third act you've become an entirely different person. The audience can go on that journey with you, it's so emotionally engaging, and the ending is so up ... we luvs ya ...

Apologies to all. There must be something in the drinking water that's blind-sided the pond.

For a moment there we thought we had an incisive musical dealing with amazing social issues.

Sadly the pond isn't the only punter to drag Jimi Hendrix out of the cupboard this morning, dust off the traces of vomit on the lips, and set the musical tone:

If you can just get your mind together
then come across to me
We'll hold hands an' then we'll watch the sun rise 
from the bottom of the sea 
But first 
 Are You Experienced? 
Ah! Have you ever been experienced? 
Well, I have 
 I know, I know you'll probably scream n' cry 
That your little world won't let go 
But who in your measly little world are trying to prove that 
You're made out of gold and -a can't be sold 
Are You Experienced? 
Ah! Have you ever been experienced? 
Well, I have Ah, 
let me prove it to you 
I think they're calling our names 
Maybe now you can't hear them, 
but you will if you just take hold of my hand 
Ah! But Are You Experienced? 
Have you ever been experienced? 
Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful

Sheesh, Jimi, that's a bit too mystical. They might be calling our names - at least the ones who are are experienced - but we need something a bit more up if we're going to storm New York.

Let's see, what else have we got?

Scene. A forlorn family home. Dad is explaining mill has closed, family is destitute, and by golly what a large family it is, double prams everywhere:

DAD: Blame the Catholic church for not letting me wear one of those little rubber things. Oh, they've done some wonderful things in their time. They preserved the might and majesty, the mystery of the Church of Rome, and the sanctity of the sacraments, the indivisible oneness of the Trinity, but if they'd let me wear one of those little rubber things on the end of my cock, we wouldn't be in the mess we are now. 
BOY: Couldn't Mummy have worn some sort of pessary?
DAD: Not if we're going to remain members of the fastest growing religion in the world, my boy. MUM: Ehhh, he's right. 
DAD: You see, we believe-- [piano music] Well, let me put it like this. [singing] 
There are Jews in the world. 
There are Buddhists. 
There are Hindus and Mormons, and then 
There are those that follow Mohammed, 
but I've never been one of them.  
I'm a Roman Catholic, 
And have been since before I was born, 
And the one thing they say about Catholics is: 
They'll take you as soon as you're warm. 
You don't have to be a six-footer. 
You don't have to have a great brain. 
You don't have to have any clothes on. You're 
A Catholic the moment Dad came, 
Because Every sperm is sacred. 
Every sperm is great.
 If a sperm is wasted, 
God gets quite irate.
And double prams are beautiful
Double cots are too ...

The only solution? Medical experiments!

Unless ...  unless ... dad and the kids move to Australia as ten pound Poms because over there, you can still find decent welfare and double prams and double cots for everyone ...

Now sing along, by golly it might just be a winner, we just need to take it off Broadway for a moment ...

Double prams are beautiful
Double cots are too ...
And double blankets are
Ever so warm
If you want to get experienced
In comfort ...

(Below: the illustrated version. The rest of the script here at least for the moment. Please be assured that any hint of sectarianism comes from those outrageous Pythons).