Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Living in David Rowe's post-Kafka cockroach, John Carpenter's Escape from New York and George Miller's Mad Tony world ...

It has to be said that David Rowe's cartooning - more Rowe here - is getting more and more bizarre - even demented, and perhaps it reflects the tormented state of the zeitgeist under the new federal government.

Not content with his invention of the Abbott signal, Rowe positions the poodle Pyne on Abbott's lap while the attack dogs go about their business in a yard that conjures up memories of The Cars That Ate Paris, or the wrecker's yard in Mad Max.

Look, there in the distance, is that a few workers crushed beneath the cars in the master wrecker's yard?

But then what can you do when a headline effectively summarises the posture that Abbott has adopted:

He was powerless, impotent, perhaps even castrated?

When you read the piece, Toyota shutdown: Tony Abbott says he was powerless to prevent exodus, Abbott shows more rat cunning and mealy mouthed piety than to use the word himself:

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has told parliament he was unable to do anything to prevent Toyota from ending car manufacturing in Australia but that the government’s job was “not to preserve every single business indefinitely”.

So he's powerless, and he's so powerless, he can't directly confess that he's powerless.

What's even better is the way Abbott has suddenly begun talking about the nattering negativity of the meanies.

“I did say to them [on Monday] was there anything that we in government could do to cause this decision to be reconsidered and they said – I regret to announce this to the house – they said that they had carefully considered the economics of manufacturing in Australia, the cost of manufacturing in Australia, the conditions of motor manufacturing in Australia and their decision was final,” Abbott said. 
 “The Labor party is desperate to play the blame game in this parliament. I think the Australian people deserve better than that.”

The blame game?

Now there's comedy gold.

This from a man who relentlessly played the blame game from the moment he became a thuggish, head kicking leader of the opposition?

At one time the pond fancied itself as centrist, but when confronted by a thug with a baseball bat, you can either fold or take a view. You know the meme: Get off my bloody lawn.

You see, once you get into office saying you can fix things, when things go wrong, saying you're powerless doesn't somehow make you blameless.

If you wanted to run the kitchen, learn how to handle the heat. Or bugger off. Here's the reality. The government has absolutely no clue, nor policy on how to handle the fallout which will follow, because the mechanisms available - government assistance, training, education - fly in the face of their Ayn Rand philosophies ... (and you don't have to read Paddy Manning behind the paywall at Crikey with Toyota exit without an industry policy is economic vandalism to get this).

The sight of an impotent, hand wringing, abashed PM has made the job of knob polishing even tougher for the hagiographers.

How to turn it around? You know, what with everyone blathering about research suggesting that at least a third of the workers who leave the car industry will never work again ...

Well that's a relief. Perhaps the unemployed workers can be re-trained to become economists, or better still lawyers, because there's going to be plenty of legal bees buzzing around that Royal Commission honeypot.

But that lizard Oz headline, promoted to top left on the digital page, is as nothing compared to the tone deaf clunkiness of Dennis 'the bouffant one with suit and nicely canary tie' Shanahan, who hit the revolving splash page with this:

The result? Well no doubt the bouffant one thought he was providing a service to his master by presenting a calm, measured leader:

Abbott continues to try to impose a calm pace on government actions, concentrating on the longer term and harping on cutting the budget deficit, government spending and the “economic fundamentals”. Abbott constantly repeated the lines on the Toyota closure that “it’s not going to happen tomorrow, it’s not going to happen next week, it’s not going to happen next month, it’s not even going to happen next year”. 
He sought to project calm and deflate a sense of immediate crisis. In a policy sense he continued to hold the line on “corporate welfare”, refusing to borrow more money for handouts, but was more measured in his criticism of the SPC Ardmona management and labour practices. 
“The job of government is not to offer false hope or miracle cures (but) to sit down and carefully and methodically and purposefully sort out what is best done in difficult situations,” Abbott said. 
Nor did he or his ministers make inflated claims about workers’ pay or the impact of the carbon tax.

In other words, Abbott said he was impotent, powerless, possibly even castrated, but couldn't resort to his usual mantras, and his union bashing exercise had suddenly been neutered.

Right about this time you get politicians starting to say they had fruitful, richly useful discussions.

He (Dennis Napthine) described the meeting as a ''very, very productive discussion across a range of projects''. (Premier Denis Napthine reserved after talks with Abbott)

A productive chin wag!

Not to worry, back to the bouffant one for the wrap up:

A lot of colourful accusations are flying around now but the heart of the political and policy argument for this year will remain a concentration on jobs and long-term economic management.

Led by an impotent, hapless, powerless PM ... who's main skill seems to be union bashing ...

Is there anything more tragic or wondrous than the sounds of poor old gravel-voiced Ian Macfarlane proposing that somehow the CSIRO will now suddenly ride to the rescue and save the workers?

What, by building an NBN with sealing wax and cabbages and copper and string?

Yep, it's yet more blather about unique Australian innovation, and the CSIRO and universities and paving the way to a nano futurist future, in a sound, methodical, measured way.

Oh dear, what a time for a mother of a CSIRO scientist to ring up RN and say her son is on the redundancy list. (this high comedy routine is to hand on RN here)

Yep, we'll be saved by boxing clever with science and technology, so it's hard to understand by the long absent lord put a bunch of luddites in charge of the show...

Meanwhile, there's a fair argument that the car industry had been long on a hiding to nothing - Bill Carmichael presents the 'pull the patient off the support system, and die, die, die, you useless bludgers' argument for the reptiles in Bad subsidies hold up worthy programs, behind the paywall because print journalism is about as sturdy and with as much a future as an Australian-built car.

But here's the thing.

Shortly, just around the corner, the Abbott government will have to jump through the very same hoops as the Qantas matter surfaces yet again, at least if you accept Richard Branson's advice that Alan Joyce's strategies have put the brand in deep shit. (Virgin's Richard Branson escalates war of words with Qantas).

Branson was of course firing a shot across Abbott's bows:

Renewing his attacks on Virgin’s main rival, Sir Richard has told journalists in Dubai that it would be unfair for the federal government to provide financial assistance to Qantas. 
‘‘It would be incredulous if the government can hand over money to him [Mr Joyce] and they don’t hand over money to Virgin Australia,’’ he said. 
‘‘Every company in Australia will come begging to the government if the government allowed that to happen."

Virgin has its own troubles, but so does Qantas, and in spades.

Yep, there's another firestorm brewing, and who would bet against the government displaying the same level of inept stupidity and powerlessness in its handling of the matter?

Finally, for a little light relief, the pond has decided to go off to the movies with Dame Slap.

She's given up on Abbott, called for a bowl and washed her hands, and decided to supersize the soda and the popcorn.

But first a couple of caveats.

When attending the movies the pond has always left ideological glasses at the door. You have to if you want to appreciate the skill with which Leni Riefenstahl celebrated Hitler and Nazism in films such as Olympia and Triumph des Willens. And you have to overlook certain Leninist and Stalinist excesses to enjoy silent Soviet cinema, such as Eistenstein and Pudovkin (though the pond reserves most fondness for Eisenstein's decadent excess in the two parts of Ivan the Terrible).

Heck, like Martin Scorsese, the pond even has a soft spot for some of the films of the quisling, cowardly dobber Elia Kazan.

The second thing to note is that if you're a rabid ideological zealot, you won't be able to be liberal in your consumption of films or come to any understanding of the aesthetics of film-making.

Instead you'll see every movie first and foremost through the prism of your ideological prejudices.

Now cue Dame Slap, and the mindlessly revealing stupidity of Story of true grit does count (behind the paywall to spare you the sight of Dame Slap turning film reviewer)

Clearly Dame Slap didn't like Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. And just loved Lone Survivor.

And the failure of Lone Survivor is somehow all the fault of libruls.

You’d think that arty, so-called progressives would hate The Wolf of Wall Street as a gross glorification of testosterone-fuelled greed and stock market scams, not to mention the dwarf-throwing contests, the prostitutes, the repugnant displays of wealth, the on-screen misogyny, the mansions and flashy cars, the drug-taking binges on cocaine and Quaaludes. Wrong. You’d think they might regard as repugnant the film’s failure to address the shocking personal and financial costs paid by the victims swindled by Belfort. Wrong. 
New Yorkers, who have historically voted Democrat, just loved the movie. Same in San Francisco where I just managed to find an empty seat one night in early January. That city last voted for a Republican president in 1956. The film has earned five Academy Award nominations and the American Film Institute puts it on the top 10 list for 2013. Writing in America’s bastion of literary and cultural commentary, The Atlantic, critic Christopher Orr gushed that director Martin Scorsese had delivered “a great - no, a f . . king great - movie.” It is, wrote Orr, a “marvel of indecency”, a “magnificent black comedy, fast, funny and remarkably filthy.” That’s the only bit Orr got right. Scorsese’s three long hours of big screen self-indulgence is filthy.

Uh huh. There's nothing like a paranoid member of the commentariat to erect a solid wall of hysteria and stupidity...

Let's take, for example, The New Yorker, surely a bastion of the liberal house. Here's part of what they say in the potted summary they put at the start of the magazine:

Physically, DiCario's work is astounding, but it's also one of he most completely externalized performances in movie history - Jordan Belfort is not, in the end, very interesting. Neither is the movie: Scorsese stages the money-making orgies, and drug-taking with such jubilant, unreflective vitality that they might be part of a Broadway musical - a knock-the-tourists-dead show called "Greed!"

And here's how David Denby ended his long form review, currently outside the paywall here:

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is a fake. It’s meant to be an exposé of disgusting, immoral, corrupt, obscene behavior, but it’s made in such an exultant style that it becomes an example of disgusting, obscene filmmaking. It’s actually a little monotonous; spectacular, and energetic beyond belief, but monotonous in the way that all burlesques become monotonous after a while.

Eek, Dame Slap and The New Yorker are as one! Is she a closet progressive?

Of course The New Yorker also published a dissenting voice, Richard Brody's The Lasting Power of "The Wolf of Wall Street" (also currently outside the paywall).

Never mind, you really have to be dumb to think that reviewers have much to do with the success or failure or movies, not up against the power of word of mouth.

But let's stay with the monomaniacal hammer finding yet more progressive librul nails to belt, because, you see, Dame Slap also blames these types for the failure of Lone Survivor to garner Oscar noms or do box office:

The recount of Operation Red Wings is ugly, compelling, brutal and difficult to watch. One thing it is not is pro-war. Yet, this is precisely the allegation made by some members of the Left. Writing in The Atlantic, Callum Marsh is concerned by the “cartoon villainy” - the film treats the Taliban as the enemy. In fact, the Taliban is the enemy. The film, he says, resembles one of those “multi-million dollar recruitment videos.” 
The film, he grumbles, is “enthusiastically pro-war”. Here, writ large, is the Left’s frequent preference for simplistic picture book politics. Their kneejerk judgments cause their moral compass to spiral in the wrong directions where The Wolf of Wall Street is lauded a masterpiece for its filth but Lone Survivor is just a filthy pro-war movie that legitimizes “feelings of xenophobia and American exceptionalism.” Lone Survivor is an anti-war film. 
Not anti-military, for these men form a dedicated band of brothers driven by love of country and love of liberty. But by showing the hauntingly horrific side of war (is there any other side?), Lone Survivor is a deeply cautionary tale about the profound moral quandaries and the human price of war.

Actually it's a Peter Berg film - the man who gave the world Battleship in 2012 and should have been immediately cast into purgatory on his way to hell - and it features an opening prologue which uses music so woefully and strikes so many false notes and poses that the pond never recovered, and what's worse, the later action is interrupted by brooding and moralising of the kind no mid-west Mark Wahlberg action fan could stand.

Berg is about as subtle as a Dame Slap hammer.

And there's the problem for the film. Okay, it might not have done business in the big towns on the east and west coast, but it's real failing was to make Mark Wahlberg a flop in the mid-west. That takes some doing.

As for David Denby in that bastion of librulism, The New Yorker?

Peter Berg’s exciting but harrowing “Lone Survivor” re-stages a military operation in Afghanistan from 2005. Four members of a Navy seal team are cut off in Taliban territory but continue to fight, in treacherously rocky terrain, and despite multiple wounds. It’s a patriotic homage to the toughness and endurance of an élite force, embodied here by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch. The movie doesn’t explicitly ask what the American forces are doing in Afghanistan. Yet there’s a fierce debate among the men about how to handle some goatherds they take prisoner, which effectively interrogates the purpose of fighting against a guerrilla group lodged in a native population.
The heart of the movie, however, is combat: specifically, a long sequence that has been shot with much greater attention to spatial organization—where one soldier is in relation to another as they fire—than filmmakers, in the past, have given such scenes. The sequence, as the men get hit, is also more explicit about wounds, blood, and suffering. “Lone Survivor” will not please people exasperated by an endless war, but it’s an achievement nonetheless.

Uh huh. Strange, it should have been a major box office hit.

Any last insights from Dame Slap?

While conman Belfort is cashing in on his newfound fame by giving motivational lecture tours, Luttrell now runs the non-profit Lone Survivor Foundation to help combat veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress and other problems that arise after returning to civilian life. The movie has sparked increased interest from soldiers seeking the kind of counselling Luttrell developed through his daunting experience. This counts for naught in the glittering, artificial world of Academy Awards that invariably lauds yet another Woody Allen film about a middle-aged neurotic woman and Scorsese’s depiction of a young narcissistic New York stockbroker. But Luttrell’s story of true grit counts for plenty in the real world.

Uh huh. But actually that story of true grit counted for very little in the real world of the mid-west, and none of it has much to do with ideology or the left-right divide.

It's possible to be swayed by movies that are anti-war (Kubrick's Paths of Glory) or television shows that present a generally favourable view of war as a job to be done by reluctant warriors (Band of Brothers).

And it's possible to dislike Woody Allen's latest film, not because it features Cate Blanchett and she made carbon tax ads, or because Allen might or might not have molested a child in his care, but because it's such a shameless rip-off of Tenneesse Williams, with a truly reprehensible denouement, where a figure from the past turns up to deliver the pay off.

Badly written, clumsily directed, it's yet another example of why some people still yearn for the days when Allen made funny movies ... we've been suffering since Interiors.

It must be terrible, a harrowing experience, to sit with Dame Slap in a movie, and watch as she ticks off mentally all the ideological things that are wrong or right about a film, and how they might be wrongly appreciated or spurned by liberals, who seemingly are responsible for everything, including the success and failure of movies (though how this worked with John Wayne, John Milius, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven might take some further explaining).

She really doesn't have much of a clue about anything, and now it turns out, that's also true of movies.

Extend that out to a world view which includes and judges everything through the wrong end of binoculars, and you end up with a Tony Abbott ... someone who stepped up above their paygrade, and all they've got is an ideological hammer, and a narrow, rigid view of the world ...

But enough of the movies.

All this naturally brings us to David Pope, and more Pope here.

Surely, it's time for a Dame Slap piece on how liberals and progressives are responsible for Sochi and all the ideological follies of sport:


  1. The Bolt verbals Julie Bishop and his masters in the LNP (or how to post something about nothing).

    "People who airily deny that my free speech (and, by extension, yours) hasn’t been taken away in part by our courts should know that I have again been advised by my lawyers not to comment on a recent publication by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or even to simply republish the DFAT item without comment.

    This is far from the first time. Our laws against free speech are a disgrace. The effect is to allow people - in this case DFAT - to promote a certain point of view on a matter of great moral importance without fear of contradiction."

  2. Delicious! The word test I had to enter to post the previous was "fetid rsulduc", which an anagram for fetid cud slur.

  3. You & Andrew Elder do the best political commentary around. I mean that.

    1. Third Anon - I second that. Dot is an Empress.
      First Anon - what is Bolt so obsessed with in the DFAT files?

    2. Fourth Anon: he can't tell you because his lawyers have advised him not to.

  4. Hmmmm. Then: The Great Gatsby, now: The Wolf of Wall St.

    Is there a hidden truth, or maybe an existential lie, in there somewhere ?

  5. DP, I've been able to get aroun Fairfax's limit on clicks. If you go to a page and you are over your maximum monthly allowance, a screen comes up that tells you you can't look at the article unless you fork out for the service.

    But if you press 'print' in the few seconds before the warning appears, the article prints in full.

  6. Ian, or just clear their cookie.

  7. good govt job posts

    1. usually the pond deletes spam, but the chance of pond readers getting a decent job in India is irresistible. Quick, flee Australia now and pick up work in an Indian scooter factory ...

    2. On ya bike for sure, but via NZ:

  8. Bizarre pseudo-French wanking from the Guardian.

    "Bush food: marron
    Indigenous to Western Australia, these distinctive freshwater crayfish are appreciated for their sweet, delicate flavour"

    ... followed but an admittedly delicious-sounding recipe "Restaurant Amusé’s Marron, avocado and saltbush.

    Très drôle Max. They're called Yabbies and are indigenous to the whole of Australia. Best boiled in a billy, pull off the heads and tail, extract the meat and serve with a dollop of butter.

    1. Sorry Anon, but up Tamworth way they were known as crawlbobs, a slang term almost completely unknown even to google. If you want to sound authentic, remember this (and speak of ports). Tamworth might no longer be the centre of the known universe - not since the black hole known as Barners came to represent it - but there are some traditions that need honouring.

      And don't forget the pepper!

    2. DP - and a touch of Harold Holt. And the butter must come from the best Tamworth Jerseys.

      I'm sure we could come up with siome more pseudo-French Australian cooking. How about Médaillons de kangarou à la sauce tomate avec de sel de mer et poivre. I've got the ingredients in the paddock!

      (Kangaroo steaks with tomato sauce and salt and pepper)

    3. Our Jerseys have all be replaced by big black-and white Freisan buggers. No sense of dignity or buttermilk content.

      Reminds me of that old Thurber cartoon of two cows in a stall being milked by hand by the old farmer.. One turns to the other and says "Hmm - Men!"

  9. Not a french affectation Anon. This PDF form the fisheries dept in WA will explain:
    As for me I prefer the taste of the black marron to the yabby. Also they have nearly three times the meat so much less fiddly :-)


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