Saturday, February 23, 2013

Your choice: a pack of baying, slavering, slobbering hounds, or a sly, saturnine, sardonic view of things ...

This is the season that the pond tends to shut up the cultural shop, because indifferent, pandering American movies come out to play and be rewarded for their pandering.

It seems that the bookies have set the odds such that Argo is a hot very short odds contender for Best Picture, with Lincoln not far behind.

Lincoln is banal hagiography of the most meretricious and specious kind, and that's before we get on to the actual history it purports to represent, but Argo isn't much better.

Not satisfied with the story of Americans escaping from Iran, it dresses up the third act with devices that would sit comfortably with a silent movie comedy, not least a bunch of Iranian keystone cops driving along a runway in hot pursuit of an airliner.

It is of course an American feel good story - funny puffed up Iranians, the glories of Xerxes of Persia long gone (hang on, hang on, the Greeks laughed at him too) and failing yet again up against the cunning, clever, Americans, who escape to laugh another day (cultural leanings make benefit glorious nation).

It's a feel good story of a kind Americans love, and never mind the shredding of history for instant gratification. Would you like some upsized popcorn and soda with it?

The pond's personal taste goes more to American movies like Wag the Dog, which sets up a scenario where a Hollywood producer fakes a war in some remote place like Albania to take the electorate's mind off a juicy Washington sex scandal. It sent up everything in sight, and while it scored a couple of nominations - one for Dustin Hoffman as the producer who when confronted with a catastrophe would say "This is nothing" and recall a previous production disaster - the mainstream resolutely ignored it.

Of late the intertubes has been buzzing with a television production which purports to be about the cynical realm of politics, House of Cards, featuring Kevin Spacey, and while he's okay and director David Fincher is skilled, it didn't set the pond on fire.

Images of Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart, Conservative aspirant to the PM's office, kept bobbing into the head.

Americans simply don't know how to do saturnine and sardonic in the way the British do. The face was saturnine and swarthy ... and the sensual lips twisted with disdain, wrote Oscar Wilde, and Richardson knew how to twist his lips and elevate an eyebrow and deliver a sardonic, ironic remark with aplomb.

Happily the 1990 version has been given a Blu-ray release, and while that's a dead format thanks to the grasping stupidity of Sony - the disc wars, now there's a mini-series - the restoration is remarkable, much better than the pond's battered DVD copy.

The show is of an age now, but all the same, some lines do produce a warm glow, as when conservative Richardson, yearning to be the new Maggie or the ultimate daddy, broods about his lust for power:

Playing with the hopes and dreams of a daughter, now gentle, now hard, rebuking and rewarding, chastising and forgiving, the pleasures of a father, of a father of daughters. What greater power is there than that, why should a man want more? Why should I yearn to be everybody's daddy?

Not being a Freudian, the pond couldn't comment on that, but at least it's helped avoid the tedium of reporting on today's scene of carnage at The Australian, where the hounds are in full cry.

The collective group-think mind set of the failed, unprofitable rag, which has been shedding readers in droves, is a remarkable, if deeply unattractive thing to see.

In the end, mastheads these days are distinguished by the variety, diversity and depth of their opinion makers and commenters, news being abundant to the point of tedium.

Not so in the lizard Oz's world where the starlings circle and even fart in unison.

Can they keep it up for the next six months? Of course they can. They kept pursuing Gillard over the union matter until exhaustion and the capacity to discover anything new was also exhausted - but it took tedious months to reach that point. The same with Craig Thompson and the Slipper affair, and sundry other fox sightings that sent the pack into a slavering, slobbering frenzy.

The latest hullaballoo concerns the urgent necessity of Gillard resigning, for the good of herself, and the good of the party.

The pond has little doubt that the frenzy will in due course see Gillard driven out, or crucified at the election, and then in due course after the blood lust is sated, and the stained corpse is dragged around a few times, there will be some guilt and sentimentality amongst the few in the rag who imagine they're more than robotic Murdochian automatons. (You have to step outside the cult before you can understand the reinforcing power and the oppressive atmosphere of a cult, especially if it's of a crusading kind).

First you need the blood and the political death, before you can feel the shame, unless of course Ian Richardson is your hero.

Here's how it works. On any given day - heck on every day - aggregate a bunch of things in an "exclusive" to establish and certify the air of crisis.

Today the middle class welfare spending beloved of John Howard is at crisis point:

The future is in peril!!

Next you let individual hounds off the leash to salivate and pant, led by the pompous, bloated, self-important, preening Paul Kelly:

Crisis!! Did we mention crisis!!!

Now Kelly didn't invent this line. 

Like the lame derivative ponce he is, he borrowed it from Fairfax, and the likes of Waleed Ali, whose column makes nervous nellie Jonathan Holmes having a breakdown over a tweet and the ABC's editiorial guidelines sound like a right old git.

Ali dragged in over eight hundred comments on the lost the plot, lost the narrative line, and other Fairfax hacks have been pounding out the same tune this past week, leading a bemused Bernard Keane to an ironic speculation, Does the Labor narrative narrative stand up?

Ah, the irony — Labor’s actual narrative can’t be heard over the clamour of leadership speculation and insistence it hasn’t got a narrative.

Keane also wondered aloud about how long the hounds could keep up the baying. Leadership long haul: can journos last three weeks? You bet.

The pond would bet on them lasting thirty three years.

The pond is willing to bet that within six months, should Abbott gain power and produce a series of blunders, that there will be an intense series of columns about leadership and challenges (but sssh, whatever you do, don't mention jolly Joe or big Mal right now).

You see it's what journos and the commentariat are paid to do, and if you're a conservative hack, leadership and blather about narrative and identity is the easiest, rubbery nonsense you can find doing the rounds.

It gets even easier if you're a member of the commentariat, like Ali, who can at the same time pretend not to be a part of the commentariat, and talk about the issues that preoccupy the commentariat as white noise, while generating as fine an amount of white noise as the pond has heard over its tinnitus these past few weeks.

Back to the follow-the-Fairfax-leader mob at the Oz.

Naturally, once the chief pontificator, the pompous Kelly, is on the run at number one in the rotating splash at the head of the digital page, with a hue and a cry and hunting horns and a view halloo, the other hounds join in the baying chorus.

Here you go, take a look at this fest of gabbing and gobbing, the top five stories in the opinion pages:

(above: click to enlarge, screen cap only, no links, if you want to rot your mind, you know where to go)

Wall to wall hysteria. You'd swear Australia was falling apart, or had a swimming team that took steroids or some such drug, yet the last time the pond looked outside, the sun was still rising and setting, the asteroid had missed its mark, markets were a bit bouncy, but inflation and interest rates were fine, the dollar strong if a little overvalued, or so the head banking honcho says, and the unemployment rate wasn't so bad.

But if you read the lizard Oz, you'd be reduced to an hysterical basket case within a week.

It's completely predictable, and not much different in tone or nature from the hysterical week before, or the week before that - Fox News down under - which is why the pond would like to make a couple of honourable mentions on completely different subjects.

First up is the eminently stupid Greg Sheridan hankering for George Pell to become Pope, which would be a disaster for the Catholic church, and would see Pell floundering out of his depth.

It almost goes without saying that Sheridan is a fool, and surely this opening line confirms it:

The Catholic Church and the papacy transcend Western civilisation. Their claims are universal.

But then either Sheridan or the subbie has warmed up the crowd with this one in the header Why George Pell is a 20-to-1 deserved favourite (you know about the paywall thingie, it's there to stop you paying to ruin your brain).

Newsflash. 20 to 1 odds don't spell out a favourite, and anyway, over at Paddy Power, Pell is only at 40/1, with some 37 or so contenders in front of him. But it gets even funnier when you read a little more, because apparently the subbie couldn't be stuffed reading Sheridan's blather, or trying to make sense of it:

George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, has a realistic chance. He's not one of the favourites, nor even at the top of the second tier. But he has a chance. And if not pope, perhaps secretary of state, the Vatican's prime minister and foreign minister combined.

He's a deserved 20/1 favourite, except he's not even at the top of the second tier.

Did we mention Sheridan is a clown?

The rest of Sheridan's ramble is equally bizarre - and up against all the other political nonsense, highly entertaining nonsense -with Pell celebrated for being controversial and conservative, and lambasting liberal Catholics for living in the real world (here's a definition of a liberal Catholic - someone who uses contraception rather than relying on Vatican routlette and camel herder theology while having sex. The long absent lord knows what Sheridan does, but if he's used contraception, welcome to a liberal world, and in due course to hell, you filthy sinner).

Personally the pond hopes Sheridan is right. With Pell in charge, the chances of highly entertaining press conferences like the recent one that set the local church to thinking they needed someone, anyone other than Pell to front the media will increase exponentially.

And maybe we were unkind to that subbie, because amongst many other rampant stupidities, Sheridan offers up this one:

How could Pell come from a long-odds outsider to the papacy? I put the chance at about 5 per cent, perhaps a bit less. But a 5 per cent chance of becoming pope is an enormous chance.

Ginormous perhaps, especially up against the 95% chance the Pellists will miss out.

The pond would also like to make a special commendation to Chris Kenny for his piece:

Kenny is one of the thickest planks in the Murdoch stable, so it's natural he's the one given the job of celebrating a ripping tabloid yarn in Lighting a candle under bureaucratic bombast (behind the paywall  so you'll hare off to read the original Daily Terror beat up for free).

Kenny spends his time blathering on about the nanny state and useless regulations, and celebrating "good tabloid reporting", and unfortunately it means that the pond must demand a recount by Jonathan Holmes and the team at Media Watch.

You will recall that they delivered a sound spanking to the Murdoch tabloids in A lot of hot air over a non story, describing the pathetic cupcake beat up, and yet they delivered their new Rhino award the next week to an admittedly egregious and dumb NT reporter (The Rhino Hide Award).

Yet here - a week after Media Watch nailed the cupcake matter story as an inept beat up - is Chris Kenny blowing more hot air, and beating his eggs into a fine old froth. 

It's Rhino Hide award time, not to as top end type - it's well known they're like that in the top end - but as an encouragement to slow learners like Kenny. Keep being stupid, because it's great fun, and a great break from politics, and thank the long absent lord we have a nanny state to take care of the slow learners, who think that cupcakes need to toughen up and enjoy their preventable illnesses. (Would Kenny think a condom too nanny state when risking an STD? Just wondering).

And very finally, a special mention to the amazingly stupid Mike Quigley, whose attempts at politics and a discussion of the nature of the NBN allowed The Australian to run the story with this angle.

The NBN is one of the few Labor policies that pleases geeks and the public alike - a few of the pond's extended family have just got connected and they love it. Originally they were suspicious but when you  live in a rural area, online speed is a remarkable thing to behold.

Now Quigley has thrown the whole pack of cards into the air. He might not have meant to do it, that might not be what he meant to say, but as a politician he's woefully inept. He has effectively trashed Conroy and his own estate, and smoothed the path for Malcolm Turnbull

In any sensible world he'd be sacked - after all, poor Warbo was made to take the fall for the foolishness of a Murdoch driven board at Ten.

Likely Quigley will survive, because it's an election year, but the hare he's let out of the gate will continue to simmer for the next six months, and he's given the green light to the coalition to fuck over the NBN in fine style. Not only is the NBN being run ineptly by Quigley, he's in the process of ruining its future. 

It's been rolling out for a year and now he wants a debate. More likely he wants continued employment. Pick me, pick me big Mal ...

After all that, you can see why the pond is now retiring to watch the second series of House of Cards ...  because reality is much worse and in the end, despite the best endeavours of Chris Kenny and Greg Sheridan, much less entertaining than fiction.

(Below: the pond never did show off Tony Abbott's Xmas card. Not that we received one, but we did admire it so, and it's never too late).


  1. As there are 117 cardinals the best odds I can give for George Pell becoming the next pope is 117-to-1. I wonder if Greg Sheridan would like to bet his house.

  2. Dorothy - you are the best read in the Oz blogosphere! (since Crikey sold out).

    And you don't even mention the Bolta - where plenty of laughs can be had this morning.

    Welfare spending is a disaster for us all. The PM is an AWU puppet. I'm being censored and can't call asylum seekers illegal. And some of them are to be found at Macquarie University! Hell that last one combines hatred of reffos with hatred of academia, so deserves an award or something.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Sheesh Anon, reading the Bolter can lower your IQ by ten and increase your hate level of the foreign, the different, and the other by one hundred bigot points.

    Is it wise? On the other hand, the pond loves to read reports from others who boldly go where no one but the bravest, or the Scott of the Antarctic maddest would dare go, especially when it confirms that the man is further out there than his precious Lord Monckton.

    And soon enough he'll be back on the telly on March 3rd and a bemused board in love with Gina's pet will wonder why their Sunday ratings are fucked as the young demographic switches off in droves. Brings a smirk to the lips, that one does.

  4. to be fair 10s demographic problems extend to literally everyone
    and hey at least he reaches a wider audience than the Oz! ;)

  5. Yes indeedy, but a programmer once explained to me his theory of FTA programming, and if you have a target demographic, all your programming decisions should be refracted through the need to keep that demographic on board. A wet Sunday, for example is a good chance to offer your demographic a distraction. If the wrong show is on, they're off doing other things. The young demographic pleases advertisers, but it's also the flightiest. Ten's kept trying to appeal to them, but has made hopeless decisions. If what they pay the Bolter been flung at a key program like the Big Bang Theory their problems would have dissolved, or at least been partially solved. (That bubble will soon burst for Nine as the Simpsons went off for Ten)

    There's nothing that stops a CBS program turning up on Ten - they even did a deal with CBS re news - but the strategy for their multichannels, which saw Neighbours migrate in a bid to appeal to the 12-30 bracket, also began the process of degutting their prime channel and its demographic.

    It's great when commercial people, who should resolutely follow commercial instincts, allow ideology to screw them up. Rather than appealing to the demographic,it insulted them by proposing that they were dumb Lara Bingles who lived in the shire. Yet the drama Puberty Blues worked because it wasn't so wretchedly lame and cynical. Will they learn? Keep running the Bolter, the pond says, so we can watch the board squirm and keep on handing out the poisoned chalice to new mugs ...


Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.