Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The pond shrinks a little more, reading prattling Polonius and listening to Albo ...

The pond felt a trembling, hairs on the nape of the neck, goosebumps.

A distraught neighbour had produced a copy of the shrunk, downsized, downscaled Sydney Morning Herald.

It felt lightweight, lighter even than the Daily Terror, much lighter than the Australian Financial Review. Thinner, skinnier, decaf. The TV guide had essentially been degutted ...

But the rag's owners must feel confident, because they allowed some jokey ads - the Commonwealth Bank one showed letters missing, the Challenger ad brazenly talked of shrinking.

It didn't get much more hopeful when the pond came to the defiant header Sworn to no master, of no sect am I. (you can in the usual way, catch it online here, where the accompanying illustration is unsurprisingly of a larger size).

It also turned out that the editorial's header is misleading. The rag is actually sworn to a master:

While compact and easier to read, the Herald of today and tomorrow and for as long as we are sworn to no master but you, will be full of fearless, intelligent journalism.

You? What, me? Sworn to no master but me?

It is of course the usual Uriah Heep unctuous blather about how the rag is really delivering what the readers want:

We listened when you said you wanted the Herald to be more convenient.

Actually they wanted to save a motza in costs, and they couldn't see any other way to do it than shrink the paper, and hope that the move might also stem the losses, the drop in circulation which saw some 14.5% of readers switch off in the last survey.

It's okay to lie to your readers, but clearly first of all you have to lie to yourself.

Never mind, the pond wants some of the same stuff the editorial writer took before he or she hit the keyboard:

In whatever form your Herald takes, we shall draw a broad line between suggestion and dictation; between wholesome restraint and ruinous oppression; between reasoning, founded on truth, and declamation reared upon fiction. 

It's like there was some kind of time portal and we'd all stepped back in time to the stylings of very first editorial, back to 1831 on a most excellent adventure, though they made more sense in the old days than this obscurantist nonsense manages.

But speaking of declamation reared upon fiction, the pond immediately wondered how that prattling Polonius Gerard Henderson would look and feel in the new "compact" paper.

Shrunk and lightweight no doubt, but sadly the pond will never know.

The pond has long fled the coop of newsprint, and it seems that the new format will alienate conservative older readers, like the distraught pond friend, and fail to attract a sufficient off-setting number of new young readers, for whom physical newspapers are a complete irrelevance.

Sure, every so often, the pond would like to swat a young person, and point out that screen fixation at the dinner table where conversation is meant to be flowing isn't polite. It's irritating, but the current fixation with screens is hard to ignore, as is the proliferation of screens. The damn things are everywhere.

Surely all the Herald has done is put a brave face on necessity. The pond couldn't help feeling that it was holding in hand the final sure sign of the death of the physical Fairfax brand within the next five years - yet they've once again deferred tackling the issue of how to go about online payments for the brand and an online paywall ...

Meanwhile, we know how Gerard that pompous prattling Polonius appears in the digital version. Yes, it's business as usual, and just another chapter in the hagiography of Tony Abbott

Yes, the talk is of the usual suspects, like David Marr, and Morris Schwartz and the ABC and sectarianism.

For the zillionith Henderson comes out with this sort of utterly tedious and repetitive line, faithfully transcribed for the billionth time by the pond:

Hostility to Abbott is partly personal, partly political and based among inner-city intelligentsia in Sydney and Melbourne, quite a few of whom are Greens voters. It finds strongest expression at the ABC - which still does not have one conservative presenter, producer or editor on any of its prime products - and in the publications of Black Inc.

This is of course fraudulent nonsense. The hostility expressed towards Abbott in opinion polls comes from opinions sampled from all over Australia. It's not just the inner-city intelligentsia or greenies or the ABC, which for some amazing reason doesn't have Gerard Henderson as its managing director.

And look for the zillionth time, faithfully transcribed by the pond for the billionth time, there comes Henderson's standard line, objecting to a joke about the mad monk (thank the absent lord he doesn't read the pond calling him a prattling Polonius):

The reference to "the Abbott" is yet another anti-Catholic sectarian attack on the Liberal Party leader's religion. In fact, Abbott is not the fundamentalist Catholic his critics believe him to be. In any event, some Abbott comments which strike Marks and Schwartz as barking mad make sense to many electors, irrespective of their location. Take this one: "I don't much like pornography; I've never purchased it myself." Many Australians - Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and atheist alike - would share this position, even if it rates a sneer in the Black Inc office in fashionable inner-city Collingwood.

Does anybody in Fairfax editorial read Henderson any more? Does anybody in there have any idea of how repetitive, how banal, how simplistic and childish his copy is? Does anybody have the first clue at the inherent contradiction between his work and the editorial's pious line:

...between reasoning, founded on truth, and declamation reared upon fiction. 

For a start, who on earth would think Collingwood was fashionable? Trendy perhaps, but not as trendy as Brunswick street. If Smith street is fashionable, are junkies the new fashion?

Truth to tell, Collingwood is like Manly, as the old joke goes. Who do you support when Manly is playing? Why it's the team that's playing Manly ...

Of course you can't win at this game. For years Gillard was reviled for her fake bogan accent and for living in her electorate in the west in Melbourne. Now she's a member of the elite going where no elitist should go.

Cue an unmitigated member of the intelligentsia, an Oxford Rhodes scholar, heading west from Manly or surrounds - who do you support when a Manly person turns up? - and, lordy lordy, surprise, surprise, it turns out that he's bogan beyond bogan:

During her speech at the University of Western Sydney on Sunday, the Prime Minister declared that she "didn't grow up" on the north shore. Gillard's tactic is understandable since she is trying to run a class-war line in order to encourage drifting Labor voters back into the fold. The fact is Abbott lives a middle-class life in a house which is no grander - and perhaps less so - than numerous homes in western Sydney. What's more, Bert Evatt, who was a much beloved Labor figure in the 1940s and 1950s, lived outside his electorate in a grand house in fashionable Mosman. 

Now have you come to the fundamental absurdity in all this.

Prattling Polonius ostensibly set out to praise Abbott and to discover his policies which have driven his success and his esteem in the populace. You know, the things that Abbott got right.

Instead he spends the entire column on trivia, detritus, personalities, abuse of opponents and class warfare, full of nonsensical and specious, and it has to be said, pathetically repetitive drivel. And so the pond is forced into the same deep pool of bile.

Yet by column's end, where have we reached?

It's true that Abbott is not a particularly popular figure. 

What you mean that Marr, the ABC, the intelligentsia squatting in Collingwood, and such like and so on have hypnotised the entire population?

So what's left? Why humbug and defiance:

But that does not matter much. Only three popular leaders have led their parties to government in Australia, namely Joseph Lyons in 1931 and the social democrats Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd in 1983 and 2007 respectively. Robert Menzies and John Howard, Australia's electorally most successful prime ministers, were never hugely popular. 

Like everything Henderson writes, especially when it's history, it's tendentious drivel. Gough Whitlam was immensely popular when he swept into power. He wasn't so popular when he left, but in the first run, he generated a kind of euphoria, which followed on with his two person cabinet making decisions about everything.

It probably stuck in the craw too much for Henderson to acknowledge this. And there were other popular PMs, such as Chifley, much admired in the war years, as was Curtin, even if Chifley was turfed out in favour of Menzies.

This sort of sweeping historical assertion, not backed by facts, makes everything Henderson writes - in defence of Abbott's popularity and his righteous appeal to fundamentalist Christians and ratbag fundie Islamics on the matter of pornography (possibly online right at this minute looking at dubious sites) - sound like a bad joke.

And what's more, it's simply untrue. Abbott is on record as having read 50 Shades of Grey. He might not have purchased it, but does borrowing it from his daughters get him out of jail? He's still been caught reading a soporific dose of perhaps the worst written soft core porn book since John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.

So here's a message to the editors of the Herald. Buying the rag on a Tuesday is supporting the ongoing presence of a meandering, repetitive, utterly boring columnist, and that's why this reader switched off long ago ...

I mean, you can't even have an argument with the doddering old chap anymore. It's tragic, and rather pathetic ... and the seething sense of resentment and anger towards young trendies is almost grotesque in its irrelevance ...

But meanwhile, for fear that the pond becomes an utterly free of policy discussion zone, courtesy of Hendo, what on earth was Anthony Albanese on when he decided to make a speech whose content is encapsulated in the header Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says noise to be an issue for high-speed rail between Melbourne and Brisbane.

(scrub that, it couldn't)

That's the trouble with Australians, not enough of them get out and about enough, and so politicians can assume they can be fed hog wash and corn swill.

The pond has stood a mere metre from platform edge as a VFT has rocketed through a Japanese station, and ditto in Europe. The purpose was to check wind disturbance, and it might seem a bold experiment until you realise that the aerodynamic design reduces disruption of the air to a minimum. Noise wasn't even the slightest consideration.

The pond has up close also seen (and heard) VFT trains barreling through the countryside at top speed in Japan, China and Europe. Noise and wind disturbance ... minimal.

Now some European trains, especially of the old fashioned kind, might produce 80-95 db from 25 metres, but the Japanese have taken the art of noise reduction to a fine state, such that the results are way less than standing under the bridge down the road as a suburban train blunders overhead (why does a train always go overhead as the pond passes under? Has She worked out the best way to punish people for reading Gerard Henderson?).

When the Shinkansen first opened, noise levels would occasionally reach 90 db - not the 100 db that Albanese blathered about.  Then the government passed a law requiring peak train pass-by noise be reduced to 75 db in commercial areas and 70 db in residential. This has generally been achieved, such that the new argument is now about the noise that new generation of trains (HS2)  that would shift the speed above the 320 kph mark, because for various technical reasons, a mere 6% increase in speed leads to a potential 140% increase in noise.

Albo should stick to the usual ways of deflecting any action - cost and the need for the federal government to do nothing except sit on its bum, and order more reports.

The reality is that VFTs in Australia would pass through many more rural areas than in Japan, and only people very close to the line will experience the sort of noise the pond experiences when counting the rivets on the planes overhead moving on to the third runway. (Actually it's fun to count the rivets, and the planes look ever so grand, it's the burnt black avgas droppings on the roof that spoil the fun).

Under Albo's watch, we've had a report into a second Sydney airport at Wilton, which will never happen, but has allowed him to fudge for an entire five years, such that there's now a council alliance demanding action on Badgerys Creek.

And now he's demonising high speed rail as a way of attacking assorted people holding back the development of a second Sydney airport because they see VFTs as an alternative solution.

Are there no politicians who can hold two ideas in head at one time?

Everybody knows that Barry O'Farrell's notion of a second Sydney airport in Canberra linked by VFT is an idea whose grand comic absurdity and stupidity is impossible to exaggerate, though it suits him politically because it allows him to sit on his bum and do nothing.

Everyone knows that Lee Rhiannon's idea of moving all Sydney airports outside the Sydney basin, and selling off Kingsford Smith for real estate, is a grand folly of a cosmic kind.

What's not needed is the false demonising of VFTs, which are grand to travel on, and which - if we borrowed from the Japanese and the Chinese - would be a spiffy way to ride, and just as quiet, or quieter than the conventional rolling stock going up and down suburban tracks all the time.

First an airport at Badgerys Creek, connected by high speed rail to the city and the conventional network. How hard is that? (And improve connectivity to Kingsford Smith while at it).

And then, when economic modelling allows that VFT can be more than a real estate boondoggle in Australia, don't start blathering on about noise and how it's all too hard. After all, Australia is expert in useless freight rail links to Darwin, why not a train that would be fun to ride and more useful than a Sydney monorail ...

And keep the noise to 70-75 db, as the Japanese have done (and just so you know, the diesel truck or bus outside gearing up or down to cope with the traffic calming device installed near the pond's home by a completely useless council might generate 73-78 db (medium sized truck), 80-85 db (urban diesel bus or heavy truck, while the noise level of that train passing over that un-soundproofed bridge is likely up around the 100db mark - a level trains in Melbourne and Sydney reach because the maximum existing noise levels can reach 100-015 db).

Well it makes for a more interesting discussion than Gerard Henderson rabbiting on about the intelligentsia, while doing the best to hide his inner city elitism and his doctorate from general view ...

The ultimate irony?

Albanese was spruiking his stuff to the Sydney Institute, home of Gerard Henderson ... and worse, he said he favoured VFT technology, it was just too noisy, too costly, too hard, too difficult, too expensive ... too ... too ... toot ... the little toot that couldn't ...

By golly, that suburban train might just drown out Albo if he ever comes asking the pond for a vote, in much the same way that fifty shades of grey mad anti-NBN luddite monk can go begging ...

(Below: Albo leading the way).


  1. What's this journo obsession with the size of papers? Does anyone care? Penny Dreadfuls used to be nice and handy so you could hide them under the chair when Grandma came around, so as not to frighten her.

    As my wife tells me, size doesn't matter. It's what you do with it that counts.

    And on noise from trains - try living next to the main north line when a kilometre long coal train with three engines comes rumbling through at all of 40 kph at 2 in the morning.

  2. Now I know why you refer to Gerard Henderson as Polonius

    Act XLIV, Scene DCCVII

    "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."

  3. Everything from Abbottian Idiocy to Pellian defence of Priestly Kiddie Fiddling gets exemption from criticism under Hendo's "Anti-Catholic Sectarianism" get out clause.

    No protestant or pagan may cast the first stone

  4. "Gillard was reviled ... for living in her electorate in the west in Sydney."

    Pssst, DP, unless you are emulating The Polonial Prattler, that should read "... in the west in Melbourne." (ie Lalor).

    But sorta much the same thing, I guess; the west is always Bogan.

  5. Thank the absent lord someone's actually reading GrueBleen. The pond acknowledges the abode of Ms Gillard and has made the change, and dearie me are those NZ subbies going to cop flack tonight. It might be better to outsource to India.

    But if you think the west is always bogan, why not give Tamworth a go?

  6. Every word, DP, I always read every word (even the ones that those NZ subbies sometimes double up on :-).

    As for Tamworth, well, it isn't west of anywhere. Indeed, if you go far enough in enough directions, the whole wide world is west of Tamworth. Which means that the whole wide world is .... oh, the humanity !


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