Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kim Cattrall accuses Rickey Gervais of ageism

That notorious comedy routine by Ricky Gervais sure has media legs. It made a lot of headlines for several days, and is still generating stories. The latest is that Kim Cattrall was miffed by his jibe about her age.

She's in her mid fifties now. What does she expect? It's interesting that she used the politically correct term "ageism" to condemn his joke to try and make it seem more offensive than it actually was.

I thought what Gervais did was great, since if any bunch of people are "askin' for it" it's the Hollywood elite. And the ribbing was comparatively quite mild. Think of all the scandalous things the public don't know about but are common knowledge in Tinsel Town. And the story has been beaten up a lot by the media, since from what I saw he certainly got laughs, just a few gasps as well, which made it all the more interesting.

As well as being funny his routine was also true. The, er, "girls" of Sex and the City certainly are getting on a bit. And his jokes about Charlie Sheen's crazy lifestyle were pretty accurate considering it's just resulted in his show being postponed (again) while he attends rehab.

That's certainly "life imitating satire". It's also pretty good timing, which - as we all know - is the secret of comedy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eco-feminist Kim Stanley Robinson at the Melbourne Writers Festival

If you've ever seen a speech or interview on Big Ideas you'll get a good insight into the collective mindset of both the ABC and the movers and shakers of Artsville, Orstraya. These bizarre jawfests, which are usually taped at various Aussie writers festivals, are so relentlessly right-on it's hilarious.

Lat last night I was channel surfing and came across yet another of these excruciatingly earnest events. The tape was about three months old, and had been filmed at the Melbourne Writers Festival. The subject was Kim Stanley Robinson, a well known science fiction writer. I caught a section near the end.

He was responding to a question from the audience about science and politics. In his answer he said that he often has to defend science against the attacks of his leftie pals, because they see it as a tool of capitalism.

This troubled him, he said, because he believes that science is actually more in keeping with progressive ideals, since among other things it's a "meritocracy".

This cracked me up. (And not because science shouldn't be as he described it, but because as anyone who has had anything to do with self-described "progressives" knows only too well, merit counts for next to nothing while powerful allegiances and ideological compliance are all important.)

He then went on to denounce patriarchy and capitalism, citing "gender parity" in primate societies, implying that they constituted some sort of collective model to aspire to. It was like Maureen Dowd and her beloved bonobos all over again!

Really, you couldn't make this stuff up. And this was just one little section that I saw simply by chance. If you want to sit through the whole thing, then I'm sure you'll find other gems of self-parody. (The particular section I referred to starts at 51 minutes and ends just after 57 minutes.)

By the way, I'm not casting aspersions on his ability to tell a story. Although I haven't read his work, I'm sure he's a fine writer. It's his predictably extreme and politically correct views that I find interesting and revealing.

From that interview it's very clear why he was made a guest of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Merely to be considered for invitation, you have to be pretty much "out where the buses don't go". Dishonestly, the site proclaims that the event offers "stories from every angle".

Yeah, sure. As long as you sit to the left.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Heath Ledger tribute in Perth

Soon after Heath Ledger died there were a whole bunch of tributes to him. Anyone who's anyone - and seemingly anyone who ever knew him, or had ever worked with him, however briefly - was singing his praises and getting all lachrymose about what a tragedy it all was.

That's understandable. And I don't doubt that a lot of that emotion was genuine. But after a while it all started to ring hollow. Maybe I'm too cynical, but it looked like a lot of these people were just using his death as an excuse to get some easy publicity (or money, in the case of charities and the like).

And it just kept on going, and going... and going - and it still hasn't stopped. Now, almost three years after the poor bloke popped his clogs, there's another adulatory event on the horizon. This one will be held in Perth, and Sienna Miller will attend.

Am I alone in thinking this is quite parasitic now and that these people really should get over it and let the poor bastard rest in peace?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite, acting and global warming activism

Good observation from Tim Blair about how the recent work of late, great British actor Pete Postlethwaite encapsulated "the clash between traditional and modern leftist values".

Blair points out that in Brassed Off his character championed a planet-plundering, carbon-spewing industry (coal mining), but one of his last films, The Age of Stupid, was about as passionately opposed to coal mining as you can get.

Did this bother Postlethwaite? I doubt it. Just as this contradiction says much about the changing political obsessions of the left, it also reveals enduring psychological characteristics of performing artists.

Sure, a lot of them are nervous Nellies in an insecure and competitive industry, so dogmatic climate change catastrophists find them easy to boss around.

But that's not the only reason for their often crazy commitment to the quasi-religious green movement. Firstly, it has something to do with actors being so psychologically immature. Here are some thoughts on that, prompted by the death of that other great British thespian, Corin Redgrave.

Another reason: emotion. Those who love acting have a surfeit of it. But unlike dramatists and screenwriters they don't really have much to say. They need scripts to direct all that passion. Deep green environmentalism fulfills that need - not only in the sense that there are now so many movies and plays with this ideological subtext; it also gives performers like Postlethwaite a clear narrative and role to play (as hero, of course) in their private lives and on the political stage. This means they can be working (emoting), even when they're not! That's a very attractive thing, particularly when you consider how much unemployment they suffer.

Monday, January 3, 2011

AEG Ogden's creepy green orthodoxy pervades Perth theatres

A lot of workplaces are going green with a vengeance these days, so it's hardly surprising that many theatre venues have strict "environmentally friendly" codes of practice firmly in place.

These seem particularly silly. Arty types in general and luvvies in particular are fond of seeing themselves as rebellious and creative people who don't like to be told what to do. (The reality is very different, of course. They are among the most obedient and conformist people you could ever meet.)

Actors, dancers, singers, directors, stage hands, arts management people and the like are almost invariably bolshie. They love to complain about media monopolies, for example, on the grounds that centralization of ownership makes for a boring monoculture. But their "industry" - which is hardly an industry at all, since it's perpetually hooked up to the life support provided by long suffering Aussie taxpayers (the very same people they spend much of their time sneering at) - is itself tightly controlled by only a few major players.

Take venue management, for example. Many of the biggest theatres in Perth are managed by AEG Ogden Pty Ltd, a huge organization with interests in several countries. These include His Majesty's Theatre, Playhouse Theatre and the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia (due to open late this month).

AEG Ogden is a proudly green organization, and has a list of "environmental strategies and initiatives". This particular page is replicated on the websites of the Perth theatres it manages.

So, anyone who works in any of these venues must obey these very strict and sometimes bizarre requirements. Take this one:

Staff are encouraged to print to scrap paper and print and photocopy double sided. All administration staff have a recycling bin under the desk or close by.

Imagine the fear of the poor little poppets as they try to make a one sided photocopy on - heaven forfend! - a fresh piece of paper without getting sprung by a keen-eyed co-worker. Funny - but also a little bit scary and sad.

There's one section that is particularly creepy, Orwellian even:

Culture. All staff are advised of new initiatives and are encouraged to contribute their ideas. All staff are encouraged to incorporate green methodology into the workplace so that it becomes common practice.

But if employees are being "advised of new initiatives" (that is, politely ordered to obey them ... or else!) why ask for their input? What would be the point - particularly if you disagreed. It would result in you being labeled an eeevil person who wants to hurt the planet, after all!

An what's this stuff about "green methodology" becoming "common practice"? Where's all this diversity we keep hearing about?

Sure, the deep green directives listed here apply only to those involved in the day to day workings of Perth theatre venues and aren't related to, say, the thematic content of submitted scripts (although I'm sure the same ideology dominates in that area too - just not so overtly). However, this organization employs many people in various capacities - and other local venues are almost certain to have similar policies in place. (Frankly, I just haven't looked. But it's a lay down misere they'll be much the same, even if not explicitly and in writing.)

So it's pretty easy to see how Perth's theatre professionals are left in absolutely no doubt whatsoever about what they are expected to think (and feel) about environmental issues. Which is all a bit sinister, in my humble opinion.

Then there's a larger, contextual issue: the nature of live theatre itself. It uses huge amounts of energy (think of all those lights!) that guarantee an immense carbon footprint, regardless of mitigating measures. It's also a form of entertainment that caters overwhelmingly to privileged middle class people, many of whom live a long way from the CBD. Even if they're all arriving in Priuses every night, their cumulative effect on the atmosphere must be bordering on the criminal! (Ironically, all those appalling suburbanite couch potatoes in their McMansions watching plasma televisions would have a far less deleterious effect on the environment.)

Clearly, if you wanted to save the planet as desperately as AEG Ogden Pty Ltd wants to, you wouldn't even be in the theatre business in the first place, now would you?

Hmmm ... Or maybe you would. Theatre - just like so much of this green madness - is all about show, after all. And as they say on Broadway (and in Perth, for that matter), the show must go on!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Revealing Meredith Burgmann interview on RN's Counterpoint

One thing that has long fascinated me is how so many feminist women are very much drawn to rock music even though it seems to be the antithesis of what they claim to be about. Not only is the personal behaviour of so many rock stars - particular in their treatment of groupies - callous and misogynistic; their lyrics are often full of women-hating imagery as well.

A very lefty, feminist woman, Meredith Burgmann, talks to the Counterpoint presenters about this subject. She appears about half way through the presentation.

When asked about her attitudes to bands like the Rolling Stones, she reveals that back in the sixties she was appalled by the obvious sexism in many of their songs but didn't rebel against them, mainly because they were all about rebellion themselves - or "personal liberation" as she puts it. So, it seems to be a variation on that ancient belief that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

The deafening silence (at least up until fairly recently) of the majority of feminists regarding the pervasive misogyny in Islam is another general example of this phenomenon.

A more specific one is the widespread and often nasty condemnation of the Swedish women accusing Julian Assange of sexual crimes (one of whom is a prominent feminist activist). When the guy in the legal cross-hairs is an anti-American hero of the left, then seemingly passionately held political beliefs are conveniently discarded. Many bolshie women (and men) who would be baying for Assange's blood were he an eeevil right-winger supporting "AmeriKKKa" are now sneering at his accusers as vengeful spurned women, or even CIA dupes or puppets. It's not a particularly edifying spectacle. And it just goes to show how emotional and tribal their behaviour can be.