Monthly Archives: May 2014

Quick Shot – 29/May/2014

Shooting The Messenger Involves Shooting

I don’t have much to say about the gender-politic cries of misogyny pertaining to the mentally ill Elliot Rodgers who went on a spree-killing, and has made the headlines for the usual wrong reasons. I’m always bemused-but-incensed by the people who want to point fingers at computer games or books or music or films or TV shows for the reason a crazy person decides to go and shoot people. It’s like all the boring people on the planet want to make the planet boring down to their level of boring-ness when in fact life is pretty complicated and interesting when it involves the arts.

I collect media. I’m not a manic collector, but accrue them out of love, labour and legacy; and I have done so for decades with enduring respect and joy. I haven’t gone on a spree killing rampage at all. I do have my dark moods, and some pretty fucked up depressive thoughts that fucked up depressives get when the black dog comes barking. The crucial thing might not be the media I own so much as the fact that I don’t have guns. The most evil movies I own, the most radically obnoxious sounds I own, the most nasty books I own have combined to make me kill zero people. And this is true of 999 out of 1000 people. It might even be 999,999 out of 1,000,000. People who own media products, does not correlate with spree kills anywhere near as much as people who own guns.

People who go on a spree kill might have all  kinds of media experiences but it’s not what really enables them to do it. In the case of Americans going on a spree kill, we can safely say it’s the lax gun laws – and how could it be anything else, really. He had a gun in his hand. Not a DVD of Season 2 of ‘Dexter’. If the ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ argument holds any water, then surely nobody ever died from a fatal playing of ‘Cop Killer’.

I understand the impulse to blame something that seems like it’s related in some way, but the focus people give on media products after spree killings is ridiculous. Wade Frankum who went on the Strathfield massacre possessed both ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Crime and Punishment’. After the incident the media went to town on his possession of ‘American Psycho’ demanding it be banned – most likely because they couldn’t realistically mount any argument to ban a literary classic like ‘Crime and Punishment’. It’s amazing that the very same people say they can’t imagine what goes through the minds of spree killers. This lack of imagination might be alleviated if they bothered to read ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Crime and Punishment’, watched a season of ‘Dexter’ and played a bit of ‘Grand Theft Auto’. Contrary to this banal, asinine media construction, quality media products have gone a considerable way as to enlighten us exactly how these things go.

Seriously, it’s time America looked at gun law reforms.

That’s Not Misogyny, That’s Just Insanity

Oh why the heck not. I do have this much to say.

The other word that’s getting bandied about in the wake of the Elliot Rodger shooting is ‘misogyny’. It’s true, he hated women by the looks of his ‘manifesto’. He hated women for being women, so he probably was a misogynist. But once again there are plenty of people who go about their daily lives and don’t necessarily go spree killing. Seeing that we are using the word that got so famously re-defined by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, it has to be said that even Tony Abbott – who is the walking-and-talking billboard example of a misogynist – most likely won’t go on a killing spree. I don’t know; it’s just a hunch. You can come shoot me if it proves to be wrong.

As with the media products that get faulted so much, I would have to say the misogyny of the man had less to do with the killings than the readily available guns. Once again, it seems unlikely that he killed the 2 women out of his 6 victims with the lustful hatred for women, he used his weapons instead.

If this seems really obtuse, I should direct you to this well argued piece by Helen Razer.

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’47 Ronin’

As You’ve Never Experienced Before

Every few years the Japanese film industry fishes up a new rendition of the Forty-seven Ronin story. They do it because it sells. The most performed Kabuki is ‘Chuhshungura’, based on the Forty-seen Ronin and their revenge upon Kohzukenosuke Kira. I think I’ve watched upwards of 5 iterations of this story across movies TV series and even listened to a radio play. I may have even played a role on a school play where I was one of the guys holding back Lord Asano who tried to cut down the insolent Kira in the The Great Corridor of Pines of Edo Castle.

So not only is this story steeped in history, the fictional representation is steeped in its own history. Because we know the facts so well, we know who the 47 were, how they came to be the members of the revenge party, what they said when they committed ritual harakiri and where they are buried. I’ve even made my little pilgrimage to Sengakuji where their tombstones line up, and there’s even a museum there of the equipment they used on the night of the  revenge.

This movie allegedly draws inspiration from those events, but you sure coulda’ fooled me!

What’s Good About It

Maybe it’ a good thing that even a garbled version of this story gets out to the west. Rinko Kikuchi makes for a very fetching dragon.

The usual gripes aside, it’s nice to see that the cast of Japanese people are played by Japanese people. Even with the heavy accents, at least they get the mannerisms and body language and manners right. This is in stark contrast to ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ which had all the production design down but the main actors were natively Chinese, and so there was a massive dissonance with the body language and mannerism that made it really hard to watch. This film is the opposite. Surrounding the actors being convincingly Japanese is a production designed sword-and-sorcery Japan that is completely  bizzarro-world. Forget Keanu Reeves and his character, the ‘Japan’ in this film is completely out of this world.

What’s Bad About It

It’s pretty mind-warping, so it took about 20minutes for me to get used to the mimesis and vernacular of this film. The obvious difficulty of inserting a character Keanu Reeves can play into the ranks of the 47 presents the script with an inordinate amount of credibility issues. Call it the dances-with-wolves problem where you can’t sell a story about an exotic culture unless the main character is  white dude and he’s really good at what the other non-white dudes do because he’s either super-talented or he’s the chosen one.

Yeah, I know it’s a marketing problem.

Yeah, if people really wanted to know the original story they can watch one of the many historically accurate renditions with subtitles, straight from Japan. This is meant to be a sword-and-sorcery, dungeons-and-dragons sort of take on the story.

But it’s just *bad* BAD bad. B-a-a-a-a-a-ad to the bone.

What’s Interesting About It

It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t give two hoots about historic or geographical or cultural accuracy. Amazing!

It gives me immense insight into how Greeks must feel when they watch ‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘Wrath of the Titans’, ‘Troy’; or how Jewish people might feel when a hyper-Nordic Jesus goes around doing his Jesus thing in your average Hollywood film. There’s odd, there’s wrong, and then there’s Hollywood, which is odd and wrong in a league of its own.

Yeah, I knew I’d feel that going in, but still, it never hurts to spell out the things that bother you, and what exactly this all means.

Playing Oishi

In the tradition of Kabuki, the guy who plays Yoshio Kuranosuke Oishi has got the leading role. It’s the role where the star gets to do his thing; it’s the guy audiences have always flocked to see. So casting Hiroyuki Sanada for Oishi is actually quite classy. Of course, the Oishi in this film is given to rigid formulaic observances, indecision and prevarication, doubts and despair, living down to the stereotypes of a dutiful samurai held by Hollywood, and necessarily possesses an irrational faith in Keanu Reeves as if he knows that Keanu Reeves must be the chosen one to lead his sad lot to glory. Hamlet never suffers this badly.

This is indeed a different Oishi to the one we’ve come to love. The traditional Oishi is wise, patient, subtle, clever with the subterfuge, formidable with his resolve, never lost faith in his mission, carefully figured out who amongst the 200 or so Ronin from Ako, actually had the fortitude to go through with the deed and was meticulous in his planning. Instead, this Oishi is bumbling from moment to moment, making up his plans as he goes along, very much a victim of circumstance and hardly a navigator of his destiny.

It did remind me of the line, “our deeds will echo through time” from ‘Gladiator’. It’s true enough for Oishi and his cohorts – but sometimes the echo chamber is broken and the signal you get is really distorted. I wondered how Sanada kept a straight face through the entire venture (ordeal?). I guess it’s what you call professionalism. Sanada is an interesting actor. He’s invoking the name of Yukimura Sanada with his stage name.

What Are They Wearing?

I know I’m repeating myself but… what the hell was the wardrobe design doing in this film?

Lost in Asia

Keanu Reeves is in a strange career limbo where he is marketed heavily to Asia than he is back in the west. it is as if the Matrix persona of Neo has propelled him into a latter day Chuck Norris who may one day recover his standing in the west. He was in ‘The Man of Taichi’ playing a martial arts nut and evil head honcho in his directorial debut. Combined with this fiasco of a film, he seems he’s totally on the outer. The post-Matrix years have not been great for Keanu. I liked his crooked cop in ‘Street Kings’ and his turn in ‘Constantine’ was sort of interesting but not quite. But then it’s a rare script that can turn his wooden brand of acting into a credible characteriation. He may be lost in Asia for many more years to come. Or maybe this movie has completely sunk him as an action lead actor who can carry a film. He really should consider appearing in a Woody Allen movie.

 

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There’s Even More Not To Like

Future Brain Drain

Last night I went out to dinner with Walk-off HBP and his family and eventually the conversation turned to the politics of this budget. His daughter’s finishing up high school this year, so tertiary education and its cost became a hot topic for conversation. Fortunately (and I use this word loosely), Mrs. HBP is from Denmark, so up for consideration was the possibility that the younger HBP might be better off claiming her heritage and citizenship, and heading to Denmark where tertiary education is free. It occurred to me that there might be a lot of this sort of thing going on.

The logical ramification is that Australia might be about to witness  great brain drain in the not too distant future, as well as an acceleration of the aging population issues. Consider for the moment the number of people who could devise a way back to the countries of their heritage to get a less expensive tertiary education. Places like Ireland and Scandinavian countries are not the only places that offer up these option. Then think of the likelihoods they meet their spouses and setup families elsewhere on the planet and not Australia. It’s like Australia is willing to give up its younger, smarter population when in fact they’re the people that are going to be needed to support the aging baby Boomers and eventually Gen-X.

In the mean time our universities will be filled with stupid rich kids who will be there only because they can afford to be there, so this notion of more competitive universities seems like a pipedream on the part of the Coalition. Walk-off HBP thinks it’s more of a smokescreen to entrench privilege in such a way that only the Liberal voting types get to go to University.

I’ve already covered the problems of carrying a 100k student debt into a professional career – you’re worse off than not going to university and getting a tradie’s job. We may actually be looking at a future where the ranks of varsity graduate professionals will be much lower in quality than today. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think these rich types are going to enjoy going to doctors and lawyers pulled from the third best minds of their generation.

Nepotism As A Way Of Life

One of Tony Abbott’s daughters got a 60k scholarship. The people who gave her the scholarship claimed it was purely on merit. Another one of Tony Abbott’s daughters has a plum job working fro DFAT in Geneva. A lot of people have pointed out how unqualified she is for the job, but no, her boss is an old Liberal Party member who has told us that Tony Abbott’s daughter got the jobon her own merits.

In each instance the insistence on the merits of Abbott’s brood seems to stretch the definition of the word ‘merit’. It’ a really bad look when your government is about to make tertiary education more expensive to then have a daughter get a freebie. It’s a really bad look to have your daughter get a plum job in DFAT over other genuine candidates of actual merit, when your government is about to cut off 16,000 public sector jobs. Both instances speak volumes to the absence of character in his daughters, which, by extension reflect badly on the parents, who in this instance happens to be the Prime Minister. These are big favours being handed to his family.

When you consider that there is a Royal Commission into Julia Gillard’s conduct as an IR lawyer and claims of $7000 for renovations of her house coming from a union slush fund; and how Abbott himself hounded Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper relentlessly through digging up dirt; not to mention the fact that all it took was for a $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage to bring down Barry O’Farrell, it seems abundantly obvious that Tony Abbott should quit. $60,000 worth of scholarship dollars and a plum job at DFAT seems far in excess of what normal people would consider a favour for a mate.

Really, Tony Abbott should quit on this alone.

But he won’t quit. Which means he’s an unabashed crook. now he’s saying he wants family kept out of it. I think it’s a bit much that a man who would go after Julia Gillard with a Royal Commission, and hounded Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper in the manner that he did, to want his family kept out of it by the media.

No, no, no Mr. Abbott, it’s much too late for that. You lowered the bar forcefully – you can try doing your limbo dance under it.

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Fools On The Hill

Day After Day…

I kid you not, everyday brings news of something so illogical and founded on imagined notions to make you wince, getting enacted into policy by this Federal government. If they’re not putting something into policy, they’re telling us how they think it ought to be.

Take this cretin here.

Another Angry Fat Man of the right-wing nutjob persuasion. Well fed and full of hate.

 

George Christensen, the LNP member for the Queensland electorate of Dawson, has sparked outrage on twitter after he posted a photo of an impoverished child and called for a reality check from Australians and their first world problems.
“Aussies should do a tour of Asia & live like locals to put these 1st world complaints re budget in perspective,” he wrote.

The tweet prompted an immediate backlash with one user tweeting “Translation: Aussie battlers should take a glimpse at LNP model for Australia’s future”.
Mr Christensen did not taken kindly to the criticism, and replied that Australians concerned about tough budget measures needed to realise how “minuscule” their complaints were on a global scale.

He followed up his original tweet with: “Try getting any serious form of welfare in Thailand or other SE Asian nations.”

Just look at that guy. Well fed and brimming with excess calories, he thinks Australians ought to be grateful they’re getting the budget from hell because the alternative is an impoverished Asian country. Forget for the moment that another wing of this mean-spirited government is busily sending asylum seekers to Cambodia a country which fits such a description.

What we can discern from this is that the Liberals and Nationals set a very low bar for themselves and their governing endeavors. It’s a government of people who want to invent their own facts, right from the top down. Both Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey concocted a budget emergency and part of that plank was that produtivity was stagnating in Australia. The big surprise today is that productivity is actually rocketing upwards.

The good news is that labour is already performing. The counting of that is yet to catch up to the performance, but it is happening.

Well, I think it’s good news. Given the government’s narrative preferring doom and misery, maybe that isn’t good news for the current leadership – it doesn’t support their usual story of Labor’s labour reforms destroying the economy.

In other words, Hockeynomics can go take a hike. There are other things the Coalition government are doing that would make you shake your head. Especially the bits to do with climate change. They keep scrapping and sacking things to and people to do with dealing with Global Warming and here we sit in a record-breaking month in Sydney where we’ve had the most days above 20degrees on record. Global Warming is clearly going on in plain sight for all to see and the fools who run the country are busily trying to expunge it from reality by sacking and retrenching people. The effects of this is that this expertise we’ve been investing in will scatter to the globe. It’s a braindrain facilitated by a government of fools.

I lambast them daily and really, this makes no difference because so many idiots decided to vote this bunch in, so the only pleasure I can take from this is the Schadenfreude of saying, “told you so!”

Pleiades says he’s sickened by what Australia has become. It worries me that Australia voted in this mob. I keep thinking just where it was that things went wrong, but it’s hard to say. I used to think it was a tragedy that Tony Abbott got up over Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull by one vote; except the way Joe Hockey has gone about this budget shows that he might not have been too different had he won that day and became opposition leader. We’d still be looking at this crazy budget and insane government; just differently nuanced through Joe Hockey’s boofy persona instead of Abbott’s lip-licking-lizard persona.

Had Julia Gillard not been in such a rush to pull down Kevin Rudd, or if Kevin Rudd had stuck to his guns over the ETS… Maybe it was the moment Rudd put too much stock in the outcome of the Copenhagen talks. But at lest he did what he thought was best and worked hard. Abbott essentially rocked up into the top job without really doing any coherent policy work.

These are exactly the kind of hypothetical questions that teachers of history warn us against. What we have are facts – and the facts are these: Australia voted in a grossly deficient, mostly unintelligent bunch into office simply because they hated the infighting of the ALP. The chief of the idiots is running this country like he has a huge mandate when in fact there’s no factual support for such a view. As a result this country is going to hell in a basket. It’s really not much fun.

 

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The End Of Enlightenment

The Dark Ages Beckon Once More

I’ve been thinking that maybe one of the things the Abbott government wants the Federal government to do is get out of education; And as with such ideas, it always is worth asking what one might mean by ‘out’ and ‘education’. The growing trend in Australian society since the reintroduction of fees in the early 1990s has been to measure the value of a course against the earning capacity of the graduates. Then, trying to figure out “if it is worth doing the course.” Unsurprisingly, a great many courses cease to commend themselves once you apply the Return-On-Investment line of thinking and if one is truly driven by money alone, it is easy to suggest arts courses are not worthwhile. Why would somebody do Fine Arts if it were about earning capacity? How many jobs can there be, in something like curating for a gallery?

There are any number of courses for which graduates would find an inordinate amount of difficulty in placing themselves in employment in that field. Like, graduates in music or archaeology or theatre or literature or philosophy. In fact there is a vast shortage of jobs that specifically require arts education and pay well enough. The dirty secret of the stat that approximately 90% of graduates do not work in the area of their tertiary study is that the jobs simply were not there to absorb those graduates.

The great irony is that in trying to put a value on education, we’ve managed to destroy the worth of education. It didn’t exactly start with Tony Abbott’s current horror budget. It started when we started conflating vocational training with getting an education – and for that we can lay the blame at John Dawkins and his reforms where they started to hand out bachelors  degrees for test-tube washing. With the Dawkins reforms came the vast delusion of mass professionalism in the workforce when really, the politicians just wanted to keep Gen-X off the unemployment statistics.

The legacy of it is the expansion of tertiary places accompanied by the devisement of fees to off-set the expense. While it might have been the smart move at the time it commodified the education into a grand vision for vocational training for everybody. It was ‘Educating Rita” on a grand scale as part of that bargain. And with it came the unfortunate other irony that you can put a price on the education through projected future earnings. It was a crock – but for some reason we all bought it. Maybe we didn’t choose to look too closely lest it reveal the fundamental asymmetry that the education you get has very little to do with the money you end up making.

The thing that really stands out with this notion of  deregulating the universities so they can charge whatever they like, is that it squarely places education out of reach from people. The only way in which you can successfully assess the worthiness of a course hinges on it vocational merits. And if our society were to commit to that vision of education, then we may as well kiss the enlightenment goodbye. Of course, this would suit the fear mongers and hate mongers of the Murdoch press; They keep baying for this kind of vision that locks in inequality.

IPA Stands For ‘Ideological Propaganda Agency’

If you watch ‘the Drum’ like I do occasionally, you’ll notice they always aim to get some commentator to explain just what is good about the so-called *thinking* of the Liberal Party. They usually get some right-wing toad from this ‘Think Tank’ (and you would have to use the term ‘think’ very loosely when it comes to these people) called the Institute for Public Affairs to parrot the official line. It’s often unapologetic Thatcherite pap that it makes you scream at the television set the way Sophie Mirabella used to make us scream whenever she was on TV.

The IPA is full of terrible suggestions and explanations it makes you wonder if they actually grew up on the same planet as the rest of humanity, let alone in this country. Just how crazy are these people? You should look at a sample. Walk-Off HBP was kind enough to send this link today and well… it’s pretty self explanatory.

Top of their list is abolishing the ‘Carbon Tax’, followed by abolishing the Department of Climate Change and the Clean Energy Fund. Clearly they’re climate change deniers. What other possible explanation could there be? And this is an important point. Climate Change deniers have no science to back them up except for those soul-less sell-outs in the employ of the oil lobby who cherry pick stats to make it look like the world is cooling. It’s not a scientific position. So it really makes me wonder why ‘The Drum’ has to invite such intellectually deficient cretins to argue this kind of insane oppositional view just to make it look balanced. Especially when the same said cretins are calling for funding cuts and breaking up the ABC. Why give this bunch of Morlocks any airtime at all? Would the ABC give a Holocaust denialist or KKK member ‘equal time’?

No.

Then why this mob? The only thing that makes them respectable enough to talk to is the fact that they haven’t hurt anybody – yet. But if they had their way, they would hurt a whole bunch of people. If we were to follow their pan-Galactically stupid recipe, it would cause so much damage to our society we may never recover. I don’t know why the rest of Australia is being made to take this cretinous collective seriously.

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Slack

I’ve Been Slack, Yeah

The writers’ guild called me on my mobile today wondering if it was their administrative error or my lapse that I hadn’t paid for my membership this year. I told the lady it was a bit of both – that I decided to let the thing slide while I thought about it. She asked what I had to think about and so I asked her if she wanted the short version or the long version. She said I should try the short one first.

The short version is that I made all of $1000.00 writing a draft for a screenplay this year. This $1000.00 is an advance against if-and-when the film gets up. The rest will be paid if and when the film gets up. Out of which if I paid my GST, and then full guild membership, I’d be left with about $550. Which makes me wonder why I’m handing over so much for my only writing income. Especially when they did nothing to help me negotiate my contract. I wouldn’t have and couldn’t have called upon them because their standard contract would have been laughed out of the room.

Besides which, the producer was my friend from Film School. I had to help him get the script sorted before he footed a bill to fly to Cannes to try and raise finance, another process in which the guild would prove utterly useless. Thus, it’s really hard to justify the guild membership when there’s so little to show for it; and a bunch of workshops and discussion groups and a newsletter and a glossy book each year where screenwriters get interviewed about writing… simply isn’t much value. For that money I could head to the pub and hang out with people of my choosing, and the ensuing conversation might actually be more interesting.

The industry has changed greatly. It’s not the bustling hive it once was where development led to things. Only a handful of films get made – and none of them get made without the government funding production costs. It’s really hard to conceive of a guild in the context of an industry that’s only there as an extension of the government.

I then asked her if she wanted the long version and she declined. I can’t say I blame her much. I told her it’s not something I hold the guild responsible for, but really it couldn’t be just me, and the industry couldn’t be supporting so many writers to call the writers guild a guild. And hence I told her I was thinking whether I should stump up the money for the membership or just spend it on my dentist – which, would have literally palatable results compared to a membership in a clan of writers equally hungry, disenfranchised, and broke as I.

She said she would relay back to management my concerns. I have no idea how ‘management’ is going to respond to my feedback. I doubt they would have anything to say. I’m not expecting anything, but at least they got a piece of my fucking mind.

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17 May, 2014 · 12:44 pm