Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lost in the blogsphere

The blogsphere is out of control. Since blogs became uber fashionable, everyone is doing it and the media is collecting blog links and reviewing blogs and and and...
As an early blogophile and a steady student of the now impossibly vast sphere, I diligently follow link after link. And I find some supreme blogs of daunting content and commitment - and I can only wonder at how much time the bloggers are dedicating. Well, how the hell they find the time to fuel such passion. Then there are the linker bloggers whose postings are just a maze of links - so much so that, in themselves, they are nigh unreadable. Then there are the cult blogs - which are hobbiests and specialists, again with a lot of time on their hands, and with quirky interests or accounts of self. I dismiss the teen bloggers, of course. I am disinterested in their games, parties, loves and hates - and frequently distressed by their corruptions of the language. I think I like the originals - the clever hobbiests indulging themselves. Anonymous Lawyer comes to mind. He's on my links. And I love many of the diarists. That's not very fashionable of me, is it.
But I am finding that a lot of the blogs so heavily recommended by the media are something of a disappointment. So many are arch and pretentious. Frightfully clever. Smug. They send me hurtling into a bolt hole.
I don't think I fit into any of the blog categories. Then again, I have never quite worked out why I blog at all. Just because?
Oh well, I don't have a lot of time to spare - and there are a lot of blogs out there. I had better keep surfing.

Presidential priorities

Looking tanned and fit, the most vacationed president in history paused from his rigorous exercise regime today to speak out on the massive devastation of Hurricane Katrina. His first priority was not to sympathise with the affected but to thank Americans for praying.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Of Moths and Muslims

Last night when I went downstairs I could hear a strange clinking, clattering sound - soft and incessant. Looking up, I discovered it was moths and more moths, beating themselves against the flouro light strips in the carport. It is very early spring - not the time for moths. But later, looking out onto the streetlight, there was a whirring spiral of moths in the arc of the light. I gazed for some time, looking for the bats which come feeding on insects at the light in summer.But it is not summer and there were no bats. Just a mass of moths. I woke at about 3am and looked out the window. There were yet more moths, by now maybe 10 or 15ft down from the top of the light - a vast, busy cone of motion. Today the news reports that these moths are everywhere, covering trees like blossom, settling on houses like snow... They have come from the desert, a vast plague of them, produced no-one quite knows from what circumstances of nature. Where they are going or why is anyone's guess. But tonight there is a storm. Perchance their plague numbers will meet a natural solution from the rain.

Meanwhile, the hijab controversy boils around the country. Should Muslim girls be banned from wearing hijabs to school? Bronwen Bishop, a right-wing politician with a very strange hair-do, says the head coverings are an "act of defiance". Unlike her hair, which is just an act of odd taste.
The country is arguing ferociously about tolerance, religious freedom, fashion, individuality, choice and multiculturalism. People who wear crucifixes seem opposed to people covering their heads. I find this quaint. It is OK for Christians to brand themselves with religious paraphernalia, to put fish on their cars and anti-Darwinian propaganda, but it is not OK for Muslims to cover their heads. I am not mad on the Muslim head covering or on the Christian adornments. But who am I to talk? I wear Buddhas and Ganeshas and Quan Yins. My only reservation on the hijabs is their origins. I find this disturbing. My readings on Islamic culture uniformly assert that women are to be covered in public because the sight of their hair might stir males of the species into some sort of uncontrolled passion. Women must never make eye contact with strange men. Women must be ferociously guarded against males who are not of their immediate family. There is this suggestion that Islamic men have no control. I find it offputting from both the male and female perspective. Particularly the male, when I think about it. I have known some elegant, erudite and genteel Muslim men and this piece of gender caution does not do them justice. One would think that, particularly in the egalitarian and emancipated West, Islamic men would not want to be surrounded by such sartorial defamation.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Angry Penguins to the Max

The underwhelming Sunday paper, The Independent, comes out with an article on Angry Penguins - a beat-up from John Miles reviving interest in his book, "The Lost Angry Penguin". It was a book we praised many years ago when it was published. But here we have the author publicising his own work with a story which asserts that my father, Max Harris, somehow cheated his friend Sam (DB) Kerr from acknowledgement as founder of the 1940s arts magazine, "Angry Penguins". Huh? It is patently absurd and downright rude. I know as lifelong fact that Max never stopped mourning and acknowledging his friend and co-founder of Angry Penguins. Yes, they were a group. It was at university. They were students - young modernist literarti. Who cares which of them first said "let's start a magazine"? It was never a huge issue of credit. The fact is that, together, they did. Miles snipes dismissively over its name, because it was adopted from a phrase in a Max poem. At the time, it was a triumphant, pertinent, poetic and amusing choice to all of them. Miles snorts that it was chosen "by default". You'd think he had been there. But it looks to me as if he has a li'l ol' agenda - and is trying to flesh it out with his own editorialisation. An old academic ruse.
Max honoured Kerr in his poetry and never forgot his role - let alone his early death in the war. Miles seems to be trying to earn himself some sort of reputation as a brilliant researcher in comparing what Max said before the Ern Malley scandal and after it. Max, as publisher of Angry Penguins, took the king hit when the literary publication was prosecuted for obscene material in the Ern Malley poems and it was Max who was the target of the hoax. Forgive the man if, alone and carrying the can, he did not keep on reminding the world that he had not been the only student founder of the magazine. Miles, I find your judgements shoddy and self-serving. I note, as a post-script in the last par of your article you admit "Harris cited Kerr as the pre-eminent poet of Australian modernism and founder of Angry Penguins". Exactly!
So why the beat-up at Max's expense? What do you have against a man who was one of the first to encourage you in your writings? Weren't you the inaugural winner of The Max Harris Literary Award? And this has set you on a course to undermine his memory?
I doubt Sam Kerr would be congratulating Miles on the "get Max" campaign. They were friends and a team.
Oh, what unpleasant and mean-minded little people populate the self-aggrandising world of academe and literary history. Methinks they are not so much interested in getting it right as they are in getting attention. Trying to carve reputations out of the achievements of others.
Well, Miles, whereas the book was something we respected, your subsequent tawdry sensationalism of your theories is not.
You're off my Christmas card list, mate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Shark! Shark!

The global nature of Google. There was a young man, a university marine biology student, I think, taken by a shark while diving on an artifical reef at a suburban beach here today. The top report on Google comes not from our local metro daily or even the national breaking news service. No, it comes from an Irish newspaper - a world away.

It is strange and melancholy, the shark story - another shark death in the gulf waters. I was looking out on those waters today, just a couple of hours before the attack. I was delivering a test car back to the dealer at a seaside suburb and en route I paused to have a quick gaze at my inimical friend, the sea. It was utterly beautiful. Today was a sunny, mild, spring-like day. The sea was flat calm except at the shoreline where small, flat waves shusshed in on the smooth, hard, white sands. Retirees walked with their dogs exuberantly off the lead, darting along the beach, bounding into the water. At sea there were small fishing boats in each direction, some quite far out, some close enough to sea the silhouettes of the fisherman standing in the stern. It was a vista of immense peace and beauty. I could see small disturbances on the water where schools of fish were at play. And I scanned the sea for fins - for it struck me as a dolphin day and a shark day. Yes, a shark day. And so it turned out to be - and one bright young man is the tragic toll.

A colleague turned my stomach with a foodie joke in the worst possible taste. "Sharks like manshimi," he said. Shudder. It is sticking in my head and won't go away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Routing the router

Persistent problems in accessing blogger and blogspot sites is hopefully to be solved. A new modem was delivered today. It's hooked up and humming along. Now all we have to do is to do a spot of testing, a spot of blogging, of cruising blogs... It has been a very perverse and mysterious issue and many hours have been expended trying to analyse how and why blogger sites seem to be firewalled. Not all the time, mind. There has been a limit. One can blog and surf blogs for between two and six hits and then, suddenly, no more. Reset the modem, maybe get one more, maybe two. Then "the server is not responding". Things have become significantly easier on every front of the Internet and computers since new new ubiquity of the technology - so when there is a glitsch, it just has to be confounding.

Even the help desk techs of today probably don't recall the bad old days, which were also the most exciting of days - the days when we had to key in ridiculous DOS commands, we had to wait to get a line, when email was Pine and very clunky and, anyway, only the few were into it, when we only had bulletin boards and good old IRC and the WWW was barely there. I used to be able to cook an entire meal in the time it took to download a single image. But it was all thrilling, miraculous, cutting edge.
It's only 11 years ago.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Mourning for Bali

Another Australian has been arrested for drug possession in Bali. Fortunately she is a gorgeous Adelaide model so publicity is guaranteed. This girl is accused of having two ecstasy tablets in her bag at a party in Kuta - two little tabs wrapped up in a piece of paper. Now, one does not know if she is guilty or not - only that both the girl and the tabs were in the same place at the same time. In Kuta.
As far as I am concerned, people who go to Kuta are not going to Bali at all. They are going to sleazy night clubs and boozy parties. They may as well go to the sleaze streets in their own cities. They are all much of a muchness. Kuta is a ghetto of the worst of Western decadence. It is a tropical dive in which inane young people indulge in excesses they would not contemplate at home. There are not so many Balinese left in Kuta. The Javanese long since have moved in to extract their pound of flesh. They are Moslems and far less tolerant of Western immorality than the Hindu Balinese. Not that the Balinese approve of the behaviour of the guests in their country. They are just very polite. I have heard them, though, the girls scrubbing clothes at the well, laughing about how appalling they find some of the Westerners. The joy of learning their language was being able to eavesdrop on just such commentary.
I have not been to Kuta in aeons. The last time I went, I was simply sad and disgusted. It is a place to avoid. A clamour of pestilent hawkers and strips of loud and crude booze joints.
And the people who choose the cheap Kuta holiday tend to be the worst kind of tourist. They are not interested in the profound culture of the island, only in their own base, narcissistic urges.
The absurdity of it is that Bali itself is the ultimate drug - if only those morons had the wherewithall to clue up. Bali is a wonderment in itself. It is as intense in sensory and spiritual stimuli as an acid trip. It has a strange power which it is happy to share. I know, because I miss it terribly.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Small world syndrome

Before she died, my friend Julie Duncan had told me of the grief and stress she was suffering at the hands of a certain accountant who, she lamented, had cleverly manipulated her funds so that her daughter would be deprived of her inheritance - a daughter soon to lose her mother. Julie asked me to see if I could help to track down this man. Then she told me his name. And it was the name of a man I had known briefly many years ago - a rakish and colourful man, a charmer affectionately known as "Mr Rat". Our mutual friend, to my amazement, had blithely introduced him as a "top white collar criminal", which did not seem to offend him at all. This was rather exotic and fascinating to me. And, since Mr Rat seemed also fascinated with me, I enjoyed a couple of assignations with him. He was the sort of man who would rock up not just with a bottle of chilled bottle of Tattinger but several such bottles and crystal champagne flutes to go with them. For me, it was an amusing flirtation and a chance to study a rogue playboy. For the friend who had introduced us, it turned out to be something more - and she was very keen to reclaim his attentions. So much so that she took to ringing me to trace his movements - and, when I told her that Mr Rat had been in touch and had invited himself over to the house, she jumped into her car and arrived ahead of him. Giggling impishly as conspiratoral women, we then secreted her in the pantry. Mr Rat made a flourishing arrival complete with champers - and just as he was popping the cork, the other woman threw open the pantry door and leapt into the room with a big "Surprise - caught out, you bastard!" It was one of the funniest moments of my life. Mr Rat was gobsmacked. It was a moment of the jaw-dropping shock - a delight to behold. After my friend had given him the rounds of the kitchen, we toasted each other with the champagne, laughed a lot and my friend reclaimed him with my blessings. I did not see or hear of him again until this terrible story of the cruellest and morally bankrupt con. I was and am aghast. I did try to locate Mr Rat for my dying friend, but the leads were dead-end. He was around, flitting from state to state, I gathered. He has family and a wife who, heaven help her, seems still to be loyal to him. He remained elusive. But now the law and the media is on his trail. This mysterious playboy of yore is a headliner. The spirit of Julie has jumped out of the cupboard and it looks as if he has been caught out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Big Brother blues

It was not a surprise but it was deeply depressing to hear that the Logan twins had won Big Brother 2005. I felt as if it was a set-up because there was never, to my mind, a hope that the intelligent and sensitive young journalist, Tim, would be permitted to win. That would mean that Australians did not support the lowest common denominator syndrome - the demographic of youth and ignorance to which the program panders. An educated and articulate person, a person with negotiating skills, with ideas and broad interests, with good manners and a sense of consideration for others is a fly in the ointment of crassness which lubricates the ratings. Excellence has never been a winner in Australia. The country celebrates its fools and bullies, it champions its beer culture and earthy, macho values. The Logan twins were all of this - two course young males with an extraordinary ability to pick their noses. No, they did not just pick their noses, they scraped and plunged and routed their noses, flicking their findings around their environment with casual satisfaction. And we watched on television, our stomachs churning. These were the Ocker lads who were rough and ready, who knew about working weights but little else. I got the feeling, as the show evolved, that they were planted for the win and that, no matter what the profit lines of the voting calls may be, they would come out on top. And they did. I am not aware that Channel 10 has ever made public the figures involved in its phone-voting profit line - but one suspected, as they urged the viewers to keep ringing to the last neck-breaker moment, that it was only about dollars, not winners. Well, of course it was. The figures are audited, I believe. I'd love to see them. I'd love a real expose of the way in which the show manipulates the images of its housemates to rev up and control the voting.
And I'd love, for once, to see an intelligent person come out on top. But neither, I suspect, will be wishes realised.
I have to come to terms with the fact that my country, more and more, is a land of seriously dumbed down people.
The prognosis, therefore, is not good.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Winter ups and downs

Sunshine on lush green fields. Wattle trees erupting into yellow ecstasy. Almond trees shedding blossom petals like snowflakes. The sea a hundred hues of teal. Winter can be lovely. If only the cost of keeping warm was not so obscenely extortionate.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ruminations with a view

However much we speculate and read speculations about Lachlan Murdoch's departure from "The Firm", we may never know the underlying frictions or causes. Lachy, as he is commonly known around the Murdoch traps, seemed a bright and refreshingly alternative presence in the newspaper world - branding himself so quite clearly with that wonderful tattoo which he tended to display with sleeves rolled up. His future seemed cemented into the family empire, so it was shocking to read that he, suddenly, had quit and was looking towards some new turn in career.
I read avidly the reports on the twists and turns of the Murdoch empire. Well, of course I do. I am a Murdoch journo.
There are many schools of Murdoch journalists these days. I am old school. I don't relate at all well to the new-wave Fox News variety, although I can understand the market ploy that they embody. I can understand it all, the machinations of the mainstream media. I am not always sure that the demographic decisions are right as the print media struggles to find its balance in a changing world. But I am fascinated by the process.
I keep reading about the "monster" Murdoch and his "paranoia" - and I think back to my one and only private encounter with the man and somehow doubt it. My meeting, a million years ago was in London when he was known as "the Dirty Digger" for his then highly controversial incursions into Fleet Street. I was all of 22 and had been hawking myself around the city and failing to find work. Finally, I took the advice of my colleagues back in Australia and made an appointment to see "the man". It was not difficult. I was slotted in promptly. Not only that, but Murdoch was welcoming and charming. My colleages in Australia had said "just tell him that you're one of his, you're bloody good and you need a job". I did just that. Murdoch laughed. To my astonishment, he knew exactly who I was and he cited several pieces of my work with praise. We sat and chatted a while in his office which was adorned with some exquisite pieces of contemporary Australian art which I identified and admired. He was like an old friend. He made me feel that I belonged. He made me feel that I was valued. And, he picked up the phone and, a minute later, I had a job on an Australian bureau in Fleet Street.
Since then, I have not run into Murdoch, although I did get a message from him saying that the columns I was writing at the time were the best of their kind in the country. The years have rolled on and my job description has changed many times since then. As is the way in newspapers. I am now a senior in culture of youth. I don't mind this. Not that it would matter if I did. But it feels a little strange when I look around and realise that my working peers would not know what I was talking about if I mentioned "hot metal", "fudge", "the stone" or even "comps". Of course one doesn't talk of such things. They'd think one was a dinosaur - and I'm not ready for that. But, as one old sage told me when, in callow youth I derided some old journo for being out of touch: "He's forgotten more about journalism than you'll ever know". I guess that's me now. Except that I have not forgotten.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Jacko jury

That messy business that was the Michael Jackson trial has wriggled its way back into the news. Now two jurors from his molestation trial are saying they were pressured into making the Not Guilty verdict - threatened to be removed from the jury unless they did not concur with the others. It is pointed out that they are both promoting books which they have produced as a result of being on the Jackson jury. Nonetheless, it is one hell of an allegation. Jackson seems to have gone away, at least out of the limelight, since the trial - but the mystery lingers on.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Infidelity held in contempt

Men. Why can't their brains override their sexual impulses. Just as
Bill Clinton made a a complete idiot of himself in his indiscretion
with silly young Monica, so has one of my favourite local politicians
brought himself into public shame and ridicule with a sexual
dalliance. Mark Brindal is not of my political persuasion, but I like
him for his incisive brain and tolerance. I like him for his culture and his eruditition. I just like him. He is now on the carpet and
over the front pages for having a sexual encounter in his office with
a young intellectually disabled man. The man's guardian is reported to have
attempted to blackmail him over this - and the sorry saga came out,
Brindal standing up for himself and saying that he did nothing
illegal. No, Mark, it was not illegal. It was short-sighted.
That Mark Brindal is bisexual is no surprise. That a man of such
intelligence, such a superbly rational debater, could not argue with his own libido is a surprise.
I am disappointed in him.
It is not with whom he had an affair. It is that he had an affair.
I am not a fan of infidelity. Hetero, homo or bi, it is preferable
that one disengages from one relationship before initiating another.
It causes less pain to those around you. But, it seems, many men
are willing to accept the
consequences - well, if they think of consequences. I have always
considered that the male of the species is somewhat consequence-
handicapped. They don't think ahead - unless they are financial
Brindal, as I see it, has not only humiliated his wife and step-children, he has
embarrassed his political party and completely demolished his
professional future. Before becoming a politician, he was a
headmaster. Neither world will be rushing to open doors to him now.
And this marvellous man is wasted - just for the sake of a short affair.

Co-incidentally, with Brindal holding press conferences and his
political party doubtless holed up analysing how they are to deal
with his disgrace, the theme of male lack of foresight is being mirrored in the theatre - albeit that there is absolutely no similarity between the love objects of reality and the drama, just the issue of emotional fallout. And that is, of course, my one and only point here. My solitary moral stance. Oh, how I hate the betrayal of infidelity. Ah, yes, I have felt its sting.

The controversial Edward Albee play, "The Goat -
or who is Sylvia" opened at the Playhouse last night. It is devilishly witty
absurdist work about a man who brings down the world around him by
admitting that he is having an affair with a goat. It studies a
family confronting complete disaster - a massive black hole out of
which they may never emerge, so great is the taint of the man's
sexual foray. And he, at the glittering peak of his career, is doomed
by his own disgrace. None of this having occurred to him as he
succumbed willingly to the "amazing" emotional connection he claims
to have experienced with a rural nanny goat. The play depicts the
crashing of his world - so brilliantly written by Albee to have the
actors pausing, mid tearful confontational scenes, while the audience
roars with laughter at the pithy dialogue of the great Albee. Who
would have thought that so many years after "Virginia Wolf", Albee
could perform the same boundary-pushing trick again with yet another
superbly-constructed piece of tragi-comedy.

And here we have, once again, a core emotional predicament with which far too many of us can, oh so sadly and bitterly, identify. Brindals, Grindles...it's much the same.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fads are skin deep

Boswelox. L'Oreal is producing skin cream with Boswelox. I can't stop the word from running through my head. Boswelox. Is that literary smoked salmon - Boswell's lox? Nope. It's tree gum. It's incense. Frankincense. Ah, that is why Catholic priests keep looking so young. It's the regular wafting of boswelox smoke. Except that it is boswellia, which is significantly prettier nomenclature than L'Oreal's challenging choice of boswelox. Boswellia serrata to be exact. I had to look it up. That bloody boswelox was playing in my brain - itching and irritating it. The only satisfaction was to find out what the hell it was. And it turns out to be an Indian tree, the resin from which has long been used as an anti-inflammatory to treat rheumatoid conditions. And colitis. There is no mention of faces. L'Oreal, I gather, has somehow mixed it with manganese and described it as "a breakthrough phyto-complex". Phyto, of course, is a bit of a buzz word these days. It means plant, for heaven's sake. If L'Oreal had described boswelox as a "plant complex" it would just not have the cachet. Unlike boswelox. Oh, boy, that is a marketing name if ever I heard one. It just goes to show how malleable women are when there's the slightest suggestion of beauty and youth. They will buy an ugly name. Boswelox may well be a magical ungent to reduce wrinkles. It probably is. The cosmetic product has been around for some years now, so obviously women are getting right into good old boswelox. Of course, this will change, when someone comes out with the next promising ingredient with an obfuscatory name, maybe oxalistox, methanitol or even arghoblob. So long as they call it "new" and "breakthrough" associated with the words "beauty" and "wrinkle-free", it will be a goer, like all the others. Women are not loyal where their vanity it concerned. And boswelox will go the way of retinol and cross-linked elastyn - into forgettable cosmetic history. Oh, it is such a can of worms, the beauty business. Hmm....essence of worm. Oligochater has a sophisticated cosmetic ring to it, don't you think!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Creationism evolves

We all know that President Bush is a Christian rightist. And that he is using his power to pull the right's reins as tightly as he can around every facet of his massive country. And, chillingly, we recognise that most of the country reveres him as a political god. So secure is he in his might that he now promotes Creationism in schools - under that artfully-contrived label of "Intelligent Design". He does so knowing that a majority in his country are on the same page - they believe that their God set out to test their faith by dropping a fossil record on the planet. They are too clever to be fooled by this, unlike all those overeducated scientists who waste their time arduously deducing the amazing timelines of evolution. Silly old science, eh.
I am thinking that the "Intelligent Design" theologists should give us some explanations of what sort of a God would be bothering with such absurd trickery. To cull out the intelligentsia? Oops. That sounds a bit Darwinian. Just for fun, maybe? So He can sit aloft and, in between answering the prayers of the faithful, giggle at the folly of developed minds trying to fathom his trail of deception? Oh yes, that sounds logical.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Plague of the passionates

It will feel better to get it off my chest.
I think that sportspeople are boring. Well, boring as interview subjects. I am sick to the painted toenails of having to hear them utter a formula of tedium about how well they won or how well they lost, or what their hamstring is doing. And I am sick of hearing them say they are "passionate" about their sport. Another fine word comes crashing down from over-use and misuse. Everybody is passionate about everything.
Oh well, it beats "know what I mean?" which punctuates the conversation of the vapid masses. Yes, I know what they mean - nothing! People who incessantly ask if one knows what they mean never have anything meaningful to say.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Condi cometh

Fascinating news that Condoleezza Rice is set to come to Adelaide for an environmental summit. It's the alternative-to-Kyoto pact. The last time Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer held a summit here, one of Foreign Ministers, he did it out of town and right within view of our house on the coast. I wonder if he will seek that sanctuary again for a high-security event - for, indeed, it is a place which can be better secured than any venue in the city proper. And, certainly, Condi is going to bring a security network unlike anything we've seen in this gentle centre of the arts.
There are some who say that Condi's visit might be linked with Halliburton interests expanding rapidly here, or with defence interests in the centre of the country. These things we cannot yet know, but only ponder.
Not everyone is thrilled that we should attract this sort of international political attention in these unpredictable and violent times. We would rather be a backwater, insignificant, invisible...safe.
I can't disagree. But, Condi intrigues me. I think there may be layers to that powerful woman, that she is not quite what she appears to be, that her daunting intellect must harbour some wisdom that has to sit suppressed so long as she is the star minion of the Bush Administration. One must hope so, for it is far from impossible that she should become a US President.