Category Archives: Literature

Coming Out Of Hibernation

Salman Rushdie Speaks At Opera House

It’s not everyday you get to see and hear Salman Rushdie speak live, so I went along to the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. I’m not so convinced these ideas at the festival are so dangerous – they seem more like ideas that would make great clickbait on Facebook, but I’m not really certain they’re so damn dangerous. Mr. Rushdie was speaking to the notion whether Television was the New Novel. He spoke at great length of his experience in development hell for 18months but said “No, it’s not.”

The conversation could have been more interesting but the panel seemed to favour talking about the process whereby television writers are commissioned to write scripts and whether novelists were good at adapting to that challenge or not. Mr. Rushdie indicated he was surprised to find he was more resistant to it than he initially thought. Hardly earth-shattering. I could’ve told him that at the front end before he went into development hell.

He did say a couple of interesting things. One of them was that the bigger a TV series gets, the less likely it would end on a satisfying note. All such series should be finished with a comma and not a full stop, was his observation. The other notable tidbit was that novel writing is entirely processed internally, but script writing for television drags that process out into the open so that it can be shared with other parties. That much is true.

He also told a joke featuring two goats.

Short Film Screening

I attended the screening of a short film up at the Chauvel tonight. My good friend Guillermo managed to finish the film we shot last year. All I did was sound record it, but it was kind of gratifying to see my name in the credits. I hadn’t seen that in a few years.

Anyway, the DOP and I got into a conversation with one of the producers about film funding in this country and I was surprised to find that there is a widespread belief that the funding system in this country is rigged so the same people keep getting grants, and that the better thing would be to stop the government doing direct funding and go back to a 10BA tax driven thing. Everybody’s thinking it. The system is rigged, and it’s part of the problem and not the solution. The belief is so widespread that nobody trusts the government to do the right thing. Now, this is just film making – not medical or legal policy. However, if the government was to screw up the medical and legal industries like they have screwed up the film industry, there would be picket lines and molotov cocktails on our streets. The fact that it doesn’t happen is merely a reflection of how dejected the film industry is about how the government keeps working to make the business smaller in this country – even if it is inadvertent – and how small the business has become.

I’m just reporting this here because others in the business would want to know. And yes, it is always a bitch-fest when filmies get together.

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The Schadenfreude Budget

Nothing To Delight In But Pain Of Others

This is going to be a mean budget. I was talking about it today with some people and they were saying yes, it’s going to hurt but that they hope it hurts other people too. Like Liberal voters who thought voting for Tony Abbott was such a good idea. If you’re a left-leaning voter, this budget promises to be a pile of misery heaped upon with fear-and-loathing sauce. The only sweetness will be the bitter-sweet Schadenfreude of seeing others suffer.

In my case, I’m hoping for a big scythe like the one carried by death to hack a swathe through Screen Australia, which may or may not according to leaked information, get rolled into one entity with the Australia Council. That would be cool to seethe perennial same people who always get the funding, go without for once. Screen Australia’s a bit of a bug bear because they keep funding the same people and they keep rewriting the rules so nobody else gets a look in for funding. In other words, it’s more a rort and a slush fund than a proper funding body these days so… heck Joe Hockey, cut away with impunity. I’d rather see it get the full-arse chop than a half-arsed trim. I really would enjoy those people “having to look for a job in the real world”. Screw them.

On a more general scale, you ave to think that Abbott and company are going to make the kinds of cuts that the ALP could not. This would be true, particularly in health and welfare. And while the rhetoric is that this targets the weakest in our society, I think we’ve all seen a few cases that have made us do a double-take. If you think about it, 6million people are on some kind of Centrelink payment. Then, Julia Gillard’s government added Family Tax Benefit B as a bribe to lather through the Carbon Price. It was classic ‘Keep it Greasy So It Goes Down Easy’. As a single person who got nada out of that deal because I have a job – even though I’m in the “low income bracket” according to the tax office – it sure wasn’t a break that was headed my way.  So, I wouldn’t miss Family Tax Benefit B disappearing. heck, cut away, I say.

Be that as it may, there are plenty of things that piss me off  that are mooted in this budget. The wholesale destruction of environmental agencies and science and technology funding seems beyond the pail. I’m just hoping if the cuts hurt everybody enough they’ll be motivated at the next election to vote these bums out.

Retiring At Seventy

I didn’t know this until the good folks on Insiders pointed it out but 70years old is going to be oldest retirement age in the OECD nations. Most nations are topping out at 67 or 68. The average life expectancy in Australia is currently 81.85 so assuming that goes up a little bit until 2035, one would think the government is hoping to keep the lid on the retirement years at about 15.

The budget is talking about offering $10,000 incentives to hire people over 50. Right now, people over 50 are Baby Boomers. I can’t imagine the government could fund such a policy forever into the future, given the logic of how little tax they could get back from such a worker, so once again we see the government trying to feather the nests of the Baby Boomers, just to get this idea over the line.

I keep trying to imagine myself at say, 65 going for a job interview to find work that will take me up to 70. I keep wondering what that job might be and whether there would be a 10k incentive to hire me then (or if that 10k would be worth anything in that future). Having spoken to a number of my fellow Gen-Xers the feeling is “fuck off, we’re going for a revolution!” You get the feeling that the inter-generational conflict is going to heat up from here on in. The Treasurer sure lit a fire there.

We’re Dumb Ignorant And Uncultured, But We Can Build Roads

The carrot dangled in front of Australia for all this budget pain is that the Federal Government will spend 40 billion on roads for the next 4 years. This is going to be matched by 42 billion from State governments and the private sector. 82billion over 4years is a lot of road building. And the look of smug satisfaction as they’ve been leaking this bit has been a bit much.

Most countries that try to stimulate their economy by general construction end up building white elephants. This is true of Asian countries and European countries. Bridges to nowhere and ghost cities of apartments with nobody living in them happen exactly because a government thinks a general construction spending spree will stimulate the economy. It would have in the 1950s but clearly in an age when GM, Ford and Toyota are closing up factories, we’re entering a post-industrial phase of the economy, like it or not. If you are going to build 82 billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure, are roads really where you want to put your money?

Keep in mind that this is the same luddite government that wants to dumb down and dismantle the NBN, another infrastructure project that might be more appropriate for our stage of development.

It’s also 82 billion that’s not going into education and training because this government wants to get out of tertiary education altogether and make it completely user-pay. It’s 82billion that’s not going towards building a metro in our major cities, and it’s definitely not going towards an inter-city bullet train. What it is, is a decidedly backward looking commitment to build more of the same on the assumption that Australia’s economic needs are going to be roughly the same as they were in the 1950s and1960s under Menzies. It’s willfully stupid because clearly “more roads” is not what Australian needs more of over the other options that do not even get a look in.

And this is before we even look at the problems of petroleum as fuel for cars, and the economics of crude oil going into the future where we’re spending increasingly greater amounts of money to extract the same amount of crude oil. When we cease to be able to afford the oil, we’ll cease driving our petroleum-engined cars. When that happens you wonder what good these 82billion dollars’ worth of roads are going to be for an economy moving away from moving things around on the back of the petrochemical industry. Nobody in government has even looked at the ramification of higher energy costs on this economy and whether it is a smart move to put all our baskets into roads in anticipation of even greater road transportation. Even with a multiplier effect, this 82billion is going to be money badly spent.

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Literary Types Only

And The Book Show Is Not Literary Enough!

I just wanted to share this lovely little open letter with you from David Musgrave to the ABC:

Dear Producer

I’m writing in my capacity as board member of Australian Poetry Limited (a not-for-profit national arts organisation), as Publisher at Puncher & Wattmann Pty Ltd (the foremost independent publisher of poetry in Australia) and as one of this country’s leading poets to request that you change the name of your program to the “Non-Poetry Multinational Publisher Product Show” to accurately reflect the content of your program. I am sure that the several thousand like-minded people in Australia who are my colleagues, peers or customers would agree that the rigorous exclusion of poetry from your program, as well as the extreme difficulty an independent publisher has in having their books discussed on your program, means that the current program title “The Book Show” is misleading, implying as it does that all books are given equal consideration.

Poetry is a vital part of our literary culture, yet your program, as with most of the mainstream media, does not even pay lip-service to this important literary art-form. If changing the name of your program is more difficult than merely changing the content to include poetry, I’d be happy to talk to you about how you might go about this.

Yours sincerely,

David Musgrave


Puncher & Wattmann

P.S. You may want to read my blog about this subject.

And if that wasn’t tart enough, here’s his Blog entry. The middle bit reads thusly:

Poetry is an important part of the press, but not the only part – we’re publishing more literary fiction than ever, and in early 2014 we will be releasing the novels Out of Print by Julian Croft and Slush-Pile by Ian Shadwell. A small but growing press like Puncher & Wattmann has to be prepared for the long haul, and to build its readership slowly but steadily. I’m always amazed at how popular poetry readings at the Sydney Writers festival are: every one that I have been involved in has been full to capacity, and I am sure that this is not because I happen to be part of it. The thing about poetry, and interesting writing in general, is that if you present it to a captive audience, they will find it very interesting and engage with it. It’s just that in this day and age it is very difficult for the average reader to seek out new and interesting work apart from the small number of titles which are pushed through the mainstream press, largely by multinational publishers. Even people with a lot of time on their hands, retirees who are interested in reading literature, often don’t know what is worth reading because reviews don’t necessarily help them (even if they do appear in the newspapers) when there might be, say ten books of poetry or literary fiction to choose from in any given month, and they might only really want to read one or two. That’s why small presses, those that hang around for decades, are extremely important for literary culture in this country.

So, take that, boring old establishment!

On another note, it’s interesting that after years of sneering at this blog for being a blog (“what the hells is a blog anyway?”) David has taken to writing his own. 🙂 So, I’ve added a link to it on the right.

Now. If only I could get him to return my calls…

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A Poem For A Lost Soul

It’s An Ode, So To Speak…

I don’t write poetry normally. As writing/scribbling/doodling goes, it’s not my strong suit.  I’ve written all of 2 poems in my life, …and this is my second.


Farewell to thee, the blossom of youth,
Errant of soul, fragrant of flowers,
Sheveled, feckful, innocuous, couth,
gainly and gaumy; righteous upon the hour.
Thy kingdom cleansed of signs of hell
thine yacht has sailed to the Isle of Id
Look not back to thy towering success
’tis but a dream of deeds gone unbid
When ultimately thine remembrance comes,
Recall then thou were’st once young, dumb,
and full of cum.

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‘Hammer of the Gods’ (2013)

Vikings Galore

…not to be confused with the movie of the same name from 2009.

It seems Vikings are the flavour of the year. There’s a TV series featuring Vikings, and there’s an exhibition coming out of Sweden to the National Maritime Museum. I tend to lap up anything about Vikings because I’m always hoping to see something like ‘Njal’s Saga’ or ‘Egil’s Saga’ on screen. It’s a hard genre to do and even when you do it well, it’s not like there’s a great audience out there of it; One of the best Viking movies I’ve seen is ‘The Thirteenth Warrior’ and that one didn’t exactly set the box office alight.

This one is a little different because it ambles in to the narrative with the sensibility of a Heavy Metal album cover (up to and including he title which is also the title of one of the most scandalous accounts of the career of Led Zeppelin).  As such, the milieu and sensibility are not exactly as one would expect arising from the old sagas. But then, we know how those attempts go and they’re never really exciting screen fodder.

Clive Standen who is in the TV series of ‘Vikings’ playing second banana Rollo to Ragnar in that series is also in this series playing second banana to Steinar in this film.

So, here’s the obligatory spoiler alert!

What’s Good About It

While this is a Viking movie, the best thing about it is the third act. The journey the young Viking prince Steinar takes into the heart of darkness of England leads him to a cave full of savages – every bit as savage as those in ‘The Thirteenth Warrior’, but then it turns out we’re actually in the last section of ‘Apocalypse Now’ re-imagined. The confrontation and fight that takes place between his brother is the fight Willard should’ve had with Kurtz at the climax of ‘Apocalypse Now’.

To backtrack to ‘Apocalypse Now’, Marlon Brando turned up to set in the Philippines overweight and underdone, neither having read the script nor the book ‘Heart of Darkness’. This account is recorded in ‘Hearts of Darkness’, the documentary about the making of ‘Apocalypse Now’, and in the end Francis Ford Coppola sort of fudged the climactic fight by doing some weird montage to explain what happens in a metaphorical way than actually have Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando do a proper fight scene. When you think about, it wouldn’t have been too good given the respective actors’ talents.

So what’s surprising about this film is that in the third act, you suddenly find yourself watching exactly that same scenario – of having traveled up the metaphorical river in to darkness, to arrive at the land of the savages run by the best man from your civilisation. this layering adds so much more meaning to the fight and denouement of the film. They even found an actor that looks a little like Marlon Brando c.1978 to play Hakan. It’s absolutely wild and riveting – but only if you’ve watched ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ever wondered what the hell the bull-slaughter-scene is all about.

What’s Bad About It

It’s an uneven film with fairly obtuse sort of presentation of the story. You’re never sure about which bits of exposition is important as the characters set across land in search of Hakan the Ferocious. Also, the film starts off with such a goofy mimesis with the Heavy Metal font, you sort of expect it to not be a terribly profound film, except of course you find yourself in ‘Heart of Darkness’ in the third act.

What’s Interesting About It

This is a hard one to sell. The film spends a lot of time in different sorts of mimesis that you never really settle in to the narrative flow. I’ve been thinking about this and I suspect it is because the film is trying to obscure its tracks as it takes you up the metaphorical river in to the heart of darkness. Consider that in the final chapter of  Joseph Conrad’s novel, Conrad discusses the likelihood of Britain as having been that savage land in Roman times,where a Roman contingent of adventurers would have traveled up the Thames. In one sense, this movie is about that, but without the Romans.

The motif has been big in cinema in the last few years. ‘King Arthur’ starring Clive Owen posited the original King Arthur as a Roman Briton in the dying days of the Roman Empire; Both ‘Centurion’ and ‘Eagle of the Ninth’ sent the Romans into the maws of the savage Picts with the same undertones of England being the land of darkness.

The England of ‘Hammer of the Gods’ is a strange place. It certainly goes out of its way to show an alienating landscape.

Taboos And Abjection

The dawning realisation in the cave for this film is particularly nauseating. The long lost brother and long lost mother turn out to be lovers. The incest at the core of the story is enough to make you mutter “motherfucker!” and you’d be right. Freud would have been so full of praise for this film for the way it essentially manages to not only go up the river into the heart of darkness, but thrust Oedipus into the mix and – *gasp* – it works! It’s like some mad genius wrote this thing.

It works because it takes you there gradually, dropping hints; so that when the realisation comes it comes with the full ferocity of a transgressed taboo. You have to say “well played!” Considering how goofy the film is at the beginning, by the time you’re in with the savages you feel like they got you completely.

I really can’t say whether this is a “good” film or not but if you’ve ever watched ‘Apocalypse Now’ and wondered what the hell that was about, or watched a performance of Oedipus and wondered what the hell the fuss was all about, then this film is sort of the de-polemicised regurgitation spelling out exactly what they’re about. In turn it’s a film that seems to come from the darkest recesses of our imagination, and for that it deserves a great deal of credit.

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‘On The Road’

Filming The Unfilmable

I used to love the work of Jack Kerouac. I read it when I was young enough to catch the flame but old enough to see the writing as a bit of a stunt -much in the same way as heavy metal guitar players are ‘stunt players’. It’s been years since I’ve read ‘On the Road’ and ‘Visions of Cody’ so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get with this film installment.  There have been quite a few attempts in film to catch the ‘Neal Jack and Me’ dynamic but none of them have come close to the raw, dynamic, pounding energy of the prose.

When I heard people were producing this film, I felt excited and elated as well as fearful. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m more sanguine. It couldn’t have been easy trying to make head or tail of a story that apparently has no structure. What the hell was Jack Kerouac on when he wrote all this stuff down? Of course Benzedrine and lots of it.

What’s Good About It

The bits on the road. The film takes a heck of a long time to get on the road, but when it does, it starts to look good. Some of the shooting of exteriors in this book is breathtaking – as it should be – while the production design remains steadfastly true.

The performances by the three main actors is passably good. Sam Riley as Sal Paradise is in some ways the best and the worst. Garrett Hedlund’s Dean Moriarty is an exhaustive (and exhausting to watch) study of the mythic character, drawing deep on both internal descriptions but also probably bits gleaned from Neal Cassady’s life. If Garrett Hedlund manages to summon the ghost of Neal Cassady, then Sam Riley utterly fails to evoke Jack Kerouac, but that’s not a problem because because it’s meant to be the fictional Sal and not ‘Zagg’ himself.

Kristen Stewart plays an excellent poly-andrously-erotic teen-wife Mary Lou. I was actually quite surprised. While I’ve never seen a single one of the twilight movies, I am familiar with the ragging she gets on the internet. In this film at least she shows more than a little pulse and her wild ecstatic dance scene as well as the numerous sex scenes show she’s quite a gutsy actress.

Some beautiful cameos are in there too with Viggo Mortensen appearing as Bull Lee, Amy Adams as his wife, and Steve Buscemi as the gay driver.

What’s Bad About It

The bits that are incomprehensible unless you’ve read the book. I knew what was going on, but if you hadn’t read the book, how were you supposed to understand this thing?

The film also tries to cut to the moments that stick out in the book with minimal connection or explanation. It’s a hard film to assemble in your head. The backwards and forwards thing at the beginning hardly sets the scene and you never really get a grip on where things are going.

The film also lacks any kind of rhythm or sense of exhilaration that is in the book. Yes, the cars go fast, but there is no sense as to what this means. One of the hallmarks of Kerouac’s prose is the flow and sense of dynamism and speed. This film is more meditative, but stodgy. It makes Sal Paradise seem emotionally constipated.

What’s Interesting About It

I guess the most interesting thing about it is that it got made. I don’t know if I would have made some of these choices, but there is now a film of the book that defied being filmed for a good 60 years. When you consider Kerouac wanted to have Marlon Brando in it as Dean Moriarty way back in the mid 1950s and here we are now with Francis Ford Coppola having executive produced it in 2012, the making of this film is in of itself a bit of Americana and cinema history.

The film also reaches behind the book to drag into sight Jack Kerouac as opposed to ‘Sal Paradise’ and Neal Cassady instead of ‘Dean Moriarty’, William Burroughs instead of ‘Old Bull Lee’. Because we know so much about these figures, the film actually has a weird docudrama edge to it.

Ahead Of Their Time

I’m really struck by how far ahead the Beat generation were in their tolerance and acceptance. Certainly the post-War relief resembles the Paris-between-the-wars Euphroia and Berlin-between-the-wars decadence all rolled into one, and is very understandable. But when you consider the range of things the Beats tried and wrote about, it becomes an astounding list.

The homosexuality text that seemed so peculiar in their oeuvre is not longer odd-looking today when most people are okay with the notion of ay marriage. The rest of society has had to come a long way to accept homosexuality but there it is in the writing of the Beats. The drug taking and brazen permissiveness has sort of drifted into the mainstream of our society to the point that we don’t bat an eyelid at once taboo topics as infidelity, divorce, prostitution, porn and drug abuse. In the very small time frame in the post WWII decade, the Beats documented all these potentialities that later got explored and expanded greatly in the cultural landscape. That, is impressive with hindsight; and as somebody who was reading this stuff in the 1980s, I can’t tell you how astounded I am that their vision of how things could be, has come true. It’s amazing that the cultural distance the Beats traveled in that decade is the equivalent of the 60years since that the mainstream has traveled.

Cars And Sexuality

Maybe the Beat Generation really were the first generation to have a threesome in a speeding car. It’s hard to tell. But Dean/Neal presages a kind of American youth that explodes with Elvis Presley and Rock’n’Roll music. He is merely ahead of his time, as is Jack Kerouac who had the good sense to write it all down. There is a feeling that Rockabilly is around the corner in the country towns in the late 1940s, all ready to explode across the airwaves.

There is also something in Neal/Dean that links right into the space of ‘American Graffiti’ as well as ‘American Gothic’. The trashiness of the character is never too far away, and yet there is something of an archetype of American masculine sexuality. It’s fast, hard, enduring and very confused. The car and driving cars then becomes a kind of expression of this fast, hard, enduring and driven nature.

Kirsten Dunst’s Camille offers a kind of counterpoint as she embraces an early brand of feminism that is about to explode in Berkely, only so many years in the future. It’s not explicit, but the text is there. She recognises Dean and cars and sex are interrelated at a very deep level that he cannot begin to articulate,let alone disentangle.  Camille, importantly, never gets in the car unlike Kristen Stewart’s Mary Lou.

Neal Cassady, The Mythmaker

If anything is interesting, it is the shadow Neal Cassady casts over not only this film but a lot of American culture. Consider for a moment that Dean Moriarty isn’t the only fictional alter ego of Cassady. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg seemingly couldn’t stop writing about Cassady. More interestingly, Cassady was the model for Randle Patrick McMurphy, the main character of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ by ken Kesey. Once you realise that, then you realise the weirdness and wildness portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the film adaptation is not some generalised bum, but a very particular portrait of a very particular persona.

Hunter S. Thompson writes about Cassady in his Hells’ Angels book, and Tom Wolfe writes about his ‘Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’. Bands have written references to him, from the Grateful Dead and Doobie Brothers  and John Schofield and Tom Waits through to King Crimson’s glorious ‘Neal Jack and Me’. Certainly with ‘Neal Jack and Me’, we’re struck by the juxtaposition of the mania and boredom, the insane longing and sense of loneliness, even in the context of a threesome. All of this comes as a legacy of Neal Cassady.

He wasn’t some kind of run of the mill white trash anomaly. He was the kind of persona that has found its way into fiction and songs over and over again, like some buccaneer or a highwayman. He was the cultural enfant terrible that broke through from the other side when class walls in America were temporarily brought down by two world wars.

Jack Kerouac, Lonesome Traveler

This film makes out that it was Dean Moriarty who came long and lit the fuse to Sal Paradise’s wanderlust. The real life Kerouac was already well traveled by the time he ran into Cassady. He has written about his stint in the merchant marine as well as how he got a mental health discharge from the navy during World War II. The film also goes some ways towards trying to describe Sal Paradise as being in a writers block. From what we can glean from accounts and the volume of his manuscript, Kerouac was probably more prone to a kind of graphomania and logorrhea than writers’ block.

There is the famous quip by Truman Capote who, having heard a description of Kerouac’s work methods said, “But Jack, that’s not writing. That’s typing.”

As a guy who bangs out blog entries here, I can tell you Capote’s putdown hurts even me.

The uncomfortable tension in the film is partly due to the fact that the film makers consciously separate out Sal Paradise as a character from the entire Kerouac legacy, and yet, when Sal sits down to write towards the end, he does exactly as Kerouac did and types on to a massive scroll of paper. Kerouac himself can’t help but peep through from the back of the diagesis.

The Lacunae Of Jazz

The intersection of the Beats and Jazz is also noteworthy – because the people Kerouac and co. were listening to in New York essentially forms the outline of Bebop. Bebop’s fragile little moment in history is where music was allowed to finally break free of traditional arrangements. The freedom to improvise against standard progressions evolved into a kind of extended harmonic exploration, that opens up possibilities. And the suddenly jazz is left behind by the commercial explosion of rock music.

The explosion of jazz music in the post war decade is perhaps symptomatic of a deeper malaise in America concerning race. America effectively went to war to free Europe – other white people – while black people stayed impoverished and deprived. The apparent re-structuring of the social order did not extend to the blacks and so their music – jazz music heads into a heightened expression of this alienation.

The emotional intensity of the jazz that is discussed and written of by the Beats echoes their attempt to break with traditional societal norms. What follows on from Jazz turned out to be a very different thing to what the promise might have been. The implicit understanding of these kinds of cultural manoeuvres informs the writing of Kerouac greatly. We get snippets of this idea when Sal’s voice over is backed up by Bebop music. It frames up the era of these people, but it also gives an outline to the over all cultural thought. On that level, the film isn’t too bad.

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Quick Shot 01/Oct/2012

Mere Anarchy

I’m reading Woody Allen’s 2007 book ‘Mere Anarchy’. It’s mostly numb chuckles except page 42 where there is a tour de force of comedy writing.  The set up is that the narrator Mealworm is contacted by a Hollywood type to write a ‘novelizaion’ (I leave that ‘z’ in there with all its Americanism). After much self rationalisation that it is a worthy task ,and that he could ennoble the genre, Mealworm embarks on a sample passage.

The style he parodies is ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. The movie he is given, is ‘The Three Stooges’. The ensuing passage is priceless.

Oakville Kansas, lies on a particularly desolate stretch across the central plains. … What’s left of it the area where farms once dotted the landscape is arid space now. At one time corn and wheat provided thriving livelihoods before agricultural subsidies had the opposite effect of enhancing prosperity.

The dilapidated Ford pulled up before a deserted farm house and three men emerged. Calmly and for no apparent reason the dark haired man took the nose of the bald man in his right hand and slowly twisted in a long counterclockwise circle.

And so the passage goes for a full page of gut-busting funniness, describing a typical Three Stooges sequence with the kind of high-toned literariness usually pitched for the high-brow-ed.

Living The Irony, Feeling The Irony

The Sydney Swans won a very Victorian championship. The Melbourne Storm won a very Sydney championship. The feeling on the Sydney streets at least are pretty surreal.

Speaking of football codes and surreal, there’s good old Alan Jones!

Alan Jones, And Dying Of Shame

There’s probably a longer note to be written about Freedom of Speech, but Annabel Crabbe’s done a good job of it today in the SMH. Alan Jones apologised for his rather gauche remarks about the late father of the PM.

He said the same kind of “black-humoured comments'” were similar to those made in the trenches of Gallipoli.

The radio host said he had to “man up” and admit he “got it wrong” for adding to the hurt of a grieving daughter by making the comments during a 58-minute speech at a Sydney University Liberal Club President’s dinner at the Rocks.

“There are days when you just have to concede and man up and say ‘you got it wrong,'” Mr Jones told reporters at 2GB headquarters this morning.

“And on this instance these are remarks which I should not have repeated. It was wrong to offer any impression that I might seem to diminish the grief that a daughter would feel for her father. I was taught by my father that if you are going to eat crow you should eat it while it’s hot and therefore I felt this matter should be addressed today.”

Notice how he invokes Gallipoli. Good heavens Mr. Jones, certainly you know no shame, for truly those men did not die of shame, but bullets in another time in another war in another place in the middle east. To invoke them in an apology to the Prime Minster after having made the worst-of-taste remarks shamelessly seems a bit ironic given the original tasteless remark about shame and death.

It’s a good thing he “manned up” and apologised as he did. Mr. Jones even invoked his father, saying his father taught him to eat humble pie while it was still warm. The gag I would have expected was that it was his father who as spinning in his grave for shame that his son would insult the Prime Minster in a most tasteless manner.

He then went on to say the horrible on-line people had said they wished his cancer would return and kill him and so, even he is a victim in all of this. Like… how? I’m inclined to say he brought the trolls upon himself and really, the vitriol was largely in proportion to the vitriol he’s been spreading across the air waves from his Bully pulpit microphone.

Still, an apology is an apology, no matter how qualified and caveat-ed. He is fortunate the Prime Minster is not Chinese or Korean, for we know no apology is sincere enough for them 🙂

Which brings me to this next bit…

Senkaku Island Waterfight

You gotta laugh. No, really, you do. The trouble in Senkaku Islands stems from China’s loss of face and actually losing a war with japan in 1895. it’s trying to say Japan shouldn’t have those islands – but that is at least 3 dynastic regimes ago, dating back to the Dowager Empress and the last Emperor. The argument from the People’s Republic of China, the one that deposed the Republic of China and the KMT (who deposed the Ching/Qing Dynasty) is that it belongs to them because it used to be China a long time ago – and even these claims are pretty tenuous.

Well, a lot of things used to be Monoglia as well, but you don’t see politicians in Ulan Bator demand that borders be returned to the best days of Genghis Khan. And, as with all these things, who cries for the Carthage and the Phoenicians?

As far as the USA is concerned, the Senkakus are part of the Okinawan archipelago and they’ve told the Chinese government that this is their understanding; which means if the Chinese try to occupy them it will invoke the US Japan Security Treaty. China has argued vociferously that it shouldn’t but, it’s really not for them to decide.

The protests in the wake of Japan ‘nationalising’ the Senkakus has been both elaborate, orchestrated and very vocal.  The ugly back story is that China is going to undergo one of its interesting Communist Party succession plans this month, and they’re trying to divert their population’s animosity to Japan (because let’s face it, it’s easy for them to keep lying). Japan for its part, nationalised it because if they didn’t, the chief right winger in residence and Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara was going to buy it for the City of Tokyo and administer it as Tokyo administers a whole bunch of small archipelagos in the Pacific. The subtext there is that Ishihara was going to build structures on the Senkakus like, a jetty and a lighthouse; and Prime Minster Noda forestalled those active plans by nationalising the islands with the full intent of doing nothing in particular with them.

Not that they understand these subtleties over in Beijing or … Taipei. Taiwan has it’s own election coming up; and it is helping the incumbent to look tough. So they sent a patrol boat out to the Senkakus and this led to a waterfight between Japanese and Taiwanese patrol boats. It’s laughable, really.





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