Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tim Minchin's "Woody Allen Jesus" song axed from Christmas show

One thing that has long fascinated me about the denizens of Artsville is how they put so much effort into provoking Christians, then get all upset when they actually succeed.

The latest example of this strange phenomenon involves Tim Minchin. The Aussie entertainer penned a song mocking Christianity and recorded it for Jonathon Ross's Christmas show. But the performance has been pulled, ostensibly because it didn't fit editorially. But it's pretty clear that's been done out of fear of offending God botherers.

Sure, it must be extremely annoying to be asked to create and perform something specifically for a show only to see it removed from the final broadcast. But what did he expect? And why did ITV commission it in the first place? Hell, it was for a Christmas special, fergawdsake! Surely they knew that if they got Minchin to do a song it wouldn't be your usual Chrissy goo about "chestnuts roasting on open fires" and "folks dressed up like Eskimos".

Of course, arty types all over the Western world will be arcing up over this act of censorship. But when it comes to far worse acts by members of another religion, the silence is deafening. If you provoke members of the Religion of Peace, people die. Surely that's more disturbing and sinister, isn't it? 

Minchin has never mocked Mohammed in the way that he did Jesus in this song. And with good reason. If he had, he could be looking over his shoulder for years to come.

It's one thing to have some TV producer wuss out of televising your spot so you have to whop it on Youtube instead. But that's much less unpleasant than being attacked in your own home by an axe-wielding zealot, isn't it? Because that's what happened to Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had the temerity to draw a cartoon of Mohammed

And still on the subject of thin-skinned religious types: Tom Cruise was also a guest on the show. Imagine if Minchin had done a song taking the piss out of Scientology? I doubt that would have even been considered in the first place, let alone commissioned. 

Still, at least Scientologists just sue you. They don't try to kill you ...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spicks and Speck-tacular success shows power of the ABC

You are probably aware of the light entertainment "comedy" show Spicks and Specks. I have only watched the music trivia program a couple of times myself. It was just so lame, so puerile, so ABC I couldn't last more than a couple of minutes. Like so many of that organization's projects, it had a touch of Play School about it. You know, "there are people with games and stories to tell ...".

Amazingly, it's been one of their ABC's most popular shows for yonks. It's finally come to a close after several years and the cast are touring a live version of it as a kind of long, loving goodbye to all the fans.

I noticed a huge billboard for this production in Northbridge recently and that's what prompted this post. See, I was gobsmacked that there would be such a big, live production resulting from that TV show. Apart from the content being so excruciatingly piss-weak the format itself seems so anti-theatrical.

I mean, it's amazing that people would happily watch smug, witless knobs (badly) performing stupid music-themed parlour games on television, and for free. But how retarded must they be to actually pay to see this kind of crap live?

Answer: very. There seem to be an awful lot of people like this out there, too, if this quote from the show's official website is any guide:

Back in 2007 Adam, Alan and Myf promised Australia that they would tour the greatest ever stage show loosely based on a music trivia show. The Spicks and Speck-tacular was born, and played to more than 200,000 fans…

This tour has only just started, so it's hard to know how well it's been selling. But it's reasonable to assume it's been getting full houses.

And what does this say about our culture -- apart from the obvious fact that a depressingly high number of adult Australians are actually mental infants? Well, it reveals the vast power and reach of the national broadcaster.

ABC management gave this silly project the green light in the first place, which is astonishing itself. (This couldn't have been the best project in its category to choose from, surely?) But not only did they choose it, they stayed with it until it attracted a small but loyal audience.

Therefore deemed a "success" by the higher-ups it just kept going on and on. Over the years it appears to have got the attention, and won the affection, of every pop music obsessed simpleton in the country. That demographic constitutes the nichiest of niche markets, of course. But in a country of 22 million, it still adds up to a helluva lot of people -- people who are happy to hand over real money to see their slightly less cretinous idols make fools of themselves right there in front of them.

Basically, free of commercial constraints, and with lots of taxpayers' money keeping it afloat, the show got a leg up into the marketplace. And now it has become what seems very likely to be a profitable venture in its own right. Which just goes to show that crap subsidized by the state can actually become commercially successful crap as a result.

Sure, we knew that already ... Still, wouldn't it be great if the ABC got behind stuff that's original, creative and, you know, good instead? Just think how much more interesting our popular culture would be then.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Queen, punk rock and New Musical Express

Watching ABC2 earlier in the week I saw the first part of a fascinating two-part documentary series about the rock band Queen called Queen: Days of Our Lives.

Being in my late forties now, of course I recognized all their hits. Way back when they were at the height of their fame I certainly liked their songs, as so many people did. But I didn't see them as anything special. I thought they were much like all other rock bands -- a bunch of overrated, preening egomaniacs, basically. Freddie Mercury in particular struck me as a bit of a tool.

I'm a lot older now, and -- I hope -- a bit wiser. So as I watched the doco I saw the band completely afresh. I have no musical ability, and very little knowledge of it, but I could finally understand just how brilliant these guys really were. They were truly unique and way ahead of everyone else in the field.

They were all exceptionally talented in their own way. But Freddie Mercury was particularly gifted. Not only did he have an incredible voice -- one now widely viewed as being one of the finest rock voices ever -- he also penned many of their best songs.

The doco was full of interesting anecdotes and reminiscences. One of the things that came through strongly was how the British music press of the day really detested the band. One well known illustration of this loathing was when NME interviewed Freddie Mercury and ran it with the headline: "Is this man a prat?" The band became so sick and tired of the constant sneering from vicious rock hacks that they gave up trying to please them entirely.

I think it's fair to say that the music press in Britain at the time -- like the local arts commentariat of today -- were a pretty bolshie bunch. So it's not surprising that they were deeply hostile to the flashy, witty quartet that was Queen.

It also makes sense that the music press gave a lot of positive coverage to punk music, and clearly had much to do with its rise. (NME in particular was closely associated with it, apparently.) After all, punk was clearly more an expression of inchoate political rage than an actual musical genre in its own right. Just listen to that crap and you'll know what I mean. (In a way it was a bit like today's stupid Occupy Movement, just a lot louder and snarlier -- albeit undeniably more creative as well.)

As is so often the case, the critics of the day were completely and utterly wrong. Not only did Queen sell squillions of records all over the globe at the time, many of today's musical pundits now rightly see them as a truly great rock band who made a huge and enduring contribution to popular culture.

The second part of Queen: Days of Our Lives is on Wednesday night next week. Definitely worth watching, IMO.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Silence on Peter Roebuck reminiscent of Hey Dad! scandal

The scandalous Andrew Landeryou is wasting no time in getting stuck into the ABC and Fairfax over the life and crimes of Peter Roebuck. He says management must have known about the commentator's creepy and destructive behaviour for a long time yet they did nothing about it.

Landeryou is well known for, er, going in hard on issues. Pointing the finger at Roebuck's employers, he says

The public ought expect that they hold to the same standards they demand of others in this situation, that they conduct an urgent inquiry into the extent of their employee’s wrongdoing and immediately offer help, compassion and compensation to victims of Peter Roebuck’s sexual and physical attacks and while they’re at it offer a belated apology and end to the stonewalling that has so far characterised their shameful behaviour.

Maybe things aren't as cut and dried as he makes out. Still, I think he's got a point.

And the sad, sordid situation reminds me of another high profile media scandal. This one involved actor Robert Hughes of Hey Dad! fame. Last year Sarah Monahan, who played the daughter Jenny in the hugely popular eighties sitcom, claimed that Hughes molested her. Similar allegations were made by others, and actor Ben Oxenbould claimed he witnessed a disturbing incident that he reported to the show's executive producer. Yet at the time nothing was done about it.

To my knowledge the story hasn't gone much further than that. It's still at the "he said, they said" stage, and may well be the last we've heard of it. Since the issue hasn't gone to trial Hughes is entitled to a presumption of innocence, of course.

Still, if the accusations are dinkum, many powerful people who knew of them must have turned a blind eye. That's unedifying, to say the least. 

And I am certain there are a helluva lot of powerful who did know about these claims. That's because when I was a lowly actor and comic in Melbourne in the early nineties I heard such rumours myself!

I didn't believe them, though. I thought the whole story was a sick joke; just the kind of baseless suttlebutt that would arise from a petty, bitchy culture like Melbourne's performing arts scene.

But as we've now learned they may well have been true after all. The lack of any serious investigation into the claims at the time says a lot about arts world culture, none of it good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peter Roebuck the latest "tortured artist" to die tragically

I haven't the slightest interest in cricket so I know very little about Peter Roebuck. To be honest, I had never even read any of his columns. (I had heard of him, though, and had a vague idea that he was respected, eccentric and florid.)

Maybe Roebuck was a flawed genius, as so many people have been saying. But frankly I think that all this fruity eulogizing is just another example of the tortured artist myth, this time applied to sport. Ian Fuge called him "the bard of summer" of all things. And have a read of this turgid piece of purple prose from Greg Baum:

He was social in cricket hours, solitary out of them. When the cricket caravaners headed out at night, mostly he would go to a cafe by himself, sit in a corner and read a book. He had the Pimpernel's ability to absent himself from a party suddenly without anyone seeing him leave.

He was a loyal friend who felt the pain of others as acutely as only the highly intelligent do. But he did not express empathy easily. He was flawed; of course he was. He fought to reconcile himself to his flaws, and it was the central drama of his life. He was tormented as only genius can be. The circumstances of his death attest to it.

Sorry, but that's just silly. The bloke was a misfit who wrote insightfully about cricket. End of story.

What's alarming about that piece (and many others singing Roebuck's praises) is that it airbrushes over the bloke's obvious dark side. While it remains to be seen whether the specific allegations that led to his death were true, there's no denying he had form on this kind of behaviour. In 1999 he pled guilty to 3 charges of common assault.

I suspect that the creepy reverence the bloke is now getting is not just to do with his career as a commentator. It's also due in part to his achievements as a champion cricket player in his youth. 

It all makes sense. Sport -- like singing, acting and other performing arts -- is entertainment, after all. So if you can give the audience a thrill with your deft skill with bat and ball they'll forgive you for a hell of a lot -- and for a very long time as well. 

Not only that; they'll even go out of their way to link -- and even attribute -- your sporting prowess to the violence in your soul. It's a very neat form of self-deception, actually. It enables the fan to maintain his admiration for someone who often doesn't deserve it.

Hell, there are lots of brilliant sportsmen who would never beat a teenager with a cane, and many excellent commentators who would never throw themselves out of a window if the going got tough. That's more than sufficient proof of the falsity of this tortured (sporting) artist myth, isn't it?

Or am I being too harsh? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hamster Wheel's relentless, laugh-killing, left-wing bias

Watched The Hamster Wheel again last night. I have watched it this week and last because I want to work out exactly why the Chaser team's work is so consistently awful. They just seem to have a reverse Midas touch when it comes to comedy.

I can sit there watching their sketches and not crack a chuckle for ten minutes flat. As I wrote before the political subtext is not the sole cause for the show's lameness. Still, its relentless, right-on bias is a big part of what makes it so cringeworthy. (There are other, er, qualities contributing to this effect. But I'll just write about the ideological subtext for now.)

Predictably, they go in hard and nasty at the commercial media, but avoid mocking the ABC. And if they do include the national broadcaster as a subject in sketches, it's all really chummy and self-referential. For example last night they had a tragically unfunny segment utilizing some of Australia's most well known TV journos who were past or present employees of the ABC. It was uni review level bathos that had them all gushing about the classic work on the Zoot Review.

So even when they're trying to be balanced the Chaser boys reveal their prejudice. Take last week's episode in which they did a skit about the absurdly high number of terribly bad things that can be caused by climate change. It fell short of questioning the warmist dogma of course -- that would have been a big no-no. It was more of a jibe at media sensationalism. But even that missed its mark because the hacks who've been splashing these terrifying prognostications across the font pages have been citing scientists -- many of whom have clearly been playing politics themselves while purporting to remain objective.

As well as missing the real target the sketch was several years out of date. I can recall bloggers remarking on the sheer number of catastrophic consequences linked to climate change from about the middle of last decade. (Here's one such list. Clearly, the project has been going for quite some time.)

Another example from last night: The Hamster Wheel had a sketch about News Ltd's sledging of the Greens, as if the party were a bunch of cute wittle pixies who were being outrageously monstered by the "hate media". Bob Brown himself could have written it.

Again, they tried to show "balance". Also in the show was a piss-take of Robert Manne's domination of The Monthly. But this just mocked Manne's obvious pomposity. There was no condemnation of the nanny-statist perspective that pervades the magazine itself.

Actually, I don't know why they bother with these feeble attempts at fairness. But they've been trying it on for years. (The title of the Chaser team's old show comes to mind here -- it was not a "war on everything", just some things.)

If they just ditched this pretence then they'd still be about as funny as cot death. But at least they'd be genuine. And you'd have to give them a few cool points for that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Charlie Hebdo firebombing and left-wing satire

Clearly things are coming to a head in France when it comes to Muslim immigration. Not only has the government decided to ban the burqa, but some crazed fundamentalists have just firebombed the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo for mocking the Prophet.

Of course we shouldn't be surprised at the reaction. Only a few years ago half the Muslim world was in uproar and many people died because of a few crappy cartoons. But what's interesting is that Charlie Hebdo is actually a left-wing newspaper. Surely that's a sign of just how fractured things are over there.

Here's a pithy description of the paper's underlying attitude from the Beeb:

The tradition combines left-wing radicalism with a provocative scurrility that often borders on the obscene.

That's a pretty good description of a lot of Australian satire, too. But I suspect that the French version is also often witty and funny -- two qualities that most such Aussie mockery lacks.

That begs the question: If lefties are openly mocking Islam in Europe, do you think it will start here? Can you imagine the Chaser boys taking the piss out of the Prophet?

Somehow I can't see it happening. It's about as likely as them doing a sketch about Julia Gillard and her former lover.

And just on that issue of provocation, and how different cultures react to it: Interesting that a few jokes can anger Islamists to the point where they're burning stuff down. Yet the mostly left-wing Occupy movement has to work really, really hard for weeks on end on a global scale to annoy democratically elected Western governments into reacting to it.

And what do these states do? Well, they basically just shift the human flotsam that has been clogging -- and stinking -- up the city centres. No firebombings there, as far as I can tell ...

Yet those same lefties are convinced that this Western social system is more destructive and unjust than the Islamist one. You'd think their tiny minds would just explode with the force of such obvious nonsense.

But nup. Doesn't seem to bother them at all. Somehow they manage never to think long and hard enough about the issue to see the idiocy of their position.

While I find their determination to deny the bleeding obvious depressing, I do have to admit to being kind of impressed by the intensity of it all the same. I mean, hell, it must take so much energy.

Hmm. Maybe that's why they're so damn shiftless and lazy?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lord Christopher Monckton on The Hamster Wheel

Watched the Hamster Wheel last night. It has excellent production values, and clearly a lot of money has been spent on it. But it's just dreadful. The Chaser boys just seem to have a knack for killing every comedy idea they have stone dead.

It's not just that they're drearily leftist. There are lots of shows written and performed by liberals in the US for example that are still very funny. That's because they have genuine wit and humanity in what they do, and the performers are often skillful, particularly when it comes to characterization. But the Chaser boys don't have any of that. The vast majority of their work that I've seen is mean-spirited in its intention and clumsy in its execution. 

But just on that aspect of PC: They did a segment attacking Lord Monckton that said a lot about where they -- and for that matter the whole warmist crowd -- are at the moment. The "gag" was that Monckton was Sasha Baron Cohen's latest comedy character. They managed to get him to do an interview, clearly after misrepresenting themselves. He twigged after a while and told the interviewer to get out. It was meant to make him look stupid, but just showed what a nasty, witless exercize it was.

And it certainly ended up making the comics involved look far more pompous and silly than Monckton himself. If you're going to try and damage someone's intellectual credibility through mockery (clearly what they were intending to do with the sketch) then you should have your own facts right. But the script was sorely lacking in this regard.

For example there's a bit where Shaun Micallef (who, unlike the Chaser boys, is actually capable of being genuinely witty and funny) guffaws loudly at Monckton's description of the Hitler Youth as green and left-wing -- as if it's the most absurd and ridiculous claim imaginable. But Monckton's description is quite accurate. Nazism was national socialism, after all. It was a totalitarian, collectivist ideology. And it's a well established fact that Hitler and his party were big time nature lovers with much support from the greens of the day.

Another own goal was the decision to invoke Sacha Baron Cohen. Not only did they use him as an ingredient in the alleged gag, they also employed his favoured tactic of deceiving the interviewee. In that sense it was something of an homage to him. But Baron Cohen is a master of the hoax and prank comedy genre that the Chaser boys do so poorly. He stays in character brilliantly and extracts real humour out of what he's doing. But Craig Reucassel's lame effort, delivered in his usual smugly self conscious and unimaginative way, just served as a reminder of how second rate he and his fellow pranksters actually are.

But these were side issues. The most revealing thing was that the sketch didn't address the issue of climate change at all. They just used the same old mud that warmists routinely hurl at their nemesis, such as the angle that he is not a true Lord -- something that was effectively rebutted by Monckton himself showing his passport. So, there was yet another own goal there.

These warmist "satirists" now all know they've lost the argument. But they hate him all the same. In fact they hate him even more because he's trounced them so comprehensively on the issue itself. So they've decided they're just going to make fun of his appearance and mannerisms instead. But they can't even do that very well.

Truly desperate, mean-spirited stuff. And not remotely funny (unless you're a retarded leftie bong suckler, of course). 

The segment is around the five and half minute mark if you want to have a look.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Angry Anderson's fascinating political evolution

A lot of people are having a good laugh about the fact that Angry Anderson is keen to get into politics and run for the Nationals. The idea appears kind of comical, as well as unlikely. And it does seem like it'll be a real uphill battle for him if he does get a shot at a seat. If he was as much of a "bad boy" as his rock persona suggests, then his foes will have quite a bit of mud to hurl in his direction.

But you never know, if he does run, this might not end up doing him that much harm -- even in the context of him representing the Nats. Rock stars are expected to behave like that, after all. Hell, a "colourful past" might even work in his favour a little.

In any case, the fact that Anderson is making serious plans to become a politician (and they are being taken seriously by the powers that be) is certainly a sign of the times. I mean, here's an iconic bogan who was about as anti-establishment as you could get in his youth. Also, he was in the music industry, which as we all know is chockas with sneering lefties and preening greenie fops and tossers.

Sure, we know that most people become more conservative as they get older. And rock stars in particular do tend to mellow if they do actually make it to middle age and beyond. Even those who stay left do tend to head towards the centre. Take Peter Garrett, for example. (Although he is quite unusual in some aspects and has pulled off a remarkable double. He's now twice as annoying after becoming half as extreme politically. Considering what a pompous tool he was to start with, that's quite an impressive achievement.)

But back to Angry: His gravitation towards the Nats is remarkable not just because of his socially rebellious persona -- there was actually a specifically green aspect to it as well. Although he was mostly into heavy metal he did have a brief fling with what could be loosely described as tree (or rather sea) huggery. It came in the form of a memorable song about the joy of cetaceans, shown below. 

So, when it comes to environmentalism, Angry's been there, sung that, waaay before it was fashionable. The more zealous pro-carbon tax musos should ponder his surprising journey and have a little think about how they may end up seeing things two decades hence. Could be very scary for them, I think.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Perth art busker reveals the injustice of the arts world

A couple of days ago I was in the Perth CBD and I saw this art busker in the Murray Street Mall. As you can see he had attracted a respectable little crowd. People were impressed with his creation and looked on with genuine interest as he worked. You can't see from this shot but the plastic containers he'd left out for donations had more than a little change in them.

Of course the piece was quite straightforward and representational. It was also clearly a copy, since the original was in a book before him that he was constantly referring to. I'm no Robert Hughes but I'm sure some genuine, learned art critic would instantly be able to name it. (My guess is that it was a Caravaggio.) 

UPDATE: Guess wrong. It's The Raft of the Medusa, by Theodore Gericault.

There was something admirable and even touching about the fact that this guy was being painstakingly faithful in his rendering of this beautiful and striking work. And there was no doubt that he'd been at it for ages.

I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that even though it was based on a masterpiece, the copy itself was not one. It seemed to be more of an exercize for him to hone his skills, give the punters some enjoyment and make a few bob in the process. It was an impressive achievement nonetheless.

Just as he was not pretending to do anything other than what he was doing, people who stopped to look and give him some change were genuine in their reactions. They clearly liked what they saw, and were sincerely impressed by the guy's obvious skill and hard work. They willingly paid him what they thought his contribution to their stroll through the mall was worth.

Just a stone's throw from where I took these photos, over in Forrest Place, is another work of art in progress. It's what's been dubbed the "Angus Alien". It basically looks like a bunch of huge green sex toys glued together. And while there is definitely some design skill involved, it's quite a simple construction really. While it is mildly eye-catching in its own way, it could never truly be called beautiful. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an eyesore, but it sure as hell ain't eye candy either. The only thing that it has over what the art busker was doing is that it's an entirely original work.

It's pretty close to finished now but every time I've walked past it, there's never been a crowd assembled (aside from a few workmen). Yet that thing cost tax payers a million bucks -- a purchase that they were never consulted about.

There seems to be something very unjust about the fact that the bloke shown above -- who isn't a fraud and generously shows work that is undeniably skillful and aesthetically pleasing to passers by (who are so appreciative they willingly give him money) -- gets buggerall recognition from the art establishment for his efforts. Actually, they would probably sneer at him for being so traditional and "passe".

A well connected designer, on the other hand, gets his pretty ordinary creation realized to the tune of a million bucks basically because he knows what a bunch of brainless bureaucrats think is "so hot right now" and plays to their, er, sensibilities. And while this public art is purportedly meant "for the people", the people aren't buying it (er, even though they did).

Now, your typical po-mo plonker reading this will no doubt be rolling his eyes, appalled at my "philistinism" and lack of specific design knowledge. Well, I plead guilty as charged. I don't pretend to be a design expert. But even if the "Angus Alien" does have high critical value it must be remembered that it was built ostensibly to satisfy the public, not a bunch of pocket-pissing quackademics. I'm a member of the public, and I'm not impressed.

And this situation is by no means confined to the visual arts. You see it in theatre, film, literature, comedy, TV -- pretty much everywhere you look. In all of Australia's "creative" "industries" pseuds, tossers, wankers, mediocrities and flat out frauds get squillions of dollars thrown at them merely for being fashionable and politically correct. They routinely sneer at the interests, obsessions and values of the vast majority of Australians. And when they are commissioned to do work that is supposed to be primarily for the public's benefit and enjoyment, the public aren't that interested (usually because the work is crap). Most galling of all, the public ends up having to pay for this crap. 

There's something truly rotten in the state of Artsville, folks. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

At Home with Julia is more sitcom than satire

I didn't manage to catch the new ABC show At Home with Julia on the teev, unfortunately. But I did see the first part of it on YouTube. Some people absolutely loathed it. But I found it quite amusing and laughed out loud in a couple of parts.

It's been widely described as a satire, but from what I saw it's more of a sitcom. It's got a lot of Aussie dag humour a la Kath and Kim. It seems to be part of a tradition that includes The Castle, and can probably be traced all the way back to Dad and Dave. The humour seems to come mostly from having the amiably loopy lovebirds Julia and Tim being way out of place amid all the pomp, ceremony and of course politics of Canberra.

Many in the media are outraged that the show has delved into Gillard's private life, hurling tired old accusations of sexism, etc. They've said it disrespects the office of prime minister. But if anyone's guilty of that it's Gillard herself. Not only has she lied repeatedly to the people and totally trashed the Labor brand, she also knifed the previous elected leader in his first term when he was still way more popular than she is. If that's not "disrespecting the office" I don't know what is.

She also opened up her private life with Tim Mathieson to ridicule with that infamous 60 Minutes profile. That was one of the most bizarre and horrific pieces of TV I've ever seen. Seeing her cooing and giggling up a storm next to Mathieson, and trying to imply he was a "real bloke" after all by standing "respectfully" outside his shed, was too excruciating for words. Hell, she probably only did it because her creepy spin doctors told her to. If anything fit the definition of "life imitating satire" than that certainly did.

In any case, I got the impression from the clip of At Home with Julia I watched that the show's creators are drawing on Gillard's private life in an attempt to humanize her. It's this almost affectionate tone that makes it much less satirical, in my opinion.

From what I saw of the episode there were few specific references to actual political events such as Gillard's massive carbon tax lie to the people. It's as if the creators were assiduously avoiding them because they knew they would remind the viewers of what an unprincipled, backstabbing opportunist she really is.

And I'd say this humanization actually works. I can't stand the woman, yet I actually quite liked the Julia in the show. Amanda Bishop has captured her voice and mannerisms accurately and introduced some soul and humanity that seems not to be there in the original. That's quite an achievement as far as I'm concerned.

My suspicion that "helping" Gillard was actually part of the motivation behind At Home with Julia (apart from getting laughs, of course) was confirmed by an interview with the show's writer and executive producer Rick Kalowski (included below).

You'll see he's clearly miffed by the accusations of sexism and pretty much admits that they were trying to humanize her. He also reveals his political sympathies with a little line about Tony Abott, saying quite disdainfully that he wouldn't make a show about the Opposition Leader because he's not psychologically interesting enough.

He's clearly of the left. Like so many luvvies he thinks conservatives aren't actually people. If you were at an Artsville soiree, say, and seriously suggested an affectionate comedy about Abbott's love life (or that of Julie Bishop) to the assembled guests you would get lots of eye rolling and fake retching. And for the rest of the night they'd all avoid you and give you funny looks. 

Of course, the ABC will make fun of Abbott. He's sure to figure in At Home with Julia. But I'll bet the mockery will be more vicious -- and therefore more truly satirical -- than anything Gillard herself has received. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kate Grenville and Omar Musa on Q and A

One thing that you can be pretty sure of when watching Q and A is that if some arty types are on they will trot out hackneyed PC cant to an almost self-parodic degree. And they'll mindlessly, shamelessly support either Labor or the Greens. It's almost as predictable as the panel itself consisting of a majority of lefties.

Last Monday's episode, held in conjunction with the Melbourne Writers Festival, was no exception. Take author Kate Grenville. She made her political allegiance explicit almost immediately.

KATE GRENVILLE: ... Somebody has got to stand up for the Labor Party here, and at least they are talking about putting a carbon tax on the table ...

Well, yes the carbon tax is one clear difference between the two main parties. There are others, such as the fact that Labor are a hopelessly incompetent, venal rabble, led by a compulsive liar who doesn't believe in anything at all except power -- a woman who stabbed the elected leader in the back, then said she had nothing to do with it; a woman who is now abusing her power to try to stop the media from investigating aspects of her own personal history that are of legitimate public interest.

Well, of course Labor are just the kind of party who would try to inflict on the nation a non solution to a non problem after promising they'd do the exact opposite just before the election in order to steal it. And Kate brings her searing intellect to bear and thinks this is a good thing. Brilliant.

She also thinks this government is not illegitimate:  

KATE GRENVILLE: ... You talk about an illegitimate government, I mean, if the hung parliament had gone the other way, would you still think it was illegitimate?

Well, no. Because it wouldn't have come to power on a ginormous porkie.  

KATE GRENVILLE: I mean we do have an incredibly unstable and unsatisfactory political moment. But the fact is that however it was arrived at, we do have a government which is - which represents the electoral acts best bet at what the people wanted.

Except they clearly don't want it. And mainly because they were lied to ... about the carbon tax.

Later on, she dodges the Craig Thomson affair, alluding to Senator Mary Jo Fisher:

KATE GRENVILLE: Yeah, look, I don't know anything about the culture of unions except that, you know, grubbiness - as Don says, you know, grubbiness is part of the human condition, I'm afraid, on both sides. I mean, let us not forget that there is also a Liberal member of parliament at the moment who has been charged with shoplifting and assault.

Not only is Grenville using the same nasty, dishonest argument as Julia Gillard; she's using almost exactly the same words! Hell, it's almost as if one of Gillard's soulless spin doctors gave Grenville a briefing before the show.

How sad is that? She's a renowned writer, yet could have had her words scripted by a hollowman. That says as much about her as the whole literary scene, don't you think?

There was another, er, wordsmith on Q and A. He was a poet called Omar Musa. And he was to the left of Grenville.

You can always rely on these grungy young hepcats to really tell it like is, man! And he didn't disappoint, describing Tony Abbott as a "pugilistic wing nut". (They love using that word "pugilistic", don't they? It's one of their favourites along with "philistine". It makes them sound, like, really intellectual 'n' all.)

He loved it so much he used it again:  

OMAR MUSA: Yeah, definitely. I mean it's got to a point where it feels like it's a choice between the devil and deep blue sea, you know. You've got this pugilistic knob head on one side and then you've got this sort of gutless wonder on the other ...

But strangely, the "wing nut" was now a "knob head". Why that? Clearly Omar thinks Abbott so eeevil he's a shape shifter ...

Much like his fellow artist Grenville, Musa was mighty reluctant to condemn Craig Thomson:

OMAR MUSA: Look, I don't know. I'm going to presume he's innocent until he's proven guilty, firstly. But I mean, if it turns out that he's been abusing his power and using $100,000 on prostitutes, I mean... 

TONY JONES: I don't think anyone's suggesting that amount of money went on prostitutes... 

OMAR MUSA: Well, I mean, that would be some... 

TONY JONES: matter who spent it. That would be... 

OMAR MUSA: That would be some Olympian sort of shagging. Well, all right, if it turns out that he was, you know, abusing his power then he needs to be punished for that but it hasn't come - he hasn't been in a court of law so I can't really comment on that

I admire Musa's commitment to such noble principles. But strangely he calls Abbott a pugilistic shape shifting wing nut-knob head without trial.

Omar, you've forgotten his right to a presumption of innocence! That's a basic human right, remember. You can't deny him that, can you? As Tony Abbott might himself say, "I am not a pugilistic shape shifting wing nut-knob head. I am a human being!"

But nup. Omar thinks he's guilty as charged. And in a strange parallel with the Thomson affair, Abbott's perceived attitudes to prostitution inform this belief:

OMAR MUSA: Yeah, probably. I mean but, then again, this is a guy, it came out today, who said that he would be willing to sell his arse, you know, to get the support of the independents.

Omar was obviously trying to provoke conservatives here. But I fear he may have offended some of his fellow Greens voters as well. Surely it's a basic human right to sell your arse, isn't it? Clearly, it would be deeply homophobic and puritanical to say otherwise.

Intriguingly, he follows up with this:

OMAR MUSA: Yeah, but he'd even consider - I mean, that implies that he'd be willing to sell his soul as well.

Eh? He thinks people's souls are located in their arses.

Well, he certainly has a very creative mind. His poems must be wonderful.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Angus Alien sculpture in Forrest Place, Perth

A few days ago I read about a new sculpture that's being erected in the centre of Perth, in Forrest Place. It's been named the "Angus Alien" after the creator, James Angus.

It was chosen in a million dollar competition, apparently. And who forked out the cash? Well, being funded by the Department of Culture and the Arts, ultimately it looks like the long suffering Aussie taxpayer did, as usual.

So, are West Aussies getting value for money? Well, to be honest, I don't think so. See, I went and had a squizz late last week and I have to admit to being distinctly underwhelmed.

I mean, have a look at it. A grand times a grand for this?

Sure, the thing isn't quite finished. As you can see there was a lot of fencing and stuff around it. There were also several workmen milling around too.

Hey, wait on ... What if the work was finished and they were actually part of the artist's master plan? Including actual living, breathing humans in art installations is way trendy these days, after all.

Certainly possible. There was one guy who seemed to be striking the same sorta-nonchalant and kinda-dreamy pose in various positions around the piece. He's the bloke in the bottom right hand corner of this shot.

A bit later on, he was doing much the same thing on the other side of the sculpture. 

Maybe he wasn't some beefy construction worker thinking "what the hell is this crap?" after all, but a highly trained mime artist.

Yes, that was it! These were all organic elements in James Angus's grand vision! The audacity of it was just breathtaking. You would never have suspected.

They made it all seem like they were real, and the project still under construction. You really have to admire their creative skill -- not to mention commitment. Hell, not only did these guys completely look the part, they were stopping traffic, too. They were just totally into their roles. Must have taken months of character research ...

And some of this performance art can be dangerous, you know. Take this guy, assiduously pursuing his Stanislavskian objectives precariously a whole metre above his fellow thespians.

Brilliant. And brave. Well, I do hope he was getting paid equity rates. And I'm sure he was, and will continue to do so for the life of the project.

I'm gobsmacked. The concept is so sophisticated, and it's been realized with such amazing attention to detail. And it's all been achieved for only a million bucks ...

Hell, that's not overpriced. It's a steal!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Labor-lover Noni Hazlehurst strikes the PC pose on Q and A

Noni Hazlehurst gave a textbook performance in PC posturing on last Monday's Q and A, ticking many of the boxes required by the hand-wringing, finger-wagging elite. Those who wish to advance in the taxpayer funded morass of mediocrity, sanctimony and cant that is Artsville, Orstraya would do well to observe her platitude rich performance closely.

She opened with a lame observation about how fortunate we are in Australia. Sheesh. Never heard that one before. Won't someone think of the Somalis, she implored. It was utterly fatuous; on a par with saying that war is bad, or there should be more civility in politics.

NONI HAZLEHURST: Look, I think that Australians are realising that we are going to have to tighten our belts on a number of fronts and it's interesting that with all the talk about the global financial crisis, and there is so much talk about it, that Somalia is out of the headlines. And why aren't we all saying "Let's donate $2 to" - every Australian donate $2 to the Somalian famine relief? And we're all complaining we're going to have to spend another $5 on electricity. We're not going to have as much money to play with. We're incredibly rich. We're very well placed, compared to the rest of the world, and we just seem to be obsessed with worrying that we might not have just as much as we thought we might have to see our retirements are through and I think we're - our priorities are wrong.

Who's this "we" she speaks of? Well, Noni's very well off, no doubt -- as are her latte slurping, skivvy wearing, Prius driving comrades. And she's arrived at that relaxed and comfortable place thanks to the hard work of taxpayers she so imperiously expects to tighten their belts. Typical smug, superior sermonizing from a plump parasite who has never struggled.

Clearly she's a rusted on Labor luvvie and was very supportive of the Government throughout the episode. She didn't utter a word of criticism of Labor, even when it came to their asylum seeker policy, which is surely less "compassionate" than anything John Howard dreamed up. No, in Noni's tiny mind, it's only bad when the Libs do it.

She spun for the party more zealously than any of Labor's highly paid hacks 'n' flacks could've, too:

NONI HAZLEHURST: Well, I certainly think if the Government is continually talked down and if the government successes are not made more of, you know, I can't imagine why the derisory election campaign that they waged at the last election - why that happened. They need to talk more about their successes. And, you know, I've had a lot to do with 2 year olds and I think Australians are heartily sick of Tony Abbott's case of the terrible twos where he just says no to everything.

Firstly, what successes? Can you name even one?

And what else can Abbott do but be "negative". Considering how disastrously incompetent the Government is, being "negative" is actually very positive. I mean, if you had the big C, you'd try to kill it with chemo wouldn't you? Hoping that the radical treatment worked would surely be "looking on the bright side" now wouldn't it?

There was much talk in response to the obligatory question about Joolya's gender, and are they attacking her because she's a girl? Noni was flat out wrong when she said that previous PMs were not commonly referred to by their first names ("little Johnny Howard" and "Kevin07" spring immediately to mind).

Along with Graham Richardson she saw this pervasive use of the PM's first name as some sort of sign of disrespect. But I'd argue that one of the reasons that started was because Joolya herself was at pains to present a casual, warm, approachable persona ("the real Julia", remember), girling it up at every opportunity with that stupid fake giggle of hers. Then there was that utterly cringeworthy 60 Minutes expose of her creepy home life with her significant other. Yeugh. How nauseating was that?

Basically what started off as an expression of affectionate familiarity has become one of total disdain. And for that, Joolya has no one to blame but herself. (Also, it was pretty funny that Noni wants more respect for her heroine yet she made those tired old jibes about Abbott's big ears and budgie smugglers. Truly infantile -- but sadly par for the course for the sisterhood. Yet another sign that feminism has reached terminal bimbocity.)

No leftie gargle is complete these days without a gratuitous reference to shock jocks, and Noni made several of those. There's nothing that sushi socialists hate more than those who allow honest expressions of discontent from the working class.

She also revealed her superior attitude to blue collar workers in this condescending comment

NONI HAZLEHURST: I think the point you make about the blue collar workers that he appeals to, these are the people who are losing jobs. These are the people whose jobs are disappearing and who are very fearful and so they respond to fear and I think that's part of the reason why Tony Abbott's had such success...

Kelly O'Dwyer sensed the patronising subtext and was onto it in a flash:

KELLY O'DWYER: What, are you saying they are ignorant? Is that - are you...

Sheesh. She's a renowned, Logie-winning actress and she can't even mask her contempt for working class Australians.

Which actually raises a valid question: How did she become so respected? She's actually pretty ordinary as a thesp. 

Well, the answer lies in her Q and A performance. In Artsville, it doesn't matter how mediocre you are. You've just gotta keep thumping that leftie tub like a bastard! Do that and not only will you stay in work, you'll be lauded for it too.

No wonder so many of our plays, films and TV shows are such lifeless, soulless, cringeworthy crap.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cartoonist Robert Crumb's festival cancellation and the effect of art on behaviour

Cartoonist Robert Crumb, who was the subject of this fascinating documentary back in the nineties, has decided to pull out of a scheduled appearance at an upcoming Sydney arts festival. It seems he was rather upset by just one newspaper article about him:

"It was strong stuff and it made me look very, very bad," Crumb said. "All it takes is a few people who overreact to something like that to show up and cause unpleasantness. I have a lot of anxiety about having to confront some angry sexual assault crisis group."

It's odd that he would react so sensitively. He's been controversial for decades and you'd think that he would have developed a thicker hide by now. Or maybe age has made him more sensitive than he was before? Who knows ...

In any case the cancellation will be the cause of much, er, lefteous indignation in Artsville. Numerous Newtown earring tuggers would no doubt have cursed into their lattes upon hearing the news. There'll be much outraged chatter about the censorious forces of prudish conservatism, and the absurd desire to demonize cartoons -- cartoons! -- of all things.

But as so often happens in Artsville, the outrage is very selective. Because you can also be sure that many of those arcing up about the intimidation of Robert Crumb will have been on the side of the censors when it came to the Mohammed cartoons.

You can also be sure that a lot of these same haughty hepcats would have been crowing with glee to discover that conservatives such as John Howard, Keith Windschuttle and George Pell were cited as influences in the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto.

Of course some may weasel out of that little contradiction by saying that these are political and religious figures as opposed to artists. 

But aren't emotions ultimately what make people commit murder? And aren't emotions what art is all (or mainly) about?

If that's the case and you believe that those a murderer cites as influences must also share responsibility for his acts then it's actually an artist who's more to blame for the Norway massacre than anyone. That artist is the British musician Clint Mansell.

He composed the score for the movie Requiem for a Dream, which Breivik thought was very inspiring and "invokes a type of passionate rage in you". It seems he listened to it repeatedly while committing the atrocity to keep him fired up. Now, if that doesn't qualify as a direct causal link I just don't know what does.

So, for all those goateed, grumpy little lefties out there the course is very clear. If they're going to argue for the censorship of columnists they detest then they'll also have to argue for the silencing (and even imprisonment!) of musos they adore.

As usual, they just haven't thought things through. The meatheads.

UPDATE: I wrote all of the above without even bothering to look for examples of outrage. That's because I've endured years of bolshie bleating from these often bong-fogged numpties and I know exactly what to expect. They are nothing if not predictable.

Still, I did a quick search a couple of minutes ago and turned up evidence of just the kind of crankiness I mentioned. Not surprisingly the piece implied that the eeevil News Ltd was mostly to blame for Crumb's cancellation:

Crumb might be overreacting but mature Australians lose out once again to a vocal, philistine minority and puritanical, puerile journalism.

They just love that word "philistine" don't they?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Andy Serkis, Che Guevara and Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Just learned that there's a new Planet of the Apes movie out. It's supposed to be very good. The bloke who plays the main chimp character (Caesar) is Andy Serkis. He's the go-to CGI-guy for gollums, ghouls and gorillas, apparently.

Of course he's done a lot of ape watching to get the physicality just right. But what's interesting is this political aspect of his characterization:

To draw inspiration for the other side of Caesar's personality -- as the charismatic leader of an ape uprising -- Mr. Serkis thought of a human revolutionary figure: Che Guevara.

Whether the director also had Guevara in mind is another matter, of course. In any case it appears that this chimpy Che is way more successful than the original. In the movie he and his simean socialists go global with their revolution (acting locally, no doubt) and pretty much take over humanity.

It's fascinating. Guevara was basically a thug and a loser who failed repeatedly to foment revolution in every country he attempted it. (And just as well he did fail, because if he hadn't conditions would have become even worse in those nations.) Yet he's still this powerful symbol of hope, change and idealism for so many people today -- more than a few of them in the arts.

I haven't seen the movie yet so I could be way wrong here, but knowing how PC Hollywood is now I won't be surprised if Rise of the Planet of the Apes is strongly misanthropic, with lots of deep green subtextual sermonizing. (Remember Avatar. The humans were the bad guys there. So there's a good chance the apes are the good guys here.)

Political considerations aside, there is one aspect of this Guevara-gorilla link that makes perfect sense. Bloke looked a bit like an ape, didn't he? And I'm not alone in noticing the similarity, as this t-shirt makes clear

Monday, July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse and the tortured artist myth

Everyone is familiar with the idea of the tortured artist. Of course it's a bit of a cliche. But there's also a lot of truth to it. There have been many undeniably talented artists who were deeply troubled souls.

Associated with this is the belief that their talent is commensurate with their inner turmoil. That is, the more of a train wreck the artist's personal life is the more searingly brilliant his art will be.

You can definitely see this in the case of Amy Winehouse. When she was alive, superlatives were often used to describe her work. Now that's she's popped her clogs this tendency is even more pronounced. Hacks, critics, celebs and Facebookers are all saying what a genius she was.

Now, I don't know much about music. But I know what I like. And from what I've heard of Winehouse I would never say she was a genius. You could say that about Louis Armstrong, or Ray Charles. But the chick who sang "Rehab"? She was good. But she wasn't that good.

Frankly, I think this whole tortured artist myth has a lot to answer for. A helluva lot of cultural and artistic taste-makers and trendsetters really seem to get off on it. They'll sing the praises of an artist who is screwed up but mediocre over one who is brilliant but emotionally stable every time. If you're a performer of some kind it's a pretty good career move to have a raging drug habit and a history of failed, dysfunctional relationships. Then all your work will be seen through this "tortured artist" prism. So even if it's just some crap you cranked out in a few weeks to fulfill contractual obligations to your record label it will still be seen as some kind of brave artistic experiment that ultimately failed. 

I'm not saying that this myth causes sane and normal people to go off the rails. But it certainly exacerbates the troubles of those who had some serious issues to begin with. Amy Winehouse was one such person.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cold Chisel's Don Walker says his tour will be "carbon positive"

Here's a heartening development: Don Walker of Cold Chisel has tapped into the public mood with his provocative claim that the band's upcoming reunion tour of Australia and New Zealand would be "carbon positive".

Walker is interesting. He's scientifically knowledgeable, having completed a degree in physics. He's also known for being attuned to the Aussie zeitgeist: 

Richard Clapton describes Walker as, "the most Australian writer there has ever been. Don just digs being a sort of Beat poet, who goes around observing, especially around the streets of Kings Cross. He soaks it up like a sponge and articulates it so well. Quite frankly, I think he's better than the rest of us."

"Carbon positive" is just a one-liner, but it says so much. Andrew Bolt says that it is a cultural marker and I don't think that's an overstatement. Think how many bands have been touting their green credentials lately, and claiming to be carbon neutral in everything they do. Forgive me for sounding like a po-mo quackademic but that's surely been the, er, dominant discourse in that whole rock music paradigm for a long time.

I suspect that this attitude will gain momentum in popular culture now, and we'll be hearing the proudly expressed phrase "carbon positive" more often. While it won't become dominant itself, it will certainly become acceptable, even a little fashionable.

It will remain verboten in some sections of Artsville, however. That's mainly because they depend so heavily on government funding. Rock music is often actually profitable in its own right, and therefore doesn't rely on handouts. Consequently its proponents are more free to speak their minds.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Comedian and anarchist Johnnie Marbles now a hero to many, no doubt

I'm not surprised that Jonathan May-Bowles, the guy who attacked Rupert Murdoch with a shaving cream pie, is a comedian and anarchist. I've met many such numpties in my years in the arts world. Some have done very well for themselves (on your dime, of course).

His act was so utterly idiotic and pointless that even the former National President of the UK National Union of Students called him a "self-indulgent moron". But in the global collective of bong-suckling quarterwits known as Artsville, that kind of stupidity is often seen as "speaking truth to power" ... or something. He's surely become a hero to many.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Faux everyman Dave Hughes vs Tony Abbott on the 7PM Project

I hardly ever watch the 7PM Project but managed to catch it a couple of days back when Tony Abbott was on. I was keen to do so because I'd read that comedian Dave "Hughesy" Hughes has been paying out on him frequently of late.

It's strange that Hughes is often seen as a "satirical" and "political" comic. From what I've seen his schtick is not remotely edgy. His Abbott jokes, though funny, are pretty benign. They mainly seem designed to make the politician out to look like a bit of a dork. The subtext is: Nah, don't vote for him. Bloke's not cool.

Compare Hughes to someone like Jon Stewart, who is also a leftie. I find Stewart annoyingly smug and arrogant. However there's no denying that he's highly knowledgeable, has balls of steel, and is an extremely polished performer with a razor sharp wit.

The "Hughesy" persona is interesting. Of course every standup presents a heightened version of himself that is inauthentic to a certain degree. Hughes himself is no different.

He is often described as a classic Aussie larrikin, the kind of bloke you'd imagine having a laugh and a beer with. Yet in reality he hasn't had a drink since he was 22. He's obviously clever and witty and that is not out of keeping with his working class persona. Yet his often blokey, anti-authoritarian demeanour seems at odds with the fact that he was at least comparatively studious as a kid and was actually dux of his school. He's obviously conscious of this because he's been at pains to talk that achievement down:

"I was the dux of a very bad year. I swear to God, I was. I was dux of the school, and if I wanted to do chiropractory, I wouldn't have been able to. I didn't get a very good score, but we had a shocker year that year."

And this dissonance came through in another way in the form of a little offhand remark in the actual show. Quite a way into the Abbott episode (just after the 9 minute mark) Hughes remarked that it seemed odd that working men liked the Opposition Leader, saying something like: "I mean, you're a highly intelligent man ... You were a Rhodes Scholar." Hughes is a comedian, of course. But he was clearly not joking here.

The attitude underlying this remark was elitist. He seemed to be implying that the workers were a bit thick. Abbott himself quickly picked up on this, countering with the observation that they were actually pretty smart.

Hughes also presents himself as a bit of a slacker, and if I recall correctly he ribbed Abbott about his fitness obsession. (The panel certainly had fun with footage of Abbott cycling and wearing his infamous budgie smugglers, which is something they've been doing often lately, apparently.) Yet if the Liberal Leader's retort was accurate Hughes is almost as much of a fitness fanatic as Abbott himself. At the risk of sounding like a glib media shrink here, it seems that "Hughesy's" antipathy towards Abott has as much to do with alpha male competitiveness as it does with politics.

The comedian's mild but clear disdain for Abbott, along with the painfully right-on posturing of his co-hosts, is also typical of Australian TV celebrities generally. They really do think they're special and superior to the rest of us. They feel it is their duty to guide the brainless proles towards correct thought and action. Of course, this always involves voting for Labor or The Greens. Such pomposity is always ridiculous, but it seems particularly so when you've built your career on being the Aussie "everyman" who is disdainful of authority. And that's something "Hughesy" has clearly done.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Will Lawrence Leung's Unbelievable mock climate change alarmists?

I was channel surfing last night and saw a show called Lawrence Leung's Unbelievable on their ABC. Leung is an affable, seemingly shambolic Aussie comedian who investigates various issues. His show used a bit of hoaxing, the odd silly stunt. There was some scripted stuff as well. It was kind of kooky and quite amusing. The pervasive approach was to subtly mock those who are superstitious.

Last night's episode, which I think was repeated from a couple of weeks ago, was about UFOs. While watching it I kept thinking: why doesn't he do a show on global warming? If any bunch of people are just askin' for a humorous piss-take it has to be the Al Gore worshipping, carbon tax demanding warmists.

So today I've been Googling for information about other episodes in the series to see if he has actually done this. Can't find any, though. Seems that he's only been making fun of the usual kooks and loons such as psychics and new agers. Still, if he does tackle the issue I'll be pleasantly surprised.

I suspect that like most Aussie comics he's a believer in warmism. Which goes to show that in arty, lefty circles it's still way cool to be a skeptic, except when it comes to the Church of Climate Change Alarmism. One is simply not allowed to challenge the argument that carbon dioxide is dangerously heating the planet, and that the Earth's temperature can be turned down by making people pay more for stuff. Surely, if anything qualifies as "unbelievable", those nutty beliefs do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Josh Thomas on Q&A and PC in the Australian comedy scene

Having done heaps of comedy all over Australia over the last couple of decades (though not in the last few years) I know comedy scene culture very well. And, like the rest of Artsville, it's heavily dominated by left-wing, PC, "thinking".

And that intolerance doesn't come from the audience, by the way. Usually those who watch comedy are youngish and have a range of political views (although there are more lefties than in the wider society for a variety of reasons). They will go with stuff that's not PC occasionally as long as it's funny.

That said, that kind of stuff is still harder to pull off because it stands out from the usual fare like the proverbial canine testicles. Even card carrying Tories will be less likely to laugh openly at a routine with an obviously conservative point of view simply because they're gobsmacked that it's actually coming from the mouth of a standup comic. Comics with conservative sympathies know this, and that's one reason they rarely do such material. 

The main reason for their trepidation, though, is that there's a dominant world view that's enforced from within the comedy collective. And when I say enforced, I don't mean that comics are swiftly "disappeared" by their peers or promoters if they commit an egregious thought crime such as mocking the Great Leader Bob Brown. It's more subtle, but nonetheless pervasive. Knocking the left is just not the done thing. Do that and you'll be marking yourself out as one of those eeevil conservatives and may well be passed over for promotion (or what passes for it in the comedy scene).

So, the attitude that's rewarded is to be drearily, relentlessly PC. Toe that line and you can do very well indeed, even if you're not that funny (although a little comedic skill doesn't go astray). It's enough that you are seen to care about society and are taking up the favourite causes of the cultural left.

You can see this general bias in action by watching comedy live and on TV. Comics are either clearly of the left, or apolitical. (About the only well known Aussie standup comic who isn't like this would be Austen Tayshus. And he's hardly a classic conservative; more of an anarchist-social libertarian.)

Here's a specific example that illustrates this wider phenomenon. Last week on Q and A comedian Josh Thomas was one of the panelists. He came across as pretty daft and credulous - even more so than his fellow leftie Gen Y-ers on the panel. That was disappointing, because you'd like to think that comics had some sort of BS detector in operation, even if it was faulty.

Here are his reasons for voting for the Greens:

JOSH THOMAS: Well, I mean, it's - I voted for the Greens in the last election because they were the only party that I believed, the only party that I felt were talking about something that they actually agreed with. Sorry about my hair. But I think - no, I think the Greens are the right party for young people because they're kind of idealistic and they've lovely and they like big hugs and trees and when you're young you should be filled with hope for the future. We should leave it to old people to worry about all the other stuff, which I think is probably more damning to the Greens than a compliment.

Hard to believe he actually said that. But he did. And he wasn't joking.

He followed it up with something even more depressing:

JOSH THOMAS: But I - can I ask you a question, because I'm not very good at - I don't know lots of things about stuff. I'm not confident on things. Ted Bailey, is he Liberal?

Obviously, he was referring to Ted Baillieu. But either he didn't know how to pronounce his name, and the transcriber was being accurate, or the ABC staff member himself was unsure! Either way it's alarming. And one thing's certain: Thomas was so uninterested in politics that he didn't know which party governs Victoria. 

Later on he was asked about the subject of gay marriage. Of course he was an advocate of it, and argued for it quite passionately. Needless to say his thoughts on it got a round of applause:

JOSH THOMAS: Well, I would say to her they are. I mean the polling shows they are. This is actually not a controversial issue. Sixty-three per cent of people want to see this. Seventy-four per cent of Labor voters want to see this. At the moment in this country you have - if you're gay, you're at a much higher risk of you will experience - you're much more likely to experience self-harm, depression, homelessness, eating disorders, drug abuse. You're five to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide and the biggest contributing factor to that is homophobia and the Marriage Act, as it stands, it empowers homophobia and it needs to change, I think.

Interestingly, the latter part of that contribution was used in the promo for the show this last week.

This just confirms all my worst suspicions about the comedy scene (not to mention the ABC): Being original and having your own ideas is deemed weird and threatening. The last thing you'd want to do is be true to yourself and skeptical of authority, since it will get you nowhere. You just have to strike one of the range of PC political poses on offer from time to time, and you'll be rewarded for it with gigs and exposure.

The joint's a ghost town. There are tumbleweeds blowin' through it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

WA prisoner paints Christian themed artwork; wins award

One attitude that's clearly dominant in Artsville is a sneering disdain for religion (except the "religion of peace", of course). Special vitriol is reserved for Christianity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the visual art scene, where painters compete with each other to see who can provoke Christians the most

Sure, there's a lot of art that isn't like this. But if it does have a religious theme then chances are it will be palpably and viciously anti-Christian. Very occasionally you'll get an exception to the rule. One has occurred right here in WA, as a matter of fact! See, a prisoner has won a national award for his pro-Christian artwork, titled Only God Can Judge Me.

Needless to say, this acknowledgement of his talent and hard work has not come from the local art establishment. The award is from Prison Fellowship Australia, an overtly Christian organization. He has won the princely sum of 400 bucks, but strangely remains unnamed in this article (perhaps for legal reasons?).

If you look at the painting you'll notice that as well as being noticeably politically incorrect, it's also been done with quite a deal of skill. That's another thing that makes it highly unusual for an award winning artwork these days.

The themes of the competition also make it stand out like a sore thumb. As the website itself states, it's meant to celebrates "hope, forgiveness, restoration and freedom". This stands in stark contrast to the general culture of the arts world, which relentlessly advocates (and rewards) cynicism, bitterness, destructiveness and conformity.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The childlike wonder of actors Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton

There's a cliche about kids being natural actors that I think has a lot of truth to it. Watch sprogs when they play; they have absolutely no problem believing totally in some fantastic scenario and will happily go along with it "until the wheels fall off".

It's this childlike wonder and credulity that adult actors are tapping into in their work. It's pretty much the first requirement of the gig. Obviously the audience won't suspend their disbelief and become involved in the world their characters inhabit unless they do first.

Perhaps this is why so many actors sympathise with the new religion of left-wing, deep green ferndamentalism? I mean, they are professionally required to access an infantile state of mind, while ferndies are stuck in one permanently.

If you accept this then Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton's disastrous involvement in what was surely one of the most brazenly dishonest, patronising and cringeworthy ads ever made becomes understandable. 

Full of childlike wonder and credulity, they surrender to the idea that they can "make the world a better place" with their activism. They believe completely and without question the hilariously puerile argument that the Australian Government can adjust the world's temperature by making people's power bills go through the roof. And then they dutifully read out their mind-numbingly stupid lines in a production that makes an episode of Play School seem mature and sophisticated.

The ad is broadcast and not surprisingly provokes a storm of derision and outrage directed at both of them, particularly "carbon Cate". Childlike, they wonder why people detest them so much.

Makes you feel kind of sorry for the poor little poppets ...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sex worker film festivals for Britain and USA; SlutWalks in Australia!

When it comes to stories about sex and politics in the media it never rains, it whores! Right now there's a veritable pornucopia of them. (Sorry, but they were there. I had to take them.)

Firstly there was some rather ribald discussion on Q&A featuring three dirty minded writers and a couple of feminists, including the world's leading anti-porn campaigner. I thought it was one of the most entertaining discussions the show's ever had. But my blogging nemesis Derek Sapphire found it all quite disappointing. Still, you'd expect that from such a tragic sap.

Over in the Old Dart, a sex worker film festival is to be held next month. It features the offering Every Ho I Know Says So, which seeks to destigmatize sex work and includes some words of advice for those intending to get into relationships with prostitutes. (I'd imagine "don't be the jealous type" might be among them.)

Then in San Francisco, there's a very similar festival on the way. And it must be said that it looks like a helluva lot more fun than the Pommy offering. Any shindig that boasts the "Roaming Hookerfest" and "The Stripping Granny" has gotta be worth a look, surely.

Meanwhile, back here in Oz, the "SlutWalk" phenomena is going gang bustiers. I sincerely hope that these sheilas are having a fine old time and that they ultimately deliver a knockout blow to the patriarchy (er, whoever they are).

I'm assuming that not unlike their arty sisters mentioned above they've been very creative and have chosen an apposite and entertaining theme song. But if they haven't? Well, personally I think "These SlutBoots Are Made For SlutWalking" could be the go.

Appropriate footwear can be bought online here (though they do seem to be out of stock right now; must be very popular!).

And here are some other classic songs to play with.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ken Loach's son Jim becomes filmmaker; directs Oranges and Sunshine

Of all the lefties in Artsville, those who work in the film industry are among the most annoying. Hollywood liberals are world leaders in flagrant hypocrisy. Paid squillions of dollars for a few days work on cliche-ridden blockbusters they then wring their hands about economic inequality. And being converts to the new deep green religion of climate change catastrophism the carbon spewing jet-setters just love to lecture everyone else about their addiction to fossil fuels.   

While certainly not in their league, Pommy film socialists are still a pretty po-faced and sanctimonious lot. Take Ken Loach. He's done very well indeed from whingeing about capitalism in his movies. And like so many of his fellow travellers he has a deep and abiding hatred of Israel. A couple of years ago he even pulled one of his films from a festival because of its Israeli funding. Amazingly petty stuff.

What's interesting is how his son Jim has turned out. You'd think that he would have been so bored by his father's endless yammering that he'd have become an investment banker and buggered off to Tel Aviv or something. But no, he's become a filmmaker as well - and one with a social conscience to boot, just like his dear ol' dad!

His debut feature is called Oranges and Sunshine and stars the world's most annoying actress, Emily Watson. It looks like excruciatingly worthy fare; definitely not something you should see on a first date (er, unless you're both bolshie social workers, of course). 

Jim Loach's career choice (and path) raise a couple of thorny questions: One, there's the issue of talent and where it comes from. Doesn't it put a bit of a dent in that favourite lefty argument of denying the influence of genes? I mean, aren't they always saying that "society's to blame"; that artists are made, not born and other such guff? 

And speaking of society: As well as Jim's genetic inheritance, he's also had an undeniably privileged upbringing. His dad had won so many Baftas he used to use them as doorstops. Now, considering all those professional connections and influences, surely such a young bloke would have had a far easier run into his chosen profession. And isn't that just the kind of advantage socialists abhor?

Obviously I'm not the first to wonder about that. Still, it's an undeniable contradiction. I suppose it just has to go into the "some are more equal than others" basket with all the others ...

Anyhoo, Jim Loach arrived recently in Perth to promote his film. Here's a radio interview with him.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Art, pleasure and Tracey Emin's bed

Critic Peter Craven reminds us that quality art gives people pleasure, citing recent scientific research:

It was reported last week that Professor Semir Zeki of University College, London, took a group of human guinea pigs and discovered there was increased blood flow in the part of the brain associated with pleasure and desire when people liked a painting and that according to the measurements - the MRI scan - the increase was a bit like looking at someone you were in love with.

Many people - and particularly fusty ol' tory types like myself - certainly concur with this view. We believe that there should be some grace and (dare I say it) beauty in art.

But many of today's culture vultures hold a very different view. They think that the main point of art should be to shock and confront people, particularly those who are a tad squeamish. Hence the obsession with body fluids.

A classic example is Tracey Emin's My Bed. According to Wikipedia:

The artwork generated considerable media furore, particularly over the fact that the bedsheets were stained with body secretions and the floor had items from the artist's room (such as condoms, a pair of knickers with menstrual period stains, other detritus, and functional, everyday objects, including a pair of slippers). The bed was presented as it had been when Emin had not got up from it for several days due to suicidal depression brought on by relationship difficulties.

If you had any knowledge of Emin's art, particularly her 1995 piece Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, then it's pretty easy to see why she had such, er, relationship difficulties in the first place.

Also, the public and critical revulsion at the piece's grottiness is also understandable considering that its creation clearly required no skill. It's just kind of plonked there in front of you. Sure, it's poignant in a way. But that's about it. It sure doesn't have any real grace, beauty or aesthetic value.

Well, at least not in the eyes of most normal folk. Perhaps her numerous supporters find it beautiful and pleasurable in the way that Craven outlined. If that's the case then they are even sadder than the piece. (Hey, there's an idea! Maybe Emin should just round up some of her screwed up devotees and have them stand in the corner of the gallery. She could call this living, breathing installation My Fans.)

Still, you've got to hand it to those sad sacks. They are numerous and influential enough to give Emin an international reputation. So much so that her seminal (or should that be periodical?) artwork will soon be displayed in the Art Gallery of South Australia. Say what you want about My Bed, it certainly does have legs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peter Fonda's green passion compels his claim that Obama is a traitor

Without a doubt there are many influential lefties who are extremely disappointed with Barack Obama. As well as expecting him to save the planet, heal the sick and enrich the poor, they had high hopes that he was going to usher in a new and enduring era of world peace. But he's acted pragmatically instead. And he's even been downright hawkish in some ways such as joining the attacks on Libya and taking that very ballsy decision to terminate Osama bin Laden, among other things.

That's why I wasn't surprised when I saw a headline about notable Hollywood liberal Peter Fonda calling Obama a "traitor". I was sure this had something to do with the American President's recent military activities. But no. The accusation was actually related to the BP oil spill. Fonda, a passionate greenie, was incensed about what he saw as a White House gag on reporting of the disaster, interpreting it as an invasion of the United States! Said Fonda:

"I sent an email to President Obama saying, 'You are a f------ traitor,' using those words... 'You're a traitor, you allowed foreign boots on our soil telling our military - in this case the coastguard - what they can and could not do, and telling us, the citizens of the United States, what we could or could not do'."

Like so many privileged liberal performers, his views are driven far more by ego and emotion than reason. Hence the bizarre angle. Still, you have to admit, they are pretty entertaining.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Singer Salman Ahmad on Islam, Osama and his killing

Hearteningly some denizens of Artsville, Orstraya have not kowtowed to the hand-wringers' line on the killing of OBL. Take this excellent contribution from writer John Birmingham.

Still, I suspect that most arty types are publicly (and socially) hating on the Great McSatan for offing poor ol' Osama, even if privately they're glad the sucker copped one right between above the eyes. I do hope those people who are in that particular boat listen to the inner, authentic voice instead of the self censoring one from now on. Our arts scene could definitely get a lot more interesting if that happens.

One guy who has done this big time, and repeatedly, is Pakistani rock singer Salman Ahmad. Unlike so many western performers who maintain they're suffering persecution but aren't he has actually had his music banned in his country, and surely made many vicious enemies by bravely speaking out against the creeping Talibanization of Pakistan.

He also expressed his great relief at the killing of the al Qaida leader and sledged the Pakistani military for helping him hide from the Yanks. His criticisms included this

On 9/11, those terrorists who flew the planes into the buildings overnight hijacked Islam so that anything that has to do with Islam, anything that has to do with Muslim culture, would be equated now with the face of Osama bin Laden. So his being taken out in a military operation I think is a great thing for the Muslim world as well as the planet.

Imagine the courage it took to say that in a country with literally millions of people who idolized the late scumbag and who are now crazy with rage at his assassination.

Now that's an artist speaking truth to power.