Sunday, November 01, 2015

Why a duck? Why a grand piano?

It being a lazy meditative Sunday, the pond happened to drop by Richard King's review of Andrew P. Street's The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott, done for the reptiles of Oz, and what a delight it was.

Inter alia the review talked of a number of things - including King not being able to complete his own opus on the short reign of the good Captain, so abruptly did it come to an end, and then in one line, King reminded the pond of important comedy duos.

Now we've had a few who really don't count. The pond was never much of a fan of Abbott and Costello.

Their material was thin and their slapstick tired and worn.

But back to the review of that book:

Its key ingredients are facts and sarcasm, and Street is a competent manager of both. He isn’t short of material, of course: Team Abbott’s policy-making often had all the grace and competence of Laurel and Hardy delivering a grand piano. 

That's better. Who could forget that silent classic The Music Box and the team that made it possible?

Oh and we've left out the bit of them getting up the steps:

Back to the review:

As such, it was often self-satirising, and Street works with this, simply underlining some policies and statements, or using a bit of parallel sentence structure to expose dissimulation: “Immigration minister Scott Morrison insisted that people were making assumptions about a situation ‘not based on any primary knowledge of the event or the circumstances’, which was correct — principally because he was assiduously preventing independent access to any information on the event and the circumstances.’’ 
Elsewhere, Street lays the mockery on thick, taking Captain Abbott and his media storm-tossed shipmates to task with a savage and intelligent wit. His bag of tricks includes a folksy turn of phrase, a penchant for the ludicrous conceit and a (commendable) determination to lower the tone. ‘‘The nineteen-strong ministry was immediately controversial, principally for containing exactly one person without a penis.” OK, it’s not subtle. But it’s not wrong either. 
It is impossible to write a book on the Abbott government without a strong appreciation of irony, and Street has a good ear for it. Still, I think he misses a trick here and there. In his chapter on section 18C, for example, he concludes with an account of Abbott’s ignominious climbdown but barely mentions the press conference in which he said, effectively, that the government’s plans to extend our liberties were undermining the unity that would be needed to push through a national security bill that most people agreed would erode our liberties. 
This is not a marginal point. The Abbott government is often painted as determinedly and programmatically right-wing, but it was a lot more chaotic than this would suggest: ideologically it was all over the shop. Abbott is in public life to advance values he knows most Australians don’t share. His behaviour in office was as much a symptom of his frustration and lack of a real political program as it was a sign of his narrow brand of conservatism. 
But I accept this isn’t Street’s core subject. Save for a homily on the natural co-operativeness of human beings in the last chapter, this is not an analytical book. It is a piece of political portraiture shot through with an antic, larrikin spirit. And it should plug an important gap between the present, slightly surreal juncture and the point at which the real analysis of what the hell just happened can begin in earnest. 

Oh dear, this sort of outrageous mocking laughter turning up in the heart of the nation! Are the reptiles starting to encourage laughter? Where will it all end?

Naturally this frivolity aroused the indignation of many of the reptile readers.

John reacted furiously:

When it comes to journ's Fairfax is not renowned for employing our best and fairest. Neither does Fairfax concern itself with that boring quality 'objectivity'. Whatever sells papers and books is what focuses Fairfax. So, it's not surprising one of their 'finest' is writing some dribble about Tony Abbott. While I read a lot about politics and the people who enter it, I won't bother buying a copy of this one.

But John, the review wasn't in Fairfax. It was the reptiles wot done it.

Bernard was also indignant:

Just what you expect a Journo praising another Journo.  I must be old fashioned . but I thought that journalism was about reporting the news and seeking valid opinion from those with valid opinions. Not only is King a goose so is Street with their obsessive behavior. 

Sandy took to Bernard with some unfortunate levity and in a most unseemly way:

@Bernard If they're geese, Bernie, then what does that make Abbott?!? Um, a dodo, perhaps? 

The grand-sounding Godfrey of Bouillon was outraged, simmering up in a fine old broth as he came to the boil:

Another author that is a pawn of the left, another journalist that believes in his own importance that dragged himself from Fabianistic under achieving academia. How so predictable !  How these untalented megalomaniacs have embedded themselves in the media displays the shallow pool of talent that is out there unfortunately. And the plonkers that cheer along with them are themselves a study in the ridiculous!  

The reptiles hosting pawns of the left? Could it be so predictable? Are the reptiles at the shallow end of the pool?

Elizabeth was grimly prophetic, while having a little trouble with the keyboard …

Not recommending this book. You'll need to change the title soon boys; " Tony Abott - History maker - Malcolm Turmbull the biggest mistake in Auatralian politics" … 

Admiration, it seems, consists of mis-spelling your hero's name... while Kathy was just grim:

I think the continual Abbott bashing is very unprofessional. 

Young Warwick also seemed to be having trouble with the keyboard:

Any one of a number of the usual columnists from The Australian could have written this acerbic review (or the book itself). No doubt the Van Onselen book wil be in the same vein. The two pieces here continue the increasingly hysterical campaign to convince the waiverers that assassinating Abbott was the correct thing to do. It doesn’t seem to be working to their liking. 
No, it seems that the penny has dropped that when they did Abbott over they broke something and that no end of increasingly crude and unsubtle campaigns to denigrate Abbot, alternate parties and so on are working as they were meant to do. For this paper they are in dangerous territory. 
Not having learned the lesson when Rudd-Love crashed to earth after the infamous GW Bush telephone call to Rudd at a diner where the editor himself was present, we see the new love affair with Turnbull now.

A plague, or at least a pox, on the house of reptiles, and their new love affair!

Neville B.D. was also most agitated:

I can read The Age and listen to their ABC every day, I don't have to buy a book to hear Tony Abbott being vilified every day.   While Tony remains in parliament (and even after) he will be an easy target for those of the left.  And they love easy targets, that moral high ground is so high they make it impossible to come down. The three hardest words in the English language for the left: "we were wrong". 

Mmm, and even harder, it seems, for those who loved Captain Courageous and his mighty Treasurer.

Many leftists of the pond's acquaintance can have a right good chortle about Bill Shorten - when they remember he exists or they want to they marvel at the fear in his eyes - it's cruel but gallows humour always helps alleviate the sight of a dead man walking - but it seems some of the reptile of Oz's diminishing band of punters just can't develop a sensa huma about the recently departed but eternally Captain.

But there's a message of hope for anyone who tracked Laurel and Hardy, even in their lesser shows:

Yes, pack up your troubles and head off to Europe.

Why even this morning, the panel on The Insiders was wondering if Abbott might become the international voice of Conservative thinking, with a very big C at the start of the word ...

None of the panellists paused to think at the oxymoronic elements involved in linking Abbott, Conservative with a Capital C and Thinking with a capital T, as they wondered if he might revive his journalistic skills and lead Conservatives to the promised land ... which is to say to a powerless wilderness and and frothing and a foaming and a ranting in England about the need to avoid being too Christian in these troubled Machiavellian times ...

Perhaps the Messiah might return at some time. Just as big Mal did. Certainly no one was prepared to call him a naughty boy, so powerful was his presence.

Just as Laurel and Hardy's short silent classics can be watched over and over again, the pond believes that there is more endless amusement to be derived from the cavortings of our modern Laurel and Hardy.

Perhaps not so much from Oliver, but certainly from Stan ... as already the ringside seats are starting to fill with punters asking questions like Is Tony Abbott crazy enough to think he can be prime minister again?

Is Tony Abbott crazy and deluded enough? Is comedy dead?

Hammer: (pause) ...You're a peach, boy. Now, here is a little peninsula, and, eh, here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland. 
Chico: Why a duck? 
Hammer: I'm alright, how are you? I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland. 
Chico: Alright, why a duck? 
Hammer: (pause) I'm not playing "Ask Me Another," I say that's a viaduct. 
Chico: Alright! Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken? 
Hammer: Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself. All I know is that it's a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you'll find out why a duck. 
Chico: When I go someplace I just... 
Hammer: (interrupts) It's...It's deep water, that's why a duck. It's deep water. 
Chico: That's why a duck... 
Hammer: Look...look, suppose you were out horseback riding and you came to that stream and you wanted to ford over...You couldn't make it, it's too deep! 
Chico: Well, why do you want with a Ford if you gotta horse? 
Hammer: Well, I'm sorry the matter ever came up. All I know is that it's a viaduct. 
Chico: Now look, alright, I catch ona why a horse, why a chicken, why a this, why a that...I no catch ona why a duck. 
Hammer: I was only fooling...I was only fooling. They're gonna build a tunnel there in the morning. Now is that clear to you? 
Chico: Yes, everything excepta why a duck. 
Hammer: Well, that's fine...then we can go ahead with this thing. Now look...I'm gonna take you down and show you our cemetery. I've got a waiting list of fifty people down at that cemetery just dying to get in it, but I like you. 
Chico: Yeah, you're my friend. 
Hammer: I like you, and I'm gonna shove you in ahead of all of 'em. 
Chico: I know you like me. 
Hammer: I'm gonna see that you get a steady position. 
Chico: Atsa good. 
Hammer: And if I can arrange it, it'll be horizontal...Now, remember, when the auction starts, if somebody says a hundred dollars? 
Chico: I say two hundred. 
Hammer: That's grand. Now if somebody says two hundred? 
Chico: I say three hundred. 
Hammer: That's great! Now, you know how to get down there? 
Chico: No, I'm a stranger... 
Hammer: (interrupting) Now look, you go down there, down that narrow path there...until you come to the...that little jungle there, you see it? Where those thatched palms are...and there's a little clearing there...a little clearing with a wire fence around it. You see that wire fence there? Chico: Alright...why a fence? 
Hammer: Oh no! We're not gonna go all through that again!

Oh yes we will ...

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